Thursday, May 25, 2017

A proposal: how Bibi should speak to Trump and Abbas

We know how US Presidents behave when they come to the Middle East. They 'talk nice' in public. They talk tough in private.

We saw this double-behavior in the visit by US President Donald Trump just ended. In public, he gave optimistic, even for some, uplifting speeches. But in private, he pressured both Abbas and Netanyahu to start talking peace, now (Nitzan Kedar, "Tillerson: Trump placed heavy pressure during Israel visit", arutzsheva, May 24, 2017).

US Presidents come to Israel and do what in America used to be called 'jaw-boning'. This word, 'jaw-boning' has, if I recall correctly, two primary meanings. First,  it means, simply, using speech in both public and private discourse to persuade another. But it also means, 'using some kind of verbal or personal force'. A favorite synonym is, 'arm-twisting'.

Trump was no different from any other visiting President. He 'jawboned' both Netanyahu and Abbas.

In fact, Trump may have twisted Netanyahu's arm more than anyone realizes (David Israel, "It's starting: Trump demands Israel transfer land to Arabs BEFORE deal", jewishpress, may 25, 2017). If this report is true, Netanyahu faces a kind of pressure he might not have expected from Trump. How should our Prime Minister respond?

Here is a modest proposal. It suggests how our Netanyahu should speak to both Trump and Abbas. 

Of course, Mr Netanyahu doesn't need any advice from anyone. In Israel, it's probably fair to say there is no one better equipped to respond to Trump and Abbas than Benjamin Netanyahu. He has, arguably, more experience than anyone here dealing with such men. Nevertheless, here's my proposal. 

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin ('Bibi) Netanyahu should remind Trump that Abbas and all his predecessors never won a war against Israel. They've lost every war, every time. 

Therefore, Abbas is a supplicant. He is not a victor who has earned the right to set the agenda for negotiations. He does not get to make demands; neither does anyone else. 

The victor in the Arab-Israel war is Israel--and this victor will be the one to set the agenda. Abbas is the loser. He should remember that. So should the US.

For peace, it will not be for Israel to make the first move. It will be Abbas, the loser, to do--to prove he wants peace more than war.

Netanyahu should insist that, if Abbas wants to talk to Netanyahu about peace, he must first demonstrate peace is important. Netanyahu should repeat what Trump has already said: for there to be peace, Abbas must first stop incitement against Israel. He must delete all anti-Israel content from PA and Hamas school curricula. All anti-Israel content of after-school programs must be dropped as well

Netanyahu should insist that Abbas stop honoring those who kill and attempt to kill Jews--as Trump said should happen. Abbas must stop naming streets, schools, sports tournaments and community buildings after such individuals. This action must include all who are themselves killed in the attempt to kill Jews even if, in those attacks, the only one killed is the attacker.

Abbas must stop handing out lifetime monthly incomes for murdering Jews. This is what Trump said. Netanyahu should repeat it endlessly.

Netanyahu should remind Trump that Abbas comes to the negotiation table with a weak position. He is a supplicant. He must speak of what he seeks as one who petitions, not as one who demands.

Abbas says he's ready for peace. That's great. Everyone wants to hear that. But for Israel, Netanyahu should say, Abbas has to prove, with actions, that's what he wants.  

Until Abbas offers that proof, Netanyahu should tell Trump, Abbas will get nothing. For peace, it must be Abbas to make to first move, not Israel.

Netanyahu should address these remarks to Trump. But of course, he's free to speak this way--politely--to Abbas as well.


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