The Promise of the Trump Peace Plan

(Wall Street Journal) Natan Sharansky and Gil Troy - The conventional wisdom is that the Palestinian leadership didn't show up to receive the U.S. peace plan because Palestinians didn't get a good deal. This assumes these leaders would be interested in making peace, if only Israel made the right concessions. While many in the West wish this to be true, what's really missing is a Palestinian leadership interested in Israel as a peace partner. In the early 1990s, Israeli leaders and their Western counterparts brought Arafat back from exile in Tunis and made him a dictator. They viewed Arafat's authoritarian nature as a plus - to control even more violent Palestinian enemies of peace such as Hamas. But the zeal for peace at any price overlooked the basics of Dictatorship 101. Repressive regimes maintain control over their people by mobilizing them with external foes to fight and internal dissidents to destroy. To hold on to power, Arafat needed Israel as an enemy, not a partner. During Arafat's 10-year reign of terror he brutalized his own people from the start, crushing all opposition. He alternated between talking peace and terrorizing Israel when each was useful to him, while twisting his education system to make sure the next generation of Palestinians would hate Israelis even more. Meanwhile, he kept Western leaders believing that one more Israeli concession, one more agreement, would bring a peace he never intended to deliver. Natan Sharansky served as Israel's minister of industry and trade in the 1990s and was involved during the Oslo period in efforts to bolster the Palestinian economy. This firsthand look was sobering. For Arafat and his henchmen, it was more important to keep job creation and distribution under their control than to promote prosperity for ordinary Palestinians. International investments became opportunities for patronage and racketeering. Four years aren't enough to make a full transition from dictatorship to democracy or from decades of war to peace. But it could be enough for the first seeds of Palestinian civil society to sprout. Mr. Sharansky was a political prisoner in the Soviet Union and served in four Israeli cabinets. Mr. Troy is a professor of history at McGill University.

2020-02-12 00:00:00

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