President-elect Donald Trump said during the campaign that he would “love” to broker a deal between Israel and the Palestinians. Although he has been advised by many experts that a deal might be impossible, can the “master dealmaker” make one?
More than 2,500 years ago, Chinese philosopher Laozi said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” President Trump should take these first steps at the United Nations to facilitate a Mideast peace process:
- Change the U.N. definition of a Palestinian refugee. Since time immemorial, refugees have been defined as people who were personally displaced outside their countries. The problem is eventually reduced as refugees are either resettled or pass away. This applies to every refugee group except the Palestinians.
The U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) says that every Arab descendant of 1948 refugees is himself a refugee. By this definition, the United Nations has exacerbated the problem. In 1950, there were about 750,000 Palestinian refugees; today the number is 5 million and growing. By comparison, 850,000 Jews were forced to flee the Arab or Muslim world in 1948, and they have not been dependent on anyone for decades.
- Reform the refugee camps. Many Palestinian live in squalid camps under the control and jurisdiction of their Arab brethren. There are eight such camps in Gaza, 19 in Judaea and Samaria, 13 in Syria, 12 in Lebanon, and 10 in Jordan. These Arab countries and governments deny the Palestinians many basic rights and government services, treating them as hostages and pawns to ferment anti-Israel violence and to perpetuate the false hope that one day they will return to their homes under the “right of return.”
That is a red herring, designed to continue condemnation of Israel and to divert attention from corrupt and dictatorial Arab regimes. Arabs and Muslims living in Israel have more rights and freedoms than in any other country in the Middle East. Their brethren need to give them respect, dignity, the full rights of citizenship, and a chance for a better life, including an opportunity to resettle elsewhere.
- Insist the U.N.-funded textbooks do not demonize Israel and Jews. By controlling the textbooks, Palestinian leaders are poisoning the minds of future generations, inciting them to violence against Israel and making peace impossible.
Furthermore, no U.N. facility should be used as a staging area for military action or as a haven for terrorists. During the 2014 Gaza conflict, many of the 88 UNRWA schools were turned into military bases and arms depots, giving sanctuary behind the blue flag.
- Acknowledge that the two-state solution ingrained in public consciousness is a misnomer.What two states is it referring to? The West Bank is controlled by the secular Fatah, while Gaza is controlled by Islamic Hamas. They are bitter enemies. Will it be a two-state or a three-state solution?
The West Bank is landlocked with little industry and economic viability, dependent on Israel and Jordan. Under the British Mandate in 1923, Transjordan was partitioned with 75 percent for Palestinians and 25 percent for Jews. Their land was contiguous, unlike Gaza-West Bank geography today. It didn’t work for East Pakistan and West Pakistan when they split from India in 1955. The Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971 made that separation permanent.
Donald Trump understands that successful peace negotiations cannot be imposed from the outside but must be negotiated by the parties themselves. For too long, the Palestinians have avoided direct contact with Israel, preferring to let the Quartet or United Nations try to squeeze Israel for concessions without having to give up anything in return.
The constant flow of anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations, including UNESCO efforts to erase Jewish heritage sites, can point to only one conclusion: The United Nations has been a major impediment to peace.
Donald Trump, with the assistance of his U.N. ambassador nominee, Nikki Haley, has an opportunity to drain the swamp of the United Nations. Changing the U.N. mind-set and culture would be a great step toward peace.
Mitchell Kaye served five terms in the Georgia House of Representatives and led the local elected officials coalition for the Trump campaign in Georgia.
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