Here comes our American uncle again, raising everyone’s hopes: Maybe this time the uncle will bring with him a particularly lovely gift – peace, perhaps? The hopes are understandable but have no legs to stand on. Anyone expecting U.S. President Donald Trump to impose peace on Israel and the Palestinians, to grab Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas by their ears and shove them into a conduit that will lead to two states should sober up.
It didn’t happen with former U.S. President Barack Obama and it won’t happen with Trump. Not because of a lack of desire on their part (anyway, who knows what Trump wants?), but because it’s impossible to force such a process on someone. External pressure cannot replace a diplomatic process. Any change that has occurred in the past, whether in the direction of the right or the left, has always come from within.
Anyone who's casting his hopes on Trump doing the hard work for us is deluding himself. This was true for Obama as well. This notion, that all depends on pressure from the outside, respects the despair of politics in Israel and, in essence, despair of the people in Israel. It’s an expression of hopelessness, a belief that all is lost here – that the extreme right will rule forever so we must wait for the messiah from Washington to make peace for us. This is folly whichever way one looks at it.
One must understand that any position taken by America, Europe or other international entity – accompanied by more or less pressure – doesn’t really impact Israel unless it wants to make a move on its own. The settlements are an object lesson: All U.S. administrations bar none, as well as the members of the international community, have expressed their resolute opposition to the settlements. This has not prevented every Israeli government since 1967 from establishing them. Indeed, in defiance of the entire world, more than 200 of these communities have been established since that year. More than 400,000 Israelis currently live in the settlements, excluding East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.
For their part, Trump and his people have told Israel to “restrain” construction in the territories. So what? If that’s all there is and the government is not a partner to such a move, then the settlers have nothing to worry about.
None of the great diplomatic moves that substantially changed the map of this country were achieved through American pressure. They were concocted here, based on the decisions and interests of Israel and its neighbors. Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat – and even Ariel Sharon, Peres and Ehud Barak, did not wait for threats from the White House in order to embark on dramatic initiatives. The Americans and Europeans lent their support, money and security support, but the historic decisions were made by leaders here. They often made them contrary to prevailing winds and public opinion since they concluded that this was the right course for Israel. After they decided, the nation followed, as did the world.
The perpetuation of the occupation, the erosion of democracy and the elimination of any chance for a two-state solution severely damage Israel’s interests. Domination over millions of Palestinians for so many years is immoral in the deepest sense of the word, damaging to both occupier and occupied. Millions of Israelis and millions of Palestinians are the ones who have to sort out their relations in this small strip of land, between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, which is now completely under Israel’s control in one form or another.
Benjamin Netanyahu is uninterested in a diplomatic solution. After years of stalemate, one can now declare: His Bar-Ilan speech consisted of empty words; it was a deception. His partners also don’t want a diplomatic solution. For them it’s a matter of political survival. The United States can help, encourage, perhaps exert pressure here and there, but it cannot and does not want to replace the government of Israel.
The whole matter rests in our own hands: Anyone concerned about Israel’s future should replace this government. That is obviously not an easy task, but it’s entirely in our own hands.