(JNS) You have probably heard Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. They should illustrate the definition with photos of U.S. State Department officials who have dealt with the Middle East. I’ve written about the Arabists’ eight-decade record of failure and how they remain undaunted. Among the biggest flops were those in the Obama administration who are offering advice to President-elect Joe Biden, and worse, some are joining his administration.
One portrait in the dictionary could be Martin Indyk, a former special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations under Obama. Take the first paragraph of his op-ed on the NBC News site. He calls U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s plan to visit a settlement “unthinkable during any other U.S. administration” because it would “legitimize Israeli claims to land that Palestinians and the international community envision for a future state.”
Indyk has accepted the Palestinian narrative. Why is it OK for the international community to legitimize their claim, which is no better than Israel’s? Moreover, Pompeo went to Psagot, which is part of the Givat Ze’ev bloc of five communities that is considered one of the “consensus blocs” that Israel would annex in any peace agreement. Making this bloc part of a Palestinian state would require uprooting more than 30,000 Jews.
Indyk mourns the loss of Saeb Erekat, the Palestinians’ chief negotiator who was also their Joseph Goebbels, the master of the “Big Lie.” When Indyk says Erekat’s death “marks the end of the Oslo era,” he reveals how out of touch he is with reality since that “era” ended more than two decades ago after nearly 300 Israelis were killed in terror attacks during the seven years of the Oslo “peace process.”
Indyk says “Erekat had become the embodiment of the Palestinian commitment to a stage-by-stage process in which an independent Palestinian state would emerge to live in peace alongside the Jewish state of Israel.” No, he was representative of the Palestinian goal of liberating all of Palestine in stages.
Indyk takes pride in his effort to revive Oslo but is forced to admit it collapsed in April 2014. In fact, he and Secretary of State John Kerry, representing the most pro-Palestinian administration in history (with the possible exception of President Jimmy Carter), were so inept that he acknowledges, “by the end of the negotiations the parties were further apart on all the issues … than they had been at the beginning, nine months earlier.”
He correctly notes that the Palestinians and the Israeli far-right rejected President Donald Trump’s Mideast peace plan, but no American plan will ever succeed, as proven by the failure of those of his predecessors. What distinguished Trump’s plan was that it was the first to address the reality on the ground, coupled with the fact that no Israeli government is going to evict 100,000-plus Jews from their homes to satisfy Palestinian demands and the delusionary two-state plans of Indyk and others.
His most accurate observation is that Biden “has no reason to believe that, if he tried where every president since Clinton has failed, the result would be any different,” and that given his more urgent priorities, “a new initiative to restart Israeli-Palestinian final-status negotiations cannot be justified.” A few paragraphs later, however, he contradicts himself and says Biden’s secretary of state should support a resumption of talks based on the Clinton Parameters and Kerry Principles the Palestinians rejected!
Furthermore, nowhere does he acknowledge that both the Palestinians and Israelis believed Obama’s policy was a disaster. Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas met more than 30 times with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert before Obama came to office. Abbas refused to negotiate with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the duration of Obama’s term. Twelve years after the last talks, does he seriously believe the Palestinians are suddenly interested in peace?
Indyk is not deterred by failure, however, and persists in the misguided belief that the two-state solution “remains the only way to end the conflict.”
No, there are alternatives, but his preference is definitely not a solution for the Palestinians. First, it assumes that the Palestinians have an interest in two states, which they demonstrably do not, having rejected it at least seven times starting with the Peel partition plan of 1937. Second, this approach cannot resolve the core of the dispute, which is not over land, but rooted in the Islamist belief that all of Israel is part of the waqf (Muslim holy land) and that Jews cannot rule over Muslims.
Indyk says Trump’s deal should be taken off the table. That would be a serious mistake since its main virtue is to send a message the Palestinians need to absorb—that they are not getting a state based on the 1967 “borders” with Jerusalem as its capital (unless it is in the suburb of Abu Dis as in Trump’s plan), let alone replacing Israel. In addition, just as the Palestinians have tried to pocket Israeli concessions and use them as the basis for future talks, Israel should make clear that the 70 percent of the West Bank Trump offered the Palestinians is the new baseline. There’s no going back to the idea of giving up 90 percent-plus as in the Clinton/Kerry/Olmert plans.
Indyk says the United States should reassert the principles of U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, but he ignores its provisions. The resolution called for Israel to withdraw from “territories occupied,” not all the territories. That requirement has been fulfilled by Israel’s withdrawal from more than 90 percent of the territory (all the Sinai and Gaza Strip, and 40 percent of the West Bank) it acquired in the defensive 1967 Six-Day War.
The resolution also calls for the “termination of all claims or states of belligerency.” Some, but not all the Arab states, have now met their responsibility and, if Indyk is really interested in 242, then he should advise Biden to build on Trump’s normalization effort and get the Saudis, Oman and Qatar to re-establish relations.
Most important, and devastating to Indyk’s position, is that the Palestinians are not mentioned anywhere in Resolution 242. Nowhere does the resolution require that Palestinians be given any political rights or territory.
Israel also doesn’t need Indyk or Biden to take confidence-building measures. It has made concessions to the Palestinians for decades and already did what Indyk suggested—restore security cooperation and transfer tax revenues to the P.A. The Palestinians, however, have reaffirmed they have no intention of fulfilling his suggestion that they stop payments to convicted terrorists.
The hallmark of the Obama policy was one-sided pressure on Israel, so it’s not surprising that Indyk called on Israel to unilaterally transfer more West Bank territory to Palestinian control. After all his talk about negotiations, he expects Israel to hand over land for no reason and without requiring anything of the Palestinians.
After Trump’s success in convincing four Arab nations to establish ties with Israel and to no longer let their interests be held hostage to Palestinian intransigence, Indyk advocates that other Arab states now go back to the old policy and demand that Israel make concessions to the Palestinians as a condition of normalization. Talk about insanity.
Having written the novel After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine, I’m reminded of the line from Fiddler on the Roof, “May God bless and keep the czar… far away from us.” I’d say, May God bless and keep Martin Indyk and the other failed diplomats … far away from Biden’s foreign policy.