One of the foremost achievements of the Trump administration was its innovative and remarkably fruitful approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But Axios on Monday published remarks by Trump that suggest that he may have been more lucky than visionary and that he misunderstands the conflict as spectacularly as the foreign policy establishment that has failed to achieve a negotiated peace in seventy years of trying. To be sure, Trump is angry with former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for being the first to congratulate Joe Biden after the 2020 presidential election, but his remarks go farther than that and demonstrate a fundamental misapprehension of the reasons why the conflict has been and is so intractable.
Barak Ravid, author of Trump’s Peace: The Abraham Accords and the Reshaping of the Middle East, says that Trump blames Netanyahu for the failure of his “ultimate deal” for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. “I don’t think Bibi ever wanted to make peace,” said Trump. “I think he just tapped us along. Just tap, tap, tap, you know?”
Trump added that he was warned that a genuine and lasting peace agreement was not possible between Israel and the Palestinians: “I have been told by everybody that it’s not doable. [Philanthopist] Sheldon Adelson said it’s not doable. The hatred is so great between the Palestinians and the Israelis. They learned from the first day to hate each other, especially the Palestinians toward Israel. And Sheldon was a great deal-maker. He said it’s impossible.”
Trump is singular among American politicians in noting that the hatred is greater on the part of the Palestinians, and he is correct about this. Trump may not be aware, however, that this hatred burns so brightly among Palestinians because of Islamic religious imperatives, and that is why the conflict is not susceptible to a lasting negotiated settlement: divine commands overrule manmade peace agreements. Egyptian imam Muhammad Hussein Ya’qoub made this clear back in 2009 when he said: “If the Jews left Palestine to us, would we start loving them? Of course not. We will never love them. Absolutely not. The Jews are infidels—not because I say so, and not because they are killing Muslims, but because Allah said: ‘The Jews say that Uzair is the son of Allah, and the Christians say that Christ is the son of Allah. These are the words from their mouths. They imitate the sayings of the disbelievers before. May Allah fight them. How deluded they are.’ [Qur’an 9:30] It is Allah who said that they are infidels.
Another Muslim cleric, Sheikh Said Al-Afani, contradicted the accepted wisdom in the West when he said: “Our hatred of them is purely on religious grounds, and not because of the pure, sacred land, which was blessed by Allah, or because of Gaza…not only because of Al-Aqsa and so on. We hate them, first and foremost, because of their enmity towards Allah, and because they slayed our prophets.”
Abdallah Jarbu, Hamas’ deputy minister of religious endowments, on Al-Aqsa TV on Feb. 28, 2010, condemned on Islamic grounds anyone who wants to negotiate with the Israelis: “I condemn whoever believes in normalizing relations with them, whoever supports sitting down with them, and whoever believes that they are human beings. They are not human beings. They are not people. They have no religion, no conscience, and no moral values.”
Despite the fact that Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority regularly traffics in this kind of hateful rhetoric, Trump had nothing but praise for Abbas. “I thought he was terrific… He was almost like a father. Couldn’t have been nicer. I thought he wanted to make a deal more than Netanyahu… My whole life is deals. I’m like one big deal. That’s all I do, so I understand it. And after meeting with Bibi for three minutes… I stopped Bibi in the middle of a sentence. I said, ‘Bibi, you don’t want to make a deal. Do you?’ And he said, ‘Well, uh, uh uh’ — and the fact is, I don’t think Bibi ever wanted to make a deal.”
Trump’s Abraham Accords were an undeniable masterstroke, accomplished by bypassing Palestinian jihad intransigence. And moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem was a strong stand against Palestinian threats and intimidation. But Trump clearly doesn’t understand that Netanyahu didn’t want a deal that would aid and enable the Palestinian jihad, as the withdrawal from Gaza did previously after being advertised as a means to bring peace. Nor does Trump appear to be aware of how Abbas was manipulating him by appearing to be “almost like a father.” Above all, Trump clearly doesn’t understand the jihad imperative that will make any genuine peace deal impossible, as The Palestinian Delusion explains.
Still, he accomplished more to bring peace to the Middle East than any other president since the founding of the modern state of Israel. If he was just lucky, every president should have that kind of luck.
This article by Robert Spencer originally appeared on JihadWatch.org and is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.