Donald Trump promised he would repeal Obamacare and replace it with health care for everyone that would be better and less expensive. He also said he would make massive tax cuts without raising the national debt. It hasn’t worked out that way.
Today, after meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House, Trump said bringing peace to the Middle East, “frankly maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years.”
Once again, Trump shows his lack of diplomatic experience, a misunderstanding of the complexity of the situation and a disregard for the deep historical roots that have spawned generations of hatred between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
Abbas was happy to go along with Trump and declare there would be peace if Israel just gave back all of the lands it has taken from the Arabs over the years and agreed to make East Jerusalem the new capital of Palestine, among other things.
What Abbas didn’t mention is that he isn’t even in control of Gaza, where the extremist group Hamas – which continues to pledge it will wipe Israel off the map – is the defacto leader of the country, wielding tremendous influence.
Driving the point home that Trump is talking to someone who has no real power, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri tweeted shortly after the press conference that, “No one authorized Mahmoud Abbas to represent the Palestinian people and everything that he issued in terms of positions are not binding.”
One of Abbas’s former advisers, Diana Buttu, added in a tweet: “Abbas will get nothing from this meeting.”
Even worse, Abbas also didn’t mention that with the on-going Syrian civil war, there can be no peace unless an agreement includes bitter rivals in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Jordan, among others, which in itself still appears to be an impossibility.
So what is Trump going to do about it? He has vowed to work as a “mediator, an arbitrator or a facilitator” to help broker peace between Israel and Palestinian, reported CNN.
“We will get this done,” Trump vowed, adding: “There’s such hatred, but hopefully there won’t be such hatred for very long.”
Trump meets Abbas, says peace 'frankly maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years.' pic.twitter.com/RmU8gZ2EPM
— Andrew Beatty (@AndrewBeatty) May 3, 2017
How will he do it? Trump said Israelis and Palestinians need to engage in direct negotiations. He also called on Palestinian leaders to “speak in a unified voice against incitement to violence and hate.”
He didn’t mention that there have been direct negotiations before. Then-President Jimmy Carter appeared to have hammered out a peace agreement called the Camp David Accords in 1978. None of that stuck, because there are
many factions and deep seeded animosities that won’t just go away as a result of a few signatures on a piece of paper.
If you don’t believe that, look at Egyptian President Anwar El-Sadat, who signed that accord and even hugged Israel’s then-President. He was assassinated by his own people in 1981 as a result.
Would a Mar-a-Lago Accord have any different result?
Trump thinks so. But since there was no representative of Hamas or its backer Iran in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, what Abbas says isn’t a guarantee. What Abbas says is meaningless without a consensus from all the other players in the muddled Middle East.
If Trump thought health care was more difficult to achieve than he expected, or that being President was more work than he anticipated, solving the problems of the nearly 70-year long conflict between Isreal and its neighbors should be even worse.
The visit by Abbas comes just over two months after Trump welcomed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House with open arms and friendship.
Far-right hypernationalist Netanyahu will never cede any part of Jerusalem back to the Arabs and isn’t likely to hand back the West Bank territory, which Abbas told Trump was a condition of peace. Trump has had a hard time just getting Netanyahu to stop the occupation and construction of settlements on lands that belong to the Arabs.
President Obama charged his Secretary of State John Kerry to find peace in the Middle East, but like Presidents Clinton and Bush before him, Kerry found only frustration amid an ever more dangerous situation.
If Trump puts himself on the line as the mediator, arbitrator or facilitator, he will find that getting Democrats to cooperate on domestic policy is child’s play next to getting all the parties in the Middle East to agree on a lasting peace.
The goal is desirable, but Trump’s approach once again shows he is wading into the deep end of the pool without any real understanding of the difficulty of the task.
At a time Trump can’t get a single major item on his domestic agenda passed by Congress, shifting his attention to the quagmire in the Middle East will be a huge drain on his time.
It’s one thing to arbitrarily fire missiles at Syria over dessert without consulting anyone in Congress and quite another to bring peace to a part of the world filled with authoritarian governments, competing agendas, religious hatred and a history of broken promises.
Trump is once again setting himself up to fail, and his failure also, unfortunately, becomes America’s failure.
Watch the press conference here: