There’s an “ultimate deal”No, there’s not. During the campaign and as president, Trump asserted that he wanted to achieve the “ultimate deal” — a final peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. Right now that’s a thought experiment. Seventeen years ago I was one of the Americans at the July 2000 Camp David summit — the last best chance to reach such an agreement. President Clinton (totally committed to a peace deal) brought Ehud Barak (a risk-embracing Israeli prime minister) together with Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat (who had the authority and credibility to reach an accord). The sun, moon and stars were about as well-aligned as they’d ever been. And yet not only was there no deal, we never even got close on any of the core issues. Trump needs to stop talking about an ultimate deal. It’s just not possible now.The U.S. mediator is the keyYes, but only up to a point. As much confidence as Trump may have in his son-in-law or himself as master negotiators, it’s the Israeli and Palestinian leaders who need to make some core decisions before the U.S. can hope to play a meaningful role. It’s no coincidence that all three breakthroughs in the Arab-Israeli peace process — Israel-Egypt; Israel-Palestinians; Israel-Jordan — occurred in secret without the knowledge of the Americans. Sadly neither Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is ready to take a leap right now. Netanyahu faces the possibility of indictment and scandal and is ideologically allergic to making the big decisions that sustain a serious negotiation. Abbas is pressed by Hamas, fading in the polls and incapable of separating himself from Palestinian requirements that Israel is almost certain to reject. Keeping the process alive will be about the best Kushner can do — if he’s lucky.
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