If the Oslo peace process had succeeded, Donald Trump would not have been elected, says the eminent Israeli journalist Akiva Eldar.
Eldar, a liberal Zionist and columnist for Al-Monitor, writes in Haaretz that he was “asked to imagine what Israel would be like today had the negotiations that began at Oslo ended in success — that is, had Yitzhak Rabin completed the task of bringing peace and Yasser Arafat, instead of riding the tiger of terrorism, fought terrorism.” There would be no Trump:
The Gaza Strip would not be controlled by Hamas and Israel would not be led by a radical right-wing government. There would be no more than 120,000 settlers in the occupied territories, most of them in large settlement blocs. Scofflaws would not have been allowed to erect 104 outposts on private Palestinian land. Organizations of the nationalist right wouldn’t have penetrated the heart of Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. And the occupant of the White House would be a balanced president, not one who one day closes the issue of Jerusalem and the refugees with a chance remark, and the next day says Israelis will soon wake up to a prime minister named Mohammed.
The longtime former US correspondent for Haaretz does not fill in his scenario re the United States political process. But we can imagine it for ourselves if the Israel/Palestine conflict had been removed as a friction point. 9/11 would surely have happened anyway (Osama bin Laden was mainly a Saudi nationalist, and his principal grievance with the U.S. was the American troops stationed in his country). Afghanistan would also have probably followed the same tragic course. But the U.S. would not have carried the war to Iraq at the urging of neoconservatives, who famously argued that the route to peace in Jerusalem ran through Baghdad. And liberal interventionism would not have become the creed of Democrats like Hillary Clinton, who argued for regime change again and again.
History would not be entirely different, and Trumpism was born of domestic issues. But Trump won narrowly, and some of the factors that contributed to Trumpism’s rise, notably bitterness over endless wars, and Hillary Clinton’s record of supporting regime change, would not have been present to the degree they are. One academic study has documented that Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan — those crucial states that Clinton lost in 2016 — had some of the highest casualty rates from Iraq and Afghanistan, and voters there saw Clinton as pro-war.
We can imagine other ways of connecting Eldar’s dots. But the point is that Eldar is a distinguished moral voice and shrewd analyst who reminds us the late Anthony Lewis, the longtime New York Times columnist. Eldar’s scenario is highly thought-provoking, and yet it’s never really considered in the American discourse: How important Israel and the Israel lobby are to our domestic politics.
Besides, if the disastrous Iraq war is what helped give us Trump, well then a lot of foreign policy experts and media pundits would have to answer for his rise to power — and most of them are still highly respected.