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If Israel and Palestine had achieved peace, Trump wouldn’t be president, says Akiva Eldar

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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.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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James North

James North is a Mondoweiss Editor-at-Large, and has reported from Africa, Latin America, and Asia for four decades. He lives in New York City.

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5 Responses

  1. DaBakr on September 11, 2018, 1:20 am

    If our grandmother’s had ballsacks they’d be our grandfather’s. They gave out the Nobel to Rabin and Arafat , (and Obama) way too soon.

    • dionissis_mitropoulos on September 12, 2018, 11:05 am


      There is a mechanical part that is called “ball bearing”:

      It bears only acoustic similarity, not semantic, with the word “ballsacks” that you used.

      The reason i am responding to you is that we have in Greek a similar counterfactual expression with the Israeli one you used. Here is what you said:

      “If our grandmother’s had ballsacks they’d be our grandfather’s.”

      In Greek, when we want to express our disapproval of a particular instance of counterfactual thinking, like you did, we say: “If my granny had ball bearings she would have been a roller skate”:

      Both the Israeli and the Greek expressions involve grannies, but, as we see, the Israeli one is more manly, more masculine — what with the allusion to particular anatomical details. I guess this is the reason that you Israelis have a far more heavy-handed approach to “terror” than we Europeans — you have more of this anatomical detail we have been talking about.

      A similar point has been made by pro-Israel advocate Noah Pollack, where he stressed the masculine supremacy of the Israeli psyche, noting that the Israelis’ masculinity and physical culture makes US Jews feel threatened – because, he implied, US Jews are soft compared to the Israelis (you need to scroll a bit):

      I think he is right, not just about US Jews, but about us Europeans too, we are indeed weak. Somewhere between the IDF’s unnecessary gunning down of more than a hundred unarmed Palestinian protesters during the return marches in Gaza and the violation of distinction and proportionality that the IDF perpetrated while killing at least 72 Palestinian civilians in the implementation of the Hannibal Directive in August 2014, I became persuaded that the Israelis can stomach far more killing of civilians than we subpar folk do.

      First it was Colonel Erran Morad, then it was Mr Noah Pollak, and now you DaBakr. Well, can you all tough Zionists please stop reminding the rest of us our lack of guts? You have already made me feel threatened, I feel less of a man, inferior, inferior to these tough Israelis. Please stop reminding us our softness before you eradicate our European self esteem completely – i am asking this of you as a favour.

      P.S. I was writing in a bantering mood, but the gist of the points is true, the Israelis want to export their cruelty to Europe. Here is the Times of Israel diplomatic correspondent Raphael Ahren (in 2015) lamenting Europe’s alleged softness to “terror”:

      “Despite Paris bloodbath, much of Europe wants to turn the other cheek”

      And here is the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs nudging Europe towards more militarism:

      “A classified document produced by Israel’s Foreign Ministry reportedly states that European countries are unable to defend themselves militarily and no single European country is capable of launching a military operation without outside assistance… The study’s main finding is that no European country is capable of carrying out a military campaign alone, and that all of Europe is overly dependent on the US for military support… Another key conclusion is that European countries suffer from an unwillingness to use force as part of their foreign policies.”

      Israel, of course, can take on stride Islamist enemies, unlike weak Europe, as we are told. From the left-wing Israeli newspaper Haaretz:

      “Dear Europe, Get Real and Learn From Israel How to Live With Terror
      Europeans might want to hold their noses while they do it, but they should be looking to Israel – and not just for homeland security technology.”

      (for more on the theme of Israel’s desire to see the Europeans in conflict with their Muslim populations please see a relevant Mondoweiss comment I had made):

      Here is influential Israeli journalist Dan Margalit in 2015, when he was writing for the right-wing Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom, declaring a tough war on behalf of the French people against the French Muslims, especially Muslims that look suspicious:

      “But can [French President in 2015] Hollande do more than just talk the talk? If he truly wants to go down in history as the man who eradicated the Islamic State group, he will have to put liberte, egalite and fraternite on the back burner to make way room for administrative detentions and aerial bombardments. At least until things calm down.
      This is the only way to fight terrorism. Uniformed officers should be stationed on every street corner; the French capital’s two major airports, Charles de Gaulle and Orly, should be made to look like Ben-Gurion International Airport, and passengers who look like potential terrorists should be profiled. Plainclothes units should raid Muslim strongholds in Paris, Toulouse and Lyon, even if innocent people get hurt. What other steps will France take? Who knows.”

      This last sentence, which expresses nonchalance if innocent Muslims get hurt, it’s the epitome of Israeli toughness — or, in my parlance, the epitome of a vulgar emotional world. It certainly explains the Gaza death toll of civilians during recurrent Israeli wars against Gaza.

      I started this comment in an attempt to tease commenter Dabakr. But somehow my mood changed along the way while letting the Israelis speak for themselves — Israel, the country that can make frozen anything warm in us (claims about blooming deserts notwithstanding).

      • dionissis_mitropoulos on September 12, 2018, 12:11 pm

        Mr Noah Pollak expressed his contempt for “a certain kind of young US Jews”, not all US Jews, but if you listen to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu expressing his contempt about “Diaspora” in general, you may get a better idea of how big the class of US Jews that Mr Noah Pollak has in mind is:

        ““Enough of this Diaspora-think,” Netanyahu said Monday. “I tell you that there is no diplomatic wisdom in being ingratiating.”

        It’s the allegedly “weak” US Jews that are the target of the contempt, the non-confrontational ones, not just certain young US Jews.

  2. Misterioso on September 11, 2018, 11:45 am


    “Opinion The Jerusalem Embassy Flop”

    “Relocating embassies to Jerusalem violates a worldwide consensus, and what’s happening now proves that Trump’s exhibitionist move didn’t change that.”

    By Ravit Hecht, Sep 07/18, Haaretz

    “The effort to leverage Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s greatest achievement – America’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocation of its embassy to the city – is proving to be an ongoing flop. Only two small countries have so far imitated the United States by moving their embassies to Jerusalem, Guatemala and Paraguay, mainly in order to flatter U.S. President Donald Trump.

    “And now that it has a new government, even tiny Paraguay has recanted and is moving its embassy back to Tel Aviv.

    “On the day the U.S. Embassy moved to Jerusalem, Dr. Miriam Adelson wrote the following in Israel Hayom, the free daily she publishes: ‘For too long, the Palestinians stymied peace with Israel by insisting on the lie that Jerusalem was theirs. The pragmatists among them understood that this was a non-starter – that Israelis would never give up on the city promised to them in the Bible, millennia before the advent of Islam …. By removing any question about U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, President Trump has freed up these pragmatists to think anew and craft a workable accommodation with their Israeli neighbors.’

    “But if we’re already talking about pragmatism, then reality, and global public opinion as well, refuse to remove Jerusalem from the negotiating table, just as they refuse to negate the millions of Palestinians planted between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, no matter how wealthy and powerful the Adelsons are or how many Knesset seats Netanyahu is winning in the polls.”

  3. Rob Roy on September 11, 2018, 10:54 pm

    No, if Barack Obama had done his job (as we expected), Trump would never have been elected. Obama gave us Trump.
    As for I/P coming to a peaceful solution via Oslo, it was never intended to happen. Ever:
    On the Israel/Palestine conflict: “We must define our position and lay down basic principles for a settlement. Our demands should be moderate and balanced, and appear to be reasonable. But in fact they must involve such conditions as to ensure that the enemy rejects them. Then we should manoeuvre and allow him to define his own position, and reject a settlement on the basis of a compromise position. We should then publish his demands as embodying unreasonable extremism”. – General Yehoshafat Harkabi, Former Israeli Chief of Military Intelligence

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