Blunt Force Trauma

Trump's negotiating mantra seems to be If you bludgeon someone hard enough, they will cave. That may work in the real estate market of New York city, particularly when you are protected by bankruptcy laws, but it is a highly questionable tactic in foreign policy particularly in the Middle East. Surely Trump of all people can understand the importance of a core constituency and in the Middle East that often means Muslims, Military, and Minions. Ignore the interested parties in the hopes of bribing or bullying your way to success is a prescription for failure at best.


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Ned Walker
Is Trump Only Toying with Palestine?

Trump sees the Palestinian issue as a transaction - if we pay - you have to play. The dynamic duo of Kushner and Friedman have seized on the idea that the Palestinians owe it to the United States to talk peace with the Israelis if they expect us to pay for the refugees. There are many problems with the United Nations program, UNRWA, starting with the assumption that refugee status is like your grandfathers’s legacy and is passed down from generation to generation. However, cutting it off to spite the Palestinian will more likely lead to renewed violence than Palestinian capitulation. While Trump has never appeared to be a long term thinker, perhaps it is time for the rest of us to think strategically rather than as game show promoters.

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Ned Walker
"Requiescat in Pace"

In the June 25th edition of “Atlantic” peace process veterans Philip Gordon and Prem Kumar labeled Jared Kushner’s Middle East efforts a “fantasy’. Their article is a well reasoned description of why Kushner and Trump are on the wrong track. That would be true only if Trump was serious about his deal of the century and not just pandering to elements of his political base. Unfortunately, it is likely that Trump believes that Middle East peace is a golden edifice like Trump Tower rather than like a bankrupt 666 5th Avenue. Neither Trump nor his mini-me seem to understand the history, the pain and suffering, or the aspirations of the people who live in the West Bank or Gaza. Nor do they comprehend that bribes are not likely to work with the successors to Palestinian leader Abu Mazen.

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Ned Walker
Netanyahu's Poodle - Time for a Redo

Trump is a master at tagging his enemies with labels. But labels do not provide rational roadmaps for the future.  Political tag lines can get him elected, but they cannot solve the problems we face or those faced by our friends in Israel and among the remaining few Palestinians who may hold our some hope for us - "after Trump."  None of us can afford to wait. as Trump would say "who knows."  But we don't have to know to act.  Let's call on the Americans who know the Gaza situation best, who have lived and worked there, even if, God forbid, they worked for Clinton's State Department. 

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Ned Walker
The Toddler's Approach to Middle East Peace

In talking about the promised US Middle East peace plan, President Trump is saying there will be something for each side to like while Nikky Haley points out that each side will have something to dislike. The real question, however, is whether either side can survive the plan. 

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Ned Walker
Don't Count on US.

The President has made it clear that it is up to the parties, or more accurately, the Israelis to make decisions about the West Bank and settlements - not Trump or the United States. Perversely, that did not, stop him from saying that “he” had taken Jerusalem off the table of negotiations. 

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Ned Walker
THE IRREPLACEABLE INGREDIENT

To those who argue that we have revoked our credentials as an impartial mediator because of Trump's Jerusalem statement, I would respond first that they should read what Trump actually said and second that, in all the negotiations in which I have engaged over the years, the US was never impartial.  Now more than ever, it is only the US that can provide the necessary reassurance that can give the Israeli body politic sufficient comfort to make a reasonable peace that the Palestinians can live with. 128 UN member state voters cannot substitute for the US.  Our negotiating style has always been to probe for the Israeli bottom line and then try to sell it to the Palestinians - almost never the other way around.  Without the US there will be no Israeli partner and without Israel there will be no solution leaving us with the very unstable and unsustainable  status quo..  

 

 

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Ned Walker
Syria in the Jaws of the Bear

The Administration needs to pick a clear policy in Syria, almost any policy, and stick with it so that our allies and enemies know where they and we stand.  We have flipped and flopped over the future of Assad to the point that he can justifiably claim that he is not an impediment to peace. Perhaps it is time to stop worrying so much about which personality will rule. The problem is not Assad. The problem is the regime itself.  Get rid of Assad and you solve nothing unless the regime goes with him.  Get rid of the regime and its levers of suppression and then there will be a chance for a new and different Syrian day. But that would require an investment and a firm policy that the US appears unwilling to make, at least thus far. 

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Ned Walker
Trump Trumps Netanyahu on Jerusalem

President Trump did the right thing for Israel, for the Palestinians and for America by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. No matter what your view of the President may be, his was a statesmanlike pronouncement worthy if our President.  It remains to be seen what the results may be, and given the fact that it is the Middle East there will inevitably be drama.  

 

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A Carpet Sellers Complaint

The US claims it is an honest broker in the Middle East, but in my 35 years of working on the problem the only “honest brokers” I encountered were the Norwegians.

Anyone who has carefully considered the Palestinian problem knows that it is not just an issue of territory or borders - it is not a real estate problem or an economic problem so much as it is an identity problem. It is the land that sets the Palestinian apart from any other Arab, and it is the land that establishes Jewish permanence apart from the diaspora. Until we focus on this essential issue - two peoples - both seeing their existence in perpetuity as defined by one piece of land, then the problem will persist and all we can hope for are temporary accommodations that offer a degree of tranquilly and well being, but fall short of resolving the problem. Perhaps that is enough for now. 

 

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Ned Walker
Will President Trump Fold his Middle East Hand? 

Lost in the hurricane of news and “fake news” coming out of Washington was the announcement and signature on Thursday, October 12 of a reconciliation agreement between the two Palestinian movements Fatah and Hamas.  The agreement, which was mediated and guaranteed by Egypt, was ten years in the making after Hamas violently expelled Fatah from Gaza in 2007. Inclusion of the terrorist designated Hamas may be a ready made excuse for the failure of Trump's Middle Eastnegotiating prowess.

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Amb. Friedman on 242 - oops

President Trump’s Ambassador to Israel,  David Friedman. has stood US Middle East policy on its head by reinventing the intentions of the drafters if UNSC Resolution 242, and ignoring US policy toward a “two state solution" as well as toward 800,000 Israeli settlers living in the West bank and Jerusalem.

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Ned Walker
Trump blows hot on the World stage

Devoid of lofty rhetoric and replete with dystopian angst along with direct and implied threats against Iran and North Korea, Trump’s maiden UN speech fulfilled the expectations of both his critics and his cheering section. His focus as expected was on North Korea, with Iran as a also ran, and Venezuela as a poor cousin. 

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Ned Walker
Taps for the Two State Solution

The Israeli encirclement of Jerusalem and announcement of more settlement housing makes the prospect of a two state solution increasingly impossible.  If no solution between Israel and the Palestinians is possible, then we need to adjust our thinking.  And by calling into question the Palestinian State, what are the Israelis saying about the future of their own state of Israel

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Who Cares About Israel?

“The Palestinian issue originally achieved strategic importance for the US primarily as a result of the Cold War and the US-Soviet competition for allies in the strategic Middle East. With the end of the cold war there has been a sometimes-serious debate about just how important the issue is to the United States. For the most part its importance has been assumed. Everybody knows it is important – but is it really important to us? And what about Israel?

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Is the Price of Peace Too High?

According to one poll several years ago, 62% of Jewish Israelis thought that the aspiration of the Arabs, in the long run, was to conquer the state of Israel and of that number, 42% thought the goal was to destroy a significant part of the Jewish population in Israel.  If that is your assumption about the people you are expected to negotiate with, then the price for any concessions would be much too high.

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Ned Walker
Jerusalem Embassy - The ISIS dream.

President Trump has  revived the call to move our Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The original reasons for locating in Tel Aviv were practical and twofold: security after the 1948 Arab Israeli war, and the fact that the Israeli government was initially located in Tel Aviv. But then the Israelis moved their government to Jerusalem and, for the most part, security was established in the land.  Our Embassy, however, stayed in Tel Aviv. Now the location of our Embassy is a red flag that could block our moves to discredit and defeat ISIS.

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