In US President Donald Trump’s kitchen, we can smell an almost impossible mission being prepared: A new peace project. President Trump has put the closest person to him, his senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner, in charge of it. He has also appointed a special envoy for this purpose, Jason Greenblatt, who has started endless journeys to pave the way for the new project.
Without enough clues, we can’t judge whether or not he will succeed. We all know that no one succeeded before, to the point where achieving comprehensive peace compares to the mythical rise of the phoenix.
Nevertheless, we remain open to optimism. Who knows? It could happen, just like winning the lottery — a very remote yet possible chance.
The requirements for success are available today. The regional climate, in particular, is better prepared than it was during the days of Camp David in the 1970s, the Madrid Peace Conference in the early 1990s, and the infamous Oslo Accords. It is also certainly better than the climate during which the peace talks in Taba, Wye River, Wadi Araba and others took place.
Why do we believe today’s political climate is suitable for a major peace project?
Everyone is waiting to learn the details of US president’s project and see whether or not he can succeed where his predecessors have failed.
A wide range of changes have taken place in the Arab region. The people who were most hostile toward the previous peace projects and were keen to sabotage them are now out of the game. These include Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Bashar Assad, and Palestinian left-wing parties. Moreover, the Muslim Brotherhood has been excluded from political power in Egypt and weakened in Sudan, while Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s rule in Iran stands on shaky ground, plus the Tehran regime is involved in Syria and Iraq, and is bound by the nuclear accord and conditional sanctions waivers.
I will not consider the defeat of terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda and Daesh because they were not part of the equation in the first place and did not seek to sabotage previous peace projects.
However, the absence of forces opposed to peace does not mean today’s Arab world is eager for reconciliation. Arabs are simply not thinking of reconciliation or discussing it, instead they are preoccupied with grave issues: Three major wars in Syria, Libya and Yemen, in addition to tensions and extensive security confrontations in areas surrounding the three wars.
Even this climate that is non-hostile — or indifferent — to peace in Palestine is not enough without a fair peace project. Is there anyone preparing a real peace plan? A plan that is close to Bill Clinton’s, which won the approval of many, including skeptics, but was not applied due to the reluctance of the Palestinian leadership at the time and Israel’s later refusal to have it proposed again.
This will be a difficult task for Kushner; a young, ambitious man who is close to Trump and has unique relations with Jewish powers in Israel and with a number of Arab leaders.
Even though the Palestinian cause is no longer a pressing issue, despite the ongoing pain and suffering of Palestinians, Kushner was the one to put it on Trump’s list of interests while the world is distracted by Syria, Iran, Libya and Daesh.
Everyone is waiting to learn the details of Trump’s peace project and I am part of the long queue that doubts the possibility of its success. For half a century, the world’s leaders have failed to achieve peace between Arabs and Israel, and it won’t be an easy task now that Trump has agreed to relocate the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem at no charge.
Nevertheless, we will wait, listen and judge the project at the right time.
— Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya news channel, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Twitter: @aalrashed.