Donald Trump has surveyed the wreckage of decades of failed Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy, considered the world full of challenges his administration faces, and somehow concluded that . . . he’s going to be the president who brokers a comprehensive Mideast deal. “It might be a bigger and better deal than people in this room even understand,” he proclaimed last week at a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
What is it about the Holy Land that inspires such messianism? Perhaps the question answers itself. In any case, Trump’s outsize diplomatic ambition is hardly unique. In fact, it bears a striking resemblance to that of John Kerry and Barack Obama. For American leaders, the shining allure of the Israeli-Palestinian peace prize appears to induce blindness to the conditions on the ground; deafness to expert advisers who point out that a grand initiative will be doomed to failure; and an irrational conviction that a new American strategy for peace can suddenly make success possible.
By the time Obama took office in 2009, the prospects for a deal on a Palestinian state were already moribund, thanks in large part to the leaders of the two sides: Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who in addition to despising each other were unwilling and politically unable to make the necessary concessions. Eight years later, both are still in place, only weaker and even more intransigent than before.