Review Essay

Language Lessons

Force Alone Won't Fix Israel and Palestine

In This Review

The Only Language They Understand: Forcing Compromise in Israel and Palestine
The Only Language They Understand: Forcing Compromise in Israel and Palestine
By Nathan Thrall
Metropolitan Books, 2017, 336 pp. Purchase

One of the most striking aspects of U.S. President Donald Trump’s first months in office has been his focus on solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Trump has often referred to a peace agreement between the two antagonists as the “ultimate deal,” and so far he has put as much time and effort into getting the sides to yes as he has on any other issue. Trump tasked his son-in-law and most trusted adviser, Jared Kushner, with the Israeli-Palestinian portfolio before he was even inaugurated, and he tasked the Trump Organization’s top lawyer, Jason Greenblatt, with mediating between the two sides. He separately hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House; sent Greenblatt not only to Israel and the West Bank but to Arab capitals and an Arab League summit; held discussions with King Salman of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah of Jordan, and President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt on crafting a regional solution to the conflict; and visited both Jerusalem and Bethlehem on his first trip overseas.

Just as striking as the president’s focus on the Israeli-Palestinian issue has been the acclaim he has received from former officials, think tankers, and analysts who are part of what is sometimes derisively referred to as the “peace process industry.” Many who do not support Trump on other foreign policy issues have applauded his cautious and measured approach on this one, and in particular his efforts to listen to both sides, refrain from making any early demands, and use a flattering personal approach to get Netanyahu and Abbas to the table. Rather than put pressure on either leader, Trump has apparently settled upon a strategy of propping up their egos—and their domestic political positions—through early Oval Office visits and his own recent trip to Jerusalem and Bethlehem. For many, this has revived hopes that as the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War and Israel’s occupation of the West Bank draws near,

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