Originally published under the title "The Paradoxical Peril of Easy U.S.-Israel Relations."
Despite not moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, President Trump's evident affection for Israel during his recent visit understandably cheered Israelis after eight years of cool relations with President Obama. Alas, nothing is simple in the Arab-Israeli conflict: A look at historic patterns suggests that, paradoxically, Israel does best with an Obama-style level of tension with Washington.
The explanation of this paradox starts with the fact that all American administrations since 1973, regardless of which party holds the presidency, are convinced the Arabs are ready for peace with Israel. This problem has been especially acute since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994. American presidents consistently ignore the authority's revolutionary nature. In this spirit, after a meeting with PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, Mr. Trump deemed him a "strategic partner" for Israel and "ready for peace."
Israel does best when there is tension with Washington.
American leaders often insist that if only Jerusalem handed over yet more money, land, and recognition, then the Palestinian Authority would be inspired to make peace.
In the face of near-infinite deceit, hostility, bellicosity, and violence, this touching faith in Palestinian good neighborliness can only be explained by psychology. Former deputy national security advisor Elliott Abrams helpfully compares it to Tinker Bell in Peter Pan: "If you believe, clap your hands."
When Israeli governments concur with this fanciful thinking, as has happened under Labor and Kadima prime ministers, U.S.-Israel relations soar: Think of Bill Clinton's famously warm ties with Yitzhak Rabin. ...
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