Archive for the ‘Israel and Middle East’ category

US-Israel security interests converge

April 28, 2017

US-Israel security interests converge, Israel Hayom, Yoram Ettinger, April 28, 2017

In 2017, the national security interests of the U.S. and Israel have converged in ‎an unprecedented manner in response to anti-U.S. ‎Islamic terrorism; declining European posture of deterrence; drastic cuts in ‎the U.S. defense budget; an increasingly unpredictable, dangerous globe; ‎Israel’s surge of military and commercial capabilities and U.S.-Israel shared ‎values. ‎

Contrary to conventional wisdom — and traditional State Department policy — ‎U.S.-Israel and U.S.-Arab relations are not a zero-sum game. This is ‎currently demonstrated by enhanced U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation, ‎concurrently with expanded security cooperation between Israel and Egypt, ‎Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other pro-U.S. Arab countries, as well as stronger ‎cooperation between the U.S. and those same Arab countries. Unlike the ‎simplistic view of the Middle East, Arab policymakers are well aware of their ‎priorities, especially when the radical Islamic machete is at their throats. They ‎are consumed by internal and external intra-Muslim, intra-Arab violence, which ‎have dominated the Arab agenda, prior to — and irrespective of — the ‎Palestinian issue, which has never been a core cause of regional turbulence, a ‎crown-jewel of Arab policymaking or the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict. ‎

Israel’s posture as a unique ally of the U.S. — in the Middle East and beyond — ‎has surged since the demise of the USSR, which transformed the bipolar ‎globe into a multipolar arena of conflicts, replete with highly unpredictable, ‎less controllable and more dangerous tactical threats. Israel possesses proven ‎tactical capabilities in face of such threats. Thus, Israel provides a tailwind to the ‎U.S. in the pursuit of three critical challenges that impact U.S. national security, significantly transcending the scope of the Arab-‎Israeli conflict and the Palestinian issue: ‎

‎1. To constrain/neutralize the ayatollahs of Iran, who relentlessly aspire to ‎achieve nuclear capability in order to remove the ‎U.S. from the Persian Gulf, dominate the Muslim world, and subordinate the American “modern-day Crusaders.”‎

‎2. To defeat global Islamic terrorism, which aims to topple all pro-U.S. Arab ‎regimes, expand the abode of Muslim believers and crash the abode of non-Muslim “‎infidels” in the Middle East and beyond.‎

‎3. To bolster the stability of pro-U.S. Arab regimes, which are lethally ‎threatened by the ayatollahs and other sources of Islamic terrorism.

Moreover, Israel has been the only effective regional power to check the North ‎Korean incursion into the Middle East. For instance, on Sept. 6, 2007, the ‎Israeli Air Force destroyed Syria’s nuclear site, built mostly with the support of ‎Iran and North Korea, sparing the U.S. and the globe the wrath of a ruthless, ‎nuclear Assad regime. ‎

While Israel is generally portrayed as a supplicant expecting the U.S. to extend a ‎helping hand, Adm. (ret.) James G. Stavridis, a former NATO supreme commander, ‎currently the dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts ‎University, says otherwise. He maintains that Israel is not a supplicant but ‎rather a unique geostrategic partner, extending the strategic hand of the U.S. ‎through a mutually beneficial, highly productive ‎relationship with the U.S.

On Jan. 5, 2017, Stavridis wrote: “Our ‎best military partner in the region, by far, is Israel … as we stand together ‎facing the challenges of the Middle East. … Israeli intelligence gathering is ‎superb. … A second zone of potentially enhanced cooperation is in technology ‎and innovation. … In addition to missile defense, doing more together in ‎advanced avionics (as we did with the F-15), miniaturization (like Israel’s small ‎airborne-warning aircraft) and the production of low-cost battlefield unmanned ‎vehicles (both air and surface) would yield strong results. … We should up our ‎game in terms of intelligence cooperation. [The Israeli intelligence ‎services] of our more segregated sectors on a wide range of trends, including the disintegration of Syria, the events in Egypt and the military and nuclear ‎capability of Iran. … Setting up a joint special-forces training and innovation ‎center for special operations in Israel would be powerful. … It truly is a case ‎of two nations that are inarguably stronger together.” ‎

Unlike other major U.S. allies in Europe, the Far East, Africa and the Middle East, ‎Israel does not require U.S. military personnel and bases in order to produce an ‎exceptionally high added value to the annual U.S. investment in — and not ‎‎”foreign aid” to — Israel’s military posture.

For example, the plant manager of Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the ‎F-16 and F-35 fighter planes, told me during a visit to the plant in Fort Worth, Texas: “The ‎value of the flow of lessons derived from Israel’s operation, maintenance and ‎repairs of the F-16 has yielded hundreds of upgrades, producing a mega-‎billion-dollar bonanza for Lockheed-Martin, improving research and ‎development, increasing exports and expanding employment.”

A similar ‎added value has benefitted McDonnell Douglas, the manufacturer of the F-15 fighter plane ‎in Berkeley, Missouri, as well as hundreds of U.S. defense manufacturers, ‎whose products are operated by Israel. The Jewish state — the most ‎predictable, stable, effective, reliable and unconditional ally of the U.S. — has ‎become the most cost-effective, battle-tested laboratory of the U.S. defense ‎industry. ‎

According to a former U.S. Air Force intelligence chief, Gen. George Keegan: ‎‎”I could not have procured the intelligence [provided by Israel on Soviet Air ‎Force capabilities, new Soviet weapons, electronics and jamming devices] with ‎five CIAs. … The ability of the U.S. Air Force in particular, and the Army in ‎general, to defend NATO owes more to the Israeli intelligence input than it ‎does to any other single source of intelligence.” The former chairman of the ‎Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Daniel Inouye, revealed that “Israel ‎provided the U.S. [operational lessons and intelligence on advanced Soviet ‎ground-to-air missiles] that would have cost the U.S. billions of dollars to find ‎out.”

On Oct. 28, 1991, in the aftermath of the First Gulf War, then-Defense ‎Secretary Dick Cheney stated: “There were many times during the course of ‎the buildup in the Gulf, and subsequent conflict, that I gave thanks for the ‎bold and dramatic action that had been taken some 10 years before [when ‎Israel destroyed Iraq’s nuclear reactor at Osirak].” The destruction of Iraq’s ‎nuclear capabilities in 1981 spared the U.S. a nuclear confrontation in 1991.

An Israel-like ally in the Persian Gulf would have dramatically minimized U.S. ‎military involvement in Persian Gulf conflicts, and drastically reduced the ‎monthly, mega-billion dollar cost of U.S. military units and bases in the ‎Gulf and Indian Ocean, as is the current Israel-effect in the eastern flank of ‎the Mediterranean.‎

Yoram Ettinger is a former ambassador and head of Second Thought: A U.S.-Israel Initiative.

Do Not Reward Bad Behaviour

February 8, 2017

Do Not Reward Bad Behaviour, Gatestone InstituteJagdish N. Singh, February 8, 2017

The Trump Administration needs to see to it that UN Security Council Resolution 2334 is rendered null and void.

UNSC Resolution 2334 also implies that Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter, Western Wall and Temple Mount are all occupied territory, when in fact, it was Israel that liberated them from the illegal Jordanian conquest of them in the war of 1948.

Given the history of violence which the Palestinians indulge in against the Jews, it would seem a counter-productive precedent to reward decades of terrorism and uncivilised behaviour with a state. It would also leave the Palestinians, who deserve a responsible and accountable leadership, under the domination of two corrupt and brutal governments, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

A study of the various proposals Israel has made to Palestine from time to time shows the key obstacle to peace is not the Palestinians’ demand for any piece of land but their refusal to recognize the existence of the Jewish state, or presumably any state but an Islamic one.

The U.S. could also move its embassy to Jerusalem. This would send the Palestinian leadership and others in the region a strong message that Washington will support both historical facts and countries that comport themselves with civilised behaviour.

In the long-continuing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, conventional wisdom has it that peace can be achieved through realistic negotiations between the parties to the conflict.

The previous Obama administration displayed a clear tilt towards one party to the conflict, the Palestinians, at the cost of the other, Israel.

Last month, Washington’s abstention from voting on United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2334 led to its passage. This resolution condemns Israeli settlements in “Palestinian Occupied Territories.” Resolution 2334 also implies that Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter, Western Wall and Temple Mount are all occupied territory, when in fact, it was Israel that liberated them from the illegal Jordanian conquest of them in the war of 1948. The resolution effectively states that any Jewish presence beyond the 1949 armistice lines, or Israeli construction in Judea, Samaria or Jerusalem, is illegal.

Objectively speaking, this resolution amounts to anti-Semitism: it is simply counterfactual to the Jews’ history in the region. Both the Bible and archeology reveal that Jews have had a historical connection with this land for more than 3000 years.

Given the history of violence that the Palestinians indulge in against the Jews, it would seem a counter-productive precedent to reward decades of terrorism and uncivilised behaviour with a state. It would also leave the Palestinians, who deserve a responsible and accountable leadership, under the domination of two corrupt and brutal governments, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

One hopes President Donald J. Trump, as the leader of the democratic world, would waste no time to bury this counter-factual, anti-Semitic resolution. Nikki Haley, Trump’s appointment to the United Nations, has already condemned the controversial resolution as an “outrageous bias” against Israel, and criticized the Administration of former President Barack H. Obama for the abstention that let the resolution pass.

2287Nikki Haley (pictured above from 2014), President Trump’s appointment to the United Nations, has already condemned UN Security Council Resolution 2334 as an “outrageous bias” against Israel. (Image source: defenseimagery.mil)

The Trump Administration needs to see to it that UNSC Resolution 2334 is rendered null and void. Significantly, it has the moral and political support of the American Congress. The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly condemned the resolution. The Senate has introduced a similar bipartisan bill to cut funding from the United Nations.

Ironically, it is Washington’s “no” to this resolution that will help the peace process, not this resolution, as the Obama Administration disingenuously tried to claim.

A study of the various proposals Israel has made to the Palestinians from time to time shows the key obstacle to peace is not the Palestinian demand for any piece of land but its refusal to recognize the very existence of the Jewish state, or, presumably any state but an Islamic one, preferably its own. That there is any dispositive linkage of land for peace is a myth.

Sometimes, the Palestinians do recognize the state of Israel. At a news conference, then Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Yasser Arafat once said, “We accept two states, the Palestine state and the Jewish state of Israel.”

The Palestinian leadership said they did so in the Oslo Accords, too, but they never practised it. In all the proposals for peace Israel has set forth, the Palestinians have never even made a counter-offer, and seem especially averse to signing an “end of conflict” document.

The current Palestinian leadership is divided into two factions — the West Bank-based Fatah party of the Palestinian Authority (PA), and the Gaza Strip-based Hamas. Both openly incite violence against the Jews, and aspire to the eventual creation of an Islamic state replacing all of Israel.

According to a recent House of Representatives resolution, there have been more than 300 terrorist attacks targeting Israelis since September 2015. PA President Mahmoud Abbas, too, incites violence against Jews.

Washington’s “no” to the resolution would give the right message to the Palestinian Authority to join the Israeli leadership in direct negotiations, recognize the Jewish state and appreciate its security concerns.

The United States could also move its embassy to Jerusalem. This would send the Palestinian leadership and others in the region a strong message that Washington will support both historical facts and countries that comport themselves with civilised behaviour.

A necessary, natural move

January 11, 2017

A necessary, natural move, Israel Hayom, Prof. Eyal Zisser, January 10, 2017

(Please see also, Palestinians: Glorifying Mass Murderers. — DM)

The Palestinian terrorist, who perpetrated the deadly ramming at the Armon Hanatziv promenade Sunday afternoon in Jerusalem, did not any need any excuse to murder his victims. It’s possible he was influenced by previous ramming attacks carried out by Islamic State supporters in France and Berlin. It is also possible, however, that he was influenced by recent threats from people close to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who warned that moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — as promised by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump — would lead to an ungodly eruption of violence.

Either way, we must recognize that in Palestinian society — inundated with incitement on social media but also from its institutions — there exists a fundamental motivation to harm Israel and Israelis, and it only takes a little for this desire to bubble to the surface. The appearance of ISIS on the scene as a radicalizing element has enraptured a large portion of the younger generation in the Arab and Muslim world, only making this reality worse.

The terrorist attack in Jerusalem came a few days after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry chose to warn Trump against relocating the American embassy to Jerusalem, as doing so would send the region up in flames.

Perhaps Kerry has failed to notice that the Middle East is already burning, for quite some time now. The flames have consumed Libya, Syria, Yemen and Iraq. But of all these places, which represent living proof of his failed policies, the outgoing secretary of state chose to focus specifically on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and repeat the same tired mantra that the region’s problems are rooted in the fight between Israel and the Palestinians.

Kerry’s advice to Trump not to move the embassy, therefore, is misleading and should be ignored.

Why is transferring the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem not inherently hazardous, and why is it possible to “sell” such a move to the Arab world? Because any reasonable person understands that doing so would not change the status of the city or the existing reality there in any significant way, nor would it cause a shift in Washington’s fundamental positions on the conflict.

After all, Jerusalem is home to Israel’s state institutions, from the President’s Residence to the Knesset, and all foreign dignitaries visiting Israel, including U.S. President Barack Obama and Kerry, comes to the city to meet their Israeli counterparts. Can anyone seriously argue for forbidding a meeting between a visiting president and his Israeli counterpart in Jerusalem, because it could set the Middle East aflame?

Trump, therefore, can relocate the embassy to Jerusalem unperturbed and also make it clear that such a move, while necessary and natural, will not decide any of the fundamental questions pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not even regarding Jerusalem. With that, it would be best for Trump to notify Washington’s allies in the region and explain to them, politely but firmly, that moving the embassy is recognition of the reality on the ground, which Jordan and Egypt also accept. Doing so would help prevent any unnecessary emotional outbursts.

What Trump can learn from Kerry is that hesitation and trepidation are perceived as weakness in the region and invite pressure, belligerence and even a rejectionist approach. Russian President Vladimir Putin, on the other hand, who never sought favor from anyone, is respected and feared; certainly no one threatens to burn the region down in response to his policies.

Netanyahu, Congress, AIPAC and the PLO

January 10, 2017

Netanyahu, Congress, AIPAC and the PLO, Front Page MagazineCaroline Glick, January 10, 2017

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Originally published by the Jerusalem Post

The whitewashing of the PLO must end.

It is not in the least surprising that the PLO-controlled Palestinian Authority did not condemn the terrorist attack on Sunday. It is not surprising because the PLO-controlled PA encouraged the attack.

As Khaled Abu Toameh wrote for the Gatestone Institute, in the aftermath of last month’s US-enabled passage of UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which criminalizes Israel, the PA went on the warpath.

Among other things, Muhammad Abu Shtayyeh, who serves as a close adviser to PLO chief and PA leader Mahmoud Abbas called for an intensification of terrorist attacks against Israelis. Shtayyeh said that now is the time to “bolster the popular resistance” against Israel.

As Abu Toameh noted, “‘Popular resistance’ is code for throwing stones and petrol bombs and carrying out stabbing and car-ramming attacks against Israelis.”

Sunday’s terrorist murderer probably was inspired by Islamic State, and its adherents’ recent truck ramming murder sprees in Nice and Berlin, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

But Sunday’s 28-year-old cold blooded killer hailed from Jerusalem, not Nice.

His brain was washed since he was five years old by the PLO-controlled PA’s steady cycle of jihadist incitement.

From the time he was in preschool, the killer was indoctrinated to aspire to commit the mass murder of Jews he carried out on Sunday.

For 23 years, Israel and the US have empowered the PLO.

During this period, the terrorist group never took any concrete steps to promote peace. At no point in the past generation has a PLO leader ever told the Palestinians or supporters abroad that the time has come to bury the hatchet and accept Israel.

Instead, for 23 years, the PLO has openly supported Israel’s annihilation. Often that support has been stated in code words like “popular resistance” which everyone understands means murder.

To make it easy for Americans and Israelis to continue funding, arming, training and of course, recognizing the PLO as a “moderate” organization despite its continued sponsorship of terrorism, PLO members are always happy to talk about a “two-state solution” with Westerners that wish to be lied to.

But they do not hesitate to threaten anyone who rejects their lies about Jews and Israel. For instance, Abbas reacted to US President-elect Donald Trump’s plan to abide by the US law requiring the State Department to move the US embassy to Jerusalem by threatening him.

Trump’s plan will have “serious implications” for the US, Abbas told a group of visiting Israeli leftists.

PLO Executive Committee chairman Saeb Erekat said that if Trump moves the US embassy to Israel’s capital, the PLO will lobby Arab states to expel the US ambassadors from their capitals.

Jebl Mukaber, the Jerusalem neighborhood where Sunday’s terrorist lived, used to be just an Arab neighborhood in Jerusalem. It wasn’t particularly friendly.

But it also wasn’t particularly hostile.

But then for about five minutes in 1993, the PLO pretended it wasn’t a terrorist group. To the delight of the US, Israel responded by giving it operational bases in Gaza, Judea and Samaria. The PLO then went about indoctrinating residents of the areas under its control as well as throughout Israel that they must reject all forms of coexistence with Israel and work toward its destruction.

These acts of war on the ground have always been complemented by PLO efforts to destroy Israel in the court of world opinion through its unrelenting and ever escalating worldwide political war against the Jewish state.

In keeping with this state of affairs, following 2334’s passage, at the same time its members called for intensifying terrorist attacks against Israel, the PLO Executive Committee decided to escalate its international economic boycott campaign against Israel and ratchet up its campaign to convince the International Criminal Court to convict Israelis of imaginary war crimes.

Like Sunday’s terrorist attack in Jerusalem, it ought to go without saying that these actions are all acts of war against Israel.

The reason it is necessary to state what ought to be the self-evident fact that the PLO is a terrorist organization engaged in a total war against Israel and the Jewish People is because the people that are supposed to act on this reality insist on denying it. The Netanyahu government, the US Congress and US Jewish organizations led by AIPAC still refuse admit the truth about the PLO and draw the necessary conclusions.

Those necessary conclusions are similarly self-evident.

Israel and the US should cut all ties to the PLO.

The PLO should be re-designated as the terrorist group it never stopped being and treated accordingly.

Last week, the US House of Representatives passed non-binding Resolution 11, which condemned resolution 2334. Resolution 11 was shepherded through the House by AIPAC, with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s support.

The House resolution, which is set to be followed by a nearly identical Senate resolution in the coming days, is based on the proposition that 2334 is bad not because, as the Simon Wiesenthal Center rightly said, it was the worst antisemitic act of 2016. Rather, the congressional resolution rejects 2334 because it harms the chance of Israel and the PLO reaching a negotiated peace that will lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Resolution 11 is marginally helpful because it rejects economic and political warfare against Israel. But substantively, in regard to the PLO and its legitimacy, the greatest difference between Resolution 11 and 2334 is that while 2334 embraces the PLO’s anti-Jewish rejection of all Jewish ties to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, Resolution 11 recognizes Israel’s right to the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter.

Beyond Jerusalem’s Old City, Congress’s resolution accepts the pro-PLO position that it is a good idea to work toward the forcible expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Jews from their homes in Judea and Samaria to make room for a Jew-free Palestinian state led by PLO terrorists.

To credit its position, the House resolution states that 2334’s refusal to distinguish between Jerusalem’s Old City and Judea and Samaria means it equates “these sites with outposts in the West Bank that the Israeli government has deemed illegal.”

The problem with this wording is that it ignores the fact that the Knesset is about to pass a law that would effectively cancel that delineation. Similarly, it ignores that the delineation of Israeli communities built since 2000 in Judea and Samaria as illegal was done by a radical Justice Ministry attorney who now heads the post-Zionist New Israel Fund.

In other words, Congress’s resolution reflects the view of the far-left fringes of the Israeli political spectrum.

Supported by Netanyahu, AIPAC shepherded this resolution through the House, despite harsh opposition from the House Freedom Caucus whose members wish to end US support for the PLO and for a PLO state.

Although AIPAC condemned the Obama administration’s refusal to veto 2334, it continues to fervently support the PLO and Palestinian statehood. Indeed, just days after 2334 passed, AIPAC officials and missions were meeting with Erekat and other PLO operatives in Ramallah, as if there is anything pro-Israel about meeting with people who just got the Security Council to resolve that Israel is a criminal state.

AIPAC’s continued support for the PLO no doubt stems in part from its desire to keep the Democratic Party inside the pro-Israel tent. Unfortunately, that ship seems to have sailed.

Nearly 40% of House Democrats including minority leader Nancy Pelosi and assistant leader Jim Clyburn voted against the PLO state supporting resolution.

Rep. Keith Ellison, who is the front-runner to be elected Democratic National Committee chairman later this month, also voted no. Two thirds of the 95 Democrats supported by J Street opposed the resolution.

Most of the Democrats that supported Resolution 11 may well have supported it even if it had left out the goal of giving the PLO a state. It cannot be credibly argued that Reps. Elliot Engel and Steny Hoyer would have opposed Resolution 11 if it had simply stated that 2334 was antisemitic.

Certainly it is hard to argue they would have opposed it if the vote was delayed until January 21. Indeed, it is hard to understand why it was necessary to pass the resolution while President Barack Obama – who partnered with the PLO to pass 2334 – is still in office.

Resolution 2334’s passage must be viewed as an inflection point. It is no longer possible to credibly argue that the PLO is remotely interested in peace with Israel. Sunday’s murderous terrorist attack Jerusalem was further testament of this truth.

The time has come for Israelis and Israel’s supporters in the US to demand that our leaders – from Prime Minister Netanyahu to AIPAC to members of Congress – finally recognize and act of this truth. The whitewashing of the PLO must end.

The Resilience of Israel

December 29, 2016

The Resilience of Israel, Town HallVictor Davis Hanson, December 29, 2016

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The Obama administration’s estrangement from Israel has had the odd effect of empowering Israel.

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Israel would seem to be in a disastrous position, given the inevitable nuclear capabilities of Iran and the recent deterioration of its relationship with the United States, its former patron and continued financial benefactor.

Immediately upon entering office, President Obama hectored Israel on so-called settlements. Obama promised to put “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel — and delivered on that promise.

Last week, the U.S. declined to veto, and therefore allowed to pass, a United Nations resolution that, among other things, isolates Israel internationally and condemns the construction of housing in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Obama has long been at odds with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Over objections from the Obama administration, Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress last year about the existential dangers of the Obama-brokered Iran deal and the likelihood of a new Middle East nuclear proliferation race.

Obama then doubled down on his irritation with Netanyahu through petty slights, such as making him wait during White House visits. In 2014, an official in the Obama administration anonymously said Netanyahu, a combat veteran, was a “coward” on Iran.

At a G-20 summit in Cannes, France, in 2011, Obama, in a hot-mic slip, trashed Netanyahu. He whined to French President Nicolas Sarkozy: “You’re tired of him? What about me? I have to deal with him every day.”

In contrast, Obama bragged about his “special” relationship with autocratic Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Never mind that Erdogan seems to want to reconstruct Turkey as a modern Islamist version of the Ottoman Empire, or that he is anti-democratic while Israel is a consensual society of laws.

The Middle East surrounding democratic Israel is a nightmare. Half a million have died amid the moonscape ruins of Syria. A once-stable Iraq was overrun by the Islamic State.

The Arab Spring, U.S. support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the coup of General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to regain control of Egypt, and the bombing of Libya all have left North Africa in turmoil.

Iran has been empowered by the U.S.-brokered deal and will still become nuclear.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bombers blast civilians not far from Israel’s borders.

Democrats are considering Rep. Keith Ellison as the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee despite his past ties to the Nation of Islam and his history of anti-Israel remarks.

Yet in all this mess, somehow Israel is in its best geostrategic position in decades. How?

The answer is a combination of unintended consequences, deft diplomacy, political upheavals in Europe and the United States, and Israel’s own democratic traditions.

Huge natural gas and oil finds off Israel’s Mediterranean coast and in the Golan Heights have radically changed Israel’s energy and financial positions. Israel no longer needs to import costly fossil fuels and may soon be an exporter of gas and oil to needy customers in Europe and the Middle East. (America recently became the world’s greatest producer of carbon energy and also no longer is dependent on Middle Eastern oil imports, resulting in less political influence by Arab nations.) Israel is creating its own version of Silicon Valley at Beersheba, which is now a global hub of cybersecurity research.

The Obama administration’s estrangement from Israel has had the odd effect of empowering Israel.

Rich Persian Gulf states see Obama as hostile both to Israel and to themselves, while he appeases the common enemy of majority-Shiite Iran.

After a “leading from behind” U.S withdrawal from the Middle East, many Arab nations now see Israel more as a powerful ally against Iran than as an old existential enemy. They also see Israel as a country that has likewise been snubbed by America.

The idea of an Arab-Israeli understanding is surreal, but it is developing from shared fears of being targets of Iranian bombing and American indifference.

Many of Israel’s neighbors are threatened by either ISIS or al-Qaida nihilists. Those deadly dangers remind the world that democratic, free-market Israel is the sole safe port amid a rising Middle East tsunami.

Changing Western politics are empowering Israel as well.

More than 2 million migrants — for the most part, young males from the war-torn Middle East — have terrified Europe, especially after a series of radical Islamic terrorist killings. Suddenly, Europe is far more worried about Israel’s neighbors than about lecturing Israel itself.

Pushback against the Obama administration extends to its foreign policy. President-elect Donald Trump may be more pro-Israel than any recent U.S. president. And he may be the first U.S. leader to move the American embassy to Israel’s capital in West Jerusalem.For all the chaos and dangers abroad, the map of global energy, Western politics and Middle Eastern alliances has been radically redrawn.At the center is a far stronger Israel that has more opportunities than at any other time in its history. It will have an even brighter future after Obama has left office.

UNSC resolution promotes Mid East war

December 24, 2016

UNSC resolution promotes Mid East war, DEBKAfile, December 24, 2016

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The United States did not abandon Israel by its abstention from vetoing the UN Security Council resolution condemning settlements that was passed Friday, Dec. 23, 2016.

The one who abandoned Israel was US President Barack Obama – and not for the first time. During his eight years in office, Obama let Israel down at least three times on issues that jeopardized its security:

One of the first consequences of his 2011 “Arab Spring” initiative was the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak as Egyptian president and his direct promotion of the Muslim Brotherhood’s takeover of power in Cairo.

Four years later, Obama turned his back on Israel to award Iran favored status. Iran was allowed to retain the infrastructure of its military nuclear program as well as continuing to develop ballistic missiles, with the help of an infusion of $250 billion in US and European sanctions relief.

The horror of the carnage in Syria overshadowed the fact that President Obama allowed Tehran to pump Revolutionary Guards forces into the country through Iraq in order to fight for the brutal Assad regime. The president made no effort to halt the influx of pro-Iranian Shiite groups, including the Lebanese Hizballah, into Syria, as though it was perfectly natural and his policies had nothing to do with bringing Israel’s arch-foes to its back door.

In 2015, too, when Obama tried to wash his hands of the Middle East at large, he opened the war for the Islamic State and its leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi to walk in and commandeer large swathes of Iraq and Syria virtually unopposed.

From those vantage points, the jihadists sent out a tentacle to Egyptian Sinai – close to another Israeli border.

Of late, the Obama has claimed he was not aware of ISIS’ potential for expansion, implying that US intelligence was at fault.

All the same, Obama never tired of emphasizing that he had done more than any US president before him to support Israel’s security, mainly in the form of advanced US weapons systems supplied for its defense. Because of the close military and intelligence ties between the two countries, no voice was raised to contradict him.

It is now time to point to the hypocrisy of the incumbent president’s posture: Had he invested less in granting benefits and free rein to the Jewish state’s closest enemies, Israel would perhaps have been less dependent on American hardware.

In the latest UN Security Council resolution, Israel is reprimanded on the score that “all Israeli settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including east Jerusalem, are illegal under international law and constitute a major obstacle to the achievement of peace on the basis of the two-state solution.”

Before anyone else, Barack Obama and his Secretary of State John Kerry are in a position to attest to the falseness of this equation.

On Nov. 25, 2009, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced that Israel would impose a 10-month freeze on construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem as a concession to ease the US peace initiative. Israel gave way further on its demand for direct negotiations, when Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas dug his heels in against meeting Israeli officials face to face. John Kerry was forced to engage in shuttle diplomacy.
Even after those concessions for peace, the Obama initiative fell flat when it came up against Palestinian resistance.

The departing US president seems determined to use his last weeks in office to teach the Israeli prime minister a painful lesson he won’t forget in a hurry after his White House exit on Jan. 20.

But he is getting it wrong one more time. The UN SC resolution will soon be reduced to a piece of paper. The Palestinians will wave it gladly in the face of the international community, but Israel won’t remove a single settlement or stop building new housing estates in Jerusalem. The Prime Minister’s Office made it clear that Israel is not bound by the resolution and rejects it.
The only concrete result will be to make peace more elusive than ever

The notion that Donald Trump will come riding to Israel’s rescue as soon as he moves into the Oval Office is foolish. He was elected to rebuild America as a global power. That would necessarily include restoring US influence in the Middle East, but how he proposes to accomplish this is not generally known.

If he decides to call on Israel for support and assistance, it stands to reason that he will introduce radical changes in Obama’s steps – especially the nuclear deal with Iran and the peace process with the Palestinians.

Not all those changes can be achieved peacefully. They may well entail the use of military force by the United States and Israel. In this sense, Security Council Resolution 2334 may turn out to be the real obstacle to peace, tending rather to promote belligerence in the Middle East, because the Palestinians and other hardliners and rejectionists will use the resolution as their justification for bashing Israel and more acts of terror.

The Real Middle East Story

September 25, 2016

The Real Middle East Story, The Amerian InterestWalter Russell Mead, September 23, 2016

The reason that Bibi has been more successful than Obama is that Bibi understands how the world works better than Obama does. Bibi believes that in the harsh world of international politics, power wisely used matters more than good intentions eloquently phrased.

Bibi’s successes will not and cannot make Israel’s problems and challenges go away. And finding a workable solution to the Palestinian question remains something that Israel cannot ignore on both practical and moral grounds. But Israel is in a stronger global position today than it was when Bibi took office; nobody can say that with a straight face about the nation that President Obama leads. When and if American liberals understand the causes both of Bibi’s successes and of Obama’s setbacks, then perhaps a new and smarter era of American foreign policy debate can begin.

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Peter Baker notices something important in his dispatch this morning: at this year’s UNGA, the Israel/Palestine issue is no longer the center of attention. From The New York Times:

They took the stage, one after the other, two aging actors in a long-running drama that has begun to lose its audience. As the Israeli and Palestinian leaders recited their lines in the grand hall of the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday, many in the orchestra seats recognized the script.

“Heinous crimes,” charged Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president. “Historic catastrophe.”

“Fanaticism,” countered Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister. “Inhumanity.”

Mr. Abbas and Mr. Netanyahu have been at this for so long that between them they have addressed the world body 19 times, every year cajoling, lecturing, warning and guilt-tripping the international community into seeing their side of the bloody struggle between their two peoples. Their speeches are filled with grievance and bristling with resentment, as they summon the ghosts of history from hundreds and even thousands of years ago to make their case.

While each year finds some new twist, often nuanced, sometimes incendiary, the argument has been running long enough that the world has begun to move on. Where the Israeli-Palestinian conflict once dominated the annual meeting of the United Nations, this year it has become a side show as Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Abbas compete for attention against seemingly more urgent crises like the civil war in Syria and the threat from the Islamic State.

Baker (and presumably many of his readers) don’t go on to the next, obvious question: What does this tell us about the relative success or failure of the leaders involved? The piece presents both Netanyahu and Abbas as irrelevant. They used to command the world stage, but now nobody is interested in their interminable quarrel.

What the piece doesn’t say is that this situation is exactly what Israel wants, and is a terrible defeat for the Palestinians. Abbas is the one whose strategy depends on keeping the Palestinian issue front and center in world politics; Bibi wants the issue to fade quietly away. What we saw at the UN this week is that however much Abbas and the Palestinians’ many sympathizers might protest, events are moving in Bibi’s direction.

There is perhaps only one thing harder for the American mind to process than the fact that President Obama has been a terrible foreign policy president, and that is that Bibi Netanyahu is an extraordinarily successful Israeli Prime Minister. In Asia, in Africa, in Latin America, Israel’s diplomacy is moving from strength to strength. Virtually every Arab and Middle Eastern leader thinks that Bibi is smarter and stronger than President Obama, and as American prestige across the Middle East has waned under Obama, Israel’s prestige — even among people who hate it — has grown. Bibi’s reset with Russia, unlike Obama’s, actually worked. His pivot to Asia has been more successful than Obama’s. He has had far more success building bridges to Sunni Muslims than President Obama, and both Russia and Iran take Bibi and his red lines much more seriously than they take Obama’s expostulations and pious hopes.

The reason that Bibi has been more successful than Obama is that Bibi understands how the world works better than Obama does. Bibi believes that in the harsh world of international politics, power wisely used matters more than good intentions eloquently phrased. Obama sought to build bridges to Sunni Muslims by making eloquent speeches in Cairo and Istanbul while ignoring the power political realities that Sunni states cared most about — like the rise of Iran and the Sunni cause in Syria. Bibi read the Sunnis more clearly than Obama did; the value of Israeli power to a Sunni world worried about Iran has led to something close to a revolution in Israel’s regional position. Again, Obama thought that reaching out to the Muslim Brotherhood (including its Palestinian affiliate, Hamas) would help American diplomacy and Middle Eastern democracy. Bibi understood that Sunni states like Egypt and its Saudi allies wanted Hamas crushed. Thus, as Obama tried to end the Gaza war on terms acceptable to Hamas and its allies, Bibi enjoyed the backing of both Egypt and Saudi Arabia in a successful effort to block Obama’s efforts. Israel’s neighbors may not like Bibi, but they believe they can count on him. They may think Obama has some beautiful ideas that he cares deeply about, but they think he’s erratic, unreliable, and doesn’t understand either them or their concerns.

Obama is an aspiring realist who wanted to work with undemocratic leaders on practical agreements. But Obama, despite the immense power of the country he leads, has been unable to gain the necessary respect from leaders like Putin and Xi that would permit the pragmatic relationships he wanted to build. Bibi is a practicing realist who has succeeded where Obama failed. Bibi has a practical relationship with Putin; they work together where their interests permit and where their interests clash, Putin respects Bibi’s red lines. Obama’s pivot to Asia brought the US closer to India and Japan, but has opened a deep and dangerous divide with China. Under Bibi’s leadership, Israel has stronger, deeper relationships with India, China and Japan than at any time in the past, and Asia may well replace Europe as Israel’s primary trade and investment partners as these relationships develop.

The marginalization of Abbas at the UN doesn’t just reflect the world’s preoccupation with bigger crises in the neighborhood. It reflects a global perception that a) the Sunni Arab states overall are less powerful than they used to be and that b) partly as a result of their deteriorating situation, the Sunni Arab states care less about the Palestinian issue than they used to. This is why African countries that used to shun Israel as a result of Arab pressure are now happy to engage with Israel on a variety of economic and defense issues. India used to avoid Israel in part out of fear that its own Kashmir problem would be ‘Palestinianized’ into a major problem with its Arab neighbors and the third world. Even Japan and China were cautious about embracing Israel too publicly given the power of the Arab world and its importance both in the world of energy markets and in the nonaligned movement. No longer.

Inevitably, all these developments undercut the salience of the Palestinian issue for world politics and even for Arab politics and they strengthen Israel’s position in the region and beyond. Obama has never really grasped this; Netanyahu has based his strategy on it. Ironically, much of the decline in Arab power is due to developments in the United States. Fracking has changed OPEC’s dynamics, and Obama’s tilt toward Iran has accelerated the crisis of Sunni Arab power. Netanyahu understands the impact of Obama’s country and Obama’s policy on the Middle East better than Obama does. Bibi, like a number of other leaders around the world, has been able to make significant international gains by exploiting the gaps in President Obama’s understanding of the world and in analyzing ways to profit from the unintended consequences and side effects of Obama policies that didn’t work out as Obama hoped.

Bibi’s successes will not and cannot make Israel’s problems and challenges go away. And finding a workable solution to the Palestinian question remains something that Israel cannot ignore on both practical and moral grounds. But Israel is in a stronger global position today than it was when Bibi took office; nobody can say that with a straight face about the nation that President Obama leads. When and if American liberals understand the causes both of Bibi’s successes and of Obama’s setbacks, then perhaps a new and smarter era of American foreign policy debate can begin.