Archive for the ‘Netanyahu and Trump’ category

Trump in Israel

May 23, 2017

Trump in Israel, Front Page Magazine, Daniel Greenfield, May 23, 2017

Every act of Islamic terror educates us. It is a difficult and bloody education. We graduate when we realize who our enemies are and how impossible it is to achieve any peace with them.

President Trump’s walk to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre required thousands of police officers, closed stores and houses filled with snipers while their residents were evacuated. 

That is life under the shadow of terrorism.

It’s not only presidents who have to live this way. It’s all of us in Jerusalem and Paris, in Manchester and in Rome where there are soldiers in the street and cries of “Allah Akbar” in the air. And then a car speeds up, a knife slashes, a plane crashes or a bomb goes off. 

And the education continues.

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When President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu met on the tarmac, they and their spouses chatted easily. The two conservative leaders have much in common. They are political insurgents who draw their support from a rougher working class overlooked and despised by leftist elites.

The polls said that Netanyahu and Trump would lose their respective elections. Instead they won big. They prevailed despite accusations of bigotry, attacks by celebrities and a torrent of fake media scandals. The media decided that the big story of Trump’s arrival in Israel would be their claim that Melania Trump had swatted her husband’s hand away. A few months ago, Netanyahu was in court testifying against a lefty journalist for spreading fake news that his wife had kicked him out of the car.

Like so much of the fake media news aimed at Trump, it was sourced from an anonymous source through another anonymous source who knew someone’s dog.

And, sure enough, Sara Netanyahu and Melania Trump bonded on the tarmac over the media’s hatred.

Trump and Netanyahu are political pragmatists with a strong economic focus who run to the right. Trump is a developer. Netanyahu has a degree in architecture. Trump has a Queens accent and Netanyahu still has his Philly accent.  And they prevail despite the opposition of leftist elites.

Subtract the geography and this news story from Netanyahu’s victory would sound familiar to Trump. “Leftist, secular Tel Aviv went to sleep last night cautiously optimistic only to wake up this morning in a state of utter and absolute devastation.”

But there is one difference between the two men.

An hour before President Trump landed in Israel, a car struck people in Tel Aviv. Usually when a car hits people, it’s an accident. But in Israeli and in European cities, car ramming has become a terrorist tactic.

And so the incident was one of the first things that Trump heard about when he landed.

Police decided that it was an accident, but as the presidential visit got underway, there was the usual litany of violence; stonings, a fatality and a stabbing. And the question that so many of us now ponder across the civilized world rose unspoken each time blood was shed. Was it Islamic terrorism?

The efforts of conservative Israeli prime ministers to contain the fallout of a disastrous peace process with terrorists set into motion by leftist prime ministers have reduced the violence so that it no longer touches the lives of most Israelis on a regular basis. But it is always there. And it never truly goes away.

That is what must be understood when we talk about “peace”.

No amount of outreach to Muslim terrorists ends the violence. Not in Europe or America. And not in Israel; the country that has become the test case for whether Muslims and non-Muslims can coexist.

President Trump’s itinerary of Saudi Arabia, Israel and Rome is a gamble that “the three Abrahamic Faiths” will join in a coalition to take on Iran and ISIS. It’s a better plan than Bush’s push for regional democracy or Obama’s violently destructive backing for Islamist political takeovers in the Arab Spring. A common enemy is more likely to get different groups behind the same cause. But having a common enemy should not be confused with having peace. At best it means a very temporary truce.

Netanyahu understands this because he has far more experience with Islamic terrorism. When it comes to Islamic terrorism, there are few countries that have faced it as consistently and constantly as Israel.

Muslim terrorists have struck America before. But only in the last decade were the Islamic colonies in the United States large enough and young enough to mount a constant drumbeat of attack plots.

Thousands of terrorism investigations are still new to America. They’re a way of life in Israel.

Terrorism is a bloody education. Trump knows far more about Islamic terrorism than Bush did. And Bush knew far more than his father. Most Americans still can’t conceive of the idea that peace is impossible. It’s too grim and hopeless. We’ve come a long way since the Obama years. But we aren’t there yet.

In the spring of his first year, Obama traveled to the Middle East to seek a “new beginning” with the Muslim world. He stopped off first in Saudi Arabia, but saved his speech calling for political change until his arrival in Egypt. Trump delivered his key speech in Saudi Arabia disavowing calls for political change. Instead America’s relationship with the Muslim world would be defined by its national security needs.

Obama blamed colonialism for the poor relations between the West and the Muslim world. His solution was to dismantle Western power. Trump defined Islamic terrorism as the problem and unity against it as the solution. Obama had bypassed Israel and traveled on to Germany making a heavily publicized visit to the Buchenwald concentration camp. Trump continued on to Israel instead.

The difference was profound.

Obama was more comfortable engaging with Jews as victims and, in a typically egotistical manner, envisioning what the victims of the Holocaust might have made of his visit. “They could not have known that one day an American President would visit this place and speak of them.” His Cairo speech reduced Israel to a byproduct of the Holocaust. If so, Israel’s capital might as well be in Buchenwald.

Trump however is ready to interact with the living Jewish present in Israel. His trip to the Western Wall, the first by a sitting president, and a cancelled visit to Masada, sought to engage with Israel’s national and religious identity. They signify a recognition that Obama never offered to Israel.

In Saudi Arabia, President Trump rolled out a vision of relationships based on national interest. And no such relationship can be built without recognizing national identity. Trump’s recognition of Israel’s national identity adds a note of respect. But Israel is one of the few nations in the region.

Nations can make peace. They can put aside their bloody past and at least learn to ignore each other. And in the West, religion has come to act as a moral operating system within the infrastructure of nations. Religion provides guidelines that transcend the law. The legal system can only tell us what we must do or may not do to each other. Religion tells us what we ought to do or not do to each other. It is a personal conscience and a relationship to a higher authority than mere government.

Saudi Arabia isn’t a nation. Neither is “Palestine”. They’re powerful extended families whose form of worship is terrorism. Islamic terrorism isn’t a perversion of Islam. It’s the implementation of Islam.

Islam provides the morale and motive for the conquest. And once the conquest is complete, it provides the framework for the kingdom. Islam’s message is the inferiority of Muslims to non-Muslims. War affirms the message. Oppression internalizes it. Islam is meaningful only when it is killing and oppressing infidels. It is not a religion of the persecuted, but the persecutors. Its theology is violent supremacism.

President Trump deserves credit for refusing to let the Saudis pretend that some Islamic terror groups are more legitimate than others by classing together ISIS with Hamas. But the only Islamic terrorism that the Saudis will reject is that which does not serve their interests. And even if they wanted to, they could no more end popular support for Islamic terrorism than Iraq could become a multicultural utopia through the magic of democracy.

Nor can Israel make peace with Islamic terrorists no matter how many more concessions Prime Minister Netanyahu offers them. President Trump calls it a tough deal. But you can only make a deal with someone who follows some of the same rules you do. You can’t make a deal with Islamic terrorists whose only rules are that the Koran lets them [say] anything they want to you.

President Trump called Islamic terrorism evil. And it is. But it’s not just evil. Its codes and ethics are utterly incompatible with our own. The only way to negotiate is through threats. And even threats only go so far with fanatics who believe that if they die, they will earn 72 virgins in paradise.

Islamic entities will tell any lie and commit any crime to accelerate their objective of conquering us. Whether they tell a lie or commit a crime depends on whether they’re moderates or extremists.

Yesterday, I heard Geert Wilders speak. And I recognized a leader who understands this grim reality. Few of his fellow Europeans do. Even fewer American politicians share that understanding. Europe is facing a deeper threat than America. And Israel has been confronting a bigger threat than Europe.

Every act of Islamic terror educates us. It is a difficult and bloody education. We graduate when we realize who our enemies are and how impossible it is to achieve any peace with them.

President Trump’s walk to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre required thousands of police officers, closed stores and houses filled with snipers while their residents were evacuated.

That is life under the shadow of terrorism.

It’s not only presidents who have to live this way. It’s all of us in Jerusalem and Paris, in Manchester and in Rome where there are soldiers in the street and cries of “Allah Akbar” in the air. And then a car speeds up, a knife slashes, a plane crashes or a bomb goes off.

And the education continues.

LIVE NOW President Donald Trump Israel Speech & Press Conference w/ Benjamin Netanyahu 5/22/17

May 22, 2017

LIVE NOW President Donald Trump Israel Speech & Press Conference w/ Benjamin Netanyahu 5/22/17 via YouTube

 

Recruit Russia in the fight against Iran

March 9, 2017

Recruit Russia in the fight against Iran, Israel Hayom, Ariel Bolstein, March 9, 2017

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting with Russian President Vladmir Putin in Moscow Thursday takes place at an interesting time.

Russia, which has exhausted its military moves in Syria, is searching for a future strategy that will allow it to integrate into the world of U.S. President Donald Trump. Russia has paid a high price for its confrontation with the West. True, as a result of the United States’ geopolitical retreat under former U.S. President Barack Obama, Russian influence has grown on a few fronts, primarily in the Middle East, but this achievement is not worth much without American recognition of Russia’s new-old status as a world power. The changing of the guard in Washington provided Moscow with a unique opportunity to turn the page on its relationship with the West, but the significance of such a change would also mean concessions on its part.

It seems that Russia may meet Trump halfway on the Iranian issue. Russia did not have much in common with the country of Islamic revolution from the outset, and the collaboration between them stems more from a desire on the part of both countries to challenge the existing world order. Indications of Russia’s openness to the idea of turning its back on Iran have been noted on Russian state television. These channels are full of talk shows that focus on current events, and the variety of voices heard on them is effectively controlled by authorities. In recent weeks, these programs have raised the possibility of placing Iran on the sacrificial altar between Moscow and Washington, and this was received with understanding by a majority of participants. One must remember that Putin and as a result the Russian public are determined to witness Russia’s inclusion in the select club of world powers, but they have no interest in dragging others who also claim the crown along with them, and certainly not Iran.

From Israel’s perspective, Netanyahu is now the only statesman to enjoy the trust of and an unprecedented friendship with both the White House and the Kremlin. Israel has succeeded in preserving its interests in the tempest of upheaval in the Middle East, in large part due to the relationship Netanyahu has forged with Putin. The Russians have been forced to honor Israel’s freedom of action in the region and have come to understand full well Israel’s determination to act whenever Israeli considerations require that it do so.

In the Trump era, Israel’s stock has risen even more in the eyes of the Russians. Moscow could not help but notice the special affinity Trump has shown toward Netanyahu and the feelings of solidarity they share. Israel is clearly not operating within a vacuum — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit Russia after Netanyahu, and later in the month, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani will do the same — but those in the Kremlin must understand the differences in influence among these three figures.

The possible resolution in Syria and its de facto division into regions of influence underscores the need to stop the expansion and strengthening of Iran. Russia needs to understand that Hezbollah’s murderousness and lack of humanity is no different from that of the Sunni terrorists it so mercilessly bombed. There should be one law for the Islamic State, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham — formerly Nusra Front — and Hezbollah. If Russia operates according to this principle, its standing and the security of the region will vastly improve.

On Israel, Trump Confuses only the Confused

February 17, 2017

On Israel, Trump Confuses only the Confused, Power LinePaul Mirengoff, February 17, 2017

(Or perhaps only the willfully confused, some of whom apparently prefer a “final solution” to a mere two state solution, are confused. — DM)

The Washington Post claims that President Trump’s remarks about Israel have led to confusion about how he views the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians. Reporters William Booth and Anne Gearan say that Israelis are confused, and they site conflicting interpretations of Trump’s several statements.

But Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, whom the Post also quotes, gets to the bottom of the alleged confusion. He says “everyone interprets this as they see fit.”

In reality, Trump’s comments were remarkably clear. Let’s start with the one that got most of the attention: “I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.”

Trump was saying that if the Israelis and the Palestinians like a two-state solution, he likes it too. Otherwise, he doesn’t.

This is wise. A two-state solution makes sense only if both parties want it. If that’s not the case, there is no sense in America trying to impose it, and Trump won’t waste his time pushing this option. Or so he is saying.

Trump also said to Prime Minister Netanyahu: “Both sides will have to make compromises; you know that, right?” Netanyahu responded: “Both sides.”

Again, there’s nothing puzzling here. “Both sides” means both sides.

Coupled with his statement that he likes the solution both parties like, Trump is maximizing the likelihood of a peace agreement (although, to me, the odds of reaching one remain extremely low). President Obama’s approach was to obsess over a two-state solution and demand major compromises by Israel. The Palestinians believed they could sit back and wait for America to extract such compromises.

Trump has made it clear that both sides need to make compromises and has signaled that he won’t focus on obtaining them from Israel alone. If both parties don’t make concessions on behalf of a two-state solution, he will conclude that this is not the solution both parties like. And he won’t like it either. Or so he is saying.

Trump also told Netanyahu: “I’d like you to hold off on settlements for a little bit.” On the surface, this looks like an attempt to obtain a small concession from Israel. However, I agree with Charles Krauthammer that Trump was trying to bolster Netanyahu’s position in relation to hard-line Israeli politicians who are pushing for a major expansion of settlements, including the building of new ones.

A sensible approach to settlements is permit the natural growth of existing blocs — no community can be expected not to build out as its population expands — but to forego, for “a little bit,” major territorial expansion which would escalate tension, hurt Israel’s international standing, and perhaps make a peace agreement even more difficult to achieve.

Trump’s statement is consistent with this thinking, which, I gather, is the thinking of Netanyahu.

Only the confused are genuinely puzzled by Trump’s statements. Those in the American mainstream media who suggest otherwise are probably just trying to make the American president look confused.

Israeli PM Netanyahu Becomes D.C. Darling as Democrats Clamor for Meetings

February 13, 2017

Israeli PM Netanyahu Becomes D.C. Darling as Democrats Clamor for Meetings, Washington Free Beacon, , February 13, 2017

(“Now that our Dear Leader is gone, we sure do love Israel.” — DM)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on February 12, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on February 12, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON

After years of tense relations with the United States under former President Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is emerging as one of the most prominent international personalities, according to multiple sources who told the Washington Free Beacon that Democrats, Republicans, and high-level White House officials are clamoring for a sit down with the Israeli leader when he arrives in town on Tuesday.

Senior officials across party lines hope to let Netanyahu know that America has Israel’s back and that years of tension during the Obama administration is just water under the bridge, according to both congressional sources and those close to the Trump administration.

Netanyahu’s schedule is already packed with powwows between President Trump, senior administration officials, and a cast of leading lawmakers on Capitol Hill from both sides of the aisle.

Meetings will center on U.S. lawmakers’ desire to reset relations with the Jewish state. Multiple sources told the Free Beacon that sit downs with White House officials will focus on holding Iran accountable for violations of the nuclear deal, moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and combatting efforts at the United Nations to delegitimize Israel.

Netanyahu already has confirmed a 6:30 p.m. dinner Tuesday evening with newly installed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The meeting will take place inside the State Department.

Netanyahu is expected to meet with Trump and other senior officials Wednesday before heading to Capitol Hill, where he will meet with leading Democrats and Republicans.

Netanyahu is expected to take separate meetings with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), sources told the Free Beacon.

Further meetings could take place with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before Netanyahu travels to the House side of the Capitol for an evening meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.).

There is a strong desire among all parties to show Netanyahu that after nearly a decade of chilly relations during the former administration, the United States is prepared to restore the historic relationship with the Jewish state.

“Netanyahu’s schedule is so full that he literally can’t find time for all the high level meetings people want to have with him,” said one veteran foreign policy adviser who is closely in touch with the White House on Middle East issues. “The truth of this is, it’s nature taking its course.”

Recent polling shows that support for Israel is at an all-time high among Democrats and Republicans. Democratic lawmakers in particular are no longer being pressured by the former administration to distance themselves from Netanyahu and Israel.

“Without Obama trying to force Democratic lawmakers to choose between Israel and the United States nature is taking its course and everyone wants to see how they can help bolster the U.S.-Israel relationship,” the source said. “Voters want to see this.”

One source characterized Netanyahu as the “cool kid in town.”

On Capitol Hill, senior sources focused on the Middle East expect that lawmakers will emphasize a reset in relations with Israel. They also will seek to reassure Netanyahu that key foreign aid packages to Israel will remain robust and fully funded.

“There’s broad recognition that it’s time to turn a page on years of hostility towards Israel from the Obama administration. President Trump and the Republican Congress are focused on strengthening Israel’s security and the U.S.-Israel relationship—not condemning housing projects in disputed territories and pushing anti-Semitic U.N. resolutions,” said one senior congressional aide familiar with the Israeli leader’s travel itinerary.

“This provides a major opportunity for both the United States and Israel to stand up to Iran and all those who seek to defame and destroy the Jewish state,” the source said. “Given the warm relationship between Bibi and Trump, everyone seems upbeat and optimistic about the future of the alliance moving forward.”

Dennis Ross, a veteran Middle East hand who worked for former presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama, told reporters on Monday that there is a strong desire to cast sour relations between the United States and Israel as a byproduct of the Obama administration.

That, Ross said during a conference call hosted by the Israel Project, is the “overriding message that emerges from this week,”

“Democrats will be anxious to show they’re close to Israel as well,” Ross said, adding that Netanyahu will convey the message that Israel’s relationship is with America as a whole, not any one administration.

Beautiful Friendship

February 10, 2017

Beautiful Friendship, Front Page MagazineCaroline Glick, February 10, 2017

flags-1

Originally published by the Jerusalem Post

On Sunday, Trump restated his desire to develop ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Netanyahu must present Trump with a viable plan to reconstitute US-Russian ties in exchange for Russian abandonment of its alliance with Tehran and its cooperation with Iran and Hezbollah in Syria.

Next week can be the beginning of a new era in Israel’s relations with the US. But to make the most of this unprecedented opportunity, Israel needs to recognize its role as America’s ally. It must take the necessary steps to perform that role, and it must free the administration from the shackles of the PLO while securing its long-term interests in Judea and Samaria unilaterally, and quietly.

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Less than a week after he was inaugurated into office, President Donald Trump announced that he had repaired the US’s fractured ties with Israel. “It got repaired as soon as I took the oath of office,” he said.

Not only does Israel now enjoy warm relations with the White House. When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives in the US capital next week, he will be greeted by the most supportive political climate Israel has ever seen in Washington.

It is true that dangers to Israel’s ties with America lurk in the background. The radical Left is taking control of the Democratic Party.

But the forces now hijacking the party on a whole host of issues have yet to transform their hatred of Israel into the position of most Democratic lawmakers in Congress.

Democrats in both houses of Congress joined with their Republican counterparts in condemning UN Security Council Resolution 2334 that criminalized Israel. A significant number of Democratic lawmakers support Trump’s decision to slap new sanctions on Iran.

Similarly, radical Jewish groups have been unsuccessful in rallying the more moderate leftist Jewish leadership to their cause. Case in point is the widespread support Trump’s appointment of David Friedman to serve as his ambassador to Israel is receiving from the community.

Whereas J Street and T’ruah are circulating a petition calling for people to oppose his Senate confirmation, sources close to the issue in Washington say that AIPAC supports it.

Given this political climate, Netanyahu must use his meeting with Trump to develop a working alliance to secure Israel’s long-term strategic interests both on issues of joint concern and on issues that concern Israel alone.

The first issue on the agenda must be Iran.

Since taking office, Trump has signaled that unlike his predecessors, he is willing to lead a campaign against Iran. Trump has placed Iran on notice that its continued aggression will not go unanswered and he has harshly criticized Obama’s nuclear deal with the mullahs.

In the lead-up to his meeting with Trump, Netanyahu has said that he will present the new president with five options for scaling back Tehran’s nuclear program. No time can be wasted in addressing this problem.

Iran continues spinning its advanced centrifuges.

The mullahs are still on schedule to field the means to deploy nuclear warheads at will within a decade. Netanyahu’s task is to work with Trump to significantly set back Iran’s nuclear program as quickly as possible.

Then there is Syria. And Russia.

On Sunday, Trump restated his desire to develop ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Netanyahu must present Trump with a viable plan to reconstitute US-Russian ties in exchange for Russian abandonment of its alliance with Tehran and its cooperation with Iran and Hezbollah in Syria.

Here, too, time is of the essence.

According to news reports this week, President Bashar Assad is redeploying his forces to the Syrian border with Israel. Almost since the outset of the war in Syria six years ago, Assad’s forces have been under Iranian and Hezbollah control. If Syrian forces deploy to the border, then Iran and Hezbollah will control the border.

Israel cannot permit such a development. It’s not just that such a deployment greatly expands the risk of war. As long as Russia is acting in strategic alliance with Iran and Hezbollah in Syria, the deployment of Iranian-controlled forces to the border raises the real possibility that Israel will find itself at war with Russia in Syria.

Then there are the Sunnis. For the past six years, Netanyahu successfully withstood Obama’s pressure by developing an informal alliance with Sunni regimes that share its opposition to Iran and to the Muslim Brotherhood.

According to sources aware of the Trump administration’s strategic plans, the administration wishes to integrate Israel more strongly into Washington’s alliance structure with Sunni regimes. Israel, of course, has good reason to support this plan, particularly if it involves extending the US military’s Central Command to include Israel.

There are, however, significant limitations on the potential of Israel’s ties to Sunni regimes. First, there is the fact that all of these regimes are threatened by Islamist forces operating in their territory and on their borders.

As Israel Air Force commander Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel warned this week, Israel is concerned that in the event any of these regimes is overthrown, the advanced US weapons it fields will fall under the control of Islamist forces.

Then there is the fact that in exchange for taking their relations with Israel out of the proverbial closet, the Arabs will demand that Israel make concessions to the PLO.

This then brings us to the only subject the media is discussing in relation to Netanyahu’s upcoming meeting with Trump: Will Trump push Israel to make concessions to the PLO or won’t he? The short answer is that it doesn’t appear that Trump has the slightest intention of doing so.

Over the past week, the administration has made three statements about the Palestinians.

First, of course, was the White House’s statement about the so-called Israeli settlements that came out last Thursday.

Although nearly all media reports on the statement claimed it aligned Trump with his predecessors in opposition to Israel’s civilian presence in Judea and Samaria, the fact is that the statement was the most supportive statement any US administration has ever made about those communities.

Obama, of course rejected Israel’s right to any civilian presence beyond the 1949 armistice lines, including in Jerusalem. In his final weeks in office, Obama joined the international mob in falsely castigating Israeli communities in these areas as illegal.

George W. Bush for his part, made a distinction between the so-called settlement blocs and the more isolated Israeli villages in Judea and Samaria. He gave grudging and limited support for Israel’s right to respect the property rights of Jews in the former. He rejected Jewish property rights in the latter.

Trump repudiated both of these positions.

In its statement on Thursday, the administration made no distinction between Jewish property rights in any of the areas. Moreover, the statement did not even reject the construction of new Israeli communities.

According to the text of the statement, “the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving” the goal of peace.

But, then again, they may be helpful. And then again, they may have no impact whatsoever on the chance of achieving peace.

Not only did the administration’s statement not reject Israel’s right to build new communities, it rejected completely the position of Trump’s predecessors that Israeli communities are an obstacle to peace.

In the administration’s words, “We don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace.”

After renouncing the positions of its predecessors on Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria, the administration then refused to say whether its vision for peace includes a Palestinian state.

In line with the Republican Party’s platform that makes no mention of support for Palestinian statehood, the Trump administration continues to question the rationale for supporting a policy that has failed for the past 95 years.

Finally, the administration said it had no comment on the regulations law this week regarding Jewish construction rights in Judea and Samaria.

All White House spokesman Sean Spicer would say was that it would be discussed in Trump’s meeting with Netanyahu.

This brings us back to that meeting, and how Netanyahu should broach the Palestinian issue.

Both from statements by administration sources since the election and from the administration’s refusal to speak with Palestinian Authority officials since Trump’s electoral victory, Trump and his top advisers have made clear that they see no upside to US support for the PLO.

They do not want to support the PLO and they do not want to be dragged into fruitless discussions between Israel and the PLO. For the past 24 years, US mediation of those discussions has weakened America’s position in the region, has weakened Israel and has empowered the PLO and anti-American forces worldwide.

According to sources with knowledge of the administration’s position, Trump views the Israeli- Palestinian conflict as an internal Israeli issue.

He expects Israel to deal with it and do so in a way that stabilizes the region and keeps the Palestinians out of the headlines, to the extent possible.

In this vein, sources with knowledge of administration considerations claim that last Thursday’s White House statement on Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria was in part the result of exasperation with Israel’s inability to keep quiet on the issue. Had Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman not announced that they were issuing permits for thousands of building starts in Judea and Samaria, the White House wouldn’t have felt compelled to issue a statement on the matter.

The administration’s desire to disengage from the PLO is well aligned with Israel’s strategic interests. No good has ever come to Israel from US support for the PLO. Moreover, Israel has achieved its greatest strategic successes in relation to determining its borders when it has kept its moves as low key as possible.

For instance, in 1981, when then-prime minister Menachem Begin applied Israeli law to the Golan Heights, he did so with no fanfare. Rather than loudly announcing Israel’s right to sovereignty over the area, Begin insisted that the move was done to satisfy administrative imperatives and that Israel would be willing to consider border corrections in the event that Syria became serious about peace at some later date.

Begin’s example should inform Netanyahu’s preparations for his meeting with Trump.

Unfortunately, Netanyahu does not seem to realize the implications of Trump’s lack of interest in following in his predecessors’ footsteps in relation to the PLO.

Over the past few weeks, Netanyahu has insisted that he wishes to coordinate his positions on the Palestinians with the administration. While he should take any concerns Trump voices to him on the issue into consideration, he should also make clear that the administration’s belief that no good has come to the US from its support for the PLO is well-founded. He should also explain Israel’s need to control Area C in perpetuity, and the problem with maintaining military administration of the area. Finally, he should assure Trump that Israel intends to secure its interests in Judea and Samaria in a way than does not impinge on US priorities.

Next week can be the beginning of a new era in Israel’s relations with the US. But to make the most of this unprecedented opportunity, Israel needs to recognize its role as America’s ally. It must take the necessary steps to perform that role, and it must free the administration from the shackles of the PLO while securing its long-term interests in Judea and Samaria unilaterally, and quietly.

Trump Changes US Policy on Settlements, But Will Netanyahu Pick Up the Ball?

February 3, 2017

Trump Changes US Policy on Settlements, But Will Netanyahu Pick Up the Ball?, The Jewish PressStephen Leavitt, February 3, 2017

battered-bibi-syndrome-2-768x525Photo Credit: Asher Schwartz

The official White House statement thoroughly rejects the JPost’s quote, craftily eliminating both concerns: Trump is not committed to a two-state solution, and he does not consider the settlements an obstacle to peace.

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For the first time in many years, the White House on Thursday released a statement regarding Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria without the adjectives “illegal” or “illegitimate” next to the word “settlements.”

While not 100 percent perfect — a policy of benign neglect would be best — it is clearly a complete turnaround from previous administration positions, particularly former-President Obama’s “not one brick anywhere” policy, including Jerusalem.

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Statement by the Press Secretary

“The American desire for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians has remained unchanged for 50 years. While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal. As the President has expressed many times, he hopes to achieve peace throughout the Middle East region. The Trump administration has not taken an official position on settlement activity and looks forward to continuing discussions, including with Prime Minister Netanyahu when he visits with President Trump later this month.”

In other words, what began a few months ago as a video of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asking why should having Jews living in Judea and Samaria be considered an impediment to peace – is now US foreign policy.

 

In addition to the biggest item of recognizing the legitimacy of the settlements, by omitting the words “illegal” and “illegitimate,” the statement actually declares, for all the world to see: “We don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace.”

It should be noted that even that one seemingly negative-note in the Trump statement against new settlements or expansion isn’t exactly that:

“the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal.”

First of all, the statement gives implicit approval to construction within existing settlements, and not just to communities within the settlement blocs (i.e. Gush Etzion, Ariel, etc), but rather to all settlements. This is a much wider definition, and includes many smaller Jewish communities that exist outside of the blocs, representing some 80,000 Jews.

Not to name names, but that’s more settlement legitimacy than what even some members of Netanyahu’s cabinet recognize.

Furthermore, it doesn’t actually forbid or rebuke Israel if it does build a new settlement or expand beyond the borders of an existing one. The White House statement merely questions if it is helpful to achieving peace, and leaves that question open for further discussion.

The other glaring omission in the Trump White House statement is the term “two-state solution,” so beloved by every Administration since the 1993 Oslo Accords. Why, only last Wednesday, the new, relatively pro-Israel UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, had his spokesperson release a statement saying that,

“the recent announcement by the Israeli Government to advance 5,000 settlement units in the occupied West Bank could […] threaten to unravel plans for a two-State solution between Israelis and Palestinians. […] We once again warn against any unilateral actions that can be an obstacle to a negotiated two-state solution.”

Having praised the Trump statement so much, it’s also easy to realize that there must be some conflict within the Administration over the settlements issue, with one faction obviously pushing the traditional State Department line.

Rumor has it that the White House statement was released not so much as a response to Netanyahu’s recent settlement construction announcements, but in response to an unauthorized leak from within the Administration to the Jerusalem Post, which the latter reported Thursday:

“The White House warned Israel on Thursday to cease settlement announcements that are ‘unilateral’ and ‘undermining’ of President Donald Trump’s effort to forge Middle East peace, a senior administration official told The Jerusalem Post. For the first time, the administration confirmed that Trump is committed to a comprehensive two-state solution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict negotiated between the parties.”

The official White House statement thoroughly rejects the JPost’s quote, craftily eliminating both concerns: Trump is not committed to a two-state solution, and he does not consider the settlements an obstacle to peace.

Indeed, the White House statement acknowledges the value and validity of the Israeli PM in forging US foreign policy:

“The Trump administration has not taken an official position on settlement activity and looks forward to continuing discussions, including with Prime Minister Netanyahu when he visits with President Trump later this month.”

This is tantamount to an Obama statement saying: “The Obama administration will decide on the Iran nuclear deal after continued discussions with Prime Minister Netanyahu when he visits to speak to Congress on March 3, 2015.” Yes, that’s how impossibly big this statement is.

It is now entirely up to Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Will Netanyahu have what it takes to change forever Israel’s future? Will he take full advantage of Trump’s invitation to help forge US foreign policy in a way that bolsters the Zionist vision? Will he step back from his Bar Ilan speech, and return to his former, maximalist positions?

From the White House statement it appears that the ball is completely in Netanyahu’s court.