Archive for the ‘Trump and Palestinians’ category

Abbas’ ultimatum to Trump: Choose between a Palestinian Jerusalem or war

January 17, 2018

Abbas’ ultimatum to Trump: Choose between a Palestinian Jerusalem or war, DEBKAfile, January 17, 2018

(Please see also, Did Abbas just give his valedictory speech, blaming everyone for his failures? — DM)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) speaks during a meeting with members of the Central Committee in the West Bank city of Ramallah on January 14, 2018. Photo by Flash90

The Palestinian leader finds himself tied down by two handicaps: shortage of funds for buying supporters and his advanced age. At 82, he may choose a fourth option, to retire voluntarily and make way for a younger leader.

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Palestinian Mahmoud Abbas kicked back hard after grasping he was confronted with an orderly, Arab-backed US peace plan that left his strategy in ruins.

Abbas now sees he is cornered by his nemesis: Trump’s move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, was not just a one-off whim, but a component of the “deal of the century,” which the US president and his advisers had crafted for months together with Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi, Saudi Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman and the UAE ruler Sheikh Muhammed Bin Ziyad.

The Palestinian leader’s first predicament was how to explain to the Palestinian and Arab public what happened to his master strategy of the past 25 years, for using world opinion to force a pro-Palestinian peace solution down Israel’s throat. Not too long ago, Abbas boasted he was about to pull it off. Now it is crashing before his eyes. It is not enough for him to yell that the “deal of the century” is the “slap of the century.”

Here and there, he may find international pro-Palestinian stalwarts, but the doors are slamming shut as funds for UN bodies and NGOs dry up. Even the Europeans, who dislike Trump and sympathize with the Palestinians, are beginning to think twice about sticking to a blunt line against the US and Israel. They are reluctant to buck the two allies’ partners, the oil-rich Saudi and Emirate rulers, a luxury they can ill afford in these times of profound economic decline.

Much of the criticism of the US-Arab peace plan is prompted by a misapprehension. The plan is based strongly on a two-state solution that offers the Palestinians their own state and negates binational Israeli-Palestinian statehood. But the contours are different from any former peace proposal. Gone for good are the pre-1967 war lines which were Abbas’ sine qua non. According to the fragments leaked about the new proposal, which is still on the work bench, this Palestinian state would rise on territory currently governed by the Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria. Its backbone would be formed by the chain of Palestinian towns running from Nablus in the north through Ramallah and Bethlehem and up to Hebron in the south. They would link up with the Gaza Strip and acquire parts of northern Sinai, presumably Egyptian Rafah and El Arish.

According to this plan, the governmental and population of the new Palestinian state would be oriented mainly in the south, so that Jerusalem would not be relevant as its capital. It would still have Ramallah and possibly Abu Dis, outside Jerusalem, where government and parliamentary compounds were installed long ago, after one of several stillborn peace initiatives.

This plan for Palestinian statehood bears little resemblance to the goal of the 50-year old Palestinian struggle. The Palestinian national movement has consistently aspired to a state that would swallow Israel and extinguish the Zionist vision. However, the contemporary Palestinian state as envisaged in the new plan would be dependent for its strength and survival on Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, all of which maintain good security and economic ties with Israel.

For Mahmoud Abbas this prospect is anathema. He is so beside himself that on Sunday, he cursed the house of US President Donald Trump before the PLO central committee. But, then on Monday, Jan. 16, Trump whipped out his ultimate weapon and slashed aid to the UN Works and Relief Agency for Palestinian refugees, from $165m to $60m.

For many years, UNWRA has been a powerful political sponsor of any Palestinian group willing to join the “struggle” against Israel. Its personnel were flush with the funds paid in as dues by UN members, unlike the often cash-strapped Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. Trump therefore decided that the key to getting the US-Arab peace plan on its feet would be to cut off the flow of cash to its opponents. It is a little-known fact that he was joined in this endeavor by the Saudis, the Emiratis and even Qatar, all of whom started some weeks ago to staunch aid funds to the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Authority and its chairman Mahmoud Abbas therefore find they are being squeezed into an US-Arab blockade, which leaves Abbas with three options:

  1. To realize his back is to the wall and he has no option other than to accept the “deal of the century.”
  2. Face being ousted by the rest of the Palestinian leadership and replaced with a successor who is amenable to reaching an understanding with the Trump administration, Cairo, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.
  3. Regress to Yasser Arafat’s doctrine of armed struggle – not just against Israel this time but against US targets as well. Abbas indicated that was on the warpath when he challenged President Trump in a ferocious speech he delivered in Cairo Wednesday, Jan 17. He shouted, “Jerusalem would be a gate for peace only when it was the capital of Palestine. But it is also a gate for war, insecurity and instability, if not. Trump must choose.”

His barefaced ultimatum to the US president was accompanied by a rumor his cronies began to circulate, charging that the Trump administration was plotting to forcibly depose Abbas as PA chairman. The Palestinian leader finds himself tied down by two handicaps: shortage of funds for buying supporters and his advanced age. At 82, he may choose a fourth option, to retire voluntarily and make way for a younger leader.

Trump Threatens to Deal Another Blow to the Palestinian Cause

January 11, 2018

Trump Threatens to Deal Another Blow to the Palestinian Cause, Town HallVictor Davis Hanson, January 10, 2018

Trump may be rash and unfamiliar with the stagnant Middle East peace process, but his political instincts are probably correct. Polls show that less than 20 percent of Americans support the Palestinian cause. Many U.S. citizens are tired of subsidizing those who claim that they do not like their benefactors in the United States.

It finally may be time for the Palestinian factions to fund their own causes and go their own ways.

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President Trump set off another Twitter firestorm last week when he hinted that he may be considering cutting off hundreds of millions of dollars in annual U.S. aid to the Palestinians. Trump was angered over Palestinian unwillingness to engage in peace talks with Israel after the Trump administration announced the move of the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Given that the U.S. channels its Palestinian aid through third-party United Nations organizations, it’s unclear how much money Trump is talking about it. But in total it may exceed $700 million per year, according to reports.

A decade ago, the U.S. row with the Palestinian Authority would have been major news. But not now.

Why?

The entire Middle East has radically changed — and along with it the role and image of the Palestinians.

First, the U.S. is now one of the largest producers of fossil-fuel energy in the world. America is immune from the sort of Arab oil embargo that in 1973-74 paralyzed the U.S. economy as punishment for American support of Israel. Even Israel, thanks to new offshore oil and natural gas discoveries, is self-sufficient in energy and immune from Arab cutoffs.

Second, the Middle East is split into all sorts of factions. Iran seeks to spread radical Shiite theocracy throughout Iraq and Syria and into the Persian Gulf states — and is the greatest supporter of Palestinian armed resistance. The so-called “moderate” Sunni autocracies despise Iran. Understandably, most Arab countries fear the specter of a nuclear Iran far more than they do the reality of a democratic and nuclear Israel.

A third player — radical Islamic terrorism — has turned against the Arab status quo as well as the West. Because Palestinian organizations such as Hamas had flirted with Iran and its appendages (such as the terrorists of Hezbollah), they have become less useful to the Arab establishment. The terrorist bloodlettings perpetrated by groups such as the Islamic State and al-Qaida have discredited terror as a legitimate means to an end in the eyes of the Arab world, despite previous support for Palestinian terrorists.

Third, the world itself may have passed the Palestinian issue by.

Israel was founded in 1948. Palestinian rhetoric that they would push the Jews into the sea is by now stale. There have been seven decades of failed intifadas and suicide bombing campaigns, along with full-scale Arab-Israeli wars.

Equally futile were endless “peace processes,” “peace initiatives,” “road maps” and “multiparty talks,” plus Middle East “conferences,” “summits” and “memoranda” all over the world, from Madrid and Oslo to Camp David.

In the meantime, most other “refugees” the world over have long ago moved on. Around the time Israel was created, some 13 million German speakers were ethnically cleansed from East Prussia and Eastern Europe. The word “Prussia” no longer exists as a geographical or national label. Seven decades later, the grandchildren of refugees do not replay World War II. “Prussians” do not talk about reclaiming their ancestral homelands in present-day Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. German-speaking youth do not demand a “right of return” to their grandparents’ homes to the east.

Fourth, the Palestinians have never been able to craft a successful, transparent, consensual government. After 30 years of waiting, the world has mostly given up on their rhetoric of self-government and reform on the West Bank.

Since the Palestinian proclamation of independence in 1988, there have been only two “presidents”: Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas. Neither has allowed open and transparent elections. A Palestinian president gets power by seizing it. He loses it only by dying in office. Over the same period, Israel has elected seven different prime ministers from a variety of political parties.

The Palestinian political party Fatah is engaged in a deadly rivalry with the terrorist-inspired Hamas organization that has run Gaza for over a decade. The beef is not over democracy, but over which faction will bury the other.

The Palestinians’ inability to rule the West Bank in constitutional fashion is why hundreds of thousands of expatriate Palestinians voice their solidarity from a safe distance while living in North America or Europe. More than a million Palestinians prefer to stay put in Israel. They are convinced that they will have more security, freedom and prosperity in a democratic state than under dictatorial Palestinian rule a few miles away.

Trump may be rash and unfamiliar with the stagnant Middle East peace process, but his political instincts are probably correct. Polls show that less than 20 percent of Americans support the Palestinian cause. Many U.S. citizens are tired of subsidizing those who claim that they do not like their benefactors in the United States.It finally may be time for the Palestinian factions to fund their own causes and go their own ways.

Raymond Ibrahim: Trump Scraps Cherished “Israel Grievance” Myth

December 28, 2017

Raymond Ibrahim: Trump Scraps Cherished “Israel Grievance” Myth, Jihad Watch

Yet, as with Trump’s return of words such as “jihadi” to formal discourse, one doubts that the Establishment will follow suit, as the polarization of America continues unabated.

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President Trump’s new National Security strategy is not only notable for what it brings back to the paradigm — words such as “jihadi” and “sharia” — but in what it gets rid of, namely, the long held, much entrenched notion that Israel is the root source of all the turmoil plaguing the Middle East. According to the new strategy document,

For generations the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has been understood as the prime irritant preventing peace and prosperity in the region. Today, the threats from jihadist terrorist organizations and the threat from Iran are creating the realization that Israel is not the cause of the region’s problems. States have increasingly found common interests with Israel in confronting common threats.

That this is true cannot be overstated. For decades, the official establishment position championed by politicians, academics, and journalists of all stripes seeking to apologize for all the anger, violence, and jihad terror plaguing the region was the creation of Israel. Because the Jewish state is stronger than its Muslim neighbors, the latter were always presented as frustrated “underdogs” doing whatever they could to achieve “justice.” No matter how many rockets were shot into Tel Aviv by Hamas and Hezbollah, and no matter how anti-Israeli bloodlust was articulated in distinctly jihadi terms, that was always presented as ironclad proof that Palestinians under Israel are so oppressed that Muslims have no choice but to resort to terrorism.

Yet, as with all false narratives, the survival of this one relied on concealing the bigger, more complete picture, as captured by the following question: If Muslims get a free pass when their violence is directed against those stronger than them, how does one rationalize away their violence when it is directed against those weaker than them — for example, millions of indigenous Christians living in the Muslim world? According to reliable statistics published annually, some 40 of the 50 worst nations in which to be Christian are Muslim majority. Of the absolute worst 21 nations — 18 of which are Muslim — “100 percent of Christians experience persecution.”

The rationalizations used to minimize Muslim violence against Israel simply cannot work here, for now Muslims are the majority — and they are the ones violent and oppressive to their minorities, in ways that make Israeli treatment of Palestinians seem enviable. In other words, Christian persecution is perhaps the most obvious example of a phenomenon the mainstream media wants to ignore out of existence — Islamic supremacism, the true source of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Vastly outnumbered and politically marginalized Christians in the Islamic world simply wish to worship in peace, and yet they are still hounded and attacked; their churches are burned and destroyed; their women and children are kidnapped, raped, and enslaved. These Christians are often identical to their Muslim co-citizens in race, ethnicity, national identity, culture, and language; there is generally no political or property dispute on which the violence can be blamed. The only problem is that they are Christian — they are non-Muslims — the same category Israelis fall under.

From here one also understands why what has been described by some authorities as a “genocide” of Christians at the hands of Muslims in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Somalia, Pakistan, and Egypt — Muslims who couldn’t care less about Israel and Palestinians — is one of the most dramatic but also least known stories of our times. The media simply cannot portray Muslim persecution of Christians — which in essence and form amounts to unprovoked pogroms — as a “land dispute” or a product of “grievance” (if anything, it is the ostracized and persecuted indigenous Christian minorities who should have grievances). And because the media cannot articulate such Islamic attacks on Christians through the “grievance” paradigm that works so well in explaining the Arab-Israeli conflict, their main recourse is not to report on them at all.

Such is the way for all apologists of Islam: to ignore or whitewash Muslim aggression — and then, in that vacuum, distort and present non-Muslim responses as the origins of the conflict. This is especially prevalent in the portrayal of history. Thus Georgetown University’s John Esposito claims that “Five centuries of peaceful coexistence [between Islam and Europe] elapsed before political events and an imperial-papal power play led to [a] centuries-long series of so-called holy wars [the Crusades] that pitted Europe against Islam and left an enduring legacy of misunderstanding and distrust.” In reality, these “five centuries of peaceful coexistence” saw Muslims terrorize and conquer more than three-fourths of Christendom, but this inconvenient fact is seldom mentioned, for knowledge of it ruins the “Muslim-grievance” narrative, just as knowledge of modern-day Muslim persecution of Christians ruins it.

Either way, it is refreshing to see that the sun is breaking through the darkness of deceit that has for too long clouded Middle Eastern realities, including by presenting victims as aggressors and aggressors as victims. Yet, as with Trump’s return of words such as “jihadi” to formal discourse, one doubts that the Establishment will follow suit, as the polarization of America continues unabated.

Trump administration to snap ties with Palestinians, no peace plan, no more monetary aid

December 23, 2017

Trump administration to snap ties with Palestinians, no peace plan, no more monetary aid, DEBKAfile, December 23, 2017

According DEBKAfile’s sources, Palestinian officials in Ramallah were devastated by news of the sudden cutoff of the main sources of the PA’s revenue. Even the Qatar ruler, whom Abbas visited last week as a last resort to save the PA from economic meltdown, refused to release any more funding.

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The White House has decided to quietly withdraw from all its ties with the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority and Mahmoud Abbas.

DEBKAfile’s exclusive sources report that the Trump administration has resolved to scrap all ties with the Palestinian leadership in retaliation for its campaign against US President Donald Trump and his Jerusalem policy. Several warnings to Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) of what was in store if he did not desist from castigating the US president fell on death ears.

Last week, two Arab crown princes, Saudi Muhammed bin Salman and UAE Sheikh Muhammed bin Zayed, summoned Abbas to their capitals and urged him strongly to back away from his attacks on President Trump. He got the same advice from the ruler of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Al Thani, who conferred with Washington on the subject – all to no avail. The Trump administration has therefore set out an eight-point program of sanctions, which is first revealed here:

  • The Israeli-Palestinian peace plan under preparation in Washington will not be submitted to Ramallah – only to Israel and the relevant Arab governments.
  • US-Palestinian interaction is to be suspended – not just at the senior levels but in day-to-day interchanges. The administration has notified Palestinian and other Arab parties to stop addressing queries on political and economic matters to the US consulate in Jerusalem, because they will not receive answers.
  • The status of the PLO office in Washington will be reevaluated with a view to shutting it down.
  • Palestinian officials will no longer be invited to Washington by the US government, including the State Department and Department of Treasury.
  • Above all, they will not be welcome at the White House or the National Security Council where US Middle East policy is designed. Senior US officials congratulated the senior Palestinian negotiator Saab Erekat, who also holds the PA’s American portfolio, on his recovery from illness, at the same time warning him that he would no longer be received at the White House.
  • The Trump administration will not make any public announcement of the cutoff of financial aid to the Palestinians. Since the funds are mostly earmarked for specific economic projects, each allocation will simply be held back on the pretext of the need for a “reappraisal.”
  • The US will halt its contributions to the UN Work and Relief Organization, an estimated one billion dollars per annum.
  • The US administration moreover intervened with the governments of Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and Qatar with a request that they freeze or slow their economic aid to the Palestinian Authority.

According DEBKAfile’s sources, Palestinian officials in Ramallah were devastated by news of the sudden cutoff of the main sources of the PA’s revenue. Even the Qatar ruler, whom Abbas visited last week as a last resort to save the PA from economic meltdown, refused to release any more funding.

Obtaining Peace by Pressuring the PLO, Not Israel

December 7, 2017

Obtaining Peace by Pressuring the PLO, Not Israel, The Point (FrontPage Magazine, Daniel Greenfield, December 7, 217

Let’s peel back the blatant double standard behind the media’s Jerusalem outrage. And the claims that this will somehow destroy any possibility for peace.

Whenever the problem of peace is discussed, the prescription is always pressuring Israel, not the PLO.

Jerusalem was one of the pressure points. 

Trump’s move applied pressure to the PLO’s Palestinian Authority in exactly the way that the left had wanted pressure to be applied to Israel. He did to the PLO, what Obama had been doing to Israel by covertly backing the PA’s statehood moves.

The double standard is that pressuring Israel in this way is deemed a very good thing because the Jews are somehow the obstacles to peace. While pressuring the PLO is a terrible thing because that will destroy the cause of peace.

Why is pressuring Israel a good thing and pressuring Islamic terrorists a bad thing?

That’s the bias that needs addressing.

It’s the PLO that has rejected every peace proposal. Despite the attacks on Prime Minister Netanyahu, it was Arafat and Abbas who made the decision to walk away from peace negotiations.

If anyone needs to be pressured to come to the table, it’s the PLO. And that is what President Trump did.

Trump to announce recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

December 6, 2017

Trump to announce recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital | Anne’s Opinions, 6th December 2017

After holding our collective breath over the last couple of days, it emerged – without much fanfare from the American side – that Donald Trump has not quite refused to sign the waiver permitting the US to retain its embassy in Tel Aviv (the whole issue is terribly vague. Maybe the waters are being muddied on purpose) but he is going to make an announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Plus, he will be instructing the State Department to examine the practicalities of moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump will announce in a speech on Wednesday that he is formally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, while asking the State Department to formulate a plan for moving the US embassy there from Tel Aviv, White House officials confirmed Tuesday evening.

The recognition of Jerusalem, widely expected to anger the Arab world and cast a shadow over US-led peace efforts, will also be accompanied by Trump committing to support a two-state solution should both Israel and the Palestinians back it, the officials said, in a likely bid by the administration to balance the announcement seen as heavily favoring Israel.

The US Consulate in Jerusalem’s Talpiot neighborhood, adjoining a possible site for the US Embassy (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)

Trump’s administration is certainly a reality-based one, as opposed to the Obama administration which was based on wishful thinking at best, and on an anti-Israel bias at worst:

The White House repeatedly referred to the recognition and embassy move, which will likely take years, as “acknowledging a reality,” noting the city’s role as the seat of Israel’s government but disregarding Palestinian claims there.

“He views this as a recognition of reality, both historic reality and modern reality,” one official said.

“While President Trump recognizes that the status of Jerusalem is a highly sensitive issue, he does not think it will be resolved by ignoring the truth that Jerusalem is home to Israel’s legislature, it’s Supreme Court, the Prime Minister’s residence, and as such, it is the capital of Israel,” one of the officials said.

The US now officially recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – and the world has gone into meltdown.

Reality-based diplomacy

US officials warned Trump not to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The reason is less ideological, more capitulation to threats of violence from the Arabs:

If Trump made such a move, it could spark demonstrations or violence by Palestinians or by Muslims around the world, in part because of the sensitivity of the Jerusalem site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif.

The site includes the al Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam, and the golden Dome of the Rock. It was also the site of an ancient Jewish temple, the holiest place in Judaism.

The Arab threats of mayhem and violence (as any good mafiosi would do) came thick and fast, with clashes expected in Judea and Samaria after Friday prayers – or incitement – in the mosques.

But best of all was Turkey’s threat to cut ties with Jerusalem (or was that a promise?):

ANKARA – President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday Turkey could go as far as breaking off diplomatic ties with Israel if the United States formally recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a move he said would be a “red line” for Muslims.

Erdogan is the latest in a string of regional leaders, including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Hussein to warn of negative implications of the move.

Israel’s Education Minister Naftali Bennett was quick to respond.

“Unfortunately, Erdogan does not miss an opportunity to attack Israel. Israel must advance its goals, including the recognition of United Jerusalem as the Capital of the State of Israel,” Bennett said in a statement. “There will always be those who criticize, but at the end of the day it is better to have a united Jerusalem than Erdogan’s sympathy.”

Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz said that Israel “does not take directives or threats from Turkey.”

Israel is a “sovereign state, and Jerusalem is its capital,” Katz said. “There is nothing more historically just or right than to recognize Jerusalem, which has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years, as the capital of the State of Israel. The days of the Sultan and the Ottoman Empire are over.”

Caroline Glick cheekily tweeted:

The Europeans, in their own weaselly way, also warned against American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital:

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, said on Tuesday that “any action that would undermine” peace efforts to create two separate states for the Israelis and the Palestinians “must absolutely be avoided”.

Palestinian President-for-life Mahmoud Abbas is leading the Arab charge against recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital:

Trump is expected on Wednesday to declare US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to order the start of work to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, White House officials confirmed Tuesday. US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is legitimate, almost banal; the same goes for moving the embassy there. But the warnings coming from even moderate Arab states show how sensitive the Jerusalem issue is and how problematic it can be to deal with even for them.

While the embassy move is expected to take months if not years, merely the prospect of it, as well as the recognition of Jerusalem, have inspired a blizzard of warnings of possible violence in the West Bank and elsewhere.

In a series of phone calls Tuesday, Trump made clear to Arab leaders his plans to move the embassy and recognize the city as Israel’s capital. He spoke about it with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Jordan’s King Abdullah, Egypt’s Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and Saudi King Salman. The leaders of all of the Sunni Arab states considered to be “moderate,” even those that have covert security ties with Israel, warned of the grave consequences of the move and of an escalation in violence because of the disregard for Muslim sensitivities around the world.

King Mohammed VI of Morocco, the Arab League, and the top Islamic body al-Azhar also all emphasized that moving the embassy could have serious consequences.

Leading the chorus, rather than being led this time, is Abbas. He has spoken in recent days with every Arab and European leader he could and warned them that an action like this could lead to violence on the ground.

Should there be an actual increase in violence, it won’t stem from attacks by “lone wolves” or smaller Palestinian factions; rather, the descent into chaos will have been orchestrated from above, by the chairman himself, just like in the bad old days of Yasser Arafat.

Last July, amid the crisis over metal detectors at the Temple Mount, he made the unprecedented move of freezing security coordination with Israel, and now he is practically ordering his men to escalate violence. His Fatah faction published on Tuesday an official announcement calling for “days of rage” on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and for mass protests.

But in the end, does any of this matter in the end? Will anything change on the ground for Israel and Jerusalem? (Besides the expected Palestinian violence of course).

Kay Wilson wrote an excellent post on Facebook, succinctly summarising the issue. I wish I wrote this myself:

Times of Israel reporter Haviv Rettig Gur also sums up the issue in an eloquent nutshell:

Here is a series of tweets demonstrating the absurdity of the situation until now, and the implications of American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital:

Here is a witty but true observation about the Muslims’ attitude towards Jerusalem:

Let’s finish off on a positive note:

Thank you President Trump

 

New US military moves in the Mid-East & Israel’s Syria air raid were coordinated

December 3, 2017

New US military moves in the Mid-East & Israel’s Syria air raid were coordinated, DEBKAfile, December 3, 2017

(Please see also, Trump’s strategic vision. — DM)

By mid-week, the Trump administration should have reached a decision that indicates whether or not it has caved in under Palestinian threats. The next few days will also show whether the new US Middle East momentum is a flash in the pan or a fresh start to be continued.

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The US hands-off to Iran’s top general in Iraq, Ali Abdullah Saleh’s changeover of sides in the Yemen war and Trump’s’ thinking on Jerusalem – all signal a new, proactive US strategy for the region.

Central Intelligence Agency chief Mike Pompeo was uncharacteristically frank when he addressed high-ranking US military and security officials on Saturday, Dec. 2, at the Reagan Presidential Foundation. He revealed that he had sent a note to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Al Qods chief, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, and explained: “I sent it because he had indicated that forces under his control might in fact threaten US interests n Iraq.”

Soleimani replied that he had refused to open the letter, commenting: “It didn’t break my heart to be honest with you.” Pompeo went on to elaborate: “What we were communicating to him in that letter was that we will hold him and Iran accountable… and we wanted to make sure that he and the leadership of Iran understood that in a way that was crystal clear.”

Since words clearly don’t mean much without deeds, the United States, after being frozen in place for months in the Middle East, suddenly sprang into action in the past 48 hours, along with its senior Middle East allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia, on four fronts: Iraq, Syria, Yemen and the Palestinians.

IRAQ:  Large-scale US forces arrived at the Kaywan base-K1 west of the oil city of Kirkuk and then split into two contingents: several hundred troops stayed on base while the second contingent headed east on Friday, Dec. 1 towards Tuz Khumatu in eastern Iraq (See attached map)  and took control of the Siddiq military airport 35km to the west. Tuz Khumatu lies 100km west of the Iraqi-Iranian border and 163km north of Baghdad. DEBKAfile’s military sources report that American troops have never been deployed so close to the Iranian border since the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. This movement was meant to strongly advise Iraqi Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi to stop playing ball with Iran to the extent that he did in mid-October, when he allowed pro-Iranian forces to grab Kirkurk and its oilfields from the Kurds. Washington was chiefly drawing a large X on Soleimani’s plan for bringing  Northern Iraq’s oil under Iranian control.

SYRIA: Early Saturday, Dec. 2, Israeli warplanes dropped missiles on a secret meeting of pro-Iranian Shiite militia chiefs taking place at the Syrian army’s 91st Brigade HQ, outside al-Kiswah – 14km southwest of Damascus and 50km from the Golan. These militias, which have been fighting for Bashar Assad under Gen. Soleimani’s command, were being briefed by Iranian and Hizballah officers on their next offensive. This was Israel’s first attack on any of his forces.

YEMEN: On Saturday, Ali Abdullah Saleh, former president of Yemen, the mainstay of the Iranian-backed Houthi insurgency, announced he was “turning the page.” He was ready to ditch the Houthis and their backer, Iran – provided that the coalition (Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) lifted the blockade they had imposed on Yemen to cut off incoming Iranian weapons and halted its attacks. Saleh’s announcement sparked violent clashes between his followers and the Houthis.

DEBKAfile’s military sources recall that Yemen’s ex-president had long maintained ties with the CIA. His change of sides was timed to coincide with a fresh US-Saudi intelligence push to restore Saleh to the pro-Western Arab camp and topple pro-Iranian positions in Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula.

ISRAEL AND THE PALESTINIANS: The Trump administration is fed up with dodgy Palestinian tactics on peace negotiations. Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi and Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin-Salman are likewise ready to wash their hands of the Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). US officials tried threatening to shut down the PLO office in Washington unless the Palestinians finally came to the table for peace talks and are now holding over Palestinian heads a possible decision – either to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem or recognize the city as Israel’s capital.

To ward off these actions, all Abu Mazen needs to do is to pick up the phone to the White House, the royal palace in Riyadh and the presidential residence in Cairo and declare his willingness to cooperate with their initiatives to restart the peace process. But so far, Abbas is holding out, resorting instead to his outdated tactics: threatening that the entire Middle East will go up in flames and Palestinian terrorism will again raise its head if the Trump administration goes through with new decisions on Jerusalem.

By mid-week, the Trump administration should have reached a decision that indicates whether or not it has caved in under Palestinian threats. The next few days will also show whether the new US Middle East momentum is a flash in the pan or a fresh start to be continued.

Congress, Trump Admin Push Cutting Off U.S. Aid to Palestinians, Iranian-Tied Terrorists

November 15, 2017

Congress, Trump Admin Push Cutting Off U.S. Aid to Palestinians, Iranian-Tied Terrorists, Washington Free Beacon, November 15, 2017

(How, if at all, does the legislation mesh with Hamas – Palestinian Authority reconciliation? — DM

Palestinian members of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement / Getty Images

In addition to the Taylor Force Act, House lawmakers on the Foreign Affairs Committee approved a new bill that would require the U.S. government to expose the identities of foreign states, individuals, and other actors who have provided material support to Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups.

The proposed legislation—which would pave the way for the United States to suspend aid and seize the assets of any foreign entity found to be financially helping these terror groups—is said to be part of an effort to combat Iran’s efforts to forge closer ties with Hamas, Hezbollah, and other anti-Israel terrorist actors.

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Congressional leaders advanced several key pieces of legislation on Wednesday that would cut off U.S. taxpayer aid to the Palestinians and crackdown on Iran’s financial support for the terror group Hamas, legislative efforts that are being helped along by the Trump administration, according to multiple U.S. officials who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.

 The House Foreign Affairs Committee, in a bipartisan vote, approved three pieces of legislation that will cut off U.S. aid to the Palestinian government and help prevent American businesses from doing business with Hamas and other Iranian-tied terror groups.

One of the bills, the Taylor Force Act, which would slash U.S. aid to the Palestinians until they stop using the money to pay salaries to imprisoned terrorists and their families, received support from the White House, which is said to have played a central role in ensuring the proposed legislation garnered bipartisan support.

The new bills are said to be part of a larger effort by congressional leaders to shutdown longstanding U.S. aid programs that have supported terrorist fighters and organizations across the Middle East. The advancement of the Taylor Force Act and these other bills is meant to send a message that the United States will no longer keep its coffers open to those who enable terrorism against Israel and U.S. allies in the region.

The Taylor Force Act, which has been working its way through Congress for some time, has become the centerpiece of the joint effort by Congress and the Trump administration to rein in Palestinian intransigence, U.S. officials told the Free Beacon.

“The Trump administration strongly supports the Taylor Force Act, and the White House has communicated that support to Congress and in public statements,” Victoria Coates, a senior White House National Security Council member who played a central role in pushing the legislation, told the Free Beacon.

Coates said that recent reports alleging the Trump administration sought to water down the bill in order to avoid upsetting the Palestinian government and negatively impacting diplomatic efforts to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process are false.

“Reports to the contrary, including that anyone at the White House tried to water this legislation down, are false,” Coates maintained. “Palestinian Authority payments to terrorists and their families that incentivize violence are unacceptable, and must stop.”

Cutting off U.S. aid that helps support Palestinian terrorists is just one part of an effort by the Trump administration to help reform the Palestinian government and legitimize its leaders.

“We also believe that economic development in the West Bank and Gaza Strip can play an important role in preparing the region for a lasting peace agreement,” Coates aid.  “To this end, we have invested and encouraged other partners to invest in critical infrastructure that will underpin economic growth, including through partnerships with local governments, the private sector, and a wide range of other partners.”

The Trump administration reprogrammed $13 million last month to help support a waste-water treatment facility in the Palestinian-controlled city of Jericho, according to Coates, who said this money will help Palestinian farmers support their crops.

“At the president’s direction we want to continue this important work,” Coates said. “But all of our partners must be engaged in building a foundation for peace, not for continued incitement and violence.”

In addition to the Taylor Force Act, House lawmakers on the Foreign Affairs Committee approved a new bill that would require the U.S. government to expose the identities of foreign states, individuals, and other actors who have provided material support to Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups.

The proposed legislation—which would pave the way for the United States to suspend aid and seize the assets of any foreign entity found to be financially helping these terror groups—is said to be part of an effort to combat Iran’s efforts to forge closer ties with Hamas, Hezbollah, and other anti-Israel terrorist actors.

A third bill that made its way out of the committee seeks to crackdown on Hamas’ use of human shields in battle. The legislation would, “hold Hamas and its sponsor, Iran, accountable for this monstrous practice,” according to Rep. Ed Royce (R, Calif.), the committee’s chairman.

Rep. Brian Mast (R., Fla.), a U.S. combat veteran and architect of the bill to expose Hamas’ financial backers, told the Free Beacon that Congress is pursuing every avenue to strangle Iran’s financial lifelines.

“A lot of the impetus is Iran,” Mast told the Free Beacon.

“The term often used is Iranian proxies. But that’s the wrong term to use. It really needs to be classified as Iranian colonization of the Middle East,” Mast said, explaining that Iran’s presence can be seen among every bad actor in the region. “This is colonization. They have a very long-term view. Hezbollah has been at this for 30 plus years. They have a long term goal and its colonization.”

Mast also expressed support for the Taylor Force Act, which he said does not go far enough in cutting off U.S. aid to the Palestinians.

If Mast had his way, “there wouldn’t be resources going towards Palestinians labeled aid or anything else.”

“To think we’re going to take a dollar out of somebody’s pocket here and send it over there to somebody’s family because they went out there and bombed a boss of shot somebody, or ran somebody over with a car, that goes way beyond the realm of common sense,” Mast said.

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R., Colo.), another backer of cutting U.S. aid that helps Palestinian terrorists, expressed optimism about the prospect of the full Congress passing the legislation.

“I am very pleased that the House Foreign Affairs Committee was able to pass the Taylor Force Act with bipartisan support,” Lamborn said. “This is an important first step in stopping U.S. tax dollars from funding Palestinian terrorism.”

“The next step is to bring it to the House floor and ultimately send it to the president’s desk,” Lamborn said. “Passing the Taylor Force Act is the moral and right thing to do in a world that is riddled with terrorism, it sends an important message to the world: America will not tolerate foreign entities that receive U.S. aid to finance terrorism.”

State Department Waging “Open War” on White House

September 17, 2017

State Department Waging “Open War” on White House, Gatestone InstituteSoeren Kern, September 17, 2017

“It’s not clear to me why the Secretary of State wishes to at once usurp the powers of the Congress and then to derail his boss’s rapprochement with the Israeli government.” — Foreign policy operative, quoted in the Washington Free Beacon.

Since he was sworn in as Secretary of State on February 1, Rex Tillerson and his advisors at the State Department have made a number of statements and policy decisions that contradict President Trump’s key campaign promises on foreign policy, especially regarding Israel and Iran.

“Tillerson was supposed to clean house, but he left half of them in place and he hid the other half in powerful positions all over the building. These are career staffers committed to preventing Trump from reversing what they created.” — Veteran foreign policy analyst, quoted in the Free Beacon.

The U.S. State Department has backed away from a demand that Israel return $75 million in military aid which was allocated to it by the U.S. Congress.

The repayment demand, championed by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, was described as an underhanded attempt by the State Department to derail a campaign pledge by U.S. President Donald J. Trump to improve relations with the Jewish state.

The dispute is the just the latest example of what appears to be a growing power struggle between the State Department and the White House over the future direction of American foreign policy.

The controversy goes back to the Obama administration’s September 2016 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Israel, which pledged $38 billion in military assistance to Jerusalem over the next decade. The MOU expressly prohibits Israel from requesting additional financial aid from Congress.

Congressional leaders, who said the MOU violates the constitutional right of lawmakers to allocate U.S. aid, awarded Israel an additional $75 million in assistance in the final appropriations bill for fiscal year 2017.

Tillerson had argued that Israel should return the $75 million in order to stay within the limits established by the Obama administration. The effort provoked a strong reaction from Congress, which apparently prompted Tillerson to back down.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) “strongly warned the State Department that such action would be unwise and invite unwanted conflict with Israel,” according to the Washington Free Beacon.

Speaking to the Washington Examiner, Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) added:

“As Iran works to surround Israel on every border, and Hezbollah and Hamas rearm, we must work to strengthen our alliance with Israel, not strain it. Congress has the right to allocate money as it deems necessary, and security assistance to Israel is a top priority. Congress is ready to ensure Israel receives the assistance it needs to defend its citizens.”

A veteran congressional advisor told the Free Beacon:

“This is a transparent attempt by career staffers in the State Department to f*ck with the Israelis and derail the efforts of Congressional Republicans and President Trump to rebuild the US-Israel relationship. There’s no reason to push for the Israelis to return the money, unless you’re trying to drive a wedge between Israel and Congress, which is exactly what this is. It won’t work.”

Another foreign policy operative said: “It’s not clear to me why the Secretary of State wishes to at once usurp the powers of the Congress and then to derail his boss’s rapprochement with the Israeli government.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left) and President Donald J. Trump (right) on February 1, 2017. (Image source: Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images)

Since he was sworn in as Secretary of State on February 1, Tillerson and his advisors at the State Department have made a number of statements and policy decisions that contradict Trump’s key campaign promises on foreign policy, especially regarding Israel and Iran.

August 10. The State Department hosted representatives of the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO), an umbrella group established by the Muslim Brotherhood with the aim of mainstreaming political Islam in the United States. Behind closed doors, they reportedly discussed what they said was Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine and the removal of all Israeli control of the Temple Mount and holy areas of Jerusalem. Observers said the meeting was part of larger effort by anti-Israel organizations to drive a wedge between the Trump administration and Israel. The USCMO includes a number of organizations, including American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), which promote “extreme anti-Israel views” and “anti-Zionist” propaganda, and which support boycotts of the Jewish state.

July 19. The State Department’s new “Country Reports on Terrorism 2016” blamed Israel for Palestinian Arab terrorism against Jews. It attributed Palestinian violence to: “lack of hope in achieving statehood;” “Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank;” “settler violence;” and “the perception that the Israeli government was changing the status quo on the Haram Al Sharif/Temple Mount.” The report also characterized Palestinian Authority payments to the families of so-called martyrs as “financial packages to Palestinian security prisoners…to reintegrate them into society.”

Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) called on the State Department to hold the PA accountable in State Department Country reports: “The State Department report includes multiple findings that are both inaccurate and harmful to combating Palestinian terrorism…. At the highest level, the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership incites, rewards, and, in some cases, carries out terrorist attacks against innocent Israelis. In order to effectively combat terrorism, it is imperative that the United States accurately characterize its root cause — PA leadership.”

June 14. Tillerson voiced opposition to designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, saying that such a classification would complicate Washington’s relations in the Middle East. During his confirmation hearings on January 11, by contrast, Tillerson lumped the Brotherhood with al-Qaeda when talking about militant threats in the region. He said:

“Eliminating ISIS would be the first step in disrupting the capabilities of other groups and individuals committed to striking our homeland and our allies. The demise of ISIS would also allow us to increase our attention on other agents of radical Islam like al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, and certain elements within Iran.”

June 13. During testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Tillerson said he had received reassurances from President Mahmoud Abbas that the Palestinian Authority would end the practice of paying a monthly stipend to the families of suicide bombers and other attackers, commonly referred to by Palestinians as martyrs. One day later, Palestinian officials contradicted Tillerson, saying that there are no plans to stop payments to families of Palestinians killed or wounded carrying out attacks against Israelis.

May 22. Tillerson sidestepped questions on whether the Western Wall is part of Israel, while telling reporters aboard Air Force One they were heading to “Tel Aviv, home of Judaism.” Asked directly whether he considers the Western Wall under Israeli sovereignty, Tillerson replied: “The wall is part of Jerusalem.”

May 15. In an interview with Meet the Press, Tillerson appeared publicly to renege on Trump’s campaign promise to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem:

“The president, I think rightly, has taken a very deliberative approach to understanding the issue itself, listening to input from all interested parties in the region, and understanding what such a move, in the context of a peace initiative, what impact would such a move have.”

Tillerson also appeared to equate the State of Israel and the Palestinians:

“As you know, the president has recently expressed his view that he wants to put a lot of effort into seeing if we cannot advance a peace initiative between Israel and Palestine. And so I think in large measure the president is being very careful to understand how such a decision would impact a peace process.”

Critics of this stance have argued that moving the embassy to Jerusalem would, instead, advance the peace process by “shattering the Palestinian fantasy that Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel.”

March 8. The State Department confirmed that the Obama administration’s $221 million payment to the Palestinian Authority, approved just hours before Trump’s inauguration, had reached its destination. The Trump administration initially had vowed to freeze the payment.

In July 2017, the Free Beacon reported that Tillerson’s State Department was waging an “open political war” with the White House on a range of key issues, including the U.S.-Israel relationship, the Iran portfolio, and other matters:

“The tensions have fueled an outstanding power battle between the West Wing and State Department that has handicapped the administration and resulted in scores of open positions failing to be filled with Trump confidantes. This has allowed former Obama administration appointees still at the State Department to continue running the show and formulating policy, where they have increasingly clashed with the White House’s own agenda.”

A veteran foreign policy analyst interviewed by the Free Beacon laid the blame squarely on Tillerson:

“Foggy Bottom [a metonym for the State Department] is still run by the same people who designed and implemented Obama’s Middle East agenda. Tillerson was supposed to clean house, but he left half of them in place and he hid the other half in powerful positions all over the building. These are career staffers committed to preventing Trump from reversing what they created.”

Notable holdovers from the Obama administration are now driving the State Department’s Iran policy:

Michael Ratney, a top advisor to former Secretary of State John Kerry on Syria policy. Under the Trump administration, Ratney’s role at the State Department has been expanded to include Israel and Palestine issues. Ratney, who was the U.S. Consul in Jerusalem between 2012 and 2015, oversaw $465,000 in U.S. grants to wage a smear to oust Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from office in 2015 parliamentary elections, according to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Ratney admitted to Senate investigators that he deleted emails containing information about the Obama administration’s relationship with the group.

Thomas A. Shannon, Jr., a career foreign service officer who serves as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. Shannon, the State Department’s fourth-ranking official, has warned that scrapping the Iran deal would lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. “Any effort to step away from the deal would reopen a Pandora’s box in that region that would be hard to close again,” he said. His statement indicates that Shannon could be expected to lead efforts to resist any attempts to renege or renegotiate the deal; critics of the deal say that Iran’s continued missile testing has given Trump one more reason to tear up his predecessor’s deal with the Islamist regime.

Chris Backemeyer is now the highest-ranking official at the State Department for Iran policy. During the Obama administration, Backemeyer made his career by selling the Iran deal by persuading multinational corporations to do business with Iran as part of an effort to conclude the Iran nuclear deal.

Ratney, Shannon and Backemeyer, along with Tillerson, reportedly prevailed upon Trump twice to recertify the Iran nuclear deal. The Jerusalem Post explained:

Washington was briefly abuzz on the afternoon of July 17 when rumors began to circulate that President Trump was eager to declare that Iran was in breach of the conditions laid out in the 2015 Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA).

Those receptive antennas were further heightened given the previous signals sent. After all, the State Department already released talking points to reporters on the decision to recertify Iran. The Treasury Department also had a package of fresh sanctions on over a dozen Iranian individuals and entities ready to announce to appease the hawks who were eager to cut loose from the deal.

But Trump didn’t want to recertify Iran, nor did he want to the last time around in April. That evening, a longtime Middle East analyst close to senior White House officials involved in the discussions described the scene to me: “Tillerson essentially told the president, ‘we just aren’t ready with our allies to decertify.’ The president retorted, ‘Isn’t it your job to get our allies ready?’ to which Tillerson said, ‘Sorry sir, we’re just not ready.'” According to this source, Secretary Tillerson pulled the same maneuver when it came to recertification in April by waiting until the last minute before finally admitting the State Department wasn’t ready. On both occasions he simply offered something to the effect of, “We’ll get ’em next time.”

An Ideological Coup against Trump?

August 30, 2017

An Ideological Coup against Trump? American ThinkerShoula Romano Horing, August 30, 2017

(If President Trump won’t defend himself and his policies from the ideological coup waged by his appointees, who will? Who can? — DM)

As replacements for those fired, McMaster appointed individuals who are friendly with Obama-era ideologues who blame Israel for Palestinian terror, encourage negotiations with Hamas and are obsessed with the plan for Palestinian statehood. 

In addition, just before Trump’s visit to Israel, McMaster erroneously publicly claimed  that the President would recognize “Palestinian Self-determination“ and refused to state that the Western Wall,  one the holiest Jewish sites,  and the last remnant of the walls around the Second Jewish Temple, is in Israel and insisted that Netanyahu could not accompany Trump to the site after failing to convince the President not to visit there.

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See also: Bolton and Gorka both say they are locked out of the White House

As an Israeli who supports Trump and attended Trump’s inauguration to celebrate his win, I read with a heavy heart the reports leaking out of the White House that Sebastian Gorka did not resign but was forced out of his position as a security advisor to the President by General H.R. McMaster and General John Kelly.

Mr. Gorka is the seventh Trump loyalist McMaster has forced out in recent months from the President’s National Security Team.  All have been attempting to carry out President Trump’s campaign promises to combat Iranian and radical Islamist terrorist threats, and to support Israel and the U.S.-Israel alliance.

Gorka was the third Trump loyalist forced out since General John F. Kelly, an old military colleague of McMaster, was appointed to be the chief of staff and reportedly encouraged McMaster to make any staffing changes he deems necessary.

If it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck, it is a duck.  Maybe it does not sound yet like a “purge” and an ideological coup, but it is starting to look like one, engineered by Generals McMaster and Kelly. It is designed to eliminate President Trump’s national security agenda of support to Israel, opposition to the Iran deal, and determination to name and combat radical Islamist terrorism.

On Friday, in a letter reported by the Federalist, Sebastian Gorka’s explained his “resignation” by expressing his unhappiness with the direction that the Trump administration’s foreign policy has taken as signaled by the President’s recent speech on Afghanistan. Gorka stated:

“Regrettably, outside of yourself (President Trump), the individuals who most embodied and represented the policies that will ‘Make America Great Again’ have been internally countered, systematically removed, or undermined in recent months. This was made patently obvious as I read the text of your speech on Afghanistan…. The fact that those who drafted and approved the speech removed any mention of Radical Islam or radical Islamic terrorism proves that a critical element of your presidential campaign has been lost.”

On Sunday, in an interview with the Jerusalem Post, Gorka offered harsh criticism of McMaster’s stance towards Islamists saying:

“McMaster sees the threat of Islam through an Obama administration lens, meaning that religion has nothing to do with the war we are in.… He believes and he told me in his office that these people are just criminals.”

A source close to the White House said that after Bannon was forced out, anti-Bannon factions began erecting bureaucratic roadblocks to undermine Gorka internally.

Yahoo News reported that Kelly revoked Gorka’s security clearance, making it difficult if not impossible for him to continue his job. Other news outlets reported that Kelly has been restricting access to Trump as McMaster’s detractors are trying to reach the president.

In his short term at the National Security Council (NSC), General McMaster has fired or forced out from the National Security Team, including the NSC, strong pro-Israel and anti-Iran officials such as Steve Bannon, K.T. McFarland, Adam Lovinger, Rich Higgins, Derek Harvey, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, and now Sebastian Gorka.

General McMaster quickly removed Bannon, the engineer of much of President Trump’s pro-Israel, anti-Islamist terrorism agenda, from the Principals Committee of the NSC. McMaster also removed K.T. McFarland, a veteran pro-Israel national security professional in the Nixon, Ford, and Reagan administrations and a key member of the team of Iran deal opponents originally gathered by Trump. Lovinger, a pro-Israel national security strategist from the Pentagon, was returned to the Pentagon with his security clearance revoked.

McMaster also fired Iran “hawk” Rich Higgins, the NSC’s director of strategic planning, after Higgins wrote a memo about personnel opposed to President Trump’s foreign policy agenda in the NSC.  McMaster also fired Derek Harvey, a senior director and expert on the Middle East and one of the best intelligence analysts on Iraq, after Harvey prepared a list of NSC Obama-era holdovers to be fired for leaking national security information to the press.  Instead, other conservatives were fired, such as Ezra Cohen-Watnick, a strong opponent of the Iran deal, who tried to intensify efforts to counter Iran in the Middle East and controlled officials opposed to the president’s policies.

As replacements for those fired, McMaster appointed individuals who are friendly with Obama-era ideologues who blame Israel for Palestinian terror, encourage negotiations with Hamas and are obsessed with the plan for Palestinian statehood.

As David Steinberg from PJ Media wrote, “Indeed, one is hard-pressed to identify a member of the NSC brought in by McMaster with a history of aligning with President Trump on Iran or with his Mideast policy or by his willingness to treat Islamic doctrine as the root cause of terror and related Mideast strife.”

But such nominations are not surprising if one understands McMaster’s own beliefs. He advised the president to certify that Iran is in compliance with the Iran deal, saying that Iran is merely violating the Iran deal’s “spirit” despite German intelligence reports that Iran is cheating and Trump’s promise to tear up or strictly enforce the Iran deal and punish violations.  Iran has refused to allow International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors into the Parchin nuclear facility or to interview Iran’s nuclear scientists, and has repeatedly tested intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Following the Obama administration’s practices, McMaster opposes using the term “radical Islamic terrorism” saying that the term isn’t helpful for U.S. goals because it does not help the U.S. in working with allies to defeat terrorist groups.“

Moreover, the general said that Jihadists terrorists aren’t true to their religion and terrorist organizations like ISIS represent a perversion of Islam and are thus un-Islamic

In addition, just before Trump’s visit to Israel, McMaster erroneously publicly claimed  that the President would recognize “Palestinian Self-determination“ and refused to state that the Western Wall,  one the holiest Jewish sites,  and the last remnant of the walls around the Second Jewish Temple, is in Israel and insisted that Netanyahu could not accompany Trump to the site after failing to convince the President not to visit there.

President Trump must wake up and realize the damage that Generals Kelly and McMaster are inflicting on his policies and on those who have been loyal to his ideology. President Trump should know that Israeli history is littered with heroic generals on the battlefield who were weak appeasers in national security when they became prime ministers, such as Israeli chiefs of staff Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak.  He should realize that just because they are generals they are not necessarily the right advisors to implement Trump’s tough-minded agenda.

Shoula Romano Horing is an Israeli born and raised attorney. Her blog: www.shoularomanohoring.com