Posted tagged ‘Israel and Saudi Arabia’

Twilight over the “Palestinian Cause”

December 21, 2017

Twilight over the “Palestinian Cause”, Gatestone InstituteGuy Millière, December 21, 2017

(Please see also, Palestinian claims to Jerusalem lose Saudi as well as US support. — DM)

Reports from the West Bank after the Six Day War show that the Arabs interviewed defined themselves as “Arabs” or “Jordanians”, and evidently did not yet know that they were “the Palestinian people”. Since then, they were taught it. They were also taught that it is their duty is to “liberate Palestine” by killing Jews. The Palestinians are the first people invented to serve as a weapon of mass destruction of another people.

“The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality, today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese.” — PLO leader Zuheir Mohsen, interview in the Dutch newspaper Trouw, March 1977.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the European Union has become the main financier of the “Palestinian cause”, including its terrorism. They are also contributing to war.

Iran, strengthened enormously by the agreement passed in July 2015 and the massive US funding that accompanied it, has been showing its desire to become a hegemonic power in the Middle East.

The grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdulaziz ibn Abdullah Al ash-Sheikh, recently issued a fatwa saying that “fighting the Jews” is “against the will” of Allah and that Hamas is a terrorist organization.

For many years, “Palestine” has not stopped aspiring to new heights in the so called “international community”. “Palestine” has been present at the Olympic Games since 1996, and, later, became a permanent observer to UNESCO and the United Nations. The vast majority of the 95 “embassies” of “Palestine” are in the Muslim world; many others are in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe. In 2014, the Spanish Parliament voted in favor of full recognition of “Palestine.” A few weeks later, the French Parliament did the same. 

There is no other instance in the history of the world where a state that does not exist can have missions and embassies presumed to function as if that state did exist.

Now the time has probably come for the “Palestinians” to realize that they have lost and fall back to earth, as noted by the scholar Daniel Pipes.

Have “Palestinian” leaders been showing by their speeches and actions that they are ready to rule a state living in peace with their neighbors and with the rest of the world? All “Palestinian” leaders have incessantly incited terrorism, and do not hide their wish to wipe Israel off the map.

Is there a long-standing aspiration by the “Palestinian people” to have a state and to live peacefully within that state? The answer is actually no. The “Palestinian people” were invented in the late 1960s by the Arab and Soviet propaganda services. As PLO leader Zuheir Mohsen told the Dutch newspaper Trouw in March 1977:

“The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality, today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese.”

Reports from the West Bank after the Six Day War show that the Arabs defined themselves in interviews as “Arabs” or “Jordanians”; they evidently did not know that they were the “Palestinian people”. Since then, they were taught it. They were also taught that it is their duty to “liberate Palestine” by killing Jews. The Palestinians are the first people invented to serve as a weapon of mass destruction of another people.

Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the PLO, at the Arab League summit in Rabat, Morocco, 1974. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Is there at least a historic past that gives legitimacy to the aspiration to create a “Palestinian state”? The answer again is actually no. There is no Palestinian culture distinct from the cultures of the Muslim Arab world, no monument that can be defined as a “Palestinian” historic monument, except by falsifying history.

More basically, would a hypothetical “Palestinian state” be economically viable? Again, the answer is actually no. Territories occupied by the Palestinian movements survive only thanks to international financial assistance from the West.

How then could so many countries wish for so long to create a state whose rulers would likely be regressive, corrupt “Palestinian” leaders; whose inhabitants would be used as killing machines, whose history is non-existent-to-falsified and whose economic potential seems zero?

The answer is simple.

Behind their support for the creation of a “Palestinian state”, those countries have been pursuing other goals. For decades, countries of the Muslim world obsessively wanted one thing: the destruction of Israel.

They tried to reach their goal through conventional warfare, then terrorism, then diplomacy, then propaganda. They blamed only Israel for all the evils of the Middle East.

All the while, they know who the “Palestinian” leaders are and what they do. They know that the “Palestinian people” were invented. They know why the “Palestinian” people were invented. They know that a “Palestinian state” will not have a viable economy. Yet they have been committed to a strategy of destabilizing and demonizing a non-Muslim nation, Israel.

They call the “Palestinians” “victims“; terrorism, “militancy”; and incitement to kill, “resisting occupation”. They have been trampling rightful history and replacing it with myth.

They press “Palestinian” leaders to “negotiate”, knowing perfectly well that no agreement will ever be signed and that negotiations will end in bloodshed.

They propose only “peace plans” they know Israel must reject – those which include the “’49 ‘Auschwitz‘ armistice lines” or the “right of return” for “Palestinian refugees”, who numbered half a million in 1949, but near five million today.

They recognize a “Palestinian state” while knowing that the “state” they recognize is not a state, but rather a terrorist entity without defined borders or territory, and imbued with a will to spill more blood and create more mayhem.

They have relied on turmoil, blackmail and lies to encourage the rest of the world to think the situation requires drastic international intervention.

They have been saying they want a “Palestinian state”, but never that they want this state to renounce terrorism and end the conflict.

Instead, they have been waging a vicious war they have long hoped to win.

For more than thirty years, they benefited from the support of the Soviet Union. It financed wars (19671973), terrorism, diplomacy and propaganda. The Soviet Union made the “Palestinian” enterprise an “anti-imperialist” cause — a means of strengthening Soviet positions and galvanizing the enemies of the West. The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, but the effects of its support for the “Palestinian cause” for a time remained. Many countries hostile to the West still support and recognize the “Palestinians” while pretending to ignore that they are recognizing a terrorist entity. They are contributing to war.

Countries of the Western world, subjected to the pressures of the Muslim world and the Soviet Union for many years, have gradually given way, some even before any pressure was applied.

France chose its camp in 1967, when General Charles de Gaulle launched what he called an “Arab policy” after its defeat in Algeria. French foreign policy become resolutely “pro-Palestinian” -– in an apparent effort to deflect terrorism, obtain inexpensive oil and compete with the US — and has remained so to this day. Western European countries have gradually adopted positions close to those of France. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the European Union has become the main financier of the “Palestinian cause”, including its terrorism. Western European leaders know what the real goals are, yet they repeat without respite that creating a “Palestinian state” is “essential“. They are also contributing to war.

Although a long-time ally of Israel, the United States changed its Middle East policy in the beginning of the 1990s to positions closer to those of the Muslim world. American politicians and diplomats pressured Israelis to negotiate with “Palestinian” leaders and seemed to have lost sight of what the “Palestinian cause” was secretly about. Wishful Israeli leaders agreed to negotiate. The tragic result was the Oslo Accords and the creation of the Palestinian Authority (PA). It quickly became a new base of anti-Israeli terrorism. A wave of lethal, anti-Israel attacks started immediately, with a stepped-up anti-Israel diplomatic and propaganda offensive right after. A “two-state solution” was invoked. American leaders, as if they had slept through several years, started to say that a “Palestinian state” had to exist. Three American Presidents proposed “peace plans“, also contributing to war.

An additional “peace plan” is expected soon, but the parameters will be profoundly different. President Donald Trump appears to wish to break with the past.

He recently told Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas that “Palestinian” leaders were liars. None of the American negotiators he chose seems to have the slightest illusion about the “Palestinian” leadership or the “Palestinian cause”.

The Taylor Force Act, passed on December 5 by the US House of Representatives, plans to condition US aid to the “West Bank and Gaza” on “the actions taken by the Palestinian Authority to end violence and terrorism against Israeli citizens”; the Act could be adopted soon by the Senate. The PA rejected all the requirements in the Act.

The Muslim world is also undergoing change. Iran, strengthened enormously by the agreement passed in July 2015 and the massive US funding that accompanied it, has been showing its desire to become a hegemonic power in the Middle East. The mullahs’ regime now holds three capital cities in addition to Teheran: Baghdad, Damascus, and Beirut. Iran attacks Saudi Arabia and supports the war led by the Houthi militia in Yemen; it intends to seize Sanaa and take control of Bab El Mandeb, the gateway to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. Qatar and Turkey have established close ties with Iran.

Saudi leaders appear aware of the danger. King Salman chose his son, Mohamed bin Salman, as heir to the throne, and gave him broad powers. “MBS”, as he is known, seems intent on leading a real revolution. Militarily, he is head of the 40-member Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, and has declared his desire to “end terrorism”. Economically, he is in charge of an ambitious reform project aimed at making his country less dependent on oil: Saudi Vision 2030. All Saudi leaders in disagreement with the new orientations of the country were placed under arrest and their assets confiscated. Mohamed bin Salman has identified Iran as the main enemy, and recently described its Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, as a “new Hitler.” Qatar and Turkey have been subjected to intense Saudi pressure to distance themselves from the Iranian regime. The grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdulaziz ibn Abdullah Al ash-Sheikh, recently issued a fatwa saying that “fighting the Jews” is “against the will” of Allah and that Hamas is a terrorist organization.

Mohamed bin Salman has the support of the Trump administration; Vladimir Putin who, while being allied to Iran, may want a balance of power in the Middle East, and Xi Jinping, who is facing the risk of a Sunni Islamic upheaval in China’s autonomous territory, Xinjiang.

“Palestinian” leader, Mahmoud Abbas was reportedly summoned to Riyadh, where King Salman and Mohammed bin Salman told him that he had to accept the plan proposed by the Trump administration or resign, and that it would “risky” for him to consider launching an uprising – which he has anyway, although being careful to keep it lukewarm.

During the month of October, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a close ally of Mohamed bin Salman, invited the leaders of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to come to Cairo for a “reconciliation”. He apparently demanded control of the Gaza Strip to be handed to the Palestinian Authority. It also seems that the Trump administration and President Sisi told Hamas leaders that they had to approve the terms of the “reconciliation” agreement, and that if they carried out any attacks against Israel, they risked complete destruction.

The “peace plan” evidently to be presented by the Trump administration is provoking the extreme anger of “Palestinian” leaders. The goal of the “plan” seems to be to revive an open ended “peace process”, allowing Saudi Arabia and the members of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition to move closer to Israel and push the “Palestinian cause” toward the back burner.

On November 19, an Arab League emergency meeting held in Cairo strongly condemned Hezbollah and Iran. Moreover, for the first time in fifty years, a meeting of the Arab League did not even mention the “Palestinian” question.

President Trump’s recognition on December 6 of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has led to restlessness and acrimony both in the Muslim world and among Western European leaders. Sunni leaders allied to Saudi Arabia, however, as well as Saudi Arabia itself, seem too concerned about the Iranian threat to quarrel with Israel, the United States or really anyone. Western Europe has almost no weight in what is taking shape; all it has shown is cowardice, fear, and continued contempt for a fellow Western democracy: Israel.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, now in the twelfth year of his four year term — and apparently seeing that he is getting little support — appeared to seek divine intervention: he asked the Pope for help. There would be “no Palestinian state without East Jerusalem as its capital,” Abbas said. He sounded as if he had begun to understand that the “Palestinian cause” could be fading, and, with other “Palestinian” leaders, called for “three days of rage“. A few protesters burned tires and American flags – the usual.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to convene in Istanbul on December 13, and urged leaders of Muslim countries to recognize Jerusalem as the “occupied capital of the Palestinian state”. Saudi King Salman stayed well away as did almost all other Sunni leaders. He only sent a message saying that he calls for “a political solution to resolve regional crises”. He added that “Palestinians have right to East Jerusalem” – the least he could do; he did no more. Erdogan is mainly supported by Iran, today’s foremost enemy of Saudi Arabia and other Sunni countries.

“It will not be the end of the war against Israel,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “but it could be the beginning of the end of the “Palestinian cause”.

It now seems a good time for Western European leaders who still blindly support the “Palestinian cause” to cut their losses, both politically and economically. Taking the side of Erdogan and the mullahs in order to support a terrorist entity that will never be a “state” will do nothing to help them fight either terrorism or the increasing Islamization of Europe.

Dr. Guy Millière, a professor at the University of Paris, is the author of 27 books on France and Europe.

The U.S. Middle East Peace Plan?

November 13, 2017

The U.S. Middle East Peace Plan? Gatestone Institute, Bassam Tawil, November 13, 2017

Abbas is now caught between two choices, both disastrous: On the one hand, he needs the political backing of his Arab brothers. This is the most he can expect from the Arab countries, most of whom do not give the Palestinians a penny. It is worth noting that, by and large, the Arab countries discarded the Palestinians after the PLO and Yasser Arafat openly supported Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Kuwait was one of several Gulf countries that used to provide the Palestinians with billions of dollars a year. No more.

Since then, the Palestinians have been almost entirely dependent on American and European financial aid. It is safe to assume, then, that the US and EU have more leverage with the Palestinians than most Arab countries.

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No American or European on the face of this earth could force a Palestinian leader to sign a peace treaty with Israel that would be rejected by an overwhelming majority of his people.

Trump’s “ultimate solution” may result in some Arab countries signing peace treaties with Israel. These countries anyway have no real conflict with Israel. Why should there not be peace between Israel and Kuwait? Why should there not be peace between Israel and Oman? Do any of the Arab countries have a territorial dispute with Israel? The only “problem” the Arab countries have with Israel is the one concerning the Palestinians.

The question remains: how will the Saudis and the rest of the international community respond to ongoing Palestinian rejectionism and intransigence?

Who said that Palestinians have no respect for Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arab countries? They do.

Palestinians have respect for the money of their Arab brethren. The respect they lack is for the heads of the Arab states, and the regimes and royal families there.

It is important to take this into consideration in light of the growing talk about Saudi Arabia’s effort to help the Trump Administration market a comprehensive peace plan for the Middle East, the details of which remain intriguingly mysterious.

Last week, the Saudis unexpectedly summoned Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas to Riyadh for talks on Trump’s “ultimate solution” for the Israeli-Arab conflict, reportedly being promoted by Jared Kushner.

According to unconfirmed reports, the Saudis pressured Abbas to endorse the Trump Administration’s “peace plan.” Abbas was reportedly told that he had no choice but to accept the plan or resign. At this stage, it remains unclear how Abbas responded to the Saudi “ultimatum.”

Last week, the Saudis unexpectedly summoned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to Riyadh for talks on Trump’s “ultimate solution” for the Israeli-Arab conflict. Abbas was reportedly told that he had no choice but to accept the plan or resign. Pictured: Abbas on a previous visit to Saudi Arabia, on February 23, 2015, meeting with Saudi King Salman. (Photo by Thaer Ghanaim/PPO via Getty Images)

If true, the Saudi “ultimatum” to Abbas is tantamount to asking him to sign his death warrant. Abbas cannot afford to be seen by his people as being in collusion with an American “peace plan” that does not comply completely with their demands. Abbas has repeatedly made it clear that he will not accept anything less than a sovereign Palestinian state on all the pre-1967 lands, including east Jerusalem. He has also emphasized that the Palestinians will never give up the “right of return” for millions of “refugees” to their former homes inside Israel. Moreover, Abbas has clarified that the Palestinians will not accept the presence of any Israeli in their future Palestinian state.

Abbas has done his dirty work well. He knows that he cannot come back to his people with anything less than what he promised them. He knows that his people have been radicalized to the point that they will not agree to any concessions or compromise with Israel.

And who is responsible for this radicalization? Abbas and other Palestinian leaders, who continue unendingly to tell their people through the media, discourse and mosques that any concession to Israel constitutes treason, pure and simple.

So it would be naïve to think that Saudi Arabia or any other Arab country would be able to strong-arm any Palestinian leader to accept a “peace plan” that requires the Palestinians to make concessions to Israel. Abbas may have much respect for the ambitious and savvy young crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman. This respect, however, certainly stops at the border of the political suicide – and extreme personal risk — from Abbas’s point of view.

Abbas is now caught between two choices, both disastrous: On the one hand, he needs the political backing of his Arab brothers. This is the most he can expect from the Arab countries, most of whom do not give the Palestinians a penny. It is worth noting that, by and large, the Arab countries discarded the Palestinians after the PLO and Yasser Arafat openly supported Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Kuwait was one of several Gulf countries that used to provide the Palestinians with billions of dollars a year. No more.

Since then, the Palestinians have been almost entirely dependent on American and European financial aid. It is safe to assume, then, that the US and EU have more leverage with the Palestinians than most Arab countries.

Nevertheless, no American or European on the face of this Earth could force a Palestinian leader to sign a peace treaty with Israel that would be rejected by an overwhelming majority of his people.

Trump’s “ultimate solution” may result in some Arab countries signing peace treaties with Israel. These countries anyway have no real conflict with Israel. Why should there not be peace between Israel and Kuwait? Why should there not be peace between Israel and Oman? Do any of the Arab countries have a territorial dispute with Israel? The only “problem” the Arab countries have with Israel is the one concerning the Palestinians.

For now, it appears that the vast majority of Arab regimes no longer care about the Palestinians and their leaders. The Palestinians despise the Arab leaders as much as they despise each other. It is a mutual feeling. The Palestinians particularly despise any Arab leader who is aligned with the US. They do not consider the US an honest broker in the Israeli-Arab conflict. The Palestinians, in fact, view the US as being “biased” in favor of Israel, regardless of whether the man sitting in the Oval Office is a Democrat or Republican.

The Saudi crown prince is viewed by Palestinians as a US ally. His close relations with Jared Kushner are seen with suspicion not only by Palestinians, but by many other Arabs as well. Palestinian political analysts such as Faisal Abu Khadra believe that the Palestinian leadership should prepare itself to face the “mysterious” Trump “peace plan.” They are skeptical that the plan would meet the demands of the Palestinians.

The Palestinians appear to be united in rejecting the Trump Administration’s effort to “impose” a solution on them. They are convinced that the Americans, with the help of Saudi Arabia and some Arab countries, are working towards “liquidating” the Palestinian cause. Abbas and his rivals in Hamas now find themselves dreading the US administration’s “peace plan.”

Like lemmings drawn to the sea, the Palestinians seem to be marching towards yet another scenario where they “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” The question remains: how will the Saudis and the rest of the international community respond to ongoing Palestinian rejectionism and intransigence?

Bassam Tawil, a Muslim, is based in the Middle East.

King of Saudi Arabia Personally Intervenes in Temple Mount Crisis, Says Metal Detectors ‘Routine’ at Holy Places

July 18, 2017

King of Saudi Arabia Personally Intervenes in Temple Mount Crisis, Says Metal Detectors ‘Routine’ at Holy Places, The Jewish PressHana Levi Julian, July 18, 2017

King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud

The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman of Saudi Arabia personally intervened in the Temple Mount crisis via the United States, according to a report posted Tuesday by the Arabic-language Elaph website, based in London.

The decision by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and top Israeli security officials late Saturday night to reopen the holy site to Muslim worshipers, visitors and tourists allegedly came after receiving a message from the Saudi monarch via the White House.

Moreover, the Saudi king expressed no reservations about Israel’s decision to upgrade security by installing metal detectors at the entrances to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount in the wake of the terror attack last Friday that left two Israeli policemen dead and others wounded.

“The issue of metal detection machines, said the source, is a matter that has become routine in the holy places because of terrorism, which strikes without discrimination and in most places regardless of the sanctity of the different religions,” reported Elaph.

The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammad Hussein, warned followers that their prayers would not be accepted in Heaven if they pass through the metal detectors to enter the Temple Mount for prayers in Al Aqsa Mosque — the third holiest site in Islam.

Given that King Salman is the Custodian of the Two Mosques, Islam’s two holiest sites, one might consider his authority to overrule that of the Mufti in spiritual matters such as effect of metal detectors on the human body and its ability to convey prayer to heaven.

Israel’s prime minister also reportedly invited King Salman and Saudi officials to visit the Al Aqsa Mosque to see “the situation on the ground,” but “received no response.”

In addition, Netanyahu reiterated his pledge via the White House that Israel would maintain the status quo at the site, the report noted, adding Jordan was also involved in the communications. Israel’s prime minister, Elaph reported, told Jordan’s King Abdullah II he was not pleased about remarks by Jordan’s parliamentary speaker, Atef Tarawneh over Al Aqsa, which he considered “irresponsible.”

On Tuesday, Tarawneh added to the incitement, commenting from the podium of the Jordanian Parliament that the legislative body “is documenting all the racist laws of the Knesset that support the settlements and the occupation, and we will spread them to all the parliaments that are brothers and friends of Jordan around the world.”

The Saudis hold the key

June 20, 2017

The Saudis hold the key, Israel Hayom, Prof. Abraham Ben-Zvi, June 20, 2017

This multi-phased approach is not overly ambitious. It does not seek to solve everything all at once, nor does it impose an agreement on the two parties. Instead, the goal is to reach an agreement on those issues that are less charged, thereby creating an island of relative stability in a chaotic and violent environment.

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The focus of the international media has ostensibly shifted away from the Middle East to other parts of the world following U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit last month, but the administration has not stopped pushing for renewed peace talks.

The efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate by redrawing the fundamental principles so that they satisfy both sides are clearly evident in the decision to send two senior White House officials, senior adviser to the president Jared Kushner and Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt, to the region.

Even though the magic formula that could produce such fundamental principles is not within reach, one fact is abundantly clear: Trump does not consider a permanent agreement between Israel and the Palestinians a necessary stepping stone to a new Middle East under U.S. auspices, unlike his predecessor Barack Obama, who held this belief from the moment he became president.

In fact, Trump believes an Israeli-Palestinian accord is just one issue that needs to be addressed while he puts together a much wider regional framework. Moreover, Trump has placed a particular emphasis on Saudi Arabia rather on the Israeli-Palestinian axis. The kingdom, which fears that Iran has become more powerful since the 2015 nuclear deal, has reacted to this renewed threat by abandoning its long-held policy of kowtowing to radical entities and rogues states and has instead embarked on an uncompromising path of containment. This has generated a host of opportunities for the United States.

The strength the U.S. is projecting now (including Trump’s willingness to provide Saudi Arabia sophisticated weapons in unprecedented quantities) stands in stark contrast to the weakness during the Obama years, giving Trump a great deal of room to maneuver and influence over Riyadh.

Thus, the key to ending the impasse between the Palestinians and the Israelis is not in Ramallah or in Jerusalem but in the Saudi capital. Saudi Arabia’s willingness to publicly take on Iran and its proxies (as well as other regional entities such as Qatar), means that the president can demand confidence-building measures from the Saudis toward Israel.

In light of Riyadh’s newfound willingness to take on Hamas and similar organizations, the president’s advisers want the Saudis to pressure Ramallah and convince the PA to scale back its demands. In that context, Kushner and Greenblatt’s visit is designed to gauge what confidence-building measures Israel and the Palestinians would be willing to offer.

This multi-phased approach is not overly ambitious. It does not seek to solve everything all at once, nor does it impose an agreement on the two parties. Instead, the goal is to reach an agreement on those issues that are less charged, thereby creating an island of relative stability in a chaotic and violent environment.

Will Trump make a peace breakthrough in 2018?

June 15, 2017

Will Trump make a peace breakthrough in 2018? DEBKAfile, June 15, 2017

(Lots of speculation about future events, but an interesting piece nevertheless. — DM)

US President Donald Trump’s goal of generating a rapid improvement of Israel’s ties with the Arab world, including the Palestinians in 2018, is not just up to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, but depends largely on how the Trump administration handles the continuing conflict between Qatar and its powerful Arab opponents, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Up until the end of this week, Trump had turned down the efforts of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis to resolve the Gulf conflict by diplomacy. Instead of heeding them, the president took the advice of the Saudi defense minister, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir, who visited Washington this week. Tillerson and Mattis tried to arrange a conference between Saudi Arabia and Qatar so as to gradually ease the tensions, but Trump torpedoed the initiative by adopting Riyadh’s tough line.

A complex situation has arisen in the last few days regarding the US diplomacy for bringing Israel and the Palestinians aboard a peace process. The signs of movement on this score fluctuate between crises and some progress:

1. The Gaza electricity row falls under the first heading. Some circles contend that the crisis is artificial, since the Palestinian enclave is receiving as much power now as before. What is different is the new, intensified pressure by Egypt on the one hand and the Palestinian Authority on the other in the hope of toppling Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip or squeezing its leaders into toeing their lines. Neither Egyptian President Abel Fatteh El-Sisi nor the Palestinian Authority chairman has made headway. Hamas stubbornly refuses Cairo’s demand to sever ties with Qatar, while launching a counteroffensive to draw Israel into the dispute by making an empty threat of an “explosion.”

Israel responded with a counter-threat on Thursday, June 15: a proposal to transfer one hour’s worth of power from West Bank Palestinian towns to boost the supply to Gaza.

This maneuver kept the entire electricity issue in the court from it was tossed, Ramallah.

2. A shower of Israeli concessions is landing on the Palestinians judging by almost daily reports. Some are true and others false. But in sum, they are designed to impress President Trump with the Netanyahu government’s good will towards his peace initiative and readiness to take steps in its support. In fact, the prime minister is preparing the ground for the forthcoming arrival of Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s envoy on the Israel-Palestinian issue.

3. US Secretary of State Tillerson this week informed the Senate that the Palestinian Authority had agreed to  halt its payments to the families of Palestinian terrorists who were killed while carrying out attacks against Israelis. Palestinian officials no doubt let this be understood to demonstrate their willingness to go along with Trump’s peace initiative, without, however, have any real intention of following through.

4. Media reports and the findings of Arab research institutes add up to the following predictions on the fate of the negotiations generated by the Trump administration between Israel and the Arab world:

A. Some time during 2018, a showcase summit will be staged for Trump, Netanyahu and leading Arab rulers like Saudi King Salman, Egyptian President El-Sisi and the UAE’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

They will publish a joint declaration signaling the phased normalization of relations with Israel by such preliminary steps as the exchange of economic and business delegations, the opening of trade offices and of Arab skies to Israeli commecial flights. None of these researchers is clear about the Palestinian role in this event.

B. Meanwhile, Israel will make concessions towards improving the lives of ordinary Palestinians, such as removing checkpoints, issuing building permits for Palestinian towns and more jobs in Israel.

C. Israel and the Palestinian Authority will expand their security cooperation. The Palestinians will be persuaded to cease their incitement against the Jewish State and stop payouts to the families of convicted Palestinian terrorists and other security offenders.

D. Direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations will ensue, without preconditions on either side, and expand. with Arab governments sitting in.

E. At the end of a period of some years, this process will mature into a discussion of the core issues of the dispute, Palestinian statehood, future borders, settlements, Jerusalem and refugees.

In other words, the year 2018 will see the building of normal relations between Israel and Arab countries to be followed at a later date by the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. President Trump has clearly seized on relations with Riyadh, Cairo and Abu Dhabi as a lever for pushing Israel and the Palestinians into peace talks.

The idea is simple. Israel’s improved ties with the Arab world will resonate positively on Israeli-Palestinian relations. That appears to be Trump’s formula for peace. But there is a catch. It depends heavily on the US President maintaining good relations with the Arab world in the long term.

Trump Breaks the Diplomatic Mold

May 23, 2017

Trump Breaks the Diplomatic Mold, Commentary Magazine. May 22, 2017

President Donald Trump walks with Saudi King Salman at the Arab Islamic American Summit, at the King Abdulaziz Conference Center, Sunday, May 21, 2017, in Riyadh. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Upon arrival, Trump received a royal welcome. Saudi King Salman braved the 101-degree heat of the tarmac to greet the presidential plane personally. A brass band serenaded the two world leaders as cannons issued celebratory volleys and seven Saudi jets streamed trails of red, white, and blue overhead. The president and the king joined one another in the presidential limo and rode off together to an extravagant ceremony at the Saudi Court, where attention was even lavished upon the president’s aides.

The intentional contrast this reception struck with Barack Obama’s 2014 trip to the Saudi Kingdom was stark. Upon Obama’s arrival, King Salman dispatched only his distant nephew, the provincial governor of Riyadh, to meet the leader of the free world. The Obama White House did its best to save face, but the snub was a clear indication that tensions surrounding Iran nuclear deal, the ongoing bloodshed in Syria, and Obama’s explicit antipathy toward the Saudi Kingdom as a nation unworthy of an alliance with America.

As COMMENTARY’s Evelyn C. Gordon discussed, in exchange for Israeli technology and intelligence, a relaxation of the Gaza blockade, and the cessation of settlement construction in “some areas,” this Sunni alliance would “establish direct telecommunication links with Israel, let Israeli aircraft overfly their countries, lift certain trade restrictions and perhaps grant visas to Israeli athletes and businessmen.” And all of this would occur with existing Palestinian realities utterly unchanged. Even if no further progress toward peace in the region is secured, that bell cannot be un-rung.

A truly successful presidency in the Middle East may begin first with the abandonment of that burdensome, dog-eared diplomatic playbook.

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There is perhaps nothing a global class of calcified diplomatic professionals appreciates more than subtlety and nuance. Donald Trump’s tour of the world’s three major religious capitals is about as unsubtle and unnuanced as you can get. To many seasoned diplomats, this administration’s naïve effort to forge peace in this fashion is downright dangerous—possibly more than the administration even knows. Maybe. Or maybe the president and his team are dispensing with ossified convention in a field that could desperately use some fresh thinking. With the first leg of Trump’s world theological tour complete, it is not impossible that something new is taking shape.

In Saudi Arabia this weekend, Donald Trump danced with swords, touched an ominous glowing orb, and delivered a narrowly tailored and reasonably well-received speech on radical Islamic terrorism in the heart of the Islamic world. Among many other regional power brokers, the president also met with the leaders of Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar, and Bahrain. What Trump did in the Saudi Kingdom is, however, less interesting than how the Saudis responded to him.

Upon arrival, Trump received a royal welcome. Saudi King Salman braved the 101-degree heat of the tarmac to greet the presidential plane personally. A brass band serenaded the two world leaders as cannons issued celebratory volleys and seven Saudi jets streamed trails of red, white, and blue overhead. The president and the king joined one another in the presidential limo and rode off together to an extravagant ceremony at the Saudi Court, where attention was even lavished upon the president’s aides.

The intentional contrast this reception struck with Barack Obama’s 2014 trip to the Saudi Kingdom was stark. Upon Obama’s arrival, King Salman dispatched only his distant nephew, the provincial governor of Riyadh, to meet the leader of the free world. The Obama White House did its best to save face, but the snub was a clear indication that tensions surrounding Iran nuclear deal, the ongoing bloodshed in Syria, and Obama’s explicit antipathy toward the Saudi Kingdom as a nation unworthy of an alliance with America.

From Saudi Arabia, Trump traveled directly to Israel—itself a shift in convention—where he was also greeted warmly. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife met the president and first lady at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv. Using his remarks alongside Trump to issue a veiled rebuke of Obama, Netanyahu noted: “We appreciate the reassertion of American leadership in the Middle East.”

President Obama entered office with the objective of creating a new power balance in the region that would allow the United States to withdraw confidently. The former president’s stated belief that America’s alliance toward Israel “erodes our credibility with the Arab states” in combination with his mistrust toward Sunni Arab states like Saudi Arabia and Egypt left him with few ways of achieving that goal. There’s a cosmic irony in the fact that Obama’s navel-gazing paved the way for a radically new and promising dynamic to emerge in the Middle East. Conceptually, the strategy Trump is pursuing in the Middle East is wildly divergent from his predecessors. He is effectively abandoning the idea that there can be no resolution of the Arab World’s hostility toward Israel without first creating a Palestinian state.

As recently as February, administration sources began providing details to the press about a proposed pan-Sunni military alliance designed to both counter Islamist extremism and a resurgent Iran. That alliance would include states with unfrozen relations with Israel, like Egypt and Jordan, and nations like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which do not recognize the Jewish state. According to a recent bombshell report, however, the prospect of a radical relaxation in tensions between Israel and the Arab World is real.

As COMMENTARY’s Evelyn C. Gordon discussed, in exchange for Israeli technology and intelligence, a relaxation of the Gaza blockade, and the cessation of settlement construction in “some areas,” this Sunni alliance would “establish direct telecommunication links with Israel, let Israeli aircraft overfly their countries, lift certain trade restrictions and perhaps grant visas to Israeli athletes and businessmen.” And all of this would occur with existing Palestinian realities utterly unchanged. Even if no further progress toward peace in the region is secured, that bell cannot be un-rung.

Donald Trump isn’t the first American president to benefit from warm feelings solely because he isn’t the last guy to have occupied the Oval Office. When it comes to the Middle East, crises and chaos have a habit of scuttling even the best-laid plans. Iranian power projection into places like Iraq, Yemen, and Syria has, however, created new avenues of cooperation between adversarial powers with a common enemy in Tehran. If Trump can translate this new reality into tangible accomplishment (a big “if”), he will have the makings of a potent argument for his presidency and a second term.

On foreign affairs, in particular, President Donald Trump has invited the wrath of the critics. He is “the world’s most undiplomatic” diplomat who has embraced illiberal and strategically inept “lame-stream diplomacy.” Indeed, his “rejection of traditional diplomacy for his own distinctive, brusque style has incurred costs without any visible offsetting benefits.” In his article “Is This the End of the Free World,” Abe Greenwald demonstrated that Trump has an appalling and lamentably familiar habit of alienating America’s natural allies. It’s a nasty feature of a distorted worldview, and it may result in the continued loss of allied faith in American vision and authority. For now, however, not only is the Middle East obviously thrilled for the Obama era to be over but that has provided Donald Trump with the opportunity for a real diplomatic triumph. A truly successful presidency in the Middle East may begin first with the abandonment of that burdensome, dog-eared diplomatic playbook.

Israeli-Saudi Ties Warming; Hizballah and Iran Livid

August 8, 2016

Israeli-Saudi Ties Warming; Hizballah and Iran Livid, PJ MediaP. David Hornik, August 7, 2016

netImage Courtesy of Shutterstock

As Khamenei tweeted on Monday: “Revelation of Saudi government’s relations with Zionist regime was stab in the back of Islamic Ummah.”

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The Israeli society that I encountered embraces a culture of peace, has accomplishments it wants to (protect), wants coexistence, and wants peace.

Those words weren’t spoken by an enthused congressman after a trip to Israel. They were spoken to BBC Arabic by Abd al-Mujid al-Hakim, director of the Middle East Center for Strategic and Legal Policy in Jedda, Saudi Arabia, and a member of a Saudi delegation that recently visited Israel.

The delegation, which included academics and businessmen, was led by Dr. Anwar Eshki, a retired Saudi general and former top adviser to the Saudi government. About a year earlier Eshki had shaken hands and shared a stage in Washington with Israeli Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold—seen as a major breakthrough at the time. But a public visit to Israel of this kind, which could only have been carried out with the approval of the highest level of the Saudi government, is a historical first and still has a taste of the surreal to it.

During the visit Eshki met again with Gold; with Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai, responsible for Israeli administration of the territories; with Palestinian officials in Ramallah; and with opposition Members of Knesset.

One of those opposition MKs, Issawi Frej of the far-left, mostly Jewish Meretz Party, said:

The Saudis want to open up to Israel. It’s a strategic move for them. They want to continue what former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat started (with the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty). They want to get closer with Israel, and we could feel it clearly.

What’s going on?

Israeli commentator Yossi Melman, while noting that the visit marks a new plateau in the increasingly overt Israeli-Saudi ties, points out:

[O]n a covert level, according to foreign reports, the ties being cultivated are even more fascinating. Intelligence Online reported that Israel is selling intelligence equipment, as well as control and command centers, to the Saudi security forces. Previously, it had been reported in the foreign media that the heads of the Mossad, the organization responsible for Israel’s covert ties, met with their Saudi counterparts. Media outlets affiliated with Hezbollah even reported that officers from the two countries’ armies had met.

What’s going on, in other words, is that Israel and Saudi Arabia have common enemies in the region, and with American power withdrawing, Israel’s power constantly growing, ISIS threatening, and the Obama administration having paved a path to nuclear weapons for Iran, the Saudis—like Egypt, Jordan, and other Sunni states—are casting their troubled gaze toward Jerusalem.

Or as Melman puts it:

Israel and the Saudis share a fear for Iran’s nuclear program and Tehran’s efforts to increase its influence in the region. They also both have an interest in weakening the standing of Hezbollah, “the forward headquarters” of Iran on Lebanon’s Mediterranean coast. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks often of Israel’s ties with the “Sunni Bloc,” and hints that the Saudis are included in this group.

It appears that he need hint no more.

Last week’s Saudi visit to Jerusalem—a dramatic, even stunning confirmation of Israel’s cooperation with that bloc—did not go unnoticed, of course, by the rival Shiite bloc. And they’re not happy about it.

Hizballah chief Hassan Nasrallah accused the Saudis of “normalizing for free, without receiving anything in return…. It seems the future of Palestine and the fate of its children have become a trivial matter for some Arab states recently.”

The Saudi visit, he said, “couldn’t have taken place without the agreement of the Saudi government. We know how things work there. In Saudi Arabia a person will be lashed for so much as tweeting.”

But if Nasrallah is not pleased with this development, his boss—Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei—is even less thrilled.

As Khamenei tweeted on Monday: “Revelation of Saudi government’s relations with Zionist regime was stab in the back of Islamic Ummah.”

None of this means that the Sunni Arab part of the Ummah is ready to warmly embrace Israel. While in Israel last week, Dr. Eshki—like Egyptian and Jordanian officials before him—said that real “normalization” would have to await a resolution of the Palestinian issue. It’s code for: “We’re not really ready to accept a Jewish state in our midst.”

Still, considering that Israel and Sunni Arab states used to fight wars every few years, a reality of nonbelligerency and pragmatic ties is a major improvement for Israel. Whoever is the next U.S. president might want to cooperate with the Israeli-Sunni alliance against Iran instead of giving the mullahs a “sunset clause” leading to nuclear night.