Posted tagged ‘Peace Process’

State Dept. Blames Israel for Terrorism, Claims Palestinians Rarely Incite Attacks

July 20, 2017

State Dept. Blames Israel for Terrorism, Claims Palestinians Rarely Incite Attacks, Washington Free Beacon, , July 20, 2017

(Who the @#$$$* is in charge of American foreign policy? The President or “his” Secretary of State? If Secretary Tillerson approved this, he must go. Now. — DM)

Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli security forces in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on July 19 / Getty Images

Regional organizations monitoring the situation routinely cite the Palestinian Authority and its senior officials as calling for violence against Israel and glorifying past terror acts.

Palestinian television programs also promote violence against Israel and Jews, with some aimed at children promoting hatred of the Jewish state.

The Palestinian government also uses U.S. taxpayer aid to pay salaries to one-time terrorists who are imprisoned in Israel. This issue has become a particular sticking point in peace talks with Israel, and Congress is currently considering legislation that could cut all aid to the PA until it formally ends this terror payment policy.

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The State Department is facing harsh criticism for claiming in an official report that Israel is to blame for terrorism attacks committed by Palestinians and accusing the Jewish state of being largely responsible for an impasse in peace negotiations, according to a leading member of Congress who is calling on the State Department to correct its “inaccurate and harmful” characterization of Israel.

The State Department, in its latest annual report on the global terrorism situation, blames Israeli security policies for stalling the peace process and claims that Palestinians rarely incite terror attacks.

The claims are coming under fierce criticism from pro-Israel advocates and have prompted one leading member of Congress to formally call on the Trump administration to amend the report to more accurately reflect the situation.

Rep. Peter Roskam (R. Ill.), co-chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus, criticized the latest report in a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and called on the administration to immediately amend it to portray Palestinian terror attacks as a primary reason for the impasse in peace talks.

The State Department’s current characterization, Roskam claims, is harmful to Israel and likely to impede efforts by the Trump administration to renew peace talks.

“The State Department report includes multiple findings that are both inaccurate and harmful to combating Palestinian terrorism,” Roskam wrote in a letter sent Thursday to the State Department, a copy of which was exclusively obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. “This report wrongly insinuates Israeli security measures on the Temple Mount and a stalled peace process as key forces behind terrorism.”

“Most egregiously,” Roskam adds, “it portrays the PA as innocent peacemakers far removed from being the source of terrorist activity.”

The State Department characterizes Palestinian calls for terrorism and violence against Israel as “rare,” stating: “Explicit calls for violence against Israelis, direct exhortations against Jews, and categorical denials by the [Palestinian Authority] of the possibility of peace with Israel are rare and the leadership does not generally tolerate it.”

“This assertion is demonstrably false,” Roskam writes. “The PA does not only tolerate terrorist attacks against Israelis but it also incites, rewards, and memorializes those who carry out these horrific attacks.”

Regional organizations monitoring the situation routinely cite the Palestinian Authority and its senior officials as calling for violence against Israel and glorifying past terror acts.

Palestinian television programs also promote violence against Israel and Jews, with some aimed at children promoting hatred of the Jewish state.

The Palestinian government also uses U.S. taxpayer aid to pay salaries to one-time terrorists who are imprisoned in Israel. This issue has become a particular sticking point in peace talks with Israel, and Congress is currently considering legislation that could cut all aid to the PA until it formally ends this terror payment policy.

In late 2015, during a massive wave of Palestinian terrorism, attackers carried out 181 stabbing attacks on Israelis, 159 shooting, and 60 vehicular ramming attacks, which called more than 50 Israelis and injured nearly 1,000.

Roskam notes this statistic in his letter to Tillerson.

“I write to express my concern about numerous mischaracterizations found in the 2016 State Department Country Reports on Terrorism, which undermine the prospect for Israeli-Palestinian peace and wrongly blame Israel for Palestinian terrorism against Israeli civilians,” Roskam writes.

“At the highest level, the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership directly incites, rewards, and, in some cases, carries out, terrorist attacks against innocent Israelis,” the letter states. “In order to effectively combat terrorism, it is imperative that the United States accurately characterize its root cause—PA leadership.”

Roskam calls on the Trump administration “to modify this report to accurately characterize and hold accountable the root causes of Palestinian violence—PA leadership, and clarify the longstanding issue of Palestinian support for terrorism as the leading impediment to Israeli-Palestinian peace.”

One senior Congressional source tracking the situation told the Free Beacon that the State Department’s findings are appalling to Israel supporters.

“It is unacceptable that the State Department ignores PA-backed terrorism,” the source said, adding that Congress is working hard to pass legislation cutting off U.S. aid until the Palestinians cease paying terrorists.

“The State Department should be working to do the same,” the source said. “They can begin by correctly reporting the source of Palestinian terrorism—government-led incitement and policies that rewards terrorists.”

Peace is light-years away

July 14, 2017

Peace is light-years away, Israel Hayom, Ruthie Blum, July 14, 2017

(Israel: give, give, give. Palestinians: take, take, take. But no peace. — DM)

So far, however, all Abbas has done is call the shots on the venue of a meeting ‎between his honchos and Trump’s team, agree to water and electricity deals that ‎benefit the PA and give the White House cause for false optimism. Undoubtedly, ‎he has already figured out how to get around the Taylor Force Act, if and when it ‎passes. A revised, bipartisan version of the bill, in particular — geared toward ‎guaranteeing that ordinary Palestinians are not robbed of humanitarian services ‎as a result of their leaders’ violations — will provide him with sufficient loopholes ‎to keep his “martyrs” in clover.‎

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If the leaders of the Palestinian Authority had invested as much time, energy and ‎other people’s money in building a flourishing society as they do in the pursuit of ‎death and destruction, there would be no need for outside efforts to broker ‎peace between them and their Israeli counterparts. It takes only about 30 minutes ‎to drive from the Muqataa compound in Ramallah to the Prime Minister’s Office in ‎Jerusalem. Yet it is still easier for dignitaries from the United States and Europe to ‎spend hours on flights to Tel Aviv for the purpose of talking about a two-state ‎solution than it is for PA President Mahmoud Abbas to budge in any direction ‎other than backwards. ‎

Take this week, for instance, which began with the Palestinians’ refusal to host ‎U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman — whom U.S. President Donald Trump ‎has included in his Mideast peacemaking team, along with advisers Jason ‎Greenblatt and Jared Kushner — in Ramallah. Friedman is too pro-Israel, as far as ‎Abbas is concerned. As a result, the meeting between American and Palestinian ‎officials on Tuesday took place at the King David Hotel in west Jerusalem. ‎

On Thursday, Greenblatt joined fellow envoys of the Middle East Quartet — the ‎U.S. (which he represents), the European Union, the United Nations and Russia — ‎in Jerusalem “to discuss current efforts to advance Middle East peace, as well as ‎the deteriorating situation in Gaza.”‎

Also on Thursday, Greenblatt announced that Israel had agreed to sell the PA 1.2 ‎billion cubic feet of water. This, he said, in addition to an electricity deal reached ‎between Israel and the PA on Monday, will improve the Palestinians’ standard of ‎living.‎

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations ‎Committee conducted a hearing on the proposed Taylor Force Act, named after ‎the former U.S. Army officer who — while on a trip to Israel in March 2016 — was ‎stabbed to death by a knife-wielding Palestinian on a rampage in Tel Aviv. The bill, ‎co-sponsored by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Dan Coats (R-‎Ind.) and Roy Blunt (R-Miss.), aims to halt American aid to the PA until it ‎stops paying salaries and stipends to imprisoned terrorists and the families of ‎those “martyred” while murdering Israelis. ‎

Testifying before the committee on behalf of the bill, Senior Fellow for Middle ‎Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations Elliott Abrams — who served as ‎deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser in the ‎George W. Bush administration — railed against the “Palestinian practice of ‎making payments to individuals convicted of acts of terror, and their families or ‎survivors, in accordance with the severity of their acts and the length of their ‎sentences.” The “predictable effect of this practice,” he said, “is to reward and ‎incentivize acts of terror.”‎

Pointing to the billions of dollars that the U.S. has poured into the PA since its ‎establishment in the 1990s, Abrams said, “As long as the Palestinian government ‎is in effect rewarding terror, we need to be sure we make our objections — our ‎condemnation — known, and that cannot be merely in words. Our assistance ‎program must reflect our feeling of repugnance.” He then proposed a revision to ‎the bill that would enable the U.S. to continue funding hospitals and other ‎projects that benefit the Palestinian people, while preventing the money from ‎lining the pockets of corrupt bureaucrats.‎

Whether this carrot-and-stick approach to the PA was purposeful or inadvertent ‎is unclear. What is certain, however, is that the PA president is not turning over a ‎new leaf. Earlier this month, as Palestinian Media Watch reported, Abbas ‎was quoted on Fatah’s official Facebook page as proclaiming: “Even if I have to ‎leave my position, I will not compromise on the salary of a martyr or a prisoner, ‎as I am the president of the entire Palestinian people, including the prisoners, the ‎martyrs, the injured, the expelled and the uprooted.”‎

This sentiment was echoed recently by PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. ‎Hamdallah — who launched the first-ever Palestinian-owned power substation in ‎Jenin with Israeli National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources Minister ‎Yuval Steinitz on Monday, and signed the electricity deal touted by Greenblatt — ‎vowed last month to continue rewarding terrorists.‎

On June 16, according to PMW, the official PA newspaper quoted Hamdallah ‎announcing: “On behalf of … Abbas and our Palestinian people, I salute all of the ‎martyrs’ families … [and] emphasize to them that their rights are protected. … We ‎remember the sacrifices and struggle of the pure martyrs, guardians of the land ‎and identity, who have turned our people’s cause into a historical epic of struggle ‎and resolve.”‎

Hamdallah’s reassurance came on the heels of U.S. Secretary of State Rex ‎Tillerson’s claim that the PA’s “intent is to cease the payments to the families of ‎those who have committed murder or violence against others.” Ironically, both ‎Israeli and Palestinian officials were incensed by the statement, and Tillerson was ‎forced to modify it. Washington and Ramallah — he said the following day — are ‎engaged in an “active discussion” on the matter.‎

So far, however, all Abbas has done is call the shots on the venue of a meeting ‎between his honchos and Trump’s team, agree to water and electricity deals that ‎benefit the PA and give the White House cause for false optimism. Undoubtedly, ‎he has already figured out how to get around the Taylor Force Act, if and when it ‎passes. A revised, bipartisan version of the bill, in particular — geared toward ‎guaranteeing that ordinary Palestinians are not robbed of humanitarian services ‎as a result of their leaders’ violations — will provide him with sufficient loopholes ‎to keep his “martyrs” in clover.‎

Ramallah may be a mere 10 miles from Jerusalem, but it — ‎like peace — is light-years away.‎

Trump’s productive Middle East failure

June 30, 2017

Trump’s productive Middle East failure, Israel Hayom, Jonathan S. Tobin, June 30, 2017

What the Palestinians fail to understand is that ending PA support for terror is itself a core ‎issue that must be addressed now, and it is not a distraction from the real diplomatic ‎agenda.‎

It’s hardly surprising that the Palestinians are having trouble adjusting to the ‎administration’s mindset. Since neither the Americans nor the Europeans have ‎been much interested in the Palestinians’ terror payments and incitement, they seem to view ‎Trump’s focus on those issues as an indication that he is in Israel’s pocket. Former President Barack Obama was obsessed with the idea that pressure on Israel was ‎the key to peace and was willing to give the Palestinians a pass on anything they ‎did. But Trump rightly understands that as long as the Palestinians are funding ‎terror — and doing so with money given them by the West — they can’t be ‎considered serious about peace.‎

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It didn’t take long for the bubble to burst. The chance of U.S. President Donald Trump achieving a breakthrough in Middle East peace that had eluded all his ‎predecessors was always slim. But reports about Palestinian Authority President ‎Mahmoud Abbas yelling at presidential adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner during ‎their meeting last week may signal that the Trump initiative is over even ‎before it begins.‎

The president’s critics should acknowledge that even if the effort was ‎bound to end in failure, it nevertheless points toward the only way peace can be ‎achieved. By focusing on the Palestinians’ willingness to foment and subsidize ‎terror, the U.S. has exposed a key problem that the Obama administration ignored. ‎Rather than this obstructing peace, it is an important step without ‎which genuine progress toward ending the conflict will be impossible.‎

The meeting between Kushner and Abbas went badly. The Palestinians were ‎shocked that Kushner followed up on the key sticking point that had arisen ‎between Trump and the Palestinian leader during their two meetings in May. ‎Abbas claimed during their first encounter in the White House that the PA was not ‎engaging in incitement to hatred against Israelis and that it did not pay salaries or ‎pensions to terrorists and their families. By the time they met again, Trump had ‎learned that Abbas had lied to him about both issues and reportedly pounded the ‎table as he demanded that the Palestinian leader end these practices.‎

But when Kushner and chief U.S. peace negotiator Jason Greenblatt raised the issue ‎again with Abbas, the Palestinians were angry. As far as Abbas ‎was concerned, the Americans were merely relaying a list of demands from Israeli ‎Prime Minister Netanyahu, when Abbas had been expecting to hear about American ‎positions on “core issues of the conflict,” by which he meant strategies to stop ‎Israel from building in the West Bank and push it back to the 1967 ‎borders.‎

What the Palestinians fail to understand is that ending PA support for terror is itself a core ‎issue that must be addressed now, and it is not a distraction from the real diplomatic ‎agenda.‎

It’s hardly surprising that the Palestinians are having trouble adjusting to the ‎administration’s mindset. Since neither the Americans nor the Europeans have ‎been much interested in the Palestinians’ terror payments and incitement, they seem to view ‎Trump’s focus on those issues as an indication that he is in Israel’s pocket. Former President Barack Obama was obsessed with the idea that pressure on Israel was ‎the key to peace and was willing to give the Palestinians a pass on anything they ‎did. But Trump rightly understands that as long as the Palestinians are funding ‎terror — and doing so with money given them by the West — they can’t be ‎considered serious about peace.‎

The administration denies reports that it is considering backing away from the ‎push for negotiations. But the president may realize that his statement after his ‎first meeting with Abbas, in which he claimed that Middle East peace “is not as ‎difficult as most people thought,” was more than premature. ‎

While few thought his willingness to prioritize the peace process was likely to be ‎rewarded with success, his thinking that the time is ripe for a breakthrough was rational. With Sunni Arab states now looking at Israel as an ally against the ‎threat from Iran, it was reasonable to suppose that this confluence of ‎interests might result in an effort to pressure the Palestinians to settle their dispute ‎with Israel.

However, the theory that the Palestinians can be either pushed or ‎bribed by the Saudis into making peace is now being called into doubt.‎

As long as the Palestinians cling to the idea that their national identity is inextricably tied up with the ‎century-long war on Zionism, peace will remain a pipe dream. Neither Trump’s threats ‎nor the efforts of the Saudis are likely to persuade them to abandon a political ‎culture in which incitement and pensions for terrorists — on which they have ‎lavished more than $1.1 billion in just the last four years — are seen as laudable. ‎Trump is asking Abbas for something he cannot do and still ‎survive in power.‎

But with Congress looking to tie his hands by considering legislation that would ‎end U.S. aid unless the Palestinians stop the terror payments, Trump may not be ‎willing to let this issue drop. If so, his efforts won’t lead to the “ultimate deal” he ‎longs to broker, but it will lay the foundation for more realism about the peace ‎process. It will also put the Palestinians on ‎notice about what they must do if they genuinely want a two-state solution.‎

Jonathan S. Tobin is the opinion editor of JNS.org and a contributing writer for ‎National Review. 

Report: Trump May Exit Peace Talks After ‘Tense’ Kushner/Abbas Meeting

June 24, 2017

Report: Trump May Exit Peace Talks After ‘Tense’ Kushner/Abbas Meeting, Jerusalem Post, Asser Okbi/ Maariv Haskavua, Jpost.Com Staff, June 24, 2017

(“Abbas angrily accused Kushner and Trump’s lead international negotiator, Jason Greenblatt, of taking Israel’s side. . . ” After the Obama administration, he must be shocked. — DM)

Abbas and Kushner. (photo credit:REUTERS)

US President Donald Trump is reportedly weighing whether to pull out of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations following a “tense” meeting with White House senior staff and officials in Ramallah, according to London-based Arabic daily al-Hayat on Saturday.

The report claimed that Trump is to determine the future of reigniting Mideast peace talks in the near future, including  the possibility of withdrawing completely from the process.

The al-Hayat report came just days after a meeting between the administration’s senior adviser Jared Kushner and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, which was described as “tense” by an Abbas advisor present at the talks.

Abbas was supposedly furious with the president’s son-in-law after Kushner relayed Israeli demands to the 81-year-old Palestinian leader which included the immediate halt of payments to terrorists and their families.

Abbas angrily accused Kushner and Trump’s lead international negotiator, Jason Greenblatt, of taking Israel’s side and refused to commit to the request.

The report claims that the Trump administration was equally upset with Abbas after he failed to denounce the latest stabbing attack in Jerusalem, leaving 23-year-old St.-Sgt. Maj. Hadas Malka brutally stabbed to death in a terror attack last week. Ties were further strained after Abbas reportedly refused to meet  American ambassador to Israel David Friedman.

The Palestinian official also told the paper that the Americans demanded Palestinian officials curb inflammatory statements regarding Israel.

“(Kushner) will submit his report to the president and, after it is submitted, Trump will decide if there’s a chance for negotiations or it might be preferable to pull out peace talks,” the official said.

Abbas claimed that Israel is using the issue of payments to terrorists and their families as a pretext to avoid entering peace-talks, saying that the payments are a part of the Palestinian government’s “social responsibility.”

U.S.: Strategic Objectives in the Middle East

June 22, 2017

U.S.: Strategic Objectives in the Middle East, Gatestone InstitutePeter Huessy, June 22, 2017

On relations with the Palestinian Authority, the administration has moved to improve matters but has not moved to advocate a two-state solution — for which there is no contemplated security framework sufficient to protect Israel.

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The new “test” of our alliance will be whether the assembled nations will join in removing the hateful parts of such a doctrine from their communities.

What still has to be considered is the U.S. approach to stopping Iran from filling the vacuum created by ridding the region of the Islamic State (ISIS), as well as Iran’s push for extending its path straight through to the Mediterranean.

The tectonic plates in the Middle East have shifted markedly with President Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia and Israel, and his announced new regional policy.

The trip represented the beginning of a major but necessary shift in US security policy.

For much of the last nearly half-century, American Middle East policy has been centered on the “peace process” and how to bring Israel and the Palestinians to agreement on a “two-state” solution for two peoples — a phrase that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas refuses to say.

First was shuttle diplomacy during 1973-74 in the Nixon administration; then second, in 1978, the Camp David agreement and the recognition of Israel by Egypt, made palatable by $7 billion in new annual US assistance to the two nations; third, the anti-Hizballah doctrine, recently accurately described by National Security Advisor General H.R. McMaster, as Iran, since 1983, started spreading its terror to Lebanon and elsewhere in the region. This last effort was often excused by many American and European analysts as a result somehow, of supposed American bad faith. Fourth, came the birth, in 1992, of the “Oslo Accords” where some Israelis and Palestinians imagined that a two-state solution was just another round of negotiations away.

Ironically, during the decade after Oslo, little peace was achieved; instead, terror expanded dramatically. The Palestinians launched three wars, “Intifadas,” against Israel; Al Qaeda launched its terror attacks on U.S. Embassies in Africa; and Iran, Hizballah, and Al Qaeda together carried out the forerunner attacks against America of 9/11/2001.

Since 9/11, despite wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, terrorism has not only failed to recede; on the contrary, it has expanded. Iran has become the world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism, and the Islamic State (ISIS) has tried to establish a transnational “Islamic caliphate.” Literally tens of thousands of terror attacks have been carried out since 9/11 by those claiming an Islamic duty to do so. These assaults on Western civilization have taken place on bridges, cafes, night clubs, offices, military recruitment centers, theaters, markets, and sporting events — not only across the West but also in countries where Muslims have often been the primary victims.

Particularly condemnable have been the improvised explosive device (IED) attacks against U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, perpetrated to a great extent by Iran, according to U.S. military testimony before Congress.

All the while, we in the West keep trying to convince ourselves that, as a former American president thought, if there were a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, most of the terrorist attacks we see in Europe and the United States “would disappear.”

No matter how hard we may rhetorically push the “peace process”, there is no arc of history that bends naturally in that direction. Rather, nations such as the United States together with its allies must create those alliances best able to meet the challenges to peace and especially defeat the totalitarian elements at the core of Islamist ideology.

If anything, the so-called Middle East “peace process” has undercut chances of achieving a sound U.S. security policy. While the search for a solution to the Israel-Palestinian “problem” dominated American thinking about Middle East peace for so many decades, other far more serious threats materialized but were often ignored, not the least of which was the rise of Iran as the world’s most aggressive terrorist.

The United States has now moved in a markedly more promising and thoughtful direction.

The new American administration has put together an emerging coalition of nations led by the United States that seeks five objectives:

(1) the defeat of Islamic State;

(2) the formation of a coalition of the major Arab nations, especially Egypt and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to clean up in their own back yards financing terrorism and providing terrorists with sanctuary. As Elliott Abrams, an adviser to former U.S. President George W. Bush, cautions us, however, this will not be an easy effort: “Partnerships with repressive regimes may in some cases exacerbate rather than solve the problem for us” but, Abrams says, “gradual reform is exactly the right approach…”;

3) “driving out” sharia-inspired violence and human rights abuses from the region’s mosques and madrassas;

(4) a joint partnership with Israel as part of an emerging anti-Iran coalition — without letting relations with the Palestinian authority derail United States and Israeli security interests; and

(5) the adoption of a strategy directly to challenge Iran’s quest for regional and Islamic hegemony, while ending its role in terrorism.

Defeating Islamic State

Defeating ISIS began with an accelerated military campaign and a new American-led strategy to destroy the organization rather than to seek its containment. According to the new U.S. Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, “Our intention is that the foreign fighters do not survive the fight to return home to North Africa, to Europe, to America, to Asia. We’re going to stop them there and take apart the caliphate.”

Secretary of Defense James Mattis. (Dept. of Defense/Brigitte N. Brantley)

So far, the United States coalition has driven ISIS from 55,000 square kilometers of territory in Iraq and Syria.

A New Coalition

Apart from a strategy to counter ISIS, the Trump administration also called on our allies in the Middle East to put together a new joint multi-state effort to stop financing terrorism. Leading the multi-state effort will be the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States, which together will supposedly open a new center dedicated to the elimination of terrorist financing. Positive results are not guaranteed, but it is a step in the right direction.

According to Abdul Hadi Habtoor, the center will exchange information about financing networks, adopt means to cut off funding from terrorist groups, and hopefully blacklist Iran’s jihadist army, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). These measures in turn will help eliminate the sanctuaries from which terrorists plot and plan.

This move also places emphasis on the responsibility of states to eliminate terrorism. As President Trump said, each country — where it is sovereign — has to “carry the weight of their own self-defense“, be “pro-active” and responsible for “eradicating terrorism”, and “to deny all territory to the foot soldiers of evil”.

This determination was underscored by many Arab countries breaking diplomatic relations with Qatar for its support of Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS. Most of Qatar’s Arab neighbors, including the Saudis, Egypt, and the UAE did so, while the US, although denouncing Qatar’s support of terrorism, continues to maintain access to, and use of, its critical military base there.

In short, the U.S. is playing good-cop, bad-cop in the region, while U.S. allies are putting together what Josh Rogin of the Washington Post described as “a regional security architecture encompassing countries on the periphery of Iran.”

Such an approach is not without risk: Turkey, allied with Iran and Qatar, has already has pledged to help Qatar defy the Gulf States’ trade cut-off. If Turkey, for example, seeks to move its promised aid shipments to Qatar through the Suez Canal, the ships could possibly be blocked by Egypt or attacked on the high seas. Does the U.S. then come to the assistance of a NATO member — Turkey — against an ally in the strategic coalition?

Drive Hateful Ideology Out

A companion challenge by the new American President underscored this new security effort. President Trump said to the assembled nations of the Islamic conference that they have to expel the ugly Islamist ideology from the mosques and madrassas that recruit terrorists and justify their actions.

Trump said: “Drive them out of your places of worship”. Such words had never been spoken so clearly by an American president, especially to the collection of nearly all the Islamic-majority countries (minus the Shi’ite bloc) gathered together.

The president’s audience doubtless understood that he was speaking of the doctrine of sharia (Islamic law). The new “test” of our alliance will be whether the assembled nations will join in removing the hateful parts of the doctrine from their communities. It was a sharp but critical departure from the previous American administration’s message in Cairo in 2009, and placed the Islamic doctrine that seeks to establish the sharia throughout the world in a contained context.

New Israeli Partnership

With Israel, the administration has cemented the next part of its strategy. Here the Trump administration successfully improved our political and military relations with Israel. Markedly so. One part of that effort was enhanced missile-defense cooperation called for in the FY18 United States defense budget, specifically to deal with Iranian and Iranian-allied missile threats.

On relations with the Palestinian Authority, the administration has moved to improve matters but has not moved to advocate a two-state solution — for which there is no contemplated security framework sufficient to protect Israel.

Challenge and Roll Back Iran

The final part of the administration’s strategy starts with a thorough review of our Iran strategy and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or “nuclear deal”, with Iran. As Max Singer recently wrote, even if we discount what secretive nuclear capability Iran may now have, the Iranian regime will at the very least be much closer to producing nuclear weapons down the road than when the JCPOA was agreed to.

As Ambassador John Bolton has warned the nuclear deal with Iran did nothing to restrain Iranian harmful behavior: “Defiant missile launches… support for the genocidal Assad regime… backing of then Houthi insurgency in Yemen… worldwide support for terrorism… and commitment to the annihilation of Israel” continue.

In addition, uranium enrichment, heavy water production, the concealed military dimensions of warhead development and joint missile and nuclear work with North Korea all lend a critical urgency to countering Iran’s lethal efforts. The United States did not make these counter-efforts any easier by providing to Tehran $100 billion in escrowed Iranian funds, equivalent to nearly one quarter of the Islamic Republic’s annual GDP.

The United States’ and Europe’s easing of sanctions on Iran has helped reintegrate Iran into global markets via mechanisms such as the electronic payment system run by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT). That, in turn, has helped Iran expand dramatically its military modernization budget by 33%, including deals worth tens of billions of dollars in military hardware with China and Russia.

Added to that is Iranian financial- and weapons-support for foreign fighters in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and Afghanistan. Iran’s significant support to the Houthi rebels in Yemen includes weaponry, financing and logistical support, including advanced offensive missiles. The Houthis regularly attempt to carry out missile attacks against Saudi oil facilities.

Such Iran activity is described by the Commander of U.S. Central Command, General Joseph Votel, as “the most significant threat to the Central Region and to our national interests and the interest of our partners and allies”.

As such, it can only be challenged through exactly the kind of military, political, and economic coalition the Trump administration is seeking to band together, which would include the Gulf Arab nations, especially Saudi Arabia, as well as Egypt, Jordan, and Israel.

The administration’s five-step strategy has a chance to work. It creates a policy to destroy ISIS; oppose Islamic terrorism and specifically the imposition of sharia; adopt measures to go after the financing of such terrorism; implement improvements in Gulf allies’ military capabilities — including missile defenses — parallel with pushing NATO members to meet their military spending obligations; put back into place a sound and cooperative relationship with Israel; and specifically contain and roll back Iranian hegemonic ambitions and its terror-master ways.

What still has to be considered, however, is the U.S. approach to stopping Iran from filling the vacuum created by ridding the region of ISIS, as well as Iran’s push for extending its path straight through to the Mediterranean.

If successful, some modicum of peace may be brought to the Middle East. And the arc of history will have finally been shaped toward America’s interests and those of its allies, rather than — however inadvertently — toward its mortal enemies.

Dr. Peter Huessy is President of GeoStrategic Analysis, a defense consulting firm he founded in 1981, and was the senior defense consultant at the National Defense University Foundation for more than 20 years.

Naming Bin Salman Saudi heir impacts US, Israel

June 21, 2017

Naming Bin Salman Saudi heir impacts US, Israel, DEBKAfile, June 21, 2017

US President Trump is taking the lead role along with Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates, another crown prince, Egypt’s President Abdul-Fatteh El-Sisi, and Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

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The Saudi king’s decision to elevate his son Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 31, to crown prince and heir to the throne, in place of his cousin Mohammed bin Nayef – as part of a broad reshuffle, is not merely the internal affair of the royal hierarchy, but a game-changing international event.

DEBKAfile’s analysts see it as the outcome of a global and regional process initiated by Donald Trump soon after he settled in the White House in January. With his appointment as de facto ruler of the oil kingdom, the Saudi king’s son is ready to step into his allotted place in a new US-Arab-Israeli alliance that will seek to dominate Middle East affairs. Israel will be accepted in a regional lineup for the first time alongside the strongest Sunni Arab nations who all share similar objectives, especially the aim to stop Iran.

Trump’s trip to Riyadh and Jerusalem in early May laid the cornerstone for the new US-Sunni Arab bloc versus Iran’s Shiite grouping and also cemented Israel’s co-option.

This bloc is in its infancy and has yet to display staying power and prove the wisdom of its policies. But its contours have taken shape. US President Trump is taking the lead role along with Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates, another crown prince, Egypt’s President Abdul-Fatteh El-Sisi, and Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Three of those leaders already maintain strong direct – albeit discreet – ties with Israel’s prime minister, its security establishment, military and various intelligence agencies.

In a lecture on Tuesday, June 20, Israel’s chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkott, spoke of the covert relations between the IDF and certain Arab nations, which he did not name. There is clearly a lot going on under the surface in various political, economic, financial, intelligence and military fields.

Recent events in the region already point to President Trump acting on important matters, such as the confrontation with Iran, the war on terror, the Syrian conflict and US intervention in the Yemen conflict, on the advice of the two Arab crown princes rather than Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

This was strikingly demonstrated when Trump overrode Tillerson’s recommendation to apply diplomacy for resolving the dispute that led to four Arab nations boycotting Qatar, with the Saudis in the lead, whereas the president then demanded strong action to stop Qatar’s funding of terrorists. He therefore opted for the aggressive Saudi and UAE stance against Qatar’s ruler, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

These developments bear strongly on US-Russian relations. The two crown princes maintain active ties with President Vladimir Putin. They could, of course, act as go-betweens for smoothing relations between the White House and the Kremlin. But, on the other hand, their influence could be counter-productive and goad Trump into engaging the Russians in a limited confrontation in Syria. It is hard to see Washington and Moscow coming to terms in Syria at this point when the former is closely allied to Saudi Arabia and the UAE and Moscow maintains its loyalty to Tehran.

The evolving bonds between the US, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Israel are the source of President Trump’s optimism about the prospects of pulling off an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, a vision which eluded all his predecessors in the White House, while knocking over the decades-old barriers between the moderate Arab nations and the Jewish State.

The first steps towards this goal are in the making. They will include exposing parts of their hidden interaction to the light of day, as well as such important symbolic actions, as opening Arab skies to the passage of Israeli commercial flights, or direct telephone links.

None of this is expected to transpire overnight but rather over years, especially since there is opposition to the process still to overcome in the Arab world, including Saudi Arabia, and also in the United States. Critics lay into Mohammed bin Salman, who has made his mark as a visionary social and economic reformer at home, as too young, brash and impatient to rule the kingdom. His decision to entangle Saudi Arabia in the Yemen war, which many believe it cannot win, is held up as evidence of his reckless nature.

But the process switched on by Trump in Riyadh took a large stride forward on June 21, with the formalization by King Salman of his young son’s role as the top mover and shaker in the Saudi kingdom. King Salman obtained the support of 31 out of 34 members of Saudi Arabia’s Allegiance Council for confirming Prince Muhammad Bin Salman as crown prince as well as deputy prime minister and minister of defense.

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.