Posted tagged ‘Trump agenda’

President Trump and Pope Francis Meet Face-to-Face

May 25, 2017

President Trump and Pope Francis Meet Face-to-Face, Front Page MagazineJoseph Klein, May 25, 2017

(Please see also, Catholics Respond to Pope Francis’ ‘One-Sided, Misleading’ Message to Donald Trump. — DM)

[I]t is the fight against climate change that remains his top concern, which is of little comfort to the survivors and families grieving over their loved ones killed or injured in the Manchester slaughter. The same is true about those who suffered from the Islamic terrorist slaughter at a Coptic Christian church in northern Egypt on Palm Sunday. ISIS has claimed responsibility for both attacks.

[I]n the spirit of moral relativism so prevalent today, Pope Francis has declared: “There are fundamentalist and violent individuals in all peoples and religions—and with intolerant generalizations they become stronger because they feed on hate and xenophobia. By confronting terror with love, we work for peace.”

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President Trump and Pope Francis held a half-hour private meeting at the Vatican on Wednesday. Despite their sharp differences on climate change, redistribution of wealth, the handling of refugees and other key global issues, the two men were at least outwardly cordial. Both clearly wanted to avoid anything that could be perceived as confrontational, which had characterized remarks each had made about the other on prior occasions.  However, Pope Francis used the occasion of the meeting to deliver a message to President Trump about the importance of remaining committed to the fight against climate change. He even decided to give the president a copy of his 2015 encyclical on saving the environment.

The meeting occurred only two days after the horrific suicide bombing in Manchester, England that claimed at least 22 lives, including an 8 year old girl, and injured many more. Yet fighting against the foremost evil of our day, Islamic terrorism, did not appear to be foremost on Pope Francis’s mind at his meeting with President Trump.   A message had been previously issued in Pope Francis’s name, stating that he was “deeply saddened” by the “barbaric attack” in Manchester and extending his condolences. However, it is the fight against climate change that remains his top concern, which is of little comfort to the survivors and families grieving over their loved ones killed or injured in the Manchester slaughter. The same is true about those who suffered from the Islamic terrorist slaughter at a Coptic Christian church in northern Egypt on Palm Sunday. ISIS has claimed responsibility for both attacks.

“With Allah’s grace and support, a soldier of the Khilafah managed to place explosive devices in the midst of the gatherings of the Crusaders in the British city of Manchester,” ISIS declared in a boastful statement. ISIS threatened more attacks to come against “the worshippers of the Cross and their allies, by Allah’s permission.” Children specifically will be targeted. A May 4th article entitled “The Ruling on the Belligerent Christians” previewed what lay ahead, declaring that the “blood” of women and children “is not protected” since they have not embraced Islam.

The Middle East and “the protection of Christian communities” did come up during the meeting between Pope Francis and President Trump, according to a statement released by the Vatican. However, they may well have been talking past each other.

When the Pope thinks of Christian communities, he tends to focus on what he considers to be the compassionate duty of Christians to reach out to the poor, including to care for the world’s many refugees and other migrants. Indeed, in February 2016, Pope Francis sharply criticized then candidate Trump for his views on immigration. “A person who only thinks about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian,” the Pope said. On another occasion, speaking to Catholics and Lutherans in Germany last October, Pope Francis said, “It’s hypocrisy to call yourself a Christian and chase away a refugee or someone seeking help…”

Pope Francis has acknowledged the “serious harm to the Christian communities in Syria and Iraq, where many brothers and sisters are oppressed because of their faith, driven from their land, kept in prison or even killed.” However, he has failed to single out for condemnation those responsible for such suffering and their animating ideology – radical Islamic terrorists, whose hateful ideology is rooted in their literal reading of the Koran and Prophet Muhammad’s sayings and actions. Instead, in the spirit of moral relativism so prevalent today, Pope Francis has declared: “There are fundamentalist and violent individuals in all peoples and religions—and with intolerant generalizations they become stronger because they feed on hate and xenophobia. By confronting terror with love, we work for peace.”

Terrorism, according to Pope Francis, feeds on “fear, mistrust, and the despair born of poverty and frustration.” End economic inequality, the Pope believes, and voilà – love replaces hatred and terrorism gives way to peace. “This is no time for denouncing anyone or fighting,” he declared. In the Pope’s reckoning, Christian minorities will be safe if we can just all agree to get along and share the wealth.

President Trump, on the other hand, is a realist. He recognizes the clear and present danger to Christian communities, particularly in the Middle East, from genocide committed by Islamic terrorists. These terrorists are not especially motivated by poverty. Indeed, some have been very well-off, including the late Osama bin Laden. As President Trump realizes, they are motivated by their hateful supremacist radical Islamic ideology, which spurs them on to attack the “Crusaders” wherever they can be found. They seek to make their fundamentalist form of Islam the only legitimate religion in the world.  The rest of us either have to convert, pay a tax to live as a dhimmi, or die.

In a major speech on terrorism that Donald Trump delivered last August while running for the presidency, he described the atrocities committed in the name of “the hateful ideology of Radical Islam.” These atrocities included, he said: “Children slaughtered, girls sold into slavery, men and women burned alive. Crucifixions, beheadings and drownings. Ethnic minorities targeted for mass execution. Holy sites desecrated. Christians driven from their homes and hunted for extermination. ISIS rounding-up what it calls the ‘nation of the cross’ in a campaign of genocide.”

This genocide is a product of fundamentalist Islam-inspired ideology, which cannot be fought “with love,” as Pope Francis would like us to believe. Nor would the West’s “warm human welcome” and “authentic hospitality” to all refugees provide “our greatest security against hateful acts of terrorism,” as Pope Francis would also like us to believe.

Again, President Trump is a realist. His policies towards refugees, which Pope Francis evidently thinks are heartless, aim to protect Americans from jihadists seeking to enter the United States from the most terrorist-prone countries in the world. The president sought to reverse Barack Obama’s discrimination against Christian refugees – the truly persecuted victims of radical Islamic genocide in the Middle East – and was called an Islamophobe and worse for his efforts. Pope Francis should be standing up for what President Trump tried to accomplish in this regard. But he hasn’t. In fact, the Vatican expressed concern about President Trump’s first executive order suspending travel and entry of refugees from certain countries, which had included a provision providing preferential treatment for persecuted religious minorities such as Christians.

President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II successfully worked together, projecting military and spiritual power respectively, to defeat the evil of their day – communism and the Soviet Union. The evil of our day is radical Islamic terrorism, not climate change. Will Pope Francis follow in the footsteps of Pope John Paul and work with President Trump to help save Christians and other civilized people from this evil source of mass slaughter? Based on his record so far, it is doubtful, but we shall have to wait and see.

The onus is on us

May 25, 2017

The onus is on us, Israel Hayom, Isi Leibler, May 25, 2017

(Iran is the greatest threat to Israel; it has or will have nukes and the means of delivering them to obliterate the “little Satan.” The Palestinians don’t and, at least in the foreseeable future, are unlikely to. By working with the Saudis, et al, to defang Iran, President Trump rejected Obama’s policy of yielding to Iran and thereby benefitted both the Saudis, et al, and Israel. — DM)

Trump did not try to force unreasonable concessions. A Palestinian state is not ‎even on the horizon. Neither is there any indication of a return to former President Barack ‎Obama’s policy of freezing all settlement construction.‎

In King Salman’s ‎statement outlining the Saudi position, rather than condemning Israel, he merely expressed the ‎hope that peace will be achieved. This was a clear message, as was the fact that Trump flew to ‎Israel on the first openly direct flight from Riyadh to Tel Aviv.‎

According to The Wall Street Journal, the Saudis no longer demand a complete ‎settlement freeze. Instead, they propose that Israel restrict construction outside the ‎settlement blocs and provide additional humanitarian aid in Gaza. ‎

In return, the Saudis would inch toward normalization by allowing ‎Israeli aircraft to fly over their territory, set up direct telephone connection and even provide ‎tourist visas for Israelis. While this was not officially confirmed, there were no denials, which ‎tends to confirm the veracity of the report. ‎

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U.S. President Donald Trump has delivered. He will not have satisfied the delusional ‎aspirations of Israel’s radical right but, despite some missteps before he arrived, the Trump visit was favorable for Israel and outlined ‎parameters of what can be achieved with the Palestinians.‎

It was disappointing that he postponed transferring the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, but we appreciate that he is the first sitting ‎American president to visit the Western Wall. ‎

He should have been more explicit about the extent of terrorism in Israel in his ‎address to the Muslim world. But he more than compensated in his extraordinarily warm ‎address at the Israel Museum.‎

There is also some concern that the substantial commercial and defense relationship with the ‎Saudis ($380 billion in deals, including $110 billion in arms purchases) might impact Israel and ‎will require steps to ensure that we maintain our qualitative military edge.‎

Trump did not try to force unreasonable concessions. A Palestinian state is not ‎even on the horizon. Neither is there any indication of a return to former President Barack ‎Obama’s policy of freezing all settlement construction.‎

Indeed, the president expressed support for Israel in a far more open and ‎positive manner than his predecessors. In his address to the leaders of 55 Muslim-‎majority countries, he reversed Obama’s moral equivalence approach and described the ‎conflict as being between the forces of decency on the one hand, and an evil death cult on the ‎other. He urged the Arab and Muslim states to actively eradicate terrorism and extremism ‎from within their ranks. He specifically condemned Hamas and ‎Hezbollah together with ISIS and al-Qaida. And he explicitly called on Arab and Muslim ‎leaders to combat anti-Semitism. ‎

For the first time, the Saudis, backed by the Egyptians and Gulf states, appear to be promoting ‎peace or at least easing the tension between the Palestinians and the Israelis. In King Salman’s ‎statement outlining the Saudi position, rather than condemning Israel, he merely expressed the ‎hope that peace will be achieved. This was a clear message, as was the fact that Trump flew to ‎Israel on the first openly direct flight from Riyadh to Tel Aviv.‎

According to The Wall Street Journal, the Saudis no longer demand a complete ‎settlement freeze. Instead, they propose that Israel restrict construction outside the ‎settlement blocs and provide additional humanitarian aid in Gaza. ‎

In return, the Saudis would inch toward normalization by allowing ‎Israeli aircraft to fly over their territory, set up direct telephone connection and even provide ‎tourist visas for Israelis. While this was not officially confirmed, there were no denials, which ‎tends to confirm the veracity of the report. ‎

Whether this was the outcome of discussions with Trump’s representatives, or ‎because the Saudis recognize the value of Israel’s support against Iran’s efforts to achieve ‎regional hegemony, is irrelevant. There have already been widespread rumors attesting to ‎covert Saudi cooperation with Israel against Iran and similarly with Egypt against ISIS.‎

Trump demanded that the Palestinians cease incitement and stop ‎rewarding terrorists murderers and their families, and avoided suggesting that Israel cease settlement activity. But he undoubtedly pressed Prime ‎Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for confidence-building measures such as ‎improving Palestinian economic conditions.‎

At this potentially historic turning point, Netanyahu must stand firm against the radicals in his ‎coalition and impose a limited freeze beyond the settlement blocs. Most Israelis ‎would endorse this, and if it brings down the government, and forces elections, the ‎nation will support Netanyahu.‎

At this crucial time, decision-making must reflect ‎the views of the centrist majority. No minority groups should ‎be able to veto our national interest.‎

Yesh Atid and elements in Labor embrace this centrist view, and should either join the ‎government or support it on this issue. ‎

Of course, this is only the beginning. Before we engage in negotiating details, ‎Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas must make some concessions. Let him recognize ‎Israel as a Jewish state and abrogate the Palestinian right of return. Then we can ‎discuss borders and a demilitarized state. For now, we must demonstrate to the ‎world and to Trump that we are reasonable and respond positively to genuine Arab ‎gestures.‎

Despite these efforts, Abbas is probably unwilling or unable to ‎change. He is unlikely to make genuine efforts to stem incitement ‎or cease awarding lavish pensions to murderers and their families. Should that be the case, ‎most of the world, especially the Europeans, will still automatically blame Israel for failure to ‎advance the peace negotiations.‎

Trump’s determination will then be put to test. If, to appease the Saudis, he was to continue to ‎make believe that Abbas is a moderate peace partner and extend the fake “peace process ‎negotiations” we have endured under Obama, we would justly feel betrayed. ‎

However, if the Trump administration performs as an honest broker and recognizes Israel’s ‎efforts and genuine desire for peace, it will conclude that in the absence of a Palestinian ‎negotiating partner, all we can achieve is an improvement in Palestinian quality of life under ‎their own autonomy while we maintain our security. At the same time, as has been hinted by ‎Trump, he may then look more seriously at alternative solutions in cooperation with Egypt and ‎Jordan and backed by the moderate Arab States, which do not involve a two state solution. It ‎is no coincidence that Trump failed to explicitly refer to a Palestinian State while visiting the ‎region. It is this veiled threat that Trump is hoping will entice the Palestinian leadership to ‎conduct bona fide negotiations for the first time.‎

We are today in an exceedingly strong position. Israel has never been so powerful militarily, ‎economically and socially.‎

Israel has never had such widespread international recognition. Whether you adore or loathe ‎Netanyahu, nobody can deny that he has been an outstanding statesman in the international ‎arena. He has a unique relationship with the Americans and with Russian President Vladimir ‎Putin, and has built up relations with India, China, Japan, Southeast Asia, Australia, Eastern ‎Europe and now Africa. ‎

The extraordinary opportunities of today may never be replicated. We must demonstrate ‎restraint and ensure that our elected representatives neither undermine us nor project the ‎image of extremists by engaging in foolish or intemperate outbursts primarily designed for ‎personal political promotion. ‎

Today, we have in our grasp this remarkable opportunity to genuinely move toward ‎improving and stabilizing our relationship with our Arab neighbors. ‎

Trump’s Middle East Trip Was a Big, Surprising Success—and the Iranian Regime is Nervous

May 24, 2017

Trump’s Middle East Trip Was a Big, Surprising Success—and the Iranian Regime is Nervous, Tablet MagazineLee Smith, May 23, 2017

The Obama administration moved quietly behind the scenes to reorient American policy toward Iran, while it pulled the rug out from under traditional American allies. Among other things, the Obama White House leaked Israeli strikes against Hezbollah convoys, it coordinated operations with Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, and it stood aside as Bashar al-Assad waged a genocidal campaign in Syria so as not to affect the prospects of the nuclear deal with Iran.

The Iranians know how much they owe the Obama administration—whether it was air support for Qassem Soleimani in Tikrit, legitimization of Iranian interests in Yemen, deterring Israel from striking their nuclear facilities, turning a blind eye as they built a highway from Tehran to Baghdad to Damascus to Beirut.

Now the Americans are dancing with the Arabs and praying with the Jews, and Iran is on its own again.

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“I want to tell you,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said to President Donald Trump during a joint press conference Monday, “how much we appreciate the reassertion of American leadership in the Middle East.”

So how is Trump’s first foreign trip as president playing out? Suddenly, the scandal-mired President seems like a plausible world leader. He is certainly a more welcome guest in the capitols of America’s traditional allies than his predecessor, President Barack Obama. In addition to enjoying the show, viewers at home—the ones who voted for Trump last fall—likely appreciate the $110 billion arms deal Trump struck with Saudi Arabia. With another $350 billion to come over the next decade, those contracts will certainly help put assembly-line Americans back to work.

Trump’s speech before a worldwide audience about terrorism and Islam was a useful initiative that will also put some of the dozens of Muslim leaders who attended the speech on notice. Acknowledging that Jerusalem is in Israel is a break with strict Obama policy. Trump became the first sitting U.S. president to visit the Western Wall.

But having spent nearly a decade living in Cairo and Beirut, and traveling throughout the Middle East, I can easily imagine the spin that the region’s intellectuals are putting on the trip as they sit in their coffee houses and smoke Gitanes:

Habibi, the Saudis just paid the Americans nearly half a trillion dollars to keep them safe from Iran, right? But Iran was nothing before Obama built them up with $150 billion. It’s only because Obama kept paying Iran—first to stay in negotiations over the nuclear program and then as a reward for signing the deal—that Iran was empowered. Obama and his pallets of cash helped Iran extend its reach from the Persian Gulf to the eastern Mediterranean.

Iran thought that it got the better of the Americans, but the Americans played them for suckers! The CIA had something up their sleeves the whole time! They just wanted the Arabs to pay even more to defend them from Iran. So the Americans created this Iranian bogeyman and then they sent the Arabs a bill to make the Iran problem go away. They drove up the price!

It’s a protection racket, don’t you see? And the Americans cleared nearly $300 billion. Oh man, you can be sure Trump and Netanyahu are laughing it up in Jerusalem. Very clever, those Americans!

No, of course it wasn’t really a CIA shakedown orchestrated over two presidencies. And yet Trump’s maiden foreign presidential venture, or at least the first two stops, is indeed all about the new Administration’s determined recalibration of American Middle East policy after eight years of Obama’s adventurism—especially regarding Iran.

Trump made his intentions toward Iran pretty clear in his Riyadh speech. “For decades, Iran has fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror,” said Trump. “It is a government that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing the destruction of Israel, death to America, and ruin for many leaders and nations in this room.”

The visuals from Riyadh and Jerusalem were even more important than the speeches. After all, you can reassure your allies on the phone—to scare your shared adversaries, you create a photo album and broadcast it on Facebook and Twitter.

Here’s the president of the United States being celebrated in Saudi Arabia with a sword dance. And clearly, this is not the secretary of state’s first ardha. As a famous oil man who is always welcome to visit the global swing producer of oil, Rex Tillerson knows all the steps already. See him dancing with Wilbur Ross? The Americans and Saudis are like family.

And look—the president of the United States actually has Jews in his family. Here is a picture of his daughter praying at the Western Wall. Here is a picture of the president also at the Western wall wearing a kippah. And oh, look—Trump has made it his status picture on Twitter.

The Iranian regime isn’t very happy. Trump’s photo ops stole the entire foreign policy news cycle from an Iranian regime that wanted a few days of good press after its rigged presidential elections last Friday. The message that Tehran received from the presidential pomp and circumstance in Riyadh is that things are different now.

The Obama administration moved quietly behind the scenes to reorient American policy toward Iran, while it pulled the rug out from under traditional American allies. Among other things, the Obama White House leaked Israeli strikes against Hezbollah convoys, it coordinated operations with Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, and it stood aside as Bashar al-Assad waged a genocidal campaign in Syria so as not to affect the prospects of the nuclear deal with Iran.

The Iranians know how much they owe the Obama administration—whether it was air support for Qassem Soleimani in Tikrit, legitimization of Iranian interests in Yemen, deterring Israel from striking their nuclear facilities, turning a blind eye as they built a highway from Tehran to Baghdad to Damascus to Beirut.

Now the Americans are dancing with the Arabs and praying with the Jews, and Iran is on its own again.

 

Trump’s new deal

May 24, 2017

Trump’s new deal, Israel Hayom, Boaz Bismuth, May 24, 2017

(The “nattering nabobs of negativism” are still numerous. No matter what happens it will be bad, they say. — DM)

Trump, it turns out, is not going to make the improvement of U.S.-Israel ties contingent on warmer relations between Israel and the Arabs. In his way, he apparently understands the Middle East better than most of the pundits analyzing him. He knows that in this part of the world, people respect you if you are strong; if you weaken your allies you are looked at with scorn. The players in the region respect his decision to stand by Israel — because they know this means he will keep his promises to them as well.

I have long said that Trump was good for the Jews. I said it as soon as he entered the 2016 race. I have long maintained that Trump’s new deal is actually going to be more pressure — on the Palestinians.

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Over the past several years, conventional wisdom among pundits was that Israel had lost America. They tried to drive home this argument even forcefully after Barack Obama became president.

They told us that Israel was losing its No. 1 ally because it was not relinquishing land; because it insisted that the Arabs recognize it as a Jewish state, and because it was not in a hurry to see a Palestinian state be established. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s personal relations with Obama were thrown into the mix as well, and the bottom line was that Israel and the U.S. are no longer friends. Israel, so their thinking went, could only pine for Christopher Columbus.

And then Donald Trump came along. As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the other day, “America is back.”

It is also back in Israel. But the truth of the matter is that it never really went anywhere. It was Obama and its administration that went off course, not Israel. The experts said Israel must do a mea culpa and expected Obama to change the world, and Israel.

Ahead of Trump’s visit, this chorus of experts decided they would sing the same song they sang during the 1990s, using the same lyrics: “Palestinian state”; “ending the occupation is a prerequisite for ending Israel’s state of despair.” We all know how well things turned out during the 1990s.

They were willing to swear that as soon as Trump came to Israel, he would apply pressure on Israel and present demands. They said Netanyahu was nervous from what may come. They warned a diplomatic tsunami was making its way to Israel’s shores.

Some even borrowed medical lingo, saying Trump the candidate put some cotton wool on our skin to prepare from the shot, and now he was going to administer it.

What ultimately unfolded? It turned out that the president who visited Israel this week is the most pro-Israel we have seen in several decades. This man likes us, period. He repeatedly mentions the strong ties between Jerusalem and the Jewish people.

He has promised to protect Israel and to eradicate terrorism, and on the way he said he was determined to make sure Iran would not obtain nuclear weapons and that he would not let anyone hurt Israel. During his visit here he has repeatedly called Netanyahu “my good friend,” as if to make the point that he was not Obama.

How is that possible, the experts wondered. Hasn’t he visited Saudi Arabia on his way? Hasn’t he delivered a speech in front of some 50 Arab and Muslim leaders while he was there? Hasn’t he visited the Palestinian Authority during his trip?

And what about Tillerson, the former head of an energy giant? He cannot possibly be pro-Israel because he is a known wheeler and dealer in the Arab world, they warned.

They also noted that Trump promised to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem but has not done so in the first 120 days of his presidency. Undoubtably, that period is eternity. Not only that, they continued, Trump considered visiting the Western Wall with the prime minister but ultimately decided it would be a private visit. This, they insist, proves that he is actually Obama in Trump clothes.

But lo and behold, Trump’s visit actually ended well, and he had us asking for more. It feels good to have that genuine embrace of a U.S. administration once again. Yes, Israel was deeply loved in America even before Trump came to power, but in recent years this was manifested in Congress, in the public opinion polls in America, among American Christians and among taxi drivers. That’s it.

The Obama White House turned its back on Israel and helped, albeit indirectly, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement flourish on U.S. campuses.

In the wake of the visit, I dared to think that maybe those experts don’t really know him. After all, the same Trump who was accused of being anti-Muslim got the royal treatment when he arrived in Saudi Arabia, meeting with some 50 Muslim leaders who know full well that he is in love with Zionism.

Trump, it turns out, is not going to make the improvement of U.S.-Israel ties contingent on warmer relations between Israel and the Arabs.. In his way, he apparently understands the Middle East better than most of the pundits analyzing him. He knows that in this part of the world, people respect you if you are strong; if you weaken your allies you are looked at with scorn. The players in the region respect his decision to stand by Israel — because they know this means he will keep his promises to them as well.

I have long said that Trump was good for the Jews. I said it as soon as he entered as the 2016 race. I have long maintained that Trump’s new deal is actually going to be more pressure — on the Palestinians.

Trump’s ‘Islam Speech’ Invited The Muslim World To A Renaissance

May 24, 2017

Trump’s ‘Islam Speech’ Invited The Muslim World To A Renaissance, The Federalist, May 24, 2017

Trump’s Riyadh Summit speech builds on common themes in Abrahamic faiths to advocate for human potential. One of those themes is the archaic but powerful idea of “good versus evil,” as we heard with the repeat phrase “drive them out” as you would drive out the devil that possess the hearts and minds of people, causing mischief in the land. It’s a language not only understood by people in that room, but also by the world watching. Speaking in simple binaries that break down the world into good and evil, President Trump created an opportunity that doesn’t shame Muslims plagued by terrorism. Instead it gives them something greater still to be a part of. That something is humanity.

The alternative is grim. The detriment and the high cost of doing nothing, as Trump points out, is not only the death of life under religious extremism, but also the death of dreams. Let’s give people something to work together for, whether those people are heads of states or those crushed under the weight of war. The speech also powerfully reframed refugees not as destitute victims, but as integral to building stable societies that give them not only autonomy but also dignity.

However flawed they still are, if Muslim nations are willing to come together in partnership with the United States for a common goal, then let’s work with them to secure all our interests

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President Trump embarked on an iconic first foreign tour this weekend to the Middle East that started with a stop in Saudi Arabia to deliver a much-anticipated speech on Islam. Americans sat at the edge of their seats in anticipation of what we all sensed was a defining moment in history.

The tour is described as resetting Middle East foreign policy, with President Trump as the first sitting president to embrace complex themes of faith tightly knotted in a rich and often violent regional history. Effectively, he’s channeled the most powerful seat in the world as a vehicle for the most burgeoning diplomatic struggle of the last century.

Yet what makes President Trump’s speech on Islam so iconic is that it wasn’t about Islam. It was about human potential. Presented at the Riyadh Summit, the speech paints a picture of the world that can still be created if nations unite in a common interest of security and advancement through mutual gain. That he spoke at the birthplace of Islam is symbolic because it points at the root of the problem: violent extremism linked to the most fundamentalist interpretations of Islam.

We Have a Common Threat Despite Internal Differences

As hinted in his speech, the last monotheistic faith is still awaiting its renaissance. While there are other issues including non-violent Islamic extremism (Islamism), government corruption, theocracies, autocracies, dictatorships, human rights violations, and failed women’s rights, and on and on, the greatest shadow darkening the future for a world of people is violent jihad that seeks to destroy all standing civilizations equally, including Islamic nation-states it sees as not being Islamic enough.

Back at home, Americans have questioned the authenticity of Muslim nations participating at the summit. American Muslims see the Saudi Arabia as hypocritical in its fight against extremism. Saudis are rightly accused of being both arsonists and firefighters in the fight against extremism.

What also rings true is the strong sense of survival and self-interest fueling the global coalition. Nations should be allies in a common fight, with the understanding that we will not agree on every front or tangential issue. We do not need to all agree; we just need to be aligned on the single greatest threat and work from there. That is how we move forward. Internally, each nation faces its own complications.

A common American reaction was petulant expectation that President Trump “tackle Saudi Arabia” short of going to war with the kingdom. Yet the man is not even allowed to effectively tackle homegrown Islamists in the United States without overwhelming opposition by media and interest groups using propaganda and disinformation.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is dealing with a house divided between Saudis who want progress and those reluctant to move into the twenty-first century, although both sides agree there is an existential threat coming from outside forces even more fundamentalist than they. They can also agree that it is in their collective interest to ally with the United States, something on which all representatives at the Riyadh Summit concur. President Trump understands the most direct path to effecting change is to work in people’s self-interest, to cater to advancement through mutual gain — a strategy that also won him the election.

Let’s Get Beyond Survival

At this exact moment in history, this is about survival. But it is also about what comes after survival. What does the next phase of human evolution look like, and how do we rally the world of people around it?

Trump’s Riyadh Summit speech builds on common themes in Abrahamic faiths to advocate for human potential. One of those themes is the archaic but powerful idea of “good versus evil,” as we heard with the repeat phrase “drive them out” as you would drive out the devil that possess the hearts and minds of people, causing mischief in the land. It’s a language not only understood by people in that room, but also by the world watching. Speaking in simple binaries that break down the world into good and evil, President Trump created an opportunity that doesn’t shame Muslims plagued by terrorism. Instead it gives them something greater still to be a part of. That something is humanity.

The alternative is grim. The detriment and the high cost of doing nothing, as Trump points out, is not only the death of life under religious extremism, but also the death of dreams. Let’s give people something to work together for, whether those people are heads of states or those crushed under the weight of war. The speech also powerfully reframed refugees not as destitute victims, but as integral to building stable societies that give them not only autonomy but also dignity.

In this way, not only was President Trump’s speech iconic, it was visionary for emphasizing humanity and what can still be achieved if we come together. As a Muslim reformer, I focus on getting us to the next phase of human evolution, something that cannot happen without uniting world powers for a common goal. It is a powerful move necessary to destroy the Goliath that’s draining our resources and diverting our attention.

That “Goliath” is the version of Islam that demands we forfeit our humanity. To defeat it, we will need everyone on board, including the people we see as enemies today. If we have to sit at a table with Saudi Arabia to do it, so be it. If Americans expect the Middle East to shed the skin of their tribal identities, then we too have to break out of the tribal mindset that only sees people and populations as one-dimensional. However flawed they still are, if Muslim nations are willing to come together in partnership with the United States for a common goal, then let’s work with them to secure all our interests.

Trump in Israel

May 23, 2017

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

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

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

That is life under the shadow of terrorism.

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

And the education continues.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But there is one difference between the two men.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The difference was profound.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is life under the shadow of terrorism.

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

And the education continues.

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.