Posted tagged ‘Trump and Israel’

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

January 17, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump names David Schenker new Middle East head at State Department

January 13, 2018

Trump names David Schenker new Middle East head at State Department, DEBKAfile, January 12, 2018

Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have been conducting a quiet revolution in the department to replace the professional diplomats who led former administration policies for appeasing Iran, promoting certain Arab and Muslim circles and antagonizing Israel.

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David Schenker, a director at the prestigious Washington Institute for Near East policy, is to be assigned the top Middle East post at the State Department, as part of the ongoing shakeup ordered by President Donald Trump. DEBKAfile’s Washington sources report that Schenker, a friend of Israel and expert on Syria, Lebanon, Hizballah, Jordan and Islamist terror, is a former senior adviser to Donald Rumsfeld, when he served as defense secretary in the George W. Bush administration. He is the second non-diplomat to receive a high State Department appointment since Trump entered the White House. As assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, he will follow Andrew Peek, a former military intelligence officer, who was named deputy assistant secretary of state for Iraq and Iran.

Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have been conducting a quiet revolution in the department to replace the professional diplomats who led former administration policies for appeasing Iran, promoting certain Arab and Muslim circles and antagonizing Israel.

Netanyahu urging Americans not to cut funding for UNRWA — TV report

January 5, 2018

Netanyahu urging Americans not to cut funding for UNRWA — TV report, Times of Israel, January 4, 2018

(Credible? — DM)

Palestinians receive their monthly food aid at a UN distribution center in the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip in November 2012 (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash 90)

Concerned that a threatened cut in US funding for the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA could lead to a humanitarian disaster in Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is privately urging the Trump Administration not to implement the threat, a TV report claimed Thursday.

“Behind the scenes, the prime minister is now in contact with the Americans in order to prevent the massive cut [in US funding for UNRWA] — to prevent it, you heard right,” the Hadashot news report claimed.

There was no comment from Foreign Ministry on the report. Netanyahu serves as his own foreign minister.

Netanyahu’s public position is to support the Trump administration’s threats to cut funds to UNRWA, and Jerusalem agrees that “real steps” must be taken so that UNRWA — the United Nations body that provides humanitarian aid to the Palestinians — solves the Palestinian refugee issue rather than perpetuating it, the TV report said. “This comes up often in cabinet meetings.”

Furthermore, the prime minister backs US President Donald Trump’s tweeted conviction that the Palestinians should be made to pay for refusing to come to the negotiating table. And he does not want to undermine the US president, the report said.

Nonetheless, Netanyahu is anxious to avoid further destabilizing Gaza. He “wants to steer between the desire to publicly back Trump and to prevent a disaster in Gaza,” the TV report said.

The Foreign Ministry, the report added, flatly opposes the idea of cutting UNRWA’s funding. “Professional sources in the Foreign Ministry are ‘determinedly opposed’ to ending aid to UNRWA,” it said, quoting these sources as arguing that a cut would “make matters worse” and could lead to a “humanitarian catastrophe, especially in Gaza.”

IDF sources, the report further said, “also think it will hurt, not help.”

The Trump administration is currently evaluating its financial backing of UNRWA, a US official said Wednesday, while noting that the US views UNRWA’s work as vital to stability in the region.

Those comments came a day after US envoy to the UN Nikki Haley warned US support for UNRWA could end if the Palestinians refused to engage in peace negotiations.

The US was the biggest donor to UNRWA in 2016, giving $368,429,712. It is also the largest overall supplier of financial support for the Palestinians.

Conditions in the Gaza Strip, controlled by terror group Hamas, are already dire, with electric power only available for a few hours a day and inadequate drinking water and sewage infrastructure. A recent spate of rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza aimed at southern Israeli communities near the Palestinian enclave has drawn Israeli responses in the form of air strikes on Hamas targets. Israel holds Hamas responsible for all fire that comes from its territory, even if it is carried out by other terror groups.

Tensions between the US and Palestinians reached a breaking point after Trump’s December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, with the Palestinian leadership declaring that it would no longer accept Washington as a peace broker.

Acknowledging his push to broker peace in the Middle East had stalled, Trump on Tuesday threatened to cut off all aid to the PA, asking why Washington should make “any of these massive future payments” when the Palestinians were “no longer willing to talk peace.”

The United States currently gives the Palestinian Authority some $600 million in annual aid.

In a tweet, the US president dismissed Palestinian fury over his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, saying he had planned for Israel “to pay” in future negotiations for his declaration. But Palestinian intransigence was now preventing any progress on peace talks, he said.

Palestinian officials have slammed Trump’s threat, with Saeb Erekat, long-time leader of the Palestinian peace talks negotiation team, saying Wednesday the threatened aid cut would leave children starving in refugee camps.

On December 21, the UN General Assembly defied threats by the administration and voted 128-9 to reject Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. A binding vote on the issue at the Security Council was vetoed by the US earlier that week.

The end of an era

January 4, 2018

The end of an era, Israel Hayom, Dr. Reuven Berko, January 3, 2018

Most of the Palestinians in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip are waking up. The sparsely attended “days of rage” Hamas and the PA initiated over the issue of Jerusalem signal a disappointing finale because the city used to be an issue that would light up both the Palestinians and Arab nations.

The Gazans are sick of Hamas, and in Judea and Samaria they are tired of the corruption in the PA, and once again an interim government devoted to economic issues that would have Israel’s blessing is being discussed. Some reject the militant candidates for Abbas’ position (Majid Faraj and Mohammed Dahlan) as representatives of the same old organizational approach and would prefer Salam Fayyad, who has already proven his ability to make the vision of a flourishing Palestinian society a reality. That might work well for us.

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In the late 1990s, author and political commentator Fouad Ajami published his book “The Dream Palace of the Arabs: A Generation’s Odyssey,” in which he laid out the failures in the worldviews of Arab leaders and their self-criticism as the reason for their lack of achievement.

Two decades later, as 2017 was drawing to a close, the Palestinians’ dream palace sustained three serious blows in quick succession. First, U.S. President Donald Trump declared that the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This was followed by the Likud Central Committee’s decision to annex the settlements and the Jordan Valley. Finally, the Knesset passed a law that removes the teeth from any future peace deal involving Jerusalem (by requiring a special majority of 80 MKs to vote in favor of handing any part of the city over to any foreign government).

If the Palestinians were to look at them in a sober light, they would see that the U.N. resolutions that followed Trump’s announcement were meaningless. In light of the continuing historic drama that began with the landmark Balfour Declaration, the U.N. resolutions condemning Trump’s announcement carried no operative significance and merely served as a faint echo of the detached institution’s fading anti-Israelism.

The latest provocations from Hamas are not a lust for battle, but an expression of how desperate and lost – operatively, politically, and ideologically – the organization is. This beaten and battered group made an immense investment in missiles and attack tunnels, at a heavy cost to its people. These have become a pointless burden. Hamas is currently in a political situation in which the world is sick of Islamism, and the entities that aid and abet it (Qatar, Iran, and Turkey) are bogged down in their own domestic troubles.

The Palestinian Authority is at the end of an era. PA President Mahmoud Abbas is trying fruitlessly to use a diplomatic atmosphere that is hostile to Israel to wring concessions out of it, while simultaneously avoiding direct negotiations with Israel or recognizing it as a Jewish state. The PA is wasting time trying to paint Israel as an apartheid state through a South Africa-style boycott movement, while continuing to coordinate on security because it is afraid of Hamas.

The Israeli convoy is moving on while the PA is gritting its teeth over absurd demands (Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital and a “right of return” for Palestinian refugees), not realizing the effect the processes at work in the world are having on their delusional dreams. Indeed, Islamist terrorism, the Iranian threat, the breakdown of many countries in the region, the masses of Muslim refugees into sinking Europe, the persecution of Christians in the Middle East – these are the factors that have sidelined the Palestinian problem, which was never the cause of the regional unrest.

As these developments take place, Abbas is claiming that the U.S. is sponsoring an Israeli strategy to eradicate the Palestinians and their irrefutable right to kill off the peace process. A range of voices in Fatah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Hamas – responded to Trump’s declaration and Israel’s decision about Jerusalem and the settlements with the language of a declaration of war that demands that they revoke any recognition of Israel and the peace process and resume resistance (the armed struggle).

Most of the Palestinians in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip are waking up. The sparsely attended “days of rage” Hamas and the PA initiated over the issue of Jerusalem signal a disappointing finale because the city used to be an issue that would light up both the Palestinians and Arab nations.

The Gazans are sick of Hamas, and in Judea and Samaria they are tired of the corruption in the PA, and once again an interim government devoted to economic issues that would have Israel’s blessing is being discussed. Some reject the militant candidates for Abbas’ position (Majid Faraj and Mohammed Dahlan) as representatives of the same old organizational approach and would prefer Salam Fayyad, who has already proven his ability to make the vision of a flourishing Palestinian society a reality. That might work well for us.

Raymond Ibrahim: Trump Scraps Cherished “Israel Grievance” Myth

December 28, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

State Dept Denies Request By US Ambassador Friedman, Says ‘Occupation’ Still Exists

December 27, 2017

State Dept Denies Request By US Ambassador Friedman, Says ‘Occupation’ Still Exists, Jewish PressHana Levi Julian, December 27, 2017

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman speaks during the 16th anniversary memorial ceremony for the victims of 9/11 attacks in a memorial monument in the Jerusalem Hills on September 11, 2017.

Because there is pressure “from above” involved in the issue, however, Friedman and those with whom there is a disagreement have agreed to review the matter, according to the report, leaving the final decision up to U.S. President Donald Trump.

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Israel’s Kan public broadcaster reported Tuesday that the U.S. State Department has refused to comply with Ambassador to Israel David Friedman’s request that official documents no longer use the term “occupation” in its references to Israel.

Friedman, an attorney, explained (as he has a number of times in the past) that United Nations Resolution 242 was deliberately written at the time in such a way as to reflect that the areas in which Jewish communities were built were always intended to remain with Israel.

Because there is pressure “from above” involved in the issue, however, Friedman and those with whom there is a disagreement have agreed to review the matter, according to the report, leaving the final decision up to U.S. President Donald Trump.

O! Jerusalem

December 26, 2017

O! Jerusalem, Israel National News, Rabbi Berel Wein, December 26, 2017

The city of Jerusalem itself is thriving as perhaps never before in its long and turbulent history. The population is at an all-time high and every neighborhood in the city is experiencing new construction and refurbishment. The light rail system has proven to be a success and the good old green Egged buses are still plying their routes more or less in an orderly fashion and on a scheduled timeline. 

The city has enjoyed an economic upturn and its government has improved many of the services, quietly and without boastful fanfare. The Arab citizens of Jerusalem – they are a little more than 30% of the population here – enjoy a standard of living and opportunity unmatched anywhere else in the Middle East.

Yet, this means nothing regarding the attitude of much of the world as far as Israel and Jerusalem is concerned

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The Jewish people and the world generally were witness this past week to yet another fulfillment of a biblical prophecy. The prophet said that a day will come when all of the nations – or at least a sizable portion of them – will attack Jerusalem and attempt to dislodge the Jewish people from their capital city and its holy environs. 128 nations voted for a UN General Assembly resolution denying the right of Israel and the Jewish people to claim Jerusalem as its capital. 

Among the nations that voted for this resolution were the usual culprits – dictators, slaveholders, warmongers and many others of this ilk. And naturally the hypocritical democracies of Europe never have been able to overcome their anti-Jewish bias, developed over centuries of persecution and discrimination against Jews also supported this nefarious resolution.

There were countries, led by the United States of America, who voted against the resolution and spoke up about its bias and impracticality. In the long view of history those nations who defended Jewish rights eventually were blessed for their wisdom and kindness. The United States of America is the world’s leading democracy and with all of its warts and faults remains a shining beacon of fairness and opportunity for individuals all over the world. 

Supporting Israel’s claim to Jerusalem is just simply choosing right over wrong and realistic history over illusory plans and policies. The United States committed its error in supporting an anti-Israel resolution last year under the Obama administration. And it made good on its policy of long-standing to protect Israel from these continued efforts by the United Nations to undermine its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

There is no use arguing this matter logically or even realistically. It matters little to the world that Jerusalem, for the first time in many centuries, is free for worship to all faiths and peoples. It also matters little that Israel has all of its government offices located in Jerusalem and that Israel as a sovereign nation has long chosen Jerusalem to be its capital. None of this matters because it is not so much that the world wants Jerusalem – after all it was a wasteland and backwater location for many centuries whether under Christian or Moslem rule – it is simply that the world does not want the Jews to have Jerusalem.

There is absolutely no logical explanation for this position but there it is anyway. The terrible virus of anti-Semitism affects all attitudes and positions regarding the state of Israel and certainly regarding Jerusalem. I certainly agree that there are religious difficulties for both the Christian and Moslem worlds regarding the status of Jerusalem as being a Jewish city and the capital of the state of Israel. However just as portions of the Christian clergy and Moslem nations have learned to live with the reality of the existence of the state of Israel – itself a religious difficulty to the theology of these faiths – so too I am confident that they will be able to adjust to the fact that Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish state. Reality eventually affects beliefs and previously held opinions, even those that were once represented as being sacred and immutable.

The city of Jerusalem itself is thriving as perhaps never before in its long and turbulent history. The population is at an all-time high and every neighborhood in the city is experiencing new construction and refurbishment. The light rail system has proven to be a success and the good old green Egged buses are still plying their routes more or less in an orderly fashion and on a scheduled timeline.

The city has enjoyed an economic upturn and its government has improved many of the services, quietly and without boastful fanfare. The Arab citizens of Jerusalem – they are a little more than 30% of the population here – enjoy a standard of living and opportunity unmatched anywhere else in the Middle East.

Yet, this means nothing regarding the attitude of much of the world as far as Israel and Jerusalem is concerned.

The United Nations resolution, shameful as it is, is nevertheless nonbinding and non-enforceable. It is another one of the paper propaganda victories that the Palestinian Authority revels in, which brings them no closer to a state of their own, which by now most of us suspect they really don’t want anyway.

Jerusalem was supposed to be a bargaining chip to extract greater concessions from Israel on any final agreement. Somehow that chip may now be lost and no longer in play.