Posted tagged ‘Trump and Saudi Arabia’

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.

Qatar’s Comeuppance

June 15, 2017

Qatar’s Comeuppance, Gatestone InstituteRuthie Blum, June 15, 2017

Ironically, pressure from this new anti-Iran Muslim bloc in the Middle East has done more to call the world’s attention to Qatar’s key role in the spread of Islamist terrorism than years of cajoling on the part of previous administrations in Washington to get Doha to live up to its signed commitments.

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Putting Doha on the Well-Deserved Defensive

Qatar’s extensive ties to terrorism and abetting of financiers to bolster it are well-documented.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain issued a statement designating 59 individuals and 12 organizations as having terror ties to Qatar. According to the statement, Doha “announces fighting terrorism on one hand and finances and supports and hosts different terrorist organizations on the other hand,” and harbors “terrorist and sectarian groups that aim to destabilize the region, including the Muslim Brotherhood, Daesh [ISIS] and Al Qaeda.”

Ironically, pressure from this new anti-Iran Muslim bloc in the Middle East has done more to call the world’s attention to Qatar’s key role in the spread of Islamist terrorism than years of cajoling on the part of previous administrations in Washington to get Doha to live up to its signed commitments.

A mere two weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump delivered his first major foreign policy speech in Riyadh to delegates from dozens Muslim/Arab countries, Bahrain announced on June 5 that it was halting all flights to Qatar for being a sponsor of radical Islamist terrorists. Immediately, Saudi Arabia joined the boycott, as did the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Yemen, all of which also shut off access to Al Jazeera, the anti-American, anti-Semitic Qatari television network established in 1996 and operating since then to foment unrest across the Middle East and bolster the terrorist organization the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoot, Hamas.

The emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and other officials in Doha fiercely denied the charge that their government has been backing terrorism, blaming a “fake news” report on the website of the state-controlled Qatar News Agency for the eruption of the Gulf crisis.

The report, which the FBI and other U.S. security agencies believe was the result of a Russian hacking attack, quoted Al Thani calling Iran an “Islamic power,” referring to Hamas as “the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people” and saying Qatar’s relations with Israel were “good.”

Although the report did turn out to be a hoax, Qatar’s extensive ties to terrorism and abetting of financiers to bolster it are well-documented. A Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) study, titled “Qatar and Terror Finance: Private Funders of al-Qaeda in Syria,” shows that while Doha has pretended for more than a decade to be partnering with the United States to defeat Al Qaeda, the monarchy, in fact, has taken no action whatsoever against the Qatari financiers of the terrorist organization’s Syrian branch, the Nusra Front, which continues to plot attacks against the West. One of the reasons that this group eluded U.S. strikes operating in Syria was that it, like America, has been fighting ISIS. Another was that it changed its name to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS or the Front for the Conquest of Syria), in an effort to distance itself from Al Qaeda. This effort was led by Qatar.

According to the FDD study, the second of a three-part document written by David Andrew Weinberg:

“…[I]ntelligence officials from Qatar and other Gulf states met several times with Nusra’s leader [in 2015] to suggest that his group could receive money, arms, and supplies after stepping away from al-Qaeda.”

While the first part of the study, released in 2014, revealed “Doha’s dismal record” during the reign of Emir Hamad Al Thani (the current monarch’s father), this one

“evaluates the publicly available evidence on Qatar’s record since then, focusing primarily on individuals sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2014 and 2015. All of these sanctions were imposed after Qatar agreed in September 2014, as part of a U.S.-led initiative called the Jeddah Communiqué, to bring terror financiers to justice.”

Weinberg concluded that Qatar has done little or nothing to comply. On the contrary, he wrote, “The funders of certain terrorist groups still enjoy legal impunity there. Nusra/JFS appears to be foremost among them.”

It is just as unlikely that a single news item was responsible for the banding together of several Arab states to impose a blockade on Qatar as it is implausible that these states, particularly Saudi Arabia — which itself has backed and spread radical Islamist ideology — are holding Qatar accountable for its ties to global jihad. Equally simplistic is the view, expressed by Trump on Twitter, that the embargo indicated the seriousness with which the above states took his call to “drive out the terrorists and extremists” from their midst.

“During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar — look!” Trump tweeted on June 7.

“So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!”

This prompted pundits on both sides of the political spectrum to question whether Trump was simply being reckless in his response, or actually announcing a shift in decades of U.S. policy regarding Qatar, home of the Al Udeid Air Base southwest of Doha. Al Udeid is not only America’s largest military base in the Middle East — with some 10,000 troops, but since 2003, it has served as forward headquarters for CENTCOM (the U.S. Central Command), and has been crucial in America’s operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

The following day, Trump was accused of backtracking, when he phoned Al Thani and offered to “help the parties resolve their differences, including through a meeting at the White House if necessary.”

Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick pointed out that this was not a case of Trump reversing his position, but rather of proposing the most reasonable course of action available:

“With the Pentagon dependent on the Qatari base, and with no clear path for unseating the emir through war or coup without risking a much larger and more dangerous conflict, the only clear option is a negotiated resolution.

“Under the circumstances, the best option for the US to openly work towards is to diminish Qatar’s regional profile and financial support for Iran and its terrorist allies and proxies.”

Nevertheless, mixed messages appeared to be emerging from the Trump administration. On June 9, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the blockade was hindering U.S. operations against ISIS. On the same day, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis asserted that the isolation of Qatar so far has had no negative impact on U.S. operations in and out of Al Udeid. “All of our supplies are getting in just fine,” he told reporters. “The Defense Logistics Agency is certainly always looking at contingency plans if they’re needed, but for right now they’re OK.”

On the day that these conflicting claims began to circulate, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain issued a statement designating 59 individuals and 12 organizations as having terror ties to Qatar. According to the statement, Doha “announces fighting terrorism on one hand and finances and supports and hosts different terrorist organizations on the other hand,” and harbors “terrorist and sectarian groups that aim to destabilize the region, including the Muslim Brotherhood, Daesh [ISIS] and Al Qaeda.”

Bygone days of unity. The leaders of the Gulf states pose with British PM Theresa May at the Gulf Cooperation Council summit, on December 7, 2016 in Manama, Bahrain. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

On June 7 — the day of Trump’s phone call and two days before the release of the Saudi statement — Qatar hired of the law firm of John Ashcroft, former attorney general under President George W. Bush, to help counter terror accusations. This clearly was a calculated move, as Ashcroft had been instrumental in pushing through the post-9/11 “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001,” more commonly known as the Patriot Act.

According to the “Scope of Engagement” of the Ashcroft retainer, its “broad purpose,” for a “flat fee” of $250,000, is to:

“provid[e] the Client with comprehensive strategic advice, legal counsel, support, and representation related to confirming, educating, assessing and reporting the Client’s efforts to combat global terrorism and its support of and compliance with international financial regulations, including compliance with United States Treasury rules and regulations.

“The firm understands the urgency of this matter and need to communicate accurate information to both a broad constituency and certain domestic agencies and leaders…will advance, advocate, represent, and protect the Client’s interests as necessary, including but not limited to the development of comprehensive legal and government affairs strategy, coordination as necessary and in the interest of the Client, assessment of the pending news and certain nations’ claims that adversely impact the Client’s reputation and pose serious risk and consequences.”

Hiring Ashcroft is not the only indication that Qatar is running scared. Another is its leaders’ simultaneous attempt to assuage fears among its populace – reported to have begun “panic-shopping” at supermarkets — and threaten fellow Gulf Cooperation Council countries that they will suffer severe financial consequences as a result of their boycott.

“If we’re going to lose a dollar, they will lose a dollar also,” warned Qatari Finance minister Ali Shareef Al Emadi. Emadi added, “Our reserves and investment funds are more than 250 percent of gross domestic product, so I don’t think there is any reason that people need to be concerned about what’s happening or any speculation on the Qatari riyal.”

In spite of Emadi’s posturing and Doha’s assertion that it is not in cahoots with Iran, Tehran announced that it has begun sending hundreds of tons of food products to Qatar. Oman, too, is transferring goods to Doha. Turkey went a step further, authorizing the dispatch of 3,000-5,000 troops to its military base in Qatar, to assist Al Thani’s regime, should it be jeopardized by the Saudi-led initiative and internal power struggles.

This unfolding of events is creating what Middle East expert Jonathan Speyer called a “clear drawing” of the “lines of confrontation between the two central power blocs in the region…”

As Speyer wrote on June 10:

“The shunting aside of little Qatar… is ultimately only a detail in the larger picture. What is more significant is the re-emergence of an overt alliance of Sunni Arab states under US leadership, following the development of military capabilities in relevant areas, and with the stated intention of challenging the Iranian regional advance and Sunni political Islam.”

Ironically, pressure from this new anti-Iran Muslim bloc in the Middle East has done more to call the world’s attention to Qatar’s key role in the spread of Islamist terrorism than years of cajoling on the part of previous administrations in Washington to get Doha to live up to its signed commitments.

Ruthie Blum is a journalist and author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama and the ‘Arab Spring.'”

Lapid’s cynical Saudi blunder

May 30, 2017

Lapid’s cynical Saudi blunder, Israel Hayom, Jonathan S. Tobin, May 30, 2017

The point of the transaction is an attempt to preserve the Saudi monarchy from falling victim to radical foes. More importantly, it’s intended to bolster Riyadh against the main threat to both Sunni Arab regimes and Israel: Iran.

That the man who is seen as a serious candidate for prime minister is oblivious to the imperative for Israel to make common cause with the Saudis against an Iranian foe committed to the destruction of both countries is a shocking indictment of Lapid’s strategic vision. Lapid is trying to divide Israel and the United States at a time when former President Barack Obama’s efforts to increase the “daylight” between the countries is being reversed.

The last thing Israel needs right now is to push away Sunni Arabs who have finally realized that the Jewish state is an asset to the region rather than a threat or to pick a fight with Trump.

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It’s hard to beat a man by agreeing with him. That’s why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s most credible foe is struggling to find a way to distinguish his own views from those of the man he wishes to replace. Polls show that Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid is the man Netanyahu needs to watch out for in the next election. But after proclaiming earlier this year that a two-state solution must wait another 20 years for the Palestinians to show that they want peace, it’s hard to see how Lapid can possibly gain an edge over the prime minister on the most important issue facing the Jewish state.

That’s why Lapid is attempting to make an issue of Netanyahu’s apparent acceptance of a massive $110 billion arms deal concluded between Saudi Arabia and the Trump administration, without so much as a whisper of protest. In a recent interview, Lapid noted that the entire Israeli security establishment was deeply concerned about the transaction, which will place a wide array of sophisticated weaponry in Saudi hands. In doing so, Lapid is not just trying to goad Netanyahu into a suicidal spat with Trump but also demonstrating how ignorant he is of American Jewish history.

Lapid’s broadside aims to imply that the prime minister is so afraid of U.S. President Donald Trump and so dependent on his good will that he won’t speak up for Israel’s interests. But his main point of concern is that giving such weapon systems to Saudis means they are “one inch away” from falling in the hands of Sunni terrorists.

Perhaps Lapid will get some traction with the charge but for anyone who’s been following the news in the region in recent years, it’s fairly obvious that he’s woefully behind the times. The point of the transaction is an attempt to preserve the Saudi monarchy from falling victim to radical foes. More importantly, it’s intended to bolster Riyadh against the main threat to both Sunni Arab regimes and Israel: Iran.

That the man who is seen as a serious candidate for prime minister is oblivious to the imperative for Israel to make common cause with the Saudis against an Iranian foe committed to the destruction of both countries is a shocking indictment of Lapid’s strategic vision. Lapid is trying to divide Israel and the United States at a time when former President Barack Obama’s efforts to increase the “daylight” between the countries is being reversed.

Lapid is also forgetting an important precedent: In 1981, the Reagan administration wanted to sell five sophisticated AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) airplanes to the Saudis. Like the far larger sale just concluded, the AWACS deal was an effort to shore up the Saudi regime against an Islamist regime in Iran. But since the Saudis were then a key player in the effort to isolate and demonize Israel as well as part of a potential eastern front against it, friends of the Jewish state, led by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, denounced the transaction as a blow to Israel’s military qualitative edge. Unfortunately, it was a bitter fight and one the pro-Israel lobby lost ignominiously.

That defeat led AIPAC to reassess its former emphasis on the executive branch and replace it with one that sought to ensure congressional support for Israel regardless of who was in the White House. But while AIPAC licked its wounds and began preparing to win future fights, friends of Israel generally forgot about what happened to the planes they had warned would be so dangerous to place in the hands of the Saudi state.

But, contrary to the predictions of those who worried that the AWACS planes would coordinate attacks on Israel rather than defending Riyadh against Iran or the Soviets, nothing of the kind every happened. The AWACS planes did nothing to harm Israel. Saudi Arabia may be the source of an ocean of anti-Western and anti-Israel propaganda but its leaders were never interested in fighting Israel. Moreover, three decades later, what was once covert security coordination between the Saudis and Israel is now an open secret and the basis upon which Trump’s hopes of an “outside-in” strategy for peace rests.

The Saudis are allies of convenience rather than conviction. It is wise to be skeptical about whether their goodwill extends beyond mutual antipathy for Iran. But the moral of the story is that nations have permanent interests not permanent allies or enemies. The last thing Israel needs right now is to push away Sunni Arabs who have finally realized that the Jewish state is an asset to the region rather than a threat or to pick a fight with Trump. Talking about the Saudis in this manner may have given Lapid a momentary edge but urging a repeat of AIPAC’s historic blunder is no way for him to prove his security chops. On the contrary, it seems to suggest that he is still not ready for power.

Jonathan S. Tobin is the opinion editor of JNS.org and a contributing writer to National Review. Twitter @jonathans_tobin.

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. ‎

Gen. McMaster Squanders Tremendous Capital Trump Earns in Saudi Arabia

May 24, 2017

Gen. McMaster Squanders Tremendous Capital Trump Earns in Saudi Arabia, Front Page magazineKenneth R. Timmerman, May 24, 2017

(Ho, ho ho. McMaster gotta go. — DM)

The newly-created Center for Combating Extremism established by the Saudi government may be a step in the right direction. But as the President said, we also need the Saudis and other Arab Muslim leaders to drive the jihadis and the preachers who inspire them “out of the mosques” and out of the public square.

We cannot succeed in this monumental task when the National Security Advisor turns the President’s steely injunctions against Islamist terrorism into mush.

We are fighting an ideological enemy. We will never defeat him if we refuse to name the ideology that inspires him.

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President Trump did not shy away from calling an Islamist terrorist by his real name when he addressed the heads of state of some fifty Muslim countries over the weekend in Riyadh.

His language and his message were clear: the United States needs the leaders of Arab Islamic nations as partners. As non-Muslims, we can not eradicate the scourge of a terrorism that draws its source from authentic Islamic texts, nor can we cast out terrorist leaders who model themselves on Mohammad, the prophet of Islam.

Indeed, that is what the Manchester bomber did, blowing himself up in order to kill the children of the Unbelievers. (Quran 3:151: “Soon shall we cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers.”)

ISIS proudly draws on the Quran, and the Sura – the Life of the Prophet Mohammad – to justify its actions and its manner of imposing Sharia law over territory it controls.

In its training manuals and propaganda videos, ISIS regularly calls on young Muslims to join the ranks of the jihad, because it is their duty as good Muslims. How can they say this? Because Mohammad himself told them.

Indeed, there are 164 well-known versus in the Quran where Mohammad calls on Muslims to fight the Unbelievers and carry out jihad.

“I hear so many people say ISIS has nothing to do with Islam – of course it has. They are not preaching Judaism,” says Aaqil Ahmed, a Muslim who is the religion and ethics editor at the BBC.

“It might be wrong, but what they are saying is an ideology based on some form of Islamic doctrine. They are Muslims. That is a fact and we have to get our head around some very uncomfortable things,” Mr. Ahmed went on.

King Salman of Saudi Arabia knows this. Prime Minister Abadi of Iraq knows this. Egyptian president al-Sissi knows this. So does King Abdallah II of Jordan and all the other leaders President Trump met at the Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh.

None of them blushed when the President spoke these “very uncomfortable things” in his speech on Sunday. They know that it is up to them to lead the fight against the jihadis and “drive them out,” as the President said – not because the jihadis represent the true face of Islam, but because they are the forces of Evil in today’s Muslim world, whose first victims tend to be Muslims.

Enter Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster.

In a five minute interview with FoxNews host Bret Beier in Riyadh, Gen. McMaster swept away all the gains the President had just made.

He acknowledged that the President had used the term “Islamic terrorism” in his speech, then immediately tried to back away from it.

“These are not Islamic people. These are not religious people. These are people who use a perverted interpretation of religion to advance their criminality. It’s a political agenda,” McMaster said of ISIS. “And you saw great agreement on that in all the speeches yesterday. King Salman used almost the same language.”

But King Salman did not use almost the same language. Instead, he acknowledged that ISIS terrorists “consider themselves as Muslims” and that they drew their inspiration from periods of Islamic history outside the “bright eras… of mercy, tolerance and coexistence.”

Gen. McMaster returned to the Obama-era white-washing of Islam and denial of Islamic doctrine, bending over backwards out of fear of offending Muslim leaders whose support we need to fight ISIS.

While one can hope that the damage he did to the budding anti-jihadi alliance will be transitory, and that wiser officials with a more sophisticated knowledge of Islamic doctrine will be put in the forefront of our cooperation with potential Muslim allies, ISIS leaders must be laughing at the foolishness of McMaster’s words.

Of course their allure draws its source from Islam’s earliest days, when Mohammad and his armies put their enemies to the sword, pillaged their cities, raped their wives, enslaved any survivors, and plundered their crops.

ISIS has already claimed responsibility for the Manchester bombing. We will learn soon enough whether Salman Abedi, the suicide bomber who murdered so many innocents, acted alone or was part of a larger cell.

But what we know for sure is that the ideology motivating him to mayhem wasn’t Judaisim or Christianity or some “perverted interpretation” of them. That ideology was Islam as practiced by Mohammad and his followers.

Sugar-coating Islam’s blood-soaked history will not end terrorism. It will not convince young wannabe jihadis to put down the sword of Islam.

Instead, we need serious, effective programs that attack the causes of radicalization, programs devised by Muslims that speak to Muslims, programs that convincingly reject the jihadi doctrines on which ISIS is based.

The newly-created Center for Combating Extremism established by the Saudi government may be a step in the right direction. But as the President said, we also need the Saudis and other Arab Muslim leaders to drive the jihadis and the preachers who inspire them “out of the mosques” and out of the public square.

We cannot succeed in this monumental task when the National Security Advisor turns the President’s steely injunctions against Islamist terrorism into mush.

We are fighting an ideological enemy. We will never defeat him if we refuse to name the ideology that inspires him.

 

 

 

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.