Capturing the MidEast in short soundbites: poignant
reflections by people who understand the complexities of the Middle East. My philosophy is: "less is more."
You won't agree with everything that's here, but I'm confident you will find it interesting!
Excepting the titles, my own comments are minimal. Instead I rely on news sources to string together what I hope is an interesting, politically challenging, non-partisan, non-ideological narrative.
Only between 1948 and 1967 was eastern Jerusalem exclusively Arab, after Jordan occupied it and expelled the area's Jewish residents, destroyed its synagogues, and desecrated the historic Jewish cemetery. Jewish presence in eastern Jerusalem goes back to King David in 1004 BCE and Jews continued to live there ever since. The New York Times reported on May 30, 1948, "The Jews have been eliminated from the City of David for the first time since the sixteenth century. Except for 60 years in the sixteenth century they are believed to have been there continuously since the return from the Babylonian captivity [after 539 BCE]." Next time journalists say "East Jerusalem is Arab," send them this video. (CAMERA) BLOGGER'S NOTE: My maternal grandmother's family owned a house in a Yemenite Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem. Bruce *
The Palestinians Can Win If They Give Up Victim Status- Jim Hanson After World War II, the Italians, Germans and Japanese left behind their failed attempts at conquest and consequently they were treated to the benevolence of the Allies and a rebuilding process that turned them into modern nations. The Palestinians, on the other hand, have maintained belligerence and failure to even accept the existence of Israel in any meaningful way. Their Arab friends have made multiple attempts to destroy Israel and failed each time. Then the Palestinians switched to terrorism as a strategy and turned their proto state into an international pariah. This profound failure to comprehend their profound failure to destroy Israel has kept them in perpetual victim status.
Billions of dollars in aid have flowed into the Palestinian territories.
Some studies show it to be 25 times more per capita than was spent to rebuild Europe after World War II. Yet there is little in the way of progress and there are still "refugee" camps that have stood for decades. Their state of perpetual grievance has prevented them from using this largesse to build an actual state. If they were to do so, they could dedicate themselves to the challenge of giving their people quality of life rather than a false hope they will somehow drive the Israelis out of Israel. (Fox News)
A Day Inside the Palestinian Authority- Aviva Klompas As part of a study tour for American academics, I spent a day in and around Ramallah. The al-Am'ari refugee camp, just east of Ramallah, is one of 19 in the West Bank under the control of the Palestinian Authority. In reality, the Palestinian government refuses to take responsibility or provide basic services for the 7,000 residents. As a result, it has become a hotbed of resentment toward Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The shutters of shops are papered in posters of "martyrs" killed while perpetrating terror attacks against Israelis.
Ramallah, by contrast, is a prosperous cosmopolitan center, clean and contemporary, boasting museums, cultural centers and cafes. We meet with Jibril Rajoub, deputy secretary of the Fatah Central Committee and a leading candidate to succeed Abbas. I ask about the ongoing payments by the Palestinian Authority to convicted terrorists in Israeli prisons.
Rajoub proceeds to yell that it is "a crazy question" and that his government had a "social responsibility" to support the 7,000 prisoners. He bangs his fist on the table and declares, "Of course we must pay. If we don't pay, Iran will pay." He eventually calms down and asks if I have another question. I ask how he can speak to us about non-violent resistance while simultaneously endorsing payments to terrorists. He again explodes with anger, banging the table, and railing at the "absurdity" of my question.
One of the academics shares that we had come from the al-Am'ari refugee camp and he asks why the PA doesn't assist the people living there. Rajoub dismisses the question, saying, "What do you expect me to do about the refugees? It's Netanyahu's problem." The writer is Associate Vice President of Strategic Israel Engagement at Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston. (Times of Israel)
[N]o great harm has, as yet, come from President Trump's enthusiasm for what would be "the ultimate deal." It will, however, distract and detract from remarkable progress being made elsewhere in the Middle East.
That progress began with Trump's trip to Saudi Arabia, the first of his presidency -- an unmistakable declaration of a radical reorientation of U.S. policy in the region.Message: The appeasement of Iran is over.
Barack Obama's tilt toward Iran in the great Muslim civil war between Shiite Iran and Sunni Arabs led by Saudi Arabia was his reach for Nixon-to-China glory. It ended ignominiously.
The idea that the nuclear deal would make Iran more moderate has proved spectacularly wrong, as demonstrated by its defiant ballistic missile launches, its indispensable support for the genocidal Assad regime in Syria, its backing of the Houthi insurgency in Yemen, its worldwide support for terrorism, its relentless anti-Americanism and commitment to the annihilation of Israel.
These aggressions were supposed to abate. They didn't. On the contrary, the cash payments and the lifting of economic sanctions -- Tehran's reward for the nuclear deal -- have only given its geopolitical thrusts more power and reach.
The reversal has now begun. The first act was Trump's Riyadh address to about 50 Muslim states (the overwhelming majority of them Sunni) signaling a wide Islamic alliance committed to resisting Iran and willing to cast its lot with the American side.
That was objective No.1. The other was to turn the Sunni powers against Sunni terrorism. The Islamic State is Sunni. Al-Qaeda is Sunni. Fifteen of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi. And the spread of Saudi-funded madrassas around the world has for decades inculcated a poisonous Wahhabism that has fueled Islamist terrorism.
Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states publicly declaring war on their bastard terrorist child is significant. As is their pledge not to tolerate any semiofficial support or private donations. And their opening during the summit of an anti-terrorism center in Riyadh.
After eight years of U.S. policy hovering between neglect and betrayal, the Sunni Arabs are relieved to have America back. A salutary side effect is the possibility of a detente with Israel.
That would suggest an outside-in approach to Arab-Israeli peace: a rapprochement between the Sunni state and Israel (the outside) would put pressure on the Palestinians to come to terms (the inside).
[A]part from being delusional, the inside-out strategy is at present impossible. Palestinian leadership is both hopelessly weak and irredeemably rejectionist. Until it is prepared to accept the legitimacy of the Jewish state -- which it has never done in the 100 years since the Balfour Declaration committed Britain to a Jewish homeland in Palestine -- there will be no peace.
[M]aking the Israel-Palestinian issue central, rather than peripheral, to the epic Sunni-Shiite war shaking the Middle East today is a serious tactical mistake. It subjects any now-possible reconciliation between Israel and the Arab states to a Palestinian veto.
[T]he real action is on the anti-Iranian and anti-terror fronts. Don't let Oslo-like mirages get in the way.
[Washington Post via Jewish World Review]
Trump to Launch Unconventional Peace Plan- Daniel Siryoti U.S. President Donald Trump will launch an unconventional peace plan based on the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, focusing on upgrading Israel's relations with Arab states rather than on reaching an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, a senior Palestinian Authority official told Israel Hayom.
According to the official, Trump told Abbas that if progress would be made in advancing the Arab Peace Initiative, he would try to strike an interim peace deal that would focus on the various paths toward a final status agreement culminating with the creation of an independent Palestinian state and a joint Israeli-Palestinian statement declaring an end to the conflict.
The president reportedly said that the first phase would include some form of normalization between moderate Sunni-Arab states and Israel. Later on, depending on how much progress is made, the U.S. would try to launch direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians with a set timetable aimed at finding a compromise on the core issues. This marks a shift, since Arab leaders have repeatedly said that normalization of relations must come only after core issues are resolved and a Palestinian state is established with Jerusalem as its capital. The Palestinian official said Abbas responded by saying the Palestinians were vehemently opposed to such a move. (Israel Hayom) *
Peace Can't Take Root Where Terror Is Funded and Rewarded - Karma Allen At a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, President Donald Trump [said], "Peace can never take root in an environment where violence is tolerated, funded and even rewarded. We must be resolute in condemning such acts in a single unified voice....The terrorists and extremists and those who give them aid and comfort must be driven out from our society forever." (ABC News)
Trump: First U.S. President to Visit Western Wall- Ken Bredemeier U.S. President Donald Trump touched the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the first visit at the Jewish holy site by a serving American leader. He walked alone to the massive stone wall, placed his right hand on the wall for about 30 seconds and then, as is custom, tucked a small prayer note into a crevice. Trump also visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site where Christian tradition holds that Jesus was buried. (VOA News)
Trump: "Iran Will Never Have a Nuclear Weapon"- Barak Ravid At the start of a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu in Jerusalem, President Trump spoke at length about the big powers' nuclear agreement with Iran. "Iran should be very grateful to the United States. Iran negotiated a fantastic deal with the previous administration....We not only gave them a lifeline, we gave them wealth and prosperity. And we also gave them an ability to continue with terror...no matter where we go we see the signs of Iran in the Middle East."
"Instead of saying thank you to the United States, they now feel emboldened...it was a terrible, terrible thing for the United States to enter that deal. And believe me, Iran will never have a nuclear weapon, that I can tell you." (Ha'aretz)
It was because of his foreign policy iconoclasm that Israelis were, by and large, euphoric when Trump was finally inaugurated in January.
Since then, however, in significant ways, Trump has bowed to the narratives of the establishment. As a result, Israel’s euphoria at his election has been replaced by cautious optimism.
During his speech in Riyadh, in relation to both Iran and Islamic terrorism, Trump kept his promise to base his strategies for dealing with the threats on facts rather than narrative.
As far as Iran was concerned, Trump broke with convention by ignoring the meaningless presidential “elections” in Iran last Friday. Rather than embrace the common delusion that ballots mean something in Iran, when Iranian dictator Ali Khamenei decides who can run for election and decides who wins, Trump concentrated on facts. Iran is the primary engine of terrorism in the region and the world, he explained. Moreover, the world would be a better place, and the Iranian people would be better off, if the regime were overthrown.
On Islamic terrorism, Trump again ignored the advice of his national security adviser H.R. McMaster and refused to embrace the false narrative that Islam has nothing to do with terrorism. Rather, standing before the leaders of the Islamic world, Trump exhorted them to confront “Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires.” But while Trump has maintained his fact-based rhetoric on Iran, for instance, his actual policy is very similar to Obama’s. Rather than keep his campaign pledge and cancel the nuclear deal which guarantees Iran a nuclear arsenal in ten years, Trump chose to punt. He certified – wrongly – that Iran is abiding by the terms of the deal even as the Iranians are stockpiling uranium in excess of the amounts permitted under the deal and are barring weapons inspectors from entering their nuclear sites. So too, Trump has kept up Obama’s practice of keeping the public in the dark regarding what was actually agreed to with Iran by refusing to reveal the nuclear agreement’s secret protocols.
In other words, his policies have yet to match his rhetoric on Iran.
But then again, there is reason to give Trump the benefit of the doubt on Iran. It is more than possible that Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia and Israel is entirely about Iran. After all, Trump has enthusiastically joined the anti- Iran coalition that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu built with the Sunni regimes to try to mitigate the destructive consequences of Obama’s embrace of the ayatollahs. And he seems to be interested in using this coalition to rebuild US power in the Middle East while ending Iran’s unimpeded rise as a nuclear power and regional hegemon, just as Israel and the Sunnis had hoped.
Trump will also go to Bethlehem to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. This will be the two men’s second meeting in less than a month. By insisting on meeting with Abbas during his lightning visit to Israel, Trump signals that he agrees with the narrative view that the US cannot support Israel without also legitimizing and supporting the PLO and its terror funding kleptocracy, the Palestinian Authority.
Finally, even when Trump has adopted a position that repudiates the establishment’s line, the fact is that the establishment’s members dominate his foreign policy team. And as a consequence, they do everything they can to dilute the significance of his moves.
This was clearly in evidence in relation to Trump’s decision to visit the Western Wall. In the week that preceded his visit, embassy officers angrily rejected Israel’s request that Netanyahu join Trump during his visit to the Jewish holy site, insisting that the Western Wall isn’t in Israel.
In so acting, these Obama holdovers were backed by McMaster, who refuses to admit that the Western Wall is in Jerusalem, and by his Israel-Palestinians director at the National Security Council, Kris Bauman, who served on Obama’s anti-Israel foreign policy team and supports US recognition of Hamas.
In other words, even when Trump tries to embrace fact over narrative, his failure to populate his foreign policy team with iconoclasts like himself has made it all but impossible for him to abandon the anti-Israel narrative guiding US policy.
None of this means that Israelis have lost hope in Trump. To the contrary. They have enormous hope in him. But they recognize that so long as the same hostile false narrative about Israel, and the establishment that clings to it dominate Trump’s thinking and policies, the promise of his presidency will not be met. [Jerusalem Post]
Finding a "Zone of Possible Agreement"- Michael Singh Polls also suggest that most Palestinians continue to harbor maximalist aspirations, as Daniel Polisar of Shalem College has noted. There is clearly no squaring Israel's interest in security with maximalist Palestinian territorial ambitions.
Whether conflict leads Israelis to prefer negotiations to the status quo depends in part on whether they feel the Palestinians' aim is to compromise with them or eliminate them. Not only Hamas but many ordinary Palestinians, through polling, have made clear that their aim is the latter. The writer is managing director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (National Interest)
When successive U.S. administrations pretend that Tel Aviv is the capital of Israel - or that Israel has no capital at all - they merely insult their Israeli friends. The writer, a nonresident senior fellow of the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, served at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem from 1990 to 2016. (Politico)
"Iran's leaders routinely call for Israel's destruction," President Trump said in his main speech at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem on Tuesday. Then he departed from his prepared text, and added: "Not with Donald J. Trump, believe me." The remark was met with cheers and a standing ovation. "Thank you," said the U.S. president three times as he waited patiently for the clapping to stop. And then, waving a hand out toward his audience, with a smile, he said, "I like you too."
Those few seconds summed up Trump's visit to Israel - his expressions of instinctive solidarity with the Jewish state - after eight years of what Israelis always felt was somewhat conditional, caveat-filled support from President Obama.
Israelis know no more than Americans about how Trump's presidency will play out. They cannot be sure of what he will say or do. But he came to Jerusalem. He told Israel he loved it. He vowed to stand with Israel against Iran. And he stood in respect at the Jews' most holy place of prayer.
Donald Trump gave a major speech on a wide range of topics – the Middle East, jihadi violence, Iran, an "Arab NATO," and Islam. It's a mixed performance, but overall positive.
[I]t's a good speech that signals a major shift in the right direction from the Obama years, particularly concerning Iran and Islam. Most important is Trump's willingness to point to the ideology of Islamism as the enemy. This matters exceedingly: just as a physician must first identify a medical problem before treating it, so a strategist must identify the enemy before defeating it. To talk about "evil doers," "terrorists," and "violent extremists" is to miss the enemy's Islamic core.
In this regard, the key passage of the speech (at 22:25) states "there is still much work to do. That means honestly confronting the crisis of Islamic extremism and the Islamists and Islamic terror of all kinds." (The prepared text read "Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups" but when speaking, Trump made these changes. While Islamist is more precise than Islamic, politically, both make the same point.)
It was unprecedented and noteworthy for an American leader to declare this not just in the capital of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia but also at the Saudi-conjured "Arab Islamic American Summit" with leaders from some 50 Muslim-majority countries present. "I have your number," Trump effectively announced. "So, don't play games with me."
He confirmed this point several times in the speech: "Muslim-majority countries must take the lead in combatting radicalization"; "Muslim nations must be willing to take on the burden, if we are going to defeat terrorism and send its wicked ideology into oblivion"; a mention of the human toll of "ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, and so many others"; and his call to stand together "against the murder of innocent Muslims, the oppression of women, the persecution of Jews, and the slaughter of Christians." No fuzziness here about the nature of the problem.
For Trump's speech to make a difference, it must be the start of a consistent approach to recognizing that Islamist ideology stands at the heart of the conflict – and that violence is only one of its manifestations, and perhaps not the most dangerous of them.
A good way to start would be to recall Trump's speech as a candidate last August, when he pledged that "one of my first acts as president will be to establish a commission on radical Islam ... to identify and explain to the American public the core convictions and beliefs of radical Islam, to identify the warning signs of radicalization, and to expose the networks in our society that support radicalization." The commission will "develop new protocols for local police officers, federal investigators, and immigration screeners."
President Trump’s brazen speech in Saudi Arabia is being praised from (almost) all quarters. Its powerful moments will be remembered for years and will reverberate throughout the Middle East.
Here are moments from the speech, starting with what may be the closest President Trump may come to having his “Tear Down This Wall” moment:
"It is a choice between two futures – and it is a choice America CANNOT make for you. A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and extremists. Drive. Them. Out.DRIVE THEM OUT of your places of worship. DRIVE THEM OUT of your communities. DRIVE THEM OUT of your holy land, and DRIVE THEM OUT OF THIS EARTH."
This is strongest statement towards the Muslim world uttered by an American president since 9/11 and perhaps in history. These words—and the Trumpian delivery of them—will be remembered for years to come. While eloquent words favored by speechwriters and high-brow elites are usually forgotten, these won’t be.There are also two clear sub-messages: One, that the Muslim world is not adequately “driving them out,” meaning, the Islamists still thrive in mosques, holy lands (which would include Saudi Arabia) and Muslim communities. The enemy are not fringe, undetectable loners. Secondly, don’t outsource your responsibility for this to America.
We won’t let you scapegoat us and have us respond by apologizing for the grievances you use to excuse yourself from responsibility. This is your problem: Own it. "That means honestly confronting the crisis of Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires. And it means standing together against the murder of innocent Muslims, the oppression of women, the persecution of Jews and the slaughter of Christians."
Most of the speech used vague, relative terms like “terrorism” and “extremism.” The focus was almost entirely on ISIS and Iran. But then came this paragraph. President Trump identified the enemy not just as Islamist terrorist groups, but the Islamist extremism foundation necessary for those groups to manifest.Of special note is the line about “persecution of Jews.” This was not stated with some moral equivalence about how Israel shares blame for stifling the nationalist aspirations of Palestinians. No, Trump identified anti-Semitism as a central problem outside of the context of Israel. That omission is powerful.
"Until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace, all nations of conscience must work together to isolate Iran, deny it funding for terrorism and pray for the day when the Iranian people have the just and righteous government they deserve."
President Obama’s attitude towards Iran unnerved our Sunni Arab partners in the region. The heavy focus on Iran should help address that, but the fixation on the Iranian regime seemed to echo the Saudi line that Iran is responsible for practically all of the terrorism and extremism in the region. This let the Sunni side of radical Islam get off easy. [Clarion Project]
Fight Against Terror Is a "Battle between Good and Evil" - Jonathan Lemire and Julie Pace During a meeting with more than 50 Arab and Muslim leaders in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, President Donald Trump recast the fight against terrorism as a "battle between good and evil" instead of a clash between the West and Islam. "We are not here to lecture - we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship. Instead, we are here to offer partnership - based on shared interests and values - to pursue a better future for us all." (AP-Washington Post) *
The Wall Street Journal reported on that Saudi Arabia and the UAE have grown tired of having their relationship with Israel held hostage to the Palestinian problem, and are discussing a proposal to normalize certain types of commercial relations with Israel in exchange for Israeli gestures toward the Palestinians.
In exchange for Israel freezing settlement construction in "certain areas" of the West Bank and relaxing its blockade of Gaza, the Arabs 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.
Even if the proposal goes nowhere, these details are significant. They show that Arab leaders are no longer willing to give the Palestinians (or Syria) a veto over their relations with Israel.
The last time Arab states proposed normalization with Israel (in the Saudi-sponsored Arab Peace Initiative of 2002), they conditioned it on Israel signing final-status agreements with both the Palestinians and Syria and withdrawing completely to the 1949 armistice lines.
The very fact that this proposal is being openly discussed shows that Arab-Israeli relations are thawing at a faster pace than anyone would have predicted a few years ago.
[O]n foreign policy and specifically his attitude toward Israel and Jerusalem, Trump the outsider has become Trump the wimp.
Perhaps those who expected Trump to be the first president to make good on the promise to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem were kidding themselves. But Trump not only said it repeatedly; his first major Middle East appointment indicated he meant business. By naming attorney David Friedman, ardent supporter of Israel, as his ambassador to the Jewish state, the president was signaling the foreign-policy establishment that he wouldn’t be playing by their rules.
[O]n the eve of Trump’s visit to Israel next week, the administration confirmed that the embassy won’t be moved anytime soon — and that Trump isn’t even prepared to acknowledge that the Western Wall is part of the Jewish state. When the Israeli government asked to have Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accompany Trump to the Wall, they were shot down and reportedly told that as far as the Americans were concerned, the holy site was part of the West Bank.
Though the White House disavowed that comment, the assurance rang false when National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster wouldn’t say if he thought the Wall was in Israel.
Part of the problem is that Trump has come under the influence of mainstream figures like McMaster, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. With respect to issues like NATO, they are giving Trump good advice. But on Israel, they may be feeding him the same myths that drove Obama to put pressure on the Jewish state rather than the Palestinians.
He may be different from previous presidents, but like them he has allowed himself to be bamboozled by a Palestinian leader.
Trump seems to have believed the Palestinian Authority’s Mahmoud Abbas when he claimed he opposed terror and the anti-Semitic incitement that fuels the conflict, even though Abbas continues to subsidize terrorists and anti-Israel propaganda in PA schools and media. Yet rather than holding Abbas accountable, Trump is leaving in place the old policy on Jerusalem so as to avoid antagonizing his new friend.
The problem here isn’t just that Trump’s ego has gotten the better of his judgment.
Moving the embassy or recognizing that Jerusalem is part of Israel may generate violence in the Muslim world. But by adhering to the same discredited policies that don’t recognize that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and that for the first time in history the city’s holy places are open to all faiths, Trump is going to get the same disastrous results as Obama.
So long as the Palestinians are allowed to get away with delegitimizing Jewish rights even at the Western Wall, they won’t make peace.
Only by forcing them to accept the reality of Jewish Jerusalem will they come to grips with the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn. Reinforcing their delusions, as Trump has done, will make peace even less likely. [New York Post] *
U.S. to Arm Syrian Kurds over Turkish Objections - Michael R. Gordon and Eric Schmitt President Trump has approved a plan to arm Syrian Kurds with heavy machine guns, mortars, anti-tank weapons, and armored cars so they can participate in the battle to retake Raqqa from the Islamic State, a strategy that has drawn deep opposition from Turkey.
American military commanders have long argued that arming the YPG, a Kurdish militia fighting against the Islamic State, is the fastest way to seize Raqqa, the capital of the militants' caliphate. A high-level delegation of Turkish officials was informed of the decision by Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the U.S. national security adviser, when they visited the White House. (New York Times) *
Trump's Approach: Figure Out the Details Later - Brian Bennett and Tracy Wilkinson President Trump hosted Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House and told him, "I've always heard that perhaps the toughest deal to make is the deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians; let's prove them wrong." Despite the opening flourishes of praise and goodwill, the meeting between Trump and Abbas was expected to become more uncomfortable behind closed doors, as the administration laid out a series of demands.
The White House went out of its way to build up Abbas during the visit, giving in to requests for a lunch with Trump beyond their meeting, as well as that the Palestinian flag be placed behind Trump while the two leaders made statements about the visit, a person close to the White House said.
The White House felt that giving Abbas those symbolic concessions would help create an opening to demand that Abbas shut down terror incitement, stop payments by the Palestinian Authority to the families of those killed or imprisoned in terrorist attacks against Israelis, refrain from lobbying the UN for additional resolutions against Israel, and get on board toward a peace deal. (Los Angeles Times)
Nabil Shaath, a senior foreign policy adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, described President Trump's appeal to halt payments to convicted terrorists or their families as "mad" during an interview with Israel Radio,Maariv reported. Shaath added, however, his "appreciation" for Trump's "respectful" approach in an attempt to relaunch the peace process. (Jerusalem Post-Maariv Hashavua)
Palestinians Delight in Warm Trump Welcome But Have Cause for Concern - Avi Issacharoff The meeting between President Donald Trump and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House was "very pleasant," senior Palestinian officials said. "He was very sympathetic," and "the atmosphere was excellent and warm." Yet the Palestinian side has cause for concern on the morning after. Legislation is making its way through the U.S. Congress to stop aid to the PA if it continues to pay salaries to families of security prisoners.
Meanwhile, Al-Hayat in London reported that Trump had promised Abbas an Arab "political umbrella" - Saudi, Egyptian and Jordanian backing - if the PA leader agreed to enter talks with Israel. (Times of Israel)
There is no real difference between the narratives of Hamas and the PA. Both deny the existence of a Jewish people and any sovereign Jewish history in the Land of Israel, both consider Zionists colonizers. Both see as their ultimate and uncompromising goal the liberation of all of "Palestine" and are committed to the so-called "right of return." The only tactical differences are about the attitude toward the Oslo agreements (Hamas opposes them, the PA accepts them but ignores Palestinian obligations under them). The writer was formerly director general of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs and head of the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence. (Jerusalem Post)
Emerging U.S. Policy on Israeli-Palestinian Peace- Daniel B. Shapiro On their visits to Washington, leaders of key Arab states - Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf states - were showered with praise by President Trump as key partners in the campaign against ISIS. Arab leaders are ecstatic about Trump's tough rhetoric toward Iran and deep skepticism toward the nuclear deal signed by the Obama administration. In turn, Washington has advocated a regional approach to reinvigorating Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, in which the Arab states would contribute by making gestures of normalization toward Israel and encouraging the Palestinians to show flexibility at the negotiating table.
The issue of ending Palestinian Authority payments to terrorist prisoners and their families has gained new currency in Washington, where the murder of U.S. Army veteran Taylor Force by a Palestinian terrorist in 2016 has galvanized bipartisan Congressional efforts to condition assistance to the Palestinians on an end to these payments. The writer is a former U.S. ambassador to Israel. (Fathom)
Abbas Lies to Trump, Big Time- Noah Pollak [A]t the White House, PA President Mahmoud Abbas claimed, "We are raising our youth...in a culture of peace." In his campaign speech to AIPAC, Trump said: "In Palestinian textbooks and mosques, you've got a culture of hatred that has been fomenting there for years." But Abbas denied that any such concerns are legitimate or true. Please forget all those videos you've seen of Palestinian kindergarteners declaring their greatest ambition in life is to stab a Jew. The lie Abbas told President Trump to his face told the president almost everything he needs to know about the man he is relying on as his partner. (Washington Free Beacon)
The New "Softer" Hamas - Kobi Michael Hamas is not changing its stripes. Hamas was, and remains, a radical Islamic militant organization and a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood that ideologically rejects the right of Israel to exist. The purported updates to its charter that have been leaked so far are nothing more than political acrobatics by Hamas leaders who are attempting cosmetic changes for political gain.
By appearing to soften its position and temporarily accept a Palestinian state within the 1967 lines, political leader Khaled Maashal is maneuvering Hamas for an inside takeover of the Palestine Liberation Organization - the umbrella group headed by Abbas. At the same time, the leaked information came from Lebanon, not Gaza, where the new leadership of Yahya Sinwar, known for his militancy, has said nothing about softening any Hamas positions against Israel.
The new text rejects the three basic requirements set by the Middle East Quartet for Hamas to end its isolation as a terrorist organization: accept previously signed accords, reject violence and recognize Israel. The writer is former deputy director general of Israel's Ministry of Strategic Affairs and a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. (Newsweek)
[B]y embracing Abbas and the PLO, Trump empowered Hamas. He signaled to Hamas – and to every other terrorist group in the Middle East – that to receive international support, including from his administration, all you need to do is say that you are willing to follow the PLO’s dual strategy of engaging simultaneously in terrorism and political warfare and subterfuge.
There is no upside to Trump’s move. It will not bring peace. It harms prospects for peace by empowering Abbas and his terrorist henchmen. [Jerusalem Post] *