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."
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.
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."
Iconoclast in the Promised Land - Caroline Glick
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 As a result, Israel’s euphoria at his election has been replaced by cautious optimism.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.
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.
Moving the U.S. Embassy Is Not a "Concession" to Israel
- Shalom Lipner
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.
"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."