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American Policy Would Benefit from Keeping in Mind Who in the Middle East Blesses the U.S., and Who Curses It

Jan. 25 2018

On Monday, Vice-President Mike Pence addressed the Knesset, where he spoke enthusiastically about the U.S.-Israel relationship and the two countries’ shared biblical heritage. Yoram Hazony contrasts the mutual expressions of friendship between the American vice-president and Israeli politicians with the bitter recent speech by Mahmoud Abbas to the assembled leaders of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), where the PA president expounded various anti-Semitic and anti-Western conspiracy theories and cursed the American president:

I have been following the speeches of the PLO and its supporters in the Arab world for 30 years. Nothing [in Abbas’s speech] is new. These are the same things that Yasir Arafat, Abbas, and the mainline PLO leadership have always believed. It is a worldview that reflects an abiding hatred for the West, blaming Christians and Jews not only for the founding of Israel but for every calamity that has befallen the Muslim and Arab world for centuries. . . .

[In contrast to] the curses that Abbas called down on President Trump’s house, the Israelis responded [to Vice-President Pence’s speech] by blessing him: Netanyahu told Pence it is “our deepest hope that President Trump and you will succeed in strengthening the United States, . . . so that America will continue to be the greatest power in the world for generations to come.” And [Speaker of the Knesset Yuli] Edelstein said that from Israel he would only hear the blessing b’neh beitkha (“may your house be built up”).

For long decades, Washington has crafted policies based on the tacit assumption that America needs the PLO if it is to bring peace to the Middle East. In its effort to “balance” the demands of this extremist organization against Israel’s concerns, American policy inflated the PLO’s importance, and learned to tolerate and even embrace an organization whose views have always been profoundly anti-Western, not to mention anti-Semitic. Meanwhile, the biblical roots of America’s alliance with Israel have been consistently downplayed for fear that mentioning them would upset Arab sensibilities. Even so elementary a move as recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, or cutting funding to chronically anti-Western and anti-Semitic organizations, became unthinkable.

These policies did not bring peace to the Middle East. But they did sever the ties between American diplomacy in the region and common sense—to the point that more than a few U.S. officials ended up believing that not only the PLO, but even Iran, whose parliament regularly curses the United States, could be made a peace partner if it were paid handsomely enough. The Trump administration, [by contrast], appears to have good grasp of a principle that is underrated but nonetheless quite useful in making sound policy: in the relations between nations, it matters who blesses you and who curses you.

Read more at National Review

More about: Donald Trump, Israel & Zionism, Mike Pence, PLO, U.S. Foreign policy, US-Israel relations

The Trump Administration Has Said the Right Things about Syria, but Words Are Not Enough

Jan. 30 2018

While praising the White House for recognizing that Iran poses a major threat to American interests in Syria, Jennifer Cafarella argues that Washington still needs a strategy for countering the Islamic Republic and its allies:

The Trump White House identifies Iran as a primary threat. It has verbally committed to the departure from power of Bashar al-Assad. It claims to prioritize repairing relations with Turkey, seeks to destroy al-Qaeda, and wants to refocus the U.S. on Syria’s humanitarian catastrophe. These are the correct goals toward which American policy should strive. . . . The problem is that the strategy Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has outlined [in a January 17 speech] will not accomplish these goals. . . .

American policy in Syria, regardless of any tough administration statements, is to accept Assad and his regime de-facto. . . . The “de-escalation” agreement that President Trump signed in November 2017 with Russia is a surrender not only to Russia, but also to Iran. It heavily favors Assad. In that deal, Russia promised to compel Iran to withdraw its forces from southern Syria. It never happened. Pro-regime forces violate the de-escalation zone with impunity. . . .

Tillerson uses vague terms like “deny their dreams” to describe our strategy against Iran in Syria. He identifies no clear goal against which the U.S. can measure success. He states that the U.S. must deliver an “enduring defeat” to al-Qaeda—and we certainly must. Yet the U.S. Defense Department has offered no vision of how to do that. The strategy Tillerson outlines—and that the U.S. is pursuing—amounts to outsourcing the problem to Turkey, which is actually working with al-Qaeda in Syria. . . .

Two administrations have sought to substitute rhetoric for action and to outsource American interests to local partners. The U.S. must abandon this approach and recognize Syria’s importance to American security.

Read more at Fox News

More about: Al Qaeda, Donald Trump, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, Rex Tillerson, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy