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Don’t Make Excuses for Mahmoud Abbas’s Rantings

Jan. 18 2018

At a meeting of Palestinian officials on Sunday, Mahmoud Abbas gave a lengthy speech denying Jewish connections to the land of Israel, explaining Zionism and the Holocaust as part of a 400-year-old European colonial plot, and accusing Israel of poisoning Palestinians’ water. The obvious explanation for the oration, writes Eli Lake, is that Abbas was simply telling his audience what he believes. But some are not satisfied with such an explanation; they reason that “Abbas doesn’t really mean it,” and that the fault lies instead with President Donald Trump, whose actions have driven the Palestinian president to distraction and despair. Lake continues:

This is the interpretation of J Street, the Soros-family-funded advocacy group that touts itself as pro-peace and pro-Israel. A J Street statement . . . was careful to stipulate that [Abbas’s supposed] despair was “no excuse for calling into question either the Jewish connection to, or Palestinian recognition of, the state of Israel.” But let’s not lose the plot. This group asserts that Abbas would not have delivered his rant “if it were not for President Trump’s inept and disastrous missteps regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

J Street here is succumbing to a fallacy of international relations. Call it the prime-mover theory of geopolitics: there is always something America can or shouldn’t do that determines the behavior of its adversaries and allies. . . . But foreign affairs are never so simple as one cause having one effect. And this brings us back to Abbas. The eighty-two-year-old Palestinian leader certainly had reason to be disappointed with Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. He didn’t like Trump’s threats to cut off funding for the Palestinian Authority. But none of that quite explains a speech that wishes for the U.S. president’s house [or, more precisely, his family] to come to ruin, accuses Israel of exporting addictive drugs, and threatens to blacklist companies that do business in the West Bank and report their names to Interpol for bribery.

To explain this vitriol as purely a reaction to despair or hopelessness is to ignore recent history. Abbas was elevated to his position after George W. Bush asked the Palestinian people to elect leaders not tainted by terror. . . . Abbas [in fact] distinguished himself by delivering a brave speech calling for nonviolent resistance to occupation, when Arafat was praising the suicide bombers. The current Palestinian leader has been dining out on that speech now for fifteen years, while consistently rejecting peace offers and later [even] negotiations.

Read more at Bloomberg

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel & Zionism, J Street, Mahmoud Abbas

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