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Volume X1, No. 4,256 • Mar. 12, 2018 • March 12, 2018

PEACE PROCESS | More About: Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Jerusalem, NORTH KOREA, Trump

A Little Nation Does the Right Thing: Editorial, Weekly Standard, Mar. 6, 2018 — After President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move its embassy accordingly…

The Embassy Will Move — and the World Won’t End: Jonathan S. Tobin, JNS, Feb. 27, 2018 — Maybe it wasn’t such a big deal after all.

Trump’s National Security Strategy: US and Israeli Viewpoints Converge:     Shimon Arad, BESA, Feb. 4, 2018— The chapter in the new US National Security Strategy (NSS) document on the Middle East is short but powerful.

The Promise and Peril of the North Korea Meeting: Noah Rothman, Commentary, Mar. 9, 2018— Sometimes it takes an outsider, unburdened by the stifling conventions and preconceptions that impede the practice of diplomacy, to see the obvious.


On Topic Links


Trump Syndromes: Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, Mar. 6, 2018

Donald Trump’s Diplomatic Turn to N Korea Deserves Acclaim: Nicholas Burns, Financial Times, Mar. 11, 2018

Trump the Deal-Maker and the Middle East: Amir Taheri, Gatestone Institute, Mar. 4, 2018

Trump Infuriates the Palestinian President — by Treating Him Like a Leader: Vivian Bercovici, National Post, Feb. 1, 2018






Weekly Standard, Mar. 6, 2018


After President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move its embassy accordingly, western politicos and commentators heaped contempt on the move and predicted violence and bloodshed in Israel and in the Arab street. Hamas, the Islamic terror group, said the move would “open the gates of hell” and called for a third Intifada. The Palestinian Fatah movement promised three “days of rage,” and there were protests in Amman and Tehran and Cairo and elsewhere.


But the three days of rage turned into about eighteen hours of protests—and that was it. The predictions of widespread violence were wrong. U.S. officials have said the move to Jerusalem will happen officially on May 14, the seventieth anniversary of Israeli independence. Two days later, the little central American nation of Guatemala will also move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. “It is important to be among the first,” Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales said on Monday at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference, “but it is more important to do what’s right.”


Guatemala was one of only nine nations that backed the U.S. embassy move when the U.N. passed a resolution condemning it. The other countries were similarly small players on the global stage: Honduras, the Marshall Islands, Togo, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, and of course Israel. We hear the guffaws of the foreign policy elites in Washington and London and Paris. Guatemala? Honduras? Togo? The alignment of these few little nations with U.S. policy is itself, the elites suggested, an indication of just how outlandish the American policy is.


Well, okay. But 35 nations merely abstained in the U.N. vote, and many of them are both sizeable and influential: Argentina, Australia, Canada, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, to name a few. We wonder what would happen if some of these nations also decided to move their embassies to Jerusalem? Perhaps not much, or perhaps some halfhearted protests in middle eastern capitals and some formulaic denunciations from the usual suspects in Turtle Bay. Perhaps not even that.


In any case, there must be few substantive reasons for these nations to keep their embassies 40 miles from what everybody knows full well is the center and capital of the Israeli state. So far from jeopardizing the at-present nonexistent peace process, moving those embassies would help to rid future negotiations of the pernicious delusion that the Palestinians may one day control all of Jerusalem. The only basis on which to negotiate is the truth, and so far the U.S. and Guatemala are the first openly to acknowledge that truth. Others are welcome to follow.                      





Jonathan S. Tobin

JNS, Feb. 27, 2018


Maybe it wasn’t such a big deal after all. Instead of waiting until 2019 or 2020, the US Embassy in Israel will move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May. On Friday, the Trump administration said the ceremony converting a Jerusalem consulate into the embassy would coincide with Israel’s 70th birthday celebrations.


Unlike Trump’s initial announcement recognizing the holy city as Israel’s capital, the reaction to this latest one turned out to be substantially low-key. The Arab world and Muslim populations didn’t take to the streets to protest or commit mayhem. Countries that were already critical of Israel and of Trump’s stand issued pro forma statements. The Palestinian Authority protested the idea of the United States celebrating a date they regard as the anniversary of their “Nakba“ (“disaster”), but that’s as far as it went.


All of which ought to alert the peddlers of conventional wisdom about the conflict that this isn’t the only thing they’ve been wrong about. They’ve been telling us for decades that the actions currently being taken by Trump would wind up setting the world on fire. But there’s more to the lesson that the embassy saga teaches, other than Jerusalem not being as big a deal to the Islamic world as we’ve been told.


The notion that Palestinian grievances are the sole or even main cause of instability in the Middle East was always a myth. So is the idea that peace can happen before the Palestinians admit defeat in their century-old war against Zionism. Yet by creating a fact on the ground that does nothing to impede a theoretical peace agreement, the United States has also exposed the hollow nature of the anti-Israel consensus that holds that any Western recognition of reality that forces the Palestinians to give up their illusions is inadmissible. If peace is to ever to come — and right now, it seems a long way off — it will be built on the kind of realism that Trump is employing, not on the kind of appeasement of Palestinian fantasies that often characterized the policies of previous presidents.


The problem starts with the fact that sovereignty over the city was never settled by an international agreement. Jerusalem was designated as an international zone by the 1947 partition agreement set forth by the United Nations. Not only was that scheme a nonstarter, Israel’s War of Independence ended with the city divided — with the Western part under Israeli control and the eastern part, including the Old City, under illegal Jordanian occupation.


The world held off on recognizing western Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, in part because of the expectation that a peace treaty was inevitable, and because others were simply waiting for the next war to result in the extinction of the Jewish state. Nothing changed after Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six-Day War that united the city. Some continued to wait for a peace the Arab world pledged not to make, while others still clung to the fantasy.


The problem with waiting was that holding off only served to reinforce Palestinian rejectionism. That became especially true since the Oslo Accords in 1993, which had the unintended consequence of encouraging Palestinian intransigence rather than ending it. To this day, the supposedly moderate Palestinian Authority continues to deny — as its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, has repeatedly done — Jewish ties to the city, or that the Temple Mount and the Western Wall are ancient Jewish holy places. In that sense, they are little better than their Hamas rivals.


The PA’s Western donors and Arab patrons know this is nonsense. But by pandering to their denial by holding off recognition of Israel’s capital, the world ensured that the Palestinians were not forced to rethink their rejectionist political culture. Instead of the Trump administration inflaming the conflict, it has been the willingness of everyone else to indulge Palestinian fantasies that has been the problem.


Nothing Trump is doing precludes the possibility of a two-state solution, if indeed one were otherwise possible. All the United States has done is to recognize what has been the truth on the ground for 70 years. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Once the US Consulate puts a new sign on the building declaring it the official embassy, the Palestinians will still be free to negotiate a two-state solution that could, in theory, redivide the city and allocate part as the Palestinian capital. If they don’t, it won’t be because US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman no longer has his desk in Tel Aviv. It will be for the same reason they’ve consistently rejected peace all along: They’re locked in the same tragic mindset that has continued to nurture their failed war against Israel.


Peace will have to await a sea change in their culture that will make it possible for their leaders to choose peace, rather than, as Abbas has consistently done, to pander to religious and nationalist fantasies that preclude it. The first step toward that goal can only be taken once the international community that has enabled them to hold onto their destructive vision begins telling them to accept the reality regarding Jerusalem, as well as to give up subsidizing and fomenting terror.


As Trump has proven, doing so won’t blow up the world. The only question now is whether he understands what he’s done. If, as reports indicate, he pushes forward a new peace deal predicated on more Israeli concessions, he will only encourage Palestinian illusions and repeat the same errors made by Presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton. If that happens, it will prove that even Trump can still fall prey to the influence of outdated and discredited “experts,” whose myths about the conflict should have been discarded long ago.







Shimon Arad

BESA, Feb. 4, 2018


The chapter in the new US National Security Strategy (NSS) document on the Middle East is short but powerful. It marks a significant departure from the Obama legacy and is thus of great interest to both America’s partners and its adversaries in the region. The strategy recognizes that instability and an unfavorable balance of regional power in the Middle East adversely affect US interests. According to the NSS, the region’s instability derives from the interaction between Iranian expansion, violent jihadist terror and ideology, weak states, socioeconomic stagnation, and regional rivalries.


The document cautions that disengagement from the Middle East will not shield the US from a spillover of the region’s problems. Nor does it maintain that there is a quick or easy fix. Rather, the NSS promotes long-term and patient US involvement in the region as a means of promoting a favorable balance of power, fostering stability, and furthering US security and economic interests.


In a distinct change from the perspective of the Obama administration, the NSS does not view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a major cause of the region’s problems. Nonetheless, the strategy reaffirms the Trump administration’s commitment to facilitating a comprehensive peace agreement, which it believes can serve the wider interest of promoting a favorable regional balance of power by increasing Israeli-Arab cooperation in confronting common threats.


The priority actions outlined in the NSS in the regional context center around retaining an American military presence, shoring up partnerships to strengthen security and stability, sustaining Iraq’s independence, seeking a settlement of the Syrian civil war, denying Iran its nuclear and regional aspirations, and promoting an Israeli-Palestinian comprehensive peace agreement.


The NSS underlines Washington’s commitment to help the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) monarchies strengthen their political and military institutions, which includes providing them with military capabilities and building an effective joint missile defense system. The US will also encourage the Arab states to modernize their economies and advance social reforms. Having learned from past mistakes, the US will attempt to achieve these goals in a gradual fashion without imposing American values on the countries in question.


The NSS makes clear that the US is not disengaging from the Middle East. This is reassuring news for Israel. It was not so long ago that America’s partners in the region were grappling with the possible implications of the Obama administration’s desire to pivot away from the region towards Asia. Moreover, the general policy principles outlined in the NSS represent a convergence of American and Israeli views on the region. The Iranian issue shows this clearly. Trump’s NSS breaks from the previous administration’s perception of Iran as part of the solution to regional instability, instead squarely defining Tehran as a major contributor to the region’s problems. American leadership is working to contain and roll back Iran’s malign influence and nuclear ambitions. This is a primary Israeli interest.


In this context, continued US military involvement in Iraq and Syria will serve to ensure direct US – and indirect Israeli – influence on the role of Iran and its proxies in those arenas. The convergence of views regarding Iran increases the potential for US-Israel dialogue and the coordination of efforts to counter malign Iranian activities in the Middle East. A recent report indicates that secret talks on the Iranian issue have already started and that a number of working groups have been established.


The NSS also marks a clear change in the way the US administration understands Israel’s place in the region. Gone are the assumptions held by previous administrations that support for Israel comes with high costs from the Arab world and that resolving the Palestinian conflict is key to improving US standing in the region. This opens the way for Israel to play a more substantial role in advancing US interests in the Middle East.


The prominence of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement in the administration’s overall approach to the region has been scaled back. The US sees an agreement as potentially conducive to stronger Israel-Gulf ties, which would advance US goals in the region. Israeli-Palestinian peace is no longer afforded the status of a vital condition for improving Israeli-Gulf cooperation. As the NSS states, “Israel is not the cause of the region’s problems. States have increasingly found common interests with Israel in confronting common threats.” The administration’s approach to the peace process seems to be based less on normative precepts and more on policy calculations. Even so, Israel should not lose sight of the fact that the Trump administration remains committed to advancing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Jerusalem would be well advised not to reject American efforts to renew negotiations.


The Gulf countries command a central role in the administration’s approach to the region. They are expected to fulfill three interrelated roles: to help contain Iran and its proxies; to work towards the rejection of radical Islamic ideologies; and to contribute to the US economy. The US is thus more than likely to continue selling the Gulf states advanced weaponry, including possibly releasing the F-35 to them – a move that would undermine Israel’s traditional qualitative military edge. Consequently, the political and military aspects of the US-Gulf-Israel triangle will need to remain a high priority issue for discussion between Jerusalem and Washington.


Given the primacy of maintaining stability in the Middle East over advancing reforms, the Trump administration seems set to preserve military and economic cooperation with Israel’s neighbors and peace partners Egypt and Jordan. The continued stability of these countries is a vital interest for Israel and an area for US-Israel cooperation. Trump’s perception of Russia and China as global power rivals needs to be appreciated by Israel at the regional level. While this perception is not far off from Israel’s own assessment of Russian and Chinese involvement in the region, Jerusalem must ensure that its dealings with these powers are transparent to, and coordinated with, the US administration. From Israel’s perspective, a major gap in the NSS is the lack of any reference to Hezbollah. Though equated with the struggle against Iranian influence, Hezbollah has developed into a significant regional player in its own right. The US needs a clear policy towards Lebanon that explicitly addresses Hezbollah’s domestic power and foreign interference.


All in all, Jerusalem can draw reassurance from the essentials of the NSS. The strategy is substantially consistent with the Israeli viewpoint on regional matters, lays the foundations for a more robust policy towards Iran, encourages Israeli-Gulf cooperation, and prioritizes stability. Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, if commenced under US auspices, are more likely to be oriented towards solving the issues in a manner that supports Trump’s regional outlook than as a values-laden process trapped in the confines of competing historical and moral claims.                            





Noah Rothman

Commentary, Mar. 9, 2018


Sometimes it takes an outsider, unburdened by the stifling conventions and preconceptions that impede the practice of diplomacy, to see the obvious. Trump is that outsider. Sometimes Trump’s distance from diplomacy’s precepts allows him to see its hobgoblins as they are. That was the case when his administration threw away custom by deciding again to consign North Korea to the list of state terror sponsors, to institute a renewed sanctions regime targeting Iran, and to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. The risks that professional diplomats feared would result from these maneuvers never materialized, and only a risk-prone executive could have achieved these successes. Trump’s particular facility is not without its dangers. Sometimes the conventional wisdom is conventional for a reason. Donald Trump’s decision to sit down with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un at Pyongyang’s request, for example, is fraught with more potential for risk than reward.


On Thursday night, President Trump revealed he had received a letter from the North Korean despot via a South Korean intermediary requesting a meeting with the president, and he had accepted. This marks a dramatic departure from past practice. North Korea’s leaders have long sought to achieve the prestige associated with being perceived as a peer of the United States—a status that is conveyed through a bilateral sit-down between the principals of these two nations—but no American president has given this murderous regime that satisfaction. Not until today.


Trump’s defenders insist this isn’t what it looks like. This is not the fulfillment of Barack Obama’s never-realized 2007 pledge to sit down with America’s enemies absent preconditions because North Korea has, in fact, agreed to preconditions. It will freeze its missile testing and will not respond to America’s planned military exercises with South Korea. China has put pressure on the North to halt missile tests to facilitate talks, and this pressure has worked. Pyongyang signaled its intention to put a moratorium on missile tests earlier this week, but it had not tested a new missile since November 29. North Korea does not and never will have a veto over how America conducts affairs with its allies, so the notion that it would or would not respond to military exercises means nothing. But in response to these modest overtures, North Korea has won a propaganda victory they’ve sought for nearly a quarter century.


This arrangement is already a lopsided one in North Korea’s favor, and the stakes only get higher from here. This is the big one; it’s a gambit that could pay off, but the United States only gets one shot at this. If it fails, America’s losses will not be minimal. This meeting between the leader of the free world and the criminal proprietor of the world’s largest open-air prison might produce a breakthrough. Trump might convince Kim to agree to the permanent and verifiable dismantling of his nuclear program, thus surrendering the only leverage that got North Korea to the table in the first place. Kim’s long-range missile program might be on the table for the first time in 20 years. In exchange, Trump could offer diplomatic recognition, a peace treaty, or sanctions relief. A grand bargain is possible in theory.


What’s more, Trump’s efforts could dissipate the perception in North Korea that the United States poses an existential threat and seeks to reunite the Peninsula by force. That could destabilize the North Korean regime in ways that have previously proven elusive. But if this maneuver were to fail, a return to dialogue at lower functionary levels or even through back channels might be regarded as a fruitless pursuit. After all, Donald Trump has said precisely that in the not-so-distant past. That would leave the United States with only one viable way to neutralize the North Korean nuclear program.


Still, some say, this gambit is worth the effort. The window of time in which the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula can be peacefully resolved is closing. More conventional approaches to the diplomatic crisis have failed. Maybe Donald Trump’s unique contempt both for precedent and expertise will allow him to craft an unforeseeable arrangement with North Korea. Even if that miracle were to occur, this meeting alone will have unintended and likely undesirable consequences…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]




On Topic Links


Trump Syndromes: Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, Mar. 6, 2018—General chaos surrounds President Trump. Few dispute that. All argue over the origins, causes, and nature of these wild reactions to our president.

Donald Trump’s Diplomatic Turn to N Korea Deserves Acclaim: Nicholas Burns, Financial Times, Mar. 11, 2018 —Donald Trump is right about North Korea, of course. It never made sense for the US to launch a “bloody nose” military strike against Kim Jong Un’s isolated country without having tried diplomacy first.

Trump the Deal-Maker and the Middle East: Amir Taheri, Gatestone Institute, Mar. 4, 2018—Casting himself as the best friend Israel could hope for, President Donald Trump is promising, some may say threatening, to unveil his grand plan for a peace "deal" to end the so-called "Middle East problem".

Trump Infuriates the Palestinian President — by Treating Him Like a Leader: Vivian Bercovici, National Post, Feb. 1, 2018—“Damn your money!” shouted Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, as he delivered a two-hour tirade before the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Central Council this month.





Prof. Frederick Krantz, Director Prof. Frederick Krantz, Director (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)

Prof. Harold Waller Prof. Harold Waller (McGill University)

Prof. Ira Robinson, Associate Chairman Prof. Ira Robinson, Associate Chairman (Department of Religion, Concordia University)

Baruch Cohen, Research Chairman Baruch Cohen, Research Chairman (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)

Rob Coles (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research) Rob Coles (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)

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