Trump and the Israelization of American Politics: Dr. Alex Joffe, BESA, Apr. 24, 2017— It is now routine to compare Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu. Both are unabashed “nationalists” (albeit of different sorts), both bluster and bully their opponents, and both share a dire outlook on the global situation. A closer look, of course, reveals them to have very little in common, except perhaps for their shared interest in living well.
The White House Never Really Fully Supported Israel — Till Trump Arrived: Lawrence Solomon, National Post, May. 8, 2017— Barack Obama was arguably the most hostile U.S. president that Israel ever faced; at best, he was indifferent to Israel’s welfare. But Obama was hardly alone in treating Israel as dispensable. Every previous president, without exception, adopted policies that put Israel’s very existence at risk.
The Trump Doctrine: President’s Emerging Foreign Affairs Philosophy Appears Surprisingly Traditional: Tom Blackwell, National Post, Apr. 21, 2017 — Donald Trump was not going to take it any more from Kim Jong-Un. With dictator Kim’s North Korea poised to carry out another nuclear or missile test earlier this month, the U.S. president responded aggressively.
French Jews, Relieved by Le Pen Election Defeat, Still Cautious About Future: Ben Cohen, Algemeiner, May. 7, 2017 — After President Bashar al-Assad of Syria once again attacked his own citizens with poison gas, the civilized world recoiled in horror at images of children writhing in pain and suffocating to death. French Jews breathed a sigh of relief as far right candidate Marine Le Pen was roundly defeated by centrist Emmanuel Macron in the second and final round of the country’s presidential election on Sunday — but experts warned that the community still faces tough decisions over its long-term future.
On Topic Links
Debate Between Fmr. Member of Knesset Moshe Feiglin and Prof. Alan Dershowitz [WATCH]: ILTV Israel Daily, May 4, 2017
At White House Meeting with Trump, Palestinian Leader Signals Abandonment of Unilateral Statehood Recognition Strategy: Ben Cohen, Algemeiner, May 3, 2017
What Do Trump’s First 100 Days Mean for Israel?: Abra Forman, Breaking Israel News, Apr. 30, 2017
Why Everything You Think You Know About Foreign Policy Is Wrong: Lee Smith, Tablet, May 1, 2017
Marine Le Pen Defeated But France's Far Right is Far From Finished: Angelique Chrisafis, The Guardian, May 7, 2017
Dr. Alex Joffe
BESA, Apr. 24, 2017
It is now routine to compare Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu. Both are unabashed “nationalists” (albeit of different sorts), both bluster and bully their opponents, and both share a dire outlook on the global situation. A closer look, of course, reveals them to have very little in common, except perhaps for their shared interest in living well. Where Trump is the scion of a hard-driving New York real estate mogul, Netanyahu is the scion of an intellectual dedicated to the Zionist cause. Trump never served in the military and came to politics late; Netanyahu was a decorated soldier effectively involved in politics from birth.
These comparisons are interesting, if unrevealing. But a critical element Trump and Netanyahu do share is that their opponents are weak and scattered. In each country, a position of strength provides ample room to execute policies, but it results in lopsided politics. Authoritarian temptations loom while opposition politics eschew cooperation in favor of “resistance” and radicalism. The chaotic state of Israeli politics, not merely on the left but across the political spectrum, is a harbinger of what awaits America.
The weaknesses of the American Democratic and Israeli Labor parties are largely self-inflicted. Trump and Netanyahu are products of the deterioration of politics in both countries, not the causes. No one forced either party over the decades to move further and further left or to haughtily represent itself as the sole bastion of morality, even as each came to represent perverse alliances between the privileged and the aggrieved, at the expense of the middle and lower classes. And no one forced either party to run candidates like Hillary Clinton, uniquely corrupt and brittle, or Itzhak Herzog, weak and vacillating. In turn, electorates are under no obligation to settle for such candidates.
But here the common political style of Trump and Netanyahu also comes into play. They are bullying and dismissive of their critics and rivals and indulgent of allies; reliant on shadowy personal associates; addicted to deals and gambits; and both willing and able to go over the heads of experts and the media to speak directly to the voters in blunt and often fear-mongering terms, using rhetoric that appeals to the electorates’ lesser angels. Each is regularly (and absurdly) accused of being “fascist”; at worst, they are merely populists with occasional demagogic flourishes that provide useful cover for policies that range, for the most part, from the pragmatic to the timid. And each has the confounding ability to put aside the bluster on occasion and speak in measured, thoughtful tones. All this has helped keep the Israeli opposition fractured, and it may do so in the US as well.
Netanyahu has been prime minister for almost eight years, at the head of a coalition that has crept ever rightward. During that time, the opposition has repeatedly splintered. The leading figures of the Israeli opposition – Herzog, Shelly Yachimovich, Ami Ayalon, and others – are fractious, uncharismatic, and unlikely to catalyze the electorate. The opposition is united only by shared antipathy toward Netanyahu, scarcely a platform for a successful campaign or productive coalition-building.
The situation in the US is no more reassuring. The national Democratic Party has moved dramatically to the left, thanks to both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and at the same time evaporated on the national and local levels. The root of the problem is that the party has devolved into an umbrella primarily representing public employees, finance/media/entertainment/technology conglomerates, and an assortment of minorities, from Latinos and blacks to ever-smaller demographics like the transgendered. The Democratic platform is open borders, anti-anti-Islamism, support for every conceivable type of non-military spending, and, of course, absolute and total opposition to Trump. Compromise is anathema. Worse yet, violent “resistance” in word and deed is increasingly valorized by opposition leaders.
In both countries, the media has long segmented itself into right and left, the latter becoming more shrill the further it is from power – witness the transformation of The New York Times into Haaretz. Impartiality in media, and increasingly politics, is regarded as quaintly antiquated, dereliction of duty, or criminal complicity. Again, neither Trump nor Netanyahu is a fascist, but their persistently labeling as such by their opponents erodes the meaning of the word. Crying wolf lowers democracy’s defenses. So, too, do repeated cries to “save democracy” from democratically elected leaders.
In short, opposition politics in both countries have, largely through their own devices and with a push from elected leaders, devolved into enraged and inarticulate defenses of the statist status quo. Deprived of the power they feel is their due, they continue to move steadily left. The Democratic National Committee has now elected as its head Tom Perez, former Justice Department official and Labor Secretary and a key player in Obama’s racial partitioning agenda. His deputy, Keith Ellison, is Muslim and a borderline socialist, an appointment designed to further the party’s identity politics and ideological direction…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
National Post, May 8, 2017
Barack Obama was arguably the most hostile U.S. president that Israel ever faced; at best, he was indifferent to Israel’s welfare. But Obama was hardly alone in treating Israel as dispensable. Every previous president, without exception, adopted policies that put Israel’s very existence at risk.
Trump, who will break with precedent by visiting Israel — rather than Canada or Mexico — during his first international trip as president, has to date done nothing to tie Israel’s hands against its existential threats. To the contrary, Trump’s foreign policy aligns well with Israel’s.
Most U.S. presidents saw Israel as an impediment to furthering U.S. interests. In the early decades of Israel’s existence, during the Cold War era following the Second World War, the U.S. was intent on wooing the Arab states, both to prevent the spread of communism and to keep Middle East oil at the disposal of the West. Israel — a tiny country with no oil and an insignificant military — was an obstacle to U.S. diplomacy, all the more so since the U.S. public was unstintingly pro-Israel.
Harry Truman is often given credit for voting at the United Nations in favour of the creation of Israel as a state. Yet that vote was given grudgingly, and only after repeated efforts by his administration to foil Israel’s creation.
Convinced that an Israeli state of a few hundred thousand civilians could not withstand an invasion by the professional armies of the Arab states on Israel’s borders, Truman in 1948 demanded that the would-be Israelis place themselves under UN Trusteeship, rather than declare independence. To make the case to the Israelis that they would be wiped out in the event of an Arab invasion, Truman’s secretary of State, George Marshall, threatened Israel with an arms embargo, to leave the Jews defenceless against the British-armed Arabs. For good measure, the Americans also threatened UN sanctions against the Israelis, and argued that a second Holocaust would result if they didn’t follow America’s advice.
Israel nevertheless declared independence and — although Truman made good on his threat of an arms embargo, even forbidding gifts of arms by private American citizens — its rag-tag army defeated the combined forces of the six invading nations. Truman again turned the screws on Israel, viewing its actions as dangerous to peace, demanding that it give up West Jerusalem and not encourage a mass immigration of Jews into Israel, which would only lead to more Arab upset.
Truman’s successor, Dwight D. Eisenhower, was also hostile to Israel, staying silent when Egypt blockaded shipping to Israel — a violation of its 1949 armistice agreement with Israel and of international law — and threatening Israel with expulsion from the UN after it defeated Egypt in the 1956 Suez War, despite his acknowledgement that the war had been caused by Egypt’s “grave and repeated provocations.”
Contrary to the popular view that Israel has been militarily dependent on the U.S., the U.S. was more foe than friend for decades. While the U.S. bestowed Israel’s enemies with military aid through a Marshall-type plan for the Middle East, it maintained its arms embargo against Israel into the 1960s, refusing to sell Israel even defensive weapons. Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson refused to sell Israel any planes, tanks or other offensive weapons, as did Nixon early in his first administration. Nixon changed the arms policy only after Israel — at Nixon’s behest — proved useful in 1970 in deterring an invasion of Jordan and possibly Saudi Arabia by Soviet-backed Syrian forces. The U.S. needed the Israeli military at that time because its own forces were tied up in the Vietnam War.
In every Arab-Israeli war, the Arab states were the aggressors, yet in every war the Israelis not only fought against the Arabs on the battlefield, they also fought against the U.S. diplomatically. The U.S. invariably pressured Israel, generally successfully, to stop its military advances and to give up war gains.
President Ronald Reagan opposed Israel’s 1981 decision to destroy Saddam Hussein’s Osirak nuclear reactor and punished Israel after it succeeded by embargoing delivery of American F-16 fighters. President George H.W. Bush insisted that Israel not retaliate against Iraq when Saddam Hussein launched 39 Scud missiles into Israel. President George W. Bush opposed Israel’s decision to destroy Syria’s nuclear reactor, which Israel did anyway, and he successfully opposed an Israeli military strike on Iran, as did Obama.
The current president promises to be different. Like all his recent predecessors, Trump provides Israel with generous military aid, but unlike others, he doesn’t see America’s alliance with Israel as a mixed blessing. Trump unambiguously sees Israel as an asset in the war on terror, unconditionally backing it without walking on eggs for fear of offending Arab sensibilities. He has had Israel’s back from Day One of his presidency, something that can’t be claimed for any other president.
Lawrence Solomon is an Academic Fellow for the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research
National Post, Apr. 21, 2017
Donald Trump was not going to take it any more from Kim Jong-Un. With dictator Kim’s North Korea poised to carry out another nuclear or missile test earlier this month, the U.S. president responded aggressively. A naval group led by the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson was being redirected toward the Korean peninsula, he said, a potent flexing of military muscle in the face of a volatile enemy. The only catch, media reports later made clear, was where that carrier force actually went. For days, it in fact steamed in the opposite direction, toward a pre-arranged exercise with the Australian navy.
Whether the wandering armada’s geographic ambiguity stemmed from a communications glitch or a deliberate feint to rattle the North Koreans, some saw it as a reflection of the new president’s foreign policy generally. Despite no-nonsense assertions on the campaign trail, his international forays so far have included surprises, flip-flops and contradictions. If at this early stage in the administration there is such thing as a Trump Doctrine, it has been difficult to make out.
And yet, some experts — even some who were harshly critical of the president during the campaign — are beginning to glimpse consistent themes, even positive ones, emerging from the noise of Trump’s first months in office. If Trump’s election rhetoric was all about blowing up the foreign-policy orthodoxy — ripping apart free-trade deals, questioning NATO and other alliances, giving up the role of world’s policeman — his presidential actions and personnel appointments, they say, have had a decidedly more conventional flavour.
“Since the inauguration it seems there has been something of a mainstreaming of his foreign policy,” said Matthew Kroenig, a professor at Georgetown University and advisor in both the Obama and George W. Bush administrations. “I’m more optimistic than I think many in Washington are … In many ways a number of things Trump has done already, including the Syria (missile) strikes, are an improvement over his predecessor.” Peter Feaver was among a group of Republican foreign-policy experts who issued a scathing open letter during the campaign, predicting Trump “would be the most reckless president in American history.” But today the Duke University political scientist, a special advisor in George W. Bush’s national security council, isn’t so sure the president is, in fact, delivering recklessness.
Each foreign-policy decision Trump has made since his inauguration has actually moved him further away from the campaign rhetoric that so worried those experts, he maintains. Trump began with his controversial ban on travel from some Muslim countries — now tied up in court and barely mentioned — but moved on to say he no longer believed NATO was “obsolete,” reassure European and Asian allies and take a more measured stance on trade with China, Feaver noted.
Having to confront actual events may be reshaping Trump’s nascent foreign-affairs philosophy. “Every president discovers that campaign rhetoric and campaign promises look differently in the light of day than they did in the middle of the campaign,” Feaver said. “No president gets to impose his or her vision of the world onto reality. You have to deal with reality as it exists.”
The idea of a president’s foreign policy being guided by a unified theme is generally traced back to the Monroe Doctrine, James Monroe’s 1823 manifesto opposing European colonialism in the Americas. Much later, George W. Bush’s doctrine — forged in the wake of the 9/11 attacks — was seen as giving a green light to preventive wars against countries that might attack the States. The Barack Obama doctrine was less well-defined, though generally described as favouring negotiation and diplomacy over unilateral action and confrontation.
As for Trump’s grand strategy, some reports have suggested confusion about it even inside the White House. Just three days before the missile strike against Syria, Mike Dubke, the president’s communications director, told staff that Trump lacked a coherent foreign policy, according to sources cited by Politico. “There is no Trump doctrine,” Politico quoted Dubke as saying. Sean Spicer, the president’s press secretary, quickly tried to correct the record, insisting last week the approach remained “America first,” as touted on the election trail…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Algemeiner, May. 7, 2017
French Jews breathed a sigh of relief as far right candidate Marine Le Pen was roundly defeated by centrist Emmanuel Macron in the second and final round of the country’s presidential election on Sunday — but experts warned that the community still faces tough decisions over its long-term future.
Projections after the polls closed showed Macron with a comfortable 65 percent of the vote. However, the new French president will be acutely aware that a full 25 percent of voters abstained on the second ballot. As a whole, the election was dominated by extremist challenges, from Le Pen’s National Front on the right and Jean-Luc Melenchon — who won almost 20% of the first-round vote — on the communist-dominated far left.
Macron’s victory on Sunday brought some temporary respite to French Jews, experts told The Algemeiner. “French Jews are very positive about the result, they didn’t want Le Pen to win, so they are happy with that,” said Dr. Dov Maimon, the head of the Europe Desk at the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI) in Jerusalem. “Maybe 5 or 10% voted for her, but 90% percent were against her with good reason.”
Michel Gurfinkiel, a leading French political analyst and president of the Jean-Jacques Rosseau Institute in Paris, agreed that the majority of Jews will be pleased by Le Pen’s defeat. “But a majority will still be concerned about their future,” he said. Francis Kalifat, president of the French Jewish representative organization CRIF, tweeted his congratulations at Macron. “It all starts now,” Kalifat declared.
While the immediate threats that would have been posed by a National Front victory have abated — among them a prohibition on the wearing of kippot in public places, measures against Jewish ritual slaughter, and a ban on dual nationality that would have harshly impacted French Jews in Israel — the general pessimism about the community’s long-term future remains. “Macron is a supporter of multiculturalism, which in this case means more power for the Muslim community,” Maimon observed. “70 percent of French Muslims say they don’t like Jews.”
A 2014 poll conducted by CRIF found that over 70 percent of French Muslims believed that Jews “had too much power” over the nation’s media and financial system. Gurfinkiel said that while Macron had made several statements to reassure the Jewish community in the run-up to the election, many Jews remain nervous about some of his key political allies. Among them is the secretary-general of Macron’s En Marche! political movement, veteran socialist politician Richard Ferrand. As well as having donated 2,000 Euros to a Palestinian solidarity group in 2016, Ferrand is said to be a supporter of the BDS movement targeting Israel. Macron, for his part, has voiced firm opposition towards the BDS campaign.
Gurfinkiel said that similar concerns had emerged around former French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, another Macron ally and a frequent critic of Israel. “The big question mark is over whether he will keep these people around,” Gurfinkiel said. Uncertainty among French Jews is not likely to dissipate over the next four weeks, as Macron begins campaigning for a working majority in next month’s parliamentary elections. Gurfinkiel said there was a possibility that the National Front would dissolve into a new party with wider appeal, meaning that Le Pen could end up “as the leader not just of the populist right, but of the entire conservative right in France.”
The coming weeks will see some clarification of the major political questions, said Gurfinkiel. “Is everybody going to flock around Macron? Is the hard left going to try and make it by itself against the National Front and Macron? Is the conservative right able to undergo some kind of resurrection?” he asked. Maimon emphasized that the deeper dilemmas faced by French Jews would not be resolved by a single election. As well as antisemitism and the preservation of Jewish identity, he said, French Jews were worried about the economy, a decline in prosperity and, most of all, the education of the younger generation.
Debate Between Fmr. Member of Knesset Moshe Feiglin and Prof. Alan Dershowitz [WATCH]: ILTV Israel Daily, May 4, 2017— Former Member of Knesset Moshe Feiglin debates Professor Alan Dershowitz on the merits of the ‘Two-State Solution.’ Feiglin argues that annexation of Judea and Samaria presents the only solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, whereas Dershowitz disagrees and views any such move as an “invitation to conflict.”
At White House Meeting with Trump, Palestinian Leader Signals Abandonment of Unilateral Statehood Recognition Strategy: Ben Cohen, Algemeiner, May 3, 2017—Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas offered a strong signal on Wednesday that he would abandon the strategy he pursued in recent years seeking unilateral statehood recognition at international fora in place of peace talks with Israel.
What Do Trump’s First 100 Days Mean for Israel?: Abra Forman, Breaking Israel News, Apr. 30, 2017 —With the completion of President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office, a time period often seen as formative for new presidents, the media is taking a close look at what the unconventional leader has accomplished, the tone he has set for his next four years, and the campaign promises he has kept or neglected.
Why Everything You Think You Know About Foreign Policy Is Wrong: Lee Smith, Tablet, May 1, 2017—Politico recently reported that in 2016 the Obama administration freed seven Iranian-born prisoners against the advice of the Department of Justice, which considered them threats to American national security. Obama also forced the DOJ to drop charges against another 14 Iranians involved in criminal activities associated with nuclear proliferation, weapons smuggling, etc.
Marine Le Pen Defeated But France's Far Right is Far From Finished: Angelique Chrisafis, The Guardian, May 7, 2017—Le Pen might have been squarely beaten in the presidential runoff by the independent centrist Emmanuel Macron – as voters from the right and left joined forces to block her – but she was still projected to have won up to 11m votes. Le Pen immediately vowed that she would radically overhaul and reinvent her political movement, leaving open the possibility the Front National could be renamed. This was a staggering, historic high for the anti-European, anti-immigration party that during the campaign was slammed by political opponents as racist, xenophobic, antisemitic and anti-Muslim despite Le Pen’s public relations efforts to detoxify its image in recent years.