Jared Kushner’s Mideast Peace Push Is Going Nowhere. That’s Why Israelis Love It.: Benny Avni, The Daily Beast, Aug. 28, 2017 — Jared Kushner's second visit to the Mideast is widely perceived as a Seinfeld-like show about nothing—and the Israelis love it.
Russia Feels American Pressure: Emil Avdaliani, BESA, August 16, 2017 — Recent tensions between Moscow and Washington could drive the two superpowers to a deadlock.
On Radical Islam, Trump Has Lost His Focus: Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 11, 2017 — Candidate Donald Trump vowed to take a fresh approach to Islamic extremism.
Trump’s Foreign Policy: The Conservatives’ Report Card: Bret Stephens, New York Times, July 21, 2017 — If you’re a liberal judging Donald Trump’s foreign-policy record at the six-month mark, it’s not hard to guess the grade you’d give him.
Keep Telling the Horrific Truth About North Korea: Benny Avni, New York Post, Aug. 15, 2017
U.S. Policy in Lebanon Is Now Helping Hezbollah and Iran: Matthew R.J. Brodsky, Weekly Standard, Aug. 16, 2017
Name-Calling Critics Fail to Refute ZOA’s Concerns About McMaster: Morton A. Klein, Elizabeth Berney and Daniel Mandel, Algemeiner, Aug. 27, 2017
The West Betrays U.S. Heroes Who Prevented Another 9/11: Giulio Meotti, Gatestone Institute, Aug. 14, 2017
The Daily Beast, Aug. 28, 2017
Jared Kushner's second visit to the Mideast is widely perceived as a Seinfeld-like show about nothing—and the Israelis love it. Seeking President Trump’s “ultimate deal”—peace between Israelis and Palestinians—Kushner arrived in Jerusalem and Ramallah this week, where few could point to any progress made in promoting a deal between the parties. White House officials say they're keeping mum on progress by design, but commentators in the Israeli and Palestinian press claim there is little substance behind the first son-in-law’s diplomacy.
And that's just fine by Israeli government officials, who quietly express hope that Kushner's latest trip, and perhaps future ones as well, will yield no earth-shaking results. “Past American administrations jumped into the peace process pool before checking if there’s any water in it; we jumped after them and cracked our heads,” Dani Dayan, Israel’s consul general in New York, told The Daily Beast. He commended Kushner’s go-slow approach, saying, “Perhaps he’ll realize there’s no water in this pool, and so there's no reason to jump in.”
Publicly, after meeting with Kushner, Jerusalem and Ramallah officials made statements that were remarkably similar, using words diplomats have long employed to obscure content. Privately, however, several Israeli officials say they expect no progress. Further, they're grateful the Trump administration, unlike previous ones, exerts no pressure on them to make major concessions. Political conditions are far from optimal for a meaningful peace process. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under unprecedented pressure, as investigations of various alleged wrongdoings mount against him. The Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, is unpopular and weak.
While Kushner and international negotiator Jason Greenblatt do their best not to discuss the substance of their talks—saying they would rather conduct quiet diplomacy—critics note that not too long ago Kushner told White House interns, in a conversation that was leaked to the press, that there may be “no solution” to the Israeli Palestinian problem. Dayan—a former leader of Yesha, the West Bank settler movement—said that rather than seeking a final deal to end the Israeli-Palestinian dispute once and for all, Kushner should seek smaller victories. Dayan cited a deal reached recently about water-sharing between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. “You won’t get a Peace Nobel for things like that, but they may be more achievable" and helpful, he told The Daily Beast.
The Palestinians fear that kind of approach would muddy their goal: to be recognized as an independent state. In a recent State Department briefing, spokeswoman Heather Nauert declined to endorse the two state solution, a formula expressed by three prior administrations that calls for the creation of a peaceful, democratic Palestinian state next to the Jewish state of Israel. “We are not going to state what the outcome has to be,” Nauert said, adding, “It has to be workable to both sides.” Palestinians were outraged. Even as Kushner met for several hours with Abbas in Ramallah Thursday, demonstrators, said to be organized by Abbas’ own lieutenants, gathered outside the presidential headquarters, known as the Muqata, with some reportedly carrying anti-Trump signs, including one depicting the president as being led on a leash by daughter Ivanka, who is married to Kushner.
A White House official close to the negotiations noted however that Abbas has threatened—as he’s often done in the past—to resign and dissolve the Palestinian Authority if Kushner declined to push hard on the peace process. But then, the official said, "Abbas didn’t pull out,” which indicates that the talks are substantial after all. “This shows it’s not about nothing," the official added. The official asked to speak on background as part of Kushner’s and Greenblatt’s expressed desire to keep the content of the negotiations under wraps. This, the official said, may be the reason many feel no progress is being made, but it is a deliberate strategy.
Past administrations “put process ahead of results. It was about a road map, time lines, impositions of deadlines,” the official said, adding that past diplomacy “suffered from a constant effort to show some achievement,” which doomed it to failure as the parties pushed back against public statements in Washington. Critics however say that the current diplomatic ambiguity may lead to failure. “You have to say publicly where you want to go,” said Gilead Sher, a senior fellow at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies. Kushner, he says, is undermining progress by not stating what the American goal is. “When no one knows which way America is sailing, it’s impossible for all to steer their boats," he added…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
BESA, August 16, 2017
Recent tensions between Moscow and Washington could drive the two superpowers to a deadlock. On July 30, Russia retaliated against the US by ordering 755 American diplomats to leave the country. Moscow’s move came after Washington toughened its own anti-Russia sanctions (although the Russian move was intended more as a countermeasure against former US President Barack Obama’s expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats in late 2016).
Moscow cannot afford to impose serious countersanctions, as they would cause greater harm to the much-troubled Russian economy than they would to the US. Consider, for example, the case of NASA, which depends largely on Russian engines. Stopping their export could cause significant difficulties for the US aerospace industry, but for the Russian economy, it would represent a loss of approximately $1 billion in revenues in a couple of years.
The relationship, troubled as it is, has not necessarily hit rock bottom. On August 1, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, “the [US-Russia] relationship was at a historic low since the end of the Cold War, and it could get worse.” On August 3, Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev tweeted that any hope for improvement in relations was lost with Trump’s sanctions. There are reasons for Moscow to be worried. American politicians openly state how supportive the US will be towards eastern European countries and Georgia in the event that Russia increases its military capabilities in the region. This US resolve was highlighted recently when VP Mike Pence visited Estonia, Georgia, and Montenegro.
A steady US/NATO military and security buildup is underway in eastern Europe and the South Caucasus. Georgia, for example, hosted the biggest military exercises ever held on its soil, in which US forces took part along with other allies. Washington has also outlined its position that any progress with Moscow would depend entirely upon the latter’s ceasing its military and financial support for pro-Russia separatists in east Ukraine, Georgia’s breakaway territories of Abkhazia, and South Ossetia.
Rather than compromise, the Russians have in fact expanded their military bases in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and other breakaway territories across the former Soviet space. As an international relations realist, Putin knows the only hope of pressuring Washington is to gain an advantage in other theaters where Moscow has significant political leverage. However, despite strained relations, Moscow and Washington still share similar – if limited – perspectives in several areas. Syria is first among several potential points of cooperation. Russia and the US share a vision of defeating ISIS, and there was even a joint announcement of a ceasefire in southwestern Syria in early July. To both countries’ credit, the ceasefire still holds.
East of the Syrian battlefield, Afghanistan could be another theater for cooperation. Russia fears a spillover of militancy from both the Taliban and ISIS across the Afghan border into Central Asia, and would not oppose a US presence in Afghanistan as a bulwark against it. Yet another geographic area of possible Russian-American cooperation could be the Korean peninsula, where the situation is heating up. The Pyongyang leadership is rigorously pursuing its nuclear program and has made significant progress in successfully testing its ICBM. Both Moscow and Washington are concerned that North Korea’s military capabilities could deal a final blow to the policy of non-proliferation.
However, there are limits to these areas of converging interests. In Syria, for instance, Russia’s grand strategy of linking the Syrian crisis with the Ukrainian one in order to gain diplomatic advantage in negotiations with the west has failed. In Afghanistan, the US suspects Moscow of providing military support to the Taliban, while in North Korea, Washington does not openly rely on Russian support. Washington recently criticized both Moscow and Beijing for not doing enough to stop the North Korean nuclear program.
Russian-US relations have reached their lowest point since the end of the Cold War. There do exist several theaters in which the two superpowers can work together, but there are significant limits that will block any breakthroughs. There is thus little possibility for any rapprochement between the two powers across the former Soviet space. Different geopolitical readings on Ukraine, Georgia, and wider eastern European security make near-term progress in Russia-US relations improbable at best.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Wall Street Journal, Aug. 11, 2017
Candidate Donald Trump vowed to take a fresh approach to Islamic extremism. He ditched the politically correct language of the Obama administration by declaring that we were mired in an ideological conflict with radical Islam, which he likened to the totalitarian ideologies America had defeated in the 20th century. Mr. Trump also promised, as part of his immigration policy, to put in place an “extreme vetting” system that screens for Islamic radicalism. He vowed to work with genuine Muslim reformers and concluded with the promise that one of his first acts as president would be “to establish a commission on radical Islam.”
Mr. Trump has had more than six months to make good on these pledges. He hasn’t gotten very far. The administration’s first move—a hastily drafted executive order limiting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries—backfired when it was repeatedly blocked in court. Worse, subsequent moves have tended to run counter to Mr. Trump’s campaign pledges. Aside from a new questionnaire for visa applicants, there has been no clarity regarding the promised “extreme vetting” of Muslim immigrants and visitors. The promise to work with and empower authentic Muslim reformers has gone nowhere. The status of the promised commission on radical Islam remains unclear. Perhaps most discouragingly, the administration’s Middle Eastern strategy seems to involve cozying up to Saudi Arabia—for decades the principal source of funding for Islamic extremism around the world.
Some administration critics have blamed the loss of focus on Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, who became White House national security adviser in February. The most charitable formulation of this criticism is that military men who slogged their way through wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have an aversion to the argument that we face an ideological opponent, as opposed to a series of military problems. But I put the responsibility on Mr. Trump. With regard to radical Islam, he simply seems to have lost interest. Is all hope of a revamped policy on radical Islam lost? Not necessarily. Prominent members of Congress—among them Sens. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.) and Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) and Reps. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.) and Trent Franks (R., Ariz.)—understand that Islamism must be confronted with ideas as well as arms.
And this need not be a partisan issue. In the early years after 9/11, Sens. Jon Kyl (R., Ariz.), Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) and Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) worked together to analyze the threat of Islamist ideology. Even President Obama’s former representative to Muslim communities, Farah Pandith, who visited 80 countries between 2009 and 2014, wrote in 2015: “In each place I visited, the Wahhabi influence was an insidious presence . . . Funding all this was Saudi money, which paid for things like the textbooks, mosques, TV stations and the training of Imams.” In 2016, addressing the Council on Foreign Relations, Sen. Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) sounded the alarm over Islamist indoctrination in Pakistan, noting that thousands of schools funded with Saudi money “teach a version of Islam that leads . . . into an . . . anti-Western militancy.” We have already seen one unexpected outbreak of bipartisanship in Washington this summer, over tightening sanctions on Russia in retaliation for President Vladimir Putin’s many aggressions.
I propose that the next item of cross-party business should be for Congress to convene hearings on the ideological threat of radical Islam. “Who wants America on offense, with a coherent and intelligible strategy?” Newt Gingrich asked in 2015, when he called for such hearings. Then as now, if the executive branch isn’t willing—if the president has forgotten his campaign commitments—lawmakers can and should step up to the plate.
New York Times, July 21, 2017
If you’re a liberal judging Donald Trump’s foreign-policy record at the six-month mark, it’s not hard to guess the grade you’d give him. An F is too generous for your taste. An F-minus? How about a negative F? What if you’re conservative? Here your grade will depend on what kind of conservative you happen to be.
(1) You’re a Trumpkin. What’s not to like? Wasn’t it Machiavelli — or some other Italian with a similar-sounding name — who said, “it is much safer to be feared than loved”? Isn’t it about time that Bashar al-Assad fears us? Isn’t it about time we have an American president who couldn’t care less whether he’s loved in Paris or Brussels — capitals our soldiers once liberated only so that they could repay us with freeloading and condescension? And isn’t it about time we throw our weight around the world on our own behalf, and not for the sake of some make-believe “international community”? Grade: The easiest A since you took “rocks for jocks” in college.
(2) You’re not a Trumpkin, but you’re happy Hillary Clinton isn’t president. Well, what did you expect? We all knew he was a policy neophyte, with some bad ideas but reasonably decent instincts. And, on the whole, his instincts are serving us well. What, you have an objection to Jim Mattis at Defense, John Kelly at Homeland Security, Mike Pompeo at C.I.A. and H. R. McMaster as security adviser? The Clinton team would have consisted of Brookings Institution types trying to extend the Obama administration’s legacy of American retreat — of appeasing adversaries, alienating allies, and turning us into a country whose enemies didn’t fear us and whose friends didn’t trust us. It’s been only six months, and Trump still has a lot to learn. But he’s jettisoned some of his worst ideas — on NATO being obsolete, for instance — while taking a more muscular approach against the Islamic State, Iran and North Korea. Grade: B.
(3) You’re the sort of conservative who doesn’t believe we should grade college students on a curve, much less our commander in chief. Yes, Machiavelli did say it was better to be feared than loved. But the great Florentine also said, “a prince ought to inspire fear in such a way that, if he does not win love, he avoids hatred.” The United States has had unpopular presidents. But not one — not Richard Nixon in the Watergate crisis; not George W. Bush at the worst moments of the Iraq war — inspires the sort of hatred that Trump does.
Much of this is self-inflicted. Trump didn’t need to start his presidency by infuriating the president of Mexico on the eve of a planned visit to Washington, or by comparing the American intelligence community to Nazi Germany, or by throwing a tantrum with the prime minister of Australia. He didn’t need to demand that Seoul pay for missile defenses that would protect American troops in the event of war with North Korea, or toy with our NATO allies as he mulled whether to reaffirm our mutual-defense obligations.
Trump could have avoided all of this. He didn’t, either because his personality is defective or because he thinks humiliation is an appropriate tool of presidential power. Character is destiny, conservatives used to think. We are living this destiny.
Conservatives must also wonder what happened to the “conservative” foreign policy they were promised in the campaign. The administration certified this month that Iran was complying with the 2015 nuclear deal; according to the Institute for Science and International Security, it isn’t fully. We were supposed to support our allies in Syria fighting both the Islamic State and Assad; we ditched them. We were supposed to get serious about the threat from Russia. In Hamburg this month, Trump again showed how eager he was to oblige his man-crush in the Kremlin, this time at the expense of Israel.
But the deeper flaw of Trump’s foreign policy isn’t psychological. It’s philosophical. The Trump administration is the first to make an open break with the anti-isolationist postwar consensus of Harry Truman, Arthur Vandenberg and Dean Acheson. “The world is not a ‘global community’ but an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage,” McMaster and Gary Cohn, the director of the National Economic Council, wrote in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed. Mark this as the shift from internationalism to transactionalism; from a values-based foreign policy rooted in Alexis de Tocqueville’s notion of “self-interest, rightly understood” to an approach that might be called neo-Maguirism, after “Jerry Maguire.” To wit: “Show me the money!”
It’s not that the administration has done everything wrong, at least by conservative lights: It’s always possible to do the right thing for the wrong reason. But if serious conservatives believe in anything, it’s that we really are, as Lincoln said, “the last best hope of earth,” and that our foreign policy should be equal to that hope. That’s “hope,” Donald, not “joke.” Grade: O.M.G.
Keep Telling the Horrific Truth About North Korea: Benny Avni, New York Post, Aug. 15, 2017—Equating President Trump’s tough North Korea talk with Kim Jong-un’s bluster, as the president’s critics have done over the past week, is dumb — not least because it’s clear Trump’s tack is working. The White House’s hard-edged messaging knocked Pyongyang’s dynastic tyrant out of his comfort zone.
U.S. Policy in Lebanon Is Now Helping Hezbollah and Iran: Matthew R.J. Brodsky, Weekly Standard, Aug. 16, 2017—The U.S. is deploying special forces on the ground in Lebanon to provide training for the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) for missions that partner with Hezbollah—Iran’s most valuable terrorist ally—against ISIS.
Name-Calling Critics Fail to Refute ZOA’s Concerns About McMaster: Morton A. Klein, Elizabeth Berney and Daniel Mandel, Algemeiner, Aug. 27, 2017—The Zionist Organization of America’s August 2017 report detailed US National Security Chief General H.R. McMaster’s troubling record regarding Iran, Israel and radical Islamist terrorism.
The West Betrays U.S. Heroes Who Prevented Another 9/11: Giulio Meotti, Gatestone Institute, Aug. 14, 2017—One of the most important chapters in the war on terror is being rewritten — with a moral inversion. Islamic terrorists who were arrested and deported have become "liberal causes célèbres", while agents of the CIA who questioned them are not only being condemned but also financially crushed by punishment and legal bills — for having tried, legally, to save American lives.