What Trump and Clinton Said (and Didn't Say) About the Middle East

Sept. 29 2016

Analyzing the discussion of the region in Monday evening’s presidential debate—marked by the omission of any mention of Syria—Robert Satloff comments on the two candidates’ positions:

In terms of the fight against Islamic State (IS), both candidates replayed stock lines from stump speeches. Overall, Hillary Clinton’s paragraph on defeating the group was much more detailed than Donald Trump’s; it included support for Kurdish and Arab allies, a focus on targeting IS leadership, and a sequence of actions (liberate Mosul by the end of 2016, then focus on squeezing the group in Raqqa), all done with enhanced U.S. air support but not ground forces.

For his part, Trump did not go far beyond a commitment to massive military action against IS, falling back on his critique that the Obama administration permitted the group’s rise by precipitously withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq and mishandling Libya. Neither candidate, however, addressed what most experts believe to be the most serious challenge—what to do the day after liberating IS-held territory so that it does not become the base for the next iteration of radical Sunni jihadists.

Clinton and Trump spent considerable time jousting over the wisdom of the Iran nuclear accord, including Trump’s remark that the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, remains displeased with the deal. However, the Republican candidate offered no specific alternative to the existing agreement, and the Democratic candidate offered no detailed suggestions [about how] to push back against Tehran’s success in taking advantage of the deal to extend Iranian influence throughout the region.

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, ISIS, Middle East, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy, U.S. Presidential election

Palestinian Acceptance of Israel as the Jewish State Must Be a Prerequisite to Further Negotiations

Oct. 19 2018

In 1993, in the early days of the Oslo peace process, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) under Yasir Arafat accepted the “right of the state of Israel to exist in peace and security.” But neither it nor its heir, the Palestinians Authority, has ever accepted Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, or the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. Robert Barnidge explains why this distinction matters:

A Jewish state for the Jewish people, after all, was exactly what the [UN] General Assembly intended in November 1947 when it called for the partition of the Palestine Mandate into “the Arab state, the Jewish state, and the city of Jerusalem.”

Although the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state does not stand or fall on this resolution—in declaring the independence of Israel on the eve of the Sabbath on May 14, 1948, the Jewish People’s Council, [the precursor to the Israeli government], also stressed the Jewish people’s natural and historic rights—it reaffirms the legitimacy of Jewish national rights in (what was to become) the state of Israel.

The Palestinians have steadfastly refused to recognize Jewish self-determination. [Instead], the PLO [has been] playing a double game. . . . It is not simply that the PLO supported the General Assembly’s determination in 1975, rescinded in 1991, that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” It is that that the PLO leadership continues to speak of Jews as a religious community rather than a people, and of Zionism as a colonial usurper rather than the national liberation movement that it is.

The U.S. government, Barnidge concludes, “should demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel’s right to exist in peace and security as a Jewish state” and refuse to “press Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians unless and until that happens.”

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: Israel & Zionism, Peace Process, PLO, US-Israel relations, Yasir Arafat