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Egypt’s Awkward Reset with the U.S.

April 10 2017

A week ago, the Egyptian president was being received warmly in Washington, where Donald Trump hosted him in the Oval Office and praised him publicly. But President Sisi obtained little of substance, and the recent American attack on Syria, Eric Trager writes, is a rejection of Sisi’s advice:

Sisi returned home on Thursday empty-handed and overshadowed as President Trump heeded the views of Jordan’s King Abdullah [with whom he met on Wednesday] on Syria and ordered strikes . . . despite Sisi’s misgivings.

To be sure, Sisi’s visit was all about receiving—and showcasing—the big Beltway hug. For the past four years, Cairo sulked as the Obama administration held the autocratic Sisi at arm’s length. . . . But the goodwill tour didn’t yield any immediate goods. Sisi received no new military or economic aid, nor did the Trump administration renew the financing mechanism that allows Egypt to order expensive weapons systems on credit.

Meanwhile, ministers in Sisi’s entourage pressed the American business community for more investments, but returned home without any new contracts. And despite Cairo’s persistent lobbying for Washington to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, the Trump administration took no such action.

Cairo, by contrast, responded coolly, expressing its “great concern” and urging the U.S. and Russia to cooperate in resolving the Syrian crisis. Egypt’s hedge isn’t surprising, of course: Sisi has deepened his country’s relationship with Russia in recent years through weapons purchases and joint military exercises, and he therefore can’t endorse an American attack on the Russian-backed Syrian regime. If tensions between the U.S. and Russia worsen over Syria, Sisi’s White House visit this past week might be the high point of his “new beginning” with Washington.

Read more at New York Daily News

More about: Egypt, General Sisi, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy

The Palestinian National Movement Has Reached a Point of Crisis

With Hamas having failed to achieve anything through several weeks of demonstrations and violence, and Mahmoud Abbas reduced to giving rambling anti-Semitic speeches, Palestinian aspirations seem to have hit a brick wall. Elliott Abrams explains:

[Neither] Fatah [nor] Hamas offers Palestinians a practical program for national independence. . . . [The current situation] leaves Palestinians high and dry, with no way forward at all. Whatever the criticism of the “occupation,” Israelis will certainly not abandon the West Bank to chaos or to a possible Hamas takeover. Today the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state is simply too dangerous to Israel and to Jordan to be contemplated. . . . There are only two other options. The first is the “one-state solution,” meaning union with Israel; but that is a nonstarter that Israel will reject no matter who is its prime minister. The other option is some kind of eventual link to Jordan.

In polite diplomatic society, and in Palestinian public discourse, such a link cannot be mentioned. But younger people who visit there, Palestinians have explained to me, can see a society that is half-Palestinian and functions as an independent nation with a working system of law and order. Jordanians travel freely, rarely suffer from terrorism, and [can vote in regular] elections, even if power is ultimately concentrated in the royal palace. The kingdom has close relations with all the Sunni states and the West, and is at peace with Israel.

The fundamental question all this raises is what, in 2018, is the nature and objective of Palestinian nationalism. Is the goal sovereignty at all costs, no matter how long it takes and even if it is increasingly divorced from peace, prosperity, and personal freedom? Is “steadfastness” [in refusing to compromise with Israel] the greatest Palestinian virtue now and forever? These questions cannot be debated in either Gaza or the West Bank. But as Israel celebrates 70 years and the “occupation” is now more than a half-century old, how much longer can they be delayed? . . .

The catastrophic mishandling of Palestinian affairs by generations of leaders from Haj Amin al-Husseini (the pro-Nazi mufti of the British Mandate period) to Yasir Arafat and now to Mahmoud Abbas has been the true Palestinian Nakba.

Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Jordan, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinians