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Explaining the Fracas over President Trump’s Jerusalem Announcement

Dec. 11 2017

The White House’s official statement last week acknowledging the location of Israel’s capital unleashed a torrent of indignant reactions: from Palestinian politicians (“President Trump . . . made the biggest mistake of his life”), to European politicians (a “catastrophe,” according to the Swedish foreign minister, shortly before a group of thugs firebombed a synagogue in her country), and even from U.S. Democratic congressmen who had voted for resolutions calling for the president to relocate the American embassy to Jerusalem. Elliott Abrams, praising what he calls “a victory for common sense as well as for history,” analyzes the fuss:

So what explains the ridiculous overreaction? For someone like [the Democratic congresswoman Nancy] Pelosi, there’s a simple rule: never give Donald Trump credit for anything, period. For the Europeans, hatred of Trump combines with longstanding anti-Israel bias, especially in the foreign ministries. The many phony statements of regret and copious crocodile tears about possible forthcoming violence broadcast the clear hope that there would be plenty of rioting, just to prove Trump wrong. For Arab regimes, fearful of public sentiment that is always pro-Palestinian and often propelled by simple hatred of Jews, the path of least resistance and greatest safety was to denounce Trump’s move.

There will be violence if Arab rulers want violence, and very little if they want to stop it. The Palestinian Authority itself is the main exhibit here. It should be held responsible for violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank because its overreaction and its deliberate mischaracterizations of what Trump has done will fuel violence. When the PA closes schools—as it did the day following Trump’s remarks—so students can be free to riot, it is encouraging violence. . . .

What is the proper American response? To bow to threats of violence or to do what President Trump did and move forward? After all, when threats of violence and acts of violence are seen to change U.S. policy, there will be more of them. If, instead, they achieve nothing, there will be fewer of them. . . .

There is one additional reaction to Trump’s move that’s worth considering, even if it is silent and invisible. It is the reaction of leaders all around the world who will now take Trump’s promises more seriously. . . .So when next he makes a pledge or promise or threat, don’t you think Xi Jinping or Vladimir Putin or Ali Khamenei will think twice before dismissing it? Seems logical.

Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: Democrats, Donald Trump, Israel & Zionism, Jerusalem, Palestinians, US-Israel relations

How the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen