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.

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

The Struggle for Iraq, and What It Means for Israel

Oct. 17 2018

Almost immediately after the 2003 invasion, Iraq became a battleground between the U.S. and Iran, as the latter sent troops, money, and arms to foment and support an insurgency. The war on Islamic State, along with the Obama administration’s effort to align itself with the Islamic Republic, led to a temporary truce, but also gave Tehran-backed militias a great deal of power. Iran has also established a major conduit of supplies through Iraq to support its efforts in Syria. Meanwhile, it is hard to say if the recent elections have brought a government to Baghdad that will be pro-American or pro-Iranian. Eldad Shavit and Raz Zimmt comment how these developments might affect Israel:

Although statements by the U.S. administration have addressed Iran’s overall activity in the region, they appear to emphasize the potential for confrontation in Iraq. First and foremost, this [emphasis] stems from the U.S. perception of this arena as posing the greatest danger, in light of the extensive presence of U.S. military and civilian personnel operating throughout the country, and in light of past experience, which saw many American soldiers attacked by Shiite militias under Iranian supervision. The American media have reported that U.S. intelligence possesses information indicating that the Shiite militias and other elements under Iranian auspices intend to carry out attacks against American targets and interests. . . .

In light of Iran’s intensifying confrontation with the United States and its mounting economic crisis, Tehran finds it essential to maintain its influence in Iraq, particularly in the event of a future clash with the United States. The Iranian leadership has striven to send a message of deterrence to the United States regarding the implications of a military clash. . . .

A recently published report also indicates that Iran transferred ballistic missiles to the Shiite militias it supports in Iraq. Although Iran has denied this report, it might indeed attempt to transfer advanced military equipment to the Shiite militias in order to improve their capabilities in the event of a military confrontation between Iran and the United States and/or Israel, or a confrontation between [the militias] and the central government in Baghdad.

From Israel’s perspective, after years when the Iraqi arena received little attention from Israeli decision makers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman have mentioned the possibility of Israel’s taking action against Iranian targets in Iraq. In this context, and particularly in light of the possibility that Iraq could become an arena of greater conflict between the United States and Iran, it is critical that there be full coordination between Israel and the United States. This is of particular importance due to [the American estimation of] stability in Iraq as a major element of the the campaign against Islamic State, which, though declared a success, is not yet complete.

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More about: Barack Obama, Iran, Iraq, ISIS, Israel & Zionism, U.S. Foreign policy