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In Acknowledging the Reality about Jerusalem, the U.S. Helped the Cause of Peace

Dec. 13 2017

Belief is widespread in the Arab world that Jews have no claim—historical, political, or moral—to the city of Jerusalem, writes Haisam Hassanein, an Arab-American born in the Middle East. When Western leaders effectively pay lip service to that belief by refusing to recognize the city as Israel’s capital, they encourage the delusion that the Jewish state might vacate it entirely in a future peace deal. Thus, Hassanein contends, the longstanding U.S. policy of ambiguity has made the acceptance of such a deal less likely:

Based on my personal experience, I think U.S. policymakers over many years have been irrational, even deluded, to think that millions of Arabs—let alone Palestinians—will accept a peace settlement acknowledging Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state. The fact is, insisting upon this up front, laying this down as essentially non-negotiable, is the only chance the idea will ever get through their heads. . . .

We have heard all the talk about coming violence [that might occur] if and when the United States acknowledges Jerusalem as the capital of Israel—despite the fact that the U.S. Congress has repeatedly declared this to be the case.

The coming weeks and months will prove those warnings to have been overblown. Yes, there [has been] outrage and protests in some countries. But Arab governments criminalize free speech and the right to assemble. Any protests, violence, and rioting are likely to be staged or permitted by Arab governments to blackmail the U.S. policy community into following their views, which unfortunately previous U.S. administrations have tolerated. . . . Those who do protest [are] driven by a political agenda that denies Israel’s right to exist outright and are fundamentally hostile to the United States. . . .

Acknowledging Jerusalem as Israel’s capital just may be the necessary breath of fresh air we need: it will settle this issue, and if they want and need a state, Palestinians will have to move on to issues that truly deserve and demand negotiations.

Read more at New York Daily News

More about: Israel & Zionism, Jerusalem, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy, US-Israel relations

 

How Lebanon—and Hizballah—Conned and Humiliated Rex Tillerson

Feb. 21 2018

Last Thursday, the American secretary of state arrived in Beirut to express Washington’s continued support for the country’s government, which is now entirely aligned with Hizballah. His visit came shortly after Israel’s showdown with Hizballah’s Iranian protectors in Syria and amid repeated warnings from Jerusalem about the terrorist organization’s growing threat to Israeli security. To Tony Badran, Tillerson’s pronouncements regarding Lebanon have demonstrated the incoherence of the Trump administration’s policy:

[In Beirut], Tillerson was made to sit alone in a room with no American flag in sight and wait—as photographers took pictures and video—before Hizballah’s chief allies in Lebanon’s government, President Michel Aoun and his son-in-law the foreign minister, finally came out to greet him. Images of the U.S. secretary of state fidgeting in front of an empty chair were then broadcast across the Middle East to symbolize American impotence at a fateful moment for the region. . . .

Prior to heading to Beirut, Tillerson gave an interview to the American Arabic-language station al-Hurra, in which he emphasized that Hizballah was a terrorist organization, and that the United States expected cooperation from the “Lebanon government to deal very clearly and firmly with those activities undertaken by Lebanese Hizballah that are unacceptable to the rest of the world.” . . . But then, while in Jordan, Tillerson undermined any potential hints of firmness by reading from an entirely different script—one that encapsulates the confused nonsense that is U.S. Lebanon policy. Hizballah is “influenced by Iran,” Tillerson said. But, he added, “We also have to acknowledge the reality that they also are part of the political process in Lebanon”—which apparently makes being “influenced by Iran” and being a terrorist group OK. . . .

The reality on the ground in Lebanon, [however], is [that] Hizballah is not only a part of the Lebanese government, it controls it—along with all of the country’s illustrious “institutions,” including the Lebanese Armed Forces. . . .

[Meanwhile], Israel’s tactical Syria-focused approach to the growing threat on its borders has kept the peace so far, but it has come at a cost. For one thing, it does not address the broader strategic factor of Iran’s growing position in Syria, and it leaves Iran’s other regional headquarters in Lebanon untouched. Also, it sets a pace that is more suitable to Iran’s interests. The Iranians can absorb tactical strikes so long as they are able to consolidate their strategic position in Syria and Lebanon. Not only have the Iranians been able to fly a drone into Israel but also their allies and assets have made gains on the ground near the northern Golan and in Mount Hermon. As Iran’s position strengthens, and as Israel’s military and political hand weakens, the Israelis will soon be left with little choice other than to launch a devastating war.

To avoid that outcome, the United States needs to adjust its policy—and fast. Rather than leaving Israel to navigate around the Russians and go after Iran’s assets in Syria and Lebanon on its own, it should endorse Israel’s red lines regarding Iran in Syria, and amplify its campaign against Iranian assets. In addition, it should revise its Lebanon policy and end its investment in the Hizballah-controlled order there.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Politics & Current Affairs, Rex Tillerson, U.S. Foreign policy