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Don’t Make Excuses for Mahmoud Abbas’s Rantings

Jan. 18 2018

At a meeting of Palestinian officials on Sunday, Mahmoud Abbas gave a lengthy speech denying Jewish connections to the land of Israel, explaining Zionism and the Holocaust as part of a 400-year-old European colonial plot, and accusing Israel of poisoning Palestinians’ water. The obvious explanation for the oration, writes Eli Lake, is that Abbas was simply telling his audience what he believes. But some are not satisfied with such an explanation; they reason that “Abbas doesn’t really mean it,” and that the fault lies instead with President Donald Trump, whose actions have driven the Palestinian president to distraction and despair. Lake continues:

This is the interpretation of J Street, the Soros-family-funded advocacy group that touts itself as pro-peace and pro-Israel. A J Street statement . . . was careful to stipulate that [Abbas’s supposed] despair was “no excuse for calling into question either the Jewish connection to, or Palestinian recognition of, the state of Israel.” But let’s not lose the plot. This group asserts that Abbas would not have delivered his rant “if it were not for President Trump’s inept and disastrous missteps regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

J Street here is succumbing to a fallacy of international relations. Call it the prime-mover theory of geopolitics: there is always something America can or shouldn’t do that determines the behavior of its adversaries and allies. . . . But foreign affairs are never so simple as one cause having one effect. And this brings us back to Abbas. The eighty-two-year-old Palestinian leader certainly had reason to be disappointed with Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. He didn’t like Trump’s threats to cut off funding for the Palestinian Authority. But none of that quite explains a speech that wishes for the U.S. president’s house [or, more precisely, his family] to come to ruin, accuses Israel of exporting addictive drugs, and threatens to blacklist companies that do business in the West Bank and report their names to Interpol for bribery.

To explain this vitriol as purely a reaction to despair or hopelessness is to ignore recent history. Abbas was elevated to his position after George W. Bush asked the Palestinian people to elect leaders not tainted by terror. . . . Abbas [in fact] distinguished himself by delivering a brave speech calling for nonviolent resistance to occupation, when Arafat was praising the suicide bombers. The current Palestinian leader has been dining out on that speech now for fifteen years, while consistently rejecting peace offers and later [even] negotiations.

Read more at Bloomberg

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel & Zionism, J Street, Mahmoud Abbas

 

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