The Administration’s National Security Strategy Shares Much, but Not Everything, with the Israeli Outlook

December’s official document outlining the overall U.S. approach to matters of security and international relations incudes a relatively short section on the Middle East. Shimon Arad analyzes the section and its implications for Israel:

In a distinct deparure from the perspective of the Obama administration, the document does not view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a major cause of the region’s problems. Nevertheless, the strategy reaffirms the Trump administration’s commitment to facilitating a comprehensive peace agreement, which it believes can serve the wider interest of promoting a favorable regional balance of power by increasing Israeli-Arab cooperation in confronting common threats. . . . [It also] breaks from the previous administration’s perception of Iran as part of the solution to regional instability, instead squarely defining Tehran as a major contributor to the region’s problems. American leadership is [now] working to contain and roll back Iran’s malign influence and nuclear ambitions. This is a primary Israeli interest. . . .

The strategy also marks a clear change in the way the U.S. administration understands Israel’s place in the region. Gone are the assumptions held by previous administrations that support for Israel comes with high costs from the Arab world, and that resolving the Palestinian conflict is key to improving U.S. standing in the region. This opens the way for Israel to play a more substantial role in advancing American interests in the Middle East. . . .

The Trump administration’s perception of Russia and China as global power rivals [also] needs to be appreciated by Israel at the regional level. While this perception is not far off from Israel’s own assessment of Russian and Chinese involvement in the region, Jerusalem must ensure that its dealings with these powers are transparent to, and coordinated with, the U.S. administration.

From Israel’s perspective, a major gap in the strategy is the lack of any reference to Hizballah. Though [it is a key instrument of] Iranian influence, Hizballah has developed into a significant regional player in its own right. The U.S. needs a clear policy toward Lebanon that explicitly addresses Hizballah’s domestic power and foreign interference.

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More about: Donald Trump, Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy, US-Israel relations

Palestinian Leaders Fight Economic Growth

Jan. 15 2019

This month, a new shopping mall opened in northeastern Jerusalem, easily accessible to most of the city’s Arab residents. Rami Levy, the supermarket magnate who owns the mall, already employs some 2,000 Israeli Arabs and Palestinians at his other stores, and the mall will no doubt bring more jobs to Arab Jerusalemites. But the leaders of the Palestinian Authority (PA) are railing against it, and one newspaper calls its opening “an economic catastrophe [nakba].” Bassam Tawil writes:

For [the PA president] Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah officials . . . the image of Palestinians and Jews working in harmony is loathsome. . . . Instead of welcoming the inauguration of the shopping mall for providing job opportunities to dozens of Palestinians and lower prices [to consumers], Fatah officials are taking about an Israeli plan to “undermine” the Palestinian economy. . . . The hundreds of Palestinians who flooded the new mall on its first day, however, seem to disagree with the grim picture painted by [these officials]. . . .

The campaign of incitement against Levy’s shopping mall began several months ago, as it was being built, and has continued until today. Now that the campaign has failed to prevent the opening of the mall, Fatah and its followers have turned to outright threats and violence. The threats are being directed toward Palestinian shoppers and Palestinian merchants who rented space in the new mall. On the day the mall was opened, Palestinians threw a number of firebombs at the compound, [which] could have injured or killed Palestinians. The [bomb-throwers], who are believed to be affiliated with Fatah, would rather see their own people dead than having fun or buying attractively-priced products at an Israeli mall.

By spearheading this campaign of incitement and intimidation, Abbas’s Fatah is again showing its true colors. How is it possible to imagine that Abbas or any of his Fatah lieutenants would ever make peace with Israel when they cannot even tolerate the idea of Palestinians and Jews working together for a simple common good? If a Palestinian who buys Israeli milk is a traitor in the eyes of Fatah, it is not difficult to imagine the fate of any Palestinian who would dare to discuss compromise with Israel.

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More about: East Jerusalem, Israeli Arabs, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian economy