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 Acceptance of Israel as the Jewish State Must Be a Prerequisite to Further Negotiations

Oct. 19 2018

In 1993, in the early days of the Oslo peace process, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) under Yasir Arafat accepted the “right of the state of Israel to exist in peace and security.” But neither it nor its heir, the Palestinians Authority, has ever accepted Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, or the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. Robert Barnidge explains why this distinction matters:

A Jewish state for the Jewish people, after all, was exactly what the [UN] General Assembly intended in November 1947 when it called for the partition of the Palestine Mandate into “the Arab state, the Jewish state, and the city of Jerusalem.”

Although the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state does not stand or fall on this resolution—in declaring the independence of Israel on the eve of the Sabbath on May 14, 1948, the Jewish People’s Council, [the precursor to the Israeli government], also stressed the Jewish people’s natural and historic rights—it reaffirms the legitimacy of Jewish national rights in (what was to become) the state of Israel.

The Palestinians have steadfastly refused to recognize Jewish self-determination. [Instead], the PLO [has been] playing a double game. . . . It is not simply that the PLO supported the General Assembly’s determination in 1975, rescinded in 1991, that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” It is that that the PLO leadership continues to speak of Jews as a religious community rather than a people, and of Zionism as a colonial usurper rather than the national liberation movement that it is.

The U.S. government, Barnidge concludes, “should demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel’s right to exist in peace and security as a Jewish state” and refuse to “press Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians unless and until that happens.”

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Peace Process, PLO, US-Israel relations, Yasir Arafat