The U.S. Embassy Belongs in Israel’s Capital, and Always Has

March 7 2018

In 1995, Douglas Feith helped Senators Bob Dole and Jon Kyl draft a bill requiring the federal government to relocate its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Twenty-three years after the bill was passed—with overwhelming bipartisan majorities—the Trump administration has put plans in place to comply with the law. The arguments made by Feith in 1995 remain no less pertinent today:

Inasmuch as the essence of the Arab-Israeli conflict is legitimacy, the essence of the legitimacy issue is Israel’s right to sovereignty in Jerusalem. If Israelis do not have the right to sovereignty there, they can hardly justify sovereignty anywhere.

Jerusalem has been central to Jewish nationhood for 3,000 years. The Jews’ national movement, after all, is Zionism, Zion being Jerusalem. The Arabs understand this, too, which is why the importance of Jerusalem in Arab politics, diplomacy, philosophy, and literature increased as the struggle against Zionism intensified.

By relocating our embassy to Jerusalem, we would end our anomalous policy of refusing to recognize Israel’s sovereignty in its own capital. We would proclaim that Israel’s legitimacy in Zion is not an open question for us. This would signal that we expect all parties to the conflict—not just Israel—to pursue peace on the basis of realism.

In the ongoing Arab-Israeli negotiations, moving the embassy would not prejudice any issue that is actually open. . . . Across the political spectrum in Israel, [therefore], there is a profound commitment to retaining Jerusalem forever as the undivided capital. The cause of peace will be served by whatever helps persuade Yasir Arafat that he will not get American support or Israeli consent to divide Jerusalem and establish part of it as the capital of a new Arab state.

The necessary adjustment in expectations on the Arab side would be difficult and even painful. Passionate cries—and worse—would ensue, but in the end the process would be constructive.

Read more at New York Times

More about: Congress, Israel & Zionism, Jerusalem, Peace Process, US-Israel relations

To Undermine Russian and Iranian Influence in Syria, the U.S. Must Go on the Offensive

March 22 2018

When Iranian-lead, pro-Assad forces attacked U.S. allies in Syria last month, they found themselves quickly overwhelmed by American firepower. The incident, writes Tony Badran, makes clear that the U.S. has the capability to push back against the Damascus-Tehran-Moscow axis. By taking a more aggressive approach while working closely with Israel, Badran argues, Washington can at once prevent Russia and Iran from cementing their control of Syria and avoid getting drawn into a wider conflict:

Israeli assets can augment U.S. capabilities considerably. A few days after the skirmish in Deir Ezzour in February, Iran flew a drone into Israeli air space. Israel responded by destroying the Iranian command center at the Tiyas military air base near Palmyra, and then proceeded to bomb a large number of Iranian and Assad-regime targets. The episode again underscored the vulnerability of Iran, to say nothing of the brittle Assad regime. Close coordination with Israel to expand this ongoing targeting campaign against Iranian and Hizballah infrastructure, senior cadres, and logistical routes, and amplifying it with U.S. assets in the region, would have a devastating effect on Iran’s position in Syria.

By going on the offensive, the U.S. will also strengthen Israel’s hand with Russia, reducing Jerusalem’s need to petition the Kremlin and thereby diminishing Moscow’s ability to position itself as an arbiter on Israeli security. For instance, instead of haggling with Russia to obtain its commitment to keep Iran five or seven kilometers away from the Israeli border, the U.S. could adopt the Israeli position on Iran’s entrenchment in Syria and assist Israel in enforcing it. Such a posture would have a direct effect on another critical ally, Jordan, whose role is of high importance in southern Syria and in the U.S. zone in the east.

Assad and Iran are the scaffolding on which the Russian position stands. Targeting them, therefore, undercuts Moscow and reduces its leverage. By merely forcing Russia to respect Israeli and Jordanian needs on the border, the U.S. would undermine Russia’s attempt, more generally, to leverage its position in Syria to make headway into the U.S. alliance system. In addition to adopting a more offensive military posture, the U.S. should also intensify the economic chokehold on Assadist Syria.

Read more at Caravan

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy