Why Donald Trump’s Peace Plan Might Accomplish What Others Have Not

July 20 2020

In an in-depth analysis of the last three decades of attempts to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict—informed in part by their own first-hand involvement during the George W. Bush administration—Douglas Feith and Lewis Libby explain why these efforts failed, often at significant cost of human life. Repeatedly, Palestinian leaders were rewarded for rejecting offers of territory, as each Israeli or American proposal was followed by a more generous one. The plan set forward by the Trump administration, however, deviates from that pattern:

An innovative feature [of the new U.S. plan] is the warning to the Palestinians that steadfast rejectionism will not give them victory, but further erode their position. In other words, time is not on their side, and it is not necessarily even neutral.

That idea is not just a theme of the peace plan; it is a message of the series of policy moves—on Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, and the West Bank settlements—that preceded the plan. Administration officials explained those moves as recognition of reality. They said, in effect, that they were dropping pretenses. Jerusalem has all along been Israel’s capital and the U.S. government will no longer ignore reality and pretend otherwise. The U.S. government will no longer view the Golan, for 50 years under Israeli control, as part of Syria. And it will no longer deny the reality or legitimacy of Israeli West Bank settlements and claim that the West Bank is “occupied territory” where Jews are not allowed to live.

The Trump team is saying that reality would be different now if all of Israel’s neighbors had made peace years ago, but some did not. New U.S. policies will no longer insulate Palestinians from the costs they incur by refusing to end the conflict. [President] Trump has thus set aside what had been a general principle of U.S. policy since 1967, that changes in the status of the West Bank should be made only through peace negotiations. Negotiated change, of course, would be preferable, but the Palestinians are being warned that, if they refuse to negotiate reasonably, Israel can improve its position, with U.S. backing

No one should hold his breath waiting for the Trump plan to produce a peace deal. Its principal themes, however, may have lasting influence for the good.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Peace Process, Trump Peace Plan


Leaked Emails Point to an Iranian Influence Operation That Reaches into the U.S. Government

Sept. 27 2023

As the negotiations leading up to the 2015 nuclear deal began in earnest, Tehran launched a major effort to cultivate support abroad for its positions, according to a report by Jay Solomon:

In the spring of 2014, senior Iranian Foreign Ministry officials initiated a quiet effort to bolster Tehran’s image and positions on global security issues—particularly its nuclear program—by building ties with a network of influential overseas academics and researchers. They called it the Iran Experts Initiative. The scope and scale of the IEI project has emerged in a large cache of Iranian government correspondence and emails.

The officials, working under the moderate President Hassan Rouhani, congratulated themselves on the impact of the initiative: at least three of the people on the Foreign Ministry’s list were, or became, top aides to Robert Malley, the Biden administration’s special envoy on Iran, who was placed on leave this June following the suspension of his security clearance.

In March of that year, writes Solomon, one of these officials reported that “he had gained support for the IEI from two young academics—Ariane Tabatabai and Dina Esfandiary—following a meeting with them in Prague.” And here the story becomes particularly worrisome:

Tabatabai currently serves in the Pentagon as the chief of staff for the assistant secretary of defense for special operations, a position that requires a U.S. government security clearance. She previously served as a diplomat on Malley’s Iran nuclear negotiating team after the Biden administration took office in 2021. Esfandiary is a senior advisor on the Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group, a think tank that Malley headed from 2018 to 2021.

Tabatabai . . . on at least two occasions checked in with Iran’s Foreign Ministry before attending policy events, according to the emails. She wrote to Mostafa Zahrani, [an Iranian scholar in close contact with the Foreign Ministry and involved in the IEI], in Farsi on June 27, 2014, to say she’d met Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal—a former ambassador to the U.S.—who expressed interest in working together and invited her to Saudi Arabia. She also said she’d been invited to attend a workshop on Iran’s nuclear program at Ben-Gurion University in Israel. . . .

Elissa Jobson, Crisis Group’s chief of advocacy, said the IEI was an “informal platform” that gave researchers from different organizations an opportunity to meet with IPIS and Iranian officials, and that it was supported financially by European institutions and one European government. She declined to name them.

Read more at Semafor

More about: Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Foreign policy