Yes, Retain the U.S. Alliance with the Saudis—but Don’t Let Them Off Easy

Nov. 26 2018

Last week the president issued America’s official reaction to the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Ankara. He made clear that this crime, awful as it was, is not sufficient reason to override the strategic reasons for the U.S.-Saudi alliance. Elliott Abrams admires the administration’s commitment to Realpolitik, but only up to a point:

The problem with this analysis [presented by the Trump administration] is not that it is wrong, but that it posits only two options: abandoning Saudi Arabia or embracing it. A tougher Realpolitik approach would promote a third option: use this moment to push the Saudis to do some things we think they need to do that would benefit both the kingdom and the United States. . . .

[I]f the Trump administration’s view is that we should not break with Saudi Arabia (a view I share), then the next step is not to embrace Saudi Arabia but rather [to] specify to the Saudis what they need to do so that they will not be seen as “a repressive throwback to a dark age of the past” [as Richard Nixon put it long ago to a Chinese leader, urging him be more attentive to human rights]. Send the Saudi foreign minister to fix things with Canada. Figure out a way to release the blogger Raif Badawi and the female Saudi protesters who appear to have been badly abused since their arrests. Reunite the Gulf Cooperation Council, [which has been riven by a dispute between Saudi Arabia and Qatar]. . . .

The pure Realpolitik approach is not the one I favor, because I believe the moral element in U.S. foreign policy is critical to its success and to our international standing. But if the administration has decided on a realist approach, go all the way with it: demand a price in Saudi actions for the support we give.

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More about: Donald Trump, Human Rights, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy

Maintaining Security Cooperation with the PA Shouldn’t Require Ignoring Its Support for Terror

In accordance with legislation passed last year, the Israeli government has begun to deduct from the tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA) an amount proportional to what the PA pays to terrorists and their families. Last year, a similar law went into effect in the U.S., suspending all payments to the PA so long as it continues its “pay-for-slay” policy. The PA president, Mahmoud Abbas, has retaliated by refusing to accept any tax revenue collected by Israel—raising concerns that the PA will become insolvent and collapse—while insisting that payments to terrorists and their families are sacrosanct. To Yossi Kuperwasser, Abbas’s behavior amounts to mere extortion—which has already worked on the Europeans to the tune of 35 million euros. He urges Israel and the U.S. not to submit:

Abbas [believes] that influential Israeli and European circles, including the security establishment, view strengthening the Palestinian Authority, and certainly preventing its collapse, as being in Israel and Europe’s best interests. They will therefore give in to the pressure he exerts through the creation of an artificial economic crisis. . . .

[T]he PA leadership’s insistence on continuing wage payments to terrorists and their families, even at the price of an artificial economic crisis, shows once again that . . . the Oslo Accords did not reflect a substantive change in Palestinian national aspirations or in the methods employed to achieve them. . . . If paying wages to terrorists (including the many terrorists whose attacks took place after the Oslo Accords were in force) is the raison d’être for the PA’s establishment, as Abbas seems to be saying, . . . one cannot help asking whether Israel has to insist on maintaining the PA’s existence at any price.

True, Israel cooperates on security issues with the PA, but that serves the interests of both sides. . . . The short-term benefits Israel gains from this security cooperation, [however], are of less value than the benefits enjoyed by the Palestinians, and worth even less when measured against the long-term strategic damage resulting from Israel’s resigning itself to the constant incitement, the promotion of terror, and the political struggle against Israel carried out by the PA. Israel should not do anything to hasten the PA’s breakdown, because it has no desire to rule over the Palestinians and run their day to day lives, but it also should not feel more obligated to the PA’s continued existence than do the Palestinians themselves, thereby leaving itself open to continuous extortion.

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More about: Israeli Security, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror