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Israel in the Crosshairs of 2020 U.S. Presidential Election

{Previously published in the Jerusalem Post}

This year’s AIPAC convention faced the growing divide between the traditional pro-Israel Democratic base, which is still in the majority, and its growing anti-Israel wing.

Just as the upcoming Israeli election has shined a spotlight on the growing rift between segments of American and Israeli Jewry, the 2020 US Presidential election has highlighted the profound differences between some progressive and many mainstream Democratic members, especially those who see the Middle East as an essential American interest, and the security of Israel as a primary concern.

If you thought the divisive battle between Republicans and Democrats over the JCPOA (Iran nuclear agreement) was over, think again. Democrats and Republicans are about to go at it again over Obama’s foreign policy legacy, concluded in 2015, and withdrawn by Trump three years later.

According to Al Monitor, “Re-entry into the nuclear deal with Iran is fast becoming a litmus test for Democrats” in 2020. “No fewer than five declared candidates said they would rejoin the deal without preconditions.”

Where will Democrats who voted against the JCPOA stand, going forward? Will they be cowed by the rising anti-Israel base into choices of political expediency? Remember, in 2015, only 42 Senators were in favor of the Iran deal, which was never ratified by the Senate as a treaty.

Since politics is going to force us to consider the merits and failings of the JCPOA again, it’s time for a refresher course in what makes the JCPOA so contentious.

• Despite President Barack Obama’s assurances that the JCPOA would only be about Iran’s nuclear aspirations – while sanctions for Iran’s missiles development, human rights abuses, and its state support of terrorism would be pursued independent of the nuclear deal – the administration chose not to pursue any new sanctions or hold Iran accountable for its continued malevolent behavior, especially as the primary patron of the genocidal regime in Syria.

• The JCPOA outsourced compliance of the deal to the IAEA without any American inspectors, who unsurprisingly, never inspected a single Iranian military base, which is of course where the Iranian military performs its R&D for nuclear weapons.

• Despite assurances that the JCPOA would end Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons, the deal’s restrictions sunset over the next one to 15 years, literally guaranteeing Iran can become a nuclear power with international legitimacy at any time of its choosing.

• The deal actually allows Iran to continue advanced centrifuge research that even now could process enough uranium for a nuclear weapon in less than a year.

Senator Cory Booker, speaking in favor of the JCPOA, said the deal would be a “denuclearization of Iran,” while Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s spokesperson said the JCPOA was necessary “to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” These characterizations of the agreement were and are just plain false.

The other great divide between some progressive and pro-Israel Democrats revolves around the disputed Jewish communities in Area C, where 100% of Jews on the West Bank live, while 90% of Palestinian Arabs have lived in Areas A and B under Palestinian Authority control for 25 years.

THIS YEAR’S AIPAC convention faces the growing divide between the traditional pro-Israel Democratic base, which is still in the majority, and its growing anti-Israel wing, whose vocal opinions on Israel range from legitimate criticism to unapologetic BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) advocates, who challenge Israel’s very right to exist.

According to an editorial in the now-defunct New York Sun, “On Israel, the party leadership – Speaker Pelosi, Senator Schumer, the Clintons, Vice President Biden – have become trapped like deer in the headlights of the rising left-wing factions.”

Yet progressives like Mayor Bill De Blasio didn’t heed the calls of progressive groups like IfNotNow, which wants to destroy the highly popular Birthright trips for millennial Jews.

Anti-Israel animus would be a little less disgraceful if the same people also called for boycotts against the world’s true human rights abusers – Iran, China, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Russia, the Palestinian Authority – but instead focus exclusively on Israel, revealing something more sinister.

Many progressive members see any Israeli settlement over the Green Line as illegal. President Obama, just as he was leaving office, abstained from voting on one of the long line of anti-Israel UN resolutions, UNSC Resolution 2334, insinuating that he didn’t object to the proposition that any Jewish presence over the 1949 Armistice line is illegal, including the Western Wall, which the PA claims has no Jewish roots.

A non-politicized reading of international law that usually doesn’t see the light of day in our hyper-polarized climate, gives Israel a strong claim to legal rights over the Green Line. UNSC Resolution 242 made clear that Israel was never supposed to return to its indefensible ‘67 lines, as the territory acquired was in defensive wars, without a legal stakeholder.

Prof. Ruth Lapidoth, an expert in international law, said the “legislative history (of UNSC Res.242) calling for the complete withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from all the territories occupied in 1967 were rejected.”

Many members of the Progressive Caucus choose to ignore that Israel has offered multiple times between 92%-100% of the disputed territory to the Palestinians with land swaps. This was never accepted for the simple reason that most Palestinians think Israel has no right to exist in any entity as a non-indigenous people, while the PA never prepared its people for the hard choices for peace. It has chosen the path of all authoritarian regimes, scapegoating to deflect attention away from its own incompetence and corruption.

J Street, a Jewish progressive organization along with anti-Israel organizations like Code Pink and MoveOn took on the centrist AIPAC pro-Israel organization, demanding Democratic candidates not share a stage on which Netanyahu stood. It is one thing to profoundly disagree with his views, but the condemnation bordered on delegitimization of him, as the democratically elected leader of an ally, not a disagreement with his policies.

It is not too late to stem the tide. Going forward toward 2020, Democratic candidates who previously supported Israel need to step up and say unequivocally that Israel’s right to exist is not up for discussion, and America not only shares values with Israel, but American interests require a strong and secure Israel.

The writer is director of MEPIN™ (Middle East Political and Information Network™), and a regular contributor to The Jerusalem Post. MEPIN™ is Middle East research analysis read by members of Congress, their foreign policy advisers, MKs, journalists, and organizational leaders.

ANTISEMITISM: HOW WILL I KNOW IF I SEE IT?

{Previously published in The Jerusalem Post}

I was particularly struck by the profound concern and fear expressed by the high school-parents group, who shared with me a number of troubling incidents.

I recently gave a series of talks on BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), anti-Zionism, and antisemitism. I first spoke at a leading synagogue in Manhattan, then to a group of parents of high school and college students with children applying or already in college, and then to students at a local high school.

At the high school, I was confronted after my lecture by one of the teachers. He first told me, disingenuously, that he was “right-wing” on Israel. Then he proceeded to tell me that Israel ethnically wiped out all of the Palestinians, and Jews have no right to be there just because a few thousand years ago they lived there. Fortunately the majority of students were engaged and asked important questions. One young man couldn’t understand why it is antisemitic to be against Israel.

I was particularly struck by the profound concern and fear expressed by the high school-parents group, who shared with me a number of troubling incidents.

An Israel club was denied permission to form at a high school with a large Jewish population. Another parent told me that her son, who was attending one of New York’s most prestigious private schools, was given as an example during a writing exercise, of someone representing Israel’s supposedly egregious human rights abuses in Gaza. Other high school parents told me that when visiting prospective campuses, they were horrified to see the presence of BDS and an intimidating environment for Jewish students on campus.

I remember watching a UCLA non-Jewish college student, Lauren Rogers. She told her harrowing story about intimidation and administrative indifference after she was forced to defend herself before a university judicial committee. Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) charged Rogers with bias because she did not to vote to divest from Israel while on the UCLA student council. Her crime was visiting Israel with AJC’s educational program. This is BDS in action. A hostile climate toward Jewish students goes hand-in-hand with the level of SJP activity on campus.

There are plenty of safe spaces for every ethnic group on today’s college campus, with administrators bending over backwards to thwart every alleged micro-aggression there is – unless you are a Jewish student.

Prof. Deborah Lipstadt has said that people know antisemitism when they see it.

Let’s do an instructive exercise. Imagine what would have happened to a white male Congressman if he said everything Rep. Ilhan Omar said about Jews and Israel. He would definitely not have been treated with kid gloves. If he had, there would have been an uproar, with rallies in Washington. And all the cable news talking heads would be beside themselves with righteous indignation against right-wing antisemitism.

Fighting antisemitism would be politically correct for the moment, a weapon for political gain.

Let’s be clear, repeated antisemitic statements – ranging from dual loyalty to Jewish power to Jewish money to legitimizing a debate over Israel’s right to exist – are antisemitism.

Clouding the debate on antisemitism are the moral-equivalence arguments used by groups like J Street, which are blind to left-wing and Islamic antisemitism, and use a double standard for bigots from the Right than they do from the Left.

Illustrating the point, J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami said, “[We] made clear to lawmakers our concern that the timing of the resolution could be seen as singling out and focusing special condemnation on a Muslim woman of color, Rep. Ilhan Omar – implying that her insensitive comments somehow posed a greater threat than the torrent of hatred that the white-nationalist Right continues to level against Jews, Muslims, people of color and other vulnerable minorities.”

ALLOWING DEFENDERS of an antisemite to change the narrative by transforming an antisemite into a victim, simply because she is considered part of a minority or persecuted group, is unhealthy for our democracy. And by the way, if a Jewish person said the same things Ilhan Omar said, they too would be antisemitic. Antisemitism is not about being a Semite, it is about what you say about Jews and Israel.

Falsely claiming, as Elizabeth Warren did, that “branding criticism of Israel as automatically antisemitic has a chilling effect on our public discourse,” is not only blatantly untrue, but dangerous for our melting-pot society.

Bashing Israeli policies is a national sport for Israelis, as well as for American Jews, making a mockery of those who claim all defenders of Israel cry antisemitism for every criticism of Israeli policy. However, claiming Israel has no right to exist because it is a colonialist, apartheid, human-rights abuser crosses a line from legitimate criticism into antisemitism.

Boycotting all of Israel and having a double standard that you don’t apply to other nations is antisemitism. BDS is an antisemitic movement. Representatives Omar and Rashida Tlaib support BDS.

As UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, “Denial of Israel’s right to exist is antisemitism.”

And as the late Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “When people criticize Zionists they mean Jews, you are talking antisemitism.”

French President Macron said, “Anti-Zionism is one of the modern forms of antisemitism, behind the negation of Israel’s existence, what is hiding is hatred of Jews.”

In the Arab world, Israelis are simply called Jews.

Are you listening congresswomen?

A strong predictor for antisemitism on a college campus is the presence of BDS. The international definition of antisemitism adopted by the US, UK, Germany and many other countries, says delegitimizing, demonizing and having double standards targeting Israel are antisemitism.

Unfortunately, on our college campuses, supporters of Israel are told that they are not welcome to be part of the social justice movement, as it is completely incompatible with Zionism, a racist ideology. Israel is an oppressor and so it must be dehumanized.

BDS is the sword against the oppressor, so we must stand with the most victimized people on earth, the Palestinians. Ask a BDS supporter why Palestinians could have turned down having their own state five times over the last 70 years, and you will be screamed down on today’s college campus. BDS advocates claim it is their First Amendment right to scream so loud and so long to silence you, because any opinion other than theirs is evil by definition, especially the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state.

Just ask Palestinian human rights activist Bassem Eid, who was chased off the stage at the University of Chicago last year by SJP. His great offense was saying that we need to reconcile with our Israeli neighbors.

BDS is not about two states for two peoples. It is about the demographic destruction of Israel through the right of return, ending the colonization of Arab land (Dar el Islam).

Did you know that the Palestinian BDS national committee based in Ramallah coordinates BDS worldwide, and that it includes designated terrorist organizations?

Jonathan Schanzer, a former US Treasury official and a contributing expert for the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, explained during congressional testimony last year that former employees of Hamas-linked charities now work for the American Muslims for Palestine. It is the key sponsor for Students for Justice in Palestine, creating a toxic environment for Jewish students through talk of apartheid walls, intimidation of speakers, divestment resolutions, academic indifference, and professors refusing to write recommendations for students studying in Israel.

BDS is an antisemitic movement by its words and actions. Congresswomen Omar and Tlaib support BDS.

Antisemitism, now you know it when you see it.

The writer is the director of Middle East Political and Information Network (MEPIN), and a regular contributor to The Jerusalem Post and i24TV.

WILL AMERICA LEAVE THE GULF AS CHINA AND RUSSIA GAIN INFLUENCE?

{Previously published in The Jerusalem Post}

Some claim that this is finally the time to extricate the US from the Persian Gulf, as it is now oil independent and the region is not vital to US national security interests anymore.

There is a new reality in the Persian Gulf, which we ignore at our peril: the ascendancy of China and Russia, happily taking advantage of America’s withdrawal from the Middle East.

The long awaited American pivot to China may well begin in the Gulf, as the Chinese Belt and Road initiative is a significant challenge to America for global economic influence and dominance, and is a threat to the longstanding US international order.

Just this week, The Wall Street Journal reported that “Saudi Arabia is positioning itself as a partner in China’s massive Belt and Road initiative [as] Prince Mohammed signs [a] raft of deals.”

According to William C. Pacatte III writing in Defense 360, President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) “poses a significant long-term strategic threat to US interests… there is enough evidence to suggest that BRI is… more analogous to a neo-colonialist and imperialistic China, under the guise of an economic plan.”

Some claim that this is finally the time to extricate the US from the Persian Gulf, as it is now oil independent and the region is not vital to US national security interests anymore.

After speaking with US officials in the Gulf, I believe that when cooler heads prevail, those sitting 7,000 miles away in Washington will understand that America must stay engaged in the Gulf for our security interests by ensuring the continued stability of its Gulf allies, while securing the world’s energy supply. Instability in the energy supply chain could cause a profound economic reaction in the US economy.

The address for stability in the Middle East in not in Cairo, Damascus, or Baghdad anymore: it is in Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai, with their outsized political as well as economic influence.

Chinese and Russian political and economic efforts in the region threaten to pull our Gulf friends, in spite of their sharing our most important interests against Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood, into the arms of our Chinese and Russian adversaries.

Last fall, I spoke to the point person for the chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, who led a bipartisan effort to pass the Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development (BUILD) Act, a direct response to the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative which offers Asian and African countries loans and guarantees to slow down Chinese economic gains. Those senators should be credited with understanding the importance of counteracting Chinese entrenchment into vital zones of US influence.

Like their ways or not, the Saudi regime is the keystone of stability for the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and even Qatar. If we were to abandon US commitments which support that stability, there would be an upheaval destabilizing the whole Middle East. To resist Iran’s ambitions, the US needs the cooperation of the Gulf States.

For the time being, China is interested in economic advantages, but you don’t need to look into the future to understand that their new naval base in Djibouti, near the vital Bab-el-Mandeb strait on the road to the Suez Canal, is the forerunner of their global ambitions, causing much concern for US military planners.

Russia for its part has been pursuing a strategy to create daylight between Saudi Arabia and the other GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) members, undermining America’s interest in a strong GCC.

Unfortunately the US initiative for a Gulf NATO has been a failure, with a watered down version of shared military exercises taking its place.

Visiting the region, one finds that the tension between the Gulf states and Iran is at an all time high, while Trump’s decision to leave Syria, despite later backtracking, confirmed to the Gulf nations that America is a fickle friend.

The conservative Gulf is a riddle in transition, especially after the 2019 break between Qatar and its fellow Gulf states of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain. Oman and Kuwait, the other members of the GCC, would prefer reconciliation for their own interests, which the US administration would like to see.

Qatar is the one outlier, using its hosting of America’s Al Udeid Air Base as a hostage against being pushed by the US to distance itself from Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood. However, the Qatar air station is an important but not an indispensable base. The UAE can build an equally vital base on its own dime that would force Qatar to choose sides, or be devoured by its Iranian and Salafist friends.

THE CHINESE are moving into the region, and this can be witnessed by the UAE literally rolling out the red carpet for the visit of Chinese President Xi. Xi’s absolute control of China makes dealing with him much easier for the authoritarian GCC nations, than having to deal with the messy US political scene. The same can be said of Russian relations with the Gulf.

China is already Iran’s number one trading partner, and has signed tens of billion of dollars in deals from Saudi Arabia to Jordan and Oman. Russia has become the address for dealing with much of the Middle East and has relationships with every player.

None of this is in America’s interest, unless you are a Rand Paul isolationist.

The US must realize that the Gulf states are in a time of change, feeling more vulnerable due to the dangers of another Arab Winter, with the Muslim Brotherhood destabilizing their regimes.

Yet the US is still their preferred choice as a friend.

For the good news, the Gulf states are talking to the Israelis. These nations are traders, and they see Israel as a good partner, even now visiting Israel to scout out possibilities.

But in order for true change to occur, they must begin the hard process of changing the mindset of their citizens to begin a process of acceptance of the Jewish state. Small steps, like playing the Israeli national anthem at a Judo tournament in the Gulf, are a start.

Going forward, it is important for Congress to figure out how to influence Gulf state human rights abuses without destroying our vital relationship.

As a side benefit, this could also hold the key to improving Israel’s relationship with the Arab world, an important American interest, and forcing the next generation of Palestinians to choose economic advancement over their desire to destroy the Jewish state.

The author is the director of MEPIN™ (Middle East Political and Information Network™), and is a regular contributor to The Jerusalem Post and i24TV. MEPIN™ is a Middle East research analysis read by members of Congress, their foreign policy advisers, members of the Knesset, journalists and organizational leaders.

SPOTLIGHT ON MOSHE ‘BOGIE’ YA’ALON

{Previously published in The Jerusalem Post}

I had a long discussion this week with Moshe Ya’alon.

“Bogie” is a self-described defense hawk, whose strategic vision, especially regarding the dangers of Oslo and Sharon’s disengagement from Gaza, was prescient. When asked if he is on the Right or Left politically, he said he is not on either side, but only for what is right for Israel.

In 2015 when Ya’alon was still defense minister, I had the opportunity to speak with some members of the opposition parties, including Yesh Atid and the Zionist Union, about Ya’alon. The consensus said they might agree or disagree with his position on an issue, but they knew they could trust him to keep his word and be an honest partner.

He is not the most charismatic political leader, as he reminded me that modern democratic leaders don’t wear glasses and have much more hair than he does. He said Harry Truman was the last leader he can remember who wore glasses. His self-effacing personal warmth is clearly present in person, but less appreciable by those who have seen him only on TV.

He stands out in one respect that is as rare as hen’s teeth among politicians – honesty and integrity. Add to that a keen insight with a strong Jewish moral compass, and you have an unusual description of a political leader in the 21st century.


I have spoken with Ya’alon at length before, but never when he was the political leader of a party, now a joint party with Benny Gantz. So why did he choose to align himself with Gantz’s party, as there were other suitors for his talents and security credentials?

He said he surveyed the political landscape and was most comfortable with Gantz’s integrity, realizing it is not about who leads the top of the ticket, but what is best for the Israeli people. He said that anyone who challenges Netanyahu’s monarchy is portrayed as a leftist, an epithet he says the prime minister uses to delegitimize his adversaries.

Although senior to Gantz, who served under him in the IDF, Ya’alon has no trouble being No. 2, and would consider becoming defense minister again, if asked. He has publicly called for another popular former IDF chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, to join the team, but when pressed about other politicians joining, such as Yair Lapid, he preferred not to speculate.

It should be remembered that Ya’alon did coauthor an op-ed with Lapid last July titled “Will the West Cede the Golan Heights to a Psychopath?” It called on the US to begin the process of recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Recent polls have shown that if Gantz, Ya’alon, Ashkenazi and Lapid form a coalition, it could oust the long-reigning Likud grip on power, replacing Netanyahu, which up until now seemed unlikely.

Ya’alon came to the conclusion a couple of years ago that Netanyahu should resign, because of his interference in the government’s procurement of submarines and frigates from Germany. At first he didn’t understand why Netanyahu was bypassing the usual process for purchasing billions of dollars in armaments by not bringing it to the cabinet, but when he understood that there were serious conflicts of interests involving his associates, he asked Netanyahu to resign for the good of the country and the rule of law.

Although Netanyahu has a range of alleged corruption charges against him, Ya’alon spoke about the submarine case involving the German manufacturer ThyssenKrupp, and the allegation that Netanyahu’s personal attorney David Shimron used his relationship with the prime minister for financial gain. Police have claimed there is enough evidence to charge Shimron with money laundering. As for Netanyahu, Ya’alon has previously stated that there was no way that Netanyahu didn’t know.

Ya’alon choose to leave the Netanyahu government when he was replaced as defense minister rather than accept the offer to become foreign minister, which would have left him as the likely heir apparent, if the prime minister were to be forced to resign over his alleged corruption.

I asked Ya’alon if Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit would indict Netanyahu before the election; he said doesn’t know, but he did say that he trusts the attorney-general.

WE MOVED on to his true area of expertise, the security of the State of Israel.

When asked who is Israel’s No. 1 threat, he said Iran. On this he agrees with Netanyahu.

We first discussed the proposed American withdrawal from Syria, which he said was a poor decision. It is not so much about boots on the ground as it is the abandonment of the Kurds. He said that the previous American president, Barack Obama, who withdrew from the region (Iraq), was forced to return to fight ISIS, which was a consequence of that poor decision.

He said President Donald Trump should learn a lesson from his predecessor’s mistake. It is important for America to be involved in the region for its own interests. Ya’alon said, just look around: Except in Israel, all the governments in the region are under stress, from Amman to Cairo to Riyadh, and a withdrawal of American forces would destabilize the region.

When asked about the population transfer in southern Syria orchestrated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and Hezbollah, placing a permanent hostile force on Israel’s Syrian border, he responded by saying Israel has a very strong destructive power that has and will keep Iran in check. Up until now, it has not allowed advanced weapons or permanent Iranian bases to remain undamaged. A future defense minister Ya’alon would have to deal with a permanently entrenched Iranian presence in Syria.



Ya’alon took Netanyahu to task for his new strategy to publicly claim every Syrian strike with video as an open provocation that serves no purpose, but in fact removes the helpful façade of plausible deniability that had restrained Iranian and Syrian responses. He said this was done only for Netanyahu’s political advantage, not for Israel’s strategic benefit.

What about the new Russian S-300 antimissile system, which the Russians gave to Syria, after Syria mistakenly shot down a Russian aircraft – will the Russians use this system against Israel?

Ya’alon said the Russians and Israel are not on the same page in Syria; we are not even in the same book. However, they are a dominant power in control, with influence on Israel’s enemies. He said we have open lines of communication with them, and they have worked until now, hopefully also in the future.

So why did they give the S-300 missile system to the Syrians? According to Ya’alon, it is another card that Russia played that could be used against Israel for leverage in any future negotiations.

On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, what about the collapse of security cooperation between Israel and the PA, due to the loss of American funding because of the Taylor Force Act, and the Palestinian fear that accepting American money opens them up to American lawsuits for complicity in terrorism?

According to Ya’alon, it is in the Palestinians’ interest, with or without funding, to continue the security coordination with Israel. If the Palestinians stop coordinating with Israeli security, they know that the likely outcome will be the same as what happened to them in Gaza after the Israeli withdrawal – a total Hamas takeover.

Right now Israel performs 70% of the security operations for the Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria (West Bank), while the Palestinian security forces do 30% of the work. He says it is definitely a challenge for the cooperation to continue without funding, but on principle, terrorists and their families cannot be rewarded with funding, as it encourages and promotes more terrorism. He also had harsh words for UNRWA as a corrupt and complicit international organization.

I mentioned that American Jews want to know if he is for a two-state solution. Ya’alon said the two-state solution is something that is not possible at this time, because the Palestinians cannot even accept Israel’s right to exist. In the meantime, he would like to give them more autonomy, separate from them, and would consider giving up some additional territory, if it serves Israel’s purpose for calm, as long as it does not affect Israeli security.

What about the Qatari money to Hamas? He disagrees with Netanyahu’s approach of giving millions in a lump sum and trusting that international organizations will not let Hamas siphon off money for terrorism. Ya’alon says there is experience in transferring funds to banks that can be withdrawn only by noncombat civil servants with proper IDs, which he believes is a better although not perfect option to buy calm in Gaza.

WE NEXT touched on the relations between Israel and its Diaspora Jewish population, many of whom are critical of Israel. Ya’alon said we must be more tolerant of, and sensitive to, our Diaspora brothers’ Jewish religious practice, as Israel is the homeland of all the Jewish people.

What about Israel’s minority population, many whom call themselves Palestinian citizens of Israel, and whose narrative is now aligned with Palestinians of the West Bank?

Regarding Israeli Arabs, Ya’alon wants to integrate them more and says they would like that, but for the malevolent role their political leaders play, which he believes hurts their genuine aspirations to be part of the state. He wants these Palestinian citizens of Israel to be required to do civil service and believes most would want this, despite what their political leaders say.

As for domestic and socioeconomic issues, Ya’alon has previously spoken about leading the fight against racism and sexism in society, and has said the Nation-State Law should be nullified, as it has done damage to the country. 

What you see is what you get with Ya’alon: something refreshing in a world of cynicism, where one expects the worst of elected leaders.


The author is the director of the Middle East Political and Information Network and a regular contributor to The Jerusalem Post.



AMERICAN JEWS AND THE UPCOMING ISRAELI ELECTION

But do American Jews know the difference between Bibi, Bogie, Benny and Bugie?

{Previously published by The Jerusalem Post}

Israelis will go to the polls this spring to cast their ballots for a myriad of competing parties, one of which will then be asked to try to stitch together an unruly coalition, highlighting how very democratic and disorderly Israel’s parliamentary system is. This is not necessarily the best system for a nation that is in a constant state of war.

American Jews of all stripes are also gearing up to support or demonize their preferred or hated candidates and parties. Actually, it is not so different from what Israelis do themselves. But in the age of US President Donald Trump, where Israelis generally appreciate his support if not his style, many American Jews viscerally hate anything he does, even if it’s something in their interest.

But do American Jews know the difference between Bibi, Bogie, Benny and Bugie? 

Leaving aside the funny nicknames, this is a deadly serious question as Americans want to weigh in on this pivotal election, while the growing Iranian menace threatens Israel from three sides, and Trump plans to announce a peace plan right after the election, which some in the know say might involve some difficult or even unacceptable demands on Israel.

What are the effects, in Israel, in the US, and the rest of the world, of the perceived opinions of American Jewry?

What could be worse for Israel’s international reputation than to have it perceived that the Jews of America on the whole believe the nation; the people of Israel are the intransient party and deserve to be punished?

Weighing in on the Israeli election from 8,000 kilometers away highlights the conflicting perspectives of the 21st century’s two largest Jewish populations.

If Israel is the home of the Jewish people, should American Jews deserve a voice, if not a vote, and be taken seriously? If American Jews don’t put their children in harm’s way, how much should their concerns be considered? After all, it is Israelis who have to live with the consequences.

Yossi Klein Halevi, in a Moment Magazine interview, said that the divide between the communities was inevitable. 

”Israelis live in the most dangerous… neighborhood in the world; American Jews live in the most hospitable environment that Jews have ever lived in… Too many American Jews speak of ending the occupation as if Israel were an island in the South Pacific… not a miniscule country surrounded by some of the most lethal terrorist groups in the world… For Israelis, the essential element is Jewish solidarity and self-protection. For American Jewish liberals, it’s empathy for the other, especially the oppressed.”

American Jews are overwhelming liberal, live in economic and physical security, and haven’t changed their political affiliations despite their changing socio-economic status over generations. Israelis, on the other hand, were much more liberal 25 years ago during the euphoric but illusory days after the Oslo Accord.

All that changed for Israelis with the Second Intifada, as they shifted to the center and right. Even after the Intifada subsided, those still hoping for a reasonable Palestinian partner were disabused of the idea when Abbas refused to even respond to Olmert’s offer of 100% of the disputed territory with land swaps.

American Jews who didn’t suffer the physical and emotional consequences of the Second Intifada didn’t shift their perspective, remaining convinced that this conflict is still simply about territory and an occupation, victimizer and victim. Today many still judge Israel as the primary intransient party, as though this is still 1995.

American Jews do not understand that for most Israelis, security will be their primary concern when they go to the ballot box, not pluralism, even if they abhor the disproportionate influence of ultra-Orthodoxy.

As important as socioeconomic issues are to Israelis – and they are – they take second place to life-and-death security concerns in a society where every citizen is supposed to serve in the armed forces. In America, 1.4% of women and 13.4% of men have ever served in the military, a humbling difference.

When Israelis go to vote, they must balance lives that respect their Jewish values, but can never forget they live in a neighborhood where the weak are slaughtered and the world turns a blind eye to genocide. That is the reality they live in, and which too many Americans ignore. It explains to some extent why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has endured for so long.

Americans who are interested in the upcoming Israeli election will read about it in their own echo chambers that reinforce their pre-determined points of view, rarely challenging ourselves with different opinions, usually dismissing them because they come from non-trusted sources. 
American liberal Jews will read Haaretz and The New York Times, listen to NPR, watch MSMBC/ CNN and think they know what is really happening in the fistfight of the upcoming April election. Meanwhile, American conservatives will read National Review, the editorials of the Wall Street Journal, watch Fox and think they have all the answers.

From so far away, when American towns and cities are not in the crosshairs of Hamas, Iran and Hezbollah, it is easy to pontificate and give advice to Israelis, claiming your objective perspective and harsh medicine are needed for Israel’s benefit. Some even claim to be pro-Israel, rationalizing that boycotting products from Judea and Samaria (West Bank) is for Israel’s own benefit, while ignoring the incessant and unrelenting Jew hatred from Israel’s erstwhile peace partners.

This is the reality for far too many American Jews, who weigh in and think they know all about the Middle East. They tell me that this is what they have heard from their rabbis, who heard it first hand from Rabbis for Human Rights, or a speaker from J Street, an NGO that claims Israel is not a democracy, or have visited Ramallah with a trip organized by a group like Breaking the Silence, to listen to PA officials who claim it is all the occupation, not their incitement and kleptocracy.

Let’s be clear… Israel has thrown kerosene into the fire of civil relations between the communities by not figuring out some way to respect American Jewish religious denominations, allowing the ultra-Orthodox to disenfranchise the largest Diaspora Jewish community in the world. 

Israelis seem unaware that American Jewish organizations are vital for their security interests by educating members of Congress about the role of Israel as a bulwark of American national security.

Which brings us to the upcoming Israeli election.

Too many American Jews cannot differentiate between Netanyahu, his policies and the State of Israel. They wouldn’t say America doesn’t have a right exist because they hate Trump; we organize and vote for an alternative in the next election. 

But they are angry that the Israeli people have continued to support their current government, so they advocate “tough love” things like BDS that would do serious damage to the nation of Israel. 

When the world’s major forces decide whether or not to throw Israel under the bus, economically or militarily, it does matter what are perceived to be the voices of American Jewry, too often saying that Israel deserves or needs to be punished.

Netanyahu may lose, be indicted, or win, but Israel will remain the democratic nation of the Jewish people long after his political life expires. So to all American Jews across the political spectrum, if you don’t like an Israeli candidate or a government policy, please speak out loud and clear. But don’t mistake a party or candidate for Israel the country, joining those who want to delegitimize Israel the nation. 
Too many American Jews don’t seem to mind throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

The author is the director of Middle East Political and Information Network™ (MEPIN™), and is a regular contributor to The Jerusalem Post. MEPIN™ is a Middle East research analysis read by members of Congress, their foreign policy advisers, members of the Knesset, journalists, and organizational leaders.

Will America Reevaluate Ties with Turkey as Part of Middle East Vision?

Will America Reevaluate Ties with Turkey as Part of Middle East Vision?

Does the administration also realize that Turkey under Erdogan is no different from the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology that Sisi overthrew?

America’s reinvigorated role in the Middle East,” laid out a new American vision in sharp contrast to President Barack Obama’s speech 10 years ago.

Pompeo described Obama’s vision as distancing America away from its traditional allies, Israel and the Sunni Gulf States, his goal being a path to a new relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran that culminated with the JCPOA (Iran Nuclear Deal). Notably absent from Pompeo’s speech was any mention of Turkey as an American ally.

How significant this speech will be as a turning point in America’s engagement with its allies and adversaries in the region remains to be seen. According to the New York Times, Pompeo “vowed to increase the pressure until Iran halts… its ‘malign activities’ throughout the Mideast.” Critics have claimed the speech lacked details and was hyper-partisan.

Although National Security Advisor John Bolton and Pompeo mean what they say, it is ultimately the commander in chief who will decide American policy. One speech will not reassure America’s allies in the region, especially after the president decided to take the advice of President Erdogan of Turkey over his own foreign policy team regarding withdrawal of US troops from Syria.

The continued mixed messaging, even after Bolton said the Syrian policy had changed to a conditional withdrawal, has left allies unsure whether they can rely on US assurances in planning for their future security. Keeping your enemies guessing is a legitimate strategy, but it is unhelpful to do that to your allies and your own foreign policy advisers.

In his Cairo speech, Pompeo said, “We grossly underestimated the tenacity and viciousness of radical Islamism,” while praising Egyptian President Sisi for confronting this threat.

But this begs the question; does the administration also realize that Turkey under Erdogan is no different from the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology that Sisi overthrew?

Clearly, Iran is enemy number one for this administration, but how concerned is the President about Turkey’s nearly twenty-year Islamist rule that has been undermining our security interests?

As Tom Rogan wrote in the Washington Examiner, “Where Turkey was once a reliable Eurasian center for free trade, the rule of law and secular democracy, Erdogan has built an Islamist authoritarian state driven by corrupt patronage… At present, Turkey is extracting the benefits of its alliance with America without any responsibility.”

Trump Expected To Propose Weakening Obama-era Wetland Protections



Erdogan may feel immune to any consequences for his behavior, because he believes the United States needs Turkey as a counterweight to Syrian President Assad, and to reign in ISIS and al-Qaeda aligned militias.

SO DOES a president who values transactional negotiations see Erdogan as a friend, an enemy or something in between, a frenemy?


Erdogan’s public humiliation of Bolton and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Dunford, by canceling their scheduled meeting, was a slap in the face to America. Perhaps it should be the tipping point to re-evaluate the stability and reliability of the relationship.


Getting this relationship right is crucial for stability in the region. Turkey has the second largest armed force in NATO, houses a pivotal but not vital American air base in Incirlik, is a crucial part of the production line for America’s next generation F-35 fighter, yet still desires to purchase the Russian S-400 anti-missile system. If Turkey incorporates a Russian system into NATO defenses, this relationship’s status will rise to the level of a crisis for American security.

In theory, Turkey as a Sunni state should be helpful in confronting Iran, a Shi’ite state, that like Turkey harbors grandiose desires to control the whole Middle East. But Turkey has gotten into bed with Russia and Iran, whose primary goal is to undermine American interests. Turkey has also pledged to destroy America’s only true ally in Syria, the YPG Kurds.

Pompeo said, “President Trump has reversed our willful blindness to the danger of the (Iranian) regime and withdrew from the failed nuclear deal, with its false promises.”

The question going forward is, will the president end our “willful blindness” to the dangers of an Islamist Turkey?

Trump needs to tell Erdogan that it’s time for Turkey to choose which side it is on, and act accordingly.

The author is the director of MEPIN™ (Middle East Political and Information Network™), and is a regular contributor to The Jerusalem Post. MEPIN™ is a Middle East research analysis read by members of Congress, foreign policy advisers, Knesset members, journalists and organizational leaders.

Cautionary Tales: Sound Strategies in the Levant

{Previously published in The Jerusalem Post}

What can Israelis and Americans learn from the past, even acknowledging that fighting the last war is a prescription for poor policy going forward?

Israeli elections are just four months away. Which Israeli politicians can be trusted to keep their word? Who will tell you the difficult truths that may upset your most cherished desire to live in peace with your neighbor? Learning from the past is a good way to begin.

In his memoir, In Defense of Israel, former defense minister Moshe Arens wrote that within days of turning over the Defense Ministry to newly elected prime minister Ehud Barak in 2000, he “preemptively” withdrew from southern Lebanon. “His betrayal of the SLA [South Lebanon Army] and the unilateral withdrawal of the IDF… was interpreted in the Arab world as a sign of weakness and brought on the Second Intifada… It did not bring an end to Hezbollah activity against Israel and was followed by the Second Lebanon War.”

At the turn of the millennium, war-weary Israelis had lost too many of their boys. They were without a clear plan of exit after 18 years of disappointments and failures, and the leadership hadn’t articulated a clear vision going forward. They expected the newly elected prime minister to fulfill his campaign promise and disengage from Lebanon, although not necessarily in the dark of night, abandoning friends to the wolves of Shi’ite Jihadism. The logic was, if Israel had no presence in Lebanon and there was were no territorial conflict with Hezbollah, then the world would take Israel’s side if hostilities, aggression, and terrorism again emanated from Israel’s northern border.

The best of intentions, the worst of results. 

Within short order Israel’s most decorated military hero was turned out of office and replaced by one of its most right-wing politicians, who contrary to his previous actions and rhetoric over the preceding 40 years, unilaterally withdrew from the mother of all quagmires, the Gaza Strip.

The best of intentions, the worst of results. What can Israelis and Americans learn from the past, even acknowledging that fighting the last war is a prescription for poor policy going forward?

Here is a primer: What do the following have in common? The withdrawal from Lebanon; the Gaza disengagement; abandoning Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan and Syria in favor of Iraq and Turkey; America’s withdrawal from Iraq, fulfilling Obama’s promise to bring US troops home; Israel inviting an unrepentant and defeated PLO into Gaza and the territories in its quest for a lasting peace; the American recommendation that Israel trade the Golan Heights to Hafez Assad for peace; trusting that Israel’s strong relationship with Iran in the ‘70s and with Turkey in the ‘90s would stand the test of time; trusting international promises to ensure Israel’s security in Lebanon in 2006 and Egypt in 1967; and believing the Arab Spring would lead to a more democratic and stable Middle East.
All were made or hoped for with the best of intentions, but at best, led to unpredictable, unexpected and usually much worse results than the previous status quo.

LET’S ANALYZE the results and see how well they matched up with well thought-out intentions and expectations from some of our leading politicians and thinkers.

1. An Iranian-controlled Hezbollah permanently entrenched in Lebanon with the Lebanese government beholden to a terrorist organization.

2. A permanent Hamas terrorist base with 2 million human shields in Gaza perpetually threatening hundreds of thousands of Israeli civilians.

3. An Iraqi Kurdish nation – that was a loyal ally to America – feeling betrayed, which sent a message to American allies around the world that they too can be forsaken.

4. A loyal Syrian Kurdish army that lead the fight against Daesh, now abandoned and forced to make deals with America’s enemies; Russia, Iran and Syria.

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5. A vacuum formed by president Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq after the surge of 2011 that helped create the Islamic State.

6. The marginalization of indigenous Palestinians post-Oslo with the imposition of Arafat’s corrupt and terrorist-oriented Palestine Liberation Organization that guaranteed the path to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be a much higher hill to climb.

7. An Arab Spring that quickly turned to winter; that abandoned a friendly, authoritarian dictator; that led not to democracy but instead empowered the leading center of anti-Western Islamism – the Muslim Brotherhood – while creating the conditions for the Syrian civil war and permanent Iranian entrenchment in the Levant

8. An impotent international force in Lebanon that has never stopped a single Iranian weapons delivery to Hezbollah.

ALL OF this brings us to the best of intentions of Commanders for Israel’s Security, former leading generals and members of the security establishment whose laudable goal is to extricate Israel from the Palestinians, but whose strategy is “not contingent upon the existence of a [Palestinian] partner

continued IDF control over the West Bank until a permanent status agreement is reached.” 
Is this possible or realistic?

The common expression of the Left is that you have to negotiate with your enemies. But what if your enemies won’t negotiate with you? Can you disengage or create a unilateral divorce and still remain secure, setting the stage for a lasting Palestinian peace?


The goal of a sustainable Jewish majority faithful to its democratic nature is consistent with the goal of the vast majority of both Israeli and Diaspora Jews. But is that possible when the vast majority of your Palestinian adversary overwhelmingly believes you have no right to exist as a Jewish entity in even a centimeter of the land, because the Jews are an illegitimate Western colonial outpost invading Dar al-Islam (lands that are irredeemably Muslim)?

How does one square the circle of lasting security, disengagement and legitimate Israeli rights beyond the Green Line with an adversary that won’t negotiate, who leads the BDS movement to delegitimize your very existence, and in this century turned down 100% of the “occupied” land with swaps, east Jerusalem as their capital, and continued Muslim control of the Temple Mount?

Strategists know the wrong formula in the Middle East is to appear weak and that poor policies are made of naiveté, abandoning allies, unilateral withdrawals without something tangible and lasting in return, and the dangers of trusting that relationships even with current allies will stand the test of time.

That is why Israel knows it must be self-sufficient and not rely for its security on the guarantees of other nations. This is part of the reason Israel is such a strong ally of America, not being asked to put its soldiers in harm’s way. This does not mean not having and creating new diplomatic relationships, but never relying upon them in the shifting sands of the Middle East as a core part of your survival. 

The best path forward as Israel embarks upon its election season is honesty and managing expectations with your constituents, and maintaining strength. This is what is respected in the Middle East. And if you want to empower and allow your Palestinian partners ever to concede anything even for a limited armistice, figure out a way for them to keep their honor (an insight of Micah Goodman in Catch-67: The Left, the Right, and the Legacy of the Six-Day War), while never losing sight that you must remain in complete control of your security.

The writer is the director of MEPIN™ (Middle East Political and Information Network™) and a regular contributor to The Jerusalem Post and i24TV. 

Khashoggi Affair Forces US to Reevaluate its Saudi Relationship

{Previously published in The Jerusalem Post}

So which is it? Is Saudi Arabia an indispensable American ally, or is it less indispensable now that America is oil independent?
The Khashoggi affair has prompted the reevaluation of America foreign policy in the Middle East where realism, interests and American values collide. This is an opportunity to take a fresh look at our relationships with the Sunni Gulf States, as we confront the challenge of an aggressive Shi’ite Iran.  

Is Saudi Arabia still an essential American ally?  

Karen Elliott House, commenting in The Wall Street Journal, said, “The (Khashoggi) controversy begs a larger question: Does Saudi Arabia still matter to the US? The surprising answer is: not much.”   Yet according to Michael Pregent, writing in Foreign Policy, “While Tehran continues to sow anti-American terrorism across the Middle East, Riyadh holds the key to regional stability.”   So which is it? Is Saudi Arabia an indispensable American ally, or is it less indispensable now that America is oil independent?  

Michael Doran and Tony Badran of the Hudson Institute and Foundation for Defense of Democracies respectively, wrote in The New York Times, “Whatever Prince Mohammed’s faults may be, he actively supports the American regional order that the Iranians openly seek to destroy. Mr. Trump’s critics are asking us to believe that the priority for stabilizing the Middle East today is distancing the United States from one of its oldest allies and instead working to achieve a balance of power between Riyadh and Tehran.”  

That hits the nail on the head, as Saudi Arabia’s importance as a counterweight to Iranian hegemony has eclipsed in importance its energy resources. It is indeed in America’s interest to foster stability in the regime, as any instability would embolden the Iranians and its proxies. No matter how illiberal this monarchy is, what could follow if the House of Saud collapsed could be ISIS on steroids.   

There is blatant hypocrisy where those who are outraged by the killing f one Jamal Khashoggi and want to undermine the American relationship with the Saudis, are the same people who have been leading the charge to stop treating the Iranian regime as an enemy of us and of our humanitarian values. Iran’s many years of state sponsorship of terrorism, its role in the Syrian genocide and ethnic cleansing of Sunnis, and repression of disagreement within Iran don’t raise the same ire they have for Saudi Arabia. John Bradley, writing in The Spectator last year, said we should “Forget our misguided friendship with Saudi Arabia: Iran is our natural ally. Wahhabism… is the gravest threat to Western security and values.”

  He does have a point. The Sunni Gulf States’ support for exporting this most intolerant form of Sunni Islamism (Wahhabism) has irredeemably radicalized nuclear-armed Pakistan, Pakistanis in England, and even convicts in the American prison system. Yet, sadly, every American administration for the last century has chosen economic interests over any value-based foreign policy in dealing with the Gulf.   Hal Brands, the Henry Kissinger Professor at Johns Hopkins Advanced International Studies, wrote in Bloomberg that the Khashoggi “crisis has also revived a much older dilemma in American strategy: How to deal with allies that also happen to morally abhorrent, even murderous, dictatorships.”  

Let’s be clear, we should strive for a foreign policy based on our American values. But in reality, to advance our interests, we are forced to deal with an Arab world that does not share our value system or have respect for Western democratic ideals. This is not condescension, but it is something that must be acknowledged in order to create a realistic American foreign policy going forward.  

America cannot simply slap the wrist of the Saudis, as the Khashoggi fiasco has crossed a line we cannot ignore. A temporary suspension of arms shipments is a likely possibility among many options. It must be made clear to the Crown Prince (MBS) that we can only be a reliable ally if he doesn’t cross our red lines. An important first step is better communication at the highest levels on a regular basis.  

But we would do well to remember the words of former UN Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick in her famous article “Dictators and Double Standards” in Commentary. “Traditional authoritarian governments are less repressive than revolutionary autocracies … and that they are more compatible with US interests.”

Although the words were written nearly 40 years ago, they apply to today. Authoritarian regimes like the conservative Persian Gulf states are more aligned to our security interests than revolutionary jihadists like Iran, where ideology and hatred of the West outweigh economic benefits. America held its nose and aligned with the evil Stalin in World War II to confront the greater danger of Nazism. Once that menace was eradicated, the US confronted Communism in a 45-year Cold War that we also won.   
Being aligned over shared interests is by its nature temporary; only democracies can have true lasting friendships. However, in the Middle East, other than Israel, there are no democracies, only authoritarian and revolutionary regimes to choose from.  

America for its interests, not values, needs to repair its relationship with Saudis. Five years from now we may take a different path, but for now the Iranians are America’s greatest strategic challenge in the Middle East and the Saudis do share our common interest against Iran.  

America for the moment has some leverage on the Saudis, and now would be the time to trade a rehabilitation of MSB for a more open relationship with Israel beyond secretive intelligence and security coordination. 

  In addition, now is the time to use that leverage to restrain the Saudis’ export of radical Wahhabism. Although incredibly important, this is a heavy lift for the royal family that has been in cahoots with the Wahhabi clerics for decades, but a small change is possible if MBS is to return to his Vision 2030 strategy for a more modernized monarchy.  

We rehabilitated the Saudis after 9/11; we should be able to again post-Khashoggi. It is certainly uncomfortable for our values to deal with any of these regimes, but it is pretty clearly in our interest in this case. 

  Swallow hard, this is the Middle East.  

The writer, director of the Middle East Political Information Network, regularly briefs Senate and House members and their foreign policy advisors. He is a regular columnist for The Jerusalem Post, and a contributor to i24TV, The Hill and The Forward.

HOW ISRAEL’S CHOICES FOR GAZA AFFECT AMERICAN PLANS IN THE MIDDLE EAST

{Previously published in the Jerusalem Post}

According to Avi Issacharoff writing in The Times of Israel, Israel has already lost the Fourth Gaza War. Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar “has not only managed to score military and diplomatic victories, but can even claim to have likely brought about the end of Netanyahu’s government.” 

A positive spin would see a Hamas victory as possibly giving them political cover to accept a longer-term ceasefire, much as Sadat was able to claim success after the 1973 war before reconciling with Israel. Make no mistake, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Hamas is an American-designated terrorist entity that will never accept a Jewish state, but Israeli and American interests may be served if its claim to victory delays the next war, giving Israel and America some more years of quiet before Israel has to “mow the grass” again. Unfortunately, the more likely assessment is that Hamas will see their victory as evidence of Israeli weakness, encouraging them to be aggressive sooner rather than later.

For America, the first fact we need to be clear about is that the agenda of radical Islamist ideology will continue to trump the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people. Economic incentives or sanctions will not alter Hamas’ goal. After years of incitement against Israel, the people of Gaza would still re-elect a radical Islamist government over the corrupt Palestinian Authority.

Israel has no apparent military answer for Gaza, despite the Israeli public being in favor of a significant operation against Hamas to end the constant threat of missiles that have made life intolerable for Israelis living in the South in a perpetual state of traumatic stress.

Senior Likud official Tzachi Hanegbi was forced to apologize this week for publicly stating the unspoken truth that within the government and IDF leadership, Gaza’s conflict is considered a “minor” and non-existential threat, as long as life goes on in the Tel Aviv bubble. 

We hear from Israeli politicians like former defense minister Avigdor Lieberman and Jewish Home Party leader Naphtali Bennett, whose call to war is more calculated to influencing voters before the next election, but whose demand that their government protect its citizens from the constant threat of mortars is completely reasonable. 

So then why is Israel not contemplating a full-scale invasion to remove Hamas from Gaza once and for all? Why is the IDF so leery about conquering Gaza?

1. Logistics: Within the dense urban networks are miles of advanced tunnels crisscrossing Gaza with booby-trapped civilian structures set as traps to kidnap Israeli soldiers.

2. Lawyers and Proportionality: Israeli commanders may fear lawyers more than Hamas. Israeli lawyers will be embedded within all levels of the IDF, perpetually second-guessing every operation, knowing every Palestinian civilian killed will be part of the evidence used against Israel at the ICC (International Criminal Court). The army’s hands will be tied as it tries to fight a terrorist entity that uses human shields as canon fodder, and hospitals and schools as forward bases of operations. Israeli lawyers will also be dealing with the politicized definition of proportionality where Israel will be accused of disproportionality if more Palestinians are killed than Israelis.

3. Keeping the Eye on the True Existential Threat: According to David Makovsky of the Washington Institute, “Many senior security officials see Gaza as a distraction from Israel’s primary military challenge: keeping Iran from entrenching a Hezbollah-style military infrastructure in Syria. 

Former Military Intelligence head and National Security adviser Maj.-Gen. Yaakov Amidror said, “A war in Gaza will only benefit [PA President] Abu Mazen and Iran, and we don’t want to give Iran any gifts.”

4. Nation Building With a Hostile Neighbor: The last thing the IDF wants to do after defeating Hamas is control and provide for two million Gazans who have been indoctrinated to blame Israel for all of their ills. Just think of Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon from 1982 to 2000 after the Second Lebanon War, except this time with much more dangerous possibilities.

So what happens the day after Israel “wins”?

Does Israel hand Gaza over to the Palestinian Authority (PA) as many American foreign policy advisers advocate? If it did, Gaza could turn into an even more chaotic territory where Iran and Turkey would support an Islamist insurgency, while Israel supports an unpopular Palestinian Authority who will be portrayed as Jewish collaborators without the support of the Gazan people.

That new reality in Gaza may also be a lightning strike destabilizing the West Bank and Jordan, empowering jihadists to ramp up terrorism while challenging both the PA and the Hashemite monarchy, a pillar of any American peace plan. A domino effect could also motivate Iran to unleash Hezbollah in the north, while it enjoys weakening Israel in a new proxy war in Gaza.

Some American Middle East experts say the end game would include Egypt, or a consortium of Arab states working with the Palestinian Authority. Unfortunately no Arab nation wants any part of Gaza, knowing it is a basket case that will cause political repercussions with its own citizens.

Egypt has enough on its hands with al-Qaida in the Sinai and chaos next store in Libya. All Egypt wants from its enemy Hamas is for it to stop supporting the jihadists in the Sinai. The Saudis do not want to be involved in another Yemeni proxy war with Iran in Gaza, and Israel would never allow Qatar or Turkey into Gaza, knowing that both are in cahoots with Iran.

So where does that leave us?

“Cutting the grass” every few years, unless Hamas steps over a red line such as hitting a school bus full of children, or incinerating a kindergarten. That would automatically elicit an overwhelming Israeli response where Israel might finally take the fateful decision to take Hamas out of Gaza.

Then the law of unintended consequences will rear its ugly head.

The writer, a regular contributor to The Jerusalem Post, is the director of MEPIN™ (Middle East Political and Information Network™), a Middle East research analysis read by members of Congress, their foreign policy advisers, members of the Knesset, journalists and organizational leaders.

AFTER PITTSBURGH, TIME TO HAVE A CONVERSATION ABOUT ANTISEMITISM TODAY

{Previously published in The Jerusalem Post}

After Pittsburgh, it seems that the pendulum has swung and Jews fear that America has changed.

For years I have given talks at universities, professional organizations, churches, and synagogues, and would recite FBI statistics of American hate crimes. Almost all audiences were shocked to learn that in regard to religiously motivated hate crimes, including the most recent 2016 statistics, Jews were targeted more than twice as often as Muslims, and three times as often as blacks. My aim was not to frighten, but rather to educate Americans who seem to believe that due to the lack of reporting on antisemitism – Islamophobia is the predominant threat.

After Pittsburgh, it seems that the pendulum has swung and Jews fear that America has changed. Jewish communal institutions are wondering if they will now have to be armed to the teeth as they are in Europe. But is this simply an overreaction?

In the aftermath of the Pittsburgh massacre, the media has focused on a report by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which cite a 57% increase in antisemitic incidents which news organizations have blamed on US President Donald Trump. But are we dealing with fact or fiction?

According to Adam Kirsch in The Wall Street Journal and Jonathan Tobin in the New York Post, this figure is misleading, as the 57% rise was due to threats from a single mentally disturbed Israeli teenager who threatened countless Jewish institutions. Until he was identified as the culprit, the media overwhelmingly blamed white supremacists.

When one removes this disproportionate factor, “antisemitic assaults actually decreased by almost half” in 2017. One act of hate is one too many, but it seems the statistic has been used to advance an agenda that sees right wing hatred of Jews as the only form of antisemitism in America. Far too many use the tragic events to score political points even before the dead were buried. We should fight Nazi right wing antisemitism with all our strength, but it isn’t the most dangerous form of antisemitism in the US, and certainly not in the world.

Despite the fact that around 10-14% of Americans harbor antisemitic views, my impression of my fellow Americans hasn’t changed; they are overwhelmingly tolerant and accepting of Jews of all walks of life.

It is wonderful that so many Jews and gentiles came together for the AJC’s #ShowUpShabbat to show solidarity against antisemitism and hatred against anyone, but America even after the Pittsburgh massacre is still the safest place for a Jew living in the Diaspora anytime in the last 2000 years. Assimilation and intermarriage are far greater threats to Jews in the US than antisemitism.

We first need to understand contemporary antisemitism in all its forms, and not allow Pittsburgh to completely define today’s antisemitic challenges. We need to ask; does everyone stand against all forms of antisemitism, or only against the sickness from the neo-Nazi radical right?

WHAT IS antisemitism in 2018?

Antisemitism is hatred of Jews. Despite the tragedy of Pittsburgh, the worst incident of antisemitic violence in America to date, it is dwarfed in magnitude by hatred of Jews throughout the world, which is found in almost every Islamic society. Classic European antisemitism as well as anti-Zionism are alive and well in almost every Muslim capital in the world, yet Jews in America choose to ignore it.

In the 21st Century, antisemitism’s most virulent form is the hatred of the Jew among nations, Israel. It is a pandemic that infects European elites, the majority of Muslim nations, the racist Louis Farrakhan who is supported by the leaders of the Women’s March on Washington, and even by some fringe Jews like Jewish Voice for Peace, which acts as a cover for antisemites who are accused of antisemitism.

In the US it is most evident on colleges campuses where Jewish students are intimidated for supporting Israel and receive little support from university administrations. There are no safe spaces for Jewish students, and they seem to be treated differently than other targets of hateful speech and acts because they are Zionists.

According to Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, contemporary antisemitism began at the UN 2001 Durban Conference that united “radical Islamists with human rights NGO’s, the right wing and the left wing against a common enemy, the State of Israel.”

As the Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents, Malcolm Hoenlein said, “I hate Israel instead of I hate Jews does not cover up the fact that both mean the same thing.”

The founder of Human Rights Watch, Robert Bernstein said that antisemitism is “deeply ingrained and institutionalized” in Arab nations in modern times,” while Harvard professor Ruth Wisse said, “antisemitism  and anti- Zionism has been the cornerstone of pan-Arab politics since the Second World War.” According to Josef Joffe of Newsweek, antisemitism in the Arab world is “as much part of the Arab life today as the hijab or the hookah…in the Arab world, Jew hatred remains culturally endemic.”

SO THE QUESTION we must ask is, who is in more danger from 21st century antisemitism, American or Israeli Jews?

To an objective observer, the Jews of Israel are in far more danger, due to a combination of diplomatic antisemitism of the UN that is singlehandedly trying to destroy the state of Israel by demonization and delegitimization, to the physical threats of annihilation from Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas.

The claim that anti-Zionism is not antisemitism doesn’t hold water. This is the antisemitism which Jewish students face on college campuses from pro-Palestinian organizations. The US State Department’s definition of antisemitism makes it clear that if you claim the existence of the State of Israel is a racist endeavor, apply a double standard requiring certain Israeli behavior which is not demanded of other nations, use symbols like Jews drinking the blood of Palestinian children, or draw comparisons of Israel to Nazis – that is antisemitism.

Both the far right and left give succor to dehumanizing Jews. The progressive media darling Linda Sarsour, one of the leaders of the Women’s March said, we must “dehumanize the oppressor (Israel).” Yet too many mainstream politicians and organizations have no qualms about being associated with her. She says feminists cannot be Zionists, yet few question why she is silent about misogyny in the Muslim world. Political correctness regarding antisemitism must end in the US.

We need to fight antisemitism everywhere, in America, in Europe, at the UN and South America. But there are seven million Jews living in Israel that are truly in the crosshairs of antisemites. They are Iranians, Syrians, and Palestinians, whose words and actions have been the very definition of hatred of Jews.

You cannot be against antisemitism if you are only against right wing antisemitism, or if you only care about it if it occurs in the US. Let’s stand together and fight all forms of antisemitism and stop using it for a political advantage.

The writer is the director of MEPIN, the Middle East Political Information Network. Dr. Mandel regularly briefs members of the Senate, House, and their foreign policy advisors. He is a regular columnist for The Jerusalem Post, and a contributor to i24TV, The Hill, and The Forward.