Category Archives: Israel

Prophetic vs. Protective American Jews: What Constitutes ‘Pro-Israel’?

(Previously published in The Jerusalem Post)

Prophetic pro-Israel Jews need to be more realistic about Israel’s security concerns.

I recently listened to a sermon by Elliot Cosgrove, a leading Conservative rabbi in New York who spoke about the tension that exists between those who judge Israel through the lens of Prophetic Judaism, and Protective Jews who are primarily concerned with defending Israel from its legions of enemies.* Prophetic Judaism emphasizes its perception of injustices perpetrated by Israel against its minority citizens, and fancying themselves to be like the biblical prophets, its proponents cry out against Israeli leaders who don’t share their Progressive Prophetic political agenda.

For Prophetic Jews, pro-Israel support is conditional on Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, often minimizing Israel’s security challenges and ignoring its offer of peace over the past 68 years.

Protective Jews see Israel fighting for its survival against 400 million Arab Muslims, so many of whom are suckled on antisemitism, praying for the end of the Jewish state. Protective American Jews defer security choices to the Israeli electorate, who have to live and sometimes die with the consequences of their actions.

Of course one should be both a moral and a pragmatic Israel supporter, but this dichotomy is real and needs to be addressed. If Israel is to maintain its American-Jewish support in the 21st century, the two groups need to find common ground for the good of the Jewish state, and Judaism in America.

So how does that tension play out? What does it mean for Israel to be a light unto the nations, surviving the efforts to annihilate it in such a noble way that it remains the embodiment of Jewish values? The Prophetic groups criticize IDF actions, and wring their hands over the poverty of the Palestinians, but are silent about the cultivation of hatred directed at Jews, and silent about the corrupt political, economic and legal institutions of the Palestinians that keep them impoverished.

Unfortunately many Prophetic groups define Israel with the broad brush of isolated negative anecdotes and egregious behavior that is the exception, not the norm.

Prophetic groups don’t see the hypocrisy in receiving money from foreign governments whose agenda is to delegitimize Israel and support her enemies. They too often fail to denounce Palestinian behavior like glorifying martyrs who kill Jewish civilians, or even rationalize attacks against Israel as the desperate attempts of an oppressed people, a very non-prophetic moral equivalence.

Israel’s raucous Knesset is called anti-democratic by many Prophetic groups, yet they ignore Israel’s toleration for Arab MKs who support the destruction of the state, something that would never happen in the American Congress.

Israel’s ultra-Orthodox monopoly of the Chief Rabbinate is a serious problem that rightly upsets Prophetic and Protective Jews. It must be addressed for the health of the American-Israeli relationship.

However the claim that it has already destroyed a democratic Israel isn’t true by a long shot.

Full-time criticism of Israel is the MO of groups like Peace Now, Breaking the Silence, J Street and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP).

Earlier this year I spoke to the head of one of those Prophetic groups, Rabbis for Human Rights. When I recommended that his case for Palestinian rights would be more persuasive if he balanced his position by also advocating for Israeli human rights against incitement and attacks on Jewish civilians, he told me that was not the purpose of his organization.

So is this group really a Prophetic group, or is it a pro-Palestinian group masquerading as pro-Israel group? Breaking the Silence travels the world detailing alleged abuses by Israeli soldiers.

Its agenda includes support of boycott groups that want to end Israel as we know it.

Shouldn’t it be described simply as a pro-Palestinian organization? JVP’s real agenda, according to NGO Monitor, is to create “a wedge” within the American Jewish community, while working toward the goal of eliminating US economic, military and political aid to Israel.

When J Street said it could not say “who was right or who was wrong” during Israel’s last war against Hamas, weren’t they more pro-Palestinian than a Prophetic pro-Israel organization? So the real question is, can you balance security concerns and remain faithful to Jewish values? Of course you can, and you should.

Mainstream pro-Israel organizations like AIPAC and AJC balance the security challenges Israel faces, while remaining faithful to Jewish values.

They do not ignore the plight of innocent Palestinians, but they first and foremost are defenders of the only democracy in the Middle East, the only true ally of the United States in the region, and the only Jewish state in the world.

Prophetic pro-Israel Jews need to be more realistic about Israel’s security concerns.

They need to advocate for Israel’s right to defend itself from those who believe Israel doesn’t have a right to be a Jewish state in any part of the land, while remaining true to its Prophetic Jewish values, which true Protective lovers of Israel share.

*Rabbi Cosgrove referenced Stephen M. Cohen’s article “Prophets and Protectors of Israel” as the inspiration for his sermon.

The author is the director of MEPIN™. He regularly briefs members of Congress, their foreign policy advisers, members of the Knesset and journalists. He regularly briefs Congress on issues related to the Middle East.

Is Path Forward a Revised Arab Peace Initiative?

(Previously published in The Jerusalem Post)

In 2002 Saudi Arabia proposed the Arab Peace Initiative (API), which seemed at first to promise an end to the Arab world’s rejection of Israel, and a path to resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Initially it appeared that full normalization of relations between Israel and the Arab world was being offered.

Unfortunately, “full normalization” evolved into “normal relations,” which then became almost meaningless as Adil al-Jubayr, the Saudi ambassador to the US, then said normalization would happen only after the achievement of peace.

This allowed the Palestinian leadership to hold a veto over any initiative and the chance of advancing Israeli-Sunni Arab relations.

What started as a dramatic possibility turned into a take-it-or-leave-it offer. It insisted Israel return to the indefensible 1949 armistice line, i.e. 1967 line, while guaranteeing an unlimited right of return for descendants of Arab refuges, i.e. the demographic destruction of Israel.

But times change, and there may be a real opportunity now.

Over the past 16 years Israel has participated in five wars, while the Arab Winter of 2011 upended the legitimacy of the arbitrarily chosen Sykes-Picot borders.

American interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan were replaced by retreat, and Islamists of all stripes filled the resulting power vacuums. Meanwhile, the ill-conceived JCPOA (Iran deal) has given the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism the green light for a nuclear bomb with full international approval in 10-15 years, and access to billions for its war chest. Meanwhile, Palestinians are so disgusted with the Palestinian Authority’s pervasive corruption that Hamas has seemed to many a better choice.

Which brings us to a golden window of opportunity that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

The Obama administration’s gift to the Iranians is a dark cloud with the following silver lining: Shi’ite Iran’s threats are directed not just at America and Israel, but also at Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab states that are in Iran’s path of aggression.

Israel and the Saudi monarchy have been unofficially cooperating on a number of security issues for the past few years. There have been a few public handshakes – previously unthinkable – between present and former Israeli and Saudi leaders (Saudi prince Turki al-Faisal).

As Lesley Terris of IDC Herzliya wrote in The Jerusalem Post earlier this year, The API “deserves serious consideration because a process based on a document endorsed and supported by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and… the Arab League would enjoy legitimacy in large parts of the Muslim and Arab world.”

So the magic question is, can the 2002/2007 API be tweaked to create a document that will allow all parties to save face, and bring the relationship into the public and diplomatic sphere? A simple document can state up-front that all issues are not going to be resolved immediately, but that it is the basis for an immediate process of normalization of relations between the parties so that they can work together.

Here are some ideas.

  1. Negotiations will be based on UN resolutions 242 and 181. This would allow both sides to move forward without imposing the indefensible Green Line as the final offer on borders.
  1. An Israeli gesture allowing 5,000 Arab refugees from 1948 immediate entrance into Israel, or compensation.

This symbolic gesture would acknowledge the hardships of Palestinians, while at the same time make clear that the deal-breaking UNWRA definition of refugees as descendants of refugees, unique to Palestinian refugees, cannot be on the table.

  1. Normal diplomatic and commercial relations, with embassies opened in the second phase of negotiations. America can sweeten the pot with preferred trade agreements for Arab states that sign onto the revised API.
  1. The issue of the Golan Heights and Jerusalem will be deferred due to regional realities.

A simple document could transform the region.

Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will be coming to visit members of the Senate and House Foreign Relations Council. He has already shown great foresight in his vision to restructure the future Saudi Arabian economy away from its reliance on oil revenue. He and his security establishment know that if anyone is going to oust the Saudi regime and lay waste to or nuke their country, it’s Iran waving a Shi’ite banner, not Israel or the US.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog recently revealed that he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have had many recent discussions over the API, and no doubt could join a unity government if this moves forward.

Unfortunately the myopic Obama administration foreign policy team believes any new initiatives are deliberate plans to sabotage the president’s foreign policy legacy.

It is time for the American Congress to come to the rescue, to take a leading role in forging foreign policy initiatives.

For far to long the legislative branch of the American government has avoided its constitutional responsibilities on foreign policy, allowing presidents of both parties too much executive overreach in foreign affairs.

We should call on respective chairmen of the Senate and House foreign relations committees, Senator Bob Corker and Congressman Ed Royce, and ranking members Senator Ben Cardin and Congressman Eliot Engel, to take up the mantle of forging regional Middle East stability, while promoting American national security interests.

The author is the director of MEPIN™.

He regularly briefs members of Congress, their foreign policy advisers, members of the Knesset and journalists on issues related to the Middle East.

Can a ‘Pro-Israel’ Progressive Still Ignore SJP’s True Agenda?

(Previously published in The Jerusalem Post)

How does the anti-Zionist Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) that traffics in anti-Semitic boycott advocacy, become so popular on US college campuses? Until recently, my talks on campus were a mixture of Middle East history, Iranian nuclear proliferation, the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, with a smattering of warnings about the growing boycott movement. This year and last, almost all of the invitations to speak were from students and parents desperately trying to understand and combat the intimidation of Jewish students by the boycott movement, while college administrators ignore the growing anti-Semitism on many campuses.

Why are SJP’s hateful message and its efforts to deny other people’s free speech by disrupting events not abhorrent to academics, or journalistic elites in mainstream media? Last year I accidentally stumbled into an SJP strategy session before I was to speak at a college campus, and heard them considering their options of whether to shout me down or just ask hostile questions.

When did anti-Semitism under the cover of anti-Zionism become acceptable on the American campus, while all other minority or marginalized groups receive the extra protection of “safe spaces” from politically incorrect “micro-aggressions”? There is a perfect storm on the 21st century campus. The far Left’s cultural relativism and moral equivalence have coalesced and joined the ascendancy of the anti-Israel advocacy within academia.

Hypocrisy abounds, as progressive professors protected by their free speech and tenure willingly collaborate with groups whose misogyny and human rights abuses they should find sickening. They rationalize that suppressing another’s free speech is itself a form of free speech, as long as it is directed only at Jews who want to defend Israel’s right to exist.

The creation and funding of anti-Zionist advocacy began in the Seventies with the oil largesse of Wahhabi Gulf States, which purchased the advocacy of our best universities by endowing what are now the lopsidedly anti-Israel Middle East studies departments. Our children live in a toxic academic environment where challenging the conventional wisdom of Palestinian victimhood could get you a D- or the loss of your “Facebook friends” for being politically incorrect.

Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) exposed the true nature of SJP and its associations in April and May of this year. He testified before Congress about SJP funding and its associations before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, and the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa. Schanzer previously served as a terrorism finance analyst for the Department of the Treasury.

Schanzer found that Berkeley professor Hatem Bazian, one of the founders of SJP, has had strong associations with Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood front organizations in America.

According to Caroline Glick, “Bazian formed American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), whose leadership held key positions at the Holy Land Foundation, KindHearts, and the Islamic Association for Palestine. These groups and their employees transferred millions of dollars to al-Qaida, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad.

Although Schanzer could find no indication that AMP is continuing its predecessor’s practice of sending funds to foreign terrorist groups, he demonstrated how the heir of Hamas-USA now directs the BDS movement. Through AMP, they control SJP.”

Schanzer said, “AMP is… a leading driver of the BDS campaign (and) arguably the most important sponsor and organizer for Students for Justice in Palestine, which is the most visible arm of the BDS campaign on campuses in the United States.”

These are groups you should not associate yourself with if you claim to be pro-Israel, even if you believe settlements over the Green Line are a primary cause of the conflict. SJP is not about two states for two peoples.

From their co-founder Omar Bargouti on down, they are against the State of Israel’s existence. The claim that giving a stage to every anti-Israel opinion will lead to a true dialogue and somehow produce a constructive path to end the conflict defies logic.

This is not about criticizing critics of Israel or about the two-state solution; this is about giving a platform to those who want you gone or dead Perhaps none of this should be a surprise.

BDS supporters now sit on the mainstream Democratic Party platform committee, nominated by Israel’s harsh critic Bernie Sanders, the false messiah of millennials, brainwashed with politically correct advocacy education from our institutions of higher learning. In 2014 Cornell West wrote that the crimes of Hamas “pale in the face of the US supported Israeli slaughters of innocent civilians.”

The tide is turning against Israel within one segment of a mainstream American political party, while radical hate groups poison the minds of college students. For far too long too many mainstream Jewish organizations have only paid lip service to the growing BDS threat, or minimized its potential impact. Nothing could be more dangerous.

It’s time for pro-Israel organizations to actually work together to effectively oppose BDS on American campuses.

And it’s time for pro-Israel Jewish philanthropists to threaten to withhold financial support of universities that foster an atmosphere of intolerance and intimidation for Jewish students who identify with and advocate for Israel.

The author is the director of MEPIN™. He regularly briefs members of Congress, their foreign policy advisers, members of the Knesset, and journalists.

Will Free Speech on Israel Survive Progressive Censorship?

(Previously published in The Jerusalem Post)

Jewish liberals and activists from the ACLU defended the Nazis’ right to march and display the swastika as a form of free speech.

I remember, from my younger days, the controversies over the proposed Nazi march in Skokie Illinois in 1978. Skokie was a Jewish suburb of Chicago, with a high concentration of survivors of the Shoah. The Nazi march was specifically chosen to take place in this Jewish suburb, to outrage, intimidate, and gain notoriety for their odious genocidal agenda.

Unlike post-World War II Europe that chose to deal with Nazism by outlawing it and imposing criminal penalties for using or promoting Nazi agendas or symbols, the United States chose to remain true to one of the core principles of its founders, allowing free speech with few exceptions, such as yelling “fire” in a theater.

Jewish liberals and activists from the ACLU defended the Nazis’ right to march and display the swastika as a form of free speech. The Illinois Supreme Court ruled that any ban was unconstitutional.

How times have changed.

Today the ACLU and progressive farleft activists, many of them Jewish, fail to object to the assault on pro-Israel free speech on American college campuses and in the public arena, no doubt because the calls for denial of free speech come from their own ranks.

Pro-Israel speakers are now routinely shouted down, forced off the stage of public discourse by Palestinian and “social justice” activists. Just ask ambassador Michael Oren, or Palestinian human rights advocate Bassem Eid, whose crime was talking about co-existing with Israelis. At Brandeis University, Brandeis president Frederick Lawrence withdrew Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s invitation to speak there, because she speaks out against Islamic female genital mutilation and other human rights violations in the Islamic world.

These “open-minded” progressives claim friends of Israel shouldn’t be allowed to speak, because of Israel’s supposed war crimes against Palestinians, Western colonialism, apartheid, human rights abuses, genocide of the Palestinian people, ethnic cleansing of the indigenous inhabitants, use of disproportionate force, targeting of Palestinian children, etc. Then boycotting, demonizing and sanctioning Israel is then only a natural next step.

They further claim that shouting down pro-Israel speakers is their form of free speech. George Orwell must be turning over in his grave.

As Ruth Wisse writes in The Wall Street Journal, “Campus anti-Israel coalitions exploit freedom of speech and assembly to assail the only Middle Eastern country that guarantees those freedoms.”

Within the Progressive far Left, there is a singular lack of respect and toleration for differing opinions, not only on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A recent Progressive recommendation is to use RICO law enforcement statutes designed for the Mafia and drug cartels to suppress the free speech of those who challenge some of the claims of climate change advocates. In the eyes of Progressives, climate change deniers are now equivalent to Pablo Escobar and the Corleone family. The idea that it is a legitimate Progressive tactic to intimidate opposing voices by using the RICO statutes should be frightening to everyone across the political spectrum.

Not to be outdone, on the populist Right is the dangerous rhetoric of Donald Trump, who also exhibits an utter disdain for differing viewpoints, viciously attacking individuals who disagree with his agenda in a manner more akin to Peron or Chavez than any previous American aspiring to be president.

As for the intimidation and suppression of free speech by anti-boycott activists, Richard Cravats in The American Thinker offers: “The disturbing campaign to suppress speech… is a troubling and recurrent pattern of behavior by ‘progressive’ leftists and ‘social justice’ advocates from Muslim-led pro-Palestinian groups… [it] promote[s] a relentless campaign against Israel in the form of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS)… university officials and student groups who now try to suppress all thought of which they disapprove have sacrificed one of the core values for which the university exists… the truth.”

So what to do? On the Right, many American conservatives have already publicly challenged and repudiated Trump’s scapegoating and bullying tactics. An open letter by 120 members of the Republican foreign policy establishment denounced Trump’s inflammatory foreign policy rhetoric.

But for supporters of Israel and those who want to fight against the anti-Semitic, anti-free speech BDS movement, the problem lies almost exclusively with the progressive far Left.

A recent encouraging sign was the superb work of Professor Tammi Rossman- Benjamin, who led a coalition of groups that included MEPIN that persuaded the California Board of Regents to acknowledge that some forms of anti-Zionism are truly anti-Semitic.

Although not quite an acceptance of the US State Department definition of anti-Semitism, the Californian Board of Regents decision is no half-loaf victory, especially when you realize that California academia is overwhelmingly biased against Israel, and more times than not encourages BDS in the classrooms.

So how do you stop the anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist protesters from denying a pro-Israel activist the right to speak, uninterrupted, in a public or private space? Can you create a strategy to preemptively stop disrupting protesters from denying a pro-Israel advocates their right to free speech? On the college campus it needs to begin with the administration, alumni and financial supporters of universities.

Pro-Israel funders and alumni need to make it crystal clear to the administration of our universities that continued financial support is contingent on protecting free speech, especially of pro-Israel supporters, the ones overwhelmingly under attack.

According to Gerald Steinberg of NGO Monitor, “A major law firm that gave student groups at the Harvard Law School a million-dollar donation changed course after learning that some of the money went to promote campaigns that single out Israel.”

Liberal and conservative intellectuals and thinkers need to come together to publicly disavow suppression of free speech. Even in our hyperpolarized political world, there are many good people across the spectrum that would support letters and advertisements to protect and promote free speech for all, repudiating the shouting down of pro-Israel speakers as a legitimate tactic of free speech.

The effort can begin in a bipartisan fashion in Congress, between respectful academics, or be initiated by mainstream pro-Israel organizations like AJC or ADL.

Calling all Americans: protect our free speech.

The author is the director of MEPIN™.

He regularly briefs Congress on issues related to the Middle East. Mepinanalysis.org is read by members of Congress, their foreign policy advisers, members of the Knesset and journalists.

The Obama Doctrine and Israel

(Previously published in The Jerusalem Post)

None of this was a surprise to anyone who was paying attention.

More than any other American president, Barack Obama seemed to be thinking about his legacy from the moment he took office, viewing himself as a transformative and iconic world figure. He received international accolades before he even began. His desire to humble America before the Muslim world in Cairo, his discomfort with American exceptionalism, his eagerness to apologize for America’s historical transgressions were rewarded with a Noble Peace Prize.

Last week the president, continuing his legacy quest, spoke to his go-to journalist Jeffery Goldberg, who then wrote an article in The Atlantic entitled, “The Obama Doctrine: an Exclusive Report on the US President’s Hardest Foreign Policy Decisions.” The president’s disappointment with Israel featured prominently.

Goldberg reported that former US defense secretary Leon Panetta said President Obama “questioned why the U.S. should maintain Israel’s so-called qualitative military edge, which grants it access to more sophisticated weapons systems than America’s Arab allies receive. And he decided early on that he wanted to reach out to America’s most ardent Middle Eastern foe, Iran. He has bet global security and his own legacy that the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism will adhere to an agreement to curtail its nuclear program.”

None of this was a surprise to anyone who was paying attention.

In 2009, the president reached out to the Arab world claiming Israel was created as the world’s reparation for the Holocaust, while undermining the actual Zionist historical narrative, to promote his rapprochement with the Muslim world. At the time I wrote and told anyone in Congress who would listen that the president looks at Israel as a foreign policy liability, not the strategically indispensable ally all previous presidents, save for Jimmy Carter, had valued.

I received an incredulous response. It was America 2009, and the people were in a “Hope and Change” mentality, war weary, with the nation looking for a new direction.

The president, according to the Atlantic article, tried to revise his own historical narrative, claiming that in his infamous Cairo speech he said, “Let’s all stop pretending that the cause of the Middle East’s problems is Israel.” This turns reality on its head, and former ambassador Michael Oren couldn’t just let the remark go unchallenged, so he stated last week that the president never said any such thing.

Oren told The Algemeiner, “President Barack Obama’s recent claim about the real meaning of his 2009 Cairo speech is patently unsubstantiated by the text…

[which] nowhere mentions that the Israeli-Palestinian issue is not the core of the Middle East’s other conflicts.” On the contrary, Oren emphasized, “It actually implied the opposite.”

When the president and many of his ideological allies, harsh critics of Israel, said that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the principal source of Muslim frustration, myself and many others said this was far from the truth.

What does the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have to do with the centuries-old Sunni-Shi’ite hatred, today’s Syrian genocide, Hezbollah’s control of Lebanon, Houthi ascendancy in Yemen, Iran’s quest for hegemony over Iraq, Afghanistan and Bahrain, the barbarism of Islamic State (ISIS) or the disintegration of Libya? What does Israel have to do with the rise of the most dangerous worldwide Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, or misogyny in the Muslim world, human trafficking and repression in Saudi Arabia or human rights abuses and major involvement in terrorist atrocities around the world by Iran.

The administration’s “creating daylight” approach lead to a moral equivalence narrative between the Israelis and Palestinians in 2009, as the president wanted to become the “honest broker” not taking sides in the dispute. He therefore choose to ignore the fact of Palestinian outright rejection of prime minister Ehud Olmert’s 2008 proposal. Israel as the weaker party fighting defensive wars, the one suing for peace even though it kept winning, did not fit in with the Jarrett, Rice, and Obama doctrine that Israel is the occupying Western colonialist power, depriving the Palestinians of their natural rights.

The rhetorical support for Israel belied the calculated actions of the administration to embarrass and create “daylight” between the two long-term allies. None more so than provocation to change the status quo on areas like Gilo, the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, and French Hill which became the equivalent of international war crimes. The European/UN politicized version of international law to delegitimize Israel’s rights became the American position under President Obama. A constitutional lawyer should know that international law in this region is gray, not black or white, as the West Bank is most accurately described as an occupation of disputed territory acquired in a defensive war. That fact is indispensable for the possibility of an eventual lasting peace treaty, even if Israel chooses to return 99% of the territory.

Unfortunately this does not fit with the true Obama doctrine, which sees Israel as the persecuting Goliath. To Susan Rice, Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami and the president, it is all about the “illegal” settlements. Defensible borders are irrelevant to this crowd. Rockets won’t be landing on their children’s schools.

Looking at the domestic and international struggles within the Islamic world, it is apparent that Israel plays the scapegoat role, deflecting attention from their leaders’ shortcomings and enmities.

It must be pointed out that in the case of the leadership of Iran, Israel is not just a scapegoat. These ayatollahs may actually believe that an Armageddon and the eradication of the Jews pave the way to salvation.

Not tying the concessions of the nuclear deal to human rights, missile tests, or support of terrorists in Syria and beyond has made a laughing-stock of America and undermined American interests for years to come. I don’t envy the next president’s predicament, but it is even worse for Israel, as the president has empowered a nation that truly wants to eliminate it and has the patience to wait for its opportunity in eight or 15 years when the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) legally allows Iran to amass unrestricted amounts of nuclear fuel for a doomsday weapon. Just last week the Iranians unveiled a missile capable of reaching Tel Aviv, with the words, “Israel Must Be Wiped Off the Earth” written on it in both Farsi and Hebrew.

The Obama doctrine is about the president’s abandonment of the Syrian people, not even trying to slow the Syrian genocide by creating no-fly and safe zones. It reminds me of Edmund Burke’s saying, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

The president’s promises to Israel leading up to and after the signing of the JCPOA to make up for the Iranian sanctions relief have also evaporated. The MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) for future American assistance was supposed to compensate for Israel’s new vulnerability, with Iran on the Golan, rich with billions in sanctions relief money, to support conventional weapons and missiles to Hezbollah and Hamas.

Now the administration that all along knew it was never going to substantially increase aid to Israel is trying to force Israel to accept an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) which ignores the new and more dangerous reality the president created by signing the JCPOA.

Israel’s situation is now even more unstable with the mullahs flush with cash, destabilizing Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, while strengthening Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas with its newfound wealth.

The president’s own hand writes his legacy and the Obama doctrine on foreign affairs. To his credit, during the past seven years he has gone beyond the previous MOU, adding additional funding for the Iron Dome. Yet the Iran deal, and his reinterpretation of international law as removing Israeli rights to any land over the Green Line will make Israel more isolated than ever before, aiding the growing boycott movement.

The Obama doctrine will make Israel appear to be a thief trying to retain stolen territory in any future negotiation.

For seven years the administration has promoted a moral equivalence between Israeli legitimate self-defense and Palestinian terrorism, which has left Israel in a much more precarious position than in 2009 when the Obama doctrine began.

No amount of rhetorical or historical revisionism can change that.

The legacy of the Obama doctrine on foreign policy will be one of vacuums created, and allies abandoned.

The author is the director of MEPIN™ and is a regular contributor to The Jerusalem Post. MEPIN™ (mepinanalysis.org) is read by members of Congress, their foreign policy advisers, members of the Knesset, and journalists. He regularly briefs Congress on issues related to the Middle East.

US Elections: Who is Best for Israel, America and the World?

In such uncertain times, it’s important to have someone leading America and the free world who will try to balance American strength, American interests and pragmatism for the greater good.

A generation or two ago Jews of the American Diaspora didn’t feel the love and security we take for granted today.

They used to ask “Is it good for the Jews?” about so many topics, none more often than the political leadership of the country.

As beloved as FDR was by the majority of American Jewry in the 1940s, his legacy became tainted in retrospect with the revelations that he could have, but choose not to bomb the instruments of the Jewish genocide in Europe, to the extent that planes returning from missions taking them over concentration camps just dumped their remaining bombs in the English Channel.

Even today, when a Wall Street tycoon or someone with an obviously Jewish surname commits fraud or worse, there is a collective but unspoken sigh in American Jewry, that it is a black mark upon the Jewish people.

Which brings us to a topic I was not planning on writing about: the wildly unusual American presidential political scene. Only the Republican presidential debates could make the vitriol of the Israeli Knesset look tame.

I brief members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, and my lodestar as an American is United States national security and the US-Israel relationship, which to my mind overlap 95 percent of the time. If there were no Israel, America would need to create one to gain the intelligence and security advantages that its only reliable friend in the region brings to the table.

It is speaking season for me in the States, and the tone and feedback I am receiving in the Q and A’s and conversations after the talks is quite disturbing.

It is not news that America is a hyperpolarized country or that many have a “throw the bums out” mentality regarding politicians.

But what has really troubled me is the depth of concern that people share with me, that our country is headed the wrong way, including in its relationship with Israel.

Every political season has its own unique characteristics. This cycle the public’s appetite for a populist like Donald Trump, or a socialist like Bernie Sanders is unlike any political cycle in recent memory, with some very scary rhetoric including everything from wholesale ad hominem attacks to uncharacteristic American bad-mouthing of minority communities.

With the explosion of the Internet over the past 20 years, we know that many Americans, especially younger ones, get most of their news from echo chambers that just reinforce their preconceived viewpoints. Young people who think out of the box or disagree with the conventional wisdom tell me that they are afraid to post challenging articles in fear of being “unfriended.” Just ask pro-Israel kids on today’s college campus.

I am shocked how many people tell me with absolute certainty that facts they read on the Internet are as certain as the Rock of Gibraltar. It is as if were they were reading the front page of The New York Times in 1960, before it began to editorialize the news pages with its political leanings and became agenda driven like so much of the mainstream media, on Israel and various other topics, so that its readers can no longer safely distinguish the news from the opinions of the editors.

This year I am being asked much more often than other years which candidate is not only best for America, but also best for the US-Israel relationship. I have shared my opinion privately in the past, but this cycle’s stakes for America and Israel are too high to remain silent.

Trump’s populist bullying, viciously demeaning anyone who opposes him, is feeding on the fears and despair of Americans, and is a very troubling sign of the state of our republic. His rhetorical flourishes have more in common with Mussolini than with Washington, Lincoln and Reagan.

On Israel, other than saying vaguely that he will be Israel’s best friend, like his “beautiful” tax return that he chooses to withhold, he has shown a lack of understanding of the region. There is little doubt that at least on Israel, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and John Kasich have much deeper knowledge of the facts, and perception of Israel as an ally. On other topics Trump is even more frightening, as his proposed trade wars could bring the world economy into a recession or depression with even worse consequences of unrest within the populaces. And we all know who is often the scapegoat when things turn sour around the world.

Senator Cruz, who is no liberal, worked across the aisle with Democrat Kristin Gillibrand, condemning the labeling of Israeli goods from over the Green Line as a “de facto” boycott of Israel, according to Al-Monitor.

Senator Rubio has led on a number of important issues to strengthen the US-Israel relationship. According to The Hill, when Trump told the AP that “a lot” of peace in the Middle East “will have to do with Israel and whether or not Israel wants to make the deal – whether or not Israel’s willing to sacrifice certain things,” Rubio responded, “There is no moral equivalence between Israel and those who seek to destroy her.”

Placing the onus on Israel for the Middle East’s problems, implying the Gordian knot to untie in the region is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, highlights Trump’s profound misunderstanding of the Middle East. As Ambassador Yoram Ettinger wrote, “How could the resolution of the 100-year-old Arab-Israeli conflict facilitate the resolution of the totally unrelated 1,400-year-old Sunni-Shi’ite war?” On the other side of the aisle, Hillary Clinton has a long history of telling people, especially pro-Israel Americans, what they want to hear, yet excoriating Israel as secretary of state on issues that previously would have been of secondary importance. Her rhetoric of support has never matched her actions.

Trump’s hardly credible claim that his earpiece didn’t work when asked to disavow the neo-Nazi David Duke’s endorsement is reminiscent of Hillary’s infamous kiss of Suha Arafat in November of 2000 after Arafat claimed Jews were deliberately poisoning Palestinian children. As the New York Times reported at the time, Clinton showed “clear signs of discomfort during the remarks, but gave Arafat a polite, salutatory kiss when she left.” As per Clinton’s usual approach, she switched gears when she saw the political winds blowing in the wrong direction and belatedly said the remarks were “inflammatory and outrageous.”

So the question comes back to what I am continually asked during my speaking tour, and even in the Knesset: whom do I support for president, who is best for the Israel, who is best for America and the world in the 21st century? No one knows what the future will bring, and no one knows what events will take place during the next American president’s term.

As my mother says, man plans, God laughs (she says it in Yiddish).

Few remember that George W. Bush was primarily interested in domestic affairs when he took the oath of office in 2001, but his eight years in office were defined not by that agenda, but rather the agenda imposed upon him by 9/11. His legacy for good or ill lies in his response to world events he didn’t ask for.

So in such uncertain times, it’s important to have someone leading America and the free world who respects American exceptionalism with humility, and who will try to balance American strength, American interests and pragmatism for the greater good.

Narcissism and egocentrism are not qualities of leadership, certainly not for the most important person in the world, during what looks like one of the world’s potentially most transformative moments.

I do not want Trump to be the standard bearer of our country. I do not want Clinton either. I do not want a socialist, and the remaining Republicans may not rise enough in the delegate count in April, May or June to stop the populist momentum of Trump.

A Republican Senator friend told me that her answer to whether she will support Trump is “anyone but Hillary.” I don’t think that is good enough anymore.

I agree with Mitt Romney: “I cannot in good conscience vote for a person who has been as degrading and disruptive and unhinged as I’ve seen Donald Trump be.”

The author is the director of MEPIN™ and is a regular contributor to The Jerusalem Post. MEPIN™ (mepinanalysis.org) is read by members of Congress, their foreign policy advisers, members of the Knesset, and journalists. He regularly briefs Congress on issues related to the Middle East.

The Real Strength of Israel

 (Previously published in The Jerusalem Post)

Israel’s closest neighbor has brainwashed generations of children in vicious anti-Semitism, encouraged terrorism and has campaigned to erase the historical narrative of the Jewish people.

Israel’s long-term strength lies with its people.

My mother often tells me that she doesn’t like to read my articles because they depress her. And she’s right. They deal with existential security issues, boycotts, nuclear weapons, and neighbors who want to eliminate the state altogether.

Israel’s closest neighbor has brainwashed generations of children in vicious anti-Semitism, encouraged terrorism and has actively campaigned to erase the historical narrative of the Jewish people.

So any sane person might say to an Israeli, “Pack up, get yourself out of harm’s way,” because this is an existential not territorial conflict, supported by most of the Muslim world with the help and encouragement of the once great but now infamous United Nations and so-called “human rights” groups. The patient determination of Israel’s Middle East neighbors to destroy Israel is measured in decades and centuries.

Yet young Jews from around the world are arriving, and the vast majority of Israeli young people plan to stay, and believe in their country.

I just spent over a week in Israel meeting with everyone from Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Ambassador Michael Oren, Yesh Atid MK Yaakov Peri, deputy Knesset speaker Hilak Bar of the Zionist Union to Maj.-Gen. Yaakov Amidror and General Yossi Kuperwasser, two of Israel’s leading intelligence and security experts, among many others. Israel is blessed with extraordinary people.

For their country’s national security interests, I hope they come to the realization that they need to work together and speak to the outside world with one voice when it regards Israel’s existential issues. Failure to speak with one voice was one reason why Israel failed to influence wavering American Democratic senators on the Iran Nuclear deal, or JCPOA.

As part of my fact-finding mission in Israel, I visited with Palestinian workers in Judea and Samaria who were worried about losing their jobs due to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. I met with Itamar Marcus of Palestinian Media Watch and Gerald Steinberg of NGO Monitor, who have tracked and documented the campaign of demonization of Israel by its enemies.

I toured Gush Etzion with the Etzion brigade to assess the security situation, and viewed area E-1 and Kfar Adumin to see how the EU is supporting illegal Beduin encampments to create facts on the ground for a future Palestinian state.

I even met with alternative Palestinian leaders, a Palestinian journalist working for The New York Times, and progressive human rights NGOs led by Jews fighting for Palestinian rights but who have no interest in Israeli human rights. And to top it off, I had the Muslim Wakf harass me on the Temple Mount.

Yet returning home to America I felt surprisingly optimistic about Israel’s future, mainly because of the Israeli people. I believe that because of them, Israel will not only survive, but also thrive.

Israel’s long-term survival is not based on its remarkable Iron Dome or David’s Sling anti-missile systems, or its F-35 advanced jet fighters.

Israel’s survival and future success remains, as it always has, with its people.

Let me tell you about some of them.

Andrea is the assistant food and beverage manager for the Dan Tel Aviv hotel. She was born and raised Catholic in Venezuela, but had the opportunity to go to a Jewish school in Caracas because her mother was a coordinator there. She converted during high school at age 16, came alone to Israel at age 18, joined the army, went to the Hebrew University and now wants to build a life and family in Israel. Her Zionism is not only from the heart or seen through rose-colored glassed, but is part of her right by choice and history to live a fully Jewish life in the Hebrew city of Tel Aviv. Yes, Tel Aviv, with all of its cosmopolitan nature, support for gay rights and beach culture is a very Jewish city. Andrea wants a live a life that incorporates Jewish values in the secular world.

“If I must give a reason I converted to Judaism…

I discovered Judaism survives because it understands knowledge is the one thing that can make you a better person to yourself and others, and is the only thing that cannot be taken away from a person. So at some point I realized I’m part of its core and wanted to make it official… my soul has always been part of this people and this land, this is the place where I want to see my children growing and be part of making the next generation…

keeping Israel as our nation.”

While touring Judea with the Etzion brigade I met with a young secular woman from Tel Aviv, who chose to become a combat soldier. When asked what her friends in Tel Aviv think of her decision to join a combat unit, she said at her old secular high school she is looked up to as a model for other young women. This is the feminist ideal; a woman treated equal to any man, except the “feminist progressive Left” is too busy demonizing the country to notice.

David is a young man from Rome who made aliya after studying in an Ivy League international graduate program in New York. I first met him as a guest lecturer for his international program at Columbia. He wants to serve his new country by being an advocate for Israel’s right to exist and thrive. Whether it will be in journalism, diplomacy or in just living his new country, he is part of the growing fabric of strength that is building a just and moral society.

Tahli and Jasmine are two remarkable young women I knew from StandWithUs in New York, educating high school students with facts in context about the Middle East. They have a remarkable ability to connect with young people, and their enthusiasm for Israel is contagious. Both just made aliya. Jasmine is a first-year law student at Bar-Ilan University, and Tali is still a professional for StandWithUs, helping visiting Jewish Diaspora students see Israel as it really is, for instance through its status as a world leader in outdoor graffiti art. Both will make their mark on Israel.

Ron was a lone soldier from New York. During Operation Protective Edge he lost three “brothers” from his unit in a booby-trapped house. He served in an elite paratrooper unit and although he had finished his service, he choose to stay another three months in solidarity with his unit.

He was my guide in that war, one of the many people I met who through their actions taught me how ethical the Israel Defense Forces is. He loves his new country, but was saddened to see other olim return home because they couldn’t find high enough paying jobs to cover the costs of living in Israel.

Hila and Ron are sabras. They grew up in loving families with more challenging economic circumstances. Because of their love of their country, they choose to join combat units, and now are getting their university degrees with the help the FIDF. Both secular, but very Jewish, lovers of their country, they represent the majority Mizrahi/Sephardi population of Israel. Pale-faced Ashkenazi Jews are a minority and are disappearing as the miracle of the ingathering of the exiles leads to many “mixed marriages.”

I met Guy during Operation Pillar of Defense, as my guide through that war. We struck up a close friendship that has endured to this day.

Guy is a reserve soldier in his 20s trying to sustain a new business in the bureaucratic hell of the Israeli regulatory system. Returning to his native South Africa would give him immediate economic relief, as he struggles with what to do and what the future will bring. But without hesitation he says Israel is his country, and he would always return in a heartbeat to his reserve unit if and when Israel is in another war.

Yonatan was born in France and was supposed to go to MIT on a scholarship, but 2009 was the year of the great recession. When his scholarship evaporated, he looked toward Israel’s Technion, which actually had a better program for his interests. Yonatan was on the path to a “Goldman- Sachs” life in the States, he was religious but not Zionistic. Living in Israel for a few years, working with students and faculty from around the world, created a Zionist who loves his new country.

Today’s column is one my mother can read that won’t depress her, but will make her proud of her Jewish homeland, its people, and give her hope for the future.

After spending a good deal of time with olim from America, France, Holland, Italy and South Africa, as well as young native-born Israelis, I am indeed optimistic about the future of the Jewish state.

Despite the high costs of housing, the income inequality and the continual security situation, Israelis are happier than most people in the Western world, including Americans. They live lives of meaning and purpose.

I realized the security of the future of Israel is not just the Iron Dome, but the real security strength of Israel is its people, their love of their country, and their determination to overcome all obstacles. Am Israel Chai.

The author is the director of MEPIN™ (Middle East Political Information Network™) and is a regular contributor to The Jerusalem Post. MEPIN™ (mepinanalysis.org) is read by members of Congress, their foreign policy advisers, members of the Knesset and journalists. He regularly briefs Congress on issues related to the Middle East.

So Where Are the Progressives?

(Previously published in The Jerusalem Post)

It is time for pro-Israel American liberals to speak up.

Saeed Abedini is the American Christian pastor who was falsely imprisoned by Iran and exchanged by the US government for Iranian prisoners on the Interpol terrorism watch list. The pastor was tortured, placed in solitary confinement and left at the mercy of an al-Qaida terrorist who nearly killed him, all while under Iranian control.

“They beat me very badly because they wanted me to write something I didn’t do… it was in a courtroom that the judge closed the door and the interrogators started beating me… The worst thing that I saw was when they took some Sunnis for execution…. I can say most were executed for their faith.”

This is a story of torture, religious intolerance and extortion by a dictatorship’s mock judicial system. Unfortunately for Pastor Abedini, his rights were violated by the universally recognized leader of state-sponsored international terrorism, Iran, which has been given favored nation status by the Europeans and the progressive anti-Israel lobby. So his case drew silence, indifference or at best mild rebuke from the liberal elite of progressive newspapers’ editorial pages, ivory-tower professors and “human rights” leaders.

Iran’s misogyny, illiberalism, homophobic oppression and mistreatment of domestic minorities are willfully ignored in the pick-and-choose world of progressive “human rights” organizations, where Israeli “house demolitions” are presented as far more egregious human rights abuses than the intentional slaughter of 250,000 Syrian civilians by Syrian President Bashar Assad, backed by Iran.

We live in an era of selective morality, where European governments now sign billions in trade deals with Iran, thereby financially supporting Iranian terrorism and Syrian genocide, while the pope legitimizes the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and human rights abuse with a reception for the Iranian president at the Vatican that was fit for a king.

A distinction must be made between liberals and progressives of the far left.

The semantics really matter. Liberalism is a great and honored tradition. The progressive far left is something radically different, and it is up to the standard- bearers of noble liberalism to distance themselves from this most illiberal movement. Within the American domestic arena, the lines between progressive and liberal are more nuanced than the sharper divide between the progressive and liberal views on the Middle East, especially on the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.

I have just been in Israel speaking to progressive human rights NGO leaders who fight exclusively for the human rights of Palestinians and every person in the world except the citizens of Israel.

I tried to convince them that their cases would be much more compelling if they fairly addressed all human rights abuses equally, including those committed by Palestinians against their own people. I pleaded for the presentation of human rights abuses to be in context. This sadly fell on deaf ears.

These NGOs present a fig leaf of balance, but their actual goal is to isolate Israel. Some say this punishment is for the ultimate good of the state, but they are willing to align themselves with other NGOs whose goal is clearly the delegitimization and ultimately demise of the Israel.

The progressives have supported the Iranian government, portraying it as a victim of Western oppression. You won’t find any progressive protests about the disqualification of the vast majority of reformist candidates for the upcoming Iranian election of the Assembly of Experts, its parliament (Majlis).

Where have the progressive voices been over the past seven years, while the true pro-democracy moderate Iranian opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehadi Karroubi have remained under house arrest for years? Progressives advocate for equal rights, and fair and free elections. They fight for effective voting rights of minorities here. So why are they AWOL in criticizing Iran’s fake democracy where any reformers or opposition candidates are routinely disqualified? According to The Washington Post, “Iran’s election overseers have cleared only one-fifth of the potential candidates seeking a spot on the 88-member Assembly of Experts… Such widespread vetting of candidates is a fixture of Iranian politics, culling those perceived as potential threats to the ruling system and the Revolutionary Guard Corps. Last week, the election gatekeepers, known as the Guardian Council, disqualified more than 7,000 of the 12,000 people seeking seats in parliament.”

The far-left progressives of the Women’s Study Association responded to the Palestinian mistreatment of women by simply creating their own set of facts that fly in the face of the reality of Palestinian misogyny and homophobia.

“As feminist activists, scholars, teachers, and public intellectuals who recognize the interconnectedness of systemic forms of oppression, we cannot overlook the injustice and violence, including sexual and gender-based violence, perpetrated against Palestinians.”

Why don’t the progressives organize an LGBT march in the centers of Jenin, Nablus and Ramallah, with transsexuals and cross-dressers leading the parade? Will they claim Israel did not give the Palestinians a permit? Progressives claim to be champions of the protection of children. But instead of being appalled and condemning the brainwashing of Palestinian children in hatred and violence, they respond by rationalizing it in the name of “frustration.”

As former defense minister Moshe Arens wrote in Haaretz, “Palestinian children knifing people while yelling ‘Allah Akbar’ are a sign that Palestinian society is plumbing new depths… Those who ascribe this to the Israeli ‘occupation’ are offering lame excuses for a culture that glorifies death and killing… The Palestinian leadership has failed generations of Palestinians.”

A society that inculcates hatred, teaching its children that stabbing an Israeli is the way to glory and eternal salvation, is one that should offend every progressive.

While Israeli civilians are been rammed and knifed in the streets of Israel, even within the Green Line, progressive moral equivalence rationalizes terrorism as a desperate plea from a people with no other options, a legitimate form of fighting an “occupation.”

The point here is the progressive hypocrisy that finds fault only with those it considers its ideological enemies.

America is the last refuge for pro-Israel support in the West, and the unchallenged bigotry and hatred for Israel with the goal of destroying the Jewish state needs a loud and vigorous response from not only centrist and conservative Americans, but most importantly from liberal Zionists who are being eclipsed by extreme anti-Israel progressives on college campuses, and within so called “human rights” organizations.

So the question is not where are the progressives, but where are the voices of pro-Israel liberal Zionists? When will far-left progressive voices be challenged, and when will there be a demand for accountability for their selective moralism?

The author is the director of MEPIN™ (Middle East Political Information Network™) .

What Would Happen if Israel Withdrew from the West Bank and Ended the ‘Siege’ of Gaza

(Previously published in The Jerusalem Post)

Within the next five years, expect Israel to begin to unilaterally disengage from the West Bank.

There is rarely an audience at a college, synagogue, or organization that I speak to that doesn’t at some level believe if only Israel would withdraw from the West Bank and ended its “siege” of Gaza, the root cause of the conflict would end, with a two-state solution just around the corner. Many have absorbed a politicized view of international law regarding the conflict that says Israel has no legal rights for settlement beyond the Green Line. Its military presence is at best problematic, and at worst is a war crime. I often hear that it contradicts our Jewish values to “occupy” and control another people.

Shlomi Eldar of Israeli TV, writing in Al Monitor asks the question, “Why hasn’t Israel lifted the Gaza blockade… even Naftali Bennett the most right wing member of (the government) has reached this conclusion.” To many harsh critics of Israel in the EU, UN, and on college campuses, Gaza’s Islamist totalitarian government is viewed as a social movement providing humanitarian benefits, as is Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Being one of those who favor a security-based two state solution that includes an ironclad end-of-conflict resolution and a demilitarized Palestinian state, I sometimes try to imagine what would happen if Israel left the West Bank and ended its security arrangements around Gaza.

A friend of mine often tells me that once Israel withdraws from Judea and Samaria with American backing, if terrorism returns, the whole world, whose only grievance with Israel is the occupation, would defend an unconditional Israeli military response. He told me it would be different this time, different from Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, when the exact same line of reasoning evaporated in the desert sun, when Israel’s response to rocket fire targeting its civilians was booed in many quarters, rather than being accepted as legitimate self-defense.

Conveniently forgotten is that the borders of Gaza were open after the 2005 withdrawal, and it could have become a Dubai on the Mediterranean with billions in foreign investment, if only the Palestinians choose economic freedom over eliminationist ideology. The choice was simple from a Western perspective, accept a Jewish State living side by side in peace, and benefit from the mutual economic cooperation. When it all quickly fell apart, instead of realizing that it was not about territory but Islamist ideology, critics managed to blame Israel for the Palestinian’s rejection of the open door to prosperity that was presented to them by saying they hadn’t coordinated their leaving in just the right way with the PA.

So let’s return to what would happen if Israel, under American and worldwide pressure, were to decide to try to disengage from the West Bank. Proponents say everyone knows the outlines of a future Palestinian State, except for the inconvenient fact that those “Clinton” borders are totally unacceptable to today’s Palestinian leadership and society.

Lets say that the EU, UN and America demand a settlement where Israel is forced to withdraw from 98% of the West Bank, and compensates the PA with a 2 % land swap. The overwhelming majority of the Palestinian population in poll after poll not only believe Israel has no right to the 2%, but has no right to any land within the Green line! So will the promises of support for Israel, if it needs to respond to future Palestinian terror from the new Palestinian state materialize from these international organizations? Not a chance. “Resistance,” i.e. terrorism, will again be rationalized in the name of the years of “oppression,” just as the same voices condoned the terrorism of the 1990’s after the Oslo accords were signed. Withdrawal advocates have amnesia about the Palestinian Authority, which directed the terrorism while it was negotiating with Israel during the Clinton years.

Israel will be told to give up one thing after another for peace and ignore the terrorism as history’s punishment for the years of occupation and humiliation. But the first dead Palestinian child who is used as a human shield, or is lost as collateral damage will bring an outpouring of condemnation against the Israeli bullies.

The Europeans lead by the Swedes, French, and Irish will rail that the imposed demilitarization of the new Palestinian State is morally wrong, that every nation must have a right to defend itself. Can Palestinian tanks and fighter jets be far behind? But relax; the PA will collapse long before that is possible with Hamastan or Islamic State taking control. Of course the world will blame Israel for waiting too long to negotiate. There is a reason the PA sometimes does work with Israel fighting the current Intifada. They know that an Israeli withdrawal from all of the territory will lead to their immediate downfall, with jihadists throwing Fatah members from 10 story buildings as they did in Gaza in 2005.

But let’s say a demanding President Trump, or a President Hillary Clinton with her personal Middle East envoy President Bill Clinton, convince the PA to accept the Clinton or Olmert parameters to end the conflict.

Will the Palestinians accept it and mean it? Will either President be able to convince the Muslim world to accept two states for two peoples, one Jewish and one Arab, as outlined in UNGA Resolution 181, written at the time of the birth of the Jewish state and the infamy of the Palestinian Nakba, the catastrophe of the birth of the illegitimate Jewish state.

Any internationally forced resolution will of course be accompanied by international guarantees in writing and international troops on the ground. All one needs to do is to look at the betrayal of the Ukrainians by these same Western powers, who promised them that if they gave up their nuclear weapons, their territorial integrity would be guaranteed. How well did that work out for the Ukrainians? As for international troops, just look over the northern border into Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon, where the promise of an international force in the aftermath of the Second Lebanon War to stop the resupply of Hezbollah missiles yielded the clandestine transfer of over 100,000 missiles into Lebanon, and ZERO missiles being intercepted by the international force.

So what is likely to happen in the next five years? I believe that Israel will again act unilaterally. In Gaza, it will almost certainly lift many of the current security requirements surrounding Gaza; most likely as payment to the Turks for diplomatic relations, while satisfying the Turkish desire to be part of the distribution of Israeli gas from the Mediterranean natural gas fields.

As for the West Bank, former military Intelligence Chief Amos Yadlin of the Institute for National Security Studies recommends a unilateral disengagement from 85 percent of the West Bank, if diplomacy fails.

“Security should be preserved by the army, and the Jordan Valley needs to remain in the army’s possession.”

This would have strong support from many Israelis, from the center, center-left and center-right.

However with IS on the southern Golan, on the Iraqi-Jordanian border, with radical sleeper jihadist cells in Gaza, Jordan and the West Bank, and the IS jihadist message in the Muslims homes worldwide through the Internet, the foundational premise for a stable Palestinian State seems to be teetering on quicksand.

Do you know who doesn’t want Israel to withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza? It’s the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, and much of the Gulf states who fear an IS takeover in the Levant. IS already works with Hamas in the Sinai, proving that the radical jihadists of IS are just a different shade of Muslim Brotherhood Islamism. Remember that Hamas is child of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group whose long-term goals are the same as IS, but whom the Obama administration touted as a force for “moderate Islamism.”

Where are their mea culpas for that dead-wrong analysis? By the way, destroying IS won’t rid the world of violent radical Islamism, as it lives independently of IS in Iran, al Qaeda, and in various forms through many parts of the Muslim world.

But the most likely immediate result of an Israeli withdrawal, coordinated, imposed, or negotiated, is the collapse of the PA, seen by the Palestinian people as corrupt and illegitimate. Palestinians polls of Palestinians bear this out. Into this void will most likely come Hamas, déjà vu of the Israeli disengagement of 2005 from Gaza. Now instead of Sderot, a marginalized small town that most Israelis ignored in the aftermath of the 2005 withdrawal, the small town in Katyusha range of Hamastan on the West Bank will be Tel Aviv, where 80% of Israelis live.

A new version of Operation Defensive Shield will follow, followed by worldwide condemnation, sanctions, boycotts, and delegitimization. It will act as an accelerant for the BDS movement in Europe, and on college campuses. Our “friends” in Europe, whether leftists or anti-Semites, will lead the charge. Just listen to the current Swedish Foreign Minister, and the British Labor leader. They seem happy to throw Israel under the bus, perhaps as a scapegoat to atone for the age of European imperialism.

So what to do? My friends tell me the status quo is unsustainable. The occupation will bring the BDS movement into the mainstream of America over time.

Americans relate to Israel on shared values, and the occupation is undermining the long-term American commitment to Israel. They don’t know that the 3 billion per year American investment in Israel returns more vital intelligence and saved more American soldier lives than all of NATO combined.

If I were to council the next American President, I would recommend the following:
• Announce that American stands with the one and only democracy in the region, Israel, which is essential for American national security
• Publicly place the onus for the failure of a two-state solution primarily with the Palestinians who have repeatedly refused to sign an end-of -conflict resolution, or accept a Jewish state, as evidenced by their rejection of the Clinton and Olmert offers
• I would recommend that America stop considering the Palestinians victims, as much of their struggles are self-imposed, choosing ideology over economic independence
• Unless the Palestinians agree in advance to sign an end-of-conflict resolution with a demilitarized state, America will publicly state that it won’t push for anything more than a more sustainable ceasefire and ground-up economic development
• Ask Israel as a gesture and to affirm its rule of law, to uproot all illegal settlement outposts
• Israel as a gesture for the future time when the Palestinians are ready for a final deal, should limit their building over the Green line to the environs of the major settlement blocks
• Make clear that with ISIS just over the Jordan, Israel must for the foreseeable future control the security of the Jordan River Valley
• Demand transparency, an uncorrupt Palestine government ending incitement, and a preparation of Palestinians for their share of painful compromises.

Realistic? Actually yes! One of the reasons the peace process has failed is that almost nothing is ever asked of the Palestinians, and worse, no consequences are imposed for their rejection of every deal that allows Israel to exist. They need to see sticks as well as carrots to prompt them to come to the table and do more than take what they can and then walk out, as they have every single time so far.

Speaking frankly to the Palestinians, working with the Sunni Gulf states, Egypt, and Turkey to accept a reasonable security deal for Israel, and getting rid of UNWRA’s definition of Palestinian refugees, a lethal poison pill for Israel, would be the beginning of the road to a two-state solution.

The author is the director of MEPIN™ (Middle East Political and Information Network™) and 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. He regularly briefs members of Congress on issues related to the Middle East.

 

Why College Students who Fight for Social Justice should Support Israel

(Previously published in The Jerusalem Post)

Progressive voices on campus never mention the much more egregious PA and Hamas torture of Palestinians, the honor killings of women, or the utter humiliation of homosexuals.

Jewish college students growing up in the American Reform movement bring the movement’s passion for social justice with them to campus; for many it defines their Judaism. On campus, they naturally come into the company of other social activists, some of whom despise the very existence of the Jewish State of Israel.

It is difficult for these Jewish students to differentiate between social activists who support a Jewish state but are troubled by the “occupation,” or don’t like its current leaders, from those who want Israel to entirely disappear, partially because the more clever among the latter, mortal enemies of the Jewish state soft-pedal their agenda, claiming to object only to settlements.

It is cool to be anti-Israel on campus, especially when Israel is portrayed as an occupying, human-rights-abusing, racist, apartheid state that colonized a territory and ethnically cleansed its indigenous inhabitants. The problem is compounded by the fact that the anti-Israel far Left is disproportionately represented among college professors, who naturally command the respect of their students.

To combat these peer and mentor sources of anti-Israel propaganda, a strategy must be created that creates space and time for these kids to hear all the arguments, and to understand how their passion for social activism can be channeled in a positive pro-Israel way.

So the first thing that pro-Israel organizations need to do is to help make apparent the difference between those who have reasonable gripes about particular aspects of Israel but want to support it, and those who are determined to destroy it.

For Reform kids this should, one hopes, begin in their synagogues, when they are still in middle and high school. A healthy respect for Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state must be a foundational principle. If all they hear growing up is criticism of Israel, and their only trip to Israel is with an organization that highlights the negatives of Israel while whitewashing the misogyny, homophobia and intolerance of Palestinian society, then it is up to rabbis, parents and donors of the Reform movement to demand a change.

Social Justice promotes a society based on justice, where there is equal access to the judiciary and rule of law. It is a movement where women, minorities and those of differing sexual orientation are tolerated and do not fear. That is the very definition of Israel. The human rights groups and progressive news sources the kids read trumpet Israel’s supposed faults, and ignore those of its enemies.

My colleague Bret Stephens of The Wall Street Journal inspired me to ask our kids who are concerned about social justice in Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the Muslim world the following questions: Are you in favor of women’s rights? Are you in favor of freedom of the press? Are you in favor of religious tolerance? Are you in favor of gay rights? Are you in favor of freedom of speech? Are you in favor of democracy? Then you should be a supporter of Israel.

As Ambassador Dennis Ross wrote, “For now and the foreseeable future, [Israel] will remain the only country in the Middle East governed by the rule of law, separation of powers, an independent judiciary, regularly scheduled elections where the losers accept the outcome, freedom of speech and assembly, a vibrant and open media, respect for women’s rights and for gay rights, artistic freedom, active civil society groups-and an innovative, dynamic economy.”

How do we get that message to our kids in college, and how can we convince liberal Jewish movements that it is important to emphasize Israel’s accomplishments while defending Israel’s right to exist despite its warts? A positive message for Israel will only go so far. Mainstream Jewish organizations, including the Reform movement, need to take the gloves off and go on the offensive, applying the same standards for the Palestinians as for Israel. So much is made of harsh interrogations of would-be bus-bombers in Israel, but the progressive voices on campus never mention the much more egregious PA and Hamas torture of Palestinians, the honor killings of women, or the utter humiliation of homosexuals.

These should be progressive causes of social justice, instead of excusing Israel’s neighbors.

Dr. Ammar Dwaik, director-general of the Independent Commission for Human Rights, a Palestinian group, revealed that his group received 782 complaints regarding torture – 168 in the West Bank and 614 in the Gaza Strip.

According to Arab-Israeli journalist Khaled Abu Toameh, “The two Palestinian governments…. are both major violators of human rights. The PA has used international funds to build prisons and detention centers in the West Bank where torture has become the norm.”

Amnesty International’s 2015 Annual Report on the Palestinian Authority reported: Security authorities in both the West Bank and Gaza arbitrarily arrested and detained their critics and supporters of rival political organizations.

Torturing Political Prisoners: “Detainees were tortured and otherwise ill-treated with impunity” No Fair Trials: “Authorities in the West Bank held detainees for indefinite periods without charge or trial.”

Suppressing Free Speech: “Authorities restricted freedoms of expression, association and assembly in the West Bank and Gaza…. Security officials also harassed and sought to intimidate journalists and social media activists.”

Violence Against Women: “Women and girls continued to face discrimination in both law and practice, and remained inadequately protected against gender-based violence committed by male relatives, ostensibly for reasons of family ‘honor.’ At least 11 women and girls were murdered by male relatives in so-called ‘honor killings’ during the year.”

A 2013 Pew report on Palestinian views on women found 87 percent of Palestinians think women must obey their husbands.

Is this anything a modern Reform Jewish college student can support? We must help our kids to understand the hypocrisy of supporting and defending cultures that do not share our values of individual rights, women’s rights, rule of law and a genuine judiciary in the name of cultural relativism. We must make our young adults understand that the weaker party is not always the victim or in the right. We must make them understand that Israel tries to live up to a standard that conforms with their social justice values as much as any people in history has, but that it is incredibly hard when the vast majority of your neighbors want to annihilate you, preach hatred to their children and shoot missiles from schoolyards.

Israel, like any other complex real-world democracy, has real social justice issues.

But overall Israel needs to be seen by these young people as the miracle it is, something to be proud of, an experiment in developing a democratic, pluralistic, liberal, free nation in a Middle Eastern desert where nothing like that has ever taken root before.

Now it is up to pro-Israel college organizations, liberal Jewish movements, and mainstream Jewish groups, to come together and express a positive social justice message that supports the Jewish state.

The author is the director of MEPIN™ (Middle East Political and Information Network) and 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. He regularly briefs members of Congress on issues related to the Middle East.