Category Archives: U.S. – Israel Relationship

i24TV News: One Year of the Abraham Accords

The first anniversary of the Abraham Accords is a time for celebration and concern. The celebration is because the unthinkable happened. Arab states developed warm diplomatic relations with Israel before the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was resolved, no longer hostage to Palestinian intransigence. The concern is that the Biden administration is suffocating their further development. This TV interview will:

  • Explain how the Abraham Accords changed the Middle East. 
  • Explain the difference between the cold Jordanian/Egyptian peace and the warm peace with the UAE, Bahrain, and Morocco. 
  • Why the Accords are essential to American interests but are undervalued by the Biden administration. 
  • What is next for the Abraham Accords. 

As always, your comments are appreciated.

Why America should care about Israel’s ‘War Between the Wars’

Source: Getty Images

Most Americans are unaware of the phrase “War Between the Wars.” It describes Israel’s low-grade war with Iran, Hezbollah and Iranian proxies in Iraq and Syria to stop Iran from transforming “Syria and Iraq into missile-launching pads,” as it has in Lebanon. The goal is to prevent a permanent Iranian presence on Israel’s doorstep with advanced weaponry that could tip the scales against Israel’s qualitative military edge. 

Read the rest from The Hill.

It’s the ‘hasbara,’ stupid: The new Israeli government must prioritize PR

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett holds a
news conference in Jerusalem on July 14, source: Marc Israel Sellem

Published in the August 19, 2021 issue of The Jerusalem Report.

Israel has a national security blind spot. It is called effective public relations or, in Hebrew, hasbara. Israel does it really badly. I say this as an American who listens to other Americans, American politicians and the American media. American politicians who support Israel have confided their utter frustration with the lack of Israel’s public relations savoir-faire. It makes advocating for the US-Israel relationship much harder, especially against a coordinated anti-Israel apparatus that speaks on message and has mastered social media.

Israel’s enemies know that they cannot defeat the Jewish state militarily, so they have turned to influence the public with a straightforward one-sided narrative that plays fast and loose with facts and context. Taking control of the narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is happening right now, and Israel’s enemies are winning. A recent poll by the Jewish Electorate Institute revealed that 38% of American Jews under 40 think Israel is an apartheid state, 33% think it is committing genocide against the Palestinian people and 20% think Israel doesn’t have a right to exist!

The first thing Israel needs to do is to acknowledge the problem and admit the image has been handled poorly. Then it needs to raise public relations importance to the level of a national security priority of the first order. Without a coordinated public relations strategy with the financial resources to make a difference, Israel’s ability to educate and influence the American public with its compelling case will continually be undermined. Winning this is essential not only for Israel. America needs a strong Israel as it pivots its efforts to the Far East to confront China.

But just reacting to propaganda attacks, being on the defensive is a guaranteed losing hand for Israeli hasbara. The mantra for Israeli public relations is to go on the offensive continually. Use personal narratives to illustrate Israel’s human tragedies because of Palestinian terrorism, inspired by blatant Jew-hatred thinly veiled behind anti-Zionism. An example of what it means to go on the offensive against the false charge of Israeli apartheid would be to publicize the Palestinian law that forbids selling land to Jews, a much more appropriate analogy to South African apartheid.

As a BESA public paper said, “The systemic failure of Israeli public diplomacy is a longstanding open secret. Because the country’s diplomatic bodies are dispersed among an assortment of ministerial and security frameworks, it is highly unlikely that the system as a whole will ever be strengthened and revitalized… a formula to establish a central and synchronized public diplomacy body has not yet been found. It appears that Israel has still not internalized the full value of either dynamic public diplomacy or sophisticated psychological warfare.”

Things may be changing. Israel’s new government brought not only a new prime minister and foreign minister but ended the 12-year reign of Benjamin Netanyahu, who downgraded the foreign service budget, and
with it, a potent tool to improve its public diplomacy and get it’s narrative a fairer hearing. Bibi thought he did hasbara better than anyone, and perhaps he did. But relying on one person for effective PR, especially one so divisive in America, was a self-inflicted wound, especially with so many English-speaking orators who could have amplified his message. According to Gary Rosenblatt, the former editor and publisher of Jewish Week, Netanyahu was incomprehensibly rude to American Jewish journalists, antagonizing pro-Israel friends and writers. Bennett is fluent in English, the son of American immigrants, so he should not be shy about being out front in the PR wars.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid seems to get it, too. In a news conference at the Foreign Ministry on July 25, Lapid lamented that failed Israeli PR is partially to blame for the current peak in antisemitism and Israel-bashing. “The State of Israel is in trouble,” Lapid said, adding that “the time has come to tell Israel’s story differently.”

He said the Strategic Affairs Ministry had been folded into the Foreign Ministry in an effort to concentrate and improve Israel’s PR, and the ministry’s budget was being boosted significantly. “Restoring the status of the Foreign Ministry is a goal that both I and Prime Minister Bennett share.”

In Lapid’s words, “in the past years, Israel has abandoned its foreign service, abandoned the international arena, and then we woke up one morning to find that our international standing has been weakened. The management of the relationship with the Democratic Party in the United States was careless and dangerous. The Republicans are important to us; their friendship is important to us, but not only the friendship of the Republican Party. We find ourselves with a Democratic White House, Senate, and House, and they are angry. We need to change the way we work with them.”

This will be an uphill battle with the rise of the anti-Israel progressive wing. Hopefully, Lapid’s perception as a moderate may give the cowered mainstream pro-Israel Democrats like US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer some courage to speak up.

Will this government, like almost all before it, relegate the issue of Israel’s public relations at both times of war and peace to second or third-tier priorities? The damage done by Israel’s mixed messaging during the most recent Gaza war may have created a tipping point against Israel in America and Congress, with the anti-Israel pro-Palestinian voice moving to center stage.

For the first time, too many pro-Israel Democrats remained on the sidelines, not openly defending Israel during Operation Guardian of the Walls. They allowed a moral equivalence narrative to take hold, doing a wholly inadequate job of defending Israel from the malicious charge of indiscriminate attacks on Palestinian civilians or explaining the importance Israel plays in advancing American national security interests. Democrats told me that Israel’s PR was abysmal, making them less willing to take the risk of supporting Israel. There was also the legitimate fear from the ascendant anti-Israel members of their party that if they defended Israel, they could endanger their re-election.

Israel’s governing coalition of just 61 MKs hangs by a thread and has so much on its plate. It is tasked with advancing the nation’s interests at home and abroad while not losing even a single vote of a member along the way. Their first priority is to pass a two-year budget so the nation can finally plan for the future and create some stability. Making the case to prioritize PR will be a hard sell.

The Palestinians and their supporters speak with one message of victim and victimizer, occupier and occupied, that resonates in an American nation that is increasingly ignorant of the history of the Middle East. Out of context heart-wrenching narratives followed by charges of apartheid and war crimes are given unrefuted coverage. Especially when they come from progressive Jewish organizations like J Street that seem more pro-Palestinian than their self-designation as pro-Israel, pro-peace. Photos of children killed in war are reflexively blamed on Israel, even when it’s from a misfired Hamas rocket shot from a Palestinian civilian area. Israeli spokespeople have done a poor job publicizing the cynical use of Arab children as human shields.

Israel’s best English-language spokesperson, Netanyahu, was too involved in managing the war and chose not to deputize articulate English-speakers to go on the air and write columns throughout the US. The playing field was left almost entirely in the court of the anti-Zionists. Yes, it is an uphill fight, but its management has been a failure for decades. The inability to get all branches of government on the same message is not just poor public relations but a national security nightmare that is ignored at the nation’s peril. America needs Israel to do a better job, as it is in its interest for Israel to be strong and not become a pariah in the US.

An indication of the dysfunctional Israeli PR was the recent closure of its Strategic Affairs Ministry, transferring its mission to the underfunded Foreign Ministry. Outgoing director-general Tzahi Gavriel’s job was to brand Israel positively and fight the growing BDS movement. He told Lahav Harkov of The Jerusalem Post, “If we go back to a situation where this important issue is scattered between different ministries, we’ll deteriorate. This is about Israel as a brand. PR and hasbara were not enough anymore. We needed technology, data, a civil society engine, and digital assets. We needed infrastructure and a coordinated plan.”

Since the beginning of the Second Intifada, American supporters of Israel have been banging their heads against the walls of the Knesset and Prime Minister’s Office, trying to alert the Israeli government that it is losing the battle for the court of public opinion. The victim/victimizer approach advanced by mainstream media sympathetic to the underdog Palestinian cause could have been better managed. But getting the Israeli government to realize this as a national security priority fell on deaf ears repeatedly.

Often I heard from Israeli officials that they know what they were doing. Other times I heard that it doesn’t make a difference, and we have given up trying to convince an international community or mainstream media of Israel’s case. Arrogance and surrender is not a strategy. Especially for a country forging new relations from the Far East, the Asian subcontinent, and the Arab world. Not adequately prioritizing its public relations with its most important friend, ally, and benefactor, the United States, is just a self-inflicted wound. Israel is losing the American public.

Israel’s ability to prosecute the inevitable next war in the north or south may be limited by poor public relations. Suppose the American public is not convinced of Israel’s case during a war. In that case, the president and Congress will be less willing to give Israel leeway to continue fighting, forcing a premature ceasefire before Israel accomplishes its military goals. That alone could bring the following war sooner rather than later.

Going forward, what should the new government do regarding public diplomacy? Let’s start with a well-funded initiative to prioritize public relations in the English-speaking world. Here is a perfect example. Instead of marching out an older male Israeli spokesman speaking English in harsh accented Hebrew, Israel puts its best foot forward with a young female person of color with perfect English. The pro-Palestinian world has been using young relatable English speakers for years. You would never know that these Palestinian apologists represent a misogynistic, homophobic, authoritarian regime that wants to end Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish nation. Their weapons are the words of the intersectional Left of America, using their own set of facts and narratives to elicit an emotional response. That is the winning hand in this PR war.

What is needed is an entirely new and well-financed Israeli-based English training media center. Its goal would be to train Israel’s diplomats, politicians, ministers, spokespeople of government ministries, military, police force, civil society leaders and key Israeli influencers in practical communication skills to boost Israel’s image. If created in partnership between government and private donors, like Birthright, it could forge a path toward public relations effectiveness.

The media center would include practical training for TV, print, radio and social media. This would cover everything from learning how to develop talking points, writing op-eds and learning how to avoid getting trapped by questions of an interviewer hostile to Israel. Learning to be effective in social media platforms used in English is an absolute must. A real media studio with a mock TV and radio studio would allow those trained to feel comfortable in front of the camera. And yes, every politician, diplomat and person qualified for the English-speaking world would need to consider him or herself a student, requiring humility to improve.

The return of ‘Zionism is Racism’

Source: http://unitedwithisrael.org/

Published in The Jerusalem Report on July 12, 2021.

In 1975, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 3379, which “determine[d] that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” US ambassador to the UN Daniel Patrick Moynihan warned that “The United Nations is about to make antisemitism international law.” He said the United States “does not acknowledge, it will not abide by, it will never acquiesce in this infamous act… A great evil has been loosed upon the world.”

Yet the accusation of “Zionism is racism” is alive and well in America in 2021. The infamous 1975 UN Resolution that was rescinded in name only in the 1990s made its official return in 2001 at the Durban World Conference of Racism. As the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs stated, the conference “became a forum for racism. Human rights were used… as a weapon of political interests… A large group of states sought to… exclude references to the Holocaust, redefine or ignore antisemitism, and isolate the state of Israel from the global community as a racist practitioner of apartheid and crimes against humanity.”


Today its message animates much of American academia and the progressive world in all its antisemitic permutations. In the anti-Zionist Middle East, from Iran to Turkey to Hamas, with the notable new exceptions of nations who have signed the Abraham Accords, Zionism is Racism is a fact, just as the sky is blue. Just visit Jordan and Egypt, where the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are prominently displayed, despite both having formal peace treaties with Israel.

Calling someone a Zionist is an epithet for a Jew. In the Middle East, a Jew is ashorthand for Israeli. Israelis and supporters of Israel are Zionists. Zionism is Apartheid, and to be a Zionist means you are racist. Just visit any American college campus during the annual Jew-hating apartheid week in the spring semester. As American historian Gil Troy explained, “The Zionist settler in Palestine was transformed… into an analogue of white settlers in Africa… Palestinian propagandists were resurrecting parts of Nazi ideology… negating Jewish nationalism and peoplehood.” In other words, Zionism is racism – which means antisemitism.

Connecting Zionism to apartheid to racism was clearly articulated by Palestinian-American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib saying, Israel is “promoting racism and dehumanization” under an “apartheid system.”

Her fellow anti-Zionist Rep. Ilhan Omar not only calls Israel an “apartheid government” but accuses it of “terrorism” while ignoring the targeting of Jewish civilians by a US government-designated terrorist organization. The “Squad” leader, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, accused Israel not only of apartheid but of indiscriminately targeting Palestinian civilians. Even UNRWA’s Gaza director Matthias Schmale said the Israeli military struck targets with “sophistication” and “precision.” That was until Palestinians and their international supporters demanded that he retract the facts. The first casualty of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has always been the truth.

This is not legitimate criticism of Israel. This is antisemitism, according to the IHRA definition, used by the US State Department and scores of nations. In America, you may have the right to be an antisemite, but let’s call it what it is. It is Jew hatred that incites violence, and equating Zionism with racism is unvarnished antisemitism.

The dramatic increase in antisemitic hate crimes in the wake of the last Gaza war has been met with a deafening silence by progressive academics and organizations in defending Jews against hate crimes. Academics’ propensity for a morally flawed cultural relativism that excuses the antisemitism of Israel’s enemies while advancing a perverted rationale that Zionism is a racistideology must be exposed for what it is and then rejected. It is the witch’s brew that has brainwashed two generations of naïve American college students who are now in positions of authority.

The litmus test to know if this is antisemitic oversensitivity or a double standard against Jews and Israel is to replace the Jewish victim with a person of color and the nation of Israel with the American use of force against ISIS and other asymmetric enemies that hide behind their civilian population. The answer is both frightening as well as illuminating. From CNN to the New York Times to NPR, there would be an outrage against similar attacks against minority groups that would be headline-grabbing for days on end. Yet, according to FBI statistics, Jewish hate crimes have continued to increase over the last 25 years (last reported for the year 2019), while those against African-Americans have decreased. Some victims are more favored than others. As for Israel, no nation has been more meticulous in avoiding civilian casualties. The amount of negative coverage Israel receives rightly or wrongly dramatically exceeds that of other democratic countries fighting terrorists.

The rise of antisemitism in the guise of politically correct anti-Zionism would not happen if a growing segment of progressives and the mainstream media did not believe Zionism is racism, akin to American white racist discrimination. The Israeli is a white Jewish supremacist. The Palestinian is an afflicted victim of color. Zionism is therefore racist. Yet, the majority of Israeli Jews fit the criteria of people of color. This is an inconvenient fact ignored by the progressive Left. It must be pointed out that there is hope. There is an outstanding progressive representative who is a strong defender of Jews and Israel, Richie Torres. He needs to be a model for others and be supported when the AOC gang eventually intimidates him.

Unfortunately, many Gen Z members and millennials have bought into a dogma that Israel is a pariah state, and to be a Zionist is to be a racist. Mainstream media have given fringe groups like Jewish Voice for Peace legitimization to propagate a hate-filled message about Israel under supposed Jewish values. Zionism is incompatible with decency in the church of “social justice wokeism.” Fellow progressive travelers may not realize they are abetting antisemitism because their leaders have reformulated antisemitism to align with the contemporary social justice movement.

Jewish progressives see Israel and Palestinians as they see the plight of African Americans. The parallel is inappropriate, but ideological movements never let this get in the way of manipulating people. The emotional temperature in the wake of the BLM movement first allowed them to claim that American police brutality is a consequence of Israeli training of American police. Even before the women’s march of January 2017, liberal Zionists were told that no matter how “woke” you are, if you support Israel, you are persona non grata. You, too, are an oppressor and racist, and you are not welcome.

Once the riots of the summer of 2020 began, more false claims were easier to make. The years of apartheid walls, screaming down pro-Israel speakers on college campuses without any consequence, the intimidation of pro-Israel professors, and the fear Jewish students have of speaking up for Israel without being intimidated have brought us to where we are today. A few years ago, I was invited by a student to speak at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. A short time later, she called to apologize, telling me that she had to disinvite me or she would lose at least half of her friends because my viewpoint would not be welcome. Welcome to cancel culture.

I watched the return of Zionism is racism when I visited Vassar College with a young liberal Israeli speaker. Students for Justice in Palestine disrupted his talk, and when he asked them just to sit down and have a candid discussion, they refused and continued their disruption. Afterward, the students from J Street on campus told me that they were stigmatized as Zionists because they believed Israel had a right to exist, even though they were highly critical of Israeli policies. They said they were considered the most right-wing group on campus. Today that is closer to the norm than an aberration on too many campuses. Two years ago, I was disinvited from giving a speech at a majority black university after the dean read my address praising MLK and his support of Zionism.

Even though the original UNGA Resolution on Zionism was rescinded, the world never stopped equating Zionism with racism. The best proof is the infamous Durban conference, which was a hate fest of Jews and Zionism. Let’s look at what the original resolution said.
The determination that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination was based on:

• The unholy alliance between South African racism and Zionism

• The racist regime in occupied Palestine and the racist regimes in Zimbabwe and South Africa have a common imperialist origin… organically linked in their policy aimed at the repression of the dignity and integrity of the human being,”

• Most severely condemned Zionism as a threat to world peace and security and called upon all countries to oppose this racist and imperialist ideology.

• The principle that “international co-operation and peace require… the elimination of colonialism and neo-colonialism, foreign occupation, Zionism, Apartheid.”

Does anyone think this resolution would not garner a significant majority of votes in the UN today, or a substantial number of the progressive caucus and the rest of the anti-Israel gallery of activists? Their words and hate resonate with young idealistic progressives who know little of history. What makes this intolerance so galling is that progressives claim to be open-minded but, in reality, are the most illiberal members of Congress, disrespecting differing points of view.

This May, I spoke to a Democratic Senate office that told me the Human Rights Watch’s designation of Israel as an apartheid state had caused real damage with Democrats. I was told defending Israel in the wake of the Gaza war was too politically dangerous, especially with the rise of the progressives who would work to defeat moderates in the next election.

A letter signed by hundreds of faculty, students, and alumni at Princeton University said, “We stand by HRW… in calling Israel’s systemic discrimination and violence by its proper name: Apartheid. The brutal system that controls Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories is ideologically founded upon Jewish supremacy.”

SPME, a network of university scholars whose mission is to fight the falsehoods of pro-Palestinian advocates, pointed out the Daily Princetonian article was “filled with empirically false or grotesquely exaggerated assertions, a profound lack of empathy for Israelis and Jewish lives and safety… Israel is a colonial, illegal occupier of Arab land. (This) an occupation that includes land grabs, state-sponsored terror, militarism, and random and sadistic violence against an indigenous population.”

A driving force to legitimize the narrative that Zionism is Racism is to view the world through the prism of Intersectionality. All victimized people need to stand together because all our causes are intertwined. Black Lives Matter, Palestinian Lives Matter. Even liberal Jews are suspect because, in this Orwellian nightmare, American Jews are white, privileged, and racist even if they don’t know it.

What could slow it down, but is unlikely to happen, would be a vociferous counterattack by pro-Israel liberal Democrats. Instead, we are getting the usual bromides about Israel having a right to defend itself, but silence in supporting and defending Zionism and Israel’s vital role in supporting US interests in that part of the world.

What makes this a tipping point is the silence of pro-Israel Democrats in Congress and the mainstreaming of new anti-Zionists such as Peter Beinart, who is still described as a liberal Zionist. How can you be a Zionist if you want a binational state to end a Jewish state because it offends your progressive sensibilities?

An excellent place to begin is to continue to lobby every organization, university, and nation to understand why adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism is essential to combat antisemitism. If you cannot define it, you cannot fight it. If you challenge the Jewish people’s right to a national homeland and Israel’s right to exist, you are in effect practicing antisemitism. The Zionism is Racism crowd is fighting this definition tooth and nail, in the name of free speech. If you wanted to gauge American society, ask yourself, how many members of Congress would vote against using this definition for antisemitism?

Zionism was never racism, and forcefully defending and implementing the IHRA definition is a good place to begin.

America needs a stable Israeli government

Source: Getty Images

An earthquake has hit the Israeli political scene. Its longest-serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, now leads the opposition after 12 years. For an America that counts on a strong and stable Israel as part of its core security interests, this profound change in Israeli politics is a moment of both potential and vulnerability.

Read the full article from The Hill.

New York Times Letters to the Editor

Photo Credit: thewrap.com

Letter to the Editor #1 

Re: Israel Moves Toward Coalition Deal That Could Sideline Netanyahu, May 30th news article.


The article states Prime Minister Netanyahu’s long tenure has left a “lasting legacy. He shifted the fulcrum of Israeli politics firmly to the right —and presided over the dismantling of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.”

The Israeli polity shifted from center-left to the center right not because of Mr. Netanyahu, but because of the Second Intifada beginning in 2000. That was when President Arafat rejected a Palestinian state and East Jerusalem as his capital and started the bloody Intifada of homicide bombers in Israeli malls, restaurants, and busses. Israelis were shocked and realized that their hopes for compromise with their Palestinian neighbors were an illusion. In 2008, an even more generous offer of 100% of the West Bank, East Jerusalem as a Palestinian capital, and even control of the Temple Mount was rejected by the moderate Palestinian President Abbas. 

For all of his triumphs and faults, Netanyahu did not dismantle the peace process or move Israel to the right. That was the Palestinians themselves, who could have had a state at least five times over the last 73 years. 

Letter to the Editor #2

Re: There Is a Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (Guest Essay, May 27th). 

Former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s article says that a two-states-for-two-peoples (Arab and Jewish) solution is the only “answer to the national aspirations of both the Jewish people and the Palestinians.” 

Interestingly, she chooses not to mention the most significant event that occurred during her tenure as Foreign Minister, that when Prime Minister Olmert offered Palestinian Authority President Abbas 100% of the West Bank with land swaps, East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital, and internationalization of the Temple Mount, Mr. Abbas never even responded. He was not willing to give up the demand for an unlimited right of return of descendants of Palestinian refugees that would demographically destroy the Jewish state, as well as signing an end of conflict agreement to end all future claims.

Ms. Livni says that neither side will ever accept the narrative of the other and won’t convince the other of “who has more rights to the land.” That may be true, but what is needed is for each side to respect the narrative of the other and be willing to compromise. Only then will the possibility of a resolution of the conflict come into view.

Israel vs anti-Israel advocacy journalism

Advocacy journalism can inspire Israel to take the initiative and control its own destiny, as it lives in a woke world where its right to exist is fair game, and violence against Jews is excused.

Published in the Jerusalem Post.

PALESTINIANS DEMONSTRATE outside Damascus Gate in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

I read the New York Times lead story this weekend, “Life Under Occupation: The Misery at the Heart of the Conflict,” as a justification for this Gaza war and militant violence. Personal stories to pull at your heartstrings are the strategy of pro-Palestinian organizations and the Times.

“Mr. Abu Alia seethed as he described seeing his son outside in the dark, ‘afraid, crying because of the soldiers, and I can do nothing to protect him. It makes you want to take revenge…. But we have nothing to defend ourselves with. Stone-throwing must suffice. We can’t take an M-16 and go kill every settler. All we have are those stones. A bullet can kill you instantly. A little stone won’t do much. But at least I’m sending a message.’”

A few years ago, I debated a J Street representative at the Columbia Graduate School of International Affairs. After my presentation, which presented the conflict in all of its complexities, the J Street representative said, I cannot argue with any of Dr. Mandel’s facts, but let me tell you about… He then went on to tell a litany of personal stories of suffering.

I believe I lost that debate because I did not pull at the audience’s heartstrings, purposely manipulating people’s emotions so they could avoid the more challenging task of evaluating the merits of each debater’s arguments.

I should have spoken about the equally compelling tragic stories of Israeli children and residents of Israel’s South who live continually with traumatic stress. One psychologist in Sderot told me 80% of the residents suffer not from PTSD but rather from continual traumatic stress.

As in the case of my J Street debater, what was left out of the Times news article was any context. There is a word for one-sided news articles. It is called advocacy journalism, meant to convince the reader of the writer’s opinion. Personal narratives are there to make you sympathize with one side or the other. What was most egregious in the article and in that debate was the complete lack of context.

Israel left 100% of Gaza 16 years ago, and Gaza could be flourishing today like Dubai, in Palestinian-controlled territory. Instead, Hamas has committed innumerable war crimes, sending thousands of rockets into Israeli civilian areas while using Gaza residents’ children as human shields.

The only reason Israel controls the Gaza borders is that if it did not, there would be an unrelenting resupply of Iranian missiles and weapons, killing and maiming thousands of Jewish civilians. Excuse Israel for doing the No. 1 thing a nation should do – protect its civilians so they are not living with fear every hour of every day.

The author seemed to have amnesia, leaving out that the occupation of the disputed territory could have ended numerous times over the last 72 years if the Palestinians had accepted a Palestinian state living next to a Jewish state. They refused that in 1937, 1947, 1967, 2000, 2001, and 2008. That is because Palestinian Arab leadership prioritizes destroying a Jewish state more than it wants a Palestinian state. Something you won’t read in a J Street press release. An ADL survey showed that the Palestinian people has the highest ranking for antisemitism in the whole world, at 93%. This was not a poll of anti-Israel bias but blatant stereotypical Jew-hatred.

The pretext for this war, according to the article, was the decades-long court case involving a few families in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. The article chose not to mention that Jews have owned the homes since the 19th century, and the tenants have been offered to remain in their homes if they pay rent.

Palestinian supporters have chosen select facts to advance their charge of ethnic cleansing and Judaization of Jerusalem. On a political level, it would have been better for Israel to have ignored this dispute, allowing the Arab residents to stay and having Israel compensate the owners. But Israel is a democracy with the rule of law and courts for real estate disputes.

Perhaps it is time for Israel to realize that the world and a growing part of the Democratic Party will never see Israel as anything but an occupier. Maybe the unrelenting double standard against Israel should be seen as an opportunity for Israel to choose its security borders and not wait for the Palestinians. Heck, nobody thought the Abraham Accords would ever happen. This certainly would upset many people. But considering decades of Palestinian rejection of their own state because they would have to sign an end-of-conflict resolution, accept a demilitarized Palestinian state and end the demand for a right of return, maybe the time has come for Israel to set a new path.

Advocacy journalism can inspire Israel to take the initiative and control its own destiny, as it lives in a woke world where its right to exist is fair game, and violence against Jews is excused as a natural reaction to occupation.

So here are some proposals to get people’s blood pressure to boil.

1. Israel unilaterally defines its borders based on security considerations

2. No further Jewish building in the areas designated for a future Palestinian-controlled territory.

3. Jewish growth is confined to the settlement blocs or settlements essential for security considerations.

4. Continued Israeli security control of the designated future Palestinian territory until the Palestinians can unreservedly sign an end-of-conflict agreement and recognize a Jewish state next to an Arab one. That could take generations, if not longer.

5. Consider drawing the lines of a future Palestinian state that would incorporate areas within pre-1967 Israel with an Arab population. If Arab citizens of Israel want to keep their Israeli citizenship, they may need to move to Israel or remain Israeli citizens living under the Palestinian Authority.

6. Redefining Jerusalem’s artificially created borders to designate overwhelmingly Arab Muslim areas of Jerusalem for a future Palestinian entity, thereby demographically moving hundreds of thousands of Arabs from the census of Israel, if and when Palestinians decide to live in peace with a Jewish state. All Jewish holy sites and neighborhoods remain under Israeli control.

7. Tangible consequences when Hamas sends rockets into Israeli civilian areas.

Mind you, this is all to stimulate debate. None of this would satisfy the international community, the Times, the Biden administration, or for that matter many Israelis, like my fellow columnist Caroline Glick. But it is food for thought.

The Times writers believe Israel is an apartheid state and want Israel to become a binational state – in other words, the demographic destruction of a postcolonial aberration of Jewish racism.

So is it the time for Israelis to consider taking their future into their own hands, offering an olive branch to future Palestinians, that a Palestinian state could be theirs for the asking?

The status quo may be the safest choice for Israel to avoid sanctions from the Biden administration, the EU and the UN. However, now is the time for Israelis to have a serious internal debate about the future, to move forward without waiting for the Palestinian leopard to change its spots.

This war was more about sabotaging the emerging Israeli-Gulf relationship and preventing an Islamist Israeli-Arab party from joining an Israeli government, than it was about a few homes in Sheikh Jarrah. But admitting that would undermine the thesis of advocacy journalists.

Will the Biden administration follow the law on the Iranian nuclear agreement?

Published by JNS

Credit: frontpagemag.com

If President Joe Biden changes or adjusts the Iran nuclear deal—the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA—then he is obligated to bring it to Congress. This is not the wishful thinking of critics of the agreement; it is according to the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA) of 2015.

In May of 2015, Congress passed INARA, giving itself the right to review any future agreements or modifications reached regarding the Iran nuclear deal, in essence reserving the right to assess any changes made. Since it’s almost impossible to restore the deal intact since six years have passed since it was written, a return to the JCPOA promised by Biden means a new agreement. The administration’s strategy will be to ignore Congress, claiming that any changes will not be substantive, so INARA does not apply.

According to former Assistant Secretary of State Stephen Rademaker, writing in RealClearWorld, “The Act mandates congressional review—and provides for potential disapproval—of not just the JCPOA, but any “agreement related to the nuclear program of Iran … regardless of the form it takes … the Act (also) prohibits the extension of sanctions relief during the 30 days the law sets aside for congressional review of any nuclear agreement with Iran.”

Biden promised to rejoin the JCPOA, and lengthen and strengthen the unsigned agreement. Unfortunately, his Iran envoy Robert Malley has said that if Iran returns to full compliance, then they will immediately get sanctions relief. Does that mean removing all sanctions, including those for their egregious human-rights abuses, missile proliferation and counterterrorism? U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that no significant amendments will be added before rejoining the agreement. I don’t follow the administration’s logic—beginning negotiations with the wily Iranian regime by giving away all its leverage.

In response this month, Sens. James Risch (-Wis.) and Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) introduced legislation called the Iran Sanctions Relief Review Act of 2021 (S. 488) to address the administration’s contradictory approach and messaging. Risch said, “It’s increasingly clear that the Biden administration’s promises to ‘lengthen and strengthen’ the Iran nuclear deal are instead an attempt to re-enter the flawed 2015 JCPOA at any cost. … This bill would require Congress to approve any Biden administration effort to lift sanctions against the Iranian regime. The United States currently maintains a position of significant leverage with Iran because our sanctions are working. Given that reality, the administration should keep its promises to address the JCPOA’s looming sunsets, as well as Iran’s regional terrorism, ballistic-missile activity and wrongful imprisonment of Americans.”

And that is where INARA comes in. If Biden keeps his promise to be the anti-Trump, following the law he needs to go back to Congress before obligating America to trust the theocratic Islamic regime, which hid and lied about its nuclear program for decades. Like all recent executives of both parties, Biden will claim that foreign policy is the exclusive purview of the president. That is because the Senate has allowed presidents to run roughshod over its constitutional duties for decades. The Senate should speak up now—that includes members on both sides of the aisle. Will Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who voted against the deal the first time, speak up again and act? The JCPOA in 2015 should have been submitted to the Senate as a treaty, being the most consequential American foreign-policy agreement of the 21st century.

According to an article in Foreign Policy by Daniel Kutzer, Aaron Miller and Steven Simon, “Little constituency exists in Washington for returning to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran on precisely the same terms as before. Republicans and even some crucial Democrats oppose it.” If that is true, then the president is bound by law to send any updates or changes to Congress for review.

I received a request from a reader about what voters should “ask for” from Congress. First, don’t be fooled by rhetoric that claims we are all on the same page, agreeing that Iran should never get a nuclear weapon. That does not mean and is not the same as improving the JCPOA now. When Brett McGurk, Biden’s national security council coordinator for the Middle East, said this week concerning the United States and Israel’s goals regarding Iran, “there is no disagreement. … Iran can never get a nuclear weapon, period,” that is political doublespeak. It does not address that the JCPOA, which the administration has vowed to return to, still allows Iran to develop an industrial-size nuclear program in less than 10 years when its sunset provisions fully kick in.

The answer for pro-Israel Americans is to let the Democratic Majority for Israel, the Jewish Democratic Council and their state legislators know the JCPOA’s weaknesses are your No. 1 foreign-policy concern. Let them know you expect Biden to keep his word to strengthen and lengthen the deal, but to do it before rejoining a flawed JCPOA. And you want the Senate to be able to weigh in and review the modifications. Let them know that rhetoric alone without a fundamental change of the sunset provisions is not enough. The handwriting is already on the wall for a return to the old JCPOA. Now is the time to speak up.

Middle East peace won’t happen without addressing religious issues

Credit: The Forward

Published by the Hill.

In the decades-long conflict between Israel and Palestine, there is an essential component that well-meaning Western negotiators have underestimated: religion factors more into the equation the West might expect, even for secular Arab citizens. 

Religious beliefs are a core reason that many Palestinians cannot accept the legitimacy of Jewish nationalism (Zionism) or peoplehood. For them, it is a religious obligation never to cede land that once was Islamic. The Western mindset can’t fathom the importance of this, unable to comprehend that there is no separation of mosque and state for these believers. If it were simply about haggling over borders, the conflict probably would have ended long ago. 

Israelis also have a religious narrative, especially among those who settle the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) for religious reasons — the biblical homeland of Jewish people.  

With the Biden administration re-engaging with the Palestinian Authority and restoring funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine refugees, it would be wise to reflect on past failures in achieving Middle East peace. This requires something difficult for Washington: thinking beyond conventional State Department wisdom. Typically for Washington diplomats, it is all about Israeli settlements and not the role that religion plays in the conflict.

But Western analysts have underestimated the vehemence of those who believe that Judaism is only a religion, and not a people or a nation. From their perspective, the Jews don’t have a civilization or one with legitimate aspirations for their ancestral home in the Levant. On the other hand, they feel a duty to keep, or to regain, control of any place that once was under Islamic control.

For example, the first Islamic presence on the Temple Mount (Haram al-Sharif), the Dome of the Rock, was built in the late 7th century, nearly 1,600 years after the Jewish temple first stood on that location. If you listen to the Palestinian Authority’s line, never mind the archeology, Jews were never there and are simply colonialist interlopers. 

Western experts should appreciate the importance of the Abraham Accords, in which moderate Islamic nations chose pragmatism and respect for their Jewish cousins’ claim to nationhood. It could be a gift to create a new paradigm between the Israelis and Palestinians. But only if a new Palestinian leader emerges in the image of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ), a pragmatic Sunni moderate who signed a peace treaty with Israel, will there be a chance to resolve the conflict anytime soon. Such a leader must accept a Jewish state without territorial demands dictated by strict interpretation of Islam. Many Middle East experts failed to see the Abraham Accords coming, wherein Arab states would recognize Israel and choose moderation over religious orthodoxy. 

The origins of the Israel-Palestine conflict were never simply territorial, ending in Arab and Jewish states as envisioned in United Nations Resolution 181. The most unmistakable evidence is that former leaders Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas both declined offers for a Palestinian state and Arab East Jerusalem as the capital in 2001 and 2008, respectively.  

Western foreign policy officials say that we all know how this conflict has to end — two states for two peoples, with a division of the land and Jerusalem based on the 1949-1967 Armistice Lines. Yet, they forget there were those who would not sign an armistice unless it made clear that these lines would not be permanent borders, insisting instead on a ceasefire that stated, “The Armistice Demarcation Line is not to be construed in any sense as a political or territorial boundary,” so it could not legitimize a Jewish entity.  

Today, conventional Western wisdom is that Palestinians sustained “Al Naqba,” a “catastrophe,” with the creation of the State of Israel, which expelled 600,000 indigenous people. But this catastrophe for the Palestinian people wasn’t only of Israel’s doing. Respecting Palestine’s loss is something with which most Israelis could empathize — if most Palestinians could overcome the belief that Israel has no right to exist. Both peoples must learn to respect the other’s narrative.

Religion was a motivating factor in Palestinian leaders and Arab nations not accepting a Palestinian state in 1948, 1967, 2000 and 2008. This more realistic, but politically incorrect, narrative is not one that today’s foreign policy experts want to accept.

America should not mediate any negotiation for final-status talks without a precondition: The signing of an unassailable end-of-conflict treaty, stating that neither side can have claims on the other’s territory. That is a non-negotiable demand to avoid past failures, because it would mean the religious dimension of the conflict is addressed regarding territorial concessions.

Palestinians deserve a government that prioritizes their future and begins the process of accepting the painful compromises needed for their economic empowerment and freedom. With Palestinians about to vote in legislative elections, it is incumbent on the U.S. to articulate a clear position on what it expects of Palestine and Israel. 

If accepting Zionism and embracing the principles of the Abraham Accords is a bridge too far for the political leaders to cross at this time, a good beginning would be to foster grassroots dialogues between moderate Muslim and Jewish religious leaders, who can see the humanity in the other people with whom they are destined to live in the land. Who knows — if the Abraham Accords were possible, anything may be possible?

Israel’s northern border: An Iranian threat underappreciated by the US

Previously published in the Jerusalem Report. Written with Sarit Zehavi.

A view of Mount Bental on Israel’s northern border, Source: Sarit Zehavi

Does the US fully understand Iran’s grand designs for the Middle East?

The Iranian regime presents its long-term strategic plan to export the Islamic revolution as a religious duty. Establishing civilian communities and loyal fighters in surrounding lands to further its sphere of influence and exert control is an integral part of their plan.

The goal is to make these tribal communities financially dependent on the Islamic Republic while proselytizing Shi’ism and increasing the respect for their brand of Shi’ism in these vulnerable populations. Israel watched this strategy play out in Lebanon and is now seeing it implemented in Syria and Iraq.

In 2018, after Syria’s President Bashir Assad regained control of southern Syria with Iran and Russia’s help, Iran began cultivating and investing in the local Syrian population. It used a strategy that helped civic organizations along with economic investment. Iran planned to turn southern Syria into a dependent front line against Israel, mimicking the infrastructure and populace under Hezbollah’s control in Lebanon.

The research and educational think tank Alma (co-writer Sarit Zehavi is the founder and CEO) has uncovered civic foundations under Iranian control in Syria, receiving direct funding from Hezbollah and Iran. At the same time, their combatants are embedded within the civilian Sunni population.

According to Alma’s research, after the reconquest of southern Syria, there was a concerted effort to take over mosques and establish Hussainiyas (Shi’ite religious gathering sites). The goal was to ingratiate themselves with the population who would become dependent on Iran for all aspects of their economies, education, and religion.

The Iranian-controlled axis from Tehran to Beirut includes Shi’ite brethren, and co-opted Sunnis, Druze, and Alawites. Iran’s imperialistic ambition is always on the lookout for opportunities to embed itself within local populations to exert new influence. Whether it was the instability of the Arab Winter in 2011 or the chaos that followed in the Syrian civil war, Iran has a single-minded focus on perpetuating its revolutionary plans and dominating the Middle East and beyond.

To understand what is happening in Syria, you need to understand Lebanon. Since Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese government with cabinet ministries, it allows them to transfer monies to themselves. The estimated amount of financial support Hezbollah sent to the Lebanese provinces of Tyre, Bint Jbeil, and Marjayoun in 2020 was twenty-two billion, one hundred thirty million Lebanese pounds for health, education, and social services. Unfortunately, there is little counterweight from the Lebanese government to oppose Iranian influence as it provides few public services to its people, especially in Hezbollah-dominated regions.

Iranian-controlled Hezbollah fills the void, providing the daily necessities, a terrorist organization masquerading as a social movement to create dependency and willing soldiers. Hezbollah is also the dominant political organization that effectively controls an impotent Lebanese government. Shockingly, there are still European nations that treat Hezbollah as a legitimate political entity, making a disingenuous moral distinction between Hezbollah’s political and military wings.

The Achilles heel of American foreign policy is that it changes every four years with a presidential election. The US is profoundly disadvantaged in creating long-term planning to oppose Iranian influence. In contrast, authoritarian regimes like Iran, Turkey, and Russia can remain in place for decades, knowing they can strategize for the long term.

Today, Israel’s north is in the hands of the Iranians. Israel knows it, but the US doesn’t fully appreciate it, minimizing the Supreme Leader’s and his Revolutionary Guards’ apocalyptical words as hyperbole and rhetoric. The US incorrectly believes that sending one hundred forty million dollars a year to the Lebanese Armed Forces provides an effective counterweight to Hezbollah. When Iranian and Hezbollah leaders deliberately lie (taddiyah), it is part of a grand strategy to defeat the greater and lesser Satans – the US and Israel. What all American administrations since the Iranian Revolution of 1979 have in common is a difficult time fully comprehending the Iranian Twelver Shi’ite mindset that prioritizes Islamist imperial desires over its people’s well-being.

US Democratic Party administrations’ single-minded focus on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Iran nuclear deal) in dealing with Iran serves them poorly in understanding Iran’s goals. In particular, it distracts from what is likely to be the arena for the next major Middle East War on Israel’s northern border, with Iran calling the shots.

For decades, US Congress members have visited Kofi (café) Annan, a coffee shop at an old Israeli fortification on Mount Bental that looks into Syria’s Golan. In plain sight is the abandoned old city of Quneitra that seems just a stone’s throw away. They were told that this was Israel’s quietest border, at least until the start of the Syrian civil war. Today Iran has created and controls civilian life in the Quneitra, Daraa, and Suwayda districts of southern Syria, in plain sight of Cafe Annan. The civilian establishment solidifies the long-sought-after Shi’ite Crescent across the Middle East, an Islamist conduit for the transfer of precision-guided weapons systems and military personal, as part of an extended-range plan to destroy Israel.

In March 2021, Hezbollah chief Nasrallah looked directly into the camera and told the world that if we had “accurate (precision-guided) missile factories, we would tell everyone with “pride.” But “we don’t have anything of the kind.” On the contrary, Alma has overwhelming documentation of weapons depots, launching pads, and missile factories throughout Lebanon and Syria.

It should make everyone pause because they are embedded in civilian neighborhoods. Especially in Beirut, Hezbollah hides missile launching sites and rockets within heavily populated civilian areas. Using Wikimapia, an open-content collaborative mapping project site on the internet, Alma exposed rocket launching sites next to Al Rassoul Al Azam Hospital. Another production site for Iranian Fatah-110 missiles is located in the Ghobeiry neighborhood, near the Lebanese Ministry of Labor, another civilian facility. Prime Minister Netanyahu also exposed missile factories in the Alelichi neighborhood under four seven-story residential buildings’ housing foundations, next to a medical center and church. In the Shuifat area, a missile factory is hidden under civilian housing and is next to a mosque.

Can you imagine the international uproar if Israel, in retaliation for a Hezbollah attack against Israeli civilians, struck a mosque or apartment house from where the missiles were fired?

In January, Alma Research and Education Center published a connection between two military facilities and a Lebanese charity. The Islamic Shi’ite Waqf Committee in Burj al Barajneh is complicit in hiding Hezbollah’s Fatah 110 missile launch sites within Beirut. The Hussein Maktabi High School and the Burj al Barjneh-America Football Stadium are situated next to missile sites. Launchers and missiles were found not only next to the hospital but next to the Al Aytam petroleum facility, many restaurants, and the Ansar football (soccer) field.

The local Lebanese council members demanded the Lebanon Armed Forces investigate the use of a hospital by Hezbollah, but the LAF claimed there was nothing there. They are simply intimidated by Hezbollah. The local council members resigned in protest, not wanting to be blamed if another massive Beirut port explosion occurred under their watch.

Iran and Hezbollah have taken notice of Alma’s embarrassing exposés. The research center in Galilee is now in the Islamist’s crosshairs, literally. Hezbollah made public the exact coordinates of Alma’s research and educational facility in Galilee, where Congress members often visit. Alma has been cyber-at-tacked multiple times by Iran and its proxies.

This is what Hezbollah posted on its page: “Who is Alma? The Zionist Alma Center is an educational and research center dedicated to fabricating security lies on the northern borders of occupied Palestine and educating Zionist opinion-makers, research centers, academia, and others on how to make innocent civilians a military target in war.”

Nasrallah said, “Hezbollah points the finger of blame and repeated claims, that Alma is nothing more than a branch of the Israeli government.” In reality, Alma is independent and receives no funding from the IDF. Scapegoating to deflect your deficiencies is a tried and true formula of Islamist regimes. Facts are inconvenient problems when you have brainwashed those who have trusted you to protect them, and you not only fail to deliver but put them in harm’s way by using your people as human shields.

Why is Hezbollah taking this so seriously? In part, the information Alma exposes is damaging, as it justifies Israel’s repeated attacks to thwart the Iranian missile threat. But even more critical is that Hezbollah’s strength is that it receives the support of the Shiite population. If it loses the people’s help, its legitimacy could crumble. Exposing missiles and launchers next to schools, hospitals, residential neighborhoods, and sports facilities have struck a nerve with Hezbollah. They know that this is a line in the sand that the local population may not stand for as it purposely endangers their families and neighborhoods.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi has made clear that Hezbollah’s human shield strategy doesn’t grant Iran’s Hezbollah proxy immunity against future attacks. Israel will attack legitimate military targets as long as the military advantage outweighs the civilian loss. And yes, this is according to international law. In response, Nasrallah has said there is no difference between Israeli civilians and soldiers, an old story first told by the Palestinians to justify terrorist attacks on Israeli innocents.

Hezbollah and Iran are banking on winning a propaganda war against Israel. The global community would judge Israel harshly if more Lebanese are killed than Israeli civilians, a cynical battle of moral equivalence.

In a future Israeli northern war, Iranian-controlled militias that have partially withdrawn from Syria could quickly return to Israel’s Golan border in great numbers if the border gets hot. Missiles could fly this time from not only Lebanon but Syria, Iraq, and even Yemen.

Israel knows it will have to strike fast before the diplomatic fallout constrains its efforts, as the Israeli people who will suffer terribly will demand an overwhelming response, knowing the Lebanese and Syrian human shields will be paying the price.

Israel is worried that if the US rejoins the JCPOA, sanctions relief will directly flow to Iran’s proxies. That will increase the chance for war. The Biden administration should hold fast to sanctions no matter how immovable the Iranians are on the JCPOA, especially if they want to minimize the chances for a northern Israeli war with Iran and its proxies. At the very least, the sanctions against Iran for missiles and terror will be maintained.