Tag Archives: Israel News

Will America Recertify the JCPOA, Abandon its Influence in Middle East?

{Previously published in The Jerusalem Post}

One of US President Donald Trump’s most longstanding conservative critics, Bret Stephens of The New York Times, recently challenged pro-Israel conservatives on why they still support the president.

“The president’s Jewish supporters are left to wonder why the Iran deal remains in force… Bashar al-Assad is stronger than ever, [and] the Israeli government is outraged by the deals the administration has cut with Russia at Israel’s strategic expense.”

While America, the media, and the world have completely focused on the presidential melodrama, America has taken its eye off potentially more consequential issues in the Middle East affecting national security interests for years to come. First among the essential decisions coming due is on Iran.

Will Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and Secretary of Defense James Mattis convince President Trump, for the third time, to recertify Iranian compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in October, despite evidence of serious violations? Only UN Ambassador Nikki Haley seems inclined to oppose recertification, but she is not in the inner circle.

As Ambassador Eric Edelman and Gen. (ret.) Charles Wald, former deputy commander of US European Command, wrote in Politico, abiding by the JCPOA “will only enable a nuclear and hegemonic Iran. It provides Tehran significant financial, military and geopolitical benefits… in exchange for minimal, reversible and temporary concessions on its nuclear program… the JCPOA puts Iran on track to become as intractable a challenge as North Korea is today.”

The first two certifications may have been understandable in light of a new administration getting its house in order while seriously evaluating the consequences of a difficult choice between abandoning a campaign promise to end a very bad deal, and the diplomatic and strategic consequences of withdrawal.

The problem now is that the president’s political weakness makes any choice, especially decertification, a much higher hill to climb because of its controversial nature, Democrats having been generally supportive, while Republicans on the whole against the deal from the start. It is a political sword of Damocles hanging over an embattled president, no matter the merits. The president’s political opponents include a growing number in Congress who would ordinarily back decertification on principle, but may choose to remain on the sidelines due to political expediency, avoiding any association with this administration.

Forcefully standing up to any adversary breaking an agreement is a long-term American diplomatic interest that should be beyond politics. Under normal circumstances transgressing UNSC resolutions on ballistic missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead alone would be more than reasonable grounds for renegotiation or decertification.

But these are not normal times. The impulse of the administration to avoid hard choices in this political climate and their inclination for less American involvement in the region overall may move them to again recertify compliance with the JCPOA, no matter the violations or longterm effect. Three times might well make it a fait accompli to never decertify the deal.

In this region America’s allies will perceive it as profound weakness, sending a green light for an Iranian march toward the Syrian-Iraqi border, putting a final nail in the coffin of stopping a land corridor to the Mediterranean, joining Tehran to Hezbollah- dominated Lebanon.

Politico’s chief international affairs correspondent Susan Glasser wrote, “Russia won in Syria thanks to President Barack Obama’s inaction.”

But now President Trump’s State Department has handed Russia control of enforcing a cease-fire that directly endangers Israel and Jordan.

If Iran, Hezbollah, or Syria violates the Russian cease-fire, will America respond and impose consequences, or will this administration follow the Obama policy of creating vacuums undermining American national security interests for generations to come?

There is no reason to believe that Russia will do anything to impede its allies when they inevitably move toward the Israeli Golan Heights while continuing their ethnic cleansing of Sunnis in the southwest of Syria.

Israel has sent a high-level national security team to meet with its counterparts in Washington to talk about Israel’s fear of a permanent Iranian/Hezbollah/Shi’ite presence mere kilometers from the Israeli Golan.

There is little doubt Iran will have a naval presence in Syrian territory on the Mediterranean, forever changing the region’s security balance, but an additional land link to supply Hezbollah and their bases in Syria will put a noose around Israel from the north, creating conditions for a new war.

Iran’s next logical step would be to create instability in a fragile Jordan, already home to millions of refugees. Its new relationship with Hamas could be a prelude to destabilization of the Hashemite dynasty, placing an Iranian ally like Hamas as a compliant friend in Jordan.

The threat to Israel from the west would be a war Israel could not avoid, as it is committed to militarily keeping the Hashemite Kingdom in power as a buffer with Iraq.

A tipping point could be reached if Iran coordinates with Hamas from Gaza, and Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Golan, to create three simultaneous fronts against Israel. You can imagine what the West Bank Palestinians would do with this opportunity to bloody a distracted Israel.

How would any of this be good for American national security interests?

Should Israel trust anyone but itself to enforce the Syrian agreement? History clearly answers with a resounding “no.”

Just a few examples:

1. A unanimous UNSC Resolution 1701 after the Second Lebanon War declared: “[T]he disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon… no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese State.” Today Hezbollah effectively controls Lebanon with 125,000 missiles, none ever stopped by the impotent UN Interim Security force.

2. American policy over many administrations, including the Obama administration, until 2013 was unambiguous: no Iranian nuclear weapons capability. The promise was turned into a lie as UNSCR 2231 and the JCPOA guarantee Iran the right to an unlimited nuclear capability in 10-15 years with international approval.

3. On to chemical weapons promises. Remember when secretary of state John Kerry told the world, “We got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out” while national security adviser Susan Rice claimed that president Obama got Syria to “verifiably give up its chemical weapons stockpile forever.”

So much for pieces of paper guaranteeing regional security.

Have Tillerson and Co. learned anything from the broken promises of the last administration, which American allies still point to as one of the fundamental reasons of lost trust for American guarantees? Is this administration interested in repairing American credibility?

While the media was focused on Fayetteville, Reuters reported that diplomats and weapons inspectors now believe that Syrian dictator Assad never gave up his chemical weapons.

Now Israel is supposed to trust an American- sanctioned agreement allowing Russian control of enforcing a cease-fire in Syria, the vital link in the Iranian land corridor. Considering that every negotiated cease-fire in Syrian eventually failed, Israel should be more than alarmed.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s upcoming fourth visit with Russian President Vladimir Putin reveals Israel’s concern and the address of the major power player in the region, Russia, because of the American- created vacuum in the region.

In the Middle East, the only thing worse than overzealous American intervention is American abandonment.

Obama was wrong when he claimed that Syria would become Russia’s Vietnam, as Russia beyond all expectations now has new and upgraded military bases in Syria, including the port in Tartus and air base in Latakia.

The question now in this season of American political turmoil is, can the Trump administration rise to the occasion, reasserting American influence in the region for its own national security interests?

Or will it follow the devastating counterproductive policy of president Obama’s abandonment of the region and its allies that first led to the rise of Islamic State and Russian dominance, and next to the more consequential Iranian dominance of the Levant.

The author is director of MEPIN™, the Middle East Political and Information Network™. He regularly briefs members of Congress and think tanks on the Middle East. He is a regular contributor to The Jerusalem Post.

New Challenges from Israel’s East and North

(Previously published in the Jerusalem Post)

Even if Israel and the West prop up the carcass of a failed Jordanian monarchy, how long can it last, as it will appear to be another colonialist land grab?

With the emergence of Iranian hegemony from Afghanistan to Beirut, Israel’s security and intelligence establishment is watching not only threats from Gaza and Lebanon, but also other areas of potential instability, including locations that have been quiet for years; the Golan Heights and Jordan.

The rise of Iran and the collapse of Syria have unnerved Sunni and Druse populations across the region, including those in Jordan and the Golan. They know that the United States and international bodies have acquiesced in the greatest ethnic cleansing of the 21st century, the removal of hundreds of thousands of Sunnis from Syria and Iraq.

As Hanin Ghaddar Friedmann of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy wrote, “As a result of these efforts, a corridor linking Qalamoun to Damascus, Homs, and an Alawite enclave is almost Sunni-free…

this gives Hezbollah safe access to the Golan Heights, potentially allowing the group to open another front against Israel… The result will be an endless war in a region that is already fragile.”

Just as precarious and uncertain is the future of Jordan.

In desperation for answers beyond the mantra of an elusive two-state solution, experts have looked toward Jordan as a stabilizing pro-Western presence amid a sea of radical Shi’ite and Sunni jihadists. Some believe that a PA-Jordanian confederation is the best alternative.

But how stable is Jordan? Jordan is a very poor country with a radicalized anti-Israel Palestinian majority.

The nation has been inundated with refugees, first from the war in Iraq and most recently the millions fleeing a collapsing Syria. There are nearly 1.5 million refugees scattered throughout the country competing with Jordanians for jobs.

The recent Kerak attacks targeting Jordan’s essential tourist sector highlighted the growing radicalization of Sunni radicals within Jordan. Youth unemployment is near 40%, further adding fuel to radicalization.

Jordan is vulnerable from both within and from without. The Hashemite monarchy, which hails from the Hejaz, is not native to the area. Palestinians, who control the economy but not the government, demographically overwhelm the ruling monarchy’s Beduin brethren. The Muslim Brotherhood has a strong presence in Jordan and over the years has bred many Sunni jihadists who have joined Islamic State or were leaders of al-Qaida.

From the outside Jordan is facing ISIS-linked militants from Iraq and Syria, Hamas in the future from the West Bank, and Iranian-controlled Shi’ite armies to its east and north.

Israel’s next war might not be limited to attacks from Gaza or Lebanon, but could also come from the old front lines of the Golan or Jordan. The 40 years of quiet in the north during the tenure of Assad the father are long over. But is the nearly 50 years of quiet along the Jordanian frontier, that began after the Black September, 1970 struggle between Yasser Arafat and the Hashemites, endangered by instability within the Hashemite regime? Jordan’s greatest threat may be pressure from the do-gooding West encouraging elections in the Palestinian West Bank. Any election now will lead to a Hamas victory, and how long before a Hamas-controlled West Bank would direct its attention to undermining Jordan and encouraging its Palestinian populace to mutiny? As Reuel Marc Gerecht wrote in The Weekly Standard, “Not long ago, I asked a Fatah official how long he thought the Palestinian Authority could survive if Israel stopped supporting its security apparatus.” The answer was, “We could probably last two [months].”

Which means that if there is a PA-Jordanian federation, which falls in some kind of coup or civil war analogous to recent events in Syria, both the West Bank and Jordan could fall under the sway of radical Islamists, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, or worse.

To Israel’s north and east, groups ranging from Sunni jihadist Al Nusra to Shi’ite Iranian-controlled Hezbollah, both eye control of the Syrian Golan and desire to reconquer the Israeli Golan.

Conventional thought is that Israel’s next war will come from the north (Lebanon), where hundreds of thousands of missiles can rain on a population that is still not prepared for the carnage, or may like clockwork erupt from the Hamas Islamists.

The Golan may be particularly vulnerable for the first time in a generation due to the presence of the joint armies of the Shi’ite militias from Iraq, Hezbollah, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Syria, all on the doorstep of the Israeli Golan and Jordan.

Attacks on the Israeli Golan from what is left of Syria could be in the form of a long war of attrition, much like the repeated attacks from Gaza over the years, or like the war of attrition on the Suez after the Six Day War. Even if the next war comes from Lebanon, don’t be surprised to see the Golan as a new theater of war, creating a third front.

But it is a Jordanian front which poses the most dangerous challenge. America and Israel have pledged never to let the Jordanian monarchy fall, but it is built on an illegitimate foundation. Add to that a Palestinian majority even more anti-Israel than West Bank Palestinians, the destabilization by millions of poor radicalized refugees from war-torn Iraq and Syria, and Jordan starts looking a lot like pre-2011 Syria.

Even if Israel and the West prop up the carcass of a failed Jordanian monarchy, how long can it last, as it will appear to be another colonialist land grab? Some or none of this may happen, but what is certain is that Israel’s regional vulnerabilities are increasing.

The $38 billion MOU between America to Israel was mainly to compensate Israel for the Obama created disaster of the Iran deal.

It did not address the Obama-created chaos on Israel’s doorstep in Syria, Lebanon, or potentially Jordan, which will require billions more in aid to help stabilize America’s indispensable ally in the region.

What will happen? Who knows. All contingencies must be considered. But what is sure with Iranian ascendancy is that there will be an unpredictable radical Sunni response throughout the Levant.

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.

Cognitive Bias and UNSC Resolution 2334

(Previously published in The Jerusalem Post)

Israeli Amos Tversky and his colleague Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman are famous for their research regarding systematic human cognitive bias. Cognitive bias often leads people to decisions that, when fully understood, are irrational by their own standards.

In essence, one creates a reality not based upon objectivity, but influenced by emotions, leading to irrational judgments.

US President Barack Obama, his adviser Ben Rhodes, National Security Adviser Susan Rice and Secretary of State John Kerry suffer from a postcolonial cognitive bias. Their reality is that Israeli settlements are the primary cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Nothing can disabuse them of this distorted reality, and every event in the region is seen through this biased filter.

Ignoring the facts of Israeli offers for two states over the past 69 years, or a Netanyahu settlement freeze in 2009, allows them to blame Israel for their own repeated diplomatic failures, while ignoring a PLO Charter that still calls for the end of Israel. “The partitioning of Palestine… the establishment of Israel are illegal and null and void, regardless of the loss of time,” it says.

The administration is locked in a paradigm where it is axiomatic that Palestinians are helpless victims, not to be held accountable for their words, their actions and what they preach to their children.

Make no mistake about it: UNSC Resolution 2334 is not tough love to move the peace process forward. It is a diplomatic war to delegitimize all of Israel through boycotts, sanctions and the International Criminal Court.

According to the Israel Group, “By the end of 2016, the United Nations… will have adopted 20 resolutions against the State of Israel and four resolutions against all other countries combined.” It is an antisemitic double standard plain and simple, and it is not going away.

Four years ago during the Chuck Hagel nomination, I told an audience that I was not worried about his alleged lack of sympathy for Israel as defense secretary, but was more concerned about the damage Senator John Kerry could do as secretary of state. I was booed by a pro-Israel audience. Years later I learned firsthand that the relationship between Hagel and the Israeli Defense Ministry had been excellent, and today you know what damage Kerry’s cognitive bias has done to Israel.

UNSC Resolution 2334 is non-binding, but can still cause terrible damage to Israel’s reputation and its ability to negotiate on an even footing with the Palestinians.

The best way to respond is for a bipartisan Congress to work with the new administration and go on the offensive. We must return to the days when Israel was a less partisan issue. This will not be easy, as a growing segment of the Democratic Party shares the president’s animus toward Israel, and wants the world to think of Israel as it used to think of South Africa.

What does going on the offensive mean? It is a strategy to legislate unappetizing consequences for those who join in the lynching of America’s ally.

Here are some suggestions: 1. The Lawfare Project recommends “adopt[ing] legislation that would impose sanctions on European government[ s] and private entities that engage in BDS…

[and] reaffirm the letter from President George W. Bush to Israeli Prime Minister Sharon that recognized that major settlement blocs will remain part of Israel under any peace treaty.”

2. Congress should reaffirm UNSC Resolution 242, that says Israel was never supposed to return to the indefensible 1949 armistice line.

3. Since the first consequence of 2334 might be Israel being brought before the International Criminal Court, ICC donors must be quietly convinced to threaten to withdraw funding if Israel is brought before this court.

NATO allies and Japan, who don’t want to get off on the wrong foot with the new administration, need to be pressured by the Trump administration, as they know he can ask them to start paying their fair share of defense costs.

4. Cut the US funding to the UN in half. America should work with the UN only on humanitarian issues.

New legislation must be written, as existing laws and treaty requirements enshrine much of American financial support for the UN.

5. Withdraw participation and funding for the Human Rights Council and UNESCO. UNESCO perpetuates the falsehood that there is no Jewish association to the Temple Mount, and the Human Rights Council is simply an anti-Israel advocacy organization, ignoring the world’s human rights abuses.

6. Create a coalition of willing democracies in place of the UN on security issues. Today’s United Nations is overwhelmingly non-democratic and anti-American.

7. End funding of UNWRA unless the definition of Palestinian refugees is changed to the UN High Commission of Refugees definition. This would immediately decrease the number of Palestinian refugees from five million to 30,000, and end a major impediment to resolution of the conflict.

8. Demand that the 750,000 Jewish refugees and their descendants ethnically cleansed from Arab lands receive the same compensation as Palestinian descendants.

The real problem may be that Congress and the new administration may be so overwhelmed with domestic legislation and getting their cabinet nominees approved that responding to 2334 may be put on the back burner.

Pro-Israel organizations must keep this issue on the radar of Congress and President Donald Trump, because Palestinian advocate J Street will be fighting with everything it has to encourage legislators like Keith Ellison to support 2334.

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

Which Course Will New Admin. Set for US-Israel and US-Iran Relationships?

{Previously published in The Jerusalem Post}

What is needed from the new president is a clear articulation of a coherent foreign policy, for America to show leadership for its allies, and repair its image as a toothless superpower.

After inauguration, President Donald Trump will be challenged with complex decisions regarding Iranian imperialism and America’s relationships with its regional allies and enemies.

Trump articulated two contradictory approaches to foreign policy during his campaign. He spoke about a more isolationist approach to American engagement, while also warning would-be enemies that anyone challenging the US should expect a vigorous response. Time will surely tell whether or not this president’s red lines are to be crossed with impunity.

With regard to Iranian expansionism, the administration will have to decide whether the Iranian ambition for a contiguous Shi’ite-dominated region stretching from Tehran to Beirut is something that affects American national security interests enough to warrant a significant response.

Will a Trump administration risk unraveling Obama’s nuclear deal if Iran continues to act blatantly to destabilize the region? The Iranian strategists can be expected to test the new president to see how far they can go.

1. Will the new administration continue the Obama administration’s indifference to Iran’s support of Assad’s genocide?

2. Would Trump consider no-fly and safe zones in Syria, and then go into the business of nation building to prevent safe regions turning into statelets of terrorism?

3. Will he ally with Russia and Syria to bring down Islamic State (ISIS)?

4. Will the new administration impose limits and consequences, with teeth, for Iranian actions compromising American security interests?

5. What will Trump do about the American hostages taken by Iran since the JCPOA was signed?

6. What will Trump do the next time Iranian speedboats threaten American naval ships in the Straits of Hormuz?

7. If Yemen’s Houthis again use Iranian- provided missiles to threaten a US Navy ship in Bab el Mandeb, will the response be weak, or will it send a message?

8. Will the administration continue to allow Iranian adventurism in Iraq? Iran and the rest of the Middle East are watching.

As for Trump’s policy proposals regarding Israel, they are overall very positive, but the question is will they be a priority issue for the president, or remain a wish list that gets put on the back burner?

President Barack Obama coerced Israel into accepting a reduced MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) that included provisions hurting the Israeli defense industry, not allowing Israel to ask for more aid even if it is endangered, and gave no extra funding to balance the danger to Israel inherent in the Iran deal. Trump’s advisers have said the new administration will allow Israel to ask for more aid, but what about the rest of the MOU’s provisions?

The promised move of the US embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv would send the right message to the world: Israel is here to stay. The move to the western part of Jerusalem should have never been postponed indefinitely by administrations of both parties, but will Trump act decisively to move the embassy in his first year?

Cutting funding to the antisemitic UN Human Rights Council is a no-brainer, and should be a slam-dunk for this president. Obama’s reengagement with the UNHRC was a disgrace. Trump’s team also promised to veto any UNSC resolutions that single out Israel; something the Obama administration might not be doing in its final months.

As for the promise to fight the insidious boycott movement, by having the Justice Department “investigate coordinated attempts on college campuses to intimidate students who support Israel,” this will be a challenge. Many will claim it is an infringement of the First Amendment’s freedom of speech.

Finally, Trump’s promise to demand the Palestinian Authority recognize Israel as a Jewish state makes complete sense, as it is the ultimate litmus test of whether the Palestinian Arabs could ever accept Israel within any territorial parameters. He should also throw in a demand for an end-of-conflict resolution as a prerequisite both parties must agree to before negotiations begin.

America is a divided country, easily manipulated by its media that views the Middle East through the prism of America’s adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. Trump has repeatedly said that American intervention in the region was a mistake. So how will he respond to new threats from Sunni or Shi’ite Islamists?

In today’s Middle East, America is perceived to be a power on the decline, without the resolve to put its soldiers in harm’s way. What is needed from the new president is a clear articulation of a coherent foreign policy, for America to show leadership for its allies, and repair its image as a toothless superpower.

This will not be an easy task for any president, especially one who must now define which type of foreign policy he wants for his country. Being president is very different from being a candidate.

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.

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.