Tag Archives: Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Can Trump’s Peace Plan Avoid the Pitfalls of Previously Failed Negotiations? 

{Previously published in The Jerusalem Post}

Has the Kushner/Greenblatt peace initiative learned from the mistakes of previous negotiation efforts?

The long-awaited Trump peace plan to end the Israeli Palestinian conflict is finally ready for its unveiling in June, coincident with the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

American presidents for generations have been grasping for the elusive gold ring of a final solution to the conflict.

Whether out of a misguided belief that all the problems of the Middle East revolve around the conflict, or a sincere desire to solve one of the world’s most intractable conflicts, American efforts more times than not have worsened the situation.

The failures have not lacked for effort, especially on the part of Bill Clinton and his inexhaustible determination at Camp David and Taba in 2000 and 2001. Unfortunately, that failure laid the groundwork for the Second Intifada – the profound unintended consequence of which was to convince many Israelis who really believed in the possibilities of peace offered by the Oslo agreement that Israel will never have a Palestinian partner it can trust.

Has the Kushner/Greenblatt peace initiative learned from the mistakes of previous negotiation efforts? Can they offer a different course, perhaps incorporating the fleeting window of opportunity offered by the new confluence of interests between America, Israel and the Sunni Gulf states, to move the negotiations forward? Here are some of the conventionally accepted wisdoms for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that should be avoided: 1. Believing this conflict is primarily territorial. If it were, the conflict would have been resolved as recently as 2007, when Israel offered 100% of the territory with land swaps and east Jerusalem as their capital, but was dismissed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

2. Believing the conflict is the key to unlocking the other problems of the Middle East. Even if Israel did not exist today, almost all of the Middle East’s problems from the 1400-year-old Sunni- Shi’ite divide to the quest for Iranian hegemony would still be raging.

3. Believing you can make peace without effectively addressing generations of fervent Arab incitement in their media and classrooms that says Israel has no legitimate right to exist in any territorial dimension, with no Jewish historical association to the land.

4. Believing America cannot be a fair intermediary unless it is a neutral negotiator. America can make the effort to be balanced in mediation, but the reality is that Israel is an indispensable security interest, and consistently since its inception, an ally of the United States.

5. Believing the Palestinians subscribe to the Western nation-state model, where in reality Palestinians identify themselves by clan and tribe.

6. Believing financial incentives are the primary lever to influence the Palestinians. It is certainly true in any final peace deal, billions of dollars may be paid the descendants of Palestinian refugees as compensation for not demanding a return to Israel proper, and none to the greater number of Jews who, at the same time, became refugees from Arab lands. But the ingrained Palestinian narrative to this day demands an unconditional return. Although ordinary Palestinians are one of the most subsidized people in the world, the Palestinian leadership’s primary grievance, the existence of Israel, will not be addressed simply by monetary compensation.

7. Believing this is the last opportunity to end the conflict. It is not.

President Abbas is in very poor health and anything he signs will be suspect the minute he passes on.

That is why any new peace initiative must include an “end-of-conflict agreement” as the agreed goal of all parties. Israel cannot be asked to make territorial concessions endangering its security, without knowing the result is to be such an agreement. If the Palestinians are unable give up all further claims, which is what an “end-of-conflict” agreement is, then Israel should only be asked to make modest concessions for a stable long-term ceasefire.

It is not in America’s interest to pressure Israel to give up large portions of territory, if the Palestinians are only, as in the past, looking to use this as a step to eventually conquer all of Israel.

This is something American negotiators – from Nixon/Rogers, to Bush/ Baker, to Clinton/Ross, to Bush/Rice, to Obama/Kerry – never understood and appreciated.

ANY SUCCESSFUL initiative will need to answer the following questions in order to achieve a true end-of-conflict agreement.

1. Can Israel accept a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem?

2. Can the Palestinians accept Israel’s minimal demands for a demilitarized state, no right-of-return, Israeli control of Jordan River Valley and control of airspace.

3. Does Israel have the will to remove tens of thousands of its citizens from the West Bank (Judea/Samaria) who live beyond the major settlement blocs and Jerusalem? 4. Has the peace plan been drafted to prescribe how to deal with contingencies that would set the treaty on fire? For instance, suppose there is a Hamas coup in the West Bank endangering not only Israel but also the existence of Jordan. The unspoken secret is that the Jordanian Hashemite monarchy is fearful of the creation of any Palestinian state next door that might empower its Palestinian majority population and destabilize the state, a vital American ally.

You will know that peace has taken root when the Palestinians stop preaching their current defining narrative, which is the nakba (“the catastrophe”), the negation of the Jewish people and Israeli state, and begin celebrating the anniversary of their independence, accepting living in peace next to the Jewish state.

The writer is director of MEPIN™, the Middle East Political and Information Network™. Dr. Mandel regularly briefs members of Congress on the Middle East.

He is a contributor to ‘The Jerusalem Post,’ ‘The Hill,’ and ‘The Forward.’

The Jew-Free State Solution

{Previously published on Forward.com}

In a recent solicitation email, J Street President Jeremy Ben Ami proclaimed that the “Palestinians are the only party willing to publicly endorse the goal of two states for two peoples.” Referencing Abbas’ speech to the United Nations Security Council, Ben Ami claimed that “Abbas laid out explicit support for the two-state solution and put forward a serious proposal for how to get there.”

He did — if your goal is a Palestinian state ethnically cleansed of every Jew.

When we talk about creating two states for two peoples, shouldn’t we mean a Jewish State of Israel and an Arab State of Palestine living side by side, created through a final status agreement which settles territorial disputes and leaves each state secure and in control of its destiny?

If this is what you mean by a two state solution, President Abbas and the current Palestinian leadership are not your ideal partners. Just listen to Abbas:

In 2014, he told the Arab League, “We will never recognize the Jewishness of the state of Israel.” In 2016 in Sudan, he reiterated that he will “recognize the State of Israel, and that is it. However a Jewish state is not my affair. I will not recognize it at all and I will not accept it.” In December, his chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said Palestinians need to strive to reclaim “historic Palestine, from the river to the sea.”And this January, clearing up any ambiguity, Abbas asserted from the safety of his West Bank compound that the state of Israel is “a colonial project that has nothing to do with Judaism,” and rejected any Jewish ties to the land.

As for accepting Israel’s legitimacy and right to a state, Abbas asserts that Israel’s occupation started in 1948, not 1967. This clearly means that he believes Israel proper to be occupied, not just the West Bank and Gaza.

Abbas’s “serious proposal” calls for Israel to become a binational non-Jewish state with an unlimited right of return for descendants of Palestinian refugees, a clear path to the demographic elimination of a democratic and Jewish Israel. Nowhere in that speech did Abbas call for two states for two peoples.

Abbas’ speech was also notable for its denial of Jewish historical claims in Israel and fanciful claims that the Palestinians are the original residents of Israel, “ the descendants of the Canaanites that lived in the land of Palestine 5,000 years ago and continuously remained there to this day.”

This contradicts the claims of almost all Palestinian tribal clans, who trace their lineage to the Arabian peninsula or Egypt.

Grant Rumley, writing in the Atlantic, said that Abbas’ January speech “ deployed anti-Semitic tropes, undercut the Jewish connection to Israel, and blamed everyone from Oliver Cromwell to Napoleon to Winston Churchill for Israel’s creation… Frustration, it seems, has led Abbas to reveal his true colors.”

Abbas again calls Israel an apartheid state, and yet the Palestinian Arab state he wants to create must be a Judenrein, free of Jews. In Israel, 20 percent of the population is Arab — they have full voting rights, freedom of speech and government supported Arab schools.

Making Abbas something that he is not is both disingenuous and dangerous to Israel’s existence. The claim that Abbas is the best, last chance for Israel to have a moderate partner is doubtful.

Claiming Abbas is for two states for two peoples is simply untrue. It may be a pro-Palestinian position, but it is definitely is not a pro-peace, pro-Israel position.

Dr. Eric R. Mandel is the director of MEPIN™. He regularly briefs Congress on issues related to the Middle East and is a columnist for the Jerusalem Post.

The West’s Refusal to Recognize the Religious Basis for the Israeli Palestinian Conflict

{Previously published in The Jerusalem Post}

A future Palestinian state will have Islam as the dominant aspect of its governing system, despite Western wishful thinking to the contrary.

Every few years, like clockwork an American administration comes along that thinks it can solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while politicians and pundits annually march through the halls of the AIPAC national meeting talking about a two-state solution with security for Israel. Their motivations are genuine, but they can’t seem to learn the lessons of previous failures. This is especially important now, as US President Donald Trump seems bent on solving this heretofore- intractable conflict.

To many Americans, Jews and Arabs are simply fighting over territory, so the logical answer is to simply divide the land. This has been the strategy for over 100 years. But this approach ignores the fact that this dispute, like so many others in the Middle East, is primarily a war of Islamic religious supremacy.
The path to peace is not one a cartographer can delineate. We need to understand the ideological reasons why simply dividing the land has received consistently negative Palestinian responses despite offers of 100% of the territory, with land swaps. Until that understanding takes hold in the Western diplomatic mind, negotiations will continue to fail, promises will continue to be broken and violence will continue to follow.

As Anshel Pfeffer wrote in The Guardian a few years back, “Accepting that the Israel-Palestine conflict is also a bitter religious war runs counter to the international community’s preferred solutions… which is a central reason that none of these solutions have worked.”

America for decades has refused to recognize the obvious: in the Muslim and Arab world decisions are not based on Western democratic standards.

There are no secular Arab states. In the Arab world there is no separation of church and state. The last secular Muslim state, Turkey, has become Islamized over the past 14 years.

A future Palestinian state will have Islam as the dominant aspect of its governing system, despite Western wishful thinking to the contrary.

Hamas is an Islamist regime that bases its desire to destroy Israel on Islamic texts and the Muslim Brotherhood interpretation of a worldwide caliphate.

But is today’s Palestinian Authority really so secular compared to Hamas, as the UN, EU and the US State Department claim? If you examine statements by PA political and religious leaders, and from its state-sponsored television, the reality is quite different.

To counter Hamas’ popularity, the PA has Islamized the conflict over the past 20 years. Secular PA President Mahmoud Abbas speaks of jihad and Jews overtaking al-Aksa Mosque, with the aim of motivating and enrage Palestinians, deflecting attention from the failings and corruption of the PA .

In 1979 the Iranian revolution showed both Sunnis and Shi’ites that Islamism, not secular Muslim nationalism, is the winning formula. Over time, the corruption of the secular PLO /PA /Fatah and their failure to end the “occupation” of Muslim lands all combined to transform secular Palestinian society toward Islamist nationalism.

According to Palestinian Media Watch, the PA preaches “Ribat, an uncompromising Islamic obligation… to liberate land said to be Islamic.

Israel is considered to be Islamic land that must be liberated for Allah… The tragic conclusion is that the Palestinian Authority has adopted and is teaching its people the messages of radical Islam.”

President Abbas appointed Sheikh Muhammad Hussein as mufti, the most senior religious leader in the PA.

Hussein said, “The land of Palestine is Wakf. It must not be relinquished nor must any part of it be sold… It is the duty of the leaders of the [Islamic] nation and its peoples to liberate Palestine and Jerusalem.”

Bewilderingly, the Trump administration may also be approaching the Israeli-Palestinian conflict emphasizing the territorial aspects while sidelining the primary Islamic root cause of the conflict.

When speaking to the West, the Palestinians have perfected the art of doublespeak, telling Americans that if only Israel returns the stolen land over the “67 border” all will be well, as the conflict is just about territory.

Trump refers to “a great real-estate deal” between Israel and the Palestinians.

But you cannot have an “ultimate deal” if you don’t factor in the primary Islamic roots of the conflict which animate Palestinian Arab choices.

Both the PA and Hamas’ lack of acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state and denial of Zionism as a legitimate national movement are based on Islamic beliefs. Hamas states this clearly. But the West closes its eyes to the Islamist nature of the PA , PLO and Fatah, claiming they are strictly secular movements.

The PA ’s children’s TV programs teach that Jews are “Allah’s enemies – sons of pigs,” or “Oh, you who murdered Allah’s pious prophets,” or “as long as my heart is my Koran and my city… [Jerusalem] is the eternal capital of Palestine.”

If you are really serious about resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for the sake of the parties involved, and for the security and interests of America and its allies you must acknowledge that Palestinian Arab decisions are judged through the lens of Islamic law, history and tradition.

The author is the founder and director of MEPIN, the Middle East Political and Information Network. He regularly briefs members of Congress and think tanks on 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.

Will Trump be Seduced by ‘Ultimate Deal,’ the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict?

(Previously published in The Jerusalem Post)

Trump would be wise to keep in mind a few bits of advice.

“I would love to be able to be the one that made peace with Israel and the Palestinians… that would be such a great achievement. Because nobody’s been able to do it.”

“As a deal maker, I’d like to do… the deal that can’t be made.”

President-elect Donald Trump Before embarking on “mission impossible,” if Donald Trump wants to succeed where other US presidents have failed, it is essential for him to review the record of his predecessors.

When presidents have invested their energies and prestige to solve this conflict, they have inevitably come up against the intransigent Palestinian narrative that cannot bring itself to accept the Jewish state or sign an endof- conflict resolution. So presidents have chosen their only option: pressuring for concessions the only party susceptible to American threats – Israel.

To his credit, Mr. Trump said, “I believe that my administration can play a significant role… (but it must) be negotiated between the parties themselves, and not imposed on them by others.”

Like presidents who have preceded him, he sees the conflict as the “war that never ends.” He needs to understand, however, just how patient Islamic enmity can be, that they are in no hurry to find peace. The Shi’ite and Sunni factions have been going at it for 1,400 years and have no desire to settle their differences any time soon.

Israel’s enemies don’t mind being in a state of simmering war for a long, long time. Hopefully his advisers will use the more appropriate Middle Eastern reference of time to strategize.

If Donald Trump is truly a different kind of politician, he should not follow those who have misunderstood the region, seeing Israel as the cause of instability in a region today where stability and even the desire for stability are not the norm. To Trump’s credit, he has begun to assemble a foreign policy team – with one possible exception – that sees Israel as an essential strategic ally for American security interests.

Of course everyone in the West and Israel would love a lasting resolution of conflict. Hopefully Trump and his foreign policy team will reexamine the failed formula of prioritizing territorial concessions over the true obstacle of the conflict – the inability of Arabs to accept under any circumstances a Jewish state as a neighbor.

But why are American presidents so fixated on this conflict, when there are at least 100 other worldwide hot spots with more profound security and human rights implications? Is it because presidents and their secretaries of state really think it is truly the most important conflict in the world to resolve? Or as Aaron David Miller said, we are ”the fix-it people; Americans have a hard time accepting that we can’t sort out conflicts… and the more we try and fail, the less credibility and leverage we have in the region.” He is spot on.

So, what are strategies the new administration might consider?

1. Instead of thinking about Palestinians as victims and the weaker party, hold them responsible for their failures, something no US administration has done when the Palestinians rejected at least four opportunities to have a state of their own.

2. Make it crystal clear that America will not reward the Palestinians for continuing to institutionalize antisemitism and hatred of Israelis, without preparing their citizens for peace.

3. End the Obama-era mistake of treating all Israeli building over the 1949 armistice line as illegitimate.

4. Israelis should also be asked for the time being only to build within the settlement blocks, while accepting their Supreme Court’s decisions on dismantling illegal outposts.

5. The grand quid pro quo would be to get the Sunni Arab world to accept Israel in exchange for unambiguous American support to stop Iranian ambitions of hegemony from threatening their security interests. Secretary of State Kerry was dead wrong when he told the Saban Forum: “There will be no separate peace between Israel and the Arab world… without the Palestinian process.” That is the kind of myopic thinking he used to negotiate the disastrous Iran deal.

Are there really creative alternatives available? Rabin’s National Security Adviser, General Giora Eiland, wrote a column titled, “Trump era must not be wasted on two-state solution.” Some of his out-of-the-box thinking may inspire others to find a more lasting solution.

Eiland thinks that a “regional solution with land swaps between four players – Egypt, Jordan, Israel and Palestine – or about the creation of a federation between Jordan and the West Bank,” could be options beyond the two-state solution.

Trump would be wise to keep in mind a few bits of advice:

• Khaled Abu Toemeh warns, “We must stop dreaming about the new Middle East and coexistence… There has been a total divorce between Jews and Palestinians. We don’t want to see each other.”

• Dennis Ross advises that “Most importantly, don’t launch big public initiatives before knowing they can succeed.”

• And former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon cautions, “As long as the Palestinians educate their children to hate us, to kill us, to admire the martyr – the conflict will never be resolved.”

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

 

Is Path Forward a Revised Arab Peace Initiative?

(Previously published in The Jerusalem Post)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some ideas.

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

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

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

A simple document could transform the region.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The author is the director of MEPIN™.

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

The West’s Wrongheaded Analysis Perpetuates the Conflict

(Previously published in The Jerusalem Post)

Since its creation Israel has been the convenient scapegoat to blame for all the problems of the Middle East.

Dennis Ross, in “Misreading the Middle East, Again” (US News and World Report), says that the premise – widely accepted by US foreign policy makers – that resolving the Israeli- Palestinian conflict would transform the region is “fundamentally flawed.”

He is correct.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has little to do with the 1,400-year-old Sunni- Shi’ite war, the Yemeni civil war, Iranian hegemony, the rise of Islamic State, Syrian Alawite genocide, Lebanese denominational dysfunction, Egyptian and Turkish fundamentalism, Libyan chaos, Iraqi alignment with Iran, Saudi Wahhabism, the abandonment of the Kurds, or the Islamization of Europe.

Since its creation Israel has been the convenient scapegoat to blame for all the problems of the Middle East. Generations of American foreign policy experts have misunderstood that Israel is an excuse, not a root cause of Muslim factions’ hostility toward one another and the West.

Yet as astute as Ross is in his assessment that Israel is not the primary cause of Middle East instability, he and many foreign experts are still locked into an outdated “territorial toolbox” to resolve the Middle East dysfunctionality. This wrongheaded policy prescription perpetuates conflicts throughout the region, including the Israeli-Palestinian one.

This is in part because most foreign policy experts still recommend recreating the artificially created nation-states of the Sykes-Picot lines of 1916. Just as those borders may be more of an impediment than a guideline for creating a more manageable region, the 1949 armistice lines between Israel and the Arab armies, ending Israel’s War of Independence, need to be seen for what they originally were, cease-fire lines between exhausted armies. American foreign policy experts need to stop viewing the artificially created borders as the exact foundation of regional stability.

In his book Doomed to Succeed: The US-Israel Relationship from Truman to Obama, Ross says he convinced President Barack Obama that only borders and security should be discussed between the Israelis and Palestinians. He reasoned that the issue of the right of return for Palestinian refugees is an “animating myth of the Palestinian national movement” and will never be conceded by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will never accept dividing Jerusalem, considering Israeli political realities.

Ross believes if enough territory could be conceded to the Palestinians, Israel could be convinced that the US could guarantee Israeli security. Ross wrote, “We [Ross and George Mitchell] were in agreement that we needed to lean toward the Palestinians on territory and toward the Israelis on security.”

Unfortunately, this is based on a false political narrative that the armistice lines are an international border, and that the Palestinian Arabs’ desires end at the Green Line.

Since 2010 Middle Eastern jihad enthusiasts have been led by America’s actions to believe its redlines drawn in the Middle Eastern sands can be successfully defied. Therefore Israel, and the US as well, can’t depend on the deterrence value of American commitments to keep a Palestinian state from attacking a more vulnerable, 14.5-km.- wide Israel, plunging everyone, likely including the US, into war.

Strategic depth matters, especially when greater Tel Aviv will be almost as close to the West Bank as Sderot is to Gaza City! We know how well the absence of strategic depth worked out in the disengagement of 2005. Territorial depth has taken on even more importance in the age of Islamic State and non-state actors, and yes – territorial depth still matters in the age of missiles.

Remember, there are just 15 seconds to get to a bomb shelter in Sderot, which is a practical impossibility for people on the 15th floor of a Tel Aviv high-rise.

But the issues of territory, settlements, refugees and Jerusalem leave the impression that if you could just concoct the right diplomatic formula, a resolution of the conflict could be conjured up.

This makes little sense unless you are prepared to deal with the elephant in the room, the overwhelming Palestinian belief that Jews have no rights to any land, that the Jewish narrative is illegitimate.

Last year I recommended that if you really want to make progress and know whether the Palestinians will respect any agreement they sign, you must require each party to accept the narrative of the other. In the Palestinians’ case, that would be to respect in word and deed Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state in the Levant, to acknowledge the 3,000-year-old Jewish history in Israel.

Without that, their dream of conquest would be only encouraged, even if every settlement over the Green Line were abandoned tomorrow. The American foreign policy mind-set must understand this conflict is not about the division of territory.

Even left-leaning Israelis, after being mugged by the reality of the second intifada, moved on to a more realistic assessment of the conflict and the goals of their Palestinian partner. Yet American State Department experts are stuck in an Oslo Accords time warp, refusing to acknowledge that despite the good intentions of the plan, in reality it actually hurt the chances for a peaceful resolution. After 20 years they still refuse to acknowledge the nature of the partner Israel is fated to live with; and what is worse, they refuse to learn why Oslo failed. Defending Oslo has become like a religion, where the divine word of Oslo is sacrosanct, the only legitimate path to peace.

The mantra reads:

• Ignore the intifadas; blame the settlements.

• Ignore the Israeli territorial offers; blame the settlements.

• Ignore the true meaning of Resolution 242 and what Oslo actually said; blame the settlements.

• Ignore the withdrawal from every settlement in Gaza; blame the settlements.

• Ignore the 14,000 missiles directed at civilians on the good side of the Green Line; blame the settlements.

To those stuck in the Oslo time warp, married to a wrongheaded analysis of the Middle East, withdrawal from settlements is the answer to ending the conflict and stabilizing the Middle East.

They claim that all the Palestinians want is good schools, economic opportunity and freedom. If only it were so.

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

Time for a New American Understanding of the Conflict

(Previously published in The Jerusalem Post)

America must finally challenge the Muslim worldview that Judaism is not a nationality if progress is ever to be made in resolving the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.

 “The historical denial about the right of Jewish people to have their own homeland” and the Palestinian “refusal to acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state, that is a critical issue that needs to be addressed.” – Democratic California Congressman Alan Lowenthal

This week the United Nations Security Council debated the causes of the current violence in Israel.

It wasn’t much of a debate.

The ambassadors were in perfect agreement about who caused the violence, and were sure of the remedy. Facts were chosen, and context was conveniently ignored.

That evening I was asked to speak to young Jewish professionals in New York City about the current situation. During the Q&A and afterwards, one question was repeatedly asked: How do we respond to people who disproportionately blame Israel? How do we interact with people especially on the Internet who barely acknowledge the unprovoked Palestinian attacks, or show any discomfort with the blatant Jew hatred pervasive on the Internet? The UN ambassadors were unanimous in agreement that the source of the violence was the settlements, and Israel’s change in the status quo on the Temple Mount. They agreed that it is the Palestinians who need protection from Israelis. The obvious fact that if Palestinian attacks ended, the violence would cease is never mentioned. Israel’s legitimate security requirements, and its rejected offers of land for peace were ignored, as they do not fit the anti-Israel narrative of the United Nations.

As a reminder, having a standard for Israel that is not expected of any other nation is considered anti-Semitism according to the US State Department’s definition.

Further confusing the situation were the American mixed messages on the violence, which seemed absolutely schizophrenic. Inauspiciously, it began with Secretary of State John Kerry’s moral equivalence, saying, “I am not going to point fingers from afar… this is a revolving cycle,” and blaming the settlements for the violence.

He then backtracked a bit, defending Israel’s right to self-defense and attributing some blame to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for incitement.

Processing these contradictory messages for many pro-Israel advocates is difficult enough, especially when the anti-Israel crowd cherry-picks statements to put Israel in the worst possible light. The ad hominem attacks from peers on the Internet who repeat anti-Israel talking points with certainty frustrate and discourage young adults who want to defend Israel.

If you are alone with someone with a closed mind, just keep walking. But with social media, your response to a person who is prejudiced against Israel is monitored and followed by other people whose opinions may not be completely formed, or who are impressionable.

In the 21st century, the goal of pro-Israel advocates is to educate. Ignorance is a major enemy in the war of words against those who want to delegitimize Israel, and concoct rationales for violence and ostracism against Jews everywhere.

Respond and respectfully correct inaccuracies on Facebook and twitter from those who slander Israel. During times of quiet in the conflict, return to basic education to lay the groundwork to combat the next round of falsehoods that will inevitably be hurled at Israel.

Share videos and photos from social media, like the one that shows Palestinians teaching the best ways to insert a knife into a Jew.

When you are charged with stereotyping all Palestinians, share with them polls revealing that 93 percent of Palestinians hold anti-Jewish beliefs. Offer polls of Palestinians by Palestinians, like the one from the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion in June 2015 showing 81% of West Bank Palestinian Arabs say all of historic Palestine “is Palestinian land and Jews have no rights to the land.”

This conflict will not move in a positive and less violent direction until an American administration throws out the failed playbooks for resolving the conflict. The conflict will have a chance for resolution when Palestinian dreams of slaughter and expulsion of Jews are confronted and rejected, not justified by cultural relativism.

A future administration must renounce the disingenuous moral equivalence meant to placate Muslim and Arab states. This has been a failed strategy, playing into the hands of Arab dictators, who have used Israel as the scapegoat to cover up their own incompetence and corruption.

In February 2015 I wrote an article, “ Does Mahmoud Abbas want his legacy to be the third intifada?’ Six months later, we seem on the precipice of another more dangerous uprising that emanates not only from Palestinians of the West Bank, but potentially from Palestinian Arabs with Israeli citizenship.

Unless future American administrations can readjust their tired and failed diplomatic strategies, and realize that this conflict is about 1948 and Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State, not 1967 when Israel in a defensive war pushed back its assailants from being a stone’s throw from its major population centers and conquered the West Bank, Israel and the Palestinians Arabs will continue to pay the price.

America must finally challenge the Muslim worldview that Judaism is not a nationality if progress is ever to be made in resolving the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.

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

He regularly briefs members of Congress on issues related to the Middle East.