Tag Archives: Jerusalem Post

What do the Palestinian Citizens of Israel Want?

{Previously published in The Jerusalem Post}

While the world’s focus has been on the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the assumption has been that dealing with the needs of Arab citizens of Israel would be eminently easier.

What do Israel’s minority citizens want? That was the question I attempted to begin to answer with my annual MEPIN/Keshet seminar group, assessing the challenges and progress of Israel’s 20% minority population, consisting of Arab Muslims, Arab Christians, Aramaic Maronites, Druze and Beduin.

We visited and met with academics and school children, Israeli government officials and Arab mayors, Arab colleges, a leading demographer, teachers and human rights organizations, and that was just the tip of the iceberg. Today’s Israeli Arabs self-identify as Palestinian Israelis, or more precisely as Palestinian Citizens of Israel (PCI).

To deny that PCIs have faced discrimination in allocation of government funding, infrastructure, and employment opportunities would be to deny reality.

As Yossi Klein Halevi told us, “Palestinian Israelis have a profound sense of dislocation, humiliation, and grievance going back to 1948.

Palestinian Israelis are conflicted, as the country they reside in is at war” with their brothers over the Green Line.

I had thought that the concerns of PCIs were eminently more solvable than those of their Arab brothers living over the Green Line in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A recent poll of PCIs did favor a two-state solution, but here the semantics really matter as a window into the perspective of PCIs. For Palestinian Israelis, “two states” means one Palestinian state in the West Bank with no Jewish citizens, and the current State of Israel as a non-Jewish state for Arabs and Jews.

PCIs I met on this visit said Israel would never be a democracy until Israel ends the Jewish nature of the state and the Jewish right of return for Jews living in the Diaspora.

Yet paradoxically, recent polls of PCIs showed that over 50% are proud to be Israeli. So how do you unpackage these contradictory facts? I was expecting to find an Arab populace that saw a future for themselves in a Jewish state, and that despite the current economic inequalities, if the gaps continue to narrow, there would be an appreciation and acceptance of living in the only democratic state in the Middle East, imperfect as it for its minority citizens at this time.

When I asked Palestinian Israelis, if all the economic inequities were magically erased, would they then accept living in a Jewish state accepting the responsibilities of minority citizens? None said yes.

The narrative of too many well-meaning Jewish organizations and rabbis, who tell their members that PCIs just need economic equality and will then see themselves as being full partners of a Jewish state, may be far from the truth.

While the world’s focus has been on the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the assumption has been that dealing with the needs of Arab citizens of Israel would be eminently easier. After all, Israel’s minority citizens, despite the economic inequalities, have freedom of speech, religion and the press, access to the Supreme Court, 15 Muslim Knesset members, and are freer than any other Arab citizens in the region.

Through Western eyes, economic advancement is the key issue to solve to have, if not loyal citizens of a Jewish state, ones who comfortably accept living as a minority in a Jewish state.

What I learned troubled me. With the exception of the Druze and the Christian Aramaic communities, Palestinian Israelis today do not believe Israel can ever be a democracy unless it ceases to be a Jewish state, in essence a binational state. Too many PCIs believe Judaism is only a religion, not a legitimate national movement of a people entitled to a national home. Zionism to them is racism. Compared to 15 years ago, my impression is that today’s Palestinian Israelis have become more strident as their identity has become more Palestinian.

Even if Israeli Arabs were to become economically equal to Jewish citizens, it will never be enough to satisfy their basic demands, namely the dismantlement of the Jewish nature of the state; until then they are unwilling to accept the responsibilities of full citizens.

Palestinian Israelis complain about job discrimination because employers favor Israelis who serve in the military.

But when presented with the option of compulsory non-military civil service to match fellow Jewish citizens, evening the playing field for employment opportunities, they overwhelmingly rejected that option. There was almost no acknowledgment that they too have responsibilities as Israeli citizens and they were uninterested in meeting the Jewish majority halfway, as they see the problems as primarily ones of Jewish discrimination.

The narrative of the Palestinian Israeli is that the Jews are racist, while the Palestinians are a people who have suffered the indignity of the being displaced by the interloping Jews, with the underlying conviction being that Jews have no right to be anywhere from the Mediterranean to the Jordan river Valley.

So where do we go from here? ALTHOUGH ISRAEL has not fulfilled all its obligations to its minority citizens over the years, under the current coalition government more has been done, and more funds have been committed to the minority population than ever before. Arab mayors I met with, who are no fans of this Israeli government, readily admit that the current government has begun to narrow the gaps of economic inequality with more balanced funding for infrastructure and education.

But the challenge of the PCI education system goes way beyond funding. Too many Palestinian Israeli schools willingly choose self-segregation.

The Israeli educational system, which funds at least four different school systems, allows for self-imposed segregation.

While Jewish secular schools seem willing to partner for co-existence projects, PCI schools prefer to isolate themselves as there is little desire to interact with Jewish students in a shared educational experience, undermining the Western perspective that integration of minority communities with the majority population will lead to better co-existence. It is no wonder that when well-qualified Palestinian Israeli graduates apply to jobs with Jewish employers, both groups eye one another with suspicion.

There are exceptions, like the Hand-in-Hand schools where Israeli and Arab students learn together in a 50:50 setting. Unfortunately in a nation that is 80% Jewish and 20% Arab, this model would need to be adapted to acknowledge the demographic reality. The problem still is, do PCI parents in large numbers want their children segregated, or to be a minority in majority Jewish classrooms? With regard to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, we often say that the maximum Israel can offer the Palestinians will never meet the minimum requirements the Palestinians of the West Bank can accept to resolve the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.

We now also need to ask ourselves a similar question about the Palestinian Israelis.

Suppose that the maximum Israel can offer Palestinian Israelis – full rights, recognition of their Arab identity, and economic empowerment, while simultaneously accepting the responsibilities of living as minority citizens in a Jewish state – doesn’t meet the minimum PCIs can accept, namely the eradication of the Jewish nature of the State of Israel? Yossi Klein Halevi told us, “We need a serious conversation about rights and responsibilities between Arabs and Jews.” His new book Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor begins to address these difficult conversations, which he says will make both the Left and the Right uncomfortable.

There is plenty Israel needs to do to for its PCIs. Israel has recently stepped up and now 20% of the relevant budget goes to Arab communities, and 40% goes for transportation in Arab communities.

Israel should set up programs to teach Arabic in its Jewish schools, for both inclusiveness and security.

But until the PCIs realize that they too have responsibilities as minority citizens of the state, progress will be slow. Educational opportunities are key for advancement, and even in the poorer sectors, such as the Beduin, real progress and even innovation are occurring in this regard.

Israeli Arab Christians matriculate to university at a higher rate than Jewish Israelis.

An accomplished Muslim Arab judge in Israel told us that to succeed as a Palestinian Israeli you must be the best of the best. Yet he acknowledged that part of the reason is that Arab university graduates are disadvantaged because they do not join the military or have compulsory civil service. His words should be taken to heart by the PCIs.

This is a key to solving so many of their complaints, but the Palestinian Israelis have chosen to throw away the key rather than unlocking the door to addressing economic inequality. They must get past blaming the Jewish state for all of their problems.

You can’t complain you aren’t getting your fare share when you refuse to do compulsory civil service to match the time young Jewish citizens give to the nation.

There are certainly individual exceptions and whole fields with full equality, especially in medicine. The catch 22 is that Arabs want what Israelis have materially and educationally, but do not want to become full citizens if that requires living in a Jewish state.

Even in the truly innovative educational situations I witnessed in Arab education that lead to improved Arab educational advancement, the goal is to strengthen Arab society, not to co-exist or find their place with a Jewish majority.

This is a counterproductive and a shortsighted strategy that will perpetuate Arab disenfranchisement.

Arab economic disenfranchisement will also not improve until the misogyny in Arab society subsides, letting the majority of Arab women work, so that their socio-economic status won’t continue to stagnate.

The Palestinian Israeli narrative is similar to that of their Palestinian brethren over the Green Line, seeing the Jewish presence as the cause of all of their troubles. A people needs a shared vision that is more than the dream of the destruction of the other, and the lamentation of tragedies that have befallen them.

Palestinian Israelis refuse to acknowledge the dilemma they put Jewish Israelis in when they choose to align themselves with the enemies of the Jewish state. Although they are a minority within Jewish Israel majority, they are also aligned with the majority of Arabs and Muslims that surround Israel and threaten its existence.

The harshly critical human rights organization Adalah told us Israel couldn’t be a Jewish and democratic state.

It says PCIs cannot be protected as Palestinian Israelis if there is Jewish privilege, and until the Jewish Law of Return is ended. If PCIs continue to embrace this Adalah narrative, it’s a sure path to perpetual conflict.

Hopefully Palestinian citizens of Israel will choose a better and wiser path by embracing educational opportunities that include co-existence, accept full non-military civil service post high school, and accept the responsibilities of being a minority population in a majority Jewish state.

There is a way forward, but it is a two-way street.

The writer 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.

The Weaponization Of International Law To Delegitimize Israel

{Previously published by Forward}

The voting results are displayed on the floor of the United Nations General Assembly in which the United States declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was declared ‘null and void’ on December 21, 2017 in New York City. The vote, 128-9, at the United Nations concerned Washington’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate its embassy there. The Trump administration has threatened to take action against any country that votes against the United States decision to move its embassy.

The weaponization of international law against Israel has become the default position of many in the international community.

Over the last 50 years, legitimate criticism of Israel has morphed into anti-Semitism, a targeting that no other nation endures. Israel’s European friends have turned into adversaries, and even some American administrations have adopted a narrative in which Palestinians are always the victimized party. Heinous actions of violence, misogyny, and terrorism committed by other countries have no consequences, or are rationalized as being the only weapons available to the “victims.”

The weaponization of international law extends to the UN Human Rights Council, the World Health Organization and even UNICEF, which has used the information of anti-Israel NGOs to declare the IDF is a grave violator of children. Last year North Korea, a regime that is literally starving millions of its own citizens and threatening the world with a nuclear Holocaust, was the subject of only one UNGA resolution against it. Israel, in contrast, received 20 resolutions against it in 2017, and remains the all-time leader of UNGA resolutions against it — over 700!

Fortunately, having just returned from briefings and meetings with members of Congress, I can report that American leaders understand that the weaponization of international law against Israel not only undermines Israel, but also undermines American national security interests. 23 states have passed legislation against boycotting Israel. The bipartisan Taylor Force Act, named in honor of an off-duty U.S. Army Officer killed in Israel by Palestinian terrorists, demands that the Palestinian Authority stop spending American aid on rewarding its citizens and their families for committing acts of terrorism against Israel, or risk losing this aid.

A bipartisan American Congress is addressing the weaponization of international law against Israel with legislation that attempts to create a more balanced situation. While the international community is in no rush to sanction Iran, despite their growing human rights abuses, support of terrorism, and violations in missile development, Congress has approved legislation to sanction Iran’s proxy Hezbollah for its narco-terrorism, with bipartisan support. Meanwhile, the EU inexplicably refuses to designate Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization. This, too, is a weaponized international attack on Israel.

The European community is constantly feting the Iranians with promises of lucrative deals while focusing almost all of their energies on Israeli settlements, which in their view cause of all the world’s’ problems. Iran, a nation that the US State Department year-in and year-out certifies as the number one state sponsor of terror, had all of one UNGA resolution against it in 2017.

If Israel did not exist, the Middle East’s problems would not disappear with it. The Sunnis and the Shiites would still be at each other’s throats, Qatar would still be a sponsor of terrorism, Iran’s quest for worldwide Islamic dominion would not be curtailed. The genocide in Syria would still have occurred, Hezbollah would still have taken over Lebanon to advance Iranian hegemony, and Iraq would still have become an Iranian proxy. Libya would still be in chaos in the aftermath of the Arab Winter and the Muslim Brotherhood would still want Sharia law to dominate the world.

It may be unwise or even counterproductive for Israel to want to retain large segments of the West Bank, but according to a legitimate reading of international law, Israel does have legal rights over the Green line (i.e. 1967 border). This is incredibly important to acknowledge if you believe in two states for two peoples, because if Israel and the Palestinian Arabs ever agree to a territorial compromise, any land over the Green Line Israel retains in a land swap will become a pretext to undermine the deal in the future, as it would be considered stolen in the first place according that reading of international law.

This is all the more important after President Abbas again publicly declared that Jews have no connection to the land. His government maps never show Israel in any territorial dimension, and the incitement against Jews in his mosques, media, schools and government is unrelenting. The Palestinian people have been taught from early childhood that Zionism is an illegitimate movement with no basis in fact, and no Arab land can ever be given to an infidel.

When the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is rightly viewed by a world as a territorial issue, not an existential one, it will be readily solved — and bring with it a better life for the Palestinian Arab population.

Which is the Most Dangerous:  Preserve, Fix or Tear Up the Iran Deal?

{Previously published in the Jerusalem Post}

The time to strike new legislation is now, this spring, before the next election season is in full swing.

‘We will produce any weapons of any kind that we need and use them at any time to defend ourselves”– Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, October 2017.

A new bill, the “Iran Freedom Policy and Sanctions Act,” has been introduced in the US House of Representatives that attempts to fix the flaws in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, the “Iran deal”), while also sanctioning Iranian human rights abuses, terrorism and ballistic missile development.

To understand why the JCPOA needs to be fixed, we need only focus on the unfulfilled promise of unfettered inspections of Iranian military sites; the most likely place Iran will weaponize a nuclear device.

According to The Guardian, US secretary of state John Kerry told the Israelis back in 2015, “I absolutely guarantee that in the future we will have the ability to know what they are doing so that we can still stop them if they decided to move to a bomb… We will have inspectors in there every single day … forever.”

Last month, Kerry opined in The Washington Post that the agreement is “grounded in the transparency rules of the IAEA’s [International Atomic Energy Agency] Additional Protocol” allowing inspections in military sites. President Barack Obama also promised “inspectors will have 24/7 access to Iran’s key nuclear facilities.”

In other words, the promise of “anytime, anywhere inspections.”

Only one problem: Iran has repeatedly said it will never abide by the Additional Protocol. As senior adviser to the Supreme Leader Ali Akbar Velayati said, “Nobody is allowed to visit Iran’s military sites.” Ayatollah Khamenei agrees. He told Reuters that access to military sites is a “red line.”

What is the Additional Protocol and Section T? Section T restricts Iran from weaponizing a nuclear explosive device or acquired dual-use technology, while the Additional Protocol was “sold” to Congress as the transparency allowing unfettered access to military sites. You often hear from supporters of the deal that Iran is in full compliance with the JCPOA. But if your inspectors have never visited a military site, you will never have anything to report.

Indeed, IAEA chief Yukiya Amano told Reuters last fall that his agency doesn’t have the “tools” to verify Iran’s compliance.

The “Iran Freedom Policy and Sanctions Act” attempts to fix this profound flaw in the deal, while also toughening economic sanctions against the Republican Guards and Basij Force, who profit from nuclear and missile development and are at the vanguard of Iranian human rights abuses, terrorism and missile development. The problem is that the Senate will not be able to fix the flaws of the JCPOA because it would require 60 votes, a virtual impossibility in this political climate.

There is a path forward. It’s a two-pronged approach.

Create legislation from both houses of Congress to provide new, enforceable, non-waivable sanctions that focus on Iran’s human rights abuses, missile development, and terrorism. (Recall that non-nuclear sanctions were promised but not acted upon by the Obama administration.) Leave the issue of reinstating sanctions regarding the JCPOA for President Donald Trump.

In other words, Congress should take half a loaf that would accomplish the same goal of economically punishing Iran with new sanctions, while avoiding the 60-vote threshold needed in the Senate for fixing the JCPOA. Dealing with the JCPOA is best addressed by President Trump as he could reimpose sanctions on the nuclear program in 120 days.

Shouldn’t Democratic senators who did not support the JCPOA also want to sign on to non-nuclear sanctions? The answer is President Trump and politics.

Anything that Trump supports – even if clearly in the national interest – is dismissed and rationalized away with the hope that it will translate into a political victory in the midterm elections.

The question for senators Ben Cardin (D-Maryland), Chris Coons (D-Delaware) and Chuck Schumer (D-New York), who all voted against the JCPOA, is why are you now in favor of preserving the Iran agreement? Don’t you want to be on the right side of Iranian human rights, and against the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism? Senator Cardin claims to be interested in fixing the deal but has demanded the Europeans be given a veto on any new American legislation that fixes the JCPOA. Has Iran decreased its cooperation with the North Korean missile and nuclear program, stopped supporting terrorists, decreased its executions of women and children or its calls to exterminate Israel? Senator Cardin, please reconsider.

Won’t the Europeans go ballistic? Sure, but they will choose the American market and financial system and not run afoul of American sanctions.

Supporters of the agreement say that if the US withdraws from the JCPOA, Iran will quickly restart its nuclear program; the JCPOA, they say, has increased Iranian nuclear “break-out” time from three months to a year. Even if it were true in 2015, the one-year delay will completely evaporate over the next eight years because the Obama administration inexplicably allowed Iran to immediately develop advanced centrifuges, reducing to a few months the time needed to produce weapons-grade material.

Which is more dangerous – preserving the JCPOA, fixing it or ripping it up? The most dangerous option is preserving the status quo without changing the deal’s fundamental flaws, that undermine American national security. Congress needs to pass new, biting economic sanctions on the regime for human rights abuses, terrorism and missile development, requiring only 50 votes, while leaving decertification of the JCPOA for the executive branch.

The time to strike new legislation is now, this spring, before the next election season is in full swing.

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

Will the Taylor Force Act and UNRWA Reform Destroy the PA?

{Previously published in The Jerusalem Post}

America should have learned that the Palestinian Authority believes that there are no consequences for its institutionalized corruption and its compensation system for terrorists and their families.

If the Senate passes and President Donald Trump signs the Taylor Force Act, ending Palestinian Authority funding unless the PA stops its payments to terrorists and their families, would the PA really collapse, and if so what would be the consequences?

The US House of Representatives and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have already approved the Taylor Force legislation. Now it’s up to the full Senate to vote, awaiting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring it to the floor for a full vote or attach it to other legislation.

Nearly half of all American foreign aid to the PA goes to prisoners ($345 million) and the families of so-called “martyrs,” what Americans call terrorists. The more heinous the terrorism, the more money a prisoner and his family get for a lifetime. The Taylor Force Act aims to end this practice.

As Senator Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee said, the PA created a “system in law that pays Palestinian prisoners… more money if they have longer [prison] sentence… Prisoners purposely commit more heinous crimes to get more money for families… PA incentivizes terrorism.”

His colleague Rep. Ed Royce (R-California), the chairman of the House Foreign Relations committee said, “With this legislation, we are forcing the PA to choose between US assistance and these morally reprehensible policies.”

Critics of this legislation claim that the PA would collapse without American aid, being replaced by a more radical entity like Hamas, hurting Israeli and American security interests. Given the PA-Hamas reconciliation agreement last year and Hamas’s stating this month that it will place its weapons under PA control if it can join the PLO, the distinction between these two rivals may have dramatically dissipated.

Of the $600m. per year given to the PA, approximately $290m. is from the State Department under USAID for debt relief, NGOs, hospitals, economic development etc., $355m. goes to UNRWA and the smallest amount, $55m., to PA security forces. Aid to PA security working with Israel would not be threatened.

But from an American taxpayer perspective, rewarding terrorists is abhorrent.

Which brings us to UNRWA, the humanitarian UN organization that perpetuates the conflict by counting the descendants of Palestinian refugees as refugees, refusing to resettle them, while teaching an anti-Israel curriculum in its school system.

UNRWA is the next congressional target for reform.

President Trump has threatened to decrease aid to UNRWA after the condemnation of the United States by the vast majority of UN General Assembly members in the aftermath of the US acknowledging Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

UNRWA treats Palestinian refugees differently than any other refugees in the world.

For Syrian refugees living in Europe, their children born in Europe are not counted as refugees and are encouraged by the UN to resettle. But for a Palestinian who has lived in Europe for the past 70 years, their European- born children are considered stateless Palestinians in perpetuity, given the false hope of a “right of return,” a euphemism for the demographic destruction of Israel.

So, could a dramatic decrease in funding destabilize the PA, or is it time to stop the rationalizations and realpolitik and end funding of terrorists, and a system that has not only perpetuated the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but has ossified any potential progress?

As for UNRWA, there would be humanitarian issues with a significant decrease in funding. According to The Times of Israel, UNRWA “educates half a million children… doctors see eleven million patients per year, and UNRWA conducts vocational training for 9000 young people” annually.

The best strategy for the time being is to continue UNRWA funding but only if Congress writes and the president signs legislation that changes UNRWA’s definition of “refugee” to that of the UNHCR (UN High Commission for Refugees), with Palestinian refugees’ descendants being treated as every other descendant of a refugee in the world. This must also be accompanied by the demand that UNRWA end its incitement against Israel and Jews in UNRWA-run schools and related facilities.

As for the Taylor Force Act, it makes sense to stop literally paying for terrorism against civilians with American taxpayer money.

America should have learned that the PA believes that there are no consequences for its institutionalized corruption and its compensation system for terrorists and their families. Some potential terrorists arrested during the “knife intifada,” when asked why they were committing terrorism, admitted that they only needed a few more years in prison to financially set their families for life.

This may be a propitious point in time for action on these issues, as Sunni Arab nations are more interested in working with Israel and the US on their growing problems with Iran, and less concerned with their Palestinian cousins.

So will the PA collapse if the Taylor Force Act and UNRWA reform are instituted? It is all up to the Palestinians.

All they have to do to continue their aid is to stop paying terrorists, while preparing their people for the hard choices that need to be made if they truly believe in co-existing as two states for two peoples.

It is all up to them.

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

A Fair Investigation into the Alleged Obama-Hezbollah-Iran Connection

{Previously published in The Jerusalem Post}

There is currently a bipartisan consensus in Congress that understands Hezbollah is a criminal organization undermining American foreign policy interests.

How far did the Obama administration go to reach a nuclear agreement with Iran?

An investigative report in Politico, “The secret backstory of how Obama let Hezbollah off the hook,” has gotten the attention of the US Congress because of its comprehensive documentation, centrist origin, and potentially devastating findings.

According to its author, Josh Meyer, “In its determination to secure a nuclear deal with Iran the Obama administration derailed an ambitious law enforcement campaign (Project Cassandra) targeting drug trafficking by the Iranian backed terrorist group Hezbollah, even as it was funneling cocaine into the United States.”

Did the Obama administration really impede a DEA probe into Hezbollah’s billion-dollar narcotics trafficking so as to not antagonize Iran during the secret negotiations? If true it might dwarf the Reagan- era Iran-Contra scandal because of the magnitude of what was given to the Iranians in the nuclear agreement.

Add to that the public disinformation campaign by Obama adviser Ben Rhodes, who bragged of deliberately manipulating the press to influence the passage of the Iran agreement, and how profoundly American national security interests will be affected for generations by the deal, and this potentially becomes a huge story.

What makes the report so credible is that it did not come from a right-wing media source, where it would have been quickly dismissed as another partisan attack, but arose from a respected centrist news source on Capitol Hill.

Leaving aside the liabilities of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), does it still matter if these allegations are true, knowing that the Iran agreement is a fait accompli and Obama is out of office?

Obama’s allies will defend his legacy no matter what, especially because the new president is so hated in their circles, and his policy on Iran is diametrically opposed to Obama’s.

In addition, Obama administration officials’ reputations are on the line and they have pre-emptively claimed this is much ado about nothing, telling like-minded members of the media that this is just another Republican political hatchet job on the former president.

Some Democrats, if they weren’t under a Trump administration, would be seriously interested in finding out the truth about impeding a massive narcotics operation in cooperation with a state sponsor of terrorism.

So are these allegations against the Obama administration plausible? The Obama administration strategy of rebalancing and realigning American interests to Iran began in 2009 with the abandonment of the Iranian people in the Green Revolution, refusing to see how fragile the Iranian government was.

When new sanctions were placed on Iran, the president watered down their full effect.

In Syria the president chose not to interfere with the Iranian- supported slaughter or its carving out the foundation for a land corridor to the Mediterranean Sea, as negotiations for a nuclear agreement were proceeding in secret.

The distancing of American allies was part of the appeasement of Iran. This realpolitik strategy might be excused if only the negotiated deal indefinitely stopped the Iranian nuclear program as promised.

Poor choices in foreign policy come with the territory for any administration, Republican or Democratic, and should not be challenged for purely political ends.

However, the profound national security implications of the way the deal was negotiated makes finding out the truth regarding the Obama-Hezbollah- Iran connection vital to our interests going forward.

Getting that truth in this toxic hyper-political environment in Washington will be difficult, as we live in an era where politics trumps national security.

So how far did the administration go in order to placate the Iranians during the negotiations? According to the Politico report, the State Department and the Justice Department were used as roadblocks to avoid criminal charges against money-laundering banks, and even a member of the Iranian Quds force, a designated terrorist organization.

Let’s remember that Hezbollah is a transnational narco-terrorist organization that works with other criminal enterprises to traffic weapons, while laundering profits to sponsor terrorism.

The see-no-evil Europeans have created a distinction between the political and terrorist divisions of Hezbollah, allowing its “political” wing to operate freely in Europe. Let’s be clear: there is no distinction to anyone who isn’t deliberately morally obtuse.

This policy is analogous to differentiating the North Korea military and its narco-trafficking from its political wing, as if they were two independent entities.

Administration defenders have claimed enforcement of criminal inquiries and sanctions relating to Iran and Hezbollah were never diminished intentionally.

Derek Maltz, who oversaw Project Cassandra as the head of the DEA’s Special Operations Division ending in July 2014 said, “There is certainly an argument to be made that if tomorrow all the agencies were ordered to come together and sit in a room and put all the evidence on the table against all these bad guys, that there could be a hell of a lot of indictments.”

So what should be done going ahead?

Congress has already written new legislation urging Europe to end the false distinction between the terrorist and political arms of Hezbollah, while increasing sanctions.

Based on my meetings in Washington, the Trump administration needs to increase its funding to enforce Hezbollah and Iranian sanctions, and let its federal agencies know that this is an administrative priority to starve Hezbollah of funds. According to Vox, under Trump the “State Department eliminated the Coordinator for Sanctions Policy Office,” decreasing the staff from five to one.

There is currently a bipartisan consensus in Congress that understands Hezbollah is a criminal organization undermining American foreign policy interests.

Therefore even in this difficult political climate, Congress should be able to come together to write stronger legislation to unambiguously designate Hezbollah as a transnational criminal organization subject to RICO statutes. It should be fast-tracked in Congress and coordinated with the executive branch.

And yes, a thorough investigation to determine if the Obama administration crossed the line in its pursuit of an Iran nuclear agreement is mandatory.

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

Editorialized Journalism:  Don’t Always Believe Your Eyes

{Previously published in The Jerusalem Post}

Media coverage – or lack thereof – leaves readers on their own.

Last week, 14 out of 15 member-states of the United Nations Security Council condemned the United States for its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. This was no surprise, as the UN’s cultural agency UNESCO has said Israel has no legal or historical rights anywhere in Jerusalem.

In response to US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas jointly called for rage and violence.

So the international photojournalist community, which is opposed to Israel’s being in charge of the city, needed to provide their news organizations with pictures crafted to create the impression that Israel was taking Jerusalem by force, brutalizing its non-Jewish residents.

As former Associated Press reporter Matti Friedman wrote in The Atlantic after the last war in Gaza: “The Western press has become less an observer of this conflict than an actor in it.”

How is it, you might wonder, that photojournalists are always at the right place at the right time – at “peaceful” Palestinian events that turn into premeditated confrontations – in order to create pictures of aggressive Israeli police officers appearing to attack innocent victims? Since the Jerusalem announcement, far too many photos have been captured showing lines of photojournalists who just happen to be present to photograph the responses of Israeli security forces to “peaceful” protests.

Palestinians and their international supporters have been known to provide news organizations with schedules of where protests and staged confrontations will occur.

Sympathetic journalists play along, taking pictures of “innocent” Palestinians protesting, but not showing them as they deliberately force a violent Israeli response.

The photographs are often of the elderly, meek, or very young, showing expressions of fear and horror in response to the “unprovoked” use of force by Israeli security forces.

Last week, the official Palestinian Maan News Agency published a series of editorialized pictures, available to international news organizations, of Palestinians looking the part of victims.

Among the more sensational pictures was one of a terrified, elderly woman cowering in fear of an Israeli police officer on horseback.

In another, an elderly, injured Palestinian man was being carried away from a protest, in a photograph that also captured two other photojournalists who just happened to be at that spot to record the event.

Maan’s photographs were accompanied by an account in which “witnesses said police stormed into the crowd of local activists, students and ordinary citizens who were marching peacefully on the main city street…. Police tossed stun grenades into the crowd as police on horseback reportedly ran over people, including journalists covering the event.”

Sympathetic European editors are delighted when they receive such pictures, as they represent their narrative of the Israeli “occupier” tormenting the “helpless” Palestinian.

Last week, a Palestinian plunged a knife into an Israeli security guard at the Jerusalem Central Bus Station.

The security video caught it all. The still frames of the attack are just the type of sensational material that today’s media generally love to print. But do you remember seeing a photo or the video on BBC, CNN, or on the front page of the New York Times? This is another form of editorialized photojournalism – editorializing by omission. Not publishing a photograph that contradicts a news organization’s party line is a more subtle, but equally biased form of slanted reporting, such as suppressing a news story or burying it deep in a newspaper.

Another infamous case of editorialization by omission was the AP’s refusal to publish a photograph of an Islamic Jihad rally at the flagship Al-Quds University, claiming it was not newsworthy. The event was organized by a “moderate” Palestinian professor and included en masse Nazi salutes, which made for a riveting image, but not one that fit AP’s narrative.

It is not that editorialized photojournalism is new. It began during the First Intifada, continued into the Second Intifada, then through all three Gaza wars, and continues right up until today in Jerusalem.

What is new, is that we now seem to have become dulled by the longevity of the practice, failing to notice or respond as we once did to its insidious effects.

So, going forward, become reengaged in scrutinizing the news.

Be an educated consumer of the news, especially photojournalism, and ask yourself if you can really believe your own eyes.

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

Netanyahu’s Speech to the E.U.:  Don’t Miss the Opportunity

{Previously published in The Jerusalem Post}

The goal of this talk is to create a new benchmark narrative that Israel should insist upon at every meeting going forward with European and international diplomats.

After years of Netanyahu’s requesting the opportunity to address all 28 European Union foreign ministers, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has invited him for an “informal exchange of views… [at] the margins of the Foreign Affairs Council,” according to The Jerusalem Post.

Not exactly the respect due the democratically elected leader of the only democracy in the Middle East – but it does create an opportunity to think out of the box and reframe Israel’s case, presenting itself as the one stable and reliable nation amid the chaos created by the wars of political Sunni and Shi’ite Islamism that are raging against the backdrop of Iranian expansionism.

Netanyahu believes his rhetorical skills can convince skeptical and hostile European foreign ministers of the validity of his case. This is how he approached his visit to the US Congress to fight the good fight against the JCPOA (Iran Deal), which was counterproductive and alienated some US legislators, polarized along US party lines. I was asked by one of his senior aides at the time what he should do, and I said he shouldn’t go at that time.

When addressing the EU foreign ministers, Netanyahu should avoid reaching beyond what is possible, but not miss this opportunity to begin to give a new perspective to his listeners, European diplomats who have for years taken for granted that Israel is the party in the wrong in the Middle East.

Make no mistake, the Europeans will hear Netanyahu, but will for the most part not be listening to the substance of his remarks. What he says will be heard by the US Congress and Trump administration, his primary audience.

A few central or eastern European foreign ministers may appreciate Israel’s case, but the majority of Europe is blinded by an intersectional view that sees Israel as the oppressor and the Palestinian as clearly in the right.

America can and should over time better explain to its European allies why Israel is so important for both American and European national security.

The problem is that “Netanyahu is expected to tell the European leaders that their obsessive focus on the settlements is ‘ridiculous’… We in Israel are the future. We will bring you water, technology and security against terrorists. We have blocked 30 to 40 major attacks in Europe. You ask your people whether they would rather have that or Ramallah.”

All true and all will fall on not only deaf ears, but may also exacerbate hostility to Israel, as this group believes that the conflict is completely Israel’s fault as a post-colonial imperialist power.

To them it is clear; it is all about the settlements anywhere over the green line, while Israel commits war crimes targeting Palestinian children. To this group, UNSC Resolution 2334, Israel is a violator of international law. Thank you president Barack Obama.

They believe Israel is the primary cause of most of the problems of the Middle East, and that if only Israel disappeared or acquiesced to returning to the ‘67 lines, all the problems of the Middle East would fall away. They have been hearing this scapegoating line of logic from the Arab world for half a century, and European diplomats have internalized it.

Here is a better way forward for the prime minister.

Netanyahu should begin by telling them that if Israel disappeared today, the 1,400-year-old Sunni-Shi’ite war would still be raging, geopolitical Islamism would still be a threat to them and their allies, the Muslim Brotherhood and its political Islamist ilk would still want a worldwide caliphate, Egypt would still be a basket case, the Syrian slaughter would have still happened, and yes, Iranian Shi’ite Islamist hegemony would still be the greatest threat to peace in the region, while Iran continues every day to be the world leader in terrorism and human rights abuses.

Netanyahu should ask them why they are willing to invest hundreds of billions of dollars propping up the Iranian mullahs’ dictatorship, which is supporting the North Korean nuclear regime, while they call for a boycott of Israeli goods from the disputed territories.

That is how you go on the diplomatic offensive. You have nothing to lose and much to gain by calling the West to task for its hypocrisy.

Netanyahu, challenge them: if they care so much about human rights, why don’t they publicly rebuke the state-sponsored human rights abuses and terrorism that afflicts almost every Muslim nation?

Where are the condemnations of Turkey for its oppression of journalists and minorities, and the putsch-style takeover of the military, media and schools?

Why do they pretend that Qatar and its Gulf neighbors are good international citizens when they keep their foreign workers in slave-like conditions, and misogyny, homophobia and torture are, for them, business as usual?

Challenge them to acknowledge that Israel has offered an Arab state living next to it five times in the past 82 years. Ask them if they know that Israel offered a state in 1936, 1948, 1967, 2000 and 2007, when the offer rejected by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was for 100% of the West Bank with swaps, east Jerusalem as their capital, and Arab control of the Temple Mount.

Netanyahu should challenge them to get rid of the double standard they have used for years to cast blame on Israel and call them to task for their government funding of NGOs in Israel whose goal is to undermine the democratically elected government of Israel, something that they would never tolerate another government doing in their countries.

Netanyahu should tell them that before they present another peace plan that they should insist at the outset that both Israel and the Palestinians agree to sign an end-of-conflict agreement creating two states for two peoples, one a Jewish state and the other an Arab state – or no deal. Otherwise, once again, it will just be a one-way-street negotiation.

Few minds will change, but the goal of this talk is to create a new benchmark narrative that Israel should insist upon at every meeting going forward with European and international diplomats.

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.

Deconstructing Kerry, His Legacy May Cause a Third Lebanon War 

{Previously published in The Jerusalem Post}

The toxic combination of an emboldened Iran using Shi’ite proxies to fill the Islamic State vacuum while America chooses to cede influence to Russia has set the stage for further destabilizations.

John Kerry is on another campaign swing, this time at London’s Chatham House, trying to convince the world that his Iran agreement is an overwhelming diplomatic success. I witnessed the debates in the Senate leading up to the JCPOA (Iran Agreement), and Kerry’s speech repeated many of the same factually flawed arguments.

Now, two years later, it is clear that the JCPOA has increased the likelihood of war on Israel’s northern border, which could quickly escalate to involve many regional players and Russia.

The toxic combination of an emboldened Iran using Shi’ite proxies to fill the Islamic State (ISIS) vacuum while America chooses to cede influence to Russia has set the stage for further destabilizations, where one false move could set the region on fire, putting American troops in harm’s way.

According to The Wall Street Journal and corroborated to me in my visits to Congress, Israel and think thanks, there is no American consensus on an Iran strategy.

Our military officials haven’t been able to decide to call a spade a spade and fully support listing the terrorist arm of Iran, the Revolutionary Guard, as a terrorist entity.

Memo to the unnamed military officials: appeasement of Iran’s regime will not work; the Supreme Leader and his minions accept carrots with a smile.

The JCPOA is perceived by Iran as weakness, emboldening its vision for a permanent presence in Syria, including a naval base on the Mediterranean.

All of this came into focus for me after speaking to members of Congress and their foreign policy teams with an expert analyst on Israel’s northern border this week, and during my speech to the American defense industry with the participation of Arab and other Muslim government officials.

My goal in Congress was to shine a spotlight on the growing dangers to American and Israeli security interests that have been catalyzed by the hundreds of billions of dollars in sanctions relief Iran has received as a consequence of Kerry’s agreement, and how it has been invested in a Shi’ite land corridor that has exacerbated an already volatile situation in southern Lebanon and Syria.

The toxic stew of an emboldened Iran and its proxies Hezbollah, the Revolutionary Guard-controlled Popular Mobilization Units, and Syrian President Bashar Assad, all with Russian backing, have created a tinderbox in the Levant where one match, either a single Hezbollah missile attack in northern Israel killing civilians or the downing of an Israeli aircraft over Syria or Lebanon, could set the region on fire.

Add to that the unknown effect of the vacuum created by the resignation of the Lebanese prime minister, Saad Hariri, seemingly orchestrated by the Saudis due to his cozening up with archenemy Iran and Hezbollah, and this part of the Middle East is ground zero for the next regional war.

Iran sees Kerry’s continued support of the JCPOA despite its profound negative consequences as a green light that America can continue to be manipulated and dissuaded from stopping its number one regional goal, effective control of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

So let’s break down Kerry’s assertions at the Chatham House as reported by The Jerusalem Post, and how they have added to the destabilization of the overall region.

Kerry: “Bombing Iran does not necessarily stop them from having a nuclear weapon.”

Iran is hell-bent on getting nuclear weapons, and no agreement is going to deter this revolutionary theocratic movement from its worldwide ambitions.

Kerry: “I guarantee you, once you bomb the country [Iran], you have surely given them a good reason to want to have a weapon.”

They aren’t waiting for us to give them a good reason. They are putting in a huge, determined effort to have nuclear-armed missiles as leverage to achieve hegemony over their enemies right now. Also, the analysis of anyone who guarantees you anything in the Middle East should be suspect from the start.

Kerry said that Iran could have “dug two miles deep into a mountain” to create a facility to produce a nuclear weapon.

Iran is already building deep underground bunkers for its nuclear-capable missiles, which Iran has publicly acknowledged with photos. An NBC news report showed pictures of a massive bunker with Emad nuclear- capable missiles. The only real question is how many underground missile cities North Korea has helped Iran dig already in the uninspected military sites Kerry conveniently agreed to ignore in the negotiated agreement.

Kerry said that when the deal was concluded Iran was two months away from having the ability to produce a nuclear weapon, but that now it is a year away.

His friend, Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said that Iran could within five days begin enrichment of uranium to 20%. Kerry should have shared with his audience that his agreement allowed immediate unrestrained Iranian R&D on advanced centrifuges, corroborating Salehi’s claim.

Kerry claimed Iran wouldn’t be able to produce a nuclear weapon for 15 years, and then only with an additional 10 years of oversight.

In just eight years Iran is allowed to openly advance its nuclear program. His claim that there will be oversight over the next 20 years is silly in light of the current oversight that is already ineffective and filled with loopholes.

The legacy of the JCPOA is still being written, but in a few years its authors will be creating new mythologies and rationalizations to explain its failures, blaming everyone but themselves, while our allies in the region will have to bear the consequences of its failures, perhaps beginning with explaining how it ignited the third Lebanon war.

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, and is a regular contributor to
 The Jerusalem Post.

What Congress Now Needs to Do After Decertification 

{Previously published in The Jerusalem Post}

The real question is whether congressional Republicans can act in concert for the national good, and avoid internal bickering.

For years I have tried to persuade my friends in Congress that they need to assert their constitutional responsibility to influence and shape our foreign policy as the elected leaders closest to the people, not leaving all foreign policy decisions to the executive branch of government.

President Donald Trump’s decertification of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) is the perfect opportunity for Congress to join together with the executive branch to advance American security interests.

Decertification creates an opening for Congress to take the lead and change the balance of power, which is currently in Iran’s favor.

Congress’ goal should be to reestablish American leverage over Iran’s malevolent behavior, to renegotiate the terms of the JCPOA on sunset provisions, R&D, inspections, and cooperation with North Korea, by creating new, non-nuclear related sanctions against Iranian nuclear missile development, international terrorism, and human rights abuses, all of which are not addressed by the JCPOA (Iran deal).

If these new sanctions are effective, there will be no need to reintroduce nuclear-related sanctions threatening to bring us in confrontation with our allies.

Trying instead to add triggers to the current Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA), requiring 60 votes in the Senate, would be a failing strategy. New sanctions should be constructed requiring only a simple majority for passage.

Let’s be clear: if the president wanted to withdraw from the deal he certainly has more than enough evidence to do so.

It does not take much to make the case that Iran is advancing its nuclear program through North Korea, or as reported in the British Sunday Telegraph, the British Foreign Office believes “For [North Korea] to have done this entirely on their own stretches the bounds of credulity.”

Not to mention multiple German intelligence reports documenting continued Iranian pursuit of nuclear weapons in defiance of the JCPOA through front companies, most recently in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, with over 30 nuclear procurement attempts.

Even president Barack Obama promised that the JCPOA would not inhibit future non-nuclear sanctions, and indeed he extended non-nuclear sanctions before leaving office in January.

According to Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, Obama said, “Iran’s… support for Lebanon’s Hezbollah and repeated threats against Israel remain contrary to the interests of the United States in the region and continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.”

The Trump administration’s decertification of the JCPOA is a step in the right direction, but it will be effective only if Congress takes the lead and has the vision to force Iran back to the bargaining table due to financial pressure.

The carrot of billions in front-loaded sanctions relief has not changed Iranian behavior, so the stick of new sanctions is the only logical step.

President Trump should be commended for listing the IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) as a terrorist group and authorizing the Treasury to further sanction the IRGC, as it is the vanguard for the ayatollahs, advancing their worldwide ambitions against American interests. But that is not enough.

The president chose not to order the State Department to designate the IRGC as a foreign terrorist group, under pressure from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. This was a mistake.

Congress needs to legislate and force the hand of the administration to use this much more effective strategy to bring Iran back to negotiations.

As IRGC commander Maj.-Gen. Ali Ja’afari said, “We are on the path that leads to the rule of Islam worldwide.”

We should take his words seriously.

The administration needs to understand that Iran is not a rational state actor but a revolutionary ideological movement that does not use Western rationales to advance its interests.

Therefore, I would avoid at this point reimposing nuclear-related sanctions like the Iran Sanctions Act, the Iran Freedom and Counter-proliferation Act or Iran Threat Reduction Syrian Human Rights Act.

However, even more onerous sanctions should be legislated on their other nefarious activities, which will in effect bring them back to renegotiate the JCPOA, New sanctions need to be even more tough if Congress wants to give the administration leverage to renegotiate the nuclear deal.

The key is pressure on the financial stability of the IRGC, which is intimately involved in terrorism as well as with nuclear weapons development at home and in North Korea. The IRGC controls somewhere between 20% to 50% of the Iranian economy, in essence stealing the Iranian people’s money, just as the totalitarian Soviet Union did.

But what about the Europeans? How will they react to new American sanctions affecting their lucrative economic deals with Iran? As Richard Goldberg, one of the unsung heroes of the original sanctions legislation, wrote in Foreign Policy this month, “Trump should…hold a sanctions Sword of Damocles over the Iranian economy: change your behavior or risk total economic collapse… Cry as they might along the way, no European or Asian corporation is going to choose a terrorist regime over access to the US dollar.”

European companies doing business with Iran will have to choose between the $400 billion Iranian economy and having full access to the $17 trillion American financial system. The Europeans don’t have to support sanctions, but they will have to respect them if constructed properly by Congress and in their financial interest.

The real question is whether congressional Republicans can act in concert for the national good, and avoid internal bickering.

As reported in the Washington Free Beacon, “This is the party [Republican] whose platform reads, ‘A Republican president will not be bound by the [Iran] deal and we must retain all options in dealing with a situation that gravely threatens our security, our interests, and the survival of our friends.’ Now they must act.”

What about Democrats like Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, and ranking members of the Foreign Relations Committee Senator Ben Cardin and Congressman Elliot Engel, all who spoke out and voted against the deal in 2015? Are they willing to choose national interests over loyalty to president Obama’s legacy, or will they choose party loyalty that reflexively opposes anything Republicans propose, even if in the national interest? Now the ball is in Congress’ court.

Let’s hope they act.

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.

Can U.S. Withdraw from JCPOA if it Endangers American Interests? 

{Previously published in The Jerusalem Post}

Can the US wash its hands of the agreement, or are we stuck with it?

“The Iran deal is not a fair deal to this country” – US President Donald Trump, September 14, 2017 What if the Trump administration comes to the conclusion that the Iran agreement  (JCPOA ) authored by the previous administration has destabilized the Middle East and undermined American interests? Since it was signed, Iran has actively supported the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Sunnis, while being complicit in Syrian President Bashar Assad’s genocide of his own people.

Can the US wash its hands of the agreement, or are we stuck with it? Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly asked President Trump to either amend or withdraw from the 2015 agreement. There is no doubt that president Barack Obama believed that he knew better than the Israelis what was in their best interest, but now there is a new sheriff in town, who for years has made it clear that he believes the Iran agreement is a danger to America.

There are no American inspectors anywhere in Iran, or anyone else inspecting military sites, where agreement-breaking nuclear weapons development may be taking place. Can America withdraw or amend the agreement if Iran technically adheres to its commitment according to the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), which refuses to confront Iranian intransigence on military inspections? Can Trump say sayonara, even if the other members of the P5+1 think it is not in their interest to leave the agreement? The answer is yes, but with a few caveats.

First, the Iran deal is not what it was presented by its authors to be. President Obama signed an agreement that betrayed his own words, promising to “end their nuclear program.” The agreement in fact guarantees an internationally accepted nuclear program in eight more years.

However, critics of withdrawal point out that despite the agreement having never having been signed, it is a commitment that was witnessed by five other major powers, and the consequences of America withdrawing would cast doubt on Western assurances in the future, undermining future negotiations.

The JCPOA is the most important American treaty of the 21st century, except that it was never submitted to the Senate for approval as a treaty.

According to Bruce Fein in The Washington Times, the JCPOA was “intended to constrain Iran’s nuclear ambitions in exchange for a relaxation of sanctions, and must be construed as a “treaty” under Article II, section 2, clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution.”

As National Review’s Andrew McCarthy explained, the Constitution “does not empower the president to make binding agreements with foreign countries all on his own.”

Even the Yale Journal of International Law, a strong supporter of the JCPOA which believes withdrawal is unwise, opines that “nothing in the JCPOA …formally binds the United States to the Agreement.”

There is even a precedent for walking away from the agreement, set by Rahm Emanuel and the Obama administration itself.

Let us recall that president Obama disavowed the Bush-Sharon letters of 2004, which said that the “existing major Israeli population centers” were “realities on the ground” and it is unrealistic to expect Israel to return them in any final agreement, with the quid pro quo of Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in the disengagement plan.

According to Ben Caspit’s book The Netanyahu Years, an illuminating exchange occurred between Israeli ambassador Michael Oren and Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel.

Ambassador Oren called Emanuel for a clarification and said, “You can’t repudiate former understandings… it will cause long-term damage.”

Emanuel responded emphatically, “If we think they are not effective it is our right to say so isn’t it? We can’t be committed to everything the previous administration thought.”

So the Obama administration itself created a framework for walking away from the JCPOA , a set of unsigned understandings according to the State Department. If the JCPOA is not effective in moderating Iranian ambitions, and is a glide path to a nuclear weapons program, isn’t it then the right of the new administration to cancel that agreement? Of course it is.

Non-binding agreements that are not treaties can be withdrawn from. If president Obama wanted a binding agreement for perpetuity, all he had to do was present it as a treaty to the Senate.

So what should the US do now? Work with Congress to write legislation to annul the JCPOA if Iran cooperates in any way with North Korea on nuclear or missile related technology, while imposing new sanctions. Better yet, submit the JCPOA for Senate ratification.

As for the Europeans, their latest rationale for maintaining the Iran deal is that it is the model for a resolution of the North Korean nuclear conflict. They say the Iran deal mustn’t be touched, in order to reassure the North Koreans that if they strike a diplomatic deal the West will not renege on it.

So then we should show the North Koreans that they, like Iran, can have an internationally recognized nuclear program in 10 years, free of military site inspections in the meanwhile, and free to build nuclear-armed ICBMs, with billions of dollars as a reward for signing a piece of paper it has no intent of honoring.

The Iranian-sponsored ethnic cleansing of the Sunni population in Syria and Iraq is a war crime, and has caused a catastrophic refugee exodus with profound demographic national security threats to Western European nations.

So why is Western Europe so blind to the fact that the JCPOA is a major source of resources for Iranian belligerency, a primary cause of the refugee epidemic? It seems today’s Western European leaders are so lost in political correctness that they are content to author their own suicide.

As US UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said, “It is this unwillingness to challenge Iranian behavior for fear of damaging the nuclear agreement that gets to the heart of the threat the deal poses to our national security.”

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Iran is “clearly in default” of the nuclear deal, and “the Trump administration is fully committed to addressing the totality of malign activities attributable to the Iran regime and its proxies.”

But is it willing to see the JCPOA as the primary driver of those malign activates?

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