Donald Trump Is Bad for Israel

As usual, the president makes his predecessors look better.

Suppose you’re the type of smart conservative reluctantly inclined to give Donald Trump a pass for his boorish behavior and ideological heresies because you like the way the economy is going and appreciate the tough tone of his foreign policy, especially when it comes to Islamic fundamentalism.

These last few weeks haven’t exactly validated your faith in the man, have they?

.. The president has abruptly undermined Israel’s security following a phone call with an Islamist strongman in Turkey. So much for the idea, common on the right, that this is the most pro-Israel administration ever.

.. Contrary to the invidious myth that neoconservatives always put Israel first, the reasons for staying in Syria have everything to do with core U.S. interests. Among them: Keeping ISIS beaten, keeping faith with the Kurds, maintaining leverage in Syria and preventing Russia and Iran from consolidating their grip on the Levant.

.. Powers that maintain a reputation as reliable allies and formidable foes tend to enhance their power. Powers that behave as Trump’s America has squander it.

.. But leave that aside and consider the Trump presidency from a purely Israeli standpoint. Are Israelis better off now that the U.S. Embassy is in Jerusalem? Not materially. The move was mostly a matter of symbolism, albeit of an overdue and useful sort. Are Israelis safer from Iran now that the U.S. is no longer in the Iran deal and sanctions are back in force? Only marginally. Sanctions are a tool of strategy, not a strategy unto themselves.

.. What Israel most needs from the U.S. today is what it needed at its birth in 1948: an America committed to defending the liberal-international order against totalitarian enemies, as opposed to one that conducts a purely transactional foreign policy based on the needs of the moment or the whims of a president.

.. From that, everything follows. It means that the U.S. should not

  • sell out small nations — whether it was Israel in 1973 or Kuwait in 1990 — for the sake of currying favor with larger ones. It means we should
  • resist interloping foreign aggressors, whether it was the
    • Soviets in Egypt in the 1960s, or the
    • Russians and Iranians in Syria in this decade. It means we should
  • oppose militant religious fundamentalism, whether it is
    • Wahhabis in Riyadh or Khomeinists in Tehran or Muslim Brothers in Cairo and Ankara. It means we should
  • advocate
    • human rights,
    • civil liberties, and
    • democratic institutions, in that order.

Trump has stood all of this on its head.

He shows no interest in pushing Russia out of Syria. He has neither articulated nor pursued any coherent strategy for pushing Iran out of Syria. He has all but invited Turkey to interfere in Syria. He has done nothing to prevent Iran from continuing to arm Hezbollah. He shows no regard for the Kurds. His fatuous response to Saudi Arabia’s murder of Jamal Khashoggi is that we’re getting a lot of money from the Saudis.

He speaks with no authority on subjects like press freedom or religious liberty because he assails both at home. His still-secret peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians will have the rare effect of uniting Israelis and Palestinians in their rejection of it

.. If you think the gravest immediate threat to Israel is jihadist Hezbollah backed by fundamentalist Iran backed by cynical Russia, the answer is no.

.. If you think the gravest middle-term threat is the continued Islamization of Turkey under Recep Tayyip Erdogan — gradually transforming the country into a technologically competent Sunni version of Iran — the answer is no.

.. If you think that another grave threat to Israel is the inability to preserve at least a vision of a future Palestinian state — one that pursues good governance and peace with its neighbors while rejecting kleptocracy and terrorism — the answer is no.

And if you think that the ultimate long-term threat to Israel is the resurgence of isolationism in the U.S. and a return to the geopolitics of every nation for itself, the answer is more emphatically no.

 

 

Yes, John Bolton Really Is That Dangerous

The good thing about John Bolton, President Trump’s new national security adviser, is that he says what he thinks.

The bad thing is what he thinks.

There are few people more likely than Mr. Bolton is to lead the country into war.

.. no one was a more vociferous proponent of that disastrous invasion than Mr. Bolton, a position he has not renounced. At the time, Mr. Bolton said Iraqis would welcome American troops. He also said the United States’ military role would be over quickly as Iraqis exercised their new freedom from Saddam Hussein and established a democracy. It was the sort of simplistic and wrongheaded position that he takes on most policies.

.. He is known to play a ruthless inside game as he maneuvers to win bureaucratic battles and freezes out people he thinks have crossed him.

.. his rejection of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and his endorsement of a book by the anti-Muslim activist Pam Geller

 

Don’t Count Bibi Out — Yet

Bibi has been, for Israelis, a pretty good prime minister

.. Economy: Since Netanyahu returned to power in 2009, the economy has grown by nearly 30 percent in constant dollars — nearly twice the growth rate of Germany or the United States. Some 3.6 million tourists visited Israel in 2017, a record for the Jewish state. On Monday, Israel announced a $15 billion dollar deal to export natural gas to Egypt from its huge offshore fields.

.. Diplomacy: Netanyahu’s personal ties to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are exceptionally close, as they are with Japan’s Shinzo Abe. Israel’s relations with African countries and the Arab world are the best they’ve been in decades

.. Security: In 2002, at the height of the second intifada, Israelis suffered more than 400 terrorism fatalities. In 2017 there were fewer than two dozen.

.. For the most part, Israel has been able to strike Syrian, Iranian and Hezbollah targets at will.

.. Diaspora Jews were infuriated last year by the government’s backtracking on a plan to let men and women pray together at the Western Wall.

.. The central complaint of Netanyahu’s critics is that he has failed to make good on the promise of his 2009 speech at Bar-Ilan University, where he claimed to accept the principle of a Palestinian state.

.. Subsidiary charges include his refusal to halt settlement construction

..  Israel’s political left was not destroyed by Netanyahu. It was obliterated one Palestinian suicide bombing, rocket salvo, tunnel attack and rejected statehood offer at a time. Bibi’s long tenure of office is the consequence, not the cause, of this.

.. the two great lessons of the past 30 years.

  1. First, that separation from the Palestinians is essential — in the long term.
  2. Second, that peace with the Palestinians is impossible — in the short term.

.. it’s hard to imagine any other sort of approach, which is why any successor to Netanyahu will have to pursue essentially identical policies

.. For all of his flaws, few have done it as well as Bibi, which is why he has endured

Nikki Haley says Trump Mideast peace plan is nearly finished

The Trump administration is nearly finished drafting its Mideast peace proposal and will release it soon, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Thursday.

.. Haley added that U.S. negotiators Jared Kushner and Jason D. Greenblatt are “still going back and forth,”

.. Haley added that U.S. negotiators Jared Kushner and Jason D. Greenblatt are “still going back and forth,”

.. Palestinian leaders have said the Jerusalem decision means the United States can no longer be an honest broker.

.. David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama, pressed Haley on whether the United States would propose an independent Palestinian stat

.. “It’s for them to decide,” Haley said

.. Axelrod asked Haley about proposals to cut legal migration “by 40 percent,”

.. She advises Trump directly and is among the most hawkish voices on issues including Iran and Israel, sometimes putting her at odds with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

.. Kissinger, she said, had advised her that negotiations go better when one tries to understand an adversary’s goals and motives. That applies in international affairs and in politics, she told the students.

“You don’t have to agree with them – most times you won’t. But you have to understand where they’re coming from,” Haley said.

“This is a skill that I am afraid is being lost in America today,” along with perspective on political differences, she said.