Trump Exits from Agreement- What does it Means for Israel - History

Trump Exits from Agreement- What does it Means for Israel - History

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There is no doubt that US President Donald J. Trump is a good friend of Israel. His policy shows that he cares about Israel and wishes it well. Though there is also a well-worn saying: “Beware of well-meaning friends”.

President Trump withdrew from the JCPOA agreement with Iran and Israelis applauded. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the bold decision. On the streets of Tel Aviv most people approved, stating they agreed with what Trump had said, the Iranians can only be persuaded to negotiate by force, whether economic or kinetic.

Regarding Trump’s decision, Michael Oren, Minister-without-portfolio in the Prime Minister’s office and former Israeli Ambassador to Washington tweeted: “An historic day for Israel and the Jewish people. A deadly threat has been lifted.”

The problem with Oren’s statement, as well as the many other supportive remarks made with respect to Trump’s directive for withdrawal (including comments offered by Israeli opposition parties) is that whatever the eventual merits of the Trump decision — it does not remove the threat; it removes the admittedly temporary solution put in place by the previous administration.

Arguments have been going back-and-forth for some time, attempting to speculate Trump’s planned action on the Iran deal. His supporters in Israel asserted he is a brilliant negotiator, trying to get the Europeans on board to push for fixes in the JCPOA agreement; his detractors contended Trump has no idea what he is doing and that he will likely take the first steps to ending the Iranian agreement. Trump, it turns out, was not interested in any short-term fixes. He wanted out of the agreement, and today, now that he has removed the moderates like General H.R. McMaster, whom Trump replaced with Ambassador Bolton; and Sec of State Tillerson, whom he replaced with Secretary of State Michael “Mike” Pompeo, there is nobody to tell him to wait … that walking away from JCPOA at this moment would not be wise. A former military officer whose specialty is Risk Management said this morning: “This could be a successful strategy, but it’s extremely risky.”

For the past weeks, I have repeatedly questioned — What is “Plan B,” if Trump indeed pulls out of the agreement. I never got an answer, neither from Washington, nor from Jerusalem. Instead, both President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu seem to share a dream — i.e. that renewed sanctions will so irreparably cripple the regime in Iran that the Iranian people will rise up and overthrow the government that rules them.

The only problem with that scenario is a little recent history … enter: Syria. When the Syrian people rose up and demanded more freedom from their President Bashar al-Assad, he started shooting them, and has not stopped 7 years later — and no one cares. The Iranian people have learned the lesson of Syria, and I doubt they are willing to sacrifice their lives on the altar of freedom.

Shortly after President Trump completed his speech, the sound of military aircraft could be heard over Tel Aviv (a rarity in the middle of the night). This came as no surprise, after the warnings issued on Saturday night that the Iranians were planning an attack on a target in Israel. Tonight, the IDF warned they had observed unusual activity by Iranian forces in Syria and ordered shelters in the Golan Heights (near the Syrian border) be opened a prepared for use.

A few minutes after the sound of jets had been heard in Tel Aviv, there were reports of explosions outside Damascus, along with the announcement by the Syrians that Israel had attacked targets there. Those targets are thought to be Iranian missile sites were readying a strike on Israel. The Israeli government claims the nuclear deal is partially responsible for Iran’s involvement in Syria, as there can be no doubt that the return of the billions of dollars of Iranian money, triggered by the signing of the agreement, enabled Iran to spend more on their revolutionary activities outside the country. Of course, it was the American attack on Iraq, then Iran’s foe, that gave Iran the strategic freedom to act in Syria and beyond.

While participating in the Spin Room on i24News hours, shortly before the announcement, the host Ami Kaufman asked whether Netanyahu deserves credit for getting the nuclear deal canceled. The answer is that clearly he does. Netanyahu has relentlessly attacked the Iran deal from the beginning. In President Trump he found someone who would listen. However, with the credit, comes responsibility, in the event of failure.

At the moment, the hope is that crippling economic sanctions will force the Iranians to return to the bargaining table and agree to a much more comprehensive agreement; an agreement that would change the very nature of their revolutionary regime. Almost all of Israel is united in that hope. Former US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro has been saying for the last few weeks that Trump was going to exit the agreement and that we must prepare for the next step. Shapiro spoke about the need for new pressure on Iran, but has repeatedly stated that thanks to the Obama administration, Israel also possesses a military option to deal with the threat of an Iranian nuclear program. A barista in Tel Aviv summarized the concern of many this morning — “President Trump gave a great speech, but it might be us who end up fighting a war.” The hope of most Israelis is that there will be a better outcome.

Israel signs historic deal with UAE that will 'suspend' West Bank annexation

Israel and the United Arab Emirates have agreed to establish full diplomatic ties in a historic Washington-brokered deal under which Israel will “suspend” its plans to annex parts of the Palestinian territories.

However, cracks in the deal became quickly apparent after its announcement on Thursday, with Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, saying there was “no change” to his annexation plans, while the UAE insisted that it “immediately stops annexation”.

After Jordan and Egypt, the UAE is only the third Arab country to announce formal diplomatic relations with Israel, and the announcement will reverberate across the Middle East, which has a turbulent history with the Jewish state.

Donald Trump, who is facing a tough presidential election on 3 November, played up the deal as a significant foreign policy win.

“Everybody said this would be impossible,” the US president told reporters at the White House. “After 49 years, Israel and the United Arab Emirates will fully normalise their diplomatic relations. They will exchange embassies and ambassadors and begin cooperation across the board and on a broad range of areas including tourism, education, healthcare, trade and security.”

He said the tenor of the three-way phone call he had with Israeli and UAE leaders “was like love”. Similar agreements were being discussed with other countries in the region, he added, without giving details.

Israel has also cultivated ties with Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain. Asked about who might be next in line to establish diplomatic relations, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, said: “We have a couple who are upset that they weren’t first.

“I do think that this makes it more inevitable, but it’s going to take hard work and it’s going to take trust being built and dialogue being facilitated in order for people to cross that line as well,” Kushner told journalists. “So hopefully this makes it easier for others many are watching to see how this goes.”

Surrounded by his top aides in the Oval Office, Trump described the pact as a “peace agreement”. However, the UAE’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan later tweeted that the country had agreed instead to “cooperation and setting a roadmap towards establishing a bilateral relationship”.

For Netanyahu, Israel’s hardline and longest-serving prime minister, the announcement is also a significant boost. For years, Netanyahu has attempted to build relationships in the Middle East while at the same time entrenching Israel’s control over Palestinians. Now, despite having threatened to permanently seize occupied land, he has won a hugely symbolic victory. “A historic day,” the 70-year-old leader wrote on Twitter.

Even Israel’s opposition leader, Yair Lapid, congratulated the prime minister.

For the Palestinians, who have long relied on Arab backing in their struggle for independence, the development will be seen as a big setback in their attempts to increase international pressure on Israel until a full peace deal has been agreed.

The official Palestinian news agency reported the Palestinian ambassador to the UAE was being recalled.

The Palestinian politician Hanan Ashrawi accused the UAE of abandoning the Palestinians. “May you never experience the agony of having your country stolen may you never feel the pain of living in captivity under occupation may you never witness the demolition of your home or murder of your loved ones. May you never be sold out by your ‘friends’,” she wrote on Twitter.

Announced in a joint statement by Israel, the UAE and the US, the deal will see Israeli and Emirati delegations meet in the coming weeks. The statement said they would sign agreements on investment, tourism, direct flights, security, telecommunications, technology, energy, healthcare, culture, the environment, the establishment of reciprocal embassies, and “other areas of mutual benefit”.

Just the Facts FAQ: Trump/Biden on Israel

My students (American teenagers) have prepared this document in order to help clarify both candidates for the American פresidency’s position on issues related to Israel. This document takes no sides, it aims to provide nothing but facts. The reader is encouraged to examine each candidate’s opinions and judge for themselves which candidate’s positions resonate with them. The document was given to both campaigns before publishing and each campaign had sufficient time to correct anything it felt was inaccurate.

Introduction: Love of Israel

(1) Does each candidate care about Israel?

I am a lifelong supporter and true friend of Israel. I am a newcomer to politics, but not to backing the Jewish state. I love Israel. I love Israel. I’ve been with Israel so long I’ve received some of my greatest honors from Israel, my father before me, incredible.

On my first trip overseas as President, I visited the Holy Land of Israel. I was deeply moved and amazed by what this small country had achieved in the face of overwhelming odds and never-ending threats. The State of Israel comprises only a miniscule amount of land in the Middle East and yet it has become a thriving center of democracy, innovation, culture, and commerce.

Israel is a light unto the world. The hearts and history of our people are woven together. The Land of Israel is an ancient home, a sacred place of worship, and a solemn promise to the Jewish people that we will never again repeat history’s darkest hour. The story of Israel is a tale of triumph in the face of centuries of oppression and persecution. The Jewish people endured, persevered, and flourished beyond measure, building a thriving, proud, beautiful, and mighty nation in the Holy Land.

America and Israel are woven together by history, heritage, and the hearts of our people. We share a love of freedom, democracy, religious liberty, the rule of law, and national sovereignty. The friendship between our countries is essential to achieving a more safe, just, and peaceful world. That is why every single day since I took the Oath of Office, I have stood firmly, strongly, and proudly with the people of Israel.

When the United States stands with Israel, the chances of peace really rise and rises exponentially. As everyone knows, I have done a lot for Israel: moving the United States Embassy to Jerusalem recognizing — recognizing the Golan Heights — and, frankly, perhaps most importantly, getting out of the terrible Iran nuclear deal. We will not allow a return to the days of bloodshed, bus bombings, nightclub attacks, and relentless terror. It won’t be allowed. Peace requires compromise, but we will never ask Israel to compromise its security. Can’t do that.

My name is Joe Biden, and everybody knows I love Israel. I am a Zionist. You don’t have to be a Jew to be a Zionist.

The first time I ever took the three of my children separately to Europe, the first place I took them was Dachau. We flew to Munich and went to Dachau — the first thing we ever did because it’s important that all our children and grandchildren understand that this is a never-ending requirement. The preservation of an independent Jewish state is the ultimate guarantor, it’s the only certain guarantor of freedom and security for the Jewish people in the world. I learned that the only way to ensure that it could never happen again was the establishment and the existence of a secure, Jewish state of Israel. Even as circumstances have changed, one thing has not: our deep commitment to the security of the state of Israel. That has not changed. That will not change. It’s in our naked self-interest, beyond the moral imperative.

The strategic imperative that Israel must be able to protect its own, must be able to do it on its own, and we must always stand with Israel to be sure that can happen. And we will.
Not long ago, I would have had to describe to an audience what Iron Dome was, how it would work, why funding it mattered. I don’t have to explain to anybody anymore.

Everybody gets it. Everybody saw — the world saw firsthand why it was and remains so critical.

Israel’s legitimacy and our support for it is not a matter of debate. There is no light. It is not a matter of debate. It is not a matter of debate. It is not negotiable. The idea that we would draw military assistance from Israel on the condition that they change a specific policy, I find to be absolutely outrageous. No, I would not condition it, and I think it’s a gigantic mistake.
Our commitment to the State of Israel is not only a longstanding, moral commitment, it’s a strategic commitment. An independent Israel, secure in its own borders, recognized by the world is in the practical, strategic interests of the United States of America. I used to say if there weren’t an Israel, we’d have to invent one. I’ve always been adamant that Israel must be able to defend itself. It’s not just critical for Israeli security. I believe it’s critical for America’s security.

(2) Was the Iran Nuclear Deal a good deal?
On the 14th of July in 2015 the Joint Comprehensive plan of action, JCPOA, also known as The Iran Deal, was signed between the United States, UK, Russia, France, and China to allow Iran to be an economically independent state. In return Iran was to abolish all nuclear activities for 10 years. Iran agreed to the terms. In return, America gave Iran $1.7 billion dollars and access to over $150 billion. Vice President Biden was part of the team who made the agreement with Iran. On May 8th, 2018 President Trump pulled America out of the deal.

Vice President Joe Biden
President Obama signed the JCPOA with Joe Biden as his Vice President. Vice President Biden shared President Obama’s view on the Iran deal. Back in 2015 Vice President Biden advocated the benefits of nuclear deal that President Obama signed with Iran. Vice President Biden maintains that five years ago, American-led diplomacy produced a deal that ensured it would take Iran at least a year to produce enough fissile material for one bomb. Critics who warned that the 10-year sunset clauses for key parts of the agreement paved Iran’s path to a bomb don’t get it, they’re wrong. The deal effectively cuts off Iran’s uranium, plutonium and covert pathways to a bomb. It ensured a breakout timeline of a year for at least a decade or more and included phased sanction relief calibrated with steps taken by Iran.

President Donald J. Trump
President Trump introduced his announcement of America’s parting from the JCPOA by referring to Iran as a Reign of Terror, proclaiming their history of murdering and kidnapping Americans and citizens of our allies, along with bombing American military stations. He comes to the conclusion that we can not reason with the unreasonable. President Trump maintained that although part of the deal allows America’s allies to freely go into Iran and conduct inspections, he believes it is impossible to inspect every part of Iran for any nuclear activity. President Trump felt that being a part of this deal was an embarrassment to the citizens of the country.

(3) Should America have pulled out of the Iran deal?

President Donald J. Trump
President Trump believes that pulling out of the Iran Deal was one of America’s greatest successes as he claims that “The Iran Deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.” Furthermore, in President Trump’s briefing about why pulling out of the Iran deal was essential, he explained how the Iranian regime is the leading state sponsor of terror: it exports dangerous missiles, fuels conflicts across the Middle East, and supports terrorist proxies and militias such as Hezbollah, Hamas, the Taliban, and al Qaeda. Iran has also attacked the United States. The disastrous deal gave the Iranian regime billions of dollars, some of it in actual cash. The agreement was so poorly negotiated that even if Iran fully complies, Iran could have been on the verge of a nuclear breakout in just a short period of time. To make matters worse, the deal lacked sufficient mechanisms to prevent, detect, and punish cheating, and doesn’t even have the unqualified right to inspect many important locations, including military facilities.

Vice President Joe Biden
Pulling out of the Iran Deal put America against European allies. Vice President Biden argues that the Iran Deal instilled careful diplomacy and regulated the use of force that had kept Iran from reaching full potency. When Biden was asked about America pulling out of the Iran Deal he claimed, “a president who says he wants to end endless war in the Middle East is bringing us dangerously close to starting a new one.” Biden believes that the decision to pull from this deal is not what the American people wanted. “Iran is a destabilizing actor in the Middle East it must never be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon.” President Trump abandoned the deal that blocked Iran’s paths to nuclear weapons, as repeatedly verified by international inspectors, with no viable plan to produce a better one. Pulling out of the deal was a reckless action that produced a deep crisis in transatlantic relations and pushed China and Russia closer to Iran. The repercussions that the United States has been enduring because of such “impulsive action” has caused this country, rather than Iran, to be isolated. Pulling out of the deal also demonstrated to the world America’s word and international commitments meant nothing.

(4) Should America negotiate with Iran?

At a recent UN Security Council meeting, none of America’s closest allies joined America’s request to extend the UN arms embargo on Iran. Vice President Biden disagrees with how President Trump handled Iran and believes that President Trump should not have gone against what our allies thought and also should not have walked away from the deal we already had with Iran- which was blocking Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon. The Iran deal ensured it would take Iran at least a year to produce enough fissile material for one bomb, and now that can happen in less than a few months as a result of President Trump letting Iran be free of its obligations to the deal.

Five years ago, Iran hadn’t attacked US forces in the region for years, but since President Trump’s pull out of the Iran deal, American service members, contractors and troops have been killed. Rockets are now fired at US facilities in Iraq regularly. Vice President Biden’s plan will include not allowing Iran to access nuclear weapons, calling Iran out on their human rights violations and insist that Iran free Americans unlawfully detained by Iran.

President Donald J. Trump
According to US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, he states that if Vice President Biden wins in next month’s US elections we would see American policy on Iran shift in a way that would be damaging to Israel and the Gulf states. In May 2018, Donald Trump withdrew from the landmark deal. The Trump administration and Israel expressed alarm that Iran had been empowered by the deal, increased its support for terror, and had a sunset clause that would eventually allow the bombing of Iran. The United States has imposed swarms of sanctions on Iran that have devastated its economy since breaking the accord. “We are in a very good place in terms of the sanctions we have imposed upon Iran, and we think if we continue down this path, Iran will have no choice but to end its malign activity,” Friedman said. President Trump believes America should negotiate a new deal with Iran, but a deal that actually stops Iran’s nuclear weapons pursuit, its state sponsor of terror, and other nefarious policies.

(5) Should America reenter the Iran deal?

President Donald J. Trump
President Trump’s position is that America should not reenter the Iran Nuclear Deal, since he sees the deal as a failure for America, a deal that only benefits Iran. President Trump prefers a more direct approach on Iran, with United Nations sanctions and restrictions on Iran instead of giving funding through the deal. President Trump also believes that the deal was “failed” and “one sided”, which is why he decided to withdraw from the deal. President Trump had the support of Israel and Saudi Arabia. The President left this deal with promises to implement a real, comprehensive, and lasting solution to the Iranian nuclear threat. Including efforts to eliminate the threat of Iran’s ballistic missile program, stop its terrorist activities worldwide, and blocking its destabilizing activities across the Middle East.

Vice President Joe Biden
Vice President Biden believes that America should reenter the Iran deal. Vice President Biden believes that leaving the Iran nuclear deal was a mistake. After the Obama administration, only then did Iran become more aggressive in its policies, not during the Obama administration as President Trump suggests. The whole process to create the Iran nuclear deal started in the Obama Administration, when President Obama and Vice President Biden brokered the Iran Nuclear Deal by working with the government of Iran to create it in 2015. If Iran moves back into compliance with its nuclear obligations, Vice President Biden pledges that he would re-enter the JCPOA as a starting point to work alongside America’s allies. Reentering the Iran deal would allow the United States to check all of the facilities and sites in Iran. After joining the deal, Vice President Biden plans on calling out Iran for all of their violations of human rights and also the unjustly imprisoned Americans.

(6) How should America deal with Iran’s nuclear weapons program?

Vice President Joe Biden
Vice President Biden thinks that President Trump has failed in keeping his promise to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Vice President Biden claims that President Trump promised to pressure the Iranian government into stopping their nuclear weapons program, but he never fulfilled his promise. He believes that Iran is now more motivated to acquire nuclear weapons because of President Trump’s failed plan. President Trump failed to get help from US allies to extend the weapons embargo on Iran. Vice President Biden believes that the Iran Deal was working to keep the country safe. Vice President Biden wants to offer Iran a chance to return to the nuclear deal. If Iran does decide to comply with the terms of the deal, Vice President Biden says he will rejoin the deal and extend the provisions given through the deal while also addressing other issues with Iran.

President Donald J. Trump
President Trump believes that America should stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program as soon as possible. He doesn’t want Iran to get their hands on a nuclear weapon. He repeatedly mentions how the Iran Deal was one of the worst deals the US has ever entered and decided to back out of it immediately and placed economic sanctions on Iran. President Trump wants to work with allies to impose penalties on Iran and stop them from advancing in their nuclear program. President Trump also feels that harsh sanctions and pressure on Iran can force them into stopping their nuclear weapons program, ballistic missile testing and sponsoring of global terrorism.

(7) How should America deal with Iran sponsoring global terror?

President Donald J. Trump
When President Trump first ran for president, he promised to stop Iran’s nuclear program and promised to pressure Iran into curbing its abusive behavior. President Trump pulled out of the Iran deal as the deal allows Iran to continue enriching uranium and continue to sponsor terror. Since he withdrew from the deal, Iran’s economy has been crippled. With the sanctions the Trump administration has set in place Iran’s financial sector has been harmed and America hopes to use sanctions to pressure Iran to stop sponsoring global terror.

Vice President Joe Biden
Vice President Biden plans to re-enter the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Iran deal) which President Trump pulled out of and replaced with a plan of “maximum pressure.” Vice President Biden thinks the Iran deal forces and successfully pushes back against Iran, and President Trump leaving the deal was the worst thing that could have happened. Vice President Biden believes that through diplomacy and looking for opportunities, he will reach new arrangements with Iran that will make sure Iran will not continue to sponsor global terror.

Part Two – Israeli – Palestinian Conflict

(8) What role should America play in solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

President Trump wants Israel and the Palestinians to achieve peace. President Trump and his administration are taking a different approach, focusing on economics instead of political and national issues. President Trump feels that offering the Palestinian people significant life improvements is more meaningful than the last promises of previous American administrations. Providing economic benefits to the Palestinians would override previous American offers to the Palestinians.

President Trump also defunded Palestinian refugee agencies and reduced foreign aid to the Palestinians. These moves have put economic pressure on the Palestinians. Trump’s stern approach is sending a message to the Palestinians that they will not be coddled anymore. There will be consequences for the Palestinians if they are antagonistic to the United States, or if their demands for a new state are unrealistic. He wants the next generation of Palestinian leaders to focus on developing an economically stable future. President Trump feels that the economic incentives and the recognition of Israel by other countries will pressure the Palestinians to accept his deal.

Vice President Joe Biden
Vice President Joe Biden wants to create peace between Israel and the Palestinians. He believes that the best way to do this is to create a two-state solution. In August of 2019, he said the following: “I believe a two-state solution is the only path to long-term security for Israel while sustaining its identity as a Jewish democratic state. It is also the only way to ensure Palestinian dignity and their legitimate interest in national self-determination. It is a necessary condition to take full advantage of the opening that exists for greater cooperation between Israel and its Arab neighbors.” Vice President Biden wants to encourage both sides to truly take a step forward and create a two-state solution. Vice President Biden mentioned that the Trump administration policies destroyed the possibility of an Israeli peace agreement with the Palestinians.

(9) Should America support a two state solution?

Vice President Biden maintains that a two-state solution is the only way to truly have peace between Israelis and Palestinians. He has previously mentioned that a two-state solution is “the only path to long-term security for Israel, while sustaining its identity as a Jewish and democratic state.” He also says, “It is also the only way to ensure Palestinian dignity and their legitimate interest in national self-determination.” Although he believes this, Vice President Biden mentions that neither Israeli or Palestinian leaders seem ready to accept the political risks necessary to make progress on the two-state solution. In addition, he mentions that Palestinians have to “step up” and that Palestinian authority has to stop encouraging violence and rejecting significant offers.

He believes that Israel’s military occupation is a real problem and that the settlements located in the West Bank/Judea and Samaria are unnecessary. Biden recently said that Israel should not do anything to jeopardize a two-state solution while referencing reports that Israel may try to annex part of the West Bank. He explained, “A priority now for the cause of Israeli-Palestinian peace should be resuming our dialogue with the Palestinians and pressing Israel not to take actions that make a two-state solution impossible,” The only way a two-state solution will be possible is if both sides remain at “peace” with each other and don’t instigate anything that could start an argument. He believes that Israel annexing parts of the West Bank would be a terrible decision and greatly opposes it.

President Trump agrees that there should be a two state solution and advocates for it. As he said in a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the UN General Assembly, “I like the two-state solution. Yeah. That’s, what I think, that’s what I think works best.” President Trump aims to help Israelis and Palestinians have direct negotiations and create lasting economic prosperity. President Trump feels that his plan is the most realistic solution to a problem that has plagued the region for far too long. It creates a path to prosperity, security, and dignity for all involved. If the Israelis and Palestinians can agree on this framework as a basis for negotiations, the potential for both the Israelis and the Palestinians and the region is unlimited.

In President Trump’s peace plan, the two state solution doesn’t mean that Israel has to give up land to the Palestinians. Israel gets to extend sovereignty to its towns in Judea and Samaria and Palestinians create an independent state on the remaining 70% of the land. President Trump’s plan helps the Palestinians have their own state with the right of self-determination.

(10) Should America give aid to the Palestinian Authority?

President Donald J. Trump
Prior to President Trump’s election, America was a large financial backer of the Palestinian Authority. America gave UNRWA (The UN agency that deals with Palestinian refugees) $359.3 million in 2017, accounting for about a quarter of their budget. President Trump’s inauguration marked the beginning of a new period for American-Palestinian aid, as the President, effectively demonstrating his support for Israel and lack thereof for the dictatorship that has characterized the Palestinian Authority in recent years, cut aid substantially in his time in office. The Trump Administration, as part of an ongoing review on the allocation of federal aid funds, determined that the Palestinian Authority was not properly distributing funds to humanitarian causes, but rather using them to finance terrorism against Israelis. In 2017, President Trump reduced funding to the Palestinian Authority to a remarkable low of $61 million dollars, and although it increased to $251 million in the following years, his actions are reflective of his overarching attitude towards the Palestinian Authority’s use of American funds. President Trump passed these views into legislation with the 2018 Taylor Force Act, which orders any payments that directly benefit the Palestinian Authority be suspend until the PA reforms its usage of these payments to not endorse terrorism. In the same year, he cut UNRWA funding to just over ⅙ of what it had been in the year before, providing them with only $65 million dollars.

Vice President Joe Biden
Vice President Biden will restore Palestinian aid if he is elected President. In January of 2020 Vice President Biden claimed he would restore American aid to the Palestinians. Vice President Biden stated that he will restore the “decades-long economic aid and security assistance efforts to the Palestinians” if he is elected President. “I’m going to reverse Trump’s administration steps I think significantly undercut the prospects of peace and restore diplomatic relationships with the Palestinian Authority and assistance to support the Israeli Palestinian security cooperation and economic, humanitarian aid for Palestinian people. I’m going to fully support the Taylor Force Act, which holds aid to the Palestinian Authority based on payments they make to terrorists in Israeli jails.” He claims that by using the aid properly, Israel can benefit too.

(11) Should America support extending Israeli sovereignty (annexation) to Judea and Samaria (The West Bank)?

Vice President Joe Biden
The current Trump administration and the current Israeli government have a plan to begin a partial extension of Israeli sovereignty of Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria that covers 30% of the territory. Vice President Biden is against this plan. During a public fundraiser with members of the American Jewish community Vice President Biden said, “I do not support annexation. The fact is, I will reverse Trump’s undercutting of peace”. Vice President Biden is against the annexation plans because he supports a two state solution with the West Bank as a Palestinian state.

President Donald J. Trump
Under the Trump administration the US recognized that Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria are not inconsistent with international law. The Trump administration maintains that Israel has every right to have towns in Judea and Samaria. The Trump peace plan supports Israel’s extension of sovereignty to its towns in Judea and Samaria. President Trump feels that as long as normalization between Israel and other Arab countries is still a possibility, Israel should not extend sovereignty to its towns in Judea and Samaria.

(12) Should America support Israeli settlement expansion?

Early in his administration, President Trump did publicly urge Prime Minister Netanyahu to “hold back on settlements for a little bit.” Prior to their meeting, the White House had told Israel to stop announcing new settlements. Press secretary Scott Spicer said, “While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal.”

The Trump administration believes that Israel’s West Bank settlements do not violate international law. In the previous administration, American policy on Israeli settlements was to declare Israeli settlement expansion in Judea and Samaria a major obstacle to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and an impediment to peace. At the end of the Obama administration, President Obama abstained (instead of vetoing) a U.N. resolution declaring settlements “a flagrant violation under international law.” The Obama administration’s abstention allowed the U.N. resolution to pass.

President Trump’s peace plan allows existing Israeli settlements to expand within their borders as long as the Palestinians refuse to negotiate. If the Palestinians refuse to negotiate for more than four years, the Trump administration sees no reason why Israel shouldn’t continue to expand the settlements. Israel has made multiple announcements of settlement expansion and the Trump administration has not commented.

Vice President Joe Biden
Vice President Biden does not support Israeli settlement expansion. Vice President Biden believes that President Trump made a “gigantic Mistake” in letting Israel expand its settlements. If Vice President Biden were to become president, it is likely that he would want Israel to stop expanding its settlements. Vice President Biden is opposed to Israeli annexation of its settlements in the West Bank outside a framework of a negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. Vice President Biden considers settlement expansion an impediment to a negotiated two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the past Vice President Biden has publicly scolded Israel over Jewish settlement plans, saying they were undermining peace efforts. Vice President Biden has said that Israel’s government needs to demonstrate its commitment to a two-state solution to end the conflict with the Palestinians and said settlement expansion is weakening prospects for peace. “Israel’s government’s steady and systematic process of expanding settlements, legalizing outposts, seizing land, is eroding, in my view, the prospect of a two-state solution.” Unlike previous administrations, Vice President Biden felt that Israeli building in Jerusalem was also out of bounds. He said, “The Israeli government’s decision to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem undermines that very trust, the trust that we need right now in order to begin profitable negotiations.”

(13) Should America consider Israeli settlements consistent with international law?

Vice President Joe Biden
Vice President Biden has never publicly stated his opinion about whether Israeli settlements are consistent with international law. He maintains Israeli settlements are an impediment to a negotiated two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is strongly opposed to Israeli annexation of its settlements in the West Bank outside a framework of a negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.

President Donald J. Trump
In November of 2019 American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced, “The Trump administration is reversing the Obama administration’s approach towards Israeli settlements. After carefully studying all sides of the legal debate, this administration agrees with President Reagan. The establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not per se inconsistent with international law. Calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law hasn’t worked. It hasn’t advanced the cause of peace.” In this announcement President Trump broke with decades of policy.

(14) Should America publicly criticize Israel?

President Donald J. Trump
President Trump and the Trump administration have not publicly criticized Israel during their time in office. Israeli Ambassador to America Ron Dermer said, “For the first time in many years, perhaps even many decades, there is no daylight between our two governments.”

Vice President Joe Biden
Vice President Biden has publicly criticized Israel’s policies, Prime Ministers and government many times. He has recently said he was disappointed in Mr. Netanyahu for having moved “so, so far to the right” and called for Israel to “stop the threat of annexation” of West Bank territories.

(15) Should American aid to Israel be conditioned?

Vice President Joe Biden
Vice President Biden said that cutting off aid to Israel’s military would be a tragic mistake. He recognized that Israel is the only true ally in the region. When asked by a reporter whether he would be open to the idea of leveraging aid to the Jewish state, Vice President Biden said it would be a “gigantic mistake.” Vice President Biden said that calls from other Democrats for American aid to Israel be conditioned on an end to settlement expansion are “absolutely outrageous.”

President Donald J. Trump
President Trump does not think American military aid should be conditioned on any Israeli policy. He maintains that calling for American military aid to be conditioned on Israeli policy is a demonstration of anti-Israel positions.

(16) What should America expect of the Palestinians?

President Donald J. Trump
President Trump feels there is a new way to “achieve peace, security, and opportunity for Israel and the Palestinian people.” President Trump maintains that It will be up to Israeli and Palestinian leaders to take courageous and bold actions to end the political stalemate, resume negotiations on the basis of this Vision, and make lasting peace and economic prosperity a reality. If the Palestinians have concerns with this Vision, they should bring them forth in the context of good-faith negotiations with the Israelis and help make progress for the region. Mere opposition to this Vision is simply a declaration of support for the hopeless status quo that is the product of decades of stale thinking.

Vice President Joe Biden
On the campaign trail this year Vice President Biden said, “The Palestinians have to step up too and be prepared to stop the hate that they have caused.” At another campaign stop, Vice President Biden said, “You also gotta pressure the Palestinians.” Pointing again to the Palestinian Authority’s support for encouraging violence against Israelis, as well as to previous rejections of “significant offers” from Israel by Palestinian leaders.

The Balfour Declaration

From 1517 to 1917, Israel, along with much of the Middle East, was ruled by the Ottoman Empire.

But World War I dramatically altered the geopolitical landscape in the Middle East. In 1917, at the height of the war, British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour submitted a letter of intent supporting the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The British government hoped that the formal declaration—known thereafter as the Balfour Declaration—would encourage support for the Allies in World War I.

When World War I ended in 1918 with an Allied victory, the 400-year Ottoman Empire rule ended, and Great Britain took control over what became known as Palestine (modern-day Israel, Palestine and Jordan).

The Balfour Declaration and the British mandate over Palestine were approved by the League of Nations in 1922. Arabs vehemently opposed the Balfour Declaration, concerned that a Jewish homeland would mean the subjugation of Arab Palestinians.

The British controlled Palestine until Israel, in the years following the end of World War II, became an independent state in 1947.

Trump to tell Israelis they have 6 weeks to get peace plan moving — report

US President Donald Trump will reportedly tell Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White chief Benny Gantz that they have until the Knesset elections to work on the administration’s long-awaited peace plan, potentially throwing the high stakes diplomatic gambit into Israel’s domestic political stew.

According to a report by the Reuters news agency, citing a US official, Trump will not announce details of the plan until after he receives buy-in from both Netanyahu and Gantz so that it does not lose any momentum.

According to the unnamed official, Trump will tell the two, “You have six weeks to get this [plan] going, if you want it.”

It is unclear what either side could accomplish in even jump-starting talks based on the deal with neither having the confidence of the nation until the March 2 election. However, a number of politicians have expressed fears that releasing the plan before the vote will turn it into a political football as electoral campaigns ramp up.

The last year has seen Netanyahu and Gantz facing off in successive elections for almost a year, with neither side able to form a majority government.

Both Netanyahu and Gantz are scheduled to meet with Trump, separately and privately, in the White House on Monday.

Netanyahu will meet with Trump at 11 a.m. (6 p.m. in Israel) for two meetings, including one without aides, and then Gantz will arrive at the White House at 12:30 p.m. (7:30 p.m.) for a 45-minute discussion.

Netanyahu and Trump are set for a higher-profile meeting Tuesday, which will include a joint statement.

The US source, who is familiar with the administration’s deliberations on the matter, told Reuters that by meeting with both Gantz and Netanyahu, it was hoped that Trump’s announcement of the proposal would not be seen as a political move.

“The rationale…is it depoliticizes this to the point that, no matter what happens on March 2, the two leaders of the two largest parties can potentially be supportive,” the source said.

The timing of the announcement has been criticized in Israel as an attempt to rescue Netanyahu from immunity proceedings. Many politicians and commentators also say it appears to be an effort by the US leader to boost Netanyahu’s prospects ahead of the March 2 election.

At the same time, Trump himself is in the middle of an impeachment trial.

On Sunday, former US envoy Nikki Haley said the administration had grown tired of waiting for Israel to move beyond its political deadlock.

Trump is expected to deliver remarks after his Tuesday meeting with Netanyahu, where he may reveal some details of the plan.

The plan, which Trump earlier said he would release before the Tuesday meeting, is expected to strongly favor Israel, and is unlikely to garner any international support if it is seen as undermining the prospect of a two-state solution.

Trump said his administration has talked briefly to the Palestinians, who reject the administration’s peace plan altogether. The Palestinian leadership has long called for the establishment of a Palestinian state along 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital and a “just” solution to the refugee issue.

According to various Hebrew-language media reports, the peace plan is the most generous US proposal ever for Israel, likely allowing Israel to annex all West Bank settlements and backing sovereignty throughout Jerusalem.

According to the reports, the plan also offers potential eventual recognition of Palestinian statehood, provided the Palestinians demilitarize Gaza and accept Israel as a Jewish state — conditions the Palestinians would presumably reject.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Sunday noted his opposition to any elements of the plan which were at the expense of Jordan. Jordan, along with Egypt, is one of only two Arab nations to have a peace treaty with Israel. But relations between the neighbors have become increasingly tense, particularly with Netanyahu repeatedly vowing to annex the Jordan Valley.

Netanyahu on Sunday vowed to “make history” as he headed to Washington.

“Over the last three years, I spoke countless times with President Trump — a huge friend of Israel — and his team about these vital security needs, about our security, about our justice,” Netanyahu declared. “I will meet with President Trump tomorrow, and on Tuesday, together with him we will make history.”

Netanyahu’s main political rival, Gantz, also took off for Washington on Sunday for a separate meeting with the US president.

Gantz on Saturday announced that Trump had invited him to meet “in person, as the leader of the largest party in Israel.” Previously, Israel’s de facto opposition leader had been invited to join Netanyahu’s meeting with Trump, and had reportedly been disinclined to do so.

Asked at Ben Gurion Airport whether he would endorse the plan or ask Trump to push off its release until after the March 2 elections, Gantz demurred.

“I’ll hear from him about the plan and exchange views, but what is done behind closed doors will stay behind closed doors,” he told the Kan public broadcaster.

The meeting, set to be Gantz’s first with the US president, will be closed to the press, Blue and White said on Saturday.

Gantz said Saturday that Trump’s plan would come to constitute a “significant milestone,” setting out the path for the conflicting sides in the Middle East “to march toward a regional, historic deal.” The US framework, he also said, “is likely to cause major and painful internal disagreements” within Israel. “I pledge to minimize those disagreements, but to work to make the framework a basis for progress toward an agreed deal with the Palestinians and regional states, while maintaining and deepening the strategic partnerships with Jordan, Egypt and other states in the region.”

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the pro-annexation Yamina party, on Sunday said his party would support the plan if it allows Israel to annex large swaths of the West Bank “immediately.”

In a speech in the northern West Bank settlement of Ariel, Bennett called the plan a potential “once-in-50-years opportunity to apply Israeli law to half a million Israelis next week,” a reference to Israelis living in the major settlements of the West Bank.

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Trump Exits from Agreement- What does it Means for Israel - History

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Aachen on Thursday.

Foto: Thilo Schmuelgen / REUTERS

On Thursday, towards the end of a week that began for both of them with a slap in the face from the American president, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron were standing together in the Coronation Hall of the Aachen Town Hall doing their best to project confidence. The French president had just been awarded the International Charlemagne Prize and Merkel had held the laudation. They praised each other and confirmed their unity -- even if they aren't entirely on the same page when it comes to the future of Europe.

But they do agree on one issue: Donald Trump. Lately, the American president has emerged as a great unifier of Europe. Ever since Trump's Tuesday announcement that the U.S. was withdrawing from the nuclear agreement with Iran, one of the core pieces of international diplomacy in recent years, the Europeans have been united in shock, in anger at Trump's irresponsible move and in their refusal to accept it. But they are also united in their helplessness when it comes to dealing with this new America.

The joint appearance by Macron and Merkel would have been a perfect opportunity for a unified reply to Donald Trump. For a joint vision of European foreign policy and a powerful appearance of decisive European politicians. They could have sought to reassure the people of Europe and demonstrate that they had a plan. But none of that came to pass.

What, after all, can Europe do?

The American withdrawal from the Iran deal is the most dangerous and cavalier foreign policy decision that a U.S. president has made since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The risk is very real that the move will worsen tensions in an already unstable Middle East and lead to an American-led war against Iran. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was quick to threaten a return to industrial-scale uranium enrichment and few doubt that such an eventuality could lead to conflict.

It became abundantly clear early Thursday morning just how tense the situation was, with the most serious confrontation yet between the Iranian Quds Force, operating in Syria, and Israel. Israel claims Iran first fired around 20 missiles at the Golan Heights, an area under Israeli control. The Israeli military says it responded with a massive attack on around 35 Iranian targets within Syria. The possibility of escalation in the region, of course, existed prior to the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal. But the episode makes it clear how dangerous the current situation in the region is.

Attack on Europe's Pride

The mood in Paris, Brussels and Berlin is reminiscent of the period just prior to the war in Iraq. Most of Europe refused to back the U.S. in that conflict, even if the British and the Italians joined then-President George W. Bush in the offensive. This time around, however, the Europeans are united in their desire to preserve the deal with Iran, even if nobody knows how they might be able to.

An attack on the Iran deal is an attack on the pride of European foreign policy. To be sure, EU member states often find it impossible to produce a joint statement on overseas developments, such as the U.S. decision to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. But Europe has consistently demonstrated unity on the Iran deal and along with Germany, France and Britain, the EU was a decisive participant in the talks.

For the EU's chief diplomat, Federica Mogherini, the treaty is proof of the influence united European diplomacy can have. She has an original copy of the deal on display in her office on the upper floors of the European Commission building in Brussels. It is opened to the page bearing the signatures of those involved, including that of John Kerry, who was U.S. secretary of state at the time.

Hardly surprising, then, that Mogherini adopted an aggressive tone on Tuesday evening when she stepped before the cameras at 8:30 p.m. in Rome just a few minutes after Trump had made his announcement. The nuclear deal, she said, is culmination of 12 years of diplomacy. "It belongs to the entire international community." She then appealed to Iran to continue to adhere to the deal. "Stay true to your commitments, as we will stay true to ours."

The idea behind this treaty, which was ratified by the UN Security Council, is that Iran would refrain for 10 years from further developing its nuclear program and in return the West would significantly reduce economic sanctions in place against the country. Because nobody trusted Iran's word, given past breeches of trust, the deal is based on a system of inspections and controls. Iran adhered to the deal, which was finalized in 2015 under the leadership of Barack Obama, but many Republicans in the U.S. nevertheless rejected it from the very beginning.

In truth, Trump hasn't backed out of the deal, he has violated it by simply reimposing sanctions against Iran. That is the view widely held in the German government as well.

More than anything, though, Trump has humiliated Europe to a greater degree than any U.S. president before him. Macron fawned over him recently in the White House, Merkel swung by for a working lunch and British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson also made the trip across the Atlantic in an attempt to save the deal and somehow find some kind of a compromise. But it was all in vain.

In the end, Trump backed out of the deal in the most brutal manner possible, with a combative speech and the reintroduction of all sanctions against Iran. He was unable to offer any convincing reasons for why he has chosen this particular moment in time to leave the deal. He wasn't even able to claim that Iran hadn't lived up to its end of the bargain because Tehran has demonstrably adhered to its provisions.

To complete Europe's humiliation, Trump's new U.S. ambassador in Berlin, Richard Grenell, sent out a tweet this week demanding that German companies immediately begin winding down their operations in Iran. It sounded more like the words of a colonial power issuing orders than those of a diplomat in an allied country.

Graphic: A web of influence in the Middle East

It isn't the first time that America's traditional trans-Atlantic allies have received such shabby treatment from Trump. The U.S. president has repeatedly accused his NATO partners of being freeloaders, he withdrew from the Paris climate agreement despite massive protest from Europe and he has indicated his willingness to start a trade war with the EU. Europe has had some kind of answer to all of these provocations: The NATO critiques from Washington have either been ignored or have led to promises of more defense spending in the future. On the Paris agreement, Trump's announcement has been more symbolic than real since large states like California are continuing to adhere to the deal's provisions. And when it comes to trade, Europe is a heavy hitter itself.

But Washington's violation of the Iran deal hits Europe hard. Although it has been clear for months that Trump was leaning toward taking such a step, it isn't obvious what might happen next. Europe seems woefully unprepared. In the days following Trump's announcement, Berlin, Paris and London have repeatedly said that they would continue to uphold the deal, that not much will change for companies interested in doing business in Iran and that options for protecting companies are being explored. But when asked what exactly such protections might look like, nobody has an adequate answer.

'An Existential Necessity'

In Aachen on Tuesday, Merkel essentially repeated the sentences she uttered last year during an appearance in Bavaria: "Europe can no longer rely on the U.S. It must take its fate into its own hands." Last year, her statement to that effect caused quite a stir both within Germany and beyond. This time, it was merely a statement of fact: The trans-Atlantic relationship has suffered tremendous damage. Merkel added that a joint foreign policy was "an existential necessity."

But is that something Europe is able to do? Is it able to declare independence from the West's traditional leader? Is it able to come to agreement on joint positions? And how can Europe defend itself when the German military is having trouble keeping such fundamental equipment as planes and submarines operational?

The feeling of alienation runs deep. Wolfgang Ischinger, formerly Germany's ambassador in Washington and currently the head of the Munich Security Conference, tweeted this week: "Is the transatlantic alliance dead? If one side refuses to even consider the arguments presented by the other side: are we still together, as we try to manage challenges to our shared security interests? Or are we now drifting apart for good? Sad questions!"

It sounds like a couple that, despite their best intentions to stay together, doesn't seem capable of making things work.

"In one respect, the trans-Atlantic alliance is indispensable for the foreseeable future, namely on the issue of nuclear protection," Ischinger says. "That cannot be replaced by anyone else. From a security perspective, we cannot cut the umbilical cord that binds us to the U.S." He adds: "Given our security policy interests, there is nothing we can do except lament the loss of a real partnership while nevertheless doing all we can to overcome this phase and work towards the time in two-and-a-half years when Trump is no longer in office and there is a new situation. For now, we have to hunker down as best we can."

Now that Trump has violated the nuclear deal, Europeans have three significant concerns: the consequences for Middle Eastern and European security the risks for European companies that have invested in Iran and the future of the relationship with the U.S. Niels Annen, minister of state in the Foreign Ministry, told DER SPIEGEL that Trump's withdrawal from the nuclear deal is "an erroneous decision with long-term, grave consequences for our relationship."

A member of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), Annen was in the U.S. capital this week for talks. When Trump announced his decision, Annen was sitting in the office of presidential adviser Fiona Hill, who specializes in issues pertaining to Russia and Europe in the National Security Council. Annen knows Hill well from her stint in the Brookings Institution, but the respect he has for her personally has not been enough to bridge their policy differences. There have been significant disagreements between Berlin and Washington in the past, Annen says, such as on the eve of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But, he adds, the feeling that they were pursuing shared goals was never lost.

That has changed under Trump, Annen says. Whether it is about trade or about the Iran deal: "Our core interests are now at stake," he says. "We must regrettably realize that there is hardly a willingness on the U.S. side to take arguments of their allies seriously." As a foreign policy practitioner, he says, you get used to reversals. "But when I was sitting in the airplane back to Europe this week, I was deeply frustrated for the first time."

On the way to his visit to Moscow on Thursday, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told DER SPIEGEL: "The transformation the U.S. is undergoing has long since left its mark on the trans-Atlantic relationship. That is something that we had begun to feel long before the Tuesday evening disappointment. Nevertheless: We will continue seeking to work together with the U.S. on all policy areas. We are prepared to talk, to negotiate, but also to fight for our interests where necessary. At all levels, not just in the White House."

That sort of language used to be reserved for problematic nations of the world. Not for Germany's most important ally.

The President and the Hardliner

As Donald Trump was holding his 11-minute tirade against the Iran deal on Tuesday, a man was standing silently in the doorway of the Diplomatic Reception Room. John Bolton looked serious but satisfied. But it didn't take long for the mask to come off. "We're out of the deal," he crowed a quarter-hour later to a room full of journalists in the White House. And he then repeated the sentence a second and then a third time: "We're out of the deal." He seemed liberated, almost euphoric. A furious warrior had achieved his target.

There is hardly a crisis in the world that John Bolton does not feel can be solved with war. The solution to Saddam Hussein-controlled Iraq? Bombing. Iran under Hassan Rouhani? Bombing as necessary. Libya? Syria? North Korea? Apply pressure, regime change, bombing. For Bolton, war is a more effective extension of politics. If there is one thing you can't accuse him of, it's inconsistency.


The article you are reading originally appeared in German in issue 20/2018 (May 11th, 2018) of DER SPIEGEL.

Summing Up Four Years of Trump on Israel in His Ambassador’s Words

As the Trump presidency comes to an end, Ambassador David Friedman’s exit interview in the New York Times is a good summation of the drivers behind the last four years of U.S. policy toward Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Supporters and opponents of Trump administration policies have frequently noted that Friedman has been the driving force behind much of what has taken place, and even more striking than Jared Kushner crediting Friedman for the agenda and noting that “toward the end we were almost running out of things to accomplish, because David had gotten done so many things that were unthinkable” is Friedman’s self-description of being “somewhere between addicted and intoxicated with what I’ve been able to do.” Friedman’s, and by extension President Trump’s, real policy legacy in this arena was to end any semblance of evenhandedness, as the New York Times notes, and that extended to areas of policy that seemed to have no particular relevance to tangible U.S. interests but were deeply resonant ideologically.

While the embassy move to Jerusalem and the Abraham Accords remain Trump’s most high profile Israel-related actions, Friedman exhibits the most obvious pride not over Jerusalem or normalization agreements but over the way he shifted U.S. policy on the status of the West Bank. From pushing to change the State Department’s legal opinion on settlements, to paving the way for funding projects in them, to pushing for Israeli annexation at every opportunity, Friedman has been an unapologetic champion of a vision of Greater Israel, and one that requires a severe downgrade in Palestinian expectations for what that means for their own sovereignty and self-determination. Some people see this as cause to treat Trump and Friedman as heroes and others see this as cause to treat Trump and Friedman as villains, but irrespective of your political and policy inclinations, there is no question that Friedman views himself as someone who has ushered in changes that not only benefit Israel but that will be difficult to roll back. As Friedman says, “There’s no going back on what we’ve been able to do…We’ve changed the narrative dramatically.”

This is perhaps the best encapsulation of how the Trump team views its legacy it’s not just what they have done, but the way that they believe in its permanence. On some measures, they are certainly correct. Leaving aside that President-elect Biden was forcefully clear that he would keep the embassy in Jerusalem, it is difficult to see any president moving it back to Tel Aviv. Normalization between Israel and Arab states is something that every administration for decades has supported and worked toward, even if Trump’s predecessors didn’t believe it was possible absent a deal with the Palestinians, so no future president is going to adopt a policy of purposely rolling it back. But on a raft of other issues, the changes that Trump oversaw at Friedman’s behest are not permanent because they are not realistic, which is perhaps the Trump team’s favorite buzzword. Friedman talks about having changed the narrative, and he certainly did, but a narrative is about how you view the world and not about how the world actually is. And in changing the American narrative for both Israelis and Palestinians, the Trump administration characteristically injected a dose of fantasy into the bloodstream that will indeed outlive its purveyors in unhelpful ways.

For all of its talk of realism, the Trump peace plan was one of the most unrealistic efforts to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that has ever been advanced. Taking the current status quo and making it even more untenable for Palestinians fits with the goal of abolishing any feint toward balance or trying to moderate between the sides, but it does not constitute a realistic effort to solve anything. The effect of the Trump approach on Israel was to inflate Israelis’ expectations to such a degree that it is like a sugar high, where the crash is going to leave them in a stupor. By telling people what they wanted to hear rather than what they needed to hear, Friedman thinks he was doing the Israeli government an enormous service. But in fact, he sold them a narrative that is ephemeral.

Take, for instance, Friedman’s casual rejection of the principle that Israel has to negotiate over its final borders. In casting it aside, he runs roughshod not only over his own government’s stated policy and the Israeli government’s stated policy of negotiations being the only acceptable way of determining the final disposition of territory between the two sides, but explicitly acknowledges in his aside—“forget about the rest of the world”—that the Trump administration has changed nothing at all. If a state unilaterally declares a new border and nobody else recognizes it, does that new border exist? Israel would encounter as much opposition today were it to unilaterally annex the Jordan Valley—a move the aversion of which made the Abraham Accords possible—as it would have four years ago, but by continuously telling Israelis the opposite, Friedman has only set the stage for future missteps that will lead to diplomatic clashes.

Friedman has also done the very thing of which he accuses Palestinian leaders, not without fair cause. He is right to upbraid Palestinians officials for not being forthright about the prospects of millions of refugees returning to what is today Israel. But he has behaved no differently in telling Israelis that Palestinians will eventually accept limited autonomy in a series of disconnected islands with no control over their own borders, or that not one Israeli will ever have to evacuate any part of the West Bank no matter how isolated or far-flung. He has not altered any type of consensus or gotten widespread acceptance for these positions he has done nothing beyond altering the Israeli narrative of what is possible, even though his assessment of what is actually possible and sustainable is dubious. That he has changed the narrative is not the same as his policy moves being irreversible, and in fact the former is going to make the exposure of the latter claim that much more of a bitter pill for people to swallow.

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What Israel and Palestine will look like according to Trump's plan: Full text

This statement is surprisingly original, and not only because it ignores nationalism and the desire for self-determination &ndash not of the Palestinians alone, but of all nations worldwide that will have to cede their desire for self-determination in their own countries. In addition, it undermines Israel&rsquos own grounds for claiming sovereignty over the occupied territories. If prosperity and security are the main concerns, then controlling another people, as America learned through its own bitter experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, is the farthest thing from achieving security.

But it seems that this contradiction doesn&rsquot bother Trump, whose only interest was to provide moral, ideological and religious grounds for Israel&rsquos claims over the West Bank. There&rsquos also no point in examining these conclusions from the Palestinians&rsquo standpoint. After all, Trump is certain that the Palestinians' desire for prosperity will be satisfied by a $50-billion investment &ndash which he imposes on other countries, and not America.

Dreamlike conditions

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As for security, the plan recognizes no Palestinian security needs other than law and order and fighting terror. It&rsquos self-evident that Palestinian security is a derivative of Israeli security.

From this, Trump concludes the parameters that will allow the establishment of a Palestinian state. Aside from the issue of borders, defined by the &ldquoconceptual map&rdquo attached to the plan, the Palestinian state will have to meet five criteria that &ldquomust be determined to have occurred by the State of Israel and the United States, jointly, acting in good faith, after consultation with the Palestinian Authority.&rdquo

Among other conditions, the Palestinians must have &ldquoimplemented a governing system with a constitution or another system for establishing the rule of law that provides for freedom of press, free and fair elections, respect for human rights for its citizens . and an independent judiciary," in addition to &ldquoestablished transparent, independent, and credit-worthy financial institutions capable of engaging in international market transactions," while ending "all programs, including school curricula and textbooks, that serve to incite or promote hatred or antagonism towards its neighbors." The Palestinians should have also &ldquoachieved civilian and law enforcement control over all of its territory and demilitarized its population" and &ldquocomplied with all the other terms and conditions of this Vision.&rdquo

Ostensibly, these are dreamlike conditions that every country ought to meet. But their absence in other countries hasn&rsquot prevented America from maintaining excellent relations with those countries, including U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

The Montevideo Convention of 1933, which has become an inseparable part of international law, sets four criteria for statehood: Permanent population, defined territory, a government and the ability to conduct foreign relations, while an additional provision says force can&rsquot be used to achieve sovereignty.

Palestine, which was recognized by the UN General Assembly in 2012 as a non-member state with observer status in the organization, would have trouble meeting Trump&rsquos conditions. These conditions are supposedly meant to ensure that Palestine will be a law-abiding state that protects human rights and meets the criteria of international financial institutions. But Trump also appointed an Israeli-American supervisory body &ndash rather than an international body or international conventions &ndash to determine whether these conditions are met. This innovation ought to shock the United Nations, but so far, it has not been dumbstruck.

No Middle Eastern state, including Iraq, which America occupied, has been asked to satisfy such criteria as a condition for recognition or for diplomatic relations with America. Nor is it superfluous to note that Washington continues providing aid to Lebanon and maintaining diplomatic relations with Beirut even though Hezbollah, which America defines as a terrorist organization, is a key component of Lebanon&rsquos government.

The plan doesn&rsquot clarify whether the Palestinian state must fulfill these requirements, or whether the PA must satisfy them before meriting statehood. Israel and America evidently think that despite the PA&rsquos current situation, it could draft a constitution, hold elections, build financial institutions and disarm its citizens. But even if the PA and Hamas miraculously reached agreements on disarmament or school curricula, would Israel let election be held in the Palestinian enclaves remaining under its control?

This sort of election might well produce a Hamas government ruling the entire territories, or at least a national unity government with Hamas as its senior partner. But Trump's plan explicitly says that Palestine&rsquos government cannot include &ldquoany members&rdquo of Hamas, Islamic Jihad &ldquoor surrogates thereof&rdquo unless all the listed conditions for their participation have been met &ndash namely, that &ldquoGaza is fully demilitarized,&rdquo and that &ldquothe Palestinian Authority or another national or international body acceptable to the State of Israel is in full control of Gaza,&rdquo and that Hamas, Islamic Jihad &ldquoand all other militias and terror organizations in Gaza are disarmed.&rdquo

If these conditions aren&rsquot met, Israel won&rsquot have to fulfill its obligations under the Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty. Consequently, establishing a Palestinian state will be like wandering through a maze that has no exits. Every path the PA might try will be blocked by a series of conditions whose fulfillment will have to be certified by Israel.

A reduced version of an old League of Nations mandate

The plan makes no mention of what status the PA and the Palestinians will have until the Palestinian state is established, or if it it's not established at all. Will the territory remaining under their control during this period be occupied territory subject to international law? Since the word &ldquooccupation&rdquo never even appears in the plan, it&rsquos also not clear who will be responsible for the daily management and the funding of the PA, assuming it continues to exist. Moreover, will the Oslo Accords remain valid in this territory? To all this, the plan provides no answer.

Trump didn&rsquot make do with creating a new type of regime and shattering international law, which lays down the rules for governing occupied territory. He also crushed one of the Palestinians&rsquo arguments for creating a state &ndash to be a haven for Palestinian refugees.

The American &ldquoWhite Paper&rdquo copies sections of the original British one from 1939, which severely restricted Jewish immigration to pre-state Israel, by saying the &ldquomovement of refugees from outside Gaza and the West Bank into the State of Palestine shall be agreed to by the parties and regulated by various factors, including economic forces and incentive structures, such that the rate of entry does not outpace or overwhelm the development of infrastructure and the economy of the State of Palestine, or increase security risks to the State of Israel.&rdquo Moreover, &ldquoupon the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Agreement, Palestinian refugee status will cease to exist,&rdquo and UNRWA, the aid agency for Palestinian refugees, &ldquowill be terminated and its responsibilities transitioned to the relevant governments.&rdquo

Here we have one of those &ldquocreative formulas&rdquo that Netanyahu found so awe-inspiring. The plan rejects UNRWA&rsquos multigenerational definition of refugee status, but at the same time, it says that only people registered as refugees with UNRWA on the day the plan was released will be entitled to refugee status.

Nevertheless, UNRWA registration will be used only for the purpose of estimating the number of people likely to file compensation claims. It doesn&rsquot mean America has agreed to the agency&rsquos definition of who is a refugee. It&rsquos hard to imagine a more devious, distorted or torturous formula than the one concocted by the White House magicians together with the poets of the Israeli government.

In the best case-scenario, this plan is a reduced version of an old League of Nations mandate: It grants Israel and America joint management of the occupied territories and a monopoly on determining when and under what conditions a Palestinian state will be established. More realistically, however, it&rsquos just a continuation of the occupation under new conditions, ones that whitewash the massive land theft perpetrated throughout the occupation&rsquos 53 years.

In recording, Netanyahu boasts Israel convinced Trump to quit Iran nuclear deal

In a video clip aired Tuesday by Israeli television, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boasted that Israel was responsible for US President Donald Trump’s decision to quit the Iran nuclear deal.

In the video, which the Kan public broadcaster said was filmed two weeks ago, Netanyahu can be seen speaking to activists and senior members from his Likud party.

“We convinced the US president [to exit the deal] and I had to stand up against the whole world and come out against this agreement,” Netanyahu says in the video. “And we didn’t give up.”

The prime minister then begins to speak about the Iranian regime — “not the Iranian people, I have nothing against them” — before he is interrupted by an unidentified person off-screen who says, “It will disappear with the help of God.”

“You said it. From your mouth to God,” Netanyahu says in response as the clip ends.

תיעוד בלעדי | רה"מ @netanyahu התגאה במפגש פוליטי סגור של הליכוד כי הוא זה שהצליח להוביל לביטול הסכם הגרעין: "שכנענו את נשיא ארה"ב" #חדשותהערב @shemeshmicha

&mdash כאן חדשות (@kann_news) July 17, 2018

Netanyahu does not explain in the video aired by Kan how he convinced Trump to exit the deal. Trump had vowed to scrap what he assailed as the “worst deal ever” before becoming president.

The prime minister, who has long railed against the 2015 nuclear deal, gave a dramatic presentation a little over a week before Trump’s May 8 decision, where he unveiled documents Israel secreted away from Tehran that he said proved “Iran lied” about its nuclear program.

“I said it from the start, it has to be either fully fixed or fully nixed,” Netanyahu said at the time. “But if you do nothing to this deal, if you keep it as is, you will end up with Iran with a nuclear arsenal in a very short time.”

Netanyahu was a vocal opponent of the deal as it was being negotiated and when it was reached during the Obama administration. The agreement lifted painful economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

Netanyahu has repeatedly argued that the deal will not prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons capability after its restrictions expire in the next decade or so.

Trump noted the Mossad haul of Iranian documents in his speech announcing the US pullout from the deal, saying they “conclusively” showed Iran’s efforts to obtain nuclear weapons. He however gave no indication his decision was swayed by Israel.

In his announcement, the US president said the accord would not prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear arms and he therefore was exiting the agreement and reimposing sanctions.

Trump’s decision was sharply opposed by Iran and the deal’s other signatories — Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China. Those countries are currently working to preserve the accord following the US pullout.

Israel considers Iran its arch-enemy, citing Iran’s calls for Israel’s destruction, support for terrorist groups across the region, and growing military activity in neighboring Syria. Israel has warned that it will not allow Iran, whose troops are backing Syrian President Bashar Assad, to establish a permanent military presence in Syria.

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After years of getting everything they wanted, the Middle East’s biggest egos will have to learn to do with less as the new president focuses on crises at home.


Aaron David Miller served as a State Department Middle East analyst, adviser and negotiator in Republican and Democratic administrations and is the author of The End of Greatness: Why America Can’t Have (and Doesn’t Want) Another Great President.

Richard Sokolsky, a non-resident senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, was a member of the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Office from 2005-2015.

Elections have consequences. And nowhere are the consequences of Joe Biden’s election more worrisome than in Jerusalem and Riyadh. In the past week, the president has signaled to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman—the region’s two biggest egos—that the sugar high of the Trump years is over.

Biden isn’t interested in fundamentally altering these relationships. But he is looking to rebalance the Israeli and Saudi accounts, restore Israeli and Saudi respect for U.S. interests absent during the Trump years, and signal to Bibi and MBS—who are now wondering where they stand among Biden’s priorities—that they are no longer the center of America’s world and should think very carefully before they take actions to undermine U.S. interests. Biden isn’t looking for a fight. And whether he takes tougher actions against Israel and Saudi Arabia will depend on whether they willfully ignore or undermine U.S. interests in creating greater security and stability in the region.

It’s still stunning to reflect on the fact that Trump’s initial stops on his first foreign trip as president in May 2017 were to Saudi Arabia and Israel. From that point on, Trump’s presidency was a gift that just kept on giving. Never in the history of U.S. relations with either country has so much been given with so little asked for in return—and with so much bad behavior swept under the rug.

Without making Israel earn U.S. favors with any concessions of its own, the Trump administration orchestrated a campaign of maximum pressure on Iran declared Jerusalem Israel’s capital and opened an embassy there turned a blind eye to Israel’s settlement expansion recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights promulgated a peace plan that all but conceded 30 percent of the West Bank to Israel before negotiations with Palestinians had even begun downgraded U.S. diplomatic relations with the Palestinian Authority drastically curtailed U.S. assistance to the Palestinian people and perhaps most significantly, made a major effort to facilitate normalization between Israel, the Gulf states and other Arab countries.

The Saudis also got in on the action. The Trump administration gave a blank check to Riyadh to pursue its disastrous military campaign in Yemen and aided and abetted it with U.S. military assistance for Saudi operations acquiesced in MBS’s repression at home and covered up his role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and lavished arms sales on the Saudis over Congress’ objections.

If Trump made Israel and Saudi Arabia top foreign policy priorities, Biden seems intent on downgrading their importance. Much has been made of the nearly one month delay in Biden calling Netanyahu Trump’s third call was to Netanyahu, and former President Obama reached out to then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on day one. One delayed call does not a relationship make or break. But Biden was sending a message nonetheless: I’m busy with domestic recovery and the Middle East is not a top priority, he was saying. I’m pro-Israeli, but not necessarily a pro-Netanyahu president.

Biden has also set out to put some distance between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. Candidate Biden issued some very strong words about the Kingdom on the campaign trail, describing it as a pariah nation on human rights and promising to end U.S. support for its catastrophic campaign in Yemen. Days after Biden’s inauguration, the administration declared an end to American support for Saudi operations in Yemen and pledged to review current arms sales to Riyadh. And in an unmistakable sign of displeasure with the reckless and ruthless Crown Prince, White House press spokesperson Jen Psaki spoke of “recalibrating” U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia and indicated Biden will be speaking with his counterpart King Salman not MBS.

Biden is sending an unmistakable message: We can still be friends but it has to be with more benefits for the United States. Given my focus on domestic and other foreign policy priorities, I may not have a great deal of time to focus on your problems don’t make it harder for the United States in the region or things between us will get complicated.

Biden’s early warning signals to Israel and Saudi Arabia don’t necessarily mean he is seriously prepared to make significant changes in either of these relationships. If the president, provoked by troublesome behavior by Jerusalem and Riyadh, decided to fundamentally alter rather than adjust these relationships, he would need to be far more assertive and bold.

With Israel, the reset would likely focus on injecting real accountability for actions Israel takes on the ground toward Palestinians and some conditionality with respect to U.S. assistance should Israel ignore American expectations.

Biden would call for a comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, opposing all construction beyond the 1967 lines, including east Jerusalem, as inconsistent with international law. The U.S. would not expend effort defending Israel in the U.N. and other international organizations from actions resulting from its settlement activities. And Washington would enforce its longstanding determination that no U.S. government funds could be used to support settlement activity and establish a monitoring mechanism to ensure compliance with this requirement. Biden would also make clear that any Israeli initiative designed to annex territory would result in severe consequences, including a potential cut-off of assistance or recognition of Palestinian statehood.

Biden also has plenty of options to make life unpleasant for Saudi Arabia if it attempts to sabotage a new nuclear agreement with Iran. These include slapping sanctions on MBS and his hatchet men for their complicity in the killing of Khashoggi permanently cutting contacts with MBS making it clear that the United States will not stand in the way of others bringing the Saudis to the International Criminal Court for committing war crimes in Yemen mounting a major campaign of public criticism of Saudi human rights abuses halting all new arms sales to the Kingdom withdrawing the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia and treating the Saudis as diplomatic pariahs upping public pressure on the Saudi government to cut way back on its carbon emissions and twisting Saudi arms to open a dialogue with Tehran on regional security issues.

It’s highly unlikely that Biden would move in these directions with either Israel or Saudi Arabia unless their behavior leaves him no alternative. The president’s overriding priority is domestic recovery he would prefer to avoid problems that might undermine progress toward that goal. Indeed, his presidency will succeed or fail based primarily on what occurs at home, not abroad, and he has much bigger foreign policy challenges in dealing with China and Russia.

Israel is the tougher problem and whether he can get what he wants from the wily and ever-suspicious Netanyahu isn’t clear. Biden isn’t Obama he’s more like Clinton, whose support for Israel was baked into his political DNA. Biden will be much harder for Netanyahu to attack. He will expect Bibi to refrain from an active campaign to undermine his diplomatic efforts with Iran, as Netanyahu did in 2015 by end running the Obama White House and making his case directly to Congress and mobilizing the Gulf Arab states against Iran. But Netanyahu is much weaker at home and in Washington than he was in 2015 and Biden is boxing him in on Iran, not with threats necessarily but, paradoxically, with kindness.

By coordinating and consulting with Jerusalem, he is not giving the Israeli prime minister an easy justification to openly oppose the American approach on Iran for example, he informed Netanyahu in advance of last week’s announcement by the U.S. and Europeans about starting negotiations with Tehran, and at every turn mentions the importance of a longer and stronger agreement to address the deficiencies in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. That would include addressing extended sunset provisions in the JCPOA, as well as Israel’s concerns about Iran’s ballistic missile programs and its efforts to expand its influence in the region. If Israel cries foul, undertakes some political effort to sabotage the negotiations, or launches an unwarranted military move against Iranian assets that triggers an escalation, it will be Netanyahu who’s isolated by actions that will be seen as a blatant effort to kill the U.S. negotiating initiative.

On the Israeli-Palestinian issue, Biden’s expectations for Netanyahu are pretty low. Unlike Obama, who pressed Netanyahu on both Iran and progress toward a two-state solution with Palestinians, Biden will not make waves, knowing full well that prospects for significant progress are slim. In a nod to Netanyahu, he has praised the Abraham Accords negotiated by the Trump administration and appears willing to support the benefits the Trump administration has offered the UAE (F-35s) and Morocco (U.S. recognition of its sovereignty over Western Sahara) for concluding the agreement.

Netanyahu won’t be happy with the administration’s intention to upgrade relations with the Palestinians but won’t fight it. If there is conflict, it will be over Biden’s focus on changing the situation on the ground and restoring cooperation and some measure of trust between Israelis and Palestinians. Biden will expect Netanyahu to refrain from moving ahead with major infrastructure and high profile settlement projects, on the West Bank or Jerusalem, let alone the annexation of territory. Should Netanyahu win the upcoming elections on March 23 and form a narrow right-wing government, however, the stage could be set for a major confrontation with the administration on these issues.

Unless the Saudis attempt to scuttle a new nuclear agreement with Iran—or pursue other regional policies that are destabilizing and detrimental to U.S. interests—Biden’s actions will follow the path he’s already outlined. The dialogue with Saudi Arabia will be structured and disciplined, not left to presidential relatives who were given a blank check to kowtow to MBS’s reckless activities. Biden will continue to press Riyadh on human rights. And the anticipated release of the Intelligence Community’s report on MBS’s role in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi will provide a focal point for the administration to press for the release of Saudi dissidents. Biden will also press Saudi Arabia to do its part in ending or at least tamping down the violence in Yemen.

The administration has rightly undertaken a review of at least two arms sales to the Kingdom. Whether it will go farther or not is unclear. But it should. For years, administrations have supplied Saudi Arabia with weapons that it wants rather than weapons it needs to address the real military threats the Kingdom faces. Helping the Saudis to improve their defenses against Iranian missile attacks on critical infrastructure and cyber and terrorist attacks is perfectly appropriate and legitimate. The same cannot be said, however, for providing weapons systems that would improve Saudi capabilities to project force beyond its borders and especially against Iran. The Kingdom does not face a credible threat of a large-scale conventional attack by Iran or any other countries in the region. The world has seen the havoc the Saudis have wreaked in Yemen with advance combat aircraft and munitions, and the Saudi military was missing in action in the battles against ISIS in Iraq and Yemen.

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