Donald Trump Brings New Thinking to US Diplomacy
In the final months of the US Presidential campaign, a popular refrain at Donald Trump rallies, 2nd only perhaps to “Lock Her Up,” was “Drain the Swamp.”
The chant ostensibly referred to clearing out the bureaucratic/lobbyist control over the US federal government, which had resulted in a government committed to serving the needs of the protected few at the expense of the unprotected many and debilitating America’s future growth prospects in the process.?
There is no reason why the term should not apply equally to the stale thinking that has permeated diplomacy in the Middle East for decades, enabling nonsensical beliefs to remain accepted and unchallenged.
The fierce reaction to the announcement that Donald Trump adviser David Friedman will be the next Ambassador to Israel is evidence that among those who have actively participated in perpetuating failure in the supposed Israeli-Palestinian peace process there are many now worried about their jobs, their influence, or worse, that common sense, if given an outlet and applied to the region, may produce something outside the allowed set of acceptable policies to which they have adhered for so long.
In “Ike’s Gamble,” Michael Doran’s excellent book on the Eisenhower administration’s fumbling and errors in the Middle East, Doran quotes Britain’s then-Prime Minister Winston Churchill in considering why American policy in the region was such a mess.
Referring to US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, Churchill said: “He was clever enough to be stupid on a rather large scale.”
It would be hard to find a more apt description for the thinking of New Yorker Editor David Remnick, New York Times columnists, or J Street spokespeople in their sustained apoplectic states since Donald Trump’s election victory, now reinforced by Mr. Friedman nomination. These people will always make the same arguments, and draw the same conclusions, regardless of the facts, so their current panic mode is not a surprise.
It is worth examining some of the long-running issues that MessrsTrump and Friedman should move on, which really belong in the dustbin of history.
Jerusalem: The U.S. Embassy belongs in Jerusalem. In 1995, when Bill Clinton was US President, Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act, which called for the embassy to be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem but provided a waiver for the President to delay the move due to political or diplomatic considerations. Presidents Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama chose to make use of the waiver each year of their Presidency, though each had campaigned promising to accomplish the move. Ambassador-designate Friedman has been clear that he expects to perform his duties from Jerusalem, perhaps starting work in the US consulate in the city.
In the last few years, the Obama Administration challenged the attempt by an American born in Jerusalem to add Israel to the birthplace on his passport. The Supreme Court sided with the White House.
Jerusalem, as seen by official Washington, might as well be on the planet Xenon, in some far away galaxy, since it stands apart from any country. The waivers have been exercised every year because of fear that if the White House ever decided to really move the embassy, all hell would break loose with the Palestinians and their Arab and Muslim allies.
The reality is that when Israel was admitted to the United Nations, it had de facto borders (the 1949 armistice lines), that even if not settled with its neighbors, clearly included its capital city of Jerusalem. Maintaining an embassy in a city that is not a country’s capital is something not done in any other country in the world. Refusing to recognize that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital until the Palestinians give their approval in essence allows them to define the terms for Israel’s capital.
Will the Arab world go ballistic if the United States makes this move, or are there bigger problems for them to deal with at the moment for which they may need American assistance?
This is a swamp that needs to be drained only once.
Palestinians and the peace process: The peace processors believe that the Palestinians are committed to a two-state solution. The fact that they have repeatedly rejected the ?concept, when offered in the 1937 Peel Commission plan, the partition resolution in 1947, at Camp David and Taba in 2000-2001, and again by then-?Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2008, is evidence that the belief is ludicrous. What concessions would Israel have had to make to get a deal done?
Every American government since the Jimmy Carter administration has found time to criticize Israel for settlement construction or expansion. This has been offered up by the West as the explanation for the apparent Palestinian unwillingness even to meet to discuss an agreement for most of the history of the conflict, though most of the announced settlement activity was within the boundaries of existing settlements.
All one needs to know to understand Palestinian intentions is their decades of commitment to “resistance,” better described as violence and terrorist attacks against Jews to keep the pressure pot boiling. But the proof of the real intransigence is their commitment to a refugee right of return.
The United Nations recognizes the Palestinian refugees as unique.
They have their own UN agency, and refugee status is passed on to future generations, which is not the case for any other refugee population in the world, which now number over 60 million. There are currently perhaps 50,000 Palestinian refugees from the 1948-1949 war, but the Palestinians claim a number more than 100 times that size, and they keep a sizable number in squalid conditions generation after generation in UN-administered camps in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and several Arab countries. The Palestinians have chosen to sacrifice the lives of one generation after another to a welfare dependency in which the only thing taught is grievance and hatred of Israel, so as to perpetuate the myth of a giant ethnic cleansing to be reversed when Israel is destroyed and the refugees return.
If the Palestinians were committed to a two-state solution, as opposed to a Palestinian state in place of Israel, the UNWRA camps would be dismantled and the people could finally be allowed to get on with their lives.
Of all the refugee populations created in the last 100 years, one could make a case that things should have been easier for the Arabs who fled the War of Independence (many implored to do so by other Arab countries). They wound up in places where their hosts spoke their language, practiced the same religion, and were ethnically and culturally similar. It was a lot more difficult for the larger population of Jews driven out of the Arab world in the same time period who moved to Israel, and faced a new language, different culture, and difficult absorption issues, given the doubling of the population.
To drain this swamp, the Trump Administration can make clear that the United States will no longer subsidize the Palestinian Authority honoring killers or making payments to the families of killers, and that it will no longer pay a penny for UNWRA. Instead, the US can demand that UN refugee policy for the Palestinians be brought into line with the policy toward every other refugee population.
If the Palestinians are committed to a 2-state solution, they can prove it by ending the ?encouragement and sponsorship of Jew-killing, and stop perpetuating the myth of an enormous refugee population that needs to be accommodated in Israel.
Truth-telling at the United Nations is part of draining the swamp, probably the biggest and most fetid swamp of them all, where Jew hatred is rampant, and the destruction of a member state is for ?all practical purposes official organization policy.
Messrs Trump and Friedman seem to be ready to do away with the nonsense that has been official US policy for years. The louder the fools scream in protest, the better the job the new team in town is doing to drain the swamp.
Richard Baehr is the co-founder and chief political correspondent for the American Thinker and a fellow at the Jewish Policy Center.
Paul Ebeling, Editor