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5 Pointers for Trump’s Middle East Peace Team

Binyamin Rose

If the Trump administration is hoping to succeed where their predecessors have failed, they might want to keep the following points in mind

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

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JORDAN RIFT Relations today between Hussein’s successor — his son Abdullah II — and Prime Minister Netanyahu have gone incendiary following their public spats over Israeli security on the Temple Mount and the follow-up attack on Israel’s embassy in Amman (Photos: AFP/Imagebank)

E ven as he beats the drums of war with North Korea, President Trump is preparing to take another stab at Middle East peace.

Last weekend, the White House announced it was dispatching Senior Advisor Jared Kushner, Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt, and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy Dina Powell to the region to continue discussions with regional partners on a renewed peace process.

Trump’s peace trio will meet leaders from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority.

If the Trump administration is hoping to succeed where their predecessors have failed, they might want to keep the following points in mind: 


1. Mend the Jordan Rift

A generation has passed since the famous picture of Yitzhak Rabin lighting King Hussein’s cigarette for him in an act of friendship. Relations today between Hussein’s successor — his son Abdullah II — and Prime Minister Netanyahu have gone incendiary following their public spats over Israeli security on the Temple Mount and the follow-up attack on Israel’s embassy in Amman.

Abdullah will never light Bibi’s cigar for him, but he needs Israel’s defense and intelligence expertise to survive. In turn, Israel needs a stable Jordan as a buffer state from the chaos in Iraq and Syria. Abdullah may support a Palestinian state in public, but privately, he views it as a greater threat to him than to Israel. American negotiators would be wise to internalize that an independent Palestine equals a destabilized Jordan — and an inadvertent welcome mat for Iran and ISIS.

2. Pressure the Palestinians

Diplomats and politicians fret about who might take over if Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas dies or gets booted out, but it’s clear the PA is living on borrowed time, not to mention borrowed money. The international community has cut aid to the PA by 70% over the past eight years in what is politely termed “donor fatigue.”

Sometime after the Labor Day recess ends, Congress is due to take up the Taylor Force Act, a bill that would cut US aid to the PA if Ramallah continues to pay lifetime annuities to terrorists and their families. If Taylor Force is to serve as a real lever of pressure against the PA, Congress will have to close some major holes in the legislation and the White House must offer more than just lukewarm support for the measure.

3. Curb Hezbollah’s Chatter

In a speech Sunday marking the 11th anniversary of the Second Lebanon War, Hezbollah’s secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah taunted Israel for closing its ammonia plant in Haifa after the terror group threatened to bomb it. Nasrallah also said that Israel’s nuclear power plant in Dimona was within range of his group’s long-range missiles. It was quite a boast from the terrorist chieftain, who has been holed up in an underground bunker since the end of the Second Lebanon War, fearing Israeli assassins.

Still, Israel takes the military threat from Lebanon seriously. Less than 30 miles separates Dimona from the pre-1967 borders. A Palestinian state wouldn’t need long-range rockets to threaten Dimona, or Ben-Gurion Airport. Congress is considering tougher sanctions against Hezbollah, but the Iran-sponsored group laughs that off. The way to shake them is to convey a message that the US will support Israel if it chooses to make an overwhelming show of force against the terrorist entity and that it will give Israel enough diplomatic slack to let them finish the job.

4. Talk Turkey to Turkey
If any proof is needed that Israeli concessions don’t win friends in the Middle East, look no further than Turkey. Former president Obama arm-twisted Prime Minister Netanyahu to apologize to Turkey’s president Erdogan for Israel’s temerity in defending its own territorial waters from a Turkish-sponsored flotilla.

Before investing in turning Qatar into a positive force in the region, the Trump administration should jawbone its fellow NATO ally, Turkey.

In a follow-up act of folly, Israel paid $20 million to the families of the terrorists that Israeli Navy Seals killed in self-defense when they boarded the Mavi Marmara.

Turkey’s public support for the recent Temple Mount protests stirred up anti-Semitic attacks in Turkey itself. The Shin Bet has also just implicated Turkey in a three-way money-laundering scheme that’s provided some $200,000 to finance Hamas terror cells in Hebron. Before investing in turning Qatar into a positive force in the region, the Trump administration should jawbone its fellow NATO ally, Turkey. Not by forcing it to pay its fair share for its own defense, but by letting Erdogan know that his goal of resurrecting the Ottoman Empire under his rule is a fantasy that Trump won’t tolerate.

5. Let Bibi Be Bibi

Conventional political wisdom in Israel has it that when a prime minister feels the ground burning under his feet, he lurches leftward to shore up support and win media acclaim. That’s exactly the course that Likud stalwarts Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert took when they sold their right-wing souls to temporarily save their own political skins. We all know what happened to each of them.

Netanyahu, facing multiple investigations, is in political hot water, but he is still a keen political animal. If indicted, he knows that if he wants to stay in power he must make sure his own Likud doesn’t throw him under an Egged bus. Most Likudniks are more right-wing than Bibi, obliging the prime minister to shift right, not left. A Trump administration move that would weaken Netanyahu’s standing at this stage by pressuring him back to the left is sure to be spurned. (Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 673)

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