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PRESIDENT TRUMP TO PERSONALLY PROD ISRAEL & PALESTINIANS TOWARD PEACE

President Donald J. Trump (from the White House)

It's not official yet, but President Donald Trump is expected to arrive in Israel next month. It's a safe bet that he will prod Israel and the Palestinians to show progress on the peace track that has hit a dead end. Make no mistake, Trump can use something to show in the international arena now that he has those famous 'one hundred days' under his belt. In fact, he's showing signs of some 'wear and tear'.

'I loved my previous life - I had so many things going. This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.'

Previously, the tycoon Trump did not have to cope with such pesky problems as the U.S. Constitution, political rivals and the 'checks and balances' of American politics. If some of the hired help failed to deliver, he could just shout at him or her 'You're fired!' Now it is far more complicated with many more hurdles to overcome on the path from setting a goal and actually reaching it.

In foreign policy, Trump has surprised many by reacting militarily to Syrian President Assad's latest chemical gas atrocity, and he is also throwing America's weight around when it comes to the North Korean nuclear threat. Another surprise has been his pivot to China and trying to enlist President Xi Jinping's considerable economic clout with North Korean despot Kim Jong-un. Whether this will succeed remains to be seen. At the U.N., America's Ambassador Nikki Haley has been socking it to the international body and demanding a halt to its unbridled and biased attacks against the Jewish state. Obviously the dynamic and charismatic Haley is doing so with Trump's approval. In addition, the entire Senate, Democrats and Republicans, have just sent a stinging warning to the U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also demanding an end to the Israel bashing while noting the U.S. is the major contributor to the U.N.'s coffers.

Trump is also having second thoughts about implementing his campaign pledge to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

But this is only part of the backdrop - when they first met in Washington, Trump told Bibi to 'hold-off' on settlement building and nothing outside the boundaries of existing settlements. Bibi got the message which he passed on to his Far-Right cabinet that had been champing at the bit, fervently believing that Trump would be gung ho for a new wave settlement building. Moreover, Trump is also having second thoughts about implementing his campaign pledge to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. (Oddly enough, Moscow recently announced it had no problem with recognizing West Jerusalem as Israel's capital).

When all is said and done, there are also checks and balances when a super power such as the U.S. wants to play an effective role in the international arena. Let's look at the current landscape here in the Middle East. After Trump's predecessor Barack Obama forged the nuclear deal with non-Arab Iran, the Arab states felt America had sold them out to their bitter rivals in Tehran. Moreover, Iran is Shiite Muslim, whereas nearly all the Arab states are Sunni, and a monumental and bitter struggle is now being waged between Shiite and Sunni Muslims. So, Egypt and Jordan, which previously signed peace treaties with Israel, as well as Saudi Arabia, some of the Gulf States, and even non-Arab Turkey are interested in teaming up with Israel's military might for a future face-off with Iran. But the Palestinian problem is the fly in the ointment. So how can Trump pitch in to resolve it?

There's the old adage - you are what you do. Trump has spent most of his life, except for the last one-hundred days, making deals. He's just bragged about how good he is at it and he's right - he's now sitting in the Oval Office. The U.S. President started the ball rolling by warning Bibi about the settlement building. Now it will be the turn of West Bank President Mahmoud Abbas when he arrives in Washington shortly. But a new snag has cropped up.

Abbas will have a tough time explaining to Trump just whom he represents.

Trump should ask Abbas just whom does he represent? In 2006, the U.S. administration pressured Israel and Abbas into allowing Hamas to run in the Palestinian election. The fact that Hamas was a terror organization that acts and calls for Israel's destruction cut no ice with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the rest of 'foggy bottom'. Lo and behold, the election that was supposed to produce a democratically elected Palestinian partner to negotiate peace with Israel was won by Hamas, which vows to wipe Israel off the map! No different than its patron Iran! (American humorist Will Rogers once wrote something like: 'I don't tell jokes, I just write about politics.')

Not only that, Hamas proceeded to drive all the Fatah politicians including Abbas out of Gaza. Some that didn't make it in time were taken up to the roofs of high-rise building and thrown to their deaths!

So over the years, no love has been lost between Fatah, the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza. The Palestinian security force on the West Bank suppresses terrorism against Israel, whereas Hamas condones the rocketing of Israel from time to time. Now Abbas has decided to stop paying Israel for Gaza's electricity bill, which it has done for years. It's part of the ongoing feud between the two Palestinian factions. If Israel cuts the power to Gaza it could cause a near total blackout. In this event, terrorists in Gaza could vent their anger by rocketing Israel. Go figure!

The bottom line is that Abbas will have a tough time explaining to Trump just whom he represents. This is sort of important when trying to kick off peace negotiations to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For his part, Bibi should do some hard thinking about making some concessions that will please Trump but not spark a rebellion in his coalition.

Northern lights in Syrian sky...

Until recently, Israel has refrained from disclosing whether or not it conducted the aerial attacks.

Israel is maintaining its declared policy of interdicting shipments of sophisticated Iranian weapons being transported across Syria to Hezbollah, Beirut's de-facto army in southern Lebanon. In one operation that lit up the sky over Damascus airport, surface to surface missiles were reportedly launched from Israel. In a radio interview, Israel's Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz said the attack was 'consistent' with Israeli policy. In another disclosure, a senior IDF officer told reporters that 100 missiles had been destroyed in Syria last month. Until recently, Israel has refrained from disclosing whether or not it conducted the aerial attacks. But now that Israeli spokesmen have cited three separate incidents, this will put pressure on Iran and Hezbollah to retaliate in order to save face.

Another aspect involves Russia's massive air strikes that have turned the tide in favor of Syrian President Bashar Assad against the rebels. Bibi worked out a modus operandi in separate meetings with President Vladimir Putin that has prevented an accidental clash between Israeli and Russian jets over Syria. Apparently, Putin agreed Israel could launch missiles at the Hezbollah arms shipments from outside of Syrian air space.

Bibi boycotts German foreign minister...

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel (photo by Moritz Kosinsky) CC BY-SA 3.0

Germany is Israel's closest ally in Europe and has even provided the Jewish state with strategic submarines, that foreign sources report could be armed with nuclear missiles. There is no question Chancellor Angela Merkel feels deeply about Germany's role in the Holocaust. But the German Foreign Minister, Sigmar Gabriel, is a member of a different political party and when he came on an official visit he decided to meet with representatives of two activist groups made up of IDF soldiers who have documented incidents when soldiers maltreated Palestinians in Judea & Samaria (West Bank). One such Israeli delegation even appeared at the UN where it presented cases of this maltreatment. It is a subject of heated debate in Israel, and some have branded the activists as traitors. On the other hand, the activists contend they are true patriots who are defending Israeli morality. In any case, the Prime Minister warned that if the German Foreign Minister met with the protest groups he would refuse to meet him. But Gabriel went ahead and met with the activists.

Later, Bibi telephoned the German visitor intending to explain why he had cancelled their meeting. But Gabriel refused to take Bibi's call. Netanyahu contended 'it's not done' that a foreign minister would meet with a civilian protest group, and in this case with activists who slander IDF soldiers, and even travel abroad to do so. Afterwards, Chancellor Merkel supported her foreign minister's actions.

But it has also transpired that Germany's Foreign Minister is a member of a different political party than Merkel and probably precipitated the diplomatic flap in order to gain popularity in the German election campaign. This, through showing how strong he was in rejecting Bibi's ultimatum. On the other hand, Netanyahu also gained support from Israel's Right wing by taking a tough stand on a matter of principle. Both sides say the close ties between Germany and Israel will not be affected. Meanwhile, the two activist groups have gotten a ton of publicity in and out of Israel. So, was it for the good of the country that Bibi chastised the German Foreign Minister for intervening in Israel's internal affairs? Maybe the PM forgot how he went to Washington and appealed to the U.S. Congress to reject President Obama's nuclear deal with Iran?




 

David Essing

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