Diplomacy: The Demise of ‘Kissingerism’ in the Trump Era


September 7, 2018

Diplomacy: The Demise of ‘Kissingerism’ in the Trump Era

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Once upon a time diplomacy kept the balance between Israel and the Palestinians, but times have changed.

By David Parsons

For decades, the international community has sought to maintain stability in the very turbulent Middle East through a policy approach forged by US secretary of state Henry Kissinger. However, under the leadership of US President Donald Trump, we are now witnessing the demise of “Kissingerism.”

In the Yom Kippur War of 1973, Kissinger brought the world back from the brink of nuclear war. Once Israeli forces had recovered from the surprise Arab invasion and started advancing on Cairo and Damascus, the Soviet Union threatened to intervene militarily, even with nukes. Some historians say it was the closest the world has ever come to an actual thermonuclear exchange. Alarmed, Kissinger rushed to resolve the deepening crisis.

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Former Secretary of State, National Security Advisor and Nobel Laureate Dr. Henry Kissinger is America’s Uber Diplomat known for his Shuttle Diplomacy

Shuttling between the various capitals, Kissinger managed to halt the IDF advance on Cairo at Kilometer 101 and 20 miles short of Damascus. His intervention positioned Washington as the primary mediator between Israel and the Arabs going forward.

Kissinger’s model for Middle East diplomacy was built on the premise that America is the only country that can bring Israel to heel, and thus the Arabs were wise to accept Washington as the main broker of peace between them.

Largely a product of the Cold War, this approach strengthened the West’s relations with the Arab world and ensured the free flow of Mideast oil to thirsty global markets for decades to come. Yet it required that the US (and its allies) adopt an even-handed approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict. This eventually meant that Israel’s historic rights and claims to its ancient homeland had to be put on a par with the much more novel Palestinian nationalist claims.

This contrived ‘neutrality’ required that everything had to be balanced. So for every condemnation of Palestinian terrorism or incitement, there had to be an equal denunciation of Israeli settlements. Every foreign leader who visited Jerusalem and laid a traditional wreath at Yad Vashem was also obliged to visit Ramallah and lay a wreath at Yasser Arafat’s grave.

Today, however, the Kissinger paradigm is collapsing. We saw this evidenced already when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid a historic visit to Israel and Jerusalem in summer 2017 and very pointedly skipped Ramallah and the Palestinian Authority.

 

The waning of Kissingerism has become particularly obvious under the leadership of US President Donald Trump, who has not been afraid to take sides. For starters, he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital without making any parallel concessions to the Palestinians.
Trump has also:- Distanced himself from the two-state solution,
– Refrained from openly criticizing settlement activity,
– Threatened to shut down the PLO office in Washington,
– Cut off major US funding to UNRWA and even questioned its mandate, and
– Supported the Taylor Force Act, which freezes US funding to the Palestinians so long as their “pay-to-slay” policy continues.

Some are hoping Trump will also recognize Israeli sovereignty on the Golan or Israel’s annexation of parts of Judea/Samaria.

 

The current move away from the Kissinger model is due to a unique combination of Trump’s unconventional approach to diplomacy, certain regional shifts caused by the Arab Spring and the growing threat of Iranian hegemony. The ancient Sunni-Shi’ite rivalry has flared, especially in Syria, and Trump has sided with the Sunni Arab powers, whose interests in containing Iran mesh well with Israel’s interests.
Israel also has managed to establish a cooperative relationship with Russia without undermining its close ties to Washington. The overall shift is so discernible that even Saudi officials are warning that unless the Palestinians learn to compromise, history is about to pass them by.

 

David R. Parsons is an author, attorney, journalist, ordained minister and Middle East specialist who serves as vice president and senior spokesman for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

 

When we will ever learn to do things on our own,nothing is gained from giveaways


August 23, 2018

When we will ever learn to do things on our own, not depend on others for help. Face it, nothing is gained from giveaways

By T K Chua

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com.my

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“If the new government is to be any better than the old, we must find reasons and justifications before making decisions, not make decisions first and then find reasons and justifications to support them.”–T K Chua

As a nation, why do we always expect that others will help us?

We want others to give us technology without quid pro quo. We want others to give us favourable terms in trade and investment. We want others to concede and suffer with us because of our follies. We want others to teach us how to govern and manage our country.

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This man is the very antithesis of the rugged individual. He ended up selling Malaysia on the cheap.

Unless we are a war-torn nation in utter poverty and destitution, I don’t think we’re going to get any meaningful help from others. Let’s ditch the idea that a foreign nation would help another be strong and competitive. To compete and prosper, each nation must do it on its own.

We can see the success and failures of many nations around us. We can’t complain that others are not teaching us. They can’t and won’t. We have to learn from them on our own.

Learning from other countries means doing what they do, not just talking. We can’t keep condemning the subsidy mentality and “free lunches” but keep doing the same as we have for the last half a century.

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A Miracle is Discipline, Innovation, Entrepreneurship

We can’t keep saying meritocracy is good but keep doing the opposite.We can’t keep saying it’s good to be hardworking, conscientious and thrifty but reward incompetency and irresponsibility with easy money.

We can’t keep saying corruption and cronyism is bad if our fight against these comes only in dribs and drabs depending on the “convenience” of the day.

Malaysia has always had great ambitions – the “Malaysia Boleh” attitude, so to speak. We started Proton around the same time that Korea embarked on its auto industry. We started the multimedia super corridor much earlier than many others. We have InventQjaya, Biovalley and numerous other development corridors littering the whole country.

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Proton Saga–Malaysia’s Success Story. And so another of the same in Pro-3

But what did we get in the end? Sadly, we are now talking about starting another national car project. We are talking about learning basic things like online marketing from Alibaba. We are talking about revolutionising agriculture when at one time we were the world champion in rubber and palm oil research.

We should not carry our “handicapped” mentality to the international level. When we trade, invest and conduct business dealings with others, we mustn’t expect favours or help from others. We should extract what we can from others and defend and protect our interests based on our faculties and abilities.

At the international level, no one is going to feel sorry for us and our follies. We must have people with faculties holding strategic and important positions in the country.

If the new government is to be any better than the old, we must find reasons and justifications before making decisions, not make decisions first and then find reasons and justifications to support them.

TK Chua is an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

 

A Tribute to Dr. Charles Krauthammer


June 25, 2018

A Tribute to Dr. Charles Krauthammer

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A final, personal conversation on the eternity of Israel, with the greatest columnist of this generation, who passed away Thursday night.

By David M. Weinberg
June 21, 2018 21:17

Dr. Charles Krauthammer, perhaps the most luminous and incisive columnist of this generation, announced two weeks ago that he was stricken with terminal cancer and had only weeks to live.

I feel an obligation to pay homage to this incredible man, and to add a Jewish, Zionist and personal angle to the many tributes to him that have rightly poured forth.

For 38 years, Krauthammer’s columns, essays, and lectures have stood as pillars of conservative principle and moral clarity.

 

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Dr. Charles Krauthammer (in 1984) died on June 21, 2018 at 68.

On foreign policy matters, he was unquestionably the most radiant intellectual hawk in America, and on Middle East affairs he was the most consistent defender of Israel and the US-Israel special relationship. Two examples of his razor-sharp writing regarding Israel and American Mid-East policy will suffice, among hundreds of exhibits.

Krauthammer wrote in 2014 about “Kafkaesque ethical inversions” that make for Western criticism of Israel. “The world’s treatment of Israel is Orwellian, fueled by a mix of classic anti-semitism, near-total historical ignorance and reflexive sympathy for the ostensible Third World underdog,” he wrote.

He understood that eruptions featuring Palestinian casualties (such as recent Hamas assaults on the Gaza border) were “depravity.”

“The whole point is to produce dead Palestinians for international television; to deliberately wage war so that your own people can be telegenically killed; indeed, moral and tactical insanity,” he said. “But it rests on a very rational premise. The whole point is to draw Israeli counter-fire; to produce dead Palestinians for international television, and to ultimately undermine support for Israel’s legitimacy and right to self-defense.”

Krauthammer’s profound understanding of Jewish history, his admiration for Israel, and his very deep concern for its future were on fullest display in a magisterial essay he published in The Weekly Standard in 1998 entitled “At Last, Zion.”

In 2015, he repeatedly skewered then President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, calling it “the worst agreement in U.S. diplomatic history.”

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To Obama, he wrote accusingly: “You set out to prevent proliferation and you trigger it. You set out to prevent an Iranian nuclear capability and you legitimize it. You set out to constrain the world’s greatest exporter of terror threatening every one of our allies in the Middle East and you’re on the verge of making it the region’s economic and military hegemon.”

Krauthammer’s profound understanding of Jewish history, his admiration for Israel, and his very deep concern for its future were on fullest display in a magisterial essay he published in The Weekly Standard in 1998 entitled “At Last, Zion.”

The essay conducted a sweeping analysis of Jewish peoplehood, from Temple times and over 2,000 years of Diaspora history to the modern return to Zion.

Krauthammer understood that American Jewry was dying. “Nothing will revive the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe and the Islamic world. And nothing will stop the rapid decline by assimilation of Western Jewry.” The dynamics of assimilation were inexorable in America and elsewhere, he wrote.

Israel, Krauthammer understood, was different. “Exceptional,” he called it – because Israel was about “reattachment of Russian and Romanian, Uzbeki and Iraqi, Algerian and Argentinean Jews to a distinctively Hebraic culture,” and this gave it civilizational and societal staying power for the long term.

Israel “is now the principal drama of Jewish history,” he wrote. “What began as an experiment has become the very heart of the Jewish people – its cultural, spiritual, and psychological center, soon to become its demographic center as well. Israel is the hinge. Upon it rest the hopes – the only hope – for Jewish continuity and survival.”

However, because the “cosmology of the Jewish people has been transformed into a single-star system with a dwindling Diaspora orbiting around,” Krauthammer was apprehensive. It frightened him that “Jews have put all their eggs in one basket, a small basket hard by the waters of the Mediterranean. And on its fate hinges everything Jewish.”

Israel’s centrality, he feared, was a “bold and dangerous new strategy for Jewish survival” because of the many security threats posed to the country, chiefly among them the specter of Iranian nuclear weapons.

Indeed, Krauthammer’s essay “thinks the unthinkable” and “contemplates Israel’s disappearance.” And while Jewish political independence has been extinguished twice before and bounced back following centuries of dispersion, Krauthammer doubted that the Jewish People could pull the trick again. “Twice Jews defied the norm [and survived Diaspora]. But never, I fear, again.”

I challenged Krauthammer about his pessimistic perspective on the survival of Israel and the Jewish People at a Tikvah Fund seminar in 2016, where he engaged the Fund’s erudite chairman, Roger Hertog, in the deepest of conversations on strategy and identity.

In this lengthy conversation (which you can watch and read online; search Charles Krauthammer At Last Zion Tikvah), Krauthammer admitted to “trembling doubt” about God alongside belief in some transcendence in the universe, and then he repeated his sobering solicitudes about Israel’s precariousness. He spoke of the impossibility of a fourth Jewish commonwealth – were Israel, transcendence forbid, to be crushed.

I gently reproached Krauthammer on theological terms, by saying that “those of us who moved to Israel out of a grand meta-historic sense of drama believe that our third Jewish commonwealth won’t fail. Whatever it takes, we’ll make it work.”

I sensed that Krauthammer was glad for my emotive intervention, since he immediately and poignantly responded (in Hebrew): “Netzach Yisrael lo yishaker [The eternity of Israel will not lie, or fail].”

Krauthammer: “That’s what my father used to say when he talked about Israel. I too feel as an obligation to make sure of that throughout my life. I have done what I could, because that prospect [Israel’s disappearance] would make everything I’ve done lose its value. There’s nothing more important than that.”

And then referencing my aliyah, Krauthammer said, “I honor your choice… I commend you for that.” (He went on to describe how he too considered moving to Israel after college, at the urging of his then-philosophy professor David Hartman).

And then Krauthammer asked me: “I wonder what it’s like, and maybe you could tell me, to be an Israeli putting your kids on a school bus, raising them while knowing that one day Iran could have the bomb? Once the nuclear bomb is in the hands of genocidists – then what does that feel like? Do you think there might be emigration as a result? Do you have a feeling about that?” I answered: “My personal sense is that Israeli society is becoming more traditional, more deeply rooted, more ideological than before. I’m talking even about secular Israeli society. So we’re digging- in for the long term, and not being frightened away despite the shadow that you’re talking about.”

And Krauthammer responded to me, again in Hebrew: “As you people say, ‘kol ha-kavod [Well done].’”

So now it’s time for me to return the compliment, and say to Dr. Charles Krauthammer in his dying days: kol ha-kavod to you! On behalf of so many Jews, Americans and Israelis alike, thank you for your resilience, brilliance and steadfast support. We miss you already.

The author is Vice Ppresident of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, jiss.org.il. His personal site is davidmweinberg.com.

The UK must act to counter Trump’s destructive Jerusalem decision


May 14, 2018

The UK must act to counter Trump’s destructive Jerusalem decision

Britain’s recognition of the Palestinian state would bolster hopes of peace in the Middle East and preserve Israeli democracy

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/may/13/israel-palestine-jerusalem-trump-peace-two-state

People look out from the balcony of their house near the US consulate in Jerusalem

Since outside intervention in shaping our fate is already happening, why only the US? Where is the balancing move from China, Russia, Britain, or France?’ Photograph: Abir Sultan/EPA

Not many of us in Israel imagined, in recent years, that the fate of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be determined by outsiders. We always believed that our future should be discussed and negotiated between Israelis and Palestinians. Furthermore, the common view was that only the two sides should decide their fate and that we would not let anyone else impose a solution.

What is happening this week – the US moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in recognition of Israel’s claim to Jerusalem as its capital – proves that we were wrong (or maybe bluffing). With this dramatic move, which runs counter to all previous international resolutions on Jerusalem, Donald Trump is determining the fate of the conflict on his own.

It turns out that when President Trump one-sidedly intervenes on behalf of the Israeli government, the previously declared Israeli approach is quietly sidelined; most Israelis (me excluded) welcome this decisive US intervention. Palestinians, on the other hand, are devastated and feel cheated. They have no ability to block the move but have already declared that this US administration has disqualified itself from serving as an honest broker.

The US administration is doing what the sides always objected to – it is one-sidedly determining the outcome of the conflict, destroying the hopes of creating two separate states and in the process reshaping the fate of the Middle East as a whole.

Since outside intervention in shaping our fate is already happening, why only the US? Why only Donald Trump? Where is the additional balancing move, Chinese, Russian, British or French? If the US can intervene on one side, why not each of the other four permanent UN Security Council members? Each following its principles and its best judgment. Or why not all four together?

Britain should be the first in line. It is true that the British mandate in Palestine ended 70 years ago this week, but Britain still knows better than any other country what is at stake: the peaceful coexistence of Jews, Muslims and Christians in the Holy Land and the upholding of international law. Britain has long espoused both of these principles.

Whatever may have been the British intention in 1917 with the Balfour declaration, or in 1948 when Britain left Palestine, is it the wish now that the “national home” for the Jewish people will become a Middle Eastern fortress while the indigenous Palestinians turn into its unwilling subjects? This outcome should not be accepted.

The British government in which Balfour was foreign secretary clearly favoured a Jewish “national home” but also added: “Nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights” of non-Jews in Palestine. Do the British people now feel comfortable with a one-state outcome as their record and legacy in Palestine?

People of goodwill on both sides of this conflict need Britain to speak up. Trump can act as president on behalf of the US, but not on behalf of the whole world. The UK parliament has already called upon its government to recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel – the aim being two states whose peoples enjoy equal rights. It happened in the Commons in October 2014 when MPs voted by an overwhelming majority to recognise Palestine (274 for; 14 against). Now is the time for implementation of that wish. This is the policy move that could counterbalance Trump’s one-sided and dangerous move of his embassy. Such a British act of recognition would reaffirm Palestinian basic rights, restore hope, and it would help create the much-needed parity of esteem without which no peace agreement can be just or sustainable.

I would even go so far as to say that if Britain (ideally co-ordinating its policy with France) recognised Palestine, it could save the equitable two-state solution and the possibility of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

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As an Israeli patriot who loves his country, I also see such a British move as vital to the preservation of Israeli democracy. Only the two-state solution that Trump has just fractured badly can guarantee a democratic Israel. A single bi-national state with a similar number of Jews and Arabs will not remain democratic. A British recognition would be historic and could bring about lasting benefits for both Israelis and Palestinians.

I know that such a move demands political courage, but we are speaking about principles that Britain claims to uphold and was always ready to fight for: freedom, justice and democracy.

•* Dr Alon Liel is the former director general of the Foreign Ministry of Israel and was also Israel’s ambassador to South Africa. He is one of the instigators of an Israeli campaign to advance recognition of a Palestinian state by European parliaments and governments

 

Trump Destroys the Iran Deal—and a Lot More


May 10, 2018

Trump Destroys the Iran Deal—and a Lot More

After months of threatening, President Trump withdrew from the historic Iran nuclear deal on Tuesday, unraveling the Obama Administration’s signature foreign-policy achievement and putting the United States on a collision course with allies, as well as with Tehran. “This was a horrible, one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made,” the President said. “It didn’t bring calm, it didn’t bring peace, and it never will.” Trump also announced that the United States is re-imposing economic sanctions on Iran and, over time, on companies in other countries that do business with the Islamic Republic.

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President Donald Trump announced on May 08 that the US will withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran and reinstate economic sanctions against Tehran. “We will be instituting at the highest level of economic sanction; any country that helps Iran in its quest for nuclear weapons could also be strongly sanctioned by the United States,” Trump said.

 

Trump said that he was prepared to negotiate a new deal, but it would have to cover several issues beyond Iran’s controversial nuclear program—including Tehran’s ballistic-missile program, its support for extremist groups, and other “malign” activities in the wider Middle East. In a rebuke to Trump, however, the leaders of Britain, France, and Germany expressed “regret” over Trump’s decision and vowed to remain in the pact, which also includes Russia and China. “We urge all sides to remain committed to its full implementation and to act in a spirit of responsibility,” they said. China also indicated that it would adhere to the accord.

In an initial reaction, Iran also appeared to reject new negotiations—and indicated that it might even stick to the original agreement, which curtails significant aspects of its nuclear program. President Hassan Rouhani said that his government would review the prospects of continuing to collaborate with the other five signatories of the pact, formally the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or J.C.P.O.A.

“If, at end of this short period of time, if we come to the conclusion that with the collaboration of five countries it is feasible to attain what the Iranian people wish, despite the views of the U.S. and Zionist regime and also the impolite remarks by Trump, we should see whether it is possible to just keep up with J.C.P.O.A. and also take steps in line with regional peace and tranquility,” he said. (Iran refers to Israel as “the Zionist regime.”) But Rouhani—who won office in 2013, on a platform of negotiating a nuclear deal with the United States and getting a reprieve from economic sanctions in return—also suggested that Tehran was prepared for “subsequent measures, if needed,” including “starting industrial enrichment without limitations.”

Trump’s decision means that, technically, the United States is the first nation to violate the accord. The International Atomic Energy Agency, which is the U.N. nuclear watchdog, has issued ten reports that Tehran is in full compliance with its obligations. Iran is under the toughest inspections and verification-inspections regime ever imposed in an arms-control deal. In a rare public comment on Trump’s foreign policy, former President Barack Obama noted that the right to inspections disappears if the agreement ends.

“Every aspect of Iranian behavior that is troubling is far more dangerous if their nuclear program is unconstrained,” Obama said. “Our ability to confront Iran’s destabilizing behavior—and to sustain a unity of purpose with our allies—is strengthened with the J.C.P.O.A., and weakened without it.”

Critics were scathing about the U.S. withdrawal. James Dobbins, a former U.S. Ambassador to the E.U., who negotiated with Iran after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and now works at the RAND Corporation, said that the decision “isolates the United States, frees Iran, reneges on an American commitment, adds to the risk of a trade war with America’s allies and to a hot war with Iran and diminishes the prospects of a durable and truly verifiable agreement to eliminate the North Korean nuclear and missile threat.”

Trump’s decision is likely to have far-reaching impact. The premise of diplomatic outreach was to create conditions for eventual coöperation with Iran on other flashpoints in the world’s most volatile region. Instead, danger looms for deepening tensions in hot spots such as Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen—countries where the United States and Iran have rival interests. “By forfeiting American leadership in the one successful multilateral deal in the volatile Middle East, Trump could possibly make a bad situation worse,” Wendy Chamberlin, a former career diplomat who is now the president of the Middle East Institute, in Washington, told me.

Tensions between Israel and Iran have increased recently over Syria, where the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and Lebanon’s Hezbollah have established footholds in three dozen military facilities during its seven-year civil war. Israel has launched more than a hundred air strikes on Syria, the majority on Iranian and Hezbollah targets. “Israel and Iran are headed toward a dangerous confrontation,” Chamberlin said.

The withdrawal from the agreement comes days before the U.S. moves its Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, another controversial decision that has inflamed anti-American passions. “Trump is pouring gasoline on a Middle East in flames already, with his Iran and Jerusalem decisions,” Bruce Riedel, a former C.I.A., White House, and Pentagon staffer who is now at the Brookings Institution, told me.

Trump’s decision also undermines the transatlantic alliance, crafted after the Second World War, between the United States and Europe. The President defied a determined last-ditch pitch by America’s three most important European allies, made during visits by French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the British Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson.

Trump’s decision to nix rather than fix the deal fits his “America First” agenda. “Withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal—alongside withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Paris Accord [on climate]—completes Trump’s reneging on U.S. commitments and undermining of U.S. credibility,” Daniel Kurtzer, a former Ambassador to Israel and Egypt now at Princeton University, told me. “The United States used to be the leader, the convener, and the engine of international diplomacy. Trump’s actions have turned us into an untrustworthy and erratic diplomatic outlier.”

The Europeans are clearly hoping that the deal—the crowning achievement of the E.U.’s diplomacy as a continental body—will survive without the United States.

Re-imposing sanctions on Iran will create the greatest division between Europe and the U.S. since the Iraq War, Mark Fitzpatrick, the executive director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies office in Washington, told me. “Only this time it will be worse, since not a single European state sides with the U.S. on this matter.” Beyond Europe, American credibility worldwide “will go down the tubes,” he said. “Who will ever want to strike a deal with a country that, without cause, pulls out of a deal that everyone else knows has been working well? America will be seen as stupid, arrogant, and bullying. Pity the poor U.S. diplomats who have to explain this illogical decision to their host countries.”

Trump’s decision even benefits America’s adversaries, including Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin. “We’re playing into Putin’s hand,” Michael McFaul, a former U.S. Ambassador to Russia, now at Stanford University, said on CNN. “For Putin, it means that the U.S. is on the outside—and Putin is still on the inside. Why are we isolating ourselves when we need other countries to coöperate with on issues like North Korea?”

The U.S. decision will have fallout both economically and politically inside Iran, where foreboding about Trump’s long-threatened decision has already had a psychological impact. The value of Iran’s currency has plummeted by a third since December. The timing intersects with systemic change—and uncertainty—in Iran over dramatic demographic changes, aging leadership, and long-standing structural deficiencies. “The post-revolutionary baby boom is inching toward middle age, with nearly universal access to information and communications technology and after decades of thwarted hopes for economic improvements,” Suzanne Maloney, a former State Department policy-planning staffer now at the Brookings Institution, told me.

“I don’t see a revolution on the horizon, but I think we are witnessing the slow-motion metastasis of the revolutionary system that is echoing through the economy and the establishment,” she said. “I don’t think this is solely or even primarily provoked by the collapse of the deal but, rather, the culmination of a range of internal forces: long-simmering frustrations, the stalemate of two decades of gradualism, demographic pressures, communications technology, and the anticipated imminence of leadership succession.”

As dramatic as Trump’s curt announcement was, the repercussions of his decision—one of the most important of his sixteen months in office—may take months to play out in Iran, among allies, and even among adversaries. At a White House briefing, the new national-security adviser, John Bolton, said that the Administration will continue to talk with allies, starting on Wednesday, about ways forward. But the prospect of healing the policy divide with the world’s other five major powers—much less getting Iran to agree to a new deal—seems remote, at best.

 

The Downfall of Crown Prince Kushner


March 7, 2018

Opinion

The Downfall of Crown Prince Kushner

by Daniel B. Shapiro

It was always folly that Jared Kushner, a key example of Trump’s terrible, nepotistic distortion of American government, monopolized the U.S.-Israel relationship. Now he’s going down, how much further will critical decision-making deteriorate?

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The Downfall of President-in-Law Jared Kushner seen with his wife, First Daughter Ivanka Trump

Not since the November 1, 1973 meeting between Prime Minister Golda Meir, under fire for the failures that led to the Yom Kippur War, and President Richard Nixon, already deep into the Watergate scandal, have American and Israeli leaders met at a time of such internal political turmoil in both countries.

As thousands of advocates for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship gather in Washington for the annual AIPAC Policy Conference this week, the fraught situation in both governments raises the question of how to manage the U.S.-Israel relationship through choppy waters and bumpy roads.

There is no denying that President Trump is very friendly toward Israel. But more than good feelings are necessary to make the relationship as productive as it can be. Serious, professional work by well-organized governments makes a difference, too.

Already I can hear readers spitting out their coffee. What??! A representative of the Obama Administration will give lectures on how to manage the U.S.-Israel relationship? Wasn’t that a period of major bilateral tensions? Give me break!

The criticism is fair, up to a point, considering the far-too-frequent public disputes, which both sides contributed to, during those years. But it is also not the whole picture

During the same period that we had serious policy disagreements, most prominently over the Iran nuclear deal and the issue of West Bank settlements, the bilateral relationship grew significantly stronger in numerous ways.

It grew stronger in the area of security cooperation, which resulted in more frequent and more sophisticated joint military exercises, and culminated in the $38 billion military assistance Memorandum of Understanding, which will enable Israel to purchase at least 50 F-35 aircraft and maintain its qualitative military edge for decades.

An Iron Dome launcher fires an interceptor rocket in this Israeli Defence Force (IDF) handout image received on November 28, 2017
An Iron Dome launcher fires an interceptor rocket in this Israeli Defence Force (IDF) handout image received on November 28, 2017 IDF Spokesperson Unit/Handout via REUTERS

 

It grew stronger in intelligence cooperation, upgrading the partnership to a level of intimacy the United States enjoys with few other countries, and enabling more real-time sharing of information and strategic deployment of our assets against common threats.

It grew stronger in the area of technology development, especially in missile defense, leading to the full deployment of Iron Dome and breakthroughs in the development of David’s Sling and Arrow 3. Israel’s recent successes in detecting and destroying Hamas’s terrorist tunnels have also been enabled by a joint U.S.-Israeli research and development program launched in 2015.

It grew stronger in diplomatic coordination, as the two countries worked together week in and week out for eight years to snuff out or counter attempts to delegitimize Israel in international organizations, notwithstanding our disagreement on U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334 in December 2016.

It grew stronger in responding to disasters, such as when the entire U.S. interagency mobilized to help provide assistance to Israel during the 2010 Carmel fires.

And it grew stronger in the economic and commercial sphere, where the two governments advanced efforts to support the vibrant private sector partnership, by lowering barriers and increasing opportunities for investors and entrepreneurs in both countries to meet and work together.

What all these advances had in common was that they resulted from an effort, at least on the U.S. side, to ensure that the bilateral relationship, and the policy that guided it, were spread across all parts of our government.

The National Security Council at the White House provided the connective tissue between disparate initiatives, but there was a broad understanding across the government of what we were trying to achieve – a stronger, deeper partnership in all realms, and how each department could contribute.

U.S. United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and Middle East Envoy Jason Greenblatt wait for a meeting of the UN Security Council at UN headquarters in New York on February 20, 2018.
U.S. United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and Middle East Envoy Jason Greenblatt wait for a meeting of the UN Security Council at UN headquarters in New York\ LUCAS JACKSON/ REUTERS

 

 

 

There will always be a few key, high-level individuals managing the relationship and making decisions on the most sensitive matters, but others in the government need to be involved, informed, and coordinated.

Lately, one has the impression that the relationship has been shrunk down to three or four people on each side. Trump White House paranoia about the loyalty of career officials, whom they deride as the “deep state”, surely contributes. So does the failure to fill many senior State Department posts. Israeli coalition politics, with cabinet portfolios spread across multiple parties and no foreign minister, are a factor as well.

A structure like this one creates problems that benefit neither country. First, it makes it difficult for officials below the top level of government to follow-up on decisions made by their seniors. If a decision is made by the inner circle, but is not communicated to the working level, it may never be implemented. A poorly staffed government, as exists on the U.S. side, compounds the problem.

Israeli officials these days often have no counterpart to call, or only much more junior officials, clearly cut off from the decision-making level, which has clearly contributed to misunderstandings on sensitive issues, like the arrangements in southern Syria intended to keep Iranian forces and proxies away from the Israeli border.

Second, this structure weakens the United States in other ways, harming our ability to effectively support Israel in various arenas.

King Abdullah of Jordan, left, looks on as Jared Kushner talks with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his wife during the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C. Feb. 2, 2017
King Abdullah of Jordan, left, looks on as Jared Kushner talks with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his wife during the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C. Feb. 2, 2017Evan Vucci / AP

 

 

There has never been a Secretary of State as excluded from the U.S.-Israel relationship as Rex Tillerson. He has never made his own visit to Israel, and his regional tour, with no stop in Jerusalem, following the Iranian drone incursion on February 10, made him look irrelevant. Why would other governments take him seriously when he raises Israel’s concerns?

The absence of confirmed U.S. Aambassadors in Cairo, Amman, Riyadh, Doha, and Ankara underscores the department’s weakness and inhibits U.S. assistance to Israel in regional coordination against common threats, like Iran’s growing military entrenchment in Syria.

Finally, this structure injects chaos when someone leaves or gets in trouble. If all the eggs of the U.S.-Israel relationship are in Jared Kushner’s basket, what happens when that basket self-immolates, as is going on now? Over-investment in one or two individuals, no matter how supportive, actually weakens the structures that the bilateral relationship needs.

Other governments, particularly in the Gulf, have made a similar mistake, leaning far too heavily on Jared Kushner as the be-all and end-all of their relationships with the United States.

Ivanka Trump participates in a presentation ceremony of The Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud Medal to President Donald Trump at the Royal Court Palace, Saturday, May 20, 2017, in Riyadh.
Ivanka Trump participates in a presentation ceremony of The Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud Medal to President Donald Trump at the Royal Court Palace, Saturday, May 20, 2017, in Riyadh. Evan Vucci/AP

 

That’s because of the terrible distortion of the U.S. government under the Trump Administration – from a collection of professional departments to a family-run business, complete with a crown prince and blatant misuse of government positions to advance private commercial interests.

As Kushner goes down, those governments must ask themselves, now what?

During the Obama Administration, I sometimes heard it said that we were relentlessly on-message, that Israeli officials would hear the same thing from whoever they talked to on the U.S. side. I considered that to be a major compliment in the management of the administration.

That kind of coordination, which integrates all departments of government, actually gets more done. It enables serious follow-up and implementation of decisions. It avoids creating confusion and illusions about U.S. policy, by hearing different things from different people, both on issues where we agree and those where we differ. It ultimately makes for a healthier and stronger relationship, one that can weather even serious policy disagreements.

President Obama used to say that government officials are like runners in a relay race, carrying the baton for a while and then handing it off to the next runner. That is true across administrations, but it is also true during a single administration, when most people only serve in their posts for about two years.

When Jared Kushner has the baton pulled from his hand, who is going to carry it for the U.S.-Israel relationship in the coming years?

Daniel B. Shapiro is Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. He served as U.S. Ambassador to Israel, and Senior Director for the Middle East and North Africa, in the Obama Administration. Twitter: @DanielBShapiro