Sunday, January 29, 2017

A Truth-Telling Strategy to Advance Israeli-Palestinian Peace
BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 403   Jan 2017
By Dr Max Singer

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The US is usually thought to be biased in favor of Israel, even after its recent acceptance of UNSC Resolution 2334. But for many years, the US has been a big part of the reason why the diplomatic world accepts a false narrative of the Arab-Israeli conflict that harms Israel and makes it harder to achieve peace. Washington should move to a truth-telling strategy to dismantle the structure of false views that slander Israel and stand in the way of peace.

The widely accepted false narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is built on the following premises:
  • Israel stole and now occupies Palestinian territory;
  • there are millions of “Palestinian refugees” who have a “right of return” to Israel;
  • Israel and the Palestinians have equal or comparable claims to Jerusalem;
  • the Palestinian community and its leadership are ready to accept a two-state solution that will end Palestinian efforts to eliminate the Jewish state.
The US has consistently either supported or been unwilling to contradict these premises.

Palestinian leaders have an additional false view on which they insist when they speak in Arabic, and which they often proclaim to international audiences. This view is that the Jewish people did not, in fact, live in and rule parts of Palestine, including Jerusalem, for hundreds of years long before the beginning of Islam. While this false claim is not generally accepted diplomatically, UNESCO recently endorsed the fiction that the ancient Jewish temples were not built on the Temple Mount – a site UNESCO calls “al-Aqsa Mosque/al-Haram al-Sharif” (Noble Sanctuary).

This Palestinian false history is not challenged by the US or by any other democracy. Had the US utilized an active strategy of telling the truth, the Palestinians would not have been able to continue to use their false picture to resist peace.

Rejecting false premises does not mean rejecting a peace agreement based on a two-state solution. The truth is compatible with a variety of ideas about what should be done in the future. Those who support a two-state solution can also support a strategy of telling the truth, as can those who doubt the feasibility of a two-state solution.

US policy has always been to ignore, and sometimes even to support, the falsity of these diplomatically accepted narratives in order to avoid contradicting the Palestinians and arousing the wrath of the Arab and Muslim nations. This longstanding American willingness to put reality aside to try to encourage negotiations has been unsuccessful thus far, and has become increasingly harmful.

For many years, US policy was to appear “even-handed” even at the expense of truth – that is, to be superficially even-handed between the arsonist and the firefighter, the terrorist and the victim of terror. Washington should switch to an even-handed policy of supporting truth, whether it comes from Palestinians or from Israelis: a policy of rejecting falsehood from both sides.

Of course, many statements are partly true and partly false, and often there are good reasons for different opinions about what is true. But there would be a great improvement in the diplomatic environment if the US took the lead in rejecting the most important and clearly false elements of diplomatic consensus.

A truth-telling strategy does not mean being absurd by always insisting on truth. The realities of human nature, and of politics and international relations, require substantial room for untruth. The US government cannot and should not act like an innocent who expects everyone to always tell the truth, and who views not doing so as evil.

The False Claim That There Is Such a Thing as “Palestinian Territory”
The biggest falsehood the US needs to expose is that there exists “Palestinian territory” that Israel refuses to “give back” because of its expansionist ambitions and purported security needs. It is controversial, rather than a falsehood, to say that justice and peace require Israel to turn over to a Palestinian state essentially all the land it seized in its defensive war in 1967. But there is a big difference between the controversial statement that the West Bank should become Palestinian territory as part of a peace agreement and the false statement that these areas are now, or ever were in the past, Palestinian territory.

The distinction between saying that the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) is Palestinian territory and saying that it should become Palestinian territory is important for both the past and the future. For the past, the statement that the West Bank is Palestinian means that Israel stole land that was not Jewish and should “give it back.” For the future, the distinction determines whether Israeli proposals to provide land for a Palestinian state are returning stolen property or are offers to give up disputed land to which it has serious claims, in order to make a healthy peace with its neighbor. From the Palestinian point of view, it differentiates between an immoral submission to a thief who has more power and a wise compromise with neighbors who have overlapping claims of right.

A US truth-telling strategy would not ignore Palestinian assertions about “Palestinian land,” but would point out that the land in question is disputed. It is not Palestinian territory – despite US acceptance of a UNSC resolution that refers to it as such – because there is no Palestinian territory and never has been. Palestinians have never ruled or been sovereign over any land. This is an indisputable fact, not a question of policy or interpretation.

The West Bank is disputed territory: it is territory for which Israel has historic and legal claims based on League of Nations resolutions endorsed by the US government in the 1920s and confirmed in Article 80 of the UN Charter. The most recent sovereigns before the West Bank came into dispute were the British Mandate from the League of Nations to promote a Jewish national home (1922-48) and the Ottoman Empire (1517-1917).

Individual Palestinians certainly own much land in the disputed area, just as they own land in Israel, in the US, and elsewhere. But ownership of land by individual Palestinians does not make it Palestinian territory, either in Nablus or in New York.

Palestinian national rights to the land do not come from international law, but from a principle that has become widely accepted over the last century: that the people who live in an area should govern it. But this principle is not automatic and self-executing. Implementing it presents difficulties that require exceptions (or else east Boston would have become part of Ireland). Who the majority is in an area depends on how the borders are drawn. For example, Israelis are the great majority of the population of Area C in the West Bank – a Jewish majority that was not created by removing Arabs.

The Falsehoods about “Palestinian Refugees”
The second most important part of a new truth-telling strategy would be to expose how the Arabs have abused what they call the “Palestinian refugees” in order to maintain them as a weapon for destroying Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

The politely accepted story in diplomatic circles is that there are nearly 5 million “Palestinian refugees” from 1948, more than a million still living in UNRWA “refugee camps” because Israel refuses to let them return home despite the “right of return” granted them by the UN General Assembly.

The reality is that only some 50,000 of the “Palestinian refugees” are refugees as the world defines the term. The others are descendants of refugees who have died. The Palestinian leadership and the Arab states have prevented these descendants, who never lived in Israel, from settling and living normal lives in any Arab state (except Jordan).

Furthermore, UNGA Resolution 194 did not, in fact or in law, grant the right of return to all refugees, and would have had no authority to do so even if it had tried.

It is widely recognized in private that the Arab insistence on the “right of return” does not come from concern over the wellbeing of the “refugees,” who have not been given any choice about their unfortunate status. The miseries imposed on them for three generations are the result of the Arab world’s decision to prevent their resettlement in the hope that someday, Israel will be forced to take in so many “refugees” that it cannot continue to be both Jewish and democratic.

The false diplomatic story with which the US has been playing along for generations is that the Arab position on the “right of return” is a plausible negotiating position that might prevail in the final stage of peace talks. The issue should not yet be addressed, so the thinking goes, because it is so hard to resolve. The truth, which is widely understood in the diplomatic community although no country will admit it publicly, is that the “refugees” do not have any real legal “right of return,” and Israel cannot allow them to move to its territory if it is to survive. It is well understood that the “right of return” is a weapon to destroy Israel, not a normal negotiating demand that can be compromised.

A truth-telling strategy would declare that peace depends on finally settling the “refugees,” and that it is needless cruelty to keep them in refugee camps and without normal citizens’ rights any longer.

The US should start the process of closing down UNRWA, the UN agency that has made it possible to conceal the truth about Palestinian “refugees.” And it should be made clear to the Palestinians that they will never get international support for the notion of forcing Israel to take in millions of Palestinians.

It should be noted that the Israeli government has favored continued support for UNRWA. This is one of a number of instances where the government of Israel has chosen to appease international opinion rather than use the truth to defy it. It is time for Israel too to move away from such appeasement, which has not worked.

The more sophisticated diplomatic discussion of how peace might be negotiated asserts that the “refugee” issue does not prevent peace, because the Palestinian leadership already understands that no more than a token fraction of refugees will ever be allowed to move to Israel. The “refugees” will have to be satisfied with apologies and compensation – a premise widely acknowledged but never uttered out loud.

Diplomats around the world, particularly in the US, privately understand that Israel cannot and should never be forced to take in millions of “Palestinian refugees.” But no one says so officially, or tells that to the Palestinians. A truth-telling strategy would hold that it is time to say openly what everyone knows to be true.

Telling the truth that there is no “right of return” leaves open the question of compensation for Palestinian refugees from Israel and for Jewish refugees from the Arab countries. This does not have to be an obstacle to peace. It is indisputable that the creation of Israel led to at least as many Jewish refugees from Arab countries as Palestinian refugees from Israel. And the Jewish refugees, who were all resettled without international help (mostly in Israel), were forced to leave behind more assets than did the Palestinian refugees.

False “Even-Handedness” About Jerusalem
A much less important, but highly symbolic, piece of American truth-telling will be moving the US embassy in Israel to the country’s capital, Jerusalem. The US can further increase its truth-telling by allowing the passports of American citizens born in Jerusalem to record the fact that they were born in Israel. At present, Washington is unwilling to allow this truth to appear in American passports.

Because the US has been willing to ignore these truths for so long, there will be great Arab resistance to their being stated in public. The fiercer their protests, the more the Arabs will demonstrate the cost of having avoided truth-telling for so long. In the long run, a recognition that the US has a commitment to the truth will reduce the harm done by violent protests. Conversely, a policy of avoiding the truth in deference to threatened violence will lead to more such violence – or to US subservience to the rioters.

Jerusalem is a good example of the biased “even-handedness” that has long characterized the US stance. Official statements always refer to Jerusalem as sacred to both sides – sometimes adding that it is sacred to Christians as well – and typically imply that a fair solution will require equal treatment for Israel and the Palestinians on Jerusalem. But in reality, there is very little symmetry between the Israeli and Palestinian connections to Jerusalem.

The al-Aqsa Mosque, which is located in Jerusalem, has significance for the religion of Islam (although its origins are controversial) – but it is in no way central. The city of Jerusalem is not mentioned even once in the Koran, nor in regular Muslim prayers. On the other hand, Jerusalem is a central feature of the Jewish religion and of daily Jewish prayer and identity. The climax of every Jewish wedding ceremony is when the groom breaks a glass to symbolize the exile from Jerusalem and repeats a quotation from Psalm 137: “If I forget you, o Jerusalem, let my right hand wither.”

Jewish and Muslim performance in ruling Jerusalem since 1948 has also been very different. Under Israeli rule over Jerusalem (West Jerusalem for 19 years and the entire city for 50 years), there has been freedom of religion and protection of the holy sites of all religions. During the 19 years of Jordanian rule over East Jerusalem, Jews were not allowed entry even to the Jewish Quarter, and Jewish religious sites were destroyed.

The religion of Islam takes no notice of Jerusalem as a city. Muslims have expressed interest in Jerusalem only when it was ruled by non-Muslims. For over a thousand years of Muslim rule over Jerusalem, it was never made into the capital of any part of the Muslim empire, not even the local district. From 1948 to 1967, when it was ruled by Jordan, Jerusalem was treated as inferior to Amman. By contrast, the city of Jerusalem has always been a major concern of the Jewish religion and of Jewish identity, including throughout the nearly 2,000 years during which it was in the hands of others. Israel cannot survive as a Jewish state without Jerusalem as its capital.

Israeli and Palestinian interests in the future of Jerusalem are not at all symmetrical. Israel needs Jerusalem to continue to be a vibrant working city. The Palestinians, by contrast, would make an important gain in their effort to destroy Israel if they achieved new arrangements for Jerusalem that allowed its health as a city to be undermined by violent conflict.

To follow an even-handed truth-telling strategy about Jerusalem, the US should state that a fair disposition of the city will acknowledge it as the capital of Israel, protect the religious concerns of all religions, and assure that the city’s health will not be jeopardized by internal conflict. The Palestinian interest in having Jerusalem as the capital of a new Palestinian state should be satisfied in a way that is consistent with these three values.

The False Assertion that the Palestinians are Ready to Make Peace with Israel
A US truth-telling strategy would also address the question of whether the Palestinian community and leadership are in fact willing to make peace with Israel. While there cannot be any indisputable truth about such a hypothetical and complex question, there is evidence that can be examined in order to respectfully try to understand the point of view of the Palestinians.

A search for truth would ask why the Palestinian leadership (both intellectual and political) takes such pains to falsely deny the ancient Jewish presence in the land. It must be unpleasant and difficult for informed Palestinians to tell such obvious falsehoods that there never was a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem (from which Christ could chase the money-changers), or that Jews did not rule the land for centuries before most of them were exiled by the Romans 2,000 years ago. This denial of history is not part of the religion of Islam; it is a recent Palestinian invention. Older Muslim sources explain that the Dome of the Rock was built on the Temple Mount because it was the site of the Jewish Temple. One of the traditional Arab names for the Mount is Bayt al-Maqdis (The Temple).

One plausible explanation why the Palestinian leadership is so insistent on such an extreme denial of reality is that if the Palestinian people knew the truth, they might be more willing to accept Israel on part of the land. This suggests that it might be constructive for the US to remind the Palestinians that according to Islamic tradition, the Temple Mount was built by Jews as the site of the Jewish Temple. A public airing of the fact that there is no doubt that there were ancient Jewish kingdoms in the land a thousand years before Islam might increase the readiness of the Palestinian people to make peace with the Jewish people, who share their connection to the holy land.

Persistent US truth-telling would so undermine the Palestinian leadership’s efforts to deny basic historical truths that they would not be able to continue without embarrassing themselves before their own people. It would show the Palestinians that the US, and presumably other democracies, are not prepared to accept blatant falsehoods as justification to force Israel to accept a Palestinian victory. This would undermine one of the major Palestinian reasons for thinking they might still be able to destroy Israel: their hope that it is not too late to remove Israel from the land completely. That Palestinian hope is the fundamental obstacle to peace.

When Did the Palestinians Have an Internal Dispute about Making Peace with Israel?
If we are to gain a truthful answer to the question whether the Palestinians are now willing to make peace with Israel, we must also ask the following question: If the Palestinian leadership and public are now willing to make peace with Israel, when did they change? And what was the political process that produced the change?

Since before the establishment of Israel, despite the deep desire of many Palestinians for peace, the Palestinian community and its leadership were determined not to accept a Jewish state on any terms and were committed to struggle to destroy it until it was removed from land that had once been Muslim-ruled. Whatever some Palestinians might have thought or said in private or in English, any suggestion of a basis for accepting Israel or of allowing the “refugees” to be settled outside Israel was taboo in Arabic public discourse for many years.
This is a statement of fact, not an accusation. It could be disproved if one could point to Arabic public statements to the effect that it is necessary to end the struggle to destroy Israel, or that a major share of the “refugees” might not be allowed to enter Israel. There is no evidence of such statements. Nor can one find many Palestinian political voices who say such things in Arabic in public. The Palestinian political discourse is available translated into in English on MEMRI.

Before there can be any major change in Palestinian policy, there will have to be a sharp public debate among Palestinians. Certainly there would be strong voices initially rejecting any willingness to give up the war to destroy Israel or to settle the “refugees” outside of Israel. This debate would be visible in public channels, and it would be possible to see which side was eventually forced to retreat.

There has been no such debate. Palestinian discourse still maintains the taboo against suggesting it is necessary or desirable to give up the war against Israel on any terms. Nor is it acceptable to discuss the possibility of some “refugees” not being allowed to move to Israel.
A truth-telling US strategy would not continue to assume that peace can be negotiated with the Palestinians if Israel makes appropriate concessions. Truth-telling is consistent with urging negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, but not from the position that the success of those negotiations will depend on what Israel does. A truth-telling strategy would recognize that agreement on peace can only happen after Palestinians have public debates about “refugees” and about accepting Israel.

Why the US Should Move Toward a Truth-Telling Strategy
A large edifice built on falsehood has come to define the diplomatic and policy environment of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This structure of unreality has failed to produce useful results. Perhaps, therefore, the new US president, who campaigned on making significant changes to US policy, should adopt a new strategy of truth-telling, which might lead to better results.
International pressure is one of the main weapons with which the Palestinians hope to destroy Israel. They will not give up that goal until it has become clear that there is no way it can succeed. Demonstrating that the world will no longer pretend to believe Palestinian falsehoods might lead more Palestinians to see that they have no chance of eliminating Israel. They might then seek the benefits of peace.

Furthermore, forcing Palestinians to acknowledge Israel’s historical and moral claim to the land would provide them with an honorable basis for compromise with Israel. If Israel were a stranger to the land, simply a colonial power taking Arab land by force, as the Palestinians falsely argue, it would be cowardly for them to yield.

When the American and European democracies accept Palestinian falsehoods, it creates a disincentive for the Palestinians and their supporters to face the realities of their situation. But these realities have to be the basis of any resolution of the conflict. A truth-telling strategy would offer a sound long-term foundation on which peace can eventually be built.

Why Israel Should Move Toward a Truth-Telling Strategy
Even with a new administration that has promised to break with the policies of the past, there may not be much chance that the US will depart radically from its policies of the last 50 years. But whether Washington alters past positions or not, Israel should advocate a truth-telling strategy for the US and the other democracies and pursue that strategy itself.

Israel is now imprisoned by an internationally accepted structure of falsehoods. It is tactically wiser for Israel to argue for truth-telling than to continue to appease the international consensus, for example by explaining why settlements are not the obstacle to peace, or that Israeli security requires that Israel occupy what people think of as “Palestinian land.”
Israel needs to go on the diplomatic offensive. Framing its position as an effort to get recognition for the truth is more likely to get its story heard than simply making demands and claims. And criticisms of the Palestinians that Israel needs to make to change the diplomatic consensus will be more effective if they are made as part of a broader strategy of urging democracies to face the truths about the conflict.

It is politically difficult for the US or other countries to take positions that are more “pro-Israel” than the positions of the Israeli government. If Israel would like other states to move toward more truth-telling about the conflict, it needs to stop holding back from presenting its own case out of fear that criticism of the Palestinians and assertions of Israeli rightful claims would seem to conflict with negotiations for peace.

It is notable that the US is thought to be biased in favor of Israel even though it does not stand for the truths essential to Israel’s position. Despite its longstanding alliance with Israel, the US under many presidents has allowed Israel to be forced to operate according to the international structure of falsehood that now dominates Israel’s diplomatic position. This policy should be replaced by a truth-telling strategy.

Briefly, some of the main truths that the US has been denying or ignoring, and that a truth-telling strategy should make prominent in the international discussion, are:
  • Although there are good reasons why there should eventually be “Palestinian territory,” there is not now, and never has been, any such thing. No territory was “taken from” the Palestinians; nor can any territory be “given back” to them. They have always lived in territory ruled by others.
  • West Jerusalem is located in Israel and is the capital of Israel. The Palestinian and Israeli connections to Jerusalem are neither equal nor symmetrical. Jerusalem is demonstrably more important to Israel than it is to the Palestinians.
  • The Jewish people lived in and ruled most of the area of Israel in ancient times. Israelis did not come to the land as European colonialists; they came as a people returning to its homeland. Israel’s rule over the land is not based only on its military strength; it has historical, legal, and moral claims.
  • The Jewish international legal right to settle in the land from the Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea was established by the League of Nations’ Mandate in 1922, in recognition of the Jewish People’s millenarian attachment to the Land of Israel. It is not based on Jewish suffering in the Holocaust.
  • The claim of a “right of return” for Palestinian “refugees” is not a humanitarian effort to provide help or justice to those unfortunate individuals, who are not truly refugees. It is an Arab weapon intended to destroy Israel via demographic subversion. And it is not a valid legal claim. Peace between Israel and the Palestinians requires resettling the “refugees” outside of Israel and ending UNRWA’s mandate. (While this truth is not indisputable, it is the understanding held by independent and informed people, most of whom do not publicly say what they personally believe.)
  • It is not an established truth that the Palestinian leadership and community have decided to give up the goal of destroying Israel and are ready to make a peace that accepts Israel if Israel makes appropriate concessions. The evidence for and against this generally accepted assumption needs to be examined. Much of it indicates that the Palestinian community is not willing to make peace with Israel on any terms.
The US should be more genuinely even-handed between Israel and the Palestinians than it has been in the past. It could advance the cause of peace by telling the truth. It is not even-handed for the US to let one side’s systematic falsehoods dominate the diplomatic discussion, when a truth-telling strategy could make the policy debate more realistic and improve the long-term prospects for peace.

Dr. Max Singer, a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, is co-founder of the Washington-based Hudson Institute.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

New challenges from Israel’s east and north

Even if Israel and the West prop up the carcass of a failed Jordanian monarchy, how long can it last, as it will appear to be another colonialist land grab?
With the emergence of Iranian hegemony from Afghanistan to Beirut, Israel’s security and intelligence establishment is watching not only threats from Gaza and Lebanon, but also other areas of potential instability, including locations that have been quiet for years; the Golan Heights and Jordan.

The rise of Iran and the collapse of Syria have unnerved Sunni and Druse populations across the region, including those in Jordan and the Golan. They know that the United States and international bodies have acquiesced in the greatest ethnic cleansing of the 21st century, the removal of hundreds of thousands of Sunnis from Syria and Iraq. /6943/JPost_2017/Desktop/Special_ONLY/Article_In_Read_Outstream_TOP

As Hanin Ghaddar Friedmann of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy wrote, “As a result of these efforts, a corridor linking Qalamoun to Damascus, Homs, and an Alawite enclave is almost Sunni-free...

this gives Hezbollah safe access to the Golan Heights, potentially allowing the group to open another front against Israel... The result will be an endless war in a region that is already fragile.”

Just as precarious and uncertain is the future of Jordan.

In desperation for answers beyond the mantra of an elusive two-state solution, experts have looked toward Jordan as a stabilizing pro-Western presence amid a sea of radical Shi’ite and Sunni jihadists. Some believe that a PA-Jordanian confederation is the best alternative.

But how stable is Jordan? Jordan is a very poor country with a radicalized anti-Israel Palestinian majority.

The nation has been inundated with refugees, first from the war in Iraq and most recently the millions fleeing a collapsing Syria. There are nearly 1.5 million refugees scattered throughout the country competing with Jordanians for jobs.

The recent Kerak attacks targeting Jordan’s essential tourist sector highlighted the growing radicalization of Sunni radicals within Jordan. Youth unemployment is near 40%, further adding fuel to radicalization.

Jordan is vulnerable from both within and from without. The Hashemite monarchy, which hails from the Hejaz, is not native to the area. Palestinians, who control the economy but not the government, demographically overwhelm the ruling monarchy’s Beduin brethren. The Muslim Brotherhood has a strong presence in Jordan and over the years has bred many Sunni jihadists who have joined Islamic State or were leaders of al-Qaida.

From the outside Jordan is facing ISIS-linked militants from Iraq and Syria, Hamas in the future from the West Bank, and Iranian-controlled Shi’ite armies to its east and north.

Israel’s next war might not be limited to attacks from Gaza or Lebanon, but could also come from the old front lines of the Golan or Jordan. The 40 years of quiet in the north during the tenure of Assad the father are long over. But is the nearly 50 years of quiet along the Jordanian frontier, that began after the Black September, 1970 struggle between Yasser Arafat and the Hashemites, endangered by instability within the Hashemite regime? Jordan’s greatest threat may be pressure from the do-gooding West encouraging elections in the Palestinian West Bank. Any election now will lead to a Hamas victory, and how long before a Hamas-controlled West Bank would direct its attention to undermining Jordan and encouraging its Palestinian populace to mutiny? As Reuel Marc Gerecht wrote in The Weekly Standard, “Not long ago, I asked a Fatah official how long he thought the Palestinian Authority could survive if Israel stopped supporting its security apparatus.” The answer was, “We could probably last two [months].”

Which means that if there is a PA-Jordanian federation, which falls in some kind of coup or civil war analogous to recent events in Syria, both the West Bank and Jordan could fall under the sway of radical Islamists, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, or worse.

To Israel’s north and east, groups ranging from Sunni jihadist Al Nusra to Shi’ite Iranian-controlled Hezbollah, both eye control of the Syrian Golan and desire to reconquer the Israeli Golan.

Conventional thought is that Israel’s next war will come from the north (Lebanon), where hundreds of thousands of missiles can rain on a population that is still not prepared for the carnage, or may like clockwork erupt from the Hamas Islamists.

The Golan may be particularly vulnerable for the first time in a generation due to the presence of the joint armies of the Shi’ite militias from Iraq, Hezbollah, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Syria, all on the doorstep of the Israeli Golan and Jordan.

Attacks on the Israeli Golan from what is left of Syria could be in the form of a long war of attrition, much like the repeated attacks from Gaza over the years, or like the war of attrition on the Suez after the Six Day War. Even if the next war comes from Lebanon, don’t be surprised to see the Golan as a new theater of war, creating a third front.

But it is a Jordanian front which poses the most dangerous challenge. America and Israel have pledged never to let the Jordanian monarchy fall, but it is built on an illegitimate foundation. Add to that a Palestinian majority even more anti-Israel than West Bank Palestinians, the destabilization by millions of poor radicalized refugees from war-torn Iraq and Syria, and Jordan starts looking a lot like pre-2011 Syria.

Even if Israel and the West prop up the carcass of a failed Jordanian monarchy, how long can it last, as it will appear to be another colonialist land grab? Some or none of this may happen, but what is certain is that Israel’s regional vulnerabilities are increasing.

The $38 billion MOU between America to Israel was mainly to compensate Israel for the Obama created disaster of the Iran deal.

It did not address the Obama-created chaos on Israel’s doorstep in Syria, Lebanon, or potentially Jordan, which will require billions more in aid to help stabilize America’s indispensable ally in the region.

What will happen? Who knows. All contingencies must be considered. But what is sure with Iranian ascendancy is that there will be an unpredictable radical Sunni response throughout the Levant.

The author is the director of MEPIN™. He regularly briefs members of Congress, their foreign policy advisers, members of the Knesset and journalists. He regularly briefs Congress on issues related to the Middle East.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Former Iranian Official, Pro-Tehran Lobbyist Hosted at Obama White House Dozens of Times
Iran backers met more than 30 times with senior Obama admin official
Adam Kredo   January 23, 2017 

Two high-level Iranian government backers, including a former Islamic Republic official and another accused of lobbying on Tehran’s behalf, were hosted at the Obama White House for more than 30 meetings with top officials at key junctures in the former administration’s contested diplomacy with Iran, according to White House visitor logs that provide a window into the former administration’s outreach to leading pro-Iran advocates.

Seyed Mousavian, a former Iranian diplomat and head of its national security council, was hosted at the White House at least three times, while Trita Parsi, a pro-Iran advocate long accused of hiding his ties to the Iranian government, met with Obama administration officials some 33 times, according to recently updated visitor logs.

Sources familiar with the nature of the meetings told the Washington Free Beacon that both Parsi and Mousavian helped the White House craft its pro-Iran messaging and talking points that helped lead to the nuclear agreement with Iran. These efforts were part of a larger pro-Iran deal “echo chamber” led by senior Obama administration officials who were tasked with misleading Congress about the nature of the deal.

Mousavian, who also served as Iran’s spokesperson during negotiations with the international community on the Iran deal, visited with White House National Security Council official Robert Malley, who advised the former president about the Middle East and the Islamic State terror group.

“Mousavian was Iran’s ambassador to Germany back in the 1990s, when that embassy was the central node of Iran’s European terror network and those in Germany were murdering dissidents in Berlin,” one veteran Iran analyst who frequently works with Congress on the issue told the Free Beacon. “Later he came to the U.S., where he’s being paid for with tens of thousands of dollars from the Ploughshares Fund, which funded the Ben Rhodes echo chamber.”

“In his writings and speeches [Mousavian] repeats the echo chamber talking points by shilling for the Iran deal, talking up fake Iranian moderation, and spinning conspiracy theories about Israelis and Arabs,” the source added. “No wonder White House officials found time for him.”

Parsi, head of the National Iranian American Council, an outfit tied to the Obama White House that helped spearhead a pro-Iran narrative, met with several senior Obama administration officials during dozens of visits to the White House, the logs show.

This included private, one-on-one meetings with Obama adviser Ben Rhodes, who helmed what he described as the White House’s pro-Iran deal “echo chamber,” as well as meetings with Malley and Colin Kahl, national security adviser to former Vice President Joe Biden. Parsi also met with the White House NSC’s director for Iran, its senior director, legislative liaisons, and public engagement officials, according to sources familiar with the nature of these meetings.

In one instance, Parsi was signed into the White House by Solomon Tarlin, a West Wing intern and supporter of the Middle East advocacy group J Street.
Parsi expressed pride in his relationship with the Obama White House, telling the Free Beacon that attacks against his organization by Republicans and opponents of diplomacy of Iran did little to harm his status with the Obama team.

“I am delighted that you are highlighting my working relationship with the Obama White House as it demonstrates how all the attacks and false accusations made against my organization utterly failed to harm our credibility in Washington,” Parsi said. “Instead, we enjoyed a strong relationship with the White House that helped ensure that the Iranian nuclear crisis neither led to an Iranian bomb or war with Iran.”

Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon adviser and expert on rogue regimes, told the Free Beacon that the previous administration bent over backward to host pro-Iran advocates.

“Talk about letting the fox into the hen house. Letting the head of an organization whose foreign policy positions are indistinguishable from the Islamic Republic more than 30 times would be analogous to letting the Soviet Union’s chief lobbyist help guide policy during the Cold War,” Rubin said.

“During the Bush administration, Parsi thought nothing of dining with [Former Iranian President] Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and his private emails, released as part of a court-ordered discovery process, show that he lied to the U.S. press and coached Iranian officials in order to weaken sanctions and promote the Islamic Republic,” Rubin said.

Saeed Ghasseminejad, an associate fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and Iran expert, told the Free Beacon that the logs shed light on the close relationship between the Obama team and the pro-Iran community in the United States.

“These logs show the depth of the close relationship between pro-Tehran groups and Obama’s White House,” he said. “Mr. Mousavian’s visit is a red flag. Mr. Mousavian, Iran’s ambassador in Berlin when Iran assassinated many of its critics in Germany, is on the record talking about the necessity of having a powerful Tehran lobby in the United States and publicly admits he is doing public diplomacy to improve the Islamic regime’s image.”

“The fact that such figures or other pro-Tehran groups such as NIAC heavily contributed to Obama’s Iran-policy shows that the new administration should radically change not only Iran-policy but also the Iran-teams in the responsible entities,” Ghasseminejad wrote.

Peter Kohanloo, president of the Iranian American Majority, which opposes the hardline regime in Tehran, said that advocates such as Mousavian and Parsi played a key role in ensuring the Iran deal was inked.

“I would say the fact that the Iranian regime’s top advocate had such a high level of access to the Obama White House tells you everything you need to know about how the nuclear deal was made and why President Trump rightfully called it a bad deal,” Kohanloo said. “The new administration should immediately rethink its approach to the Iranian threat and discard the policies of the past.”

Mousavian did not immediately respond to Free Beacon requests for comment.

Friday, January 20, 2017

How Obama's CIA manipulated the media

The CIA and its media allies have thrown everything but the proverbial kitchen sink at President Donald J. Trump. Media bias, anonymous sources, and intelligence "garbage" have been on display. But the 25-page Intelligence Community report on alleged Russian hacking activities deserves special consideration, since a significant part of it relied on analysts hard at work watching broadcasts of Russia Today (RT) television. You wouldn't know it by reading the report, but RT has historically been a mouthpiece of "progressives" favorable to the Democratic Party. Indeed, the Obama administration saw RT in the past as part of the "progressive" media organizations supporting left-wing causes.

Not only that, but RT was useful in disrupting the 2012 Republican presidential primary. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) dismissed my well-documented 2012 complaint about RT's open support for libertarian Ron Paul and his pro-Russia views. We cited evidence that RT was funded by the Kremlin and prohibited under law from intervening in U.S. elections. The FEC dismissed the complaint, saying RT was a legitimate press entity and a U.S. corporation with First Amendment rights.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which supposedly monitors extremists, found nothing objectionable about RT when its own "Intelligence Report" Editor Mark Potok appeared on the April 26, 2010 edition of Russia Today's "CrossTalk" program to discuss the rise of "right-wing" groups and so-called "Christian militias." That was at a time when RT was seen as an important "progressive" outlet.

The Obama administration's official concern about RT and other Russian activities came late, after years of inaction on complaints from Accuracy in Media and others about RT propaganda activities. The Russians suddenly became scapegoats for the loss of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. This new-found interest in the influence of the channel was a tip-off that the left-wing complaints about RT echoed in the Intelligence Community report are not to be taken seriously.

What should be cause for concern are the agents of influence in the media who disguise their CIA contacts as anonymous sources and were part of an intelligence community (IC) effort to discredit President Trump.

Who was Putin's Candidate?

Looking at the election objectively, it is possible to say that Russian leader Vladimir Putin may have had a personal vendetta against the former U.S. secretary of state for some reason, stemming from allegations of U.S. meddling in Russian internal affairs. On the other hand, Putin may have preferred that Clinton become the U.S. president because her failed Russian "reset" had facilitated Russian military intervention in Ukraine and Syria, and he believed he could continue to take advantage of her.

In addition to the expansion under the Russian reset, the Russians obtained favored nation trading status under President Obama, giving them access to U.S. capital, and New START, a nuclear weapons agreement giving Moscow a strategic advantage.

Historically, the Russians have always found the Democrats to be friendlier to their global ambitions. Professor Paul Kengor broke a story on how "the liberals' lover-boy," Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), had "reached out to Victor Chebrikov at the KGB and Yuri Andropov at the Kremlin" to work against President Ronald Reagan.

One FBI memorandum examined "contacts between representatives of the Soviet Union and members of staff personnel of the United States Congress," and listed several senators, including Ted Kennedy and George McGovern of South Dakota, the Democratic presidential candidate in 1972. Another was Walter Mondale of Minnesota, President Jimmy Carter's vice president, who ran against President Reagan in 1984.

Our anti-Trump media accepted the January 6 report, "Declassified Intelligence Community Assessment of Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections," because it was designed to convey the impression that Trump was favored by the Russians.

Such a charge was welcomed by the liberal media, in particular because it allowed them to divert attention away from the substance of the WikiLeaks revelations that showed how major journalists worked hand-in-glove with Hillary Clinton-for-president staffers. These disclosures were in emails hacked from the account of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and the Democratic National Committee. Yet, the IC report says that WikiLeaks, an alleged Russian agent, disseminated truthful information. "Disclosures through WikiLeaks did not contain any evident forgeries," the report says.

This is quite a turnaround for the Russians. In the past the Russians would alter or forge documents to make people look bad. This time, the Russians revealed the truth. For this reason, AIM published the article, "Thank you Vladimir Putin." Of course, the Russians do not provide accurate and truthful information to their own people and they conduct propaganda and disinformation campaigns targeting foreign audiences. Their alleged illegal hacking into the private accounts of Americans cannot be justified. But Podesta and other Democrats can be criticized for failing to safeguard their own information and virtually inviting foreign hacking.

Russian intentions in allegedly providing the emails to WikiLeaks are a subject worthy of attention. But the conclusion that the Russians favored Trump over Clinton cannot be sustained by the evidence in the report. The IC report fails miserably in articulating how the Russians use dialectical maneuvers in playing both sides of the political street in the U.S.

RT's Intervention in 2012

One of the glaring omissions in the report on Russian interference in "recent elections" is the failure to address the evidence that RT television was giving enormously favorable coverage in the 2012 presidential campaign to then-Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), a libertarian with pro-Russia views on foreign policy. He ran in the Republican presidential primary.

One RT show featured libertarian host Adam Kokesh endorsing Paul and highlighting a "money bomb" fundraising campaign for him. Some political observers at the time believed that Paul's campaign had the potential to undermine the Republican Party as it went into the 2012 campaign, and thereby help guarantee Obama's re-election.

Of course, Obama won that election, after dismissing his Republican opponent Mitt Romney's claim that Russia was a geopolitical threat to the United States. Obama had been caught on an open mic before the election promising to be "flexible" in changing his positions to benefit Russia. These comments provide more evidence that Obama was never the anti-Russian figure he postured as in the final days of his second term.

In understanding Russian motives and intentions, seven pages of the new IC report are devoted to RT television being a front for the Russian government. We've published dozens of stories over the years about RT's service to the Moscow regime. So why didn't the Obama Justice Department act on TV producer Jerry Kenney's complaint that RT should register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) and be labeled as foreign propaganda? That's what the law requires.

This wasn't the only documented case of Obama administration inaction on the Russian threat at that time. Kenney had alleged violations of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules that had given foreign broadcasters such as RT access to taxpayer-funded public television stations. The FCC dropped the complaint when the TV stations amended their contract with MHz Networks, the distributor of RT, to allow the station to preempt the foreign programming.

The evidence is clear: Obama's various federal agencies, including the Department of Justice, the FCC and the FEC, refused to take any direct action against RT over the years when it was engaging in anti-Republican activities and supporting the progressive movement. But when they saw they could use RT as a weapon against Trump, they suddenly became concerned about foreign interference in the U.S. political process.

RT Backed Bernie

Although the IC report insists that the Russians had a "preference" for Donald J. Trump for president, we noted back in August of 2015 that RT's Thom Hartmann, a leading American progressive, was backing "Bolshevik Bernie" Sanders for president. In 2016 Sanders appeared on RT with new RT hire, Ed Schultz, formerly of MSNBC.

Yet the intelligence community report makes no mention of RT programs backing Sanders, whose Russian connections included visiting the Soviet Union on his honeymoon. Sanders was a fellow traveler of the Moscow-controlled U.S. Peace Council.

The focus on Trump runs counter to the stated purpose of the report and reflects the political bias therein. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) says that "On December 9, 2016, President Barack Obama directed the Intelligence Community to conduct a full review and produce a comprehensive intelligence report assessing Russian activities and intentions in recent U.S. elections." (emphasis added). Yet, nothing is said about RT's involvement in the 2012 contest that Obama won.

The U.S. IC is described as "a coalition of 17 agencies and organizations, including the ODNI," but only three were involved in the report. They were the CIA, FBI and NSA. It is generally believed that CIA Director John Brennan was the guiding force behind the Obama administration effort to blame the Russians for Trump's election victory. Former CIA officials Michael Morell, Michael Hayden and Philip Mudd had all denounced Trump. Former CIA operations officer Evan McMullin even ran against Trump as an independent presidential candidate.

It certainly looks as if the CIA interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Perhaps blaming the Russians was an attempt to get the attention off the agency.

Brennan was accused of converting to Islam when he was stationed in Saudi Arabia. His CIA under Obama's orders directed the shipment of arms to jihadist groups in the Middle East. At a congressional panel on diversity in hiring, he admitted voting Communist when he was in college.

His focus at the agency has been on hiring people with "diverse" backgrounds, such as transgenders, and he even signed a policy document on a "Diversity and Inclusion Strategy" for the years 2016 to 2019, beyond his tenure as director.

Rather than go down in history with a reputation for defending America, The Wall Street Journal reports that Brennan "would prefer his legacy be the way he fought to nurture a workforce that reflected America's diversity." The Journal added, "During his tenure he has put particular emphasis on promoting the interests of gay, lesbian, and transgender officers. He was the first CIA director to attend an annual social gathering of LGBTQ employees and has been known to wear a rainbow lanyard around the office as a symbol of solidarity."

It looks like the focus on "diversity" in hiring has taken precedence over getting the facts right about foreign threats. Indeed, some observers, such as former FBI agent John Guandolo, have suggested that President Trump should abolish and replace the CIA with a new organization. "In 15 years they haven't gotten a strategic analysis of the threat right – yet," he told me in a recent interview.

Partners in Crime

The CIA will have to answer to its new director, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), Trump's pick to run the agency.

But the media have a lot to answer for as well. If WikiLeaks has suddenly became a Russian front or conduit, why are American news organizations such as The New York Times and The Washington Post still included among the "partners" with WikiLeaks in distributing its information? Other partners include the British Guardian, The Intercept, The Nation, McClatchy, The Wall Street Journal, and, of course, RT.

If WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is a Russian agent, why did major U.S. media organizations partner with him? Why did they not investigate him at that time? One of my groups did so, publishing the report, "Julian Assange: Whistleblower or Spy for Moscow?" At that time, Assange was considered a courageous whistleblower by the liberal press. They hailed WikiLeaks for releasing the classified documents that were stolen by Army intelligence analyst Bradley/Chelsea Manning, whose sentence for espionage has been shortened by Obama.

In addition to these issues and questions, some parts of the report lend themselves to a far different interpretation of Russian motives in U.S. politics.

For example, the IC report notes that RT ran a story against fracking, a technique that has sparked U.S. oil and gas production. The report says, "RT runs anti-fracking programming, highlighting environmental issues and the impacts on public health. This is likely reflective of the Russian Government's concern about the impact of fracking and US natural gas production on the global energy market and the potential challenges to Gazprom's profitability."

The 2016 Democratic Party platform is highly critical of fracking. So does this mean the Democrats are doing the bidding of Putin? The progressive movement is almost completely against fracking. Does that mean that the progressives are puppets of Putin?

Consider this exchange between Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Director of Intelligence James Clapper:
  • Cotton: There's a widespread assumption, this has been expressed by Secretary Clinton herself since the election, that Vladimir Putin favored Donald Trump in this election. Donald Trump has proposed to increase our defense budget to accelerate nuclear modernization, to accelerate ballistic missile defenses, and to expand and accelerate oil and gas production which would obviously harm Russia's economy. Hillary Clinton opposed or at least was not as enthusiastic about all those measures. Would each of those put the United States in a stronger strategic position against Russia?
  • Clapper: Currently, anything we do to enhance our military capabilities, absolutely.
  • Cotton: There is some contrary evidence, despite what the media speculates, that perhaps Donald Trump is not the best candidate for Russia.
By this objective measure of actual policies, Trump will prove to be more harmful to Russia than Hillary Clinton could ever hope to be.

The report notes that RT ran stories promoting the Occupy Wall Street movement. It says, "RT framed the movement as a fight against 'the ruling class' and described the current US political system as corrupt and dominated by corporations. RT advertising for the documentary featured Occupy movement calls to 'take back' the government. The documentary claimed that the US system cannot be changed democratically, but only through 'revolution.' After the 6 November US presidential election, RT aired a documentary called 'Cultures of Protest,' about active and often violent political resistance."

We had noted RT's favorable coverage of the Occupy movement. Of course, Occupy Wall Street was a left-wing political movement aligned with the progressives and even encouraged by President Obama. So does this mean that Obama was doing the bidding of the Russians?

RT Evades U.S. Law

The IC report explains how RT bypassed American laws such as the Foreign Agents Registration Act "by using a Moscow-based autonomous nonprofit organization to finance its US operations." The report goes on, "According to RT's leadership, this structure was set up to avoid the Foreign Agents Registration Act and to facilitate licensing abroad. In addition, RT rebranded itself in 2008 to deemphasize its Russian origin." Still, the financing for the channel comes from the Russian government, the report says.

So RT is, and has been, a foreign state-funded entity that should be subject to federal oversight from agencies such as the Department of Justice, the FCC, and the FEC. Yet, only now, after Hillary Clinton has lost the presidential election, has the IC been ordered to release a public report on what the Russian channel has been doing in U.S. elections.

The only thing that has changed over the years is that RT is now somehow considered to be a factor in Hillary Clinton's defeat.

"RT hires or makes contractual agreements with Westerners with views that fit its agenda and airs them on RT," the report says. Of course, we've documented this for years. However, RT hosts like Thom Hartmann and Ed Schultz are not Trump supporters or conservatives. They are progressives.

Over the years, the liberal media have treated Hartmann and Schultz as progressive heroes. A Politico article from 2013, "Thom Hartmann: View from the left," didn't even mention his work for RT.

Hartmann claims editorial control over his own show. But since the IC report says RT hires people whose views "fit" their agenda, a quick look at Hartmann's RT website is worthwhile. It suggests that the Russians are interested in issues such as saving Obamacare and how the Trump presidency could bring on an economic crash.

Bashing Conservatives, RT-Style

It seems that RT has suddenly reverted to its anti-conservative style of coverage. Guests on Hartmann's RT program come from the left and right, but mostly from the left. They have recently included:
  • Dr. Trita Parsi, founder and president of the National Iranian American Council
  • Author Max Blumenthal
  • Media analyst and critic Jeff Cohen
  • Terry Tamminen, CEO of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation
  • Chris Lewis of Public Knowledge
  • Alex Lawson of Social Security Works and Valerie Ervin of the Working Families Party
  • Democracy Spring Director Kai Newkirk and Sarah Badawi of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee
Years ago I had the opportunity to ask Hartmann face-to-face about his acceptance of Russian rubles to do his show. He tried to grab my camera to prevent me from taping his response.

If the liberal media are now truly concerned about Russian influence in the U.S. political process, rather than just using the issue as a weapon against Trump, they should take a look at Hartmann and his comrades on RT and review their own "partner" relationship with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.

After this review is complete, they should take another look at the IC report and determine why and how agencies like the CIA became adjuncts of the Democratic Party with a partisan bias against the new Republican president.

Since we know that the media and the Democrats work hand-in-glove, perhaps it's time to investigate the CIA's relationship with the media.

© Cliff Kincaid