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Biden Builds Back Obama’s Middle East

And makes a mockery of his democracy agenda

By Matthew ContinettiNational Review

Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during the release of the “2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices” at the State Department in Washington, D.C., March 30, 2021. (Mandel Ngan/Pool via Reuters)

That didn’t take long. One week after piously and erroneously repudiating the Commission on Unalienable Rights established by his predecessor Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State Antony Blinken revealed the hollow selectivity of this administration’s commitment to human rights and democratic reform.

On April 7, Blinken said he was “pleased to announce” the reinstatement of tens of millions of dollars in aid to the West Bank and Gaza and of some $150 million to support the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). “All assistance will be provided consistent with U.S. law,” Blinken added.

Easier said than done. The Taylor Force Act, signed into law in 2018, withholds aid from the Palestinian Authority until the State Department certifies that the ruling party of the West Bank has terminated payments to family members of terrorists. It hasn’t. That was one reason the Trump administration slashed the aid in the first place. Nor is there evidence that suddenly the Palestinians have curtailed the so-called pay-to-slay schemes that incentivize the murder of civilians and the perpetuation of conflict. On the contrary: They bristle at the idea of changing their corrupt and self-destructive ways.

A second law from 2018, the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act, holds beneficiaries of foreign assistance legally and financially responsible for terrorism committed against U.S. citizens. This notion — that the Palestinian Authority might actually have to pay a price for its incitement to anti-Semitic violence — so terrified the leadership in the West Bank that it sent a letter to the Trump administration in February 2019 renouncing U.S. aid. I must have missed the make-up note postmarked Ramallah.

UNRWA long ago abandoned its original mission for anti-Israel activism. According to Pompeo, there are fewer than 200,000 Palestinian Arabs who remain displaced by the 1948 war. Rather than work to resettle this dwindling population, UNRWA devotes its resources to the delegitimization of Israel and to the perpetuation of a mythic “right of return” that obstructs peace. UNRWA also operates in the Gaza Strip, where its facilities were used by Hamas operatives and other terrorists during the 2014 war with Israel.

“Obviously, there are areas where we would like to see reform,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said at a recent briefing. That’s the understatement of the year. But what hope is there for reform of UNRWA when the Biden administration rewards it for doing nothing?

A conceit of President Joe Biden’s foreign policy is that involvement in corrupt multilateral institutions somehow gives the United States an opportunity to improve them. “By resuming this assistance today, not only do we have that dialogue, but we have a seat at the table,” Price said. “We can help drive UNRWA in the ways that we think it is in our interest and consistent with our values to do.” That was also his argument for rejoining the World Health Organization and the U.N. Human Rights Council. He has little to show for it. The results so far: A propagandistic and misleading investigation into the origins of the coronavirus, and four anti-Israel resolutions. Having a seat at the table doesn’t matter when everyone ignores you.

What was particularly galling about Blinken’s announcement was its disconnect from the nature of Palestinian governance. Here is an administration that says the conflict between democracy and authoritarianism will define the 21st century. Here is an administration that prides itself on its support for human rights. And here is an administration that says it will be able to prevent millions in taxpayer funds from directly benefiting the Palestinian Authority, and thereby breaking U.S. law, by taking into account

the intended primary beneficiary or end user of the assistance; whether the PA is the direct recipient of the assistance, of course; whether the assistance involves payments of Palestinian Authority creditors; the extent of ownership or control the PA exerts over an entity or an individual that is the primary beneficiary or end user of the assistance; and whether the assistance or, in some cases, the services provided directly replace assistance or services that the PA would otherwise provide.

Good luck. The renewed assistance, remember, will be circulated in a polity whose president is in the 16th year of a four-year term, whose official corruption is legendary, whose 2.7 million subjects are policed by no fewer than six internal security forces, and whose entry in the 2020 State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices reads as follows:

reports of unlawful or arbitrary killings, torture, and arbitrary detention by authorities; holding political prisoners and detainees; significant problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious restrictions on free expression, the press, and the internet, including violence, threats of violence, unjustified arrests and prosecutions against journalists, censorship, and site blocking; substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including harassment of nongovernmental organizations; restrictions on political participation, as the Palestinian Authority has not held a national election since 2006; acts of corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for violence against women; violence and threats of violence motivated by anti-Semitism; anti-Semitism in school textbooks; violence and threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex persons; and reports of forced child labor.

The entry for Hamas is no better.

For all of his “transformative” ambitions at home, Biden’s Middle East policy is remarkably backward-looking and uninspired. By denying aid to the Palestinians and UNRWA, the Trump administration recognized that the Israeli–Palestinian peace process had become a counterproductive sideshow, and that U.S. aid wasn’t contributing to the resolution of conflict, but incentivizing it. The more urgent problem is Iran, which is why Trump was able to broker the Abraham Accords between Israel, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan, and Morocco.

Now Biden has pivoted away from the anti-Iran coalition and toward the pro-Iran deal European allies. He’s distanced himself from Israel and moved toward the Palestinians. He’s rebuked the Saudis and coaxed the Houthis. He is trying to reconstruct, ever so slowly, Barack Obama’s Middle East. But he hasn’t really explained why this time will be different. After all: When you reward bad behavior, you get more of it. And that is exactly what Biden is doing.


ISRAEL IS CORRECT TO BAR OMAR AND TLAIB

Why ban BDS supporters?

By SHMULEY BOTEACHThe Jerusalem Post

Israel’s decision to ban Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from entering the country is, while controversial, the right one. Yes, America is Israel’s foremost ally and members of Congress, the elected representatives of the American people, must always be respected. 

Like America, Israel is a nation of laws, and the democratically elected government adopted a law in 2017 which prohibits the entry into Israel of any foreigner who makes a “public call for boycotting Israel” or “any area under its control.” This includes proponents of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS).

Why ban BDS supporters?

The answer is that their objective is the destruction of Israel. They make no secret of this goal. As As’ad AbuKhali has said,” “The real aim of BDS is to bring down the state of Israel….That should be stated as an unambiguous goal. There should not be any equivocation on the subject. Justice and freedom for the Palestinians are incompatible with the existence of the state of Israel.”

Who said that Israel is obligated to invite people into the country who seek its destruction?

Since entering Congress just a few months ago, and in the years before, Omar and Tlaib have waged war against Israel and the Jewish people. They have made disgustingly anti-Semitic comments, including accusations that the Jewish people are not loyal to the United States but to Israel; that the Jewish people buy politicians with their money; that Israel hypnotizes the world with its evil actions, and that Israel is an apartheid occupier which must be boycotted.

We can only assume that what Omar and Tlaib would be doing in Israel is simply inciting and inflaming the Palestinian population, or at the very least trying to visit upon Israel the most negative possible media coverage in order to delegitimize the Middle East’s only democracy before the eyes of the world.

Israel does not have to prove its commitment to freedom of speech by allowing foreigners into the country who want to exploit that liberty to propagandize against the state and advocate measures to undermine its democracy. Omar and Tlaib could have asked to travel with the other 40 Democrats who recently visited Israel, but they preferred to go separately to avoid the discomfort of meeting with Israeli leaders and experiencing an Israel that does not comport with their preconceived notions. Unlike their colleagues, they were uninterested in learning about Israel; they prefer to speak from ignorance. The two were clearly out for publicity and hoped to find opportunities to embarrass the Israeli people and their government while highlighting their anti-Israel agenda.

Israel is also not unique in determining who should be allowed to enter the country. Applicants for visas to the United States, for example, are asked several questions about their political views and activities. The USA Patriot Act allows the Secretary of State to bar admission to the United States to “any alien whose entry or proposed activities in the United States the Secretary of State has reasonable grounds to believe would have potentially serious adverse foreign policy consequences for the United States.”

The list of people barred or excluded from the United States includes Irish politician Gerry Adams, British singers Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) and Austrian diplomat Kurt Waldheim. And none of them supported movements advocating the destruction of the United States.

Israel is under constant attack, not just from terrorists, but from boycotters and others who seek to smear Israel in any way they can, via social media, mainstream media, and public relations stunts. Omar and Tlaib have every right to disparage Israel, but they cannot disguise their anti-Semitism by claiming to be merely criticizing the Israeli government. No one is silencing them, but they cannot have it both ways; they cannot promote a movement that denies the Jewish people the right to self-determination in their homeland and then complain when they are not allowed into that home.

If Israel made an exception for two promoters of BDS because they are members of Congress, it would make a mockery of the law passed by Israel’s parliament and its democratic principles. And being a member of Congress does provide license to work to destroy the world’s only Jewish state.


Israel Missile Defenses Saved Thousands of Lives, Israelis and Palestinians Alike

by Peter Huessy

missile defense copyCranky opponents of the Iron Dome Israeli missile defense claim the system doesn’t work. Some in the arms control community have latched on to such criticism to smear missile defense work in general especially that in the United States.

What happened then to the nearly 3000 Hamas rocket warheads that if not intercepted largely landed somewhere in Israel? The same critics say not only did Iron Dome not work, but the Hamas rocket warheads didn’t work either! Continue reading


Missteps in Gaza: Obama’s Misguided Cease-fire

 John Kerry United Nations UN Cease Fireby Dr. Laurie Ann Mylroie

President Obama’s handling of the Gaza conflict marks a sharp break with his attitude toward other Middle East conflicts, as well as the policies of previous U.S. presidents. In contrast to Obama’s lethargic and indifferent response toward such calamities as the Syrian regime’s serial massacres of its own population or threats like the Islamic State’s consolidation of control over large swathes of Iraq and Syria, Obama is exercised about the conflict in Gaza, and he has shocked Israelis across the political spectrum with his demand—made Sunday in a phone conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu—for an “immediate, unconditional, humanitarian” cease-fire. However, a cease-fire for whatever purpose has a determining impact on the military situation, and the cease-fire Obama demanded would have stopped the Israelis from achieving a key objective—the destruction of Hamas’ “terror tunnels.” Continue reading


Amidst the Relentless Powers of Implacable Hatred and Moral Conduct

Israel Mapby Dr. Miklos K. Radvanyi

Once again the Middle East has descended into a vicious circle of simultaneous human tragedies. The essence of this often repeated situation had been the irreconcilable difference between the arbitrary interpretation of the basic rights of the various ethnic and religious communities and their diametrically opposed sense of intolerable injustice. The differences between the two sides, Arabs and Israelis, had always been fundamental. The former had believed that what they had called Palestine had been promised to the Prophet Muhammad by Allah and sealed for eternity by conquest and occupation over fourteen centuries. The Jews had derived their right to the land of Eretz Israel and Zion directly from God over two millennia before Muhammad was even born. Jewish immigration throughout the 20th century and the establishment of the State of Israel had been viewed by the Arabs as illegal occupation of their land, and condemned and fought accordingly. The Jews had invoked history and asserted that they only exercise their God-given right to return to the land of their forefathers. Continue reading


How America Can Help To Stop the War in Gaza

Hamas baby Israel To bring about real peace, drop the false narrative of moral equivalency and focus on the real culprits.

by Liel Leibovitz

Here’s a bit of wisdom that cannot be repeated often enough: Deliberately targeting civilians is a war crime. If you don’t believe me, ask U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who was adamant on this point last year, when Syria’s president Assad, aided by Hamas’ brethren Hezbollah, engaged in the very same tactics we now see coming out of Gaza, albeit with much more devastating results. And if that’s not enough, consider a regime that targets not only the enemy’s civilians but also its own: Appearing on TV the other day, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri waxed poetic about the merits of using men, women, and children as human shields, a heinous tactic that puts every civilian in Gaza in needless risk.

The world has repeatedly—and rightly—asked that Israel take measures to protect the civilian population of Gaza. Israel chooses its targets very carefully, and, knowing that Hamas’ cowardly creeps would have likely stacked every strategic building with armfuls of kids, according to the instructions of its leaders, it takes extraordinary measures to provide ample warning before each strike. These include text messages and calls, leaflets dropped from above, and “knock on the roof” measures, or firing flares to signal an upcoming strike. Continue reading


Saudi Prince: Obama has made a mess of the Mideast

Obama Netanyahu Israel Middle East PeaceA Saudi prince sent a harsh message to President Obama and his administration, saying White House waffling and indecision has compromised the ability of the United States to nail down a peace pact between Israel and the Palestinians.

“We’ve seen several red lines put forward by the president, which went along and became pinkish as time grew, and eventually ended up completely white,” said Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former intelligence head of Saudi Arabia, in The New York Times. “When that kind of assurance comes from a leader of a country like the United States, we expect him to stand by it. There is an issue of confidence.”

Specifically, the prince blasted Mr. Obama for reneging on promises — a habit that’s been shown by recent polls about Obamacare to plague the president with constituents in the United States, too. Continue reading


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