Last week we were cheering on the State Department, that bastion of anti-Israel attitudes in every American administration, for telling the PLO that their mission was to be closed due to their non-engagement in the “peace process” and for their threats to bring Israeli officials before the International Criminial Corut.
As expected the Palestinians huffed and puffed. Unfortunately they blew the State Department down (metaphorically speaking – so far)/ The State Department blinked, and gave in to the Palestinian threats. As Caroline Glick writes, the State Department dropped the ball:
in response to Tillerson’s notification, the PLO lashed out as the US. Abbas and his advisers launched an all-out assault against President Donald Trump and his team of Middle East envoys led by his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and his senior negotiator Jason Greenblatt.
PLO-controlled media outlets published a flood of stories which trafficked in antisemitic conspiracy theories against Trump and his Jewish American advisors. The PLO media renewed its allegations that Kushner, Greenblatt and US Ambassador David Friedman are more loyal to Israel than to the US.
Abbas’s media outlets also escalated their criticism of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE for their focus on combating Iranian aggression. These regimes are selling the Palestinians down the river, the PLO outlets have proclaimed, as Abbas’s flacks have insisted that the PLO will not accept any regional peace.
Relations between Arab states and Israel, the PLO insists, cannot be fostered so long as Israel fails to capitulate to all of the PLO’s demands.
In commentary published at the Gatestone Institute website, Palestinian commentator Bassam Tawil alleges that the Palestinian rejection of the requirements of US law and its assaults against the Trump administration and Sunni Arab states may serve as a pretext for another Palestinian terror campaign against Israel, which will be justified as a response to an American-Israeli-Saudi-Egyptian plot against the Palestinians.
Given that the US is a superpower and the largest state financier of the PA, not to mention the foundation of the PLO’s claim to legitimacy on the world stage, the US might have been expected to respond harshly to the PLO’s threats and slanders. But then, that isn’t the State Department’s way of doing things with the PLO.
Saturday, The Hill online newspaper reported that the State Department had changed its mind. It is no longer interested in following the law. Instead, it has rewritten the law. Now, it’s fine for the PLO to operate in Washington while trampling US law. It just needs to pretend it isn’t doing what it is doing.
According to the State Department spokesman who revealed State’s about face to the media, the PLO mission can continue to operate, but its operations must be “related to achieving a lasting, comprehensive peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.”
And if they aren’t, well, under this new interpretation of the law, the State Department can pretend it hasn’t noticed.
By empowering the PLO to continue to breach US law – with the full expectation of continuing to receive US assistance to the tune of more than $500 million a year – the US has made itself a laughingstock. Neither Hamas nor the PLO will take the US seriously. Any pressure the US attempts to apply toward the PLO to moderate its stand toward Israel will be ignored by Abbas and his cronies in the PLO and Hamas alike.
The Palestinians have taken the Trump administration’s measure. By beating a hasty retreat from its initial decision to stand with the law against the PLO, the State Department has told the PLO that the Trump administration is a paper tiger, at best.
The Trump administration will do nothing against them. Instead, in the face of this contemptuous slap in the face to the US, Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Ramallah next month and have his picture taken with Abbas the “moderate” leader and peace partner.
This then brings us to the second question of how surrendering to PLO threats will influence the US’s regional position. As Tawil reported, Al Quds, a Palestinian paper that reflects the views of Abbas and his associates, blasted the Arab League for focusing on Iran at its most recent foreign ministers’ meeting in Cairo.
For more than a generation, the State Department, and through it US Middle East policy as a whole, have been captivated by the myth that nothing can happen in the Middle East without Israel first capitulating to PLO demands.
By reversing course on closing the PLO mission, and groveling to the threatening PLO, the State Department made a laughingstock of the US and President Trump. The decision to reverse course should itself be reversed, in accordance with US law and in the interest in restoring what it is still possible to restore of US credibility in the Middle East.
There is still a chance for the Untied States to recover its credibility – by moving its embassy to Jerusalem. All it needs is for Donald Trump to refuse to sign the waiver which permits the embassy to remain where it is. Will he refuse to sign and thus move the embassy at last? The media is rife with reports and rumours that Vice President Mike Pence is going to make the fateful announcement on Wednesday – but given the State Department’s record, can we actually rely on this happy event taking place? I’m not so sure. From Arutz Sheva’s account:
Will President Donald Trump fulfill his campaign promise of moving the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as recent reports citing unnamed administration officials claim? Or will the president settle with a symbolic move of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, as other senior sources have claimed?
Last week, a number of unnamed senior US and Israeli officials were cited in reports claiming that the Trump administration is planning on finally implementing 1995 law requiring the executive branch to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital.
Other reports claimed that the White House was not planning an embassy move in the near future, but was poised to declare that it recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
While White House officials publicly refused to verify the claims, officials in Jerusalem have noted the timing of Vice President Mike Pence’s comments at the 70th anniversary of the United States General Assembly vote on Resolution 181, endorsing the establishment of a Jewish state.
The Palestinians, as expected, have reverted to form and are issuing threats in all directions:
Palestinian President-for-life Mahmoud Abbas has called on the leaders of eight Arab and other nations to intervene with Trump to prevent the embassy move. As with the closure of the PLO offices, the Palestinians threatened to abandon the peace process – which is surely the most cynical move ever made given that the only reason the peace process has stalled is because of the refusal of the Palestinians themselves to accept a Jewish presence anywhere in the Middle East:
Abbas “warned categorically that taking such a step would lead to the destruction of the peace process and would bring the region into an uncontrollable situation,” according to his spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeineh.
On Wednesday Abbas ordered his foreign minister to demand the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation hold emergency sessions regarding the possible US measures.
On Friday, a delegation from the Palestinian Authority reportedly met with presidential adviser Jared Kushner to warn that if the White House announces the relocation of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, or if Trump makes remarks acknowledging Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, this would mark the end of the peace process, according to Israeli news reports.
Any such steps “will kill the negotiations,” the PA delegation — which included Majed Faraj and Saeb Erekat, senior officials close to Abbas — told Kushner, Hadashot news reported.
Hamas is still determined to remain relevant (even while begging Fatah to take over the running of the Gaza strip), and has threatened another intifada if the US recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Caroline Glick had plenty to say about this as well in her article “From Amman to Jerusalem“. She starts by reminding us of a diplomatic incident that almost spiralled out of control, which King Abdullah did nothing to quell:
Five months ago, 28 year old Ziv Moyal, an Israeli security officer at Israel’s embassy in Amman, was stabbed in his apartment by a Jordanian assailant, whom he shot and killed.
Moyal also accidentally killed his Jordanian landlord, who was present on the scene.
In the immediate aftermath of the incident, incited by the state-controlled media, the Jordanian public was whipped into an anti-Israel frenzy. In short order, a mob surrounded the embassy, to which Moyal and another 20 Israeli diplomats fled immediately after the shooting.
For 24 hours, those Israeli diplomats, led by Ambassador Einat Schlein were besieged.
Despite the fact that they are barred from doing so under the Vienna Convention, Jordanian authorities demanded to interrogate Moyal. By refusing to enable the diplomats to safely return to Israel until Moyal submitted to questioning, they effectively held Schlein and her colleagues hostage.
Jordan is still playing its duplicitous game:
But Jordan isn’t interested in ending the crisis it deliberately precipitated.
On Thursday, Reuters quoted a Jordanian diplomatic source saying that a new Israeli ambassador “will not be welcome in Jordan until a due legal process takes its course [against Moyal] and justice is served.”
So, unless Israel criminally prosecutes its diplomat who was attacked in his home by a terrorist, Jordan will continue to breach its peace treaty with Israel and bar the Israeli embassy from operating in Amman.
Jordan’s latest round of diplomatic war against Israel took place while Abdullah was in Washington on a “working visit.”
And here is where this story ties in with the State Department, the Trump administration and recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital:
According to the Jordanian media – which he controls – Abdullah is devoting significant time in his meetings with senior administration and Congressional officials to attacking Israel.
Specifically, Abdullah is lobbying against President Donald Trump’s intention to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, in accordance with US law.
According the Times of Jordan, Abdullah told senior US lawmakers that “moving the embassy… could be potentially exploited by terrorists to stoke anger, frustration and desperation in order to spread their ideologies.”
During his visit, Abdullah also met with Pence, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster.
Although Jordanian media reports of those visits did not include information regarding the possible move of the US embassy, it stands to reason that Abdullah made similar points to Pence, Tillerson and McMaster.
It can only be hoped that Abdullah’s warnings were rebuked by his American interlocutors.
Because, if terrorists are motivated to act in the wake of a US decision to move the embassy, Jordan will hold a significant share of the blame.
Glick reveals more of the nasty side of Jordanian politics, including a deep-seated antisemitism (stoked by the media with the encouragement of the elites), which can clearly be seen in the following story:
Last March, for instance, Abdullah rejected the US’s extradition request for Hamas terrorist and mass murderer Ahlam Tamimi, the mastermind of the 2001 Sbarro bombing in Jerusalem.
Fifteen people, including eight children were murdered in the attack. Tamimi selected the Sbarro pizzeria as her target because of the large number of children who frequented the eatery during summer vacation.
She was sentenced to 16 life-in-prison sentences, but was released in Israel’s exchange of Hamas terrorists for captive IDF sergeant Gilad Schalit in 2011. Upon her release, she moved to Amman where Abdullah gave her the red carpet treatment. In her new home, Tamimi hosts a show on Hamas’s television station. She uses her platform to incite terrorism and indoctrinate her viewers to aspire to murder Israelis, as she did.
Several of Tamimi’s victims at Sbarro were American citizens, including 15-year-old Malki Roth and 31-year-old Shoshana Judy Greenbaum.
Greenbaum was five months pregnant when her body was blown apart.By harboring Tamimi, Abdullah tells his subjects they are right to hate Israelis and to work toward Israel’s destruction.
Arnold and Frimet Roth, the parents of Malki Roth who was murdered in that terror attack, have been relentless in following Tamimi’s doings and pulling every string, contact every diplomat and politician possible, in order to have her extradited – all to no avail so far. You can follow their endeavors at their blog This Ongoing War.
Returning to Caroline Glick’s article:
This brings us to the question of Trump’s possible decision to move the US embassy in Israel to Israel’s capital.
By having his media spew a constant diet of genocidal antisemitism, Abdullah is all but guaranteeing that the terrorism he warns of will occur if Trump enforces US law and moves the embassy. So he is not speaking as a worried friend when he tells his American hosts of the dire consequences of moving the embassy. He is threatening them with an outcome for which he will have significant responsibility.
One of the reasons Abdullah feels comfortable making the argument that moving the embassy will provoke terrorism is because that is the argument that has been used successfully to block the transfer of the US embassy to Israel in the past.
But, in October, we received a clear indication that these Chicken Little warnings are untrue.
In October, Trump overruled Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Tillerson and McMaster, and chose not to tell Congress that Iran was in compliance of the nuclear deal the Iranians were breaching. Supporters of the nuclear deal in the administration and outside of it warned that such a move would have a deeply destabilizing impact on the region and endanger the US.
As the past three months have shown, those warnings were entirely wrong.
The world did not explode after Trump rejected the received wisdom of the foreign policy establishment in Washington. Instead, the US’s Sunni-Arab allies have been empowered to join forces to combat Iran. Economically and diplomatically, Iran is far more isolated globally today than it was three months ago.
… if Trump disregards Abdullah’s threats posing as warnings, and disregards the advice of Abdullah’s many friends in Washington, and moves the US embassy to Jerusalem, the sky will not fall. By recognizing the basic fact that Jerusalem is and always will be Israel’s capital, Trump will give himself the ability to develop Middle East policies that are similarly grounded in reality.
Unfortunately, the State Department did not follow through on Trump’s new strategy. They blinked in the face of Palestinian threats of violence, and retracted their threat to close down the PLO offices.
Will they blink again when it comes to moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem? I fear they will but am prepared to be pleasantly surprised.