Is Trump's Mideast policy a paradigm shift?

The president has worked on repairing America’s relationship with Israel and articulating the radical Islamist threat.  These gains may be rendered moot, however, if he endorses the ill-informed State Department report.

Contact Editor
Matthew M. Hausman, J.D.,

Matthew Hausman
Matthew Hausman
INN:MH

Ambassador Nikki Haley has been a breath of fresh air since taking up diplomatic residency at the United Nations.  Unlike her immediate predecessors, Haley has been unapologetic in asserting the role of the United States as a global leader.  Since beginning her tenure at the UN, she has helped lay to rest the Obama policy of “leading from behind” which for eight years served to compromise relationships with US allies and create a power vacuum that facilitated Russian and Chinese aggression, empowered Islamic radicalism, enabled the proliferation of terrorism, and assured the nuclearization of Iran.  In addition, she has supported Israel without qualification and condemned the UN’s pervasive culture of anti-Semitism.  

But is this restatement of priorities to be taken at face value, or does it signal a paradigm shift with respect to Mideast foreign policy?

Many hoped after the Six-Day War in 1967 that Israel could trade land for peace and achieve comity with her Arab neighbors.  However, any overtures were preempted a few months later at the Arab League Summit at Khartoum, which resolved that there would be no peace, no negotiations, and no recognition of Israel.  This consensus was fractured somewhat by the Camp David Treaty between Egypt and Israel, but most Arab-Muslim nations adhered to the “three no’s” until well into the 1990s.  Egyptians, too, have never acknowledged Israel as the ancient Jewish homeland.

The paradigm shifted in 1993 with the Oslo Accords, which effectively validated Palestinian Arab national identity.  Israel thereafter was expected to acknowledge the authenticity of a Palestinian narrative that denied Jewish history and promoted anti-Semitism.  The advent of Oslo gave rise to the slogan “two states for two peoples,” though only one of those peoples had a documented existence and connection to the land since antiquity.  Whereas Jewish nationhood goes back 3,500 years and is corroborated by the historical, archeological and scriptural records, the Palestinian narrative is only about fifty years old and has no similar foundation.  It is a post-modern political designation predicated on revisionism and a repudiation of Jewish history.  Nonetheless, proponents of Oslo sanctified the myth with the expectation that Israel would do the same.  

“Two states for two peoples” became the marching song of every US administration after Oslo, putting pressure on Israel to make unilateral concessions to an entity that continues to support terrorism and incite Jew-hatred.  The Palestinian Authority was represented to be moderate –  and Israel was wrongly regarded as an occupying power, rewriting history and ignoring the influence of extreme Islamic religious doctrine. 

The Palestinian Arabs have attempted to undercut Israel’s legitimacy by erasing her past, and the UN has enthusiastically assisted their efforts to write the Jews out of history.  Within the last year alone, UNESCO denied the Jews’ ancient connection to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, and the Security Council pronounced Israeli “settlements” in Judea and Samaria illegal, although they are built on historically Jewish land and their existence violates no international law.  The dissimulation continued with UNESCO’s recent declaration that Machpelah, the Cave of the Patriarchs, is an endangered “Palestinian heritage site” – despite its Jewish provenance and the fact that Hevron was a Jewish city (one of the “four holy cities”) until the Arab riots of 1929.    

When President Trump and Jared Kushner met with Mahmoud Abbas to discuss prospects for peace, supporters of Israel questioned whether this White House was falling down the same rabbit hole as prior administrations.  These meetings, however, turned out to be a departure from business as usual in their criticism of the PA’s anti-Semitic incitement and funding of terror.  Neither the President nor Kushner came away demanding that Israel stop building on traditional Jewish lands or offer more one-sided concessions.   Instead, Abbas was told to stop making payments to terrorists, a demand consistent with current legislation (Senate Bill 3414, the “Taylor Force Act”) that proposes cutting off US funding if the PA continues paying stipends to terrorist families.  

And in the UN, Ambassador Haley continues to denounce the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic actions of the Security Council and UNESCO.

For the first time since Oslo, Israel is not being pressured by an American president to make unrequited concessions, or unfairly blamed for the Palestinian quagmire.  President Trump seems to understand that: (a) hostility toward Israel constitutes a rejection of Jewish sovereignty anywhere – not just in “disputed territories,” but in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, and throughout the Jewish homeland; and (b) this rejectionism is a matter of doctrine, not negotiating strategy.    

Whereas the Obama administration ignored the Jews’ unbroken connection to their homeland and seemed to embrace the revisionist tale that Israel is a colonial state created as a guilt response to the Holocaust, the Trump White House presumes Jewish historicity and criticizes Palestinian leadership.  This president recognizes that Palestinian rejectionism is dogmatic, and has said he will not impose any solution on Israel.  Moreover, he is not blindly pushing Israel to accept a two-state solution for which there is no historical precedent. 

Perhaps the time has come for Washington to proclaim the two-state solution unworkable and acknowledge that real peace requires a fundamental change in how the Arab-Muslim world regards the Jews.  The White House should also publicly affirm the historical basis of Jewish national claims, and, by extension, Israel’s legitimacy.  

There never was a country called “Palestine,” though there was jihadist conquest in the Land of Israel and subjugation of the Jews, thereafter accorded the status of dhimmis (subjugated) under Sharia.  Hostility to Jewish autonomy did not arise from the competing claims of an ancient indigenous population, but from generations of anti-Jewish degradation in Islamic society. 

The most significant expression of jihadist chauvinism was the usurpation of the Temple Mount – the holiest site in Judaism – claimed to constitute the third holiest site in Islam, despite not being mentioned in the Quran.  Indeed, there is no historical or scriptural support for Muslim claims to Jerusalem or the Temple Mount, appropriated pursuant to the tradition of Islamicizing the sacred places of subjugated peoples.  

The UN has a poor record of safeguarding Jewish landmarks, as exemplified by its failure to prevent the destruction of ancient synagogues and cemeteries during Jordan’s illegal occupation of Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. 

The doctrinal repudiation of Jewish history is not solely the province of Hamas, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah and ISIS, but reflects the ideology of the PA as well.  Abbas demonstrated this several years ago when he said the PA would never recognize a Jewish State and reiterated the “no recognition vote” of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council, which at its fifth convention in 2010 affirmed its “rejection of the so-called Jewish state, or any other formula that could achieve this goal.”  Though the PA claims to be moderate, its rejectionism has the same theological foundation that motivates radical Islamists, who hold that because the Jews were subjugated and their homeland subsumed into “dar al-Islam,” they are forever precluded from reclaiming their sovereignty. 

Barack Obama rewarded PA duplicity by keeping American aid flowing and demanding that Israel freeze construction in Judea and Samaria.  In contrast, Trump’s administration has discussed cutting off funding if the PA continues supporting terrorism, and has refrained from demanding that Israel cease building on Jewish soil.  

What isn’t clear is the administration’s position regarding overtures from other Arab countries.  The Saudis and Sunni states would certainly benefit from Israeli action against Iran’s nuclear program, but that does not guarantee their interest in genuine peace.  Although the Saudis have offered their own peace initiative, it calls for Israel to withdraw from ancestral Jewish land (including Jerusalem) and relocate millions of “refugees” within its borders, thus diluting the Jewish population.  Moreover, critics note that it would supplant bilateral negotiations and effectuate an imposed resolution.    

There is also concern about whether the president agrees with the State Department’s shocking annual Report on Terrorism, which blames Israeli policies for inciting Palestinian terrorism, and whether the report accurately reflects the views of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.  If these are in fact Tillerson’s views, the administration should disavow them.

The president has worked on repairing America’s relationship with Israel and articulating the radical Islamist threat.  These gains may be rendered moot, however, if he endorses the ill-informed State Department report and believes that a terror war which began a century ago can be justified retrospectively as a response to modern-day policy.  On the other hand, if his outlook is more consistent with that of Ambassador Haley, it might indeed signal a shift in policy and indicate an awareness of the consequences of American inaction or misdirection.