In a move that appears to confirm Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu’s worst nightmare, Deputy US Ambassador to the UN David Pressman told a session of the UN Security Council on Friday that the US is “deeply concerned and strongly opposes settlements which are corrosive to peace,” blaming Israeli settlement activities in Judea and Samaria for creating ” a one state reality on the ground.”
The council meeting, titled “Illegal Israeli Settlements: Obstacles to Peace and the Two-State Solution,” was called by member states Egypt, Venezuela, Malaysia, Senegal and Angola. The meeting was pushed by the PA delegation, which earlier this year shelved an anti-settlement proposal in favor of a French-led peace initiative. Attendance was not mandatory and there was no vote, however, it was clearly a signal of things to come, with President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry preparing to go after Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria as soon as the Nov. 8 vote is cast.
Pressman pointed to the rise in the number of demolitions of illegally constructed Arab homes in Area C of Judea and Samaria as being of particular concern, and called on both sides to adopt policies that encourage rather than impede “implementing the two-state solution.” He also condemned Arab terrorism against Israelis, and argued that by inciting violence the PA is telling the world it isn’t interested in peace.
The Russian representative said the situation in the liberated territories is near “the moment of truth,” and insisted that “settlement construction must stop,” because it creates “Palestinian enclaves” which are disconnected from the world. “Israel needs security, but without the two-state solution, the threat to Israel will grow,”he threatened.
Hagai El-Ad, executive director of B’Tselem, and Lara Friedman, director of policy and government relations at the Americans for Peace Now, were the darlings of the special anti-Israel session. Friedman said that the Israeli investment in settlements shows the state is looking to thwart the two-state solution, and called on the UNSC countries to “send a message” to Israel.
Friedman told the council about an entire system inside and outside the Israeli government dedicated to constructing new settlements and expanding existing ones. She accused Netanyahu’s government of promoting the construction of 11,000 new settlement housing units between 2009 and 2015.
El-Ad complained that “Israel has systematically legalized human rights violations in the occupied territories through the establishment of permanent settlements, punitive home demolitions, a biased building and planning mechanism, taking over Palestinian land and much, much more.” He added that 2016 was the “worst” in terms of the number of illegal Arab structures that were demolished by Israel in Area C, which is under Israeli control according to the Oslo Accords.
Zionist NGO Im Tirtzu CEO Matan Peleg addressed the remarks by El-Ad, saying, “As we have said all along, the term foreign-agent does not do justice to the disgraceful activities of B’Tselem against Israel, which is enabled by funding from foreign governments and the New Israel Fund. History will not forgive those who, in exchange for money, are willing to sell out their country, people, and land.”
Peleg added: “We expect the government to announce that it will cease providing National Service positions to B’Tselem. The organization should be distanced from all contact and cooperation with the IDF and government offices.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday night phoned Secretary of State John Kerry to tell him Israel expected the Obama Administration not to change its policy and promote or support a vote on the Israeli-PA conflict at the UN Security Council between the November 8 vote and the inauguration of the next US president in January, Ha’aretz reported citing an anonymous Israeli official.
According to the same source, Kerry responded by saying the Administration has not yet made its decision on this matter — which is probably what he would have said if he didn’t want an Obama anti-Israel move to hit the news before the election.
The chances for a hostile American move have increased following reports on the plan to relocate the Jewish residents of Amona in Judea and Samaria, which is slated for demolition on orders from the Israeli Supreme Court, to new homes that will be built for them in nearby Shilo, also in Judea and Samaria. This is because while the Supreme Court only objects to keeping Jewish residents on land whose ownership has been disputed by local Arabs, the US objects to any sign of new Jewish life in Judea and Samaria.
According to Ha’aretz, Netanyahu did not raise the issue of an anti-Israel US vote at the UNSC during his meeting with President Obama in New York in September. But following Netanyahu’s meeting with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton a few days later, the latter issued a statement saying she objects to any unilateral US move against Israel at the UN. Netanyahu is hoping that, should she win—which appears to be a certainty at this point—Clinton would restrain Obama during the transition period.
Pundit Eli Lake writing for Bloomberg suggested the mildest move on Obama’s part after November 8 would be a speech in favor of the two-state solution. This approach is similar to a speech Bill Clinton gave at the end of his presidency that laid out such parameters. Lake expects Obama to disclose in such a speech the concessions Netanyahu and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas were willing to make in their negotiations that fell apart in 2014.
A second option, which Hillary Clinton has vowed to try and block, could be US support for a new Security Council resolution to replace resolution 242, which was drafted after the 1967 Israeli liberation of the territories occupied by Egypt, Jordan and Syria in 1949. 242 does not mention a Palestinian State, but instead calls on Israel to return liberated territories to the Arab aggressors along its borders.
A third option would be for the Obama Administration to declare war on rightwing Israeli NGOs. Anti-Israel Jewish organizations such as J Street have suggested altering the US tax code to exclude rightwing Israeli NGOs which today frustrate Arab illegal settlement in Area C, placed under Israeli custody in the Oslo Accords. The NGO Regavim, for instance, has done an aggressive job compelling the Israeli Supreme Court as well as the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria to act against illegal Arab squatters, enraging the EU and Us which have been paying for those illegal settlements.
Finally, the Obama Administration might declare its recognition of a Palestinian State in borders that include Area C, and issue an ultimatum for Israel to withdraw its military and civilians from the new state. It’s probably the least likely option, but it’s out there, being bandied about in think tanks in Washington DC and in Jerusalem.
Focusing, as we always do, on the Jewish-Israeli niche of presidential politics, we paid great attention Sunday night to the exchange between candidates Trump and Clinton on the situation in Syria. In general, both debaters agreed the situation was tough, and neither was eager to get into specific solutions. What stood out for us was the statement by Donald Trump that the battle of Aleppo between the US-backed rebels and the coalition of Assad, the Russians, Iran and Hezbollah will go to the pro-Assad forces.
Martha Raddatz (ABC News) asked Trump: “What do you think will happen if [Aleppo] falls?” Which Trump answered, “I think that it basically has fallen. OK? It basically has fallen.”
It should be noted that on Saturday in the UN Security Council Russia vetoed a French resolution calling for an immediate halt to its air strikes on east Aleppo, where reportedly hundreds of civilians are being killed, including many children. The Russian delegation, accusing the rest of the council of “Russophobia,” watched many council members walk off as the Russians were giving the floor to an envoy of the Assad regime. The Russians are fast running out of friends over this campaign — except, apparently, for Trump, who described Allepo as collateral damage of the effort to destroy the real enemy of the US in the Middle East — ISIS.
“I don’t like Assad at all, but Assad is killing ISIS,” Trump said during Sunday night’s debate. “Russia is killing ISIS. And Iran is killing ISIS. And those three have now lined up because of our weak foreign policy.”
Raddatz pointed Trump’s attention to the fact that not only the entire Western world objects to what the Russians have been doing in Syria, but his own running mate, Mike Pence, had said a week ago, that the “provocations by Russia need to be met with American strength and that if Russia continues to be involved in air strikes along with the Syrian government forces of Assad, the United States of America should be prepared to use military force to strike the military targets of the Assad regime.”
Trump, who had praised Pence’s debate performance, came right out and said, “OK, he and I haven’t spoken, and I disagree. I disagree.”
Raddatz: “You disagree with your running mate?”
Trump: “I think you have to knock out ISIS. Right now, Syria is fighting ISIS. We have people that want to fight both at the same time. But Syria is no longer Syria. Syria is Russia and it’s Iran, who [Clinton] made strong and Kerry and Obama made into a very powerful nation and a very rich nation, very, very quickly, very, very quickly.
“I believe we have to get ISIS. We have to worry about ISIS before we can get too much more involved. She had a chance to do something with Syria. They had a chance. And that was the line. And she didn’t.”
To delineate Trump’s foreign policy point on Aleppo from all of the above, the defeat of ISIS justifies permitting Russia, Iran, the Assad regime and its Hezbollah satellite to recapture all of Syria and turn it into their permanent base, with all the ramifications for Lebanon, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, and, of course, Israel.
A debate then ensued between Raddatz, who as her network’s Chief Global Affairs Correspondent is probably familiar with the issue, and Trump, over the need for secrecy before attacking a target like the oil rich city of Mosul in Iraq. “The biggest problem I have with the stupidity of our foreign policy, we have Mosul,” Trump argued. “They think a lot of the ISIS leaders are in Mosul. So we have announcements coming out of Washington and coming out of Iraq, we will be attacking Mosul in three weeks or four weeks.”
“Well, all of these bad leaders from ISIS are leaving Mosul,” he continued. “Why can’t they do it quietly? Why can’t they do the attack, make it a sneak attack, and after the attack is made, inform the American public that we’ve knocked out the leaders, we’ve had a tremendous success? People leave. Why do they have to say we’re going to be attacking Mosul within the next four to six weeks, which is what they’re saying? How stupid is our country?”
Raddatz suggested, “There are sometimes reasons the military does that. Psychological warfare.”
Trump retorted, “I can’t think of any. I can’t think of any. And I’m pretty good at it.”
Raddatz: “It might be to help get civilians out.”
Perhaps. Trump could also be correct in pointing out that the US campaign in Iraq has remained as undisciplined and as badly coordinated as it has been since the 2003 invasion, under two different administrations.
Hillary Clinton sounded as hapless as the Obama Administration when she said the Russians don’t care about ISIS, and are instead “interested in keeping Assad in power.” As remedy, she proposed: “…when I was secretary of state, I advocated and I advocate today a no-fly zone and safe zones. We need some leverage with the Russians, because they are not going to come to the negotiating table for a diplomatic resolution, unless there is some leverage over them. And we have to work more closely with our partners and allies on the ground.”
Of course, there’s no way the US and its allies would be able to enforce a no-fly zone on the Russian air force, short of starting WW3, which is why Clinton sounded hollow when she declared, “I’ve stood up to Russia. I’ve taken on Putin and others, and I would do that as president.” And she sounded even less realistic when she warned, “…I do support the effort to investigate for crimes, war crimes committed by the Syrians and the Russians and try to hold them accountable.”
Hillary Clinton then committed a blunder that could haunt her in the future should she be elected president, when she suggested, “There are a lot of very important planning going on, and some of it is to signal to the Sunnis in the area, as well as Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, that we all need to be in this. And that takes a lot of planning and preparation. … I would also consider arming the Kurds. The Kurds have been our best partners in Syria, as well as Iraq. And I know there’s a lot of concern about that in some circles, but I think they should have the equipment they need so that Kurdish and Arab fighters on the ground are the principal way that we take Raqqa after pushing ISIS out of Iraq.”
That’s not something an American president should say if he or she wish to elicit Turkey’s support in the Syrian campaign. Proposing to arm the Kurds sounds about as bad to Ankara as the idea of the US arming Hamas would be received in Jerusalem. That would be one of those cases where Clinton would be well advised to have one policy for public consumption and another for insiders.
You probably noticed we did not deal at all with the Trump tapes or the Clinton emails, because everyone else in the media are offering a wealth of information on those. We only tried to point out that when it comes to one of Israel’s most burning issues, the escalation of the war north of its border, neither candidate has offered a particularly convincing formula, and Clinton actually declared she would definitely keep US ground troops out of the Syrian civil war.
We should note with satisfaction that Israel was not mentioned even once in the debate and neither was the two-state solution or Jewish settlements. Thankfully, both candidates are too clever to step on that landmine.
Taylor Force, 28, was a former US Army Officer and a student at Vanderbilt University, who was stabbed to death by an Arab from the Palestinian Authority in Jaffa, Israel last March 8. On Wednesday, Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Dan Coats (R-In), and Roy Blunt (R-Ms) introduced the Taylor Force Act, aimed at cutting funding for the Palestinian Authority if it continues to incite and reward acts of terrorism.
The new bill
• Requires the Secretary of State to certify to Congress the Palestinian Authority is taking credible steps to end acts of violence against United States and Israeli citizens that are perpetrated by individuals under its jurisdictional control, such as the attack on Taylor Force;
• Calls on the Palestinian Authority to publicly condemn such acts of violence and is taking steps to investigate and cooperate in investigations bringing perpetrators to justice; and
• Terminates payments for acts of terrorism against United States and Israeli citizens to any individual who has been imprisoned after being convicted of terrorist acts, to any individual who died committing a terrorist act, or to family members of such individuals.
Speaking at a press conference Wednesday, Sen. Graham said, “To pursue peace, you have to reject killing. … This bill is not a result of animosity towards the Palestinian people. It’s pushback against state-sponsored terrorism.”
“This legislation shines a light on a very real problem,” Graham said, asking, “Why is the Palestinian Authority paying young Palestinians to commit acts of terror against innocent Americans like Taylor Force or Israelis? The Palestinians need to decide – do they condemn these horrible acts or do they reward them? You can’t be a partner in peace when you are paying people to commit terrorist acts. The choice the Palestinians make will determine the type of relationship they have with the United States in the years to come.”
Senator Coats said, “To provide American taxpayer dollars to the Palestinian Authority so that it can treat terrorists as heroes or glorious martyrs is morally unacceptable. Our hope is that applying this budgetary pressure will end this immoral program of rewarding and encouraging terrorists.”
Senator Blunt said, “Israel is one of our closest allies and a stalwart of democracy in the Middle East. It would be absolutely unconscionable to allow U.S. taxpayer dollars to be used by the Palestinian Authority to reward convicted terrorists for acts of violence against Israel. I urge all of my colleagues to back this effort to hold the Palestinian Authority accountable.”
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) voiced his opinion about the proposed legislation: “I’ve repeatedly demanded that President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority work to prevent Palestinian terrorist attacks and end all government-sponsored incitement of violence. It’s unacceptable that our taxpayer dollars are still being used by the Palestinian Authority to pay terrorists who have Israeli and American blood on their hands, and to brainwash young Palestinians with hatred for the Jewish people. The U.S. should condition assistance to the Palestinian Authority on it stopping these despicable practices.”
Senator Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) said, “The United States should hold Palestinian leadership fully accountable for continuing to incite violence against Israeli and American citizens and provide financial support to terrorists and their families. This is a no-brainer that’s critical to encouraging the emergence of a credible partner for peace with Israel, a fellow democracy and our closest ally in the Middle East, yet this Administration refuses to do it.”
Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) said, “This bill stands for a simple principle: U.S. taxpayer dollars should never be used to fund terror against our own citizens or our ally Israel. The American people and the Israelis believe in helping the Palestinians build a better and more prosperous society. But that better society will never be possible if Palestinian leaders continue to funnel cash to terrorists and their families. The Obama administration and future administrations should hold Palestinian leadership accountable on this issue and tell them that as long as they continue to fund terror, they should not expect another dollar of U.S. economic assistance.”
Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said, “Earlier this year, Texas native Taylor Force was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist in Tel Aviv. Taylor’s murder is a grim reminder that the scourge of radical Islamic terrorism targets Americans and Israelis, Christians and Jews, indiscriminately. Our unshakable alliance with Israel will remain our strength as we face this threat together. The legislation introduced today will put the Palestinian Authority on notice that American taxpayers will not continue to fund them unless they take concrete steps to end the abhorrent practice of rewarding terrorists and their families. I’m proud to stand with Senators Graham and Coats as well as my other colleagues in solidarity against not only the terrorists attacking our citizens, but also all who fund and enable them.”
The Republican Jewish Coalition released a statement saying, “The American people would be appalled to learn their tax dollars have been subsidizing terrorist attacks on Israel – all the more so because Americans have frequently been the victims of these attacks, and their murderers are the ones benefiting from these U.S. subsidies. By conditioning future U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority on 1) the PA taking credible steps to suppress terrorism in the areas under its control, and 2) the PA ending payments to incarcerated terrorists and the families of dead terrorists, the Taylor Force Act would end this affront to American values.
“The RJC thanks Senator Graham for leading the charge to end this gross abuse of taxpayer dollars. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue, and we urge all Senators – Republicans, Democrats and Independents, to back this important legislation.”
A former State Department employee and two IT specialists from the company that maintained the private server for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton while she was Secretary of State, all refused to testify Tuesday before a Congressional committee hearing on the matter of the former Secretary’s deleted emails.
Clinton aide Bryan Pagliano, who received a subpoena to appear before the House Oversight Committee, was actually a no-show at the hearing.
Lawmakers were amazed at the temerity of the former State Department employee who had been ordered to appear to testify on the deletion of some of Hillary Clinton’s emails.
Pagliano was the one who had set up the Democratic presidential candidate’s private email server.
But the aide chose not to testify, and didn’t show up for the meeting, instead allegedly exercising his Fifth Amendment right under the Constitution, not to testify against himself.
The committee members argued about the matter, with their views split straight down party lines.
Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said, “He should be here. When you are served a subpoena by the United States Congress, that is not optional.”
That view was supported by Florida Republican Congressman John Mica, who suggested the committee consider ‘contempt of Congress’ as an option.
But committee member Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) argued the subpoena placed Pagliano under threat of criminal prosecution: Chaffetz had already asked the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia to investigate deletions from the server, thus raising the possibility of a criminal probe. “It puts him in jeopardy coming before this committee while that criminal referral is in existence,” Lynch said. “He’s an American citizen. I know the Constitution gets in the way of this committee sometimes,” he added with heavy sarcasm.
Two employees of Platte River Networks, the Colorado-based company that maintained the server – Bill Thornton and Paul Combetta – were also subpoenaed to testify before the committee. Both arrived for their appearances but neither was willing to talk: each repeatedly exercised his Fifth Amendment right to refuse to answer questions.
Questioned on the security of the server and deletions of certain emails from it, Chaffetz was forced to excuse them both after endless repetitions of the same response: “On advice of counsel, I respectfully decline to answer and exert my Fifth Amendment right.”
Justin Cooper, an IT specialist and the Clinton advisers who set up the email address, did respond to questions from the lawmakers about cyberattacks on the server, as well as who had access and how it was protected.
With two more hearings to go, the Congress members have yet to see an unedited, unredacted copy of the “unclassified” material from the server, let alone a redacted copy of classified reports.
Advanced talks have been conducted recently in preparation for a summit conference with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Abbas in Moscow this fall, according to the daily Yediot Aharonot. The paper reported on Monday that both PA and Israeli officials have confirmed that the summit is scheduled to take place in October or shortly thereafter, under the auspices of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Abbas has personally expressed his willingness, in principle, to partake in a Moscow summit. However, according to Yediot, the PA Chairman still insists that Israel first commit to freezing settlement construction and carry out the fourth phase of terrorist prisoners release which was halted when Secretary of State Kerry’s peace initiative collapsed in 2015. Abbas also insists on setting a specific date for the end of negotiations and for reaching a final agreement.
Political sources in Jerusalem have told Yediot that when Netanyahu and Putin spoke on the phone last week, the summit plan was part of their discussion. But they stress that the summit idea at this point is “mere speculation, it’s too soon.” Still, the same sources say Netanyahu is willing to meet with Abbas directly any time.
On Wednesday, August 17, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, Putin’s Special Representative for the Middle East and Africa, discussed prospects for advancing PA-Israel peace talks with Abbas in Amman, and delivered a personal message from Putin to Abbas. Since then, Bogdanov has met twice with the head of the PA mission in Moscow Faed Mustafa and with Israeli ambassador Zvi Hefetz. One of Bogdanov’s meetings with Hefetz was on August 24, the day of the Putin-Netanyahu phone conversation.
GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump on Monday gave a foreign policy speech in Youngstown, Ohio, outlining his plan to fight terrorism. Addressing the large crowd (as usual), Trump opened, “Today we begin a conversation about how to Make America Safe Again. In the 20th Century, the United States defeated Fascism, Nazism, and Communism. Now, a different threat challenges our world: Radical Islamic Terrorism.”
The candidate cited a very long list of terrorist attacks against individual Western targets (Paris, Brussels, Orlando), as well as a more generalized but no less forceful depiction of attacks on Muslims: “Overseas, ISIS has carried out one unthinkable atrocity after another. … We cannot let this evil continue.”
Trump promised, “We will defeat Radical Islamic Terrorism, just as we have defeated every threat we have faced in every age before.” He then threw a jab at both president Obama and Democratic presidential Candidate Clinton, saying, “Anyone who cannot name our enemy, is not fit to lead this country.”
This led to a Trump analysis of how President Obama and his Secretary of State Clinton are to blame for the current alarming state of events. He blamed them for policies that led to the creation of ISIS, saying, “It all began in 2009 with what has become known as President Obama’s global ‘Apology Tour.’”
Remarkably, Trump omitted eight whole years in which the US was attacked by a different group of Islamic radicals, and the fact that then President GW Bush retaliated by invading a country that had nothing to do with that attack, inflicting chaos on Iraq and taking out the one fierce regional enemy of Iran, Saddam Hussein. According to Trump, none of those eight bloody years of a Bush war had anything to do with the creation of ISIS (which took place in 2004) — it all began with “a series of speeches,” in which “President Obama described America as ‘arrogant,’ ‘dismissive,’ ‘derisive,’ and a ‘colonial power.'”
“Perhaps no speech was more misguided than President Obama’s speech to the Muslim World delivered in Cairo, Egypt, in 2009,” Trump said Monday night. Of course, the Obama Al Azhar University speech did launch a bizarre foreign policy that punished America’s friends and rewarded its enemies. Even if one were not pro-Israel, one would have to wonder what drove that disastrous foreign policy. But the Obama speech did not instigate the catastrophic failure of US policy in the Middle East, it only picked up Obama’s predecessor’s very bad situation and made it worse.
Trump believes that “the failure to establish a new Status of Forces Agreement in Iraq, and the election-driven timetable for withdrawal, surrendered our gains in that country and led directly to the rise of ISIS.” But in eight miserable years, having spent trillions of borrowed dollars our grandchildren and their grandchildren after them will continue to pay for, there were no US gains in Iraq — which is why when Obama honored the Bush agreement with the Iraqi government and withdrew some of the US forces, the whole thing came tumbling down.
Trump blames Hillary Clinton for destabilizing Libya, a claim supported by many, including President Obama and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. He also added a jab at the Clintons, saying, “Yet, as she threw the Middle East into violent turmoil, things turned out well for her. The Clintons made almost $60 million in gross income while she was Secretary of State.” It’s factually true, but the implied moral outrage is hard to accept with a straight face, seeing as it came from a man who prided himself on turning homeowners’ misery into a hefty profit for himself during the housing crisis of 2008.
After much more of the candidate’s unique view on US foreign policy and the causes for rise of terrorism, Trump finally cut to the chase.
“If I become President, the era of nation-building will be ended,” he said. “Our new approach, which must be shared by both parties in America, by our allies overseas, and by our friends in the Middle East, must be to halt the spread of Radical Islam. … As President, I will call for an international conference focused on this goal. We will work side-by-side with our friends in the Middle East, including our greatest ally, Israel. We will partner with King Abdullah of Jordan, and President [Al] Sisi of Egypt, and all others who recognize this ideology of death that must be extinguished.”
Trump added to the list of his envisioned coalition partners the NATO countries, explaining that although he “had previously said that NATO was obsolete because it failed to deal adequately with terrorism; since my comments they have changed their policy and now have a new division focused on terror threats.”
He also wants Russia to participate, clearly despite its dubious new alliance with both Iran and Turkey that threatens the very presence of US troops in that part of the region.
On this point, the Trump vision looks an awful lot like the current Administration’s policy on fighting ISIS: “My Administration will aggressively pursue joint and coalition military operations to crush and destroy ISIS, international cooperation to cutoff their funding, expanded intelligence sharing, and cyberwarfare to disrupt and disable their propaganda and recruiting. We cannot allow the Internet to be used as a recruiting tool, and for other purposes, by our enemy – we must shut down their access to this form of communication, and we must do so immediately.”
So far so good, but then Trump suggested “we must use ideological warfare as well. Just as we won the Cold War, in part, by exposing the evils of communism and the virtues of free markets, so too must we take on the ideology of Radical Islam.”
Trump then depicted his opponent as contributing to the repression of Muslim gays and women, promising his “Administration will speak out against the oppression of women, gays and people of different faith. Our Administration will be a friend to all moderate Muslim reformers in the Middle East, and will amplify their voices.”
At which point one must ask if the candidate is relying on expert advise on the Middle East. Because while he is absolutely right in condemning the cruelty and repression that have been the reality in Muslim countries from Pakistan to Morocco, his idea of promoting an American foreign policy of “speaking out against the horrible practice of honor killings” and against the myriad other acts of unimaginable violence against women, his ideas that to defeat Islamic terrorism, the US must “speak out forcefully against a hateful ideology that provides the breeding ground for violence and terrorism to grow” is shockingly sophomoric. Surely Trump knows that these attempts are a recipe for a far worse disaster than the one brought on by the Obama Al Azhar speech.
At this point, Trump turned to an area with which he is more familiar, the need for a new immigration policy. “A Trump Administration will establish a clear principle that will govern all decisions pertaining to immigration: we should only admit into this country those who share our values and respect our people,” the candidate declared, adding that “the time is overdue to develop a new screening test for the threats we face today.”
“In addition to screening out all members or sympathizers of terrorist groups, we must also screen out any who have hostile attitudes towards our country or its principles – or who believe that Sharia law should supplant American law,” Trump said, explaining that “those who do not believe in our Constitution, or who support bigotry and hatred, will not be admitted for immigration into the country. Only those who we expect to flourish in our country – and to embrace a tolerant American society – should be issued visas.”
Easier said than done, of course, because it’s naturally difficult to discern what lurks inside the mind of any person, immigrants included. Trump’s solution is, to “temporarily suspend immigration from some of the most dangerous and volatile regions of the world that have a history of exporting terrorism.”
“As soon as I take office, I will ask the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to identify a list of regions where adequate screening cannot take place. We will stop processing visas from those areas until such time as it is deemed safe to resume based on new circumstances or new procedures.” It should be interesting to gauge the response of, say, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, to the news that no more cash-laden Arab oil sheiks would be allowed to visit Vegas under a Trump Administration.
“Finally, we will need to restore common sense to our security procedures,” Trump declared, listing several notorious murders committed by Muslims on US soil, noting that in each case there had been warning signs that were overlooked by the authorities.
“These warning signs were ignored because political correctness has replaced common sense in our society,” Trump stated flatly, adding, “That is why one of my first acts as President will be to establish a Commission on Radical Islam. … The goal of the commission will be to identify and explain to the American public the core convictions and beliefs of Radical Islam, to identify the warning signs of radicalization, and to expose the networks in our society that support radicalization.”
“This commission will be used to develop new protocols for local police officers, federal investigators, and immigration screeners,” Trump said, essentially suggesting legitimizing the police profiling that has been so vilified in the media and by many politicians. He also promised to keep Guantanamo Bay prison open (although Obama has just released fifteen of its inmates). He wants additional staff to Intelligence agencies and will keep drone strikes against terrorist leaders as part of his options. He also wants military trials for foreign enemy combatants.
In conclusion, there was absolutely no new policy idea in the Trump speech on foreign policy Monday night, but there was an implied, if mostly unspoken promise, to encourage all levels of law enforcement to be less restrained in pursuing their targets. In fact, across the board, what Trump was offering Monday night were not so much new ideas as the promise of taking existing ideas to a new level of dedication in their execution. It could mean a wider loss of individual civil rights, and serious economic hardship for US industries that cater to any aspect of immigration, and it could also end up with the alienation of both European and Mid-Eastern countries who would not take kindly to Trump’s promised level of fierceness, and would retaliate.
It should be noted in that context, that after having spoken bluntly about extreme security measures that could harm specific ethnic and religious groups, Trump attempted to soften his own tone with a final paragraph that promised: “As your President … I will fight to ensure that every American is treated equally, protected equally, and honored equally. We will reject bigotry and oppression in all its forms, and seek a new future built on our common culture and values as one American people. — Only this way, will we make America Great Again and Safe Again – For Everyone.”
Like him or hate him, Donald Trump remains the champion of cognitive dissonance.