President Trump doubled down on his deep opposition to the Iran nuclear deal and strong support for Israel with his appointments of Mike Pompeo and John Bolton as his new Secretary of State and National Security Adviser, respectively.

Both have long been vocal in their disdain for the agreement and their pro-Israel advocacy on Middle East issues. Pompeo replaces Rex Tillerson who, in Mr. Trump’s words, was “okay” with the nuclear pact and tried to delay the move of the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. And Bolton replaces Gen. H.R. McMaster who was against the U.S. pulling out of the agreement and was somewhat tentative in his support for Israel.


The criticisms of both appointees from the left are beside the point. The very fact that these changes – and all of the other personnel changes that have characterized the still young Trump administration – took place demonstrates that what matters is what the president thinks about issues. Even the justly praised Nikki Haley was empowered to challenge the UN’s shameful targeting of Israel only because of the president’s position. To be sure, appointees bring their own particular skills to the table. But it is the president that sets the policy on contentious issues of foreign policy.

So we are pleased to see in the aforementioned appointments that President Trump is not wavering on the Middle East and Iran despite the blandishments from the Palestinians and parts of the Arab world about the end of any possibility for peace, and threats from Iran about resuming their nuclear program should the U.S. withdraw from the agreement and reimpose economic sanctions against Iran.

We agree with Mr. Trump that no solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians can be imposed by others. That has been tried before, as he has said, and has failed. It has resulted only in the Palestinians being led to believe that the series of wars their side waged against Israel and lost, and Israel’s vast military and economic superiority, need not be of any moment in negotiating a solution.  His message, as we read it, is no resolution is possible if two fundamentally unequal sides are treated as equals. That is not how the world works, and it is folly to think it will work in the Middle East.

As for the Iran nuclear agreement, President Trump believes, as we do, that it is fundamentally flawed: the inspection regime is wholly inadequate; the 15-year term limit is divorced from reality; and it fails to address the urgent issues of continuing Iranian ballistic missile testing and financial and logistical support for terrorist activities around the world.

There are no certainties in foreign affairs. A chaotic Middle East will remain a dangerous place and a nuclear Iran will present an existential threat. But the time to deal with such problems is when they are still manageable. And it is important that they be addressed when grownups are in charge. Let’s all take a collective deep breath and resolve to do what has to be done.

In this connection we are pleased to note that the Taylor Force Act was signed into law this past Friday. Named for U.S. serviceman Taylor Force, who was stabbed and killed in March 2016 by a Palestinian terrorist in Israel, it provides for the cutting of some American financial aid to the Palestinian Authority unless it ends its payments to families of killed or imprisoned terrorists’ families. The notion that America’s interests are somehow advanced by underwriting stipends for terrorists – even those who harmed U.S. citizens – is difficult to understand.

The Palestinians naturally insist that the families are victims of violence, and a senior Palestinian official condemned the law, saying it “doesn’t allow for the creation of an atmosphere conducive to peace.” If it does nothing else than reorient this fictive reality, President Trump’s approach will have been worthwhile.


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