Thinking a bit more about the Abraham Accords signing ceremony at the White House yesterday, I want to salute President Trump. Hearing Arab officials refer to Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu in friendly terms before a worldwide audience is mind-boggling. Trump has done a good thing that continues his great undoing of the worst “achievements” of the Obama administration.
In order to arrive at this destination, the Trump administration had to swim upstream against the conventional wisdom of the liberal political/media establishment. The Washington Free Beacon video below compiles the higher wisdom condemning Trump’s relocation of our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This video frames the picture perfectly.
Thinking back to his appearance before the Republican Jewish Coalition’s presidential forum in December 2015, I recall that Trump touted his pro-Israel bona fides and tried to connect with the audience, repeatedly referring to them as “negotiators.” He characterized himself as “a negotiator like you folks, we are negotiators,” drawing laughter before pivoting to how he would renegotiate the Iran deal. “Is there anybody that doesn’t renegotiate deals in this room? This room negotiates them — perhaps more than any other room I’ve ever spoken in.”
Which returns us to the great “achievement” of the Obama administration. The geniuses of the Obama administration thought it was a good idea to enter into an agreement that substantially funded the Iran regime’s malefactions, including its nuclear program. The deal, such as it was, obligated the United States to protect Iran’s nuclear program while Iran proceeded on its merry way for the duration. President Obama, Secretary Kerry, and the rest of the gang made Neville Chamberlain look good and they can’t wait to do it again.
The Hoover Institution has coincidentally just posted the late Fouad Ajami’s essay “The Saudi riddle.” Ajami recalls that three months into its tenure, the Obama administration dispatched Dennis Ross to Saudi Arabia to lay out to King Abdullah the American policy toward Iran. Ajami quotes the New York Times’s Roger Cohen “telling narrative” of the meeting:
[Ross] talked to a skeptical monarch about the Obama administration’s policy with Iran—and talked and talked. When the king finally got to speak, he began by telling Ross: “I am a man of action. Unlike you, I prefer not to talk a lot.” Then he posed several pointed questions about US policy toward Iran: What is your goal? What will you do if this does not work? What will you do if the Chinese and the Russians are not with you? How will you deal with Iran’s nuclear program if there is not a united response? Ross, a little flustered, tried to explain that policy was still being fleshed out.
The Obama administration held its tongue with Israel as well, assuring the Israelis they would secure Israel against Iran’s nuclear threat all the while it worked on the JCPOA. Israel ambassador to the United States Michael Oren portrays Obama’s the deal as a stab in the back. Although Michael Doran brilliantly reconstructed Obama’s “secret strategy” leading to the deal, one still wonder why Obama thought it was a good idea to “ally” the United States with one of its foremost enemies and to strengthen that enemy.
Among the excellent commentary on the execution of the accords yesterday:
• The Wall Street Journal editorial “Art of the Mideast peace deal.” The Journal observes:
For all the talk of Mr. Trump scorning American allies, the achievement here was possible because he backed allies to the hilt, giving them confidence in U.S. support. He rejected Barack Obama’s failed courtship of Iran and withdrew from the flawed nuclear deal. He showed the nerve to kill the leader of Iran’s regional aggression, Qasem Soleimani.
Mr. Trump also moved the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a gesture that was said to be the death-knell for peace but sent a signal that Israel will not be wished away. No other U.S. President had been willing to take that risk. The Administration also stood by Saudi Arabia in the war in Yemen. The Saudis haven’t normalized relations with Israel, but as the U.A.E. travel embargo ends they are allowing flights to and from the Jewish state to pass through Saudi airspace.
• Walter Russell Mead’s Wall Street Journal column “The long road to Israel’s very good month.” Mead writes:
Not since May 1948, when both the U.S. and the Soviet Union recognized the state of Israel in the critical weeks of its war for independence, has Israel had a diplomatic month like this. On Aug. 13, the United Arab Emirates and Israel signed an agreement to normalize relations, with the formal ceremony to be held Tuesday in Washington with President Trump. On Sept. 11, Bahrain followed suit. The Palestinian Authority, holding the rotating chair of the Arab League, introduced a resolution condemning the U.A.E. move at a Zoom session of Arab foreign ministers, but in a shocking departure from past practice, the motion failed to pass. On Sept. 13 another Arab nation, Oman, issued a statement of support for Bahrain’s decision to normalize relations.
Meanwhile, defying pressure from the European Union and in exchange for Israeli recognition of Kosovo’s independence, Kosovo became the first Muslim-majority country in the world to agree to place an embassy in Jerusalem in another Trump-brokered deal. (The status of a similar pledge from Serbia isn’t clear.)
With Saudi Arabia allowing flights from Israel to the U.A.E. to pass over its territory and Morocco reported to be close to allowing direct flights to the Jewish state, something of a tipping point seems to have been reached in the Middle East. Resentment of Zionism and sympathy for the Palestinians will no longer be allowed to interfere with what embattled Arab rulers see as a vital relationship.
• Michael Goodwin’s New York Post column “Art of the peace deal.” Goodwin writes:
Obama knew best and coddled the mullahs, no matter that they used the money he gave them to spread terror far and wide. Their role in both Syria and Iraq, for example, has posed direct threats to our allies and interests.
Trump, like a pendulum swinging in the opposite direction, deliberately reversed all those policies. He moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem, correctly predicting that threats of Arab violence were false. He approved Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights, another American first.
As he recounted Tuesday, the president thought funding the Palestinians also was wrong. Beyond the “martyr” payments, he noted that Palestinian leaders refused even to negotiate with his administration. Why, he asked, should we reward their bad behavior?
He held Iran to the same standard. Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal, imposed harsh economic sanctions and eliminated Qasem Soleimani, the Quds Force general who played a role in the deaths and injuries of hundreds of American soldiers in Iraq.
President Trump has done good for the United States.