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Dr. Aaron Lerner – IMRA:

Years ago those supporting a two state approach argued that it would bring
peace. Over a thousand “victims of peace” later, Palestinian state
advocates argued demographics.

Now with Jewish fertility rates up and Arab fertility rates plummeting along
with the apparent removal of Gaza from the equation, the demographic
argument is wearing thin.

So here we have Yaacov Amidror rolling out the latest excuse: “It may turn
out that Israel’s moves in Judea and Samaria hinder the effort to build an
anti-Iranian alliance in the region, led by the US and with Israel as a

I would suggest a completely different argument regarding building an “
anti-Iranian alliance in the region, led by the US “. And that is that ANY
EFFORT to include Israel as a VISIBLE partner will hinder the effort to
build an anti-Iranian alliance in the region, led by the US!!

I appreciate that we Israelis have a terrible need “to tell the pals”
(lesaper lachevra) about our exploits and achievements. But it would be
much better for us to remain active behind the scenes rather than in front
of the cameras in this vital alliance.
Tread Carefully with the New US Administration
By Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, February 16, 2017
BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 414, February 16, 2017

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The new US administration is far more sympathetic to
Israel than was its predecessor, but we must avoid taking steps from which
there is no return. The Middle East is not Washington’s sole focus and
Israel must preserve the bipartisan support it enjoys.

In the run-up to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s February 15 meeting
with President Donald Trump, the difference in worldview between the Israeli
political Right and Left, especially with regard to the Palestinian issue,
became more pointed.

The Left fears that under the new administration, which is more sympathetic
to Israel and less wary of the Arab world’s reactions than its predecessor,
the Right will all but eliminate any chance of resuming the stalled
Israeli-Palestinian peace process – something that is bound to happen if
Israel accelerates construction across Judea and Samaria or pursues the odd
annexation here and there.

The Right, for its part, hopes that now that it is free of the constraints
imposed by the previous American administration, it will be able to realize
its dream of integrating Judea and Samaria, or at least the main settlement
blocs, into Israel.

In between is the majority of the Israeli public, the wide and mostly silent
center, which for the most part just wants peace and quiet with no physical
involvement with the Palestinians.

If Israel does decide to change direction and effectively close the door on
future negotiations, it will be unable to avoid the question of the
civilian-political future of the Palestinians.

This issue has to be dealt with, even if we accept the (probably correct)
assumption that over the next few years, the Palestinian leadership will not
seriously negotiate a reasonable solution to the conflict.

It is precisely now – when Israel is free of the Obama-era limitations –
that it must shoulder even greater responsibility and explore what would be
the best policies to pursue. The leeway the Trump administration might give
Israel will let it operate more freely, but this freedom is not without
risk. Marching solely to the beat of the Right’s drum could lead to the
point of no return of a binational state. Israel must search for an answer
not only to avoid being summoned to The Hague, but because the issue is
important to Israel itself.

With all due respect to the settlement enterprise, one must remember that
Trump has a few other things to consider when it comes to the Middle East,
and all of them matter to Israel as well.

Trump and Netanyahu are likely to discuss myriad regional issues, including
how the US plans to deal with radical Sunni Islam, which has grown
exponentially over the past few years.

Sunni Islam has both purely terrorist aspects, as seen in the rise of the
Islamic State group (IS), and political aspects, as seen in the Muslim
Brotherhood’s fight against the regimes of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah
el-Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdullah.

The US administration’s controversial temporary ban on the entry of
individuals from seven majority-Muslim countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya,
Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen – aims to prevent infiltration by terrorist
elements into the homeland. But President Trump has yet to shape an overall
policy on dealing with terrorism or to address the political questions
plaguing the Arab world.

Another major challenge is curtailing Iran’s aspirations to regional
domination. The Islamic Republic is trying to build a Shiite axis running
through Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. This dynamic axis challenges the
US’s friends in the region. Those parties could, within a few years, acquire
military nuclear capability in response to the bad agreement reached by the
previous administration and Iran.

These moves already constitute a threat to the US, and the danger will only
increase. The new administration has clearly stated that it plans to take a
more active approach against Iran, and indeed reacted firmly to the
ballistic missile test Iran conducted last week – but it is still unclear
how far the new president wants to, or can, go. After all, this situation
could lead to a complex military conflict.

These are two very important issues for Israel, and the Iranian issue is
critical. We must ask ourselves how we can contribute to shaping US policy
and how we may be of assistance in the region. That is what being a
strategic ally means.

This is where the issues discussed here converge. It may turn out that
Israel’s moves in Judea and Samaria hinder the effort to build an
anti-Iranian alliance in the region, led by the US and with Israel as a

In other words, an ideological approach to the settlements might contradict
a strategic need arising from the new situation in the Middle East at a time
when dramatic regional changes are possible. It could transpire that the US
will pursue new alliances in the region only if Israel is perceived as
refraining from making the situation worse for the Palestinians, or even as
promoting negotiations. Such a scenario would confront Israel with a
significant intellectual and political challenge.

The US also seems to wish to pursue a rapprochement with Russia, but here
too, things are not simple.

President Barack Obama also pursued dialogue with Moscow, but found out the
hard way that President Vladimir Putin sees the world, and Russia’s position
in it, differently.

Moreover, by understanding the limitations of the US when it comes to
exercising force, Putin succeeded in carving out positions of influence in
areas far from home, such as Syria, and ruffling the feathers of the EU and
NATO to the point of military friction, as in Ukraine.

It is hard to tell whether the Trump administration plans on acquiescing to
Russia’s moves or will side with the EU. Trump’s positions during the
campaign, implying openness towards Russia, will have to stand the test of

Naturally, any developments with Russia will contribute to the complexity of
Middle East affairs. Russia is an important ally of Iran in Syria, and
therefore indirectly contributes to the Islamic Republic’s growing influence
in the region.

These are all international, external challenges. The Trump administration
will also have to deal with serious domestic challenges. Israel must not be
perceived as taking sides on internal American issues.

American society, divided as it was by the rough election, is uneasy. Israel
will work closely with the new administration to promote its own interests,
but must do so in a way that elicits bipartisan support as much as possible.

View PDF

This is an edited version of an article that appeared in Israel Hayom on
February 10, 2017.

Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror is the Anne and Greg Rosshandler Senior
Fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. He is also a
distinguished fellow at JINSA’s Gemunder Center for Defense and Strategy.

BESA Center Perspectives Papers are published through the generosity of the
Greg Rosshandler Family


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