Syria in the Jaws of the Bear

The Administration needs to pick a clear policy in Syria, almost any policy, and stick with it so that our allies and enemies know where they and we stand.  We have flipped and flopped over the future of Assad to the point that he can justifiably claim that he is not an impediment to peace. Perhaps it is time to stop worrying so much about which personality will rule. The problem is not Assad. The problem is the regime itself.  Get rid of Assad and you solve nothing unless the regime goes with him.  Get rid of the regime and its levers of suppression and then there will be a chance for a new and different Syrian day. But that would require an investment and a firm policy that the US appears unwilling to make, at least thus far. 

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Ned Walker
Trump Trumps Netanyahu on Jerusalem

President Trump did the right thing for Israel, for the Palestinians and for America by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. No matter what your view of the President may be, his was a statesmanlike pronouncement worthy if our President.  It remains to be seen what the results may be, and given the fact that it is the Middle East there will inevitably be drama.  

 

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A Carpet Sellers Complaint

The US claims it is an honest broker in the Middle East, but in my 35 years of working on the problem the only “honest brokers” I encountered were the Norwegians.

Anyone who has carefully considered the Palestinian problem knows that it is not just an issue of territory or borders - it is not a real estate problem or an economic problem so much as it is an identity problem. It is the land that sets the Palestinian apart from any other Arab, and it is the land that establishes Jewish permanence apart from the diaspora. Until we focus on this essential issue - two peoples - both seeing their existence in perpetuity as defined by one piece of land, then the problem will persist and all we can hope for are temporary accommodations that offer a degree of tranquilly and well being, but fall short of resolving the problem. Perhaps that is enough for now. 

 

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Ned Walker
Will President Trump Fold his Middle East Hand? 

Lost in the hurricane of news and “fake news” coming out of Washington was the announcement and signature on Thursday, October 12 of a reconciliation agreement between the two Palestinian movements Fatah and Hamas.  The agreement, which was mediated and guaranteed by Egypt, was ten years in the making after Hamas violently expelled Fatah from Gaza in 2007. Inclusion of the terrorist designated Hamas may be a ready made excuse for the failure of Trump's Middle Eastnegotiating prowess.

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Amb. Friedman on 242 - oops

President Trump’s Ambassador to Israel,  David Friedman. has stood US Middle East policy on its head by reinventing the intentions of the drafters if UNSC Resolution 242, and ignoring US policy toward a “two state solution" as well as toward 800,000 Israeli settlers living in the West bank and Jerusalem.

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Ned Walker
Trump blows hot on the World stage

Devoid of lofty rhetoric and replete with dystopian angst along with direct and implied threats against Iran and North Korea, Trump’s maiden UN speech fulfilled the expectations of both his critics and his cheering section. His focus as expected was on North Korea, with Iran as a also ran, and Venezuela as a poor cousin. 

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Ned Walker
Taps for the Two State Solution

The Israeli encirclement of Jerusalem and announcement of more settlement housing makes the prospect of a two state solution increasingly impossible.  If no solution between Israel and the Palestinians is possible, then we need to adjust our thinking.  And by calling into question the Palestinian State, what are the Israelis saying about the future of their own state of Israel

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Who Cares About Israel?

“The Palestinian issue originally achieved strategic importance for the US primarily as a result of the Cold War and the US-Soviet competition for allies in the strategic Middle East. With the end of the cold war there has been a sometimes-serious debate about just how important the issue is to the United States. For the most part its importance has been assumed. Everybody knows it is important – but is it really important to us? And what about Israel?

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Is the Price of Peace Too High?

According to one poll several years ago, 62% of Jewish Israelis thought that the aspiration of the Arabs, in the long run, was to conquer the state of Israel and of that number, 42% thought the goal was to destroy a significant part of the Jewish population in Israel.  If that is your assumption about the people you are expected to negotiate with, then the price for any concessions would be much too high.

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Ned Walker
Jerusalem Embassy - The ISIS dream.

President Trump has  revived the call to move our Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The original reasons for locating in Tel Aviv were practical and twofold: security after the 1948 Arab Israeli war, and the fact that the Israeli government was initially located in Tel Aviv. But then the Israelis moved their government to Jerusalem and, for the most part, security was established in the land.  Our Embassy, however, stayed in Tel Aviv. Now the location of our Embassy is a red flag that could block our moves to discredit and defeat ISIS.

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Will Trump "fire" Netanyahu?

At their meeting tomorrow the match-up will be uneven.  Bibi does his homework and will know precisely what has been going on in the White House and the Congress.  He will be better informed than his interlocutors, including the President. His intelligence on the Middle East region as it impacts on Israel is better than ours, and his attention to detail makes him a formidable negotiator.  Bibi has a lot in common with President Trump but has been at it a lot longer.  If there is a clash, we will probably not see it.  But if President Trump thinks he can bully Prime Minister Netanyahu, Trump better be prepared to lose.

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