Steven Horowitz

Trump and Netanyahu — A Stern Message to the UN?

President Obama has only one more task on his to-do list: Get the Security Council of the United Nations to either declare the Israeli settlements illegal, or force the parameters of a left-wing peace plan down Israel’s throat. This could come in one or two forms — either through a formal plan endorsed by the G-5 or by the recognition of the international body to an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank.

Obama has always thought that he and the American Left have a better understanding of Israel’s geopolitical reality than the Israeli right wing. This has been especially true in all Obama’s dealings with Benjamin Netanyahu. But Obama’s ideas have been tainted by a virulent stream of anti-Zionist extremism from the Left. Don’t forget that Obama has been a close friend and confidant of an entire slew of Israel bashers throughout his entire career in politics. His own church pastor, the Rev. Jerimiah Wright, was for twenty years a vehement critic of the Jewish state, yet he remained the spiritual leader of the Obama family. Obama has been close with other similar types — like PLO activist Rashid Khalidi and the anti-Semitic Black Muslim Louis Farrakhan, who was the spiritual mentor to Rev. Wright. Obama’s early career was dependent on the blessings of such men within his community. Obama was friends with SDS new-left functionary turned terrorist turned professor, the Weatherman, Bill Ayers. The Rev. Jessie Jackson (no particular friend of Israel) was an early political ally. In fact, many of Obama’s past acquaintances have not exactly been objective toward the precarious geopolitical position of the State of Israel.

Obama has always found it politically expedient to hide behind the Israeli Left in hopes of disguising his past associations. But Obama definitely has a hidden, yet distinct, animus toward Israel’s forced occupation of the West Bank Palestinian population. Obama was a mere child during the run-up to the 1967 war. He couldn’t have remembered the genocidal terror emanating from the proclamations of the entire Arab world against the people of Israel. And Obama (the adult) has apparently chosen to disregard the geo-strategic lack of depth that Israel was forced to confront in the lead-up to that war. Hence, the significance of the West Bank cannot be underestimated. In fact, the West Bank stands as probably the most strategic piece of territory in the world today.

But the essence of Obama’s animus toward Israel is based on his eight-year presidential policy that has rewarded Iranian aggression and its efforts to build its hegemony throughout the Levant. This American president has bent over backward to offer Iran an extremely flawed nuclear deal in exchange for very little in return. Talk about a sucker’s deal: Obama agreed to vast nuclear concessions (essentially freezing Iran’s program but allowing it to normalize within a short ten to fifteen year timeframe) in exchange for the vague hope that Iran would somehow moderate its behavior toward Israel and alter its hegemonic designs in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. In the meantime, billions of dollars of sanctions have been lifted, and these fungible assets have been sent to militias and terrorists throughout the region. If this is what Obama and the Democratic Party believe to be their own version of “The Art of the Deal”, G-d help us all.

The majority of Israel is confident that President Trump can do better. Businessmen don’t stay in business making sucker deals. But if Obama decides to take action soon at the UN on Palestine, what can Trump or Netanyahu do about it? For one, they can warn their French and British allies that such a move would not be without repercussions with regard to future relations. Trump must show both London and Paris that he is the boss, not them. Like with Eisenhower back in the fifties, London and Paris must now be shown that they are not in charge when it comes to the future of Israel or the PLO and Hamas. If there is ever going to be a chance for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, the UN (with the support of Britain and France) is certainly not going to be the institution which initiates the progress.

But Trump has more cards in his hand to play. Better relations with Russia in Europe mean essentially an understanding that NATO expansion toward Russia’s borders has been a dangerous escalation and needs a dramatic redress. But Moscow’s strategic rapprochement with Tehran in Syria has also been a dramatic escalation. Unless Trump and Putin can reassure America’s traditional Middle East allies — Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the other Gulf states and even the government in Baghdad, under Prime Minister Abadi and linked directly to Iraqi Ayatollah Sistani in Najaf — US-Russian relations will remain at risk from a regional rupture. If Moscow wants good relations with Washington, there must be a political settlement in Syria that eliminates Tehran’s grip upon the country. If not, then President Trump’s policy will be the same as Obama’s. This would be catastrophic.

By allowing Obama and the UN to “rule the roost” on the question of Palestine will send a feeble message to Israel and the Arabs. In fact, most of the Arabs of the region don’t even trust the Palestinians. It has become clear to them that a PLO state will attempt (sooner or later) to hook up with Iran in order to destabilize Jordan and eventually place missiles on the West Bank. It is the Arabs themselves who best understand the true intentions of Hamas and Fatah. For the Arab world, Palestinian nationalism is now definitely on the back burner. The threat of Iran remains supreme.

Donald J.Trump must warn Moscow that better relations cannot be achieved without the shrinking of Iranian power throughout the region. If he doesn’t, he risks losing the entire Middle East. Iran is Enemy Number One. Moscow must decide what kind of “deal” it really wants. Because President Trump can not allow himself to be “played” in the Middle East, by either Russia or Iran.

The defeat of ISIS is totally dependent on a political understanding with Sunni Arabs. This issue is way bigger than the issue of Palestine. Iranian imperialism throughout the Middle East is an existential threat to both Sunni Arabs and Israelis alike. The future of Israel-Palestine cannot be achieved until it has become clear where Iran fits into the greater scheme of things. Obama’s Palestinian plan — seeking a kind of personal retribution against Netanyahu at the UN — will only make a greater mess of things.

If the UN under a Democratic Party lame-duck president decides to take Security Council action and interferes with the concept of direct negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians, the entire right-wing in Israel could favor the immediate annexation of Area C on the West Bank. Prime Minister Netanyahu could certainly expect President Trump to give him full backing on such a measure. If not, Trump would have to come up with an alternative plan, or risk bringing down the Netanyahu government. This prospect would be like choosing Obama’s policy (only a stronger version) over his own. Such scenario would be unthinkable, not only in the Knesset but in the US Congress as well.

Are the interests of the permanent members of the UN Security Council so wedded to a West Bank Palestinian state that they would risk poor relations with the new American president? Britain and France are already worried about the future of the Atlantic alliance. Russia needs some kind of deal with Washington in order to lift economic sanctions and feel more secure within Europe, and with the West in general. Without cooperation on Syria and the Middle East, there can be no equitable deal in Europe with Moscow.

If Trump decides he can defeat ISIS without a long-term answer to Iran, Hezbollah and the Iraqi-Shiite militias, ISIS will just morph into some other form. This is not in the interest of the US or Russia. Until the Sunni Arab community can feel secure and protected from Iranian aggression, the war in the Levant will continue. Certainly the new administration must understand that UN meddling over the future of the West Bank can only complicate an already complex geopolitical problem.

The concept of a West Bank Palestinian state has become an anachronism. This is more true today — given the chaos within the region — than ever before. Obama’s ISIS policy has been a disaster because he has no logical Syrian or Iraqi policy. The new American president has at least shown rhetorically that he is cognizant of these realities. Israel and the Sunni Arabs, along with Russia and the US, need a blueprint for the region before a blueprint for the West Bank and Jerusalem can be decided.

It is the height of arrogance for a failed US president — who abandoned Iraq to the Iranians and has done absolutely nothing about Tehran’s expansion into Syria — to believe that in the last few weeks of his presidency he can accomplish through the UN (of all institutions) what he and his Secretary of State have already failed to accomplish. Obama’s contributions to a West Bank Palestinian state have been unsuccessful. But if he should chooses another late attempt at the UN, such an initiative must be fully rejected by President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu. But even before such a calamity should happen, President-elect Trump must take the reins of power and prove to the Democratic Party that he is the “new sheriff in town” and his foreign policy will not be against the interests of America’s traditional allies — Israel, Turkey and the Arab states.

About the Author
Steven Horowitz has been a farmer, journalist and teacher spanning the last 45 years. He resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. During the 1970's, he lived on kibbutz in Israel, where he worked as a shepherd and construction worker. In 1985, he was the winner of the Christian Science Monitor's Peace 2010 international essay contest. He was a contributing author to the book "How Peace came to the World" (MIT Press).