Trump Chases His “Ultimate Deal”

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(photo: Evan Vucci)

What is the basis of optimism In Israel about Donald Trump? For many, it seems to be his apparent endorsement of an “outside-in” peace process.

By Nathan Thrall / The New Yorker
May 22, 2017


The outside-in approach is merely the latest in a series of failed tactics aimed at creating new incentives to make peace, rather than pursuing strategies — withholding financial assistance, to begin with — that steer the parties away from the status quo. Trump frightens Israeli leaders precisely because he is one of the only American politicians they could imagine even considering the latter approach.


Not so long ago, President Donald Trump had backers of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process worried and Israeli settlers and annexationists elated. Many were convinced that a change in U.S. policy toward Israel was imminent, not least because the President’s three main advisers on Israel were modern Orthodox Jews with ties to West Bank settlements. Mr. Trump’s chief negotiator, Jason Greenblatt, is a former West Bank yeshiva student. The new U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, until recently headed a settler fund-raising group. And the family of Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, has donated to the institutions of a settlement northeast of Ramallah.

For months after Trump’s election, Palestinians couldn’t manage to arrange so much as a phone call with his senior advisers. And, at a White House press conference in February with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump himself expressed ambivalence about Palestinian statehood. Few doubted Naftali Bennett, the head of the pro-settler Jewish Home Party, when he declared that “the era of a Palestinian state is over.”

Today, however, Palestinians leaders are roundly praising Trump — not just Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority, but also Khaled Meshal, the former leader of Hamas. In Trump, they see the rare possibility of an American President who appears capable of challenging the decades-long bipartisan consensus to underwrite Israel’s occupation while making empty promises to end it. The fact that Mr. Trump is a Republican and surrounds himself with lifelong Zionists makes him seem even better positioned to twist Israel’s arm. Palestinians took note when, during the Republican primaries, Trump vowed to be a neutral mediator, refused to blame only one side for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and declined to back down when attacked, even though he had many electoral and financial incentives to do otherwise.

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How Can Trump Make Peace Without a Partner in Palestine?

President Trump Welcomes Palestinian President Abbas To White House

(photo: Olivier Douliery / Getty Images)

The aging Mahmoud Abbas is more likely to preside over the collapse of Palestinian institutions than the creation of an independent state.

By Grant Rumley / Foreign Policy
May 18, 2017


If Trump cares about the fate of the Palestinians, he would be wise not to ignore the looming crisis. . . . When Trump repays the visit [to Abbas] next week he’ll want to consider what his newfound partner is doing to ensure a stable future in the West Bank.


President Donald Trump visits Israel next week at a supremely awkward moment, amid reports that he shared Israeli intelligence with Russian officials in the Oval Office. Both sides are likely to do their best to bury the issue. The Israelis value intelligence sharing too much to raise the issue publicly, and Trump will no doubt prefer to speak about his efforts to restart negotiations with the Palestinians — a process he hopes can yield the “ultimate deal.”

The president appears serious about trying to bring a solution to this interminable problem. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster went so far as to say that the U.S. goal was Palestinian “self-determination,” a term previous administrations also used to describe Palestinian statehood. But rather than overseeing the creation of a Palestinian state, Trump’s term could very well witness the collapse of Palestinian institutions.

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Is Trump Visiting Israel to Praise Bibi — Or To Bury Him?

Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem

(photo: PBS)

Trump has much to gain and little to lose; the reverse is true of Netanyahu.

By J. J. Goldberg / Forward
May 2, 2017


Israelis with ties to the Trump administration are reporting, according to political correspondent Tal Shalev of the widely read Walla news site, that the president wants to convene a “regional summit” of Middle East leaders this summer in Washington. Participants would include Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, along with Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The agenda would be based on the Saudi-led Arab Peace Initiative.


When Donald Trump visits Israel later this month, as he reportedly will do, he faces much to potentially gain and little to lose. The reverse is true of his host, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

For Trump, it’s an opportunity to show some statesmanship and gravitas — qualities he’s not widely associated with — in a friendly environment. It’s an opportunity to solidify his shaky relationship with the ardently pro-Israel Republicans in Congress, who’ve been repeatedly undermined or plain flummoxed by Trump’s unpredictable antics. And — who knows? — he just might make some progress where so many have failed: getting the Israeli-Palestinian deadlock unstuck. Strange things happen when Trump’s around.

Besides, if he tries and fails, it will simply end up being another implausible promise he’s made and then airily dismissed. We’re used to it.

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Mr. Friedman, Where Do You Stand on the Demolition of a Palestinian Village and School?

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Students at Khan al Ahmar village school, Palestine (photo: Vento di Terra)

An open letter to Donald Trump’s nominee to be ambassador to Israel.

By Donna Baranski-Walker / Mondoweiss.net
March 8, 2017


My question: Do your own donations to support education in the Israeli settlement of Beit El and President Trump’s trust in you put you in a unique position to stop Israel’s demolition of Palestinian communities?


David Friedman, esq.
Nominee for U.S. Ambassador to Israel

Dear Mr. Friedman,

I am writing with urgency. I have asked my Senators Feinstein and Harris to forward my questions to you and request your reply. I am bringing these questions forward because although many speculate about what shape peace between Israelis and Palestinians will take in the future, I am most concerned with how you will assure a future for Palestinians who are being forced from their land right now.

The stakes were always high, but since January 2017, this situation is critical. These past two weeks, I have once again been urging everyone I know to write to their Senators and Representatives to urgently request that they call the Israeli Embassy and the U.S. State Department to prevent the imminent demolition of a West Bank Palestinian school and village, this time the village of Khan al Ahmar. Simultaneously we await word of the State of Israel’s position re the appeal by the Palestinian village of Susiya, calls are arriving from the village of Umm al Kheir about the Israeli Army’s demolition of water catchment cisterns in their area, and more.

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A Budding Symbiosis between Trump and Netanyahu

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photo: Stephen Crowley / The New York Times

Political lift as both Netanyahu and Trump face mounting challenges on home front.

By Mark Landler / The New York Times
March 7, 2017


“It appears that President Trump is prepared to go a long way to help Prime Minister Netanyahu with his domestic difficulties and that Netanyahu, in return, is willing to provide a kosher seal of approval for a president who was slow to condemn anti-Semitism.”
— Martin S. Indyk, former special envoy to the Middle East


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel was sitting in his residence in Jerusalem on Monday, being questioned by the police in a murky bribery and fraud investigation that could put an end to his political career, when the telephone rang.

On the line was President Trump, who wanted to talk to Mr. Netanyahu about Iran and a few other matters.

The prime minister excused himself for several minutes to take the call, and later issued a statement in which he thanked Mr. Trump “for his warm hospitality during his recent visit to Washington and expressed his appreciation for the president’s strong statement against anti-Semitism during the president’s speech before Congress.”

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A Great New Accidental Renaissance

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Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn was filled on Feb. 6 for an evening of strategizing against President Trump. (photo: Demetrius Freeman / The New York Times)

By Timothy Egan / The New York Times
March 3, 2017


Trump has been good — indirectly — for a free press, an independent judiciary, high school civics, grass-roots political activity, cautionary tales in literature and theater, and spirituality. You don’t know what you’ve got, as the song says, till it’s gone — or nearly so.


My friend Sam laughed when I told him I was going to spend my Saturday at a “Search for Meaning” festival at a Jesuit college in the heart of seriously secular Seattle. He assumed, as I did, that a bare handful of the usual search-for-meaning suspects would be straining minutiae while still clinging to the meaninglessness of it all.

But nooooo — all the keynote events at Seattle University were completely sold out. In the winter of the American soul, people thronged to hear advice on how to “live a life of significance and impact” and to “find meaning in times of change, challenge and chaos.”

I credit President Trump. Not because he seems any more evolved than the first earthworms now appearing in the cold soil of my garden. But because the threats to truth, civility, rational thought and brotherly love coming from the White House have prompted a huge counterreaction.

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I Was a Muslim in Trump’s White House

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(photo: Leah Varjacques / The Atlantic)

When President Obama left, I stayed on at the National Security Council in order to serve my country. I lasted eight days.

By Rumana Ahmed / The Atlantic
February 23, 2017


Placing U.S. national security in the hands of people who think America’s diversity is a “weakness” is dangerous. It is false.

People of every religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, and age pouring into the streets and airports to defend the rights of their fellow Americans over the past few weeks proved the opposite is true — American diversity is a strength, and so is the American commitment to ideals of justice and equality.


In 2011, I was hired, straight out of college, to work at the White House and eventually the National Security Council. My job there was to promote and protect the best of what my country stands for. I am a hijab-wearing Muslim woman — I was the only hijabi in the West Wing — and the Obama administration always made me feel welcome and included.

Like most of my fellow American Muslims, I spent much of 2016 watching with consternation as Donald Trump vilified our community. Despite this — or because of it — I thought I should try to stay on the NSC staff during the Trump Administration, in order to give the new president and his aides a more nuanced view of Islam, and of America’s Muslim citizens.

I lasted eight days.

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