News Digest — 6/26/19

Bolton ‘Opens Door’ To Iran At Historic Summit In Jerusalem

U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said on Tuesday (25th) in Jerusalem that President Donald Trump is open to real negotiations and “all that Iran needs to do is walk through that open door.”

Bolton spoke at a high-profile trilateral security summit on Tuesday, attended by his Israeli and Russian counterparts Meir Ben-Shabbat and Nikolai Patrushev, along with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

PM Netanyahu welcomed Patrushev to Israel, thanking him and Russian President Vladimir Putin for agreeing to attend the summit in Jerusalem.

Addressing the threat posed by the Iranian regime, Netanyahu said, “I am certain that from this perspective…it is understood in Russia the significance for us of a regime that calls for our destruction, not just to conquer us but to destroy us, and is daily acting to achieve this goal.”

He continued: ”Therefore, Israel will not allow Iran, which calls for our destruction, to entrench itself on our border and we will do everything we can to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons.  Self-defense is a very important lesson of 20th-century history, certainly for the Jewish people and its state.”

Echoing the prime minister’s sentiments, Ben-Shabbat said, “The attainment of security and stability in our region is our common goal.  Other nations and peoples in and beyond the region also aspire to it. It will be unattainable without reining in Iran’s aspirations and actions.  Recent events underscore this conclusion, which must be taken into account in any outline for an agreement.”

Bolton went on to say that American envoys were surging across the region in hopes of finding a path out of escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran but that silence of the Islamic Republic has been “deafening.” 

His comments alongside his Israeli and Russian counterparts come after Iran slammed the Trump administration over new U.S. sanctions targeting the country’s leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.



Russia Swears Iran Is Its Ally, After Trilateral Meeting With Netanyahu And Bolton

Tehran is Moscow’s ally and is not linked to terrorism, Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev said in Jerusalem on Tuesday (25th) as he slammed attempts to speak of Iran as a regional threat.

Patrushev was in Jerusalem for a historic trilateral meeting with U.S. and Israeli national security advisers John Bolton and Meir ben-Shabbat.

“Iran has been and will be an ally and partner of ours, with which we have had gradually developing ties for quite some time, both bilaterally and multilaterally.  Any attempts to make Tehran look like the main threat to global security, to put it in the same basket as ISIS or any other terror group, are unacceptable. Iran has been contributing a lot to the fight against terrorism in Syria, helping to stablize the situation.  We call upon our partners to exercise restraint and to take efforts to alleviate the concerns and tensions. Efforts should be made to decrease tensions between Israel and Iran,” Patrushev said.

Patrushev, Netanyahu, Bolton, and Ben-Shabbat spoke warmly when they met together before the trilateral meeting.  But in his press briefing after the trilateral, Patrushev’s words showed the deep divide that remained between Russia and its U.S. and Israeli allies.

Patrushev dismissed the charge that Iran had recently torpedoed U.S. tankers and called for an investigation into the matter.

Patrushev said that Israeli airstrikes against Iranian military in Syria were “unwelcome.”  He said that many of the airstrikes could have been prevented.

“Steps have to be taken to decrease tension between Israel and Tehran by taking steps on both sides toward the goal.  Syria should not become a geopolitical arena for confrontation,” Patrushev said.



Second Day of protests: Palestinians Burn Trump Effigies

In a second day of protesting the Bahrain conference Tuesday (25th), Palestinians burned effigies of U.S. President Donald Trump and marched a donkey pasted over with images of Gulf royals in Samaria, as the U.S. Prepared to open its conference in Bahrain, which is focusing on the economic portion of the White House’s long-awaited plan for Mideast peace.

At this week’s conference, the Trump administration hopes to draw pledges from business leaders and wealthy Gulf states to fund its economic plan, which calls for $50 billion of investment and infrastructure projects in Judea and Samaria, Gaza and neighboring Arab countries.

Consistent with its boycott of the Trump administration, the Palestinian Authority (PA) rejected the plan site unseen and wants nothing to do with it.

Thousands across Judea and Samaria held up signs saying “Down with the Bahrain Conference.”

Scattered clashes erupted as Palestinian rioters hurled rocks at Israeli soldiers, who responded with crowd-control tactics.  In Nablus, protesters hung an effigy of Trump from a column.

In Bethlehem, the protesters’ donkey took center stage, its backside covered with the crossed-out faces of Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who are viewed as supporting the White House’s efforts.

In Gaza, stores and public institutions were all closed Tuesday (25th).



Oman Announces Plan To Open Embassy In Ramallah

The sultanate of Oman on Wednesday (26th) announced it will open an embassy in the Palestinian city of Ramallah.

A tweet from the Omani Foreign Ministry announced the embassy plans.  The ministry said the decision comes “in continuation of the sultanate’s support for the Palestinian people.”

The tweet did not specify when the embassy would be expected to open.

Oman, on the eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula, runs its own foregin policy, often at odds with its Gulf Arab neighbors, such as maintaining close ties to Iran.

Sultan Qaboos bin Said also hosted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last October – the first visit by an Israeli leader in over 20 years.  In 1996, Prime Minister Shimon Peres visited Oman.

In April, Oman’s Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi urged Palestinians to reassure Israel that it is not under threat in the Middle east.



Treating Israel As A Friend Who Doesn’t Need To Be Ordered Around – Jonathan S. Tobin 

→When the New York Times gave the Democratic Presidential candidates a chance to answer 18 policy questions, the only one that touched on the Middle East was: “Do you think Israel meets international standards of human rights?”  That question summed up the anti-Israel bias of the newspaper.

Considering the scores of nations with egregious human-rights records and Israel’s immediate proximity to many of them, it speaks volumes about the obsessive nature of the paper’s prejudice that the only query it would ask about was the one country in the region that is a democracy and respects human rights.

Some of Israel’s critics seem to see Israel’s  legitimacy as linked to the creation of a Palestinian state alongside it.  Such a state is something that many Israelis would welcome, provided that it came in the context of a true peace that would end the conflict.  But the overwhelming majority of Israelis – as evidenced by the way they have voted in the last several elections – understand that they have no credible partner for peace.  And they reject repeating the colossal disaster in which their country withdrew from Gaza in 2005, which resulted in the creation of a terrorist state.

That’s something that these critics don’t acknowledge or understand.  Instead, they think that the U.S. has the right to pressure Israel into making concessions to create a Palestinian state, regardless of the fact that the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected peace offers that would have given them one long ago.  At its core, their conception of the U.S.-Israel relationship is that of a great power and a client state that must do as it’s told.

There is a vast imbalance in the relative power of the two countries, and Israel needs the support of its superpower ally.  But the current president has no burning desire to “save Israel from itself.” Nor is he convinced that he understands their security dilemmas better than they do.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman has become the object of mainstream media scorn because he conceives of his position as one in which he is tasked with promoting better relations between the two countries, rather than acting as an imperial proconsul who is there to give orders to the Israelis.