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Memo to Trump: US won’t escape Mideast wars till Israel ends oppression of Palestinians

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As Donald Trump heads out to the Middle East, the Israel supporters are in panic mode. They are confused by statements from the U.S. consulate saying that the western wall is not in Israel. They are afraid that Trump will put pressure on Israel over its neverending settlement project. They are concerned that Trump seemed to get along with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and that he has grand ambitions to make a deal between the two sides so he will have a legacy.

Sheldon Adelson is anguished/angry, CNN reports. While Israel advocate Martin Indyk says the mood is sour.

 Israeli mood soured by Masada speech cancellation, 15 minutes at Yad Vashem, refusal to call Western Wall Israel’s or move embassy to J’m.

The panic reflects the central fact of Israel’s existence: it depends on the United States to protect it in international forums from the consequences of its own actions, and therefore it relies on the Israel lobby (Adelson, Indyk et al) to enforce American government support.

But Trump is a loose cannon. Supporters of the so-called Jewish state worry that on his visit to Bethlehem Trump will see the wall that encloses that legendary city and blurt what any traveler does: This place is a prison. The Palestinians have no rights!

Those of us who envision a more equitable outcome in Israel and Palestine (equal rights) are hoping that Trump does just that, and shakes things up. The only way there will be progress in the Middle East is when Israel ceases to believe that it is completely unaccountable and can act with impunity toward the Palestinian subjects who make up half the population under its control.

On his flight today, Trump should reflect on the American people’s interest in the Middle East, and what Israel is doing to advance or set back our interest.

We have been at war in the Middle East for the last 16 years. In fact, being at war in the Middle East now seems to be an end in itself for the Washington establishment. Maybe that’s true for Israel, which has been at war with its neighborhood for 68 years in one form or another and seems to regard this as the right way to conduct its relationships with its neighbors. “The Arabs don’t want us here, so there will be one war after another till they accept us,” a Jewish friend in Jerusalem once explained to me. When did that vision ever work for anyone?

This is not a vision for American policy. Yes we all have a keen interest in stopping terrorist attacks in the United States carried out by radical Islamists. But why do such people even care about the U.S. to risk or sacrifice their lives to hurt us? Osama bin Laden was clear about this. His number two issue was US support for the oppression of Palestinians. For Khalid Sheikh Mohammed US support for Israel was the main issue. Ditto many of the 9/11 hijackers.

Trump should watch what the FBI  agent James Fitzgerald told the 9/11 Commission in 2004 when asked about their motivation:

“I believe they feel a sense of outrage against the United States,” he said. “They identify with the Palestinian problem, they identify with people who oppose repressive regimes and I believe they tend to focus their anger on the United States.”

Commission head Lee Hamilton concluded that “a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was vital to America’s long-term relationship with the Islamic world.”

That was more than ten years ago and there has been no settlement.

At this point in President Obama’s presidency he traveled to Cairo and described the Israel-Palestine conflict as the second “major source of tension” between the U.S. and the Muslim world, after violent extremism. Obama spoke of Israeli “occupation” and Palestinian “humiliations”:

the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own…

That is in Israel’s interest, Palestine’s interest, America’s interest, and the world’s interest.

Obama called that speech “A New Beginning.” But he was able to do nothing to follow through on these promises over the next eight years.

And today the United States is even closer to Israel than it was when he started out. We are giving Israel more money than ever before, we are working more closely with its business and military establishment, we share so much intelligence that it is a giant scandal in the eyes of Israel supporters who are given a platform in the New York Times when Trump leaks a secret about ISIS.

But meantime Israel’s conduct toward the Palestinians is as bad as ever. It continues to gobble up Palestinian land and force Palestinians off it. The country’s leadership is so rightwing religious-nationalist that it is threatening to annex large portions of the West Bank and pressuring the U.S. to recognize its claims to Jerusalem.

There are now something like 800,000 Jewish colonists on Palestinian land, and apartheid is a nice word for the situation. The Jews can vote, the Palestinians living alongside them can’t. When Palestinian children resist their prison-like conditions and utter absence of opportunity by throwing stones at the colonizing forces, Israel slaughters them.

And calls them terrorists, and demands that we call them terrorists too.

None of this would surprise the State Department experts who warned against the establishment of a Jewish state 70 years ago. They said it would lead to endless unrest in the Middle East.

Though 40 years into Israel’s existence, Palestinian leaders said they would accept it if a Palestinian state was created alongside, and Arab nations also said they would accept that outcome, Israel demolished that solution. Out of pure greed for more land.

The American people’s interest here is clear. Israel is at war with neighbors and subject population because it has chosen the path of militant nationalism. We are enmeshed in Israel’s wars, but we don’t have to be. Donald Trump has a historic opportunity to hit Reset on a suffocatingly-close special relationship.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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26 Responses

  1. Maghlawatan
    Maghlawatan on May 19, 2017, 10:00 am

    1967 via Haaretz
    Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin declared that if Israel did not strike the first blow, “There would be grave danger to Israel’s existence and the war will be difficult, painful and with multiple casualties.”

    Israel chose a longer suicide.
    It is ironic that the Jewish state works for Moloch. In certain light it is hilarious . All those iterations. All that wasted effort..

  2. Maghlawatan
    Maghlawatan on May 19, 2017, 10:04 am

    It will come to a point where Israel is forced to choose and find it has run out of choices. It is very hard to change the dynamic of a system in progress. The irony is that Judaism is a decent manual for how to operate but that the lure of violence was more attractive to Zionism. You can’t fix stupid.

    • Citizen
      Citizen on May 19, 2017, 12:45 pm

      The test of virtue is power. Zionist Israel has failed completely. And, as aider and abettor, the USA has failed completely too.

      • Maghlawatan
        Maghlawatan on May 19, 2017, 4:15 pm

        Nihilism is

        A) Not Jewish
        B) Not sustainable

        The level of popular hatred required to run apartheid is not controllable.

      • Mooser
        Mooser on May 19, 2017, 5:40 pm

        “Nihilism is…

        Nihilism, of course, makes you walk like an Egyptian.

    • Mooser
      Mooser on May 19, 2017, 1:53 pm

      “You can’t fix stupid.”

      No, but it would be nice if we didn’t take cynical advantage of each other.

  3. echinococcus
    echinococcus on May 19, 2017, 12:27 pm

    Congratulations, Weiss. Excellent article, superlative title.
    One small observation: even though I will defend Trump against any of the Democrat-and-Republican-and-spy pack, you are way too optimistic and trusting of his spontaneous goodness. It produces a totally unrealistic passage about his inadvertently blurting out something against his own family. Fuggedaboutit.

    • JosephA
      JosephA on May 20, 2017, 3:50 pm

      It would be amazing if our president had a backbone and actually forced concessions out of the modern state of Israel. Unlikely, but as amazing as his election victory.

      • on May 20, 2017, 6:46 pm

        Agreed. The one thing Trump ushered in with his win is the belief that anything is possible – perhaps even concessions from Israel.

        The reason I believe it is unlikely is his choices for advisors – Kushner, Friedman and Fox News.

        Having said that, I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel a flicker of hope after reading the above. Thank you for that Mr. Weiss.

      • JWalters
        JWalters on May 21, 2017, 7:10 pm

        “This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations. This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it. This is a battle between good and evil.” President Trump in Saudi Arabia 5/21/17

        So far so good. Now will Trump have the guts to look squarely at the facts about Israel’s terrorizing the Palestinians, its many crimes, and its dragging the U.S. into its wars in the Mideast? Will he have the guts to drain THAT swamp?

  4. Kay24
    Kay24 on May 19, 2017, 1:29 pm

    Trump has been erratic in many ways, and has changed his mind about many important issues (NAFTA, China, and moving the US embassy to Jerusalem), and he is unpredictable to say the least. He has taken a different approach to this conflict, but the question is, will he change his mind quickly when the situation changes. He has shown some softening up when it comes to the Palestinians, and seem to have confused the zionists by changing his mind about the embassy and now the western wall. But will it last, and will the Palestinians be thrown under the bus, since Trump thinks nothing of doing the same to his officials in the WH? It seems that the Israelis are finding themselves in a strange situation (like many Americans do), and it must leave them with their heading spinning.

  5. Boomer
    Boomer on May 20, 2017, 9:07 am

    re: “US won’t escape Mideast wars till Israel ends oppression of Palestinians”

    I would say, “US won’t escape Mideast wars till it ends support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.” That’s a less ambitious goal, and more within our power. It would be nice if we could do something positive for the Palestinians too: we owe them that, having done so much to help Israel help itself to the Palestinians’ homes and homeland. But, realistically, we can’t control Israel, only our own actions. Our moral responsibility, like charity, starts at home.

  6. John Salisbury
    John Salisbury on May 20, 2017, 9:12 am

    Terrific piece Philip.

  7. pabelmont
    pabelmont on May 20, 2017, 3:15 pm

    There is a lesson for USA policy (let’s say with another president; Trump knows no policy) in the story of the “Emperor’s New Clothes”.

    Our emperors (presidents) have long walked around dressed in the flimsy policy of saying “No FURTHER Settlement Building” but those clothes are so flimsy as to be transparent or invisible.

    International law and treaties make ALL the settlement building illegal (and all the settlement of settlers as well) and the USA should wrap itself (clothe itself) in a substantial garment — by saying so.

    All 800,000 settlers need to be called home: the USA needs that and should take sufficient steps to persuade Israel that Israel needs it. Maybe the settlements buildings need (“need” ha-ha!) to be dismantled as well (read UNSC 465.)

    I understand there is a concern that Israel might “do the crazy” in a Masada turn with its nukes. But if the pressure on Israel is slow and steady it might not do so. Saner minds would prevail.

  8. JosephA
    JosephA on May 20, 2017, 3:52 pm

    If the United States stopped funding the modern state of Israel tomorrow, the peace process would accelerate and would be completed in less than 3 months time.

    • Eric
      Eric on May 21, 2017, 2:07 pm

      More like three weeks, probably less. The contours of a peace deal have been known for decades. The only thing missing has been Zionist willingness to do a deal.

  9. JWalters
    JWalters on May 20, 2017, 9:03 pm

    It is reasonable for the U.S. to guarantee the safety of Jewish people, especially in the U.S. It is completely unreasonable for the U.S. to guarantee a religious state of any sort, including a Jewish state.

    A religious state inevitably privileges people of a selected religion, in violation of the U.S. Constitutional standards of equality of religion under the law. The religious state of Israel has demonstrated these evils in spades. Those evils have also spilled over in the U.S. itself in many ways, including suppressing freedom of speech about Israel, fomenting Islamophobia to benefit Israel, and pushing the U.S. into needless wars on behalf of Israel. Or more exactly, on behalf of the war profiteers behind the “Zionist project”.

  10. JustJessetr
    JustJessetr on May 20, 2017, 11:09 pm

    ““The Arabs don’t want us here, so there will be one war after another till they accept us,” a Jewish friend in Jerusalem once explained to me. When did that vision ever work for anyone?”

    It certainly hasn’t worked for the Arab/Muslim countries who refuse to make peace with Israel.

    • inbound39
      inbound39 on May 21, 2017, 3:47 pm

      I think you are quite wrong. Arab/Muslim refusal to make peace with Israel has isolated Israel in the Middle East and economically Israel’s economy is very tenuous and vulnerable given it requires trade ties outside of the Middle East. It’s ties with the large trading co-op of Europe is tenuous given most countries in that region support compliance with International Law and they feel queazy at Israel’s actions toward Palestinians and its constant violations of sovereign borders. Like bombing the daylights out of Lebanon and launching attacks on Syria. All that has weakened Israel over time and Arab Peace Initiative is now being talked about by Israel and Trump has picked it up also to negotiate the peace with Israel. Israel has been exposed by Arab States as intransigent. Their isolation of Israel and the Arabs consistant table of a very fair peace initiative has laid Israel bare to the World.

    • JustJessetr
      JustJessetr on May 24, 2017, 3:13 pm

      Respectfully, I’m not sure you’re aware of the facts. Turkey, Jordan, and Egypt do brisk trade with Israel. And it’s an open secret that most Middle Eastern nations have business ties to Israel. Even the Ayotollah Khomeni kept up oil trade with Israel for a few years.

      As for Europe, there is ample evidence that their labelling system “Made in the West Bank” hasn’t impacted Israel’s economy overall, though there is certainly evidence of a few West Bank businesses that have been hurt by the system.

      Foreign investment in Israel keeps rising, with expected setbacks like any other country.

      The Leviathan natural-gas fields has a great many nations waiting in line to make a deal, though the process has been stymied by all sorts of roadblocks which are unrelated to boycotts.

      Israel’s medical, water, and tech industries are doing quite well. And it looks set to get into cannabanoid derivatives as well.

      Normalization between Israel and Palestine is the only economic path that will help Palestinians gain any kind of power. Boycotts of Israel since ’48 have only increased their plight, not alleviated it.

      • echinococcus
        echinococcus on May 24, 2017, 5:04 pm

        Jesse the Just,

        I’m sure that reading your gloating strengthens the determination to destroy the Zionist abomination every time we read you. Keep it up.

      • JustJessetr
        JustJessetr on May 25, 2017, 4:56 pm


        Gloating and facts are two different things.

        All I stated were the facts.

      • Maghlawatan
        Maghlawatan on June 2, 2017, 5:09 pm

        Israel’s economy is stagnating. Trade with the neighbours is risible. And the YESHA settlement parasite grows at 9% per year. Some tough decisions ahead.

  11. shaun patrick
    shaun patrick on May 22, 2017, 12:51 am

    Lets be clear about a few things:-
    The Obama comment” but he was able to do nothing”. This is not true, he and all the previous presidents choose to do nothing a deliberate choice to allow Israel to do what it wanted without consequences.
    Regarding Trump; there’s only one thing motivating Trump apart from money and that’s ego. He wants to negotiate a solution purely to feed his ego and say ” I’m so great I did what nobody else could, look at me look at me they love me” Let’s see where this goes.
    Lastly Israel’s right wing government blocks any move towards peace. Again, this was a deliberate political decision by Netanyahu to choose these coalition partners so peace would not happen and he could say I would like a solution but my hands are tied it will bring down my government he easily could have had a moderate government and included the Arab Join List in it
    Israel does not want to change anything and other than feeding Trumps ego neither does the USA. As Gideon Levy wrote in Haaretz last week he doubts this is the last 50th anniversary.

  12. talknic
    talknic on May 22, 2017, 6:02 am

    A) The Zionist Federation have had over a hundred years to hone the craft of getting the dirt on people they need to comply. Trump will be given the word at some stage. The murder of Rabin tells us that even Israeli leaders aren’t safe, so what would they care if it’s an American President

    B) They’ve also had over a century practicing the art of lying. Yes, yes, sure, sure. Then ignore, delay, obfuscate, an American President only has a tenure of 8 yrs max. The Zionist Federation 24hrs/7days/52weeks/120years

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