Thursday, April 15, 2021

As expected, the Biden administration is actively pursuing reestablishing the Iran deal. Currently, US representatives are meeting Iran officials in Vienna who have demanded that US sanctions imposed under the Trump administration be removed first as a precondition to talks. Secretary of State Blinken, for his part, has claimed that Biden wants to “lengthen and strengthen” the deal.

This time around, there is no longer talk framing opponents to the Iran deal as warmongers, as the Obama administration and its allies did. It was a theme that was repeated endlessly and hammered into the public consciousness, that while the deal was not perfect, the choice was a binary one -- on between the Iran deal and war.

The argument worked.
The argument of limited choice has also been used in pushing the two-state solution -- but has been updated. 

At one time, the need to create a separate, independent Palestinian Arab state was justified on the basis of the threat of a "demographic time bomb," that the Arab population in Israel, Gaza and the "West Bank" would swamp the Jewish population. For example:
The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) released its annual population survey for 2014, in which it predicted that starting in 2016, the number of Palestinians and Jews living in Israel and the Palestinian territories of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza "will total about 6.42 million each by the end of 2016 provided that current growth rates remain constant." The bureau also states: "The number of Palestinians in historical Palestine [Israel and the Palestinian territories] will total 7.14 million compared to 6.87 million Jews by the end of 2020." [emphasis added]
Obviously, this did not materialize.

So now there is another justification. As acting US Ambassador Richard Mills claimed at a UN Security Council meeting, the two-state solution "remains the best way to ensure Israel’s future as a democratic and Jewish state."

That was back in January. In March, US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield reiterated at a UN Security Council meeting that "we believe this vision [of a 2 state solution] is the best way to ensure Israel’s future as a democratic and Jewish state."

This might go back to December 2016, when then-Secretary of State John "No, no, no and no" Kerry said
If the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or democratic; it cannot be both, and it won't ever really be at peace.
Hold on.

It is one thing for the US government to pursue an admittedly imperfect deal and do an end-around to bypass Congress to make an agreement. It is one thing for the US to do this to ourselves. 

But it another thing to force this on an ally. 

The US has a history of deliberately influencing the Israeli elections, with the excuse that it was being done in the interests of peace. And it is a peace that on the other side of the world where the US will not have to live with the consequences for security. 

There is another comparison between the US attitude to Iran and the Palestinian Authority.

Back in 2016, Kerry defended the $150 billion in sanctions relief to Iran that could end up going to terrorist groups. A.J. Caschetta, a fellow at the Middle East Forum writes:

Kerry reiterated that, after settling debts, Iran would receive closer to $55 billion. He conceded some of that could go to groups considered terrorists, saying there was nothing the U.S. could do to prevent that.

“I think that some of it will end up in the hands of the IRGC or other entities, some of which are labeled terrorists,” he said in the interview in Davos, referring to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. “You know, to some degree, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that every component of that can be prevented.”

But he added that “right now, we are not seeing the early delivery of funds going to that kind of endeavor at this point in time.” [emphasis added]

Iran did not share Kerry's interest in economic recovery.

And it is almost painful to read the degree that Kerry is forced to hedge on how little the billions in relief would go to terrorism. Of course, much of it did go to terrorism and not towards the benefit of the Iranian people.

Caschetta sees the same wishful thinking in Biden's planned bypassing of the Taylor Force Act (TFA) to provide millions in aid to Abbas:
Likewise, Joe Biden believes that the advantages to funding Palestinians outweigh the unfortunate fact that a percentage of that money will be spent on missiles, salaries of imprisoned terrorists and pensions for the families of Palestinian "martyrs."
Add to that the Biden administration's support of the upcoming Palestinian Arab elections, which will allow Hamas terrorists to again directly participate with Fatah. This is a repeat of the elections in 2007, when the Bush administration OK'ed Hamas participation -- and culminated in the bloody coup that kicked out Abbas and Fatah and sent them packing, back to the West Bank.

Putting aside the legal issues of US aid in contravention of the TFA, Jonathan Schanzer, of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies notes that US support for these elections is itself problematic:
This is somewhat awkward in light of the fact that Biden, while serving as a U.S. senator, spearheaded the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006, which prohibits U.S. assistance if the Palestinian Authority is “effectively controlled by Hamas.”
According to that law, that Biden co-sponsored:
 (a) Declaration of Policy.--It shall be the policy of the United 
            (1) to support a peaceful, two-state solution to end the 
        conflict between Israel and the Palestinians in accordance with 
        the Performance-Based Roadmap to a Permanent Two-State Solution 
        to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (commonly referred to as the 
            (2) to oppose those organizations, individuals, and 
        countries that support terrorism and violently reject a two-
        state solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict;
            (3) to promote the rule of law, democracy, the cessation of 
        terrorism and incitement, and good governance in institutions 
        and territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority; and
            (4) to urge members of the international community to avoid 
        contact with and refrain from supporting the terrorist 
        organization Hamas until it agrees to recognize Israel, renounce 
        violence, disarm, and accept prior agreements, including the 
        Roadmap. [emphasis added]
Of course, if Biden can work his way around the Taylor Force Act, he should have no problem contravening the law that he himself proposed.

This comparison between Iran and the Palestinian Authority also points to differences.

Consider the push by the media and progressive groups for the US to take action against Saudi Arabia for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The measures suggested include ending US support for the Saudis against the Iranian-supported Houthis in Yemen, cutting back US arms sales to Saudi Arabia and pushing against crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

This already started during the Trump administration.
Now, it is promoted as part of the Biden administration's vaunted support for human rights.

So on the one hand, we have the call for justice on behalf of Khashoggi, who was not a US citizen, contrary to media claims. He was in the US on the basis of an O-1 visa, which is granted to individuals with “extraordinary ability.” Putting aside his jihadist views, this journalist who wrote for the Washington Post did not even know English; his articles were translated by an employee at the Qatari embassy and his last article was delivered by this translator the day after Khashoggi was reported missing. The Washington Post did not respond when asked if they were aware of this background to the articles.

The US concern for justice for Khashoggi is not matched by a concern for justice for Malki Roth, whose murderer, Ahlam Tamimi, continues to be sheltered by the Jordanian government in defiance of the active extradition treaty between the 2 countries. While the Trump administration made clear it considers the treaty in force and broached the topic with the Jordanians, it never applied pressure on what they consider an ally. 

Can we expect the Biden administration's professed concern for human rights to extend to extraditing the self-confessed murderer of an actual American citizen?

Or is Biden going to follow Obama's example, as when he treated American lives cheaply when he paid the ransom for the release of Americans kidnapped by the Iranian regime?

One of Trump's last contributions towards the end of his term is the Abraham Accords, which will be a thorn in the side of the Biden administration, both in terms of its Iran policy and any attempt to bring a two-state solution to reality. 

In terms of Iran, Trump supported the steps Israel repeatedly took to defend itself against Iranian attempts to exploit its position in Syria and expand its sphere of influence against Israel. We have already seen that Israel continues this policy during the Biden administration, even while the US is engaged in negotiations with Iran in Vienna in an attempt to restart the Iran Deal. Thanks to the Abraham Accords, Israel is no longer alone in this fight.

In terms of the Palestinian Authority, while Biden will be able to some degree to renew US support for the Abbas regime, both politically and even economically, claims of the inevitability and necessity of the two-state solution have lost their sense of urgency. The normalization of ties between Israel and the Arab world will continue and may even converge with a growing attitude among Arab Israelis to work within the system to improve their lives.

In terms of the lives of Arabs in Israel, Biden may find himself irrelevant.
In terms of the lives of Palestinian Arabs, if the best that Biden can do is offer a continuation of the Abbas regime, he has nothing of substance to offer.
In terms of Iran, the US may find that it cannot go back to 2015.

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