When the history of this chaotic period is written, people will doubtless be amazed that, not even four months into his presidency, Donald Trump could have made so many mistakes, done so much wrong, and acted in such legally questionable ways.

It may well be, too, that historians will look back at May 16, 2017 as the day that marked the beginning of the final disgrace of Trump’s presidency. With the revelation that recently dismissed FBI Director James Comey had allegedly recorded and sent to FBI colleagues a memo detailing Trump’s attempt to pressure him into dropping the FBI’s investigation into former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn and Trump’s Russia ties, other matters of grave importance have not gotten the attention they deserve.

Only a day before the Comey memo revelation, in an Oval Office meeting with the Russian ambassador and foreign minister, Trump reportedly revealed highly classified intelligence regarding a planned Islamic State terrorist attack against the United States. The information that Trump divulged had apparently not been shared with some of the closest U.S. allies and was “code-worded” information, a particularly high level of classification.

The next morning, it emerged that the information had come from IsraelRead more at LobeLog


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will shortly meet US President Donald Trump in Washington. The meeting was already going to be an interesting one.

The US-Turkey relationship is complicated, though both countries are members of NATO. Beyond the tension between Turkey and Israel, which complicates matters for Washington, Turkey’s ongoing campaign against any hint of Kurdish self-determination has repeatedly raised issues for the US over the years. Read more at LobeLog


On April 21, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the Palestinians must prove that they want peace. “I think the first test of peace is to say to them, ‘Hey, you want peace? Prove it,” Netanyahu told Fox News’ Sean Hannity.

This is very typical of Netanyahu’s statements on peace over the years. But perhaps it’s time to consider the issue too rarely discussed by those of us who work for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The government’s actions aside, most Israelis do very much want peace. But on the Palestinian side, again setting aside the statements of Palestinian Authority leaders, peace is not at the top of the agenda.

This is one of the biggest, most fundamental disconnects in the Western approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinians are not struggling for peace; they are struggling for freedom. That struggle may be against second-class citizenship for Palestinian citizens of Israel, the expansion of settlements and land confiscation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, or the strangling siege in Gaza. But in all cases, it comes down to a struggle for freedom and a future where today’s Palestinians and future generations can forge their own future outside the yoke of Israel. Read more at LobeLog


James Zogby, the founder and president of the Arab American Institute, is about to wrap up his tenure on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). He is not leaving quietly.

Zogby, who was appointed to two terms on the commission by former President Barack Obama, sent a stunning letter to the commission, expressing his dissent from the latest report as well as his dissatisfaction with the way the commission goes about its business. New congressional legislation, he writes, “does not propose a new strategy. Instead, it doubles down on the failed approaches of the past. Micro-managing how the Administration organizes its foreign policy apparatus; establishing a false hierarchy of human rights; adding new staff, creating new mandates, and requiring more reporting – will not make change. These measures will only serve to add confusion to an already dysfunctional system.”

A major flaw that Zogby highlighted in his letter of departure was the commission’s refusal to address issues of religious freedom in the Israel. At a press conference presenting these issues on Wednesday, Zogby repeatedly stated that the USCIRF’s double standard when it comes to Israel both undermines its credibility when it criticizes other countries and sends the message that those who face religious discrimination from Israel—citizens as well as Palestinians living under Israeli occupation—do not merit having their rights defended. Read more at LobeLog


White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has a difficult job. Turning Donald Trump’s messages into comprehensible, even respectable, public statements is a tough go. But even taking that into account, his performance has been terrible, and on Tuesday, he hit a new low.

Spicer kicked his day off by stating that “Hitler didn’t sink to using chemical weapons.” Yes, you read that right. Hitler never employed chemical agents to kill helpless civilians.

But gaffes happen. One reporter gave Spicer a chance, asking him to clarify the remark. Spicer thanked her for the opportunity…and proceeded to make the matter even worse. Here’s how he explained himself: Read more at LobeLog


On March 30, the Israeli government announced that it had approved the first new settlement in 20 years. The new settlement is part of the government’s compensation package to the settlers of the recently evacuated outpost named Amona. The Israeli courts had ordered the demolition of this illegally built settlement for the first-time way back in 2006. This February, Amona was finally removed.

But despite the controversy over the new settlement, it’s not actually the first new one in 20 years. True, it’s the first settlement in that time that the government publicly planned and did not claim to be part of an existing settlement. But in that period, outposts that were ostensibly illegal under Israeli law, have become legal when they declared themselves part of an existing settlement somewhere in the same general area. More recently, outposts have been legalized retroactively under a new law. So, this is the “first new settlement” only in the most technical, and largely meaningless, sense.

More important are the steps that both the Israeli and US governments are taking in the wake of the Israeli announcement. These are the real indicators of the policy taking shape in the discussions between the Trump and Netanyahu governments. Read more at LobeLog


Every year, anyone who works on United States policy toward Israel, Palestine, or the broader Middle East watches the annual policy conference of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee

US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley

(AIPAC) very closely. At that conference, we expect not only to find out a great deal about where the US and Israeli governments stand at the moment, but also what is likely to occupy the attention of Congress for the coming year regarding Middle East policy.

At last year’s conference, then-candidate Donald Trump’s appearance and warm reception caused one of the deepest divides in the Jewish community in recent memory. AIPAC’s day-after public apology to President Barack Obama for the ovations that Trump’s sharply critical words drew was a landmark event, and was an incident that the powerful lobbying group was hoping to bury this year.

AIPAC wanted their 2017 conference to be one that brought its supporters–who span a considerable political spectrum apart from Middle East policy–back together, and one that also set a clear agenda for the group’s activities for the first year of the Trump Administration. It was not entirely successful in either goal. Read more at LobeLog

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