By Azriel Bermant
Published in The National Interest on October 12, 2016
As the Obama era draws to a close, how will history judge the administration’s Middle East policy? The bloodletting in Syria, the growing sectarian tensions in the region and the continued stalemate in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict suggest that the verdict will not be too kind. Yet history also warns us of the dangers of drawing rash conclusions.
After all, twenty-eight years have passed since Ronald Reagan departed the White House. He is still hailed by many Americans as the leader who ended the Cold War, yet remarkably few have drawn attention to his dismal record in the Middle East. Poignantly, the recent passing of Israel’s elder statesman, Shimon Peres, presents an opportunity to revisit an episode which casts the Reagan administration in a new light. READ MORE
Published in The Telegraph UK, 28 September 2016
Shimon Peres, Israel’s elder statesman, who died early on Wednesday at the age of 93, served his country with distinction for almost seventy years.
Peres was a flawed visionary and beset by contradictions: he was determined to achieve peace with Israel’s Arab neighbours, but couldn’t shake off the hawkish instincts he had developed as the protégé of Israel’s veteran statesman, David Ben Gurion. He was bold and far-sighted in seeking an agreement with Jordan’s King Hussein in 1987, but his caution undermined it. Peres was greatly distrusted both by his colleagues within the Labour party, his rivals in the Likud and the wider Israeli public. In his memoirs, Yitzhak Rabin described Peres as “the indefatigable subverter.” READ MORE
By Azriel Bermant
Published in Haaretz on July 29, 2016
This week, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Malki, representing President Mahmoud Abbas, addressed the Arab League Summit in Mauritania and asked them to join in preparing to sue the British government. The cause: The 100-year-old letter from British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour to Lord Rothschild regarding the British cabinet’s support for the "establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people."
Malki explained: "Almost a century has passed since 1917… We are working to open up an international criminal case for the crime which they committed against our nation – from the days of the British Mandate all the way to the massacre which was carried out against us from 1948 onwards.” Later on in the week, the demand was scaled down to the request for a formal U.K. apology to the Palestinians.
In January 2013, when David Cameron first proposed the referendum on Britain’s future in the European Union, in order to pacify Eurosceptics within his ruling Conservative party, he could scarcely have imagined that Turkey would play such a prominent role in the campaign.
The concerns of the British public over the possibility of “an invasion of Turkish migrants” were exploited by the ‘leave’ camp as a means to strengthen support for a withdrawal from the EU, amid heightened anxiety within Britain and in Europe as a whole over the migrant crisis. It was claimed that continued British membership of the EU would lead to a loss of control over the number of migrants entering the United Kingdom. The March 2016 agreement between the EU and Turkey on migration was held up as a perfect case in point. The Brexit campaigners pointed to a clause in the agreement referring to talks on new chapters in the possible Turkish accession process to the EU as evidence that Ankara would eventually join the EU, even though most experts argue that this is highly unlikely.
The ‘leave’ campaign also claimed that negotiations between the EU and Turkey over visa exemptions for Turkish citizens would pose a grave security threat, with Britain exposed to a wave of terrorists travelling from Syria and Iraq, in spite of the fact that no more than 14 per cent of Turkish citizens hold a passport....................................................................................................READ MORE
By Azriel Bermant
Published in The JC on July 28, 2016
In an interview with the New York Times last Thursday, Donald Trump remarked that he would not automatically give support to vulnerable members of Nato in the event of a Russian attack.
The implication is that the United States cannot risk its involvement in a dangerous war with Russia to protect distant allies if there is little at stake for the American people.
This is consistent with Trump's isolationist outlook and his apparent hostility to US engagements overseas, suggesting that on foreign policy, he is effectively in the paleoconservative camp.
In recent weeks Trump has gone out of his way to express his support for Israel, applauding settlement building in the West Bank. The Republican Platform Committee has approved a proposal to bin the party's commitment to a two-state solution.
He had spoken just a few months earlier about the importance of being "neutral" in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
More significantly, however, his numerous statements casting doubts over the future of Nato and his reluctance to pledge support for vulnerable members of the Alliance raise disturbing questions.
Trump's outspoken support for Israel appears to be at odds with his comments on Nato. Indeed, his remarks that US allies should pay up for their own security suggest that if he is elected, he could take US policy on Israel in the opposite direction.
Israel is the largest single recipient of American financial assistance but whether US largesse would continue under a Trump presidency is anyone's guess. What happens, for example, if the Iran deal falls through and there is a heightened risk of a dangerous confrontation with Tehran?
If Trump cannot support vulnerable democratic allies that are deserving of support in Eastern Europe, it is far from clear that he would come to Israel's aid if it is attacked.
If Trump were to halt US support for Nato's missile defence system in Europe, will he do the same for the Iron Dome, David's Sling and Arrow defence systems?
Trump's Jewish supporters point out that his daughter has converted to Judaism and married an observant Jew. But that provides no guarantees for Israel. What about those things that he has left unsaid?
Trump is a law unto himself. What he says today can be disavowed tomorrow.
BY AZRIEL BERMANT
Dr Azriel Bermant
Foreign Policy and International Security Analyst, Historian, Lecturer, Author