Ortagus: Peace for Israel is important to US national security

Ortagus commended US President Donald Trump for taking a different approach to the old problems of the Middle East.

Morgan Deann Ortagus  (photo credit: Courtesy)
Morgan Deann Ortagus
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Orchestrating peace between Israel and Gulf states is strongly in America’s interest, State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus argued at The Jerusalem Post Annual Conference this week.
“Peace for Israel, one of our strongest allies in the world, is important for American national security, because we believe in a strong sovereign state of Israel,” Ortagus said. “We have close partnerships with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain; we have troops there, military, economic and diplomatic relationships for a long time as well.
“Anytime we can bring our friends and allies together, it is positive for the US,” Ortagus stated.
Ortagus commended US President Donald Trump for taking a different approach to the old problems of the Middle East.
“He looks at them like a businessman, as someone not encumbered by the foreign policy thinking that so many people in Washington are espousing, tired, old, stale ideas,” she said. “It’s refreshing to work for someone like that. He empowers [Secretary of State] Mike Pompeo and [senior adviser] Jared Kushner and others to not just accept conventional wisdom the way it’s been told for decades, and it was proven to work this time.”
Part of the peacemaking philosophy of the Trump administration is “you only get peace through strength. You don’t get peace through appeasing enemies,” Ortagus stated.
Peace between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain marks “a completely new day for the Middle East,” the State Department spokesperson said, adding that the Trump administration’s peacemaking team “believes this is the start of something big.”
On a personal note, Ortagus said of being in the Oval Office for the phone call between Trump, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Bahraini King Hamed bin Isa Al Khalifa: “You know you’ll have exciting moments when you take on this job, but it felt incredibly surreal, hard to put into words what these moments feel like.
“Young Israeli, Emirati and Bahraini children will grow up in a world where it’s normal to visit each other’s countries,” she said. “It’s one of the most significant things we’ve accomplished in the Trump administration and I’m so happy to be part of it.”
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On her many visits to the Middle East with Pompeo, Ortagus said she found that young people in the UAE and Bahrain are enthusiastic about making peace.
“Young Arabs want to think about the Israel-Palestinian issue differently than has been thought of in the last 30-50 years. They recognize the old way of doing things was tired, didn’t work and didn’t help the Palestinian people,” she said.
Asked about the Palestinians’ rejection of other Arab countries’ normalization with Israel and of cooperation with the Trump administration, Ortagus pointed out that its Vision for Peace includes a Palestinian state.
“We were able to get Israel to agree to [a map of] a Palestinian state for the first time,” she said. “The only people who brought a Palestinian state to the negotiating table is the US.”
Ortagus said the Palestinian leadership should be blamed for its people’s languishing in statelessness.
“The Palestinian people should be angry not at the Emiratis, Bahrainis, Israelis or Americans, but their leaders. They should as why their leaders want to live in this past era of doing business. The Middle East is changing and Palestinian leaders need to step up for their own people. The only people who have failed them are their own leaders,” she stated.
When it comes to Iran, Ortagus once again drew a sharp contrast from the previous administration.
Under former president Obama, “policy in the Middle East was premised on the fact that it was inevitable Iran was going to get a nuclear weapon and inevitable Iran would be this major power in the Middle East.
“We in the Trump administration fundamentally reject that premise,” she said. “We are not going to allow [Iran] to continue to foment terrorism through the region, paid for with sanctions relief.”
The US will continue its “maximum pressure” campaign, Ortagus said, in an attempt to prod Iran towards peaceful negotiations.
“All the Iranian people need to do is look at places with Iranian influence, like Lebanon or Syria – it’s chaos. What good is Iranian influence?” she said. “When American comes into the picture, we come as a friend and a trusted ally.
Ortagus added that Trump “prefers a peaceful path,” but that whenever a hand is stretched out to peace with Iran, it responds with aggression, such as bombing Saudi oil reserves.