Trumping Palestinian lies and Tehran’s agenda

In one fell swoop, Trump set the record straight about Israel and its neighbors.

President Donald Trump talks to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from the Truman Balcony at the White House during the signing ceremony of the Abraham Accords, Sept. 15, 2020 (photo credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES/JTA)
President Donald Trump talks to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from the Truman Balcony at the White House during the signing ceremony of the Abraham Accords, Sept. 15, 2020
One of the most noteworthy avowals that US President Donald Trump made during his speech on Tuesday, prior to the signing ceremony of the Abraham Accords, went by virtually unnoticed by champions and critics alike.
Perhaps this had to do with the fact that he said it early in his address, which was ground-breaking as a whole.
Or maybe it was because his words preceded equally significant statements by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al-Zayani.
After opening remarks that included thanking all those who made Jerusalem’s peace treaty with Abu Dhabi and normalization declaration with Manama possible, Trump declared, “For generations, the people of the Middle East have been held back by old conflicts, hostilities, lies, treacheries... lies that the Jews and Arabs were enemies, and that al-Aqsa Mosque was under attack.”
These falsehoods, he said “passed down from generation to generation [and] fueled a vicious cycle of terror and violence that spread across the region and all over the world.”
He ended the passage by saying, “The people of the Middle East will no longer allow hatred of Israel to be fomented as an excuse for radicalism or extremism.”
The importance of this historical depiction cannot be overstated. In one fell swoop, Trump set the record straight about Israel and its neighbors. He was saying that lies and treachery, not the Jewish state, have been holding back the region. And that hatred of Israel – not Israel’s behavior – has been used as a unifier for terrorists.
Though he did not point a finger specifically at the Palestinians – since they are not only perpetrators in this context, but pawns as well – he was announcing to them in no uncertain terms that their game is up where using al-Aqsa Mosque to incite violence is concerned.
Yes, Trump was signaling to the powers-that-be in Ramallah and Gaza that Washington will not tolerate the sham that Islam’s third holiest site – located on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem (Judaism’s holiest site) – is under assault by Israel.
Such an announcement, in the presence of Muslim-Arab honchos about to ink a deal for full and warm diplomatic relations with Israel, was nothing short of breathtaking.
The Jewish state has spent its entire existence engaged in a defensive war against heavily armed neighbors bent on its destruction, while simultaneously battling international propaganda aimed at delegitimizing its character.
Though neither the UAE nor Bahrain have taken part in the military campaigns against it – and even have been conducting behind-the-scenes cooperation with Jerusalem – they never would have been open about considering Israel a partner of any kind. That they did so this week was due to the efforts of Trump’s team of advisers, chief among them Jared Kushner, and a nod from Saudi Arabia, the largest and most powerful Gulf state.
When Riyadh granted permission for the use of its airspace to an El Al Airlines flight transporting a joint American-Israeli delegation from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi on August 31 to iron out the details of the imminent treaty, it was clear that the kingdom had given the UAE a green light to proceed.
Which brings us to Iran, the real focus and biggest loser of the Trump administration’s diplomatic maneuver.
Trump did not mention the ayatollah-led regime by name. Nor did he refer to his withdrawal from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the disastrous nuclear deal with Tehran signed by the previous US administration and five other world powers.
But he did remind the audience that his first official trip abroad as president was to Saudi Arabia, where he urged dozens of Muslim-Arab leaders, including host King Salman, “to set aside their differences, unite against the common enemy of civilization and work together toward the noble aims of security and prosperity.”
JUDGING BY his speech to the Arab Islamic American Summit on May 21, 2017, the “common enemy of civilization” to which he was referring was terrorism. Yet he was unambiguous in identifying the globe’s key culprit.
“From Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, Iran funds, arms and trains terrorists, militias and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region,” he said. “For decades, Iran has fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror. It is a government that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing the destruction of Israel, death to America and ruin for many leaders and nations in this room.”
The Sunnis in the crowd couldn’t have been happier to have a new sheriff in the Oval Office who was there to keep the Shi’ite mullahs in Tehran at bay, not eagerly be hoodwinked by their deceit and anxious to shower them with cash to keep their centrifuges spinning.
At the time, however, it seemed that Trump, too, was being naïve. After all, the newbie in the White House was speaking to a roomful of Arabs whose own regimes leave much to be desired in terms of human rights and other Western concepts.
Having a shared antipathy to Tehran was all well and good. But no good appeared likely to come out of his plea – certainly not peace in the Middle East, especially if that entailed recognizing or developing ties with Israel.
To make matters more complicated, in the months and years that followed, he proceeded proudly to exhibit unbridled support for the Jewish state. Aside from withdrawing from the JCPOA, he declared Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital, moved the US Embassy there from Tel Aviv, recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, dismissed the illegality of settlements and demanded that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas stop inciting and paying his people to kill Israelis.
Moreover, in stark contrast to his predecessor, Barack Obama, Trump welcomed – rather than warned against – Israeli strikes on Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Syria. Meanwhile, his message to the Palestinians was that they could choose to remain in the Dark Ages or opt to embrace peace and prosperity. It was up to them, and no figure in Washington was going to beg. They’d never been treated this way by a world leader.
From the get-go, then, Abbas and his henchmen rejected all US contact, other than when stomping on or burning the American flag. While the anti-Trump European Union continued to assure them that they were right to feel oppressed by “evil occupier” Israel, the Arab League grew even more disinterested in their self-imposed plight than it already was.
In fact, it could barely muster up the energy to pay lip service to their “cause” anymore. In fairness, its members had and still have their own interests to safeguard. Trump, it turns out, has been tapping into these interests skillfully.
Additional evidence of this lies in the talks that he brokered between Belgrade and Pristina earlier this month, resulting in Serbia’s announcement that it would move its embassy to Jerusalem and a recognition of Israel by Muslim-majority Kosovo.
His claim on Tuesday, thus, that “at least five or six” other countries are soon to follow the UAE’s and Bahrain’s lead is utterly plausible. The upbeat attitude of Mossad chief Yossi Cohen and the hysterical reaction on the part of the Palestinians indicates that it’s practically a done deal.
PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, for example, called the signing of the Abraham Accords a “black day in the history of the Arab nation... added to the Palestinian calendar of pain.”
He also said that such “normalization with Israel is harmful to Arab dignity.”
Neither this sentiment nor the rocket barrages that were launched into Israel during the Emirati foreign minister’s speech – in Arabic, with a token reference to the Palestinians – could camouflage the reality on the ground in a shifting Middle East: The Palestinian jig, like the lie that Trump exposed about al-Aqsa, is up.