If you believe Bob Woodward’s latest book Fear: Trump in the White House or the anonymously authored op-ed published recently by The New York Times, then you’d be forgiven for thinking that the country is teetering on the verge of collapse. Both accounts bolster a narrative in which U.S. President Donald Trump’s impulsiveness and lack of interest in policy heighten the risk of the breakdown of American democracy and world peace.
That’s the context for the storm of criticism that followed National Security Advisor John Bolton latest major policy speech. Bolton told the Federalist Society on Sept. 10 that the United States would close the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Mission in Washington and also launched a blistering attack on the International Criminal Court. The foreign-policy establishment and its mainstream media cheering section treated Bolton’s statements as the latest proof that the inmates are running the White House asylum.
According to the foreign-policy “experts” who have been largely running U.S. Middle East policy during most of the last 25 years since the Oslo Accords were signed, booting the PLO out of its D.C. digs—like the administration’s decision to cut aid to the Palestinian Authority—will alienate the Palestinians and make them less likely to make peace with Israel.
As for Bolton’s attack on the ICC, the outrage of the experts could barely be contained. According to a New York Times feature, the stance regarding the court places the United States in the same category as authoritarian tyrannies and may cause the complete breakdown of international order.
Yet rather than buttress the “fear” of the educated classes about the Trump presidency, Bolton’s speech should cause critics to rethink their assumptions about the administration. Trump may be every bit as erratic and unpresidential as he has been portrayed by these sources. But a sober look at the policy changes that Bolton announced shows that however hectic decision-making has become in this White House, some of those decisions turn out to be quite rational. In fact, they are part of a long-overdue rethinking of outdated conventional wisdom that has done significant damage to the interests of the United States and key allies, including Israel.
With respect to the PLO, the ousting of this alliance of terror groups is part of a necessary process of holding the Palestinians accountable for not only their past rejections of peace, but for ongoing policies of subsidizing and fomenting terror, as well as their refusal to even consider the peace plan that the administration has been considering.
Presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner was mocked for his assurance that the attempt to pressure the Palestinians wouldn’t hurt chances for peace. But a quarter-century of aid and an unwillingness to hold their leaders accountable has had the opposite effect the experts anticipated. Granting the Palestinian Authority and the PLO that spawned it impunity for stonewalling peace and inculcating hate has ensured that peace won’t happen any time soon. While Kushner’s confidence that these measures will prod the Palestinians to change their minds is unjustified, they must still be regarded as the first step towards making peace possible at some point in the future.
As for the ICC, the argument that America is taking sides with authoritarians by opposing the court is utterly specious. The ICC, which was founded in 2002, was intended to be a symbol of international justice and be the court of last resort in dealing with crimes against humanity. Instead, it is just another example of how such institutions are easily corrupted and become sclerotic, incompetent bureaucracies—one that displays blatant bias against Israel and the West, and consistently fall short of its intended goals.
In its 16 years of existence, the ICC has convicted only eight people, and many of the cases brought before the court on various charges have collapsed. More to the point, it is part of a power grab by the same crowd that has made the United Nations a cesspool of incompetence and anti-Semitism.
Although cloaked in the best possible motives, the ICC is an unaccountable structure with no checks and balances to create accountability or ensure fairness. And like the United Nations, it is also basically a committee that has proffered despots like the dictator of Venezuela or the kleptocrats of the Palestinian Authority the same influence as democracies. As Bolton pointed out, who in their right mind would trust such a body to dispense justice to American citizens, let alone be granted responsibility for policing the worldwide community?
That’s why the United States wisely refused to join the ICC when it was founded. And, as Bolton warned, it’s even more important now not tolerate its goings-on.
The ICC recently made clear its plans to investigate U.S. forces fighting Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan. Just as bad, the court has also begun preparing for an assault on Israel’s efforts to defend itself against Hamas terrorists in Gaza. It has have been soliciting testimony from “Palestinian victims” of Israel as part of an effort to build a case against the Jewish nation, demonstrating its bias even before proceedings began. In both instances, it is acting as a kangaroo court in which democracies would be put in the dock by tyrannies and terrorists.
The “America First” slogan the administration has embraced has unfortunate historical associations. But far from U.S. foreign-policy demonstrating a drift towards authoritarianism, it is actually a defense of American values, as well as of the sovereignty of both the United States and Israel against those who wish to destroy them.
Whatever concerns we might have about what is going on behind closed doors in the West Wing, in these cases the decisions being reached have been both necessary and correct. Think what you like about Trump, but he deserves credit for turning out the PLO, and for warning the ICC to keep its hands off Americans and Israelis.
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS — Jewish News Syndicate. Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.