Like movie Zombies or vampires who can’t be killed, long-discredited Arabist ideas continue to permeate the State Department. It is not a surprise given the retreads President Joe Biden brought back from the Obama administration. Ultimately, Biden bears responsibility as State is at least supposed to be implementing his policies. The problem is that people he trusts are giving him bad advice.
Perhaps the most dangerous official is Robert Malley, one of the architects of FINE—the Facilitate Iran’s Nuclear Enterprise agreement. His mission since returning to State has been to resurrect the deal at almost any cost. The Iranians are counting on Biden’s desperation and unwillingness to use force to allow them to string out negotiations while they develop a bomb. Now, even Malley can’t justify negotiations while the Islamist regime supplies weapons to Russia and arrests and kills people protesting its oppression.
Meanwhile, while continuing to blame former President Donald Trump for leaving FINE, the administration has done nothing for two years to stop the Iranians from, in the words of International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi, “galloping ahead” with its nuclear program. Speaking to J Street, Secretary of State Antony Blinken speciously claimed Iran abided by its commitments under the nuclear deal and blamed Trump for Iran’s breakout time being reduced to a few weeks.
Well, on whose watch did that happen? And how is it possible if the agreement cut off all avenues to a bomb, as former President Barack Obama claimed?
Even after two years of failed negotiations and the Iranians flouting the terms of the agreement, Blinken insists the best way to ensure Iran doesn’t get the bomb is through diplomacy. He criticized Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign while his colleagues at Treasury add to the former president’s sanctions. Why do that if you believe such coercion provoked Iran to accelerate its program?
Further demonstrating how out of sync the diplomats are with their colleagues in other departments—and each other—Malley says in one breath the administration has sanctioned Iran but in the next that sanctions are “not the answer.” Taking a third breath, he contradicts his boss by saying he did not believe the maximum pressure campaign failed.
When asked when a deal would no longer be viable, Malley said, “When our nuclear experts will tell us that the nonproliferation benefits of the deal don’t warrant the sanctions relief that we would be offering.” This ignores the fact that FINE promoted proliferation; Iran’s neighbors knew they would need their own bombs because the deal wouldn’t prevent Iran from getting one.
Another Arabist position resurrected by State is to reward the Palestinians with diplomatic and financial concessions without any change in Palestinian Authority corruption, incitement to violence and refusal to accept Israel’s existence. The most recent goody was to appoint what amounts to an ambassador to the non-existent state of Palestine. Hady Amr was appointed “special representative for Palestinian affairs” reporting directly to State. This was the two capitals policy of Trump’s predecessors.
Trump closed the Jerusalem consulate that served as a de facto embassy to the non-state and rightly mandated that Palestinian affairs be conducted through the U.S. ambassador to Israel. Blinken is now making an end-run around the Israeli government’s objection to reopening the consulate. State has so little faith in achieving the two-state solution it talks about, and has made no effort to pursue, that it has now essentially unilaterally recognized a new state that wants to destroy the existing nation that is supposed to be part of that “solution.”
Meanwhile, Blinken said anyone engaged in terrorism “must be held accountable” and that the U.S. would “condemn those who fail to condemn such attacks—or, even worse, who praise or reward terrorists or their families.”
Really? When has Blinken or Biden publicly condemned Mahmoud Abbas? Why are U.S. taxpayers again subsidizing the incentives to kill Jews?
One positive remark Blinken made to J Street was the rejection of the BDS movement. The audience reaction, oddly, was laughter. He said this in the context of U.S. respect for freedom of expression. He said nothing, however, about Hamas and the P.A.’s suppression of that freedom.
Disturbingly, Blinken’s speech reflected the old “Palestinians first” policy. Arabists believe the Middle East revolves around the Palestinian issue and that solving it will usher in the Messianic age in the region.
The secretary claimed to have “worked relentlessly to advance and expand the Abraham Accords” and yet not one country has joined in his two years in office. Worse, the administration sabotaged whatever opportunity existed to bring the most important country into the accords— Saudi Arabia—by its treatment of the crown prince.
The most important aspect of the accords was to end the Palestinian veto over Arab normalization with Israel. Blinken wants to undermine the Accords by bringing it back. “Normalization between Israel and its neighbors is not a substitute for building peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” he said. He wants the Arab states to “offer support for Palestinians and Israelis to enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, opportunity, justice and dignity.”
The Arab states have supported the Palestinians for decades. Their assistance keeps the P.A. afloat, and in the case of countries like Qatar, funds terrorists. Why should the Abraham Accords have anything to do with the Palestinians? Frustration with their intransigence led the Arab states to dramatically reduce their contributions and ignore the veto. They are fed up with the corrupt Palestinian leadership the Arabists desperately want to prop up.
Blinken’s remark was another dig at Israel, suggesting that Palestinians are denied their rights. They are—by their leaders.
Blinken did call for the P.A. to implement reforms but comically talked about how they could lay the foundation for a “democratic Palestinian state.” He didn’t mention the name Abbas, the corrupt leader of the Palestinians with whom Amr will engage and who is now in the 17th year of his four-year term. That’s the Palestinian version of democracy.
While the media reports the Biden administration may boycott certain officials in the new Israeli government because of their extremist views, the State Department has no hesitancy to speak to Abbas, a man who incites violence and underwrites terrorists.
It is a long-held Arabist view that Israel must be coerced to do what they believe is in Israel’s best interest. It was appropriate for Blinken to speak to J Street, which has a similar view that makes a mockery of its new claim to be the “pro-democracy” lobby. The Palestinians, meanwhile, continue to receive applause and benefits for being anti-Israel, anti-peace and anti-democracy.
Mitchell Bard is a foreign-policy analyst and an authority on U.S.-Israel relations who has written and edited 22 books, including “The Arab Lobby,” “Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews” and “After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.”