columnMiddle East

The State Department vs. reality

If you believe the Saudis care about the Palestinians, I’d like to sell you a bridge in Kansas.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Al Ula, Saudi Arabia, on Jan. 8, 2024. Credit: Chuck Kennedy/U.S. State Department.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Al Ula, Saudi Arabia, on Jan. 8, 2024. Credit: Chuck Kennedy/U.S. State Department.
Mitchell Bard
Mitchell Bard
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.

One of the characteristics of Arabists is that they are incapable of admitting or learning from mistakes. Secretary of Arabism (U.S. Secretary of State) Antony Blinken, continues to be the poster adult for their obliviousness. In the latest example, he channels his equally clueless predecessor, former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. For those with short memories, like journalists covering the Middle East, here’s what Kerry said in 2016:

I’ve talked to the leaders of the Arab community, there will be no advanced and separate peace with the Arab world without the Palestinian process and Palestinian peace. Everybody needs to understand that. That is a hard reality.

While Blinken was in the post-Obama-administration wilderness, apparently he missed the Abraham Accords that were signed four years later without the Palestinians. Even now, with all the crocodile tears shed over Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the signatories have remained faithful to the agreement.

Nevertheless, here’s Blinken in Israel after traveling around the region:

I think there’s broad agreement on a few basic objectives: first, that Israel and Israelis should be able to live in peace and security, free from the fear of terrorist attacks or aggression from any of their neighbors; second, that the West Bank and Gaza should be united under Palestinian-led governance; third, the future of the region needs to be one of integration, not division and not conflict; and fourth, for that to happen, we need to see the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

Let’s see. So far, without creating a Palestinian state, Israel has made peace with Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, the UAE, Morocco and Sudan (this one is in flux because of the civil war, not the Palestinian issue).

No matter, we’re told Saudi Arabia is holding back recognition because Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) told Blinken so. If you believe the Saudis care about the Palestinians, I’d like to sell you a bridge in Kansas. As I’ve noted before, the Saudis care about one thing and one thing only: keeping their royal heads connected to their shoulders, and the only guarantor is the United States security umbrella. If you don’t think MBS, like former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, former King Hussein of Jordan and the current Gulf leaders, will drop the Palestinians like a bad habit to get a green light for pursuing a nuclear program, a security guarantee and unlimited weapons supplies, you don’t know anything about Saudi Arabia.

For those equally memory impaired, let me remind you that the Arabists claimed for more than 30 years that Arab leaders would never accept Israel and that improving relations with the Jewish state (and Arabs do think of it that way) jeopardized our oil supplies, opened the region to Soviet infiltration and inhibited our relations with the Muslim world. All of that was proven false over time as the United States grew closer to Israel and relations with the Arab world improved.

The Arabists were furious when Sadat had the temerity to go to Jerusalem in 1977 to speak at the Knesset, which was critical to convincing Israelis of his sincerity.

They tried to prevent partition in 1947, then convinced then-President Harry Truman to impose an arms embargo in hopes the Arabs would destroy Israel in its infancy. They continue to work to this day to sabotage the U.S.-Israel relationship.

The New York Times reported that more than 1,000 USAID employees signed a letter calling on U.S. President Joe Biden to push for a ceasefire. What other examples can you think of where hundreds of State Department officials sent multiple cables and letters protesting their boss’s policy?

Despite all the anonymous kvetching, there has been no mass exodus from the State Department. One bureaucrat in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs who did resign received martyr treatment from the media. Josh Paul told The New Yorker he was involved in arms sales and messaging decisions, which sometimes involved justifying transfers to regimes with human-rights issues. He admitted in his resignation letter that he had “made more moral compromises than I can recall, each heavily,” but none sufficiently weighty to resign. Only Biden’s support for Israel pushed him over the edge.

Meanwhile, like the Blynken in the poem “Wynken, Blynken and Nod,” our secretary is rocking in a misty sea of beautiful imaginary sights. He wants to impose a Palestinian state that neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis want. He hasn’t explained how this will prevent another Israeli massacre akin to the one on Oct. 7 or justify forcibly displacing more than 100,000 Jews who live in Judea and Samaria to make room for that state. He ignores the hundreds of terror attacks coming from the West Bank, where Hamas has a foothold, and, instead, vents over the handful of instances of violence by settlers.

Blinken treats Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas like a head of state and insists that he is interested in peace. He ignores the fact that most Palestinians want the 88-year-old leader to resign because he is incompetent and corrupt. In typical Arabist fashion, he is unmoved by Abbas’s antisemitism and unconcerned that members of his party boasted of participating in the slaughter on Oct. 7. Worse, he insists on providing U.S. tax dollars to the Palestinians that allow Abbas to pay incentives for terror through the pay-to-slay program. Soon recipients will include the butchers and rapists Israel captured, including the murderers of U.S. citizens.

Instead of following in the footsteps of Kerry, Blinken would be wiser if he listened to former President Ronald Reagan, who said what most Israelis understand: “If history teaches us anything, it teaches that simple-minded appeasement or wishful thinking about our adversaries is folly.”

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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