Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Biden Administration Erasing Trump’s Middle East Legacy

In just a few months, the Biden administration has rushed to undo many of President Trump’s policies in the Middle East and across the world.

Since Biden took office, his administration has rejoined the China-dominated World Health Organization, the Paris climate accord, and the UN Human Rights Council which is obsessed with maligning Israel.

Biden has started talks aimed at returning to the Iran nuclear deal, which critics say will undermine whatever is left of deterrence, and encourage Iran in its aggression and nuclear aims.

President Donald Trump abandoned the agreement in 2018, after which Tehran systematically violated the terms of the deal, enriching greater quantities of uranium and to greater levels, as well as using more powerful centrifuges.

Trump had pulled out of all five of the aforementioned groups and accords, calling them by turns “corrupt,” “harmful to U.S. interests,” “a worthless drain on American resources,” and “irredeemably flawed.”

A memo entitled “The US Palestinian Reset and the Path Forward,” as well as the “2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices,” both released by the State Department last week, together map out the policy changes that are being implemented in the Middle East by the Biden Administration.

State Dept Urges Fundamental Shift Toward Palestinians

The State Department memo prioritizes the re-establishing of diplomatic relations with the Palestinian Authority, largely severed by the Palestinians after former President Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Trump later closed the PLO office in Washington, D.C., and cut off most U.S. assistance to the Palestinians under the Taylor Force Act, which prohibits U.S. support as long as Palestinian leaders keep up payments to terrorists or their families.

The memo said the re-establishing of ties would begin with a $15 million payout by the United States for coronavirus aid. The White House last week confirmed the plan, and said the administration is resuming assistance to the Palestinians to the tune of $235 million in new humanitarian, economic and development support.

The bulk of the money will go through UNRWA – which received $150 million, reported news outlets. Another $10 million will be disbursed through USAID (United States International Development) for “peace-building programs.”

$75 million will fund economic and development assistance in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Security assistance programs also will restart.

The United States was the world’s single largest funder of UNRWA, amounting to over $360 million annually, until President Trump cut funding in 2018, pointing to the agency’s mismanagement of funds and institutionalized corruption.

Incitement to Violence

Since then and throughout the pandemic, UNRWA has not ceased inciting violence through textbooks indoctrinating children in Gaza about blood libels and glorifying “martyrs,” reports the Jerusalem Post.

These textbooks have been previously condemned by the European Parliament for their destructive content.

In a report issued at the beginning of 2021, the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-SE) found that UNRWA materials are even more radicalizing than some of the textbooks issued by the PA itself.

Announcing the resumption of aid to UNWRA in a statement last week, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken was silent about the heavily documented evidence—produced by American lawmakers on both sides of the aisle—of that agency’s alignment with Hamas and its propagation of anti-Semitism.

A Tool of Hamas

In 2014, several U.S. Senators demanded an investigation into UNRWA after hearing reports of the UN agency siding with Hamas in the 2014 Gaza-Israel conflict.

Several UNRWA-operated buildings, including schools, were said to have been used by Hamas terrorists. In one case, UNRWA itself reported finding rockets stored in one of its schools but denied knowing anything about their origin.

This claim was overturned by reports that the agency turned the arms over to Hamas, stated AFP.

“The Palestinian aid agency, UNRWA, is among the most corrupt and counterproductive of all UN agencies. President Trump was right to abandon it,” former U.S. ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said, cited in the Jerusalem Post. She argued that Biden will be “wasting millions of American tax dollars” by supporting the agency.

Reams of documents reporting corruption within UNRWA prompted the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland to temporarily freeze their funding to the agency in 2019, pending the completion of the report from the U.N.’s Office of Internal Oversight.

Pierre Krahenbuhl, the Swiss Commissioner General of UNRWA, resigned in 2019 following probes into his management of the agency.

The Internal Oversight Office found “credible and corroborated reports” that Krahenbuhl’s “inner circle” committed “abuses of authority for personal gain, to suppress legitimate dissent and to otherwise achieve their personal objectives.”

UNRWA Determined to Preserve Refugee Status of Entire Population 

UNRWA is the only UN agency exclusively dedicated to a single refugee population, and equally dedicated to preserving the refugee status of the entire population. This includes grandchildren and great great-grandchildren born decades after the 1948 and 1967 conflicts, who in no legal sense qualify as “refugees.”

Nowhere else in the world does refugee status transfer from parents to children.  But UNRWA insists on categorizing a Palestinian child who is born in Jordan or Lebanon as a “refugee.”  In this way the agency has inflated the original number of “refugees” of about 750,000 to 5.6 million.

UNRWA’s primary function is to reinforce this refugee status by extending aid only to those “Palestinians” who have not become citizens of Jordan, Lebanon or wherever they reside. [Only about 1 million Palestinians reside in the disputed territories.]

All Palestinians registered with UNRWA are thus condemned to refugee status. As non-citizens of the countries where they reside, they are denied educational and employment opportunities and subjected to humiliating discrimination — while they wait for their leaders to dismantle the Jewish state and “return” them to their “rightful” homes.

Republicans Put Palestinian Aid Package on Hold

Before the newly reinstated aid to the Palestinians announced by the State Department could reach congressional committees, Congressional Republicans put a hold on $75 million of the funds.

Ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), and lead Republican of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) used their respective positions to stop notification about the reinstated funding from reaching the committee to be processed.

This means the aid was not launched last week as planned, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Risch and McCaul noted in a statement that “resuming assistance to the West Bank and Gaza without concessions from the Palestinian Authority undermines U.S. interests.”

“The PA is spending millions annually to compensate terrorists while the international community pays for the well-being of the Palestinian people,” they stated. “A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report rightly calls for increased oversight of Palestinian assistance to ensure compliance with anti-terrorism policies. The Biden administration should use all available leverage to secure behavior changes from the PA, including ending terror payments.”

The congressmen said they were motivated by the need to ensure the government’s move to reinstate aid “does not violate the Taylor Force Act,” which outlawed most aid to the Palestinian Authority as long as it continues its “pay-for-slay” scheme.

This monstrous strategy rewards Palestinian terrorists with monthly stipends, corresponding in size to the severity of their crimes.

The March GAO report cited by Risch and McCaul stated that the government “did not consistently ensure” that U.S. grants given in 2015-2019 were not rerouted to terrorist groups.

The GAO recommended that USAID (United States International Development) charged with disbursing the aid, first verify that procedures are in place on the Palestinian side to ensure compliance with U.S. regulations before making the funds available.

The report also required the recipient of the funds to conduct post-award compliance audits, and to implement any necessary changes before the disbursement of further grants.

Resurrecting the Myth of Occupied Territories

In a further sign of a campaign to reverse Trump’s Middle East foreign policy, the Human Rights Practices Report reintroduced the term “occupied” to describe Israel’s liberation of territory over the Green Line during the 1967 Six-Day War.

President Trump refused to employ the term “occupied” to Israel’s administration of these lands, asserting that Israel’s rule was instead “disputed,” and not illegal according to international law.

Reviving the fiction of “occupied territories” compounded with extravagant grants from the United States will embolden the Palestinian leadership to remain intransigent on their “peace” demands, critics say. Believing they now have a sympathetic ear in the White House, there is no incentive to be flexible, and thus very little chance of moving forward on regional peace by advancing the historic Abraham Accords.

Surprisingly, the State Department report did not urge the rescinding of U.S. recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which the Trump administration formally recognized in 2019. Former Democratic administrations have referred to the territory as the “Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.”

While advocating a total “reset” with the Palestinians, the new State Department report has harsh words for their atrocious human rights record, citing reports of unlawful executions, torture, and arbitrary detention by authorities and holding political prisoners.

The report describes serious restrictions on basic civil rights such as free expression, the press, and the internet, and the use of violence, threats of violence, unjustified arrests and prosecutions against journalists,” by both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

A Deal Guaranteed to Bring Disaster

The Biden administration appears eager to revive negotiations with Iran at all costs, and to return to the nuclear deal as soon as possible. Negotiating a new Iran deal might garner glowing headlines and positive poll ratings for the Biden administration but it will come at the price of great bloodshed, Middle East experts say.

Israel strongly opposes the deal and predicts it will lead to disaster in the region.

The past decades have shown the world that the Iran’s priority is to expand a tyrannical regime that Iran’s leadership has already exported throughout the Middle East, costing hundreds of thousands of lives.

Teheran is fighting a multi-front proxy war in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza. Its increasingly combative actions just in the last few weeks – with attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq, violence in Yemen, and attacking an Israeli ship – should give pause to anyone who believes that diplomatic channels will be able to stop Iranian aggression.

Compromising with a regime that executes its own dissidents, funds global terrorism, fuels bloody conflicts around the world, and is bent on building a nuclear weapon will only bring more carnage in the Middle East, experts say.

In the first visit to Israel by a Biden administration official, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with his counterpart, Israel’s defense minister Benny Gantz, to discuss many of these concerns.

‘More Pressure Needed on Iran’

Gantz told Austin “there needs to be more pressure on Iran and to reach an agreement without expiration dates and with wider and unrestricted oversight abilities,” the Times of Israel reported.

“We found an open ear, and there is American dedication to cooperation, even if we don’t agree 100 percent on every point,” Gantz said of his meeting with Austin.

The defense minister said that among the topics discussed were the Iran nuclear deal, Iran’s entrenchment in the Middle East and weapons sales between the United States and Israel. The two officials also discussed Israel’s normalization with Arab countries, Israeli relations with the Palestinians, and the need to strengthen relations with Jordan and Egypt, according to the Times of Israel.

Gantz added that one subject that was not deeply discussed but was broached was American concerns over Israeli collaboration with China, which Washington sees as a rival.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, too, met with Austin on Monday, stressing that the US-Israel alliance was critical in defending both countries.

“As you know, the US-Israel defense partnership has continually expanded over successive administrations and our cooperation is crucial in dealing with the many threats confronting both the United States and Israel,” Netanyahu said at a press conference.

“No Threat More Dangerous…”

“In the Middle East, there is no threat more dangerous, serious and pressing than that posed by the fanatical regime in Iran,” said Netanyahu, citing Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, arming of terror groups, and calls for Israel’s annihilation.

“Mr. Secretary, we both know the horrors of war,” Netanyahu said he told Austin. “We both understand the importance of preventing war. And we both agree that Iran must never possess nuclear weapons.”

Austin’s visit came as the United States is indirectly negotiating with Iran in Vienna — through European intermediaries — over a return to the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), a move that Israel staunchly opposes.

The visit also coincided with a major power cut at Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment facility, which was later said to have been the result of an explosion attributed to the Israeli Mossad spy agency, according to the Times of Israel.

The explosion reportedly shut down uranium enrichment at the site at least for the time being, the article said.

On Monday, the White House publicly denied that Washington played a role in the alleged strike on Natanz. “The United States was not involved in any manner, and we have nothing to add to speculation about the causes,” White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said.

*****

Secretary of State Blinken: The Duty to Fight Evil   

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in a keynote speech at a virtual Holocaust Remembrance Day event, castigated his agency’s behavior in blocking Jewish refugees from entry into the United States during the Holocaust, the New York Times reported.

Assistant Secretary of State Breckinridge Long who oversaw immigration during the war years lied about the severity of the Holocaust to Congress, as thousands of Jews were being murdered every day, Blinken said.

“He had immense power to help those being persecuted.  Yet as the Nazis began to systematically round up and execute Jews, Long made it harder and harder for Jews to be granted refuge in the United States.”

Long also withheld cables with reports of the mass killings, Blinken said, and inflated the number of refugees who had entered the United States. He instructed his department to throw as many obstacles as possible in the path of Jews trying to immigrate to these shores.

On Nov. 26, 1943, Long claimed in testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the United States had admitted 580,000 “victims of persecution by the Hitler regime.” In fact, only 138,000 refugees had gained admission at that time, less than a quarter of the number Long claimed.

“We live in a time where anti-Semitism is on the rise again in America and around the world,” Blinken noted. “As always, hatred of the Jews tends to go hand in hand with hatred of others. When hateful ideology rises, violence is never far behind, as recent attacks on Asian-Americans have illustrated.”

He also spoke of “people imprisoned in modern day internment camps because of what they worship or believe, or tortured for speaking up against tyranny,” and the duty to fight evil.

Blinken’s stepfather, Samuel Pisar, was a survivor of the Nazi death camps of Majdanek, Auschwitz and Dachau, and his saga has been a driving force in Blinken’s life, a State Department spokesman said.

At his nomination in November, Blinken spoke of his personal connection to the Holocaust. “My late stepfather, Samuel… was 1 of 900 children in his school in Białystok, Poland, but the only one to survive the Holocaust after four years in concentration camps …  He was liberated by American troops…That is what America represents to the world.”

*****

Senators to Biden: Billions in US Money Has Gone to Terrorists   

Reinforcing the McCaul and Risch action of holding up Palestinian aid, 18 Republican senators signed a letter last week, initiated by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, calling on the Biden administration to delay federal grants to Palestinians, until USAID implements a protocol to ensure grants do not end up lining terrorists’ pockets.

The letter says USAID must clarify to Congress how the Palestinian aid is compliant with the Taylor Force Act. The agency must ascertain that aid to the Palestinians “is tightly targeted to ensure that it benefits the Palestinian people and not the PA or Hamas,” the letter to President Biden said.

“Since 1993, the US government provided more than $6.3 billion to the Palestinians with the aims of, first, advancing the Palestinians’ capacity to build a state and, second, insulating Palestinian governance from terrorism,” the letter said.

“Measured by the degree to which they have achieved those aims,” the letter continued, “U.S. programs have not just failed but have been counter-productive, with the money making its way to terrorists.”

U.S. lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have also worked together to target terrorist schemes to indoctrinate school children. Last week, the congressmen reintroduced the Peace and Tolerance in Palestinian Education Act.

The bill requires the secretary of state to submit a report to Congress reviewing textbooks produced by the Palestinian Authority. Rep. Brad Sherman, D-CA sponsored the bill along with Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-NY, Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-NJ, Rep. Brian Mast, R-FL, and Rep. David Trone, D-MD.

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