Danon warns Iran deal could test U.S.-Israel ties under Biden

As the Biden-Harris transition team begins to build out its incoming administration and speak with foreign leaders, Israeli political observers caution that an immediate return to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran — while renegotiating the agreement’s terms — could put the Biden administration and the Israeli government on a collision course. 

“I believe that on most issues, we will be able to work with the new administration. But I think the key question is the Iranian issue,” former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon said in an interview with Jewish Insider. “This is a crucial issue for Israel. We heard Joe Biden speak about re-entering the JCPOA with some amendments. And the question is how it will look at the end. If the U.S. returns to an agreement that will be similar to the [previous] agreement, it means that Israel will have to recalculate its approach regarding Iran.” 

Danon suggested that if a new Iran deal were to have the same outcome, just “with different titles,” Israel would be obligated to oppose the deal and “take the necessary steps to ensure Iran will never obtain nuclear capabilities.” 

The former Israeli diplomat, who is a member of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party, said that Israel will have to “carefully” examine the Biden administration’s approach to the Middle East and engagement with international organizations as it shifts away from President Donald Trump’s policies. Danon, who represented Israel at the U.N. during the last year of former President Barack Obama’s second term and for most of Trump’s time in office, said that while he expects some changes to Israel’s standing at the U.N. — especially if the new administration rejoins the Human Rights Council and reinstates currently frozen U.S. funds to the U.N. body that supports Palestinian refugees — “I think we will still have the support of the U.S., but it will require more effort from our side.” 

Danon added that if Biden is “supportive of Israel, he will gain the trust and support of Israelis very fast.” 

Israeli author Yossi Klein Halevi suggested that the two sides will “inevitably come into conflict” over the Iranian issue, predicting a “tough fight” for Israel to keep the U.S. from returning to the terms of the 2015 deal. 

“The Palestinian issue is not going to cause a major rupture between Israel and America,” explained Klein Halevi, a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. “Biden isn’t Obama. He’s not going to go to war for a two-state solution. He is a seasoned enough politician to understand what Obama did not understand, which is that you don’t go for broke on an issue that you don’t have sufficient leverage on for both sides.” 

But on the Iranian threat, he argued, Israel has more leverage than it had in 2015. In the wake of the recently signed normalization agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, Klein Halevi suggested, Israel now has “a shared strategic structure to confront the international community.” 

On Tuesday, Netanyahu pushed back against the notion that strained ties between Israel and the Democratic Party in recent years would undercut a good working relationship with the Biden administration. “What I see before my eyes is not Democrats and not Republicans. It is just the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said during a speech at the Knesset. “I am committed to stand behind the interests that are crucial to our future and our existence and this is how I will continue even with the next American administration.”

In his remarks, Netanyahu pointed to his decades-long relationship with Biden and the personal moments they shared “that are beyond politics and beyond diplomacy.”

The Israeli premier said that over the last four years, he has met with 134 Democratic members of Congress — of the 292 who have visited Israel since 2017 — including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), as well as Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Netanyahu said the meetings occurred “because I believe that strengthening the bipartisan support for Israel is a basic foundation of our foreign policy.” 

Netanyahu noted that even amid tension with the Obama administration, Israel and the U.S. signed a record $38 billion memorandum of understanding of security assistance. “That’s how a prime minister in Israel must act,” he said. “Not by submitting or groveling and also not arrogantly but with the wisdom, courage, dignity of a person who fights for his people, for his land and for his country.”

Shimrit Meir, an Israeli analyst and commentator, told JI that Netanyahu’s defense “was mainly about domestic politics at the moment.” According to Meir, Netanyahu needs to position himself as “a strong experienced prime minister” who is able to handle relations with the U.S. regardless of which party controls the White House. 

Meir noted that while Netanyahu speaks perfect English, “I don’t think he speaks their language.” 

Klein Halevi concurred: “Bibi has burned most bridges with the Democrats.”

Brad Schneider: Resolution will ‘remind’ lawmakers of QME guarantee to Israel

Amid discussion on Capitol Hill over the potential sale of F-35 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates, Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) is working to remind lawmakers of Washington’s commitment to maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge.

In a webinar with the Jewish Institute for National Security of America on Wednesday, Schneider elaborated on the reasoning behind the resolution he introduced earlier this month that reinforces the legal guarantees for Israel’s qualitative military edge. He said the bill is designed to remind both the Trump administration and Congress of the U.S.’s responsibility to guarantee the QME. 

“A lot of my colleagues in Congress are relatively new… 100 new members came in in the last Congress, and 80 in the one before that. There’s been quite a bit of turnover,” he said. “I thought it was important to remind not just the administration, but my colleagues as well that Congress has an important role to play here.”

Schneider said that, in considering an F-35 sale, the U.S. should carefully examine the UAE’s needs, as well as the U.S.’s own principles and obligations. The Democratic lawmaker seemed skeptical of the Trump administration’s negotiations over the sale.

“I fear that that conversation was had in a very different way and that promises were made,” he said. “The news about it seems to be reinforcing that there was a promise to the UAE, concurrent if not dependent on the Abraham [Accords] that they would get F-35 jets.”

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), an original cosponsor of Schneider’s bill, also recently emphasized to JI that Congress will need to thoroughly vet the sale.

“I’ve been clear throughout that we will not allow Israel’s qualitative military edge to be threatened,” Deutch told JI in late September. “We don’t know the background story here. We don’t know what was promised, what the deal was, what is exactly that we ought to be focused on… There’s a lot of information that Congress needs to receive from the administration and we will carefully review [it] when we receive it.”

On Wednesday, Schneider pushed back on arguments from UAE officials that the F-35 is the “logical” upgrade to its existing fleet of F-16s, which the Gulf nation acquired in 2004. He expressed concern over the potential for an arms race in the Middle East, with other countries also seeking access to the jets.

“I always have concerns about inserting advanced military weapons into a complex and sometimes chaotic environment,” he said. “The last thing we should be promoting is an arms race.”

But he also emphasized that, should Congress find that Israel’s interests would remain protected, “I can’t imagine Congress would get in the way” of the sale.

Schneider acknowledged that his bill may struggle to gain traction during the lame duck session after Election Day — Congress is in recess until the election — but he said he is engaging in behind-the-scenes conversations, and hopes his bill will receive a committee hearing. 

Schneider also suggested that, under the right circumstances, lawmakers could generate support in Congress for increasing military aid to Israel beyond what was laid out in the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding.

“It depends on how it’s framed. Language dictates so much of what happens in Congress,” he said. “The 435 members of the House and Senate, all of them come with the biases they start with. And our job is to try to shift them to a place where we can find common ground.”

UAE chief rabbi: 10,000 Jews could soon live in gulf nation

United Arab Emirates Chief Rabbi Yehuda Sarna predicted during a Jewish Insider webcast yesterday that the small Jewish community in Dubai and Abu Dhabi could soon number in the thousands.

“It would not surprise me if in a number of years, if we’re not looking at 1,000 Jews in the UAE, but we’re looking at something closer to 10,000 — and we’re looking at hundreds of thousands of Israeli and Jewish tourists a year,” Sarna said.

When Sarna was named the inaugural chief rabbi of the UAE in March 2019, the announcement made waves around the world. But, said UAE Ambassador to the United Nations Lana Nusseibeh during the JI virtual event, the appointment marked an important moment in relations between Israel and the UAE, and more broadly, between Jews and Muslims across the globe. 

“I think what it demonstrated to colleagues at the U.N. is that this is what is at stake in our work every day in multilateral diplomacy and these agreements that we sign, that ultimately they are about the people-to-people connection,” Nusseibeh said.

Sarna first visited the UAE after New York University — where he has served as a university chaplain since 2002 — opened a campus in Abu Dhabi in 2008.

“When I received the invitation from [then NYU] President John Sexton to come to Abu Dhabi, truth is I’d never heard of it before, I could not have pointed to it on a map and knew nothing of its history or heritage,” Sarna admitted.

“From that first moment when I landed in the airport in Abu Dhabi and was just treated like everyone else, was treated with such a sense of welcoming and hospitality. But [what] it almost immediately did is it began pulling apart my own stereotypes. Even though I had been the one working to combat Islamophobia, nevertheless, there were still remnants, which I had to come to terms with on my own.”

And the recent UAE-Israel peace accord, Sarna said, will have a major global impact.

“I think what we’re looking at is really a tipping point in Muslim-Jewish relations worldwide,” Sarna added. “There is a tremendous, tremendous enthusiasm, curiosity, energy, excitement, about building out not just the political dimensions of the accord, but building out everything else that it’s giving a platform to.”

UAE Ambassador to the United Nations Lana Nusseibeh

Nusseibeh agreed, telling the webcast: “I don’t find it surprising that I spent Yom Kippur yesterday speaking to a synagogue in Rye, [New York].”

Both panelists agreed that the normalization process could serve as a model for future relationships in the region.

“Our foreign minister announced today that we would be seeking election to the U.N. Security Council, the highest body for peace and security,” Nusseibeh shared. “The vote will happen in June next year. And I think it’s an opportunity for us to demonstrate everything that we have been discussing here today about our model, our perspective for the region, a perspective of openness, tolerance, integration, working to find regional solutions.”

Beyond the political and cultural impacts of the normalization agreement, both Nusseibeh and Sarna expressed optimism for the economic opportunities afforded by the normalization of two growing economies. 

“Jews who are living in the UAE came, for the most part, because they feel safe there. And for economic opportunity, whether they’re coming from Europe or South Africa, or the United States, or Canada, or Syria, or Lebanon or Tunisia,” Sarna explained. “With rising antisemitism in several countries, and with economies in certain countries not being as strong, they felt like there was opportunity.”

Nusseibeh echoed that sentiment. “I think, on the people-to-people level, everyone is looking for the opportunities for growth,” she said. “We understand we have a massive youth demographic, we need to provide opportunities for that youth demographic around our region. And we’re looking at ways to innovate startups, AI, and all these other industries.”

“What struck me is that while we’re witnessing a moment and an opportunity,” she continued, “we’re also taking on a responsibility, all of us who witnessed that, who supported that, who thought it was the right step for the region. And I think that responsibility is to make this work, to realize this vision for peace in our region.”

Sarna shared with the webcast that he spent Rosh Hashanah in Abu Dhabi this year. He said he met Israelis who had already moved to the UAE in the weeks since the Abraham Accords were announced. And he believes the free movement between the countries will have a long-lasting effect.

“I think one unforeseen consequence of this is that a deeper engagement between Israelis and Emiratis will actually challenge, for many Israelis, their notion of what does it mean to be Arab,” Sarna concluded. “And I think that will very much have a bit of a moderating effect on the Israeli political spectrum.”

UAE’s Al Otaiba goes behind the scenes of the Abraham Accords

United Arab Emirates Ambassador to the United States Yousef Al Otaiba on Tuesday hailed the Trump administration for working to finalize a normalization agreement between the UAE and Israel, which he said came as a result of Emirati efforts to halt Israel’s planned annexation of parts of the West Bank.

During a Jewish Insider webcast alongside Israeli-American businessman Haim Saban — moderated by former White House deputy national security advisor Dina Powell McCormick — Al Otaiba described the behind-the-scenes efforts that culminated in the groundbreaking Abraham Accords.

One of the first steps in the process, Al Otaiba said, came when he asked Saban to help him publish an op-ed aimed at the Israeli public during the time that annexation was being considered. “Haim told me where it should be placed, when it should be placed and, the most important piece of advice on this was, you have to do it in Hebrew,” the ambassador said. “If you really want to speak to the Israelis, it has to be translated in Hebrew.”

“I remember a subsequent conversation with [Saban], asking, ‘Hey, do you think this article made an impact?’” Al Otaiba recalled. “He started laughing at me, like laughing loudly. He’s like, ‘You have no idea how much impact this article had.’ And it was shortly after the article we then started thinking of actual concrete ideas to avoid annexation.”

Al Otaiba said he remembered “having a really serious conversation with [White House Mideast peace envoy] Avi Berkowitz on July 2, right after he returned from Israel, and figuring out what we can do to prevent [annexation], how do we trade this? How do we give something better?”

The deal, which was formally signed earlier this month during a ceremony on the White House South Lawn, jump-started the normalization of relations between the two countries in exchange for Israel’s commitment to shelve a planned annexation of West Bank territory.

The panelists noted that while the threat of annexation may have brought the sides to the negotiating table, there was little doubt that the larger threat posed by Iran was also a driving force. “There is no question that when you have a common enemy that is, basically, a cancer in the region, you unite forces against that enemy,” remarked Saban, who explained that “people have realized that there is much more upside, aligning with Israel, and forming a front against Iran.”

Both Saban and Al Otaiba credited U.S. leadership for helping to manage the negotiation process and deliver on the agreements. “I think the United States government came through every single time,” Al Otaiba said. “And that’s the reason we had the signing ceremony two weeks ago at the White House.”

The Emirati ambassador lauded Berkowitz, Jared Kushner and Brig. Gen. Miguel Correa for their efforts. “I spoke and talked to them and met with them, probably more in that four weeks than I did with anybody else, including my own family. If it wasn’t for them, I’m not sure this deal would be done,” Al Otaiba said, adding: “for anything like this to happen, it takes an incredible amount of trust.”

Saban, a longtime donor to Democratic candidates and causes, including the presidential campaign of former Vice President Joe Biden, also praised Kushner, Al Otaiba, UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah Bin Zayed, Emirati Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Zayed and Mossad director Yossi Cohen for paving the way for the deal. The Israeli-American businessman called the agreement “game-changing,” explaining: “There was no precedent for public commitment to normalization… Israelis would give their right arm to have peace with all its Arab neighbors.”

Al Otaiba echoed a similar interest in bilateral peace on the Emirati side, telling the webcast: “People always think we do not pay attention to public opinion inside the Emirates because we’re not a democracy. And it’s actually quite the opposite. Because we’re not a democracy, we have to be very in tune with what our people want, and what the streets feel. And people really wanted this. This is not something that we are forcing against the popular will of the parties that live in the country. There is a genuine energy, that people are excited about this.”

The three participants also sought to emphasize the economic benefits of the recent agreement.

Powell McCormick, who serves on Goldman Sachs’s management committee, noted that “we’re already having clients call us and ask about investment opportunities.”

Al Otaiba said he thinks “people forget about the immediate benefits that we’re going to have once you have direct commercial flights and tourism, about trade, investment, research, development, COVID research.” The ambassador added: “It is not a coincidence that when Jared Kushner came from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi on that historic flight, the first set of MOUs that we submitted to the United States to get done were on consular affairs, civil aviation, trade, prevention of double taxation, protection of investments — what we feel is the foundation, the infrastructure for any healthy relationship, so we can have mutual wins, so you can have trade investment R&D.”

Saban said at least five Israeli entrepreneurs have reached out to him with ideas to invest in the UAE. “Even my chief investment officer and the head of my VC division, they came to me and they said, ‘We have an idea that we can do with the Emiratis.’”

Al Otaiba noted how much has already occurred in just the few weeks since the accord was announced.

“We’ve already seen MOUs on AI, on COVID research, on health care and just today, a very prominent soccer club in Dubai bought an Israeli soccer player,” he noted. “Once an Emirati investor feels that he can invest in Israel safely, and an Israeli investor feels that he can invest in the UAE safely and not get taxed twice… I think the stars are the limit.”

In new book, H.R. McMaster describes White House debate over Iran deal

In a new book looking back at his time in the military and in several presidential administrations, former national security advisor H.R. McMaster expounds on what he thought were “fundamental flaws” in the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and why he tried to persuade President Donald Trump not to withdraw from the deal. 

In Battlegrounds: The Fight to Defend the Free World, released on Tuesday, McMaster called the original JCPOA negotiated by former President Barack Obama “an extreme case of strategic narcissism based on wishful thinking” that led to “self-delusion and, ultimately the deception of the American people.” 

Yet, when Trump wanted to make good on his campaign promise to leave the deal, McMaster made clear his opposition to withdrawing from the accord. In the book, McMaster explains that he wanted the U.S. to maintain leverage to punish Iran for its behavior on matters unrelated to the Iranian nuclear program and to get the parties in the agreement to fix the deal’s flaws. McMaster said he also wanted to avoid giving Tehran the opportunity to portray itself as a victim. But as he attempted to work on a comprehensive Iran strategy, McMaster wrote, Trump grew “impatient.” 

McMaster details how he intervened in former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s efforts to certify the deal in April 2017, and how he successfully lobbied the president to recertify the agreement over the next two 90-day deadlines as required under the 2015 Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act. “We had created a window of opportunity for our allies to demonstrate the viability of staying in the deal while imposing costs on Iran,” McMaster writes. “That window closed soon after I departed the White House.” A month after McMaster left the administration, Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the deal. 

The former national security official accuses the Obama administration of ignoring Iran’s behavior in the region and avoiding confrontation in an effort to preserve the accord. According to McMaster, Obama officials “focused on selling the deal rather than subjecting it to scrutiny” by using a “red herring” talking point — the Iraq War — to pose “the false dilemma” of either supporting the deal or going to war with Iran. 

McMaster also offers his view on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Trump peace plan announced in early 2020. Trump’s moves on Israel, he writes, “communicated support for Israel, but also removed incentives that might have been crucial in a future agreement.” While he described the rollout of the peace plan as “dead on arrival” due to lack of participation from Palestinian leaders, McMaster posits that the plan itself may at some point “help resurrect the possibility of a two-state solution.” 

The book itself is not a tell-all on the Trump administration. McMaster does not write about being excluded from Trump’s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the president’s trip to Israel, or his disputes with Trump and Jared Kushner. “This is not the book that most people wanted me to write… a tell-all about my experience in the White House to confirm their opinions of Donald Trump,” McMaster writes in his preface. “Although writing such a book might be lucrative, I did not believe that it would be useful or satisfactory for most readers.”

McMaster accuses the Russians and the alt-right movement of leading a campaign against him, under the hashtag #FireMcMaster, because they viewed him as a threat to their agenda of undermining America’s national security. McMaster writes that the attacks against him were “often inconsistent” in nature. “For example, one caricature on social media portrayed me as a puppet of billionaire George Soros and the Rothschild family (both of whom were frequent targets of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories), while articles in the pseudo-media charged me and others on the NSC staff as being ‘anti-Israel’ and soft on Iran,” McMaster recalls.

Gottheimer introduces bill condemning Palestinian Authority payments to terrorists

A resolution introduced on Tuesday by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) criticizes the Palestinian Authority for payments to terrorists and honors a woman from his district killed in a suicide bombing.

“I think you need to keep a spotlight on this until the Palestinian Authority comes out and renounces martyr payments to terrorists,” Gottheimer told Jewish Insider. “And I just don’t understand why that hasn’t happened. And we need to keep the pressure on to get them to do that.”

Sara Duker, 22, of Teaneck, N.J., was killed in a bus bombing in Jerusalem on February 25, 1996, which also took the lives of 25 other people. Two other Americans were also killed in the attack, and are referenced in the bill, which is cosponsored by Reps. Tom Reed (R-NY) and Max Rose (D-NY).

Gottheimer linked the bill to this week’s divestment referendum at Columbia University. Duker graduated from Barnard College the year before her death.

“The BDS movement, which many, like me, believe is antisemitic, are trying to praise and trying to make it as if the Palestinian Authority is being attacked,” he said. “But actually the Palestinian Authority is the one that continues, as we see in this case, to reward terrorists with payments.”

Gottheimer said he sees a “double standard” at play in this incident and other scenarios involving the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which he said turns “a complete blind eye on rewarding terrorists.”

“The reality is there’s still so much that we must stand up to when it comes to the [Palestinian Authority],” he continued, “and this is just an example of that.”

The resolution calls on the international community to condemn Palestinian Authority payments to terrorists and reaffirms the penalties for such activity as laid out in the Taylor Force Act.

“I think you’ve got to continue to shine a spotlight on the behavior,” Gottheimer said. “And the fact that this individual, this terrorist who killed Sarah Duker — the family’s still getting money every single month while in jail because of the pay schedule. I don’t think people realize that.”

Former Trump NSC official Michael Anton speaks out on foreign policy

Michael Anton, a former senior National Security Council official in the Trump administration, is “amazed” by what the administration has achieved in the president’s first term — but warns in a new book that the U.S. could careen into disaster if Donald Trump loses his reelection bid in November.

In his new book, The Stakes: America at the Point of No Return, which hit bookshelves last week, Anton argues that this situation has not fundamentally changed — America remains on the brink, and a Trump reelection is the only way to preserve the American way of life.

Although Anton served as the spokesman for Trump’s National Security Council, and left the administration just before former National Security Advisor John Bolton took office, foreign policy is not Anton’s top focus in the book.

However, he writes that the current international world order, with America at its helm, is “a voluntary alliance of neoliberal elites across nations to work together in their own interests.”

According to Anton, Trump’s foreign policy doctrine seeks to fight back against the current structure by rolling back decades of steadily expanding American foreign policy, which dictated that America needed to maintain a presence in every corner of the world.

Trump’s foreign policy has a more narrow focus, centered on defending national security, maintaining America’s economic and trading competitiveness, and maintaining America’s alliance structure, Anton continued.

“It’s a more focused doctrine than what Trumpism replaced. It’s seeing American interest through a more narrow lens,” he told Jewish Insider. “Once you define everything as a priority, nothing is a priority. Once you define everything as an interest, it means nothing is an interest.”

Anton explained that the Trump administration’s approach to the U.S.-Israel relationship fits within such a mold in part because of Israel’s critical position in the U.S.’s security strategy.

“But so many foreign relationships can’t be reduced to dollars and cents,” he added. “America has allies out of shared conviction and shared interests… Some of these alliances that you have are simply because of a natural affinity to democracies that share common values, and so on and so forth, and relationships built up over decades. And you don’t necessarily ask the question, ‘Hey, what am I getting out of this today?’ It’s not a calculation at every step of the way in foreign policy.”

Anton characterized the recent normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates as one of a litany of major Trump administration foreign policy accomplishments.

He declined to say whether this move was in the works during his tenure in the White House, but indicated that it fits within the Trump administration’s broader Middle East strategy.

“We knew going in that a big part of Middle East diplomacy would have to be as much normalization as possible between Israel and other states,” Anton said. “We knew also that some of that normalization would take place below the radar. It wouldn’t be formal or it would take a while for it to become formal. But we certainly were seeking to achieve as much formal normalization as possible.”

Anton also boasted that the Trump administration had helped improve the Israeli-Saudi relationship.

“The fact that relations get better and a lot of quiet and not particularly visible cooperation takes place is also an accomplishment, even if you don’t see it and even if there’s no moment where people sit down and shake hands and sign something,” he said, adding that the Trump administration sees improving relationships between Israel and Arab states as a critical step in facilitating an Israeli-Palestinian peace process. 

Anton acknowledged that the Trump administration’s peace proposal is not, and cannot be, a final peace deal, but laid blame on the Palestinians for the lack of progress — criticizing Palestinian leaders for walking away from the negotiating table after the U.S. moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“What I had hoped for at the time was that it was a demonstration of displeasure… that would last a finite amount of time… and then the Palestinians would come back knowing that that recognition really didn’t change anything,” he said. “I don’t think that they’re helping themselves by staying away and not talking. I don’t see what that gains them.” 

Anton said he does not believe there is anything specific the U.S. can do to incentivize the Palestinians to return to the table, but it can push Arab states to encourage the Palestinians to reengage in negotiations.

In a second term, Anton predicted that Trump would continue to work toward a Middle East peace deal — although he acknowledged that is contingent on the Palestinians returning to the negotiating table. Anton also suggested that the administration would continue to pursue talks with North Korea and focus on the U.S.-China relationship.

Anton’s broader argument in The Stakes — that America is on the brink — echoes his 2016 essay, “The Flight 93 Election,” which made waves in political and media spheres. In it, he argued that a Hillary Clinton victory would, essentially, mark the end of America as it has existed, and that a Trump victory was the only possibility to stave off a calamity.

Anton said that, despite four years of a Trump presidency, the U.S. remains in a precipitous situation because of the influence of the federal bureaucracy and other institutional powers like the media, academia and the corporate world. “Every other power center in the country is held by people who oppose the president’s agenda,” he said

And America will find itself on the brink of disaster every four years, Anton continued, “until and unless we can get back to something like a real politics of give and take in this country.”

Former Obama official: Netanyahu ‘playing with fire’ by ignoring congressional opposition to annexation

Former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy warned Israeli leaders not to ignore the objections to West Bank annexation plans raised by nearly 150 Democratic senators and members of Congress.

Flournoy, speaking during a panel discussion on the topic hosted by Israel Policy Forum, suggested that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “playing with fire, not only in terms of fracturing the region and their relationships with Israel, but also fracturing American political support, which would be terrible and disastrous.” 

Flournoy — who served in the Obama administration from 2009-2012 —said she worries that if Israel moves ahead with annexation in the coming weeks, some Democratic lawmakers  may try to hold up the implementation of the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding between the U.S. and Israel and “decide to hold hostage our security assistance to Israel as a way of protesting Israel’s policies” in the West Bank.

“That may not be the most likely outcome, but it’s not unlikely either,” she suggested. Such attempts, Flournoy cautioned, would undermine long-standing bipartisan support “for critical pillars” of the security relationship with Israel. “That’s what really worries me,” she added.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said on the webcast that “while there are voices in both parties that are sounding different notes, I still think there’s a large number of Republicans, as well as Democrats, who adhere to [the] principles that can help reestablish broad bipartisan consensus” on Israel and peace in the Middle East. “I am hopeful that is the case,” Shapiro added, “which gives us a lot to work with if there’s a new administration.”

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