Nov. 13, 2020
By STEVE ARNOLD
Donald Trump did not make the world safer for Jews, or anyone else, say two prominent officials who worked directly with the soon-to-be former American president.
John Bolton, former national security advisor to the president, and David Petraeus, former director of the CIA and retired four-star general, told a Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre event on Nov. 9 that Trump’s often incoherent foreign policy did nothing to counter the threats of terrorism, a nuclear Iran, or Chinese aggression.
The speakers were the feature attractions at FSWC’s State of the Union fundraiser. They told their virtual audience that while the Trump era did produce some promising results, such as the Abraham Accords peace agreements between Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, the safety of the world remains threatened.
The Middle East agreements, they said, were more driven by domestic politics in the Arab world than by American leadership.
“Both of these agreements reflect changes that are tectonic in their effect in this region,” said Bolton, adding that the move to peace could be attributed to a decreased concern over Palestinian issues, rising concern about a nuclear Iran, and concerns about American staying power as an influence in the region.
Those forces will result in more peace agreements “sooner rather than later.”
Petraeus, who commanded American military efforts in both Afghanistan and Iraq, said that another major piece that brought the deals together was Israel’s agreement to halt settler incursions into disputed land, at least temporarily.
“There are lots of pluses here, it is clearly a positive step forward,” he said. “The question is, can it stick? There’s not much else here for the Palestinians.”
Petraeus added those small gains are the best that can be hoped for now. Anything more will have to wait for new leadership in Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
“Now isn’t the time to be swinging for the fences,” he said. “This is the time to hit singles and doubles, no home runs.”
There are also potential benefits to the region from some parts of the so-called Deal of the Century, Petraeus noted. Among those are the creation of a 25-mile long tunnel between the West Bank and Gaza Strip; allowing travel between the regions without having to pass through Israeli checkpoints; ideas about developing the Red Sea-area Egyptian Riviera that could bring economic benefit to Palestinians; and Israel’s prospects of becoming an energy superpower through the development of natural gas.
That’s all in addition to potential benefits from Israel’s already strong, and growing economy.
“The start-up nation is becoming the scale-up nation,” Petraeus said.
Bolton added a political restructuring in the region is needed.
Rather than the one or two-state solutions that have been so bitterly debated for years, he suggested a three-state deal that would see the Gaza Strip become part of Egypt while Israel and Jordan jointly rule over the West Bank.
Hovering over those potential promises, however, is the continued threat of Islamic terrorism.
Bolton said the radicalization driving some young Muslims to strap bombs to their bodies in the hope of killing Israelis is continuing to spread through both the Sunni and Shiite branches of Islam.
“The West seems to forget how deeply religious feeling can go toward motivating political action,” Bolton said.
That concern is heightened, he added, as American and allied troops are pulled out of Afghanistan, leaving room of Taliban terrorists from Pakistan to return to the region.
The soldier and the security advisor both said China remains a particular concern to world peace, one Trump failed to handle.
“There was simply no coherent Trump Administration policy on China,” Bolton said. “China is a huge question we have to face and we are not ready for it.”
Beyond seeking trade deals to sell American grain to China, Bolton said the Trump Administration ignored China’s growing economic strength – a strength he said is based on stolen intellectual property and is used to build a military machine.
How the situation changes once President-Elect Joe Biden takes office in January is an open question, they said.
“Right now there’s just no clear indication of where Biden wants to go,” Bolton said.
Despite Trump’s current allegations of voter fraud, both agreed the transfer of power will take place.
“It will happen, but there may be some wild rhetoric first,” Bolton said. “A president has to operate on the basis of facts, but this president does not.”
The State of the Union event raised $3.3 million.