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Iran, Israel and Trump
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Articles and Blog Posts by Daniel Pipes   RSS 2.0 Feed

From "Not a Crook" to "Not a Liar": A Potted History of Political Denials

by Daniel Pipes  •  June 9, 2017

It's a handy rule-of-thumb that when a politician – usually in a press conference, where he's annoyed repeatedly with the same question about his judgment – announces that he is or is not something, well, he is that thing.

Richard Nixon set the gold standard in 1973 when he announced, "I'm not a crook," which the Watergate scandal then established he exactly was. Now, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House deputy press secretary, referring to Donald Trump, kept this tradition alive when she yesterday refuted James Comey's Senate testimony by stating, "I can definitively say the president is not a liar."

In the 44 years from not a crook to not a liar, a number of other politicians have inadvertently acknowledged their faults by using the same or similar words. Here's a sampling of their denials, in chronological order:

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The Six-Day War: Personal Recollections

by Daniel Pipes  •  June 5, 2017

For my interpretation of some consequences of the fighting in June 1967, see today's article, "What If: Fifty Years After the Six-Day War."

On a personal note, I have three memories of those six days, which I experienced at the age of 17 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

First, I watched television late into the evening the day the war broke out, June 5, and went to sleep thinking that Egyptian aircraft had bombed Tel Aviv and that the Jewish state was in grave peril. That's because, in the words of the authoritative Middle East Record1967, "In view of the dearth of information given by Israeli spokesmen during the first day of the war, there was a preponderance of news from Arab sources in the Western press on 6 June." Only the next day did I learn how the Egyptian air force had been destroyed in place. It was a unique moment of shock and exhilaration.

Second, my graduation from Commonwealth School took place on June 8, in the midst of the war.

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What If: Fifty Years After the Six-Day War

by Daniel Pipes  •  June 5, 2017  •  Washington Times

Israel's military triumph over three enemy states in June 1967 is the most outstandingly successful war of all recorded history. The Six-Day War was also deeply consequential for the Middle East, establishing the permanence of the Jewish state, dealing a death-blow to pan-Arab nationalism, and (ironically) worsening Israel's place in the world because of its occupation of the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Focusing on this last point: how did a spectacular battlefield victory translate into problems that still torment Israel today? Because it stuck Israelis in an unwanted role they cannot escape.

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The Paradoxical Peril of Warm U.S.-Israel Relations

by Daniel Pipes  •  June 2, 2017  •  Wall Street Journal

Despite not moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, ​President Trump's evident affection for Israel during his recent visit understandably cheered Israelis after eight years of cool relations with President Obama. Alas, nothing is simple in the Arab-Israeli conflict: A look at historic patterns suggests that, paradoxically, Israel does best with an Obama-style level of tension with Washington.

The explanation of this paradox starts with the fact that all American administrations since 1973, regardless of which party holds the presidency, are convinced the Arabs are ready for peace with Israel. This problem has been especially acute since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994. American presidents consistently ignore the authority's revolutionary nature. In this spirit, after a meeting with PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, Mr. Trump deemed him a "strategic partner" for Israel and "ready for peace."

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Florida Museum Celebrates the Loss of Hagia Sophia

by Daniel Pipes  •  May 29, 2017  •  National Review Online

I rubbed my eyes in disbelief seeing a wall plaque at the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens in Jacksonville, Florida, explaining an artifact in its "Ink, Silk, and Gold: Islamic Treasures from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston" exhibit.

The plaque that caught my eye praises the Ottoman Empire for having turned the Hagia Sophia church into a mosque. Its words:

In addition to their renowned patronage of architecture, which yielded the conversion of the Church of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul into a congregational mosque, Ottoman sultans and elites supported flourishing textile and ceramics industries.

(What does "yielded the conversion" even mean? A search engine finds seven uses of this phrase in the English language, all connected to science.)

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Trump's Saudi Speech: Pretty Good

by Daniel Pipes  •  May 21, 2017  •  National Review Online

In Riyadh, on the first stop of his tri-monotheism tour that will take him to Jerusalem and Rome (sorry, Mecca was not available), Donald Trump gave a major speech on a wide range of topics – the Middle East, jihadi violence, Iran, an "Arab NATO," and Islam. It's a mixed performance, but overall positive.

First, what's wrong with the 34-minute speech: It's incoherent, jumping from topic to topic and then back again. It's neither eloquent nor insightful (as in, "Terrorists do not worship God, they worship death"). In places, it consists of Obama-like euphemisms, such as the statement that history's great test stands before us, one goal that transcends every other consideration: "to conquer extremism and vanquish the forces of terrorism."

And it's farcical to announce the opening in Riyadh, the headquarters of Wahhabism, of a "Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology." I bristled at Trump calling Saudi Arabia "sacred land." I gagged on the warm praise for King Salman, someone implicated in contributing tens of millions of U.S. dollars during the 1990s to finance jihadi violence in Bosnia and Pakistan.

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Palestinian Statehood Is Acceptable … Eventually

by Daniel Pipes  •  May 21, 2017  •  Israel National News

Martin Sherman, executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies, has devoted a new column, "Why Palestinian Statehood Obviates Israeli Victory," to hashing out his and my differences over something we fundamentally agree on, the goal of Israel victory.

This is the idea that the "peace process" has turned into a "war process" and that the solution to the Palestinian-Israeli confrontation lies not in more painful concessions by Israel but, to the contrary, in Israel imposing its will on its enemy and crushing the Palestinian dream to eliminate the Jewish state. Washington should encourage its Israeli ally in this. Ironically, losing is the best thing that could happen to the Palestinians, for it liberates from a destructive obsession and allows them to begin constructing their own polity, economy, society, and culture.

To advance this idea, the Middle East Forum, the organization I head, has worked with members of the U.S. House of Representatives to launch a Congressional Israel Victory Caucus (CIVC) to lobby the president. Sherman hails CIVC as "an initiative of critical importance with genuine paradigmatic game-changing potential."

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Achieving Israel Victory with Martin Sherman

by Daniel Pipes  •  May 14, 2017  •  Israel National News

My call for Israel victory has prompted Martin Sherman, executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies, to write a trilogy of serious and constructive critiques (here, here, and here) for Israel National News. This is how an idea is improved, so I thank him.

In response, I shall first recapitulate my thesis, then answer his reservations.

My argument: Nearly thirty years of "peace process" has left Palestinian-Israeli relations worse than when they started; therefore, further attempts (such as those Donald Trump is now initiating) are a fool's errand. Compromise and "painful concessions" do not end conflicts; rather, history shows, one side giving up does so.

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Bibliography – My Writings on Palestinian Defeat, Israel Victory

by Daniel Pipes  •  April 26, 2017

As the Oslo process unraveled, starting in 1997 I developed an alternative approach: Not more counterproductive negotiations but a return to the classic scenario of defeat and victory. I wrote often on this topic over two decades. I collect them here, a day ahead of the launch of the Congressional Israel Victory Caucus devoted to promoting these ideas:

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[Symposium] What Conservative Historians Are Saying about Trump's First 100 Days

by Daniel Pipes  •  April 23, 2017

History News Network introduction:

Donald Trump's first 100 days have seen the appointment and termination of decorated general Michael Flynn from the Defense Intelligence Agency, the eclipse of former Breitbart News executive Steve Bannon, a steady decline in the relationship with Russia, the bombing of Syria, a failed attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare, and two failed attempts to impose a ban on certain groups of immigrants. This wasn't exactly what Trump promised.  On the plus side he succeeded in appointing a religious conservative to the Supreme Court, fulfilling his commitment to evangelicals, while issuing executive orders that many conservatives approved.

We wondered what conservative historians make of Trump's debut.  Here's what they [Larry Schweikart, Daniel Pipes, Victor Davis Hanson, Paul Gottfried, Brad Birzer, and Robert Merry] told us.

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The Erdoğan Enigma

by Daniel Pipes  •  April 22, 2017  •  Australian

I nominate Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, president of Turkey, as the most inconsistent, mysterious, and therefore most unpredictable major politician on the world stage. His victory in a referendum last Sunday formally bestows him with near-dictatorial powers that leave Turkey, the Middle East, and beyond in a greater state of uncertainty than ever.

Here are some of the puzzles:

Mystery #1: Holding the referendum. The Turkish electorate voted on April 16 in a remarkable national plebiscite that dealt not with the usual topic – floating a bond or recalling a politician – but with fundamental constitutional changes affecting the very nature of their government: Should the country continue with the flawed democracy of the past 65 years or centralize political power in the presidency? Under the new dispensation, the prime minister vaporizes and the president holds vast power over parliament, the cabinet, the judiciary, the budget, and the military.

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A Parent's Guide to College Visits

by Daniel Pipes  •  April 14, 2017

My youngest child is in 11th grade, so it's time to strap on the sandals again and tour some colleges. After immersing myself in several this week in the Boston area, I offer some impressions:

College visits are impressively organized and quite alike, with one each in the a.m. and p.m. On arrival, the family checks in, receives a brochure, then listens to a vivacious assistant director of admissions for an hour, mostly about the university (how many Nobel Prize winners, how many varsity sports, how many countries represented in the student body) and a bit about the application process (dates, emphases, tests required). As the talk ends, student guides glide into the room, the 100-200 family members find themselves randomly divided into about ten groups, and they go off for the second hour, escorted around campus by a chirpy student who shows off classrooms, restaurants, and dormitories.

The nearly identical format is both boring and useful, for it allows students and parents more easily to make direct apples-to-apples comparisons. Which chemistry labs or dormitory rooms appear superior? Which campus has the best security?

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Turkey's Vainglorious Referendum

by Daniel Pipes  •  April 14, 2017  •  Wall Street Journal

This Sunday, millions of Turks will vote to endorse or reject constitutional amendments passed in January by Turkey's parliament. An opinion piece published by the German news agency Deutsche Welle explains that the "crucial" amendments "give all the power to one person, with almost no accountability," eliminating what is left of democracy in Turkey. Virtually all observers agree that if the referendum passes, Turkey will be transformed into an authoritarian state.

But I (along with a few others) disagree. Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan years ago arrogated all the powers that the constitutional changes would bestow on him. He is already lord of all he sees for as long as he wants, whether through democratic means or by fixing election results. If the referendum passes, it will merely prettify that reality.

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Breaking the Palestinians' Will to Fight

by Daniel Pipes  •  April 10, 2017  •  Mosaic

Daniel Polisar of Shalem College in Jerusalem shook the debate over Palestinian-Israeli relations in November 2015 with his essay, "What Do Palestinians Want?" In it, having studied 330 polls to "understand the perspective of everyday Palestinians" toward Israel, Israelis, Jews, and the utility of violence against them, he found that Palestinian attackers are "venerated" by their society—with all that that implies.

He's done it again with "Do Palestinians Want a Two-State Solution?" This time, he pored over some 400 opinion polls of Palestinian views to find consistency among seemingly contradictory evidence on the topic of ways to resolve the conflict with Israel. From this confusing bulk, Polisar convincingly establishes that Palestinians collectively hold three related views of Israel: it has no historical or moral claim to exist, it is inherently rapacious and expansionist, and it is doomed to extinction. In combination, these attitudes explain and justify the widespread Palestinian demand for a state from "the river to the sea," the grand Palestine of their maps that erases Israel.

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No to Bombing Syria

by Daniel Pipes  •  April 6, 2017

The Obama Administration rightly stayed out of Syria through six painful, grisly years of civil war there. Yes, the fighting has cost hundreds of thousands of lives and displaced millions. Yes, the uncontrolled migration of Syrians to Europe caused deep problems there. Yes, the Kurds are sympathetic. Yes, Barack Obama made a fool of himself when he declared the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons a "red line" and proceeded not to enforce it.

Despite all this, it was right not to intervene because Iranian- and Russian-backed Shi'ite pro-government jihadis are best kept busy fighting Saudi-, Qatar-, and Turkish-backed anti-government Sunni jihadis; because Kurds, however appealing, are not contenders for control of the whole of Syria; and because Americans have no stomach for another Middle Eastern war.

The direct American involvement that a few hours ago with nearly 60 cruise missiles in an hour attacking Shayrat Air Base implies siding with one side against the other, even though both of them are hideously repugnant. (While the regime has done the great preponderance of the killing, estimated at 94 percent, that's due only to its greater destructive power, not the humanitarianism of ISIS and its other enemies.)

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