by Eli Clifton
This week, Jim Lobe and I have examined how Donald Trump’s national security adviser-designate, Ret. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, is a bewildering choice for a president-elect to tap for national security strategy and advice. In his book, coauthored with Michael Ledeen, Flynn exhibited a fundamental misunderstanding, coupled with unsubstantiated speculation, about Syria’s nuclear program. And he has drawn criticism for ties to foreign governments, allegedly leaking classified intelligence to Pakistan, and, as I documented on Tuesday, blaming the Islamic Prophet Muhammad and the Quran for why the Middle East “can’t come to grips with modernity.”
A new video, previously unreported but recently reviewed by LobeLog, shows that Flynn wants the U.S. to fundamentally change its position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, effectively giving both Israel and the Palestinian National Authority permission to abandon the peace process.
Speaking at a 2014 event hosted by the Sheldon Adelson-backed Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), a hawkish pro-Israel group that has promoted anti-Muslim speakers and documentaries, Flynn advocated for the U.S. to relinquish any role in brokering peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, saying (my emphasis):
I don’t think there’s gonna peace between Israel and Palestine. I mean, come on. How many people have we struggled to go through that? So let’s be honest about this and not have another big name going in there and getting in the middle of the two countries and try to figure this out while people that are coming from one side of that line with daggers are putting knives into women and children in Israel.
Flynn’s argument that the peace process isn’t possible as long as the Palestinians engage in any form of armed resistance is a common refrain with neoconservatives and supporters of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party. But it would mark a striking departure from longstanding U.S. policy opposing the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory and supporting the creation of a Palestinian state, partially contingent on Israel giving up some of the land it captured in the 1967 war. On the basis of this position, U.S. presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama played central roles in peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Flynn’s comments fail to offer any real solutions for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, other than to shift blame on to the Palestinians for the failure of an independent Palestinian state to materialize. His bleak outlook is probably not a welcome message for moderate Israelis and Palestinians.
A poll conducted over the summer by the Palestinian Center for Polling and Survey Research and the Israeli Democracy Institute found that 59% of Israelis and 51% of Palestinians support a two-state-solution.
Even within the Trump administration, Flynn’s laissez-faire attitude toward one of the longest and most divisive conflicts in the Middle East might be on a collision course with Trump’s pick for secretary of defense, Ret. Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis.
Mattis told a 2013 Aspen Security Forum audience, “I paid a military-security price every day as the commander of CentCom because the Americans were seen as biased in support of Israel.” Several high-ranking military officers (including David Petraeus) and senior diplomats have expressed the same concern—that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and furthering the long-term strategic interests of the U.S. are closely linked. Mattis went on to warn that the status-quo in Israel was untenable, and required quick action, saying “Either [Israel] ceases to be a Jewish state or you say the Arabs don’t get to vote—apartheid. That didn’t work too well the last time I saw that practiced in a country.”
Flynn, for his part, seems content to let this state of conflict fester, with all the damage that it causes in the region and for U.S. foreign policy.
Photo: Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas