Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical left and Islamic terrorism.
The Soviet Union had a perverse genius for convincing the United States to not only adopt its most destructive ideas, but to also become their chief sponsor under the delusion that it would somehow stop the destruction that its old Communist enemy had unleashed around the world.
It’s fitting that President Trump struck at two terrible red birds with one stone by dumping the UNRWA. Both the UN and Palestinian nationalism were the brainchildren of Soviet Communists that the leftist American foreign policy establishment adopted under the supposed guise of fighting Soviet influence, and was then in turn quickly picked up by a clueless Republican foreign policy establishment.
Republicans embraced Arab nationalism since President Eisenhower sided with Gamal Abdel Nasser, the Hitler admiring military dictator and his nationalization of the Suez Canal, over the UK, France and Israel. In what he would later describe as his greatest mistake, Eisenhower threatened his former British allies with economic warfare to keep Egypt’s Arab Socialist regime from going over to the Communist side.
It didn’t work.
But every Republican administration until now had embraced Arab nationalism and its ugly malformed terrorist stepchild, Palestinian nationalism.
Even the Reagan administration.
All the Soviet Union needed to do was adopt a bunch of Islamic terrorists and the United States would show up like a jealous rival to shower them with love, flowers and chocolates. After the Soviet Union collapsed, its old Arab Socialist client states, the Islamic oil kingdoms that first corrupted our foreign policy, and domestic Muslim Brotherhood lobbies continued successfully playing this game of Br’er Rabbit and the Briar Patch with the American Br’er Fox. With no more Soviet Union to compete against, the rationale for supporting terrorists was to convince them to turn moderate or to stop them from allying with more “extreme” terrorists. The only way to stop the terrorists was to adopt them.
Late in the first decade of a new century, the Clinton administration’s normalization of Yasser Arafat and his PLO terrorists had become almost nostalgic reminders of a more innocent time. In its heyday under Obama, the foreign policy left was glutted with a wish list of Islamic terrorist groups to normalize.
Weapons were flowing to Islamic militias from Syria to Libya: Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen were handed on a silver platter to the Brotherhood and its Islamist allies, Iran was getting billions in cash, its Iraqi PMUs were using our air power for air support, Boko Haram was being kept off the list of sanctioned foreign terrorist groups despite its genocide of thousands of Christians, there were talks with the Taliban and support for a Hamas-PLO unity government in the Terrorist Occupied Territories in Israel.
Then President Trump showed up and, unlike so many establishment Republicans, showed no interest in the received wisdom that the Republican establishment had picked up from the left which had picked it up from the Soviet Union in the great rummage sale of the worst ideas in human history.
The failed foreign policy in which the United States curried favor with its enemies to moderate their positions, fought terrorism by supporting it, served everyone’s values and interests but its own, went out the door faster than a tweet. Diplomacy would no longer be about assembling stakeholders in the international community in fancy New York restaurants. Nor would it suffice for American interests to be served in some indirect fashion, dependent on the goodwill of its enemies, and in ways unlikely to ever materialize.
The Palestinian nation building project, one of the insane hubs around which American foreign policy had senselessly spun, is one of the first casualties of the Trump era in foreign policy.
The peace process with the terrorists had been underway for a generation with nothing to show for it except terrorism. The UNRWA had been around for generations, a special UN agency dedicated to perpetuating a war on Israel while acting as an employment agency and rocket storage firm for Hamas.
But getting rid of either one was unthinkable. “Just imagine the consequences,” the entire spectrum of foreign policy experts, thought leaders, bureaucrats, media pundits and the rest of the gang of Chauncey Gardiners who represent the Republican establishment would chorus in unison.
And President Trump shrugged.
The PLO strategy of alternating threats with flattery, playing the victim, then throwing a tantrum, promising to make a deal while demanding concessions up front, has played very badly with Trump.
Former Secretary of State John Kerry’s meddling by urging PLO officials to attack Trump personally while allegedly promising them that Trump would soon be gone and Kerry might replace him, backfired badly.
Instead of getting a payday, the Pallies are getting pressured. Defunding the UNRWA, like the recognition of Jerusalem, is a warning. Ending the UNRWA terror cash pipeline doesn’t just save money; it’s another sign that the United States is losing interest in the Palestinian nation building project.
The United States had adopted the Soviet Union’s Palestinian nation building project as its own. Time and bureaucracy had made it a Washington D.C. fixture like one of those obscure statues on a side street off the city’s hub whose purpose no one remembers, but which no one can get rid of.
Now President Trump is playing iconoclast.
The Palestinian nation building project was invented by the Soviet Union to destroy Israel, and to spread terror around the region and the world. Every effort to neutralize it, to buy off its leaders and fulfill their demands has only brought it closer to its goal.
But President Trump has never accepted the central premise of appeasement. He has never believed that buying off our enemies while getting nothing in return will turn them into friends. The more determined he and his team are to get something out of the PLO, the more the terror group falls back on its usual array of threats and victimhood, the closer the terrorists come to losing their biggest backer.
The PLO is already a historical artifact, a relic of a bygone Arab Socialism as dated as its Soviet -trained leader, a relic of 90s Clinton diplomacy, unpopular with its own people and other Arab States.
The left has moved on to BDS and Hamas. Democrats and Republicans clung to the PLO’s Palestinian Authority because they couldn’t think of anything else to do. Trump’s people can and are.
The PLO exists because we fund it and support it. And without the United States, the PLO is history.
But the Palestinian nation building project is only one of many falling dominoes. Subsidizing a terrorist group in exchange for a peace it has never made is one of the more absurd entries in our foreign aid ledger. But it’s been on the books for so long, that no one dared to touch it or question it.
A warm wind of change is blowing through the halls of power even as fall touches Washington D.C. And that wind doesn’t only bear bad news for the PLO, but for all the bad ideas that the left borrowed from the Soviet Union and that the Republican establishment then decided to fight to the death to defend.
The left planted bad ideas like viruses in the echo chamber of our policy machine. What frustrates the left and the establishment is that Trump appears immune to the viruses infecting Washington D.C.
Only Nixon could go to China, the apologists once said. But only Trump could cut off Palestine.