- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 4, 2017

National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster expressed America’s “heartfelt condolences to the British and Afghan people” and reaffirmed the support of the United States to stand with them in the in the wake of recent terrorist attacks with nearly 30 killed in multiple attacks in the U.K. and at least 90 dead from a terrorist bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan, last week.

“These latest atrocities underscore the urgency of our shared challenges,” the general told a conference focused on Jewish global advocacy in Washington D.C. on Sunday. “To our British and Afghan brothers and sisters, you’re in our thoughts and in our prayers.”

The general delivered the key-note speech at the American Jewish Committee Global Forum, stressing that opportunities for peace and resolution can be found in times of conflict seen as bleak and dire.

“Today we are witnessing a reassessment of regional relationships, most notably between Israel and a number of our Arab partners, all friends of America but too often adversaries of each other. Today these interests are converging. This is an opportunity,” General McMaster told the group of nearly 2,000 conference attendees.

The annual conference facilitates conversations about global advocacy initiatives for its members on a range of issues surrounding Israel, Jewish community, inter-faith relations and human rights.

Israel does not have official relations with a majority of Arab, Muslim-majority nations, but reports over the past few years have suggested that those countries who fear the influence of Iran in the region, such as Saudi Arabia and Gulf nations, have opened unofficial channels of communication with the Jewish State.

The general also spoke about President Trump’s recent visit to the Middle East, saying that he believes the president’s call to action for greater tolerance and a strong stance against extremism was well received by leaders from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Indonesia and Malaysia, all countries criticized by human rights groups for suppression of their citizenry and in some cases, fostering conflict around the world.

“I know there’s healthy skepticism due to failure of past policies and the fact that many of these countries have been the sources of terrorist funding and the propagation of extremist Islamic ideology,” the general said, “none of us – the president least of all – will be impressed by their words. We expect to see action and we will hold one another accountable as we strengthen our existing partnerships and forge new ones.

“We have clear metrics for countering terrorist finance and clear metrics to counter violent extremism,” he continued. “We will encourage and reward success, and we will deal with inaction and lack of progress accordingly as well.”

The general segued into plans for a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinian’s by saying shifting alliances in the Middle East also present an opportunity to achieve a solution.

“The opportunities associated with new partnerships includes the renewed pursuit of enduring peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” the general said.

Member of Israel’s Knesset – that country’s parliament – and former minister of foreign affairs Tzipi Livni also spoke at the conference and said Europe needs to wake up to the realities of what is needed to defeat terrorism in their countries.

“Until terror entered Europe, for the Europeans it was far away, they didn’t think it was their backyard,” she said during a panel discussion. “They need to understand now… it is the religious world against those, all of us, whether it is radical Islam against moderates, against Jews, against Christians.

“There is nothing we can do to stop them,” she said of terrorists, “or trying to appease them or stop them, we need to fight them.”

Turning to President Trump’s effort to restart peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians, the crowd laughed when moderator CNN Political Analyst David Gregory sarcastically brought up Mr. Trump’s efforts to achieve the “ultimate deal.”

“You laugh,” Ms. Livni disparaged the crowd, “but these are our lives.”

Ms. Livni was a key member and leader of negotiations in past Israeli governments, most recently during failed negotiations in 2014.

She continued that it was a promising and “optimistic moment” when Mr. Trump said he was serious about making an “ultimate” deal between Israelis and Palestinians, when he spoke at a press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House in February.

Ms. Livni added that the regional threat posed by Iran and the shifting of European priorities, on domestic issues and combatting terrorism as opposed to putting resources into supporting Palestinians, allows a new and rare opportunity for a deal on a two state solution to be reached.

“In the last years when the [Palestinians] didn’t negotiate with Israel, they could go to Europe… but now Europe is focused on Europe and the Palestinians are less important to the Europeans.”

She also added that despite Mr. Trump’s close relationship with Mr. Netanyahu and outspoken support of Israel, it doesn’t mean that the president will ignore the needs and wants of the Palestinian’s in a future peace deal.

“All those in Israel that that when Trump was elected, now we can annex the territories [the West Bank] and do whatever we want. Surprise, surprise, and from my perspective it’s a good surprise.”

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