The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Friends: Be Respectful of That Broader Conversation

The gang is back to discuss the news of the week, joined by RedState’s assistant editor Andrea Ruth. Watch live at 9pm EST (or on-demand any time afterwards).

If you prefer audio to video, you can find the show on iTunes or Google Play Music. Check out BATF on Facebook and Twitter, and support us on Patreon for show notes and bonus audio from after the show.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Friends is your chance to catch up on the news of the week with Joe Cunningham and John Tabin of RedState, Bill McMorris of the Washington Free Beacon, Neal Dewing (formerly of the Fifth Estate Podcast), and Jeff Blehar of the Decision Desk.

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Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital: What to Watch For


President Trump has reportedly informed regional leaders that he’ll recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital this week. Here are three details to pay attention to:

1. Which Jerusalem? From an analysis in the Times of Israel:

In recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Trump thus has three options, said Eytan Gilboa, an expert on US politics at Bar-Ilan University.

“He can either say ‘Jerusalem,’ ‘West Jerusalem’ or ‘United Jerusalem.’ There is debate about the right wording even within the administration,” he said.

Most likely, Trump will merely say “Jerusalem,” thus allowing all sides to interpret his statement as they wish, Gilboa speculated. Israel will then be able to cite the law and the president’s previous commitments in arguing he meant the entire city. The Palestinians, meanwhile, will be able to cling to the hope that he was only referring to West Jerusalem.

The Israeli parliament, prime minister’s residence, and supreme court are all west of the “Green Line” (the 1949 armistice line that served as the de facto border prior to 1967). Hamas and other Palestinian maximalists may consider the entire city (and indeed the entire country) occupied territory, but among good-faith actors only the Old City and the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem are legitimately disputed (and it’s hard to see how the Old City can be divided as a practical final-status solution). Explicitly recognizing “West Jerusalem,” as the Russian foreign ministry did earlier this year, would be unwelcome in some quarters on the Israeli right, while the “United Jerusalem” formulation would seem to foreclose options for the sort of peace deal that Trump sometimes seems interested in. Gilboa is likely correct that Trump will leave things ambiguous.

2. What about the embassy? In 1995 Congress passed a law that would ostensibly move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and since then US presidents have signed a waiver every six months, delaying the move for national security purposes. Trump is expected to sign that waiver again this week (Bloomberg treated this as a scoop this afternoon, even though it had appeared in earlier reports); the timeline on moving the embassy (perhaps by simply re-designating the consulate an embasssy) is still unclear. It may or may not be clearer after tomorrow.

3. What about the backlash? Amos Yadlin, who likely would have been minister of defense in a center-left government if Prime Minister Netanyahu had not been re-elected in 2015, had this to say on Twitter regarding backlash from the Muslim world after Trump’s announcement:

There may be protests and even violence in response to Trump’s announcement, but don’t be surprised if it turns out to be less than the most dire warnings suggest.

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BREAKING: Trump Tells Arab Leaders of Plans to Recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital, Move U.S. Embassy

President Trump spoke to Arab leaders today informing them that the United States will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and set in motions plans to move the embassy (currently located in Tel Aviv). They’re not happy:

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Jordan’s King Abdullah and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who all received phone calls from Trump on Tuesday, joined a mounting chorus of voices saying any unilateral U.S. move on Jerusalem could unleash turmoil.

Trump notified Abbas “of his intention to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah said.

Abbas, in response, “warned of the dangerous consequences such a decision would have to the peace process and to the peace, security and stability of the region and of the world” and also appealed to the Pope and the leaders of Russia, France and Jordan to intervene.

The Jordanian monarch told Trump that moving the embassy would have “dangerous repercussions” for the region and would obstruct U.S. efforts to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, according to a palace statement.

Egypt’s Sisi cautioned Trump against “taking measures that would undermine the chances of peace” and complicate matters in the Middle East, a presidential statement released in Cairo said.

None of the leaders’ statements said whether Trump, who was also due to talk to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, specified the timing of an embassy move.

But U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Trump would sign a national security waiver – as have his predecessors – keeping the embassy in Tel Aviv for another six months but would commit to expediting a move. It was unclear, however, whether he would set a date.

Israeli officials are withholding comment, reportedly at the White House’s request. More to come…

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The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Friends: Step Into Our Office

The gang is back, joined by Newsday columnist Cathy Young and BATF Office of International Affairs cohost Grant Gambling to discuss the news of the week. Watch live at 9pm EST (or on-demand any time afterwards).

If you prefer audio to video, you can find the show on iTunes or Google Play Music. Check out BATF on Facebook and Twitter, and support us on Patreon for show notes and bonus audio from after the show.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Friends is your chance to catch up on the news of the week with Joe Cunningham and John Tabin of RedState, Bill McMorris of the Washington Free Beacon, Neal Dewing of the Fifth Estate Podcast, and Jeff Blehar of the Decision Desk.

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The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Friends: Daily Affirmations

The gang is back, joined by the mysterious @Neontaster to discuss the news of the week from Roy Moore to Al Franken to liberals’ very late-breaking second thoughts about Bill Clinton. Watch live at 9pm EST (or on-demand any time afterwards).

If you prefer audio to video, you can find the show on iTunes or Google Play Music. Check out BATF on Facebook and Twitter, and support us on Patreon for show notes and bonus audio from after the show.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Friends is your chance to catch up on the news of the week with Joe Cunningham and John Tabin of RedState, Bill McMorris of the Washington Free Beacon, Neal Dewing of the Fifth Estate Podcast, and Jeff Blehar of the Decision Desk.

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The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Friends: One Year In

The gang is back, joined by Bruce Carroll (better known as @GayPatriot) to talk about the news of the week, including this week’s election results, the breaking allegations against Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, retrospectives on memories of election night 2016 and more. Watch live at 9pm EST (or on-demand any time afterwards).

 

If you prefer audio to video, you can find the show on iTunes or Google Play Music. Check out BATF on Facebook and Twitter, and support us on Patreon for show notes and bonus audio from after the show.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Friends is your chance to catch up on the news of the week with Joe Cunningham and John Tabin of RedState, Bill McMorris of the Washington Free Beacon, Neal Dewing of the Fifth Estate Podcast, and Jeff Blehar of the Decision Desk.

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Trump to Announce New Iran Strategy

This afternoon President Trump is scheduled to give a speech outlining a new strategy toward the Islamic Republic of Iran. Last night the White House sent reporters a preview of the new policy; the embargo on the release was lifted early this morning.

The “Core Elements of the President’s New Iran Strategy,” per the release:

* The United States’ new Iran strategy focuses on neutralizing the Government of Iran’s destabilizing influence and constraining its aggression, particularly its support for terrorism and militants.

* We will revitalize our traditional alliances and regional partnerships as bulwarks against Iranian subversion and restore a more stable balance of power in the region.

* We will work to deny the Iranian regime — and especially the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) — funding for its malign activities, and oppose IRGC activities that extort the wealth of the Iranian people.

* We will counter threats to the United States and our allies from ballistic missiles and other asymmetric weapons.

* We will rally the international community to condemn the IRGC’s gross violations of human rights and its unjust detention of American citizens and other foreigners on specious charges.

* Most importantly, we will deny the Iranian regime all paths to a nuclear weapon.

The White House has telegraphed that the president will not certify that Iran is complying with the nuclear deal signed with the Obama administration, but also will not immediately withdraw from the deal and reimpose sanctions. The fact sheet hints that the administration will instead move toward confronting Iran on issues beyond the nuclear program; the possibility of designating the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization seems to be in play. Last week I talked to Omri Ceren of The Israel Project about what to expect next; you can hear our conversation on iTunes or Google Play, or watch on YouTube.

The president is scheduled to speak at 12:45pm EDT.

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The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Friends: Going All Out in Order to Demean and Denigrate

This week the gang is joined by RedState’s own Andrea Ruth and Kira Davis. We’ll cover the latest in the presidential tweets, the Harvey Weinstein scandal and more. You can watch below, live at 9pm Eastern or on-demand any time after that:

Check out BATF on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe on iTunes or Google Play Music for the audio-only version of the show. Want something extra? Support us on Patreon for show notes and bonus audio from after the show.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Friends is your chance to catch up on the news of the week with Joe Cunningham and John Tabin of RedState, Bill McMorris of the Washington Free Beacon, Neal Dewing of the Fifth Estate Podcast, and Jeff Blehar of the Decision Desk.

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Report: Saudi Crown Prince Secretly Visits Israel

Mohammad bin Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
Mohammad bin Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

For the last couple days there have been rumors of a visit to Israel by a prince from Saudi Arabia — which officially has no diplomatic relations with Israel and is a party to the Arab League boycott on the Jewish State. Now, a Jerusalem-based reporter says she’s confirmed that the visitor was none other than Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the next in line to be King.

This is a major milestone in the quiet diplomatic outreach between Israel and Sunni Arab states that has been a poorly-kept secret for years. Israel and the Arabs have a common enemy in Iran, and while Obama administration alumni may argue that their nuclear deal hasn’t made Tehran more dangerous, people who actually have to live in the region don’t have the luxury of playing pretend.

The Arabs’ interest in military cooperation with Israel opens up new possibilities for a final-status agreement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; some on the Israeli right (notably Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman) believe that a peace deal with the Palestinians can only be viable with buy-in from Israel’s Arab neighbors. The Arab League has endorsed the so-called Arab Peace Initiative first proposed by the Saudis in 2002; as it is, that plan is a non-starter (Israel is not going to absorb millions of Palestinian refugees or cede the Golan Heights to whatever’s left of Syria), but it could possibly be modified and used as starting point for negotiations.

The Trump administration should coordinate closely with our allies regarding Iran, but on the Palestinian conflict, the best approach is to step back and let regional actors take the lead. Driven by a vain fantasy of going down in history as a Mideast peacemaker, John Kerry pushed for negotiations at a historically inopportune time, and the predictable failure of that effort led to an outbreak of violence. If the new administration avoids that mistake, it’s not impossible that a peace deal may emerge with little effort from Washington.

Of course, the real challenge facing the region — a cash-flush Iran with regional ambitions and a short path to nuclear weapons — will remain a problem either way.

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Trump Throws Vulnerable Senate Democrat a Lifeline – Or Does He?

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-ND (Nick Wass/AP Images for United Way Worldwide)
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-ND (Nick Wass/AP Images for United Way Worldwide)

At The Washington Post, Amber Phillips marvels:

This is not a story you’d expect to read in 2017, but it happened: President Trump went to North Dakota on Wednesday and praised its Democratic senator, who is up for reelection next year, as a “good woman.”

“Come on up, senator,” Trump told a crowd at an oil refinery in Mandan, as he had a called up some of the state’s elected officials, all of them Republican, save Sen. Heidi Heitkamp. “These are great people. They work hard. They’re for you 100 percent.”

He went on: “And we just want their support, because we need support. You see that with what’s happening in Congress. Nobody can get anything through Congress. We need support, so thank you, senator. Senator Heitkamp. Everyone’s saying: What’s she doing up here? But I’ll tell you what: Good woman, and I think we’ll have your support — I hope we’ll have your support. And thank you very much, senator. Thank you for coming up.”

The president of the United States may not be popular with Americans at large, but he certainly has some sway in this state. And Trump just gave Heitkamp a potentially massive boost as she tries to remain the state’s lone statewide elected Democrat.

Well, maybe. It’s true: Heitkamp is a Democrat facing a tough campaign for reelection in an overwhelmingly Republican state, and under normal circumstances a kind word from a Republican president would be an unalloyed gift.

But the Republican president is Donald Trump, and circumstances are therefore not normal. In 2016 Trump won almost 63% of the vote in North Dakota — but Republican Senator John Hoeven, who appeared on the same ballot, won over 78% of the vote. That means a non-trivial chunk of Republican voters in North Dakota weren’t comfortable with Trump.

To win reelection, Heitkamp needs some voters who normally vote Republican to cross over and support her. Are potential crossover voters more likely to have voted for both Trump and Hoeven, or more likely to have voted just for Hoeven? And can Heitkamp court the former group without alienating the latter group? The answers aren’t entirely obvious. The election is more than a year away, and Trump being Trump, there’s plenty of time for both his public posture toward Heitkamp and his popularity in North Dakota to change.

Republicans have every reason to be annoyed with the president for his kindness to a Democrat in a swing state. But while Heitkamp can take comfort in the possibility of spinning Trump’s “good woman” soundbite into electoral gold, she may find next year that her uphill path to reelection remains just as treacherous.

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