Pompeo Unveils Dangerous US Approach to Israeli Settlements

In the latest reversal of long-standing United States policy in the Middle East, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared this week that Washington no longer views Israeli settlements in the West Bank as “inconsistent with international law.”

Pompeo framed the decision as a “reversal” of Obama administration policy. He said, “[Former] Secretary [of State John] Kerry changed decades of this careful bipartisan approach by publicly reaffirming the supposed illegality of settlements,” referring to a December 2016 resolution in the United Nations Security Council that termed the settlements illegal, which President Barack Obama permitted to pass by abstaining from the vote.

But in fact, Obama had been more tolerant of Israeli settlement than his predecessors. While he talked more often about their being an obstacle to peace, that abstention was the only time in his eight years in office that Obama had allowed a U.N. resolution critical of Israel to pass. By contrast, George W. Bush permitted six UNSC resolutions to which Israel objected to pass. Ronald Reagan permitted twenty.

Obama even vetoed a UNSC resolution whose text was almost verbatim U.S. policy, causing himself quite a bit of embarrassment in the international arena. On another occasion, Israel announced a new and highly controversial settlement in East Jerusalem while Vice President Joe Biden was in the country. The administration’s reaction was to do a reading of standard talking points and move on.

Distorting Obama’s record affects more than the president’s legacy. It increases the distortion of politics around Israel and its occupation. Obama emphasized actual Israeli security needs, which, in his view, included finding an agreement with the Palestinians, and lowering the temperature between Israel (and Saudi Arabia) and Iran. Trump has focused on crowd-pleasing, grandiose gestures like moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem a move that eliminated any possibility of diplomacy with the Palestinians; or leaving the Iran nuclear deal, which aggravated tensions with Iran, thereby making the environment considerably less secure for Israel. Much like the neoconservative strategies of the early part of the century, casting those who pursue diplomacy as a threat to security allows hawks to get away with making the region less secure for everyone. Read more at LobeLog

The Peace Process Is Dead: Thanks, Obama

As the curtain drops on 2017, it drops too on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process as we have known it. At the age of 24, that process has finally died, with none other than President Donald Trump

Shimon Peres, John Kerry and Mahmoud Abbas at the World Economic Forum in May 2013

pulling the plug. But let’s not give him too much credit or blame for that. The killing blow was struck by his predecessor, Barack Obama.

There was much to like in Obama’s presidency, especially given the mess he was handed in 2009 and the unprecedented obstructionism of the Republican Party during his tenure. But he also had abject failures that were due to his own shortcomings, and the sharp degeneration in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict under his watch is at the top of the list. Read more at LobeLog

From 2006: Honest Brokers? US Presidents and the Middle East

I have discovered an article of mine from 20067258702972_d11e56b4ea_z still online. It is a review I wrote for the journal Global Understanding of William Quandt’s book, Peace Process: American Diplomacy and the Arab–Israeli Conflict since 1967. Despite being eight years old, it is striking how much of this piece remains relevant. It will also serve as a preview of some more current work I am doing. I hadn’t seen the piece since its initial publication, so I’m happy to share it with you here. I hope you find it as valuable as I do.

Tears for My Judaism

Today, another piece on Gaza. This one, though, is more emotional and personal. I see too much of my own background, too much of

Israeli soldiers lounge outside the museum of the Zionist militant group, the Irgun Zvai Leumi.

Israeli soldiers lounge outside the museum of the Zionist militant group, the Irgun Zvai Leumi.

how I was raised to understand Judaism in Israel’s actions. I stress, this is far from any kind of “real” Judaism. It is one of a great many kinds of Judaism, many understandings of what being Jewish means. the one I was raised with was, well, simply not a very nice version. And on some level, no matter how much I may embrace other Judaisms, this version will always be the most visceral for me. And, luck me Israel reflects it back at me on a regular basis. I explore in Souciant today.

Christie’s Gaffe: Stating the Obvious

This article originally appeared at LobeLog.

Chris Christie addressing the 2014 CPAC convention. Credit: Gage Skidmore

Chris Christie addressing the 2014 CPAC convention. Credit: Gage Skidmore

The absurdity of political campaigns in the United States added another chapter recently when New Jersey governor Chris Christie made the “Republican hajj” to Las Vegas. Ostensibly, he was going to speak to the Republican Jewish Coalition, but the real pilgrimage was to grovel at the feet of billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson in the hope of getting the kind of fat contribution that Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich availed themselves of in 2012.

During his RJC speech, Christie made the grave mistake of using a clear fact that was unacceptable to the RJC and even more so to Adelson. He called the West Bank “the Occupied Territories.” Gasps were heard nationwide. Christie was forced to ramp his groveling up to supersonic levels as he moved to apologize to Adelson for this nearly unforgivable blunder.

Such is the role of truth when it comes to Israel in the bizarre world of Republican pro-Israel politics. And it’s not just confined to the GOP. The Democrats have also dodged this very simple fact, and it has created a political climate where the US media also rarely refers to the Occupied Territories as “occupied territories.” The politically correct term for moderates is “disputed territories.” On the right, it’s the biblical designation, “Judea and Samaria.” Nowhere else but in the United States, not even in Israel, is it this controversial to call the West Bank “occupied territory.” Continue reading