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 decision by Nancy Pelosi this week to finally name the ongoing congressional investigations into President Donald Trump’s behavior “impeachment investigations” has made far too many Democrats, both officials and voters, far too nervous. Will this help Trump be re-elected, they ask? Will it be a big can of worms for Joe Biden that he will carry into a general election? Will this simply end up being another victory for Trump, no matter the facts, like the Mueller Report was? Read more at Medium
At Medium, I explain why Joe Biden is not at all the safe pick he is made out to be. If you support his policies, or if you are swayed by his being the former VP under
Obama or that he is the best-known of the Democratic candidates, by all means support him. But if you’re only behind him because he’s the safe pick, please consider that this may not be the case. It is crucial that Democratic primary voters not just follow the line that says Biden is the safe bet, we can’t afford to get this wrong. I explain here why he is not at all the safe pick. Agree or disagree, but this is a conversation we need to have. Please share this piece with all your friends and contacts.
The ongoing spat between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and United States President Barack Obama has drowned out an important issue. The entire question of the Israel-Palestine conflict seems to be out of sight and out of mind in Washington and the mainstream media. Instead, the focus has been on diplomatic protocols: on what the United States is or is not willing to concede to Iran in talks, on whether Israel can be trusted with sensitive updates on those talks, and on whether issuing renewed sanctions against Iran is a foolish idea.
Traditionally, the United States and the international community in general don’t even try to push peace in Israel’s direction when the Jewish state is in the midst of electoral campaign season. That’s what is happening now as well, despite the drama stirred up by Bibi and his congressional cohorts John Boehner (R-OH) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Staying out of Israeli elections is conventional wisdom, but is it the right move now? Read more at LobeLog
This article originally appeared at LobeLog, one of the very best sites for foreign policy analysis, and of which I am proud to be a part. Please check it out.
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
My report for IPS on the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and the J Street conference.
In my latest piece for Souciant, I look at the opportunity for change that exists right now. In the attempt to change US Mideast policy, we get opportunities from time to time, though they are rarely great opportunities. This one isn’t that dramatic, but it is the sort of starting point we have regularly bypassed. If we had taken one such years ago, we would be in a very different place today.