Moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem

Moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem

by

Howard Adelman

How does one respond when an infamous fabulist makes a decision allegedly based on reality? Donald Trump is the most notorious fabulist of our time. He is not simply a serial liar, but a man who denies any basis for establishing the truth. For Donald, the only truth that exits is the one that you convince people to believe. “People will just believe you. You just tell them and they believe you.” These were Donald Trump’s words quoted by Bill Bush, the former host of “Access Hollywood” in The New York Times. As described in George Orwell’s 1984, the only truth in a totalitarian system is a lie. Telling the truth is the unforgivable sin in despotic systems of government.

Donald Trump announced his decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem in a press conference at 1:00 p.m. this afternoon in an 11-minute speech read on two monitors. He claimed that it was no longer possible “to ignore the reality on the ground.” He was recognizing the historical reality that Jerusalem has been the center of Jewish faith for thousands of years, and the reality today in which the government ministries, the Supreme Court and the central authorities are all located in the capital of Israel – Jerusalem. However, he was not pre-empting the conclusions of any peace negotiations. It was up to the Israelis and the Palestinians to decide together the respective borders in Jerusalem.

What about the Palestinians? What about their reality? There was no acknowledgement of Palestinian claims to sovereignty in Eastern Jerusalem or to the Old City.

Trump “recognizes reality.” As undisclosed sources in the White House had said yesterday: “He is not making a decision that will change the core issues that are to be discussed in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.” Reality also determined that the move would not be immediate. Hence the puzzling and distracting headlines leading up to the announcement: “Trump delays decision on embassy move.” “It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when,” said White House spokesman Hogan Gidley last week, both when the actual announcement would be made and when the decision would be implemented. But the process would be set in motion and expected to be concluded about the time of the expiration of Trump’s first term in office.

Perhaps that was the greater reality – his legacy. Almost certainly the fulfillment of a promise he made in his campaign for the presidency was the major determinant. Certainly, the series of decisions the US Congress made in 1995 provided the legal and formal authority to make the move. But the foundation for the judgment was a claim on reality.

At the same time, President Trump announced that he would sign the waiver, as every president since 1995 has done. Only when the move was imminent would the waiver to delay the move for security concerns be set aside. Would that olive branch appease Palestinians, the Arab and the Muslim world more generally? Would marrying signing the waiver with the executive decision to move the embassy be considered a fake olive branch by both America’s allies in Europe and the many states of the Muslim world? Would the US formally endorsing the two-state solution for the first time be enough of a salve?

Though I have not yet heard the reaction of President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority and understand that he is still in discussions with President Sisi of Egypt, allies and Muslim states alike unanimously declared that such a decision would be a disaster for the peace process and was bound to instigate rage and violence, not only in Palestine, but throughout the world, particularly in the Muslim world. That reality according to the critics should have kyboshed any such announcement.

Will such an announcement finally bury the peace process and, therefore the prospect of a two-state solution, or would it, as Trump declared, shake up that process and create more possibilities for a peace agreement to proceed from a new starting position? America remained committed to fostering peace between Israel and the Palestinians and he, Trump, would agree to a two-state solution if both parties agree. Further, and more significantly, America for the first time endorsed a two-state solution and committed itself to backing such a solution if both parties came to an agreement.

It is one thing to announce moving the US embassy in the immediately foreseeable future. It is another to make such a pronouncement in conjunction with recognizing Jerusalem – not West Jerusalem that Russia recognized (April 2017) – as the capital of Israel. And that was the most explosive part of this afternoon’s announcement however nuanced it was by insisting that such recognition made no presumptions about final borders or sovereignty. To repeat, it was just a recognition of reality according to the American president. Trump signed the waiver for an additional six-month delay in moving the embassy, but put in motion the process of moving the embassy.

Since he also declared that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, that announcement will almost certainly stir the Palestinians into a rage despite Trump labeling anyone who resorted to violence as a terrorist. Nabil Abu Rudeinehspokesperson for Mahmoud Abbas, Chair of the Palestinian Authority, warned: “Eastern Jerusalem will be the capital of a Palestinian state, and any change in the status quo or international recognition legitimizing the Israeli occupation will negate any possible just [and peaceful] solution.” Yet the PLO, when it declared Palestinian independence in 1988 conjoined with recognition of the two-state solution, also declared Jerusalem, not East Jerusalem, to be its capital, a decision ratified into law in 2000 and confirmed by Yasser Arafat in 2002.

For critics, Trump was not just playing with fire; he was accused of being a pyromaniac. On the other hand, what change had been made in legitimizing Israeli occupation?

The problem, as has been very widely recognized, is that this has been the one insurmountable obstacle to concluding the peace process. All of the other matters on the table – sharing water, even refugee return and even the swap in territory to solve the problem of Israeli settlements in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) – are resolvable. But Jerusalem is not. As Rudeineh stated, “East Jerusalem, with its holy places, is the beginning and the end of any solution and any project that saves the region from destruction.” If the claim on the Old City is the PA bottom line, and if this Israeli government, or virtually any conceivable Israeli government, cannot be imagined as making such a concession, how can there be a prospect of peace? If there was no prospect of a solution in any case, why delay moving the embassy and recognizing the reality of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital?

Nor can one legitimately refer to any international authority to support either side. But an international consensus had been in place until now not to make such a move. As the EU ambassador to Israel, Emanuele Giaufret, opined, “The connection between the Jews and Jerusalem cannot be denied.” However, virtually the embassies of all countries will remain in Tel Aviv because any move would upset “the diplomatic process.”  “There is a UN resolution on the issue – and the question of Jerusalem should come up in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. It would not be good for us to take a new position, before the negotiations. Jerusalem is a sensitive issue that is important to all religions – and it is important that we make an effort so that each side understands the sensitivities of the other side.”

But the effort has been made for fifty years. The negotiations on Jerusalem have been at an impasse for decades. Delaying the decision is viewed by many Jews, particularly supporters of Netanyahu, as favouring the Palestinian position and surrendering to the views of the likes of Democratic National Committee deputy chief and Minnesota congressman Keith Ellison who, in anticipation, dubbed such a move a “horrible tragedy”. (Ellison in the past had offered positive statements on behalf of Nation of Islam leader and anti-Israel advocate, Louis Farrakhan and has insisted that American foreign policy was dictated by the Jewish lobby.)

However, the debate is not over a two-state solution, but over who will have sovereignty over the Holy Places in the Old City. Given that Israel is now in control, any decision to formally recognize that control is considered unilateral and an obstacle to realizing a two-state solution. But refusal to recognize the legitimacy of that control as well as the reality is also a unilateral decision that favours the PA red line.

Does such a decision end the prospect of a negotiated two-state solution? I believe critics are correct. I believe that it certainly will for now, making the timing odd given Jared Kushner’s work on the problem. A decision favouring Israel, even though signaled to Arab leaders ahead of time, will, I believe, make any agreement harder to reach in the near future. America’s role as a broker will be undermined. And the prospect of violence, quite aside from new tensions in the region, will increase.

What about the rumours that Saudi Arabia is now on board favouring the Israeli side? There is no suggestion that Saudi Arabia would accept Israeli sovereignty over the Holy Places. Or has there been a deal? There have been rumours that Saudi Arabia, given its dispute with Iran and Shiite Islam more generally, under the new helm of Crown Prince and strongman Mohammed bin Salman who has had close business ties with the Jewish community and with Jared Kushner in particular, has shifted. In secret negotiations with Israel and quiet negotiations with Jared Kushner, it is rumoured that he agreed that Palestinians would not be given sovereignty over the Old City, and, in return, Israel would acknowledge Saudi Arabia rather than Jordan as having control over the Muslim holy sites, giving the Saudis control of all three of Islam’s most sacred places – Mecca, Medina and now the Great Mosque in Jerusalem. By mentioning it, I do not intend to give credence to such a rumour.

The announcement does shift the ground. That shift alone would destroy the belief of a virtual consensus among Muslim countries. As Ellison put it, is it logical or reasonable in an era of réal politique that a country of 7 million Jews should overrule the views of countries with a population of one billion and a region with a population of 350 million in opposition? The political equation will change, Ellison predicted, when there are more Muslims in America. Hence the link between the ban against Muslim immigrants to the U.S. and American foreign policy on the Israeli-Palestinian standoff. Hence the push for moving embassies to Jerusalem ever since Begin came to power in Israel in the late seventies. But the political equation would also change if Saudi Arabia undermines any consensus. Saudi Arabia has denied that such a proposal is in the works.

The Joe Clarke Conservative government in Canada in 1979 was the first Western country to be convinced to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a policy shift determined by control of the policy committee by a group of Christian Zionists. That initiative ended in a diplomatic storm and a fiasco with a retreat by Canada that made future policy contingent on Arab agreement. When in 1988, the PLO changed its charter to recognize the UN authority and legitimacy in establishing a two-state solution, the door was opened for the Oslo Accords. Though Israel promised to negotiate Jerusalem’s future as part of a peace agreement, Israel had also made clear that Jerusalem, including the Old City, would remain its capital.

But, as stated above, Palestinians also expected East Jerusalem, including the Old City, to become its capital. They did not simply expect to have access to Muslim holy sites, as the editorial in The New York Times this morning opined. For the reality is that, for the most part, Muslims have retained unfettered access to the Haram esh-Sharif or Noble Sanctuary of al-Quds as Jerusalem is better known among Arabs. Access is only denied for security reasons, access not only for Arabs, but to Jewish right-wing instigators when tensions have risen.

The issue is NOT making one-sided decisions before negotiations begin, but making one-sided decisions when negotiations have failed for almost thirty years to cut this Gordian knot. In 1947, the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) recommended a two-state solution with a special international status for Jerusalem, not just the Old City, under the sovereign authority of the United Nations Trusteeship Council. In the UNSCOP Committee, this sop of international status for Jerusalem was offered to the representative from Peru, Dr. Alberto Ulloa, a very religious Catholic, to ensure continuing Catholic influence in the city in return for his support for partition. It is noteworthy that even unto today, even with a most progressive pope in office in Rome, the Vatican opposed recognizing Israel’s de facto control over the Old City as legitimate and criticized Trump’s announcement.

The recommendation to put Jerusalem under international control was not a realistic possibility at the time. The attempt to implement the recommendation proved to be an absolute farce. Jews ignored that recommendation and the Palestinians ignored not only it, but the legitimacy of any Israeli state. When Jordan occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1948, they were annexed. The Jews were ethnically cleansed from the Jewish Quarter in the Old City and Jews were denied access to their Holy Places, the Western Wall in Jerusalem and the burial of their founding fathers in Hebron.

Force determined that outcome, though the international community refused in general to recognize both Jordanian authority over East Jerusalem and the Old City and Jewish control over West Jerusalem. Protests faded away in the face of the reality on the ground. Even though most embassies remained in Tel Aviv well before the imbroglio over East Jerusalem and the Old City, the situation remained unchanged after 1967, except that 16 countries that had embassies in West Jerusalem, moved those embassies to Tel Aviv with the de facto annexation of East Jerusalem in 1980. It was not a formal annexation, as was the case with Jordan in 1950, but the borders of the municipality of Jerusalem were extended to include East Jerusalem and Israeli law and administration were then applied to the whole region now called Jerusalem. (The UN General Assembly unanimously condemned the move and declared it invalid, though the GA motion had no legally binding power under international law.)

In sum, Trump’s announcement was clearly made for political purposes: to fulfill a campaign promise, to satisfy his evangelical base, to show gratitude for Sheldon Adelson’s $25 million contribution to the pro-Trump PAC during the election; to earn a legacy; and, last, but not least, to counter Barack Obama’s decision when he was a lame-duck president NOT to veto an anti-Israel resolution in the UN Security Council declaring the settlements illegal. The announcement was an unequivocal pro-Israel statement that was surprisingly nuanced for Trump.

Certainly, Netanyahu expressed his pleasure concerning the announcement. Did the initiative now give Trump extra leverage over the Netanyahu government? Or had Netanyahu been given a green light, for Trump had reiterated what he had said often enough before – it was up to the Israelis and Palestinians to resolve their dispute themselves, though the US would be available to help. The statement certainly labelled opponents who resorted to violence as terrorists. But was a regional strategy missing, or left unsaid and secretly agreed to?

Was the decision based on realism? I suspect that it was based on domestic realism and a kind of legitimate international fabulism, not one that denies reality as its usual modus vivendi, but one based on a vision of Israel with Jerusalem, including the Old City, as its capital, as well as of a Palestinian state without the Old City, but with the Muslim Holy places reified under Muslim authority. The vision is married to action to reinforce change versus stasis tolerating the apparently unmovable status quo.

With the help of Alex Zisman

 

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Sovereignty in 2017: It’s Meaning for Canada and the World

Sovereignty in 2017: It’s Meaning for Canada and the World

by

 

Howard Adelman

Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi is visiting the White House today. Donald Trump has consistently expressed admiration for Sissi. In return, Sissi was the first foreign leader to congratulate Trump on his election victory. The mutual admiration society is understandable. Both leaders have rejected the position that any country or any international group of countries has the right to intervene in the domestic affairs of another country unless it is in the country’s interest to do so.

Trump has championed “America First” and, with it, the irrelevance of any moral responsibilities towards the population of another state. The doctrine, that Canada was in the forefront of developing, “The Responsibility to Protect” or R2P, has been thrust aside, not because it was not working as intended – there is a consensus on that conclusion – not because it was unworkable, a conclusion still in dispute but with weakened support, but because R2P did not fit in with the traditional doctrine of sovereignty – that each state was responsible for its own territory and the population in it and that a state should enjoy a monopoly of force to ensure the interests of the state were protected and advanced.

Hence, Trump has been in the process of dismantling the international liberal order and the role of the U.S. as the leader of that order. Sissi has abandoned the conception of Egypt as the leading power in the Arab world with a primary responsibility for the region and not just its own interests. At the same time, domestically, each state has moved to free itself from the constraints of an international human rights regime and able to define human rights through its own particular lens where some may have many more rights than others.

The path to the resurrection of the old and well-established doctrine of sovereignty has been turbulent. Egypt went through a pro-democracy uprising, the victory of a theocratic party in a democratic election, and a military counter-coup that suppressed the Islamic regime. America is going through its own version of democratic turbulence in which its leader blatantly rejects the doctrine of universal transparency and accountability, and admires “tough” approaches while openly disparaging human rights.

The conception of sovereignty is in play. Therefore, it was timely that Massey College this past Friday held a roundtable on the doctrine of sovereignty. True to the spirit of the new world disorder, the examination had a distinctly Canadian slant, but one in which R2P was rarely mentioned.

The highlight, at least for me, was a presentation by Dr. Elizabeth Riddell-Dixon, author of Breaking the Ice: Canada, Sovereignty and the Arctic Extended Shelf (Dundurn Press, April 2017, but not yet available). She is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Bill Graham Centre for Contemporary International History at the University of Toronto, a former professor of international relations at Western and a senior fellow at Massey College. She has written other books on women, on the role of NGOs internationally, on external constraints and domestic determinants in international policy, on the Canadian mosaic, and on the UN. She has been a prolific scholar with a very evident interest in issues dear to the liberal approach to international relations.

Her publisher’s blurb for her latest book begins with the following: “The Arctic seabed, with its vast quantities of undiscovered resources, is the twenty-first century’s frontier.” But that was NOT the thrust of her talk and, I suspect, not of the book. She made clear that the exploitation of natural resources in the Arctic was a long way off because of huge distances from settled society, the tough and unpredictable climate and terrain, and alternative sources of fossil fuels with far easier and more economic means of accessibility. Instead, she made clear that rather than being a frontier for material competition, the responsibility for the Arctic, rather than any benefit from it, was proceeding apace based on agreed international norms embodied in the authoritative international law of the sea and scientific studies undertaken cooperatively by the five countries surrounding the Arctic basin – Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the U.S.

Riddell-Dixon’s approach did not start from any liberal conception of sovereignty and a doctrine that it was urgent to develop an international order to govern areas of mutual interest. Rather, her approach was distinctly functional. Here is what is happening with one major disruption to the process of systematically establishing spheres of responsibility – the misguided effort of Prime Minister Harper of Canada to claim Canadian sovereignty over the North Pole. That was much to the chagrin of the Danes, for there was a general consensus that the North Pole fell clearly within Danish territory. The Danes then responded to the outlandish and aggressive Canadian leader’s claim with their own even more aggressive counter claims.

However, with the exception of this temporary digression, the process has been an example of the responsibility to protect, of R2P, not of human populations, for there are no human settlements there and the areas in dispute lie 800 nautical miles beyond the northernmost Canadian outpost of Alert which itself is another equivalent distance from our northernmost Inuit settlement. Instead of competition, what has taken place has been based on an authoritative international regime already in place, the international law of the sea, which defines spheres of territorial ownership (10 nautical miles into the sea) then spheres of economic interest (200 nautical miles into the sea), and, finally, extensions if the continental shelf extends beyond that distance, the extant of the continental shelf being determined by scientists from all five countries.

This is a doctrine of sovereignty that begins with a marriage of responsibility with interests rather than placing the two conceptions at odds, with the emphasis that, on the basis of these international norms and empirical science to determine the application, it is not the UN but each nation that has the responsibility for determining its sphere of international interests and responsibilities.  This is realism at work, not idealism, but realism rooted in internationally agreed legal norms and applied through the use of detached scientific evidence. Thus, rather than the monopoly over force and the expression of material interest as the forefront for determining the boundaries of the sovereign state, the key ingredients are international law and internationally accepted principles and practices of science to establish facts on the ground, or, more literally, in the sea.

This constructivist conception was haunted by three other views of sovereignty, one of idealism’s R2P lurking in the background, the traditional hard-headed (a description chosen deliberately to convey both toughness and resistance to being shaped by experience) realism and, finally, a romantic view that would displace the concept of state sovereignty with populist sovereignty, this time rooted in the sensibilities and conceptions of the peoples of the north of each country, including Canada’s Inuit.

The latter was presented at the roundtable clearly and articulately by Sara French-Rooke, a public policy leader and advocate with expertise on northern and indigenous issues who has had a career building collaborative strategic networks among northern communities of the Arctic. While Riddell-Nixon had been unequivocal in stating that pan-Arctic people’s power had virtually no role in determining state borders and responsibilities in the Arctic Basin, French-Rooke has had a leading role in bringing attention to the clean-water crises of remote northern communities, mercury contamination, housing and health issues, including the pandemic of suicides among youth.

I have dubbed this a “romantic” view of sovereignty, not to be dismissive, or to link it with escapism and fantasy, unrealizable idealism and aspirational politics, but to root the ideas embedded in the expression of economic realities and injustices, social concerns and political debates, in patterns and priorities that can be traced back to the origins of the modern nation-state and that have had very prominent expressions in the history of modern political theory. Whereas R2P stressed an idealistic view of a common humanity which, of necessity, has remained the leading edge of the climate change debate well articulated by John Godfrey at the roundtable, the romantic version of sovereignty stresses detailed contextual accounts of lives actually lived. In this view, politics and public morality have to begin with the concerns of peoples, and, primarily, peoples suffering, for, at root, sovereignty is about an ability to govern oneself, to determine one’s own destiny and, in this case, to do so collectively on behalf of suffering nations in the north.

In addition to the universalist and idealist approach of R2P that has been most relevant to the climate change debate, and the populist romantic view of sovereignty as the duty of a state to take care of its most vulnerable populations, both opposed to Riddell-Dixon, there is another realist portrait of sovereignty that was introduce in the morning by Tom Axworthy, ironically the brother of Lloyd Axworthy, so instrumental in forging the doctrine of R2P applied to international affairs.

In that realist view, sovereignty is the supreme power of a state to determine its own destiny. Its key ingredients are control over a defined territorial expanse and the monopoly of coercive force to achieve that goal.  The key elements are a defined physical territory, coercive power, the formal legal authority to determine the laws of a country and the mode of defending its interests.

With the help of Alex Zisman

The Arch of Justice

The Arch of Justice

by

Howard Adelman

Yesterday was Martin Luther King Jr. day. He was oft quoted as saying, “Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I only know this because Barack Obama loved to quote it and credit King. But he credited him with uttering the aphorism. Evidently, the originator was Theodore Parker in 1848 who offered it as a brief ode to hope and a belief in ethical progress. As Obama and others have recognized, however – this became a major theme of his final presidential address to the nation – the arc only bends if the people stand up and make it swing down and touch the earth. Without that effort, justice shoots off to the heavens to become an icon of aspiration instead of a practical reality here on earth.

Given the recent American election, can people still believe this is true? Can it be true of the Middle East? Of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? And what is the nature of that justice? And justice for whom?

Parker was a Unitarian, an abolitionist and, along with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, a Transcendentalist. Parker, like many before and after him, was especially influenced by the new Higher Biblical Criticism as those who followed were influenced by Source Criticism. He became convinced that the tales of dreams and prophecies of the Torah and of miracles and miraculous births of the New Testament lacked any truth value. He emerged from his spiritual quest as a naturalist, convinced that the divine was an intimate part of all of nature. What remained true in Christianity was its moral essence, the ethical teachings of Jesus.

Hence, he became a modernist. Religion required obedience to a higher Being. It required constructing a dependence on God and the institutions on earth responsible for conveying that message of obedience and even conformity with its rules. Morality, as Immanuel Kant had argued, was another matter and could not be reduced to religion. For moral principles were the sine qua non of behaviour without which there could be neither good nor bad. The basic principles of morality were a priori, as fundamental to the laws of human behaviour as gravity was to the laws of nature. They were transcendental preconditions of moral behaviour altogether and could not be distilled into religious directives. Morality requires right action and obedience to the conscience of the individual. Religion required obedience to an Other – God, the Church or an Authoritarian regime in a political system built on the same principles as religion while dispensing with God.

The attraction to authoritarian rule was almost as innate as conscience, but it was a propensity, not an a priori transcendental principle. “No feeling is more deeply planted in human nature than the tendency to adore a superior being, to reverence him, to bow before him, to feel his presence, to pray to him for aid in times of need.” But it was a planted feeling, one inculcated in both slave owners and their slaves, in religious leaders as well as their followers, in politicians who sought dominion and in citizens who sought an escape from the burdens and responsibility of freedom. When the heart is full of hope, divorced from personal effort, joy fills the air and a leader may be blessed. When that hope comes crashing down to earth, rejoicing turns to despair and the followers will seek to burn their fallen leader as an effigy. However, if one accepts that the whole world is divine, if one accepts that God lives within oneself, if one accepts that it is one’s responsibility and one’s responsibility alone to create the world as a living and vibrant moral universe, if one becomes convinced that this responsibility cannot be displaced onto another, then you have the premise for being both a moral and a responsible individual, two sides of the same coin.

It would be a theology that would be the counterpoint to authoritarianism so that even a religion as communitarian as Judaism would fall under its spell as liberal Jewish theologians became enamoured with the “autonomous self” as the only alternative to the authoritarianism of politicians and rabbis alike. The conviction of Theodore Parker became so pure that it even initially pushed him outside of even the pale of the Unitarian Church for a time before that church “canonized” him. Martin Luther King Jr. never went nearly that far. He was a communitarian in his heart and soul and believed in the power of his people, as Black Americans and as Americans of any colour or ethnicity. Individual conscience was never enough. One needed the power of the people to sustain oneself in battle and to provide the foot soldiers for that battle.

The issue was whether the people were to be lead by men of conscience or by reprobates, by liars, by those who were at base misanthropes, by men (perhaps even sometimes women) of no conscience, by men who fed off but showed utter disdain for the power of the people that they exploited in the name of attacking the institutional powers in place. Secular Protestantism was susceptible to seduction by the charms of a charlatan. And there were plenty around who offered to lead the people to greatness rather than to live under a brighter light, offered “our” power rather “theirs,” offered power at all rather than movement towards self-empowerment.

If the arc of justice is to be your guide, if it requires your effort to bend that arc towards the earth for the benefit of humanity, how does that help you in dealing with major international political problems like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? It is one thing to rely upon the metaphor as a guide for domestic politics and social organizing. It is quite another to use it in service of international negotiations. But it is very far from impossible.

First, it requires each party to recognize the Other, however inferior that Other may be in the power it holds, in fact, in spite of the weak position of the Other. It requires recognizing the Other as worthy of equal respect and dignity as humans. This applies as well to the recognition required by the weak party as well. They too must see the Other, not as an overbearing demon, but as a group driven by demons of insecurity and fears. But also driven by its own dreams and aspirations. Respect of each party of the other becomes a primary condition for reconciliation and peace.

Second, it requires not relying on outsiders to bring pressure and force to bear on settling the matter. Influence, certainly. But not external authority or power. The mantra that the Palestinians and the Jewish Israelis are the only ones who can make peace must be a fundamental building block.

Third, it requires realism. If the arc of justice is to bend towards the earth, then the justice required is the justice on the ground, the justice that takes into account the needs and desires and aspirations of all of those wherever they live in the territory of the conflict. The mistake in Gaza was not the military withdrawal of the Israelis, but moral withdrawal of the Israelis, the decision to abandon not just leave Gaza and, thus, also to surrender to an evil principle of Judenrein. Because the Palestinians made a contractual deal virtually impossible and told the Israelis, in effect, to get out without any arrangements, this does not excuse the moral lapse. I myself participated in that lapse in supporting the total withdrawal. In retrospect, it was wrong to say, “To hell with you, we’re leaving.” At the same time, the political practices that are moral must be as realistic as they are idealistic. Escape from responsibility will not allow a party to achieve freedom. It is a very tough balancing act.

How does one retain responsibility while surrendering authority to the Other and granting the Other the right to empower itself? That is the task, not a premise. That is the goal of a peace agreement, not the foundation for one. How does one create and continue to engage in a positive sum game wherein there is both true mutual recognition and where the power of the Other is allowed to grow as a release and expression of the energy of a people while ensuring that this energy is not a threat but a partner, a complement rather than an antagonist. Much easier said that done. That is why the task of peace is so difficult. But it will never be made easier with the intervention of external superegos which remove the ethical and political responsibilities from the parties themselves to forge a peace. And each party must recognize its own shortcomings in such a quest.

That is what is fundamentally wrong with Resolution 2334. It attempts to pre-empt that discussion. It raises the status of the Palestinians quite justly, but only by demonizing and derogating Jewish Israelis and their position. Not only are realities ignored, not only are established principles torturously arrived at set aside, but the supporters of the Resolution – quite aside from the myriad of deficiencies – have surrendered to the belief that external parties must not only be helpful to the parties, but weigh in on the debate so that in terms of power, the weight clearly still remains with the Jewish Israelis that cannot be offset by all the abstract moral weight and economic clout put on the other side of the scale.

When that is done in bad faith, when that is done without loving-kindness, when that is done in the name of helping the so-called underdog, it is done without respect of the power and recognition the Palestinians truly deserve as a self-governing people responsible for who they are and what they want to become. It is done by ignoring the authoritarian institutions and corruption which impede their self-development. It is done by ignoring the long strides Palestinians have made in managing their own security. And it is certainly done by ignoring the realities of Jewish Israel and denigrating its motives and its position.

Given these parameters, it is why the conclusions of the Paris Peace Conference are so superior to those of Resolution 2334. All states, including that of Israel, should recognize Palestine as an aspiring state. That is what Palestinians want. That is what they should have. That is what only a minority of Jewish Israelis let alone a minority of all Israelis want to prevent. The majority of Jewish Israelis accept the goal of creating a Palestinian state side-by-side Israel.

Let me offer a concrete example. If an outsider determines in advance that Jerusalem is Palestinian territory, a determination that was never previously made in either an agreement between the parties or even by an authoritative international body, that is an illegitimate move. If a country wishes to do so in recognition of realities that do not pre-empt the discussion – such a moving an embassy to West Jerusalem – that may be an imprudent act given the timing, but it is not an undercutting action. One can even argue such an act is needed to make a statement about reality.

That is why the Paris Peace Conference was far superior to the UNSC Resolution 2334 even as it endorsed that Resolution, but did so in a way that offered some re-balancing. It was an influence conference, not a peace conference. Neither of the disputants were represented or there. The participants reaffirmed their support “for a just, lasting and comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” The conference endorsed negotiations between the parties as “the only way” to achieve enduring peace while recognizing that current trends (on both sides) on the ground, not only the expansion of settlements but “continued acts of violence,” impede progress towards peace. The conference endorsed “meaningful, direct negotiations.”

Resolution 242 was not superseded by another UN resolution, though all UN resolutions were acknowledged. Instead, the conference endorsed a negotiated two-State solution that would meet the legitimate aspirations of both parties for both sovereignty and security “and resolve all permanent status issues on the basis of UNSC Res. 242 and 338.” If a framework was helpful in such negotiations, the Conference tipped its hat to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. Palestinians as well as Israelis were urged to be governed by international humanitarian and human rights law. Instead of using international humanitarian law as a club, let alone the threat of economic coercion, the participants expressed a readiness to offer its support where needed, including economic aid and economic incentives as positive inducements.

One item emphasized was an offer to facilitate civil society dialogue between the two parties in contention. The focus was not on external pressures, but on strengthening civil society and direct dialogue between and among citizens from both sides. The conference was clear in its strictures against steps that would prejudge the outcome of negotiations on final status issues – borders, security, Jerusalem, refugees. Though Netanyahu could wave away the results of the Paris Peace Conference as irrelevant and futile, and the Palestinians could welcome the conclusion by ignoring the strictures against their own positions and practices, reassurance came for me from a surprising quarter. Though he did not express any regret for not vetoing Res. 2334, John Kerry reassured Netanyahu that there would be no further UN Resolutions before Trump took over and no international action following from the Peace Conference. The timing of the conference and the results seem more intended to send a message to Donald Trump rather than to either Abbas or Netanyahu.

As I interpreted the Peace Conference, it went some way to offset the destructive elements of UNSC 2334, but the concluding statement lacked the legal authority of the UN. There were also other efforts on the ground that proved to be more promising and could serve as a precedent for partial deals rather than a comprehensive one. After six years of negotiations, a concrete deal was made on sharing water resources between Israel and the West Bank, including of a Joint Water Committee to work out the details of implementation.

However, on the international stage, the fallout from Resolution 2334 inviting unilateral actions on the international stage can be very destructive of efforts to implement a peace deal. I will deal with those consequences in my next blog.

Putin’s Defence

Putin’s Defence

by

Howard Adelman

Astri Suhrke, a Senior Researcher at the Christian Michelsen Institute in Bergen, Norway, and a long time collaborator of mine, wrote in response to my blogs on Putin as follows:

“Am enjoying your blogs, even when strongly disagreeing. For instance, you write, ‘if America is unwilling to contemplate some form of military action when its vital interests are challenged in Europe…..,’ with reference to the Russian invasion of Crimea. As I see it, the Russian reaction is precisely that, a reaction to prevent a change to the status quo in Crimea, which Russian has long had the right to use for its Black Sea naval fleet – only warm water port and access to the Mediterranean etc. Change in Kiev  – welcomed and encouraged by EU and NATO – made it quite possible that Russia might lose that access. So Russia reacted. (Also recall that until 1954. Crimea was part of Russia (within the USSR)). So Russia reacted. How can a defense of the status quo ‘challenge vital American interests’? And if any wider American  interests are affected, it will be primarily in the Middle East rather than  Europe.
“Comparing this with the Anschluss, and affixing  the label of appeasement  on Obama (as you did in your earlier blog), seems not only unfair, but counterproductive  to efforts to defuse the situation  and prevent a really serious conflict. Just noted that Poland has asked for consultations in NATO under para 4 of the Washington Treaty. Seems opportunistically belligerent.
Cheers!
astri”

 

Here is how I replied though I corrected my typos.

I can’t be;\believe it! Do you really swallow Putin’s lie – a blatant lie – that the Russian action is just a reaction “to prevent a change to the status quo in Crimea”? Where is there any evidence Russia’s military position in Crimea was under threat??? It would be akin to the U.S. attacking Cuba on the pretext that its base in Guantanamo was under threat. Where is there any evidence even that there was any threat to the majority ethnic Russian population in Crimea?  Even the stupid language law withdrawing permission for Russian to be taught as an official language was NOT a real threat when the stress is on “official” and when, though it was passed, it was withdrawn before the President of Ukraine vetoed it. The defence of the status quo was something that did not need a defence let alone an aggressive invasion and occupation.

As far as America’s vital interests, surely it is in America’s vital interest to see that country’s cannot invade other countries and occupy and de facto take over territory, just as it is in the interest of other country’s when America attacked and occupied other countries. Both kinds of attacks have to be challenged. I did not say America had to respond by deploying military troops, but did suggest that America and the EU might consider responding with military guarantees before Putin attempts to invade Eastern Ukraine.

Finally, I never called Obama an appeaser. Can you point out where I did?. I am a strong supporter of Obama, though not always uncritical. But I do believe the reset here worked in spite of the fact that I supported that reset. Neither I nor Obama can always be right.

Nice to hear from you.

All the best.

Howard

Astri came back strongly:

“Yes, I accept that Russia had reason to believe that its position in Crimea would be threatened. They made a pre-emptive move to secure their position. They have so far occupied key buildings and sites.

Yes, I agree that it is certainly in the interest of the US and other countries not to sanction invasions. That the US twice in the past decade or so has invaded other countries, and formally occupied one, does make me pause, however, before leaping to the defense of the US on that particular ground.

And, yes, in your first blog on Putin and Crimea, you said that ‘Obama will have no choice except to be the Neville Chamberlain who surrendered the Sudetenland of C… to Hitler.’ That’s pretty close to calling him ‘an appeaser” – no?

Wish you were here so we could talk this out over a walk and a meal!

cheers

a”

I wrote back as follows:

“Astri;

NO!

I wrote ‘Obama will have no choice except to be the Neville Chamberlain who surrendered the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia to Hitler, but he will not sign an agreement acceding to the seizure of The Crimea.’ That is not a charge of appeasement. That is, as stated throughout the blog, an acceptance of realism. But that realism will not be signing onto the deal and waving a piece of paper saying ‘Peace in our time.’ Obama is expected and will fight back to ensure nothing more. Further, to my surprise, at least rhetorically, he seems to be pushing for full withdrawal. I am totally sceptical about that, but maybe? In any case, both the last half of the sentence and the rest of the blog is clear that I am not accusing Obama of being an appeaser. You say I affixed a label of appeaser. I did not use the term, did not affix the label, though I did suggest there was an element of realism in Chamberlain and Obama’s actions. But realism is not appeasement. Though Great Britain was in no position to fight Germany in 1938, and nor was Russia, Chamberlain’s appeasement was legally signing away the Sudetenland as Germany’s entitlement.”

Quite aside from never labelling Obama an appeaser, let me take Astri’s main argument seriously, namely that she accepts Putin’s argument that Russia’s interests in the Crimea were under threat and the response was “a reaction to prevent a change to the status quo in Crimea.” To do that I will have to elaborate on the analysis underlying her claim.

1. Crimea was for several centuries part of Russia.

2. When the Ukraine and Russia were both part of the Soviet Union, Khrushchev ‘arbitrarily’ gave the Crimea to The Ukraine in 1954.
3. Throughout the twentieth century, Russia based its warm water fleet (the Black Sea Fleet) at Sevastopol .

4. When the USSR broke up in 1991, Russia found itself in the humiliating position of having to negotiate a lease for its main naval port; the lease ran for 25 years from 1992-2017.

5. In 2008, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko of the Ukraine announced that under no circumstances would she renew the lease in 1917.

6. Yulia Tymoshenko had just been released from jail and there was a real danger she would win the elections which were now to be brought forward to this Spring.

7. Chaos as well as succession by an opponent of the lease would also threaten the stability necessary for the naval base’s security.

8. The cancellation of the lease would threaten Russia’s complete maritime defence capability or its ability to be an influential player in the Middle East.

9. Further, cancellation of the lease would be devastating for the tens of thousands of Russian civilian employees living in The Crimea who work directly or indirectly to maintain Russia’s maritime military capability.

10. Viktor Yanukovych’s extension of the lease in 2010 for a further 25 years reduced the threat.

11. However, on the Ukrainian political horizon a possible direct threat to Russia’s interests emerged because elected “radicals” could threaten to cancel the lease extension.

12. That fear was greatly exacerbated by the events in Kyiv.

13. That threat was realized in full when President Yanukovych was illegally deposed by Parliament and forced to flee the Ukraine.

14. Hence, Putin sought and received on Saturday, 1 March 2014 authorization and permission by the Duma to use the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation on the territory of the Ukraine, not to annex any territory, but until the situation stabilized.

15. Obama’s “warning” then only reinforced Putin’s fears and determination to take pre-emptive action.

I hope I have stated the argument for the defence of Putin as clearly and as fully as the space allowed. Putin in his first public press conference since the Crimean crisis began, reinforced this argument when he lied and claimed Russian forces had NOT intervened in Ukraine and further stated that,  Russia “reserves the right to use all means at our disposal to protect” What is wrong with this defence of Russia’s position? 

1. Whatever the past, Russia has agreed in a plethora of international legal documents that the Crimea is NOT part of Russia but is part of the Ukraine.

2. If the Ukraine cancelled the lease and not just threatened to do so, Russia had multiple non-military punishments that could cripple Ukraine and fairly easily get the Ukraine to back off.

3. The United States was part of the agreement guaranteeing Russia’s use of Sevastopol.

4. There is no way that Ukraine could enforce such a cancellation.

5. Theoretical future threats to a country’s defence interests do not justify an illegal military invasion.

Behind all the hot air and rhetoric, there is a deeper problem, the failure of the United States and Russia to actually work together in resolving crises in Russia’s backyard. Putin argues that he helped get American chestnuts out of the fire in getting Syria to give up its chemical weapons. He claims he has helped the U.S. over Iran. What has he gotten in return for his cooperation when Russia’s own vital interests are at stake? American diplomatic conspiracies, which Russia had the tapes to prove, to remove the legally elected president of the Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, in an effective coup. In fact, America had set up the crisis earlier by supporting sucking Ukraine into the EU economic and political orbit without taking into account Russia’s vital economic, political and military interests in Ukraine. Instead of allowing and encouraging Ukraine to play the EU and Russia off against one another, instead of pushing the EU Association Agreement, the focus should have been on working together to stablilize Ukraine in recognition of Russia’s genuine fears of instability there given Ukraine’s inherent proneness to chaos as a multi-ethnic state.

I hope I have been fair to what I interpret as Astri’s argument.

I will offer a full reply tomorrow in my analysis of Russian propaganda.