UNSC Res. 2334: Consequences for America

The Consequences for America of Resolution 2334

by

Howard Adelman

I have to finish this series on UNSC Resolution 2334. But I am torn. I want to write about so many other things – The Birth of a Nation, Nate Parker’s 2016 take on Nat Turner and the rebellion he started in the slave south of the U.S. and why the movie in the end failed to connect but was a valiant effort; La La Land, another 2016 movie, but this time a romantic musical comedy by Damien Chazelle that connected brilliantly and had the feel of an extraordinary jazz concert like the one we saw before Christmas; a third 2016 movie, Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea in which Casey Affleck offers one of the finest performances in film in this dark side of repetition and imitation; Jacob Bernstein’s 2015 HBO biopic of his mother, Nora Ephron, titled Everything Is Copy that explains the underpinnings of La La Land; Allan Zweig’s 2013 documentary, When Jews Were Funny that offered a very different and ironic take on reality, on comedy as the jazz art form of American and Canadian Jews, and, in terms of the arts, most of all, about the show currently on at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), Mystical Landscapes.

The new year is overflowing with tasks. And there is so much more. Politics never leaves me alone. My life is haunted. In my daily existence, I cannot seem to escape its ever presence. I so want to write on one of the finest political speeches I have ever read, let alone heard, that of Barack Obama’s Farewell Speech to the Nation on 10 January. And I want to throw a damper upon its sparkles and starlight, its analytic and epic skills, by really going into the life of Atticus Lee from To Kill a Mockingbird, and what it really means to empathetically re-enact the thoughts and feelings, the ideas and beliefs behind the actions of an Other. What does it mean when a guideline for art, a guideline for historiography, is used as a reference point for action in real life? What does it mean when we cross art and life?

It is not just about politics on a global scale. But about a noon hour talk on post-secondary education in Ontario that I heard last week and my own analysis of the terrible dilemmas we face in higher education. And I want to write about that crisis against the background of the brilliant French economist, Thomas Piketty, and his blog that he sent out on 9 January called, “On Productivity in France and Germany.” For the blog was about so much more – about, for example, the importance of equity and the critical role higher education plays in ensuring both equity and productivity. And all of this when I can no longer watch news.

Yesterday, I blew it. I broke my one New Year resolution to stop watching news. CNN had another lying, misleading Trump shill on. After all, CNN believes it must offer balance as the Trump mouthpiece rudely and continually interrupted his opponent without being stopped by the moderator, and we had yet another example of lying balancing an effort at truth, insult offsetting courtesy, and absolutely no regard for the Other or the truth. Where is חֶ֣סֶד וֶֽאֱמֶ֔ת: (chesed v’emet), usually translated as “loving kindness and truth,” (Genesis 49:29) where consideration for the Other is the precondition for expressing the truth?

I blew it. I had a hissy fit. I swore and my hands were so shaky I could not type when I retreated to my computer. And I felt so embarrassed, even though the broader public never witnessed my shame and humiliation that I felt when I finally allowed the very thin-skinned Donald Trump to get under my skin. Perhaps I should take my eldest daughter’s advice and only watch news through the eyes of Saturday Night Live and Alec Baldwin. What happened to my objectivity? What happened to my detachment so crucial to how I think and write? How will I survive the next four years? How will I survive a Trump presidency? Are the ruminations that he may be impeached in his first year just more delusion and false hope? Should I escape into practicalities – redoing my files at year end, clearing up my email lists, figuring out why my blog periodically gets blocked, arranging air travel for the family of my son and my granddaughter.

Maybe I will retreat into just keeping sane and even a bit healthy. After all, my dentist convinced me last week to swear off drinking Coke, especially Diet Coke which evidently is even worse than regular Coke in its acidic strength. She put it forth as the possible explanation, not simply for the staining of my teeth, but for the acid eating into the enamel and, even more, into the bone in my jaws that last year led to cavities under my crown and so many implants falling out. I had hit a tipping point and had to take radical action to reverse the processes, I was told. So I am left with a lifetime supply of Diet Coke, that is if I ever slip and drink one, I have to sip through a straw.

Is this a metaphor for politics at large? Am I addicted to Trump? Is he my Coca-Cola? Is he the final critical dose of acid that may rot the teeth of America? So much overstretch of an image! I have to return to facts and analysis or I will really go off the edge.

Recall the problems of Resolution 2344, a resolution ostensibly passed to maintain and even advance the two-State solution to the Jewish Israeli-Palestinian conflict which, I have argued, seems really intended to dynamite that prospect as it leaves entirely vague what it means by the many options of a two-State solution, as it allows the armistice of 1949 to provide the reference lines for a solution, as it designates the land on the other side of those armistice lines as Palestinian, pre-empting negotiations, as it opens the doors to international legal pressures and economic boycotts against Israeli institutions, individuals, products and services.

Jews are a stubborn people. Opposing the settlements in Jerusalem as well as the West Bank, the blatant unfairness with respect to other occupied territories, the chasm between supposedly ideal intentions and reality on the ground, the deliberate and very selective use of key diplomatic words, all of these will unite many, if not most Jews, in opposition to any negotiations never mind agreement. And there is so much left out. But I do not want to repeat what I wrote earlier. I want to focus on the dreadful impending consequences, first in America.

In the aftermath of the passage of the Resolution, the youngest member of the U.S. Senate, Tom Cotton, the thirty-seven-year old senator from Arkansas, declared that Israel building settlements in the West Bank was absolutely no problem. This is the same Tom Cotton who received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Jews and the Jewish community, presumably in return or in acknowledgement of his strong and unwavering support for Israel. With friends like Cotton, Israel does not need enemies, as the cliché goes.

Cotton organized the letter on behalf of 47 of his fellow members of Senate that he sent to Iran, a country he considers to be equivalent to Nazi Germany. The missive was possibly in contravention of the Logan Act that forbids anyone but the President negotiating with other countries. The letter informed the government of Iran that the nuclear deal would be reversed as soon as Obama left office. Cotton is a hawk among hawks, wanting to expand rather than close Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo). He has advocated clamping down on Mexican immigrants (who were, incidentally, according to Cotton, backed by Hezbollah) almost as loudly as Donald Trump, supports building a wall along the Mexican border, and believes in harassing and belittling journalists when they contravene what he espouses. He not only is one of Trump’s most stalwart supporters in the Senate, but sometimes out-trumps The Donald. Though that is hard. Some Trump tweets: “We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect. They used to have a great friend in the U.S.” and “Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!”

Cotton backed Kansas Senator Jerry Moran’s efforts to lead the charge in having the Senate denounce the Resolution, backs Senator Ted Cruz of Texas who is seeking to defund the UN because of the Resolution. At the same time as Resolution 2334 unites the Republicans in opposition, it is dividing the Democratic Party in its support for Israel. New York Senator Charles E. (Chuck) Schumer, a leading Democrat and incoming Senate minority leader, condemned Obama’s abstention and failure to veto the Resolution. He co-sponsored the Senate resolution condemning Res. 2334. As he argued, “While Secretary Kerry mentioned Gaza in his speech, he seems to have forgotten the history of the settlements in Gaza, where the Israeli government forced settlers to withdraw from all settlements and the Palestinians responded by sending rockets into Israel. This is something that people of all political stripes in Israel vividly remember.” In another tweet, “The UN has long shown its anti-Israel bias & the US govt has admirably kept the UN out in negotiations. That tradition should continue.”

His effort was backed by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). As was expected, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Bernie Sanders (D-VT) both opposed the Senate resolution. The U.S. Senate Resolution, among other things, while it still voices support for a two-state solution, not only objects to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 (2016), but also:

• Calls for United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 to be repealed or fundamentally altered so that it is no longer one-sided and allows all final status issues toward a two-state solution to be resolved through direct bilateral negotiations between the parties;
• Rejects efforts by outside bodies, including the United Nations Security Council, to impose solutions from the outside that set back the cause of peace;
• Demands that the United States ensure that no action is taken at the Paris Conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict scheduled for January 15, 2017, that imposes an agreement or parameters on the parties;
• Notes that granting membership and statehood standing to the Palestinians at the United Nations, its specialized agencies, and other international institutions outside of the context of a bilateral peace agreement with Israel would cause severe harm to the peace process, and would likely trigger the implementation of penalties under sections 7036 and 7041(j) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016 (division K of Public Law 114–113);
• Rejects any efforts by the United Nations, United Nations agencies, United Nations member states, and other international organizations to use United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 to further isolate Israel through economic or other boycotts or any other measures, and urges the United States Government to take action where needed to counter any attempts to use United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 to further isolate Israel;
• Urges the current presidential administration and all future presidential administrations to uphold the practice of vetoing all United Nations Security Council resolutions that seek to insert the Council into the peace process, recognize unilateral Palestinian actions including declaration of a Palestinian state, or dictate terms and a timeline for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Though Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), a Muslim and Black-American who is a leading light to become the Democratic National Committee Chair in the House, and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), all opposed the resolution condemning the UN action, the House of Representatives voted 342-80 denouncing Resolution 2334. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the speaker of the House, criticized Kerry’s speech and tweeted: “After allowing this anti-Israel resolution to pass the UN, Secretary Kerry has no credibility to speak on Israeli-Palestinian peace.”

The combination of Israeli expansion of home demolitions, expropriation of Palestinian privately-owned land, denial of construction permits to Palestinians in Area C and East Jerusalem that helped provoke the Obama abstention and Kerry’s speech are all now reinforced by a phalanx of right-wing Republicans determined to use the Resolution as a pivot against the UN and to advance the extreme Right agenda in Israel that opposes the coming-into-being of a Palestinian state altogether. Most supporters of Resolution 2334 admit that it will have no real effect on the ground or on Israeli policies. I disagree. It will accelerate those policies and sow more distrust between Palestinians and Jewish Israelis. Resolution 2334 empowers and strengthens the resolve and gives direction to the right in America that now holds power. The Obama and Kerry decision to abstain on Resolution 2334 was at best quixotic and at worse a source of long-term division within the Democratic Party.

My own prediction is that Israel is now on the road to renouncing the two-State solution in practice and will do so with U.S. backing. Resolution 2334, thus, divides the West just when it most needs to be united against the opponents to democracy, creates a chasm between the UN and the U.S., divides the Democrats and unites Republican who now control the White House as well as both houses of Congress, boxes the left in Israel in a corner for they oppose both Resolution 2334 and the efforts of the Netanyahu government to undermine the possibility of a two-State solution. Quite aside from its contradictions, Resolution 2334 has been defended as a victory for the two-State solution, but it is nothing of the sort. It is a Pyrrhic victory reifying the impotence of the UN and the irrelevance of Europe while allowing the rejectionist right to gain a stronger and more focused rationale to expand what they were already doing. Facts on the ground defeat abstract moral sounding off every time.

Iran Redux

Iran Redux

by

Howard Adelman

Senator Chuck Schumer has declared himself. He is sticking to his endorsement of the bill that insists that Congress approve of the Iran nuclear deal. “I strongly believe Congress should have the right to disapprove any agreement and I support the Corker [Bob Corker Rep.-Tenn and chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee] bill which would allow that to occur.” Up until yesterday he had been equivocal and only seemed to endorse Congressional involvement and not outright approval.

I am all for enhanced democratic review, but what changed? Why now even before he is briefed in detail by the White House? Why before the final agreement is reached on 30 June? Why over the Iranian deal? Why is this deal different from almost all other foreign agreements? And why would a democratic senator push such a bill, and do so strongly, given the Republican adamant stance in opposing virtually anything Obama initiates?

Schumer is expected to become the Democratic leader in the Senate in 2017 now that Robert Menendez has been eclipsed because of the investigation of his affairs and allegations of corruption. Schumer’s support indicates that twelve additional Democratic senators are likely to follow. That would mean that the Senate is on the cusp of achieving a veto-proof majority. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the new ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, might add his support if he can obtain concessions ensuring that the bill could not derail the agreement ­– an unlikely prospect.

The proposed bill freezes sanctions relief for 60 days while Congress reviews the agreement, a seemingly relatively innocuous and eminently democratic requirement. But the bill as written also allows Congress to veto the agreement, an unprecedented development with respect to these types of foreign agreements. Democrats have until today to file proposed amendments to soften the legislation. Corker and his supporters argue that they are playing the role of a tag team to allow and permit Obama to remain tough in the negotiations between now and 30 June. However, that is misleading since there are many alternative ways of accomplishing the same goal that would not also possibly undermine the negotiations.

Everyone is aware – the Americans from all camps, the Iranians, the remainder of the P5+1, virtually all experts on the negotiations – that the sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table and that the removal of the sanctions is Iran’s foremost foreign policy objective. Netanyahu and the Republicans believe that the Obama administration has not squeezed the Iranians sufficiently and that more can be gained in terms of foreign policy goals. The negotiators, on the other hand – not just the Americans but the Europeans as well – believe that they have squeezed Iranians as much as they could.

Like the Americans, the Iranians are also divided into two camps. President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif are the doves. They are agreeable to severe limits on Iran’s nuclear program under two major provisos – sanctions are definitely lifted and Iran retains the right of any nation to use its nuclear program for peaceful purposes. The American negotiators are willing to lift the sanctions if reasonable guarantees via transparency, inspections and deconstruction of that portion of Iran’s nuclear program are sufficient to ensure that Iran cannot reconstruct its nuclear weapons program quickly.

The doves in each country face off with hawks. Most American hawks have a vested interest in retaining sanctions to use, not so much to confine Iran’s nuclear program to peaceful purposes, but to use the sanction pressures to extract other non-nuclear concessions from Iran on its missile program, on its support for Hamas and Hezbollah as well as the rebels in Yemen, on its hegemonic ambitions in the Gulf and, most importantly to them, to minimize Iran as a threat to Israel.

Some American hawks, like John Bolton, go further. They do not believe sanctions will modify Iranian policy in any significant ways and believe the only real option is war against Iran. “The only credible option for significantly delaying the Iranian nuclear program would be a bombing campaign,” wrote Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations. Billy Kristol agreed. “It’s long since been time for the United States to speak to this regime in the language it understands—force.” It is not clear whether other hawks believe this as well but focus on the attacking the deal with Iran as both flawed and inadequate because they do not believe that a policy objective of war with Iran is salable to the American public.

Rouhani’s and Zarif’s hard line opponents also have a vested interest in retaining sanctions. They benefit economically through their controls on smuggling and their ability to earn inflated profits on scarce goods through the businesses they inherited and developed. They also benefit politically in reinforcing the image of America as a bogeyman for the Iranian people. Like the extreme hawks in the U.S., no deal that is possible would be acceptable to them but they will go along with any deal approved by the Supreme Leader.

Are there moderate Iranian hawks who simply believe Iran could get a better deal? Undoubtedly, but I believe the Iranians are desperate enough that virtually any deal that does not cross their red lines would be acceptable. They have clearly enunciated those red lines – lifting all the nuclear sanctions and conceding that Iran has the right to retain and use its nuclear infrastructure for peaceful purposes.

This red line enjoys widespread support. Even Mir-Hossein Mousavi, leader of the Green Movement, insisted that, “we will not abandon the great achievements of Iranian scientists. I too will not suspend uranium enrichment.” Even a hawk such as the Commander of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution, Mohammad Ali Jafari, has insisted, an immediate lifting of sanctions is a red line for Iran. Thus, although the Iranian hawks oppose the deal, but have acceded to it because it is now supported by the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, they hope Congress will push America into a position of refusing to lift all sanctions related to nuclear weapons when and if Iran carries out its part of the bargain. Thus do American hawks strengthen Iranian hawks.

On the other hand, the doves on each side have also become interdependent. It seems clear from both statements from the White House and from the current Iranian political leadership that both sides hope that the nuclear deal will have wider ramifications, including with respect to Iran-U.S. relations, even though those prospects are not part of the agreement. Rouhani stated that, “Some think that we must either fight the world or surrender to world powers. We say it is neither of those, there is a third way. We can have cooperation with the world…With those countries with which we have a cold relationship, we would like a better relationship. And if we have tension or hostility with any countries, we want an end to tension and hostility with those countries.” Rouhani will not be the first leader of a repressive country to initiate domestic pressures for reform by engagement with the rest of the world.

Netanyahu has correctly insisted that, “we can’t bank on the nature of the regime changing.” But the agreement is not dependent on such a change. Nor is it conditional upon the regime changing as a result of the agreement. That is a hoped-for plus. As Netanyahu has also said, if the regime changed, there would be no need for an agreement. One of those hoped for consequences is that ]ran will give up on its objective of exterminating Israel. But to make that a necessary condition of the deal is both unfeasible and will more likely ensure that intractable hostility will remain. “Israel will not accept an agreement which allows a country that vows to annihilate us to develop nuclear weapons, period.”

Netanyahu’s assertion is totally understandable. But to make the goal regime change or even, now that the rest of the world has accepted it, that the sanctions regime  ensure that Iran’s capability of eventually making nuclear weapons is totally destroyed, is to desire perfection and, unfortunately, as has been said many times, perfection is the enemy of the possible. Making a deal conditional upon Iran recognizing Israel’s right to exist is a total non-starter. As Obama said, “The notion that we would condition Iran not getting nuclear weapons in a verifiable deal on Iran recognising Israel is really akin to saying that we won’t sign a deal.”

If the American hawks undermine the deal, especially now that the rest of the world has endorsed it, if Iran keeps to the deal without American participation, the international nuclear sanctions regime will collapse on their own. America would find itself to be internationally isolated on the issue with dramatic negative effects on the rest of its foreign policy objectives. Once the deal has been agreed to and once the details are filled in by 30 June to the satisfaction of both sides, America will be not only the only loser, but a huge loser if the hawks win the day.

Further, Iran would be the real winner because it could, and might be forced to by internal pressures, to resist many of the concessions it has already made. Iran would be unwilling to craft any deal on such unfavourable terms to itself as has been the case under American leadership. The European Council on Foreign Relations warned that American hawks, “could endanger the international consensus backing sanctions against Iran” with the prospective result that Europe would unilaterally ease easing its oil embargo against Iran.

China and Russia would seize “the opportunity to further advance their own interests at the expense of the U.S.” Igor Korotchenko, head of Moscow’s Centre for Analysis of World Arms Trade suggested that Russia sell S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Iran. Enhanced sanctions against Iran without the cooperation of the rest of the world would make the whole sanctions regime irrelevant. America would have shot itself in the foot. On the other hand, if the agreement holds, the revival of Iran’s energy sector will undermine Russia’s ability to blackmail Europe because of its role as a major supplier of oil and gas. Further, American companies can be in the front row with other competitors in the lucrative prospective business of rehabilitating Iran’s oil sector.

Given all of these factors, why have some influential congressman seemingly joined the efforts to undermine the deal? My conviction is that it has nothing to do with foreign policy and everything to do with both domestic policy and Congressional politics. I will have to expand on this at another time.