Samantha Power and John Kerry – Resolution 2334

Resolution 2334: Why America Abstained
Part A: Samantha Power and John Kerry

by

Howard Adelman

At the meeting on Friday 23 December when the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 2334, Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, gave a speech explaining why the U.S. abstained on the motion. She began with a 1982 quote from Ronald Reagan. “The United States will not support the use of any additional land for the purpose of settlements during the transitional period. Indeed, the immediate adoption of a settlement freeze by Israel, more than any other action, could create the confidence needed for wider participation in these talks. Further settlement activity is in no way necessary for the security of Israel and only diminishes the confidence of the Arabs that a final outcome can be freely and fairly negotiated.”

In doing so, she set the stage for an argument that the U.S. position on Resolution 2334 was consistent with bi-partisan American policy on Israel for 35 years. In fact, she said it had been American policy for fifty years. That position is simple: there should be a freeze on settlement activity, and that freeze would be the most important condition for the resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians. Further, she added that Barack Obama thus far had been “the only president who had not had at least one Israeli-Palestinian-related Security Council resolution pass during his tenure.”

She then segued to explaining Obama’s exceptionalism. The reason the U.S. did not support the Resolution, was not because of what it said, but because it was taking place at the United Nations, which had a record of distorted criticism of Israel. In 2016 alone, 18 resolutions critical of Israel had been passed in the Security Council and 12 in the Human Rights Council. Israel for the last fifty years has been treated differently than any other member. The U.S. has repeatedly fought for the right of Israel to be given the same treatment as any other state. Thus, though the Resolution was both justified and necessary, the venue had to be taken into account. In other words, the U.S. was not supporting the Resolution because of United Nations double standards.

Two additional reasons were offered for abstaining. “It is because this forum too often continues to be biased against Israel; because there are important issues that are not sufficiently addressed in this resolution; and because the United States does not agree with every word in this text, that the United States did not vote in favor of the resolution.” [my italics] On the other hand, “because this resolution reflects the facts on the ground – and is consistent with U.S. policy across Republican and Democratic administration throughout the history of the State of Israel – that the United States did not veto it.”

In other word, the U.S. agreed with the thrust of the Resolution and it reflected U.S. policy over decades. We agree, but we have a few quibbles. If the Resolution does not impose a solution nor threaten Israel’s security, why even consider a veto? Since Kerry suggested that security was the fundamental issue for Israel, but Resolution 2334 did not properly address the security problem, why not veto the Resolution? Further, although security is a fundamental issue, in my estimation, it is not the fundamental issue since Israel is now the predominant military power in the region.

There were other factors for not vetoing the Resolution. “The settlement problem has gotten so much worse that it is now putting at risk the very viability of that two-state solution,” an argument that would be expanded upon by John Kerry a few days later. The numbers of units have increased. There are now 90,000 (my figure was 80,000) settlers living outside Area C. A program of land seizures, settlement expansions and legalizations has been underway. New plans are in process for additional units. There is even a proposed law in the Knesset to legalize outposts and it was that factor that the U.S. claimed was the catalyst for bringing Res. 2334 forward.

And then the nub of the case for the Resolution. “One cannot simultaneously champion expanding Israeli settlements and champion a viable two-state solution that would end the conflict. One has to make a choice between settlements and separation.” I have tried to argue that this disjunction is incorrect. As much as one might oppose settlements as an impediment to peace, it is not correct that thickening existing settlements stands in the way of a two-State solution. It just means that the two-State solution that might emerge would be unacceptable to the Palestinians. But as I have tried to demonstrate, any two-State solution that does not transfer the Old City to the Palestinians is unacceptable to them. Freezing settlements would not cut that Gordian knot.

Why then did the U.S. not veto the resolution as it did in 2011 that focused on settlements as the main impediment to a two-State solution? The reasons offered were that this Resolution was more balanced pointing to the threat of violence as well. Only, as I indicated before, the agents of violence were not identified in the Resolution but were in Samantha’s address. “The most recent wave of Palestinian violence has seen terrorists commit hundreds of attacks – including driving cars into crowds of innocent civilians and stabbing mothers in front of their children. Yet rather than condemn these attacks, Hamas, other radical factions, and even certain members of Fatah have held up the terrorists as heroes, and used social media to incite others to follow in their murderous footsteps. And while President Abbas and his party’s leaders have made clear their opposition to violence, terrorism, and extremism, they have too often failed to condemn specific attacks or condemn the praised heaped upon the perpetrators.”

It is clear that the general clause about violence was introduced so that the Americans would not veto the Resolution, even though everyone understood the thrust of the Resolution to be the same as the 2011 effort. Samantha never explained why the wording about violence in the Resolution was considered sufficient to restrain from exercising a veto, especially in light of her remarks that identified the main, though not exclusive, source of the violence.

Power reiterated, and Kerry would later stress, that Israel could not remain both a democracy and a Jewish state if it continued on its present course. But this is a distortion. If Israel were to incorporate Area C into Israel as well as the Old City, and if the new state of Palestine were to allow the 80-90,000 resident to stay as citizens of Palestine, while possibly also allowing them dual citizenship, Israel could remain both democratic and a Jewish state. It is only if the extremists in the Israeli cabinet push through their one state option that being a Jewish state and being a democratic state become, at one and the same time, though not impossible, very improbable.

Power offered one final argument for not vetoing the Resolution. The U.S. was absolutely committed to Israel’s security. However, “continued settlement building seriously undermines Israel’s security.” Power and the State Department were not claiming the buildings themselves threatened Israel’s security, or even the increased population in the settlements actually did. It was sufficient that these initiatives on the ground provided an excuse or rationale at the very least for undermining the peace process and the vision of a two-State solution. And perception in politics is almost everything.

On 28 December 2016 at the Dean Acheson Auditorium in Washington, John Kerry offered his own remarks, not just on Resolution 2334, but on Middle East Peace as the title indicated– note, not Israeli-Palestinian peace. Yet his opening statement stated, “Today, I want to share candid thoughts about an issue which for decades has animated the foreign policy dialogue here and around the world – the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Was this a Freudian slip? Was John Kerry of the opinion that the key to peace in the Middle East – after what has happened in Iraq, in Syria and Turkey – is the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

After this, Kerry offered some truisms, the first identical to one offered by Samantha – Obama has been deeply committed to Israel and its security – a proposition right wing supporters of Israel not only question but insist is false. He then cited a premise rather than a truism, a premise based on futurology rather than a record of fact and history. It happens to be one I share: “the two-state solution is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.” That is because I believe that a single state with equal rights and opportunities for both Jews and non-Jewish Palestinians is a complete delusion, though if I am incorrect, it would ensure just and lasting peace. No other one state solution would be either just or lasting.

But as I have written earlier, there are many two-State solutions, not just one. To which was he referring? He never explained at this point, but went on to put forth his conviction that such an outcome of an Israel as a Jewish and democratic state living in peace and security beside a Palestinian state that offered its citizens freedom and dignity was “now [my italics] in jeopardy.” Not earlier! Not next year! But now. If this did not take place, it would be bad for Israelis, bad for Palestinians and bad for U.S. interests in the region. “Both sides must act now to preserve the possibility of peace,” Kerry intoned. That set out one objective of the speech – explaining why that possibility of peace was now in jeopardy.
The second and related objective was to explain why the U.S. had abstained from voting on the Resolution. For it had become clear that Samantha’s remarks had not done the job. None of the reasons offered by Samantha either explained why the U.S. did not support the Resolution, for the reasons for not doing so seemed mundane. And if they were given any significant importance, then the U.S. should have vetoed the Resolution. Further, the question of “Why now?” needed to be answered. With Samantha’s emphasis on continuity in policy over five decades, the puzzlement over why America did not veto the Resolution grew rather than diminished. Further, the reasons for abstaining – mainly the UN’s double standards – seemed to indicate that this was precisely a time when the U.S. should not permit any anti-Israel UN resolution to pass since, as she had herself documented, that double standard seemed to have gotten much worse in 2016.

Kerry now openly declared that the U.S. abstained so that the resolution could pass. The U.S. not only favoured the Resolution but viewed it as a crucial step to getting both parties back on the road to resolving their differences. That could only be done, he indicated, if he filled in the details of how those differences could be resolved. And he was propelled to do that because vital American interests and values were at stake. Further, those values now made it imperative that the U.S. stand aside and allow the Resolution to pass. He could not allow a “dangerous dynamic to take hold.” Now? Suddenly? Had not the trends in settlement policies by the Israelis been even worse in the past?

It may be the case that “friends need to tell each other hard truths,” so the question rose as one listened to his speech whether it would deal with those hard truths. Would John Kerry admit that the settlement policies had gone too far and for too long to reverse and dissolve most of the settlements, that attempting to do so would destroy Israel, that reversing the settlements would instigate a civil war in Israel that would of necessity impact on the Palestinians, that a two-State solution was available that would not involve dissolving the vast majority of the settlements, that such a solution was available if only Israel would surrender its claims on the Old City and that the vast majority of Jewish Israelis were united on not surrendering such a claim, and that the Palestinians would not agree to accept the continuity of the vast majority of the settlements, with different clusters of settlements having different solutions, unless the Old City fell under Palestinian sovereignty?

Well certainly not before Kerry created a number of defensive barriers against criticisms. It was certainly true, contrary to the delusions of the Israeli and American right, that Obama has extended himself enormously on behalf of Israel’s military security through intelligence cooperation, through joint military exercises, through American assistance to the Iron Dome defensive system, through a consistent opposition to the BDS campaign, and through a memorandum of understanding that offered Israel $38 billion in military assistance over the next ten years, a commitment that counted for 50% of America’s Foreign Military Financing. Nor should there be any doubt about John Kerry’s sincere commitment both to the security of Israel and the dignity of Palestinians.

Kerry then repeated:” the two-state solution is now in serious jeopardy.” And as we know from Torah studies and the study of Shakespeare, repetition signals a profound message. He cited violence, terrorism, incitement on the one hand, without connecting it with a specific agent or agency, and, on the other hand, settlement expansion and seemingly endless occupation where the agency was unequivocally clear as responsible for the clear and present danger. There was no mention that violence was now under greater control than perhaps at any time in Israel’s history and that the puffball of the so-called Third Intifada of stabbings and rammings was but a symptom. There was also no mention that the multiplication of numbers and locations of settlements had been on a severe decline as the thickening of settlements had accelerated. It was not very clear why current levels of violence and current levels of settlement building were now posing such an extraordinary danger to peace when both had much more clearly done so in the past.

Trends on the ground are combining “to destroy hoped for peace”? That is a self-evident truth? The problem really is that Israel has grown more physically secure as it has consolidated its occupation, but grown much more politically insecure as Israel has been losing the international diplomatic war to the Palestinians. Has Obama’s unqualified support for Israel’s military security contributed to that situation? Kerry not only never answered that question, he never asked it.

And this was his riposte to the idealist dream of a single unitary state with equal rights for Jews and Palestinians. “If the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or democratic – it cannot be both.” Oh, but he was not speaking of a unitary state with equal rights for Jews and Palestinians. He was speaking of a Jewish state that established permanent rule over Palestinians and relegated them to an inferior status. That is a theoretical possibility, but believing that it is an imminent threat ignores the trends of facts on the ground.

Palestinians have come far too far in the process of self-government to put up with any such political rule over them. Nor would the world allow it. If the extremists in Netanyahu’s cabinet win, highly unlikely, then Israel would lose. The prospect of a Jewish state between the Jordan and the Mediterranean is almost as delusionary as the prospect of a unitary democratic state. Neither is a realistic option. One is an idealist impossible dream and the other is a fascist nightmare with only a slightly greater chance of coming into being. Kerry poses a false dichotomy as well one with each of the poles highly unlikely while leaving out the more realistic various options of two-State solutions.

Bad arguments often start with false dichotomies. Kerry’s argument falls into that category. Nor does Kerry have a very good grasp of history. He made his first trip to Israel in 1986. When he claims that, “After decades of conflict, many no longer see the other side as people, only as threats and enemies,” as if this perception of the other emerged and consolidated itself only recently. The reality s that both Jewish Israelis and Palestinians deserve more respect. Both sides have viewed the other as enemies, but to different degrees by different factions. Both sides have recognized that the other are people, but with many interests and objectives at odds with their own, even as both groups demonstrated a number of shared interests and values.

Has the situation become worse? In many ways it has. Hamas is in power in Gaza and Hamas denies Israel’s right to exist. If a fair election were held in the West Bank today, polls indicate that Hamas would emerge the victor. On the Israeli side, it has the most extreme cabinet in the history of Israel, one with a strong faction totally opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state living alongside Israel. On the other hand, even in Gaza, the Palestinians have developed many of the instruments and institutions of self-government. Israel and Palestine are the closest trading partners with the other. There are efforts at cooperation and joint projects in many areas. However, the trend lines are worrisome.

But are settlements the reason for those trend lines? The Israeli cabinet has grown more extreme, I venture to say, in part in answer to those who focus most of their attention on the alleged threat the settlements pose to a viable peace agreement. I personally concur that an agreement might have been much easier if most of the settlements in Area C and the settlements on the other side of the Protection Barrier had not been built. But that fact might also have removed any pressure from the Palestinians to make peace. Historical counterfactuals are so difficult to calculate.

On the other hand, historical realities are not. Never before have you had a government in power in parts of Palestine and with the imminent possibility of acquiring power over all of Palestine that is dedicated to the eradication of Israel. When Fatah held that view, it lacked any power. Only in dealing with the realities of power and the need for compromise has Fatah accommodated itself to the reality of Israel. But not without a cost – a cost in support that cannot simply be traced to its unaccountable and poor governance.

With the help of Alex Zisman

Egypt

Egypt

by

Howard Adelman

Israel’s main concern with regard to Egypt has been the border between Gaza and Egypt that has been used as a corridor for arms flowing into Gaza. Israel is also very sensitive to the security of its border with the Sinai, both for military reasons, given the use of Sinai by terrorist groups to attack both Israel and Egypt, as well as Sinai serving as the main transit route for refugees from Africa seeking a haven in Israel. Israel seems disinterested in the military overthrow of democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood government by the current President, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (Sisi), who was then head of the Egyptian armed forces, the subsequent repression of that Brotherhood, and, more generally, the widespread denial of human rights within Egypt.

Before we turn to the Egyptian border and terrorism issues, it is helpful if we sketch some examples of media repression within Egypt. Popular singer, Hamza Namira, who became famous three years ago because of his songs celebrating the hope and freedom of the 2011 Arab Spring, has been banned from radio and television because of his “critical” songs. Those songs cannot be broadcast by others. Khaled Abol Naga, a famous Egyptian actor, has been accused of treason because of his outspoken opinions; his job options have dried up. Within one week, two top TV talk hosts were dismissed from their positions –Wael Ibrashi from the TV Dream Channel after Ibrashi criticized some ministers in the Sisi government, in particular the Education Minister for the poor state of Egyptian schools (see later), and Mahmoud Saad of Al-Nahar TV simply because one of his guests referred of Egypt’s “defeat” in the 1967 war. These were two privately-owned stations. The government already tightly controls Egyptian-owned media.

More recently, the attacks on private media outlets have become more comprehensive. Owners of both private and public media were recently summoned to a “self-criticism” meeting. The seventeen heads were forced to sign a statement that the outlets they ran would not criticize the army, police or the judiciary lest ‘these governmental institutions be discredited in the eyes of the public’. In reality, the freedom to publish applied to any article or statement that may be deemed to be offering ‘support to terrorism’ and, therefore, ‘provocative’ in the eyes of the government. Khaled al-Balshi, a prominent left-wing Egyptian journalist, who had steadfastly opposed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood and who founded the Front to Defend Journalists and the Rights of Citizens, suggested that the actions of the Sisi government have been far more repressive that those of its predecessor. Under this regime, six journalists have been killed, and eleven remain in prison.
Internationally, the most notorious has been the arrest eleven months ago and subsequent conviction and jailing of three journalists reporting for English al-Jazeera. Unlike the latter’s English language media reports, the Egypt-focused channel of al-Jazeera, Mubashir Misr, is viewed by many Egyptians as well as the government as favouring the Muslim Brotherhood, though this was likely because the Egyptian bureau was pro-democracy. The Muslim Brotherhood has been blamed for inciting anti-government protests. Thousands of their members have been rounded up and imprisoned. The government concern with security has been used to prosecute both the Muslim Brotherhood as well as pro-democracy activists and even the three journalists who worked for English al-Jazeera. In reading their dispatches, they come across as neutral professional foreign correspondents.

Which is what they are. Egyptian-Canadian Cairo bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy, formerly a CNN and New York Times foreign correspondent, Australian Peter Greste, formerly a foreign correspondent of BBC and Reuters, and Egyptian producer, Baher Mohamed, the youngest of the three and only employed seven months before he was arrested, were accused of spreading false news (defamation) and supporting and collaborating with the Muslim Brotherhood. The two foreign Canadian and Australian journalists were sentenced to seven years each, though Sisi may be on the verge of pardoning them. Bader received an extra three year sentence for weapons possession and, as an Egyptian whose father was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood though the son apparently was not, seems unlikely to be pardoned in spite of the apparent trumped-up nature of the charges against all three.
His treatment poses the greatest chill on Egyptian journalism, though he might eventually be released if the Saudi Arabia’s effort in mediating the dispute between Qatar and Egypt develops favourably. The arrests of the three journalists from English al-Jazeera in Egypt seem to have had as much to do with Qatar’s ownership of al-Jazeera as with media repression. Though Qatar denies it, the country has been widely accused of funding terrorists. Though Qatar hosts the largest American military base in the Middle East, in addition to its financial support for Hamas in Gaza, Qatar is supposedly the largest private source of donations both to the Islamic State as well as other al-Qaeda affiliates. But on 27 September, Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani of Qatar declared that, “What is happening in Iraq and Syria is extremism and such organizations are partly financed from abroad, but Qatar has never supported and will never support terrorist organizations”. This statement was made in spite of well-known Qatar financial support for al-Qaeda in Mali and Chechnya. The statement was also made in spite of Sheikh Yusuf Abdullah al-Qaradawi, a fiery antisemitic Muslim leading scholar in the Muslim Brotherhood with a pro-terrorist as well as fundamentalist Islamic message, given free reign in Doha.

Whatever its support for terrorism, Qatar openly supports the Muslim Brotherhood and publicly labeled the overthrow of the Morsi regime on 3 July 2013 a military coup. The Brotherhood leadership was given sanctuary in Qatar where it retains an outlet to the media. Egypt removed its ambassador from Doha. Qatar is a tiny state with only 278,000 citizens, though it is host to 1.5 million resident foreigners. However, Qatar is also very wealthy with an enormous sovereign wealth fund and holds the third largest natural gas reserves. Qatar is the sole remaining source of international support for the Brotherhood. A rapprochement between Qatar and Egypt would be a mortal blow to the Muslim Brotherhood. The arrest in Qatar of on 20 November of Brotherhood leader Mohammed Ali Beshr may be a first public indicator that a reconciliation between Qatar and Egypt is in process. A rapprochement between Egypt and Qatar facilitated through Saudi mediation could lead to limiting the ability of the Brotherhood to communicate to its supporters and, for Israel, cutting off a very important source of terrorist funding for Hamas. Qatar could then serve to mediate between the Sisi government and the latter’s efforts to tame the Brotherhood and Israel’s efforts to tame Hamas.

Egypt has also been reluctant to repay a $3 billion dollar loan owed to Qatar and this may also be a factor in the Egyptian-Qatar deteriorating relationship even more significant than the imprisonment of the three journalists. That debt is the remaining part of an $8 billion dollar aid loan made to Prime Minister Hisham Qandil’s government when Morsi was still president after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) rejected a $4.8 billion dollar loan when the government refused to form a broader-based government. The latter development would have released a further $12 billion in bilateral aid. In some sense, Qatar’s release of pressure on the Morsi regime because of its loan could be blamed for allowing President Morsi to form a narrow-based government. A broad-based government might have side-tracked the military coup. If so, the Sisi government should, ironically, be grateful to Qatar.

For internationals, the major concern has not been the anti-democracy agenda of the Sisi government, but the security of Egypt and how that security is being ensured by the government. Many countries, especially Turkey, have been very critical of Israel’s blockade of Gaza, but those same countries seem to have been indifferent to the Egyptian repression of human rights as well as its blockade on the thirteen mile border with Gaza. Recently, Egypt doubled the size of its corridor along the Gaza border from a 500 metre no-man’s land to one 1,000 metres wide once military officials discovered that some of the tunnels were almost 800 metres long. Immediately after the last Israeli-Gaza war, Egypt claimed it had discovered a myriad of tunnels. Like the ones from Gaza into Israel, these tunnels went into the Egyptian town of Rafah and were used to smuggle both civilian goods and armaments into Gaza, and, possibly more important to Egypt, to smuggle arms and terrorists back into Egypt. Unlike Israel which built its buffer on Gazan land, Egypt constructed its buffer on Egyptian land and confiscated over a thousand Egyptian houses in the urban areas along the Gaza border.

I suggested above that a main reason for Egypt destroying the tunnels was to prevent terrorists and munitions getting back into Egypt to practice guerilla war against the new military dictatorship. A week ago, jihadists released a video of their attack in Sinai that took place in the previous month in which jihadists killed 31soldiers in the terrorist attack against the Karam-al-Kawadis military base on 24 October. Two days before the release of the video of that terrorist attack – which showed a tank running from the battle and soldiers surrendering without firing a shot after a truck loaded with two tons of explosives penetrated the military perimeter of the base and blew up – jihadists killed another 5 soldiers and police after the terrorists set up roadblocks and scoured cars so they could drag out and execute soldiers and police officers. What chutzpa! Setting up roadblocks within a military zone! At the same time, eight seamen had been captured and killed when presumed jihadists in a flotilla of small boats attacked a naval vessel.

The Muslim Brotherhood and even Hamas were now child’s play compared to the audacity, boldness and discipline of Egypt’s most militant jihadists, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis. Hamas has been explicit in disassociating itself from both Islamic State and the Egyptian Ansar Beit al-Maqdis terrorist group lest its relationship with Egypt be destroyed altogether as if its affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood were not enough. Hamas openly condemned ISIS tactics and use of religion to support terrorism.

Three weeks ago, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis declared its allegiance and affiliation with Islamic State, presumably in an effort to further enhance its recruitment and fund raising as well as exclusivity for possession of the jihadist and terrorist brand. According to government spokesmen, the real reason was because the Egyptian military had effectively targeted its munitions supplies and had cut off the source of reinforcements. After all, the Egyptian military was ranked thirteenth in the world. Nevertheless, the militant jihadists already had a terrifying record of killing hundreds of soldiers and police officers from the Sinai to the Western desert, often using the same signature as Islamic State – beheading their captives. Like Islamic State, there was a high likelihood that they would now turn to targeting civilians in an effort to destroy Egypt’s lucrative tourist industry.

The competition against the Islamic State for the Islamist brand is being initiated by the Sufis who were incensed by the 14 October car-bombing of the Sufi Ahmad Al-Badawi mosque and shrine of Al-Sayyid Al-Badawi, founder of the Badawiyyah Sufi order. Would the politicization of the Sufi order, a powerful force within Egypt, provide short term support for Sisi but undermine that support in the long run?

The sense of desperation of ordinary Egyptians in the face of such fiery militants, on the one hand, and the determined repression of the new military regime, on the other hand, is indicated by the lack of any significant protest in creating the 1,000 metre wide border corridor with Gaza and the displacement of over a thousand families in Rafah. The military might boast from time to time that ten militants had been killed here, that a munitions warehouse had been discovered and blown up there, but in spite of the heavy censorship of the press, the threat of the militants grew by leaps and bounds compared to fears of the military authorities, especially when the military had boasted a year earlier that the jihadists were on the verge of extinction in the face of the military campaign against them. Empty boasts stood beside repeated audacious military actions to embarrass the military government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi who was finally elected to office in May of this year.

If civilian fears grew along with the decline in faith in the military government for providing security, what happened in the American Congress that was responsible for allocating hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Egyptian regime? The January 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Law had set aside $1.3 billion for Egyptian military aid, but only 44% of that sum had been released pending certain benchmark achievements in the military regime’s move to “restore” democracy. With a new Republican majority in both houses, concerns over human rights and democratic progress were unlikely to stand in the way of such limitations on allocations if remarks last week by the Chair of the State and Operations Panel, Kay Granger, a Republican Congressional representative from Texas, are any indication. Since the administration failed to label the overthrow of the democratically-elected Morsi regime as a coup, the handwriting of the decline of those stalwarts in support of democracy in Egypt has been apparent.

American fears that Sisi was not up to the task of destroying the militants, as well as a fear that the military aid would fall into the hands of the jihadists, made even Republicans hesitate. Nevertheless, Americans, and the Israelis as well, seem to have no other option than supporting the Sisi regime since both had by and large sacrificed their commitment to democracy and human rights in Egypt for their security concerns. The question now was whether the Obama administration orders, which had held up delivery of Apache helicopters, F-6 fighter jets, M1A1 Abrams tanks and Harpoon missiles, would remain in place or would be surrendered in exchange for Congressional approval on an issue more central to the administration’s agenda.
Egypt, of course, has a myriad of other problems that undermine faith in a government even as determined and repressive as the Sisi regime, such as maintenance of its infrastructure even as its schools continue to deteriorate at risk to both teachers and students. Last month, Youssef Mohamed, a primary school student at Ammar ibn Yasir public school in rural El-Matareya region (markaz) in the northeastern Dakahlia Governorate on Lake Manzala, died when a window fell out of its frame and the broken pane of glass severed the student’s throat. The student might have survived if his teacher had been in the room at the time and if that teacher had taken prompt action – which he did not do even when he was disturbed from having a snack – or if several hospitals had not refused to admit the badly-injured student given his precarious state and their refusal to assume responsibility. A week later, almost exactly a month ago, seven-year-old Youssef Soltan Zaki died when the iron school gate fell off its rusty hinges onto him at the Zaghyrat public primary school in the Matrouh Governorate 500 kilometres from Cairo. At the end of October, a high school student, Peter Magdy, was skewered by a fence stake at Ahmed Bahgat Secondary School in Giza.

These sample incidents – which do not include the numerous students killed in bus accidents (18 students dead on 5 November on the Cairo-Alexandria agricultural road) – were not only tragic, but seemed symbolic in a country where the government had assumed all authority and there was a widespread fear of individuals standing out and assuming responsibility lest they be held accountable in a system that was not subject to the rule of law designed to protect the people. If individuals act and something untoward occurs, they are held responsible. If they fail to act, they are held responsible. And if they are in lower positions of authority, they are sacrificed to save the skin of the government that fails to supply to funds to maintain the schools. Thus, the principals at the affected schools were suspended and brought to police headquarters for questioning.

If the government continually appears incompetent to manage its infrastructure let alone handle militants who directly assault the military, the government’s ability even to protect government buildings seems to be in question. Sisi’s government felt compelled last month to enact a special law against civilians who “assault” government facilities and to refer all those charged to military rather than civilian courts for judgment. Though the instigation for such a law seemed not to be just about protests but actual physical violence against public property – a roadside bomb near the Foreign Ministry offices in Cairo, an explosion in downtown Cairo near a subway station and another at Cairo University – the real impetus to the militarization of the rule of law seems to have arisen not so much from a spate of such incidents as from the panic that set into the government when the 31 soldiers mentioned above were killed last month.

And what about developing new infrastructure? Development projects in the Sinai – primarily the twenty-five-year-old Al-Salam Canal project to irrigate and recover 620,000 acres in Sinai for the benefit of Sinai tribes and resettlement of three million Egyptians in a well-planned new city and a number of towns with both an industrial area and surrounding agricultural land properly serviced by roads, electricity, schools and hospitals – were based on the principle that economic development is the primary way to combat the jihadi militants rather than relying primarily of the military. This priority seems to have been postponed for the ostensible reason that the water for the reclamation of the land was polluted by the heavy amount of untreated sewage that has been flowing into the Suez Canal. Decades since the plan was originally conceived, progress has been further delayed and construction related to the development has been abandoned. Priority has evidently been given to building water treatment plants.

Priority has also been given to shifting the economy to one governed by the School of Chicago economic principles opposed to the myriad of government subsidies. However, the abandonment of those subsides may make the overall economy function better – it could hardly function much worse – but the result will inevitably be at the cost of those at the bottom of the Egyptian economy and for the benefit of those at the top. Further, key military figures are certain to become rich in this shift. Thus, corruption will replace subsidies in undermining the efficiency of the economy.

Egypt inadvertently and only implicitly has become Israel’s most important unacknowledged ally in the Middle East but, in the long run, may prove simply to be Israel’s most dangerous Achilles’ heel.

Obama’s Speech in Jerusalem

Obama’s Speech in Jerusalem 21/03/13

by

Howard Adelman

WOW!!! Obama could certainly sell refrigerators to the Innuit. Facing a tough and justly cynical audience of young Israelis, Israelis who serve in the army, postponed their lives and careers, and live in the nastiest neighbourhood in the world in which every calumny possible is thrown against them, Israelis who themselves have increasingly given up hope and persuaded themselves to ignore or even hate Palestinians, he sold them on hope. He sold them on the possibility of peace. He sold them on the idea that it is their task, not just the government’s, to begin the true and the hardest struggle – the struggle to make peace.

How did one speech achieve so much? How is it that this one speech will go down in history as one of the great pieces of oratory? There was no soaring language. There were very few sonorous phrases that would echo and re-echo in your brain. There was none of the historic rhythmic black cadences that Martin Luther King used so brilliantly in his speeches. It was the structure of the speech and its comprehensiveness in a very tight format. It was the direct appeal to the hearts, the minds and, most of all, to the great courage and guts of Israelis – particularly Israeli youth.

I have attached the speech if you have not already read or heard it. When you read it, you want to stand up at certain points and applaud even though you are just reading the speech. It is a speech that gets you up off your ass.

First of all, whether or not it ever had any validity, Barack Obama put to rest, as he had tried to do in the previous 36 hours, the image of himself and Benjamin Netanyahu as not only not at loggerheads, as not being linked by icicles. He did it, not only by calling the Prime Minister of Israel, Bibi, but with humour: "just so you know, any drama between me and my friend Bibi over the years was just a plot to create material for Eretz Nehederet." At the same time, he showed that he knew the most popular satirical news show on Israeli television.

He did it by personally and institutionally identifying with the Jewish people. Not only had he introduced seders into the White House, but the story of Jewish wandering, Jewish homelessness, Jewish perseverance, Jewish religious faith, indeed, even the history of Jewish persecution, was his personal story even though he was not a Jew. It was the story with which he identified and that inspired him. "For me personally, growing up in far-flung parts of the world and without firm roots, it spoke to a yearning within every human being for a home."

As he said, however, the Zionist dream did not end with getting to the promised land, with getting a state of their own for the Jewish people. That was just a new beginning: "the work goes on – for justice and dignity; for opportunity and freedom." Barack Obama did not just say that the statement that Zionism is racism or that Zionism is apartheid. Barack Obama in effect said: I am a Zionist, just as John Kennedy had once said, I am a Berliner. "The Jewish people sustained their unique identity and traditions, as well as a longing to return home. And while Jews achieved extraordinary success in many parts of the world, the dream of true freedom finally found its full expression in the Zionist idea – to be a free people in your homeland." Israel is the realization of national self-determination for the Jewish people. "Israel is rooted not just in history and tradition, but also in a simple and profound idea: the idea that people deserve to be free in a land of their own."

The second part of the speech dwelt on Israel as the start-up nation par excellence. Israel is a country of innovators, of Nobel prize winners, a thriving democracy where referring to lively public debate is an understatement. And all this has been accomplished in the midst of intense hostility and physical insecurity. He then told a big white lie. Through it all, the United States of America has shared an unbreakable bond of friendship with Israel. In the context, it was totally understandable and forgivable.

America shares interests with Israel, shares $40 billion dollars annually in trade, shares a commitment to the security and stability of the Middle East, shares a belief in economic growth and the expansion of trade around the world, shares a belief in a strong middle class, shares a faith in democracy. But international realism is not all both nations have in common. Both are countries of immigration representing the ingathering of people from around the world. Both are countries enriched by faith. Both are countries made strong by a belief in the rule of law. Both are countries fueled by innovation and entrepreneurship. After he established his deep personal identification with Israel and America`s shared interests and values with Israel, Obama moved into the third and tough part of his speech – the issues of establishing security, peace and prosperity in the Middle East.

He began with security as he had adumbrated in his speeches over the last months when addressing the Issue of Israel. Security was basic – not simply in general but for the child in Sderot. Security requires an Iron Dome. Security requires a strong defence force. But these are not sufficient. These will not protect Israelis boarding a tour bus in Bulgaria. The only real protection is when the people in the region – specifically in reference to Syria – can live in states in which the leadership is responsive and responds to the needs and desire of its people while protecting all communities within and making peace with countries beyond those borders.

Obama brought up Iran, and without underlining any differences with Netanyahu over red lines, reaffirmed that America was committed to Iran not acquiring nuclear weapons. While giving diplomacy a chance, "America will do what it must to prevent a nuclear armed Iran." Then he delivered the lines that must have received the longest and loudest standing ovation. "Make no mistake: those who adhere to the ideology of rejecting Israel’s right to exist might as well reject the earth beneath them and the sky above, because Israel is not going anywhere. Today, I want to tell you – particularly the young people – that so long as there is a United States of America, Ah-tem lo lah-vahd."

You are not alone. I am with you. America is with you. Further, you are even justified in being sceptical about the prospects of peace. But I, Barack Obama, am not going to take the easy way out and express solidarity in the abstract without working to assure that security in the best way possible, through peace.

So Obama came to the fourth and greatest section of his speech – his arguments to say that peace was necessary, peace was just and peace was possible with the Palestinians.

1. First, peace is necessary. Indeed, it is the only path to true security. You can be the generation that permanently secures the Zionist dream, or you can face a growing challenge to its future. Given the demographics west of the Jordan River, the only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine.

2. Second, peace is just. Though security must be at the center of any agreement, the only path to peace is through negotiation. The Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and justice must also be recognized. Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer. Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land.

3. Third, peace is possible. Palestinians must recognize that Israel will be a Jewish state, and that Israelis have the right to insist upon their security. Israelis must recognize that continued settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace, and that an independent Palestine must be viable– that real borders will have to be drawn. But only you can make that dream possible. That is where peace begins – not just in the plans of leaders, but in the hearts of people; not just in a carefully designed process, but in the daily connections that take place among those who live together in this land, and in this sacred city of Jerusalem. Speaking as a politician, I can promise you this: political leaders will not take risks if the people do not demand that they do. You must create the change that you want to see. Your hopes must light the way forward.

There will be many voices that say this change is not possible. But remember this: Israel is the most powerful country in this region. Israel has the unshakeable support of the most powerful country in the world. Israel has the wisdom to see the world as it is, but also the courage to see the world as it should be. Ben Gurion once said, "In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles." Sometimes, the greatest miracle is recognizing that the world can change. After all, that is a lesson that the world learned from the Jewish people.

We bear that history on our shoulders, and we carry it in our hearts. Today, as we face the twilight of Israel’s founding generation, you – the young people of Israel – must now claim the future. It falls to you to write the next chapter in the story of this great nation.

As a man who has been inspired in my own life by that timeless calling within the Jewish experience – tikkun olam – I am hopeful that we can draw upon what’s best in ourselves to meet the challenges that will come; to win the battles for peace in the wake of so much war; and to do the work of repairing this world. May God bless you, and may God bless Israel and the United States of America. Toda raba.

I believe that great words well said can change the course of history.

Category: Politics

Tags: Obama, Israel, peace process, Zionism.

Obama.24.Jerusalem.speech.21.03.13.doc

Prepared.text.Obama.speech.Jerusalem.doc

False Dichotomous Thinking – peace process.20.03.13

False Dichotomous Thinking 20.03.13

by

Howard Adelman

What does it mean when journalists report that "expectations are low" concerning Barack Obama’s visit to Israel with respect to the peace process? No one expected him, especially given all the forewarning, to make a new proposal to break through the current impasse. In that sense, ‘expectations are low’ meant simply that no one anticipates a proposal for a breakthrough let alone a breakthrough itself. The expression, however, could mean something else at the other end of the conceptual spectrum. Expectations are so low that absolutely no headway can be expected with respect to negotiations. This is how Foreign Policy Mideast Daily reported it this morning. Or it could mean anything in between – a few openers for further discussions; a definition of the key elements of the impasse with some dialogue procedures set in place to see if they can be overcome; a set of sub-negotiation bilateral or trilateral committees to discuss key elements re the impasse with a range of options for each:

1) settlements

  • No settlement activity at all
  • No new settlements
  • No building in settlements on territory slated for transfer to the Palestinians
  • Settlement activity only to fill in areas in existing East Jerusalem settlements clearly indicated for remaining part of Israel
  • No settlement freeze at all unless Palestinians return to the peace negotiations

2) The Holy Basin

  • Israeli Sovereignty but Islamic administration re their holy sites
  • Shared sovereignty
  • Shared sovereignty with international partners
  • International sovereignty
  • Separate sovereign status a la Vatican

3) Security

  • Israeli further withdrawals and replacement with Palestinian police forces in West Bank
  • Further refinement to past agreements on a demilitarized West Bank
  • Role, make up, responsibilities and accountability of an international peace keeping force in the West Bank

4) Refugees

  • Further discussions on number to be repatriated to Israel under family reunification – no less than 5,000 and no more than 100,000
  • Refinement of compensation proposals
  • Refinement of proposals for compensation to Jews from Arab lands
  • Tweaking of the "right of return" to accommodate this fundamental principle for Palestinians while ensuring that it does not apply to Israel
  • Education program to prepare Palestinians for this result
  • Proposals to integrate UNRWA with respect to areas governed by the Palestinian Authority into the Palestinian administration

5) Mutual recognition

  • Recognition by Israel of a Palestinian state
  • Recognition by Palestine of Israel as a Jewish state

6) Land Swaps

  • Refinement of maps for planned land swaps
  • The outcome re Ariel

On the other hand, pre-negotiations could avoid any discussions about advancing on substantive issues and be confined only to confidence building measures. Dow Marmur dealt with some of these in his discussion of Dennis Ross in his column in the Toronto Star on Monday:

1) a unilateral declaration by Israel to confine new building within settlements and only those that will almost inevitably be involved in the land swap to Israel;

2) unilateral offers by Israel to offer financial incentives for Israelis to abandon settlement outposts;

3) unilateral moves by Israel to further reduce the areas over which it still exercises its security presence;

4) mutual recognition by Israel of a Palestinian state with borders not yet defined in correlation with Palestine recognizing Israel as a Jewish state;

5) Palestinian changing maps to show Israel;

6) Palestinians not only pledging but insuring no further demonization of Israel.

Dow ended his column: "Obama is uniquely positioned to be the catalyst for this process. His visit could become a game changer by helping both sides to take small steps now in preparation for peace later."

But the next day, Dow had switched back from wearing his hat of small hopes to being very pessimistic. (See his blog that I received this morning and that I have included at the end of this blog.) Dow contrasted the pessimistic picture painted by Shlomo Avineri versus the insistence of Naomi Chazan on pushing an optimistic agenda. Shlomo, he wrote, "maintains that neither the Palestinian Authority nor the new Israeli government – the most right-wing in its history, will do much about solving the problem. All that we can hope for is that the situation can be managed better in anticipation of good times, whenever these may come." (Shlomo Avineri’s views are set out in the January issue of Foreign Affairs where he, in fact, sets out his own list of pragmatic and achievable measures that can be taken as interim steps.)

This is the pessimistic picture. Yet confidence building measures proposed by Dennis Ross were merely steps to manage the situation rather than substantive progress, but were treated as a blessing of small hopes rather than a despairing pessimism. But perhaps in the fuller acquaintance with Shlomo’s views, his proposals for maintenance were more restrictive than Dennis Ross’ proposals. But not by much! As Avineri said, "you try to achieve a lot of proactive conflict management measures, some of them partial agreements, some of them unilateral steps, some of them doing things below the radar where people can reach understandings even if they don’t have to sign or even if they don’t want to sign on the dotted line about the final issues."

As can be seen from his Foreign Affairs article, those views of Avineri were not that much more restrictive than those of Dennis Ross. In Avineri’s participation in the Israel Policy Forum on "The Future of the Peace Process", he anticipated Obama’s address to the Israeli public through his talk to the students as being at the heart of his visit to at least convey that Obama hears what worries Israelis and understands those fears. On the core issues of settlements, borders, Jerusalem, security, refugees, the gap between the current more right wing government versus the previous moderate government engaged in the last negotiations is even wider than the considerable chasm still left when moderates were negotiating with moderates. "To try to reopen those kinds of negotiations now is probably doomed to failure." That is certainly the generally universal pessimism, even of Naomi Chazan.

Yet Naomi Chazan argued vehemently against the notion that nothing could be done and insisted that "survival demands that those in power don’t wait for ‘the right time’ for peace negotiations but create them now" by instead of "lowering expectations" about the Obama visit, pushing Obama to press both sides to resume negotiations.’ However, the overwhelming view of most observers and specialists in conflict management and peace negotiations is that a push towards direct negotiations at this time would be counter-productive. Naomi Chazan’s push is not idealism or optimism but the despair of hope and the guarantee that hope will turn into greater despair.

Subjective reactions to proposals as instilling pessimism or optimism are one thing. But positing a false and misleading dichotomy of proposals as pessimistic or optimistic may be far more misleading than helpful.

Part of the equation is also knowing the American administration and, in particular, Barack Obama’s mindset as well as that of the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority. Avineri has advised that, "the president shouldn’t really put his life on the line on this issue because he has already failed in the past," and has suggested an emphasis on back channels or Track II diplomacy. I think Obama has already incorporated that view. This is why when Gerald Steinberg in his article in the National Post this morning, "Natanyahu is from Mars, Obama is from Venus" is so misleading with his false dichotomy. Steinberg correctly calls Netanyahu a hard-core realist. However, he argues that Obama has a very opposite perception of international politics who takes "an idealist (or optimist) approach" and "believes that disputes generally can be overcome through dialogue and compromise. For Obama, the use of military force is an undesirable last resort." The portrait of the al-Qaeda and the Taliban as outliers would perhaps explain his use of drones to assassinate them. [I am
being sarcastic!]

The portrait is so wrong and so distorting that one despairs at correcting it. For example, the difference between Obama and Netanyahu over Iran is on whether to draw a line in the sand before hand of after you have given diplomacy and talk the best chance that can be afforded. The argument for drawing the line in the sand early is that the other side knows very early on when their actions will trigger a military response and this will prevent escalation creep. The argument for not drawing a line in the sand early is that it psychologically blackmails the negotiation process and limits the saving of face. There are arguments for both positions. (Listen to American National Public Radio today on "The Value and Risk of Drawing a Red Line" with Aaron David Miller from the Woodrow Wilson Center whom I have cited before with respect to Obama and Israel.)

Both Netanyahu and Obama are variations of realism and not a realist versus an idealist. There is an abundance of evidence that Netanyahu is a hard-core realist and that Obama is what may be termed a softer realist, but it is very clear that he is not a Kantian idealist. Painting him as one may be considered a credit or a demerit, depending on your point of view, but, whatever its normative value, it is descriptively false. False either/or dichotomies in international politics, however convenient they are in explaining issues, much more often mislead.

The issue of red lines is not only applicable to Iran but also North Korea and Syria. Ignore North Korea for the moment, however difficult it is to bracket the self-aggrandizing and advertisements for himself of Kim Jong-Un. Last year, intelligence reports informed the president that the Assad regime was weaponizing missiles with nerve gas. Obama and the USA drew a definite line in the sand for Syria. As Foreign Policy reported, "In August, President Barack Obama first asserted that Syria’s use, or movement, of chemical or biological weapons (CBW) would be a ‘red line’ that would result in ‘enormous consequences’." (5 December 2012) Presumably, the rationale would be humanitarian rather than siding with one side. Intervention was required to protect civilians under the universally accepted doctrine of the responsibility to protect that Canadians pioneered in forging. After all, the international community to its everlasting shame did nothing when Saddam Hussein used Sarin and VX in 1988 on the Kurdish village of Halabja, killing 5,000, injuring over 10,000 others and leaving a legacy of birth defects. In 1982, Bashar al-Assad’s father massacred between 10,000 and 20,000 in Hama to repress a rebellion so mass murder by this regime would not be a total surprise.

Foreign Minister, Jihad Makdissi of Syria has repeatedly stated that the Assad regime would only use chemical weapons against invaders and not against Syrians. If the Assad regime does resort to the use of chemical (or biological) weapons in Syria, the Syrian regime could expect to invite some type of military response from the USA without specifying whether that meant arming the opposition, imposing a no fly zone or bombing certain facilities. The possible use of poison gas in Syria against civilians in Aleppo needs first to be verified. Little noticed in today’s news reports about possible chemical warfare in Syria, is that the report itself may be a way for the Iranians to test run how seriously to take red lines by the USA if ever they were to be drawn. Iran has repeatedly used Syria as a proxy.

Dichotomies that apply to subjective states and attitudes – such as pessimism and optimism – may be very misleading when applied to characterizing positions held on peace negotiations. False mutually exclusive categorization is often misleading and sometimes even dangerous when misapplied to the positions of world leaders. Dichotomies posed as polar opposites with many intermediate positions between can also be misleading as well; it may be useful to distinguish realists along a range between an extreme hard-core group and realists who soften that realism with moral considerations with many variations between. But posing realists and idealists as polar opposites on a spectrum of variations does not work very well.

Both/and thinking analyses may often be better suited to an issue than either/or positioning.

[Tags: dichotomous thought; Israel, Obama,
Netanyahu, peace process]

THE PEACE PROCESS – REALISM OR IDEALISM?

The day after the swearing in of Israel’s new government and the day before the arrival of President Obama, a symposium was held in Jerusalem under the title, “Israeli-Palestinian Conflict – Where to?” on the occasion of the publication of The Routledge Handbook on the Israeli Palestinian Conflict, edited by Joel Peers and David Newman.

The four panelists were on the centre-left of the political spectrum, i.e., in favour of the two-state solution. Nevertheless, there were differences, particularly between the realism of Shlomo Avineri’s analysis and the idealism of Naomi Chazan’s vision.

I was both heartened and depressed by Avineri’s presentation. Heartened, because what he said as an expert I’ve been saying as an amateur: though the Arab Awakening is likely to lead to the balkanization of the region and complicate life for Israel, the two-state solution is still the only viable response to the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

Depressed because much of what I’ve written from Israel has been along Avineri’s line. It depresses me and, alas, my readers. He maintains that neither the Palestinian Authority nor the new Israeli government – the most right-wing in its history, he said – will do much about solving the problem. All that we can hope for is that the situation can be managed better in anticipation of good times, whenever these may come.

Naomi Chazan differed sharply. She argued vehemently against the notion that nothing could be done about peace at present and, therefore, containment is all that’s possible. I understood her to say that in the same way as Avineri’s skepticism is self-fulfilling prophecy, so can the belief that peace can happen now. It’s essential for Israel’s survival and, therefore, requires the same kind of idealism that brought it into existence.

Chazan maintained that this fight for survival demands that those in power don’t wait for “the right time” for peace negotiations but create them now. For example, much could have been achieved towards it, she argued, if Israel had been the first to support the Palestinians’ bid for statehood at the United Nations. Similarly, instead of joining in the chorus that tells everybody not to expect much from Obama’s visit, his being here can and must greatly stimulate the process by pushing the two sides to negotiate.

I left the meeting wishing that Chazan were right but believing that Avineri got it right. Instead of hoping for the ideal we should settle for the real and make it less difficult than it is now and much less difficult than it’ll become if we do nothing at all. That’s why prudent management is the best possible interim measure to be taken now.

I understand this also to be behind Dennis Ross’s idea about what each side could do independently of the other to create confidence building measures that would ease the tension and prepare for the future. (Thus my latest column in The Toronto Star.)

The third speaker, Professor Arie Arnon of Ben Gurion University, pointed to the vital importance of the many Track Two encounters between experts who’re preparing the ground for peace whenever it comes by dealing with specific aspects of it. I understood him to say that these encounters blend realism with idealism.

The last speaker was Professor David Newman, also of Ben Gurion and co- editor of The Handbook. He reminded us that little of the left’s message, whether realistic or idealistic, is now touching the Israelis. The new government of the right reflects it. The citizens, indeed the world at large, have to learn to grin and bear it. Advantage: Avineri.

Jerusalem 20.3.13 Dow Marmur

False Dichotomous Thinking.doc