Monday, June 29, 2015

A good deal can be a bad deal delayed

Is it time to for Americans and even congressional leaders to work the clock on an Iran deal that not only appears to be a capitulation to Tehran in exchange for the opportunity to invest in their business sector and indirectly fund their expanding terror operations of an otherwise brittle, autocratic theocracy but the deal positions the administration into moving forward with its pet bad idea and that is forcing Israel to unilaterally cede its lands to the PA using the UN’s controversial report of the Gaza war as leverage. Well, 2016 isn’t that far away, perhaps it is time congress to pay to its strengths and run the clock out of getting anything done. A treaty would need to be ratified, trade restrictions would need to be lifted and while the president has many unilateral measures to get around a lot of this, congress could be the snag the President gets caught up on while trying to pull the wool over our collective eyes.

A bipartisan group of policy makers including Dennis Ross, David Petraeus, and General James Cartright and expert on non-proliferation, Robert Einhorn have just signed a letter stating, “The agreement will not prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapons capability” and “…may fall short of meeting the administration’s own standard of a ‘good’ agreement.” The letter also states what everyone knows, this agreement does nothing about Iran as a proliferator of terror and the result of the agreement is give Iran more ability to be a source of terrorism. Jonathon Tobin in an article in Commentary points out the that James Clapper had down played Iran terrorist activities but now points out in a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee that Iran is sponsoring terrorism, the State Department report on international terror states Iran is the leading sponsor of terrorism! The administrations policy on the Middle East is that there is no policy on the middle east except getting the President the often coveted Jimmy Carter moment of brokering an important treaty. There is one important difference between the Egpytian-Israeli peace agreement and nuclear agreement with Iran which is that one eliminated the possibility of all out war in the Middle East while the current agreement would guarantee all out war.

A bipartisan congressional committee could be formed to evaluate the ability of the US to turn sanctions back in an agreement while putting to a vote new sanctions and to get a detailed analysis of where Terhan is terms of nuclear development and how far away are they not only from a bomb but one that could loaded on a Shahab missile. Of course to understand that we’d need to know the depth and breath of North Korean technological assistance and that’s a lot experts and witnesses. How far can the president go making an agreement when the details are being debated in Congress. We also need to understand the consequences of a nuclear Iran, which will not be North Korea II as North Korea is mostly an expense of the Chinese economy while Iran is far more independent.

The US people need not just focus on the stick, President Obama wants a legacy and healthcare is one piece but a free trade agreement is the other. He just got fast track authority which can be a carrot; congress just needs to keep a lid on the pace of both, making sure that the President has a free trade agreement for his last act not a nuclear Iran or a carved up Israel. The President’s policies is an exercise in calling series of reactions a set of policies, Isis, Al Qaeda and Iran continue to spread their influence militarily, Afghanistan may yet fall, Bagdad could be lost and Damascus could soon be flying a black flag, luckily we a congress whose major expertise is kicking the can down the road. Please congress, form an inaction committee and bring the administration to a halt, I can’t think if a time when I’ve appreciated congress’ inability to get things done more or ever but I promise to vote the incumbent from now on in all congressional races, if you can just save the middle east!

Originally published in the Jerusalem Post in the Middle East by Midwest blog.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Grading the UN Commission Report

I’ve been away for a while and I’ll have shorter articles in the future but I wanted to provide extensive quotes and analysis of the UN commission report, there are other people breaking this down as well so I will focus on the deck stacking early in the document, meaning the UN treats controversial opinions as facts to favor one side over the other, and a conclusion that is as much flawed by its strained logic as it by the salient problem that the UN omits from the report. The Elder of Ziyon on his excellent blog noted correctly the UN did attempt to present the Israeli point of view in spite of Israel’s decision not to cooperate so it wasn’t’’ as flawed as the Goldstone report. I agree but go further in stating that Israeli non-cooperation put pressure on the UN to make some show of evenhandedness which helps to justify Israeli non-cooperation as it contributed to a slightly more honest report and we both appear to agree the report was overall not a well done. 
Getting Started: 
UN Commission:  14. The hostilities of 2014 erupted in the context of the protracted occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, and of the increasing number of rocket attacks on Israel.
Marc: Wrong, there is no occupation of Gaza, it is only under legal blockade for terrorist activities which with the increased rocket fire and kidnapping and murder of Israeli civilians via a tunnel network was the source of the war. East Jerusalem is part of Jerusalem, while Judea and Samaria (referred to by its Jordanian colonial name of the "West Bank" contains land that Palestinians dispute and would like for a state but the argument that part of Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria are occupied lands is irrelevant to the report. Gaza meets no definition of occupation unless it is applied to the Hamas forces that took over Gaza in a coup and even then "occupation" is a strong word unless Israel still maintains a claim on Gaza. 
UN Commission:  In the preceding months, there were few, if any, political prospects for reaching a solution to the conflict that would achieve peace and security for Palestinians and Israelis and realize the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people. 
Marc: In the preceding several years there were no political prospects to realize the right of Israelis to peace, security and rights to their territories. It is dangerous for the UN to argue a right of self-determination without qualification on the offhand chance people on Earth might take it seriously and petition for recognition of their "rights." There is a case to be made for West Bank Arab self-determination but the UN commission is unprepared to make such a case responsibly and the UN Commission would be well advised not to take or give rights in the Middle East with no context no ability to defend its choices or protect Israel from war. The world still remembers how Israel's Jerusalem fell to Jordanian forces when the UN was supposed to defend it as an ‘international free city for all.’  
UN Commission: 15.The blockade of Gaza by Israel, fully implemented since 2007 and described by the Secretary-General as “a continuing collective penalty against the population in Gaza” 
Marc: It should be noted that Gaza did use its “right” of self-determination and the result is a state that no none, including the UN, wishes to recognize and caused itself to be blockaded. A blockade affects a whole population but this action is legal in part because the cost of individualizing the penalty for war amongst the criminals running Gaza would necessitate killing a lot more civilians than have been killed up to now, even if one includes executions by Hamas during the ongoing period of the takeover.   Furthermore, a UN Commission already concluded in the “Palmer Report” the blockade is legal. Due to the terrorism emanating from the Gaza Strip when Hamas took it over completely by force of arms and targeting Israeli civilians for attack, the blockade was a compromise reached to prevent Israel from invading Gaza City to root out Hamas. Gaza City is the world's most densely populated piece of land and rooting out Hamas would have been a disaster for civilians. A blockade that prevents war may be a tremendous burden but it cannot be called collective punishment when it is relief from a hot, close quarter war. The world had put great pressure of come up with solution that fell short of invading Gaza City in the original war, therefore the international community either owes its support of the Israeli blockade or its needs to allow Israel to finish off the original war if it so chooses. 
UN Commission: (A/HRC/28/45, para. 70), was strangling the economy in Gaza and imposed severe restrictions on the rights of the Palestinians. 
Marc: Only in the context of protecting the civilian right to remain alive, a war zone imposes greater restrictions on the rights of Palestinians than a legal blockage. Also, the economic restriction of the blockade was made worse by Hamas when they used building materials intended for civilian use for military use, particularly cement. Had the Hamas government acted more responsibly, the Israelis may have been free to offer more, instead what the Israelis did offer to civilians was reduced by Hamas' theft of materials so they could be used for military purposes. Hamas is both responsible for the blockade, the sealed border with Egypt and further worsening of the blockade by the Hamas forces.
UN Commission:  18. On 12 June 2014, three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and brutally murdered in the West Bank. In response, Israel launched an extensive search and arrest operation, which lasted until the bodies of the teenagers were found, on 30 June. On 2 July, a 16-year-old Palestinian teenager from East Jerusalem was viciously murdered by being burned alive and his body discovered in West Jerusalem in what appeared to be an act of revenge for the murdered Israeli teenagers. Tensions in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, ran high, and were further fuelled by a rise in extreme anti-Palestinian rhetoric. Widespread protests and violent clashes ensued between Palestinians and the Israel Defense Forces.
19. On 7 July 2014, the Israel Defense Forces commenced operation “Protective Edge” in the Gaza Strip, with the stated objective of stopping the rocket attacks by Hamas and destroying its capabilities to conduct operations against Israel. After an initial phase focused on airstrikes, on 17 July 2014, Israel launched a ground operation, which it declared sought to degrade “terror organizations’ military infrastructure, and [… neutralize] their network of cross-border assault tunnels”.  A third phase began on 5 August, and was characterized by alternating ceasefires and ongoing air strikes. The operation concluded on 26 August, when both Israel and Palestinian armed groups adhered to an unconditional ceasefire.
Marc: This is largely correct except for "further fuelled by a rise in extreme anti-Palestinian rhetoric" as being relevant as it is a direct consequence for the brutal murders of children and both proof of "increase" or the impact of rhetoric on IDF and Political leadership's decision making of either side is not accounted for. 
UN Commission22. In Gaza, as Palestinians struggled to find ways to save their own lives and those of their families, they were confronted with intense attacks, with no way of knowing which locations would be hit and which might be considered safe. People began to move from one place to another, only to encounter attacks in the new neighborhood, and they would have to move on. Closed into the Strip, with no possibility to exit, at times, 44 per cent of Gaza was either a no-go area or the object of evacuation warnings.  These terrifying circumstances created a sense of entrapment, of having “no safe place” to go. 
Marc: Gazans could have fled to Egypt except that was closed off due to Hamas terrorist operations against Egypt but this section of the report fails to mention the unprecedented attempts to warn civilians to vacate structures that came under attack, measures that both the US and Germany thought went too far and may serve as a negative precedent for other democracies defending themselves. The warning are acknowledged later in the report but not the unprecedented nature of the warning Israel delivered is a keenly relevant fact that should have been applied here. 
UN Commission      42. Warnings are one means of precaution. International humanitarian law requires that “effective advance warning be given of attacks which may affect the civilian population, unless circumstances do not permit.”  The fact that many residential buildings were destroyed without causing deaths suggests that, where specific warnings were conveyed via telephone or text messages, they may have been effective in minimizing civilian casualties. 
72. The commission notes the steps taken by Israel to investigate alleged violations of the law of armed conflict by the Israel Defense Forces during operation “Protective Edge” and towards bringing its system of investigations into compliance with international standards. Flaws remain, however, with respect to the State’s adherence to international standards. Further significant changes are required to ensure that Israel adequately fulfils its duty to investigate, prosecute and hold perpetrators accountable for violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. 
Marc: Without mentioning that Israel in some instances, such as warning civilians of attack, well exceeded normative standards undermines the nature of this complaint and demonstrates a lack of objectivity.
73. The commission concludes that investigations by Palestinian authorities are woefully inadequate, despite allegations of violations of international humanitarian law on the part of Palestinian actors, leaving Israeli victims without an effective remedy. With respect to the local authorities in Gaza, no steps appear to have been taken to ensure effective investigations into actions by Palestinian armed groups, seemingly owing to a lack of political will. The Palestinian Authority claims that its failure to open investigations results from insufficient means to carry out investigations in a territory over which it has yet to re-establish unified control
Marc: The importance of this is similarly undermined by the fact that Israel exceeded international standards in some areas because without credibility this looks like a section whose purpose is to give the appearance of balanced criticism rather than objective criticism. 
The UN report has some good points to make but they are undermined by bias, deck stacking and the desire to appear to be even handed in assigning blame which means emphasizing flaws for one side and deemphasizing flaws for the other. Also, stating questionable political ideas as though they were facts regarding "occupation" which were misapplied, incorrect regarding Gaza and lacked relevancy to the immediate conflict make this document a negative example for future commissions to read. 
No military is above feedback, reproach and I would go further to state that every military has failed live up to its own standards, has killed civilians unnecessarily and failed to live up to international standards of war at some point in every war but for a report such as this one to downplay and equate the deliberate targeting and murder of Israeli civilians to the Israeli actions to end the terror is an awful denunciation of the UN's ability to review conflicts and international jurisprudence. Similarly, referring to Gaza as occupied territory when it is not occupied only demonstrates that the UN is unaware of its own standards on everything except political expedience, what we have here is ultimately a document that is flawed by its politics. 
There is a question the commission should have asked itself and answered which is: 
‘Is the cost of the human cost of blockade and the military conflict that led to it as well as subsequent violence less than the cost of an all-out conflict in Gaza city proper?’ 
My intuition is the answer is yes, no matter how many Israeli casualties are presumed but there would have to be many.  The one cost hard to quantify is the cost of Gazans having no choice but to tolerate Hamas rule. 
Originally published in the Jerusalem Post Middle East by Midwest Blog. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Ban Ki Moon’s child killer attitude creates an “unfortunate situation.”

Why have just one standard when you can have two? Ban Ki Moon once admitted the UN is biased against Israel and since then he’s never uttered a more honest word since, certainly not an honest word at all when it comes to the Jewish State. Most recently, Ban Ki Moon expressed alarm at the number of Gazan children that died in Gaza’s war with Israel while failing to acknowledge Gazan civilian deaths are a major part of Hamas’ strategy and that Hamas intentionally endangers civilians on both sides and uses its citizens as human shields. He also failed to acknowledge the great lengths Israel went to in warning civilians, so much so that both Germany and the US complained Israel had gone too far and it may tie the hands of democracies in future conflicts.  Meanwhile, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and now Assad’s Syria and many other places have no real reason to take UN standards on anything regarding human rights seriously. By having two standards, Ban Ki Moon and the UN have none and why should terrorist organizations fear world standards when they are only born of political expedience?  World standards for civilians don’t really exist because they are only used as a political convenience.  When world standards can be jerry rigged and misapplied against one’s enemies or peoples that are detested such as Jews and Israelis then the UN is simply telling any terrorist organization and especially Israel’s enemies that the UN will provide cover for their abuses.

" sheer force of blaming the victim the world leader can tell the world it’s okay to abuse and kill children..."

Bashar Assad, Hassan Nasrallah, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Qasim al-Raymi,  Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi need not care about UN human rights standards and children are for abusing and killing!  Why else would the Secretary General, the leader of world government choose to blame Israel for Hamas’ choices while ignoring Israel’s unprecedented attempts to avoid civilian casualties?   The only time the UN is going to care about civilian deaths, especially those of children is when that is the squeaky wheel that needs oil of the month from some public that wants to use the UN as a tool for abuse, the and it will be just as quickly forgotten because the “outrage” will have  dissipated. Whatever the UN is, it is not a world government that will ever cry over the dead body of any child in Gaza. That is the substance of Ban Ki Moon’s complaint to Israel, that is his message to terrorists the world over.  Ban Ki Moon isn’t the first world leader to diminish the idea of world government by being unfair to Israel but it is still rare that by sheer force of blaming the victim the world leader can tell the world it’s okay to abuse and kill children and it is rarer still that a secretary general is already on record for admitting bias against Israel exists.  This misapplication of justice contributes to the murder of children, especially in Syria and Iraq. I’m not saying these regimes would not kill children if the UN and Ban Ki Moon acted more justly but American’s know from the recent shooting in a church, a violent, terrorist good ole boys club incubated by years of looking the other way and justice being misapplied it its favor goes down hard and at great cost. What is the point of world government if it doesn’t care about our children getting murdered, getting used as soldiers, getting raped and sold as wives to terrorists? What’s the point of world government if these crimes are just ammo against undesirable people and unpopular nations who fights these terrors? Thanks to ISIS, at least the Middle East is starting to see what this kind of hypocrisy costs so why is Ban KI Moon still immune to being just? 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Self-Destructive Irony of Saeb Erekat

If The PA, as Saeb Erekat suggests, withdraws recognition of Israel it is signing the death warrant for its own legitimacy as a Nationalist Movement. Only Israel can cede its territory to create a Palestinian State and thus only Israel can confer legitimacy on a PA state. The PA has “drank the Kool-Aid” when it comes to Palestinian rights in Judea and Samaria. There is a case for Palestinian rights, a strong case but it is not the case the Palestinians offer to the world.  The Palestinians incorrectly believe a state was guaranteed to them when Israel was created in 1948, they incorrectly believe in their national myth that they are the natives rather than being Syrians of what was “greater Syria.” Palestinian claims of being native would be like David Duke claiming to be a Native American on the basis of America being a white, Protestant country.  These Palestinian beliefs exist not only to create a nationalist myth but also a maximal claim to Israel and to a lesser extent Jordan. Ironically, it is this myth that prevents the PA from becoming a state.

“…a new people is really a far stronger claim than being a displaced group of Syrians”

Many people on the Israeli and American right dismiss Palestinians as a new people, Palestinians contradict this by stating they have lived in Eretz Israel for a long time but both statements are correct. The many Arabs of the Palestinian Mandate can claim to have predated the mandate although many migrated during the mandate period for jobs but they did not do as “Palestinians” because they thought of themselves as Syrians rather than as Jews who were often referred to as Palestinians. “Palestine” was a “Jewish” name for these lands although the word itself is of Latin origin. In contrast to being a Jordanian people (a new people!) or a Syrian people, everyone accepts the idea of the Palestinian Arab and so being a new people is really a far stronger claim than being a displaced group of Syrians. A new people like an old people has a right to self determination and the forces that created “The Palestinians” support the idea of self determination. There are three sources for Palestinian self determination, one is that neither Syria nor Jordan claims the Palestinians and the other is that Israel does not wish to rule the Palestinian or make them citizens mostly due the third reason which is the Palestinian reject Israel and Israelis. While that does not give Palestinians the automatic right to any part of Jerusalem or even Hebron but it does allow for self-determination in places the Palestinians presently occupy to the extent of its viability and ability to live in peace with its neighbors. 

“Palestinian claims of being native would be like David Duke claiming to be a Native American on the basis of America being a white, Protestant country. “

Gaza by contrast is pretty much a state right now because it exists with territorial integrity, it exists in land the Israelis vacated and have no will to rule and Gaza only fails to be a state due to its inability to live in peace with Israel and Egypt. Without Israeli recognition, there is no point in anyone else or any other institution in recognizing Gaza as anything but Israeli territory. Israel has a stronger case for Judea, Samaria and Gaza to be Israeli lands than China has in either Tibet or Taiwan with the latter being broadly recognized.

So what is a political movement that fails to take notice if its rights, misrepresents its rights to the world and makes impractical demands for lands that it does not have a right to? Something other than a nationalist movement. The irony is despite the PA an the gray men who run it, the Palestinians do want and need a state but there is no one practical enough with the power to make peace and have one.  Compare that with the original Palestinians who under duress had to cede the majority of their lands to British interests and even lost their capital until 1967. The time has come for the world to tire of this Saeb story.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Turkish Democracy should be more Gülish

Ahmet Sever Left, Abdullah Gul Right

“12 Years with Abdullah Gul” is well timed tell all book to influence the coalition building required in Turkey and poised to further weaken the AKP brand yet to a certain degree I am suspicious of the book but only in a, “We really need to help of a well oiled conspiracy” right now. I find it fascinating that this book should document Gul as being for investigating corruption, against the witch trials of the secularist military and against Gulen’s Hizmet in stark contrast to Erdogan with the current president only recently turning on Hizmet. Gul who cofounded the AKP was described as being genuine that it should be ultimately pro-secular and a Turkish equivalent of the Christian Democratic party.  While there is probably some truth in this, Gul comes off like what Turk's would call an “onion man” or a man who doesn’t want to risk trouble and this informs both his middle of the road policies and his weak opposition to Erdogan. Publication of this white washing narrative itself is just backhanded and I wonder if Gul has the right stuff for leadership.  How clean are Gul’s hands, did he really manage to avoid the corruption of Erdogan, would his foreign policy really be so different? I do think he would have been more tolerant of political dissent and Gezi would not have happened if he’d been PM, I’m from the one party state posing as a democracy called Chicago and I know my Daley types when I see them. Erdogan like Daley doesn’t mind police violence and centralizing power to himself; Gul like Daley likes to not notice corruption even if he doesn't endulge.  The book as reported in the press comes off with author and former Gul Spokesman Ahmed Sever as a Shakespearian Mark Anthony with his exoneration of Gul’s Cesar which leaves Erdogan oddly cast as Cassius. My fear is that Gul is really Brutus, a thoughtful person who nonetheless has nothing to add but a blade in someone else’s cause. So I say with all those deficits in place, Gul should form and lead a new party!

The advantages of an AKP v.2.0 are numerous and Gul’s deficits as a leader will not diminish the advantages for Turkey. A new Islamist but carefully secular party will draw the against the corrupt but still popular AKP and it will also draw against the MHP and HDP parties to some extent but there would be the means for liberal minded Islamists (of which there are many in Turkey) to support both their religious and political values without giving into Erdogan’s Tyranny and a split AKP would be able to make strong coalition agreements with other parties and still have a voice even when the minority without needing to resort to tyranny. This would prevent the excesses of AKP rule by narrowing the Governments agenda to economics, defense and civil rights.  That’s a Turkey which could be poised for long term success both economically and politically. Turkey could be a real democracy and I would like to see that happen because as a proud Chicagoan, I never have.  If Erdogan has his way and gets early elections, Gul should do the really patriotic thing and form a new party and perhaps stand up for what he claims to believe in along the way. Some politicians have greatness thrust upon them, some achieve it and Gul is worthy of support because he is so needed that either making a great man out of him or him rising to the occasion is what Turkey needs right now.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Supreme Court defends Executive right to be wrong

No. 13–628. Argued November 3, 2014—Decided June 8, 2015 Petitioner Zivotofsky was born to United States citizens living in Jerusalem. Pursuant to §214(d) of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 2003, his mother asked American Embassy officials to list his place of birth as “Israel” on, inter alia, his passport. Section 214(d) states for “purposes of the registration of birth, certification of nationality, or issuance of a passport of a United States citizen born in the city of Jerusalem, the Secretary shall, upon the request of the citizen or the citizen’s legal guardian, record the place of birth as Israel.” The Embassy officials refused to list Zivotofsky’s place of birth as “Israel” on his passport, citing the Executive Branch’s longstanding position that the United States does not recognize any country as having sovereignty over Jerusalem. Zivotofsky’s parents brought suit on his behalf in federal court, seeking to enforce §214(d). Ultimately, the D. C. Circuit held the statute unconstitutional, concluding that it contradicts the Executive Branch’s exclusive power to recognize foreign sovereigns.


While disappointing the case is not surprising as it has been the traditional role of the president to conduct foreign relations and only have them undermined by congress after the fact, I’m looking at you “League of Nations!” The tradition of not recognizing Jerusalem really goes back to happy go lucky days of the Young Turk Movement (CUP) of the Ottoman Empire. During that time, places like Jerusalem which enjoyed a Jewish majority were to have certain amount of rights under Hatt-ı Hümayu and would have one Jews a certain amount of autonomy in those cities were Jews were a majority such as Jerusalem in theory. In practice, the Turks cared very little about how the Middle East or anywhere else was ran so long as they got their taxes paid and were naturally predisposed to Arab tyranny so long as it did not interfere with Turkish tyranny.

 Later, under great pressure from the British during the mandate period Jerusalem was to become an “international” city under the League of Nations. This was in contravention of the Mandate but the separation of Palestine (Israel) from its capital was part of a second partition that would also intended to give away the West Bank. Of course the moment Palestine changed its name to Israel and declared independence, several armies attacked Israel, ending with Jordanian occupation of Jerusalem and the West Bank. Both of those territories were ceded for the sake of peace, Jerusalem, including “East Jerusalem” also known as the Jewish Quarter, was expected to remain a Jewish city albeit one under nominal UN rule.  Instead Jews were ethnically cleansed from the city, even Jewish Tombstones were used to pave roads, gutters and sewers and “Syrians” were brought in to replace these “Palestinians” who would be forced to go to Israel and become Israelis. Only Britain recognized the occupation of Jerusalem although the UN (successor to the League of Nations) would not lift a finger to defend Jerusalem (supposedly a city under the direct domain of the UN) or the religious rights of Jews but neither did it recognize the occupation of the Jewish capital nor did anyone but the British who wanted to reconstitute Mandate of Palestine as Transjordan.  There was no international support for the Jordanian occupation nor was there any belief that Jordan had any claim to dispute the Israeli one but Israel which was militarily unable to liberate the city and the population having been driven out was prepared to let sleeping dogs lie in exchange for peace. However, Israel’s neighbors were too bellicose for peace, Arab Nationalism threatened worse than ethnic cleansing on Israelis as Arab governments were blatant about committing genocide.  This led to a war, to the liberation of Israeli territories including the rest of Jerusalem.  In last two millennia only one nation has ever had a claim to Jerusalem and it is Israel, the Palestinian desire to build a capital merely represents an attempt at nest stealing. That doesn’t mean the US has to recognize Israeli sovereignty over its capital if doing so is inconvenient for the US. The US ignores far worse facts about its allies than the ownership of its capital city, especially in the Middle East. If we had a spreadsheet of how Middle Eastern States spend their money, I suspect Israel would be the only nation we would recognize. Perhaps it is poetic that was we turn a blind eye to the injustice and terrorism of our allies that we occasionally also ignore the injustice against our allies for political convenience.


If we are not going to recognize the capital of Israel as the birthplace for the Zivofsky child then why issue him a passport in the first place? It seems to me if we can’t recognize where he was born then we can’t recognize the child at all.  Who would we ask to substantiate the birth, the Israeli government? I suppose we could go the other way and simply allow anyone to claim their birth in Jerusalem so long as they do not have contradictory birth certificates and simply never question it as we don’t recognize the sovereignty of Israelis to issues birth certificates in their capital.  I can imagine the number of people who will claim to have been born to Americans in Jerusalem but to have been abandoned by their parents on a trip to Karachi. We accept them all as citizens. Why not? Only congress will be angered. Of course the whole issue is petty, we could easily issue a passport with Jerusalem, Israel as the place of birth and not recognize Israeli sovereignty.


One thing we should not do, and the Obama administration is not the first to do this is use our lack or recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as proof of our being “honest brokers” in the disputes between Israelis and Arabs nor in anyway helpful to resolution of the disputes between Israelis and Arabs. We do this for own convenience, because our allies and especially our Arab allies expect us to but cutting the baby in half – at least in Jewish tradition --  is not justice.  Had the US taken the more difficult position dating back at least to the Johnson administration of recognizing Israeli’s sovereignty in the city of David, something The Torah, The Koran, the San Remo agreement and even the League of Nations (therefore the UN) recognize then the US could be honest brokers and simply tell the Palestinians they may have some right to pray in Al Aqsa but they do not have land claims or claims of sovereignty. If we do that, if we can take Jerusalem off the list of items impeding a final status agreement between Israelis and Arabs the world and the US would be far better off and the peace that has frustrated presidents from Carter through George H. Bush, Clinton and George W. Bush and now President Obama might have been a fact by now.   Only one case can be made for not recognizing Israel’s sovereignty of Jerusalem that is problem of the holy places but Israel has been the best guardian of the holy places in Jerusalem’s history. Israel has allowed the Waqf to run the Islamic holy sites often to the detriment of Jewish access to their holy sites.  Israel has followed Article VI of the Faisal–Weizmann agreement despite the Arab site completely violating both the rules and spirit of that agreement. The fact is that by dangling the injustice of Palestinians snatching a piece of Jerusalem by virtue of their constant chanting for it, we risk killing the babe to appease them. The Supreme Court was correct in its ruling, despite the fact that listing Jerusalem, Israel is in the interest of the State Department for both reasons of efficiency and security and cannot affect our foreign policy directly unless the Executive Branch makes an issue out of it as it has done in this case and frankly the injustice of not recognizing the Israeli capital is not relevant because had the Zivotofsky family won the case there would have been justice but no protection for the President from an unforeseen case where US diplomacy would have actually been jeopardized. Now that Presidential rights have been successfully defended, it is time to demand the Whitehouse help the Zivotofsky family, Jerusalem and contribute to resolving the Israeli-Arab conflict not by cutting Jerusalem in half but letting the Zivotofsky child have a passport that names the child’s place of birth.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Saudi trial balloon goes unnoticed

Anwar Majed Eshki let float one hell of a trial balloon at a Council on Foreign Relations conference with Dore Gold. 
Working, peacefully, for the creation of Greater Kurdistan to curb the ambitions of Iran, Turkey and Iraq. The new state will embrace one-third of the territory of each of the said three states,” Bas News Agency,
The media has largely ignored this statement but the idea is very radical because it would upend the map largely created out of Sykes-Picot and it would represent a second non-Arab group seeing their rights to self determination met after Israel itself within the so called Arab world and the person calling for this is a Saudi Arab in a position to float these kinds of trial balloons.  This was all in the context of Anwar stating that Israel should accept the “Arab Peace Initiative” which was largely seem as more gestural than substantive by Jerusalem at the time as Saudi Arabia could not speak for all Arab Nations nor would the Armistice lines be an appropriate position to bargain from the Israeli point of view.  The repetition of the office in the context of Kurdish rights suggests there may be more flexibility than before, especially since both Libya,  Syria and to a lesser extend Iraq have ceased exist in any meaningful way as regional diplomats.

One can’t ignore that statement was made just before the Turkish elections in which the Kurds were expected to make gains but Kurdistan is growing more autonomous generally but this is first instance of another Muslim state and an Arab State potentially supporting the Kurds. Anwar Majed Eshki as a recently retired Saudi insider is the perfect person to send a trial balloon while standing next to an Israeli diplomat. The seriousness and unity of the Saudi regime is impossible to measure by a single statement from such a person but that it was made at all is worth considering. 

It wasn’t so long ago that Saudi only exported Wahabism, supported Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups and was instrumental in seeing the Middle East as an exclusive Arab Zone. While it is too soon to suggest that Saudi Arabia has suddenly become more pragmatic than Europe on the Middle East, the pragmatism is worthy of notice and could benefit a lot of people. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Turkish Elections: Erdogan unexpectedly finds himself the President of all Turkey

Won Is No Longer A Lonely Number For The AKP

Erdogan’s AKP has lost its stranglehold on Turkey and is seemingly forced into a coalition government. This last election seemed like one that would determine the fate of Turkey, Soner Cagaptay in the New York Times declared “the future will be liberal” and one wonders if the Turkish Press will suddenly find itself outside of jail. Last night was a heady evening for the HDP which can be credited as the minority driven socialist party that saved a democracy from an encroaching dictatorship.  The AK party received 41% of the vote and while that is not enough to rule without a coalition it is enough to frustrate any coalition and force new elections but that may not happen. None of the potential partners for the AKP show any interest in joining a coalition with AKP but with the real possibility that party leadership will now be investigated for widespread corruption, abuses of power by the party against the Military and abuses of power directly by Erdogan as both PM and President the AKP may be willing to trade much of its power to avoid an investigation. The AKP is seeking to form a coalition with the MHP, what AKP would have to trade for such a coalition remains to be seen.  The real winner of the election is the Kurdish HDP party led by the very charismatic Selahattin Demirtas which won more than the 10% vote threshold to be in parliament and may have an eventual king maker role. As the celebrations end, Turkey has some serious problems of governance before it.

Kurdish Socialist Party Saves Turkish Democracy For Now

The HDP can enjoy the irony that a Kurdish pro PKK party (The Séin Fein of Turkey) has managed to become a socialist, multi-ethnic party that rescued Turkish democracy and while many Turks defected to the HDP from Hizmet and the AKP, no one yet knows how much of the protest vote can be converted into long term support for the HDP. Kurds themselves while being very pro-Kurdish are frequently socially and religiously more conservative than many Turks and may find an AKP like party a better fit if the HDP is determined to be pro-Turkish. Turkey does not yet seem ready to redefine the state as a homeland of both Turks and Kurds in the way Canada is English and French or Switzerland is German and French. Without Turkey willing to confederate its national identity, the Kurds of Southeastern Turkey are likely to find autonomy and unity with Kurdistan very attractive. Especially since many Kurds feel Turkey has sided with ISIS at Kurdish expense in Kobani. The long term fortunes of the Turkish Kurds may well be their eventual unity with Kurds in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey and such a state may eventually be an attractive buffer between Turkey and the Arab Middle East. Since what is perhaps the most xenophobic nation in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, now seems ready to back such a change, the possibility of improving the map in the Middle East for the Kurds may become increasingly realistic.  The CHP and MHP parties are against Kurdish rights and with widespread belief the AKP went too far by simply negotiating with the HDP but now that the Kurds are in parliament and the CHP may need the HDP these hardline positions could soften. MHP is an ultra-nationalist party and flexibility on Kurdish issues and rights seems very unlikely. Any non AKP coalition depends on the CHP, HDP and MHP finding enough common ground to govern.

Davatoglu's "Mission Accomplished!"

While Davatoglu fiddles with declaring victory for the AKP, the party burns. One can expect fracturing and infighting in the AKP as people blame Davatoglu for being a yes man to Erdogan and blame Erdogan for undermining the party as President and the generally disaffected begin to separate themselves from party discipline. This may also be the moment for former President Gul to break away from the party and found his own and split the AKP. So far he has responsibly stated that a coalition government is necessary and preferable to new elections.  He has turned down offers to rejoin the AKP and he was steered away from being PM by the maneuvering of Erdogan because Erdogan needed a weaker PM to nominally run the party Erdogan is supposed to be resigned from.  A party split would permanently change Turkish politics for the better as a more moderate version of the AKP could help denude Erdogan’s power permanently but also keep religious rights in the national dialog without undermining secularism and democracy.  New elections with a surprise party split within the AKP might create the best possible long term conditions for successful Turkish democracy. Two Islamist parties would allow the government to go after corruption under Erdogan and keep a party that represents conservative Muslims in Turkish politics.

A Great Coalition Would Require An AKP Breakup

The immediate short term question is can the CHP, MHP and HDP find enough common ground to form a narrow coalition that can adequately deal with the Turkish Economy and restore democratic rule of law while avoiding issues that would bring down the government which would mean tabling Kurdish rights for now.  All of the parties seem to have ruled out joining a coalition government with the AKP but that may be just a hard bargaining position for the CHP. Meanwhile, Erdogan’s AKP will treat democracy like a slot machine and do all it can to force people to pull the lever again in new elections after doing all it can to poison coalition politics. Turkey is in for a period of political instability and I have to wonder if the same Turks who so easily voted for Erdogan in the past will remain committed to democracy once democracy gets messy.  That question gets the heart of what this election really means -- has the Turkish public learned to value democracy or have they only tired of Erdogan?  This election in many ways is a very sober yes vote for democracy and a vote of confidence in all Turks including Kurds but the next government will be the test of that self confidence.  The CHP and the HDP will have to find a way to bring religiously conservative Turks from the Black Sea region into their parties so these hard core AKP supporters feel they are not the losers in this election. A break up of the AK party would even be more reassuring as it would more easily guarantee the participation of religious people in any government.