The UN Settlements Resolution Runs Contrary to Longstanding U.S. Policy and to International Law

Jan. 10 2017

Ambassador Samantha Power, defending the U.S. decision not to veto Security Council Resolution 2334, stated that the vote was “fully in line with the bipartisan history of how American presidents have approached the issue,” citing alleged precedent from previous administrations. However, writes Peter Berkowitz, both her claim and similar statements issued by the presidential foreign-policy guru Ben Rhodes are demonstrably false; he outlines how the incoming president can undo the damage:

While previous administrations have criticized settlements as bad policy, it is the Obama administration that deviates from longstanding American practice by maintaining that every last inch of the West Bank—the territory beyond the Green Line held by Jordan on the eve of the June 1967 Six-Day War—is lawfully Palestinian land. In the very 1982 address on the Middle East that Power cites in defense of Resolution 2334, President Reagan declared, “In the pre-1967 borders, Israel was barely ten-miles wide at its narrowest point. The bulk of Israel’s population lived within artillery range of hostile Arab armies. I am not about to ask Israel to live that way again.” . . .

Power is wrong on legal grounds as well as on security and historical ones. The Green Line is the 1949 armistice line to which Israel and Jordan agreed to end the war begun by five Arab armies invading Israel after it declared independence on the expiration of the British Mandate in May 1948. The armistice lines have no inherent legal significance. . . .

[S]hortly after he takes the oath of office, Donald Trump should invoke Article I, Section 8, Clause 10 of the United States Constitution, which gives Congress power to “define . . . offenses against the law of nations.” President Trump should ask Congress to pass a law stating that the UN resolution is such an offense and shall not be recognized by any U.S. entity as authoritative. The law should impose sanctions against any U.S. person or entity that cooperates in the enforcement of the resolution. . . .

[T]he Obama administration’s efforts to use international law to criminalize the Netanyahu government’s disagreement with it over how Israel might best achieve security and peace should be forcefully repudiated, certainly by those who believe that international law should not be degraded into a nasty brew of moral posturing, political maneuvering, and personal payback.

Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Donald Trump, International Law, Israel & Zionism, Samantha Power, Settlements, United Nations, US-Israel relations

Proposals for a New American Approach to the Middle East

Jan. 24 2017

With U.S. policy to the region “in tatters,” Russell Berman and Charles Hill offer ten guidelines for the Trump administration. Among them:

As a region, the broad Middle East remains vital to U.S. national interest. Because of its importance, Washington cannot disengage from it. It is not an irrelevant space that can be abandoned to our adversaries or to the chaos of state failure. . . .

Iran and Russia, powers adversarial to the U.S., perceive an interest in cooperating strategically with each other militarily, politically, and economically. China has begun to probe the region for opportunities serving its interests. The IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) has de facto become an Iranian expeditionary force for invading strategic Arab spaces, countering many decades of U.S. support for Arab states. . . . Iran and Russia are pursuing strategies to diminish and eliminate U.S. influence in the Middle East. Because of vital interests in the region, U.S. strategy must be designed to roll back Iranian and Russian ambitions. This implies the imperative of opposing Iranian client ambitions in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. . . .

Iran is a de-facto caliphate without declaring itself to be such. It is both a recognized legitimate state in the established international state system and a dedicated religious-ideological enemy of the established world order; it continues to play successfully on one side or the other as best suits its interests on any given issue. The U.S. government has not appeared to be aware of this double game, or has simply accepted it. Iran is not a polity of moderates and hard-liners; it is a revolutionary theocracy which controls and makes use of governmental and diplomatic functions in order to appear to a deceived outside world as a legitimate regime. . . .

U.S. strategy should [also] limit Russian power by preventing the stabilization of the Assad regime as a Russian client state. The Syrian state should, however, be enabled to survive within its formal borders. This requires some negotiated understandings on the need for autonomous regions, so that the several distinctive communities within Syria may be able to coexist in semi-independence. It is necessary to avoid the perpetual chaos and warfare that would follow any evaporation of Syrian statehood. Ultimately, Assad will have to hand over power to a newly designed constitutional polity. Rather than stand by the side, the U.S. has to play a defining role in this process.

Read more at Defining Ideas

More about: Iran, Middle East, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy