Why Did the British Prime Minister Vote against Israel? Virtue Signaling

Jan. 10 2017

While Charles Moore does not doubt the sincerity of Theresa May’s expressions of friendship toward the Jewish state, he finds her decision to support the recent anti-settlements resolution at the UN Security Council an unjustifiable exercise in “virtue signaling”—a meaningless display of commitment to popular pieties. He writes (free registration required):

“Virtue-signaling” is a useful modern term to describe a modern mania. Its greatest practitioner on the international stage is the outgoing president of the United States. Barack Obama has elevated virtue-signaling into a strategy—or rather, his substitute for a strategy. . . . [But he] is leaving office. He looks forward to his political afterlife touring the world as the saintly anti-American American, and he hates poverty, war, and injustice. The resolution will make some neat paragraphs in the final chapter of his memoirs.

What is harder to understand is why Theresa May’s Britain is choosing to indulge him. [On December 22,] Egypt dropped the resolution, deciding it would damage its relations with Israel and the incoming Trump presidency. This would have been our moment to kick the whole idea into touch. Instead, British diplomats reportedly helped do the Obama ancien régime’s work for it and put pressure on New Zealand to push the resolution forward. . . .

Britain, being a permanent member [of the Security Council], has the power of veto. Think how our use of that veto on this issue could have transformed the landscape of the international order at this time. . . .

Although the passing of Resolution 2334 could not have happened without President Obama, it would not have been seemly for him to signal his virtue too explicitly. So this was left to his Secretary of State, John Kerry. Kerry made an emotional speech on [December 28]. He criticized the Netanyahu administration for being “the most right-wing in Israel’s history with an agenda driven by the most extreme elements.” At which point, 10 Downing Street suddenly decided to get cross. A spokesman criticized Kerry, saying “We do not believe it is appropriate to attack the democratically-elected government of an ally.” He added that “We do not believe that the way to negotiate peace is by focusing on only one issue, in this case the construction of settlements.” He did not deal with the plain fact that the British government had just supported a resolution with exactly that focus on exactly that issue.

Some may see this as a welcome, if belated attempt by Mrs. May to make up for her government’s earlier mistake, though it would look more impressive if Britain were to refuse to attend the let’s-bash-Israel international conference in Paris announced for January 15. It could equally well be the prime minister’s effort to make the noises necessary to placate critics without altering the actual policy at all.

Read more at Telegraph

More about: Barack Obama, Israel & Zionism, Theresa May, United Kingdom, United Nations

In Dealing with Iran, the U.S. Must Make the Best of a Bad Deal

Jan. 23 2017

Were Donald Trump to tear up the nuclear deal with Tehran, Washington would gain little leverage while Iran would still have pocketed enormous sums of money, would continue to benefit from the lifting of international sanctions, and could continue work on its nuclear program unimpeded. Therefore, argue Emily Landau and Shimon Stein, U.S. interests would best be served by working to constrain the Islamic Republic within the parameters of the agreement:

[M]uch can be achieved simply by changing the U.S. approach to the deal and to Iran, and by altering the rhetoric. Given the strong reservations voiced by Donald Trump and his administration toward Iran, the new president should send an unequivocal message, . . . warning it against any erosion of the deal and the consequences that will follow from any violation. The next step will be to work with the [the other parties to the deal] to clear up [its] ambiguities—especially regarding inspections at suspicious military facilities and looking for unknown facilities—and set clear guidelines for responding to every type of Iranian violation.

The Trump administration should press to end the secrecy surrounding many of Iran’s nuclear activities and plans. . . . But the Trump administration must also carve out a more comprehensive approach to the Islamic Republic, taking into account the dynamics between the United States and Iran that have unfolded over the past eighteen months since the nuclear deal was presented and that underscore the absence of any convergence of interests between the two states. . . .

New policies that reflect the Trump administration’s determination to pursue an uncompromising course in dealing with Iran—both on the nuclear front and with regard to its regional behavior—could in the long run help to reduce the likelihood of an Iranian breakout, and contain Iran from further destabilizing the region in its drive to realize its hegemonic ambitions.

Read more at National Interest

More about: Donald Trump, Iran nuclear program, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy