The U.S. Should Give Up Its Seat on the UN Human Rights Council

March 1 2017

As one of the final acts of his presidency, Barack Obama secured Washington a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), most of whose members represent tyrannies and whose main activity is to condemn Israel. Anne Bayefsky argues that the Trump administration should relinquish the seat rather than participate in the charade:

There is a permanent agenda of ten items that governs proceedings at every UNHRC session. One agenda item is devoted to human-rights violations by Israel, and one generic agenda item is for all other 192 UN member states that might be found to “require the Council’s attention.” In classic State Department double-talk, the Obama administration promised that by joining the Council [in 2009], the U.S. could reform its agenda from the inside. The Obama administration tried and predictably failed. But it then justified staying on the Council—despite back-of-the-bus treatment of the Jewish state—as a price worth paying for other people’s human rights. . . .

Staying on the UNHRC means paying for it. A 2016 Council resolution calls for the creation of a blacklist of all companies that are connected to or do business with so-called Israeli settlements “directly or indirectly.” Not surprisingly, the Council has no comparable boycott scheme for the world’s most heinous regimes. . . . .

The current UNHRC session will reaffirm the blacklist initiative, and various other regular absurdities, such as demanding a return of the Golan Heights to “the Syrian motherland” so as better to protect Syrian human rights. In light of the Council’s composition, there is no chance whatsoever of reversing the outcomes. Merely to whine while being outvoted by a majority of states . . . would legitimize the vehicle attacking American corporations for doing business with Israel—and [America’s] fundamental principles.

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More about: Barack Obama, Israel & Zionism, U.S. Foreign policy, United Nations

By Recognizing Israeli Sovereignty over the Golan, the U.S. Has Freed Israel from “Land for Peace”

March 25 2019

In the 52 years since Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria, there have been multiple efforts to negotiate their return in exchange for Damascus ending its continuous war against the Jewish state. Shmuel Rosner argues that, with his announcement on Thursday acknowledging the legitimacy of Jerusalem’s claim to the Golan, Donald Trump has finally decoupled territorial concessions from peacemaking:

[With] the takeover of much of Syria by Iran and its proxies, . . . Israel had no choice but to give up on the idea of withdrawing from the Golan Heights. But this reality involves a complete overhaul of the way the international community thinks not just about the Golan Heights but also about all of the lands Israel occupied in 1967. . . .

Withdrawal worked for Israel once, in 1979, when it signed a peace agreement with Egypt and left the Sinai Peninsula, which had also been occupied in 1967. But that also set a problematic precedent. President Anwar Sadat of Egypt insisted that Israel hand back the entire peninsula to the last inch. Israel decided that the reward was worth the price, as a major Arab country agreed to break with other Arab states and accept Israel’s legitimacy.

But there was a hidden, unanticipated cost: Israel’s adversaries, in future negotiations, would demand the same kind of compensation. The 1967 line—what Israel controlled before the war—became the starting point for all Arab countries, including Syria. It became a sacred formula, worshiped by the international community.

What President Trump is doing extends far beyond the ability of Israel to control the Golan Heights, to settle it, and to invest in it. The American president is setting the clock back to before the peace deal with Egypt, to a time when Israel could argue that the reward for peace is peace—not land. Syria, of course, is unlikely to accept this. At least not in the short term. But maybe someday, a Syrian leader will come along who doesn’t entertain the thought that Israel might agree to return to the pre-1967 line and who will accept a different formula for achieving peace.

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More about: Donald Trump, Golan Heights, Israel & Zionis, Peace Process, Sinai Peninsula, Syria