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The Israel-Palestinian Conflict Needs a Political, Not a Legal, Solution

Sept. 14 2017

Surveying some of the recent debates among Israeli intellectuals about the possibilities of a lasting peace agreement with the Palestinians, Peter Berkowitz criticizes those who, out of frustration with the political-diplomatic process, want to use the law—usually expressed in the dubious claim that international law renders any Israeli presence in the West Bank illegal—to force a resolution:

[This line of argumentation] illuminates the dangerous propensity of liberal democracies, against which Tocqueville warned 180 years ago, to transform political questions into legal ones.

The “juridification of politics”—to borrow a term from the French thinker Alexandre Kojève—erodes citizens’ civic habits by depriving them of the opportunity to resolve political controversies through democratic give-and-take. It also distorts those controversies, which are inextricably bound up with conflicting interests and perceptions, contingent events, and prudential judgments. To subject them to legal reasoning that purports to yield rational, objective, and necessary judgments is to pretend that one right answer is available for disputes that can only be managed through compromise and mutual accommodation. . . .

American efforts to ease the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should [instead] focus on making peace more valuable to Palestinians by promoting in the West Bank the protection of rights; popular rule; and industrialization, commerce, and trade. [But] the challenge is likely to remain vexing. That’s because the means available to the United States—as well as to Israel, surrounding Arab nations, Europe, and the world community—to transform Palestinian ethnic and social bonds, cultural judgments, and religious beliefs are quite limited.

Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: International Law, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Peace Process

In Dealing with Iran, the U.S. Can Learn from Ronald Reagan

When Ronald Reagan arrived at the White House in 1981, the consensus was that, with regard to the Soviet Union, two responsible policy choices presented themselves: détente, or a return to the Truman-era policy of containment. Reagan, however, insisted that the USSR’s influence could not just be checked but rolled back, and without massive bloodshed. A decade later, the Soviet empire collapsed entirely. In crafting a policy toward the Islamic Republic today, David Ignatius urges the current president to draw on Reagan’s success:

A serious strategy to roll back Iran would begin with Syria. The U.S. would maintain the strong military position it has established east of the Euphrates and enhance its garrison at Tanf and other points in southern Syria. Trump’s public comments suggest, however, that he wants to pull these troops out, the sooner the better. This would all but assure continued Iranian power in Syria.

Iraq is another key pressure point. The victory of militant Iraqi nationalist Moqtada al-Sadr in [last week’s] elections should worry Tehran as much as Washington. Sadr has quietly developed good relations with Saudi Arabia, and his movement may offer the best chance of maintaining an Arab Iraq as opposed to a Persian-dominated one. But again, that’s assuming that Washington is serious about backing the Saudis in checking Iran’s regional ambitions. . . .

The Arabs, [however], want the U.S. (or Israel) to do the fighting this time. That’s a bad idea for America, for many reasons, but the biggest is that there’s no U.S. political support for a war against Iran. . . .

Rolling back an aggressive rival seems impossible, until someone dares to try it.

Read more at RealClear Politics

More about: Cold War, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, Ronald Reagan, U.S. Foreign policy