In His Lifetime in Public Service, George Shultz Strove for Freedom and Achieved Victory

George Shultz, who served as Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state and played an outsized role in achieving America’s victory in the cold war, died on Saturday at the age of one hundred. His long career of service to his country included storming the island of Palau with U.S. Marines in 1944, holding four cabinet positions, and advising three presidents. A model of statesmanlike integrity and diplomatic skill, Shultz—as Elliott Abrams, who served under him, recounts—put human rights at the center of the State Department’s agenda:

Shultz . . . genuinely cared about human rights and saw it as a central element in the American system and in our foreign policy. In the mid-1980s, during the fierce debates about U.S. policy in Central America, the question arose of why the tiny Nicaraguan Jewish community had fled after the Sandinista victory [in the country’s civil war]—and after harassment that included a 1978 fire-bombing of the Managua synagogue while Friday-night services were underway. The U.S. embassy looked into it all and concluded there was no problem here.

I wrote a memo to Shultz saying that I had never understood how the State Department could in the 1930s have coldly turned away Jews seeking to flee from Hitler—until now. If throwing Molotov cocktails at a synagogue during services was going to be dismissed as a complex phenomenon, not obvious anti-Semitism, anything was possible. His reaction: at our next senior staff meeting, he asked me to read my memo aloud. The department’s top officer’s message was clear: this kind of thing would not happen on his watch.

We saw how deeply Shultz felt about these issues during his April 1987 visit to Moscow for arms talks with the Soviet foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze. It was Passover, but Shultz was an Episcopalian. No matter: he invited dozens of refuseniks to a seder at Spaso House, the elegant residence of the U.S. ambassador. He brought kosher wine and food with him on his official plane and greeted the guests wearing a white kippah. In his remarks to the beleaguered dissidents, he said this: “We never stop, we think about you, we pray for you, and we are with you. We never give up; we never stop trying. Never give up, never give up.” Without making unduly invidious distinctions, can one envision such an act of grace and solidarity by Shultz’s predecessors or successors from John Foster Dulles to James Baker?

Shultz was an excellent manager and a skilled negotiator, but these were tools of the trade rather than objectives. The objective was freedom.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Cold War, Human Rights, Ronald Reagan, Soviet Jewry, U.S. Foreign policy

An Israeli Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip Doesn’t Violate International Law

 The IDF announced on Thursday that it is safe for residents to return to some of the towns and villages near the Gaza Strip that have been abandoned since October 7. Yet on the same day, rocket sirens sounded in one of those communities, Kibbutz Mefalsim. To help ensure security in the area, Israel is considering the creation of a buffer zone within the Strip that would be closed to Palestinian civilians and buildings. The U.S. has indicated, however, that it would not look favorably on such a step.

Avraham Shalev explains why it’s necessary:

The creation of a security buffer along the Gaza-Israel border serves the purpose of destroying Hamas’s infrastructure and eliminating the threat to Israel. . . . Some Palestinian structures are practically on the border, and only several hundred yards away from Israeli communities such as Kfar Aza, Kerem Shalom, and Sderot. The Palestinian terrorists that carried out the murderous October 7 attacks crossed into Israel from many of these border-adjacent areas. Hamas officials have already vowed that “we will do this again and again. The al-Aqsa Flood [the October 7th massacre] is just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth.”

In 2018 and 2019, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad organized mass marches towards the Israeli border with the goal of breaking into Israel. Billed by Palestinians as “the Great March of Return,” its name reveals its purpose—invasion. Although the marches were supposedly non-violent, they featured largescale attacks on Israeli forces as well as arson and damage to Israeli agriculture and civilian communities. Moreover, the October 7 massacre was made possible by Hamas’s prepositioning military hardware along the border under false cover of civilian activity. The security perimeter is intended to prevent a reprise of these events.

Shalev goes on to dismantle the arguments put forth about why international law prohibits Israel from creating the buffer zone. He notes:

By way of comparison, following the defeat of Nazi Germany, France occupied the Saar [River Valley] directly until 1947 and then indirectly until reintegration with Germany in 1957, and the Allied occupation of Berlin continued until the reunification of Germany in 1990. The Allies maintained their occupation long after the fall of the Nazi regime, due to the threat of Soviet invasion and conquest of West Berlin, and by extension Western Europe.

Read more at Kohelet

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, International Law, Israeli Security