Religious Liberty Must Remain Part of U.S. Foreign Policy

Twenty years ago Saturday, President Clinton signed the International Religious Freedom Act into law. The act created the position of an ambassador for the promotion of religious liberty and established a United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. Elliott Abrams, who chaired the commission in 2000 and 2001, comments on the act’s legacy:

[T]he act has not eliminated religious persecution around the globe. China’s vast repression of Christians, Uighur Muslims, and Tibetan Buddhists, or Iran’s fierce persecution of the Baha’i, are terrible proof of that. But the act did institutionalize reporting on violations of religious freedom; the State Department now issues annual reports on religious freedom, and its religious-freedom office under the ambassador-at-large has perhaps two dozen staff. . . . [The act] certainly elevated attention given to this critical issue, and largely killed the bizarre claim that trying to protect religious freedom was somehow constitutionally suspect [as an erosion of the barrier between church and state].

And the commission, which has its own staff independent of the State Department, established a voice that need not balance various U.S. foreign-policy goals and has the sole duty to tell the truth about violations of religious freedom. . . .

Much legislation is soon forgotten, or wrong-headed, or parochial in intention and effect. The International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 was true to our nation’s history and our deepest beliefs, and continues to remind all who serve in our government that protecting and advancing “the first freedom” must be a goal of our foreign policy.

Read more at Pressure Points

More about: Bill Clinton, Freedom of Religion, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy


Hamas’s Hostage Diplomacy

Ron Ben-Yishai explains Hamas’s current calculations:

Strategically speaking, Hamas is hoping to add more and more days to the pause currently in effect, setting a new reality in stone, one which will convince the United States to get Israel to end the war. At the same time, they still have most of the hostages hidden in every underground crevice they could find, and hope to exchange those with as many Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners currently in Israeli prisons, planning on “revitalizing” their terrorist inclinations to even the odds against the seemingly unstoppable Israeli war machine.

Chances are that if pressured to do so by Qatar and Egypt, they will release men over 60 with the same “three-for-one” deal they’ve had in place so far, but when Israeli soldiers are all they have left to exchange, they are unlikely to extend the arrangement, instead insisting that for every IDF soldier released, thousands of their people would be set free.

In one of his last speeches prior to October 7, the Gaza-based Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar said, “remember the number one, one, one, one.” While he did not elaborate, it is believed he meant he wants 1,111 Hamas terrorists held in Israel released for every Israeli soldier, and those words came out of his mouth before he could even believe he would be able to abduct Israelis in the hundreds. This added leverage is likely to get him to aim for the release for all prisoners from Israeli facilities, not just some or even most.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security