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Archive for November, 2012

Yesterday, Palestine received overwhelming support from the UN General Assembly in their bid for nonmember status, a key turning point in the Israeli-Palestinian narrative.  With 138 votes in favor of Palestine, and only 9 against.  There was much jubilation, with some rather lonely dissenters.  It is important to note as well that 41 states abstained, most notably Germany and the U.K.  Of the 9 states that voted against the measure, only 3 of them were states of great geopolitical reach – Canada, Israel, and the United States.

Stewart M. Patrick of the Council on Foreign Relations notes that the biggest surprise of the events yesterday was the majority support from Europe for the Palestinian bid:

The most striking shift is that the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, was able to peel away support from states of an internally divided Europe, beginning with France earlier this week. Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius’s announcement that Paris—to Washington’s consternation—would vote for the UN resolution opened the floodgates. Spain, Italy, Norway, Greece, Belgium, and Denmark, among others, since adopted the same stance…(http://blogs.cfr.org/patrick/2012/11/29/israel-loses-european-support-on-palestinian-statehood/)

The New York Times was quick to point out though that what happened at the UN does not necessarily lead to broader change in the Middle East just yet.  What it does do is isolate further the Netanyahu administration, and puts the U.S. support of Israel on a unilateral crutch, something that the Obama administration has (at least in word) tried to move away from (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/30/world/middleeast/palestinians-and-israel-seek-next-step-after-vote.html?ref=world). The biggest fear of Israel is that the Palestinians will attempt to join the International Criminal Court, in order to pursue legal action against the settlement practices of Israel.

Let’s move back to the implications for U.S. foreign policy for a bit.  Overall, the United States support of Israel at the UN was not surprising, but it is troubling.  How is the United States to be an honest broker in the two state solution if they remain entrenched firmly within the Israeli worldview on the solution? Granted, just because the broader global public stance on the issue swung in the direction of Palestine yesterday, does not mean that we have to automatically support this paradigm as well.  It is a bit unrealistic to broker a peace deal that includes Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.  If Mahmoud Abbas sees that as a reality in the near future, he is living in a pipe-dream.  To make such a broad sacrifice as that would embolden even the most moderate Israeli.

Long story short, yesterday was a pivotal moment, but it will only be lost in the greater struggle towards a two-state solution if both sides are unwilling to reach moderate agreements.

-Kiel

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After our discussion on Monday about Obama’s most current event and his visit to Cambodia, this article sheds some more light on the nature of his visit. In class we had only discussed that Obama gave a speech that was more directed to North Korea rather than Cambodia and its prime minister, but the greater theme is Obama’s negativity regarding Cambodia and its persistent issue with human rights. There was no step taken by the American president to address its past violent involvement with the host country, mainly due to the fact that the current Cambodian prime minister, Hun Sen, was a former Khmer Rouge commander. The atrocities performed by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia led to the destruction of generations of Cambodians and constant repression of the citizens that were able to survive. Due to the continuing controversy concerning human rights in Cambodia, Obama avoided and direct involvement with Hun Sen and refused to issue a joint statement with him, which is something he usually does with a host country.

It seems that the only reason Obama was ever in Cambodia was for the meeting of prominent Asian leaders, otherwise a visit would have been off the table. Even during the talks Obama made it quite clear that he was against Cambodia’s current actions regarding human rights, like the jailing and killing of opposition leaders and the acquisition of land on a large scale. To others it seems like Obama made a mistake in not visiting and talking with prominent human rights groups like the Association of Khmer Rouge Victims, and offer an apology. However Obama and his administration continue to support genocide trials for Khmer Rouge officials, and his visit will still have lasting symbolic importance.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/21/world/asia/obama-in-cambodia-sidesteps-the-ghosts-of-history.html

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http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/25/world/middleeast/israel-and-hamas-are-united-in-seeing-scant-value-in-compromise.html?pagewanted=1&ref=world

After our discussion in class about the history of the Israeli/Palestine conflict, it seems that peace doesn’t seem like a viable option. The fight between Hamas, a group that the US and Europe deem to be terrorists, and Israel has ceased with casualties on both sides, and an even more important notion rises from the dust: the killing of any hope for peaceful negotiations between the two. Hamas, an Islamist militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, has become a force to be reckoned with and strives to create an independent Palestinian state on ALL  Palestine land, which seems to predict the eradication of Israel itself. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has been unwilling to engage with Hamas and continues to wait for a willing Palestinian representative to participate in negotiations for peace, but with this current fighting not only is peace not an option, but also a “two state solution”. Back in 2009 Netanyahu vowed, along with his foreign prime minister, to “topple Hamas’ rule of Gaza,” but lacks any real strategy, long-term or short-term, to do so. The threats continue when Mahmoud Abbas, the president of Palestinian Authority, sought to create independence as an observer state through the UN and Netanyahu responding with threats of toppling the entire Palestinian Authority if the UN approves this Palestinian “diplomatic terrorism”.

Israel, according to Efraim Halevy, former chief of Mossad (the Israeli intelligence agency), had three options concerning Gaza: 1) destroy Hamas, 2) reoccupy the area after its 2005 evacuation, or 3)prevent the imports of weapons so as to make the area less hostile. After the upcoming elections Israel will need to figure out which approach it would like to take in regards to future relations with Hamas and Gaza.
The Obama administration has put a lot of support behind Mohamed Morsi, the Egyptian president, who has taken steps to to help stop the fighting between Israel and Hamas by negotiating a ceasefire and opening its borders to Gaza. After the fighting, however, the more likely solution will be to “reinforce the status quo” rather than pushing for any more peace talks. Both the US and Egypt will need to reevaluate their foreign policy approaches due to the recent events of both sides wholeheartedly believing that they are not only winning, but they are also right.

 

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In class, we spend some time taking about how the U.S.’ relationship with Israel is of great concern to our leaders. Since its inception, U.S. presidents have been trying to resolve the numerous problems that came from this region. Our readings related numerous stories about our leaders being over backwards just to get the leaders of Israel and its neighbors to talk. More than Russia or China, rising superpowers, Presidents are judge based on how they strengthen our relationship with Israel. Mitt Romney’s main point about Obama’s foreign policy was that our relationship with Israel isn’t strong enough. Since when is there a standard level of connection between the U.S. and Israel? That’s like saying we aren’t as close to the United Kingdom as we should be. I understand this was campaign rhetoric but as Israel is a major part of our foreign strategy; what are they doing for us?

My point is that the U.S. has constructed this idea that Israel is like a smaller version of it in the Middle East. So we support it in every way possible. However, it is not the U.S. in the Middle East or our little brother in the way the U.S. and the U.K. are. That aside, every time we support Israel, we anger all its neighbors. Egypt wants to side with Iran because it hates Israel so much. Why do we support it?

The simple answer is lobbyists. That’s fine in the sense that these people just want us to have another ally in the world. But Israel doesn’t seem to cooperate with us in the ways one country being supported by another should. It’s essentially Pakistan with more enemies. What I mean is, Pakistan get a lot of aid from us and we are allowed to move troops and weapons through it. Similarly, we support Israel in all the same ways and get to move troops and supplies through it. However, we don’t anger nearly as many governments when Pakistan funnels aid to terrorists whereas everyone’s angry when Israel occupies the West Bank and builds houses on land that isn’t there’s. What I’m saying is, is this relationship worth continuing if Israel is only going to cause us more grief and not listen when we try to get them to resolve the many problems they have created.

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An article titled a “Pillar of Problems: Eight questions about the Israel Gaza conflict we still don’t have a good handle on” published on ForeignMagazine.com (http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/11/16/a_pillar_of_problems?page=0,0 ) reminded me of the conversation we had in class today about chapter 4 of the Indyk book we were reading. The article poses a series of questions that center around the facts of the situation that led the breakout of violence between Hamas in Gaza and Israel. Such as whether there was an Israeli intelligence failure, extent of the involvement of other nations (Turkey, Egypt, or Qatar) with known ties to Hamas in the recent violence which has sprung up in Gaza, whether Iran is involved in providing munitions for the attacks. Other questions posed are whether this move by the extremist group Hamas will weaken the popularity of efforts being undertaken by the Palestine Liberation Organization and increase domestic support for its own party. How long U.S. support of Israel in the situation will last and whether this conflict will have an effect on the upcoming Israeli election.

 

I think this is an excellent article to read in order to update yourself on the current Israeli/Palestinian conflict and to have an idea of the challenges Obama faces as he goes into his second term in office. The question is how Obama will react in the face of a very tumultuous social and political Arab world. Obama’s administration in this article and others I have read has been accused trying to find short term solutions for the very deep rooted problems in the middle east instead of focusing on nation building. I wonder what position Obama will take to forging peace in the middle east in this new setting and now that he has 4 more years in office for sure. 

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Israel and Twitter

After are talk about Israel and the whole conflict there, I came across an article on how the Israeli defense forces and how they are using the internet, specifically Twitter of all places to gain support. They announced over Twitter that Israel has launched a military campaign against Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza. They posted videos as well to encourage their supporters of what they are doing. This caused Hamas to become angry saying that “Israeli leaders and soldiers would be targeted no matter where they were.” This type of cyber warfare is probably not what the Israelis expected. They have been successful by using Twitter to drive media coverage and to rally their supporters. This has also not been as well for them. They have instead of deepened their support, widened it. They are suffering badly public opinion wise because of things like ” T-shirts depicting Palestinians in the crosshairs, suggesting disgustingly poor taste at best and a disregard for the terrible consequences of war at worst.” These are the kinds of things that are on the internet that are hurting the Israelis cause. This in turn, will cause the Israelis as the author Michael Koplow says “wins a tactical military victory but loses the overall battle.” 

 

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/11/15/how_not_to_wage_war_on_the_internet?page=0,1

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Ch 3 Iraq

There were many important points in chapter three but I wanted to talk about some in the Iraq section. Obama started his campaign on anti-Iraq platform. Obama was young enough to pick when to run for president and in 2007 his views were aligned with the Democratic party. One of his main promises was that he wanted to get all U.S. combat forces out of Iraq within sixteen months of inauguration. It was said that Obama got lucky because just as he was winning the general election the military situation in Iraq got better. By having general Odierno and secretary of defense Gates, Obama decided to keep troops into 2011. This meant they would be there during the elections in Iraq. It was said that towards the end of 2011 Iraq was making progress through its security and government. Through this it was emphasized that Biden had the help of Obama when he needed him for any serious matter. Violence has gone down since 2006 and 2007. The Obama administration still has work to do because there are still bombings and killings that continue to take place. The section ended by saying that Obama needs to focus on Iraq. Regardless of what has been done there this is a part of the world that still needs to improve its conditions.

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