Posts Tagged ‘United Nations’


It is very dangerous for policy to be based on alternative facts, and even alternative realities. Whether the policymakers believe the alternative realities or merely weave a fabric of falsehoods to

build political support for their decisions, the danger is just as great.

In Washington this has been the prevailing condition for a long time. The Trump administration’s decision to leave the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is one of the most absurd examples. Read more at LobeLog

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Every year, anyone who works on United States policy toward Israel, Palestine, or the broader Middle East watches the annual policy conference of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee

US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley

(AIPAC) very closely. At that conference, we expect not only to find out a great deal about where the US and Israeli governments stand at the moment, but also what is likely to occupy the attention of Congress for the coming year regarding Middle East policy.

At last year’s conference, then-candidate Donald Trump’s appearance and warm reception caused one of the deepest divides in the Jewish community in recent memory. AIPAC’s day-after public apology to President Barack Obama for the ovations that Trump’s sharply critical words drew was a landmark event, and was an incident that the powerful lobbying group was hoping to bury this year.

AIPAC wanted their 2017 conference to be one that brought its supporters–who span a considerable political spectrum apart from Middle East policy–back together, and one that also set a clear agenda for the group’s activities for the first year of the Trump Administration. It was not entirely successful in either goal. Read more at LobeLog

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On Friday, United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres asked a UN agency to remove a report from its web site that accused Israel of the crime of apartheid. The report has since been removed from the site, although the executive summary is still there. Rima Khalaf, the head of the agency (the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA)) resigned in protest.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

The report is certainly explosive. Written by Virginia Tilley and Richard Falk, two scholars who are strong supporters of a single, democratic state in all of Mandatory Palestine (and are generally also seen as anti-Zionist, a label I don’t know if either embraces, but which I doubt would particularly bother either of them), it basically makes the case that not only the occupation, but Israel’s very existence as a Jewish state is incompatible with international law and creates an apartheid regime. No doubt, the Secretary-General, knowing the already hostile environment the UN faces on Capitol Hill and in the White House, did not relish the idea of giving such an enormous boost to that hostility which is already threatening to cut off a major source of UN funding.

I am not going to offer an analysis of the report here. One reason is that while I have read through it, I need to examine it more thoroughly. But I can say a few things about the report.

  • I clearly do not agree with many of the report’s conclusions and recommendations, and have issues with some of the methodology as well.
  • That being said, the report makes more than a few points that I find either valid or, at the very least, troubling enough that a serious discussion about them is not only warranted, but crucial.
  • Disagreeing with the report’s conclusions, methodology, or evidence is not a valid reason to simply mute the report.
  • The question of whether any state can be both democratic and also a state of only one ethnic/religious/racial group of people is one that bears on a great many conflicts in the world today, as well as on the very definition of democracy. On that basis alone, it needs to be discussed. In the specific case of Israel, it has obvious and practical ramifications. For those who believe Israel can be a Jewish and democratic state, it must be acknowledged that those two things must necessarily exist in tension. As such, we cannot avoid either an open discussion to figure out how a Jewish democracy works or an open and civilized debate with those who believe it is not possible for state to be both Jewish and democratic.

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The idea that “direct, bilateral negotiations are the only viable path to achieve an enduring peace,” is repeated often in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The truth of it is obvious; any

(L-R) Quartet Representative Tony Blair, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and EU representative Catherine Ashton

lasting agreement will require the full buy-in from both Israelis and Palestinians, and it is unlikely that an imposed settlement of the conflict would hold. The frequency with which this axiom is repeated suggests that an imposition of an agreement by outside actors such as the United Nations, the European Union or even the United States is a real possibility. In fact, virtually no one seriously suggests that an agreement simply be imposed on Israelis and Palestinians.

The real issue is how the statement is defined. In general terms, supporters of Israeli policies take this rule to mean that no pressure should be brought upon Israel, as any such pressure is seen as undermining bilateral negotiations. Opponents of Israel’s occupation, on the other hand, tend to see outside pressure, in the form of international diplomacy or economic pressure, as crucial to incentivizing both sides into serious negotiations and toward making the difficult compromises necessary to achieve a final agreement. Read more at FMEP’s web site

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made his appearance at the United Nations General Assembly today, one day after a speech by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Nothing of substance is going to change as a result of these speeches. But Netanyahu’s in particular offered a good picture of the current state of affairs and why they are what they are.Bibi Glare UNGA 2015

Netanyahu’s speech was clearly aimed not at the international audience he was addressing, but at constituent
audiences in Israel and the United States. Indeed, his very cadence was rehearsed to allow for bursts of applause of the kind he’s grown accustomed to in Congress. After a few of those silent pauses, a small portion of the audience recognized the need to fill them with polite applause, but for the most part, Netanyahu’s speech was received with stony silence. Read more at the FMEP blog.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed the Likud Party’s Danny Danon, currently the Minister of Science, to the position of UnitedDanny Danon Israel Day ConcertNations envoy. Danon, a man who Netanyahu fired only last year because of his “loose cannon” actions, seems an odd choice for a diplomatic position of any kind.

Danon seems particularly ill suited for the role of UN Envoy due to his outspoken and uncompromising opposition to a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, something virtually the entire world supports. Danon is not afraid to make this clear either. Here are his own words in recent years. Read them and judge for yourself what message Netanyahu is sending by appointing Danon to this post.

Read more at the Foundation for Middle East Peace

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To paraphrase Genesis, “And the eyes of the public were opened, and they knew that Benjamin Netanyahu’s opposition to the two-state solution was naked.” The question now is whether the Obama administration will allow Israel to sew some fig leaves together and return to the charade of negotiations that will not lead to a resolution. Read more at LobeLog

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