Commentary Magazine


Posts For: December 1, 2007

UNhelpful in Annapolis

The Associated Press reports:

In an about face, the United States on Friday withdrew a UN resolution endorsing this week’s agreement by Israeli and Palestinian leaders to try to reach a Mideast peace settlement by the end of 2008, apparently after Israel objected.

A resolution on an agreement about a settlement. Nothing generates rhetoric like a peace conference. I have no hopes for the Annapolis summit. There’s no member of the Palestinian leadership possessing either the will or the bravery to formalize Palestinian recognition of Israel’s legitimacy, and, as Bernard Lewis put it a few days ago: “no conceivable government of Israel is going to negotiate on whether that country should or should not exist.” But I didn’t expect to see anything disastrous come out of Annapolis, either. However, if the U.S. were to get the UN on board I’d have to reconsider. As Mark Steyn said: “There is no great issue facing the world today that can’t be made worse by having a UN conference on it.”

And there’s no issue the U.N.’s enjoys lousing up more than Israel. This is the organization that included the phrase “Zionism is racism” in their official literature until 2001, when George W. Bush pressured them to remove it. This is the network of arbiters who in 2007 declared Israel the world’s premier violator of women’s rights.

The U.S.’s given reasons for withdrawing the resolution hinted towards the matter at hand:

Two U.S. officials, who on condition of anonymity described Rice’s decision to withdraw the draft document, said there were several concerns about the resolution, including the failure to consult the Israelis and Palestinians on the language and the possibility that some on the Security Council might try to add anti-Israeli language to it.

Asking for the UN’s imprimatur on an empty rhetorical declaration could turn this Maryland linguistics conference into something much more sinister. Let’s hope the 24-hour error was an aberration and not a sign of further deference to this malign body.

The Associated Press reports:

In an about face, the United States on Friday withdrew a UN resolution endorsing this week’s agreement by Israeli and Palestinian leaders to try to reach a Mideast peace settlement by the end of 2008, apparently after Israel objected.

A resolution on an agreement about a settlement. Nothing generates rhetoric like a peace conference. I have no hopes for the Annapolis summit. There’s no member of the Palestinian leadership possessing either the will or the bravery to formalize Palestinian recognition of Israel’s legitimacy, and, as Bernard Lewis put it a few days ago: “no conceivable government of Israel is going to negotiate on whether that country should or should not exist.” But I didn’t expect to see anything disastrous come out of Annapolis, either. However, if the U.S. were to get the UN on board I’d have to reconsider. As Mark Steyn said: “There is no great issue facing the world today that can’t be made worse by having a UN conference on it.”

And there’s no issue the U.N.’s enjoys lousing up more than Israel. This is the organization that included the phrase “Zionism is racism” in their official literature until 2001, when George W. Bush pressured them to remove it. This is the network of arbiters who in 2007 declared Israel the world’s premier violator of women’s rights.

The U.S.’s given reasons for withdrawing the resolution hinted towards the matter at hand:

Two U.S. officials, who on condition of anonymity described Rice’s decision to withdraw the draft document, said there were several concerns about the resolution, including the failure to consult the Israelis and Palestinians on the language and the possibility that some on the Security Council might try to add anti-Israeli language to it.

Asking for the UN’s imprimatur on an empty rhetorical declaration could turn this Maryland linguistics conference into something much more sinister. Let’s hope the 24-hour error was an aberration and not a sign of further deference to this malign body.

Read Less

Crime without Punishment

On Thursday, U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab announced that China had agreed to drop twelve sets of industrial subsidies that encourage exports and discourage imports. The subsidies cover about 60 percent of Chinese manufactured exports. “This outcome shows that President Bush’s policy of serious dialogue and resolute enforcement is delivering real results,” Schwab said in a statement. “This outcome represents a victory for U.S. manufacturers and their workers.”

Is this agreement with China really a “victory” for “dialogue”? It was a victory all right, a victory for Beijing. These subsidies are clearly a violation of WTO rules. They should have been eliminated on December 11, 2001, the day China joined the global trading body. The U.S. did not file a WTO complaint about them until February of this year. What were we doing for more than a half decade? Worse, the Schwab agreement does not compensate American companies and workers for the injury suffered since 2001 because of the patently illegal incentives. This agreement permits China to escape punishment for more than five years of crime.

The concession is also smart politics for Beijing. The Chinese were going to lose on these subsidies at the WTO, and they undoubtedly figured they might get some good publicity, especially ahead of the third round of the Strategic Economic Dialogue, which is scheduled to begin in Beijing on the 12th of this month. The SED, initiated last year, has been a dismal failure for friendly dialogue. It has resulted in the loss of crucial time and a diversion of our energy. Yet we keep trying: Paulson will be taking with him to the Chinese capital an “entourage of high-level talkers” including Schwab, three cabinet secretaries, the head of the EPA, and a score of other officials.

Americans believe that, if we are friendly to Chinese leaders, they will be friendly back. Decades of dealings with them, however, have shown that they are ruthlessly pragmatic. They are not impressed by gestures of friendliness. They respect strength. If we want fair trade with the Chinese, we will have to file WTO cases and treat them like they treat us. They need America more than America needs them.

Let’s stop talking. After all, there’s nothing more to discuss. China needs to comply with its WTO promises now. End of discussion.

On Thursday, U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab announced that China had agreed to drop twelve sets of industrial subsidies that encourage exports and discourage imports. The subsidies cover about 60 percent of Chinese manufactured exports. “This outcome shows that President Bush’s policy of serious dialogue and resolute enforcement is delivering real results,” Schwab said in a statement. “This outcome represents a victory for U.S. manufacturers and their workers.”

Is this agreement with China really a “victory” for “dialogue”? It was a victory all right, a victory for Beijing. These subsidies are clearly a violation of WTO rules. They should have been eliminated on December 11, 2001, the day China joined the global trading body. The U.S. did not file a WTO complaint about them until February of this year. What were we doing for more than a half decade? Worse, the Schwab agreement does not compensate American companies and workers for the injury suffered since 2001 because of the patently illegal incentives. This agreement permits China to escape punishment for more than five years of crime.

The concession is also smart politics for Beijing. The Chinese were going to lose on these subsidies at the WTO, and they undoubtedly figured they might get some good publicity, especially ahead of the third round of the Strategic Economic Dialogue, which is scheduled to begin in Beijing on the 12th of this month. The SED, initiated last year, has been a dismal failure for friendly dialogue. It has resulted in the loss of crucial time and a diversion of our energy. Yet we keep trying: Paulson will be taking with him to the Chinese capital an “entourage of high-level talkers” including Schwab, three cabinet secretaries, the head of the EPA, and a score of other officials.

Americans believe that, if we are friendly to Chinese leaders, they will be friendly back. Decades of dealings with them, however, have shown that they are ruthlessly pragmatic. They are not impressed by gestures of friendliness. They respect strength. If we want fair trade with the Chinese, we will have to file WTO cases and treat them like they treat us. They need America more than America needs them.

Let’s stop talking. After all, there’s nothing more to discuss. China needs to comply with its WTO promises now. End of discussion.

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Talking to Enemies, Losing Friends

My friend Lee Smith has a terrific piece in the Weekly Standard about what the peace process is doing to the democracy movement in Lebanon:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has recused herself from every other issue in the region, including Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. As for Syria and Lebanon, she contracted this out to France, whose new president Nicolas Sarkozy and Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner butchered the affair, with some assistance from Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, who has looked to placate Syria since the Hariri murder. Secretary Rice says nice things about Lebanese democracy, but the fact is that nothing matters to her half as much as the peace process. This myopia is what led Rice to make room for Syria in her three-ring circus on the Chesapeake Bay. Since Israeli-Palestinian comity warrants all of the time and prestige of the Secretary of State, and since Damascus’s friends in Hamas can make things very tough for peace processing, they must be rewarded for their blackmail and invited to Annapolis.

Consciously or not, Rice signaled where America’s real priorities lie — not with protecting a fledgling democracy in Beirut from the terrorist state next door, but in trying to reward a society that breeds terrorism within its own state.

Lee predicts that the peace process will imperil the Hariri tribunal and deliver Lebanon back to Syria and Hezbollah. Read the whole thing.

My friend Lee Smith has a terrific piece in the Weekly Standard about what the peace process is doing to the democracy movement in Lebanon:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has recused herself from every other issue in the region, including Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. As for Syria and Lebanon, she contracted this out to France, whose new president Nicolas Sarkozy and Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner butchered the affair, with some assistance from Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, who has looked to placate Syria since the Hariri murder. Secretary Rice says nice things about Lebanese democracy, but the fact is that nothing matters to her half as much as the peace process. This myopia is what led Rice to make room for Syria in her three-ring circus on the Chesapeake Bay. Since Israeli-Palestinian comity warrants all of the time and prestige of the Secretary of State, and since Damascus’s friends in Hamas can make things very tough for peace processing, they must be rewarded for their blackmail and invited to Annapolis.

Consciously or not, Rice signaled where America’s real priorities lie — not with protecting a fledgling democracy in Beirut from the terrorist state next door, but in trying to reward a society that breeds terrorism within its own state.

Lee predicts that the peace process will imperil the Hariri tribunal and deliver Lebanon back to Syria and Hezbollah. Read the whole thing.

Read Less

More on Condi

My fellow blogger Abe Greenwald has already commented on the incongruity of the comparison that Condi Rice reportedly made at Annapolis, suggesting that because of her childhood in the segregated South she can empathize with both Palestinians and Israelis.

On the one hand, Rice said: “I know what its like to hear that you can’t use a certain road or pass through a checkpoint because you are a Palestinian. I know what it is like to feel discriminated against and powerless.” On the other hand, “Like Israelis, I understand what it’s like to go to sleep not knowing if you will be hurt in an explosion, the feeling of terror walking around your own neighborhood, or walking to your house of prayer.”

One wonders if Rice thought through the implications of her comparison of Israelis with Southern segregationists and of Palestinians with the Ku Klux Klan: not a very flattering comparison to either side.

But even if you accept the dubious premise that Palestinians, like African-Americans, are innocent victims of discrimination, it is worth pondering the differences in their responses. Some African-Americans, like the Black Panthers, opted for a violent response. But theirs was a tiny, minority position. The overwhelming majority of the African-American community protested injustice through nonviolent protest, even in the face of severe provocation. In the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. they produced a towering figure in the Gandhi tradition who, in effect, shamed American whites into overturning centuries of officially enforced segregation.

Where, one wonders, is the Palestinian Martin Luther King? Their most recognizable leader was Yasser Arafat, who devoted his life to terrorism. Today their most powerful leaders, in Hamas, are also firmly intent on the path of war; they continue to attack Israel and refuse to recognize its right to exist even after Israel has made a generous concession by evacuating the Gaza Strip. Mahmoud Abbas is of a more moderate bent, but he too has been part of a violent struggle for most of his life, having spent long years as Arafat’s top henchman.

The Palestinians have reaped what they have sown: Faced with violence, Israel has had no choice but to respond in kind, even though the Israeli security services have usually opted for the most measured responses possible.

What the Palestinians don’t seem to realize is that nonviolent protest is actually the best strategy against a liberal democracy like Israel. If the Palestinians had kept the moral high ground, Israel would have been forced to make even more concessions than they have already—the substantial body of liberal opinion in Israel would have seen to that. But because the Palestinians reward every concession with more attacks, they have convinced the overwhelming majority of Israelis that there is no hope in the near future of a negotiated settlement.

In short, the Palestinian strategy is not only immoral but impractical. They have no one but themselves to blame for their current predicament. It’s a shame that an American secretary of state is, in effect, letting them off the hook with an injudicious analogy.

My fellow blogger Abe Greenwald has already commented on the incongruity of the comparison that Condi Rice reportedly made at Annapolis, suggesting that because of her childhood in the segregated South she can empathize with both Palestinians and Israelis.

On the one hand, Rice said: “I know what its like to hear that you can’t use a certain road or pass through a checkpoint because you are a Palestinian. I know what it is like to feel discriminated against and powerless.” On the other hand, “Like Israelis, I understand what it’s like to go to sleep not knowing if you will be hurt in an explosion, the feeling of terror walking around your own neighborhood, or walking to your house of prayer.”

One wonders if Rice thought through the implications of her comparison of Israelis with Southern segregationists and of Palestinians with the Ku Klux Klan: not a very flattering comparison to either side.

But even if you accept the dubious premise that Palestinians, like African-Americans, are innocent victims of discrimination, it is worth pondering the differences in their responses. Some African-Americans, like the Black Panthers, opted for a violent response. But theirs was a tiny, minority position. The overwhelming majority of the African-American community protested injustice through nonviolent protest, even in the face of severe provocation. In the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. they produced a towering figure in the Gandhi tradition who, in effect, shamed American whites into overturning centuries of officially enforced segregation.

Where, one wonders, is the Palestinian Martin Luther King? Their most recognizable leader was Yasser Arafat, who devoted his life to terrorism. Today their most powerful leaders, in Hamas, are also firmly intent on the path of war; they continue to attack Israel and refuse to recognize its right to exist even after Israel has made a generous concession by evacuating the Gaza Strip. Mahmoud Abbas is of a more moderate bent, but he too has been part of a violent struggle for most of his life, having spent long years as Arafat’s top henchman.

The Palestinians have reaped what they have sown: Faced with violence, Israel has had no choice but to respond in kind, even though the Israeli security services have usually opted for the most measured responses possible.

What the Palestinians don’t seem to realize is that nonviolent protest is actually the best strategy against a liberal democracy like Israel. If the Palestinians had kept the moral high ground, Israel would have been forced to make even more concessions than they have already—the substantial body of liberal opinion in Israel would have seen to that. But because the Palestinians reward every concession with more attacks, they have convinced the overwhelming majority of Israelis that there is no hope in the near future of a negotiated settlement.

In short, the Palestinian strategy is not only immoral but impractical. They have no one but themselves to blame for their current predicament. It’s a shame that an American secretary of state is, in effect, letting them off the hook with an injudicious analogy.

Read Less




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