Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 19, 2014

Senate Iran Letter Ends Sanctions Fight

Supporters of tough sanctions on Iran hailed the publication of a letter from 83 members of the U.S. Senate to President Obama calling on him to negotiate a deal with the Islamist regime that would preclude any chance that it could gain a nuclear weapon. The letter said that any agreement reached with Iran must deny it the right to uranium enrichment, dismantle its enrichment and nuclear military research facilities as well as its plutonium plant, and be subjected to the kind of inspections that would prevent it from evading detection of violations and receive no further sanctions relief until the other terms are satisfied. AIPAC praised it as an “overwhelming demonstration by the U.S. Senate of its determination to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons capability.”

But those who are dismissing the letter as the last gasp of a once formidable congressional coalition on behalf of sanctions on Iran are right. As the Al Monitor crowed in the headline of its article on the letter, what had happened was not so much a reaffirmation of principle but recognition that Congress had given the president “a window for Iran talks.” The terms laid down in the letter for an Iran nuclear deal are sufficient to stop Tehran. But the amorphous language it employs about what would happen if the agreement the administration produces with Iran falls short of that standard left considerable doubt as to whether failure would result in the passage of the crippling sanctions that the Senate tried but failed to pass earlier this year. Combined with the weaker language of a similar Iran letter signed by 395 members of the House of Representatives, the administration will interpret these developments as a green light to pursue a deal with Iran that will fall considerably short of the standard set in the Senate letter.

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Supporters of tough sanctions on Iran hailed the publication of a letter from 83 members of the U.S. Senate to President Obama calling on him to negotiate a deal with the Islamist regime that would preclude any chance that it could gain a nuclear weapon. The letter said that any agreement reached with Iran must deny it the right to uranium enrichment, dismantle its enrichment and nuclear military research facilities as well as its plutonium plant, and be subjected to the kind of inspections that would prevent it from evading detection of violations and receive no further sanctions relief until the other terms are satisfied. AIPAC praised it as an “overwhelming demonstration by the U.S. Senate of its determination to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons capability.”

But those who are dismissing the letter as the last gasp of a once formidable congressional coalition on behalf of sanctions on Iran are right. As the Al Monitor crowed in the headline of its article on the letter, what had happened was not so much a reaffirmation of principle but recognition that Congress had given the president “a window for Iran talks.” The terms laid down in the letter for an Iran nuclear deal are sufficient to stop Tehran. But the amorphous language it employs about what would happen if the agreement the administration produces with Iran falls short of that standard left considerable doubt as to whether failure would result in the passage of the crippling sanctions that the Senate tried but failed to pass earlier this year. Combined with the weaker language of a similar Iran letter signed by 395 members of the House of Representatives, the administration will interpret these developments as a green light to pursue a deal with Iran that will fall considerably short of the standard set in the Senate letter.

It was no accident that the overwhelming bipartisan turnout for the Senate letter had one significant omission: Majority Leader Harry Reid. While Reid had previously been a stalwart supporter of AIPAC and the pro-Israel community, the majority leader was able to exercise an effective veto on further Iran sanctions legislation this year. Reid’s opposition combined with a threat of a presidential veto of new sanctions on Iran sent many Democrats running for cover, despite the fact that 58 members of the Senate had endorsed the bill.

What happened this year surprised many in the pro-Israel community who assumed that a bipartisan coalition in favor of tougher sanctions on Iran could not be stopped. With Democrat Robert Menendez, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, championing the bill and a clear majority of the Senate ready to vote for legislation that had already been passed last year by the House, opponents seemed outgunned.

The new sanctions would have tightened the noose around Iran’s still booming international oil sales, but they would not have gone into effect until the next stage of diplomacy had clearly failed. Yet even that was too much for President Obama, who claimed that even sanctions that were based on a hypothetical would “break faith” with his Iranian partners. The administration, which had fought the sanctions that brought Iran to the table tooth and nail in his first term, wanted nothing that would strengthen the hands of the Western negotiators in the P5+1 talks.

The refusal to even contemplate more sanctions has sent a message to Iran that they have little to fear if they stand their ground in the talks and insist on retaining their nuclear program. The Senate letter won’t change their minds. They already know the president will ignore the Senate’s advice on acceptable terms for a nuclear deal since the interim agreement signed by Secretary of State Kerry last November already flouted those principles by tacitly recognizing an Iranian right to enrichment and beginning the process by which international sanctions will start to unravel. The failure to include language that would ensure that Congress would pass the additional sanctions if the deal fails to meet those standards tells Obama and the Iranians the letter can be safely deposited in the circular file and forgotten.

Those worried about an administration push for diplomacy that seems more like a drive for détente with Iran than an effort to stop their nuclear program should take no comfort from these congressional letters. What has just happened is the end of an important fight that ended in defeat for the forces most concerned with averting the peril of an Iranian bomb. The president has been given all the time he needs to reach a deal with Iran that will keep his promise to halt their nuclear quest. If, as is most likely, he breaks his promise, it will be up to Congress to take up the issue again and not be talked out of doing the right thing by a president who is willing to do anything to avoid accountability on this vital issue.

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Liberals Must Learn to Compartmentalize

When it comes to popular culture, being conservative requires a healthy compartmentalization. The bands you like probably think you’re evil, and if you live in or around a major liberal metropolitan area they will very likely tell you so in concert. The actors you admire are probably attending a Democratic Party fundraiser tonight. Or tomorrow. Soon, at any rate. So you learn to love art for art and not make politics too personal.

The alternative to this compartmentalization is–well, it’s this Guardian interview with Scarlett Johansson that ran over the weekend, which finds a complement of sorts in Anthony Lane’s new profile of Johansson for the New Yorker. At issue is, of course, the SodaStream controversy. In the lead-up to the Super Bowl, it was revealed that Johansson–a committed liberal Democrat who spoke at President Obama’s 2012 nominating convention–would star in a SodaStream ad during the big game. This upset Israel’s enemies, because SodaStream has a factory in the West Bank.

Johansson was also working as an ambassador for the “anti-poverty” group Oxfam, which objected to the SodaStream factory that brought good jobs to Palestinian workers, and let Johansson know they didn’t want her representing both companies. Johansson chose SodaStream because it was a boon to local Palestinians as well as a great example of Israeli-Palestinian cooperation. She chose wisely, in other words. So how did her interviewers at stridently liberal publications handle the topic? They portrayed her as an airhead. Here is how Lane dismisses the incident:

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When it comes to popular culture, being conservative requires a healthy compartmentalization. The bands you like probably think you’re evil, and if you live in or around a major liberal metropolitan area they will very likely tell you so in concert. The actors you admire are probably attending a Democratic Party fundraiser tonight. Or tomorrow. Soon, at any rate. So you learn to love art for art and not make politics too personal.

The alternative to this compartmentalization is–well, it’s this Guardian interview with Scarlett Johansson that ran over the weekend, which finds a complement of sorts in Anthony Lane’s new profile of Johansson for the New Yorker. At issue is, of course, the SodaStream controversy. In the lead-up to the Super Bowl, it was revealed that Johansson–a committed liberal Democrat who spoke at President Obama’s 2012 nominating convention–would star in a SodaStream ad during the big game. This upset Israel’s enemies, because SodaStream has a factory in the West Bank.

Johansson was also working as an ambassador for the “anti-poverty” group Oxfam, which objected to the SodaStream factory that brought good jobs to Palestinian workers, and let Johansson know they didn’t want her representing both companies. Johansson chose SodaStream because it was a boon to local Palestinians as well as a great example of Israeli-Palestinian cooperation. She chose wisely, in other words. So how did her interviewers at stridently liberal publications handle the topic? They portrayed her as an airhead. Here is how Lane dismisses the incident:

She issued a statement, lauding working conditions in the SodaStream factory and the company’s role in “building a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine,” but this attempt at clarification made things messier still. Step back a little, and the whole farrago acquires a comic flavor, and Johansson sounds plausibly dumbfounded by her time at the heart of the storm: “I think I was put into a position that was way larger than anything I could possibly—I mean, this is an issue that is much bigger than something I could just be dropped into the middle of.” The only folk who relished the affair, I guess, were the board of Moët & Chandon, who could have told her, holding their noses, to stay away from inferior fizz.

That’s one way to reconcile an admiration for her art with her insufficiently leftist political opinion. Lane just condescends, pats her on the head and treats her like a child; oh that ScarJo, always wandering off! That’s not a very enlightened way to treat a woman who thinks for herself.

Something similar, but more confrontational took place in Johansson’s interview with the Guardian’s Carole Cadwalladr, who also made a point of insulting Johansson’s intelligence, only doing so repeatedly until the interview was over. At first, Cadwalladr tries the comforting theory that Johansson was just misinformed–those Zionists can tricky, after all:

From afar, it looked liked she’d received very poor advice; that someone who is paid good money to protect her interests hadn’t done the necessary research before she’d accepted the role and that she’d unwittingly inserted herself into the world’s most intractable geopolitical conflict. By the time Oxfam raised the issue, she was going to get flak if she did step down, flak if she didn’t. Was the whole thing just a bit of a mistake?

But she shakes her head. “No, I stand behind that decision. I was aware of that particular factory before I signed it.” Really? “Yes, and… it still doesn’t seem like a problem. Until someone has a solution to the closing of that factory to leaving all those people destitute, that doesn’t seem like the solution to the problem.”

Don’t you love that “Really?” The interviewer is astonished that Johansson knew anything about the company before accepting a check from them. Cadwalladr tries another avenue:

But the international community says that the settlements are illegal and shouldn’t be there. “I think that’s something that’s very easily debatable. In that case, I was literally plunged into a conversation that’s way grander and larger than this one particular issue. And there’s no right side or wrong side leaning on this issue.”

Except, there’s a lot of unanimity, actually, I say, about the settlements on the West Bank. “I think in the UK there is,” she says. “That’s one thing I’ve realised… I’m coming into this as someone who sees that factory as a model for some sort of movement forward in a seemingly impossible situation.”

Now Johansson has turned the tables. She has pointed out not only the truth–that it’s the interviewer who has no idea what she’s talking about–but that the cloistered, suffocating debate in the UK has warped Cadwalladr’s conception of the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At this point, Cadwalladr can’t decide whether to stick by her original assessment, that Johansson must be stupid, or whether there is something more insidious at work here: Johansson’s greed and Jewish tribalism:

Half of me admires Johansson for sticking to her guns – her mother is Jewish and she obviously has strong opinions about Israel and its policies. Half of me thinks she’s hopelessly naive. Or, most likely, poorly advised. Of all the conflicts in all the world to plant yourself in the middle of…

“When I say a mistake,” I say, “I mean partly because people saw you making a choice between Oxfam – a charity that is out to alleviate global poverty – and accepting a lot of money to advertise a product for a commercial company. For a lot of people, that’s like making a choice between charity – good – and lots of money – greed.”

Welcome to the illuminating state of leftist discourse on Israel. The interview never gets back around to its ostensible topic–Johansson’s upcoming movie and her recent success on screen–because the interviewer just can’t move on until the actress’s politics align with her own. It’s incidents like this that have actually given me some sympathy for my liberal friends seated around the concert hall or the theater, having their political sensibilities flattered by the obscenely rich people they’re throwing money at, joining in common cause with their idols. No one taught them not to take their entertainment so seriously.

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No Mention of Rising Costs in O’s ACA Blitz

While the administration’s less-than-stellar performance in recent foreign crises have called into question President Obama’s stature as a commander in chief, there’s never been any doubt about his zeal to play salesman in chief with regard to his signature health-care law. The president has been ubiquitous throughout the media, seizing any chance to promote ObamaCare enrollment. From the offbeat Between Two Ferns satire show to sports shows to mainstream entertainment like the Ellen DeGeneres Show, the president has shown no reticence about flogging the health-care law.

The marketing strategy is clear. Though many of those who would truly benefit from signing up for ObamaCare are older, the presidential appearances are geared toward young demographics. On all of these shows the president has touted the need for young and healthy persons to get health insurance. The message is seemingly noncontroversial, even anodyne in nature. But there are some things that he is leaving out of the sales pitch. One is that the whole point of trying to attract young people to ObamaCare is because the assumption is that most of them won’t actually need it. Their premiums are intended to pay for the services that will be doled out to the elderly, the sick, and those with pre-existing conditions. The other and even more important point that will be missing from the president’s exhortations is that the already above average cost of the premiums for the misnamed Affordable Care Act will be skyrocketing later this year.

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While the administration’s less-than-stellar performance in recent foreign crises have called into question President Obama’s stature as a commander in chief, there’s never been any doubt about his zeal to play salesman in chief with regard to his signature health-care law. The president has been ubiquitous throughout the media, seizing any chance to promote ObamaCare enrollment. From the offbeat Between Two Ferns satire show to sports shows to mainstream entertainment like the Ellen DeGeneres Show, the president has shown no reticence about flogging the health-care law.

The marketing strategy is clear. Though many of those who would truly benefit from signing up for ObamaCare are older, the presidential appearances are geared toward young demographics. On all of these shows the president has touted the need for young and healthy persons to get health insurance. The message is seemingly noncontroversial, even anodyne in nature. But there are some things that he is leaving out of the sales pitch. One is that the whole point of trying to attract young people to ObamaCare is because the assumption is that most of them won’t actually need it. Their premiums are intended to pay for the services that will be doled out to the elderly, the sick, and those with pre-existing conditions. The other and even more important point that will be missing from the president’s exhortations is that the already above average cost of the premiums for the misnamed Affordable Care Act will be skyrocketing later this year.

As The Hill reports:

Health industry officials say ObamaCare-related premiums will double in some parts of the country, countering claims recently made by the administration. The expected rate hikes will be announced in the coming months amid an intense election year, when control of the Senate is up for grabs. The sticker shock would likely bolster the GOP’s prospects in November and hamper ObamaCare insurance enrollment efforts in 2015.

The industry complaints come less than a week after Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sought to downplay concerns about rising premiums in the healthcare sector. She told lawmakers rates would increase in 2015 but grow more slowly than in the past. … Her comment baffled insurance officials, who said it runs counter to the industry’s consensus about next year. 

“It’s pretty shortsighted because I think everybody knows that the way the exchange has rolled out … is going to lead to higher costs,” said one senior insurance executive who requested anonymity. The insurance official, who hails from a populous swing state, said his company expects to triple its rates next year on the ObamaCare exchange. 

The prospect of rising premiums makes the attempt to sell ObamaCare to the young doubly duplicitous.

On the one hand, the president and his supporters are not telling their intended audience that what he is attempting to orchestrate is a massive generational wealth transfer from the young to the elderly. ObamaCare’s benefits for those who had not previously been able to get or afford insurance are real. But the young and the healthy are paying for it. They are currently being cajoled by the administration to sign up for their own good. Later, persuasion will turn to coercion, as fines will be imposed for those who don’t do as they are told.

But the prospect of huge price increases later this year turns the president’s pitch into a massive bait and switch con game. Once the “affordable” ObamaCare insurance is put into place, the fact that enrollment figures are millions below where they need to be in order to make the scheme viable will force prices up through the roof. Indeed, when one factors into the equation that hundreds of thousands of those who are now being counted as enrolled have not yet—and may never—pay their premiums means the costs may go even higher than insurance industry experts are predicting.

This is the sort of scam that would draw the attention of law enforcement officials or at least the Better Business Bureau were the hucksters for this plan not federal officials. But since the scammers in question are the president of the United States and his minions, they will not only get away with it, but will be given the kind of free publicity that no ordinary confidence men could dream of getting. It remains to journalists to spread the message to American youth that while it is never a bad idea to take precautions for unexpected circumstances, “buyer beware” is the best advice any potential ObamaCare customer can receive.

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Stats Debunk Demographic Threat to Israel

Figures released today show that Israel’s demographic situation continues to move in a direction that is positive for the future of the Jewish state, quite in contravention to the prevailing wisdom about Israel’s impending demographic peril. Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics has released the birthrate figures for 2013, revealing that the Jewish birthrate is continuing to rise as the Muslim birthrate is continuing to decline. While population projections are by their nature often inaccurate on account of the myriad unforeseeable variables, it seems that this is a front on which Israelis can afford to feel some optimism. Yet, despite the growing body of evidence to the contrary, there is no shortage of voices warning Israel of imminent demographic doom. This is a central tenet of the doctrine of the Israeli left, and it is also a threat with which President Obama has increasingly been seeking to panic Israel.

The latest statistics show that in 2013 there were a total of 127,101 Jewish births, as opposed to 34,766 births to Muslim families. This means that in 2013 the Jewish birthrate increased by 1.3 percent while among Muslims the birthrate fell by 5.5 percent. The growing Jewish birthrate is in large part being driven by the religious sector, however it is also being boosted by Russian immigrants whose own birthrate is now closer to the Israeli average. Overall, the percentage of Israel’s population that is not Jewish has risen in recent years, with Arab Israelis now constituting just under 21 percent of the population. Yet with the Arab birthrate subsiding, and with that of the Jews continuing to trend upward, within pre-1967 Israel it appears that the Jewish character of the state will remain strong. That, however, is without considering the situation in the West Bank.

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Figures released today show that Israel’s demographic situation continues to move in a direction that is positive for the future of the Jewish state, quite in contravention to the prevailing wisdom about Israel’s impending demographic peril. Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics has released the birthrate figures for 2013, revealing that the Jewish birthrate is continuing to rise as the Muslim birthrate is continuing to decline. While population projections are by their nature often inaccurate on account of the myriad unforeseeable variables, it seems that this is a front on which Israelis can afford to feel some optimism. Yet, despite the growing body of evidence to the contrary, there is no shortage of voices warning Israel of imminent demographic doom. This is a central tenet of the doctrine of the Israeli left, and it is also a threat with which President Obama has increasingly been seeking to panic Israel.

The latest statistics show that in 2013 there were a total of 127,101 Jewish births, as opposed to 34,766 births to Muslim families. This means that in 2013 the Jewish birthrate increased by 1.3 percent while among Muslims the birthrate fell by 5.5 percent. The growing Jewish birthrate is in large part being driven by the religious sector, however it is also being boosted by Russian immigrants whose own birthrate is now closer to the Israeli average. Overall, the percentage of Israel’s population that is not Jewish has risen in recent years, with Arab Israelis now constituting just under 21 percent of the population. Yet with the Arab birthrate subsiding, and with that of the Jews continuing to trend upward, within pre-1967 Israel it appears that the Jewish character of the state will remain strong. That, however, is without considering the situation in the West Bank.

The scaremongering that both Obama and Kerry engage in, to say nothing of the Jewish left in America and Israel, argues that Israel’s demographic predicament must factor in the entire population west of the Jordan River so as to include the Palestinians. This itself is a questionable proposition. Certainly in the case of Gaza there is no reason the population there should be included in Israel’s demographic situation. Israel pulled out of the strip entirely in 2005 and the claim made by some on the left that Israel guarding Gaza’s borders against terrorism constitutes a continuation of the occupation is unconvincing. 

When it comes to the West Bank the matter is slightly more complicated. The Haaretz-J Street-Beinart mantra, that has now been adopted by Obama too, is that Israel cannot maintain a presence in the West Bank and remain both a Jewish and democratic state. This is also misleading. The democracy argument is particularly flimsy because the Palestinians are supposed to be able to vote in their own elections. The fact that the Palestinian Authority never holds any is beside the point.

That said, even if Israel were to have to include the West Bank Palestinians in the demographic equation, things are still nowhere near as bleak as is often suggested. As Uri Sadot wrote in Foreign Policy in December, if one were to take an upper estimate of the number of Arabs in the West Bank (some claim over of 2.5 million people) and add it to the number of Arabs in Israel, then these people would still constitute less than a third of the overall population. Yet it is increasingly being suggested that the Palestinian Authority may have grossly misled the international community about the number of Palestinians that actually live in the West Bank. A 2006 study by academics at Bar Ilan University made a strong case for the belief that the PA may have inflated its population statistics by up to a million people by double-counting certain groups and including Palestinians living overseas. This would have the advantage of not only damaging Israeli morale, but more importantly it allows the PA to extract more funds from the international community on the grounds it has this much larger population to provide for.

Caroline Glick, in her latest book The Israeli Solution, points out that the declining birthrate that we see among Arab Israelis is in actual fact in line with trends across the Arab world, and is consistent with a similar trend among Palestinians living in the West Bank. As Glick observes, there is now parity between Jewish and Palestinian birthrates, with both having an average of 2.98 births per woman. For Palestinians this is a sharp decrease from the 4.25 births per woman seen in 2000, while Jewish Israeli birthrates have picked up from 2.6 births in 2000. Project this pattern forward and the demographic threat becomes a myth. And in addition it should be recalled that Israel has regularly boosted its demographic lead with waves of Jewish immigration. Given the worsening economies and anti-Semitism in both Europe and South America, there is no reason to think that immigration will not continue to supplement the Jewish population in Israel.

In 1987 Thomas Friedman gave Israel twelve years until the demographic bomb went off. We’re still waiting. Those, such as Obama, who attempt to use demographics to alarm Israel into rushing into territorial concessions that could be strategically reckless simply don’t have the stats to backup their threats.  

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The Fake Palestinian Generational Divide

New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren hit on a clever way to reiterate a familiar theme for the newspaper’s readers in today’s story that sought to explore what she called a “generational divide” among Palestinians. The centerpiece of the article is an interview with Tareq Abbas, the youngest son of Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas in which the former explains why he supports a one-state solution to the conflict with Israel rather than the two-state formula that his father purports to seek. Along with other younger Palestinians quoted in the piece, Tareq Abbas says that he is tired of waiting for his father’s peace strategies to succeed and now simply wants “civil rights” that would presumably be his if the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean became a single democratic entity.

The conceit of this argument is that since Israel will never allow Palestinians independence, they should instead simply wait for demographics and international pressure to force the Jews to give up their state. This notion of a generational divide also supports the claims of those who believe Israel must act now to divest itself of the West Bank, lest it eventually be forced to choose between being a Jewish state or a democratic one.

But the problem with the premise of this story is that it is false. Mahmoud Abbas and his predecessor Yasir Arafat rejected Israeli offers of statehood three times. He’s currently in the process of refusing another one that would probably, like the three previous peace bids, give the Palestinians the independent state they say they crave in almost all of the West Bank, Gaza (which is currently ruled by Hamas as an independent Palestinian state in all but name, but never mind), and a share of Jerusalem. The generational divide here isn’t so much about how many more Arab states there should be but rather the nature of the rhetoric employed in order to make the case against the existence of one solitary Jewish state.

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New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren hit on a clever way to reiterate a familiar theme for the newspaper’s readers in today’s story that sought to explore what she called a “generational divide” among Palestinians. The centerpiece of the article is an interview with Tareq Abbas, the youngest son of Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas in which the former explains why he supports a one-state solution to the conflict with Israel rather than the two-state formula that his father purports to seek. Along with other younger Palestinians quoted in the piece, Tareq Abbas says that he is tired of waiting for his father’s peace strategies to succeed and now simply wants “civil rights” that would presumably be his if the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean became a single democratic entity.

The conceit of this argument is that since Israel will never allow Palestinians independence, they should instead simply wait for demographics and international pressure to force the Jews to give up their state. This notion of a generational divide also supports the claims of those who believe Israel must act now to divest itself of the West Bank, lest it eventually be forced to choose between being a Jewish state or a democratic one.

But the problem with the premise of this story is that it is false. Mahmoud Abbas and his predecessor Yasir Arafat rejected Israeli offers of statehood three times. He’s currently in the process of refusing another one that would probably, like the three previous peace bids, give the Palestinians the independent state they say they crave in almost all of the West Bank, Gaza (which is currently ruled by Hamas as an independent Palestinian state in all but name, but never mind), and a share of Jerusalem. The generational divide here isn’t so much about how many more Arab states there should be but rather the nature of the rhetoric employed in order to make the case against the existence of one solitary Jewish state.

The last 20 years since the Oslo Accords have shown that while the vast majority of Israelis are ready to trade land for peace, even those Palestinians anointed by the West as peacemakers are unwilling or unable to take yes for an answer. The difference between the generations cited in Rudoren’s article is not about goals but rather how to obtain it. The elder Abbas still feels obligated to go through the motions of negotiating with the United States and Israel for a two-state solution that he—and perhaps everyone else on the planet other than Secretary of State John Kerry—knows he will never accept. Doing so would require him to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders would be drawn, and that is something that the political culture of the Palestinians will not let him do.

If the elder Abbas really were a champion of two states for two peoples, he would have said yes in 2008 when Ehud Olmert offered him a state and he wouldn’t be threatening to quit the current negotiations by refusing to say that Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people. Doing so would, as Palestinians have frequently admitted, undermine their “narrative” and the goal of forcing the Israelis to allow a “right of return” for the 1948 refugees and their descendants, thus transforming the Jewish state into a bi-national one in which Arabs would be in the majority. Palestinian nationalism came into existence as a rejection of Zionism and what is needed is a new vision that will contemplate a future for their people alongside Israel rather than locked in perpetual conflict with it.

Younger Palestinians have no such compunctions about pretending to want to live in peace alongside Israel. What they want is to extinguish Jewish sovereignty in any part of the country. This has nothing to do with a desire for equal rights or democracy, which, despite the assertions of his son, the elder Abbas (currently serving in the ninth year of the four-year presidential term to which he was elected) denies his people, as do his Hamas rivals in Gaza.

If the Palestinians wanted an independent state alongside Israel, they could have had it more than a decade ago and can still claim it by Abbas saying two little words—“Jewish state”—that signify he means what he says about peace. The fact that he won’t means that the contrast between him and younger Palestinians who say they want one state to replace Israel is a difference without a distinction.

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What Is the Cost of Inaction?

Western reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been muted by concerns about the cost of any response. Germany has always been mercantile in its foreign policy—just remember its efforts to erode Iranian sanctions for the sake of short-term profit, even at the time National Intelligence Estimates agree that Iran was experimenting with nuclear bomb triggers. Germany, too, appears to have been the source of much of the chemical munitions Saddam Hussein used in the 1980s against the Kurds. It should not surprise, therefore, that German chancellor Angela Merkel is reluctant to impose biting sanctions on Russia in response to its aggression, for she rightly points out that Russian President Vladimir Putin would respond by cutting off gas shipments to Central and Eastern Europe.

Putin has leverage over the United States as well: Not only might he nationalize the operations of American companies doing business in Russia, but he also effectively holds U.S. military equipment hostage since much of it is being transshipped across Russia as the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan.

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Western reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been muted by concerns about the cost of any response. Germany has always been mercantile in its foreign policy—just remember its efforts to erode Iranian sanctions for the sake of short-term profit, even at the time National Intelligence Estimates agree that Iran was experimenting with nuclear bomb triggers. Germany, too, appears to have been the source of much of the chemical munitions Saddam Hussein used in the 1980s against the Kurds. It should not surprise, therefore, that German chancellor Angela Merkel is reluctant to impose biting sanctions on Russia in response to its aggression, for she rightly points out that Russian President Vladimir Putin would respond by cutting off gas shipments to Central and Eastern Europe.

Putin has leverage over the United States as well: Not only might he nationalize the operations of American companies doing business in Russia, but he also effectively holds U.S. military equipment hostage since much of it is being transshipped across Russia as the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan.

While the costs of doing something are high, it’s imperative that policymakers also question the cost of doing nothing. For years, a major argument against significant sanctions on Iran was what the result might be at the gas pump. But the idea that the status quo was and is tenable is nonsense: Should Iran develop nuclear weapons, then it would be in a position through blackmail or otherwise to drive up the price of oil even further. After all, who would stop Iran utilizing conventional forces to disrupt oil flow if Tehran boasted its own nuclear deterrent?

The situation is now similar with regard to Russia. There is no doubt that any response will be expensive. But a more important question is what will the expense be a decade down the line should Putin push into the Baltics or should he conclude that Western officials are so craven and such paper tigers that he can conduct pipeline blackmail anyway? Sometimes inaction may seem like the best of all short-term options, but seldom does it pay off in the long term.

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Biden’s Disingenuous NATO Promises

Foreign-policy watchers on Twitter had some fun with the Associated Press when the newswire tweeted this morning: “BREAKING: Vice President Biden says US will respond to any aggression against NATO allies.” It wasn’t exactly “breaking” news that an attack on NATO would elicit a response from NATO. But I think Biden’s proclamation–“breaking” or not–is in fact worth discussing, for two reasons.

First, it should be a given that the U.S. will defend its NATO allies, but in the Obama era of resets and red lines, Washington has sought any excuse possible to avoid confrontation, even if it meant reneging on promises or obligations. Add to that the fact that the Obama administration has undercut America’s relationship with strategic allies–such as Poland, with which Obama has picked unnecessary diplomatic fights–and NATO countries probably do need to hear an explicit promise from the White House that this administration would fulfill its obligations.

But the other reason is that this promise–empty or not–is still a disingenuous sleight of hand. The recent crisis took place in Ukraine, which is not in NATO. This is not a coincidence. In recent years, Putin’s Russia has taken to invading and occupying foreign countries in Russia’s near-abroad under the pretext of “protecting” Russian or pro-Russian populations. These invasions are carried out against non-NATO countries. Had they been against NATO countries, Putin would have sparked wars involving stronger countries–such as the U.S.

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Foreign-policy watchers on Twitter had some fun with the Associated Press when the newswire tweeted this morning: “BREAKING: Vice President Biden says US will respond to any aggression against NATO allies.” It wasn’t exactly “breaking” news that an attack on NATO would elicit a response from NATO. But I think Biden’s proclamation–“breaking” or not–is in fact worth discussing, for two reasons.

First, it should be a given that the U.S. will defend its NATO allies, but in the Obama era of resets and red lines, Washington has sought any excuse possible to avoid confrontation, even if it meant reneging on promises or obligations. Add to that the fact that the Obama administration has undercut America’s relationship with strategic allies–such as Poland, with which Obama has picked unnecessary diplomatic fights–and NATO countries probably do need to hear an explicit promise from the White House that this administration would fulfill its obligations.

But the other reason is that this promise–empty or not–is still a disingenuous sleight of hand. The recent crisis took place in Ukraine, which is not in NATO. This is not a coincidence. In recent years, Putin’s Russia has taken to invading and occupying foreign countries in Russia’s near-abroad under the pretext of “protecting” Russian or pro-Russian populations. These invasions are carried out against non-NATO countries. Had they been against NATO countries, Putin would have sparked wars involving stronger countries–such as the U.S.

The previous instance was Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia. In seeking to differentiate the Ukraine invasion from the Georgia invasion–which elicited outrage mostly from the right, as the American left’s anti-Bush hysteria got the better of them and extended to pro-Bush foreign leaders–even some knowledgeable observers have taken refuge in the notion that Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili was goaded “into firing the first shot.”

This is preposterous, and it’s worth reviewing why in order to understand how Putin’s Russia treats its non-NATO neighbors. A good summary of the preceding events is contained in Andrei Illarionov’s essay in a book on the 2008 war, in which Illarionov reviews the Russian preparation for eventual war.

Russia began supplying one breakaway region, South Ossetia, with military equipment–including tanks and ammunition–before Saakashvili became part of the Georgian government. In fact, almost as soon as Putin joined Yeltsin’s government Russia began taking hostile measures against Georgia, which only increased as Putin became president and consolidated power. With tensions rising in 2002, Russia bombed Georgian territory. Soon after that, Putin claimed the right to take military action against Georgia under the guise of anti-terror missions.

Russia then staffed up South Ossetia’s government with Russian defense officials and sent more military equipment. Russia’s defense minister then echoed Putin’s threats to attack Georgia. More military goods along with Russian advisors would follow. The next year, Russia distributed Russian passports to South Ossetians with the declaration that it had an obligation to defend its citizens. More shelling of Georgian territory took place as well as a well-publicized attack on Georgian peacekeepers. Later that year, Georgian power lines were successfully attacked. The following year, a bombing traced to Russia at a Georgian police headquarters killed three.

Russia increased its construction of military bases and its transfer of arms and ammunition to breakaway Georgian territory. The following years had more of the same, with 2007 bringing major shelling of Georgian civilian territory and sustained military attacks. In the days before the war broke out in 2008, South Ossetian forces had begun sustained attacks on Georgian targets and territory. Georgia responded to South Ossetia, and Russia invaded Georgia.

To those who weren’t paying attention, the Russian attack on Ukraine came as something of a surprise. But this is how Russia behaves toward non-NATO states. So Joe Biden’s assurances to NATO states that the U.S. will stand by them is not a show of strength in the face of Russian expansionism. It’s a show of weakness, because it’s an implicit, but unmistakable, declaration that nothing has changed. If you’re not in NATO, you’re on your own. And by the way, the Obama administration doesn’t want you in NATO, whoever you are.

It’s nice to promise protection to states like Poland, which we have a record of betraying and whose leaders probably don’t find it so inspiring when Obama’s fans compare him to FDR. But the question is what to do about non-NATO states. George W. Bush’s preference was to put states like Ukraine and Georgia on the road to NATO membership and fuller democratization. The weak states in the region should ask Biden what he and his boss think they should do since they’re specifically excluded from the White House’s guarantees.

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Why Is Yaalon Not Playing By the Rules?

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon is not playing by the rules. Members of the Israeli Cabinet are not supposed to be publicly telling the truth about American foreign-policy failures. But while it is to be expected that minor officials will mouth off on occasion about heavy-handed U.S. attempts to prop up the Palestinians or pressure the Jewish state into concessions, the man who is in charge of the Israeli defense establishment is supposed to understand that candor about the Obama administration interferes with his primary duties, which involve close security coordination with Washington.

Yaalon first pushed the envelope on U.S.-Israeli relations back in January when he had the bad manners to talk about Secretary of State John Kerry’s “messianic” obsession with Middle East peace that seemed divorced from the realities of the conflict with the Palestinians. But when he disparaged the U.S. as too “weak” to deal with Iran and that Israel was going to be forced to act on its own, that was too much for the Americans. A “senior American official” responded with what Haaretz termed a “blistering personal attack” in which Yaalon’s commitment to the U.S.-Israel relationship was questioned.

What’s going on here? Why is Yaalon, previously known primarily as more of a defense intellectual than a firebrand, twisting the U.S. tiger’s tail in this manner? Is it part of a strategy cooked up by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu aimed at showing the Americans that Israel won’t be intimidated by pressure tactics? Or does it have to do with Yaalon’s political ambitions? And do Yaalon’s doubts about America’s trustworthiness reflect mainstream Israeli thinking on the subject?

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Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon is not playing by the rules. Members of the Israeli Cabinet are not supposed to be publicly telling the truth about American foreign-policy failures. But while it is to be expected that minor officials will mouth off on occasion about heavy-handed U.S. attempts to prop up the Palestinians or pressure the Jewish state into concessions, the man who is in charge of the Israeli defense establishment is supposed to understand that candor about the Obama administration interferes with his primary duties, which involve close security coordination with Washington.

Yaalon first pushed the envelope on U.S.-Israeli relations back in January when he had the bad manners to talk about Secretary of State John Kerry’s “messianic” obsession with Middle East peace that seemed divorced from the realities of the conflict with the Palestinians. But when he disparaged the U.S. as too “weak” to deal with Iran and that Israel was going to be forced to act on its own, that was too much for the Americans. A “senior American official” responded with what Haaretz termed a “blistering personal attack” in which Yaalon’s commitment to the U.S.-Israel relationship was questioned.

What’s going on here? Why is Yaalon, previously known primarily as more of a defense intellectual than a firebrand, twisting the U.S. tiger’s tail in this manner? Is it part of a strategy cooked up by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu aimed at showing the Americans that Israel won’t be intimidated by pressure tactics? Or does it have to do with Yaalon’s political ambitions? And do Yaalon’s doubts about America’s trustworthiness reflect mainstream Israeli thinking on the subject?

Those who assume the defense minister’s impolitic comments are part of a clever coordinated strategy in which Yaalon is playing bad cop to Netanyahu’s good cop with the Americans are probably wrong. Israeli politics is rarely that neat and tidy. Netanyahu has rightly come to the conclusion that no good will come from publicly challenging the U.S. on the peace process at the moment. It’s even more far-fetched to think the prime minister would have approved of a senior colleague’s decision to dissect the disastrous mistakes the U.S. has made in other conflicts such as the current crisis over Russian aggression against Ukraine, especially coming from the man who must work closely with the U.S. defense establishment. Yaalon was forced to walk back his personal attack on Kerry in January. It’s likely that he will need to do the same with his even more pointed blast at the Americans.

But it would be a mistake to dismiss Yaalon’s views as extreme. The defense minister is not alone in thinking that the Obama administration’s retreats in the Middle East and weakness in dealing with Russia have undermined Israel’s security. American failures in Syria and Ukraine undermine faith in America’s ability to deal with the Iranian nuclear threat. The question is not whether Yaalon was right about doubts about the U.S. but whether this is something the defense minister should be saying in public rather than in private.

The answer to that question is obviously not. Though, as Yaalon rightly notes, U.S. security cooperation to Israel is mutually beneficial rather than a gift, it still ill behooves the top defense official of an American ally to behave in this manner.

This kind of display does strengthen Yaalon’s support among the Likud party faithful and other right-wing members of Netanyahu’s coalition. Were Netanyahu to step down or to decide not to run for reelection in 2017, it would make a lot of sense for Yaalon to be trying to shore up his right flank in a campaign for prime minister. But Yaalon is not likely to succeed Netanyahu. The prime minister is, after all, only one year older than his defense minister. Though Netanyahu is not that popular among a Likud membership that has grown even more right-wing in recent years, Yaalon is a typical former general whose political skills don’t match those of his boss. Nor is it likely that Netanyahu would split the party as Ariel Sharon did in 2005 leaving Yaalon with a chance to lead its rump.

Yaalon’s frustration with the U.S. is understandable. He may also be worried about whether the prime minister will buckle under American pressure. But he wouldn’t be the first former general to be outmaneuvered by Netanyahu. If he keeps popping off in this manner, he may discover that this kind of truth telling isn’t as politically useful as he thinks.

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Russia Diminished Paralympics with Anti-Americanism

The Sochi Paralympics are now over, and the few remaining journalists, international athletes, and spectators at the Russian Black Sea resort have now gone home. When historians look back on the Russian games, not only the specter of the Russian invasion of Ukraine will loom over the games, but also Russian behavior at the games.

The Open Source Center has written an analysis of Russian music played at the games. The melodies may have gone over non-Russian-speakers’ heads, but for those that do know Russian, there was no question about the message.

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The Sochi Paralympics are now over, and the few remaining journalists, international athletes, and spectators at the Russian Black Sea resort have now gone home. When historians look back on the Russian games, not only the specter of the Russian invasion of Ukraine will loom over the games, but also Russian behavior at the games.

The Open Source Center has written an analysis of Russian music played at the games. The melodies may have gone over non-Russian-speakers’ heads, but for those that do know Russian, there was no question about the message.

When the Russian team entered the stadium for the Paralympic opening ceremony, organizers played “Goodbye America,” a 1985 song given a second wind in Russia in the 2000 anti-American crime thriller Brat-2, mixed with “For You, Homeland,” a song written a couple of years later expressing support for the Russian army. According to Svobodnaya Pressa—as related by the Open Source Center analysis—state media played the same “For You, Homeland” song during the 2008 Russian invasion of Georgia.

Alas, it wasn’t just as the Paralympics. The Open Source Center’s Russia analysts also observed that during the Olympic Games’ closing ceremonies, Russian authorities played an instrumental version of a song that called for Alaska’s return to Russia. So much for peace and brotherhood. Perhaps it is time for the International Olympic Committee and other federations to take note and deny Russia hosting privileges for any future international games or expositions.

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Are Animal-Rights Activists Really Concerned About Animals?

Tom Wilson and Ben Cohen have already written on these pages about how European liberals, supposedly in the name of animal rights, are banning kosher (and halal) slaughter. In such cases, concern for animal rights seems to be a rather thin veneer for other political objectives that have far more to do with intolerant ideologies than they do with protecting animals.

In the United States, animal-rights activism has found other pet causes but, at its core, activists seem less interested in protecting animals than in broader political agendas.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), a group that kills more animals in the name of rescue than some slaughterhouses do in the name of food, has decided to target the circus for the sin of utilizing animals in entertainment. “Animals aren’t actors, spectacles to imprison and gawk at, or circus clowns,” the organization’s website declares. “Yet thousands of these animals are forced to perform silly, confusing tricks under the threat of physical punishment; are carted across the country in cramped and stuffy boxcars or semi-truck trailers; are kept chained or caged in barren, boring, and filthy enclosures; and are separated from their families and friends—all for the sake of human ‘entertainment.’”

What’s wrong with entertainment? And if that entertainment actually teaches children about animals, why is that bad? NYCLASS, another self-described animal-rights organization which has been leading the charge to ban horse-drawn carriages in New York City, has also recently stepped up its efforts to ban Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus from New York City. Much of the accusation of animal cruelty–especially toward elephants–is nonsense, and criminal nonsense at that.

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Tom Wilson and Ben Cohen have already written on these pages about how European liberals, supposedly in the name of animal rights, are banning kosher (and halal) slaughter. In such cases, concern for animal rights seems to be a rather thin veneer for other political objectives that have far more to do with intolerant ideologies than they do with protecting animals.

In the United States, animal-rights activism has found other pet causes but, at its core, activists seem less interested in protecting animals than in broader political agendas.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), a group that kills more animals in the name of rescue than some slaughterhouses do in the name of food, has decided to target the circus for the sin of utilizing animals in entertainment. “Animals aren’t actors, spectacles to imprison and gawk at, or circus clowns,” the organization’s website declares. “Yet thousands of these animals are forced to perform silly, confusing tricks under the threat of physical punishment; are carted across the country in cramped and stuffy boxcars or semi-truck trailers; are kept chained or caged in barren, boring, and filthy enclosures; and are separated from their families and friends—all for the sake of human ‘entertainment.’”

What’s wrong with entertainment? And if that entertainment actually teaches children about animals, why is that bad? NYCLASS, another self-described animal-rights organization which has been leading the charge to ban horse-drawn carriages in New York City, has also recently stepped up its efforts to ban Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus from New York City. Much of the accusation of animal cruelty–especially toward elephants–is nonsense, and criminal nonsense at that.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus probably does more for elephants than any other American organization, entertainment or otherwise. Barnum & Bailey sponsors a 200-acre Center for Elephant Conservation which helps protect and treat elephants. Indeed, it has become the most successful breeding program in the Western hemisphere.

Feld Entertainment, a family-owned business which owns the circus, names the elephants after company CEO Kenneth Feld’s family members. Bonnie the elephant, for example, is named for Bonnie Feld; Nicole, Alana, and Juliette—three daughters active in the business—all have elephants named after them. Feld has also named elephants after Irvin, his father, and Shirley, his late aunt. When new elephants are born, Feld sends out birth announcements, hardly the move of a company that doesn’t prioritize the well-being of its elephants.

Do the circus elephants do tricks and entertain? Sure. But what self-described animal-rights activists don’t mention is that when elephants retire or are removed from the circus, they often become bored and depressed. At the circus, they are healthy and stimulated. Asian elephants have been a working animal for thousands of years. What animal-rights activists want to impose is as unnatural as demanding that humans no longer partner with dogs. To send elephants back to Asia—or to not have removed them in the first place—is also counterproductive given poaching and the danger of extinction in their native habitat.

When and where abuses occur (and having seen zoos in the Middle East, they do occur), it is important to take a stand. But bored liberals or rapacious charities often manufacture grievance in order to justify their continued operation. The circus may have become a useful rallying cry for activists to throw their weight around and try to impose their values and political agenda on others. Whether one cares about the circus or not, it’s important to take a stand because—if politicians and others take the activists at their word—they not only undercut the animals’ actual welfare but they embolden political activists to increase their demands, a slippery slope that ultimately will bear results as in Europe, where animal-rights activists infringe on fundamental rights, individual choice and, ultimately, religious liberty.

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The Helicopter Carriers of Cherbourg

Both the timidity of the European response to Russia’s Crimean conquest–and the hysteria of its stances on Israel–can be seen in the story of two naval contracts.

In the 1960s, Israel ordered a number of new missile boats from France. In 1968, Israel raided the Beirut airport, where it destroyed some empty planes on the ground, in response to an attack by the Lebanese-based PLO on an El Al flight. France reacted by imposing an arms embargo on Israel (Paris had increasingly abandoned Jerusalem in favor of the Arab world since the Algeria withdrawal, and even more so since the Six-Day War). But Israel had already paid for the boats–and in an extraordinary repo operation, spirited them out of Cherbourg harbor under French noses, and sailed them successfully all the way to Israel.

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Both the timidity of the European response to Russia’s Crimean conquest–and the hysteria of its stances on Israel–can be seen in the story of two naval contracts.

In the 1960s, Israel ordered a number of new missile boats from France. In 1968, Israel raided the Beirut airport, where it destroyed some empty planes on the ground, in response to an attack by the Lebanese-based PLO on an El Al flight. France reacted by imposing an arms embargo on Israel (Paris had increasingly abandoned Jerusalem in favor of the Arab world since the Algeria withdrawal, and even more so since the Six-Day War). But Israel had already paid for the boats–and in an extraordinary repo operation, spirited them out of Cherbourg harbor under French noses, and sailed them successfully all the way to Israel.

Now Russia has annexed part of Ukrainian sovereign territory, a much greater offense to the international order than Israel’s airport raid. As it happens, France has been building two new helicopter carriers for Russia. As of now, it has not imposed an arms embargo, impounded the ships, or otherwise iced the deal. Indeed, France’s foreign minister has suggested that he would only cancel the contract if Russia conquers more of Ukraine. Perhaps since one of the ships is called the Sebastopol, La Defense thinks it an appropriate conquest present. In any case, the ships are only due to be delivered next year, by which point all this will blow over, though the vessels may be useful for Russia’s cherished dream of reconnecting Kaliningrad.

As for France’s arms embargo of Israel–that came to an end just three years ago, after 42 years. It’s good for Russia that Putin seized a peninsula, not an airport.

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Another Such Isolation and We Are Undone

Secretary of State Kerry held a town hall yesterday, delivering remarks to students on “Making Foreign Policy Less Foreign” and then taking questions. The last question came from a woman named “Yulia,” a University of Georgia student originally from Kiev in Ukraine. She was disturbed by the rise in Putin’s approval ratings and the inability to inform the Russian public of the facts relating to Ukraine: 

QUESTION: … Given [Putin’s] policy in Ukraine, that’s frankly a little bit terrifying. And the fact that I heard the other day a statistic that only about 11 percent of Russians have regular access to the internet also makes it difficult for us to give them any other kind of message besides what they’re hearing from the likes of Dmitry Kiselev and (inaudible) and the kind of just nasty propaganda that’s being told about us.   

SECRETARY KERRY: … you’re right; [Putin’s] approval ratings have gone up significantly. They’re at 70 percent or something. Everybody’s feeling great about flexing their muscles about this, quote, “achievement,” as they put it. But in the end, I think it’s going to be very costly if they continue to go down that kind of a road. Because it will wind up – I mean, the vote in the United Nations on a resolution the other day about this was 13 in favor of the resolution; one abstention, China; and one no, Russia. I call that isolation. [Emphasis added].  

I call it an un-adopted UN resolution. In UN parlance, the “no” from Russia was a “veto.” 

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Secretary of State Kerry held a town hall yesterday, delivering remarks to students on “Making Foreign Policy Less Foreign” and then taking questions. The last question came from a woman named “Yulia,” a University of Georgia student originally from Kiev in Ukraine. She was disturbed by the rise in Putin’s approval ratings and the inability to inform the Russian public of the facts relating to Ukraine: 

QUESTION: … Given [Putin’s] policy in Ukraine, that’s frankly a little bit terrifying. And the fact that I heard the other day a statistic that only about 11 percent of Russians have regular access to the internet also makes it difficult for us to give them any other kind of message besides what they’re hearing from the likes of Dmitry Kiselev and (inaudible) and the kind of just nasty propaganda that’s being told about us.   

SECRETARY KERRY: … you’re right; [Putin’s] approval ratings have gone up significantly. They’re at 70 percent or something. Everybody’s feeling great about flexing their muscles about this, quote, “achievement,” as they put it. But in the end, I think it’s going to be very costly if they continue to go down that kind of a road. Because it will wind up – I mean, the vote in the United Nations on a resolution the other day about this was 13 in favor of the resolution; one abstention, China; and one no, Russia. I call that isolation. [Emphasis added].  

I call it an un-adopted UN resolution. In UN parlance, the “no” from Russia was a “veto.” 

The Obama administration prides itself on “isolating” U.S. adversaries. (1) North Korea: last year, after its third nuclear test, following a ballistic missile launch two months before, President Obama issued a written statement calling it “a highly provocative act” that violated numerous UN resolutions and agreements and threatened U.S. and international security, declaring North Korea “increasingly isolated.” (2) Syria: during the third 2012 presidential debate, Obama declared: “What we’ve done is organize the international community, saying Assad has to go. We’ve mobilized sanctions against that government. We have made sure that they are isolated.” (3) Iran: Obama declared at a 2012 press conference, “When I came into office, Iran was unified, on the move, had made substantial progress on its nuclear program … [currently] Iran is politically isolated.”

Now Russia joins the list: it is supposedly isolated because of an un-adopted UN resolution. 

They are laughing at the American president in North Korea, Syria, Iran, and Russia (literally in the latter case): do not cross President Obama, or he might “isolate” you. Meanwhile, the nuclear tests, ICBM launches, civilian massacres (using only conventional weapons), centrifuge whirrings, and cross-border military moves go on, undeterred by past or prospective Obama “isolations.”

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