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Post US Embassy Transfer: A Ticking Time Bomb
Created by John Eipper on 05/15/18 9:59 AM

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US Embassy Transfer: A Ticking Time Bomb (Yusuf Kanli, Turkey, 05/15/18 9:59 am)

The US embassy transfer to Jerusalem is a bomb that will have drastic consequences.

If Jerusalem did not have a special status for three monotheistic religions, Palestinians, Jewish Israelis, the Middle East as well as the international community of nations, the transfer of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would be a matter of concern only to the American and the Israeli governments. However, not only was Jerusalem the subject of a centuries-long war of civilizations, or the Crusades, but the continued denial of the multi-cultural and multi-religious status of Jerusalem, as well as the refusal to accept that it has always been an Arab as much as a Jewish city, carries the potential of becoming the cause of greater mishaps for all humanity.

To say the least, the decision of the Trump Administration to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem in defiance of all the sensitivities around the issue was an ignorant and blatant act of provocation that negated the global power broker and mediator role Washington wants to play as a superpower. It no longer is an honest broker but has become an active partner of a confrontation. Worse, with the firing upon protesting Palestinian civilians and the massacre of more than 50 of them by Israeli snipers, the Israeli state has demonstrated once again its lack of interest in a two-state solution to the Arab-Israel problem.

Despite the provocative transfer of the embassy to Jerusalem or even the blatant massacre of over 50 civilians by Israeli soldiers, definitely no action can be an excuse for any terrorist attack or should be considered a sufficient cause for war. However, there unfortunately will be very serious, even dreadful consequences that are frightening to think about for now. No one should have any illusion that such drastic moves might be left unanswered through some deplorable actions by some political figures or radical elements--which are unfortunately in abundance in the region.

Now, with the transfer of the American embassy and the ensuing Israeli violence against Palestinian civilians, not only has a new chapter been opened for the Arab-Israeli conflict but I am afraid probably the start button of a new episode in the clash of civilizations has been pressed out of full ignorance. A time bomb is being placed in the heart of the international community of nations. If one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, a key actor of the international system, a country which claims to be a superpower that contributes to peace and serves to safeguard global security, can undertake such a provocative action, the time must have come to question the validity of the post-World War II international system. If one of the permanent five of the Security Council can so blatantly defy a vote by the majority of UN General Assembly members, there is a problem that ought to be corrected.

Turkey and other countries of this region must handle this delicate issue with the utmost care, in full awareness of the "fight fire with fire" or "eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" mentality. There is a need for moderation, cool-headed evaluation and damage control before taking any further action that might exacerbate the already explosive situation--not only in the Middle East but also in Turkish-American relations.

JE comments:  With the unrest in Gaza going on as we speak, moderation is what's in short supply.  Once again, I ask myself: is Trump tone-deaf or an evil genius?  The Jerusalem controversy is taking the heat off his domestic scandals.

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  • Jewish Opposition to Embassy Move (Henry Levin, USA 05/16/18 4:38 AM)
    Regarding the transfer of the US embassy to Jerusalem, Pilar and I were appalled by the ceremony, the provocation, and the killings at the Gaza fence.

    Lest any WAISers believe that all Jews cheered, you should check on the facts. It appears that most Jews, the reform movement, oppose the movement of the embassy to Jerusalem as a unilateral act, the handling of Gaza and the border conflict, and the settlements. Perhaps I am surrounded only by Jewish persons who share this view, but today was a day of mourning for my colleagues. Most were angry and depressed. Most belong to a growing movement called JStreet which is a serious opponent of AIPAC in values, goals, and strategies. It is also a young movement in comparison to the old-line members of AIPAC.

    JE comments:  Hank, do you believe that Trump's move was primarily a sop to his Protestant Evangelical base, or part of his general "strategy" of sowing diplomatic chaos?  The latter interpretation is Ric Mauricio's view, next.

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    • Jerusalem: Thoughts on Embassy Move (Istvan Simon, USA 05/17/18 2:48 PM)
      I do agree with some of what Hank Levin (16 May) is saying about the ceremony of the inauguration of the US embassy in Jerusalem. I disagree with his description of the violence in Gaza, and who is responsible for that violence and the resulting deaths.

      Regarding this matter I divide the issue in several parts:

      1. The inauguration's timing was unfortunate and unnecessary. It should have been held a month ago or a month from now, so it would not coincide with several dates that are important for the Palestinians, and therefore reinforced their willingness to riot.

      2. The participation of the pastors that had made provocative statements about Islam was stupid and an unnecessary provocation. They should never have taken part of the ceremony, and if they were it was because Trump wanted to reap political dividends with his right-wing Evangelical base.

      3. As I have said in a previous post I think the decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem was the correct one and will be followed in due time by many other countries. It is absurd that Israel cannot choose where its capital should be. This is an intolerable intrusion on the sovereignty of Israel, and the weak spineless reaction of governments that do not want to offend anyone, and so bowed to sensibilities of Palestinian propaganda, rather than take a more courageous and dignified position. I applaud the decision to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem.

      4. The Gaza violence was a disgrace and it was an irresponsible violent riot orchestrated and organized by Hamas. The portrayal of this by Palestinian propaganda as "peaceful protest" is absurd. This was no peaceful protest. This was an organized attempt for more than 10 thousand people to storm Israel's borders and "retake their land." It involved thousands of people using catapults to throw stones at the Israeli soldiers, and it included armed Hamas operatives as well. In my opinion it had one objective, which was achieved by Hamas. That the Israeli reaction to defend Israel's borders would produce numerous deaths that could be exploited to increase hatred against Jews and Israel, and much of the International Community gave lip service to this ignoble goal, criticizing Israel rather than Hamas as they should have. Shame on them all.

      5. Whether Israel could have reacted with less lethal force is debatable, and perhaps they could have. But the sanctimonious condemnations are from people that did not have to ever defend their borders from any similar violent invasion. The refugee crisis in Europe that provoked such strong political reactions all over Europe were not similar. It did not involve violence by the refugees, whereas the Gaza "protesters" employed violence. Even so, many countries took very strong measures to keep them out, including Hungary, Romania, the Czech Republic, the UK, and the countries that received them with relatively open arms had strong reactions of their populations against such an invasion. Angela Merkel nearly lost her position in elections since. So all of the condemnation by some of these countries of Israel is at a minimum hypocritical, and unacceptable, morally repugnant "holier than thou" double talk.

      6. The deaths of teenagers and others are regrettable. But it was predictable that Israel would have to defend its borders, and that therefore that these deaths would occur. So their deaths were planned by Hamas. Teenagers are not innocent victims if they employ violence. They should never have been were they were in the first place.

      JE comments:  But how about not moving the Embassy, knowing full well that to do so would provoke a violent reaction?  I'll leave aside the moral question of using Uzis to respond to rock-throwers. 

      Who ultimately is to blame for the Palestinian deaths, now at 59?  I'm going to go out on a limb and say Donald Trump.

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      • Six Preconditions for Peace in the Middle East (John Heelan, UK 05/18/18 3:23 AM)
        Regrettably--in my opinion--there will never be peace in the Middle East until:

        1. The US, Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia stop using the region for their proxy wars.

        2. Hamas abandons its call for Israel's destruction.

        3. Israel abandons its principle of Eretz Yisrael based on debatable religious beliefs.

        4. Western capitalists stop profiting from the water, gas and petroleum reserves of the region.

        5. The IDF stops promulgating Palestinian/Israeli tensions with "black ops," giving it the excuse for punitive reprisals.

        6. Trump starts to understand the importance of timing in the role of a statesman.

        The probability of all six coinciding is remote, especially the last one. I suspect the Middle East will therefore continue to be a running sore for the foreseeable future, adding to the profits of arms manufacturers.

        JE comments:  Trump #6 could be gone in less than 3 years, but 1, 2, and 3 remain.  It's hard to have peace when so many parties benefit from non-peace.

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    • Jewish Opposition to Embassy Move (Tor Guimaraes, USA 05/17/18 3:15 PM)
      As a great admirer of Jewish culture because of what it historically has accomplished for all of humanity, its emphasis on family and education, I add my non-Jewish opinion in complete agreement with Henry Levin's opinion expressed in his posting of May 16th.

      The diversity of opinion about many important issues among my Jewish friends and associates is refreshingly amazing. To me it is in fact a monument to freedom of thought and expression. It is unfortunate that a person with Nazi-like tendencies, denounced informally by several supposedly friendly world leaders as a liar, has become the political leader of the Jewish state. But, that goes with the times: right wing, lying for your cause is OK. Watch our for fake news, next come faking evidence, and open lying with a straight face while swearing to be telling the truth.

      JE comments:  Tor, do you mean Netanyahu?  I just received this FP article (by Prem Kumar) on Trump's reckless move.  If you register, you can read for free.  The main argument is that by moving the Embassy, Trump has gained nothing but given up something valuable:  it has forfeited any US mediator role in a brokered peace for the Middle East.


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      • Netanyahu is Not "Nazi-Like" (Alan Levine, USA 05/18/18 3:43 AM)
        I appreciate the gist of Tor Guimaraes's comments of May 17th, but his equation of Netanyahu with "Nazi-like" is beyond the pale.

        Tor cites foreign leaders calling Netanyahu a liar (what politicians don't lie?) but that doesn't equate to systematic mass murder of innocents, does it?

        JE comments:  I believe I shared this story once before on WAIS, but it bears repeating.  When I studied in Granada, Spain in the 1980s, each day I walked past a crudely painted graffitti that depicted a Star of David, an equal sign, and a Swastika.  Politics aside, to my American sensibilities the formula simply made no sense, especially given the collective beam in Spain's eye concerning its Jewish population and not-so-distant fascist past.

        But many in the world see no contradiction.  Tor Guimaraes may have been swept away by Godwinian exuberance, or perhaps he had a larger point to make.  Netanyahu is the proverbial Tough Guy, but we're in a benighted era that fetishizes this "quality" in its leaders.  (Call it swagger?)

        Tor, care to comment?

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        • Netanyahu's "Nazi-Like" Tendencies? (Tor Guimaraes, USA 05/19/18 3:47 AM)
          In response to Alan Levine (18 May), what I mean by "Nazi-like tendencies" is some people's ability to have no distinction between right and wrong in pursuit of immediate goals. Thus, over the years mankind has produced numerous leaders sharing that characteristic. As always, we also must account for circumstances moderating the extent to which the specific leader is willing to go doing evil.

          Attila was happy to rape, pillage, and burn when leading his warriors throughout the world they wanted to conquer. Stalin and Mao were perfectly willing to murder millions of their own people for their political security. Hitler, after killing his political opposition, was perfectly willing to exterminate millions of innocent people deemed to be undesirable for a wide variety of reasons.

          Donald Trump so far seems only to be willing to make fake news, make wealthy private interests wealthier, destroy the environment by destroying the only federal government protections we have, etc. To me he is beginning to show some Nazi-like tendencies but only time will tell which other important American values will be trampled.

          Netanyahu is the leader of the Likud Party which has murdered Yitzhak Rabin for proposing a peace plan, stolen land and water from Palestinian families, used overwhelming force against any Palestinian acts of aggression or demonstrations, murdered an innocent American girl (Rachel Corrie) demonstrating against the destruction of Palestinian homes, etc.. That is clearly a little beyond Nazi-like tendencies; it is crossing into Nazi-like behavior. That is bad enough but imagine how much more that Nazi-like tendency could produce if he did not have the eyes of the entire world on him, if he had the more favorable circumstances for wrong doing that Hitler did?

          JE comments:  Like most of the world this morning, I'm watching the royal wedding, but I should intervene on the Rabin assassination.  Yigal Amir may have been sympathetic to Likud, but that party did not "murder" the prime minister.

          A warm congratulations to Harry and Meghan.  It's another spectacular Anglo-American union!

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        • B F Skinner on the Arab-Israeli conflict (Timothy Brown, USA 05/19/18 4:46 AM)
          The discussion of the clash between Israel and its neighbors reminds me of a comment once made by B.F. Skinner. When he was asked between the Arabs and the Israelis: "Which side is right?" Skinner answered: "Both sides are right. And that both are right is the essence of tragedy."

          I began several undergrad courses in international relations by challenging my students to acquaint themselves with the Arab-Israeli confrontation and then come up with ideas about how it could be resolved.

          JE comments:  Tim, were any of your students' proposals truly innovative?  A half-century of "in-the-box" thinking hasn't been very successful.

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          • A (Water) Solution for the Middle East? (Timothy Brown, USA 05/20/18 6:12 AM)
            John E asked for some of my students' ideas on how to solve the Israel-Palestine crisis. On that night have been potentially more doable then than now involved a mutual dependence on water.

            Both Israel and its Muslim neighbors, especially Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and further south, depend primarily on irrigation to grow basic food crops.

            Turkey has several freshwater streams that flow into the Mediterranean that could be captured and supplied to all of them, creating a strong motive to cooperate.

            But that was before Gaza, when Turkey was perhaps more interested in peace to its south than it is today, and the emergence of Iranian involvement.

            Would it have worked? Quién sabe. But better something positive than today's confrontations.

            My objective was to get my students to expand their minds beyond the narrow and think more broadly.

            JE comments:  Yes, alas, that ship has sailed.  Now Erdogan is calling for a united Muslim front to condemn Israel.  His latest, "We will never allow Jerusalem to be stolen by Israel."  In the same speech he also dabbled in Godwinism.  See below:


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  • Trump's Strategy: Chaos (from Ric Mauricio) (John Eipper, USA 05/16/18 6:27 AM)
    Ric Mauricio writes:

    Between "tone-deaf" and "evil genius," I vote for the latter. Everything Pres. Trump does is for his own aggrandizement. Case in point: the new tax law. I am finding that amongst my clients here in California, 80% will experience a higher tax bill. I am very busy positioning my clients to work around the new tax law. But yes, it does enrich those who invest in stocks and real estate more than those who just salt their money away in CDs and Treasuries.

    As to his foreign policy, I am seeing a consistent strategy of creating chaos (yes, Mao, Stalin, and Hitler thrived on chaos) by throwing out the baby with the bathwater. This strategy means that you can create chaos, blame the chaos on the other side (Hillary, the Democrats, Muslims, illegal immigrants, the Europeans, the Chinese, the Iranians), then claim credit when it gets fixed. If it doesn't get fixed, you again shift the blame.

    Here's a scenario: 2 1/2 years from now, the world is at war. Do you want to change leadership in the middle of a war? Is it possible that Congress could suspend the elections?

    JE comments:  Goodness, no.  Not even in 1864 did Congress suspend elections.  (The idea did arise, however.)

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    • US State Dept to "Regain its Swagger": Pompeo (Paul Pitlick, USA 05/17/18 3:32 AM)
      In response to several recent posts about current affairs, I ran across this article recently:


      A quote, by the new (and inexperienced) US Secretary of State:

      "In a town hall pep talk to State Department employees, Pompeo explained that his repeated calls for the agency to regain its 'swagger' meant that diplomats should act with confidence, knowing that the US cause is just.

      "'Swagger is not arrogance; it is not boastfulness, it is not ego,' Pompeo said, according to the excerpts. 'No, swagger is confidence; in one's self, in one's ideas. In our case, it is America's essential rightness. And it is aggressiveness born of the righteous knowledge that our cause is just, special, and built upon America's core principles.'"

      Apparently, some people just didn't learn much from the GW Bush years...

      JE comments:  Swagger is the thing of John Wayne, Charles Bronson, or Vin Diesel, not FSOs.  How many wars began with "aggressiveness born of righteous knowledge"?  All of them?

      As every Wehrmacht soldier well knew, Gott mit uns.

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  • Visiting Jerusalem, 1965-'67 (Timothy Brown, USA 05/17/18 3:57 AM)
    During my 1965-'67 assignment in Israel, since I was an American diplomat we were among the very few that were able to visit Jerusalem, and we visited the Old City and nearby Jordan several times. At the time there was a regional blockade against Israel, so a visit had to be planned well in advance.

    Step one was to send a message to the US Consulate General in Jerusalem and have them notify the Jordanian border service of our intentions (and ask them to get us hotel reservations). Once ConGen Jerusalem confirmed they had done so, we would drive up to the Israeli side of the Mandelbaum Gate (windows closed when passing through the Mea Shearem on a non-holy day, the only open route we could use, hopefully without having rocks thrown at our car). We'd then leave the car in Israel, pick up our suitcases--one each (tiny ones for each of four children), zigzag through the anti-tank traps to the Jordanian side. While crossing we were tracked by both Israeli and Jordanian guards with their machine guns. I would them present our informal passes (not passports because if the Jordanians put an entry stamp on them they would no longer be acceptable to any of the members of the blockade). The Jordanians would then stamp our laissez passes, walk over and rent a taxi, go check in with the US Consulate General so they knew we were there and visit the Old City.

    Going back to Israel required doing more or less these same in reverse, except we had to show our diplomatic passports so they'd let us back in.

    JE comments:  When we think of the divided cities of yore, Berlin is the first to come to mind.  Tim Brown gives us a rare, "I was there" glimpse into Jerusalem's status before the 1967 war.  It's a chilling image.  Holy Land tourism must have been nil at that time.

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    • My Visit to East Jerusalem, 1966-'67...and a Brush with Death (Edward Jajko, USA 05/21/18 3:48 AM)
      In response to Timothy Brown's post of May 17 on the complications of US diplomatic visits in 1965-'67 from Israel to East Jerusalem and the Old City, then held by the Jordanians, and JE's comment that in those days Holy Land tourism must have been nil:

      I was also in East Jerusalem and the Old City, probably in winter of 1966 or 1967. That visit has left me with a lot of memories and two good Jerusalem stories. I did not visit Israel until the Hoover sent me to Jerusalem to look into some Arab archives, back in 2000. That gave me more stories, mostly about Israeli security services and Ben Gurion airport, which I have to say is the worst I have ever been in.

      Timothy Brown was in US diplomatic service in Lebanon in 1965-1967. During that same period, I was a student in Cairo. From September 1965 through the academic year, I was a Fulbright Fellow, then for the following year a fellow of the Center for Arabic Studies of the American University in Cairo (the second fellowship paid much better than the Fulbright, and both gave me return airfare home, which I combined for a grand trip through Europe and then Tokyo).

      At one point, I saved up some money and bought a trip that took me to Athens, Istanbul, Damascus, and Amman. In the last city, I looked up one of my first teachers of Arabic. I don't remember how I managed to find her, other than the fact that Arab women continue to use their maiden name, so I may have simply called Information. We had a pleasant visit, which included her husband, who was there for the sake of propriety. From Amman, I took a taxi to Jerusalem, where I got a room in a pension in the Old City, overlooking the Citadel of David. In those days, possibly because it was winter and the weather was chilly, there were few tourists, but there were some. I visited the Holy Sepulcher and what other sites I could find, using my Guide Hachette--faithful companions in those days--and at times just walked around. My Chuck Taylor Converse All Stars, two pair of which I had brought to Cairo, got a lot of mileage on them in those days.

      If one goes to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher these days, one has to fight off the crowds. When I was there, I seemed to be the only person around. I wish I had known more about the place then; I would have had a richer experience. But it was still amazing to be there. At one point I went into the sepulcher itself (it was then still in the dilapidated state it had been in since a fire in the 1800s but recently was totally rebuilt). The Sepulcher is in the part of the Church that is controlled by the Greek Orthodox Church; one might say fiercely controlled. I said my prayers at the site of the tomb of Christ and spent some time within the Sepulcher (now something one cannot do). As I exited, I turned right, and saw at the other end of the structure a Coptic priest gesturing to me and making the "C'mere" motions and noises of the Middle East, which differ from those of the USA. I went over to him. He looked around, to check to see if there was anyone else there, then he pointed to the small, wrought-iron-fenced shrine at that opposite end of the Sepulcher, and whispered to me conspiratorially, in English, "This... this, the REAL tomb of Christ."

      In those days, I was an insomniac, totally out of sync with Egyptian and Arab society. One night in Jerusalem, as usual I couldn't sleep, so at two or three in the morning I got up and dressed, then walked down the steps of the Petra Hotal out onto the square, where I briefly stood to decide which way I was going to walk, whether left toward the Sepulcher, right through the city gate into East Jerusalem, or straight. I took straight, down the road that divides the Armenian Quarter. Near the end of the road, where it turns left into the Cardo and the Jewish Quarter, the road comes close to the city walls and to a building that is part of the walls. As I passed by this building, Jordanian soldiers inside looked at me but did nothing more. Then I reached the end of the road. Decision time again. Should I turn left? In those days, I knew little about the Cardo. What about what stretched down in front of me, a slope of ground that went down into the dark, strewn with pieces of statuary, pillars, and other archaeological things. Left or straight ahead. I decided to go down the slope.

      I went down a little way, then stopped when I heard shouting somewhere behind me. I stopped, couldn't figure out where the noise had come from and why, and so took a few more steps down into the dark. Shouting again. I stopped, again couldn't figure out what was going on, and took a few more steps. Much more shouting, and this time my guardian angel smacked me in the head and I decided there was something going on, so I went back up the hill and returned up the road to the Petra Hotel. This time, as I passed the building with the Jordanian soldiers, they poured out and surrounded me, asking "Meester, meester, what you doing? Why you go there?" I didn't understand what the commotion was all about and then the atmosphere totally changed when I asked them "Fee mushkilah?" Is there a problem? The Arabic totally changed things. How was it that I spoke Arabic? Where was I from? Why was I in Jerusalem? All the usual questions, plus, You couldn't sleep? Then I asked them what the difficulty had been, what all the fuss was about. They told me: down where I had chosen to walk, in the dark, was No Man's Land. The man who had been yelling at me was a soldier on the wall (I recall one of them pointing up at him). It was good that I stopped when I did because if I had walked any further he would have shot me.

      I visited that spot when I was back in Jerusalem in 2000 and found that the Israelis had filled in the slope and completely changed the look and feel of the place. But not in my memory.

      One thing has haunted me all these years. Those Jordanian soldiers were nice guys who were persuaded to let a dumb American student go. But I wonder how many of them died on the wall in the June 1967 war, and how many of them thought to themselves, that so-and-so American was really a spy--Ibn kalb al Amriki da fi'l haqiqah huwwa kan jasus.

      In a recent post, Timothy Brown wrote of having his students come up with solutions to the Israel-Palestine dilemma. Five years ago, at the invitation of Charles Ridley, I spoke before the Palo Alto Kiwanis, on the subject of the basic texts of Sacred Scripture. In the Q&A, one of the members asked if he could pose a question that was off topic, and I said yes. He asked if I thought there would be a solution to the Israel-Palestine (or Arab) problem. My answer: "No."

      JE comments:  I'm going to go out on a limb and call this one an instant WAIS Classic, Ed.  Your near-death experience masterfully combines the historical and the anecdotal, with religion, politics, and tourism in the mix.  So happy your Guardian Angel (or was it the Chuck Taylors?) made you turn around in time.

      This is off topic, but I'm also a big fan of Converse All-Stars.  Perfect for all occasions.  They used to be manufactured in New England, but of course they've now been outsourced to Asia.  One time I bought a pair unlike any other:  the left shoe had been made in Vietnam, and the right in a different country--Indonesia if I recall correctly.

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