March 22, 2019

Golan Heights

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

On Thursday, President Donald Trump tweeted, “After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights.” Twitter

The move “gives Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a political boost a month before what is expected to be a close election [in Israel].” AP News

See past issues

From the Left

The left worries that the move sets a dangerous precedent by legitimizing Israel’s seizure of land through military force.

“As a practical matter, Mr. Trump’s announcement changes little. There is no negotiation underway on the status of the Golan Heights, nor any expectation that Israel is going to withdraw from it…  But as a symbolic step, the decision is momentous

“Unlike the president’s earlier decision to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which was mandated by Congress and fulfilled a promise he made during the 2016 presidential campaign — one made by previous presidential candidates — this latest move was both a first for an American president and almost purely a gesture to Mr. Netanyahu.”
Mark Landler and Edward Wong, New York Times

“Trump is not the first president to try to tip the scales in an Israeli election. Bill Clinton admitted that he worked, unsuccessfully, to try to boost Shimon Peres when he was running against Netanyahu in 1996.  But it’s still rare to see two leaders so in lockstep. Netanyahu will need all the help he can get, as he needs to not only win reelection, but win it big. He wants to pass a ‘French Law,’ which would shield the prime minister from prosecution while in office… If the law doesn’t pass, Israel’s attorney general is expected to indict Netanyahu on corruption charges.”
Joshua Keating, Slate

“There are two main — but connected — reasons why no other American leader made the decision Trump just did. First, by formally recognizing Israeli control over the Golan Heights — territory it took from Syria decades ago — Trump has effectively endorsed forcibly taking land from other countries. That might embolden world leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin to refer back to this moment when he defends his nation’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine… Second, Trump’s move undermines standing international laws [barring the seizure of land through military force].”
Alex Ward, Vox

“Confirming Israel’s seizure of this territory would render any territory in the world subject to conquest and annexation… Given the chaos in Syria, no one would ask Israel to make a territorial concession on the Golan Heights now. But that’s hardly a justification for a decades-old land grab. Like recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, confirming Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights is a solution in search of a problem. It would come at a steep cost and achieve nothing.”
Hussein Ibish, Bloomberg

“The summary, released this morning, is a wild look into the president’s mind-set and approach to his job. It shows a commander in chief consumed by conspiracy theories, strong-arming a foreign government to help him politically, and marshaling the federal government in his schemes… The call is bizarre on several levels. First, the United States has legitimate interests in Ukraine, but Trump is using his conversation with that country’s president to pursue his pet, unsubstantiated conspiracy theories. Second, Trump appears—as has been alleged—to be engaging in a quid pro quo, asking Zelensky to assist him in pursuing those conspiracy theories, in exchange for help to Ukraine. Trump never puts it in plain terms—he’s too smart, and too experienced in shady business, to do that—but it requires willful blindness to miss what Trump is asking… Third, the call shows how Trump enlists the might of the U.S. government in his weird, personal, political schemes.”
David A. Graham, The Atlantic

“Trump’s defenders will say this evidence is all circumstantial. But circumstantial evidence is not weak evidence: it’s simply evidence based on the circumstances in which an act of wrongdoing is committed — such as the license plate of a car that speeds away from a bank just after that bank is robbed. Criminals are convicted on such evidence all the time. They will also say that there’s no explicit quid pro quo proposal here. But… ‘even when a corrupt deal is struck implicitly, the government can still prosecute extortion on a quid pro quo basis. Circumstantial evidence can be enough to prove a criminal exchange.’…

“In the absence of an explicit quid pro quo over restarting aid, the context and circumstances are what will become the focus of the investigation. There is enough here to support impeachment. Whether it is also enough to convince Republicans and lead to removal is another matter.”
Noah Feldman, Bloomberg

Some suggest that Congress “remove Trump from office, so that he cannot abuse incumbency to subvert the electoral process, but let the American people make the judgment on whether or not he gets a second term… Removing Trump from office for the remainder of his term would disable him from abusing presidential power again and protect the integrity of the electoral process from inappropriate interference. At the same time, letting him run for a second term would permit the American electorate to decide whether Trump, despite his attempt to subvert the system, should have another chance… Decoupling removal from disqualification lowers the stakes and changes the constitutional calculus. As long as Trump can run again, Republicans cannot hide behind a claim that they are [the] ones protecting voter choice by opposing impeachment.”
Edward B. Foley, Politico

From the Right

The right applauds the move, arguing that control of the Golan is necessary for Israeli security.

From the Right

The right applauds the move, arguing that control of the Golan is necessary for Israeli security.

“Trump effectively formalizes something that everyone already knew. Namely, that the Golan Heights, which Israel seized following a 1967 Syrian-Egyptian-Jordanian effort to annihilate it, were unlikely to be Syrian again for a very long time. If you lament that, you have one person to blame: Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.…

“Assad allowed Iran to turn southwestern Syria into one big missile launchpad… The Iranian regime is ideologically invested in Israel's annihilation and increasingly predisposed to take risks to that end. Although Israel can mitigate that threat by using force, Israeli loss of the Golan would effectively give Iran an elevated position from which to fire deep into Israel… if Assad had wanted to get the Golan Heights back, he should have thought more carefully about allowing Israel's mortal enemy to use Syria as a playground.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

“The highly mountainous Golan Heights region, which borders war-torn Syria, is militarily strategic for Israel — allowing it to fall back into Arab hands would allow foreign armies to easily target large swaths of central Israel's population centers.”
Josh Hammer, Daily Wire

“Recognizing the Golan is principled in its support for an ally and realistic in recognizing the Middle East as it is… If Israel didn’t control the Golan, the heights might now be dominated by Hezbollah or perhaps Islamic State. Either reality is unacceptable to Israel…

“Recognizing the Golan sends a message to Russia, Syria’s patron, that the U.S. recognizes that the civil war has changed Syrian reality. There is no returning to a nonexistent status quo ante. It also tells the Palestinians that a return to pre-1967 borders is no longer realistic. They will have to allow some Israeli security presence in what they call the ‘occupied territories’ if they want a two-state solution in Palestine.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

Critics, however, posit that “Israel has no legitimate claim to this territory, and in recognizing Israeli sovereignty over land that it seized during a war the U.S. is sending a potentially very dangerous message to governments all around the world… No U.S. interests are advanced by doing this, and it discredits any criticisms that the U.S. wants to make of any other government’s illegal occupation and annexation of territory.”
Daniel Larison, The American Conservative

Regarding her candidacy as a whole, “Warren seems to have concluded that if a rule-breaking candidate like Donald Trump can be elected president, then the old political rules don’t apply any more. So she has endorsed Medicare for All and backs eliminating private health insurance; she has said she’d ban fracking for oil and natural gas; she supports decriminalizing illegal border crossing, health care for illegal immigrants who get across, and paying reparations to the descendants of slaves…

“Warren obviously hopes that her calls for federal oversight of large corporations and her call for a 2% wealth tax on multimillionaires will resonate with non-affluent Trump voters. But those voters seem more concerned with elites’ political correctness than convinced that Warren’s proposal will send their way any money somehow mulcted from corporations…

"This is not to say that Warren is a sure loser. Any Democratic nominee has a serious chance of beating Donald Trump. But it says something interesting about the Democratic Party that its current top three are in their 70's and all from overwhelmingly Democratic states.”
Michael Barone, Washington Examiner

“If a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“Why did Modi pick this moment to do something so radical? Violence in Kashmir had been trending downwards for the last year, after all. The main reason, besides President Donald Trump's alarming offer to mediate a settlement, is that he wanted a distraction from India's mounting economic woes. India's GDP growth dropped from over 8 percent to 5.8 percent over the last year, and it is widely expected to dip further. Just as ominous has been the crash in consumer demand. India's usual problem has been an insufficient supply to meet its voracious appetite for vehicles, cell phones, and other similar goods. But sales figures for all consumer goods have posted a precipitous decline, slamming businesses that are dramatically scaling back investments.”
Shikha Dalmia, Reason

On the bright side...

'Ghost' rearranging 72-year-old man's shed turns out to be orderly mouse.
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