March 22, 2019

Golan Heights

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

“In 2016, a poll of voters in key battleground states found that 76 percent of voters agreed with the following statement: ‘However we feel about abortion, politicians should not be allowed to deny a woman’s health coverage for it just because she’s poor.’ Sixty-two percent agreedthat ‘when Medicaid covers pregnancy care but withholds coverage for abortion, we’re taking away a low-income woman’s ability to make important personal decisions based on what is best for her circumstances. ’ And a recent poll commissioned by a consortium of women’s health groups found that 9 in 10 women of color believe ‘that a woman being able to control if, when, and how to have children provides both individual and societal benefits.’ If Joe Biden wants to carry the banner of a party that claims to champion, protect and uphold the inalienable rights of black, brown and poor people, he must reverse his support of the Hyde Amendment and follow the lead of his fellow Democratic candidates.”
Danielle Campoamor, Washington Post

Critics of the candidate argue, “Want to defeat Trump? Attack Biden… Many progressives are understandably fearful that attacking the presumptive frontrunner might weaken him and give Trump ammunition for the general election. But challenging Biden’s record is important. For example, his core base of support – older Democrats – needs to know what an unreliable defender of Social Security and Medicare he is. By challenging him on his record, especially in the eyes of older, traditional Democratic voters, progressives could break the myth of Biden’s ‘electability’. (A strange trope given that Biden has tried and failed to be a presidential nominee since the 1980s.)… Anyone angling to be the Democratic nominee should espouse a real progressive agenda – just being ‘anti-Trump’ isn’t enough.”
Bhaskar Sunkara, The Guardian

“For Warren or anyone else to prevent the uniquely depressing experience of a Biden ‘national unity’ campaign, specifically targeted at a tiny cadre of wobbly Trump voters and Jeff Flake-style dissident Republicans, something has to change before next winter. Democratic voters and the media and basically everyone else must get over their skittish, fearful response to the Trump presidency, and their based-on-nothing certainty that nominating a progressive or a woman or a socialist or anybody who isn’t an avuncular white man with a vaguely reassuring demeanor and no discernible ideology will once again lead to disaster.”
Andrew O’Hehir, Salon

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

“If Joe Biden can win his way through the primaries, he’s almost lab-engineered to beat Trump. He doesn’t cause Republican panic, he has the potential to connect with white working-class voters in a way that Hillary couldn’t in 2016, and he has a potential to connect better with black voters than Hillary did… if Biden emerges from [this] crucible, Trump will face a very different challenge than he faced in 2016.”
David French, National Review

A libertarian's take

“The relevant question is not the nationality of a source offering ‘oppo research’ but the accuracy and relevance of the information. Another consideration is whether the information was obtained illegally—by hacking emails, for example. While the Supreme Court has said people have a First Amendment right to share illegally obtained information if they were not involved in the lawbreaking (something that news organizations frequently do), you might reasonably argue that they should also report such crimes when they become aware of them, which may be what Trump had in mind when he said he might contact the FBI ‘if I thought there was something wrong.’”
Jacob Sullum, Reason

On the bright side...

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