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

“Yes, the Constitution states that public officials may only be impeached for ‘high crimes and misdemeanors,’ but that phrase had an expansive meaning when it was written into the Constitution… The impeachment power, Alexander Hamilton wrote in the Federalist Papers, extends to ‘those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust.’... As a member of Congress, James Madison argued that a president could be impeached for ‘wanton removal of meritorious officers.’… Trump’s claim that he was improperly impeached is simply wrong.”
Ian Millhiser, Vox

“By declaring that the United States will respond with airstrikes to any attacks on American targets or assets, Mr. Trump is drawing a bright red line that Iran cannot cross. And yet, Iran relies on a network of proxy actors from Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Must they all respect Mr. Trump’s red line? There are plenty of hotheads in those proxy forces that will be incensed by the assassination, the same way young men with weapons and minimal discipline often are… Mr. Trump can’t keep an entire region from crossing his red line, making violent conflict all the more likely if the president holds to it…

“It is crucial that influential Republican senators like Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio and Mitch McConnell remind Mr. Trump of his promise to keep America out of foreign quagmires and keep Mr. Trump from stumbling further into war with Iran.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

Others argue that “Biden was almost the only one on the stage who talked like a normal person. There was a point near the end of the debate when he was talking about getting men involved in stopping domestic violence and he said that we need to keep ‘punching’ at it… I knew that the twitterati and the analysts would tut tut. Ol’ Joe is just out of touch! He doesn’t know you can’t use words like that. Meanwhile, every non-political junkie watching the debate thought there was nothing wrong with this. Biden was just using ordinary language, not worrying too much if it was fully approved by the woke brigade.”
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

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

It’s worth noting that “conservative ideas were much more popular when not associated with the Republican party. In Washington State, voters narrowly rejected bringing affirmative action back to state contracting and university admissions…

“In Seattle, the self-proclaimed socialist city-council member appears to have lost her seat to a pro-business challenger. In Colorado, voters gave fiscal conservatives a big win by rejecting letting the state keep any tax revenues above the state spending cap, money that the state Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights currently guarantees as refunds to taxpayers. In Sussex County, N.J., voters approved, by a 2-to-1 margin, a referendum directing the local freeholder board to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (Washington, Colorado, New Jersey — notice these are places where Republican candidates have had no luck lately.)”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

“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

“While running for president in 2000, George W. Bush derided ‘nation building’ and said American foreign policy should be ‘humble’ rather than ‘arrogant.’ As president, Bush brought us the disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq… While running for president in 2007, Barack Obama rejected the idea that the president has the authority to wage war without congressional authorization whenever he thinks it is in the national interest… As president, Obama did that very thing in Libya… A few years before his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump said the U.S. should withdraw immediately from Afghanistan… As president, he sent more troops to Afghanistan…

“Three men with little or no foreign policy experience entered an office where they were surrounded by experts, and they quickly shed their initial skepticism of military intervention… we should worry about a president with little knowledge of the world whose military decisions are driven by anger or domestic political considerations. But it's not clear to me that such a president poses a bigger danger than the experts who have been disastrously wrong more times than we can count.”
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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