Tag Archives: Israel

Israel Belongs on the UN Security Council

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The Trump administration has stated that it intends to move our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. While this is important, there is a far more urgent goal because time is running short: helping Israel get a seat on the UN Security Council (UNSC), for which Israel has formally applied, when vacancies open up in 2019. There won’t be another opportunity until 2029.

Some background information is in order before considering strategies. The relevant facts are disturbing, to say the least, and deserve to be better known.

From 1946 to 1965, the UNSC had eleven members. Five were permanent: the US, the UK, France, the Republic of China (later PRC), and the USSR (later Russia). The six non-permanent members were drawn from five regional groups: two from Latin America and one each from Commonwealth of Nations, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Western Europe. To qualify for a nonpermanent seat on the UNSC, a UN member had to satisfy three conditions, which still apply today: (1) membership in a regional group; (2) group concurrence; and (3) concurrence by a majority of the entire UN membership.

Though a UN member after 1948 when it was created, Israel never even qualified for a seat on the UNSC because it did not belong to any of the five regional groups and thus failed to meet the first condition. The countries belonging to the Middle East group, which were dedicated to the destruction of Israel, conspired successfully to keep the Jewish state out of the group and in bureaucratic limbo. Why they were able to get away with it is not a mystery. The UN was perfectly content to treat Israel as a pariah state hoping it would disappear, an attitude that persists to this day.

After 1966, UNSC membership expanded to 15. The five permanent members kept their seats while the five regional groups were redefined and got two non-member seats each: Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin-America and Caribbean, Western Europe and Others (WEOG), and Eastern Europe.

If it’s not apparent where Israel belonged under this reconfiguration, the answer is nowhere. The usual suspects, now in the Asia-Pacific group, were successful in continuing to keep Israel in bureaucratic limbo despite the new iteration of UN-style gerrymandering skullduggery. Once again, the rest of the UN didn’t care.

Incredibly, there the matter rested until the year 2000, when Israel became a temporary member of the WEOG in May of that year. In 2004, Israel obtained a permanent renewal of its membership in the group’s US headquarters but was granted only observer status at UN offices in Geneva, Nairobi, Rome, and Vienna — more UN skullduggery. Finally, in December, 2013, Israel became a full permanent member of WEOG. Thus, it took 65 years for the Jewish state to have the same rights as every other UN member! How many people knew that, I wonder? I hereby challenge Bill O’Reilly to run a “Watters’ World” segment on the question.

There are 28 countries in the WEOG: Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, UK, Australia, Canada, Israel, and New Zealand. The US holds only observer status in the group.

Except Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino and Switzerland (which is neutral), all 28 WEOG countries have been on the UNSC, even Malta and Luxembourg. It’s worth adding that several WEOG members have been on the UNSC three or more times: Italy (six times), Spain (five), Canada, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand.

Two WEOG vacancies on the UNSC will open up in 2019. Initially, only Israel and Belgium applied. In a surprise move, Germany announced in 2013 it would compete. Group members would gladly push Israel aside in favor of Germany and Belgium.

Observers have rightly criticized Bonn for trying to spoil Israel’s chances and have urged the Germans to withdraw. But there is another alternative.

At the moment, the WEOG has three non-permanent members on the UNSC instead of two: Italy, Sweden, and the Netherlands. This unusual situation occurred because Italy and the Netherlands tied in a contested race for a UNSC seat and were allowed to split a two-year term. Germany or Belgium could perhaps be persuaded to use this as precedent and make room for Israel. Germany has been a supporter of Israel at the UN and might go along. NATO is in Belgium, so President Trump would have clout if he decided the issue had high enough priority.

It’s by no means a sure thing that the State Department would go along or move quickly enough once President Trump made his wishes clear. The pro-Arab faction at Foggy Bottom is powerful, well-entrenched, and would resist a change of direction on a policy they managed to keep in place for decades. The new sheriff just sworn in, Rex Tillerson, will only be effective after some serious housecleaning.

The real fight will be on the floor of the General Assembly, where a majority of the UN’s 193 members will have to approve Israel’s assignment to the UNSC even if for only one year. The many countries that conspired over the decades to keep Israel in limbo or tried to destroy it are still around singing the same tune. Muslim populations all over Europe are expected to exert pressure on UN ambassadors, as will the mainstream media. And then there’s the fact that, aided and abetted by the outgoing Obama administration, the UNSC last December voted unanimously to condemn Israel’s settlement policy.

Some will ask why the US should get involved. These are the folks who think the Middle East is a quagmire and we should stay away because nothing good will come of it. They would add that the US secretaries of state during 1948-2000 — from George Marshall to Dean Rusk to Henry Kissinger to Alexander Haig to James Baker to Warren Christopher — were right to ignore the appalling treatment of Israel at the UN.

So, Mr. President, which side will you be on? What about House Speaker Ryan, Senate Majority Leader McConnell, House Minority Leader Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Schumer? This is an issue on which our most senior officials can speak with one voice.

Will Obama be barred from golf club for anti-Israel policies?

Some in Maryland golf club looking to block outgoing president’s application over recent UN Security Council vote fiasco.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama D-Ill., speaks at a Chicago 2016 Olympic rally at Daley Plaza in Chicago Friday, June 6, 2008.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama D-Ill., speaks at a Chicago 2016 Olympic rally at Daley Plaza in Chicago Friday, June 6, 2008.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Members of a predominantly Jewish golf club in the Washington DC metro area are considering barring the outgoing president from joining the organization, after his administration’s refusal to veto a controversial anti-Israel resolution at the United Nations Security Council.

The Woodmont Country Club in Maryland, a posh golf club established more than a century ago by Jews barred from traditional country clubs in the area, is divided over Obama’s application, with some members lambasting him as the most anti-Israel president in history.

While some have extended a friendly welcome to President Obama and even suggested waiving the membership fees – $80,000 for entrance, plus nearly $10,000 each year in dues – others expressed outrage.

“Can you imagine how angry I would be if I had paid $80K to have to look at this guy who has done more to damage Israel than any president in American history?” a senior official at a DC Jewish organization told the New York Post.

“After the UN vote and attack on Israel, I think it probably hurts the club. If there is a club that excludes Jews, he would probably be more comfortable around those folks.”

The club’s general manager, Brian Pizzimenti, said his organization would be “honored to have” Mr. Obama as a member, a source told the Post that opposition to the president’s membership is widespread.

“In light of the votes at the UN and the Kerry speech and everything else, there’s this major uproar with having him part of the club, and a significant portion of the club has opposed offering him membership.”

The president will be able to apply to the club formally once he becomes a private citizen following President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration next Friday.

Move the US Embassy to Jerusalem

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Since 1993, residents of New York City have had a sister city in Israel named Jerusalem.  On December 5, 1949, the Israeli government declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel, and on January 23, 1950, the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, proclaimed that Jerusalem was and had always been the capital of Israel.

Everyone understands that the city of Jerusalem is holy to three religions, and there are conflicting claims to it by two peoples.  But the historical evidence confirms the forthright Knesset declaration.  David made Jerusalem the capital of his kingdom in 1003 B.C. and it remained so for 400 years until the kingdom was conquered by the Babylonians.  After Jews had returned from the Babylonian exile in 538 B.C., Jerusalem again became the capital of the Jewish people.  During the Muslim rule over the area, Jerusalem never became the capital of a Muslim state, or even became a distinct province.

Between 1922 and 1948, the city did become the center of political power during the British Mandate as Jerusalem became the seat of the British high commissioner.

The U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181, the partition resolution, of  November 29, 1947 that proposed the creation of a Jewish state and an Arab state in Palestine, also proposed that Jerusalem become a separate entity, corpus separatum, a special administrative regime separate from either state and administered by an agency of the United Nations.

Thanks to the war resulting from the invasion of Arab armies into the state of Israel, on the day of its creation on May 14, 1948, Jerusalem became a divided city, with barbed wire.  The Old City was annexed by Jordan, while the western section became the Israeli capital.  Israeli citizens and all Jews of other states were denied access to holy sites in the area controlled by Jordan.  In April 1950, Jordan declared that it had annexed the West Bank and Jerusalem, an annexation that was supported only by the U.K. and Pakistan.

As a result of the six-day June 1967 war, the city was reunited under Israeli administration.  Since 1967, Jerusalem has been a united city administered by Israel.  Israel, on June 27, 1967, extended legal and administrative jurisdiction to the whole area and expanded the municipal borders of the city.  The Knesset passed the Protection of the Holy Places law granting special status to the holy sites.

The Israeli Basic Law of July 1980 affirmed Jerusalem, “complete and united”  as the capital of the country.  It promised protection of the holy places and free access to them.

In 1990, the U.S. Congress unanimously adopted Senate Concurrent Resolution 106, which declares that Congress strongly believes that Jerusalem must remain an undivided city in which the rights of every ethnic and religious group are protected.  A Senate Concurrent Resolution 113 in 1992 reaffirmed that Jerusalem must remain an undivided city.

The U.S. Congress on October 23, 1995, by overwhelming majorities in both chambers, passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act to initiate and fund the relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  It made clear that every sovereign state, under international law and custom, may designate its own capital, and that since 1950, the city of Jerusalem has been the capital of the State of Israel.  Congress asserted that the city is the seat of judicial, legislative, and executive institutions.  In addition, it is the site of social and cultural institutions and the spiritual center of Judaism.  Moreover, Jerusalem has never been the capital of any state other than Israel.

The 1995 act stated that State Department funds could be withheld if the embassy was to not moved by May 31, 1999.  But the law also provided for “presidential waiver,” allowing presidents not to implement it, and this has continued in spite of a congressional attempt in 2009 to remove the waiver.

The act was never implemented partly for fear of antagonizing the Arab world and partly because U.S. presidents have regarded it as congressional infringement on the executive’s constitutional authority over foreign policy.

It is time for the president of the U.S. to act positively.  Countries choose particular places as their capitals for different reasons.  The place may be dominant, as Berlin was in German unification in the 19th century.  It may be a political compromise, as were Washington, D.C.; Canberra; and Ottawa.  It may be shared, as in the Union of South Africa, where four colonies had political functions, and in the Netherlands, where functions are shared between Amsterdam and the Hague.

Israel has a right to choose its capital, and it is only political machinations that prevent this from being accepted internationally.  Thirteen countries had embassies in Jerusalem until U.N. Security Council Resolution 478 of August 20, 1980, which was passed by 14-0 with the U.S., in which Jimmy Carter was then president, abstaining, which condemned Israel’s Basic Law of July 1980 on Jerusalem as null and void.  The resolution held that the Basic Law, that the city was to be the complete and united capital, was a violation of international law.

The resolution called on all established diplomatic missions in Jerusalem to withdraw.  The immediate comment of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan was that the U.S. abstention in this “inane resolution” meant that the U.S. had allied itself with the enemies of Israel.

The 13 countries that had embassies then withdrew them.  The only country to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is El Salvador.

The problem remains because of intransigent Palestinian and Arab opposition.  Jordan has a stake in the issue since it is the official custodian of the Al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount.  It is laughable that Saed Erekat, the Palestinian negotiator who never negotiates, says that if the U.S. Embassy is moved, the PLO will withdraw its recognition of Israel, and that would destroy the nonexistent peace process.

Interestingly, on January 3, 2017, three members of the U.S. Senate, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Dean Heller, proposed the move of the embassy and suggested that State Department funds be withheld until the move was made from Hayarkon street in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, perhaps to the existing U.S.  consulate there.

The U.S. move will not inflame the “Arab street,” wherever that is located, nor is it giving in to Israeli extremists.  The U.S. ambassadors in Arab countries will not be expelled from them.  It is absurd to argue, as Secretary John Kerry did, that an “absolute explosion” will occur not only in the West Bank, but in the whole Middle East if the embassy is moved.

Two changes in U.S. policy and law are essential.  The first concerns the U.S. Supreme Court, which should overturn the decision of Zivotofsky v. Kerry, decided on June 8, 2015.  Congress in September 2002 had passed a law that an American citizen born in Jerusalem must list Israel as the place of birth.  However, the Court ruled 6-3 that the U.S. president has the exclusive power to recognize foreign states, and so Congress may not require and cannot force the government to issue passports calling Jerusalem part of Israel.  The late Justice Scalia, dissenting, argued that Congress does have the power to recognize foreign nations because it can regulate commerce with those countries.

President Obama’s defiance of an act of Congress in foreign affairs was reconfirmed when, at the memorial for Shimon Peres in September 2016, he dropped the reference to “Jerusalem, Israel” as the location of the ceremony.

It is now incumbent on President Donald Trump to recognize reality and agree to move the embassy.  He recognizes the stark reality that the State of Israel, like all other countries, has decided on the location of its capital.  It would be a symbolic gesture of major importance to agree with decision of the only friend the U.S. has in the Middle East.