Foreign Policy

Congress must re-think 'pro-Israel'

‘Tis the season. The season when members of Congress are lobbied hard to support positions presented to them as the epitome of “pro-Israel” – but that in fact are anything but. This year, the focus is the Palestinians and their efforts to seek recognition of a state of Palestine at the United Nations and to try to achieve national reconciliation.

Members of Congress who truly care about Israel need to look past the self-righteous narratives and the self-serving talking points and recognize that, far from helping Israel, coming out in support of such positions makes the achievement of peace and security for Israel less likely.

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Obama's changes don't match changes of the Arab Spring

The Obama administration faced a huge challenge in trying to craft a speech describing a new U.S. policy for the Middle East in the midst of the Arab Spring. They were trying to position the U.S. as friend and supporter of the newly democratizing forces, while at the same time maintaining longstanding support for those on top. For more than half a century, Washington’s allies and partners have been those who have imposed dictatorships and occupations across the Middle East. Their role, in return for massive economic and military aid and protection, was to safeguard U.S. interests in oil, Israel, and strategic stability. 

Now that it is the people of the region who are creating those new democracies from below, where peoples' needs and not oil, Israel and U.S. interests are at stake, what is that real policy change?

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The two speeches of Barack Obama

During his speech today at the State Department, President Obama rightfully noted the “hypocrisy of the Iranian regime, which says it stands for the rights of protesters abroad, yet suppresses its people at home.”

But President Obama’s bifurcated speech—the greater part of which centered on the human rights of people throughout the Middle East and North Africa, the lesser part of which re-trod perfunctorily on the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process” — points to an additional double standard that the United States must overcome if it is to have a coherent response to the Arab Spring. 

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Just as well that Obama had no details about Middle East peace

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict – temporarily pushed off the front pages by the killing of Osama bin Laden – is squarely back in the news as the Obama administration and Israel try to set the agenda in advance of the Palestinian plan to request full membership at the United Nations this September.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is sure to grab the lion’s share of the spotlight with speeches scheduled at a joint session of Congress and at AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) and a meeting with President Barack Obama.

But in the world beyond the Beltway, Netanyahu is seen as the main stumbling block to peace, and his expected media blitz won’t help him spin his vision of a greater Israel dominating most of the land and resources between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, with a Palestinian statelet under its control. Nor will the pre-visit announcement that Israel is planning to construct even more illegal settler homes in occupied East Jerusalem.

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Remarks by the President on the Middle East and North Africa

Below is the President's speech on Middle East policy that he made at the State Department on Thursday. 

The State Department is a fitting venue to mark a new chapter in American diplomacy. For six months, we have witnessed an extraordinary change taking place in the Middle East and North Africa. Square by square, town by town, country by country, the people have risen up to demand their basic human rights. Two leaders have stepped aside. More may follow. And though these countries may be a great distance from our shores, we know that our own future is bound to this region by the forces of economics and security, by history and by faith.

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Israel requires Israeli military presence along Jordan River

The following statement was released by Netanyahu's office on Thursday in response to President Obama's speech on the Middle East given earlier in the day:

Israel appreciates President Obama’s commitment to peace. Israel believes that for peace to endure between Israelis and Palestinians, the viability of a Palestinian state cannot come at the expense of the viability of the one and only Jewish state.

That is why Prime Minister Netanyahu expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both Houses of Congress.

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Keep the focus on Morocco's illegal occupation of the Western Sahara

In his recent blog entry in The Hill, "Mercenaries in Libya: Gadhafi's Hired Terrorists," Edward Gabriel disingenuously alleges that the indigenous Saharawi people, of the Western Sahara, are fighting for Moammar Gadhafi and somehow linked to al Qaeda. Gabriel's tired allegations could not be further from the truth and, as a long-time lobbyist for the Government of Morocco, he knows it.  

Daniel Benjamin, the State Department’s Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism, has made clear, the Saharawi have no ties whatsoever to al Qaeda or terrorism. Gabriel’s claim that Saharawi are fighting for Gadhafi are equally baseless. 

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Four lessons to learn from Libya

Today’s Washington Post column titled “Death of the War Powers Act” notes this Friday marks the 60th day since President Obama told Congress of his Libyan campaign. According to the War Powers Act, that declaration started a 60-day clock: If Obama fails to obtain congressional support for his decision within this time limit, he has only one option — end American involvement within the following 30 days.

In light of this, Libya continues to discomfit the international community. No one in the West wants to be accused of shirking the responsibility to protect civilians in conflict zones -- whether the hundreds of thousands who died in Rwanda and Darfur, the millions who died in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the hundreds dying now in Ivory Coast, Yemen and Bahrain. "Not on our watch" was the cry uttered at the height of the "save Darfur" movement; the messaging on Libya summons this same noble feeling. In protecting vulnerable populaces, however, there are four lessons from Libya, which are particularly pertinent for U.S. policymakers. 

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A royal visit, a bright future

A British Monarch is in Ireland for the first time in a century.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh are making a state visit to Ireland, the first since King George V visited in 1911. It is a historic moment.  

When I dealt with Irish issues here in Washington in the mid-1980s, the tension and difficulty in my country’s relationship with our neighbor had been plain for some time. Many of the tens of millions of Americans who trace their ancestry to the Emerald Isle felt profoundly concerned by events in the North. We had many difficult debates.

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Stop the violence in Syria

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had a question and answer session with European Union High Representative for Foreign Policy Catherine Ashton Tuesday in Washington. Below is the conversation.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it is such a pleasure for me to welcome back to the State Department High Representative Cathy Ashton. 

The United States and the European Union are partners working together on, I think, every global issue and regional challenge that you can imagine. We’re doing the urgent, the important, and the long-term all at once, and we are united in a transatlantic community that is based on shared democratic values and limitless faith in human potential.

As always, Cathy and I had a lot to talk about because there is so much happening around the world at a time when people are standing up for their rights and demanding a say in their own futures. And both the European Union and the United States are very committed to advancing democratic values and universal rights, and we know how important that is over the long term. But we also know that right now those rights are under threats from repression and reprisals. 

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