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A Stain on Jewish Values: Israel’s Misguided Obeisance to Donald Trump

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“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. This is the entire Torah; the rest is commentary….

Rabbi Hillel, Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31a

Introduction: Trump and Talmud

Israel’s largely enthusiastic support for Donald J. Trump represented a distressing irony of post-Holocaust Jewish history. Lest we forget, this former president was an American leader who made openly common cause with multiple hate groups; reversed a once-proud US national tradition of welcoming the  refugee;[1]replaced elementary human compassion with indifferent family separations and “beautiful” barbed wire;[2] turned an unforgivably blind eye to genocide-like crimes in Syria[3] and made the United States glaringly complicit with Vladimir Putin’s crimes against humanity.[4]

               Since 1945, an aptly proud Jewish mantra has been “Never Again.” From an authoritative Talmudic standpoint, this unambiguous stance must be applied to all peoples, and not just the Jewish People. Prima facie, to do otherwise would mean to disregard Judaism’s immutably core commitment to higher law,[5] species universality and human oneness. As we may also learn from Talmud, “The dust from which the first man was made was gathered in all four corners of the earth.”

               There is still more for Israelis to consider. During his continuously sordid presidency, Donald Trump actively celebrated the rancor of an “everyone for himself” national and international philosophy; that is, a conspicuously murderous posture intrinsically alien to everything Jewish. In Judaism, after all, whatever the particular sources, dignified human relations must always be founded upon cooperation and collaboration, not gratuitous belligerence or zero-sum conflict.[6]

               Always.

               But how did this defiling Israeli association with mendacious American leadership actually come to pass? Was it “merely” the result of a misguided Realpolitik or power politics orientation in Israel? To be sure, from the start of his anti-scientific[7] and anti-intellectual administration,[8] Donald Trump openly presented himself as a “friend of Israel.”

                But why the reciprocal? Why would a nation founded upon human dignity and moral principle declare itself a witting friend of Trump? Because he sent his Jewish son-in-law to move America’s embassy tile from a building in Tel Aviv to another building in Jerusalem?

               Oddly, because Israel is generally a country of smart and well-educated people,[9] this degrading reciprocity was widely accepted among otherwise thoughtful public citizens. Now, however, going forward in  moral, legal[10] and pragmatic survival terms,  there will be a continuously high price to pay for such shortsighted acceptance, for the Jewish State’s demeaning and corrosive complicity with Donald Trump’s inexcusable cruelty.[11]

Origins of the Defilement

               None of this was ever complicated. Looking back, the Trump administration actively sought to replicate some of the worst features of authoritarian governance. While such a normally grievous charge might once have seemed unreasonable or perhaps even outrageous, this could no longer be the case after January 6, 2021. On that lamentable day of fevered insurrection, this bitterly injurious president, with his unashamedly open support of white supremacy[12]and by his repeated subordinations of binding law to personal whim, focused more on dominating his nation’s “streets”[13]  than on maintaining even the thinnest veneers of national justice.[14]

               When, in the closing days of his still-aspiring dictatorship, Trump spawned violent uprising against his own government, a rebellion at the US Capitol replete with tee-shirts commending “Camp Auschwitz,” he exhibited the most egregiously fundamental tenet of Joseph Goebbels.[15] This was the supremely ironic message that once a lie becomes sufficiently monstrous[16] and preposterous, it can, if “properly” fashioned, become more credible.“Intellect rots the mind,” declared Nazi Minister of Propaganda Goebbels at a Nuremberg rally in 1934.”I love the poorly educated,” said then candidate Donald Trump to an American rally audience in 2016.

               Nonetheless, in law and morality, truth is exculpatory.

               Moral and intellectual judgment ought never have been so easily cast aside in Jerusalem as it was in Washington. From the start, Israel ought to have known much better than to openly align its core interests with unprecedented Trump crimes[17] and derangements. Stingingly ironic, too, is that a principal surviving remnant of the Jewish People – that is, the legitimate Jewish State born directly from the ashes of genocidal murder[18] – could have chosen to identify its  interests and ideals with such a sorely manipulative American leader.

                “Never again.”  Makes sense, of course, but not just for us. Judicially and Judaically, any such suggested Jewish exclusivity is indefensible. Patently, it is an oxymoron.

               There is more. Certain concrete or tangible wrongs must be re-considered and taken into full account. Proudly, Donald Trump stood cheerfully  by  assorted hate groups that vilify both universal human rights[19] and the particular Jewish ideals of Higher Law[20] and justice. When this former president adopted barbarous and illegal positions on immigration (i.e., positions that undermine various peremptory[21] legal obligations concerning the legitimate rights of refugees), and willfully separated thousands of young and infant children from their families at US borders, the pertinent American offenses were more serious than “merely” illegal.               Simultaneously, they represented a slap in the face to a people that had long-suffered from a frightful history of forced expulsions and international exclusions –  The Jewish People.

               Stephen Miller, Trump’s favored personal “architect” of immigrant exclusions, is himself the grandson of Jewish refugees from anti-Semitic pogroms. A key tenet of his grim standard for refugee admission to the United States had been “merit.” Like Trump, Miller pompously stipulated that only “the good ones” ought to be admitted.[22]

What Happened to the Words of Emma Lazarus?

               There is more. In once unimaginable cases, Trump-created immigration offenses[23] and his corollary criteria of selection reeked of earlier harms perpetrated against defenseless European Jews.[24] The ironies are unspeakable, but they still remain worth noting.

               Now, for those Israelis who were willing to cultivate US presidential support at all costs and whatever the concessions, relevant details should appear painful to recount. To the end, under the starkly indifferent aegis of Donald J. Trump and his coterie of dedicated sycophants, an official US pattern of illegality included forced deportations of minor children and forcible expulsions of the most severely disadvantaged. It is not a pattern that ought ever to have been overlooked or embraced by a “Jewish State.”The contradictions are simply too plain to see, too monstrous and too defiling.

               “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…..” say the words on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, words from never-to-be-forgotten Jewish author Emma Lazarus.

               Other serious issues were involved in Israel’s willingness to betray its most sacred ideals in “realistic” exchange for Trump patronage. Most perplexing and worrisome of all were those matters that centered on the always-key realms of war avoidance and peacemaking. In all these essential matters, this US president’s complete lack of any informed and coherent vision of foreign affairs was consequential and obvious. How could these irremediable debilities ever have been so totally ignored in Jerusalem?

               By preferring visceral seat-of-the-pants planning (“attitude, not preparation,” said Trump) to any focused forms of policy creation,[25] the former president sought to “reward” Israel with a series of  marginal “victories” –  e.g., moving the American Embassy from  Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a demonstrably Faustian agreement to arm the UAE with US F35s as quid pro quo for diplomatic recognition by Abu Dhabi, and the so-called “Abraham Accords.”[26] At best, all of these alleged “gifts” to Israel will represent more-or-less Pyrrhic victories.[27]

Trump, “Palestine” and Iran

               All presumed Trumpian benefits to Israel either ignore or exacerbate the more authentically critical security problems still at issue in Israel’s volatile regional “neighborhood.” Most obvious and enduringly problematic here are the expectedly continuous antipathies of the Palestinians, and also the still-accelerating nuclearization of Iran. In this regard, Trump’s unilateral US withdrawal from the JCPOA pact with Iran and his  subsequent enhancement of selected Sunni Arab states only made matters worse.

               Further marginalizing Iran could hardly signal a propitious security outcome for Jerusalem.

               Also, going forward, the several Palestinian elements seeking sovereignty with a determined prise de conscience, with an aroused consciousness, will not only remain fixed on achieving their overriding national goal. Plausibly, they will further prepare for the next hideous rounds of intercommunal violence. All this suggests, most urgently and with de facto compliments of Donald J. Trump, yet another intifada.[28]

               What about the Trump-vaunted Abraham Accords? At every level of assessment, these agreements, negotiated via the American president’s “good offices” –  and also the kindred deals with Morocco and Sudan – are devoid of any meaningfully gainful substance. In essence, to praise the Accords for enhancing Israel’s security is a bit like commending US President Ronald Reagan’s October 1983 invasion of Grenada on the grounds that Americans have not since had to face any catastrophic aggressions from Grenada.

               When Israel-Palestinian relations and Israel-Iranian relations are taken into joint account, the “whole” of negative outcomes for Israel could prove vastly more injurious than the simple sum of the respective “parts.” Here, as authentic synergies, the net costs of pertinent Trump-brokered agreements would significantly exceed Israel’s net gains. By definition, this means that at least as long as we can assume an Israeli capacity to estimate the costs and benefits of alternative  courses of action, Jerusalem’s participation in these concocted agreements was effectively irrational.

               Self-evidently irrational.[29]

                Even in the best of times, no one could reasonably describe the Middle East as a region of impending stability or collective security.  In the worst of times, this endlessly-volatile region could very quickly descend into a substantially more far-reaching condition of chaos.[30]Such a potentially lethal descent could have its precipitating origins in an impending nuclear confrontation with Iran[31] – a confrontation made more likely by Trump’s earlier withdrawal from the Obama-era Iran pact (JCPOA) and by his mid-November 2020 queries about launching an American military first strike or in the still-expanding interstices of microbial assault (i.e., Covid19 pandemic).. In a credibly worst case scenario, these causes, augmented by similarly incoherent Trump withdrawals from Afghanistan and Iraq,  would  intersect synergistically.[32]

               Again, by definition, the calculable “whole” of tangible injurious effects suffered by Israel[33] would be greater than the simple sum of its component “parts.”[34]

Reason and Anti-Reason

               There is more. From its visibly disjointed  beginnings, the  posturing Trump presidency was detached from absolutely any identifiable considerations of history, law[35] or diplomacy.[36] Till the end, saddled with such overwhelming and self-inflicted debilities, the former American president “advanced” unashamedly toward ever-more conspicuous postures of anti-reason. These flagrantly non-analytic postures included conspiracy theories so morbidly vacuous and outrageous that they would make even the most witting fools blush with a well-deserved embarrassment. If this were not enough humiliation to worry about, all this critique ignores Donald Trump’s unhidden disrespect for elementary logic, most distressingly his false correlation of Covid19 testing with increasing illness and his corresponding “medical” recommendation that citizens consider taking household disinfectants by injection.

               There is little here that is actually subject to dispute. Former President Trump’s disjointed Corona Virus policy continues to result in the needless deaths of a great many trusting Americans. Though lacking the “intent” or mens rea that is integral to the codified crime of genocide,[37]  the president’s Covid19 policy’s effect upon US civilian populations had been effectively genocidal.[38]

                From the standpoint of the victims and their families, the juridical fine point here is immaterial. It’s a bit like the parable of frogs being killed by the playful rock-throwing of young children. The boys may not have intended any such harms, but the frogs remain dead nonetheless.

               From the start of the Trump Era, Israel had been forewarned. In all complex matters of world politics and foreign policy, this American president had always been operating ad hoc, without any considered plan or doctrine, lurching fitfully from one inane whim to another, always without sturdy analytic moorings.[39] Whatever the subject, Trump  navigated precipitously, jumping wildly from crisis to crisis, always without even an elementary grounding in theory, ideology or science. Like his appointed and uniformly obsequious subordinates, Trump read nothing, nothing at all. To the everlasting delight of his American followers, there were three places the former president would absolutely never choose to visit: a museum, the theatre or a library.

               Is this an American president from whom Israel should ever have reasonably expected palpable wisdom or informed guidance?

               Ever?

               The question is silly, on its face.

                For Jerusalem, though very late in the “game,” the cumulative security consequences of any Trump-induced regional disorder (Trump said on several occasions, “I love chaos”) are apt to be far-reaching and at least partially irremediable. By assuming, without verifiable reason, that this US President had ever had Israel’s best interests in mind, or that he could conceivably have figured out what those national interests might actually have been, Israel must soon find itself dealing with otherwise once-avoidable regional crises.

               Among several examples of relevant Trump errors and deceptions, the American President’s April 2018 attack against Syrian chemical warfare facilities should be brought to mind. This spasmodic or “seat-of-the-pants” US action had little tangible impact upon Bashar al-Assad’s genocidal dictatorship.[40] Even worse, this photo-op generated attack emboldened various anti-Damascus regime insurgents holding jihadist orientations.

               What actually happened? These hapless insurgents were quickly crushed by al-Assad’s armed forces, hardly a victory for democratic rule in Syria or for any society allegedly bound to the peremptory Biblical principle, “Justice, justice shall you pursue.”[41] Also worth noting: Because of Trump’s conspicuous disregard for scientific and theoretical underpinnings,[42] matters could just as easily have gone the other way, effectively strengthening what was then a pro-ISIS adversary.

               Other basic questions should now arise in US policymaking circles. Whatever the specific issue at hand, Donald Trump remained steeply beholden to Vladimir Putin; he would never have considered doing anything that did not first comport with the Russian dictator’s presumptive personal preferences.[43] Why?

               It’s not a silly question.

               It finally deserves a proper answer.

               Donald J. Trump could have cared less about Israel’s national well-being or even its physical security. Always, his cynical outreach to Israelis and American Jews had only on self-serving objective.  This goal was to re-elect Donald Trump, and to extract ebullient homage for America’s reigning “emperor.”[44]

Remembering History/Awaiting Chaos

                Now, more than ever, history deserves appropriate pride of place. Since the seventeenth-century, the structure of world politics has been consistently anarchic or “Westphalian.”[45] But anarchy means “only” the absence of authoritative central government. To fully unravel still-meaningful effects of the destabilizing Trump presidency, Israel would need to prepare more systematically for various “centrifugal” foreign policy developments. The object of such rampant geo-strategic  disorder would be identifiable as chaos.

               Quo Vadis? For Israel, a true condition of chaos could prove far more threatening than “mere” anarchy.  In virtually any still-expressible form, this bewildering condition could play havoc with even the nation’s best laid plans. From the particular standpoint of Israel’s military readiness, chaos represents a constantly unpredictable, deeply frightful and ever-changing  “correlation of forces.”[46] Suddenly or incrementally, this correlation could impair all “normal” (and potentially indispensable) national security preparations.

                There is more. This impairment could arrive suddenly, as a dissembling “bolt-from-the-blue” enemy attack, or less discernibly and less dramatically, in variously tangible but unforeseeable increments.

               Whatever its mode of arrival, such results, for Israel, could be intolerable.

               In large part, these results will have been generated by misconceived and manipulative US presidential thinking.

               A new chaos is impending. For strategists and scholars, it must be differentiated from the more “normal”disorder associated with Carl von Clausewitz’s (the nineteenth-century Prussian military strategist) “friction” and correlative “fog of war.”[47] At its core, this Trump-boosted chaos describes a deep and systemic level of uncertainty, one that could create unprecedented and residually primal forms of international conflict. It follows, for Israel, that regional chaos could quickly and conclusively smother any still-simmering hopes for some cumulatively gainful “Trump Effect.”

               In essence, there was never any defensible legal or strategic reason for Israel to make sordid deals with a clinically-deranged American president; that is, to betray its national interests and ideals at the same time.

               At best, the US embassy move and the Abraham Accords will prove of very limited consolation to Israel. At worst, these “rewards” (designed only for Trump’s domestic political benefit) will be responsible for accelerating anti-Israel passions and policies, including new waves of Palestinian terror in Judea. Samaria (West Bank) and Israel proper. Any such revived instances of Sunni-Arab terror[48] could hasten rather than  hinder the creation of a Palestinian state,[49] a portentous outcome for “Palestine” that could generate  certain ominous synergies with Iranian nuclear weapons development.

                Once such creation had become a fait accompli, moreover, Israel would likely experience new incentives to initiate “anticipatory self-defense” options.[50]

               Wittingly, many states in world politics, not just Israel, must soon acknowledge steadily increasing risks from assorted forms of nuclear conflict.[51] In this connection, Donald Trump’s sorely evident incapacity to suitably manage a nuclear crisis and/or control any more-or-less related military escalations is difficult to dispute. Should this US President have failed to prevent a single escalation from an ongoing crisis to overt nuclear warfare, the corollary effects could have impacted several other parts of the world. These effects would have arrived in the form of prompt, immediate or latent physical casualties, and less dramatically, as the probable cause of unique social and economic misfortunes.[52]

Intersections and Synergies

                World politics is not geometry. In these complex spheres of interaction, ones where complex synergies are often involved, the whole can become greater than the sum of its parts. For Israel, going forward, the most obvious chaos-generated perils could  concern (1) escalating violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Sudan, Libya and/or Syria; and (2) near-simultaneous deteriorations in a still-ongoing Iranian nuclearization effort and/or in the many-sided Palestinian insurgency.

               Facing these prospectively intersecting perils, Jerusalem is already well aware that the Hashemite monarchy in neighboring Jordan remains vulnerable to assorted new forms of Islamic radicalism. Also apparent to decision-makers in Jerusalem is that a continuously authoritarian el-Sisi military regime in Cairo might not be able to control the  re-aspiring Muslim Brotherhood indefinitely. Nothing done by the Trump administration had addressed any of these key problems.

               In principle, at least, the “Brotherhood” or its kindred organizations could sometime seek to get its hands on weaponized pathogens or even nuclear explosives.[53] Regarding the “germ warfare” components, there would be great uncertainties about plausible effects of use during an already ongoing viral pandemic. What  then?       

               There is more. Apropos of any derivative “Trump effects” upon Israel’s national security, Pakistan exhibits another critical site of wider-area disintegration, one that could suddenly transform a “merely” volatile Middle East from basic Westphalian anarchy to a genuinely unfathomable chaos. To wit, if the already-nuclear regime in Islamabad should sometime fall toJihadists, all other regional sources of chaotic disintegration could promptly pale into comparative insignificance. In this regard, there is absolutely no evidence that the Trump administration had accomplished even a modicum of appropriate planning.

               In an expectedly worst case scenario for Israel, assorted Jihadists, emboldened by multiple expressions of Trump administration confusion and indecisiveness, would take singular or “hybrid” control in one or several of the more plainly unstable Sunni Arab and/or North African governments. Ultimately, these “martyrdom-driven” leaders could acquire certain game-changing weapons of mass destruction. This worrisome prospect, even if all acquired weapons were to remain non-nuclear, bring to mind the fearsomely correlative scenario of a “suicide-bomber in macrocosm.”[54]

               A Jihadist “hybrid” could be a terror-group amalgam (that is, no direct state component) or reflect an asymmetrical alignment between particular terror-groups and a kindred state or states.

               With the still-expected advance of Trump-enhanced chaos in the Middle East, Israel could sometime have to face certain nuclear and ideologically Islamist enemies on both the Iranian (Shiite) and Arab (Sunni) fronts. Even in the absence of old enemies with new atomic arms, nuclear and biological materials could find their way to Hezbollahin Lebanonand/or Hamas in Gaza. Along the way, Jerusalem – perhaps still following former President Trump’s predictably uncertain and disjointed policies –  could find itself having to take sides with one or another set of mortal enemies.

Political Philosophy and the State of Nature

               Back in the seventeenth-century, the English philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, already recognized that although international relations exist indefinitely in a “state of nature,” a condition of anarchy (not one of genuine chaos), these decentralized relations are nonetheless more tolerable than the condition of individual human beings living in similarly “everyone-for-himself” circumstances. This is the case, argued Hobbes, because nations, unlike individuals, lack the capacity to destroy one another.

               But today, this once reassuring distinction is no longer meaningful.[55] Thomas Hobbes was plainly unable to conceptualize a world with nuclear weapons. Now, proliferation of these weapons, especially in the Middle East, could quickly reduce the orthodox and relatively tolerable Westphalian anarchy of international relations to an authentically Hobbesianchaos, a “stateof nature,” one that could normally exist only between individuals.

               Here, as more and more nations came to share what Hobbes had cleverly called “dreadful equality,” a more-or-less symmetrical capacity to inflict mortal destruction, the portent of  regional nuclear calamity could become correspondingly more likely.

               In his modern classic, “The Second Coming,”  William Butler Yeats wrote of a time in which “the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned.” Succinctly, the celebrated Irish poet then revealed what continues to elude historians, diplomats, statesmen and scholars:In the not-too-distant future, there could arrive a moment wherein there would be no safety in numbers, treaties, or armaments; no help from “civilizations;” no counsel from public authority; and no last-minute rescue from science. Such an apocalyptic “moment,” one made more likely by the residual effects of America’s ill-prepared and steeply corrupted former president, might rage for a long while, perhaps even until every flower of human culture had been trampled and once-intact human communities had been ground insidiously into dust.

               From this seemingly resurrected medieval darkness, from this foreseeably Trump-facilitated chaos, there would be neither escape nor sanctuary. Rather like the “America First” or “know nothing” illiteracy that Mr. Trump had championed in the United States, such darkness could envelop entire regions of our long-suffering planet in a suffocating pall. What then? What will Americans have learned from the still-enduring horrors of Trump era declensions?

                 For Israel, the prime inheritor of Genesis, Trumpian chaos augured severe and paradoxical kinds of national fragility. As a continuously beleaguered microstate, Israel could still become  (depending upon the precise extent to which it would have allowed itself to be manipulated and misguided by Trump “rewards”) the principal victim of an even more-rampant regional disorder. In view of the far-reaching interrelatedness of all world politics – always, everything is “system” –  this victimization could arise even if the conspicuously precipitating events of war and terror[56]were to occur elsewhere.

               Oddly enough, a hideously triumphant global chaoscould reveal both sense and form. Generated by mutually  reinforcing explosions of mega-war and mega-terror, any further Trump-induced disintegrations of world authority could assume a revealing shape. But how should such a unique shape, such a sobering “geometry” of chaos, be suitably deciphered and purposefully understood in Jerusalem? As a related and similarly vital question, Israel’s leaders would then need to inquire:

               “How should we deal with potentially irrational nuclear adversaries, dedicated foes operating within both state and terrorist groups?”[57]

Israel as System

               There is more. Among other things, the whole world, like the individual nation-states that comprise it, is best understood as a system.  By definition, therefore, what happens in any one part of this world always affects what happens in some or all other parts. When, for example, global deterioration is marked, and begins to spread from one country to another, these effects could undermine international stability in general. When deterioration is sudden and catastrophic, as it would be following the onset of any unconventional war and/or act of unconventional terrorism, the unraveling effects could become more immediate and more overwhelming. 

               The State of Israel, a system of interdependent and interpenetrating parts like every other state, exists precariously in our larger world system.  Aware that any Trump-inspired collapse of regional authority structures (most plausibly, in increments) had, in one way or another, impacted its few friends as well as its many enemies, leaders of the Jewish State should now advance variously informed expectations or scenarios of collapse. This would be done in order to best prepare suitable forms of  response. Ultimately, recognizing that any rapid and far-reaching global collapse could spawn a more or less complete return to “everyone for himself” in world politics, or what philosopher Thomas Hobbeshad called in Leviathan a bellum omnium contra omnes, a “war of all against all,” Israel’s leaders must consider just how they should respond to any future national life in a global “state of nature.”

               These considerations would not present encouraging or pleasing forms of analytic effort. Still, they would  represent prudential national policy steps, and must therefore be undertaken. Such eleventh-hour considerations could be critical to the extent that the triggering mechanism of collapse would originate within the Middle East itself, from massive chemical, biological and, in the future, nuclear attacks against Israel. In these uncertain times of biological “plague,” the specific actions of any microbial assault would be largely unpredictable but nonetheless highly consequential.

               Any chaotic disintegration of the regional or wider-world system, whether slow and incremental or sudden and catastrophic, would impact the Israeli system. Accordingly, following the intellectually and morally deficient Trump presidency, Israel will have to orient its military planning doctrines more expressly toward worst-case possibilities. Already, Trump-initiated US troop withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan, opposed internally by the Joint Chiefs of Staff,  are accelerating regional instabilities in ways that are foreseeable and unforeseeable.

               Will one predictable result of these ill-considered withdrawals be increasing pressure upon Israel  to carry out assassinations/targeted killings[58] on behalf of Washington?[59] If so, what would this suggest about the true cumulative costs to Israel of the Trump-brokered “peace” agreements? This is a question well worth answering.

Looking to a Less Damaging Foreign Policy Future

               In the final analysis, it will be apparent that the overall security costs of these pacts to Jerusalem will exceed the overall benefits. And this is to say nothing about any corresponding Israeli violations of international law mandated by American “largesse,” or about indiscriminate Israeli submission to misconceived US presidential authority. Though every sham can have a patina, this moral and intellectual Trump Era surrender could haunt Israel’s national integrity and self-respect for a painfully long time.

               There is one last time-urgent observation to make about Israel’s witting subordination to Donald J. Trump’s incoherent plans and expectations. In mid-November 2020, Israel felt obligated to strike out at selected Iranian military targets in Syria. Simultaneously, in large part because of Trump’s earlier (and counter-productive) withdrawal from the Iran nuclear pact, Tehran had already been accelerating its preparations to “go nuclear.” On both conventional and unconventional weapon fronts, this former American president’s errors and incapacities had encouraged Iranian belligerence and strategic threats toward Israel.

                In the end, Israelis, not just Americans, will have to extricate themselves from grievous Trump-engineered misfortunes.[60]

               To avoid similar judgments or mistakes in the future, Israeli leaders ought never calculate that the flamboyant wishes of an American president are ipso facto coincident with their own nation’s best interests. President Donald Trump inflicted deeply corrosive harms upon the United States, but he also set the stage for continuously creating corollary or corresponding harms to Israel. Now, these significant harms, left unresolved, could not only imperil the Jewish State’s physical security, but also its still-residual convictions concerning international justice and human rights.[61]

               A small nation that earlier chose to follow a dissembling and dishonest American patron must expect a future of significant lamentations and potential despair.[62]

               For Israel, from the start, any deal made by US President Donald J. Trump “on its behalf” was essentially a bad deal.[63] “Proof” of this once-preventable result is already evident in moral and legal realms; it will soon become similarly clear in pertinent matters of strategy and self-defense. These matters will involve, inter alia, adversarial actions issuing forth from various sectors of the Sunni Arab world (including some that have been beneficiaries of Trump deal making); Shiite Iran (including various cooperating elements of both Sunni al-Qaeda and Shiite Hezbollah); and Afghanistan (mainly once-dormant Taliban foes resurrected by Trump’s seat-of-the-pants US troop withdrawals).

               In this last example, the negative consequences of Donald Trump’s misconceived foreign policy (terrorist training and terrorist safe havens) will not stem directly from any US actions undertaken “on behalf of Israel.” Rather, these unwanted results will stem indirectly from a policy intended originally by the former American president solely for  presumed benefit of the United States. Some or all of these discrete consequences could sometime combine in more-or-less unforeseen ways, creating strongly synergistic outcomes that are far worse than the calculable sum of their component parts. Incrementally, in such once-avoidable cases, the tangible costs to Israel of having wittingly acceded to Donald Trump’s lawless Realpolitik[64]will become more apparent and less remediable.

               For Israel, the Jewish State, it doesn’t have to be this way. Recalling Rabbi Hillel, the relevant standard of correct behavior is longstanding, clear and compelling: “That which is hateful to you,” instructs Talmud, “do not do to your neighbor.”

               It’s not complicated. For Israel and its American ally, the policy obligations are reciprocal, plain to see and altogether overriding.


[1]Prima facie, when President Trump’s executive orders directed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to expand his coercive program of “expedited removal,” he was in flagrant violation of the legal principle known as non-refoulement. This principle is prominently codified at Article 33 of the 1951 Refugee Convention. Owing to the prior incorporation of international human rights law into US law, these always-serious violations extend authoritatively to the immigration laws of the United States.

[2] See https://www.huffpost.com/entry/trump-barbed-wire-montana-rally-beautiful_n_5bde3b9fe4b04367a87d2495

[3] See, by this author, Louis René Beres, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2018/04/louis-beres-trump-syria/

[4]See, by this author, Louis René Beres, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2018/03/trump-putin-benes/   For definition of crimes against humanity, See AGREEMENT FOR THE PROSECUTION AND PUNISHMENT OF THE MAJOR WAR CRIMINALS OF THE EUROPEAN AXIS POWERS AND CHARTER OF THE INTERNATIONAL MILITARY TRIBUNAL.  Done at London, August 8, 1945.  Entered into force, August 8, 1945.  For the United States, Sept. 10, 1945.  59 Stat. 1544, 82 U.N.T.S. 279.  The principles of international law recognized by the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and the judgment of the Tribunal were affirmed by the U.N. General Assembly as AFFIRMATION OF THE PRINCIPLES OF INTERNATIONAL LAW RECOGNIZED BY THE CHARTER OF THE NUREMBERG TRIBUNAL.  Adopted by the U.N. General Assembly, Dec. 11, 1946.  U.N.G.A. Res. 95 (I), U.N. Doc. A/236 (1946), at 1144.  This AFFIRMATION OF THE PRINCIPLES OF INTERNATIONAL LAW RECOGNIZED BY THE CHARTER OF THE NUREMBERG TRIBUNAL (1946) was followed by General Assembly Resolution 177 (II), adopted November 21, 1947, directing the U.N. International Law Commission to “(a) Formulate the principles of international law recognized in the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and in the judgment of the Tribunal, and (b) Prepare a draft code of offenses against the peace and security of mankind….” (See U.N. Doc. A/519, p. 112).  The principles formulated are known as the PRINCIPLES OF INTERNATIONAL LAW RECOGNIZED IN THE CHARTER AND JUDGMENT OF THE NUREMBERG TRIBUNAL.  Report of the International Law Commission, 2nd session, 1950, U.N. G.A.O.R. 5th session, Supp. No. 12, A/1316, p. 11.

[5]See by this author, Louis René Beres,  https://jewishwebsite.com/opinion/presidential-crimes-and-pardons-donald-j-trump-and-americas-higher-law/64169/

[6]The core origins of such belligerence and conflict in world politics are best explained by German historian Heinrich von Treitschke in his posthumously published Lecture on Politics (1896):  “Individual man sees in his own country the realization of his earthly immortality.” Earlier, German philosopher Georg Friedrich Hegel opined, in Philosophy of Right (1820), that the state represents “the march of God in the world.” The “deification” of Realpolitik, a transformation from mere principle of action to a sacred and sacrilizing end in itself, drew its originating strength from the doctrine of sovereignty advanced in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Initially conceived as a principle of internal order, this doctrine underwent a specific metamorphosis, whence it became the formal or justifying rationale for international anarchy –  that is, for the global “state of nature.” First established by Jean Bodin as a juristic concept in De Republica (1576), sovereignty came to be regarded as a power absolute and above the law. Understood in terms of modern international relations, this doctrine encouraged the notion that states lie above and beyond any form of legal regulation in their interactions with each other.

[7]Could anything have been  more markedly anti-science than Trump’s utterly incoherent Covid19 advice? How could anyone take seriously his counsel to combat the pandemic with individual human injections of household bleach or disinfectant?

[8]During his presidency, too little attention was directed toward Trump’s open loathing of science and intellect and his corresponding unwillingness to read. Ironically, the Founding Fathers of the United States were intellectuals. As explained by American historian Richard Hofstadter: “The Founding Fathers were sages, scientists, men of broad cultivation, many of them apt in classical learning, who used their wide reading in history, politics and law to solve the exigent problems of their time.” See Hofstadter’s Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1964), p. 145. A conclusion ought to surface: How far we Americans have fallen.

[9] In Book II of his Ethics Baruch Spinoza considers the human mind or what he calls the “intellectual attributes,” and – drawing from René Descartes’ Discourse on Method – strives to define an essential theory of learning and knowledge. 

[10]Trump openly instructed his Secretary of State and Attorney General to denounce the International Criminal Court’s then-planned investigation of alleged US war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan. This direction was in fundamental contradiction of America’s ineradicable obligations to both national and international law. In the words used by the U.S. Supreme Court in The Paquete Habana, “International law is part of our law, and must be ascertained by the courts of justice of appropriate jurisdiction, as often as questions of right depending upon it are duly presented for their determination.  For this purpose, where there is no treaty, and no controlling executive or legislative act or judicial decision, resort must be had to the customs and usages of civilized nations.”  See The Paquete Habana, 175 U.S. 677, 678-79 (1900).  See also:  The Lola,  175 U.S. 677 (1900);  Tel-Oren v. Libyan Arab Republic, 726 F. 2d 774,  781, 788 (D.C. Cir. 1984)(per curiam)(Edwards, J. concurring)(dismissing the action, but making several references to domestic jurisdiction over extraterritorial offenses), cert. denied,  470 U.S. 1003 (1985)(“concept of extraordinary judicial jurisdiction over acts in violation of significant international standards…embodied in the principle of `universal violations of international law.'”).

[11]“There is no longer a virtuous nation,” warned the Irish poet William Butler Yeats, “and the best of us live by candlelight.” Of course, Israel’s wrongheaded complicity with Donald Trump pales beside citizen irresponsibility of the United States, the country that actually elevated such a patently egregious individual to a position of unparalleled global power. Moreover, in the specific parlance of international law, Trump must rightfully be regarded an embodiment of hostes humani generis,  or as a “common enemy of humankind.” On the concept of “common enemy of mankind,”  see:  Robert Alfert Jr.,  “Hostes Humani Generis:  An Expanded Notion of U.S. Counterterrorist Legislation,”  Emory International Law Review 6,  no. 1 (Spring 1992): 171-214. See also: Harvard Research in International Law: Draft Convention on Jurisdiction with Respect to Crime, 29 AM. J. INT’L L. 435, 566 (Supp. 1935) (quoting Coke, C. J. in King v. Marsh, 3 Bulstr. 27, 81 E.R. 23 (1615) (“a pirate est hostes humani generis”)). 

[12] See, by this author, Louis René Beres, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2020/10/louis-rene-beres-good-genes-proud-boys-white-supremacy/

[13]See, by this author, Louis René Beres, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2020/11/louis-rene-beres-dominating-the-street/

[14]https://news.yahoo.com/trumps-new-pentagon-chief-counterterrorism-agency-white-supremacy-100030848.html

[15] See, by this author, Louis René Beres, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2020/05/louis-beres-america-rise-and-fall/

[16]See, by this author, Louis René Beres, https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2020/04/14/a-once-unimaginable-scenario-the-president-as-monster/

[17]We must remember here that the core obligations of general international law are simultaneously core obligations of US law. Recalling judgment of the US Supreme Court in Paquete Habana (supra) (1900): “International law is part of our law, and must be ascertained and administered by the courts of justice of appropriate jurisdiction….” The more specific incorporation of treaty law into US municipal law is codified at Art. 6 of the US Constitution, the so-called “Supremacy Clause.” It is manifest that Donald J. Trump  never had any literate awareness of these essential facts.

[18] See, for example, Louis René Beres, “Genocide and Genocide-Like Crimes,” in  M. Cherif Bassiouni., ed., International Criminal Law: Crimes (New York, Transnational Publishers, 1986), pp. 271-279.   On the crime of genocide under international law, see: See Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, opened for signature, December 9, 1948, entered into force, January 12, 1951, 78 U.N.T.S. 277.  Although the criminalizing aspect of international law that proscribes genocide-like conduct may derive from sources other than the Genocide Convention (i.e., it may emerge from customary international law and also be included in different international conventions), such conduct is always an egregious crime under international law. Even where the conduct in question does not affect the interests of more than one state, a traditional canon of international legal validity, it becomes an international crime ipso facto whenever it constitutes an offense against the world community delicto jus gentium. 

[19]Though Trump’s Israeli and American supporters sometimes advance a purportedly utilitarian argument about  these evident infractions of law and justice, they ought best bear in mind the following peremptory principle of jurisprudence: “Rights cannot derive from wrongs” (Ex injuria jus non oritur).

[20]Under international law, the idea of a Higher Law – drawn originally from the ancient Hebrews – is contained  within the principle of jus cogens or peremptory norms.

[21]Apropos of Article 53 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (1969: “A peremptory norm of general international law….is a norm accepted and recognized by the international community of States as a whole, as a norm from which no derogation is permitted, and which can be modified only by a subsequent norm of general international law having the same character.”

[22]By such alleged criteria of “merit,” it is plausible that neither Stephen Miller’s Eastern European refugee forbears or Donald Trump’s own refugee mother (who came to the US penniless from Scotland to work as a domestic) would have been granted legal admittance.

[23]When President Trump’s executive orders directed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to expand his coercive program of “expedited removal,” he was in conspicuous violation of the legal principle known as non-refoulement. This principle is unambiguously codified at Article 33 of the 1951 Refugee Convention. Automatically, owing to the prior incorporation of international human rights law into US law, these always very serious violations extend to the immigration laws of the United States.

[24] The author, Professor Louis René Beres, was born in Switzerland at the end of the War, the only son  of Austrian Jewish Holocaust refugees.

[25]The “mass-man,” we may learn from 20th century Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y’ Gasset’s  The Revolt of the Masses, “learns only in his own flesh.” Donald J. Trump is the quintessential “mass-man.”

[26] See, by this author, Louis René Beres, https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2021/03/13/after-the-abraham-accords-nuclear-deterrence-and-nuclear-war-in-the-middle-east/ See also: https://www.state.gov/the-abraham-accords/

[27]At worst, the Trump-supplied massive weapons transfer to UAE (his quid pro quo for UAE recognizing Israel) will quickly find its way into the hands of more belligerent adversaries of Israel, including assorted Sunni terrorist groups. https://www.yahoo.com/huffpost/senate-block-trump-weapons-sale-uae-192114064.html

[28] For authoritative legal criteria to distinguish permissible insurgencies from impermissible ones, see: Louis René Beres, “The Legal Meaning of Terrorism for the Military Commander,” CONNECTICUT JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL LAW, Vol. 11., No. 1., Fall 1995, pp. 1-27. For the  moment, too many Israelis erroneously believe that Trump’s contrived Abraham Accords will somehow reduce the likelihood of further Palestinian violence.

[29]More  generally, expressions of decisional irrationality in world politics could take different and overlapping forms. These include a disorderly or inconsistent value system; computational errors in calculation; an incapacity to communicate efficiently; random or haphazard influences in the making or transmittal of particular decisions; and the internal dissonance generated by any structure of collective decision-making (i.e., assemblies of pertinent individuals who lack identical value systems and/or whose organizational arrangements impact their willing capacity to act as a single or unitary national decision maker).

[30] See latest book by this writer, Louis René Beres, Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (2016; 2nd. ed. 2018). https://paw.princeton.edu/new-books/surviving-amid-chaos-israel%E2%80%99s-nuclear-strategy

[31] Presently such a confrontation could not involve a full-fledged nuclear war (because Iran is not yet nuclear). For the moment, therefore, it is not an imminent risk. Looking ahead, however, for informed assessments of the probable consequences of nuclear war fighting, by this author, see Louis René Beres, SURVIVING AMID CHAOS: ISRAEL’S NUCLEAR STRATEGY (London: Rowman and Littlefield, 2016/2018); Louis René Beres,  APOCALYPSE: NUCLEAR CATASTROPHE IN WORLD POLITICS (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); Louis René Beres,  MIMICKING SISYPHUS: AMERICA’S COUNTERVAILING NUCLEAR STRATEGY (Lexington MA:  Lexington Books, 1983);  Louis René Beres, REASON AND REALPOLITIK: U S FOREIGN POLICY AND WORLD ORDER (Lexington MA;  Lexington Books, 1984);  and Louis René Beres, ed.,  SECURITY OR ARMAGEDDON: ISRAEL’S NUCLEAR STRATEGY (Lexington MA:  Lexington Books, 1986).

[32]Regarding Israel and Iran, see Louis René Beres and John T. Chain (General/USAF/ret.), “Could Israel Safely Deter a Nuclear Iran”?, The Atlantic, August, 2012; and also: Professor Louis René Beres and General Chain, “Israel and Iran at the Eleventh Hour,” Oxford University Press (OUP Blog), February 23, 2012. General Chain was Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Strategic Air Command (CINCSAC).

[33]On occasion this “whole” could be minimized by certain lawful expressions of anticipatory self-defense. Non-nuclear preemption has figured importantly in previous Israeli strategic calculations.  This was most glaringly apparent in the wars of 1956 and 1967, and also in the destruction of the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981.  It was essentially the failure to preempt in October 1973 that contributed to heavy Israeli losses on the Egyptian and Syrian fronts during the Yom Kippur war, and almost brought about an Israeli defeat.  During January, May, and October 2013, Israel, understandably apprehensive about Damascus’ supply of military materials to Syria’s Hezbollah surrogates in Lebanon, preemptively struck pertinent hard targets within Syria itself. For a jurisprudential assessment of these undeclared but still-appropriate expressions of anticipatory self-defense, by this author, see: Louis René Beres, “Striking Hezbollah-Bound Weapons in Syria: Israel’s Actions Under International Law,” Harvard National Security Journal, Harvard Law School, Online,  August 26, 2013.

[34] See, by this writer, at Harvard Law School:  Louis René Beres,  https://harvardnsj.org/2015/06/core-synergies-in-israels-strategic-planning-when-the-adversarial-whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts/  See also, by this writer, at West Point (Pentagon):  Louis René  Beres https://mwi.usma.edu/threat-convergence-adversarial-whole-greater-sum-parts/

[35] For early pertinent decisions on US “incorporation” of  authoritative international law by Chief Justice John Marshall, see: The Antelope, 23 U.S. (10 Wheat.) 66, 120 (1825); The Nereide, 13 U.S. (9 Cranch) 388, 423 (1815); Rose v. Himely, 8 U.S. (4 Cranch) 241, 277 (1808) and Murray v. The Schooner Charming Betsy, 6 U.S. (2 Cranch) 64, 118 (1804).

[36] See, by  this writer: Louis René Beres, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/wanted-plan-nuclear-diplomacy-26395

[37] See, by this author, Louis René Beres, https://digitalcommons.lmu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://search.yahoo.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1151&context=ilr

[38]See: https://www.yahoo.com/huffpost/mary-trump-blood-on-his-hands-101528091.html

[39]See, on this point, by Louis René Beres at Israel Defense: https://www.israeldefense.co.il/en/node/28532

[40]Regarding illegal US support for the Syrian regime, see, by this author at Jurist:  Louis René Beres, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2018/07/us-abandoning-legal-obligations-in-syria/ 

[41]Deuteronomy, 16:20

[42] “Theory is a net,” quotes philosopher of science Karl Popper from the German poet Novalis in The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1959), “….only those who cast, can catch.”

[43]  To the end, Vladimir Putin remained Donald Trump’s very evident puppet-master. In essence, this US president had been “The Manchurian Candidate” on steroids.

[44]See, by this author, Louis René Beres, https://www.usnews.com/opinion/thomas-jefferson-street/articles/2018-02-14/donald-trump-is-willfully-incoherent-corrupt-and-dangerous

[45]Reference here is to the world system creating Peace of Westphalia, which concluded the Thirty Years War  in 1648. See: Treaty of Peace of Munster, Oct. 1648, 1 Consol. T.S. 271; and Treaty of Peace of Osnabruck, Oct. 1648, 1., Consol. T.S. 119. Together, these two treaties comprise the “Peace of Westphalia.” When compared to “Westphalian” anarchy, any impending chaos could be more expressly primal, more primordial, perhaps even self-propelled and “lascivious.” We may think here, for further elucidation, of the near-total “state of nature” described in William Golding’s prophetic novel, Lord of the Flies. Before Golding, the 17th century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes (see Ch. XIII of Leviathan) had warned that in any such rabidly dissembling conditions, the “life of man” must inevitably be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”

[46]For earlier examinations of this “correlation,” by this author, see:  https://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/louis-bene-beres/israel-palestine-and-correlation-of-forces-in-the-middle-east/2005/04/20/; and also, at Israel Defense: https://www.israeldefense.co.il/en/content/idf-correlation-forces-strategy-order

[47] See, by this author, Louis René Beres, https://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/foreign-policy/344344-risks-of-accidental-nuclear-war-with-north-korea-must-be

[48]Under international law, terrorist movements are always Hostes humani generis, or “Common enemies of mankind.” See: Research in International Law: Draft Convention on Jurisdiction with Respect to Crime, 29 AM J. INT’L L. (Supp 1935) 435, 566 (quoting King v. Marsh (1615), 3 Bulstr. 27, 81 Eng. Rep 23 (1615)(“a pirate est Hostes humani generis”)).

[49] Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s steady insistence that any Palestinian state remain “demilitarized” is not merely unrealistic, but also potentially inconsistent with pertinent international law. On this point, see: Louis René Beres and (Ambassador) Zalman Shoval, “Why a Demilitarized Palestinian State Would Not Remain Demilitarized: A View Under International Law,” Temple International and Comparative Law Journal,Winter, 1998, pp. 347-363. See also, by Professor Beres and AMB. Shoval, at West Point (US Department of Defense): https://mwi.usma.edu/creating-seamless-strategic-deterrent-israel-case-study/  Zalman Shoval is two-times Ambassador of Israel to the United States.

[50] The customary right of anticipatory self-defense, which is the legal expression of preemption, has its modern origins in the Caroline Incident. This was part of the unsuccessful rebellion of 1837 in Upper Canada against British rule. (See: Beth Polebau, “National Self-Defense in International Law: An Emerging Standard for a Nuclear Age,”  59 N.Y.U. L. REV.  187, 190-191 (noting that the Caroline Incident transformed the right of self-defense from an excuse for armed intervention into a customary legal doctrine). Following the Caroline, even the threat of an armed attack has generally been accepted as justification for a militarily defensive action. In an exchange of diplomatic notes between the governments of the United States and Great Britain, then-U.S. Secretary of State Daniel Webster outlined a framework for self-defense that does not actually require a prior armed attack. (See Polebau, op. cit., citing to Jennings, “The Caroline and McLeod Cases,”  32 AM. J. INT’L L., 82, 90 (1938).) Here, a defensive military response to a threat was judged permissible as long as the danger posed was “instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means and no moment for deliberation.” (See Polebau. supra, 61).

[51] It warrants pointing out that no state on earth, including Israel, is under per se legal obligation to renounce access to nuclear weapons; in certain residual circumstances, even the actual resort to such weapons could be construed as lawful. On July 8, 1996, the International Court of Justice at The Hague handed down its Advisory Opinion on “The Legality of the Threat or Use of Force of Nuclear Weapons.” The final paragraph of this Opinion concludes, inter alia: “The threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and in particular the principles and rules of humanitarian law. However, in view of the current state of international law, and of the elements of fact at its disposal, the Court cannot conclude definitively whether the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be lawful or unlawful in an extreme circumstance of self-defense, in which the very survival of a State would be at stake.”

[52]See, by this author, at Harvard National Security Journal, Harvard Law School: Louis René Beres, https://harvardnsj.org/2020/03/complex-determinations-deciphering-enemy-nuclear-intentions/  

[53] See, by this author, at BESA (Israel):  Louis René Beres, https://besacenter.org/perspectives-papers/terrorism-power-death/

[54] See early book on this subject by this author, Louis René Beres,  https://www.routledge.com/Terrorism-And-Global-Security-The-Nuclear-Threatsecond-Edition-Completely/Beres/p/book/9780367289881  See also: Louis René Beres,  https://elibrary.law.psu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://search.yahoo.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1335&context=psilr

[55] In this connection, see, by this author, at US Army War College (US Department of Defense):  Louis René Beres,  https://warroom.armywarcollege.edu/articles/nuclear-decision-making/

[56] See, by this author, Louis René Beres, https://scholarlycommons.law.case.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1317&context=jil

[57] See, for example, by this author at Besa (Israel):  Louis René Beres, https://besacenter.org/perspectives-papers/north-korean-threat-rationality-intentionality-nuclear-war/

[58]For important legal distinctions between assassination and targeted killing, see:  Amos N. Guiora, Legitimate Target: A Criteria-Based Approach to Targeted Killing (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 107 pp.

[59]A current example may be found in Israel’s August 2020 elimination of Abu Muhammad al-Masri, al-Qaeda’s second-in-command. While not possible to confirm, it is plausible that Israel acted here as a “sub-contractor” for the United States. When the Taliban fell in Afghanistan, certain senior al-Qaeda leaders fled to Iran. This suggests, inter alia, (1) that upcoming US withdrawals from Afghanistan could occasion a partial or full return of al-Qaeda from Iran, and  (2) that there could be significant ad hoc relationships forged between the Shiite majority regime in Tehran and a Sunni-jihadist terrorist group.

[60]This  brings to mind a possible Israeli preemption against Iran, a considered instance of “anticipatory self-defense.” In the fashion of Hugo Grotius, 18th-century Swiss jurist Emmerich de Vattel draws significantly upon Hebrew Scripture and Jewish Law. See Exodus 22:2n (King James) (demonstrating a provision of the Torah that exonerates from guilt a potential victim of robbery with possible violence if, in self-defense, he struck down and, if necessary, even killed the attacker before he committed any crime (emphasis added)). Additionally, one noted rabbi has stated: “If a man comes to slay you, forestall by slaying him.” Rashi: Sanhedrin 72a. Perhaps more closely analogous to anticipatory self-defense under international law is a decision in the Talmud that categorizes war “to diminish the heathens so that they shall not march against them” as milhemet reshut,or discretionary. See Sotah 44b. 

[61] Israel can expect no rescue from a deus ex machina. In ancient Greece, classic playwright Euripides sometimes concluded his plays with  a reassuring “god out of the machine.” Appearing above the action, in a sort of theatrical crane, the specifically relevant god was seemingly able to solve all sorts of dreadful complications arising from the action, and thereby to supply a decipherable and more-or-less happy ending.

[62] Appropriately here, the specific importance of Reason to moral judgment and legal order  was prefigured in ancient Israel, which accommodated Reason within its own system of revealed law.  In jurisprudence, Jewish theory of law, insofar as it displays elements of Natural Law, offers a transcending order revealed by the divine word as interpreted by Reason.  In the words of Ecclesiastics 32.23,  37.16,  13-14:  “Let Reason go before every enterprise and counsel before any action…And let the counsel of thine own heart stand…For a man’s mind is sometimes wont to tell him more than seven watchmen that sit above in a high tower….”

[63] Where these deals are thought of as “Faustian bargains,” they call into question not only Israel’s tangible national security, but also its “soul. Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung thought of “soul” (in German, Seele) as the essence of every human being. Neither Freud nor Jung provides a precise definition of the term, but it was not intended by either thinker in any ordinary religious sense. For both, it was a recognizable and critical seat of mind and passions in this life. Interesting, too, in the present context, is that Freud explained his predicted decline of America by express references to “soul.” He was seemingly disgusted by any civilization so apparently unmoved by considerations of true “consciousness” (i.e., awareness of intellect and literature), and supposed that the crude American commitment to a perpetually shallow optimism and material accomplishment would inevitably cause sweeping psychological misery. One might reasonably extrapolate from this indictment that Freud would have had the same or similar apprehensions about any other society that looked to the United States as a suitable model for imitation, e.g., Israel.

[64] See, by this author, Louis René Beres, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2021/01/louis-rene-beres-rising-above-realpolitik/

LOUIS RENÉ BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is Emeritus Professor of International Law at Purdue. His twelfth and most recent book is Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel's Nuclear Strategy (2016) (2nd ed., 2018) https://paw.princeton.edu/new-books/surviving-amid-chaos-israel%E2%80%99s-nuclear-strategy Some of his principal strategic writings have appeared in Harvard National Security Journal (Harvard Law School); International Security (Harvard University); Yale Global Online (Yale University); Oxford University Press (Oxford University); Oxford Yearbook of International Law (Oxford University Press); Parameters: Journal of the US Army War College (Pentagon); Special Warfare (Pentagon); Modern War Institute (Pentagon); The War Room (Pentagon); World Politics (Princeton); INSS (The Institute for National Security Studies)(Tel Aviv); Israel Defense (Tel Aviv); BESA Perspectives (Israel); International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence; The Atlantic; The New York Times and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

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Middle East

Qatar World Cup offers lessons for human rights struggles

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It’s a good time, almost 12 years after the world soccer body, FIFA, awarded Qatar the 2022 World Cup hosting rights and five months before the tournament, to evaluate the campaign to reform the country’s erstwhile onerous labor system and accommodate fans whose lifestyles violate restrictive laws and/or go against deeply rooted cultural attitudes.

Ultimately the balance sheet shows a mixed bag even if one takes into account that Qatari autocracy has proven to be more responsive and flexible in responding to pressure by human rights and labour groups than its Gulf brothers in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

On the plus side, the initial wave of condemnation of the country’s repressive kafala labour system that put employees at the mercy of their employers persuaded Qatar to become the first Gulf state, if not the first Arab state, to engage with its critics.

Engagement meant giving human rights groups and trade unions access to the country, allowing them to operate and hold news conferences in Qatar, and involving them in drafting reforms and World Cup-related model labour contracts. This was unprecedented in a region where local activists are behind bars or worse and foreign critics don’t even make it onto an inbound flight.

The reforms were imperfect and not far-reaching enough, even if Qatar introduced significant improvements in the conditions for unskilled and semi-skilled workers.

Furthermore, on the plus side, the hosting rights sparked limited but nonetheless taboo-breaking discussions that touched on sensitive subjects such as LGBT rights and the granting of citizenship to non-nationals.

Qataris openly questioned the granting of citizenship to foreign athletes so they could be included in the Qatar national team for the 2016 Olympics rather than medical personnel and other professionals who had contributed to national welfare and development.

Hosting the World Cup has further forced Qatar, albeit in a limited fashion, to come to grips with issues like LGBT rights that do not simply violate the country’s laws but go against its social grain to produce an inclusive tournament.

In some ways, that may have been more difficult than reforming the labour regime if one considers the difference between standing up for democratic freedoms that may have broad public support and the recognition of LGBT rights. In contrast to democratic rights, opposition to LGBT rights is deeply engrained in Qatar and other Muslim societies. It would likely be socially rejected, even if they were enshrined in law.

The difference means that the defense of LGBT and other socially controversial rights forces activists and human and LGBT rights groups to rethink their strategies and adopt alternative, more long-term approaches.

It also means that they will have to embrace less Western-centric attitudes frequently prevalent in the campaign to reform Qatar’s labour system. Those attitudes were evident in debates that were also often skewed by bias, prejudice, bigotry, and sour grapes.

Moreover, the criticism often failed to consider the context. As a result, achieving results and pushing for reform was, to a degree, undermined by what appeared to be a ganging up on Qatar and a singling out of the Gulf state.

Labour is an example. Human rights groups and trade unions treated onerous labour conditions in Qatar, even if the World Cup turned it into a prime target, as uniquely Qatari rather than a global problem that manifests itself in other parts of the world such as Southeast Asia and even Western democracies like Britain. Recent reporting by The Guardian showed that expatriate medical and caregiver personnel face similar curtailing of rights and abuse in Britain.

By the same token, Qatar was taken to task for being slow in implementing its reforms and ensuring that they were applied not only to World Cup projects but nationwide.

The fact is that lagging enforcement of policies and legal changes is a problem across the broad spectrum of Qatari policies and reform efforts, including the Gulf state’s high-profile, fast-paced, mediation-driven foreign policy.

Qatar’s handling of illegal recruitment fees paid by workers is a case in point.

The Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, the Qatari organizer of the World Cup, has obliged companies it contracts to repay the fees without workers having to provide proof of payment. Companies have so far pledged to repay roughly USD$28.5 million to some 49,000 workers, $22 million of which have already been paid out.

It is a step the government could apply nationally with relative ease to demonstrate sincerity and, more fundamentally, counter the criticism.

Similarly, in response to complaints raised by human rights groups and others, the government could also offer to compensate families of workers who die on construction sites. Again, none of these measures would dent Qatari budgets but would earn the Gulf state immeasurable goodwill.

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Middle East

‘Effort and patience’ required to restore Iran nuclear agreement

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A view from the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant in Iran. (file) Photo: IAEA/Paolo Contri

Despite diplomatic engagements, restoring the so-called Iran nuclear agreement continues to be hindered by political and technical differences, the UN political and peacebuilding chief told the Security Council on Thursday.
 

In the landmark accord, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – reached in 2015 between Iran, the United States, China, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom – Iran agreed to dismantle much of its nuclear programme and open its facilities to international inspections in exchange for sanctions relief.

In 2018, then-President Trump withdrew the US from the agreement and reinstated the sanctions.

Achieving the landmark JCPOA took determined diplomacy. Restoring it will require additional effort and patience,” said UN political affairs chief, Rosemary DiCarlo.

Although the landmark Joint Commission to restore the Plan resumed in November 2021, she acknowledged that despite their determination to resolve the issues, the US and other participants are yet to return to “full and effective implementation of the Plan, and [Security Council] resolution 2231”.

Appealing to both

Together with the Secretary-General, she urged Iran and the US to “quickly mobilize” in “spirit and commitment” to resume cooperation under the JCPOA.

They welcomed the reinstatement by the US in February of waivers on nuclear non-proliferation projects and appealed to the country to lift its sanctions, as outlined in the Plan, and extend oil trade waivers.

Together they also called on on Iran to reverse the steps it has taken that are inconsistent with its nuclear-related commitments under the Plan.

Monitoring enrichment

While the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been unable to verify the stockpile of enriched uranium in Iran, it estimates that there is currently more than 15 times the allowable amount under the JCPOA, including uranium enriched to 20 and 60 per cent, which Ms. DiCarlo called “extremely worrying”.

Moreover, on 8 and 20 June, IAEA reported that Iran had started to install additional advanced centrifuges at the Fuel Enrichment Plant at Natanz and began feeding uranium into advanced centrifuges at the Fuel Enrichment Plant at Fordow.

In his latest report, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi, informed the Council that the UN agency’s ability to verify and confirm the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear activities are key to the JCPOA’s full and effective implementation.

Iran’s decision to remove site cameras and place them and the data they collected under Agency seals, “could have detrimental implications”.

Improved relationships ‘key’

Bilateral and regional initiatives to improve relationships with Iran remain “key” and should be encouraged and built upon, according to Ms. DiCarlo.

Additionally, Member States and the private sector are urged to use available trade instruments to engage with Iran and Tehran is requested to address their concerns in relation to resolution 2231 (2015) on its nuclear issues.

The senior UN official also drew attention to annex B of the resolution, updating ambassadors in the Council on nuclear-related provisions, ballistic missiles and asset freezing.

We hope that diplomacy will prevail – UN political chief

Triumph for multilateralism

The JCPOA was a triumph for non-proliferation and multilateralism,” said the UN political affairs head.

However, after many years of uncertainty, she warned that the Plan is now at “a critical juncture” and encouraged Iran and the US to build on recent momentum to resolve remaining issues.

“The Secretary-General is convinced there is only one path to lasting peace and security for all Member States, and that is the one based on dialogue and cooperation,” she said.  “We hope that diplomacy will prevail”. 

In Iran’s best interest

Olof Skoog, Head of the European Union Delegation to the UN, speaking in his capacity as the Coordinator of the Joint Commission established by the JCPOA, to the Security Council, recognized the negative economic consequences that the US’ withdrawal from the JCPOA has had on Iran but affirmed that restoring the agreement is “the only way” for the country to reap its full benefits.

He reminded that the Plan would comprehensively lift sanctions, encourage greater international cooperation, and allow Iran to reach its “full economic potential”.  

“It is, therefore, important to show the necessary political will and pragmatism to restore the JCPOA,” said Ambassador Skoog who, while acknowledging the sense of urgency, counselled against “escalatory steps” and to preserve sufficient space for the diplomatic efforts to succeed.

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Middle East

Dynamic diplomacy: From SCO to BRICS

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Image source: Tehran Times

The tree of Iran’s balanced foreign policy approach is on the verge of being a one-year-old child. Stronger than before, Iran is pursuing dynamic diplomacy in a variety of cities such as Doha, Ashgabat, and other capitals. Baghdad will also join the list soon.

While Iran’s top negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani is engaged in intensive negotiations in Qatar with the United States through the European Union delegation, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi and his oil and foreign ministers are in Ashgabat pursuing transit diplomacy as well as the legal regime of the Caspian Sea with the littoral states. 

Prior to his departure for Ashgabat on Wednesday, Raisi spoke to reporters about the purpose of his visit to Turkmenistan. 

“This visit is taking place at the invitation of the esteemed president of the brotherly and friendly country of Turkmenistan in order to attend the Caspian Sea littoral states summit,” he remarked.

The President called the Caspian Sea a common heritage and capital for the littoral states with more than 270 million people. 

“We have good relations with the littoral states of the Caspian Sea, but in addition to reviewing the legal regime of the Caspian Sea and peaceful use of the sea for the purpose of improving security at the sea, what will be discussed at the sixth summit of the Caspian Sea littoral states is cooperation between countries in the fields of transport, transit, trade, management of marine living resources, environment, as well as preventing the presence of outsiders in the sea, which is also agreed upon by all coastal countries.”

Prior to the beginning of the summit, Raisi met Serdar Berdimuhamedow, Turkmenistan’s President, as well as Chairman of the People’s Council of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow.

During the meeting with the President of Turkmenistan, Raisi pointed out that the implementation of the memoranda of understanding and cooperation documents signed by the two countries during Berdimuhamedow’s recent visit to Tehran will accelerate promotion of cooperation between the two countries.

Later, Raisi met with the Azerbaijani President, Ilham Aliyev. 

During the meeting, Raisi reminded Aliyev that the presence of the Israeli regime in any part of the world undermines security there.

The president also had a brief meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the summit. 

There’s little doubt that Tehran has not put all its eggs into the basket of the JCPOA revival, as it actively seeks to establish trade relations with the neighbors. It’s short-sighted thinking to assume that Iran has to wait for the United States to return to the JCPOA, while it can enjoy the benefits of regional alliances such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), or BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). 

On Monday, Iran’s former Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh, who was holding his last presser, told the Tehran Times correspondent that Tehran has submitted a membership request to the BRICS secretariat via Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian. While dynamically trailing balanced and active diplomacy with the neighbors, Tehran is awaiting Washington’s serious political decisions to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Source: Tehran Times

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