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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

Israel and Turkey in search of solutions

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Twelve and eleven years have elapsed since the Davos and Mavi Marmara incidents, respectively, and Turkey-Israel relations are undergoing intense recovery efforts. They are two important Eastern neighbours and influence regional stability.

Currently, as in the past, relations between the two countries have a structure based on realpolitik, thus pursuing a relationship of balance/interest, and hinge around the Palestinian issue and Israel’s position as the White House’s privileged counterpart. However, let us now briefly summarise the history of Turkish-Jewish relations.

The first important event that comes to mind when mentioning Jews and Turks is that when over 200,000 Jews were expelled by the Spanish Inquisition in 1491, the Ottoman Empire invited them to settle in its territory.

Turkey was the first Muslim country to recognise Israel in 1949. Israel’s first diplomatic Mission to Turkey was opened on January 7, 1950 but, following the Suez crisis in 1956, relations were reduced to the level of chargé d’affaires. In the second Arab-Israeli war of 1967, Turkey chose not to get involved and it did not allow relations to break off completely.

The 1990s saw a positive trend and development in terms of bilateral relations. After the second Gulf War in 1991 -which, as you may recall, followed the first Iraqi one of 1980-1988 in which the whole world was against Iran (with the only exception of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Syria, Libya and the moral support of Enver Hoxha’s Albania) – Turkey was at the centre of security policy in the region. In that context, Turkey-Israel relations were seriously rekindled.

In 1993, Turkey upgraded diplomatic relations with Israel to ambassadorial level. The signing of the Oslo Accords between Palestine and Israel led to closer relations. The 1996 military cooperation agreement was signed between the two countries in the fight against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Turkey, which provided significant logistical and intelligence support to both sides.

In the 2000s, there was a further rapprochement with Israel, due to the “zero problems with neighbours” policy promoted by Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party. I still remember issue No. 3/1999 of the Italian review of geopolitics “Limes” entitled “Turkey-Israel, the New Alliance”.

In 2002, an Israeli company undertook the project of modernising twelve M-60 tanks belonging to the Turkish armed forces. In 2004, Turkey agreed to sell water to Israel from the Manavgat River.

Prime Minister Erdoğan’s visit to Israel in 2005 was a turning point in terms of mediation between Palestine and Israel and further advancement of bilateral relations. In 2007, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas spoke at the Turkish Grand National Assembly one day apart. High-level visits from Israel continued.

On December 22, 2008, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert came to Ankara and met with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In that meeting, significant progress was made regarding Turkey’s mediation between Israel and Syria.

Apart from the aforementioned incidents, the deterioration of Turkish-Israeli relations occurred five days after the above stated meeting, i.e. Operation “Cast Lead” against Gaza on December 27, 2008. After that event, relations between the two sides were never the same as before.

Recently, however, statements of goodwill have been made by both countries to normalise political relations. In December 2020, President Erdoğan stated he wanted to improve relations with Israel and said: “It is not possible for us to accept Israel’s attitude towards the Palestinian territories. This is the point in which we differ from Israel – otherwise, our heart desires to improve our relations with it as well”.

In its relations with Israel, Turkey is posing the Palestinian issue as a condition. When we look at it from the opposite perspective, the Palestinian issue is a vital matter for Israel. It is therefore a severe obstacle to bilateral relations.

On the other hand, many regional issues such as Eastern Mediterranean, Syria and some security issues in the region require the cooperation of these two key countries. For this reason, it is clear that both sides wish at least to end the crisis, reduce rhetoric at leadership level and focus on cooperation and realpolitik areas.

In the coming months, efforts will certainly be made to strike a balance between these intentions and the conditions that make it necessary to restart bilateral relations with Israel on an equal footing. As improved relations with Israel will also positively influence Turkey’s relations with the United States.

Turkey seeks to avoid the USA and the EU imposing sanctions that could go so far as to increase anti-Western neo-Ottoman rhetoric, while improved relations with Israel could offer a positive outcome not only to avoid the aforementioned damage, but also to solve the Turkish issues related to Eastern Mediterranean, territorial waters, Libya and Syria. Turkey has no intention of backing down on such issues that it deems vital. Quite the reverse. It would like to convey positive messages at the level of talks and Summits.

Another important matter of friction between Turkey and Israel is the use of oil and gas in the Eastern Mediterranean reserves between Egypt, Israel, Greece and Cyprus (Nicosia).

This approach is excluding Turkey. The USA and the EU also strongly support the current situation (which we addressed in a previous article) for the additional reason that France has been included in the equation.

The alignment of forces and fronts in these maritime areas were also widely seen during the civil war in Libya, where Turkey, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, France, as well as other players such as Russia, Italy, etc. came into the picture.

Ultimately, a point of contact between Turkey and Israel is the mediation role that the former could play in relations between Iran and Israel, especially after the improvement of Turkish-Iranian relations.

Indeed, in the aftermath of the U.S. airstrike in Baghdad – which killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani on January 3, 2020 -the Turkish Foreign Minister stated that the U.S. action would increase insecurity and instability in the region. He also reported that Turkey was worried about rising tensions between the United States and Iran that could turn Iraq back into an area of conflict to the detriment of peace and stability in the region. There was also a condolence phone call from President Erdoğan to Iranian President Rouhani, urging him to avoid a conflictual escalation with the United States following the airstrike.

Consequently, it is in the Turkish President’s interest to maintain an open channel with Iran, so that he himself can soften the mutual tensions between Israel and Iran, and – in turn – Israeli diplomacy can influence President Biden’s choices, albeit less pro-Israel than Donald Trump’s.

Turkey is known to have many relationship problems with the United States – especially after the attempted coup of July 15-16, 2016 and including the aforementioned oil issue – and realises that only Israel can resolve the situation smoothly.

In fact, Israel-USA relations are not at their best as they were under President Trump. President Erdoğan seems to be unaware of this fact, but indeed the Turkish President knows that the only voice the White House can hear is Israel’s, and certainly not the voice of the Gulf monarchies, currently at odds with Turkey.

Israel keeps a low profile on the statements made by President Erdoğan with regard to the Palestinians- since it believes them to be consequential – as well as in relation to a series of clearly anti-Zionist attitudes of the Turkish people.

We are certain, however, that President Erdoğan’s declarations of openness and Israeli acquiescence will surely yield concrete results.

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Middle East

The 25-year China-Iran agreement

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On March 27, 2021, a document entitled “Comprehensive Document of Iran-China Cooperation” was signed by Javad Zarif, Iran’s Foreign Minister, and his Chinese counterpart. The Iranian regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had previously called “the agreement between the presidents of Iran and China correct and wise.” However, the Iranian people have widely criticized it as entirely against their national interests. Iranian officials have not even publicized the document’s contents yet probably because it is highly contentious.

In 2019, excerpts from this document were revealed by the Economist Petroleum news site. The details included:

  • China invests $460 billion in Iranian oil and transportation sectors. China will get its investment back from the sale of Iranian crude during the first five years.
  • China buys Iranian petroleum products at least 32% cheaper.
  • The Chinese can decide before other companies whether to participate in completing all or part of a petrochemical project.
  • 50,000 Chinese security personnel will be deployed to protect Chinese projects in Iran.
  • China has the right to delay the repayment of its debts for up to two years in exchange for Iranian products’ purchase.
  • At least one Russian company will be allowed to participate in the Tabriz-Ankara gas pipeline design together with the Chinese operator.
  • Every year, 110 senior Revolutionary Guards officers travel to China and Russia for military training. 110 Chinese and Russian advisers will be stationed in Iran to train Revolutionary Guards officers.
  • Development of Iranian military equipment and facilities will be outsourced to China, and Chinese and Russian military aircraft and ships will operate the developed facilities.

Even some circles within the regime have criticized the agreement. The state-run Arman newspaper wrote, “China has a 25-year contract with Iran and is investing $460 billion in Iran. It is somewhat ambiguous. Presently, China is holding the money it owes us and blames it on the U.S. sanctions. How can we trust this country to invest $460 billion in Iran?”

Last year, Iran and China had the lowest trade in the previous 16 years, and according to statistics, by the end of 2020, the volume of trade between Iran and China was about $16 billion, which, including undocumented oil sales, still does not reach $20 billion.

Jalal Mirzaei, a former member of Iran’s parliament, said: “If in the future the tensions between Tehran and Washington are moderated, and we see the lifting of some of the sanctions, China can also provide the basis for implementing the provisions of this document, but if the situation continues like today, Beijing will not make any effort to implement the document, as it is essentially unable to take concrete action on the ground because of the sanctions.”

China’s objectives

Iran is vital to China in two ways, through its geopolitical location and its geo-economic importance. China knows that it does not have enough natural resources and is currently having a hard time supplying them from Russia and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia supplies its energy needs from oil giant Aramco, half of which is owned by the United States. That is why China is looking for a safe alternative that the United States will not influence, and the only option is Iran. They may also have a two-pronged plan in Iran, which involves using Iran’s profitable market and making Iran into a lever of pressure against the United States for additional concessions.

The Iranian regime’s objectives

The deal could deepen China’s influence in the Middle East and undermine U.S. efforts to isolate the Iranian regime. While the international dispute over the Iranian regime’s nuclear program has not been resolved, it is unclear how much this agreement could be implemented. The regime intends to make it a bargaining chip in possible future nuclear negotiations. However, some of Iran’s top authorities believe that China and Russia cannot be trusted 100 percent.

Due to the sanctions, the regime has a tough time to continue providing financial support to its proxy militias in the region. The regime also faced two major domestic uprisings in 2017 and 2019. Khamenei’s regime survived the widespread uprisings by committing a massacre, killing 1,500 young protesters in the 2019 uprising alone, according to the Iranian opposition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and later confirmed by the Iranian regime’s Interior Ministry officials. Now with the coronavirus pandemic, Khamenei has been able to delay another major uprising.

Iran’s economy is on the verge of collapse. Khamenei must bow to western countries’ demands regarding the nuclear issue, including an end to its regional interventions and its ballistic missile program. Khamenei will struggle to save his regime from s imminent uprisings and a deteriorating economy that will undoubtedly facilitate more protests by the army of the unemployed and the hungry at any moment.

Unlike the 2015 JCPOA, the Iranian regime in 2021 is in a much weaker position. In fact, by many accounts, it is the weakest in its 40-year history. By signing the recent Iran-China agreement and auctioning Iranian resources, Khamenei wants to pressure the United States to surrender and restore the 2015 JCPOA as quickly as possible. But in the end, this pivot will not counteract domestic pressures that target the regime’s very existence.

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Middle East

China-Arab Relations: From Silk to Friendship

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China and the Arabs have a long and rich economic and cultural history, and this distinguished relationship still exists today, with a promising future. This bilateral relationship between the two nations is based on the principles of respect and non-interference in internal affairs or foreign policies. Therefore, China’s relationship with the Arabs as well as with other nations is unique and a model to be followed. If you meet a Chinese person, the first phrase will be “Alabo” or an Arab in Mandarin, and he/she will welcome you. The Chinese state’s dealings with its counterparts can be measured based on the model of this Chinese citizen. China deals with the Arabs on the basis of friendship and historical ties.

The history of Sino-Arab relations goes back to the Tang Dynasty, and these relations developed with the flourishing of trade between the two nations. Since China was famous for its high quality silk, this trade route was called the “Silk Road”. Baron Ferdinand Freiherr von Richthofen, better known in English as Baron von Richthofen, was a German traveller, geographer, and scientist. He is noted for coining the terms “Seidenstraße” and “Seidenstraßen” = “Silk Road” or “Silk Route” in 1877.

Chinese-Arab relations have developed in contemporary history. In 1930, China established official relations with the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. A library in China was named the “Fouad Islamic Library”, after the late Egyptian king, “Fuad the First”. In 1956, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser cut ties with China and established relations with the Communist People’s Republic of China and inaugurated an embassy in Egypt. In the same year, the Arab League established relations with the People’s Republic of China. By the year 1990, all Arab countries cut their relations with the Republic of China and established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China.

In 2004, the China-Arab Cooperation Forum was established, and today it is considered a milestone for the Sino-Arab relationship. At its inauguration, Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing delivered a speech stating:“The Arab world is an important force on the international scene, and that China and the Arab countries have enjoyed a long friendship. Our similar history, our common goals and our broad interests have been credited with enhancing cooperation between the two sides; no matter how the international situation changes, China has always been the sincere friend of the Arab world”. The China-Arab Cooperation Forum was officially established during the visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to the headquarters of the League of Arab States in January of 2004.

Hu Jintao indicated at that time that the formation of the forum is a continuation of the traditional friendship between China and the Arab world. The Chinese president said at the time, “The establishment of the forum is conducive to expanding mutual cooperation in a variety of fields. He added that China had made four proposals; First, maintaining mutual respect, fair treatment and sincere cooperation at the political level. Second, strengthening economic and trade relations through cooperation in the fields of investment and trade, contracted projects, labor services, energy, transportation, communications, agriculture, environmental protection and information. Third, expand cultural exchanges. Finally, conducting training for the employees.”

During the second session of the forum in Beijing in 2006, China showed its sympathy for the issues of the Arab world and its interest in the peace process between Palestine and Israel, since China is a peace-loving country; it presented the idea of “a nuclear-free Middle East”. China is the best friend of the Arab countries today. Although some Arab countries have strong relations with the West whose policy does not match the Chinese policy, but all Arab countries agree on friendly and good relations with the People’s Republic of China.

The Arab citizen is not interested today in the foreign policy of the US, the deadly weapons of the US and Russia, or European culture, but rather the livelihood and economy, and this is what China provides through its wise economic policy. In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping launched the Belt and Road Initiative, or New Silk Road, which will restore glow to China-Arab relations; as the Arab world is in a strategic location on the initiative map. Thus, the Arab countries are an important partner for China in the initiative. Although the volume of trade exchanges between China and the Arab countries exceeded 200 billion US dollars, which increased 10 times over the past decade, there was no commercial and institutional arrangement to facilitate trade between the two sides.

China, as a peaceful and non-invasive country, aims to promote economic cooperation with Arab region on an equal basis because it considers the Arab world a historic partner. The historical experience of the Arabs with the Chinese through the Silk Road has confirmed that China differs from the nations of colonialism and imperialism, which consider the Arab region a place rich in natural resources only. In his historic speech at the Arab League, Chinese President Xi stressed that China will not seek to extend influence and search for proxies in the Middle East. The Chinese initiatives will contribute to establishing security and stability through economic development and improving the people’s livelihood, in line with the post-2015 development agenda and the aspirations of the Arab people for a better life, as the Chinese experience proves that development is the key to digging out the roots of conflicts and extremism in all its forms.

China is a neutral country and does not favor the use of violence. During the Syrian crisis, for example, the Chinese envoy to the Security Council raised his hand three times, meaning that China, with its wise diplomacy, supported the Syrian regime without entering the military war. During the recent Chinese military parade, Chinese President Xi Jinping revealed some Chinese military capabilities and thus sent a message to the enemies that China will always be ready if a war is imposed on it, and a message of support to China’s allies. The Arab region today needs a real partner who possesses economic and military power and international political influence, such as China; to ensure the success of the Belt and Road Initiative, and to consolidate the China-Arab relations and raise it to the level of a strategic alliance.

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