Thursday, August 13, 2020

Peace Between Israel and the United Arab Emirates


AKA - Brilliant Netanyahu, and the luckiest outcome Trump could have hoped for.  And Biden wins too.... The UAE’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed said the agreement would stop further Israeli annexation of Palestinian territories, for which Israel had been awaiting a green light from Washington.

From the beginning, Jared Kushner's "Trump Peace Plan" was doomed to fail.  Its purpose was not to bring Palestinians and Israelis together, nor to create a peace treaty in the region.  Its purpose was consolidation of power over territory as a path to permanent status quo.  That permanence was proposed to be the kind of stable environment which can allow economic development and ultimately prosperity.  Unfortunately it ignored any political views on the Palestinian side, and half of the political views on the Israeli side.  As an exercise in power it might have worked, but it wasn't a peace process or an agreement or anything the world of diplomacy would have endorsed.

For months, Netanyahu has realized he hasn't the support in the Knesset to implement annexation, and as a result he has dropped the topic as the country consolidated a Unity government, addressed two waves of COVID and then began the current spat over the budget which may send the country to a FOURTH election in less than two years.  The Trump plan and annexation were dead on arrival. How embarrassing.  With the elections looming, it stood as a stark example of a foreign policy initiative pushed by an inexperienced White House that had abandoned its own State Department and our national track record as an honest broker in the Israeli Palestinian conflict.  Alongside the weakening of NATO, the -what-was-that- with North Korea, and the confusion in Belarus and Ukraine about our view of Russia, Trump was in trouble.

Thank you, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates, whose hatred of Iran is greater than his love of the Palestinians.  Today the UAE and Israel signed an historic peace agreement, furthering the spread of acceptance of Israel in the Arab world.  This is an inevitable development, as "real" conflicts continue to take precedence over "ideological" ones in the Persian Gulf.  The United States looks like a diplomat.  Israel looks like it might give "land for peace," though actually it is not taking new land for peace, and the UAE becomes the darling of the International Community and the United States.  Trump is saved from a failure, Netanyahu can claim peace bona fides.  Even former VP Joe Biden, poised to win the Presidential election in the fall, is saved from the split in the pro-Israel community that was growing on the topic of annexation.  The Democrats and Republicans fought over the Iran deal, and were about to go at it again.  Now, with no annexation, everyone wins.

After flirting seriously with Oman last leader, Sultan Qaboos, z"l, Prime Minister Netanyahu has continued to work hard at making inroads with the Gulf States.  Kuwait, Saudia Arabia and Oman have all stepped back from old rhetoric over the past 5 years only to reaffirm the Arab front in times of political convenience.  The truth is that they are all fair game for normalization of relations because they don't have an ideology that demands any particular point of view.  Each is a family run state, where the state economy and the family business are inextricably intertwined.  That means a successful state has peace and prosperity, both of which can be attained with Israel as a partner.

The bottom line is this:  the regional enemy is Iran, not Israel.  The Persian Gulf nations each have their own reason to get on board with the international concept of peace.  As this continues, they can and should extract promises from Israel on behalf of the Palestinians.  For peace with the Arab world, concessions can be made.

Now, the ball is once again in the hands of the Palestinian Authority, who is already rejecting the peace announcement and calling it a stab in the back.  Can they take the concept of peace for leverage, and engage the Arab World in a recognition process that can win them the state they want?  History says probably not.  But the truth is, Netanyahu, Trump, Biden and Zayed can all live with the new status quo and it is Mahmoud Abbas who can not.

An excellent analysis can be found here

Monday, August 10, 2020

Attorney General William Barr

Make no mistake: every accusation of "presidential excess" made against President Donald Trump that is based in fact is the result of the advice and counsel of Attorney General William Barr. In A.G. Barr, President Trump has his perfect interpreter of Constitutional Law and the powers of the presidency. While President Trump may appear to act whimsically in his use of presidential power, it is in fact the coming of age of A.G Barr's life's work in the law.

Attorney General William Barr has been a singularly outspoken advocate for an extremely strong and independent presidency - as a matter of constitutional law. After graduating Columbia University in 1973 with a M.A. in government and Chinese studies, he started his career as a CIA intelligence analyst. Hard working and intelligent he took night classes at G.W. Law School and worked with a younger George H. W. Bush as the eventual president became director of the CIA, including advising him in defense of CIA wiretaps of liberal members of Congress. In 1977 Barr earned his law degree and clerked for federal appeals court judge Malcolm Wilkey, who wrote a dissenting opinion in 1973 that Nixon should not have to turn over the Watergate tapes under the argument that the President has an "absolute" power to hold back from any demands of the courts or the Congress. Barr would become the first President Bush's Attorney General.

Barr first became Attorney General in 1989 at the age of 39. As a firm ideologue of the independent and powerful presidency, he wrote legal memos to the leaders of the Bush administration with multiple examples of past "micromanagements of the Executive Branch," and "Attempts to Restrict the Present's Foreign Affairs Powers." His opposition to oversight of the Presidency, or what he called "encroachment," was now the policy of the administration.

In 1988 he advocated a position before the Supreme Court that would have declared Independent Counsels (in this case, investigating President Reagan, VP Bush and others in the Iran Contra scandal) to be unconstitutional, again under the argument that the Presidency is independent from the other branches of government, and should have no oversight in its own areas of authority. The S.C. ruled 7-1 against his position for unbridled Presidential freedom of action from investigation.

During the tax debate that eventually cost Bush his re-election, Barr advised use of the "line item veto" by the president, by which he could cross out whatever he didn't like and just sign the rest into law. Untested as a constitutional construct, President Bush did not follow Barr's advice. He was the architect of heavy prison sentences for drug crimes, intense policing of illegal immigration, and believed that crime was the result of moral choices - not social, economic or racial disadvantages. "The people who have been given mandatory minimums generally deserve them - richly."

In the wake of the Rodney King riots in L.A. in 1992, Barr sent 2,000 federal law enforcement agents to the city on federal military planes. He was frustrated that we was not allowed to deploy them actively "against the gangsters" in the streets, as he described them.

Following President George H.W. Bush's defeat to Bill Clinton in 1992, Barr advised and supported broad Presidential pardons for members of his administration who were under investigation for corruption, including obstruction of justice and lying to Congress:  Robert McFarlane, Elliott Abrams, Alan Fiers, Casper Weinberger and Duane Clarridge, and Clair George.  Ultimately, Barr's view of the executive branch is that only the ballot box, not the courts or the congress, should ever be used to correct the behavior of the duly elected President and their appointed officials.

Perhaps you can draw some contemporary lines, connect the dots, and see that it is William Barr who is the intellectual and legal buttress which supports and empowers today's expression of Presidential Power.