Truth and Consequences, Bibi Unveiled

Netanyahu just finished tearing off his mask, the smiling face that encouraged peace-lovers around the world to hope that somehow Israel would make peace with the Palestinians based on partition and two states.

Removing a fig leaf doesn’t really change anything, it just makes the member that lies beneath visible for all to see. No more sweet talk, fellas, we want it all, and if you don’t agree, the hell with you.

The election results made it clear that the Israeli public agreed. So there we have it. It’s the will of the people that Israel go back to the Old Testament for its policy guidance.

There are die-hard Zionists and die-hard anti-Zionists and this ripping off the veil isn’t going to change much for either party. The majority of world opinion, however, lies somewhere in between, and this is where the soul-searching and rethinking should occur. We can expect that Israel’s status as a pariah will be confirmed and that there will be more talk about boycotts and worse in the UN and elsewhere. The Europeans in particular will be more inclined to find tangible ways to express their growing disapproval. Israeli opinion will attribute all this to antisemitism and hunker down in a defensive crouch, ignoring the protests of their own increasingly isolated humanist and liberal individuals.

Here in the United States the ties that bind to Israel run strong and deep, but Bibi has done his best to alienate us. It isn’t yet clear how we’ll react. Most Congressmen have been bought by AIPAC and Sheldon Adelson but some may be sufficiently teed off by Bibi’s recent misbehavior to break their chains and rebel. Particularly Democrats, since one of Bibi’s triumphs has been to transform what had been bipartisan support into a partisan issue. But I’m not holding my breath.

What will Obama do? Will he at least stop vetoing UN efforts to chastise Israel for its behavior toward the Palestinians and its neighbors? That is possible. Will he go beyond that and start cutting back on some of our extravagant economic and military assistance? One can hope, but without really expecting it. Will he hint to the Israelis that Israel can no longer expect us to maintain the full panoply of our strategic commitments? Perhaps, to the extent he can do so privately, without making a domestic political issue out of it.

If the American public gets annoyed by Bibi’s behavior and this is reflected in the media, some such actions become more likely. If we just roll over like some guilt-stricken Labrador and whimper, Israeli officialdom will continue to treat us with the contempt we deserve.

Carl Coon

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3 Responses to Truth and Consequences, Bibi Unveiled

  1. Sky Coon says:

    Yes, the mask is off. It will be fascinating to watch how Obama plays this out with Bibi over the course of his final chapter in office. The Republicans threaten to overturn and nullify Obama’s deal with Iran if they win the presidency. But is this really completely possible? If the United Nations Security Council releases Iran from United Nations sanctions under Obama’s watch, then they have already won most of the battle no matter who wins the next election, right? The next US president could not force the United Nations to reimpose sanctions on Iran after releasing the sanctions, correct?

  2. Carl Coon says:

    This is from the March 13 newsletter of the Arms Control Association:

    Politically-Binding? Legally-Binding? Or Both?

    One misconception about the nature of the P5+1 agreement with Iran is whether and how it binds the two sides to follow through with their commitments and who must endorse it.

    From the U.S. perspective, the deal will be an executive agreement. The president has the authority to negotiate an executive agreement with a foreign government without congressional involvement. Studies indicate that since the 1930s, 94 percent of all agreements with foreign countries have been executive agreements.

    Unlike a treaty, which requires the advice and consent of two thirds of the U.S. Senate and is legally binding, the executive agreement between the P5+1 and Iran will not require congressional advice and consent, though Congress will have to, at the appropriate stage, take legislative action to lift certain nuclear-related sanctions on Iran in order to fulfill the terms of the agreement.

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated in testimony before a March 11 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that the Iran nuclear deal would be a “nonbinding” executive agreement among the parties, which include the five permanent members of the Security Council.

    But as Richard Nephew, former deputy coordinator of sanctions policy at the State Department told The Washington Post, “At the end of the day, it’s still politically binding,” he said. “Commitments are made. What’s the real consequence to Iran? If it were a treaty or legally binding and they violate it, that has significance. But the bigger impact is sanctions will be reimposed. If we don’t fulfill our part, Iran’s nuclear program will expand. That’s still a consequence, just more practical than legal.”

    If concluded, the UN Security Council will also endorse the agreement. Multiple sources, including U.S. and Iranian government officials, have indicated that they will seek endorsement of the deal by a Security Council resolution.

    However, Bernadette Meehan, spokesperson for the National Security Council, said in an email statement to reporters on March 12 that “any new resolution would not take U.S. commitments under the deal–particularly with respect to sanctions relief–and make them legally binding. We have been and will continue to be extremely careful to avoid any such provisions in future [UN Security Council resolutions].”

    The 2013 deal reached by the United States and Russia to remove and destroy chemical weapons from Syria followed a similar pattern–an executive agreement followed by a UN Security Council resolution endorsing and mandating the implementation of the arrangement.

    A congressionally-mandated requirement for delaying the implementation of the agreement pending a congressional review and an “up-or-down” vote, as called for by the Corker-Menendez legislation (S. 615), or a requirement that Iran meet further commitments before sanctions are relieved (which is also an element of that bill), would put the United States at odds with its obligations under the P5+1 and Iran deal.

    For more on discussion, see Tyler Cullis’s oped in The New York Times, “Ford and Helsinki, Obama and Iran” and Jack Goldsmith’s blog, “How a U.N. Security Council Resolution Transforms a Non-Binding Agreement with Iran into a Binding Obligation Under International Law.”

  3. Sky Coon says:

    Hello again Carl Coon. Your expert investigation into the complicated details of any deal with Iran was much appreciated. And now in the Times today I see the US is trying to engineer a new mechanism in the security council to increase our leverage even more:

    “An idea to temporarily suspend certain United Nations sanctions but to arrange for them to automatically “snap back” into place if Iran does not fulfill its commitments under a nuclear accord has also prompted concerns from Russia that such a procedure might dilute the authority of its Security Council veto power.”

    I think Russia is right about their loss of power, but I hope we win. What do you think of this latest development as a negotiating tool?


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