Is Nikki Haley the Real Secretary of State?
New Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has taken a low profile since being sworn in; his office has released statements, but he has been criticized for failing to hold press conferences or otherwise speaking to media. On the other hand, Nikki Haley, the new U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, is making sure that her messages are being amplified—and those statements mark a sharp departure from the attitudes of the previous administration.
Haley proclaimed on Wednesday that any peace agreement to end the Syrian Civil War must “get Iran and its proxies out” of that embattled country. If this reflects the administration’s official Syria policy, it shows that President Donald Trump will be taking a stronger stance than his predecessor against Iranian violence across the Middle East, particularly the Islamic Republic’s crucial role in keeping Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in power.
Haley’s statement was consistent with what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russian President Vladimir Putin in a joint appearance in Moscow on Thursday: that if ISIS is defeated in Syria, “It’s obvious that we wouldn’t want this terror to be replaced by radical Islamic Shiite terror led by Iran.”
Haley did not consign her attention solely to Iran; she met on Tuesday with Palestinian Authority Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour, later tweeting that she told him that the PA should “meet with Israel in direct negotiations rather than looking to the UN to deliver results that can only be achieved through the two parties.”
The American ambassador said last month that the United States would not “turn a blind eye” to anti-Israel bias at the United Nations, decrying the fact that during her first session of the Security Council, the organization’s hearing “was not about Hizballah’s illegal build-up of rockets in Lebanon. It was not about the money and weapons Iran provides to terrorists. It was not about how we defeat ISIS. It was not about how we hold Bashar al-Assad accountable for the slaughter of hundreds and thousands of civilians. No, instead, the meeting focused on criticizing Israel, the one true democracy in the Middle East.”
It is interesting that America’s boldest foreign policy statements so far seem to be coming from New York rather than Washington. It remains to be seen to what degree the administration follows through on her vision.
Honk If You Love Israeli Self-Driving Cars
Israel is quickly become a leader in the next big thing in automotive engineering: the driverless car. Avi Jorisch, a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council, provided an overview in Foreign Affairs on Tuesday of how Israel is lapping the auto-tech field.
Central to this has been the Israeli accident-avoidance technology company Mobileye, which in 2014 raised $890 million in its initial public offering, a record for an Israeli company in the United States.
Last year, General Motors became the first auto manufacturer to integrate Mobileye’s semi-conductor chips into its cars. Volkswagen, Renault, and Nissan are also set to use Mobileye’s technology to provide real-time traffic conditions to a car’s computer, allowing Mobileye to map local conditions effectively. Mobileye is currently working with BMW and Intel to develop a driverless car by 2021.
Other top automakers, including General Motors, Daimler (the owners of Mercedes-Benz), Honda, and Volvo have opened research and development centers in Israel. And last year, Ford bought an Israeli startup that specializes in machine learning in its race to develop a driverless car.
Driverless car technology is not the only area where Israel is making its mark in the automotive world. The popular navigational app Waze was developed in Israel and sold to Google for nearly $1.3 billion in 2013.
And Mercedes will be integrating the high-tech glass of Israeli startup Gauzy into its cars, giving passengers the opportunity to experience multimedia displays.
Israel’s Baseball Team is a Bigger Deal Than You Thought
The Israeli national baseball team, a wild-card entrant in the World Baseball Classic and currently ranked 41st in the world, has now beaten the third- (South Korea), fourth- (Chinese Taipei) and seventh- (Netherlands) best teams on Earth. Team Israel will play in the second round against the Netherlands, Japan, and Cuba in Tokyo starting Sunday.
It’s certainly fun to follow Team Israel because of the Cinderella quality of their run. But is there another angle to appreciate? Tower editor-in-chief David Hazony suggested so in an op-ed in The Forward on Friday:
As a real country, Israel is complicated, messy—but no more so than every other country on earth. The bigger Israeli story, however, is one of overcoming, of impossible achievement, of facing down war and adversity and economic hardship and hate, as well as affirming life, not just surviving but prospering. It’s a story we should never forget. A story no less fundamental to Jewish identity, and even more faithful to Jewish history, than that other often-reinforced narrative, that of Auschwitz.
A common argument made against moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is that it would upset the status quo, giving Israel an unfair advantage in its claims for Jerusalem. In fact, as Eylon Aslan-Levy reported, there are already plenty of embassies in Jerusalem—they just happen to be consulates to the Palestinian Authority.
The nine consulates—those of the United Kingdom, Turkey, Belgium, Spain, and Sweden in eastern Jerusalem and the U.S., France, Italy, and Greece in western Jerusalem—serve as the de facto embassies to the Palestinians because of a historical anomaly. UN General Assembly Resolution 181, which was passed in 1947, called on Jerusalem to be a corpus separatum, an area administered by the UN that belonged to neither side. Despite the Arab attack on the nascent state of Israel that rendered the resolution meaningless, the UN stuck to its insistence that neither side should have control of Jerusalem.
The UN has never recognized Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem, even the western section that Israel captured after the 1948 War for Independence. Countries continue to abide by that ruling, refusing to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the city—even though foreign leaders and diplomats commonly visit the Knesset and the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem.
As Aslan-Levy points out, this is a terrible double standard:
On the one hand, Israel is withheld recognition of its capital, and told it cannot host embassies there lest it give the impression that the international community recognizes its sovereignty in the city. But on the other hand, the Palestinians enjoy the privilege of diplomatic missions in the very same city, without any qualms in the international community about the effective hypocrisy.
By addressing this inconsistency, he concluded, “moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem could be seen not be so much a gift as an act of redress.”
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George Mason University School of Law professor David Bernstein proposed a different solution to the embassy problem in The Washington Post on Wednesday: Why not “inform Jordan and the Palestinian Authority that the U.S. consulate is moving to Ramallah, so that U.S. government policy on Jerusalem will now be consistent and not seem to prejudice the future of either half of Jerusalem”?
Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro addressed this question when interviewed for Aslan-Levy’s article. He explained that the Jerusalem consulate took on the role of de facto Palestinian embassy “primarily for security reasons. There would have been a logic to having a mission in Ramallah, but it would have been very hard to implement State Department security protocols. Consular staff travel daily in heavily armed convoys [to the West Bank] and don’t stay overnight there.” Which only prompts the question: What kind of would-be state can’t provide the necessary security for other nations’ ambassadors?
David Albright and Andrea Stricker of the Institute of Science and International Security wrote this week that the latest International Atomic Energy Agency report on Iran shows that the Islamic Republic is not fully complying with the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal. At what point will the countries that negotiated the deal insist that Iran finally start strictly complying?
[Photo: Mobileye / YouTube ]