UNSCR 2334: A Disservice to the Cause of Peace

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: In four respects, UNSCR 2334 undermines the prospects of Israeli-Palestinian peace and threatens what little regional stability is left. First, it could force Israel to fall back on its powerful legal position as the only existing legal inheritor of the British Mandate. Second, it compounds the error made by Obama’s transition team even before he came to power of ignoring a written commitment of a US president. Third, it has placed Sisi’s government in Egypt – a keystone of regional stability – in an untenable position. Fourth and most painfully, it will make it far more complicated – if not impossible – for the Palestinian leadership, enticed by the prospect of international coercion, to accept a reasonable compromise. The New Zealanders, do-gooders with a very dim understanding of what they have wrought, can be forgiven such folly. The Obama administration has no such excuses.

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“Be careful what you wish for; you might get it” says the old adage, and sober elements among the Palestinian leadership may yet rue the day they managed to secure an American abstention leading to the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334. The resolution condemns “settlement activity” anywhere, including East Jerusalem, and calls upon all members to distinguish in practice between Jews who live on one side of the Armistice Line of 1949 and those who live beyond it. It presumes to speak in the name of international law and to create the conditions for further progress towards peace in the interests of both Palestinians and “legitimate” Israelis. In fact, this poorly designed and atrociously timed diplomatic tool seems set to harm, if not entirely destroy, the very purposes it was designed to serve.

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So where are all of those ‘invisible’ Syrian Christian refugees?

In this Christmastime Celebration it may be time to pause and wonder what has happened to all of those Christian Syrian refugees? Compromising more than 10% of the Syrian Iraqi Arab population, why are there no Christians fleeing the wars? Two thousand years ago a similar extensional crisis was upon the Levant, with the threat to all infants under the age of two years, by Herod, who feared reports of a ‘new King’ being born. This threat necessitated the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt, to survive amongst the rump Isralite community there, until the threat had dissipated.

That today is the experience of thousands of Syrian and Iraqi Christians. They are either excluded from the normal refugee camps, either through fear – with a long history of massacres of Christians in the region – or through secular and Islamist prejudice. The Barnabas Fund ( a global Christian charity) asked Christian leaders in the Middle East if they knew of any Christians in refugee camps. One told us, “we did once have a couple who tried to live there, we had to get them out in the middle of the night when we heard people were planning to kill them.”

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Many Christians fleeing the war in Syria live in half-built buildings or makeshift shelters, not dissimilar from the cold, damp conditions in which Jesus was born. Just as Herod’s slaughter of the innocents in Judea targeted a specific group, i.e. Jewish boys under two, so the Sunni inspired genocide in Syria specifically targets Christians and other non-Sunni Muslim minorities such as Yazidis and  Allawite sect Shi’a.

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The Rise of the Trump Doctrine

Trump sees it as his mission to repair the social contract with the American public. He is focused domestically but events will nonetheless require Trump to look beyond the borders of the US. He is establishing a ‘professional’ Cabinet to facilitate that global engagement. Trump prizes business acumen, professionalism  and a “killer” instinct in managing affairs.

The US Establishment has been quick to dismiss President Elect Donald Trump’s emerging Foreign Policy. The dearth of policy wonks, establishment bureaucrats, think tanks and foreign affairs pundits, reflects an emerging Trump Doctrine that is at variance with the norm. It is unsettling the establishment, and in particular the neo-con rump that has for two decades dominated the post Soviet foreign policy agenda of both the Democrat and Republican parties. Gone will be the overly academic  U.S. foreign policy  guidelines that  have become too predictable and overwrought with diplomatic formality. If you wish to lift the edge of Trump’s developing Foreign Policy doctrine to peek beneath, then look no further than his key Cabinet choices and  especially the musings of Trump’s key advisor Steve Bannon. Highbrow intellectualism can often be a handicap in this exercise. Trump is hiring pragmatic ‘doers’ not ‘dreamers & talkers’. With a  Trump Cabinet, boasting people like Flynn and Mathis, the days of Obama’s ‘red lines’ and hollow threats will be a thing of the past.

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The Washington establishment have been quick to dismiss President-elect Donald Trump’s foreign policy, with predictable knee-jerk increduality. The emerging Trump Doctrine however merits deeper exploration than knee-jerk displays of stricken disbelief.  Contrary to popular consensus one of Trump’s greatest virtues is his unpredictability.  He is fortunate that the United States’ strong geopolitical foundation gives it a wealth of Foreign Policy options.

Occasionally in Foreign Affairs we stumble upon a truly Machiavellian moment. I believe that we may be about to experience one such moment in 2017. Aloofness in international affairs is a geopolitical luxury, but the US has options not available to other Nation States. Trump does not fear nationalism but holds Progressive globalism as an anathema. Trump’s ‘real politik’ is steeped in nationalism.

 

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The Italian banking system; the EU the ticking fiscal ‘time bomb’

Italy’s third largest bank, Monte dei Paschi, one of the oldest banks in the world, is on the brink of needing a State bail out yet again, after efforts failed to convince private investors to provide fresh capital. A last ditch attempt to persuade Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund to invest in the bank failed spectacularly, and the hope for other efforts to raise money to prop up the bank have been dashed.

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Failing a last ditch surprise capital bail out, Monte dei Paschi will miss the European Central Bank’s Dec. 31 deadline to raise 5 billion euros ($5.2 billion). The Italian parliament has had to authorised 20 billion euros in new public debt on the December 21 to inject into Monte dei Paschi and other smaller banks in case the required private capital funding doesn’t eventuate. Italian media have claimed that the government’s bail out plan for Monte dei Paschi could take up to three months to facilitate. Starting with a State guarantee of the bank’s borrowing to ensure that Monte dei Paschi doesn’t run out of liquidity initiating a ‘run on the bank’. Currently the Bank claims to only have available liquidity to take it to the end of March 2017.

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A Geographic view of voting patterns in the recent US Presidential Election season

Much has been made recently in regarding the demographics of the contested 2016 US Presidential Election. Many studies have thrown up graphics that claimed that the Great Democrat ‘Blue Wall’ had been breached by the successful Republican candidate Donald Trump’s candidature. Swathes of Statewide Blue voting patterns were regularly used by both sides to reflect either the electoral ‘security’ of the Democratic North East and the West Coast Democrat heartlands or the task ahead for the Republicans. The Republican candidate claimed a landslide win within the electoral college, whereas the Democrat contender claims the raw demographic majority by some 2 million votes. Both a correct to some degree in their claims but the most electorally significant position has to be measured at the County sized electoral map. The ‘local ‘ county political landscape tells a very sober tale for the Democrat Party.

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The Electoral College was a mechanism that prevented high density urban areas exercising overarching political control, over the more sparsely populated areas of the US, thus ensuring national geographic unity. Looking at the electoral map through the lens of all of the counties within the US, a very interesting picture emerges. Though the Democrats claim the raw numbers by a margin of 2 million votes, the US counties map shows that Democrat support is extremely patchy and restricted to about half a dozen or so small, highly urbanised, geographic regions across the nation.

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