U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visits Israel

Plans underway to open the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem

Secretary Pompeo visited Israel on April 29, 2018, having just visited Saudi Arabia and before visiting Jordan.

Pompeo announced that the new embassy will be opened on May 14th, the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence and 70 years of recognition of the state by the U.S.

A reference to final peace agreements came when Pompeo said that “… the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem remain subject to negotiations between the parties …” Primarily, Pompeo addressed “… efforts to counter Iran’s destabilizing and malign activity throughout the Middle East …”

Irony of ironies: Secretary Pompeo met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv where the Prime Minister maintains an office. Jerusalem is the seat of Israel’s government, but Tel Aviv will continue to be the practical location for international affairs.

I’ve mentioned before that Israel’s international airport is a short limousine ride from Tel Aviv destinations. Jerusalem, in contrast, is 40-45 minutes away (50 km).

Jerusalem has an airport, but international regulators refuse to authorize international flights into the airport. It’s not yet clear to me why Jerusalem is off limits. If it’s a political issue, the pertinent element is that the airport is in disputed Jerusalem territory.

If we can dismiss political matters, the Jerusalem airport is not secure and safe. The runway lies a short distance from the Jerusalem security barrier and the Palestinian city of Ramallah. Israel police and military forces have made little effort to keep Palestinians away from their side of the barrier. Consequently, Palestinians have been heaving rocks onto the tarmac with impunity.

See the official transcript of Pompeo’s remarks on the website of the U.S. State Department.

 

Advertisements

Don’t force disbanding of a foreign army

This issue came up concerning peace with North Korea. Some pundits and some experts (some pundits are lamentably not experts) are suggesting that North Korea disband its army in exchange for a peace treaty with South Korea.

While this idea has merit, it is unwise. North Korea’s military is a huge employer – perhaps the largest employer in the country. How would these men earn a living otherwise? Disbanding North Korea’s army would disrupt their society, and who needs that?

Me and The Washington Post

It started with a current event – President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. would be relocating its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

I found current information about this news story from the digital Washington Post. The digital content included a video of U.S. Vice President Pence’s speech to Israel’s Knesset (parliament) in Jerusalem. I had also been looking at official sources such as the U.S. Department of State and the president’s official site, whitehouse.gov.

After viewing a few online articles from The Washington Post, they offered me a trial subscription – one dollar for the first month and “only” ten dollars for each month after.

My subscription to The Washington Post, digital edition, came in handy last month when I was thinking about how President Trump’s statements and policies aggravate me (if I let them). The President has, in effect, become my bête noire for March and now for the first part of April (only).

Little did I know that Mr. Trump would be railing against the Post and its owner Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com. Mr. Trump’s rant warrants a separate post.

If you subscribe to President Trump’s views, then you may dismiss much of what I write. However, please note that I do not take a stand in the “Culture Wars.” In addition, I’m not pleased with Amazon.com’s burgeoning hegemony over American merchandising. I don’t buy anything from Amazon. I search other online vendors rather than buy from Amazon, even if I can save a few cents with them. My savings are someone else’s loss.

Still and all, I’m generally pleased with news and opinion coverage by The Washington Post.

Basic Law- Jerusalem- Capital of Israel

(Unofficial translation, 30 July 1980)

Jerusalem, Capital of Israel 1. Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel.
Seat of the President, the Knesset, the Government
and the Supreme Court
2. Jerusalem is the seat of the President of the State, the Knesset, the Government and the Supreme Court.
Protection of Holy Places 3. The Holy Places shall be protected from desecration and any other violation and from anything likely to violate the freedom of access of the members of the different religions to the places sacred to them or their feelings towards those places.
Development of Jerusalem 4. (a) The Government shall provide for the development and prosperity of Jerusalem and the well-being of its inhabitants by allocating special funds, including a special annual grant to the Municipality of Jerusalem (Capital City Grant) with the approval of the Finance Committee of the Knesset.

(b) Jerusalem shall be given special priority in the activities of the authorities of the State so as to further its development in economic and other matters.

(c) The Government shall set up a special body or special bodies for the implementation of this section.


MENAHEM BEGIN
Prime Minister

YITZCHAK NAVON
President of the State
* Passed by the Knesset on the 17th Av, 5740 (30th July, 1980) and published in Sefer Ha-Chukkim No. 980 of the 23rd Av, 5740 (5th August, 1980), p. 186; the Bill and an Explanatory Note were published in Hatza’ot Chok No. 1464 of 5740, p. 287.


Original web pages from The Knesset and from the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Jerusalem in maps

Jerusalem during the British Mandate and the plan for an internationalized Greater Jerusalem – Corpus Separatem
JerusalemCorpusSeparatum

The Municipality of Jerusalem – 1949 through 1993

JerusalemMuniMapPng

Reunited Eastern and Western JerusalemJerusalemConsulateGeneral.png

 

The Jerusalem Governate according to the PA

JerusalemDistrictPA-Png

Maps have been digitally altered by Nesanel Segal from the source versions.

President Trump intends to levy tariffs against unfair trade partners

It seems that U.S. President Trump is invoking an arcane section of a 1974 U.S. law (as amended through February 2016) allowing him to actually levy tariffs.

Ordinary Americans — such as myself — look at the U.S. Constitution and see how Congress lays “Duties, Imposts …” and “regulate[s] Commerce with foreign Nations …” (Article I, Section 8)

However, it further seems that Congress delegated power to the president for reacting quickly to unfair trade practices. (By the way, the Congressional bill, Trade Act of 1974  [Public Law 93–618, as amended] runs 273 pages.)

Congress works slowly; the president can react swiftly.

Nevertheless, the law provides for public hearings before affected parties suffer unfavorable outcomes.

Without hearings, Mr. Trump has joined the ranks of previous imperial presidents such as Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln.

Actually moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem

When the U.S. Department of State says that it is moving its Embassy to the State of Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, it’s unlikely to become anything more than a superficial, perfunctory presence. Most embassy services will likely remain in Tel Aviv, and most employees will also remain there. Furthermore, the U.S. State Department is unlikely to go ahead and actually build the facilities for an embassy although it may acquire land. (Land that was scouted out for an embassy campus has been ruled out because it was too small to be safe. See my post “Land once earmarked for the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.”)

While the U.S. Embassy to Israel only goes back to the founding of the state in 1948, the city of Jerusalem has had its own Consulate General that was established in 1844 as an American diplomatic presence in the Holy City. This diplomatic mission was elevated to the status of Consulate General in 1928 during the period when Britain was mandated by the League of Nations to administer the lands of Palestine. At that time, the city of Jerusalem was undivided. The State Department located the Consulate General on Agron Street, slightly more than one half mile (walking along city streets) (about 850 meters) from the walled city’s Jaffa Gate.

At the end of the Arab-Israeli War of 1948, an annex to the Consulate General was housed in as neutral an address as possible, neutral regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict. Its location was just east of the Jordan-Israel Armistice line near the only checkpoint between Israel and the West bank, the crossing at the Mandelbaum Gate. This location of the annex to the Consulate General is a short walk to the Old City’s Damascus Gate, about one-third mile (530m).

The annex of the Consulate General moved to new, expanded facilities in 2010, a six-acre (24 dunam) campus near the Arnona neighborhood, again in as neutral a location as possible. This campus straddles the western armistice line, thereby placing the Consulate annex on what had partly been no man’s land until 1967.

“The Consulate General represents the United States in Arab Jerusalem [sic], the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip as an independent mission.” Its role has become, in the words of the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Consulate General, “… the public diplomacy arm of the U.S. Consulate, [with] primary goals … to support the peace process between Palestinians and Israelis….” (“Public Affairs Section | U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem.”)

We’ve seen how the United States has maintained a Consulate General to Jerusalem for 170 years. It has answered directly to the State Department as an independent mission but not to an embassy as most consulates do. With one quick decision of President Trump’s, the annex of the Consulate General will begin to function as an embassy. Consular services to Jerusalem will resort to the cramped, outdated facility on Agron Street. About 580 staffers now work in consular services in the annex whereas about 960 staffers work in Tel Aviv (Taylor).

President Donald Trump has reversed a foreign policy in the region that dates back to 1948. What has the U.S. Department of State known about a new embassy in Jerusalem? Probably next to nothing until President Trump made his February determination known. Evidence of this lies in how the Consulate General has yet to formulate solicitations for adaptations of existing offices for new uses. (See “Request for Quotes”.)

How much did Secretary of State Rex Tillerson know about a move in upcoming May?

As recently as last December, “Secretary of State Rex Tillerson seemed to concede that the move [of the Embassy] won’t be easy and that the process of finding a new plot of land would begin immediately. ‘Obviously, there’s a lot of planning that goes into it,’ Tillerson [former CEO of ExxonMobil] told reporters…. ‘It’s going to take some time.’”

A rash change during the Trump administration is not unexpected, though. The Washington Post’s chief correspondent Dan Balz notes, “[President Trump] pledged not to be predictable or conventional. He demonstrated that he has no fixed ideology or conviction.”

Trump has shown repeatedly he is prepared to ignore orthodoxy and question policies that other administrations have accepted as constants. (Balz. “Trump promised …”)

I believe that the May date will be marked by ceremony. Political implications will arrive and, subsequently, not go away. Moving the embassy establishes another “fact on the ground” which will frustrate Palestinian desires to include eastern Jerusalem in a Palestinian state.

Postscript:

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was just relieved of his post as I was writing this essay. He is beginning to tie up loose ends and will leave the State Department on March 31, 2018. He reportedly alienated State Department colleagues during his tenure as being a poor advocate for the State Department. His replacement, Mike Pompeo (if confirmed), is expected to repair damage. Nonetheless, career diplomats may be reluctant to accept Pompeo’s thought process, a process “very similar” to President Trump’s – a disdain for diplomacy (DeYoung. “Pompeo will face …”).
I’ve seen no evidence that moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is diplomatic – certainly not toward Palestinians and other Arabs.

Sources and References

Associated Press. “Guatemala’s Israel embassy to move to Jerusalem in mid-May.” The Washington Post, The Americas, March 5, 2018. Retrieved March 13, 2018.

Balz, Dan. “Trump promised this kind of presidency — unpredictable, ad hoc and impulsive.” The Washington Post, Politics • Perspective, March 10, 2018. Retrieved March 13, 2018.

DeYoung, Karen and John Hudson. “Pompeo will face a host of foreign policy challenges if confirmed as secretary of state.” The Washington Post, National Security, March 13, 2018. Retrieved March 13, 2018, 8:30 PM CDT.

Ignatius, David. “Tillerson’s departure removes another check on an impulsive Trump.” The Washington Post, Post Partisan • Opinion, March 13, 2018. Retrieved March 13, 2018, 6:14 PM CDT.

Kontorovich, Eugene. “What Trump not signing a Jerusalem embassy waiver would really mean.” The Washington Post, The Volokh Conspiracy  • Opinion, May 30, 2017.

Mann, Amir and Ami Shinar, architects & planners. “U.S. Consulate General Annex, Jerusalem.” Web page, retrieved March 13, 2018.

Nauert, Heather, U.S. State Department Spokesperson. “Opening of U.S. Embassy Jerusalem.” Press Statement. Washington, D.C., February 23, 2018. Retrieved March 8, 2018.

Rubin, Jennifer. “Tillerson is put out of his misery.” The Washington Post, Right Turn • Opinion, March 13, 2018. Retrieved March 8, 2018, 5:55 PM CDT.

Taylor, Adam. “Where would a U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem actually go?” The Washington Post, WorldViews • Analysis, December 7, 2017. Retrieved March 2018.

Tillerson, Rex W., U.S. Secretary of State. “Remarks in Press Briefing Room.” Remarks. Washington, D.C., March 13, 2018. Retrieved March 13, 2018.

U.S. Consulate General Jerusalem.” Web Page, retrieved March 13, 2018.