Tag Archives: West Bank

‘Quiet diplomacy’ might need more volume

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

President Biden is committed to working through “quiet diplomacy” to end the fighting between Israel and the terrorists who govern the Gaza Strip and who have been launching rockets into Israeli cities.

Allow me this caveat: The quiet diplomacy that Biden prefers might need to get a bit louder if matters don’t settle down soon in the region.

Biden keeps to ‘quiet diplomacy’ as calls for Israel-Hamas cease-fire ramp up (msn.com)

The Israelis have hit back hard at Hamas, which governs Gaza and the West Bank. Hamas has dedicated itself to the destruction of Israel and has launched the rockets to protest Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory.

It has targeted civilians. Hamas has been indiscriminate in killing innocent people.

President Biden should be able to use his formidable contacts with leaders in the region to seek to broker some sort of peace agreement. He is working the phones. He is talking through back channels. I wish him — and those in the region — all the very best to search for peace.

Quiet diplomacy, though, might not be enough. I hope the president is prepared to turn up the volume when the moment presents itself.

Trump defies description of low-down policies

There is almost no way any longer to measure the depths of how low Donald Trump can take his assorted presidential pronouncements.

The president’s recent tirade against two members of Congress — both of them outspoken Democrats who happen to be Muslim — simply lowers the bar to a level I cannot define.

Trump urged Israeli government officials to deny entry into Israel of Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar. They are members of Congress, duly elected to represent their districts. They intended to go Israel on “factfinding” missions. Trump said they “hate” Israel and “hate all Jews,” which of course might qualify as the mother of ad hominem attacks.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to his utter disgrace, approved blocking their entry into Israel. The Israelis then relented on Tlaib, allowing her into the West Bank to visit her grandmother; Tlaib, though, canceled her visit because of the pall this disgraceful conduct has cast on her visit.

For the president of the United States to interfere with two federal lawmakers doing their jobs is reprehensible in the extreme. Moreover, for a foreign head of government to kowtow to this presidential idiocy is a sign of amazing weakness from a man, and a government, that purport to stand for strength in the face of hostility.

I have had a bit of exposure to Israel. I toured the country for a month in 2009 and was told time and again the same thing about that marvelous place: It is a secular state governed by the laws of humanity; and it welcomes all points of view, all forms of peaceful dissent.

Netanyahu tossed all of that aside by adhering initially to the president’s ridiculous admonition. They both should be ashamed of themselves.

I cannot speak for Netanyahu, but I am pretty sure the shameless U.S. president will feel not one bit of regret over seeking to bar two American citizens their right to travel abroad on behalf of their congressional constituents.

Israelis PM seems intent on stirring conflict

As if the non-Jewish neighbors surrounding Israel need any more pretext to feel anxious about the country’s treatment of its Muslim and Christian citizens.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asserted that Israel is a “national state” only to its “Jewish citizens.” The rest of the country, which is surprisingly diverse in its religious and ethnic makeup, doesn’t matter to the Israeli government, or so Netanyahu has implied.

Hold on a minute, Mr. Prime Minister.

Ten years ago I had the honor of visiting Israel for a month. I lived in Israeli citizens’ homes, talked to them candidly about life in that beautiful land and got to understand something I always thought was a source of pride among Israelis. It is that they treat all their citizens — Christians and Muslims as well as Jews — with respect and honor.

Netanyahu is saying something quite different.

According to National Public Radio: The prime minister’s comment set off criticism, debates over Israel’s true nature ā€” and observations that with Israel’s legislative elections now less than a month away, Netanyahu’s provocative language might be calculated to help his Likud Party at the polls.

The Likud is considered one of the hardest of the hard-line parties in Israel. Netanyahu has come to embody Likud’s attitude toward the Palestinian Authority and its occupation of the West Bank.

In a sense, I understand and appreciate Netanyahu’s fear that non-Jewish residents might rebel. Indeed, Israeli armed forces are continually forced to put down resistance in places such as Gaza, which is governed by a party linked closely with Hamas, the infamous terrorist organization.

It is troubling to hear Netanyahu declare that Israel wants only to be the “national state” for its Jewish citizens. The implication is that the Israeli government cares much less about its Christian and Muslim citizens. That clearly is not the message I heard continually in the spring of 2009 while I toured the Holy Land.

It’s provocative. Indeed, the region needs little impetus for violence to erupt. Benjamin Netanyahu, of all people, should understand what such provocation can bring.

Trump: Who needs a ‘two-state solution’?

Donald J. Trump hasĀ performed yet another amazing diplomatic deed.

While visiting today with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump managed to pull back from the United States’ traditional support for a “two-state solution” in the search for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Trump now all but indicated he’d support a “one-state solution” that doesn’t allow a Palestinian state that could live peacefully with Israel.


I’ve long sought to give Netanyahu support in his fight against terrorists who keep bringing violence to Israel. I believe the Israelis deserve to protect themselves using any means necessary to defeat the forces of evil that seek to destroy their nation.

However, U.S. presidents of both political parties have been correct for decades in seeking a peace agreement that sets up an independent Palestinian state that would function alongside Israel.

I understand fully the difficulty facing Israel and the Palestinians in achieving a full-fledged peace. Terrorist groups operating in Gaza, which is run by the Palestinians, keep launching rockets and other ordnance against Israel. West Bank operatives keep bringing havoc as well.

However, to deny the Palestinians an opportunity to have their own state is an utterly insane strategy. It is counterproductive in the extreme. It would inflame the terrorists and it would result in continued violence, death, mayhem and heartache.

How do the two sides reach a “two-state accord”? I have no idea. Neither do the principals. However, they must continue the effort.

For the president of the United States — as the premier broker in seeking a lasting peace agreement — to forgo the search for such an agreement is irresponsible to a maximum degree.

We still have only one POTUS at a time

Decorum matters. So does protocol. Say whatever you wish about a politician’s flouting of them both — whether you agree or disagree with him — they matter greatly in the conduct of foreign policy.

It is that backdrop, then, that compels me to say that Donald J. Trump is acting disgracefully during this transition period as he prepares to become the U.S. head of state and head of government.

The president-elect’s continual carping while President Obama conducts the affairs of state serves only to undermine the one president we have in power.

The recent decision by the United States to decline to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israel over its building of settlements in the West Bank is the No. 1 example of how Trump doesn’t come close to understanding the meaning of protocol and decorum.

He launches routinely into his Twitter tirades, blasting the president’s decision, saying that Israel will have a true friend when the Trump administration takes over.

Consider, too, that another president-elect, Barack H. Obama, called a press conference shortly after being elected in 2008 to declare his intention to let President Bush conduct his policies the way he saw fit. President-elect Obama said he would wait until Jan. 20, 2009, the day he would take office, before weighing in with his own policy pronouncements. Indeed, presidents-elect going back many decades have honored that tradition.

What about that kind of behavior is lost on Trump? Why doesn’t this guy get it? Why can’t he resist the temptation to meddle in foreign policy before it’s his turn?

Trump has less than a month to go before he takes his oath of office, bids goodbye to his predecessor and then settles into the big chair in the Oval Office. This tweet storm he keeps launching is unbecoming of the office he is about to assume — and it damn sure is disrespectful of the man he is about to succeed.

Decorum and protocol, Mr. President-elect? You’ll learn soon enough how much it really matters.

Trump stretches unconventional approach

Donald J. Trump’s campaign for the presidency was unconventional.

His transition into the office he has won is even more so.

We often hear it said that “We have only president at a time.” Trump, though, is using his Twitter account to suggest something that borders on the otherwise.

The United States this past week abstained on a United Nations Security Council vote that condemns Israel over its settlement building on the West Bank; U.S. policy for years has been to veto such a resolution. Thus, the Obama administration broke with longstanding U.S. policy.

Then in comes Trump to tweet that the United States was wrong to abstain; that the U.N. is a “sad” organization.

The point here is that presidents-elect traditionally have let the current president conduct foreign policy. They wait relatively quietly while they prepare to take office; then they are free to change whatever policy they wish.

Trump isn’t waiting for Inauguration Day. He’s blasting the daylights out of President Obama whenever he sees fit using his Twitter account.

My wish would be for the president-elect to hold his fire until he becomes the president.Ā Americans actually do have just one president at a time.

Donald Trump’s time is coming on quickly. Until he takes the oath of office, he ought to keep his trap — and his Twitter account — quiet.

Profiling Muslims a possibility … seriously?

don trump

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump, thinks profiling Muslims is something that U.S. law enforcement should consider.

Yes, that’s right. The nation that proclaims itself to be the champion of religious freedom, where the government doesn’t care which faith you worship … or even whether you worship at all, should consider singling out Muslims, according to Trump.

But wait a second! Hasn’t Trump proposed banning Muslims from entering the United States? Who, then, is he suggesting we profile?

Oh, I get it. That would be Americans!

I’ll set aside the obvious — in my view — un-American aspect of such a proposal.

How does one identify a Muslim? Would it be the scarves that women often wear? Would it be the names of the individuals being profiled? How does law enforcement discern who deserves profiling and who doesn’t?

I ask these questions because Muslims come from all ethnic backgrounds. What about the red-headed and freckle-faced Irish man or woman who converts to Islam? Or the blue-eyed blond from Scandinavia?

Oh, and then you have, say, the Palestinian who happens to be Christian. I have a bit of experience with meeting someone of that ilk. In 2009, my wife and I toured Bethlehem on the West Bank. Our tour guide? A young Palestinian who proclaimed his love of Jesus Christ as “ourĀ Lord and Savior.”

Trump told CBS’s “Face the Nation” host John Dickerson this morning that we ought to follow the model set by Israel, which he said profiles Muslims.

I’ll just add one more bit of personal privilege here. Having traveled to Israel and endured the grilling by security officers at David Ben-Gurion International Airport, I can state without reservation that the Israelis profile everyone who leaves the country through the Tel Aviv airport.

Take my word for it, you haven’t lived until you’ve been interrogated by an Israeli airport security guard.


Trump told Dickerson he hates “the concept of profiling.”

Fine. So do I. So should all Americans.

Welcome aboard, Palestinians

This just in …

High Plains Blogger just recorded two hits from the Palestinian Territories.

That makes 122 countries/sovereign governments that have responded to commentary on this blog.

There might be more from Palestine, given that I like writing about the dispute between the Palestinians and the Israelis. That, and the fact that I’ve actually been to the West Bank, which is governed by the Palestinian Authority.

A little more than 190 countries belong to the United Nations. I’m hoping to hear from all of them. Only about 70 more to go and then we’ll have a worldwide sweep.

Keep reading. Pass it on. Share with your friends.

SCOTUS hands White House an unexpected victory

The Supreme Court has decided that the United States needs to remain neutral in an ancient debate over who controls one of the world’s holiest cities.

The issue is aĀ passport and whether the parents of a child born in Jerusalem could put the word “Israel” on the document’s listing of one’s place of birth.

It’s kind of convoluted. The court — in a 6-3 decision — sided with the executive branch of government, which contended that “Jerusalem” should stand alone onĀ passports, given the contentious nature of the debate over who actually controls the city.


Longstanding policy had stated thatĀ passports marking the place of birth of those who hold themĀ shouldn’t put JerusalemĀ in Israel, as it remains a key sticking point in the on-going dispute between the Israelis and Palestinian Authority.

The American citizens of a boy born in Jerusalem in 2002 wanted hisĀ passport to contain the word “Israel.”Ā Congress enacted aĀ bill declaring that birth certificates could identify the birthplace as Jerusalem, Israel if parents requested. President Bush signed the bill into law, but complained that it interfered with the president’s ability to conduct foreign policy.

The court sided with the executive branch.

I’ve been to Jerusalem.Ā Much of it clearly is inĀ Israel. The Israeli government has its capital there. However, the city also is divided by a large, forbidding wall, on the other side of which is the West Bank, governed by the Palestinian Authority.

The Supreme Court has decided correctly in not interfering in this most sensitive dispute.

As NBC News’s Pete Williams reported: “The administration, under presidents of both parities, has insisted that because sovereignty over Jerusalem is one of the major sticking points in any Middle East peace agreement, the U.S. would remain neutral. Being forced to say that Jerusalem was under the control of Israel, the idea went, would be taking sides.”


Not exactly a 'bucket list' item, but …

I’ve kept this link filed away ever since I got it about a year ago.

It’s of Israel. It’s a promotional video, about 5 minutes in length that shows the best of one of the world’s most fascinating, complex, enduring and loveliest countries.

I spent five weeks there in May-JuneĀ 2009. Most of that time was as part of a Rotary International professional exchange. Four young professionals came with me and we interacted for with others as part of Rotary’s effort to build bridges among cultures. Five folks from West Texas got an education that they will keep forever. And all of these wonderful young Texans have become four of my very best friends.

What’s more, together we forged friendships with our Israeli hosts — and a Rotary team with whom we traveled from The Netherlands — that will last our entire lives.

The final week was spent as a tourist, with my wife who had come to join me once the Rotary portion of the trip had concluded. We stayed at a bed and breakfast in Jerusalem. We took tours to Masada and the Dead Sea and walked all through Jerusalem, visiting holy sites and then booked a tour to neighboring Bethlehem in the West Bank.

As I look repeatedly at this video it occurs to me how vibrant that country is in a region riven with strife, bloodshed, hatred and suspicion. But watch the video and you notice it’s a land of intense religious diversity, with Christians, Jews and Muslims literally praying next to each other.

We visited a site, for example, in the old section of Tel Aviv where a mosque and an Orthodox church share a common wall, which we were told is a huge sign of unity in a region known for religious violence.

My wife and I intend to return there. We have many more holy sites we want to visit.

Call it a variation of the “bucket list.” We’ve been there once already. But there’s so much more to see and experience. Check out the video. You’ll see what I mean.