--Advertisement--
Ad by The Cutting Edge News

The Cutting Edge

Friday April 18 2014 reaching 1.4 million monthly
--Advertisement--
Ad by The Cutting Edge News

Palestinians on Edge

Palestinian Deception and the Unwarranted Trust of the West: The Case of Palestinian Accession to International Conventions

April 17th 2014

Abbas UN

In a highly publicized ceremony on 1 April 2014, and pursuant to a unanimous decision by the Palestinian leadership, Palestinian Authority President and PLO head Mahmoud Abbas signed letters addressed to the United Nations and to the governments of Switzerland and the Netherlands, requesting that “the State of Palestine” be granted accession to 15 international conventions and treaties.1

The official website of the PLO justified this action by citing “a right which Palestine gained following its upgrade to observer state status by the UN General Assembly in November 2012”2 – a right the realization of which it claims to have postponed as part of the arrangements negotiated with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for returning to the negotiating table. These arrangements included an Israeli commitment to release Palestinian prisoners and a reciprocal Palestinian commitment to postpone its “right” to accede to international instruments.

In light of the evident lack of progress in the negotiations and consequent attempts by Secretary Kerry to engineer their continuation beyond the nine-month period initially envisaged for their completion, Israel delayed the release of the fourth and final batch of Palestinian prisoners pending agreement to continue negotiations.

However, in the midst of the discussions to extend the negotiations, the Palestinian leadership decided to act unilaterally and to activate what they consider to be their “right” to accede to international conventions, following the upgrade of their status in the UN to a non-member observer state, claiming also that such conventions are “vital to continued Palestinian institution building, good governance and the upholding of human rights.”

This was evidently in realization of a pre-determined, long-term strategy document circulated in March 2014 by their chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, in which he set forth the steps the Palestinian Authority must take to achieve the goal of applying Palestinian sovereignty to the territories demarcated by the 1967 lines, including

Submit a request to immediately join the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the accompanying protocols of 1977. Upon receipt of the request to join, the president of the Swiss Federation will announce the acceptance of the state of Palestine as a member that has signed these conventions.3

Pursuant to the request by Mahmoud Abbas, both the UN and the Swiss government hurried to accept the Palestinian request. In a statement issued by the UN spokesman on April 10, 2014:

“The secretary general has ascertained that the instruments received were in due and proper form before accepting them for deposit.” In keeping with procedure, all member states had been informed.4

Similarly, on the same day, the Swiss Federal Council issued a formal notification to the governments of states parties to the Geneva Conventions of the fact that the Palestinian accession “took effect on 2 April 2014.”5

This action by the Palestinian leadership, taken in the name of both the “State of Palestine” and the PLO (the Palestinian umbrella organization), and the consequent, hurried acceptance of the Palestinian applications by the United Nations and by the Swiss government, raise serious questions both regarding the flawed perception as to the very existence and legal status of a sovereign state of “Palestine” in the international community, as well as to the issue of the potential implications of what are, in effect, serious violations of the 1995-9 Oslo Accords and of the very integrity of the international law of treaties.

It is perhaps logical to assume and to expect that the depositories of those international conventions to which the Palestinian leadership addressed its requests for accession – specifically the United Nations and the governments of Switzerland and the Netherlands – if acting in accordance with their legal and moral duties pursuant to international treaty law and practice, would have indeed determined in no uncertain terms that the requests by the Palestinian leadership for accession to the conventions fail to meet the requirements of international law.

Similarly, one might assume that the depositories would not have permitted themselves to fall for this deception, or to be manipulated by political or ideological pressures or by economic or energy-related interests, all of which would damage the integrity of international law and custom.

The reasons for this are as follows:

A State of Palestine Does Not Exist

Despite the commonly-held perception relied upon by the Palestinian leadership and evidently prevalent in the international community, the 29 November 2012 UN General Assembly resolution 67/196 upgrading the status of the Palestinian representation in the UN to that of a non-member observer state did not establish a state, and therefore did not grant statehood to the Palestinians.7

The United Nations – whether the General Assembly or the Security Council – does not have the power to grant statehood. It only has the prerogative to invite existing states to apply for UN membership and to consider if such states fulfill the criteria for membership as set out in the UN Charter.

By all accepted international legal and customary criteria, no sovereign Palestinian state exists. Such statehood can be achieved only in accordance with the accepted international law criteria of a permanent population, a defined territory, government and the capacity to enter into relations with the other states.8

Clearly, despite the illusions disseminated by the Palestinian leadership and bought into by the international community, the Palestinians are not yet in any position to indicate a defined territory, which is still subject both to an open conflict with the Hamas terror organization ruling the Gaza Strip, and is still an agreed-upon negotiating issue between the PLO and Israel. Nor can the Palestinian Authority leadership claim to represent the population of the Gaza Strip, which openly rejects its authority and jurisdiction as well as the presidential status and representative authority of Mahmoud Abbas himself. By the same token, the Palestinian leadership cannot thus indicate to the international community any clear and stable form of governance, and any capacity to take upon itself and to observe international obligations, or to represent itself as a “peace-loving state.”

Pending fulfillment of these criteria, it should be clear that the Palestinians cannot represent themselves vis-à-vis the international community as a sovereign state imbued with the capacity to accede to international conventions, especially when such conventions specifically condition signature and accession to them to states only.

In 2011 the UN Security Council rejected a Palestinian request for membership, citing disagreements between the Council members on whether “Palestine” fulfills the requirements set forth in the UN Charter for membership of the organization, which requirements include being a peace-loving state, accepting the obligations of the U.N. Charter, and a commitment and capability to carry out those obligations.9

Thus, the very basic premise cited by the Palestinians as justification for their claim to accede to international conventions would appear to be fundamentally flawed and to constitute a gross misrepresentation and over-estimation of their international status and prerogatives. 

Violation of the Integrity of International Treaty Law

International treaty law, as set out in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties,10 calls for accession to treaties by states, whether members of the UN, Specialized Agencies or parties to the ICJ statute. The clear assumption is that the term “states” means genuine states that exercise the qualities and capabilities of statehood and sovereignty, and not entities, artificially termed “states,” that do not exercise such qualities and capabilities.

All 15 conventions listed in the Palestinian requests for accession, including the Geneva Conventions,11 require that only states be permitted to accede. By rushing to accept the Palestinian accession requests, knowing that there exists no genuine Palestinian state, the depositories are in fact both misleading themselves and the international community as a whole and undermining the very integrity of international treaty law and creating dangerous precedents.

Serious Violations of the Oslo Accords

The act of requesting accession to international conventions constitutes a clear violation of Palestinian obligations pursuant to Article IX of the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip of 28 September 1995,12 which sets out the agreed-upon powers and responsibilities of the Palestinian Council.

In this provision the Palestinians agreed and undertook not to exercise powers and responsibilities in the sphere of foreign relations, and to restrict agreements with states or international organizations solely to those serving “the benefit of the Council.” Such agreements are defined in the Interim Agreement as economic agreements, agreements with donor countries for the provision of assistance to the Council, agreements for the purpose of implementing regional development plans, and cultural, scientific and educational agreements.

In a similar vein, the Palestinian leadership is violating another central obligation set out in Article XXXI(7) according to which they agreed that “neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations.”

These violations of the Oslo Accords place the integrity of the accords into serious question. The fact that the international community appears to be playing along with these Palestinian violations runs counter to the fact that those same Oslo Accords were counter-signed by leading figures in the international community, including the Presidents of the U.S. and Egypt, the King of Jordan, and representatives of the EU, Russian Federation and the Kingdom of Norway, all of whom solemnly signed the agreement as witnesses. The agreement was also endorsed by the United Nations.

In view of the above, the question may well be asked whether the “peace process,” that has for so many years been an integral part of the international narrative regarding the Arab-Israel dispute, can now continue in its present format when both the Palestinian leadership and the international community, through the UN and the Swiss government, have, to all intents and purposes – in accepting the Palestinian request to accede to international treaties – undermined it, and predetermined the very central issues that were to have been negotiated between the parties, i.e., the final status.

Practical Consequences of Accession to International Conventions

Accession to international conventions by the Palestinians, even before they can claim to be a genuine state, raises some interesting issues with which the international community, as represented by the UN, Switzerland and the Netherlands, will have to cope after accepting Palestinian accession to international treaties:

  • Pursuant to the 1961 Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic and Consular Relations, states will be required to enable the establishment of full diplomatic and consular missions and to accord to Palestinian diplomatic and consular representatives the rights, privileges and immunities involved.
  • In accepting Palestinian accession to the 1907 Hague Convention on the Laws and Customs of War on Land, to the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the 1977 Additional Protocol, the Palestinians will be accountable for every rocket fired from territory under its control (including the Gaza Strip), the use of schools, mosques and private homes to store and use weaponry, as well as all acts of terror emanating from their territory, and every other violation of international humanitarian law, aimed at Israeli civilians, towns and villages.
  • Pursuant to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, 1965, the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights, and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Convention against Discrimination against Women, the Palestinians will be accountable for their extensive internal legislation and policies discriminating against Jews, and their involvement in, and ongoing direction of, economic and cultural boycotts against Israel and Jews, as well as the in-built discrimination suffered by women in Palestinian society.
  • The Convention on the Rights of the Child, 198913 and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, 200214 will render the Palestinians accountable for the involvement of Palestinian children in acts of violence and terror against Israel and its citizens.
  • The UN Convention against Corruption (2000)15 will require the Palestinians to prevent, criminalize and cooperate internationally in the fight against corruption – a particularly unique challenge in light of the extensively reported and widespread corruption among Palestinian leaders, including the siphoning of funding into private bank accounts.16
  • The UN Convention against Torture will place accountability on the Palestinians regarding the cruelty exercised both by Hamas and Fatah authorities against each other.

Derailing the Peace Process

The enthusiasm with which the international community appears to encourage and pamper the Palestinians, and to play along with their attempt to accede to international conventions, under the flawed illusion that there exists a sovereign state of Palestine, will only serve to encourage the Palestinian leadership in its refusal to return to a negotiating mode in order to reach a final status agreement with Israel, solving all the relevant and outstanding issues that can be solved only through negotiation.

As such, the Palestinian leadership assumes that the international community will go along with any Palestinian demand, thereby obviating any need for negotiation and agreement.

This international pampering of the Palestinians, and utter ignoring of international law and solemn commitments, as well as the massive prejudgment of issues that should remain on the negotiating table, in effect signals a serious turning point in the peace process and raises the question whether there is any hope for progress in its present format.

- See more at: http://jcpa.org/article/palestinian-deception/#sthash.tOY28RG7.dpuf

In a highly publicized ceremony on 1 April 2014, and pursuant to a unanimous decision by the Palestinian leadership, Palestinian Authority President and PLO head Mahmoud Abbas signed letters addressed to the United Nations and to the governments of Switzerland and the Netherlands, requesting that “the State of Palestine” be granted accession to 15 international conventions and treaties.1

The official website of the PLO justified this action by citing “a right which Palestine gained following its upgrade to observer state status by the UN General Assembly in November 2012”2 – a right the realization of which it claims to have postponed as part of the arrangements negotiated with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for returning to the negotiating table. These arrangements included an Israeli commitment to release Palestinian prisoners and a reciprocal Palestinian commitment to postpone its “right” to accede to international instruments.

In light of the evident lack of progress in the negotiations and consequent attempts by Secretary Kerry to engineer their continuation beyond the nine-month period initially envisaged for their completion, Israel delayed the release of the fourth and final batch of Palestinian prisoners pending agreement to continue negotiations.

However, in the midst of the discussions to extend the negotiations, the Palestinian leadership decided to act unilaterally and to activate what they consider to be their “right” to accede to international conventions, following the upgrade of their status in the UN to a non-member observer state, claiming also that such conventions are “vital to continued Palestinian institution building, good governance and the upholding of human rights.”

This was evidently in realization of a pre-determined, long-term strategy document circulated in March 2014 by their chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, in which he set forth the steps the Palestinian Authority must take to achieve the goal of applying Palestinian sovereignty to the territories demarcated by the 1967 lines, including

Submit a request to immediately join the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the accompanying protocols of 1977. Upon receipt of the request to join, the president of the Swiss Federation will announce the acceptance of the state of Palestine as a member that has signed these conventions.3

Pursuant to the request by Mahmoud Abbas, both the UN and the Swiss government hurried to accept the Palestinian request. In a statement issued by the UN spokesman on April 10, 2014:

“The secretary general has ascertained that the instruments received were in due and proper form before accepting them for deposit.” In keeping with procedure, all member states had been informed.4

Similarly, on the same day, the Swiss Federal Council issued a formal notification to the governments of states parties to the Geneva Conventions of the fact that the Palestinian accession “took effect on 2 April 2014.”5

This action by the Palestinian leadership, taken in the name of both the “State of Palestine” and the PLO (the Palestinian umbrella organization), and the consequent, hurried acceptance of the Palestinian applications by the United Nations and by the Swiss government, raise serious questions both regarding the flawed perception as to the very existence and legal status of a sovereign state of “Palestine” in the international community, as well as to the issue of the potential implications of what are, in effect, serious violations of the 1995-9 Oslo Accords and of the very integrity of the international law of treaties.

It is perhaps logical to assume and to expect that the depositories of those international conventions to which the Palestinian leadership addressed its requests for accession – specifically the United Nations and the governments of Switzerland and the Netherlands – if acting in accordance with their legal and moral duties pursuant to international treaty law and practice, would have indeed determined in no uncertain terms that the requests by the Palestinian leadership for accession to the conventions fail to meet the requirements of international law.

Similarly, one might assume that the depositories would not have permitted themselves to fall for this deception, or to be manipulated by political or ideological pressures or by economic or energy-related interests, all of which would damage the integrity of international law and custom.

The reasons for this are as follows:

A State of Palestine Does Not Exist

Despite the commonly-held perception relied upon by the Palestinian leadership and evidently prevalent in the international community, the 29 November 2012 UN General Assembly resolution 67/196 upgrading the status of the Palestinian representation in the UN to that of a non-member observer state did not establish a state, and therefore did not grant statehood to the Palestinians.7

The United Nations – whether the General Assembly or the Security Council – does not have the power to grant statehood. It only has the prerogative to invite existing states to apply for UN membership and to consider if such states fulfill the criteria for membership as set out in the UN Charter.

By all accepted international legal and customary criteria, no sovereign Palestinian state exists. Such statehood can be achieved only in accordance with the accepted international law criteria of a permanent population, a defined territory, government and the capacity to enter into relations with the other states.8

Clearly, despite the illusions disseminated by the Palestinian leadership and bought into by the international community, the Palestinians are not yet in any position to indicate a defined territory, which is still subject both to an open conflict with the Hamas terror organization ruling the Gaza Strip, and is still an agreed-upon negotiating issue between the PLO and Israel. Nor can the Palestinian Authority leadership claim to represent the population of the Gaza Strip, which openly rejects its authority and jurisdiction as well as the presidential status and representative authority of Mahmoud Abbas himself. By the same token, the Palestinian leadership cannot thus indicate to the international community any clear and stable form of governance, and any capacity to take upon itself and to observe international obligations, or to represent itself as a “peace-loving state.”

Pending fulfillment of these criteria, it should be clear that the Palestinians cannot represent themselves vis-à-vis the international community as a sovereign state imbued with the capacity to accede to international conventions, especially when such conventions specifically condition signature and accession to them to states only.

In 2011 the UN Security Council rejected a Palestinian request for membership, citing disagreements between the Council members on whether “Palestine” fulfills the requirements set forth in the UN Charter for membership of the organization, which requirements include being a peace-loving state, accepting the obligations of the U.N. Charter, and a commitment and capability to carry out those obligations.9

Thus, the very basic premise cited by the Palestinians as justification for their claim to accede to international conventions would appear to be fundamentally flawed and to constitute a gross misrepresentation and over-estimation of their international status and prerogatives. 

Violation of the Integrity of International Treaty Law

International treaty law, as set out in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties,10 calls for accession to treaties by states, whether members of the UN, Specialized Agencies or parties to the ICJ statute. The clear assumption is that the term “states” means genuine states that exercise the qualities and capabilities of statehood and sovereignty, and not entities, artificially termed “states,” that do not exercise such qualities and capabilities.

All 15 conventions listed in the Palestinian requests for accession, including the Geneva Conventions,11 require that only states be permitted to accede. By rushing to accept the Palestinian accession requests, knowing that there exists no genuine Palestinian state, the depositories are in fact both misleading themselves and the international community as a whole and undermining the very integrity of international treaty law and creating dangerous precedents.

Serious Violations of the Oslo Accords

The act of requesting accession to international conventions constitutes a clear violation of Palestinian obligations pursuant to Article IX of the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip of 28 September 1995,12 which sets out the agreed-upon powers and responsibilities of the Palestinian Council.

In this provision the Palestinians agreed and undertook not to exercise powers and responsibilities in the sphere of foreign relations, and to restrict agreements with states or international organizations solely to those serving “the benefit of the Council.” Such agreements are defined in the Interim Agreement as economic agreements, agreements with donor countries for the provision of assistance to the Council, agreements for the purpose of implementing regional development plans, and cultural, scientific and educational agreements.

In a similar vein, the Palestinian leadership is violating another central obligation set out in Article XXXI(7) according to which they agreed that “neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations.”

These violations of the Oslo Accords place the integrity of the accords into serious question. The fact that the international community appears to be playing along with these Palestinian violations runs counter to the fact that those same Oslo Accords were counter-signed by leading figures in the international community, including the Presidents of the U.S. and Egypt, the King of Jordan, and representatives of the EU, Russian Federation and the Kingdom of Norway, all of whom solemnly signed the agreement as witnesses. The agreement was also endorsed by the United Nations.

In view of the above, the question may well be asked whether the “peace process,” that has for so many years been an integral part of the international narrative regarding the Arab-Israel dispute, can now continue in its present format when both the Palestinian leadership and the international community, through the UN and the Swiss government, have, to all intents and purposes – in accepting the Palestinian request to accede to international treaties – undermined it, and predetermined the very central issues that were to have been negotiated between the parties, i.e., the final status.

Practical Consequences of Accession to International Conventions

Accession to international conventions by the Palestinians, even before they can claim to be a genuine state, raises some interesting issues with which the international community, as represented by the UN, Switzerland and the Netherlands, will have to cope after accepting Palestinian accession to international treaties:

  • Pursuant to the 1961 Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic and Consular Relations, states will be required to enable the establishment of full diplomatic and consular missions and to accord to Palestinian diplomatic and consular representatives the rights, privileges and immunities involved.
  • In accepting Palestinian accession to the 1907 Hague Convention on the Laws and Customs of War on Land, to the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the 1977 Additional Protocol, the Palestinians will be accountable for every rocket fired from territory under its control (including the Gaza Strip), the use of schools, mosques and private homes to store and use weaponry, as well as all acts of terror emanating from their territory, and every other violation of international humanitarian law, aimed at Israeli civilians, towns and villages.
  • Pursuant to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, 1965, the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights, and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Convention against Discrimination against Women, the Palestinians will be accountable for their extensive internal legislation and policies discriminating against Jews, and their involvement in, and ongoing direction of, economic and cultural boycotts against Israel and Jews, as well as the in-built discrimination suffered by women in Palestinian society.
  • The Convention on the Rights of the Child, 198913 and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, 200214 will render the Palestinians accountable for the involvement of Palestinian children in acts of violence and terror against Israel and its citizens.
  • The UN Convention against Corruption (2000)15 will require the Palestinians to prevent, criminalize and cooperate internationally in the fight against corruption – a particularly unique challenge in light of the extensively reported and widespread corruption among Palestinian leaders, including the siphoning of funding into private bank accounts.16
  • The UN Convention against Torture will place accountability on the Palestinians regarding the cruelty exercised both by Hamas and Fatah authorities against each other.

Derailing the Peace Process

The enthusiasm with which the international community appears to encourage and pamper the Palestinians, and to play along with their attempt to accede to international conventions, under the flawed illusion that there exists a sovereign state of Palestine, will only serve to encourage the Palestinian leadership in its refusal to return to a negotiating mode in order to reach a final status agreement with Israel, solving all the relevant and outstanding issues that can be solved only through negotiation.

As such, the Palestinian leadership assumes that the international community will go along with any Palestinian demand, thereby obviating any need for negotiation and agreement.

This international pampering of the Palestinians, and utter ignoring of international law and solemn commitments, as well as the massive prejudgment of issues that should remain on the negotiating table, in effect signals a serious turning point in the peace process and raises the question whether there is any hope for progress in its present format.

- See more at: http://jcpa.org/article/palestinian-deception/#sthash.tOY28RG7.dpuf

In a highly publicized ceremony on 1 April 2014, and pursuant to a unanimous decision by the Palestinian leadership, Palestinian Authority President and PLO head Mahmoud Abbas signed letters addressed to the United Nations and to the governments of Switzerland and the Netherlands, requesting that “the State of Palestine” be granted accession to 15 international conventions and treaties.1

The official website of the PLO justified this action by citing “a right which Palestine gained following its upgrade to observer state status by the UN General Assembly in November 2012”2 – a right the realization of which it claims to have postponed as part of the arrangements negotiated with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for returning to the negotiating table. These arrangements included an Israeli commitment to release Palestinian prisoners and a reciprocal Palestinian commitment to postpone its “right” to accede to international instruments.

In light of the evident lack of progress in the negotiations and consequent attempts by Secretary Kerry to engineer their continuation beyond the nine-month period initially envisaged for their completion, Israel delayed the release of the fourth and final batch of Palestinian prisoners pending agreement to continue negotiations.

However, in the midst of the discussions to extend the negotiations, the Palestinian leadership decided to act unilaterally and to activate what they consider to be their “right” to accede to international conventions, following the upgrade of their status in the UN to a non-member observer state, claiming also that such conventions are “vital to continued Palestinian institution building, good governance and the upholding of human rights.”

This was evidently in realization of a pre-determined, long-term strategy document circulated in March 2014 by their chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, in which he set forth the steps the Palestinian Authority must take to achieve the goal of applying Palestinian sovereignty to the territories demarcated by the 1967 lines, including

Submit a request to immediately join the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the accompanying protocols of 1977. Upon receipt of the request to join, the president of the Swiss Federation will announce the acceptance of the state of Palestine as a member that has signed these conventions.3

Pursuant to the request by Mahmoud Abbas, both the UN and the Swiss government hurried to accept the Palestinian request. In a statement issued by the UN spokesman on April 10, 2014:

“The secretary general has ascertained that the instruments received were in due and proper form before accepting them for deposit.” In keeping with procedure, all member states had been informed.4

Similarly, on the same day, the Swiss Federal Council issued a formal notification to the governments of states parties to the Geneva Conventions of the fact that the Palestinian accession “took effect on 2 April 2014.”5

This action by the Palestinian leadership, taken in the name of both the “State of Palestine” and the PLO (the Palestinian umbrella organization), and the consequent, hurried acceptance of the Palestinian applications by the United Nations and by the Swiss government, raise serious questions both regarding the flawed perception as to the very existence and legal status of a sovereign state of “Palestine” in the international community, as well as to the issue of the potential implications of what are, in effect, serious violations of the 1995-9 Oslo Accords and of the very integrity of the international law of treaties.

It is perhaps logical to assume and to expect that the depositories of those international conventions to which the Palestinian leadership addressed its requests for accession – specifically the United Nations and the governments of Switzerland and the Netherlands – if acting in accordance with their legal and moral duties pursuant to international treaty law and practice, would have indeed determined in no uncertain terms that the requests by the Palestinian leadership for accession to the conventions fail to meet the requirements of international law.

Similarly, one might assume that the depositories would not have permitted themselves to fall for this deception, or to be manipulated by political or ideological pressures or by economic or energy-related interests, all of which would damage the integrity of international law and custom.

The reasons for this are as follows:

A State of Palestine Does Not Exist

Despite the commonly-held perception relied upon by the Palestinian leadership and evidently prevalent in the international community, the 29 November 2012 UN General Assembly resolution 67/196 upgrading the status of the Palestinian representation in the UN to that of a non-member observer state did not establish a state, and therefore did not grant statehood to the Palestinians.7

The United Nations – whether the General Assembly or the Security Council – does not have the power to grant statehood. It only has the prerogative to invite existing states to apply for UN membership and to consider if such states fulfill the criteria for membership as set out in the UN Charter.

By all accepted international legal and customary criteria, no sovereign Palestinian state exists. Such statehood can be achieved only in accordance with the accepted international law criteria of a permanent population, a defined territory, government and the capacity to enter into relations with the other states.8

Clearly, despite the illusions disseminated by the Palestinian leadership and bought into by the international community, the Palestinians are not yet in any position to indicate a defined territory, which is still subject both to an open conflict with the Hamas terror organization ruling the Gaza Strip, and is still an agreed-upon negotiating issue between the PLO and Israel. Nor can the Palestinian Authority leadership claim to represent the population of the Gaza Strip, which openly rejects its authority and jurisdiction as well as the presidential status and representative authority of Mahmoud Abbas himself. By the same token, the Palestinian leadership cannot thus indicate to the international community any clear and stable form of governance, and any capacity to take upon itself and to observe international obligations, or to represent itself as a “peace-loving state.”

Pending fulfillment of these criteria, it should be clear that the Palestinians cannot represent themselves vis-à-vis the international community as a sovereign state imbued with the capacity to accede to international conventions, especially when such conventions specifically condition signature and accession to them to states only.

In 2011 the UN Security Council rejected a Palestinian request for membership, citing disagreements between the Council members on whether “Palestine” fulfills the requirements set forth in the UN Charter for membership of the organization, which requirements include being a peace-loving state, accepting the obligations of the U.N. Charter, and a commitment and capability to carry out those obligations.9

Thus, the very basic premise cited by the Palestinians as justification for their claim to accede to international conventions would appear to be fundamentally flawed and to constitute a gross misrepresentation and over-estimation of their international status and prerogatives. 

Violation of the Integrity of International Treaty Law

International treaty law, as set out in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties,10 calls for accession to treaties by states, whether members of the UN, Specialized Agencies or parties to the ICJ statute. The clear assumption is that the term “states” means genuine states that exercise the qualities and capabilities of statehood and sovereignty, and not entities, artificially termed “states,” that do not exercise such qualities and capabilities.

All 15 conventions listed in the Palestinian requests for accession, including the Geneva Conventions,11 require that only states be permitted to accede. By rushing to accept the Palestinian accession requests, knowing that there exists no genuine Palestinian state, the depositories are in fact both misleading themselves and the international community as a whole and undermining the very integrity of international treaty law and creating dangerous precedents.

Serious Violations of the Oslo Accords

The act of requesting accession to international conventions constitutes a clear violation of Palestinian obligations pursuant to Article IX of the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip of 28 September 1995,12 which sets out the agreed-upon powers and responsibilities of the Palestinian Council.

In this provision the Palestinians agreed and undertook not to exercise powers and responsibilities in the sphere of foreign relations, and to restrict agreements with states or international organizations solely to those serving “the benefit of the Council.” Such agreements are defined in the Interim Agreement as economic agreements, agreements with donor countries for the provision of assistance to the Council, agreements for the purpose of implementing regional development plans, and cultural, scientific and educational agreements.

In a similar vein, the Palestinian leadership is violating another central obligation set out in Article XXXI(7) according to which they agreed that “neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations.”

These violations of the Oslo Accords place the integrity of the accords into serious question. The fact that the international community appears to be playing along with these Palestinian violations runs counter to the fact that those same Oslo Accords were counter-signed by leading figures in the international community, including the Presidents of the U.S. and Egypt, the King of Jordan, and representatives of the EU, Russian Federation and the Kingdom of Norway, all of whom solemnly signed the agreement as witnesses. The agreement was also endorsed by the United Nations.

In view of the above, the question may well be asked whether the “peace process,” that has for so many years been an integral part of the international narrative regarding the Arab-Israel dispute, can now continue in its present format when both the Palestinian leadership and the international community, through the UN and the Swiss government, have, to all intents and purposes – in accepting the Palestinian request to accede to international treaties – undermined it, and predetermined the very central issues that were to have been negotiated between the parties, i.e., the final status.

Practical Consequences of Accession to International Conventions

Accession to international conventions by the Palestinians, even before they can claim to be a genuine state, raises some interesting issues with which the international community, as represented by the UN, Switzerland and the Netherlands, will have to cope after accepting Palestinian accession to international treaties:

  • Pursuant to the 1961 Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic and Consular Relations, states will be required to enable the establishment of full diplomatic and consular missions and to accord to Palestinian diplomatic and consular representatives the rights, privileges and immunities involved.
  • In accepting Palestinian accession to the 1907 Hague Convention on the Laws and Customs of War on Land, to the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the 1977 Additional Protocol, the Palestinians will be accountable for every rocket fired from territory under its control (including the Gaza Strip), the use of schools, mosques and private homes to store and use weaponry, as well as all acts of terror emanating from their territory, and every other violation of international humanitarian law, aimed at Israeli civilians, towns and villages.
  • Pursuant to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, 1965, the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights, and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Convention against Discrimination against Women, the Palestinians will be accountable for their extensive internal legislation and policies discriminating against Jews, and their involvement in, and ongoing direction of, economic and cultural boycotts against Israel and Jews, as well as the in-built discrimination suffered by women in Palestinian society.
  • The Convention on the Rights of the Child, 198913 and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, 200214 will render the Palestinians accountable for the involvement of Palestinian children in acts of violence and terror against Israel and its citizens.
  • The UN Convention against Corruption (2000)15 will require the Palestinians to prevent, criminalize and cooperate internationally in the fight against corruption – a particularly unique challenge in light of the extensively reported and widespread corruption among Palestinian leaders, including the siphoning of funding into private bank accounts.16
  • The UN Convention against Torture will place accountability on the Palestinians regarding the cruelty exercised both by Hamas and Fatah authorities against each other.

Derailing the Peace Process

The enthusiasm with which the international community appears to encourage and pamper the Palestinians, and to play along with their attempt to accede to international conventions, under the flawed illusion that there exists a sovereign state of Palestine, will only serve to encourage the Palestinian leadership in its refusal to return to a negotiating mode in order to reach a final status agreement with Israel, solving all the relevant and outstanding issues that can be solved only through negotiation.

As such, the Palestinian leadership assumes that the international community will go along with any Palestinian demand, thereby obviating any need for negotiation and agreement.

This international pampering of the Palestinians, and utter ignoring of international law and solemn commitments, as well as the massive prejudgment of issues that should remain on the negotiating table, in effect signals a serious turning point in the peace process and raises the question whether there is any hope for progress in its present format.

- See more at: http://jcpa.org/article/palestinian-deception/#sthash.tOY28RG7.dpuf

In a highly publicized ceremony on 1 April 2014, and pursuant to a unanimous decision by the Palestinian leadership, Palestinian Authority President and PLO head Mahmoud Abbas signed letters addressed to the United Nations and to the governments of Switzerland and the Netherlands, requesting that “the State of Palestine” be granted accession to 15 international conventions and treaties.

The official website of the PLO justified this action by citing “a right which Palestine gained following its upgrade to observer state status by the UN General Assembly in November 2012” – a right the realization of which it claims to have postponed as part of the arrangements negotiated with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for returning to the negotiating table. These arrangements included an Israeli commitment to release Palestinian prisoners and a reciprocal Palestinian commitment to postpone its “right” to accede to international instruments. Read more ..


Europe on Edge

Germany's Fears for EU Integrity Grow

April 16th 2014

Click to select Image

The Greek economy ended its four-year exile from international markets last week with a triumphant 3 billion euro (about $4.1 billion) bond sale. The global financial media trumpeted this somewhat unexpected achievement as a sign that things were finally turning around in the European Union's most blighted country. Media reports to the contrary, Greece's return to the market does nothing to resolve Greece's systemic economic deficiencies. Instead, it enables Greece to build up more debt, which will leave it a permanent bailout state for the foreseeable future.

In any case, events in Athens, a city perennially destined to be a dependent on the great powers of any given time, will not be pivotal to the future of the European Union. Nor will decisions made in Spain, Italy or even France. Instead, the Continent's fate in the 21st century will be decided in Germany. Germany stands increasingly alone as the guardian of the very European order that allowed it to prosper and quelled its historical insecurities about its neighbors. Read more ..


The Edge of Terrorism

Yemen: The Never-Ending Battleground

April 15th 2014

Yemeni terrorists

A recent attack that killed at least 20 Yemeni soldiers is the latest Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) atrocity in the region. It came at a time the country is debating the February 10 Regions Defining Committee’s decision to turn Yemen into “a federal state consisting of six regions—four in the north and two in the south.”  Yemen’s National Dialog Conference (NDC) ultimately agreed to 1400 articles and recommendations, some of which will now be incorporated in a constitution, which is due on March 2015.

A nation of six regions was determined to be a solution that is said to appeal to most of Yemen’s quarreling tribes. Three regions were carved from the North, two from the South, with one straddling both North and South (Tihama). In the South, the boundaries drawn for the Aden and Hadhramawt regions are rather clear-cut and seem to meet the demands of southern intransigents who previously demanded an almost unlimited political autonomy. Read more ..


The Battle for Syria

Assad Boasting vs. Syrian Reality

April 14th 2014

Syrian Rebels in Aleppo

Syrian President Bashar Assad this week said that he expects that in the course of 2014, major military operations in Syria will end.  Following this, all that will remain will be the need to deal with the ongoing problem of ‘terrorists.’

The bullish confidence of the Syrian leader followed  recent remarks by Hizballah General-Secretary Hassan Nasrallah, who said in a speech that the danger that the Syrian regime could fall has now been averted.

What do such statements reflect?  Is the Syrian regime now within realistic sight of a strategic victory in the brutal three year civil war against the rebellion that rose to challenge it?  Or has Assad effectively resigned himself to being the ruler of the around 40% of Syrian territory over which he currently presides? Read more ..


The Digital Edge

A Battle Royal Emerges in Congress over Internet Gambling

April 13th 2014

Click to select Image

Ever since Bugsy Siegel opened the Flamingo Hotel in 1946 and launched the Las Vegas Strip, gambling has held a tenuous position in American life, suggesting glamour, wealth, depravity and corruption all at once. Now that casinos have spread throughout the nation and allegedly shed their mafia ties, a new branch of the industry is fighting for legitimacy here.

Las Vegas-based casinos and overseas operators have begun an all-out battle over Internet gambling, which is mostly banned nationwide but carries with it the promise of billions of dollars in additional revenue for casinos and state governments. Three states began licensing online betting last year, and lawmakers are debating online gambling bills in seven others right now. In Washington, meanwhile, Congress is facing increasing pressure to either bar or regulate the fledgling industry federally. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Top Washington Lobbyist Crafts Obama's Legacy

April 12th 2014

Click to select Image

White House senior adviser John Podesta is running against the clock.

Time is winding on Podesta’s objective, which is to make sure President Obama put points on the board in the final three years of his second term through either legislation or executive action.

With Obama and the White House flailing in late 2013, Podesta returned to the West Wing in January as part of an Obama reboot.
A little more than three months later, the former chief of staff for President Clinton gets good marks from Democrats and fellow West Wingers for helping to improve the White House’s strategy and communications. Read more ..


Edge of Islam

Another Year in the Muslim War on Christians

April 10th 2014

Click to select Image

As happens at Christmas every year throughout the Muslim world, Christians and their churches were especially targeted-from jihadi terror strikes killing worshippers, to measures by Muslim authorities restricting Christmas celebrations. Some incidents follow:

Iraq: "Militants" reported the Associated Press, "targeted Christians in three separate Christmas Day bombings in Baghdad, killing at least 37 people, officials said Wednesday. In one attack, a car bomb went off near a church in the capital's southern Dora neighborhood, killing at least 26 people and wounding 38, a police officer said. Earlier, two bombs ripped through a nearby outdoor market simultaneously in the Christian section of Athorien, killing 11 people and wounding 21." Read more ..


The Gender Edge

The '77 Cents on the Dollar' Myth About Women's Pay

April 9th 2014

cubicle workers

April 8 is "Equal Pay Day," an annual event to raise awareness regarding the so-called gender wage gap. As President Obama said in the State of the Union address, women "still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns," a claim echoed by the National Committee on Pay Equity, the American Association of University Women and other progressive groups.

The 23 percent gap implies that women work an extra 68 days to earn the same pay as a man. Mr. Obama advocates allowing women to sue for wage discrimination, with employers bearing the burden of proving they did not discriminate. But the numbers bandied about to make the claim of widespread discrimination are fundamentally misleading and economically illogical.

In its annual report, "Highlights of Women's Earnings in 2012," the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that "In 2012, women who were full-time wage and salary workers had median usual weekly earnings of $691. On average in 2012, women made about 81 percent of the median earnings of male full-time wage and salary workers ($854)." Give or take a few percentage points, the BLS appears to support the president's claim. Read more ..


Ukraine in Crisis

American Defense Policy in Eurasia and the Ukrainian Affair

April 8th 2014

Ever since the end of the Cold War, there has been an assumption that conventional warfare between reasonably developed nation-states had been abolished. During the 1990s, it was expected that the primary purpose of the military would be operations other than war, such as peacekeeping, disaster relief and the change of oppressive regimes. After 9/11, many began speaking of asymmetric warfare and "the long war." Under this model, the United States would be engaged in counterterrorism activities in a broad area of the Islamic world for a very long time. Peer-to-peer conflict seemed obsolete.

There was a profoundly radical idea embedded in this line of thought. Wars between nations or dynastic powers had been a constant condition in Europe, and the rest of the world had been no less violent. Every century had had systemic wars in which the entire international system (increasingly dominated by Europe since the 16th century) had participated. In the 20th century, there were the two World Wars, in the 19th century the Napoleonic Wars, in the 18th century the Seven Years' War, and in the 17th century the Thirty Years' War. Read more ..


The Ukraine on Edge

Five Tips For Cleaning Up Corruption

April 7th 2014

One Million Dollars

The European Union, the United States, and the International Monetary Fund plan financial support for Ukraine worth billions of dollars. But they want Kyiv to rein in corruption first.

Some EU Association Agreements with potential future EU members require specific anticorruption reforms. International financial institutions and nongovernmental groups, like Transparency International, also have advice.

Here are five top recommendations:

1. Strengthen Public Sector Accountability
EU Association Agreements for countries that seek EU membership require public officials to declare their assets in order to prevent conflicts of interest. Carl Dolan, director on EU issues for Transparency International, explains that a “conflict of interest” exists when officials can profit by making decisions that help firms in which they are stakeholders.

"Number one is to make sure that the basic reforms are in place on the ground," Dolan says. "There should be at least some groundwork there for reforming the public sector. There needs to be some system for the declaration of assets by public officials and for some way of checking whether those declarations are accurate or not.” Read more ..


The Arab World

War Across the Borders

April 6th 2014

Syrian Rebel w/SAW

It has become a commonplace to claim that the unrest in the Arab world is challenging the state borders laid down in the Arab world following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918.

This claim, however, is only very partially valid. It holds true in a specific section of the Middle East, namely the contiguous land area stretching from Iran’s western borders to the Mediterranean Sea, and taking in the states currently known as Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

In this area, a single sectarian war is currently taking place. The nominal governments in Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut may claim to rule in the name of the Iraqi, Syrian and Lebanese peoples. But the reality of power distribution in each of these areas shows something quite different. In each of these areas, local, long suppressed differences between communities are combining with the region-wide cold war between Iran and Saudi Arabia to produce conflict, discord and latent or open civil war. Read more ..


Broken Government

Building Better Housing Assistance

April 5th 2014

American poverty

Housing assistance for low-income Americans is premised on a simple value that most Americans share: no citizen should go without a roof over his head. But policy has done a poor job of achieving that goal. As of January 2013, more than 610,000 Americans were homeless. Many more are paying very high percentages of their income toward rent or are doubling up with other households.

Low-income housing assistance (for the non-elderly) is intended to provide struggling households with temporary support while they gain an economic foothold - a safeguard against homelessness. But demand for that assistance far outstrips supply; and unlike other means-tested programs, like food assistance, many housing applicants must get on a waiting list to receive assistance.

Those lists can be long. 70,000 applicants in the District of Columbia were waiting for one of just 8,000 public housing units in early 2013. Many had been on the list for more than a decade - so long that the city has since stopped accepting applications. Read more ..


The Way We Are

The Disconnected Generation

April 4th 2014

Walking-Cell phone

When Alexis de Tocqueville visited America in 1830, he was struck by how many Americans were participating in voluntary associations. It was quite a contrast with his native France, where power was centralized in Paris and people did not trust each other enough to join in voluntary groups.

Tocqueville might have a different impression should he, utilizing time travel, visit the America of 2030. Or so I conclude on reading the recently released Pew Research Center report on the attitudes and behavior of America’s Millennial generation.

By then the Millennials, people born after 1980, will be closing in on age 50 and will be the dominant segment of the working-age population. Today the Millennials, write the Pew analysts, are “relatively unattached to organized politics and religion,” and significantly more unattached than the age cohorts — Generation Xers, Baby Boomers, the Silent Generation — that came before. Read more ..


Inside Politics

Supreme Court Opens Door to Flood of Political Cash -- Again

April 3rd 2014

Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court today issued an opinion that is likely to further increase the flow of big money into politics.

In a 5-4 decision, the high court’s conservative-leaning justices struck down aggregate contribution limits to candidates and parties but kept base limits intact.

“The government may no more restrict how many candidates or causes a donor may support than it may tell a newspaper how many candidates it may endorse,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission.

Thus, at the federal level, a donor may still only give no more than $2,600 to a candidate per election, no more than $5,000 per year to a single PAC and no more than $32,400 to a national party committee. But there is no longer a limit on how many candidates, party committees or PACs a single donor can financially support.

The decision is the most important since the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case in 2010, which allowed for unlimited corporate and union spending in races, a decision which led to the creation of super PACs — groups that cannot directly contribute to candidates’ campaigns but can spend money on uncoordinated advertisements encouraging people to vote for or against candidates. Read more ..


BDS Jihad

Effort to Delegitimize Israel at UWindsor in Canada Exposes as Illegitimate

April 2nd 2014

UWindsor BDS Banner

In early March, The University of Windsor Students’ Alliance seemed to have become the first student union in Canada to approve a boycott, divestment and sanction strategy against Israel following an undergraduate referendum that was held on the matter. 

The BDS movement in some areas seems to have been gaining popularity of late, as efforts of the United States to push a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians rages on.  Yet, BDS, which U.S. Secretary of State referred to in a February 1st speech when he said, "People are talking about boycott. That will intensify in the case of failure," has been exposed by NGO Monitor as an effort to delegitimize Israel rather than one to establish a lasting peace.

So, when this controversial referendum at the University of Windsor was held and appeared to have passed, it came as a shock to some.  It appears, however, that the effort to delegitimize Israel was itself not legitimate, according to an investigation by the school’s lawyer Raj Anand. Read more ..


Ukraine on Edge

The United States and Russia Parley over the Future of Ukraine

April 1st 2014

During the Cold War, U.S. secretaries of state and Soviet foreign ministers routinely negotiated the outcome of crises and the fate of countries. It has been a long time since such talks have occurred, but last week a feeling of deja vu overcame me. Americans and Russians negotiated over everyone's head to find a way to defuse the crisis in Ukraine and, in the course of that, shape its fate.

During the talks, U.S. President Barack Obama made it clear that Washington has no intention of expanding NATO into either Ukraine or Georgia. The Russians have stated that they have no intention of any further military operations in Ukraine. Conversations between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry have been extensive and ongoing. For different reasons, neither side wants the crisis to continue, and each has a different read on the situation. Read more ..


Israel and the Palestinians

Where did the Peace Process Go in the Mideast?

March 31st 2014

Click to select Image

Check your newspaper, Twitter feed, or CNN. You will find the Malaysian airplane, Ukraine, the mudslide in Washington State, and in Washington, D.C. the terrible story of a missing 8-year-old girl. There is the occasional story about the Syrian civil war, the Central African Republic, or the declining U.S. defense budget. You are unlikely to learn much about the meeting between Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and President Barack Obama, or about the current state of Secretary of State John Kerry's "American Framework" for Israel-Palestinian peace.

The reason is that Secretary Kerry and the president have managed to alienate both sides at the same time, so they don't want to talk about it. This takes some doing, so it is worth considering how they managed. Read more ..


Broken Government

Treasury to Comerica: Take Our Money, Please!

March 30th 2014

One Million Dollars

The Treasury Department paid Comerica Inc. tens of millions of dollars for a government payment card that left poor and disabled Americans vulnerable to fraud and shoddy customer service, a new inspector general report says.

Trying to save money, Treasury officials pressured vulnerable citizens to use the Direct Express cards. Comerica issued the cards under a contract that was supposed to be cost-free for the government and relatively cheap for consumers. Officials spent years promoting the card at road shows around the country.

Yet the department did not properly oversee the program, Treasury’s inspector general concluded in the report to be released today. Officials ignored available data about fees charged to customers and call center wait times, and based many decisions on unverified information from Comerica, according to a report due out Friday by Treasury’s inspector general. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

How Much Does Obamacare Rip Off Young Adults?

March 29th 2014

Obamacare

Obamacare is still struggling to sign up young people. In order to offset the high cost of the older, and probably less healthy people who are joining Obamacare plans, the White House must coerce a sufficient number of thirty-somethings to also join. Problem is, the health plans are too pricey to make economic sense for many young adults.

Just how costly are the Obamacare plans for young beneficiaries? We ran the numbers. Here are our results:
Overall, the Federal government reports that 32% of on-exchange enrollees as of March 1st are under the age of 34. And many of these are teenagers who are part of family policies, not the young yuppies that Obamacare is fervently targeting. Earlier estimates showed only 20 percent of enrollees were between the ages 18 and 34.

The final number of young enrollees is well below the required cohort. Premiums will rise next year as a result of the adverse selection of older, and probably less healthy consumers. Why are young adults staying away? In one word, economics. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Arab Nations Don't Take Obama Seriously

March 28th 2014

The extension of the peace talks means only one thing: that Abbas will be able to use the new time given to him to try to extract further concessions from the U.S. and Israel, while all the time bearing in mind that Obama and Kerry are willing to do almost anything to avoid a situation where they are forced to admit that their efforts and initiatives in the Middle East have failed.

The communiqué issued by Arab heads of state at the end of their summit in Kuwait this week shows that the Arab countries do not hold the Obama Administration in high regard or even take it seriously. Read more ..


The US and Egypt

Sissi Bid for Egyptian Presidency Puts US in Complex Position

March 27th 2014

General Al-Sisi

Egyptian General Abdel Fattah el-Sissi's decision to run for president comes as the United States is pushing Cairo to improve its treatment of journalists and political opponents. What does his decision mean for an Obama administration trying to balance support for Egyptian democracy with security concerns in Saudi Arabia?

Sissi’s candidacy, which could bring Egypt back to the 60-year-old rule of civilian-dressed generals after a one-year-break, has been expected for months.  The U.S. says the announcement has no impact on its suspension of weapons deliveries to Egypt over human rights concerns. 

"As you know, we put a range of assistance on hold,” State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters. “Last year there was some assistance, security assistance that moved forward because it was in our national security interest.  But I don’t have any prediction for you on when any decision will be reached on the rest." Read more ..


Broken Government

Why the Johnson and Crapo 'Taxpayer Protection Act' Will Not Protect Taxpayers

March 25th 2014

Home Foreclosure

The draft bill released on Sunday, March 16 by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) will not protect taxpayers from future bailouts.
It will replace the implicit federal guarantees enjoyed by Fannie and Freddie with explicit guarantees enjoyed by their successors.

It will replace the single-family affordable housing mandates with a new set of affordable housing provisions that will also lead to debased underwriting standards.

It will raise taxes on the middle class by imposing a new tax on homeownership that will be used to provide billions annually in furtherance of a misguided policy to promote risky lending to lower income homebuyers.

Experience has shown that any bill which includes an explicit guarantee of an insurance program will fail to protect taxpayers. The proposed Federal Mortgage Insurance Corporation (FMIC) will be no different. Read more ..


Vote 2016

GOP Presidential Hopefuls Consider their Last Best Shot

March 22nd 2014

Vote Buttons

Many Republicans with an eye on the White House in 2016 may be asking themselves “Why not run?” when pondering a presidential bid.

Their party is at a crossroads with no clear frontrunner among more than a dozen candidates, and such a fluid field offers both fresh faces and old hands their best shot at the nomination they may ever get.

But even with a tantalizing, wide open field, there’s still plenty of risks the run the gamut from the personal to the political if a candidate does take the plunge.
Families, private relationships and day jobs are all upended by a White House bid. Rising stars could diminish their stature with a disappointing performance, while re-runs may end up known in the history books not as statesmen or former senators but a multiple loser. Read more ..


El Salvador on Edge

El Salvador's President-Elect Sanchez Ceren Asks for National Dialogue

March 22nd 2014

On March 16, El Salvador’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), officially confirmed that the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) had indeed won a hard fought and extremely close race (6,364 vote margin out of 3 million). Since this was such a close race, it is understandable that the their right-wing rival, the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), would closely scrutinize the electoral process. However, instead of abiding by the final determination of the TSE, ARENA’s leadership has refused to concede victory to their opponents and have, as their own presidential candidate put it, “gone on the war path.”

Since the preliminary total vote count was announced on March 9, ARENA has launched a fierce campaign alleging voter fraud designed to taint the FMLN victory and discredit the integrity of the TSE. However, ARENA’s claim is contradicted by all the credible international observers that monitored the election process including the United Nations, Organization of American States, U.S. Embassy, and various international civil society organizations. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Obama's Abysmal Approval Ratings Hurt Fellow Democrats

March 20th 2014

President Barack Obama’s public approval ratings have hit new lows in recent weeks, sparking fears among Democrats about their chances in the November midterm congressional elections. Historically speaking, two-term presidents experience losses in midterm congressional elections. It’s usually not a question of if, but how many? This year the stakes are especially high because Republicans believe they have an excellent chance of wresting control of the Senate from Democrats, which would have enormous political implications for the final two years of the Obama presidency. Read more ..


The Battle for Ukraine

Eastern Orthodox Christianity and the Future of Europe

March 19th 2014

Click to select Image

Horia-Roman Patapievici is a Romanian philosopher who, way back in the late 1990s, told me that Romania's task was to acquire a public style based on impersonal and transparent rules like in the West, otherwise business and politics would be full of intrigue. And he questioned whether Romania's Eastern Orthodox tradition is helpful in this regard. He went on to explain that Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia, Russia, Greece and Cyprus -- the Orthodox nations of Europe -- were all characterized by weak institutions, compared with those of northwestern Europe. He and many others have intimated that this is partly because Orthodoxy is flexible and contemplative, thus tolerant of the world as it is, having created its own alternative order. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Obama's 2015 Budget: The Good and the Bad

March 18th 2014

Homeless in Cheap Motels

After 50 years of the War on Poverty, we have neither a clearly defined mission nor a consensus on policy options. We don’t even have a good way to measure poverty. President Obama’s fiscal year 2015 budget is an example of the jumble that U.S. anti-poverty efforts have become, featuring both ill-conceived and promising policies.

The official poverty statistics indicate that there has been virtually no progress in reducing poverty in the United States in half a century, with the poverty rate – a measure of income – stuck at around 15 percent. But, as my colleague Nicholas Eberstadt has explained, income is a lousy measure of poverty, and consumption – roughly twice income for the poor – is rising faster than income itself. Given our inability to accurately quantify poverty, it’s not surprising that many of our proposed solutions are often poorly-targeted or confused as well. Read more ..


The Economy on Edge

Crimea Secession Likely to Spark Economic Disorder

March 17th 2014

Ukraine protest

When Crimea’s two million people wake up Monday after likely having voted in Sunday’s snap referendum to break with Ukraine in favor of joining the Russian Federation they will quickly feel the impact in their pockets from the secession and will endure months of economic disorder, say analysts.

“It is going to be a long and painful process and the chaos is going to hit and cost ordinary people hard,” says Yevhen Panchenko, a professor at Crimea’s Economics Institute, a branch of the Kyiv headquartered National University.

A lack of planning for how the region will manage the split with Ukraine – how Ukrainian state property will be handled, whether Ukraine will be compensated on assets losses or when existing private-sector business contracts have to be re-written to comply with Russian law – will compound the turmoil, he says. Read more ..


Defense on Edge

So Many Defense Budgets; So Little Clear Direction

March 16th 2014

F-35

This is the most confusing defense budget submission in recent times. It will not help Pentagon leaders achieve the goal they seek, which is for Congress and the White House to pass a new law softening the effects of sequestration for the remainder of the decade.

While the mandatory budget cuts known as sequestration are part of the problem, good old fashioned politics loom large as well. All the parties — whether at the Pentagon, White House or Capitol Hill – are acting as rational actors in trying to avoid blame; the problem is few of their interests strategically align. So the military is left in limbo and unable, again, to plan for the long term. Instead, the services must try to simply manage the immediate mess while still cleaning up from recent year’s indecision, constantly-shifting priorities and reduced funding.

The irony of this is that the murk will only prompt more questions from the very politicians charged with providing and maintaining the Armed Forces, even though the Pentagon tried to provide answers about the continuing consequences of sequestration. The difficult task of being able to discern what is in and what is out of the President’s military budget, what is a priority and what is not, means Pentagon leaders will muddle through another year. They will miss the bigger opportunities, breakthrough and political “buy in” that come with clear-eyed awareness, unity, purpose and direction. Congress, meanwhile, will continue to fight for individual programs and one-off projects without regard for the bigger picture because they will be hard pressed to make heads or tails of it with this budget. Read more ..


The Chinese Edge

China Set To Gain From Most Outcomes In Crimea

March 15th 2014

Thick Hair Man

A draft UN Security Council resolution condemning Russian actions in Crimea as violations of Ukraine's territorial integrity is expected to be put to a vote ahead of Crimea's March 16 referendum on whether the region should secede from Ukraine and join Russia.

There is no doubt Russia will use its veto powers as a permanent Security Council member to block such a resolution.

But Western diplomats hope a vote showing where other Security Council members stand will increase pressure on Moscow by demonstrating that Russia is isolated from the rest of the international community.

As a result, Western diplomats have been focusing their efforts on trying to convince China not to side with Russia by vetoing the resolution. So far, China has remained largely silent about the Kremlin's incursion in Crimea and its military buildup this week on Russia's border with eastern Ukraine. Read more ..


The Edge of History

What's The Difference Between Putin And Milosevic? About 22 Years

March 14th 2014

Vladimir Putin sunglasses

As I watch the news and images from Crimea, I can’t help but feel a sense of deja vu. It's as if I am reliving the 1992 break-up of Yugoslavia and the beginning of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

When Russia's propaganda machine claims the unmarked troops in Crimea are spontaneously organized self-defense forces comprising concerned citizens, I am reminded of similarly "self-organized" armed groups setting up barricades in Sarajevo in March 1992.

Just like in Crimea, these troops lacked recognizable insignia. What they did have were brand new Kalashnikovs, impeccably organized communication, and military discipline. The similarity is eerie and ominous for anyone who was in Sarajevo at that time. What's the difference between Vladimir Putin and Slobodan Milosevic? About 22 years.

They are one man with two shadows; one modus operandi separated by a little more than two decades. In fact, if Milosevic were alive today, he could probably sue Putin for plagiarism. Read more ..


The Battle for Ukraine

What Do Russian Troop Movements Near Ukraine's Border Signify?

March 13th 2014

Russian Tanks Invade Georgia

Officials in Kyiv have warned that Russian military forces are massing on Ukraine's borders "in an offensive manner" and suggested they could be preparing for an invasion in the country's east.

What are the specific claims that Ukrainian officials have made about Russian military forces?
Andriy Parubiy, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said on March 12 that Russian troops are massing along Ukraine’s borders for a possible invasion.

Parubiy said the troops are being deployed “in an offensive manner,” and that the forces include more than 80,000 soldiers, “up to 270 tanks, 180 armored vehicles, 380 artillery systems, 18 multiple-launch missile systems, 140 combat aircraft, 90 combat helicopters,” and 19 naval warships. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Reporters Without Borders Names 'Enemies Of Internet'

March 12th 2014

Shadowy Computer User

The media freedom organization Reporters Without Borders has released its annual list of " Enemies of the Internet."

The report was issued on March 12 to coincide with World Day Against Cyber Censorship and seeks to draw attention to "government units and agencies that implement online censorship and surveillance."

Antoine Hery, the head of RSF's World Press Freedom Index, said that many chronic offenders remained on this year's list.

"Belarus, of course, and Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan, etcetera -- those countries are looking pretty much uniquely at the Russian model and the Russian model is absolutely terrible," he said. "We have a feeling that those countries are getting worse and worse every year. But that's not only related to their online activities or censorship of the Internet, it's related to [the situation of the media] in general." Read more ..


The Defense on Edge

America's Navy Needs 12 Carriers and 3 Hubs

March 11th 2014

Nimitz

President Obama’s latest defense budget would shrink the US Navy’s fleet from 11 aircraft carriers to 10 absent additional funding. But the truth is that America is currently a nine-carrier nation.

Several years ago, Congress waived the 11-carrier requirement. As a result, the Navy currently operates 10 aircraft carriers until the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) joins the fleet in 2016. But one is in constant maintenance at all times and unavailable for global deployment.

Whereas the question used to be “Where are the carriers?” a new question emerges—“What carriers?” Congress must now decide if America’s single-digit carrier fleet is enough to meet the global demands of a superpower. The short answer is no.

Pentagon leaders have tried twice now to retire an aircraft carrier earlier than planned to recoup the savings. President Obama has personally vetoed the decision, calling the aircraft carrier a “strategic asset.” Part of its value is that it is an asset in constant demand. Last year, Navy Rear Admiral Thomas Moore said it best, noting “We’re an 11-carrier Navy in a 15-carrier world.” Read more ..


Russia on Edge

The Permanent Crisis of the Russian State

March 10th 2014

Putin

A permanent legitimacy and capacity crisis exists today in Russia and the state's nature ensures that this cannot be otherwise. Indeed, we have arguably entered into what Soviet historians called a revolutionary crisis, i.e. a long-term crisis of the state culminating in a revolution or fundamental transformation because that system cannot function any longer and collapses under the combined stresses of domestic failure and international competition. But understanding this state is particularly difficult. Western analysts are trapped in a self-imposed labyrinth of an ethnocentric American or Western approach to politics that sees Russia merely as an authoritarian construct. But to call Russia authoritarian is tantamount to observing that the sun rises in the East.

To understand both the masquerade and the reality of the Russian state we must understand that Russia is trapped in what Claude Levi-Strauss called a frozen [political] culture. Today's Russian state fundamentally remains the patrimonial Muscovite state originating in the medieval formation of the Tsar surrounded by his Boyars, an aristocratic tier of society that formed the early supreme council, the Duma. This system characterized both Tsardom and Soviet power. Over time it has become increasingly clear that this state cannot, for the most part, obtain domestic or external legitimacy or create a government equal to the tasks of economic and political modernization except through Stalinist mobilization, which is no longer possible. Hence the current situation of a permanent legitimacy and capacity crisis that will last as long as the present system continues. Read more ..


The Battle for the Ukraine

Russian Invasion of Crimea Likely to Affect US Foreign Policy

March 9th 2014

John Kerry

Russia’s invasion of the Crimean Peninsula could have a major impact on U.S. foreign policy regarding such issues as Iran’s nuclear program, Syria’s civil war and Afghanistan. Analysts say NATO also must consider changes to counter Russian troop movements in Ukraine. Vladimir Putin is flexing Russia’s military might.

President Putin has captured Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula -- though Moscow says these are local self-defense forces -- causing world tensions to skyrocket.

Secretary of State John Kerry said, “There's no place in the community of nations for the kind of aggression and steps that we have seen taken in Crimea, in Ukraine in these last days." And now analysts say the Crimean crisis is likely to affect other conflicts such as the Syrian civil war. The U.S. and Russia have cooperated on removal of Syrian chemical weapons, but support opposite sides in the fighting. Read more ..


Obama's Second Term

Three Worthwile Initiatives in the Obama Budget

March 8th 2014

Capitol Senate

I think it is incorrect to describe the entire Obama budget released on Tuesday as “dead on arrival.”  Yes, the document was full of retread proposals that did not find favor in previous years and are no more likely to be enacted in 2014. Yes, the budget was honed as a political tool for the fall elections — a “campaign brochure” in the words of Representative Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin. And yes, President Obama’s failure to take on entitlement reforms means that he intends to leave his successor to face a horizon with a mounting burden of debt relative to gross domestic product — a reflection of a budget proposal that would stabilize the national debt for only about a decade, even with a panoply of new taxes.

Despite these inadequacies, within the budget are at least three ideas that deserve serious consideration: proposals related to spending on infrastructure like roads and bridges, to job training and to early childhood education. Each of these initiatives involves new spending, but more money would be merited if accompanied by improvements that make better use of existing funds. And new legislation in these three policy areas could address pressing economic challenges in the United States and result in substantial positive returns for both individual families and for the nation as a whole. Read more ..


China on Edge

New Investment Platforms Raise Questions for China's Banking System

March 6th 2014

Click to select Image

The growth of large online investment platforms has captured the attention of Chinese authorities in recent months. Non-state enterprises such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., which runs the e-commerce website Taobao, and Tencent Holdings Ltd., a social media conglomerate that runs the popular WeChat online messaging program, are an emerging force in China's financial system.

The question is whether these online financing platforms could start to chip away at state-controlled banks' effective monopoly over the country's vast pool of household and corporate savings. For now, funds invested into new online financing platforms such as Alibaba's Yu'e Bao are equivalent to a little more than 1 percent of the state-controlled banking sector's roughly 74.2 trillion yuan ($12 trillion dollars) in consumer deposits. But the platforms are growing rapidly. Read more ..


Russia and the Ukraine

The Ukraine Crisis, The Ruble, And The Russian Economy

March 5th 2014

Russia-naval-ship

The Russian ruble has plummeted to a record low against the U.S. dollar as the Ukrainian crisis revives Cold War-style tensions. Here are four things to know about the ruble's fall, and where things might go from here.

How much has the Russian ruble fallen in recent days
Russia's ruble fell to a record low of below 36.4 to the dollar and below 50 to the euro for the first time on March 3.

Lars Christensen, head of emerging markets analysis at Danske Bank in Copenhagen, says a big reason for the fall is foreign investors' perceptions of Russia are changing as the Ukrainian crisis deepens.

"There is a fear among investors that Russia is moving away from the West. Whether or not that should be called a new Cold war is controversial but, at least, investor sentiment is influenced by the fact that we are seeing a cooling down of relations between East and West. And obviously in such an environment you would see less foreign direct investment into Russia," Christensen says. Read more ..


Afghanistan on Edge

A Month Before Afghan Election, Karzai Maneuvers To Retain Influence

March 4th 2014

Karzai

Although constitutionally barred from seeking a third term, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has made no secret of the fact that he intends to remain a central force in Afghan politics even after his successor is elected this spring.

And observers say the horse-trading intended to make that happen has begun in earnest, just a month ahead of the April 5 ballot.

A public rift between Karzai and one of the candidates, his own older brother Qayum, has raised some eyebrows. But observers say appearances may not be what they seem.

Sarah Chayes, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, spent almost a decade working in southern Kandahar Province, where for the first few years she ran Qayum Karzai's NGO. She says the apparent falling-out between the Karzai brothers is actually part of the Afghan president's election strategy.

"I don't think he [Qayum Karzai] is a real candidate. This whole alleged dispute is smoke and mirrors. I think Qayum is in fact serving as a placeholder -- to withdraw and throw his support to an agreed candidate at the last minute," Chayes says. "This scene of Hamid Karzai telling Qayum Karzai not to run is pure theater. These two men are pretending to be opposed to each other when in fact they're joined at the hip. I have seen this dynamic for years." Read more ..



See Earlier Stories 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36

Copyright © 2007-2014The Cutting Edge News About Us