The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) yesterday elected Iran to a four-year term, beginning in 2011, as a member of the Commission on the Status of Women. Lucky Iran! Or is it lucky women? Other members elected were Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, and Zimbabwe, joining Belarus, China, Cuba, and Libya. A full report can be read in today’s “EYE on the UN.” So is not the U.N. a horrible joke?
This is real inside stuff. No commentary from me. Except to say that this is more proof that American diplomacy is going nowhere.
I am told that “Guantanamera,” a song derived from a poem by the Cuban turn-of-the century revolutionary Jose Marti and made famous by the American Communist folk singer Pete Seeger, refers to a girl, presumably very beautiful, from Guantanamo. The original Spanish lyrics do not confirm this.
This is Defense Secretary Robert Gates talking, and he is telling the stark truth to Ehud Barak, Israel’s minister of defense, who presumably already knows. Of course, it did not start with the Obama administration at all. It was one of the sterling achievements of the Bush custodianship of foreign affairs in which Condi Rice hustled, along with Tzipi Livni, to close down the 2006 Lebanon war. Security Council Resolution 1701 was the instrument, and it had a history in the United Nations going back at least to1978.
Barack Obama came into office with one messianic mission. It was to bring statehood to the Palestinians. Of course, even he understood that he couldn’t quite put it that way. But statehood for the Palestinians necessarily also meant Palestinian peace with Israel, an aim worthy enough for any American administration. So that became his primary foreign policy mission. Still, the fact is that he saw the shadings of the conflict only through the eyes of the “disinherited.” And they really had nothing much to give in any transaction.
Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia are very rich. According to a New York Times article this morning by Michael Slackman, the first of these boasts the second highest per capita gross domestic product in the world. It has a population of 1.6 million, with only 250,000 native Qataris. That means citizens. These Qataris rank “sixth globally for prevalence of obesity and has the highest rate of obesity among boys in the Middle East and North African region.” They will win no soccer cups.
Well, here goes... A Taliban militant gets lost and is wandering around the desert looking for water. He finally arrives at a store run by a Jew and asks for water. The Jewish vendor tells him he doesn't have any water but can gladly sell him a tie. The Taliban begins to curse and yell at the Jewish storeowner. The Jew, unmoved, offers the rude militant an idea: Beyond the hill, there is a restaurant; they can sell you water. The Taliban keeps cursing and finally leaves toward the hill. An hour later he's back at the tie store.
Frankly, I do not think that Barack Obama ever really believed that an accommodation with Iran over its nuclear designs was possible. What follows is that he prevaricated about this promising turn in diplomacy and that one, all the while knowing he was going straight down a dead-end street. And going down that street in a quite cavalier fashion so as to keep his critics at bay. Some Americans were even persuaded by the seemingly confident president that he must have something up his sleeve.
I am back from Israel, where I spent a full week looking for a job. Yes, I know exactly what I want to do. It is to teach English at a high school in Tel Aviv. Not a permanent job. But, let’s say, it would be work for a year. This is not aliyah. But it is voluntary service. Israeli schools are serviced by an enormous network of people who proffer their time, energy, and brains to a complex and secular system which knows how to use their talents. I’ve been interviewed at three schools, each of them different from the others.
There are signs that he thinks he can. Barak Ravid reports in yesterday’s Ha’aretz that a high-level but unnamed U.S. official has complained about American Jews speaking up about how they feel and what they think about U.S. policy towards Jerusalem. I don’t particularly agree with what I’ve discerned as Ravid’s political views. But he is certainly a reliable journalist. He did not make this up. It’s one thing, however unbecoming, for the Obami to lecture Israel about its capital. Still, truth be told, the U.S.