Add Trump’s Yemen Veto to Obama’s Spotty War Legacy

In The New Republic, I point out how Obama’s Libya war paved the way for Trump to veto the resolution demanding an end to US support for the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen. Trump loves to present himself as the anti-Obama, but he has no one to thank more than Obama for his ability to veto the bill—based on a narrow reading of “hostilities” developed by Obama and his lawyers to bomb Libya in 2011.

The Much-Welcomed Decline of the Two-State Solution


Taken at face value, President Trump’s nonsensical declaration of his IDGAF position on a solution to Israeli apartheid –– “I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one.” –– seemed to signal a slight departure from more than 20 years of U.S. support for the politically acceptable two-state solution.

After the 1993 Oslo Accords made the two-state solution popular, Bill Clinton became the first president to endorse it in January 2001. George W. Bush then made it official U.S. policy, where it remained until Trump’s press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday.

Corporate media reacted with deep concern. Both the New York Times and Washington Post editorial boards used the word “dangerous” to describe Trump’s shift away from what the former called “the only just answer to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

“There is no conceivable one-state solution that both parties will like,” the Times asserted. “The likeliest outcome, given the growth rate of the Arab population, is that Israel would be confronted with a miserable choice: to give up being a Jewish state — or to give up being a democratic state by denying full voting rights to Palestinians.”

The Post made the same point: “there is no workable one-state formula under which Israel would remain both a Jewish state and democratic.”

These rebukes to Trump’s statement sound exactly like what John Kerry said in his final speech as Obama’s secretary of state in December. After delivering perhaps the strongest criticism of Israeli settlements by any U.S. official, he affirmed U.S. support for a two-state solution: “The two-state solution is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”

Explaining his rationale, Kerry said, “here is a fundamental reality: if the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or Democratic, it cannot be both. And it won’t ever really be at peace.”

But rather than an argument for a two-state solution, this point should be viewed as an argument against it. In fact, this oft-repeated argument is the two-state solution’s death knell or, as Ali Abunimah put it, its “eulogy.”

When the New York Times, Washington Post and John Kerry describe what Israel “giving up” being a democracy looks like — “denying full voting rights to Palestinians,” as NYT put it; or, “Most Israelis who favor [one state] imagine an apartheid-like system in which Palestinians would live in areas with local autonomy but without either sovereignty or the same democratic rights as Jews,” in the words of the Post; or, “If there is only one state, you would have millions of Palestinians permanently living in segregated enclaves in the middle of the West Bank, with no real political rights, separate legal, education and transportation systems, vast income disparities, under a permanent military occupation that deprives of them of the most basic freedoms. Separate and unequal is what you would have,” as Kerry put it –– what they’re actually describing is the current reality for Palestinians. If Israel were to “give up” being a democratic state after implementation of a one-state solution, it would look no different than it does now.

The conception of a two-state solution, as the Times, Post and Kerry see it, would “cosmetically repackage this injustice as Palestinian ‘independence,’ without fundamentally altering it,” Abunimah wrote. “What [Kerry] offers Palestinians is a demilitarized bantustan with the singular purpose of preserving an all-powerful Israel as a racist state with a permanent Jewish majority.” In other words, a two-state solution would not solve the problem of apartheid. It would also allow the racism inherent to Israel as a Jewish state to persist.

Without doing so explicitly, the argument made by the Times, Post and John Kerry acknowledges that Israel, under a one-state solution, would be morally indefensible as a Jewish state. The only realistic solution, therefore, is one state with equal rights for all.


It’s worth noting that Trump’s lack of explicit support for a two-state solution in the press conference yesterday does not mean the United States has all of a sudden abandoned support for it. In fact, today Trump’s team has already began to clarify or walk back Trump’s comments during the press conference, affirming U.S. support for a two-state solution.

“We absolutely support a two-state solution,” Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said.

The two state-solution is the “best possibility for peace in the region,” said David Friedman, Trump’s nominee to be U.S. ambassador to Israel.



Less Than a Week in Office, Trump May Erase Obama’s Real “Progress” in War on Terror

Today, New York Times journalist Charlie Savage published a three-page draft of an executive order that President Trump is preparing to sign. In short, the draft order would undo many of the actual reforms to the war on terror implemented by the Obama administration. (I say “actual” because many national security observers give Obama too much credit and ignore the fact that he, as a former constitutional law professor and Democrat, institutionalized the global war on terror, making the US’s perpetual war footing much more difficult to end.)

Trump’s draft order, if signed, would:

  • revoke Executive Order 13491 (January 22, 2009), which ended the Bush’s administration’s practice of torture, subjected interrogation methods to the rules outlined in the Army Field Manual, ordered the closure of the CIA’s notorious “black sites” where countless individuals were tortured and deprived of basic rights, and granted the International Committee of the Red Cross access to all detainees;
  • revoke Executive Order 13492 (January 22, 2009), which ordered the closure of Guantanamo Bay (and served as the Obama administration’s source for not sending any new detainees to the facility in Cuba) and ordered a status review of all Guantanamo detainees;
  • consider the conditions at Guantanamo Bay to be “legal, safe, and humane” and “consistent with international conventions regarding the laws of war”;
  • declare that Guantanamo Bay is “in the interests of the United States… as a critical tool in the fight against international jihadist terrorist radical Islamic groups”;
  • affirm the Bush-Obama doctrine that the United States is engaged in a borderless war with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, “associated forces,” and “those who fight on behalf of or provide substantial support [an Obama term; emphasis mine] to or harbor such groups”;
  • embrace the “enemy combatant” term created by Bush’s lawyers (and abandoned by Obama’s) to justify indefinite detention;
  • allow the US government to send “newly captured alien enemy combatants” to Guantanamo;
  • suspend any existing efforts to transfer detainees out of Guantanamo until the Trump administration conducts its own review to determine if the transfers are “in the national security interests of the United States”;
  • review the interrogation procedures outlined in the Army Field Manual and authorize Secretary of Defense James Mattis to modify and add to these stipulations;
  • allow CIA to reopen its notorious “black sites” where countless individuals were tortured and deprived of basic rights;
  • resurrect Executive Order 13440 (July 20, 2007), which allowed CIA to resume some of its torture methods not specifically listed as legitimate war crimes after a 2006 Supreme Court case made CIA torturers eligible for war crime prosecutions and thus temporarily put the program on hiatus;
  • consider preferring the use of military commissions to civilian courts in terrorism cases; and
  • make the Trump administration’s chosen term for the global war on terror the “fight against radical Islamism.”

Whether or not all of these policy pledges will turn into actual policy is to be determined. But what’s significant in the draft order – what the draft order reveals – is Trump’s more-than-rhetorical willingness to resurrect some of the most egregious policies of the Bush administration, only some of which Obama did away with, to his credit.