The CSS Blog Network

Potential Legal and Political Effects if the US Relocates Its Embassy to Jerusalem

Courtesy of eddiedangerous/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

This article was originally published by the Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM) on 17 February 2017.

U.S. President Donald Trump has stated he would like to see the American embassy in Israel moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Such a move would be discordant with international law and more than four decades of policy of his predecessors. It would bring negative political consequences for the U.S., Israel, the Middle East and the European Union, even if it were well received by some Israelis and American members of Congress.

Status of Jerusalem

After World War I, the city of Jerusalem came under the administration of the United Kingdom through a League of Nations’ mandate on Palestine. At the end of World War II, given the British intention to give up the mandate and withdraw from Palestine, the United Nations undertook to provide a future solution for the region and for Jerusalem itself. UN General Assembly Resolution 181, adopted in November 1947, is based on the premise that Jerusalem would be placed under special international supervision. However, the outbreak of the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948 frustrated the implementation of the resolution. The fighting left the city divided in two: a western part occupied by Israel and an eastern part held by Jordan. In 1949, Israel moved most government institutions and parliament (the Knesset) from Tel Aviv to Western Jerusalem. The Knesset then adopted a resolution declaring Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel.

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The New Nuance in Chinese Diplomacy

Chinese flag with Dollar signs. Image: Magalie l’Abbé/Flickr

This article was originally published by the East Asia Forum on 24 November, 2014.

Much energy has been expended on projecting the impact of the rise of Chinese economic power on its political and military might and the strategic contest with the United States. In a conflation of geo-economic and geo-strategic analysis, two camps have emerged: one warns about the consequences of the United States not conceding strategic space as Chinese economic and strategic power continue to grow; the other asserts the continuing dominance of US military-strategic and economic power as Chinese power peaks, in some scenario or another. As the nuance in Chinese diplomacy over the past week or two suggests, the geo-political and economic world would appear a tad more complex than either camp allows. » More

Are Security and Energy Concerns Moving Turkey and Israel Toward Reconciliation?

German Patriot Missiles in Turkey, courtesy of Medien Bundeswehr/flickr

This article was originally published June 20, 2014 by IPI Global Observatory.

Earlier this month, about 3,000 people marched through the streets of Istanbul in memory of the eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American killed by Israeli Defense Forces when the Mavi Marmara ship, known as the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, tried to break through Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip in May 2010. The incident marked a nadir in Israel and Turkey’s strained relationship in recent years, and neither country’s ambassador has since returned to his former post.

Four years later, a possible reconciliation agreement between these former allies has fueled speculation of a normalization of relations between the two countries. The agreement would entail reparations for the Mavi Marmara victims’ families; a mechanism to rescind all legal claims against Israeli Defense Force officers implicated in the attack; and approval
to facilitate Turkish civilian aid to the Gaza Strip. » More

The Obama Doctrine

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

This article was originally published by the Council on Foreign Relations on 29 May 2014

President Obama’s May 28 speech at West Point was long overdue. Chatter about America’s decline, the Pentagon’s budget crunch, deteriorating crises in Syria and Ukraine, and confusion over Obama’s signature foreign policy initiative—the Asia Rebalance—has left many questioning America’s ability or willingness to engage, much less lead, in the world.

Obama strongly refuted any notions of American decline, retrenchment, or timidity in the world, stating: “America has rarely been stronger relative to the rest of the world;” “American isolationism is not an option;” and “ America must always lead on the world stage. If we don’t no one else will.” These are reassuring statements for allies and partners, who will now be watching for actions to match the words. » More

Secret Diplomacy and the “Dirty Hand” Problem

US President Nixon gives a speech on Cambodia, courtesy of Jack E Knightlinger/wikimedia commons

This article was originally published May 2 2014 by E-International Relations (E-IR)

The classical “dirty hand” problem in political theory, which involves the choice between two morally challenging “evils”, sums up well the ethical puzzle of secret diplomacy: the lesser evil choice (the practice of deception) remains morally disagreeable even if it is judged to be politically necessary for avoiding a greater evil (e.g., potential military conflict). Arguably, “dirty hand” decisions are much easier to make when the distinction between the two “evils” is clear-cut. However, such clarity of purpose is rarely available in practice. On the one hand, secret diplomacy, which I refer here as the method of conducting international negotiations without public scrutiny, may generate unwarranted suspicion and distrust between nations, or it can undermine domestic orders by undercutting public confidence in political leaders. It can also make negotiators overestimate what they can implement amid domestic opposition once the agreement enters the public domain. This argument has been often mentioned as an explanation for the failure of the 1993 Oslo agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. At the same time, secret diplomacy can create a conducive environment for constructive talks by insulating foreign policy makers against grandstanding and by granting them a minimum level of security, informality and autonomy. It also offers parties a much needed space for “saving face” in front of domestic constituencies or international partners. Protracted relations of enmity such as that between the US and Iran or Israel and its Arab neighbors require, for instance, significant political capital to break on both sides, which political leaders might not be willing to entertain unless the benefits are clear and tangible. » More

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