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Charles G. Cogan: Slouching Toward Jerusalem

On December 8, the State Department issued the following statement: "The U.S. position on Jerusalem is clear and remains unchanged: that Jerusalem and all other permanent status issues must be resolved by the two parties themselves. It has been official U.S. policy for many years that the future status of Jerusalem is a permanent status issue...." Why did the State Department feel compelled to issue such a statement? Apparently, because in Brussels that same day, the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council issued a statement on the Middle East Peace Process, and one can only conclude that the U.S. government wanted to distance itself from the EU memo. On Jerusalem, the EU statement had this, inter alia, to say: "The Council recalls that it has never recognized the annexation of East Jerusalem. If there is to be a genuine peace, a way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states." An earlier EU draft specifically stated that the Palestinian capital should be in East Jerusalem, but intense Israeli lobbying, including and especially among the new EU members from Eastern Europe, resulted in striking that reference in the final version. Usually, the American phrase that Israeli-Palestinian issues “must be settled by the parties themselves” is, in effect, a code word for allowing the Israelis perpetuate the status quo—the Israelis, of course, being by far the stronger party. At least the U.S. statement declared that Jerusalem remains an outstanding issue, and this is in itself important. It seems clear, however, that Washington, while openly favoring a “two-state” solution, cannot bring itself to advocate a “two-capitals” solution as well.

Michael Daxner: Germany’s Troubles in Afghanistan

Over the past few months, a public opinion firestorm has ravaged the German government as the weight of a tragic event in Afghanistan continues to press down hard on the collective conscience of the nation. The impetus for the current uproar was the bombing of two trucks in Kunduz, Afghanistan on September 4, which was ordered by German forces and resulted in the deaths of numerous civilians (estimates range from 17 to 142). Yet, what seemed to be an ugly but collateral blip on the nation’s broad foreign policy radar has turned into a veritable crisis of the first order for the lawmakers in Berlin, with the future of Germany military engagement in Afghanistan at stake. The debate could not come at a more embarrassing moment for the government. When Germany initially committed itself to sending troops to Afghanistan, it did so wanting to be the “good guy” in the war effort—the country that would “stabilize” Afghanistan with its contingent of soldier-humanitarians while the Americans did the majority of the fighting. But now, with its soldiers both in harm’s way and inadvertently doing harm, the presence of German troops on Afghan soil has become infinitely more difficult to justify to a skeptical public at home, a majority of who now want a complete withdrawal. Moreover, there’s a growing perception within Germany that the government no longer even pulls its own strings, having recently re-committed its 4,400 troops in Afghanistan to another year of duty, while lacking a significant voice either in Washington or at NATO headquarters. Still, the new strategy proposed by President Obama is promising for those in Germany who have a political stake in the intervention. The more hawkish voices within the German government have held that domestic security and freedom are being defended in the Hindu Kush. But this argument has gained little traction lately, especially among a populace that is now so ill-at-ease about Germany’s role in Afghanistan—a role that appears to be moving toward full-fledged participation in a war not of its own making. Thus, it is welcome that the new American strategy is placing greater focus on the Afghan people and society. Likewise, the military components embodied in the upcoming Afghan “surge” seem to be more rational and targeted than under Bush, while the civil programs are stronger and likely to be less scatter-shot than in the past. But even with some good news coming out of Washington these days, Berlin still needs a clear humanitarian and civil society mission to bolster the legitimacy of its involvement in the conflict. Unfortunately, new signals from both the American and German governments are blurring the lines. First, there’s the insistence on the capture or killing of Osama bin Laden, as again reiterated by General Stanley McChrystal in the halls of the U.S. Congress on December 8, 2009. But of what use is such a goal, whether as part of the broader Operation Enduring Freedom or as related to policies against Al Qaeda? This goal is profoundly unpopular in Germany, both due to the lack of a clear rationale and the echoes of President Bush’s bellicose ideology.

THE INDEX — December 4, 2009

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