Tag Archives: united Nations


            Negotiators often note that a good agreement can be determined by discontent on both sides. When no one is completely happy, probably both positions are coming out about as good as can be expected. This seems to be the case with the Iran nuclear deal struck this weekend.

            Israel and Saudi Arabia aren’t happy campers. Iran has agreed to what Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said would never happen.

But are these terms good for the West? The question remains a matter of perspective. Secretary of State John Kerry is saying that Iran cannot be trusted and the inspection process will tell the tale. On the other hand, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is reserving the right to make a military strike and declaring it is a bad deal. Since Iran has threatened Israel’s existence, Netanyahu’s concern is real and basic.

So, what do we have?

We discovered that the US and Iran have been in secret talks for several months. The exchanges were so clandestine that even Israel had no idea they were going on. These negotiations set the stage for this weekend’s agreement. Iran will curb its nuclear activities in exchange for limited and gradual relief from sanctions.

Critics in Congress point out that these accords exceed the United Nations guidelines. Far from dismantling a nuclear arms program, they only limit what Iran has been doing. On the other hand, Secretary Kerry points out this is only a first step and definite limits must be set or sanctions go back in place.

The one ingredient that gets Iran’s attention is sanctions. As their economy crumbles, the cost of nuclear empowerment becomes too high. The Obama administration has been correct in believing that sanctions could provide a non-military solution to the problem. Today’s issue is whether the United States has stopped too soon.

Critics will continue to point out that the United States let the enemy off the hook. The USA has been known to win the war and lose the negotiations.  These critics are an important part of the process and must keep after the Obama administration. With the healthcare debacle, the administration would be delighted to change the subject and have a victory to declare. The issue that remains is whether the deal is truly a victory.

At this point, America’s key allies are not only upset, but distrust American objectives. Balancing the good and the bad remains an issue. Diplomats will reply that a first step is better than no step at all. Unfortunately, only the future will answer that question.

Stay tuned.

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Filed under Iran, Israel, middle east


The story from Syria — another day –another bomb — other deaths. On and on it goes. The sun goes down. The sun comes up and more smoke fills the air.

While I refuse to surrender to hopelessness, the never ending civil war in Syria has got to be the symbol of  despair. With over 60,000 killed (by United Nations estimates), the mortality rates continue to climb. The latest report details an explosion inside a university campus in Aleppo, Syria. Walls were blown off dormitories and cars left blazing. At least 80 people were killed. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported 83 died and more that 150 were injured and in critical condition. The blame game continues as each side says the other did it. However, the evidence points to the Assad regime firing rockets that hit the university. The large scale extend of the destruction points to more powerful rockets being used than the rebels are known to possess.

Because the Syrian government bars independent media from reporting, it makes gathering reliable data difficult. However, reports and pictures leaking out of the country offer scenes of a landscape that looks like the cities in German at the end of World War II. Like skulls with empty eye-sockets and gaping empty mouths, the concrete remains stand like the skeleton of a decaying cow. Chunks of broken, jagged concrete stand in piles with barbed wire sticking out of the debris. Years of toil will be required to rebuild cities that have for decades already tottered on the edge.

Several years ago, I was in Syria and stayed in the downtown business area of Damascus. Pictures of the father and son dictators hung everywhere, even in the bathrooms and taxis. When I tried to pay my hotel bill with a credit card, they sent me to a bank to obtain Syrian currency. I stood in a long line as people shouted and shoved. After eating supper in one of their best restaurants, I contacted food poisoning that laid me up for three days. Getting the picture? Yeah, I knew I was in a dictatorship and a third-world country. I can’t imagine what that area must look like today.

On Saturday, January 19. a petition from 58 nations requested an investigation of the Assad regime for war crimes. The United Nations top human rights official had already called for an International Criminal Court to investigate the Syrian situation. The Syrian government rejected these moves saying they had a right to protect the people from “terrorism imposed from abroad.” The Assad government always refers to the rebels as terrorists. What prompted the pointed and harsh criticism was the BBC report of a massacre in Al Haswiya, a working-class suburb of Homs. At least 100 Sunni Muslims had been killed. The United Nations has not come out of this conflict looking like heroes. Far from it! Navi Pilay, the United Nations commissioner for human right has expressed dismay over the lack of action by the Security Council over these killings and abuses. She said,

I firmly believe that war crimes and crimes against humanity are being committed, have been committed, and should be investigated. I am deeply concerned that there has been no concrete action to address the situation.” She strongly backed the call from the 58 countries.

Will there be any change? Probably not until Assad falls.

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Filed under Civil War, middle east, Syria, Violence



            Recently, a friend who follows this blog ask me to evaluate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As I explained how different and complicated the Israel political system is, I remembered a statement the the Prime Minister once made to President Bill Clinton. “Mr. President, you know that Israel has very few friends, and these Evangelical Christian leaders are the best friends that Israel has in all the world.”

No matter what else one says about the Prime Minister, he certainly knows who he can count on.

Often identifying themselves as “Christian Zionists,” this large and significant group support Israel with financial, political, and spiritual influence. When any attack comes, these Evangelicals are ready to respond … and will!

In the present political environment, disillusionment with the current American administration may have a significant effect on how these Evangelicals vote in the fall. Obama is not a popular figure in Israel and is currently blamed for failure to act decisively. Christian Zionists attacked Secretary of State Clinton for having a Moslem aide, Huma Abedin. They fear the administration may have ties to the Moselm Brotherhood and display a lack of balance toward Israel in the United Nations. While the opposition would oppose many of these accusations, they may still effect Evangelical voters as the fall approaches. Regardless of who is elected, Evangelical Christians argue they will remain the most valuable asset Israel has in America.

Netanyahu understands this fact and will not be shy about using their influence.

At the same time, other voices fear that Israel may be faced with the specter of a “fading democracy.” Former speaker of the Knesset and the chairman of Molad, the Center for Renewnal of Democracy recently expressed such fears in the August 5, 2012 edition of The New York Times.  Burg deplored recent comments in Israel by the Republican presidential candidate urging Israel to strike Iran. Burg perceives such talk as reflective of a shift in both countries, moving away from mutually positive values toward a new set of interests in bombs, fear, and war. Brug worries Netayahu is bending toward the pressure applied by a fundamentalist coalition within Israel.

Israel began as a secular democratic country framing its hopes by the example of Western European democracies. Avraham Burg believes this motivation has shifted because the most extreme Orthodox groups lean hard on the government. Any observer can see that the country has become less secular and is now defined far more in religious terms, The country is also less modern. He writes, “the winds of isolation and narrowness are blowing through Israel.”

How the nation of Israel deals with the creation of a Palestinian state will possible provide the answer for which way Israel is going. Coercion and indifference toward other people’s right could radically derail the country. Israel is standing at an extremely important crossroads. All of which brings us back to Benjamin Netanyahu and the caliber of job he is doing.

The real answer lies in the decisions he makes about Israel’s destiny. The issue is much larger than simply bombing Iran.  Does Iran have it coming if they start building a bomb? Of course. But the fate of the nation is much more complex than Mitt Romney understands. It’s time for genuine soul searching in the Prime Minister’s office. (585 words)

Question: What can be done to keep the exteme Orthodox from turning Israel into a Jewish expression  of the same factors than control a country like Iran?

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Filed under Christians, Faith, Forgivness, Judism, Meditation, middle east, Prayer, Stories, Syria, World

Middle East Update

Having just returned from Israel, I bring responses from the local scene. Landing in Tel Aviv immediately tells one that Israel is on the move. When I first came to Israel in l968, it was an entirely different country. One had to drive some distance to get to Tel Aviv. Not anymore! The city is a thriving metropolis that now virtually abuts the airport with skyscrapers shooting up into the sky! Israel is going forward.
However, concern remains.
Israel has never made claims against Iran. Nevertheless, the president of Iran continues to threaten the annihilation of Israel. The tension is like having your next door neighbor sitting on his roof with a machine gun aimed at your backyard. Here’s the problem.
United Nations atomic inspectors have indicated Iran now possesses enough enriched uranium to make four atom bombs. They have discovered that the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty has a loophole Iran is pushing. The treaty sets no limits on the level of enrichment purity. It only bars nations from converting civilian efforts into military use. Iran claims they are doing nothing barred by treaty obligations. A nuclear physicist with the Federation of American Scientists recently said, “Iran is raising eyebrows. But what it’s doing is a concern –not illegal.”
Try explaining that over coffee to an Israeli! They won’t buy the story!
Israelis know about the reality of life inside Iran.
Because of Western sanctions, factories are beginning to be forced to close or reduce production. Prodigious economic pain is generating discontent. Prices are high and manufacturing difficult. One producer of thread and textiles recently admitted that sanctions have aggravated pre-existing economic difficulties. In the June 17, 2012 edition of the New York Times, Nicholas Kristoff reported his findings after making a 1,700 mile trip through Iran. He discovered that the backlash of sanctions has produced anger with Iran’s leadership. Local citizens blame their own officials for the local problems. The average Iranian is far more focused on loss of work and income than they are on the fading hopes raised by the nuclear program.

As recent demonstrations revealed, Iran has a serious split in its own society. Many, many of the younger citizens are not buying what the Ayatollahs are selling. Their interest lies in a healthy open society rather than an imposed Moslem state. In this sense, sanctions appear to be working. This success raises questions about a military strike from Israel. Israeli’s understand this issue.

Talking with Israeli leaders revealed the heartfelt hope that sanctions will end the crisis and the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) will not have to strike. No one wants military actions if it can be avoided. On the other hand, they live with the motto “Never Again.” I found no hesitancy to strike if it becomes necessary.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. General Benn Gantz offered strong reasons why Israel must be ready to strike immediately if necessary. He indicated that they are “super-ready” to strike if there is no progress in the current nuclear discussions with Iran. Gantz maintains total confidence in the air force and intelligence.

Of course, Iran has to be aware of Gantz’s remarks and that too poses an additional pressure on their position.

The bottom line? I found an expectation that confrontations are ahead. Let’s hope Iran realizes they are the ones hanging in the balance.

How long can Israel afford to wait?
Should America increase the economic pressure on Iran to provide a faster answer?

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Filed under Introductions, middle east, Peace, Prayer, Redemption, Stories, Travels, Violence, World



I grew up hearing about the evils of fluoride in the water to prevent cavities and the United Nations as a Communist plot. The Joe McCarty faction propagated the idea there was a Communist hiding under every bed and you better watch out or Joe Stalin would grab you in the middle of the night. Fortunately, those days are gone with the wind.
Consequently, saying anything negative about the U.N. always seemed to come from the fanatic fringe of society. Therefore, it’s with reluctance that I bring up a subject that troubles many citizens in Israel. Nevertheless, the average Israeli is not only leery, but hostile about anything good coming out of the U.N. for their country.
Why the antagonism?
Let’s take a second look at recent events. On October 31, 2012, “Palestine” was voted into the UNESCO as the organization’s 195th member. A huge cheer erupted in the General Assembly room of the Paris-based UN educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The US, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, and Israel voted against it. China, Russia, and Brazil voted yes. Britain could only abstain.
Israel saw the vote as another lamentable example of the moral bankruptcy of the world organization. In a rush to support the Palestinians, the UN disregarded it own declared standards based on equality and mutual respect. The world organization (UNESCO) had clearly swung its weight behind Palestine in their struggle with Israel when the issues were only still in the discussion stage. Why would they do such at thing?
For years the radical extremist wing of Islam has worked to criminalize Israel. Distorting reality and the facts, they have attempted to paint Israeli attempts at self-protection as aggression. In Jimmy Carter’s failed book claiming Israel’s wall of protection was apartheid, he echoed the same line. The point is that many of the United Nations general assembly members have swallowed this same propaganda. Those member nations push this viewpoint in UN debates and oppose Israel on similar prejudicial grounds.
Some years ago, I was invited to deliver a lecture at the University of Amman in Amman, Jordan. I attempted to present an objective view of the history of the development of the nation of Israel and how prior conflict had developed. Some of the students became so angry they avoided the class and some completely dropped out of the course. There was some discussion about my safety. (And Jordan is a more balanced Arab state than most). It remains difficult to get a fair hearing.
Textbooks used in Palestinian Authority schools convey rabid anti-Semitic messages. An eighth-grade text book says: “Today the Muslim countries need urgently jidah and jihad fighters in order to liberate the robbed lands and to get rid of the robbing Jews from the robbed lands in Palestine and in the Levant.” By receiving “Palestine” as a member, UNESCO has put its stamp of approval on this sort of vicious going on in the West Bank areas.
The affect of these actions? Chances for peace between Israelis and Palestinians becomes even slimmer. The world expects better from the UN. A vote for bigotry, hatred, and conflict won’t get the world to a better place.

Queston: Can we ever expect balance in the UN? If not, what is the future of the organization?

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