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June 4, 2009

open covenants of peace

According to Ethan Bronner in the New York Times, "Senior Israeli officials accused President Obama on Wednesday of failing to acknowledge what they called clear understandings with the Bush administration that allowed Israel to build West Bank settlement housing within certain guidelines while still publicly claiming to honor a settlement 'freeze.'"

If the Bush Administration really endorsed such understandings, shame on them. Expanding the settlements at all violates the interests of the Palestinians, the United States, and, in my opinion, Israel. What's more, the Administration's actions would then be contrary to what it told the American people and the world. That would be both dishonest and undemocratic. The opposition (including Senator Barack Obama) could not even criticize the Bush policy if it was secret and contrary to what the Bush administration was claiming publicly.

As the first of his famous Fourteen Points, Woodrow Wilson called for "Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view."

Probably, Wilson was too idealistic. I can concede that sometimes governments must strike private deals or understandings. But here is a super-modest, minimalist Wilsonian principle to guide the Obama Administration:

"When one US administration strikes a private deal contrary to its public posture, that deal has no moral or legal force for the administration that succeeds it."

June 4, 2009 11:51 AM | category: none


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