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October 31, 2014 / 7 Heshvan, 5775
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Foreign Policy On A Hope And A Prayer

The Russian incursion into Ukraine is proof positive that Russian President Vladimir Putin really is trying to revisit the glory days of the old Soviet Union. How the U.S. and the West deals with it will plainly have a major impact on international affairs in the years to come.

Given that reality, we were startled by Secretary of State Kerry’s almost whiney public reaction to the Russian action. But after seeing President Obama’s responses in an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of Bloomberg News, it is painfully clear that U.S. foreign policy is in the hands of people who haven’t a clue about the dynamics of power.

On Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” Secretary Kerry had this to say about Mr. Putin’s foray:

You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pre-text. It is serious in terms of sort of the modern manner with which nations are going to resolve problems. There are all kinds of other options still available to Russia. There still are. President Obama wants to emphasize to the Russians that there are a right set of choices that can still be made to address any concerns they have about Crimea, about their citizens, but you don’t choose to invade a country in order to do that.

One can almost imagine a shocked Mr. Kerry thinking to himself, “How could he?” Yet not only did Mr. Putin do what he did, China, one of the three major international players along with the U.S. and Russia, agreed with him, not with Mr. Kerry.

Here is what a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman had to say about the Russian operation:

China has always upheld the principles of diplomacy and the fundamental norms of international relations…. At the same time we also take into consideration the history and the current complexities of the Ukranian issue.

Then came President Obama’s Bloomberg News interview with its revelations about the his troubling mindset on the Middle East:

Question: [Mahmoud Abbas leads] a weak, corrupt and divided Palestinian entity that is already structurally semi-powerless. Do you think he could deliver anything more than a framework agreement? Is this the guy who can lead the Palestinian people to say, “OK, no more claims against Israel, permanent peace, permanent recognition?”

Obama: Look, I think it has to be tested. The question is: What is lost by testing it? If in fact a framework for negotiations is arrived at, the core principles around which the negotiations are going to proceed is arrived at, I have no doubt that there are going to be factions within the Palestinian community that will vigorously object in the same way that there are going to be those within Israel who are going to vigorously object.

But here’s what I know from my visits to the region: That for all that we’ve seen over the last several decades, all the mistrust that’s been built up, the Palestinians would still prefer peace. They would still prefer a country of their own that allows them to find a job, send their kids to school, travel overseas, go back and forth to work without feeling as if they are restricted or constrained as a people. And they recognize that Israel is not going anywhere. So I actually think that the voices for peace within the Palestinian community will be stronger with a framework agreement and that [Abbas’s] position will be strengthened with a framework for negotiations.

There would still be huge questions about what happens in Gaza, but I actually think, Hamas would be greatly damaged by the prospect of real peace….

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