Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Arlene Kushner on How Think Tanks -- and Martin Indyk -- Are Bought

From Arlene Kushner:
September 21, 2014


The news appeared recently in several media sources, that major think tanks in Washington DC are being funded by foreign governments.  This is huge.  But you may have missed it.

It was the NY Times that broke the story, and I quote here (emphasis added):
“The agreement signed last year by the Norway Ministry of Foreign Affairs was explicit: For $5 million, Norway’s partner in Washington would push top officials at the White House, at the Treasury Department and in Congress to double spending on a United States foreign aid program.

“But the recipient of the cash was not one of the many Beltway lobbying firms that work every year on behalf of foreign governments.

“It was the Center for Global Development, a nonprofit research organization, or think tank, one of many such groups in Washington that lawmakers, government officials and the news media have long relied on to provide independent policy analysis and scholarship.

More than a dozen prominent Washington research groups have received tens of millions of dollars from foreign governments in recent years while pushing United States government officials to adopt policies that often reflect the donors’ priorities, an investigation by The New York Times has found.

“The money is increasingly transforming the once-staid think-tank world into a muscular arm of foreign governments’ lobbying in Washington. And it has set off troubling questions about intellectual freedom: Some scholars say they have been pressured to reach conclusions friendly to the government financing the research.

The think tanks do not disclose the terms of the agreements they have reached with foreign governments. And they have not registered with the United States government as representatives of the donor countries, an omission that appears, in some cases, to be a violation of federal law, according to several legal specialists who examined the agreements at the request of The Times.

“As a result, policy makers who rely on think tanks are often unaware of the role of foreign governments in funding the research.

“Joseph Sandler, a lawyer and expert on the statute that governs Americans lobbying for foreign governments, said the arrangements between the countries and think tanks ‘opened a whole new window into an aspect of the influence-buying in Washington that has not previously been exposed.’

“’It is particularly egregious because with a law firm or lobbying firm, you expect them to be an advocate,’ Mr. Sandler added. ‘Think tanks have this patina of academic neutrality and objectivity, and that is being compromised.’

The arrangements involve Washington’s most influential think tanks, including the Brookings Institution, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Atlantic Council. Each is a major recipient of overseas funds, producing policy papers, hosting forums and organizing private briefings for senior United States government officials that typically align with the foreign governments’ agendas.”



This is a serious matter on several counts and should be of concern to every American citizen for a host of reasons, including the fact that these think tanks may be breaking the law but, to date, have not been prosecuted.

But it is of very specific concern to those who support Israel.  For it has now been exposed that the Brookings Institution signed a four year agreement last year with Qatar that will provide Brookings with $14.8 million.

Qatar is pro-Muslim Brotherhood.  As Daniel Pipes has written, it also "funneled hundreds of millions to Hamas-led Gaza and encouraged its rocket and tunnel assault on Israel."

And Brookings?  This is “where Martin Indyk serves as vice president and director of the Foreign Policy Program. Indyk worked for Secretary of State John Kerry from July 2013 to June 2014 as special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations...how could Indyk be expected to act in a neutral way?” (Emphasis added)


You may remember, when Israeli-PA negotiations fell apart, Indyk said it was Israel’s fault.

That Indyk is guilty of duplicity barely touches the surface of what might be said about him.   His career should be totally down the tubes, but – given Washington DC realities – it won’t be.

Martin Indyk. Credit: Wikipedia. Photo not from original post


Then, I want to share a level-headed and informed assessment of Mahmoud Abbas’s recent threats. You’ve heard much of this from me, but better still to hear it from an international lawyer.

Alan Baker - director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and director of the International Action Division of the Legal Forum for Israel - says, in his piece - “Is Abbas Serious?” - that (emphasis added):
“The Palestinian Authority leadership’s fixation on ‘internationalizing the conflict’ by ‘going back to the UN,’ joining various international conventions and taking Israeli political and military leaders to the International Criminal Court sounds dramatic and even threatening. But it involves a large degree of self-delusion...

“The latest ploy by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for frightening the Israelis – going to the UN Security Council with a resolution demanding withdrawal by Israel from ‘Palestinian territory’ to ‘the 1967 borders’ within three years and threatening to go to the International Criminal Court if it isn’t passed – would appear to be no less misguided legally, no less self-deluding and fraught with non-sequiturs than previous abortive Palestinian UN forays.

“Despite all the annual politically generated UN resolutions, which do nothing more than represent the political opinions of the states voting for them, the territories of Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip have never legally or historically been declared to be ‘Palestinian.’ There has never been a sovereign Palestinian state, and no treaty, agreement, or binding resolution has ever determined that the territories belong to the Palestinians.

“To the contrary, even the Palestinians themselves agreed in the 1993-1995 Oslo Accords, guaranteed by the US, the EU, Russia, Norway, Egypt and Jordan and endorsed by the UN, that the permanent status of the territories would be determined in negotiations. To determine in advance that these territories are Palestinian is to prejudge an agreed-upon negotiating issue.

“Similarly, there is no such thing as the ‘1967 borders.’ The parties have agreed to negotiate ‘secure and recognized boundaries,’ as demanded by UN Security Council Resolution 242, and the question of ‘borders’ is also an agreed negotiating issue pursuant to the Oslo Accords...

“Moreover, Abbas’s ostensibly serious ammunition – his threat to go to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and have Israeli leaders and military officers tried for war crimes in the event that his Security Council ploy fails – appears almost certain to backfire.

“Even if the ICC prosecutor, as she has promised, accepts a Palestinian request for standing in the Court...that, in and of itself, cannot guarantee that Abbas and his associates will be able to advance any serious criminal claims against Israeli political or military leaders.

“This is because of the Court’s complex evidentiary rules, specifically the rule of ‘complementarity,’ which prevents the Court’s exercising its jurisdiction if the case in question is already subject to investigation and potential juridical process by the nation state of the accused...Thus it is highly unlikely that any such attempt to bring Israeli leaders to trial would succeed.

“Even more noteworthy is the likelihood that the Palestinian leadership, in giving the Court jurisdiction over the territories, including the Gaza Strip, would be placing itself – as well as senior Hamas commanders and tacticians – at the mercy of anyone who chooses to initiate claims against them for serious war crimes and terrorism.”


Credit: inthelastdays

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Hasan Khreisha, the second-deputy speaker of the Palestinian parliament, has said that Abbas is holding off on joining the ICC in order to press charges against Israel.  This, in spite of encouragement from several Palestinian Arab parties for him to do so.


Says Khriesa, this is because Abbas prefers to push forward a bid for new peace talks. Sounds nice. But my guess is that Abbas knows exactly what Alan Baker has written: that attempts to have Israelis prosecuted in the ICC are likely to fail. So he talks the talk and then balks at moving ahead.  The Abbas M.O.


”Israel believes Syria has retained caches of combat-ready chemical weapons after giving up raw materials used to produce such munitions under pressure from foreign powers, a senior Israeli official said on Thursday.

”Summarizing Israeli intelligence estimates that were previously not disclosed to avoid undermining the Syrians' surrender of their declared chemical arsenal, the official said they had kept some missile warheads, air-dropped bombs and rocket-propelled grenades primed with toxins like sarin.

"’There is, to my mind, still in the hands of Syria a significant residual capability ... that could be used in certain circumstances and could be potentially very serious,’ the official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.”


Surprising?  Not at all. It would have been more surprising if a vicious and duplicitous Assad really had surrendered everything.  There are numerous lessons to be learned here.

There is little concern here in Israel that Assad would use such weapons against us because of Israeli deterrence power:  Said one Israeli official, this would not be a game changer for Assad, it would be a “game-ender.”  He is more likely to use these chemicals in his civil war.

But there is concern about what would happen if radical rebels were to get their hands on this material.


No end of subjects to write about.  Yet my time is limited in these days leading up to Rosh Hashana.  I hope to do one more posting before the holiday.  Some of the subjects that may merit serious attention:
  • We have a very serious problem with increasing Arab violence here in Jerusalem.  I want to emphasize the import of this and would like to look at the issue in some detail. This is with regard to the possibility of a third intifada. But even more so, with regard to the absolute need for our government – state and municipal – to be tough if we are serious about our own sovereignty in the land.  This is not something to be taken lightly.  The Arabs, for the most part with Jerusalem residency, must be  handled with with a very strong hand.

  • There is much political turmoil in Israel right now, including unrest within Likud.  Gideon Sa’ar – who headed the Ministry of Interior - has resigned from the government, and this was a political bombshell. There is much speculation as to where he is going.  Where Likud is going. Where Netanyahu is going. And whether Naftali Bennett – head of Habyit Hayehudi - can succeed in ways he hopes to.  There is unrest inside of his party as well.

  • There is also much political turmoil within the Palestinian Arab world, with tensions growing between Fatah and Hamas.

  • And...on Tuesday indirect ceasefire talks between Israel and Hamas are to begin in Cairo.


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 

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