Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

It’s Wednesday, January 24, 2024.

I’m Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

The Voters Send Their Message: The New Hampshire Primary and the Shape of the Campaigns Ahead

Well, the New Hampshire Primary is now over, and that’s true on both the Republican and the Democratic side. Both turned out to be interesting but of course the big news is on the Republican side, and the big news may not really be news, and that is the dominance of Donald Trump in the New Hampshire Primary. It was predicted to be so, the polling had indicated that it was so, and even as the final votes are still being tallied, it is clear that Donald Trump won a decisive victory. Even more decisive when you put it into recent Republican presidential election cycles, because when you have someone who has won both Iowa and New Hampshire, there is no case in modern Republican history in which that person does not eventually claim the nomination.

On the other hand, Nikki Haley’s showing was not insignificant. Now her results were stronger earlier in the evening than they were later, and they were also fairly predictable. Since Nikki Haley had packaged herself and presented herself as more of a traditional Republican, and that meant running on economic issues, defense issues, foreign policy issues, less so running on the social issues such as abortion, less so on the MAGA issues that animate President Trump’s base, Nikki Haley ran better among those Republicans, and there are a lot of them in New Hampshire, far more than in many other states. But she also ran as someone who’s very popular among those who are non-partisan or have no party registration in the state of New Hampshire, and those who aren’t registered with either party can choose to participate in either one of the party’s primaries every four years.

That means that there is a huge independent vote, as I mentioned yesterday, about 40% of the electorate, and Nikki Haley did well among them. She did well in the more urban areas, more concentrated population. Again, that’s what’s true, more moderate and more liberal candidates, she did better in university sectors and most importantly, that means around Manchester and also in the region around Dartmouth College. Again, very expected. But Donald Trump did very, very well, and at least in attitude and in political brand, he plays more to the expectations of New Hampshire Republicans than did Nikki Haley. And one of the things we need to note, and this is important in terms of our worldview understanding as well, those who have an interest in the election include the news media and the entire class of those who are perhaps summarized as political pundits. Their job is to make the story a big story and to keep you watching their programs, and that’s one of the reasons why they keep on amping the dynamic is if Nikki Haley is doing better than expected.

No, you know right here she’s not doing as well as expected, Donald Trump is not doing what he expected. Wait just a minute, this is a resounding victory, and you have talking head after talking head, but the most important issue here is the numbers. The second important issue is the impression, and at least at this point, I think it’s fair to say that Donald Trump thought that he would wrap up the Republican race as early as New Hampshire. It’s not exactly wrapped up. On the other hand, it’s really close to being wrapped up, and he’s running into his strength with South Carolina voters in the next major primary that’s going to be held on February the 24th. And of course, the irony there, the awkwardness for Nikki Haley is that she is a former governor of that state, and it’s going to be interesting to see how that race plays out and whether or not Nikki Haley catches fire among Republican voters.

But the one thing we know from New Hampshire is that even though she did quite well, certainly she did something that enabled her to continue in the race, the reality is she’s running into strong headwinds, and that’s even present in her own state. Furthermore, there’s another feature of the Republican side of the nomination race that turns out to be really important. Over the course of the last several decades, both the Republicans and the Democrats have changed the way they run the primaries, assign delegates, and even organize their national conventions. On the Democratic side, it was because of the debacle of 1968 and 1972, thus they came up with pretty formal rules but they still have a looser situation than the Republicans. On the Republican side, the big motivation was to come up with a system that would lead to an early consensus candidate, and one of the things to watch there is the math, because in so many of the big states, especially coming up on Super Tuesday on March the 5th, if you get 50% plus one, you get all of the delegates, all of them.

And when you have just two people in the race, if even at that point there’s still two people, then all of them becomes a much more likely proposition, which means that after say the next several weeks, Donald Trump running just as he’s running right now could basically run the table, and he knows that, and so does Nikki Haley. So why is Nikki Haley remaining in the race? Well, at least at this point she hasn’t been forced out of the race, at least at this point she’s still a viable candidate. That’s not going to last long but at least at this point, and that means that she might see it to her advantage to stay in this race in the event that something unexpected happens. And that’s not irrational, if something unexpected did happen, if something were to happen and Donald Trump were to falter politically, well Nikki Haley’s the only major candidate left in the race. That would be to her advantage.

Is that likely? No. On the other hand, given all the criminal indictments against Donald Trump, given all the political and the legal processes, it’s at least possible that something can happen. And there are now repeated polls and surveys that indicate that a significant number of people who said they would vote for Donald Trump say they would not if he is convicted on some kind of criminal charge. So will that happen? Will it happen during the timeframe that matters? It’s actually becoming more and more unlikely that anything like that would happen during the primaries. But going back to why Nikki Haley’s running, the other reason is because it could be that she’s running for say 2028, and Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor leaving the race left open the possibility that he’d be back. On the other hand, in politics timing is everything, and being hot in one cycle doesn’t mean that you’re even a major factor automatically in a subsequent cycle, we’ll see.

Part II

And it Doesn’t Even Count: The Biden Campaign’s Write-In Strategy to Avoid Embarrassment in New Hampshire

Meanwhile the process toward the political nomination, the presidential nomination, and both parties goes on, and that’s where we have to go back to New Hampshire for one interesting story on the Democratic side. I mentioned that the Democratic Party, and this is something that’s been brewing for a long time, but it has changed its process so that the first delegates by a primary are actually awarded only with the South Carolina Primary, which is going to be held, as I said, on February the 24th. So no delegates are assigned by the primary process before that, and the reason for that is that the Democrats did not believe that Iowa or New Hampshire is representative of their political base, South Carolina, much more so, and no one knows that better than Joe Biden, whose presidential campaign in 2000 was basically rescued by South Carolina. But nonetheless, even as President Biden decided that he wasn’t even going to appear on the ballot in New Hampshire, when Congressman Dean Phillips, and for that matter in a lesser way, Marianne Williamson, the author, when it was known that they would appear on the New Hampshire primary ballot on the Democratic side, there was the possibility that the incumbent President of the United States not being on the ballot might take backseat to the announcement that X or Y candidate had won the New Hampshire primaries.

Now again, there are no delegates to be assigned by it, but that would be an embarrassing blow to an incumbent president in terms of his own party’s race. And so the Biden campaign came up with the idea of a write-in campaign, and here’s the point, it worked. President Biden won in a landslide with no delegates at stake and his name not even on the ballot. So that’s one indication of the fact that at least at this point, Joe Biden is coasting to the Democratic presidential nomination. We’ll of course watch that situation as well.

Part III

Israel’s Existence Is at Stake, and They Know It: The Truth About the “Two State Solution” to the Palestinian Issue

Next to this point, it’s really important that we go back and look at the situation with Israel pressing its military action against the terrorist group, Hamas, and of course much of that is taking place in the Gaza Strip. And as was predicted, the political stakes are just getting higher and higher, and the government of Israel is under incredible pressure from forces including the President of the United States, the European Union, and what can simply be described as global opinion even as its pressing its case. Now, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been abundantly clear that Israel will not stop until, in his words, “Hamas is defeated.” Now the definition of what exactly that means is not yet abundantly clear, even from sources inside the Israeli government. But just in recent days, Israel has invited the international press to look at the infrastructure of Islamist warfare that Hamas had built there under the surface in Gaza. It is now estimated that something like 100 miles of tunnels are under the surface there in Gaza. Some of them, by the way, are connected to Egypt. They have been used for smuggling and for other purposes but it is also clear that the infrastructure of those tunnels is intended as a deadly threat to Israel, and thus Israel is pressing towards the destruction of those tunnels even as it acknowledges that that represents a form of hand-to-hand warfare that’s extremely dangerous.

They also acknowledge that Hamas is hidden or is keeping many of the hostages taken in the October 7 attack, they’re in those tunnels, and furthermore, it is a matter of almost daunting challenge that Israel could eradicate, even discover all those tunnels. You’re talking about miles and miles, just imagine more than a hundred miles of tunnels. The international press reported on the sophistication of the tunnel effort, Hamas has been putting an awful lot of money and effort into this, an awful lot of planning. There were even facilities of course, in terms of plumbing, bathrooms, kitchen facilities, storage, places to keep arms, and as the evidence tragically is made clear, places to plan a military attack upon Israel and places to keep the hostages who were taken on October 7th.

Now, I want us to look at one particular argument that has been coming particularly from Western sources, but also coming from Arab sources as well. The Wall Street Journal yesterday ran a headline, “Arab Peace Proposal Takes Shape but Israel Balks.” The very same day, the New York Times had a headline, “EU,” that’s the European Union in Israel, “Can’t Close Rift on Gaza’s Fate.” So what’s going on here? Similar headlines by the way, would say that there is now a split between the Biden administration and the Netanyahu government over the question of a ceasefire. But there’s another issue that comes up and it’s this issue that I want to address head on, and that is the call that is central to the European Union plan is right now central to the Biden and Anthony Blinken, Secretary of State, plan and is very much a part of the Arab plan, and that is the demand that on the other side of this conflict there be a Palestinian state. That means a Palestinian nation with a Palestinian government, and that is central to the demands made by the Palestinians in recent years.

But here’s where the situation becomes extremely urgent, and we need to think very, very carefully. So much of what is discussed on this topic is discussed without historical content and without an understanding of moral consequence. So let’s just put the matter bluntly. Should there be a two-state solution, the state of Israel, a Jewish state, there in the region, and should there also be a state for the Palestinians, a Palestinian state with its own government, its own government authority, and all the rest? Should they be coexistent there and side-by-side you might say existing, with the Palestinians having their state and the Jewish majority in Israel having its state? Is that what we should be hoping for and working for? In short, this is what is often defined as the two-state solution. And all three of those words are important, just take them in sequence.

Number one, two, the number two. two-states, two nations, Israel and a Palestinian state. And then of course state, meaning an actual nation state, a political entity, a Jewish state, and a Palestinian state. And then of course, that last word is solution, as if we come up with a two-state solution, this will actually bring peace in the Middle East and end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Now, as I’ve said, there have been historic calls for a two-state solution going back to 1947, 1948, going back to the foundation of Israel, going back through successive American presidential administrations, and right now, very much in terms of public debate. And here’s the thing, it’s very easy to say, “You know that makes a lot of sense, there should be a two-state solution.” It’s very easy to say, “You know we have to work towards a two-state solution.” But the reality is the situation’s a lot more complex and anyone close to it fully recognizes that.

So let’s just talk about a bit of history, that’s why it’s often lacking in this. And the history takes us back to 1948, even before that to 1947. Let’s just put those two years together, 1947 and 1948, the international plan undertaken by the United Nations for the formation of the state of Israel was a two-state plan. There was to be a state of Israel and there was to be a Palestinian state. Here’s what’s vitally important for us to recognize. At the time, say 1947 and early in 1948, there was not yet a Jewish state, but it’s vitally important to say there was also not yet a Palestinian state. Now, if you’re going to use the word nation, then you have all kinds of arguments as to what constitutes a nation. An ethnicity, is it a government? Is it a nation state? The reality is that when people use this particular word in the modern context, they mean a state, a nation state.

And what’s important to recognize is that until 1948, when Israel declared itself a nation and declared its independence, there was not a Jewish state, but there also was not a Palestinian state. Actually, there has never been a Palestinian state, and there are all kinds of reasons for that, and they’re deeply rooted in history. For one thing, it was not seen as a priority of other Arab nations including the monarchies in the area, but later, not only the monarchies, but other Arab states, they really didn’t want to see a Palestinian state. Furthermore, at no point did the Palestinians organize themselves into a recognizable state, and that’s true going back through the entirety of Palestinian history. But even with the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the end of World War I, even as nation states emerged elsewhere in the region, no such nation state emerged in what the Palestinians refer to as Palestine.

So looking at this, we also recognize that when Israel was declared and remember, that was a United Nations action, it was also the action taken by the founders of Israel in 1948 in declaring the nation’s existence, as Israel was declared to be a state and even as the United Nations had planned and proposed a two-state solution, the Palestinians were not satisfied with the two-state solution. Indeed, the Arabs responded in 1948 with the effort to annihilate Israel, to eradicate the Jewish state, to make Israel an impossibility. And so the original denial of the two-state solution came in 1948 when the Arabs organized warfare against Israel and tried to stem the existence of the nation even as it was in its earliest days. Now, we could track this through successive developments and successive wars, and most importantly, we could get through the 1967 war, we could even get through the 1973 war, and then we would be in the territory in which there is an organized effort to try to reclaim the entire region, we need to say.

Not only the areas that we might refer to as the Palestinian Territories, but Israel itself to recapture that for the Palestinians, and that means of course, the eradication of Israel. An organization that was established for that very purpose was the Palestinian Liberation Organization, famously headed by Yasser Arafat. And over the course of decades, of course there were terrorist incursions, there were all kinds of tensions, the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians not only did not go away, it was tremendously intensified and it broke out into periodic open warfare and what was basically a low level of warfare during the entire period. And during most of that period, the PLO and the recognized negotiating entity for the Palestinians, it was basically open and declaring that Israel must be defeated, Israel must not exist, and that the Palestinians must be given sovereignty over the entire region.

Yasser Arafat and the PLO simply said that they would establish a secular Arab state and the Jewish people would be allowed to live there, but not if they were committed to Zionism and to the existence of a Jewish state. It would be an Arab dominated state. Israel would cease to exist, and of course, even at the time there were those who were arguing that the Jews themselves must be expelled from the holy land, and if forced and by terrorist attack if necessary. Calls for a two-state solution were basically rejected by most of the Palestinians and by their representatives. All that began to change or appeared to be about change in the period during the 1970s and the 1980s, even into the 1990s and the early years of the 21st century when you had negotiations and you had agreements, most famously the Wye River Agreement, and behind that, the Oslo agreement, in which what were first secret negotiations between the Israeli government and the Palestinians led to a proposal for a two-state solution.

And it appeared that that two-state solution was going to move forward, but it is undeniable, and history will record that it was the Palestinians that withdrew. It was Yasser Arafat that withdrew from what had been a plan, and basically he had been given most of what he demanded. And of course at about the same time you had the rise of groups and most importantly Hamas and most importantly in Gaza, in the entire Gaza region, that made the point emphatically that there was not going to be an acceptance of a two-state solution from the Palestinian side, there was a demand that Israel cease to exist.

On the Palestinian side, even as there are some who might move towards a negotiation for a two-state solution, most of them, if honest, would say it is a temporary arrangement. They are still committed to regain all of the territory currently held by Israel, and that means Israel’s non-existence. So from the river to the sea takes on a very clear content when you understand that purpose. Now, there are a couple of footnotes to this. It is likely that Yasser Arafat and others have pulled out of these two party agreements because it would be very difficult for them to survive signing that kind of declaration and moving through with it. The Palestinian cause, as represented by Hamas and the Islamist movement, it very clearly is committed not only to the eradication of Israel, but frankly to the elimination of anyone who really calls for making peace with Israel. If you don’t understand that, you do not understand Hamas and its influence there in Gaza, and increasingly on the West Bank as well.

Now, over the course of the last couple of days, emphatically Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel has said that Israel is not going to move towards a two-state solution now and potentially never. I’m paraphrasing him here, but this is also something that’s interesting. It appears right now that on the ground in Israel and in Israel’s government, that includes multi-parties, there is basically no constituency for moving to a two-state solution. There is the honest acknowledgement that what’s going on right now, what began on October 7th, what’s been discovered since, and all the patterns of those who were opposing Israel from the North with Hezbollah, and also with Hamas, and with the corruption of the Palestinian authority, the reality is there is no viable way to a two-state solution.

Now, there are a couple of other issues we need to think about. Israel has known from the very beginning, and this was a concern in 1948, Israel has known that if there is a Palestinian state, it could very easily combine in alliance with other Arab states right there alongside Israel and destroy it. Furthermore, there’s the understanding that Israel is simply not going to agree to anything in terms of any two-state solution that doesn’t leave Israel, in at least military terms, in control of the entire region. And again, just to make the note, the Palestinians will never be satisfied with that, and you have to understand that they’re not satisfied with that precisely because they do not want to live alongside a strong Israel. They want the entire area and they make that statement themselves. They’ve made it emphatically. Hamas has made it a doctrine, and remember, Hamas was elected by Palestinians there in Gaza. It has remained in office far after that term but the point is Hamas basically at this point represents politically the aspirations of so many Palestinians, most importantly younger Palestinians, and at this point it is not at all clear that there could be any real negotiating partner even for Israel to begin a conversation.

It’s just right now something that is more a matter of foreign policy fantasy than it is of any kind of likely outcome or reality. In this case, right now, the two-state solution fails in every word, two, and state, and solution. Even if there were to be a negotiation that produced an agreement for two states, it is virtually impossible to understand how that Palestinian state could survive Palestinian opposition. There are other footnotes to this including the fact that it is not at all clear that in reality the other Arab nations in the region are pressing for a Palestinian state but the point is this, the greatest opposition to a two-state solution is coming from the Palestinian side, where it’s a doctrinal commitment in so many ways that Israel cease to exist. A two-state solution is only viable if there is the Palestinian acknowledgement of the permanence of the state of Israel.

And just to state the matter honestly, and every once in a while it would be good to hear at least a little bit of this honesty from our political leaders, that isn’t going to happen. Israel knows it. Typical, the kind of language you see these days is a statement over the weekend by United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Gutierrez, who said, “The right of the Palestinian people to build their own state must be recognized by all.” He also said, “The refusal to accept the two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians and the denial of the right to statehood for the Palestinian people are unacceptable.” Well, let’s ask ourselves seriously. What does that tell us? It tells us that the Secretary General of the United Nations said that something short of a two-state solution is simply unacceptable to him. My point is this, folks on the ground in Israel, those responsible for Israel’s security really don’t care what the Secretary General of the United Nations finds acceptable or unacceptable.

It’s just extremely frustrating that so many people, as illustrated by the Secretary General himself, just aren’t speaking honestly about this situation. You have to know that they know but they’re not willing to say what they know. Instead, what you see here is political posturing, and Israel understands that that political posturing could, if it gains traction, lead to their nation’s non-existence. Of all the issues of controversy and of headline significance on the world stage, this one, it seems, tends to bring out the greatest degree of dishonesty.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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