Better Alternatives to President Trump’s Foreign Policies

By Louis Kriesberg

(Re-published from OUP Blog | April 16, 2017) President Donald J. Trump has hastily undertaken many misguided foreign policies. They are purported to meet terrible threats; but the threats are misdiagnosed and the crude policies to deal with them are often inconsistent with each other and counter-productive. Going beyond just saying “no,” I will discuss a few core ideas of the constructive conflict approach and relate them to current Trump’s foreign policies and better alternatives.

 “American citizens must resist the current backward steps and work for the better possibilities.”

A primary idea of the approach is that adversaries wage conflicts by various mixtures of non-coercive as well as by coercive inducements. Coercion itself ranges widely in degrees of violence and non-violence. Non-coercion includes diverse forms of persuasion and the provision or promise of benefits for compliance. Trump clearly unduly stresses reliance on military and other forms of coercion. This over reliance in countering the threat of terrorism against the American homeland is particularly misguided. In significant degree, the groups resorting to terrorist attacks are waging an ideological war, which requires recruiting supporters and fighters. Persuading members and potential recruits to such groups that America is not an enemy that aims to harm them is a central element in wining that war. Indeed, America is widely seen in many parts of the world as a model society. It possess great soft power, and was crucial in winning the Cold War. American-Soviet cultural exchanges and other experiences helped undermine Soviet leaders’ faith in their authoritarian Soviet system and seek democratic changes.

Another core idea is that conflicts are socially constructed, since the adversaries seek to define who the enemy is and seek to define themselves. Adversaries contend about these definitions, which undergo changes in the course of a conflict. It is generally useful for an adversary party to characterize the enemy in terms that shrink its size and capacities and characterize itself as large and inclusive. Since each side in a large-scale conflict is heterogeneous, the possibility of splintering the adversary is often present. This and related ideas have important implications for US efforts to defeat ISIS and other such organizations deriving from extremist Islamic thinking. This includes strengthening ties with Muslims in the United States and abroad as well as with the governments of countries with predominantly Muslim populations. Nearly all of them are already hostile to the extremists who claim their radical views of Islam are the only correct one. Another implication is to avoid US immigration policies that target Muslims in any categorical way. That lends credence to Islamic extremists’ accusation that the United States is against all Muslims.

Another core idea is that each conflict inter-connects with many others. Thus, adversaries in smaller conflicts are often also adversaries in larger ones (over time and space) and adversaries in one conflict also engage in different sets of other conflicts. Consequently, a change in salience of one conflict may affect the salience of others, as when a minor enemy moves up to be a major one, new alliances are likely. Bi-lateral relations turn out not to be isolated. Trump is beginning to recognize the problems this can cause, for example in trying to improve bi-lateral relations with Russia. However, there are also opportunities that these complexities can foster constructive conflict transformations. This is the case especially in the Middle East.

Finally, an important constructive conflict idea is that understanding the perspectives of one’s opponents is conducive to better policies. Interestingly, the new Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis (retired Marine General), stresses this. Having expert knowledge of the countries where US officials are engaged should not be limited to bilateral issues. Indeed, such knowledge can help discover shared or complementary interests and thereby transform a conflict.

A major implication of these observations is that the possible contributions of the US State Department are more important than ever. The State Department must play a major role in expanded persuasive efforts on many fronts. It needs to help assess the priority of various foreign issues, utilizing expert knowledge of the foreign actors’ perspectives. Furthermore, much work must be done to alleviate the consequences of wars and prevent their recurrence. Civilians fleeing wars and oppression and entering nearby countries desperately need assistance. The State Department is needed to help build peace in war-devastated countries so that wars do not re-emerge. Yet Trump is dangerously deconstructing the Department of State.

Trump and his close advisers are disrupting many achievements of US foreign policy. The considerable influence of Stephen K. Bannon on Trump regarding these matters is unfortunate. He offers a grand political theory about economic, ethnic, and cultural nationalism, the primacy of sovereignty and borders, and the deconstruction of the administrative state. This theory consists largely of assertions or preferences, but they are not grounded on solid evidence …

To read the full article, click here.

INSCT Afilliated Faculty Member Louis Kriesberg is Maxwell Professor Emeritus of Social Conflict Studies and Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Syracuse University.

The Fist in a Velvet Glove: Hardened Humanitarianism

By David Crane

(Re-published from Jurist | April 21, 2017) The cornerstone to the UN paradigm is to settle disputes peacefully, using force only as a last resort. Yet, restoring international peace and security sometimes requires a hardened approach to ensure that peace and security.

“This hardened approach must be done under law or we weaken our international norms, yet it must be done. Enough is enough in Syria.”

There are decades of international treaties, custom, and precedent that support what I call hardened humanitarianism. When we have to deal with a tyrant, thug, dictator, or rogue head of state who turns on his own citizens, the international community or a member state of that community should step forward with a clear and firm position—stop it or force will be used.

A tyrant only understands one thing—power. When he feels the sting of consequence for his actions that tyrant begins to focus on that use of force against him. The use of this more hardened approach in using force to stop a tyrant’s actions will cause that tyrant to pause, to consider his next steps.

Appeasement in the face of tyranny never works. History is replete with anecdotal evidence of this from the Armenian genocide to the Sudetenland. A hardened policy of seeking a peaceful dialog with the assurance of a forceful resolution, should that dialog fail, makes for a more meaningful discourse.

Our international legal and policy system has drawn lines related to protecting civilians in a conflict and banning certain type of weapons systems per se. Most, if not all, states parties have signed onto these norms. We don’t have to be histrionic when a tyrant ignores these clear lines beating our chests with empty words. When that tyrant steps over a line hit them hard, use force, show the world there are consequences!

US action against Al Qaeda after they attacked the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania are examples of facing down the lawless elements of our society under the international legal concept of reprisal. In 2005 the world came together to create a doctrine that laid down a marker that declared that the international community has a right to step in to block a tyrant or head of state who is turning against his own citizens committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. Called the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), the doctrine was a clarion call to arms should there be alleged violations of international law.

Unfortunately, R2P has fallen short of the ideal based on the political perception that it is a doctrine that can be easily used by various powers against weaker nation states for alleged violations. Despite this the principle idea of this responsibility to protect citizens from their own leaders remains.

The long and tragic kaleidoscopic conflict that is Syria has now gone beyond peaceful resolution. A hardened sense of humanity calls for continued cruise missiles strikes and other military action every time Assad crosses the lines laid out under international norms. Kaleidoscopic conflict is fast becoming a new concept in the dirty little wars of the 21st century. Old doctrines for war fighting and the legal set of rules that surround warfare that have been tested over time are being challenged at all levels. Just when planners think there is a viable course of action developing related to a conflict, such as in Syria, one thing changes and everything changes, hence the term kaleidoscopic. This impacts on what is called the deliberate planning cycle in modern parlance throwing out how international and domestic organizations plan for and deal with conflict on a day to day basis.

At the end of the day we are beginning to face situations where there is no solution under current policy and doctrine. This gives us pause as to how to advise world leaders in dealing with any given conflict. This pause can allow a tragedy, such as in Syria, to go on and on without any foreseeable ending.

These dirty little wars have a direct impact on how parties to a conflict deal with civilians found in and around the battlefield. One of the key cornerstone concepts of the international humanitarian law is that civilians are to be protected and that the intentional targeting of a civilian is a war crime plain and simple. We see around the globe today parties to a conflict flagrantly ignoring this key legal concept. With no apparent repercussion to these attacks on civilians, actors move about the battlefield with impunity. Again this is the conflict in Syria, but can be seen also in the fighting in South Sudan. This is why a more hardened approach to our humanitarian principle of using force where legally appropriate will cause actors to pause and reconsider wholesale destruction in any given conflict.

This hardened approach must be done under law or we weaken our international norms, yet it must be done. Enough is enough in Syria. States parties who for whatever reason give that tyrant support should also be dealt with for their aiding and abetting of international crimes with legal sanctions …

To read the full article, click here.

 

INSCT Experts Discuss Syrian Airstrike with The Daily Orange

Experts disagree over implications of recent U.S. airstrike in Syria

(The Daily Orange | April 18, 2017) Experts are at odds over the effectiveness and repercussions of a recent United States airstrike in the war-torn nation of Syria that was ordered by President Donald Trump.

“Elman said this lack of enforcement from the Obama administration was seen as a sign of weakness around the world.”

Trump ordered the strike in response to a chemical attack that occurred in northern Syria in early April.

The strike has affected the United States’ relations with regional powers in the Middle East such as Iran, and has escalated tensions with Russia. Some experts at Syracuse University have differing stances on how the strike will impact U.S. relations in the coming weeks, as the six-year conflict in Syria continues to drag on.

The use of chemical weapons is banned under international humanitarian law because once the weapons are released on the battlefield, there is the possibility civilians can indiscriminately be killed along with targeted combatants.

Some see the airstrike Trump ordered as a step in the right direction because it is retaliating against chemical attacks, said Corri Zoli, an assistant professor of political science in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.

Since World War I, international law has condemned the use of gas in warfare, Miriam Elman, an associate professor of political science from the Maxwell School, said in an email.

“In 1919, the Versailles Treaty forbade the use of poison gas; in 1925 the League of Nations approved the Geneva Protocol which bans the use of chemical and biological weapons,” Elman said.

This is the U.S.’s first direct military strike against the Syrian Bashar al-Assad regime. Experts agree that the lack of direct military action until now might be due to decisions made by former President Barack Obama’s administration.

Zoli said the previous administration had a foreign policy aim of retreating from the Middle East. Even though atrocities were also being committed during that time, Obama had preferred to not intervene against a sovereign state in the region, she said.

Even though Obama had previously said that the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government would lead to serious consequences for the regime, no meaningful actions were taken against the regime, Elman said.

Elman said this lack of enforcement from the Obama administration was seen as a sign of weakness around the world. It also contributed to the erosion of international laws and norms because people stopped believing that members of the international community would put restraints on chemical warfare, Zoli added.

Zoli said rather than more direct military attacks in the future, she expects to see more work done behind the scenes to get local governments in the nation to help put the “Syrian pieces back together.” She added that the possibility of resettlement for Syrian civilians driven from their homes might more of a priority in the future …

To read the whole article, click here.

 

The Trump-Xi Summit: A Rocky Relationship Takes Center Stage

By James B. Steinberg & Michael E. O’Hanlon

(Brookings | April 7, 2017) President Xi Jinping’s upcoming meeting with President Trump is a crucially important opportunity to take stock of the state of U.S.-China relations. Prior to taking office, Trump advocated a tougher line on China, decrying China’s economic policies and, to a lesser extent, its actions ranging from military activities in the South China Sea to its support for North Korea. He even implied that absent progress, he might rethink the long-standing “One China” policy.

“These actions require a resolute and sustained U.S. response, an effort which began with President Obama’s ‘rebalance’ policy and which must be reinforced by the new administration.”

The president’s post-inauguration letter to Xi and the follow-up visit by Secretary Tillerson seem to have dispelled the prospect of a radical shift, but the concerns Trump has expressed mirror a view voiced by many politicians and China scholars—that China is pursuing a range of policies hostile to U.S. interests, and that a more assertive American approach is needed to reverse the deteriorating trend in U.S.-China relations.

But while many Americans are rightly worried about China’s expansionist tendencies in the South China Sea, assertive behavior towards Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea, and theft of American intellectual property as well as problematic activities in cyberspace, there remains a real danger of a difficult summit—and a general downturn in U.S.-China relations more broadly—if we fail to address these concerns in proper perspective. With China now well established as the world’s number two military power, the consequences of a serious deterioration in the relationship could be worse than at any point since the Korean War.

We share many of the concerns about China’s actions in the South and East China Sea, its application of pressure on its neighbors to conform to its desired policies, and its failure to address economic policies, which are inconsistent with its avowed support for open and fair trade. These actions require a resolute and sustained U.S. response, an effort which began with President Obama’s “rebalance” policy and which must be reinforced by the new administration. Additionally, the Trump administration has a crucial need to sustain U.S. regional economic engagement in the wake of Washington’s rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

At the same time, it is important not to lose sight of the positive dimensions of Sino-U.S. relations, not only on cooperative endeavors such as climate change, but also in managing the areas of our considerable differences. There is a danger that in overstating the state of the “China threat” the new administration might be driven to adopt policies that would exacerbate, rather than stabilize, U.S.-China relations by skewing the country’s China policies too far towards confrontation. What is often seen as prudent “hedging” against future Chinese hostility could become instead a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The record over the past several years has been mixed. For example, in the South China Sea, there are serious questions about whether China is adhering (in spirit as well as letter) to the commitment that Xi Jinping made to President Obama not to militarize the disputed islands. At the same time, China has, at least thus far, taken a low-key response to the 2016 decision of the Law of the Sea arbitration panel (which rejected almost of all China’s positions) and avoided provocative acts, such as unilaterally declaring an Air Defense Identification Zone or interdicting shipping in waters it claims. It has also agreed to a protocol on naval safety at sea with the United States.

On cyber, a number of prominent U.S. experts reported significant declines in cyber economic espionage following the 2015 Obama-Xi “agreement,” while former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper last year simply stated that the “jury is out” regarding China’s compliance. On North Korea, China supported new sanctions following North Korea’s missile launch and announced plans to halt coal imports, while at the same time engaging in economic reprisals against South Korea for its decision to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense antimissile system. On Taiwan, China appears to have taken some steps to pressure President Tsai Ing-wen to accept the 1992 consensus on cross-strait relations (reducing mainland tourists, blocking Taiwan’s participation in ICAO). But it has prudently reacted in rather low-key fashion to President Tsai’s famous phone call with president-elect Trump and her meetings with senior Republican leaders during her January stopover in the United States …

To read the full article, click here.

James B. Steinberg is an INSCT Distinguished Policy Advisor and University Professor, Social Science, International Affairs, and Law, Syracuse University. Michael E. O’Hanlon is Co-Director of the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence.

Resetting the International Norm: Corri Zoli Analyzes Syrian Missile Strikes With KCBS

Syrian Opposition Leader Hopes US Strike ‘Beginning Of The End’ Of Civil War

(KCBS (San Francisco) | April 7, 2017) A representative for the Syrian opposition says he hopes the cruise missile attack ordered by U.S. President Donald Trump against Syria helps bring about the end of a brutal six-year civil war.

“At its best, this strike resets the international norm against use of Chemical Weapons which the Obama Administration let lapse.”

“We see it as the beginning of the end of the Syrian war,” Najib Ghadbian told CBS San Francisco Friday. Ghadbian is the Syrian National Coalition’s U.S. representative and grew up in Syria before fleeing at the age of 19.

Ghadbian describes his job as a “troublemaker for the Syrian regime.”

The Syrian National Coalition was recognized by the U.S. and others in 2013. Ghadbian is also part of the United Nations High Negotiations Committee.
“Of course we welcome that,” Ghadbian said of the strikes carried out by the U.S. military Thursday (which was early Friday in Syria).

“It’s really the first response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria,” he said.
“Our hope is that it will not stop there … we hope it will progress into the protection of civilians … and lead to political transition without Assad,” Ghadbian said …

… Academics who have been watching the human rights abuses unfold in Syria for decades were fascinated by what appeared to be a lightning-fast foreign policy decision by the Trump administration …

… Dr. Corri Zoli with the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism at Syracuse University told CBS San Francisco that most members of Congress who have been making public statements about the strike have supported the President, even Democrats, such as House Minority Leader Pelosi (D-San Francisco)  and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York), who have been staunch critics of the Trump agenda. She said most U.S. allies have also come out in support of the U.S. missile attacks.

“At its best, this strike resets the international norm against use of Chemical Weapons which the Obama Administration let lapse, gives the beleaguered citizens of the Middle East hope that strong powers will not tolerate these outrageous human rights brutalities against poor civilians … At its worst, this strike could cause larger fights with Russia and Iran …” Zoli said …

To read the whole article, click here.

Senior Hamas Terror Planner Mazen Faqha Assassinated in Gaza

By Miriam Elman

(Re-published from Legal Insurrection | March 26, 2017) Mazen Faqha was a Hamas official responsible for organizing a 2002 suicide bombing attack in Israel.

Found guilty and given a life sentence for the crime that killed nine people and injured scores more, he was among the over 1000 terrorists—many of them also with blood on their hands and serving life sentences—released in 2011 as part of the prisoner exchange to free hostage IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.

Faqha was deported to Gaza.

From there, according to Israeli officials, he became a “key planner” in setting up Hamas terror cells in the West Bank, directing them as they organized and launched deadly terror attacks against Israelis.

On Friday March 24th, 38-year-old Faqha was assassinated by assailants using silencers, The Times of Israel reports:

Faqha was shot dead near his home in Tel el-Hawa, a neighborhood in southwestern Gaza City, by [unknown] assailants using a weapon equipped with a silencer. He was hit by four bullets to the head … Hamas said Israel was to blame and vowed revenge … The identity and motive of the assailants was not immediately clear. There was no official comment from Israel on his killing.”

Below I review the fallout from the killing of Mazen Faqha …

Thousands of militants and civilians in Gaza and the West Bank turned out for his funeral processions, and a swirl of accusations by various Palestinian terror groups, which are blaming Israel for “waging a clandestine war” and are now threatening retribution.

Early Sunday morning (EST), Israeli media reported that the IDF was being put on high alert in expectation of Hamas retaliationI begin with Faqha’s victims.

August 2002 Egged Bus Bombing

Born and raised in the West Bank village of Toubas, Mazen Faqha was a senior Hamas commander in the Qassam Brigades (the armed wing of Hamas), which carried out many suicide bombings during the bloody second intifada.

Faqha had a hand in a number of these attacks, but he was sentenced in 2003 for planning a suicide bombing on a civilian passenger bus near Safed in the north of Israel the prior summer. 

Here’s a summary of the terror attack from Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, along with the names and photographs of those killed. 

Nine people were killed and some 50 wounded in a suicide bombing of Egged bus No. 361 traveling from Haifa to Safed at the Meron junction in northern Israel shortly before 9:00 Sunday morning. There were many IDF soldiers on the bus, which exploded as it was traveling near the entrance to the burial site of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai, frequently visited by Jewish worshippers. The blast blew off the roof of the bus, which then burst into flames, killing or wounding nearly everyone inside, witnesses said. Among those killed were twere three soldiers, four Israeli civilians and two Philippine women. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack. Overnight on Sunday, IDF troops captured Hamas commander Mazan Fukha, responsible for dispatching the suicide bomber, in the West Bank town of Tubas together with two of his deputies.”

For his crime, Faqha received nine life sentences—one for each person he killed. But he was jailed for only 8 years, when he was released in 2011 for IDF soldier Shalit, who by then had been held captive for 5 years in Gaza.

Under the conditions of his release, Faqha was supposed to refrain from engagement in terror or incitement to violence. In fact, he returned to terror activities, resuming a leadership position in the Qassam Brigades.

Thousands Attend the Funeral of a Slain Hamas Terrorist

Yesterday, thousands of Hamas supporters called for “revenge” during Faqha’s funeral in Jabalia, northern Gaza. The top brass of Hamas reportedly delivered fiery eulogiesHamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and Yahya Sinwar, the new leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, headed the procession from Gaza City’s al-Shifa Hospital, where Faqha’s body was initially taken, to the al-Omari mosque, and from there to Sheikh Radwan cemetery.

Here’s some images from the funeral, where even children were spectators. Many more images can be found on the Internet. It’s also important to note that the funeral march included members and leaders from Gaza’s various political factions and armed groups, and not only Hamas supporters. Although more subdued, in the West Bank hundreds of Palestinians reportedly also marched to Faqha’s childhood home in the small village of Toubas. There, they viewed the Gaza funeral on TV.

Did Israel Assassinate Mazen Faqha?

As of this writing, Israeli officials haven’t commented on Faqha’s killing.

In fact, as noted by Avi Issacharoff for The Times of Israel, there’s “no firm evidence” of Israeli involvement.

But multiple terror groups—including Hamas, Hezbollah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and Islamic Jihad—stated that “Zionist fingerprints” were evident in the killing which had “clear marks of Mossad [Israel’s spy agency]” …

To the read the whole post, click here.

 

Israel Passes Law Barring Foreign BDS Activists From Entry

By Miriam Elman

(Re-published from Legal Insurrection | March 9, 2017) On Monday night (March 6), Israel’s parliament (the Knesset) passed in its second and final reading a law barring the entry of foreign nationals who have “knowingly and publicly” called for boycotting Israel or who “represent an organization” that calls for such a boycott.

The law extends the ban to those foreign visitors (excluding permanent residents) who back the anti-Israel BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement and to those who support the boycott of settlement goods in Judea and Samaria/the West Bank.

From Inside Higher Education: Writing for the blog Legal Insurrection, Miriam Elman, an associate professor of political science at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School, described the ban as “a perfectly reasonable move for Israel to prevent foreigners from abusing tourist visas in order to try to destroy Israel.” “Israel isn’t particularly unique in refusing entry to people determined to be threats to the state, but the law makes such bans more transparent because individuals would no longer be refused entry into Israel on a case-by-case basis, left solely up to the discretion of the government,” she wrote.

The legislation, which passed with 46 votes in favor and 28 against, was sponsored by center-right political parties and had been in the works for over a year, as discussed in detail in my prior post, Will Israel Bar Entry of Foreign BDS Activists?

As noted, the law aims to combat anti-Israel, BDS-promoting tourist activism that’s gone on unimpeded in the country for years. These foreign activists foment and participate in often violent protests, then take film of the Israeli police response in order to demonize Israel in furtherance of the boycott movement.

To my mind, it’s a perfectly reasonable move for Israel to prevent foreigners from abusing tourist visas in order to try to destroy Israel.

How Israel’s New Anti-BDS Entry Law Will Work

The new legislation is supposed to improve the current situation by replacing an existing law that grants any foreign visitor from a friendly country an automatic 3-month entry visa, except for those who the Interior Minister specifically barred.

The new law flips the situation around such that entry for individuals affiliated with designated pro-BDS organizations would be automatically banned, unless the Interior Minister allows it.

So a key component of the law is “shifting the burden” from the state to the foreign activists themselves. Now, instead of the Ministry of the Interior having to account for why someone shouldn’t be admitted into the country, it’ll be up to the BDS-supporting visitors to “persuade the state” why she or he should be allowed in.

The law aims to address the absurd situation that’s developed in Israel where foreign BDS activists enter Israel under false pretenses and routinely take advantage of automatically issued tourist visas to engage in political warfare against the state.

Every nation on the planet is entitled to control its borders and determine which foreign nationals can enter. Israel isn’t particularly unique in refusing entry to people determined to be threats to the state, but the law makes such bans more transparent because individuals would no longer be refused entry into Israel on a case-by-case basis, left solely up to the discretion of the government.

I wrote in my prior post:

“By making the default option not to grant a visa unless the government says otherwise, the new law would effectively identify and advertise which of the dozens of NGOs currently operating inside Israel are deemed to be harmful to the Jewish state.”

Bottom line: As Naftali Bennett—education minister and leader of the Jewish Home party—said on Twitter (see in Hebrew below) when it passed, the law is “necessary and logical” and “let’s Israel defend itself from those who wish it ill.”

Barring Entry Only to Major BDS Leaders Who Call for Israel’s Destruction

Will a left-wing Jewish American college student who tweeted using the hashtag #BDS or who called for a boycott on her Facebook page be turned away at Ben Gurion Airport because of the new anti-BDS entry law?

What about someone who made a one-time donation to a BDS-supporting organization, or who signed a pro-BDS petition at some point in the last few years?

None of these people would be blocked (although, as I noted in my prior post, there’s always the chance that an over-zealous Interior Ministry official will enforce the law improperly).

The law is meant to advance steps to “oppose those who call for Israel’s demise.” But it’s supposed to apply to “major BDS activists” and foreign BDS campaigners “with standing” who can “really impact the situation” by getting others to boycott Israel. It’ll apply to “known organizations” and their main activists and won’t involve any “blacklists” of other individuals.

It certainly won’t be applied to someone who just “posts a comment on Facebook against Israel.”

In the category of those who would be blocked from entry by the new law are BDS-backing foreigners who spend their time in Israel not doing touristy things but collecting false information and ‘evidence’ about Israel’s alleged perfidy and malevolence to spread on social media and to share back home to captive audiences.

Also included will be BDS activists who act to harass and obstruct IDF and security personnel by organizing or participating in violent protests, making contact with representatives of terror organizations, and inciting Palestinians or Jewish settlers to violence …

To read the whole post, click here.

The Internet of Things & You: Exercise Caution

By Christopher Folk

(Re-published from Crossroads: Cybersecurity Law & Policy | March 4, 2017) As we continue to move to a world in which all things are networked and even toys now have connections to the cloud, people need to be cognizant and careful.  According to the Hacker News, in 2015 the toy manufacturer VTech revealed that they had suffered a data breach which resulted in the exfiltration of personally identifiable information (PII) of nearly 5M adults as well as photos of roughly 200K children.  Not only did the breach involve the PII of adults, but also the names, gender, and birthdates of children, which raises a number of additional potential issues, according to the article.  

“Therefore, this is one area where the threat of either legal liability or, dare I say, regulations can be implemented.”

Fast forward to 2017, and yet another toymaker has fallen victim to a massive data breach. Hacker News reported that CloudPets, developed by a California-based company, Spiral Toys, exposed the voice recording of more than two million parents and children as well email addresses and passwords for over 800,000 accounts.  CloudPets are stuffed animals that allow parents and children to send voice messages back and forth via the Internet, according to the article, which further states that Spiral Toys was advised at least four times that their data had been exposed and they failed to take any ameliorative steps.

I have and will continue, to make the argument that cybersecurity requires a baseline approach, especially as the number of connected devices grows at a seemingly exponential rate.  So long as manufacturers are not required to meet minimum cybersecurity hygiene standards, the number of incidents such as those referenced above will crop up as seemingly innocuous devices become the target of choice due to their lax security protocols and lack of safeguards.

In the instances above, the cybersecurity measures in place were either non-existent or rudimentary at best. The encryption was weak, the databases were public, and arguably these companies failed to meet the duty of care owed to consumers and what is likely valuable PII. The databases were reportedly devoid of either social security numbers or credit card information; however, the fact remains that the available data could (and still may) be used as one piece of the puzzle by which additional information can be gleaned, email addresses can be targeted, and passwords can be leveraged to attempt to access additional accounts (in many cases, users have a single password that is used across multiple sites).

This situation should raise a number of red flags for all of us. Consider the world in which we live—our cars are connected, our appliances are connected, children’s toys are now connected. In each case we are providing at least limited information in order to access and utilize all of our connected devices and in so doing we put a large amount of trust that companies will safeguard that data.  

However, as we continue to see, that is often not the case. This is further exacerbated by the “make it work mantra,” wherein the majority of users simply want products to perform as advertised. Thus, consumers will often forego research and understanding of how/where their data is going and will be used so they can get the product to function as quickly as possible.  In the case of these toys, consider a parent who is faced with a child who just wants the toy to do whatever it has been billed and advertised as doing. They are not interested in using complex passwords that are difficult to remember and enter; they are unlikely to research the toy company to determine if they are using two-way encryption or if they offer multi-factor authentication for their devices—they just want the item to work. This scenario raises a whole new set of issues regarding the “human side” of cybersecurity.

Although this is one area where technology could be implemented to manage the cybersecurity of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and still provide ease-of-use, the problem is that companies are ultimately profit-driven. In the absence of financial incentives to bake in additional technology to help safeguard data, while simultaneously enhancing ease-of-use, companies choose the lowest cost-alternative, nearly universally. Therefore, this is one area where the threat of either legal liability or, dare I say, regulations can be implemented via legislation that mandates that companies—especially those in the realm of IoT—take certain steps toward cybersecurity.  

One of the keys will be to draft intelligent legislation that does not merely require that cybersecurity protocols to be baked-in but that additional cybersecurity have “enhanced ease-of-use.” That is, opting out of additional security measures would be purposeful and intentional rather than merely a button to click to get the product to function online, versus navigating through burdensome security-driven setup. Until then, I encourage everyone to become device-aware and consider the information you are providing to IoT companies in order to get something simply “to work.”  In many cases, you may find that having a connected device is neat in theory but scary in practice. Companies perform cost-benefit and risk analyses on a daily basis—so too, should consumers.

http://blog.cybersecuritylaw.us/2017/03/04/cybersecurity-the-internet-of-things-iot-you-exercise-caution/

Christopher Folk is a candidate (2017) for both a master’s in Forensic Science and Technology (Syracuse University) and a Juris Doctor degree (SU Law).

Israel’s Decision Making Process on National Security Needs an Overhaul

By Lauren Mellinger

(Re-published from BICOM.org,uk | March 3, 2017) Sirens sounded after rockets were fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip. The Israeli Air Force responded with retaliatory strikes against Hamas targets in Gaza as Israeli media reported the discovery of 15 new tunnels underneath the Gaza border. These events took place over the past few days but they closely resemble the situation described in the State Comptroller’s new report on the Israeli government’s conduct in the lead-up to, and during, 2014’s Operation Protective Edge. The only additions are the recent election of hard-line militant Yahya Sinwar to serve as Hamas’s new leader in the Gaza Strip and the public focus on Hamas tunnels. With the threat of another war looming, what happened in 2014 is relevant to what happens now.

Operation Protective Edge lasted 51 days, resulting in the death of 74 Israelis, and more than 2,000 casualties in Gaza (Palestinian and Israeli authorities continue to dispute exactly how many of those were Hamas fighters ), as well as further deterioration of Gaza’s infrastructure. According to the State Comptroller Yosef Shapira’s audit of the government’s preparation and conduct leading up to and during the war, not only was the war likely avoidable, but it was poorly managed and failed to achieve its stated goals, which, while not clear at the outset – another criticism found in the report – eventually focused on eliminating the tunnel threat.

The new report examines the tunnel threat and cabinet decision-making. It illustrates systemic flaws in the planning, preparations, and wartime decision-making processes of the security cabinet and the military.

The key findings in the report are as follows:

  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon failed to present any non-military options to the security cabinet on the situation in Gaza andthe ministers rubber stamped the military plans presented to them. Moreover, the National Security Council failed to provide the cabinet with a range of opinions and alternative courses of action.
  • Though Netanyahu and Ya’alon considered the tunnel threat to be “strategic” and “significant,” the severity of the threat, as well as an updated threat assessment of the situation in Gaza, was not adequately conveyed to the security cabinet, and hence no substantive discussions were held about the tunnels.
  • Ministers lacked the requisite intelligence regarding the tunnel threat. As a result when the matter was mentioned in the security cabinet, they did not express a high degree of interest in it prior to 30 June 2014, and (apart from then Economy Minister Naftali Bennett) did not ask the military to present them with operational plans to combat the threat.
  • The failure of defence officials to present the requisite information to the cabinet ministers – thus creating a significant gap in their knowledge and ability to render decisions in an optimal manner leading up to and during the war – was not intentional, but rather a systemic oversight.
  • The Shin Bet and Military Intelligence (MI) did not coordinate properly with respect to the Gaza Strip, resulting in, among other failures, significant intelligence gaps in the lead-up to the war.
  • The security cabinet’s role and authorities remains ambiguous.

The report noted that during Netanyahu’s third term – from March 2013 through June 2014 until the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers by a Hamas cell based near Hebron – the security cabinet held no discussions about the dire conditions in the Gaza Strip, or whether the failure to alleviate these conditions would provide an impetus for Hamas to commence hostilities. While Shapira has taken some criticism from members of the government, a number of his findings – particularly about the lack of cabinet discussions on Gaza and the Prime Minister’s utilisation, or lack thereof, of the security cabinet – corroborates with the findings from MK Ofer Shelah, based on his work on the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee (FADC), which began an investigation into Operation Protective Edge in September 2014. The investigation was never completed after new Knesset elections were announced in December 2014.

The flawed decision-making process depicted in the report was not unique to Operation Protective Edge. Israel’s Prime Ministers often prefer to engage with a kitchen cabinet rather than the larger security cabinet when it comes to decision-making, due to a fear of leaks and Israeli Governments consisting of multi-party coalitions and the cabinet comprised of the Prime Minister’s political rivals. Furthermore, the primacy of the defence establishment and the corresponding weakness of civilian institutions – such as the Foreign Ministry – often lead the government to focus on military options rather than giving adequate consideration to diplomatic alternatives.

Shapira’s report largely reiterates the hallmarks of a flawed systemic decision-making process on matters of national security that has existed for decades – despite the various commissions of inquiry and comptroller audits that, over the years, have underscored the need for reform.

Following the investigation into the government and military’s failings in the lead-up to the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Agranat Commission found the independence in decision-making to be highly problematic, and highlighted the need for broader input from cabinet ministers on matters of national security. The 2008 final report of the Winograd Commission following the Second Lebanon War found “serious failings and shortcomings in the decision-making processes and staff work in the political and the military echelons and their interface” as well as “serious failings and flaws in the lack of strategic thinking and planning, in both the political and the military echelons”.

The military has internalised many of the lessons of Operation Protective Edge and previous rounds of violence with Hamas. In August 2015, IDF Chief of General Staff Gadi Eisenkot published a new IDF strategy highlighting the major changes in Israel’s strategic landscape, particularly with respect to non-state actors, while clarifying the IDF’s role in prolonging the periods in-between wars as well as defining the concept of “decisive victory” in an era of protracted asymmetric conflicts. Eisenkot also declared that the tunnel threat would be a “top priority“ for 2016, though as the news this week indicates, more needs to be done on this front to mitigate the threat.

The frequency of military escalation between Israel and sub-state actors over the past decade has led the government to strive to keep the focus on the achievements in each period of hostility – namely, “quiet” and the benefits of deterrence. Yet, while the military prepares for the next round of fighting and some improvements to civil defence are implemented, the requisite changes in the political elite’s decision-making process have failed to advance

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INSCT alumna Lauren Mellinger (JD/MAIR ’10) is a BICOM Research Fellow and a Ph.D. candidate at King’s College, University of London.