Tuesday, December 05, 2017
When Inaction is an Action
In trains and other heavy equipment there is something called a 'dead man's switch'. It is a mechanism for triggering emergency safety systems (brakes, engine, etc.), that is automatically operated if the human operator becomes incapacitated, such as through death, loss of consciousness, or being bodily removed from control.
In spy novels it is known as a 'button-down' scenario, which is a reference to someone with their thumb on a bomb's trigger... whereby releasing pressure on the button will result in the bomb's detonation. But just as often the term is used to refer to the automatic release of 'explosive' (i.e. damaging/incriminating) information if the person who placed it with a third party doesn't take one or more prearranged actions; again, due to incapacitation, such as through death, loss of consciousness, or being bodily removed from control.
It now appears for all intents and purposes that a dead man's switch / button-down scenario has been sitting in plain sight for more than two decades in the form of a US law entitled 'The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995'.
The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 is a public law of the United States passed by the 104th Congress on October 23, 1995. It was passed for the purposes of initiating and funding the relocation of the Embassy of the United States in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, no later than May 31, 1999, and attempted to withhold 50 percent of the funds appropriated to the State Department specifically for "Acquisition and Maintenance of Buildings Abroad" as allocated in fiscal year 1999 until the United States Embassy in Jerusalem had officially opened. The act also called for Jerusalem to remain an undivided city and for it to be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel. [source]
Built into that law is a classic dead-man's switch / button-down scenario in the form of a security waiver allowing the delay of the implementation of the law (e.g. the relocating of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and the formal recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel), for six months due to security concerns. But the waiver can only be implemented and extended so long as the President actually signs a new security waiver before the six moth term of the previous waiver expires.
Every president from Bill Clinton to Donald Trump has signed the security waiver on or before the six month interval. That is, until now.
President Trump signed the security waiver the first time it came due. But December 1st, 2017 was the deadline for Trump to sign the new waiver... and he let it pass without signing. And to my knowledge, there is no legal mechanism that permits the extension of the waiver once the old one was allowed to expire. And creating a new waiver would seem to require an amendment to the law (something congress is not likely to do).
I'm certainly no legal scholar, but from what I can see, it seems like by doing nothing, Trump has actually taken his thumb off of the button and tripped the dead-man's switch, initiating the move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem and the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
It'll be interesting to see how this plays out.
I can make a compelling case for either side of the debate regarding the proposed Embassy move. But IMHO, one of the most compelling reasons to actually go ahead with it are the overt threats of violence being made by the Palestinians, and the Muslim regimes supporting them, if the US goes ahead with the move.
Seriously, since when are threats of violence allowed to be made with impunity on the international diplomatic stage? Since when does the US make decisions with a gun held to its own or its allies' head? Overt threats of violence are considered 'casus belli' under international law, and open up those who make them to a diplomatic and/or military response.
Just thinking out loud here.
Posted by David Bogner on December 5, 2017 | Permalink
in principal agree---but how many jewish lives is the point worth? around the world?
Posted by: aloeste | Dec 5, 2017 5:55:52 PM
Agreeing in principle is great, but it's that kind of question that got us where we are today.
Posted by: Dena Bailey | Dec 6, 2017 12:30:34 PM
More than take his thumb off the switch, Trump is about to pull the trigger.
Don't be surprised if the ambassador makes the move before the new embassy is built.
Posted by: Karl Newman | Dec 6, 2017 8:39:49 PM