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21 minutes ago, mo32a said:

The Paradise Papers made for riveting reading when they spilled into public view this fall, a huge cache of secret documents offering a rare glimpse into the hidden world of offshore tax havens.

Here was Nike registering its iconic Swoosh trademark in Bermuda, and Uber stashing the rights to its ride-hailing app in a shell company of its own. Queen Elizabeth was implicated in the papers. Madonna, too.

And there was the case of the Formula One race car driver who arranged to touch down on the Isle of Man in his $27 million candy-red luxury jet as part of an elaborate scheme to skirt European taxes.

Each tale was colorful in its own right — and, for the working stiff who settles up with the Internal Revenue Service every April, maybe a little infuriating.

But the Paradise Papers were just the latest in a string of leaks from law firms and other professional services outfits that help the uber-rich store their money overseas. The Panama Papers came before them. Swiss Leaks before that. And Luxembourg Leaks, or LuxLeaks, even earlier. Never mind the individual anecdotes; it’s the sheer volume of the tax dodges buried in these documents — layered atop a growing body of academic research on offshoring — that tells the real story.

No longer can we think of overseas tax shelters as just a vehicle for a handful of rich people to outwit the tax man. What’s clear, now, is that they are a powerful engine of inequality — a way for the ultra-wealthy to hoard resources on a scale that policy makers have only recently come to understand.

That understanding owes much to the work of economists like Gabriel Zucman of the University of California, Berkeley, who has developed some of the first reliable estimates for the scale of the phenomenon. In a clever bit of detective work, Zucman has scoured national balance sheets from all over the globe and identified enormous “holes” — huge sums of money that have essentially disappeared from the ledgers. He estimates that an astonishing $8.7 trillion, or 11.5 percent, of global household financial wealth resides in tax havens. And shielding that money deprived world governments of approximately $170 billion in tax revenue in 2016 alone — with the United States Treasury taking a $32 billion hit.

That sort of tax evasion, by super-wealthy individuals, is often illegal. But multinational corporations can move money overseas lawfully. And they’ve taken full advantage. In 2016, American companies skipped out on roughly $130 billion in taxes they would have otherwise paid to governments around the world, Zucman’s research shows — about $70 billion of which would have flowed to Washington.

A loss of $70 billion won’t bankrupt Uncle Sam. But it’s real money — equivalent to about one-fifth of the corporate income tax collected by the United States on an annual basis, and triple what the federal government spends on child nutrition programs each year.

This isn’t elites taking advantage of loopholes in the tax system. It’s elites financing a private system all their own — a gilded escape pod they can move from island to island, as circumstances require.

Tighten up the rules in a tax haven like Ireland, the Paradise Papers show, and Apple just moves its billions to the English Channel isle of Jersey, where the standard corporate tax rate is zero.

It’s disheartening stuff for anyone who cares about the wealthy paying their share. And the new GOP tax bill does little to improve the situation. Indeed, analysts say a one-time tax holiday allowing companies like Apple to bring home billions in overseas profits at sharply reduced rates will probably just encourage more offshoring in the future.

But tax specialists say lawmakers could permanently eliminate shelters if they wanted to. As it turns out, we’ve dealt with this problem before — more than a century ago, right here in the United States, when a new breed of border-crossing corporate behemoth presented tax collectors with familiar questions of wealth, power, and geography.

DIGNITARIES FROM Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania looked on as Charles Carroll, the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence, stuck a shovel in the ground and turned a spadeful of dirt. The ceremony, that July 4, 1828, marked the start of construction on the first chartered railroad in the United States, the Baltimore and Ohio. And the significance of the moment wasn’t lost on the featured guest. “I consider this among the most important acts of my life,” said Carroll, then 91, “second only to my signing the Declaration of Independence — if even it be second to that.”

Over the next couple of decades, the Baltimore and Ohio and dozens of other railroads would crisscross the country, carrying the Industrial Revolution out West and supercharging the American economy.

The heaving growth had everyone struggling to keep up — not least the state and local officials who had to figure out how to tax railroads and other far-flung enterprises with assets in a large number of jurisdictions.

The railroad barons wanted to keep it simple: Slap a levy on the rails that run through your county — so much tax, for so much iron — and leave it at that. But over time, tax authorities took a more expansive view.

You can’t just consider a piece of track in isolation, they argued. You’ve got to see it in context. You’ve got to see it as a critical part of a larger system. That local piece of track is connected to another piece of track, which is connected to yet another. Together, they shuttle cargo and passengers all the way to Chicago — making the railroad far more valuable than the sum of its parts.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court sided with the tax collectors. Destroy a short stretch of track, the court reasoned in an 1875 ruling, and you bring the whole railroad to a standstill — damaging the system’s value “out of all proportion to the mere local value” of the rail and ties.

The only thing to do, then, was to calculate the overall value of the railroad and divide it into discrete chunks. If the stretch of track in your county comprised 1 percent of the railroad’s length, it would be assigned 1 percent of the overall value of the railroad — and it would be taxed accordingly.

It’s an approach accountants call “formulary apportionment,” and it’s still in wide use today — with state authorities using sales figures and other data, rather than railroad tracks, as a guide. Experts say the same model could be applied to international taxation.

If Apple sold half its iPhones and laptops in the United States, then half of its profits would be subject to the American corporate income tax. Simple as that.

With apportionment, it wouldn’t matter where a corporation put its money. Apple could stash its billions in a shell company on the island of Jersey or in a bank account in Jersey City. It’s the geography of consumers, not cash, that would control.

That makes the system much harder to game, says Kimberly Clausing, a Reed College economics professor. You can ship all your money to an exotic isle at the stroke of a pen, but “you can’t move all your consumers to Bermuda. Consumers are pretty sticky. They stay where they are.”

Of course, summoning the political support for this kind of change would be a challenge. Deep-pocketed corporations would fiercely guard their prerogatives — they’d be obligated to. CEOs have to seek maximum return for shareholders, after all. And powerful allies in Congress would undoubtedly stand by their side — particularly in the tax-averse Republican Party.

But the GOP is not in lockstep on this issue. Earlier this year, House Speaker Paul Ryan pushed a plan, known as the border-adjustment tax, that would curb tax havens much as formulary apportionment would. Ryan called it the “smart way to go,” pitching it as an America First-style proposal that would remove “all tax incentives for a firm to move. . . their production overseas.”

In the end, the speaker backed off the proposal in the face of opposition from corporate interests and other GOP lawmakers. But Clausing says she was encouraged to see House Republicans seriously consider it

And she can imagine the next American president — Democrat or Republican — folding an apportionment-style proposal into trans-Atlantic trade negotiations with the European Union. “It’s the kind of thing that [French president Emmanuel] Macron and [German chancellor Angela] Merkel would be really into, because they’re losing a lot of revenue to [tax shelters like] Ireland and Luxembourg,” she says.

Together, these world leaders could sell apportionment as “a trade plan that works for the people,” Clausing says. And an agreement between the United States and the European Union would force other major economies like Japan to adopt the idea. Otherwise, Japanese companies could dodge domestic taxes by stashing money in New York or Berlin, knowing that bulging bank accounts in those cities would be immaterial to American and European tax collectors. Again, in the United States and European Union, the geography of the financial institution would be irrelevant.

It’s one of apportionment’s biggest selling points. The system doesn’t require a grand agreement by every country on earth. A couple of powerful nations, or blocs, could essentially force it on everyone else.

GOVERNMENTS CAN only tax what they can see. And the wealthy individuals who stash their fortunes overseas — hedge fund managers, pop stars, and the like — have done a remarkable job of concealment. It’s very difficult for officials to know whose investments are buried in which anonymous trust.

Zucman, the UC Berkeley economist, has called for a sort of radical transparency around personal wealth — an international registry recording the true ownership of every financial security. It may sound like a far-fetched idea. But as Zucman notes, there are several privately held registries in place already.

Here in the United States, for instance, the Depository Trust Company records every sale of a security issued by an American company. The idea is to combine the scattered registries, and use them for the public good.

An international registry would undoubtedly raise privacy concerns, even if access was restricted to government officials. But Jeffrey Winters, a political scientist at Northwestern University who studies economic elites, says it’s hard to justify the continued secrecy around investment income when we have such elaborate systems for monitoring the pay of ordinary citizens. “You or I could move 10 different times, to 10 different states in the United States, and have 10 different jobs, and at the end of that year, the IRS would know every penny we made,” he says.

Of course, it’s easy to imagine impediments to an international wealth registry. Are Swiss bankers, who make their living protecting the identity of clients, really going to turn over information on who owns what?

But national governments could pry the information loose if they wanted to. And Zucman points to an American law — the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, signed by President Obama in 2010 — as a model.

The measure requires foreign banks to automatically share information with the IRS on American clients — everything those clients are holding in their accounts, and the income they’re earning on the holdings.

The key, Zucman argues, is that it’s automatic. The IRS doesn’t have to name specific clients or show cause for suspicion — preconditions that have neutered previous efforts at information-sharing. The agency just gets the data routinely. And if foreign financial institutions refuse to provide it, they face a steep penalty: a 30 percent tax on income from US sources.

The law has significant drawbacks. Some banks, eager to avoid the law’s strictures, simply refuse to serve Americans, visiting real inconvenience on US citizens with legitimate reasons to open accounts overseas.

But when it comes to the central question of disclosure, early indications are good. The United States has won the formal cooperation of most of the world’s tax havens and financial institutions, Zucman writes (though it’s still to be seen if that will translate into on-the-ground compliance).

And just as important, the law has spawned a wave of global disclosure rules — a new, international campaign to unlock the secrets of the mega-wealthy.

In this case, at least, the sort of worldwide cooperation on tax evasion long dismissed as utopian fantasy looks like a real possibility.

It’s not entirely clear, though, that this vision of a Washington-led crackdown will pan out.

While the United States insists that financial institutions in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands turn over information on American clients, it has proven reluctant to share its own bank information with other countries.

The United States, in other words, is resisting the global rules it inspired with passage of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act.

That resistance is fast turning America into the sort of tax haven it has long deplored. Money that once sat in Swiss bank accounts or shell companies in Bermuda is now migrating to lightly regulated states like Delaware and Nevada, which offer secrecy and stability in exchange for a steady stream of corporate registration fees.

“How ironic — no, how perverse — that the USA, which has been so sanctimonious in its condemnation of Swiss banks, has become the banking secrecy jurisdiction du jour,” wrote Peter A. Cotorceanu, a lawyer at a Zurich law firm, in a legal journal. “That ‘giant sucking sound’ you hear? It is the sound of money rushing to the USA.”

If the European powers hope to quiet that sound, they may need to get tough with the United States, just as the United States got tough with them — backing up their new rules with stiff financial penalties. And that may be the central lesson here: Shutting down tax havens is less a question of mutual cooperation, than of mutual confrontation.

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Trump-Kim summit: US president emerges the 'biggest loser'

‎Today, ‎February

President Trump defends Kim Jong-un over death of US student

‎Today, ‎February ‎28, ‎2019, ‏‎39 minutes ago
President Trump defends Kim Jong-un over US student who died after being jailed by North Korea

Trump 'impressed' by one thing Cohen said

‎Today, ‎February ‎28, ‎2019, ‏‎1 hour ago
"He didn't lie about one thing, he said 'no collusion'," the US president said of his former lawyer.

Trump criticises former lawyer Michael Cohen's testimony

‎Today, ‎February ‎28, ‎2019, ‏‎6 hours ago
President Trump describes Michael Cohen's testimony as "shameful" during questions at Hanoi summit

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Maybe these guys are all working for Trump... there seems no other explanation:

41% of Americans and 66% of millennials don't know about the holocaust.... the constant idiotic Liberal references to Hitler must enrage Jewish people.

Edited by Wolfhunter

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The strategy of "the further right they go, the further left we go" and vice versa will do nothing but tear a country apart.  Us vs Them politics is rarely successful.


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22 hours ago, boestar said:

"the further right they go, the further left we go" and vice versa

And the more you investigate me, the more I investigate you, a case of be careful what you wish for. Politics becomes even more unsuccessful when distracted by endless investigations. Pretty quiet about collusion now so it's time to move the boat to a new fishing hole.

IMO, only Joe Biden can save these guys from themselves now:

Edited by Wolfhunter

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AOC is dangerous and will cause the party to fail.

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1 hour ago, boestar said:

AOC is dangerous and will cause the party to fail.

AOC is the best thing ever to happen...for the Republicans!

  • Like 1

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They now border on insane.... even Biden will have trouble regaining the ground they have scorched. Bartenders and drama teachers should stick to what they are good at.

How is it possible to learn nothing from previous failures? They must be working for the Trump campaign.

Either that, or In true JT style, they have morphed into what they have been railing against:

If you are insane, even a chicken sandwich is a political, moral and religious experience.... they have discovered a way to turn political gold into lead and (as a former liberal) I stand awestruck:

Edited by Wolfhunter

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This is clearly Trump's fault and a new investigation is pending:

Recent (and current) actions of AOC and the Democratic Party have completely silenced some of my (previously) more vocal liberal acquaintances.... I don't think they like what they see but they're not willing to admit it yet. These are smart, reasonable people who are (IMO) likely to swing hard right because of the stark choices and will reluctantly pick the lesser of two evils.... a position that they never thought they would feel forced to take. 


If you can't control three freshman Reps, how will you handle caravans consisting of thousands.... it's planet earth on the phone for you; they have a few questions:

Edited by Wolfhunter

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2 hours ago, Wolfhunter said:

This is clearly Trump's fault and a new investigation is pending:


BADDDDDDDD TRUMPPPPPPP !!   Next week he will direct Vlad to part the waters and allow the residents to leave ! ?

Edited by Jaydee

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They just need the Canadian (JT inspired) export version, with a bit of feminist inspired logic, it would be just like our federal budget  

If (like our budget), if  it refuses to do magic tricks, there may be a few other contenders looking for (honest) work in the near future, it seems people are now asking some of the questions I would like to see answers to. They better hope Joe Biden runs, I see him as the only one who can save them from themselves now.

Edited by Wolfhunter

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Democrats only have a short window to stop scaring moderate, reasonable people who are searching for a reason to vote for them. Before you know it, we will be into "Trump 3.0 Continues" and Democrats will be asking "how did this happen?"

Edited by Wolfhunter

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I think a large portion of the american population sits in the middle and there is NO ONE there to speak to them.  The right is so far right they can't even see middle and the left seems to have fallen off the bloody map altogether.

With all this idiotic "speak to the average american" BS that none of them can actually do because they don't have a clue what an average american actually is or wants. It has simply become an us Vs them, all else be damned fight for power.  It is really not doing the average american any good.

It is actually sad that politics has devolved from "For the People By the People" to "For Us, People be damned"

And now back to your local Govertainment programming

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Supreme Court sides with Trump on immigration detention

The Supreme Court has given the Trump administration an immigration policy victory by ruling criminal noncitizens can be detained at any time.

The 5-4 ruling states federal officials may detain convicted immigrants indefinitely after they finish serving prison time, even years after.

Advocates had argued the law only allowed for detention immediately after immigrants were released from prison.

The court's liberal justices dissented from the conservative decision.

Tuesday's ruling reversed a lower court decision that had found the existing law to mean federal authorities must detain convicted immigrants within 24 hours of their release from criminal detention.


Civil rights lawyers had claimed after that deadline, immigrants should be permitted a bond hearing so they were not forced to remain in custody indefinitely while their deportation case went forward.

The Trump administration, however, said the government should be allowed to hold convicted noncitizens at any time - and the conservative-majority top court has agreed.

In the conservative opinion, Associate Justice Samuel Alito said the strict ruling was to ensure homeland security officials were not constrained by inappropriate deadlines to detain convicted noncitizens.

"As we have held time and again, an official's crucial duties are better carried out late than never," he wrote, adding that such a tight deadline was often not feasible logistically speaking.

Justice Alito also noted that it was not meant to target noncitizens who had served time and continued to lead legal lives in their communities, and said the decision still allows for those individuals to challenge the law on constitutional grounds if they are detained.

Associate Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the dissent for the court's liberals - and in a rare move, delivered it from the bench, US media reported.

"The greater importance of the case lies in the power that the majority's interpretation grants the government," Justice Breyer said in his summary.

"It is a power to detain persons who committed a minor crime many years before. And it is a power to hold those persons, perhaps for many months, without any opportunity to obtain bail."

The case brought before the top court was a California class-action lawsuit by a group of noncitizens, most with permanent residency cards, whose lawyers argued they should be entitled to a hearing if they were detained by federal authorities more than a day after their release from prison.

Lead plaintiff Mony Preap was a legal resident who had two convictions involving marijuana possession. He was taken into federal custody in 2013, years after serving his prison time, but eventually won his deportation case, the Associated Press reported.

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Required reading for Democrats before they blow it.... again.

Stop apologizing unless you do something truly stupid.

Like this

We will find out soon whether 25 million dollars were well spent or not. I say let the the great axe fall where the offence lies. As far as I'm concerned (and I bet a bunch of US voters), the Democrats had better be right about their assertions of collusion. They have behaved so badly, that no other outcome (than being right) is acceptable. If wrong, do we get back to running the country or will you continue advancing on the precipice?

Edited by Wolfhunter

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Economic Experts: Trump Should Win In Blowout In 2020

According to some financial experts, President Trump should easily win the 2020 election because of one factor: the strength of the economy.


The experts quoted by Politico said that if history is a reliable guide, the fact that the economy has flourished during Trump’s tenure should be the overriding element in voter’s decision as to whom to vote for in 2020. The economy is sailing along on rising wages and low gas prices, as well as low unemployment. Donald Luskin, chief investment officer of TrendMacrolytics, which predicted Trump’s 2016 victory, opined, “The economy is just so damn strong right now and by all historic precedent the incumbent should run away with it.” He was sanguine about any problems with the economy that might arise between now and November 2020, adding, “It would have to slow a lot to still be not pretty good.”

Luskin was echoed by Yale economist Ray Fair, whose economic model also predicted Trump’s 2016 victory. He stated, “Even if you have a mediocre but not great economy — and that’s more or less consensus for between now and the election — that has a Trump victory and by a not-trivial margin.” He said that in the current economy, Trump would get 54% of the vote.

A third expert, Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, who is not a fan of Trump, has used 12 different economic models to try to ascertain who would win in 2020; he said Trump won in all 12, winning most of them easily. He asserted, “If the election were held today, Trump would win according to the models and pretty handily. In three or four of them it would be pretty close. He’s got low gas prices, low unemployment and a lot of other political variables at his back. The only exception is his popularity, which matters a lot. If that falls off a cliff it would make a big difference.”

What might help Trump even more is the Fed’s acknowledgment that it will eschew raising interest rates, which the Fed announced on Wednesday. President Trump has been critical of the Fed for some time for raising interest rates consistently during his tenure and thus impeding economic growth; he said last October, after the Fed raised interest rates again, “I think the Fed is making a mistake. They are so tight. I think the Fed has gone crazy.”

Fox News reported on Thursday, “On Wednesday, during its second monetary policy meeting of the year, the Fed voted to hold the benchmark federal funds rate steady. The Federal Open Committee unanimously agreed to keep interest rates unchanged at a target range of 2.25 percent to 2.5 percent. The policy setting board also signaled it won’t see any future rate hikes this year."

On Thursday, Trump took aim at the Fed, telling Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo that even with the economy roaring along with an estimated 3.1% GDP, it would have been doing even better if the Fed would ease its quantitative money policy and stop raising interest rates. He said, “The world is slowing, but we’re not slowing. And frankly, if we didn't have somebody that would raise interest rates and do quantitative tightening, we would have been at over 4 [percent] instead of at 3.1 [percent].” Trump also said his comments regarding the Fed’s prior hiking of interest rates were not responsible for the Fed’s decision to stop, adding, “I hope I didn't influence, frankly, but it doesn't matter. I don't care if I influenced or not. One thing, I was right. But we would be over four [percent] if they didn't do all of the interest rate hikes, and they tightened. They did $50 billion a month. I said, ‘What are we doing here?’”




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“ Mueller Report Released To Attorney General, NO FURTHER INDICTMENTS Included “



Democrats vow to keep investigating Trump despite Mueller's conclusions, no new indictments


Read the comments. The psycho Democrats are all but guaranteeing Trumps re-election with their stupidity !!


Best reply I’ve read all morning on this subject 

Knock, knock. 
Who’s there? 
Trump, who? 
Trump, your President.

Deal with it.


Edited by Jaydee

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Trump exec order to hold colleges accountable for student loan debt, free speech.


President  Trump signed an executive order on Thursday to protect free speech on collegecampuses and public institutions’ responsibilities regarding student loan debt.

Despite accepting "billions and billions of dollars from taxpayers," Trump said many univerisites "have become increasingly hostile to free speech."

"Taxpayer dollars should not subsidize anti-First Amendment institutions," he added. "Universities that want taxpayer dollars should promote free speech, not silence free speech."

The order seeks to ensure that public institutions comply with the First Amendment and that private schools fulfill their own stated free speech standards.

Trump suggested failure to comply could put "billions" of dollars' worth of grant money at risk. In order to receive federal dollars an institution will need to agree to follow certain conditions of receiving the money.

"If a college or university does not allow you to speak, we will not give them money. It is very simple," he said.

Agencies were also directed to gather information regarding student debt, earnings and default rates across majors from higher education institutions, as it seeks to help prospective students evaluate the quality and prospects of different programs.

Further, the White House will ask for policy recommendations as to how it can shift some of the onus of student loan risk onto public institutions.

The government is currently responsible for backing up what students cannot repay in loans – meaning the obligation ultimately falls on taxpayers. Students are required to pay back their loans regardless of the “quality” of education received, which may directly affect their ability to fulfill obligations as a borrower, according to the White House. Unfulfilled obligations carry no consequenes for colleges. 

In Trump’s fiscal 2020 budget, officials outlined a proposal to require colleges that accept taxpayer funds to “have skin in the game through a loan risk-sharing program."

Earlier this week the White House proposed a cap on student loans, among other provisions, aimed at bringing down the costs of higher education – including efforts to cap a borrower’s monthly payment at 12.5 percent of discretionary income.

Outstanding student loan debt surpassed $1.5 trillion in 2018, doubling over the past decade. The average student loan borrower owes $35,000, according to the White House.


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From all of this, I guess we can only conclude one of two things. Either Democrats are brilliant strategists who see something in the mood of the nation that I’m not smart enough to discern, or they are completely unhinged.

I would submit that US voters are looking for an administration in waiting…. one with viable, supportable policy initiatives and a vision for the country that they can support. Something that provides a workable alternative to what they might want an alternative to. And, instead of providing that, they insist on NOT providing that.

Were I to play the devils advocate and attempt to argue in support of their current conduct (a technique I often use to test possible courses of action) I’m not sure how I would approach it. Refusing to accept the results of a process and mandate you previously supported because the results run contrary to your expectations calls into question the most basic of problem solving abilities. Without those abilities, solutions (to anything) become elusive and the loudest mob rules the day. In the face of facts, agendas are, at best, preferences. They make pink Cadillacs for someone.... it's just not me.

Edited by Wolfhunter

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29 minutes ago, Wolfhunter said:

completely unhinged.

I think you could have stopped with this.


Even with Trumps billions he couldn’t afford to buy better advertising more effective than Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. She is like a gift sent from heaven.

Edited by Jaydee
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The States is in a heap of trouble.

U.S. public’s reaction to Mueller report summary displays country’s deep divide


Canada is having the same divide with Trudeau plotting his Social agenda above all else. ( Budgets balance themselves )

Numerous countries in Europe in turmoil over political issues, mainly unfettered immigration.

In a nut shell the future is looking bleak to put it mildly.

Worse than a game or roulette..... Around and around and around she goes, where she stops nobody knows.

Wherever she stops it isn’t going to look pretty.

Just my $.02



Edited by Jaydee

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Trump is treading on dangerous ground. This will mean "if you conquer territory you can keep it" and would set the stage for others (Russia being one, China being another-South China Seas Islands) to insist on the same.

Trumplomacy on Golan Heights: What it all means

By Barbara Plett Usher BBC state department correspondent

I was sitting on the Israeli prime minister's terrace when President Trump's tweet dropped. A current of surprise and expectation sizzled through the state department press corps.

We had been following US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo around Jerusalem's holy sites and were waiting for a final word from him and Benjamin Netanyahu to wrap the day.

But they delayed their appearance long enough for us to wonder whether Mr Trump's Twitter announcement had also caught them off guard. If so, it was a welcome surprise for Mr Netanyahu: "I'm so excited," were his first words to us.

The surprise would have been in the timing, not the substance. The idea of the US recognising Israel's sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights has been under active consideration in the Trump administration for some time, pushed with greater intensity by Israeli officials in recent months.

It is a major shift. For decades the US and most of the world have rejected Israel's occupation of the Golan Heights, seized from Syria in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. To paraphrase the principle enshrined in the UN charter: you can't keep land that you capture, you have to negotiate its fate. Mr Trump has overturned that.


What questions does this raise?

First and foremost is one of international law: in recognising Israeli sovereignty over the Golan, Mr Trump is in effect endorsing its seizure of the territory. By what moral authority then could he challenge others who do the same, such as Russia's annexation of Crimea?

Secondly, Mr Trump said he made the decision for strategic and security reasons, by which he means Iran.

His administration is convinced Iran is using Syria as a base to target Israel, and the Golan Heights are the front line.

That's a compelling argument for the White House and some members of Congress, and one aggressively pushed by the Israelis.

Golan Heights map Presentational white space

But formal recognition of Israel's sovereignty over the Golan doesn't change anything on the ground. It's already acting with full military authority there.

So it's widely believed by observers and commentators both here and in Washington that the president made the announcement now to give Mr Netanyahu a boost in hotly-contested elections.

Mr Trump has brushed aside such suggestions, but his plans to welcome the Israeli prime minister to the White House twice next week will only reinforce them.

How will this affect the cross-border conflict in Syria?

Israel strikes regularly at Iranian targets in Syria, carefully negotiating the situation with Russia, which provides crucial military backing to the Syrian state.

It's a delicate balance and it's not clear how or whether the American move will upset it.

Israeli soldiers from the Golani Brigade take part in a military training exercise in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights near the border with Syria on 19 January 2015.Image copyright AFP Image caption Tensions have flared in the Golan since the Syrian conflict began, with Israel concerned over Iran's growing military presence

On the one hand, Syria has been weakened by the civil war, and the Iranians have been weakened by US sanctions. That gives Israel an opportunity to exert its claims, with the help of its friend in the White House.

On the other hand, there was no open controversy about Israel's control of the Golan Heights. Pushing the issue above the radar might inflame the low-grade conflict with Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah, stoking regional tensions. And Russia is unhappy, very unhappy.

How will this affect the West Bank?

The occupied West Bank is different from the Golan Heights. It was also captured by Israel in the 1967 war, from Jordan.

But it has a large Palestinian population seeking self-determination and promised statehood in more than 20 years of peace talks.

Supporters of this peace process are concerned that recognising Israeli sovereignty over the annexed Golan Heights will create momentum for annexation of the West Bank.

Palestinian protestors set ablaze a poster with a picture of US President Donald Trump during a demonstration in Hebron in the Israeli occupied West Bank on 22 February 2019Image copyright AFP Image caption Palestinians say the US can no longer be a neutral mediator in peace talks after its controversial decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital

This fear is not without grounds. Members of the right wing coalition headed by Prime Minister Netanyahu have been pushing for annexation. In Mr Netanyahu's own Likud party, 28 out of the 29 lawmakers running for re-election are on record as supporting this approach.

He is the only exception and, beset by charges of corruption and stiff competition from the opposition, has demonstrated he'll go to great lengths to hang on to power.

How will this affect Trump's peace proposal?

The Golan move reinforces the impression that the Trump administration is redefining the parameters of US policy in a way that favours Israel: Mr Trump has already recognised the contested city of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and cut funding to the UN agency in charge of Palestinian refugees demanding a right of return to a homeland.

It has also stopped virtually all assistance to the Palestinian Authority, charging it with funding terrorists and rejecting the peace initiative. If the PA continues to reject what's on offer - when it is finally offered - it's likely that Israel's hand will be further strengthened to shape the outcome.

However, the plan will need a buy-in from Arab countries who've long pushed for the return of territory occupied by Israel.

Many are more preoccupied with a perceived threat from Iran than with the Palestinian cause, and have signalled a willingness to support the Trump peace initiative. But his Golan decision will complicate their ability to publicly do so.



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