Commentary Magazine


Posts For: January 9, 2009

Anticipating Israel’s Doom

A common thread in many of the critical reactions to Israel’s counter-attack against the Hamas terrorists in Gaza is the fact that no matter what Israel does, it loses. If it hits back, it is accused of building support for Hamas. It is told not only that it can’t defeat Hamas militarily but that it shouldn’t try. Boston University professor Andrew J. Bacevich takes this tack in a piece in the Boston Globe yesterday which not only takes Israel to task but sees it as a failed model for America’s own ill-conceived “war on terror.” For Bacevich, the Jewish State’s conflict with the Palestinians is a one-way tale of Israeli error. He writes:

Ever since it seized Gaza and the West Bank at the time of the 1967 War, Israel has assumed that allowing Palestinians to freely exercise their right of self-determination is incompatible with Israeli security. With expulsion infeasible and absorption unacceptable, a succession of Israeli governments set out to dictate the conditions under which Palestinians would live.

The problem with this formulation is that long before 1967 and ever since, “Palestinian self-determination” has been defined solely by the urge to extinguish Israel’s existence. Had that not been true, there would have been no war in 1967 and no need for the Israeli “occupation,” he laments. Specifically in the case of Gaza, Israel withdrew completely over three years ago, leaving its people to determine their own fate and hoping for, at the very least, a peaceful border. What they got was a continuation of a terror campaign whose goal is to make those portions of Israel that are within rocket range (an area that is growing in tandem with the sophistication of Hamas’s arsenal supplied by Iran).

Yet what is truly disheartening about Bacevich’s piece is his view of Israel’s legitimacy and its future:

Given the events related to Israel’s birth, which involved the displacement of Palestinians and left Israel surrounded by adversaries vowing to destroy it, one can understand this conviction. Perhaps even today in Gaza, given the intransigence of Hamas, Israelis have no choice–or at least none promising any escape from the predicament in which they find themselves. So they fight on, despite the growing sense that the entire Zionist enterprise is inexorably headed toward some tragic denouement.

Though he exhibits no glee about that “tragic denouement,” there is a sense conveyed by the article that Israel’s sad future is a product of its illegitimate birth. So, again, we are faced with a critic of Israel whose lack of enthusiasm for its measures of self-defense has more to do with his dim view of the entire Zionist enterprise. For Bacevich, Israel seems to be fated to fighting a losing battle for its existence. But at least he isn’t openly rooting for its demise. The same cannot said for the Nation, which this week subjected its readers to an open call for economic war against the State of Israel by the West.

Titled “Israel: Boycott, Divest, Sanction,” the piece by Naomi Klein pulls no punches in its call for bringing the Jewish State to its knees. That the Nation would publish such tripe isn’t a surprise. But it is interesting to note that in defense of her thesis, Klein isn’t afraid of condoning the sort of discrimination against Jews that can only be termed anti-Semitic. She concludes her article by citing with approbation an example of a British telecom exec who won’t do business with any party from Israel.

Several days into Israel’s Gaza assault, Richard Ramsey, the managing director of a British telecom company, sent an e-mail to the Israeli tech firm MobileMax. “As a result of the Israeli government action in the last few days we will no longer be in a position to consider doing business with yourself or any other Israeli company.”

When contacted by The Nation, Ramsey said his decision wasn’t political. “We can’t afford to lose any of our clients, so it was purely commercially defensive.”

It was this kind of cold business calculation that led many companies to pull out of South Africa two decades ago. And it’s precisely the kind of calculation that is our most realistic hope of bringing justice, so long denied, to Palestine.

So in the name of “justice” for Palestine (which in this context means the extermination of the State of Israel), anything goes, even blatant Jew-hatred. I suppose this is what passes for the kind of “progressive” thought that the Nation claims to stand for these days.

A common thread in many of the critical reactions to Israel’s counter-attack against the Hamas terrorists in Gaza is the fact that no matter what Israel does, it loses. If it hits back, it is accused of building support for Hamas. It is told not only that it can’t defeat Hamas militarily but that it shouldn’t try. Boston University professor Andrew J. Bacevich takes this tack in a piece in the Boston Globe yesterday which not only takes Israel to task but sees it as a failed model for America’s own ill-conceived “war on terror.” For Bacevich, the Jewish State’s conflict with the Palestinians is a one-way tale of Israeli error. He writes:

Ever since it seized Gaza and the West Bank at the time of the 1967 War, Israel has assumed that allowing Palestinians to freely exercise their right of self-determination is incompatible with Israeli security. With expulsion infeasible and absorption unacceptable, a succession of Israeli governments set out to dictate the conditions under which Palestinians would live.

The problem with this formulation is that long before 1967 and ever since, “Palestinian self-determination” has been defined solely by the urge to extinguish Israel’s existence. Had that not been true, there would have been no war in 1967 and no need for the Israeli “occupation,” he laments. Specifically in the case of Gaza, Israel withdrew completely over three years ago, leaving its people to determine their own fate and hoping for, at the very least, a peaceful border. What they got was a continuation of a terror campaign whose goal is to make those portions of Israel that are within rocket range (an area that is growing in tandem with the sophistication of Hamas’s arsenal supplied by Iran).

Yet what is truly disheartening about Bacevich’s piece is his view of Israel’s legitimacy and its future:

Given the events related to Israel’s birth, which involved the displacement of Palestinians and left Israel surrounded by adversaries vowing to destroy it, one can understand this conviction. Perhaps even today in Gaza, given the intransigence of Hamas, Israelis have no choice–or at least none promising any escape from the predicament in which they find themselves. So they fight on, despite the growing sense that the entire Zionist enterprise is inexorably headed toward some tragic denouement.

Though he exhibits no glee about that “tragic denouement,” there is a sense conveyed by the article that Israel’s sad future is a product of its illegitimate birth. So, again, we are faced with a critic of Israel whose lack of enthusiasm for its measures of self-defense has more to do with his dim view of the entire Zionist enterprise. For Bacevich, Israel seems to be fated to fighting a losing battle for its existence. But at least he isn’t openly rooting for its demise. The same cannot said for the Nation, which this week subjected its readers to an open call for economic war against the State of Israel by the West.

Titled “Israel: Boycott, Divest, Sanction,” the piece by Naomi Klein pulls no punches in its call for bringing the Jewish State to its knees. That the Nation would publish such tripe isn’t a surprise. But it is interesting to note that in defense of her thesis, Klein isn’t afraid of condoning the sort of discrimination against Jews that can only be termed anti-Semitic. She concludes her article by citing with approbation an example of a British telecom exec who won’t do business with any party from Israel.

Several days into Israel’s Gaza assault, Richard Ramsey, the managing director of a British telecom company, sent an e-mail to the Israeli tech firm MobileMax. “As a result of the Israeli government action in the last few days we will no longer be in a position to consider doing business with yourself or any other Israeli company.”

When contacted by The Nation, Ramsey said his decision wasn’t political. “We can’t afford to lose any of our clients, so it was purely commercially defensive.”

It was this kind of cold business calculation that led many companies to pull out of South Africa two decades ago. And it’s precisely the kind of calculation that is our most realistic hope of bringing justice, so long denied, to Palestine.

So in the name of “justice” for Palestine (which in this context means the extermination of the State of Israel), anything goes, even blatant Jew-hatred. I suppose this is what passes for the kind of “progressive” thought that the Nation claims to stand for these days.

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Here Comes Race — Again

The incoming Obama administration will have to deal with the issue of racial preferences sooner rather than later thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision today to take up an appeal in an affirmative action case, Ricci v. DeStefano.  New Haven firefighter Frank Ricci and 18 others sued after the fire department failed to promote them when they scored well on the department’s promotion exam.  Since too few black firefighters scored high enough to justify promotions, the city threw out the exam altogether.

Ricci and his co-plaintiffs-including one Hispanic-argue that their promotions were denied solely because of their race, and it’s hard to see it any other way. Of course the city says that they abandoned the test-which had been carefully constructed to eliminate any racial bias-because they were afraid that if they failed to promote enough black firefighters to satisfy affirmative action goals, they’d be sued for discrimination.   A lower court threw out the case, and a closely divided Second Circuit voted against hearing the appeal.

Obama tried hard to dance around the issue of affirmative action during the campaign, but no doubt his Justice Department will weigh in on this case.  It will be interesting to see whether they have any new arguments to justify ignoring racial discrimination when it’s practiced against whites (and in this case, at least, Hispanics).

The incoming Obama administration will have to deal with the issue of racial preferences sooner rather than later thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision today to take up an appeal in an affirmative action case, Ricci v. DeStefano.  New Haven firefighter Frank Ricci and 18 others sued after the fire department failed to promote them when they scored well on the department’s promotion exam.  Since too few black firefighters scored high enough to justify promotions, the city threw out the exam altogether.

Ricci and his co-plaintiffs-including one Hispanic-argue that their promotions were denied solely because of their race, and it’s hard to see it any other way. Of course the city says that they abandoned the test-which had been carefully constructed to eliminate any racial bias-because they were afraid that if they failed to promote enough black firefighters to satisfy affirmative action goals, they’d be sued for discrimination.   A lower court threw out the case, and a closely divided Second Circuit voted against hearing the appeal.

Obama tried hard to dance around the issue of affirmative action during the campaign, but no doubt his Justice Department will weigh in on this case.  It will be interesting to see whether they have any new arguments to justify ignoring racial discrimination when it’s practiced against whites (and in this case, at least, Hispanics).

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Commentary of the Day

Richard, on Jennifer Rubin:

Transparency hasn’t been a strong suit of the Obama team, so I’m skeptical when I hear him talk about transparency of the stimulus package. And no earmarks? Yea, right. Congress will call his bluff on this one. They will load it with pet projects that they will claim are “shovel ready”, and dare him to veto the entire package. Earmarks are to Congress what water is to fish.

I want Obama to succeed, not because I’m a fan, but because the failure of his administration has dire consequences for all of us. But trying to boil the ocean like this isn’t the recipe for success. And his relationship with Congress is off to a rough start, which means the legislation they produce won’t be what he wants. But I’m afraid he’ll be forced into signing it for political reasons.

In a battle between Congress and the Obama administration, I’ll bet on Congress. Which causes me great concern for any stimulus program Pelosi and Reid put forward. The GOP needs to propose a simple alternative, led and dominated by tax cuts and investment incentives, and without the New Deal type programs Obama seems determined to implement.

Richard, on Jennifer Rubin:

Transparency hasn’t been a strong suit of the Obama team, so I’m skeptical when I hear him talk about transparency of the stimulus package. And no earmarks? Yea, right. Congress will call his bluff on this one. They will load it with pet projects that they will claim are “shovel ready”, and dare him to veto the entire package. Earmarks are to Congress what water is to fish.

I want Obama to succeed, not because I’m a fan, but because the failure of his administration has dire consequences for all of us. But trying to boil the ocean like this isn’t the recipe for success. And his relationship with Congress is off to a rough start, which means the legislation they produce won’t be what he wants. But I’m afraid he’ll be forced into signing it for political reasons.

In a battle between Congress and the Obama administration, I’ll bet on Congress. Which causes me great concern for any stimulus program Pelosi and Reid put forward. The GOP needs to propose a simple alternative, led and dominated by tax cuts and investment incentives, and without the New Deal type programs Obama seems determined to implement.

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Re: Let Israel Finish the Job

Pete, I concur entirely.  Now critics will offer the alternative view:  no decisive victory is possible so the Israelis aren’t being deprived of any opportunity to achieve a clear outcome. They’ve made their point, the international crowd declares. And it’s time to move along before Hamas suffers a grievous blow. But delivering such a lethal blow is the point, isn’t it?

Noah reminds us of Edward Luttwak’s prior writings. And again today Luttwak makes his point:

What Israel can do is weaken Hamas further in its current ground operations by raiding targets that cannot be attacked from the air–typically because they are in the basements of crowded apartment buildings–and by engaging Hamas gunmen in direct combat. Simply reducing the combat strength of Hamas is crucial, as it was in 2006 against Hezbollah, because while many like to parade dressed in the robes of martyrs, when there is actual fighting enthusiasm rapidly wanes.

With few exceptions, Israeli ground forces are not advancing frontally but are instead mounting a multiplicity of raids. If their target intelligence remains as good as it was during the air attack, they will run out of targets in a matter of days. That is when a cease-fire with credible monitoring would be possible and desirable for both sides as the only alternative to renewed occupation.

Hamas will claim a win no matter what happens, but then so did Hezbollah in 2006. And yet, for the most part, Hezbollah remains immobile and the Israeli northern border with Lebanon remains quiet. If Israel can achieve the same with Hamas in Gaza, it would be a significant victory.

It seems so familiar–waiting for the State Department to leap, the White House to buckle, and the Israelis to relent. But maybe everyone has learned something since 2006. And come to think of it, the newest man on the block might have figured it out. At least so far, the President-elect (the person with the most potential leverage and political capital) is content to let events play out before he is sworn in. Maybe he and his advisors have stumbled, albeit silently, onto just the right approach for both the American and Israeli government to embrace.

After all, letting the Israelis determine for themselves when and whether they have achieved their goal would be the kind of change many of us could believe in.

Pete, I concur entirely.  Now critics will offer the alternative view:  no decisive victory is possible so the Israelis aren’t being deprived of any opportunity to achieve a clear outcome. They’ve made their point, the international crowd declares. And it’s time to move along before Hamas suffers a grievous blow. But delivering such a lethal blow is the point, isn’t it?

Noah reminds us of Edward Luttwak’s prior writings. And again today Luttwak makes his point:

What Israel can do is weaken Hamas further in its current ground operations by raiding targets that cannot be attacked from the air–typically because they are in the basements of crowded apartment buildings–and by engaging Hamas gunmen in direct combat. Simply reducing the combat strength of Hamas is crucial, as it was in 2006 against Hezbollah, because while many like to parade dressed in the robes of martyrs, when there is actual fighting enthusiasm rapidly wanes.

With few exceptions, Israeli ground forces are not advancing frontally but are instead mounting a multiplicity of raids. If their target intelligence remains as good as it was during the air attack, they will run out of targets in a matter of days. That is when a cease-fire with credible monitoring would be possible and desirable for both sides as the only alternative to renewed occupation.

Hamas will claim a win no matter what happens, but then so did Hezbollah in 2006. And yet, for the most part, Hezbollah remains immobile and the Israeli northern border with Lebanon remains quiet. If Israel can achieve the same with Hamas in Gaza, it would be a significant victory.

It seems so familiar–waiting for the State Department to leap, the White House to buckle, and the Israelis to relent. But maybe everyone has learned something since 2006. And come to think of it, the newest man on the block might have figured it out. At least so far, the President-elect (the person with the most potential leverage and political capital) is content to let events play out before he is sworn in. Maybe he and his advisors have stumbled, albeit silently, onto just the right approach for both the American and Israeli government to embrace.

After all, letting the Israelis determine for themselves when and whether they have achieved their goal would be the kind of change many of us could believe in.

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Stephen Walt’s (Selectively) Realist Perspective

Stephen M. Walt, co-author of The Israel Lobby, opened his new blog on Foreign Policy‘s website promising to bring a realist perspective to the blogosphere.  In his first post, published earlier this week, he defines the realist perspective as follows:

Realists believe that foreign policy should deal with the world as it really is, instead of being based on wishful thinking or ideological pipedreams (see under “Clinton administration”). Realists know that international politics can be a brutal business and states cannot afford to be too trusting, but we also know that states get into serious trouble by exaggerating threats or engaging in foolish foreign adventures (see under “Bush Doctrine”). Realists respect the power of nationalism and understand that other societies will resist outside interference and defend their own interests vigorously.

Well, not surprisingly, there’s one country that Walt systematically excludes from the realist perspective–i.e., one state that isn’t allowed to “deal with the world as it really is.”  Check out Walt’s latest “thought experiment” on the war in Gaza:

…what if Hamas was hiding out among the civilian population of Tel Aviv, and attacking Israel from within? Would the IDF be using massive force to eradicate them? Unless you think that Palestinian and Israeli civilian lives are not equal, what justifies the current policy?

Israel is hardly unique in placing a higher value on its own citizens’ lives than it places on the lives of others, and we should not forget that U.S. forces have caused plenty of civilian casualties in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. “The strong do what they can, and the weak suffer what they must.” But that doesn’t make it right, and there are good reasons to question whether it will even be effective in this instance.

So, in other words, Israel shouldn’t operate in reality — rather, it should consider the morality of its actions against a series of fantastical hypothetical scenarios.  Naturally, all of Walt’s proposed scenarios end with the same conclusion: Israel acts immorally — both in reality and in the fictitious dimension that Walt has constructed for it.  Indeed, Walt has yet to find a single instance in which Israel is justified — or merely acting in its self-interest — in protecting its citizens against terrorist groups through force.

The most interesting aspect of Walt’s work, however, is that he actually believes that these “thought experiments” are expressions of his own objectivity.  In turn, Walt is a truly unique realist — one who operates within his own alternative universe.

Stephen M. Walt, co-author of The Israel Lobby, opened his new blog on Foreign Policy‘s website promising to bring a realist perspective to the blogosphere.  In his first post, published earlier this week, he defines the realist perspective as follows:

Realists believe that foreign policy should deal with the world as it really is, instead of being based on wishful thinking or ideological pipedreams (see under “Clinton administration”). Realists know that international politics can be a brutal business and states cannot afford to be too trusting, but we also know that states get into serious trouble by exaggerating threats or engaging in foolish foreign adventures (see under “Bush Doctrine”). Realists respect the power of nationalism and understand that other societies will resist outside interference and defend their own interests vigorously.

Well, not surprisingly, there’s one country that Walt systematically excludes from the realist perspective–i.e., one state that isn’t allowed to “deal with the world as it really is.”  Check out Walt’s latest “thought experiment” on the war in Gaza:

…what if Hamas was hiding out among the civilian population of Tel Aviv, and attacking Israel from within? Would the IDF be using massive force to eradicate them? Unless you think that Palestinian and Israeli civilian lives are not equal, what justifies the current policy?

Israel is hardly unique in placing a higher value on its own citizens’ lives than it places on the lives of others, and we should not forget that U.S. forces have caused plenty of civilian casualties in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. “The strong do what they can, and the weak suffer what they must.” But that doesn’t make it right, and there are good reasons to question whether it will even be effective in this instance.

So, in other words, Israel shouldn’t operate in reality — rather, it should consider the morality of its actions against a series of fantastical hypothetical scenarios.  Naturally, all of Walt’s proposed scenarios end with the same conclusion: Israel acts immorally — both in reality and in the fictitious dimension that Walt has constructed for it.  Indeed, Walt has yet to find a single instance in which Israel is justified — or merely acting in its self-interest — in protecting its citizens against terrorist groups through force.

The most interesting aspect of Walt’s work, however, is that he actually believes that these “thought experiments” are expressions of his own objectivity.  In turn, Walt is a truly unique realist — one who operates within his own alternative universe.

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What Did Moshe Yaalon Really Say?

Rashid Khalidi, professor of Arab studies at Columbia–and (depending whom you asked and at what point in the 2008 presidential campaign you asked it) friend, acquaintance, or friendly acquaintance of Barack Obama–had an op-ed column in yesterday’s New York Times. The piece was fairly unremarkable in its boilerplate condemnation of Israel’s military operation in Gaza. What caught my attention, however, was the article’s last sentence, in which Khalidi, seeking to illustrate what he sees as Israel’s true goal and motivation, employed an alleged 2002 quote from former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Moshe Yaalon:

The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people.

Pretty strong imagery, bringing to mind an Israeli boot planted firmly on the neck of a prostrate Palestinian. The only problem is that the quote appears to be inaccurate–and in fact turns the meaning of Yaalon’s actual words upside down.

The bogus version of the quote does not originate with Khalidi (though he did use it in his 2005 book Resurrecting Empire), but had been circulating on the web since at least early 2003 if not before. It has been cited ad nauseam by Arab news services, neo-Nazi websites and leftist bloggers, though only occasionally with reference to the venue of Yaalon’s alleged remark and never with a hyperlink to the actual article where it supposedly appeared–an August 2002 interview with the Israeli daily Haaretz.

Here is what Yaalon actually said when asked, “Do you have a definition of victory? Is it clear to you what Israel’s goal in this war is?”:

I defined it from the beginning of the confrontation: the very deep internalization by the Palestinians that terrorism and violence will not defeat us, will not make us fold. If that deep internalization does not exist at the end of the confrontation, we will have a strategic problem with an existential threat to Israel. If that [lesson] is not burned into the Palestinian and Arab consciousness, there will be no end to their demands of us….

Responding to a follow-up question, Yaalon elaborated:

…The facts that are being determined in this confrontation–in terms of what will be burned into the Palestinian consciousness–are fateful. If we end the confrontation in a way that makes it clear to every Palestinian that terrorism does not lead to agreements, that will improve our strategic position. On the other hand, if their feeling at the end of the confrontation is that they can defeat us by means of terrorism, our situation will become more and more difficult. Therefore, I say that we must not blur the weighty meaning of this confrontation. When you grasp the essence, it’s clear to you what you have to do. You have to fight for your life.

Tellingly, the same week that Haaretz ran the interview with Yaalon, a rival Israeli daily, Yediot Aharanot, published the transcript of a speech Yaalon had just given to a conference of rabbis in Jerusalem. Its blunt tone drew intense criticism from liberals and leftists, but the sentiments expressed dovetailed with what Yaalon told Haaretz:

It is imperative that we win this conflict in such a way that the Palestinian side will burn into its consciousness that here is no chance of achieving goals by means of terror.

It’s clear, then, that in both his speech to the rabbis and his interview with Haaretz, Yaalon–far from saying the Palestinians had to be “made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people”–was stating that the Palestinians had to understand that Israel would not be defeated by violence and terror.

Further indication that Yaalon did not make the remark attributed to him by Khalidi and others is the fact that two days after publication of the Haaretz interview, Israeli uber-leftist Uri Avnery wrote a column in the Israeli daily Maariv dissecting Yaalon’s statements and listing nine points he found particularly offensive to his (Avnery’s) left-wing sensibilities. There was no reference to any statement by Yaalon about making the Palestinians understand that “they are a defeated people.”

It’s hard to say with any degree of certainty who first circulated the egregious misquote, but one of the earliest and most oft-cited sources is Henry Siegman, formerly a Jewish organizational official and for years now one of Israel’s fiercest critics in the American Jewish community. Siegman has used the misquote in a number of columns over the past six years, though not always consistently.

What is fairly certain is that this is yet one more example of an insensitive or incendiary comment falsely attributed to Israeli officials (one of the most notorious is the statement Ariel Sharon is supposed to have made regarding Israel’s control of Congress) and given eternal life in cyberspace for the comfort and edification of Israel’s enemies.

Rashid Khalidi, professor of Arab studies at Columbia–and (depending whom you asked and at what point in the 2008 presidential campaign you asked it) friend, acquaintance, or friendly acquaintance of Barack Obama–had an op-ed column in yesterday’s New York Times. The piece was fairly unremarkable in its boilerplate condemnation of Israel’s military operation in Gaza. What caught my attention, however, was the article’s last sentence, in which Khalidi, seeking to illustrate what he sees as Israel’s true goal and motivation, employed an alleged 2002 quote from former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Moshe Yaalon:

The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people.

Pretty strong imagery, bringing to mind an Israeli boot planted firmly on the neck of a prostrate Palestinian. The only problem is that the quote appears to be inaccurate–and in fact turns the meaning of Yaalon’s actual words upside down.

The bogus version of the quote does not originate with Khalidi (though he did use it in his 2005 book Resurrecting Empire), but had been circulating on the web since at least early 2003 if not before. It has been cited ad nauseam by Arab news services, neo-Nazi websites and leftist bloggers, though only occasionally with reference to the venue of Yaalon’s alleged remark and never with a hyperlink to the actual article where it supposedly appeared–an August 2002 interview with the Israeli daily Haaretz.

Here is what Yaalon actually said when asked, “Do you have a definition of victory? Is it clear to you what Israel’s goal in this war is?”:

I defined it from the beginning of the confrontation: the very deep internalization by the Palestinians that terrorism and violence will not defeat us, will not make us fold. If that deep internalization does not exist at the end of the confrontation, we will have a strategic problem with an existential threat to Israel. If that [lesson] is not burned into the Palestinian and Arab consciousness, there will be no end to their demands of us….

Responding to a follow-up question, Yaalon elaborated:

…The facts that are being determined in this confrontation–in terms of what will be burned into the Palestinian consciousness–are fateful. If we end the confrontation in a way that makes it clear to every Palestinian that terrorism does not lead to agreements, that will improve our strategic position. On the other hand, if their feeling at the end of the confrontation is that they can defeat us by means of terrorism, our situation will become more and more difficult. Therefore, I say that we must not blur the weighty meaning of this confrontation. When you grasp the essence, it’s clear to you what you have to do. You have to fight for your life.

Tellingly, the same week that Haaretz ran the interview with Yaalon, a rival Israeli daily, Yediot Aharanot, published the transcript of a speech Yaalon had just given to a conference of rabbis in Jerusalem. Its blunt tone drew intense criticism from liberals and leftists, but the sentiments expressed dovetailed with what Yaalon told Haaretz:

It is imperative that we win this conflict in such a way that the Palestinian side will burn into its consciousness that here is no chance of achieving goals by means of terror.

It’s clear, then, that in both his speech to the rabbis and his interview with Haaretz, Yaalon–far from saying the Palestinians had to be “made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people”–was stating that the Palestinians had to understand that Israel would not be defeated by violence and terror.

Further indication that Yaalon did not make the remark attributed to him by Khalidi and others is the fact that two days after publication of the Haaretz interview, Israeli uber-leftist Uri Avnery wrote a column in the Israeli daily Maariv dissecting Yaalon’s statements and listing nine points he found particularly offensive to his (Avnery’s) left-wing sensibilities. There was no reference to any statement by Yaalon about making the Palestinians understand that “they are a defeated people.”

It’s hard to say with any degree of certainty who first circulated the egregious misquote, but one of the earliest and most oft-cited sources is Henry Siegman, formerly a Jewish organizational official and for years now one of Israel’s fiercest critics in the American Jewish community. Siegman has used the misquote in a number of columns over the past six years, though not always consistently.

What is fairly certain is that this is yet one more example of an insensitive or incendiary comment falsely attributed to Israeli officials (one of the most notorious is the statement Ariel Sharon is supposed to have made regarding Israel’s control of Congress) and given eternal life in cyberspace for the comfort and edification of Israel’s enemies.

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A Statistical Improbability

Meryl Yourish has a fascinating study on what seems to be a tremendously unlikely statistical aberration. It seems that since Hamas started using the Grad rocket, it has been able to hit an increasing number of Israeli schools.

Yourish speculates that Hamas is deliberately targeting these schools, and presents a damning circumstantial case supporting her claim.

It could theoretically be a coincidence that Hamas’s low-precision rockets have recently been landing on Israeli schools, but in any case, no one is up for discussing it all, even in light of Israel hitting a school in Gaza that was being used as a mortar firing position.

Hamas isn’t stating that it’s deliberately targeting schools, so there is a certain amount of plausible deniability, but even if they boasted of their responsibility from the rooftops, it’s highly unlikely that most of the world would pay any attention. After all, how often do you hear about Hamas’s charter, which explicitly calls for the extermination of the state of Israel and its replacement with an Islamist regime?

It’s simple: Palestinian atrocities simply don’t matter. It’s partly because the world sees the Palestinians as uncivilized savages, and you simply can’t expect any better from them. It’s partly because the atrocities are primarily targeted against Jews, and that’s not that not a big deal for a good portion of the world. Hamas attacks not aimed aimed at Jews are aimed at fellow Palestinians and, as noted, people have stopped expecting better of them.

In the meantime, rockets continue to fall on Israeli schools.

And most of the world is untroubled.

Meryl Yourish has a fascinating study on what seems to be a tremendously unlikely statistical aberration. It seems that since Hamas started using the Grad rocket, it has been able to hit an increasing number of Israeli schools.

Yourish speculates that Hamas is deliberately targeting these schools, and presents a damning circumstantial case supporting her claim.

It could theoretically be a coincidence that Hamas’s low-precision rockets have recently been landing on Israeli schools, but in any case, no one is up for discussing it all, even in light of Israel hitting a school in Gaza that was being used as a mortar firing position.

Hamas isn’t stating that it’s deliberately targeting schools, so there is a certain amount of plausible deniability, but even if they boasted of their responsibility from the rooftops, it’s highly unlikely that most of the world would pay any attention. After all, how often do you hear about Hamas’s charter, which explicitly calls for the extermination of the state of Israel and its replacement with an Islamist regime?

It’s simple: Palestinian atrocities simply don’t matter. It’s partly because the world sees the Palestinians as uncivilized savages, and you simply can’t expect any better from them. It’s partly because the atrocities are primarily targeted against Jews, and that’s not that not a big deal for a good portion of the world. Hamas attacks not aimed aimed at Jews are aimed at fellow Palestinians and, as noted, people have stopped expecting better of them.

In the meantime, rockets continue to fall on Israeli schools.

And most of the world is untroubled.

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House Votes Overwhelmingly to Support Israel

The House of Representatives, following the Senate’s unanimous vote, approved a similar resolution 390-5, with 22 voting “present.” Only one Republican voted “no”–you guessed it–Ron Paul. Although they only voted “present” (oh please, how pathetic is that), the usual anti-Israeli suspects were in that column–Jim Moran, John Dingell, Keith Ellison, Jim McDermott, and Pete Stark, to name a few.

So to be clear, we have on one side of the issue concerning the Gaza invasion the entire U.S. Senate and 390 members of the U.S. House (including the top leaders on both sides) and on the other we have the list above plus Pat Buchanan. And where does J Street stand? Well, they won’t really say, but in substance they seem to be with the Paul-Buchanan crowd.

Perhaps they should be renamed the Paul-Buchanan Street PAC.

The House of Representatives, following the Senate’s unanimous vote, approved a similar resolution 390-5, with 22 voting “present.” Only one Republican voted “no”–you guessed it–Ron Paul. Although they only voted “present” (oh please, how pathetic is that), the usual anti-Israeli suspects were in that column–Jim Moran, John Dingell, Keith Ellison, Jim McDermott, and Pete Stark, to name a few.

So to be clear, we have on one side of the issue concerning the Gaza invasion the entire U.S. Senate and 390 members of the U.S. House (including the top leaders on both sides) and on the other we have the list above plus Pat Buchanan. And where does J Street stand? Well, they won’t really say, but in substance they seem to be with the Paul-Buchanan crowd.

Perhaps they should be renamed the Paul-Buchanan Street PAC.

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Three Questions About “Disproportionate Force”

Yesterday in the New Republic, Michael Walzer weighed in on the question of whether Israel’s offensive in Gaza is a “disproportionate” response to attacks on Israeli citizens.

He rightly notes that most of those making this charge against Israel are not credible:

The commentators and critics using it today, however, are not being cautious at all; they are not making any kind of measured judgment, not even a speculative kind.” ‘Disproportionate’ violence for them is simply violence they don’t like, or it is violence committed by people they don’t like.

That’s an important point that can’t be made too often. Those who question Israel’s tactics are often those who don’t think any Israeli response to terror is justified under any circumstances. But for those who don’t fit into that category, how do we make judgments about proportionality?

Click here to read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive.

Yesterday in the New Republic, Michael Walzer weighed in on the question of whether Israel’s offensive in Gaza is a “disproportionate” response to attacks on Israeli citizens.

He rightly notes that most of those making this charge against Israel are not credible:

The commentators and critics using it today, however, are not being cautious at all; they are not making any kind of measured judgment, not even a speculative kind.” ‘Disproportionate’ violence for them is simply violence they don’t like, or it is violence committed by people they don’t like.

That’s an important point that can’t be made too often. Those who question Israel’s tactics are often those who don’t think any Israeli response to terror is justified under any circumstances. But for those who don’t fit into that category, how do we make judgments about proportionality?

Click here to read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive.

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How Pro-Israel is J Street?

J Street is so pro-Israel that 94 percent of Jewish Israelis reject its stance on Gaza.

Asked whether Israel should or should not halt its military activity in the Strip if Hamas is ready to stop firing on southern communities in exchange for the opening of the crossings, 80% responded negatively. In other words, the majority of the public believes Israel should not halt its operation even if Hamas accepts such an offer.

Before the recent days — which saw additional IDF casualties, and many casualties among the Palestinian and UN workers – the operation was supported by a sweeping majority of the Jewish public: 94% of the Jewish public said they support or very much support the operation.

As CONTENTIONS contributor Jamie Kirchick writes in today’s Haaretz, J Street might better be called the surrender lobby.

J Street is so pro-Israel that 94 percent of Jewish Israelis reject its stance on Gaza.

Asked whether Israel should or should not halt its military activity in the Strip if Hamas is ready to stop firing on southern communities in exchange for the opening of the crossings, 80% responded negatively. In other words, the majority of the public believes Israel should not halt its operation even if Hamas accepts such an offer.

Before the recent days — which saw additional IDF casualties, and many casualties among the Palestinian and UN workers – the operation was supported by a sweeping majority of the Jewish public: 94% of the Jewish public said they support or very much support the operation.

As CONTENTIONS contributor Jamie Kirchick writes in today’s Haaretz, J Street might better be called the surrender lobby.

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Big Labor Hits A Pothole

Things are not going well for Big Labor. The Washington Post details the recent, largely self-inflicted damage:

President-elect Barack Obama’s nominee for labor secretary will go before Congress today embodying the hopes of a movement that views Obama’s victory as a chance to reverse years of union decline. But labor’s prospects are already being shadowed by controversies besetting the Service Employees International Union, the country’s fastest-growing union and one that has gone from being seen as a savior of the movement to a favored target of its opponents.

The SEIU is contending with corruption allegations involving several appointees of President Andy Stern, including the president of a Los Angeles local who was fired for allegedly funneling money to his relatives and friends.

The union has also been linked to the federal investigation into Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), who was taped speculating about getting a job with an SEIU-led labor alliance and who met with a top SEIU official to discuss filling Obama’s Senate seat. There is no allegation of SEIU wrongdoing, but the episode has drawn attention to the union’s reliance on cultivating politicians. A power struggle in the union is also coming to a head, with the SEIU board voting today on whether to break up a large Northern California branch at odds with Stern.

The critics aren’t exclusively from the business community and can’t all be tagged as “anti-labor”:

Herman Benson, founder of the Association for Union Democracy, a pro-labor watchdog group, said the SEIU controversies and its move against the Northern California chapter, in particular, are a “serious problem” for labor.

What they are doing is giving ammunition to right-wing anti-labor forces by denying their own members the same rights that they are asking Congress to give workers,” he said.

.   .   .

Rose Ann DeMoro, head of the California Nurses Association, an SEIU rival, called Stern a “liability” for Obama. “SEIU is the new poster child for bad union behavior and symbolizes the worst of the labor movement,” she said. “The Teamsters used to be notorious; SEIU makes them look like choirboys.”

It sounds like Ms. DeMoro and Mr. Benson would be fine witnesses for a hearing–maybe a commission even–on corruption in the labor movement. Republicans who oppose card check have some powerful facts and allies at their disposal.

And some smart liberals are trying to warn the Obama administration that card check is political poison, as this ABC report explains:

I think you’re right, I think the flashpoint might be the card check thing,” Matt Miller told New York Times columnist David Brooks during a discussion of Miller’s new book which was sponsored by the liberal Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C. “Going for things like the Employee Free Choice Act could poison the well for universal health coverage because it will just lead to a decimating fight on both sides.

While encouraging the Obama administration to put Employee Free Choice Act on the backburner and to avoid putting the full cost of raising wages for unskilled labor on employers, Miller spoke out in favor of creating a “very robust, mega Earned Income Tax Credit so that folks who are unskilled still end up at 10 or 11 dollars an hour”.

.   .  .

Miller, who served in the Clinton White House as a senior ad adviser in the Office of Management and Budget, issued his warning after Brooks observed that wealthy Democratic donors do not mind the tax increases Democrats are planning on the rich but “what they hate is card check.”

Republicans should be enlisting some of these Democratic allies to insure that Big Labor’s abuses are rooted out and that workers are not deprived of basic civil rights, such as that to a secret ballot, which other Americans enjoy.

Things are not going well for Big Labor. The Washington Post details the recent, largely self-inflicted damage:

President-elect Barack Obama’s nominee for labor secretary will go before Congress today embodying the hopes of a movement that views Obama’s victory as a chance to reverse years of union decline. But labor’s prospects are already being shadowed by controversies besetting the Service Employees International Union, the country’s fastest-growing union and one that has gone from being seen as a savior of the movement to a favored target of its opponents.

The SEIU is contending with corruption allegations involving several appointees of President Andy Stern, including the president of a Los Angeles local who was fired for allegedly funneling money to his relatives and friends.

The union has also been linked to the federal investigation into Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), who was taped speculating about getting a job with an SEIU-led labor alliance and who met with a top SEIU official to discuss filling Obama’s Senate seat. There is no allegation of SEIU wrongdoing, but the episode has drawn attention to the union’s reliance on cultivating politicians. A power struggle in the union is also coming to a head, with the SEIU board voting today on whether to break up a large Northern California branch at odds with Stern.

The critics aren’t exclusively from the business community and can’t all be tagged as “anti-labor”:

Herman Benson, founder of the Association for Union Democracy, a pro-labor watchdog group, said the SEIU controversies and its move against the Northern California chapter, in particular, are a “serious problem” for labor.

What they are doing is giving ammunition to right-wing anti-labor forces by denying their own members the same rights that they are asking Congress to give workers,” he said.

.   .   .

Rose Ann DeMoro, head of the California Nurses Association, an SEIU rival, called Stern a “liability” for Obama. “SEIU is the new poster child for bad union behavior and symbolizes the worst of the labor movement,” she said. “The Teamsters used to be notorious; SEIU makes them look like choirboys.”

It sounds like Ms. DeMoro and Mr. Benson would be fine witnesses for a hearing–maybe a commission even–on corruption in the labor movement. Republicans who oppose card check have some powerful facts and allies at their disposal.

And some smart liberals are trying to warn the Obama administration that card check is political poison, as this ABC report explains:

I think you’re right, I think the flashpoint might be the card check thing,” Matt Miller told New York Times columnist David Brooks during a discussion of Miller’s new book which was sponsored by the liberal Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C. “Going for things like the Employee Free Choice Act could poison the well for universal health coverage because it will just lead to a decimating fight on both sides.

While encouraging the Obama administration to put Employee Free Choice Act on the backburner and to avoid putting the full cost of raising wages for unskilled labor on employers, Miller spoke out in favor of creating a “very robust, mega Earned Income Tax Credit so that folks who are unskilled still end up at 10 or 11 dollars an hour”.

.   .  .

Miller, who served in the Clinton White House as a senior ad adviser in the Office of Management and Budget, issued his warning after Brooks observed that wealthy Democratic donors do not mind the tax increases Democrats are planning on the rich but “what they hate is card check.”

Republicans should be enlisting some of these Democratic allies to insure that Big Labor’s abuses are rooted out and that workers are not deprived of basic civil rights, such as that to a secret ballot, which other Americans enjoy.

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Give War a Chance

With the UN Security Council’s passage of a cease-fire resolution that is being deservedly ignored by Hamas and Israel, the war has reached a Luttwakian phase. Edward Luttwak, the great military strategist, wrote a famous essay in 1999 entitled “Give War a Chance.” He was not kidding. The piece opened like this:

An unpleasant truth often overlooked is that although war is a great evil, it does have a great virtue: it can resolve political conflicts and lead to peace. This can happen when all belligerents become exhausted or when one wins decisively. Either way the key is that the fighting must continue until a resolution is reached. War brings peace only after passing a culminating phase of violence. Hopes of military success must fade for accommodation to become more attractive than further combat.

The Israeli calculation now must weigh the temporary detriment of international condemnation against the longer-lasting and more damaging effects of leaving Hamas in power. Luttwak concludes:

Too many wars nowadays become endemic conflicts that never end because the transformative effects of both decisive victory and exhaustion are blocked by outside intervention. Unlike the ancient problem of war, however, the compounding of its evils by disinterested interventions is a new malpractice that could be curtailed. Policy elites should actively resist the emotional impulse to intervene in other peoples’ wars — not because they are indifferent to human suffering but precisely because they care about it and want to facilitate the advent of peace.

It is difficult to understand the American strategy in abstaining from the UNSC vote. Hopefully, the vote was a result of a U.S.-Israeli deal: the U.S. would allow the passage of a largely meaningless resolution in order to front-load the mollification of international peace-processors, knowing that Israel would ignore it; and in later phases, the U.S. will step forward to provide diplomatic support should the need arise. That is a best-case reading; alternatively, the U.S.’s abstention could be an indication of where the incoming administration wishes to take the conflict — toward irresolution and even greater future bloodshed.

Give peace a chance. Support the ground war in Gaza.

With the UN Security Council’s passage of a cease-fire resolution that is being deservedly ignored by Hamas and Israel, the war has reached a Luttwakian phase. Edward Luttwak, the great military strategist, wrote a famous essay in 1999 entitled “Give War a Chance.” He was not kidding. The piece opened like this:

An unpleasant truth often overlooked is that although war is a great evil, it does have a great virtue: it can resolve political conflicts and lead to peace. This can happen when all belligerents become exhausted or when one wins decisively. Either way the key is that the fighting must continue until a resolution is reached. War brings peace only after passing a culminating phase of violence. Hopes of military success must fade for accommodation to become more attractive than further combat.

The Israeli calculation now must weigh the temporary detriment of international condemnation against the longer-lasting and more damaging effects of leaving Hamas in power. Luttwak concludes:

Too many wars nowadays become endemic conflicts that never end because the transformative effects of both decisive victory and exhaustion are blocked by outside intervention. Unlike the ancient problem of war, however, the compounding of its evils by disinterested interventions is a new malpractice that could be curtailed. Policy elites should actively resist the emotional impulse to intervene in other peoples’ wars — not because they are indifferent to human suffering but precisely because they care about it and want to facilitate the advent of peace.

It is difficult to understand the American strategy in abstaining from the UNSC vote. Hopefully, the vote was a result of a U.S.-Israeli deal: the U.S. would allow the passage of a largely meaningless resolution in order to front-load the mollification of international peace-processors, knowing that Israel would ignore it; and in later phases, the U.S. will step forward to provide diplomatic support should the need arise. That is a best-case reading; alternatively, the U.S.’s abstention could be an indication of where the incoming administration wishes to take the conflict — toward irresolution and even greater future bloodshed.

Give peace a chance. Support the ground war in Gaza.

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Well, He’s Perfectly Fine If There’s No Confirmation Hearing

The selection of John O. Brennan as the White House’s top counter-terrorism adviser may set off a new round of carping–from just about everyone. It was the Left that rose up in fury when Brennan was suggested for the CIA. His proximity to, if not agreement with, the Bush counter-terrorism efforts made him a target of the Left, which let it be known he was unacceptable for the top spot at Langley.  Is it any less objectionable when he is the White House counter-terrorism guru?

All the President-elect has done is to avoid a public confirmation fight –but he has let the Left know he doesn’t think much of the notion that anyone with experience during the Bush years is tainted. Which brings us back once again to Leon Panetta at CIA. The rationale, we were led to believe, was to find someone who was not — yes, that’s right — “tainted” by the Bush years. So President-elect Obama got his manager extraordinaire/intelligence novice. But now we really don’t care about the phony tainting after all? So why not pick Brennan or someone who knows his way around the intelligence community to head up the most challenging intelligence agency? Curiouser and curiouser.

And then of course there are Brennan’s views on Iran and the Middle East more broadly. The Washington Post reports:

Brennan has expressed some potentially controversial opinions about how U.S. policy there must shift, particularly toward Iran. In an academic article published six months ago, for example, Brennan said President Bush and his aides had inappropriately publicly bashed Iran, and he urged that U.S. rhetoric toward the country be sharply toned down.

He also called for an increased role for the Iranian-backed Hezbollah in Lebanese politics, an idea he acknowledged would be anathema to Israel.

Israel views Hezbollah, which for a time was listed by Washington as a terrorist group, as its mortal enemy. “Washington will need to convince Israeli officials that they must abandon their aim of eliminating Hezbollah as a political force,” Brennan wrote in the article, published in the July issue of the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.

The new administration, he wrote, must also “be willing to exercise strategic patience” with Iran. The goal, he said, would be to strike a more nuanced and less absolutist policy, a direct dialogue to encourage Iran’s moderates to shun the use of terrorist violence, without appearing to tolerate that violence. Similar views about Iran were expressed by Robert M. Gates before Bush selected him as secretary of defense, giving Brennan a key potential ally in the months ahead.

It remains to be seen how that view meshes with the outlook of other Obama advisors (e.g. Hillary Clinton, Dennis Ross), but it is enough to rekindle qualms that President-elect’s views and intentions with regard to terrorism and Israel. Does terrorism stem from a lack of understanding and respect for terrorist groups and their sponsors? Or from a twisted ideology, manipulated by Iran?

Needless to say, a confirmation hearing would have become a feeding frenzy as different concerns from different ends of the political spectrum came to the fore.

But there is something else at play here. I’m reminded of Karl Rove’s wise counsel on the subject back in December:

As he organizes his presidency, Barack Obama continues to receive glowing reviews. Three out of four Americans approve of how he’s handling his transition.

But organizing and operating the White House will be a much bigger challenge than he can possibly yet understand.

Consider national security. Mr. Obama’s team has the advantage of inheriting procedures and structures that stretch back to President Harry Truman’s 1947 reforms, which created the National Security Council. But there’s historically been tension over the roles of the national security adviser and secretary of state. How that tension is resolved depends largely on the able National Security Adviser-designate, James Jones.

Mr. Jones has been Marine Corps commandant and NATO supreme allied commander, posts whose occupants are treated as demigods. How easily will he fit into a staff role? Will Mr. Jones see his responsibility as ensuring the president receives a broad range of options, or will he put a higher priority on advocating his own substantive views? Could Mr. Jones’s personal relationship with so many top brass undermine Secretary Robert Gates’s control of the Pentagon during what could be Mr. Gates’s last year at Defense?

.   .   .

Mr. Obama is assembling a strong and intelligent team of people with muscular views and large personalities. Will the individual parts cohere into a well-functioning whole? Things that sound good often work less well in reality. Having served in the White House for nearly seven years and carefully studied how the modern presidency functions, it strikes me that some of Mr. Obama’s steps may make smooth operations harder. There are many things more interesting to the press than how the White House is organized, but few things matter as much, as every president will attest.

The most interesting thing about the Brennan selection (other than the degree to which the voices on the Left, who were apoplectic about Brennan just weeks ago, now toe the Obama line) may be how Brennan fits into the mix with Clinton, Ross, Panetta and the rest. Will this be a more cohesive team than the one assembled by George Bush or are we headed for gridlock, with a jumble of conflicting views and strong personalities laying claim to the same turf? Like everything else about the often opaque President-elect, time will tell.

The selection of John O. Brennan as the White House’s top counter-terrorism adviser may set off a new round of carping–from just about everyone. It was the Left that rose up in fury when Brennan was suggested for the CIA. His proximity to, if not agreement with, the Bush counter-terrorism efforts made him a target of the Left, which let it be known he was unacceptable for the top spot at Langley.  Is it any less objectionable when he is the White House counter-terrorism guru?

All the President-elect has done is to avoid a public confirmation fight –but he has let the Left know he doesn’t think much of the notion that anyone with experience during the Bush years is tainted. Which brings us back once again to Leon Panetta at CIA. The rationale, we were led to believe, was to find someone who was not — yes, that’s right — “tainted” by the Bush years. So President-elect Obama got his manager extraordinaire/intelligence novice. But now we really don’t care about the phony tainting after all? So why not pick Brennan or someone who knows his way around the intelligence community to head up the most challenging intelligence agency? Curiouser and curiouser.

And then of course there are Brennan’s views on Iran and the Middle East more broadly. The Washington Post reports:

Brennan has expressed some potentially controversial opinions about how U.S. policy there must shift, particularly toward Iran. In an academic article published six months ago, for example, Brennan said President Bush and his aides had inappropriately publicly bashed Iran, and he urged that U.S. rhetoric toward the country be sharply toned down.

He also called for an increased role for the Iranian-backed Hezbollah in Lebanese politics, an idea he acknowledged would be anathema to Israel.

Israel views Hezbollah, which for a time was listed by Washington as a terrorist group, as its mortal enemy. “Washington will need to convince Israeli officials that they must abandon their aim of eliminating Hezbollah as a political force,” Brennan wrote in the article, published in the July issue of the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.

The new administration, he wrote, must also “be willing to exercise strategic patience” with Iran. The goal, he said, would be to strike a more nuanced and less absolutist policy, a direct dialogue to encourage Iran’s moderates to shun the use of terrorist violence, without appearing to tolerate that violence. Similar views about Iran were expressed by Robert M. Gates before Bush selected him as secretary of defense, giving Brennan a key potential ally in the months ahead.

It remains to be seen how that view meshes with the outlook of other Obama advisors (e.g. Hillary Clinton, Dennis Ross), but it is enough to rekindle qualms that President-elect’s views and intentions with regard to terrorism and Israel. Does terrorism stem from a lack of understanding and respect for terrorist groups and their sponsors? Or from a twisted ideology, manipulated by Iran?

Needless to say, a confirmation hearing would have become a feeding frenzy as different concerns from different ends of the political spectrum came to the fore.

But there is something else at play here. I’m reminded of Karl Rove’s wise counsel on the subject back in December:

As he organizes his presidency, Barack Obama continues to receive glowing reviews. Three out of four Americans approve of how he’s handling his transition.

But organizing and operating the White House will be a much bigger challenge than he can possibly yet understand.

Consider national security. Mr. Obama’s team has the advantage of inheriting procedures and structures that stretch back to President Harry Truman’s 1947 reforms, which created the National Security Council. But there’s historically been tension over the roles of the national security adviser and secretary of state. How that tension is resolved depends largely on the able National Security Adviser-designate, James Jones.

Mr. Jones has been Marine Corps commandant and NATO supreme allied commander, posts whose occupants are treated as demigods. How easily will he fit into a staff role? Will Mr. Jones see his responsibility as ensuring the president receives a broad range of options, or will he put a higher priority on advocating his own substantive views? Could Mr. Jones’s personal relationship with so many top brass undermine Secretary Robert Gates’s control of the Pentagon during what could be Mr. Gates’s last year at Defense?

.   .   .

Mr. Obama is assembling a strong and intelligent team of people with muscular views and large personalities. Will the individual parts cohere into a well-functioning whole? Things that sound good often work less well in reality. Having served in the White House for nearly seven years and carefully studied how the modern presidency functions, it strikes me that some of Mr. Obama’s steps may make smooth operations harder. There are many things more interesting to the press than how the White House is organized, but few things matter as much, as every president will attest.

The most interesting thing about the Brennan selection (other than the degree to which the voices on the Left, who were apoplectic about Brennan just weeks ago, now toe the Obama line) may be how Brennan fits into the mix with Clinton, Ross, Panetta and the rest. Will this be a more cohesive team than the one assembled by George Bush or are we headed for gridlock, with a jumble of conflicting views and strong personalities laying claim to the same turf? Like everything else about the often opaque President-elect, time will tell.

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Another Promising Sign

Barack Obama snubs Howard Dean.

Barack Obama snubs Howard Dean.

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J Street Cowers

Well how is the unanimous vote on the very pro-Israel Senate resolution going down with the Juicebox set? Not well, to say the least. Glen Greenwald (no relation to the Good Greenwald) has gone into a tizzy over the Senate’s resolution. The depth of his disdain for Israel and of the support it traditionally enjoys from the U.S. is revealed:

It’s hard to overstate how one-sided this resolution is.  It “expresses vigorous support and unwavering commitment to the welfare, security, and survival of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state with secure borders.”  Why should the U.S. maintain an “unwavering commitment to the welfare” of a foreign country?  It “lays blame both for the breaking of the ‘calm’ and for subsequent civilian casualties in Gaza precisely where blame belongs, that is, on Hamas.”  It repeatedly mentions the various sins of Hamas–from rockets to suicide attacks–but does not mention a single syllable of criticism for Israel.  In the world of the U.S. Congress, neither the 4-decade occupation of Palestinian land nor the devastating blockade of Gaza nor the ongoing expansion of Israeli settlements even exist.  That may not be mentioned.

Yeah, how wacky is assigning responsibility for the violence to the Hamas terrorists who lobbed 6000 shells into Israel? How odd to express sixty years’ worth of bipartisan commitment to the survival of the Jewish state! At least the facade that he and his ilk are “pro-Israel” has been demolished: He is plainly opposed to anyone who is.

Greenwald asked J Street for comment on the Senate vote:

Earlier today, I asked them for their position on the Senate Resolution and, just now, this is what they sent me:

“Since the first days of the crisis in Gaza, J Street has consistently called for strong American leadership to reach a ceasefire that ends all military operations, stops the rockets aimed at Israel, institutes an effective mechanism to prevent weapons smuggling into Gaza, and lifts the blockade of Gaza. Since J Street’s founding, we have consistently advocated for active American diplomacy to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We support Congressional action that endorses these aims.”
That statement–by design, I would guess–is unclear in the extreme.  It seems intended to imply–without actually stating–support for the Congressional Resolutions.  They say they “support Congressional action that endorses these aims,” but–conspicuously–they don’t actually say whether the Resolution passed by the Senate and to be passed by the House does so.  It’s hard to see how either of the two Resolutions could be deemed to do so, given that neither even mentions, for instance, a lifting of the blockade of Gaza.  But that’s the statement J Street issued.

So J Street doesn’t have the courage to say what it thinks of the Senate resolution. To reveal its true take–that the Senate unanimously rejected the entire worldview of J Street–would be to reveal that J Street is irrelevant and out-of-step with the entire political establishment. To offer clear praise for the Senate would be to reveal themselves as hypocrites. So they hide under a blizzard of words, crouching behind pablum. It’s good to know what intellectual cowards look like.

As for Glenn Greenwald, he’s done everyone a service by accurately portraying the degree to which the Juicebox set and their pet advocacy-group abhor support for Israel and lack the courage to come clean.

Well how is the unanimous vote on the very pro-Israel Senate resolution going down with the Juicebox set? Not well, to say the least. Glen Greenwald (no relation to the Good Greenwald) has gone into a tizzy over the Senate’s resolution. The depth of his disdain for Israel and of the support it traditionally enjoys from the U.S. is revealed:

It’s hard to overstate how one-sided this resolution is.  It “expresses vigorous support and unwavering commitment to the welfare, security, and survival of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state with secure borders.”  Why should the U.S. maintain an “unwavering commitment to the welfare” of a foreign country?  It “lays blame both for the breaking of the ‘calm’ and for subsequent civilian casualties in Gaza precisely where blame belongs, that is, on Hamas.”  It repeatedly mentions the various sins of Hamas–from rockets to suicide attacks–but does not mention a single syllable of criticism for Israel.  In the world of the U.S. Congress, neither the 4-decade occupation of Palestinian land nor the devastating blockade of Gaza nor the ongoing expansion of Israeli settlements even exist.  That may not be mentioned.

Yeah, how wacky is assigning responsibility for the violence to the Hamas terrorists who lobbed 6000 shells into Israel? How odd to express sixty years’ worth of bipartisan commitment to the survival of the Jewish state! At least the facade that he and his ilk are “pro-Israel” has been demolished: He is plainly opposed to anyone who is.

Greenwald asked J Street for comment on the Senate vote:

Earlier today, I asked them for their position on the Senate Resolution and, just now, this is what they sent me:

“Since the first days of the crisis in Gaza, J Street has consistently called for strong American leadership to reach a ceasefire that ends all military operations, stops the rockets aimed at Israel, institutes an effective mechanism to prevent weapons smuggling into Gaza, and lifts the blockade of Gaza. Since J Street’s founding, we have consistently advocated for active American diplomacy to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We support Congressional action that endorses these aims.”
That statement–by design, I would guess–is unclear in the extreme.  It seems intended to imply–without actually stating–support for the Congressional Resolutions.  They say they “support Congressional action that endorses these aims,” but–conspicuously–they don’t actually say whether the Resolution passed by the Senate and to be passed by the House does so.  It’s hard to see how either of the two Resolutions could be deemed to do so, given that neither even mentions, for instance, a lifting of the blockade of Gaza.  But that’s the statement J Street issued.

So J Street doesn’t have the courage to say what it thinks of the Senate resolution. To reveal its true take–that the Senate unanimously rejected the entire worldview of J Street–would be to reveal that J Street is irrelevant and out-of-step with the entire political establishment. To offer clear praise for the Senate would be to reveal themselves as hypocrites. So they hide under a blizzard of words, crouching behind pablum. It’s good to know what intellectual cowards look like.

As for Glenn Greenwald, he’s done everyone a service by accurately portraying the degree to which the Juicebox set and their pet advocacy-group abhor support for Israel and lack the courage to come clean.

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Dissecting Anti-Israeli Journalistic Bias

“Can Israel Survive its Assault on Gaza?”– what a  provocative headline! But in service of what? The sensationalism in this Time article by Tim McGirk is ultimately meant to advance the overtired we-need-a-two-state-solution mantra. Not that there’s anything wrong with believing in the feasibility or desirability of a two-state solution, as long as one doesn’t lose touch with reality and acknowledges the actual steps needed to achieve this goal.

However, when Time reporters and editors choose to focus on Israel’s “survivability” in covering the Gaza situation, chances are they merely mean to provoke rather than engage in sober and productive analysis:

Israel’s Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, has promised a “war to the bitter end.” But after 60 years of struggle to defend their existence against foreign threats and enemies within, many Israelis may be wondering “Where does that end lie?” The threat posed by Hamas is only the most immediate of the many interlocking challenges facing Israel, some of which cast dark shadows over the long-term viability of a democratic Jewish state.

Did McGirk  actually ask “many Israelis” what they think, or did he simply project his own musings onto the minds of an unspecified multitude? Here’s more of McGirk’s version of reality:

Israelis will have to choose between living with an independent Palestinian state or watching Jews become a minority in their own land.

False dilemma aside, Israelis have already made their choice. The official policy of the Israeli government favors a two-state solution, as does the majority Israeli opinion. Could McGirk be genuinely oblivious of these facts?

Much further down in the article we read what seems at odds with the previous statement:

This tectonic shift in demographics is what scared even hawkish Israelis like former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon into abandoning the biblical dreams of a Greater Israel stretching all the way from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean. As Olmert recently warned, “If we are determined to preserve the Jewish and democratic character of the state of Israel, we must inevitably relinquish, with great pain, parts of our homeland.” In other words, if Israelis cling to the West Bank and Gaza, as many religious Zionists insist, Jews will find themselves a shrinking minority in their own state.

So by McGirk’s own admission, the choice, right or wrong, has been made. Why make it seem as if the main obstacle to a sustainable peace lies in Israel’s territorial ambitions? (“Sustainable” is now a mandatory word for any discussion regarding Mideast affairs-as sanctioned by Secretary Rice). This is no innocent contradiction: Time has an agenda to sell–and insinuating that the ball is in Israel’s court is the only way to sell it:

Israel’s leaders need to recognize that if Hamas cannot be beaten militarily, then it must be engaged politically. That means accepting the idea of dealing with some kind of Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas. A coalition between Hamas and Abbas is essential for the future of a Palestinian state and for moderating Hamas’ extremism. Hamas, which 18 months ago chased Abbas’ men from Gaza, says it will pair up with Abbas if he, along with the international community, recognizes that the Islamic militants legitimately came to power in the January 2006 elections. Israelis rightly view such claims with skepticism, and yet all Palestinians and their Arab backers reject the current situation, where the meager land set aside for a future state is chopped into two, Gaza and the West Bank, ruled by rivals.

The idea of engaging Hamas is not new, and certain points could be made in its favor. The argument that including Hamas in the political process would tame its radical ideology was at the root of President Bush’s controversial decision to support Hamas’s inclusion in Palestinian elections. The White House leaned heavily on Ariel Sharon to get his approval. Was it a mistake?

The President doesn’t think so. He still believes, or so he says, that in the long run the choice must be made by Palestinians themselves. In the short run, though, the inclusion of Hamas in the political process brought little else except devastation: the legitimicy resulting from electoral victory, the coup in Gaza, the undermining of President Abbas and his Fatah allies, etc.

Now Time’s distinguished intelligentsia, whose political compass ironically tends to point to the polar opposite of Bush’s positions, are trying to convince us that engaging Hamas is still the way to go.

Why would it be worth trying again? The article doesn’t say, but it ends with this prescriptive paragraph:

Israel eventually will have to pull back to the 1967 borders and dismantle many of the settlements on the Palestinian side, no matter how loudly its ultra-religious parties protest. Only then will the Palestinians and the other Arab states agree to a durable peace. It’s as simple as that.

The former editor of Haaretz, Hanoch Marmari, once said:

[The Israeli-Palestinian conflict] has created a real crisis of values for journalism. I believe I can compress the enormous volume of coverage and comment into four cardinal sins: obsessiveness, prejudice, condescension and ignorance.

This Time article, I’m afraid, is guilty of them all.

“Can Israel Survive its Assault on Gaza?”– what a  provocative headline! But in service of what? The sensationalism in this Time article by Tim McGirk is ultimately meant to advance the overtired we-need-a-two-state-solution mantra. Not that there’s anything wrong with believing in the feasibility or desirability of a two-state solution, as long as one doesn’t lose touch with reality and acknowledges the actual steps needed to achieve this goal.

However, when Time reporters and editors choose to focus on Israel’s “survivability” in covering the Gaza situation, chances are they merely mean to provoke rather than engage in sober and productive analysis:

Israel’s Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, has promised a “war to the bitter end.” But after 60 years of struggle to defend their existence against foreign threats and enemies within, many Israelis may be wondering “Where does that end lie?” The threat posed by Hamas is only the most immediate of the many interlocking challenges facing Israel, some of which cast dark shadows over the long-term viability of a democratic Jewish state.

Did McGirk  actually ask “many Israelis” what they think, or did he simply project his own musings onto the minds of an unspecified multitude? Here’s more of McGirk’s version of reality:

Israelis will have to choose between living with an independent Palestinian state or watching Jews become a minority in their own land.

False dilemma aside, Israelis have already made their choice. The official policy of the Israeli government favors a two-state solution, as does the majority Israeli opinion. Could McGirk be genuinely oblivious of these facts?

Much further down in the article we read what seems at odds with the previous statement:

This tectonic shift in demographics is what scared even hawkish Israelis like former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon into abandoning the biblical dreams of a Greater Israel stretching all the way from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean. As Olmert recently warned, “If we are determined to preserve the Jewish and democratic character of the state of Israel, we must inevitably relinquish, with great pain, parts of our homeland.” In other words, if Israelis cling to the West Bank and Gaza, as many religious Zionists insist, Jews will find themselves a shrinking minority in their own state.

So by McGirk’s own admission, the choice, right or wrong, has been made. Why make it seem as if the main obstacle to a sustainable peace lies in Israel’s territorial ambitions? (“Sustainable” is now a mandatory word for any discussion regarding Mideast affairs-as sanctioned by Secretary Rice). This is no innocent contradiction: Time has an agenda to sell–and insinuating that the ball is in Israel’s court is the only way to sell it:

Israel’s leaders need to recognize that if Hamas cannot be beaten militarily, then it must be engaged politically. That means accepting the idea of dealing with some kind of Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas. A coalition between Hamas and Abbas is essential for the future of a Palestinian state and for moderating Hamas’ extremism. Hamas, which 18 months ago chased Abbas’ men from Gaza, says it will pair up with Abbas if he, along with the international community, recognizes that the Islamic militants legitimately came to power in the January 2006 elections. Israelis rightly view such claims with skepticism, and yet all Palestinians and their Arab backers reject the current situation, where the meager land set aside for a future state is chopped into two, Gaza and the West Bank, ruled by rivals.

The idea of engaging Hamas is not new, and certain points could be made in its favor. The argument that including Hamas in the political process would tame its radical ideology was at the root of President Bush’s controversial decision to support Hamas’s inclusion in Palestinian elections. The White House leaned heavily on Ariel Sharon to get his approval. Was it a mistake?

The President doesn’t think so. He still believes, or so he says, that in the long run the choice must be made by Palestinians themselves. In the short run, though, the inclusion of Hamas in the political process brought little else except devastation: the legitimicy resulting from electoral victory, the coup in Gaza, the undermining of President Abbas and his Fatah allies, etc.

Now Time’s distinguished intelligentsia, whose political compass ironically tends to point to the polar opposite of Bush’s positions, are trying to convince us that engaging Hamas is still the way to go.

Why would it be worth trying again? The article doesn’t say, but it ends with this prescriptive paragraph:

Israel eventually will have to pull back to the 1967 borders and dismantle many of the settlements on the Palestinian side, no matter how loudly its ultra-religious parties protest. Only then will the Palestinians and the other Arab states agree to a durable peace. It’s as simple as that.

The former editor of Haaretz, Hanoch Marmari, once said:

[The Israeli-Palestinian conflict] has created a real crisis of values for journalism. I believe I can compress the enormous volume of coverage and comment into four cardinal sins: obsessiveness, prejudice, condescension and ignorance.

This Time article, I’m afraid, is guilty of them all.

Read Less

To Thine Own Self Be True

Everything you need to know about Hamas and Israel:

Israel has acceded to pressures and announced that it will suspend its military operations in Gaza for three hours every other day to allow for humanitarian relief.

Hamas has been stealing those humanitarian supplies from relief agencies and selling them to citizens under its rule.

Meanwhile, the world is leaning heavily on Israel to accept a ceasefire, while no one seems to be talking to Hamas. That doesn’t prevent them from speaking out on their own, though:

In a possible sign Hamas was unwilling to compromise yet, a senior Hamas official in Syria, Mohammed Nazzal, told Syrian TV on Thursday that the group would never surrender and vowed to fight house to house against Israeli troops in Gaza.

Gotta love that AP style: “a possible sign Hamas was unwilling to compromise yet?”

There is an unspoken understanding that Israel is known to be civilized, so it is likely to be amenable to pressure to cease firing. Hamas, however, is simply too savage and brutal to even warrant attempts at negotiation.

I don’t like the results, but I can’t fault the reasoning. The evidence supporting it is overwhelming.

Everything you need to know about Hamas and Israel:

Israel has acceded to pressures and announced that it will suspend its military operations in Gaza for three hours every other day to allow for humanitarian relief.

Hamas has been stealing those humanitarian supplies from relief agencies and selling them to citizens under its rule.

Meanwhile, the world is leaning heavily on Israel to accept a ceasefire, while no one seems to be talking to Hamas. That doesn’t prevent them from speaking out on their own, though:

In a possible sign Hamas was unwilling to compromise yet, a senior Hamas official in Syria, Mohammed Nazzal, told Syrian TV on Thursday that the group would never surrender and vowed to fight house to house against Israeli troops in Gaza.

Gotta love that AP style: “a possible sign Hamas was unwilling to compromise yet?”

There is an unspoken understanding that Israel is known to be civilized, so it is likely to be amenable to pressure to cease firing. Hamas, however, is simply too savage and brutal to even warrant attempts at negotiation.

I don’t like the results, but I can’t fault the reasoning. The evidence supporting it is overwhelming.

Read Less

Let Israel Finish the Job

In his Washington Post column, Charles Krauthammer lays out the two possible endgames in Israel’s war against Hamas: (A) a Lebanon-like cessation of hostilities to be supervised by international observers, or (B) the disintegration of Hamas rule in Gaza. Krauthammer spends the rest of the column arguing (in flawless fashion) why the only acceptable option is the latter.

According to Krauthammer:

The fall of Hamas rule in Gaza is within reach, but only if Israel does not cave in to pressure to stop now. Overthrowing Hamas would not require a permanent Israeli reoccupation. A transitional international force would be brought in to immediately make way for the return of the Palestinian Authority, the legitimate government whose forces will be far less squeamish than the Europeans in establishing order in Gaza.

The disintegration of Hamas rule in Gaza would be a devastating blow to Palestinian rejectionists, who since the Hamas takeover of Gaza have been the ascendant “strong horse” in Palestinian politics. It would be a devastating blow to Iran as patron of radical Islamist movements throughout the region, particularly after the defeat and marginalization of Iran’s Sadrist client in Iraq. It would encourage the moderate Arab states to continue their U.S.-allied confrontation of Iran and its proxies. And it would demonstrate Israel’s irreplaceable strategic value to the U.S. in curbing and containing Iran’s regional ambitions.

The danger, according to Krauthammer, is that, “Under tremendous international pressure — including from an increasingly wobbly U.S. State Department — the government of Ehud Olmert has begun hinting that it is receptive to a French-Egyptian cease-fire plan, essentially acquiescing to Endgame A.”

Krauthammer concludes his column this way:

The one-step-from-madness gangster theocracy in Gaza — just four days before the fighting, the Hamas parliament passed a Sharia criminal code, legalizing, among other niceties, crucifixion — is teetering on the brink. It can be brought down, but only if Israel is prepared — and allowed — to complete the real mission of this war. For the Bush State Department, in its last significant act, to prevent that with the premature imposition of a cease-fire would be not just self-defeating but shameful.

President Bush has been as stalwart a friend as Israel has had in the Oval Office. He understands, for both geopolitical and moral reasons, why our sustained support for Israel is crucial. That is doubly so in Israel’s war against terrorists organizations like Hamas, which is supported by Iran. Crippling Hamas would not only be a great good in its own right (destroying sadistic regimes is a mark of civilizational progress); it is crucial if there are any hopes for an authentic “peace process” to take place. We need more nations like Jordan and fewer like Hamas controlled Gaza.

Israel is carrying the freight in this conflict. What it needs from America is not blood or treasure; Israel simply needs us not to pressure her into a premature ceasefire that will undo the good that may be achieved.

The Bush presidency is ending with Iraq on the mend and al Qaeda and the Mahdi Army on the run. It would be a nice capstone to conclude Bush’s two terms in office with Hamas as a broken and discredited entity. Militant Islam is in retreat within the Islamic and Arab world; the defeat of Hamas would help accelerate that process.

Over the years, many in the West have grown weary in the face of the struggle in which we (and Israel) are engaged. But President Bush, to his everlasting credit, has been relentless in staying on the offensive against terrorism. In arguably his greatest speech – his September 20, 2001 address to a Joint Session of Congress – the President said this:

Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there.  It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.

In the final days of the Bush Presidency one such terrorist group, Hamas, may be on the verge of defeat, thanks to Israel. We need to allow Israel to complete this task and, in the process, keep faith with her in her struggle against evil.

In his Washington Post column, Charles Krauthammer lays out the two possible endgames in Israel’s war against Hamas: (A) a Lebanon-like cessation of hostilities to be supervised by international observers, or (B) the disintegration of Hamas rule in Gaza. Krauthammer spends the rest of the column arguing (in flawless fashion) why the only acceptable option is the latter.

According to Krauthammer:

The fall of Hamas rule in Gaza is within reach, but only if Israel does not cave in to pressure to stop now. Overthrowing Hamas would not require a permanent Israeli reoccupation. A transitional international force would be brought in to immediately make way for the return of the Palestinian Authority, the legitimate government whose forces will be far less squeamish than the Europeans in establishing order in Gaza.

The disintegration of Hamas rule in Gaza would be a devastating blow to Palestinian rejectionists, who since the Hamas takeover of Gaza have been the ascendant “strong horse” in Palestinian politics. It would be a devastating blow to Iran as patron of radical Islamist movements throughout the region, particularly after the defeat and marginalization of Iran’s Sadrist client in Iraq. It would encourage the moderate Arab states to continue their U.S.-allied confrontation of Iran and its proxies. And it would demonstrate Israel’s irreplaceable strategic value to the U.S. in curbing and containing Iran’s regional ambitions.

The danger, according to Krauthammer, is that, “Under tremendous international pressure — including from an increasingly wobbly U.S. State Department — the government of Ehud Olmert has begun hinting that it is receptive to a French-Egyptian cease-fire plan, essentially acquiescing to Endgame A.”

Krauthammer concludes his column this way:

The one-step-from-madness gangster theocracy in Gaza — just four days before the fighting, the Hamas parliament passed a Sharia criminal code, legalizing, among other niceties, crucifixion — is teetering on the brink. It can be brought down, but only if Israel is prepared — and allowed — to complete the real mission of this war. For the Bush State Department, in its last significant act, to prevent that with the premature imposition of a cease-fire would be not just self-defeating but shameful.

President Bush has been as stalwart a friend as Israel has had in the Oval Office. He understands, for both geopolitical and moral reasons, why our sustained support for Israel is crucial. That is doubly so in Israel’s war against terrorists organizations like Hamas, which is supported by Iran. Crippling Hamas would not only be a great good in its own right (destroying sadistic regimes is a mark of civilizational progress); it is crucial if there are any hopes for an authentic “peace process” to take place. We need more nations like Jordan and fewer like Hamas controlled Gaza.

Israel is carrying the freight in this conflict. What it needs from America is not blood or treasure; Israel simply needs us not to pressure her into a premature ceasefire that will undo the good that may be achieved.

The Bush presidency is ending with Iraq on the mend and al Qaeda and the Mahdi Army on the run. It would be a nice capstone to conclude Bush’s two terms in office with Hamas as a broken and discredited entity. Militant Islam is in retreat within the Islamic and Arab world; the defeat of Hamas would help accelerate that process.

Over the years, many in the West have grown weary in the face of the struggle in which we (and Israel) are engaged. But President Bush, to his everlasting credit, has been relentless in staying on the offensive against terrorism. In arguably his greatest speech – his September 20, 2001 address to a Joint Session of Congress – the President said this:

Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there.  It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.

In the final days of the Bush Presidency one such terrorist group, Hamas, may be on the verge of defeat, thanks to Israel. We need to allow Israel to complete this task and, in the process, keep faith with her in her struggle against evil.

Read Less

Are You Nervous Yet?

If you weren’t nervous enough about the Obama team’s plans, David Brooks is sure to set you off on a round of nail biting. He explains the scope of what’s ahead:

In Thursday’s speech, he vowed to do everything at once. He vowed to throw the big things into the stimulus soup — tax cuts, state aid, road and bridge repair — but also the rest of the pantry. He proposes broadband projects, special education programs, a new power grid, new scientific research, teacher training projects and new libraries.

This will be the most complex piece of legislation in American history, and as if the policy content wasn’t complicated enough, Obama also promised to pass it via Immaculate Conception — through a new legislative process that will transform politics. The process, he said, will be totally transparent. There will be no earmarks, no special-interest pleading. In a direct rebuttal to Federalist No. 10, he called on lawmakers to put aside their parochial concerns and pass the measure in weeks.

And as if that isn’t enough, he promised next month to make repairing Social Security and Medicare a “central part” of his budget. “I’m not out to increase the size of government long-term,” he told John Harwood of The Times.

And if that seems daunting, untested and overwhelming to you, you’re in good company. Brooks concludes:

This is daring and impressive stuff. Obama’s team has clearly thought through every piece of this plan. There’s no plank that’s obviously wasteful or that reeks of special-interest pleading. The tax cut is big and bipartisan. Obama is properly worried about runaway deficits, but he’s spending money on things one would want to do anyway. This is not an attempt to use the crisis to build a European-style welfare state.

The problem is overload. Four months ago, no one knew how to put together a stimulus package. Now Obama wants to use it to rush through instant special-ed programs and pre-Ks. Repairing the power grid means clearing complex regulatory hurdles. How is he going to do that in time to employ workers in May?
His staff will be searching for the White House restrooms, and they will have to make billion-dollar decisions by the hour. He is asking Congress to behave and submit in a way it never has. He has picked policies that are phenomenally hard to implement, let alone in weeks. The conventional advice for presidents is: focus your energies on a few big things. Obama just blew the doors off that one.

Maybe Obama can pull this off, but I have my worries. By this time next year, he’ll either be a great president or a broken one.

This sweeping, enormous legislative onslaught suffers from at least two problems. First, this sort of thing really hasn’t ever pulled us out of a recession. Second, it presupposes that an exquisitely balanced plan – with just the right sort of spending and just the right amount of taxes – can be divined and then slide through Congress unsullied and unaffected by base political concerns.

This is hubris squared. The problem with government-directed economies is that no economic guru is smart enough to duplicate or improve upon markets (yes, even ones subject to economic bubbles and excesses). And all the shovel-ready projects, health care “savings” and the like will all be subject to reams of government regulations, spools of red tape and heaping doses of irrationality, because it is, after all, the government. How this is going to help us grow the economy, which is what we’re trying to do here, remains a mystery. And then Congress will get its mitts on whatever plan (however clever it may be) comes out of the Obama team. And the bill will get worse — more arcane, convoluted, and expensive.

But I think something significant happened this week as people got down to talking about real (well, as “real” as a trillion can seem) numbers. The politicians, and maybe the voters, got a bit spooked. The cure could indeed be worse than the current predicament — especially if the “cure” is an iffy enterprise at best. We’re going to spend more than a trillion, very likely not get out of the ditch and still have to pay it off?

Perhaps everyone should stop racing around and think long and hard about this. In fact, that’s what Christina Romer, our soon-to-be head of the Council of Economic Advisors and her husband have done, Brooks tells us:

The Romers surveyed the recessions of the previous 50 years to try to reach some conclusions about what works. “Our central conclusion is that monetary policy alone is a sufficiently powerful and flexible tool to end recessions,” they wrote. Automatic spending policies like unemployment insurance have sometimes helped. Discretionary policies, like tax cuts and stimulus plans, have not been of much use. As they put it: “Discretionary fiscal policy, in contrast, does not appear to have had an important role in generating recoveries.”

The Romers briefly described how different administrations responded to recessions. All the administrations, Democratic and Republican, resisted large-scale fiscal stimulus plans. They didn’t believe they could time a stimulus package correctly. They didn’t trust Congress to pass the bills quickly or cleanly. They concluded that they shouldn’t be making policy in what Kennedy administration economists called “an atmosphere of haste and panic brought on by recession.”

That’s the most sensible thing I’ve heard all week.

If you weren’t nervous enough about the Obama team’s plans, David Brooks is sure to set you off on a round of nail biting. He explains the scope of what’s ahead:

In Thursday’s speech, he vowed to do everything at once. He vowed to throw the big things into the stimulus soup — tax cuts, state aid, road and bridge repair — but also the rest of the pantry. He proposes broadband projects, special education programs, a new power grid, new scientific research, teacher training projects and new libraries.

This will be the most complex piece of legislation in American history, and as if the policy content wasn’t complicated enough, Obama also promised to pass it via Immaculate Conception — through a new legislative process that will transform politics. The process, he said, will be totally transparent. There will be no earmarks, no special-interest pleading. In a direct rebuttal to Federalist No. 10, he called on lawmakers to put aside their parochial concerns and pass the measure in weeks.

And as if that isn’t enough, he promised next month to make repairing Social Security and Medicare a “central part” of his budget. “I’m not out to increase the size of government long-term,” he told John Harwood of The Times.

And if that seems daunting, untested and overwhelming to you, you’re in good company. Brooks concludes:

This is daring and impressive stuff. Obama’s team has clearly thought through every piece of this plan. There’s no plank that’s obviously wasteful or that reeks of special-interest pleading. The tax cut is big and bipartisan. Obama is properly worried about runaway deficits, but he’s spending money on things one would want to do anyway. This is not an attempt to use the crisis to build a European-style welfare state.

The problem is overload. Four months ago, no one knew how to put together a stimulus package. Now Obama wants to use it to rush through instant special-ed programs and pre-Ks. Repairing the power grid means clearing complex regulatory hurdles. How is he going to do that in time to employ workers in May?
His staff will be searching for the White House restrooms, and they will have to make billion-dollar decisions by the hour. He is asking Congress to behave and submit in a way it never has. He has picked policies that are phenomenally hard to implement, let alone in weeks. The conventional advice for presidents is: focus your energies on a few big things. Obama just blew the doors off that one.

Maybe Obama can pull this off, but I have my worries. By this time next year, he’ll either be a great president or a broken one.

This sweeping, enormous legislative onslaught suffers from at least two problems. First, this sort of thing really hasn’t ever pulled us out of a recession. Second, it presupposes that an exquisitely balanced plan – with just the right sort of spending and just the right amount of taxes – can be divined and then slide through Congress unsullied and unaffected by base political concerns.

This is hubris squared. The problem with government-directed economies is that no economic guru is smart enough to duplicate or improve upon markets (yes, even ones subject to economic bubbles and excesses). And all the shovel-ready projects, health care “savings” and the like will all be subject to reams of government regulations, spools of red tape and heaping doses of irrationality, because it is, after all, the government. How this is going to help us grow the economy, which is what we’re trying to do here, remains a mystery. And then Congress will get its mitts on whatever plan (however clever it may be) comes out of the Obama team. And the bill will get worse — more arcane, convoluted, and expensive.

But I think something significant happened this week as people got down to talking about real (well, as “real” as a trillion can seem) numbers. The politicians, and maybe the voters, got a bit spooked. The cure could indeed be worse than the current predicament — especially if the “cure” is an iffy enterprise at best. We’re going to spend more than a trillion, very likely not get out of the ditch and still have to pay it off?

Perhaps everyone should stop racing around and think long and hard about this. In fact, that’s what Christina Romer, our soon-to-be head of the Council of Economic Advisors and her husband have done, Brooks tells us:

The Romers surveyed the recessions of the previous 50 years to try to reach some conclusions about what works. “Our central conclusion is that monetary policy alone is a sufficiently powerful and flexible tool to end recessions,” they wrote. Automatic spending policies like unemployment insurance have sometimes helped. Discretionary policies, like tax cuts and stimulus plans, have not been of much use. As they put it: “Discretionary fiscal policy, in contrast, does not appear to have had an important role in generating recoveries.”

The Romers briefly described how different administrations responded to recessions. All the administrations, Democratic and Republican, resisted large-scale fiscal stimulus plans. They didn’t believe they could time a stimulus package correctly. They didn’t trust Congress to pass the bills quickly or cleanly. They concluded that they shouldn’t be making policy in what Kennedy administration economists called “an atmosphere of haste and panic brought on by recession.”

That’s the most sensible thing I’ve heard all week.

Read Less

Dennis Ross’s Third Way

In light of his reported appointment as coordinator of the Obama administration’s Iran policy, it is useful to review Dennis Ross’ comments at the June 2008 AIPAC Policy Conference, where he participated in a foreign policy roundtable with Israel’s former Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh and former Deputy Secretary of State for Near East Affairs Liz Cheney.

The final question asked each panelist to make a prediction:  “What do you predict we will be talking about next year at this policy conference as it relates to the US-Israel relationship?”

Here is the principal part of Ross’ answer:

We will be talking about Iran.  That will be the A, B and C of the issues, because the fact is we will be coming to a point where Iran will be much closer to the brink than it is, and we’re going to have to deal with it. . . .[W]e’re beginning to run out of time.  A year from now, the fact is we will be at a point where either we will have begun to change the Iranian calculus, or we won’t, and then you’re going to have to deal with two different possibilities:  one possibility — which many people in this town are already prepared to sign up to — live with Iran nuclear weapons, thinking you can deter or contain it; or the other, you have to actually think about using force against it.  If you don’t like the two outcomes, then you better come up with a third way, focused on how you change the Iranian calculus

Ephraim Sneh gave this answer:

A year from now Iran will be very, very close to the completion of its first nuclear bomb.  I predict there will be no government in Jerusalem which would allow it to happen.  The question that will be on the agenda next May is, if nothing has been done until now in sanctions . . . we will have to decide what to do.  Our assumption is that we may face the problem alone.  This is our historical record.  We were always in the first line against evil.  In the Thirties, in the 67 war, in the attrition war, in the Yom Kippur War we actually fought not only against the armies of Syria and Egypt, but we faced the Soviet military technology.  Now again we are in the first line against Islamic fascism, against Iran.  If we are alone, we will have to act alone.  This will be the subject of May 09.

Liz Cheney concluded her answer by saying, “I agree that we will be talking about Iran, but I hope that we will not be talking about it because nothing has been done about it. 

At least intellectually, Ross understands that his “third way” diplomacy is not likely to be effective unless it is backed by a credible threat of force.  In “Statecraft,” he wrote:

Like other neoliberals, I share the doubts about too optimistically using force for effecting political change.  But losing credibility in being able to use or threaten force is not good for the effective exercise of statecraft. . . . Statecraft is unlikely to be effective if it has to be conducted literally with our arms tied behind our back.

The ironic part of the “third way” is that its prospects for success depend on whether the new administration credibly communicates to Iran that, if the third way fails, the fallback will be the use of force.  If that message is sent, diplomacy will stand a chance.  If it isn’t, it won’t.

In light of his reported appointment as coordinator of the Obama administration’s Iran policy, it is useful to review Dennis Ross’ comments at the June 2008 AIPAC Policy Conference, where he participated in a foreign policy roundtable with Israel’s former Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh and former Deputy Secretary of State for Near East Affairs Liz Cheney.

The final question asked each panelist to make a prediction:  “What do you predict we will be talking about next year at this policy conference as it relates to the US-Israel relationship?”

Here is the principal part of Ross’ answer:

We will be talking about Iran.  That will be the A, B and C of the issues, because the fact is we will be coming to a point where Iran will be much closer to the brink than it is, and we’re going to have to deal with it. . . .[W]e’re beginning to run out of time.  A year from now, the fact is we will be at a point where either we will have begun to change the Iranian calculus, or we won’t, and then you’re going to have to deal with two different possibilities:  one possibility — which many people in this town are already prepared to sign up to — live with Iran nuclear weapons, thinking you can deter or contain it; or the other, you have to actually think about using force against it.  If you don’t like the two outcomes, then you better come up with a third way, focused on how you change the Iranian calculus

Ephraim Sneh gave this answer:

A year from now Iran will be very, very close to the completion of its first nuclear bomb.  I predict there will be no government in Jerusalem which would allow it to happen.  The question that will be on the agenda next May is, if nothing has been done until now in sanctions . . . we will have to decide what to do.  Our assumption is that we may face the problem alone.  This is our historical record.  We were always in the first line against evil.  In the Thirties, in the 67 war, in the attrition war, in the Yom Kippur War we actually fought not only against the armies of Syria and Egypt, but we faced the Soviet military technology.  Now again we are in the first line against Islamic fascism, against Iran.  If we are alone, we will have to act alone.  This will be the subject of May 09.

Liz Cheney concluded her answer by saying, “I agree that we will be talking about Iran, but I hope that we will not be talking about it because nothing has been done about it. 

At least intellectually, Ross understands that his “third way” diplomacy is not likely to be effective unless it is backed by a credible threat of force.  In “Statecraft,” he wrote:

Like other neoliberals, I share the doubts about too optimistically using force for effecting political change.  But losing credibility in being able to use or threaten force is not good for the effective exercise of statecraft. . . . Statecraft is unlikely to be effective if it has to be conducted literally with our arms tied behind our back.

The ironic part of the “third way” is that its prospects for success depend on whether the new administration credibly communicates to Iran that, if the third way fails, the fallback will be the use of force.  If that message is sent, diplomacy will stand a chance.  If it isn’t, it won’t.

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