Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 13, 2010

More Criticism

As Noah and I have pointed out, the administration’s peevishness is unprecedented. It is also proving to be alarming to those on both sides of the aisle. A spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner had this reaction: “The tone and substance we are seeing emerge as a pattern for this Administration are both disappointing and of great concern. Israel has been and remains a close friend and ally, and we need to focus our efforts and energy on the issues of mutual concern for both countries, most especially Iran.” Democratic Congresswoman Shelley Berkley has weighed in as well with a written statement, declaring:

I am deeply concerned over the comments of the last two days by the Vice President and the Secretary of State. They assert that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the special 60-year bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Israel have been jeopardized by this week’s announcement that Israel plans to build housing units in East Jerusalem.

The Administration’s strong implication that the enduring alliance between the U.S. and Israel has been weakened, and that America’s ability to broker talks between Israel and Palestinian authorities has been undermined, is an irresponsible overreaction. No doubt the administration’s overwrought rhetoric is designed to try to appease Palestinian politicians and convince them the U.S. is an honest broker in the peace process by seizing every available opportunity to criticize the actions of our ally Israel.

That strategy also includes ignoring the myriad provocations by Palestinian leaders that make pursuing peace such a long and arduous process. Where, I ask, was the Administration’s outrage over the arrest and month-long incarceration by Hamas of a British journalist who was investigating arms-smuggling into Gaza? Where was the outrage when the Palestinian Authority this week named a town square after a woman who helped carry out a massive terror attack against Israel? It has been the PA who has refused to participate in talks for over a year, not the government of Israel.  Yet once again, no concern was lodged by the Administration. And, all the while, Hamas restocks its terror arsenal and fires rockets into Israel.

I advocate an even-handed, not a one-sided, U.S. policy as we do the difficult work of establishing peace, and eventually, a Palestinian state. These are critical goals for our nation and for the future of the Middle East. We owe the process nothing less than fairness, candor, and intellectual honesty, not a policy of constant appeasement and reinforcement of the Palestinians’ failings as legitimate partners in the peace process.

I strongly believe that despite this week’s flap over Israel’s announcement regarding housing construction, the U.S.-Israel relationship is strong and our partnership in pursuit of peace remains undiminished. I call on the White House to rethink its counterproductive rhetoric and to affirm that the U.S. and Israel remain united in pursuing a fair, equitable, and honest peace process with the Palestinian powers that be.

The administration is not only fraying the relationship between the U.S. and Israel but also isolating itself from the broad bipartisan coalition in favor of a warm and respectful U.S.-Israeli relationship. It is, as Berkley explains, breathtaking that an administration that can rarely muster condemnation for the most brutal regimes has lashed out — repeatedly now — against its sole democratic ally in the region. That simply isn’t going to sit well with a Congress and American public that is broadly pro-Israel.

Whether Noah is correct — that this is a convoluted gambit to paralyze an Israeli strike on Iran — or this is simply the administration revealing its true predilections (antagonistic toward Israel, sycophantic toward the “Muslim World”) is nearly unfathomable. But as with so much else, the results rather than the motives matter most.

And let’s not kid ourselves: the rest of the world is watching, just as other nations looked on as we shoved the Hondurans under the bus when confronted with a lackey of Hugo Chavez, and just as we did to the Czech Republic and Poland in an effort to ingratiate ourselves with the Russian bear. This administration has an unseemly habit of trashing our allies so as to prevent conflicts with our foes. In the end, we will be low on allies and our foes will be emboldened. As for our standing in the world, I suggest it’s about to reach Jimmy Carter–like depths. That’s what happens when friends come to regard the American president as untrustworthy and motivated by personal pique. (So much for the president with the “superior temperament.”) Let’s see if the administration can undo the mess it has made. It won’t be easy.

As Noah and I have pointed out, the administration’s peevishness is unprecedented. It is also proving to be alarming to those on both sides of the aisle. A spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner had this reaction: “The tone and substance we are seeing emerge as a pattern for this Administration are both disappointing and of great concern. Israel has been and remains a close friend and ally, and we need to focus our efforts and energy on the issues of mutual concern for both countries, most especially Iran.” Democratic Congresswoman Shelley Berkley has weighed in as well with a written statement, declaring:

I am deeply concerned over the comments of the last two days by the Vice President and the Secretary of State. They assert that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the special 60-year bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Israel have been jeopardized by this week’s announcement that Israel plans to build housing units in East Jerusalem.

The Administration’s strong implication that the enduring alliance between the U.S. and Israel has been weakened, and that America’s ability to broker talks between Israel and Palestinian authorities has been undermined, is an irresponsible overreaction. No doubt the administration’s overwrought rhetoric is designed to try to appease Palestinian politicians and convince them the U.S. is an honest broker in the peace process by seizing every available opportunity to criticize the actions of our ally Israel.

That strategy also includes ignoring the myriad provocations by Palestinian leaders that make pursuing peace such a long and arduous process. Where, I ask, was the Administration’s outrage over the arrest and month-long incarceration by Hamas of a British journalist who was investigating arms-smuggling into Gaza? Where was the outrage when the Palestinian Authority this week named a town square after a woman who helped carry out a massive terror attack against Israel? It has been the PA who has refused to participate in talks for over a year, not the government of Israel.  Yet once again, no concern was lodged by the Administration. And, all the while, Hamas restocks its terror arsenal and fires rockets into Israel.

I advocate an even-handed, not a one-sided, U.S. policy as we do the difficult work of establishing peace, and eventually, a Palestinian state. These are critical goals for our nation and for the future of the Middle East. We owe the process nothing less than fairness, candor, and intellectual honesty, not a policy of constant appeasement and reinforcement of the Palestinians’ failings as legitimate partners in the peace process.

I strongly believe that despite this week’s flap over Israel’s announcement regarding housing construction, the U.S.-Israel relationship is strong and our partnership in pursuit of peace remains undiminished. I call on the White House to rethink its counterproductive rhetoric and to affirm that the U.S. and Israel remain united in pursuing a fair, equitable, and honest peace process with the Palestinian powers that be.

The administration is not only fraying the relationship between the U.S. and Israel but also isolating itself from the broad bipartisan coalition in favor of a warm and respectful U.S.-Israeli relationship. It is, as Berkley explains, breathtaking that an administration that can rarely muster condemnation for the most brutal regimes has lashed out — repeatedly now — against its sole democratic ally in the region. That simply isn’t going to sit well with a Congress and American public that is broadly pro-Israel.

Whether Noah is correct — that this is a convoluted gambit to paralyze an Israeli strike on Iran — or this is simply the administration revealing its true predilections (antagonistic toward Israel, sycophantic toward the “Muslim World”) is nearly unfathomable. But as with so much else, the results rather than the motives matter most.

And let’s not kid ourselves: the rest of the world is watching, just as other nations looked on as we shoved the Hondurans under the bus when confronted with a lackey of Hugo Chavez, and just as we did to the Czech Republic and Poland in an effort to ingratiate ourselves with the Russian bear. This administration has an unseemly habit of trashing our allies so as to prevent conflicts with our foes. In the end, we will be low on allies and our foes will be emboldened. As for our standing in the world, I suggest it’s about to reach Jimmy Carter–like depths. That’s what happens when friends come to regard the American president as untrustworthy and motivated by personal pique. (So much for the president with the “superior temperament.”) Let’s see if the administration can undo the mess it has made. It won’t be easy.

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Re: Re: A New Low

The new low in relations between the White House and Israel are especially troubling for two reasons that didn’t apply during previous administrations: one is Obama’s personal peevishness toward Israel and his related desire to distance the United States from the Jewish state and draw it closer to the Arabs; and the second is the Iranian nuclear program.

Regarding the first, it appears to be official policy in the current administration to approach the peace process as an opportunity to reorient the United States’ position between Jews and Arabs in the region. Palestinian incitement, the PA’s public celebration of terrorism, the rioting in Jerusalem, the accusations that Israel murdered Yasser Arafat, the ongoing Palestinian refusal to participate in negotiations, and so on — none of these have warranted any American comment whatsoever. In fact, I cannot recall a single time when an Obama administration official has criticized the PA for anything.

Yet the administration publicly upbraids Israel on an almost weekly basis. The administration has adopted a deeply confused stance in which Netanyahu’s agreement to a 10-month settlement freeze — excepting Jerusalem — was praised heartily, yet any Israeli approval for construction in Jerusalem is heatedly criticized, and not by low-level functionaries. Typically it involves Robert Gibbs protesting to the national news corps. One doesn’t have to be an ardent Zionist to understand why the administration’s multi-layered hypocrisy — no criticism ever for the Palestinians, approval and praise for a settlement freeze that is then castigated on a regular basis — is aggravating to the Israelis.

And then there is the Iran issue. I think it’s clear by now that Obama does not wish to make a confrontation with Iran part of his presidency. As I’ve written before, this means that Israeli security fears become a major problem for the administration: surely Obama realizes that one of his most important jobs is therefore preventing the Israelis from attacking.

How does one do that? Typically, the way the United States has alleviated Israeli security concerns is by affirming the closeness of the strategic relationship. But doing this on the Iran issue doesn’t work, for two reasons: 1) it would undermine Obama’s mission to the Arab world, which requires pushing the Israelis away; 2) and in the context of a nuclear Iran, it doesn’t really matter how close the U.S. and Israel are. The Israeli fear of the Iranian bomb is that one nuke would destroy the Jewish state, and that even in the absence of such a strike, Israel would be confronted with an emboldened Syria-Hezbollah-Hamas axis, more wars, constant (and credible) threats of annihilation, and over time would experience the psychological, demographic, and economic attrition of the country.

When we follow this logic chain to its conclusion, we find that Obama’s only option for restraining an Israeli attack is the one that we’re seeing unfold before our eyes: a U.S. effort to methodically weaken the relationship; provoke crises; consume the Netanyahu government with managing this deterioration; and most important, create an ambiance of unpredictability by making the Israelis fear that an attack on Iran would not just be met with American disapproval but also a veto and perhaps active resistance.

The Obama administration’s reaction to the Biden visit has been too eagerly petulant to simply be a response to an insult — especially when it is clear that Netanyahu didn’t know the housing announcement was coming, and when the U.S. had already accepted the terms of the settlement freeze, which allows for precisely such construction in Jerusalem. That said, the announcement was a sucker-punch of epic proportions that was sure to cause an angry reaction from an administration that has made criticism of Israel one of its most consistent policies. It seems to me that this reaction is intended to help solve one of its biggest problems in the Middle East — the possibility that Israel may attack Iran.

The new low in relations between the White House and Israel are especially troubling for two reasons that didn’t apply during previous administrations: one is Obama’s personal peevishness toward Israel and his related desire to distance the United States from the Jewish state and draw it closer to the Arabs; and the second is the Iranian nuclear program.

Regarding the first, it appears to be official policy in the current administration to approach the peace process as an opportunity to reorient the United States’ position between Jews and Arabs in the region. Palestinian incitement, the PA’s public celebration of terrorism, the rioting in Jerusalem, the accusations that Israel murdered Yasser Arafat, the ongoing Palestinian refusal to participate in negotiations, and so on — none of these have warranted any American comment whatsoever. In fact, I cannot recall a single time when an Obama administration official has criticized the PA for anything.

Yet the administration publicly upbraids Israel on an almost weekly basis. The administration has adopted a deeply confused stance in which Netanyahu’s agreement to a 10-month settlement freeze — excepting Jerusalem — was praised heartily, yet any Israeli approval for construction in Jerusalem is heatedly criticized, and not by low-level functionaries. Typically it involves Robert Gibbs protesting to the national news corps. One doesn’t have to be an ardent Zionist to understand why the administration’s multi-layered hypocrisy — no criticism ever for the Palestinians, approval and praise for a settlement freeze that is then castigated on a regular basis — is aggravating to the Israelis.

And then there is the Iran issue. I think it’s clear by now that Obama does not wish to make a confrontation with Iran part of his presidency. As I’ve written before, this means that Israeli security fears become a major problem for the administration: surely Obama realizes that one of his most important jobs is therefore preventing the Israelis from attacking.

How does one do that? Typically, the way the United States has alleviated Israeli security concerns is by affirming the closeness of the strategic relationship. But doing this on the Iran issue doesn’t work, for two reasons: 1) it would undermine Obama’s mission to the Arab world, which requires pushing the Israelis away; 2) and in the context of a nuclear Iran, it doesn’t really matter how close the U.S. and Israel are. The Israeli fear of the Iranian bomb is that one nuke would destroy the Jewish state, and that even in the absence of such a strike, Israel would be confronted with an emboldened Syria-Hezbollah-Hamas axis, more wars, constant (and credible) threats of annihilation, and over time would experience the psychological, demographic, and economic attrition of the country.

When we follow this logic chain to its conclusion, we find that Obama’s only option for restraining an Israeli attack is the one that we’re seeing unfold before our eyes: a U.S. effort to methodically weaken the relationship; provoke crises; consume the Netanyahu government with managing this deterioration; and most important, create an ambiance of unpredictability by making the Israelis fear that an attack on Iran would not just be met with American disapproval but also a veto and perhaps active resistance.

The Obama administration’s reaction to the Biden visit has been too eagerly petulant to simply be a response to an insult — especially when it is clear that Netanyahu didn’t know the housing announcement was coming, and when the U.S. had already accepted the terms of the settlement freeze, which allows for precisely such construction in Jerusalem. That said, the announcement was a sucker-punch of epic proportions that was sure to cause an angry reaction from an administration that has made criticism of Israel one of its most consistent policies. It seems to me that this reaction is intended to help solve one of its biggest problems in the Middle East — the possibility that Israel may attack Iran.

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RE: A New Low

Reaction to the administration’s war of words against the Israeli government is starting to come in. The ADL, which rarely weighs in publicly on such matters and even more rarely chastises an American president, blasted the Obama administration with a statement declaring:

We are shocked and stunned at the Administration’s tone and public dressing down of Israel on the issue of future building in Jerusalem.   We cannot remember an instance when such harsh language was directed at a friend and ally of the United States.  One can only wonder how far the U.S. is prepared to go in distancing itself from Israel in order to placate the Palestinians in the hope they see it is in their interest to return to the negotiating table.

It is especially troubling that this harsh statement came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly and privately explained to Vice President Biden the bureaucratic nature in making the announcement of proposed new building in Jerusalem, and Biden accepted the prime minister’s apology for it.  Therefore, to raise the issue again in this way is a gross overreaction to a point of policy difference among friends.

The Administration should have confidence and trust in Israel whose tireless pursuit for peace is repeatedly rebuffed by the Palestinians and whose interests remain in line with the United States.

Other Jewish organizations have yet to weigh in, although it is Shabbat, and in any event, many will want to take the temperature of their members. Nevertheless, it seems inconceivable that Jewish organizations can remain silent in the face of this unprecedented offensive by the administration. Silence on this one is complicity.

One Congressman has already weighed in. Congressman Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.) today issued the following statement:

“I call on President Obama to censure Secretary Clinton’s rebuke of Prime Minister Netanyahu and reaffirm our longstanding friendship with Israel. Past U.S. administrations have recognized the unique relationship between Israel and the United States and made support for Israel a cornerstone of our foreign policy. The United States has a moral and strategic obligation to support this beacon of democracy in the Middle East. For the Obama administration to question the internal decisions of one of our closest allies is both disrespectful and unhelpful. Prime Minister Netanyahu has the authority and responsibility to care for the people of Israel, and it is inappropriate for Secretary Clinton to openly question these decisions. I hope her statements do not weaken the vital U.S.-Israel relationship. Any attempt to cut or restrict military aid to Israel by the administration would severely damage both U.S. and Israeli security. And any effort to cut aid would lead to fierce resistance in Congress.”

Well, let’s be clear — this comes straight from the White House. As the media reported, a special point was made to convey the president’s anger over the situation. Things have certainly gotten out of hand. Let’s see how long it takes the White House to begin to walk this back. After all, to what end are all the angry words and attacks? Certainly no proximity talks are imaginable under such circumstances, at least not ones in which there is any plausible purpose.  There is nothing to be gained by the administration and much to be lost by keeping this up.

Reaction to the administration’s war of words against the Israeli government is starting to come in. The ADL, which rarely weighs in publicly on such matters and even more rarely chastises an American president, blasted the Obama administration with a statement declaring:

We are shocked and stunned at the Administration’s tone and public dressing down of Israel on the issue of future building in Jerusalem.   We cannot remember an instance when such harsh language was directed at a friend and ally of the United States.  One can only wonder how far the U.S. is prepared to go in distancing itself from Israel in order to placate the Palestinians in the hope they see it is in their interest to return to the negotiating table.

It is especially troubling that this harsh statement came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly and privately explained to Vice President Biden the bureaucratic nature in making the announcement of proposed new building in Jerusalem, and Biden accepted the prime minister’s apology for it.  Therefore, to raise the issue again in this way is a gross overreaction to a point of policy difference among friends.

The Administration should have confidence and trust in Israel whose tireless pursuit for peace is repeatedly rebuffed by the Palestinians and whose interests remain in line with the United States.

Other Jewish organizations have yet to weigh in, although it is Shabbat, and in any event, many will want to take the temperature of their members. Nevertheless, it seems inconceivable that Jewish organizations can remain silent in the face of this unprecedented offensive by the administration. Silence on this one is complicity.

One Congressman has already weighed in. Congressman Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.) today issued the following statement:

“I call on President Obama to censure Secretary Clinton’s rebuke of Prime Minister Netanyahu and reaffirm our longstanding friendship with Israel. Past U.S. administrations have recognized the unique relationship between Israel and the United States and made support for Israel a cornerstone of our foreign policy. The United States has a moral and strategic obligation to support this beacon of democracy in the Middle East. For the Obama administration to question the internal decisions of one of our closest allies is both disrespectful and unhelpful. Prime Minister Netanyahu has the authority and responsibility to care for the people of Israel, and it is inappropriate for Secretary Clinton to openly question these decisions. I hope her statements do not weaken the vital U.S.-Israel relationship. Any attempt to cut or restrict military aid to Israel by the administration would severely damage both U.S. and Israeli security. And any effort to cut aid would lead to fierce resistance in Congress.”

Well, let’s be clear — this comes straight from the White House. As the media reported, a special point was made to convey the president’s anger over the situation. Things have certainly gotten out of hand. Let’s see how long it takes the White House to begin to walk this back. After all, to what end are all the angry words and attacks? Certainly no proximity talks are imaginable under such circumstances, at least not ones in which there is any plausible purpose.  There is nothing to be gained by the administration and much to be lost by keeping this up.

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A New Low

It is hard to imagine that U.S.-Israeli relations could have reached this point. But they have. The Washington Post aptly described where we stand: “Ties Plunge To A New Low.” In short, “relations with Israel have been strained almost since the start of the Obama administration. Now they have plunged to their lowest ebb since the administration of George H.W. Bush.” And there is no improvement in sight. After the public and private scolding by the vice president over the building of housing units in Jerusalem, Hillary Clinton continued the hollering, this time in a conversation with Bibi Netanyahu that was eagerly relayed to the media:

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley described the nearly 45-minute phone conversation in unusually undiplomatic terms, signaling that the close allies are facing their deepest crisis in two decades after the embarrassment suffered by Vice President Biden this week when Israel announced during his visit that it plans to build 1,600 housing units in a disputed area of Jerusalem.

Clinton called Netanyahu “to make clear the United States considered the announcement a deeply negative signal about Israel’s approach to the bilateral relationship and counter to the spirit of the vice president’s trip,” Crowley said. Clinton, he said, emphasized that “this action had undermined trust and confidence in the peace process and in America’s interests.”

As the Post points out, the relationship has been rocky from the get-go. (“From the start of his tenure, President Obama identified a Middle East peace deal as critical to U.S. national security, but his efforts have been hampered by the administration’s missteps and the deep mistrust between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”) Actually, it is the mistrust between Israel and the U.S. that is at the nub of the problem. We hear that the Obami intend to use this incident to pressure Israel to “something that could restore confidence in the process and to restore confidence in the relationship with the United States.” And it is hard to escape the conclusion that the Obami are escalating the fight — making relations more tense and strained — to achieve their misguided objective, namely to extract some sort of unilateral concessions they imagine would pick the lock on the moribund “peace process.”

It’s mind boggling, really, that after this public bullying, the Obami expect the Israelis to cough up more concessions and show their faith in the American negotiators. And if by some miracle they did, what would that change? Where is the Palestinian willingness or ability to make a meaningful peace agreement?

In the midst of the administration’s temper tantrum, we find yet another reason for George W. Bush nostalgia: we used to get along so much better with Israel. Bush’s deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams (who had the curious notion that a relationship of mutual respect and affection could encourage Israel to take risks for peace) writes:

The current friction in U.S.-Israel relations has one source: the mishandling of those relations by the Obama administration. Poll data show that Israel is as popular as ever among Americans. Strategically we face the same enemies — such as terrorism and the Iranian regime — a fact that is not lost on Americans who know we have one single reliable, democratic ally in the Middle East. … the Obama administration continues to drift away from traditional U.S. support for Israel. But time and elections will correct that problem; Israel has a higher approval rating these days than does President Obama.

Very true, but alas, both American voters and the Israelis must endure at least another few years of this. When the Obami talked of restoring our standing in the world and repairing frayed relations with allies, they plainly didn’t have Israel in mind. They have, through petulance and complete misunderstanding of the real barrier to peace, made hash out of the U.S.-Israeli relationship. Those who imagined we’d be getting smart diplomacy must now be chagrined to know how ham-handedly one can conduct foreign policy.

It is hard to imagine that U.S.-Israeli relations could have reached this point. But they have. The Washington Post aptly described where we stand: “Ties Plunge To A New Low.” In short, “relations with Israel have been strained almost since the start of the Obama administration. Now they have plunged to their lowest ebb since the administration of George H.W. Bush.” And there is no improvement in sight. After the public and private scolding by the vice president over the building of housing units in Jerusalem, Hillary Clinton continued the hollering, this time in a conversation with Bibi Netanyahu that was eagerly relayed to the media:

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley described the nearly 45-minute phone conversation in unusually undiplomatic terms, signaling that the close allies are facing their deepest crisis in two decades after the embarrassment suffered by Vice President Biden this week when Israel announced during his visit that it plans to build 1,600 housing units in a disputed area of Jerusalem.

Clinton called Netanyahu “to make clear the United States considered the announcement a deeply negative signal about Israel’s approach to the bilateral relationship and counter to the spirit of the vice president’s trip,” Crowley said. Clinton, he said, emphasized that “this action had undermined trust and confidence in the peace process and in America’s interests.”

As the Post points out, the relationship has been rocky from the get-go. (“From the start of his tenure, President Obama identified a Middle East peace deal as critical to U.S. national security, but his efforts have been hampered by the administration’s missteps and the deep mistrust between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”) Actually, it is the mistrust between Israel and the U.S. that is at the nub of the problem. We hear that the Obami intend to use this incident to pressure Israel to “something that could restore confidence in the process and to restore confidence in the relationship with the United States.” And it is hard to escape the conclusion that the Obami are escalating the fight — making relations more tense and strained — to achieve their misguided objective, namely to extract some sort of unilateral concessions they imagine would pick the lock on the moribund “peace process.”

It’s mind boggling, really, that after this public bullying, the Obami expect the Israelis to cough up more concessions and show their faith in the American negotiators. And if by some miracle they did, what would that change? Where is the Palestinian willingness or ability to make a meaningful peace agreement?

In the midst of the administration’s temper tantrum, we find yet another reason for George W. Bush nostalgia: we used to get along so much better with Israel. Bush’s deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams (who had the curious notion that a relationship of mutual respect and affection could encourage Israel to take risks for peace) writes:

The current friction in U.S.-Israel relations has one source: the mishandling of those relations by the Obama administration. Poll data show that Israel is as popular as ever among Americans. Strategically we face the same enemies — such as terrorism and the Iranian regime — a fact that is not lost on Americans who know we have one single reliable, democratic ally in the Middle East. … the Obama administration continues to drift away from traditional U.S. support for Israel. But time and elections will correct that problem; Israel has a higher approval rating these days than does President Obama.

Very true, but alas, both American voters and the Israelis must endure at least another few years of this. When the Obami talked of restoring our standing in the world and repairing frayed relations with allies, they plainly didn’t have Israel in mind. They have, through petulance and complete misunderstanding of the real barrier to peace, made hash out of the U.S.-Israeli relationship. Those who imagined we’d be getting smart diplomacy must now be chagrined to know how ham-handedly one can conduct foreign policy.

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Beltway Insiders Are Rarely Right

This is as good an analysis as any we’ve seen on what Obama is up to and why the electorate is swiftly becoming enraged with the political establishment:

“You have leaders saying, ‘We know you hate this . . . but we’re going to force it down your throat because it’s good for you.’ It’s almost an elitist attitude toward the American people . . . that they [Mr. Obama and his policy allies] are smarter than the rest of us.”

It comes from Marco Rubio, who not only has correctly analyzed the current political environment (“They voted for somebody they’d never heard of in Barack Obama because he ran on the platform of a very devoted centrist.”) but who is also adopting the same formula that helped Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, and Scott Brown win their races:

Mr. Rubio says he won’t shy away from social issues if asked. He is pro-life and says he would support a Senate filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee under some circumstances. But his campaign is staking out an updated version of the Reagan agenda. “We’re focused on jobs and national security,” he says, “because those are the great and profound national issues of our moment and that’s what 95% of our campaign is based on.”

Front and center is the idea that, fiscally, the federal government is running off the rails. That Washington should be “taking borrowed money to fund the general operation of government,” he says, “and that somehow the government will build so many roads and bridges that everyone will have a job for the next 30 years is absurd.”

Rubio, of course, defies the mainstream narrative that posits a conflict between Tea Party populists and wonkish conservative reformers. He is, as the Republican Party must be, in the business of assembling a broad-based coalition. On immigration, for example, he sets forth a workable formula that other conservatives would be wise to follow:

Securing the border is critical, Mr. Rubio says, but he also recommends that Republicans keep their nativist impulses in check to avoid hurting the party with Latinos, a good chunk of whom are natural GOP allies on growth and opportunity. The rhetoric of some Republicans on immigration “has created a problem,” he says. “I don’t think the Republican Party should be the anti-illegal immigration party. We should be the pro legal immigration party, and we need to do a better job of explaining that to people.”

For the snooty conservative pundits and Republican Beltway insiders who tried to chase Rubio out of the race, this should come as a bracing reminder that there is plenty of political wisdom and talent outside Washington. It is foolish to squelch challengers or to dissuade newcomers. Where else is the next generation of conservative superstars to come from? Thankfully, Rubio ignored the naysayers and may well join Christie, McDonnell, and Brown in the group of talented new conservative leaders who owe their political emergence to the excesses of Obama.

This is as good an analysis as any we’ve seen on what Obama is up to and why the electorate is swiftly becoming enraged with the political establishment:

“You have leaders saying, ‘We know you hate this . . . but we’re going to force it down your throat because it’s good for you.’ It’s almost an elitist attitude toward the American people . . . that they [Mr. Obama and his policy allies] are smarter than the rest of us.”

It comes from Marco Rubio, who not only has correctly analyzed the current political environment (“They voted for somebody they’d never heard of in Barack Obama because he ran on the platform of a very devoted centrist.”) but who is also adopting the same formula that helped Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, and Scott Brown win their races:

Mr. Rubio says he won’t shy away from social issues if asked. He is pro-life and says he would support a Senate filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee under some circumstances. But his campaign is staking out an updated version of the Reagan agenda. “We’re focused on jobs and national security,” he says, “because those are the great and profound national issues of our moment and that’s what 95% of our campaign is based on.”

Front and center is the idea that, fiscally, the federal government is running off the rails. That Washington should be “taking borrowed money to fund the general operation of government,” he says, “and that somehow the government will build so many roads and bridges that everyone will have a job for the next 30 years is absurd.”

Rubio, of course, defies the mainstream narrative that posits a conflict between Tea Party populists and wonkish conservative reformers. He is, as the Republican Party must be, in the business of assembling a broad-based coalition. On immigration, for example, he sets forth a workable formula that other conservatives would be wise to follow:

Securing the border is critical, Mr. Rubio says, but he also recommends that Republicans keep their nativist impulses in check to avoid hurting the party with Latinos, a good chunk of whom are natural GOP allies on growth and opportunity. The rhetoric of some Republicans on immigration “has created a problem,” he says. “I don’t think the Republican Party should be the anti-illegal immigration party. We should be the pro legal immigration party, and we need to do a better job of explaining that to people.”

For the snooty conservative pundits and Republican Beltway insiders who tried to chase Rubio out of the race, this should come as a bracing reminder that there is plenty of political wisdom and talent outside Washington. It is foolish to squelch challengers or to dissuade newcomers. Where else is the next generation of conservative superstars to come from? Thankfully, Rubio ignored the naysayers and may well join Christie, McDonnell, and Brown in the group of talented new conservative leaders who owe their political emergence to the excesses of Obama.

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Un-Smart Diplomacy

Friday’s State Department news conference lasted only 10 minutes and was devoted primarily to another harsh public condemnation of Israel:

Secretary Clinton also spoke this morning with Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu to reiterate the United States’ strong objections to Tuesday’s announcement, not just in terms of timing, but also in its substance; to make clear that the United States considers the announcement a deeply negative signal about Israel’s approach to the bilateral relationship – and counter to the spirit of the Vice President’s trip; and to reinforce that this action had undermined trust and confidence in the peace process, and in America’s interests. The Secretary said she could not understand how this happened, particularly in light of the United States’ strong commitment to Israel’s security. And she made clear that the Israeli Government needed to demonstrate not just through words but through specific actions that they are committed to this relationship and to the peace process.

Netanyahu and his Interior minister had apologized after both said they had been unaware of the announcement beforehand, pledged there would be no actual building during the “proximity talks” or the anticipated period of any direct talks thereafter, and promised such an incident would not happen again. Only three days after, Clinton issued a statement as harsh as any from the Obama administration — on any issue, foreign or domestic. In it, she voiced “strong objections” to the “substance,” an accusation of a “deeply negative signal” about the “bilateral relationship,” an assertion that it undermined “trust and confidence” in “America’s interests,” an implicit rejection of Netanyahu’s explanation, and a demand for “specific actions” to show Israel is “committed” to its relationship with the U.S.

The harshness is an indication that the administration believes its only Middle East accomplishment in the last 14 months – an agreement to begin “proximity talks” – is in jeopardy. The U.S. demand for “specific actions” arises in the context of the Palestinians demanding, yet again, a Jerusalem building freeze as the price of their participation in discussions about giving them a state.

Since Secretary Clinton raised the “substance” of the issue, not simply the timing, it is worth noting several points. First, even actual building by Israel (much less the mere announcement of building in the future) would not have violated Israel’s commitment to a 10-month moratorium, which excluded Jerusalem. Second, the area in question is one that will not be yielded to the Palestinians in any conceivable peace agreement (even one that would divide sovereignty between Jewish and Arab areas) because it is a longstanding Jewish community, not an Arab one. Third, the area has military significance, for reasons explained (and illustrated with pictures) by Israel Matzav:

What … is obvious … is how important the ridge on which Ramat Shlomo sits would be in the case of any military conflict. That’s because it overlooks – and has a clean shot – at every major highway in the city. To give one example, there’s a road … known as “Road 9.” Road 9 … has three exits: Ramat Shlomo, the ‘Cedar Tunnel’ road that connects with the Jerusalem – Tel Aviv highway, and the road that is Menachem Begin Boulevard criss-crossing the city to the south and Route 443 to the north. Those roads are critical for city traffic. … an army unit stationed atop Ramat Shlomo would have a clear shot at every one of those roads (and more).

The Palestinians can be expected to seek advantage from any Israeli diplomatic blunder, asserting that their confidence needs to be built, their trust fortified, and their preconditions met before they will continue with a process they know the U.S. is more enthusiastic about than they. But it is unfortunate and counterproductive for the U.S. to lend itself to that tactic, both in general and specifically.

Friday’s State Department news conference lasted only 10 minutes and was devoted primarily to another harsh public condemnation of Israel:

Secretary Clinton also spoke this morning with Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu to reiterate the United States’ strong objections to Tuesday’s announcement, not just in terms of timing, but also in its substance; to make clear that the United States considers the announcement a deeply negative signal about Israel’s approach to the bilateral relationship – and counter to the spirit of the Vice President’s trip; and to reinforce that this action had undermined trust and confidence in the peace process, and in America’s interests. The Secretary said she could not understand how this happened, particularly in light of the United States’ strong commitment to Israel’s security. And she made clear that the Israeli Government needed to demonstrate not just through words but through specific actions that they are committed to this relationship and to the peace process.

Netanyahu and his Interior minister had apologized after both said they had been unaware of the announcement beforehand, pledged there would be no actual building during the “proximity talks” or the anticipated period of any direct talks thereafter, and promised such an incident would not happen again. Only three days after, Clinton issued a statement as harsh as any from the Obama administration — on any issue, foreign or domestic. In it, she voiced “strong objections” to the “substance,” an accusation of a “deeply negative signal” about the “bilateral relationship,” an assertion that it undermined “trust and confidence” in “America’s interests,” an implicit rejection of Netanyahu’s explanation, and a demand for “specific actions” to show Israel is “committed” to its relationship with the U.S.

The harshness is an indication that the administration believes its only Middle East accomplishment in the last 14 months – an agreement to begin “proximity talks” – is in jeopardy. The U.S. demand for “specific actions” arises in the context of the Palestinians demanding, yet again, a Jerusalem building freeze as the price of their participation in discussions about giving them a state.

Since Secretary Clinton raised the “substance” of the issue, not simply the timing, it is worth noting several points. First, even actual building by Israel (much less the mere announcement of building in the future) would not have violated Israel’s commitment to a 10-month moratorium, which excluded Jerusalem. Second, the area in question is one that will not be yielded to the Palestinians in any conceivable peace agreement (even one that would divide sovereignty between Jewish and Arab areas) because it is a longstanding Jewish community, not an Arab one. Third, the area has military significance, for reasons explained (and illustrated with pictures) by Israel Matzav:

What … is obvious … is how important the ridge on which Ramat Shlomo sits would be in the case of any military conflict. That’s because it overlooks – and has a clean shot – at every major highway in the city. To give one example, there’s a road … known as “Road 9.” Road 9 … has three exits: Ramat Shlomo, the ‘Cedar Tunnel’ road that connects with the Jerusalem – Tel Aviv highway, and the road that is Menachem Begin Boulevard criss-crossing the city to the south and Route 443 to the north. Those roads are critical for city traffic. … an army unit stationed atop Ramat Shlomo would have a clear shot at every one of those roads (and more).

The Palestinians can be expected to seek advantage from any Israeli diplomatic blunder, asserting that their confidence needs to be built, their trust fortified, and their preconditions met before they will continue with a process they know the U.S. is more enthusiastic about than they. But it is unfortunate and counterproductive for the U.S. to lend itself to that tactic, both in general and specifically.

Read Less

The End Game

Politico reports:

The advice went out to freshman and sophomore House Democrats, blunt talk to help them through a tricky vote on health reform.”At this point, we have to just rip the band-aid off and have a vote — up or down; yes or no?” the memo said. “Things like reconciliation and what the rules committee does is INSIDE BASEBALL.”

Got that? Time to take your lumps and walk the plank! The Democratic leadership most certainly would prefer that the House members not think about reconciliation, for that would remind them how deeply suspicious is the electorate about the process and the substance of ObamaCare. And, of course, the Pelosi-Reid-Obama troika doesn’t want the troops thinking too hard about this week’s parliamentarian’s ruling that made crystal clear what is required here: the House will need to pass the Senate bill, and it will become law before anything is fixed (or not). That means that the abortion subsidy and some of those colorfully named deals will in fact become law. “The ‘Louisiana Purchase’ — $300 million in additional Medicaid money for the state — and a $100 million hospital-grant program requested by Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) will remain in the legislation,” Politico reports.

It is widely assumed that Pelosi is currently short of the votes needed to pass the wildly unpopular bill. What remains to be seen is whether she can arm-twist and cajole enough members to sacrifice themselves for the greater glory of Obama and the Left’s dream of a health-care “reform.” Republicans will try their best. As one leadership adviser put it to me: “Our goal next week is to sow as much chaos and confusion as possible and make it as difficult as humanly possible. … Our ability to make Dems vote no is limited to applying as much public pressure as possible.  Pelosi and crew can offer payoffs, kickbacks, earmarks and other sweetheart deals to entice them to vote yes.” And should Pelosi pull it off, the rest of the year and the foreseeable future will be a referendum on that vote, with Republicans dedicated to the repeal of a bill that the electorate finds noxious.

No wonder the leadership doesn’t want its members thinking too hard or too long about this process. If they do, they might decide to pull back from that precipice, save themselves, and in the process, rescue what’s left of the moderate wing of the Democratic Party.

Politico reports:

The advice went out to freshman and sophomore House Democrats, blunt talk to help them through a tricky vote on health reform.”At this point, we have to just rip the band-aid off and have a vote — up or down; yes or no?” the memo said. “Things like reconciliation and what the rules committee does is INSIDE BASEBALL.”

Got that? Time to take your lumps and walk the plank! The Democratic leadership most certainly would prefer that the House members not think about reconciliation, for that would remind them how deeply suspicious is the electorate about the process and the substance of ObamaCare. And, of course, the Pelosi-Reid-Obama troika doesn’t want the troops thinking too hard about this week’s parliamentarian’s ruling that made crystal clear what is required here: the House will need to pass the Senate bill, and it will become law before anything is fixed (or not). That means that the abortion subsidy and some of those colorfully named deals will in fact become law. “The ‘Louisiana Purchase’ — $300 million in additional Medicaid money for the state — and a $100 million hospital-grant program requested by Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) will remain in the legislation,” Politico reports.

It is widely assumed that Pelosi is currently short of the votes needed to pass the wildly unpopular bill. What remains to be seen is whether she can arm-twist and cajole enough members to sacrifice themselves for the greater glory of Obama and the Left’s dream of a health-care “reform.” Republicans will try their best. As one leadership adviser put it to me: “Our goal next week is to sow as much chaos and confusion as possible and make it as difficult as humanly possible. … Our ability to make Dems vote no is limited to applying as much public pressure as possible.  Pelosi and crew can offer payoffs, kickbacks, earmarks and other sweetheart deals to entice them to vote yes.” And should Pelosi pull it off, the rest of the year and the foreseeable future will be a referendum on that vote, with Republicans dedicated to the repeal of a bill that the electorate finds noxious.

No wonder the leadership doesn’t want its members thinking too hard or too long about this process. If they do, they might decide to pull back from that precipice, save themselves, and in the process, rescue what’s left of the moderate wing of the Democratic Party.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

A pattern? “Attorney General Eric Holder didn’t tell the Senate Judiciary Committee about seven Supreme Court amicus briefs he prepared or supported, his office acknowledged in a letter Friday, including two urging the court to reject the Bush administration’s attempt to try Jose Padilla as an enemy combatant.”
Jamie Fly is worried that the Obama administration won’t stick it out until the job is done in Iraq: “This is a troubling sign that ‘one of the great achievements of this administration’ might be squandered if the going gets tough in Iraq. This seems shortsighted given the thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars the United States has sacrificed in setting Iraq on the path to a secure democratic future. Even setting aside the scale of the U.S. commitment thus far, the United States has a strategic interest in ensuring Iraq’s success and in continuing to remain involved in Iraq’s security.”

The Beagle Blogger is an ignoramus when it comes to the Middle East, according to blogmate Jeffrey Goldberg: “Andrew Sullivan should be thankful that The Atlantic’s fact-checking department has no purview over the magazine’s website. … Andrew is free to publish malicious nonsense, such as the series of maps he published yesterday, maps which purport to show how Jews stole Palestinian land. Andrew does not tell us the source of these maps (in a magazine with standards, the source would be identified), but they were drawn to cast Jews in the most terrible light possible. … ‘Andrew has so many opinions to ventilate, and so little time to think about them’ that the publication of this absurd map on his blog could simply have been a mistake.”

A bad week for Tony Rezko’s former banker: “Democrat candidate Alexi Giannoulias faced a new political hassle in his bid for President Obama’s former Senate seat after a major contributor was arrested Thursday on charges of defrauding banks by writing bad checks.”

A sign of the Red wave from the Democratic Public Policy Polling: “Neither of the top candidates for Governor of Florida is particularly well known or liked but with the national political winds blowing in a Republican direction Bill McCollum has the solid early lead. McCollum’s currently at 44% to 31% for Alex Sink. He leads her 38-25 with independent voters and is winning 20% of the Democratic vote while holding Sink to just 11% of the Republican vote.”

Rep. Bart Stupak on the House leadership’s determination to protect abortion subsidies in ObamaCare: “The House Democratic leaders think they have the votes to pass the Senate’s health-care bill without us. At this point, there is no doubt that they’ve been able to peel off one or two of my twelve. And even if they don’t have the votes, it’s been made clear to us that they won’t insert our language on the abortion issue.”

They better have a bunch of votes in reserve: “House Democrats are ready to ‘forge ahead’ on healthcare without a deal on abortion, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Friday. Hoyer said hopes for a deal have all but evaporated with a dozen Democrats who want tougher restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortion services than are included in the Senate’s healthcare bill.”

Hillary Clinton joins the Israel-bashing extravaganza — because really, U.S.-Israeli relations aren’t strained enough.

A pattern? “Attorney General Eric Holder didn’t tell the Senate Judiciary Committee about seven Supreme Court amicus briefs he prepared or supported, his office acknowledged in a letter Friday, including two urging the court to reject the Bush administration’s attempt to try Jose Padilla as an enemy combatant.”
Jamie Fly is worried that the Obama administration won’t stick it out until the job is done in Iraq: “This is a troubling sign that ‘one of the great achievements of this administration’ might be squandered if the going gets tough in Iraq. This seems shortsighted given the thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars the United States has sacrificed in setting Iraq on the path to a secure democratic future. Even setting aside the scale of the U.S. commitment thus far, the United States has a strategic interest in ensuring Iraq’s success and in continuing to remain involved in Iraq’s security.”

The Beagle Blogger is an ignoramus when it comes to the Middle East, according to blogmate Jeffrey Goldberg: “Andrew Sullivan should be thankful that The Atlantic’s fact-checking department has no purview over the magazine’s website. … Andrew is free to publish malicious nonsense, such as the series of maps he published yesterday, maps which purport to show how Jews stole Palestinian land. Andrew does not tell us the source of these maps (in a magazine with standards, the source would be identified), but they were drawn to cast Jews in the most terrible light possible. … ‘Andrew has so many opinions to ventilate, and so little time to think about them’ that the publication of this absurd map on his blog could simply have been a mistake.”

A bad week for Tony Rezko’s former banker: “Democrat candidate Alexi Giannoulias faced a new political hassle in his bid for President Obama’s former Senate seat after a major contributor was arrested Thursday on charges of defrauding banks by writing bad checks.”

A sign of the Red wave from the Democratic Public Policy Polling: “Neither of the top candidates for Governor of Florida is particularly well known or liked but with the national political winds blowing in a Republican direction Bill McCollum has the solid early lead. McCollum’s currently at 44% to 31% for Alex Sink. He leads her 38-25 with independent voters and is winning 20% of the Democratic vote while holding Sink to just 11% of the Republican vote.”

Rep. Bart Stupak on the House leadership’s determination to protect abortion subsidies in ObamaCare: “The House Democratic leaders think they have the votes to pass the Senate’s health-care bill without us. At this point, there is no doubt that they’ve been able to peel off one or two of my twelve. And even if they don’t have the votes, it’s been made clear to us that they won’t insert our language on the abortion issue.”

They better have a bunch of votes in reserve: “House Democrats are ready to ‘forge ahead’ on healthcare without a deal on abortion, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Friday. Hoyer said hopes for a deal have all but evaporated with a dozen Democrats who want tougher restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortion services than are included in the Senate’s healthcare bill.”

Hillary Clinton joins the Israel-bashing extravaganza — because really, U.S.-Israeli relations aren’t strained enough.

Read Less




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