Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 14, 2010

RE: Appalling Double Standards

Noah, if you recall, the administration quite candidly announced its intention to “put daylight” between Israel and the U.S. This was under the guise of gaining credibility as an impartial arbitrator, an honest broker, as they say. That, in and of itself, is problematic, given the U.S. historic relationship with the Jewish state. But frankly, even moral equivalence would be an improvement over what we have now. The Obama policy seems to see the U.S. not as an honest broker but an advocate for the Palestinians — taking up their rhetoric, their fractured view of history, and their excuses for failing to recognize the Jewish state.

It will be interesting to see how lawmakers react. The reviews from the weekend have been negative. But this may also become an issue for the campaign. A spokesman for Marco Rubio e-mails me, “Mr. Rubio believes that, by making unilateral demands on the Israeli government regarding settlements, the White House took away Israel’s leverage and has sent a message that America is not as committed to Israel as it once had been.” We’ll see if other candidates and office holders take that view as well. In the public at large and among members of Congress, there is, I would suggest, little stomach for bullying our democratic ally. On this, Obama may find himself with few defenders and many chagrined Democrats trying to figure out why, with so much on their plate, the Obami have decided to pick a fight with an ally so beloved by the American people.

Noah, if you recall, the administration quite candidly announced its intention to “put daylight” between Israel and the U.S. This was under the guise of gaining credibility as an impartial arbitrator, an honest broker, as they say. That, in and of itself, is problematic, given the U.S. historic relationship with the Jewish state. But frankly, even moral equivalence would be an improvement over what we have now. The Obama policy seems to see the U.S. not as an honest broker but an advocate for the Palestinians — taking up their rhetoric, their fractured view of history, and their excuses for failing to recognize the Jewish state.

It will be interesting to see how lawmakers react. The reviews from the weekend have been negative. But this may also become an issue for the campaign. A spokesman for Marco Rubio e-mails me, “Mr. Rubio believes that, by making unilateral demands on the Israeli government regarding settlements, the White House took away Israel’s leverage and has sent a message that America is not as committed to Israel as it once had been.” We’ll see if other candidates and office holders take that view as well. In the public at large and among members of Congress, there is, I would suggest, little stomach for bullying our democratic ally. On this, Obama may find himself with few defenders and many chagrined Democrats trying to figure out why, with so much on their plate, the Obami have decided to pick a fight with an ally so beloved by the American people.

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Obama’s Appalling Double Standards

The Obama-Israel showdown is an example of high hypocrisy, double standards, and political stupidity, all on display for a global audience.

As Barry Rubin reminds us:

For more than four months the U.S. government has been celebrating Israel agreeing to stop construction on settlements in the West Bank while continuing building in east Jerusalem as a great step forward and Israeli concession deserving a reward. Suddenly, all of this is forgotten to say that Israel building in east Jerusalem is some kind of terrible deed which deserves punishment.

Israelis are used to this pattern: give a big concession and a few months later that step is forgotten as Israel is portrayed as intransigent and more concessions are demanded with nothing in return.

The administration is using an instance of bad timing to revisit the terms of the settlement freeze in order to accomplish what was impossible before — a freeze in Jewish construction in Obama-disapproved parts of Jerusalem. Robert Gibbs said this morning on Fox News that “condemning” such construction “is, and has been, the policy of the United States.”

Never mind that even the PA has already agreed that these neighborhoods, such as Gilo and Ramat Shlomo, will remain part of Israel in any settlement. Chris Wallace should have asked Gibbs how he reconciles such a statement, and the administration’s behavior over the past week, with the U.S. endorsement of the settlement freeze four months ago that explicitly exempted Jerusalem. In fact, it might make sense for the Israelis to ask for such a clarification. It’s obvious that Obama is trying to change the terms of the agreement by bullying and unilateralism, not by negotiation.

And it is important to note that the kind of rhetoric and outrage we are witnessing on Israel has never been employed by the administration against Syria, Iran, Hamas, North Korea, or any of America’s actual enemies. Regarding “announcements about expanding settlements,” a “senior Obama administration official” told Reuters that “the Israelis know the only way to stay on the positive side of the ledger — internationally and with us — is to not have them recurring.”

Strong stuff! Yet when the administration’s effort to warm ties with Syria over the past month were greeted with a trilateral meeting of terrorists in Damascus — Ahmadinejad, Nasrallah, and Assad — including heated public denouncements of America and pledges to destroy Israel, the administration was silent. No response.

Maybe this is because the administration is focusing on the peace process and treating Syria and Iran as back-burner problems not worthy of U.S. outrage? No, that doesn’t make sense. If this were true, the administration would have criticized the Palestinians for their far greater obstructions to the peace process. As Rubin points out:

Even though the Palestinian Authority has refused to negotiate for 14 months; made President Brack Obama look very foolish after destroying his publicly announced September plan to have negotiations in two months; broke its promise not to sponsor the Goldstone report in the UN; and rejected direct negotiations after months of pleading by the Obama White House, not a single word of criticism has ever been offered by any administration official regarding the PA’s continuous and very public sabotage of peace process efforts.

And as Tom Gross points out, the moment Joe Biden departed the West Bank, the PA held a ceremony to name the town square in Ramallah after Dalal Mughrabi, one of the perpetrators of the infamous Coastal Road Massacre and among the most successful terrorists in Palestinian history. This, too, goes unmentioned by the Obama administration. Palestinian celebrations of mass-murderers are not a hindrance to the peace process, but building apartments in Jewish neighborhoods is. Why doesn’t one of the intrepid Sunday morning hosts ask an administration official why this is?

We have reached a strange new chapter in American diplomacy in which our greatest outrage and our greatest denunciations are reserved for our allies. Maybe that’s not quite right: they’re reserved for one of our allies.

The Obama-Israel showdown is an example of high hypocrisy, double standards, and political stupidity, all on display for a global audience.

As Barry Rubin reminds us:

For more than four months the U.S. government has been celebrating Israel agreeing to stop construction on settlements in the West Bank while continuing building in east Jerusalem as a great step forward and Israeli concession deserving a reward. Suddenly, all of this is forgotten to say that Israel building in east Jerusalem is some kind of terrible deed which deserves punishment.

Israelis are used to this pattern: give a big concession and a few months later that step is forgotten as Israel is portrayed as intransigent and more concessions are demanded with nothing in return.

The administration is using an instance of bad timing to revisit the terms of the settlement freeze in order to accomplish what was impossible before — a freeze in Jewish construction in Obama-disapproved parts of Jerusalem. Robert Gibbs said this morning on Fox News that “condemning” such construction “is, and has been, the policy of the United States.”

Never mind that even the PA has already agreed that these neighborhoods, such as Gilo and Ramat Shlomo, will remain part of Israel in any settlement. Chris Wallace should have asked Gibbs how he reconciles such a statement, and the administration’s behavior over the past week, with the U.S. endorsement of the settlement freeze four months ago that explicitly exempted Jerusalem. In fact, it might make sense for the Israelis to ask for such a clarification. It’s obvious that Obama is trying to change the terms of the agreement by bullying and unilateralism, not by negotiation.

And it is important to note that the kind of rhetoric and outrage we are witnessing on Israel has never been employed by the administration against Syria, Iran, Hamas, North Korea, or any of America’s actual enemies. Regarding “announcements about expanding settlements,” a “senior Obama administration official” told Reuters that “the Israelis know the only way to stay on the positive side of the ledger — internationally and with us — is to not have them recurring.”

Strong stuff! Yet when the administration’s effort to warm ties with Syria over the past month were greeted with a trilateral meeting of terrorists in Damascus — Ahmadinejad, Nasrallah, and Assad — including heated public denouncements of America and pledges to destroy Israel, the administration was silent. No response.

Maybe this is because the administration is focusing on the peace process and treating Syria and Iran as back-burner problems not worthy of U.S. outrage? No, that doesn’t make sense. If this were true, the administration would have criticized the Palestinians for their far greater obstructions to the peace process. As Rubin points out:

Even though the Palestinian Authority has refused to negotiate for 14 months; made President Brack Obama look very foolish after destroying his publicly announced September plan to have negotiations in two months; broke its promise not to sponsor the Goldstone report in the UN; and rejected direct negotiations after months of pleading by the Obama White House, not a single word of criticism has ever been offered by any administration official regarding the PA’s continuous and very public sabotage of peace process efforts.

And as Tom Gross points out, the moment Joe Biden departed the West Bank, the PA held a ceremony to name the town square in Ramallah after Dalal Mughrabi, one of the perpetrators of the infamous Coastal Road Massacre and among the most successful terrorists in Palestinian history. This, too, goes unmentioned by the Obama administration. Palestinian celebrations of mass-murderers are not a hindrance to the peace process, but building apartments in Jewish neighborhoods is. Why doesn’t one of the intrepid Sunday morning hosts ask an administration official why this is?

We have reached a strange new chapter in American diplomacy in which our greatest outrage and our greatest denunciations are reserved for our allies. Maybe that’s not quite right: they’re reserved for one of our allies.

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It Gets Worse

The White House is, as this report suggests, upping the ante with continued criticism of Israel. Taking to the morning talk shows, David Axelrod — a political operative who now seems at the center of foreign-policy formulation (more on this later) — went on the Fox, ABC, and NBC Sunday talk shows to repeat how insulted the Obami were over Israeli building in Jerusalem and what an affront this was to them. And what is the affront? Well, for some context, this report is enlightening:

The Likud Party’s Danny Dadon, deputy speaker of the Knesset, called Clinton’s “meddling in internal Israeli decisions regarding the development” of Jerusalem “uninvited and unhelpful. In fact it is sheer chutzpah.”

“I cannot remember another time that a senior American official deemed it ‘insulting’ when a sovereign nation announced urban zoning decisions regarding its primary city,” Dadon said.

In the past, U.S. administrations have tended to more gently chide Israel on construction in Jerusalem that is over the “Green Line” boundary from the 1967 war, in areas where the Palestinians hope to build a capital as part of a future peace deal. More often, U.S. officials would call such construction “unhelpful,” and note that the future of Jerusalem is an issue to be decided in final status negotiations between the parties.

The reaction of the Obami is even more startling considering the location and strategic importance of Ramat Shlomo. But this administration doesn’t make such fine distinctions and is not like past ones, we are learning. It might have something to do with the fact that Axelrod and the Chicago pols are running foreign policy. It’s attack, attack, attack — just as they do any domestic critic (even the Supreme Court Chief Justice). It’s about bullying and discrediting, trying to force the opponent into a corner. And in this case, their opponent is plainly the Israeli government. For that is the party the Obami is now demanding make further concessions to… well, to what end is not clear. Perhaps we are back to regime change — an effort to topple the duly elected government of Israel to obtain a negotiating partner more willing to yield to American bullying.

The language the Obami employ — “personal,” “insulting,” and “affront” — suggests an unusual degree of personal peevishness and hostility toward an ally. That, I suppose, is the mentality of Chicago pols and of those who regard Israel not as a valued friend but as an irritant. And it is the language not of negotiators but of intimidators.

Illinois Rep. Mark Kirk, now a Senate candidate, issued this statement as the mess unfolded last week:

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Jerusalem Embassy Act, making it official United States policy that Jerusalem should remain the undivided capital of Israel,” Congressman Kirk said.  “As a staff member, I helped draft this historic legislation; as a Congressman I continue to urge its enforcement.  History teaches us that a divided Jerusalem leads to conflict while a unified Jerusalem protects the rights of all faiths.  I urge the Administration to spend more time working to stop Iran from building nuclear bombs and less time concerned with zoning issues in Jerusalem.  As Iran accelerates its uranium enrichment, we should not be condemning one of America’s strongest democratic allies in the Middle East.

And that really sums it up: what end is served by this conflagration with an ally, and what does it say about the administration’s priorities? The Obami seem to have a strange notion about what motivates our foes and what the key threats to American security are. This exchange with Jake Tapper is telling — both for how extraordinarily irrational and how ill-formulated the administration’s rhetoric has become:

TAPPER:  All right, last question.  Vice President Biden went to Israel this week and he was greeted by a slap in the face, the announcement by the Israeli government of the approval of new housing units in an Arab section of Jerusalem.  President Obama was said to be very upset about it.  Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Clinton made very strong comments about it.  Will there be any consequences, tangible consequences beyond the tough talk?  And does Israel’s intransigence on the housing issue put the lives of U.S. troops at risk?

AXELROD:  Well, look, what happened there was an affront.  It was an insult, but that’s not the most important thing.  What it did was it made more difficult a very difficult process.  We’ve just gotten proximity, so-called proximity talks going between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and this seemed calculated to undermine that, and that was — that was distressing to everyone who is promoting the idea of peace — and security in the region.

Israel is a strong and special ally.  The bonds run deep.  But for just that very reason, this was not the right way to behave.  That was expressed by the secretary of state, as well as the vice president.  I am not going to discuss what diplomatic talks we’ve had underneath that, but I think the Israelis understand clearly why we were upset and what, you know, what we want moving forward.

TAPPER:  I hate to say this, but yes or no, David, does the intransigence of the Israeli government on the housing issue, yes or no, does it put U.S. troops lives at risk?

AXELROD:  I believe that that region and that issue is a flare point throughout the region, and so I’m not going to put it in those terms.  But I do believe that it is absolutely imperative, not just for the security of Israel and the Palestinian people, who were, remember, at war just a year ago, but it is important for our own security that we move forward and resolve this very difficult issue.

A squirrely response at the end, revealing that much of what the administration says is irrational and, upon any reflection, ridiculous. It is disturbing indeed to hear an American administration adopt the Arab rhetorical line — Israel’s settlements endanger Americans. Which president has ever given voice to such rubbish? There is, regrettably, a first for everything.

The White House is, as this report suggests, upping the ante with continued criticism of Israel. Taking to the morning talk shows, David Axelrod — a political operative who now seems at the center of foreign-policy formulation (more on this later) — went on the Fox, ABC, and NBC Sunday talk shows to repeat how insulted the Obami were over Israeli building in Jerusalem and what an affront this was to them. And what is the affront? Well, for some context, this report is enlightening:

The Likud Party’s Danny Dadon, deputy speaker of the Knesset, called Clinton’s “meddling in internal Israeli decisions regarding the development” of Jerusalem “uninvited and unhelpful. In fact it is sheer chutzpah.”

“I cannot remember another time that a senior American official deemed it ‘insulting’ when a sovereign nation announced urban zoning decisions regarding its primary city,” Dadon said.

In the past, U.S. administrations have tended to more gently chide Israel on construction in Jerusalem that is over the “Green Line” boundary from the 1967 war, in areas where the Palestinians hope to build a capital as part of a future peace deal. More often, U.S. officials would call such construction “unhelpful,” and note that the future of Jerusalem is an issue to be decided in final status negotiations between the parties.

The reaction of the Obami is even more startling considering the location and strategic importance of Ramat Shlomo. But this administration doesn’t make such fine distinctions and is not like past ones, we are learning. It might have something to do with the fact that Axelrod and the Chicago pols are running foreign policy. It’s attack, attack, attack — just as they do any domestic critic (even the Supreme Court Chief Justice). It’s about bullying and discrediting, trying to force the opponent into a corner. And in this case, their opponent is plainly the Israeli government. For that is the party the Obami is now demanding make further concessions to… well, to what end is not clear. Perhaps we are back to regime change — an effort to topple the duly elected government of Israel to obtain a negotiating partner more willing to yield to American bullying.

The language the Obami employ — “personal,” “insulting,” and “affront” — suggests an unusual degree of personal peevishness and hostility toward an ally. That, I suppose, is the mentality of Chicago pols and of those who regard Israel not as a valued friend but as an irritant. And it is the language not of negotiators but of intimidators.

Illinois Rep. Mark Kirk, now a Senate candidate, issued this statement as the mess unfolded last week:

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Jerusalem Embassy Act, making it official United States policy that Jerusalem should remain the undivided capital of Israel,” Congressman Kirk said.  “As a staff member, I helped draft this historic legislation; as a Congressman I continue to urge its enforcement.  History teaches us that a divided Jerusalem leads to conflict while a unified Jerusalem protects the rights of all faiths.  I urge the Administration to spend more time working to stop Iran from building nuclear bombs and less time concerned with zoning issues in Jerusalem.  As Iran accelerates its uranium enrichment, we should not be condemning one of America’s strongest democratic allies in the Middle East.

And that really sums it up: what end is served by this conflagration with an ally, and what does it say about the administration’s priorities? The Obami seem to have a strange notion about what motivates our foes and what the key threats to American security are. This exchange with Jake Tapper is telling — both for how extraordinarily irrational and how ill-formulated the administration’s rhetoric has become:

TAPPER:  All right, last question.  Vice President Biden went to Israel this week and he was greeted by a slap in the face, the announcement by the Israeli government of the approval of new housing units in an Arab section of Jerusalem.  President Obama was said to be very upset about it.  Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Clinton made very strong comments about it.  Will there be any consequences, tangible consequences beyond the tough talk?  And does Israel’s intransigence on the housing issue put the lives of U.S. troops at risk?

AXELROD:  Well, look, what happened there was an affront.  It was an insult, but that’s not the most important thing.  What it did was it made more difficult a very difficult process.  We’ve just gotten proximity, so-called proximity talks going between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and this seemed calculated to undermine that, and that was — that was distressing to everyone who is promoting the idea of peace — and security in the region.

Israel is a strong and special ally.  The bonds run deep.  But for just that very reason, this was not the right way to behave.  That was expressed by the secretary of state, as well as the vice president.  I am not going to discuss what diplomatic talks we’ve had underneath that, but I think the Israelis understand clearly why we were upset and what, you know, what we want moving forward.

TAPPER:  I hate to say this, but yes or no, David, does the intransigence of the Israeli government on the housing issue, yes or no, does it put U.S. troops lives at risk?

AXELROD:  I believe that that region and that issue is a flare point throughout the region, and so I’m not going to put it in those terms.  But I do believe that it is absolutely imperative, not just for the security of Israel and the Palestinian people, who were, remember, at war just a year ago, but it is important for our own security that we move forward and resolve this very difficult issue.

A squirrely response at the end, revealing that much of what the administration says is irrational and, upon any reflection, ridiculous. It is disturbing indeed to hear an American administration adopt the Arab rhetorical line — Israel’s settlements endanger Americans. Which president has ever given voice to such rubbish? There is, regrettably, a first for everything.

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Procrastination on Iran

At a weekend retreat in Finland, the foreign ministers of the EU met alongside the Turkish foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu. Among the topics discussed was Iran. And among the conclusions emerging from the gathering, there is the admission by the French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, that there is little chance that new sanctions will be passed by the UN Security Council before June. Citing objections from China and Russia, Kouchner said: “We are … talking and talking, trying to get an agreement by negotiation and at the same time working on sanctions. I believe that yes, before June it will be possible, but I’m not so sure.”

Nor is there certainty about the alternative – which, according to the news report, would be unilateral sanctions by the EU and the U.S.

Clearly, there are obstacles on the road to unilateral sanctions – philosophically, many EU countries oppose unilateralism and wish to proceed only after the UN has given the green light. Then, there is the skepticism about sanctions that are not binding on some of Iran’s main trading partners because such measures would fail to bite.

In short, sanctions, even limited ones, are a long way away, and it does not offer any succor to know that EU ministers are “talking about it.”

The fact of the matter is, the last time sanctions were approved was in March 2008, when UN Security Council Resolution 1803 was approved. That was two years ago. Then there was a U.S. presidential election. Then there was a U.S. policy review. Then there were Iranian presidential elections that nobody wished to interfere with. Then there was a summer holiday that nobody wished to spoil. Then there was a U.S. effort to engage the Iranian regime that nobody wished to undermine. Then there was a failed nuclear deal that everyone thought was a win-win situation. Then there was an end-of-the-year deadline that came and went without any Plan B ready to roll out on Jan. 1. Then there was the talking to convince China and Russia (to say nothing of Turkey, which meanwhile became a member of the Security Council), and now there is more talking for Plan C in case Plan B fails. What will the next reason for delay be?

The bottom line is that these are excuses, pretexts, and little else.

There is abundant evidence of Iranian mischief. There is nothing new by now about Iran’s policy of stalling talks. Russian and Chinese interests remain unchanged. The available options for sanctions have been dissected, debated, weighed, assessed, and are known.

It therefore comes down to the following: do the U.S. and the EU wish to stop Iran’s nuclear quest? If so, are they prepared to pay the political price required to make, at least, an honest and worthy effort? Are they willing to face up to the reality that there is simply no international backing for the kind of policies needed to stop Iran now and to avoid conflict in the Persian Gulf later?

If the answer to these questions is yes, there is no need to wait for June. Otherwise, we know what a June deadline means – it means more stalling, more temporizing, more talking, and more procrastinating.

At a weekend retreat in Finland, the foreign ministers of the EU met alongside the Turkish foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu. Among the topics discussed was Iran. And among the conclusions emerging from the gathering, there is the admission by the French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, that there is little chance that new sanctions will be passed by the UN Security Council before June. Citing objections from China and Russia, Kouchner said: “We are … talking and talking, trying to get an agreement by negotiation and at the same time working on sanctions. I believe that yes, before June it will be possible, but I’m not so sure.”

Nor is there certainty about the alternative – which, according to the news report, would be unilateral sanctions by the EU and the U.S.

Clearly, there are obstacles on the road to unilateral sanctions – philosophically, many EU countries oppose unilateralism and wish to proceed only after the UN has given the green light. Then, there is the skepticism about sanctions that are not binding on some of Iran’s main trading partners because such measures would fail to bite.

In short, sanctions, even limited ones, are a long way away, and it does not offer any succor to know that EU ministers are “talking about it.”

The fact of the matter is, the last time sanctions were approved was in March 2008, when UN Security Council Resolution 1803 was approved. That was two years ago. Then there was a U.S. presidential election. Then there was a U.S. policy review. Then there were Iranian presidential elections that nobody wished to interfere with. Then there was a summer holiday that nobody wished to spoil. Then there was a U.S. effort to engage the Iranian regime that nobody wished to undermine. Then there was a failed nuclear deal that everyone thought was a win-win situation. Then there was an end-of-the-year deadline that came and went without any Plan B ready to roll out on Jan. 1. Then there was the talking to convince China and Russia (to say nothing of Turkey, which meanwhile became a member of the Security Council), and now there is more talking for Plan C in case Plan B fails. What will the next reason for delay be?

The bottom line is that these are excuses, pretexts, and little else.

There is abundant evidence of Iranian mischief. There is nothing new by now about Iran’s policy of stalling talks. Russian and Chinese interests remain unchanged. The available options for sanctions have been dissected, debated, weighed, assessed, and are known.

It therefore comes down to the following: do the U.S. and the EU wish to stop Iran’s nuclear quest? If so, are they prepared to pay the political price required to make, at least, an honest and worthy effort? Are they willing to face up to the reality that there is simply no international backing for the kind of policies needed to stop Iran now and to avoid conflict in the Persian Gulf later?

If the answer to these questions is yes, there is no need to wait for June. Otherwise, we know what a June deadline means – it means more stalling, more temporizing, more talking, and more procrastinating.

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Re: They Haven’t Learned the Lesson

The Obami seem to have adopted, if not encouraged, the Palestinian predilection to see an array of Israeli actions as provocation. Building homes within its capital or protecting biblical sites are all provocative to the Palestinian sensibilities. So in rush the Obami, filled with condemnation for Israel. But frankly, practically everything — including Israel’s existence — is provocative to many Palestinians. A case in point: the restoration of the Hurva synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City (destroyed when Jews did not control the site) is now a source of outrage for the Palestinians:

Top Fatah official and holder of the Jerusalem portfolio Khatem Abd el-Kader called Palestinians on Sunday to “converge on al Aksa to save it” from what he called “Israeli attempts to destroy the mosque and replace it with the [Jewish] temple.” Khader was speaking ahead of a dedication of a renovated synagogue in the Jewish Quarter in the Old City, planned to take place Tuesday.He called Israel’s renovation of the Hurva Synagogue a “provocation” and warned Israel that it was “playing with fire.”

It is this mentality that the Obami only encourage with their bile-filled statements and constant hollering at Israel, and with it, they further the notion that Israel, unlike any other country in the world, is restricted in where its citizens may live and in what historic and religious sites it can attend to. If only the outrage were as great for Palestinian celebrations of terrorists.

The Obami seem to have adopted, if not encouraged, the Palestinian predilection to see an array of Israeli actions as provocation. Building homes within its capital or protecting biblical sites are all provocative to the Palestinian sensibilities. So in rush the Obami, filled with condemnation for Israel. But frankly, practically everything — including Israel’s existence — is provocative to many Palestinians. A case in point: the restoration of the Hurva synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City (destroyed when Jews did not control the site) is now a source of outrage for the Palestinians:

Top Fatah official and holder of the Jerusalem portfolio Khatem Abd el-Kader called Palestinians on Sunday to “converge on al Aksa to save it” from what he called “Israeli attempts to destroy the mosque and replace it with the [Jewish] temple.” Khader was speaking ahead of a dedication of a renovated synagogue in the Jewish Quarter in the Old City, planned to take place Tuesday.He called Israel’s renovation of the Hurva Synagogue a “provocation” and warned Israel that it was “playing with fire.”

It is this mentality that the Obami only encourage with their bile-filled statements and constant hollering at Israel, and with it, they further the notion that Israel, unlike any other country in the world, is restricted in where its citizens may live and in what historic and religious sites it can attend to. If only the outrage were as great for Palestinian celebrations of terrorists.

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They Haven’t Learned the Lesson

Last week, I wrote that American, European, and Arab success in pressuring the Palestinians to resume negotiations could prove a turnabout in the peace process, if the world learned the lesson and began pressing the Palestinians for necessary concessions on substantive issues. But based on its response to last week’s announcement of new construction in Jerusalem’s Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, the world clearly hasn’t learned the lesson.

All the parties concerned were understandably upset by the announcement’s timing: just as proximity talks were about to begin, and while Vice President Joe Biden was in the region. But substantively, the new construction makes absolutely no difference to the prospects of an agreement — because any agreement would unquestionably leave this neighborhood in Israel’s hands.

Ramat Shlomo already has more than 20,000 residents — far too big to be uprooted even without the planned 1,600 new houses. It is also, as Rick noted, of considerable strategic importance, dominating all of Jerusalem’s major roads; thus Israel would insist on retaining it, even if not a single Jew lived there. Finally, its location in no way precludes the division of Jerusalem, which is what both Washington and Europe claim to want: situated in the corner formed by two other huge Jewish neighborhoods to its west and south, it does not block a single Arab neighborhood from contiguity with a future Palestinian state.

Thus if Washington and Europe were serious about wanting an agreement, they would essentially tell the Palestinians: “Grow up. You can’t turn the clock back 43 years, so not everything that was Jordanian-occupied territory in May 1967 will eventually become Palestinian. Some of it will remain Israeli — and that includes Ramat Shlomo. Don’t waste time and energy fighting Israeli construction in areas that will never be part of Palestine; focus on fighting construction in areas that realistically could be Palestinian under any agreement.”

Instead, by their over-the-top condemnations, America and Europe have fed the Palestinians’ fantasy that they can turn the clock back — because the only way this new construction could be the enormous obstacle to an agreement that the world has labeled it is if Ramat Shlomo actually could and should become Palestinian.

Every serious negotiator for the last 17 years has recognized that any agreement will have to take account of developments since 1967. That’s why every serious peace proposal, from the Clinton plan in 2000 to Ehud Olmert’s offer in 2008, has involved Israel keeping about 6 percent of the West Bank (with or without territorial swaps). But the Palestinians still refuse to accept this fact: they continue to insist on swaps comprising at most 2 to 3 percent of the West Bank. That would force Israel to evict hundreds of thousands of Jews from their homes, which is both politically and economically unfeasible.

For any agreement to be possible, the world must finally make the Palestinians recognize that the clock cannot be turned back. By instead doing the opposite over Ramat Shlomo, Washington and Europe are undermining their own stated goal of achieving a peace deal.

Last week, I wrote that American, European, and Arab success in pressuring the Palestinians to resume negotiations could prove a turnabout in the peace process, if the world learned the lesson and began pressing the Palestinians for necessary concessions on substantive issues. But based on its response to last week’s announcement of new construction in Jerusalem’s Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, the world clearly hasn’t learned the lesson.

All the parties concerned were understandably upset by the announcement’s timing: just as proximity talks were about to begin, and while Vice President Joe Biden was in the region. But substantively, the new construction makes absolutely no difference to the prospects of an agreement — because any agreement would unquestionably leave this neighborhood in Israel’s hands.

Ramat Shlomo already has more than 20,000 residents — far too big to be uprooted even without the planned 1,600 new houses. It is also, as Rick noted, of considerable strategic importance, dominating all of Jerusalem’s major roads; thus Israel would insist on retaining it, even if not a single Jew lived there. Finally, its location in no way precludes the division of Jerusalem, which is what both Washington and Europe claim to want: situated in the corner formed by two other huge Jewish neighborhoods to its west and south, it does not block a single Arab neighborhood from contiguity with a future Palestinian state.

Thus if Washington and Europe were serious about wanting an agreement, they would essentially tell the Palestinians: “Grow up. You can’t turn the clock back 43 years, so not everything that was Jordanian-occupied territory in May 1967 will eventually become Palestinian. Some of it will remain Israeli — and that includes Ramat Shlomo. Don’t waste time and energy fighting Israeli construction in areas that will never be part of Palestine; focus on fighting construction in areas that realistically could be Palestinian under any agreement.”

Instead, by their over-the-top condemnations, America and Europe have fed the Palestinians’ fantasy that they can turn the clock back — because the only way this new construction could be the enormous obstacle to an agreement that the world has labeled it is if Ramat Shlomo actually could and should become Palestinian.

Every serious negotiator for the last 17 years has recognized that any agreement will have to take account of developments since 1967. That’s why every serious peace proposal, from the Clinton plan in 2000 to Ehud Olmert’s offer in 2008, has involved Israel keeping about 6 percent of the West Bank (with or without territorial swaps). But the Palestinians still refuse to accept this fact: they continue to insist on swaps comprising at most 2 to 3 percent of the West Bank. That would force Israel to evict hundreds of thousands of Jews from their homes, which is both politically and economically unfeasible.

For any agreement to be possible, the world must finally make the Palestinians recognize that the clock cannot be turned back. By instead doing the opposite over Ramat Shlomo, Washington and Europe are undermining their own stated goal of achieving a peace deal.

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No Place to Hide

Although David Brooks may think Obama is the model of moderation, Obama’s fellow Democrats don’t. Politico reports:

Moderate House Democrats facing potentially difficult re-elections this fall have a message for President Barack Obama: don’t call us, we’ll call you. Interviews with nearly a dozen congressional Democrats on the ballot this year reveal a decided lack of enthusiasm for having Obama come to their districts to campaign for them—the most basic gauge of a president’s popularity.

He’s more toxic than even George W. Bush may have been late in his term. Obama, of course, is still in his first. And it seems the problem for Democrats is not limited to just a few locales. (“But the sense of uncertainty over what-to-with-Obama seen last year in Virginia — where Democratic gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds wrestled with whether to run with or from the president before ultimately embracing him in the campaign’s final weeks — now seems to be evolving into a firmer feeling among many centrist Democrats that they’d be better off without him appearing in their districts with them.”)

But the problem is not simply physical proximity. Democratic incumbents can try to avoid appearing on a stage with Obama. But what about all those votes they cast in favor of the agenda that is now the subject of voters’ ire? When Creigh Deeds ran, someone who’d never cast a vote in Congress for ObamaCare or cap-and-trade, his opponent pummeled him, running a campaign designed to capture disaffected independents and angry Republicans. That approach will be all the more effective against those Democrats who are now scared to appear next to Obama but who had no problem rubber-stamping his budget, the failed stimulus, ObamaCare, and cap-and-trade. For those Democrats, there won’t be any place to hide.

Although David Brooks may think Obama is the model of moderation, Obama’s fellow Democrats don’t. Politico reports:

Moderate House Democrats facing potentially difficult re-elections this fall have a message for President Barack Obama: don’t call us, we’ll call you. Interviews with nearly a dozen congressional Democrats on the ballot this year reveal a decided lack of enthusiasm for having Obama come to their districts to campaign for them—the most basic gauge of a president’s popularity.

He’s more toxic than even George W. Bush may have been late in his term. Obama, of course, is still in his first. And it seems the problem for Democrats is not limited to just a few locales. (“But the sense of uncertainty over what-to-with-Obama seen last year in Virginia — where Democratic gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds wrestled with whether to run with or from the president before ultimately embracing him in the campaign’s final weeks — now seems to be evolving into a firmer feeling among many centrist Democrats that they’d be better off without him appearing in their districts with them.”)

But the problem is not simply physical proximity. Democratic incumbents can try to avoid appearing on a stage with Obama. But what about all those votes they cast in favor of the agenda that is now the subject of voters’ ire? When Creigh Deeds ran, someone who’d never cast a vote in Congress for ObamaCare or cap-and-trade, his opponent pummeled him, running a campaign designed to capture disaffected independents and angry Republicans. That approach will be all the more effective against those Democrats who are now scared to appear next to Obama but who had no problem rubber-stamping his budget, the failed stimulus, ObamaCare, and cap-and-trade. For those Democrats, there won’t be any place to hide.

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How an Election Is Nationalized

Two races in Illinois and Pennsylvania exemplify the difficulties  Democrats are having these days. Regarding the Illinois Senate race, the Chicago Sun Times reports:

U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk said the arrest this week of a Giannoulias family friend and bank customer brings the amount of money Broadway Bank has lent to criminals to $52 million.

State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, Kirk’s Democratic opponent for U.S. Senate, has said that as chief loan officer of his family’s bank from 2002 to 2006, he did not check loan applicants’ arrest records.

Kirk, a North Shore Republican, calls that “reckless.”

And in a Friday news dump, Giannoulias announced he was giving back all the campaign funds he received from “bank fraudster Nick Giannis and his family.” So to sum up: to fill the seat of  Roland Burris, the Blago appointee (whose seat and the potential purchase thereof is the subject of the criminal trial later this year), the Democrats have nominated a banker who lent millions to mobsters, whose bank is on the verge of going under, and who pleads ignorance about his clients’ criminality. This is in a year in which backdoor deals, a series of ethics issues (e.g. Charlie Rangel, Eric Massa), and a general anti-insider sentiment has ensnared the Democrats. It’s hard to imagine a less appealing candidate for the Democrats. And frankly, if they aren’t lucky, Giannoulias and the other ethically challenged Democrats are going to become the poster boys — and the unifying message — for many Republicans outside Illinois.

Then there is Pennsylvania. Before we get to the Senate and gubernatorial races, both of which look promising for Republicans, there is a House special election. As Politico reports:

The special election to fill the House seat of the late Pennsylvania Democrat John Murtha will pit a candidate who fully embraces Murtha’s legacy against a Republican political newcomer who’s aiming to nationalize the election. Pennsylvania Republicans anointed businessman Tim Burns on Thursday as their candidate to face Murtha’s former district director, Mark Critz, in the May 18 election. Burns has been running on a down-the-line conservative platform of opposition to the stimulus, health care legislation and government spending.

And if the Obama-Reid-Pelosi troika push through ObamaCare, this may be an early warning sign (well, another warning sign after Scott Brown) as to  just how angry the electorate is and how willing the voters are to flip a seat that, in a normal election year, would be relatively safe for Democrats.

This is the stuff of wave elections — the collision of ethics scandals, voter anger, fiscal mismanagement, and, don’t forget, a floundering president. How big the wave will be depends, I think, on just how serious the Democrats are about dealing with their ethically challenged members and how determined they are to take the plunge on a monstrous health-care bill that voters generally loathe.

Two races in Illinois and Pennsylvania exemplify the difficulties  Democrats are having these days. Regarding the Illinois Senate race, the Chicago Sun Times reports:

U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk said the arrest this week of a Giannoulias family friend and bank customer brings the amount of money Broadway Bank has lent to criminals to $52 million.

State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, Kirk’s Democratic opponent for U.S. Senate, has said that as chief loan officer of his family’s bank from 2002 to 2006, he did not check loan applicants’ arrest records.

Kirk, a North Shore Republican, calls that “reckless.”

And in a Friday news dump, Giannoulias announced he was giving back all the campaign funds he received from “bank fraudster Nick Giannis and his family.” So to sum up: to fill the seat of  Roland Burris, the Blago appointee (whose seat and the potential purchase thereof is the subject of the criminal trial later this year), the Democrats have nominated a banker who lent millions to mobsters, whose bank is on the verge of going under, and who pleads ignorance about his clients’ criminality. This is in a year in which backdoor deals, a series of ethics issues (e.g. Charlie Rangel, Eric Massa), and a general anti-insider sentiment has ensnared the Democrats. It’s hard to imagine a less appealing candidate for the Democrats. And frankly, if they aren’t lucky, Giannoulias and the other ethically challenged Democrats are going to become the poster boys — and the unifying message — for many Republicans outside Illinois.

Then there is Pennsylvania. Before we get to the Senate and gubernatorial races, both of which look promising for Republicans, there is a House special election. As Politico reports:

The special election to fill the House seat of the late Pennsylvania Democrat John Murtha will pit a candidate who fully embraces Murtha’s legacy against a Republican political newcomer who’s aiming to nationalize the election. Pennsylvania Republicans anointed businessman Tim Burns on Thursday as their candidate to face Murtha’s former district director, Mark Critz, in the May 18 election. Burns has been running on a down-the-line conservative platform of opposition to the stimulus, health care legislation and government spending.

And if the Obama-Reid-Pelosi troika push through ObamaCare, this may be an early warning sign (well, another warning sign after Scott Brown) as to  just how angry the electorate is and how willing the voters are to flip a seat that, in a normal election year, would be relatively safe for Democrats.

This is the stuff of wave elections — the collision of ethics scandals, voter anger, fiscal mismanagement, and, don’t forget, a floundering president. How big the wave will be depends, I think, on just how serious the Democrats are about dealing with their ethically challenged members and how determined they are to take the plunge on a monstrous health-care bill that voters generally loathe.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Another conservative woman drives the media elite around the bend: “Like father, like daughter, it seems. Much as Dick Cheney staked out the far right wing of the Bush administration, winning the respect and gratitude of GOP hawks despite his low popularity nationwide, Liz seems eager to make her reputation by unnerving her party’s moderates.”

Another reminder from James Capretta and Yuval Levin on the dangers of ObamaCare: “The heart of the Democratic plan is a promise to provide subsidized insurance coverage to some 35 to 40 million people. This will cost about $200 billion per year by 2019. And despite all of the talk of bending the cost curve, the Congressional Budget Office says the price will grow by 8 percent per year every year thereafter—which parallels the rapid cost growth of Medicare and Medicaid over the last four decades. In other words, the White House and congressional Democrats want to create another runaway entitlement program, piled on top of the unaffordable ones that are already slated to bankrupt the government.”

Another smart point by COMMENTARY contributor Tevi Troy: “Contrary to the conventional wisdom, health care has been a poor issue for the Democrats. A step by step approach works far better politically than attempting to redo the whole system. Given this history, Democrats interested in their political survival, not to mention the state of our health care system, should be very wary of voting yes.” And yet so many seem intent on committing political suicide.

Another way of looking at the Democratic civil war on health care, from CATO’s Michael Cannon: “The Democrats’ dogged, bloodthirsty crusade for universal coverage has been possible only because the wonks have seduced or silenced the hacks within the Democratic party. It appears the hacks may be ready to launch a rebellion.” By “hacks” he means the poor shlubs who run for office or help others to.

Another questionable Obama nominee: “Senate Republicans are preparing to challenge President Obama’s nominee for ambassador to El Salvador over her previous ties to an alleged asset of Cuban intelligence. Lawyer Mari Carmen Aponte was previously nominated to be an ambassador under President Bill Clinton, but withdrew her name from consideration after reports of her relationship with Cuban national Roberto Tamayo surfaced. … Tamayo, with whom she co-habitated for eight years starting in 1986, was an asset to the Cuban intelligence agency DGI. Former Cuban intelligence agent and defector Florentino Aspillaga also alleged Tamayo tried to recruit Aponte.” There was no other qualified nominee?

Another report suggesting that ObamaCare is a tough sell with wary Democrats: “House Democratic leaders don’t have the votes to pass healthcare reform. At least not yet. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has expressed confidence that when push comes to shove, healthcare reform will pass Congress. But there will be plenty of pushing in the days ahead. Pelosi is clearly down in the vote count. Thirty-four House Democrats are either firm no votes or leaning no, according to The Hill’s whip list. Dozens more are undecided. Pelosi is clearly down in the vote count. Thirty-four House Democrats are either firm no votes or leaning no, according to The Hill’s whip list. Dozens more are undecided.”

Another foolish thing the Obami could do on Iran: send another New Year’s greeting to the mullahs!

Another example of what passes for “transparency” in this administration: “At Friday’s White House briefing, press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked, for the fifth time in less than three weeks, about Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak’s charge that the White House offered Sestak a high-ranking job if Sestak would drop his challenge to Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania. And for the fifth time, Gibbs refused to answer the question of whether the White House offered a bribe to protect the fortunes of a key political ally.”

Another conservative woman drives the media elite around the bend: “Like father, like daughter, it seems. Much as Dick Cheney staked out the far right wing of the Bush administration, winning the respect and gratitude of GOP hawks despite his low popularity nationwide, Liz seems eager to make her reputation by unnerving her party’s moderates.”

Another reminder from James Capretta and Yuval Levin on the dangers of ObamaCare: “The heart of the Democratic plan is a promise to provide subsidized insurance coverage to some 35 to 40 million people. This will cost about $200 billion per year by 2019. And despite all of the talk of bending the cost curve, the Congressional Budget Office says the price will grow by 8 percent per year every year thereafter—which parallels the rapid cost growth of Medicare and Medicaid over the last four decades. In other words, the White House and congressional Democrats want to create another runaway entitlement program, piled on top of the unaffordable ones that are already slated to bankrupt the government.”

Another smart point by COMMENTARY contributor Tevi Troy: “Contrary to the conventional wisdom, health care has been a poor issue for the Democrats. A step by step approach works far better politically than attempting to redo the whole system. Given this history, Democrats interested in their political survival, not to mention the state of our health care system, should be very wary of voting yes.” And yet so many seem intent on committing political suicide.

Another way of looking at the Democratic civil war on health care, from CATO’s Michael Cannon: “The Democrats’ dogged, bloodthirsty crusade for universal coverage has been possible only because the wonks have seduced or silenced the hacks within the Democratic party. It appears the hacks may be ready to launch a rebellion.” By “hacks” he means the poor shlubs who run for office or help others to.

Another questionable Obama nominee: “Senate Republicans are preparing to challenge President Obama’s nominee for ambassador to El Salvador over her previous ties to an alleged asset of Cuban intelligence. Lawyer Mari Carmen Aponte was previously nominated to be an ambassador under President Bill Clinton, but withdrew her name from consideration after reports of her relationship with Cuban national Roberto Tamayo surfaced. … Tamayo, with whom she co-habitated for eight years starting in 1986, was an asset to the Cuban intelligence agency DGI. Former Cuban intelligence agent and defector Florentino Aspillaga also alleged Tamayo tried to recruit Aponte.” There was no other qualified nominee?

Another report suggesting that ObamaCare is a tough sell with wary Democrats: “House Democratic leaders don’t have the votes to pass healthcare reform. At least not yet. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has expressed confidence that when push comes to shove, healthcare reform will pass Congress. But there will be plenty of pushing in the days ahead. Pelosi is clearly down in the vote count. Thirty-four House Democrats are either firm no votes or leaning no, according to The Hill’s whip list. Dozens more are undecided. Pelosi is clearly down in the vote count. Thirty-four House Democrats are either firm no votes or leaning no, according to The Hill’s whip list. Dozens more are undecided.”

Another foolish thing the Obami could do on Iran: send another New Year’s greeting to the mullahs!

Another example of what passes for “transparency” in this administration: “At Friday’s White House briefing, press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked, for the fifth time in less than three weeks, about Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak’s charge that the White House offered Sestak a high-ranking job if Sestak would drop his challenge to Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania. And for the fifth time, Gibbs refused to answer the question of whether the White House offered a bribe to protect the fortunes of a key political ally.”

Read Less




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