Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 19, 2010

Double-Standards Watch

For a few months, a “human rights activist” named Mohammad Othman was held by Israel in something called administrative detention, which allows suspects to be held for a short period of time without a trial, but with judicial oversight. Othman’s detention earned this rebuke from Human Rights Watch, titled with a stern demand: “End Arbitrary Detention.” Of course, many nations, both democratic and undemocratic, practice administrative detention. And why the presumption that it was “arbitrary”? Never mind. The statement reads:

Israeli authorities have detained Othman without charge for more than two months on what appear to be politically motivated grounds. … Othman has no criminal record and, to the knowledge of Human Rights Watch, has never advocated or participated in violence. …

“The only reasonable conclusion is that Othman is being punished for his peaceful advocacy,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. [Emphasis added to weasel-phrasing]

Is that really the only reasonable conclusion? I would actually characterize this as a fantasy conclusion, or at least one of many possible conclusions. If the Shin Bet or IDF were interested in punishing people for “peaceful advocacy” in Israel and the West Bank, there would be tens of thousands of activists in detention. But there aren’t. The fact of the matter is that Whitson has no idea why he was detained, and neither does anyone else outside the Israeli security establishment and courts — but her ignorance of the facts doesn’t stop her from accusing Israel of grave abuses. I would say that the only “reasonable conclusion” here is that Whitson is a shrill and fanatical political activist who has no business working for a human-rights organization.

As it happens, there was another person detained in the area around the same time — a British journalist named Paul Martin, who traveled to Gaza to testify on behalf of a Palestinian accused by Hamas of “collaborating.” Martin was promptly arrested and thrown in jail as a “security threat.” Whitson’s response? She waited until Martin was released and then issued a short statement that is exquisitely deferential to Hamas, containing none of the allegations and passion of her Othman statement. “Journalist’s Detention Violated Due Process,” the title reads.

“We are relieved at Martin’s release, but we are also concerned that Hamas has produced no evidence to justify his detention,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

For Israel, there are accusations, demands, and denunciations. For Hamas, there is polite “concern” that “due process” rules weren’t followed, as if Hamas has any pretensions to due process in the first place. This is Human Rights Watch.

For a few months, a “human rights activist” named Mohammad Othman was held by Israel in something called administrative detention, which allows suspects to be held for a short period of time without a trial, but with judicial oversight. Othman’s detention earned this rebuke from Human Rights Watch, titled with a stern demand: “End Arbitrary Detention.” Of course, many nations, both democratic and undemocratic, practice administrative detention. And why the presumption that it was “arbitrary”? Never mind. The statement reads:

Israeli authorities have detained Othman without charge for more than two months on what appear to be politically motivated grounds. … Othman has no criminal record and, to the knowledge of Human Rights Watch, has never advocated or participated in violence. …

“The only reasonable conclusion is that Othman is being punished for his peaceful advocacy,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. [Emphasis added to weasel-phrasing]

Is that really the only reasonable conclusion? I would actually characterize this as a fantasy conclusion, or at least one of many possible conclusions. If the Shin Bet or IDF were interested in punishing people for “peaceful advocacy” in Israel and the West Bank, there would be tens of thousands of activists in detention. But there aren’t. The fact of the matter is that Whitson has no idea why he was detained, and neither does anyone else outside the Israeli security establishment and courts — but her ignorance of the facts doesn’t stop her from accusing Israel of grave abuses. I would say that the only “reasonable conclusion” here is that Whitson is a shrill and fanatical political activist who has no business working for a human-rights organization.

As it happens, there was another person detained in the area around the same time — a British journalist named Paul Martin, who traveled to Gaza to testify on behalf of a Palestinian accused by Hamas of “collaborating.” Martin was promptly arrested and thrown in jail as a “security threat.” Whitson’s response? She waited until Martin was released and then issued a short statement that is exquisitely deferential to Hamas, containing none of the allegations and passion of her Othman statement. “Journalist’s Detention Violated Due Process,” the title reads.

“We are relieved at Martin’s release, but we are also concerned that Hamas has produced no evidence to justify his detention,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

For Israel, there are accusations, demands, and denunciations. For Hamas, there is polite “concern” that “due process” rules weren’t followed, as if Hamas has any pretensions to due process in the first place. This is Human Rights Watch.

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Will They Still Stick with Obama?

Last summer, Alan Dershowitz wrote a defense of Barack Obama’s policy toward Israel and, by extension, of the numerous Jewish Democrats who had supported the president’s election and stuck by him despite a rocky first few months in office. Reacting to what he acknowledged was a “harsher approach toward Israel” than had been displayed during his campaign, Dershowitz insisted that despite disputes over settlements and engagement with Iran, the new administration was still solid on what was really important: safeguarding Israel’s security.

But as I wrote at the time, rather than encouraging the Palestinians and their supporters in the Arab world to finally make peace with Israel, Obama’s decision to distance  himself from Israel and downgrade America’s alliance with the Jewish state encouraged its foes to dig in their heels and to wait for more American pressure. By picking a needless fight with Israel over settlements and expanding a longstanding disagreement over Jewish settlement in the West Bank into one about the right of Jews to build in Jerusalem, Obama changed the dynamic of the relationship with Israel into one characterized by distrust rather than friendship.

Yet by the start of Obama’s second year in office, the situation appeared brighter. The contempt with which Iran had treated his outstretched hand had appeared to sober Obama up about engagement. Having failed in an effort to topple the newly elected government of Israel led by Benjamin Netanyahu in 2009 and been disappointed by the Palestinians’ refusal to talk peace, the president seemed to have finally grasped the limitations on his power to remake Middle East.

But such optimism was dashed this past week as Washington seized on a poorly timed announcement of a housing project in Jerusalem during a visit by Vice President Joe Biden to set off a major confrontation with the Netanyahu government. By choosing to turn a minor gaffe into a major incident while ignoring far worse Palestinian provocations, and specifically attempting to muscle Israel into a pledge to stop building in East Jerusalem — something no previous administration had ever done — Obama showed that brutal pressure on Israel remained high on his agenda. Having already reneged on previous pledges of American support for Israel’s holding on to parts of the West Bank and Jerusalem, the president is doubling down on his drive to bludgeon the Jewish state into further concessions without any hope of reciprocation from the Palestinians. Washington has placed the onus for the certain failure of peace talks on Netanyahu rather than on a Palestinian leadership that has no intention of signing any agreement no matter what it says. And by responding more forcefully to a minor dispute with its ally Israel than to the endless atrocities and provocations committed by the Islamist regime in Tehran, Obama has sent a clear signal that no one need take his pledge to stop Iran’s nuclear program seriously.

That raises the question of what Obama’s Jewish supporters have to say now. While Dershowitz and other Jewish Democrats may still claim that statements by Secretary of State Clinton and other officials of America’s resolve to stand by Israel reflect the real nature of the relationship, the latest round of bitter and pointless controversy over Jerusalem orchestrated by Obama must leave even the most ardent fans of the president wondering.

Some on the Jewish Left, like the J Street lobby, are happy to see the administration bashing Netanyahu, because they hope American pressure can reverse the outcome of the last election, in which Israel’s left-wing parties crashed and burned. But while the majority of American Jews may not be particularly fond of Netanyahu or supportive of West Bank settlers, they, like the vast majority of Israelis, do not wish to see Jerusalem divided. Nor do they believe that Israel needs to be saved from itself. Like most Americans, they understand that the Palestinians, both the moderates of Fatah and the extremists of Hamas who rule Gaza, are the real obstacles to peace, not a democratically elected government of Israel.

Two years ago, Obama wooed American Jews at an AIPAC conference by pledging his devotion to the alliance with Israel. As AIPAC begins its annual conference this week, the distance that Obama’s administration has traveled from those pledges will be hard to ignore.

Last summer, Alan Dershowitz wrote a defense of Barack Obama’s policy toward Israel and, by extension, of the numerous Jewish Democrats who had supported the president’s election and stuck by him despite a rocky first few months in office. Reacting to what he acknowledged was a “harsher approach toward Israel” than had been displayed during his campaign, Dershowitz insisted that despite disputes over settlements and engagement with Iran, the new administration was still solid on what was really important: safeguarding Israel’s security.

But as I wrote at the time, rather than encouraging the Palestinians and their supporters in the Arab world to finally make peace with Israel, Obama’s decision to distance  himself from Israel and downgrade America’s alliance with the Jewish state encouraged its foes to dig in their heels and to wait for more American pressure. By picking a needless fight with Israel over settlements and expanding a longstanding disagreement over Jewish settlement in the West Bank into one about the right of Jews to build in Jerusalem, Obama changed the dynamic of the relationship with Israel into one characterized by distrust rather than friendship.

Yet by the start of Obama’s second year in office, the situation appeared brighter. The contempt with which Iran had treated his outstretched hand had appeared to sober Obama up about engagement. Having failed in an effort to topple the newly elected government of Israel led by Benjamin Netanyahu in 2009 and been disappointed by the Palestinians’ refusal to talk peace, the president seemed to have finally grasped the limitations on his power to remake Middle East.

But such optimism was dashed this past week as Washington seized on a poorly timed announcement of a housing project in Jerusalem during a visit by Vice President Joe Biden to set off a major confrontation with the Netanyahu government. By choosing to turn a minor gaffe into a major incident while ignoring far worse Palestinian provocations, and specifically attempting to muscle Israel into a pledge to stop building in East Jerusalem — something no previous administration had ever done — Obama showed that brutal pressure on Israel remained high on his agenda. Having already reneged on previous pledges of American support for Israel’s holding on to parts of the West Bank and Jerusalem, the president is doubling down on his drive to bludgeon the Jewish state into further concessions without any hope of reciprocation from the Palestinians. Washington has placed the onus for the certain failure of peace talks on Netanyahu rather than on a Palestinian leadership that has no intention of signing any agreement no matter what it says. And by responding more forcefully to a minor dispute with its ally Israel than to the endless atrocities and provocations committed by the Islamist regime in Tehran, Obama has sent a clear signal that no one need take his pledge to stop Iran’s nuclear program seriously.

That raises the question of what Obama’s Jewish supporters have to say now. While Dershowitz and other Jewish Democrats may still claim that statements by Secretary of State Clinton and other officials of America’s resolve to stand by Israel reflect the real nature of the relationship, the latest round of bitter and pointless controversy over Jerusalem orchestrated by Obama must leave even the most ardent fans of the president wondering.

Some on the Jewish Left, like the J Street lobby, are happy to see the administration bashing Netanyahu, because they hope American pressure can reverse the outcome of the last election, in which Israel’s left-wing parties crashed and burned. But while the majority of American Jews may not be particularly fond of Netanyahu or supportive of West Bank settlers, they, like the vast majority of Israelis, do not wish to see Jerusalem divided. Nor do they believe that Israel needs to be saved from itself. Like most Americans, they understand that the Palestinians, both the moderates of Fatah and the extremists of Hamas who rule Gaza, are the real obstacles to peace, not a democratically elected government of Israel.

Two years ago, Obama wooed American Jews at an AIPAC conference by pledging his devotion to the alliance with Israel. As AIPAC begins its annual conference this week, the distance that Obama’s administration has traveled from those pledges will be hard to ignore.

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Hillary Boasts of Her Success

This report suggests that the Obami have learned exactly nothing from the smash-up with Israel over the Jerusalem housing expansion:

In an interview with the BBC’s Kim Ghattas today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the toughness of the U.S. reaction to the Israeli government’s East Jerusalem housing announcement last week is “paying off” as the U.S. now expects negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians to resume.

She also said that contrary to some reports, the U.S. is not interested in forcing a shuffle in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition. She said, however, that it’s Netanyahu’s responsibility to “make sure that he brings in everyone else” in his government he needs to to pursue negotiations with the Palestinians.

Hillary seems positively delighted with the crimp put in U.S.-Israeli relations. Do you think she’ll repeat that at her AIPAC appearance Monday morning? Or is boasting about roughing up Bibi just a morsel for consumption by the Israel-bashing BBC? Meanwhile, one wonders whether Hillary considers this among her successes:

While a tense calm has prevailed in the capital since rioting rocked its eastern neighborhoods Tuesday, Jerusalem Police on Thursday announced that the deployment of more than 3,000 police officers throughout the Old City and east Jerusalem would continue Friday, and access to the Temple Mount would be restricted, amid fears that prayers there could give way to renewed clashes.

The heightened police presence has been in effect since last Friday, when tensions in the area began to build and sporadic clashes erupted inside the Old City’s Muslim Quarter and in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al-Amud.

I’m sure an imaginary condemnation is sure to follow.

This report suggests that the Obami have learned exactly nothing from the smash-up with Israel over the Jerusalem housing expansion:

In an interview with the BBC’s Kim Ghattas today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the toughness of the U.S. reaction to the Israeli government’s East Jerusalem housing announcement last week is “paying off” as the U.S. now expects negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians to resume.

She also said that contrary to some reports, the U.S. is not interested in forcing a shuffle in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition. She said, however, that it’s Netanyahu’s responsibility to “make sure that he brings in everyone else” in his government he needs to to pursue negotiations with the Palestinians.

Hillary seems positively delighted with the crimp put in U.S.-Israeli relations. Do you think she’ll repeat that at her AIPAC appearance Monday morning? Or is boasting about roughing up Bibi just a morsel for consumption by the Israel-bashing BBC? Meanwhile, one wonders whether Hillary considers this among her successes:

While a tense calm has prevailed in the capital since rioting rocked its eastern neighborhoods Tuesday, Jerusalem Police on Thursday announced that the deployment of more than 3,000 police officers throughout the Old City and east Jerusalem would continue Friday, and access to the Temple Mount would be restricted, amid fears that prayers there could give way to renewed clashes.

The heightened police presence has been in effect since last Friday, when tensions in the area began to build and sporadic clashes erupted inside the Old City’s Muslim Quarter and in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al-Amud.

I’m sure an imaginary condemnation is sure to follow.

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Sexual Orientation and the Military

Supporters of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy are finding it hard to make persuasive arguments in its favor. At least that’s the only conclusion I can draw from the bizarre suggestion put forward at a Senate hearing by John Sheehan, a retired four-star Marine general who once ran NATO’s Atlantic Command. He suggested that Dutch soldiers failed to prevent the Srebrenica massacre in 1995 because there were too many gays in the ranks! The Dutch reaction is on-target:

“It is astonishing that a man of his stature can utter such complete nonsense,” Dutch defense-ministry spokesman Roger van de Wetering said in response.

“The Srebrenica massacre and the involvement of UN soldiers was extensively investigated by the Netherlands, international organizations and the United Nations.

“Never was there in any way concluded that the sexual orientation of soldiers played a role.”

Next, perhaps, General Sheehan will suggest that Israel’s failure to more decisively defeat Hezbollah in 2006 was also due to the presence of openly gay service people. That might also explain Britain’s failure to pacify Basra. And the Spartans’ failure to defeat the Persians at Thermopylae. Or not.

Bizarre as this argument is, a rejoinder from British journalist Toby Young was just as weird. He writes, “Isn’t the General aware that some of the finest soldiers in the history of warfare have been ‘openly homosexual’?” Actually, while the sexuality of various generals such as Bernard Law Montgomery and Lord Kitchener has been much gossiped about, it is hard to think of any prominent commanders who were openly gay since the days of antiquity. The example Young cites is truly off-the-wall: Orde Wingate.

I happen to know a fair amount about Wingate, an unconventional British army officer who rose to fame commanding the Chindit special force in Japanese-held Burma in World War II. Previously he had served with distinction in Palestine and Abyssinia. He is still remembered in Israel for his strong Zionism. I’m writing about Wingate in my history of guerrilla warfare, and, having read pretty much everything that has been published about him, I have not found a single suggestion that he was homosexual. Until now.

Admittedly, Wingate was very odd; for instance, he received visitors to his quarters in the nude. But gay? If Young has any actual evidence to support this allegation, he doesn’t present it. Actually Wingate was devoted to his wife Lorna, an intelligent beauty whom he met in 1933 when she was just 16 years old and he was 31. He immediately dumped his fiancée and married her. His letters to her were full of longing and devotion. Young is making up history as he goes along by suggesting that there was something sexual about Wingate’s relationship with his aide Abraham Akavia, who worked with him in Palestine and Abyssinia.

The general point remains valid. There have undoubtedly been many brave, successful gay soldiers. But I object to the modern habit, especially common among trendy academics, of attributing homosexuality to random historical figures based on scant evidence — a trend that has even encompassed Abraham Lincoln. This is projecting our own obsession with sex into the past.

Supporters of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy are finding it hard to make persuasive arguments in its favor. At least that’s the only conclusion I can draw from the bizarre suggestion put forward at a Senate hearing by John Sheehan, a retired four-star Marine general who once ran NATO’s Atlantic Command. He suggested that Dutch soldiers failed to prevent the Srebrenica massacre in 1995 because there were too many gays in the ranks! The Dutch reaction is on-target:

“It is astonishing that a man of his stature can utter such complete nonsense,” Dutch defense-ministry spokesman Roger van de Wetering said in response.

“The Srebrenica massacre and the involvement of UN soldiers was extensively investigated by the Netherlands, international organizations and the United Nations.

“Never was there in any way concluded that the sexual orientation of soldiers played a role.”

Next, perhaps, General Sheehan will suggest that Israel’s failure to more decisively defeat Hezbollah in 2006 was also due to the presence of openly gay service people. That might also explain Britain’s failure to pacify Basra. And the Spartans’ failure to defeat the Persians at Thermopylae. Or not.

Bizarre as this argument is, a rejoinder from British journalist Toby Young was just as weird. He writes, “Isn’t the General aware that some of the finest soldiers in the history of warfare have been ‘openly homosexual’?” Actually, while the sexuality of various generals such as Bernard Law Montgomery and Lord Kitchener has been much gossiped about, it is hard to think of any prominent commanders who were openly gay since the days of antiquity. The example Young cites is truly off-the-wall: Orde Wingate.

I happen to know a fair amount about Wingate, an unconventional British army officer who rose to fame commanding the Chindit special force in Japanese-held Burma in World War II. Previously he had served with distinction in Palestine and Abyssinia. He is still remembered in Israel for his strong Zionism. I’m writing about Wingate in my history of guerrilla warfare, and, having read pretty much everything that has been published about him, I have not found a single suggestion that he was homosexual. Until now.

Admittedly, Wingate was very odd; for instance, he received visitors to his quarters in the nude. But gay? If Young has any actual evidence to support this allegation, he doesn’t present it. Actually Wingate was devoted to his wife Lorna, an intelligent beauty whom he met in 1933 when she was just 16 years old and he was 31. He immediately dumped his fiancée and married her. His letters to her were full of longing and devotion. Young is making up history as he goes along by suggesting that there was something sexual about Wingate’s relationship with his aide Abraham Akavia, who worked with him in Palestine and Abyssinia.

The general point remains valid. There have undoubtedly been many brave, successful gay soldiers. But I object to the modern habit, especially common among trendy academics, of attributing homosexuality to random historical figures based on scant evidence — a trend that has even encompassed Abraham Lincoln. This is projecting our own obsession with sex into the past.

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Frenemies, a Love Story

There is a fluffapalooza of an article in today’s New York Times about the unlikely “alliance” of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Mark Landler and Helene Cooper read quite a lot into Hillary’s taking a meeting with Obama after she heard of her husband’s recent heart trouble:

But the fact that she first spent 45 minutes plotting Iran strategy with the man who beat her in a divisive primary campaign shows just how far Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton have come since the bitter spring of 2008, when he sniped that her foreign-policy credentials consisted of sipping tea with world leaders, and she scoffed that his consisted of living in Indonesia when he was 10.

The tragedy is they were both right. When they joined forces it was like two bad tastes that go bad together.  Over a year into this administration, all we have to show on the diplomacy front is presidential pledges of global empathy and a lot exotic teatime. We have a foreign policy of pure esthetics, no less superficial than the piece in the Times. Landler and Cooper lay it on real thick, describing what sounds like the world’s worst sitcom:

They now joke about their “frenemies” status and have made gestures toward each other’s families. When Mr. Obama learned that Chelsea Clinton had become engaged, he turned to Mrs. Clinton and asked, “Does she want a White House wedding?” a senior official recalled. (Mrs. Clinton declined, saying the offer was “sweet” but would be “inappropriate.”) And when Mrs. Clinton traveled to Honolulu in January, she paid tribute to Mr. Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, in a speech she gave while looking over a garden dedicated to Ms. Dunham.

“Frenemies” has it about right. That’s what the Will and Grace of international affairs have made of every global player — good and bad: Vladimir Putin? Frenemy. Bibi Netanyahu? He’s a frenemy, too. When you get nicer to your antagonists and rougher on your allies you end up too invested in the former to threaten them and too distanced from the latter to get their cooperation. Well, at least an “alliance” is being forged somewhere.

There is a fluffapalooza of an article in today’s New York Times about the unlikely “alliance” of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Mark Landler and Helene Cooper read quite a lot into Hillary’s taking a meeting with Obama after she heard of her husband’s recent heart trouble:

But the fact that she first spent 45 minutes plotting Iran strategy with the man who beat her in a divisive primary campaign shows just how far Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton have come since the bitter spring of 2008, when he sniped that her foreign-policy credentials consisted of sipping tea with world leaders, and she scoffed that his consisted of living in Indonesia when he was 10.

The tragedy is they were both right. When they joined forces it was like two bad tastes that go bad together.  Over a year into this administration, all we have to show on the diplomacy front is presidential pledges of global empathy and a lot exotic teatime. We have a foreign policy of pure esthetics, no less superficial than the piece in the Times. Landler and Cooper lay it on real thick, describing what sounds like the world’s worst sitcom:

They now joke about their “frenemies” status and have made gestures toward each other’s families. When Mr. Obama learned that Chelsea Clinton had become engaged, he turned to Mrs. Clinton and asked, “Does she want a White House wedding?” a senior official recalled. (Mrs. Clinton declined, saying the offer was “sweet” but would be “inappropriate.”) And when Mrs. Clinton traveled to Honolulu in January, she paid tribute to Mr. Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, in a speech she gave while looking over a garden dedicated to Ms. Dunham.

“Frenemies” has it about right. That’s what the Will and Grace of international affairs have made of every global player — good and bad: Vladimir Putin? Frenemy. Bibi Netanyahu? He’s a frenemy, too. When you get nicer to your antagonists and rougher on your allies you end up too invested in the former to threaten them and too distanced from the latter to get their cooperation. Well, at least an “alliance” is being forged somewhere.

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The Palestinian “Condemnation”

Yesterday afternoon, Jake Tapper interviewed Vice President Biden, who recalled a condemnation that did not actually occur:

TAPPER: … Some supporters of Israel say the same week that you were there, on Thursday I believe, a square in the Palestinian territories was named after a woman who led a terrorist [attack] against Israeli civilians that killed civilians, children, and one American photojournalist. Where was the condemnation of that?

BIDEN: Well, they did not name square when I was there.  So that didn’t happen –

TAPPER: They waited until you left.

BIDEN: They waited till I left.  But — and one of the things I said while I was there to the Palestinians, Abbas and Fayyed, I would condemn that, they should not do that. Subsequently, since I got home and they did that, not only did we condemn that, we also condemned the violence used by the Palestinians that recently occurred in Jerusalem. …

When, exactly, did we “condemn” that? We didn’t. We didn’t even use the word, much less accompany it with what went with a condemnation of Israel for approving housing units in a Jewish area of its capital.

Did the secretary of state personally call Abbas and Fayyed and tell them the issue wasn’t the timing but the substance? Did she tell them that it would destroy the confidence of Israelis in their “peace partner”? Did she demand they take “specific actions” to demonstrate their commitment to the peace process and “American interests”? Did she require they establish a process to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again? Did she demand a public apology? Did she call the establishment of a public square to honor a terrorist who murdered an American an “insult” and an “affront” to the United States? Did she direct her press spokesman to call a press conference to announce her call and relay to the world what she had said? Did she send anyone out to the Sunday talk shows to repeat the condemnation? Did she demand a prompt call-back to inform her of what they had decided to do in response to her condemnation?

Did she insist on a condemnation of the Palestinian action in the “Joint Statement by the Quartet” issued late last night — in which she joined in still another condemnation of Israel? No, she did not.

Yesterday afternoon, Jake Tapper interviewed Vice President Biden, who recalled a condemnation that did not actually occur:

TAPPER: … Some supporters of Israel say the same week that you were there, on Thursday I believe, a square in the Palestinian territories was named after a woman who led a terrorist [attack] against Israeli civilians that killed civilians, children, and one American photojournalist. Where was the condemnation of that?

BIDEN: Well, they did not name square when I was there.  So that didn’t happen –

TAPPER: They waited until you left.

BIDEN: They waited till I left.  But — and one of the things I said while I was there to the Palestinians, Abbas and Fayyed, I would condemn that, they should not do that. Subsequently, since I got home and they did that, not only did we condemn that, we also condemned the violence used by the Palestinians that recently occurred in Jerusalem. …

When, exactly, did we “condemn” that? We didn’t. We didn’t even use the word, much less accompany it with what went with a condemnation of Israel for approving housing units in a Jewish area of its capital.

Did the secretary of state personally call Abbas and Fayyed and tell them the issue wasn’t the timing but the substance? Did she tell them that it would destroy the confidence of Israelis in their “peace partner”? Did she demand they take “specific actions” to demonstrate their commitment to the peace process and “American interests”? Did she require they establish a process to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again? Did she demand a public apology? Did she call the establishment of a public square to honor a terrorist who murdered an American an “insult” and an “affront” to the United States? Did she direct her press spokesman to call a press conference to announce her call and relay to the world what she had said? Did she send anyone out to the Sunday talk shows to repeat the condemnation? Did she demand a prompt call-back to inform her of what they had decided to do in response to her condemnation?

Did she insist on a condemnation of the Palestinian action in the “Joint Statement by the Quartet” issued late last night — in which she joined in still another condemnation of Israel? No, she did not.

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What the CBO Scoring of ObamaCare Really Means

Since I’m linking to the good words of others this morning, here’s my Ethics and Public Policy Center colleague (and National Affairs editor) Yuval Levin’s excellent analysis on the CBO score — and specifically, his thoughts on the claim to fiscal restraint the Democrats are trying now.

In the words of Yuval:

The greatest of all the many painful ironies in the health-care debate of the past year may be that the Democrats’ closing “argument” is to claim the mantle of fiscal responsibility. Their leaders are doing their best to twist yesterday’s CBO score of their reconciliation bill to suggest that their plan will not only solve America’s health-care financing problem but reduce the deficit too.

It will do neither, and will make both problems worse.

His explanation as to why this is true is very much worth reading.

Since I’m linking to the good words of others this morning, here’s my Ethics and Public Policy Center colleague (and National Affairs editor) Yuval Levin’s excellent analysis on the CBO score — and specifically, his thoughts on the claim to fiscal restraint the Democrats are trying now.

In the words of Yuval:

The greatest of all the many painful ironies in the health-care debate of the past year may be that the Democrats’ closing “argument” is to claim the mantle of fiscal responsibility. Their leaders are doing their best to twist yesterday’s CBO score of their reconciliation bill to suggest that their plan will not only solve America’s health-care financing problem but reduce the deficit too.

It will do neither, and will make both problems worse.

His explanation as to why this is true is very much worth reading.

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Ryan on ObamaCare

Last night Mark Levin interviewed Representative Paul Ryan on ObamaCare. It’s a very good and informative discussion — the link is here.

Last night Mark Levin interviewed Representative Paul Ryan on ObamaCare. It’s a very good and informative discussion — the link is here.

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Continually Condemning

Even when trying to repair the gash in the fabric of U.S. relations, administration figures can’t keep their “condemn”s to themselves. In Moscow (more about that), Hillary Clinton employed the now familiar Obami tactic — praise generically and skewer specifically our ally Israel. One the one hand, she proclaims Bibi’s effort to soothe Hillary’s affronted and insulted boss “useful and productive.” But then she’s at it again. She pronounces, in case anyone had missed it, that “we all condemned the announcement, and we all are expecting both parties to move toward the proximity talks and to help create an atmosphere in which those talks can be constructive.” Meanwhile we learn:

Friday’s meeting came amid new fears about the deteriorating security situation in the Middle East. On Thursday night, Israel carried out air strikes on six sites in the Gaza Strip in what it said was retaliation for a rocket attack from Gaza on a southern Israeli town that killed a Thai worker. [Did anyone condemn the murder of the Thai worker?]

The prospects for reviving the peace process were already murky. The Palestinian Authority insists it will not negotiate until Israel freezes construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Israel’s housing plan, Mrs. Clinton said, further soured the atmosphere.

You see, it’s Israel’s fault. On the verge of peace talks — indirect ones, because the Palestinians can’t even get in the room with the Israelis, of course — when along comes the “affront.” It works like this: the Obami provide the pretext; the Palestinians bring the intransigence. You can imagine the dialogue between the West Wing and Foggy Bottom: What to use? The Ramat Shlmo housing announcement! Nah — absurd! No, no — that’ll work! No provocation of violence, no murder by Israel’s foes warrants such a retort. (Funny how the White House never got back to me on my follow-up inquiry.) Israel is in a class by itself.

And the Quartet gets into the “condemn” act. (“Israel’s housing plan was condemned for the second time in a week by the Quartet, a group that focuses on Middle East peace and comprises the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.”)

This is the new normal — Israel bashed at every turn by its “friends.” I think we have reached the point, as a clear-sighted observer noted, where “Israel’s last line of defense against false claims and promises — the United States — has made itself indistinguishable from the United Nations and Amnesty International and all the other NGOs and religious denominations that have declared virtual war against the Jewish State.”

In the end the proximity talks will collapse (before or after they convene), Palestinian violence will increase, and Israel will learn that they better not rely on the Obami. And meanwhile the mullahs — oh, them — proceed with their nuclear program. And if the Obami “condemn” Israel for approving apartments in Jerusalem, can we imagine the reaction should Israel decide to launch a preemptive attack on Iran? That may be the underlying message of all the “condemn”s.

Even when trying to repair the gash in the fabric of U.S. relations, administration figures can’t keep their “condemn”s to themselves. In Moscow (more about that), Hillary Clinton employed the now familiar Obami tactic — praise generically and skewer specifically our ally Israel. One the one hand, she proclaims Bibi’s effort to soothe Hillary’s affronted and insulted boss “useful and productive.” But then she’s at it again. She pronounces, in case anyone had missed it, that “we all condemned the announcement, and we all are expecting both parties to move toward the proximity talks and to help create an atmosphere in which those talks can be constructive.” Meanwhile we learn:

Friday’s meeting came amid new fears about the deteriorating security situation in the Middle East. On Thursday night, Israel carried out air strikes on six sites in the Gaza Strip in what it said was retaliation for a rocket attack from Gaza on a southern Israeli town that killed a Thai worker. [Did anyone condemn the murder of the Thai worker?]

The prospects for reviving the peace process were already murky. The Palestinian Authority insists it will not negotiate until Israel freezes construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Israel’s housing plan, Mrs. Clinton said, further soured the atmosphere.

You see, it’s Israel’s fault. On the verge of peace talks — indirect ones, because the Palestinians can’t even get in the room with the Israelis, of course — when along comes the “affront.” It works like this: the Obami provide the pretext; the Palestinians bring the intransigence. You can imagine the dialogue between the West Wing and Foggy Bottom: What to use? The Ramat Shlmo housing announcement! Nah — absurd! No, no — that’ll work! No provocation of violence, no murder by Israel’s foes warrants such a retort. (Funny how the White House never got back to me on my follow-up inquiry.) Israel is in a class by itself.

And the Quartet gets into the “condemn” act. (“Israel’s housing plan was condemned for the second time in a week by the Quartet, a group that focuses on Middle East peace and comprises the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.”)

This is the new normal — Israel bashed at every turn by its “friends.” I think we have reached the point, as a clear-sighted observer noted, where “Israel’s last line of defense against false claims and promises — the United States — has made itself indistinguishable from the United Nations and Amnesty International and all the other NGOs and religious denominations that have declared virtual war against the Jewish State.”

In the end the proximity talks will collapse (before or after they convene), Palestinian violence will increase, and Israel will learn that they better not rely on the Obami. And meanwhile the mullahs — oh, them — proceed with their nuclear program. And if the Obami “condemn” Israel for approving apartments in Jerusalem, can we imagine the reaction should Israel decide to launch a preemptive attack on Iran? That may be the underlying message of all the “condemn”s.

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It’s Been Quite a Week for American Jewry

Jews, next to African Americans, have been Obama’s most loyal supporters. Overwhelmingly Democratic, and liberal Democratic at that, they have swooned over health care, been delighted by the president’s efforts to pass climate-control legislation, taken delight in his defense of abortion rights, and cheered his unabashed embrace of big government. But there has been the matter of Israel. Oh, that.

It stunned some to be told by Obama to go engage in “self-reflection” about Israel. It rankled to hear the Obami declare that we needed more “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel. And the failed settlement-freeze gambit set teeth gnashing. But most American Jews bided their time. They hoped that with all that access and all the campaign money that had sloshed into the Obama coffers from Jewish wallets, there would be some way to influence the administration. Maybe the Obama team was getting up to speed. They’d learn! Hey, there were some good lines in the Nobel Prize speech, you know. Maybe soon we’d get those sanctions! It was, sadly, an exercise in self-delusion.

Then came the Obami’s verbal assault over apartment units in Israel’s capital. That was finally a step too far. As the Obama administration’s browbeatings of Israel  mounted — Biden to Clinton to Axelrod — the fury in the Jewish community overflowed. And one by one, the major Jewish organizations, reflecting the outrage of their members (mostly Democratic, mind you), stepped forward not only to demand an end to the barrage but also to critique the entire premise of the Obami Middle East policy, namely that settlements were the root of the matter and that forced concessions were the way to unlock peace. And oh, by the way, could we get back to the existential threat to Israel’s existence?

Beginning Sunday, AIPAC will hold its annual national conference, and thousands of pro-Israel activists will descend on Washington D.C. What will they say and how will they greet the administration’s featured speaker, Hillary Clinton? This is a time to assess where the Jewish community has been and whether “access” — the prized off-the-record briefing and the ticket to the White House Chanukah party — has been valued too highly and candor too little. And then decisions will need to be made about the support for this president. A keen observer probes those who invested (financially and otherwise) so much in a president who has made mincemeat of foreign policy generally and the Middle East specifically:

A year has passed during which your chosen one has made worse than a hash of that: It’s in deep disarray. It and he and all his dogsbodies have devalued us everywhere, pinballing reactively from crisis to disaster, and when they should be fighting withdrawing like snails into shells, leaving behind just the slime souvenir. And, worse, much worse, they’ve targeted our one true democratic friend and ally in the Middle East—a country whose existence you cherish—for censure and contempt, to your great shock and unhappiness. What do you do?

That’s the question before American Jewry. As many prominent leaders and activists gather, we’ll begin to find out their answer. But there is no denying it now — this was not the president many of them thought he was. If they wish to support him, despite his Israel policy (because the liberal agenda is so near and dear to them), they can do so. But there’s no kidding themselves any longer that, in the process, they will be supporting the most anti-Israel president since — well, ever.

Jews, next to African Americans, have been Obama’s most loyal supporters. Overwhelmingly Democratic, and liberal Democratic at that, they have swooned over health care, been delighted by the president’s efforts to pass climate-control legislation, taken delight in his defense of abortion rights, and cheered his unabashed embrace of big government. But there has been the matter of Israel. Oh, that.

It stunned some to be told by Obama to go engage in “self-reflection” about Israel. It rankled to hear the Obami declare that we needed more “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel. And the failed settlement-freeze gambit set teeth gnashing. But most American Jews bided their time. They hoped that with all that access and all the campaign money that had sloshed into the Obama coffers from Jewish wallets, there would be some way to influence the administration. Maybe the Obama team was getting up to speed. They’d learn! Hey, there were some good lines in the Nobel Prize speech, you know. Maybe soon we’d get those sanctions! It was, sadly, an exercise in self-delusion.

Then came the Obami’s verbal assault over apartment units in Israel’s capital. That was finally a step too far. As the Obama administration’s browbeatings of Israel  mounted — Biden to Clinton to Axelrod — the fury in the Jewish community overflowed. And one by one, the major Jewish organizations, reflecting the outrage of their members (mostly Democratic, mind you), stepped forward not only to demand an end to the barrage but also to critique the entire premise of the Obami Middle East policy, namely that settlements were the root of the matter and that forced concessions were the way to unlock peace. And oh, by the way, could we get back to the existential threat to Israel’s existence?

Beginning Sunday, AIPAC will hold its annual national conference, and thousands of pro-Israel activists will descend on Washington D.C. What will they say and how will they greet the administration’s featured speaker, Hillary Clinton? This is a time to assess where the Jewish community has been and whether “access” — the prized off-the-record briefing and the ticket to the White House Chanukah party — has been valued too highly and candor too little. And then decisions will need to be made about the support for this president. A keen observer probes those who invested (financially and otherwise) so much in a president who has made mincemeat of foreign policy generally and the Middle East specifically:

A year has passed during which your chosen one has made worse than a hash of that: It’s in deep disarray. It and he and all his dogsbodies have devalued us everywhere, pinballing reactively from crisis to disaster, and when they should be fighting withdrawing like snails into shells, leaving behind just the slime souvenir. And, worse, much worse, they’ve targeted our one true democratic friend and ally in the Middle East—a country whose existence you cherish—for censure and contempt, to your great shock and unhappiness. What do you do?

That’s the question before American Jewry. As many prominent leaders and activists gather, we’ll begin to find out their answer. But there is no denying it now — this was not the president many of them thought he was. If they wish to support him, despite his Israel policy (because the liberal agenda is so near and dear to them), they can do so. But there’s no kidding themselves any longer that, in the process, they will be supporting the most anti-Israel president since — well, ever.

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Bibi Seeks to Calm Obama

According to this report, Bibi is looking for ways to cool the Obami’s self-induced furor over the Jerusalem housing project:

Israel is willing to carry out trust-building moves in the West Bank in order to facilitate peace talks with the Palestinian Authority, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly told U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday.

In a phone call between Netanyahu and Clinton, the Israeli PM reportedly conveyed a detailed list of gestures Jerusalem was willing to perform in order to restart negotiations with the Palestinians. … These measure likely include the release of Palestinian prisoners, the removal of West Bank checkpoints and perhaps even a willingness to transfer West Bank territories to PA control.

As for the housing activity that was the pretext for the spat, Jackson Diehl reports:

According to press reports in both countries, Clinton demanded in a phone call last Friday that Netanyahu reverse the decision by a local council to advance the construction of 1,600 new units in a neighborhood called Ramat Shlomo, a Jewish neighborhood outside Israel’s 1967 borders. Fortunately the State Department has not confirmed that position officially — though it has now been adopted by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as a condition for proceeding with the talks.

Netanyahu would never take that step. First, he might be barred from doing so under Israeli law; more importantly, building new Jewish housing in Jerusalem is one of the few issues that virtually all Israelis agree on. No government would formally agree to suspend it — nor is such a suspension necessary to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement. Leading Israelis and Palestinians — including Abbas — have repeatedly agreed, beginning a decade ago, that as part of any final settlement Israel will annex the Jewish neighborhoods it has built in Jerusalem since 1967, as well as nearby settlements in the West Bank. In return Palestinians will exercise sovereignty over Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem and receive compensatory land in Israel.

The Israeli hope is that rather than continue to press this self-defeating demand, Obama will accept Israeli assurances that the new neighborhood will not be constructed anytime soon; it is, in fact, two or three years from groundbreaking. Coupled to that would be an Israeli pledge to avoid publicizing further construction decisions in Jerusalem. The result would not be a freeze, but something like a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for settlement.

In other words, Bibi is doing everything possible to allow the Obami to unwind from the snit they have worked themselves into over a housing issue that is, of course, entirely ignorable, as the suggested solution proves. And will he and the president meet when Bibi is in town for AIPAC, now that the president won’t be conveniently out of town? We don’t know. One hopes the president’s pique, so evident in the recent assault (the president’s “anger” was conveyed, the language of “affront” and “insult” was bantered about) will be put aside. For doesn’t the president — who’s shown himself to be particular peevish and lacking in diplomatic finesse — need to show he can make a gesture? It might be wise to bestir himself to invite Bibi over. And maybe even give him a photo op or two.

Oddly, I see no mention of trust-building moves demanded of the Palestinians after their calls to “rage” and the celebratory naming of a square after terrorist Dalal Mughrabi. Isn’t some gesture being asked of them? After all, White House spokesman Tommy Vietor assured me yesterday that “we are using our leverage.” But only with one side, for it’s foolhardy, I suppose the administration thinking goes, to actually ask anything of the Palestinians. And this is the posture going into the proximity talks — which were designed to satisfy the Palestinians who can’t bring themselves to accept Bibi’s invitation for direct talks. The infantilization of the Palestinians continues — they can’t control their own violence, so therefore we don’t demand they do. Just come to the proximity talks and George Mitchell will do all the work!

This is why no peace is ever processed. The Palestinians know that nothing is demanded of them and that they can riot in the streets, collect concessions, tout their success, foot-stomp some for more goodies, and wait for another round of concessions. Call it the “soft bigotry of low expectations.” It’s a formula for getting nowhere with the peace process. It’s also encouraging them to keep up the violence. Why shouldn’t they — there’s everything to be gained and nothing to be lost.

According to this report, Bibi is looking for ways to cool the Obami’s self-induced furor over the Jerusalem housing project:

Israel is willing to carry out trust-building moves in the West Bank in order to facilitate peace talks with the Palestinian Authority, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly told U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday.

In a phone call between Netanyahu and Clinton, the Israeli PM reportedly conveyed a detailed list of gestures Jerusalem was willing to perform in order to restart negotiations with the Palestinians. … These measure likely include the release of Palestinian prisoners, the removal of West Bank checkpoints and perhaps even a willingness to transfer West Bank territories to PA control.

As for the housing activity that was the pretext for the spat, Jackson Diehl reports:

According to press reports in both countries, Clinton demanded in a phone call last Friday that Netanyahu reverse the decision by a local council to advance the construction of 1,600 new units in a neighborhood called Ramat Shlomo, a Jewish neighborhood outside Israel’s 1967 borders. Fortunately the State Department has not confirmed that position officially — though it has now been adopted by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as a condition for proceeding with the talks.

Netanyahu would never take that step. First, he might be barred from doing so under Israeli law; more importantly, building new Jewish housing in Jerusalem is one of the few issues that virtually all Israelis agree on. No government would formally agree to suspend it — nor is such a suspension necessary to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement. Leading Israelis and Palestinians — including Abbas — have repeatedly agreed, beginning a decade ago, that as part of any final settlement Israel will annex the Jewish neighborhoods it has built in Jerusalem since 1967, as well as nearby settlements in the West Bank. In return Palestinians will exercise sovereignty over Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem and receive compensatory land in Israel.

The Israeli hope is that rather than continue to press this self-defeating demand, Obama will accept Israeli assurances that the new neighborhood will not be constructed anytime soon; it is, in fact, two or three years from groundbreaking. Coupled to that would be an Israeli pledge to avoid publicizing further construction decisions in Jerusalem. The result would not be a freeze, but something like a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for settlement.

In other words, Bibi is doing everything possible to allow the Obami to unwind from the snit they have worked themselves into over a housing issue that is, of course, entirely ignorable, as the suggested solution proves. And will he and the president meet when Bibi is in town for AIPAC, now that the president won’t be conveniently out of town? We don’t know. One hopes the president’s pique, so evident in the recent assault (the president’s “anger” was conveyed, the language of “affront” and “insult” was bantered about) will be put aside. For doesn’t the president — who’s shown himself to be particular peevish and lacking in diplomatic finesse — need to show he can make a gesture? It might be wise to bestir himself to invite Bibi over. And maybe even give him a photo op or two.

Oddly, I see no mention of trust-building moves demanded of the Palestinians after their calls to “rage” and the celebratory naming of a square after terrorist Dalal Mughrabi. Isn’t some gesture being asked of them? After all, White House spokesman Tommy Vietor assured me yesterday that “we are using our leverage.” But only with one side, for it’s foolhardy, I suppose the administration thinking goes, to actually ask anything of the Palestinians. And this is the posture going into the proximity talks — which were designed to satisfy the Palestinians who can’t bring themselves to accept Bibi’s invitation for direct talks. The infantilization of the Palestinians continues — they can’t control their own violence, so therefore we don’t demand they do. Just come to the proximity talks and George Mitchell will do all the work!

This is why no peace is ever processed. The Palestinians know that nothing is demanded of them and that they can riot in the streets, collect concessions, tout their success, foot-stomp some for more goodies, and wait for another round of concessions. Call it the “soft bigotry of low expectations.” It’s a formula for getting nowhere with the peace process. It’s also encouraging them to keep up the violence. Why shouldn’t they — there’s everything to be gained and nothing to be lost.

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Haaretz Misleads on Its Obama Poll

Today’s Haaretz surprised us with the following (apparently temporary) headline: “Haaretz Poll: Most Israelis See Obama as Fair and Friendly.” This, of course, seems to fly in the face not only of my own unscientific cab-driver canvasing, but of many other polls that have appeared in the last year as well. Yet I knew something was up when the article, after repeating the assertion that “a sweeping majority of Israelis think [Obama's] treatment of this country is friendly and fair,” doesn’t actually tell you the numbers. In fact, after this attention-grabbing first sentence, it drops the subject entirely, going on to talk only of Israelis’ opinions about Netanyahu, building in Jerusalem, and so on — but not Obama.

What’s going on? Shmuel Rosner lets the cat out of the bag. It turns out that when asked their opinion of Obama’s attitude towards Israel, Israelis were given three choices: Hostile, Fair, Friendly. Note that “fair” here is not a positive statement but a placeholder for “neutral.” And the numbers are: Hostile: 21%; Fair: 51%; Friendly: 18%. So the poll deceives by using the word “fair” instead of “neutral,” forcing the respondent to say something positive-sounding when he may not have meant to. And then Haaretz deceives by asserting that a “sweeping majority” of Israelis see Obama as “fair and friendly.” This is, of course, ridiculous: it would be just as accurate to point out that an even more sweeping majority see him as “fair and hostile.”

By midmorning Israel time, Haaretz had scrapped the headline and moved the “sweeping majority” assertion to the third paragraph. Yet, as of this writing, they’re still using the “fair and friendly” line, and I’m sure it will be repeated all over the place in the days to come.

Today’s Haaretz surprised us with the following (apparently temporary) headline: “Haaretz Poll: Most Israelis See Obama as Fair and Friendly.” This, of course, seems to fly in the face not only of my own unscientific cab-driver canvasing, but of many other polls that have appeared in the last year as well. Yet I knew something was up when the article, after repeating the assertion that “a sweeping majority of Israelis think [Obama's] treatment of this country is friendly and fair,” doesn’t actually tell you the numbers. In fact, after this attention-grabbing first sentence, it drops the subject entirely, going on to talk only of Israelis’ opinions about Netanyahu, building in Jerusalem, and so on — but not Obama.

What’s going on? Shmuel Rosner lets the cat out of the bag. It turns out that when asked their opinion of Obama’s attitude towards Israel, Israelis were given three choices: Hostile, Fair, Friendly. Note that “fair” here is not a positive statement but a placeholder for “neutral.” And the numbers are: Hostile: 21%; Fair: 51%; Friendly: 18%. So the poll deceives by using the word “fair” instead of “neutral,” forcing the respondent to say something positive-sounding when he may not have meant to. And then Haaretz deceives by asserting that a “sweeping majority” of Israelis see Obama as “fair and friendly.” This is, of course, ridiculous: it would be just as accurate to point out that an even more sweeping majority see him as “fair and hostile.”

By midmorning Israel time, Haaretz had scrapped the headline and moved the “sweeping majority” assertion to the third paragraph. Yet, as of this writing, they’re still using the “fair and friendly” line, and I’m sure it will be repeated all over the place in the days to come.

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Flunking Foreign Policy 101

A Los Angeles Times news article notes that Obama’s blowup with Israel followed rebuffs in Lebanon, Syria, Iran, China, Saudi Arabia, and Brazil — and that the harsh treatment of Netanyahu was intended to send a broader message:

Arab diplomats say the United States has also not been seen as forceful in dealings with Lebanon, which has seen an increase in Syrian influence, or with Iran. The United States and Western allies have been pressuring Iran to halt its nuclear program, but they continue struggling to impose tough international sanctions. …

President Obama made little progress with the Chinese during his visit to Beijing in November. When Obama visited Saudi Arabia in June to raise money for the Palestinians, he was given a polite but firm no.

When Clinton visited Brazil this month to try to win support for tough new sanctions on Iran, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim announced in a public appearance with her that his country simply would not go along.

One senior U.S. official acknowledged that the tough U.S. position is not just about Israel and the settlements issue, but about “sending a message more broadly about what we’re willing to put up with. … This couldn’t continue.” [emphasis added]

Here’s a thought experiment, a kind of one-question foreign-policy exam: Assume you’re a superpower worried about not being seen as forceful in dealing with Lebanon, Syria, Iran, China, Saudi Arabia, and Brazil. Which of the following strategies might change that impression?

(a) Become more forceful in dealing with Lebanon, Syria, Iran, China, Saudi Arabia, and Brazil; or

(b) Land hard on Israel — to show Lebanon, Syria, Iran, China, Saudi Arabia, and Brazil how forceful you can be.

Obama chose “b.”

Lee Smith’s perceptive article describes one of the strategic consequences of that choice: he notes that the Obama administration has “all but announced that it has resigned itself to an Iranian nuclear program” and is moving toward a policy of “containment and deterrence” — and that such a policy will be undermined by Obama’s decision to land hard on Israel:

Of course, really effective deterrence would require us to make sure that our Israeli allies were perceived as highly volatile and unpredictable actors who might just take matters into their own hands and bomb Iran’s nuclear sites. That scenario would have a better chance of cornering Iran and its allies, compelling them to seek relief from us, the rational senior partner. Instead, we’ve just pulled off the strategic equivalent of beating our pit bull on a street corner to show the neighborhood tough guys that we mean business.

Substitute “ally” for “pit bull” in Smith’s last sentence and you have a pretty good summary of Obama’s foreign policy over the past year: if you were an ally, you were snubbed (the UK and Germany); your aid was cut off and your visas revoked (Honduras); your strategic defense was traded for magic reset beans (Poland, Georgia, and the Czech Republic); your free-trade agreement was withheld (Colombia); and your long-standing understandings and written commitments became “unenforceable” (Israel).

If you were an adversary (Iran, Syria, North Korea), you got an outstretched hand — with no deadline for shaking it and no serious consequences if you didn’t. It was only if you were an ally that you had to worry about Obama’s being forceful.

A Los Angeles Times news article notes that Obama’s blowup with Israel followed rebuffs in Lebanon, Syria, Iran, China, Saudi Arabia, and Brazil — and that the harsh treatment of Netanyahu was intended to send a broader message:

Arab diplomats say the United States has also not been seen as forceful in dealings with Lebanon, which has seen an increase in Syrian influence, or with Iran. The United States and Western allies have been pressuring Iran to halt its nuclear program, but they continue struggling to impose tough international sanctions. …

President Obama made little progress with the Chinese during his visit to Beijing in November. When Obama visited Saudi Arabia in June to raise money for the Palestinians, he was given a polite but firm no.

When Clinton visited Brazil this month to try to win support for tough new sanctions on Iran, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim announced in a public appearance with her that his country simply would not go along.

One senior U.S. official acknowledged that the tough U.S. position is not just about Israel and the settlements issue, but about “sending a message more broadly about what we’re willing to put up with. … This couldn’t continue.” [emphasis added]

Here’s a thought experiment, a kind of one-question foreign-policy exam: Assume you’re a superpower worried about not being seen as forceful in dealing with Lebanon, Syria, Iran, China, Saudi Arabia, and Brazil. Which of the following strategies might change that impression?

(a) Become more forceful in dealing with Lebanon, Syria, Iran, China, Saudi Arabia, and Brazil; or

(b) Land hard on Israel — to show Lebanon, Syria, Iran, China, Saudi Arabia, and Brazil how forceful you can be.

Obama chose “b.”

Lee Smith’s perceptive article describes one of the strategic consequences of that choice: he notes that the Obama administration has “all but announced that it has resigned itself to an Iranian nuclear program” and is moving toward a policy of “containment and deterrence” — and that such a policy will be undermined by Obama’s decision to land hard on Israel:

Of course, really effective deterrence would require us to make sure that our Israeli allies were perceived as highly volatile and unpredictable actors who might just take matters into their own hands and bomb Iran’s nuclear sites. That scenario would have a better chance of cornering Iran and its allies, compelling them to seek relief from us, the rational senior partner. Instead, we’ve just pulled off the strategic equivalent of beating our pit bull on a street corner to show the neighborhood tough guys that we mean business.

Substitute “ally” for “pit bull” in Smith’s last sentence and you have a pretty good summary of Obama’s foreign policy over the past year: if you were an ally, you were snubbed (the UK and Germany); your aid was cut off and your visas revoked (Honduras); your strategic defense was traded for magic reset beans (Poland, Georgia, and the Czech Republic); your free-trade agreement was withheld (Colombia); and your long-standing understandings and written commitments became “unenforceable” (Israel).

If you were an adversary (Iran, Syria, North Korea), you got an outstretched hand — with no deadline for shaking it and no serious consequences if you didn’t. It was only if you were an ally that you had to worry about Obama’s being forceful.

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An Administration at Odds with the Country

This week we have seen two major stories play out — the health-care vote and the Obama administration’s verbal attack on Israel. In each case we have seen the administration behave in ways no predecessor has. On health care, we’re seeing rank lawlessness in pursuit of a mammoth new entitlement program. In the Middle East, we are witnessing treatment of and rhetoric directed at the Jewish state that few if any administrations have employed. In both cases we are seeing, therefore, “change” — the abandonment of legislative normalcy and of the intimate relationship with an ally. But that’s not, I think, what was most striking about the week’s events.

What was most remarkable in a very remarkable week was the degree to which the administration double-downed on policies wildly at odds with the overwhelming sentiment of the country. The poll data is unmistakable on this point. The public intensely dislikes ObamaCare and the strong-arm tactics being used to push it through. Poll data and the reaction of members of Congress also confirm that support for Israel is at an all-time high. Yet the Obami have decided to corner and bully — because they think they can — a small, democratic ally. The administration is indifferent to and largely contemptuous of public opinion on these matters, preferring to push its own ideological agenda despite widespread criticism and mounting popular opposition.

In the short run, the administration might “win.” ObamaCare could sneak through. Israel might be roughed up. But the Obami then face the grim consequences of their actions. The tidal wave of reaction to ObamaCare awaits them should they pass (or “deem” or whatever) the monstrous bill into law. And the Middle East will grow ever more dangerous as the real threat to our security — Iran’s nuclear program — goes unchecked.

No administration or Congress can survive by pursuing policies the public intensely disapproves. Eventually voters get their say and enact revenge. And the policies that were so at odds with the concerns and values of the public then will be reversed. But there is no putting the genie back in the bottle should the mullahs acquire nuclear weapons. That’s forever, and will, if it occurs, be a blot on this administration that obscures any other accomplishment.

Obama said he’d be content to be a one-term president. That’s looking quite likely unless the results of the November election persuade him to cease the assault on the American voters by pursuing domestic and international policies they do not support. Obama, in one of his more arrogant moments, deflected Republican criticism of the stimulus plan by saying, “I won.” Yes, but that only works until the voters crown new winners.

This week we have seen two major stories play out — the health-care vote and the Obama administration’s verbal attack on Israel. In each case we have seen the administration behave in ways no predecessor has. On health care, we’re seeing rank lawlessness in pursuit of a mammoth new entitlement program. In the Middle East, we are witnessing treatment of and rhetoric directed at the Jewish state that few if any administrations have employed. In both cases we are seeing, therefore, “change” — the abandonment of legislative normalcy and of the intimate relationship with an ally. But that’s not, I think, what was most striking about the week’s events.

What was most remarkable in a very remarkable week was the degree to which the administration double-downed on policies wildly at odds with the overwhelming sentiment of the country. The poll data is unmistakable on this point. The public intensely dislikes ObamaCare and the strong-arm tactics being used to push it through. Poll data and the reaction of members of Congress also confirm that support for Israel is at an all-time high. Yet the Obami have decided to corner and bully — because they think they can — a small, democratic ally. The administration is indifferent to and largely contemptuous of public opinion on these matters, preferring to push its own ideological agenda despite widespread criticism and mounting popular opposition.

In the short run, the administration might “win.” ObamaCare could sneak through. Israel might be roughed up. But the Obami then face the grim consequences of their actions. The tidal wave of reaction to ObamaCare awaits them should they pass (or “deem” or whatever) the monstrous bill into law. And the Middle East will grow ever more dangerous as the real threat to our security — Iran’s nuclear program — goes unchecked.

No administration or Congress can survive by pursuing policies the public intensely disapproves. Eventually voters get their say and enact revenge. And the policies that were so at odds with the concerns and values of the public then will be reversed. But there is no putting the genie back in the bottle should the mullahs acquire nuclear weapons. That’s forever, and will, if it occurs, be a blot on this administration that obscures any other accomplishment.

Obama said he’d be content to be a one-term president. That’s looking quite likely unless the results of the November election persuade him to cease the assault on the American voters by pursuing domestic and international policies they do not support. Obama, in one of his more arrogant moments, deflected Republican criticism of the stimulus plan by saying, “I won.” Yes, but that only works until the voters crown new winners.

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Holder’s No Good, Horrible Performance

As we’ve noted for sometime, Eric Holder is not exactly wowing either the Right or the Left. As Michael Gerson observes:

Attorney General Eric Holder is controversial on the left for preserving much of the Bush administration’s legal structure for conducting the war on terror. He is controversial on the right for overturning portions of that structure in ways that seem both clueless and reckless. But Holder is the most endangered member of the Obama Cabinet for a different reason: Just about everything he has touched has backfired.

We had the decision to release the enhanced interrogation memos and reinvestigate previously cleared CIA operatives. Result: widespread criticism. Then we had the recommendation to release the detainee-abuse photos. Result: countermanded. We had the advice to close Guantanamo prior to a full review. Result: stalled. We had the recommendation to relocate Guantanamo detainees to Illinois and to hold a public trial for KSM. Result: on hold. There was the Mirandizing of the Christmas Day bomber. Result: ridiculed. This week Holder suggested that we’d never capture Osama bin Laden, because, of course, we’d kill him if we found him. Result: rebuffed by two national-security officials. We also witnessed the ongoing legal persecution of John Yoo and Jay Bybee. Result: reversal by a career attorney who found gross incompetence within the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility. Then there is the race issue: the dismissal of the New Black Panther case and the accusation that we are a nation of “cowards.” Quite a track record, eh?

As Gerson concludes:

Sometimes haplessness can provoke sympathy. But Holder mixes ineptness with self-righteousness. Critics of his questionable choices, he says, “cower.” They lack “confidence in the American system of justice.” But there is another possibility. Perhaps Holder’s critics — in Congress, in the country and even within the White House — just lack confidence in his judgment.

For now, Holder doesn’t appear to be in immediate peril, in no small part because he has been spared (with a Democrat-controlled Congress) the humiliating oversight hearings of the sort Alberto Gonzales received. But one doubts whether he’ll be around at year’s end. At some point, he and the Obami will want to cut their losses.

As we’ve noted for sometime, Eric Holder is not exactly wowing either the Right or the Left. As Michael Gerson observes:

Attorney General Eric Holder is controversial on the left for preserving much of the Bush administration’s legal structure for conducting the war on terror. He is controversial on the right for overturning portions of that structure in ways that seem both clueless and reckless. But Holder is the most endangered member of the Obama Cabinet for a different reason: Just about everything he has touched has backfired.

We had the decision to release the enhanced interrogation memos and reinvestigate previously cleared CIA operatives. Result: widespread criticism. Then we had the recommendation to release the detainee-abuse photos. Result: countermanded. We had the advice to close Guantanamo prior to a full review. Result: stalled. We had the recommendation to relocate Guantanamo detainees to Illinois and to hold a public trial for KSM. Result: on hold. There was the Mirandizing of the Christmas Day bomber. Result: ridiculed. This week Holder suggested that we’d never capture Osama bin Laden, because, of course, we’d kill him if we found him. Result: rebuffed by two national-security officials. We also witnessed the ongoing legal persecution of John Yoo and Jay Bybee. Result: reversal by a career attorney who found gross incompetence within the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility. Then there is the race issue: the dismissal of the New Black Panther case and the accusation that we are a nation of “cowards.” Quite a track record, eh?

As Gerson concludes:

Sometimes haplessness can provoke sympathy. But Holder mixes ineptness with self-righteousness. Critics of his questionable choices, he says, “cower.” They lack “confidence in the American system of justice.” But there is another possibility. Perhaps Holder’s critics — in Congress, in the country and even within the White House — just lack confidence in his judgment.

For now, Holder doesn’t appear to be in immediate peril, in no small part because he has been spared (with a Democrat-controlled Congress) the humiliating oversight hearings of the sort Alberto Gonzales received. But one doubts whether he’ll be around at year’s end. At some point, he and the Obami will want to cut their losses.

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Desperation Time

James Taranto, like many of us, is trying to decipher what it is that would motivate professional politicians, who’ve succeeded by carefully assessing public opinion and working within legislative and constitutional rules, to behave so bizarrely. Here’s reconciliation! I see your reconciliation and raise you a Slaughter Rule! And so it goes. What’s next? (Perhaps C-SPAN can superimpose a blue dot over the face of floor speakers so as to maintain their anonymity.) Taranto concludes:

What accounts for the relentless drive to ram ObamaCare through every procedural obstacle, regardless of the political cost? Ideological zeal, from Obama himself above all, is part of the explanation, but it isn’t sufficient. One can, after all, be ideologically committed to a goal without falling into a self-defeating obsession.

There seems to be an emotional desperation at work here. The legislative success of ObamaCare has become so tied up with Obama’s sense of himself that he feels he must push ahead–and to some extent, the leaders in Congress feel the same way. Obama is not the calm rationalist he seemed during the campaign. But while there’s a place for passion in politics, to be governed by a politician who fails to govern his passions is a frightening and creepy experience.

Indeed, Obama let on that this frenzy to achieve passage of a hugely irresponsible and politically unpopular bill was in large part ego-driven when he started hounding House Democrats to save his presidency. (He, however, has no interest in saving their congressional careers as he demands that they walk the plank to vote against their constituents’ wishes.)

But should we be surprised? This was the candidate who created a cult of personality, who told us he represented the “New Politics,” who was going to eschew politics-as-usual, and who would be post-partisan, post-racial, and post-ideological. Now he’s a handful of votes away from a humiliating defeat. No wonder it’s desperation time. His possible failure would not be a mere political failure; it would be the obliteration of his own mythology.

Should he squeak it out, Obama’s “victory” would come with a heavy price. Gone is the image of a policy sophisticate (try watching that Bret Baier interview a few times without wincing). Gone is the “moderate” moniker. And gone is the notion that he’d usher in a new era of less contentious and less corrupt politics. (It’s a new era, perhaps, but hardly a better one.) There is no mistaking now the depth of the campaign deception. The public has figured out what he is all about. And increasingly, they dislike what they see.

James Taranto, like many of us, is trying to decipher what it is that would motivate professional politicians, who’ve succeeded by carefully assessing public opinion and working within legislative and constitutional rules, to behave so bizarrely. Here’s reconciliation! I see your reconciliation and raise you a Slaughter Rule! And so it goes. What’s next? (Perhaps C-SPAN can superimpose a blue dot over the face of floor speakers so as to maintain their anonymity.) Taranto concludes:

What accounts for the relentless drive to ram ObamaCare through every procedural obstacle, regardless of the political cost? Ideological zeal, from Obama himself above all, is part of the explanation, but it isn’t sufficient. One can, after all, be ideologically committed to a goal without falling into a self-defeating obsession.

There seems to be an emotional desperation at work here. The legislative success of ObamaCare has become so tied up with Obama’s sense of himself that he feels he must push ahead–and to some extent, the leaders in Congress feel the same way. Obama is not the calm rationalist he seemed during the campaign. But while there’s a place for passion in politics, to be governed by a politician who fails to govern his passions is a frightening and creepy experience.

Indeed, Obama let on that this frenzy to achieve passage of a hugely irresponsible and politically unpopular bill was in large part ego-driven when he started hounding House Democrats to save his presidency. (He, however, has no interest in saving their congressional careers as he demands that they walk the plank to vote against their constituents’ wishes.)

But should we be surprised? This was the candidate who created a cult of personality, who told us he represented the “New Politics,” who was going to eschew politics-as-usual, and who would be post-partisan, post-racial, and post-ideological. Now he’s a handful of votes away from a humiliating defeat. No wonder it’s desperation time. His possible failure would not be a mere political failure; it would be the obliteration of his own mythology.

Should he squeak it out, Obama’s “victory” would come with a heavy price. Gone is the image of a policy sophisticate (try watching that Bret Baier interview a few times without wincing). Gone is the “moderate” moniker. And gone is the notion that he’d usher in a new era of less contentious and less corrupt politics. (It’s a new era, perhaps, but hardly a better one.) There is no mistaking now the depth of the campaign deception. The public has figured out what he is all about. And increasingly, they dislike what they see.

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Sinking in the Polls

If the health-care reform debate went on for a few more months, Obama’s approval might wind up in the 30s. For now, it is on the skids as the public focuses on how devoted the president is to a very radical bill to be passed by very radical means. And the most recent polling shows just how unpopular the centerpiece of his agenda is.

In the Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll, Obama has hit an all-time low (46 percent approval). Voters oppose ObamaCare by a 55 to 35 percent margin. A 46 percent plurality want Congress to start over. By a whopping 52 to 27 percent margin, voters think the quality of their health care will be worse. By an even larger 62 to 22 percent margin, voters think they will wind up spending more on health care if it passes. And 75 percent expect their taxes to go up. Sixty eight percent think the government shouldn’t be allowed to force Americans to buy insurance.

The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll isn’t much better. At 48 percent approval, he is near that survey’s all-time low. On health care, 57 percent disapprove of his performance. Sixty percent say it’s better when Congress and the White House are controlled by different parties. By a 48 to 36 percent margin, this poll’s respondents oppose ObamaCare. By a 36 to 28 margin, voters are more likely to vote against their representative if he/she voted for ObamaCare.

Well, you get the picture. Obama’s own popularity is cratering as the public learns more about the monstrous health-care bill, which they very much dislike. Obama isn’t helping to sell health-care “reform” — he’s being dragged under by it. The question is whether those final dozen or so House Democrats on the fence will succumb to White House pressure, or whether they will choose instead to hop off a sinking ship.

If the health-care reform debate went on for a few more months, Obama’s approval might wind up in the 30s. For now, it is on the skids as the public focuses on how devoted the president is to a very radical bill to be passed by very radical means. And the most recent polling shows just how unpopular the centerpiece of his agenda is.

In the Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll, Obama has hit an all-time low (46 percent approval). Voters oppose ObamaCare by a 55 to 35 percent margin. A 46 percent plurality want Congress to start over. By a whopping 52 to 27 percent margin, voters think the quality of their health care will be worse. By an even larger 62 to 22 percent margin, voters think they will wind up spending more on health care if it passes. And 75 percent expect their taxes to go up. Sixty eight percent think the government shouldn’t be allowed to force Americans to buy insurance.

The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll isn’t much better. At 48 percent approval, he is near that survey’s all-time low. On health care, 57 percent disapprove of his performance. Sixty percent say it’s better when Congress and the White House are controlled by different parties. By a 48 to 36 percent margin, this poll’s respondents oppose ObamaCare. By a 36 to 28 margin, voters are more likely to vote against their representative if he/she voted for ObamaCare.

Well, you get the picture. Obama’s own popularity is cratering as the public learns more about the monstrous health-care bill, which they very much dislike. Obama isn’t helping to sell health-care “reform” — he’s being dragged under by it. The question is whether those final dozen or so House Democrats on the fence will succumb to White House pressure, or whether they will choose instead to hop off a sinking ship.

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Weathering the Storm

As we dig deeper into the flap over Jerusalem housing activity, it is worth revisiting a central question: who blindsided whom here?

Hillel Halkin argues that four months ago, the U.S. and Israel had a deal: “Israel reluctantly agreed to suspend all new construction in the West Bank for nearly a year, and the U.S. reluctantly accepted Israel’s refusal to do the same in Jerusalem. … On that basis, the Netanyahu government declared a West Bank freeze and began to enforce it, despite the anger this caused on the pro-settlement Israeli Right from which many of Mr. Netanyahu’s voters come. Now, America has reneged on its word. Using the Ramat Shlomo incident as a pretext, it is demanding once again, as if an agreement had never been reached, that Israel cease all construction in ‘Arab’ Jerusalem.”

Elliott Abrams, deputy national security adviser under George W. Bush, concurs:

The United States and Israel have long had different views of the settlements, but the issue has been managed without a crisis for decades. In the Bush administration, a deal was struck whereby the United States would not protest construction inside existing settlements so long as they did not expand outward. The current crisis, ostensibly about construction in Jerusalem, was manufactured by the Obama administration–and as it is about Jerusalem, isn’t even about activity in the settlements.

Every Israeli government since 1967, of left or right, has asserted that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and has allowed Israeli Jews to build there. … To escalate that announcement into a crisis in bilateral relations and “condemn” it–using a verb we apply to acts of murder and terror, not acts of housing construction–was a decision by the U.S. government, not a natural or inevitable occurrence.

And Dan Senor adds this:

[T]he Obama administration’s decision to “condemn” this mistake was a much larger blunder. The problem is not this particular flap, which will pass, but the underlying misunderstanding that our government’s outburst reflects. Vice President Biden himself said in Israel that the peace process is best served when there is no “daylight” between the United States and Israel. He was right, but he broke his own rule. The word “condemn”–which has only been used by the United States against Iran, North Korea, and egregious human rights violations–created precisely such daylight. The result was predictable: The Arab League immediately announced that it was reconsidering its support for Israeli-Palestinian proximity talks.

So to return to the query: was it the administration that was blindsided — insulted, even! — by a midlevel bureaucratic snafu, or was the Israeli government blindsided by the screeching from the administration, which had no basis to believe there had been any commitment to halt housing development in Jerusalem?  It seems the latter is more likely.

And then there remains the issue of “perspective” — which the nervy Obami implored us all to find as their handiwork was met with a firestorm of protest. We should consider perspective in two ways: how big a deal the housing announcement is and what the incident tells us about the Obami’s own perspective on the Middle East. As for the former, the Obami’s indignation was grossly disproportionate to the matter at hand and was trumpeted most likely for the express purpose of ingratiating Obama with the Palestinians and “preserving” the “peace process.” (Didn’t work out that way, as Senor pointed out.) But the Obami’s perspective — and lack of foresight — is the more troubling of the two sorts of perspective. It should tell Israel and its supporters precisely the challenge they face: how can the U.S.-Israeli relationship weather the Obama administration? We can only hope that the justified outrage that members of Congress and the American Jewish community demonstrated — waking from its slumber — will serve to temper the Obami’s conduct, and in turn help preserve the U.S.-Israeli relationship until cooler heads and warmer hearts occupy the White House.

As we dig deeper into the flap over Jerusalem housing activity, it is worth revisiting a central question: who blindsided whom here?

Hillel Halkin argues that four months ago, the U.S. and Israel had a deal: “Israel reluctantly agreed to suspend all new construction in the West Bank for nearly a year, and the U.S. reluctantly accepted Israel’s refusal to do the same in Jerusalem. … On that basis, the Netanyahu government declared a West Bank freeze and began to enforce it, despite the anger this caused on the pro-settlement Israeli Right from which many of Mr. Netanyahu’s voters come. Now, America has reneged on its word. Using the Ramat Shlomo incident as a pretext, it is demanding once again, as if an agreement had never been reached, that Israel cease all construction in ‘Arab’ Jerusalem.”

Elliott Abrams, deputy national security adviser under George W. Bush, concurs:

The United States and Israel have long had different views of the settlements, but the issue has been managed without a crisis for decades. In the Bush administration, a deal was struck whereby the United States would not protest construction inside existing settlements so long as they did not expand outward. The current crisis, ostensibly about construction in Jerusalem, was manufactured by the Obama administration–and as it is about Jerusalem, isn’t even about activity in the settlements.

Every Israeli government since 1967, of left or right, has asserted that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and has allowed Israeli Jews to build there. … To escalate that announcement into a crisis in bilateral relations and “condemn” it–using a verb we apply to acts of murder and terror, not acts of housing construction–was a decision by the U.S. government, not a natural or inevitable occurrence.

And Dan Senor adds this:

[T]he Obama administration’s decision to “condemn” this mistake was a much larger blunder. The problem is not this particular flap, which will pass, but the underlying misunderstanding that our government’s outburst reflects. Vice President Biden himself said in Israel that the peace process is best served when there is no “daylight” between the United States and Israel. He was right, but he broke his own rule. The word “condemn”–which has only been used by the United States against Iran, North Korea, and egregious human rights violations–created precisely such daylight. The result was predictable: The Arab League immediately announced that it was reconsidering its support for Israeli-Palestinian proximity talks.

So to return to the query: was it the administration that was blindsided — insulted, even! — by a midlevel bureaucratic snafu, or was the Israeli government blindsided by the screeching from the administration, which had no basis to believe there had been any commitment to halt housing development in Jerusalem?  It seems the latter is more likely.

And then there remains the issue of “perspective” — which the nervy Obami implored us all to find as their handiwork was met with a firestorm of protest. We should consider perspective in two ways: how big a deal the housing announcement is and what the incident tells us about the Obami’s own perspective on the Middle East. As for the former, the Obami’s indignation was grossly disproportionate to the matter at hand and was trumpeted most likely for the express purpose of ingratiating Obama with the Palestinians and “preserving” the “peace process.” (Didn’t work out that way, as Senor pointed out.) But the Obami’s perspective — and lack of foresight — is the more troubling of the two sorts of perspective. It should tell Israel and its supporters precisely the challenge they face: how can the U.S.-Israeli relationship weather the Obama administration? We can only hope that the justified outrage that members of Congress and the American Jewish community demonstrated — waking from its slumber — will serve to temper the Obami’s conduct, and in turn help preserve the U.S.-Israeli relationship until cooler heads and warmer hearts occupy the White House.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The National Jewish Democratic Council attacks other Jewish organizations for going after Obama on the Israel-bashing. Well, it’s nice to know what the NJDC’s priorities are.

In a radio interview, Carly Fiorina sounds quite knowledgeable on the Jerusalem housing project and bashes Obama for blowing up the incident. She asks why the administration “says nothing” when Syria and Iran talk about the destruction of Israel. She calls on Barbara Boxer to say something. (Boxer has been silent.)

Chuck DeVore also puts out a strong statement excoriating Obama. “For the Administration to ‘condemn’ — the strongest possible diplomatic language — the construction of some apartments in a historically Jewish section of Jerusalem does nothing to advance the cause of peace, and still less the security of our country. Peace is advanced through strength, not weakness — and through unity, not division. At a stroke, President Obama has diminished both.”

Cliff May: “How do you explain the strange calculus that condemns building homes for citizens and condones celebrating terrorism? You start by understanding not how the “peace process” works — because it doesn’t — but how ‘peace processors’ think. They have convinced themselves that the Palestinians will make peace with the Israelis when and if the Israelis make sufficient concessions. So the pressure must always be on the Israelis to offer more concessions.”

Charles Krauthammer in his not-to-be missed smackdown of Obama notes: “Under Obama, Netanyahu agreed to commit his center-right coalition to acceptance of a Palestinian state; took down dozens of anti-terror roadblocks and checkpoints to ease life for the Palestinians; assisted West Bank economic development to the point where its gross domestic product is growing at an astounding 7 percent a year; and agreed to the West Bank construction moratorium, a concession that Secretary Clinton herself called ‘unprecedented.’ What reciprocal gesture, let alone concession, has Abbas made during the Obama presidency? Not one.” Read the whole thing.

More bad news for incumbents: “A gauge of future economic activity rose 0.1 percent in February, suggesting slow economic growth this summer, a private research group said Thursday.”

The ObamaCare effect? “Obama’s job approval in the RCP Average has gone net negative for the first time ever as well. Currently 47.3% of those surveyed approve of the job Obama is doing as President, while 47.8% disapprove.”

That was due, in part, to Gallup: “President Barack Obama’s job approval is the worst of his presidency to date, with 46% of Americans approving and 48% disapproving of the job he is doing as president in the latest Gallup Daily three-day average. … The new low ratings come during a week in which the White House and Democratic congressional leaders are working to convince wavering House Democrats to support healthcare reform, which they hope to pass using a series of parliamentary maneuvers in the House of Representatives and Senate. Americans hold Congress in far less esteem than they do the president — 16% approve and 80% disapprove of the job Congress is doing. … That is just two points off the record-low 14% Gallup measured in July 2008.”

The National Jewish Democratic Council attacks other Jewish organizations for going after Obama on the Israel-bashing. Well, it’s nice to know what the NJDC’s priorities are.

In a radio interview, Carly Fiorina sounds quite knowledgeable on the Jerusalem housing project and bashes Obama for blowing up the incident. She asks why the administration “says nothing” when Syria and Iran talk about the destruction of Israel. She calls on Barbara Boxer to say something. (Boxer has been silent.)

Chuck DeVore also puts out a strong statement excoriating Obama. “For the Administration to ‘condemn’ — the strongest possible diplomatic language — the construction of some apartments in a historically Jewish section of Jerusalem does nothing to advance the cause of peace, and still less the security of our country. Peace is advanced through strength, not weakness — and through unity, not division. At a stroke, President Obama has diminished both.”

Cliff May: “How do you explain the strange calculus that condemns building homes for citizens and condones celebrating terrorism? You start by understanding not how the “peace process” works — because it doesn’t — but how ‘peace processors’ think. They have convinced themselves that the Palestinians will make peace with the Israelis when and if the Israelis make sufficient concessions. So the pressure must always be on the Israelis to offer more concessions.”

Charles Krauthammer in his not-to-be missed smackdown of Obama notes: “Under Obama, Netanyahu agreed to commit his center-right coalition to acceptance of a Palestinian state; took down dozens of anti-terror roadblocks and checkpoints to ease life for the Palestinians; assisted West Bank economic development to the point where its gross domestic product is growing at an astounding 7 percent a year; and agreed to the West Bank construction moratorium, a concession that Secretary Clinton herself called ‘unprecedented.’ What reciprocal gesture, let alone concession, has Abbas made during the Obama presidency? Not one.” Read the whole thing.

More bad news for incumbents: “A gauge of future economic activity rose 0.1 percent in February, suggesting slow economic growth this summer, a private research group said Thursday.”

The ObamaCare effect? “Obama’s job approval in the RCP Average has gone net negative for the first time ever as well. Currently 47.3% of those surveyed approve of the job Obama is doing as President, while 47.8% disapprove.”

That was due, in part, to Gallup: “President Barack Obama’s job approval is the worst of his presidency to date, with 46% of Americans approving and 48% disapproving of the job he is doing as president in the latest Gallup Daily three-day average. … The new low ratings come during a week in which the White House and Democratic congressional leaders are working to convince wavering House Democrats to support healthcare reform, which they hope to pass using a series of parliamentary maneuvers in the House of Representatives and Senate. Americans hold Congress in far less esteem than they do the president — 16% approve and 80% disapprove of the job Congress is doing. … That is just two points off the record-low 14% Gallup measured in July 2008.”

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