Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 23, 2010

Dershowitz Throws Down the Gauntlet to Obama

Let’s give credit where it’s due. In the past, I’ve written about Alan Dershowitz’s defense of the Obama administration (here and here) as well as about his recent attack on J Street.

Despite Dershowitz’s outstanding pro-Israel record, I’ve taken him to task for his loyalty to Obama and refusal to call the president out for his decision to downgrade the alliance with Israel. But it looks as if the Harvard Law professor is finally starting to lose patience with the man whose candidacy for the presidency he supported so enthusiastically. In today’s Wall Street Journal (subscription required), Dershowitz stops short of condemning the administration, but he delivered as stark a challenge to the president as one could imagine regarding Iran.

Pulling no punches, Dershowitz instructs Obama that no one remembers that Neville Chamberlain was a successful reformer who not only helped restore Great Britain’s financial stability during the Depression but also passed landmark legislation on unemployment and retirement benefits. Instead, all history remembers is Chamberlain’s “failure to confront Hitler.” It is, he writes pointedly, “Chamberlain’s enduring legacy.” And if Obama does not act to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, anything he achieves on health care or the economy will count for nothing when compared to the impact of a failure on Iran.

“History will not treat kindly any leader who allows so much power to be accumulated by the world’s first suicide nation,” Dershowitz writes. Like Chamberlain with Hitler, “Mr. Obama will come to symbolize the failure of the West if Iran acquires nuclear weapons on his watch.”

Dershowitz is right, both about the nature of the threat from Iran and about Obama’s place in history if he allows Tehran to obtain nuclear weapons. But does Obama take the threat as seriously as Dershowitz? Everything the president has done since he took office leads us to believe the answer is no. A year of feckless engagement and weak diplomacy has led the Iranians to believe Obama is a weakling who will do nothing but appease and talk. The threat of force has been taken off the table, and only recently has the administration begun to speak seriously about sanctions on Iran — but even then, the measures considered aren’t tough enough and lack the support of China and Russia. Beyond wrongly blaming Israel for his failure to rally the world to America’s position, Obama has done little to indicate he cares deeply about the threat.

Thus, while we applaud Dershowitz for throwing down the gauntlet to Obama, we have to wonder how long will he wait before he concedes that the man in the White House is more of a Chamberlain than the Winston Churchill that the West needs so badly today.

Let’s give credit where it’s due. In the past, I’ve written about Alan Dershowitz’s defense of the Obama administration (here and here) as well as about his recent attack on J Street.

Despite Dershowitz’s outstanding pro-Israel record, I’ve taken him to task for his loyalty to Obama and refusal to call the president out for his decision to downgrade the alliance with Israel. But it looks as if the Harvard Law professor is finally starting to lose patience with the man whose candidacy for the presidency he supported so enthusiastically. In today’s Wall Street Journal (subscription required), Dershowitz stops short of condemning the administration, but he delivered as stark a challenge to the president as one could imagine regarding Iran.

Pulling no punches, Dershowitz instructs Obama that no one remembers that Neville Chamberlain was a successful reformer who not only helped restore Great Britain’s financial stability during the Depression but also passed landmark legislation on unemployment and retirement benefits. Instead, all history remembers is Chamberlain’s “failure to confront Hitler.” It is, he writes pointedly, “Chamberlain’s enduring legacy.” And if Obama does not act to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, anything he achieves on health care or the economy will count for nothing when compared to the impact of a failure on Iran.

“History will not treat kindly any leader who allows so much power to be accumulated by the world’s first suicide nation,” Dershowitz writes. Like Chamberlain with Hitler, “Mr. Obama will come to symbolize the failure of the West if Iran acquires nuclear weapons on his watch.”

Dershowitz is right, both about the nature of the threat from Iran and about Obama’s place in history if he allows Tehran to obtain nuclear weapons. But does Obama take the threat as seriously as Dershowitz? Everything the president has done since he took office leads us to believe the answer is no. A year of feckless engagement and weak diplomacy has led the Iranians to believe Obama is a weakling who will do nothing but appease and talk. The threat of force has been taken off the table, and only recently has the administration begun to speak seriously about sanctions on Iran — but even then, the measures considered aren’t tough enough and lack the support of China and Russia. Beyond wrongly blaming Israel for his failure to rally the world to America’s position, Obama has done little to indicate he cares deeply about the threat.

Thus, while we applaud Dershowitz for throwing down the gauntlet to Obama, we have to wonder how long will he wait before he concedes that the man in the White House is more of a Chamberlain than the Winston Churchill that the West needs so badly today.

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No Substitute

AP reports:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received a warmer public reception from Congress than from the Obama administration, with a top Democrat and Republican joining Tuesday to welcome a leader who has refused to back down in a disagreement with the White House over Israeli housing expansion in a disputed part of Jerusalem. “We in Congress stand by Israel,” the leader of the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, assured Netanyahu at an all-smiles appearance before the cameras. “In Congress we speak with one voice on the subject of Israel.”

Well, if there is a silver lining to the black cloud hanging over the U.S.-Israel relationship, it is the rather vibrant bipartisan support voiced toward Israel. Not only in the welcome today, but in the speechifying at AIPAC and in the letters to Obama, there has been widespread support from congressmen and senators for moving forward with crippling sanctions against Iran, as well as calls for the Obami to knock off their Israel bash-a-thon.

On one level, that is reassuring confirmation that Israel enjoys a reservoir of goodwill and affection, which transcends a single administration. But on another, it merely highlights how indispensable is a president whose administration that can maintain the U.S.-Israel relationship and who can understand that there is little to be gained and much to be lost by highlighting the differences between the two countries. Ultimately, it will be the president who chooses to implement “crippling” sanctions, or not; the president who authorizes the use of military force — if needed — against Iran, or not; the president who pursues regime change in, Iran or not; the president who tries to force unilateral concessions on Israel, or not; and the president who is regarded by Israelis as a trusted figure, or not.

The administration is big on platitudes — the relationship with Israel is “rock solid,” a nuclear armed Iran is “unacceptable,” etc. — but its actions are a different matter. To the extent that members of Congress and the American Jewish community are disturbed by what they have seen (i.e., bullying) and what they have not (i.e., a cogent policy with respect to Iran), it is incumbent on them to press the administration to align its rhetoric with its policies. But in the end, there’s just no substitute for a pro-Israel American president.

Interestingly, in an organization that is heavily Democratic, spontaneous applause broke out at the AIPAC session yesterday during a film montage when George W. Bush appeared confirming America’s affection for the Jewish state. Yes, many of us miss him. We have gone from arguably the most pro-Israel president to one of the least, and from one of the most skilled set of Middle East foreign-policy operatives to one of the least. And there is no escaping the fact that it matters. A lot.

AP reports:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received a warmer public reception from Congress than from the Obama administration, with a top Democrat and Republican joining Tuesday to welcome a leader who has refused to back down in a disagreement with the White House over Israeli housing expansion in a disputed part of Jerusalem. “We in Congress stand by Israel,” the leader of the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, assured Netanyahu at an all-smiles appearance before the cameras. “In Congress we speak with one voice on the subject of Israel.”

Well, if there is a silver lining to the black cloud hanging over the U.S.-Israel relationship, it is the rather vibrant bipartisan support voiced toward Israel. Not only in the welcome today, but in the speechifying at AIPAC and in the letters to Obama, there has been widespread support from congressmen and senators for moving forward with crippling sanctions against Iran, as well as calls for the Obami to knock off their Israel bash-a-thon.

On one level, that is reassuring confirmation that Israel enjoys a reservoir of goodwill and affection, which transcends a single administration. But on another, it merely highlights how indispensable is a president whose administration that can maintain the U.S.-Israel relationship and who can understand that there is little to be gained and much to be lost by highlighting the differences between the two countries. Ultimately, it will be the president who chooses to implement “crippling” sanctions, or not; the president who authorizes the use of military force — if needed — against Iran, or not; the president who pursues regime change in, Iran or not; the president who tries to force unilateral concessions on Israel, or not; and the president who is regarded by Israelis as a trusted figure, or not.

The administration is big on platitudes — the relationship with Israel is “rock solid,” a nuclear armed Iran is “unacceptable,” etc. — but its actions are a different matter. To the extent that members of Congress and the American Jewish community are disturbed by what they have seen (i.e., bullying) and what they have not (i.e., a cogent policy with respect to Iran), it is incumbent on them to press the administration to align its rhetoric with its policies. But in the end, there’s just no substitute for a pro-Israel American president.

Interestingly, in an organization that is heavily Democratic, spontaneous applause broke out at the AIPAC session yesterday during a film montage when George W. Bush appeared confirming America’s affection for the Jewish state. Yes, many of us miss him. We have gone from arguably the most pro-Israel president to one of the least, and from one of the most skilled set of Middle East foreign-policy operatives to one of the least. And there is no escaping the fact that it matters. A lot.

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The Lessons of 1956: Nostalgia for a Betrayal of Israel

If you want an object lesson as to where contemporary Israel-bashing in the United States is headed, you can do no better than read an article published today in the Daily Beast by Kai Bird, the former Nation staffer, MacArthur Foundation “genius,” and Pulitzer Prize–winning biographer of J. Robert Oppenheimer.

The title, “Time to Talk Tough with Israel,” promises the familiar tiresome refrain about how America must slap the Israelis around for their own good and doesn’t disappoint. But Bird’s frame of reference isn’t just the usual slander about AIPAC running American foreign policy. Instead, he writes from the perspective of an important event in his childhood: the 1956 Sinai campaign, which took place while Bird’s father was serving in the American consulate in East Jerusalem. At that time, about half the city was illegally occupied by the Kingdom of Jordan. Jews were forbidden entry into the Old City, and Jewish holy places such as the Western Wall were abandoned and desecrated.

In 1956, Egyptian dictator Gamal Abdel Nasser massed  his army in the Sinai and allowed Palestinian terrorists to use Egyptian-occupied Gaza as a terrorist sanctuary. Acting in conjunction with Britain and France, who were angry about Nasser’s seizure of the Suez Canal, Israel cleaned out both Gaza and the Sinai, dealing a serious blow to Nasser’s aggressive ambitions. But the United States, which hadn’t been consulted, wound up backing Nasser against the former colonial powers and their Israeli ally. In the end Nasser wasn’t compelled to make peace with Israel. Instead, Israel was forced to withdraw from the Sinai. All it got in exchange was the presence of a United Nations observer force on the border.

Bird considers that American diktat as a model for our current diplomacy. Which is to say, he wants the United States to demand that Israel give up every inch it won in 1967, including East Jerusalem. If Israel refuses, Bird advocates “severe trade and financial sanctions.”

But let’s examine the results of Bird’s ideal moment in American diplomacy. What did President Eisenhower achieve in 1956? He saved the skin of a vicious Arab dictator who would use the rest of his career to keep fomenting violence in the Middle East. And he set the stage for the 1967 Six-Day War, which took place after Nasser marched his army back into the Sinai along Israel’s border, blockaded the southern Israeli port of Eilat, and then demanded — and got — the withdrawal of the UN force. Far from helping peace, America’s betrayal of Israel only guaranteed that another war would follow. That wasn’t tough love; it was a disaster for both countries.

Bird believes that a similar betrayal of Israel — this time by Barack Obama — will help “Israeli liberals” defeat Netanyahu and give a two-state solution a chance. But the reason those “liberals” were annihilated at the last Israeli election in February 2009 was because the Palestinians have conclusively demonstrated their lack of interest in peace. And no Israeli government of any political stripe will abandon the Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.

It takes a particular kind of chutzpah for a writer who seems to have fond memories of the days when those Jerusalem neighborhoods were Judenrein — “Jew-free” — to call for a return to a policy of American hostility to Israel to revive such a situation. But that is what passes for intelligent commentary in some publications.

If you want an object lesson as to where contemporary Israel-bashing in the United States is headed, you can do no better than read an article published today in the Daily Beast by Kai Bird, the former Nation staffer, MacArthur Foundation “genius,” and Pulitzer Prize–winning biographer of J. Robert Oppenheimer.

The title, “Time to Talk Tough with Israel,” promises the familiar tiresome refrain about how America must slap the Israelis around for their own good and doesn’t disappoint. But Bird’s frame of reference isn’t just the usual slander about AIPAC running American foreign policy. Instead, he writes from the perspective of an important event in his childhood: the 1956 Sinai campaign, which took place while Bird’s father was serving in the American consulate in East Jerusalem. At that time, about half the city was illegally occupied by the Kingdom of Jordan. Jews were forbidden entry into the Old City, and Jewish holy places such as the Western Wall were abandoned and desecrated.

In 1956, Egyptian dictator Gamal Abdel Nasser massed  his army in the Sinai and allowed Palestinian terrorists to use Egyptian-occupied Gaza as a terrorist sanctuary. Acting in conjunction with Britain and France, who were angry about Nasser’s seizure of the Suez Canal, Israel cleaned out both Gaza and the Sinai, dealing a serious blow to Nasser’s aggressive ambitions. But the United States, which hadn’t been consulted, wound up backing Nasser against the former colonial powers and their Israeli ally. In the end Nasser wasn’t compelled to make peace with Israel. Instead, Israel was forced to withdraw from the Sinai. All it got in exchange was the presence of a United Nations observer force on the border.

Bird considers that American diktat as a model for our current diplomacy. Which is to say, he wants the United States to demand that Israel give up every inch it won in 1967, including East Jerusalem. If Israel refuses, Bird advocates “severe trade and financial sanctions.”

But let’s examine the results of Bird’s ideal moment in American diplomacy. What did President Eisenhower achieve in 1956? He saved the skin of a vicious Arab dictator who would use the rest of his career to keep fomenting violence in the Middle East. And he set the stage for the 1967 Six-Day War, which took place after Nasser marched his army back into the Sinai along Israel’s border, blockaded the southern Israeli port of Eilat, and then demanded — and got — the withdrawal of the UN force. Far from helping peace, America’s betrayal of Israel only guaranteed that another war would follow. That wasn’t tough love; it was a disaster for both countries.

Bird believes that a similar betrayal of Israel — this time by Barack Obama — will help “Israeli liberals” defeat Netanyahu and give a two-state solution a chance. But the reason those “liberals” were annihilated at the last Israeli election in February 2009 was because the Palestinians have conclusively demonstrated their lack of interest in peace. And no Israeli government of any political stripe will abandon the Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.

It takes a particular kind of chutzpah for a writer who seems to have fond memories of the days when those Jerusalem neighborhoods were Judenrein — “Jew-free” — to call for a return to a policy of American hostility to Israel to revive such a situation. But that is what passes for intelligent commentary in some publications.

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A Rhetorical Commitment from the Words-Matter Administration

Hillary Clinton’s AIPAC speech ended with a rhetorical flourish, reaching back to David Ben-Gurion to list the Israeli leaders who made “difficult but clear-eyed choices to pursue peace” by giving up land. Her final paragraph was an exhortation to continue this “tradition”:

[F]or the state to flourish, this generation of Israelis must also take up the tradition and do what seems too dangerous, too hard, and too risky. And of this they can be absolutely sure: the United States and the American people will stand with you. We will share the risks and we will shoulder the burdens, as we face the future together.

It is extraordinary for a nation to advise another to do what seems “too dangerous, too hard, and too risky” — in reliance upon a promise of the first nation to “stand with” it and “share the risks” from far away.

Sometimes what seems too dangerous, too hard, and too risky is in fact too dangerous, hard, and risky. And sometimes you cannot be absolutely sure the United States will stand with you — ask Poland, Georgia, and the Czech Republic.

Or ask Ariel Sharon (if you could) about the Gaza disengagement, in which Israel turned over half the putative Palestinian state in one of those difficult but clear-eyed choices to pursue peace. As Bret Stephens notes in his column, the disengagement was done in exchange for a letter, signed by the president of the United States, containing explicit assurances (described in the letter as the “steadfast commitment” of the United States) about the positions the U.S. would take on (a) defensible borders and (b) the major Israeli settlements necessary to defend them. The commitment given in exchange for Israel’s dangerous, hard, and risky action proved inoperative (or “unenforceable,” as Hillary might say). This is not a tradition that any nation would want to repeat.

As Benjamin Netanyahu noted last night in his AIPAC speech, the strategic position of Israel is now comparable to that of New Jersey facing thousands of rockets both from its north and south (and its back to the sea), with more demands to give up land for “peace.” Hillary Clinton might have used her speech at least to endorse the two minimal conditions for the “peace process” that Netanyahu has put forth: Palestinian recognition of a Jewish state, and demilitarization of any Palestinian one. Instead she chose a meaningless rhetorical commitment — one that would be relied upon only by a nation without a tradition of learning from history.

Hillary Clinton’s AIPAC speech ended with a rhetorical flourish, reaching back to David Ben-Gurion to list the Israeli leaders who made “difficult but clear-eyed choices to pursue peace” by giving up land. Her final paragraph was an exhortation to continue this “tradition”:

[F]or the state to flourish, this generation of Israelis must also take up the tradition and do what seems too dangerous, too hard, and too risky. And of this they can be absolutely sure: the United States and the American people will stand with you. We will share the risks and we will shoulder the burdens, as we face the future together.

It is extraordinary for a nation to advise another to do what seems “too dangerous, too hard, and too risky” — in reliance upon a promise of the first nation to “stand with” it and “share the risks” from far away.

Sometimes what seems too dangerous, too hard, and too risky is in fact too dangerous, hard, and risky. And sometimes you cannot be absolutely sure the United States will stand with you — ask Poland, Georgia, and the Czech Republic.

Or ask Ariel Sharon (if you could) about the Gaza disengagement, in which Israel turned over half the putative Palestinian state in one of those difficult but clear-eyed choices to pursue peace. As Bret Stephens notes in his column, the disengagement was done in exchange for a letter, signed by the president of the United States, containing explicit assurances (described in the letter as the “steadfast commitment” of the United States) about the positions the U.S. would take on (a) defensible borders and (b) the major Israeli settlements necessary to defend them. The commitment given in exchange for Israel’s dangerous, hard, and risky action proved inoperative (or “unenforceable,” as Hillary might say). This is not a tradition that any nation would want to repeat.

As Benjamin Netanyahu noted last night in his AIPAC speech, the strategic position of Israel is now comparable to that of New Jersey facing thousands of rockets both from its north and south (and its back to the sea), with more demands to give up land for “peace.” Hillary Clinton might have used her speech at least to endorse the two minimal conditions for the “peace process” that Netanyahu has put forth: Palestinian recognition of a Jewish state, and demilitarization of any Palestinian one. Instead she chose a meaningless rhetorical commitment — one that would be relied upon only by a nation without a tradition of learning from history.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Outsmarting History

If ever a moment caught Obamaism mid-flight and pinned its wings back for viewing, it is the present one. In domestic affairs, the country has been forced down the first stretch of the road toward untenable Euro-statism. At the same time, the U.S. secretary of state defends the new American policy of rejecting domestic Israeli construction. Had the so-called lunatics of the 2008 McCain-Palin rallies been caught saying that in the course of one day, an Obama presidency would seize one-sixth of the private sector and describe East Jerusalem housing as “undermin[ing] mutual trust” and “expose[ing] daylight between Israel and the United States,” we’d have choked to death on headlines about “playing with fire” and “the politics of fear.”

Yet, little more than a year later, we’re living in one of those clever political columns written as an over-the-top straight story from a frightening future.  “After seizing the American automobile industry almost a year ago, the Obama administration has used a parliamentary procedure to take control of one-sixth of the private sector … in other news, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defended the administration’s stand against housing construction in Jerusalem …”

To continue reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

If ever a moment caught Obamaism mid-flight and pinned its wings back for viewing, it is the present one. In domestic affairs, the country has been forced down the first stretch of the road toward untenable Euro-statism. At the same time, the U.S. secretary of state defends the new American policy of rejecting domestic Israeli construction. Had the so-called lunatics of the 2008 McCain-Palin rallies been caught saying that in the course of one day, an Obama presidency would seize one-sixth of the private sector and describe East Jerusalem housing as “undermin[ing] mutual trust” and “expose[ing] daylight between Israel and the United States,” we’d have choked to death on headlines about “playing with fire” and “the politics of fear.”

Yet, little more than a year later, we’re living in one of those clever political columns written as an over-the-top straight story from a frightening future.  “After seizing the American automobile industry almost a year ago, the Obama administration has used a parliamentary procedure to take control of one-sixth of the private sector … in other news, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defended the administration’s stand against housing construction in Jerusalem …”

To continue reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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Your Pennies at Work: UNICEF Funds Hate TV for Palestinian Kids

Unlike almost every other group linked to United Nations, UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, has retained much of the original goodwill associated with the praiseworthy cause of helping poor kids around the globe. But no one should be surprised that the group, for which American children have traditionally collected pennies on Halloween, is part and parcel of the same international system that nurtures hatred of Israel and the West.

Palestine Media Watch, the non-profit group that monitors Palestinian culture, has brought to light UNICEF’s sponsorship of a Palestinian hate ad. UNICEF has funded PYALARA, the Palestinian Youth Association for Leadership and Rights Activation, since 2000. An ad that bears the UNICEF logo promotes a PYALARA program on Palestinian Authority TV that is devoted to promoting a boycott of Israel. The ad depicts an axe smashing a Star of David, which has on its side not only additional Jewish stars but also the stars and stripes of the United States. Interestingly, the ad acknowledges that a PA program that advocates such a boycott is a blatant violation of the peace accords that the Palestinians have signed with Israel. PYALARA is, in fact, an NGO closely associated with the moderate peace-loving PA government of Mahmoud Abbas. Its weekly two-hour children’s program “Speak Up,” which promotes anti-Israel propaganda, is supported by UNICEF.

So the next time anyone — even someone short and cute — asks you for pennies for UNICEF, tell them about PYALARA and Palestinian hate TV for kids, and ask them to donate their allowances to another worthier children’s charity.

Unlike almost every other group linked to United Nations, UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, has retained much of the original goodwill associated with the praiseworthy cause of helping poor kids around the globe. But no one should be surprised that the group, for which American children have traditionally collected pennies on Halloween, is part and parcel of the same international system that nurtures hatred of Israel and the West.

Palestine Media Watch, the non-profit group that monitors Palestinian culture, has brought to light UNICEF’s sponsorship of a Palestinian hate ad. UNICEF has funded PYALARA, the Palestinian Youth Association for Leadership and Rights Activation, since 2000. An ad that bears the UNICEF logo promotes a PYALARA program on Palestinian Authority TV that is devoted to promoting a boycott of Israel. The ad depicts an axe smashing a Star of David, which has on its side not only additional Jewish stars but also the stars and stripes of the United States. Interestingly, the ad acknowledges that a PA program that advocates such a boycott is a blatant violation of the peace accords that the Palestinians have signed with Israel. PYALARA is, in fact, an NGO closely associated with the moderate peace-loving PA government of Mahmoud Abbas. Its weekly two-hour children’s program “Speak Up,” which promotes anti-Israel propaganda, is supported by UNICEF.

So the next time anyone — even someone short and cute — asks you for pennies for UNICEF, tell them about PYALARA and Palestinian hate TV for kids, and ask them to donate their allowances to another worthier children’s charity.

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The Deprofessionalization of Spying

I don’t agree with everything former CIA officer Robert Baer writes, but his GQ article about the suicide bombing that killed seven CIA officers and contractors in Afghanistan is an interesting and compelling read. According to Baer, the essential problem was that the CIA station chief in Khost did not have much field experience. She was a reports officer who spent most of her time in Washington. Given the opportunity to run a purported al-Qaeda mole, she disregarded basic security procedures and allowed a Jordanian double agent to blow up herself and her entire team. Baer, who spent 21 years in the Clandestine Service, claims that basic tradecraft was violated, “the most inexplicable error” being to have the double agent met by a committee — “informants should always be met one-on-one. Always.” He concludes that there is an institutional failure here — one that traces back to the 1990s, when John Deutch was director of CIA and devalued covert operators at the expense of analysts and other bookish types.  He concludes:

If we take Khost as a metaphor for what has happened to the CIA, the deprofessionalization of spying, it’s tempting to consider that the agency’s time has passed. “Khost was an indictment of an utterly failed system,” a former senior CIA officer told me. “It’s time to close Langley.”

I’m not prepared to go quite that far. The United States still needs a civilian intelligence agency. (The military cannot be trusted to oversee all intelligence-gathering on its own.) But the CIA—and especially the directorate of operations—must be stripped down to its studs and rebuilt with a renewed sense of mission and purpose. It should start by getting the amateurs out of the field. And then it should impose professional standards of training and experience—the kind it upheld with great success in the past. If it doesn’t, we’re going to see a lot more Khosts.

That sounds right to me. Since 9/11, the CIA has been greatly expanded, but has it been greatly improved? The evidence, of which the Khost bombing is the last example, suggests serious deficiencies that the agency, as currently constituted, may be incapable of addressing. For my part, I’ve suggested in the past that we revive the OSS — a civil-military outfit with a gung-ho spirit, little bureaucracy, and few rules that can focus on the war against terror while leaving lesser priorities (e.g., conducting economic espionage to help our trade negotiators) to someone else.

I don’t agree with everything former CIA officer Robert Baer writes, but his GQ article about the suicide bombing that killed seven CIA officers and contractors in Afghanistan is an interesting and compelling read. According to Baer, the essential problem was that the CIA station chief in Khost did not have much field experience. She was a reports officer who spent most of her time in Washington. Given the opportunity to run a purported al-Qaeda mole, she disregarded basic security procedures and allowed a Jordanian double agent to blow up herself and her entire team. Baer, who spent 21 years in the Clandestine Service, claims that basic tradecraft was violated, “the most inexplicable error” being to have the double agent met by a committee — “informants should always be met one-on-one. Always.” He concludes that there is an institutional failure here — one that traces back to the 1990s, when John Deutch was director of CIA and devalued covert operators at the expense of analysts and other bookish types.  He concludes:

If we take Khost as a metaphor for what has happened to the CIA, the deprofessionalization of spying, it’s tempting to consider that the agency’s time has passed. “Khost was an indictment of an utterly failed system,” a former senior CIA officer told me. “It’s time to close Langley.”

I’m not prepared to go quite that far. The United States still needs a civilian intelligence agency. (The military cannot be trusted to oversee all intelligence-gathering on its own.) But the CIA—and especially the directorate of operations—must be stripped down to its studs and rebuilt with a renewed sense of mission and purpose. It should start by getting the amateurs out of the field. And then it should impose professional standards of training and experience—the kind it upheld with great success in the past. If it doesn’t, we’re going to see a lot more Khosts.

That sounds right to me. Since 9/11, the CIA has been greatly expanded, but has it been greatly improved? The evidence, of which the Khost bombing is the last example, suggests serious deficiencies that the agency, as currently constituted, may be incapable of addressing. For my part, I’ve suggested in the past that we revive the OSS — a civil-military outfit with a gung-ho spirit, little bureaucracy, and few rules that can focus on the war against terror while leaving lesser priorities (e.g., conducting economic espionage to help our trade negotiators) to someone else.

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RE: Bibi’s Note to Obama

Some polling information suggests that Obama is not endearing himself to the Israeli public, nor making any headway with his housing announcement eruption, if the goal was to undermine Bibi Netanyahu’s government:

A lopsided plurality of 42 percent of Israelis view U.S. President Barack Obama as pro-Arab, and only seven percent see him as pro-Israel, according to a new Brain Base (Maagar Mochot) poll released on Monday. Thirty-four percent of the respondents are reserving judgment, with a neutral view. . . .

Nearly two-thirds said they support Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision to continue to build in all of the capital city, while only 26 percent oppose it even though the majority also expressed the opinion that it will lead to more pressure from the United States.

A similar percentage of respondents believe that the Obama administration over-reacted to the announcement of progress in plans to build 1,600 new housing units in the Jewish neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo. Only five percent of the respondents said that the American criticism of the project would help the diplomatic process, while 59 percent said the criticism will hurt the peace initiative. . .

A plurality of one-third expressed dissatisfaction with the American efforts to deal with the nuclear threat, and only 26 percent were satisfied.

It would seem that Obama’s cozying up to the Palestinians has given the Israelis the idea that, well, Obama is cozying up to the Palestinians — at their expense. The result, I think, is that Israelis will find it difficult to trust this American president to look after their security, whether it comes to the Palestinians or to the Iranian nuclear threat.

Some polling information suggests that Obama is not endearing himself to the Israeli public, nor making any headway with his housing announcement eruption, if the goal was to undermine Bibi Netanyahu’s government:

A lopsided plurality of 42 percent of Israelis view U.S. President Barack Obama as pro-Arab, and only seven percent see him as pro-Israel, according to a new Brain Base (Maagar Mochot) poll released on Monday. Thirty-four percent of the respondents are reserving judgment, with a neutral view. . . .

Nearly two-thirds said they support Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision to continue to build in all of the capital city, while only 26 percent oppose it even though the majority also expressed the opinion that it will lead to more pressure from the United States.

A similar percentage of respondents believe that the Obama administration over-reacted to the announcement of progress in plans to build 1,600 new housing units in the Jewish neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo. Only five percent of the respondents said that the American criticism of the project would help the diplomatic process, while 59 percent said the criticism will hurt the peace initiative. . .

A plurality of one-third expressed dissatisfaction with the American efforts to deal with the nuclear threat, and only 26 percent were satisfied.

It would seem that Obama’s cozying up to the Palestinians has given the Israelis the idea that, well, Obama is cozying up to the Palestinians — at their expense. The result, I think, is that Israelis will find it difficult to trust this American president to look after their security, whether it comes to the Palestinians or to the Iranian nuclear threat.

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RE: Israel Is Not Stopping Obama from Stopping Iran

Jonathan, the administration really needs to keep its excuses straight. Hillary at AIPAC said the Obami had to go nuts because Israel was showing “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel and because the housing announcement “undermines America’s unique ability to play a role – an essential role, I might add — in the peace process. Our credibility in this process depends in part on our willingness to praise both sides when they are courageous, and when we don’t agree, to say so, and say so unequivocally.” Now from Hirsh we hear it’s because it makes Obama look less effective on Iran. (But kicking its allies in the shins will restore that effectiveness and credibility?)

Whatever the question, the answer for this crew is: it’s Israel’s fault.

And who sounds most determined in denying Iran a nuclear weapon? Compare this. Tony Blair:

Iran must not be allowed to acquire nuclear-weapons capability. They must know that we will do whatever it takes to stop them getting it. The danger is if they suspect for a moment we might allow such a thing. We cannot and will not.

Hillary Clinton:

We are working with our partners in the United Nations on new Security Council sanctions that will show Iran’s leaders that there are real consequences for their intransigence, that the only choice is to live up to their international obligations. Our aim is not incremental sanctions, but sanctions that will bite. It is taking time to produce these sanctions, and we believe that time is a worthwhile investment for winning the broadest possible support for our efforts. But we will not compromise our commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring these weapons.

It probably Israel’s fault Hillary gave such a weak speech.

Jonathan, the administration really needs to keep its excuses straight. Hillary at AIPAC said the Obami had to go nuts because Israel was showing “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel and because the housing announcement “undermines America’s unique ability to play a role – an essential role, I might add — in the peace process. Our credibility in this process depends in part on our willingness to praise both sides when they are courageous, and when we don’t agree, to say so, and say so unequivocally.” Now from Hirsh we hear it’s because it makes Obama look less effective on Iran. (But kicking its allies in the shins will restore that effectiveness and credibility?)

Whatever the question, the answer for this crew is: it’s Israel’s fault.

And who sounds most determined in denying Iran a nuclear weapon? Compare this. Tony Blair:

Iran must not be allowed to acquire nuclear-weapons capability. They must know that we will do whatever it takes to stop them getting it. The danger is if they suspect for a moment we might allow such a thing. We cannot and will not.

Hillary Clinton:

We are working with our partners in the United Nations on new Security Council sanctions that will show Iran’s leaders that there are real consequences for their intransigence, that the only choice is to live up to their international obligations. Our aim is not incremental sanctions, but sanctions that will bite. It is taking time to produce these sanctions, and we believe that time is a worthwhile investment for winning the broadest possible support for our efforts. But we will not compromise our commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring these weapons.

It probably Israel’s fault Hillary gave such a weak speech.

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Israel Is Not Stopping Obama from Stopping Iran

As the Obama administration begins to back away from its post-Biden-visit ultimatums to Israel about building in Jerusalem, “senior officials” are spinning away the disastrous fight they picked with the Netanyahu government. In Newsweek, Michael Hirsh allows one of these “senior officials” to give readers the “real reason” why Obama flipped out on Israel.

According to Hirsh and his highly placed source, the reason why Obama turned a minor flap about the timing of the announcement of new housing project in Jerusalem wasn’t entirely due to Biden’s injured pride or the motive that Hirsh neglects to mention: the administration’s desire to distance itself from Israel. Rather, says Hirsch and his source, it’s because Obama is terribly worried about Iran and wants Israel to be more supportive of his herculean efforts to prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons. In their tale, the housing dispute made Obama look weak and will detract from his all-out campaign to enact tough international sanctions on the Islamist regime. Hirsh’s confidante says: “Iran is [Obama’s] No. 1 priority, it’s the No. 2 priority, and it’s the No. 3 priority. Everything we do needs to be seen through the lens of how to stop Iran from getting nuclear capability. So they [Israel] need to keep their focus. Why would you want to do anything now to make the president look less strong or effective?” In this narrative, the slap at Biden proves that Obama cares more about stopping Iran than Netanyahu and the Israelis.

Is he serious? This is an administration that spent its first year in office pursuing appeasement and pointless and unsuccessful engagement with Iran. It was unwilling to issue strong statements condemning Iran’s stolen presidential elections and repression of its own people. The administration issued several deadlines for Iran to respond to its outreach efforts but failed to follow up. It has pointedly taken the threat of force off the table and failed to rally both its allies and other countries to support tough sanctions.  Even now, it is dithering in its efforts to enact sanctions far less than the crippling measures needed to truly impact the regime, which views Obama as a weakling who will never do what it takes to keep Iran out of the nuclear club.

Yet despite all this, we’re supposed to believe that Obama is so desperate to stop Iran that it is his first, second, and third foreign-policy priority? To judge by his actions and statements, Obama’s top worry about the issue is that Israel, the country threatened with destruction by Iran’s Islamist tyrants, will tire of waiting for the United States to take action and do something to avert the peril itself. Despite the occasional promise to make good on his campaign pledge that he would never let Iran get nuclear weapons, everything coming out of Washington in the last year has given Tehran the impression that Obama is prepared to live with an Iranian bomb.

Far from the Israelis diverting attention from the Iran issue, it was Obama who chose to blow the Biden contretemps into an international incident. Israel has been building throughout Jerusalem for over 40 years without generating tension with the United States. It was Obama who made the construction of apartments in existing Jewish neighborhoods in Israel’s capital a cause célèbre. Rather than a strategic blunder on Israel’s part, as Hirsh claims, it was Obama who chose to change the conversation about stopping Iran, preferring instead to discuss a dead-end peace process that interests neither the Palestinians nor their Arab allies.

If Obama lacks credibility on Iran, it’s because everything he has done since he took office shows that he has never been serious about stopping their nuclear program, not because the Israelis won’t be bullied on Jerusalem. Far from being frustrated by Israel’s alleged lack of focus on Iran, the recent dustup spoke volumes about the administration’s own desire to change the subject.

As the Obama administration begins to back away from its post-Biden-visit ultimatums to Israel about building in Jerusalem, “senior officials” are spinning away the disastrous fight they picked with the Netanyahu government. In Newsweek, Michael Hirsh allows one of these “senior officials” to give readers the “real reason” why Obama flipped out on Israel.

According to Hirsh and his highly placed source, the reason why Obama turned a minor flap about the timing of the announcement of new housing project in Jerusalem wasn’t entirely due to Biden’s injured pride or the motive that Hirsh neglects to mention: the administration’s desire to distance itself from Israel. Rather, says Hirsch and his source, it’s because Obama is terribly worried about Iran and wants Israel to be more supportive of his herculean efforts to prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons. In their tale, the housing dispute made Obama look weak and will detract from his all-out campaign to enact tough international sanctions on the Islamist regime. Hirsh’s confidante says: “Iran is [Obama’s] No. 1 priority, it’s the No. 2 priority, and it’s the No. 3 priority. Everything we do needs to be seen through the lens of how to stop Iran from getting nuclear capability. So they [Israel] need to keep their focus. Why would you want to do anything now to make the president look less strong or effective?” In this narrative, the slap at Biden proves that Obama cares more about stopping Iran than Netanyahu and the Israelis.

Is he serious? This is an administration that spent its first year in office pursuing appeasement and pointless and unsuccessful engagement with Iran. It was unwilling to issue strong statements condemning Iran’s stolen presidential elections and repression of its own people. The administration issued several deadlines for Iran to respond to its outreach efforts but failed to follow up. It has pointedly taken the threat of force off the table and failed to rally both its allies and other countries to support tough sanctions.  Even now, it is dithering in its efforts to enact sanctions far less than the crippling measures needed to truly impact the regime, which views Obama as a weakling who will never do what it takes to keep Iran out of the nuclear club.

Yet despite all this, we’re supposed to believe that Obama is so desperate to stop Iran that it is his first, second, and third foreign-policy priority? To judge by his actions and statements, Obama’s top worry about the issue is that Israel, the country threatened with destruction by Iran’s Islamist tyrants, will tire of waiting for the United States to take action and do something to avert the peril itself. Despite the occasional promise to make good on his campaign pledge that he would never let Iran get nuclear weapons, everything coming out of Washington in the last year has given Tehran the impression that Obama is prepared to live with an Iranian bomb.

Far from the Israelis diverting attention from the Iran issue, it was Obama who chose to blow the Biden contretemps into an international incident. Israel has been building throughout Jerusalem for over 40 years without generating tension with the United States. It was Obama who made the construction of apartments in existing Jewish neighborhoods in Israel’s capital a cause célèbre. Rather than a strategic blunder on Israel’s part, as Hirsh claims, it was Obama who chose to change the conversation about stopping Iran, preferring instead to discuss a dead-end peace process that interests neither the Palestinians nor their Arab allies.

If Obama lacks credibility on Iran, it’s because everything he has done since he took office shows that he has never been serious about stopping their nuclear program, not because the Israelis won’t be bullied on Jerusalem. Far from being frustrated by Israel’s alleged lack of focus on Iran, the recent dustup spoke volumes about the administration’s own desire to change the subject.

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AIPAC: Tony Blair

Tony Blair, the former British prime minister and official envoy for the Quartet, looking a bit grayer and thinner than during his days in office, got an enthusiastic welcome. He began by attesting to his friendship with Israel and its credentials as a democracy. (“Citizens are governed by the rule of law. Men and women are equal before the law. In Israel you can worship your faith in the way you want; or not, as you choose.”) He declared, “In many respects, the Middle East region should regard Israel not as an enemy but as a model.”

He then made a pitch for the two-state solution (“the only path to lasting peace”). He acknowledged: “It isn’t that sensible, well-intentioned people could not sit down and negotiate their way through the issues of borders, refugees, even Jerusalem.” What is key, he says, is “what happens down in the street, in the daily experience of the people.” There can be no Palestinian state, “unless it is sure that state will be securely and properly governed.” Israelis may believe they lack a partner for peace, he explains, because there is doubt “not about whether Palestinian leaders want peace; but whether they can deliver peace.”

Then came the non sequitur — direct negotiations, he said must begin. But, but… yes, what about the inability of the Palestinians to “deliver peace”? Well, Blair has the candor to review recent history — the Palestinians’ rejection of peace at Camp David, the ensuing intifada, and the war that followed the withdrawal from Gaza. So then Blair detoured into a plea to build from the bottom-up the Palestinian institutions. “It can’t be done in a summit. It has to be done patiently, and over time on the ground. . . . It means building institutions of Palestinian government, not just well-equipped, loyal security forces, but civil police, courts, prisons, prosecutors, the whole infrastructure of the rule of law.” And he singled out Salam Fayyad as championing such an approach as well as Bibi for helping to facilitate the economic boom in the West Bank.

Of Israel he asked not to risk its security but “to know that in changing the lives of Palestinians who want peace,” it will enhance its own security. Of the Palestinians he demanded, “The mentality has to move from resistance to governance. There can be no ambiguity, no wavering, no half heart towards terrorism.” [Loud ovation.]

Moving on to Iran he declared, “Iran must not be allowed to acquire nuclear-weapons capability. They must know that we will do whatever it takes to stop them getting it. [Notice the contrast between his formulation and Hillary’s, which resisted the "do whatever it takes" or "all options" formulations.] The danger is if they suspect for a moment we might allow such a thing. We cannot and will not. This is not simply an issue of Israel’s security. This is a matter of global security, mine, yours, all of us.” [Loud ovation]

He summed up with another plea: “If one day Israel can be secure, recognized, understood and respected by the nations which surround it; if one day the Palestinian people can have their own state and can prosper in peace within it and beyond it, we will bring more than peace to people who have lived too long with conflict. We will lift the scourge of extremism and bring hope to the world.”

There is no doubt that Blair is an eloquent speaker and a thoughtful observer. But there was in his speech a central contradiction: if, in fact, a civil society and change of heart from the Palestinians are preconditions for peace, what then is the point of endless peace conferences and negotiations, especially considering the Palestinians’ lack of authority and of will to make any deal, let alone a comprehensive peace? And — indeed — one wonders whether in all the drama and the fights preceding those talks, the cause of building those institutions and the transition in Palestinian mindset is not set back, rather than advanced. What are we accomplishing, especially when the Palestinians are not even willing to meet face-to-face? Other than employing George Mitchell, keeping Hillary busy, and maintaining Obama’s image as a great “peace maker,” it is hard to fathom.

Tony Blair, the former British prime minister and official envoy for the Quartet, looking a bit grayer and thinner than during his days in office, got an enthusiastic welcome. He began by attesting to his friendship with Israel and its credentials as a democracy. (“Citizens are governed by the rule of law. Men and women are equal before the law. In Israel you can worship your faith in the way you want; or not, as you choose.”) He declared, “In many respects, the Middle East region should regard Israel not as an enemy but as a model.”

He then made a pitch for the two-state solution (“the only path to lasting peace”). He acknowledged: “It isn’t that sensible, well-intentioned people could not sit down and negotiate their way through the issues of borders, refugees, even Jerusalem.” What is key, he says, is “what happens down in the street, in the daily experience of the people.” There can be no Palestinian state, “unless it is sure that state will be securely and properly governed.” Israelis may believe they lack a partner for peace, he explains, because there is doubt “not about whether Palestinian leaders want peace; but whether they can deliver peace.”

Then came the non sequitur — direct negotiations, he said must begin. But, but… yes, what about the inability of the Palestinians to “deliver peace”? Well, Blair has the candor to review recent history — the Palestinians’ rejection of peace at Camp David, the ensuing intifada, and the war that followed the withdrawal from Gaza. So then Blair detoured into a plea to build from the bottom-up the Palestinian institutions. “It can’t be done in a summit. It has to be done patiently, and over time on the ground. . . . It means building institutions of Palestinian government, not just well-equipped, loyal security forces, but civil police, courts, prisons, prosecutors, the whole infrastructure of the rule of law.” And he singled out Salam Fayyad as championing such an approach as well as Bibi for helping to facilitate the economic boom in the West Bank.

Of Israel he asked not to risk its security but “to know that in changing the lives of Palestinians who want peace,” it will enhance its own security. Of the Palestinians he demanded, “The mentality has to move from resistance to governance. There can be no ambiguity, no wavering, no half heart towards terrorism.” [Loud ovation.]

Moving on to Iran he declared, “Iran must not be allowed to acquire nuclear-weapons capability. They must know that we will do whatever it takes to stop them getting it. [Notice the contrast between his formulation and Hillary’s, which resisted the "do whatever it takes" or "all options" formulations.] The danger is if they suspect for a moment we might allow such a thing. We cannot and will not. This is not simply an issue of Israel’s security. This is a matter of global security, mine, yours, all of us.” [Loud ovation]

He summed up with another plea: “If one day Israel can be secure, recognized, understood and respected by the nations which surround it; if one day the Palestinian people can have their own state and can prosper in peace within it and beyond it, we will bring more than peace to people who have lived too long with conflict. We will lift the scourge of extremism and bring hope to the world.”

There is no doubt that Blair is an eloquent speaker and a thoughtful observer. But there was in his speech a central contradiction: if, in fact, a civil society and change of heart from the Palestinians are preconditions for peace, what then is the point of endless peace conferences and negotiations, especially considering the Palestinians’ lack of authority and of will to make any deal, let alone a comprehensive peace? And — indeed — one wonders whether in all the drama and the fights preceding those talks, the cause of building those institutions and the transition in Palestinian mindset is not set back, rather than advanced. What are we accomplishing, especially when the Palestinians are not even willing to meet face-to-face? Other than employing George Mitchell, keeping Hillary busy, and maintaining Obama’s image as a great “peace maker,” it is hard to fathom.

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Why Would Palestinians Want a Bi-National State?

I admit to being baffled by a recent poll suggesting that an increasing number of Palestinians are giving up on the two-state solution and embracing the idea of a single, bi-national Israel-Palestine state. True, we should be careful with this poll. For in the same breath that Palestinians seem to increasingly support a bi-national state, they still rank it as the most difficult solution to implement. And yet this isn’t the first time we’ve heard such talk from Palestinians. Their own president, Mahmoud Abbas, has often said that he was considering scrapping the whole idea of a two-state solution in favor of a bi-national state. Oddly enough, it sounded more like a threat than a dream.

But why would Palestinians want a bi-national state?

Help me out here. I mean, if the Palestinians are a people yearning for freedom, why would a one-state solution be an option? Take the Zionist example. Before 1948, the bi-national state was presented by some Jews as an alternative to Zionism’s insistence on a Jewish state, yet this view never really took hold among the Jews living in Palestine. Even after all the wars and bloodshed and suffering on both sides, today it still doesn’t appeal, with a recent poll showing Israeli supporters — including Arabs — at about 15 percent. The reason is real simple: Jews had suffered for millennia, it was felt, because they didn’t have a state of their own and had invested tireless efforts to building one in Palestine. Any bi-national solution was seen as giving up on their dream of freedom.

Why would Palestinians not see things the same way? Some people will chalk it up to Palestinian frustration with the occupation: seeing how slowly their independence is moving, Palestinians are looking for another solution. Another solution, yesbut to what problem?

There are only two possibilities. One is the way Palestinian lives look compared with those of Israelis next door, and especially Israeli Arabs, who enjoy a degree of freedom and prosperity not found anywhere in the Arab world. Indeed, a poll taken some years back suggests that of all the possible political regimes, most Palestinians would prefer democracy, and not just any democracy, but specifically a parliamentary democracy along the Israeli model. Perhaps they see joining Israel as a possible solution to their economic and civic plight? To roadblocks and unemployment?

The problem with this view is that Palestinians don’t seem to like Israelis very much, and it’s hard to believe that any of them want to live together in harmony with people who they’ve always been told are the devil incarnate. Nor does this approach match decades of internal Palestinian rhetoric, including Abbas’ own, which has rarely wavered in its long-term goal of redeeming all of Palestine and ridding the world of Israel. If what really concerned Palestinian leaders was their economic and civic plight, moreover, why are they so resistant to Western efforts to build their economic infrastructure? Why do they so imperatively demand that Israel stop building settlements, when they are the source of many thousands of Palestinian jobs? Why do they insist on supporting terrorism, which only triggers more Palestinian suffering? Why does no serious democratic movement emerge as an alternative to the Palestinian authority? And why does Hamas have such a strong appeal — even though Gazans under Hamas have suffered so horribly in economic terms compared with Palestinians in the West Bank?

The other possibility is that the problem they’re solving is Israel’s very existence. A bi-national state would solve that nominally, by eliminating the “Jewish” state in their midst, creating a huge Palestinian electoral force in the parliament of the new Israel-Palestine. And it would solve it substantively, through the long-term demographic advantage that Palestinians’ high birth rates would give — or more immediately, as millions of Palestinian refugees would flood the country as part of the “Right of Return” they would necessarily demand as a condition for creating such a state. It also explains the appeal of Hamas, because it, too, offers an alternative solution to the problem of Israel — destroy it through violence.

But if that’s the real meaning of a bi-national state in Palestinian eyes, doesn’t this call into question their motives in peace negotiations with Israel? No, I still don’t get it.

I admit to being baffled by a recent poll suggesting that an increasing number of Palestinians are giving up on the two-state solution and embracing the idea of a single, bi-national Israel-Palestine state. True, we should be careful with this poll. For in the same breath that Palestinians seem to increasingly support a bi-national state, they still rank it as the most difficult solution to implement. And yet this isn’t the first time we’ve heard such talk from Palestinians. Their own president, Mahmoud Abbas, has often said that he was considering scrapping the whole idea of a two-state solution in favor of a bi-national state. Oddly enough, it sounded more like a threat than a dream.

But why would Palestinians want a bi-national state?

Help me out here. I mean, if the Palestinians are a people yearning for freedom, why would a one-state solution be an option? Take the Zionist example. Before 1948, the bi-national state was presented by some Jews as an alternative to Zionism’s insistence on a Jewish state, yet this view never really took hold among the Jews living in Palestine. Even after all the wars and bloodshed and suffering on both sides, today it still doesn’t appeal, with a recent poll showing Israeli supporters — including Arabs — at about 15 percent. The reason is real simple: Jews had suffered for millennia, it was felt, because they didn’t have a state of their own and had invested tireless efforts to building one in Palestine. Any bi-national solution was seen as giving up on their dream of freedom.

Why would Palestinians not see things the same way? Some people will chalk it up to Palestinian frustration with the occupation: seeing how slowly their independence is moving, Palestinians are looking for another solution. Another solution, yesbut to what problem?

There are only two possibilities. One is the way Palestinian lives look compared with those of Israelis next door, and especially Israeli Arabs, who enjoy a degree of freedom and prosperity not found anywhere in the Arab world. Indeed, a poll taken some years back suggests that of all the possible political regimes, most Palestinians would prefer democracy, and not just any democracy, but specifically a parliamentary democracy along the Israeli model. Perhaps they see joining Israel as a possible solution to their economic and civic plight? To roadblocks and unemployment?

The problem with this view is that Palestinians don’t seem to like Israelis very much, and it’s hard to believe that any of them want to live together in harmony with people who they’ve always been told are the devil incarnate. Nor does this approach match decades of internal Palestinian rhetoric, including Abbas’ own, which has rarely wavered in its long-term goal of redeeming all of Palestine and ridding the world of Israel. If what really concerned Palestinian leaders was their economic and civic plight, moreover, why are they so resistant to Western efforts to build their economic infrastructure? Why do they so imperatively demand that Israel stop building settlements, when they are the source of many thousands of Palestinian jobs? Why do they insist on supporting terrorism, which only triggers more Palestinian suffering? Why does no serious democratic movement emerge as an alternative to the Palestinian authority? And why does Hamas have such a strong appeal — even though Gazans under Hamas have suffered so horribly in economic terms compared with Palestinians in the West Bank?

The other possibility is that the problem they’re solving is Israel’s very existence. A bi-national state would solve that nominally, by eliminating the “Jewish” state in their midst, creating a huge Palestinian electoral force in the parliament of the new Israel-Palestine. And it would solve it substantively, through the long-term demographic advantage that Palestinians’ high birth rates would give — or more immediately, as millions of Palestinian refugees would flood the country as part of the “Right of Return” they would necessarily demand as a condition for creating such a state. It also explains the appeal of Hamas, because it, too, offers an alternative solution to the problem of Israel — destroy it through violence.

But if that’s the real meaning of a bi-national state in Palestinian eyes, doesn’t this call into question their motives in peace negotiations with Israel? No, I still don’t get it.

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Will Pelosi and Reid Go Down with the Ship?

In a CBS News poll taken just before the House vote on health care, Nancy Pelosi received an 11 percent approval rating, Harry Reid got 8 percent, and Congress overall got thumbs up from 14 percent of respondents. It’s hard to poll that poorly, but they did. A certain rallying of the base may have occurred after the passage of ObamaCare, but even if those approval numbers doubled, they would still be rotten.

The president told members of Congress that they had to pass health care to save themselves, but it’s not clear he really meant it. As the vote drew near, it was necessary, he acknowledged, to pass the bill to save himself, but the hole dug by congressmen and senators defying the will of the public is very deep. The liberal base, even if rallied, isn’t big enough to stave off the torrent of enraged conservatives and annoyed independents.

The first verdict on ObamaCare in November is likely to be negative — the only question is how severe the rebuke and whether Pelosi and Reid will lose their perches (her speakership, his seat) as a fitting coda to their demand that so many colleagues sacrifice themselves.

In a CBS News poll taken just before the House vote on health care, Nancy Pelosi received an 11 percent approval rating, Harry Reid got 8 percent, and Congress overall got thumbs up from 14 percent of respondents. It’s hard to poll that poorly, but they did. A certain rallying of the base may have occurred after the passage of ObamaCare, but even if those approval numbers doubled, they would still be rotten.

The president told members of Congress that they had to pass health care to save themselves, but it’s not clear he really meant it. As the vote drew near, it was necessary, he acknowledged, to pass the bill to save himself, but the hole dug by congressmen and senators defying the will of the public is very deep. The liberal base, even if rallied, isn’t big enough to stave off the torrent of enraged conservatives and annoyed independents.

The first verdict on ObamaCare in November is likely to be negative — the only question is how severe the rebuke and whether Pelosi and Reid will lose their perches (her speakership, his seat) as a fitting coda to their demand that so many colleagues sacrifice themselves.

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Bibi Responds

Bibi Netanyahu’s speech to AIPAC last night was in a very real way a refutation of the Obama policies and rhetoric. While thanking the Obama administration for its aid and opposition to the Goldstone Report and reaffirming the bonds and common foes of the two nations, Netanyahu’s messages were unmistakable: take care of Iran or Israel will act, and we are not to be bullied on Jerusalem. But he said it much more elegantly than that.

On Iran, he reminded the audience (as he often does) that the Jewish people know a thing or two about genocide. He declared:

The greatest threat to any living organism or nation is not to recognize danger in time. Seventy-five years ago, the leading powers in the world put their heads in the sand. Untold millions died in the war that followed. Ultimately, two of history’s greatest leaders helped turn the tide. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill helped save the world. But they were too late to save six million of my own people. The future of the Jewish state can never depend on the goodwill of even the greatest of men. Israel must always reserve the right to defend itself.

Today, an unprecedented threat to humanity looms large. A radical Iranian regime armed with nuclear weapons could bring an end to the era of nuclear peace the world has enjoyed for the last 65 years. Such a regime could provide nuclear weapons to terrorists and might even be tempted to use them itself. Our world would never be the same. Iran’s brazen bid to develop nuclear weapons is first and foremost a threat to Israel, but it is also a grave threat to the region and to the world. Israel expects the international community to act swiftly and decisively to thwart this danger. But we will always reserve the right to defend ourselves. [long ovation]

To the Obami, then, the message is — engage or sanction Iran, but in the end Israel will do what it has to. Now let’s not kid ourselves. There are multiple reasons why it is preferable and right for the U.S. to act militarily if it comes to that, but Netanyahu is laying down the marker. The U.S. has said it’s unacceptable for Iran to have nuclear weapons? It had better mean it.

As for Jerusalem, first he asserted that the effort to characterize “the Jews as foreign colonialists in their own homeland is one of the great lies of modern times.” So he played the archaeology card:

In my office, I have on display a signet ring that was loaned to me by Israel’s Department of Antiquities. The ring was found next to the Western wall, but it dates back some 2,800 years ago, two hundred years after Kind David turned Jerusalem into our capital city. The ring is a seal of a Jewish official, and inscribed on it in Hebrew is his name: Netanyahu. His name was Netanyahu Ben-Yoash. My first name, Benjamin, dates back 1,000 years earlier to Benjamin, the son of Jacob. One of Benjamin’s brothers was named Shimon, which also happens to be the first name of my good friend, Shimon Peres, the President of Israel. Nearly 4,000 years ago, Benjamin, Shimon and their ten brothers roamed the hills of Judea.

So much for the Obama Cairo version of history, which premises, as the Palestinians are also wont to do, Israel’s legitimacy on the Holocaust. And what does this mean for Israel’s bargaining position and current conduct?

The connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel cannot be denied. The Jewish people were building Jerusalem 3,000 years ago and the Jewish people are building Jerusalem today. Jerusalem is not a settlement. It is our capital. [longest applause of the speech] In Jerusalem [interrupted by applause], my government has maintained the policies of all Israeli governments since 1967, including those led by Golda Meir, Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin. Today, nearly a quarter of a million Jews, almost half the city’s Jewish population, live in neighborhoods that are just beyond the 1949 armistice lines. All these neighborhoods are within a five-minute drive from the Knesset. They are an integral and inextricable part of modern Jerusalem. Everyone knows [departing from the prepared text and for emphasis he adds -- the Europeans, the Americans, the Palestinians and certainly the Israelis all know] that these neighborhoods will be part of Israel in any peace settlement. Therefore, building them in no way precludes the possibility of a two-state solution.

That’s the response to the Obama assault on the Jerusalem housing project and the answer to Clinton’s pernicious suggestion yesterday that building in the eternal capital prejudices the “peace process.”

Now, the speech was more than a response to the Obami’s dawdling on Iran or its hissy fit over Ramat Shlomo. Netanyahu also reminded the crowd of the peril to both Israel’s legitimacy and security:

If you want to understand Israel’s security predicament, imagine the entire United States compressed to the size of New Jersey. Next, put on New Jersey’s northern border an Iranian terror proxy called Hezbollah which fires 6,000 rockets into that small state. Then imagine that this terror proxy has amassed 60,000 more missiles to fire at you. Now imagine on New Jersey’s southern border another Iranian terror proxy called Hamas. It too fires 6,000 rockets into your territory while smuggling ever more lethal weapons into its territory. Do you think you would feel a little bit vulnerable? Do you think you would expect some understanding from the international community when you defend yourselves?

And he reiterated that Israel, but not the Palestinians, has taken risks for peace and is willing to engage in direct talks. He certainly made the convincing case that his government — in its West Bank settlement freeze, lifting of blockades, and invitation for direct negotiations — has done much, while the Palestinians have offered nothing in return. (“It cannot be a one-way street in which only Israel makes concessions.”)

But the speech, I think, will be most remembered for the bold refutation of what has passed as the Obami Middle East policy. One question remains: how will the U.S.-Israel relationship weather the Obama administration, given the differences in outlook and approach? That’s far from clear.

Bibi Netanyahu’s speech to AIPAC last night was in a very real way a refutation of the Obama policies and rhetoric. While thanking the Obama administration for its aid and opposition to the Goldstone Report and reaffirming the bonds and common foes of the two nations, Netanyahu’s messages were unmistakable: take care of Iran or Israel will act, and we are not to be bullied on Jerusalem. But he said it much more elegantly than that.

On Iran, he reminded the audience (as he often does) that the Jewish people know a thing or two about genocide. He declared:

The greatest threat to any living organism or nation is not to recognize danger in time. Seventy-five years ago, the leading powers in the world put their heads in the sand. Untold millions died in the war that followed. Ultimately, two of history’s greatest leaders helped turn the tide. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill helped save the world. But they were too late to save six million of my own people. The future of the Jewish state can never depend on the goodwill of even the greatest of men. Israel must always reserve the right to defend itself.

Today, an unprecedented threat to humanity looms large. A radical Iranian regime armed with nuclear weapons could bring an end to the era of nuclear peace the world has enjoyed for the last 65 years. Such a regime could provide nuclear weapons to terrorists and might even be tempted to use them itself. Our world would never be the same. Iran’s brazen bid to develop nuclear weapons is first and foremost a threat to Israel, but it is also a grave threat to the region and to the world. Israel expects the international community to act swiftly and decisively to thwart this danger. But we will always reserve the right to defend ourselves. [long ovation]

To the Obami, then, the message is — engage or sanction Iran, but in the end Israel will do what it has to. Now let’s not kid ourselves. There are multiple reasons why it is preferable and right for the U.S. to act militarily if it comes to that, but Netanyahu is laying down the marker. The U.S. has said it’s unacceptable for Iran to have nuclear weapons? It had better mean it.

As for Jerusalem, first he asserted that the effort to characterize “the Jews as foreign colonialists in their own homeland is one of the great lies of modern times.” So he played the archaeology card:

In my office, I have on display a signet ring that was loaned to me by Israel’s Department of Antiquities. The ring was found next to the Western wall, but it dates back some 2,800 years ago, two hundred years after Kind David turned Jerusalem into our capital city. The ring is a seal of a Jewish official, and inscribed on it in Hebrew is his name: Netanyahu. His name was Netanyahu Ben-Yoash. My first name, Benjamin, dates back 1,000 years earlier to Benjamin, the son of Jacob. One of Benjamin’s brothers was named Shimon, which also happens to be the first name of my good friend, Shimon Peres, the President of Israel. Nearly 4,000 years ago, Benjamin, Shimon and their ten brothers roamed the hills of Judea.

So much for the Obama Cairo version of history, which premises, as the Palestinians are also wont to do, Israel’s legitimacy on the Holocaust. And what does this mean for Israel’s bargaining position and current conduct?

The connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel cannot be denied. The Jewish people were building Jerusalem 3,000 years ago and the Jewish people are building Jerusalem today. Jerusalem is not a settlement. It is our capital. [longest applause of the speech] In Jerusalem [interrupted by applause], my government has maintained the policies of all Israeli governments since 1967, including those led by Golda Meir, Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin. Today, nearly a quarter of a million Jews, almost half the city’s Jewish population, live in neighborhoods that are just beyond the 1949 armistice lines. All these neighborhoods are within a five-minute drive from the Knesset. They are an integral and inextricable part of modern Jerusalem. Everyone knows [departing from the prepared text and for emphasis he adds -- the Europeans, the Americans, the Palestinians and certainly the Israelis all know] that these neighborhoods will be part of Israel in any peace settlement. Therefore, building them in no way precludes the possibility of a two-state solution.

That’s the response to the Obama assault on the Jerusalem housing project and the answer to Clinton’s pernicious suggestion yesterday that building in the eternal capital prejudices the “peace process.”

Now, the speech was more than a response to the Obami’s dawdling on Iran or its hissy fit over Ramat Shlomo. Netanyahu also reminded the crowd of the peril to both Israel’s legitimacy and security:

If you want to understand Israel’s security predicament, imagine the entire United States compressed to the size of New Jersey. Next, put on New Jersey’s northern border an Iranian terror proxy called Hezbollah which fires 6,000 rockets into that small state. Then imagine that this terror proxy has amassed 60,000 more missiles to fire at you. Now imagine on New Jersey’s southern border another Iranian terror proxy called Hamas. It too fires 6,000 rockets into your territory while smuggling ever more lethal weapons into its territory. Do you think you would feel a little bit vulnerable? Do you think you would expect some understanding from the international community when you defend yourselves?

And he reiterated that Israel, but not the Palestinians, has taken risks for peace and is willing to engage in direct talks. He certainly made the convincing case that his government — in its West Bank settlement freeze, lifting of blockades, and invitation for direct negotiations — has done much, while the Palestinians have offered nothing in return. (“It cannot be a one-way street in which only Israel makes concessions.”)

But the speech, I think, will be most remembered for the bold refutation of what has passed as the Obami Middle East policy. One question remains: how will the U.S.-Israel relationship weather the Obama administration, given the differences in outlook and approach? That’s far from clear.

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Bibi’s “Note” to Obama

In a must-read and quite delightful column, Bret Stephens pens a Bibi Netanyahu “note” (not really, but it’s a doozy). The heart of it is this explanation for what’s wrong with Obama’s Middle East gambit:

Mr. President: Most Israelis don’t trust you, the way they trusted George W. Bush or [even] Bill Clinton. And let me tell you why that’s a problem.

When my predecessor Arik Sharon pulled out of Gaza, he didn’t do so through negotiations with the Palestinians. Those negotiations fail time and again, in part because the Palestinians figure they can hold out for more, in part because they’re cutting their own deals with Hamas.

So what Sharon did was negotiate with you, the United States. And what he got was a promise, in writing, that the U.S. would not insist on a full withdrawal to the 1967 lines in any final settlement agreement.

My problem is that Hillary disavowed that promise last year, and you did so again by treating a neighborhood in Jerusalem as a “settlement.” So when you pledge your commitment to Israel’s everlasting security, how can we take your word for it, or know that your successor won’t also renege? We don’t want to wind up like Belgium before World War I, relying on phony guarantees of neutrality.

Stephens/”Bibi” has some advice to Obama: start “building some serious trust with Israelis if you mean to give me the political tools to negotiate with the Palestinians.” No, Obama’s not going to drive Bibi from office, but he will, Stephens/”Bibi” argues, cause the Jewish state to  lose faith in the U.S. president where it matters most — on the Iran nuclear threat. (“Hillary gave a fine speech at AIPAC yesterday, but we all know that you’re already planning on containing a nuclear Iran. That’s not acceptable to me.”) Yes, “acceptable” is the word the Obami toss around like confetti, but it is fast becoming meaningless as the Obami’s actions appear utterly divorced from the preferred intention of depriving the Iranians of a nuclear weapon.

This is an argument of reverse linkage. You recall that the Obami were all about linking progress on the Palestinian issue to a successful effort to block the Iranian nuclear program. Yes, it was a non sequitur, but that’s what they said. In reality, the Obami’s Middle East policy is communicating a different message to Israel: you’re going to have to take care of Iran on your own. The U.S. is so enamored of getting along in the Muslim World and so unwilling to draw a line with the mullahs that Israel will/is faced with a choice: do nothing (which is the same as waiting around for the Obami to act) or take military action themselves.

By his recent verbal assault, Obama meant perhaps to paralyze Israel, creating uncertainty as to whether the U.S. would be with Israel if it came down to a military action against Iran. But Israel cannot be paralyzed into inactivity (for reasons amply stated by Alan Dershowitz on the same newspaper page). The result then of all the Obami carrying on is to create a less secure U.S.-Israel relationship and to spur Israel to act unilaterally. Unfortunately, that part isn’t fictional.

In a must-read and quite delightful column, Bret Stephens pens a Bibi Netanyahu “note” (not really, but it’s a doozy). The heart of it is this explanation for what’s wrong with Obama’s Middle East gambit:

Mr. President: Most Israelis don’t trust you, the way they trusted George W. Bush or [even] Bill Clinton. And let me tell you why that’s a problem.

When my predecessor Arik Sharon pulled out of Gaza, he didn’t do so through negotiations with the Palestinians. Those negotiations fail time and again, in part because the Palestinians figure they can hold out for more, in part because they’re cutting their own deals with Hamas.

So what Sharon did was negotiate with you, the United States. And what he got was a promise, in writing, that the U.S. would not insist on a full withdrawal to the 1967 lines in any final settlement agreement.

My problem is that Hillary disavowed that promise last year, and you did so again by treating a neighborhood in Jerusalem as a “settlement.” So when you pledge your commitment to Israel’s everlasting security, how can we take your word for it, or know that your successor won’t also renege? We don’t want to wind up like Belgium before World War I, relying on phony guarantees of neutrality.

Stephens/”Bibi” has some advice to Obama: start “building some serious trust with Israelis if you mean to give me the political tools to negotiate with the Palestinians.” No, Obama’s not going to drive Bibi from office, but he will, Stephens/”Bibi” argues, cause the Jewish state to  lose faith in the U.S. president where it matters most — on the Iran nuclear threat. (“Hillary gave a fine speech at AIPAC yesterday, but we all know that you’re already planning on containing a nuclear Iran. That’s not acceptable to me.”) Yes, “acceptable” is the word the Obami toss around like confetti, but it is fast becoming meaningless as the Obami’s actions appear utterly divorced from the preferred intention of depriving the Iranians of a nuclear weapon.

This is an argument of reverse linkage. You recall that the Obami were all about linking progress on the Palestinian issue to a successful effort to block the Iranian nuclear program. Yes, it was a non sequitur, but that’s what they said. In reality, the Obami’s Middle East policy is communicating a different message to Israel: you’re going to have to take care of Iran on your own. The U.S. is so enamored of getting along in the Muslim World and so unwilling to draw a line with the mullahs that Israel will/is faced with a choice: do nothing (which is the same as waiting around for the Obami to act) or take military action themselves.

By his recent verbal assault, Obama meant perhaps to paralyze Israel, creating uncertainty as to whether the U.S. would be with Israel if it came down to a military action against Iran. But Israel cannot be paralyzed into inactivity (for reasons amply stated by Alan Dershowitz on the same newspaper page). The result then of all the Obami carrying on is to create a less secure U.S.-Israel relationship and to spur Israel to act unilaterally. Unfortunately, that part isn’t fictional.

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Can Obama Dig Out of the Hole?

CNN reports:

For the first time, a CNN poll has found that a majority of Americans disapprove of President Obama’s job performance. According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released Monday, 51 percent of respondents disapprove of Obama’s job performance and 46 percent approve of it. … The new poll was conducted before the House on Sunday narrowly approved the Obama administration’s signature domestic policy proposal: health care reform. … In fact, health care was the policy area that drew the second highest negative rating, with 58 percent registering disapproval. The highest negative rating was 62 percent for his handling of the federal deficit.

The solution to this, the Obami claim, is for Obama to barnstorm the country and talk about ObamaCare. One suspects the Republicans would be delighted. Each day he travels to this or that community, Tea Party protesters gain new adherents, GOP candidates get more ammunition for November, and even the mainstream media are forced to carry the Republican vows to repeal ObamaCare and the reasons for it. Certainly there will be some rallying of the base, but at what cost — more lost independent voters and an increase in the determination of conservatives to sweep out of office those who voted for this?

Obama and Pelosi muscled through a vote using a grab bag of  accounting tricks and legal subterfuges because Obama never made the case to the American people on the merits of his legislation. This shows he is a practiced Chicago pol but not very skilled at persuasion. He now wants to persuade Americans after the fact that what he rammed home was good for them. His track record in moving public opinion his way isn’t good. And if anything, the opposition has become more focused and adept at explaining the massive flaws in the bill. (It helps to have a Paul Ryan on your side.) So the president wants to campaign now for his grossly unpopular bill? Republicans’ response: Let him try.

CNN reports:

For the first time, a CNN poll has found that a majority of Americans disapprove of President Obama’s job performance. According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released Monday, 51 percent of respondents disapprove of Obama’s job performance and 46 percent approve of it. … The new poll was conducted before the House on Sunday narrowly approved the Obama administration’s signature domestic policy proposal: health care reform. … In fact, health care was the policy area that drew the second highest negative rating, with 58 percent registering disapproval. The highest negative rating was 62 percent for his handling of the federal deficit.

The solution to this, the Obami claim, is for Obama to barnstorm the country and talk about ObamaCare. One suspects the Republicans would be delighted. Each day he travels to this or that community, Tea Party protesters gain new adherents, GOP candidates get more ammunition for November, and even the mainstream media are forced to carry the Republican vows to repeal ObamaCare and the reasons for it. Certainly there will be some rallying of the base, but at what cost — more lost independent voters and an increase in the determination of conservatives to sweep out of office those who voted for this?

Obama and Pelosi muscled through a vote using a grab bag of  accounting tricks and legal subterfuges because Obama never made the case to the American people on the merits of his legislation. This shows he is a practiced Chicago pol but not very skilled at persuasion. He now wants to persuade Americans after the fact that what he rammed home was good for them. His track record in moving public opinion his way isn’t good. And if anything, the opposition has become more focused and adept at explaining the massive flaws in the bill. (It helps to have a Paul Ryan on your side.) So the president wants to campaign now for his grossly unpopular bill? Republicans’ response: Let him try.

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How Grown-Ups Handle Middle East Diplomacy

In her many jaw-dropping assertions at AIPAC yesterday, Hillary Clinton intimated that the U.S. really had no choice but to throw a public temper tantrum over the Israelis’ housing-permit announcement. She proclaimed:

It is our devotion to this outcome – two states for two peoples, secure and at peace – that led us to condemn the announcement of plans for new construction in East Jerusalem. This was not about wounded pride. Nor is it a judgment on the final status of Jerusalem, which is an issue to be settled at the negotiating table. This is about getting to the table, creating and protecting an atmosphere of trust around it – and staying there until the job is done.

New construction in East Jerusalem or the West Bank undermines mutual trust and endangers the proximity talks that are the first step toward the full negotiations that both sides want and need. It exposes daylight between Israel and the United States that others in the region could hope to exploit. And it undermines America’s unique ability to play a role – an essential role, I might add — in the peace process. Our credibility in this process depends in part on our willingness to praise both sides when they are courageous, and when we don’t agree, to say so, and say so unequivocally.

Well, if not “wounded pride,” it was perhaps amateurism (unless we believe it was an intentional contrivance to impress the Obami’s Palestinian friends). American credibility doesn’t depend on blowing up at an ally in public over a routine housing announcement. If there is any doubt, Jackson Diehl offers a helpful reminder that in a similar situation, the Bush administration handled the matter discretely, preserved the “peace process,” and did not give the Arabs the notion that there was space between the U.S. and Israel. He writes:

The trick is not to let the provocation become the center of attention but instead to insist on proceeding with the negotiations. That is what [Condi] Rice did when news of the Jerusalem settlement of Har Homa broke. In public, she delivered a clear but relatively mild statement saying the United States had opposed the settlement “from the very beginning.” In private, she told Olmert: Don’t let that happen again. For Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the message was equally blunt: You can come to the table and negotiate a border for a Palestinian state, making settlements irrelevant. Or you can boycott and let the building continue.

Not surprisingly, Abbas — who has taken Obama’s public assault on Israel as a cue to boycott — showed up for Rice’s negotiations. The Bush administration privately offered him an assurance: Any Israeli settlement construction that took place during the talks would not be accepted by the United States when it came time to draw a final Israeli border. On settlements, Rice adopted a pragmatic guideline she called the “Google Earth test”: A settlement that visibly expanded was a problem; one that remained within its existing territorial boundary was not.

So it wasn’t Israel’s announcement on Ramat Shlomo that highlighted “daylight between Israel and the United States that others in the region could hope to exploit,” but the ballistic reaction by Hillary and others.

And that “Google Earth test” to which Diehl refers (sometimes described as “up” and “in,” but not “out”) also suggests that the Obami have been less than credible themselves in adhering to past deals. Moreover, it further undermines another Clinton assertion: that any Israel building project prejudices a final outcome negotiation. The Bush team successfully maintained the position that final-status talks are, well, final-status talks at which the U.S. need not accept any Israeli construction as a fait accompli. (We’ve already seen that the Israelis, based on those very assurances, were willing to dismantle settlements in the West Bank.)

It really does take chutzpah for Hillary to tell AIPAC that Israel is the one putting daylight between it and the U.S. and to whine that it was Israel that forced the Obami to berate its ally. This is classic blame-the-victim talk. It ignores obvious and tried-and-true alternatives to the Obama smack-Israel tactics. It’s also pretty much par for the course for the Obami.

In her many jaw-dropping assertions at AIPAC yesterday, Hillary Clinton intimated that the U.S. really had no choice but to throw a public temper tantrum over the Israelis’ housing-permit announcement. She proclaimed:

It is our devotion to this outcome – two states for two peoples, secure and at peace – that led us to condemn the announcement of plans for new construction in East Jerusalem. This was not about wounded pride. Nor is it a judgment on the final status of Jerusalem, which is an issue to be settled at the negotiating table. This is about getting to the table, creating and protecting an atmosphere of trust around it – and staying there until the job is done.

New construction in East Jerusalem or the West Bank undermines mutual trust and endangers the proximity talks that are the first step toward the full negotiations that both sides want and need. It exposes daylight between Israel and the United States that others in the region could hope to exploit. And it undermines America’s unique ability to play a role – an essential role, I might add — in the peace process. Our credibility in this process depends in part on our willingness to praise both sides when they are courageous, and when we don’t agree, to say so, and say so unequivocally.

Well, if not “wounded pride,” it was perhaps amateurism (unless we believe it was an intentional contrivance to impress the Obami’s Palestinian friends). American credibility doesn’t depend on blowing up at an ally in public over a routine housing announcement. If there is any doubt, Jackson Diehl offers a helpful reminder that in a similar situation, the Bush administration handled the matter discretely, preserved the “peace process,” and did not give the Arabs the notion that there was space between the U.S. and Israel. He writes:

The trick is not to let the provocation become the center of attention but instead to insist on proceeding with the negotiations. That is what [Condi] Rice did when news of the Jerusalem settlement of Har Homa broke. In public, she delivered a clear but relatively mild statement saying the United States had opposed the settlement “from the very beginning.” In private, she told Olmert: Don’t let that happen again. For Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the message was equally blunt: You can come to the table and negotiate a border for a Palestinian state, making settlements irrelevant. Or you can boycott and let the building continue.

Not surprisingly, Abbas — who has taken Obama’s public assault on Israel as a cue to boycott — showed up for Rice’s negotiations. The Bush administration privately offered him an assurance: Any Israeli settlement construction that took place during the talks would not be accepted by the United States when it came time to draw a final Israeli border. On settlements, Rice adopted a pragmatic guideline she called the “Google Earth test”: A settlement that visibly expanded was a problem; one that remained within its existing territorial boundary was not.

So it wasn’t Israel’s announcement on Ramat Shlomo that highlighted “daylight between Israel and the United States that others in the region could hope to exploit,” but the ballistic reaction by Hillary and others.

And that “Google Earth test” to which Diehl refers (sometimes described as “up” and “in,” but not “out”) also suggests that the Obami have been less than credible themselves in adhering to past deals. Moreover, it further undermines another Clinton assertion: that any Israel building project prejudices a final outcome negotiation. The Bush team successfully maintained the position that final-status talks are, well, final-status talks at which the U.S. need not accept any Israeli construction as a fait accompli. (We’ve already seen that the Israelis, based on those very assurances, were willing to dismantle settlements in the West Bank.)

It really does take chutzpah for Hillary to tell AIPAC that Israel is the one putting daylight between it and the U.S. and to whine that it was Israel that forced the Obami to berate its ally. This is classic blame-the-victim talk. It ignores obvious and tried-and-true alternatives to the Obama smack-Israel tactics. It’s also pretty much par for the course for the Obami.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Jane Hamsher or Bill Kristol? “This bill will mandate that millions of people who are currently uninsured purchase insurance from private companies, or the IRS will collect up to 2% of their annual income in penalties. … The bill was written so that most Wal-Mart employees will qualify for subsidies, and taxpayers will pick up a large portion of the cost of their coverage. … In 2009, health care costs were 17.3% of GDP [but] in 2019 [under the] Senate bill [they'll be] 20.9% of GDP. … This bill does not bring down costs.”

The end of the Blue Dogs: “The party made a concerted effort in 2006 and 2008 to recruit candidates that could win moderate or GOP-leaning districts. That’s a key reason why Democrats won such big congressional majorities. But after forging a big-tent caucus, Speaker Pelosi has not governed that way. Instead, she pushed Blue Dog and other moderate Democrats to vote as if they represented her San Francisco district.” When the Republicans did this, I think the media narrative was that the party was risking majority support for ideological extremism.

Quin Hillyer channels the anti–Bart Stupak anger: “And if he thinks he will be ever live it down or be allowed to forget it, well, maybe he doesn’t think very well.”

How incompetent is NPR to get duped by a fake AIPAC release saying the group favors a settlement freeze? Doesn’t public radio know anything about AIPAC? Your tax dollars at work.

Marco Rubio is crushing potential opponents: “Former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio for now runs well ahead in a three-way race for the U.S. Senate in Florida, should Governor Charlie Crist decide to run as an independent. The first Rasmussen Repots telephone survey of a potential three-candidate Senate race finds Rubio earning 42% support from likely voters in the state. Democrat Kendrick Meek picks up 25%, and Crist runs third with 22%. Eleven percent (11%) are undecided.”

Gov. Bob McDonnell on ObamaCare: “[T]his massive and complex piece of legislation allows the federal government to exercise control over one-sixth of the United States economy. … Most disconcerting is the provision mandating that every American must purchase health insurance or face a monetary penalty. … Just a few days ago I approved a bill, passed on a bipartisan basis, which prohibits mandatory insurance purchases for Virginians. Virginia’s Attorney General has rightly chosen to challenge the constitutionality of the federal mandate. I anticipate that he will be joined by a number of other states.” It now becomes an issue in every state race.

Yuval Levin on the latest regarding the Cornhusker Kickback: “That kickback was of course offered as an enticement to win the vote of Senator Ben Nelson, and to help him forget about his pro-life principles. Well lo and behold, Nelson has now announced that he opposes the reconciliation bill and will vote against it. Apparently it taxes and spends too much. It really renews your faith in politicians, doesn’t it?”

Not just a headache or fodder but potential grounds for prosecution: “The formidable Patrick Fitzgerald is leading a probe of Guantanamo Bay defense lawyers whom the CIA accused of giving detainees photos of CIA agents in an attempt to identify interrogators. … The investigation could be a headache for the Justice Department, and fodder for the attacks from Liz Cheney and others on the Guantanamo Bay lawyers.”

Perhaps Obama picked a fight on the wrong issue. Most Israelis think Bibi Netanyahu was aware of the decision to approve additional housing units in Jerusalem, but “most of those asked by the survey supported the view that construction in east Jerusalem should be treated like construction in Tel Aviv, despite the harsh criticism launched at the government over the recent diplomatic dispute with the US. Only a quarter of those polled believe the construction project should not have been approved, with 41% saying that only the timing was wrong. The number of people supportive of the construction in Ramat Shlomo neighborhood is twice that of its objectors.”

ABC staffers are grumbling over the hiring of Christiane Amanpour for This Week. Well, if it’s any consolation to the eminently qualified Jake Tapper, the criterion used was apparently “celebrity.” It certainly wasn’t objectivity. Or accuracy. Remember this one.

Jane Hamsher or Bill Kristol? “This bill will mandate that millions of people who are currently uninsured purchase insurance from private companies, or the IRS will collect up to 2% of their annual income in penalties. … The bill was written so that most Wal-Mart employees will qualify for subsidies, and taxpayers will pick up a large portion of the cost of their coverage. … In 2009, health care costs were 17.3% of GDP [but] in 2019 [under the] Senate bill [they'll be] 20.9% of GDP. … This bill does not bring down costs.”

The end of the Blue Dogs: “The party made a concerted effort in 2006 and 2008 to recruit candidates that could win moderate or GOP-leaning districts. That’s a key reason why Democrats won such big congressional majorities. But after forging a big-tent caucus, Speaker Pelosi has not governed that way. Instead, she pushed Blue Dog and other moderate Democrats to vote as if they represented her San Francisco district.” When the Republicans did this, I think the media narrative was that the party was risking majority support for ideological extremism.

Quin Hillyer channels the anti–Bart Stupak anger: “And if he thinks he will be ever live it down or be allowed to forget it, well, maybe he doesn’t think very well.”

How incompetent is NPR to get duped by a fake AIPAC release saying the group favors a settlement freeze? Doesn’t public radio know anything about AIPAC? Your tax dollars at work.

Marco Rubio is crushing potential opponents: “Former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio for now runs well ahead in a three-way race for the U.S. Senate in Florida, should Governor Charlie Crist decide to run as an independent. The first Rasmussen Repots telephone survey of a potential three-candidate Senate race finds Rubio earning 42% support from likely voters in the state. Democrat Kendrick Meek picks up 25%, and Crist runs third with 22%. Eleven percent (11%) are undecided.”

Gov. Bob McDonnell on ObamaCare: “[T]his massive and complex piece of legislation allows the federal government to exercise control over one-sixth of the United States economy. … Most disconcerting is the provision mandating that every American must purchase health insurance or face a monetary penalty. … Just a few days ago I approved a bill, passed on a bipartisan basis, which prohibits mandatory insurance purchases for Virginians. Virginia’s Attorney General has rightly chosen to challenge the constitutionality of the federal mandate. I anticipate that he will be joined by a number of other states.” It now becomes an issue in every state race.

Yuval Levin on the latest regarding the Cornhusker Kickback: “That kickback was of course offered as an enticement to win the vote of Senator Ben Nelson, and to help him forget about his pro-life principles. Well lo and behold, Nelson has now announced that he opposes the reconciliation bill and will vote against it. Apparently it taxes and spends too much. It really renews your faith in politicians, doesn’t it?”

Not just a headache or fodder but potential grounds for prosecution: “The formidable Patrick Fitzgerald is leading a probe of Guantanamo Bay defense lawyers whom the CIA accused of giving detainees photos of CIA agents in an attempt to identify interrogators. … The investigation could be a headache for the Justice Department, and fodder for the attacks from Liz Cheney and others on the Guantanamo Bay lawyers.”

Perhaps Obama picked a fight on the wrong issue. Most Israelis think Bibi Netanyahu was aware of the decision to approve additional housing units in Jerusalem, but “most of those asked by the survey supported the view that construction in east Jerusalem should be treated like construction in Tel Aviv, despite the harsh criticism launched at the government over the recent diplomatic dispute with the US. Only a quarter of those polled believe the construction project should not have been approved, with 41% saying that only the timing was wrong. The number of people supportive of the construction in Ramat Shlomo neighborhood is twice that of its objectors.”

ABC staffers are grumbling over the hiring of Christiane Amanpour for This Week. Well, if it’s any consolation to the eminently qualified Jake Tapper, the criterion used was apparently “celebrity.” It certainly wasn’t objectivity. Or accuracy. Remember this one.

Read Less




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