Commentary Magazine


Posts For: May 12, 2010

RE: The Shocking Rashad Hussain Interview

No doubt alarmed by the Rashad Hussain interview, the State Department has provided a transcript and an audio recording of the interview that departs in significant respects from the interview that was printed at the Asharq Al-Awsat website. As a preliminary matter, one has to wonder whether there is utility in speaking to such publications if the words of our special envoy are simply converted to anti-American and pro-Palestinian talking points. It is not clear whether the State Department will be requesting a retraction/correction.

What is different? Most clearly Hussain does not bash the Bush administration. In fact, when asked about overcoming hostility caused by the Bush administration, he says:

What we are really concerned about and moving forward on is implementing new areas of cooperation. Just to give you an example, to be fair to the previous administration, the envoy to the OIC was something that President Bush announced towards the end of his administration, so we are looking to go forward and really build on that and to make sure that the cooperation between the envoy and Muslim communities around the world is based on a whole range of issues, and some of those I’ve discussed with you.

However, as I indicated in my earlier post, the premise of the question — that the U.S. is responsible for hostility — is nowhere rebutted by Hussain, who is supposed to be representing the U.S., after all.

The Palestinian-Israeli question, however, is still the focus of Hussain’s pitch in the State Department version of the transcript. When asked what can be done about criticism of the U.S. “for its standing by Israel,” Hussain does not assert that Israel is an ally nor suggest that there is any other cause of hostility. (Iran perhaps? Syria?) He praises George Mitchell and coos about the two-state solution. His answer as to how to “renew the Islamic world’s confidence in the USA” is a bit strange:

The main thing which is going to improve relations between the United States and Muslims around the world is first of all when we make it clear that we have created a framework of cooperation and that our cooperation will not simply be based on one or two issues such as violent extremism, and that the United States makes it clear that we recognize that this is an issue where Muslims reject violent extremism and terrorism. That is the first step. But another step will be to really show results in a number of areas and those include working towards solving the political conflicts. The United States is working to get out of Iraq and the same thing we can say about Afghanistan. The United States is working tirelessly on a solution with the parties involved on the Middle East issue, but we’ve also implemented programs in the area of education where we’ve increased exchanges, in the area of health, we’re working on polio eradication, we’ve cooperated before Hajj on H1N1.  The President just held an entrepreneurship summit as you know, and we have many forums for interfaith dialogue. So we think that as we continue to develop these areas and Muslims and all people around the world see progress, then we’ll have a good basis for restoring positive relations.

Do all Muslims really reject “violent extremism and terrorism”? Why isn’t Hussain making a pitch to defend Muslims, who are the primary victims of Islamic terror? And is the message for Afghanistan — recall that we are now in the business of reassuring President Karzai — really like the one for  Iraq, i.e., that we are “getting out”?

But it is his answer on Sami Al-Arian that remains the most questionable:

You know in that case that I said very clearly on the panel that I wasn’t commenting on any of the specific allegations on him but I was making a comment about the process that was used in that case. And I think that in many of the cases which I’ve talked about, for example Chaplain Yee, the case of Brandon Mayfield, that the outcomes that have resulted in the United States, for example in both of those cases resulting in the two that were accused of being freed for example, that the justice system has fairly resolved the outcome in those cases. And I think that in America we have one of the most — we have the most just and process-oriented legal systems in the world, and I am very confident that we’ll continue in this way and we’ll continue to produce just outcomes.

This version is arguably worse than the original one. Here he seems to be reiterating that the prosecution was tainted in some respect. What is he saying about “the process used in that case”? Again, he doesn’t deny that such an allegation is shameful.

It is fair to exonerate Hussain of Bush-bashing. But this version remains problematic for the reasons stated earlier. Hussain seems to that think his job is to conceal the relationship with Israel, downplay our war in Afghanistan, minimize the focus on terrorism, and be utterly silent on Iran. This is the message we are transmitting to the “Muslim World.”

No doubt alarmed by the Rashad Hussain interview, the State Department has provided a transcript and an audio recording of the interview that departs in significant respects from the interview that was printed at the Asharq Al-Awsat website. As a preliminary matter, one has to wonder whether there is utility in speaking to such publications if the words of our special envoy are simply converted to anti-American and pro-Palestinian talking points. It is not clear whether the State Department will be requesting a retraction/correction.

What is different? Most clearly Hussain does not bash the Bush administration. In fact, when asked about overcoming hostility caused by the Bush administration, he says:

What we are really concerned about and moving forward on is implementing new areas of cooperation. Just to give you an example, to be fair to the previous administration, the envoy to the OIC was something that President Bush announced towards the end of his administration, so we are looking to go forward and really build on that and to make sure that the cooperation between the envoy and Muslim communities around the world is based on a whole range of issues, and some of those I’ve discussed with you.

However, as I indicated in my earlier post, the premise of the question — that the U.S. is responsible for hostility — is nowhere rebutted by Hussain, who is supposed to be representing the U.S., after all.

The Palestinian-Israeli question, however, is still the focus of Hussain’s pitch in the State Department version of the transcript. When asked what can be done about criticism of the U.S. “for its standing by Israel,” Hussain does not assert that Israel is an ally nor suggest that there is any other cause of hostility. (Iran perhaps? Syria?) He praises George Mitchell and coos about the two-state solution. His answer as to how to “renew the Islamic world’s confidence in the USA” is a bit strange:

The main thing which is going to improve relations between the United States and Muslims around the world is first of all when we make it clear that we have created a framework of cooperation and that our cooperation will not simply be based on one or two issues such as violent extremism, and that the United States makes it clear that we recognize that this is an issue where Muslims reject violent extremism and terrorism. That is the first step. But another step will be to really show results in a number of areas and those include working towards solving the political conflicts. The United States is working to get out of Iraq and the same thing we can say about Afghanistan. The United States is working tirelessly on a solution with the parties involved on the Middle East issue, but we’ve also implemented programs in the area of education where we’ve increased exchanges, in the area of health, we’re working on polio eradication, we’ve cooperated before Hajj on H1N1.  The President just held an entrepreneurship summit as you know, and we have many forums for interfaith dialogue. So we think that as we continue to develop these areas and Muslims and all people around the world see progress, then we’ll have a good basis for restoring positive relations.

Do all Muslims really reject “violent extremism and terrorism”? Why isn’t Hussain making a pitch to defend Muslims, who are the primary victims of Islamic terror? And is the message for Afghanistan — recall that we are now in the business of reassuring President Karzai — really like the one for  Iraq, i.e., that we are “getting out”?

But it is his answer on Sami Al-Arian that remains the most questionable:

You know in that case that I said very clearly on the panel that I wasn’t commenting on any of the specific allegations on him but I was making a comment about the process that was used in that case. And I think that in many of the cases which I’ve talked about, for example Chaplain Yee, the case of Brandon Mayfield, that the outcomes that have resulted in the United States, for example in both of those cases resulting in the two that were accused of being freed for example, that the justice system has fairly resolved the outcome in those cases. And I think that in America we have one of the most — we have the most just and process-oriented legal systems in the world, and I am very confident that we’ll continue in this way and we’ll continue to produce just outcomes.

This version is arguably worse than the original one. Here he seems to be reiterating that the prosecution was tainted in some respect. What is he saying about “the process used in that case”? Again, he doesn’t deny that such an allegation is shameful.

It is fair to exonerate Hussain of Bush-bashing. But this version remains problematic for the reasons stated earlier. Hussain seems to that think his job is to conceal the relationship with Israel, downplay our war in Afghanistan, minimize the focus on terrorism, and be utterly silent on Iran. This is the message we are transmitting to the “Muslim World.”

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Barack Obama vs. Jerusalem Day

This was no ordinary Jerusalem Day celebrated in Israel today. This date on the Jewish calendar notes the anniversary of the unification of the city in 1967, when Israeli troops routed the Jordanian occupiers of the eastern, northern, and southern parts of the town, and of the Old City. In June 1967, the barriers that had divided Jerusalem since the 1949 armistice were torn down, and the Jewish people were reunited with their holiest places, from which they had been barred during that period. But while today’s ceremonies, displays, and parties were the usual mix of historic remembrance and recognition of contemporary achievements, there can be no denying the fact that a shadow hung over the festivities there as well as over the observances of the date elsewhere.

The problem is the knowledge that this is the first Jerusalem Day since President Barack Obama made it clear that a repartition of the city has become one of America’s priorities in the Middle East. Though no American government ever recognized Israel’s unification of Jerusalem or, indeed, even the fact that the city has been the country’s capital since 1949, Obama’s is the first administration to state explicitly that the Jewish presence in the parts of the city that the Jordanian occupiers vacated in 1967 is illegal and to actively oppose the building of Jewish housing even in existing Jewish neighborhoods in the city.

Though more than 200,000 Jews live in the eastern, northern, and southern sections of the city, which the media routinely incorrectly labels “East Jerusalem,” those Jewish neighborhoods there are, according to this administration, a violation of international law and an “insult” to America. U.S. diplomats have made it clear to the Israelis that any building that goes on in these neighborhoods of the capital is a “provocation” that is not only anathema to the United States but also a legitimate excuse for the Palestinian Authority to boycott the so-called proximity talks now going on (so named because Palestinian representatives will only allow themselves to communicate indirectly with Israeli negotiators rather than sit and speak directly with them). And though the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asserted that Israel will not be deterred from continuing to build the Jewish presence in the city, it is not exactly a secret that all such projects have been put on hold, in order to avoid escalating the tensions that are already apparent in the relationship with the White House.

It is worth repeating on this, of all days, that despite the unique connection between the Jews and Jerusalem (it was never the capital of any entity other than a Jewish kingdom), only in the 43 years of full Israeli sovereignty over the united city has there been freedom of worship for all faiths. (The Jordanians prevented Jews from worshipping at the Western Wall or at other Jewish shrines under their control from 1949 to 1967, just as any Jewish sites currently under the control of the Palestinian Authority have become no-go zones for Israelis.)

Moreover, Netanyahu couldn’t be more right when he notes, as he did again today in his Jerusalem Day speech, that Jews “are not foreign invaders” in their own capital. Yet that is exactly the implication of Obama’s stand. By turning the building of Jewish housing in the city’s Jewish neighborhoods into an international incident, Obama has made it impossible for the Palestinians to demand anything less than the eviction of the Jews from the city; just as they demand of the Jews who live in settlements in the West Bank. Though it must be admitted that there was never any chance that the Palestinians would accept any peace deal under any circumstances, Obama’s ultimatum about freezing housing projects in Jerusalem has certainly ensured that peace is further away than ever.

The juxtaposition of a Jerusalem Day celebrated under tacit American protest ought to remind American friends of Israel who remain supporters of Obama that the man they elected president has done more to undermine the unity of the Jewish state’s capital than 43 years of Arab propaganda. Those who never wish to see the city divided again or to have Jews barred from parts of it must understand that this is exactly the direction in which the Obama administration is headed.

This was no ordinary Jerusalem Day celebrated in Israel today. This date on the Jewish calendar notes the anniversary of the unification of the city in 1967, when Israeli troops routed the Jordanian occupiers of the eastern, northern, and southern parts of the town, and of the Old City. In June 1967, the barriers that had divided Jerusalem since the 1949 armistice were torn down, and the Jewish people were reunited with their holiest places, from which they had been barred during that period. But while today’s ceremonies, displays, and parties were the usual mix of historic remembrance and recognition of contemporary achievements, there can be no denying the fact that a shadow hung over the festivities there as well as over the observances of the date elsewhere.

The problem is the knowledge that this is the first Jerusalem Day since President Barack Obama made it clear that a repartition of the city has become one of America’s priorities in the Middle East. Though no American government ever recognized Israel’s unification of Jerusalem or, indeed, even the fact that the city has been the country’s capital since 1949, Obama’s is the first administration to state explicitly that the Jewish presence in the parts of the city that the Jordanian occupiers vacated in 1967 is illegal and to actively oppose the building of Jewish housing even in existing Jewish neighborhoods in the city.

Though more than 200,000 Jews live in the eastern, northern, and southern sections of the city, which the media routinely incorrectly labels “East Jerusalem,” those Jewish neighborhoods there are, according to this administration, a violation of international law and an “insult” to America. U.S. diplomats have made it clear to the Israelis that any building that goes on in these neighborhoods of the capital is a “provocation” that is not only anathema to the United States but also a legitimate excuse for the Palestinian Authority to boycott the so-called proximity talks now going on (so named because Palestinian representatives will only allow themselves to communicate indirectly with Israeli negotiators rather than sit and speak directly with them). And though the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asserted that Israel will not be deterred from continuing to build the Jewish presence in the city, it is not exactly a secret that all such projects have been put on hold, in order to avoid escalating the tensions that are already apparent in the relationship with the White House.

It is worth repeating on this, of all days, that despite the unique connection between the Jews and Jerusalem (it was never the capital of any entity other than a Jewish kingdom), only in the 43 years of full Israeli sovereignty over the united city has there been freedom of worship for all faiths. (The Jordanians prevented Jews from worshipping at the Western Wall or at other Jewish shrines under their control from 1949 to 1967, just as any Jewish sites currently under the control of the Palestinian Authority have become no-go zones for Israelis.)

Moreover, Netanyahu couldn’t be more right when he notes, as he did again today in his Jerusalem Day speech, that Jews “are not foreign invaders” in their own capital. Yet that is exactly the implication of Obama’s stand. By turning the building of Jewish housing in the city’s Jewish neighborhoods into an international incident, Obama has made it impossible for the Palestinians to demand anything less than the eviction of the Jews from the city; just as they demand of the Jews who live in settlements in the West Bank. Though it must be admitted that there was never any chance that the Palestinians would accept any peace deal under any circumstances, Obama’s ultimatum about freezing housing projects in Jerusalem has certainly ensured that peace is further away than ever.

The juxtaposition of a Jerusalem Day celebrated under tacit American protest ought to remind American friends of Israel who remain supporters of Obama that the man they elected president has done more to undermine the unity of the Jewish state’s capital than 43 years of Arab propaganda. Those who never wish to see the city divided again or to have Jews barred from parts of it must understand that this is exactly the direction in which the Obama administration is headed.

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Americans Not Thrilled with Kagan

Gallup reports that Elena Kagan is rated a good or excellent choice by 40 percent of Americans, lower than John Roberts, Sam Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, and even Harriet Miers. In large part this is because 24 percent of Americans have no opinion of her at all, which seems appropriate for a stealth nominee who has not served on the bench or written anything that would give us a strong indication of what sort of justice she’d be.

Maybe she’ll wow the Senate and the public, give us plenty of indication as to her constitutional philosophy, and show mastery of the many areas of the law that will soon command her attention. But I sort of doubt it. Kagan got this far by not tipping her hand; she’s not about to now.

Gallup reports that Elena Kagan is rated a good or excellent choice by 40 percent of Americans, lower than John Roberts, Sam Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, and even Harriet Miers. In large part this is because 24 percent of Americans have no opinion of her at all, which seems appropriate for a stealth nominee who has not served on the bench or written anything that would give us a strong indication of what sort of justice she’d be.

Maybe she’ll wow the Senate and the public, give us plenty of indication as to her constitutional philosophy, and show mastery of the many areas of the law that will soon command her attention. But I sort of doubt it. Kagan got this far by not tipping her hand; she’s not about to now.

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Egypt Figures Out Obama Doesn’t Care About Democracy

The Washington Post editors remind us that Hosni Mubarak has extended the country’s “emergency” laws (the “emergency” has been going on since 1981) for another two years. They explain:

In so doing, he flouted an emerging mass movement that has called for the law’s lifting, so that elections for parliament and president scheduled for the next 18 months can be genuinely democratic. He also violated the repeated pledges that he and his ruling party have made to end the emergency regime, dating back to 2005.

Last but not least, Mr. Mubarak took advantage of the policy of the Obama administration, which has chosen to soft-pedal the cause of democracy and human rights in Egypt and across the Middle East. Even as it has publicly demanded that Israel freeze Jewish settlements and that Mr. Karzai reform his government, the administration has gently stroked Egypt’s strongman, on the theory that the U.S.-Egyptian relationship needed mending after the Bush administration.

So the thugocracy of Mubarak will continue and the next election will be a sham, as have been the previous ones. Meanwhile, the administration declares the move “regrettable.” It doesn’t even feign being “deeply concerned” or “profoundly troubled.”

And what have we accomplished with this reticence? Egypt teamed up with Iran to hassle Israel about the Nonproliferation Treaty. Egypt’s repression of religious minorities and political critics has increased. So once again we have thrown human rights and democracy promotion under the bus, with nothing to show for it. The Middle East inches closer to a deadly nuclear-arms race and the Arab regimes become more and more repressive. This is what comes from Obama’s “smart” diplomacy.

The Washington Post editors remind us that Hosni Mubarak has extended the country’s “emergency” laws (the “emergency” has been going on since 1981) for another two years. They explain:

In so doing, he flouted an emerging mass movement that has called for the law’s lifting, so that elections for parliament and president scheduled for the next 18 months can be genuinely democratic. He also violated the repeated pledges that he and his ruling party have made to end the emergency regime, dating back to 2005.

Last but not least, Mr. Mubarak took advantage of the policy of the Obama administration, which has chosen to soft-pedal the cause of democracy and human rights in Egypt and across the Middle East. Even as it has publicly demanded that Israel freeze Jewish settlements and that Mr. Karzai reform his government, the administration has gently stroked Egypt’s strongman, on the theory that the U.S.-Egyptian relationship needed mending after the Bush administration.

So the thugocracy of Mubarak will continue and the next election will be a sham, as have been the previous ones. Meanwhile, the administration declares the move “regrettable.” It doesn’t even feign being “deeply concerned” or “profoundly troubled.”

And what have we accomplished with this reticence? Egypt teamed up with Iran to hassle Israel about the Nonproliferation Treaty. Egypt’s repression of religious minorities and political critics has increased. So once again we have thrown human rights and democracy promotion under the bus, with nothing to show for it. The Middle East inches closer to a deadly nuclear-arms race and the Arab regimes become more and more repressive. This is what comes from Obama’s “smart” diplomacy.

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RE: The Supreme Court Isn’t the Harvard Law School Faculty

Regarding the difference between faculty schmoozing and Supreme Court persuasion, it’s worthwhile to examine what it is that Elena Kagan did at Harvard. This report gives us a peek, suggesting that her accomplishments have been “overstated”:

Much of the work to defuse the bitter atmosphere, which included ideologically driven standoffs over whom to hire, took place under Ms. Kagan’s predecessor, Robert Clark, dean for 14 years. He calmed tensions and expanded the faculty. …

She was helped by flush times at Harvard. She hired 43 faculty members during her tenure and boosted the total number of full-time professors from 81 to 104, a growth spurt partly enabled by a thriving endowment. She also benefited from a record-setting $476.5 million fund-raising drive that began under Mr. Clark, which she brought to a successful conclusion. More money makes hiring easier, because one appointment isn’t seen as a trade-off for another.

Well, she did some things on her own:

[Charles Fried] also credits her with arranging a faculty lounge so it offered free lunch and large tables, where faculty could sit and get to know one another. “It was an absolute stroke of genius,” Mr. Fried said.

Genius? I think most employers have figured out that free food usually is a winner with employees. But maybe Justice Kennedy can be swayed by sandwiches and soda. And then there are these contributions:

Ms. Kagan is credited with improving student life through upgrades to the physical campus, such as a revamped student center, an upgraded gym and an ice-skating rink that doubled as a volleyball court. And she offered small things, like free coffee outside classrooms and free tampons in the women’s restrooms.

OK, OK, we get the point. This is all very commendable for a dean but utterly irrelevant to the job of being a Supreme Court justice. More revealing will be what she accomplished as solicitor general, and we should begin to focus on that — the number and quality of her arguments. Then we might learn whether she is really up for the job.

Regarding the difference between faculty schmoozing and Supreme Court persuasion, it’s worthwhile to examine what it is that Elena Kagan did at Harvard. This report gives us a peek, suggesting that her accomplishments have been “overstated”:

Much of the work to defuse the bitter atmosphere, which included ideologically driven standoffs over whom to hire, took place under Ms. Kagan’s predecessor, Robert Clark, dean for 14 years. He calmed tensions and expanded the faculty. …

She was helped by flush times at Harvard. She hired 43 faculty members during her tenure and boosted the total number of full-time professors from 81 to 104, a growth spurt partly enabled by a thriving endowment. She also benefited from a record-setting $476.5 million fund-raising drive that began under Mr. Clark, which she brought to a successful conclusion. More money makes hiring easier, because one appointment isn’t seen as a trade-off for another.

Well, she did some things on her own:

[Charles Fried] also credits her with arranging a faculty lounge so it offered free lunch and large tables, where faculty could sit and get to know one another. “It was an absolute stroke of genius,” Mr. Fried said.

Genius? I think most employers have figured out that free food usually is a winner with employees. But maybe Justice Kennedy can be swayed by sandwiches and soda. And then there are these contributions:

Ms. Kagan is credited with improving student life through upgrades to the physical campus, such as a revamped student center, an upgraded gym and an ice-skating rink that doubled as a volleyball court. And she offered small things, like free coffee outside classrooms and free tampons in the women’s restrooms.

OK, OK, we get the point. This is all very commendable for a dean but utterly irrelevant to the job of being a Supreme Court justice. More revealing will be what she accomplished as solicitor general, and we should begin to focus on that — the number and quality of her arguments. Then we might learn whether she is really up for the job.

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Annals of a 91-Year-Old Peace Process

Yesterday, the White House posted a “readout” of President Obama’s call to Palestinian “President” Mahmoud Abbas, who is beginning the 65th month of his 48-month term. Obama congratulated him on the start of the proximity talks, urged him to do “everything he can” to prevent incitement or delegitimization of Israel, and said he “looks forward to receiving President Abbas at the White House soon.”

There is an obvious disparity between the treatment of Abbas and that of the leader of Israel. Benjamin Netanyahu was kept waiting until the last moment before receiving a presidential audience; the meeting was held after business hours and with a side-door entrance and exit; he was blindsided at the meeting and left alone while Obama had dinner with his family; there was no meeting with the media before or after; and there was not even a picture. The only thing missing was a parting gift of an iPod loaded with Obama’s Cairo speech. Abbas will get the opposite treatment on every count, starting with a news release announcing that the president looks forward to meeting him.

The slight to Israel is obvious, but there is an additional reason for the ostentatious treatment of Abbas. The dirty little secret of the “peace process” is that the U.S. wants a Palestinian state more than the Palestinians do, for reasons discussed in Walter Russell Mead’s perceptive post, “The Middle East Peace Industry” — worth reading in its entirety (but only with Nadine’s important comment on it). Mead notes that the “Middle East peace process is the longest running piece of diplomatic theater on the world stage,” dating from 1919 (with a two-state solution proposed by the Jews and rejected by the Arabs), with repeated failures caused by the continuing Arab goal of one state rather than two.

The Palestinian lack of interest in the latest version of the “peace process” is palpable. A year ago, Israel announced that it wanted immediate negotiations without preconditions; formally affirmed a two-state solution as the goal of the negotiations; and took an unprecedented step to help them start. The Palestinians refused to commence negotiations intended to give them a state, still refuse to attend them in person, and are willing only to let the Obama administration negotiate for them. They have discovered that saying “no we can’t” produces not criticism of them but pressure on Israel to make more concessions, followed by congratulations to the Palestinians.

Yesterday, the White House posted a “readout” of President Obama’s call to Palestinian “President” Mahmoud Abbas, who is beginning the 65th month of his 48-month term. Obama congratulated him on the start of the proximity talks, urged him to do “everything he can” to prevent incitement or delegitimization of Israel, and said he “looks forward to receiving President Abbas at the White House soon.”

There is an obvious disparity between the treatment of Abbas and that of the leader of Israel. Benjamin Netanyahu was kept waiting until the last moment before receiving a presidential audience; the meeting was held after business hours and with a side-door entrance and exit; he was blindsided at the meeting and left alone while Obama had dinner with his family; there was no meeting with the media before or after; and there was not even a picture. The only thing missing was a parting gift of an iPod loaded with Obama’s Cairo speech. Abbas will get the opposite treatment on every count, starting with a news release announcing that the president looks forward to meeting him.

The slight to Israel is obvious, but there is an additional reason for the ostentatious treatment of Abbas. The dirty little secret of the “peace process” is that the U.S. wants a Palestinian state more than the Palestinians do, for reasons discussed in Walter Russell Mead’s perceptive post, “The Middle East Peace Industry” — worth reading in its entirety (but only with Nadine’s important comment on it). Mead notes that the “Middle East peace process is the longest running piece of diplomatic theater on the world stage,” dating from 1919 (with a two-state solution proposed by the Jews and rejected by the Arabs), with repeated failures caused by the continuing Arab goal of one state rather than two.

The Palestinian lack of interest in the latest version of the “peace process” is palpable. A year ago, Israel announced that it wanted immediate negotiations without preconditions; formally affirmed a two-state solution as the goal of the negotiations; and took an unprecedented step to help them start. The Palestinians refused to commence negotiations intended to give them a state, still refuse to attend them in person, and are willing only to let the Obama administration negotiate for them. They have discovered that saying “no we can’t” produces not criticism of them but pressure on Israel to make more concessions, followed by congratulations to the Palestinians.

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The Dangers of the Peace-Prosperity Fallacy

Israel’s left-wing daily Haaretz isn’t one to cry uncle. “There will be no economic prosperity without peace,” it defiantly titled today’s editorial — published two days after Israel was admitted, by unanimous vote, to the club of the world’s wealthiest nations: the OECD.

“The link between the economic and political is clear,” the editorial asserted, serenely untroubled by the facts. “There can be no sustained economic growth without a substantive compromise with the Palestinians and Syria.”

The facts, of course, are that if sustained economic growth required peace, Israel could never have earned OECD entree: the country has been at war since its establishment in 1948, when it was attacked by five Arab armies. It fought conventional wars again in 1956, 1967, 1973, and 1982. It was bombarded by Iraqi missiles during the 1991 Gulf War. It fought asymmetric wars against terrorist organizations in the West Bank in 2002, Lebanon in 2006, and Gaza in 2009. And in between all the wars, it suffered nonstop terror attacks.

Some of these wars indeed produced temporary recessions. Yet the overall pattern has been one of, yes, sustained growth. Had it not, Israel would not today be the only one, out of dozens of countries established in the post-colonial upheavals that followed World War II, invited to join the OECD. It certainly wasn’t because its fellow OECD members love it so much: many routinely vote against it in other international forums.

But if Haaretz were merely spouting harmless nonsense, nobody would care. The problem is that this particular nonsense is deadly dangerous, because the editorial is right about one thing: “Israel’s economic status is conditional.” Wise choices by Israel’s leaders can facilitate continued growth; bad choices can reduce or even destroy it: look at Greece.

Yet for much of the past two decades, Israel’s leadership has been consumed with either pursuing an unobtainable peace or trying to contain the terrorist onslaughts that every such effort has spawned. The crucial domestic issues on which economic success in fact depends have consequently been neglected. Israel’s schools and universities are in free fall, which bodes ill for a country whose only natural resource is brainpower. And bureaucratic obstacles to doing business remain a fact of life.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu actually does care about domestic issues. As finance minister in 2003, he implemented economic reforms that produced five straight years of rapid growth, and his campaign for prime minister included detailed proposals for additional domestic reforms. But since taking office, he, too, has been consumed by the “peace process” — or rather, the crisis with Washington it has generated. Domestic reforms have fallen by the wayside.

And that is why the Haaretz fallacy is so dangerous. Roughly every other Israeli prime minister has, like Haaretz, viewed peace as essential to Israel’s survival and therefore devoted himself to fruitlessly pursuing it. Each of their successors has then had to devote himself to containing the fallout. And as long as this pattern continues, vital domestic issues will continue to be neglected.

Peace would certainly benefit Israel’s economy. But continued pursuit of a peace that is unobtainable could destroy it.

Israel’s left-wing daily Haaretz isn’t one to cry uncle. “There will be no economic prosperity without peace,” it defiantly titled today’s editorial — published two days after Israel was admitted, by unanimous vote, to the club of the world’s wealthiest nations: the OECD.

“The link between the economic and political is clear,” the editorial asserted, serenely untroubled by the facts. “There can be no sustained economic growth without a substantive compromise with the Palestinians and Syria.”

The facts, of course, are that if sustained economic growth required peace, Israel could never have earned OECD entree: the country has been at war since its establishment in 1948, when it was attacked by five Arab armies. It fought conventional wars again in 1956, 1967, 1973, and 1982. It was bombarded by Iraqi missiles during the 1991 Gulf War. It fought asymmetric wars against terrorist organizations in the West Bank in 2002, Lebanon in 2006, and Gaza in 2009. And in between all the wars, it suffered nonstop terror attacks.

Some of these wars indeed produced temporary recessions. Yet the overall pattern has been one of, yes, sustained growth. Had it not, Israel would not today be the only one, out of dozens of countries established in the post-colonial upheavals that followed World War II, invited to join the OECD. It certainly wasn’t because its fellow OECD members love it so much: many routinely vote against it in other international forums.

But if Haaretz were merely spouting harmless nonsense, nobody would care. The problem is that this particular nonsense is deadly dangerous, because the editorial is right about one thing: “Israel’s economic status is conditional.” Wise choices by Israel’s leaders can facilitate continued growth; bad choices can reduce or even destroy it: look at Greece.

Yet for much of the past two decades, Israel’s leadership has been consumed with either pursuing an unobtainable peace or trying to contain the terrorist onslaughts that every such effort has spawned. The crucial domestic issues on which economic success in fact depends have consequently been neglected. Israel’s schools and universities are in free fall, which bodes ill for a country whose only natural resource is brainpower. And bureaucratic obstacles to doing business remain a fact of life.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu actually does care about domestic issues. As finance minister in 2003, he implemented economic reforms that produced five straight years of rapid growth, and his campaign for prime minister included detailed proposals for additional domestic reforms. But since taking office, he, too, has been consumed by the “peace process” — or rather, the crisis with Washington it has generated. Domestic reforms have fallen by the wayside.

And that is why the Haaretz fallacy is so dangerous. Roughly every other Israeli prime minister has, like Haaretz, viewed peace as essential to Israel’s survival and therefore devoted himself to fruitlessly pursuing it. Each of their successors has then had to devote himself to containing the fallout. And as long as this pattern continues, vital domestic issues will continue to be neglected.

Peace would certainly benefit Israel’s economy. But continued pursuit of a peace that is unobtainable could destroy it.

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The Supreme Court Isn’t the Harvard Law School Faculty

This report repeats the idea that Elena Kagan was nominated primarily to sway Justice Kennedy to the liberal side of those tricky 5-4 decisions. But if so, does this make any sense? That notion assumes that the Court operates like the Harvard Law School faculty, where nice words, dinner parties, back-slapping, and not revealing her own views served Kagan well. But that’s not how the Court operates:

Tom Goldstein, a Supreme Court lawyer at Akin Gump and author of the widely read SCOTUS Blog, says she has exhibited an “extraordinarily — almost artistically — careful” avoidance of public positions on any matters she might face as a Justice. “I don’t know anyone who has had a conversation with her in which she expressed a personal conviction on a question of constitutional law in the past decade,” Goldstein wrote.

And even if she did have well-established positions, they’d be nothing compared to Kennedy’s. “Justice Kennedy has been on the bench for 40-some years now, including his time on the Ninth Circuit,” says the former clerk. “It’s particularly unlikely that he’s going to fall under the sway of a new judge who’s never been on the court.”

This convoluted argument suggests just how farcical the notion is that a pleasing personality is a satisfactory substitute for developed legal scholarship and brilliant writing (neither of which Kagan has yet demonstrated):

Kagan supporters point to the fact that she convinced some hard-line Republicans to vote for her when she was nominated to be Solicitor General, most notably Jon Kyl of Arizona, the behind-the-scenes GOP power on the Judiciary Committee. Though he’s unlikely to vote for her for the Supreme Court, her ability to win him over, which she did in the course of a lengthy conversation in his office during the nomination process, counts for something.

Huh? So getting Kyl to vote for her once — but not for the Supreme Court — shows she can lure Kennedy into the liberal camp on knotty issues of constitutional and statutory interpretation, and do so better than did Justice Stevens, a man who had been on the bench for decades? It’s a bit absurd. If the Obama team wanted a smart, accomplished jurist who has shown the ability to go toe-to-toe with and persuade conservative judges, Diane Wood might have been a more apt pick. But instead Obama went with someone much like himself, who, come to think of it, hasn’t really been able to persuade conservatives or moderates about the wisdom of his positions.

This report repeats the idea that Elena Kagan was nominated primarily to sway Justice Kennedy to the liberal side of those tricky 5-4 decisions. But if so, does this make any sense? That notion assumes that the Court operates like the Harvard Law School faculty, where nice words, dinner parties, back-slapping, and not revealing her own views served Kagan well. But that’s not how the Court operates:

Tom Goldstein, a Supreme Court lawyer at Akin Gump and author of the widely read SCOTUS Blog, says she has exhibited an “extraordinarily — almost artistically — careful” avoidance of public positions on any matters she might face as a Justice. “I don’t know anyone who has had a conversation with her in which she expressed a personal conviction on a question of constitutional law in the past decade,” Goldstein wrote.

And even if she did have well-established positions, they’d be nothing compared to Kennedy’s. “Justice Kennedy has been on the bench for 40-some years now, including his time on the Ninth Circuit,” says the former clerk. “It’s particularly unlikely that he’s going to fall under the sway of a new judge who’s never been on the court.”

This convoluted argument suggests just how farcical the notion is that a pleasing personality is a satisfactory substitute for developed legal scholarship and brilliant writing (neither of which Kagan has yet demonstrated):

Kagan supporters point to the fact that she convinced some hard-line Republicans to vote for her when she was nominated to be Solicitor General, most notably Jon Kyl of Arizona, the behind-the-scenes GOP power on the Judiciary Committee. Though he’s unlikely to vote for her for the Supreme Court, her ability to win him over, which she did in the course of a lengthy conversation in his office during the nomination process, counts for something.

Huh? So getting Kyl to vote for her once — but not for the Supreme Court — shows she can lure Kennedy into the liberal camp on knotty issues of constitutional and statutory interpretation, and do so better than did Justice Stevens, a man who had been on the bench for decades? It’s a bit absurd. If the Obama team wanted a smart, accomplished jurist who has shown the ability to go toe-to-toe with and persuade conservative judges, Diane Wood might have been a more apt pick. But instead Obama went with someone much like himself, who, come to think of it, hasn’t really been able to persuade conservatives or moderates about the wisdom of his positions.

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Yemen Won’t Extradite Jihadist Cleric

Eli Lake reports:

Yemen’s government has announced it will not extradite Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born jihadist cleric who is credited with inspiring the recent wave of anti-American terrorist plots by al Qaeda recruits.

Over the weekend, Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al Qirbi said Mr. al-Awlaki would be tried in the Arabian Peninsula state once he is captured.

“The man the U.S. wants to be extradited will stand trial in Yemen under the national law,” Mr. al Qirbi was quoted as saying in the Yemen state news agency, al Saba.

The Yemenis say the problem is their constitution, which prohibits extradition. It can’t be changed? Oh well, then the problem is cooperating with America. Apparently, they don’t want to be seen as “lackeys” of the U.S. The imam who inspired both Major Hasan and Faisal Shahzad can’t then be sent here for interrogation and trial. (Goodness knows whether Obama would insist on a public trial for him.) But we can continue to target and try to kill him with drones.

It seems that our self-satisfied Obama diplomats must resort to some very “hard power” after all. The left may be aghast that the president is relying on assassination. But the rest of the country won’t shed too many tears. It would, however, be helpful to have access to him and get much-needed intelligence about other followers who are the next potential bombers. But alas, we can’t get the help, and the State Department pronounces itself satisfied: “We are encouraged by Yemen’s willingness to take action against various extremist groups, especially over the last year.” That’s the State Department version of “The system is working.” But it really isn’t.

Eli Lake reports:

Yemen’s government has announced it will not extradite Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born jihadist cleric who is credited with inspiring the recent wave of anti-American terrorist plots by al Qaeda recruits.

Over the weekend, Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al Qirbi said Mr. al-Awlaki would be tried in the Arabian Peninsula state once he is captured.

“The man the U.S. wants to be extradited will stand trial in Yemen under the national law,” Mr. al Qirbi was quoted as saying in the Yemen state news agency, al Saba.

The Yemenis say the problem is their constitution, which prohibits extradition. It can’t be changed? Oh well, then the problem is cooperating with America. Apparently, they don’t want to be seen as “lackeys” of the U.S. The imam who inspired both Major Hasan and Faisal Shahzad can’t then be sent here for interrogation and trial. (Goodness knows whether Obama would insist on a public trial for him.) But we can continue to target and try to kill him with drones.

It seems that our self-satisfied Obama diplomats must resort to some very “hard power” after all. The left may be aghast that the president is relying on assassination. But the rest of the country won’t shed too many tears. It would, however, be helpful to have access to him and get much-needed intelligence about other followers who are the next potential bombers. But alas, we can’t get the help, and the State Department pronounces itself satisfied: “We are encouraged by Yemen’s willingness to take action against various extremist groups, especially over the last year.” That’s the State Department version of “The system is working.” But it really isn’t.

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Is Kagan the Left’s O’Connor?

Michael Gerson writes:

Kagan has been a leader in the field of law without having a distinctive legal voice. She has been a leader in academia without having left a discernible academic mark. We know little about her views and values — and we are not intended to know much about them. This has become the path of least resistance to the Supreme Court — being eminent without being conspicuous. …

Yet Kagan’s expansive silence leaves a broad range of plausible interpretations. Is she a temperamental moderate who doesn’t like comprehensive pronouncements or judicial activism of any kind? Is she a consensus-oriented liberal who will be able to pull Justice Anthony Kennedy to the left on key votes? Is she is a committed progressive who has carefully hidden her views? Is it possible Kagan lacks any well-formed constitutional perspective at all? Who knows? Who could possibly know?

Conservatives are tempted to scoff — Obama wouldn’t have nominated anyone he had any doubt was a committed judicial activist, right? Let’s be honest: Kagan’s a Democrat and a liberal — we know that from her service in two administrations and her plentiful political donations to Democratic candidates. But the problem with ciphers — as Obama should know all too well — is that they have the ability to convince diametrically opposing combatants that they are “with you.”

So we don’t know how doctrinaire or malleable she is and how much respect she has for precedent. Is she going to be the left’s Sandra Day O’Connor or its Clarence Thomas? For conservatives, it’s nice to think we have a chance to see the other side “waste” a Supreme Court pick for a change. But we shouldn’t bank on it.

Michael Gerson writes:

Kagan has been a leader in the field of law without having a distinctive legal voice. She has been a leader in academia without having left a discernible academic mark. We know little about her views and values — and we are not intended to know much about them. This has become the path of least resistance to the Supreme Court — being eminent without being conspicuous. …

Yet Kagan’s expansive silence leaves a broad range of plausible interpretations. Is she a temperamental moderate who doesn’t like comprehensive pronouncements or judicial activism of any kind? Is she a consensus-oriented liberal who will be able to pull Justice Anthony Kennedy to the left on key votes? Is she is a committed progressive who has carefully hidden her views? Is it possible Kagan lacks any well-formed constitutional perspective at all? Who knows? Who could possibly know?

Conservatives are tempted to scoff — Obama wouldn’t have nominated anyone he had any doubt was a committed judicial activist, right? Let’s be honest: Kagan’s a Democrat and a liberal — we know that from her service in two administrations and her plentiful political donations to Democratic candidates. But the problem with ciphers — as Obama should know all too well — is that they have the ability to convince diametrically opposing combatants that they are “with you.”

So we don’t know how doctrinaire or malleable she is and how much respect she has for precedent. Is she going to be the left’s Sandra Day O’Connor or its Clarence Thomas? For conservatives, it’s nice to think we have a chance to see the other side “waste” a Supreme Court pick for a change. But we shouldn’t bank on it.

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The Shocking Rashad Hussain Interview

A friend of COMMENTARY calls my attention to this interview with the controversial Rashad Hussain, the U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. You will recall that his nomination raised concerns when his comments alleging a “political” motivation for prosecuting Sami Al-Arian and his attendance at CAIR events came to light. (He then attempted to cover up the comments.) As our friend notes, “This must be read to be believed … it cannot be parodied.”

We start from the context — a foreign, Arabic publication. It is to this audience that he skewers — without justification or basis in fact — the Bush administration:

Q) Do you think it will be easy to overcome the hostility in the Islamic world towards certain US policies, especially in light of the actions taken under the previous US administration?

A) We are concerned about this but we are determined to move forward, without looking to the past and the negative effects of this, in order to erase the hostile feelings caused by the administration of former President George W. Bush. There is now a suitable opportunity to overcome the past, and open a new page in relations between the US and the people in the Islamic region.

This is not, to say the least, what we expect our envoys to communicate to foreign audiences. And then there is the substance of his remarks. Hostile feelings caused by the Bush administration’s policies, he says? Which were those — the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which Obama has continued? The focus on human rights, which Obama has ignored? And notice the assignment of blame to the country he pretends to represent, not to the bad actors — Syria and Iran, for example — that continue to promote terror and brutalize their people. It appears that Hussain is telling the Muslims that the real source of trouble in the Middle East was George W. Bush.

But it is obsession with the peace process as the key to ending such “hostility” and the conviction that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the source of our woes that are the most jarring — and perhaps revelatory of the administration he represents. He offers this:

Q) How do you intend to impose your strategy to develop relations with the Islamic world?

A) By implementing the recommendations made in the speech by US President Obama in Cairo, which represents a clear strategy to promote relations with the Islamic world, as this speech covered all political, social, and economic aspects. We have already begun work to implement what was said in the speech, whether through political action to solve the Palestinian-Israel conflict through the efforts exerted by the Obama administration’s Peace Envoy George Mitchell, and we will also promote health services such as combating polio in the Islamic world, and promoting educational programs and cultural exchange between the two sides.

And this:

Q) Many Muslims are critical of bias US policies towards Israel. How can we reconcile what Obama said in his Cairo speech and the US political approach in the Middle East?

A) The United States does not operate solely according to its own interests, and it seeks to safeguard the interests of both the Palestinians and the Israelis, which has made it a top priority for us to engage in genuine peace negotiations between both sides. As you know, the US is committed to its role as an effective mediator in the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. We have not waited until the last minute to become involved in this; rather we did everything we could to urge the concerned parties to enter negotiations. President Obama [also] appointed George Mitchell Middle East Peace Envoy, and he appointed me as an envoy to promote US relations with the Islamic world, and we are all working to implement Obama’s strategy in the Islamic world to achieve stability in this part of the world.

Q) Do you think the Israeli settlement building in Jerusalem complicates your mission to improve US relations with the Islamic world?

A) Of course, there are fears that any action or provocation will negatively affect feelings, and as a Muslim I know full well that the Al Aqsa Mosque was the first Qibla [direction in which Muslims pray] and is the third holiest site for Muslims and it is revered by Muslims. President Obama is committed to calming the situation in the city of Jerusalem, and finding solutions that are both acceptable to the Palestinians and the Israelis. There is also a clear position by the president to reject any settlement building in east Jerusalem, and there is a statement to this effect from the US administration, which has many ways to settle the conflict in the region that has lasted for 60 years. However, it is not easy for this to be settled overnight so we must bridge the differences between the conflicting parties. Over the last few days we have heard good news to the effect that indirect negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis have begun, so I think we are making progress in this regard, and we must not take a step backwards.

Now, he does mention polio programs and educational outreach, but plainly this man is convinced that the key to ending “hostility” against the U.S. is resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. What is missing? Ah, mention of the Iranian nuclear threat. Oh yes, the brutalization of women and the repression of Middle East despots. And how exactly has the arrival of Obama ended that hostility? Last time we checked, Syria was supplying Hezbollah with Scuds and Iran was moving toward acquisition of a nuclear weapon. Still seems pretty hostile. Maybe it wasn’t all Bush’s fault.

And as the crowning touch, we have this exchange:

Q) You studied law at Yale University, during which you criticized the prosecution of Sami Al-Arian, describing it as “politically motivated.” Do you think the American legal system unfairly links Islam and terrorism?

A) To be clear, I have no connection to such terror trials, and these cases are subject to the deliberations of the US courts. The US legal system is one of the best in the world and enjoys great confidence.

Where is the emphatic repudiation of his view that Al-Arian was the victim of a political show trial? Where is the simple declarative, “No, he was convicted, and we will continue to investigate and prosecute terrorists and those who facilitate terrorism”? Nowhere. This is shameful.

There is a reason that Obama appointed Hussain: he is the perfect embodiment of the mean-spirited (toward Bush, Israel, and those who doubt Obama’s sincerity), warped view of the Middle East that allows despots to go unchallenged, brutality to remain unremarked upon, and the region to inch ever closer to a deadly nuclear-arms race.

A friend of COMMENTARY calls my attention to this interview with the controversial Rashad Hussain, the U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. You will recall that his nomination raised concerns when his comments alleging a “political” motivation for prosecuting Sami Al-Arian and his attendance at CAIR events came to light. (He then attempted to cover up the comments.) As our friend notes, “This must be read to be believed … it cannot be parodied.”

We start from the context — a foreign, Arabic publication. It is to this audience that he skewers — without justification or basis in fact — the Bush administration:

Q) Do you think it will be easy to overcome the hostility in the Islamic world towards certain US policies, especially in light of the actions taken under the previous US administration?

A) We are concerned about this but we are determined to move forward, without looking to the past and the negative effects of this, in order to erase the hostile feelings caused by the administration of former President George W. Bush. There is now a suitable opportunity to overcome the past, and open a new page in relations between the US and the people in the Islamic region.

This is not, to say the least, what we expect our envoys to communicate to foreign audiences. And then there is the substance of his remarks. Hostile feelings caused by the Bush administration’s policies, he says? Which were those — the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which Obama has continued? The focus on human rights, which Obama has ignored? And notice the assignment of blame to the country he pretends to represent, not to the bad actors — Syria and Iran, for example — that continue to promote terror and brutalize their people. It appears that Hussain is telling the Muslims that the real source of trouble in the Middle East was George W. Bush.

But it is obsession with the peace process as the key to ending such “hostility” and the conviction that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the source of our woes that are the most jarring — and perhaps revelatory of the administration he represents. He offers this:

Q) How do you intend to impose your strategy to develop relations with the Islamic world?

A) By implementing the recommendations made in the speech by US President Obama in Cairo, which represents a clear strategy to promote relations with the Islamic world, as this speech covered all political, social, and economic aspects. We have already begun work to implement what was said in the speech, whether through political action to solve the Palestinian-Israel conflict through the efforts exerted by the Obama administration’s Peace Envoy George Mitchell, and we will also promote health services such as combating polio in the Islamic world, and promoting educational programs and cultural exchange between the two sides.

And this:

Q) Many Muslims are critical of bias US policies towards Israel. How can we reconcile what Obama said in his Cairo speech and the US political approach in the Middle East?

A) The United States does not operate solely according to its own interests, and it seeks to safeguard the interests of both the Palestinians and the Israelis, which has made it a top priority for us to engage in genuine peace negotiations between both sides. As you know, the US is committed to its role as an effective mediator in the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. We have not waited until the last minute to become involved in this; rather we did everything we could to urge the concerned parties to enter negotiations. President Obama [also] appointed George Mitchell Middle East Peace Envoy, and he appointed me as an envoy to promote US relations with the Islamic world, and we are all working to implement Obama’s strategy in the Islamic world to achieve stability in this part of the world.

Q) Do you think the Israeli settlement building in Jerusalem complicates your mission to improve US relations with the Islamic world?

A) Of course, there are fears that any action or provocation will negatively affect feelings, and as a Muslim I know full well that the Al Aqsa Mosque was the first Qibla [direction in which Muslims pray] and is the third holiest site for Muslims and it is revered by Muslims. President Obama is committed to calming the situation in the city of Jerusalem, and finding solutions that are both acceptable to the Palestinians and the Israelis. There is also a clear position by the president to reject any settlement building in east Jerusalem, and there is a statement to this effect from the US administration, which has many ways to settle the conflict in the region that has lasted for 60 years. However, it is not easy for this to be settled overnight so we must bridge the differences between the conflicting parties. Over the last few days we have heard good news to the effect that indirect negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis have begun, so I think we are making progress in this regard, and we must not take a step backwards.

Now, he does mention polio programs and educational outreach, but plainly this man is convinced that the key to ending “hostility” against the U.S. is resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. What is missing? Ah, mention of the Iranian nuclear threat. Oh yes, the brutalization of women and the repression of Middle East despots. And how exactly has the arrival of Obama ended that hostility? Last time we checked, Syria was supplying Hezbollah with Scuds and Iran was moving toward acquisition of a nuclear weapon. Still seems pretty hostile. Maybe it wasn’t all Bush’s fault.

And as the crowning touch, we have this exchange:

Q) You studied law at Yale University, during which you criticized the prosecution of Sami Al-Arian, describing it as “politically motivated.” Do you think the American legal system unfairly links Islam and terrorism?

A) To be clear, I have no connection to such terror trials, and these cases are subject to the deliberations of the US courts. The US legal system is one of the best in the world and enjoys great confidence.

Where is the emphatic repudiation of his view that Al-Arian was the victim of a political show trial? Where is the simple declarative, “No, he was convicted, and we will continue to investigate and prosecute terrorists and those who facilitate terrorism”? Nowhere. This is shameful.

There is a reason that Obama appointed Hussain: he is the perfect embodiment of the mean-spirited (toward Bush, Israel, and those who doubt Obama’s sincerity), warped view of the Middle East that allows despots to go unchallenged, brutality to remain unremarked upon, and the region to inch ever closer to a deadly nuclear-arms race.

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The Women of Afghanistan

In a must-read piece, Valerie Hudson and Valerie Leidl recall the promise by coalition forces to liberate the women of Afghanistan from the tyranny of the Taliban. It hasn’t worked out that way:

But the current administration, despite its female secretary of State and its new Office of Global Women’s Issues, appears to be ditching the women of Afghanistan like a blind date gone bad. You have to go back 10 months to find any sustained rhetoric from President Barack Obama about the importance of assuring the security of women in Afghanistan. Since then, and especially since last year’s Afghan election, those fine words from a sitting president have all but disappeared. Many of the fine actions are gone, too. Push local shuras into including women in 2002? Yes. Push local shuras into including women in 2010? Forget it.

Yes, we are trying to win a war. But we were supposed to be winning hearts and minds, too. It’s hard to see how that is happening:

[W]omen have taken a back seat to realpolitik and the exigencies of a coalition exit strategy. But their suffering is real, as Afghanistan’s poverty and chaos affect women possibly most of all. Maternal mortality in Afghanistan still makes the world’s top three list, nine years after the U.S. invasion, resulting in a life expectancy for women of 46. In the countryside, Taliban zealots spray acid into girls’ faces for going to school — and only 27 percent of them do so in the first place. According to a recent survey by the U.N. Development Fund for Women, 87 percent of Afghan women report being beaten on a regular basis.

The writers suggest that Obama “instill in all military personnel and senior diplomats the necessity of fully protecting women’s rights. Key to that is educating them about how gender equality furthers Western interests and security.” They argue for a full-court press:

[T]he coalition needs to support “regime change” through the building of democratic institutions that will groom a moderate, educated middle class of young women and men to eventually take over. Over two-thirds of the Afghan population is under the age of 25, which is either a real opportunity for social change — if they are educated and given a chance to shape their society in a progressive way — or a major obstacle, if they find themselves without jobs, unable to marry, and burdened with retrograde attitudes of what it means to be male and female.

We must hold Afghanistan responsible for its treaty obligations under the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security. Afghanistan signed CEDAW without reservations (the United States interestingly, has not), and that means that it has committed to passing whatever legislation is necessary to implement the wide-ranging principles of gender equality enshrined in that treaty.

And most important, we need to stay in Afghanistan: “Withdrawing at this critical juncture would doom Afghanistan and the entire region to instability and effectively consign one half of the population to premature death and an existence not fit for animals.”

The recommendations are hard enough to implement with an administration dedicated to and enthusiastic about human rights, but one can’t help but be glum given the Obama team’s utter lack of regard for human rights and reticence to speak out on behalf of the oppressed women and girls of the “Muslim World.”  It was a heavy lift to get Obama to commit troops for 18 months, and now he needs to start speaking forcefully about the abuse of women in the “Muslim World”? Yes, there is reason for pessimism. Nevertheless, there is no more productive or necessary undertaking.

A sage observer wrote earlier this year:

If through the good offices of our military—especially our women soldiers—we could help Afghani women unravel themselves from centuries of complicity in their own oppression and see themselves not as defiled, unclean, perpetually wanton creatures to be hidden away as if they were carriers of plague, but rather as noble members of the human race endowed with greatness and blessings: the giving of life, the tending to it mercifully and lovingly, and, most important, the imparting of lessons in real virtue—self-acceptance to their daughters and just plain acceptance to their sons—that would be gaining hearts and minds indeed.

Indeed.

In a must-read piece, Valerie Hudson and Valerie Leidl recall the promise by coalition forces to liberate the women of Afghanistan from the tyranny of the Taliban. It hasn’t worked out that way:

But the current administration, despite its female secretary of State and its new Office of Global Women’s Issues, appears to be ditching the women of Afghanistan like a blind date gone bad. You have to go back 10 months to find any sustained rhetoric from President Barack Obama about the importance of assuring the security of women in Afghanistan. Since then, and especially since last year’s Afghan election, those fine words from a sitting president have all but disappeared. Many of the fine actions are gone, too. Push local shuras into including women in 2002? Yes. Push local shuras into including women in 2010? Forget it.

Yes, we are trying to win a war. But we were supposed to be winning hearts and minds, too. It’s hard to see how that is happening:

[W]omen have taken a back seat to realpolitik and the exigencies of a coalition exit strategy. But their suffering is real, as Afghanistan’s poverty and chaos affect women possibly most of all. Maternal mortality in Afghanistan still makes the world’s top three list, nine years after the U.S. invasion, resulting in a life expectancy for women of 46. In the countryside, Taliban zealots spray acid into girls’ faces for going to school — and only 27 percent of them do so in the first place. According to a recent survey by the U.N. Development Fund for Women, 87 percent of Afghan women report being beaten on a regular basis.

The writers suggest that Obama “instill in all military personnel and senior diplomats the necessity of fully protecting women’s rights. Key to that is educating them about how gender equality furthers Western interests and security.” They argue for a full-court press:

[T]he coalition needs to support “regime change” through the building of democratic institutions that will groom a moderate, educated middle class of young women and men to eventually take over. Over two-thirds of the Afghan population is under the age of 25, which is either a real opportunity for social change — if they are educated and given a chance to shape their society in a progressive way — or a major obstacle, if they find themselves without jobs, unable to marry, and burdened with retrograde attitudes of what it means to be male and female.

We must hold Afghanistan responsible for its treaty obligations under the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security. Afghanistan signed CEDAW without reservations (the United States interestingly, has not), and that means that it has committed to passing whatever legislation is necessary to implement the wide-ranging principles of gender equality enshrined in that treaty.

And most important, we need to stay in Afghanistan: “Withdrawing at this critical juncture would doom Afghanistan and the entire region to instability and effectively consign one half of the population to premature death and an existence not fit for animals.”

The recommendations are hard enough to implement with an administration dedicated to and enthusiastic about human rights, but one can’t help but be glum given the Obama team’s utter lack of regard for human rights and reticence to speak out on behalf of the oppressed women and girls of the “Muslim World.”  It was a heavy lift to get Obama to commit troops for 18 months, and now he needs to start speaking forcefully about the abuse of women in the “Muslim World”? Yes, there is reason for pessimism. Nevertheless, there is no more productive or necessary undertaking.

A sage observer wrote earlier this year:

If through the good offices of our military—especially our women soldiers—we could help Afghani women unravel themselves from centuries of complicity in their own oppression and see themselves not as defiled, unclean, perpetually wanton creatures to be hidden away as if they were carriers of plague, but rather as noble members of the human race endowed with greatness and blessings: the giving of life, the tending to it mercifully and lovingly, and, most important, the imparting of lessons in real virtue—self-acceptance to their daughters and just plain acceptance to their sons—that would be gaining hearts and minds indeed.

Indeed.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

AP reports: “Egypt’s government on Tuesday extended the country’s controversial emergency law for another two years, saying it would limit its use, a promise dismissed by human rights activists who warned the law would continue to be used to suppress dissent.” Will Obama be “deeply concerned” or zoom all the way to “profoundly troubled”?

Alan Dershowitz on Richard Goldstone’s “I was just following the law” defense of his record as a “hanging” apartheid judge: “It is interesting that Goldstone made a similar argument to friends as to why he accepted the chairmanship of the investigative commission offered to him by the United Nations Human Rights Council. He acknowledged that the Council was biased against Israel. Indeed, it treats Israel much the way Apartheid courts used to treat Black Africans: Just as there was special justice (really injustice) for blacks, so too there is special justice (really injustice) for Israel. Goldstone claims he took the job ‘to help Israel,’ just as he took his previous job to help blacks. In both cases he cynically hurt those he said he wanted to help while helping only himself. In both cases he was selected to legitimate bigotry. In both cases, better people than him refused to lend their credibility to an illegitimate enterprise. But Goldstone accepted, because it was good for his career.” Read the whole thing.

Dan Gerstein on the Kagan sales pitch: “This week, with their over-hyped and off-key ‘real world’ sales pitch for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, the president’s team is doing a bang-up job of outing their blinds spots themselves. In doing so, they are providing a big open window into why Obama continues to struggle in connecting with working-class voters.”

Megan McArdle on Kagan’s “pitch-perfect blandness”: “What’s disturbing is that this is what our nomination process now selects for: someone who appears to be in favor of nothing except self-advancement. Then we complain when the most passionate advocates for ideas are the lunatic fringe.”

Steve Kornacki asks, “Should Specter have run as an independent?” He still can!

Charles Krauthammer on Specter’s dilemma having voted against Kagan for solicitor general: “You almost feel sorry for Arlen Specter. I mean: Almost. This is a guy of so many twists and turns and retreats and swerves and reverses. It reminds me of a line in a Graham Greene novel where he speaks of his protagonist who says: ‘I prefer to tell the truth. It’s easier to memorize.’ Specter‘s got a lot of memorizing to do.”

Oops: “Congressional budget referees say President Barack Obama’s new health care law could potentially add another $115 billion over 10 years to government health care spending. If Congress approves all the additional spending, that would push the 10-year cost of the overhaul above $1 trillion — an unofficial limit the Obama administration set early on. The Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday the added spending includes $10 billion to $20 billion in administrative costs to federal agencies carrying out the law, as well as $34 billion for community health centers and $39 billion for American Indian health care.”

But most voters have already figured that out: “The number of U.S. voters who expect the recently passed health care bill to increase the federal deficit is at its highest level yet, and most voters continue to favor its repeal. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely Voters shows 63% now believe the health care reform legislation signed into law is likely to increase the federal deficit. That’s up four points from last week.”

AP reports: “Egypt’s government on Tuesday extended the country’s controversial emergency law for another two years, saying it would limit its use, a promise dismissed by human rights activists who warned the law would continue to be used to suppress dissent.” Will Obama be “deeply concerned” or zoom all the way to “profoundly troubled”?

Alan Dershowitz on Richard Goldstone’s “I was just following the law” defense of his record as a “hanging” apartheid judge: “It is interesting that Goldstone made a similar argument to friends as to why he accepted the chairmanship of the investigative commission offered to him by the United Nations Human Rights Council. He acknowledged that the Council was biased against Israel. Indeed, it treats Israel much the way Apartheid courts used to treat Black Africans: Just as there was special justice (really injustice) for blacks, so too there is special justice (really injustice) for Israel. Goldstone claims he took the job ‘to help Israel,’ just as he took his previous job to help blacks. In both cases he cynically hurt those he said he wanted to help while helping only himself. In both cases he was selected to legitimate bigotry. In both cases, better people than him refused to lend their credibility to an illegitimate enterprise. But Goldstone accepted, because it was good for his career.” Read the whole thing.

Dan Gerstein on the Kagan sales pitch: “This week, with their over-hyped and off-key ‘real world’ sales pitch for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, the president’s team is doing a bang-up job of outing their blinds spots themselves. In doing so, they are providing a big open window into why Obama continues to struggle in connecting with working-class voters.”

Megan McArdle on Kagan’s “pitch-perfect blandness”: “What’s disturbing is that this is what our nomination process now selects for: someone who appears to be in favor of nothing except self-advancement. Then we complain when the most passionate advocates for ideas are the lunatic fringe.”

Steve Kornacki asks, “Should Specter have run as an independent?” He still can!

Charles Krauthammer on Specter’s dilemma having voted against Kagan for solicitor general: “You almost feel sorry for Arlen Specter. I mean: Almost. This is a guy of so many twists and turns and retreats and swerves and reverses. It reminds me of a line in a Graham Greene novel where he speaks of his protagonist who says: ‘I prefer to tell the truth. It’s easier to memorize.’ Specter‘s got a lot of memorizing to do.”

Oops: “Congressional budget referees say President Barack Obama’s new health care law could potentially add another $115 billion over 10 years to government health care spending. If Congress approves all the additional spending, that would push the 10-year cost of the overhaul above $1 trillion — an unofficial limit the Obama administration set early on. The Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday the added spending includes $10 billion to $20 billion in administrative costs to federal agencies carrying out the law, as well as $34 billion for community health centers and $39 billion for American Indian health care.”

But most voters have already figured that out: “The number of U.S. voters who expect the recently passed health care bill to increase the federal deficit is at its highest level yet, and most voters continue to favor its repeal. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely Voters shows 63% now believe the health care reform legislation signed into law is likely to increase the federal deficit. That’s up four points from last week.”

Read Less




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