Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 12, 2010

It Is Certainly an Emergency

Politico has the scoop:

Leading conservatives will launch a new pro-Israel group this week with a scathing attack on Rep. Joe Sestak, the Democratic Senate candidate in Pennsylvania, the first shot in what they say will be a confrontational campaign against the Obama administration’s Mideast policy and the Democrats who support it.

The Emergency Committee for Israel’s leadership unites two major strands of support for the Jewish state: The hawkish, neoconservative wing of the Republican Party, many of whom are Jewish; and conservative Evangelical Christians who have become increasingly outspoken in their support for Israel. The new group’s board includes Weekly Standard Editor William Kristol and Gary Bauer, the former Republican presidential candidate who leads the group American Values, as well as Rachel Abrams, a conservative writer and activist. Former McCain aide Michael Goldfarb is an adviser to the group.

“We’re the pro-Israel wing of the pro-Israel community,” said Kristol.

This group is not affiliated with COMMENTARY but in the interests of full disclosure, we note that Noah Pollak, who has contributed to this blog as well as to COMMENTARY, will be the ECI’s executive director. Pollak explained that the ECI will be entering the fray in this year’s races:

“We want to be hard-hitting — we want to get into the debate and shake things up and make some points in a firm way,” he said. The group will target races for the House and the Senate, but there’s little doubt the larger target is the Obama administration, which Bauer told Politico is “the most anti-Israel administration in the history of the United States.”

To say that the ECI fills a niche would be a gross understatement. There is a gaping hole in the Jewish community’s response to the Obama administration and in its defense of Israel. In the past, these groups’ close relationship with incumbent administrations has served them well. But as I have written for nearly a year, that tactic is not suited to the current challenges and has proven counterproductive in the Obama era. The need is great to expose, confront, and challenge the administration when it, for example, eggs on an international flotilla investigation or excepts Russia and China from sanctions on Iran or mindlessly pursues engagement with Syria.

The establishment groups’ reaction was predictable, if restrained:

One official at an American Jewish organization welcomed the group to the degree that it would make “mainstream” criticism of Democrats, but also expressed concern that a group with such Republican origins would contribute to a deepening partisan cast to the debate over Israel, with Republicans lining up behind the Israeli government while some Democrats align themselves with Netanyahu’s American critics.

But the partisanship is a function not of the GOP’s rabble-rousing but rather of the stark decline in support for Israel on the left. The decades-old bipartisan coalition in support of Israel has become lopsided because one political party’s support has eroded. This was evident in polling on the Lebanon war, long before Obama got to the White House. But this administration, of course has exacerbated the problem. Many Democrats have placed party loyalty above support for the Jewish state, biting their tongues in the face of enormous provocation by the most anti-Israel administration in history. That may change as Obama’s political fortunes decline, but it has been at the root of mainly Jewish organizations’ dilemma in responding to the Obama administration.

Actually, the ECI has the potential to repair that bipartisan coalition by calling it straight on Israel and not letting ostensibly pro-Israel lawmakers avoid the dilemma: partisan loyalty or full-throated support for Israel:

I encourage our Democratic friends to have a competition with us on who can be more pro-Israel, because I think it’s in the interests of the United States and not a political party,” [Gary Bauer] said. “I’m really hoping that people like Senator [Chuck] Schumer and others will aggressively speak out for Israel at a time like this.”

And there is also the task of keeping neo-isolationists from gaining a foothold at the very time that Obama seems eager to withdrawal from our historic role as guarantor of the West’s security.

There is much to be done — take on the Obama administration’s lackadaisical approach to Iran, expose those who style themselves as pro-Israel but plainly aren’t, confront the administration’s refusal to stand up to Israel’s delegitimizors in international bodies, and keep the mainstream Jewish groups honest. That’s a tall order. In fact, it’s an emergency.

Politico has the scoop:

Leading conservatives will launch a new pro-Israel group this week with a scathing attack on Rep. Joe Sestak, the Democratic Senate candidate in Pennsylvania, the first shot in what they say will be a confrontational campaign against the Obama administration’s Mideast policy and the Democrats who support it.

The Emergency Committee for Israel’s leadership unites two major strands of support for the Jewish state: The hawkish, neoconservative wing of the Republican Party, many of whom are Jewish; and conservative Evangelical Christians who have become increasingly outspoken in their support for Israel. The new group’s board includes Weekly Standard Editor William Kristol and Gary Bauer, the former Republican presidential candidate who leads the group American Values, as well as Rachel Abrams, a conservative writer and activist. Former McCain aide Michael Goldfarb is an adviser to the group.

“We’re the pro-Israel wing of the pro-Israel community,” said Kristol.

This group is not affiliated with COMMENTARY but in the interests of full disclosure, we note that Noah Pollak, who has contributed to this blog as well as to COMMENTARY, will be the ECI’s executive director. Pollak explained that the ECI will be entering the fray in this year’s races:

“We want to be hard-hitting — we want to get into the debate and shake things up and make some points in a firm way,” he said. The group will target races for the House and the Senate, but there’s little doubt the larger target is the Obama administration, which Bauer told Politico is “the most anti-Israel administration in the history of the United States.”

To say that the ECI fills a niche would be a gross understatement. There is a gaping hole in the Jewish community’s response to the Obama administration and in its defense of Israel. In the past, these groups’ close relationship with incumbent administrations has served them well. But as I have written for nearly a year, that tactic is not suited to the current challenges and has proven counterproductive in the Obama era. The need is great to expose, confront, and challenge the administration when it, for example, eggs on an international flotilla investigation or excepts Russia and China from sanctions on Iran or mindlessly pursues engagement with Syria.

The establishment groups’ reaction was predictable, if restrained:

One official at an American Jewish organization welcomed the group to the degree that it would make “mainstream” criticism of Democrats, but also expressed concern that a group with such Republican origins would contribute to a deepening partisan cast to the debate over Israel, with Republicans lining up behind the Israeli government while some Democrats align themselves with Netanyahu’s American critics.

But the partisanship is a function not of the GOP’s rabble-rousing but rather of the stark decline in support for Israel on the left. The decades-old bipartisan coalition in support of Israel has become lopsided because one political party’s support has eroded. This was evident in polling on the Lebanon war, long before Obama got to the White House. But this administration, of course has exacerbated the problem. Many Democrats have placed party loyalty above support for the Jewish state, biting their tongues in the face of enormous provocation by the most anti-Israel administration in history. That may change as Obama’s political fortunes decline, but it has been at the root of mainly Jewish organizations’ dilemma in responding to the Obama administration.

Actually, the ECI has the potential to repair that bipartisan coalition by calling it straight on Israel and not letting ostensibly pro-Israel lawmakers avoid the dilemma: partisan loyalty or full-throated support for Israel:

I encourage our Democratic friends to have a competition with us on who can be more pro-Israel, because I think it’s in the interests of the United States and not a political party,” [Gary Bauer] said. “I’m really hoping that people like Senator [Chuck] Schumer and others will aggressively speak out for Israel at a time like this.”

And there is also the task of keeping neo-isolationists from gaining a foothold at the very time that Obama seems eager to withdrawal from our historic role as guarantor of the West’s security.

There is much to be done — take on the Obama administration’s lackadaisical approach to Iran, expose those who style themselves as pro-Israel but plainly aren’t, confront the administration’s refusal to stand up to Israel’s delegitimizors in international bodies, and keep the mainstream Jewish groups honest. That’s a tall order. In fact, it’s an emergency.

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RE: Bibi Is More Than Holding His Own

Whether because of the midterm elections or because of the realization that the Obama Middle East policy has been an abject failure, it sure does seem that the landscape has changed. This report explains:

The Jerusalem building and planning committee on Monday approved plans for 32 new housing units in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Ze’ev.

The approval comes only days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington, where Netanyahu agreed to advance talks with the Palestinian Authority. Chairman of the building and planning committee Kobi Kahalon had postponed a hearing on the building plan set for last week, so that it would not coincide with Netanyahu’s visit to the White House. …

While the houses approved on Monday will be built in a previously established neighborhood that the Palestinians have agreed in the past will stay part of Israel under a future final status agreement, the decision to approve the plan goes against a request made recently by the Palestinian Authority for a building freeze in all land seized in the Six Day War, as a pre-condition for a continuation of proximity talks.

So maybe the new Obama rule is “just don’t announce housing permits when you are visiting or when we are.” It’s still a restriction that no other nation must live with — but, hey, if that’s all it takes to hush up the Obami, it’s no big deal. And it doesn’t appear as though any of the preconditions and “confidence-building measures” concern Bibi right now. It is time to readjust the terms of the debate, and that is precisely what he aims to do.

Whether because of the midterm elections or because of the realization that the Obama Middle East policy has been an abject failure, it sure does seem that the landscape has changed. This report explains:

The Jerusalem building and planning committee on Monday approved plans for 32 new housing units in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Ze’ev.

The approval comes only days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington, where Netanyahu agreed to advance talks with the Palestinian Authority. Chairman of the building and planning committee Kobi Kahalon had postponed a hearing on the building plan set for last week, so that it would not coincide with Netanyahu’s visit to the White House. …

While the houses approved on Monday will be built in a previously established neighborhood that the Palestinians have agreed in the past will stay part of Israel under a future final status agreement, the decision to approve the plan goes against a request made recently by the Palestinian Authority for a building freeze in all land seized in the Six Day War, as a pre-condition for a continuation of proximity talks.

So maybe the new Obama rule is “just don’t announce housing permits when you are visiting or when we are.” It’s still a restriction that no other nation must live with — but, hey, if that’s all it takes to hush up the Obami, it’s no big deal. And it doesn’t appear as though any of the preconditions and “confidence-building measures” concern Bibi right now. It is time to readjust the terms of the debate, and that is precisely what he aims to do.

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The Problem of Economic Calculation

This morning, while riding the express train to work, I stood facing one of those ubiquitous census ads and, for the first time, began considering its wording in earnest. I am sure you’ve seen it too: “If we don’t know how many schoolchildren we have, how can we know how many schools to build? … If we don’t know how many people we have, how can we know how many hospitals to build?” And so on and so forth.

That the government should still pose such questions — innocent as they are — suggests that the so-called problem of economic calculation afflicts the endeavors of central planners today no less than it did in the 1920s, when Ludwig Von Mises first set it forth. Not only that, but the government has also failed to find tools more efficacious in tackling this problem than the nationwide survey — that is, the census. And what a crude device that is!

For one thing, any information collected through it soon becomes outdated, since the census is taken at intervals of no less than 10 years, during which time a lot can happen in terms of economic development and population shifts. For another, delivering the surveys to every doorstep in the country, entreating the citizens to fill them out, and ensuring that a tolerable number of them actually do so amounts to an onerous affair not cheap to orchestrate — as is plainly evinced by the budget of $11.3 billion set aside for the accomplishment thereof. And for all the pains that go into collecting it, this information winds up reaching the government incomplete and only approximately accurate — the proportion of falsified surveys that alloy the census results being a matter of contentious and largely partisan debate.

Numerous and intractable as these difficulties are, they don’t even touch on the core inadequacy of the census at informing central planning — which is that no questionnaire could possibly gauge supply and demand. Only the market can take their measure, through prices and, to some extent, interest rates — its two chief signalers. It is by dollars that people vote for what they want and how much of it they want and how badly. The results of such “elections,” the likes of which are held daily in the marketplace, might differ widely from anything obtainable by aggregating the individual wish lists of the “voters.” And because, on the whole, they reflect practical reality as opposed to vague or impossible fancies, the former results are always preferable to the latter and form the only sound basis for business planning. This is the crux of the problem of economic calculation: the reason why in every kind of regime past or present, even the most well meaning of central planners have found it impossible to allocate scarce resources efficiently throughout the economy.

To the not-so-rhetorical questions of the census ads, such as, “If we don’t know how many people we have, how do we know how many … (fill in the blank) buses we need?” one all-purpose answer comes to mind: you, the public sector, cannot know how many buses a line needs, or how many schools and hospitals should be built in an area, and knowing how many people live nearby might not even help you to find out. But the private sector eventually gets those answers right. If there are too many buses in a line, the private transportation company incurs a loss and cuts some of them. If there are not enough, someone will endeavor to introduce one more and thus realize a profit. The same argument applies to hospitals, clinics, and schools. Leave the matter to the businessmen and entrepreneurs, whose livelihoods depend on it. And don’t employ the census toward any end except the one dictated by the Constitution — i.e., to apportion the number of members of the United States House of Representatives among the several states.

This morning, while riding the express train to work, I stood facing one of those ubiquitous census ads and, for the first time, began considering its wording in earnest. I am sure you’ve seen it too: “If we don’t know how many schoolchildren we have, how can we know how many schools to build? … If we don’t know how many people we have, how can we know how many hospitals to build?” And so on and so forth.

That the government should still pose such questions — innocent as they are — suggests that the so-called problem of economic calculation afflicts the endeavors of central planners today no less than it did in the 1920s, when Ludwig Von Mises first set it forth. Not only that, but the government has also failed to find tools more efficacious in tackling this problem than the nationwide survey — that is, the census. And what a crude device that is!

For one thing, any information collected through it soon becomes outdated, since the census is taken at intervals of no less than 10 years, during which time a lot can happen in terms of economic development and population shifts. For another, delivering the surveys to every doorstep in the country, entreating the citizens to fill them out, and ensuring that a tolerable number of them actually do so amounts to an onerous affair not cheap to orchestrate — as is plainly evinced by the budget of $11.3 billion set aside for the accomplishment thereof. And for all the pains that go into collecting it, this information winds up reaching the government incomplete and only approximately accurate — the proportion of falsified surveys that alloy the census results being a matter of contentious and largely partisan debate.

Numerous and intractable as these difficulties are, they don’t even touch on the core inadequacy of the census at informing central planning — which is that no questionnaire could possibly gauge supply and demand. Only the market can take their measure, through prices and, to some extent, interest rates — its two chief signalers. It is by dollars that people vote for what they want and how much of it they want and how badly. The results of such “elections,” the likes of which are held daily in the marketplace, might differ widely from anything obtainable by aggregating the individual wish lists of the “voters.” And because, on the whole, they reflect practical reality as opposed to vague or impossible fancies, the former results are always preferable to the latter and form the only sound basis for business planning. This is the crux of the problem of economic calculation: the reason why in every kind of regime past or present, even the most well meaning of central planners have found it impossible to allocate scarce resources efficiently throughout the economy.

To the not-so-rhetorical questions of the census ads, such as, “If we don’t know how many people we have, how do we know how many … (fill in the blank) buses we need?” one all-purpose answer comes to mind: you, the public sector, cannot know how many buses a line needs, or how many schools and hospitals should be built in an area, and knowing how many people live nearby might not even help you to find out. But the private sector eventually gets those answers right. If there are too many buses in a line, the private transportation company incurs a loss and cuts some of them. If there are not enough, someone will endeavor to introduce one more and thus realize a profit. The same argument applies to hospitals, clinics, and schools. Leave the matter to the businessmen and entrepreneurs, whose livelihoods depend on it. And don’t employ the census toward any end except the one dictated by the Constitution — i.e., to apportion the number of members of the United States House of Representatives among the several states.

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RE: Jerusalem Dig Yields Yet Another Historical Gem

Reporting on yet another remarkable archaeological finding in Jerusalem, Jonathan Tobin writes today that:

This matters because many influential archaeologists, as well as Palestinian propagandists, have dismissed Jewish ties to Jerusalem by claiming that the Kingdom of David mentioned in the Bible was an insignificant entity and that its capital in Jerusalem was nothing more than a village.

I could not agree more. But his sentence triggered a thought and a reminder of post-Zionist mirror-climbing about when the Palestinian nation was born. The exercise is, of course, aimed at disproving the argument that Palestinian national identity is largely a consequence, a response, and, therefore, a by-product of Zionism and Israel’s establishment. The argument suggests that part of the reason why Palestine never came to exist as a nation-state is because those for whom the nation-state was meant to be established did not see themselves as a distinct nation until much later in history – when it was too late.

Even if one takes the absurd claim that the birth date of Palestinian identity goes back to 1834 – as argued Joel Migdal and Baruch Kimmerling in their book, The Palestinian People: A History – the notion that “Jerusalem was nothing more than a village” would more aptly apply to Jerusalem at the time of the Palestinian nation’s “birth.” Though still prevalently populated by Arabs in the early 1800s, Jerusalem’s population counted about 2,000 – out of a whopping 8,750.  By 1870, Kimmerling and Migdal would have you believe that most Palestinians had a well-formed national consciousness. Still, most Arabs could neither read nor write. They had grown in number, surely, but so had the Jews. Jerusalem still looked like a village, albeit a larger one – 22,000 people, half of whom were Jews – and the main means of communications to propagate the messages of national identity from Jerusalem to the rest of the world were pigeons and smoke signals (plus the mail, carried by horse and donkey). The village, incidentally, was not the capital of anything.

Clearly, those who make the silly claim about Jerusalem having been a village back when, in fact, it was already an important pre-Israelite centre, don’t realize that in much more recent times, when the centrality of Jerusalem would serve their argument, Jerusalem was… well, nothing but a small village, and too full of Jews to play the magnet for nationalism that some pro-Palestinian propagandists now attribute to it.

Reporting on yet another remarkable archaeological finding in Jerusalem, Jonathan Tobin writes today that:

This matters because many influential archaeologists, as well as Palestinian propagandists, have dismissed Jewish ties to Jerusalem by claiming that the Kingdom of David mentioned in the Bible was an insignificant entity and that its capital in Jerusalem was nothing more than a village.

I could not agree more. But his sentence triggered a thought and a reminder of post-Zionist mirror-climbing about when the Palestinian nation was born. The exercise is, of course, aimed at disproving the argument that Palestinian national identity is largely a consequence, a response, and, therefore, a by-product of Zionism and Israel’s establishment. The argument suggests that part of the reason why Palestine never came to exist as a nation-state is because those for whom the nation-state was meant to be established did not see themselves as a distinct nation until much later in history – when it was too late.

Even if one takes the absurd claim that the birth date of Palestinian identity goes back to 1834 – as argued Joel Migdal and Baruch Kimmerling in their book, The Palestinian People: A History – the notion that “Jerusalem was nothing more than a village” would more aptly apply to Jerusalem at the time of the Palestinian nation’s “birth.” Though still prevalently populated by Arabs in the early 1800s, Jerusalem’s population counted about 2,000 – out of a whopping 8,750.  By 1870, Kimmerling and Migdal would have you believe that most Palestinians had a well-formed national consciousness. Still, most Arabs could neither read nor write. They had grown in number, surely, but so had the Jews. Jerusalem still looked like a village, albeit a larger one – 22,000 people, half of whom were Jews – and the main means of communications to propagate the messages of national identity from Jerusalem to the rest of the world were pigeons and smoke signals (plus the mail, carried by horse and donkey). The village, incidentally, was not the capital of anything.

Clearly, those who make the silly claim about Jerusalem having been a village back when, in fact, it was already an important pre-Israelite centre, don’t realize that in much more recent times, when the centrality of Jerusalem would serve their argument, Jerusalem was… well, nothing but a small village, and too full of Jews to play the magnet for nationalism that some pro-Palestinian propagandists now attribute to it.

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Why Uganda?

Yesterday’s double terrorist bombing in Kampala is both a heart wrenching tragedy and a clarifying moment. Why would Islamists target an international sporting event in Uganda? After all, we’ve been told by our most thoughtful analysts and academics that terrorism is a response to insensitive Western policy. Earlier in the same day that bombs killed scores of soccer fans, the Center for American Progress’s Larry Korb told the Washington Times, “Once you attach a religious thing, you’re basically saying somehow or other this [terrorism] is caused by the religion. Most Muslims are not that way.” Surely there is a rational explanation for yesterday’s attack that avoids our “attaching a religious thing” to it, right?

“Uganda is a major infidel country supporting the so-called government of Somalia,” said  Sheikh Yusuf Isse of the Islamist al-Shabaab group. “We know Uganda is against Islam and so we are very happy at what has happened in Kampala. That is the best news we ever heard.”

He means to tell us that the secular man-made-disaster organization al-Shabaab allegedly killed innocent sports fans because Uganda is an infidel country? This sounds an awful lot like George W. Bush’s claim that we were attacked on September 11 because of our defining freedoms. And every enlightened Westerner knows that’s just a bunch of simplistic jingoism, right?

Well, you tell me what’s more simplistic and obtuse: a nuanced policy which maintains, as Bush put it, “terrorists practice a fringe form of Islamic extremism that has been rejected by Muslim scholars and the vast majority of Muslim clerics,” or a White House-directed terrorism policy whereby the word “Islam” is literally banned for fear of being mean to those who brag of killing infidels.

Which attitude speaks more to a sense of decadent Western denial: one which acknowledges the very reasons being given by Islamists for the bombing of two bars in Africa or one in which America is assumed to earn its Islamist enemies ultimately because of its Israel policies?

The cutest part of Barack Obama’s no-Islam policy is that it’s reversed in every area outside of terrorism. NASA now exists to point out Islamic achievements. Iran is to be talked out of a nuclear weapon specifically because of the soundness of its great Islamic heritage. Obama holds an “Entrepreneurship Summit” in Washington in order to “bring business and social entrepreneurs from Muslim-majority countries to the United States and send their American counterparts to learn from your countries.”

What a great turn it would be if our president could actually learn what Islamists are trying so hard to teach us.

Yesterday’s double terrorist bombing in Kampala is both a heart wrenching tragedy and a clarifying moment. Why would Islamists target an international sporting event in Uganda? After all, we’ve been told by our most thoughtful analysts and academics that terrorism is a response to insensitive Western policy. Earlier in the same day that bombs killed scores of soccer fans, the Center for American Progress’s Larry Korb told the Washington Times, “Once you attach a religious thing, you’re basically saying somehow or other this [terrorism] is caused by the religion. Most Muslims are not that way.” Surely there is a rational explanation for yesterday’s attack that avoids our “attaching a religious thing” to it, right?

“Uganda is a major infidel country supporting the so-called government of Somalia,” said  Sheikh Yusuf Isse of the Islamist al-Shabaab group. “We know Uganda is against Islam and so we are very happy at what has happened in Kampala. That is the best news we ever heard.”

He means to tell us that the secular man-made-disaster organization al-Shabaab allegedly killed innocent sports fans because Uganda is an infidel country? This sounds an awful lot like George W. Bush’s claim that we were attacked on September 11 because of our defining freedoms. And every enlightened Westerner knows that’s just a bunch of simplistic jingoism, right?

Well, you tell me what’s more simplistic and obtuse: a nuanced policy which maintains, as Bush put it, “terrorists practice a fringe form of Islamic extremism that has been rejected by Muslim scholars and the vast majority of Muslim clerics,” or a White House-directed terrorism policy whereby the word “Islam” is literally banned for fear of being mean to those who brag of killing infidels.

Which attitude speaks more to a sense of decadent Western denial: one which acknowledges the very reasons being given by Islamists for the bombing of two bars in Africa or one in which America is assumed to earn its Islamist enemies ultimately because of its Israel policies?

The cutest part of Barack Obama’s no-Islam policy is that it’s reversed in every area outside of terrorism. NASA now exists to point out Islamic achievements. Iran is to be talked out of a nuclear weapon specifically because of the soundness of its great Islamic heritage. Obama holds an “Entrepreneurship Summit” in Washington in order to “bring business and social entrepreneurs from Muslim-majority countries to the United States and send their American counterparts to learn from your countries.”

What a great turn it would be if our president could actually learn what Islamists are trying so hard to teach us.

Read Less

Jerusalem Dig Yields Another Historical Gem

Does it matter whether Jerusalem was a major city 3,500 years ago? Surely, nothing that happened that long ago could mean much today, especially since the Israelite Kingdom of David and Solomon — from which Jewish claims date — did not come along until a few centuries later. But the recent find of a clay fragment at the site of the City of David from this long ago actually has a great deal of meaning for the debate over both the Davidic kingdom’s significance and the depth of Jewish ties to the holy city.

The fragment, found in the Ophel area, in a dig carried out by Dr. Eilat Mazar of the Hebrew University Institute of Archeology and funded by New York philanthropists Daniel Mintz and Meredith Berkman, is a small piece of what appears to have been a larger tablet. What makes it important is that it contains writing in ancient cuneiform symbols. This makes it the oldest written document ever found in Jerusalem. That alone is fascinating but what makes it truly significant is the high quality of the writing that seems to be the work of a highly skilled scribe who was probably part of a royal household. Analysis of the writing by Hebrew University experts shows that it may well have been part of a message sent from a king of Jerusalem to the pharaoh in Egypt.

This matters because many influential archaeologists, as well as Palestinian propagandists, have dismissed Jewish ties to Jerusalem by claiming that the Kingdom of David mentioned in the Bible was an insignificant entity and that its capital in Jerusalem was nothing more than a village. These people scoff at the notion that the effort to restore Jewish sovereignty to the area is based on historical precedent rather than biblical romance.

The lesson of this most recent find is that if Jerusalem were already an important walled city in the centuries before David, it is very difficult to argue that it was a backwater only when the Jews took over, some 3,000 years ago. Since anti-Zionists wish to claim that King David and his kingdom never really existed and that the great city from which he ruled it is a myth, this evidence of the city’s significance even before his time is more proof of the falsity of anti-Israel historical polemics.

The stakes involved in these seemingly arcane archaeological disputes are quite high. That is why anti-Zionists have been at such pains to dismiss or minimize the importance of Mazar’s amazing finds in the course of her exploration of the City of David site. As COMMENTARY wrote back in February, when Mazar released findings that showed that she had found a portion of an ancient city wall as well as other possible royal structures dating to the 10th century B.C.E., the greatest threat to those who think that parts of Jerusalem should be off-limits to Jews comes not when Jewish-owned buildings go up but when Jews start digging into the ground.

The area in which in the City of David dig is located is often referred to in the press as “traditionally Palestinian” or merely “Arab Jerusalem.” The point is, Israel’s enemies — both the Palestinians and their foreign cheerleaders — have specifically opposed the effort to explore the rich history of the City of David area and they consider the creation of an archaeological park there to be just another “illegal” Jewish settlement. That is why the City of David is an important intellectual and political battleground. As has been the case on the Temple Mount, where the Muslim religious authority that runs the enclosure without Israeli interference has routinely trashed any evidence that contradicts their false claims that Jerusalem has no Jewish history prior to the 20th century, this is no mere academic argument but a rather concerted effort by anti-Zionists to falsify history. What Eilat Mazar has done with the help of her American donors is to establish even more firmly that those who trash biblical history and the ancient kingdom of Israel — and, by extension, the modern Jewish state — are ideologically motivated liars.

Does it matter whether Jerusalem was a major city 3,500 years ago? Surely, nothing that happened that long ago could mean much today, especially since the Israelite Kingdom of David and Solomon — from which Jewish claims date — did not come along until a few centuries later. But the recent find of a clay fragment at the site of the City of David from this long ago actually has a great deal of meaning for the debate over both the Davidic kingdom’s significance and the depth of Jewish ties to the holy city.

The fragment, found in the Ophel area, in a dig carried out by Dr. Eilat Mazar of the Hebrew University Institute of Archeology and funded by New York philanthropists Daniel Mintz and Meredith Berkman, is a small piece of what appears to have been a larger tablet. What makes it important is that it contains writing in ancient cuneiform symbols. This makes it the oldest written document ever found in Jerusalem. That alone is fascinating but what makes it truly significant is the high quality of the writing that seems to be the work of a highly skilled scribe who was probably part of a royal household. Analysis of the writing by Hebrew University experts shows that it may well have been part of a message sent from a king of Jerusalem to the pharaoh in Egypt.

This matters because many influential archaeologists, as well as Palestinian propagandists, have dismissed Jewish ties to Jerusalem by claiming that the Kingdom of David mentioned in the Bible was an insignificant entity and that its capital in Jerusalem was nothing more than a village. These people scoff at the notion that the effort to restore Jewish sovereignty to the area is based on historical precedent rather than biblical romance.

The lesson of this most recent find is that if Jerusalem were already an important walled city in the centuries before David, it is very difficult to argue that it was a backwater only when the Jews took over, some 3,000 years ago. Since anti-Zionists wish to claim that King David and his kingdom never really existed and that the great city from which he ruled it is a myth, this evidence of the city’s significance even before his time is more proof of the falsity of anti-Israel historical polemics.

The stakes involved in these seemingly arcane archaeological disputes are quite high. That is why anti-Zionists have been at such pains to dismiss or minimize the importance of Mazar’s amazing finds in the course of her exploration of the City of David site. As COMMENTARY wrote back in February, when Mazar released findings that showed that she had found a portion of an ancient city wall as well as other possible royal structures dating to the 10th century B.C.E., the greatest threat to those who think that parts of Jerusalem should be off-limits to Jews comes not when Jewish-owned buildings go up but when Jews start digging into the ground.

The area in which in the City of David dig is located is often referred to in the press as “traditionally Palestinian” or merely “Arab Jerusalem.” The point is, Israel’s enemies — both the Palestinians and their foreign cheerleaders — have specifically opposed the effort to explore the rich history of the City of David area and they consider the creation of an archaeological park there to be just another “illegal” Jewish settlement. That is why the City of David is an important intellectual and political battleground. As has been the case on the Temple Mount, where the Muslim religious authority that runs the enclosure without Israeli interference has routinely trashed any evidence that contradicts their false claims that Jerusalem has no Jewish history prior to the 20th century, this is no mere academic argument but a rather concerted effort by anti-Zionists to falsify history. What Eilat Mazar has done with the help of her American donors is to establish even more firmly that those who trash biblical history and the ancient kingdom of Israel — and, by extension, the modern Jewish state — are ideologically motivated liars.

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Sometimes the Sky Really Is Falling

Once upon a time conservatives who, as far back as last year, analyzed polling data and political trends and argued what was fairly obvious — that Democrats were in a perilous political position and in danger of losing the House — were mocked by Obama courtiers in the press for declaring, “The sky is falling!” Now, as Jennifer points out, comes confirmation from President Obama’s own spokesman that indeed the sky is falling. On NBC’s Meet the Press, Robert Gibbs declared:

I think there’s no doubt that there are a lot of seats that will be up, a lot of contested seats. I think people are going to have a choice to make in the fall.  But I think there’s no doubt there are enough seats in play that could cause Republicans to gain control.

And in his Washington Post column, E.J. Dionne Jr. – as reliable a liberal supporter of Obama as you will find — offers the same warning:

If the midterm elections were held now, Republicans would likely take control of the House of the Representatives.  It’s as hard these days to find a Democrat who’s not alarmed as it is to find a Cleveland Cavaliers fan who’s cheering for LeBron James.

The explanations Democrats and liberals offer for why they are in this predicament (a “communications” problem, a “false narrative” that has taken hold, the failure to spend more money on the stimulus package, a bad economy that is entirely unconnected to Obama’s policies, and so forth) are flawed and at times comical. Still, the fact that some of Obama’s strongest supporters now acknowledge the depth of opposition to his policies and the battering that awaits Democrats is, I suppose, a good thing. Reality trumping self-delusion usually is. But anticipating a political drubbing is one thing; being on the receiving end of it will be quite another.

Wait until November 3 to see what I mean.

Once upon a time conservatives who, as far back as last year, analyzed polling data and political trends and argued what was fairly obvious — that Democrats were in a perilous political position and in danger of losing the House — were mocked by Obama courtiers in the press for declaring, “The sky is falling!” Now, as Jennifer points out, comes confirmation from President Obama’s own spokesman that indeed the sky is falling. On NBC’s Meet the Press, Robert Gibbs declared:

I think there’s no doubt that there are a lot of seats that will be up, a lot of contested seats. I think people are going to have a choice to make in the fall.  But I think there’s no doubt there are enough seats in play that could cause Republicans to gain control.

And in his Washington Post column, E.J. Dionne Jr. – as reliable a liberal supporter of Obama as you will find — offers the same warning:

If the midterm elections were held now, Republicans would likely take control of the House of the Representatives.  It’s as hard these days to find a Democrat who’s not alarmed as it is to find a Cleveland Cavaliers fan who’s cheering for LeBron James.

The explanations Democrats and liberals offer for why they are in this predicament (a “communications” problem, a “false narrative” that has taken hold, the failure to spend more money on the stimulus package, a bad economy that is entirely unconnected to Obama’s policies, and so forth) are flawed and at times comical. Still, the fact that some of Obama’s strongest supporters now acknowledge the depth of opposition to his policies and the battering that awaits Democrats is, I suppose, a good thing. Reality trumping self-delusion usually is. But anticipating a political drubbing is one thing; being on the receiving end of it will be quite another.

Wait until November 3 to see what I mean.

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The IPCC and Climate-Change Spin

It appears that the Climategate scandal has had little effect on the insular attitude of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. New York Times blogger Andrew C. Revkin writes a rundown of the IPCC’s neurotic approach to the media.

Apparently, the IPCC chair, Rajendra K. Pachauri, sent a letter to researchers who are helping prepare the next climate-change report. It read, in part:

I would also like to emphasize that enhanced media interest in the work of the IPCC would probably subject you to queries about your work and the IPCC. My sincere advice would be that you keep a distance from the media and should any questions be asked about the Working Group with which you are associated, please direct such media questions to the Co-chairs of your Working Group and for any questions regarding the IPCC to the secretariat of the IPCC.

Edward R. Carr, an associate professor of geography at the University of South Carolina, is one such researcher. As Revkin notes, Carr accurately blogs that this is a “’bunker mentality’ [that] will do nothing for the public image of the IPCC.”

However, Pachauri’s clarification of the letter is less reassuring. In a nutshell, Pachauri said that the letter was intended to advise IPCC report participants not to speak out on behalf of the IPCC itself:

My advice to the authors on responding to the media is only in respect of queries regarding the I.P.C.C. Some of them are new to the I.P.C.C., and we would not want them to provide uninformed responses or opinions. We now have in place a structure and a system in the I.P.C.C. for outreach and communications with the outside world. The I.P.C.C. authors are not employed by the I.P.C.C., and hence they are free to deal with the media on their own avocations and the organizations they are employed by. But they should desist at this stage on speaking on behalf of the I.P.C.C. …

[Researchers] can certainly speak… but it would be inappropriate and premature for them to offer an opinion on what would go into a working group report or what the I.P.C.C. plans to do. In such cases they must direct the query to the appropriate authority as I have advised them to do.

We are only trying to bring some order into the system precisely because we would like to be more transparent and systematic in responding to the media’s growing interest in climate change — which we welcome greatly.

So the question is: were Pachauri and the IPCC further attempting to control the flow of information to the media and, in turn, the public? Or was the letter merely poor word choice from PR “experts”? Either way, there’s cause for concern.

According to its own website, “The IPCC embodies a unique opportunity to provide rigorous and balanced scientific information to decision makers.” It doesn’t take a climate-change skeptic to suggest that if the IPCC really does want to micromanage media coverage of its reports, then this mission may suffer.

Such compulsive message control suggests that the IPCC’s focus is not to provide balanced, factual, diverse scientific research regarding climate change. Instead of aggregating research and facts, the IPCC is adopting PR tactics characteristic of organizations with a predetermined line to sell to the media and the public — the tactics of opinion and advocacy groups, not unbiased panels. People around the world deserve frank, unguarded answers to their questions — especially because the reports are “policy-relevant.” If the intent of Pachauri’s letter was really censorious, then it could harm the public by instilling a bias among policymakers.

But if Pachauri’s letter is just badly phrased PR advice, it harms the credibility of the IPCC — an organization whose credibility has already suffered serious blows throughout the past year. The instinct to approach the media with further caution is understandable after all the bad publicity wrought by Climategate, but the IPCC can only repair its reputation by establishing itself as a truthful agent of public scientific discussion.

In both instances, the international climate-science debate suffers.

It appears that the Climategate scandal has had little effect on the insular attitude of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. New York Times blogger Andrew C. Revkin writes a rundown of the IPCC’s neurotic approach to the media.

Apparently, the IPCC chair, Rajendra K. Pachauri, sent a letter to researchers who are helping prepare the next climate-change report. It read, in part:

I would also like to emphasize that enhanced media interest in the work of the IPCC would probably subject you to queries about your work and the IPCC. My sincere advice would be that you keep a distance from the media and should any questions be asked about the Working Group with which you are associated, please direct such media questions to the Co-chairs of your Working Group and for any questions regarding the IPCC to the secretariat of the IPCC.

Edward R. Carr, an associate professor of geography at the University of South Carolina, is one such researcher. As Revkin notes, Carr accurately blogs that this is a “’bunker mentality’ [that] will do nothing for the public image of the IPCC.”

However, Pachauri’s clarification of the letter is less reassuring. In a nutshell, Pachauri said that the letter was intended to advise IPCC report participants not to speak out on behalf of the IPCC itself:

My advice to the authors on responding to the media is only in respect of queries regarding the I.P.C.C. Some of them are new to the I.P.C.C., and we would not want them to provide uninformed responses or opinions. We now have in place a structure and a system in the I.P.C.C. for outreach and communications with the outside world. The I.P.C.C. authors are not employed by the I.P.C.C., and hence they are free to deal with the media on their own avocations and the organizations they are employed by. But they should desist at this stage on speaking on behalf of the I.P.C.C. …

[Researchers] can certainly speak… but it would be inappropriate and premature for them to offer an opinion on what would go into a working group report or what the I.P.C.C. plans to do. In such cases they must direct the query to the appropriate authority as I have advised them to do.

We are only trying to bring some order into the system precisely because we would like to be more transparent and systematic in responding to the media’s growing interest in climate change — which we welcome greatly.

So the question is: were Pachauri and the IPCC further attempting to control the flow of information to the media and, in turn, the public? Or was the letter merely poor word choice from PR “experts”? Either way, there’s cause for concern.

According to its own website, “The IPCC embodies a unique opportunity to provide rigorous and balanced scientific information to decision makers.” It doesn’t take a climate-change skeptic to suggest that if the IPCC really does want to micromanage media coverage of its reports, then this mission may suffer.

Such compulsive message control suggests that the IPCC’s focus is not to provide balanced, factual, diverse scientific research regarding climate change. Instead of aggregating research and facts, the IPCC is adopting PR tactics characteristic of organizations with a predetermined line to sell to the media and the public — the tactics of opinion and advocacy groups, not unbiased panels. People around the world deserve frank, unguarded answers to their questions — especially because the reports are “policy-relevant.” If the intent of Pachauri’s letter was really censorious, then it could harm the public by instilling a bias among policymakers.

But if Pachauri’s letter is just badly phrased PR advice, it harms the credibility of the IPCC — an organization whose credibility has already suffered serious blows throughout the past year. The instinct to approach the media with further caution is understandable after all the bad publicity wrought by Climategate, but the IPCC can only repair its reputation by establishing itself as a truthful agent of public scientific discussion.

In both instances, the international climate-science debate suffers.

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Run Away! From Direct Negotiations, That Is

In case it wasn’t obvious already, the Palestinians are frantic as they furiously throw out preconditions in hope of avoiding the dreaded direct negotiations. This report explains:

Direct talks will not be resumed with Israel until progress is made during US-brokered proximity talks on the issues of borders and security, President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday evening. “We hope to make progress that will enable us to launch serious negotiations leading to a two-state solution before it is too late,” Abbas said during a celebration at the the Cultural Palace in Ramallah, marking the Prophet Mohammad’s Night Journey. …

“We chose to start with borders and security. We proposed our vision and said that if progress can be made, we move to direct negotiations. However, if there will be no progress on these two issues, these negotiations will be a waste of time,” Abbas said.

I think that means: “Unless Obama delivers everything we want in proximity talks, we’re not showing up for negotiations, which are really only a formality.” This was the problem from the get-go, which Obama and his brain trust tried to ignore by allowing the Palestinians to avoid face-to-face negotiations. Obama is in a bind now — he’s said publicly that the Palestinians need to move to direct talks, but the Palestinians have no such intention. Despite Obama’s grand intentions and his narcissistic assumption that he, unlike every president who preceded him, could bring about peace in the Middle East, he now stands on the brink of failure on a foreign-policy objective that he elevated to the top tier of his concerns. Having given it such prominence, the collapse of his Middle East policy will be all the more damaging to his already shrinking stature.

In case it wasn’t obvious already, the Palestinians are frantic as they furiously throw out preconditions in hope of avoiding the dreaded direct negotiations. This report explains:

Direct talks will not be resumed with Israel until progress is made during US-brokered proximity talks on the issues of borders and security, President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday evening. “We hope to make progress that will enable us to launch serious negotiations leading to a two-state solution before it is too late,” Abbas said during a celebration at the the Cultural Palace in Ramallah, marking the Prophet Mohammad’s Night Journey. …

“We chose to start with borders and security. We proposed our vision and said that if progress can be made, we move to direct negotiations. However, if there will be no progress on these two issues, these negotiations will be a waste of time,” Abbas said.

I think that means: “Unless Obama delivers everything we want in proximity talks, we’re not showing up for negotiations, which are really only a formality.” This was the problem from the get-go, which Obama and his brain trust tried to ignore by allowing the Palestinians to avoid face-to-face negotiations. Obama is in a bind now — he’s said publicly that the Palestinians need to move to direct talks, but the Palestinians have no such intention. Despite Obama’s grand intentions and his narcissistic assumption that he, unlike every president who preceded him, could bring about peace in the Middle East, he now stands on the brink of failure on a foreign-policy objective that he elevated to the top tier of his concerns. Having given it such prominence, the collapse of his Middle East policy will be all the more damaging to his already shrinking stature.

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Democrats Realize the Cost of Obamaism — to Them

Rick Klein of ABC News writes:

The House landscape, when combined with President Obama’s drop in popularity among critical independent voters, has the president’s fellow Democrats in a defensive mode, even as the president himself begins to go on offense on the campaign trail. That means extreme skepticism in the rank-and-file as Congress reconvenes this week for what’s likely to be the last major legislative push before campaigning subsumes policy-making.

It’s not simply that there are more than enough seats to flip control of the House and maybe of the Senate as well; it is that Democrats must now traverse a political landscape in which Obama and his agenda threaten their viability. As Klein notes:

As Democrats consult their lists of vulnerable seats, the agenda isn’t likely to help them much.Energy and immigration reform cut more along geographic boundaries than party lines. Moderate and conservative Democrats — including many vulnerable House members in the West and South — are among those who are least anxious to see action on hot-button policy issues, and are particularly concerned about runaway government spending.

If Republicans win big in November, it may not mean the end of the Obama presidency (we certainly have learned that two years in politics is forever) but it will end his aura of political invincibility. Those Democrats who survive will need to chart their own course. And internationally, friends and foes will begin to calculate and calibrate their behavior, knowing Obama may be a one-term president.

Rick Klein of ABC News writes:

The House landscape, when combined with President Obama’s drop in popularity among critical independent voters, has the president’s fellow Democrats in a defensive mode, even as the president himself begins to go on offense on the campaign trail. That means extreme skepticism in the rank-and-file as Congress reconvenes this week for what’s likely to be the last major legislative push before campaigning subsumes policy-making.

It’s not simply that there are more than enough seats to flip control of the House and maybe of the Senate as well; it is that Democrats must now traverse a political landscape in which Obama and his agenda threaten their viability. As Klein notes:

As Democrats consult their lists of vulnerable seats, the agenda isn’t likely to help them much.Energy and immigration reform cut more along geographic boundaries than party lines. Moderate and conservative Democrats — including many vulnerable House members in the West and South — are among those who are least anxious to see action on hot-button policy issues, and are particularly concerned about runaway government spending.

If Republicans win big in November, it may not mean the end of the Obama presidency (we certainly have learned that two years in politics is forever) but it will end his aura of political invincibility. Those Democrats who survive will need to chart their own course. And internationally, friends and foes will begin to calculate and calibrate their behavior, knowing Obama may be a one-term president.

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Hollywood Celebrates

Will there be fireworks at the Hollywood Bowl? A fantastic bash in his honor, albeit with the guest of honor absent? Yes, from coast to coast, the moral zombies who populate the big and small screen are no doubt jumping for joy that Roman Polanski will not be extradited to stand trial for his rape of a 13-year old child. As a colleague pointed out, really, the man has suffered enough. (“The 77-year-old Oscar-winning filmmaker was first imprisoned and then confined to his ski chalet in the Alpine resort of Gastaad with an electronic foot bracelet.”) The Swiss judiciary seems to have aced out the Nobelians as the best exemplar of the debasement of European society, as we are reminded that “the decision constituted a victory not only for Polanski but also for a broad array of European intellectual and political figures who had come to his defense with petitions and statements of outrage denouncing the effort to continue prosecution after so many years.”

The Swiss Ministry of Justice claims that the verdict is not a statement about Polanski’s guilt or innocence:

The Swiss Justice Ministry said in a statement that the decision reflected doubts over the legal strength of the U.S. extradition request, in particular concerning negotiations between Los Angeles prosecutors and Polanski’s U.S. lawyers at the time. …

Switzerland blamed U.S. authorities for failing to provide confidential testimony about Polanski’s sentencing procedure in 1977-1978. The Swiss government said it had sought confidential testimony given on Jan. 26 by Roger Gunson, the Los Angeles attorney in charge of the original prosecution against Polanski.

Actually, it’s not a statement about Polanski at all. It is, however, a vivid reflection of the mindset of today’s elites (both in Europe and America). If you smoke or drive an SUV, you’re a social pariah. But if you’re an aging millionaire who drugged a 13-year-old child before raping her, why, you needn’t fear that you’ll lose their admiration or support. To the contrary, a special Oscar may await!

Will there be fireworks at the Hollywood Bowl? A fantastic bash in his honor, albeit with the guest of honor absent? Yes, from coast to coast, the moral zombies who populate the big and small screen are no doubt jumping for joy that Roman Polanski will not be extradited to stand trial for his rape of a 13-year old child. As a colleague pointed out, really, the man has suffered enough. (“The 77-year-old Oscar-winning filmmaker was first imprisoned and then confined to his ski chalet in the Alpine resort of Gastaad with an electronic foot bracelet.”) The Swiss judiciary seems to have aced out the Nobelians as the best exemplar of the debasement of European society, as we are reminded that “the decision constituted a victory not only for Polanski but also for a broad array of European intellectual and political figures who had come to his defense with petitions and statements of outrage denouncing the effort to continue prosecution after so many years.”

The Swiss Ministry of Justice claims that the verdict is not a statement about Polanski’s guilt or innocence:

The Swiss Justice Ministry said in a statement that the decision reflected doubts over the legal strength of the U.S. extradition request, in particular concerning negotiations between Los Angeles prosecutors and Polanski’s U.S. lawyers at the time. …

Switzerland blamed U.S. authorities for failing to provide confidential testimony about Polanski’s sentencing procedure in 1977-1978. The Swiss government said it had sought confidential testimony given on Jan. 26 by Roger Gunson, the Los Angeles attorney in charge of the original prosecution against Polanski.

Actually, it’s not a statement about Polanski at all. It is, however, a vivid reflection of the mindset of today’s elites (both in Europe and America). If you smoke or drive an SUV, you’re a social pariah. But if you’re an aging millionaire who drugged a 13-year-old child before raping her, why, you needn’t fear that you’ll lose their admiration or support. To the contrary, a special Oscar may await!

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Not to Be Ignored

Hotline reports:

Ex-AK Gov. Sarah Palin’s political action committee is no joke, according to new reports filed with the FEC: In the last quarter, Sarah PAC raised $865K and spent $654K, demonstrating new evidence that the former VP contender is seriously considering a WH’12 bid. … Last quarter, Palin spent more than $248K on direct mail fundraising, the bread-and-butter means GOPers have traditionally used to fill their coffers and build lists. … What’s most notable is the number of small contributors Palin has attracted. More than 3/4 of her donations are listed as unitemized, meaning the individuals who wrote checks sent in less than $200. Much of Pres. Obama’s fundraising success in ’08 came from these small-dollar donors, meaning Palin has a grassroots folllowing — one she’s started to build significantly earlier than Obama did.

It’s not certain that she will run in 2012 – or that she will be able to overcome concerns within her own party about her electability. (This is not a “so what if we lose this one” election for the GOP). But it does tell us that she will continue to be a powerful force and a kingmaker, if not a candidate. While Mitt Romney has gone the cautious route — endorsing GOP candidates with little opposition or after their primary opposition was all but eliminated — Palin has been anything but. At times she’s been ahead of the curve: a sharp-eyed talent scout, as with her backing of Nikki Haley. At other times, her fondness for outsider-ness has led her to back a candidate like Rand Paul, who is now struggling to avoid been tagged as a wacko.

But make no mistake: there is a strain of political genius in Palin – the ability to seize the moment and to identify the direction in which the political currents are flowing. Aside from the stark policy contrast on just about every issue, she is, in a real sense, the un-Obama — a visceral politician who has her finger on the pulse of the heartland. That doesn’t mean she can win the nomination or be elected president, but hers is a unique talent, and she is a force that her potential competitors will have to reckon with.

Hotline reports:

Ex-AK Gov. Sarah Palin’s political action committee is no joke, according to new reports filed with the FEC: In the last quarter, Sarah PAC raised $865K and spent $654K, demonstrating new evidence that the former VP contender is seriously considering a WH’12 bid. … Last quarter, Palin spent more than $248K on direct mail fundraising, the bread-and-butter means GOPers have traditionally used to fill their coffers and build lists. … What’s most notable is the number of small contributors Palin has attracted. More than 3/4 of her donations are listed as unitemized, meaning the individuals who wrote checks sent in less than $200. Much of Pres. Obama’s fundraising success in ’08 came from these small-dollar donors, meaning Palin has a grassroots folllowing — one she’s started to build significantly earlier than Obama did.

It’s not certain that she will run in 2012 – or that she will be able to overcome concerns within her own party about her electability. (This is not a “so what if we lose this one” election for the GOP). But it does tell us that she will continue to be a powerful force and a kingmaker, if not a candidate. While Mitt Romney has gone the cautious route — endorsing GOP candidates with little opposition or after their primary opposition was all but eliminated — Palin has been anything but. At times she’s been ahead of the curve: a sharp-eyed talent scout, as with her backing of Nikki Haley. At other times, her fondness for outsider-ness has led her to back a candidate like Rand Paul, who is now struggling to avoid been tagged as a wacko.

But make no mistake: there is a strain of political genius in Palin – the ability to seize the moment and to identify the direction in which the political currents are flowing. Aside from the stark policy contrast on just about every issue, she is, in a real sense, the un-Obama — a visceral politician who has her finger on the pulse of the heartland. That doesn’t mean she can win the nomination or be elected president, but hers is a unique talent, and she is a force that her potential competitors will have to reckon with.

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The Age of the Zipped Lip

Paul Berman takes the thesis of his outstanding new book, The Flight of the Intellectuals, to the pages of the Wall Street Journal and dubs the age we live in that of the Zipped Lip.

“You are not,” he writes, “supposed to observe that Islamism is a modern, instead of an ancient, political tendency, which arose in a spirit of fraternal harmony with the fascists of Europe in the 1930s and ’40s. You are not supposed to point out that Nazi inspirations have visibly taken root among present-day Islamists, notably in regard to the demonic nature of Jewish conspiracies and the virtues of genocide.”

As he said to me on the phone when I interviewed him in May, the mere mention of Nazi Germany’s foreign policy in the Arab world and its lingering effects in our day “gets people red in the face.”

Lest you think there aren’t any lingering traces of Nazism in the Arab world, along comes Wiam Wahhab, a former member of Lebanon’s parliament, and confirms that there are. “I like the Germans,” he says in an interview on Al-Jadid/New TV, “because they hate the Jews and they burned them.” Then he laughs like it’s the funniest thing he’s heard in a week.

Now, this man isn’t mainstream. He belongs (of course) to the Hezbollah-led “March 8″ coalition, which is apparently incapable of winning an election or getting its way except by using or threatening violence. And he claims that the United Nations Special Tribunal for Lebanon — which was set up in 2005 to investigate the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri — is an Israeli-American plot to destroy the country. He’s firmly in the minority camp.

Still, can you imagine any American politician from either the House or the Senate, from either the Republican or Democratic party, saying something like that and yukking it up on TV? It would be the instantaneous mother of all career-enders. Wahhab’s career, though, won’t suffer one bit as a result of his saying this.

It’s not that everyone in Lebanon approves of the Holocaust, but enough people do that he’s not embarrassed or ashamed to say that he does. Supporting Hitler’s “Final Solution” isn’t taboo there the way it is here. Supporting Israel is a far bigger offense. Some Lebanese people do support Israel, and some have even taken up arms alongside Israelis; but if they don’t keep quiet about it in public, they’ll suffer serious consequences.

A country where you’ll get in more trouble for supporting Israel than for supporting the Holocaust is a country with serious political problems. Lebanon is among the least anti-Semitic of all the Arabic-speaking countries. Most and possibly all the others are worse.

I understand why many of the intellectuals Paul Berman takes to task have a hard time dealing squarely with this. It’s disturbing. The implications are frightening. And it’s doubly disturbing to those of us who have some affection for the Arab world and wish it well. I’ve spent more time in Lebanon than in any country in the world after the United States, and it’s the only country aside from America that I briefly called home. Yet the facts are the facts. Those of us who would rather see the Middle East flourish than suffer will not see that happen until these poisonous ideas are stamped out or shunted aside. Pretending it has already happened will not make it so.

Paul Berman takes the thesis of his outstanding new book, The Flight of the Intellectuals, to the pages of the Wall Street Journal and dubs the age we live in that of the Zipped Lip.

“You are not,” he writes, “supposed to observe that Islamism is a modern, instead of an ancient, political tendency, which arose in a spirit of fraternal harmony with the fascists of Europe in the 1930s and ’40s. You are not supposed to point out that Nazi inspirations have visibly taken root among present-day Islamists, notably in regard to the demonic nature of Jewish conspiracies and the virtues of genocide.”

As he said to me on the phone when I interviewed him in May, the mere mention of Nazi Germany’s foreign policy in the Arab world and its lingering effects in our day “gets people red in the face.”

Lest you think there aren’t any lingering traces of Nazism in the Arab world, along comes Wiam Wahhab, a former member of Lebanon’s parliament, and confirms that there are. “I like the Germans,” he says in an interview on Al-Jadid/New TV, “because they hate the Jews and they burned them.” Then he laughs like it’s the funniest thing he’s heard in a week.

Now, this man isn’t mainstream. He belongs (of course) to the Hezbollah-led “March 8″ coalition, which is apparently incapable of winning an election or getting its way except by using or threatening violence. And he claims that the United Nations Special Tribunal for Lebanon — which was set up in 2005 to investigate the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri — is an Israeli-American plot to destroy the country. He’s firmly in the minority camp.

Still, can you imagine any American politician from either the House or the Senate, from either the Republican or Democratic party, saying something like that and yukking it up on TV? It would be the instantaneous mother of all career-enders. Wahhab’s career, though, won’t suffer one bit as a result of his saying this.

It’s not that everyone in Lebanon approves of the Holocaust, but enough people do that he’s not embarrassed or ashamed to say that he does. Supporting Hitler’s “Final Solution” isn’t taboo there the way it is here. Supporting Israel is a far bigger offense. Some Lebanese people do support Israel, and some have even taken up arms alongside Israelis; but if they don’t keep quiet about it in public, they’ll suffer serious consequences.

A country where you’ll get in more trouble for supporting Israel than for supporting the Holocaust is a country with serious political problems. Lebanon is among the least anti-Semitic of all the Arabic-speaking countries. Most and possibly all the others are worse.

I understand why many of the intellectuals Paul Berman takes to task have a hard time dealing squarely with this. It’s disturbing. The implications are frightening. And it’s doubly disturbing to those of us who have some affection for the Arab world and wish it well. I’ve spent more time in Lebanon than in any country in the world after the United States, and it’s the only country aside from America that I briefly called home. Yet the facts are the facts. Those of us who would rather see the Middle East flourish than suffer will not see that happen until these poisonous ideas are stamped out or shunted aside. Pretending it has already happened will not make it so.

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What If Palestinians Were Jeffersonian Democrats?

As Nicholas Kristof’s Israel venom and infatuation with the Palestinian-victimhood narrative have increased, his columns have become other-worldly. His most recent contribution is a plea for a Palestinian women’s movement of Gandhi-like proportions on the West Bank:

But imagine if Palestinians stopped the rock-throwing and put female pacifists in the lead. What if 1,000 women sat down peacefully on a road to block access to an illegal Jewish settlement built on Palestinian farmland? What if the women allowed themselves to be tear-gassed, beaten and arrested without a single rock being thrown? Those images would be on televisions around the world — particularly if hundreds more women marched in to replace those hauled away.

“This is what Israel is most afraid of,” said Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, a prominent Palestinian who is calling for a nonviolent mass movement. He says Palestinians need to create their own version of Gandhi’s famous 1930 salt march.

No, I think Israelis are most afraid of having their children blown to smithereens by terrorists. Or incinerated in a nuclear attack. Or killed by rockets launched from behind the skirts of Palestinian women.

But let’s get back to Kristof. What if Palestinian women didn’t delight in their children’s martyrdom? Yes, what if they didn’t send their offspring to Hamas summer camps? What if Palestinian women in ever-increasing numbers didn’t themselves resort to suicide-bombing? Yes, then it would just be a question of convincing the Palestinian men not to slaughter Israelis. But in the real world, far too many Palestinian women are either victims or enablers of the cult of death (and sometimes both).

Despite all evidence to the contrary, Kristof stubbornly clings to the notion that Israel is engaged in violence for violence’s sake against innocents. When he asks, “What if the women allowed themselves to be tear-gassed, beaten and arrested without a single rock being thrown?” you wonder if he’s serious. I mean, obviously, there wouldn’t be a need for tear gas if the rock-throwing stopped – and no need for checkpoints and fences if the terrorists stopped killing Jews. But let’s not let logic or reality mess up another ode to the nobility of the Palestinian cause.

Nevertheless, maybe Kristof is on to something. So let’s play along. What if Palestinian leaders had spent the past 60 years building civil institutions, training scientists and architects rather than terrorists, naming squares after artists rather than murderers, instituting the rule of law, stamping out terrorism, spending billions in aid for the welfare of their people rather than squirreling it away for themselves, and reading Gandhi rather than Nazi tracts? Not only would Palestinians have had their own state but we would also have been spared years of Kristof’s drivel.

As Nicholas Kristof’s Israel venom and infatuation with the Palestinian-victimhood narrative have increased, his columns have become other-worldly. His most recent contribution is a plea for a Palestinian women’s movement of Gandhi-like proportions on the West Bank:

But imagine if Palestinians stopped the rock-throwing and put female pacifists in the lead. What if 1,000 women sat down peacefully on a road to block access to an illegal Jewish settlement built on Palestinian farmland? What if the women allowed themselves to be tear-gassed, beaten and arrested without a single rock being thrown? Those images would be on televisions around the world — particularly if hundreds more women marched in to replace those hauled away.

“This is what Israel is most afraid of,” said Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, a prominent Palestinian who is calling for a nonviolent mass movement. He says Palestinians need to create their own version of Gandhi’s famous 1930 salt march.

No, I think Israelis are most afraid of having their children blown to smithereens by terrorists. Or incinerated in a nuclear attack. Or killed by rockets launched from behind the skirts of Palestinian women.

But let’s get back to Kristof. What if Palestinian women didn’t delight in their children’s martyrdom? Yes, what if they didn’t send their offspring to Hamas summer camps? What if Palestinian women in ever-increasing numbers didn’t themselves resort to suicide-bombing? Yes, then it would just be a question of convincing the Palestinian men not to slaughter Israelis. But in the real world, far too many Palestinian women are either victims or enablers of the cult of death (and sometimes both).

Despite all evidence to the contrary, Kristof stubbornly clings to the notion that Israel is engaged in violence for violence’s sake against innocents. When he asks, “What if the women allowed themselves to be tear-gassed, beaten and arrested without a single rock being thrown?” you wonder if he’s serious. I mean, obviously, there wouldn’t be a need for tear gas if the rock-throwing stopped – and no need for checkpoints and fences if the terrorists stopped killing Jews. But let’s not let logic or reality mess up another ode to the nobility of the Palestinian cause.

Nevertheless, maybe Kristof is on to something. So let’s play along. What if Palestinian leaders had spent the past 60 years building civil institutions, training scientists and architects rather than terrorists, naming squares after artists rather than murderers, instituting the rule of law, stamping out terrorism, spending billions in aid for the welfare of their people rather than squirreling it away for themselves, and reading Gandhi rather than Nazi tracts? Not only would Palestinians have had their own state but we would also have been spared years of Kristof’s drivel.

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Holder Claims Politics Is the Problem

Eric Holder’s descent into incomprehensibility on the KSM trial is a thing to behold. On Sunday, he proclaimed:

If we try to exclude the federal criminal justice system, we are taking away one of the tools that we have. And I think ultimately we make this nation much weaker. That’s a very dangerous thing, I think, to take that tool out of our hands.

Huh? Isn’t foreclosing military tribunals “taking away one of the tools we have” and won’t that make us weaker? If that is the best he can do, you sense he’s not going to be around long, or that the Obami have given up on a KSM civilian trial, or maybe both.

But on the chutzpah meter, nothing can top Holder’s whining that “politics” is delaying a decision on the KSM trial. Really? Couldn’t Obama declare his intention anytime — or is it politics (i.e., the fear of a meltdown on the left or an outcry from everyone else) that is preventing an announcement before the midterms? If Holder complains about “politics,” it suggests that not even his own party favors Obama’s position on this one. But this administration — whether on health care or on the war on terror — has often been frustrated that the rubes out in America are just too dense to understand Obama’s magnificence.

It is rich that the administration that has politicized every nook and cranny of the Justice Department — from the New Black Panther case to hiring leftist defenders of al-Qaeda terrorists — should bemoan that politics is preventing them from doing what the Obami pine to do. But their bellyaching is yet another sign that the administration’s biggest obstacle is the American people, who don’t like what they are up to.

Eric Holder’s descent into incomprehensibility on the KSM trial is a thing to behold. On Sunday, he proclaimed:

If we try to exclude the federal criminal justice system, we are taking away one of the tools that we have. And I think ultimately we make this nation much weaker. That’s a very dangerous thing, I think, to take that tool out of our hands.

Huh? Isn’t foreclosing military tribunals “taking away one of the tools we have” and won’t that make us weaker? If that is the best he can do, you sense he’s not going to be around long, or that the Obami have given up on a KSM civilian trial, or maybe both.

But on the chutzpah meter, nothing can top Holder’s whining that “politics” is delaying a decision on the KSM trial. Really? Couldn’t Obama declare his intention anytime — or is it politics (i.e., the fear of a meltdown on the left or an outcry from everyone else) that is preventing an announcement before the midterms? If Holder complains about “politics,” it suggests that not even his own party favors Obama’s position on this one. But this administration — whether on health care or on the war on terror — has often been frustrated that the rubes out in America are just too dense to understand Obama’s magnificence.

It is rich that the administration that has politicized every nook and cranny of the Justice Department — from the New Black Panther case to hiring leftist defenders of al-Qaeda terrorists — should bemoan that politics is preventing them from doing what the Obami pine to do. But their bellyaching is yet another sign that the administration’s biggest obstacle is the American people, who don’t like what they are up to.

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Tsunami on the Port Side

Mara Liasson on Fox News Sunday had some no-nonsense analysis for Democrats about the upcoming elections:

The reason that the president’s overall job approval rating has been going down is because he’s been losing independents, which he had won in 2008. Now, history tells us that presidents’ job approval ratings generally drift downward over the course of a midterm election year, so it’s unlikely that it’s going to be, even at this point, mid-40s [i.e., the number of House seats will likely be enough to flip control of the House] in November. … He wants to make it a choice between the Democrats’ ideas and the Republicans’ ideas — he needs to have that underpinning of things going in the right direction. Even if the unemployment rate absolutely is 9.7 percent, not good enough, the trend line has to be positive. And the fact that we’ve had two months now of lagging job growth — I think the administration really was counting on, little by little, things would be looking like they’re getting better, and they’re not.

At this point, it is not simply conservative media outlets and Republican operatives who are predicting massive Democratic losses. It is becoming the accepted wisdom that the Democrats are in for a pummeling. That, in turn, will likely depress fundraising and turnout. Soon Democrats will be arguing that a loss of only one house of Congress is a “victory.” But whatever the spin, if the trend lines continue, Obama will suffer an immense blow to his political standing, and he will face a Congress made up of Democrats with no reason to support him, and Republicans with every reason to go on the offensive. It is an outcome unimaginable by even the most optimistic conservatives 18 months ago.

Mara Liasson on Fox News Sunday had some no-nonsense analysis for Democrats about the upcoming elections:

The reason that the president’s overall job approval rating has been going down is because he’s been losing independents, which he had won in 2008. Now, history tells us that presidents’ job approval ratings generally drift downward over the course of a midterm election year, so it’s unlikely that it’s going to be, even at this point, mid-40s [i.e., the number of House seats will likely be enough to flip control of the House] in November. … He wants to make it a choice between the Democrats’ ideas and the Republicans’ ideas — he needs to have that underpinning of things going in the right direction. Even if the unemployment rate absolutely is 9.7 percent, not good enough, the trend line has to be positive. And the fact that we’ve had two months now of lagging job growth — I think the administration really was counting on, little by little, things would be looking like they’re getting better, and they’re not.

At this point, it is not simply conservative media outlets and Republican operatives who are predicting massive Democratic losses. It is becoming the accepted wisdom that the Democrats are in for a pummeling. That, in turn, will likely depress fundraising and turnout. Soon Democrats will be arguing that a loss of only one house of Congress is a “victory.” But whatever the spin, if the trend lines continue, Obama will suffer an immense blow to his political standing, and he will face a Congress made up of Democrats with no reason to support him, and Republicans with every reason to go on the offensive. It is an outcome unimaginable by even the most optimistic conservatives 18 months ago.

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A Tale of Two Ships

It is instructive to see how differently the UN and the Obama team reacted to two naval incidents: the terrorist flotilla and the sinking of a South Korean ship. Israel was and remains the target of the unending ire of the “international community,” which thrills at the prospect of another excuse to lambaste the Jewish state and to launch another attack on its legitimacy. But it’s quite a different story when there is an act of unprovoked aggression by a totalitarian state.

The Wall Street Journal editors write:

It’s as if the attack was a Sherlock Holmes mystery about a murder without a body. Never mind that everyone in the world knows that the Cheonan was sunk by a North Korean torpedo, killing 46 sailors in one of the worst acts of aggression since the Korean War ended nearly 60 years ago. A May report by a panel of global experts convened by South Korea to investigate the sinking left no doubt that the North perpetrated the act, despite Pyongyang’s denials.

Seoul went to the Security Council to seek the global rebuke of the North, but China objected to a resolution that specifically blamed its clients in Pyongyang. Thus the Security Council retreated to writing a resolution that condemned the act of aggression but named no aggressor. Apparently the rogue underwater missile targeted and then launched itself against the South Korean vessel. I, Torpedo.

This episode is a microcosm of the feckless Obama policy. First, there is the disingenuousness, which is needed to disguise the ineptness:

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice tried to make the best of this embarrassment by saying the message to the North was “crystal clear” and that “The Security Council condemns and deplores this attack. It warns against any further attacks. And insists on full adherence to the Korean Armistice Agreement.”

Then there is the appeasement mentality: “Follow the logic: Since the North wasn’t condemned for doing what everyone knows it did it, the North’s leaders might now be appeased enough to return to the nuclear talks they walked out of last year.”

Most tragically, however, it is the reliance on morally decrepit international institutions in lieu of American power and, yes, smart diplomacy. The Obami insist on using institutions that don’t — despite all his speechifying — share our values and interests. The result, whether on North Korea or Iran, is thin gruel sanctions and watered-down statements, which encourages rather than retard aggression by rogue states.

It is these same institutions that revel in the opportunity to call out Israel and condemn the Jewish State for daring to defend itself against those wishing its annihilation. Like the equally bankrupt “peace process,” Obama’s fixation on multilateralism is making the world more dangerous, America weaker, and despots breathe easier — and, of course, Israel more embattled, as the Israel-haters enjoy newfound respectability and attention from the U.S. and, therefore, the West more generally. A “smart” diplomatic approach would downplay and minimize the role of these bodies and instead emphasize the full panoply of weapons (diplomatic, economic, and military) in the U.S. arsenal. That Obama has done the opposite goes a long way toward explaining why his foreign policy is in such disarray.

It is instructive to see how differently the UN and the Obama team reacted to two naval incidents: the terrorist flotilla and the sinking of a South Korean ship. Israel was and remains the target of the unending ire of the “international community,” which thrills at the prospect of another excuse to lambaste the Jewish state and to launch another attack on its legitimacy. But it’s quite a different story when there is an act of unprovoked aggression by a totalitarian state.

The Wall Street Journal editors write:

It’s as if the attack was a Sherlock Holmes mystery about a murder without a body. Never mind that everyone in the world knows that the Cheonan was sunk by a North Korean torpedo, killing 46 sailors in one of the worst acts of aggression since the Korean War ended nearly 60 years ago. A May report by a panel of global experts convened by South Korea to investigate the sinking left no doubt that the North perpetrated the act, despite Pyongyang’s denials.

Seoul went to the Security Council to seek the global rebuke of the North, but China objected to a resolution that specifically blamed its clients in Pyongyang. Thus the Security Council retreated to writing a resolution that condemned the act of aggression but named no aggressor. Apparently the rogue underwater missile targeted and then launched itself against the South Korean vessel. I, Torpedo.

This episode is a microcosm of the feckless Obama policy. First, there is the disingenuousness, which is needed to disguise the ineptness:

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice tried to make the best of this embarrassment by saying the message to the North was “crystal clear” and that “The Security Council condemns and deplores this attack. It warns against any further attacks. And insists on full adherence to the Korean Armistice Agreement.”

Then there is the appeasement mentality: “Follow the logic: Since the North wasn’t condemned for doing what everyone knows it did it, the North’s leaders might now be appeased enough to return to the nuclear talks they walked out of last year.”

Most tragically, however, it is the reliance on morally decrepit international institutions in lieu of American power and, yes, smart diplomacy. The Obami insist on using institutions that don’t — despite all his speechifying — share our values and interests. The result, whether on North Korea or Iran, is thin gruel sanctions and watered-down statements, which encourages rather than retard aggression by rogue states.

It is these same institutions that revel in the opportunity to call out Israel and condemn the Jewish State for daring to defend itself against those wishing its annihilation. Like the equally bankrupt “peace process,” Obama’s fixation on multilateralism is making the world more dangerous, America weaker, and despots breathe easier — and, of course, Israel more embattled, as the Israel-haters enjoy newfound respectability and attention from the U.S. and, therefore, the West more generally. A “smart” diplomatic approach would downplay and minimize the role of these bodies and instead emphasize the full panoply of weapons (diplomatic, economic, and military) in the U.S. arsenal. That Obama has done the opposite goes a long way toward explaining why his foreign policy is in such disarray.

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Bibi Is More Than Holding His Own

The challenge for the Israeli prime minister in managing the U.S.-Israeli relationship is immense. A complete rupture with the U.S. is fraught with peril, but quiet acquiescence to Obama’s assault on the Jewish state is untenable as well. It is indicative of how well Bibi has done in navigating through the Obama presidency that, in many respects, Obama is now in retreat. He has essentially repudiated his own NPT statement. He’s now publicly pressing for direct peace process talks, to the chagrin of the Palestinians, who were looking for a gift-wrapped state from Obama with no need for them to ever get in a room with the Israeli prime minister.

On Fox News Sunday, Bibi gave a strong performance and displayed how the balance has shifted in the “peace process”:

NETANYAHU: I don’t think we can make peace with an organization that seeks our destruction. That’s Hamas. But I think we can make peace with the Palestinian Authority. It requires a lot of courage from our side, from me. And it also requires courage from President Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority.

It’s going to be a very tough negotiation, but one that I think our peoples are ripe for. Is Hamas going to be a part of it? No. As long as it wants to destroy Israel, it’s not going to be a part of it.

Now, at this point, I could tell you we’ll never negotiate with the Palestinian Authority as long as Hamas is in Gaza. That’s not my position. I think we should get on with it and seek to negotiate peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. We’ll have to deal with Hamas later.

WALLACE: But your foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, says he sees, quote, “no chance” — no chance — of a Palestinian state by 2012.

NETANYAHU: Well, you know, there are different views. There are people who have different ideas. We’re a democracy. We’re a parliamentary democracy. So people are entitled to have different views. They express them.

But I think that there is no substitute for getting into direct talks right now and seeking to break this logger jam, to actually go ahead and try to negotiate a final peace settlement.

WALLACE: Do you believe there can be a Palestinian state by 2012?

NETANYAHU: I think there can be a solution. It may be implemented over time, because time is an important factor of getting the solution, both in terms of security arrangements and other things that would be difficult if they’re not allowed to take place over time.

So I think the — can we have a negotiated peace? Yes. Can it be implemented by 2012? I think it’s going to take longer than that.

WALLACE: You say it will take courage on your part. Are you willing to put East Jerusalem as a possible capital of the Palestinian state on the table?

NETANYAHU: Well, we have differences of views with the Palestinians. We want a united city. They have their own views. We can — this is one of the issues that will have to be negotiated. But I think the main point is to get on with it.

In short, Bibi is doing everything possible to call the Palestinians’ — and Obama’s — bluff. You want a peace process? Let’s talk!

And on the settlement freeze, Bibi is also holding his ground — at least for now:

WALLACE: Have you and the president resolved the issue of whether you are willing to extend the moratorium on construction of settlements as part of the Palestinians engaging in direct talks?

NETANYAHU: The settlements are an issue that have to be engaged in the final status peace negotiations. That’s always been agreed on, along with other issues.

I made the exceptional, really extraordinary, move of making a freeze on new construction for 10 months — I did that seven months ago — in order to help the Palestinians get in the talks. They haven’t gotten into the talks right now.

Now we’re asked to make an extension of this. Look, I think this is — this is the wrong approach. I think we should eliminate all these preconditions and all these excuses and all those demands for entering into direct talks. We should just get into them.

Again, the message is  — if you want your own state, get in the room. For now it appears that Bibi is in no mood for more concessions. The Palestinians are frantic to find excuses and to avoid pulling back the curtain on the underlying truth that has animated the Palestinian-Israeli conflict for 60 years: the Palestinians lack the will and ability to make peace.

Finally, Bibi was also rather bold on Iran. Here, too, he skillfully threw the Obami’s own words back at them — and made clear that there is not much more time for Israel to wait patiently as the mullahs inch ever closer to membership in the nuclear club:

WALLACE: During your meeting with President Obama, you praised the recent round of sanctions, not just the U.N., but also the additional sanctions that President Obama signed, that the U.S. Congress passed, on Iran.

But recently, the CIA director, Leon Panetta, said this, “Will it deter them” — speaking of the Iranians — “from their ambitions with regards to a nuclear capability? Probably not.” Is Panetta right?

NETANYAHU: Probably. He’s probably right. I can tell you one thing, Iran is closer to developing nuclear weapons today than it was a week ago, or a month ago or a year ago. It’s just moving on with its efforts. And I think there is a great danger to the world, not only to my country but to the United States, to the Middle East, to peace, to all of humanity, from the prospect that such a regime that brutalizes its own people, that sponsors terrorism more than any other regime in the world — that this regime acquires atomic bombs is very, very dangerous.

WALLACE: U.S. officials estimate that Iran perhaps within two years will have a nuclear warhead it can put on a ballistic missile that can strike Israel, Europe, much of the world. Do you have a deadline in your own mind for how long you’re willing to let diplomacy play out?

NETANYAHU: There’s only been one time that Iran actually stopped the program, and that was when it feared U.S. military action. So the — when the president says that he’s determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and that all options are on the table, I think that’s the right statement of policy.

You ask what is our policy. Our policy is very simple. The Jewish state was set up to defend Jewish lives, and we always reserve the right to defend ourselves.

WALLACE: Do you have a deadline in your mind for how long you’re willing to let diplomacy play out?

NETANYAHU: Well, I think that we always reserve the right to defend ourselves.

WALLACE: Do you believe a nuclear Iran — a nuclear Iran — can be contained?

NETANYAHU: No. No, I don’t. I think that’s a mistake, and I think people fall into a misconception.

I don’t think you can rely on Iran. I don’t think you can rely on other radicals like the Taliban. They dispatched Al Qaida to bomb New York and Washington. What were they thinking? Were they that stupid? They weren’t stupid. There is an irrationality there, and there is madness in this method. … And we should not allow irrational regimes like Iran to have nuclear weapons. It’s the ultimate terrorist threat today.

WALLACE: But I want to follow your argument. You say that Panetta is probably right that sanctions won’t work. You say flatly that containing a nuclear Iran is impossible. Have you and the president ever discussed the possibility of a military strike?

NETANYAHU: I’m not going to get into the confidential discussions, and I’m not confirming anything of the sort. But I am saying that the president’s position that all options are on the table might actually have the only real effect on Iran if they — if they think it’s true.

Yes, Mr. President, if you could be a wee bit more credible on the use of military force (by the way, how long ago was it that Obama made any reference to the potential use of force? Was it the campaign?) it would — maybe — give the Iranians pause. But if not, Bibi will do what he must do.

The challenge for the Israeli prime minister in managing the U.S.-Israeli relationship is immense. A complete rupture with the U.S. is fraught with peril, but quiet acquiescence to Obama’s assault on the Jewish state is untenable as well. It is indicative of how well Bibi has done in navigating through the Obama presidency that, in many respects, Obama is now in retreat. He has essentially repudiated his own NPT statement. He’s now publicly pressing for direct peace process talks, to the chagrin of the Palestinians, who were looking for a gift-wrapped state from Obama with no need for them to ever get in a room with the Israeli prime minister.

On Fox News Sunday, Bibi gave a strong performance and displayed how the balance has shifted in the “peace process”:

NETANYAHU: I don’t think we can make peace with an organization that seeks our destruction. That’s Hamas. But I think we can make peace with the Palestinian Authority. It requires a lot of courage from our side, from me. And it also requires courage from President Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority.

It’s going to be a very tough negotiation, but one that I think our peoples are ripe for. Is Hamas going to be a part of it? No. As long as it wants to destroy Israel, it’s not going to be a part of it.

Now, at this point, I could tell you we’ll never negotiate with the Palestinian Authority as long as Hamas is in Gaza. That’s not my position. I think we should get on with it and seek to negotiate peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. We’ll have to deal with Hamas later.

WALLACE: But your foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, says he sees, quote, “no chance” — no chance — of a Palestinian state by 2012.

NETANYAHU: Well, you know, there are different views. There are people who have different ideas. We’re a democracy. We’re a parliamentary democracy. So people are entitled to have different views. They express them.

But I think that there is no substitute for getting into direct talks right now and seeking to break this logger jam, to actually go ahead and try to negotiate a final peace settlement.

WALLACE: Do you believe there can be a Palestinian state by 2012?

NETANYAHU: I think there can be a solution. It may be implemented over time, because time is an important factor of getting the solution, both in terms of security arrangements and other things that would be difficult if they’re not allowed to take place over time.

So I think the — can we have a negotiated peace? Yes. Can it be implemented by 2012? I think it’s going to take longer than that.

WALLACE: You say it will take courage on your part. Are you willing to put East Jerusalem as a possible capital of the Palestinian state on the table?

NETANYAHU: Well, we have differences of views with the Palestinians. We want a united city. They have their own views. We can — this is one of the issues that will have to be negotiated. But I think the main point is to get on with it.

In short, Bibi is doing everything possible to call the Palestinians’ — and Obama’s — bluff. You want a peace process? Let’s talk!

And on the settlement freeze, Bibi is also holding his ground — at least for now:

WALLACE: Have you and the president resolved the issue of whether you are willing to extend the moratorium on construction of settlements as part of the Palestinians engaging in direct talks?

NETANYAHU: The settlements are an issue that have to be engaged in the final status peace negotiations. That’s always been agreed on, along with other issues.

I made the exceptional, really extraordinary, move of making a freeze on new construction for 10 months — I did that seven months ago — in order to help the Palestinians get in the talks. They haven’t gotten into the talks right now.

Now we’re asked to make an extension of this. Look, I think this is — this is the wrong approach. I think we should eliminate all these preconditions and all these excuses and all those demands for entering into direct talks. We should just get into them.

Again, the message is  — if you want your own state, get in the room. For now it appears that Bibi is in no mood for more concessions. The Palestinians are frantic to find excuses and to avoid pulling back the curtain on the underlying truth that has animated the Palestinian-Israeli conflict for 60 years: the Palestinians lack the will and ability to make peace.

Finally, Bibi was also rather bold on Iran. Here, too, he skillfully threw the Obami’s own words back at them — and made clear that there is not much more time for Israel to wait patiently as the mullahs inch ever closer to membership in the nuclear club:

WALLACE: During your meeting with President Obama, you praised the recent round of sanctions, not just the U.N., but also the additional sanctions that President Obama signed, that the U.S. Congress passed, on Iran.

But recently, the CIA director, Leon Panetta, said this, “Will it deter them” — speaking of the Iranians — “from their ambitions with regards to a nuclear capability? Probably not.” Is Panetta right?

NETANYAHU: Probably. He’s probably right. I can tell you one thing, Iran is closer to developing nuclear weapons today than it was a week ago, or a month ago or a year ago. It’s just moving on with its efforts. And I think there is a great danger to the world, not only to my country but to the United States, to the Middle East, to peace, to all of humanity, from the prospect that such a regime that brutalizes its own people, that sponsors terrorism more than any other regime in the world — that this regime acquires atomic bombs is very, very dangerous.

WALLACE: U.S. officials estimate that Iran perhaps within two years will have a nuclear warhead it can put on a ballistic missile that can strike Israel, Europe, much of the world. Do you have a deadline in your own mind for how long you’re willing to let diplomacy play out?

NETANYAHU: There’s only been one time that Iran actually stopped the program, and that was when it feared U.S. military action. So the — when the president says that he’s determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and that all options are on the table, I think that’s the right statement of policy.

You ask what is our policy. Our policy is very simple. The Jewish state was set up to defend Jewish lives, and we always reserve the right to defend ourselves.

WALLACE: Do you have a deadline in your mind for how long you’re willing to let diplomacy play out?

NETANYAHU: Well, I think that we always reserve the right to defend ourselves.

WALLACE: Do you believe a nuclear Iran — a nuclear Iran — can be contained?

NETANYAHU: No. No, I don’t. I think that’s a mistake, and I think people fall into a misconception.

I don’t think you can rely on Iran. I don’t think you can rely on other radicals like the Taliban. They dispatched Al Qaida to bomb New York and Washington. What were they thinking? Were they that stupid? They weren’t stupid. There is an irrationality there, and there is madness in this method. … And we should not allow irrational regimes like Iran to have nuclear weapons. It’s the ultimate terrorist threat today.

WALLACE: But I want to follow your argument. You say that Panetta is probably right that sanctions won’t work. You say flatly that containing a nuclear Iran is impossible. Have you and the president ever discussed the possibility of a military strike?

NETANYAHU: I’m not going to get into the confidential discussions, and I’m not confirming anything of the sort. But I am saying that the president’s position that all options are on the table might actually have the only real effect on Iran if they — if they think it’s true.

Yes, Mr. President, if you could be a wee bit more credible on the use of military force (by the way, how long ago was it that Obama made any reference to the potential use of force? Was it the campaign?) it would — maybe — give the Iranians pause. But if not, Bibi will do what he must do.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Pay attention to how Obama behaves, not what he says.

Pay attention to the wailing on the left. “For many liberals, this is the summer of their discontent. Already disappointed with President Barack Obama’s ability to deliver on campaign promises, they now contemplate a slowing economic recovery and a good chance of Republican gains in November. Such developments would make enacting Obama’s agenda even more difficult.” It makes you wonder just how low Democratic turnout will be in November.

Pay attention to the circular firing squad — further evidence of the political damage Obama has wreaked on his party. “Democratic governors facing grim budget choices, lingering unemployment and angry voters are pointing a finger at their colleagues in Democratic-controlled Washington to explain this year’s toxic political climate. Few will directly fault President Barack Obama for their party’s plight heading into the fall midterm elections, but the state chief executives gathered here for the National Governors Association meeting believe Congress and the White House have made an already difficult year worse.”

Pay attention to how expectations have been lowered by the White House. Robert Gibbs on Meet the Press: “I think there’s no doubt that there are a lot of seats that will be up, a lot of contested seats. I think people are going to have a choice to make in the fall.  But I think there’s no doubt there are enough seats in play that could cause Republicans to gain control. There’s no doubt about that. This will depend on strong campaigns by Democrats.” Notice how he shifts the onus to Democrats to save themselves from the negative impact of Obama.

Pay attention to the numbers. No matter how negative Obama’s rhetoric becomes, Mark McKinnon explains that: “It may not matter. The Democratic base is just not energized, unmoved by tired clichés and campaign retreads all about looking back. Blaming George W. Bush won’t help. About 132 million people voted in 2008. And if history repeats itself in the upcoming midterm elections, up to 40 million of them won’t show up again. Chances are many were one-time Obama voters.”

Pay attention to George Will on the “peace process”: “The Palestinians are holding out hoping that American pressure will be put on Israel to make concessions that they should be trying to get at the negotiating table, which makes me think that, once again, the peace process itself is the biggest impediment to peace. We’re constantly lecturing the Israelis, for whom getting up in the morning and getting on a bus can be a risk, that they ought to take a risk for peace. The Israelis say, we withdrew from Gaza. What did it get us? Hamas took over. We now have a terrorist state in Gaza armed with all kinds of rockets. We withdrew from southern Lebanon. Now we have Hezbollah dominating that with 65,000 short-range rockets and now scuds coming from Syria that can hit Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.”

Pay attention – always — to Paul. “The mystic mollusc confirmed his flawless accuracy after Spain lifted the trophy, beating Holland 1-0. Paul has become England’s only hero of the tournament after accurately foretelling the result of all six matches involving Germany.”

Pay attention, Republican office holders, to Chris Christie. He’s got the right idea — be bold. “New Jersey would close its centralized car inspection lanes and motorists would pay for their own emissions tests under a sweeping set of recommendations set to be released by the Christie administration today. State parks, psychiatric hospitals and even turnpike toll booths could also be run by private operators, according to the 57-page report on privatization obtained by The Star-Ledger. Preschool classrooms would no longer be built at public expense, state employees would pay for parking and private vendors would dish out food, deliver health care and run education programs behind prison walls. All told, the report says, New Jersey could save at least $210 million a year by delivering an array of services through private hands.”

Pay attention to how Obama behaves, not what he says.

Pay attention to the wailing on the left. “For many liberals, this is the summer of their discontent. Already disappointed with President Barack Obama’s ability to deliver on campaign promises, they now contemplate a slowing economic recovery and a good chance of Republican gains in November. Such developments would make enacting Obama’s agenda even more difficult.” It makes you wonder just how low Democratic turnout will be in November.

Pay attention to the circular firing squad — further evidence of the political damage Obama has wreaked on his party. “Democratic governors facing grim budget choices, lingering unemployment and angry voters are pointing a finger at their colleagues in Democratic-controlled Washington to explain this year’s toxic political climate. Few will directly fault President Barack Obama for their party’s plight heading into the fall midterm elections, but the state chief executives gathered here for the National Governors Association meeting believe Congress and the White House have made an already difficult year worse.”

Pay attention to how expectations have been lowered by the White House. Robert Gibbs on Meet the Press: “I think there’s no doubt that there are a lot of seats that will be up, a lot of contested seats. I think people are going to have a choice to make in the fall.  But I think there’s no doubt there are enough seats in play that could cause Republicans to gain control. There’s no doubt about that. This will depend on strong campaigns by Democrats.” Notice how he shifts the onus to Democrats to save themselves from the negative impact of Obama.

Pay attention to the numbers. No matter how negative Obama’s rhetoric becomes, Mark McKinnon explains that: “It may not matter. The Democratic base is just not energized, unmoved by tired clichés and campaign retreads all about looking back. Blaming George W. Bush won’t help. About 132 million people voted in 2008. And if history repeats itself in the upcoming midterm elections, up to 40 million of them won’t show up again. Chances are many were one-time Obama voters.”

Pay attention to George Will on the “peace process”: “The Palestinians are holding out hoping that American pressure will be put on Israel to make concessions that they should be trying to get at the negotiating table, which makes me think that, once again, the peace process itself is the biggest impediment to peace. We’re constantly lecturing the Israelis, for whom getting up in the morning and getting on a bus can be a risk, that they ought to take a risk for peace. The Israelis say, we withdrew from Gaza. What did it get us? Hamas took over. We now have a terrorist state in Gaza armed with all kinds of rockets. We withdrew from southern Lebanon. Now we have Hezbollah dominating that with 65,000 short-range rockets and now scuds coming from Syria that can hit Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.”

Pay attention – always — to Paul. “The mystic mollusc confirmed his flawless accuracy after Spain lifted the trophy, beating Holland 1-0. Paul has become England’s only hero of the tournament after accurately foretelling the result of all six matches involving Germany.”

Pay attention, Republican office holders, to Chris Christie. He’s got the right idea — be bold. “New Jersey would close its centralized car inspection lanes and motorists would pay for their own emissions tests under a sweeping set of recommendations set to be released by the Christie administration today. State parks, psychiatric hospitals and even turnpike toll booths could also be run by private operators, according to the 57-page report on privatization obtained by The Star-Ledger. Preschool classrooms would no longer be built at public expense, state employees would pay for parking and private vendors would dish out food, deliver health care and run education programs behind prison walls. All told, the report says, New Jersey could save at least $210 million a year by delivering an array of services through private hands.”

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