Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 15, 2010

Obama’s Blame Game

“I tell you, it’s very frustrating that it’s not breaking through, when you look at these things and their scale,” said a top Obama adviser, speaking on background to Politico. “Can you imagine if Bill Clinton had achieved even one of these? Part of it is because we are divided, even on the left. … And part of it is the culture of immediate gratification.”

Let’s see if we can follow the bouncing ball.

First, the White House blamed Obama’s predecessor and the Republicans for everything that is wrong with America, from unemployment to profligate spending to diaper rash. Last November, David Axelrod felt he had to remind people that the president is “not a magician. You don’t with a wave of a wand make everything different.” This past June, President Obama offered the American people this piercing insight: “Even though I’m president of the United States, my power is not limitless.” And now, we are told by top Obama aides that they are frustrated because Obama isn’t getting his proper due. The problem doesn’t have to do with their policies, you see; it has to do with “the culture of immediate gratification.”

How difficult it must be for a demigod to be walking among mere mortals. And how frustrating it must be for Barack the Great to have done so many things so well, for the country to be prospering so much under his stewardship — and yet he doesn’t seem to get any credit for it. The world can be such a thankless and ungrateful place.

The truth is that this is all getting rather pathetic. The Democratic Party is heading for a historical repudiation in November. The White House and the Democrats on Capitol Hill are turning on each other. Obama’s press spokesman, Robert Gibbs, admits that there is “no doubt” the Republicans could regain control of the House, while former Clinton adviser William Galston is predicting that the Democrats may well lose the Senate. “If you ask me where the silver lining is for President Obama, I have to say I cannot see one,” said Galston.

What we are seeing is a president and a White House of unusual — and very nearly otherworldly — hubris being beaten down by events. Reality is slowly crushing the Obama presidency. Its policies are failing, its popularity is sinking, its excuses aren’t working, and its incompetence is showing. Yet the administration appears incapable of admitting – even to itself, even in quiet moments – that it has made mistakes, that it may be wrong, that it may be on the wrong track.

All of this, in turn, is creating considerable cognitive dissonance among Obama, his advisers, and many of his supporters. They cannot deny they are in trouble; but they continue to deny they are responsible for causing any of it. So the fault lies with Bush, or the Republicans, or the ridiculously high expectations of the public, or divisions within the Democratic Party, or with the “culture of immediate gratification.”

What President Obama desperately needs is someone with standing in his life to intervene – to say to him that the fault, dear Barack, lies not with our stars but rather with yourself and with your policies.

I rather doubt this will happen; and even if it did, I rather doubt Obama would accept any part of the critique. He is a man, after all, who sees himself as a world historical figure, as America’s philosopher-king, as Socrates on the Potomac. It is not simply that he doesn’t seem able to see his own flaws and shortcomings; it is as if he could not even process the possibility that they exist.

This is not going to end well.

“I tell you, it’s very frustrating that it’s not breaking through, when you look at these things and their scale,” said a top Obama adviser, speaking on background to Politico. “Can you imagine if Bill Clinton had achieved even one of these? Part of it is because we are divided, even on the left. … And part of it is the culture of immediate gratification.”

Let’s see if we can follow the bouncing ball.

First, the White House blamed Obama’s predecessor and the Republicans for everything that is wrong with America, from unemployment to profligate spending to diaper rash. Last November, David Axelrod felt he had to remind people that the president is “not a magician. You don’t with a wave of a wand make everything different.” This past June, President Obama offered the American people this piercing insight: “Even though I’m president of the United States, my power is not limitless.” And now, we are told by top Obama aides that they are frustrated because Obama isn’t getting his proper due. The problem doesn’t have to do with their policies, you see; it has to do with “the culture of immediate gratification.”

How difficult it must be for a demigod to be walking among mere mortals. And how frustrating it must be for Barack the Great to have done so many things so well, for the country to be prospering so much under his stewardship — and yet he doesn’t seem to get any credit for it. The world can be such a thankless and ungrateful place.

The truth is that this is all getting rather pathetic. The Democratic Party is heading for a historical repudiation in November. The White House and the Democrats on Capitol Hill are turning on each other. Obama’s press spokesman, Robert Gibbs, admits that there is “no doubt” the Republicans could regain control of the House, while former Clinton adviser William Galston is predicting that the Democrats may well lose the Senate. “If you ask me where the silver lining is for President Obama, I have to say I cannot see one,” said Galston.

What we are seeing is a president and a White House of unusual — and very nearly otherworldly — hubris being beaten down by events. Reality is slowly crushing the Obama presidency. Its policies are failing, its popularity is sinking, its excuses aren’t working, and its incompetence is showing. Yet the administration appears incapable of admitting – even to itself, even in quiet moments – that it has made mistakes, that it may be wrong, that it may be on the wrong track.

All of this, in turn, is creating considerable cognitive dissonance among Obama, his advisers, and many of his supporters. They cannot deny they are in trouble; but they continue to deny they are responsible for causing any of it. So the fault lies with Bush, or the Republicans, or the ridiculously high expectations of the public, or divisions within the Democratic Party, or with the “culture of immediate gratification.”

What President Obama desperately needs is someone with standing in his life to intervene – to say to him that the fault, dear Barack, lies not with our stars but rather with yourself and with your policies.

I rather doubt this will happen; and even if it did, I rather doubt Obama would accept any part of the critique. He is a man, after all, who sees himself as a world historical figure, as America’s philosopher-king, as Socrates on the Potomac. It is not simply that he doesn’t seem able to see his own flaws and shortcomings; it is as if he could not even process the possibility that they exist.

This is not going to end well.

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Snatching Back the “Pro-Israel” Label

Shmuel Rosner’s interview with ECI’s executive director, Noah Pollak, makes for an interesting read. The two opening questions deserve special attention:

1. Do we really need another pro-Israel advocacy group? haven’t the Jewish people suffered enough?

We will not rest until there is a pro-Israel group representing every pro-Israel person on earth.

2. What is the difference between the Committee and other pro-Israeli groups — like J Street?

Well, for starters, ECI is pro-Israel. Our purpose is to address three major threats to the U.S.-Israel alliance in the context of the American political debate: the Iranian nuclear program and Iran’s sponsorship of terrorist groups; the campaign to delegitimize and isolate Israel; and the hostility of the Obama administration to the traditional closeness of the two nations. At bottom, we believe that the turn against Israel is a rejection of America’s special role in the world as a defender of liberal democracies. We will do great damage to our own national soul if we allow ourselves to become cynical participants in the international lynching of the Jewish state.

Rosner’s second question assumes facts not in evidence – indeed, contradicts available evidence — in stating that J Street is “pro-Israel.” Indeed, it is the new-found attention on the distinction between the ECI and groups like J Street, which have adopted that moniker (except when on college campuses or when it makes leftists uncomfortable), that has rankled the self-proclaimed liberal Zionists (not to mention the out-and-out unhinged Israel-haters). What is at issue here is essentially a definitional question: what does it mean to be “pro-Israel”?

Until recently, it was easy. Pro-Israel advocates and lawmakers supported financial aid and military support for Israel. They condemned declarations like “Zionism is racism” and pushed for face-to-face negotiations seeking a two-state peace deal. There was no nuclear-armed Iran on the horizon. There had not been a withdrawal from Lebanon followed by war or a withdrawal from Gaza followed by war. A two-state solution seemed obtainable and foreseeable. Self-proclaimed pro-Israel advocates didn’t doubt that Israel had a right to defend itself (in theory and in practice) or that it could investigate by itself incidents that raised concerns.

Yes, it seems a lifetime ago. Now, groups like J Street, which hold views and use rhetoric virtually indistinguishable from Israel’s worst enemies (e.g., opposition to strong sanctions against the mullahs, acquiescence to — if not support for — the Goldstone Report, condemnation of the Gaza operation and of Israel’s conduct in the flotilla incident, support for American bashing of Israel’s housing policies, division of the Old City), say they too are “pro-Israel.”

The ECI as well as the Friends of Israel Initiative have sprung up in protest and, in essence, are helping to set parameters for what pro-Israel advocacy looks and sounds like. It’s not hosting the Leveretts at your convention. It’s not cheering the prospect of an imposed peace deal. It’s not throwing sand in the wheels of a last-ditch effort to thwart Iran’s nuclear plans by economic sanctions. It’s not applauding when Obama condemns a routine housing permit in Jerusalem.

The Friends of Israel Initiative helps out by listing its broadly defined convictions, which provide some boundaries in the debate about what it means to be pro-Israel. One of them reads as follows:

Israel, as a sovereign country, has the right to self-defense. Israel is indeed a normal Western country, but it is one which faces unique threats and challenges. Israel is the only state in the world forced to fight one war after another to secure its very existence. Confronting some of the most violent and well equipped terrorist groups in the world it is also the only country whose right to self-defense is consistently and widely questioned. Today, Israel has been forced to fight on two fronts: one to defend its borders and another to defend its legitimacy. We stand with Israel, and demand that it be accorded the same legitimacy and the same right to defend itself as any other Western country. Human rights statutes designed to defend the dignity of people everywhere, laws on universal jurisdiction intended to be used against criminals and tyrants and international bodies established to secure justice, have been subverted, their guiding principles stood on their head, to wage war against Israeli democracy. The campaign against Israel is corroding the international system from within.

How does J Street measure up on that score? You can see why the left has gone bonkers. In short, their cover is being blown.

It’s not — at least not yet — acceptable to call oneself “anti-Israel,” so they’ve absconded with the “pro-Israel” label and sought to redefine it. The ECI and the Friends of Israel Initiative are grabbing the label back and calling foul. No wonder some not-all-that-pro-Israel politicians, groups, and pundits are upset. Now, isn’t that the most definitive sign that the new pro-Israel kids on the block are having an impact?

Shmuel Rosner’s interview with ECI’s executive director, Noah Pollak, makes for an interesting read. The two opening questions deserve special attention:

1. Do we really need another pro-Israel advocacy group? haven’t the Jewish people suffered enough?

We will not rest until there is a pro-Israel group representing every pro-Israel person on earth.

2. What is the difference between the Committee and other pro-Israeli groups — like J Street?

Well, for starters, ECI is pro-Israel. Our purpose is to address three major threats to the U.S.-Israel alliance in the context of the American political debate: the Iranian nuclear program and Iran’s sponsorship of terrorist groups; the campaign to delegitimize and isolate Israel; and the hostility of the Obama administration to the traditional closeness of the two nations. At bottom, we believe that the turn against Israel is a rejection of America’s special role in the world as a defender of liberal democracies. We will do great damage to our own national soul if we allow ourselves to become cynical participants in the international lynching of the Jewish state.

Rosner’s second question assumes facts not in evidence – indeed, contradicts available evidence — in stating that J Street is “pro-Israel.” Indeed, it is the new-found attention on the distinction between the ECI and groups like J Street, which have adopted that moniker (except when on college campuses or when it makes leftists uncomfortable), that has rankled the self-proclaimed liberal Zionists (not to mention the out-and-out unhinged Israel-haters). What is at issue here is essentially a definitional question: what does it mean to be “pro-Israel”?

Until recently, it was easy. Pro-Israel advocates and lawmakers supported financial aid and military support for Israel. They condemned declarations like “Zionism is racism” and pushed for face-to-face negotiations seeking a two-state peace deal. There was no nuclear-armed Iran on the horizon. There had not been a withdrawal from Lebanon followed by war or a withdrawal from Gaza followed by war. A two-state solution seemed obtainable and foreseeable. Self-proclaimed pro-Israel advocates didn’t doubt that Israel had a right to defend itself (in theory and in practice) or that it could investigate by itself incidents that raised concerns.

Yes, it seems a lifetime ago. Now, groups like J Street, which hold views and use rhetoric virtually indistinguishable from Israel’s worst enemies (e.g., opposition to strong sanctions against the mullahs, acquiescence to — if not support for — the Goldstone Report, condemnation of the Gaza operation and of Israel’s conduct in the flotilla incident, support for American bashing of Israel’s housing policies, division of the Old City), say they too are “pro-Israel.”

The ECI as well as the Friends of Israel Initiative have sprung up in protest and, in essence, are helping to set parameters for what pro-Israel advocacy looks and sounds like. It’s not hosting the Leveretts at your convention. It’s not cheering the prospect of an imposed peace deal. It’s not throwing sand in the wheels of a last-ditch effort to thwart Iran’s nuclear plans by economic sanctions. It’s not applauding when Obama condemns a routine housing permit in Jerusalem.

The Friends of Israel Initiative helps out by listing its broadly defined convictions, which provide some boundaries in the debate about what it means to be pro-Israel. One of them reads as follows:

Israel, as a sovereign country, has the right to self-defense. Israel is indeed a normal Western country, but it is one which faces unique threats and challenges. Israel is the only state in the world forced to fight one war after another to secure its very existence. Confronting some of the most violent and well equipped terrorist groups in the world it is also the only country whose right to self-defense is consistently and widely questioned. Today, Israel has been forced to fight on two fronts: one to defend its borders and another to defend its legitimacy. We stand with Israel, and demand that it be accorded the same legitimacy and the same right to defend itself as any other Western country. Human rights statutes designed to defend the dignity of people everywhere, laws on universal jurisdiction intended to be used against criminals and tyrants and international bodies established to secure justice, have been subverted, their guiding principles stood on their head, to wage war against Israeli democracy. The campaign against Israel is corroding the international system from within.

How does J Street measure up on that score? You can see why the left has gone bonkers. In short, their cover is being blown.

It’s not — at least not yet — acceptable to call oneself “anti-Israel,” so they’ve absconded with the “pro-Israel” label and sought to redefine it. The ECI and the Friends of Israel Initiative are grabbing the label back and calling foul. No wonder some not-all-that-pro-Israel politicians, groups, and pundits are upset. Now, isn’t that the most definitive sign that the new pro-Israel kids on the block are having an impact?

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Reid Betting on People Forgetting His Record

Senator Harry Reid says Republicans are “betting on failure” when it comes to the economy. In fact, the GOP believes Obama’s policies are wrong and are contributing rather than reversing our economic decline. So far the evidence seems to be in their favor.

In any event, it’s worth reminding people that this is the same Harry Reid who, in April 2007, declared that the Iraq war was “lost” and insisted that “the surge is not accomplishing anything.” In fact, as we now know, the war was not lost. We were actually beginning to see some progress when Reid made his comments. And the surge has been a remarkable military success. I documented the sorry record of Reid and other liberals here.

But it’s worth emphasizing again: how Harry Reid and virtually his entire party conducted themselves during that period — continuing to insist the war was lost and the surge was a failure even after we were seeing undeniable progress is Iraq — remains one of the more disgraceful things we have seen in American politics. If Reid had his way, the Iraq war would have been lost, with horrible geopolitical and human consequences. To watch him now complain about Republicans’ “betting on failure” is hypocritical and, given his record, laughable.

Senator Harry Reid says Republicans are “betting on failure” when it comes to the economy. In fact, the GOP believes Obama’s policies are wrong and are contributing rather than reversing our economic decline. So far the evidence seems to be in their favor.

In any event, it’s worth reminding people that this is the same Harry Reid who, in April 2007, declared that the Iraq war was “lost” and insisted that “the surge is not accomplishing anything.” In fact, as we now know, the war was not lost. We were actually beginning to see some progress when Reid made his comments. And the surge has been a remarkable military success. I documented the sorry record of Reid and other liberals here.

But it’s worth emphasizing again: how Harry Reid and virtually his entire party conducted themselves during that period — continuing to insist the war was lost and the surge was a failure even after we were seeing undeniable progress is Iraq — remains one of the more disgraceful things we have seen in American politics. If Reid had his way, the Iraq war would have been lost, with horrible geopolitical and human consequences. To watch him now complain about Republicans’ “betting on failure” is hypocritical and, given his record, laughable.

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Slip-Sliding away — the Senate Majority, That Is

House Democrats are in frantic mode. Soon, Senate Democrats will be. From the Cook Political Report (subscription required), Jennifer Duffy writes that Carly Fiorina will have to overcome questions about her leadership of Hewlitt Packard but is one tough candidate:

She defends her role and actions at H-P, arguing that she did what needed to be done to position the company in the wake of the dot com bust and for the challenges ahead. The fact that H-P is doing well today would seem to support her case, but it is not a story that Fiorina tells in enough detail on the stump to take the wind out of the opposition’s argument. Instead, Fiorina prefers to focus on Boxer. She questions what the incumbent has actually accomplished in her nearly 18-year tenure in the Senate, and is critical of Boxer’s voting record, saying that she often votes against California’s economic interests. Fiorina believes that the stimulus package, which Boxer touts as a grand success for California, has been a failure that has not produced the promised jobs. She also takes aim at Boxer’s positions on the environment and her stewardship as chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Recently, she has said that Boxer hasn’t done enough to ease the water crisis in the state’s Central Valley, accusing Boxer of caring more about protecting the endangered Delta smelt than about getting water to the state’s farmers and creating jobs. Fiorina also takes aim at Boxer’s record on national security, which was the subject of the last television ad she ran before the primary.

It is interesting that, in a year when many candidates are ignoring foreign policy, Fiorina is highlighting it. (“This marriage of national security and domestic policy may become a staple of Fiorina’s argument against Boxer, as will numerous other statements Boxer has made over the years that Republicans contend portray Boxer as out of touch and arrogant.”) Accordingly, the California race is moved to toss-up status.

Then there is Wisconsin:

Democratic incumbent Russ Feingold and his chief Republican challenger Ron Johnson remain locked in a neck-and-neck battle for the U.S. Senate in Wisconsin.The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Wisconsin finds Johnson with 47% support, while the Democrat earns 46% of the vote.

It is as if the entire political playing field is tipped, and everything not anchored is sliding to one side. And consider if the turnout models are underestimating Republican enthusiasm. Why, then, the field tips at an even steeper angle.

Democrats have been assuring themselves that there would be a point at which the polls reverse course and their prospects brighten. Maybe that’s so. But they are running out of time.

House Democrats are in frantic mode. Soon, Senate Democrats will be. From the Cook Political Report (subscription required), Jennifer Duffy writes that Carly Fiorina will have to overcome questions about her leadership of Hewlitt Packard but is one tough candidate:

She defends her role and actions at H-P, arguing that she did what needed to be done to position the company in the wake of the dot com bust and for the challenges ahead. The fact that H-P is doing well today would seem to support her case, but it is not a story that Fiorina tells in enough detail on the stump to take the wind out of the opposition’s argument. Instead, Fiorina prefers to focus on Boxer. She questions what the incumbent has actually accomplished in her nearly 18-year tenure in the Senate, and is critical of Boxer’s voting record, saying that she often votes against California’s economic interests. Fiorina believes that the stimulus package, which Boxer touts as a grand success for California, has been a failure that has not produced the promised jobs. She also takes aim at Boxer’s positions on the environment and her stewardship as chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Recently, she has said that Boxer hasn’t done enough to ease the water crisis in the state’s Central Valley, accusing Boxer of caring more about protecting the endangered Delta smelt than about getting water to the state’s farmers and creating jobs. Fiorina also takes aim at Boxer’s record on national security, which was the subject of the last television ad she ran before the primary.

It is interesting that, in a year when many candidates are ignoring foreign policy, Fiorina is highlighting it. (“This marriage of national security and domestic policy may become a staple of Fiorina’s argument against Boxer, as will numerous other statements Boxer has made over the years that Republicans contend portray Boxer as out of touch and arrogant.”) Accordingly, the California race is moved to toss-up status.

Then there is Wisconsin:

Democratic incumbent Russ Feingold and his chief Republican challenger Ron Johnson remain locked in a neck-and-neck battle for the U.S. Senate in Wisconsin.The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Wisconsin finds Johnson with 47% support, while the Democrat earns 46% of the vote.

It is as if the entire political playing field is tipped, and everything not anchored is sliding to one side. And consider if the turnout models are underestimating Republican enthusiasm. Why, then, the field tips at an even steeper angle.

Democrats have been assuring themselves that there would be a point at which the polls reverse course and their prospects brighten. Maybe that’s so. But they are running out of time.

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The Theoretical Right to Exist

British author, think-tanker, and generally indispensable agitator Douglas Murray gives a rather brilliant interview to Ilan Evyatar in today’s Jerusalem Post. Here’s Murray on England’s leadership and Israel’s right to exist:

They consistently speak about such a right in theory, but whenever in practice, whether it’s Gaza or the flotilla, they don’t, and they condemn Israel on it. I hate reverting to 1930s quotes, because I don’t think history is an endless lesson of repeating the 1930s, but you know [Winston] Churchill’s famous description of an appeaser as someone who feeds the crocodile and hopes it will eat him last. Some major leader has to explain in relation to Israel and Britain that this crocodile would eat us next, not last. Therefore it would be a very very stupid thing, for your own security, as well as your own sense of what’s morally right, to keep sacrificing Israel in this way.

Murray is just as eloquent on university education, immigration, and welfare. The interview is, in its entirety, a must-read.

British author, think-tanker, and generally indispensable agitator Douglas Murray gives a rather brilliant interview to Ilan Evyatar in today’s Jerusalem Post. Here’s Murray on England’s leadership and Israel’s right to exist:

They consistently speak about such a right in theory, but whenever in practice, whether it’s Gaza or the flotilla, they don’t, and they condemn Israel on it. I hate reverting to 1930s quotes, because I don’t think history is an endless lesson of repeating the 1930s, but you know [Winston] Churchill’s famous description of an appeaser as someone who feeds the crocodile and hopes it will eat him last. Some major leader has to explain in relation to Israel and Britain that this crocodile would eat us next, not last. Therefore it would be a very very stupid thing, for your own security, as well as your own sense of what’s morally right, to keep sacrificing Israel in this way.

Murray is just as eloquent on university education, immigration, and welfare. The interview is, in its entirety, a must-read.

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What Could the Democrats Do to Save Themselves?

House Democrats have figured out that they are in deep trouble. Screaming at the White House may be therapeutic, but it’s not helping matters. That raises the question — what would?

They could, for starters, declare a moratorium on any tax hikes — including those in ObamaCare and the expiration of the Bush tax cuts. That would show some independence of mind and recognition that, in fact, Obamanomics isn’t working.

They could cut a break to their House and Senate colleagues from energy producing states, by taking cap-and-trade off the table. In fact, declare a freeze on all new regulation — including the financial-reform bill — until unemployment goes below 5 percent.

On national security, they can take some issues off the table. A resolution declaring U.S. support for Israel in the event of the latter using military force against Iran is needed to defang the mullahs. Pass a “Keep America Safe” (where have I heard that phrase?) bill to prohibit the transfer of Guantanamo prisoners and the trial of any detainee in federal court. Address the underfunding of missile defense.

Now, would any or all of these measures stem the wave threatening to wash them out of power? Well, it might save a bunch of them, and point the way toward a viable agenda for the remaining two years of Obama’s term. That none of this is remotely under consideration tells you how far left the Democrats have veered and why they are in such trouble.

House Democrats have figured out that they are in deep trouble. Screaming at the White House may be therapeutic, but it’s not helping matters. That raises the question — what would?

They could, for starters, declare a moratorium on any tax hikes — including those in ObamaCare and the expiration of the Bush tax cuts. That would show some independence of mind and recognition that, in fact, Obamanomics isn’t working.

They could cut a break to their House and Senate colleagues from energy producing states, by taking cap-and-trade off the table. In fact, declare a freeze on all new regulation — including the financial-reform bill — until unemployment goes below 5 percent.

On national security, they can take some issues off the table. A resolution declaring U.S. support for Israel in the event of the latter using military force against Iran is needed to defang the mullahs. Pass a “Keep America Safe” (where have I heard that phrase?) bill to prohibit the transfer of Guantanamo prisoners and the trial of any detainee in federal court. Address the underfunding of missile defense.

Now, would any or all of these measures stem the wave threatening to wash them out of power? Well, it might save a bunch of them, and point the way toward a viable agenda for the remaining two years of Obama’s term. That none of this is remotely under consideration tells you how far left the Democrats have veered and why they are in such trouble.

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Where Is Mahmoud Abbas’s Bir Zeit Speech?

As Jen notes, Elliott Abrams identified the critical issue in the “peace process” — the character of the Palestinian state, not simply its borders.

Israel — having withdrawn completely from Lebanon and Gaza only to face rockets from new forward positions and two new wars — is not about to agree to a Palestinian state that is not demilitarized, with borders and other arrangements that enable Israel to defend itself, or that does not formally recognize a Jewish state and an end of claims. Anything less would simply reposition the parties for a third war. But even these two conditions are more than the peace-partner Palestinians are willing to accept.

At the Council on Foreign Relations last week, Richard Haass questioned Netanyahu about his insistence on Palestinian recognition of a Jewish state: “Why can’t they secretly harbor a goal that Israel will disappear so long as they don’t pursue those goals with violent means?” Here was a portion of Netanyahu’s response:

What is the true, underlying source of this conflict? It is not Israel’s possession of the territories, even though it is widely held to be that issue. It’s certainly an issue that has to be resolved, and I’m prepared to resolve it, but if you really understand the source of this conflict, it actually goes back to 1920. The first attack against the Jewish presence took place in 1920, and it continued in the 1930s, continued in the great upheavals; obviously, in 1948 in the combined Arab attack against the embryonic Jewish state; continued in the Fedayeen attacks in the 1950s, continued with the creation of the Fatah and the PLO before 1967.

So it actually ranged from 1920 till 1967. That’s nearly 50 years before there was a single Israeli soldier in the territories in Judea, Samaria or the West Bank, before there was a single Israeli settlement. Why did it go on for half a century? Because there was an opposition to a Jewish sovereignty in any border, in any shape, in any form. …

Now, the more moderate Palestinian Arab elements, they don’t talk about liquidating Israel, they don’t talk about firing rockets, and they’re different from Hamas. But they don’t say, we’ll end the conflict. They don’t say, Israel will be here to stay. They don’t say, we recognize the Jewish state of Israel and it’s over. …

They have to openly say it, not for our sake but for the sake of actually persuading their people to make the great psychological change for peace. I’ve said it. I’ve stood before my people and before my constituency and I said what my vision of peace includes, and I did that not without some consequence, I can tell you that. But this is what leaders have to do. They have to educate their people. …

I’d like President Abbas to make, if not his Bar-Ilan speech, I’d like to hear the Bir Zeit speech in which he says these things very clearly.

The peace process is conducted by the Palestinians in English for the benefit of ever-credulous peace processors, and things are said that are not repeated to the Palestinian public or reported in the PA-controlled media. But even in English, the Palestinians will not accept the minimal conditions of a bona fide process.

As Jen’s e-mail correspondent notes, only a bottom-up approach can ever succeed, and no such approach is possible until Palestinian leaders make the minimal public concessions necessary to start it. Abbas needs to make his Bir Zeit speech, and make it in Arabic.

As Jen notes, Elliott Abrams identified the critical issue in the “peace process” — the character of the Palestinian state, not simply its borders.

Israel — having withdrawn completely from Lebanon and Gaza only to face rockets from new forward positions and two new wars — is not about to agree to a Palestinian state that is not demilitarized, with borders and other arrangements that enable Israel to defend itself, or that does not formally recognize a Jewish state and an end of claims. Anything less would simply reposition the parties for a third war. But even these two conditions are more than the peace-partner Palestinians are willing to accept.

At the Council on Foreign Relations last week, Richard Haass questioned Netanyahu about his insistence on Palestinian recognition of a Jewish state: “Why can’t they secretly harbor a goal that Israel will disappear so long as they don’t pursue those goals with violent means?” Here was a portion of Netanyahu’s response:

What is the true, underlying source of this conflict? It is not Israel’s possession of the territories, even though it is widely held to be that issue. It’s certainly an issue that has to be resolved, and I’m prepared to resolve it, but if you really understand the source of this conflict, it actually goes back to 1920. The first attack against the Jewish presence took place in 1920, and it continued in the 1930s, continued in the great upheavals; obviously, in 1948 in the combined Arab attack against the embryonic Jewish state; continued in the Fedayeen attacks in the 1950s, continued with the creation of the Fatah and the PLO before 1967.

So it actually ranged from 1920 till 1967. That’s nearly 50 years before there was a single Israeli soldier in the territories in Judea, Samaria or the West Bank, before there was a single Israeli settlement. Why did it go on for half a century? Because there was an opposition to a Jewish sovereignty in any border, in any shape, in any form. …

Now, the more moderate Palestinian Arab elements, they don’t talk about liquidating Israel, they don’t talk about firing rockets, and they’re different from Hamas. But they don’t say, we’ll end the conflict. They don’t say, Israel will be here to stay. They don’t say, we recognize the Jewish state of Israel and it’s over. …

They have to openly say it, not for our sake but for the sake of actually persuading their people to make the great psychological change for peace. I’ve said it. I’ve stood before my people and before my constituency and I said what my vision of peace includes, and I did that not without some consequence, I can tell you that. But this is what leaders have to do. They have to educate their people. …

I’d like President Abbas to make, if not his Bar-Ilan speech, I’d like to hear the Bir Zeit speech in which he says these things very clearly.

The peace process is conducted by the Palestinians in English for the benefit of ever-credulous peace processors, and things are said that are not repeated to the Palestinian public or reported in the PA-controlled media. But even in English, the Palestinians will not accept the minimal conditions of a bona fide process.

As Jen’s e-mail correspondent notes, only a bottom-up approach can ever succeed, and no such approach is possible until Palestinian leaders make the minimal public concessions necessary to start it. Abbas needs to make his Bir Zeit speech, and make it in Arabic.

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It’s OK to Say No to Obama

Business leaders, as I’ve noted, have started awakening from the dream of a productive relationship with the White House. Now, they aren’t even going through the charade of cordiality:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday rejected a request from top White House adviser Valerie Jarrett to speak at a jobs summit hosted by the business group, the latest escalation in an ongoing war between the two camps.

“We would have loved to have gone and participated. We weren’t invited. In fact we were told not to come,” Jarrett said, during an interview on Bloomberg Television.

Chamber officials said Jarrett requested that she be allowed to address their gathering, a several-hour long “Jobs for America Summit,” on Wednesday morning, a few hours before the event began. They said the program was too full to fit her in.

At the summit, Chamber President and CEO Thomas Donahue railed against President Obama’s economic policies. “Our current economic direction is not working,” Donahue said. Donahue said that Obama’s health care and financial regulation initiatives are onerous to the point that the Americans will lose freedoms unique to the country.

“Taken collectively, the regulatory activity now underway is so overwhelming and beyond anything we have ever seen, that we risk moving this country away from a government of the people to a government of regulators,” Donahue said.

Donahue balanced this by denying that Obama is anti-business, continuing the Chamber’s habit of avoiding public statements that are openly hostile to the White House. “I don’t believe the administration is anti-business. I believe the administration has a series of views of what they ought to do about social programs such as health care and environment issues,” he said.

Well, bravo! There is no rule requiring a group whose interests Obama has consistently undermined to extend an open hand to him or to afford a photo op to the very officials doing the undermining. In fact, only in Washington would it not seem like rank hypocrisy, both for the host and the guest. Now, the group may, if it wishes, open its doors with the hope that the administration might be more forthcoming. But if experience has consistently demonstrated that this is fruitless, why do it?

Donahue is also smart to go after what Obama has done rather than quibble about assigning him to a label. Obama’s anti-business moves are so extensive that to merely list them is sufficient and compelling.

Obama’s declining political standing has had a positive, immediate effect: there is a new outbreak of candor among interest groups. Establishment Jewish groups should take note. It’s fine to stand up to Obama — everyone is doing it!

Business leaders, as I’ve noted, have started awakening from the dream of a productive relationship with the White House. Now, they aren’t even going through the charade of cordiality:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday rejected a request from top White House adviser Valerie Jarrett to speak at a jobs summit hosted by the business group, the latest escalation in an ongoing war between the two camps.

“We would have loved to have gone and participated. We weren’t invited. In fact we were told not to come,” Jarrett said, during an interview on Bloomberg Television.

Chamber officials said Jarrett requested that she be allowed to address their gathering, a several-hour long “Jobs for America Summit,” on Wednesday morning, a few hours before the event began. They said the program was too full to fit her in.

At the summit, Chamber President and CEO Thomas Donahue railed against President Obama’s economic policies. “Our current economic direction is not working,” Donahue said. Donahue said that Obama’s health care and financial regulation initiatives are onerous to the point that the Americans will lose freedoms unique to the country.

“Taken collectively, the regulatory activity now underway is so overwhelming and beyond anything we have ever seen, that we risk moving this country away from a government of the people to a government of regulators,” Donahue said.

Donahue balanced this by denying that Obama is anti-business, continuing the Chamber’s habit of avoiding public statements that are openly hostile to the White House. “I don’t believe the administration is anti-business. I believe the administration has a series of views of what they ought to do about social programs such as health care and environment issues,” he said.

Well, bravo! There is no rule requiring a group whose interests Obama has consistently undermined to extend an open hand to him or to afford a photo op to the very officials doing the undermining. In fact, only in Washington would it not seem like rank hypocrisy, both for the host and the guest. Now, the group may, if it wishes, open its doors with the hope that the administration might be more forthcoming. But if experience has consistently demonstrated that this is fruitless, why do it?

Donahue is also smart to go after what Obama has done rather than quibble about assigning him to a label. Obama’s anti-business moves are so extensive that to merely list them is sufficient and compelling.

Obama’s declining political standing has had a positive, immediate effect: there is a new outbreak of candor among interest groups. Establishment Jewish groups should take note. It’s fine to stand up to Obama — everyone is doing it!

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RE: Why the Peace Process Is a Farce

A longtime COMMENTARY reader and keen observer of Mideast politics e-mails in response to my observation that “it would be helpful if both the administration and Jewish groups were frank about the central reason why the Palestinians have no state: they don’t want to give up killing Jews.” She writes: “It’s not that they don’t want to give up killing Jews — or not that they JUST don’t want to give up killing Jews — it’s that they refuse to give up their dream of a ‘Palestinian state’ stretching from the Mediterranean to the Jordan, from Rosh HaNikrah to Eilat, with Jerusalem as the Muslim-only capital.” Exactly true.

So every part of  “the peace process culminating in a two-state solution” mantra is nonsense. As for the “peace,” the Palestinians are not renouncing violence; they are inciting it. The “process” consists of George Mitchell shuttling back and forth between a democratic government and a Palestinian negotiation team that lacks the will or authority to make a binding peace deal. And the two-state solution is no solution at all. From the Palestinian perspective, the conflict will not end with a return to defensible borders for Israel or to the 1967 boundaries or to any other contrived demarcation, but only when the uber-Palestinian state is a reality.

A scholar from a D.C. think tank specializing in Palestinian politics spoke at my shul last week. He summed up the situation: “There is no top-down solution or bottom-up solution in sight.” That’s right. The bottom up — the only viable approach — is going to take a very long time. The sooner we stop the counterproductive top-down approach, the better. The Palestinians have years of work ahead of them.

A longtime COMMENTARY reader and keen observer of Mideast politics e-mails in response to my observation that “it would be helpful if both the administration and Jewish groups were frank about the central reason why the Palestinians have no state: they don’t want to give up killing Jews.” She writes: “It’s not that they don’t want to give up killing Jews — or not that they JUST don’t want to give up killing Jews — it’s that they refuse to give up their dream of a ‘Palestinian state’ stretching from the Mediterranean to the Jordan, from Rosh HaNikrah to Eilat, with Jerusalem as the Muslim-only capital.” Exactly true.

So every part of  “the peace process culminating in a two-state solution” mantra is nonsense. As for the “peace,” the Palestinians are not renouncing violence; they are inciting it. The “process” consists of George Mitchell shuttling back and forth between a democratic government and a Palestinian negotiation team that lacks the will or authority to make a binding peace deal. And the two-state solution is no solution at all. From the Palestinian perspective, the conflict will not end with a return to defensible borders for Israel or to the 1967 boundaries or to any other contrived demarcation, but only when the uber-Palestinian state is a reality.

A scholar from a D.C. think tank specializing in Palestinian politics spoke at my shul last week. He summed up the situation: “There is no top-down solution or bottom-up solution in sight.” That’s right. The bottom up — the only viable approach — is going to take a very long time. The sooner we stop the counterproductive top-down approach, the better. The Palestinians have years of work ahead of them.

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For Once, Israel’s Knesset Does Its Job

Israel’s Knesset took two important steps yesterday. First, a committee forwarded a bill to the plenum for final reading that, if passed, would for the first time subject territorial concessions to real ratification requirements. Second, the plenum gave preliminary approval to a bill that would, for the first time, impose sanctions on those who promote anti-Israel boycotts.

The boycott bill, which will now proceed to committee, would make Israelis who “instigate,” “encourage,” or “assist” boycotts against Israel or Israeli institutions subject to fines of up to NIS 30,000 even if no damage is proved, and more if damage is proved. Foreigners or foreign entities that do the same could be barred from the country and denied the right to use Israeli banks, land, or stocks. The bill would also allow boycott damages to be deducted from Israel’s remittances to the Palestinian Authority should the latter continue promoting anti-Israel boycotts.

The bill, co-sponsored by 27 MKs from seven parties, is modeled on America’s anti-boycott laws. Ironically, those laws were passed in the 1970s in response to the Arab boycott of Israel. But at that time, Israel saw no need to imitate them: what Israeli then would have promoted a boycott of his own country?

It is a sad comment that today such a law is necessary, as Israelis are at the forefront of the anti-Israel boycott movement. Nevertheless, it’s encouraging that mainstream Israel is finally fighting back: if enacted, boycott promoters would finally be forced to weigh the acclaim and lucrative awards their behavior wins from like-minded peers abroad against a real price.

The other bill would require that any withdrawal from territory annexed by Israel be approved by either a referendum or a special two-thirds Knesset majority. Currently, such concessions need approval by a mere 61 members of the 120-member Knesset.

That the bill applies only to annexed territory is a flaw; that means it covers the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem but not the West Bank. Moreover, it has a dangerous loophole: the referendum could be waived if elections are held within six months, as the election would be seen as a referendum. That is problematic, because any new government would assuredly come under enormous international pressure to approve the concession, and there would be no referendum to stop it. Nevertheless, the bill would significantly improve the existing situation.

Unnamed “sources close to” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he will work to delay the bill’s final reading for “as long as possible.” But the truth is that successive governments all opposed the bill; none of them liked the idea that they could no longer make any agreement they saw fit, with no need to muster widespread popular support. It has nevertheless steadily advanced over the course of two Knessets, with support from both coalition and opposition MKs.

Thus I predict it will ultimately pass this final hurdle too. And Israel’s democratic system will only benefit from ensuring that future withdrawals enjoy strong popular support instead of passing, as previous ones have, by razor-thin majorities that tear the country apart.

Israel’s Knesset took two important steps yesterday. First, a committee forwarded a bill to the plenum for final reading that, if passed, would for the first time subject territorial concessions to real ratification requirements. Second, the plenum gave preliminary approval to a bill that would, for the first time, impose sanctions on those who promote anti-Israel boycotts.

The boycott bill, which will now proceed to committee, would make Israelis who “instigate,” “encourage,” or “assist” boycotts against Israel or Israeli institutions subject to fines of up to NIS 30,000 even if no damage is proved, and more if damage is proved. Foreigners or foreign entities that do the same could be barred from the country and denied the right to use Israeli banks, land, or stocks. The bill would also allow boycott damages to be deducted from Israel’s remittances to the Palestinian Authority should the latter continue promoting anti-Israel boycotts.

The bill, co-sponsored by 27 MKs from seven parties, is modeled on America’s anti-boycott laws. Ironically, those laws were passed in the 1970s in response to the Arab boycott of Israel. But at that time, Israel saw no need to imitate them: what Israeli then would have promoted a boycott of his own country?

It is a sad comment that today such a law is necessary, as Israelis are at the forefront of the anti-Israel boycott movement. Nevertheless, it’s encouraging that mainstream Israel is finally fighting back: if enacted, boycott promoters would finally be forced to weigh the acclaim and lucrative awards their behavior wins from like-minded peers abroad against a real price.

The other bill would require that any withdrawal from territory annexed by Israel be approved by either a referendum or a special two-thirds Knesset majority. Currently, such concessions need approval by a mere 61 members of the 120-member Knesset.

That the bill applies only to annexed territory is a flaw; that means it covers the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem but not the West Bank. Moreover, it has a dangerous loophole: the referendum could be waived if elections are held within six months, as the election would be seen as a referendum. That is problematic, because any new government would assuredly come under enormous international pressure to approve the concession, and there would be no referendum to stop it. Nevertheless, the bill would significantly improve the existing situation.

Unnamed “sources close to” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he will work to delay the bill’s final reading for “as long as possible.” But the truth is that successive governments all opposed the bill; none of them liked the idea that they could no longer make any agreement they saw fit, with no need to muster widespread popular support. It has nevertheless steadily advanced over the course of two Knessets, with support from both coalition and opposition MKs.

Thus I predict it will ultimately pass this final hurdle too. And Israel’s democratic system will only benefit from ensuring that future withdrawals enjoy strong popular support instead of passing, as previous ones have, by razor-thin majorities that tear the country apart.

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Round One of the Blame Game

The food fight between the White House and House Democrats has turned into a full-blown brawl. This report explains:

House Democrats are lashing out at the White House, venting long-suppressed anger over what they see as President Obama’s lukewarm efforts to help them win reelection — and accusing administration officials of undermining the party’s chances of retaining the majority in November’s midterm elections. … The boiling point came Tuesday night during a closed-door meeting of House Democrats in the Capitol. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) excoriated White House press secretary Robert Gibbs’s public comments over the weekend that the House majority was in doubt and that it would take “strong campaigns by Democrats” to avert dramatic losses. “What the hell do they think we’ve been doing the last 12 months? We’re the ones who have been taking the tough votes,” Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (N.J.) said in an interview Wednesday.

It’s devolved into a sibling-like rivalry. (“Another Democratic official, familiar with White House strategy, said that there is a “misperception” among House Democrats that Obama, a former senator, favors his old chamber over the House. The official placed the blame largely on polling data that continue to show the president and Congress in poor shape.”)

There are two noteworthy aspects to all this. First, as Pete and I observed yesterday, its a sign of the abject panic that has gripped Democrats. A party does not behave this way when things are going well. This is the first round of the blame game, which will officially start after the November election returns are in.

And more important, all the participants in this free-for-all are dancing around the real issue. The problem is not the number of campaign fundraisers Obama has held for Democrats. Nor is it favoritism for one house of Congress over another. It’s not even the lack of common courtesy shown by the White House, which seems to be an equal-opportunity insulter (Bibi, Democrats, the public, Republicans, the press, etc.). No, the unspoken but very obvious source of the angst is that the Obama agenda has driven the party into a ditch.

Democratic lawmakers have no one to blame but themselves on this one. They could have bucked their president, but instead they allowed themselves to be led around by the nose. And lo and behold, they are now all in a heap of political trouble. There are consequences in a democracy for using parliamentary tactics to jam through an agenda to which a majority of the citizenry object. The Democrats are getting a taste of it now. Imagine when they have to digest the election results.

The food fight between the White House and House Democrats has turned into a full-blown brawl. This report explains:

House Democrats are lashing out at the White House, venting long-suppressed anger over what they see as President Obama’s lukewarm efforts to help them win reelection — and accusing administration officials of undermining the party’s chances of retaining the majority in November’s midterm elections. … The boiling point came Tuesday night during a closed-door meeting of House Democrats in the Capitol. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) excoriated White House press secretary Robert Gibbs’s public comments over the weekend that the House majority was in doubt and that it would take “strong campaigns by Democrats” to avert dramatic losses. “What the hell do they think we’ve been doing the last 12 months? We’re the ones who have been taking the tough votes,” Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (N.J.) said in an interview Wednesday.

It’s devolved into a sibling-like rivalry. (“Another Democratic official, familiar with White House strategy, said that there is a “misperception” among House Democrats that Obama, a former senator, favors his old chamber over the House. The official placed the blame largely on polling data that continue to show the president and Congress in poor shape.”)

There are two noteworthy aspects to all this. First, as Pete and I observed yesterday, its a sign of the abject panic that has gripped Democrats. A party does not behave this way when things are going well. This is the first round of the blame game, which will officially start after the November election returns are in.

And more important, all the participants in this free-for-all are dancing around the real issue. The problem is not the number of campaign fundraisers Obama has held for Democrats. Nor is it favoritism for one house of Congress over another. It’s not even the lack of common courtesy shown by the White House, which seems to be an equal-opportunity insulter (Bibi, Democrats, the public, Republicans, the press, etc.). No, the unspoken but very obvious source of the angst is that the Obama agenda has driven the party into a ditch.

Democratic lawmakers have no one to blame but themselves on this one. They could have bucked their president, but instead they allowed themselves to be led around by the nose. And lo and behold, they are now all in a heap of political trouble. There are consequences in a democracy for using parliamentary tactics to jam through an agenda to which a majority of the citizenry object. The Democrats are getting a taste of it now. Imagine when they have to digest the election results.

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Why the “Peace Process” Is a Farce

Elliott Abrams succinctly explains why there is no hope in sight for a Middle East peace deal. In short, one side doesn’t want peace. He writes:

“I say in front of you, Mr. President, that we have nothing to do with incitement against Israel, and we’re not doing that,” claimed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during his visit to the White House in June.

It is unfortunate for the prospects of Middle East peace that this denial by Abbas (who is also head of the PLO and Fatah) was just plain untrue. In fact, this two-faced stance of Abbas and his cronies — proclaiming peaceful intentions to the international community while inciting their population to hatred of Israel — is one of the primary impediments to any sort of solution to the longstanding crisis.

Abrams notes the many examples of Palestinian duplicity. (“This very month, for example, Abbas publicly mourned the death of Mohammed Oudeh, mastermind of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre: ‘The deceased was one of the prominent leaders of the Fatah movement and lived a life filled with the struggle, devoted effort, and the enormous sacrifice of the deceased for the sake of the legitimate problem of his people.’”) And what is Obama’s reaction to all this? Well, he’s now up to having a stern talk with Abbas rather than pretending the incitement doesn’t exist.

Swell, but that doesn’t really get at the root of the problem: Obama’s entire peace-process gambit is hopelessly flawed, indeed farcical, because it assumes if we just find the right maps (listen, Bill Clinton had them memorized, and it helped not at all at Camp David), we’d have a peace deal. This is the fallacy that underlies the post-Oslo peace-processing and the reason why, as Abrams argues, we’d do better to focus on “the character of that state, and of Palestinian society” than on the fine points of a deal to which one side is unable and unwilling to agree.

There is one more noteworthy item. Abrams provides a candid account of a dinner with Abbas in June:

At a dinner for Abbas during his Washington visit, I confronted him with several recent examples of incitement, as well as the denial that he made to the President. His reply was that of a bureaucrat, not a peacemaker: He did not deny the allegations, but said that if true they should be raised at a tripartite committee (the United States, the Palestinian Authority and Israel) that had been established by the Oslo Accords.

Funny, in all the happy-talk reports from Jewish leaders and ex-government officials attending the dinner, they never mentioned this revealing episode. This is one more infuriating instance in which establishment Jewish leaders have placed comity ahead of honesty. It has seemed very important to them, at a cost to their own intellectual credibility, to sustain the illusion that the peace process is more than a futile exercise.

It would be helpful if both the administration and Jewish groups were frank about the central reason why the Palestinians have no state: they don’t want to give up killing Jews. But then they’d have to admit that their infatuation with the peace process and their hopes for a two-state solution are based on willful ignorance.

Elliott Abrams succinctly explains why there is no hope in sight for a Middle East peace deal. In short, one side doesn’t want peace. He writes:

“I say in front of you, Mr. President, that we have nothing to do with incitement against Israel, and we’re not doing that,” claimed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during his visit to the White House in June.

It is unfortunate for the prospects of Middle East peace that this denial by Abbas (who is also head of the PLO and Fatah) was just plain untrue. In fact, this two-faced stance of Abbas and his cronies — proclaiming peaceful intentions to the international community while inciting their population to hatred of Israel — is one of the primary impediments to any sort of solution to the longstanding crisis.

Abrams notes the many examples of Palestinian duplicity. (“This very month, for example, Abbas publicly mourned the death of Mohammed Oudeh, mastermind of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre: ‘The deceased was one of the prominent leaders of the Fatah movement and lived a life filled with the struggle, devoted effort, and the enormous sacrifice of the deceased for the sake of the legitimate problem of his people.’”) And what is Obama’s reaction to all this? Well, he’s now up to having a stern talk with Abbas rather than pretending the incitement doesn’t exist.

Swell, but that doesn’t really get at the root of the problem: Obama’s entire peace-process gambit is hopelessly flawed, indeed farcical, because it assumes if we just find the right maps (listen, Bill Clinton had them memorized, and it helped not at all at Camp David), we’d have a peace deal. This is the fallacy that underlies the post-Oslo peace-processing and the reason why, as Abrams argues, we’d do better to focus on “the character of that state, and of Palestinian society” than on the fine points of a deal to which one side is unable and unwilling to agree.

There is one more noteworthy item. Abrams provides a candid account of a dinner with Abbas in June:

At a dinner for Abbas during his Washington visit, I confronted him with several recent examples of incitement, as well as the denial that he made to the President. His reply was that of a bureaucrat, not a peacemaker: He did not deny the allegations, but said that if true they should be raised at a tripartite committee (the United States, the Palestinian Authority and Israel) that had been established by the Oslo Accords.

Funny, in all the happy-talk reports from Jewish leaders and ex-government officials attending the dinner, they never mentioned this revealing episode. This is one more infuriating instance in which establishment Jewish leaders have placed comity ahead of honesty. It has seemed very important to them, at a cost to their own intellectual credibility, to sustain the illusion that the peace process is more than a futile exercise.

It would be helpful if both the administration and Jewish groups were frank about the central reason why the Palestinians have no state: they don’t want to give up killing Jews. But then they’d have to admit that their infatuation with the peace process and their hopes for a two-state solution are based on willful ignorance.

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A Political and Economic Failure

The Wall Street Journal editors write:

Yesterday, President Obama’s chief economist announced that the plan had “created or saved” between 2.5 million and 3.6 million jobs and raised GDP by 2.7% to 3.2% through June 30. Don’t you feel better already?

Christina Romer went so far as to claim that the 3.5 million new jobs that she promised while the stimulus was being debated in Congress will arrive “two quarters earlier than anticipated.” Yup, the official White House line is that the plan is working better than even they had hoped.

We almost feel sorry for Ms. Romer having to make this argument given that since February 2009 the U.S. economy has lost a net 2.35 million jobs. Using the White House “created or saved” measure means that even if there were only three million Americans left with jobs today, the White House could claim that every one was saved by the stimulus.

There is an economic and a political aspect to this. As for the politics, no one is buying the White House spin. Each time the administration trots out the argument about how wonderful the stimulus has been, I suspect they lose votes and do further damage to their already waning credibility.

And the voters are right to roll their eyes. The economics on which the Obami rely is the equivalent of alchemy. The editors explain:

All of these White House jobs estimates are based on the increasingly discredited Keynesian spending “multiplier,” which according to White House economist Larry Summers means that every $1 of government spending will yield roughly $1.50 in higher GDP. Ms. Romer thus plugs her spending data into the Keynesian computer models and, presto, out come 2.5 million to 3.6 million jobs, even if the real economy has lost jobs.

The reality is that the multiplier is less than 1. Fifty years of spending research shows “a multiplier effect of between 0.4 and 0.7. This means that government spending shrinks the private economy, because it ‘crowds out other components of GDP, particularly investment.’”

So it’s no surprise that we have unemployment at historically high levels. What is surprising is that a political operation so deft during the campaign is now so utterly tone-deaf. Even if they are economically illiterate, they should at least be able to read the polls and know that their argument is doing more harm than good. Sort of like the stimulus plan itself.

The Wall Street Journal editors write:

Yesterday, President Obama’s chief economist announced that the plan had “created or saved” between 2.5 million and 3.6 million jobs and raised GDP by 2.7% to 3.2% through June 30. Don’t you feel better already?

Christina Romer went so far as to claim that the 3.5 million new jobs that she promised while the stimulus was being debated in Congress will arrive “two quarters earlier than anticipated.” Yup, the official White House line is that the plan is working better than even they had hoped.

We almost feel sorry for Ms. Romer having to make this argument given that since February 2009 the U.S. economy has lost a net 2.35 million jobs. Using the White House “created or saved” measure means that even if there were only three million Americans left with jobs today, the White House could claim that every one was saved by the stimulus.

There is an economic and a political aspect to this. As for the politics, no one is buying the White House spin. Each time the administration trots out the argument about how wonderful the stimulus has been, I suspect they lose votes and do further damage to their already waning credibility.

And the voters are right to roll their eyes. The economics on which the Obami rely is the equivalent of alchemy. The editors explain:

All of these White House jobs estimates are based on the increasingly discredited Keynesian spending “multiplier,” which according to White House economist Larry Summers means that every $1 of government spending will yield roughly $1.50 in higher GDP. Ms. Romer thus plugs her spending data into the Keynesian computer models and, presto, out come 2.5 million to 3.6 million jobs, even if the real economy has lost jobs.

The reality is that the multiplier is less than 1. Fifty years of spending research shows “a multiplier effect of between 0.4 and 0.7. This means that government spending shrinks the private economy, because it ‘crowds out other components of GDP, particularly investment.’”

So it’s no surprise that we have unemployment at historically high levels. What is surprising is that a political operation so deft during the campaign is now so utterly tone-deaf. Even if they are economically illiterate, they should at least be able to read the polls and know that their argument is doing more harm than good. Sort of like the stimulus plan itself.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

I suppose the GOP isn’t dead in New England. All four Republican Senate candidates lead Democrat Paul Hodes.

I suppose Obama could be the teacher-in-chief about the evils of anti-Semitism, like he is the explainer-in-chief about Islam. Instead, he’s delegated it to a low-level flunky who’s introduced with inappropriate humor by Hillary Clinton. (Not clear if she cackled as well.)

I suppose there’s some rationale for Rand Paul’s telling us he’s not being as “forthright” as his father. I just can’t think of what it might be.

I suppose nothing will move Obama to leave the UN Human Rights Council. Not even the latest episode in the Goldstone Report — the effort  “to monitor and assess all judicial and other proceedings taken by Israel to respond to the General Assembly’s endorsement of the Goldstone report and its long list of supposed Israeli crimes.” Anne Bayefsky has the goods on the council members and concludes: “The only way to respond is to challenge the legal bona fides of the report and its progeny and expose the venality of the political agenda inseparable from them. The case must begin by refusing to lend any credence to this latest mutation of the UN virus.” Leaving the council would help, but don’t get your hopes up that Obama and Hillary will carry through on pretty promises to defend Israel in international bodies.

I suppose the administration assumes this sort of thing helps: “The Obama Administration said today that its economic policies, especially the Recovery Act, have boosted growth and employment in the United States at a pace quicker than anticipated.” The average person, I think, concludes instead that they are out to lunch.

I suppose the Democrats are in full panic mode: “The House Natural Resources Committee has joined a Senate panel in approving the creation of a bipartisan oil spill commission that would effectively compete against President Obama’s.” They’ve figured out that agreeing to anything with Obama’s name attached is hazardous to their political health.

I suppose when the president is about to drag his party under, there are bound to be spats: “The White House is pushing back against complaints from House Democrats that President Obama is undermining their prospects for 2010 with a memo authored by a senior administration official detailing what the White House is doing to preserve control of Congress. … The barely-veiled reminder was circulated among senior Democrats in Washington on Tuesday, including on Capitol Hill. It was written just hours before Speaker Nancy Pelosi and angry members of her caucus lashed out at the chief House liaison for White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’ admission Sunday on ‘Meet the Press’ that Democrats could lose the House.” Not on the White House “look what we’ve done for the ingrates” list: passing ObamaCare, running up the debt, raising taxes. And frankly, the thought of Obama coming to their districts to campaign at their side probably makes most Democrats retch at this point.

I suppose the GOP isn’t dead in New England. All four Republican Senate candidates lead Democrat Paul Hodes.

I suppose Obama could be the teacher-in-chief about the evils of anti-Semitism, like he is the explainer-in-chief about Islam. Instead, he’s delegated it to a low-level flunky who’s introduced with inappropriate humor by Hillary Clinton. (Not clear if she cackled as well.)

I suppose there’s some rationale for Rand Paul’s telling us he’s not being as “forthright” as his father. I just can’t think of what it might be.

I suppose nothing will move Obama to leave the UN Human Rights Council. Not even the latest episode in the Goldstone Report — the effort  “to monitor and assess all judicial and other proceedings taken by Israel to respond to the General Assembly’s endorsement of the Goldstone report and its long list of supposed Israeli crimes.” Anne Bayefsky has the goods on the council members and concludes: “The only way to respond is to challenge the legal bona fides of the report and its progeny and expose the venality of the political agenda inseparable from them. The case must begin by refusing to lend any credence to this latest mutation of the UN virus.” Leaving the council would help, but don’t get your hopes up that Obama and Hillary will carry through on pretty promises to defend Israel in international bodies.

I suppose the administration assumes this sort of thing helps: “The Obama Administration said today that its economic policies, especially the Recovery Act, have boosted growth and employment in the United States at a pace quicker than anticipated.” The average person, I think, concludes instead that they are out to lunch.

I suppose the Democrats are in full panic mode: “The House Natural Resources Committee has joined a Senate panel in approving the creation of a bipartisan oil spill commission that would effectively compete against President Obama’s.” They’ve figured out that agreeing to anything with Obama’s name attached is hazardous to their political health.

I suppose when the president is about to drag his party under, there are bound to be spats: “The White House is pushing back against complaints from House Democrats that President Obama is undermining their prospects for 2010 with a memo authored by a senior administration official detailing what the White House is doing to preserve control of Congress. … The barely-veiled reminder was circulated among senior Democrats in Washington on Tuesday, including on Capitol Hill. It was written just hours before Speaker Nancy Pelosi and angry members of her caucus lashed out at the chief House liaison for White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’ admission Sunday on ‘Meet the Press’ that Democrats could lose the House.” Not on the White House “look what we’ve done for the ingrates” list: passing ObamaCare, running up the debt, raising taxes. And frankly, the thought of Obama coming to their districts to campaign at their side probably makes most Democrats retch at this point.

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