Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 17, 2010

U.S.-Israeli Security Ties: In Some Ways, Hanging in There

It’s a great thing to have a friendly press. You can tally up the list of things you were going to do anyway — programs and measures instituted by your predecessors — and tout them as your own initiatives, and no one will expose what you’re doing. Indeed, a friendly media will obediently retail your narrative for you, accepting your evidence without critical analysis.

The Obama administration, under political fire for straining U.S. ties with Israel, has a friendly press. The latest example is a July 16 Washington Post puff piece on military relations with Israel, entitled “Despite Diplomatic Tensions, U.S.-Israeli Security Ties Strengthen.” The article takes up the administration’s current theme that security cooperation between the U.S. and Israel has never been closer. Only some of it can be substantiated, however, and the verifiable information ends up mostly tracing back to initiatives from the George W. Bush presidency or before.

President Obama and the current Congress are to be credited with the May 2010 decision — referenced in the Post piece — to fund the deployment of Israel’s new “Iron Dome” defense system against short-range rockets. But no other security “tie” listed in the article qualifies as an Obama initiative. High-level exchanges between defense officials, for example, have been frequent for decades. Such exchanges are typical with close allies and would be remarkable only if they were rarer. This reference sounds like a pure filler. Likewise, the sharing of information on vehicle armor and protection against IEDs has been underway for years; U.S. funding was allocated for such cooperation (and related programs) during the Bush administration.

The article alludes to the exercise “Juniper Cobra,” which took place in October 2009, as “the first such exercise involving boots on the ground between the two nations.” But that assertion is simply wrong. Juniper Cobra, a U.S.-Israeli air- and missile-defense drill, has been conducted in alternating years since 2001 and has involved boots on the ground each time. The 2007 iteration involved the smallest number of deployed troops to date, with 500, whereas the 2009 drill featured the largest number: 1000. The scope of the latest exercise is a positive sign about both nations’ seriousness regarding the defense of Israel at a time when the threat from Iran is growing rapidly. But the implication that it represents a strengthening of security ties specific to the Obama administration is invalid.

U.S.-Israeli cooperation in missile-defense development, also listed in the article, is longstanding. The Ynet link above dates back to 2006 the specific exchanges mentioned (cooperation on the David’s Sling and Arrow programs) and the major infusion of U.S. cash. Generic military assistance to Israel under Obama is another talking point: it has remained on the track set for it through 2011 by the Bush administration, increasing from $2.55 billion in 2009 to $2.77 billion in 2010. Annual military assistance to Israel has been higher before, however (e.g., in 2000 and 2003); the Obama figures are healthy but not remarkable.

The stockpile of U.S. ammunition in Israel is part of a U.S. prepositioning program that dates to 1989. As with virtually everything in the Post article, listing the program amounts to interpreting it as a “strengthening of security ties” when longstanding military exchanges do no more than remain in place. If the administration characterized U.S-Israeli security ties as remaining largely un-revoked, in spite of political differences between the current governments, that would be a better reflection of reality — and a wiser thematic approach. The evidence offered for “strengthened” ties is too easy to poke holes in.

It’s a great thing to have a friendly press. You can tally up the list of things you were going to do anyway — programs and measures instituted by your predecessors — and tout them as your own initiatives, and no one will expose what you’re doing. Indeed, a friendly media will obediently retail your narrative for you, accepting your evidence without critical analysis.

The Obama administration, under political fire for straining U.S. ties with Israel, has a friendly press. The latest example is a July 16 Washington Post puff piece on military relations with Israel, entitled “Despite Diplomatic Tensions, U.S.-Israeli Security Ties Strengthen.” The article takes up the administration’s current theme that security cooperation between the U.S. and Israel has never been closer. Only some of it can be substantiated, however, and the verifiable information ends up mostly tracing back to initiatives from the George W. Bush presidency or before.

President Obama and the current Congress are to be credited with the May 2010 decision — referenced in the Post piece — to fund the deployment of Israel’s new “Iron Dome” defense system against short-range rockets. But no other security “tie” listed in the article qualifies as an Obama initiative. High-level exchanges between defense officials, for example, have been frequent for decades. Such exchanges are typical with close allies and would be remarkable only if they were rarer. This reference sounds like a pure filler. Likewise, the sharing of information on vehicle armor and protection against IEDs has been underway for years; U.S. funding was allocated for such cooperation (and related programs) during the Bush administration.

The article alludes to the exercise “Juniper Cobra,” which took place in October 2009, as “the first such exercise involving boots on the ground between the two nations.” But that assertion is simply wrong. Juniper Cobra, a U.S.-Israeli air- and missile-defense drill, has been conducted in alternating years since 2001 and has involved boots on the ground each time. The 2007 iteration involved the smallest number of deployed troops to date, with 500, whereas the 2009 drill featured the largest number: 1000. The scope of the latest exercise is a positive sign about both nations’ seriousness regarding the defense of Israel at a time when the threat from Iran is growing rapidly. But the implication that it represents a strengthening of security ties specific to the Obama administration is invalid.

U.S.-Israeli cooperation in missile-defense development, also listed in the article, is longstanding. The Ynet link above dates back to 2006 the specific exchanges mentioned (cooperation on the David’s Sling and Arrow programs) and the major infusion of U.S. cash. Generic military assistance to Israel under Obama is another talking point: it has remained on the track set for it through 2011 by the Bush administration, increasing from $2.55 billion in 2009 to $2.77 billion in 2010. Annual military assistance to Israel has been higher before, however (e.g., in 2000 and 2003); the Obama figures are healthy but not remarkable.

The stockpile of U.S. ammunition in Israel is part of a U.S. prepositioning program that dates to 1989. As with virtually everything in the Post article, listing the program amounts to interpreting it as a “strengthening of security ties” when longstanding military exchanges do no more than remain in place. If the administration characterized U.S-Israeli security ties as remaining largely un-revoked, in spite of political differences between the current governments, that would be a better reflection of reality — and a wiser thematic approach. The evidence offered for “strengthened” ties is too easy to poke holes in.

Read Less

Don’t Give Me the Facts, I’ve Got My Story

I’m amazed how Politico can run a story trying to debunk the New Black Panther scandal without interviewing trial team member Christian Adams or any other former or current Justice Department attorney, without relating any of Adams’s testimony, without referencing the voluminous research and evidence unearthed by other news outlets, without contacting the offices of congressmen (Reps. Lamar Smith and Frank Wolf) who have been pressing for answers from the administration, and without even mentioning the allegations that the Justice Department won’t file civil rights cases against minorities. For over a year, Politico — as well as every other mainstream outlet — ignored the story, so the name of the game, I suppose, is to explain that they didn’t miss anything.

It is especially odd that a good reporter like Ben Smith wouldn’t make the effort to interview Adams. Adams is doing extensive interviews and is readily available. He’s not been critiquing the media coverage, but did promptly respond to my request for comment on the Politico story (he really is very easy to reach). He told me that Smith did contact him,  and Adams responded saying he was away for the day but inviting Smith to contact him if it was urgent. Adams never heard anything further from Smith. Adams continued:

My area of expertise is the law and the truth about the case. All I can do is provide truthful testimony and information. I know what [trial team leader] Chris Coates would testify to, and I know there are multiple corroborating witnesses both inside and outside the Department. So to me things like Ben Smith are a short lived distraction that in the long run don’t seem to matter given the facts. The idea that I would quit a job to no pay to make something up isn’t resonating beyond a core of sycophantic nuts. If I’m lying or exaggerating, charge me with perjury.

Adams is right that the facts are there — multiple witnesses, documents, and e-mails. They establish that a meritorious case of voter intimidation was dropped by Obama political appointees and that there is an aversion in the Obama administration to filing cases against minorities. That only conservative outlets have bothered to root around and uncover the story tells you more about the mainstream media than it does about the merits of the case.

It’s bad enough to miss an important story; it’s worse to write a belated story which steers clear of the facts you missed. Even when all the legwork is done by others and the story is figuratively handed to them, and even explained to them, some reporters can’t be bothered with the facts.

One final point: it’s not just right wingers who recognize that this is a legitimate and important story. The Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander does a mea culpa for the Post’s delinquency in reporting. Bravo. (Oh, if only Politico were so professional and candid.) I look forward to the Post’s future reporting — there certainly is plenty to investigate.

UPDATE: Jan Crawford, the fine legal reporter previously with ABC and now with CBS, has a comprehensive report here. Stephen Hayes’s excellent summary of the case and of the mainstream media’s disinclination to report on it is here.

I’m amazed how Politico can run a story trying to debunk the New Black Panther scandal without interviewing trial team member Christian Adams or any other former or current Justice Department attorney, without relating any of Adams’s testimony, without referencing the voluminous research and evidence unearthed by other news outlets, without contacting the offices of congressmen (Reps. Lamar Smith and Frank Wolf) who have been pressing for answers from the administration, and without even mentioning the allegations that the Justice Department won’t file civil rights cases against minorities. For over a year, Politico — as well as every other mainstream outlet — ignored the story, so the name of the game, I suppose, is to explain that they didn’t miss anything.

It is especially odd that a good reporter like Ben Smith wouldn’t make the effort to interview Adams. Adams is doing extensive interviews and is readily available. He’s not been critiquing the media coverage, but did promptly respond to my request for comment on the Politico story (he really is very easy to reach). He told me that Smith did contact him,  and Adams responded saying he was away for the day but inviting Smith to contact him if it was urgent. Adams never heard anything further from Smith. Adams continued:

My area of expertise is the law and the truth about the case. All I can do is provide truthful testimony and information. I know what [trial team leader] Chris Coates would testify to, and I know there are multiple corroborating witnesses both inside and outside the Department. So to me things like Ben Smith are a short lived distraction that in the long run don’t seem to matter given the facts. The idea that I would quit a job to no pay to make something up isn’t resonating beyond a core of sycophantic nuts. If I’m lying or exaggerating, charge me with perjury.

Adams is right that the facts are there — multiple witnesses, documents, and e-mails. They establish that a meritorious case of voter intimidation was dropped by Obama political appointees and that there is an aversion in the Obama administration to filing cases against minorities. That only conservative outlets have bothered to root around and uncover the story tells you more about the mainstream media than it does about the merits of the case.

It’s bad enough to miss an important story; it’s worse to write a belated story which steers clear of the facts you missed. Even when all the legwork is done by others and the story is figuratively handed to them, and even explained to them, some reporters can’t be bothered with the facts.

One final point: it’s not just right wingers who recognize that this is a legitimate and important story. The Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander does a mea culpa for the Post’s delinquency in reporting. Bravo. (Oh, if only Politico were so professional and candid.) I look forward to the Post’s future reporting — there certainly is plenty to investigate.

UPDATE: Jan Crawford, the fine legal reporter previously with ABC and now with CBS, has a comprehensive report here. Stephen Hayes’s excellent summary of the case and of the mainstream media’s disinclination to report on it is here.

Read Less

Haaretz Disses J Street

Sounds like a joke: J Street has become so transparently partisan and so sycophantic when it comes to Obama’s Middle East policy that even the left-leaning Haaretz runs a scathing review of the leftist group. But it’s no joke:

J Street, the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobby, ran its first television commercial last week in the United States. Watching the ad online (it can be viewed via a link on my own organization’s website, www.rethinkme.org) confirmed my worst suspicions about this new organization, which likes to portray itself as the “real voice” of the mainstream American Jewish community. …

Photos of Hillary Clinton and David Petraeus also appear on-screen, accompanied by the words, “Say ‘yes’ to American leadership. Join the community of ‘yes.’” So “American leadership” in the Middle East is personified by the president, the secretary of state and the new commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. …

This commercial is a classic Democratic campaign ad, pitting the evil Republicans (“the chorus of ‘no’”) against the good guys, the Democrats (“the community of ‘yes’”). For the purposes of the ad, the general has been promoted to the rank of honorary Democrat, despite his reputed Republican voter registration.

As the columnist Michael Lame (founder of a nonpartisan group, Re-Think The Middle East) notes, there are lots of other leftist groups, but J Street is in a class by itself:

J Street is specifically an Obama support group, playing the part of a cheering section for the president to such an extent that the organization could be renamed “Jews for Obama.” It has consistently supported his approach to the Middle East even when most commentators who support a two-state solution have criticized his administration’s tactics and timing. Through the last year and a half of White House bumbling and fumbling over the settlement freeze, J Street never once criticized Obama, Mitchell, Clinton or the entire strategy of talking tough to Israel, coupled with toothless threats and inept performance.

It is not merely that, unlike AIPAC, “J Street will not defend Israel unconditionally” or even that “J Street will defend Obama unconditionally.” It is that J Street continually criticizes Israel on the same grounds as Israel’s international enemies do and often parrots their rhetoric, specifically the assertion that Israel is not equipped or entitled as other democratic states to manage and — if need be — investigate its own national-security operations. Indeed, J Street takes the position that it, and not the elected government of Israel, knows best what is “good” for Israel on everything — from settlements to the flotilla incident.

It is ironic that the left went bonkers when ECI appeared on the scene, accusing the pro-Israel group of “politicizing” Israel policy. That’s rich, given what J Street does:

The main problem here is that J Street tries to turn peace in the Middle East into a proprietary issue of the Democrats, while it vilifies the Republicans as the enemies of peace. … So what’s wrong with J Street? It mixes up its views on the issues with domestic party politics.

Precisely so.

Sounds like a joke: J Street has become so transparently partisan and so sycophantic when it comes to Obama’s Middle East policy that even the left-leaning Haaretz runs a scathing review of the leftist group. But it’s no joke:

J Street, the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobby, ran its first television commercial last week in the United States. Watching the ad online (it can be viewed via a link on my own organization’s website, www.rethinkme.org) confirmed my worst suspicions about this new organization, which likes to portray itself as the “real voice” of the mainstream American Jewish community. …

Photos of Hillary Clinton and David Petraeus also appear on-screen, accompanied by the words, “Say ‘yes’ to American leadership. Join the community of ‘yes.’” So “American leadership” in the Middle East is personified by the president, the secretary of state and the new commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. …

This commercial is a classic Democratic campaign ad, pitting the evil Republicans (“the chorus of ‘no’”) against the good guys, the Democrats (“the community of ‘yes’”). For the purposes of the ad, the general has been promoted to the rank of honorary Democrat, despite his reputed Republican voter registration.

As the columnist Michael Lame (founder of a nonpartisan group, Re-Think The Middle East) notes, there are lots of other leftist groups, but J Street is in a class by itself:

J Street is specifically an Obama support group, playing the part of a cheering section for the president to such an extent that the organization could be renamed “Jews for Obama.” It has consistently supported his approach to the Middle East even when most commentators who support a two-state solution have criticized his administration’s tactics and timing. Through the last year and a half of White House bumbling and fumbling over the settlement freeze, J Street never once criticized Obama, Mitchell, Clinton or the entire strategy of talking tough to Israel, coupled with toothless threats and inept performance.

It is not merely that, unlike AIPAC, “J Street will not defend Israel unconditionally” or even that “J Street will defend Obama unconditionally.” It is that J Street continually criticizes Israel on the same grounds as Israel’s international enemies do and often parrots their rhetoric, specifically the assertion that Israel is not equipped or entitled as other democratic states to manage and — if need be — investigate its own national-security operations. Indeed, J Street takes the position that it, and not the elected government of Israel, knows best what is “good” for Israel on everything — from settlements to the flotilla incident.

It is ironic that the left went bonkers when ECI appeared on the scene, accusing the pro-Israel group of “politicizing” Israel policy. That’s rich, given what J Street does:

The main problem here is that J Street tries to turn peace in the Middle East into a proprietary issue of the Democrats, while it vilifies the Republicans as the enemies of peace. … So what’s wrong with J Street? It mixes up its views on the issues with domestic party politics.

Precisely so.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

The Obami admit Israel is a strategic asset.

The UN isn’t likely to admit this: “The Turkish charity that led the flotilla involved in a deadly Israeli raid has extensive connections with Turkey’s political elite, and the group’s efforts to challenge Israel’s blockade of Gaza received support at the top levels of the governing party, Turkish diplomats and government officials said.” It’s almost as though Israel were set up by an Islamic partnership between Iran, Turkey, and Hamas. Someone should set up an investigation to look into that.

A liberal think tank admits that the Bart Stupak-inspired executive order on abortion funding was a sham. Jessica Arons of Center for American Progress “explains that the law and the president’s executive order do not prohibit federal funding for abortion in the pre-existing condition insurance plans (PCIPs).”

You have to admit that Obama has transformed the political landscape. Patty Murray is now in trouble: “Washington’s Senate race looks increasingly like a referendum on incumbent Democrat Patty Murray with two Republican candidates edging past her this month. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Washington State finds Republican hopefuls Dino Rossi and Clint Didier both earning 48% support in match-ups with Murray. She, in turn, picks up 45% of the vote against the two GOP challengers.”

Obama admits the election is a referendum on him. “President Obama said in an interview Friday that voters should hold him accountable for the struggling economy, but that his policies are restoring it to health.” I wonder whether he still gives himself a B+.

Tom Jensen of Democratic Public Policy Polling admits that Obama’s numbers are terrible: “He trails Mitt Romney 46-43, Mike Huckabee 47-45, Newt Gingrich 46-45, and is even tied with Sarah Palin at 46. … Obviously 2012 is a long ways off and the immediate relevance of these numbers is limited. It’s possible we’ll look back on polls like this 28 months from now after Obama’s been reelected and laugh. But it’s also possible that we’ll look back on the summer of 2010 after he’s been defeated and see it as the time when his prospects for reelection really took a turn for the worse.”

I admit I can’t get worked up about presidential vacations. If Obama were in the Oval Office more, things might be worse.

The Obami admit Israel is a strategic asset.

The UN isn’t likely to admit this: “The Turkish charity that led the flotilla involved in a deadly Israeli raid has extensive connections with Turkey’s political elite, and the group’s efforts to challenge Israel’s blockade of Gaza received support at the top levels of the governing party, Turkish diplomats and government officials said.” It’s almost as though Israel were set up by an Islamic partnership between Iran, Turkey, and Hamas. Someone should set up an investigation to look into that.

A liberal think tank admits that the Bart Stupak-inspired executive order on abortion funding was a sham. Jessica Arons of Center for American Progress “explains that the law and the president’s executive order do not prohibit federal funding for abortion in the pre-existing condition insurance plans (PCIPs).”

You have to admit that Obama has transformed the political landscape. Patty Murray is now in trouble: “Washington’s Senate race looks increasingly like a referendum on incumbent Democrat Patty Murray with two Republican candidates edging past her this month. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Washington State finds Republican hopefuls Dino Rossi and Clint Didier both earning 48% support in match-ups with Murray. She, in turn, picks up 45% of the vote against the two GOP challengers.”

Obama admits the election is a referendum on him. “President Obama said in an interview Friday that voters should hold him accountable for the struggling economy, but that his policies are restoring it to health.” I wonder whether he still gives himself a B+.

Tom Jensen of Democratic Public Policy Polling admits that Obama’s numbers are terrible: “He trails Mitt Romney 46-43, Mike Huckabee 47-45, Newt Gingrich 46-45, and is even tied with Sarah Palin at 46. … Obviously 2012 is a long ways off and the immediate relevance of these numbers is limited. It’s possible we’ll look back on polls like this 28 months from now after Obama’s been reelected and laugh. But it’s also possible that we’ll look back on the summer of 2010 after he’s been defeated and see it as the time when his prospects for reelection really took a turn for the worse.”

I admit I can’t get worked up about presidential vacations. If Obama were in the Oval Office more, things might be worse.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.