Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 16, 2010

Blasphemous Blogger Case Shows Hypocrisy of Palestinian Supporters

Amid all the constant clamor about the plight of the Palestinians, the conspicuous lack of concern on the part of both foreign and local Arab human-rights groups about the way the Palestinian Authority and Hamas treat their own people is an ongoing scandal. The imposition of a tyrannical Islamist police state in Gaza is ignored by Europeans and many American liberals, who devote their energies to demonizing Israel’s measures of self-defense aimed at keeping the terrorists based in that territory from attacking their civilians on the other side of the border. And while the leaders of the Palestinian Authority get good press abroad as “moderates” who favor peace, the truth about the way the PA runs most of the West Bank (contrary to popular misconception, Arab towns and villages are under the control of the PA’s police and various security services, not the Israel Defense Force) is far from pretty. An example of the way the Palestinian Authority rules the West Bank is on display in the case of Waleed Hasayin, whose pathetic story was told in yesterday’s New York Times.

Hasayin, a 20-something unemployed computer-science graduate who helped out in his father’s barbershop in Qalqilya, has been held incommunicado at that town’s local PA intelligence headquarters for blasphemous blogging. Husayin’s crime is that he created Facebook pages skewering Islam and promoting atheism. The Times reports that it is against the law in PA-ruled land to insult religion, though by that it is clear that they just mean Islam, since insults against Judaism are regularly broadcast on PA radio and television. He is not the first Muslim to run afoul of the repressive culture of the Arab world but what makes his case noteworthy is the hypocrisy of both the Palestinians and their foreign cheerleaders.

The most telling sentence in the Times’s story is the matter of fact one in which reporter Isabel Kershner notes that “Palestinian human rights groups in the West Bank have so far remained silent about Mr. Hasayin’s arrest.” She fails to mention that his case is also of no interest to Western supporters of the Palestinians, who believe that all Palestinians are still living under Israel “occupation,” whether in the West Bank or Gaza. This case makes it plain once again that advocates for Palestinian human rights are not actually interested in the human rights of the Palestinian people. If they were, then there would be as many, if not more, foreign protests against the way the Islamists of Hamas and the neo-Islamist thugs of the Palestinian Authority tyrannize their own people as there are protests against alleged abuses on the part of Israel.

Were Hasayin a terrorist with Jewish blood on his hands, languishing in an Israeli jail, there would be massive foreign support for his release as there is for that of killers like Fatah’s Marwan Barghouti. But since he is merely a free thinker who dared to challenge the oppressive political and religious culture of the Palestinians while blogging in an Internet cafe, he is of no interest to “friends” of the Palestinian people, who are content to let public opinion in Qalqilya — which, according to the Times, favors capital punishment or life imprisonment for his crime — determine his fate.

Amid all the constant clamor about the plight of the Palestinians, the conspicuous lack of concern on the part of both foreign and local Arab human-rights groups about the way the Palestinian Authority and Hamas treat their own people is an ongoing scandal. The imposition of a tyrannical Islamist police state in Gaza is ignored by Europeans and many American liberals, who devote their energies to demonizing Israel’s measures of self-defense aimed at keeping the terrorists based in that territory from attacking their civilians on the other side of the border. And while the leaders of the Palestinian Authority get good press abroad as “moderates” who favor peace, the truth about the way the PA runs most of the West Bank (contrary to popular misconception, Arab towns and villages are under the control of the PA’s police and various security services, not the Israel Defense Force) is far from pretty. An example of the way the Palestinian Authority rules the West Bank is on display in the case of Waleed Hasayin, whose pathetic story was told in yesterday’s New York Times.

Hasayin, a 20-something unemployed computer-science graduate who helped out in his father’s barbershop in Qalqilya, has been held incommunicado at that town’s local PA intelligence headquarters for blasphemous blogging. Husayin’s crime is that he created Facebook pages skewering Islam and promoting atheism. The Times reports that it is against the law in PA-ruled land to insult religion, though by that it is clear that they just mean Islam, since insults against Judaism are regularly broadcast on PA radio and television. He is not the first Muslim to run afoul of the repressive culture of the Arab world but what makes his case noteworthy is the hypocrisy of both the Palestinians and their foreign cheerleaders.

The most telling sentence in the Times’s story is the matter of fact one in which reporter Isabel Kershner notes that “Palestinian human rights groups in the West Bank have so far remained silent about Mr. Hasayin’s arrest.” She fails to mention that his case is also of no interest to Western supporters of the Palestinians, who believe that all Palestinians are still living under Israel “occupation,” whether in the West Bank or Gaza. This case makes it plain once again that advocates for Palestinian human rights are not actually interested in the human rights of the Palestinian people. If they were, then there would be as many, if not more, foreign protests against the way the Islamists of Hamas and the neo-Islamist thugs of the Palestinian Authority tyrannize their own people as there are protests against alleged abuses on the part of Israel.

Were Hasayin a terrorist with Jewish blood on his hands, languishing in an Israeli jail, there would be massive foreign support for his release as there is for that of killers like Fatah’s Marwan Barghouti. But since he is merely a free thinker who dared to challenge the oppressive political and religious culture of the Palestinians while blogging in an Internet cafe, he is of no interest to “friends” of the Palestinian people, who are content to let public opinion in Qalqilya — which, according to the Times, favors capital punishment or life imprisonment for his crime — determine his fate.

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FPI Conference (Part 3)

There is an art that the best State Department functionaries master: to take hard questions that present troubling facts or contradictions in policy and to give in response a long, rambling answer that, by the end, dilutes the impact of the question and leaves the audience at a loss to remember what was orginally being asked. There is no one better at this than Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, who wrapped up the FPI conference.

It was evident that the administration came with an olive branch to the right and with many fine sentiments about bipartisanship in foreign policy. Who can blame it? The administration’s biggest successes (e.g., Iraq, appointment of Gen. Petraeus in Afghanistan) have been supported by conservatives. With an assertive Republican House and more conservative voices in the Senate, the administration doesn’t need more headaches, so foreign policy offers a chance to show its bipartisan inclinations. One way to do that is not to talk about the hard stuff. So, in his prepared remarks, Steinberg didn’t bring up Iran, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Europe, human rights, Hugo Chavez, or other topics that are sources of disagreement between the Obama team and conservatives.

He did talk about Southeast Asia. It’s very important. We are making many trips there. We’re going to have “sustained engagement.” And we’re very “clear-eyed” about China.

His next topics were Iraq and Afghanistan, where he echoed many of Sen. Joe Lieberman’s remarks (and Sen. John McCain’s from the previous day). On Iraq, we need bipartisanship and, yes, more “sustained engagement.” On Afghanistan, again, we must maintain funding. In the Q&A, he expressed himself as delighted with the Afghanistan war-strategy process. It was “serious,” he intoned. He’s never seen a president so involved. And that 2011 deadline? With perfect earnestness he explained: “There is no ambiguity. It is the beginning of a transition.” Really, there was “never any intention to see it as a dramatic turning point. … If we need to do a better job of messaging, we’ll do a better job.”

The third topic was START. (During the conference, Sen. Jon Kyl declared it isn’t going to get a vote in the lame-duck session.) This should be a bipartisan issue too, he asserted. He added that “there are no restraints” on our ability to pursue missile defense, and it comes packaged with an unprecedented commitment to force modernization.

Things got a bit dicier in the Q&A conducted by Robert Kagan. What about human rights in Russia? Why aren’t we talking more about democracy in Egypt? Again, Steinberg, in measured tones, with no hint of defensiveness, argued that “it should be clear” that we remain committed to human rights in Russia. On our support for democracy and human rights in Egypt, you see, it is important “to say it when it matters.” (But not at public news conferences, I suppose.) Kagan pressed him on the G-20: how could we go in there with such dissention between the U.S. and Europe? Oh, now, now. We’ve had hard times with allies in the past. Why is China exhibiting such bullying behavior of late? Ah, it’s a transition period, and there are many voice there. Why aren’t we getting these free-trade agreements done? Well, on South Korea, sometimes the “work just is not ready,” so we’ll keep at it. Colombia? He’s very encouraged.

Steinberg is such an articulate and calm figure, the consummate professional, that you’d almost forget listening to him that Obama’s Middle East policy is in shambles, that Iran is on the ascendency and on the road to getting the bomb, that our human-rights policy is under attack by the left and right, that Russia and China are both feeling emboldened to extend their influence, and that our relations with Europe are badly frayed. But what comes across loud and clear is that the Obama team wants to be perceived as operating well within the bipartisan tradition of American foreign policy. If that entails an ongoing presence in Iraq, a sustained effort in Afghanistan, a determination to deny Iran nuclear weapons, a cessation of its foolhardy obsession with Israeli settlements, a competent and forceful free-trade policy, and consistent defense of human rights, then the administration will earn the support of conservatives and, more important, the respect of foes and the confidence of allies.

There is an art that the best State Department functionaries master: to take hard questions that present troubling facts or contradictions in policy and to give in response a long, rambling answer that, by the end, dilutes the impact of the question and leaves the audience at a loss to remember what was orginally being asked. There is no one better at this than Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, who wrapped up the FPI conference.

It was evident that the administration came with an olive branch to the right and with many fine sentiments about bipartisanship in foreign policy. Who can blame it? The administration’s biggest successes (e.g., Iraq, appointment of Gen. Petraeus in Afghanistan) have been supported by conservatives. With an assertive Republican House and more conservative voices in the Senate, the administration doesn’t need more headaches, so foreign policy offers a chance to show its bipartisan inclinations. One way to do that is not to talk about the hard stuff. So, in his prepared remarks, Steinberg didn’t bring up Iran, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Europe, human rights, Hugo Chavez, or other topics that are sources of disagreement between the Obama team and conservatives.

He did talk about Southeast Asia. It’s very important. We are making many trips there. We’re going to have “sustained engagement.” And we’re very “clear-eyed” about China.

His next topics were Iraq and Afghanistan, where he echoed many of Sen. Joe Lieberman’s remarks (and Sen. John McCain’s from the previous day). On Iraq, we need bipartisanship and, yes, more “sustained engagement.” On Afghanistan, again, we must maintain funding. In the Q&A, he expressed himself as delighted with the Afghanistan war-strategy process. It was “serious,” he intoned. He’s never seen a president so involved. And that 2011 deadline? With perfect earnestness he explained: “There is no ambiguity. It is the beginning of a transition.” Really, there was “never any intention to see it as a dramatic turning point. … If we need to do a better job of messaging, we’ll do a better job.”

The third topic was START. (During the conference, Sen. Jon Kyl declared it isn’t going to get a vote in the lame-duck session.) This should be a bipartisan issue too, he asserted. He added that “there are no restraints” on our ability to pursue missile defense, and it comes packaged with an unprecedented commitment to force modernization.

Things got a bit dicier in the Q&A conducted by Robert Kagan. What about human rights in Russia? Why aren’t we talking more about democracy in Egypt? Again, Steinberg, in measured tones, with no hint of defensiveness, argued that “it should be clear” that we remain committed to human rights in Russia. On our support for democracy and human rights in Egypt, you see, it is important “to say it when it matters.” (But not at public news conferences, I suppose.) Kagan pressed him on the G-20: how could we go in there with such dissention between the U.S. and Europe? Oh, now, now. We’ve had hard times with allies in the past. Why is China exhibiting such bullying behavior of late? Ah, it’s a transition period, and there are many voice there. Why aren’t we getting these free-trade agreements done? Well, on South Korea, sometimes the “work just is not ready,” so we’ll keep at it. Colombia? He’s very encouraged.

Steinberg is such an articulate and calm figure, the consummate professional, that you’d almost forget listening to him that Obama’s Middle East policy is in shambles, that Iran is on the ascendency and on the road to getting the bomb, that our human-rights policy is under attack by the left and right, that Russia and China are both feeling emboldened to extend their influence, and that our relations with Europe are badly frayed. But what comes across loud and clear is that the Obama team wants to be perceived as operating well within the bipartisan tradition of American foreign policy. If that entails an ongoing presence in Iraq, a sustained effort in Afghanistan, a determination to deny Iran nuclear weapons, a cessation of its foolhardy obsession with Israeli settlements, a competent and forceful free-trade policy, and consistent defense of human rights, then the administration will earn the support of conservatives and, more important, the respect of foes and the confidence of allies.

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FPI Conference (Part 2): Defending the Indefensible

Jackson Diehl moderated a panel on the administration’s human-rights policy. A human-rights activist from Burma (Win Min), Michele Dunne from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Amb. Michael Kozak from the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, politely discussed the Obama administration’s dismal record. The crowd, filled with human-rights activists and scholars, reacted with restraint and even sympathy to Kozak’s plight: he was there to defend the indefensible and to take arrows for the administration. He is a well-traveled and respected foreign-policy figure and emerged with his reputation intact. The administration’s reputation is another matter.

Kozak stated the case: the administration cares deeply about human rights. Obama talked about it at the UN, is actively discussing democracy promotion in Egypt, and has joined the UN Human Rights Council to “speak truth” and engage on human rights. His fellow panelists were cordial but, to put it mildly, skeptical. The crowd sat in stony silence.

Win Min spoke with optimism about the recent release of Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest but explained this was an effort to “deflect criticism” from the recent elections, which the U.S. and the West have roundly condemned. He urged the administration to step up sanctions, not relax them.

Dunne was quite tough on the administration. She reminded the audience that the Bush administration had made considerable progress on democracy in Egypt, but the perception now is that Egypt has been dropped or severely downgraded by the Obama team. She wryly noted that, after all, we have given the Mubarak government $1.5 billion in aid without any improvement, and indeed some deterioration, of human rights in that country. In the Q&A, Dunne was even more blunt. She accused the Obama team of coming into office with an “anything-but-Bush” mentality that derided the Bush freedom agenda. She explained that only now is the administration beginning to treat democracy promotion with seriousness, but having frittered away nearly two years, the administration is “behind zero.”

What could Kozak say? Well, he tried his best. We really are talking to Egypt about democracy, and although Hillary Clinton didn’t mention human rights or democracy promotion last week in her news conference with the foreign minister, we have to understand there are lots of issues on the table. On Iran, where was the administration with respect to the Green Revolution? Well, there was a concern that it would be like Hungary in 1956 — we’d encourage people to take to the streets but not be able to help them. (But weren’t they already in the streets?)

The problem with the administration’s human-rights policy lies not with the dedicated professionals charged with carrying it out. The problem is the president — who occasionally talks a good game but, when the chips are down, relegates human rights to the bottom of the list. Until there is a new president, Kozak’s job won’t get any easier.

After the session, I asked Kozak if the administration was conducting any evaluation of its decision to participate in the UN Human Rights Council. Weren’t we doing more harm than good by legitimizing the thugocracies? He smiled. He paused. No, there wasn’t any talk like that. But we had taken away the argument that the UNHRC is dysfunctional because we weren’t there! (Umm, so now it’s dysfunction with us there?) We’re going to see if we can make it better. One suspected that even he didn’t buy that answer.

Jackson Diehl moderated a panel on the administration’s human-rights policy. A human-rights activist from Burma (Win Min), Michele Dunne from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Amb. Michael Kozak from the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, politely discussed the Obama administration’s dismal record. The crowd, filled with human-rights activists and scholars, reacted with restraint and even sympathy to Kozak’s plight: he was there to defend the indefensible and to take arrows for the administration. He is a well-traveled and respected foreign-policy figure and emerged with his reputation intact. The administration’s reputation is another matter.

Kozak stated the case: the administration cares deeply about human rights. Obama talked about it at the UN, is actively discussing democracy promotion in Egypt, and has joined the UN Human Rights Council to “speak truth” and engage on human rights. His fellow panelists were cordial but, to put it mildly, skeptical. The crowd sat in stony silence.

Win Min spoke with optimism about the recent release of Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest but explained this was an effort to “deflect criticism” from the recent elections, which the U.S. and the West have roundly condemned. He urged the administration to step up sanctions, not relax them.

Dunne was quite tough on the administration. She reminded the audience that the Bush administration had made considerable progress on democracy in Egypt, but the perception now is that Egypt has been dropped or severely downgraded by the Obama team. She wryly noted that, after all, we have given the Mubarak government $1.5 billion in aid without any improvement, and indeed some deterioration, of human rights in that country. In the Q&A, Dunne was even more blunt. She accused the Obama team of coming into office with an “anything-but-Bush” mentality that derided the Bush freedom agenda. She explained that only now is the administration beginning to treat democracy promotion with seriousness, but having frittered away nearly two years, the administration is “behind zero.”

What could Kozak say? Well, he tried his best. We really are talking to Egypt about democracy, and although Hillary Clinton didn’t mention human rights or democracy promotion last week in her news conference with the foreign minister, we have to understand there are lots of issues on the table. On Iran, where was the administration with respect to the Green Revolution? Well, there was a concern that it would be like Hungary in 1956 — we’d encourage people to take to the streets but not be able to help them. (But weren’t they already in the streets?)

The problem with the administration’s human-rights policy lies not with the dedicated professionals charged with carrying it out. The problem is the president — who occasionally talks a good game but, when the chips are down, relegates human rights to the bottom of the list. Until there is a new president, Kozak’s job won’t get any easier.

After the session, I asked Kozak if the administration was conducting any evaluation of its decision to participate in the UN Human Rights Council. Weren’t we doing more harm than good by legitimizing the thugocracies? He smiled. He paused. No, there wasn’t any talk like that. But we had taken away the argument that the UNHRC is dysfunctional because we weren’t there! (Umm, so now it’s dysfunction with us there?) We’re going to see if we can make it better. One suspected that even he didn’t buy that answer.

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FPI Conference (Part One)

At the second day of the Foreign Policy Initiative’s 2010 forum, the administration’s representatives were there to soothe and to stress bipartisanship, which they carried out with mixed results. The day began with an assist from Sen. Joe Lieberman, who emphasized bipartisanship on Iraq and Afghanistan. Returning from a trip to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, he asserted that although “the U.S. has never been as engaged as we are today across the Middle East,” there is nevertheless “heightened uneasiness… about America’s staying power.” He voiced optimism about the newly formed government in Iraq, stressing the need for the U.S. to remain engaged and to ensure the government “reflects the will of the Iraqi people” and not foreign governments, especially the Iranian regime. He urged the administration to accept any invitation by the Iraqi government to extend our presence beyond the 2011 date set forth in the Status of Forces Agreement.

Lieberman was heartened by progress since his last visit in July to Afghanistan. He observed that we have begun to “turn the tide” and emphasized the improved strategy and command structure implemented in the last two years. “Simply put, America has gotten its act together,” he explained. However, he was sharply critical of the July 2011 withdrawal deadline, which, he explained, “exacerbated the central strategic problem,” namely that individuals and groups “continue to hedge their bets” with Taliban forces as long as they are uncertain about American resolve. He noted with approval the administration’s recent effort “to begin to downplay the 2011 date.” He urged the development of a long-term security pact that might include an American airbase in the country.

In response to questions posed by moderator Bill Kristol, he expressed confidence that the administration would not squander gains in Iraq. But he also expressed some fear that, on Afghanistan, there would “emerge an unusual alliance of the anti-war Democrats and isolationist… or fiscally hawkish Republicans.” As for the administration, he believes “they are in it to win it.” On Pakistan, he explained the dilemma: we get more anti-terrorism information from that country than any other, yet its security forces continue to have links to the Taliban.

On Iran, Lieberman sounded hopeful on congressional bipartisanship; “not tomorrow,” but soon, he hopes for a resolution calling on the White House to use all available sanctions, to continue sanctions even if talks resume, and to express that if sanctions fail, we will use force to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. As to the last item, the problem remains not Congress but the administration.

Lieberman’s theme was: “The Obama story is as much about continuity as it is about change.” We need to hope he is right.

At the second day of the Foreign Policy Initiative’s 2010 forum, the administration’s representatives were there to soothe and to stress bipartisanship, which they carried out with mixed results. The day began with an assist from Sen. Joe Lieberman, who emphasized bipartisanship on Iraq and Afghanistan. Returning from a trip to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, he asserted that although “the U.S. has never been as engaged as we are today across the Middle East,” there is nevertheless “heightened uneasiness… about America’s staying power.” He voiced optimism about the newly formed government in Iraq, stressing the need for the U.S. to remain engaged and to ensure the government “reflects the will of the Iraqi people” and not foreign governments, especially the Iranian regime. He urged the administration to accept any invitation by the Iraqi government to extend our presence beyond the 2011 date set forth in the Status of Forces Agreement.

Lieberman was heartened by progress since his last visit in July to Afghanistan. He observed that we have begun to “turn the tide” and emphasized the improved strategy and command structure implemented in the last two years. “Simply put, America has gotten its act together,” he explained. However, he was sharply critical of the July 2011 withdrawal deadline, which, he explained, “exacerbated the central strategic problem,” namely that individuals and groups “continue to hedge their bets” with Taliban forces as long as they are uncertain about American resolve. He noted with approval the administration’s recent effort “to begin to downplay the 2011 date.” He urged the development of a long-term security pact that might include an American airbase in the country.

In response to questions posed by moderator Bill Kristol, he expressed confidence that the administration would not squander gains in Iraq. But he also expressed some fear that, on Afghanistan, there would “emerge an unusual alliance of the anti-war Democrats and isolationist… or fiscally hawkish Republicans.” As for the administration, he believes “they are in it to win it.” On Pakistan, he explained the dilemma: we get more anti-terrorism information from that country than any other, yet its security forces continue to have links to the Taliban.

On Iran, Lieberman sounded hopeful on congressional bipartisanship; “not tomorrow,” but soon, he hopes for a resolution calling on the White House to use all available sanctions, to continue sanctions even if talks resume, and to express that if sanctions fail, we will use force to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. As to the last item, the problem remains not Congress but the administration.

Lieberman’s theme was: “The Obama story is as much about continuity as it is about change.” We need to hope he is right.

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Survey Says: Obama Is Responsible for the Election Tsunami

A study by David Brady of Stanford and the Hoover Institution leaves us in no doubt: At least 20 seats on November 2 were lost to Democrats as a direct result of votes cast in favor of health-care reform and cap-and-trade. And if you assign (to be generous) only 25 percent of the votes cast due to the economy to Obama’s ledger, you find he is the reason both for the loss of the House and the astonishing size of the wave that engulfed his party. I explain it all in a column in the New York Post. It begins:

President Obama sounded a bizarre note upon his return home on Sunday when asked about upcoming ne gotiations with Republicans in Congress: “They’re still flush with victory, having run a strategy that was all about saying no,” he said.

The thing is it doesn’t matter what the GOP strategy was in the election’s run-up. What matters is what the voters said by the way they cast their votes. It was the voters who said no. A remarkably original analysis of election results by the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research makes this not just an assertion but a matter of fact.

You can read the whole thing here.

A study by David Brady of Stanford and the Hoover Institution leaves us in no doubt: At least 20 seats on November 2 were lost to Democrats as a direct result of votes cast in favor of health-care reform and cap-and-trade. And if you assign (to be generous) only 25 percent of the votes cast due to the economy to Obama’s ledger, you find he is the reason both for the loss of the House and the astonishing size of the wave that engulfed his party. I explain it all in a column in the New York Post. It begins:

President Obama sounded a bizarre note upon his return home on Sunday when asked about upcoming ne gotiations with Republicans in Congress: “They’re still flush with victory, having run a strategy that was all about saying no,” he said.

The thing is it doesn’t matter what the GOP strategy was in the election’s run-up. What matters is what the voters said by the way they cast their votes. It was the voters who said no. A remarkably original analysis of election results by the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research makes this not just an assertion but a matter of fact.

You can read the whole thing here.

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But What If the Markets Won’t Go Along?

Those darn markets have minds of their own. The Fed’s scheme to print cash and buy $600 billion in bonds aims to drive up the price of bonds and drive down yields (interest rates). Fewer bonds, higher prices, and lower yields. But the markets have rebelled, and investors have dumped bonds, thereby driving bond prices down and yields up — the exact opposite of what the Fed intended. Oops. This report explains:

Bucking the Federal Reserve’s efforts to push interest rates lower, investors are selling off U.S. government debt, driving rates in many cases to their highest levels in more than three months.

The Fed’s $600 billion program to buy Treasury bonds began late last week and is kicking into high gear this week, with the central bank buying up tens of billions of dollars of debt. …

The trend is a potential problem for the economy and the Fed. Rates had fallen sharply for months in anticipation of a Fed buying program, and in a short time much of that effect has been lost, spelling an unwelcome rise in borrowing costs throughout the economy.

That could throw a wrench in what the Fed is trying to accomplish: to use low rates to encourage more borrowing and risk-taking by consumers, businesses and investors, thereby reviving growth.

This may be a blip, or it may be a sign that investors are now wary of holding USD-denominated assets. After all, if the Fed is going to devalue the currency, why not get into other assets that will hold their value?

What this does show is that the Fed is playing with fire, trying a gambit with many unintended consequences. (“Still, the recent move in rates has been jarring, raising some market worries that the Fed’s program might be ineffective or backfiring. That could damage the Fed’s credibility and raise borrowing costs broadly.”) When the new Congress convenes, oversight hearings should explore whether Helicopter Ben’s plan has the potential to deliver more harm rather help — both to the economy and the Fed’s reputation.

Those darn markets have minds of their own. The Fed’s scheme to print cash and buy $600 billion in bonds aims to drive up the price of bonds and drive down yields (interest rates). Fewer bonds, higher prices, and lower yields. But the markets have rebelled, and investors have dumped bonds, thereby driving bond prices down and yields up — the exact opposite of what the Fed intended. Oops. This report explains:

Bucking the Federal Reserve’s efforts to push interest rates lower, investors are selling off U.S. government debt, driving rates in many cases to their highest levels in more than three months.

The Fed’s $600 billion program to buy Treasury bonds began late last week and is kicking into high gear this week, with the central bank buying up tens of billions of dollars of debt. …

The trend is a potential problem for the economy and the Fed. Rates had fallen sharply for months in anticipation of a Fed buying program, and in a short time much of that effect has been lost, spelling an unwelcome rise in borrowing costs throughout the economy.

That could throw a wrench in what the Fed is trying to accomplish: to use low rates to encourage more borrowing and risk-taking by consumers, businesses and investors, thereby reviving growth.

This may be a blip, or it may be a sign that investors are now wary of holding USD-denominated assets. After all, if the Fed is going to devalue the currency, why not get into other assets that will hold their value?

What this does show is that the Fed is playing with fire, trying a gambit with many unintended consequences. (“Still, the recent move in rates has been jarring, raising some market worries that the Fed’s program might be ineffective or backfiring. That could damage the Fed’s credibility and raise borrowing costs broadly.”) When the new Congress convenes, oversight hearings should explore whether Helicopter Ben’s plan has the potential to deliver more harm rather help — both to the economy and the Fed’s reputation.

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Fake Photos and Foreign Media

You have to appreciate the irony. The Palestinians — who have made photo propaganda and falsification a central part of their anti-Israel efforts — are now caught up in such a gambit by another liberation-style group. The context is the ongoing conflict between Morocco and the Polisario Front, which opposes a Moroccan plan for autonomy for the West Sahara and prefers to fan the flames of conflict and perpetuate the misery of those warehoused in camps in Algeria. The latest incident is detailed in this account:

At a news conference, Interior Minister Taieb Cherkaoui played a video which he said showed “a man armed with a knife slitting the throat of two members of the security forces, the first in the camp and the second in Laayoune”, the Western Sahara’s main town.

These were “barbarous acts”, said Cherkaoui. The video was shot by Moroccan police.

The raid on the camp near Laayoune housing thousands of Sahrawis, who moved there to protest against their living conditions, was carried out on November 8, a few hours before a new round of talks between the Polisario, the main Western Sahara rebel group, and the Moroccan government started near New York.

Morocco has said that 12 people died in clashes between protesters and the police, including 10 members of the security forces.

But the pro-independence Polisario said dozens of people died and more than 4,500 were wounded in the violence.

Cherkaoui said some Sahrawi protesters, whom he described as criminal gangs, “deliberately killed members of the security forces, used knives, molotov cocktails and gas canisters” to start fires.

The police raid “was deliberately peaceful, no shots were fired and no deaths were reported from among the camp population and from Laayoune”, said Cherkaoui.

Well, the Polisario Front felt compelled to embellish and distort the incident. The group bandied about photos of wounded children — a sure-fire attention getter with the Western media, as the Palestinians have proven time and again. However the children weren’t from the Western Sahara but instead from Gaza (perhaps a few of the human shields used by Hamas?).  This report explains:

Spanish news agency EFE said Friday it had sent a photo supposedly of injured infants in Western Sahara which turned out to be a four-year-old image of children hurt in Gaza. The photo, purchased from a web site which made the original error, was published in major daily newspapers including the leading daily El Pais, and the centre-right daily El Mundo.

It showed infants with their heads wrapped in bandages being treated in hospital. In El Pais, the photo carried the caption: “Two injured Saharan children are treated at a hospital in Laayoune,” the capital of the Western Sahara.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat is now incensed by such disinformation.

The lesson here is one for respectable media outlets: be wary of accepting at face value reports or photographic “evidence” from groups whose journalistic bona fides are in question and whose motives are suspect. And that’s a lesson that is equally applicable in the Western Sahara and in Gaza.

You have to appreciate the irony. The Palestinians — who have made photo propaganda and falsification a central part of their anti-Israel efforts — are now caught up in such a gambit by another liberation-style group. The context is the ongoing conflict between Morocco and the Polisario Front, which opposes a Moroccan plan for autonomy for the West Sahara and prefers to fan the flames of conflict and perpetuate the misery of those warehoused in camps in Algeria. The latest incident is detailed in this account:

At a news conference, Interior Minister Taieb Cherkaoui played a video which he said showed “a man armed with a knife slitting the throat of two members of the security forces, the first in the camp and the second in Laayoune”, the Western Sahara’s main town.

These were “barbarous acts”, said Cherkaoui. The video was shot by Moroccan police.

The raid on the camp near Laayoune housing thousands of Sahrawis, who moved there to protest against their living conditions, was carried out on November 8, a few hours before a new round of talks between the Polisario, the main Western Sahara rebel group, and the Moroccan government started near New York.

Morocco has said that 12 people died in clashes between protesters and the police, including 10 members of the security forces.

But the pro-independence Polisario said dozens of people died and more than 4,500 were wounded in the violence.

Cherkaoui said some Sahrawi protesters, whom he described as criminal gangs, “deliberately killed members of the security forces, used knives, molotov cocktails and gas canisters” to start fires.

The police raid “was deliberately peaceful, no shots were fired and no deaths were reported from among the camp population and from Laayoune”, said Cherkaoui.

Well, the Polisario Front felt compelled to embellish and distort the incident. The group bandied about photos of wounded children — a sure-fire attention getter with the Western media, as the Palestinians have proven time and again. However the children weren’t from the Western Sahara but instead from Gaza (perhaps a few of the human shields used by Hamas?).  This report explains:

Spanish news agency EFE said Friday it had sent a photo supposedly of injured infants in Western Sahara which turned out to be a four-year-old image of children hurt in Gaza. The photo, purchased from a web site which made the original error, was published in major daily newspapers including the leading daily El Pais, and the centre-right daily El Mundo.

It showed infants with their heads wrapped in bandages being treated in hospital. In El Pais, the photo carried the caption: “Two injured Saharan children are treated at a hospital in Laayoune,” the capital of the Western Sahara.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat is now incensed by such disinformation.

The lesson here is one for respectable media outlets: be wary of accepting at face value reports or photographic “evidence” from groups whose journalistic bona fides are in question and whose motives are suspect. And that’s a lesson that is equally applicable in the Western Sahara and in Gaza.

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The Peace Process Letter(s)

Citing “Palestinian sources,” Ynet reports the Palestinians expect their own package of U.S. guarantees and financial incentives to persuade them to return to talks intended to give them a state:

The sources added that the American commitments would include setting the Palestinian state’s borders within three months and solving the refugee problem, including compensation through an international fund comprised of most of the region’s countries (including Israel). The sources also said that the American list of commitment[s] would include financial and diplomatic aid in exchange for returning to the direct negotiations.

At yesterday’s State Department news conference, Spokesman P.J. Crowley seemed to confirm that something is being considered beyond merely restarting the talks (when a question has to be repeated to Crowley three times, you know he is withholding something):

QUESTION: … I’m just wondering, why does the Administration think that three months is enough time to get enough done on borders?

MR. CROWLEY: Well … all I will tell you is that we remain intensely engaged with the parties to try to get them back into negotiations. …

QUESTION: Yeah, but that still doesn’t answer the question of why you think that three months is enough time to get some kind of progress on borders done, that keeps the process alive.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, I’m just emphasizing that our first step here in the process is to get them back in negotiations.  Once we get them back into negotiations, we’ll have a better view of how to get from where we are now to an ultimate agreement.

QUESTION: Well … I mean, surely you have some plan after negotiations resume.  Yeah?

MR. CROWLEY: Right.

QUESTION: And that plan would be … to get some kind of progress or some kind of loose agreement on the borders of a Palestinian state, which would then keep the parties at the table and get them onto perhaps more difficult issues.  So why do you think that that’s possible, to get that kind of progress in a three-month period?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, what we’re trying to do, as the Secretary said, is to get them back into negotiations.  We’re working in advancing some ideas on both sides to help accomplish that. … [Emphasis added].

If news reports about what is being offered to Israel are accurate, Benny Avni’s conclusion that it is a bad deal for Israel, unlikely to produce peace, seems right. Moreover, if the letter Netanyahu is negotiating does not begin with “the U.S. reiterates its ‘steadfast commitments’ set forth in the presidential letter dated April 14, 2004,” Israel is making further concessions without confirming what it was already promised in the last presidential letter, given in exchange for a complete withdrawal from Gaza.

And words should matter.

Citing “Palestinian sources,” Ynet reports the Palestinians expect their own package of U.S. guarantees and financial incentives to persuade them to return to talks intended to give them a state:

The sources added that the American commitments would include setting the Palestinian state’s borders within three months and solving the refugee problem, including compensation through an international fund comprised of most of the region’s countries (including Israel). The sources also said that the American list of commitment[s] would include financial and diplomatic aid in exchange for returning to the direct negotiations.

At yesterday’s State Department news conference, Spokesman P.J. Crowley seemed to confirm that something is being considered beyond merely restarting the talks (when a question has to be repeated to Crowley three times, you know he is withholding something):

QUESTION: … I’m just wondering, why does the Administration think that three months is enough time to get enough done on borders?

MR. CROWLEY: Well … all I will tell you is that we remain intensely engaged with the parties to try to get them back into negotiations. …

QUESTION: Yeah, but that still doesn’t answer the question of why you think that three months is enough time to get some kind of progress on borders done, that keeps the process alive.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, I’m just emphasizing that our first step here in the process is to get them back in negotiations.  Once we get them back into negotiations, we’ll have a better view of how to get from where we are now to an ultimate agreement.

QUESTION: Well … I mean, surely you have some plan after negotiations resume.  Yeah?

MR. CROWLEY: Right.

QUESTION: And that plan would be … to get some kind of progress or some kind of loose agreement on the borders of a Palestinian state, which would then keep the parties at the table and get them onto perhaps more difficult issues.  So why do you think that that’s possible, to get that kind of progress in a three-month period?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, what we’re trying to do, as the Secretary said, is to get them back into negotiations.  We’re working in advancing some ideas on both sides to help accomplish that. … [Emphasis added].

If news reports about what is being offered to Israel are accurate, Benny Avni’s conclusion that it is a bad deal for Israel, unlikely to produce peace, seems right. Moreover, if the letter Netanyahu is negotiating does not begin with “the U.S. reiterates its ‘steadfast commitments’ set forth in the presidential letter dated April 14, 2004,” Israel is making further concessions without confirming what it was already promised in the last presidential letter, given in exchange for a complete withdrawal from Gaza.

And words should matter.

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Ending “the Occupation” Is Not a Palestinian Priority

In yesterday’s post, I explained why a settlement freeze decreases Palestinian motivation to make a deal by ensuring that foot-dragging entails no price. But conventional wisdom on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would counter that this argument has an obvious flaw. Surely, its advocates would retort, Palestinians already have the strongest of all possible motivations to sign a deal quickly — their burning desire to end the hated occupation?

In fact, no. As a new poll by the Ramallah-based Jerusalem Media and Communications Centre reveals, the occupation is nowhere near the top of ordinary Palestinians’ priority list — and neither are the settlements or Jerusalem.

The number-one concern for ordinary Palestinians is the economy, cited by a plurality of 22.4 percent. In second place is Hamas-Fatah reconciliation, at 18 percent. The hated occupation was relegated to third place, with 15.5 percent, followed by “the siege on Gaza” (9.4 percent). The settlements and Jerusalem trailed far behind, at 6.6 percent and 4.9 percent, respectively.

This means that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has no incentive to make any kind of deal because ordinary Palestinians don’t care enough about ending “the occupation” to make them willing to swallow the concessions a deal will entail.

A 2001 poll found that a whopping 80 percent of Palestinians believe “the rights and needs of the Palestinian people” cannot be met as long as Israel exists, regardless of its borders. An agreement would thus require them to accept that their “rights and needs” will not be perfectly met. It would spell the end of long-cherished dreams like “returning” the refugees and their descendants to Israel, or otherwise turning back the clock.

But giving up a cherished dream is hard. Most people will do it only in exchange for a major improvement in reality. And if settlements and the occupation are not actually oppressive enough to rate as burning issues for ordinary Palestinians, a deal cannot produce the massive improvement in reality that would compensate for abandoning their dreams.

Moreover, a people that views Hamas-Fatah reconciliation as more important than ending the occupation is clearly not interested in a deal; given Hamas’s commitment to “armed struggle” and Israel’s ultimate eradication, reconciliation can only take place on terms that would preclude any agreement.

Abbas already appears to have made his choice. Even as he has adamantly refused to negotiate with Israel for the last two years, his Fatah party has been engaged in ongoing talks with Hamas. And at a meeting with Fatah leaders in Ramallah on Monday, he told them reconciliation with Hamas was “at the top of the PA’s agenda.”

Under intense pressure from Washington, he may nevertheless agree to go through the motions of talking with Israel. But anyone who expects a deal to emerge from these talks is deluding himself.

In yesterday’s post, I explained why a settlement freeze decreases Palestinian motivation to make a deal by ensuring that foot-dragging entails no price. But conventional wisdom on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would counter that this argument has an obvious flaw. Surely, its advocates would retort, Palestinians already have the strongest of all possible motivations to sign a deal quickly — their burning desire to end the hated occupation?

In fact, no. As a new poll by the Ramallah-based Jerusalem Media and Communications Centre reveals, the occupation is nowhere near the top of ordinary Palestinians’ priority list — and neither are the settlements or Jerusalem.

The number-one concern for ordinary Palestinians is the economy, cited by a plurality of 22.4 percent. In second place is Hamas-Fatah reconciliation, at 18 percent. The hated occupation was relegated to third place, with 15.5 percent, followed by “the siege on Gaza” (9.4 percent). The settlements and Jerusalem trailed far behind, at 6.6 percent and 4.9 percent, respectively.

This means that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has no incentive to make any kind of deal because ordinary Palestinians don’t care enough about ending “the occupation” to make them willing to swallow the concessions a deal will entail.

A 2001 poll found that a whopping 80 percent of Palestinians believe “the rights and needs of the Palestinian people” cannot be met as long as Israel exists, regardless of its borders. An agreement would thus require them to accept that their “rights and needs” will not be perfectly met. It would spell the end of long-cherished dreams like “returning” the refugees and their descendants to Israel, or otherwise turning back the clock.

But giving up a cherished dream is hard. Most people will do it only in exchange for a major improvement in reality. And if settlements and the occupation are not actually oppressive enough to rate as burning issues for ordinary Palestinians, a deal cannot produce the massive improvement in reality that would compensate for abandoning their dreams.

Moreover, a people that views Hamas-Fatah reconciliation as more important than ending the occupation is clearly not interested in a deal; given Hamas’s commitment to “armed struggle” and Israel’s ultimate eradication, reconciliation can only take place on terms that would preclude any agreement.

Abbas already appears to have made his choice. Even as he has adamantly refused to negotiate with Israel for the last two years, his Fatah party has been engaged in ongoing talks with Hamas. And at a meeting with Fatah leaders in Ramallah on Monday, he told them reconciliation with Hamas was “at the top of the PA’s agenda.”

Under intense pressure from Washington, he may nevertheless agree to go through the motions of talking with Israel. But anyone who expects a deal to emerge from these talks is deluding himself.

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Obama’s Fall from Grace

“Campaigning is different than governing,” President Obama told reporters during his return flight from Asia this weekend. When asked about his meeting with GOP leaders later this week, Obama said: “They are flush with victory after a campaign of just saying ‘No.’ But I’m sure the American people did not vote for more gridlock.”

In fact, the exit polling shows the public did exactly what the president denies. The midterm elections were as close to a plebiscite as we have ever seen in a midterm election. It was, in large measure, a referendum on Obama and his policies — on Obamaism — and the public stood awthart history yelling, “Stop!”

As for the differences between campaigning and governing: that is precisely the distinction some of us warned Obama about in the immediate afterglow of his election. At the time, Obama’s supporters mocked the cautionary notes; governing would be a breeze once The One we had been waiting for took his throne. Mr. Obama himself is responsible in large measure for this. After all, he created almost mythological expectations of what he would achieve.

It has turned out to be quite a lot different, and quite a lot harder, than Mr. Obama ever imagined.

The world is an untidy place; problems are often more difficult and even more intractable than candidates imagine. Expressing intentions — like, say, closing down Guantanamo Bay, trying Khalid Sheik Mohammad in a civilian court, keeping unemployment below 8 percent, bending the health-care cost curve down while at the same time covering more people, convincing the Iranians to give up their pursuit of nuclear weapons, ushering in peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, even signing a free-trade agreement with South Korea — is different than actually implementing successful policies.

Republicans, to their credit, seem to have learned from Obama’s mistakes, as well as some of their own. There is no more talk about “revolutions.” Rather, there is a sober realization of the tasks that lie before them. This attitude doesn’t guarantee success, but it does show a level of maturity about politics and life, about their possibilities and limitations, that is a welcome thing to see.

Barack Obama’s stunning fall from grace has had an effect on him and on his opponents. The days of meaningless incantations like “hope and change,” of healing the planet and reversing the ocean tides, are gone with the wind. We are at least better for that.

“Campaigning is different than governing,” President Obama told reporters during his return flight from Asia this weekend. When asked about his meeting with GOP leaders later this week, Obama said: “They are flush with victory after a campaign of just saying ‘No.’ But I’m sure the American people did not vote for more gridlock.”

In fact, the exit polling shows the public did exactly what the president denies. The midterm elections were as close to a plebiscite as we have ever seen in a midterm election. It was, in large measure, a referendum on Obama and his policies — on Obamaism — and the public stood awthart history yelling, “Stop!”

As for the differences between campaigning and governing: that is precisely the distinction some of us warned Obama about in the immediate afterglow of his election. At the time, Obama’s supporters mocked the cautionary notes; governing would be a breeze once The One we had been waiting for took his throne. Mr. Obama himself is responsible in large measure for this. After all, he created almost mythological expectations of what he would achieve.

It has turned out to be quite a lot different, and quite a lot harder, than Mr. Obama ever imagined.

The world is an untidy place; problems are often more difficult and even more intractable than candidates imagine. Expressing intentions — like, say, closing down Guantanamo Bay, trying Khalid Sheik Mohammad in a civilian court, keeping unemployment below 8 percent, bending the health-care cost curve down while at the same time covering more people, convincing the Iranians to give up their pursuit of nuclear weapons, ushering in peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, even signing a free-trade agreement with South Korea — is different than actually implementing successful policies.

Republicans, to their credit, seem to have learned from Obama’s mistakes, as well as some of their own. There is no more talk about “revolutions.” Rather, there is a sober realization of the tasks that lie before them. This attitude doesn’t guarantee success, but it does show a level of maturity about politics and life, about their possibilities and limitations, that is a welcome thing to see.

Barack Obama’s stunning fall from grace has had an effect on him and on his opponents. The days of meaningless incantations like “hope and change,” of healing the planet and reversing the ocean tides, are gone with the wind. We are at least better for that.

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A More Dangerous World

COMMENTARY contributor Bret Stephens identifies the cumulative danger posed by an administration obsessed by multilateralism and possessing many false and bad ideas about international affairs:

Last week, Mr. Obama was so resoundingly rebuffed by other leaders at the G-20 summit in Seoul that even the New York Times noticed: Mr. Obama, the paper wrote, faced “stiff challenges… from the leaders of China, Britain, Germany and Brazil.” His administration has now been chastised or belittled by everyone from the Supreme Leader of Iran to the finance minister of Germany to the president of France to the dictator of Syria. What does it mean for global order when the world figures out that the U.S. president is someone who’s willing to take no for an answer?

The answer is that the United States becomes Europe. Except on a handful of topics, like trade and foreign aid, the foreign policy of the European Union, and that of most of its constituent states, amounts to a kind of diplomatic air guitar: furious motion, considerable imagination, but neither sound nor effect. When a European leader issues a stern demarche toward, say, Burma or Russia, nobody notices. And nobody cares.

And, as Bret points out, the world becomes more chaotic, and the smaller democracies get the shaft as a result of America’s feckless approach:

The small and distant abuses of power, would grow bolder and more frequent. America’s exhortations for restraint or decency would seem cheaper. Multipolarity is a theory that, inevitably, leads to old-fashioned spheres of influence. It has little regard for small states: Taiwan, Mongolia, Israel, Georgia, Latvia, Costa Rica.

That approach to foreign affairs is also characterized by an inordinate amount of disingenuousness. Obama says he’s in favor of free trade but loses the face-off with South Korea because he is on the side of the auto companies’ efforts to maintain protectionist barriers just a little bit longer. Obama says he’s a grand friend of Israel but continues the lopsided public bullying of Israel. Obama says he’s a great champion of human rights and democracy, but his policy choices are curiously lacking in any meaningful assistance for the oppressed and any real opposition to the oppressors. There is, to be blunt, a collapse of our moral standing and our credibility, which is frittered away in an effort to mask the essential amorality of our policy.

Gradually the bullies and the despots get the idea the U.S. can be played and its allies pushed about. We’ve been down this road before, and the results are never good.

COMMENTARY contributor Bret Stephens identifies the cumulative danger posed by an administration obsessed by multilateralism and possessing many false and bad ideas about international affairs:

Last week, Mr. Obama was so resoundingly rebuffed by other leaders at the G-20 summit in Seoul that even the New York Times noticed: Mr. Obama, the paper wrote, faced “stiff challenges… from the leaders of China, Britain, Germany and Brazil.” His administration has now been chastised or belittled by everyone from the Supreme Leader of Iran to the finance minister of Germany to the president of France to the dictator of Syria. What does it mean for global order when the world figures out that the U.S. president is someone who’s willing to take no for an answer?

The answer is that the United States becomes Europe. Except on a handful of topics, like trade and foreign aid, the foreign policy of the European Union, and that of most of its constituent states, amounts to a kind of diplomatic air guitar: furious motion, considerable imagination, but neither sound nor effect. When a European leader issues a stern demarche toward, say, Burma or Russia, nobody notices. And nobody cares.

And, as Bret points out, the world becomes more chaotic, and the smaller democracies get the shaft as a result of America’s feckless approach:

The small and distant abuses of power, would grow bolder and more frequent. America’s exhortations for restraint or decency would seem cheaper. Multipolarity is a theory that, inevitably, leads to old-fashioned spheres of influence. It has little regard for small states: Taiwan, Mongolia, Israel, Georgia, Latvia, Costa Rica.

That approach to foreign affairs is also characterized by an inordinate amount of disingenuousness. Obama says he’s in favor of free trade but loses the face-off with South Korea because he is on the side of the auto companies’ efforts to maintain protectionist barriers just a little bit longer. Obama says he’s a grand friend of Israel but continues the lopsided public bullying of Israel. Obama says he’s a great champion of human rights and democracy, but his policy choices are curiously lacking in any meaningful assistance for the oppressed and any real opposition to the oppressors. There is, to be blunt, a collapse of our moral standing and our credibility, which is frittered away in an effort to mask the essential amorality of our policy.

Gradually the bullies and the despots get the idea the U.S. can be played and its allies pushed about. We’ve been down this road before, and the results are never good.

Read Less

Why Israel Shouldn’t Do Foolish Things

The Palestinians’ response to the Obami-inspired 90-day settlement moratorium offer simply reinforces the foolishness of the endeavor:

An Arab League official said Monday that a possible three-month-long temporary freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank would be unlikely to be enough to prompt Palestinian and Arab support for Mideast peace talks.

“If the news is true about there being a settlement freeze that excludes Jerusalem and that takes the criticism off Israel, I cannot imagine that would be acceptable to the Palestinian side or the Arab side,” said Hesham Youssef, an official with the office of the secretary general of the Arab League.

Of course it’s not “enough.” It’s never enough. Meanwhile, the Palestinians’ own refusal to recognize the Jewish state (oh yes, that) goes unremarked upon. And no, Israel will get little or zero credit for knuckling under to another incarnation of the same fundamentally flawed approach, which has not only set back the cause of peace but also has diminished whatever semblance of credibility Obama has been able to cling to.

But does Israel still get the planes? No, seriously. If the “hardware” was the reward for Bibi putting his government at risk and reducing his own credibility (when Israel says “no,” does the government really mean no?), it seems only fair that Israel should get to keep the bribe planes. And what about the promised veto of anti-Israel resolutions? Bibi has now, it seems, established the precedent that the support of  the U.S. in international bodies is a bargaining chip between the U.S. and the Jewish state.

Those cheering or excusing the latest effort to “rescue” the peace talks make a fundamental error. The U.S. is acting in foolish and desperate ways. Israel cannot afford to be either, or to convey to the Jewish state’s enemies, especially the Iranian regime, that it will be cowed by the U.S.’s pressure tactics. Israel must, even if the U.S. does not, convey that its oft-repeated positions are more than words. Call it linkage — but if Israel isn’t serious about a futile settlement extension, is it serious about more weighty matters?

Bibi, in essence, blinked –something for which he is certainly deserving of criticism. Is it hard navigating the waters with an American president as hostile as this one to the Jewish state? Sure, but indulging foolishness is not a recipe designed to help improve the security of the U.S. or Israel.

The Palestinians’ response to the Obami-inspired 90-day settlement moratorium offer simply reinforces the foolishness of the endeavor:

An Arab League official said Monday that a possible three-month-long temporary freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank would be unlikely to be enough to prompt Palestinian and Arab support for Mideast peace talks.

“If the news is true about there being a settlement freeze that excludes Jerusalem and that takes the criticism off Israel, I cannot imagine that would be acceptable to the Palestinian side or the Arab side,” said Hesham Youssef, an official with the office of the secretary general of the Arab League.

Of course it’s not “enough.” It’s never enough. Meanwhile, the Palestinians’ own refusal to recognize the Jewish state (oh yes, that) goes unremarked upon. And no, Israel will get little or zero credit for knuckling under to another incarnation of the same fundamentally flawed approach, which has not only set back the cause of peace but also has diminished whatever semblance of credibility Obama has been able to cling to.

But does Israel still get the planes? No, seriously. If the “hardware” was the reward for Bibi putting his government at risk and reducing his own credibility (when Israel says “no,” does the government really mean no?), it seems only fair that Israel should get to keep the bribe planes. And what about the promised veto of anti-Israel resolutions? Bibi has now, it seems, established the precedent that the support of  the U.S. in international bodies is a bargaining chip between the U.S. and the Jewish state.

Those cheering or excusing the latest effort to “rescue” the peace talks make a fundamental error. The U.S. is acting in foolish and desperate ways. Israel cannot afford to be either, or to convey to the Jewish state’s enemies, especially the Iranian regime, that it will be cowed by the U.S.’s pressure tactics. Israel must, even if the U.S. does not, convey that its oft-repeated positions are more than words. Call it linkage — but if Israel isn’t serious about a futile settlement extension, is it serious about more weighty matters?

Bibi, in essence, blinked –something for which he is certainly deserving of criticism. Is it hard navigating the waters with an American president as hostile as this one to the Jewish state? Sure, but indulging foolishness is not a recipe designed to help improve the security of the U.S. or Israel.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

“Refudiate” is the word of the year? You betcha.

Word has it they are rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic advisers at the White House. “Call it a shakeup or call it a natural turnover halfway through the term, but the White House is preparing for significant change throughout its top ranks. Much of the movement, though, will involve new posts for longtime aides to President Barack Obama.”

Words, words. You didn’t really take the State Department seriously, did you? “Mideast peace talks may not reach fruition before their initial September 2011 deadline, a U.S. State Department official said on Monday, citing recent negotiations deadlock over Israel’s refusal to extend its moratorium on settlement building as one reason for the delay. Speaking prior to September’s relaunch of direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley said that the administration thought it could negotiate an agreement ‘within a one-year time frame.'”

“Fortunate” is not the word most of us have in mind. Donna Brazile waxes lyrical: “This week, visitors entering Washington’s Union Station are greeted by a work of art — a two-story, red open-toed lady’s dress shoe. It reminds me of Cinderella’s lost glass slipper. I thought to myself, if someone is looking for the woman big enough to fill this, they need look no further than Nancy Pelosi. The nation is fortunate, not to mention the Democratic Party and the president, that Ms. Pelosi will be re-elected Democratic leader for the next Congress, because we are surely entering one of the nation’s most difficult eras.”

Rep. Paul Ryan doesn’t mince words: “Congress should act now to prevent across-the-board tax increases from hitting nearly all Americans on Jan. 1. Sustained job creation and economic growth are urgently needed — higher tax rates are not. The failure to take decisive action on this issue further heightens the uncertainty holding our economy back.” Is there any Republican better able to explain conservative economic positions better than he? I haven’t found him/her yet.

Words of advice for Sen. Joe Lieberman. “‘He’d probably be best off running as a Republican as far as getting re-elected,’ said [John] Droney [a Lieberman ally and former chairman of the Connecticut Democratic Party], who stays in regular contact with Lieberman and encouraged him to run as an Independent in 2006. ‘I’d recommend him doing it now.”

You have to love the word choice. A “giveaway” is when people get to keep their own money. “Reps. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.) and Lynn Woolsey (Calif.), co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said extending the tax breaks for those earning more than $250,000 a year represents ‘a giveaway’ to wealthy Americans that would saddle the country in unnecessary debt.”

“Refudiate” is the word of the year? You betcha.

Word has it they are rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic advisers at the White House. “Call it a shakeup or call it a natural turnover halfway through the term, but the White House is preparing for significant change throughout its top ranks. Much of the movement, though, will involve new posts for longtime aides to President Barack Obama.”

Words, words. You didn’t really take the State Department seriously, did you? “Mideast peace talks may not reach fruition before their initial September 2011 deadline, a U.S. State Department official said on Monday, citing recent negotiations deadlock over Israel’s refusal to extend its moratorium on settlement building as one reason for the delay. Speaking prior to September’s relaunch of direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley said that the administration thought it could negotiate an agreement ‘within a one-year time frame.'”

“Fortunate” is not the word most of us have in mind. Donna Brazile waxes lyrical: “This week, visitors entering Washington’s Union Station are greeted by a work of art — a two-story, red open-toed lady’s dress shoe. It reminds me of Cinderella’s lost glass slipper. I thought to myself, if someone is looking for the woman big enough to fill this, they need look no further than Nancy Pelosi. The nation is fortunate, not to mention the Democratic Party and the president, that Ms. Pelosi will be re-elected Democratic leader for the next Congress, because we are surely entering one of the nation’s most difficult eras.”

Rep. Paul Ryan doesn’t mince words: “Congress should act now to prevent across-the-board tax increases from hitting nearly all Americans on Jan. 1. Sustained job creation and economic growth are urgently needed — higher tax rates are not. The failure to take decisive action on this issue further heightens the uncertainty holding our economy back.” Is there any Republican better able to explain conservative economic positions better than he? I haven’t found him/her yet.

Words of advice for Sen. Joe Lieberman. “‘He’d probably be best off running as a Republican as far as getting re-elected,’ said [John] Droney [a Lieberman ally and former chairman of the Connecticut Democratic Party], who stays in regular contact with Lieberman and encouraged him to run as an Independent in 2006. ‘I’d recommend him doing it now.”

You have to love the word choice. A “giveaway” is when people get to keep their own money. “Reps. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.) and Lynn Woolsey (Calif.), co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said extending the tax breaks for those earning more than $250,000 a year represents ‘a giveaway’ to wealthy Americans that would saddle the country in unnecessary debt.”

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