Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 28, 2011

A Time for Reflection and Rededication

Sundown tonight marks the start of the Jewish New Year that begins with the celebration of Rosh Hashanah. The ten days from the start of that holiday until the end of Yom Kippur next week are known as the Days of Awe in Judaism. During this period, Jews reflect on their deeds in the past year and seek to account for them to their Creator as well as their fellow human beings. This period of introspection should cause all of us to think about what we have done in the past 12 months and work to improve ourselves.

It would also be good advice for many world leaders as we observe the circus at the United Nations where nations line up to cheer dictators and to single out Israel for discriminatory treatment. As Jews around the globe take note of their shortcomings, perhaps those who have done so much to encourage hatred of the Jewish state and the Jewish people should take a few moments and own up to their policies that have done so much harm and which have made peace even more unlikely.

Though we refer  to Jewish tradition, the notion of accountability is something that speaks directly to the problems of any democracy which is based on the concept that elected leaders are judged by the voters. For those in both parties who have sought to demonize their political opponents, the dawn of the New Year represents an opportunity to step back and realize that attempts to brand leaders, parties and movements as being beyond the pale or even questioning the wisdom of democracy itself — that is to say, questioning the right of the voters to override the dictates of the politicians and the intellectuals — has done much to undermine any hope for a resolution of our national problems.

The passage of the calendar also reminds us at COMMENTARY of the urgency of our four-fold task to speak up in defense of Zionism and Israel; to bear witness against the scourge of anti-Semitism; to support the United States as well as the best of Western civilization. Our work is, as our editor John Podhoretz wrote back in February 2009, an act of faith in the power of ideas as well as in our own nation and as we take inventory of our personal lives we also seek to rededicate ourselves to the causes to which our magazine is devoted.

Jewish liturgy tells us that the fate of all human beings is decided during these Days of Awe but it also says that teshuva (repentance), tefilla (prayer) and tzedaka (acts of justice and charity) may avert the severe decree. In that spirit of reflection and dedication to carrying on our task of informing and educating our readers in the coming year, we at COMMENTARY wish you all a happy, healthy and peaceful New Year.

Sundown tonight marks the start of the Jewish New Year that begins with the celebration of Rosh Hashanah. The ten days from the start of that holiday until the end of Yom Kippur next week are known as the Days of Awe in Judaism. During this period, Jews reflect on their deeds in the past year and seek to account for them to their Creator as well as their fellow human beings. This period of introspection should cause all of us to think about what we have done in the past 12 months and work to improve ourselves.

It would also be good advice for many world leaders as we observe the circus at the United Nations where nations line up to cheer dictators and to single out Israel for discriminatory treatment. As Jews around the globe take note of their shortcomings, perhaps those who have done so much to encourage hatred of the Jewish state and the Jewish people should take a few moments and own up to their policies that have done so much harm and which have made peace even more unlikely.

Though we refer  to Jewish tradition, the notion of accountability is something that speaks directly to the problems of any democracy which is based on the concept that elected leaders are judged by the voters. For those in both parties who have sought to demonize their political opponents, the dawn of the New Year represents an opportunity to step back and realize that attempts to brand leaders, parties and movements as being beyond the pale or even questioning the wisdom of democracy itself — that is to say, questioning the right of the voters to override the dictates of the politicians and the intellectuals — has done much to undermine any hope for a resolution of our national problems.

The passage of the calendar also reminds us at COMMENTARY of the urgency of our four-fold task to speak up in defense of Zionism and Israel; to bear witness against the scourge of anti-Semitism; to support the United States as well as the best of Western civilization. Our work is, as our editor John Podhoretz wrote back in February 2009, an act of faith in the power of ideas as well as in our own nation and as we take inventory of our personal lives we also seek to rededicate ourselves to the causes to which our magazine is devoted.

Jewish liturgy tells us that the fate of all human beings is decided during these Days of Awe but it also says that teshuva (repentance), tefilla (prayer) and tzedaka (acts of justice and charity) may avert the severe decree. In that spirit of reflection and dedication to carrying on our task of informing and educating our readers in the coming year, we at COMMENTARY wish you all a happy, healthy and peaceful New Year.

Read Less

The “Obama-Antichrist” Movement

Earlier this week, a crazed heckler with a reputation for yelling nutty things at L.A.-area events called President Obama the “Antichrist” at a political fundraiser, before being dragged screaming out of the room by the Secret Service. Normally this heckler would be dismissed as a lunatic. Instead, some media outlets are wondering whether he’s part of a growing right-wing movement that believes Obama is the Antichrist:

Ironically, the remark about Obama as the Antichrist came the same day that The New York Times ran an op-ed arguing that the Antichrist is assuming a bigger place in the public discourse, as evangelical Christian ideas about the end times gain traction.

Read More

Earlier this week, a crazed heckler with a reputation for yelling nutty things at L.A.-area events called President Obama the “Antichrist” at a political fundraiser, before being dragged screaming out of the room by the Secret Service. Normally this heckler would be dismissed as a lunatic. Instead, some media outlets are wondering whether he’s part of a growing right-wing movement that believes Obama is the Antichrist:

Ironically, the remark about Obama as the Antichrist came the same day that The New York Times ran an op-ed arguing that the Antichrist is assuming a bigger place in the public discourse, as evangelical Christian ideas about the end times gain traction.

In a piece titled “Why the Antichrist Matters in Politics,” Washington State University history professor Matthew Avery Sutton argues that, for some Christians, Obama fits into ideas about the Antichrist, whose arrival is believed to be a portent of the end times and Jesus’ second coming:

Lawrence O’Donnell even devoted a whole segment of his MSNBC show to discussing whether conservative Christians share the heckler’s beliefs:

“The resistance to fact is not evenly distributed in this country, or among political persuasions. The more southern and the more Republican you are, the more likely you are to be wrong about the president’s birthplace and his religious beliefs…We don’t know what percent of South Carolina Republicans believe the president is the Antichrist, but you can be sure it is not zero.”

Remember, it was MSNBC that obsessed over “birthers,” long after they were rejected and denounced by the conservative movement. Apparently, the demise of the birther-fringe has some liberals panicking that issues of actual substance are going to be addressed during this election. So expect to hear a lot more about the dawn of the “Obama-Antichrist” movement from the same media figures, especially if Obama’s poll numbers continue to drop.

Read Less

Abbas Apologists Twist the Truth

By asking the United Nations to recognize Palestinian independence, Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority have abandoned the peace process in the hope the international community will give them what they want without having to make peace with Israel. That puts Abbas’ Western cheering section in a bind, because it is impossible to look at his strategy or his UN speech without understanding the fundamental disconnect between their position and any hope for peace. But that hasn’t stopped many of them from attempting to turn the facts on their head by blaming the whole mess on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu is an easy target among the foreign policy establishment and other members of the chattering classes because he refuses to play along with the myth of Palestinian reasonableness that is such an integral part of the peace process mindset. William Saletan provided an excellent example of this willful blindness in a piece published this week in Slate. In it, he preposterously claims the standoff is all a clever plot by Netanyahu to obfuscate the truth about Abbas’ desperate search for peace that is every bit as disingenuous as the Palestinian’s hate-filled speech to the General Assembly.

Read More

By asking the United Nations to recognize Palestinian independence, Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority have abandoned the peace process in the hope the international community will give them what they want without having to make peace with Israel. That puts Abbas’ Western cheering section in a bind, because it is impossible to look at his strategy or his UN speech without understanding the fundamental disconnect between their position and any hope for peace. But that hasn’t stopped many of them from attempting to turn the facts on their head by blaming the whole mess on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu is an easy target among the foreign policy establishment and other members of the chattering classes because he refuses to play along with the myth of Palestinian reasonableness that is such an integral part of the peace process mindset. William Saletan provided an excellent example of this willful blindness in a piece published this week in Slate. In it, he preposterously claims the standoff is all a clever plot by Netanyahu to obfuscate the truth about Abbas’ desperate search for peace that is every bit as disingenuous as the Palestinian’s hate-filled speech to the General Assembly.

Saletan breaks down Netanyahu’s diabolical attack on peace to four points. The first is his claim the Israeli is wrong to say the Palestinians won’t negotiate, even though that is the obvious truth. Even during the 10 months when, at the behest of the Obama administration, Netanyahu froze building in the West Bank, Abbas wouldn’t talk with him.

Saletan asserts that a few secret meetings with Israeli President Shimon Peres in which the Palestinians have refused to agree to any terms or to resume formal negotiations is itself a form of negotiation. He then says Abbas’ end run around the peace process to the UN is also merely a negotiating tactic. In other words, Abbas’ lips may say “no,” but Saletan advises the Israelis to believe he really means “yes.” With that sort of logic, one supposes Saletan must have a lot of fans among male college students who haven’t had much success with women.

Next, Saletan dismisses Israel’s insistence the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state as a mere pretext for avoiding peace. Saletan says the PLO recognized Israel’s existence in the Oslo Accords, and it’s none of the Palestinians’ business how Israel defines itself. But he is deliberately missing the point. So long as the Palestinians won’t acknowledge the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn, Israelis have no guarantee a peace deal isn’t an interim step that will merely postpone the next round of fighting. Saletan says negotiating a resolution of the Palestinian claim that the descendants of the 1948 refugees can “return” to Israel doesn’t mean the Arabs have to say the words “Jewish state.” But they must do so, because without that Palestinians will never construe any peace agreement as an end to the century-old conflict.

In a particularly dishonest passage, Saletan claims Israel’s peace treaty with Jordan (which has no mention of the “Jewish state” issue) proves Netanyahu’s insistence on this point is a pretext. But it does no such thing. Jordan and Israel can be at peace because the Hashemite Kingdom’s existence isn’t predicated on wiping out its neighbor. Since the focus of Palestinian nationalism has always been the eradication of Israel, they must specifically abandon this quest. The United Nations sanctioned the creation of a specifically “Jewish state” alongside an Arab one in Mandatory Palestine in the 1947 partition resolution that was categorically rejected by the Arab and Muslim worlds. If the Palestinians want to finally retract that refusal, one of the things they will have to accept is this language.

This point is directly related to Saletan’s third charge, which is that Netanyahu’s harping about Abbas’ belief that all of Israel is occupied Palestinian territory is a ploy to blow up the chances for peace. The Israeli rightly noted that for Abbas to say there has been 63 years of “occupation” gives the lie to the notion the conflict is just about the West Bank and Jerusalem or settlements. Saletan argues that Abbas has already said he will concede Israel’s title to pre-1967 Israel, and this should end the discussion. But so long as the Palestinians hold onto an irredentist ideology that sees all of Israel as land that must be recovered, peace is impossible. If Abbas wants Israelis to believe they are not just giving up land that will be used, as was the case with Gaza in 2005, as a launching pad for terrorist attacks on what is left of Israel, then he must sing a very different tune.

Lastly, Saletan argues the reduction of terrorist attacks against Israelis in the West Bank in the past few years proves Abbas means what he says about peace. But lowering the toll of Jewish casualties had little or nothing to do with Abbas and everything to do with the security fence and the aggressive Israeli army patrols and checkpoints in the West Bank. The circumstances that led to the quiet in the West Bank in the past few years after the mayhem of the second intifada that preceded it would be dramatically altered by a Palestinian state. If the IDF no longer had the ability to roam the area, that would allow terror groups — both those run by Abbas’ Fatah Party and Hamas — to do whatever they wanted. That would inevitably mean more Jewish blood shed, but it would also doom Abbas, because the only thing that prevents the sort of coup that won Gaza for Hamas in the West Bank is Israel’s military. It isn’t Abbas who keeps the peace now, and the idea he would do so in the future without the help of the IDF and with Hamas still in control of Gaza is absurd.

The refusal of the Palestinians to negotiate and to be willing to give up the conflict remains the only real obstacle to peace. Abbas proved in 2008 when he rejected Ehud Olmert’s offer of a state that he had the power to end the conflict against the will of his people or Hamas. That’s why he went to the UN rather than back to the negotiating table. Fallacious attacks on Netanyahu such as those produced by Saletan may help obscure the truth about the Palestinians, but they cannot alter the truth about the situation.

Read Less

Obama Flounders in Swing State Polls

President Obama’s jobs plan hasn’t helped boost his favorability in two key swing states, according to the latest Quinnipiac poll. The majority of voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania say he doesn’t deserve reelection. In Pennsylvania, Obama is in a statistical dead-heat with Mitt Romney for the 2012 election, while in Ohio he ties both Romney and Perry.

In other words, Obama’s taxpayer-bankrolled visits to swing states have had little impact on voters. Fox News reports:

Read More

President Obama’s jobs plan hasn’t helped boost his favorability in two key swing states, according to the latest Quinnipiac poll. The majority of voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania say he doesn’t deserve reelection. In Pennsylvania, Obama is in a statistical dead-heat with Mitt Romney for the 2012 election, while in Ohio he ties both Romney and Perry.

In other words, Obama’s taxpayer-bankrolled visits to swing states have had little impact on voters. Fox News reports:

President Obama has been campaigning almost non-stop since Labor Day, but his political fortunes have hardly improved. Obama’s September blitz through swing states, backed up with an aggressive media schedule, has apparently yielded little for the embattled incumbent. …

In Ohio and neighboring Pennsylvania, 51 percent of voters said Obama didn’t deserve a second term. In Virginia, the lynchpin to Obama’s 2012 strategy, a Roanoke College poll found the president with a 39 percent rating. In North Carolina, the great Obama success story of 2008, a High Point University poll finds the president with a 41 percent job-approval rating.

In fact, Obama has actually seen his approval rating in Ohio slip since the summer, despite the time he’s spent campaigning in the state recently. If the president expected the trips to generate political pressure on the GOP to pass his bill, he was clearly mistaken.

Read Less

And the 2011 Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature Is. . . .

Two years ago, in “How to Pick a Nobel Winner,” I suggested that the literature prize is “apparently awarded by much the same method that the chairmanship of the UN Human Rights Commission is determined — on a rotating basis, as long as Israel and (increasingly) the United States are excluded.” The last American to be selected was Toni Morrison, 18 years ago. An Israeli has been honored only once, when Sh. Y. Agnon shared the 1966 prize with the German Jewish poet Nelly Sachs.

The numbers are very much to the point, since the Nobel committee prefers not to allow too much time to elapse between awards to the same country, the same linguistic sphere. And in recent years, even the gender imbalance has begun to be corrected. Since 1991, women have won six of the 20 prizes. Still, while women have never captured the prize in back-to-back years, men often have; and the Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, a contributor to COMMENTARY, won last year. He was the first man of the right to take home the award since V. S. Naipaul was recognized in 2001. Two prizes in a decade — the literary right is doing only slightly worse than women.

The obvious omission from the winners’ list in recent years has been poets. Since the inception of the literature prize in 1944, poets have been selected for 18 out of 69 prizes, more than a quarter of them or an average of one poet every three-and-two-thirds years. Yet no poet has won the Nobel Prize in literature since 1995 and 1996 when Wislawa Szymborska of Poland and Seamus Heaney of Ireland were “decorated” in consecutive years.

And finally there is language to consider. English-language writers have been named to 18 prizes; Spanish writers to 9; French, 8; German, 6. The other European languages — Russian, Italian, Swedish, Polish, Hungarian, Czech, Yiddish — have shared 19 prizes among them. Writers in non-European languages have only won the prize five times.

As of this morning, the betting odds favor the Syrian poet Ali Ahmad Said Asbar, who writes under the pen name Adonis, at four to one. And for once the oddsmakers seem to be on target. Only one Arabic-language writer has ever been awarded the Nobel Prize in literature — the Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz in 1988 — and Adonis is the best-known Arabic poet. If this is the Palestinians’ year at the UN, though, it may also be the Palestinians’ turn for the Nobel. Remember where you first heard the name of Samih al-Qasim (pictured at right), an Israeli Druze who celebrates the Nakba in Arabic verse. His PEN biography is here. A PBS interview with him is here. And here is a characteristic poem, entitled “End of Discussion with a Jailer”:

From the window of my small cell
I can see trees smiling at me,
Roofs filled with my people,
Windows weeping and praying for me.
From the window of my small cell
I can see your large cell.

One guess who is being addressed here. Awarding the prize to Samih al-Qasim would be a masterstroke: the Nobel Committee could recognize Israel and shame it at the same time. Qasim is not as well-known as Adonis, he is not even on the betting boards that Adonis currently tops, but he is more political — he is a voice of the Palestinian resistance to Israeli “occupation” — and the Nobel Prize dearly loves writers from the left.

Two years ago, in “How to Pick a Nobel Winner,” I suggested that the literature prize is “apparently awarded by much the same method that the chairmanship of the UN Human Rights Commission is determined — on a rotating basis, as long as Israel and (increasingly) the United States are excluded.” The last American to be selected was Toni Morrison, 18 years ago. An Israeli has been honored only once, when Sh. Y. Agnon shared the 1966 prize with the German Jewish poet Nelly Sachs.

The numbers are very much to the point, since the Nobel committee prefers not to allow too much time to elapse between awards to the same country, the same linguistic sphere. And in recent years, even the gender imbalance has begun to be corrected. Since 1991, women have won six of the 20 prizes. Still, while women have never captured the prize in back-to-back years, men often have; and the Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, a contributor to COMMENTARY, won last year. He was the first man of the right to take home the award since V. S. Naipaul was recognized in 2001. Two prizes in a decade — the literary right is doing only slightly worse than women.

The obvious omission from the winners’ list in recent years has been poets. Since the inception of the literature prize in 1944, poets have been selected for 18 out of 69 prizes, more than a quarter of them or an average of one poet every three-and-two-thirds years. Yet no poet has won the Nobel Prize in literature since 1995 and 1996 when Wislawa Szymborska of Poland and Seamus Heaney of Ireland were “decorated” in consecutive years.

And finally there is language to consider. English-language writers have been named to 18 prizes; Spanish writers to 9; French, 8; German, 6. The other European languages — Russian, Italian, Swedish, Polish, Hungarian, Czech, Yiddish — have shared 19 prizes among them. Writers in non-European languages have only won the prize five times.

As of this morning, the betting odds favor the Syrian poet Ali Ahmad Said Asbar, who writes under the pen name Adonis, at four to one. And for once the oddsmakers seem to be on target. Only one Arabic-language writer has ever been awarded the Nobel Prize in literature — the Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz in 1988 — and Adonis is the best-known Arabic poet. If this is the Palestinians’ year at the UN, though, it may also be the Palestinians’ turn for the Nobel. Remember where you first heard the name of Samih al-Qasim (pictured at right), an Israeli Druze who celebrates the Nakba in Arabic verse. His PEN biography is here. A PBS interview with him is here. And here is a characteristic poem, entitled “End of Discussion with a Jailer”:

From the window of my small cell
I can see trees smiling at me,
Roofs filled with my people,
Windows weeping and praying for me.
From the window of my small cell
I can see your large cell.

One guess who is being addressed here. Awarding the prize to Samih al-Qasim would be a masterstroke: the Nobel Committee could recognize Israel and shame it at the same time. Qasim is not as well-known as Adonis, he is not even on the betting boards that Adonis currently tops, but he is more political — he is a voice of the Palestinian resistance to Israeli “occupation” — and the Nobel Prize dearly loves writers from the left.

Read Less

The Reason for Perry’s HPV Order

The effort by Michele Bachmann to make hay out of Rick Perry’s executive order to mandate the vaccination of girls for the HPV virus may wind up hurting her more than him because of her bizarre decision to repeat an unsubstantiated claim the vaccine caused mental retardation. Nevertheless, the attempt to portray him as a big government health care tyrant put the Texas governor on the defensive. Even worse, her claim the only reason he did it was as a payoff to the Merck pharmaceutical company for campaign contributions stuck to him. That served as the excuse for the repetition of accusations from Texas liberals that he has been a pay-to-play governor.

Of course, if this were Perry’s biggest problem he’d be in good shape, because far more damage has been done by his terrible debate performances and his refusal to bow to anti-immigrant sentiment on the right. The feeling lately among pundits has been Perry’s candidacy won’t last long enough for him to recover the ground he has lost, but a story in today’s New York Times about Perry’s wife may undermine the narrative about Perry that Bachmann’s attack generated. In it we learn it was Anita Thigpen Perry, a nurse and a leading Texas advocate for the victims of sexual assault, not Merck or its lobbyists, who was probably the driving force behind Perry’s HPV decision.

Read More

The effort by Michele Bachmann to make hay out of Rick Perry’s executive order to mandate the vaccination of girls for the HPV virus may wind up hurting her more than him because of her bizarre decision to repeat an unsubstantiated claim the vaccine caused mental retardation. Nevertheless, the attempt to portray him as a big government health care tyrant put the Texas governor on the defensive. Even worse, her claim the only reason he did it was as a payoff to the Merck pharmaceutical company for campaign contributions stuck to him. That served as the excuse for the repetition of accusations from Texas liberals that he has been a pay-to-play governor.

Of course, if this were Perry’s biggest problem he’d be in good shape, because far more damage has been done by his terrible debate performances and his refusal to bow to anti-immigrant sentiment on the right. The feeling lately among pundits has been Perry’s candidacy won’t last long enough for him to recover the ground he has lost, but a story in today’s New York Times about Perry’s wife may undermine the narrative about Perry that Bachmann’s attack generated. In it we learn it was Anita Thigpen Perry, a nurse and a leading Texas advocate for the victims of sexual assault, not Merck or its lobbyists, who was probably the driving force behind Perry’s HPV decision.

It turns out Mrs. Perry was suggesting the need for childhood immunization against HPV years before her husband issued his controversial executive order. Given that she appears to be his prime adviser on these issues, it seems likely her influence had  more to do with his decision than anything else. While this may not quiet those who have cast Perry’s immunization order as a matter of patronage rather than principle and the fight against cancer, it does give us a bit more perspective on the issue and the man. Since Perry has admitted it was his wife as much as anyone who urged him to run for president, one can easily imagine the attacks on an issue so close to her heart may have steeled his resolve to stay in the race.

Of course, that resolve may not matter much if he flops again in the next Republican presidential debate on Oct. 11 in New Hampshire. Perry’s campaign has been sending out signals in the last few days that they think they can turn the race around by redoubling their attacks on Romney. That sounds more like wishful thinking than anything else, but they have little choice but to try to weather his current tribulations in the belief he will recover and resume his role as the leading conservative in the race. Optimism about Perry’s chances may be in short supply and for good reason. But those who believe he will give up even before the votes start getting counted may have underestimated not only his determination but also the role his family has played in pushing his career decisions.

Read Less

Obama’s Class Warfare Not Flying

Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis, one of President Obama’s major supporters, summed up the hypocrisy of the president’s class warfare rhetoric in a blog post the other day:

Economic success has somehow become the new boogie man; some in the Democratic party are now casting about for enemies and business leaders, and anyone who has achieved success in terms of rank or fiscal success is being cast as a bad guy in a black hat. …

Read More

Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis, one of President Obama’s major supporters, summed up the hypocrisy of the president’s class warfare rhetoric in a blog post the other day:

Economic success has somehow become the new boogie man; some in the Democratic party are now casting about for enemies and business leaders, and anyone who has achieved success in terms of rank or fiscal success is being cast as a bad guy in a black hat. …

So for fun: I take the Acela train to Philly and NYC all of the time. Alone – no traveling companions to prep me. I have never seen our president on the train, have you? I own 50 hours on NetJets for the rare occasion I do travel by private plane. Does Air Force One charter out? Stop making private planes an issue. This is a tiny issue for us to deal with for our country.

I do have a nice home with a housekeeper. I have only one home. I bet there is more staff at the White House though? And Camp David. What kind of real estate tax is the White House paying? Nice jewelry here. Click away. Stop it. Upgrade the discourse.

It would be hypocritical enough if the Leonsis’ of the world were the only ones who would get hit by Obama’s proposed tax hikes. But families making $250,000-a-year and up would also get soaked. Same with small business owners. These people don’t want to hear the president and his ultra-rich friends like Warren Buffett demonize them for success, and act as if it isn’t a burden for them to hand over even more of their money to the federal government.

It’s also interesting Leonsis mentions Obama’s denunciations of private jets, something the president doesn’t seem to carry over to his own use of Air Force One. Notably, there has been a lot of criticism of Obama’s proposed tax on private planes – and not just from wealthy Americans who fly them. The Alliance for Aviation Across America – a group that represents small and mid-sized aviation businesses – slammed the president’s plan in a statement last week, arguing it could cost the industry jobs.

“On behalf of over 5,700 small businesses, farms, elected officials, Chambers of Commerce and aircraft operators in all 50 states, we are deeply concerned about the inclusion of a user fee tax in the president’s recently released plan to create jobs,” wrote the organization. “It is astounding that the president would include user fees – which would add to the daunting challenges already confronting businesses in this climate – in a plan that purports to create jobs and stimulate the economy.”

Read Less

The Method in the Quartet’s Madness

The run-up to the Quartet’s latest bid to restart Israeli-Palestinian talks is far more revealing than the talks themselves are likely to be, even if they ever take place. The U.S., UN, EU and Russia tried frantically to draft “terms of reference” for the talks, meaning broad parameters for what an agreement should look like. But in the end, they had to scrap the effort, because they couldn’t even reach agreement among themselves on these parameters.

In other words, contrary to the shopworn claim that “There is no mystery to what a final deal would look like” (as a New York Times editorial asserted just last week), there is so little agreement that four mediators – all of whom care much less about the issues concerned than the parties themselves – couldn’t even strike a deal on the broad outlines, much less all the pesky details.

Read More

The run-up to the Quartet’s latest bid to restart Israeli-Palestinian talks is far more revealing than the talks themselves are likely to be, even if they ever take place. The U.S., UN, EU and Russia tried frantically to draft “terms of reference” for the talks, meaning broad parameters for what an agreement should look like. But in the end, they had to scrap the effort, because they couldn’t even reach agreement among themselves on these parameters.

In other words, contrary to the shopworn claim that “There is no mystery to what a final deal would look like” (as a New York Times editorial asserted just last week), there is so little agreement that four mediators – all of whom care much less about the issues concerned than the parties themselves – couldn’t even strike a deal on the broad outlines, much less all the pesky details.

As Reuters reported, the key sticking point was the Palestinians’ refusal, via their proxy, Russia, to recognize Israel as a Jewish state:

“The heart of the matter was that the only way in which it was going to work as a basis for negotiations was if there was a reference on the one side to ’67 lines plus swaps, which was the minimum but not sufficient requirement for the Palestinians, and a Jewish state as one of the goals of the negotiations, which was the minimum requirement of the Israelis,” said one source briefed on the negotiations….

There are many formulas to address whether Israel should be viewed as a Jewish state, including that it is a homeland for the Jewish people or that it embodies the right of the Jewish people to self-determination or that its status as a Jewish state should not prejudice any Palestinian “right of return.”

None appear to have sufficed, whether because they might be seen as unacceptable to the Israelis or because they would be impossible to swallow for the Palestinians.

So instead, the Quartet made do with urging the parties to resume negotiations “without delay or preconditions,” but on a strict timetable that gives them one month to agree on an agenda and a “method of proceeding in the negotiation.” In short, the parties themselves are supposed to agree in one month on parameters the mediators tried for months to agree on with no success.

The scary part, however, is there’s a method in this madness, and it’s implicit in the rest of the timetable: The parties are instructed to conclude a final-status deal by no later than “the end of 2012.”

In other words, the Quartet is telling the Palestinians, just keep the negotiation farce going until the end of 2012, when Barack Obama will be either a lame duck or a newly-elected second-term president, and either way will be free of the electoral constraints that currently require him to veto your bid to obtain UN recognition as a state without accepting the Jewish state’s right to exist.

If that interpretation is correct, then the most important development in the Israeli-Palestinian arena over the next year will take place not in direct talks or in the Quartet, but in Congress. For come December 2012, a credible congressional threat to the UN’s generous American funding may be the only way to halt the Palestinians’ unilateral statehood drive.

 

 

 

Read Less

Turkey Takes Thuggishness to a New Level

One of the most interesting but under-reported stories at the United Nations General Assembly this past week was the brawl which developed between Turkish security agents escorting Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and UN security officers. Colum Lynch at Foreign Policy has been all over the story, not only breaking it, but now he has supplied amateur video of the melee.  Short synopsis: Erdoğan and his detail tried to force their way through a secured door and resorted to fisticuffs when they didn’t get their way. Two UN employees were injured, one of whom had to go to the hospital.

Interestingly, Turkey—a country where press freedom has tumbled under the leadership of Erdoğan—did not initially report the incident. A Turkish journalist, however, did say that United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon subsequently apologized to Erdoğan for the incident. This in turn infuriated UN security officials who appear to have done nothing wrong.

Read More

One of the most interesting but under-reported stories at the United Nations General Assembly this past week was the brawl which developed between Turkish security agents escorting Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and UN security officers. Colum Lynch at Foreign Policy has been all over the story, not only breaking it, but now he has supplied amateur video of the melee.  Short synopsis: Erdoğan and his detail tried to force their way through a secured door and resorted to fisticuffs when they didn’t get their way. Two UN employees were injured, one of whom had to go to the hospital.

Interestingly, Turkey—a country where press freedom has tumbled under the leadership of Erdoğan—did not initially report the incident. A Turkish journalist, however, did say that United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon subsequently apologized to Erdoğan for the incident. This in turn infuriated UN security officials who appear to have done nothing wrong.

Erdoğan is thuggish in personality and in policy. No diplomat or official should enable him. Apologizing to Erdoğan is like offering crack to an addict.  By Erdoğan’s own logic, rather than have UN officials genuflect, shouldn’t he apologize and pay compensation to the injured party? And shouldn’t the UN recognize that officers, when attacked, not only have the right to but should also defend themselves?  Probably the only thing that hasn’t happened yet (but there’s still time) is for accompanying minister Egemen Bağış or a member of his delegation to accuse the UN officers of having Jewish blood, as they did the Bulgarian foreign minister.

It’s time to stop tolerating this Turkish nonsense and, despite the steady stream of affirmation the Turkish press provides their leader, let Turks know Erdoğan’s antics are a permanent stain on their reputation.

Read Less

Christie’s Game

I don’t understand exactly what Chris Christie is up to—or, rather, what the people around him might be up to, since they would probably be well-advised to stop issuing statements that don’t reflect the reality of what he is or is not willing to say—but that sure was one interesting performance he put on last night, as I write in today’s New York Post:

Christie certainly laid out an interesting course for a presidential bid — one that would seek to appeal to those primary voters who want a government that can function, not just the most ideologically conservative government imaginable.

Were Christie to run, therefore, he wouldn’t be running to fill the hardline-conservative slot now held so shakily by Rick Perry. He would be running on his own star power and with his own message to conservatives: I get things done, and I would agree with you most of the time … pretty much.

He can’t go on like this much longer; among other things, if he is going to run, he has to get himself on the Michigan ballot and he needs signatures by the middle of October. Also, his teasing is going to get the people who are interested in his candidacy more than a little angry if he doesn’t quit it.

I don’t understand exactly what Chris Christie is up to—or, rather, what the people around him might be up to, since they would probably be well-advised to stop issuing statements that don’t reflect the reality of what he is or is not willing to say—but that sure was one interesting performance he put on last night, as I write in today’s New York Post:

Christie certainly laid out an interesting course for a presidential bid — one that would seek to appeal to those primary voters who want a government that can function, not just the most ideologically conservative government imaginable.

Were Christie to run, therefore, he wouldn’t be running to fill the hardline-conservative slot now held so shakily by Rick Perry. He would be running on his own star power and with his own message to conservatives: I get things done, and I would agree with you most of the time … pretty much.

He can’t go on like this much longer; among other things, if he is going to run, he has to get himself on the Michigan ballot and he needs signatures by the middle of October. Also, his teasing is going to get the people who are interested in his candidacy more than a little angry if he doesn’t quit it.

Read Less

Christie Doesn’t Shut Door to 2012 Run

He didn’t say “yes” last night. But then again, he didn’t explicitly say “no.” And judging from the reactions on Twitter, Chris Christie’s answer on whether he’ll run for president is open to interpretation:

“I saw something great today on the Politico website. They put a minute and 53 seconds of my answers strung back to back to back together on the question of running for the presidency,” he said. “Everyone go to Politico.com, it’s right on the front page. Those are the answers.”

Read More

He didn’t say “yes” last night. But then again, he didn’t explicitly say “no.” And judging from the reactions on Twitter, Chris Christie’s answer on whether he’ll run for president is open to interpretation:

“I saw something great today on the Politico website. They put a minute and 53 seconds of my answers strung back to back to back together on the question of running for the presidency,” he said. “Everyone go to Politico.com, it’s right on the front page. Those are the answers.”

The video is a compilation of every time Christie’s answered the 2012 question. In most of the clips, he bluntly denies he’s contemplating a run. He also told the audience – which was literally begging him to enter the race – that he knows he has to “feel” the desire to run for president before he can do it, and that he’s “taking in” what his supporters are telling him.

But his response didn’t include three words: “I’m not running.” Those would have quelled (most of the) speculation that’s been growing the past few days. Instead, by directing people to a video, he managed to keep the uncertainty alive – and he had to have been aware of that. As Maggie Haberman notes, “pointing to it was a way for Christie to not have to give a current version of ‘no.’”

At HotAir, Allahpundit writes that left Christie with a great opening, should he decide to enter the race:

The thing is, he wouldn’t definitively say whether he feels the drive or not. And the crowd was simply eating out of his hand. If he needs a pretext in a week or two to explain why he’s changed his mind, he could point to this speech and the reaction from the audience as having driven him to it.

A few indications Christie might be weighing a run: 1.) His blatant swipes at Rick Perry during his speech; 2.) His uncharacteristic vagueness in responding to the 2012 question; 3.) The speech itself, which outlined a broad national vision (touching on foreign and domestic policy) and included plenty of digs at Obama. It was also terrific (read in full here).

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.