Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 16, 2012

Terrorist Release is Rebuff for Obama

The loathsome Ali Musa Daqduq, a senior Hezbollah operative who engineered the kidnapping and killing of five American soldiers in Iraq in 2007, is reportedly back in Beirut, no doubt basking in his new-found freedom to plan fresh terrorist outrages. His release from Iraqi custody, while not unexpected, is nevertheless dismaying. The U.S., after having released all other detainees, turned him over last to Iraqi custody in 2011 hoping against hope that the Iraqis could somehow be persuaded to keep him locked up. Fat chance.

What makes the whole situation really pathetic is that Vice President Biden called Prime Minister Maliki in recent days pleading for Daqduq not to be released. The fact that he was set free anyway is hardly a sign of Maliki’s respect for the rule of law. It is a sign of how little influence the U.S. now wields in Iraq and how much influence Iran now has. Daqduq, after all, was in Iraq working for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps to train Shiite militants to attack U.S. personnel. His release is a big victory for Iran and a big defeat for the United States.

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The loathsome Ali Musa Daqduq, a senior Hezbollah operative who engineered the kidnapping and killing of five American soldiers in Iraq in 2007, is reportedly back in Beirut, no doubt basking in his new-found freedom to plan fresh terrorist outrages. His release from Iraqi custody, while not unexpected, is nevertheless dismaying. The U.S., after having released all other detainees, turned him over last to Iraqi custody in 2011 hoping against hope that the Iraqis could somehow be persuaded to keep him locked up. Fat chance.

What makes the whole situation really pathetic is that Vice President Biden called Prime Minister Maliki in recent days pleading for Daqduq not to be released. The fact that he was set free anyway is hardly a sign of Maliki’s respect for the rule of law. It is a sign of how little influence the U.S. now wields in Iraq and how much influence Iran now has. Daqduq, after all, was in Iraq working for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps to train Shiite militants to attack U.S. personnel. His release is a big victory for Iran and a big defeat for the United States.

If President Obama is chagrined about the outcome, he had no one to blame but himself. His failure to make a serious push to maintain U.S. forces in Iraq past 2011 means that our influence over that country’s future is marginal. There is little, alas, we can do as Iraq aligns itself more closely with Iran and against our interests in the region.

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Gaza Conflict Wasn’t Launched to Help Bibi

Hamas rockets reached Jerusalem today as the terrorist barrage on Israel continued. Rather than being silenced by Israeli counter-attacks, the Islamists have apparently been emboldened by the ardent support they have received from both Egypt and Turkey and have raised the ante in the conflict. That leaves Israel’s government having to choose between a cease-fire that will give Hamas a victory or to launch a costly ground invasion of Gaza that might inflict serious damage on the terrorists and perhaps restore some measure of deterrence. But looming over all of the discussions about the country’s options is the accusation that the fighting this week has been motivated more by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s re-election campaign than Israel’s security.

That’s the theme being sounded by a chorus of leftist critics of the PM on the Haaretz op-ed page and is even being echoed by President Obama’s good friend and Hamas ally Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan today according to Ynet. Leaving aside Erdoğan’s fantastic claim that the several hundred rockets that have been fired at Israel are a “fabrication,” the notion that the decision to try and stop the rocket attacks is connected to Israel’s parliamentary election scheduled for January.

Considering how unpopular Netanyahu is outside of his own country as well as with Israel’s media, it’s hardly surprising that this sort of thing would be said. But it should also be understood that it is complete nonsense. The timing of the conflict was determined by Hamas, not Israel, and far from boosting Netanyahu’s chances of winning re-election, the growing violence is much more of a liability than it is an opportunity to win votes.

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Hamas rockets reached Jerusalem today as the terrorist barrage on Israel continued. Rather than being silenced by Israeli counter-attacks, the Islamists have apparently been emboldened by the ardent support they have received from both Egypt and Turkey and have raised the ante in the conflict. That leaves Israel’s government having to choose between a cease-fire that will give Hamas a victory or to launch a costly ground invasion of Gaza that might inflict serious damage on the terrorists and perhaps restore some measure of deterrence. But looming over all of the discussions about the country’s options is the accusation that the fighting this week has been motivated more by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s re-election campaign than Israel’s security.

That’s the theme being sounded by a chorus of leftist critics of the PM on the Haaretz op-ed page and is even being echoed by President Obama’s good friend and Hamas ally Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan today according to Ynet. Leaving aside Erdoğan’s fantastic claim that the several hundred rockets that have been fired at Israel are a “fabrication,” the notion that the decision to try and stop the rocket attacks is connected to Israel’s parliamentary election scheduled for January.

Considering how unpopular Netanyahu is outside of his own country as well as with Israel’s media, it’s hardly surprising that this sort of thing would be said. But it should also be understood that it is complete nonsense. The timing of the conflict was determined by Hamas, not Israel, and far from boosting Netanyahu’s chances of winning re-election, the growing violence is much more of a liability than it is an opportunity to win votes.

First of all, the notion that Netanyahu needs a “wag the dog” style war to be assured of winning in January is absurd. The prime minister’s Likud has been a prohibitive favorite for months. While there has been virtual unanimity about the fact that Likud will form the next coalition, any doubts that his party would receive the most votes was erased by the merger with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitienu group. Though the expanded Likud may not dominate as much as Netanyahu hopes, it’s probably a lock to receive more Knesset seats than any party has won in 20 years.

A war may boost Netanyahu’s personal popularity while the fighting is going on, but that isn’t likely to translate into extra votes for his party in January. After all, centrist voters who are uncomfortable with Lieberman or even the prime minister are more likely than not to stick with Yair Lapid or any of the other alternatives that will probably wind up in Netanyahu’s coalition anyway.

Far more important to these calculations is that there may be more votes lost than won from a conflict.

It is true that had Netanyahu allowed Hamas to go on pounding the south as they did this past weekend, it would have undermined his credibility as a leader. Nor would the approximately one million Israelis who live in proximity to Gaza appreciate him leaving them unprotected. But the counter-attack exposes him to criticism on a number of key points.

Having set out this week to clip Hamas’s wings and restore Israel’s deterrence factor, how will it look if the fighting stops with the Islamist group’s power intact and in position to declare a victory? Indeed, with more than half of the hundreds of rockets launched by Hamas getting through Israel’s vaunted Iron Dome anti-missile system and with rockets landing in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem since the offensive started, it’s hard to argue that even the hard blows administered to the terrorists this week have made a dent in their ability to threaten the Jewish state.

If Netanyahu decides not to accept a cease fire under these conditions and launches a ground attack on Gaza of some sort, that will satisfy some Israelis. But the heavy casualties that will be suffered by both sides will also be held against him as well as heightening foreign pressure to stand down before Hamas’s infrastructure is significantly damaged. While a clear success would make him look good, does anyone really believe that under the circumstances and the advantages Hamas has in asymmetrical warfare it is likely that such an outcome is likely?

Most important, it should be remembered that Hamas launched this conflict for its own purposes. It was Hamas that dug the tunnel under the border with Israel to facilitate future terror attacks and whose discovery set the first attacks in motion. It was Hamas that chose to fire at an Israeli army vehicle across the border. And it was Hamas that decided that rather than instead of a limited exchange of fire after these incidents, it would launch a barrage of over 150 missiles into Israel on Sunday and Monday.

This decision was related to Hamas’s desire to upstage the Palestinian Authority and its bid for United Nations recognition. The flexing of their muscles was also about their desire to bolster the group’s popularity, something that required them to re-establish their reputation as the Palestinian group that was best at killing Israelis. None of that had much to do with Israel’s election, let alone Netanyahu’s political interests.

The long-term impact of the conflict that Hamas has fomented has yet to be determined. But whatever it turns out to be, ascribing it to a plot to re-elect Benjamin Netanyahu reflects the malice that many observers have for the prime minister, not a clear-headed analysis of the situation.

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AP: Petraeus Testified CIA Talking Points Were Altered

During closed-door hearings with the House and Senate intelligence committees today, David Petraeus reportedly told lawmakers that the CIA “talking points” issued after the attack — which supported the “spontaneous demonstration” narrative — were altered by other agencies prior to distribution. AP reports:

Lawmakers said Petraeus testified that the CIA’s draft talking points written in response to the assault on the diplomat post in Benghazi that killed four Americans referred to it as a terrorist attack. But Petraeus told the lawmakers that reference was removed from the final version, although he wasn’t sure which federal agency took out the reference. …

Petraeus testified that the CIA draft written in response to the raid referred to militant groups Ansar al-Shariah and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) but those names were replaced with the word “extremist” in the final draft, according to a congressional staffer. The staffer said Petraeus testified that he allowed other agencies to alter the talking points as they saw fit without asking for final review, to get them out quickly.

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During closed-door hearings with the House and Senate intelligence committees today, David Petraeus reportedly told lawmakers that the CIA “talking points” issued after the attack — which supported the “spontaneous demonstration” narrative — were altered by other agencies prior to distribution. AP reports:

Lawmakers said Petraeus testified that the CIA’s draft talking points written in response to the assault on the diplomat post in Benghazi that killed four Americans referred to it as a terrorist attack. But Petraeus told the lawmakers that reference was removed from the final version, although he wasn’t sure which federal agency took out the reference. …

Petraeus testified that the CIA draft written in response to the raid referred to militant groups Ansar al-Shariah and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) but those names were replaced with the word “extremist” in the final draft, according to a congressional staffer. The staffer said Petraeus testified that he allowed other agencies to alter the talking points as they saw fit without asking for final review, to get them out quickly.

The references to a terrorist attack, Ansar al-Shariah and al-Qaeda were apparently replaced with the line: “There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.” That changes the entire meaning of the talking points, yet Democrats quickly downplayed the notion that the alteration was politically-motivated:

Democrats said Petraeus made it clear the change was not made for political reasons during President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.

“The general was adamant there was no politicization of the process, no White House interference or political agenda,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. “He completely debunked that idea.”

OK, but if Petraeus doesn’t even know which agency or official altered the talking points, how would he possibly know if the change was political or not? Here’s more from the Democrats:

Schiff said Petraeus said Rice’s comments in the television interviews “reflected the best intelligence at the time that could be released publicly.”

“There was an interagency process to draft it, not a political process,” Schiff said. “They came up with the best assessment without compromising classified information or source or methods. So changes were made to protect classified information.

It’s one thing to remove specific details to protect sensitive information. But the draft references to Ansar al-Shariah and al-Qaeda are evidence that at the very least the administration strongly suspected these groups were involved from the beginning. In that case, why not just say the investigation into the terrorist attack was ongoing, and leave it at that until more information could be shared? It seems totally irrational to just chalk it up to a spontaneous demonstration, and then cling to that story for nearly two weeks.

Petraeus’s testimony is puzzling for other reasons. As director of the CIA, it’s hard to believe he wouldn’t know who altered the talking points and wouldn’t look them over before distribution. This is the memo that sets much of the “official” narrative in the wake of an attack. And it’s not like these were minor edits. The gulf between calling it a terrorist attack involving al-Qaeda and calling it a spontaneous demonstration is enormous. As with much of what we learn about Benghazi, we’re left again with more questions than answers.

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Ron Paul’s Farewell Address

Some old stalwarts—Gary Ackerman and Howard Berman, for example—are leaving the U.S. House of Representatives, Ackerman voluntarily and Berman after an election defeat. The 112th Congress will also see the departure of some its most eccentric members: Dennis Kucinich lost a bitter primary battle, and Ron Paul is retiring. On November 14, Paul gave his farewell address, and it was vintage Paul. While I’m sympathetic to his libertarian approach on social issues, value individual liberty, and embrace the concept of a small, lean government, I also believe in the necessity of a strong military. Paul’s rambling conspiracies regarding AIPAC and his fierce isolationism have always turned me off as have, frankly, the even nuttier approaches of some of his followers.

Still, Paul’s address should be a must-read. As Alana Goodman pointed out, his son, Senator Rand Paul, is a likely presidential candidate in 2016 and wants very much to revamp the Republican Party. Paul can count on his father’s supporters, and then some, as he understands how to package himself as a mainstream candidate without any of his father’s “crazy uncle” excesses.

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Some old stalwarts—Gary Ackerman and Howard Berman, for example—are leaving the U.S. House of Representatives, Ackerman voluntarily and Berman after an election defeat. The 112th Congress will also see the departure of some its most eccentric members: Dennis Kucinich lost a bitter primary battle, and Ron Paul is retiring. On November 14, Paul gave his farewell address, and it was vintage Paul. While I’m sympathetic to his libertarian approach on social issues, value individual liberty, and embrace the concept of a small, lean government, I also believe in the necessity of a strong military. Paul’s rambling conspiracies regarding AIPAC and his fierce isolationism have always turned me off as have, frankly, the even nuttier approaches of some of his followers.

Still, Paul’s address should be a must-read. As Alana Goodman pointed out, his son, Senator Rand Paul, is a likely presidential candidate in 2016 and wants very much to revamp the Republican Party. Paul can count on his father’s supporters, and then some, as he understands how to package himself as a mainstream candidate without any of his father’s “crazy uncle” excesses.

President Obama’s re-election only delays the inevitable: economic reality is going to hit, and hit hard. Ultimately, the Republicans—and frankly the country—will have to choose between two camps: A Paul Ryan-type embrace of fiscal realism, or a Ron Paul-like melding of libertarianism, isolationism, and conspiratorial ramblings about those who do not agree that isolationism is in American national interests. Ron Paul was courteous enough to pose dozens of questions. Perhaps it is not too early to push Rand to answer them and stake out clear positions early on his father’s most conspiratorial beliefs, especially when it comes to insinuations of his opponents’ lack of patriotism and dual loyalty.

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Morality and Warfare in Gaza

In Alana’s post about Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s conference call this morning, she reported his comments about the difficulty of trying to fight a war against an immoral foe while preserving your own morality:

The ambassador said Israel has destroyed many of Hamas’s long-range missiles in its first-stage air strikes, but that they couldn’t be completely successful “because of considerations of collateral damage.” In one case, an Israeli pilot refrained from striking a long-range missile because the pilot noticed children in the vicinity, Oren said. That missile was later launched into Tel Aviv.

The action of that Israeli pilot must be seen as praiseworthy since it showed that even in the midst of a conflict in which his country’s security is at risk, that officer was still concerned about saving the lives of Palestinian children. Even if Hamas hides its forces behind civilians, the rules of engagement for Israel’s soldiers require them not to deliberately place innocents at risk even if it confers a military advantage on the terrorists. That is the sort of decision that is in accord with the values that democratic Israel prizes as well as those of Judaism. But this anecdote raises more questions than it answers. It may, in fact, be an apt metaphor for the problems that Israel faces in its conflict with Hamas. One needn’t be a bloodthirsty militarist or be indifferent to morality or to the dictates of international opinion to understand that the consequences of such a policy may not always advance humanitarian goals.

The moral dilemma here is fairly clear. Choosing not to fire at the Hamas missile site may have saved the lives of Palestinian children who were near the weapon. But what would we think about that decision had the missile that had been spared on account of the presence of the Palestinians kids landed on a school, a school bus or a home in Tel Aviv where Israeli children might be hurt or killed? Unless you believe, as many of Israel’s critics apparently do, that Israelis deserve to be killed but that Palestinians ought to be treated as out-of-bounds for any military action, this is an immoral equation.

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In Alana’s post about Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s conference call this morning, she reported his comments about the difficulty of trying to fight a war against an immoral foe while preserving your own morality:

The ambassador said Israel has destroyed many of Hamas’s long-range missiles in its first-stage air strikes, but that they couldn’t be completely successful “because of considerations of collateral damage.” In one case, an Israeli pilot refrained from striking a long-range missile because the pilot noticed children in the vicinity, Oren said. That missile was later launched into Tel Aviv.

The action of that Israeli pilot must be seen as praiseworthy since it showed that even in the midst of a conflict in which his country’s security is at risk, that officer was still concerned about saving the lives of Palestinian children. Even if Hamas hides its forces behind civilians, the rules of engagement for Israel’s soldiers require them not to deliberately place innocents at risk even if it confers a military advantage on the terrorists. That is the sort of decision that is in accord with the values that democratic Israel prizes as well as those of Judaism. But this anecdote raises more questions than it answers. It may, in fact, be an apt metaphor for the problems that Israel faces in its conflict with Hamas. One needn’t be a bloodthirsty militarist or be indifferent to morality or to the dictates of international opinion to understand that the consequences of such a policy may not always advance humanitarian goals.

The moral dilemma here is fairly clear. Choosing not to fire at the Hamas missile site may have saved the lives of Palestinian children who were near the weapon. But what would we think about that decision had the missile that had been spared on account of the presence of the Palestinians kids landed on a school, a school bus or a home in Tel Aviv where Israeli children might be hurt or killed? Unless you believe, as many of Israel’s critics apparently do, that Israelis deserve to be killed but that Palestinians ought to be treated as out-of-bounds for any military action, this is an immoral equation.

It is true that the immoral act would have been the responsibility of the Hamas members who ordered and launched the missile, not that of the Israeli pilot. Those who shelter such weapons behind women and children are despicable cowards, especially when it is understood that their goal is to kill as many Israeli civilians as possible.

It should be understood that Israel does not act in this manner because it is under the misapprehension that moral behavior will win it international applause. Few in Israel are that foolish. Despite the calumnies of Israel’s critics, purity of arms is more than a tradition in the Israeli military; it is a strict code of ethics that has informed the country’s armed forces since they were formed. In any war, especially one waged against irregular forces that hide among civilians, noncombatant casualties are inevitable. Yet Israel actually takes even greater care to avoid them than other nations, including the United States, which has been bitterly criticized for drone attacks on al-Qaeda and Taliban targets in which civilians have died.

But though ethicists may always treat any military action in which the soldier consciously endangers the lives of noncombatants in order to achieve their military objective as wrong, a decision that enables terrorists to go on killing other innocents is, at best, a morally dubious proposition.

This is more than just a hypothetical about asymmetrical warfare or even a question about a specific incident. This discussion goes to the heart of Israel’s problem in defending its population against a terrorist enemy.

The Jewish state is locked in a struggle with an organization that exercises effective sovereignty over Gaza. Indeed, for all of the caterwauling about the need to create an independent Palestinian state, what Hamas has created in Gaza is just that. Gaza is an independent Palestinian state in all but name. The rule of the Islamist group there is absolute and tyrannical. Yet the unwritten rule of the current conflict is that any attempt by Israel to depose Hamas will be regarded as intolerable even by states that don’t recognize the group’s right to rule there.

But more than that, the international community has somehow accepted the idea that Hamas can wage war across what is regarded as an international frontier against Israel without having to face the usual consequences of such actions. Rather than just a few children being used as human shields for one missile, the entire population of Gaza has been employed for the same purpose for a terrorist army that has no scruples about targeting civilians on the other side of the border. Though it has sought to hamstring Hamas’s ability to inflict suffering on its people, Israel has largely acquiesced to this absurd moral construct and refrained from the sort of action that any sovereign nation would employ were its towns subjected to the sort of pounding that residents of southern Israel–and now even the central part of the country–have come to treat as “normal.”

It should be recalled that before Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made it clear that should the place be used as a launching pad for terrorism, there would be no respect for the status quo and no holds barred in terms of Israeli retaliation. That pledge may have always been more braggadocio than credible threat, but the moment his successor allowed it to go unfulfilled it became clear that Israel had no good options when it came to restraining Hamas attacks.

The problem here is not just that of one principled pilot or even a thousand other such decisions that are being made throughout the conflict by similarly scrupulous Israeli soldiers. Rather, it is the acceptance of a situation in which Islamist terrorists are allowed to behave as sovereigns but not held responsible for their actions. The true moral dilemma isn’t about a missile; it involves a decision to allow a terrorist group to rule over Gaza the way the Taliban once ruled Afghanistan. So long as Hamas control over Gaza is treated as inviolable, the rockets will continue to be fired at Israeli civilians and some of them will be wounded and killed. While the terrorists will be at fault for those crimes, it is an international community that treats the continuation of Hamas rule in Gaza as permanent and inviolable that will truly be responsible for it.

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Is the Congressional Turkey Coalition Pro-Hamas?

In the 112th Congress, more than 150 congressmen have signed up for the “Caucus on US Turkish Relations & Turkish Americans,” more commonly called the Turkey Caucus. Once upon the time, such membership might have been a no-brainer: Turkey was not only a NATO member, but also an ally in the war against terrorism. Turkey empowered women; it did not purge them from public service.

No longer. Turkey may still be a NATO member, but it seldom battles for the same goals, even in Afghanistan. And as for terrorism, the Turkish government has become part of the problem rather than the solution. Each and every member of the Turkey Caucus should watch this video of the Turkish ruling party welcoming the leader of Hamas, and this clip of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan speaking candidly in the years before he took the premiership, and ask whether this is the man and the government they want to be endorsing. Here is Erdoğan telling Charlie Rose that Hamas rocket attacks are a hoax, and Bülent Yildirim, a friend of Erdoğan and the head of the charity behind the Gaza flotilla, praising Hamas.

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In the 112th Congress, more than 150 congressmen have signed up for the “Caucus on US Turkish Relations & Turkish Americans,” more commonly called the Turkey Caucus. Once upon the time, such membership might have been a no-brainer: Turkey was not only a NATO member, but also an ally in the war against terrorism. Turkey empowered women; it did not purge them from public service.

No longer. Turkey may still be a NATO member, but it seldom battles for the same goals, even in Afghanistan. And as for terrorism, the Turkish government has become part of the problem rather than the solution. Each and every member of the Turkey Caucus should watch this video of the Turkish ruling party welcoming the leader of Hamas, and this clip of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan speaking candidly in the years before he took the premiership, and ask whether this is the man and the government they want to be endorsing. Here is Erdoğan telling Charlie Rose that Hamas rocket attacks are a hoax, and Bülent Yildirim, a friend of Erdoğan and the head of the charity behind the Gaza flotilla, praising Hamas.

Under such circumstances, representatives like Gerry Connolly (D-Virginia), Steven Cohen (D-Tennessee), Virginia Foxx (R-North Carolina), and Ed Whitfield (R-Kentucky), just to single out the co-chairs, should explain why it is that they are working in Congress to back up a government and, frankly, a political party that has been offering aid and comfort so overtly to a terrorist group that has promised genocide against Jews and has also targeted Americans. Perhaps it is time for each and every member of the Congressional Turkey Coalition to ask whether their endorsement of Turkish policies now does more harm than good.

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Spot the Flaws in This BBC Gaza Footage

Via Tablet’s Adam Chandler. At first glance the background footage in this BBC report appears to show injured Palestinians stumbling away from Israeli military strikes. But watch a little closer starting at about 2 minutes into the video, and see if you can spot the inconsistencies. Here’s one to start you off: keep an eye on the supposedly wounded guy on the ground in the tan jacket who’s carried off by a group of men around 2:10 into the clip. Watch him pop back up a few seconds later in the footage, milling around off-set with a bored look on his face:

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Via Tablet’s Adam Chandler. At first glance the background footage in this BBC report appears to show injured Palestinians stumbling away from Israeli military strikes. But watch a little closer starting at about 2 minutes into the video, and see if you can spot the inconsistencies. Here’s one to start you off: keep an eye on the supposedly wounded guy on the ground in the tan jacket who’s carried off by a group of men around 2:10 into the clip. Watch him pop back up a few seconds later in the footage, milling around off-set with a bored look on his face:

Chandler makes two other interesting catches. He adds:

With devastation raging in the Middle East right now–especially in Syria, where, according to reports, the death toll has now eclipsed 37,000–that the BBC would air footage that is so blatantly staged insults the victims of violence in places like Kiryat Malachi in Israel and Homs in Syria, where civilians were deliberately targeted today.

It’s unclear whether BBC produced this footage itself or through a stringer, but either way they should have saved it for the blooper reel. If history is any indication, we can expect a lot more of this in the coming days.

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Remove the Carriers from the Persian Gulf

Several months ago, I asked a retired admiral what sign the United States could give that its patience had truly worn thin with Iran. “Remove the carriers from the Persian Gulf,” he responded. At first, that struck me as dumb: The Iranians would depict the American withdrawal as another sign that the United States was weak and in retreat. “Don’t worry,” he assured me. “Any Revolutionary Guardsmen worth his weight would understand.”

The Persian Gulf is shallow and the international shipping lanes relatively narrow. The Iranian navy has long drilled swarming American vessels with small boats. Even if Iran can’t sink an aircraft carrier, if it manages even to disable one, it will receive a huge propaganda boost. If the Pentagon kept its carriers outside the Persian Gulf in the deeper and open waters of the Sea of Oman, however, they would retain the same strike capabilities but could maintain greater maneuverability and remain outside the reach of the Iranian navy.

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Several months ago, I asked a retired admiral what sign the United States could give that its patience had truly worn thin with Iran. “Remove the carriers from the Persian Gulf,” he responded. At first, that struck me as dumb: The Iranians would depict the American withdrawal as another sign that the United States was weak and in retreat. “Don’t worry,” he assured me. “Any Revolutionary Guardsmen worth his weight would understand.”

The Persian Gulf is shallow and the international shipping lanes relatively narrow. The Iranian navy has long drilled swarming American vessels with small boats. Even if Iran can’t sink an aircraft carrier, if it manages even to disable one, it will receive a huge propaganda boost. If the Pentagon kept its carriers outside the Persian Gulf in the deeper and open waters of the Sea of Oman, however, they would retain the same strike capabilities but could maintain greater maneuverability and remain outside the reach of the Iranian navy.

At present, the United States keeps two carrier strike groups in the Persian Gulf; that’s a tremendous allocation of resources. It wasn’t always like this. Carriers seldom if ever entered the Persian Gulf prior to Iran’s 1979 revolution and, throughout the 1980s and as the Iran-Iraq war waged, we had a single carrier in the Persian Gulf only about half the time. This changed as a result of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and that small emirate’s subsequent liberation. After that war ended, the average carrier presence again fell below one, although Bill Clinton raised it to between one and two carriers throughout much of his term. Ironically, Pentagon statistics show that carrier presence in the Persian Gulf declined during the George W. Bush administration—but never fell below one—and only increased back to two, on average, under President Obama.

The United States has limited numbers of naval assets, and it is nonsensical to make our most valuable assets also our most vulnerable. Sending in the destroyers and the cruisers, and flying sorties over the Persian Gulf, will reassure our allies. Behind Iranian bluster will be real—and deserved fear—the Americans can strike them anytime, anywhere and, to borrow and adapt a slogan from the Revolutionary Guards, “the Iranians won’t be able to do a damned thing.”

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Jackson-Vanik Ends, but Legacy Continues

On Election Day last week, Connecticut elected a replacement senator for the retiring Joe Lieberman, the very last Scoop Jackson Democrat. In terms of Jackson’s legacy, it was one half of the end an era; the other half begins today, as the U.S. House votes to graduate Russia from what’s known as the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, a piece of Cold War-era legislation sanctioning the Soviet Union for its refusal to allow Jews to emigrate. The amendment is still on the books, but mostly as a symbolic measure. Now that Russia is joining the World Trade Organization, the Jackson-Vanik Amendment would actually harm American companies looking to benefit from the normalization of trade relations with Russia.

But the legacy of Henry “Scoop” Jackson’s fight for human rights in Russia will go on. The bill is set to be replaced with a bill targeting the Russian government’s recognizable human rights violators. Referred to as the Magnitsky bill, it is named for a Russian whistle blower arrested and abused by Russian authorities for uncovering corruption. Magnitsky died in custody. As with the sanctions on Iran, the Obama administration had personally opposed the Magnitsky human rights bill, and dispatched John Kerry to try and kill or water down the bill. When the Senate comes back from its Thanksgiving recess to take up its own version of the bill, we’ll find out just how much contempt Kerry has for the advocacy of human rights. Vladimir Putin’s government, unsurprisingly, isn’t thrilled with being held to account:

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On Election Day last week, Connecticut elected a replacement senator for the retiring Joe Lieberman, the very last Scoop Jackson Democrat. In terms of Jackson’s legacy, it was one half of the end an era; the other half begins today, as the U.S. House votes to graduate Russia from what’s known as the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, a piece of Cold War-era legislation sanctioning the Soviet Union for its refusal to allow Jews to emigrate. The amendment is still on the books, but mostly as a symbolic measure. Now that Russia is joining the World Trade Organization, the Jackson-Vanik Amendment would actually harm American companies looking to benefit from the normalization of trade relations with Russia.

But the legacy of Henry “Scoop” Jackson’s fight for human rights in Russia will go on. The bill is set to be replaced with a bill targeting the Russian government’s recognizable human rights violators. Referred to as the Magnitsky bill, it is named for a Russian whistle blower arrested and abused by Russian authorities for uncovering corruption. Magnitsky died in custody. As with the sanctions on Iran, the Obama administration had personally opposed the Magnitsky human rights bill, and dispatched John Kerry to try and kill or water down the bill. When the Senate comes back from its Thanksgiving recess to take up its own version of the bill, we’ll find out just how much contempt Kerry has for the advocacy of human rights. Vladimir Putin’s government, unsurprisingly, isn’t thrilled with being held to account:

Congress will vote on a bill named after Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky on Friday – the third anniversary of his death in detention – which is designed to deny visas for Russian officials involved in his imprisonment, abuse or death.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Russia had already prepared its response but gave no more details than a Foreign Ministry statement on Thursday that warned of tough retaliation.

Many on the left opposed the Magnitsky bill as well, and many others opposed pairing human rights legislation with Russia’s graduation from Jackson-Vanik restrictions. This group includes Michael McFaul, once a prominent advocate for post-Soviet democratization but currently U.S. ambassador to Moscow and tasked with representing the Obama administration’s line.

This group was right to note that Jackson-Vanik no longer applies, but they are wrong to dismiss the Magnitsky bill as irrelevant to Jackson’s legacy. As Joshua Muravchik wrote recently in COMMENTARY, commemorating Jackson’s 100th birthday, questioning the behavior of autocratic regimes and their treatment of their own citizens was at the heart of Jackson’s work, and certainly the amendment itself:

Apart from the individuals who benefited, this amendment, like Jackson’s SALT amendment, raised some freighted questions. What kind of country treated its citizens as captives? How would such a country treat us? And why, if the Soviet regime was prepared to lay to rest its conflict with us, would it continue to give so little quarter to its own people?

Muravchik also quotes Natan Sharansky’s effusive praise for Jackson’s work, which centered on Jackson-Vanik: “For many Jews in the Soviet Union Jackson became the savior of their lives,” Sharansky said.

The Magnitsky bill is bipartisan, and reflects similar legislation taken up in Europe. Obama has apparently dropped his total opposition to the bill, perhaps in recognition that the ill-fated Russian “reset” is unsalvageable, or perhaps out of a genuine change of heart toward the importance of human rights and American global leadership. Either way, it now seems Jackson’s exemplary legacy will live on.

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Amb. Oren: Israel Prepared to Take “Any and All Measures”

Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren said during a conference call this morning that the long-range missile fired by Hamas into Jerusalem today was an “escalation” of the conflict and that Israel was prepared for a possible ground invasion.

“We are prepared to take any and all measures to defend our citizens, including measures in the air and on the ground,” Oren said. “Israeli ground forces have been moved to the border. There has been no crossing of the border to date, but those forces are deployed and ready to act, be there a need.”

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Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren said during a conference call this morning that the long-range missile fired by Hamas into Jerusalem today was an “escalation” of the conflict and that Israel was prepared for a possible ground invasion.

“We are prepared to take any and all measures to defend our citizens, including measures in the air and on the ground,” Oren said. “Israeli ground forces have been moved to the border. There has been no crossing of the border to date, but those forces are deployed and ready to act, be there a need.”

Israel’s response will depend on whether Hamas continues to escalate the conflict, Oren added. In addition to the Qassam rocket that hit near Jerusalem today, one missile was fired into Tel Aviv yesterday, and another killed three Israelis in Kiryat Malachi.

“We are not seeking to prolong this war, or this conflict. We are not seeking to escalate. But the ball is truly in Hamas’s court here,” said Oren. “If they stand down, we stand down. If they do not stand down, again, we will take any and all measures to defend our citizens.”

When asked by a reporter whether his use of the word “war” was a slip of the tongue, Oren said: “It is a conflict…We hope it doesn’t become [a war]. Right now it is an armed conflict.”

The ambassador said Israel has destroyed many of Hamas’s long-range missiles in its first-stage air strikes, but that they couldn’t be completely successful “because of considerations of collateral damage.” In one case, an Israeli pilot refrained from striking a long-range missile because the pilot noticed children in the vicinity, Oren said. That missile was later launched into Tel Aviv.

“We know that Hamas has not only a military strategy, it has a media strategy,” the ambassador said, adding that Hamas wants to push Israel “into a situation where we’re causing civilian damage, which will in turn impair or limit our maneuverability on the diplomatic front.”

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Can Israel Restore Deterrence?

With Israeli aircraft pounding selected targets in the Gaza Strip and Israeli troops preparing for a ground incursion, Operation Pillar of Defense, now three days old, is beginning to look a lot like Operation Cast Lead, the three-week war in the winter of 2008-2009 in which the Israel Defense Forces entered the Gaza Strip, demolished some Hamas infrastructure, and then left. That operation was a success in the limited but real sense that it brought some respite from rockets emanating from the Gaza Strip. But, as Daniel Byman notes at Foreign Affairs, “As the memory of Cast Lead faded, the number of attacks coming from Gaza began to rise once more. Israel claims that over 200 rockets struck the country in 2010. The number climbed to over 600 in 2011. And 2012 has seen even more — over 800 before the current operation began.”

Clearly that is an unsustainable state of affairs. No country could possibly tolerate its soil being attacked with rockets and not act militarily to defend its citizens. Those who criticize the Israeli action–already one hears the tired old accusations of “disproportionate response” (what would a proportionate response look like–lobbing random missiles into Gaza indiscriminately?)–have no better alternative to offer beyond sucking it up and living with terror raining down over the southern part of the country. But however justified and necessary, Operation Pillar of Defense is unlikely to achieve results much more lasting than those of Cast Lead. Hamas has shown it will not cease and desist from its attacks because of an occasional Israeli counteroffensive and it has shown that it can easily replace militant commanders such as Ahmed Jabari, killed in an Israeli air strike Wednesday.

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With Israeli aircraft pounding selected targets in the Gaza Strip and Israeli troops preparing for a ground incursion, Operation Pillar of Defense, now three days old, is beginning to look a lot like Operation Cast Lead, the three-week war in the winter of 2008-2009 in which the Israel Defense Forces entered the Gaza Strip, demolished some Hamas infrastructure, and then left. That operation was a success in the limited but real sense that it brought some respite from rockets emanating from the Gaza Strip. But, as Daniel Byman notes at Foreign Affairs, “As the memory of Cast Lead faded, the number of attacks coming from Gaza began to rise once more. Israel claims that over 200 rockets struck the country in 2010. The number climbed to over 600 in 2011. And 2012 has seen even more — over 800 before the current operation began.”

Clearly that is an unsustainable state of affairs. No country could possibly tolerate its soil being attacked with rockets and not act militarily to defend its citizens. Those who criticize the Israeli action–already one hears the tired old accusations of “disproportionate response” (what would a proportionate response look like–lobbing random missiles into Gaza indiscriminately?)–have no better alternative to offer beyond sucking it up and living with terror raining down over the southern part of the country. But however justified and necessary, Operation Pillar of Defense is unlikely to achieve results much more lasting than those of Cast Lead. Hamas has shown it will not cease and desist from its attacks because of an occasional Israeli counteroffensive and it has shown that it can easily replace militant commanders such as Ahmed Jabari, killed in an Israeli air strike Wednesday.

The only thing that could possibly stop Hamas from regenerating after this current round of fighting is if Israeli troops stay in Gaza and maintain some degree of security, as they have done in the West Bank since Operation Defensive Shield dealt a major blow to the Second Intifada in 2002. Israel has been helped too by the emergence in the West Bank after Yasir Arafat’s death of more moderate leadership, especially Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Unfortunately, neither a reoccupation nor the emergence of moderate leaders is likely in Gaza.

Ever since Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005 under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, it has had scant desire to return. No doubt Prime Minister Netanyahu is afraid of the international opprobrium–especially from the United States under the leadership of Barack Obama–that “reoccupation” of Gaza would bring. It could also bring major headaches by exposing Israeli troops to the kind of guerrilla attacks they faced in southern Lebanon before withdrawing in 2000. As for the possibility of a more “moderate” Hamas emerging–that seems even more farfetched. Hamas is and remains an organization dedicated to Israel’s eradication in a holy war.

The best that Israel can hope for is to reestablish a measure of deterrence and win a few years of relative quiet. The model, in many ways, is the Second Lebanon War in 2006, which was widely derided at the time as a fiasco but which convinced Hezbollah to refrain from attacking across Israel’s northern border. The years since have been remarkably quiet in the north. Although Hezbollah has rebuilt its strength and then some–it has seized effective control of the Lebanese government and stockpiled more than 50,000 missiles–it has shied away from fighting Israel. It is not, for example, taking advantage of Israel’s battle with Hamas to launch a second front in the north. The experience of 2006 suggests that even terrorist organizations animated by a martyrdom complex can be rational enough for deterrence to work. Israel must hope it can achieve similar results in the south.

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Will Jordan’s Abdullah Be the Next to Fall?

While the international media has been focusing on the latest in the conflict between Iranian-backed groups in the Gaza Strip and Israel, events have started to boil over on the East Bank, in Jordan. Short synopsis: For well over a decade, King Abdullah II of Jordan has been promising reform. The reform has seldom moved beyond the promise, however. Abdullah II and his wife, the beautiful Queen Rania, may be popular in the West, but they are viewed through decidedly cynical eyes at home. Abdullah’s English is better than his Arabic, and Rania’s profligate lifestyle chafes ordinary Jordanians.

Jordanians see both as corrupt. The king has a scheme in which he sells crown land to the government, and pockets the money. No one points out that crown land and government land are pretty much the same thing. Another anecdote: Back in 2006, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani was rushed to Jordan for emergency medical care. As he recovered, he handed out wads of cash to the doctors, nurses, and attendants. The hospital administrator ordered the tips collected, and then redistributed the “bonus” equally to those working, including those whom Talabani may not have seen. The comment among the doctors was it was a good thing Abdullah and Rania were nowhere around, because they would have simply taken the money, and not given any back.

At any rate, to the spark: After massive fuel price hikes, protests erupted and Jordanian security forces killed a protestor. After Friday prayers, protestors poured into the street and now openly call for King Abdullah II’s downfall. For a sampling of what some more radical Jordanian clerics were saying, Abu Muhammad al-Tahawi is a good place to start. Here’s how he explained it:

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While the international media has been focusing on the latest in the conflict between Iranian-backed groups in the Gaza Strip and Israel, events have started to boil over on the East Bank, in Jordan. Short synopsis: For well over a decade, King Abdullah II of Jordan has been promising reform. The reform has seldom moved beyond the promise, however. Abdullah II and his wife, the beautiful Queen Rania, may be popular in the West, but they are viewed through decidedly cynical eyes at home. Abdullah’s English is better than his Arabic, and Rania’s profligate lifestyle chafes ordinary Jordanians.

Jordanians see both as corrupt. The king has a scheme in which he sells crown land to the government, and pockets the money. No one points out that crown land and government land are pretty much the same thing. Another anecdote: Back in 2006, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani was rushed to Jordan for emergency medical care. As he recovered, he handed out wads of cash to the doctors, nurses, and attendants. The hospital administrator ordered the tips collected, and then redistributed the “bonus” equally to those working, including those whom Talabani may not have seen. The comment among the doctors was it was a good thing Abdullah and Rania were nowhere around, because they would have simply taken the money, and not given any back.

At any rate, to the spark: After massive fuel price hikes, protests erupted and Jordanian security forces killed a protestor. After Friday prayers, protestors poured into the street and now openly call for King Abdullah II’s downfall. For a sampling of what some more radical Jordanian clerics were saying, Abu Muhammad al-Tahawi is a good place to start. Here’s how he explained it:

There are important observations regarding the decision to raise the price of fuel. First: The truth of the decision of the shadow government is a plague that is caused by Abdullah Ensour.

Second: They are implementing the recommendations of the World Bank so they can receive a $2.5
billion loan.

Third: The deficit has been in the budget for thirty years and is not something new.

Fourth: The true reason for the deficit and the high debt is the gang of corruptors who have taken
everything.

The true and legitimate solution is to return to the rightly-guided Islamic Caliphate, to apply the
rulings of Islam completely, and to destroy [the borders setup by] Sykes-Picot.

Jonathan Schanzer, Foundation for Defense of Democracies research director, has been following the story since its very beginning, and his tweets are a good place to follow it.

In October, Elliott Abrams penned an article for COMMENTARY looking at the Arab Spring entitled, “Dictators Go, Monarchs Stay.” It was an excellent piece, even if it focused more on the weakness of the dictators than on the staying power of the kings. Still, Abrams identified an important theme. “The monarchies face enormous challenges as well, or at least those not favored by heaven with the combination of tiny populations and enormous oil and gas wealth…” he wrote, adding, “Still, the surviving monarchs appear to have more tools at their disposal today than the dictators had, to resist reform slyly or to guide it slowly and carefully.”

Let us hope for the sake of U.S. national security that Abdullah has the ability to navigate these waters. The Jordanian king relies on handouts from the Persian Gulf emirates to co-opt his adversaries and has been less than serious about reform. He is a deeply flawed man—with a reputation at home and in the region far worse than in Washington—but the alternative in Jordan will make Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood appear positively moderate.

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Hamas Can Win Even By Losing

Israel’s Defense Forces have, by all accounts, performed well during Operation Pillar of Defense. In the wake of the massive bombardment of southern Israel by Hamas, the IDF carried out a deft targeted assassination of the head of the group’s military wing and carried out a wave of pinpoint bombings of terrorist missile caches and arms factories inside Gaza. The leadership of the terrorist movement that governs Gaza with an iron fist is cowering in the bunkers. Though there have been some unfortunate civilian casualties, they have been kept to a minimum despite the fact that Hamas has tried to hide its armaments and its personnel among noncombatants.

But these achievements should not obscure the fact that although Israel’s military is doing everything it can to suppress the missile fire, the terrorists have still managed to launch hundreds in the last two days, with a few even penetrating as far as the greater Tel Aviv area. Just as troubling is the heavy-duty diplomatic support the group has received from its regional allies Egypt and Turkey in addition to Russia’s refusal to join the West in supporting Israel’s right to self-defense.

Though the group has taken a pounding from the IDF, it may well have achieved the objectives it had in mind when it decided to use the aftermath of the U.S. presidential election to escalate the conflict with Israel. Whatever else has happened in the last week, Hamas has demonstrated the irrelevance of the Palestinian Authority and made clear that it, and not PA head Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party, is the face of Palestinian nationalism. By slamming hundreds of missiles in the last week into Israel it may have squandered part of the arsenal of more than 10,000 rockets it has amassed in the last four years and suffered a blow to its leadership. But it has also illustrated that the independent Palestinian state it has erected in Gaza is supported by the Arab and Muslim world and is, for all intents and purposes, invulnerable to international pressure or Israeli attacks. If that isn’t a victory for terrorism, I don’t know what else you could call it.

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Israel’s Defense Forces have, by all accounts, performed well during Operation Pillar of Defense. In the wake of the massive bombardment of southern Israel by Hamas, the IDF carried out a deft targeted assassination of the head of the group’s military wing and carried out a wave of pinpoint bombings of terrorist missile caches and arms factories inside Gaza. The leadership of the terrorist movement that governs Gaza with an iron fist is cowering in the bunkers. Though there have been some unfortunate civilian casualties, they have been kept to a minimum despite the fact that Hamas has tried to hide its armaments and its personnel among noncombatants.

But these achievements should not obscure the fact that although Israel’s military is doing everything it can to suppress the missile fire, the terrorists have still managed to launch hundreds in the last two days, with a few even penetrating as far as the greater Tel Aviv area. Just as troubling is the heavy-duty diplomatic support the group has received from its regional allies Egypt and Turkey in addition to Russia’s refusal to join the West in supporting Israel’s right to self-defense.

Though the group has taken a pounding from the IDF, it may well have achieved the objectives it had in mind when it decided to use the aftermath of the U.S. presidential election to escalate the conflict with Israel. Whatever else has happened in the last week, Hamas has demonstrated the irrelevance of the Palestinian Authority and made clear that it, and not PA head Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party, is the face of Palestinian nationalism. By slamming hundreds of missiles in the last week into Israel it may have squandered part of the arsenal of more than 10,000 rockets it has amassed in the last four years and suffered a blow to its leadership. But it has also illustrated that the independent Palestinian state it has erected in Gaza is supported by the Arab and Muslim world and is, for all intents and purposes, invulnerable to international pressure or Israeli attacks. If that isn’t a victory for terrorism, I don’t know what else you could call it.

In comparing this conflict to the one Hamas provoked at the end of 2008 when Israel was forced to launch Operation Cast Lead to try to put an end to the battering of its southern region, it’s clear the IDF has learned from its mistakes. The stories about Israel slaughtering Palestinians in 2008 were false since the vast majority of the 1,400 Arabs killed in the conflict were armed fighters, not civilians. Nevertheless, even more care has been taken this time. Israel is also doing much better at getting its message about the necessity of self-defense out to the world via both conventional means and social media.

But it must be understood that Hamas is in a much stronger position than it was four years ago.

Rather than Hamas being isolated, as it was in 2008, the Islamist governments of Egypt and Turkey are now powerful supporters of the Gaza regime. The Egyptians are openly backing Hamas and even sending their prime minister to Gaza to express solidarity while the group’s missiles rain down on Israeli civilian targets. Rather than counting on foreign volunteers or Palestinian civilians to serve as human shields for its terrorist cadres, Hamas can now depend on high-ranking Egyptian officials to visit even while it is still shooting at Israel.

Hamas is also counting on the usual routine of international diplomacy to save them from the consequences of their aggression. Though the Obama administration, along with the West, is backing Israel’s right to self-defense, tolerance for Israeli counter-attacks is probably limited and it won’t be long before Washington joins Moscow in calling for a cease-fire that will rescue Hamas from having more of its leadership and its weaponry eliminated.

Hamas also knows that although Israel is calling up reserves and sending them to the border in an attempt to intimidate the group into ending the shooting, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reluctant to launch a ground attack that will result in more casualties on both sides. A ground operation might do much to increase the pain for Hamas and to alter the cost-benefit ratio of their offensive so much as to perhaps turn this victory into a defeat. But that would come at a steep price for Israel in terms of its already shaky diplomatic situation.

All this means that if a cease-fire is agreed to in the next few days without much more damage being inflicted on the group, Hamas will have won a not inconsiderable victory.

Despite the Iron Dome anti-rocket system touted by both Israel and the United States, Hamas has shown it can still inflict tremendous pain on the Jewish state and even threaten metropolitan Tel Aviv. Iron Dome has intercepted less than half of the projectiles launched against Israel and saved many lives, but it can’t get all of them.

Hamas’s diplomatic support, particularly from Egypt, has demonstrated that it is invulnerable to pressure from the United States or anyone else. Israelis have also been reminded that no matter how outrageous the provocations of its enemies, much of the world will still insist that the Jewish state is at fault any time it defends itself.

While a cessation of missile fire will be a relief if it happens in the coming days, neither Israel’s government nor its population or its foreign supporters should take any satisfaction from what has happened this week. Netanyahu had no choice but to respond to Hamas and to do what he could to maintain Israel’s deterrence. But what we are watching shows that when you have a terrorist state on your doorstep that the world will not allow you to depose, there are no good options available to you and little chance for a good outcome.

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Petraeus to Testify “CIA Talking Points” Didn’t Come From CIA?

CNN reports that David Petraeus will testify today in a closed-door hearing with the Senate Intelligence Committee that he knew the Benghazi attack was an act of terrorism carried out by Ansar al Sharia “almost immediately.” What’s more, he will reportedly distance himself from Susan Rice’s “spontaneous demonstration” talking points, which were ostensibly given to her by the CIA. Video and partial transcript below (h/t The Weekly Standard’s Dan Halper):

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CNN reports that David Petraeus will testify today in a closed-door hearing with the Senate Intelligence Committee that he knew the Benghazi attack was an act of terrorism carried out by Ansar al Sharia “almost immediately.” What’s more, he will reportedly distance himself from Susan Rice’s “spontaneous demonstration” talking points, which were ostensibly given to her by the CIA. Video and partial transcript below (h/t The Weekly Standard’s Dan Halper):

David Petraeus is going to tell members of Congress that he “knew almost immediately after the September 11th attack, that the group Ansar al Sharia, the al Qaeda sympathizing group in Libya was responsible for the attacks,” CNN reports. …

“When he looks at what Susan Rice said,” CNN reports, “here is what Petraeus’s take is, according to my source. Petraeus developed some talking points laying it all out. those talking points as always were approved by the intelligence community. But then he sees Susan Rice make her statements and he sees input from other areas of the administration. Petraeus — it is believed — will tell the committee he is not certain where Susan Rice got all of her information.”

We’ve known since early October that the initial CIA talking points referred to a “spontaneous reaction” and downplayed the possibility of terrorism. But that clashed with reports that the intelligence community had early indications that it was a terrorist attack involving Ansar al-Sharia. There has been speculation that the unclassified CIA talking points (handed out to members of Congress and administration officials) were more of a political document than an informational one, and may not have originated from the CIA at all. If CNN is right and Petraeus does testify that he had nothing to do with the talking points, the next question is, where did they come from and why didn’t they match the intelligence?

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Is This the End of Land for Peace?

The Camp David Accords aren’t even 35 years old, but the latest violence between Hamas and Israel shows the fallacy underlying the principle of land for peace. Bluntly speaking, “land for peace” is dead; any diplomatic effort to revive it is likely doomed to fail. That does not mean that there cannot one day be peace, but Hamas’s actions—long planned for with equipment acquired even under the embargo—show how territory ceded brings not peace, but greater violence and vulnerability.

Just a back of a napkin sketch:

The Camp David Accords aren’t even 35 years old, but the latest violence between Hamas and Israel shows the fallacy underlying the principle of land for peace. Bluntly speaking, “land for peace” is dead; any diplomatic effort to revive it is likely doomed to fail. That does not mean that there cannot one day be peace, but Hamas’s actions—long planned for with equipment acquired even under the embargo—show how territory ceded brings not peace, but greater violence and vulnerability.

Just a back of a napkin sketch:

  • 1956: The Eisenhower administration forces an Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai; war erupts 11 years later, and six years after that at the cost of thousands of lives.
  • 1982: Israel completes its withdrawal from the Sinai after Camp David; three decades later, Egypt actively helps to arm terrorists dedicated to Israel’s destruction.
  • 1994: As the result of the Oslo Accords signed the previous year, Israel acquiesces to the creation of a Palestinian Authority. Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Yasir Arafat takes his diplomatic gains, but never abandons terrorism as his chief means of extracting concessions. Hundreds more die in terrorist attacks as Israelis for all practical purposes become less secure.
  • 2000: Israel leaves southern Lebanon, a withdrawal the UN certifies as complete. In response, Hezbollah fills the vacuum, and claims not only the Shebaa Farms/Har Dov, but also seven villages in Israel’s Galilee. Six year later, Hezbollah launches thousands of missiles deep into Israel.
  • 2005: Ariel Sharon, perhaps hoping to end his life as a dove rather than a warrior, unilaterally leaves the Gaza Strip. Almost immediately, terrorists begin their rocket barrage of Israel, striking not only at Sderot, but also at the Ashkelon Power Plant and, now, Tel Aviv.

Even the most dovish Israelis recognize the problem, and understand just what is at stake should Israel withdraw completely from the West Bank. Land for peace was good in theory, but not when Israel’s opponents seek land as the end goal, rather than peace.

Now more than ever Dore Gold’s “Defensible Borders” is a must read.

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Petraeus Betrayed the Team

I had meant to write this a couple days ago, but as I was doing so, the motherboard on my 3-month-old laptop died. It’s fixed now, and so I’ve gotten my work back, and I think some of these points remain relevant, even as the story moves on. Jonathan Tobin has argued that Petraeus was right to resign, and I largely agree with his excellent points, but want to add one: I’m not so concerned about how unfair it is that more senior leaders like Bill Clinton not only cheated on their wives, but survived politically with even greater popularity. A military officer like Petraeus should be held to a higher standard than even the commander-in-chief.

Every officer and his or her spouse are a team. At every level of David Petraeus’s career, Holly Petraeus was his often unacknowledged partner not only in terms of personal support, but also in career. Officers’ wives are active not only in the military community, but also in the entertaining and diplomacy, which form an important part of any flag officers’ duties. Had Holly Petraeus not been so capable, her husband may not have achieved such a rapid rise. For an officer to betray his wife reflects not only a personal failing, which is more the business of the Petraeus family and few others, but also the betrayal of a long-standing, professional teammate.

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I had meant to write this a couple days ago, but as I was doing so, the motherboard on my 3-month-old laptop died. It’s fixed now, and so I’ve gotten my work back, and I think some of these points remain relevant, even as the story moves on. Jonathan Tobin has argued that Petraeus was right to resign, and I largely agree with his excellent points, but want to add one: I’m not so concerned about how unfair it is that more senior leaders like Bill Clinton not only cheated on their wives, but survived politically with even greater popularity. A military officer like Petraeus should be held to a higher standard than even the commander-in-chief.

Every officer and his or her spouse are a team. At every level of David Petraeus’s career, Holly Petraeus was his often unacknowledged partner not only in terms of personal support, but also in career. Officers’ wives are active not only in the military community, but also in the entertaining and diplomacy, which form an important part of any flag officers’ duties. Had Holly Petraeus not been so capable, her husband may not have achieved such a rapid rise. For an officer to betray his wife reflects not only a personal failing, which is more the business of the Petraeus family and few others, but also the betrayal of a long-standing, professional teammate.

Max Boot is right to highlight the contributions Petraeus made to the United States and its security. He messed up badly in Iraq when he commanded the 101st Airborne based out of Mosul, but he learned from his mistakes. Certainly, history will thank the general for his subsequent success. But it is important to remember that Petraeus did not achieve his successes alone.

While on one level, Holly Petraeus was one partner, Petraeus was also part of another team: Many of his colleagues—Ray Odierno, Peter Chiarelli, and others—are as responsible, if not more, for the successes the U.S. Army achieved. The major difference between these men and Petraeus is that his colleagues did not spend nearly as much time cultivating the press or think-tankers, or giving public speeches in Washington and New York to be seen and reported upon. That is not to diminish Petraeus; outreach has value. But the hagiography which Petraeus long cultivated necessarily diminished some of his equally talented peers and so could, perhaps, suggest a subtle betrayal of team spirit.

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