Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 25, 2014

Obama Deserves Blame for Talks Collapse

When speaking at a press conference in South Korea today about the collapse of the Middle East peace talks sponsored by Secretary of State Kerry, President Obama adopted a tone of sorrowful resignation about the intransigence of both sides:

“As far as the Middle East is concerned, this is a problem that’s been going on for 60, 70, 80 years.  We didn’t anticipate that we were going to solve it during the course of a six or nine-month negotiation.  … What we haven’t seen is, frankly, the kind of political will to actually make tough decisions.  And that’s been true on both sides. And the fact that most recently President Abbas took the unhelpful step of rejoining talks with Hamas is just one of a series of choices that both the Israelis and the Palestinians have made that are not conducive to trying to resolve this crisis. … Folks can posture; folks can cling to maximalist positions; but realistically, there’s one door, and that is the two parties getting together and making some very difficult political compromises in order to secure the future of both Israelis and Palestinians for future generations.”

In doing so, the president not only deflected blame from Kerry and the administration but also refused to frankly acknowledge that it has been the Palestinian Authority who torpedoed the talks both by violating their agreements and going to the United Nations for recognition but also by concluding an alliance with the Hamas terrorists which the U.S. has always acknowledged to be incompatible with the peace process.

But the blame doesn’t only belong to PA leader Mahmoud Abbas. Were he truly being honest about the events of the past several months, the president would have to acknowledge that the series of events that led up the current debacle has been set in motion in no small measure by himself. When the history of the fool’s errand that Kerry has wasted so much of the last year on is written, Obama must bear much of the responsibility for the mixed signals sent to the region that encouraged Abbas to think he would be let off the hook for delivering what amounts to a fourth Palestinian “no” to Israeli offers of statehood and peace.

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When speaking at a press conference in South Korea today about the collapse of the Middle East peace talks sponsored by Secretary of State Kerry, President Obama adopted a tone of sorrowful resignation about the intransigence of both sides:

“As far as the Middle East is concerned, this is a problem that’s been going on for 60, 70, 80 years.  We didn’t anticipate that we were going to solve it during the course of a six or nine-month negotiation.  … What we haven’t seen is, frankly, the kind of political will to actually make tough decisions.  And that’s been true on both sides. And the fact that most recently President Abbas took the unhelpful step of rejoining talks with Hamas is just one of a series of choices that both the Israelis and the Palestinians have made that are not conducive to trying to resolve this crisis. … Folks can posture; folks can cling to maximalist positions; but realistically, there’s one door, and that is the two parties getting together and making some very difficult political compromises in order to secure the future of both Israelis and Palestinians for future generations.”

In doing so, the president not only deflected blame from Kerry and the administration but also refused to frankly acknowledge that it has been the Palestinian Authority who torpedoed the talks both by violating their agreements and going to the United Nations for recognition but also by concluding an alliance with the Hamas terrorists which the U.S. has always acknowledged to be incompatible with the peace process.

But the blame doesn’t only belong to PA leader Mahmoud Abbas. Were he truly being honest about the events of the past several months, the president would have to acknowledge that the series of events that led up the current debacle has been set in motion in no small measure by himself. When the history of the fool’s errand that Kerry has wasted so much of the last year on is written, Obama must bear much of the responsibility for the mixed signals sent to the region that encouraged Abbas to think he would be let off the hook for delivering what amounts to a fourth Palestinian “no” to Israeli offers of statehood and peace.

Throughout the period of negotiations Obama has concentrated all of his criticisms and all public criticism on Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu. In interviews and public statements, he has continually warned Israel that it must make concessions and take risks for peace. He bolstered the conventional wisdom accepted by most of the international media and the U.S. foreign-policy establishment that Israel had not done the necessary soul searching or come to the conclusion that it must embrace peace rather than maximal territorial demands. In doing so, he acted as if the history of the last 20 years, during which Israel has made far-reaching territorial concessions, empowered the Palestinian Authority, and withdrawn completely from Gaza, never happened. American promises given to past Israeli prime ministers about support for Israel’s claims to settlement blocs and Jerusalem were treated as irrelevant. The three Palestinian refusals of Israeli peace offers in 2000, 2001, and 2008, including an independent state in almost all of the West Bank, Gaza, and a share of Jerusalem, were thrown down the memory hole. Despite his embrace of a two-state solution and another offer of statehood made during the recent talks, Netanyahu was depicted as intransigent.

At the same time, Obama spoke of Abbas as a strong champion of peace even when the PA leader was embracing the released terrorist murderers that the U.S. had pressured Israel into releasing as a bribe for the Palestinians to return to the talks. The Palestinians never budged during the talks. Nor were they willing, even in principle, to drop their demands for a “right of return” for the descendants of the 1948 refugees or to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders were drawn. Yet, even as he was continually bashing Netanyahu, Abbas got off scot-free. And when Abbas fled the negotiations that he had never wanted to be part of by going to the U.N., Kerry inexplicably blamed it all on an Israeli building project in a 40-year-old Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem that no one—not even the Palestinians—expects Israel to give up even in the event of peace.

Tilting the diplomatic playing field in the Palestinians’ direction may have been intended to weaken Netanyahu and empower Abbas to make peace. But it had the opposite effect. Perhaps Obama and Kerry thought Abbas—now serving in the 10th year of a five-year presidential term and under pressure from Hamas—was too fragile to withstand pressure to make peace. But by giving him a pass, they sent a clear signal that not even a unity deal with Hamas would result in severe consequences for the PA.

It’s entirely possible, if not probable, that not even tough pressure on Abbas to do what had to be done to make peace would have worked. Palestinian political culture is still predicated on a vision of national identity that is inextricably linked to the cause of Israel’s elimination. But the U.S. didn’t even try to push Abbas while hammering Netanyahu. When given the chance to make it clear to Abbas that his choice was between peace and complete isolation, the president punted. The result is—assuming the unity pact doesn’t collapse—a new PA that is bound to Hamas’s rejectionism that will also strengthen the most radical elements in Fatah. Rather than taking bows for a gallant effort, the administration ought to be admitting that it has taken a bad situation and made it worse.

It is no surprise that the peace process failed since the conditions that would have made it possible were not present. But any slim hopes for a deal were destroyed by Obama’s obsession with battering Israel and his delusions about the Palestinians.

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Reality Is Crushing the Obama Presidency

Yesterday I wrote a piece on President Obama’s staggering record of failure, including in the foreign-policy arena. 

Events in the last 24 hours appear to reinforce my case.  

Here is a story from the front page of today’s New York Times, hardly a right-wing outlet. It’s worth quoting at length:

President Obama encountered setbacks to two of his most cherished foreign-policy projects on Thursday, as he failed to achieve a trade deal that undergirds his strategic pivot to Asia and the Middle East peace process suffered a potentially irreparable breakdown.

Mr. Obama had hoped to use his visit here to announce an agreement under which Japan would open its markets in rice, beef, poultry and pork, a critical step toward the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the proposed regional trade pact. But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was not able to overcome entrenched resistance from Japan’s farmers in time for the president’s visit.

In Jerusalem, Israel’s announcement that it was suspending stalemated peace negotiations with the Palestinians, after a reconciliation between the Palestine Liberation Organization and the militant group Hamas, posed yet another obstacle to restarting a troubled peace process in which Secretary of State John Kerry has been greatly invested.

The setbacks, though worlds apart in geography and history, speak to the common challenge Mr. Obama has had in translating his ideas and ambitions into enduring policies. He has watched outside forces unravel his best-laid plans, from resetting relations with Russia to managing the epochal political change in the Arab world. On Thursday, as Russia staged military exercises on the border with Ukraine, Mr. Kerry denounced broken promises from the Kremlin but took no specific action.

This is incompetence on stilts.

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Yesterday I wrote a piece on President Obama’s staggering record of failure, including in the foreign-policy arena. 

Events in the last 24 hours appear to reinforce my case.  

Here is a story from the front page of today’s New York Times, hardly a right-wing outlet. It’s worth quoting at length:

President Obama encountered setbacks to two of his most cherished foreign-policy projects on Thursday, as he failed to achieve a trade deal that undergirds his strategic pivot to Asia and the Middle East peace process suffered a potentially irreparable breakdown.

Mr. Obama had hoped to use his visit here to announce an agreement under which Japan would open its markets in rice, beef, poultry and pork, a critical step toward the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the proposed regional trade pact. But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was not able to overcome entrenched resistance from Japan’s farmers in time for the president’s visit.

In Jerusalem, Israel’s announcement that it was suspending stalemated peace negotiations with the Palestinians, after a reconciliation between the Palestine Liberation Organization and the militant group Hamas, posed yet another obstacle to restarting a troubled peace process in which Secretary of State John Kerry has been greatly invested.

The setbacks, though worlds apart in geography and history, speak to the common challenge Mr. Obama has had in translating his ideas and ambitions into enduring policies. He has watched outside forces unravel his best-laid plans, from resetting relations with Russia to managing the epochal political change in the Arab world. On Thursday, as Russia staged military exercises on the border with Ukraine, Mr. Kerry denounced broken promises from the Kremlin but took no specific action.

This is incompetence on stilts.

Mr. Obama’s failures are piling up one after another, in foreign policy and on the domestic side, to the point that they are now well beyond dispute. Blaming his predecessor became passé a couple of years ago. Blaming Republicans for his foreign-policy failures, and the failures of the Affordable Care Act, is absurd. And so the best the president and his allies can do at this stage is to (a) invert reality (for example, explaining that Russia’s aggression and our timidity are evidence of its weakness and our strength) and/or (b) explain away each failure as the fault not of themselves but of the stars.

That won’t be nearly enough. At some point the excuses grow tiresome and unconvincing, and the bill comes due.  

We are at that stage in the Obama presidency. Reality is crushing his presidency. And there’s nothing America’s most famous former community organizer seems able to do about it.

This is not an easy time for anyone who reveres this nation.

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Anti-Semitism at Islamic Conference: a Wakeup Call for Europe?

What would it take for the Europeans to face up to the ever more belligerent degrees of anti-Semitism coming from parts of that continent’s Muslim population? Disturbing reports have emerged about certain anti-Jewish comments made by speakers at one of Europe’s most important Islamic conferences. Writing in Le Figaro Michele Tribalat recounted some of the statements made at the congress of the Union of Islamic Organizations in France, which convened in Paris on Wednesday. The most disturbing statements came from “guest of honor” Hani Ramadan, a prominent Muslim leader in Geneva and the brother of Tariq Ramadan.

Before the delegates Ramadan insisted in his speech that, “All the evil in the world originates from the Jews and the Zionist barbarism.” In his speech Ramadan listed places of conflict across the world and claimed that these wars are being driven by the “hand” of Zionism. Similarly, the audience was informed that Jews control the media and that in America and France no one can be elected to the presidency without first pandering to Jewish organizations. Ramadan was good enough to concede, however, that Europe’s “financial lobbies that practice usury…no longer rely only on Jews.”

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What would it take for the Europeans to face up to the ever more belligerent degrees of anti-Semitism coming from parts of that continent’s Muslim population? Disturbing reports have emerged about certain anti-Jewish comments made by speakers at one of Europe’s most important Islamic conferences. Writing in Le Figaro Michele Tribalat recounted some of the statements made at the congress of the Union of Islamic Organizations in France, which convened in Paris on Wednesday. The most disturbing statements came from “guest of honor” Hani Ramadan, a prominent Muslim leader in Geneva and the brother of Tariq Ramadan.

Before the delegates Ramadan insisted in his speech that, “All the evil in the world originates from the Jews and the Zionist barbarism.” In his speech Ramadan listed places of conflict across the world and claimed that these wars are being driven by the “hand” of Zionism. Similarly, the audience was informed that Jews control the media and that in America and France no one can be elected to the presidency without first pandering to Jewish organizations. Ramadan was good enough to concede, however, that Europe’s “financial lobbies that practice usury…no longer rely only on Jews.”

The fact that these statements could come from such an apparently prominent speaker at such an important Islamic conference surely says something about currents in the wider Muslim community. With such sentiments being bandied around from the podiums of high-profile Islamic conferences, is it any wonder that across Europe there has been such a rise in Muslim hate crime against Jews? In America, liberal Jews have often refused to a hear a word of it. They look at you with wary suspicion if you dare to suggest that Muslims have played a significant part in the upward trend of European anti-Semitism. Even after the harrowing 2012 shootings at a Jewish school in Toulouse and the uncovering of a number of similar anti-Jewish terror plots, many liberals in America seemed to assume that there must be some anti-Muslim prejudice at work on the part of anyone who tried to highlight this phenomenon.

Then last fall the European Union released its own comprehensive survey of anti-Semitism and the figures spoke for themselves. In France, 73 percent of those who reported having experienced anti-Semitism said that it came from what the survey termed “someone with a Muslim extremist view.” Just 22 percent said they had witnessed anti-Semitism from a “Christian extremist” and 27 percent said they had seen it coming from someone with a “right-wing political view.” For what its worth, 67 percent of those surveyed in France said they had heard anti-Semitism coming from someone on the left.

Such trends should hardly be surprising. In recent years Britain has had to deal with the phenomenon of anti-Jewish and hardline Saudi textbooks being used in Muslim education programs for young children. This culture of anti-Jewish education then seems to continue all the way up to the universities, with Muslim student associations still hosting radical preachers who express views no different from those voiced by Ramadan at Wednesday’s conference. Is it any wonder, then, if some members of the Islamic community are ready to believe the most hallucinatory and outlandish conspiracy theories about Jews? And as Ramadan was sure to explain to his audience, “Against these international schemes of Zionist power, there is only one rampart: Islam.”

Given the scale of mass immigration into Europe, the process of acculturation was never going to be immediate or even entirely smooth. Yet, it often appears as if European governments have done less than nothing to westernize immigrant communities, in many instances having even encouraged a certain separateness, just as the doctrines of multiculturalism stipulate. After the horrors of World War Two Europe embraced a kind of post-national cosmopolitan tolerance that forbade calling out bigotry when it emanated from ethnic minorities. As Ed West has written, “the irony is that, out of collective guilt for what happened to Europe’s Jews, Europe imported millions of people from some of the world’s most anti-Semitic countries, [and] made no attempt to counter these prejudices.”

No doubt Ramadan’s comments will make some headlines and provoke some mutters of condemnation and concern, just as the European Union’s recent anti-Semitism survey did. But how many more Toulouse-style terror attacks will Europe go through before it is ready to contemplate getting serious? Perhaps it is incapable of ever doing so. 

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Why Does Jimmy Carter Ignore Hamas Terrorism?

Jimmy Carter has steadily embraced ever-more leftist and extreme causes since his 1980 election loss. In recent years, he has found his own club of former officials, and joined a self-appointed group of “Elders” which deigns from their unelected and therefore unaccountable posts to dispense what they see as wisdom. Often, that wisdom includes legitimizing if not embracing Hamas, a terrorist group that unapologetically targets civilians and embraces a covenant which implies if not endorses genocide against Jews.

Here is the Elders’ statement applauding the Palestinian unity deal. In the past, Elder delegations have traveled to Gaza to parlay with Hamas and have called for the lifting of a blockade which, of course, did not prevent the import of food, medicine, or building materials, but only mandated an inspection given Hamas’s predilection for rocketry, explosives, and terrorism. Carter and his fellow Elders have ignored Hamas terrorism and remained completely uninterested in details or facts that would interfere in their narrative of demonizing Israel. Indeed, Carter has even gone so far as to falsify his own notes in order to rewrite history to exculpate Syrian dictator Hafez al-Assad.

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Jimmy Carter has steadily embraced ever-more leftist and extreme causes since his 1980 election loss. In recent years, he has found his own club of former officials, and joined a self-appointed group of “Elders” which deigns from their unelected and therefore unaccountable posts to dispense what they see as wisdom. Often, that wisdom includes legitimizing if not embracing Hamas, a terrorist group that unapologetically targets civilians and embraces a covenant which implies if not endorses genocide against Jews.

Here is the Elders’ statement applauding the Palestinian unity deal. In the past, Elder delegations have traveled to Gaza to parlay with Hamas and have called for the lifting of a blockade which, of course, did not prevent the import of food, medicine, or building materials, but only mandated an inspection given Hamas’s predilection for rocketry, explosives, and terrorism. Carter and his fellow Elders have ignored Hamas terrorism and remained completely uninterested in details or facts that would interfere in their narrative of demonizing Israel. Indeed, Carter has even gone so far as to falsify his own notes in order to rewrite history to exculpate Syrian dictator Hafez al-Assad.

That Mary Robinson has joined Carter in the most recent statement praising the Hamas deal also shouldn’t surprise. After all, she was the sponsor of the UN’s so-called “World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance” which, under her leadership, became an orgy of anti-Semitic hatred. And, while she led the UN Human Rights Commission, she presided over the passage of a resolution that endorsed suicide bombing against civilians as legitimate under international law. Hence, her love affair with Hamas seems par for the course.

If Carter, Robinson, and their fellow-travelers truly sought peace, they might recognize that Hamas’s refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist and its refusal to renounce terrorism—as required by the Oslo Accords upon which the Palestinian Authority is based—threaten to undercut the basis of any peace process: the fact that diplomatic deals don’t expire.

Carter, of course, may see himself as a peacemaker, but increasingly it’s hard not to see him as a bigoted man consumed with his own ego and hateful toward Jews. Given his activity in the Elders, and the evolution of his recent writing, his next book should be titled, The Protocols of the Elders of Atlanta. I’m sure he could get Max Blumenthal, Desmond Tutu, and David Duke to endorse it.

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Bundy’s Teachable Moment for the Right

You may have noticed that among the many and varied topics touched upon by COMMENTARY writers in recent weeks, none of us chose to weigh in on the Bundy Ranch controversy that attracted so much notice on cable news, talk radio, and the blogosphere. The reason was that none of us considered the standoff between a Nevada tax scofflaw and the federal government over grazing rights fees to rise to the level of an issue of national interest. The government may own too much land in the West and may have acted in a heavy-handed manner in this case but anyone with sense realized that stiffing the feds is likely to end badly for those who play that game, something that even a bomb-thrower like Glenn Beck appeared to be able to understand. Moreover, there was something slightly absurd about the same people who froth at the mouth when “amnesty” for illegal immigrants is mentioned demanding that Cliven Bundy be let off the hook for what he owed Uncle Sam.

Unfortunately some other conservatives liked the imagery of a rancher and his supporters opposing the arrogant power of the federal government and Bundy became, albeit briefly, the flavor of the month in some libertarian circles. So when he was caught uttering some utterly repulsive racist sentiments by the New York Times earlier this week some of the same pundits that had embraced him were sent running for cover. As they have fled, they have found themselves being pursued by jubilant liberals who have attempted to use Bundy’s lunatic rants to brand all of conservatives and Tea Partiers as racists. This was a popular theme today taken up by left-wingers at the New York Times, Salon, and New York magazine who all claimed that Bundy exposed the dark underside of libertarianism in general and conservative media in particular. While Jonathan Chait may consider to be an Onion-like coincidence that libertarian sympathizers are all crackpot racists, that is about as cogent an observation as an attempt to argue that most liberals are unwashed socialist/anti-Semitic lawbreakers just because many of the Occupy Wall Street protesters they embraced fell into those categories.

But there is another moral to this story that should give some on the right pause. In their enthusiasm to embrace anyone who sings from the same “agin the government” hymnal, some libertarians have proved themselves willing to lionize people that were liable to besmirch the causes they cherish. As our Pete Wehner pointed out recently, that some figures identified with conservatism have embraced sympathizers with the Confederacy as well as open racists and anti-Semites is a matter of record.

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You may have noticed that among the many and varied topics touched upon by COMMENTARY writers in recent weeks, none of us chose to weigh in on the Bundy Ranch controversy that attracted so much notice on cable news, talk radio, and the blogosphere. The reason was that none of us considered the standoff between a Nevada tax scofflaw and the federal government over grazing rights fees to rise to the level of an issue of national interest. The government may own too much land in the West and may have acted in a heavy-handed manner in this case but anyone with sense realized that stiffing the feds is likely to end badly for those who play that game, something that even a bomb-thrower like Glenn Beck appeared to be able to understand. Moreover, there was something slightly absurd about the same people who froth at the mouth when “amnesty” for illegal immigrants is mentioned demanding that Cliven Bundy be let off the hook for what he owed Uncle Sam.

Unfortunately some other conservatives liked the imagery of a rancher and his supporters opposing the arrogant power of the federal government and Bundy became, albeit briefly, the flavor of the month in some libertarian circles. So when he was caught uttering some utterly repulsive racist sentiments by the New York Times earlier this week some of the same pundits that had embraced him were sent running for cover. As they have fled, they have found themselves being pursued by jubilant liberals who have attempted to use Bundy’s lunatic rants to brand all of conservatives and Tea Partiers as racists. This was a popular theme today taken up by left-wingers at the New York Times, Salon, and New York magazine who all claimed that Bundy exposed the dark underside of libertarianism in general and conservative media in particular. While Jonathan Chait may consider to be an Onion-like coincidence that libertarian sympathizers are all crackpot racists, that is about as cogent an observation as an attempt to argue that most liberals are unwashed socialist/anti-Semitic lawbreakers just because many of the Occupy Wall Street protesters they embraced fell into those categories.

But there is another moral to this story that should give some on the right pause. In their enthusiasm to embrace anyone who sings from the same “agin the government” hymnal, some libertarians have proved themselves willing to lionize people that were liable to besmirch the causes they cherish. As our Pete Wehner pointed out recently, that some figures identified with conservatism have embraced sympathizers with the Confederacy as well as open racists and anti-Semites is a matter of record.

That the liberal attempt to tar all Tea Partiers as racists is unfair is beside the point. It is one thing to believe in small government, federalism, and to fear the willingness of liberals to undermine the rule of law. It is quite another to treat the government as not just a problem but as the enemy. The U.S. government is not the enemy. When run by responsible patriots it is, as it was designed to be, the best defense of our liberty, not its foe. As Charles Krauthammer ably stated on Fox News earlier this week:

First of all, it isn’t enough to say I don’t agree with what he [Bundy] said. This is a despicable statement. It’s not the statement, you have to disassociate yourself entirely from the man. It’s not like the words exist here and the man exists here. And why conservatives, some conservatives, end up in bed with people who, you know, — he makes an anti-government statement, he takes an anti-government stand, he wears a nice big hat and he rides a horse and all of the sudden he is a champion of democracy. This is a man who said that he doesn’t recognize the authority of the United States of America. That makes him a patriot?

I love this country and I love the constitution and it’s the constitution that established a government that all of us have to recognize. And for him to reject it was the beginning of all of this. And now what he said today is just the end of this. And I think it is truly appalling that as Chuck [Lane] says, there are times when somehow simply because somebody takes an opposition, he becomes a conservative hero. You’ve you got to wait, you’ve got to watch, you have got to think about. And look, do I have the right to go graze sheep in Central Park? I think not. You have to have some respect for the federal government, some respect for our system, and to say you don’t and you don’t recognize it and that makes you a conservative hero, to me, is completely contradictory and rather appalling. And he has now proved it.

The Bundy ranch standoff is a teachable moment for libertarians and conservatives. We don’t need to waste much time debunking the claim that a belief in limited government and calls for an end to the orgy of taxing and spending in Washington are racist. These are risible, lame arguments that fail on their own. But like liberals who need to draw a distinction between their positions and those of the anti-American, anti-capitalist far left, those on the right do need to draw equally bright lines between themselves and the likes of Cliven Bundy. If they don’t, spectacles such as the one we witnessed this week are inevitable. 

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ObamaCare Has Another Bad Week

The issue on which President Obama is currently fixated on silencing dissent (the debate is “over”) is ObamaCare. This is understandable: the public still hates the law, and for good reason. Obama’s because-I-said-so routine has not, unsurprisingly, fooled the many Americans who had their doctors and health care taken away from them into forgetting the basic cruelty of the president’s health-care reform. But the hope of ObamaCare supporters was that the worst was behind them. Unfortunately for them, the bad news just keeps on coming.

Last week, the Washington Post editorial board declared that “ObamaCare’s critics have had a bad week.” They have not replicated that again this week. The truth is that there is plenty of bad news for the suffocating regulatory beast that is the ACA, but two stories this week stood out. The first was what may herald the next wave of insurance cancellations. The Obama administration is considering largely banning what’s known as “fixed indemnity insurance.” Peter Suderman reported a few days ago:

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The issue on which President Obama is currently fixated on silencing dissent (the debate is “over”) is ObamaCare. This is understandable: the public still hates the law, and for good reason. Obama’s because-I-said-so routine has not, unsurprisingly, fooled the many Americans who had their doctors and health care taken away from them into forgetting the basic cruelty of the president’s health-care reform. But the hope of ObamaCare supporters was that the worst was behind them. Unfortunately for them, the bad news just keeps on coming.

Last week, the Washington Post editorial board declared that “ObamaCare’s critics have had a bad week.” They have not replicated that again this week. The truth is that there is plenty of bad news for the suffocating regulatory beast that is the ACA, but two stories this week stood out. The first was what may herald the next wave of insurance cancellations. The Obama administration is considering largely banning what’s known as “fixed indemnity insurance.” Peter Suderman reported a few days ago:

Fixed indemnity coverage is a form of limited, low-cost insurance that pays out a flat rate in response to certain prescribed events—say $75 for a doctor’s visit or $15 for a prescription—regardless of the cost. Because the coverage payouts aren’t variable, and because some major medical costs aren’t covered at all, monthly premiums are often quite low, meaning that it offers a way for people to have some coverage at relatively affordable rates.

It may not be an option for much longer. The proposed regulation would essentially outlaw standalone indemnity policies, making it illegal to sell them except as an addendum to the more robust, more expensive plans that meet the law’s minimum essential benefits requirements.  Under the proposed rules, indemnity insurance sold by itself would be classified in such a way that it has to meet all the requirements for “major medical coverage.”

It’s as if regulators suddenly decided that anyone selling scooters had to make sure those scooters were as powerful (and thus expensive) as motorcycles. Otherwise, scooters could only be sold as sidecars to people who already owned motorcycles.

Suderman notes that this would be at cross-purposes with the idea that ObamaCare seeks to increase the ranks of the insured, since such plans could be purchased along with the mandate penalty to at least have some insurance. But, as he points out in answering his own question, ObamaCare is about controlling what kind of insurance plans the government’s confused bureaucrats want you to have. ObamaCare, then, seems likely to continue to kick the insured off their plans and leave many more without coverage. This was by design, but the Obama administration hoped to avoid this kind of story getting much attention. Given the outcry over the last round of millions of cancellation notices, that seems unlikely.

The second story hit yesterday, but needs a brief bit of background. Last year Sarah Kliff, at the time writing for the Washington Post but who has since joined Vox.com, wrote a piece headlined “Oregon may be the White House’s favorite health exchange,” touting the Cover Oregon ObamaCare exchange’s potential for proving the overall reform law’s worth. The federal government sunk $250 million into it to ensure it would thrive. Instead, it has been a complete disaster, and now the Washington Post explains:

The Obama administration is poised to take over Oregon’s broken health insurance exchange, according to officials familiar with the decision who say that it reflects federal officials’ conclusion that several state-run marketplaces may be too dysfunctional to fix.

In public, the board overseeing Cover Oregon is scheduled to vote Friday whether to join the federal insurance marketplace that sells health plans in most of the country under the Affordable Care Act. Behind the scenes, the officials say, federal and Oregon officials already have agreed that closing down the state marketplace is the best path to rescue what has been the country’s only one to fail so spectacularly that no resident has been able to sign up for coverage online since it opened early last fall.

Unfixable, “fail so spectacularly”–these are not descriptions the White House was hoping to hear. But that’s the reality, and not just for Oregon. As the Post notes, the utter failure in Oregon is directing attention to other “faltering exchanges” in places like Massachusetts and Maryland. Beyond the obvious speciousness of the ObamaCare promises, this also shows the fallacy of one of the ObamaCare defenders’ treasured tropes.

As the New York Times wrote last month, the disparity in state exchanges led to the spin that “Obamacare looks less like a sweeping federal overhaul than a collection of individual ventures playing out unevenly, state to state, in the laboratories of democracy.” It’s easy to see the attraction in this claim, but it’s also delusional, as both of this week’s stories make clear.

Were the states left to experiment with the needs and preferences of their residents, the administration wouldn’t be on a steady march to eliminate the very insurance plans these residents chose. And the failure of the Oregon exchange, and the looming disasters in other exchanges, demonstrate the ObamaCare problems that persist across state lines and the taxpayer dollars the federal government sinks into hopeless programs in a futile attempt to stave off collapse before taking them over outright.

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Hating Jews at NYU

An anti-Jewish hate campaign that attempts to pass itself off as some kind of humanitarian cause on behalf of Palestinians came to New York University this week, with anti-Israel campaigners posting mock eviction notices in student dorms. Those who engage in this increasingly common practice, on the grounds that this is what Israel subjects the Palestinians to, have the rather telling tendency of specifically targeting Jewish students with their leafleting. Indeed, this would appear to have been the case at NYU.

It has been reported that administrators there were initially puzzled as to why the residents of Palladium Hall had been specifically targeted. They may be puzzled, but the targeting of this dorm suddenly makes sense—inasmuch as it is possible for any of this to make sense—when one considers that the Palladium Hall is widely considered to have one of the largest number of Jewish residents; the building even being equipped with its own Sabbath observant elevator.

Targeting Jewish students with such a campaign is, however, a curious decision on the part of those who posted these notices. The eviction flyers at first glance appear to be genuine. Yet as one reads on it becomes apparent that this is a kind of perverse awareness campaign, informing students that the demolition of Palestinian homes is routine practice on the part of Israel, all part of its dastardly plan “to ethnically cleanse the region of its Arab inhabitants and maintain an exclusively ‘Jewish’ character of the state.” If we were to buy into the logic of the campaigners for a moment, and accept that this is primarily about increasing awareness, then why go out of ones way to target Jewish students? After all, if this is really about mobilizing the student body against the alleged atrocities of Zionism, then why not see to it that the campaign has the widest possible reach and is directed toward those students who are more likely to be swayed, which probably doesn’t include Jewish students just back from Birthright?

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An anti-Jewish hate campaign that attempts to pass itself off as some kind of humanitarian cause on behalf of Palestinians came to New York University this week, with anti-Israel campaigners posting mock eviction notices in student dorms. Those who engage in this increasingly common practice, on the grounds that this is what Israel subjects the Palestinians to, have the rather telling tendency of specifically targeting Jewish students with their leafleting. Indeed, this would appear to have been the case at NYU.

It has been reported that administrators there were initially puzzled as to why the residents of Palladium Hall had been specifically targeted. They may be puzzled, but the targeting of this dorm suddenly makes sense—inasmuch as it is possible for any of this to make sense—when one considers that the Palladium Hall is widely considered to have one of the largest number of Jewish residents; the building even being equipped with its own Sabbath observant elevator.

Targeting Jewish students with such a campaign is, however, a curious decision on the part of those who posted these notices. The eviction flyers at first glance appear to be genuine. Yet as one reads on it becomes apparent that this is a kind of perverse awareness campaign, informing students that the demolition of Palestinian homes is routine practice on the part of Israel, all part of its dastardly plan “to ethnically cleanse the region of its Arab inhabitants and maintain an exclusively ‘Jewish’ character of the state.” If we were to buy into the logic of the campaigners for a moment, and accept that this is primarily about increasing awareness, then why go out of ones way to target Jewish students? After all, if this is really about mobilizing the student body against the alleged atrocities of Zionism, then why not see to it that the campaign has the widest possible reach and is directed toward those students who are more likely to be swayed, which probably doesn’t include Jewish students just back from Birthright?

The decision to target Jewish students tells us everything we need to know. This isn’t about having an awareness campaign like any other. This is about those who can’t stand the Jews and their state finding a means to vent their hatred. In age age where Jews are protected by both American liberal democracy and the military strength of the Jewish state, tormenting Jews just isn’t what it used to be. Yet, for those who are inclined to do so, one can still make a sport of ostracizing and intimidating Jewish students by serving them with this kind of mock eviction notice. And they can do it under the guise of enlightened humanitarianism.

The anti-Jewish bigotry present within these flyers is clear enough for all to see. The notice proclaims, “By destroying Palestinian homes, the state makes room for illegal Israeli settlements. The Israeli government itself describes the process as ‘Judaization.’” It goes without saying that this is a vicious lie. Like any state that upholds the rule of law, Israel intermittently demolishes structures built without planning permission, whether they are built by Jews or Arabs. The notion that these buildings are demolished to make way for settlements has no basis in reality whatsoever. Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) have primarily been built on state land, in most cases on isolated hilltops far away from Palestinian communities and dwellings.

In this respect those who posted these notices are in line with a long tradition of Jew haters who fabricate Jewish crimes against non-Jewish populations. Once Jews were accused of poisoning wells and causing the crops to fail; now the allegation is that they demolish Palestinian homes to make way for settlements. Presumably at least some people in Medieval Europe believed these accusations, and clearly many people believe the deranged accusations spread about the Jewish state today.

The way these notices have been used to specifically target Jews is in many regards reminiscent of the more prominent boycott campaign being directed against Israel. Just as the mock eviction notices claim to be about promoting awareness, so the BDS movement argues that it seeks to defeat Israel by waging economic warfare against the Jewish state. Yet, since the advent of BDS Israel’s economy has only grown stronger as foreign trade, investment, and partnership schemes have all continued to flow in Israel’s direction. Even with Europe, where the boycott campaign has had its most measurable successes, Israel’s economic relations with the European economies continue to grow and strengthen. In the case of several businesses, BDS has only served to raise the profile of these companies. Since BDS began targeting SodaStream, demand for its products has significantly increased and now Starbucks appears set to purchase a 10 percent stake in the company. But for the BDSers this is all immaterial. In Europe, these campaigners have also targeted small Israeli owned stores, and the trauma that the loud and aggressive protesting causes the owners is real, and that is the whole point.

None of these efforts can be said to have any direct or positive effect for Palestinians, and in some cases these moves are even detrimental for Palestinian workers. Nor is any of this likely to do anything to significantly damage Israel. But it does provide an avenue for those who need a release for their pathological animosity against Jews. Serving Jewish students with mock eviction notices and then telling them and their fellow students that this is being done because Israelis ethnically cleanse Palestinians, is just the latest outlet for an age-old bigotry. 

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Time to Rethink Basic Logic of Peace Process

The collapse of Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace initiative between Israel and the Palestinian Authority will be met with the usual recriminations, as supporters of both sides will blame the other for their failure. Perhaps with the process collapsed—for the time being irretrievably so—it’s time for American policymakers and especially the State Department to question some fundamental assumptions they have with regard to making peace in the Middle East. Here are some lessons that they might learn, or at least subjects which policymakers might debate before wasting any more jet fuel for Kerry’s travels or diplomatic energy when there are so many more pressing issues in the world:

  • Peace comes not from a process, but from a fundamental decision by both parties that peace is what they want. A lot of journalists, diplomats, and analysts rightly remember the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat as a great peacemaker. What they forget is that Sadat only chose peace after he tried to eradicate Israel through war. Only after he concluded that he simply could not achieve his aims through violence did he make his bold gesture to Jerusalem. The problem with Palestinian leaders today is that they have not abandoned terrorism and violence as a policy tool: They will extract what incentives they can at the table—for example, the release of child killers and other terrorists—but then walk away and seek to win through violence what they could not through diplomacy. An endless process will not change Palestinian minds. Perhaps the Palestinian leadership will only come to such a conclusion when they suffer a decisive defeat, much as Sadat once did. A responsible international community would let them suffer such a defeat. The only precondition that matters is for the Palestinian leadership in its current form or whatever grassroots leadership takes its place to come to the conclusion that the only way to achieve their goals is through diplomacy. Read More

The collapse of Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace initiative between Israel and the Palestinian Authority will be met with the usual recriminations, as supporters of both sides will blame the other for their failure. Perhaps with the process collapsed—for the time being irretrievably so—it’s time for American policymakers and especially the State Department to question some fundamental assumptions they have with regard to making peace in the Middle East. Here are some lessons that they might learn, or at least subjects which policymakers might debate before wasting any more jet fuel for Kerry’s travels or diplomatic energy when there are so many more pressing issues in the world:

  • Peace comes not from a process, but from a fundamental decision by both parties that peace is what they want. A lot of journalists, diplomats, and analysts rightly remember the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat as a great peacemaker. What they forget is that Sadat only chose peace after he tried to eradicate Israel through war. Only after he concluded that he simply could not achieve his aims through violence did he make his bold gesture to Jerusalem. The problem with Palestinian leaders today is that they have not abandoned terrorism and violence as a policy tool: They will extract what incentives they can at the table—for example, the release of child killers and other terrorists—but then walk away and seek to win through violence what they could not through diplomacy. An endless process will not change Palestinian minds. Perhaps the Palestinian leadership will only come to such a conclusion when they suffer a decisive defeat, much as Sadat once did. A responsible international community would let them suffer such a defeat. The only precondition that matters is for the Palestinian leadership in its current form or whatever grassroots leadership takes its place to come to the conclusion that the only way to achieve their goals is through diplomacy.
  • Aid can be a detriment to peace, rather than an enabler. The Palestinians have been, per capita, the largest recipient of foreign aid on Earth and yet the Palestinian state is a disaster. That is not because of the border fence, the blockade of Gaza, or Israel. Rather, it is because of poor Palestinian governance. Accountability matters. The problem with aid is that it erodes accountability. If Palestinian officials need not worry about schooling, clothing, or feeding their own people because they are assured of international subsidy, then why not spend money on political or military adventurism? Aid also undercuts democracy, for it supplants the job of an elected government. At the very least, it is time to rethink the notion that aid helps when there is no evidence that it has and much evidence that it has not. Indeed, perhaps it’s time to cut off aid and assistance—there are many other peoples who are in far greater need of international assistance, for example, in Guinea, Mali, South Sudan, or even Ukraine. American assistance is not an entitlement.
  • Incitement matters. It has been almost twenty years since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority. Rather than prepare the Palestinian people for peace, the Palestinian media fed a new generation a steady doctrine of hatred and rejectionism. While the vast majority of Israelis favor a two-state solution, the same cannot be said about Palestinians who continue to be told that Israel is an illegitimate entity. The State Department will always ignore reality in order to continue processes. Had Congress taken a no-nonsense approach toward incitement, and demanded an immediate cessation of aid when it occurred, then perhaps the region could have avoided 20 years of poison.
  • Terrorism can’t be swept under the rug. In the course of researching my new book, Dancing With the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes, it became apparent that senior State Department officials in the 1990s had lied to Congress about Palestinian terrorism, fearing that if they acknowledged the involvement of senior Palestinian officials in terrorism, they might need to end the process. Simply put, senior Middle East peace processors—several of whom have served or now still serve in the Obama administration—had intelligence at their fingertips but purposely ignored it. There is no process that can succeed in the long term if the basis of that process is a lie.
  • Agreements don’t have an expiration date nor do changes of administration cancel them. Israel and the PLO signed the Oslo Accord in 1993. Since then, the Palestinians have, with Arafat’s death, had a change in leadership although Mahmoud Abbas is now more than five years past the end of his legal term. Israel has had seven prime ministers (counting Bibi Netanyahu twice). While pundits can quip about the he-said, she-said of Israeli and Palestinian compliance, the fact of the matter is that the Palestinian Authority exists because the Palestinian leadership agreed to recognize Israel and foreswear terrorism. That Hamas now forms part of the Palestinian government means that the Palestinian government no longer adheres to the agreement that forms the very basis of its existence. Israel would be perfectly within its right, should it so desire, to push the Palestinian Authority back out of Gaza and the West Bank and roll the clock back to before 1993. That might not be desirable, but if the Palestinians are going to absolve themselves of their contractual responsibilities, there is no reason why Israel should continue remitting payments or doing anything to facilitate the Palestinian Authority’s job or existence. If Abbas wants his partner to be Hamas, then he should pay the price for that decision.

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More Woes for Turkish Women

Turkey was once a bastion of hope for women in majority Muslim countries. The Turkish government was relatively progressive on women’s issues, not simply in theory but in reality. Turkey was one of the first majority Muslim countries to have a female prime minister and, historically, women were not only parliamentarians but also ministers and held key administrative posts.

That, of course, has changed under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s rule. Three years ago, I offered statistics here about the downward trend in women’s involvement inside the Turkish state. And social issues persist: child marriage, an extremely high murder rate for women coupled often with impunity for their victimizers, and Erdoğan’s belief that he should dictate how many children Turkish women should have and whether or not they should be able to have Caesarean sections. One of Erdoğan’s senior party members has even called for legalization of polygamy.

Now, the Association for the Support and Training of Women Candidates (KA.DER) has released a report showing that the situation is not improving for women in Turkey:

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Turkey was once a bastion of hope for women in majority Muslim countries. The Turkish government was relatively progressive on women’s issues, not simply in theory but in reality. Turkey was one of the first majority Muslim countries to have a female prime minister and, historically, women were not only parliamentarians but also ministers and held key administrative posts.

That, of course, has changed under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s rule. Three years ago, I offered statistics here about the downward trend in women’s involvement inside the Turkish state. And social issues persist: child marriage, an extremely high murder rate for women coupled often with impunity for their victimizers, and Erdoğan’s belief that he should dictate how many children Turkish women should have and whether or not they should be able to have Caesarean sections. One of Erdoğan’s senior party members has even called for legalization of polygamy.

Now, the Association for the Support and Training of Women Candidates (KA.DER) has released a report showing that the situation is not improving for women in Turkey:

Turkey ranked 120th out of 136 countries in the Gender Gap Index in 2013 while also finished 103rd in terms of women’s participation in politics… KA.DER said only four female mayors were elected in the March 30 local elections – in Gaziantep, Aydın, Diyarbakır and Hakkari – although a number of women were elected as co-mayors from the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) in areas populated by Kurds. There is only one female undersecretary out of a total of 26 undersecretaries working in the ministries, it said, adding that just one of 81 governors was a woman. The female presence is also low in critical judicial positions. All key judicial institutions such as the Supreme Court of Appeals, the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Election Board (YSK), the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), the Military Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Accounts, are headed by men….

Political and administrative positions aside, the situation of women in the Turkish workforce is also pretty pathetic–almost as pathetic as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling Turkey a model all the whole ignoring the misogyny which Erdoğan had injected into the Turkish system.

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