Commentary Magazine


Topic: AIPAC

Does Obama Want to Contain a Nuclear-Capable Iran?

President Obama clarified today that he’s looking to prevent, not contain, a nuclear-armed Iran, during his speech to AIPAC. While this was a welcome acknowledgement, it’s not particularly meaningful. Containment policy toward Iran has become so unpalatable that even American apologists for the Iranian regime rarely openly advocate it in mainstream discourse.

Instead, these regime allies promote a different kind of containment policy: containment of a nuclear-capable Iran. In other words, the bomb is the redline – but everything that Iran does leading up to the bomb, including high-level enrichment, is acceptable.

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President Obama clarified today that he’s looking to prevent, not contain, a nuclear-armed Iran, during his speech to AIPAC. While this was a welcome acknowledgement, it’s not particularly meaningful. Containment policy toward Iran has become so unpalatable that even American apologists for the Iranian regime rarely openly advocate it in mainstream discourse.

Instead, these regime allies promote a different kind of containment policy: containment of a nuclear-capable Iran. In other words, the bomb is the redline – but everything that Iran does leading up to the bomb, including high-level enrichment, is acceptable.

This strategy brings Iran within arms-length of obtaining a nuclear weapon (which is also well after Israel would have the ability to take military action). And it gives regime apologists more time to argue that a nuclear-armed Iran is less of a threat to the world than commonly believed.

The National Iranian-American Council, an American group that advocates for pro-regime policies, has been one of the most vocal supporters of this policy of containing a “nuclear-capable” Iran. The organization has pushed back against a Senate resolution that would specify Iran’s capability to build a weapon as a redline:

“This measure contradicts and confuses the existing United States ‘redline’ that Iranian acquisition of a nuclear weapon is unacceptable. Instead of reinforcing existing standards, the measure lowers the bar to assert that even the capability to pursue a nuclear weapon would be grounds for war.  This is dangerous policy to be toying with.

“Acquisition is very different from capability.  Nuclear weapons capability is a nebulous term that could theoretically be applied to every state from Canada to the Netherlands that possesses civilian nuclear capabilities.  We should not be staking questions of war on such a shaky foundation.”

So while Obama was right to reject containment of a nuclear-armed Iran today, it’s noteworthy (and concerning) that he declined to rule out containment of a nuclear-capable Iran:

Iran’s leaders should know that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And as I’ve made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.

Trita Parsi, the president of NIAC, praised Obama for keeping the door open to containment. He wrote in the Huffington Post today:

The Obama administration puts the red line not at enrichment — which is permitted under international law — but at nuclear weapons. This is a clearer, more enforceable red line that also has the force of international law behind it.

While expressing his sympathy and friendship with Israel, Obama did not yield his red line at AIPAC. With the backing of the U.S. military, he has stood firm behind weaponization rather than weapons capability as the red line.

The fact that the head of NIAC drew this conclusion from the president’s AIPAC speech is something that should deeply worry supporters of Israel.

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What’s Missing From Obama’s AIPAC Speech? Red Lines on Iran and Palestinians

President Obama’s charm offensive with Jewish voters was again in evidence today during his speech to the AIPAC conference. The president’s bragging of his “deeds” left little doubt that his desire to be seen as Israel’s best friend ever in the White House is due to fears of a decline in support from Jewish voters this year. Obama’s doubling down on his tough rhetoric on Iran — he specifically disavowed any thought of “containing” Tehran — and the complete absence in the speech of any of any interest in pressuring Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians– (a hallmark of his administration’s policies during his first three years in office) was a signal defeat for Jewish leftists like the J Street lobby that once hoped to wean the Democrats from AIPAC.

But even more significant was the fact that despite his repeated vows to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, there was little indication that Obama is prepared to make the leap from talking about the danger to actually doing something. His call for continued efforts towards negotiations on the issue undermined all the hard line rhetoric intended to appease wavering Jewish Democrats. Though his campaign will spin this speech as more proof that Obama has “Israel’s back,” Iran’s leaders may read it very differently and assume they are free to go on building their weapon with little fear the U.S. really is contemplating the use of force.

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President Obama’s charm offensive with Jewish voters was again in evidence today during his speech to the AIPAC conference. The president’s bragging of his “deeds” left little doubt that his desire to be seen as Israel’s best friend ever in the White House is due to fears of a decline in support from Jewish voters this year. Obama’s doubling down on his tough rhetoric on Iran — he specifically disavowed any thought of “containing” Tehran — and the complete absence in the speech of any of any interest in pressuring Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians– (a hallmark of his administration’s policies during his first three years in office) was a signal defeat for Jewish leftists like the J Street lobby that once hoped to wean the Democrats from AIPAC.

But even more significant was the fact that despite his repeated vows to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, there was little indication that Obama is prepared to make the leap from talking about the danger to actually doing something. His call for continued efforts towards negotiations on the issue undermined all the hard line rhetoric intended to appease wavering Jewish Democrats. Though his campaign will spin this speech as more proof that Obama has “Israel’s back,” Iran’s leaders may read it very differently and assume they are free to go on building their weapon with little fear the U.S. really is contemplating the use of force.

The first conclusion to be drawn from the speech is that Obama’s all-out effort to create more distance between the U.S. and Israel and to hound the Israelis to make concessions on borders, Jerusalem and settlements is dead for the moment. A re-elected Obama may take up this dead-end argument with Israel again this year, but for now, all that is forgotten. This is a crushing blow to J Street, who wrongly interpreted the 2008 election as signaling the end of the pro-Israel consensus in this country. Obama’s focus on Iran shows not only is he aware of the potential for a significant loss in his percentage of the Jewish vote this year, but that he must ignore those left-wingers calling for a less tough stand on Iran if he is to maintain the Democrats’ Jewish advantage.

But this renewed charm offensive should not be mistaken for a coherent strategy on Iran. The ayatollahs have been listening to Obama’s tough talk about them for years. But unlike those who may take the president’s claims about all his administration has done on the issue at face value, they have not forgotten years of Obama’s effort to “engage” them as well as a feckless diplomatic campaign that has not scared them much. The president’s Jewish admirers may believe his assertion that Russia and China have joined his coalition to isolate Iran, but the ayatollahs know that both countries are opposed to any further sanctions and that China stands ready to buy the oil the U.S. and Europe might boycott later this year.

Moreover, their ears must have lit up when in the course of a speech aimed at proving how little daylight exists between the administration and Israel, they heard the president continuing to argue in favor of further diplomacy. The Iranians regard any further negotiations as merely another opportunity to run out the diplomatic clock as they get closer to realizing their nuclear ambitions. The assumption that reliance on sanctions or more talking can get the Iranians to back down is without substance.

They also noticed what Obama’s Democratic cheerleaders will diligently try to ignore: the absence in the speech of any indication that the United States is willing to lay down “red lines” that mark the limit of how far Iran may go without obligating Washington to take action. Though the president deprecated the “loose talk” about war that has been heard lately, the only way to avoid such a conflict is to demonstrate to Iran that if it continues, as it has, to increase its efforts toward nuclear capability, it will bring down upon itself the wrath of the West.

Obama rightly restated the proposition that an Iranian nuclear weapon posed a threat to the United States and the West as much as it does to Israel. The logic of Obama’s rhetoric about the folly of containment — a point many in his administration don’t seem to accept — ought to point him toward abandoning his faith in a diplomatic effort that was doomed even before he began repeating the mistakes of the Bush administration on Iran.

Despite all the happy talk about Obama emanating from Israeli sources at AIPAC, Prime Minister Netanyahu understands that a policy of waiting for the U.S. to take action on Iran is tantamount to a decision to sit back and wait for Tehran to announce it has a bomb. Though there is no telling yet what Netanyahu’s decision on striking Iran may turn out to be, Israel’s friends can take little comfort from the president’s speech.

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Will Obama Clarify His Shorthand Answers on Iran at AIPAC on Sunday?

At Wednesday’s House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to “clarify” her statement the day before to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who had asked her if the administration seeks to prevent Iran becoming a “nuclear threshold state.” She had responded that the policy is to prevent Iran from “attaining nuclear weapons.”

Berman asked Clinton to clarify if administration policy was in fact “merely to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons,” or rather to “prevent Iran’s development of a nuclear weapons capability.” At virtually the same moment, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was being asked the same question at his press conference. A reporter asked him to “clarify, is U.S. policy to prevent Iran from a nuclear weapon, or to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons capability?” Clinton and Carney — speaking virtually simultaneously at opposite ends of Pennsylvania Avenue — gave opposite answers.

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At Wednesday’s House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to “clarify” her statement the day before to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who had asked her if the administration seeks to prevent Iran becoming a “nuclear threshold state.” She had responded that the policy is to prevent Iran from “attaining nuclear weapons.”

Berman asked Clinton to clarify if administration policy was in fact “merely to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons,” or rather to “prevent Iran’s development of a nuclear weapons capability.” At virtually the same moment, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was being asked the same question at his press conference. A reporter asked him to “clarify, is U.S. policy to prevent Iran from a nuclear weapon, or to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons capability?” Clinton and Carney — speaking virtually simultaneously at opposite ends of Pennsylvania Avenue — gave opposite answers.

Carney’s answer was, “Well, I think I’ve been clear that we are determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.” Clinton’s answer was, “I think it’s absolutely clear that the president’s policy is to prevent Iran from having nuclear weapons capability.” Clinton then asserted that her answer – which differed not only from Carney’s response but from her own response the day before – reiterated the existing policy of the administration: “Let there be no confusion in any shorthand answer to any question. The policy remains the same.”

Someone should tell President Obama. On multiple occasions, he has articulated his policy as – to use Berman’s words – merely preventing Iran from attaining nuclear weapons. In his 2008 AIPAC speech, Obama said “I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” In his first White House press conference with Benjamin Netanyahu in 2009, Obama said he would not allow Iran to proceed with “deploying a nuclear weapon.” In the 2012 State of the Union Address, he said “America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.” [Emphasis added].

Israel is highly unlikely to stand by while Iran develops nuclear weapons capability, much less actually obtaining, deploying, or getting a nuclear weapon. Israel’s policy reflects the fact that once nuclear weapons capability is attained, getting nuclear weapons requires only a secret political decision that may not be discovered by U.S. intelligence until after the fact. That is what happened in North Korea.

Sen. Graham and Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), together with prominent senators and representatives from both parties, have introduced identical “Sense of the Senate” and “Sense of the House” resolutions, which affirm that it is “a vital national interest of the United States to prevent [Iran] from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability” and reject “any United States policy that would rely on efforts to contain a nuclear weapons-capable Iran.”

On Sunday, the president speaks again to AIPAC. We will see if he endorses the Graham/Ros-Lehtinen resolutions or sticks with his prior shorthand answers.

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Pat Buchanan and His Mysterious “Blacklisters”

It always seemed odd that MSNBC, the far-left network, employed one of the most fringey, controversial, anti-Semitic figures on the right. But then again, there was probably a good reason for it. The left still wishes all conservatives were as easy to demonize as Pat Buchanan.

But now it seems some powerful, shadowy group of “backlisters” went and drove Buchanan out of MSNBC, after his writing was attacked by liberals as racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic. Buchanan took to the internet today to warn darkly about these blacklisters:

Without a hearing, they smear and stigmatize as racist, homophobic or anti-Semitic any who contradict what George Orwell once called their “smelly little orthodoxies.” They then demand that the heretic recant, grovel, apologize, and pledge to go forth and sin no more.

Defy them, and they will go after the network where you work, the newspapers that carry your column, the conventions that invite you to speak. If all else fails, they go after the advertisers.

I know these blacklisters. They operate behind closed doors, with phone calls, mailed threats and off-the-record meetings. They work in the dark because, as Al Smith said, nothing un-American can live in the sunlight.

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It always seemed odd that MSNBC, the far-left network, employed one of the most fringey, controversial, anti-Semitic figures on the right. But then again, there was probably a good reason for it. The left still wishes all conservatives were as easy to demonize as Pat Buchanan.

But now it seems some powerful, shadowy group of “backlisters” went and drove Buchanan out of MSNBC, after his writing was attacked by liberals as racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic. Buchanan took to the internet today to warn darkly about these blacklisters:

Without a hearing, they smear and stigmatize as racist, homophobic or anti-Semitic any who contradict what George Orwell once called their “smelly little orthodoxies.” They then demand that the heretic recant, grovel, apologize, and pledge to go forth and sin no more.

Defy them, and they will go after the network where you work, the newspapers that carry your column, the conventions that invite you to speak. If all else fails, they go after the advertisers.

I know these blacklisters. They operate behind closed doors, with phone calls, mailed threats and off-the-record meetings. They work in the dark because, as Al Smith said, nothing un-American can live in the sunlight.

Dying to know who these mysterious blacklisters are. If only he would be a bit more specific!

On a related note, Buchanan was one of the few figures on the right who regularly used the term “Israel Firsters” to smear the pro-Israel community. He also used the same Al Smith quote in a Human Events article in which he accused the American Israel Public Affairs Committee of torpedoing Chas Freeman’s National Intelligence Council nomination:

Nor did Freeman shrink at naming the source of the noxious campaign of slander against him.

“The tactics of the Israel lobby plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency and include character assassination, selective misquotation, the willful distortion of the record, the fabrication of falsehoods and an utter disregard for the truth.”

“A lobby,” Steve Rosen confided in an AIPAC internal memo, “is like a night flower; it thrives in the dark and dies in the sun.”

Yes, and long ago, Al Smith addressed the age-old problem of the Rosens within: “The best way to kill anything un-American is to drag it out into the open, because anything un-American cannot live in the sunlight.’”

The pro-Israel lobby didn’t drive Buchanan out of MSNBC, as much as he may wish it did. It was just a matter of time before the MSNBC audience objected to Buchanan’s past offensive statements. The only surprise is that it took so long.

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Occupy AIPAC Next Step for Leftist Group

Many Jewish liberals have been in denial about the anti-Israel and often anti-Semitic tone of much of the Occupy Wall Street movement since its inception. As our colleague Jonathan Neumann wrote in the January issue of COMMENTARY, the leftist hatred for Israel is thoroughly integrated into the Occupy worldview even though some mainstream sympathizers with the movement would prefer to ignore it. But their tolerance for the way this virus has attached itself to a movement that is supposedly about “social justice” will soon be put to the test again.

The so-called U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation is organizing an Occupy AIPAC event set to coincide with the annual national conference in Washington, D.C. of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in March. The group, an anti-Zionist organization dedicated to promoting boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on Israel is hoping to piggyback on the popularity of the Occupy movement to try to sabotage or at least overshadow the AIPAC event. Though the odds are, it will fail, as most such anti-Israel efforts generally do, the manner with which this BDS group has commandeered the Occupy brand name ought to alert liberals to the direction the movement is headed with respect to Israel and the Jews.

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Many Jewish liberals have been in denial about the anti-Israel and often anti-Semitic tone of much of the Occupy Wall Street movement since its inception. As our colleague Jonathan Neumann wrote in the January issue of COMMENTARY, the leftist hatred for Israel is thoroughly integrated into the Occupy worldview even though some mainstream sympathizers with the movement would prefer to ignore it. But their tolerance for the way this virus has attached itself to a movement that is supposedly about “social justice” will soon be put to the test again.

The so-called U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation is organizing an Occupy AIPAC event set to coincide with the annual national conference in Washington, D.C. of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in March. The group, an anti-Zionist organization dedicated to promoting boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on Israel is hoping to piggyback on the popularity of the Occupy movement to try to sabotage or at least overshadow the AIPAC event. Though the odds are, it will fail, as most such anti-Israel efforts generally do, the manner with which this BDS group has commandeered the Occupy brand name ought to alert liberals to the direction the movement is headed with respect to Israel and the Jews.

Anti-Israel protests at AIPAC are nothing new but the way the BDS coalition has neatly appropriated the slogans and the spirit of the movement praised by Obama could give these outliers a bit more prominence and a more respectful hearing in a mainstream press that has bent over backwards to excuse the excesses of the occupiers.

Even more importantly, the identification of this viciously anti-Zionist group with the mainstream of the Occupy movement ought to shock get the attention of liberals who have refused to acknowledge the connection between the hard left and anti-Semitism. As Neumann points out in his article, far from being a marginal phenomenon, the link between the neo-Marxism of the occupiers and the BDS crowd is far from tenuous. The occupiers and the Israel-haters are natural allies. The only question is when, if ever, are mainstream Jewish liberals who want nothing to do with the Occupy AIPAC leftists going to face up to the fact that there is no distance between this group and the rest of the Occupy mob.

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ADL, AJC Rebuke CAP for “Hateful” Anti-Israel Comments

The controversy over Center for American Progress’s anti-Israel bloggers has dragged on for what seems like an eternity in blog-time. When the story first broke, Newt Gingrich was still a GOP frontrunner, the battle over the payroll tax cut was still suspenseful, and Ben Smith was still at Politico. I only say all this to emphasize how absurdly long it took the AJC and ADL to weigh in on the issue:

The American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League weighed in last week on the mushrooming anti-Israel scandal surrounding a group of bloggers working for the U.S. think tank Center for American Progress (CAP).

Jason Isaacson, the AJC’s director of government and international affairs, told the Jerusalem Post by e-mail on Friday that “think tanks are entitled to their political viewpoints – but they’re not free to slander with impunity. References to Israeli ‘apartheid’ or ‘Israel-firsters’ are so false and hateful they reveal an ugly bias no serious policy center can countenance.”

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The controversy over Center for American Progress’s anti-Israel bloggers has dragged on for what seems like an eternity in blog-time. When the story first broke, Newt Gingrich was still a GOP frontrunner, the battle over the payroll tax cut was still suspenseful, and Ben Smith was still at Politico. I only say all this to emphasize how absurdly long it took the AJC and ADL to weigh in on the issue:

The American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League weighed in last week on the mushrooming anti-Israel scandal surrounding a group of bloggers working for the U.S. think tank Center for American Progress (CAP).

Jason Isaacson, the AJC’s director of government and international affairs, told the Jerusalem Post by e-mail on Friday that “think tanks are entitled to their political viewpoints – but they’re not free to slander with impunity. References to Israeli ‘apartheid’ or ‘Israel-firsters’ are so false and hateful they reveal an ugly bias no serious policy center can countenance.”

The ADL, for its part, told the Jerusalem Post’s Benjamin Weinthal it considered two specific comments from CAP bloggers to be anti-Semitic, including the “Israel Firster” remarks and claims the Israel lobby had pushed the U.S. into the Iraq war.

So now that the ADL – considered by many media outlets to be the final word in all things anti-Semitism – has criticized the think tank, where does this leave the CAP-linked Truman National Security Project?

If you remember way back in late December, the Truman Project broke its association with former AIPAC spokesman Josh Block, claiming he crossed the line by calling statements made by CAP bloggers anti-Semitic. Implying that Block’s accusations were false, the Truman Project wrote that his statements were akin to a “character attack” against the CAP writers. Bill Kristol weighed in on the controversy in a scathing post last month:

Block is a pro-Israel Clinton-type liberal (who in fact served in the Clinton administration). The Truman Project says that it seeks to advance a ”strong progressive national security policy,” and claims to represent mainstream liberal and Democratic foreign policy thinking. Doesn’t the expulsion of Block suggest that it is now impossible to be unapologetically pro-Israel—and publicly hostile to those who are anti-Israel—and remain a member in good standing of the liberal and Democratic foreign policy establishment?

I asked the Truman Project today whether it believed the ADL and AJC were also wrong for calling the comments from CAP bloggers anti-Semitic. The center’s spokesperson, Dave Solimini, declined to answer the question directly:

I think our position has been very clear on this. Josh was removed from our community because he was unable to differentiate between an honest debate and damaging personal attacks. There is real anti-Semitism in the world and we cannot debase the term by using it for everyone who disagrees with us on Israel policy. We are a community of trust, and his actions have caused too many to fear discussion within our community.

Okay – so in other words, the Truman Project doesn’t believe that the comments from CAP bloggers about dual-loyalty and “Israel-Firsters” rise to the level of “real” anti-Semitism? I posed this question to Solimini and received another non-response:

Thanks for getting back to me; I’m sure this is a trying story to cover with so much flying around.  Frankly, we consider the matter of Josh’s behavior closed. If you need a quote from us, the language to use is what I sent at first. Anything more would be your words, not ours, and I would suggest against it. As I said, we consider the issue of Josh’s behavior closed.

Ah. So we can confirm that the Truman Project believes there is real anti-Semitism in the world, but that this is very different from legitimate disagreements on Israel policy. Unfortunately, the first part of that means depressingly little if the organization can’t explain the difference between the two. When I pressed Solimini to simply explain which comments from CAP bloggers the Truman Project believed were falsely labeled “anti-Semitic” by Josh Block, he declined.

“The decision to remove Josh from our community was made without any input from CAP, and it was made because of Josh’s behavior, not his views on policy,” wrote Solimini.

So there you have it. The Truman Project cut ties with Block for behavior it will not explain. It refuses to say whether it believes dual-loyalty charges constitute “real” anti-Semitism. And it’s standing by its position that the remarks from CAP bloggers were merely “disagree[ments] on Israel policy,” even after the offensive comments have been condemned by the three leading American Jewish organizations. It makes you wonder, what would President Truman think?

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CAP Under Fire for Anti-Israel Comment About Sen. Kirk

The dustup over anti-Israel comments made by writers and analysts at the Center for American Progress continued this week, after several pro-Israel organizations criticized the think tank for turning a blind eye to staffers who used terms like “Israel Firster” and accused members of Congress of having an allegiance to the Israel lobby.

The Jerusalem Post’s Benjamin Weinthal spoke to anti-Semitism historian Jeffrey Herf, who saw historical, anti-Jewish connotations in the CAP writers’ comments:

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The dustup over anti-Israel comments made by writers and analysts at the Center for American Progress continued this week, after several pro-Israel organizations criticized the think tank for turning a blind eye to staffers who used terms like “Israel Firster” and accused members of Congress of having an allegiance to the Israel lobby.

The Jerusalem Post’s Benjamin Weinthal spoke to anti-Semitism historian Jeffrey Herf, who saw historical, anti-Jewish connotations in the CAP writers’ comments:

In a telephone conversation with the Jerusalem Post on Tuesday, University of Maryland historian Jeffrey Herf, who has authored books on anti-Semitism, said the phrase “Israel Firsters” is “dangerous.” The notion of “Israel Firsters” “delegitimizes support for Israel” and stokes the “dual-loyalty” charge against American Jews, he said.

The dual-loyalty conspiracy theory existed on “the far Left and far Right of American politics but has not yet seeped into the center of American politics,” Herf said.

CAP blogger Zaid Jilani used the term “Israel Firster” on Twitter several times, but deleted the tweets and apologized after his remarks were publicized. Another CAP blogger, Ali Gharib, was also criticized in the JPost story about his insinuation that Sen. Mark Kirk, an Illinois Republican, was a representative of AIPAC. Gharib made the comment on his private Twitter account:

Gharib wrote that Senator “… Mark Kirk (R-AIPAC) should care about *anyone* other than Israel.”

When asked about Gharib’s statement that the senator from Illinois represents AIPAC, [CAP spokeswoman Andrea] Purse declined to comment. …

[NGO Monitor President Gerald] Steinberg said, “And Gharib’s inference that Senator Kirk is controlled by AIPAC because he supports tough Iran sanctions is equally absurd and sadly reminiscent of campaigns that allege that Jews control American foreign policy. Gharib’s statement also should be publicly condemned by CAP.”

Gharib issued a clarification and apology for his Kirk comment on Twitter yesterday:

One my tweets several months ago, a crude characterization of a senator is being seized upon by critics branding me as an anti-Semite.(1/2)

(2/2) While the accusations are completely false and contemptible, I do apologize for the crudeness of the flippant tweet in question.

Kirk hasn’t weighed in on the controversy yet, but the JPost story has already drawn attention on the Hill. One Republican congressional aide said Gharib’s comment amounted to a charge of “dual loyalty” against a sitting U.S. senator.

“I don’t think you’ll ever see a U.S. senator lower him or herself to respond directly to a relatively unknown fringe blogger but clearly the Jerusalem Post story has forced this issue into the mainstream public debate,” one GOP congressional aide told me. “Gharib’s bosses probably told him he crossed the line and forced him to apologize. In the end, Team Podesta doesn’t want this kind of publicity and they certainly don’t want to be seen accusing U.S. senators who serve in the U.S. military of dual loyalty.”

Questions have also been raised about why stories by CAP bloggers have appeared in the vehemently anti-Israel fringe publication The Electronic Intifada. According to CAP’s spokesperson, EI republished the articles without permission. But critics have pointed out that stories by Gharib and fellow CAP blogger Eli Clifton still remain on EI’s site, despite the alleged lack of authorization.

The CAP saga is a broader reflection of growing internal divisions within the Democratic Party and on the progressive-left. Now that Republicans and the conservative movement have turned support for Israel into a key value issue, anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist segments of the isolationist far-right have found themselves unwelcome in the party. During the past decade and a half they’ve started to swell the ranks of the anti-Zionists in the left-wing pro-Palestinian and anti-war movements. The Democratic Party now has to decide whether it wants to let this strain of anti-Zionism trickle into its mainstream institutions, or whether it will reject these ideas, just like the conservative movement once did.

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Israel’s Critics Cry About Being Repressed … from Their Usual Soapbox at the New York Times

That the New York Times’s Roger Cohen has a problem with Israel is not exactly a secret. As far as he is concerned, the country’s democratically elected government and the people who elected it don’t measure up to his moral standards. Moreover, he and those who share his views, like writer Peter Beinart, think that any Jewish or non-Jewish friends of Israel who prefer to focus their efforts on continuing to defend Israel against an Arab/Muslim siege and anti-Zionist campaigners who seek to isolate it rather than spend their time flaying it for perceived sins are also not living up to the standards they are setting for them.

Today Cohen weighs in again to tell the sad tale of a liberal American who went to Israel to work for left-wing causes there and claims to have gotten into a scuffle with right-wingers after a demonstration in Tel Aviv during which he and his friends waved signs that said “Zionists Are Not Settlers.” Politics in Israel can be a bit rougher than what we’re used to here in America, but there’s no excuse for violence. It would have been far better for his antagonists to merely point out that Zionists have always been “settlers,” since there would be no state of Israel had not some Jews had the chutzpah to jump-start the rebirth of Jewish life in the Jewish homeland by planting roots in places where Arabs didn’t want them to be. Like, for example, the metropolis of Tel Aviv, where the demonstration took place, which a century ago was nothing but a small annoying Jewish settlement on the outskirts of Arab Jaffa.

But Cohen isn’t content to merely blackguard Israelis or their supporters. In order to put forward his argument in a way in which those who agree with him can be portrayed as victims rather than judgmental critics who don’t understand Israel’s dilemma, he has to claim that their views are being suppressed. Thus, it isn’t enough for him to promote the views of the left-wing lobby J Street or to echo the arguments of Beinart about Israel’s moral failures; he must also claim that the “debate remains stifled.” Read More

That the New York Times’s Roger Cohen has a problem with Israel is not exactly a secret. As far as he is concerned, the country’s democratically elected government and the people who elected it don’t measure up to his moral standards. Moreover, he and those who share his views, like writer Peter Beinart, think that any Jewish or non-Jewish friends of Israel who prefer to focus their efforts on continuing to defend Israel against an Arab/Muslim siege and anti-Zionist campaigners who seek to isolate it rather than spend their time flaying it for perceived sins are also not living up to the standards they are setting for them.

Today Cohen weighs in again to tell the sad tale of a liberal American who went to Israel to work for left-wing causes there and claims to have gotten into a scuffle with right-wingers after a demonstration in Tel Aviv during which he and his friends waved signs that said “Zionists Are Not Settlers.” Politics in Israel can be a bit rougher than what we’re used to here in America, but there’s no excuse for violence. It would have been far better for his antagonists to merely point out that Zionists have always been “settlers,” since there would be no state of Israel had not some Jews had the chutzpah to jump-start the rebirth of Jewish life in the Jewish homeland by planting roots in places where Arabs didn’t want them to be. Like, for example, the metropolis of Tel Aviv, where the demonstration took place, which a century ago was nothing but a small annoying Jewish settlement on the outskirts of Arab Jaffa.

But Cohen isn’t content to merely blackguard Israelis or their supporters. In order to put forward his argument in a way in which those who agree with him can be portrayed as victims rather than judgmental critics who don’t understand Israel’s dilemma, he has to claim that their views are being suppressed. Thus, it isn’t enough for him to promote the views of the left-wing lobby J Street or to echo the arguments of Beinart about Israel’s moral failures; he must also claim that the “debate remains stifled.”

What is his proof? Because left-wingers who tried to disrupt a speech being given by Israel’s prime minster were “dragged out” of the auditorium where Netanyahu was trying to speak in New Orleans. Never mind that if someone tried to do that to President Obama, he’d be arrested. What else? Because one synagogue in Massachusetts decided not to host a J Street leader. Shocking. Want more? Cohen claims that AIPAC, a vast group with across-the-board support from American Jews, won’t debate J Street, a small group largely funded by financier George Soros (though the group spent years inexplicably lying about Soros’s role in propping up this Potemkin organization) that is dedicated to supporting American pressure on Israel. Even worse, the young Jew whose story Cohen tells is getting some negative feedback from friends about his J Street activities. Isn’t that awful?

The truth is, despite promoting itself as the liberal alternative to AIPAC, a stance that ought to make it popular due to the fact that most Jews are liberals, J Street has little grassroots Jewish support. That’s because it has systematically taken stands on Israel’s right to self-defense and the nuclear threat from Iran that strike most Jews as being outside the pro-Israel consensus. But far from being silenced, J Street is the darling of a mainstream media that has consistently promoted it, especially in places where Israel’s supporters have trouble making their voices heard. Like the opinion pages of the New York Times.

But Cohen did get one thing right. He notes in passing that the administration’s latest attempt to pressure Israel failed because “President Barack Obama had virtually no domestic constituency” for his policy. This is absolutely true. The vast majority of Americans, both Jewish and non-Jewish, support the Jewish state and oppose twisting its arm in this manner. That they hold to this belief despite the constant drumbeat of attacks on Israel, such as those by Cohen, his Times colleague Nicholas Kristof, and Peter Beinart, speaks volumes about how marginal J Street still is.

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Is Frank Toast?

Robert Snider of Pajamas Media is flatly predicting Barney Frank’s defeat next week (h/t Instapundit). He makes a good case.

I have thought for a while now that Frank was in deep trouble, and the fact that he loaned his campaign $200,000 last week (and he’s not a rich man) has only confirmed that. A sitting committee chairman who can’t outraise his little-known opponent? Now that’s trouble.

According to Snider, Frank’s tepid support for Israel is one of his problems:

A record number of AIPAC members, over one thousand, attended its dinner in Boston this year. That is an objective indication of the level of fear in the Jewish community. Barney Frank gave a short statement in which he assured the audience that if there is a crisis, the audience could count on him. Frank’s statement showed a devastating lack of understanding of the issue. If there is a crisis in the Middle East, it will be too late. Frank was greeted by a wall of coldness: members walked out to show their displeasure. Frank’s body language and the tone of his statement were uncertain. In the several events I attended in which there was a substantial Jewish audience, Bielat’s announcement that “I am Sean Bielat and I am running against Barney Frank” was greeted by unusually loud and enthusiastic applause. AIPAC members define the term “opinion makers.”

The polls close in Massachusetts at 8 p.m. I imagine exit polling will be announced almost instantly.

Robert Snider of Pajamas Media is flatly predicting Barney Frank’s defeat next week (h/t Instapundit). He makes a good case.

I have thought for a while now that Frank was in deep trouble, and the fact that he loaned his campaign $200,000 last week (and he’s not a rich man) has only confirmed that. A sitting committee chairman who can’t outraise his little-known opponent? Now that’s trouble.

According to Snider, Frank’s tepid support for Israel is one of his problems:

A record number of AIPAC members, over one thousand, attended its dinner in Boston this year. That is an objective indication of the level of fear in the Jewish community. Barney Frank gave a short statement in which he assured the audience that if there is a crisis, the audience could count on him. Frank’s statement showed a devastating lack of understanding of the issue. If there is a crisis in the Middle East, it will be too late. Frank was greeted by a wall of coldness: members walked out to show their displeasure. Frank’s body language and the tone of his statement were uncertain. In the several events I attended in which there was a substantial Jewish audience, Bielat’s announcement that “I am Sean Bielat and I am running against Barney Frank” was greeted by unusually loud and enthusiastic applause. AIPAC members define the term “opinion makers.”

The polls close in Massachusetts at 8 p.m. I imagine exit polling will be announced almost instantly.

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A Really Big Whopper

Joe Sestak’s campaign is going down the tubes. The Senate Democratic Campaign Committee may decide to stop pouring money down the drain. So what does he do? He panics and tries to regain Jewish voters turned off by his anti-Israel positions. He makes a big error though: he drags AIPAC into it. Ben Smith writes:

The pro-Israel group AIPAC says a campaign ad from Rep. Joe Sestak that claims that, “According to AIPAC, Joe Sestak has a 100% pro-Israel voting record” is inaccurate. … “Joe Sestak does not have a 100% voting record on Israel issues according to AIPAC. I couldn’t be true, we don’t rate or endorse candidates,” said AIPAC spokesman Josh Block of the ad, which ran in the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent.

Sestak has faced repeated attacks over his stand on Israel since signing a January letter aimed at easing Israel’s blockade of Gaza, though critics point more to letters and to sponsorship than to any votes that break with Congressional Democrats’ generally pro-Israel party line. (There haven’t been many actual difficult votes on the issue, one way or the other). And Sestak has sought in the past to associate himself with AIPAC.

No, AIPAC generally doesn’t appreciate candidates who keynote for CAIR or sign Soros Street’s Gaza 54 letter. And they really aren’t fond of those who tout the UN Human Rights Council. But they don’t do electioneering. Still, there is no doubt what the mainstream Jewish community thinks of him:

“There are serious concerns about Joe Sestak’s record related to Israel throughout the pro-Israel community,” said an official with a major pro-Israel organization in Washington. “Not only has he said that Chuck Hagel is the Senator he admires most, which is unusual enough, but when comes to actual decisions that have affected Israel and our relationship with them, he has gone the wrong way several times. It’s the height of chutzpah for him to suggest he has a good record, let alone a 100 percent one, on these issues.”

And by the way, is he going to give Soros’s money back?

Joe Sestak’s campaign is going down the tubes. The Senate Democratic Campaign Committee may decide to stop pouring money down the drain. So what does he do? He panics and tries to regain Jewish voters turned off by his anti-Israel positions. He makes a big error though: he drags AIPAC into it. Ben Smith writes:

The pro-Israel group AIPAC says a campaign ad from Rep. Joe Sestak that claims that, “According to AIPAC, Joe Sestak has a 100% pro-Israel voting record” is inaccurate. … “Joe Sestak does not have a 100% voting record on Israel issues according to AIPAC. I couldn’t be true, we don’t rate or endorse candidates,” said AIPAC spokesman Josh Block of the ad, which ran in the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent.

Sestak has faced repeated attacks over his stand on Israel since signing a January letter aimed at easing Israel’s blockade of Gaza, though critics point more to letters and to sponsorship than to any votes that break with Congressional Democrats’ generally pro-Israel party line. (There haven’t been many actual difficult votes on the issue, one way or the other). And Sestak has sought in the past to associate himself with AIPAC.

No, AIPAC generally doesn’t appreciate candidates who keynote for CAIR or sign Soros Street’s Gaza 54 letter. And they really aren’t fond of those who tout the UN Human Rights Council. But they don’t do electioneering. Still, there is no doubt what the mainstream Jewish community thinks of him:

“There are serious concerns about Joe Sestak’s record related to Israel throughout the pro-Israel community,” said an official with a major pro-Israel organization in Washington. “Not only has he said that Chuck Hagel is the Senator he admires most, which is unusual enough, but when comes to actual decisions that have affected Israel and our relationship with them, he has gone the wrong way several times. It’s the height of chutzpah for him to suggest he has a good record, let alone a 100 percent one, on these issues.”

And by the way, is he going to give Soros’s money back?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

With help from Saturday Night Live‘s Seth and Amy, Cliff May takes apart Jamie Rubin (no relation, thankfully).

With help from the IDF, we have a concise and thorough account of the flotilla incident.

With help from the increasingly unpopular president, “Republican candidates now hold a 10-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, June 13. That ties the GOP’s largest ever lead, first reached in April, since it first edged ahead of the Democrats a year ago.”

With help from the upcoming elections: “There aren’t enough votes to include climate change rules in a Senate energy bill, a top Democrat said Tuesday. Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), a senior member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, dismissed any hopes his colleagues might have of including regulations to clamp down on emissions as part of a comprehensive energy bill this summer.”

With help from J Street (the Hamas lobby?), Israel’s enemies always have friends on Capitol Hill: “In the most open conflict in months between the left-leaning Israel group J Street and the traditional pro-Israel powerhouse AIPAC, the liberal group is asking members of Congress not to sign a letter backed by AIPAC that supports the Israeli side of the Gaza flotilla incident.”

With help from the NRA, House Democrats are in hot water again: “House Democrats are facing a backlash from some liberal and government reform advocacy groups over an exemption for the NRA. House Democrats are facing a backlash from some liberal and government reform advocacy groups over an exemption for the National Rifle Association that was added to a campaign finance bill.”

With the help of Rep. Peter King, we’re sniffing out who the real friends of Israel are: “Congressional Democrats say they want to defend Israel — but without taking on Israel’s enemies. Bizarre choice — so bizarre as to make their professed support for Israel practically meaningless. At issue is a resolution proposed by Rep. Pete King (R-Long Island) that calls on Washington to quit the US Human Rights Council — which two weeks ago voted 32-3 to condemn Israel’s raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla. Incredibly, not a single House Democrat — not even from the New York delegation — is willing to co-sponsor King’s resolution ‘unless we take out the language about the UN,’ he says. Why? No Democrat wants to go on record disagreeing with President Obama’s decision to end the Bush-era boycott of the anti-Israel council — whose members include such human-rights champions as Iran and Libya.”

With help from an inept White House and BP, Bobby Jindal is beginning to look like a leader: “Eight weeks into the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of the Mexico, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has told the National Guard that there’s no time left to wait for BP, so they’re taking matters into their own hands. In Fort Jackson, La., Jindal has ordered the Guard to start building barrier walls right in the middle of the ocean. The barriers, built nine miles off shore, are intended to keep the oil from reaching the coast by filling the gaps between barrier islands.”

With help from Saturday Night Live‘s Seth and Amy, Cliff May takes apart Jamie Rubin (no relation, thankfully).

With help from the IDF, we have a concise and thorough account of the flotilla incident.

With help from the increasingly unpopular president, “Republican candidates now hold a 10-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, June 13. That ties the GOP’s largest ever lead, first reached in April, since it first edged ahead of the Democrats a year ago.”

With help from the upcoming elections: “There aren’t enough votes to include climate change rules in a Senate energy bill, a top Democrat said Tuesday. Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), a senior member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, dismissed any hopes his colleagues might have of including regulations to clamp down on emissions as part of a comprehensive energy bill this summer.”

With help from J Street (the Hamas lobby?), Israel’s enemies always have friends on Capitol Hill: “In the most open conflict in months between the left-leaning Israel group J Street and the traditional pro-Israel powerhouse AIPAC, the liberal group is asking members of Congress not to sign a letter backed by AIPAC that supports the Israeli side of the Gaza flotilla incident.”

With help from the NRA, House Democrats are in hot water again: “House Democrats are facing a backlash from some liberal and government reform advocacy groups over an exemption for the NRA. House Democrats are facing a backlash from some liberal and government reform advocacy groups over an exemption for the National Rifle Association that was added to a campaign finance bill.”

With the help of Rep. Peter King, we’re sniffing out who the real friends of Israel are: “Congressional Democrats say they want to defend Israel — but without taking on Israel’s enemies. Bizarre choice — so bizarre as to make their professed support for Israel practically meaningless. At issue is a resolution proposed by Rep. Pete King (R-Long Island) that calls on Washington to quit the US Human Rights Council — which two weeks ago voted 32-3 to condemn Israel’s raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla. Incredibly, not a single House Democrat — not even from the New York delegation — is willing to co-sponsor King’s resolution ‘unless we take out the language about the UN,’ he says. Why? No Democrat wants to go on record disagreeing with President Obama’s decision to end the Bush-era boycott of the anti-Israel council — whose members include such human-rights champions as Iran and Libya.”

With help from an inept White House and BP, Bobby Jindal is beginning to look like a leader: “Eight weeks into the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of the Mexico, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has told the National Guard that there’s no time left to wait for BP, so they’re taking matters into their own hands. In Fort Jackson, La., Jindal has ordered the Guard to start building barrier walls right in the middle of the ocean. The barriers, built nine miles off shore, are intended to keep the oil from reaching the coast by filling the gaps between barrier islands.”

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Elvis at the White House

Elvis Costello last week announced he was joining a boycott of Israel. This week he came to the White House to perform for Paul McCartney. Hmm. No doubt the invitation for McCartney was extended before Costello’s boycott, but why should the White House entertain and be entertained by musicians who have joined in the boycott along with other Israel-bashers? Shouldn’t there be a rule — no invite if you boycott the Jewish state? Given Hollywood stars’ craving for a White House invite, I bet that’d put an end to their anti-Israel boycotts real fast. And hey — it’s their choice. They can be in the pool with despotic Arab states that seek Israel’s annihilation or in the pool with those who could rub elbows with the president.

Beyond that, AIPAC’s executive director, Howard Kohr, earlier this year had a fine suggestion: make it a condition for desirable benefits — entry into the WTO, free-trade agreements — that a country cannot participate in the Arab boycott of Israel. Come to think of it, why do we allow any UN body to let in Israel boycotters?

This would, of course, be the opposite of what Obama is doing — which is to put distance between the U.S. and Israel and let the Israel-haters run amok in international institutions. You see, by embracing Israel and making clear that there is no daylight between Israel and the U.S., we might actually change the incentives for other nations and encourage them to treat Israel as a legitimate, sovereign nation on the world stage.

Elvis Costello last week announced he was joining a boycott of Israel. This week he came to the White House to perform for Paul McCartney. Hmm. No doubt the invitation for McCartney was extended before Costello’s boycott, but why should the White House entertain and be entertained by musicians who have joined in the boycott along with other Israel-bashers? Shouldn’t there be a rule — no invite if you boycott the Jewish state? Given Hollywood stars’ craving for a White House invite, I bet that’d put an end to their anti-Israel boycotts real fast. And hey — it’s their choice. They can be in the pool with despotic Arab states that seek Israel’s annihilation or in the pool with those who could rub elbows with the president.

Beyond that, AIPAC’s executive director, Howard Kohr, earlier this year had a fine suggestion: make it a condition for desirable benefits — entry into the WTO, free-trade agreements — that a country cannot participate in the Arab boycott of Israel. Come to think of it, why do we allow any UN body to let in Israel boycotters?

This would, of course, be the opposite of what Obama is doing — which is to put distance between the U.S. and Israel and let the Israel-haters run amok in international institutions. You see, by embracing Israel and making clear that there is no daylight between Israel and the U.S., we might actually change the incentives for other nations and encourage them to treat Israel as a legitimate, sovereign nation on the world stage.

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New World’s Record for Chutzpah: Obama’s Seder

Some 19 years ago, the first president Bush earned the enmity of American Jews with his rant about being “one lone guy” standing up against the horde of AIPAC activists exercising their constitutional right to petition Congress. Bush’s statement symbolized the intolerance and enmity that his administration felt toward Israel and its American friends. But say one thing for that Bush and his secretary of state, James “f@#$ the Jews” Baker: at least they never pretended to be anything but what they were, country-club establishment Republicans who were not comfortable with Israel or Jewish symbols. Not so Barack Hussein Obama.

After a week spent beating up on Israel, blowing a minor gaffe into an international incident, subjecting Israel’s prime minister to unprecedented insults that Obama would never think of trying on even the most humble Third World leader, and establishing the principle that the Jewish presence in eastern Jerusalem — even in existing Jewish neighborhoods — is illegal and an affront to American interests – after all that, Obama plans on spending Monday night mouthing a few lines from the Passover Haggadah at a Seder held in the White House.

According to the New York Times, Obama will take part in a Seder in the Old Family Dining Room along with a band of court Jews such as David Axelrod. The Seder, as the newspaper notes, will end, according to tradition, with the declaration of ‘next year in Jerusalem.’ (Never mind the current chill in the administration’s relationship with Israel.)”

There will, no doubt, be many American Jews who are still so insecure in their place in American society that they will feel flattered that even a president who has proved himself the most hostile chief executive to Israel in a generation will pay lip service to Judaism in this way. No doubt the planting of this sympathetic story on the front page of the Sunday New York Times is calculated to soften the blow of his Jerusalem policy and his disdain for Israel in the eyes of many of Obama’s loyal Jewish supporters.

The vast majority of American Jews are not only liberals; they are, as they say in Texas, “yellow dog Democrats,” meaning they would vote for a yellow dog if it were on the Democratic ticket. But surely a sycophantic article like the Times feature must grate on even their sensibilities. Can any Jew with a smidgeon of self-respect or affection for Israel think that having a president say “Next year in Jerusalem!” while sitting at a table with matzo and macaroons makes up for policies that treat the 200,000 Jews living in the post-1967 Jewish neighborhoods of their own ancient capital as illegal settlers on stolen land?

Perhaps Obama and his coterie of Jewish advisers think they are entitled to expropriate the symbols of Judaism to lend legitimacy to their anti-Israel policies. Of course, if Obama had any real sympathy for the people of Israel or the Jewish people, he might instead spend Monday night reevaluating a policy that appears to concede nuclear weapons to the rabid Jew-haters of Islamist Iran and reinforces the intransigence of the supposedly moderate Palestinian Authority and its allies across the Muslim world.

This week, Alan Dershowitz, who still counts himself among Obama’s supporters, warned the president that if he failed on Iran, his legacy would be indistinguishable from that of Neville Chamberlain, who appeased Hitler. He’s right, but it looks as though Chamberlain is becoming Obama’s model because, in addition to employing appeasement strategies, the president’s diktat on Jerusalem and the West Bank is faintly reminiscent of the British White Paper of 1939, which forbade the entrance of more Jewish immigrants into Palestine as the Holocaust loomed and sought to restrict the Jewish presence in most of the country.

But like the elder George Bush, at least Neville Chamberlain had the good manners not to try to portray himself as a friend of the Jews by having a Passover Seder at Number Ten Downing Street while simultaneously pursuing such policies.

Some 19 years ago, the first president Bush earned the enmity of American Jews with his rant about being “one lone guy” standing up against the horde of AIPAC activists exercising their constitutional right to petition Congress. Bush’s statement symbolized the intolerance and enmity that his administration felt toward Israel and its American friends. But say one thing for that Bush and his secretary of state, James “f@#$ the Jews” Baker: at least they never pretended to be anything but what they were, country-club establishment Republicans who were not comfortable with Israel or Jewish symbols. Not so Barack Hussein Obama.

After a week spent beating up on Israel, blowing a minor gaffe into an international incident, subjecting Israel’s prime minister to unprecedented insults that Obama would never think of trying on even the most humble Third World leader, and establishing the principle that the Jewish presence in eastern Jerusalem — even in existing Jewish neighborhoods — is illegal and an affront to American interests – after all that, Obama plans on spending Monday night mouthing a few lines from the Passover Haggadah at a Seder held in the White House.

According to the New York Times, Obama will take part in a Seder in the Old Family Dining Room along with a band of court Jews such as David Axelrod. The Seder, as the newspaper notes, will end, according to tradition, with the declaration of ‘next year in Jerusalem.’ (Never mind the current chill in the administration’s relationship with Israel.)”

There will, no doubt, be many American Jews who are still so insecure in their place in American society that they will feel flattered that even a president who has proved himself the most hostile chief executive to Israel in a generation will pay lip service to Judaism in this way. No doubt the planting of this sympathetic story on the front page of the Sunday New York Times is calculated to soften the blow of his Jerusalem policy and his disdain for Israel in the eyes of many of Obama’s loyal Jewish supporters.

The vast majority of American Jews are not only liberals; they are, as they say in Texas, “yellow dog Democrats,” meaning they would vote for a yellow dog if it were on the Democratic ticket. But surely a sycophantic article like the Times feature must grate on even their sensibilities. Can any Jew with a smidgeon of self-respect or affection for Israel think that having a president say “Next year in Jerusalem!” while sitting at a table with matzo and macaroons makes up for policies that treat the 200,000 Jews living in the post-1967 Jewish neighborhoods of their own ancient capital as illegal settlers on stolen land?

Perhaps Obama and his coterie of Jewish advisers think they are entitled to expropriate the symbols of Judaism to lend legitimacy to their anti-Israel policies. Of course, if Obama had any real sympathy for the people of Israel or the Jewish people, he might instead spend Monday night reevaluating a policy that appears to concede nuclear weapons to the rabid Jew-haters of Islamist Iran and reinforces the intransigence of the supposedly moderate Palestinian Authority and its allies across the Muslim world.

This week, Alan Dershowitz, who still counts himself among Obama’s supporters, warned the president that if he failed on Iran, his legacy would be indistinguishable from that of Neville Chamberlain, who appeased Hitler. He’s right, but it looks as though Chamberlain is becoming Obama’s model because, in addition to employing appeasement strategies, the president’s diktat on Jerusalem and the West Bank is faintly reminiscent of the British White Paper of 1939, which forbade the entrance of more Jewish immigrants into Palestine as the Holocaust loomed and sought to restrict the Jewish presence in most of the country.

But like the elder George Bush, at least Neville Chamberlain had the good manners not to try to portray himself as a friend of the Jews by having a Passover Seder at Number Ten Downing Street while simultaneously pursuing such policies.

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AIPAC Conference: Howard Kohr

Howard Kohr, AIPAC’s executive director, got the proceedings off to a start. When policy is “cloudy,” he begins, “We must be the ones who seek to provide the clarity and direction.” First and foremost: “America must lead the world in preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power.” Nothing, he says, must “detract, distract, or derail” us. As for the Middle East, the relationship does not rest on resolving the Palestinian conflict. It is “insidious” and it is “wrong.” He continues with a pitch for U.S. aid to Israel as part of our own national security. The U.S. and Israel should treat each other as friends: it is “time to put aside the past week and pledge to solve problems together,” he implores. When disagreements inevitably arise, they “should be resolved privately as is befitting close allies.” Every Israeli prime minister, including Netanyahu, has extended the hand of peace; what is missing is a willing partner on the other side. “Direct talks today.” Finally, “Jerusalem is not a settlement.” The crowd erupts in a standing ovation. Kohr continues: “We will maintain our focus on Iran as the No. 1 item on our agenda.” He adds that the Palestinian conflict continues in a larger context.

Recalling his speech last year in which he addressed the international campaign to delegitimize Israel, Kohr says: “What he heard then and what we hear now is a war of words against Israel … to make it more vulnerable. … In the twelve months since we started that conversation, the attacks have continued.” He reviews the UN record of Israel-bashing and on the Goldstone Report. The latter, he says, “is something far more sinister; it is representative of a broader pernicious effort to challenge Israel’s fundamental right to self-defense. … It must be fought — and it must be stopped.”

Kohr calls for Israel and its supporters to “go on the offense,” suggesting four steps: (1) recognizing Israel’s economic miracle by granting Israel membership in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (“the world’s economic elite”); (2) recognizing Israel’s role as a contributor to peace and security by working to “forge an even closer relationship” with NATO; (3) ending “discrimination toward Israel in the United Nations” by granting Israel a seat on the Security Council (some might be wondering at this point, “You gotta be kidding,” but the crowd enthusiastically applauds that goal); and (4) making a concerted effort to demand that Arab states recognize Israel by, among other things, conditioning such recognition. The price for entry into free-trade agreements and into the WTO, he argues, must be abandonment of the Arab League boycott of Israel.

He brings the crowd to its feet and extols them: “We must decide that today is the last day we accept that Israel is shunted aside at the United Nations. We must decide that today is the day we say to those who regard Israel as a pariah — enough!”

Howard Kohr, AIPAC’s executive director, got the proceedings off to a start. When policy is “cloudy,” he begins, “We must be the ones who seek to provide the clarity and direction.” First and foremost: “America must lead the world in preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power.” Nothing, he says, must “detract, distract, or derail” us. As for the Middle East, the relationship does not rest on resolving the Palestinian conflict. It is “insidious” and it is “wrong.” He continues with a pitch for U.S. aid to Israel as part of our own national security. The U.S. and Israel should treat each other as friends: it is “time to put aside the past week and pledge to solve problems together,” he implores. When disagreements inevitably arise, they “should be resolved privately as is befitting close allies.” Every Israeli prime minister, including Netanyahu, has extended the hand of peace; what is missing is a willing partner on the other side. “Direct talks today.” Finally, “Jerusalem is not a settlement.” The crowd erupts in a standing ovation. Kohr continues: “We will maintain our focus on Iran as the No. 1 item on our agenda.” He adds that the Palestinian conflict continues in a larger context.

Recalling his speech last year in which he addressed the international campaign to delegitimize Israel, Kohr says: “What he heard then and what we hear now is a war of words against Israel … to make it more vulnerable. … In the twelve months since we started that conversation, the attacks have continued.” He reviews the UN record of Israel-bashing and on the Goldstone Report. The latter, he says, “is something far more sinister; it is representative of a broader pernicious effort to challenge Israel’s fundamental right to self-defense. … It must be fought — and it must be stopped.”

Kohr calls for Israel and its supporters to “go on the offense,” suggesting four steps: (1) recognizing Israel’s economic miracle by granting Israel membership in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (“the world’s economic elite”); (2) recognizing Israel’s role as a contributor to peace and security by working to “forge an even closer relationship” with NATO; (3) ending “discrimination toward Israel in the United Nations” by granting Israel a seat on the Security Council (some might be wondering at this point, “You gotta be kidding,” but the crowd enthusiastically applauds that goal); and (4) making a concerted effort to demand that Arab states recognize Israel by, among other things, conditioning such recognition. The price for entry into free-trade agreements and into the WTO, he argues, must be abandonment of the Arab League boycott of Israel.

He brings the crowd to its feet and extols them: “We must decide that today is the last day we accept that Israel is shunted aside at the United Nations. We must decide that today is the day we say to those who regard Israel as a pariah — enough!”

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RE: The AIPAC Crowd

I was at the policy conference today and must concur with Jen’s take: there was a palpable sense of raw emotion at the event, and I suspect that a lot of the worst feelings were held by people who had allowed candidate Obama’s soothing words on Israel to convince them that he would be kind to Israel.

I meandered among several panel discussions and heard regular rounds of applause from the audience in response to criticism of the administration. The attendees I spoke with were not simply upset by the administration’s rough treatment of Israel; they were also well aware that America’s most entrenched rivals have never received the criticism and lectures that Obama has directed at Israel. Even the liberals among them understood on a gut level that this is no way to conduct foreign policy.

Lee Rosenberg, AIPAC’s new president (and a major Obama fundraiser), gave a bluntly critical speech that received three standing ovations. Something tells me that pro-Israel dollars are going to be a little harder for Democrats to come by in the coming years.

The big question is: how will the crowd respond to Hillary Clinton on Monday? I wouldn’t be surprised if there is some booing, and I’d be shocked if there was hearty applause. Booing is something AIPAC officials hope doesn’t happen, because they want the policy conference to be the place where real fence-mending takes place. But I’m not sure it’d be a bad idea for Clinton to hear some boos — not because I think it’s great to boo people, but because Obama has already made clear the signals he responds to: the worse you treat him, the better he treats you, or at least the more he respects you.

I was at the policy conference today and must concur with Jen’s take: there was a palpable sense of raw emotion at the event, and I suspect that a lot of the worst feelings were held by people who had allowed candidate Obama’s soothing words on Israel to convince them that he would be kind to Israel.

I meandered among several panel discussions and heard regular rounds of applause from the audience in response to criticism of the administration. The attendees I spoke with were not simply upset by the administration’s rough treatment of Israel; they were also well aware that America’s most entrenched rivals have never received the criticism and lectures that Obama has directed at Israel. Even the liberals among them understood on a gut level that this is no way to conduct foreign policy.

Lee Rosenberg, AIPAC’s new president (and a major Obama fundraiser), gave a bluntly critical speech that received three standing ovations. Something tells me that pro-Israel dollars are going to be a little harder for Democrats to come by in the coming years.

The big question is: how will the crowd respond to Hillary Clinton on Monday? I wouldn’t be surprised if there is some booing, and I’d be shocked if there was hearty applause. Booing is something AIPAC officials hope doesn’t happen, because they want the policy conference to be the place where real fence-mending takes place. But I’m not sure it’d be a bad idea for Clinton to hear some boos — not because I think it’s great to boo people, but because Obama has already made clear the signals he responds to: the worse you treat him, the better he treats you, or at least the more he respects you.

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AIPAC Panel: The Sands of Change Here in D.C.

A mesmerizing discussion Sunday afternoon was held among Elliott Abrams, Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal, and Asher Susser of the Moshe Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University as they examined the “sands of change in the Middle East.” Both Stephens and Susser traced the emergence of non-Arab states like Iran and Turkey (which is pivoting away from Europe as it becomes increasingly more Islamist in domestic policy and anti-Israel in its foreign policy), the decline of secular pan-Arabism, the tension between radicals and moderates, and the ascendancy of Shia regimes, which are displacing aging Sunni leaders as the region’s powerhouses.

Abrams made a different case: “The most important shift is in Washington.” He noted that in 1967, Israel won a tremendous, and the British left Aden, opening an era in which the U.S.-Israel alliance dominated the region. (“It took the 1973 war for the Arabs to learn that lesson.”) The question Arabs are asking now, Abrams said, is about what the American policy is on maintaining its dominance in the region. They want to know “whether the U.S. is prepared to maintain its position or let the region slip into a period of Iranian dominance.” On Iran’s nuclear ambitions specifically, Abrams reminded the crowd that the Obama administration says it is “unacceptable” if Iran gets a nuclear weapon. “But do they mean it’s unacceptable or just that it is a bummer?”

As for the Obami’s effort to separate the U.S. from Israel to increase our credibility with the Arabs, it is “no accident” Abrams said, that the Saudi’s 2002 peace plan, while not the basis for any viable peace agreement,  would have ended with the recognition of Israel. When the Arab states realize that the U.S. commitment to Israel is unyielding and that they “can’t do anything about Israel, they begin to make peace.” If the U.S. should begin to change its position, Abrams cautioned, their attitude toward Israel will change as well. Then, Abrams added, citing Lee Smith’s book The Strong Horse, they will decide which is the weak and which is the strong horse in the region and act accordingly. How we act toward Israel affects how Arab states regard us. As we distance ourselves from Israel, the Arabs see that we “are proving to be an undependable ally.” So the place to determine the fate of the Middle East, he summed up, is “here.”

All the panelists in their presentations and the Q & A discussed the recent conflict and the “peace process.” Stephens noted that putting the “squeeze on our friends while coddling our enemies comes with a cost. Israel will take less risks for peace. The Palestinians are encouraged to make maximalist demands. Radicals in the region take comfort that the U.S. is slowly withdrawing.” Susser deemed the ruckus raised by the administration over a Jersulem housing project “ludicrous.” The Obama team is focused on the “1967 file” — settlements and Jerusalem. But the Palestinians are still stuck on the “1948 file” — the right of return of refugees and “Israel’s being.” What’s working against us and serving as the reason that status quo is unsustainable, he says, are both the demography and the movement internationally to try to delegitimize Israel.

What to do about that international effort? Abrams: “It is not an accident that the worst challenges to Israel’s legitimacy have occurred in the last two years.” When the U.S. “condemns” Israel over a housing permit, the Quartet rushes in to do the same. The way to stop this, he said bluntly, is “for the U.S. to get 100% behind Israel.” Stephens took it up from there, arguing that Israel’s efforts at peace and its withdrawal from Gaza and Lebanon have not gained it applause. “The depth of the hatred increased with proof of Israel’s good intentions.” We need, he says, not to make a “defense case” but a “prosecutorial case” against powers that would find it acceptable to welcome Robert Mugabe with open arms but that would arrest Tzipi Livni, and against entities like the UN Human Rights Council, which is stocked with the likes of Libya, Egypt, and other human rights abusers. “Who are they to point fingers at Israel?”

The panel was greeted with great enthusiasm, as if a dose of reality had finally been served up after days and days of administration flailing and the resulting furor within the Jewish community. But if this crowd surely shares the Abrams-Stephens-Susser view, what then is to be done about the Obami? The issue isn’t a housing flap, but the Obami’s dangerous notion that distancing itself from Israel is “smart diplomacy.” It is anything but, and the AIPAC activists will have to devise a smart response for combating a dangerous and ill-advised approach.

A mesmerizing discussion Sunday afternoon was held among Elliott Abrams, Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal, and Asher Susser of the Moshe Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University as they examined the “sands of change in the Middle East.” Both Stephens and Susser traced the emergence of non-Arab states like Iran and Turkey (which is pivoting away from Europe as it becomes increasingly more Islamist in domestic policy and anti-Israel in its foreign policy), the decline of secular pan-Arabism, the tension between radicals and moderates, and the ascendancy of Shia regimes, which are displacing aging Sunni leaders as the region’s powerhouses.

Abrams made a different case: “The most important shift is in Washington.” He noted that in 1967, Israel won a tremendous, and the British left Aden, opening an era in which the U.S.-Israel alliance dominated the region. (“It took the 1973 war for the Arabs to learn that lesson.”) The question Arabs are asking now, Abrams said, is about what the American policy is on maintaining its dominance in the region. They want to know “whether the U.S. is prepared to maintain its position or let the region slip into a period of Iranian dominance.” On Iran’s nuclear ambitions specifically, Abrams reminded the crowd that the Obama administration says it is “unacceptable” if Iran gets a nuclear weapon. “But do they mean it’s unacceptable or just that it is a bummer?”

As for the Obami’s effort to separate the U.S. from Israel to increase our credibility with the Arabs, it is “no accident” Abrams said, that the Saudi’s 2002 peace plan, while not the basis for any viable peace agreement,  would have ended with the recognition of Israel. When the Arab states realize that the U.S. commitment to Israel is unyielding and that they “can’t do anything about Israel, they begin to make peace.” If the U.S. should begin to change its position, Abrams cautioned, their attitude toward Israel will change as well. Then, Abrams added, citing Lee Smith’s book The Strong Horse, they will decide which is the weak and which is the strong horse in the region and act accordingly. How we act toward Israel affects how Arab states regard us. As we distance ourselves from Israel, the Arabs see that we “are proving to be an undependable ally.” So the place to determine the fate of the Middle East, he summed up, is “here.”

All the panelists in their presentations and the Q & A discussed the recent conflict and the “peace process.” Stephens noted that putting the “squeeze on our friends while coddling our enemies comes with a cost. Israel will take less risks for peace. The Palestinians are encouraged to make maximalist demands. Radicals in the region take comfort that the U.S. is slowly withdrawing.” Susser deemed the ruckus raised by the administration over a Jersulem housing project “ludicrous.” The Obama team is focused on the “1967 file” — settlements and Jerusalem. But the Palestinians are still stuck on the “1948 file” — the right of return of refugees and “Israel’s being.” What’s working against us and serving as the reason that status quo is unsustainable, he says, are both the demography and the movement internationally to try to delegitimize Israel.

What to do about that international effort? Abrams: “It is not an accident that the worst challenges to Israel’s legitimacy have occurred in the last two years.” When the U.S. “condemns” Israel over a housing permit, the Quartet rushes in to do the same. The way to stop this, he said bluntly, is “for the U.S. to get 100% behind Israel.” Stephens took it up from there, arguing that Israel’s efforts at peace and its withdrawal from Gaza and Lebanon have not gained it applause. “The depth of the hatred increased with proof of Israel’s good intentions.” We need, he says, not to make a “defense case” but a “prosecutorial case” against powers that would find it acceptable to welcome Robert Mugabe with open arms but that would arrest Tzipi Livni, and against entities like the UN Human Rights Council, which is stocked with the likes of Libya, Egypt, and other human rights abusers. “Who are they to point fingers at Israel?”

The panel was greeted with great enthusiasm, as if a dose of reality had finally been served up after days and days of administration flailing and the resulting furor within the Jewish community. But if this crowd surely shares the Abrams-Stephens-Susser view, what then is to be done about the Obami? The issue isn’t a housing flap, but the Obami’s dangerous notion that distancing itself from Israel is “smart diplomacy.” It is anything but, and the AIPAC activists will have to devise a smart response for combating a dangerous and ill-advised approach.

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Year Two of Obama Means More of the Same Hostility on Israel

According to the Jerusalem Post, Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, convened his nation’s consuls in the country for an emergency briefing and told them that last week’s dispute, which began with the announcement of new apartments being built in East Jerusalem, has become the “worst crisis” between Israel and the U.S. since 1975.

Given the escalation of American attacks on Israel’s government from a variety of sources in the last few days, it’s hard to argue with Oren’s analysis. Israel was in the wrong to have let such an announcement be made while Biden was in the country, but the escalation of the incident from a minor kerfuffle to a genuine crisis seems to be a conscious decision on the part of the administration. After all, had Obama wanted to be truly even-handed between Israel and the Palestinians, he could have treated the Palestinian decision to honor a mass murderer during Biden’s visit as being every bit as insulting as the building of apartments in an existing Jewish neighborhood.

Others have already started to dissect the administration’s motivation. As John wrote, pique and a lack of caring about the consequences play a big role in this crisis. The willingness to push back so disproportionately against Israel, to single it out for opprobrium in a way not customary to this administration even in its treatment of open foes (think back to Obama’s equivocal reaction to the stolen election and repression of dissent in Iran last summer) should also force friends of the Jewish state to return to a question that was much discussed last summer: Why has Obama decided to downgrade relations with Israel?

In 2009, relations between Israel and the United States were primarily characterized by a ginned-up dispute about settlement construction. Not only did Washington choose to make more of an issue about settlements than previous administrations had, it also escalated the problem by specifically rejecting past agreements with Israel regarding construction in those places which the U.S. had acknowledged that Israel would keep even in the event of a far-reaching land-for-peace deal with the Palestinians. Even more troubling for the Israelis was a demand that construction of Jewish homes be halted in Jerusalem.

Though eventually, the Netanyahu government would give way and accept a temporary settlement freeze in the West Bank, it stood its ground on Jerusalem and won. By the end of the year, it appeared as though Obama had understood that his decision to test the Israelis was a failure. The hope that some in the White House had harbored about using their influence to topple the Netanyahu government had been unrealistic. Challenging Netanyahu on Jerusalem had strengthened his popularity. Distancing themselves from Israel had also not gotten the Palestinians to budge on making peace. Nor had it won the United States any extra goodwill in the Muslim world. It had just raised unreasonable expectations about Obama delivering Israel to them on a silver platter while motivating no one to greater efforts to cope with a real threat to both the United States and Israel: Iran’s nuclear program.

By the time of Biden’s visit last week, it had appeared that the administration had learned its lesson and was no longer placing any faith in the idea that pressure on Israel would do anyone any good. But the way they have gone off the deep end about an issue that was supposedly resolved last year makes you wonder how much Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have learned from their first year in office. Specifically, have they decided that this is an opportunity to make another push to get rid of Netanyahu by leveraging the dismay that Israelis feel about last week’s blunder?

The administration’s dispute with Netanyahu and with the mainstream pro-Israel community, which continues to support Israel’s democratically-elected government (as demonstrated by the statements from the Anti-Defamation League and the AIPAC condemning Obama’s overreaction), was never so much about boosting the non-existent chances for peace with the Palestinians as it was about changing the relationship between the two countries from one of close friendship to a more adversarial one. Hillary Clinton’s reported demands for more pointless Israeli concessions and the prospects for another year of non-action on Iranian nukes leave us with the same question we were asking a few months ago: When will Obama’s Jewish supporters face up to the fact that the man in the White House is no friend to the Jewish state?

According to the Jerusalem Post, Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, convened his nation’s consuls in the country for an emergency briefing and told them that last week’s dispute, which began with the announcement of new apartments being built in East Jerusalem, has become the “worst crisis” between Israel and the U.S. since 1975.

Given the escalation of American attacks on Israel’s government from a variety of sources in the last few days, it’s hard to argue with Oren’s analysis. Israel was in the wrong to have let such an announcement be made while Biden was in the country, but the escalation of the incident from a minor kerfuffle to a genuine crisis seems to be a conscious decision on the part of the administration. After all, had Obama wanted to be truly even-handed between Israel and the Palestinians, he could have treated the Palestinian decision to honor a mass murderer during Biden’s visit as being every bit as insulting as the building of apartments in an existing Jewish neighborhood.

Others have already started to dissect the administration’s motivation. As John wrote, pique and a lack of caring about the consequences play a big role in this crisis. The willingness to push back so disproportionately against Israel, to single it out for opprobrium in a way not customary to this administration even in its treatment of open foes (think back to Obama’s equivocal reaction to the stolen election and repression of dissent in Iran last summer) should also force friends of the Jewish state to return to a question that was much discussed last summer: Why has Obama decided to downgrade relations with Israel?

In 2009, relations between Israel and the United States were primarily characterized by a ginned-up dispute about settlement construction. Not only did Washington choose to make more of an issue about settlements than previous administrations had, it also escalated the problem by specifically rejecting past agreements with Israel regarding construction in those places which the U.S. had acknowledged that Israel would keep even in the event of a far-reaching land-for-peace deal with the Palestinians. Even more troubling for the Israelis was a demand that construction of Jewish homes be halted in Jerusalem.

Though eventually, the Netanyahu government would give way and accept a temporary settlement freeze in the West Bank, it stood its ground on Jerusalem and won. By the end of the year, it appeared as though Obama had understood that his decision to test the Israelis was a failure. The hope that some in the White House had harbored about using their influence to topple the Netanyahu government had been unrealistic. Challenging Netanyahu on Jerusalem had strengthened his popularity. Distancing themselves from Israel had also not gotten the Palestinians to budge on making peace. Nor had it won the United States any extra goodwill in the Muslim world. It had just raised unreasonable expectations about Obama delivering Israel to them on a silver platter while motivating no one to greater efforts to cope with a real threat to both the United States and Israel: Iran’s nuclear program.

By the time of Biden’s visit last week, it had appeared that the administration had learned its lesson and was no longer placing any faith in the idea that pressure on Israel would do anyone any good. But the way they have gone off the deep end about an issue that was supposedly resolved last year makes you wonder how much Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have learned from their first year in office. Specifically, have they decided that this is an opportunity to make another push to get rid of Netanyahu by leveraging the dismay that Israelis feel about last week’s blunder?

The administration’s dispute with Netanyahu and with the mainstream pro-Israel community, which continues to support Israel’s democratically-elected government (as demonstrated by the statements from the Anti-Defamation League and the AIPAC condemning Obama’s overreaction), was never so much about boosting the non-existent chances for peace with the Palestinians as it was about changing the relationship between the two countries from one of close friendship to a more adversarial one. Hillary Clinton’s reported demands for more pointless Israeli concessions and the prospects for another year of non-action on Iranian nukes leave us with the same question we were asking a few months ago: When will Obama’s Jewish supporters face up to the fact that the man in the White House is no friend to the Jewish state?

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Oral Transmission

Walter Pincus reports in the Washington Post on a new secrecy policy the Bush administration is introducing. It creates a protected category called “Controlled Unclassified Information” that replaces the confusing “Sensitive but Unclassified.”

The new category is designed to safeguard information that doesn’t rise to the level of “secret” or “top-secret,” but should be kept out of the public domain nonetheless. Things like blueprints for tunnels and bridges that might be of use to terrorists fall under its rubric.

One novel feature of the new regulation is the requirement that, as Pincus explains, “one government official talking to another about information on terrorists will have to begin by saying: ‘What I am about to tell you is controlled unclassified information enhanced with specified dissemination.’”

This is a curious turn that intersects interestingly with the ongoing prosecution of two employees of AIPAC, facing charges of illicitly receiving and transmitting classified information. One of the issues in the case revolves around the fact that no documents changed hands. All of the allegedly classified information the defendants received was conveyed to them in conversation. The defense is claiming that they had no way of knowing what, if anything, was classified in what was given to them.

The new secrecy policy tightens up the secrecy regulations to deal precisely with that kind of situation. It left me wondering whether the step was taken in response to the gap revealed by the AIPAC case.

Pincus says nothing about this. Instead, quite predictably, he quotes two experts mocking the new policy.

Michael Clark, a contributing editor to the blog Daily Kos, who first wrote about the Bush memorandum, said the White House “seems to have used the crafting of new rules as an opportunity to expand the range of government secrecy.” Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy, described it as a “not even half-baked” exercise in policymaking.

Also predictably, Pincus quotes no experts from the government or on the side of the government explaining the timing and significance of the new policy.

Connecting the Dots is left wanting to know more — yet another subject to dig into.

Walter Pincus reports in the Washington Post on a new secrecy policy the Bush administration is introducing. It creates a protected category called “Controlled Unclassified Information” that replaces the confusing “Sensitive but Unclassified.”

The new category is designed to safeguard information that doesn’t rise to the level of “secret” or “top-secret,” but should be kept out of the public domain nonetheless. Things like blueprints for tunnels and bridges that might be of use to terrorists fall under its rubric.

One novel feature of the new regulation is the requirement that, as Pincus explains, “one government official talking to another about information on terrorists will have to begin by saying: ‘What I am about to tell you is controlled unclassified information enhanced with specified dissemination.’”

This is a curious turn that intersects interestingly with the ongoing prosecution of two employees of AIPAC, facing charges of illicitly receiving and transmitting classified information. One of the issues in the case revolves around the fact that no documents changed hands. All of the allegedly classified information the defendants received was conveyed to them in conversation. The defense is claiming that they had no way of knowing what, if anything, was classified in what was given to them.

The new secrecy policy tightens up the secrecy regulations to deal precisely with that kind of situation. It left me wondering whether the step was taken in response to the gap revealed by the AIPAC case.

Pincus says nothing about this. Instead, quite predictably, he quotes two experts mocking the new policy.

Michael Clark, a contributing editor to the blog Daily Kos, who first wrote about the Bush memorandum, said the White House “seems to have used the crafting of new rules as an opportunity to expand the range of government secrecy.” Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy, described it as a “not even half-baked” exercise in policymaking.

Also predictably, Pincus quotes no experts from the government or on the side of the government explaining the timing and significance of the new policy.

Connecting the Dots is left wanting to know more — yet another subject to dig into.

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Michael Scheuer Watch #9: AWOL

Today here at Connecting the Dots we’re celebrating the ninth edition of the Michael Scheuer Watch. The hero of this series, after frenetically answering some of my earlier posts — on some occasions writing three separate comments within minutes in response to a single item by me — has become as silent as Marcel Marceau. I have some theories about why that might be. But I am also putting out some bait to see we if can lure him back into the fray.

The first worm we’re putting on the hook is an op-ed I wrote for today’s Wall Street Journal entitled Lobbyists or Spies?. It’s about the prosecution of two former employees of AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobbying group.

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Today here at Connecting the Dots we’re celebrating the ninth edition of the Michael Scheuer Watch. The hero of this series, after frenetically answering some of my earlier posts — on some occasions writing three separate comments within minutes in response to a single item by me — has become as silent as Marcel Marceau. I have some theories about why that might be. But I am also putting out some bait to see we if can lure him back into the fray.

The first worm we’re putting on the hook is an op-ed I wrote for today’s Wall Street Journal entitled Lobbyists or Spies?. It’s about the prosecution of two former employees of AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobbying group.

In the past, regardless of what questions have been raised about his own conduct, and no matter how irrelevant to the matter under discussion, our hero has never missed an opportunity to mount his hobbyhorse, which is about how Israeli spies “do whatever they want inside of America and no one carries them to task for it” while at the same time, the U.S. government “consistently tries to suppress any kind of publication” of information pertaining to Israeli espionage. If Scheuer is right about this, and the government really is suppressing information pertaining to Israeli espionage, perhaps that explains his mysterious silence. Let’s see.

I am baiting a second hook with a plain-spoken letter I received from a reader. If I were in the shoes of our hero, I would have a very difficult time not writing a reply and pressing the send button, simply because remaining AWOL, after writing so many comments in the past, would make me look like I might be losing ground or, worse, hiding something.

But I am not in our hero’s shoes. And even though I have been closely studying his conduct, I will confess that I still don’t understand what makes him tick. In any case, here’s what “Dave in Texas” wrote: 

I’m just now starting to follow this little dustup between Mr. Schoenfeld and Mr. Scheuer, and it’s beginning to be very interesting.

And since Mr. Scheuer is reading these things, I am confident I can address him directly here:

Mr. Scheuer, I’ve known some high flyers in business who weren’t the best at spelling or expressing themselves. In this day and age, most of them simply use spellcheck. Back then, they used secretaries.

Spellcheck is free, and on every computer. Your dreadful efforts at spelling and writing speak volumes about you. You must be aware that your spelling is sloppy, but you don’t use spellcheck. I believe this means one or more of the following:

You are so arrogant, you believe everything you say is important enough to not bother checking whether you’ve said or written it right.

You are so tightly strung, you can’t stand to wait for spellcheck. Your righteous responses to the evil Mr. Schoenfeld demand instantaneous posting, so as not to deprive the plebes out there in webland from a moment’s enjoyment of, and learning from, your righteous pronouncements.

Mr. Scheuer, in what year were you awarded that medal for CIA service? And will you post, here or anywhere, the written explanation of why you were given that medal?

And no, I’m not anyone important, so don’t tell me I have to demand a hearing in the Senate so you can testify on record about how evil Bush is and how evil Jews are. Just post here, that’ll be fine . . . tell us the year you got the medal, and what the paper says its for.

Oh yes, and tell us where exactly we rubes in flyover country can find that document in national records, to check and make sure you’re not lying.

Dave in Texas

Mr. Scheuer, Dave is right. Just answer the questions. Readers who want to place bets about whether our former CIA man will reappear, or who want to offer explanations of why he might not reappear, can do so below or write to me privately at letters@commentarymagazine.com and put Michael Scheuer Watch in the subject line.

A complete guide to other items in this Michael Scheuer Watch series can be found here.

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Michael Scheuer Watch #3: Innocent Until Proven Guilty

We already have incontrovertible evidence that former CIA officer Michael Scheuer, who is now busy with a career equally divided between casting aspersions on American Jews and making a fool of himself, was incompetent at his job running the agency’s Osama bin Laden desk in the 1990’s, and was seen as such by those in charge.

Do we now have evidence of something else?

The Danish daily Politiken ran a story on Sunday reporting that “CIA renditions in Europe date back as far as the mid-1990′s.” The term “renditions” refers to the agency’s highly secret practice, some details of which have previously leaked out, of extraditing terrorism suspects from one foreign state to another for purposes of interrogation and prosecution.

Politiken went on, according to an AP summary, to provide specifics, including the fact that in 1995 U.S. agents seized an Egyptian by the name of Abu Talal, a senior member of the Egyptian terrorist organization al-Gama’a al-Islamiya, who had been granted political asylum in Denmark. He was reportedly nabbed while visiting Croatia and was turned over to Egypt, where he may have been executed. 

Along with other unidentified CIA officials, Politiken cites Michael Scheuer as a source for this information, which is now stirring up anti-Americanism in Denmark.

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We already have incontrovertible evidence that former CIA officer Michael Scheuer, who is now busy with a career equally divided between casting aspersions on American Jews and making a fool of himself, was incompetent at his job running the agency’s Osama bin Laden desk in the 1990’s, and was seen as such by those in charge.

Do we now have evidence of something else?

The Danish daily Politiken ran a story on Sunday reporting that “CIA renditions in Europe date back as far as the mid-1990′s.” The term “renditions” refers to the agency’s highly secret practice, some details of which have previously leaked out, of extraditing terrorism suspects from one foreign state to another for purposes of interrogation and prosecution.

Politiken went on, according to an AP summary, to provide specifics, including the fact that in 1995 U.S. agents seized an Egyptian by the name of Abu Talal, a senior member of the Egyptian terrorist organization al-Gama’a al-Islamiya, who had been granted political asylum in Denmark. He was reportedly nabbed while visiting Croatia and was turned over to Egypt, where he may have been executed. 

Along with other unidentified CIA officials, Politiken cites Michael Scheuer as a source for this information, which is now stirring up anti-Americanism in Denmark.

CIA officers sign an oath not to disclose classified information when they take employment in the agency. The oath holds for life. If they want to talk about things they learned in the course of their work, they need to obtain CIA clearance first.

The Politiken story thus raises a number of questions: 

1. Is the story accurate?

2. Assuming it is accurate, was the information about the rendition of Abu Talal classified?

3. Assuming it was classified, and that Scheuer, as opposed to the other unidentifiied CIA officials, was the primary source, did he have the CIA’s permission to talk about it?

4. Assuming he was the primary source and he did not have permission, and that the two preceding questions are answered in the affirmative, was a crime committed here?

Lawrence Franklin, a Defense Department official, was recently sentenced to more than twelve years in prison for leaking government secrets to two officials of AIPAC. Scheuer’s retired status would not seem to alter the basic elements of the crime. Title 18, Section 793 (d) of the United States Code makes liable for punishment “whoever . . . willfully communicates, delivers, [or] transmits” national-defense information “to any person not entitled to receive it.”

So here is a brace of final questions:

5. If the elements of a crime are in place, will be there an investigation? And is anyone at the CIA or the Department of Justice or in Congress paying attention?

If any readers can help me connect these dots, I would welcome hearing from them. Either post a comment below or, for private correspondence, write to letters@commentarymagazine.com and put Connecting the Dots in the subject line.

A complete guide to other items in this Michael Scheuer Watch series can be found here.

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