Commentary Magazine


Topic: Arab League

Blaming Bibi

Peter Beinart seems to have decided to pick up where Soros Street left off. Maybe with Soros Street in rubble, Beinart fancies himself as the leader of the “Israel is responsible for all bad things” movement. Perhaps he is miffed that Time magazine got all the attention for suggesting Jews just care about money. But he was out with another rant, claiming the refusal to extend the moratorium means Israel isn’t serious about peace. Problem: not even the Obami take this position. And, by the way, Abbas has not walked out.

Like most every other garden-variety Israel-basher, Beinart insists “the problem — or at least a crucial problem — is settlements.” But, George Bush managed to encourage negotiations, as Rick pointed out, with a common-sense compromise. (Israel could build “up” and “in” but not “out.”) Could it be that the problem now is the obsessive focus on the issue by Obama and the left? And maybe that the bigger problem is the 60 years of Palestinian rejectionism?

It is getting harder to cast Israel in the role of the villain, given that Abbas has made it clear he will not — or won’t be allowed to by the Arab League, which now has him on a short leash — recognize Israel as the Jewish state. So Beinart just ignores that inconvenient fact. He is quite peeved to find out there is no market in American Jewry for blaming Israel for everything. He concludes: “To be labeled a champion of peace by the American Jewish establishment, it turns out, a prime minister of Israel only really has to do one thing: be prime minister of Israel.” Actually, the only thing an Israeli prime minister has to do to be excoriated by the left is to be the prime minister of Israel.

Peter Beinart seems to have decided to pick up where Soros Street left off. Maybe with Soros Street in rubble, Beinart fancies himself as the leader of the “Israel is responsible for all bad things” movement. Perhaps he is miffed that Time magazine got all the attention for suggesting Jews just care about money. But he was out with another rant, claiming the refusal to extend the moratorium means Israel isn’t serious about peace. Problem: not even the Obami take this position. And, by the way, Abbas has not walked out.

Like most every other garden-variety Israel-basher, Beinart insists “the problem — or at least a crucial problem — is settlements.” But, George Bush managed to encourage negotiations, as Rick pointed out, with a common-sense compromise. (Israel could build “up” and “in” but not “out.”) Could it be that the problem now is the obsessive focus on the issue by Obama and the left? And maybe that the bigger problem is the 60 years of Palestinian rejectionism?

It is getting harder to cast Israel in the role of the villain, given that Abbas has made it clear he will not — or won’t be allowed to by the Arab League, which now has him on a short leash — recognize Israel as the Jewish state. So Beinart just ignores that inconvenient fact. He is quite peeved to find out there is no market in American Jewry for blaming Israel for everything. He concludes: “To be labeled a champion of peace by the American Jewish establishment, it turns out, a prime minister of Israel only really has to do one thing: be prime minister of Israel.” Actually, the only thing an Israeli prime minister has to do to be excoriated by the left is to be the prime minister of Israel.

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RE: Hmm. Moratorium Ended. Non-Peace Talks Did Not.

A knowledgeable reader points to this smart take from Michael Singh on the settlement moratorium and the continuing diplomatic malpractice of the Obama Middle East squad: “Obama risks repeating his administration’s past diplomatic errors. Recall that it was Washington’s — not the Palestinians’ — early preoccupation with settlements that metastasized into a precondition delaying peace talks in 2009 and early 2010.” Yes, come to think of it, there were negotiations under George W. Bush with no moratorium at issue. Hmm. Could Obama have made things, you know, worse?

And by publicly pressuring Bibi, he doubled down on his error:

It is the U.S. public insistence on an extension of a freeze that seems overly rigid, rather than the parties’ own stances. One could argue that the president’s position is just rhetorical, and that in fact U.S. negotiators are working behind the scenes to broker a compromise (which it seems they are). Be this as it may, unequivocal and ultimately unnecessary public proclamations — especially when uttered by top U.S. officials — make those private efforts more difficult. For Netanyahu, any compromise will now seem to be the result of U.S. and international pressure, which will add fuel to the inevitable political attacks he will face from his right. For Abbas, openness to compromise makes him appear less committed on this sensitive issue than even the United States, reducing his room to maneuver.

My reader makes an additional point: if Abbas has to go running back to the Arab League for further instructions, is he in a position to make any kind of deal? The idea — we thought, but who knows — was to empower Abbas so he’d be able to negotiate and implement a deal. Now, he looks like an errand boy. There’s that smart diplomacy at work.

A knowledgeable reader points to this smart take from Michael Singh on the settlement moratorium and the continuing diplomatic malpractice of the Obama Middle East squad: “Obama risks repeating his administration’s past diplomatic errors. Recall that it was Washington’s — not the Palestinians’ — early preoccupation with settlements that metastasized into a precondition delaying peace talks in 2009 and early 2010.” Yes, come to think of it, there were negotiations under George W. Bush with no moratorium at issue. Hmm. Could Obama have made things, you know, worse?

And by publicly pressuring Bibi, he doubled down on his error:

It is the U.S. public insistence on an extension of a freeze that seems overly rigid, rather than the parties’ own stances. One could argue that the president’s position is just rhetorical, and that in fact U.S. negotiators are working behind the scenes to broker a compromise (which it seems they are). Be this as it may, unequivocal and ultimately unnecessary public proclamations — especially when uttered by top U.S. officials — make those private efforts more difficult. For Netanyahu, any compromise will now seem to be the result of U.S. and international pressure, which will add fuel to the inevitable political attacks he will face from his right. For Abbas, openness to compromise makes him appear less committed on this sensitive issue than even the United States, reducing his room to maneuver.

My reader makes an additional point: if Abbas has to go running back to the Arab League for further instructions, is he in a position to make any kind of deal? The idea — we thought, but who knows — was to empower Abbas so he’d be able to negotiate and implement a deal. Now, he looks like an errand boy. There’s that smart diplomacy at work.

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Terrorists’ Goal Is Not “Foiling Peace Process”

After Monday’s rocket attack on Eilat and Aqaba, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mouthed the de riguer platitude: the attack was perpetrated “by terrorist groups who want to foil the peace process.” Eliot Jager of Jewish Ideas Daily echoed this yesterday. Yet the sequence of events that Jager himself described — and of which Netanyahu is surely aware — strongly suggests the opposite: that the recent spate of attacks on Israel’s south are meant not to keep Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “from pursuing genuine give-and-take bargaining with Israel,” as Jager put it, but to help him in wringing concessions from Israel.

That Abbas has no interest in direct talks with Israel is impossible to miss. He himself has said so repeatedly, as have other senior PA officials: he begged the Arab League (unsuccessfully) to back him in refusing direct talks just last week, and PA officials have complained bitterly of the pressure they are under to begin the talks. So if Hamas’s recent escalation — and whether or not the Eilat/Aqaba strike came from Hamas-controlled Gaza, as Egypt claims, the weekend’s Grad and Qassam rocket strikes on southern Israel definitely did — provoked an Israeli retaliation that Abbas could paint as an “atrocity” and use as an excuse for nixing talks, nobody would be happier than Abbas.

But why would Hamas, which is embroiled in vicious rivalry with Abbas’s Fatah faction, want to cooperate with him? Because despite their mutual loathing, they have a common interest in wresting more concessions from Israel. Hamas has proved this over and over.

For instance, it clamped down on rocket and mortar attacks on Israel in August 2005 — a 75 percent drop from the previous month — to avoid disrupting the month’s scheduled unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. Then, after the pullout, the rocket fire gradually escalated again.

Similarly, the year after May 1999, when Ehud Barak became prime minister on a platform of signing a final-status deal with the PA, was the first since the Oslo Accords were signed without a single suicide bombing inside Israel. Hamas wanted to see what Barak might give. But after Hamas and Fatah both deemed Barak’s offer at the July 2000 Camp David summit insufficient, they collaborated in launching a new terror war (the second intifada) to pressure Israel for more concessions. And it worked: in 2005, Israel uprooted 25 settlements and withdrew its army from Gaza without the Palestinians giving anything in exchange.

The problem with resuming direct talks now, from the standpoint of both Fatah and Hamas, is that Israel has made no new upfront concessions. Yet Abbas can no longer refuse without incurring blame.

The solution is obvious: shift the blame to Israel by provoking a military retaliation that Abbas could use as an excuse. Then the world would instead pressure Israel to offer new concessions to get him to the table.

It’s a scheme that has worked well many times before. And it will continue working until the world grasps that terrorists’ primary goal is not “foiling peace processes” but defeating their enemies piecemeal by wresting ever more concessions from them.

After Monday’s rocket attack on Eilat and Aqaba, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mouthed the de riguer platitude: the attack was perpetrated “by terrorist groups who want to foil the peace process.” Eliot Jager of Jewish Ideas Daily echoed this yesterday. Yet the sequence of events that Jager himself described — and of which Netanyahu is surely aware — strongly suggests the opposite: that the recent spate of attacks on Israel’s south are meant not to keep Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “from pursuing genuine give-and-take bargaining with Israel,” as Jager put it, but to help him in wringing concessions from Israel.

That Abbas has no interest in direct talks with Israel is impossible to miss. He himself has said so repeatedly, as have other senior PA officials: he begged the Arab League (unsuccessfully) to back him in refusing direct talks just last week, and PA officials have complained bitterly of the pressure they are under to begin the talks. So if Hamas’s recent escalation — and whether or not the Eilat/Aqaba strike came from Hamas-controlled Gaza, as Egypt claims, the weekend’s Grad and Qassam rocket strikes on southern Israel definitely did — provoked an Israeli retaliation that Abbas could paint as an “atrocity” and use as an excuse for nixing talks, nobody would be happier than Abbas.

But why would Hamas, which is embroiled in vicious rivalry with Abbas’s Fatah faction, want to cooperate with him? Because despite their mutual loathing, they have a common interest in wresting more concessions from Israel. Hamas has proved this over and over.

For instance, it clamped down on rocket and mortar attacks on Israel in August 2005 — a 75 percent drop from the previous month — to avoid disrupting the month’s scheduled unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. Then, after the pullout, the rocket fire gradually escalated again.

Similarly, the year after May 1999, when Ehud Barak became prime minister on a platform of signing a final-status deal with the PA, was the first since the Oslo Accords were signed without a single suicide bombing inside Israel. Hamas wanted to see what Barak might give. But after Hamas and Fatah both deemed Barak’s offer at the July 2000 Camp David summit insufficient, they collaborated in launching a new terror war (the second intifada) to pressure Israel for more concessions. And it worked: in 2005, Israel uprooted 25 settlements and withdrew its army from Gaza without the Palestinians giving anything in exchange.

The problem with resuming direct talks now, from the standpoint of both Fatah and Hamas, is that Israel has made no new upfront concessions. Yet Abbas can no longer refuse without incurring blame.

The solution is obvious: shift the blame to Israel by provoking a military retaliation that Abbas could use as an excuse. Then the world would instead pressure Israel to offer new concessions to get him to the table.

It’s a scheme that has worked well many times before. And it will continue working until the world grasps that terrorists’ primary goal is not “foiling peace processes” but defeating their enemies piecemeal by wresting ever more concessions from them.

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The Farce Ends

The worst-kept secret in the Middle East “peace process” has been that Mahmoud Abbas was never serious about a peace deal. This was apparent to anyone who has observed him over the years, who has followed his duplicitous rhetoric (incitement in Arabic, peace lingo in English), and who understands that he is incapable of making an enforceable peace agreement that would recognize the Jewish state, ensure that Israel retains defensible borders, renounce the dream of a one-state solutions with Jerusalem as its Muslim capital, and commit to disarmament and the renunciation of terror. Even to list what is required reveals how misplaced were the expectations of Obama and his “smart” diplomats.

After 18 months of badgering and bullying Israel and sucking up to the Muslim World, that world is on the verge of dealing a stinging blow to their patron: “Despite pressure from the US and EU, Abbas has signaled in recent days that he does not intend to enter direct talks until Israel stops all settlement construction, as well as construction in east Jerusalem, and commits itself to the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the June 4, 1967, lines.” And he’s gone scurrying to the Arab League to bless this.

Hmm, maybe it isn’t Israel’s fault that we don’t have peace in our time. Maybe Obama’s mere presence and his suck-uppery to Palestinians in Cairo (and ever since) did not transform the Middle East. Maybe the Middle East is not just like Northern Ireland. Maybe putting political hacks in charge of foreign policy wasn’t a swell idea. Maybe the Obami were the least-“smart” diplomats ever to take on the Middle East conflict. And maybe — finally — we can all agree that the peace process is a counterproductive farce that provides cover only for Palestinian rejectionism.

The worst-kept secret in the Middle East “peace process” has been that Mahmoud Abbas was never serious about a peace deal. This was apparent to anyone who has observed him over the years, who has followed his duplicitous rhetoric (incitement in Arabic, peace lingo in English), and who understands that he is incapable of making an enforceable peace agreement that would recognize the Jewish state, ensure that Israel retains defensible borders, renounce the dream of a one-state solutions with Jerusalem as its Muslim capital, and commit to disarmament and the renunciation of terror. Even to list what is required reveals how misplaced were the expectations of Obama and his “smart” diplomats.

After 18 months of badgering and bullying Israel and sucking up to the Muslim World, that world is on the verge of dealing a stinging blow to their patron: “Despite pressure from the US and EU, Abbas has signaled in recent days that he does not intend to enter direct talks until Israel stops all settlement construction, as well as construction in east Jerusalem, and commits itself to the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the June 4, 1967, lines.” And he’s gone scurrying to the Arab League to bless this.

Hmm, maybe it isn’t Israel’s fault that we don’t have peace in our time. Maybe Obama’s mere presence and his suck-uppery to Palestinians in Cairo (and ever since) did not transform the Middle East. Maybe the Middle East is not just like Northern Ireland. Maybe putting political hacks in charge of foreign policy wasn’t a swell idea. Maybe the Obami were the least-“smart” diplomats ever to take on the Middle East conflict. And maybe — finally — we can all agree that the peace process is a counterproductive farce that provides cover only for Palestinian rejectionism.

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Abbas Stiffs Obama on Direct Talks … Again

Just days after the Obama administration threw a lollipop to the Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, they are once again showing the Americans who’s the boss in the Middle East peace negotiations. Last week, the United States upgraded the diplomatic status of the PA’s American mission. From now on, the PA’s Washington office will have the status of a “general delegation” — the same it enjoys in the European Union. This is still a step below a full-fledged embassy, a status reserved for sovereign nations. But it does give the PA’s representatives full diplomatic immunity, a not-insignificant factor when you’re the envoy of a coalition of terrorist groups, such as the one that makes up Fatah, the dominant force within the PA. The move was made with the tacit approval of Israel and is intended to give Abbas a shot in the arm as he continues to struggle for legitimacy in the face of growing challenges from the rival Hamas faction, which has possession of Gaza.

But this move, like so many similar measures that have been put into effect over the years to boost the shaky credibility of the Palestinian Authority, is not enough to get Abbas to agree to the one thing President Obama wants from him: direct peace talks with Israel.

According to Reuters, Abbas will tell a meeting of the Arab League tomorrow that direct talks with Israel are still out of the question. The reason for this stand is no mystery. Abbas insists that he won’t sit down with the Israelis until the United States guarantees that the talks will be based on the idea that Israel must withdraw to the 1949 armistice lines and until a complete freeze on building Jewish homes in the territories is implemented. In other words, Abbas won’t talk until Israel has conceded in advance the substance of the talks! The Palestinian president doesn’t want to negotiate. He wants the Americans to hand him the Israelis on a silver platter even before negotiations commence. In spite of Obama’s preference for more pressure on Israel, that isn’t going to happen — which is just fine with Abbas.

That’s because the last thing the Palestinian leader wants is a viable peace process, a fact that the administration may finally be starting to understand. Had Abbas wanted to accept a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza, and part of Jerusalem, he could have accepted Ehud Olmert’s offer from 2008. He refused to even discuss that proposal because a peace deal would have forced him to accept not only peace but also the legitimacy of a Jewish state, even one inside truncated borders. Abbas knows that he cannot sign a peace agreement of any sort and survive, so he continues to prevaricate and seek excuses for not holding direct talks. The only question is how long it will take before Obama finally understands that although the Israelis have accepted the concept of a two-state solution, it is the Palestinians, who stand to benefit from such a scheme, who are incapable of accepting it. Until he does, the peace-process charade will continue.

Just days after the Obama administration threw a lollipop to the Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, they are once again showing the Americans who’s the boss in the Middle East peace negotiations. Last week, the United States upgraded the diplomatic status of the PA’s American mission. From now on, the PA’s Washington office will have the status of a “general delegation” — the same it enjoys in the European Union. This is still a step below a full-fledged embassy, a status reserved for sovereign nations. But it does give the PA’s representatives full diplomatic immunity, a not-insignificant factor when you’re the envoy of a coalition of terrorist groups, such as the one that makes up Fatah, the dominant force within the PA. The move was made with the tacit approval of Israel and is intended to give Abbas a shot in the arm as he continues to struggle for legitimacy in the face of growing challenges from the rival Hamas faction, which has possession of Gaza.

But this move, like so many similar measures that have been put into effect over the years to boost the shaky credibility of the Palestinian Authority, is not enough to get Abbas to agree to the one thing President Obama wants from him: direct peace talks with Israel.

According to Reuters, Abbas will tell a meeting of the Arab League tomorrow that direct talks with Israel are still out of the question. The reason for this stand is no mystery. Abbas insists that he won’t sit down with the Israelis until the United States guarantees that the talks will be based on the idea that Israel must withdraw to the 1949 armistice lines and until a complete freeze on building Jewish homes in the territories is implemented. In other words, Abbas won’t talk until Israel has conceded in advance the substance of the talks! The Palestinian president doesn’t want to negotiate. He wants the Americans to hand him the Israelis on a silver platter even before negotiations commence. In spite of Obama’s preference for more pressure on Israel, that isn’t going to happen — which is just fine with Abbas.

That’s because the last thing the Palestinian leader wants is a viable peace process, a fact that the administration may finally be starting to understand. Had Abbas wanted to accept a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza, and part of Jerusalem, he could have accepted Ehud Olmert’s offer from 2008. He refused to even discuss that proposal because a peace deal would have forced him to accept not only peace but also the legitimacy of a Jewish state, even one inside truncated borders. Abbas knows that he cannot sign a peace agreement of any sort and survive, so he continues to prevaricate and seek excuses for not holding direct talks. The only question is how long it will take before Obama finally understands that although the Israelis have accepted the concept of a two-state solution, it is the Palestinians, who stand to benefit from such a scheme, who are incapable of accepting it. Until he does, the peace-process charade will continue.

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More Constructive than George Mitchell and J Street

Yes, that’s a low bar to hop over when it comes to the Middle East. But if the constructive force is none other than Libya, specifically  the son of  Muammar and president of the Gaddafi Foundation, that is reason to take note.

We learn that he’s urging that the Palestinians and their violence-inciting allies cut out the blockade-running and off-load humanitarian aid through approved crossings. Gaddafi the Younger’s advice includes such pearls of wisdom as this: “There are conflicts between them taking place at the expense of ordinary Palestinians; everybody wants to see a show or spectacle or confrontation, rather than help … they all want to kill the vineyard guard at the expense of getting the grapes.”

Isn’t this the craziest thing? I mean, he’s more constructive than J Street, which wants Jewish charitable donors investigated ( they might be supporting settlements on the West Bank) and Israel bashed. His advice is certainly more helpful than another round of useless proximity talks. And it’s hard to quibble with the following:

Interesting point that, about the exploitation by “Palestinian” parties of the suffering of their own people to serve their own political agendas. Of course one has heard such stuff before, most notably and often from members of the great neocon-Zionist conspiracy—but from the lips of an Arab actually in a position to do something to help? In public? Rarely, if ever at all. As for help, $50 million is a nice little tip—Mr. Gaddafi says it’s just a start—out of the abundant Muammarian coffers, but what of the riyals and dinars and dirhams in the hoards of the oil-drenched Saudi “king,” the gassy al-Thanis of Qatar, and the rest of the members of the Arab League who routinely shed crocodile tears over the fate of those same suffering people?

Maybe the Obami could take a break from the fruitless peace process and figure out how to spread Gaddafi’s message throughout the “Muslim World.” For all his “engagement” efforts, Obama has spent precious little time saying anything as insightful as Gaddafi. He seems rather to be fixated on telling his Muslim audience what they want to hear.

And if the Obama team breaks free of the peace-process vortex, it might discuss the most important national security issue of our time with Israel’s neighbors — and it’s not the faux Gaza humanitarian issue (take a look here at the newest Gaza mall). It’s allowing an Islamic fundamentalist state to get the bomb.

Yes, that’s a low bar to hop over when it comes to the Middle East. But if the constructive force is none other than Libya, specifically  the son of  Muammar and president of the Gaddafi Foundation, that is reason to take note.

We learn that he’s urging that the Palestinians and their violence-inciting allies cut out the blockade-running and off-load humanitarian aid through approved crossings. Gaddafi the Younger’s advice includes such pearls of wisdom as this: “There are conflicts between them taking place at the expense of ordinary Palestinians; everybody wants to see a show or spectacle or confrontation, rather than help … they all want to kill the vineyard guard at the expense of getting the grapes.”

Isn’t this the craziest thing? I mean, he’s more constructive than J Street, which wants Jewish charitable donors investigated ( they might be supporting settlements on the West Bank) and Israel bashed. His advice is certainly more helpful than another round of useless proximity talks. And it’s hard to quibble with the following:

Interesting point that, about the exploitation by “Palestinian” parties of the suffering of their own people to serve their own political agendas. Of course one has heard such stuff before, most notably and often from members of the great neocon-Zionist conspiracy—but from the lips of an Arab actually in a position to do something to help? In public? Rarely, if ever at all. As for help, $50 million is a nice little tip—Mr. Gaddafi says it’s just a start—out of the abundant Muammarian coffers, but what of the riyals and dinars and dirhams in the hoards of the oil-drenched Saudi “king,” the gassy al-Thanis of Qatar, and the rest of the members of the Arab League who routinely shed crocodile tears over the fate of those same suffering people?

Maybe the Obami could take a break from the fruitless peace process and figure out how to spread Gaddafi’s message throughout the “Muslim World.” For all his “engagement” efforts, Obama has spent precious little time saying anything as insightful as Gaddafi. He seems rather to be fixated on telling his Muslim audience what they want to hear.

And if the Obama team breaks free of the peace-process vortex, it might discuss the most important national security issue of our time with Israel’s neighbors — and it’s not the faux Gaza humanitarian issue (take a look here at the newest Gaza mall). It’s allowing an Islamic fundamentalist state to get the bomb.

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Turkish Flags

Turkey’s sharp turn against Israel under Islamist Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has been much noted in the last couple of weeks. But a just-released report from Israeli analysts clarifies how close the flotilla confrontation of May 31 came to being a Turkish incitement to armed conflict.

The report was issued by Israel’s Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, or Malam, a private contractor that works with government intelligence agencies and is sometimes used to make disclosures to the public. Based on the material gathered in the flotilla incident by the IDF and other government agencies, Malam concluded that the Turkish government knew in advance of the Turkish Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH) activists’ intention to fight the Israeli navy.

The IHH group of 40 boarded M/V Mavi Marmara in Istanbul without being subjected to the security checks all other participants went through. The group was equipped with communications gear, gas masks, and security vests decorated with Turkish flags. IHH operatives used the ship’s upper deck as a headquarters, prohibiting other passengers from visiting it. Once onboard, the IHH group began pillaging the ship for the makeshift weapons with which its members attacked the Israeli commandos during the May 31 boarding. According to the Malam report:

Bülent Yıldırım, the leader of the IHH … was on the Mavi Marmara and briefed group members about two hours before the Israeli Navy intercepted the ship. Their main objective was to hold back soldiers by any means, and to push them back into the sea.

The Haaretz summary continues:

Files found on laptops owned by the IHH members pointed at strong ties between the movement and Turkey’s prime minister. Some of the activists even said that Erdogan was personally involved in the flotilla’s preparations.

The more we know, the less sudden or unexpected appears Erdogan’s latest threat to bring a Turkish naval escort to Gaza. In retrospect, the situation looks more like one engineered by Erdogan to justify a confrontation with Israel than mere opportunism. Erdogan’s profile as a moderate statesman has been eroding for some time, of course, as exemplified in his performance during the March 2010 Arab League Summit and his growing ties to Iran. But in light of his most recent actions, a little-remarked passage in a Muslim Brotherhood conference in January becomes freshly informative.

The conference in question took place in Beirut and was the seventh of the al-Quds (Jerusalem) conferences sponsored by Yusuf al-Qaradawi, spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. In addition to concluding with the usual screed against Israel, the conferees addressed “special thanks” to Tayyip Erdogan and former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia, whose Perdana Global Peace Organization went on to sponsor three of the nine vessels in the recent Gaza flotilla, including M/V Rachel Corrie. Qaradawi is the founder of the Union of Good, the umbrella Islamist funding organization of which IHH is a member, and which Israel banned in 2002 due to its ties to terrorism.

Now Erdogan’s threat to bring a naval escort to Gaza coincides with the Union of Good’s announcement that it will send a convoy to Gaza through the Rafah crossing, recently opened by Egypt. Erdogan’s posture has gone well beyond rhetorical radicalism. Defense Secretary Gates’s comment yesterday — “Turkey … was pushed … by some in Europe refusing to give Turkey the … organic link to the west that Turkey sought” — seems particularly ill-formulated in light of Erdogan’s purposeful and unmistakable posture. Even if Gates’s analysis were more accurate, it’s not relevant. The time for recrimination is past. Reacting to current reality is all that matters.

Turkey’s major opposition leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, has voiced strong criticism of Erdogan’s actions; the prime minister’s policies that undermine secularism and suppress political dissent are coming under increasing fire at home. The next national election is not until mid-2011, however. There’s a lot of time left for Erdogan to sponsor flotillas. According to an IHH “journalist” quoted by Haaretz, the recent flotilla is just the first of many.

Turkey’s sharp turn against Israel under Islamist Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has been much noted in the last couple of weeks. But a just-released report from Israeli analysts clarifies how close the flotilla confrontation of May 31 came to being a Turkish incitement to armed conflict.

The report was issued by Israel’s Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, or Malam, a private contractor that works with government intelligence agencies and is sometimes used to make disclosures to the public. Based on the material gathered in the flotilla incident by the IDF and other government agencies, Malam concluded that the Turkish government knew in advance of the Turkish Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH) activists’ intention to fight the Israeli navy.

The IHH group of 40 boarded M/V Mavi Marmara in Istanbul without being subjected to the security checks all other participants went through. The group was equipped with communications gear, gas masks, and security vests decorated with Turkish flags. IHH operatives used the ship’s upper deck as a headquarters, prohibiting other passengers from visiting it. Once onboard, the IHH group began pillaging the ship for the makeshift weapons with which its members attacked the Israeli commandos during the May 31 boarding. According to the Malam report:

Bülent Yıldırım, the leader of the IHH … was on the Mavi Marmara and briefed group members about two hours before the Israeli Navy intercepted the ship. Their main objective was to hold back soldiers by any means, and to push them back into the sea.

The Haaretz summary continues:

Files found on laptops owned by the IHH members pointed at strong ties between the movement and Turkey’s prime minister. Some of the activists even said that Erdogan was personally involved in the flotilla’s preparations.

The more we know, the less sudden or unexpected appears Erdogan’s latest threat to bring a Turkish naval escort to Gaza. In retrospect, the situation looks more like one engineered by Erdogan to justify a confrontation with Israel than mere opportunism. Erdogan’s profile as a moderate statesman has been eroding for some time, of course, as exemplified in his performance during the March 2010 Arab League Summit and his growing ties to Iran. But in light of his most recent actions, a little-remarked passage in a Muslim Brotherhood conference in January becomes freshly informative.

The conference in question took place in Beirut and was the seventh of the al-Quds (Jerusalem) conferences sponsored by Yusuf al-Qaradawi, spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. In addition to concluding with the usual screed against Israel, the conferees addressed “special thanks” to Tayyip Erdogan and former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia, whose Perdana Global Peace Organization went on to sponsor three of the nine vessels in the recent Gaza flotilla, including M/V Rachel Corrie. Qaradawi is the founder of the Union of Good, the umbrella Islamist funding organization of which IHH is a member, and which Israel banned in 2002 due to its ties to terrorism.

Now Erdogan’s threat to bring a naval escort to Gaza coincides with the Union of Good’s announcement that it will send a convoy to Gaza through the Rafah crossing, recently opened by Egypt. Erdogan’s posture has gone well beyond rhetorical radicalism. Defense Secretary Gates’s comment yesterday — “Turkey … was pushed … by some in Europe refusing to give Turkey the … organic link to the west that Turkey sought” — seems particularly ill-formulated in light of Erdogan’s purposeful and unmistakable posture. Even if Gates’s analysis were more accurate, it’s not relevant. The time for recrimination is past. Reacting to current reality is all that matters.

Turkey’s major opposition leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, has voiced strong criticism of Erdogan’s actions; the prime minister’s policies that undermine secularism and suppress political dissent are coming under increasing fire at home. The next national election is not until mid-2011, however. There’s a lot of time left for Erdogan to sponsor flotillas. According to an IHH “journalist” quoted by Haaretz, the recent flotilla is just the first of many.

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Is Biden Cover?

A friend writes:

Friends of Israel are expressing their satisfaction with Vice President Biden’s comments on Charlie Rose about the flotilla incident, and Politico is describing him as the West Wing’s most fervent supporter of the Jewish state. I have a different take on this.  Jewish donors all over the country have been telling Members of Congress how upset they are with Obama and with the White House. Reportedly, Jewish fundraising is way down. At the same time, in a lot of the country, candidates don’t want Obama to campaign for them, affecting turnout at local mega events. How to fix these two problems? Have good old Uncle Joe be the good cop and let him both reinforce that he is a friend of the Jews (even though that is a relative concept and he did nothing when head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to move Iran sanctions forward) and be the draw for local mega events.Biden assuages Jewish concerns about Obama and strokes the donors enough to get them to write checks again while the administration changes tone but no policies. Obama doesn’t get the Arab League upset, Members of Congress get the Jewish money shoveled into their accounts and in November all policy options are available to Obama to return to the “No more Mr. Nice Guy” role he feels most comfortable playing vis-à-vis Israel.

A friend writes:

Friends of Israel are expressing their satisfaction with Vice President Biden’s comments on Charlie Rose about the flotilla incident, and Politico is describing him as the West Wing’s most fervent supporter of the Jewish state. I have a different take on this.  Jewish donors all over the country have been telling Members of Congress how upset they are with Obama and with the White House. Reportedly, Jewish fundraising is way down. At the same time, in a lot of the country, candidates don’t want Obama to campaign for them, affecting turnout at local mega events. How to fix these two problems? Have good old Uncle Joe be the good cop and let him both reinforce that he is a friend of the Jews (even though that is a relative concept and he did nothing when head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to move Iran sanctions forward) and be the draw for local mega events.Biden assuages Jewish concerns about Obama and strokes the donors enough to get them to write checks again while the administration changes tone but no policies. Obama doesn’t get the Arab League upset, Members of Congress get the Jewish money shoveled into their accounts and in November all policy options are available to Obama to return to the “No more Mr. Nice Guy” role he feels most comfortable playing vis-à-vis Israel.

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The Crisis of Israeli Crisis-Management

The most important criticism of Israel that has been written about the flotilla debacle is by David Horovitz, the editor of the Jerusalem Post. It is titled “A Scandalous Saga of Withheld Film,” and it strikes at the heart of Israel’s continuing inability to respond competently to PR crises.

The lack of credibility given to [the initial, verbal] official Israeli account, bolstered by the flow of footage from the activists aboard the vessels and the incontrovertible evidence of death, created the narrative on which the international community passed its judgment on Israel as the hours went by on Monday.

Demonstrations flared, first in Turkey and in those parts of the Arab and wider world most hostile to Israel, and then into Europe and beyond. …

Approximately 12 hours after the event, however, when all the condemnations had been issued, the demonstrators had weighed in worldwide, the Arab League, Security Council, Human Rights Council and all were convening or preparing to devote their attentions to this latest Israeli outrage, official Israel finally decided to release the grainy but distinct footage it had been sitting on all day showing precisely what had unfolded in the pre-dawn battle at sea.

In a crisis that was being scrutinized with white-hot intensity by virtually every government, NGO, and media outlet in the world, seconds and minutes counted, and hours, much more so. Accused of massacring unarmed peace activists but in possession of video incontrovertibly showing that the charges were false, Israeli officials… sat on the evidence. Horovitz:

It was the result of a decision. The officials, in their various competing, conflicting, inadequate propaganda hierarchies, actively chose, after consultation, not to release it. …

Some of their considerations are not beneath contempt. There was a legitimate concern, for instance, that the footage, showing colleagues in such trouble, might prove demoralizing for Israeli troops. And some of their considerations are utterly contemptible, including the scandalous parochial obsession with local TV – the insistent, misguided desire to hold back dramatic material until late in the Israeli day, so that as many people as possible here will see it fresh on the 8 p.m. Hebrew nightly news.

It would be bad enough if this were the first time this kind of incompetence and parochial blindness had fundamentally contributed to the perception of Israeli wrongdoing and criminality. But this is an old story. It follows a pattern that is agonizingly familiar to anyone who has been paying attention to Israel over the past decade. It can be found in virtually every Israeli PR disaster going back to the opening days of the intifada and the Al-Dura affair, another self-inflicted disaster.

The cycle is always the same: 1) Israel is accused of a monstrous crime; 2) the international media, European and Arab governments, NGOs, and anti-Israel commentators whip themselves into a lather with denunciations and recriminations; 3) Israel quickly finds itself in the eye of a media and diplomatic storm; 4) for a day or two (or longer) Israel looks guilty as sin, and average citizens in democratic countries become convinced that Israel indeed has committed a great crime; 5) then, slowly, doubt is cast on the prevailing narrative; exculpatory evidence comes to light; it becomes apparent that the charges are false or trumped-up; 6) but it doesn’t really matter. The wave of media and political furor has passed. The Israel-haters who rushed to judgment never retract their initial condemnations. Guilt makes the front pages, but exoneration is ignored. In the minds of people everywhere, the charges have stuck.

This cycle repeats itself largely because Israeli institutions simply do not care to treat the media and information battlefield with even a fraction of the competence that the IDF brings to the physical battlefield. If there is one lesson that the Israeli government should learn from the flotilla ambush, it is that it’s time, once and for all, to overhaul the way the national-security institutions of the country respond to crises. Instead of waking up Monday morning to a video of “peace activists” trying to massacre IDF soldiers, the world woke up yet again to claims of an Israeli massacre — all because some bureaucrats sat on the video for 12 hours.

The most important criticism of Israel that has been written about the flotilla debacle is by David Horovitz, the editor of the Jerusalem Post. It is titled “A Scandalous Saga of Withheld Film,” and it strikes at the heart of Israel’s continuing inability to respond competently to PR crises.

The lack of credibility given to [the initial, verbal] official Israeli account, bolstered by the flow of footage from the activists aboard the vessels and the incontrovertible evidence of death, created the narrative on which the international community passed its judgment on Israel as the hours went by on Monday.

Demonstrations flared, first in Turkey and in those parts of the Arab and wider world most hostile to Israel, and then into Europe and beyond. …

Approximately 12 hours after the event, however, when all the condemnations had been issued, the demonstrators had weighed in worldwide, the Arab League, Security Council, Human Rights Council and all were convening or preparing to devote their attentions to this latest Israeli outrage, official Israel finally decided to release the grainy but distinct footage it had been sitting on all day showing precisely what had unfolded in the pre-dawn battle at sea.

In a crisis that was being scrutinized with white-hot intensity by virtually every government, NGO, and media outlet in the world, seconds and minutes counted, and hours, much more so. Accused of massacring unarmed peace activists but in possession of video incontrovertibly showing that the charges were false, Israeli officials… sat on the evidence. Horovitz:

It was the result of a decision. The officials, in their various competing, conflicting, inadequate propaganda hierarchies, actively chose, after consultation, not to release it. …

Some of their considerations are not beneath contempt. There was a legitimate concern, for instance, that the footage, showing colleagues in such trouble, might prove demoralizing for Israeli troops. And some of their considerations are utterly contemptible, including the scandalous parochial obsession with local TV – the insistent, misguided desire to hold back dramatic material until late in the Israeli day, so that as many people as possible here will see it fresh on the 8 p.m. Hebrew nightly news.

It would be bad enough if this were the first time this kind of incompetence and parochial blindness had fundamentally contributed to the perception of Israeli wrongdoing and criminality. But this is an old story. It follows a pattern that is agonizingly familiar to anyone who has been paying attention to Israel over the past decade. It can be found in virtually every Israeli PR disaster going back to the opening days of the intifada and the Al-Dura affair, another self-inflicted disaster.

The cycle is always the same: 1) Israel is accused of a monstrous crime; 2) the international media, European and Arab governments, NGOs, and anti-Israel commentators whip themselves into a lather with denunciations and recriminations; 3) Israel quickly finds itself in the eye of a media and diplomatic storm; 4) for a day or two (or longer) Israel looks guilty as sin, and average citizens in democratic countries become convinced that Israel indeed has committed a great crime; 5) then, slowly, doubt is cast on the prevailing narrative; exculpatory evidence comes to light; it becomes apparent that the charges are false or trumped-up; 6) but it doesn’t really matter. The wave of media and political furor has passed. The Israel-haters who rushed to judgment never retract their initial condemnations. Guilt makes the front pages, but exoneration is ignored. In the minds of people everywhere, the charges have stuck.

This cycle repeats itself largely because Israeli institutions simply do not care to treat the media and information battlefield with even a fraction of the competence that the IDF brings to the physical battlefield. If there is one lesson that the Israeli government should learn from the flotilla ambush, it is that it’s time, once and for all, to overhaul the way the national-security institutions of the country respond to crises. Instead of waking up Monday morning to a video of “peace activists” trying to massacre IDF soldiers, the world woke up yet again to claims of an Israeli massacre — all because some bureaucrats sat on the video for 12 hours.

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The Short List of Representative Arab States

Rami G. Khouri, writing in the Daily Star in Lebanon, offers a tour d’horizon of the “modern Arab state” — the 22 members of the Arab League:

We also have broken states (Somalia), states that disappeared and/or returned (Kuwait, South Yemen), security-dominated states (Tunisia, Syria, Baathist Iraq under Saddam Hussein), erratic states (Libya), pirate states (Somalia), vulnerable states (Lebanon, Palestine), privatized states in the hands of small ruling elites (most Arab states), states that carry a specific family’s name (Saudi Arabia, Jordan), tribal states (Yemen, Oman), mini-states (Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain), occupied states (Palestine, Iraq to an extent), and various degrees of client and proxy states, rogue states, gangster states, and others that defy description.

Khouri has a succinct description of what is missing from the above list:

Not a single Arab country can say with any certainty that the configuration of the state, the policies and values of the government, or the perpetuation of the incumbent ruling elite have been validated by the citizenry through any kind of credible, transparent, and accountable political process.

Well, there’s one — Iraq, which since 2005 has had successive elections whose outcomes were not preordained, involving a citizenry willing to risk their lives each time to go to the polls. A representative government replacing the most horrific Arab dictator in the region is a historic achievement — even if a fragile one, all the more remarkable in light of Khouri’s description of the other Arab states.

The “state” of “Palestine,” on the other hand, has been a failed one even before it was formed. It has rejected three formal offers of a state in the last decade. Half the putative state is occupied by an Iranian proxy pledged to destroy its neighbor. The other half lacks even the pretense of an elected government: its “president” is currently in the sixth year of his four-year term; its “prime minister” is an unelected appointee chosen by the holdover president; its funding comes primarily from the U.S., the EU, and Japan, not the 21 Arab states that supposedly consider it an urgent priority.

The Obama administration believes our strategic objectives should be to (1) withdraw from Iraq next year, and (2) form a Palestinian state as soon as possible. The first goal puts at risk the one Arab state on Khouri’s list with a representative government; the second seeks to add a 22nd Arab state on the unsupported assumption that it will live in peace with itself and its neighbors, but Khouri’s list suggests that the likely outcome would be otherwise.

Rami G. Khouri, writing in the Daily Star in Lebanon, offers a tour d’horizon of the “modern Arab state” — the 22 members of the Arab League:

We also have broken states (Somalia), states that disappeared and/or returned (Kuwait, South Yemen), security-dominated states (Tunisia, Syria, Baathist Iraq under Saddam Hussein), erratic states (Libya), pirate states (Somalia), vulnerable states (Lebanon, Palestine), privatized states in the hands of small ruling elites (most Arab states), states that carry a specific family’s name (Saudi Arabia, Jordan), tribal states (Yemen, Oman), mini-states (Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain), occupied states (Palestine, Iraq to an extent), and various degrees of client and proxy states, rogue states, gangster states, and others that defy description.

Khouri has a succinct description of what is missing from the above list:

Not a single Arab country can say with any certainty that the configuration of the state, the policies and values of the government, or the perpetuation of the incumbent ruling elite have been validated by the citizenry through any kind of credible, transparent, and accountable political process.

Well, there’s one — Iraq, which since 2005 has had successive elections whose outcomes were not preordained, involving a citizenry willing to risk their lives each time to go to the polls. A representative government replacing the most horrific Arab dictator in the region is a historic achievement — even if a fragile one, all the more remarkable in light of Khouri’s description of the other Arab states.

The “state” of “Palestine,” on the other hand, has been a failed one even before it was formed. It has rejected three formal offers of a state in the last decade. Half the putative state is occupied by an Iranian proxy pledged to destroy its neighbor. The other half lacks even the pretense of an elected government: its “president” is currently in the sixth year of his four-year term; its “prime minister” is an unelected appointee chosen by the holdover president; its funding comes primarily from the U.S., the EU, and Japan, not the 21 Arab states that supposedly consider it an urgent priority.

The Obama administration believes our strategic objectives should be to (1) withdraw from Iraq next year, and (2) form a Palestinian state as soon as possible. The first goal puts at risk the one Arab state on Khouri’s list with a representative government; the second seeks to add a 22nd Arab state on the unsupported assumption that it will live in peace with itself and its neighbors, but Khouri’s list suggests that the likely outcome would be otherwise.

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Peace Process “Starts”?

This report tells you just how unserious — and unrelated to “peace” — is the process that supposedly started today: “United States special envoy George Mitchell met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, as Israelis and Palestinians readied themselves for the start of long-awaited indirect peace negotiations.” Yes, after 15 months George Mitchell has gotten the Palestinians and the Israelis to do exactly what they have been doing — talking to him and not each other. Yes, they came up with a fancy name — “proximity talks” — but that’s not exactly truth in advertising. There is no talking between the parties, in contrast to what happened during the Bush and Clinton administrations, which at least got the two sides in the same room. It’s not even clear what authority the PA has to negotiate:

Despite media reports that Mitchell’s meetings with Netanyahu would kick off the talks, the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization has still to convene to give the go-ahead to Palestinian participation in the negotiations. The Arab League gave its backing to the talks on Saturday.

It is unclear when the Committee will meet. Abbas, the PLO head, was in Cairo and Amman on Wednesday for talks with President Hosni Mubarak and King Abdullah II, and was not expected to return to Ramallah before Friday.

But just as the title of the talks signals that nothing much is going on, so does the pablum put out to the media after the first session: “A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office said that the two met for three hours and described the atmosphere as good. Mitchell and Netanyahu are scheduled to meet again on Thursday. In Washington, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the meeting was good and productive but did not give details.” Presumably this meant that no one left in a huff, but “productive” — well, that’s open to debate, not only for today’s session but for the entire exercise.

Both sides have said they don’t expect the talks to “succeed” and both want to maneuver not to be blamed. You thought the Iranian nuclear talks were the pinnacle of gamesmanship? Prepare to see both sides talk and talk and talk some more. So how does this end? In a third Intifada? With the administration announcing that they have “no choice” but to propose an American plan and a deadline for its implementation? The best we can hope for — and it would be a stretch at this point — is that the talks would quietly fizzle and the Palestinians will return to the business of creating the preconditions for real peace — that is, the formulation of institutions and the development of a new mindset that eschews victimology and violence. But the Obama crew has made that all the more difficult.

This report tells you just how unserious — and unrelated to “peace” — is the process that supposedly started today: “United States special envoy George Mitchell met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, as Israelis and Palestinians readied themselves for the start of long-awaited indirect peace negotiations.” Yes, after 15 months George Mitchell has gotten the Palestinians and the Israelis to do exactly what they have been doing — talking to him and not each other. Yes, they came up with a fancy name — “proximity talks” — but that’s not exactly truth in advertising. There is no talking between the parties, in contrast to what happened during the Bush and Clinton administrations, which at least got the two sides in the same room. It’s not even clear what authority the PA has to negotiate:

Despite media reports that Mitchell’s meetings with Netanyahu would kick off the talks, the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization has still to convene to give the go-ahead to Palestinian participation in the negotiations. The Arab League gave its backing to the talks on Saturday.

It is unclear when the Committee will meet. Abbas, the PLO head, was in Cairo and Amman on Wednesday for talks with President Hosni Mubarak and King Abdullah II, and was not expected to return to Ramallah before Friday.

But just as the title of the talks signals that nothing much is going on, so does the pablum put out to the media after the first session: “A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office said that the two met for three hours and described the atmosphere as good. Mitchell and Netanyahu are scheduled to meet again on Thursday. In Washington, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the meeting was good and productive but did not give details.” Presumably this meant that no one left in a huff, but “productive” — well, that’s open to debate, not only for today’s session but for the entire exercise.

Both sides have said they don’t expect the talks to “succeed” and both want to maneuver not to be blamed. You thought the Iranian nuclear talks were the pinnacle of gamesmanship? Prepare to see both sides talk and talk and talk some more. So how does this end? In a third Intifada? With the administration announcing that they have “no choice” but to propose an American plan and a deadline for its implementation? The best we can hope for — and it would be a stretch at this point — is that the talks would quietly fizzle and the Palestinians will return to the business of creating the preconditions for real peace — that is, the formulation of institutions and the development of a new mindset that eschews victimology and violence. But the Obama crew has made that all the more difficult.

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Obama’s Anti-Israel Bullying Continues

The New York Times reports on the opening of the proximity talks, with two nuggets of news confirming that for all its “charm,” the Obami’s anti-Israel assault is going full steam ahead.

First, the Times — presumably with some sourcing — pronounces that “many experts agree that the chances of a breakthrough are minuscule, and some say the whole exercise is simply a warm-up before Mr. Obama puts forward his own proposals for ending decades of conflict.”  Some say? But the president and Hillary Clinton of late have been promising they won’t “impose” any peace deal. Are we to believe that’s just spin? Yes, we’re shocked, shocked to find there’s duplicity going on in the Obami’s Israel policy. We are, no doubt, going to hear that they gave the parties every chance to work things out among themselves, but, by gosh, now it’s time to get serious and — voila! — here’s the Obama plan. But they promised not to pull this, you say? Well, they also say a nuclear-armed Iran is “unacceptable,” so don’t take them too literally.

But the real news comes with this glimpse into the bully-boyism that now characterizes the Obami’s treatment of our ally. We learn:

The Arab League is expected to endorse the decision of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, to return to the bargaining table, when the organization meets on Saturday in Cairo. Mr. Abbas’s change of heart, administration officials said, came after reassurances from the United States, including a letter from Mr. Obama prodding the Palestinian leader to re-enter talks with Israel. Separately, these officials said, Mr. Mitchell’s deputy, David Hale, indicated to the Palestinians that if Israel proceeded with the construction of 1,600 housing units in Jerusalem’s ultra-orthodox neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, the United States would abstain from, rather than veto, a resolution in the United Nations Security Council condemning the move.

So much for defending Israel in international institutions, and so much for past promises by the U.S. to leave disposition of Jerusalem to final-status talks. A knowledgeable source reminds me that the Bush administration regularly vetoed anti-Israel UN resolutions, the sole exception being an abstention in January 2009, which called for a ceasefire in the Gaza War. But the notion that we would threaten prospectively to permit a condemnation of  the Jewish state by the UN Israel-bashers is frankly shocking. We’ll abstain no matter what the UN says? As the source tells me, “Resolutions are vetoed one by one; language counts.” So the Obami are either making a promise to the Palestinians that can’t be relied upon, or the Obami are giving Israel’s UN foes a blank check to bash, condemn, and vilify Israel to their heart’s content.

Once again, one asks, where are the mainstream Jewish organizations? Do they find Obama’s platitudinous assurances and pretty letters so irresistible that they can’t bestir themselves to discern the true nature of Obama’s Middle East policy? The evidence continues to mount that Obama will keep turning the screws on the Jewish state and will countenance, if not encourage, the UN’s crusade to delegitimize Israel and impose a “peace” on an unwilling ally. American Jewish “leaders” better rouse themselves from their slumber before it too late to knock the Obami off their desired course. Or maybe it already is.

The New York Times reports on the opening of the proximity talks, with two nuggets of news confirming that for all its “charm,” the Obami’s anti-Israel assault is going full steam ahead.

First, the Times — presumably with some sourcing — pronounces that “many experts agree that the chances of a breakthrough are minuscule, and some say the whole exercise is simply a warm-up before Mr. Obama puts forward his own proposals for ending decades of conflict.”  Some say? But the president and Hillary Clinton of late have been promising they won’t “impose” any peace deal. Are we to believe that’s just spin? Yes, we’re shocked, shocked to find there’s duplicity going on in the Obami’s Israel policy. We are, no doubt, going to hear that they gave the parties every chance to work things out among themselves, but, by gosh, now it’s time to get serious and — voila! — here’s the Obama plan. But they promised not to pull this, you say? Well, they also say a nuclear-armed Iran is “unacceptable,” so don’t take them too literally.

But the real news comes with this glimpse into the bully-boyism that now characterizes the Obami’s treatment of our ally. We learn:

The Arab League is expected to endorse the decision of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, to return to the bargaining table, when the organization meets on Saturday in Cairo. Mr. Abbas’s change of heart, administration officials said, came after reassurances from the United States, including a letter from Mr. Obama prodding the Palestinian leader to re-enter talks with Israel. Separately, these officials said, Mr. Mitchell’s deputy, David Hale, indicated to the Palestinians that if Israel proceeded with the construction of 1,600 housing units in Jerusalem’s ultra-orthodox neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, the United States would abstain from, rather than veto, a resolution in the United Nations Security Council condemning the move.

So much for defending Israel in international institutions, and so much for past promises by the U.S. to leave disposition of Jerusalem to final-status talks. A knowledgeable source reminds me that the Bush administration regularly vetoed anti-Israel UN resolutions, the sole exception being an abstention in January 2009, which called for a ceasefire in the Gaza War. But the notion that we would threaten prospectively to permit a condemnation of  the Jewish state by the UN Israel-bashers is frankly shocking. We’ll abstain no matter what the UN says? As the source tells me, “Resolutions are vetoed one by one; language counts.” So the Obami are either making a promise to the Palestinians that can’t be relied upon, or the Obami are giving Israel’s UN foes a blank check to bash, condemn, and vilify Israel to their heart’s content.

Once again, one asks, where are the mainstream Jewish organizations? Do they find Obama’s platitudinous assurances and pretty letters so irresistible that they can’t bestir themselves to discern the true nature of Obama’s Middle East policy? The evidence continues to mount that Obama will keep turning the screws on the Jewish state and will countenance, if not encourage, the UN’s crusade to delegitimize Israel and impose a “peace” on an unwilling ally. American Jewish “leaders” better rouse themselves from their slumber before it too late to knock the Obami off their desired course. Or maybe it already is.

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Obama Does the Palestinians No Favors

One disastrous result among many of Obama’s assault on Israel has been to reduce Mahmoud Abbas’s stature and deal-making ability. That seems counterintuitive; Obama is now parroting the Palestinian line and doing their bargaining for them. But Elliott Abrams spots signs that all of this has merely paralyzed Abbas and reduced to him to vassal-like status while elevating the authority of Arab obstructionists. He writes:

First, Abbas is now refusing to make any decision about peace, instead deferring to Arab states. With all the talk about the critical importance of Palestinian independence, this is a giant–even historic–step backwards. His motivations are not complex: He wants to avoid Palestinian and wider Arab criticism. As long as he follows Arab League strictures he will. But the price paid is hugely reduced flexibility, and a return to the days when the Palestinians were under the control of Arab states rather than masters of their own future.

Second, putting the Arab League in charge magnifies the influence of bad actors. To get negotiations going, the Obama administration now has to convince not only Abbas, but Bashar al Assad. Perhaps this helps explain why George Mitchell has visited Damascus and why the administration persists in “outreach” to Syria despite its continuing evil conduct (most recently, reports of the shipment of Scud missiles to Hezbollah). Having committed itself to the “peace process,” the administration simply cannot afford to treat Syria as it deserves; Syria has too much clout now.

So to review the handiwork of the Obami: they have taken a wrecking ball to the U.S.-Israel relationship, emboldened and empowered Syria and its senior partner Iran, distracted us from the most critical issue in the Middle East (Iran’s nuclear program), encouraged Palestinian rejectionism and victimology, and demonstrated that the U.S. is a feckless ally. It’s remarkable that so much damage could be done in a mere fifteen months. Is the Middle East closer to peace or to war (multiple ones, in fact)? Is the peace process reducing or inflaming tensions? The likes of Roger Cohen and George Mitchell would have us celebrate the good intentions of Obama; but whatever Obama’s intentions, he must — and will — be judged on the results of his approach, which are potentially catastrophic for Israel’s security and for ours. And really, he has not even helped the cause of his Palestinian clients. No wonder his spinners would rather coo over his intentions.

One disastrous result among many of Obama’s assault on Israel has been to reduce Mahmoud Abbas’s stature and deal-making ability. That seems counterintuitive; Obama is now parroting the Palestinian line and doing their bargaining for them. But Elliott Abrams spots signs that all of this has merely paralyzed Abbas and reduced to him to vassal-like status while elevating the authority of Arab obstructionists. He writes:

First, Abbas is now refusing to make any decision about peace, instead deferring to Arab states. With all the talk about the critical importance of Palestinian independence, this is a giant–even historic–step backwards. His motivations are not complex: He wants to avoid Palestinian and wider Arab criticism. As long as he follows Arab League strictures he will. But the price paid is hugely reduced flexibility, and a return to the days when the Palestinians were under the control of Arab states rather than masters of their own future.

Second, putting the Arab League in charge magnifies the influence of bad actors. To get negotiations going, the Obama administration now has to convince not only Abbas, but Bashar al Assad. Perhaps this helps explain why George Mitchell has visited Damascus and why the administration persists in “outreach” to Syria despite its continuing evil conduct (most recently, reports of the shipment of Scud missiles to Hezbollah). Having committed itself to the “peace process,” the administration simply cannot afford to treat Syria as it deserves; Syria has too much clout now.

So to review the handiwork of the Obami: they have taken a wrecking ball to the U.S.-Israel relationship, emboldened and empowered Syria and its senior partner Iran, distracted us from the most critical issue in the Middle East (Iran’s nuclear program), encouraged Palestinian rejectionism and victimology, and demonstrated that the U.S. is a feckless ally. It’s remarkable that so much damage could be done in a mere fifteen months. Is the Middle East closer to peace or to war (multiple ones, in fact)? Is the peace process reducing or inflaming tensions? The likes of Roger Cohen and George Mitchell would have us celebrate the good intentions of Obama; but whatever Obama’s intentions, he must — and will — be judged on the results of his approach, which are potentially catastrophic for Israel’s security and for ours. And really, he has not even helped the cause of his Palestinian clients. No wonder his spinners would rather coo over his intentions.

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There Could Have Been Two Independence Days

Today is the celebration of Israel’s Independence Day, which commemorates something as close to a miracle as we are ever likely to see — the re-creation of an ancient state in the Land in which it stood 2,000 years before, the resurrection of an ancient language to provide for common discourse, the ingathering of millions of exiles who had no other place to live, the creation of a democracy that extended citizenship not only to Jews but also to Arabs in the midst of an Arab war to destroy the state, the safeguarding of all holy places of all religions and the provision of free access to them, the creation and maintenance of a free and vibrant civil society while under continuous terrorist attack and multiple genocidal wars, and the growth of the nation from a third-world economy into one of the most technologically advanced in the world. It is no exaggeration to say, in the words of Hillel Halkin, that “for all its shortcomings and mistakes, Israel is and will always be one of the most glorious historical adventures in the history of mankind.”

But didn’t this new state cause the creation of a new group of refugees, whose own plight remains unresolved 62 years later? The short answer is “no,” but the longer answer is one that many have forgotten or in some cases may not have been permitted to know. The Jewish Press excerpts on its front page Israeli UN Ambassador Abba Eban’s November 17, 1958, speech to the General Assembly’s Special Political Committee (worth reading in its entirety), which began as follows:

The Arab refugee problem was caused by a war of aggression, launched by the Arab states against Israel in 1947 and 1948. … If there had been no war against Israel, with its consequent harvest of bloodshed, misery, panic and flight, there would be no problem of Arab refugees today.

Once you determine the responsibility for that war, you have determined the responsibility for the refugee problem. Nothing in the history of our generation is clearer or less controversial than the initiative of Arab governments for the conflict out of which the refugee tragedy emerged. …

“This will be a war of extermination,” declared the secretary-general of the Arab League speaking for the governments of six Arab states, “it will be a momentous massacre to be spoken of like the Mongolian massacre and the Crusades.”

The assault began on the last day of November 1947. From then until the expiration of the British Mandate in May 1948 the Arab states, in concert with Palestine Arab leaders, plunged the land into turmoil and chaos. On the day of Israel’s Declaration of Independence, the armed forces of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, supported by contingents from Saudi Arabia and the Yemen, crossed their frontiers and marched against Israel.

The tragedy of the Palestinians is that they could have been celebrating today the 62nd anniversary of their own state as well. But 62 years ago, they rejected a two-state solution and commenced the first of multiple wars to extinguish the other one. They have rejected multiple offers of a state since then. Six decades after their first war, they are left without a state but with the refugees created by their attempt to destroy the Jewish one. It is a nakba, but it is not one that Israel caused.

Today is the celebration of Israel’s Independence Day, which commemorates something as close to a miracle as we are ever likely to see — the re-creation of an ancient state in the Land in which it stood 2,000 years before, the resurrection of an ancient language to provide for common discourse, the ingathering of millions of exiles who had no other place to live, the creation of a democracy that extended citizenship not only to Jews but also to Arabs in the midst of an Arab war to destroy the state, the safeguarding of all holy places of all religions and the provision of free access to them, the creation and maintenance of a free and vibrant civil society while under continuous terrorist attack and multiple genocidal wars, and the growth of the nation from a third-world economy into one of the most technologically advanced in the world. It is no exaggeration to say, in the words of Hillel Halkin, that “for all its shortcomings and mistakes, Israel is and will always be one of the most glorious historical adventures in the history of mankind.”

But didn’t this new state cause the creation of a new group of refugees, whose own plight remains unresolved 62 years later? The short answer is “no,” but the longer answer is one that many have forgotten or in some cases may not have been permitted to know. The Jewish Press excerpts on its front page Israeli UN Ambassador Abba Eban’s November 17, 1958, speech to the General Assembly’s Special Political Committee (worth reading in its entirety), which began as follows:

The Arab refugee problem was caused by a war of aggression, launched by the Arab states against Israel in 1947 and 1948. … If there had been no war against Israel, with its consequent harvest of bloodshed, misery, panic and flight, there would be no problem of Arab refugees today.

Once you determine the responsibility for that war, you have determined the responsibility for the refugee problem. Nothing in the history of our generation is clearer or less controversial than the initiative of Arab governments for the conflict out of which the refugee tragedy emerged. …

“This will be a war of extermination,” declared the secretary-general of the Arab League speaking for the governments of six Arab states, “it will be a momentous massacre to be spoken of like the Mongolian massacre and the Crusades.”

The assault began on the last day of November 1947. From then until the expiration of the British Mandate in May 1948 the Arab states, in concert with Palestine Arab leaders, plunged the land into turmoil and chaos. On the day of Israel’s Declaration of Independence, the armed forces of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, supported by contingents from Saudi Arabia and the Yemen, crossed their frontiers and marched against Israel.

The tragedy of the Palestinians is that they could have been celebrating today the 62nd anniversary of their own state as well. But 62 years ago, they rejected a two-state solution and commenced the first of multiple wars to extinguish the other one. They have rejected multiple offers of a state since then. Six decades after their first war, they are left without a state but with the refugees created by their attempt to destroy the Jewish one. It is a nakba, but it is not one that Israel caused.

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Playing with Fire in the Levant

The National, a paper in the UAE, fleshes out the Scud missile story:

Although US officials contacted by The National could not completely confirm that such technology had been transferred to Hizbollah by Syria, one official privy to intelligence briefings confirmed a story previously reported in the Israeli press that in the weeks before Senator John Kerry’s visit to Damascus on April 1, Israel almost bombed what it claimed was a convoy of advanced weaponry headed from Syrian military bases to Hizbollah along the shared border with Lebanon.

“I can’t promise you that planes were actually in the air, but it was close, very close,” said the official. “The White House had to talk them down from the attack and promised that Kerry would use strong language” with the Syrian president, Bashar Assad.

When asked about the outcome of the meeting between Mr Kerry and Mr Assad on the issue, the source tartly responded: “In light of where we are now, what do you think?”

As Tony Badran points out, Bashar Assad “is known to have a penchant for brinksmanship.” In this case, he appears to have been saved from the consequences of a particularly foolish gambit by the Obama administration.

But this doesn’t mean the red line hasn’t been crossed. Syria is in fact now in more danger than the Israelis. The IDF’s Arrow missile-defense system can knock Scuds out of the sky with great reliability, so they don’t pose a tremendous a threat. What they do provide to Israel is an opportunity — and they impose a requirement. The fact that they were transferred to Hezbollah in violation of tacit but well-understood red lines gives Israel clear and credible casus belli, should hostilities break out, to expand any conflict to Syria.

The crossing of the Scud-missile red line carries its own inexorable logic: since Syria has chosen to become a provider of military-grade weapons to Hezbollah, Israel has little choice but to include Syria in any future war with Hezbollah. And if Israel goes to war with Syria, there will be little rationale, given the risks involved and the immense reward of ridding the region of Iran’s only ally, from going for regime change.

Badran:

The Syrian president made a telling remark at the last Arab League summit to the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas. He observed that “the price of resistance is not higher than the price of peace.” And therein lays the problem. Assad has not been made to feel that the costs of continued destabilization can be prohibitive. Instead, all he gets from Washington are weak statements in response to his actions.

What Barack Obama appears not to understand is that the harder he presses Israel and the more he protects Syria, the more self-reliant Israel has to become — and that is going to involve things that Obama might discover he dislikes more than close relations with the Jewish state.

The National, a paper in the UAE, fleshes out the Scud missile story:

Although US officials contacted by The National could not completely confirm that such technology had been transferred to Hizbollah by Syria, one official privy to intelligence briefings confirmed a story previously reported in the Israeli press that in the weeks before Senator John Kerry’s visit to Damascus on April 1, Israel almost bombed what it claimed was a convoy of advanced weaponry headed from Syrian military bases to Hizbollah along the shared border with Lebanon.

“I can’t promise you that planes were actually in the air, but it was close, very close,” said the official. “The White House had to talk them down from the attack and promised that Kerry would use strong language” with the Syrian president, Bashar Assad.

When asked about the outcome of the meeting between Mr Kerry and Mr Assad on the issue, the source tartly responded: “In light of where we are now, what do you think?”

As Tony Badran points out, Bashar Assad “is known to have a penchant for brinksmanship.” In this case, he appears to have been saved from the consequences of a particularly foolish gambit by the Obama administration.

But this doesn’t mean the red line hasn’t been crossed. Syria is in fact now in more danger than the Israelis. The IDF’s Arrow missile-defense system can knock Scuds out of the sky with great reliability, so they don’t pose a tremendous a threat. What they do provide to Israel is an opportunity — and they impose a requirement. The fact that they were transferred to Hezbollah in violation of tacit but well-understood red lines gives Israel clear and credible casus belli, should hostilities break out, to expand any conflict to Syria.

The crossing of the Scud-missile red line carries its own inexorable logic: since Syria has chosen to become a provider of military-grade weapons to Hezbollah, Israel has little choice but to include Syria in any future war with Hezbollah. And if Israel goes to war with Syria, there will be little rationale, given the risks involved and the immense reward of ridding the region of Iran’s only ally, from going for regime change.

Badran:

The Syrian president made a telling remark at the last Arab League summit to the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas. He observed that “the price of resistance is not higher than the price of peace.” And therein lays the problem. Assad has not been made to feel that the costs of continued destabilization can be prohibitive. Instead, all he gets from Washington are weak statements in response to his actions.

What Barack Obama appears not to understand is that the harder he presses Israel and the more he protects Syria, the more self-reliant Israel has to become — and that is going to involve things that Obama might discover he dislikes more than close relations with the Jewish state.

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Realpolitik in Our Time

Jennifer’s dissection of the New York Times piece on the emerging Obama Doctrine is masterful. One thing I would observe about “realpolitik,” however, is that its self-conscious practitioners tend to leave big piles of unintended consequences in their wake. In that sense, Obama is indeed in the realpolitik mold. Invoking realpolitik has, moreover, become a form of shorthand for commentators who want to express approval of an essentially weak foreign policy without going to the trouble of explaining why weak is the new strong.

On the unintended-consequences front, Syria has now requited the Obama realpolitik approach with a transfer of Scud missiles to Hezbollah. Syria’s Scuds are old but retain the effectiveness to pose a serious threat to Israel’s population. They are, in fact, a population threat and not a military one: they aren’t accurate enough for precision targeting. They were originally designed to create havoc behind an enemy’s front lines in a theater-scale war. In the hands of a terrorist organization, they will be used to amplify the anti-population threat posed by shorter-range rockets. Scuds carry a significantly bigger payload than the Katyusha rockets frequently used by Hezbollah and can deliver chemical as well as conventional warheads. Syria is known to have a chemical weapons program, but I consider it unlikely that its leadership will supply chemical warheads to Hezbollah – at least for now.

News outlets are not overstating the matter in assessing that this move changes the military balance in the Middle East. It puts state-level military might in the hands of an unaccountable sub-national terrorist group. Israel is now faced with the dilemma of what and how much to do about it. The worst option is to do too little.

A quiescent geopolitical environment – one in which he doesn’t expect to face consequences – is what enables Bashar al-Assad to do this. The Scud transfer is the first of the threatening moves augured by the Arab League summit in March, where indignation over Israeli policy in Jerusalem was the unifying theme. And among Syria’s objectives with this weapons transfer is probing the U.S. reaction. American policy has set boundaries since 1945 on what other nations consider possible in the Middle East. Assad is calculating that the implications inherent in this weapons deployment do not exceed the tolerance limits of Obama’s America.

He seems to have good reason to do so. Whether this move is the harbinger of a missile attack or a means of positioning Hezbollah to negotiate concessions from Israel, it exploits a growing sense in the Middle East that the U.S. won’t intervene to avert latent threats before they become deadly peril for our allies. Too often that is the signal realpolitik sends. Obama has only amplified it with his disdain for our allies, his urgency about withdrawing our forces from the Middle East, his ineffective attempts to get around the Russian veto on our missile defenses, and his determined pursuit of a disadvantageous and unenforceable START treaty.

Jennifer’s dissection of the New York Times piece on the emerging Obama Doctrine is masterful. One thing I would observe about “realpolitik,” however, is that its self-conscious practitioners tend to leave big piles of unintended consequences in their wake. In that sense, Obama is indeed in the realpolitik mold. Invoking realpolitik has, moreover, become a form of shorthand for commentators who want to express approval of an essentially weak foreign policy without going to the trouble of explaining why weak is the new strong.

On the unintended-consequences front, Syria has now requited the Obama realpolitik approach with a transfer of Scud missiles to Hezbollah. Syria’s Scuds are old but retain the effectiveness to pose a serious threat to Israel’s population. They are, in fact, a population threat and not a military one: they aren’t accurate enough for precision targeting. They were originally designed to create havoc behind an enemy’s front lines in a theater-scale war. In the hands of a terrorist organization, they will be used to amplify the anti-population threat posed by shorter-range rockets. Scuds carry a significantly bigger payload than the Katyusha rockets frequently used by Hezbollah and can deliver chemical as well as conventional warheads. Syria is known to have a chemical weapons program, but I consider it unlikely that its leadership will supply chemical warheads to Hezbollah – at least for now.

News outlets are not overstating the matter in assessing that this move changes the military balance in the Middle East. It puts state-level military might in the hands of an unaccountable sub-national terrorist group. Israel is now faced with the dilemma of what and how much to do about it. The worst option is to do too little.

A quiescent geopolitical environment – one in which he doesn’t expect to face consequences – is what enables Bashar al-Assad to do this. The Scud transfer is the first of the threatening moves augured by the Arab League summit in March, where indignation over Israeli policy in Jerusalem was the unifying theme. And among Syria’s objectives with this weapons transfer is probing the U.S. reaction. American policy has set boundaries since 1945 on what other nations consider possible in the Middle East. Assad is calculating that the implications inherent in this weapons deployment do not exceed the tolerance limits of Obama’s America.

He seems to have good reason to do so. Whether this move is the harbinger of a missile attack or a means of positioning Hezbollah to negotiate concessions from Israel, it exploits a growing sense in the Middle East that the U.S. won’t intervene to avert latent threats before they become deadly peril for our allies. Too often that is the signal realpolitik sends. Obama has only amplified it with his disdain for our allies, his urgency about withdrawing our forces from the Middle East, his ineffective attempts to get around the Russian veto on our missile defenses, and his determined pursuit of a disadvantageous and unenforceable START treaty.

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Why Didn’t Obama Call Off the Ambush?

There is an obvious reason why the Israeli prime minister canceled his attendance at President Obama’s nuclear security summit: he sought to avoid a combined Egyptian and Turkish attack on Israel’s nuclear program.

But there is an important follow-up question that is of far greater consequence: why do Egypt and Turkey, both American allies, feel at liberty to show up in Washington D.C. at a conference organized by the U.S. president and dump on one of America’s closest allies?

This latest incident is not really about Israel’s relations with Egypt and Turkey; both countries can be counted on to take cheap shots at Israel whenever they can, especially the increasingly Islamist Turkey. The critical issue is why they believed they had a green light to engage in such theatrics. Upon hearing of the ambush they were planning, Obama or Clinton could have sent a very clear message to the Turkish prime minister and the Egyptian dictator: “You either come to Washington and behave yourselves, or stay home. This is a respectable conference, not a platform for anti-Israel grandstanding.”

But clearly, Obama made no such call, and clearly he did not instruct the secretary of state to deliver a 43-minute tongue-lashing to the leaders of either country, as she has recently shown herself capable of doing. There are two possible explanations, and I’m not sure which is more disturbing. Obama either welcomed the prospect of another humiliation of Netanyahu, or he was afraid to stand up to two Muslim leaders. Perhaps both are true.

In his pettiness, Obama has once again lost perspective on what really matters. What could have been a useful opportunity to present a unified front against Iran’s nuclear ambitions has now descended into a spectacle of pointless drama not terribly dissimilar from a meeting of the Arab League. In his decision to indulge Middle East leaders in their obsessive desire to castigate Israel, Obama has once again shown his utter lack of interest in confronting the real threat to America’s national security.

There is an obvious reason why the Israeli prime minister canceled his attendance at President Obama’s nuclear security summit: he sought to avoid a combined Egyptian and Turkish attack on Israel’s nuclear program.

But there is an important follow-up question that is of far greater consequence: why do Egypt and Turkey, both American allies, feel at liberty to show up in Washington D.C. at a conference organized by the U.S. president and dump on one of America’s closest allies?

This latest incident is not really about Israel’s relations with Egypt and Turkey; both countries can be counted on to take cheap shots at Israel whenever they can, especially the increasingly Islamist Turkey. The critical issue is why they believed they had a green light to engage in such theatrics. Upon hearing of the ambush they were planning, Obama or Clinton could have sent a very clear message to the Turkish prime minister and the Egyptian dictator: “You either come to Washington and behave yourselves, or stay home. This is a respectable conference, not a platform for anti-Israel grandstanding.”

But clearly, Obama made no such call, and clearly he did not instruct the secretary of state to deliver a 43-minute tongue-lashing to the leaders of either country, as she has recently shown herself capable of doing. There are two possible explanations, and I’m not sure which is more disturbing. Obama either welcomed the prospect of another humiliation of Netanyahu, or he was afraid to stand up to two Muslim leaders. Perhaps both are true.

In his pettiness, Obama has once again lost perspective on what really matters. What could have been a useful opportunity to present a unified front against Iran’s nuclear ambitions has now descended into a spectacle of pointless drama not terribly dissimilar from a meeting of the Arab League. In his decision to indulge Middle East leaders in their obsessive desire to castigate Israel, Obama has once again shown his utter lack of interest in confronting the real threat to America’s national security.

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Obama Legacy Watch

As Jennifer points out, Syria joined Libya at the Arab League summit this weekend in egging on the Palestinian Arabs to quit the peace process with Israel. There were many ominous references at the summit to the probable failure of the current peace process, but the League reached no unified resolution on a way ahead for the Palestinian question. Arab news outlets derided this lack of resolution as a missed opportunity to declare the peace process dead and take a harder line with Israel. But there was no question among observers that, as Al Jazeera proclaimed, “Israel dominated the summit.”

This isn’t surprising, of course, but in the larger context of regional dynamics, it’s a bad sign. With Iran supporting insurgencies in Yemen and Lebanon, establishing a military presence in the Red Sea, and nearing a nuclear breakout, the summit’s histrionic focus on housing construction in a part of Jerusalem that has never even been on the bargaining table has a somewhat demented air about it.

The League didn’t ignore Iran, however. On Saturday, Egypt’s Amr Moussa, the Arab League’s secretary-general, reiterated his call for a regional negotiating forum with Iran. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan endorsed the Moussa proposal — which includes Turkey as a forum participant — with alacrity. Erdogan himself was present at the summit and made headlines with his official address on Sunday, in which he referred to Israel’s stance on Jerusalem as “madness.” He then pointedly appropriated a biblical allusion — “Jerusalem is the apple of the eye of each and every Muslim” — and pretty much put to rest any doubts about his partisan posture. (Not that there were many doubts remaining after his March 7 proclamation that Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs “were not and never will be Jewish sites, but Islamic sites.”)

Barack Obama’s legacy is beginning to emerge. An Al Jazeera editorial writer made this telling statement in a background article on the Arab summit on Friday: “Arab leaders often meet in order to follow U.S. dictates.” We in the U.S. don’t think that’s true, naturally, but the overstatement does get at the underlying truth that U.S. policy has for several decades set boundaries on what the Middle East’s various actors consider possible. In countering the Soviet Union, affirming Israel’s right to exist, containing Iran, and keeping the seaways open, American policy has set the conditions in which the nations of the region operated.

The irresolution of this weekend’s summit is an indication that the Arab League’s members aren’t sure yet what boundaries are implied by Obama’s policy. But after 14 months of it, Turkey’s overtly Islamist posture is hardening and its commitment to secularism is being dismantled. The Arab League is talking seriously about launching a negotiating forum with Iran, precisely because of the impotence of U.S. policy. And the League is pessimistic about the future of the peace process, unified on this point if on no other: that under current conditions, the Palestinians should not agree to rejoin sponsored talks of any kind.

As Jennifer points out, Syria joined Libya at the Arab League summit this weekend in egging on the Palestinian Arabs to quit the peace process with Israel. There were many ominous references at the summit to the probable failure of the current peace process, but the League reached no unified resolution on a way ahead for the Palestinian question. Arab news outlets derided this lack of resolution as a missed opportunity to declare the peace process dead and take a harder line with Israel. But there was no question among observers that, as Al Jazeera proclaimed, “Israel dominated the summit.”

This isn’t surprising, of course, but in the larger context of regional dynamics, it’s a bad sign. With Iran supporting insurgencies in Yemen and Lebanon, establishing a military presence in the Red Sea, and nearing a nuclear breakout, the summit’s histrionic focus on housing construction in a part of Jerusalem that has never even been on the bargaining table has a somewhat demented air about it.

The League didn’t ignore Iran, however. On Saturday, Egypt’s Amr Moussa, the Arab League’s secretary-general, reiterated his call for a regional negotiating forum with Iran. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan endorsed the Moussa proposal — which includes Turkey as a forum participant — with alacrity. Erdogan himself was present at the summit and made headlines with his official address on Sunday, in which he referred to Israel’s stance on Jerusalem as “madness.” He then pointedly appropriated a biblical allusion — “Jerusalem is the apple of the eye of each and every Muslim” — and pretty much put to rest any doubts about his partisan posture. (Not that there were many doubts remaining after his March 7 proclamation that Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs “were not and never will be Jewish sites, but Islamic sites.”)

Barack Obama’s legacy is beginning to emerge. An Al Jazeera editorial writer made this telling statement in a background article on the Arab summit on Friday: “Arab leaders often meet in order to follow U.S. dictates.” We in the U.S. don’t think that’s true, naturally, but the overstatement does get at the underlying truth that U.S. policy has for several decades set boundaries on what the Middle East’s various actors consider possible. In countering the Soviet Union, affirming Israel’s right to exist, containing Iran, and keeping the seaways open, American policy has set the conditions in which the nations of the region operated.

The irresolution of this weekend’s summit is an indication that the Arab League’s members aren’t sure yet what boundaries are implied by Obama’s policy. But after 14 months of it, Turkey’s overtly Islamist posture is hardening and its commitment to secularism is being dismantled. The Arab League is talking seriously about launching a negotiating forum with Iran, precisely because of the impotence of U.S. policy. And the League is pessimistic about the future of the peace process, unified on this point if on no other: that under current conditions, the Palestinians should not agree to rejoin sponsored talks of any kind.

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Hostility to Israel Plays out

Given the Obami’s assault on Israel’s building in its eternal capital, this should come as no surprise:

The chief of the Arab League warned Saturday that Israel’s actions could bring about a final end to the Middle East peace process. Amr Moussa urged an Arab leadership summit in Libya on Saturday to forge a new strategy to pressure Israel, saying the peace process could not be “an open ended process.”

“We must prepare for the possibility that the peace process will be a complete failure,” Moussa said. “This is the time to stand up to Israel. We must find alternative options, because the situation appears to have reached a turning point.”

Speaking at the event, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said there would be no peace agreement without ending the occupation of Palestinian land, first and foremost east Jerusalem. He accused Prime Minster Binyamin Netanyahu’s government of trying to create a de facto situation in Jerusalem that would torpedo any future peace settlement.

Then the increasingly Islamic-tilting Turkish government gets into the act:

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a guest at the summit, said in his speech that the Israeli “violation” of peace in Jerusalem and Muslim holy sites was unacceptable. Erdogan said that the Israeli position defining the whole of Jerusalem as its united capital was “madness.” Israeli construction in east Jerusalem was completely unjustified, he said

The UN, of course, can’t be left out of the Israel bash-a-thon. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pipes up:

Ban called for the lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip which has created an “unacceptable and unsustainable” situation on the ground.Ban reiterated his condemnation of settlement activity in east Jerusalem, describing the settlements as “illegal.” “Like all of you, I was deeply dismayed when Israel advanced planning to build 1,600 housing units in East Jerusalem. There are several other recent unilateral actions as well,” Ban said noting Israel”s recent announcement of plans to construct another 20 dwellings and tensions surrounding the Al-Aqsa mosque, among others.

This is not only predictable; it is frankly by design — the Obami’s bully-boy pressure tactics encourage others to pile on. Obama thereby endears (he supposes) the U.S. administration to the “international community” — which, of course, seeks not a secure and peaceful Israel but a hamstrung and delegitimized (if not entirely eradicated) one.

As Bill Kristol explains, the Obami’s anti-Israel bent is no accident but part of his larger approach, which seeks realignment in Middle East policy as Obama becomes not the leader of a single nation or even of the alliance of democracies but the wise mediator for all humanity:

And there’s no better way to be a leader of humanity than to show disapproval of the Jewish state. Sure, Obama’s turn against Israel will make it less likely that Palestinians will negotiate seriously with her. Sure, it will embolden radical Arabs and Muslims against those who would like their nations to take a different, more responsible, course. Sure, it’s a distraction from the real challenge of Iran. But the turn against Israel is ultimately a key part of what Obamaism is all about. That’s why there’s been so little attempt by the administration to reassure friends of Israel that Obama has been acting more in sorrow than in anger. Obama’s proud of his anger at the stiff-necked Jewish state. It puts him in sync with the rest of the world.

In this, we see the intersection of Obama’s multilateralism, his aversion to American exceptionalism, his fetish with his own international popularity, his obsession with engaging despots, his disinterest in promoting human rights, and his hostility toward the Jewish state. They are interlocking pieces in the greater Obama vision — each reenforces the other and makes more precarious the security of not only Israel but also the United States. Obama may suppose he is making America more popular or reducing conflict with rogue states, but instead, he is fueling the ambitions of aggressive despots and frittering away America’s moral standing. We are abetting an international free-for-all as the world’s bullies look for openings to assert themselves and to show just how dangerous it is to be a small democratic ally of the U.S.

Given the Obami’s assault on Israel’s building in its eternal capital, this should come as no surprise:

The chief of the Arab League warned Saturday that Israel’s actions could bring about a final end to the Middle East peace process. Amr Moussa urged an Arab leadership summit in Libya on Saturday to forge a new strategy to pressure Israel, saying the peace process could not be “an open ended process.”

“We must prepare for the possibility that the peace process will be a complete failure,” Moussa said. “This is the time to stand up to Israel. We must find alternative options, because the situation appears to have reached a turning point.”

Speaking at the event, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said there would be no peace agreement without ending the occupation of Palestinian land, first and foremost east Jerusalem. He accused Prime Minster Binyamin Netanyahu’s government of trying to create a de facto situation in Jerusalem that would torpedo any future peace settlement.

Then the increasingly Islamic-tilting Turkish government gets into the act:

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a guest at the summit, said in his speech that the Israeli “violation” of peace in Jerusalem and Muslim holy sites was unacceptable. Erdogan said that the Israeli position defining the whole of Jerusalem as its united capital was “madness.” Israeli construction in east Jerusalem was completely unjustified, he said

The UN, of course, can’t be left out of the Israel bash-a-thon. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pipes up:

Ban called for the lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip which has created an “unacceptable and unsustainable” situation on the ground.Ban reiterated his condemnation of settlement activity in east Jerusalem, describing the settlements as “illegal.” “Like all of you, I was deeply dismayed when Israel advanced planning to build 1,600 housing units in East Jerusalem. There are several other recent unilateral actions as well,” Ban said noting Israel”s recent announcement of plans to construct another 20 dwellings and tensions surrounding the Al-Aqsa mosque, among others.

This is not only predictable; it is frankly by design — the Obami’s bully-boy pressure tactics encourage others to pile on. Obama thereby endears (he supposes) the U.S. administration to the “international community” — which, of course, seeks not a secure and peaceful Israel but a hamstrung and delegitimized (if not entirely eradicated) one.

As Bill Kristol explains, the Obami’s anti-Israel bent is no accident but part of his larger approach, which seeks realignment in Middle East policy as Obama becomes not the leader of a single nation or even of the alliance of democracies but the wise mediator for all humanity:

And there’s no better way to be a leader of humanity than to show disapproval of the Jewish state. Sure, Obama’s turn against Israel will make it less likely that Palestinians will negotiate seriously with her. Sure, it will embolden radical Arabs and Muslims against those who would like their nations to take a different, more responsible, course. Sure, it’s a distraction from the real challenge of Iran. But the turn against Israel is ultimately a key part of what Obamaism is all about. That’s why there’s been so little attempt by the administration to reassure friends of Israel that Obama has been acting more in sorrow than in anger. Obama’s proud of his anger at the stiff-necked Jewish state. It puts him in sync with the rest of the world.

In this, we see the intersection of Obama’s multilateralism, his aversion to American exceptionalism, his fetish with his own international popularity, his obsession with engaging despots, his disinterest in promoting human rights, and his hostility toward the Jewish state. They are interlocking pieces in the greater Obama vision — each reenforces the other and makes more precarious the security of not only Israel but also the United States. Obama may suppose he is making America more popular or reducing conflict with rogue states, but instead, he is fueling the ambitions of aggressive despots and frittering away America’s moral standing. We are abetting an international free-for-all as the world’s bullies look for openings to assert themselves and to show just how dangerous it is to be a small democratic ally of the U.S.

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What Did You Do?

As Jonathan has noted, we don’t know exactly how shabby the Obami’s behavior toward Bibi Netanyahu was. It is cause for alarm if it was remotely like this:

After failing to extract a written promise of concessions on Jewish settlements, Mr Obama walked out of his meeting with Mr Netanyahu but invited him to stay at the White House, consult with advisors and “let me know if there is anything new”, a US congressman who spoke to the Prime Minister said today.

“It was awful,” the congressman said. One Israeli newspaper called the meeting “a hazing in stages”, poisoned by such mistrust that the Israeli delegation eventually left rather than risk being eavesdropped on a White House phone line. Another said that the Prime Minister had received “the treatment reserved for the President of Equatorial Guinea”.

But even if lacking the abject rudeness, both the projected air of chilliness and the ensuing deadlines that we have learned have been imposed on the Israeli government are enough to confirm that the relationship between the two countries is anything but “rock solid,” as Hillary Clinton claimed during her AIPAC speech. This report suggests, at the very least, that the Obami are sticking with their modus operandi — preconditions and ultimatums for the Israelis, and water-carrying for the Palestinians:

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will convene his senior ministers on Friday to discuss the demands made by US President Barack Obama and his overall trip to Washington – a trip that, because of negative atmospherics and amid a paucity of hard information, has been widely characterized as among the most difficult in recent memory.

Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office continued to throw a blackout on the Netanyahu-Obama meeting, as well as give only very sketchy information about the commitments that the US is demanding of Israel as a precursor to starting the proximity talks with the Palestinians. The US, according to officials, wants these commitments by Saturday so it can take them to the Arab League meeting in Libya and receive that organization’s backing for starting proximity talks. …

According to various Israeli sources, the Obama administration is asking for Israel to commit to some type of limitation on building in east Jerusalem; to show a willingness to deal with the so-called core issues of borders, refugee and Jerusalem already in the indirect talks; and to agree to a number of confidence building measures, including the release of hundreds of Fatah prisoners.

There were also reports, not confirmed, that the administration had asked for a commitment to extend the moratorium on housing starts in the West Bank settlements beyond the 10-months originally declared.

Netanyahu reportedly wanted to know where the “reciprocity” was and why he was the one making all the concessions. (“Netanyahu, according to senior officials, said that while the US held him responsible for the timing of the announcement to build 1,600 units in Ramat Shlomo, rather than holding Interior Minister Eli Yishai responsible, Abbas was not held responsible when it came to the PA — which recently presided over the naming of a square in Ramallah for the terrorist responsible for the Coastal Road massacre.”) Well, had the Obami been honest, they would have said that they can’t get the Palestinians to agree to anything, so they’ve decided to squeeze the Israelis — even though this seems only to increase the Palestinians’ demands for even more concessions. But, no, I don’t suppose the White House bullies were that candid.

All this makes clear just how disingenuous was Clinton’s entire appeal to AIPAC this week. She protested that it was Israel creating the daylight by announcing a routine housing permit. She pleaded that the fuss was needed to restore the administration’s credibility as an honest broker in the peace process. (Or was it to enhance its credibility to Iran? It’s hard to keep the excuses straight.) She assured the crowd that Israel’s security was paramount to the U.S. Then she declared that of course, of course an Iranian nuclear-weapons program was “unacceptable.” It all seems patently absurd as events continue to unfold.

It is not that the Obami fear daylight between the U.S. and Israel; it is that they flaunt it. It is not credibility as an honest broker that the Obami are establishing but rather fidelity to the Palestinian negotiating stance. And after all this, and the revelation that the proposed sanctions will be pinpricks at best, would any reasonable Israeli leader believe this administration will do everything (or even anything too strenuous) to remove the existential threat to the Jewish state?

The low point in the history of U.S.-Israel relations has come about not because of a housing permit but because we have a president fundamentally uninterested in retaining the robust, close relationship between the two countries that other administrations of both parties have cultivated. The Obami set out to separate the U.S. from Israel, to pressure and cajole the Jewish state, and to remake the U.S. into an eager suitor to the Muslim World. In the process, anti-Israel delegitimizing efforts have been unleashed as Israel’s enemies (and our own allies) sense that we have downgraded the relationship with the Jewish state, the Israeli public has come to distrust the administration, the American Jewish electorate is somewhere between stunned and horrified, and Israel is less secure and more isolated than ever before.

If mainstream Jewish organizations are serious about their stated mission, it is incumbent upon them to protest this state of affairs clearly and loudly and make their support for this president and his congressional enablers conditional, based on a change of policy in regard to Israel. Otherwise, they are enabling a potentially fatal assault on the security of the Jewish state. Silence is acquiescence; meekness is shameful. A generation from now, Jews will be asking those who led key American Jewish organizations, what did you do to protect Israel? What did you do to protest the creep toward a “containment” policy for a nuclear-armed Iran? They better have a good answer.

As Jonathan has noted, we don’t know exactly how shabby the Obami’s behavior toward Bibi Netanyahu was. It is cause for alarm if it was remotely like this:

After failing to extract a written promise of concessions on Jewish settlements, Mr Obama walked out of his meeting with Mr Netanyahu but invited him to stay at the White House, consult with advisors and “let me know if there is anything new”, a US congressman who spoke to the Prime Minister said today.

“It was awful,” the congressman said. One Israeli newspaper called the meeting “a hazing in stages”, poisoned by such mistrust that the Israeli delegation eventually left rather than risk being eavesdropped on a White House phone line. Another said that the Prime Minister had received “the treatment reserved for the President of Equatorial Guinea”.

But even if lacking the abject rudeness, both the projected air of chilliness and the ensuing deadlines that we have learned have been imposed on the Israeli government are enough to confirm that the relationship between the two countries is anything but “rock solid,” as Hillary Clinton claimed during her AIPAC speech. This report suggests, at the very least, that the Obami are sticking with their modus operandi — preconditions and ultimatums for the Israelis, and water-carrying for the Palestinians:

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will convene his senior ministers on Friday to discuss the demands made by US President Barack Obama and his overall trip to Washington – a trip that, because of negative atmospherics and amid a paucity of hard information, has been widely characterized as among the most difficult in recent memory.

Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office continued to throw a blackout on the Netanyahu-Obama meeting, as well as give only very sketchy information about the commitments that the US is demanding of Israel as a precursor to starting the proximity talks with the Palestinians. The US, according to officials, wants these commitments by Saturday so it can take them to the Arab League meeting in Libya and receive that organization’s backing for starting proximity talks. …

According to various Israeli sources, the Obama administration is asking for Israel to commit to some type of limitation on building in east Jerusalem; to show a willingness to deal with the so-called core issues of borders, refugee and Jerusalem already in the indirect talks; and to agree to a number of confidence building measures, including the release of hundreds of Fatah prisoners.

There were also reports, not confirmed, that the administration had asked for a commitment to extend the moratorium on housing starts in the West Bank settlements beyond the 10-months originally declared.

Netanyahu reportedly wanted to know where the “reciprocity” was and why he was the one making all the concessions. (“Netanyahu, according to senior officials, said that while the US held him responsible for the timing of the announcement to build 1,600 units in Ramat Shlomo, rather than holding Interior Minister Eli Yishai responsible, Abbas was not held responsible when it came to the PA — which recently presided over the naming of a square in Ramallah for the terrorist responsible for the Coastal Road massacre.”) Well, had the Obami been honest, they would have said that they can’t get the Palestinians to agree to anything, so they’ve decided to squeeze the Israelis — even though this seems only to increase the Palestinians’ demands for even more concessions. But, no, I don’t suppose the White House bullies were that candid.

All this makes clear just how disingenuous was Clinton’s entire appeal to AIPAC this week. She protested that it was Israel creating the daylight by announcing a routine housing permit. She pleaded that the fuss was needed to restore the administration’s credibility as an honest broker in the peace process. (Or was it to enhance its credibility to Iran? It’s hard to keep the excuses straight.) She assured the crowd that Israel’s security was paramount to the U.S. Then she declared that of course, of course an Iranian nuclear-weapons program was “unacceptable.” It all seems patently absurd as events continue to unfold.

It is not that the Obami fear daylight between the U.S. and Israel; it is that they flaunt it. It is not credibility as an honest broker that the Obami are establishing but rather fidelity to the Palestinian negotiating stance. And after all this, and the revelation that the proposed sanctions will be pinpricks at best, would any reasonable Israeli leader believe this administration will do everything (or even anything too strenuous) to remove the existential threat to the Jewish state?

The low point in the history of U.S.-Israel relations has come about not because of a housing permit but because we have a president fundamentally uninterested in retaining the robust, close relationship between the two countries that other administrations of both parties have cultivated. The Obami set out to separate the U.S. from Israel, to pressure and cajole the Jewish state, and to remake the U.S. into an eager suitor to the Muslim World. In the process, anti-Israel delegitimizing efforts have been unleashed as Israel’s enemies (and our own allies) sense that we have downgraded the relationship with the Jewish state, the Israeli public has come to distrust the administration, the American Jewish electorate is somewhere between stunned and horrified, and Israel is less secure and more isolated than ever before.

If mainstream Jewish organizations are serious about their stated mission, it is incumbent upon them to protest this state of affairs clearly and loudly and make their support for this president and his congressional enablers conditional, based on a change of policy in regard to Israel. Otherwise, they are enabling a potentially fatal assault on the security of the Jewish state. Silence is acquiescence; meekness is shameful. A generation from now, Jews will be asking those who led key American Jewish organizations, what did you do to protect Israel? What did you do to protest the creep toward a “containment” policy for a nuclear-armed Iran? They better have a good answer.

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