Commentary Magazine


Topic: Binyamin Netanyahu

From the Dept of Don’t Do Us Any Favors: Foreign Press Association Threatens to Boycott Israeli Officials

A few years ago, there was a movement afoot calling on American Muslims to boycott US Airways. Six imams — among them Truthers and Hamas supporters — had gone out of their way to act like terrorists and succeeded in getting themselves removed from a Phoenix-bound flight. They subsequently threatened the airline with what they took to be a public-relations nightmare, where the company would have to explain that radical Muslims were avoiding US Air flights because of overly stringent security measures. Typical reaction: best boycott evuh.

This might be better:

The Foreign Press Association in Israel has threatened a boycott after a reporter said she was asked to remove her bra during a security check. Al-Jazeera filed a complaint about what it called a humiliating check at an invitation-only event in Jerusalem, prompting the press association to threaten to ignore briefings by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu if security procedures aren’t changed immediately. … “In a democratic country, security services are not permitted to do as they please,” the association said in a statement. (emphasis added)

Putting aside the irony of supporting Muslim Brotherhood propagandists while lecturing Israel on democratic norms — come on now.

Al Jazeera already publishes briefings by Israeli officials only when it suits their ideology. During Cast Lead, their local reporters tried to publish a statement by Ehud Barak and were overruled by officials in Qatar. That was the last war, when they simply spiked inconvenient facts. During the war before that, Al Jazeera crews actively helped Hezbollah target Israeli civilians. So let’s tone down the outrage about how security services should be interacting with that outlet’s reporters.

As for the broader boycott by the Foreign Press Association, what are they going to do? Stop printing Israeli denials alongside feverish Palestinian claims? Is the threat that they’ll go from “Palestinian officials accused the IDF of using white phosphorous to give women nightmares and make sheep sterile, but Israel officials denied the charges” to “Palestinian officials accused the IDF of using white phosphorous to give women nightmares and make sheep sterile full stop“?

What a biased, one-sided journalistic world that would be.

A few years ago, there was a movement afoot calling on American Muslims to boycott US Airways. Six imams — among them Truthers and Hamas supporters — had gone out of their way to act like terrorists and succeeded in getting themselves removed from a Phoenix-bound flight. They subsequently threatened the airline with what they took to be a public-relations nightmare, where the company would have to explain that radical Muslims were avoiding US Air flights because of overly stringent security measures. Typical reaction: best boycott evuh.

This might be better:

The Foreign Press Association in Israel has threatened a boycott after a reporter said she was asked to remove her bra during a security check. Al-Jazeera filed a complaint about what it called a humiliating check at an invitation-only event in Jerusalem, prompting the press association to threaten to ignore briefings by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu if security procedures aren’t changed immediately. … “In a democratic country, security services are not permitted to do as they please,” the association said in a statement. (emphasis added)

Putting aside the irony of supporting Muslim Brotherhood propagandists while lecturing Israel on democratic norms — come on now.

Al Jazeera already publishes briefings by Israeli officials only when it suits their ideology. During Cast Lead, their local reporters tried to publish a statement by Ehud Barak and were overruled by officials in Qatar. That was the last war, when they simply spiked inconvenient facts. During the war before that, Al Jazeera crews actively helped Hezbollah target Israeli civilians. So let’s tone down the outrage about how security services should be interacting with that outlet’s reporters.

As for the broader boycott by the Foreign Press Association, what are they going to do? Stop printing Israeli denials alongside feverish Palestinian claims? Is the threat that they’ll go from “Palestinian officials accused the IDF of using white phosphorous to give women nightmares and make sheep sterile, but Israel officials denied the charges” to “Palestinian officials accused the IDF of using white phosphorous to give women nightmares and make sheep sterile full stop“?

What a biased, one-sided journalistic world that would be.

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Tied Up in Knots — Again

It’s a game of chicken. Bibi has agreed to present to his cabinet the Obami’s harebrained scheme to restart the non-peace talks if he can get it in writing. Why is that so hard? Perhaps the deal isn’t the deal, or the administration is placing conditions upon conditions. Meanwhile, the PA seems nervous that talks might start, so they roll out their best rejectionist tactics:

Israeli officials accused Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of looking for excuses not to negotiate, after Abbas said Thursday he would return to the negotiations if Israel declared a complete settlement freeze for a defined period of time during which the border issue would be resolved. Abbas reportedly made those comments during a meeting of the Fatah Revolutionary Council in Ramallah.

One Israeli official said that Abbas was “making sure he is high up on the tree. It is a pity he is entrenching himself in his pre-conditions, and we don’t understand the logic. It is almost as if he is searching for excuses not to negotiate.”

It seems that the Obami have gotten a bit tangled up in the specifics of what the 90 days of negotiations would actual be about:

While the Palestinians want the border issue to be the focus of the start of the talks, arguing that once the borders were set it would be clear where Israel could and could not build, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s position is that border issues could not be divorced from other core issues such as security arrangements and Israel’s demands that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, something that would be tantamount to their accepting the principle that the descendents of Palestinian refugees would not be allowed to return to pre-1967 Israel.

Netanyahu is also apparently unwilling to pledge to wrap up an agreement on borders during the time when there is a settlement freeze. And the US, for its part, is reportedly unwilling to commit in writing that this would be the last settlement freeze it would ask for, apparently wanting to keep open the option of another freeze if the border issue was not wrapped up during one 90-day freeze.

Whoa! Wasn’t part of the deal that the Obami would never, ever, cross their hearts, ask for another freeze? If there is a method to this chaotic bribe-a-thon, it’s not yet apparent. Unlike the Bush team, which actually had the parties talking to each other, this crew can only bicker about what it is that they offered Israel in order to induce the PA to return to the table. If there has been a less competent Middle East negotiating team, I can’t recall it.

It’s a game of chicken. Bibi has agreed to present to his cabinet the Obami’s harebrained scheme to restart the non-peace talks if he can get it in writing. Why is that so hard? Perhaps the deal isn’t the deal, or the administration is placing conditions upon conditions. Meanwhile, the PA seems nervous that talks might start, so they roll out their best rejectionist tactics:

Israeli officials accused Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of looking for excuses not to negotiate, after Abbas said Thursday he would return to the negotiations if Israel declared a complete settlement freeze for a defined period of time during which the border issue would be resolved. Abbas reportedly made those comments during a meeting of the Fatah Revolutionary Council in Ramallah.

One Israeli official said that Abbas was “making sure he is high up on the tree. It is a pity he is entrenching himself in his pre-conditions, and we don’t understand the logic. It is almost as if he is searching for excuses not to negotiate.”

It seems that the Obami have gotten a bit tangled up in the specifics of what the 90 days of negotiations would actual be about:

While the Palestinians want the border issue to be the focus of the start of the talks, arguing that once the borders were set it would be clear where Israel could and could not build, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s position is that border issues could not be divorced from other core issues such as security arrangements and Israel’s demands that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, something that would be tantamount to their accepting the principle that the descendents of Palestinian refugees would not be allowed to return to pre-1967 Israel.

Netanyahu is also apparently unwilling to pledge to wrap up an agreement on borders during the time when there is a settlement freeze. And the US, for its part, is reportedly unwilling to commit in writing that this would be the last settlement freeze it would ask for, apparently wanting to keep open the option of another freeze if the border issue was not wrapped up during one 90-day freeze.

Whoa! Wasn’t part of the deal that the Obami would never, ever, cross their hearts, ask for another freeze? If there is a method to this chaotic bribe-a-thon, it’s not yet apparent. Unlike the Bush team, which actually had the parties talking to each other, this crew can only bicker about what it is that they offered Israel in order to induce the PA to return to the table. If there has been a less competent Middle East negotiating team, I can’t recall it.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Get the feeling that Michael Steele has no friends these days? “Republican National Committee political director Gentry Collins resigned from his post Tuesday morning with a stinging indictment of Chairman Michael Steele’s two-year tenure at the committee. In a four-page letter to Steele and the RNC’s executive committee obtained by POLITICO, Collins lays out inside details, previously only whispered, about the disorganization that plagues the party. He asserts that the RNC’s financial shortcomings limited GOP gains this year and reveals that the committee is deeply in debt entering the 2012 presidential election cycle.”

Get ready for a really, really tough punishment for Charles Rangel. “A House panel on Tuesday found Representative Charles B. Rangel guilty of 11 counts of ethical violations, ruling that his failure to pay taxes, improper solicitation of fund-raising donations and failure to accurately report his personal income had brought dishonor on the House. … While the committee has the power to recommend expulsion, that is highly unlikely. Ethics experts and committee members have said that Mr. Rangel, 80, is more likely to face a letter of reprimand or a formal censure.” OK, maybe just a hand slap.

Get government to downsize? Puleeze. David Malpass explains what’s so bad about the Fed’s $600B bond-purchase scheme. “By buying longer term assets, whose value will decline when interest rates rise, the Fed is engineering a fundamental change in the nature of U.S. monetary policy. This has undercut global confidence in the Fed, as reflected in high gold prices, dollar weakness, and large-scale investments abroad by U.S. companies and wealthy individuals. … Both fiscal stimulus and Fed asset purchases raise the same giant red flag. As the government expands its role in the economy, business confidence and hiring decline in the knowledge that there’s no free lunch.”

The Obama team simply doesn’t get it: once again, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates throws cold water on the use of military force for preventing Iran from going nuclear. They sure have gone out of their way to give the mullahs assurance that they can defy us without risking a military strike.

Bibi says he needs to get the U.S. bribes promises in writing. “Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that Israeli approval of a 90-day settlement freeze was contingent upon a written US pledge regarding a package of incentives that insured his country’s security and national interests, diplomatic sources told The Jerusalem Post.” Now, there’s a “rock-solid” relationship for you.

House Dems get their anger out. “Disgruntled Democrats finally had a chance to confront Speaker Nancy Pelosi face-to-face for the first time during a raucous closed-door caucus meeting Tuesday, as defeated Rep. Allen Boyd called her ‘the face of our defeat.’ ‘We need new leadership,’ Boyd, a Florida Democrat, told his colleagues, according to sources in the room. … Pelosi, her top elected lieutenants and her aides have been scrambling to defuse discontent following the election. They are actively working to prevent a delay in the leadership vote and to deny support to a slate of proposals by moderate ‘Blue Dog’ Democrats that would weaken her hand in the minority by making top appointive positions subject to caucus election.”

Investors get jittery: “Global stock markets’ steady march higher was interrupted by concerns about growth in China, debt in Europe and the Federal Reserve’s $600 billion plan to stimulate the U.S. economy. Tuesday’s world-wide selling was touched off by a 4% stock drop in Shanghai. It spread to Europe, where markets fell more than 2%, and then to the U.S., pushing the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 1.6%, its worst point and percentage decline since August 11.”

Get the feeling that Michael Steele has no friends these days? “Republican National Committee political director Gentry Collins resigned from his post Tuesday morning with a stinging indictment of Chairman Michael Steele’s two-year tenure at the committee. In a four-page letter to Steele and the RNC’s executive committee obtained by POLITICO, Collins lays out inside details, previously only whispered, about the disorganization that plagues the party. He asserts that the RNC’s financial shortcomings limited GOP gains this year and reveals that the committee is deeply in debt entering the 2012 presidential election cycle.”

Get ready for a really, really tough punishment for Charles Rangel. “A House panel on Tuesday found Representative Charles B. Rangel guilty of 11 counts of ethical violations, ruling that his failure to pay taxes, improper solicitation of fund-raising donations and failure to accurately report his personal income had brought dishonor on the House. … While the committee has the power to recommend expulsion, that is highly unlikely. Ethics experts and committee members have said that Mr. Rangel, 80, is more likely to face a letter of reprimand or a formal censure.” OK, maybe just a hand slap.

Get government to downsize? Puleeze. David Malpass explains what’s so bad about the Fed’s $600B bond-purchase scheme. “By buying longer term assets, whose value will decline when interest rates rise, the Fed is engineering a fundamental change in the nature of U.S. monetary policy. This has undercut global confidence in the Fed, as reflected in high gold prices, dollar weakness, and large-scale investments abroad by U.S. companies and wealthy individuals. … Both fiscal stimulus and Fed asset purchases raise the same giant red flag. As the government expands its role in the economy, business confidence and hiring decline in the knowledge that there’s no free lunch.”

The Obama team simply doesn’t get it: once again, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates throws cold water on the use of military force for preventing Iran from going nuclear. They sure have gone out of their way to give the mullahs assurance that they can defy us without risking a military strike.

Bibi says he needs to get the U.S. bribes promises in writing. “Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that Israeli approval of a 90-day settlement freeze was contingent upon a written US pledge regarding a package of incentives that insured his country’s security and national interests, diplomatic sources told The Jerusalem Post.” Now, there’s a “rock-solid” relationship for you.

House Dems get their anger out. “Disgruntled Democrats finally had a chance to confront Speaker Nancy Pelosi face-to-face for the first time during a raucous closed-door caucus meeting Tuesday, as defeated Rep. Allen Boyd called her ‘the face of our defeat.’ ‘We need new leadership,’ Boyd, a Florida Democrat, told his colleagues, according to sources in the room. … Pelosi, her top elected lieutenants and her aides have been scrambling to defuse discontent following the election. They are actively working to prevent a delay in the leadership vote and to deny support to a slate of proposals by moderate ‘Blue Dog’ Democrats that would weaken her hand in the minority by making top appointive positions subject to caucus election.”

Investors get jittery: “Global stock markets’ steady march higher was interrupted by concerns about growth in China, debt in Europe and the Federal Reserve’s $600 billion plan to stimulate the U.S. economy. Tuesday’s world-wide selling was touched off by a 4% stock drop in Shanghai. It spread to Europe, where markets fell more than 2%, and then to the U.S., pushing the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 1.6%, its worst point and percentage decline since August 11.”

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Bibi to Biden: Get Real About Iran

It is time to get serious about Iran. That was the message Bibi delivered to Joe Biden. This report explains:

Only a credible military threat can halt Teheran’s nuclear program, Israel stressed to the United States Sunday afternoon.

“The only way to ensure that Iran is not armed with nuclear weapons is to create a credible threat of military action against it, unless it stops its race to obtain nuclear weapons,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told US Vice President Joe Biden, according to diplomatic officials. …

In his meeting with Biden, Netanyahu insisted that although economic sanctions have made it difficult for Teheran, there is no sign that they have caused the ayatollahs’ regime to halt its nuclear program. …

“The only time that Iran stopped its nuclear program was in 2003, and that was when they believed that there was a real chance of an American military strike against them,” Netanyahu told Biden, according to diplomatic sources.

Bibi’s admonition is well timed. Iran is attempting to lure the administration into another round of useless talks in order to buy some more time for the regime’s scientists to develop nuclear weapons. (“According to diplomatic sources, Netanyahu said, ‘Iran is attempting to mislead the West and there are worrying signs that the international community is captivated by this mirage.’”) Bibi is right to be concerned; the administration is plainly looking to give Iran an escape hatch – and itself an excuse for inactivity. Those concerned with the prospect of a nuclear threat aimed not simply at Israel but also at the West more generally should reinforce this point and refuse to go along with another round of engagement kabuki theater.

Moreover, with a new, more conservative Congress, there is likely to be additional pressure put on the White House to consider and plan for military action, or at the very least to commit to assisting the Jewish state should its government feel compelled to act unilaterally. Those who have concluded that sanctions are useless, that further talks would be counterproductive, and that a military strike may be essential to the West’s security (and our credibility as guarantor of that security) have public opinion on their side. Before the election, Sen. Joe Lieberman delivered a compelling case for more robust action. It is time for the new Congress to translate that speech into policy. And it is time for Obama to stop dithering.

It is time to get serious about Iran. That was the message Bibi delivered to Joe Biden. This report explains:

Only a credible military threat can halt Teheran’s nuclear program, Israel stressed to the United States Sunday afternoon.

“The only way to ensure that Iran is not armed with nuclear weapons is to create a credible threat of military action against it, unless it stops its race to obtain nuclear weapons,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told US Vice President Joe Biden, according to diplomatic officials. …

In his meeting with Biden, Netanyahu insisted that although economic sanctions have made it difficult for Teheran, there is no sign that they have caused the ayatollahs’ regime to halt its nuclear program. …

“The only time that Iran stopped its nuclear program was in 2003, and that was when they believed that there was a real chance of an American military strike against them,” Netanyahu told Biden, according to diplomatic sources.

Bibi’s admonition is well timed. Iran is attempting to lure the administration into another round of useless talks in order to buy some more time for the regime’s scientists to develop nuclear weapons. (“According to diplomatic sources, Netanyahu said, ‘Iran is attempting to mislead the West and there are worrying signs that the international community is captivated by this mirage.’”) Bibi is right to be concerned; the administration is plainly looking to give Iran an escape hatch – and itself an excuse for inactivity. Those concerned with the prospect of a nuclear threat aimed not simply at Israel but also at the West more generally should reinforce this point and refuse to go along with another round of engagement kabuki theater.

Moreover, with a new, more conservative Congress, there is likely to be additional pressure put on the White House to consider and plan for military action, or at the very least to commit to assisting the Jewish state should its government feel compelled to act unilaterally. Those who have concluded that sanctions are useless, that further talks would be counterproductive, and that a military strike may be essential to the West’s security (and our credibility as guarantor of that security) have public opinion on their side. Before the election, Sen. Joe Lieberman delivered a compelling case for more robust action. It is time for the new Congress to translate that speech into policy. And it is time for Obama to stop dithering.

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The Least-Smart Diplomat of Them All

Jackson Diehl is the latest Middle East watcher to figure out what went wrong with the non-direct, non-peace talks:

For 15 years and more, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas conducted peace talks with Israel in the absence of a freeze on Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Now, it appears as likely as not that his newborn negotiations with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu — and their goal of agreement on a Palestinian state within a year — will expire because of Abbas’s refusal to talk in the absence of such a freeze. …

So why does Abbas stubbornly persist in his self-defeating position? In an interview with Israeli television Sunday night, he offered a remarkably candid explanation: “When Obama came to power, he is the one who announced that settlement activity must be stopped,” he said. “If America says it and Europe says it and the whole world says it, you want me not to say it?”

Well, yes. Just as many conservative critics have been saying — the immediate problem is a self-created one (“the settlement impasse originated not with Netanyahu or Abbas, but with Obama — who by insisting on an Israeli freeze has created a near-insuperable obstacle to the peace process he is trying to promote”). The longer-term problem is that the PA is not ready and able to make an enforceable peace agreement that recognizes the Jewish state. That, too, Abbas has candidly admitted.

You say, but doesn’t Dennis Ross or George Mitchell or Hillary Clinton know better? Maybe not. But even if they do, Obama is running the show, and he plainly doesn’t. Obama and his political hacks David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel may have figured they could topple the Bibi government. But when that didn’t occur, what was the rationale for reintroducing the issue in September? The most generous explanation is that Obama is a novice and unteachable when it comes to the Middle East. A cynic would say that Obama knows very well that the PA can’t make a deal and would rather put the screws on Israel than figure out a way to keep the talks going.

Either way, Obama’s team has achieved some domestic bipartisan consensus here in the U.S.: his administration screwed this up, the PA is intransigent, and it is high time we stopped blaming Israel. For that, I suppose, we can be grateful.

Jackson Diehl is the latest Middle East watcher to figure out what went wrong with the non-direct, non-peace talks:

For 15 years and more, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas conducted peace talks with Israel in the absence of a freeze on Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Now, it appears as likely as not that his newborn negotiations with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu — and their goal of agreement on a Palestinian state within a year — will expire because of Abbas’s refusal to talk in the absence of such a freeze. …

So why does Abbas stubbornly persist in his self-defeating position? In an interview with Israeli television Sunday night, he offered a remarkably candid explanation: “When Obama came to power, he is the one who announced that settlement activity must be stopped,” he said. “If America says it and Europe says it and the whole world says it, you want me not to say it?”

Well, yes. Just as many conservative critics have been saying — the immediate problem is a self-created one (“the settlement impasse originated not with Netanyahu or Abbas, but with Obama — who by insisting on an Israeli freeze has created a near-insuperable obstacle to the peace process he is trying to promote”). The longer-term problem is that the PA is not ready and able to make an enforceable peace agreement that recognizes the Jewish state. That, too, Abbas has candidly admitted.

You say, but doesn’t Dennis Ross or George Mitchell or Hillary Clinton know better? Maybe not. But even if they do, Obama is running the show, and he plainly doesn’t. Obama and his political hacks David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel may have figured they could topple the Bibi government. But when that didn’t occur, what was the rationale for reintroducing the issue in September? The most generous explanation is that Obama is a novice and unteachable when it comes to the Middle East. A cynic would say that Obama knows very well that the PA can’t make a deal and would rather put the screws on Israel than figure out a way to keep the talks going.

Either way, Obama’s team has achieved some domestic bipartisan consensus here in the U.S.: his administration screwed this up, the PA is intransigent, and it is high time we stopped blaming Israel. For that, I suppose, we can be grateful.

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No Sale on Obama’s Middle East Policy

The reaction to the AJC’s recent poll suggests that Obama is losing all but the hard-core Israel-haters. As this report explains, Stephen Walt sees the growing opposition to Obama’s policies and concern over a nuclear-armed Iran as the result of “the drumbeat of Islamophobia in the American media, the constant pounding on the Iran threat by Israeli politicians and their supporters here.” Well, as we saw, those supporters of Israel happen to be a majority of Americans, the vast majority of which are non-Jews.

But outside the realm of anti-Israel conspiracy theorists, the implications of the AJC survey are clear:

It was released just three weeks before mid-term elections in which Republicans, whose leadership has strongly assailed Obama over his sometimes rocky relations with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his efforts to engage Iran diplomatically, are expected to regain control of at least one of the two houses of Congress.

AJC president David Harris appeared to echo those Republican themes Tuesday, claiming that “the nervousness of American Jews about two of our nation’s top foreign policy issues and how our leadership is responding” was “the most disturbing” of the survey’s findings.

Or, as Larry Sabato put it, “A 50 percent positive rating for a Democratic president among Jews is, frankly, terrible.”

As for the Obama team’s obsession with non-direct, non-peace, non-talking negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis, there is now evidence that “for at least some U.S. Jews, Obama may have emerged as the loser in his contretemps with Netanyahu over settlements earlier this year. In addition to the 45 percent of Jews who expressed disapproval of his handling of U.S.-Israeli relations, the survey found that approval of Netanyahu’s handling of bilateral ties has risen — from 57 percent in March to 62 percent.” Approval for Obama’s Iran policy is also cratering. (“While a plurality of 47 percent approved of his performance last March, a 46-percent plurality now disapprove.”)

The Obama presidency has been an interesting, albeit dangerous, test case: is there an appetite for a reversal of America’s traditional warm relationship with Israel and its forceful presence in the Middle East? The answer is emphatically no.

The reaction to the AJC’s recent poll suggests that Obama is losing all but the hard-core Israel-haters. As this report explains, Stephen Walt sees the growing opposition to Obama’s policies and concern over a nuclear-armed Iran as the result of “the drumbeat of Islamophobia in the American media, the constant pounding on the Iran threat by Israeli politicians and their supporters here.” Well, as we saw, those supporters of Israel happen to be a majority of Americans, the vast majority of which are non-Jews.

But outside the realm of anti-Israel conspiracy theorists, the implications of the AJC survey are clear:

It was released just three weeks before mid-term elections in which Republicans, whose leadership has strongly assailed Obama over his sometimes rocky relations with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his efforts to engage Iran diplomatically, are expected to regain control of at least one of the two houses of Congress.

AJC president David Harris appeared to echo those Republican themes Tuesday, claiming that “the nervousness of American Jews about two of our nation’s top foreign policy issues and how our leadership is responding” was “the most disturbing” of the survey’s findings.

Or, as Larry Sabato put it, “A 50 percent positive rating for a Democratic president among Jews is, frankly, terrible.”

As for the Obama team’s obsession with non-direct, non-peace, non-talking negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis, there is now evidence that “for at least some U.S. Jews, Obama may have emerged as the loser in his contretemps with Netanyahu over settlements earlier this year. In addition to the 45 percent of Jews who expressed disapproval of his handling of U.S.-Israeli relations, the survey found that approval of Netanyahu’s handling of bilateral ties has risen — from 57 percent in March to 62 percent.” Approval for Obama’s Iran policy is also cratering. (“While a plurality of 47 percent approved of his performance last March, a 46-percent plurality now disapprove.”)

The Obama presidency has been an interesting, albeit dangerous, test case: is there an appetite for a reversal of America’s traditional warm relationship with Israel and its forceful presence in the Middle East? The answer is emphatically no.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

J Street throws in the towel, conceding that co-founder Daniel Levy said, “I believe that where Jewish history was in 1948 excused, for me — it was good enough for me — an act that was wrong.” The Soros Street gang even provides video.

The PA throws the offer of a settlement freeze back in Bibi’s face. “Senior Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat on Monday stated that the Palestinian Authority unreservedly rejected Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s offer of a renewed building freeze in the West Bank in exchange for PA recognition of Israel as the Jewish national home.” I guess it’s not all about the settlements.

Voters are ready to throw out the Dems and with them, the Obama agenda. In every policy area listed (including the economy, spending, ethics, immigration, health care, and terrorism), at least 50 percent of voters think the Democrats’ policies are taking us in the wrong direction.

And more and more voters want to throw them out every day. The GOP hits a high in the RCP generic congressional polling, with an 8.2 point advantage.

Maybe it’s time for the Dems to throw a Hail Mary: “Democratic concerns about the House playing field broadening to record levels appear to only be getting worse as reports that Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) are vulnerable surfaced over the weekend. … The fact that the White House is focused on an inside-baseball campaign finance issue [its unsupported allegation that the Chamber of Commerce collects overseas money for campaign donations], instead of the economy shows how bad the political environment is for Democrats this year.”

Attacking mythical foreign donors isn’t working, so Obama throws this into the mix: “President Obama on Monday called for a ‘fundamental overhaul’ to the nation’s infrastructure that involves a $50 billion investment in roads, bridges, railways and electric grids he says are ‘woefully’ inadequate.” Excuse me, but wasn’t this what the stimulus was going to be used for? We’ve spent under Bush and Obama a couple of trillion, and we still need to spend more because that amount didn’t cover things we absolutely need? You can see why voters are infuriated.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) throws out a few arguments in favor of ObamaCare’s constitutionality. None of them fly. She turns heel. I sometimes get the idea that liberals are unaccustomed and unprepared to have their deeply held, unsubstantiated beliefs challenged.

J Street throws in the towel, conceding that co-founder Daniel Levy said, “I believe that where Jewish history was in 1948 excused, for me — it was good enough for me — an act that was wrong.” The Soros Street gang even provides video.

The PA throws the offer of a settlement freeze back in Bibi’s face. “Senior Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat on Monday stated that the Palestinian Authority unreservedly rejected Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s offer of a renewed building freeze in the West Bank in exchange for PA recognition of Israel as the Jewish national home.” I guess it’s not all about the settlements.

Voters are ready to throw out the Dems and with them, the Obama agenda. In every policy area listed (including the economy, spending, ethics, immigration, health care, and terrorism), at least 50 percent of voters think the Democrats’ policies are taking us in the wrong direction.

And more and more voters want to throw them out every day. The GOP hits a high in the RCP generic congressional polling, with an 8.2 point advantage.

Maybe it’s time for the Dems to throw a Hail Mary: “Democratic concerns about the House playing field broadening to record levels appear to only be getting worse as reports that Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) are vulnerable surfaced over the weekend. … The fact that the White House is focused on an inside-baseball campaign finance issue [its unsupported allegation that the Chamber of Commerce collects overseas money for campaign donations], instead of the economy shows how bad the political environment is for Democrats this year.”

Attacking mythical foreign donors isn’t working, so Obama throws this into the mix: “President Obama on Monday called for a ‘fundamental overhaul’ to the nation’s infrastructure that involves a $50 billion investment in roads, bridges, railways and electric grids he says are ‘woefully’ inadequate.” Excuse me, but wasn’t this what the stimulus was going to be used for? We’ve spent under Bush and Obama a couple of trillion, and we still need to spend more because that amount didn’t cover things we absolutely need? You can see why voters are infuriated.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) throws out a few arguments in favor of ObamaCare’s constitutionality. None of them fly. She turns heel. I sometimes get the idea that liberals are unaccustomed and unprepared to have their deeply held, unsubstantiated beliefs challenged.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Joe Sestak is heading for defeat. In the latest poll, he trails Pat Toomey by nine points.

Asked about the Sestak campaign, Snarlin’ Arlen Specter tells reporters he’s heading for the squash courts.

John Boehner’s advice must have hit home. Obama says that some of his economic team may be heading home. Obama in Chicago told a town hall gathering: “I have not made any determinations about personnel. I think Larry Summers and Tim Geithner have done an outstanding job, as have my whole economic team. This is tough, the work that they do. They’ve been at it for two years. And, you know, they’re going to have a whole range of decisions about family that’ll factor into this as well.”

Congressmen are heading for the campaign trail early. No need to stay in town to face a tough vote on the Bush tax cuts. “House leaders are considering adjourning as early as the end of this week, which would give lawmakers five and a half weeks to campaign before the Nov. 2 election but could also leave them exposed to allegations that they didn’t finish their work in Washington.” It’s pathetic, really.

Heading for 15 percent? “An estimated 192,000 Nevadans were out of work in August, pushing the state’s unemployment rate to 14.4 percent, according to the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.” Harry Reid says he’s responsible for nothing.

Obama is heading for more of this as long as unemployment remains high across the country: “President Barack Obama on Monday said times were still tough for many Americans, as he defended his policies during aggressive questioning after the worst U.S. recession since the 1930s was declared over. As audience members at a townhall-style meeting voiced exasperation and disappointment at his administration, and one woman said she was ‘exhausted’ from defending him, Obama stressed he understood that people were frustrated.”

The peace talks are heading nowhere: “Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in a Monday night interview with Palestinian news source Ma’an that ‘Israel was free to call itself the Israeli Zionist Jewish Empire.’ The PA leader made cynical remarks to Ma’an shortly after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called upon Abbas to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.” Maybe Jordan should be called the Palestinian state. It is, you know.

Joe Sestak is heading for defeat. In the latest poll, he trails Pat Toomey by nine points.

Asked about the Sestak campaign, Snarlin’ Arlen Specter tells reporters he’s heading for the squash courts.

John Boehner’s advice must have hit home. Obama says that some of his economic team may be heading home. Obama in Chicago told a town hall gathering: “I have not made any determinations about personnel. I think Larry Summers and Tim Geithner have done an outstanding job, as have my whole economic team. This is tough, the work that they do. They’ve been at it for two years. And, you know, they’re going to have a whole range of decisions about family that’ll factor into this as well.”

Congressmen are heading for the campaign trail early. No need to stay in town to face a tough vote on the Bush tax cuts. “House leaders are considering adjourning as early as the end of this week, which would give lawmakers five and a half weeks to campaign before the Nov. 2 election but could also leave them exposed to allegations that they didn’t finish their work in Washington.” It’s pathetic, really.

Heading for 15 percent? “An estimated 192,000 Nevadans were out of work in August, pushing the state’s unemployment rate to 14.4 percent, according to the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.” Harry Reid says he’s responsible for nothing.

Obama is heading for more of this as long as unemployment remains high across the country: “President Barack Obama on Monday said times were still tough for many Americans, as he defended his policies during aggressive questioning after the worst U.S. recession since the 1930s was declared over. As audience members at a townhall-style meeting voiced exasperation and disappointment at his administration, and one woman said she was ‘exhausted’ from defending him, Obama stressed he understood that people were frustrated.”

The peace talks are heading nowhere: “Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in a Monday night interview with Palestinian news source Ma’an that ‘Israel was free to call itself the Israeli Zionist Jewish Empire.’ The PA leader made cynical remarks to Ma’an shortly after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called upon Abbas to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.” Maybe Jordan should be called the Palestinian state. It is, you know.

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What Real Diplomacy Looks Like

Americans seldom think of Israel in the conventional terms of “alliance,” but Israelis must, perforce, think of America that way. In the most fundamental sense, alliances are formed for security benefits. We don’t have allies because we need them; we have allies because they need us. This works both ways. The benefit is inherently mutual in any alliance that two or more parties take the trouble to form.

When allies begin shopping for defense-cooperation agreements elsewhere, moreover, it always means something. Our pursuit of abstract multilateralism over the last two decades has blinded us to that reality. American diplomacy has tended to behave as if all bilateral developments were benign — a mere natural outgrowth of upbeat nations getting in touch with each other. But in the case of Israel in 2010, the meaning is specific and conventional.

Israel signed a framework agreement for defense cooperation with Russia on September 6 — the first ever between these two nations — and has been at work this year resurrecting its defense-cooperation agreement with China. The rapprochement with China is informative because Israel agreed in 2005, at the behest of the Bush administration, to back off from its military-related projects with Beijing. The U.S. concern at the time was technology proliferation, which is what the news and opinion media tend to focus on, particularly in America. (The new agreement with Russia is being discussed, in its turn, as a means for Russia to obtain cutting-edge UAVs from Israeli manufacturers.)

But Israel has bigger concerns than markets for military hardware. “Defense cooperation” portends more than military sales; it can mean conferences, intelligence and personnel exchanges, joint training, and shared weapons development. It’s a field of agreement with inherent implications for regional relations and security. And Israel’s defense-cooperation outreach this year is hardly random. Binyamin Netanyahu typically handles national security like a statesman in the Western classical mold, and it appears he is doing so here. Warming up ties with Russia and China is a way to gain leverage with the major outside powers that are putting down stakes in the Middle East as Obama’s America loses energy and presence.

The Netanyahu leadership has no illusions about the character of either Russia or China. But courting Russia gives Israel an entrée with a member of the Quartet other than the U.S. Rejuvenating cooperation with China creates the potential for leverage with one of Iran’s chief patrons; the link with Russia offers a similar benefit regarding not only Iran but also Syria, Turkey, Libya, and Algeria as well.

The impetus for Israel to do this now comes from the persistent inertia of the Obama administration. As painful as it is to say it, the potential is obvious for Obama’s role in the Quartet to produce disadvantages for Israel. There is no rational basis for assuming Obama will take effective action against Iran or revise his approach to Syria. Exclusive alignment with the policy trend of Obama’s America promises nothing but disaster for Israel. In the absence of American strength — across the whole Middle Eastern region — Israel’s security situation will change. Although it means inviting Russia further into the Middle East, Netanyahu must work with reality in 2010: he must look for support — for a balancing agent with the region’s radical regimes — where he can find it.

Americans seldom think of Israel in the conventional terms of “alliance,” but Israelis must, perforce, think of America that way. In the most fundamental sense, alliances are formed for security benefits. We don’t have allies because we need them; we have allies because they need us. This works both ways. The benefit is inherently mutual in any alliance that two or more parties take the trouble to form.

When allies begin shopping for defense-cooperation agreements elsewhere, moreover, it always means something. Our pursuit of abstract multilateralism over the last two decades has blinded us to that reality. American diplomacy has tended to behave as if all bilateral developments were benign — a mere natural outgrowth of upbeat nations getting in touch with each other. But in the case of Israel in 2010, the meaning is specific and conventional.

Israel signed a framework agreement for defense cooperation with Russia on September 6 — the first ever between these two nations — and has been at work this year resurrecting its defense-cooperation agreement with China. The rapprochement with China is informative because Israel agreed in 2005, at the behest of the Bush administration, to back off from its military-related projects with Beijing. The U.S. concern at the time was technology proliferation, which is what the news and opinion media tend to focus on, particularly in America. (The new agreement with Russia is being discussed, in its turn, as a means for Russia to obtain cutting-edge UAVs from Israeli manufacturers.)

But Israel has bigger concerns than markets for military hardware. “Defense cooperation” portends more than military sales; it can mean conferences, intelligence and personnel exchanges, joint training, and shared weapons development. It’s a field of agreement with inherent implications for regional relations and security. And Israel’s defense-cooperation outreach this year is hardly random. Binyamin Netanyahu typically handles national security like a statesman in the Western classical mold, and it appears he is doing so here. Warming up ties with Russia and China is a way to gain leverage with the major outside powers that are putting down stakes in the Middle East as Obama’s America loses energy and presence.

The Netanyahu leadership has no illusions about the character of either Russia or China. But courting Russia gives Israel an entrée with a member of the Quartet other than the U.S. Rejuvenating cooperation with China creates the potential for leverage with one of Iran’s chief patrons; the link with Russia offers a similar benefit regarding not only Iran but also Syria, Turkey, Libya, and Algeria as well.

The impetus for Israel to do this now comes from the persistent inertia of the Obama administration. As painful as it is to say it, the potential is obvious for Obama’s role in the Quartet to produce disadvantages for Israel. There is no rational basis for assuming Obama will take effective action against Iran or revise his approach to Syria. Exclusive alignment with the policy trend of Obama’s America promises nothing but disaster for Israel. In the absence of American strength — across the whole Middle Eastern region — Israel’s security situation will change. Although it means inviting Russia further into the Middle East, Netanyahu must work with reality in 2010: he must look for support — for a balancing agent with the region’s radical regimes — where he can find it.

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Obama’s Middle East Policy: Incompetence Continues

The Obami have, on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, at virtually every turn, made the wrong decision and then botched the execution of that decision. Beginning with the decision to focus on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict rather than the Iranian nuclear threat and continuing through to the public bullying of Israel and the NPT declaration (and its walk-back), all followed by the charm campaign (when all that preceded it proved a bust and domestically harmful to boot), the Obami have made matters worse not better.

Now that they have struggled to pick up where the Bush team left off two years ago — direct talks – they are making new errors. Elliott Abrams, the deputy national security adviser who helped devise and maintain productive and warm U.S.-Israeli relations for eight years, tries to help the Obami avoid more missteps. (He is too polite to mention his own handiwork, but the administration might start with recognizing and confirming the agreement that Bush and Sharon reached in 2004 on settlements.)

Abrams warns the Obami team that in direct talks between the parties, it is best not to “intrude too deeply and too often.” This is good advice even for an administration that is respected and trusted by the parties. (“The Israelis and Palestinians do not negotiate seriously when U.S. officials are in the room; instead, they take positions designed to elicit American approval.”) George Mitchell has not yet figured this out, however.

Abrams also warns (as Tony Blair did at the March AIPAC conference, in very similar language) that what really matters is what is going on in the West Bank. He explains, “A Palestinian state will be built not at Camp David or Sharm el-Sheikh but in the West Bank, which is where our greatest efforts should be focused.” Again, Mitchell has not yet grasped this essential truth.

But Abrams’s most important piece of advice is this: the decision to work on a framework agreement is wrong. He quotes Mitchell’s explanation of such an agreement: “It’s more detailed than a declaration of principles, but is less than a full-fledged treaty. Its purpose is to establish the fundamental compromises necessary to enable the parties to then flesh out and complete a comprehensive agreement that will end the conflict and establish a lasting peace.” Abrams writes:

The difficult compromises necessary for a final-status agreement that resolves all the core issues will be made at the very end. The only way Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas can defend such compromises is by delivering to Palestinians their own state; the only way Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu can do so is by saying Israel will now get peace, not only with Palestinians but with all Arab states.

All this cannot possibly happen until a final-status agreement is signed and implemented. Asking the parties to announce their “fundamental compromises” on the core issues when a final-status agreement is years away is asking them to commit political suicide.

In other words, whatever slim chance there might be for a peace deal (I personally think it’s close to zero) is reduced, once again, by an incompetent (is there any other adjective to describe him?) envoy and a flawed negotiating strategy. The most, I think, we can hope for is that the end of the talks don’t trigger another intifada, that the progress on the ground in the West Bank continues, and that sooner rather than later, a U.S. negotiating team will emerge that knows what it is doing.

The Obami have, on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, at virtually every turn, made the wrong decision and then botched the execution of that decision. Beginning with the decision to focus on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict rather than the Iranian nuclear threat and continuing through to the public bullying of Israel and the NPT declaration (and its walk-back), all followed by the charm campaign (when all that preceded it proved a bust and domestically harmful to boot), the Obami have made matters worse not better.

Now that they have struggled to pick up where the Bush team left off two years ago — direct talks – they are making new errors. Elliott Abrams, the deputy national security adviser who helped devise and maintain productive and warm U.S.-Israeli relations for eight years, tries to help the Obami avoid more missteps. (He is too polite to mention his own handiwork, but the administration might start with recognizing and confirming the agreement that Bush and Sharon reached in 2004 on settlements.)

Abrams warns the Obami team that in direct talks between the parties, it is best not to “intrude too deeply and too often.” This is good advice even for an administration that is respected and trusted by the parties. (“The Israelis and Palestinians do not negotiate seriously when U.S. officials are in the room; instead, they take positions designed to elicit American approval.”) George Mitchell has not yet figured this out, however.

Abrams also warns (as Tony Blair did at the March AIPAC conference, in very similar language) that what really matters is what is going on in the West Bank. He explains, “A Palestinian state will be built not at Camp David or Sharm el-Sheikh but in the West Bank, which is where our greatest efforts should be focused.” Again, Mitchell has not yet grasped this essential truth.

But Abrams’s most important piece of advice is this: the decision to work on a framework agreement is wrong. He quotes Mitchell’s explanation of such an agreement: “It’s more detailed than a declaration of principles, but is less than a full-fledged treaty. Its purpose is to establish the fundamental compromises necessary to enable the parties to then flesh out and complete a comprehensive agreement that will end the conflict and establish a lasting peace.” Abrams writes:

The difficult compromises necessary for a final-status agreement that resolves all the core issues will be made at the very end. The only way Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas can defend such compromises is by delivering to Palestinians their own state; the only way Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu can do so is by saying Israel will now get peace, not only with Palestinians but with all Arab states.

All this cannot possibly happen until a final-status agreement is signed and implemented. Asking the parties to announce their “fundamental compromises” on the core issues when a final-status agreement is years away is asking them to commit political suicide.

In other words, whatever slim chance there might be for a peace deal (I personally think it’s close to zero) is reduced, once again, by an incompetent (is there any other adjective to describe him?) envoy and a flawed negotiating strategy. The most, I think, we can hope for is that the end of the talks don’t trigger another intifada, that the progress on the ground in the West Bank continues, and that sooner rather than later, a U.S. negotiating team will emerge that knows what it is doing.

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RE: Why There Is No Peace

Bibi is indeed coming under pressure to halt the peace-talks charade. The Jerusalem Post reports:

“The terror attack near Kiryat Arba is a reminder to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who his partners are,” said MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union). “The Likud government’s negotiations with the terrorist Abu Mazen (Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas) are an energy boost to murderousness and terror. The blood of those harmed is upon the head of the Likud government.”

MK Uri Ariel  (National Union) called on Netanyahu to freeze the nascent negotiations slated to begin on Thursday in Washington. “Now it is clear – the most violent period is when there are negotiations. Netanyahu must immediately freeze the talks and concentrate on promising peace for Israeli civilians.” …

Everyone who in recent months was a partner to the myth that Abu Mazen controlled the field must come to their senses and immediately suspend the activities to strengthen the Palestinian army that is being established with American assistance,” said [MK Aryeh] Eldad. “Such a body is not capable of effectively combating Hamas, and we should not be surprised if its weapons are directed against us.”

Other officials were “more ambiguous,” and still others insisted that this showed how vital talks are. (The same nonsense emanated from our own State Department.)

Meanwhile, the Simon Wiesenthal Center put out a tough-minded statement:

“Far from being ‘senseless’, these cold blooded execution style Hamas murders underscore the reality that PA President Abbas does not fully control Palestinian territories,” said Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper, who are respectively the  Founder and Dean and Associate Dean of the international Jewish human rights NGO. “Hamas is exercising its murderous veto power over any proposed peaceful solution two-state solution, and as long the Palestinian people back them, they will never have peace,” they added.

“Today’s murders prove that the peace talks in Washington will go nowhere until the world stops demanding that Israel make ‘more painful concessions for peace’ and instead focus on how to defang and oust Hamas from power,” Rabbi Hier and Rabbi Cooper concluded.

So now we have a test. Where is the condemnation from CAIR and from Imam Rauf? Now would be the time to prove their alleged “moderate” bona fides. But more important, where is the statement – in Arabic — from Mahmoud Abbas declaring that the terrorist acts are contrary to the interests of the Palestinian people and calling for a complete cessation of all violence? That would seem to be the first order of business at the peace talks. Because you can’t have peace when one side is still killing. And you will hear that, oh, that was Hamas and Abbas can’t control them. Well then what, pray tell, is the point of a “peace agreement”?

It would be a fine idea if Bibi did return for the funerals — not cancel the talks, but emphasize that the safety of his citizens is his highest priority. If he doesn’t make that crystal clear, why should others take him seriously?

Bibi is indeed coming under pressure to halt the peace-talks charade. The Jerusalem Post reports:

“The terror attack near Kiryat Arba is a reminder to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who his partners are,” said MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union). “The Likud government’s negotiations with the terrorist Abu Mazen (Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas) are an energy boost to murderousness and terror. The blood of those harmed is upon the head of the Likud government.”

MK Uri Ariel  (National Union) called on Netanyahu to freeze the nascent negotiations slated to begin on Thursday in Washington. “Now it is clear – the most violent period is when there are negotiations. Netanyahu must immediately freeze the talks and concentrate on promising peace for Israeli civilians.” …

Everyone who in recent months was a partner to the myth that Abu Mazen controlled the field must come to their senses and immediately suspend the activities to strengthen the Palestinian army that is being established with American assistance,” said [MK Aryeh] Eldad. “Such a body is not capable of effectively combating Hamas, and we should not be surprised if its weapons are directed against us.”

Other officials were “more ambiguous,” and still others insisted that this showed how vital talks are. (The same nonsense emanated from our own State Department.)

Meanwhile, the Simon Wiesenthal Center put out a tough-minded statement:

“Far from being ‘senseless’, these cold blooded execution style Hamas murders underscore the reality that PA President Abbas does not fully control Palestinian territories,” said Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper, who are respectively the  Founder and Dean and Associate Dean of the international Jewish human rights NGO. “Hamas is exercising its murderous veto power over any proposed peaceful solution two-state solution, and as long the Palestinian people back them, they will never have peace,” they added.

“Today’s murders prove that the peace talks in Washington will go nowhere until the world stops demanding that Israel make ‘more painful concessions for peace’ and instead focus on how to defang and oust Hamas from power,” Rabbi Hier and Rabbi Cooper concluded.

So now we have a test. Where is the condemnation from CAIR and from Imam Rauf? Now would be the time to prove their alleged “moderate” bona fides. But more important, where is the statement – in Arabic — from Mahmoud Abbas declaring that the terrorist acts are contrary to the interests of the Palestinian people and calling for a complete cessation of all violence? That would seem to be the first order of business at the peace talks. Because you can’t have peace when one side is still killing. And you will hear that, oh, that was Hamas and Abbas can’t control them. Well then what, pray tell, is the point of a “peace agreement”?

It would be a fine idea if Bibi did return for the funerals — not cancel the talks, but emphasize that the safety of his citizens is his highest priority. If he doesn’t make that crystal clear, why should others take him seriously?

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Why There Is No Peace

Just in:

Four Israelis were killed as terrorists opened fire at an Israeli vehicle near Kiryat Arba in Hebron Tuesday evening.

Magen David Adom paramedics arrived at the scene of the shooting and declared all four victims dead; two men aged 25 and 40 and two women aged 25 and 40. Paramedics added that one woman may have been pregnant. All four are residents of the Beit Hagai. …

The attack comes hours before Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are set to meet in Washington for peace talks.

There has been a lot of talk about a moratorium on settlements by Israel. Abbas has threatened to walk out. When do they talk about a moratorium on killing Jews? Perhaps Bibi should leave D.C. and return to Israel for the funerals of the four victims (possibly five, if indeed the woman was carrying a child). That would, maybe, refocus things.

Just in:

Four Israelis were killed as terrorists opened fire at an Israeli vehicle near Kiryat Arba in Hebron Tuesday evening.

Magen David Adom paramedics arrived at the scene of the shooting and declared all four victims dead; two men aged 25 and 40 and two women aged 25 and 40. Paramedics added that one woman may have been pregnant. All four are residents of the Beit Hagai. …

The attack comes hours before Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are set to meet in Washington for peace talks.

There has been a lot of talk about a moratorium on settlements by Israel. Abbas has threatened to walk out. When do they talk about a moratorium on killing Jews? Perhaps Bibi should leave D.C. and return to Israel for the funerals of the four victims (possibly five, if indeed the woman was carrying a child). That would, maybe, refocus things.

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That Particular State

George Will shines a light on the essence of much of the left’s revulsion — and it is certainly that — over the Jewish state. It’s the “Jewish” part — that is, a nation-state born of a 3,000-year history and dedicated to the survival of a particular people — that gnaws at what passes for the leftist intelligentsia. Will explains:

Israel, with its deep sense of nationhood, is beyond unintelligible to such Europeans; it is a stench in their nostrils. Transnational progressivism is, as much as welfare state social democracy, an element of European politics that American progressives will emulate as much as American politics will permit. It is perverse that the European Union, a semi-fictional political entity, serves — with the United States, the reliably anti-Israel United Nations and Russia — as part of the “quartet” that supposedly will broker peace in our time between Israel and the Palestinians. …

No one is less a transnational progressive, less a post-nationalist, than Binyamin Netanyahu, whose first name is that of a son of Jacob, who lived perhaps 4,000 years ago. Netanyahu, whom no one ever called cuddly, once said to a U.S. diplomat 10 words that should warn U.S. policymakers who hope to make Netanyahu malleable: “You live in Chevy Chase. Don’t play with our future.”

But it’s not simply Netanyahu who provokes the left’s queasiness over nationalism. It is the entire Zionist undertaking, the Jewish state. Some months ago, Elliott Abrams dismantled Peter Beinart, explaining: “Jewish liberals have a problem with particularism, nationalism, Zionism, and they always have. And it isn’t due to anything that is going on in Israel, it’s due to things that are going on inside their heads. They need to grow up and realize that Israel has a right to defend itself.” But the left (its Jews and non-Jews) has no intention of growing up, any more than Israelis have any intention of committing national suicide.

Obama has desperately tried to avoid — by cajoling, threatening, and his platitudinous speechifying — choosing between his and his ideological soul mates’ internationalist, multilateral vision and America’s democratic ally in the Middle East. The conflict reappears in various incarnations (settlements, the flotilla, etc.), but the fundamentals are the same. This is a circle that can’t be squared. He’s either going to stand in the face of a howling international community bolstered by the anti-Israel left or he’s not. He’s either going to cede American leadership of the Free World or not. No wonder Obama displays such animus toward the Jewish state; it refuses to knuckle under to his demands. And it forces Obama to confront the unworkability of his own dream of a world in which nation-states (and America in particular) recede in favor of an “international community.”

George Will shines a light on the essence of much of the left’s revulsion — and it is certainly that — over the Jewish state. It’s the “Jewish” part — that is, a nation-state born of a 3,000-year history and dedicated to the survival of a particular people — that gnaws at what passes for the leftist intelligentsia. Will explains:

Israel, with its deep sense of nationhood, is beyond unintelligible to such Europeans; it is a stench in their nostrils. Transnational progressivism is, as much as welfare state social democracy, an element of European politics that American progressives will emulate as much as American politics will permit. It is perverse that the European Union, a semi-fictional political entity, serves — with the United States, the reliably anti-Israel United Nations and Russia — as part of the “quartet” that supposedly will broker peace in our time between Israel and the Palestinians. …

No one is less a transnational progressive, less a post-nationalist, than Binyamin Netanyahu, whose first name is that of a son of Jacob, who lived perhaps 4,000 years ago. Netanyahu, whom no one ever called cuddly, once said to a U.S. diplomat 10 words that should warn U.S. policymakers who hope to make Netanyahu malleable: “You live in Chevy Chase. Don’t play with our future.”

But it’s not simply Netanyahu who provokes the left’s queasiness over nationalism. It is the entire Zionist undertaking, the Jewish state. Some months ago, Elliott Abrams dismantled Peter Beinart, explaining: “Jewish liberals have a problem with particularism, nationalism, Zionism, and they always have. And it isn’t due to anything that is going on in Israel, it’s due to things that are going on inside their heads. They need to grow up and realize that Israel has a right to defend itself.” But the left (its Jews and non-Jews) has no intention of growing up, any more than Israelis have any intention of committing national suicide.

Obama has desperately tried to avoid — by cajoling, threatening, and his platitudinous speechifying — choosing between his and his ideological soul mates’ internationalist, multilateral vision and America’s democratic ally in the Middle East. The conflict reappears in various incarnations (settlements, the flotilla, etc.), but the fundamentals are the same. This is a circle that can’t be squared. He’s either going to stand in the face of a howling international community bolstered by the anti-Israel left or he’s not. He’s either going to cede American leadership of the Free World or not. No wonder Obama displays such animus toward the Jewish state; it refuses to knuckle under to his demands. And it forces Obama to confront the unworkability of his own dream of a world in which nation-states (and America in particular) recede in favor of an “international community.”

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Upgrade What?

The headline reads, “US Upgrades PA Diplomatic Recognition“:

The US State Department announced that the diplomatic recognition of the Palestinian Authority in the US will be upgraded to the status of “delegation general” Israel Radio reported Friday.

This will allow the Palestinian envoys in Washington to display the Palestinian flag and provide social benefits for their employees.

Palestinian representative to the US in Washington Maen Areikat said that the step equates Palestinian diplomatic status in the US to that of Canada and many other countries in western Europe.

Officials in Jerusalem have not responded officially to the US decision. Senior officials at the Prime Minister’s Office said that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was aware of the decision in advance and that the move was apparently intended to strengthen Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

For those who think this is a fruitless exercise and inapt timing (given Abbas’s recent indifference to halting incitement), this news is not welcome. (“Diplomatic officials in Jerusalem have expressed some disappointment that the US government has not emphasized the end of Palestinian incitement towards Israel.”) A knowledgable Israel hand e-mails:

The news stories that say the United States has upgraded the Palestinian Authority office in Washington are wrong, for there is no PA office.  There is a PLO office, one that requires a waiver twice each year to exist because of the PLO’s past links to terrorism.  The PLO is, according to the United Nations, the “sole legitimate voice of the Palestinian people,” but everyone knows that’s false; the PLO represents the ghost of Yasser Arafat, plus a whole bunch of his cronies. It would be far better to end the farce of having a PLO office — after all, who elected them? — and to try to establish a PA office, for any current and future Palestinian political development will take place through the PA.

But a peace deal and a PA government won’t be happening anytime soon unless Abbas and other Palestinian leaders stop inciting violence, give up the dream of a one-state solution (i.e., a demographic swamping of the Jewish state), and build some civil institutions capable of managing the Palestinians’ own affairs. Then maybe we can have a peace deal and can talk about flags.

The headline reads, “US Upgrades PA Diplomatic Recognition“:

The US State Department announced that the diplomatic recognition of the Palestinian Authority in the US will be upgraded to the status of “delegation general” Israel Radio reported Friday.

This will allow the Palestinian envoys in Washington to display the Palestinian flag and provide social benefits for their employees.

Palestinian representative to the US in Washington Maen Areikat said that the step equates Palestinian diplomatic status in the US to that of Canada and many other countries in western Europe.

Officials in Jerusalem have not responded officially to the US decision. Senior officials at the Prime Minister’s Office said that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was aware of the decision in advance and that the move was apparently intended to strengthen Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

For those who think this is a fruitless exercise and inapt timing (given Abbas’s recent indifference to halting incitement), this news is not welcome. (“Diplomatic officials in Jerusalem have expressed some disappointment that the US government has not emphasized the end of Palestinian incitement towards Israel.”) A knowledgable Israel hand e-mails:

The news stories that say the United States has upgraded the Palestinian Authority office in Washington are wrong, for there is no PA office.  There is a PLO office, one that requires a waiver twice each year to exist because of the PLO’s past links to terrorism.  The PLO is, according to the United Nations, the “sole legitimate voice of the Palestinian people,” but everyone knows that’s false; the PLO represents the ghost of Yasser Arafat, plus a whole bunch of his cronies. It would be far better to end the farce of having a PLO office — after all, who elected them? — and to try to establish a PA office, for any current and future Palestinian political development will take place through the PA.

But a peace deal and a PA government won’t be happening anytime soon unless Abbas and other Palestinian leaders stop inciting violence, give up the dream of a one-state solution (i.e., a demographic swamping of the Jewish state), and build some civil institutions capable of managing the Palestinians’ own affairs. Then maybe we can have a peace deal and can talk about flags.

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Newsflash: Israelis Don’t Trust Obama

The Israeli Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University have a new survey out. The results are not surprising:

Nearly three-quarters of the Israeli Jewish public supports holding talks with the Palestinians, but only 32.4 percent believe they will lead to peace. High support for talks along with pessimism about their outcome has characterized public opinion since the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993. Most Israelis – 62% – support direct dialogue, with only 14% supporting proximity talks mediated by US envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell.

Could it be that the Israeli Jewish public doesn’t trust the Obami? Sure looks that way: “Most Israelis think that Obama favors the Palestinians, and 42.5% view Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s policies towards the Palestinians as balanced.” How’s the Obama plan for staring down Bibi on a settlement freeze working out? Not so great:

Over half of the Israeli public favors renewed construction in the West Bank after the settlement freeze ends in September, claiming that “continuing the freeze means capitulation to the Americans and the Palestinians.” Conversely, 41.5% say the freeze should continue, in order to “help advance the negotiations with the Palestinians and improve Israel’s image in the international community.”

The J Street crowd and the so-called liberal Zionists (mostly liberal, not so Zionist) like to characterize their positions as merely in conflict with the “right-wing” Netanyahu government. But their outlook is in conflict with the Israeli people. And the American left’s support for Obama’s Israel policy (well, what used to be his policy before he tried making up with Bibi) has been overwhelmingly rejected by Israelis. The left likes to warn (threaten?) Israel that it can’t be a democracy unless it disgorges itself of the Palestinian population. But the central feature of a democracy is that voters elect their government and ultimately determine the course of their public policy. That is simply not acceptable to Jewish leftists, who, it seems, want neither a secure Israel nor a democratic one.

The Israeli Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University have a new survey out. The results are not surprising:

Nearly three-quarters of the Israeli Jewish public supports holding talks with the Palestinians, but only 32.4 percent believe they will lead to peace. High support for talks along with pessimism about their outcome has characterized public opinion since the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993. Most Israelis – 62% – support direct dialogue, with only 14% supporting proximity talks mediated by US envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell.

Could it be that the Israeli Jewish public doesn’t trust the Obami? Sure looks that way: “Most Israelis think that Obama favors the Palestinians, and 42.5% view Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s policies towards the Palestinians as balanced.” How’s the Obama plan for staring down Bibi on a settlement freeze working out? Not so great:

Over half of the Israeli public favors renewed construction in the West Bank after the settlement freeze ends in September, claiming that “continuing the freeze means capitulation to the Americans and the Palestinians.” Conversely, 41.5% say the freeze should continue, in order to “help advance the negotiations with the Palestinians and improve Israel’s image in the international community.”

The J Street crowd and the so-called liberal Zionists (mostly liberal, not so Zionist) like to characterize their positions as merely in conflict with the “right-wing” Netanyahu government. But their outlook is in conflict with the Israeli people. And the American left’s support for Obama’s Israel policy (well, what used to be his policy before he tried making up with Bibi) has been overwhelmingly rejected by Israelis. The left likes to warn (threaten?) Israel that it can’t be a democracy unless it disgorges itself of the Palestinian population. But the central feature of a democracy is that voters elect their government and ultimately determine the course of their public policy. That is simply not acceptable to Jewish leftists, who, it seems, want neither a secure Israel nor a democratic one.

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Richard Cohen: Obama Is No Reagan

My how the bloom is off the Obama rose. Richard Cohen sounds, well, like a CONTENTIONS blogger:

No one is accusing Obama of being likable. He is not unlikable, but he lacks Reagan’s (or Bill Clinton’s) warmth. What’s more, his career has been brief. He led no movement, was spokesman for no ideology and campaigned like a Nike sneaker — change instead of swoosh. He seems distant. No Irish jokes from him. For the average voter, he casts no shadow.

Reagan, by contrast, had been around forever. He was not defined solely by gauzy campaign ads but by countless speeches, two contentious and highly controversial terms as California governor, and a previous race for the presidency. There was never a question about who Reagan was and what he stood for. Not so Obama. About all he shares with Reagan at this point are low ratings.

I confess I am always baffled when pundits and voters say they like Obama but not his policies. What has been ingratiating about him? He’s thin-skinned, prickly, and robotic. He’s unduly nasty to political opponents. He doesn’t seem to like us (especially ordinary Americans who have taken to the streets and town halls), so why should we like him?

I suspect the canned response (“Oh sure, we like him, just not his handling of [fill in the blank]“) is a form of politeness, perhaps even wariness of expressing personal distaste for our first African American president. The idea of Obama has proved infinitely more attractive than the reality. Not even liberals like him anymore.

But Cohen’s not done:

What has come to be called the Obama Paradox is not a paradox at all. Voters lack faith in him making the right economic decisions because, as far as they’re concerned, he hasn’t. He went for health-care reform, not jobs. He supported the public option, then he didn’t. He’s been cold to Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu and then all over him like a cheap suit. Americans know Obama is smart. But we still don’t know him. Before Americans can give him credit for what he’s done, they have to know who he is. We’re waiting.

Or perhaps they know who he is (the prototypical Ivy League leftist) and still don’t like him. I will leave to others to debate whether he is “smart” or merely glib. (At the health-care summit, did he seem as smart as Paul Ryan?) What we do know is that he hasn’t been smart on politics (ask Nancy Pelosi), on the economy, or on the war on terror (how smart is it to excise the name of our enemy?).

The degree to which the entire debate has shifted is striking. We know how he has enraged and motivated conservatives. But now the left makes little or no effort to defend their once-messianic figure and seems to parrot many of the right’s complaints. If this is how Cohen, a rather reliable liberal voice, feels about Obama, imagine what independent voters in Ohio and Indiana and California must be thinking. We’ll get a hint this November.

My how the bloom is off the Obama rose. Richard Cohen sounds, well, like a CONTENTIONS blogger:

No one is accusing Obama of being likable. He is not unlikable, but he lacks Reagan’s (or Bill Clinton’s) warmth. What’s more, his career has been brief. He led no movement, was spokesman for no ideology and campaigned like a Nike sneaker — change instead of swoosh. He seems distant. No Irish jokes from him. For the average voter, he casts no shadow.

Reagan, by contrast, had been around forever. He was not defined solely by gauzy campaign ads but by countless speeches, two contentious and highly controversial terms as California governor, and a previous race for the presidency. There was never a question about who Reagan was and what he stood for. Not so Obama. About all he shares with Reagan at this point are low ratings.

I confess I am always baffled when pundits and voters say they like Obama but not his policies. What has been ingratiating about him? He’s thin-skinned, prickly, and robotic. He’s unduly nasty to political opponents. He doesn’t seem to like us (especially ordinary Americans who have taken to the streets and town halls), so why should we like him?

I suspect the canned response (“Oh sure, we like him, just not his handling of [fill in the blank]“) is a form of politeness, perhaps even wariness of expressing personal distaste for our first African American president. The idea of Obama has proved infinitely more attractive than the reality. Not even liberals like him anymore.

But Cohen’s not done:

What has come to be called the Obama Paradox is not a paradox at all. Voters lack faith in him making the right economic decisions because, as far as they’re concerned, he hasn’t. He went for health-care reform, not jobs. He supported the public option, then he didn’t. He’s been cold to Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu and then all over him like a cheap suit. Americans know Obama is smart. But we still don’t know him. Before Americans can give him credit for what he’s done, they have to know who he is. We’re waiting.

Or perhaps they know who he is (the prototypical Ivy League leftist) and still don’t like him. I will leave to others to debate whether he is “smart” or merely glib. (At the health-care summit, did he seem as smart as Paul Ryan?) What we do know is that he hasn’t been smart on politics (ask Nancy Pelosi), on the economy, or on the war on terror (how smart is it to excise the name of our enemy?).

The degree to which the entire debate has shifted is striking. We know how he has enraged and motivated conservatives. But now the left makes little or no effort to defend their once-messianic figure and seems to parrot many of the right’s complaints. If this is how Cohen, a rather reliable liberal voice, feels about Obama, imagine what independent voters in Ohio and Indiana and California must be thinking. We’ll get a hint this November.

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Israelis Aren’t Dumb

The Jerusalem Post reports:

U.S. President Barack Obama’s efforts to reach out to the people of Israel last week – when he hosted Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for a positive meeting at the White House and gave his first interview as president to an Israeli television station – were not very successful, according to a Smith Research poll. … After Obama’s earlier meetings with Netanyahu were portrayed as adversarial, Obama made a point of treating the prime minister with the utmost respect last week, accompanying him to his car and constantly commending him in particular and Israelis in general during his press conference with Netanyahu on Tuesday, and his interview with Channel 2 anchor Yonit Levy two days later. …

There was only a 1 percentage point rise in Israelis who consider the US administration headed by Obama to be more pro-Israel than pro-Palestinian since the last such poll was taken in March.

When asked whether they saw Obama’s administration as more pro-Israel, more pro-Palestinian or neutral, just 10 percent of Israeli Jews said more pro-Israel, 46% said more pro-Palestinian, 34% said neutral and 10% did not express an opinion.

If only American Jews could be as hard-headed and realistic. It’s not a smile or a handshake that makes for a pro-Israel president — it is what he does that matters. So far, nothing much has changed in Obama’s approach to the Middle East – so why should the Israelis’ opinion of Obama? And while we are debating what it means to be “pro-Israel,” it seems as though we should at least take into account what Israelis think.

The Jerusalem Post reports:

U.S. President Barack Obama’s efforts to reach out to the people of Israel last week – when he hosted Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for a positive meeting at the White House and gave his first interview as president to an Israeli television station – were not very successful, according to a Smith Research poll. … After Obama’s earlier meetings with Netanyahu were portrayed as adversarial, Obama made a point of treating the prime minister with the utmost respect last week, accompanying him to his car and constantly commending him in particular and Israelis in general during his press conference with Netanyahu on Tuesday, and his interview with Channel 2 anchor Yonit Levy two days later. …

There was only a 1 percentage point rise in Israelis who consider the US administration headed by Obama to be more pro-Israel than pro-Palestinian since the last such poll was taken in March.

When asked whether they saw Obama’s administration as more pro-Israel, more pro-Palestinian or neutral, just 10 percent of Israeli Jews said more pro-Israel, 46% said more pro-Palestinian, 34% said neutral and 10% did not express an opinion.

If only American Jews could be as hard-headed and realistic. It’s not a smile or a handshake that makes for a pro-Israel president — it is what he does that matters. So far, nothing much has changed in Obama’s approach to the Middle East – so why should the Israelis’ opinion of Obama? And while we are debating what it means to be “pro-Israel,” it seems as though we should at least take into account what Israelis think.

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The Incoherent Response to the Flotilla

As I previously noted, it made no sense for Mahmoud Abbas to root for a relaxation of the Gaza blockade. In the furor of the moment and with Obama refusing to give Israel a robust vote of confidence, he no doubt felt compelled to throw his lot in with the Israel-bashers. But as David points out, we now know that privately he was singing a different tune:

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is opposed to lifting the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip because this would bolster Hamas, according to what he told United States President Barack Obama during their meeting at the White House Wednesday. Egypt also supports this position. …

The issue of the Gaza flotilla and lifting the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip was the main topic of discussion between Obama and Abbas last Wednesday night.

European diplomats updated by the White House on the talks said that Abbas had stressed to Obama the need of opening the border crossings into the Gaza Strip and the easing of the siege, but only in ways that do not bolster Hamas.

One of the points that Abbas raised is that the naval blockade imposed by Israel on the Strip should not be lifted at this stage. The European diplomats said Egypt has made it clear to Israel, the U.S and the European Union that it is also opposes the lifting of the naval blockade because of the difficulty in inspecting the ships that would enter and leave the Gaza port.

Yet Obama has remained virtually mute on this point, allowing the anti-blockade furor to grow at the UN and among Israel’s enemies. Now we know that only Hamas — and 54 liberal congressmen, including Joe Sestak – wants the blockade lifted. But still, the “international community” criticizes Israel for enforcing the blockade if force is needed.

Meanwhile, Bibi has announced an inquiry into the flotilla incident:

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced Sunday that a retired high court judge, Jacob Turkel, will head the committee of inquiry into the raid on the Turkish aid ship Mavi Marmara.At a meeting of Likud ministers, the prime minister said he had notified US President Barack Obama of the plans.

So far, we’ve heard no endorsement of the Israel-only inquiry from Obama, nor does it appear that the U.S. is inclined to participate formally or provide assistance to it. Obama was merely informed.

So where are we? Obama continues to hedge and equivocate, unwilling to publicly endorse the blockade that his Fatah clients desperately need to remain in place. Obama continues to search for an international element to the investigation — trying, as he always does, to show his bona fides to the Arab world (“See, America doesn’t trust Israel to investigate itself!”) without unleashing a furious backlash by Congress and Jewish groups, who are continually assured that of course we won’t single out Israel or allow a Goldstone-type inquest. But what do those assurances actually mean? Obama broke new ground with the UN statement, refused to insist that Turkey and the terrorists be the subject of an inquest, and signaled to Iran once again that there is distance between the U.S. and Israel.

We have, for the upteenth time, demonstrated incoherence and uncertainty on the Middle East. In the void left by an assertive U.S. and a warm U.S.-Israel relationship, in steps Iran and its soul mates, Turkey and Syria. As a result of all this “smart diplomacy,” the Middle East is spinning out of control and edging closer to conflagration.

As I previously noted, it made no sense for Mahmoud Abbas to root for a relaxation of the Gaza blockade. In the furor of the moment and with Obama refusing to give Israel a robust vote of confidence, he no doubt felt compelled to throw his lot in with the Israel-bashers. But as David points out, we now know that privately he was singing a different tune:

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is opposed to lifting the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip because this would bolster Hamas, according to what he told United States President Barack Obama during their meeting at the White House Wednesday. Egypt also supports this position. …

The issue of the Gaza flotilla and lifting the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip was the main topic of discussion between Obama and Abbas last Wednesday night.

European diplomats updated by the White House on the talks said that Abbas had stressed to Obama the need of opening the border crossings into the Gaza Strip and the easing of the siege, but only in ways that do not bolster Hamas.

One of the points that Abbas raised is that the naval blockade imposed by Israel on the Strip should not be lifted at this stage. The European diplomats said Egypt has made it clear to Israel, the U.S and the European Union that it is also opposes the lifting of the naval blockade because of the difficulty in inspecting the ships that would enter and leave the Gaza port.

Yet Obama has remained virtually mute on this point, allowing the anti-blockade furor to grow at the UN and among Israel’s enemies. Now we know that only Hamas — and 54 liberal congressmen, including Joe Sestak – wants the blockade lifted. But still, the “international community” criticizes Israel for enforcing the blockade if force is needed.

Meanwhile, Bibi has announced an inquiry into the flotilla incident:

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced Sunday that a retired high court judge, Jacob Turkel, will head the committee of inquiry into the raid on the Turkish aid ship Mavi Marmara.At a meeting of Likud ministers, the prime minister said he had notified US President Barack Obama of the plans.

So far, we’ve heard no endorsement of the Israel-only inquiry from Obama, nor does it appear that the U.S. is inclined to participate formally or provide assistance to it. Obama was merely informed.

So where are we? Obama continues to hedge and equivocate, unwilling to publicly endorse the blockade that his Fatah clients desperately need to remain in place. Obama continues to search for an international element to the investigation — trying, as he always does, to show his bona fides to the Arab world (“See, America doesn’t trust Israel to investigate itself!”) without unleashing a furious backlash by Congress and Jewish groups, who are continually assured that of course we won’t single out Israel or allow a Goldstone-type inquest. But what do those assurances actually mean? Obama broke new ground with the UN statement, refused to insist that Turkey and the terrorists be the subject of an inquest, and signaled to Iran once again that there is distance between the U.S. and Israel.

We have, for the upteenth time, demonstrated incoherence and uncertainty on the Middle East. In the void left by an assertive U.S. and a warm U.S.-Israel relationship, in steps Iran and its soul mates, Turkey and Syria. As a result of all this “smart diplomacy,” the Middle East is spinning out of control and edging closer to conflagration.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

When you want clarity on the flotilla, watch Liz Cheney.

When you want moral sanity on Helen Thomas, follow Sarah Palin on Twitter: “Helen Thomas press pals condone racist rant? Heaven forbid ‘esteemed’ press corps represent society’s enlightened elite; Rest of us choose truth.” (When will liberal Jews admit they were conned by candidate Obama’s professed attachment to Israel? When they admit Palin is among the most pro-Israel political figures. Yeah, never.)

When you are prepared to scream and throw things, read Peter Beinart’s call for an end to “American dominance.” It does seem to prove the point that Beinart’s new anti-Israel bent is more about liberalism than about Israel. (A reader e-mails me: “To what does he owe his standard of living and his security?” Err … America’s superpower status? Yup.)

When reporters refer to the flotilla as “humanitarian,” you realize they are ignorant of or intentionally ignoring mounting evidence: “Accumulating evidence in the IDF’s investigation of the Gaza flotilla incident is pointing to the fact a separate group of Islamist radicals whose sole intention was to initiate a violent conflict was aboard the Mavi Marmara, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said at the opening of Sunday’s cabinet meeting. He said that a group of street-fighters ‘boarded the ship at a separate port, did their own provisioning, and were not subject to the same security check of their luggage as all the other passengers.’ The prime minister’s remarks followed IDF reports that a group of about 50 men — of the 700 on board — had been identified as being well-trained, and a ringleader who recruited them from the northwestern Turkey city of Bursa. The group was split up into smaller squads that were distributed throughout the deck and communicated with one another with handheld communication devices. The men wore bulletproof vests and gas masks and laid an ambush for the Shayetet 13 soldiers as they rappelled onto the ship’s deck from a helicopter. The members of this violent group were not carrying identity cards or passports. Instead, each of them had an envelope in his pocket with about $10,000 in cash.”

When Obama ignores Iranian aggression and fails to come up with a reasonable plan to halt the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions, you will get more of this: “Iran would be willing to send its Revolutionary Guard members to accompany further aid ships to Gaza, Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Sunday in an interview cited by Reuters.” You see, it’s not about Gaza or humanitarians – this is about Iran’s growing influence in the Middle East and Obama’s failure to do anything about it.

When Chuck Schumer calls for an investigation of the flotilla’s terrorist ties to al-Qaeda, that’s further proof that Obama is increasingly isolated in his noxious stance toward Israel. When he asks the State Department — who was willing to go along with the UN resolution – to do the investigation, you wonder if he’s serious. How about letting Israel do the investigation? You know, like America does when there is a controversial national-security incident.

When an investigation needs to be done, there really isn’t anyone better able to do it than Israel, which has already identified five flotilla passengers with prior involvement in terrorist activities. How long (if ever) would it have taken Hillary to figure that out?

When you want clarity on the flotilla, watch Liz Cheney.

When you want moral sanity on Helen Thomas, follow Sarah Palin on Twitter: “Helen Thomas press pals condone racist rant? Heaven forbid ‘esteemed’ press corps represent society’s enlightened elite; Rest of us choose truth.” (When will liberal Jews admit they were conned by candidate Obama’s professed attachment to Israel? When they admit Palin is among the most pro-Israel political figures. Yeah, never.)

When you are prepared to scream and throw things, read Peter Beinart’s call for an end to “American dominance.” It does seem to prove the point that Beinart’s new anti-Israel bent is more about liberalism than about Israel. (A reader e-mails me: “To what does he owe his standard of living and his security?” Err … America’s superpower status? Yup.)

When reporters refer to the flotilla as “humanitarian,” you realize they are ignorant of or intentionally ignoring mounting evidence: “Accumulating evidence in the IDF’s investigation of the Gaza flotilla incident is pointing to the fact a separate group of Islamist radicals whose sole intention was to initiate a violent conflict was aboard the Mavi Marmara, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said at the opening of Sunday’s cabinet meeting. He said that a group of street-fighters ‘boarded the ship at a separate port, did their own provisioning, and were not subject to the same security check of their luggage as all the other passengers.’ The prime minister’s remarks followed IDF reports that a group of about 50 men — of the 700 on board — had been identified as being well-trained, and a ringleader who recruited them from the northwestern Turkey city of Bursa. The group was split up into smaller squads that were distributed throughout the deck and communicated with one another with handheld communication devices. The men wore bulletproof vests and gas masks and laid an ambush for the Shayetet 13 soldiers as they rappelled onto the ship’s deck from a helicopter. The members of this violent group were not carrying identity cards or passports. Instead, each of them had an envelope in his pocket with about $10,000 in cash.”

When Obama ignores Iranian aggression and fails to come up with a reasonable plan to halt the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions, you will get more of this: “Iran would be willing to send its Revolutionary Guard members to accompany further aid ships to Gaza, Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Sunday in an interview cited by Reuters.” You see, it’s not about Gaza or humanitarians – this is about Iran’s growing influence in the Middle East and Obama’s failure to do anything about it.

When Chuck Schumer calls for an investigation of the flotilla’s terrorist ties to al-Qaeda, that’s further proof that Obama is increasingly isolated in his noxious stance toward Israel. When he asks the State Department — who was willing to go along with the UN resolution – to do the investigation, you wonder if he’s serious. How about letting Israel do the investigation? You know, like America does when there is a controversial national-security incident.

When an investigation needs to be done, there really isn’t anyone better able to do it than Israel, which has already identified five flotilla passengers with prior involvement in terrorist activities. How long (if ever) would it have taken Hillary to figure that out?

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Turning of the Tide?

It seems that the problem was Turkey, not Israel:

IDF forces piloted the Rachel Corrie to the port of Ashdod early Saturday evening after boarding the ship earlier in the day. None were harmed in the military operation as the international activists on the ship cooperated with the boarding party. The activists went as far as lowering a ladder to the soldiers patrol boat to allow them to board, army sources have revealed.

The boarding of the Rachel Corrie containing activists and aid for Gaza was described by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Saturday as a quiet operation. Netanyahu was quick to distinguish between the boat of Irish and Malaysian activists and the Turkish-sponsored Mavi Marmara which was boarded May 31 in an incident that left nine dead and scores wounded.

“The different outcome we saw today underscores the difference between peace activists who we disagree with but respect their right to express their different opinion and flotilla participants [on the Mavi Marmara] who were violent extremist supporters of terrorists,” said Netanyahu.

The Obama team has spent the week perpetuating the notion that it is Israel that needs to be investigated. But the tide seems to be shifting as the facts come out. The Washington Post editors, whose initial reaction was to scold Israel, have changed their tune. They write: “All of the violence occurred aboard the Turkish ferry Mavi Marmara, and all of those who were killed were members or volunteers for the Islamic ‘charity’ that owned the ship, the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH). The relationship between Mr. Erdogan’s government and the IHH ought to be one focus of any international investigation into the incident.”

And the first Senate candidate I am aware of has taken up the issue and is calling for Obama to stop the straddling. Dan Coats of Indiana, via e-mail, tells me: “President Obama should not qualify U.S. support for Israel and any investigation must be thorough and address the question of terrorist connections of any personnel on or related to the flotilla.” I don’t suspect that Evan Bayh is going to challenge Obama on this — but if Coats was in the Senate, it sounds as though it would be a different story.

If Obama can’t lead, perhaps he can follow public opinion and political pressure. He really has enough political problems these days — does he really want to let his anti-Israel animus put him at odds with lawmakers, candidates, and even the mainstream media? Stay tuned.

It seems that the problem was Turkey, not Israel:

IDF forces piloted the Rachel Corrie to the port of Ashdod early Saturday evening after boarding the ship earlier in the day. None were harmed in the military operation as the international activists on the ship cooperated with the boarding party. The activists went as far as lowering a ladder to the soldiers patrol boat to allow them to board, army sources have revealed.

The boarding of the Rachel Corrie containing activists and aid for Gaza was described by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Saturday as a quiet operation. Netanyahu was quick to distinguish between the boat of Irish and Malaysian activists and the Turkish-sponsored Mavi Marmara which was boarded May 31 in an incident that left nine dead and scores wounded.

“The different outcome we saw today underscores the difference between peace activists who we disagree with but respect their right to express their different opinion and flotilla participants [on the Mavi Marmara] who were violent extremist supporters of terrorists,” said Netanyahu.

The Obama team has spent the week perpetuating the notion that it is Israel that needs to be investigated. But the tide seems to be shifting as the facts come out. The Washington Post editors, whose initial reaction was to scold Israel, have changed their tune. They write: “All of the violence occurred aboard the Turkish ferry Mavi Marmara, and all of those who were killed were members or volunteers for the Islamic ‘charity’ that owned the ship, the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH). The relationship between Mr. Erdogan’s government and the IHH ought to be one focus of any international investigation into the incident.”

And the first Senate candidate I am aware of has taken up the issue and is calling for Obama to stop the straddling. Dan Coats of Indiana, via e-mail, tells me: “President Obama should not qualify U.S. support for Israel and any investigation must be thorough and address the question of terrorist connections of any personnel on or related to the flotilla.” I don’t suspect that Evan Bayh is going to challenge Obama on this — but if Coats was in the Senate, it sounds as though it would be a different story.

If Obama can’t lead, perhaps he can follow public opinion and political pressure. He really has enough political problems these days — does he really want to let his anti-Israel animus put him at odds with lawmakers, candidates, and even the mainstream media? Stay tuned.

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