Commentary Magazine


Topic: electricity

The President’s Speech: An Irresponsible Performance

State of the Union speeches are typically unimpressive and unmemorable. Last night’s address by President Obama was in that tradition. While his delivery was fine, the speech itself was mediocre — flat, undisciplined and unfocused, at times pedestrian and banal, with goals seemingly pulled out of thin air (e.g., by 2035, 80 percent of America’s electricity will come from clean-energy sources).

The speech was also oddly uncreative, with Obama dusting off slogans and ideas from past State of the Union speeches. For example, on the campaign trail in 2008 and during the first two years of his presidency, Barack Obama portrayed himself as the great enemy of earmarks. Perhaps the reason he has to keep reminding us of his antipathy for earmarks is because he has repeatedly signed into law legislation that contained thousands of them.

Still, this doesn’t mean the speech was unimportant. It was, in fact, quite significant in terms of highlighting the president’s cast of mind and how he understands, or fails to understand, the moment we’re in.

The State of the Union address reaffirmed that Barack Obama remains a man of the left. He spent most of the speech championing an array of new programs, explaining why he believes we need to expand the size, reach, scope, and cost of the federal government.

It was as if the president were awakening Leviathan from a two-year slumber rather than two years of hyperactivity.

Beyond that, though, Obama spoke as if he were living in an alternate universe — one where a $14 trillion debt and trillion dollar a year deficit don’t exist; where our entitlement programs are basically solvent and sound, in need of, at most, tweaking around the margins; and where the 2010 midterm election wasn’t a repudiation of the president’s progressive agenda.

The president dealt with our fiscal crisis as if it were a triviality, its importance on par with the need for more solar panels and high-speed rails.

Mr. Obama, I think, is misreading the public mood. Many Americans are unnerved by our fiscal imbalance, which helps explain the rise of the Tea Party movement. But whether or not Obama is out of touch with the public is, in one respect, irrelevant. Facts are stubborn things — and the fact is that we’re facing a crushing entitlement crisis that is getting worse literally by the hour. If we don’t come to grips with it soon, we are likely to experience something similar to the social unrest that is sweeping Europe.

More than mediocre, then, I found the president’s speech to be irresponsible. As the elected leader of the nation — and as one of the architects of our fiscal crisis — Obama has an obligation to address it in a serious, systematic, and intellectually honest manner. Instead, he is eschewing his governing duties. He is living in a world of his own imagination. That might be fine for writers of fiction and fairy tales. But for the president of the United States, it is quite a bad thing indeed.

State of the Union speeches are typically unimpressive and unmemorable. Last night’s address by President Obama was in that tradition. While his delivery was fine, the speech itself was mediocre — flat, undisciplined and unfocused, at times pedestrian and banal, with goals seemingly pulled out of thin air (e.g., by 2035, 80 percent of America’s electricity will come from clean-energy sources).

The speech was also oddly uncreative, with Obama dusting off slogans and ideas from past State of the Union speeches. For example, on the campaign trail in 2008 and during the first two years of his presidency, Barack Obama portrayed himself as the great enemy of earmarks. Perhaps the reason he has to keep reminding us of his antipathy for earmarks is because he has repeatedly signed into law legislation that contained thousands of them.

Still, this doesn’t mean the speech was unimportant. It was, in fact, quite significant in terms of highlighting the president’s cast of mind and how he understands, or fails to understand, the moment we’re in.

The State of the Union address reaffirmed that Barack Obama remains a man of the left. He spent most of the speech championing an array of new programs, explaining why he believes we need to expand the size, reach, scope, and cost of the federal government.

It was as if the president were awakening Leviathan from a two-year slumber rather than two years of hyperactivity.

Beyond that, though, Obama spoke as if he were living in an alternate universe — one where a $14 trillion debt and trillion dollar a year deficit don’t exist; where our entitlement programs are basically solvent and sound, in need of, at most, tweaking around the margins; and where the 2010 midterm election wasn’t a repudiation of the president’s progressive agenda.

The president dealt with our fiscal crisis as if it were a triviality, its importance on par with the need for more solar panels and high-speed rails.

Mr. Obama, I think, is misreading the public mood. Many Americans are unnerved by our fiscal imbalance, which helps explain the rise of the Tea Party movement. But whether or not Obama is out of touch with the public is, in one respect, irrelevant. Facts are stubborn things — and the fact is that we’re facing a crushing entitlement crisis that is getting worse literally by the hour. If we don’t come to grips with it soon, we are likely to experience something similar to the social unrest that is sweeping Europe.

More than mediocre, then, I found the president’s speech to be irresponsible. As the elected leader of the nation — and as one of the architects of our fiscal crisis — Obama has an obligation to address it in a serious, systematic, and intellectually honest manner. Instead, he is eschewing his governing duties. He is living in a world of his own imagination. That might be fine for writers of fiction and fairy tales. But for the president of the United States, it is quite a bad thing indeed.

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Will Gingrich Influence Palin?

During an appearance on Fox News Sunday, former House speaker Newt Gingrich said he is “much more inclined to run” for president in 2012 than not run.

I’m curious about the effect, if any at all, Gingrich’s words may have on Sarah Palin. Of those Republicans considered the most likely to run for president, Gingrich is perhaps the one individual who can compete with Palin when it comes to exciting the GOP base and its core conservative supporters. He can send a jolt of electricity through GOP audiences that is quite impressive and unmatched by anyone, with the exception of Palin and Governor Chris Christie (who continues to rule out a race in 2012).

I continue to believe that Ms. Palin will not run for president in 2012. She has structured a very impressive and profitable post-2008 campaign life for herself. She’s influential but not fully in the arena. If she decides to run, however, her limitations (which are considerable) will overwhelm her candidacy. She will not be president of the United States. Hopefully, she’s self-aware enough to know that.

During an appearance on Fox News Sunday, former House speaker Newt Gingrich said he is “much more inclined to run” for president in 2012 than not run.

I’m curious about the effect, if any at all, Gingrich’s words may have on Sarah Palin. Of those Republicans considered the most likely to run for president, Gingrich is perhaps the one individual who can compete with Palin when it comes to exciting the GOP base and its core conservative supporters. He can send a jolt of electricity through GOP audiences that is quite impressive and unmatched by anyone, with the exception of Palin and Governor Chris Christie (who continues to rule out a race in 2012).

I continue to believe that Ms. Palin will not run for president in 2012. She has structured a very impressive and profitable post-2008 campaign life for herself. She’s influential but not fully in the arena. If she decides to run, however, her limitations (which are considerable) will overwhelm her candidacy. She will not be president of the United States. Hopefully, she’s self-aware enough to know that.

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Prime Minister Cameron’s Slander Against Israel

In a speech in Ankara, Turkey, British Prime Minister David Cameron said this:

I know that Gaza has led to real strains in Turkey ‘s relationship with Israel. But Turkey is a friend of Israel. And I urge Turkey, and Israel, not to give up on that friendship. Let me be clear. The Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla was completely unacceptable. And I have told PM Netanyahu, we will expect the Israeli inquiry to be swift, transparent and rigorous. Let me also be clear that the situation in Gaza has to change. Humanitarian goods and people must flow in both directions. Gaza cannot and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp. But as, hopefully, we move in the coming weeks to direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians so it’s Turkey that can make the case for peace and Turkey that can help to press the parties to come together, and point the way to a just and viable solution.

Prime Minister Cameron’s claim that the “Israeli attack” on the Gaza flotilla was “completely unacceptable” is utter nonsense. As I argued at the time:

The blockade was justified by international law. (Egypt , by the way, had also imposed a blockade on Gaza because of the threat from the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, which illegally seized control of Gaza in 2007.) The Israeli navy first tried to warn the ships off verbally. The “peace activist” on board assaulted Israeli commandos (who were armed with paintball guns) with clubs, knives, metal pipes, stun grenades, and handguns; it turns out that many of them were recruited specifically to attack Israeli soldiers. The “humanitarian relief” the flotilla was supposedly bringing to Palestinians in Gaza was in fact no such thing (food, medicine, relief supplies, and electricity continue to pour into Gaza on a daily basis). And the “charity” that helped organize the flotilla was in fact the radical Turkish group IHH (Insani Yardim Vakfi), which has longstanding ties to Hamas and the global jihadist movement. Yet somehow, some way, it is Israel that is condemned when it acts in its own self-defense.

All of these facts are highly relevant, yet Cameron mentions none of them. I wonder why.

As for Gaza being a “prison camp”: if that’s what it is, Gaza is a prison camp of the Palestinian leadership’s own making.

It cannot be said often enough: in 2005, Israel and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon — in unilaterally withdrawing from Gaza — did for the Palestinians what the Turks (and, among others, the British, Egyptians, and Jordanian rulers of Palestine) never did: it granted them sovereign control in Gaza (see more here). Rather than build a peaceful and prosperous state, however, Hamas — which seized control of Gaza — decided to launch thousands of rocket and mortar attacks against unarmed Israelis. Israel responded as any sane, sovereign state would with measures including a blockade. Yet Cameron has no words of condemnation for Hamas. This sounds like midsummer madness.

The truth Cameron cannot abide is that the responsibility for the suffering in Gaza lies not with the Israelis but with Hamas and the Palestinians. And for the Prime Minister of Great Britain not only to deny this truth but also to engage in a smear of an estimable and admirable nation like Israel — all to establish a “new partnership” between Britain and Turkey and, in the process, to win applause from Turkey’s increasingly radicalized leadership — is troubling and disappointing. Prime Minister Cameron’s approach is morally offensive and strategically foolish.

On this matter at least, the British prime minister knows not of what he speaks.

In a speech in Ankara, Turkey, British Prime Minister David Cameron said this:

I know that Gaza has led to real strains in Turkey ‘s relationship with Israel. But Turkey is a friend of Israel. And I urge Turkey, and Israel, not to give up on that friendship. Let me be clear. The Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla was completely unacceptable. And I have told PM Netanyahu, we will expect the Israeli inquiry to be swift, transparent and rigorous. Let me also be clear that the situation in Gaza has to change. Humanitarian goods and people must flow in both directions. Gaza cannot and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp. But as, hopefully, we move in the coming weeks to direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians so it’s Turkey that can make the case for peace and Turkey that can help to press the parties to come together, and point the way to a just and viable solution.

Prime Minister Cameron’s claim that the “Israeli attack” on the Gaza flotilla was “completely unacceptable” is utter nonsense. As I argued at the time:

The blockade was justified by international law. (Egypt , by the way, had also imposed a blockade on Gaza because of the threat from the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, which illegally seized control of Gaza in 2007.) The Israeli navy first tried to warn the ships off verbally. The “peace activist” on board assaulted Israeli commandos (who were armed with paintball guns) with clubs, knives, metal pipes, stun grenades, and handguns; it turns out that many of them were recruited specifically to attack Israeli soldiers. The “humanitarian relief” the flotilla was supposedly bringing to Palestinians in Gaza was in fact no such thing (food, medicine, relief supplies, and electricity continue to pour into Gaza on a daily basis). And the “charity” that helped organize the flotilla was in fact the radical Turkish group IHH (Insani Yardim Vakfi), which has longstanding ties to Hamas and the global jihadist movement. Yet somehow, some way, it is Israel that is condemned when it acts in its own self-defense.

All of these facts are highly relevant, yet Cameron mentions none of them. I wonder why.

As for Gaza being a “prison camp”: if that’s what it is, Gaza is a prison camp of the Palestinian leadership’s own making.

It cannot be said often enough: in 2005, Israel and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon — in unilaterally withdrawing from Gaza — did for the Palestinians what the Turks (and, among others, the British, Egyptians, and Jordanian rulers of Palestine) never did: it granted them sovereign control in Gaza (see more here). Rather than build a peaceful and prosperous state, however, Hamas — which seized control of Gaza — decided to launch thousands of rocket and mortar attacks against unarmed Israelis. Israel responded as any sane, sovereign state would with measures including a blockade. Yet Cameron has no words of condemnation for Hamas. This sounds like midsummer madness.

The truth Cameron cannot abide is that the responsibility for the suffering in Gaza lies not with the Israelis but with Hamas and the Palestinians. And for the Prime Minister of Great Britain not only to deny this truth but also to engage in a smear of an estimable and admirable nation like Israel — all to establish a “new partnership” between Britain and Turkey and, in the process, to win applause from Turkey’s increasingly radicalized leadership — is troubling and disappointing. Prime Minister Cameron’s approach is morally offensive and strategically foolish.

On this matter at least, the British prime minister knows not of what he speaks.

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Humanitarian Crisis? No, Gazans Are Bored!

Left-wing propagandists have spent the last several years successfully painting a picture of Gaza as a place where children starve and where all are in need. In reply, Israel and her defenders have attempted to point out that such tales are pure myth and that, in fact, there is no shortage of food or medicine in Gaza despite the limited blockade that has been imposed on the region since Hamas seized power there in a bloody coup. But there’s no need to listen to the Israelis on that point. As the New York Times makes clear in a 2,500-word dispatch published today about life in Gaza, the residents of the strip have no reticence about refuting the lies about a humanitarian crisis:

There are plenty of things to buy in Gaza; goods are brought over the border or smuggled through the tunnels with Egypt. That is not the problem. In fact, talk about food and people here get angry because it implies that their struggle is over subsistence rather than quality of life. The issue is not hunger. It is idleness, uncertainty and despair.

The picture painted in this story of life in Gaza is not pretty. But it makes it clear that what is really bothering Gazans is how boring life in Hamasistan can be. The Gazans chose to be ruled by an Islamist terrorist group dedicated to perpetuating the war against Israel and to the idea that Israel can someday be destroyed. But they think it is unfair to pay any price for the state of belligerency that exists with Israel — even if their basic needs are guaranteed by both the international community and the country they wish to destroy.

To their credit, authors Michael Slackman and Ethan Bronner make clear that the Palestinians’ biggest problem is the civil war being waged between the Hamas and Fatah organizations, as the latter’s decision to shut off electricity to Gaza to get even with Hamas illustrates.

As far as Israel, Palestinians are a bit confused. They desire its destruction, but at the same time, they think it is unfair that they should not be allowed to work there or that trade between Israel and Gaza should be halted because of the terrorist campaigns waged against the Jewish state by the groups Palestinians support. They want war and vote for Hamas but think it is unjust that they have lost income because of Israel’s measures of self-defense that were created because of Hamas terrorism. This confusion is well illustrated in the quote from Abdel Qader Ismail, 24, a former employee of the military intelligence service who now produces anti-Israel plays:

Our play does not mean we hate Israel. We believe in Israel’s right to exist, but not on the land of Palestine. In France or in Russia, but not in Palestine. This is our home.

It never seems to occur to Ismail that Israelis have no wish to live in France or Russia but instead want their own homeland, which they have demonstrated time and again that they are willing to share with the Palestinians if only they will finally accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state in part of that small country.

The tales in this report of Gaza’s abused wives and hopeless idle men are sad. But the answer to their isolation is an end to their war against Israel. If Palestinians would reject Hamas and an ethos of war to the death against Israel and accept a two-state solution with a Jewish state, Gaza’s isolation would end, and the Palestinian people could then concentrate their energies on development rather than on war. Until the Palestinians’ sense of identity is bound up with something more than merely rejection of Israel, the pathetic life they lead in Gaza will continue. And though they — and their foreign supporters — may prefer to rant about Israel, the truth is, the blame for their unenviable fate is largely their own.

Left-wing propagandists have spent the last several years successfully painting a picture of Gaza as a place where children starve and where all are in need. In reply, Israel and her defenders have attempted to point out that such tales are pure myth and that, in fact, there is no shortage of food or medicine in Gaza despite the limited blockade that has been imposed on the region since Hamas seized power there in a bloody coup. But there’s no need to listen to the Israelis on that point. As the New York Times makes clear in a 2,500-word dispatch published today about life in Gaza, the residents of the strip have no reticence about refuting the lies about a humanitarian crisis:

There are plenty of things to buy in Gaza; goods are brought over the border or smuggled through the tunnels with Egypt. That is not the problem. In fact, talk about food and people here get angry because it implies that their struggle is over subsistence rather than quality of life. The issue is not hunger. It is idleness, uncertainty and despair.

The picture painted in this story of life in Gaza is not pretty. But it makes it clear that what is really bothering Gazans is how boring life in Hamasistan can be. The Gazans chose to be ruled by an Islamist terrorist group dedicated to perpetuating the war against Israel and to the idea that Israel can someday be destroyed. But they think it is unfair to pay any price for the state of belligerency that exists with Israel — even if their basic needs are guaranteed by both the international community and the country they wish to destroy.

To their credit, authors Michael Slackman and Ethan Bronner make clear that the Palestinians’ biggest problem is the civil war being waged between the Hamas and Fatah organizations, as the latter’s decision to shut off electricity to Gaza to get even with Hamas illustrates.

As far as Israel, Palestinians are a bit confused. They desire its destruction, but at the same time, they think it is unfair that they should not be allowed to work there or that trade between Israel and Gaza should be halted because of the terrorist campaigns waged against the Jewish state by the groups Palestinians support. They want war and vote for Hamas but think it is unjust that they have lost income because of Israel’s measures of self-defense that were created because of Hamas terrorism. This confusion is well illustrated in the quote from Abdel Qader Ismail, 24, a former employee of the military intelligence service who now produces anti-Israel plays:

Our play does not mean we hate Israel. We believe in Israel’s right to exist, but not on the land of Palestine. In France or in Russia, but not in Palestine. This is our home.

It never seems to occur to Ismail that Israelis have no wish to live in France or Russia but instead want their own homeland, which they have demonstrated time and again that they are willing to share with the Palestinians if only they will finally accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state in part of that small country.

The tales in this report of Gaza’s abused wives and hopeless idle men are sad. But the answer to their isolation is an end to their war against Israel. If Palestinians would reject Hamas and an ethos of war to the death against Israel and accept a two-state solution with a Jewish state, Gaza’s isolation would end, and the Palestinian people could then concentrate their energies on development rather than on war. Until the Palestinians’ sense of identity is bound up with something more than merely rejection of Israel, the pathetic life they lead in Gaza will continue. And though they — and their foreign supporters — may prefer to rant about Israel, the truth is, the blame for their unenviable fate is largely their own.

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International Outrage, Please

There are stories in the news right now that in most of their themes are similar to stories that recently set off waves of condemnation and hysteria in much of the world, especially in the delicate global conscience of “the international community.”

In the Gaza Strip, many of the residents have been left without electricity because of a fight that shut down the Strip’s power plant. Palestinians are suffering, with nothing to relieve the daytime heat and the nighttime darkness — but the world yawns.

In a nearby part of the Middle East, an unprovoked and disproportionate attack against civilians destroyed a building and damaged others. The EU has not called for an investigation, and currently the UN Security Council has not been convened to discuss this act of war. Remarkably, this aggression is not even mentioned on the front pages of British newspapers, which normally cover attacks on civilians in this region with great attentiveness.

Also in the Middle East, a repressive regime is razing the homes of a persecuted minority. According to reports, 90 percent of the buildings owned by this minority group have been destroyed in these acts of discrimination and ethnic cleansing. Surprisingly, the UN secretary-general and the Obama administration — which have both publicly and repeatedly criticized Israel for legally demolishing buildings that were constructed in violation of zoning laws — have said nothing about this grave offense.

Elsewhere, it has been discovered that a major figure in a spy ring that has just been broken up had been using a forged British passport for her travels — and we all know what happens when someone is accused of using a forged British passport: two weeks of utter pandemonium in the British media; journalists, politicians, and concerned citizens become profoundly shocked and appalled; the foreign secretary promises investigation, punishment, and diplomatic fallout; the intelligence relationship with the offending country is downgraded; and so on.

But today the denunciations are absent, the criticism muted, the calls for investigation nonexistent, and the world’s attention fixed firmly on other issues. Why could this be?

There are stories in the news right now that in most of their themes are similar to stories that recently set off waves of condemnation and hysteria in much of the world, especially in the delicate global conscience of “the international community.”

In the Gaza Strip, many of the residents have been left without electricity because of a fight that shut down the Strip’s power plant. Palestinians are suffering, with nothing to relieve the daytime heat and the nighttime darkness — but the world yawns.

In a nearby part of the Middle East, an unprovoked and disproportionate attack against civilians destroyed a building and damaged others. The EU has not called for an investigation, and currently the UN Security Council has not been convened to discuss this act of war. Remarkably, this aggression is not even mentioned on the front pages of British newspapers, which normally cover attacks on civilians in this region with great attentiveness.

Also in the Middle East, a repressive regime is razing the homes of a persecuted minority. According to reports, 90 percent of the buildings owned by this minority group have been destroyed in these acts of discrimination and ethnic cleansing. Surprisingly, the UN secretary-general and the Obama administration — which have both publicly and repeatedly criticized Israel for legally demolishing buildings that were constructed in violation of zoning laws — have said nothing about this grave offense.

Elsewhere, it has been discovered that a major figure in a spy ring that has just been broken up had been using a forged British passport for her travels — and we all know what happens when someone is accused of using a forged British passport: two weeks of utter pandemonium in the British media; journalists, politicians, and concerned citizens become profoundly shocked and appalled; the foreign secretary promises investigation, punishment, and diplomatic fallout; the intelligence relationship with the offending country is downgraded; and so on.

But today the denunciations are absent, the criticism muted, the calls for investigation nonexistent, and the world’s attention fixed firmly on other issues. Why could this be?

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Eons Away from Peace in the Middle East

This report, from the BBC no less (the giveaway is that “terrorist” isn’t used), gives you an idea of how divorced from reality is the “peace process”:

Masked gunmen in the Gaza Strip have set fire to a United Nations-run summer camp for children. This follows a similar attack in May on another UN-run summer camp. Some militants view the UN as a symbol of the West and claim that the summer camps allow boys and girls to mix freely – something that the UN denies. The attackers tied up the guard at the camp in central Gaza before setting fire to chairs, tables, easels and other equipment. The UN says about 25 armed men attacked the beach camp in the middle of Sunday night. … Nobody was hurt, and nobody has claimed responsibility for the attack. But in a similar incident last month a previously unknown Islamist group said its had attacked a UN summer camp in Gaza city. The head in Gaza of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian refugees condemned the attack as “cowardly and despicable.”

But Israel is the subject of the ire of the ”international community” and is chastised for being too exacting in its list of blockaded goods. Well, when everything is a weapon — rope, matches, etc. — it gets hard to decide what should be excluded.

The most chilling part of the report is this: “Hamas also runs rival summer camps.” One can only imagine what their activities must be like and how many young minds are being corralled into the cult of death. Imagine, too, the mothers who choose to send their children to such places, and who pine for their flesh and blood to be martyred.

Meanwhile, there is this report:

The continued power struggle between Hamas and Fatah has left tens of thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in the dark following the closure of the area’s main power plant. The power plant, which supplies 25% of electricity to the Gaza Strip, was shut down on Friday night because of a dispute between the rival Palestinian parties over payment for fuel that is needed to keep it running. Hamas and Fatah traded allegations over the power outage, with each party blaming the other for the crisis.

Only by turning a blind eye to these and the hundreds of other indications that Israel’s foes remain dedicated to the Jewish state’s destruction does the Obama team imagine that George Mitchell is going to bring “peace” to Israel and the Palestinians. It is hard to make the case that “peace” in our time will come about by his shuffling between the two sides, one of which has not the authority or the will to make a deal and no means of ensuring that summer camps, schools, and hospitals do not remain targets of those who don’t share the vision of a two-state solution.

This report, from the BBC no less (the giveaway is that “terrorist” isn’t used), gives you an idea of how divorced from reality is the “peace process”:

Masked gunmen in the Gaza Strip have set fire to a United Nations-run summer camp for children. This follows a similar attack in May on another UN-run summer camp. Some militants view the UN as a symbol of the West and claim that the summer camps allow boys and girls to mix freely – something that the UN denies. The attackers tied up the guard at the camp in central Gaza before setting fire to chairs, tables, easels and other equipment. The UN says about 25 armed men attacked the beach camp in the middle of Sunday night. … Nobody was hurt, and nobody has claimed responsibility for the attack. But in a similar incident last month a previously unknown Islamist group said its had attacked a UN summer camp in Gaza city. The head in Gaza of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian refugees condemned the attack as “cowardly and despicable.”

But Israel is the subject of the ire of the ”international community” and is chastised for being too exacting in its list of blockaded goods. Well, when everything is a weapon — rope, matches, etc. — it gets hard to decide what should be excluded.

The most chilling part of the report is this: “Hamas also runs rival summer camps.” One can only imagine what their activities must be like and how many young minds are being corralled into the cult of death. Imagine, too, the mothers who choose to send their children to such places, and who pine for their flesh and blood to be martyred.

Meanwhile, there is this report:

The continued power struggle between Hamas and Fatah has left tens of thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in the dark following the closure of the area’s main power plant. The power plant, which supplies 25% of electricity to the Gaza Strip, was shut down on Friday night because of a dispute between the rival Palestinian parties over payment for fuel that is needed to keep it running. Hamas and Fatah traded allegations over the power outage, with each party blaming the other for the crisis.

Only by turning a blind eye to these and the hundreds of other indications that Israel’s foes remain dedicated to the Jewish state’s destruction does the Obama team imagine that George Mitchell is going to bring “peace” to Israel and the Palestinians. It is hard to make the case that “peace” in our time will come about by his shuffling between the two sides, one of which has not the authority or the will to make a deal and no means of ensuring that summer camps, schools, and hospitals do not remain targets of those who don’t share the vision of a two-state solution.

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Obama Is Annoyed that Israel Defends Itself

Unmitigated chutzpah is the only way to characterize this, which comes via David Ignatius:

The Obama team recognizes that Israel will act in its interests, but it wants Jerusalem to consider U.S. interests, as well. The administration has communicated at a senior level its fear that the Israelis sometimes “care about their equities, but not about ours.”

Has Israel “condemned” the U.S.? Has Israel sought to reorient itself away from the U.S.? Demanded unilateral concessions by the U.S.? Snuggled up to foes of the U.S.? Or snubbed its president repeatedly?

The arrogance is stunning, even for the Obama crowd. Another doozy: hmmm, side with the Jewish state or the Israel-bashing, Islamic-leaning, Iran-cooing Turks?

The Obama administration, caught between two allies during this week of crisis, has signaled Israel and Turkey that the blockade of Gaza should be loosened to allow more humanitarian aid to reach the Palestinian population there. From the first news early Monday of the Israeli commando attack on a flotilla of Turkish relief ships, the White House has been trying to balance the interests of two prickly friends. The immediate aim, said a senior official, has been to “defuse the electricity of the moment” by freeing the ships’ passengers and passing a U.N. resolution calling (in fuzzy language) for an investigation of the raid.

That Turkey appears to have facilitated the terrorist flotilla goes unremarked upon by the Obama brain trust, which struggles to reconcile its new approach to the Middle East with reality. You see, you can’t side with Israel and those seeking its harm or destruction.You can’t demonstrate loyalty to allies by being disloyal to your closest one. You can’t bring about peace by bullying the party that’s had its peace offers rejected for 60 years. No wonder the Obama team’s feelings are bruised: those “troublesome Jews” just won’t accept “every invitation to national suicide.”

Unmitigated chutzpah is the only way to characterize this, which comes via David Ignatius:

The Obama team recognizes that Israel will act in its interests, but it wants Jerusalem to consider U.S. interests, as well. The administration has communicated at a senior level its fear that the Israelis sometimes “care about their equities, but not about ours.”

Has Israel “condemned” the U.S.? Has Israel sought to reorient itself away from the U.S.? Demanded unilateral concessions by the U.S.? Snuggled up to foes of the U.S.? Or snubbed its president repeatedly?

The arrogance is stunning, even for the Obama crowd. Another doozy: hmmm, side with the Jewish state or the Israel-bashing, Islamic-leaning, Iran-cooing Turks?

The Obama administration, caught between two allies during this week of crisis, has signaled Israel and Turkey that the blockade of Gaza should be loosened to allow more humanitarian aid to reach the Palestinian population there. From the first news early Monday of the Israeli commando attack on a flotilla of Turkish relief ships, the White House has been trying to balance the interests of two prickly friends. The immediate aim, said a senior official, has been to “defuse the electricity of the moment” by freeing the ships’ passengers and passing a U.N. resolution calling (in fuzzy language) for an investigation of the raid.

That Turkey appears to have facilitated the terrorist flotilla goes unremarked upon by the Obama brain trust, which struggles to reconcile its new approach to the Middle East with reality. You see, you can’t side with Israel and those seeking its harm or destruction.You can’t demonstrate loyalty to allies by being disloyal to your closest one. You can’t bring about peace by bullying the party that’s had its peace offers rejected for 60 years. No wonder the Obama team’s feelings are bruised: those “troublesome Jews” just won’t accept “every invitation to national suicide.”

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Israel, Trapped in Plato’s Cave

Like a rock emerging in a sea of lies, we know important facts about the confrontation that took place on Monday between Israel and a flotilla of ships making its way to the Gaza strip.

The blockade was justified by international law. (Egypt, by the way, had also imposed a blockade on Gaza because of the threat from the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, which illegally seized control of Gaza in 2007.) The Israeli navy first tried to warn the ships off verbally. The “peace activist” on board assaulted Israeli commandos (who were armed with paintball guns) with clubs, knives, metal pipes, stun grenades, and handguns; it turns out that many of them were recruited specifically to attack Israeli soldiers. The “humanitarian relief” the flotilla was supposedly bringing to Palestinians in Gaza was in fact no such thing (food, medicine, relief supplies, and electricity continue to pour into Gaza on a daily basis). And the “charity” that helped organize the flotilla was in fact the radical Turkish group IHH (Insani Yardim Vakfi), which has longstanding ties to Hamas and the global jihadist movement. Yet somehow, some way, it is Israel that is condemned when it acts in its own self-defense.

To finish reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

Like a rock emerging in a sea of lies, we know important facts about the confrontation that took place on Monday between Israel and a flotilla of ships making its way to the Gaza strip.

The blockade was justified by international law. (Egypt, by the way, had also imposed a blockade on Gaza because of the threat from the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, which illegally seized control of Gaza in 2007.) The Israeli navy first tried to warn the ships off verbally. The “peace activist” on board assaulted Israeli commandos (who were armed with paintball guns) with clubs, knives, metal pipes, stun grenades, and handguns; it turns out that many of them were recruited specifically to attack Israeli soldiers. The “humanitarian relief” the flotilla was supposedly bringing to Palestinians in Gaza was in fact no such thing (food, medicine, relief supplies, and electricity continue to pour into Gaza on a daily basis). And the “charity” that helped organize the flotilla was in fact the radical Turkish group IHH (Insani Yardim Vakfi), which has longstanding ties to Hamas and the global jihadist movement. Yet somehow, some way, it is Israel that is condemned when it acts in its own self-defense.

To finish reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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The Distracted President, the Frustrated Prime Minister

You can imagine Bibi Netanyahu’s frustration: a nuclear-armed Iran is perhaps only a year away and all Obama wants to talk about is Jerusalem housing and proximity talks with intransigent Palestinians who are utterly unprepared for a “peace” deal. As this report makes clear, Bibi is struggling to get the American president to focus on the real issue:

“If you stop Iran from importing refined petroleum — that’s a fancy word for gasoline — then Iran simply doesn’t have refining capacity and this regime comes to a halt,” Netanyahu said on the morning [ABC Good Morning] program.

The U.S. is leading a push in the United Nations to apply another round of sanctions against Iran in an effort to stop it from pursuing a nuclear program that Western nations believe is aimed at building atomic weapons.

Tehran says its program is designed to produce electricity for civilian use.

Calling the standoff with Iran “the biggest issue facing our times,” Netanyahu said the international community could deliver “crippling sanctions,” without the support of China and Russia, both permanent members of the UN Security Council.

“You’re left doing it outside the Security Council,” Netanyahu said. “There’s a coalition of the willing and you can have very powerful sanctions.”

Asked whether Obama had given assurances Washington would go along with refined oil sanctions and other restrictions, Netanyahu said: “What the United States has said is that they’re determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and I think that’s an important statement.”

Well, that’s a “no” on oil sanctions, obviously. Obama is getting little push-back domestically for his lackadaisical attitude, and Bibi is having little success redirecting the Obami, who don’t have a real answer to the dilemma of Iran. So naturally, they’d rather talk about virtually anything else and spend their time on eye-catching summits. What is missing is that sense of urgency one would expect from an administration facing the most perilous national security challenge in a generation. But I suppose they don’t see it that way.

You can imagine Bibi Netanyahu’s frustration: a nuclear-armed Iran is perhaps only a year away and all Obama wants to talk about is Jerusalem housing and proximity talks with intransigent Palestinians who are utterly unprepared for a “peace” deal. As this report makes clear, Bibi is struggling to get the American president to focus on the real issue:

“If you stop Iran from importing refined petroleum — that’s a fancy word for gasoline — then Iran simply doesn’t have refining capacity and this regime comes to a halt,” Netanyahu said on the morning [ABC Good Morning] program.

The U.S. is leading a push in the United Nations to apply another round of sanctions against Iran in an effort to stop it from pursuing a nuclear program that Western nations believe is aimed at building atomic weapons.

Tehran says its program is designed to produce electricity for civilian use.

Calling the standoff with Iran “the biggest issue facing our times,” Netanyahu said the international community could deliver “crippling sanctions,” without the support of China and Russia, both permanent members of the UN Security Council.

“You’re left doing it outside the Security Council,” Netanyahu said. “There’s a coalition of the willing and you can have very powerful sanctions.”

Asked whether Obama had given assurances Washington would go along with refined oil sanctions and other restrictions, Netanyahu said: “What the United States has said is that they’re determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and I think that’s an important statement.”

Well, that’s a “no” on oil sanctions, obviously. Obama is getting little push-back domestically for his lackadaisical attitude, and Bibi is having little success redirecting the Obami, who don’t have a real answer to the dilemma of Iran. So naturally, they’d rather talk about virtually anything else and spend their time on eye-catching summits. What is missing is that sense of urgency one would expect from an administration facing the most perilous national security challenge in a generation. But I suppose they don’t see it that way.

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The Need for Getting Good at Nation Building

Fred Kagan and Christopher Harnisch make a good point in this Wall Street Journal article about the need to build up the state in Yemen and to help it defeat secessionist rebels — not just al-Qaeda. They suggest setting up an inter-agency task force to accomplish this mission. That’s a good idea. Problem is, the U.S. government still lacks the right resources and structures to tackle effectively the difficult task of state-building (or, as it is popularly known, “nation building”) in the Third World.

This is not exactly a new problem. Back in July 2003 I was writing about the need for Washington to create a “Colonial Office.” That was simply a cheeky way of getting attention for the idea of boosting our nation-building capacity — to create what I later suggested should be called a Department of Peace. Whatever you call it, we need to boost our capacity to build up foreign law-enforcement and military capacity along with electricity, sewage treatment, medical care, and the myriad other tasks that states need to perform in order to enjoy legitimacy with their own citizens and control their own borders.

This isn’t a matter of do-goodism run rampant; it’s a matter of self-preservation. Because as we are now seeing in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, among others, countries lacking effective governance — especially countries of large, discontented Muslim populations — can pose a direct national-security threat to the United States. After the early setbacks in Iraq, it was generally acknowledged that there was a need to boost our capacity in this regard but remarkably little has been accomplished outside the military.

The U.S. Army and Marine Corps have become much more adept at counterinsurgency since 2003, which, they have realized, includes a large nation-building element that would enable our local allies to carry on in the future with decreasing degrees of assistance from us. But the State Department, USAID, and other civilian agencies? They have shown only marginal improvements since 2003. Their capacities remain far too small and they are far too dependant on contractors of mixed reliability and worth.

A lot of this, admittedly, is not their fault; Congress deserves a fair share of the blame for not adequately funding these desperately needed capacities and for yielding to lawmakers’ knee-jerk revulsion against “nation building.” They seem to imagine that if we don’t develop these capacities we won’t be called upon to undertake missions that are never popular on the home front. Unfortunately, as events from Haiti to Yemen show, there is and will continue to be a high demand for the U.S. government to provide these services. The only choice we have is whether we will perform nation-building badly or well. We have chosen to do it badly and will continue to pay a high price if we persist in our blindness.

Fred Kagan and Christopher Harnisch make a good point in this Wall Street Journal article about the need to build up the state in Yemen and to help it defeat secessionist rebels — not just al-Qaeda. They suggest setting up an inter-agency task force to accomplish this mission. That’s a good idea. Problem is, the U.S. government still lacks the right resources and structures to tackle effectively the difficult task of state-building (or, as it is popularly known, “nation building”) in the Third World.

This is not exactly a new problem. Back in July 2003 I was writing about the need for Washington to create a “Colonial Office.” That was simply a cheeky way of getting attention for the idea of boosting our nation-building capacity — to create what I later suggested should be called a Department of Peace. Whatever you call it, we need to boost our capacity to build up foreign law-enforcement and military capacity along with electricity, sewage treatment, medical care, and the myriad other tasks that states need to perform in order to enjoy legitimacy with their own citizens and control their own borders.

This isn’t a matter of do-goodism run rampant; it’s a matter of self-preservation. Because as we are now seeing in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, among others, countries lacking effective governance — especially countries of large, discontented Muslim populations — can pose a direct national-security threat to the United States. After the early setbacks in Iraq, it was generally acknowledged that there was a need to boost our capacity in this regard but remarkably little has been accomplished outside the military.

The U.S. Army and Marine Corps have become much more adept at counterinsurgency since 2003, which, they have realized, includes a large nation-building element that would enable our local allies to carry on in the future with decreasing degrees of assistance from us. But the State Department, USAID, and other civilian agencies? They have shown only marginal improvements since 2003. Their capacities remain far too small and they are far too dependant on contractors of mixed reliability and worth.

A lot of this, admittedly, is not their fault; Congress deserves a fair share of the blame for not adequately funding these desperately needed capacities and for yielding to lawmakers’ knee-jerk revulsion against “nation building.” They seem to imagine that if we don’t develop these capacities we won’t be called upon to undertake missions that are never popular on the home front. Unfortunately, as events from Haiti to Yemen show, there is and will continue to be a high demand for the U.S. government to provide these services. The only choice we have is whether we will perform nation-building badly or well. We have chosen to do it badly and will continue to pay a high price if we persist in our blindness.

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Want to Protest a Wall? Go to Egypt

In the past few years, Israel’s security fence has become a major tourist attraction for leftist protesters appalled at the Jewish state’s chutzpah in erecting an obstruction against the Palestinian suicide bombers. The fence has been a major success and an integral factor in the defeat of the Palestinian terror offensive dubbed the second intifada, which took the lives of more than 1,000 Israelis earlier in the decade.

But those who want to demonstrate against barriers to keep the Palestinians from wreaking havoc on the region need not go to Israel these days. According to Haaretz, “Egypt has begun the construction of a massive iron wall along its border with the Gaza Strip.” The wall will be 10 kilometers long and will be made of slates of steel reaching 20 to 30 meters deep.

Apparently, Egypt is finally responding to pressure from the United States to shut down the massive smuggling of arms and other goods into Hamas-controlled Gaza. As the article states: “The smuggling industry is so institutionalized that tunnel operators purchase licenses from the Rafah municipality, allowing them to connect to electricity and water. Hamas has also been ensuring no children are employed in the tunnels, and is taxing all smuggled goods.” The tunnels also allow people to pass between Gaza and Egypt, “including terrorists who linked up with pro-al-Qaeda groups in Gaza.”

The point here is that the massive pressure on Israel to lift its limited blockade of the Hamas-controlled territory tends to ignore the fact that Egypt is equally interested in shutting down its border with Gaza. Though missile fire from Gaza has been aimed only at Israeli towns and villages, the Iran-backed Hamasistan that has arisen there is a threat to all its neighbors, Arabs as well as Israelis. Rather than trying to brand Israel as the perpetrator of war crimes against Gazans, those concerned with conditions in the crowded strip should instead remember that Egypt is just as involved with the blockade as are the Israelis. Even more important, sympathy for Gazans should be tempered by concern over the nature of their Islamist government. So long as the people of Gaza choose to be ruled by Hamas, they must understand that their neighbors will continue to build walls to keep themselves safe.

In the past few years, Israel’s security fence has become a major tourist attraction for leftist protesters appalled at the Jewish state’s chutzpah in erecting an obstruction against the Palestinian suicide bombers. The fence has been a major success and an integral factor in the defeat of the Palestinian terror offensive dubbed the second intifada, which took the lives of more than 1,000 Israelis earlier in the decade.

But those who want to demonstrate against barriers to keep the Palestinians from wreaking havoc on the region need not go to Israel these days. According to Haaretz, “Egypt has begun the construction of a massive iron wall along its border with the Gaza Strip.” The wall will be 10 kilometers long and will be made of slates of steel reaching 20 to 30 meters deep.

Apparently, Egypt is finally responding to pressure from the United States to shut down the massive smuggling of arms and other goods into Hamas-controlled Gaza. As the article states: “The smuggling industry is so institutionalized that tunnel operators purchase licenses from the Rafah municipality, allowing them to connect to electricity and water. Hamas has also been ensuring no children are employed in the tunnels, and is taxing all smuggled goods.” The tunnels also allow people to pass between Gaza and Egypt, “including terrorists who linked up with pro-al-Qaeda groups in Gaza.”

The point here is that the massive pressure on Israel to lift its limited blockade of the Hamas-controlled territory tends to ignore the fact that Egypt is equally interested in shutting down its border with Gaza. Though missile fire from Gaza has been aimed only at Israeli towns and villages, the Iran-backed Hamasistan that has arisen there is a threat to all its neighbors, Arabs as well as Israelis. Rather than trying to brand Israel as the perpetrator of war crimes against Gazans, those concerned with conditions in the crowded strip should instead remember that Egypt is just as involved with the blockade as are the Israelis. Even more important, sympathy for Gazans should be tempered by concern over the nature of their Islamist government. So long as the people of Gaza choose to be ruled by Hamas, they must understand that their neighbors will continue to build walls to keep themselves safe.

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It’s A Mixed-Up, Crazy World

For the second time in a week, Hamas gunmen have assaulted a transportation hub supplying Gaza. Last week the fuel transfer station at Nachal Oz was attacked. Today Hamas attacked both the Kerem Shalom crossing, through which humanitarian aid is supplied to Gaza, and, once again, the Nachal Oz station.

But wait: aren’t the Israelis the ones who want to stop fuel and humanitarian aid from getting to Gaza? In a strange new twist, Israel and Hamas have reversed their alleged roles: Israel is trying to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and Hamas is trying to create one.

The reason for these attacks? Hamas needs media attention to survive. The worst thing that could happen to Ismail Haniyah and Khaled Meshaal is for the world to stop paying attention to the disaster they’ve created. So if Hamas can’t convince Israel to shut the lights off with Qassam rockets (which the group routinely aims at the power station inside Israel that supplies Gaza with most of its electricity), or by confiscating half the fuel supplies that do make it into Gaza, it attacks Nachal Oz and Kerem Shalom directly. Anything to advance the false narrative of the Israeli blockade, keep Gaza in the headlines, and demonstrate the efficacy of Hamas’s resistance.

I wonder whether those members of the international community whose consciences are finely attuned to Palestinian suffering will respond to all of this by denouncing Hamas for its collective punishment of Gaza, for attempting to instigate a humanitarian crisis, for endangering the ability of hospitals to remain open, etc. You know: all the things Israel is routinely accused of doing, but which only Hamas ever seems to perpetrate.

For the second time in a week, Hamas gunmen have assaulted a transportation hub supplying Gaza. Last week the fuel transfer station at Nachal Oz was attacked. Today Hamas attacked both the Kerem Shalom crossing, through which humanitarian aid is supplied to Gaza, and, once again, the Nachal Oz station.

But wait: aren’t the Israelis the ones who want to stop fuel and humanitarian aid from getting to Gaza? In a strange new twist, Israel and Hamas have reversed their alleged roles: Israel is trying to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and Hamas is trying to create one.

The reason for these attacks? Hamas needs media attention to survive. The worst thing that could happen to Ismail Haniyah and Khaled Meshaal is for the world to stop paying attention to the disaster they’ve created. So if Hamas can’t convince Israel to shut the lights off with Qassam rockets (which the group routinely aims at the power station inside Israel that supplies Gaza with most of its electricity), or by confiscating half the fuel supplies that do make it into Gaza, it attacks Nachal Oz and Kerem Shalom directly. Anything to advance the false narrative of the Israeli blockade, keep Gaza in the headlines, and demonstrate the efficacy of Hamas’s resistance.

I wonder whether those members of the international community whose consciences are finely attuned to Palestinian suffering will respond to all of this by denouncing Hamas for its collective punishment of Gaza, for attempting to instigate a humanitarian crisis, for endangering the ability of hospitals to remain open, etc. You know: all the things Israel is routinely accused of doing, but which only Hamas ever seems to perpetrate.

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No Great Shakes Either

Hillary Clinton’s campaign teammates have come in for some well-deserved criticism lately. They’ve come close to running her “inevitable” campaign into “inevitable” mathematical elimination and they have perfected the art of public finger-pointing (and won the prize for the most “[Expletive] you!” quotes in a single news story this election season). Still, they are not alone in the “needs improvement” category.

Within the last week, Barack Obama advisors have gotten caught up in an embarrassing conversation with a foreign government, let on that their own candidate is not all that prepared to be commander-in-chief, and made the error of saying out loud what most of the Obama team privately believes (that Hillary Clinton is a “monster” and “who is stooping to anything to win”). Yes, Michael Kinsley is right that a gaffe is when a politician accidentally tells the truth. But why have so many people gone off the reservation? What happened to the team that could do no wrong?

It just might be that Obama has a lot of advisers who have never served on a presidential campaign and have never been in the spotlight for any extended period of time. Granted, they don’t disparage each other in public like the Clinton team. But by the same token they are not projecting the message discipline and competence that usually go along with a winning team. (Why haven’t they been able to get out a comment on the bombing of the U.S. military recruiting station? And you would think they could have managed by now to condemn yesterday’s terrorist attack.)

More fundamentally, they are not doing a particularly good job of demonstrating that Obama really can assume the role of commander-in-chief. Rather than give substantive speeches, he recites the same talking points: he will talk to world leaders who despise us, he was “right” on Iraq. Now he has added this:

Barack Obama also has the unique experience of living in the wider world. He is a leader who will know not just world leaders – but the world’s people. He saw life in foreign lands firsthand, when he lived with his mother and stepfather in Indonesia. His father came from Kenya to seek the dream of America, and he still has a grandmother living in Kenya with no plumbing or electricity. He will be able to show the world a new face, and he will offer a new voice for America.

For those who don’t believe the state of your relatives’ plumbing is relevant to anything, I suppose you just have to operate on faith that a resume like that will blow ‘em away in Moscow and Tehran.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign teammates have come in for some well-deserved criticism lately. They’ve come close to running her “inevitable” campaign into “inevitable” mathematical elimination and they have perfected the art of public finger-pointing (and won the prize for the most “[Expletive] you!” quotes in a single news story this election season). Still, they are not alone in the “needs improvement” category.

Within the last week, Barack Obama advisors have gotten caught up in an embarrassing conversation with a foreign government, let on that their own candidate is not all that prepared to be commander-in-chief, and made the error of saying out loud what most of the Obama team privately believes (that Hillary Clinton is a “monster” and “who is stooping to anything to win”). Yes, Michael Kinsley is right that a gaffe is when a politician accidentally tells the truth. But why have so many people gone off the reservation? What happened to the team that could do no wrong?

It just might be that Obama has a lot of advisers who have never served on a presidential campaign and have never been in the spotlight for any extended period of time. Granted, they don’t disparage each other in public like the Clinton team. But by the same token they are not projecting the message discipline and competence that usually go along with a winning team. (Why haven’t they been able to get out a comment on the bombing of the U.S. military recruiting station? And you would think they could have managed by now to condemn yesterday’s terrorist attack.)

More fundamentally, they are not doing a particularly good job of demonstrating that Obama really can assume the role of commander-in-chief. Rather than give substantive speeches, he recites the same talking points: he will talk to world leaders who despise us, he was “right” on Iraq. Now he has added this:

Barack Obama also has the unique experience of living in the wider world. He is a leader who will know not just world leaders – but the world’s people. He saw life in foreign lands firsthand, when he lived with his mother and stepfather in Indonesia. His father came from Kenya to seek the dream of America, and he still has a grandmother living in Kenya with no plumbing or electricity. He will be able to show the world a new face, and he will offer a new voice for America.

For those who don’t believe the state of your relatives’ plumbing is relevant to anything, I suppose you just have to operate on faith that a resume like that will blow ‘em away in Moscow and Tehran.

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Power’s Out

As if yesterday’s paltry showing at the Break-the-Blockade demonstration in Gaza were not enough, today we have additional reason to think that Hamas is not too interested in returning to the status quo ante with Israel. Significant parts of Gaza, the PA has decided, will be put onto Egypt’s electrical grid–thus ending the strip’s dependency on Israel for electricity, and thereby eliminating one of the last remaining signs of “occupation.” Hamas spokesman Taher Nunu applauded the PA’s decision, saying that “We welcome any project that links us to our Arab brothers and ends our relations with the occupation.”

I particularly like the phrase “ends our relations with the occupation.” It suggests that instead of referring to Israel’s presence in the West Bank and Gaza, Israel itself is “the occupation,” which is anyway what Hamas and many other Palestinians have claimed all along. Note to reader: Any time you hear people speak of a “sixty-year occupation,” as they frequently do at the UN and other international forums, this is what they mean.

The transfer of Gaza to Egypt’s electrical grid is a major step towards enabling Israel to wash its hands of Gaza, making it Egypt’s problem–which is what I had previously insisted was really happening with the blockade and its subsequent breach. The winners in this transfer are Israel (which wants to be able to say it’s not occupying anything in Gaza) and Hamas (which is becoming increasingly in charge of what happens in the Palestinian territories); the losers are the PA (which is incapable of maintaining control over the territory it has been given) and Egypt (which has no desire whatsoever to be responsible for Gaza, but now finds itself with little choice). Now we just need to wait for the international community to recognize that when Israel pulls out of “occupied” territory and cuts its economic ties, it cannot be simultaneously blamed for both a “blockade” and an “occupation.” It’s one or the other–or maybe neither.

As if yesterday’s paltry showing at the Break-the-Blockade demonstration in Gaza were not enough, today we have additional reason to think that Hamas is not too interested in returning to the status quo ante with Israel. Significant parts of Gaza, the PA has decided, will be put onto Egypt’s electrical grid–thus ending the strip’s dependency on Israel for electricity, and thereby eliminating one of the last remaining signs of “occupation.” Hamas spokesman Taher Nunu applauded the PA’s decision, saying that “We welcome any project that links us to our Arab brothers and ends our relations with the occupation.”

I particularly like the phrase “ends our relations with the occupation.” It suggests that instead of referring to Israel’s presence in the West Bank and Gaza, Israel itself is “the occupation,” which is anyway what Hamas and many other Palestinians have claimed all along. Note to reader: Any time you hear people speak of a “sixty-year occupation,” as they frequently do at the UN and other international forums, this is what they mean.

The transfer of Gaza to Egypt’s electrical grid is a major step towards enabling Israel to wash its hands of Gaza, making it Egypt’s problem–which is what I had previously insisted was really happening with the blockade and its subsequent breach. The winners in this transfer are Israel (which wants to be able to say it’s not occupying anything in Gaza) and Hamas (which is becoming increasingly in charge of what happens in the Palestinian territories); the losers are the PA (which is incapable of maintaining control over the territory it has been given) and Egypt (which has no desire whatsoever to be responsible for Gaza, but now finds itself with little choice). Now we just need to wait for the international community to recognize that when Israel pulls out of “occupied” territory and cuts its economic ties, it cannot be simultaneously blamed for both a “blockade” and an “occupation.” It’s one or the other–or maybe neither.

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Big News from Baghdad

ABC News’ Clarissa Ward reports that:

If you’re looking for one measure of the impact of last year’s troop surge in Iraq, look at Gen. David Petraeus as he walks through a Baghdad neighborhood, with no body armor, and no helmet. It’s been one year since the beginning of what’s known here as Operation Fardh Al Qadnoon. According to the U.S. military, violence is down 60 percent. One key to the success is reconciliation.

“A big part of the effort, over the last year, has been to determine who is reconcilable, who, literally, is willing to put down his rifle and talk, who is willing to shout, instead of shoot.” Petraeus said. I spent the day with Petraeus, touring Jihad, a predominantly Shiite area in western Baghdad. This place was formerly ravaged by sectarian violence, and militiamen wreaked havoc on the streets. In the last year, U.S. and Iraqi troops moved into the neighborhood, set up joint security stations, earned the trust of local people, and found those men willing to put down their guns and work with them. The results of the last year can be seen on the streets. A soccer team practices on the local pitch. The stalls in the market buzz with customers. I stop to talk to local residents, and ask if they feel a difference. Overwhelmingly, the answer is a resounding yes. “The situation in Jihad is certainly better than before,” a mechanic named Ali said. “Work is constant, shops are reopening, and people are coming back to their homes.” Notwithstanding significant progress, much work clearly remains. The Iraqi government has yet to capitalize on the relative peace and improve the local infrastructure. Sewage and trash fester in the streets. “We have very little electricity,” Ali said. The hope is, that with the passing of a budget this week, that will change. “That unlocks a substantial amount of money for the ministries of Iraq, so that they can start going about the jobs that are so essential, like patching roads that we bounced down today; over long term, improving electricity, fixing water systems, sewer systems,” Petraeus said. Normally very guarded in his assessments of the surge, Petraeus now expresses cautious optimism.

“I have to tell you that, having been here for a number of years, this is very encouraging, actually. I mean, this is, this is potentially a big moment.” he said.

A potentially big moment indeed. We are now seeing extraordinary security gains from the last year translate into both political reconciliation and legislative progress. Within the last week the Iraqi parliament passed key laws having to do with provincial elections (the law devolves power to the local level in a decentralization system that is groundbreaking for the region), the distribution of resources, and amnesty. And those laws follow ones passed in recent months having to do with pensions, investment, and de-Ba’athification.

American Ambassador Ryan Crocker told Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard that “the whole motivating factor” beyond the legislation was “reconciliation, not retribution.” This is “remarkably different” from six months ago, according to the widely respected, straight-talking Crocker.

Progress in Iraq means life is getting progressively more difficult for Democrats and their two presidential front-runners, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Having strongly opposed the surge, Obama and Clinton have been forced by events to concede that security progress has been made. But until now they have insisted that the surge is a failure because we’re not seeing political progress. That claim is now being shattered.

Soon Obama and Clinton will have no argument left to justify their position on Iraq. It will become increasingly clear that they are committed to leaving Iraq simply because they are committed to leaving Iraq, regardless of the awful consequences that would follow. It is an amazing thing to witness: two leading presidential candidates who are committed to engineering an American retreat, which would lead to an American defeat, despite the progress we are making on every conceivable front.

At the end of the day, this position will hurt Democrats badly, because their position will hurt America badly.

ABC News’ Clarissa Ward reports that:

If you’re looking for one measure of the impact of last year’s troop surge in Iraq, look at Gen. David Petraeus as he walks through a Baghdad neighborhood, with no body armor, and no helmet. It’s been one year since the beginning of what’s known here as Operation Fardh Al Qadnoon. According to the U.S. military, violence is down 60 percent. One key to the success is reconciliation.

“A big part of the effort, over the last year, has been to determine who is reconcilable, who, literally, is willing to put down his rifle and talk, who is willing to shout, instead of shoot.” Petraeus said. I spent the day with Petraeus, touring Jihad, a predominantly Shiite area in western Baghdad. This place was formerly ravaged by sectarian violence, and militiamen wreaked havoc on the streets. In the last year, U.S. and Iraqi troops moved into the neighborhood, set up joint security stations, earned the trust of local people, and found those men willing to put down their guns and work with them. The results of the last year can be seen on the streets. A soccer team practices on the local pitch. The stalls in the market buzz with customers. I stop to talk to local residents, and ask if they feel a difference. Overwhelmingly, the answer is a resounding yes. “The situation in Jihad is certainly better than before,” a mechanic named Ali said. “Work is constant, shops are reopening, and people are coming back to their homes.” Notwithstanding significant progress, much work clearly remains. The Iraqi government has yet to capitalize on the relative peace and improve the local infrastructure. Sewage and trash fester in the streets. “We have very little electricity,” Ali said. The hope is, that with the passing of a budget this week, that will change. “That unlocks a substantial amount of money for the ministries of Iraq, so that they can start going about the jobs that are so essential, like patching roads that we bounced down today; over long term, improving electricity, fixing water systems, sewer systems,” Petraeus said. Normally very guarded in his assessments of the surge, Petraeus now expresses cautious optimism.

“I have to tell you that, having been here for a number of years, this is very encouraging, actually. I mean, this is, this is potentially a big moment.” he said.

A potentially big moment indeed. We are now seeing extraordinary security gains from the last year translate into both political reconciliation and legislative progress. Within the last week the Iraqi parliament passed key laws having to do with provincial elections (the law devolves power to the local level in a decentralization system that is groundbreaking for the region), the distribution of resources, and amnesty. And those laws follow ones passed in recent months having to do with pensions, investment, and de-Ba’athification.

American Ambassador Ryan Crocker told Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard that “the whole motivating factor” beyond the legislation was “reconciliation, not retribution.” This is “remarkably different” from six months ago, according to the widely respected, straight-talking Crocker.

Progress in Iraq means life is getting progressively more difficult for Democrats and their two presidential front-runners, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Having strongly opposed the surge, Obama and Clinton have been forced by events to concede that security progress has been made. But until now they have insisted that the surge is a failure because we’re not seeing political progress. That claim is now being shattered.

Soon Obama and Clinton will have no argument left to justify their position on Iraq. It will become increasingly clear that they are committed to leaving Iraq simply because they are committed to leaving Iraq, regardless of the awful consequences that would follow. It is an amazing thing to witness: two leading presidential candidates who are committed to engineering an American retreat, which would lead to an American defeat, despite the progress we are making on every conceivable front.

At the end of the day, this position will hurt Democrats badly, because their position will hurt America badly.

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Is Israel Collectively Punishing Gaza?

Yes — and it is one of the stupidest of Israel’s many ill-conceived tactics for managing its conflict with Hamas. In weeks past, Israel reduced fuel shipments to Gaza, closed down crossing points, and over the weekend it reduced (by only one percent) the electricity it supplies. Are the people of Gaza themselves deeply implicated in the rocket war? Of course they are–huge numbers of them have nurtured, supported, voted, and cheered for Hamas. In large part, they are getting what they deserve. But making them suffer is still a counterproductive strategy. Here are a few reasons why:

1. Collective punishment has done nothing to stop the rocket fire, which in fact has significantly worsened in recent months.

2. The Hamas leadership is immune to the suffering of its people, and will not change its policies because of Israeli manipulation of that suffering. Ismail Haniyeh and his gangsters have repeatedly demonstrated that they couldn’t care less whether the people of Gaza are forced to wade through raw sewage because of the rocket war.

3. Squeezing the residents of Gaza does not administer the intended political lesson, which is to demonstrate to Palestinians that violence causes suffering, while diplomacy creates opportunity. Unfortunately Gaza and the West Bank are not home to a political culture that is receptive to this kind of message; large numbers of Palestinians continue to rally around those leaders who they see taking the fight to Israel.

4. It absolves Palestinians from having to consider the idea that their own leaders are the cause of their misery. Israel has once again given Palestinians ample evidence for continuing to believe in the sanctity of their own victimhood.

5. It creates not just condemnatory press coverage of Israel, but coverage that helpfully crowds out stories that might focus on Hamas’ belligerence and malfeasance.

6. It causes foreign governments, including even the United States, to warn and criticize Israel — statements that occupy the headlines, in place of stories about Hamas’ aggression or Israel’s more legitimate acts of retaliation.

7. Collective punishment shifts the narrative of the conflict — journalists are only too eager to help — from one in which Israel has been forced to respond to Hamas’ implacable terrorism to one in which Israel is punishing the imprisoned residents of Gaza, starving and humiliating them over something they cannot control. Narratives are vitally important in this conflict, and just as in Lebanon two summers ago, Israel is losing the battle over the narrative.

8. It inverts culpability for the conflict, allowing the political leaders who prosecute the rocket war to remain in power (and remain alive), while the people suffering under that leadership bear the brunt of Israel’s retribution.

Not a bad job, even by Israel’s typically high standards of ineptitude.

None of this is to say that Israel should not get out of the business of supplying utilities, food, and water to Gaza as quickly as humanly possible. It just means that Israel should develop a more productive and morally pure means of doing so.

That would involve the announcement of a date on which Israel will cease non-military contact with the Gaza Strip: no more humanitarian shipments, electricity, water, etc. Give fair warning, whether it’s six months or a year away, so that Hamas and its international saviors cannot claim that Israel has sprung a cruel surprise on them. Give the UN, EU, and Iran time to collaborate on power and desalination plants for Hamas if they like–but nothing should prevent Israel from sticking to its deadline, the day when the disengagement will be completed and the mismanagement of Gaza will fall entirely to Hamas.

In the meantime, the entire Hamas political leadership should go to the top of Israel’s targeted killings list. It’s long past time that the war was taken to the people who are most directly responsible for prosecuting it.

Yes — and it is one of the stupidest of Israel’s many ill-conceived tactics for managing its conflict with Hamas. In weeks past, Israel reduced fuel shipments to Gaza, closed down crossing points, and over the weekend it reduced (by only one percent) the electricity it supplies. Are the people of Gaza themselves deeply implicated in the rocket war? Of course they are–huge numbers of them have nurtured, supported, voted, and cheered for Hamas. In large part, they are getting what they deserve. But making them suffer is still a counterproductive strategy. Here are a few reasons why:

1. Collective punishment has done nothing to stop the rocket fire, which in fact has significantly worsened in recent months.

2. The Hamas leadership is immune to the suffering of its people, and will not change its policies because of Israeli manipulation of that suffering. Ismail Haniyeh and his gangsters have repeatedly demonstrated that they couldn’t care less whether the people of Gaza are forced to wade through raw sewage because of the rocket war.

3. Squeezing the residents of Gaza does not administer the intended political lesson, which is to demonstrate to Palestinians that violence causes suffering, while diplomacy creates opportunity. Unfortunately Gaza and the West Bank are not home to a political culture that is receptive to this kind of message; large numbers of Palestinians continue to rally around those leaders who they see taking the fight to Israel.

4. It absolves Palestinians from having to consider the idea that their own leaders are the cause of their misery. Israel has once again given Palestinians ample evidence for continuing to believe in the sanctity of their own victimhood.

5. It creates not just condemnatory press coverage of Israel, but coverage that helpfully crowds out stories that might focus on Hamas’ belligerence and malfeasance.

6. It causes foreign governments, including even the United States, to warn and criticize Israel — statements that occupy the headlines, in place of stories about Hamas’ aggression or Israel’s more legitimate acts of retaliation.

7. Collective punishment shifts the narrative of the conflict — journalists are only too eager to help — from one in which Israel has been forced to respond to Hamas’ implacable terrorism to one in which Israel is punishing the imprisoned residents of Gaza, starving and humiliating them over something they cannot control. Narratives are vitally important in this conflict, and just as in Lebanon two summers ago, Israel is losing the battle over the narrative.

8. It inverts culpability for the conflict, allowing the political leaders who prosecute the rocket war to remain in power (and remain alive), while the people suffering under that leadership bear the brunt of Israel’s retribution.

Not a bad job, even by Israel’s typically high standards of ineptitude.

None of this is to say that Israel should not get out of the business of supplying utilities, food, and water to Gaza as quickly as humanly possible. It just means that Israel should develop a more productive and morally pure means of doing so.

That would involve the announcement of a date on which Israel will cease non-military contact with the Gaza Strip: no more humanitarian shipments, electricity, water, etc. Give fair warning, whether it’s six months or a year away, so that Hamas and its international saviors cannot claim that Israel has sprung a cruel surprise on them. Give the UN, EU, and Iran time to collaborate on power and desalination plants for Hamas if they like–but nothing should prevent Israel from sticking to its deadline, the day when the disengagement will be completed and the mismanagement of Gaza will fall entirely to Hamas.

In the meantime, the entire Hamas political leadership should go to the top of Israel’s targeted killings list. It’s long past time that the war was taken to the people who are most directly responsible for prosecuting it.

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“A Complete Failure of Governance”

Since snow started falling in the second week of last month, southwestern, central, eastern, and southern China have been gripped by a massive storm. About 105 million people have been affected in 17 provinces. Some 2.5 million of them have been or will be evacuated. Around 30 million have lost electricity. A quarter of a million troops have been mobilized to shovel snow and provide emergency relief. Approximately 16 million livestock have been killed. The storm will continue through at least the second week of this month, according to the China Meteorological Administration.

The snow could not have come at a worse time. Tens of millions of workers are on the move, making their once-yearly trip home for Chinese New Year, which begins next week. Hundreds of thousands of desperate, weary, and angry travelers, most of whom depend on the rails, are now stranded. On Wednesday, Premier Wen Jiabao went to the Guangzhou train station to calm distraught passengers through a megaphone. About 217,000 travelers were stuck in that city, the capital of southern Guangdong province. Security around the nation has been tightened where crowds have gathered. The ruling Politburo met on Tuesday in emergency session.

The storm is, according to the Foreign Ministry in Beijing, “historically unprecedented.” The official People’s Daily calls it “the worst in 50 years.” Beijing can’t be blamed for the weather, but central government policies have severely aggravated the suffering. “What has appeared to be a natural disaster is, in essence, a massive failure of governance,” said Mao Shoulong of Renmin University. Attempts at central planning have turned an unusual weather pattern into a national disaster.

There are about a dozen wrongheaded policies that have aggravated the situation, but the most misguided of them are the central government’s price controls on energy, needed to power the trains to take people home. Beijing technocrats have been waging an unsuccessful campaign to slow accelerating inflation. As an integral part of that effort, the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s top economic planning agency, has put a ceiling on electricity charges. The NDRC in the last few days has been insisting that its cap has not led to the decline in the generation of power that is aggravating the ongoing crisis, but its case is unconvincing. The trains won’t move unless there is electricity, and there is an electricity shortage due in large measure to overregulation of the economy. There is also a national shortage of coal, used to generate most of the country’s electricity, due to a result of a mix of central government measures.

China needs better weather, but more important it needs a more open economy. The forecasters say the snow will stop sometime this month. Unfortunately, that will be long before the country gets better economic planning.

Since snow started falling in the second week of last month, southwestern, central, eastern, and southern China have been gripped by a massive storm. About 105 million people have been affected in 17 provinces. Some 2.5 million of them have been or will be evacuated. Around 30 million have lost electricity. A quarter of a million troops have been mobilized to shovel snow and provide emergency relief. Approximately 16 million livestock have been killed. The storm will continue through at least the second week of this month, according to the China Meteorological Administration.

The snow could not have come at a worse time. Tens of millions of workers are on the move, making their once-yearly trip home for Chinese New Year, which begins next week. Hundreds of thousands of desperate, weary, and angry travelers, most of whom depend on the rails, are now stranded. On Wednesday, Premier Wen Jiabao went to the Guangzhou train station to calm distraught passengers through a megaphone. About 217,000 travelers were stuck in that city, the capital of southern Guangdong province. Security around the nation has been tightened where crowds have gathered. The ruling Politburo met on Tuesday in emergency session.

The storm is, according to the Foreign Ministry in Beijing, “historically unprecedented.” The official People’s Daily calls it “the worst in 50 years.” Beijing can’t be blamed for the weather, but central government policies have severely aggravated the suffering. “What has appeared to be a natural disaster is, in essence, a massive failure of governance,” said Mao Shoulong of Renmin University. Attempts at central planning have turned an unusual weather pattern into a national disaster.

There are about a dozen wrongheaded policies that have aggravated the situation, but the most misguided of them are the central government’s price controls on energy, needed to power the trains to take people home. Beijing technocrats have been waging an unsuccessful campaign to slow accelerating inflation. As an integral part of that effort, the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s top economic planning agency, has put a ceiling on electricity charges. The NDRC in the last few days has been insisting that its cap has not led to the decline in the generation of power that is aggravating the ongoing crisis, but its case is unconvincing. The trains won’t move unless there is electricity, and there is an electricity shortage due in large measure to overregulation of the economy. There is also a national shortage of coal, used to generate most of the country’s electricity, due to a result of a mix of central government measures.

China needs better weather, but more important it needs a more open economy. The forecasters say the snow will stop sometime this month. Unfortunately, that will be long before the country gets better economic planning.

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Bluffing Iran

Yesterday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he expected his country to be producing electricity from the atom within a year. “On the nuclear path we are moving towards the peak,” he told a crowd in Bushehr, the city where Tehran has located its Russian-built reactor. On Monday, Russia delivered the eighth and final shipment of enriched uranium to fuel the plant.

After failing to stop Moscow, President Bush last month said he supported Russia’s supplying nuclear fuel for Bushehr. “If the Iranians accept that uranium for a civilian nuclear power plant, then there’s no need for them to learn how to enrich,” he noted. Tehran, not surprisingly, was not buying the argument. Nor would it accept purchasing enriched uranium from an international nuclear-fuel bank. “Having this nuclear-fuel cycle is part of our right,” said Hashemi Samareh, Ahmadinejad’s chief advisor, in Davos earlier this week. “There is no reason—when we can produce something—to get it from other people.”

No reason at all, Hashemi? Suppose Washington, Brussels, Moscow, and Beijing jointly guaranteed the supply of enriched uranium indefinitely and without cost. If you insisted on spending billions of dollars to produce something that you could have for free, we might conclude that you were enriching uranium for other purposes, such as building the core of a nuclear weapon. If you replied that your nation wanted to be self-sufficient, I would ask why you are concerned that the world would cut off supply. Are you planning some abhorrent act?

At the beginning of last month, we learned that the American intelligence community had “high confidence” that Iran, in the fall of 2003, had abandoned its program to build a bomb. Whatever one may think of the National Intelligence Estimate, let’s put the Iranians to the test. Let’s see if the ayatollahs and Ahmadinejad will accept the most generous offer that the international community could ever make. If the Iranians reject it, we will have obtained the best evidence of their actual plans.

What plans? Yesterday, while speaking about scaling nuclear peaks, Ahmadinejad managed to slip in this message to the West: “I warn you to abandon the filthy Zionist entity, which has reached the end of the line.”

Yesterday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he expected his country to be producing electricity from the atom within a year. “On the nuclear path we are moving towards the peak,” he told a crowd in Bushehr, the city where Tehran has located its Russian-built reactor. On Monday, Russia delivered the eighth and final shipment of enriched uranium to fuel the plant.

After failing to stop Moscow, President Bush last month said he supported Russia’s supplying nuclear fuel for Bushehr. “If the Iranians accept that uranium for a civilian nuclear power plant, then there’s no need for them to learn how to enrich,” he noted. Tehran, not surprisingly, was not buying the argument. Nor would it accept purchasing enriched uranium from an international nuclear-fuel bank. “Having this nuclear-fuel cycle is part of our right,” said Hashemi Samareh, Ahmadinejad’s chief advisor, in Davos earlier this week. “There is no reason—when we can produce something—to get it from other people.”

No reason at all, Hashemi? Suppose Washington, Brussels, Moscow, and Beijing jointly guaranteed the supply of enriched uranium indefinitely and without cost. If you insisted on spending billions of dollars to produce something that you could have for free, we might conclude that you were enriching uranium for other purposes, such as building the core of a nuclear weapon. If you replied that your nation wanted to be self-sufficient, I would ask why you are concerned that the world would cut off supply. Are you planning some abhorrent act?

At the beginning of last month, we learned that the American intelligence community had “high confidence” that Iran, in the fall of 2003, had abandoned its program to build a bomb. Whatever one may think of the National Intelligence Estimate, let’s put the Iranians to the test. Let’s see if the ayatollahs and Ahmadinejad will accept the most generous offer that the international community could ever make. If the Iranians reject it, we will have obtained the best evidence of their actual plans.

What plans? Yesterday, while speaking about scaling nuclear peaks, Ahmadinejad managed to slip in this message to the West: “I warn you to abandon the filthy Zionist entity, which has reached the end of the line.”

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Candlelight by Daylight

Illustrating the old adage that a lie travels halfway around the world before the truth can get its pants on, the story of Israel cutting off power to Gaza continues to circulate. What really happened? Something very typical, alas: a collaboration between journalists and Palestinians in manufacturing anti-Israel propaganda. As Khaled Abu Toameh (among others) reports:

On at least two occasions this week, Hamas staged scenes of darkness as part of its campaign to end the political and economic sanctions against the Gaza Strip, Palestinian journalists said Wednesday.

In the first case, journalists who were invited to cover the Hamas government meeting were surprised to see Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and his ministers sitting around a table with burning candles.

In the second case on Tuesday, journalists noticed that Hamas legislators who were meeting in Gaza City also sat in front of burning candles.

But some of the journalists noticed that there was actually no need for the candles because both meetings were being held in daylight.

A bit under a third of Gaza’s electricity is supplied by a power station inside of Gaza; a tiny bit is supplied by Egypt, and the rest is supplied by Israel. It was the power station inside of Gaza that was shut down, and not shut down by Israel, but by Hamas, in order to lend credibility to its effort to generate international pressure against Israel’s blockade of the Strip. For the media, it staged candle-lit scenes and trumpeted the fiction that Israel had plunged Gaza into darkness.

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Illustrating the old adage that a lie travels halfway around the world before the truth can get its pants on, the story of Israel cutting off power to Gaza continues to circulate. What really happened? Something very typical, alas: a collaboration between journalists and Palestinians in manufacturing anti-Israel propaganda. As Khaled Abu Toameh (among others) reports:

On at least two occasions this week, Hamas staged scenes of darkness as part of its campaign to end the political and economic sanctions against the Gaza Strip, Palestinian journalists said Wednesday.

In the first case, journalists who were invited to cover the Hamas government meeting were surprised to see Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and his ministers sitting around a table with burning candles.

In the second case on Tuesday, journalists noticed that Hamas legislators who were meeting in Gaza City also sat in front of burning candles.

But some of the journalists noticed that there was actually no need for the candles because both meetings were being held in daylight.

A bit under a third of Gaza’s electricity is supplied by a power station inside of Gaza; a tiny bit is supplied by Egypt, and the rest is supplied by Israel. It was the power station inside of Gaza that was shut down, and not shut down by Israel, but by Hamas, in order to lend credibility to its effort to generate international pressure against Israel’s blockade of the Strip. For the media, it staged candle-lit scenes and trumpeted the fiction that Israel had plunged Gaza into darkness.

The terrorists of Hamas may be brutal, but they understand how to wage war in the media far better than the Israelis do. They knew the fact that Israel had never cut the electricity to Gaza or even reduced it was entirely beside the point, and would probably not be investigated by reporters–and they understand that images of people sitting in darkness with their faces illuminated by candlelight are visually compelling and can do more to convince the world of Palestinian victimization than a hundred press releases could ever accomplish.

Yet the fact remains that the speciousness of this story is readily available to anyone with an internet connection and a basic sense of skepticism and curiosity. But that hasn’t stopped the rigorously fact-checked exemplars of the MSM from repeating it. Here is yesterday’s New York Times editorial:

We are deeply concerned about the many innocent Israelis who live along the border with Gaza and must suffer through the constant bombardment. But Israel’s response—shutting off power and other essential supplies—is a collective punishment that will only feed anger and extremism.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the Times editorialists could become deeply concerned with getting their facts straight?

Here is the Washington Post‘s editorial:

Israel closed its border with the territory and disrupted power supplies over the weekend in response to a massive escalation of Palestinian rocket launches from Gaza at nearby Israeli towns.

And for the greatest hilarity, check out this photograph in TIME magazine, which is captioned: “The Palestinian Parliament was forced to meet by candlelight on Tuesday night.” Now look at the window in the upper left corner of the picture: The curtain blocking it has a rather curiously bright, luminous border around it, doesn’t it? Tuesday night? Do TIME’s editors know how gullible they look?

The New York Times, the Washington Post, TIME magazine: When it comes to Israel, the lies often find themselves traveling first class. I doubt corrections will be forthcoming.

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Out of Ideas in Gaza

Israel’s new strategy for dealing with the continuous barrage of Qassam rockets fired from Gaza has many troubling implications. For Palestinians, the fuel cuts mean the severe rationing of electricity, little or no heat during the cold of winter, and very limited mobility. Most alarmingly, the power shortage has threatened hospitals, with half the surgeries that were scheduled for Monday delayed at Gaza’s main hospital. Unfortunately, Palestinian civilians are unlikely to enjoy relief any time soon: Hamas’ leadership remains more committed to exploiting the crisis for propaganda purposes than simply ending the rocket attacks, and its first act in the wake of Israel’s fuel cut was to turn off the lights and hit the airwaves. We can thus expect to see more gas lines and bread lines in the days to come.

But Israelis should also be concerned. The decision to firmly seal Gaza, shut off its fuel supply, and limit the import of food suggests that Israel’s leadership has completely run out of ideas for how it should address Hamas’ continued aggression. Indeed, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has thrown Israel’s counterterrorism playbook out the window, subjecting 1.5 million Gazans to an existence that is merely better than a “humanitarian crisis”—in Olmert’s own words—rather than narrowly focusing his strategy against the terrorists. Olmert’s lack of creativity has extended to his defense of this approach, which has implied vindictiveness. As he told Kadima officials on Monday, “As far as I am concerned, all of Gaza’s residents can walk.”

The sealing of Gaza has serious strategic consequences for Israeli policy. When acting against aggression, Israel typically faces a limited timeframe in which it can accomplish its goals before international pressure forces it to cease operations. It is for this reason that its greatest military successes—including the 1967 war and 2002 Operation Defensive Shield—have come with remarkable swiftness. Alternatively, its greatest failures—the 1973 war and 2006 Lebanon War—have come when conflict was halted before Israel could realize concrete strategic accomplishments. Particularly when fighting guerrilla warfare—which rarely lends itself to swift victories—Israeli leaders must therefore aim to establish conditions under which the IDF is afforded a maximal timeframe in which it can operate. This increases the likelihood of success.

Yet Olmert’s strategy in Gaza does the opposite. From the moment the fuel was cut, the clock has been ticking rapidly, with the international community deeply concerned that a serious humanitarian crisis looms. Yesterday, Israel retreated under pressure from its ill-conceived policy, delivering a new supply of diesel and cooking-gas a mere 24 hours after Olmert vowed to not do so. Meanwhile, rockets have continued to hit Israel at a steady pace.
If the cuts to Gaza’s energy supply do not stem the flow of rockets in the next few days, Olmert will probably be forced to retreat further. Thereafter, it may be a while before Israel is granted a free hand to deal with terrorism emanating from Gaza. In the worst-case scenario, a spiraling humanitarian situation might increase the pressure on Israel to reach a truce with Hamas. In short, insofar as the current strategy takes too great a toll on Palestinian civilians, it is unsustainable and self-defeating.

Israel’s new strategy for dealing with the continuous barrage of Qassam rockets fired from Gaza has many troubling implications. For Palestinians, the fuel cuts mean the severe rationing of electricity, little or no heat during the cold of winter, and very limited mobility. Most alarmingly, the power shortage has threatened hospitals, with half the surgeries that were scheduled for Monday delayed at Gaza’s main hospital. Unfortunately, Palestinian civilians are unlikely to enjoy relief any time soon: Hamas’ leadership remains more committed to exploiting the crisis for propaganda purposes than simply ending the rocket attacks, and its first act in the wake of Israel’s fuel cut was to turn off the lights and hit the airwaves. We can thus expect to see more gas lines and bread lines in the days to come.

But Israelis should also be concerned. The decision to firmly seal Gaza, shut off its fuel supply, and limit the import of food suggests that Israel’s leadership has completely run out of ideas for how it should address Hamas’ continued aggression. Indeed, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has thrown Israel’s counterterrorism playbook out the window, subjecting 1.5 million Gazans to an existence that is merely better than a “humanitarian crisis”—in Olmert’s own words—rather than narrowly focusing his strategy against the terrorists. Olmert’s lack of creativity has extended to his defense of this approach, which has implied vindictiveness. As he told Kadima officials on Monday, “As far as I am concerned, all of Gaza’s residents can walk.”

The sealing of Gaza has serious strategic consequences for Israeli policy. When acting against aggression, Israel typically faces a limited timeframe in which it can accomplish its goals before international pressure forces it to cease operations. It is for this reason that its greatest military successes—including the 1967 war and 2002 Operation Defensive Shield—have come with remarkable swiftness. Alternatively, its greatest failures—the 1973 war and 2006 Lebanon War—have come when conflict was halted before Israel could realize concrete strategic accomplishments. Particularly when fighting guerrilla warfare—which rarely lends itself to swift victories—Israeli leaders must therefore aim to establish conditions under which the IDF is afforded a maximal timeframe in which it can operate. This increases the likelihood of success.

Yet Olmert’s strategy in Gaza does the opposite. From the moment the fuel was cut, the clock has been ticking rapidly, with the international community deeply concerned that a serious humanitarian crisis looms. Yesterday, Israel retreated under pressure from its ill-conceived policy, delivering a new supply of diesel and cooking-gas a mere 24 hours after Olmert vowed to not do so. Meanwhile, rockets have continued to hit Israel at a steady pace.
If the cuts to Gaza’s energy supply do not stem the flow of rockets in the next few days, Olmert will probably be forced to retreat further. Thereafter, it may be a while before Israel is granted a free hand to deal with terrorism emanating from Gaza. In the worst-case scenario, a spiraling humanitarian situation might increase the pressure on Israel to reach a truce with Hamas. In short, insofar as the current strategy takes too great a toll on Palestinian civilians, it is unsustainable and self-defeating.

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