Commentary Magazine


Topic: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

GOP Shift on Gay Marriage Opposition

Politico reports this morning on the internal shift within the Republican Party on the gay marriage opposition issue, which has been taking place quietly for the past few years. The change has mirrored polling numbers, which show that public opinion has moved sharply in favor of gay marriage since 2008. But it’s still noteworthy that the Republican leadership in Congress isn’t just being passive on this. It has even worked to kill amendments that oppose gay marriage:

Even more than that, Republican leadership has evolved, too. It has quietly worked behind the scenes to kill amendments that reaffirm opposition to same-sex unions, several sources told Politico.

It’s not like the GOP has become a bastion of progressiveness on gay rights, but there has been an evolution in the political approach — and an acknowledgment of a cultural shift in the country. Same-sex relationships are more prominent and accepted. There are more gay public figures — including politicians — and it’s likely that many Washington Republicans have gay friends and coworkers. Just as important — there’s also a libertarian streak of acceptance on people’s sexuality coursing through the House Republican Conference.

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Politico reports this morning on the internal shift within the Republican Party on the gay marriage opposition issue, which has been taking place quietly for the past few years. The change has mirrored polling numbers, which show that public opinion has moved sharply in favor of gay marriage since 2008. But it’s still noteworthy that the Republican leadership in Congress isn’t just being passive on this. It has even worked to kill amendments that oppose gay marriage:

Even more than that, Republican leadership has evolved, too. It has quietly worked behind the scenes to kill amendments that reaffirm opposition to same-sex unions, several sources told Politico.

It’s not like the GOP has become a bastion of progressiveness on gay rights, but there has been an evolution in the political approach — and an acknowledgment of a cultural shift in the country. Same-sex relationships are more prominent and accepted. There are more gay public figures — including politicians — and it’s likely that many Washington Republicans have gay friends and coworkers. Just as important — there’s also a libertarian streak of acceptance on people’s sexuality coursing through the House Republican Conference.

Part of this is about the current political atmosphere. Republicans want to keep the message focused on jobs, the deficit and the economy – issues that will actually get voters mobilized. Bringing up gay marriage at this point would have no benefit for the GOP.

But there’s also the sense that the long-term trend is moving toward acceptance of gay marriage, even within the conservative movement. And Republicans just don’t have the appetite to fight a battle that will be lost, if not next year, then five or 10 years down the line:

Then there are those Republicans who have been fighting for gay rights for decades — people like Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Ros-Lehtinen, who has a transgender son named Rodrigo, was the first Republican to co-sponsor the repeal of DOMA.

“Also,” she wrote in an email to Politico, “the younger generation is not as fixated on many social issues, as important as they are to other folks. Marriage equality is an issue that is evolving in people’s minds and hearts. As with many controversial issues, the passage of time makes us more comfortable with change.”

If you want to get a sense of where the traditional marriage movement is heading, the recent controversy over the National Organization for Marriage’s leaked action plan – which called for driving a wedge between gay and black people after Proposition 8 – is a good place to start. As correct as NOM may have been from a tactical standpoint (the black community’s support for Prop. 8 helped kill gay marriage in California), the ick-factor here is incredibly high. Just look at the language: NOM said it was seeking to “drive a wedge between gays and blacks”; “provoke” gay marriage supporters into “denouncing these [African American] spokesmen and women as bigots”; and “fanning the hostility raised in the wake of Prop. 8.” This isn’t the language or the vision of a noble cause, and it certainly doesn’t sound like one that supporters can feel good about belonging to.

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Fixing the Problems at the UN

There was one thing members of Congress and advocates for UN reform all agreed on at the House Foreign Affairs Committee discussion on UN funding today: the United Nations is an expensive disaster. Not only are some of its committees used as platforms to vilify Israel and undermine U.S. interests, but the American taxpayers are also subsidizing this equivalent of a frat house for totalitarian leaders.

Each year, the U.S. finances 20 percent of the UN’s total budget, plus billions in additional funds. And while some have proposed that the U.S. withhold an amount of money that’s equal to the budgets of committees that work against our interests — such as Human Rights Council and the Relief and Works Agency — this would be a largely symbolic move. Currently, these committees are funded out of the main contribution we give the UN, so any cuts would be spread around to all the programs and dull the financial blow.

In his testimony before the congressional committee, the Heritage Foundation’s Brett Schaefer suggested that the U.S. lobby for these committees to be spun out of the regular UN funding so that Congress would be able to target them easier.

This appears to be the best proposal, but it will also require a lot of support from Congress. Despite the U.S.’s significant contributions to the UN, its vote on budgetary matters doesn’t hold any more weight than other member countries. So the task at this point would be to increase the U.S.’s voting power at the UN.

And getting that done might require putting more pressure on the UN than some Democrats are comfortable with — including cutting our contributions significantly or defunding it completely. But based on House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s statements today, this sounds like a fight that Republicans are eager to have.

“In the past, Congress has gone along by willingly paying what successive Administrations asked for — without enough oversight,” said Ros-Lehtinen. “This is one of the first true U.N. reform hearings held by this Committee in almost 4 years, but it won’t be the last.”

Ros-Lehtinen said that she would be introducing legislation that would allow Congress to defund the UN entirely, so that “U.S. taxpayers can pay for the U.N. programs and activities that advance our interests and values, and if other countries want different things to be funded, they can pay for it themselves.”

And with the renewed Republican focus on fiscal issues, a proposal like this is likely to resonate with both GOP lawmakers and the conservative base.

There was one thing members of Congress and advocates for UN reform all agreed on at the House Foreign Affairs Committee discussion on UN funding today: the United Nations is an expensive disaster. Not only are some of its committees used as platforms to vilify Israel and undermine U.S. interests, but the American taxpayers are also subsidizing this equivalent of a frat house for totalitarian leaders.

Each year, the U.S. finances 20 percent of the UN’s total budget, plus billions in additional funds. And while some have proposed that the U.S. withhold an amount of money that’s equal to the budgets of committees that work against our interests — such as Human Rights Council and the Relief and Works Agency — this would be a largely symbolic move. Currently, these committees are funded out of the main contribution we give the UN, so any cuts would be spread around to all the programs and dull the financial blow.

In his testimony before the congressional committee, the Heritage Foundation’s Brett Schaefer suggested that the U.S. lobby for these committees to be spun out of the regular UN funding so that Congress would be able to target them easier.

This appears to be the best proposal, but it will also require a lot of support from Congress. Despite the U.S.’s significant contributions to the UN, its vote on budgetary matters doesn’t hold any more weight than other member countries. So the task at this point would be to increase the U.S.’s voting power at the UN.

And getting that done might require putting more pressure on the UN than some Democrats are comfortable with — including cutting our contributions significantly or defunding it completely. But based on House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s statements today, this sounds like a fight that Republicans are eager to have.

“In the past, Congress has gone along by willingly paying what successive Administrations asked for — without enough oversight,” said Ros-Lehtinen. “This is one of the first true U.N. reform hearings held by this Committee in almost 4 years, but it won’t be the last.”

Ros-Lehtinen said that she would be introducing legislation that would allow Congress to defund the UN entirely, so that “U.S. taxpayers can pay for the U.N. programs and activities that advance our interests and values, and if other countries want different things to be funded, they can pay for it themselves.”

And with the renewed Republican focus on fiscal issues, a proposal like this is likely to resonate with both GOP lawmakers and the conservative base.

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Rep. Allan West Talking Sense on PLO Flag

In a press release this morning, Rep. Allan West asked why the PLO is allowed to fly its flag above its Washington office but Taiwan is not.

“By allowing this flag to be flown, the United States is extending a diplomatic right that we refrain from offering to even our own allies, like Taiwan,” said West. “This action is a diplomatic slap in the face of our greatest of allies, Israel.”

The Taiwan-PLO comparison is an excellent point. As far as officially recognized states go, Taiwan is clearly further along that path than Palestine is. The U.S. has also recognized Taiwan as a country in the past.

Here are some more comparisons between Taiwan and Palestine:

• Unlike Palestine, Taiwan has been an autonomous, self-governing entity for decades.

• Unlike Palestine, Taiwan doesn’t claim that the only way it can ever be free is if it destroys the state next to it (in this case, China).

• Unlike Palestine, Taiwan has been a reliable ally of the U.S. for years.

• Unlike Palestine, the U.S. has trusted Taiwan enough to sell it extensive arms, including F-16s under President George H.W. Bush.

West is right that this is a slap in the face to Israel — but it’s also a slap in the face to Taiwan, which has no hope of being recognized any time soon. According to West’s press release, he has joined House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in speaking out against the PLO flag being flown. Both members of Congress are asking President Obama and the State Department to rescind the authorization given to the PLO to raise the flag.

In a press release this morning, Rep. Allan West asked why the PLO is allowed to fly its flag above its Washington office but Taiwan is not.

“By allowing this flag to be flown, the United States is extending a diplomatic right that we refrain from offering to even our own allies, like Taiwan,” said West. “This action is a diplomatic slap in the face of our greatest of allies, Israel.”

The Taiwan-PLO comparison is an excellent point. As far as officially recognized states go, Taiwan is clearly further along that path than Palestine is. The U.S. has also recognized Taiwan as a country in the past.

Here are some more comparisons between Taiwan and Palestine:

• Unlike Palestine, Taiwan has been an autonomous, self-governing entity for decades.

• Unlike Palestine, Taiwan doesn’t claim that the only way it can ever be free is if it destroys the state next to it (in this case, China).

• Unlike Palestine, Taiwan has been a reliable ally of the U.S. for years.

• Unlike Palestine, the U.S. has trusted Taiwan enough to sell it extensive arms, including F-16s under President George H.W. Bush.

West is right that this is a slap in the face to Israel — but it’s also a slap in the face to Taiwan, which has no hope of being recognized any time soon. According to West’s press release, he has joined House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in speaking out against the PLO flag being flown. Both members of Congress are asking President Obama and the State Department to rescind the authorization given to the PLO to raise the flag.

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House Republicans Want to Cut UN Funding

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the new House Foreign Affairs Committee chair, has come up with another superb proposal. The congresswoman wants to cut funding for the UN — particularly the money that goes toward supporting the UN Human Rights Council.

“The fact that the U.S. continues to contribute billions of taxpayer dollars every year to an unaccountable, unreformed U.N. is no laughing matter,” she said in a statement. “These allegations reinforce the need for expanded and effective oversight of the U.N. Next week, our committee will lead the way by holding the first of several briefings and hearings on UN reform.”

Ros-Lehtinen is holding a panel tomorrow that will discuss the problems with the UN and how Congress can take steps to solve them.

One of the main issues with the Human Rights Council, of course, is that its entire existence revolves around demonizing Israel at every opportunity. It’s also composed of many of the same countries that commit the worst human-rights abuse.

The executive director of UN Watch, Hillel Neuer, told the Hill that out of the 45 resolutions passed by the UNHRC over the past half-decade, 35 of them have been “one-sided measures against Israel.”

“One of the most significant tools has been used to wallop Israel over the head and not to promote peace,” added Neuer.

The 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act prohibited the U.S. from funding the UNHRC unless the secretary of state certified that this funding was in the “national interest of the United States” or if the U.S. were a member of the council.

The U.S. was voted off the UNHRC under the Bush administration, but President Obama lobbied to get us back on after he was elected. So even if the council works against our national interest, there’s no current prohibition against funding it.

Also, defunding the UNHRC would be mainly a symbolic act, since the U.S. allocates money to the entire UN, not specific parts of it. Because of that, we could withhold a budgetary amount that’s equal to the cost of the UNHRC, but it appears that there’s no way of knowing whether the money will be spent on the council or not.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the new House Foreign Affairs Committee chair, has come up with another superb proposal. The congresswoman wants to cut funding for the UN — particularly the money that goes toward supporting the UN Human Rights Council.

“The fact that the U.S. continues to contribute billions of taxpayer dollars every year to an unaccountable, unreformed U.N. is no laughing matter,” she said in a statement. “These allegations reinforce the need for expanded and effective oversight of the U.N. Next week, our committee will lead the way by holding the first of several briefings and hearings on UN reform.”

Ros-Lehtinen is holding a panel tomorrow that will discuss the problems with the UN and how Congress can take steps to solve them.

One of the main issues with the Human Rights Council, of course, is that its entire existence revolves around demonizing Israel at every opportunity. It’s also composed of many of the same countries that commit the worst human-rights abuse.

The executive director of UN Watch, Hillel Neuer, told the Hill that out of the 45 resolutions passed by the UNHRC over the past half-decade, 35 of them have been “one-sided measures against Israel.”

“One of the most significant tools has been used to wallop Israel over the head and not to promote peace,” added Neuer.

The 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act prohibited the U.S. from funding the UNHRC unless the secretary of state certified that this funding was in the “national interest of the United States” or if the U.S. were a member of the council.

The U.S. was voted off the UNHRC under the Bush administration, but President Obama lobbied to get us back on after he was elected. So even if the council works against our national interest, there’s no current prohibition against funding it.

Also, defunding the UNHRC would be mainly a symbolic act, since the U.S. allocates money to the entire UN, not specific parts of it. Because of that, we could withhold a budgetary amount that’s equal to the cost of the UNHRC, but it appears that there’s no way of knowing whether the money will be spent on the council or not.

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Bringing Change to Foreign Policy

At his Council on Foreign Relations blog, Elliott Abrams notes that Obama’s “engagement” policy suffers from an inherent contradiction:

[H]e believes in the UN Security Council and the Human Rights Council [HRC], in treaties like the NPT and START, in the IAEA, in multilateral cooperation. But the regimes with which he wishes to engage do not, so that Asad tries to ruin the UN’s Special Tribunal for Lebanon and Iran’s nuclear program threatens to destroy the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the IAEA. The president is in this sense in the position of those who for decades sought “world peace” primarily by engaging with the Soviet Union, which did not share that goal.

So the question for the next two years is whether the president will remain wedded to policies that cannot achieve his stated goals.

In the prior Congress, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee cheered on the Obama engagement policy — at one point writing to all 435 House members that “sustained engagement” with the HRC (and UNESCO) had “reaped important dividends” for the U.S. and Israel, proving that “engagement works.” He cited the “hard-fought” victory to keep Iran off the HRC. The next month, the HRC voted 32-to-3 to condemn Israel (again) in harsh language, and then called for an “investigation” to prove what it had just condemned; the State Department spokesman responded that the U.S. had only one vote on the HRC but would continue to “engage.”

The new Congress may require the administration to start changing its policy. In “A Short United Nations To-Do List for the New Congress,” written after the November election, Heritage Foundation fellow Brett Schaefer recommended, among other steps, withholding funds from the HRC, since it has “proved to be no better — and in some ways, worse — than the commission it replaced”:

The Obama Administration engaged the HRC believing that the U.S. would be able to improve the HRC from within. Unfortunately, the performance of the HRC with the U.S. as a member has been virtually indistinguishable from its performance absent U.S. membership.

Next Tuesday, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the new head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, will chair a full-committee hearing on “The United Nations: Urgent Problems that Need Congressional Action.” The lead-off witness will be Brett Schaefer.

At his Council on Foreign Relations blog, Elliott Abrams notes that Obama’s “engagement” policy suffers from an inherent contradiction:

[H]e believes in the UN Security Council and the Human Rights Council [HRC], in treaties like the NPT and START, in the IAEA, in multilateral cooperation. But the regimes with which he wishes to engage do not, so that Asad tries to ruin the UN’s Special Tribunal for Lebanon and Iran’s nuclear program threatens to destroy the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the IAEA. The president is in this sense in the position of those who for decades sought “world peace” primarily by engaging with the Soviet Union, which did not share that goal.

So the question for the next two years is whether the president will remain wedded to policies that cannot achieve his stated goals.

In the prior Congress, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee cheered on the Obama engagement policy — at one point writing to all 435 House members that “sustained engagement” with the HRC (and UNESCO) had “reaped important dividends” for the U.S. and Israel, proving that “engagement works.” He cited the “hard-fought” victory to keep Iran off the HRC. The next month, the HRC voted 32-to-3 to condemn Israel (again) in harsh language, and then called for an “investigation” to prove what it had just condemned; the State Department spokesman responded that the U.S. had only one vote on the HRC but would continue to “engage.”

The new Congress may require the administration to start changing its policy. In “A Short United Nations To-Do List for the New Congress,” written after the November election, Heritage Foundation fellow Brett Schaefer recommended, among other steps, withholding funds from the HRC, since it has “proved to be no better — and in some ways, worse — than the commission it replaced”:

The Obama Administration engaged the HRC believing that the U.S. would be able to improve the HRC from within. Unfortunately, the performance of the HRC with the U.S. as a member has been virtually indistinguishable from its performance absent U.S. membership.

Next Tuesday, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the new head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, will chair a full-committee hearing on “The United Nations: Urgent Problems that Need Congressional Action.” The lead-off witness will be Brett Schaefer.

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Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Slams PLO-Flag Decision

It’s so refreshing — and sadly rare — when a politician comes out and just says the honest truth. Today Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the new chair of the House Foreign Relations Committee, issued some much-needed real talk on the Palestinian Authority’s decision to raise the PLO flag outside its Washington diplomatic mission today. From her press release:

“Raising this flag in DC is part of the Palestinian leadership’s scheme to manipulate international acceptance and diplomatic recognition of a yet-to-be-created Palestinian state while refusing to directly negotiate with Israel or accept the existence of Israel as a democratic, Jewish state.

“The Palestinian leadership’s ongoing drive to win recognition from foreign governments, and its latest push to condemn Israel at the UN, is part of the same strategy aimed at extracting concessions without being required to meet international commitments.

“I remain deeply disappointed that the Palestinian leadership continues to reject the opportunity to negotiate directly and in good faith with the Israeli government to resolve all outstanding issues and achieve security and peace. Instead, Palestinian leaders reject negotiations, they make excuses, and they seek shortcuts to statehood.”

This could not have been said better. The PA’s attempts to win statehood recognition prematurely doesn’t just hurt Israel — it harms the entire peace process. These tactics allow the Palestinian leadership to delay negotiations, which will only end up impeding the creation of a Palestinian state.

But Ros-Lehtinen doesn’t stop at calling out the Palestinian leadership. She also tears into the Obama administration, which has facilitated the PA’s destructive strategy:

“The U.S. has reinforced Ramallah’s rejectionism through economic and political support, including support for the PLO office in Washington, instead of requiring that they meet all conditions in U.S. law. Governments worldwide will interpret such actions as tacit U.S. recognition of a Palestinian state. These actions send precisely the wrong message to foreign governments.

“It’s long past time to change course, uphold our own laws by holding Ramallah accountable for its commitments, and encourage other responsible nations to do likewise.”

This is a key point. By allowing the PLO flag to be raised outside the Washington office, the Obama administration is sending an international message of implicit support for the PA’s strides toward unilateral statehood. And more than that, it’s seen as a pointed snub at Israel, giving both the PA and the Israeli governments an additional reason to avoid negotiations.

It’s so refreshing — and sadly rare — when a politician comes out and just says the honest truth. Today Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the new chair of the House Foreign Relations Committee, issued some much-needed real talk on the Palestinian Authority’s decision to raise the PLO flag outside its Washington diplomatic mission today. From her press release:

“Raising this flag in DC is part of the Palestinian leadership’s scheme to manipulate international acceptance and diplomatic recognition of a yet-to-be-created Palestinian state while refusing to directly negotiate with Israel or accept the existence of Israel as a democratic, Jewish state.

“The Palestinian leadership’s ongoing drive to win recognition from foreign governments, and its latest push to condemn Israel at the UN, is part of the same strategy aimed at extracting concessions without being required to meet international commitments.

“I remain deeply disappointed that the Palestinian leadership continues to reject the opportunity to negotiate directly and in good faith with the Israeli government to resolve all outstanding issues and achieve security and peace. Instead, Palestinian leaders reject negotiations, they make excuses, and they seek shortcuts to statehood.”

This could not have been said better. The PA’s attempts to win statehood recognition prematurely doesn’t just hurt Israel — it harms the entire peace process. These tactics allow the Palestinian leadership to delay negotiations, which will only end up impeding the creation of a Palestinian state.

But Ros-Lehtinen doesn’t stop at calling out the Palestinian leadership. She also tears into the Obama administration, which has facilitated the PA’s destructive strategy:

“The U.S. has reinforced Ramallah’s rejectionism through economic and political support, including support for the PLO office in Washington, instead of requiring that they meet all conditions in U.S. law. Governments worldwide will interpret such actions as tacit U.S. recognition of a Palestinian state. These actions send precisely the wrong message to foreign governments.

“It’s long past time to change course, uphold our own laws by holding Ramallah accountable for its commitments, and encourage other responsible nations to do likewise.”

This is a key point. By allowing the PLO flag to be raised outside the Washington office, the Obama administration is sending an international message of implicit support for the PA’s strides toward unilateral statehood. And more than that, it’s seen as a pointed snub at Israel, giving both the PA and the Israeli governments an additional reason to avoid negotiations.

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Morning Commentary

The street riots in Tunisia could lead to a democratic revolution, but they could also lead to the rise of an extremist government, like the 1979 Islamic revolution did in Iran. In the Washington Post, Anne Applebaum writes about the potential outcomes of Tunisia’s political transition: “A month ago, they turned to street protests. So far, this is not an Islamic revolution — but it isn’t a democratic revolution yet, either. Instead, we are witnessing a demographic revolution: the revolt of the frustrated young against their corrupt elders. Anyone who looked at the population numbers and job data could have guessed it might happen, and, as I say, many did.”

Israeli ambassador Michael Oren, Natan Sharansky, Alan Dershowitz, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and other Jewish leaders spoke out against the anti-Israel delegitimization movement at a south Florida summit on Sunday. While the boycott and divestment campaign hasn’t entered the mainstream in the U.S., it has been increasingly problematic in Europe: “‘When there is a boycott of Israeli products — buy them. When trade unions and universities want companies to divest of their holdings in Israeli companies — invest in them. When there is a speaker from Israel — attend the speech and make sure the speaker can be heard,’ Oren said. Most of all, ‘We must educate our community about BDS. We must unite actively to combat it,’ he said.”

Claudia Rosett wonders when Saudi Arabia is going to send Israel a thank-you note for Stuxnet. After all, if WikiLeaks has shown us anything, it’s that the Saudis fear a nuclear Iran almost as much as Israel and the U.S. do: “But if the broad picture painted by the Times is accurate (and there are gaps in the trail described), then surely there is another group of countries which for more wholesome reasons owe a profound thank you to Israel. Prominent among this crowd are the Middle East potentates, from the king of Saudi Arabia to the king of Bahrain to the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, whose private pleadings — as made to U.S. officials and exposed by Wikileaks — were to do whatever it takes to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program.”

Stuxnet may be the first instance of cyberwarfare, writes Spencer Ackerman. But how far can these types of attacks go in helping us attain our national-security goals? “That also points to the downside. Just as strategic bombing doesn’t have a good track record of success, Stuxnet hasn’t taken down the Iranian nuclear program. Doctrine-writers may be tempted to view cyberwar as an alternative to a shooting war, but the evidence to date doesn’t suggest anything of the sort. Stuxnet just indicates that high-level cyberwarfare really is possible; it doesn’t indicate that it’s sufficient for achieving national objectives.”

Happy MLK Day. Foreign Policy’s Will Inboden asks President Obama to remember Martin Luther King Jr.’s struggle for human rights and justice when he meets with Chinese President Hu Jintao this week: “As my Shadow Government colleague Mike Green pointed out in his excellent preview of the Hu visit, China’s imprisonment of democracy activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo means that the White House meeting this week will be ‘our first summit (indeed, our first state visit) between a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and a world leader who is imprisoning another Nobel Peace Prize laureate.’ Martin Luther King Jr. also won the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1964.”

The street riots in Tunisia could lead to a democratic revolution, but they could also lead to the rise of an extremist government, like the 1979 Islamic revolution did in Iran. In the Washington Post, Anne Applebaum writes about the potential outcomes of Tunisia’s political transition: “A month ago, they turned to street protests. So far, this is not an Islamic revolution — but it isn’t a democratic revolution yet, either. Instead, we are witnessing a demographic revolution: the revolt of the frustrated young against their corrupt elders. Anyone who looked at the population numbers and job data could have guessed it might happen, and, as I say, many did.”

Israeli ambassador Michael Oren, Natan Sharansky, Alan Dershowitz, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and other Jewish leaders spoke out against the anti-Israel delegitimization movement at a south Florida summit on Sunday. While the boycott and divestment campaign hasn’t entered the mainstream in the U.S., it has been increasingly problematic in Europe: “‘When there is a boycott of Israeli products — buy them. When trade unions and universities want companies to divest of their holdings in Israeli companies — invest in them. When there is a speaker from Israel — attend the speech and make sure the speaker can be heard,’ Oren said. Most of all, ‘We must educate our community about BDS. We must unite actively to combat it,’ he said.”

Claudia Rosett wonders when Saudi Arabia is going to send Israel a thank-you note for Stuxnet. After all, if WikiLeaks has shown us anything, it’s that the Saudis fear a nuclear Iran almost as much as Israel and the U.S. do: “But if the broad picture painted by the Times is accurate (and there are gaps in the trail described), then surely there is another group of countries which for more wholesome reasons owe a profound thank you to Israel. Prominent among this crowd are the Middle East potentates, from the king of Saudi Arabia to the king of Bahrain to the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, whose private pleadings — as made to U.S. officials and exposed by Wikileaks — were to do whatever it takes to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program.”

Stuxnet may be the first instance of cyberwarfare, writes Spencer Ackerman. But how far can these types of attacks go in helping us attain our national-security goals? “That also points to the downside. Just as strategic bombing doesn’t have a good track record of success, Stuxnet hasn’t taken down the Iranian nuclear program. Doctrine-writers may be tempted to view cyberwar as an alternative to a shooting war, but the evidence to date doesn’t suggest anything of the sort. Stuxnet just indicates that high-level cyberwarfare really is possible; it doesn’t indicate that it’s sufficient for achieving national objectives.”

Happy MLK Day. Foreign Policy’s Will Inboden asks President Obama to remember Martin Luther King Jr.’s struggle for human rights and justice when he meets with Chinese President Hu Jintao this week: “As my Shadow Government colleague Mike Green pointed out in his excellent preview of the Hu visit, China’s imprisonment of democracy activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo means that the White House meeting this week will be ‘our first summit (indeed, our first state visit) between a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and a world leader who is imprisoning another Nobel Peace Prize laureate.’ Martin Luther King Jr. also won the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1964.”

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Morning Commentary

The U.S. Department of State may drop Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism as a bargaining chip to push the Sudanese government to recognize the south’s independence: “’Should the referendum be carried out successfully and the results are recognized by the government, President Obama would indicate his intention to begin the process of removing them,’ Princeton Lyman, the lead US negotiator with Sudan, told AFP.”

Time magazine reports that Hilary Clinton had to persuade Gulf Arab leaders not to ease Iranian sanctions on Sunday, after Israel’s outgoing Mossad chief, Meir Dagan, predicted that Iran wouldn’t acquire a nuclear weapon until 2015.

Reason’s Mike Moynihan describes the origins of the term “eliminationism,” which appears to be the left’s new catchphrase after the Arizona shooting: “For a media so obsessed with the pernicious effects of radical political speech, it’s odd that no one has asked the anti-‘eliminationist’ pundits to define their terms. As I pointed out on this website last year, the word ‘eliminationism’ is a recent coinage, a word employed by writer Daniel Jonah Goldhagen to describe the particularly virulent strain of anti-Semitism that gripped Germany in the years leading up to the Holocaust.”

Newsweek wonders whether Arizona shooter Jared Loughner could have been involuntarily committed to a mental-health facility before he went on his murderous rampage last weekend. And interestingly, Arizona is apparently one of the states where it’s easiest to force someone into psychological counseling without his consent.

American Jewish groups have outlined their new legislative goals for the Republican-led Congress. One of their main focuses is on funding for Israel, which may be moved out of foreign spending in order to protect it from budget cuts: “Some leading Republicans, including Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the new chairwoman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, say Congress could separate funding for Israel from overall foreign spending, allowing conservatives to maintain current levels for Israel while slashing foreign spending for countries they don’t see as friendly or programs they oppose.”

Don’t tell Iran, but the Elder of Zion blog appears to have obtained some sort of booklet exposing the identities of key Mossad agents.

The U.S. Department of State may drop Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism as a bargaining chip to push the Sudanese government to recognize the south’s independence: “’Should the referendum be carried out successfully and the results are recognized by the government, President Obama would indicate his intention to begin the process of removing them,’ Princeton Lyman, the lead US negotiator with Sudan, told AFP.”

Time magazine reports that Hilary Clinton had to persuade Gulf Arab leaders not to ease Iranian sanctions on Sunday, after Israel’s outgoing Mossad chief, Meir Dagan, predicted that Iran wouldn’t acquire a nuclear weapon until 2015.

Reason’s Mike Moynihan describes the origins of the term “eliminationism,” which appears to be the left’s new catchphrase after the Arizona shooting: “For a media so obsessed with the pernicious effects of radical political speech, it’s odd that no one has asked the anti-‘eliminationist’ pundits to define their terms. As I pointed out on this website last year, the word ‘eliminationism’ is a recent coinage, a word employed by writer Daniel Jonah Goldhagen to describe the particularly virulent strain of anti-Semitism that gripped Germany in the years leading up to the Holocaust.”

Newsweek wonders whether Arizona shooter Jared Loughner could have been involuntarily committed to a mental-health facility before he went on his murderous rampage last weekend. And interestingly, Arizona is apparently one of the states where it’s easiest to force someone into psychological counseling without his consent.

American Jewish groups have outlined their new legislative goals for the Republican-led Congress. One of their main focuses is on funding for Israel, which may be moved out of foreign spending in order to protect it from budget cuts: “Some leading Republicans, including Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the new chairwoman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, say Congress could separate funding for Israel from overall foreign spending, allowing conservatives to maintain current levels for Israel while slashing foreign spending for countries they don’t see as friendly or programs they oppose.”

Don’t tell Iran, but the Elder of Zion blog appears to have obtained some sort of booklet exposing the identities of key Mossad agents.

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Morning Commentary

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) has hit the ground running as the new chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. First items on the agenda: cutting the State Department budget, forcing significant changes at the UN, and increasing pressure on “rogue states.”

Ron Paul is the only member of Congress to vote against a resolution honoring Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo. Paul has been an outspoken critic of the National Endowment of Democracy, which he claims helps stir up international conflict with taxpayer money. Much of Xiaobo’s fine work has been funded through grants from the NED.

George H.W. Bush has thrown his support behind New START, becoming the most prominent Republican figure yet to publicly back the controversial legislation.

James Fallows cautions not to put too much stock into those exceptional Shanghai test scores, noting that the students tested may not have been representative of the average Chinese student. “No doubt these results reflect something real,” wrote Fallows. “But as with just about everything concerning modern China, the results should also be viewed with some distance and possible skepticism.”

Former Army analyst Bradley Manning is facing half a century in prison for leaking secret military documents to WikiLeaks, but it seems he’s become something of a folk hero among left-wingers. The city council of Berkeley is considering a resolution honoring his “patriotism.” The Washington Examiner’s Mark Hemingway suggests: “Once they take care of this vital matter, perhaps they can get around to finally doing something about all the deranged panhandlers on Telegraph Avenue.”

New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg may protest allegations that he’s running for president, but his speech yesterday sure sounded like it. And as NBC’s Mark Murray noted, the words also sounded vaguely familiar.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) has hit the ground running as the new chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. First items on the agenda: cutting the State Department budget, forcing significant changes at the UN, and increasing pressure on “rogue states.”

Ron Paul is the only member of Congress to vote against a resolution honoring Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo. Paul has been an outspoken critic of the National Endowment of Democracy, which he claims helps stir up international conflict with taxpayer money. Much of Xiaobo’s fine work has been funded through grants from the NED.

George H.W. Bush has thrown his support behind New START, becoming the most prominent Republican figure yet to publicly back the controversial legislation.

James Fallows cautions not to put too much stock into those exceptional Shanghai test scores, noting that the students tested may not have been representative of the average Chinese student. “No doubt these results reflect something real,” wrote Fallows. “But as with just about everything concerning modern China, the results should also be viewed with some distance and possible skepticism.”

Former Army analyst Bradley Manning is facing half a century in prison for leaking secret military documents to WikiLeaks, but it seems he’s become something of a folk hero among left-wingers. The city council of Berkeley is considering a resolution honoring his “patriotism.” The Washington Examiner’s Mark Hemingway suggests: “Once they take care of this vital matter, perhaps they can get around to finally doing something about all the deranged panhandlers on Telegraph Avenue.”

New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg may protest allegations that he’s running for president, but his speech yesterday sure sounded like it. And as NBC’s Mark Murray noted, the words also sounded vaguely familiar.

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True Friends of Israel

As we have noted, a new organization, the Friends of Israel Initiative, headed by former Spanish prime minister José María Aznar has been formed to combat efforts to delegitimize Israel and to make the positive case for why Israel is critical to the West. In a remarkable speech that should be read in full, Aznar explained:

Israel is under a new kind of attack. Not conventional war as in 1948, 56, 67 or 73. Not terrorism as we saw in the 70s, 80s and 90s. But a new kind of attack — an attack on Israel’s legitimacy, on her right to exist. A “soft-war,” where many of its adversaries are employing legal tricks, multinational bodies, and an army of dubious NGO’s to present internationally Israel as an illegitimate state, as a barbarian State, a State that should be isolated and converted into a pariah State.

We think this is intolerable. It is unjust, morally wrong, and a strategic risk — not only for Israel and its people — but for all of us. Israel is an integral part of the West, and the weaker it is, the weaker the entire West will be perceived to be.

He succinctly explains why we cannot let Israel — in other words, the Zionist undertaking — fail:

We want to stand up for the right of Israel to exist. Judeo-Christian values form the roots of our civilization. Delegitimizing Israel undermines our identity, warps our values and put at risk what we are and who we are.

So, dear friends, it is not only the threat that if Israel goes down, which, make no mistake, many of its enemies would like to see happen, we all go down. It is that letting Israel be demonized will lead to the delegitimation of our own cherished values. If Israel were to disappear by the force of its enemies, I sincerely doubt the West could remain as we know it.

That is the case that is too infrequently made. The Obami posit, in essence, that we are doing Israel a favor by offering our support, at great risk to ourselves. In fact, not only is Israel a valued ally, but the Jewish state is also crucial to us.

Perhaps Congress, becoming more daring in its defiance of a failing presidency, can help in this regard. In Congress, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.)  and Rep. Albio Sires (D-N.J.) have introduced a resolution H.Con Res. 315:

“Recognizing the formation and supporting the objectives of the Friends of Israel Initiative.” It calls on Congress to recognize the formation of the Initiative, to affirm its goals as laid down in its mission statement as well as reaffirming Congress’s “enduring bipartisan support” for the US-Israeli relationship and for Israel’s right to exist as a secure and democratic Jewish state.

Sadly, this is very much needed because we have an administration that takes for granted — or abuses — our democratic ally. Caterwauling over a nonexistent wave of Islamophobia has distracted and befuddled the media (more so than usual). It is critical to redirect the public discussion and remind governments and their citizens what Israel stands for, why our relationship is essential, and why the notion of distancing ourselves from the Jewish state essentially means divorcing ourselves from the values at the core of Western civilization. The Friends of Israel couldn’t have stepped forward at a more opportune moment.

As we have noted, a new organization, the Friends of Israel Initiative, headed by former Spanish prime minister José María Aznar has been formed to combat efforts to delegitimize Israel and to make the positive case for why Israel is critical to the West. In a remarkable speech that should be read in full, Aznar explained:

Israel is under a new kind of attack. Not conventional war as in 1948, 56, 67 or 73. Not terrorism as we saw in the 70s, 80s and 90s. But a new kind of attack — an attack on Israel’s legitimacy, on her right to exist. A “soft-war,” where many of its adversaries are employing legal tricks, multinational bodies, and an army of dubious NGO’s to present internationally Israel as an illegitimate state, as a barbarian State, a State that should be isolated and converted into a pariah State.

We think this is intolerable. It is unjust, morally wrong, and a strategic risk — not only for Israel and its people — but for all of us. Israel is an integral part of the West, and the weaker it is, the weaker the entire West will be perceived to be.

He succinctly explains why we cannot let Israel — in other words, the Zionist undertaking — fail:

We want to stand up for the right of Israel to exist. Judeo-Christian values form the roots of our civilization. Delegitimizing Israel undermines our identity, warps our values and put at risk what we are and who we are.

So, dear friends, it is not only the threat that if Israel goes down, which, make no mistake, many of its enemies would like to see happen, we all go down. It is that letting Israel be demonized will lead to the delegitimation of our own cherished values. If Israel were to disappear by the force of its enemies, I sincerely doubt the West could remain as we know it.

That is the case that is too infrequently made. The Obami posit, in essence, that we are doing Israel a favor by offering our support, at great risk to ourselves. In fact, not only is Israel a valued ally, but the Jewish state is also crucial to us.

Perhaps Congress, becoming more daring in its defiance of a failing presidency, can help in this regard. In Congress, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.)  and Rep. Albio Sires (D-N.J.) have introduced a resolution H.Con Res. 315:

“Recognizing the formation and supporting the objectives of the Friends of Israel Initiative.” It calls on Congress to recognize the formation of the Initiative, to affirm its goals as laid down in its mission statement as well as reaffirming Congress’s “enduring bipartisan support” for the US-Israeli relationship and for Israel’s right to exist as a secure and democratic Jewish state.

Sadly, this is very much needed because we have an administration that takes for granted — or abuses — our democratic ally. Caterwauling over a nonexistent wave of Islamophobia has distracted and befuddled the media (more so than usual). It is critical to redirect the public discussion and remind governments and their citizens what Israel stands for, why our relationship is essential, and why the notion of distancing ourselves from the Jewish state essentially means divorcing ourselves from the values at the core of Western civilization. The Friends of Israel couldn’t have stepped forward at a more opportune moment.

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Obama Is for Weaker Iran Sanctions

Obama, no doubt believing that phony Iran sanctions will bring praise — after all, he got cheers from mainstream Jewish groups on the UN agreement — is continuing to press Congress for weaker sanctions in the wake of the UN vote. Yes, yes he promised that the really tough stuff was coming, but he didn’t really mean they’d be effective. Obama would rather cut Iran a break than annoy its new friends (who have done what, exactly, for us lately?), China and Russia, or our European allies, which have stepped up the Israel-bashing:

U.S. sanctions have strong support in Congress, and the administration backs them in principle as a way to strengthen the mild strictures adopted on Wednesday by the U.N. Security Council. But the administration fears that the legislation also could damage relations with Europe, Russia and China, all of whom cooperated with U.S. efforts on the U.N. sanctions.

To avoid that possibility, the administration wants authority to waive U.S. punishment against companies from countries that have cooperated on Iran.

Many lawmakers are wary. Some say the Obama administration, like its predecessors, has been lax in enforcing existing Iran sanctions out of concern for good relations with other world powers.

“The administration doesn’t carry out the laws that are on the books, and they want the new law to be as weak and loophole-ridden as possible,” said Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks), who has been pushing for years for such legislation.

Republicans have been ratcheting up their demands for Congress to hang tough, arguing that the U.N. resolution fell short of what was needed.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, the senior Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called the U.N. sanctions a “goose egg” and demanded that Congress impose “crippling sanctions against Iran.”

It seems that no matter how gingerly Obama is treated by Jewish groups — make the Reid-McConnnell letter less offensive, praise Obama for a UN Security Statement singling out Israel, cheer the ludicrous UN sanctions — he never comes through with a tougher line on Iran or a warmer one on Israel. As one Capitol Hill staffer put it, “Everyone wants to treat the administration with kid gloves as if suddenly a hawkish and pro-Israel Obama will emerge.”

Well, that’s as silly as “engaging” Iran or “resetting” relations with Russia by capitulating on everything Putin wants. It seems Obama has been taking all those Jewish leaders, who come to the White House for “reassurance,” for a ride. Tougher sanctions aren’t coming along if Obama can help it. After all, stopping a nuclear-armed Iran isn’t nearly as important as keeping things chummy with unco-operative allies and despotic regimes.

Obama, no doubt believing that phony Iran sanctions will bring praise — after all, he got cheers from mainstream Jewish groups on the UN agreement — is continuing to press Congress for weaker sanctions in the wake of the UN vote. Yes, yes he promised that the really tough stuff was coming, but he didn’t really mean they’d be effective. Obama would rather cut Iran a break than annoy its new friends (who have done what, exactly, for us lately?), China and Russia, or our European allies, which have stepped up the Israel-bashing:

U.S. sanctions have strong support in Congress, and the administration backs them in principle as a way to strengthen the mild strictures adopted on Wednesday by the U.N. Security Council. But the administration fears that the legislation also could damage relations with Europe, Russia and China, all of whom cooperated with U.S. efforts on the U.N. sanctions.

To avoid that possibility, the administration wants authority to waive U.S. punishment against companies from countries that have cooperated on Iran.

Many lawmakers are wary. Some say the Obama administration, like its predecessors, has been lax in enforcing existing Iran sanctions out of concern for good relations with other world powers.

“The administration doesn’t carry out the laws that are on the books, and they want the new law to be as weak and loophole-ridden as possible,” said Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks), who has been pushing for years for such legislation.

Republicans have been ratcheting up their demands for Congress to hang tough, arguing that the U.N. resolution fell short of what was needed.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, the senior Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called the U.N. sanctions a “goose egg” and demanded that Congress impose “crippling sanctions against Iran.”

It seems that no matter how gingerly Obama is treated by Jewish groups — make the Reid-McConnnell letter less offensive, praise Obama for a UN Security Statement singling out Israel, cheer the ludicrous UN sanctions — he never comes through with a tougher line on Iran or a warmer one on Israel. As one Capitol Hill staffer put it, “Everyone wants to treat the administration with kid gloves as if suddenly a hawkish and pro-Israel Obama will emerge.”

Well, that’s as silly as “engaging” Iran or “resetting” relations with Russia by capitulating on everything Putin wants. It seems Obama has been taking all those Jewish leaders, who come to the White House for “reassurance,” for a ride. Tougher sanctions aren’t coming along if Obama can help it. After all, stopping a nuclear-armed Iran isn’t nearly as important as keeping things chummy with unco-operative allies and despotic regimes.

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Obama Undermines Congressional Sanctions — Will American Jews React?

The Obami went from pursuing “crippling” sanctions to “smart” sanctions. But it seems that their real goal is very ineffective and innocuous sanctions. We learned that the House and Senate had finally set a conference committee to reconcile the different versions of the Iran sanctions legislation. But the administration has stepped in to undermine and water down Congress’s efforts. In a blockbuster report, Eli Lake explains:

The Obama administration is pressing Congress to provide an exemption from Iran sanctions to companies based in “cooperating countries,” a move that likely would exempt Chinese and Russian concerns from penalties meant to discourage investment in Iran.

The Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act is in a House-Senate conference committee and is expected to reach President Obama’s desk by Memorial Day.

“It’s incredible the administration is asking for exemptions, under the table and winking and nodding, before the legislation is signed into law,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican and a conference committee member, said in an interview. A White House official confirmed Wednesday that the administration was pushing the conference committee to adopt the exemption of “cooperating countries” in the legislation.

What could possibly be the rationale for this? Why the Obami are working on an international agreement, of course, and we can’t let sanctions with bite get in the way of international sanctions without any. This is the substitution of the intermediary goal — international agreement — for the end goal (it is the end goal, right?): an effective sanctions regimen to thwart Iran’s nuclear program. It seems our real interest is to make China and Russia happy — and exempt them from public scrutiny for doing business with the mullahs. Lake explains:

According to three congressional staffers familiar with the White House proposal, once a country is on that [“co-operating countries”] list, the administration wouldn’t even have to identify companies from that country as selling gasoline or aiding Iran’s refinement industry.

Even if, as current law allows, the administration can waive the penalties on named companies for various reasons, the “cooperating countries” language would deprive the sanctions of their “name-and-shame” power, the staffers said.

The prospect that China and Chinese firms would be exempt from penalty follows reports that Beijing is cooperating with Iran’s missile program. On April 23, Jane’s Defense Weekly reported that China broke ground on a plant in Iran this month that will build the Nasr-1 anti-ship missile.

Apparently, the administration has given up on the end goal of effective sanctions and is now in the business of papering over its failure with an international agreement (that must be held together with bribes and favors to Russia and China). This is the equivalent of “engagement” — a time waster that allows the Iranian regime still more time to proceed with its nuclear plans.

I wonder if American Jewish leaders are still charmed by the Obami. It sure does seem that the administration isn’t serious about removing the existential threat to the Jewish state. Maybe Obama will send them a lovely note to explain why it is that he is undermining one of the last options we have for preventing an revolutionary Islamic state from going nuclear.

The Obami went from pursuing “crippling” sanctions to “smart” sanctions. But it seems that their real goal is very ineffective and innocuous sanctions. We learned that the House and Senate had finally set a conference committee to reconcile the different versions of the Iran sanctions legislation. But the administration has stepped in to undermine and water down Congress’s efforts. In a blockbuster report, Eli Lake explains:

The Obama administration is pressing Congress to provide an exemption from Iran sanctions to companies based in “cooperating countries,” a move that likely would exempt Chinese and Russian concerns from penalties meant to discourage investment in Iran.

The Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act is in a House-Senate conference committee and is expected to reach President Obama’s desk by Memorial Day.

“It’s incredible the administration is asking for exemptions, under the table and winking and nodding, before the legislation is signed into law,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican and a conference committee member, said in an interview. A White House official confirmed Wednesday that the administration was pushing the conference committee to adopt the exemption of “cooperating countries” in the legislation.

What could possibly be the rationale for this? Why the Obami are working on an international agreement, of course, and we can’t let sanctions with bite get in the way of international sanctions without any. This is the substitution of the intermediary goal — international agreement — for the end goal (it is the end goal, right?): an effective sanctions regimen to thwart Iran’s nuclear program. It seems our real interest is to make China and Russia happy — and exempt them from public scrutiny for doing business with the mullahs. Lake explains:

According to three congressional staffers familiar with the White House proposal, once a country is on that [“co-operating countries”] list, the administration wouldn’t even have to identify companies from that country as selling gasoline or aiding Iran’s refinement industry.

Even if, as current law allows, the administration can waive the penalties on named companies for various reasons, the “cooperating countries” language would deprive the sanctions of their “name-and-shame” power, the staffers said.

The prospect that China and Chinese firms would be exempt from penalty follows reports that Beijing is cooperating with Iran’s missile program. On April 23, Jane’s Defense Weekly reported that China broke ground on a plant in Iran this month that will build the Nasr-1 anti-ship missile.

Apparently, the administration has given up on the end goal of effective sanctions and is now in the business of papering over its failure with an international agreement (that must be held together with bribes and favors to Russia and China). This is the equivalent of “engagement” — a time waster that allows the Iranian regime still more time to proceed with its nuclear plans.

I wonder if American Jewish leaders are still charmed by the Obami. It sure does seem that the administration isn’t serious about removing the existential threat to the Jewish state. Maybe Obama will send them a lovely note to explain why it is that he is undermining one of the last options we have for preventing an revolutionary Islamic state from going nuclear.

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The Fallout

The Republican Jewish Coalition, not unexpectedly, issued a lengthy statement blasting  the administration’s handling of the Jerusalem housing situation. It takes the Obami to task for “harsh and intentionally undiplomatic language to exacerbate tensions with our ally Israel in the wake of Vice President Biden’s visit there. The strident and unwarranted escalation of tension, which has turned a minor diplomatic embarrassment into a major international incident, has raised serious concerns about the administration’s Israel policy from a variety of mainstream voices.”

The more interesting question is where the president’s political allies will be on this. The National Democratic Jewish Council has been mute. (Recall that in the 1991, when George H.W. Bush cut off loan guarantees, prominent Republicans voiced opposition and introduced legislation to continue the guarantees.) Rep. Shelley Berkley has issued a robust condemnation. And over the weekend, independent Sen. Joe Lieberman had this to say at an appearance in Palm Beach:

“In every administration,” said Lieberman, “there are times when the US-Israeli relationship is not what it should be. But the guarantor of that relationship is the bipartisan, pro-Israel majority in Congress.

“It was a dust-up, a misunderstanding. (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu has apologized, and the timing was unfortunate. But the second round of criticism is unproductive. I make one appeal – sometimes silence really is golden.

“Our enemies are common; let’s not let a mistake grow into a divisive dispute between members of the same family.”

In a brief private interview earlier, Lieberman expanded on his let-bygones-be-bygones point of view, saying, “Nothing good is going to happen in the Mideast without both the United States and Israel working together. That’s what we need to do, and the sooner the better.”

It will be interesting to see which, if any, Democrats put principle above party loyalty on this one. It would be better for all concerned if the administration retreated from its frenzied offensive, resumed the normal dialogue one has with a valued ally, and did not put further strain on its Democratic allies here at home, who, as John pointed out, have enough troubles this election year. That might be further evidence of just how harebrained was the gambit to begin with. But the first rule of politics is that when you’ve dug a hole, stop digging. The administration would be wise to listen to AIPAC, Lieberman, and Berkley, not to mention Republican critics, and figure out how to repair the damage wrought over the last few days.

UPDATE: Two other prominent Republicans have weighed in, both emphasizing the administration’s skewed priorities. U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released a statement:

Israel is an indispensable ally and friend of the United States. U.S. condemnations of Israel and threats regarding our bilateral relationship undermine both our allies and the peace process, while encouraging the enemies of America and Israel alike. I am also deeply concerned about the Administration’s softer approaches towards the Palestinian Authority, Syria, and Iran, which are being carried out in conjunction with hard-line tactics against our key democratic ally, Israel. Our nation’s security cannot afford a foreign policy which isolates our allies and moves towards appeasing enemies of the U.S.

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., added this:

It’s hard to see how spending a weekend condemning Israel for a zoning decision in its capital city amounts to a positive step towards peace. Rather than launching verbal attacks on our staunch ally and friend, it would be far more worthwhile for this Administration to expend the effort planning for the transfer of our embassy to Jerusalem and tackling the growing Iranian nuclear threat.

The Republican Jewish Coalition, not unexpectedly, issued a lengthy statement blasting  the administration’s handling of the Jerusalem housing situation. It takes the Obami to task for “harsh and intentionally undiplomatic language to exacerbate tensions with our ally Israel in the wake of Vice President Biden’s visit there. The strident and unwarranted escalation of tension, which has turned a minor diplomatic embarrassment into a major international incident, has raised serious concerns about the administration’s Israel policy from a variety of mainstream voices.”

The more interesting question is where the president’s political allies will be on this. The National Democratic Jewish Council has been mute. (Recall that in the 1991, when George H.W. Bush cut off loan guarantees, prominent Republicans voiced opposition and introduced legislation to continue the guarantees.) Rep. Shelley Berkley has issued a robust condemnation. And over the weekend, independent Sen. Joe Lieberman had this to say at an appearance in Palm Beach:

“In every administration,” said Lieberman, “there are times when the US-Israeli relationship is not what it should be. But the guarantor of that relationship is the bipartisan, pro-Israel majority in Congress.

“It was a dust-up, a misunderstanding. (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu has apologized, and the timing was unfortunate. But the second round of criticism is unproductive. I make one appeal – sometimes silence really is golden.

“Our enemies are common; let’s not let a mistake grow into a divisive dispute between members of the same family.”

In a brief private interview earlier, Lieberman expanded on his let-bygones-be-bygones point of view, saying, “Nothing good is going to happen in the Mideast without both the United States and Israel working together. That’s what we need to do, and the sooner the better.”

It will be interesting to see which, if any, Democrats put principle above party loyalty on this one. It would be better for all concerned if the administration retreated from its frenzied offensive, resumed the normal dialogue one has with a valued ally, and did not put further strain on its Democratic allies here at home, who, as John pointed out, have enough troubles this election year. That might be further evidence of just how harebrained was the gambit to begin with. But the first rule of politics is that when you’ve dug a hole, stop digging. The administration would be wise to listen to AIPAC, Lieberman, and Berkley, not to mention Republican critics, and figure out how to repair the damage wrought over the last few days.

UPDATE: Two other prominent Republicans have weighed in, both emphasizing the administration’s skewed priorities. U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released a statement:

Israel is an indispensable ally and friend of the United States. U.S. condemnations of Israel and threats regarding our bilateral relationship undermine both our allies and the peace process, while encouraging the enemies of America and Israel alike. I am also deeply concerned about the Administration’s softer approaches towards the Palestinian Authority, Syria, and Iran, which are being carried out in conjunction with hard-line tactics against our key democratic ally, Israel. Our nation’s security cannot afford a foreign policy which isolates our allies and moves towards appeasing enemies of the U.S.

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., added this:

It’s hard to see how spending a weekend condemning Israel for a zoning decision in its capital city amounts to a positive step towards peace. Rather than launching verbal attacks on our staunch ally and friend, it would be far more worthwhile for this Administration to expend the effort planning for the transfer of our embassy to Jerusalem and tackling the growing Iranian nuclear threat.

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The House That Bashar Built

It has been widely speculated that the structure in northern Syria attacked by Israel’s Air Force ten weeks ago was a fledgling nuclear reactor, along the lines of the one operating in North Korea. Now Professor Uzi Even, a senior chemist at Tel Aviv University, with a background in nuclear research, has come to challenge that theory. His challenge is based on a number of factors, most notably that if the structure were a reactor, it would be so far away from completion (no cooling towers yet, for example) as to call into question the need for an Israeli strike. His views are aired in a Haaretz op-ed by Yossi Melman.

Instead, Even proposes that the structure was something far more ominous: A processing plant for plutonium, for the purpose of creating a bomb. In other words, instead of needing a plant to make plutonium, they already may have it. Speculation? Perhaps. But it may explain the extreme veil of secrecy that both the Bush administration and the Israeli government continue to place over the entire affair. Melman quotes U.S. Representatives Peter Hoekstra and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, respectively the senior Republican on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and the senior Republican member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, as being troubled by the fact that the administration

has thrown an unprecedented veil of secrecy around the Israeli air strike. It has briefed only a handful of very senior members of Congress, leaving the vast majority of foreign relations and intelligence committee members in the dark. We are among the very few who were briefed, but we have been sworn to secrecy on this matter.

From what my own friends tell me of the Israeli strike, this was one of the most impressive and complex Israeli operations in decades. Whether it was a reactor or a plutonium processing plant, the West may owe Israel an even greater debt than it did with the Osiraq strike in 1981—which kept Saddam from getting the bomb. So can we please stop “engaging” Syria now?

It has been widely speculated that the structure in northern Syria attacked by Israel’s Air Force ten weeks ago was a fledgling nuclear reactor, along the lines of the one operating in North Korea. Now Professor Uzi Even, a senior chemist at Tel Aviv University, with a background in nuclear research, has come to challenge that theory. His challenge is based on a number of factors, most notably that if the structure were a reactor, it would be so far away from completion (no cooling towers yet, for example) as to call into question the need for an Israeli strike. His views are aired in a Haaretz op-ed by Yossi Melman.

Instead, Even proposes that the structure was something far more ominous: A processing plant for plutonium, for the purpose of creating a bomb. In other words, instead of needing a plant to make plutonium, they already may have it. Speculation? Perhaps. But it may explain the extreme veil of secrecy that both the Bush administration and the Israeli government continue to place over the entire affair. Melman quotes U.S. Representatives Peter Hoekstra and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, respectively the senior Republican on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and the senior Republican member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, as being troubled by the fact that the administration

has thrown an unprecedented veil of secrecy around the Israeli air strike. It has briefed only a handful of very senior members of Congress, leaving the vast majority of foreign relations and intelligence committee members in the dark. We are among the very few who were briefed, but we have been sworn to secrecy on this matter.

From what my own friends tell me of the Israeli strike, this was one of the most impressive and complex Israeli operations in decades. Whether it was a reactor or a plutonium processing plant, the West may owe Israel an even greater debt than it did with the Osiraq strike in 1981—which kept Saddam from getting the bomb. So can we please stop “engaging” Syria now?

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Moving away from MoveOn.org

Below, Max Boot writes of the liberal pressure group MoveOn.org’s slanderous attack on General David Petraeus in yesterday’s New York Times, essentially accusing him of treason, which Boot rightly notes “will only further cement the impression in the minds of many soldiers, whether rightly or wrongly, that the leftist base of the Democratic Party is ‘anti-military.'”

Of course, legislators are entirely justified in criticizing General Petraeus’s assessment of the war. Civilian control of the military is a basic feature of any genuine democracy. Senator Clinton demonstrated this sort of constructive criticism yesterday when she told General Petraeus, “If this hearing were being held three years ago, I would have a much higher degree of optimism. It has nothing to do with the loyalty, the warrior skills, and the leadership of our men and women in uniform.” Her frustration is with the Bush administration, not with the individuals of the armed services. Which is how it should be.

The Bush administration’s diplomacy and war management, however, is a subject wholly separate from General Petraeus’s personal integrity or character. This is a distinction that the slanderers at MoveOn.org willingly ignore, in their desire to conflate General Petraeus’s motives with the allegedly nefarious motives of the Bush administration.

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Below, Max Boot writes of the liberal pressure group MoveOn.org’s slanderous attack on General David Petraeus in yesterday’s New York Times, essentially accusing him of treason, which Boot rightly notes “will only further cement the impression in the minds of many soldiers, whether rightly or wrongly, that the leftist base of the Democratic Party is ‘anti-military.'”

Of course, legislators are entirely justified in criticizing General Petraeus’s assessment of the war. Civilian control of the military is a basic feature of any genuine democracy. Senator Clinton demonstrated this sort of constructive criticism yesterday when she told General Petraeus, “If this hearing were being held three years ago, I would have a much higher degree of optimism. It has nothing to do with the loyalty, the warrior skills, and the leadership of our men and women in uniform.” Her frustration is with the Bush administration, not with the individuals of the armed services. Which is how it should be.

The Bush administration’s diplomacy and war management, however, is a subject wholly separate from General Petraeus’s personal integrity or character. This is a distinction that the slanderers at MoveOn.org willingly ignore, in their desire to conflate General Petraeus’s motives with the allegedly nefarious motives of the Bush administration.

But rather than following Senator Clinton’s lead, increasing segments of the Democratic congress—not just its activist base—are instead taking the cheapest possible shots against one of the most lauded generals in the field. Prior to yesterday’s testimony, an unnamed Democratic Senator told a reporter, “No one wants to call [Petraeus] a liar on national TV. . . . The expectation is that the outside groups will do this for us.” And, save for Senators Biden and Lieberman, no prominent Democrats have renounced MoveOn’s disgusting advertisement.

The important question is: where does the Democratic Party—which was not always so enraged by the sight of a man in uniform—stand on this slander? At yesterday’s hearing, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen began her remarks by stating, “I offer my colleagues the opportunity to use this hearing to distance themselves from the despicable ad that was published today calling into question the patriotism of General Petraeus.” From off-screen, someone shouted “Point of order! No one has to distance themselves from something they weren’t associated with.” The Associated Press reports that it was Representative Neil Abercrombie, Democrat of Hawaii.

Mr. Abercrombie in particular may not need to apologize, but the same cannot be said for his superiors. As a story in last weekend’s New York Times Magazine makes clear, MoveOn.org is closely tied to senior Democrats on the Hill, through a subsidiary group, Americans Against Escalation in Iraq (A.A.E.I), which was founded shortly after last November’s congressional election. A.A.E.I’s leader Tom Matzzie, according to the Times, “communicates on a near-daily basis” with the “offices of Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill.” A.A.E.I “coordinates extensively with Democrats on Capitol Hill. Matzzie himself meets with Speaker Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, ‘maybe once a month,’ he says, adding that he talks to their staffs ‘once a day, or at least a couple times a week.’ (Senior Democratic aides sometimes even join A.A.E.I’s conference calls.)”

Perhaps the reason why more Democrats have not spoken out against MoveOn.org’s slander against General Petraeus is that they are complicit in disseminating it.

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The HRC’s Failed First Year

The UN’s Human Rights Council (HRC) on Tuesday marked the end of its disappointing first year of existence by terminating independent human-rights monitoring for Belarus and Cuba. To make matters worse, the HRC adopted two measures to continue its special scrutiny of Israel.

These actions were part of a last-minute compromise. As incredible as it may seem, the final agreement could have been even more atrocious. In the days leading up to the deal, China worked hard to weaken the council’s power in selecting nations to be monitored for human-rights violations. Fortunately, Beijing did not achieve its objectives: “It is not a perfect text, but it represents the maximum common understanding,” said the Chinese representative, Jingye Cheng.

That assessment is on the mark, though not in the way Jingye intended. The 47-member council has become another battleground between the democracies of the world and their antagonists. The compromises that have been reached are “seriously flawed,” to borrow language from the State Department’s reaction to Tuesday’s deal.

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The UN’s Human Rights Council (HRC) on Tuesday marked the end of its disappointing first year of existence by terminating independent human-rights monitoring for Belarus and Cuba. To make matters worse, the HRC adopted two measures to continue its special scrutiny of Israel.

These actions were part of a last-minute compromise. As incredible as it may seem, the final agreement could have been even more atrocious. In the days leading up to the deal, China worked hard to weaken the council’s power in selecting nations to be monitored for human-rights violations. Fortunately, Beijing did not achieve its objectives: “It is not a perfect text, but it represents the maximum common understanding,” said the Chinese representative, Jingye Cheng.

That assessment is on the mark, though not in the way Jingye intended. The 47-member council has become another battleground between the democracies of the world and their antagonists. The compromises that have been reached are “seriously flawed,” to borrow language from the State Department’s reaction to Tuesday’s deal.

The U.S., in fact, initially refused to join the council, on the grounds that there were too many members with poor human-rights records, and now participates only as an observer. But Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has a better idea than limited involvement. On Tuesday, she announced that she will seek to cut off the $3 million of American funding for the council.

Her proposal, which will doubtlessly cause grave concern in some quarters, gives us the perfect opportunity to examine the assumptions that have guided Washington through the post-cold war period. During this time, the U.S. has sought to engage authoritarian regimes by bringing them into multilateral organizations. Our goal was to change them, or at least to attempt to enmesh them in the fabric of a liberal international order. But such governments have ended up changing these institutions more than these institutions have changed them. One need only look at the behavior of the HRC to confirm this.

As China and other such regimes continue to de-legitimize the UN and its various organs, it’s time to bring the world’s democracies together into an effective organization of their own. If President Bush can invite Putin to Kennebunkport, he also can ask the leaders of the free world to come down to Crawford for a little barbecue—and a talk about reinvigorating the Community of Democracies. Until the world’s free nations start cooperating, in a framework excluding authoritarian states and states with abominable human-rights records, we will see more appalling agreements like the one reached yesterday at the Human Rights Council.

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Exporting Repression

Is it wrong to help authoritarian states repress their own citizens? Of course. But the question is rarely posed in Washington these days, which is what made last week’s hearing of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs so notable.

In a brief exchange, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a fiery Republican from Florida, questioned Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte about American exports of security-related articles and services to China for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Negroponte told her that the State Department is the lead agency in the American government for “supporting security for the Olympics,” and that there is a small task force in our embassy in Beijing working on this matter. He promised that in the future he would consult with the House committee, but said he knew nothing more about the issue.

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Is it wrong to help authoritarian states repress their own citizens? Of course. But the question is rarely posed in Washington these days, which is what made last week’s hearing of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs so notable.

In a brief exchange, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a fiery Republican from Florida, questioned Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte about American exports of security-related articles and services to China for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Negroponte told her that the State Department is the lead agency in the American government for “supporting security for the Olympics,” and that there is a small task force in our embassy in Beijing working on this matter. He promised that in the future he would consult with the House committee, but said he knew nothing more about the issue.

Mr. Negroponte should have done his homework. For starters, legislation enacted in the wake of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre prohibits American companies from exporting crime-control or detection equipment to China. In other words, they cannot sell handcuffs, helmets, and shotguns. But the Commerce Department, which is supposed to enforce the sanctions, has gutted them by adopting a very narrow definition of security equipment. Police gear is out, but Oracle, Cisco, and Sybase are allowed to sell modern information technology that China needs to trace, track, and arrest drug dealers.

Representative Tom Lantos, the committee’s chairman, tried to draw a bright line between helping the Chinese prevent terrorist acts at the Olympic Games and contributing to the suppression of free speech by the Communist party. But that isn’t possible. If the U.S. helps Beijing track terrorists, it is also helping Beijing round up anyone else it pleases—not just drug dealers but dissidents and democracy activists too.

The U.S. does receive some benefit by cooperating on security matters with China. We win the right to screen American-bound containers on Chinese soil, get help in solving run-of-the-mill crimes, and obtain assistance in the global struggle against terrorists. Yet Beijing gets at least as much as it gives, especially in terms of help tracking down elements perceived as enemies by the regime.

The issues involved are complex, but Washington policymakers have not yet had honest conversations with the American people about the consequences of our assistance to China. As Representative Ros-Lehtinen suggests, the costs may end up being far too high.

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