Commentary Magazine


Topic: Michael Oren

Flotsam and Jetsam

I’m sure it is going to be blamed on the Chamber of Commerce: “Gallup finds 21% of Americans satisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time. If that figure does not improve considerably in the next two weeks, it would be the lowest level of U.S. satisfaction Gallup has measured at the time of a midterm election in more than 30 years of tracking this measure.”

If Jimmy Carter is talking about Israel, it’s going to be slanderous: “Former President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday that Palestinians are ‘living in a cage’ in Gaza and that the militant group Hamas must be included in all major efforts for peace.” Oh, and Obama’s Medal of Freedom winner Mary Robinson was along for the trip.

Now that the PA has bugged out of direct non-peace talks, Israeli leaders are right to be concerned that the next step is going to be an attempt to impose a peace deal. Ambassador Michael Oren is having none of it: “Like Ben-Gurion, Netanyahu will not allow the United Nations, or any other organization, to dictate our borders. They will be determined through negotiations.”

If he’s not taking responsibility for the economy or his party’s train wreck now, there’s no way he’s going to be sticking around to explain the election results: “President Obama is giving Republicans a 10-day window to set the agenda for a lame-duck session and the new legislative year by leaving the country right after the midterm elections.” In short, run away!

Jack Conway is going to be the winner of one contest, according to Jason Zengerle: “There are still two weeks left until the midterm elections, but it’s not too early to declare a winner in the contest for the most despicable political ad of this campaign season. … When the debate was over, Paul refused to shake Conway’s hand. Frankly, I don’t blame him. First, no candidate over the age of, say, 30 should be held politically accountable for anything he or she did in college—short of gross academic misconduct or committing a felony. Second, and more importantly, a politician’s religious faith should simply be off-limits.”

Matt Continetti explains that it’s not going to be easy for Sarah Palin to get the GOP nod: “Palin needs to run a campaign in which she demonstrates the ability to stay on message, raise significant sums of money from a broad group of donors, demonstrate familiarity with the intricacies of domestic and foreign policy, and present a unifying theme of American strength, at home and abroad. It’s a tall order, I know. But the next Republican president will do all these things.” At least she’ll have the argument that an Ivy League degree is irrelevant to the presidency.

It’s going to be a long two years: “[T]he Obama administration is still absorbing the fact that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has to date rejected a proposed American compromise package that would have offered various security and other assurances to Israel in exchange for a 60-day renewal of a partial West Bank settlement freeze that expired last month. The American team is said to be frustrated and upset at Netanyahu’s dismissal to date of the package, which was drafted by the NSC’s Dennis Ross in close consultation with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molho.” They didn’t see this coming? Now that is scary.

I’m sure it is going to be blamed on the Chamber of Commerce: “Gallup finds 21% of Americans satisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time. If that figure does not improve considerably in the next two weeks, it would be the lowest level of U.S. satisfaction Gallup has measured at the time of a midterm election in more than 30 years of tracking this measure.”

If Jimmy Carter is talking about Israel, it’s going to be slanderous: “Former President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday that Palestinians are ‘living in a cage’ in Gaza and that the militant group Hamas must be included in all major efforts for peace.” Oh, and Obama’s Medal of Freedom winner Mary Robinson was along for the trip.

Now that the PA has bugged out of direct non-peace talks, Israeli leaders are right to be concerned that the next step is going to be an attempt to impose a peace deal. Ambassador Michael Oren is having none of it: “Like Ben-Gurion, Netanyahu will not allow the United Nations, or any other organization, to dictate our borders. They will be determined through negotiations.”

If he’s not taking responsibility for the economy or his party’s train wreck now, there’s no way he’s going to be sticking around to explain the election results: “President Obama is giving Republicans a 10-day window to set the agenda for a lame-duck session and the new legislative year by leaving the country right after the midterm elections.” In short, run away!

Jack Conway is going to be the winner of one contest, according to Jason Zengerle: “There are still two weeks left until the midterm elections, but it’s not too early to declare a winner in the contest for the most despicable political ad of this campaign season. … When the debate was over, Paul refused to shake Conway’s hand. Frankly, I don’t blame him. First, no candidate over the age of, say, 30 should be held politically accountable for anything he or she did in college—short of gross academic misconduct or committing a felony. Second, and more importantly, a politician’s religious faith should simply be off-limits.”

Matt Continetti explains that it’s not going to be easy for Sarah Palin to get the GOP nod: “Palin needs to run a campaign in which she demonstrates the ability to stay on message, raise significant sums of money from a broad group of donors, demonstrate familiarity with the intricacies of domestic and foreign policy, and present a unifying theme of American strength, at home and abroad. It’s a tall order, I know. But the next Republican president will do all these things.” At least she’ll have the argument that an Ivy League degree is irrelevant to the presidency.

It’s going to be a long two years: “[T]he Obama administration is still absorbing the fact that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has to date rejected a proposed American compromise package that would have offered various security and other assurances to Israel in exchange for a 60-day renewal of a partial West Bank settlement freeze that expired last month. The American team is said to be frustrated and upset at Netanyahu’s dismissal to date of the package, which was drafted by the NSC’s Dennis Ross in close consultation with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molho.” They didn’t see this coming? Now that is scary.

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Same Old PA, Same Old “Peace Process”

In a Thursday interview, Ambassador Michael Oren was the first Israeli official to talk openly about the bribes incentives offered by the Obami to Israel to extract an extension of settlement freeze. Was this another off-the-reservation moment for Oren, an argument to his own government that Israel would really be “getting something” for extending a settlement moratorium? Hard to say. But Bibi, speaking later on the same day that Oren confirmed the U.S. offer, was having none of that, as this report explains:

“We honored the government decision and took upon ourselves a commitment to the international community and the US to start the peace talks,” Netanyahu said of the 10- month moratorium that ended nearly two weeks ago.

“The Palestinians waited over nine months and, immediately at the onset of the talks, set a precondition even though they had promised that there would be no preconditions.”

The prime minister said that just as his government honored its commitment regarding the settlement moratorium, “we very much hope that the Palestinians will stay in the peace talks.”

But, said Netanyahu during a visit to Lod, “Today, the questions need to be directed to the Palestinians: Why are you abandoning the talks? Don’t turn your backs on peace; stay in the talks. This is what needs to be asked today, and not of the Israeli government.”

But the Arab League may not issue a permission slip for Abbas to return:

In Jerusalem, meanwhile, the widespread assessment was that the Arab League would back Abbas’s decision to leave the talks if Israel did not declare another settlement freeze, or did not declare that it would accept the principle of a Palestinian state based on the June 4, 1967, borders. …

[I]n what was perhaps a sign of low expectations in Jerusalem of any dramatic breakthrough, no meeting of the security cabinet or Netanyahu’s senior decision-making forum, the septet, had been scheduled for Friday. …

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a PLO leader and close adviser to Abbas, was quoted by Agence France-Press as saying that there can be no peace as long as Netanyahu is in power. … Abbas, meanwhile, has returned to his old habit of threatening to resign if Israel does not comply with his demands, making his latest threat during a meeting in Jordan on Wednesday night with members of the Palestine National Council, the PLO’s parliament- in-exile.

Perhaps the PA will return to the talks. Perhaps not. Now, Obama told us that this was a unique “opportunity” to reach a peace deal; but so far, it appears to be just like every other fruitless round of talks with Palestinian “leaders” who lack a constituency and the will to end the perpetual war against the Jewish state.

In a Thursday interview, Ambassador Michael Oren was the first Israeli official to talk openly about the bribes incentives offered by the Obami to Israel to extract an extension of settlement freeze. Was this another off-the-reservation moment for Oren, an argument to his own government that Israel would really be “getting something” for extending a settlement moratorium? Hard to say. But Bibi, speaking later on the same day that Oren confirmed the U.S. offer, was having none of that, as this report explains:

“We honored the government decision and took upon ourselves a commitment to the international community and the US to start the peace talks,” Netanyahu said of the 10- month moratorium that ended nearly two weeks ago.

“The Palestinians waited over nine months and, immediately at the onset of the talks, set a precondition even though they had promised that there would be no preconditions.”

The prime minister said that just as his government honored its commitment regarding the settlement moratorium, “we very much hope that the Palestinians will stay in the peace talks.”

But, said Netanyahu during a visit to Lod, “Today, the questions need to be directed to the Palestinians: Why are you abandoning the talks? Don’t turn your backs on peace; stay in the talks. This is what needs to be asked today, and not of the Israeli government.”

But the Arab League may not issue a permission slip for Abbas to return:

In Jerusalem, meanwhile, the widespread assessment was that the Arab League would back Abbas’s decision to leave the talks if Israel did not declare another settlement freeze, or did not declare that it would accept the principle of a Palestinian state based on the June 4, 1967, borders. …

[I]n what was perhaps a sign of low expectations in Jerusalem of any dramatic breakthrough, no meeting of the security cabinet or Netanyahu’s senior decision-making forum, the septet, had been scheduled for Friday. …

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a PLO leader and close adviser to Abbas, was quoted by Agence France-Press as saying that there can be no peace as long as Netanyahu is in power. … Abbas, meanwhile, has returned to his old habit of threatening to resign if Israel does not comply with his demands, making his latest threat during a meeting in Jordan on Wednesday night with members of the Palestine National Council, the PLO’s parliament- in-exile.

Perhaps the PA will return to the talks. Perhaps not. Now, Obama told us that this was a unique “opportunity” to reach a peace deal; but so far, it appears to be just like every other fruitless round of talks with Palestinian “leaders” who lack a constituency and the will to end the perpetual war against the Jewish state.

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Oren to American Jews: Prepare Yourselves

Michael Oren in his Kol Nidre remarks at Adas Israel in Washington D.C. gave a rousing defense of Israeli democracy:

Israeli democracy is rambunctious and intensely personal, placing the premium on individual participation. In our family, I can attest, my wife and I have never voted for the same party. Our son also went his own way politically. Together with his friends, he started a political party in our living room that now holds two seats on the Jerusalem municipality.

At 62 years old, Israel’s democracy is older than more than half of the democratic governments in the world, which, in turn, account for less than half of the world’s existing nations. Israel is one of the handful of democracies that has never succumbed to periods of undemocratic rule. And Israel has achieved this extraordinary record in spite of the fact that it is the only democracy never to know a nanosecond of peace and which has endured pressures that would have crushed most other democracies long ago. In a region inhospitable—even fatal—to government by and of the people, Israel’s democracy thrives.

He had this to say about the peace process:

You know that to create that neighboring state that you’re going to have to give up some land, but not just any land, but land regarded as sacred by the majority of the Jewish people for more than three thousand years. You know that a great many of your countrymen have made their homes in these areas and that numerous Israelis have given their lives in their defense. You know that Israel has in the past withdrawn from territories in an effort to generate peace but that it received no peace but rather war. And, lastly, you know that many Arabs view the two-state solution as a two stage solution in which the ultimate stage is Israel’s dissolution.

What, then, Mr. or Ms. Prime Minister, do you do?

He didn’t actually answer the question, a telling sign that there is no good answer. But he was crystal clear on Iran:

Support us as we grapple with these towering challenges. Back us in our efforts to defend ourselves from terrorist rockets. Uphold us if we have to make painful sacrifices for peace or if we decide that the terms of the proposed treaty fail to justify those sacrifices. Stand with us as we resist Iran’s efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Respect the decisions we take through our democratic system and respect the risks that we, more than any other nation, take.

Let us—Israelis and the American Jews—united by our faith, our peoplehood, and our common love for democracy. Let us assume responsibility for our decisions, crushingly difficult though they may often be, and appreciative of the quandaries our leaders face. When we call out, let us answer one another with the assurance that no challenge—no paradoxes, no Ninevehs [a reference to the Jonah story read on Yom Kippur]—can defeat us.

The final and closing comments suggest it is time to get real, to put aside the fantasy that Swiss cheese sanctions are going to break the mullahs’ will. Obama is, we are told, preparing to call for more “engagement” with Iran — a ludicrous and dangerous suggestion that indicates he’s not remotely serious about ending the threat of a nuclear Iran. So Oren is telling — perhaps pleading — with American Jews to stand by Israel if in fact Obama shirks his obligations as leader of the Free World. After all, should Israel be forced to act on its own, it will be defending our national security interests as much as its own. Someone’s got to do it, and we should count ourselves fortunate that we need not depend solely on the feckless Obama administration, which still deludes itself that we have some other viable alternative to military force if we are to stand behind two presidents’ pledges that a nuclear-armed Iran is “unacceptable.”

Michael Oren in his Kol Nidre remarks at Adas Israel in Washington D.C. gave a rousing defense of Israeli democracy:

Israeli democracy is rambunctious and intensely personal, placing the premium on individual participation. In our family, I can attest, my wife and I have never voted for the same party. Our son also went his own way politically. Together with his friends, he started a political party in our living room that now holds two seats on the Jerusalem municipality.

At 62 years old, Israel’s democracy is older than more than half of the democratic governments in the world, which, in turn, account for less than half of the world’s existing nations. Israel is one of the handful of democracies that has never succumbed to periods of undemocratic rule. And Israel has achieved this extraordinary record in spite of the fact that it is the only democracy never to know a nanosecond of peace and which has endured pressures that would have crushed most other democracies long ago. In a region inhospitable—even fatal—to government by and of the people, Israel’s democracy thrives.

He had this to say about the peace process:

You know that to create that neighboring state that you’re going to have to give up some land, but not just any land, but land regarded as sacred by the majority of the Jewish people for more than three thousand years. You know that a great many of your countrymen have made their homes in these areas and that numerous Israelis have given their lives in their defense. You know that Israel has in the past withdrawn from territories in an effort to generate peace but that it received no peace but rather war. And, lastly, you know that many Arabs view the two-state solution as a two stage solution in which the ultimate stage is Israel’s dissolution.

What, then, Mr. or Ms. Prime Minister, do you do?

He didn’t actually answer the question, a telling sign that there is no good answer. But he was crystal clear on Iran:

Support us as we grapple with these towering challenges. Back us in our efforts to defend ourselves from terrorist rockets. Uphold us if we have to make painful sacrifices for peace or if we decide that the terms of the proposed treaty fail to justify those sacrifices. Stand with us as we resist Iran’s efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Respect the decisions we take through our democratic system and respect the risks that we, more than any other nation, take.

Let us—Israelis and the American Jews—united by our faith, our peoplehood, and our common love for democracy. Let us assume responsibility for our decisions, crushingly difficult though they may often be, and appreciative of the quandaries our leaders face. When we call out, let us answer one another with the assurance that no challenge—no paradoxes, no Ninevehs [a reference to the Jonah story read on Yom Kippur]—can defeat us.

The final and closing comments suggest it is time to get real, to put aside the fantasy that Swiss cheese sanctions are going to break the mullahs’ will. Obama is, we are told, preparing to call for more “engagement” with Iran — a ludicrous and dangerous suggestion that indicates he’s not remotely serious about ending the threat of a nuclear Iran. So Oren is telling — perhaps pleading — with American Jews to stand by Israel if in fact Obama shirks his obligations as leader of the Free World. After all, should Israel be forced to act on its own, it will be defending our national security interests as much as its own. Someone’s got to do it, and we should count ourselves fortunate that we need not depend solely on the feckless Obama administration, which still deludes itself that we have some other viable alternative to military force if we are to stand behind two presidents’ pledges that a nuclear-armed Iran is “unacceptable.”

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If Israel Won’t Say It, Who Will?

In yesterday’s post, I discussed some of the negative consequences of Israel’s habit of treating its own negotiating demands as unimportant. But there is another devastating consequence: its effect on international public opinion.

Take the latest Israel Project poll, which found that even in America, normally a pro-Israel bastion, only 45 percent of respondents believe Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is committed to peace, and only 51 percent — down from 63 percent last year — think America should support Israel.

The second finding isn’t due solely to the first, but neither is it unrelated: even Americans who realize that peace isn’t possible now expect Israel to be committed to it in principle.

So why do Americans think Netanyahu doesn’t want peace? Well, everyone knows the Palestinians have demands that he refuses to meet (like a pre-negotiations commitment to the 1949 armistice lines); they say so constantly. But few people realize Israel has demands the Palestinians have consistently refused to meet because Israel doesn’t say so.

To understand how deep this Israeli pathology runs, consider official Israel’s response to a New York Times editorial earlier this month. The editorial urged Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to begin direct talks with Israel but sympathized with the fear he “no doubt” feels that Netanyahu “will use the process to give the illusion of progress while never addressing Palestinian concerns about borders, security, refugees and the future of Jerusalem” — and that despite this, “the Palestinians will be blamed if negotiations fail.”

Based on past experience, the reverse is far more likely: in previous talks, Israel made massive concessions on these issues while the Palestinian made no concessions at all to Israel’s concerns, yet most of the world still blamed Israel. The Times, however, neglected to mention that possibility.

That a leading American paper doesn’t recognize (or doesn’t acknowledge) that Israel, too, has legitimate concerns that must be addressed, and so far haven’t been, is problematic enough. Still, given the Times’s pro-Palestinian bias, perhaps you can’t expect anything better.

But it turns out you also can’t expect anything better from Israel’s own ambassador to the U.S. In the letter he wrote in response, Michael Oren correctly slammed the Times for implying that Netanyahu, rather than Abbas, has resisted direct talks until now; for ignoring “Israel’s attempts, in 2000 and 2008,” to address the Palestinians’ final-status concerns, “only to be rebuffed by Palestinian leaders, including Mr. Abbas”; and for its ad hominem attack on Netanyahu (whom it termed a “master manipulator”).

But he didn’t say a word about Israel having concerns of its own on “borders, security, refugees, and the future of Jerusalem” that the Palestinians have repeatedly failed to address. And if Israel’s own ambassador won’t say so, who will?

This is precisely why most of the world does blame Israel for the failure of past talks. Everyone knows Israel has yet to satisfy Palestinian demands; the Palestinians proclaim this nonstop. But few people even know what Israel’s demands are, let alone that the Palestinians have rejected every single one.

And unless Israel starts telling them, they never will.

In yesterday’s post, I discussed some of the negative consequences of Israel’s habit of treating its own negotiating demands as unimportant. But there is another devastating consequence: its effect on international public opinion.

Take the latest Israel Project poll, which found that even in America, normally a pro-Israel bastion, only 45 percent of respondents believe Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is committed to peace, and only 51 percent — down from 63 percent last year — think America should support Israel.

The second finding isn’t due solely to the first, but neither is it unrelated: even Americans who realize that peace isn’t possible now expect Israel to be committed to it in principle.

So why do Americans think Netanyahu doesn’t want peace? Well, everyone knows the Palestinians have demands that he refuses to meet (like a pre-negotiations commitment to the 1949 armistice lines); they say so constantly. But few people realize Israel has demands the Palestinians have consistently refused to meet because Israel doesn’t say so.

To understand how deep this Israeli pathology runs, consider official Israel’s response to a New York Times editorial earlier this month. The editorial urged Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to begin direct talks with Israel but sympathized with the fear he “no doubt” feels that Netanyahu “will use the process to give the illusion of progress while never addressing Palestinian concerns about borders, security, refugees and the future of Jerusalem” — and that despite this, “the Palestinians will be blamed if negotiations fail.”

Based on past experience, the reverse is far more likely: in previous talks, Israel made massive concessions on these issues while the Palestinian made no concessions at all to Israel’s concerns, yet most of the world still blamed Israel. The Times, however, neglected to mention that possibility.

That a leading American paper doesn’t recognize (or doesn’t acknowledge) that Israel, too, has legitimate concerns that must be addressed, and so far haven’t been, is problematic enough. Still, given the Times’s pro-Palestinian bias, perhaps you can’t expect anything better.

But it turns out you also can’t expect anything better from Israel’s own ambassador to the U.S. In the letter he wrote in response, Michael Oren correctly slammed the Times for implying that Netanyahu, rather than Abbas, has resisted direct talks until now; for ignoring “Israel’s attempts, in 2000 and 2008,” to address the Palestinians’ final-status concerns, “only to be rebuffed by Palestinian leaders, including Mr. Abbas”; and for its ad hominem attack on Netanyahu (whom it termed a “master manipulator”).

But he didn’t say a word about Israel having concerns of its own on “borders, security, refugees, and the future of Jerusalem” that the Palestinians have repeatedly failed to address. And if Israel’s own ambassador won’t say so, who will?

This is precisely why most of the world does blame Israel for the failure of past talks. Everyone knows Israel has yet to satisfy Palestinian demands; the Palestinians proclaim this nonstop. But few people even know what Israel’s demands are, let alone that the Palestinians have rejected every single one.

And unless Israel starts telling them, they never will.

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Asymmetry in Lebanon

Reports have been emerging that the August 2 attack by Lebanese forces on Israeli soldiers in Israel was ordered in advance by the Lebanese army chain of command. An article in today’s Sydney Morning Herald describes the admission from a Lebanese official, who met with the IDF after the incident, that the attack was planned by Lebanon’s military. The Herald’s information is sourced to the Lebanese newspaper As Safir; meanwhile, the NOW Lebanon news website cites al-Manar TV in its report, according to which “the order to open fire in Tuesday’s border skirmish [came] ‘directly from the [army] command.’” And Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, in a Washington Post editorial today, mentions that Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah “sent a television crew to film the ambush” — a preparation picked up on earlier by Italian media, Ronen Bergman at the Wall Street Journal, and several bloggers, who noted that the Lebanese reporter killed in the exchange worked for Hezbollah outlet Al Akhbar. (H/t: Israel Matzav, Emet m’Tsiyon, Pajamas)

Among the obvious points to make about this incident, there’s one that may not be quite so obvious. Monday’s dangerous and irresponsible action involved a national army attacking the territory of another nation. It could be considered an act of war. And if it was indeed planned by elements of the Lebanese army acting as agents for Hezbollah, then it appears as though the Lebanese were counting on Israeli restraint and professionalism to keep the event a photo-op and not let it spiral out of control. They counted on Israel, in other words, to treat the attack as it does Hezbollah’s terror attacks.

I’m reminded of something I heard almost 20 years ago from a Navy admiral, a submariner who had been involved in discussions with his counterparts in the Soviet submarine force in the early 1990s. After the 1992 collision of USS Baton Rouge with a Russian submarine, the admiral recounted an informal disclosure from a senior Soviet submariner about undersea safety. The Soviet officer acknowledged that the Soviets’ expertise and equipment were inferior to ours. A Soviet submarine – even a nuclear-powered submarine carrying nuclear missiles – operated more blindly than one of ours and with less of the submariner’s special brand of seamanship. “That,” said the Soviet officer, “is why we rely on you to prevent collisions.”

Clashes of arms magnify asymmetries as nothing else does. But the asymmetry in each of the cases here – the U.S. and Soviet submarine forces and the Israeli and Lebanese armies – is more profound than a mere difference in the quality of weapons and training. The essential recklessness of inviting peril that must be held in check by a reliable enemy is foreign to the consensual-democratic mind. Although Israel has faced such recklessness from terrorists for years, we must not miss the lesson that national armies can be wielded in the same manner. The analogies invited by this glimpse of Lebanese reality are, to say the least, disturbing.

Reports have been emerging that the August 2 attack by Lebanese forces on Israeli soldiers in Israel was ordered in advance by the Lebanese army chain of command. An article in today’s Sydney Morning Herald describes the admission from a Lebanese official, who met with the IDF after the incident, that the attack was planned by Lebanon’s military. The Herald’s information is sourced to the Lebanese newspaper As Safir; meanwhile, the NOW Lebanon news website cites al-Manar TV in its report, according to which “the order to open fire in Tuesday’s border skirmish [came] ‘directly from the [army] command.’” And Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, in a Washington Post editorial today, mentions that Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah “sent a television crew to film the ambush” — a preparation picked up on earlier by Italian media, Ronen Bergman at the Wall Street Journal, and several bloggers, who noted that the Lebanese reporter killed in the exchange worked for Hezbollah outlet Al Akhbar. (H/t: Israel Matzav, Emet m’Tsiyon, Pajamas)

Among the obvious points to make about this incident, there’s one that may not be quite so obvious. Monday’s dangerous and irresponsible action involved a national army attacking the territory of another nation. It could be considered an act of war. And if it was indeed planned by elements of the Lebanese army acting as agents for Hezbollah, then it appears as though the Lebanese were counting on Israeli restraint and professionalism to keep the event a photo-op and not let it spiral out of control. They counted on Israel, in other words, to treat the attack as it does Hezbollah’s terror attacks.

I’m reminded of something I heard almost 20 years ago from a Navy admiral, a submariner who had been involved in discussions with his counterparts in the Soviet submarine force in the early 1990s. After the 1992 collision of USS Baton Rouge with a Russian submarine, the admiral recounted an informal disclosure from a senior Soviet submariner about undersea safety. The Soviet officer acknowledged that the Soviets’ expertise and equipment were inferior to ours. A Soviet submarine – even a nuclear-powered submarine carrying nuclear missiles – operated more blindly than one of ours and with less of the submariner’s special brand of seamanship. “That,” said the Soviet officer, “is why we rely on you to prevent collisions.”

Clashes of arms magnify asymmetries as nothing else does. But the asymmetry in each of the cases here – the U.S. and Soviet submarine forces and the Israeli and Lebanese armies – is more profound than a mere difference in the quality of weapons and training. The essential recklessness of inviting peril that must be held in check by a reliable enemy is foreign to the consensual-democratic mind. Although Israel has faced such recklessness from terrorists for years, we must not miss the lesson that national armies can be wielded in the same manner. The analogies invited by this glimpse of Lebanese reality are, to say the least, disturbing.

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Bibi’s Visit

The do-over White House get-together between Obama and Bibi is set for today. The White House is strenuously denying that there has been any “rift” between the two countries. (But will it admit to a “shift,” as Michael Oren called it?) So there will be smiles and cameras — but what will change?

There are many ways in which the relationship can be repaired and in which Obama can rescue his Middle East policy from disarray. First, rule out any international investigation of the flotilla incident; Israel is a functioning democracy and can look after itself. Second, pull out of the UN Human Rights Council (in an op-ed, Min. Whip Eric Cantor and Rep. Peter Roskam call for that — but, alas, the letter to the president following the flotilla incident, which the AIPAC backed, left that request out). Third, insist that the PA meet face to face with Bibi, and refuse to do the Palestinians’ negotiating for them through proximity talks. Fourth, affirm that a nuclear-armed Iran will be prevented by American military action, if it comes to that. Fifth, confirm that Israel has the right to self-defense and the right to maintain a naval blockade, and that attempts by “activists” and/or state sponsors to break it are acts of aggression, which Israel, with the full support of the U.S., is entitled to counter.

These items would repair the actual rift between the two countries, which is grounded not in conflicting personalities but rather in differences in outlook and vision. You say Obama can’t do any of these things? Of course not; there is a chasm between the two governments that nothing short of a full-scale policy reversal or the 2012 election will resolve. Yeah, it’s going to have to be the latter.

The do-over White House get-together between Obama and Bibi is set for today. The White House is strenuously denying that there has been any “rift” between the two countries. (But will it admit to a “shift,” as Michael Oren called it?) So there will be smiles and cameras — but what will change?

There are many ways in which the relationship can be repaired and in which Obama can rescue his Middle East policy from disarray. First, rule out any international investigation of the flotilla incident; Israel is a functioning democracy and can look after itself. Second, pull out of the UN Human Rights Council (in an op-ed, Min. Whip Eric Cantor and Rep. Peter Roskam call for that — but, alas, the letter to the president following the flotilla incident, which the AIPAC backed, left that request out). Third, insist that the PA meet face to face with Bibi, and refuse to do the Palestinians’ negotiating for them through proximity talks. Fourth, affirm that a nuclear-armed Iran will be prevented by American military action, if it comes to that. Fifth, confirm that Israel has the right to self-defense and the right to maintain a naval blockade, and that attempts by “activists” and/or state sponsors to break it are acts of aggression, which Israel, with the full support of the U.S., is entitled to counter.

These items would repair the actual rift between the two countries, which is grounded not in conflicting personalities but rather in differences in outlook and vision. You say Obama can’t do any of these things? Of course not; there is a chasm between the two governments that nothing short of a full-scale policy reversal or the 2012 election will resolve. Yeah, it’s going to have to be the latter.

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A Question for Obama Today

By my count, State Department spokesmen have declined 21 times over the past year to answer a straightforward question: does the Obama administration consider itself bound by the 2004 Bush letter given to Israel in exchange for the Gaza disengagement plan? On Friday, a key White House official logged the 22nd refusal to address the question:

The April 14, 2004, letter from Mr. Bush to Mr. Sharon said a final peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians should reflect “new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers,” and that “it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.” …

During a conference call Friday with reporters, Dan Shapiro, the White House National Security Council’s senior director for the Middle East and North Africa, declined to say whether the 2004 letter reflected the Obama administration’s understanding of the parameters or borders of a final settlement to the conflict.

The Bush letter reassured Israel of a “steadfast [U.S.] commitment” to “defensible borders” and to Israel’s ability to “defend itself, by itself” (a coded reference to Israel’s retention of its ultimate means of defense). Such borders require retention of the major settlement blocs, since they are located on the high ground surrounding the center of the country and other militarily significant points in the West Bank. (The 1967 Joint Chiefs of Staff memorandum on defensible borders is summarized here, and a useful video showing the topography of such borders is here.)

In referring to the “realities” on the ground and what is “realistic” for final-status negotiations, the Bush letter set forth the requirements of a serious peace process — since no Israeli government is going to cede territory essential to its strategic defense — and represents in any event a commitment that cannot be repudiated simply by ignoring it (at least not in normal diplomacy).

The reason Shapiro and the State Department spokesman have ducked the question of adherence to the Bush letter may be that they in fact do not know the answer. Michael Oren reportedly said that his access to senior administration officials and advisers of the president is good but that Obama exercises very tight control and “[t]his is a one-man-show.” In the Obama-Netanyahu press conference scheduled for later today, perhaps someone will address the question to the only person in the administration who apparently can answer it.

By my count, State Department spokesmen have declined 21 times over the past year to answer a straightforward question: does the Obama administration consider itself bound by the 2004 Bush letter given to Israel in exchange for the Gaza disengagement plan? On Friday, a key White House official logged the 22nd refusal to address the question:

The April 14, 2004, letter from Mr. Bush to Mr. Sharon said a final peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians should reflect “new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers,” and that “it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.” …

During a conference call Friday with reporters, Dan Shapiro, the White House National Security Council’s senior director for the Middle East and North Africa, declined to say whether the 2004 letter reflected the Obama administration’s understanding of the parameters or borders of a final settlement to the conflict.

The Bush letter reassured Israel of a “steadfast [U.S.] commitment” to “defensible borders” and to Israel’s ability to “defend itself, by itself” (a coded reference to Israel’s retention of its ultimate means of defense). Such borders require retention of the major settlement blocs, since they are located on the high ground surrounding the center of the country and other militarily significant points in the West Bank. (The 1967 Joint Chiefs of Staff memorandum on defensible borders is summarized here, and a useful video showing the topography of such borders is here.)

In referring to the “realities” on the ground and what is “realistic” for final-status negotiations, the Bush letter set forth the requirements of a serious peace process — since no Israeli government is going to cede territory essential to its strategic defense — and represents in any event a commitment that cannot be repudiated simply by ignoring it (at least not in normal diplomacy).

The reason Shapiro and the State Department spokesman have ducked the question of adherence to the Bush letter may be that they in fact do not know the answer. Michael Oren reportedly said that his access to senior administration officials and advisers of the president is good but that Obama exercises very tight control and “[t]his is a one-man-show.” In the Obama-Netanyahu press conference scheduled for later today, perhaps someone will address the question to the only person in the administration who apparently can answer it.

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Oren’s Interview

Michael Oren has given yet another interview. One never knows whether to expect the Candid Oren or the Obama-Ingratiating Oren. His job requires a measure of both and to date he’s not been all that successful in balancing the two. This time he gives us some candor — suggesting that the Obama team will see things Israel’s way once it acquires more experience, pointing the finger at Democrats in Congress who have turned anti-Israel (in contrast to an earlier interview, in which he chastised critics of Obama’s Israel policy) and acknowledging that sanctions may actually spur Iran to step up its “proxy war on Israel and on the West.” He tells us that at the next meeting of Bibi with Obama there will be plenty of photographers to remove the perception of “snubbery” — which reminds us all that snubbery was the order of the day at the last get together.

But it is clear that Oren must walk on eggshells. The shift in U.S. policies, he insists, has both “positive and negative consequences.” (What are the positive ones? Hmm. He doesn’t say.) And he confesses that he has neither asked nor been told whether the U.S. would block a UN effort to launch its own flotilla investigation. If you have to ask, it’s not a good sign, certainly.

It is hard for even the most skilled diplomatist to disguise the truth: the U.S.-Israel relationship is more frosty than at any time in recent memory — and the Israelis are hoping (at least in public) that inexperience, rather than animus, accounts for Obama’s conduct toward the Jewish state. Israel, no doubt, is working hard on plans to defuse the existential threat it faces, since betting on Obama to come through is a gamble no Israeli government can undertake.

Michael Oren has given yet another interview. One never knows whether to expect the Candid Oren or the Obama-Ingratiating Oren. His job requires a measure of both and to date he’s not been all that successful in balancing the two. This time he gives us some candor — suggesting that the Obama team will see things Israel’s way once it acquires more experience, pointing the finger at Democrats in Congress who have turned anti-Israel (in contrast to an earlier interview, in which he chastised critics of Obama’s Israel policy) and acknowledging that sanctions may actually spur Iran to step up its “proxy war on Israel and on the West.” He tells us that at the next meeting of Bibi with Obama there will be plenty of photographers to remove the perception of “snubbery” — which reminds us all that snubbery was the order of the day at the last get together.

But it is clear that Oren must walk on eggshells. The shift in U.S. policies, he insists, has both “positive and negative consequences.” (What are the positive ones? Hmm. He doesn’t say.) And he confesses that he has neither asked nor been told whether the U.S. would block a UN effort to launch its own flotilla investigation. If you have to ask, it’s not a good sign, certainly.

It is hard for even the most skilled diplomatist to disguise the truth: the U.S.-Israel relationship is more frosty than at any time in recent memory — and the Israelis are hoping (at least in public) that inexperience, rather than animus, accounts for Obama’s conduct toward the Jewish state. Israel, no doubt, is working hard on plans to defuse the existential threat it faces, since betting on Obama to come through is a gamble no Israeli government can undertake.

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Galston Talks Sense About Israel

A sensible and intellectually honest  thinker (whose posts appear on a website replete with those who are neither), William Galston has developed a habit of talking political sense to Democrats determined to screen out bad news. He now gives us a report from his trip to Israel. It is more candid and useful than what we’ve been getting from Jewish groups, the administration, and Michael Oren (except when he thinks he’s talking privately).

Galston dispenses with the sugar-coating when explaining the current U.S.-Israeli relationship:

Never before have I sensed such a mood of foreboding, which has been triggered by two issues above all—the looming impasse in relations with the United States and a possible military confrontation with Iran. … There are persistent rumors here that the Obama administration hopes to bring down the current Israeli government and replace it with a more tractable coalition. Don’t hold your breath. … To bring about a new coalition without the hardliners, the Obama administration would have to threaten Israel with measures at least as tough as the ones George H. W. Bush and James Baker implemented two decades ago against the Shamir government, risking a huge domestic political backlash.

On Iran, Galston describes the vast divide between Obama and the Israelis:

Looking farther east, most Israelis—including many who are very dovish vis-a-vis the Palestinians—believe that only military force can prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power in the near future, and they cannot understand why the United States resists this conclusion.

A few months ago I participated in a day-long exercise, organized by the Brookings Institution, simulating the aftermath of a surprise Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. The outcome wasn’t pretty—a forceful Iranian attack on American allies throughout the region and a serious rift in relations between Israel and the United States. The Israeli team hoped that the United States would back them with military measures against Iran that the American team refused to initiate.

As Galston observes, “the sand in the hourglass is running down quickly. Some time this fall, an administration headed toward a midterm election with a faltering economy and negative developments in two war zones may confront a genuine Middle East crisis. We can only hope that its contingency plans are in place and that they’re better than BP’s.” Unfortunately, we know — thanks to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates — that there really isn’t much contingency planning going on.

Whether it is a “shift” or a “rift,” the U.S.-Israel relationship is not what it used to be. There is foreboding in Israel because the realization is sinking in that the Obama administration in all likelihood will not be there to defend the Jewish state — either diplomatically or militarily — when Israel needs America most. You would think American Jewry would be gripped by the same sense of foreboding as their brothers and sisters in Israel – and motivated to do something about it. But like Obama, they are, in Galston’s words, “playing for time.” I hope that they at least have a contingency plan better than BP’s and a sense of urgency to put it into action.

A sensible and intellectually honest  thinker (whose posts appear on a website replete with those who are neither), William Galston has developed a habit of talking political sense to Democrats determined to screen out bad news. He now gives us a report from his trip to Israel. It is more candid and useful than what we’ve been getting from Jewish groups, the administration, and Michael Oren (except when he thinks he’s talking privately).

Galston dispenses with the sugar-coating when explaining the current U.S.-Israeli relationship:

Never before have I sensed such a mood of foreboding, which has been triggered by two issues above all—the looming impasse in relations with the United States and a possible military confrontation with Iran. … There are persistent rumors here that the Obama administration hopes to bring down the current Israeli government and replace it with a more tractable coalition. Don’t hold your breath. … To bring about a new coalition without the hardliners, the Obama administration would have to threaten Israel with measures at least as tough as the ones George H. W. Bush and James Baker implemented two decades ago against the Shamir government, risking a huge domestic political backlash.

On Iran, Galston describes the vast divide between Obama and the Israelis:

Looking farther east, most Israelis—including many who are very dovish vis-a-vis the Palestinians—believe that only military force can prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power in the near future, and they cannot understand why the United States resists this conclusion.

A few months ago I participated in a day-long exercise, organized by the Brookings Institution, simulating the aftermath of a surprise Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. The outcome wasn’t pretty—a forceful Iranian attack on American allies throughout the region and a serious rift in relations between Israel and the United States. The Israeli team hoped that the United States would back them with military measures against Iran that the American team refused to initiate.

As Galston observes, “the sand in the hourglass is running down quickly. Some time this fall, an administration headed toward a midterm election with a faltering economy and negative developments in two war zones may confront a genuine Middle East crisis. We can only hope that its contingency plans are in place and that they’re better than BP’s.” Unfortunately, we know — thanks to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates — that there really isn’t much contingency planning going on.

Whether it is a “shift” or a “rift,” the U.S.-Israel relationship is not what it used to be. There is foreboding in Israel because the realization is sinking in that the Obama administration in all likelihood will not be there to defend the Jewish state — either diplomatically or militarily — when Israel needs America most. You would think American Jewry would be gripped by the same sense of foreboding as their brothers and sisters in Israel – and motivated to do something about it. But like Obama, they are, in Galston’s words, “playing for time.” I hope that they at least have a contingency plan better than BP’s and a sense of urgency to put it into action.

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Oren Spills the Beans

When last we heard from Michael Oren, he was giving an odd interview — suggesting that everything was just swell between the U.S. and Israel and decrying the “partisan” Republicans, who have stuck by the Jewish state while Democratic support has nosedived. Now, word comes that he was far more candid in private. Haaretz reports:

Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, painted a dark picture of U.S.-Israeli relations during a briefing at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem last week. Israeli diplomats say Oren described the current situation as a “tectonic rift” in which Israel and the United States are like continents drifting apart. … Five Israeli diplomats, some of whom took part in the briefing or were informed about the details, said Oren described relations between the two countries in bleak terms. Oren, however, has denied making such statements. …

Oren noted that contrary to Obama’s predecessors – George W. Bush and Bill Clinton — the current president is not motivated by historical-ideological sentiments toward Israel but by cold interests and considerations. He added that his access as Israel’s ambassador to senior administration officials and close advisers of the president is good. But Obama has very tight control over his immediate environment, and it is hard to influence him.

“This is a one-man show,” Oren is quoted as saying.

While certainly less “diplomatic,” these remarks have the benefit of candor and accuracy. As for the flotilla incident, Oren reportedly said: “Even our close friends came out against us. … Only after some time, when video from the ship arrived and was aired by the American media, did public opinion begin to shift in Israel’s favor.”

One can sympathize with Oren. His job is to try, under the most difficult circumstances with a president more hostile to Israel than any other since the 1948, to keep the relationship between the two countries from rupturing. And yet, he is neither deluded nor dishonest, so he concedes — he thought, privately — that Obama is pulling the relationship apart, replacing a robust alliance based on shared values, interests, and, yes, affection with an arms-length, if not antagonistic, one, in which Israel is treated as an encumbrance to Obama’s foreign-policy objectives.

There is a weird bit of play acting going on. The Israeli government, the Obama team, and the American Jewish groups publicly declare that things are “much improved” between the two countries and that Obama is really, honestly, a stalwart defender of the Jewish state. But, in fact, none of them believe this to be so. Bibi’s government walks a tightrope, attempting to defend its country’s interests but wary of enraging the American president, who is all too eager to look for excuses to demonstrate to the “Muslim World” that he’s not four-square behind Israel. The Obama team thinks that a “charm” offensive will be sufficient, and looks to do the least possible in defense of Israel without provoking American Jewry. And Jewish leaders privately grumble and rage over Obama’s assaults on Israel, but dare not make their fury public — for they might lose access to the White House, as well as their liberal members.

The Kabuki dance, however, matters less than reality. Israel’s foes see the separation between the U.S. and the Jewish state. Iran sees Obama’s unwillingness to consider military force to thwart its nuclear ambitions. The Arab nations see that America is an unreliable ally, and consider lining up with the Iran-Syria axis, which is growing in prestige as ours diminishes. In sum, Israel’s foes and ours are not fooled; they understand all too well the “tectonic rift” between the U.S. and Israel. Perhaps, it is time, at least in the U.S., for Israel’s friends to be candid about the depth of the problem and to devise a strategy for challenging the president, whose foreign policy is so antithetical to Israel’s interests that its ambassador can only reveal his true sentiments in private.

When last we heard from Michael Oren, he was giving an odd interview — suggesting that everything was just swell between the U.S. and Israel and decrying the “partisan” Republicans, who have stuck by the Jewish state while Democratic support has nosedived. Now, word comes that he was far more candid in private. Haaretz reports:

Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, painted a dark picture of U.S.-Israeli relations during a briefing at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem last week. Israeli diplomats say Oren described the current situation as a “tectonic rift” in which Israel and the United States are like continents drifting apart. … Five Israeli diplomats, some of whom took part in the briefing or were informed about the details, said Oren described relations between the two countries in bleak terms. Oren, however, has denied making such statements. …

Oren noted that contrary to Obama’s predecessors – George W. Bush and Bill Clinton — the current president is not motivated by historical-ideological sentiments toward Israel but by cold interests and considerations. He added that his access as Israel’s ambassador to senior administration officials and close advisers of the president is good. But Obama has very tight control over his immediate environment, and it is hard to influence him.

“This is a one-man show,” Oren is quoted as saying.

While certainly less “diplomatic,” these remarks have the benefit of candor and accuracy. As for the flotilla incident, Oren reportedly said: “Even our close friends came out against us. … Only after some time, when video from the ship arrived and was aired by the American media, did public opinion begin to shift in Israel’s favor.”

One can sympathize with Oren. His job is to try, under the most difficult circumstances with a president more hostile to Israel than any other since the 1948, to keep the relationship between the two countries from rupturing. And yet, he is neither deluded nor dishonest, so he concedes — he thought, privately — that Obama is pulling the relationship apart, replacing a robust alliance based on shared values, interests, and, yes, affection with an arms-length, if not antagonistic, one, in which Israel is treated as an encumbrance to Obama’s foreign-policy objectives.

There is a weird bit of play acting going on. The Israeli government, the Obama team, and the American Jewish groups publicly declare that things are “much improved” between the two countries and that Obama is really, honestly, a stalwart defender of the Jewish state. But, in fact, none of them believe this to be so. Bibi’s government walks a tightrope, attempting to defend its country’s interests but wary of enraging the American president, who is all too eager to look for excuses to demonstrate to the “Muslim World” that he’s not four-square behind Israel. The Obama team thinks that a “charm” offensive will be sufficient, and looks to do the least possible in defense of Israel without provoking American Jewry. And Jewish leaders privately grumble and rage over Obama’s assaults on Israel, but dare not make their fury public — for they might lose access to the White House, as well as their liberal members.

The Kabuki dance, however, matters less than reality. Israel’s foes see the separation between the U.S. and the Jewish state. Iran sees Obama’s unwillingness to consider military force to thwart its nuclear ambitions. The Arab nations see that America is an unreliable ally, and consider lining up with the Iran-Syria axis, which is growing in prestige as ours diminishes. In sum, Israel’s foes and ours are not fooled; they understand all too well the “tectonic rift” between the U.S. and Israel. Perhaps, it is time, at least in the U.S., for Israel’s friends to be candid about the depth of the problem and to devise a strategy for challenging the president, whose foreign policy is so antithetical to Israel’s interests that its ambassador can only reveal his true sentiments in private.

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The First Casualty in Obama’s Israel Policy

Ambassador Michael Oren gave a curious interview to the Jerusalem Post this week. In some respects, we got the unvarnished and deliciously candid analysis we have come to expect from him:

Asked about J Street’s influence on the White House or its sway in Congress, the ambassador said, “I don’t think that they have proven decisive on any major issue we’ve encountered.”

Oren said J Street was fundamentally different than the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

“AIPAC’s mandate is to support the decisions of the democratically elected government of Israel, be it left, right or center,” he said. “J Street makes its own policy and does not necessarily, to say the least, accept the decisions of the policies of the government of Israel.”

“Listen, I represent the democratically elected government, and that government reflects the will of the people of Israel, and what they perceive as the interests of Israel,” he said, adding that J Street was an organization “taking issue with that, and that in itself is a source of disagreement.”

Ouch.

But he is also a diplomat, one trying to hold the tenuous U.S.-Israel relationship together. So he feels compelled to say things such as “the tone changed within a week” after Obama’s display of rudeness toward Bibi Netanyahu. Listen, at that time James Jones was holding meetings on an imposed peace plan and leaking it to the media. Obama more recently has not exactly been the stalwart partner for Israel during the flotilla incident. And Oren unfortunately goes well beyond the needs of diplomatic niceties when he declares:

“Bi-partisan support for Israel is a national strategic interest for us, and I’m sometimes in the difficult position of having to tell some of Israel’s most outspoken supporters to be aware of this,” Oren said.

“I’m concerned about the drift toward partisanship, and while the American people remain overwhelmingly supportive of Israel, pro-Israel, when you break it down by party you get a more nuanced picture, and for me a more troubling picture,” he said.

Oren advised Israel supporters against “ad hominem attacks on the president as if he is anti- Israel. Barack Obama is not anti-Israel, he has different policies than some of his predecessors, but he is not anti-Israel. You can debate the relative value of his policies toward us, but let’s not couch it in saying someone is pro-Israel or anti- Israel.”

Wait. Shouldn’t he be concerned not about the vocal supporters of Israel, but about the significant drop-off in Democratic support for Israel? Israel has become a partisan issue because so many on the Democratic side — the president included – have junked the bipartisan tradition of support for the Jewish state. It doesn’t seem productive to chide those who are standing resolutely with the Jewish state (and pressuring those who aren’t) to take a swing at Israel’s friends for “partisanship.”

As for Obama’s anti-Israel sentiments, I sincerely doubt whether Oren and his government think Obama is pro-Israel. Oren and others in the Bibi government are all too well aware that Obama’s policies toward Israel are “different.” For example, we haven’t had a president who condemned Israel or questioned Israel’s ability to investigate its own national-security actions. This is the burden of diplomats — to pack away one’s candor and sincerity for post-governmental revelations. One cannot but despair that Obama forces Israel’s supporters and its representatives to be so disingenuous, to praise the un-praiseworthy, and to stifle their candid assessments so as to not arouse the angry president whom they fear will lash out again.

Truth is the first casualty in war, they say. Well, honesty is the first casualty in surviving Obama’s Israel policy.

Ambassador Michael Oren gave a curious interview to the Jerusalem Post this week. In some respects, we got the unvarnished and deliciously candid analysis we have come to expect from him:

Asked about J Street’s influence on the White House or its sway in Congress, the ambassador said, “I don’t think that they have proven decisive on any major issue we’ve encountered.”

Oren said J Street was fundamentally different than the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

“AIPAC’s mandate is to support the decisions of the democratically elected government of Israel, be it left, right or center,” he said. “J Street makes its own policy and does not necessarily, to say the least, accept the decisions of the policies of the government of Israel.”

“Listen, I represent the democratically elected government, and that government reflects the will of the people of Israel, and what they perceive as the interests of Israel,” he said, adding that J Street was an organization “taking issue with that, and that in itself is a source of disagreement.”

Ouch.

But he is also a diplomat, one trying to hold the tenuous U.S.-Israel relationship together. So he feels compelled to say things such as “the tone changed within a week” after Obama’s display of rudeness toward Bibi Netanyahu. Listen, at that time James Jones was holding meetings on an imposed peace plan and leaking it to the media. Obama more recently has not exactly been the stalwart partner for Israel during the flotilla incident. And Oren unfortunately goes well beyond the needs of diplomatic niceties when he declares:

“Bi-partisan support for Israel is a national strategic interest for us, and I’m sometimes in the difficult position of having to tell some of Israel’s most outspoken supporters to be aware of this,” Oren said.

“I’m concerned about the drift toward partisanship, and while the American people remain overwhelmingly supportive of Israel, pro-Israel, when you break it down by party you get a more nuanced picture, and for me a more troubling picture,” he said.

Oren advised Israel supporters against “ad hominem attacks on the president as if he is anti- Israel. Barack Obama is not anti-Israel, he has different policies than some of his predecessors, but he is not anti-Israel. You can debate the relative value of his policies toward us, but let’s not couch it in saying someone is pro-Israel or anti- Israel.”

Wait. Shouldn’t he be concerned not about the vocal supporters of Israel, but about the significant drop-off in Democratic support for Israel? Israel has become a partisan issue because so many on the Democratic side — the president included – have junked the bipartisan tradition of support for the Jewish state. It doesn’t seem productive to chide those who are standing resolutely with the Jewish state (and pressuring those who aren’t) to take a swing at Israel’s friends for “partisanship.”

As for Obama’s anti-Israel sentiments, I sincerely doubt whether Oren and his government think Obama is pro-Israel. Oren and others in the Bibi government are all too well aware that Obama’s policies toward Israel are “different.” For example, we haven’t had a president who condemned Israel or questioned Israel’s ability to investigate its own national-security actions. This is the burden of diplomats — to pack away one’s candor and sincerity for post-governmental revelations. One cannot but despair that Obama forces Israel’s supporters and its representatives to be so disingenuous, to praise the un-praiseworthy, and to stifle their candid assessments so as to not arouse the angry president whom they fear will lash out again.

Truth is the first casualty in war, they say. Well, honesty is the first casualty in surviving Obama’s Israel policy.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Carly Fiorina says there has been more condemnation of Israel than there was of North Korea when it sank a South Korean ship. She says bad things are happening in the world because Obama is displaying weakness.

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Bill Kristol tells us, “The dispute over this terror-friendly flotilla is about more than policy toward Gaza. It is about more than Israel. It is about whether the West has the will to defend itself against its enemies. It is about showing (to paraphrase William Gladstone) that the resources of civilization against terror are by no means exhausted.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Michael Oren says, “Turkey has embraced the leaders of Iran and Hamas, all of whom called for Israel’s destruction. …  Our policy has not changed but Turkey’s policy has changed, very much, over the last few years. … Under a different government with an Islamic orientation, Turkey has turned away from the West.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the U.S. State Department urges “caution and restraint” — from Israel in intercepting the next terrorist flotilla.

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Helen Thomas tells Jews to leave Israel and go back to Germany and Poland. (She later apologized, claiming that she really doesn’t believe what she said.)

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” this blather is written: “But that 2 a.m. boarding of an unarmed ship with an unarmed crew, carrying no munitions or weapons, 65 miles at sea, was an act of piracy. What the Israeli commandos got is what any armed hijacker should expect who tries to steal a car from a driver who keeps a tire iron under the front seat. … But we have a blockade of Gaza, say the Israelis, and this flotilla was a provocation. Indeed, it was. And Selma was a provocation. The marchers at Edmund Pettus Bridge were disobeying orders of the governor of Alabama and state police not to march.” Pat Buchanan or Peter Beinart? It’s hard to tell, isn’t it?

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the IDF releases a tape showing that the flotilla was warned to back away and the “peace activists” shouted, “Go back to Auschwitz.” Sounds as though their ideal PR flack would be (is?) Helen Thomas.

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the Jerusalem Post reports: “Hamas’s security forces on Monday and Tuesday raided the offices of several non-governmental organizations in the Gaza Strip and confiscated equipment and furniture, drawing sharp condemnations from human rights groups.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the Christian Science Monitor calls on Turkey to tone it down.”The Middle East does not need another country of fist-shakers, and that’s why the tone in Turkey is of such concern. Not just this incident, but others have increased anti-Semitism in this mostly Muslim country of about 80 million people – a democracy anchored in NATO and working on membership in the European Union.The rhetoric, if unchecked, runs the risk of further undermining Turkey’s credibility and goal of being a regional problem solver, and of the West’s interest in Turkey as a bridge between the Muslim and Christian worlds.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” David Brog, executive director of Christians United For Israel (CUFI), declares, “Israel will face challenges in the days ahead, and it is vital that her allies in the United States stand beside her. A true ally stands with their partners in both easy and difficult times -no democracy under attack, no American ally, deserves any less.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the Zionist Organization of America “renewed its call for an investigation of Turkey for permitting a flotilla of armed and violent extremists to sail in an attempt to breach the lawful Israeli blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Obama says nothing.

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Carly Fiorina says there has been more condemnation of Israel than there was of North Korea when it sank a South Korean ship. She says bad things are happening in the world because Obama is displaying weakness.

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Bill Kristol tells us, “The dispute over this terror-friendly flotilla is about more than policy toward Gaza. It is about more than Israel. It is about whether the West has the will to defend itself against its enemies. It is about showing (to paraphrase William Gladstone) that the resources of civilization against terror are by no means exhausted.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Michael Oren says, “Turkey has embraced the leaders of Iran and Hamas, all of whom called for Israel’s destruction. …  Our policy has not changed but Turkey’s policy has changed, very much, over the last few years. … Under a different government with an Islamic orientation, Turkey has turned away from the West.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the U.S. State Department urges “caution and restraint” — from Israel in intercepting the next terrorist flotilla.

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Helen Thomas tells Jews to leave Israel and go back to Germany and Poland. (She later apologized, claiming that she really doesn’t believe what she said.)

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” this blather is written: “But that 2 a.m. boarding of an unarmed ship with an unarmed crew, carrying no munitions or weapons, 65 miles at sea, was an act of piracy. What the Israeli commandos got is what any armed hijacker should expect who tries to steal a car from a driver who keeps a tire iron under the front seat. … But we have a blockade of Gaza, say the Israelis, and this flotilla was a provocation. Indeed, it was. And Selma was a provocation. The marchers at Edmund Pettus Bridge were disobeying orders of the governor of Alabama and state police not to march.” Pat Buchanan or Peter Beinart? It’s hard to tell, isn’t it?

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the IDF releases a tape showing that the flotilla was warned to back away and the “peace activists” shouted, “Go back to Auschwitz.” Sounds as though their ideal PR flack would be (is?) Helen Thomas.

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the Jerusalem Post reports: “Hamas’s security forces on Monday and Tuesday raided the offices of several non-governmental organizations in the Gaza Strip and confiscated equipment and furniture, drawing sharp condemnations from human rights groups.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the Christian Science Monitor calls on Turkey to tone it down.”The Middle East does not need another country of fist-shakers, and that’s why the tone in Turkey is of such concern. Not just this incident, but others have increased anti-Semitism in this mostly Muslim country of about 80 million people – a democracy anchored in NATO and working on membership in the European Union.The rhetoric, if unchecked, runs the risk of further undermining Turkey’s credibility and goal of being a regional problem solver, and of the West’s interest in Turkey as a bridge between the Muslim and Christian worlds.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” David Brog, executive director of Christians United For Israel (CUFI), declares, “Israel will face challenges in the days ahead, and it is vital that her allies in the United States stand beside her. A true ally stands with their partners in both easy and difficult times -no democracy under attack, no American ally, deserves any less.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” the Zionist Organization of America “renewed its call for an investigation of Turkey for permitting a flotilla of armed and violent extremists to sail in an attempt to breach the lawful Israeli blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza.”

While the Turks call for a “final solution,” Obama says nothing.

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RE: Peaceful, Humanitarian, Civilian Flotilla

As Noah points out, the flotilla was many things — ingenious, sinister, deceptive, etc. — but not peaceful. Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren writes in the New York Times:

Peace activists are people who demonstrate nonviolently for peaceful co-existence and human rights. The mob that assaulted Israeli special forces on the deck of the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara on Monday was not motivated by peace. On the contrary, the religious extremists embedded among those on board were paid and equipped to attack Israelis — both by their own hands as well as by aiding Hamas — and to destroy any hope of peace.

Millions have already seen the Al Jazeera broadcast showing these “activists” chanting “Khaibar! Khaibar!”— a reference to a Muslim massacre of Jews in the Arabian peninsula in the seventh century. YouTube viewers saw Israeli troops, armed with crowd-dispersing paintball guns and side arms for emergency protection, being beaten and hurled over the railings of the ship by attackers wielding iron bars.

He also shares some additional information: 100 of the activists had large wads of cash; spent bullet cartridges of a type not used by the commandos were found on board; and there was a propaganda film “showing passengers ‘injured’ by Israeli forces; these videos, however, were filmed during daylight, hours before the nighttime operation occurred.”

He then dismantles the propaganda — eagerly regurgitated by the Times and others — according to which this was critical humanitarian aid:

Just as Hamas gunmen hide behind civilians in Gaza, so, too, do their sponsors cower behind shipments of seemingly innocent aid.

This is why the organizers of the flotilla repeatedly rejected Israeli offers to transfer its cargo to Gaza once it was inspected for military contraband. They also rebuffed an Israeli request to earmark some aid packages for Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held hostage by Hamas for four years.

In the recent past, Israeli forces have diverted nine such flotillas, all without incident, and peacefully boarded five of the ships in this week’s convoy. Their cargoes, after proper inspection, were delivered to non-Hamas institutions in Gaza. Only the Marmara, a vessel too large to be neutralized by technical means such as fouling the propeller, violently resisted. It is no coincidence that the ship was dispatched by Insani Yardim Vakfi (also called the I.H.H.), a supposed charity that Israeli and other intelligence services have linked to Islamic extremists. …

Each day, Israel facilitates the passage into Gaza of more than 100 truckloads of food and medicine — there is no shortage of either.

The task of beating back the Palestinian PR machine is enormous. The left and the media (I repeat myself) feverishly lap up the “humanitarian” propaganda. But in the end, it’s not all that hard to figure out what’s going on. As  Sen. Joe Lieberman crisply puts it in a released statement that reads, in part:

We should be very clear about who is responsible for the unfortunate loss of life in the attempt to break the blockade in Gaza. Hamas and its allies are the responsible parties for the recent violence and the continued difficulties for the people of Gaza. Israel exercised her legitimate right of self defense.

The blockade exists because Hamas, which is increasingly acting as a proxy for the Iranian regime, has fired thousands of rockets upon Israel even after Israel withdrew from Gaza. The flotilla was a clear provocation and was not an effort to improve the lives of the people of Gaza but rather an attempt to score political propaganda points. The Palestinian people have legitimate rights to a state that is a peaceful neighbor of Israel, but those who assist Hamas only undermine that goal and a peaceful resolution. Support of Hamas and its aims is not the humanitarian path to peace, but rather enables continued violence and conflict.

He adds that he appreciates it that “the Obama Administration has refused to join the international herd that has rushed to convict Israel before the facts were known and has apparently forgotten that Israel is a democratic nation and Hamas is a terrorist group.”)

Lieberman also makes a key point about timing: “At difficult moments like this, it is more important than ever for the U.S. to stand steadfastly with our democratic ally, Israel.”  In the midst of the fray, it’s neither helpful nor fair, nor even possible, to begin the inquisition. As Israel has begun to do, it is critical first to  get the complete facts out concerning the flotilla terrorists so the analysis can be accurate and the madcap race to judgment can be slowed. I’m hardly one to complain about the 24/7 news cycle, which has tremendous benefits, but it also provides the opportunity for a great deal of foolishness.

As Noah points out, the flotilla was many things — ingenious, sinister, deceptive, etc. — but not peaceful. Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren writes in the New York Times:

Peace activists are people who demonstrate nonviolently for peaceful co-existence and human rights. The mob that assaulted Israeli special forces on the deck of the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara on Monday was not motivated by peace. On the contrary, the religious extremists embedded among those on board were paid and equipped to attack Israelis — both by their own hands as well as by aiding Hamas — and to destroy any hope of peace.

Millions have already seen the Al Jazeera broadcast showing these “activists” chanting “Khaibar! Khaibar!”— a reference to a Muslim massacre of Jews in the Arabian peninsula in the seventh century. YouTube viewers saw Israeli troops, armed with crowd-dispersing paintball guns and side arms for emergency protection, being beaten and hurled over the railings of the ship by attackers wielding iron bars.

He also shares some additional information: 100 of the activists had large wads of cash; spent bullet cartridges of a type not used by the commandos were found on board; and there was a propaganda film “showing passengers ‘injured’ by Israeli forces; these videos, however, were filmed during daylight, hours before the nighttime operation occurred.”

He then dismantles the propaganda — eagerly regurgitated by the Times and others — according to which this was critical humanitarian aid:

Just as Hamas gunmen hide behind civilians in Gaza, so, too, do their sponsors cower behind shipments of seemingly innocent aid.

This is why the organizers of the flotilla repeatedly rejected Israeli offers to transfer its cargo to Gaza once it was inspected for military contraband. They also rebuffed an Israeli request to earmark some aid packages for Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held hostage by Hamas for four years.

In the recent past, Israeli forces have diverted nine such flotillas, all without incident, and peacefully boarded five of the ships in this week’s convoy. Their cargoes, after proper inspection, were delivered to non-Hamas institutions in Gaza. Only the Marmara, a vessel too large to be neutralized by technical means such as fouling the propeller, violently resisted. It is no coincidence that the ship was dispatched by Insani Yardim Vakfi (also called the I.H.H.), a supposed charity that Israeli and other intelligence services have linked to Islamic extremists. …

Each day, Israel facilitates the passage into Gaza of more than 100 truckloads of food and medicine — there is no shortage of either.

The task of beating back the Palestinian PR machine is enormous. The left and the media (I repeat myself) feverishly lap up the “humanitarian” propaganda. But in the end, it’s not all that hard to figure out what’s going on. As  Sen. Joe Lieberman crisply puts it in a released statement that reads, in part:

We should be very clear about who is responsible for the unfortunate loss of life in the attempt to break the blockade in Gaza. Hamas and its allies are the responsible parties for the recent violence and the continued difficulties for the people of Gaza. Israel exercised her legitimate right of self defense.

The blockade exists because Hamas, which is increasingly acting as a proxy for the Iranian regime, has fired thousands of rockets upon Israel even after Israel withdrew from Gaza. The flotilla was a clear provocation and was not an effort to improve the lives of the people of Gaza but rather an attempt to score political propaganda points. The Palestinian people have legitimate rights to a state that is a peaceful neighbor of Israel, but those who assist Hamas only undermine that goal and a peaceful resolution. Support of Hamas and its aims is not the humanitarian path to peace, but rather enables continued violence and conflict.

He adds that he appreciates it that “the Obama Administration has refused to join the international herd that has rushed to convict Israel before the facts were known and has apparently forgotten that Israel is a democratic nation and Hamas is a terrorist group.”)

Lieberman also makes a key point about timing: “At difficult moments like this, it is more important than ever for the U.S. to stand steadfastly with our democratic ally, Israel.”  In the midst of the fray, it’s neither helpful nor fair, nor even possible, to begin the inquisition. As Israel has begun to do, it is critical first to  get the complete facts out concerning the flotilla terrorists so the analysis can be accurate and the madcap race to judgment can be slowed. I’m hardly one to complain about the 24/7 news cycle, which has tremendous benefits, but it also provides the opportunity for a great deal of foolishness.

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Hillary Speaks to the AJC

Last night Hillary Clinton spoke to the AJC gala in Washington D.C. Her speech is a hodgepodge of platitudes and reveals how sharply the Obami’s rhetoric departs from their policies — the inevitable result of a disingenuous “charm” offensive that seeks to soothe domestic critics of their assault on Israel while continuing their disastrous approach to the Middle East.

She began, as she did with AIPAC, with a series of fluffy assurances, which bear no relationship to the Obami’s actions:

We Americans may never fully understand the implications of this history on the daily lives of Israelis – the worry that a mother feels watching a child board a school bus or a child watching a parent go off to work. But we know deep in our souls that we have an unshakable bond and we will always stand not just with the Government of Israel but with the people of Israel. (Applause.)

Lovely sentiments but disconnected from their recent conduct. Was she feeling that unshakable bond deep in her soul when she chewed out Bibi for 43 minutes and instructed her State Department flack to relate the tongue-lashing to the entire world? Did Obama think he was standing with the government of Israel when he treated its prime minister with appalling rudeness?

Next, Hillary defends the administration’s defense of Israel in international institutions:

That is why the United States is fighting against anti-Semitism in international institutions — our special envoy for anti-Semitism is traveling the world as we speak, raising the issue at the highest levels of countries from one end of the world to the next. It is why we led the boycott of the Durban Conference. (Applause.) It is why we repeatedly and vigorously voted against and spoke out against the Goldstone Report. (Applause.) And it is why we have worked to ensure Israel’s qualitative military edge, providing nearly $3 billion in annual military assistance. When I became Secretary of State, I asked my longtime defense and foreign policy advisor from my years in the Senate, Andrew Shapiro, to personally manage our defense consultations with Israel. And today, I am proud to say our partnership is broader, deeper, and more intense than ever before. (Applause.)

That envoy would be the one who slapped down Michael Oren, not exactly the sort of defender Israel needs. And as for the UN, she doesn’t of course bring up the anti-Israel resolution we failed to block or explain how our presence on the UN Human Rights Council or our muteness on the admission of Iran to the Commission on the Status of Women helps Israel’s cause.

She defensively repeats Obama’s retort that there is “‘noise and distortion’ about this Administration’s approach in the Middle East.” It’s all a grand misunderstanding, you see. Weren’t we listening, she says, when she went to AIPAC and told us how devoted she was to the Jewish state? Weren’t we listening when she made another speech at the Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace? It is quite telling that her “defense” in the face of criticism is to cite her own pablum-filled speeches. This, she imagines, should put the whole matter to rest.

She then repeats the flawed premise of the Obami’s Middle East policy, namely:

Well, tonight I want to focus on the regional threats to Israel’s security and the imperative of reaching a comprehensive regional peace that will help defuse those threats. Because without a comprehensive regional peace, the Middle East will never unlock its full potential, and Israel will never be truly secure. Pursuing peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and Israel and its neighbors can be a mutually reinforcing process, and today it is more essential than ever to make progress on all tracks.

This falsely assumes that Iran’s nuclear threat will melt when peace breaks out with the Palestinians. It assumes that Assad and his Hezbollah surrogates will no longer threaten Israel once the peace deal is inked. In short, it ignores reality — both the impossibility of a peace deal in the near future and the lack of relevance such a deal has to Israel’s most pressing challenge: the existential threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran.

Remarkably, she then undermines her own case by pointing to Syria (Assad is going to be impressed with proximity talks? He’ll rein in Hezbollah as soon as Israel gives up the Old City?) and offering only words, again disconnected from reality and the Obami’s actions:

We have spoken out forcefully about the grave dangers of Syria’s transfer of weapons to Hezbollah. We condemn this in the strongest possible terms and have expressed our concerns directly to the Syrian Government. Transferring weapons to these terrorists — especially longer-range missiles – would pose a serious threat to the security of Israel. It would have a profoundly destabilizing effect on the region. And it would absolutely violate UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which bans the unauthorized importation of any weapons into Lebanon.

We do not accept such provocative and destabilizing behavior — nor should the international community. President Assad is making decisions that could mean war or peace for the region. We know he’s hearing from Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas. It is crucial that he also hear directly from us, so that the potential consequences of his actions are clear. That’s why we are sending an ambassador back to Syria. There should be no mistake, either in Damascus or anywhere else: The United States is not reengaging with Syria as a reward or a concession. Engagement is a tool that can give us added leverage and insight, and a greater ability to convey strong and unmistakably clear messages aimed at Syria’s leadership. (Applause.)

Here we go again with “accept” (the Obami’s favorite word when they are doing nothing about a disagreeable situation) – we don’t accept it, but what are we doing about it? How does “engagement” not appear as a reward or a concession? And wouldn’t a military strike on those rockets be a superior method of conveying a strong and unmistakably clear message to Syria’s leadership, rather than dispatch an ambassador to glad-hand with Assad?

Her discussion of Iran consists of a single, terse paragraph in which she admits we’ve accomplished nothing by engagement but aren’t doing much else. And there is again no mention of “all options” remaining at our disposal to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions:

Iran, with its anti-Semitic president and hostile nuclear ambitions, also continues to threaten Israel, but it also threatens the region and it sponsors terrorism against many. The United States has worked with the international community to present the leaders in Tehran with a clear choice: Uphold your international obligations and reap the benefits of normal relations, or face increased isolation and painful consequences. At every turn, Iran has met our outstretched hand with a clenched fist. But our engagement has helped build a growing global consensus on the need to pressure Iran’s leaders to change course. We are now working with our partners at the United Nations to craft tough new sanctions. The United States is committed to pursuing this diplomatic path. But we will not compromise our commitment to preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. (Applause.)

She then prattles on, paragraph after paragraph, describing the wonders of the peace process. On Jerusalem she sidesteps all the condemning and the administration’s reneging on prior agreements with another bit of sly puffery. (“The United States recognizes that Jerusalem is a deeply, profoundly, important issue for Israelis and Palestinians, for Jews, Muslims, and Christians. And we believe that through good-faith negotiations the parties can agree on an outcome that realizes the aspirations of both parties for Jerusalem and safeguards its status for people around the world.”) So why demand a unilateral concession from Israel now, in advance of any negotiations?

All in all, the speech is a vivid example of the degree to which the Obami are willing and able to divorce rhetoric from action, and policy from reality. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know if the “applause” reflects genuine enthusiasm for her display of hypocrisy. If so, it’s confirmation that American Jewry — at least those represented by organizations like the AJC — is eager to be sold a bill of goods. Meanwhile, the administration undermines sanctions, threatens an imposed peace deal, and dawdles on the Scud missiles. But they’ve got a heck of a PR plan.

Last night Hillary Clinton spoke to the AJC gala in Washington D.C. Her speech is a hodgepodge of platitudes and reveals how sharply the Obami’s rhetoric departs from their policies — the inevitable result of a disingenuous “charm” offensive that seeks to soothe domestic critics of their assault on Israel while continuing their disastrous approach to the Middle East.

She began, as she did with AIPAC, with a series of fluffy assurances, which bear no relationship to the Obami’s actions:

We Americans may never fully understand the implications of this history on the daily lives of Israelis – the worry that a mother feels watching a child board a school bus or a child watching a parent go off to work. But we know deep in our souls that we have an unshakable bond and we will always stand not just with the Government of Israel but with the people of Israel. (Applause.)

Lovely sentiments but disconnected from their recent conduct. Was she feeling that unshakable bond deep in her soul when she chewed out Bibi for 43 minutes and instructed her State Department flack to relate the tongue-lashing to the entire world? Did Obama think he was standing with the government of Israel when he treated its prime minister with appalling rudeness?

Next, Hillary defends the administration’s defense of Israel in international institutions:

That is why the United States is fighting against anti-Semitism in international institutions — our special envoy for anti-Semitism is traveling the world as we speak, raising the issue at the highest levels of countries from one end of the world to the next. It is why we led the boycott of the Durban Conference. (Applause.) It is why we repeatedly and vigorously voted against and spoke out against the Goldstone Report. (Applause.) And it is why we have worked to ensure Israel’s qualitative military edge, providing nearly $3 billion in annual military assistance. When I became Secretary of State, I asked my longtime defense and foreign policy advisor from my years in the Senate, Andrew Shapiro, to personally manage our defense consultations with Israel. And today, I am proud to say our partnership is broader, deeper, and more intense than ever before. (Applause.)

That envoy would be the one who slapped down Michael Oren, not exactly the sort of defender Israel needs. And as for the UN, she doesn’t of course bring up the anti-Israel resolution we failed to block or explain how our presence on the UN Human Rights Council or our muteness on the admission of Iran to the Commission on the Status of Women helps Israel’s cause.

She defensively repeats Obama’s retort that there is “‘noise and distortion’ about this Administration’s approach in the Middle East.” It’s all a grand misunderstanding, you see. Weren’t we listening, she says, when she went to AIPAC and told us how devoted she was to the Jewish state? Weren’t we listening when she made another speech at the Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace? It is quite telling that her “defense” in the face of criticism is to cite her own pablum-filled speeches. This, she imagines, should put the whole matter to rest.

She then repeats the flawed premise of the Obami’s Middle East policy, namely:

Well, tonight I want to focus on the regional threats to Israel’s security and the imperative of reaching a comprehensive regional peace that will help defuse those threats. Because without a comprehensive regional peace, the Middle East will never unlock its full potential, and Israel will never be truly secure. Pursuing peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and Israel and its neighbors can be a mutually reinforcing process, and today it is more essential than ever to make progress on all tracks.

This falsely assumes that Iran’s nuclear threat will melt when peace breaks out with the Palestinians. It assumes that Assad and his Hezbollah surrogates will no longer threaten Israel once the peace deal is inked. In short, it ignores reality — both the impossibility of a peace deal in the near future and the lack of relevance such a deal has to Israel’s most pressing challenge: the existential threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran.

Remarkably, she then undermines her own case by pointing to Syria (Assad is going to be impressed with proximity talks? He’ll rein in Hezbollah as soon as Israel gives up the Old City?) and offering only words, again disconnected from reality and the Obami’s actions:

We have spoken out forcefully about the grave dangers of Syria’s transfer of weapons to Hezbollah. We condemn this in the strongest possible terms and have expressed our concerns directly to the Syrian Government. Transferring weapons to these terrorists — especially longer-range missiles – would pose a serious threat to the security of Israel. It would have a profoundly destabilizing effect on the region. And it would absolutely violate UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which bans the unauthorized importation of any weapons into Lebanon.

We do not accept such provocative and destabilizing behavior — nor should the international community. President Assad is making decisions that could mean war or peace for the region. We know he’s hearing from Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas. It is crucial that he also hear directly from us, so that the potential consequences of his actions are clear. That’s why we are sending an ambassador back to Syria. There should be no mistake, either in Damascus or anywhere else: The United States is not reengaging with Syria as a reward or a concession. Engagement is a tool that can give us added leverage and insight, and a greater ability to convey strong and unmistakably clear messages aimed at Syria’s leadership. (Applause.)

Here we go again with “accept” (the Obami’s favorite word when they are doing nothing about a disagreeable situation) – we don’t accept it, but what are we doing about it? How does “engagement” not appear as a reward or a concession? And wouldn’t a military strike on those rockets be a superior method of conveying a strong and unmistakably clear message to Syria’s leadership, rather than dispatch an ambassador to glad-hand with Assad?

Her discussion of Iran consists of a single, terse paragraph in which she admits we’ve accomplished nothing by engagement but aren’t doing much else. And there is again no mention of “all options” remaining at our disposal to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions:

Iran, with its anti-Semitic president and hostile nuclear ambitions, also continues to threaten Israel, but it also threatens the region and it sponsors terrorism against many. The United States has worked with the international community to present the leaders in Tehran with a clear choice: Uphold your international obligations and reap the benefits of normal relations, or face increased isolation and painful consequences. At every turn, Iran has met our outstretched hand with a clenched fist. But our engagement has helped build a growing global consensus on the need to pressure Iran’s leaders to change course. We are now working with our partners at the United Nations to craft tough new sanctions. The United States is committed to pursuing this diplomatic path. But we will not compromise our commitment to preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. (Applause.)

She then prattles on, paragraph after paragraph, describing the wonders of the peace process. On Jerusalem she sidesteps all the condemning and the administration’s reneging on prior agreements with another bit of sly puffery. (“The United States recognizes that Jerusalem is a deeply, profoundly, important issue for Israelis and Palestinians, for Jews, Muslims, and Christians. And we believe that through good-faith negotiations the parties can agree on an outcome that realizes the aspirations of both parties for Jerusalem and safeguards its status for people around the world.”) So why demand a unilateral concession from Israel now, in advance of any negotiations?

All in all, the speech is a vivid example of the degree to which the Obami are willing and able to divorce rhetoric from action, and policy from reality. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know if the “applause” reflects genuine enthusiasm for her display of hypocrisy. If so, it’s confirmation that American Jewry — at least those represented by organizations like the AJC — is eager to be sold a bill of goods. Meanwhile, the administration undermines sanctions, threatens an imposed peace deal, and dawdles on the Scud missiles. But they’ve got a heck of a PR plan.

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Shut Up, Mr. Oren, J Street Explains

A reader alerts me to this item: it seems as though J Street’s president at Brandeis University doesn’t like upsetting students. (This would be news to the actual pro-Israel contingent there, who thought that J Street was all about provoking and challenging others.) Anyhow, his complaint: is “I’m not exactly thrilled that a representative of the current right-wing Israeli government will be delivering the keynote address at my commencement.” In case you thought it was directed at some party functionary, that is his way of referring to Ambassador Michael Oren, the representative of the elected government of Israel. The J Streeter thinks Oren is too “divisive.” He scrawls:

Despite its strong Jewish foundation, Brandeis has evolved into a university that prides itself on diversity, and its current student body reflects that pursuit. Even as a secular Jew of Israeli heritage, over the past four years I have often been agitated by the persistent questions, albeit half-serious, of my non-Brandeis peers: “Is there a Jewish studies requirement to graduate? I thought it was a rabbinical school.” If these queries bother me, I can only imagine what it must feel like for the half of Brandeis students who aren’t Jewish to answer these questions. Isn’t it possible that the selection of Oren is nothing but the icing on the cake, a silent confirmation that after four years of living and breathing Brandeis, these students really are outsiders in this community?

He seems to have confused “diversity” with “ridding the campus of pro-Israel voices.” He continues:

Oren is an undeniably controversial figure in a debate that is vibrant on our campus. Such speakers have a history of drawing protesters at Brandeis, something that now seems to be a likely feature of next month’s commencement. I will not be among the protesters and don’t believe that the ambassador’s selection warrants such demonstrations. Though I know that there were only the best of intentions in choosing the ambassador to speak, the University should have been more cognizant of the conflict that Oren’s selection would inevitably produce, particularly on a day that is supposed to represent unity and solidarity among a group of 800 graduating students.

Four years of vibrant college education has led him to conclude the highest idea is: don’t disturb anyone. Again, odd for J Street to take that view. But, he adds, “I sincerely hope that I’m getting worked up over nothing and his speech gives us broad advice completely unrelated to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Because that’s not a topic properly discussed on American campuses? Then what’s J Street doing there?

This is a microcosm of the “shut up”  attitude of the left. It’s not enough that J Street wants to turn over the Western Wall to the Palestinians. It’s not enough for them to oppose crippling sanctions or other effective means of dismantling the existential threat to the Jewish state from Iran. No, what they want to do is muzzle their opponents — a complaint they invariably invoke against the “Israel Lobby.” I wonder, would J Street prefer Stephen Walt as its speaker? Well, all of this is clarifying, if not a bit embarrassing, for J Street, which has been trying to mend faces with the Israeli government. That would be the “current right-wing Israeli government,” according to their man on campus.

A reader alerts me to this item: it seems as though J Street’s president at Brandeis University doesn’t like upsetting students. (This would be news to the actual pro-Israel contingent there, who thought that J Street was all about provoking and challenging others.) Anyhow, his complaint: is “I’m not exactly thrilled that a representative of the current right-wing Israeli government will be delivering the keynote address at my commencement.” In case you thought it was directed at some party functionary, that is his way of referring to Ambassador Michael Oren, the representative of the elected government of Israel. The J Streeter thinks Oren is too “divisive.” He scrawls:

Despite its strong Jewish foundation, Brandeis has evolved into a university that prides itself on diversity, and its current student body reflects that pursuit. Even as a secular Jew of Israeli heritage, over the past four years I have often been agitated by the persistent questions, albeit half-serious, of my non-Brandeis peers: “Is there a Jewish studies requirement to graduate? I thought it was a rabbinical school.” If these queries bother me, I can only imagine what it must feel like for the half of Brandeis students who aren’t Jewish to answer these questions. Isn’t it possible that the selection of Oren is nothing but the icing on the cake, a silent confirmation that after four years of living and breathing Brandeis, these students really are outsiders in this community?

He seems to have confused “diversity” with “ridding the campus of pro-Israel voices.” He continues:

Oren is an undeniably controversial figure in a debate that is vibrant on our campus. Such speakers have a history of drawing protesters at Brandeis, something that now seems to be a likely feature of next month’s commencement. I will not be among the protesters and don’t believe that the ambassador’s selection warrants such demonstrations. Though I know that there were only the best of intentions in choosing the ambassador to speak, the University should have been more cognizant of the conflict that Oren’s selection would inevitably produce, particularly on a day that is supposed to represent unity and solidarity among a group of 800 graduating students.

Four years of vibrant college education has led him to conclude the highest idea is: don’t disturb anyone. Again, odd for J Street to take that view. But, he adds, “I sincerely hope that I’m getting worked up over nothing and his speech gives us broad advice completely unrelated to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Because that’s not a topic properly discussed on American campuses? Then what’s J Street doing there?

This is a microcosm of the “shut up”  attitude of the left. It’s not enough that J Street wants to turn over the Western Wall to the Palestinians. It’s not enough for them to oppose crippling sanctions or other effective means of dismantling the existential threat to the Jewish state from Iran. No, what they want to do is muzzle their opponents — a complaint they invariably invoke against the “Israel Lobby.” I wonder, would J Street prefer Stephen Walt as its speaker? Well, all of this is clarifying, if not a bit embarrassing, for J Street, which has been trying to mend faces with the Israeli government. That would be the “current right-wing Israeli government,” according to their man on campus.

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Blaiming America First for No Middle East Peace

Foreign Policy has posted a forum online on why we have failed to achieve Middle East peace. It’s an odd question, which reveals the foreign policy establishment’s predilection to see this as something we control. The real answer is, obviously, because the Palestinians and their enablers don’t want peace. But that’s not the answer from many of the participants who say the problem is — I know you’ll be shocked! — the U.S. just isn’t trying hard enough or we haven’t browbeaten Israel sufficiently. Zbigniew Brezinski says the U.S. is at fault because we just haven’t gotten “seriously engaged” and haven’t come out with a plan to impose on the parties. Daniel Kurtzer echoes this claptrap: “When we are active diplomatically, Arab states are more willing to cooperate with us on other problems; when we are not active, our diplomatic options shrink.” Some willfully distort history, as Robert Malley does when he insists that “Americans, Palestinians, and Israelis were all to blame for the failure of the 2000 Camp David talks.” Hmm. I thought it was Yasir Arafat who walked away from the deal and started killing Jews instead of accepting a Palestinian state.

Now there are some voices of sanity. Gen. Anthony Zinni: “By now, we should realize what doesn’t work: summits, agreements in principle, special envoys, U.S.-proposed plans, and just about every other part of our approach has failed. So why do we keep repeating it?” (You can see why he didn’t get an administration job — too much realism.) And then Michael Oren rightly challenges the entire premise of the discussion:

Calling this an Arab-Israeli conflict today is largely a misnomer. We have two states that have peace treaties with Israel. The largest antagonist is Iran, which is not an Arab state. … I don’t think assigning blame is productive, but I think the main obstacle is getting the Palestinian Authority back to the negotiating table. It’s quite extraordinary: We now have a situation that existed before Oslo in ’93 and before Madrid in ’91 — we can’t get the Palestinians to sit down face to face with us and discuss the issues.

Well, you can see the divide between those who would willfully ignore the experience of the past 60 years and those who plead for the others to pay attention to it. The administration is in the first camp, which explains why the Obami are heightening tensions, unraveling the U.S.-Israel relationship, and making the Middle East a more dangerous place. They dare not acknowledge Oren’s point — that the threat to Middle East peace is not the Palestinian conflict but Iran — for that would require that they do something about it. And that’s not happening.

Foreign Policy has posted a forum online on why we have failed to achieve Middle East peace. It’s an odd question, which reveals the foreign policy establishment’s predilection to see this as something we control. The real answer is, obviously, because the Palestinians and their enablers don’t want peace. But that’s not the answer from many of the participants who say the problem is — I know you’ll be shocked! — the U.S. just isn’t trying hard enough or we haven’t browbeaten Israel sufficiently. Zbigniew Brezinski says the U.S. is at fault because we just haven’t gotten “seriously engaged” and haven’t come out with a plan to impose on the parties. Daniel Kurtzer echoes this claptrap: “When we are active diplomatically, Arab states are more willing to cooperate with us on other problems; when we are not active, our diplomatic options shrink.” Some willfully distort history, as Robert Malley does when he insists that “Americans, Palestinians, and Israelis were all to blame for the failure of the 2000 Camp David talks.” Hmm. I thought it was Yasir Arafat who walked away from the deal and started killing Jews instead of accepting a Palestinian state.

Now there are some voices of sanity. Gen. Anthony Zinni: “By now, we should realize what doesn’t work: summits, agreements in principle, special envoys, U.S.-proposed plans, and just about every other part of our approach has failed. So why do we keep repeating it?” (You can see why he didn’t get an administration job — too much realism.) And then Michael Oren rightly challenges the entire premise of the discussion:

Calling this an Arab-Israeli conflict today is largely a misnomer. We have two states that have peace treaties with Israel. The largest antagonist is Iran, which is not an Arab state. … I don’t think assigning blame is productive, but I think the main obstacle is getting the Palestinian Authority back to the negotiating table. It’s quite extraordinary: We now have a situation that existed before Oslo in ’93 and before Madrid in ’91 — we can’t get the Palestinians to sit down face to face with us and discuss the issues.

Well, you can see the divide between those who would willfully ignore the experience of the past 60 years and those who plead for the others to pay attention to it. The administration is in the first camp, which explains why the Obami are heightening tensions, unraveling the U.S.-Israel relationship, and making the Middle East a more dangerous place. They dare not acknowledge Oren’s point — that the threat to Middle East peace is not the Palestinian conflict but Iran — for that would require that they do something about it. And that’s not happening.

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Oren Responds to the Obami’s Temper Tantrum

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren is compelled to put the best possible face on U.S.-Israeli relations. So he tells Candy Crowely on State of the Union that the state of U.S.-Israeli relations is “great.” Well, such is the burden a diplomat must bear. But Oren was also candid and unequivocal in his reiteration of Israel’s position on Jerusalem:

Israel has a policy that goes back to 1967. This is not the policy of Benjamin Netanyahu. This is the policy of Golda Meir. It’s the policy of Yitzhak Rabin, that is, that Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Israel. Under Israeli law, it has the same status as Tel Aviv.  And our policy is that every Arab, every Jew has a right to build anywhere in the city legally as they — an Arab and Jew would have a right to build legally anywhere in a city in the United States, including in this city, in Washington, D.C. That’s our policy. The policy is not going to change.

And he swatted away the argument that Israel had somehow imperiled the “peace process” by continuing to allow building in the nation’s capital, as every previous government had permitted:

We understand that — we understand that we have negotiated a peace treaty with Egypt, a piece treaty with Jordan. There has been 16 years of negotiations with the Palestinians, including two cases where Israeli prime ministers put complete peace plans on the table, including Jerusalem. And throughout that entire period of peace-making, Israel’s policy on Jerusalem remained unchanged.

We feel that now we should proceed directly to peace negotiations without a change in policy. We understand that Jerusalem will be one of the core issues discussed in those peace negotiations, but the main issue is to get the peace negotiations started. We are waiting for the Palestinians to join us at the table. So far, they have not done so.

The Obami-staged fuss over building in Jerusalem was for naught, it seems. The Obami picked the wrong fight with the wrong prime minister. The Netanyahu administration is not about to be bullied; the Palestinians have only been encouraged to dig in their heels and throw stones; and the rest of the Arab world nervously eyes the U.S. as a fickle ally. Meanwhile the real threat to peace and security — the mullahs’ nuclear program — proceeds unchecked.

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren is compelled to put the best possible face on U.S.-Israeli relations. So he tells Candy Crowely on State of the Union that the state of U.S.-Israeli relations is “great.” Well, such is the burden a diplomat must bear. But Oren was also candid and unequivocal in his reiteration of Israel’s position on Jerusalem:

Israel has a policy that goes back to 1967. This is not the policy of Benjamin Netanyahu. This is the policy of Golda Meir. It’s the policy of Yitzhak Rabin, that is, that Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Israel. Under Israeli law, it has the same status as Tel Aviv.  And our policy is that every Arab, every Jew has a right to build anywhere in the city legally as they — an Arab and Jew would have a right to build legally anywhere in a city in the United States, including in this city, in Washington, D.C. That’s our policy. The policy is not going to change.

And he swatted away the argument that Israel had somehow imperiled the “peace process” by continuing to allow building in the nation’s capital, as every previous government had permitted:

We understand that — we understand that we have negotiated a peace treaty with Egypt, a piece treaty with Jordan. There has been 16 years of negotiations with the Palestinians, including two cases where Israeli prime ministers put complete peace plans on the table, including Jerusalem. And throughout that entire period of peace-making, Israel’s policy on Jerusalem remained unchanged.

We feel that now we should proceed directly to peace negotiations without a change in policy. We understand that Jerusalem will be one of the core issues discussed in those peace negotiations, but the main issue is to get the peace negotiations started. We are waiting for the Palestinians to join us at the table. So far, they have not done so.

The Obami-staged fuss over building in Jerusalem was for naught, it seems. The Obami picked the wrong fight with the wrong prime minister. The Netanyahu administration is not about to be bullied; the Palestinians have only been encouraged to dig in their heels and throw stones; and the rest of the Arab world nervously eyes the U.S. as a fickle ally. Meanwhile the real threat to peace and security — the mullahs’ nuclear program — proceeds unchecked.

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Oren Explains, We Translate

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren writes in the New York Times to cool temperatures and to remind the Obama administration of where we stand. His language is diplomatic; his message, blunt. We’ll attempt to translate.

First, the explanation as to what occurred:

[A] mid-level official in the Interior Ministry announced an interim planning phase in the expansion of Ramat Shlomo, a northern Jerusalem neighborhood. While this discord was unfortunate, it was not a historic low point in United States-Israel relations; nor did I ever say that it was, contrary to some reports.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had no desire during a vice presidential visit to highlight longstanding differences between the United States and Israel on building on the other side of the 1949 armistice line that once divided Jerusalem. The prime minister repeatedly apologized for the timing of the announcement and pledged to prevent such embarrassing incidents from recurring. In reply, the Obama administration asked Israel to reaffirm its commitment to the peace process and to its bilateral relations with the United States. Israel is dedicated to both.

Undiplomatic translation: I’m not bringing up, as many news outlets reported, that Hillary Clinton is demanding a reversal of the housing announcement and some other, unnamed concessions. Because that’s not going to happen.

Then Oren sets out to put the dispute in context and disabuse Obama and other feckless lawmakers and analysts of the notion that the recent move was extraordinary. “That [Jerusalem] policy is not Mr. Netanyahu’s alone but was also that of former Prime Ministers Ehud Barak, Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Golda Meir — in fact of every Israeli government going back to the city’s reunification in 1967. Consistently, Israel has held that Jerusalem should remain its undivided capital and that both Jews and Arabs have the right to build anywhere in the city.”

Undiplomatic translation: This is not unknown to the Obami, of course. They may be dim, but someone there knows this was nothing out of the ordinary and in keeping with Israeli policy and conduct for decades.

And as for Ramat Shlomo and other similar neighborhoods, Oren argues, “though on land incorporated into Israel in 1967, are home to nearly half of the city’s Jewish population. Isolated from Arab neighborhoods and within a couple of miles of downtown Jerusalem, these Jewish neighborhoods will surely remain a part of Israel after any peace agreement with the Palestinians. Israelis across the political spectrum are opposed to restrictions on building in these neighborhoods, and even more opposed to the idea of uprooting hundreds of thousands of their fellow citizens.”

Undiplomatic translation: And this, Mr. Obama, is what you choose to have a fight over?

None of this, Oren reminds us, is a barrier to negotiating final-status issues in face-to-face negotiations, something the Palestinians have rejected.

Oren then delivers the real message to the Obami:

To achieve peace, Israel is asked to take monumental risks, including sacrificing land next to our major industrial areas and cities. Previous withdrawals, from Lebanon and Gaza, brought not peace but rather thousands of rockets raining down on our neighborhoods.

Though Israel will always ultimately rely on the courage of its own defense forces, America’s commitment to Israel’s security is essential to give Israelis the confidence to take risks for peace. Similarly, American-Israeli cooperation is vital to meeting the direst challenge facing both countries and the entire world: denying nuclear weapons to Iran.

The undiplomatic translation: This is no way to gain our cooperation.

Oren concludes by reciting Joe Biden’s words back to him — as if to remind his American allies that their actions conflict with their stated objectives. (“During his visit, Vice President Biden declared that support for Israel is ‘a fundamental national self-interest on the part of the United States’ and that America ‘has no better friend in the community of nations than Israel.’”)

Undiplomatic translation: So perhaps America should start acting like a devoted ally?

It is not every day that the Israeli ambassador has the opportunity, with a worldwide audience primed to listen, to restate the historical and geographic facts — which sadly don’t always make it into mainstream reporting. If there are sane voices within the administration, they will read this carefully, take Oren’s words to heart, and take up his suggestion: start to behave as if this relationship is the most important in the region and with some understanding of the events leading up to this point. Are the Obami up to it? Stay tuned, but I have my doubts.

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren writes in the New York Times to cool temperatures and to remind the Obama administration of where we stand. His language is diplomatic; his message, blunt. We’ll attempt to translate.

First, the explanation as to what occurred:

[A] mid-level official in the Interior Ministry announced an interim planning phase in the expansion of Ramat Shlomo, a northern Jerusalem neighborhood. While this discord was unfortunate, it was not a historic low point in United States-Israel relations; nor did I ever say that it was, contrary to some reports.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had no desire during a vice presidential visit to highlight longstanding differences between the United States and Israel on building on the other side of the 1949 armistice line that once divided Jerusalem. The prime minister repeatedly apologized for the timing of the announcement and pledged to prevent such embarrassing incidents from recurring. In reply, the Obama administration asked Israel to reaffirm its commitment to the peace process and to its bilateral relations with the United States. Israel is dedicated to both.

Undiplomatic translation: I’m not bringing up, as many news outlets reported, that Hillary Clinton is demanding a reversal of the housing announcement and some other, unnamed concessions. Because that’s not going to happen.

Then Oren sets out to put the dispute in context and disabuse Obama and other feckless lawmakers and analysts of the notion that the recent move was extraordinary. “That [Jerusalem] policy is not Mr. Netanyahu’s alone but was also that of former Prime Ministers Ehud Barak, Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Golda Meir — in fact of every Israeli government going back to the city’s reunification in 1967. Consistently, Israel has held that Jerusalem should remain its undivided capital and that both Jews and Arabs have the right to build anywhere in the city.”

Undiplomatic translation: This is not unknown to the Obami, of course. They may be dim, but someone there knows this was nothing out of the ordinary and in keeping with Israeli policy and conduct for decades.

And as for Ramat Shlomo and other similar neighborhoods, Oren argues, “though on land incorporated into Israel in 1967, are home to nearly half of the city’s Jewish population. Isolated from Arab neighborhoods and within a couple of miles of downtown Jerusalem, these Jewish neighborhoods will surely remain a part of Israel after any peace agreement with the Palestinians. Israelis across the political spectrum are opposed to restrictions on building in these neighborhoods, and even more opposed to the idea of uprooting hundreds of thousands of their fellow citizens.”

Undiplomatic translation: And this, Mr. Obama, is what you choose to have a fight over?

None of this, Oren reminds us, is a barrier to negotiating final-status issues in face-to-face negotiations, something the Palestinians have rejected.

Oren then delivers the real message to the Obami:

To achieve peace, Israel is asked to take monumental risks, including sacrificing land next to our major industrial areas and cities. Previous withdrawals, from Lebanon and Gaza, brought not peace but rather thousands of rockets raining down on our neighborhoods.

Though Israel will always ultimately rely on the courage of its own defense forces, America’s commitment to Israel’s security is essential to give Israelis the confidence to take risks for peace. Similarly, American-Israeli cooperation is vital to meeting the direst challenge facing both countries and the entire world: denying nuclear weapons to Iran.

The undiplomatic translation: This is no way to gain our cooperation.

Oren concludes by reciting Joe Biden’s words back to him — as if to remind his American allies that their actions conflict with their stated objectives. (“During his visit, Vice President Biden declared that support for Israel is ‘a fundamental national self-interest on the part of the United States’ and that America ‘has no better friend in the community of nations than Israel.’”)

Undiplomatic translation: So perhaps America should start acting like a devoted ally?

It is not every day that the Israeli ambassador has the opportunity, with a worldwide audience primed to listen, to restate the historical and geographic facts — which sadly don’t always make it into mainstream reporting. If there are sane voices within the administration, they will read this carefully, take Oren’s words to heart, and take up his suggestion: start to behave as if this relationship is the most important in the region and with some understanding of the events leading up to this point. Are the Obami up to it? Stay tuned, but I have my doubts.

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Lawmakers Plead for Sanity

Top Republican House members, including Reps. John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, and Pete Session, have written a letter to the president, which reads in part:

Despite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s admission that the ill-timed announcement of the approval of a residential development was “regrettable,” it is our understanding that at your direction, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chastised the Prime Minister on the phone and then in public. Furthermore, your Senior Advisor, David Axelrod, chose to excoriate Israel on national television. Your Administration’s decision to escalate this issue is extremely harmful to US-Israeli relations, which, according to Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, are now at a 35-year low.

While your Administration clamors over the announcement of a proposed residential development years away from completion, fran continues to develop its nuclear weapons capability and Hamas and Hezbollah rearm and re-energize. Remarks made by your Cabinet and advisers embolden Israel’s enemies — who are wholly committed to destroying the Jewish State — and undermine the critical relationship we have with our strongest ally for democracy and peace in the Middle East.

Israel has demonstrated its willingness to advance the peace process — even when its concessions have led to decreased security. When Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, the region became a haven for Hamas and led to repeated rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli cities. It is therefore unrealistic for you to request that Israel continue to make significant confidence building gestures while putting no real pressure upon the instigators of armed violence.

Instead of continuing to make unrealistic demands of Israel, we encourage you and your Administration to address the real issues threatening stability in the region. We  respectfully request that you publicly express the United States’ unwavering support for Israel, acknowledge its status as a willing partner in the peace process, and reiterate its sovereign right to defend itself against attacks from those who seek its destruction.

Democrats who posit themselves as friends of Israel are now in a quandary: remain silent or try to drag the administration back into the bipartisan consensus on Middle East policy?

The newly Democratic Arlen Specter tried his best in a floor speech. He got off to a very poor start, misrepresenting that “there are 1,600 new settlements in East Jerusalem in violation of Israeli commitments.” To the contrary, the apartment complex is not a “settlement,” nor is this part of an Israeli commitment. The Israeli government never pledged to forgo building in its eternal and undivided capital. He concedes, “that Prime Minister Netanyahu was blindsided by the announcement. It is further acknowledged that the Israeli Minister of the Interior is a member of the ultra-conservative Shaos party whose participation is essential to the continuation of the coalition government.” And he implores the administration to get a game plan:

These matters need to be thought through before making public pronouncements that could significantly damage the U.S.-Israeli relationship and give aid and comfort to the enemies of the Mideast peace process.  The rock solid alliance between the United States and Israel has withstood significant disagreements for six decades. The mutual interests which bind these two countries together have always been stronger than the most substantial differences. The United States needs to respect Israeli security interests, understanding that Israel cannot lose a war and survive. The United States has many layers of defense to protect our security interests and survive.

I suggest that if we all take a few deep breaths, think through the pending questions and reflect on the importance of maintaining U.S.-Israeli solidarity, we can weather this storm.

Democrat Robert Andrews has sent his own letter pleading that “minor policy differences” not be allowed to disrupt the relationship and imploring the administration to work out “differences in private whenever possible.”

Allowing for understandable partisan differences and some egregious factual errors, the message is the same: enough already. The Obami have few defenders on this one and many anxious lawmakers. It seems as though once again this gang did not think through the ramifications — either domestic or international — of their own actions.

Top Republican House members, including Reps. John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, and Pete Session, have written a letter to the president, which reads in part:

Despite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s admission that the ill-timed announcement of the approval of a residential development was “regrettable,” it is our understanding that at your direction, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chastised the Prime Minister on the phone and then in public. Furthermore, your Senior Advisor, David Axelrod, chose to excoriate Israel on national television. Your Administration’s decision to escalate this issue is extremely harmful to US-Israeli relations, which, according to Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, are now at a 35-year low.

While your Administration clamors over the announcement of a proposed residential development years away from completion, fran continues to develop its nuclear weapons capability and Hamas and Hezbollah rearm and re-energize. Remarks made by your Cabinet and advisers embolden Israel’s enemies — who are wholly committed to destroying the Jewish State — and undermine the critical relationship we have with our strongest ally for democracy and peace in the Middle East.

Israel has demonstrated its willingness to advance the peace process — even when its concessions have led to decreased security. When Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, the region became a haven for Hamas and led to repeated rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli cities. It is therefore unrealistic for you to request that Israel continue to make significant confidence building gestures while putting no real pressure upon the instigators of armed violence.

Instead of continuing to make unrealistic demands of Israel, we encourage you and your Administration to address the real issues threatening stability in the region. We  respectfully request that you publicly express the United States’ unwavering support for Israel, acknowledge its status as a willing partner in the peace process, and reiterate its sovereign right to defend itself against attacks from those who seek its destruction.

Democrats who posit themselves as friends of Israel are now in a quandary: remain silent or try to drag the administration back into the bipartisan consensus on Middle East policy?

The newly Democratic Arlen Specter tried his best in a floor speech. He got off to a very poor start, misrepresenting that “there are 1,600 new settlements in East Jerusalem in violation of Israeli commitments.” To the contrary, the apartment complex is not a “settlement,” nor is this part of an Israeli commitment. The Israeli government never pledged to forgo building in its eternal and undivided capital. He concedes, “that Prime Minister Netanyahu was blindsided by the announcement. It is further acknowledged that the Israeli Minister of the Interior is a member of the ultra-conservative Shaos party whose participation is essential to the continuation of the coalition government.” And he implores the administration to get a game plan:

These matters need to be thought through before making public pronouncements that could significantly damage the U.S.-Israeli relationship and give aid and comfort to the enemies of the Mideast peace process.  The rock solid alliance between the United States and Israel has withstood significant disagreements for six decades. The mutual interests which bind these two countries together have always been stronger than the most substantial differences. The United States needs to respect Israeli security interests, understanding that Israel cannot lose a war and survive. The United States has many layers of defense to protect our security interests and survive.

I suggest that if we all take a few deep breaths, think through the pending questions and reflect on the importance of maintaining U.S.-Israeli solidarity, we can weather this storm.

Democrat Robert Andrews has sent his own letter pleading that “minor policy differences” not be allowed to disrupt the relationship and imploring the administration to work out “differences in private whenever possible.”

Allowing for understandable partisan differences and some egregious factual errors, the message is the same: enough already. The Obami have few defenders on this one and many anxious lawmakers. It seems as though once again this gang did not think through the ramifications — either domestic or international — of their own actions.

Read Less

Climbing Down

What to do? Hmmm. The Obami are in a box. The Israelis are not knuckling under. There’s been a domestic blowback. So how to get out of the dead end in which they find themselves after the make-a-huge-fuss-out-of-nothing-to-bully-Israel gambit has run its course?

First, the administration — oh, this is rich — calls for the whole incident to be put in “perspective.” Excuse me? I think it was the Obami who took a bureaucratic announcement concerning an expansion of an apartment complex in an area of Jerusalem not considered an “Arab neighborhood” (one can only marvel at the widespread acceptance of the notion that Jews shouldn’t be living in certain areas of the their own capital), inflated it into a confrontation, and extended the fight through a nasty phone call from Hillary Clinton, to be followed by new demands on Israel and a Sunday bash-a-thon by the well-known foreign policy maven David Axelrod. But now we need “perspective.”

Second, both sides are beginning to deny press reports of the most egregious comments. Now Joe Biden, we are told, didn’t really say that troops would be endangered by the Israeli apartment-complex expansion. (Yes, it’s hard to recite the allegation with a straight face.) And Ambassador Michael Oren is putting out the word that he did not contend that we are at a low point in U.S.-Israeli relations. (We are, but he’s saying he didn’t say it.) Well, this is one way to climb down but the damage is frankly done and everyone — especially the Palestinians and the Iranians – can’t help noticing the sorry state of U.S.-Israeli relations.

The incident, however, will not be forgotten anytime soon. It’s more than a specific comment that one side or the other uttered. If that was all, as many a marital spat it, it could be easily put aside. No, the nasty bit of truth revealed in this incident is the degree to which the Obami’s perceptions differ from the Israelis’ and the extent to which the Obami are willing to injure the relationship with Israel for the sake of ingratiating themselves with their friends in the Muslim World. Really, that’s the larger perspective to be noted. And it’s not a pleasing one for those who support a robust and intimate relationship between the U.S. and Israel.

What to do? Hmmm. The Obami are in a box. The Israelis are not knuckling under. There’s been a domestic blowback. So how to get out of the dead end in which they find themselves after the make-a-huge-fuss-out-of-nothing-to-bully-Israel gambit has run its course?

First, the administration — oh, this is rich — calls for the whole incident to be put in “perspective.” Excuse me? I think it was the Obami who took a bureaucratic announcement concerning an expansion of an apartment complex in an area of Jerusalem not considered an “Arab neighborhood” (one can only marvel at the widespread acceptance of the notion that Jews shouldn’t be living in certain areas of the their own capital), inflated it into a confrontation, and extended the fight through a nasty phone call from Hillary Clinton, to be followed by new demands on Israel and a Sunday bash-a-thon by the well-known foreign policy maven David Axelrod. But now we need “perspective.”

Second, both sides are beginning to deny press reports of the most egregious comments. Now Joe Biden, we are told, didn’t really say that troops would be endangered by the Israeli apartment-complex expansion. (Yes, it’s hard to recite the allegation with a straight face.) And Ambassador Michael Oren is putting out the word that he did not contend that we are at a low point in U.S.-Israeli relations. (We are, but he’s saying he didn’t say it.) Well, this is one way to climb down but the damage is frankly done and everyone — especially the Palestinians and the Iranians – can’t help noticing the sorry state of U.S.-Israeli relations.

The incident, however, will not be forgotten anytime soon. It’s more than a specific comment that one side or the other uttered. If that was all, as many a marital spat it, it could be easily put aside. No, the nasty bit of truth revealed in this incident is the degree to which the Obami’s perceptions differ from the Israelis’ and the extent to which the Obami are willing to injure the relationship with Israel for the sake of ingratiating themselves with their friends in the Muslim World. Really, that’s the larger perspective to be noted. And it’s not a pleasing one for those who support a robust and intimate relationship between the U.S. and Israel.

Read Less




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