Commentary Magazine


Topic: P.J. Crowley

The Ninth Step

President Obama has recently taken eight steps toward the right. As Peter noted yesterday, Romesh Ponnuru listed six: (1) the tax deal; (2) selecting Bill Daley as chief of staff; (3) absolving conservatives of murder in Tucson; (4) having Joe Biden project involvement in Afghanistan beyond 2014; (5) reviewing burdensome federal regulations; (6) authorizing Hillary Clinton’s new line on human rights in China. Ira Stoll identified two more: (7) appointing the Democratic Leadership Council’s Bruce Reed as Biden’s chief of staff; (8) Clinton’s pressuring Arabs on democratic reform, in a manner reminiscent of the Bush administration.

Let’s add a ninth: opposition to a UN resolution on Israeli settlements.

Ponnuru argued that Obama’s six moves are merely a “tactical and temporary” move to the center — a description that might also describe the seventh and eighth. Let’s consider whether it applies to the ninth.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley repeatedly answered questions yesterday by saying that the UN was not the place for the issues to be addressed — a position that will require a U.S. veto of any proposed resolution, even if the Palestinians continue their efforts to refine the language, since the language is irrelevant if the UN is not the proper forum to begin with:

QUESTION: …why are you opposed to the UN adopting a resolution that isn’t — that supports existing U.S. policy?

MR. CROWLEY: We believe that the best path forward is through the ongoing effort that gets the parties into direct negotiations, resolves the issues through a framework agreement, and ends the conflict once and for all. Read More

President Obama has recently taken eight steps toward the right. As Peter noted yesterday, Romesh Ponnuru listed six: (1) the tax deal; (2) selecting Bill Daley as chief of staff; (3) absolving conservatives of murder in Tucson; (4) having Joe Biden project involvement in Afghanistan beyond 2014; (5) reviewing burdensome federal regulations; (6) authorizing Hillary Clinton’s new line on human rights in China. Ira Stoll identified two more: (7) appointing the Democratic Leadership Council’s Bruce Reed as Biden’s chief of staff; (8) Clinton’s pressuring Arabs on democratic reform, in a manner reminiscent of the Bush administration.

Let’s add a ninth: opposition to a UN resolution on Israeli settlements.

Ponnuru argued that Obama’s six moves are merely a “tactical and temporary” move to the center — a description that might also describe the seventh and eighth. Let’s consider whether it applies to the ninth.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley repeatedly answered questions yesterday by saying that the UN was not the place for the issues to be addressed — a position that will require a U.S. veto of any proposed resolution, even if the Palestinians continue their efforts to refine the language, since the language is irrelevant if the UN is not the proper forum to begin with:

QUESTION: …why are you opposed to the UN adopting a resolution that isn’t — that supports existing U.S. policy?

MR. CROWLEY: We believe that the best path forward is through the ongoing effort that gets the parties into direct negotiations, resolves the issues through a framework agreement, and ends the conflict once and for all.

QUESTION: So it’s not the contents that you’re opposed to; it’s simply the idea of a resolution.

MR. CROWLEY: We do not think that the UN Security Council is the best place to address these issues.

QUESTION: Can I ask why? Because, I mean, the UN is where Israel was created, basically. Why is the UN not the place to deal with these issues?

MR. CROWLEY: These are complex issues, and we think they’re best resolved through direct negotiations, not through the unilateral declarations, even if those unilateral declarations come in the form of a multilateral setting.

Asked to specify a productive step forward, Crowley repeated the goal of a framework agreement produced by direct negotiations and said the administration was working on it:

QUESTION: But that’s been going on for the past two years.

MR. CROWLEY: I understand that.

QUESTION: And if you’re talking about productive steps —

MR. CROWLEY: Well, it’s been going on for longer than that if — (laughter)

QUESTION: Well, this Administration, it’s been going on for the last two years. And if you’re talking about productive steps, certainly that process hasn’t produced anything.

MR. CROWLEY: You’re leading to a kind of a glass half full, glass half empty kind of discussion.

QUESTION: Well, yeah, except that the glass doesn’t have any water in it at all. (Laughter)

There are two possible explanations for the administration’s position: (1) a tactical and temporary move to the center, by a shellacked president anxious to avoid a confrontation with Israel before the 2012 presidential election; (2) a realization that focusing on Israeli settlements, without comparable concessions from either Palestinians or Arab states, is a failed strategy — and a UN resolution is not going to put any water in the glass.

The Palestinians, with their two-year strategy of avoiding negotiations (even after Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan speech; even after the settlement moratorium; even after repeated U.S. attempts to drag them to the table), have driven the peace process into a ditch. Unwilling to recognize a Jewish state or make the concessions necessary to get a Palestinian one, they want others to act while they stand by drinking slurpees.

Whether because of politics or policy, or both, the administration seems to realize this.

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Honduras, Obama, and Occam’s Razor

In the Wall Street Journal yesterday, Mary Anastasia O’Grady wrote that cables released by WikiLeaks show that the administration knew Honduran President Manuel Zelaya had threatened Honduran democracy — but supported him in order to offer President Obama a “bonding opportunity” with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and a chance to ingratiate himself with Latin America’s hard left.

O’Grady believes this helps explain why the administration went to such extremes to try to force Zelaya’s reinstatement despite the obvious remedy once the Honduran Congress and Supreme Court had upheld his removal for attempting to thwart the election of his successor — hold the already scheduled election between the already duly-chosen candidates, on the date already set, which was only a few months away.

I have a simpler explanation — not inconsistent with O’Grady’s analysis but closer to the common theme in Obama’s foreign policy in other areas. The day after Zelaya was removed, Obama pronounced it a “coup.” That snap judgment remained American policy even as more and more facts contradicting Obama’s description emerged. After months pushing a reinstatement that virtually every element of Honduran political and civil society opposed, and even though the proper and practical solution was apparent, Obama still engaged in mystifying diplomacy, cutting off aid to a poverty-stricken ally. Three months into the “crisis,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley made this statement about the Honduran government’s intent to hold its election:

There’s a sense that the de facto regime was thinking, if we can just get to an election, that this would absolve them of all their sins. And we’re saying, clearly, that is not the case.

Crowley asserted the election the Honduran legislature and judiciary sought to preserve would not “absolve” them of “all their sins.” Honduras had apparently offended some sort of god.

Obama brought to the Oval Office a self-regard probably unmatched in American history. He apologized for his country while praising it for electing him. He thought that Iran could be handled with his outstretched hand; that a foreign head of state should receive an iPod with his speeches on it; that a video of him was sufficient for the Berlin Wall anniversary; that a prime minister should be summoned to the White House after-hours without press or pictures; that a Palestinian state would be created because this time they had Him. Russia and China were treated with respect, as was Iran, even as it held a fraudulent election and blew through his successive “deadlines.” But allies such as Poland, the Czech Republic, Georgia, Israel, and Britain were treated differently.

What was visited upon Honduras last year was of a piece.

In the Wall Street Journal yesterday, Mary Anastasia O’Grady wrote that cables released by WikiLeaks show that the administration knew Honduran President Manuel Zelaya had threatened Honduran democracy — but supported him in order to offer President Obama a “bonding opportunity” with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and a chance to ingratiate himself with Latin America’s hard left.

O’Grady believes this helps explain why the administration went to such extremes to try to force Zelaya’s reinstatement despite the obvious remedy once the Honduran Congress and Supreme Court had upheld his removal for attempting to thwart the election of his successor — hold the already scheduled election between the already duly-chosen candidates, on the date already set, which was only a few months away.

I have a simpler explanation — not inconsistent with O’Grady’s analysis but closer to the common theme in Obama’s foreign policy in other areas. The day after Zelaya was removed, Obama pronounced it a “coup.” That snap judgment remained American policy even as more and more facts contradicting Obama’s description emerged. After months pushing a reinstatement that virtually every element of Honduran political and civil society opposed, and even though the proper and practical solution was apparent, Obama still engaged in mystifying diplomacy, cutting off aid to a poverty-stricken ally. Three months into the “crisis,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley made this statement about the Honduran government’s intent to hold its election:

There’s a sense that the de facto regime was thinking, if we can just get to an election, that this would absolve them of all their sins. And we’re saying, clearly, that is not the case.

Crowley asserted the election the Honduran legislature and judiciary sought to preserve would not “absolve” them of “all their sins.” Honduras had apparently offended some sort of god.

Obama brought to the Oval Office a self-regard probably unmatched in American history. He apologized for his country while praising it for electing him. He thought that Iran could be handled with his outstretched hand; that a foreign head of state should receive an iPod with his speeches on it; that a video of him was sufficient for the Berlin Wall anniversary; that a prime minister should be summoned to the White House after-hours without press or pictures; that a Palestinian state would be created because this time they had Him. Russia and China were treated with respect, as was Iran, even as it held a fraudulent election and blew through his successive “deadlines.” But allies such as Poland, the Czech Republic, Georgia, Israel, and Britain were treated differently.

What was visited upon Honduras last year was of a piece.

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A Plan in Search of an Avenue

Yesterday’s State Department press conference featured a lengthy discussion about next steps in the administration’s hapless peace process, now that the administration has dropped its attempt to renew for three months an Israeli moratorium that didn’t work when it was tried for 10, and which the administration concluded would not work now even if Israel agreed to it, which Israel wouldn’t do if the U.S. did not put its promises about it in writing, which the U.S. concluded wouldn’t be prudent, and which anyway were a little different than the oral ones, which — are you still with me?

Spokesman P.J. Crowley said that George Mitchell will be traveling to the region again next week (second prize was two trips) and that the U.S. will “engage with both sides on the core substantive issues.” In other words, unable to get the Palestinians to engage in direct negotiations without preconditions on core issues, the administration will nevertheless, in Crowley’s words, “begin to focus intensively on the core issues and see if we can make progress on the substance itself.” Someone has not completely thought this through.

Crowley himself was a little vague about where this is headed:

QUESTION: … you didn’t really say the direction you’re going.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, no. There’s a clear plan for this direction, Lach.

QUESTION: You have a plan?

MR. CROWLEY: No. I mean we think we have the right plan. We think we have the right strategy. We are just adapting the tactics in support of that strategy.

QUESTION: Sorry. What’s the plan again?

Crowley explained that the “moratorium avenue” had not borne fruit, so the administration was now “pursuing a different avenue, but the destination is still the same”:

QUESTION: Okay. What’s the avenue then? If we don’t ask about the plan, what about the avenue. What’s — I mean you seem to be leaving a gap here as to how you get from here to there.

MR. CROWLEY: That’s what we’re trying to figure out.

This seems a particularly inauspicious time to double down on a process that, after two years, is still at square one. Everyone knows the process is not going anywhere until the question of Iran, with its twin proxies on Israel’s northern and southern borders, is resolved. Until then, the idea of another withdrawal, exposing strategic land on Israel’s east to still another jihadist takeover — all in the hope of “peace” — borders on the ludicrous.

But that appears to be the administration’s “plan.” If only it had one for Iran — for when the sanctions-avenue has proved a dead end.

Yesterday’s State Department press conference featured a lengthy discussion about next steps in the administration’s hapless peace process, now that the administration has dropped its attempt to renew for three months an Israeli moratorium that didn’t work when it was tried for 10, and which the administration concluded would not work now even if Israel agreed to it, which Israel wouldn’t do if the U.S. did not put its promises about it in writing, which the U.S. concluded wouldn’t be prudent, and which anyway were a little different than the oral ones, which — are you still with me?

Spokesman P.J. Crowley said that George Mitchell will be traveling to the region again next week (second prize was two trips) and that the U.S. will “engage with both sides on the core substantive issues.” In other words, unable to get the Palestinians to engage in direct negotiations without preconditions on core issues, the administration will nevertheless, in Crowley’s words, “begin to focus intensively on the core issues and see if we can make progress on the substance itself.” Someone has not completely thought this through.

Crowley himself was a little vague about where this is headed:

QUESTION: … you didn’t really say the direction you’re going.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, no. There’s a clear plan for this direction, Lach.

QUESTION: You have a plan?

MR. CROWLEY: No. I mean we think we have the right plan. We think we have the right strategy. We are just adapting the tactics in support of that strategy.

QUESTION: Sorry. What’s the plan again?

Crowley explained that the “moratorium avenue” had not borne fruit, so the administration was now “pursuing a different avenue, but the destination is still the same”:

QUESTION: Okay. What’s the avenue then? If we don’t ask about the plan, what about the avenue. What’s — I mean you seem to be leaving a gap here as to how you get from here to there.

MR. CROWLEY: That’s what we’re trying to figure out.

This seems a particularly inauspicious time to double down on a process that, after two years, is still at square one. Everyone knows the process is not going anywhere until the question of Iran, with its twin proxies on Israel’s northern and southern borders, is resolved. Until then, the idea of another withdrawal, exposing strategic land on Israel’s east to still another jihadist takeover — all in the hope of “peace” — borders on the ludicrous.

But that appears to be the administration’s “plan.” If only it had one for Iran — for when the sanctions-avenue has proved a dead end.

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Can’t Anybody in the Obama Administration Talk Without Saying Embarrassing and Revealing Things This Week?

This morning, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley responded to a question on Fox News about the new administration report on how, to quote Tom Joscelyn on the Weekly Standard website, “150 former Guantanamo detainees are either “confirmed or suspected of reengaging in terrorist or insurgent activities,” according to a new intelligence assessment released by the Director of National Intelligence’s office on Tuesday.” That’s one of every 4 detainees at the base. Quoth Crowley: “We actually expected this would happen.”

Crowley is not making an unsophisticated or illogical case here. What’s interesting is how he slips into the standard spokesman trick of downplaying the significance of something by saying it had been foreseen, anticipated. In fact, such foresight and anticipation only make the fact that more than 80 Gitmo detainees have disappeared back into jihad (with another 13 killed and 34 recaptured) seem all that much more horrifying.

This morning, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley responded to a question on Fox News about the new administration report on how, to quote Tom Joscelyn on the Weekly Standard website, “150 former Guantanamo detainees are either “confirmed or suspected of reengaging in terrorist or insurgent activities,” according to a new intelligence assessment released by the Director of National Intelligence’s office on Tuesday.” That’s one of every 4 detainees at the base. Quoth Crowley: “We actually expected this would happen.”

Crowley is not making an unsophisticated or illogical case here. What’s interesting is how he slips into the standard spokesman trick of downplaying the significance of something by saying it had been foreseen, anticipated. In fact, such foresight and anticipation only make the fact that more than 80 Gitmo detainees have disappeared back into jihad (with another 13 killed and 34 recaptured) seem all that much more horrifying.

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The Peace Process Letter(s)

Citing “Palestinian sources,” Ynet reports the Palestinians expect their own package of U.S. guarantees and financial incentives to persuade them to return to talks intended to give them a state:

The sources added that the American commitments would include setting the Palestinian state’s borders within three months and solving the refugee problem, including compensation through an international fund comprised of most of the region’s countries (including Israel). The sources also said that the American list of commitment[s] would include financial and diplomatic aid in exchange for returning to the direct negotiations.

At yesterday’s State Department news conference, Spokesman P.J. Crowley seemed to confirm that something is being considered beyond merely restarting the talks (when a question has to be repeated to Crowley three times, you know he is withholding something):

QUESTION: … I’m just wondering, why does the Administration think that three months is enough time to get enough done on borders?

MR. CROWLEY: Well … all I will tell you is that we remain intensely engaged with the parties to try to get them back into negotiations. …

QUESTION: Yeah, but that still doesn’t answer the question of why you think that three months is enough time to get some kind of progress on borders done, that keeps the process alive.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, I’m just emphasizing that our first step here in the process is to get them back in negotiations.  Once we get them back into negotiations, we’ll have a better view of how to get from where we are now to an ultimate agreement.

QUESTION: Well … I mean, surely you have some plan after negotiations resume.  Yeah?

MR. CROWLEY: Right.

QUESTION: And that plan would be … to get some kind of progress or some kind of loose agreement on the borders of a Palestinian state, which would then keep the parties at the table and get them onto perhaps more difficult issues.  So why do you think that that’s possible, to get that kind of progress in a three-month period?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, what we’re trying to do, as the Secretary said, is to get them back into negotiations.  We’re working in advancing some ideas on both sides to help accomplish that. … [Emphasis added].

If news reports about what is being offered to Israel are accurate, Benny Avni’s conclusion that it is a bad deal for Israel, unlikely to produce peace, seems right. Moreover, if the letter Netanyahu is negotiating does not begin with “the U.S. reiterates its ‘steadfast commitments’ set forth in the presidential letter dated April 14, 2004,” Israel is making further concessions without confirming what it was already promised in the last presidential letter, given in exchange for a complete withdrawal from Gaza.

And words should matter.

Citing “Palestinian sources,” Ynet reports the Palestinians expect their own package of U.S. guarantees and financial incentives to persuade them to return to talks intended to give them a state:

The sources added that the American commitments would include setting the Palestinian state’s borders within three months and solving the refugee problem, including compensation through an international fund comprised of most of the region’s countries (including Israel). The sources also said that the American list of commitment[s] would include financial and diplomatic aid in exchange for returning to the direct negotiations.

At yesterday’s State Department news conference, Spokesman P.J. Crowley seemed to confirm that something is being considered beyond merely restarting the talks (when a question has to be repeated to Crowley three times, you know he is withholding something):

QUESTION: … I’m just wondering, why does the Administration think that three months is enough time to get enough done on borders?

MR. CROWLEY: Well … all I will tell you is that we remain intensely engaged with the parties to try to get them back into negotiations. …

QUESTION: Yeah, but that still doesn’t answer the question of why you think that three months is enough time to get some kind of progress on borders done, that keeps the process alive.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, I’m just emphasizing that our first step here in the process is to get them back in negotiations.  Once we get them back into negotiations, we’ll have a better view of how to get from where we are now to an ultimate agreement.

QUESTION: Well … I mean, surely you have some plan after negotiations resume.  Yeah?

MR. CROWLEY: Right.

QUESTION: And that plan would be … to get some kind of progress or some kind of loose agreement on the borders of a Palestinian state, which would then keep the parties at the table and get them onto perhaps more difficult issues.  So why do you think that that’s possible, to get that kind of progress in a three-month period?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, what we’re trying to do, as the Secretary said, is to get them back into negotiations.  We’re working in advancing some ideas on both sides to help accomplish that. … [Emphasis added].

If news reports about what is being offered to Israel are accurate, Benny Avni’s conclusion that it is a bad deal for Israel, unlikely to produce peace, seems right. Moreover, if the letter Netanyahu is negotiating does not begin with “the U.S. reiterates its ‘steadfast commitments’ set forth in the presidential letter dated April 14, 2004,” Israel is making further concessions without confirming what it was already promised in the last presidential letter, given in exchange for a complete withdrawal from Gaza.

And words should matter.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

“Refudiate” is the word of the year? You betcha.

Word has it they are rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic advisers at the White House. “Call it a shakeup or call it a natural turnover halfway through the term, but the White House is preparing for significant change throughout its top ranks. Much of the movement, though, will involve new posts for longtime aides to President Barack Obama.”

Words, words. You didn’t really take the State Department seriously, did you? “Mideast peace talks may not reach fruition before their initial September 2011 deadline, a U.S. State Department official said on Monday, citing recent negotiations deadlock over Israel’s refusal to extend its moratorium on settlement building as one reason for the delay. Speaking prior to September’s relaunch of direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley said that the administration thought it could negotiate an agreement ‘within a one-year time frame.'”

“Fortunate” is not the word most of us have in mind. Donna Brazile waxes lyrical: “This week, visitors entering Washington’s Union Station are greeted by a work of art — a two-story, red open-toed lady’s dress shoe. It reminds me of Cinderella’s lost glass slipper. I thought to myself, if someone is looking for the woman big enough to fill this, they need look no further than Nancy Pelosi. The nation is fortunate, not to mention the Democratic Party and the president, that Ms. Pelosi will be re-elected Democratic leader for the next Congress, because we are surely entering one of the nation’s most difficult eras.”

Rep. Paul Ryan doesn’t mince words: “Congress should act now to prevent across-the-board tax increases from hitting nearly all Americans on Jan. 1. Sustained job creation and economic growth are urgently needed — higher tax rates are not. The failure to take decisive action on this issue further heightens the uncertainty holding our economy back.” Is there any Republican better able to explain conservative economic positions better than he? I haven’t found him/her yet.

Words of advice for Sen. Joe Lieberman. “‘He’d probably be best off running as a Republican as far as getting re-elected,’ said [John] Droney [a Lieberman ally and former chairman of the Connecticut Democratic Party], who stays in regular contact with Lieberman and encouraged him to run as an Independent in 2006. ‘I’d recommend him doing it now.”

You have to love the word choice. A “giveaway” is when people get to keep their own money. “Reps. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.) and Lynn Woolsey (Calif.), co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said extending the tax breaks for those earning more than $250,000 a year represents ‘a giveaway’ to wealthy Americans that would saddle the country in unnecessary debt.”

“Refudiate” is the word of the year? You betcha.

Word has it they are rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic advisers at the White House. “Call it a shakeup or call it a natural turnover halfway through the term, but the White House is preparing for significant change throughout its top ranks. Much of the movement, though, will involve new posts for longtime aides to President Barack Obama.”

Words, words. You didn’t really take the State Department seriously, did you? “Mideast peace talks may not reach fruition before their initial September 2011 deadline, a U.S. State Department official said on Monday, citing recent negotiations deadlock over Israel’s refusal to extend its moratorium on settlement building as one reason for the delay. Speaking prior to September’s relaunch of direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley said that the administration thought it could negotiate an agreement ‘within a one-year time frame.'”

“Fortunate” is not the word most of us have in mind. Donna Brazile waxes lyrical: “This week, visitors entering Washington’s Union Station are greeted by a work of art — a two-story, red open-toed lady’s dress shoe. It reminds me of Cinderella’s lost glass slipper. I thought to myself, if someone is looking for the woman big enough to fill this, they need look no further than Nancy Pelosi. The nation is fortunate, not to mention the Democratic Party and the president, that Ms. Pelosi will be re-elected Democratic leader for the next Congress, because we are surely entering one of the nation’s most difficult eras.”

Rep. Paul Ryan doesn’t mince words: “Congress should act now to prevent across-the-board tax increases from hitting nearly all Americans on Jan. 1. Sustained job creation and economic growth are urgently needed — higher tax rates are not. The failure to take decisive action on this issue further heightens the uncertainty holding our economy back.” Is there any Republican better able to explain conservative economic positions better than he? I haven’t found him/her yet.

Words of advice for Sen. Joe Lieberman. “‘He’d probably be best off running as a Republican as far as getting re-elected,’ said [John] Droney [a Lieberman ally and former chairman of the Connecticut Democratic Party], who stays in regular contact with Lieberman and encouraged him to run as an Independent in 2006. ‘I’d recommend him doing it now.”

You have to love the word choice. A “giveaway” is when people get to keep their own money. “Reps. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.) and Lynn Woolsey (Calif.), co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said extending the tax breaks for those earning more than $250,000 a year represents ‘a giveaway’ to wealthy Americans that would saddle the country in unnecessary debt.”

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Round Two: Jerusalem Is Not a Settlement

Never let it be said that Obama has learned from past errors. He is not a man to divert course based on mere experience. No sir. His standoff with Israel earlier this year led to a war of words, strained relations with American Jewish groups, and a fraying of the U.S.-Israel relationship? Oh, well. Let’s try that again!

It does seem like deja vu all over again. This report bears an eerie resemblance to those from March of this year:

The US State Department on Tuesday responded immediately to claims made in a statement by the Prime Minister’s Office that east Jerusalem construction had no bearing on the peace process.

“There clearly is a link in the sense that it is incumbent upon both parties … they are responsible for creating conditions for a successful negotiation,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said.

“To suggest that this kind of announcement would not have an impact on the Palestinian side I think is incorrect.”

The back-and-forth of statements between the Obama administration and the Prime Minister’s Office was over Israeli plans to advance 1,345 housing units in Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem.

For his part, Bibi was having none of the same old, same old from Obama:

Netanyahu, in turn, sharply defended Israel’s right to build in Jerusalem, which it claims as its eternal united capital, even as the Palestinians claim the eastern party of the city as the capital of their future state.

“Jerusalem is not a settlement. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement on Tuesday, adding that the government had never agreed to place any restrictions on construction in Jerusalem, which has 800,000 residents.

So now we have a test of sorts — for pro-Israel congressmen of both parties, for Jewish groups, and for the administration. The last time around, Democratic congressmen and pro-Israel groups gave Obama a wide berth to go after the Israeli government. But the world has changed since then — and Obama is no longer in a commanding position domestically. So Chuck Schumer, Howard Berman, et al. — what say you? Now’s the time to dispel the image that you place partisan toadying above principled defense of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Never let it be said that Obama has learned from past errors. He is not a man to divert course based on mere experience. No sir. His standoff with Israel earlier this year led to a war of words, strained relations with American Jewish groups, and a fraying of the U.S.-Israel relationship? Oh, well. Let’s try that again!

It does seem like deja vu all over again. This report bears an eerie resemblance to those from March of this year:

The US State Department on Tuesday responded immediately to claims made in a statement by the Prime Minister’s Office that east Jerusalem construction had no bearing on the peace process.

“There clearly is a link in the sense that it is incumbent upon both parties … they are responsible for creating conditions for a successful negotiation,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said.

“To suggest that this kind of announcement would not have an impact on the Palestinian side I think is incorrect.”

The back-and-forth of statements between the Obama administration and the Prime Minister’s Office was over Israeli plans to advance 1,345 housing units in Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem.

For his part, Bibi was having none of the same old, same old from Obama:

Netanyahu, in turn, sharply defended Israel’s right to build in Jerusalem, which it claims as its eternal united capital, even as the Palestinians claim the eastern party of the city as the capital of their future state.

“Jerusalem is not a settlement. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement on Tuesday, adding that the government had never agreed to place any restrictions on construction in Jerusalem, which has 800,000 residents.

So now we have a test of sorts — for pro-Israel congressmen of both parties, for Jewish groups, and for the administration. The last time around, Democratic congressmen and pro-Israel groups gave Obama a wide berth to go after the Israeli government. But the world has changed since then — and Obama is no longer in a commanding position domestically. So Chuck Schumer, Howard Berman, et al. — what say you? Now’s the time to dispel the image that you place partisan toadying above principled defense of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

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Middle East Chaos

It is not simply that Iran is moving steadily toward membership in the nuclear powers’ club. It is not only that the UN is plotting to carve up Israel. No, these are symptoms of an underlying problem: the U.S.’s retreat from the Middle East and the decline of American influence. There are other signs as well.

The administration has been demonstrating abject weakness with Syria. It mounted no meaningful response to violations of UN Resolution 1701. It has attempted to confirm and redeploy an ambassador to Damascus. Back in March, Elliott Abrams reeled off the list of “engagement” moves that bore an uncanny resemblance to appeasement:

* High level envoys have been sent to Damascus: Under Secretary of State William Burns visited Syria in mid-February, the highest ranking U.S. official to set foot there in more than five years, and Middle East envoy George Mitchell has visited three times. High-ranking Central Command officers have been sent to Damascus to discuss cooperation against terrorism.

* President Obama has now nominated an ambassador to Damascus, the first since Margaret Scobey was withdrawn in 2005 after the murder of former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri in Lebanon (which was widely blamed on the Assad regime).

* The president has also removed the American block to Syria’s attempt to join the World Trade Organization.

* The United States has eased some export licenses for Syria, mostly in the area of aircraft.

* Syria’s deputy foreign minister was invited to Washington in October, the first such visit in several years.

So how’s that working out? As we’ve seen, Bashar al-Assad has moved ever closer to Iran (the opposite reaction intended by the Obama team), even as he displays his contempt for the U.S.:

Syria’s president has accused the United States of sowing chaos overseas, snubbing Washington’s efforts to improve ties with Damascus. Syrian President Bashar Assad told Al-Hayat newspaper in an interview published Tuesday that the US “created chaos in every place it entered.” “Is Afghanistan stable? Is Somalia stable? Did they bring stability to Lebanon in 1983?” Assad asked, referring to US intervention in Lebanon’s 15-year civil war that ended in 1990.

To this, the U.S. replied, “Are not.” In diplomatic terms: “Spokesman P.J. Crowley charged that Syria is destabilizing Lebanon by supplying arms to militants and issuing arrest warrants for Lebanese officials. ‘These activities by Syria directly undermine Lebanon’s sovereignty and directly undermine Syria’s stated commitments to Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence,’ Crowley said. ‘We believe we’re playing a constructive role in the region, and we believe that Syria is not.”’ This “tough retort,” according to the press account, is what passes for the administration’s Syria policy.

And speaking of Lebanon:

The Obama administration, already struggling to stave off a collapse of Middle East peace talks, is increasingly alarmed by unrest in Lebanon, whose own fragile peace is being threatened by militant opponents of a politically charged investigation into the killing in 2005 of a former Lebanese leader.

With an international tribunal expected to hand down indictments in the assassination of the former prime minister, Rafik Hariri, in the coming months, the Hezbollah militia is maneuvering furiously to halt the investigation, or failing that, to unseat Lebanon’s government, which backs it.

The New York Times helpfully offers that the Obama team has, contrary to appearances, really (honestly!) not been obsessed with the failed Palestinian-Israeli non-peace talks. It has instead been focused on this looming crisis:

The administration’s worries go beyond Lebanon itself, and help explain why it, and not the stalled Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, has been the major preoccupation of American foreign policy officials for the last few weeks. The diplomatic activity follows a splashy tour of Lebanon by Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who got an ecstatic reception from members of Hezbollah, the Shiite movement financed and equipped by Iran. American officials were particularly struck by Mr. Ahmadinejad’s trip to a small town a few miles north of the Israeli border, where he called for the “Zionists to be wiped out.”

With unintended comedic effect, the dispatched U.S. envoy, Jeffrey D. Feltman, proclaims: “You don’t want the perception of a vacuum. … You don’t want the perception that Ahmadinejad is the only game in town.” Umm, it’s a little late for that realization, isn’t it? And if that’s the problem, then throwing ourselves at the mullahs’ feet in order to restart the charade of nuclear talks is hardly going to improve matters.

It is not simply that Iran is moving steadily toward membership in the nuclear powers’ club. It is not only that the UN is plotting to carve up Israel. No, these are symptoms of an underlying problem: the U.S.’s retreat from the Middle East and the decline of American influence. There are other signs as well.

The administration has been demonstrating abject weakness with Syria. It mounted no meaningful response to violations of UN Resolution 1701. It has attempted to confirm and redeploy an ambassador to Damascus. Back in March, Elliott Abrams reeled off the list of “engagement” moves that bore an uncanny resemblance to appeasement:

* High level envoys have been sent to Damascus: Under Secretary of State William Burns visited Syria in mid-February, the highest ranking U.S. official to set foot there in more than five years, and Middle East envoy George Mitchell has visited three times. High-ranking Central Command officers have been sent to Damascus to discuss cooperation against terrorism.

* President Obama has now nominated an ambassador to Damascus, the first since Margaret Scobey was withdrawn in 2005 after the murder of former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri in Lebanon (which was widely blamed on the Assad regime).

* The president has also removed the American block to Syria’s attempt to join the World Trade Organization.

* The United States has eased some export licenses for Syria, mostly in the area of aircraft.

* Syria’s deputy foreign minister was invited to Washington in October, the first such visit in several years.

So how’s that working out? As we’ve seen, Bashar al-Assad has moved ever closer to Iran (the opposite reaction intended by the Obama team), even as he displays his contempt for the U.S.:

Syria’s president has accused the United States of sowing chaos overseas, snubbing Washington’s efforts to improve ties with Damascus. Syrian President Bashar Assad told Al-Hayat newspaper in an interview published Tuesday that the US “created chaos in every place it entered.” “Is Afghanistan stable? Is Somalia stable? Did they bring stability to Lebanon in 1983?” Assad asked, referring to US intervention in Lebanon’s 15-year civil war that ended in 1990.

To this, the U.S. replied, “Are not.” In diplomatic terms: “Spokesman P.J. Crowley charged that Syria is destabilizing Lebanon by supplying arms to militants and issuing arrest warrants for Lebanese officials. ‘These activities by Syria directly undermine Lebanon’s sovereignty and directly undermine Syria’s stated commitments to Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence,’ Crowley said. ‘We believe we’re playing a constructive role in the region, and we believe that Syria is not.”’ This “tough retort,” according to the press account, is what passes for the administration’s Syria policy.

And speaking of Lebanon:

The Obama administration, already struggling to stave off a collapse of Middle East peace talks, is increasingly alarmed by unrest in Lebanon, whose own fragile peace is being threatened by militant opponents of a politically charged investigation into the killing in 2005 of a former Lebanese leader.

With an international tribunal expected to hand down indictments in the assassination of the former prime minister, Rafik Hariri, in the coming months, the Hezbollah militia is maneuvering furiously to halt the investigation, or failing that, to unseat Lebanon’s government, which backs it.

The New York Times helpfully offers that the Obama team has, contrary to appearances, really (honestly!) not been obsessed with the failed Palestinian-Israeli non-peace talks. It has instead been focused on this looming crisis:

The administration’s worries go beyond Lebanon itself, and help explain why it, and not the stalled Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, has been the major preoccupation of American foreign policy officials for the last few weeks. The diplomatic activity follows a splashy tour of Lebanon by Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who got an ecstatic reception from members of Hezbollah, the Shiite movement financed and equipped by Iran. American officials were particularly struck by Mr. Ahmadinejad’s trip to a small town a few miles north of the Israeli border, where he called for the “Zionists to be wiped out.”

With unintended comedic effect, the dispatched U.S. envoy, Jeffrey D. Feltman, proclaims: “You don’t want the perception of a vacuum. … You don’t want the perception that Ahmadinejad is the only game in town.” Umm, it’s a little late for that realization, isn’t it? And if that’s the problem, then throwing ourselves at the mullahs’ feet in order to restart the charade of nuclear talks is hardly going to improve matters.

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Pulling Teeth at the State Department

Having kept a running count of the number of times the Obama administration has refused to answer if it is bound by the 2004 Bush letter (22 times so far), it is a pleasure to report that it took only six attempts yesterday to get the State Department spokesman, P.J. Crowley, to answer whether the U.S. recognizes Israel as a Jewish state.

Crowley’s first response tried to throw reporters off the track with the tantalizing suggestion that George Mitchell just might go — it would be logical — back to the region at some point. Asked a second time, Crowley responded that we “recognize [Israel’s] aspiration.” On the reporters’ third through fifth tries, Crowley proved hard of hearing. On the sixth attempt, after a 14-word preface, he finally responded: “yes.”

QUESTION: P.J., do you recognize Israel as a Jewish state and will you try to convince the Palestinians to recognize it?

MR. CROWLEY: We will continue our discussions with the parties. I would expect, following up on the Arab League meetings of late last week that George Mitchell will go to the region at some point. I’m not announcing anything, but I — it would be logical for us to follow up directly with the parties, see where they are. [Blah, blah, blah.] Read More

Having kept a running count of the number of times the Obama administration has refused to answer if it is bound by the 2004 Bush letter (22 times so far), it is a pleasure to report that it took only six attempts yesterday to get the State Department spokesman, P.J. Crowley, to answer whether the U.S. recognizes Israel as a Jewish state.

Crowley’s first response tried to throw reporters off the track with the tantalizing suggestion that George Mitchell just might go — it would be logical — back to the region at some point. Asked a second time, Crowley responded that we “recognize [Israel’s] aspiration.” On the reporters’ third through fifth tries, Crowley proved hard of hearing. On the sixth attempt, after a 14-word preface, he finally responded: “yes.”

QUESTION: P.J., do you recognize Israel as a Jewish state and will you try to convince the Palestinians to recognize it?

MR. CROWLEY: We will continue our discussions with the parties. I would expect, following up on the Arab League meetings of late last week that George Mitchell will go to the region at some point. I’m not announcing anything, but I — it would be logical for us to follow up directly with the parties, see where they are. [Blah, blah, blah.]

QUESTION: And do you recognize Israel as a Jewish state?

MR. CROWLEY: We recognize the aspiration of the people of Israel. It has — it’s a democracy. In that democracy, there’s a guarantee of freedom and liberties to all of its citizens. But as the Secretary has said, we understand that — the special character of the state of Israel.

QUESTION: Is that a yes or no?

QUESTION: P.J., it’s — do you want to answer his question or —

QUESTION: Did you say yes or no to that question from Michel?

MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?

QUESTION: Michel’s question was a yes or no sort of question. I was wondering whether that was a yes or no.

MR. CROWLEY: We recognize that Israel is a – as it says itself, is a Jewish state, yes.

The original question had a second part to it: “ … and will you try to convince the Palestinians to recognize it?” After a reporter repeated the question, it took Crowley 162 halting words to respond:

QUESTION: … Does the U.S. want the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state?

MR. CROWLEY: Look, I will be happy to go back over and offer some — I’m trying — I’m not making any news here. We have recognized the special nature of the Israeli state. It is a state for the Jewish people. It is a state for other citizens of other faiths as well. But this is the aspiration of the — what Prime Minister Netanyahu said yesterday is, in essence, the — a core demand of the Israeli Government, which we support, is a recognition that Israel is a part of the region, acceptance by the region of the existence of the state of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people and that is what they want to see through this negotiation. We understand this aspiration and the prime minister was talking yesterday about the fact that just as they aspire to a state for the Jewish people in the Middle East, they understand the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a state of their own.

Why is it so hard to get the Obama administration to reiterate basic commitments the U.S. has made — in writing — to Israel? The Bush letter stated that the U.S. is “strongly committed to … [Israel] as a Jewish state.” This administration has to be prodded six times to answer whether it recognizes Israel as a Jewish state and — after an affirmative response is extracted — cannot give a one-word answer on whether it wants the Palestinians to recognize one as well.

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What Washington’s Lame Response to Terror Says About the Peace Talks

If more reasons were needed for concluding that the current Israeli-Palestinian talks won’t produce a deal, here’s another: the designated mediator — i.e., the Obama administration — has just proved itself incapable of providing what even Israeli leftists deem an essential condition for peace.

Tuesday night, Palestinian terrorists murdered four Israeli civilians — two men and two women — by shooting them at close range. Yet as even Haaretz, normally the administration’s reliable flack, noted, “State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley didn’t seem to be in a rush to condemn the attack.” In fact, he didn’t condemn it at all: he merely declared it “a tragedy.”

“Any time one human being takes out a weapon and fires and kills other human beings, it’s a tragedy,” Crowley said. “We just don’t know the circumstances under which this occurred. … We are cognizant that there could be external events that can have an impact on the environment.”

The White House finally issued an unequivocal condemnation only hours later, once “the circumstances” had become clear: namely, that it could condemn the attack safely, because the Palestinian Authority wasn’t involved. Until then, Crowley had hedged his bets, hinting at extenuating circumstances that “we just don’t know,” “external events” that could affect “the environment” — any straw he could grasp to excuse the PA if that proved necessary.

What does this have to do with peace talks? To understand that, it’s worth reading Gershon Baskin’s column in the Jerusalem Post this week. Baskin aptly titled it “The indefatigable peacemaker’s advice,” because he is indeed an indefatigable peace activist. He is co-CEO of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, has been personally involved in many previous rounds of negotiations (both official and unofficial), and continues to believe that “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolvable” right now — a position shared by few other Israelis.

Yet even this indefatigable optimist noted that peace will not be possible if certain conditions aren’t met. For instance, he dismissed the “borders first” idea once touted by U.S. mediator George Mitchell, correctly noting that “the agreement will be a package deal in which there are trade-offs,” and therefore, the various final-status issues “cannot be negotiated separately.” Additionally, he warned, Israel must be convinced that any deal will end with the Palestinians’ recognizing it as “the nation-state of the Jewish people” (to bridge the gap between the PA’s unwillingness to concede this upfront and Israel’s need to know it will happen eventually, he proposed having the Palestinians give such a pledge to Washington as a “deposit”).

But here’s the clincher: “All of Israel’s security concerns must be addressed by the Palestinians (and the American team) with the utmost sincerity. There will be no agreement unless Israel feels its security needs will be met.”

That, however, is precisely what team Obama has just shown itself incapable of doing. Because if you want to convince Israelis that their security concerns will be addressed, offering lame excuses for anti-Israel terror rather than forthrightly condemning it isn’t a good way to start.

If more reasons were needed for concluding that the current Israeli-Palestinian talks won’t produce a deal, here’s another: the designated mediator — i.e., the Obama administration — has just proved itself incapable of providing what even Israeli leftists deem an essential condition for peace.

Tuesday night, Palestinian terrorists murdered four Israeli civilians — two men and two women — by shooting them at close range. Yet as even Haaretz, normally the administration’s reliable flack, noted, “State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley didn’t seem to be in a rush to condemn the attack.” In fact, he didn’t condemn it at all: he merely declared it “a tragedy.”

“Any time one human being takes out a weapon and fires and kills other human beings, it’s a tragedy,” Crowley said. “We just don’t know the circumstances under which this occurred. … We are cognizant that there could be external events that can have an impact on the environment.”

The White House finally issued an unequivocal condemnation only hours later, once “the circumstances” had become clear: namely, that it could condemn the attack safely, because the Palestinian Authority wasn’t involved. Until then, Crowley had hedged his bets, hinting at extenuating circumstances that “we just don’t know,” “external events” that could affect “the environment” — any straw he could grasp to excuse the PA if that proved necessary.

What does this have to do with peace talks? To understand that, it’s worth reading Gershon Baskin’s column in the Jerusalem Post this week. Baskin aptly titled it “The indefatigable peacemaker’s advice,” because he is indeed an indefatigable peace activist. He is co-CEO of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, has been personally involved in many previous rounds of negotiations (both official and unofficial), and continues to believe that “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolvable” right now — a position shared by few other Israelis.

Yet even this indefatigable optimist noted that peace will not be possible if certain conditions aren’t met. For instance, he dismissed the “borders first” idea once touted by U.S. mediator George Mitchell, correctly noting that “the agreement will be a package deal in which there are trade-offs,” and therefore, the various final-status issues “cannot be negotiated separately.” Additionally, he warned, Israel must be convinced that any deal will end with the Palestinians’ recognizing it as “the nation-state of the Jewish people” (to bridge the gap between the PA’s unwillingness to concede this upfront and Israel’s need to know it will happen eventually, he proposed having the Palestinians give such a pledge to Washington as a “deposit”).

But here’s the clincher: “All of Israel’s security concerns must be addressed by the Palestinians (and the American team) with the utmost sincerity. There will be no agreement unless Israel feels its security needs will be met.”

That, however, is precisely what team Obama has just shown itself incapable of doing. Because if you want to convince Israelis that their security concerns will be addressed, offering lame excuses for anti-Israel terror rather than forthrightly condemning it isn’t a good way to start.

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Flacking for the Ground Zero Mosque Imam

The State Department should stop digging. The decision to send Imam Rauf abroad at the American taxpayers’ expense is bad enough. But now the striped-pants guys are flacking for him, pushing the victimology meme:

The State Department’s top spokesman cautioned reporters Tuesday not to take snippets of edited remarks on the Internet by the “Ground Zero mosque” imam and use them to brand him a radical, lest they repeat the mistakes made by the media in calling former USDA official Shirley Sherrod a racist based on edited clips of her promoted on conservative websites. …

P.J. Crowley, the assistant secretary of state for public affairs, told reporters Tuesday that they shouldn’t be quick to take those remarks out of context.

“I would just caution any of you that choose to write on this, that once again you have a case where a blogger has pulled out one passage from a very lengthy speech. If you read the entire speech, you will discover exactly why we think he is rightly participating in this national speaking tour.”

The additional excerpts from the speech include many frothy generalizations about reconciliation and peace, but is the State Department really not able to find a Muslim who says those sorts of lovely things and who can manage to refrain from blaming the U.S. for 9/11? Is the administration so badly advised that it has no access to a Muslim spokesperson who specifically condemns Hamas as a terrorist group?

The episode is among the more embarrassing ones for Hillary Clinton’s  State Department. That may explain, frankly, why she’s been mum on the subject. But if she hopes to salvage what splinters are left of her credibility, she might suggest that her spokesman stop flacking for the imam who thinks her country is as bad as al-Qaeda. There simply is no “context” that justifies or ameliorates such malice.

The State Department should stop digging. The decision to send Imam Rauf abroad at the American taxpayers’ expense is bad enough. But now the striped-pants guys are flacking for him, pushing the victimology meme:

The State Department’s top spokesman cautioned reporters Tuesday not to take snippets of edited remarks on the Internet by the “Ground Zero mosque” imam and use them to brand him a radical, lest they repeat the mistakes made by the media in calling former USDA official Shirley Sherrod a racist based on edited clips of her promoted on conservative websites. …

P.J. Crowley, the assistant secretary of state for public affairs, told reporters Tuesday that they shouldn’t be quick to take those remarks out of context.

“I would just caution any of you that choose to write on this, that once again you have a case where a blogger has pulled out one passage from a very lengthy speech. If you read the entire speech, you will discover exactly why we think he is rightly participating in this national speaking tour.”

The additional excerpts from the speech include many frothy generalizations about reconciliation and peace, but is the State Department really not able to find a Muslim who says those sorts of lovely things and who can manage to refrain from blaming the U.S. for 9/11? Is the administration so badly advised that it has no access to a Muslim spokesperson who specifically condemns Hamas as a terrorist group?

The episode is among the more embarrassing ones for Hillary Clinton’s  State Department. That may explain, frankly, why she’s been mum on the subject. But if she hopes to salvage what splinters are left of her credibility, she might suggest that her spokesman stop flacking for the imam who thinks her country is as bad as al-Qaeda. There simply is no “context” that justifies or ameliorates such malice.

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RE: Exporting the Imam’s Message

I was curious about the State Department’s invocation of Abe Foxman in defending its decision to send the imam of the planned Ground Zero mosque overseas. The spokesman declared, “I have heard in media reports, where, Abe Foxman of the ADL, has vouched for his religious views.” That seemed a bit odd, in part because the ADL — to the chagrin of the left — had released a statement urging the mosque be relocated and asserting:

In recommending that a different location be found for the Islamic Center, we are mindful that some legitimate questions have been raised about who is providing the funding to build it, and what connections, if any, its leaders might have with groups whose ideologies stand in contradiction to our shared values.  These questions deserve a response, and we hope those backing the project will be transparent and forthcoming.

I contacted the ADL, which had this response:

P.J. Crowley, State Department spokesman on FoxNews this morning mischaracterized what Abraham H. Foxman has said regarding Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, when he stated,

“…I have heard in media reports, where, Abe Foxman of the ADL, has vouched for his religious views…”

Mr. Foxman, who has known and had contact with the Imam on several occasions, has repeatedly said, “To the best of my knowledge he is a moderate and I have agreed to defend him against charges of his being a terrorist or extremist.”

Well, that is a helpful clarification, but frankly, it’s rather weak, given what we know about Rauf’s views on, for example, 9/11. In another era and with another ADL leader, I imagine a more robust response would have been forthcoming. An official of another Jewish organization remarked to me, “If the standard for ‘moderate’ includes embracing Hamas and implicating the United States in connection with 9/11, there is obviously a fundamental problem.” Indeed.

I was curious about the State Department’s invocation of Abe Foxman in defending its decision to send the imam of the planned Ground Zero mosque overseas. The spokesman declared, “I have heard in media reports, where, Abe Foxman of the ADL, has vouched for his religious views.” That seemed a bit odd, in part because the ADL — to the chagrin of the left — had released a statement urging the mosque be relocated and asserting:

In recommending that a different location be found for the Islamic Center, we are mindful that some legitimate questions have been raised about who is providing the funding to build it, and what connections, if any, its leaders might have with groups whose ideologies stand in contradiction to our shared values.  These questions deserve a response, and we hope those backing the project will be transparent and forthcoming.

I contacted the ADL, which had this response:

P.J. Crowley, State Department spokesman on FoxNews this morning mischaracterized what Abraham H. Foxman has said regarding Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, when he stated,

“…I have heard in media reports, where, Abe Foxman of the ADL, has vouched for his religious views…”

Mr. Foxman, who has known and had contact with the Imam on several occasions, has repeatedly said, “To the best of my knowledge he is a moderate and I have agreed to defend him against charges of his being a terrorist or extremist.”

Well, that is a helpful clarification, but frankly, it’s rather weak, given what we know about Rauf’s views on, for example, 9/11. In another era and with another ADL leader, I imagine a more robust response would have been forthcoming. An official of another Jewish organization remarked to me, “If the standard for ‘moderate’ includes embracing Hamas and implicating the United States in connection with 9/11, there is obviously a fundamental problem.” Indeed.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

It’s not like the Constitution says “informed advice and consent.” The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to confirm Elena Kagan, even though many (Lindsey Graham for one) complained they didn’t know much about her.

It’s not like Ohio is an important bellwether state, or anything. “The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Ohio finds Republican candidate Rob Portman with 45% of the vote while Democrat Lee Fisher earns 39% support this month. Five percent (5%) prefer some other candidate in the race, and 11% more are undecided.”

It’s not like the administration listens to Israelis about Israel or businessmen about business, but still, even they should find this (from Jackson Diehl) compelling: “Those who argue that Western democracies should lift sanctions on Cuba often claim that even the island’s dissidents favor the move. So it was interesting to see the statement issued Monday by ten of the 11 political prisoners who were deported to Spain by the Castro dictatorship last week. Noting the ‘manifest willingness of some European countries’ to liberalize E.U. strictures on relations with Cuba, the dissidents said they opposed ‘an approval of this measure,’ because ‘the Cuban government has not taken steps that evidence a clear decision to advance toward the democratization of the country.'”

It’s not like a Democratic polling outfit wants to pour gasoline on the fire: Public Policy Polling’s Tom Jensen writes: “With Barack Obama’s polling numbers hitting the worst levels of his Presidency recently there have been a lot of calls, mostly from conservatives, for us to poll Hillary against Obama for the 2012 nomination. We’re not going to do that but even if we did I wouldn’t expect it to be very interesting.”

It’s not like we’re really going to talk to North Korea. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley explained (well, not explained, but said): “We’re always prepared to talk. But there are some definite steps that we have to see from North Korea before that becomes possible. So I think we agree fully with the South Korean foreign minister that, you know, there are conditions and obligations that North Korea has to demonstrate a willingness to tackle before we’ll consider having a follow-on conversation.”

It’s not like Obama has been great for Democrats in Virginia: “A new survey of Virginia’s 5th district race paints a tough reelection picture for freshman Rep. Tom Perriello (D). Sen. Robert Hurt (R) is leading the incumbent, 58 percent to 35 percent, according to the survey, conducted by SurveyUSA for WDBJ News in Roanoke.”

It’s not like this is a bad thing for Democrats — or for the country: “Senate climate legislation appeared to be on life support Tuesday after two key advocates said they were skeptical of reaching a quick deal on a controversial bill that includes a cap on greenhouse gases from power plants.”

It’s not like the Constitution says “informed advice and consent.” The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to confirm Elena Kagan, even though many (Lindsey Graham for one) complained they didn’t know much about her.

It’s not like Ohio is an important bellwether state, or anything. “The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Ohio finds Republican candidate Rob Portman with 45% of the vote while Democrat Lee Fisher earns 39% support this month. Five percent (5%) prefer some other candidate in the race, and 11% more are undecided.”

It’s not like the administration listens to Israelis about Israel or businessmen about business, but still, even they should find this (from Jackson Diehl) compelling: “Those who argue that Western democracies should lift sanctions on Cuba often claim that even the island’s dissidents favor the move. So it was interesting to see the statement issued Monday by ten of the 11 political prisoners who were deported to Spain by the Castro dictatorship last week. Noting the ‘manifest willingness of some European countries’ to liberalize E.U. strictures on relations with Cuba, the dissidents said they opposed ‘an approval of this measure,’ because ‘the Cuban government has not taken steps that evidence a clear decision to advance toward the democratization of the country.'”

It’s not like a Democratic polling outfit wants to pour gasoline on the fire: Public Policy Polling’s Tom Jensen writes: “With Barack Obama’s polling numbers hitting the worst levels of his Presidency recently there have been a lot of calls, mostly from conservatives, for us to poll Hillary against Obama for the 2012 nomination. We’re not going to do that but even if we did I wouldn’t expect it to be very interesting.”

It’s not like we’re really going to talk to North Korea. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley explained (well, not explained, but said): “We’re always prepared to talk. But there are some definite steps that we have to see from North Korea before that becomes possible. So I think we agree fully with the South Korean foreign minister that, you know, there are conditions and obligations that North Korea has to demonstrate a willingness to tackle before we’ll consider having a follow-on conversation.”

It’s not like Obama has been great for Democrats in Virginia: “A new survey of Virginia’s 5th district race paints a tough reelection picture for freshman Rep. Tom Perriello (D). Sen. Robert Hurt (R) is leading the incumbent, 58 percent to 35 percent, according to the survey, conducted by SurveyUSA for WDBJ News in Roanoke.”

It’s not like this is a bad thing for Democrats — or for the country: “Senate climate legislation appeared to be on life support Tuesday after two key advocates said they were skeptical of reaching a quick deal on a controversial bill that includes a cap on greenhouse gases from power plants.”

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You Don’t Have to Be a Weatherman . . .

As Jen noted this morning, it’s obvious how the Obama administration “understands” its role on the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Last month, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Howard Berman, sent a letter to every member of Congress asserting that the Obama administration’s “sustained engagement” with the UNHRC  had “reaped important dividends for both the U.S. and Israel” and proved that “engagement works.” He described the “hard-fought” victory of keeping Iran off the UNHRC, adding that Iran’s assumption of a seat would have delivered “a fatal blow to the UN’s credibility.”

Having saved the UNHRC from a fatal blow to its credibility, the Obama administration has continued to treat it as if it were a bona fide organization. Yesterday, the UNHRC voted 32-to-3 to condemn Israel and initiate a new Goldstone-type “investigation” to prove what it had just condemned. The key portion of the State Department news conference that Jen cites is the repeated statement by spokesman P.J. Crowley that the U.S. “understands” the action:

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, we understand that. One of the reasons why we joined the Human Rights Council was that we hope that over time that it would take a more balanced and appropriate response to urgent situations. … And as our statement indicated, we believe that this particular resolution is a rushed judgment. It risks further politicizing a sensitive and volatile situation. …  But we respect the fact that other countries may have a different view.

QUESTION: So in the 18 months that – or 15, 16 months that you’ve been on the council, have you seen it improve?

MR. CROWLEY: We think our presence on the council is positive and constructive.

QUESTION: And how did that manifest itself in this vote?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, there was – I mean, all we can do – we have a vote. (Laughter.) We don’t dictate what the Human Rights Council —

QUESTION: Well, the previous administration didn’t – I mean, didn’t – they basically ignored the whole council because of situations like this.

MR. CROWLEY: And we don’t think ignoring these issues —

QUESTION: So your no vote is enough?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, the no vote is what we’re empowered to do as part of the Human Rights Council. We will continue to work – I mean, we’ll engage in the Human Rights Council just as we’re engaging on the margins of the International Criminal Court Review Conference. … But we understand that there’ll be times where our view may carry the day, and there’ll be times where our – other countries have different points of view.

The prior administration would not have joined the UNHRC in the first place; it would have quit after the Goldstone Report demonstrated the Council’s nature beyond dispute; and it would have quit after the Council voted yesterday to do it again. In contrast, the current administration “understands” the vote and will just keep on “engaging” and congratulating itself for its “positive and constructive” contributions.

You don’t have to be a horseman to spot a weak horse.

As Jen noted this morning, it’s obvious how the Obama administration “understands” its role on the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Last month, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Howard Berman, sent a letter to every member of Congress asserting that the Obama administration’s “sustained engagement” with the UNHRC  had “reaped important dividends for both the U.S. and Israel” and proved that “engagement works.” He described the “hard-fought” victory of keeping Iran off the UNHRC, adding that Iran’s assumption of a seat would have delivered “a fatal blow to the UN’s credibility.”

Having saved the UNHRC from a fatal blow to its credibility, the Obama administration has continued to treat it as if it were a bona fide organization. Yesterday, the UNHRC voted 32-to-3 to condemn Israel and initiate a new Goldstone-type “investigation” to prove what it had just condemned. The key portion of the State Department news conference that Jen cites is the repeated statement by spokesman P.J. Crowley that the U.S. “understands” the action:

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, we understand that. One of the reasons why we joined the Human Rights Council was that we hope that over time that it would take a more balanced and appropriate response to urgent situations. … And as our statement indicated, we believe that this particular resolution is a rushed judgment. It risks further politicizing a sensitive and volatile situation. …  But we respect the fact that other countries may have a different view.

QUESTION: So in the 18 months that – or 15, 16 months that you’ve been on the council, have you seen it improve?

MR. CROWLEY: We think our presence on the council is positive and constructive.

QUESTION: And how did that manifest itself in this vote?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, there was – I mean, all we can do – we have a vote. (Laughter.) We don’t dictate what the Human Rights Council —

QUESTION: Well, the previous administration didn’t – I mean, didn’t – they basically ignored the whole council because of situations like this.

MR. CROWLEY: And we don’t think ignoring these issues —

QUESTION: So your no vote is enough?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, the no vote is what we’re empowered to do as part of the Human Rights Council. We will continue to work – I mean, we’ll engage in the Human Rights Council just as we’re engaging on the margins of the International Criminal Court Review Conference. … But we understand that there’ll be times where our view may carry the day, and there’ll be times where our – other countries have different points of view.

The prior administration would not have joined the UNHRC in the first place; it would have quit after the Goldstone Report demonstrated the Council’s nature beyond dispute; and it would have quit after the Council voted yesterday to do it again. In contrast, the current administration “understands” the vote and will just keep on “engaging” and congratulating itself for its “positive and constructive” contributions.

You don’t have to be a horseman to spot a weak horse.

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Proximity Talks Aren’t a “Step Backward” for Obama

I write this only because it keeps being claimed (here is a new example) that the start of “proximity talks” between Israelis and Palestinians is an unfortunate retrogression in the peace process. There certainly have been many foolish plays on President Obama’s part that have led to this point, but he is doing a good job of turning lemons into lemonade. Here is State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley issuing an unconcealed threat:

“As both parties know, if either takes significant actions during the proximity talks that we judge would seriously undermine trust, we will respond to hold them accountable and ensure that negotiations continue,” Crowley said.

The peace processors have seen negotiations, summits, unilateral disengagement, and all the rest fail; it never matters, of course, because they’re always willing to go back into the laboratory and come up with a new formula of diplomacy and concessions and inducements and confidence-building measures and bridging proposals that will finally make it work.

The newest formula is contained in a statement that has become fashionable among peace processors, which goes something like this: “Everyone knows what a deal would look like. We just have to get the two sides to make the hard choices.” If you believe this, you probably also believe that the peace process, as it’s existed since the beginning of Oslo, has always had America in the wrong role — that of facilitator and cajoler, not as the father figure laying down the law with a shotgun on the table.

And if you’re Barack Obama, you’ve always dreamed of imposing terms on the Israelis (and to a lesser degree, the Palestinians). And now the problems you provoked give you the opportunity to do that which has always been lacking. For Obama, the proximity talks are a win, because they liberate the United States from the strictures of its previous approach. It’s true that proximity talks are a reversion to an era when Israelis and Palestinians weren’t even sitting at the same table. But Barack Obama wasn’t president back then.

I write this only because it keeps being claimed (here is a new example) that the start of “proximity talks” between Israelis and Palestinians is an unfortunate retrogression in the peace process. There certainly have been many foolish plays on President Obama’s part that have led to this point, but he is doing a good job of turning lemons into lemonade. Here is State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley issuing an unconcealed threat:

“As both parties know, if either takes significant actions during the proximity talks that we judge would seriously undermine trust, we will respond to hold them accountable and ensure that negotiations continue,” Crowley said.

The peace processors have seen negotiations, summits, unilateral disengagement, and all the rest fail; it never matters, of course, because they’re always willing to go back into the laboratory and come up with a new formula of diplomacy and concessions and inducements and confidence-building measures and bridging proposals that will finally make it work.

The newest formula is contained in a statement that has become fashionable among peace processors, which goes something like this: “Everyone knows what a deal would look like. We just have to get the two sides to make the hard choices.” If you believe this, you probably also believe that the peace process, as it’s existed since the beginning of Oslo, has always had America in the wrong role — that of facilitator and cajoler, not as the father figure laying down the law with a shotgun on the table.

And if you’re Barack Obama, you’ve always dreamed of imposing terms on the Israelis (and to a lesser degree, the Palestinians). And now the problems you provoked give you the opportunity to do that which has always been lacking. For Obama, the proximity talks are a win, because they liberate the United States from the strictures of its previous approach. It’s true that proximity talks are a reversion to an era when Israelis and Palestinians weren’t even sitting at the same table. But Barack Obama wasn’t president back then.

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RE: Peace Process “Starts”?

Jen, in your perceptive post on the start of the “proximity talks” (which aren’t really talks and haven’t really started), you noted that the initial Mitchell-Netanyahu meeting produced the usual peace-process publicity: an announcement that the atmosphere was “good” and that the meeting was “productive.”

Asst. Secretary of State P.J. Crowley announced the “good and productive meeting” at yesterday’s daily press conference and then was unable to answer even rudimentary questions about it:

QUESTION: [Mitchell] met with Netanyahu today. What did they talk about? Are they any closer to — are you any closer to getting what you want out of the Israelis?

MR. CROWLEY: … I don’t have a particular readout from George Mitchell today, but we’re going to have multiple meetings on the Israeli side and multiple meetings on the Palestinian side. It’s hard to characterize after one of a series of meetings where we are.

QUESTION: Is it your view that the proximity talks have, in fact, now begun?

MR. CROWLEY: It is our view that George Mitchell is in the region. He is meeting with Israeli and Palestinian officials. … So at the end of these string of meetings, we’ll be in a position to characterize where we are. …

QUESTION: Just to go back, I mean, you’re saying you can’t characterize the meetings that Mitchell had with Netanyahu, but you did say that they were good and productive. I’m wondering what – on what basis you label them thus.

MR. CROWLEY: George Mitchell left the meeting and said they were good and productive.

Your post also raised the question of how this process will end, since no one expects it to succeed. Let me point to a straw in the wind — a different unanswered question in a different press conference.

At Tuesday’s White House press conference, Robert Gibbs was asked about last week’s Haaretz report that “senior Israeli officials” said President Obama had informed several European leaders that he will convene an international summit to create a Palestinian state if talks remain stalemated after four or five months:

QUESTION: … It was reported on Friday that President Obama had spoken to European leaders and told them that if talks between Israel and the Palestinians remain stalemated in September or October, he’ll convene an international summit on achieving Mideast peace. Can you confirm if — whether the President is going down that road?

MR. GIBBS: Let me check with NSC. I have not heard that, but I will check with them and see if they have anything on it.

It strains credulity that, four days after the Haaretz report, Gibbs had heard nothing about it and had no answer prepared. It is also obvious that he has access to a source within the White House who could definitively confirm or deny it. The professed lack of knowledge, together with the promise to check with a source not likely to “have anything” on it, seemed like an answer specifically designed to leave the possibility hanging.

Consider the Haaretz report confirmed, and watch the Palestinians adopt a negotiating position intended to create the necessary “stalemate.”

Jen, in your perceptive post on the start of the “proximity talks” (which aren’t really talks and haven’t really started), you noted that the initial Mitchell-Netanyahu meeting produced the usual peace-process publicity: an announcement that the atmosphere was “good” and that the meeting was “productive.”

Asst. Secretary of State P.J. Crowley announced the “good and productive meeting” at yesterday’s daily press conference and then was unable to answer even rudimentary questions about it:

QUESTION: [Mitchell] met with Netanyahu today. What did they talk about? Are they any closer to — are you any closer to getting what you want out of the Israelis?

MR. CROWLEY: … I don’t have a particular readout from George Mitchell today, but we’re going to have multiple meetings on the Israeli side and multiple meetings on the Palestinian side. It’s hard to characterize after one of a series of meetings where we are.

QUESTION: Is it your view that the proximity talks have, in fact, now begun?

MR. CROWLEY: It is our view that George Mitchell is in the region. He is meeting with Israeli and Palestinian officials. … So at the end of these string of meetings, we’ll be in a position to characterize where we are. …

QUESTION: Just to go back, I mean, you’re saying you can’t characterize the meetings that Mitchell had with Netanyahu, but you did say that they were good and productive. I’m wondering what – on what basis you label them thus.

MR. CROWLEY: George Mitchell left the meeting and said they were good and productive.

Your post also raised the question of how this process will end, since no one expects it to succeed. Let me point to a straw in the wind — a different unanswered question in a different press conference.

At Tuesday’s White House press conference, Robert Gibbs was asked about last week’s Haaretz report that “senior Israeli officials” said President Obama had informed several European leaders that he will convene an international summit to create a Palestinian state if talks remain stalemated after four or five months:

QUESTION: … It was reported on Friday that President Obama had spoken to European leaders and told them that if talks between Israel and the Palestinians remain stalemated in September or October, he’ll convene an international summit on achieving Mideast peace. Can you confirm if — whether the President is going down that road?

MR. GIBBS: Let me check with NSC. I have not heard that, but I will check with them and see if they have anything on it.

It strains credulity that, four days after the Haaretz report, Gibbs had heard nothing about it and had no answer prepared. It is also obvious that he has access to a source within the White House who could definitively confirm or deny it. The professed lack of knowledge, together with the promise to check with a source not likely to “have anything” on it, seemed like an answer specifically designed to leave the possibility hanging.

Consider the Haaretz report confirmed, and watch the Palestinians adopt a negotiating position intended to create the necessary “stalemate.”

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Peace Process “Starts”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Iran Tests Obama — Again

A sharp-eyed reader calls my attention to this report over the weekend:

The Obama administration renewed calls Friday for Iran to immediately release three American hikers detained for nearly nine months and appealed to the Iranian government to issue their families visas to visit them.

A day after the families said two of the three are in poor health, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said there was no reason for their continued detention. He spoke after receiving a report from Swiss diplomats who were allowed to visit the trio in Tehran’s Evin prison Thursday.

The administration puts out a meek statement, pleading for the Americans’ release:

“While we welcome this news, we continue to call for their release,” Crowley said. “We are aware of the families’ concerns about their children’s physical and emotional state of health.” He said the families should be given visas.

“These three Americans have been in detention for almost nine months without formal charges or access to legal representation,” he said. “They should be released without further delay.”

Well, we certainly know the mullahs see no downside to holding Americans. No serious consequences will be forthcoming and they might even get a diplomatic pat on the back if they let them go before they perish in Evin. They have learned from this president that whether it is violations of existing UN sanctions, missed deadlines in nuclear talks, aggression by their junior partner Bashar Assad, or grabbing Americans, the administration never lowers the boom.

If you have the sense you’ve seen this before — a radical Iranian regime kidnapping Americans to demonstrate the impotence of a naive American president — you’re right. But now, with the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran, the stakes are much higher.

A sharp-eyed reader calls my attention to this report over the weekend:

The Obama administration renewed calls Friday for Iran to immediately release three American hikers detained for nearly nine months and appealed to the Iranian government to issue their families visas to visit them.

A day after the families said two of the three are in poor health, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said there was no reason for their continued detention. He spoke after receiving a report from Swiss diplomats who were allowed to visit the trio in Tehran’s Evin prison Thursday.

The administration puts out a meek statement, pleading for the Americans’ release:

“While we welcome this news, we continue to call for their release,” Crowley said. “We are aware of the families’ concerns about their children’s physical and emotional state of health.” He said the families should be given visas.

“These three Americans have been in detention for almost nine months without formal charges or access to legal representation,” he said. “They should be released without further delay.”

Well, we certainly know the mullahs see no downside to holding Americans. No serious consequences will be forthcoming and they might even get a diplomatic pat on the back if they let them go before they perish in Evin. They have learned from this president that whether it is violations of existing UN sanctions, missed deadlines in nuclear talks, aggression by their junior partner Bashar Assad, or grabbing Americans, the administration never lowers the boom.

If you have the sense you’ve seen this before — a radical Iranian regime kidnapping Americans to demonstrate the impotence of a naive American president — you’re right. But now, with the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran, the stakes are much higher.

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Peace Plan No. 6

Asked about the Washington Post story in which it was reported that the administration is considering its own Middle East peace plan, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley issued a non-denial/denial yesterday, in which the operative words were “at this point”:

I would steer you away from the idea that we are — we’re going to try to, at this point, impose a particular view on the parties … our focus right now is getting them into the proximity talks, into negotiations, and then we’ll see what happens after that. [Emphasis added]

The “peace process” has not suffered from an insufficient number of plans. In the past decade, we have had five of them: (1) the Israeli two-state plan presented at Camp David in July 2000 — rejected by the Palestinians; (2) the Clinton Parameters presented in December 2000 — rejected by the Palestinians; (3) the 2003 Roadmap, calling for the dismantlement of Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups as Phase I — ignored by the Palestinians; (4) the 2005 Gaza disengagement, giving the Palestinians a Judenrein Gaza to start their state — which produced a rocket war on Israeli civilians; and (5) the 2007-08 Annapolis Process, a plan for year-long final-status negotiations resulting in still another Israeli offer of a state — rejected by the Palestinians.

Even a casual observer can spot the problem here, and it is not the absence of a plan.

The Gaza disengagement was the result of a deal in which Israel withdrew every soldier and settler from Gaza (and dismantled four settlements in the West Bank to demonstrate it would be Gaza first, not Gaza last) in exchange for explicit American promises about the future of the peace process. The first of those promises was that the U.S. would neither impose its own plan nor allow others to do so.

The U.S. letter memorializing the deal assured Israel that the U.S. would do its utmost to “prevent any attempt by anyone to impose any other plan” than the Roadmap (emphasis added). Sharon was concerned that Israel might eventually be pressured to accept something like the Geneva Accord (then being touted by Jimmy Carter), pushing Israel back to the indefensible 1967 borders. The second promise was a reiteration of the “steadfast commitment” by the U.S. to “defensible borders” for Israel.

The coming U.S. plan will violate both of those promises, and the prospect of such a plan will eliminate any incentive for the Palestinians to do anything other than wait for it — secure in the knowledge that the current U.S. administration does not feel bound by any prior commitments to Israel.

Asked about the Washington Post story in which it was reported that the administration is considering its own Middle East peace plan, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley issued a non-denial/denial yesterday, in which the operative words were “at this point”:

I would steer you away from the idea that we are — we’re going to try to, at this point, impose a particular view on the parties … our focus right now is getting them into the proximity talks, into negotiations, and then we’ll see what happens after that. [Emphasis added]

The “peace process” has not suffered from an insufficient number of plans. In the past decade, we have had five of them: (1) the Israeli two-state plan presented at Camp David in July 2000 — rejected by the Palestinians; (2) the Clinton Parameters presented in December 2000 — rejected by the Palestinians; (3) the 2003 Roadmap, calling for the dismantlement of Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups as Phase I — ignored by the Palestinians; (4) the 2005 Gaza disengagement, giving the Palestinians a Judenrein Gaza to start their state — which produced a rocket war on Israeli civilians; and (5) the 2007-08 Annapolis Process, a plan for year-long final-status negotiations resulting in still another Israeli offer of a state — rejected by the Palestinians.

Even a casual observer can spot the problem here, and it is not the absence of a plan.

The Gaza disengagement was the result of a deal in which Israel withdrew every soldier and settler from Gaza (and dismantled four settlements in the West Bank to demonstrate it would be Gaza first, not Gaza last) in exchange for explicit American promises about the future of the peace process. The first of those promises was that the U.S. would neither impose its own plan nor allow others to do so.

The U.S. letter memorializing the deal assured Israel that the U.S. would do its utmost to “prevent any attempt by anyone to impose any other plan” than the Roadmap (emphasis added). Sharon was concerned that Israel might eventually be pressured to accept something like the Geneva Accord (then being touted by Jimmy Carter), pushing Israel back to the indefensible 1967 borders. The second promise was a reiteration of the “steadfast commitment” by the U.S. to “defensible borders” for Israel.

The coming U.S. plan will violate both of those promises, and the prospect of such a plan will eliminate any incentive for the Palestinians to do anything other than wait for it — secure in the knowledge that the current U.S. administration does not feel bound by any prior commitments to Israel.

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RE: No Condemnation Forthcoming

Well, we called that one. The State Department did not “condemn” the brutality of the Egyptian police or the detention of demonstrators (who were subsequently released). As this report explains, all that came was a gentle prod, an ever-so-diplomatic nudge, from Foggy Bottom:

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the United States was “deeply concerned” about the arrests and called on the Egyptian government to uphold the rights of its people “to express their political views peacefully.”

“The people of Egypt should be able to participate in the political process and ultimately determine who will run and win Egypt’s upcoming elections,” Crowley told reporters Wednesday.

Even Human Rights Watch, which usually reserves its fire for Israel, did considerably better than that:

At the demonstration, which called for an end to Egypt’s restrictive “emergency laws,” Human Rights Watch staff witnessed security officials beating and arresting the protesters, including two women. The state of emergency, which allows the authorities to restrict basic rights, has been continuously in effect for 29 years.

“The Egyptian authorities respond with lawless brutality to protesters peacefully demanding restoration of their human rights,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Let today’s beating and arrests of demonstrators remind countries that finance and arm the Egyptian government what their ally is really all about.” …

During the review of Egypt’s record by the UN Human Rights Council in February, Egypt once again promised to end the state of emergency, a commitment first made by President Mubarak in 2005. … “Egypt keeps promising to end the emergency law, but year after year, it’s one broken promise after another,” Whitson said.

The contrast between the namby-pamby response to Egyptian human rights abuses and the conniption displayed when a midlevel Israeli bureaucrat stamped a housing permit vividly encapsulates the Obama Middle East approach. Kid gloves and averted eyes for the Muslims; bullying for the Jewish state. It’s “change” certainly.

Well, we called that one. The State Department did not “condemn” the brutality of the Egyptian police or the detention of demonstrators (who were subsequently released). As this report explains, all that came was a gentle prod, an ever-so-diplomatic nudge, from Foggy Bottom:

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the United States was “deeply concerned” about the arrests and called on the Egyptian government to uphold the rights of its people “to express their political views peacefully.”

“The people of Egypt should be able to participate in the political process and ultimately determine who will run and win Egypt’s upcoming elections,” Crowley told reporters Wednesday.

Even Human Rights Watch, which usually reserves its fire for Israel, did considerably better than that:

At the demonstration, which called for an end to Egypt’s restrictive “emergency laws,” Human Rights Watch staff witnessed security officials beating and arresting the protesters, including two women. The state of emergency, which allows the authorities to restrict basic rights, has been continuously in effect for 29 years.

“The Egyptian authorities respond with lawless brutality to protesters peacefully demanding restoration of their human rights,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Let today’s beating and arrests of demonstrators remind countries that finance and arm the Egyptian government what their ally is really all about.” …

During the review of Egypt’s record by the UN Human Rights Council in February, Egypt once again promised to end the state of emergency, a commitment first made by President Mubarak in 2005. … “Egypt keeps promising to end the emergency law, but year after year, it’s one broken promise after another,” Whitson said.

The contrast between the namby-pamby response to Egyptian human rights abuses and the conniption displayed when a midlevel Israeli bureaucrat stamped a housing permit vividly encapsulates the Obama Middle East approach. Kid gloves and averted eyes for the Muslims; bullying for the Jewish state. It’s “change” certainly.

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