Commentary Magazine


Topic: Palestinian Islamic Jihad

No Good Alternative to Fatah in View

With today’s escalation of hostilities between Hamas and the Israel Defense Forces, this report by the New York Times has been overshadowed, naturally, by events. But it is also, in a way, complemented by them. The report discusses memos and talking points sent around by the Israeli government to its diplomatic missions around the world on the topic of the Palestinian Authority’s plans to ask for upgraded status at the United Nations.

Much of it is unremarkable. It notes that the Israeli government acknowledges that PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s plans violate the Oslo accords and constitute a unilateral breach of mutual agreements between the representative governments of Israel and the Palestinians. It also acknowledges that Israel has its own unilateral actions it can take if Abbas truly wants to go down this road. (I’ve written about “coordinated unilateralism” before; this isn’t quite what that is, but it would take a very similar form.) The Times mentions a particularly harsh memo, apparently written by staffers in Israel’s Foreign Ministry:

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With today’s escalation of hostilities between Hamas and the Israel Defense Forces, this report by the New York Times has been overshadowed, naturally, by events. But it is also, in a way, complemented by them. The report discusses memos and talking points sent around by the Israeli government to its diplomatic missions around the world on the topic of the Palestinian Authority’s plans to ask for upgraded status at the United Nations.

Much of it is unremarkable. It notes that the Israeli government acknowledges that PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s plans violate the Oslo accords and constitute a unilateral breach of mutual agreements between the representative governments of Israel and the Palestinians. It also acknowledges that Israel has its own unilateral actions it can take if Abbas truly wants to go down this road. (I’ve written about “coordinated unilateralism” before; this isn’t quite what that is, but it would take a very similar form.) The Times mentions a particularly harsh memo, apparently written by staffers in Israel’s Foreign Ministry:

A second document, an internal paper labeled “draft” and written by staff members of Israel’s hard-line foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, was more explicit. It described Mr. Abbas as an unpopular, weakened leader who had grown rich from leading a corrupt authority and was heading to the United Nations in a last-ditch effort to remain in power.

A recognition of Palestinian statehood by the United Nations, it stated, would leave Israel no alternative but to topple “the government of Abu Mazen,” referring to Mr. Abbas by his nickname. Any softer reaction would be interpreted as “raising a white flag,” it said.

Well, the first part is correct, but it doesn’t necessitate the second. This was the Palestinian response:

Mr. Shtayyeh, the Palestinian envoy, said he considered Israeli warnings about the collapse of the Palestinian Authority as “empty threats.”

“Israel has a vested interest in maintaining the status of the Palestinian Authority as it is today,” he said, noting that the Palestinian security forces helped to protect Israel.

It’s debatable how much PA forces “protect” Israel, certainly, but Shtayyeh has it about right. To understand why Israel should not want the Abbas government, and thus Fatah, toppled, it’s instructive to look back at a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper from the spring of 2008, The Struggle For Palestinian Hearts And Minds: Violence And Public Opinion In The Second Intifada. The authors studied the radicalization effects on Palestinians of various political affiliations, with special regard to violent events.

They found that violent episodes are far less likely to radicalize supporters of Fatah than supporters of Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad; that Israeli fatalities are much more likely to embolden Hamas supporters than supporters of Fatah; that Fatah remains the natural home for less extremist Palestinians; and that as support drains from Fatah, support drains from bilateral negotiations as the preferred method of dealing with Israel, as opposed to violence or unilateral steps.

Is Mahmoud Abbas a serious partner for peace? No, he is not. Has he done anything to change Palestinian attitudes toward recognizing Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state? No, he has not. But toppling Fatah would likely result in a more violent Palestinian leadership on the West Bank, with missiles aimed at the heart of Jerusalem and the country’s only large international airport.

Judging by today’s events, Israel probably does not want Hamas on two borders instead of one. When it comes to Palestinian leadership, we can modify what Churchill once said about democracy: Fatah is the worst choice to govern the Palestinians, except for all the others.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Senate candidate Dan Coats thinks Obama is getting ready for a containment strategy for Iran, and he doesn’t like it: “Coats said the ‘only option’ left to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons is the threat of military action. Coats said most Americans agree that Iran must not be allowed to have such weapons, even though Iranian leaders continue to press forward with their nuclear program. … ‘If it’s unacceptable, what are we going to do? … And now it seems we’re being asked to accept the unacceptable.’”

Democrats tried going after the CIA again, determined to criminalize interrogation techniques: “If this Act becomes law (it may have already been killed in Congress at the time of this writing), it will surely cause confusion for interrogators who want to know where the line is, precisely, lest they be thrown in jail. This creates risk aversion among interrogators where none is warranted.”

Liz Cheney objected: “American intelligence officers do not deserve this kind of treatment from the government they honorably serve. Day in and day out, they protect our country and make difficult decisions–at times in matters of life and death. In return for their service the government rewards them with little pay and no acknowledgement of their heroic actions. Democrats in Congress now want to threaten them with criminal prosecutions and deprive them of valuable tactics that protect America.”

And Democrats pulled the bill.

Larry Sabato (h/t Jim Geraghty): “The Crystal Ball moves five Democratic seats from a “safe” rating onto our list of competitive races: KY-6 (Ben Chandler), MA-10 (Bill Delahunt), OH-13 (Betty Sutton), SC-5 (John Spratt), and VA-9 (Rick Boucher). In addition, two already competitive races for Democrats look even worse than before—IA-3 (Leonard Boswell) and IN-8 (OPEN, Brad Ellsworth)—and two Republican incumbents have improved their reelection prospects—AL-3 (Mike Rogers) and CA-44 (Ken Calvert).”

The Orthodox Union is upset with the Obama administration for criticizing the Heritage Plan, under which Israel will invest $100 million in rehabilitating historic and religious sites throughout Israel. Netanyahu included among the sites the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem. Palestinians objected, and then the State Department chimed in and called the inclusion of such sites “provocative.” The OU responded: “It is not ‘provocative’ to invest in and rehabilitate holy/historic sites — that are open to both Jews and Muslims. Nothing PM Netanyahu has proposed precludes a peace agreement. It is provocative for the Palestinians to assert that there is no Jewish connection to these sites and for them to use this as yet another false basis for refusal to engage in peace negotiations.”

Peter Kirsanow of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights: “In equating high-risk pools to racial segregation, Senator Harkin not only betrays his ignorance of history and his tone-deafness, but a disconcerting obliviousness to the contents of the Democrats’ own health-care plan. In fact, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has sent two letters to Congress and the president detailing the various discriminatory provisions in the Democrats’ health-care plan. It’s often said that the party who first invokes Hitler has lost the argument. In this case, the party who first invoked racial discrimination has lost perspective, if not his senses.”

Part of Obama’s problem: “At the very same hour as Obama is talking about his beloved healthcare plan, out come surprising new federal numbers showing that last week new J-O-B-L-E-S-S claims unexpectedly went up — as in more of them — to nearly a half-million, 22,000 more than the previous week. And nearly 8% higher than the expected 460,000 new claims.”

Politico on Tom Campbell’s Sami Al-Arian problem: “A bespectacled former college professor who has pleaded guilty to aiding the group Palestinian Islamic Jihad helped tip the balance in a 2004 Senate contest in Florida. Now, six years later, Sami Al-Arian could be on the verge of doing it again, this time in California. Republican Senate hopeful Tom Campbell, a former congressman, has come under sustained attack on conservative websites and from his rivals in recent days for taking a campaign donation from Al-Arian in 2000, for backing legislation Al-Arian was lobbying for at the time and for allegedly being a less-than-steadfast supporter of Israel.”

JTA is into it too, noting how inappropriate it is for Campbell to use a selective quote from a letter of the late and very great friend of Israel Tom Lantos: “Using Lantos’ letter to bolster Campbell’s case is really icky.”

Senate candidate Dan Coats thinks Obama is getting ready for a containment strategy for Iran, and he doesn’t like it: “Coats said the ‘only option’ left to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons is the threat of military action. Coats said most Americans agree that Iran must not be allowed to have such weapons, even though Iranian leaders continue to press forward with their nuclear program. … ‘If it’s unacceptable, what are we going to do? … And now it seems we’re being asked to accept the unacceptable.’”

Democrats tried going after the CIA again, determined to criminalize interrogation techniques: “If this Act becomes law (it may have already been killed in Congress at the time of this writing), it will surely cause confusion for interrogators who want to know where the line is, precisely, lest they be thrown in jail. This creates risk aversion among interrogators where none is warranted.”

Liz Cheney objected: “American intelligence officers do not deserve this kind of treatment from the government they honorably serve. Day in and day out, they protect our country and make difficult decisions–at times in matters of life and death. In return for their service the government rewards them with little pay and no acknowledgement of their heroic actions. Democrats in Congress now want to threaten them with criminal prosecutions and deprive them of valuable tactics that protect America.”

And Democrats pulled the bill.

Larry Sabato (h/t Jim Geraghty): “The Crystal Ball moves five Democratic seats from a “safe” rating onto our list of competitive races: KY-6 (Ben Chandler), MA-10 (Bill Delahunt), OH-13 (Betty Sutton), SC-5 (John Spratt), and VA-9 (Rick Boucher). In addition, two already competitive races for Democrats look even worse than before—IA-3 (Leonard Boswell) and IN-8 (OPEN, Brad Ellsworth)—and two Republican incumbents have improved their reelection prospects—AL-3 (Mike Rogers) and CA-44 (Ken Calvert).”

The Orthodox Union is upset with the Obama administration for criticizing the Heritage Plan, under which Israel will invest $100 million in rehabilitating historic and religious sites throughout Israel. Netanyahu included among the sites the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem. Palestinians objected, and then the State Department chimed in and called the inclusion of such sites “provocative.” The OU responded: “It is not ‘provocative’ to invest in and rehabilitate holy/historic sites — that are open to both Jews and Muslims. Nothing PM Netanyahu has proposed precludes a peace agreement. It is provocative for the Palestinians to assert that there is no Jewish connection to these sites and for them to use this as yet another false basis for refusal to engage in peace negotiations.”

Peter Kirsanow of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights: “In equating high-risk pools to racial segregation, Senator Harkin not only betrays his ignorance of history and his tone-deafness, but a disconcerting obliviousness to the contents of the Democrats’ own health-care plan. In fact, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has sent two letters to Congress and the president detailing the various discriminatory provisions in the Democrats’ health-care plan. It’s often said that the party who first invokes Hitler has lost the argument. In this case, the party who first invoked racial discrimination has lost perspective, if not his senses.”

Part of Obama’s problem: “At the very same hour as Obama is talking about his beloved healthcare plan, out come surprising new federal numbers showing that last week new J-O-B-L-E-S-S claims unexpectedly went up — as in more of them — to nearly a half-million, 22,000 more than the previous week. And nearly 8% higher than the expected 460,000 new claims.”

Politico on Tom Campbell’s Sami Al-Arian problem: “A bespectacled former college professor who has pleaded guilty to aiding the group Palestinian Islamic Jihad helped tip the balance in a 2004 Senate contest in Florida. Now, six years later, Sami Al-Arian could be on the verge of doing it again, this time in California. Republican Senate hopeful Tom Campbell, a former congressman, has come under sustained attack on conservative websites and from his rivals in recent days for taking a campaign donation from Al-Arian in 2000, for backing legislation Al-Arian was lobbying for at the time and for allegedly being a less-than-steadfast supporter of Israel.”

JTA is into it too, noting how inappropriate it is for Campbell to use a selective quote from a letter of the late and very great friend of Israel Tom Lantos: “Using Lantos’ letter to bolster Campbell’s case is really icky.”

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Another Jab at Campbell

Chuck DeVore, the other contender in the California Senate race, has joined Carly Fiorina in taking a swing at Tom Campbell. In an e-mail to California media, his spokesman writes:

As you know, President Obama’s proposed envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conferemce, Rashad Hussain, is under fire for having misled the public about his past statements. Among them is his defense of Sami Al-Arian, convicted conspirator for the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad, as a victim of “politically motivated persecutions.”

This is a timely issue for those of us in the California Senate race, as one of the contenders for the Republican nomination also has a history with Sami Al-Arian — having received his support, written letters in his defense, and even visited his brother-in-law (also a Palestinian Islamic Jihad figure) in prison. That contender is Tom Campbell.

Campbell now professes to be a great supporter of Israel and to favor stringent sanctions against Iran. Fair enough, but his opponents have raised serious questions about his past record. It stands out among mainstream Republicans, both in his voting record opposing aid to Israel and in his cozy relationship with CAIR. California voters will have to decide whether they believe his current campaign rhetoric or whether his past record is a more telling reflection of his actual views. One thing is certain: the Democrats will use each and every vote of Campbell’s and each and every campaign donation and association with Muslim fundamentalists as fodder in the general election, should Campbell be the nominee.

Chuck DeVore, the other contender in the California Senate race, has joined Carly Fiorina in taking a swing at Tom Campbell. In an e-mail to California media, his spokesman writes:

As you know, President Obama’s proposed envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conferemce, Rashad Hussain, is under fire for having misled the public about his past statements. Among them is his defense of Sami Al-Arian, convicted conspirator for the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad, as a victim of “politically motivated persecutions.”

This is a timely issue for those of us in the California Senate race, as one of the contenders for the Republican nomination also has a history with Sami Al-Arian — having received his support, written letters in his defense, and even visited his brother-in-law (also a Palestinian Islamic Jihad figure) in prison. That contender is Tom Campbell.

Campbell now professes to be a great supporter of Israel and to favor stringent sanctions against Iran. Fair enough, but his opponents have raised serious questions about his past record. It stands out among mainstream Republicans, both in his voting record opposing aid to Israel and in his cozy relationship with CAIR. California voters will have to decide whether they believe his current campaign rhetoric or whether his past record is a more telling reflection of his actual views. One thing is certain: the Democrats will use each and every vote of Campbell’s and each and every campaign donation and association with Muslim fundamentalists as fodder in the general election, should Campbell be the nominee.

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Muslim Envoy Lied: He Did Vouch for Terrorist

When last we left the tale of Rashad Hussain, Obama’s envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, he had denied vouching for a convicted terrorist. Yesterday was Friday, the official news dump day, so of course that’s when the confession came. He really did. Jake Tapper reports:

Presented with a transcript of his remarks at a 2004 conference, Rashad Hussain, President Obama’s nominee to be special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, issued a statement Friday evening acknowledging having criticized the U.S. government’s case against Sami Al-Arian, who pleaded guilty in 2006 to conspiracy to aid Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Originally, the White House claimed that Hussain denied having made the comments, attributing them instead to Al-Arian’s daughter, Laila. But Politico’s Josh Gerstein obtained an audiotape of the remarks, in which Hussain said that Al-Arian’s case was one of many “politically motivated persecutions.”

But it gets worse. You see, he tried to cover his tracks:

Hussain, currently in the White House counsel’s office, said, “I made statements on that panel that I now recognize were ill-conceived or not well-formulated.” The controversy was all the more confusing because the remarks were reported in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs in 2004, but the editor, Delinda Hanley,  later removed the comments from the Web site, though she didn’t recall why. The then-intern who reported Hussain’s comments, Shereen Kandil, who currently also works for the Obama administration, stood by the remarks. Now we know at least part of the story as to why the comments were removed: Hussain called the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs to protest.

So let’s get this straight. The president’s choice to represent us to the OIC complained that a convicted terrorist was the victim of political persecution. That sounds a lot like what you’d hear from CAIR. But that makes sense because Hussain goes to CAIR training events. Then he lies about his comment and tries to conceal the evidence. Is he still the president’s choice? Hmm. It’s not an auspicious debut, to put it mildly.

But it is revealing of the sort of characters whom Obama thinks fit to conduct “outreach” to the “Muslim World” — those that will confirm the victimization mindset, which is at the root of much of what prevents peace from being processed as well as real economic and political reform from being advanced in many of the member nations of the OIC.

Perhaps we instead should find someone who can deliver this sort of message to the “Muslim World”:

“When the Palestinian leadership visits and honors families of those who have murdered innocent Israeli civilians, or when produce is destroyed rather than used only because it originates from the West Bank, that sets back our confidence of peace. . . . The Israeli prime minister is clear about Israel’s needs to be recognized as a Jewish state. Yet, not only do the Palestinians refuse to acknowledge Israel’s Jewish nature, but clearly state, in Article 19 of the Fatah constitution, that there must be an armed struggle with the Zionist entity.”

No, I don’t think Alan Solow wants the job. But that message, as opposed to the suck-uppery of a dishonest envoy, is precisely what we — and the “Muslim World” – need. And in the meantime, unless the Obami want to once again be on the side of an indefensible appointee, they should dump the candor-challenged Hussain.

When last we left the tale of Rashad Hussain, Obama’s envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, he had denied vouching for a convicted terrorist. Yesterday was Friday, the official news dump day, so of course that’s when the confession came. He really did. Jake Tapper reports:

Presented with a transcript of his remarks at a 2004 conference, Rashad Hussain, President Obama’s nominee to be special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, issued a statement Friday evening acknowledging having criticized the U.S. government’s case against Sami Al-Arian, who pleaded guilty in 2006 to conspiracy to aid Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Originally, the White House claimed that Hussain denied having made the comments, attributing them instead to Al-Arian’s daughter, Laila. But Politico’s Josh Gerstein obtained an audiotape of the remarks, in which Hussain said that Al-Arian’s case was one of many “politically motivated persecutions.”

But it gets worse. You see, he tried to cover his tracks:

Hussain, currently in the White House counsel’s office, said, “I made statements on that panel that I now recognize were ill-conceived or not well-formulated.” The controversy was all the more confusing because the remarks were reported in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs in 2004, but the editor, Delinda Hanley,  later removed the comments from the Web site, though she didn’t recall why. The then-intern who reported Hussain’s comments, Shereen Kandil, who currently also works for the Obama administration, stood by the remarks. Now we know at least part of the story as to why the comments were removed: Hussain called the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs to protest.

So let’s get this straight. The president’s choice to represent us to the OIC complained that a convicted terrorist was the victim of political persecution. That sounds a lot like what you’d hear from CAIR. But that makes sense because Hussain goes to CAIR training events. Then he lies about his comment and tries to conceal the evidence. Is he still the president’s choice? Hmm. It’s not an auspicious debut, to put it mildly.

But it is revealing of the sort of characters whom Obama thinks fit to conduct “outreach” to the “Muslim World” — those that will confirm the victimization mindset, which is at the root of much of what prevents peace from being processed as well as real economic and political reform from being advanced in many of the member nations of the OIC.

Perhaps we instead should find someone who can deliver this sort of message to the “Muslim World”:

“When the Palestinian leadership visits and honors families of those who have murdered innocent Israeli civilians, or when produce is destroyed rather than used only because it originates from the West Bank, that sets back our confidence of peace. . . . The Israeli prime minister is clear about Israel’s needs to be recognized as a Jewish state. Yet, not only do the Palestinians refuse to acknowledge Israel’s Jewish nature, but clearly state, in Article 19 of the Fatah constitution, that there must be an armed struggle with the Zionist entity.”

No, I don’t think Alan Solow wants the job. But that message, as opposed to the suck-uppery of a dishonest envoy, is precisely what we — and the “Muslim World” – need. And in the meantime, unless the Obami want to once again be on the side of an indefensible appointee, they should dump the candor-challenged Hussain.

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Tom Campbell and Sami Al-Arian

Phil Klein did some further digging to confirm that, indeed, then Rep. Tom Campbell received $1,300 in campaign donations from Sami Al-Arian, who later “pleaded guilty to conspiring to help associates of the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad.” Phil observed that when the donations were made, “Al-Arian was already under investigation by the government in 2000 and his publicly radical views were known.”

Campbell then responded and shockingly revealed “not only that Al-Arian donated money to his campaign, but that he visited Al-Arian’s brother-in-law (himself associated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad) in prison.” And if that were not enough, he confirms “that when Al-Arian was fired from the University of South Florida (after controversy generated by a Bill O’Reilly report on Al-Arian’s terrorist ties), he sent a letter to the school protesting the action.”

At least we know where Campbell stands on these issues and for whom he chooses to go to bat. Campbell’s opponents have yet to comment on any of this, but if Campbell should make it through the primary, one thing is certain: Sen. Barbara Boxer will certainly beat him over the head with this.

Phil Klein did some further digging to confirm that, indeed, then Rep. Tom Campbell received $1,300 in campaign donations from Sami Al-Arian, who later “pleaded guilty to conspiring to help associates of the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad.” Phil observed that when the donations were made, “Al-Arian was already under investigation by the government in 2000 and his publicly radical views were known.”

Campbell then responded and shockingly revealed “not only that Al-Arian donated money to his campaign, but that he visited Al-Arian’s brother-in-law (himself associated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad) in prison.” And if that were not enough, he confirms “that when Al-Arian was fired from the University of South Florida (after controversy generated by a Bill O’Reilly report on Al-Arian’s terrorist ties), he sent a letter to the school protesting the action.”

At least we know where Campbell stands on these issues and for whom he chooses to go to bat. Campbell’s opponents have yet to comment on any of this, but if Campbell should make it through the primary, one thing is certain: Sen. Barbara Boxer will certainly beat him over the head with this.

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Obama Envoy Vouched for Convicted Terrorist?

Fox News – doing what the Obama-approved outlets won’t — takes a look at the newest Obama envoy. The report tells us:

President Obama’s new envoy to the Organization of Islamic Conference, Rashad Hussain, is at the center of a controversy over remarks attributed to him defending a man who later pleaded guilty to conspiring to aid a terrorist group.

The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs quoted Hussain in 2004 as calling Sami al-Arian the victim of “politically motivated persecutions” after al-Arian, a university professor, was charged in 2003 with heading U.S. operations of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The United States has designated the Palestinian Islamic Jihad as a foreign terrorist group as far back as 1997. At the time of al-Arian’s arrest, then Attorney General John Ashcroft called it “one of the most violent terrorist organizations in the world.”

Al-Arian pleaded guilty in 2006 to conspiracy to aid Palestinian Islamic Jihad and was sentenced to more than four years in prison.

The White House says the controversial remarks defending al-Arian two years earlier were made by his daughter — not by Hussain. Both were part of a panel discussion at a Muslim Students Association conference, but the reporter covering the event told Fox News she stands by the quotes she attributed to Hussain, who was a Yale Law student and an editor of the Yale Law Journal.

Well, this seems like it’s worth looking into. A helpful profile on Al-Arian is here.

And while we’re at that, perhaps it’s worth asking what Hussain’s job description really is. Is he charged with raising issues like human rights and democracy with the “Muslim World”? After all, Hillary Clinton assured us that “at the State Department, though, every week is Human Rights Week.” So I would expect that would top his agenda — honor killings, women’s rights, and such. There’s plenty of work to do in the nations to which he is assigned.

But let’s not be coy here. Hussain is the designated man to continue the suck-uppery to the “Muslim World,” which Obama was personally conducting in Cairo and via his televised addressed to the Iranian Supreme Leader at the start of his presidency. The task here is not so much to engage the “Muslim World” on issues we care about — denying Israel’s right to exist, state sponsorship of terrorism, and human rights atrocities — as to deliver the message the “Muslim World” wants to hear, namely that misunderstanding, American insensitivity, and of course Guantanamo are the causes of much of the problems in our relationship.

So here’s an idea: investigate what Hussain said and whether he is fit to play any role in the administration. And then abolish the post. It’s likely to be unhelpful and counterproductive, regardless of the assigned envoy. And really, do we assign envoys to the Christian World? Or the Hindu World? We have envoys and officials galore in this administration designated to conduct diplomacy with every country in the world. We have a secretary of state and a president (not effective ones, but still). Let them do their jobs and send Hussain packing.

Fox News – doing what the Obama-approved outlets won’t — takes a look at the newest Obama envoy. The report tells us:

President Obama’s new envoy to the Organization of Islamic Conference, Rashad Hussain, is at the center of a controversy over remarks attributed to him defending a man who later pleaded guilty to conspiring to aid a terrorist group.

The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs quoted Hussain in 2004 as calling Sami al-Arian the victim of “politically motivated persecutions” after al-Arian, a university professor, was charged in 2003 with heading U.S. operations of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The United States has designated the Palestinian Islamic Jihad as a foreign terrorist group as far back as 1997. At the time of al-Arian’s arrest, then Attorney General John Ashcroft called it “one of the most violent terrorist organizations in the world.”

Al-Arian pleaded guilty in 2006 to conspiracy to aid Palestinian Islamic Jihad and was sentenced to more than four years in prison.

The White House says the controversial remarks defending al-Arian two years earlier were made by his daughter — not by Hussain. Both were part of a panel discussion at a Muslim Students Association conference, but the reporter covering the event told Fox News she stands by the quotes she attributed to Hussain, who was a Yale Law student and an editor of the Yale Law Journal.

Well, this seems like it’s worth looking into. A helpful profile on Al-Arian is here.

And while we’re at that, perhaps it’s worth asking what Hussain’s job description really is. Is he charged with raising issues like human rights and democracy with the “Muslim World”? After all, Hillary Clinton assured us that “at the State Department, though, every week is Human Rights Week.” So I would expect that would top his agenda — honor killings, women’s rights, and such. There’s plenty of work to do in the nations to which he is assigned.

But let’s not be coy here. Hussain is the designated man to continue the suck-uppery to the “Muslim World,” which Obama was personally conducting in Cairo and via his televised addressed to the Iranian Supreme Leader at the start of his presidency. The task here is not so much to engage the “Muslim World” on issues we care about — denying Israel’s right to exist, state sponsorship of terrorism, and human rights atrocities — as to deliver the message the “Muslim World” wants to hear, namely that misunderstanding, American insensitivity, and of course Guantanamo are the causes of much of the problems in our relationship.

So here’s an idea: investigate what Hussain said and whether he is fit to play any role in the administration. And then abolish the post. It’s likely to be unhelpful and counterproductive, regardless of the assigned envoy. And really, do we assign envoys to the Christian World? Or the Hindu World? We have envoys and officials galore in this administration designated to conduct diplomacy with every country in the world. We have a secretary of state and a president (not effective ones, but still). Let them do their jobs and send Hussain packing.

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Islamic Jihad: We Refused Carter’s Request for a Meeting

Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) has announced that its leadership has refused former U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s request for a meeting. According to PIJ’s QudsNews website, Egyptian authorities contacted PIJ Secretary-General Dr. Ramadan Shallah on Carter’s behalf earlier this week, inviting Shallah to meet with Carter in Cairo. Shallah is listed on the FBI’s list of Most Wanted Terrorists, and the reward for information leading to his apprehension is $5 million. In turning down the request, Shallah declared that Carter is “carrying an American-Israeli agenda,” while PIJ spokesman Daoud Shahab blasted Carter’s criticism of Palestinian rocket attacks during the former president’s visit to Sderot. E-mails and phone calls to the Carter Center press office seeking confirmation of Carter’s outreach to PIJ have not been returned.

This news should finally shatter Carter’s credibility as a peacemaker. Of course, Carter’s decision to meet Hamas leader Khalid Meshal had already sullied his Nobel reputation, with his posse of former laureates canceling their plans to visit the Middle East with him in response. Earlier today, Carter’s credibility sank even further, when CNN reported that Mahmoud al-Zahar and Said Seyam-two of Hamas’ most radical leaders-would convene with Carter in Cairo.

Yet Carter’s attempt to meet with PIJ is his most disturbing gambit to date. After all, PIJ is generally considered even more extreme than Hamas. While PIJ shares many of Hamas’ militant features–including its coordination of terrorist activities, calls for Israel’s destruction, and theocratic aims–PIJ lacks Hamas’ social and political significance. It does not have the social welfare network on which Hamas has built its popularity, while PIJ’s refusal to participate in the 2006 parliamentary elections points to its minimal public authority among Palestinians. Carter is therefore unable to argue that PIJ is somehow central to any Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which is the very argument he has used to defend his meetings with Hamas officials.

Ultimately, one is left to wonder when Carter’s constant efforts to outdo his own moral stupidity will end.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) has announced that its leadership has refused former U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s request for a meeting. According to PIJ’s QudsNews website, Egyptian authorities contacted PIJ Secretary-General Dr. Ramadan Shallah on Carter’s behalf earlier this week, inviting Shallah to meet with Carter in Cairo. Shallah is listed on the FBI’s list of Most Wanted Terrorists, and the reward for information leading to his apprehension is $5 million. In turning down the request, Shallah declared that Carter is “carrying an American-Israeli agenda,” while PIJ spokesman Daoud Shahab blasted Carter’s criticism of Palestinian rocket attacks during the former president’s visit to Sderot. E-mails and phone calls to the Carter Center press office seeking confirmation of Carter’s outreach to PIJ have not been returned.

This news should finally shatter Carter’s credibility as a peacemaker. Of course, Carter’s decision to meet Hamas leader Khalid Meshal had already sullied his Nobel reputation, with his posse of former laureates canceling their plans to visit the Middle East with him in response. Earlier today, Carter’s credibility sank even further, when CNN reported that Mahmoud al-Zahar and Said Seyam-two of Hamas’ most radical leaders-would convene with Carter in Cairo.

Yet Carter’s attempt to meet with PIJ is his most disturbing gambit to date. After all, PIJ is generally considered even more extreme than Hamas. While PIJ shares many of Hamas’ militant features–including its coordination of terrorist activities, calls for Israel’s destruction, and theocratic aims–PIJ lacks Hamas’ social and political significance. It does not have the social welfare network on which Hamas has built its popularity, while PIJ’s refusal to participate in the 2006 parliamentary elections points to its minimal public authority among Palestinians. Carter is therefore unable to argue that PIJ is somehow central to any Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which is the very argument he has used to defend his meetings with Hamas officials.

Ultimately, one is left to wonder when Carter’s constant efforts to outdo his own moral stupidity will end.

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Olmert’s Contradictory Strategy

For the first time since Syria withdrew from Lebanon over three years ago, Arab states are in broad consensus that Damascus is still meddling in Lebanese politics.

Indeed, Lebanon has been without a president since November because Hezbollah–with Syria’s political backing–is demanding cabinet veto power in exchange for approving Gen. Michel Suleiman as president.  In response, Egypt and Syria threatened to boycott the upcoming Arab League conference in Damascus, while Gulf states withheld their decisions to attend the conference until Syrian President Bashar al-Assad formally invited Lebanon.  Still, only 12 of 22 Arab heads-of-state have announced that they will attend.  Of course, this unity against Syria’s involvement in Lebanon has profound implications for Hezbollah, which depends on Syria’s political support for domestic leverage.

If you were prime minister of Israel, you would probably see this as a good thing.  After all, in the aftermath of Imad Mughniyeh’s assassination, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah announced preparations for another war against Israel, further hinting that Hezbollah would target Israeli interests abroad.  Moreover, Hezbollah is a key conduit for delivering Iranian weapons to Hamas in Gaza. As Hezbollah’s al-Manar reported on Wednesday, Iran is attempting to transport anti-aircraft systems to Gaza that could hit Israeli airbases in the Negev.  If Syrian support is threatened, Hezbollah will have to redouble its domestic political efforts, potentially stalling its strategy against Israel.

Yet during a cabinet meeting earlier this week, Olmert called for opening negotiations with Syria–throwing the Assad regime a potential lifesaver as Arab consensus against Damascus developed.  Indeed, negotiating with Syria would undermine western attempts to hold Assad accountable for the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri–providing a significant boost to Hezbollah’s March 8th Alliance.  In short, at the very moment that Olmert should be most focused on weakening Hezbollah, he is advocating a policy that would do the opposite.

Apparently, Olmert believes that, through peace negotiations, Israel can induce Syria to abandon “its involvement in terrorism and extricate it from the axis of evil.”  However, yesterday’s events should convince him that this is a fantasy.  For starters, Palestinian Islamic Jihad–whose operatives often receive training in Syria–attacked an Israeli jeep operating along the Israeli-Gaza border, using a sophisticated device likely made in Iran.  At the same time, Assad received the Iranian first vice-president in Damascus, with the two sides agreeing to link the Syrian electricity network to Iran’s grid.

Make no mistake: these Iranian-Syrian links will not be broken any time soon.  Olmert should recognize this reality, and take advantage of the rare opportunities that Arab consensus against Damascus provides for weakening Hezbollah politically.

For the first time since Syria withdrew from Lebanon over three years ago, Arab states are in broad consensus that Damascus is still meddling in Lebanese politics.

Indeed, Lebanon has been without a president since November because Hezbollah–with Syria’s political backing–is demanding cabinet veto power in exchange for approving Gen. Michel Suleiman as president.  In response, Egypt and Syria threatened to boycott the upcoming Arab League conference in Damascus, while Gulf states withheld their decisions to attend the conference until Syrian President Bashar al-Assad formally invited Lebanon.  Still, only 12 of 22 Arab heads-of-state have announced that they will attend.  Of course, this unity against Syria’s involvement in Lebanon has profound implications for Hezbollah, which depends on Syria’s political support for domestic leverage.

If you were prime minister of Israel, you would probably see this as a good thing.  After all, in the aftermath of Imad Mughniyeh’s assassination, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah announced preparations for another war against Israel, further hinting that Hezbollah would target Israeli interests abroad.  Moreover, Hezbollah is a key conduit for delivering Iranian weapons to Hamas in Gaza. As Hezbollah’s al-Manar reported on Wednesday, Iran is attempting to transport anti-aircraft systems to Gaza that could hit Israeli airbases in the Negev.  If Syrian support is threatened, Hezbollah will have to redouble its domestic political efforts, potentially stalling its strategy against Israel.

Yet during a cabinet meeting earlier this week, Olmert called for opening negotiations with Syria–throwing the Assad regime a potential lifesaver as Arab consensus against Damascus developed.  Indeed, negotiating with Syria would undermine western attempts to hold Assad accountable for the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri–providing a significant boost to Hezbollah’s March 8th Alliance.  In short, at the very moment that Olmert should be most focused on weakening Hezbollah, he is advocating a policy that would do the opposite.

Apparently, Olmert believes that, through peace negotiations, Israel can induce Syria to abandon “its involvement in terrorism and extricate it from the axis of evil.”  However, yesterday’s events should convince him that this is a fantasy.  For starters, Palestinian Islamic Jihad–whose operatives often receive training in Syria–attacked an Israeli jeep operating along the Israeli-Gaza border, using a sophisticated device likely made in Iran.  At the same time, Assad received the Iranian first vice-president in Damascus, with the two sides agreeing to link the Syrian electricity network to Iran’s grid.

Make no mistake: these Iranian-Syrian links will not be broken any time soon.  Olmert should recognize this reality, and take advantage of the rare opportunities that Arab consensus against Damascus provides for weakening Hezbollah politically.

Read Less