Commentary Magazine


Topic: Security Council

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren Blasts J Street

It looks like the feud between Michael Oren and J Street has been re-opened after the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. took a shot at the organization during an interview with the Daily Caller. Oren seemed specifically annoyed over J Street’s e-mail-blast attack on Rep. Gary Ackerman last week:

“They claim they’re pro-Israel,” he said, providing a less than ringing endorsement of the George Soros-funded organization. “They are calling for Israel to be condemned in the Security Council for the settlements and they are condemning some of our best friends on the Hill. So they can call themselves what they like.”

The relationship between Oren and J Street has been rocky from the beginning. The ambassador turned down an invitation to speak at the group’s first conference in 2009, and he also referred to J Street’s views as dangerous to Israel’s security. But they appeared to mend relations last winter, based on a series of mutually fawning media interviews and private discussions. In February, Oren claimed that J Street had moved “much more into the mainstream” and said that “[t]he J Street controversy has come a long way toward resolving.” The ambassador even held a private meeting with J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami in April.

But Oren’s statement to the Daily Caller is a sure sign that J Street is on the outs with the embassy again.

Probably sensing this, J Street took a desperate measure this afternoon. You know things have hit rock bottom if Ben-Ami starts apologizing:

Too often, we descend to the level of those with whom we disagree and our campaigns and actions become too personal.

This happened last week with Congressman Gary Ackerman, when we reacted sharply to statements regarding J Street to which we objected. We may disagree with him over policy matters at times — but he and we share important larger goals for the United States, Israel and the Jewish people. Our discussions with him and with all those with whom we may disagree at times should be conducted with respect.

So allow me to apologize for the tone of our email on Friday.

Oren began mending his relationship with J Street after the group appeared to be gaining influence with members of Congress and Obama administration officials. But in less than a year, J Street has lost any political clout it once had, and the embassy doesn’t have much of a reason to work with it anymore.

It looks like the feud between Michael Oren and J Street has been re-opened after the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. took a shot at the organization during an interview with the Daily Caller. Oren seemed specifically annoyed over J Street’s e-mail-blast attack on Rep. Gary Ackerman last week:

“They claim they’re pro-Israel,” he said, providing a less than ringing endorsement of the George Soros-funded organization. “They are calling for Israel to be condemned in the Security Council for the settlements and they are condemning some of our best friends on the Hill. So they can call themselves what they like.”

The relationship between Oren and J Street has been rocky from the beginning. The ambassador turned down an invitation to speak at the group’s first conference in 2009, and he also referred to J Street’s views as dangerous to Israel’s security. But they appeared to mend relations last winter, based on a series of mutually fawning media interviews and private discussions. In February, Oren claimed that J Street had moved “much more into the mainstream” and said that “[t]he J Street controversy has come a long way toward resolving.” The ambassador even held a private meeting with J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami in April.

But Oren’s statement to the Daily Caller is a sure sign that J Street is on the outs with the embassy again.

Probably sensing this, J Street took a desperate measure this afternoon. You know things have hit rock bottom if Ben-Ami starts apologizing:

Too often, we descend to the level of those with whom we disagree and our campaigns and actions become too personal.

This happened last week with Congressman Gary Ackerman, when we reacted sharply to statements regarding J Street to which we objected. We may disagree with him over policy matters at times — but he and we share important larger goals for the United States, Israel and the Jewish people. Our discussions with him and with all those with whom we may disagree at times should be conducted with respect.

So allow me to apologize for the tone of our email on Friday.

Oren began mending his relationship with J Street after the group appeared to be gaining influence with members of Congress and Obama administration officials. But in less than a year, J Street has lost any political clout it once had, and the embassy doesn’t have much of a reason to work with it anymore.

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The Definition of ‘Anti-Israel’

Last week, Steve Clemons organized a contingent of foreign-policy officials and commentators to send a letter to President Obama urging the U.S. to support the anti-settlement resolution at the UN.

It included many prominent critics of the Israel — Peter Beinart, Chas Freeman, and Andrew Sullivan, to name just a few.

Based on their well-documented eagerness to condemn Israel whenever possible, the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin referred to the group as “Israel-bashers” – prompting an angry response from Clemons and setting off a debate about the meaning of “pro-Israel,” according to Ben Smith:

The group J Street has been waging, and mostly losing, a political fight with more hawkish allies of Israel over the meaning of the term “pro-Israel,” and today another Washington skirmish erupts on the topic. …

There are two fights underway at the moment: One is defining the politically acceptable space in Washington for debating Israel policy; the other is the push by Bill Kristol and his allies to identify support for Israel explicitly with the Republican Party. That latter effort, ironically, has some of the same goals of the former, which would like to see the Democratic Party soften its hard line.

I wholeheartedly disagree with Smith’s assessment. I highly doubt that any Israel supporters on the right want to turn support for Israel into a partisan issue, especially since pro-Israel views are widespread throughout both political parties. As we saw from the midterm elections, it’s politically suicidal for candidates to take anti-Israel stances — regardless of party affiliation — because those are positions that most of the public disagree with.

As for Clemons’s protestations at being called anti-Israel, I have several comments.

Being critical of settlement construction is not an inherently anti-Israel position. But the tone of the argument and the way it’s framed and presented is a good indicator of whether someone is a friend or foe of the Jewish state.

Calling on Israel to halt settlement construction within the framework of peace negotiations — like in a statement from the Quartet — is one thing. Overturning years of precedent by joining together with enemies of Israel, as they grandstand and demonize the Jewish state in an international public forum, is appalling and would be a disgraceful way to treat any ally. Read More

Last week, Steve Clemons organized a contingent of foreign-policy officials and commentators to send a letter to President Obama urging the U.S. to support the anti-settlement resolution at the UN.

It included many prominent critics of the Israel — Peter Beinart, Chas Freeman, and Andrew Sullivan, to name just a few.

Based on their well-documented eagerness to condemn Israel whenever possible, the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin referred to the group as “Israel-bashers” – prompting an angry response from Clemons and setting off a debate about the meaning of “pro-Israel,” according to Ben Smith:

The group J Street has been waging, and mostly losing, a political fight with more hawkish allies of Israel over the meaning of the term “pro-Israel,” and today another Washington skirmish erupts on the topic. …

There are two fights underway at the moment: One is defining the politically acceptable space in Washington for debating Israel policy; the other is the push by Bill Kristol and his allies to identify support for Israel explicitly with the Republican Party. That latter effort, ironically, has some of the same goals of the former, which would like to see the Democratic Party soften its hard line.

I wholeheartedly disagree with Smith’s assessment. I highly doubt that any Israel supporters on the right want to turn support for Israel into a partisan issue, especially since pro-Israel views are widespread throughout both political parties. As we saw from the midterm elections, it’s politically suicidal for candidates to take anti-Israel stances — regardless of party affiliation — because those are positions that most of the public disagree with.

As for Clemons’s protestations at being called anti-Israel, I have several comments.

Being critical of settlement construction is not an inherently anti-Israel position. But the tone of the argument and the way it’s framed and presented is a good indicator of whether someone is a friend or foe of the Jewish state.

Calling on Israel to halt settlement construction within the framework of peace negotiations — like in a statement from the Quartet — is one thing. Overturning years of precedent by joining together with enemies of Israel, as they grandstand and demonize the Jewish state in an international public forum, is appalling and would be a disgraceful way to treat any ally.

That’s the entire point of the resolution before the Security Council. It’s meant to single out and scapegoat Israel for the delays in the peace process. In reality, there are many obstructions to the negotiations — the biggest ones coming from the Palestinian side — and neither Clemons’s letter nor the Security Council resolution mentions any of them.

What else can that be called except bias?

If Clemons seriously wants to see the end of settlement-building, I can’t imagine a worse way to go about it than by supporting a UN resolution. Historically, more progress has been made on curbing settlement construction when the U.S. has lobbied Israel privately (e.g., the secret agreements under Sharon and Bush). And I fail to see how humiliating one of our closest and most loyal allies in front of the world will help bring about further progress on peace negotiations.

The UN resolution demonizes Israel, unfairly scapegoats Israel and undermines peace negotiations. If that’s not anti-Israel, then what is?

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Morning Commentary

Despite the beltway chatter about President Obama’s recent “moves to the center,” Charles Krauthammer points out that the “shift” was just for show. Far from embracing a more moderate course, the president has instead used administrative power to stealthily impose several unpopular left-wing policies: “Now as always, Obama’s heart lies left. For those fooled into thinking otherwise by the new Obama of Dec. 22, his administration’s defiantly liberal regulatory moves — on the environment, energy and health care — should disabuse even the most beguiled.”

The U.S. military’s recent crackdown on the Taliban in the Kunduz province of Afghanistan is paying dividends. Officials confirmed this morning that NATO forces took out the Taliban’s shadow governor of Kunduz, Mullah Mawlawi Bahadur, last night. But the Washington Examiner’s Sara Carter reports that the region has also seen a steady increase in insurgents over the past year.

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board looks back on the 111th Congress — and the assessment is not pretty: “The real story of 2010 is that the voters were finally able to see and judge this liberal agenda in its unvarnished form. For once, there was no Republican President to muddle the message or divide the accountability.”

At the New Republic, Eric Weinberger wonders whether academic freedom will be protected at Yale’s new college in Singapore. The idea seems unlikely given the trial of Alan Shadrake, a British journalist facing prison in that country for publishing an allegedly “defamatory” book about Singapore’s justice system.

M. Zuhdi Jasser throws his support behind Rep. Peter King’s plans to hold hearings on Islamic radicalization before the House Homeland Security Council next year: “Our national inability to discuss religious issues honestly is keeping American Muslims from having to accept the reforms needed to defeat political Islam and bring our faith into modernity. The victimization mantra feeds more Muslim isolation and radicalization.”

Secret papers released by the National Archives reveal how strained was the relationship between Margaret Thatcher and Menachem Begin, who clashed over Begin’s support of the settlements in the West Bank. According to the papers, “Margaret Thatcher believed that Menachem Begin was the ‘most difficult’ man she had to deal with in the early years of her premiership, and thought his West Bank policy ‘absurd.’”

Despite the beltway chatter about President Obama’s recent “moves to the center,” Charles Krauthammer points out that the “shift” was just for show. Far from embracing a more moderate course, the president has instead used administrative power to stealthily impose several unpopular left-wing policies: “Now as always, Obama’s heart lies left. For those fooled into thinking otherwise by the new Obama of Dec. 22, his administration’s defiantly liberal regulatory moves — on the environment, energy and health care — should disabuse even the most beguiled.”

The U.S. military’s recent crackdown on the Taliban in the Kunduz province of Afghanistan is paying dividends. Officials confirmed this morning that NATO forces took out the Taliban’s shadow governor of Kunduz, Mullah Mawlawi Bahadur, last night. But the Washington Examiner’s Sara Carter reports that the region has also seen a steady increase in insurgents over the past year.

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board looks back on the 111th Congress — and the assessment is not pretty: “The real story of 2010 is that the voters were finally able to see and judge this liberal agenda in its unvarnished form. For once, there was no Republican President to muddle the message or divide the accountability.”

At the New Republic, Eric Weinberger wonders whether academic freedom will be protected at Yale’s new college in Singapore. The idea seems unlikely given the trial of Alan Shadrake, a British journalist facing prison in that country for publishing an allegedly “defamatory” book about Singapore’s justice system.

M. Zuhdi Jasser throws his support behind Rep. Peter King’s plans to hold hearings on Islamic radicalization before the House Homeland Security Council next year: “Our national inability to discuss religious issues honestly is keeping American Muslims from having to accept the reforms needed to defeat political Islam and bring our faith into modernity. The victimization mantra feeds more Muslim isolation and radicalization.”

Secret papers released by the National Archives reveal how strained was the relationship between Margaret Thatcher and Menachem Begin, who clashed over Begin’s support of the settlements in the West Bank. According to the papers, “Margaret Thatcher believed that Menachem Begin was the ‘most difficult’ man she had to deal with in the early years of her premiership, and thought his West Bank policy ‘absurd.’”

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Palestinians’ UN Gambit Puts Both Israel and Obama on the Spot

The news that the Palestinian Authority is expected to try to use the United Nations Security Council to label any Israeli presence in the West Bank and Jerusalem “illegal” is hardly a surprise to those who have followed the PA’s continuous efforts to evade actual peace negotiations. Having rejected an Israeli offer of an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza, and a share of Jerusalem in 2008, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas spent the first two years of the Obama administration doing everything possible to avoid actually negotiating with Israel. With even Obama starting to understand that the last thing Abbas wants is to sign a peace accord no matter how generous its terms or where Israel’s borders might be drawn, it’s clear the Palestinian’s goal is not a state but to escalate the diplomatic conflict. That will enable him to compete with Hamas for support among a Palestinian population that has never reconciled itself to peace with a Jewish state. The UN is the perfect forum for such a venture since it is a hotbed of anti-Zionist, as well as anti-Semitic, incitement.

Yet despite the mainstream media’s oft trumpeted claim that settlements are illegal under international law, Israel actually has an excellent case here. As David Phillips of the Northeastern School of Law detailed in COMMENTARY in December 2009, whatever one’s opinion of the wisdom of building in the territories, allegations of its illegality are unfounded in international law. Unfortunately, Israel has never made much of an effort to defend itself on this front. The reasons for this are complicated. A lot of it has to do with the general incompetence of Israeli public relations, but it must also be said that the left-wing political beliefs of many Israeli diplomats who were personally opposed to the settlements also played a role. This has led to a situation in which many Israelis and American supporters of the Jewish state simply accept the charge of illegality since they have rarely been exposed to the compelling arguments to the contrary.

But the real question that is hanging over a potential UN fight over settlements is how the United States will behave. The United States has used its veto in the past to prevent the Security Council from unfairly prejudicing potential peace talks with resolutions that demonized Israel. However, President Obama’s foolish decision to pick a fight with the Israelis over settlements and, in particular, about Jerusalem helped torpedo any hope of fruitful negotiations, because Abbas could not appear to be less tough on Israel than the Americans (he had, after all, negotiated directly with the Israelis without the precondition of the settlement freeze that Obama had insisted on). In recent months, the administration tried to entice the Israelis to agree to yet another settlement-building freeze by promising to veto resolutions like the one the Palestinians may propose, but, as we know, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton refused to put that in writing. In the months ahead, we will see whether Israel will be forced to pay a price for an American veto. But even more ominous is the possibility that Barack Obama will reverse decades of pro-Israel advocacy by U.S. representatives to the UN by abandoning Israel in the coming debate.

The news that the Palestinian Authority is expected to try to use the United Nations Security Council to label any Israeli presence in the West Bank and Jerusalem “illegal” is hardly a surprise to those who have followed the PA’s continuous efforts to evade actual peace negotiations. Having rejected an Israeli offer of an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza, and a share of Jerusalem in 2008, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas spent the first two years of the Obama administration doing everything possible to avoid actually negotiating with Israel. With even Obama starting to understand that the last thing Abbas wants is to sign a peace accord no matter how generous its terms or where Israel’s borders might be drawn, it’s clear the Palestinian’s goal is not a state but to escalate the diplomatic conflict. That will enable him to compete with Hamas for support among a Palestinian population that has never reconciled itself to peace with a Jewish state. The UN is the perfect forum for such a venture since it is a hotbed of anti-Zionist, as well as anti-Semitic, incitement.

Yet despite the mainstream media’s oft trumpeted claim that settlements are illegal under international law, Israel actually has an excellent case here. As David Phillips of the Northeastern School of Law detailed in COMMENTARY in December 2009, whatever one’s opinion of the wisdom of building in the territories, allegations of its illegality are unfounded in international law. Unfortunately, Israel has never made much of an effort to defend itself on this front. The reasons for this are complicated. A lot of it has to do with the general incompetence of Israeli public relations, but it must also be said that the left-wing political beliefs of many Israeli diplomats who were personally opposed to the settlements also played a role. This has led to a situation in which many Israelis and American supporters of the Jewish state simply accept the charge of illegality since they have rarely been exposed to the compelling arguments to the contrary.

But the real question that is hanging over a potential UN fight over settlements is how the United States will behave. The United States has used its veto in the past to prevent the Security Council from unfairly prejudicing potential peace talks with resolutions that demonized Israel. However, President Obama’s foolish decision to pick a fight with the Israelis over settlements and, in particular, about Jerusalem helped torpedo any hope of fruitful negotiations, because Abbas could not appear to be less tough on Israel than the Americans (he had, after all, negotiated directly with the Israelis without the precondition of the settlement freeze that Obama had insisted on). In recent months, the administration tried to entice the Israelis to agree to yet another settlement-building freeze by promising to veto resolutions like the one the Palestinians may propose, but, as we know, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton refused to put that in writing. In the months ahead, we will see whether Israel will be forced to pay a price for an American veto. But even more ominous is the possibility that Barack Obama will reverse decades of pro-Israel advocacy by U.S. representatives to the UN by abandoning Israel in the coming debate.

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Richard Holbrooke’s Legacy

One of Richard Holbrooke’s most significant intellectual contributions to American diplomacy was an address he gave on June 4, 2007, entitled “The Principles of Peacemaking,” at a conference on “Israel’s Right to Secure Borders” held by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

There is no clearer statement of the principles underlying what Holbrooke called “the most important and celebrated Security Council resolution in the history of the UN.” He noted that “every word of [Resolution 242] is significant” and that:

Likewise, an analysis of the original meaning of the resolution, as opposed to its inadvertent or intentional misconstructions by certain people, is essential. This is especially necessary in light of the fact that numerous publications and media outlets have reiterated the misconception that the resolution calls for full withdrawal from all territories.

After analyzing Resolution 242, Holbrooke contrasted it with the Saudi/Arab “peace initiative,” which had a fundamental flaw:

[T]he Saudi peace proposal … often referred to as a conciliatory proposal by the Saudis, mentions Resolution 242, mistakenly claiming that it calls for withdrawal from all occupied territories — it uses the phrase “full withdrawal from all Arab territories.” More importantly, it sets up a sequence that is in direct contradiction to Resolution 242, demanding Israeli compliance with all demands before offering Israel anything, including normal relations. … More significant, what this proposal really does is to lay out as a precondition for the negotiation the very thing being negotiated: this is a fundamental flaw.

Holbrooke noted that many regarded the Saudi proposal as a very important breakthrough, but that “this is clearly a mistake” — not only because of its fundamental flaw but also because the Saudis were themselves unwilling to participate in the necessary negotiations.

Holbrooke recalled Secretary of State Shultz’s 1988 statement that “Israel will never negotiate from, or return to, the lines of partition or to the 1967 borders,” Secretary of State Christopher’s 1997 letter endorsing Israel’s right to “defensible borders,” the April 2004 Bush letter that repeated that commitment, and the unanimous congressional endorsement of the Bush letter. He concluded that the basis for a lasting peace was a correct interpretation of Resolution 242.

Last night, Hillary Clinton released an eloquent tribute to Richard Holbrooke. But in her December 10 speech at the Saban Center, there was no reference to Resolution 242 — or “defensible borders,” or the Christopher or Bush letters, or even the Roadmap (which sets forth Resolution 242 as the basis for Phase III final-status negotiations). Instead, Clinton praised the “vision” of the Arab Peace Initiative, which she called a “landmark proposal” containing a “basic bargain”: peace between Israel and her neighbors “will bring recognition and normalization from all the Arab states.” She urged Israel to “seize the opportunity … while it is still available.”

It is a little hard to seize an opportunity when negotiations are conditioned on acceptance of indefensible borders as the basis of negotiations, contrary to the underlying principle of the basic document governing the peace process. A more lasting tribute to Richard Holbrooke, and to peace, would be an endorsement by the Obama administration of the position the late ambassador took in his 2007 address.

One of Richard Holbrooke’s most significant intellectual contributions to American diplomacy was an address he gave on June 4, 2007, entitled “The Principles of Peacemaking,” at a conference on “Israel’s Right to Secure Borders” held by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

There is no clearer statement of the principles underlying what Holbrooke called “the most important and celebrated Security Council resolution in the history of the UN.” He noted that “every word of [Resolution 242] is significant” and that:

Likewise, an analysis of the original meaning of the resolution, as opposed to its inadvertent or intentional misconstructions by certain people, is essential. This is especially necessary in light of the fact that numerous publications and media outlets have reiterated the misconception that the resolution calls for full withdrawal from all territories.

After analyzing Resolution 242, Holbrooke contrasted it with the Saudi/Arab “peace initiative,” which had a fundamental flaw:

[T]he Saudi peace proposal … often referred to as a conciliatory proposal by the Saudis, mentions Resolution 242, mistakenly claiming that it calls for withdrawal from all occupied territories — it uses the phrase “full withdrawal from all Arab territories.” More importantly, it sets up a sequence that is in direct contradiction to Resolution 242, demanding Israeli compliance with all demands before offering Israel anything, including normal relations. … More significant, what this proposal really does is to lay out as a precondition for the negotiation the very thing being negotiated: this is a fundamental flaw.

Holbrooke noted that many regarded the Saudi proposal as a very important breakthrough, but that “this is clearly a mistake” — not only because of its fundamental flaw but also because the Saudis were themselves unwilling to participate in the necessary negotiations.

Holbrooke recalled Secretary of State Shultz’s 1988 statement that “Israel will never negotiate from, or return to, the lines of partition or to the 1967 borders,” Secretary of State Christopher’s 1997 letter endorsing Israel’s right to “defensible borders,” the April 2004 Bush letter that repeated that commitment, and the unanimous congressional endorsement of the Bush letter. He concluded that the basis for a lasting peace was a correct interpretation of Resolution 242.

Last night, Hillary Clinton released an eloquent tribute to Richard Holbrooke. But in her December 10 speech at the Saban Center, there was no reference to Resolution 242 — or “defensible borders,” or the Christopher or Bush letters, or even the Roadmap (which sets forth Resolution 242 as the basis for Phase III final-status negotiations). Instead, Clinton praised the “vision” of the Arab Peace Initiative, which she called a “landmark proposal” containing a “basic bargain”: peace between Israel and her neighbors “will bring recognition and normalization from all the Arab states.” She urged Israel to “seize the opportunity … while it is still available.”

It is a little hard to seize an opportunity when negotiations are conditioned on acceptance of indefensible borders as the basis of negotiations, contrary to the underlying principle of the basic document governing the peace process. A more lasting tribute to Richard Holbrooke, and to peace, would be an endorsement by the Obama administration of the position the late ambassador took in his 2007 address.

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Why the Silly Deal Is a Bad Deal

Some genuine friends of Israel have shrugged their shoulders over the latest foolish attempt by the Obami to lure the parties back to the non-peace talks. OK, they concede, it won’t work and is absurd (another 90 days won’t matter), but what is the harm? Besides, Israel gets those planes (but what if after 90 days the talks end?). Elliott Abrams succinctly explains in a Voice of America interview why the deal is not just ludicrous but also dangerous:

“They have been negotiating for a very long time and they have not been able to overcome the differences on some critical issues like Jerusalem or security arrangements,” said the former foreign policy advisor to U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. “It may be too optimistic to expect the Israelis and Palestinians to come to an agreement by 2011 on all issues which separate them when they have not yet started negotiations.” …

“It is the linkage.” he says. “The Israeli agreement to extend their construction freeze in the West Bank by 90 days is now linked to a squadron of jets and to U.S. vetoes in the U.N. Security Council.”

Abrams believes neither of these linkages should be connected with the issue of a West Bank construction freeze by the Israelis.  He said the U.S. should be making decisions in the Security Council on the basis of principle.

“If it is a bad resolution we should veto it,” the Middle East scholar says. “Similarly the U.S. should give Israel what it needs, but it should not be linked to a 90 day extension of the freeze.”

For the same reason that it is unseemly for the U.S. to make the offer, it is unwise for the Israelis to play along.

And really, isn’t it time to pull the plug on this destructive and distracting sideshow? If the U.S. and our allies spent half the time and effort on constructing a viable plan to prevent Iran from going nuclear as they do trying to badger Israel into making concessions to Palestinian “leaders” who can’t and won’t make a deal, we’d all be a lot safer, and Obama’s reputation abroad might rebound. Pro-Israel groups and lawmakers would do well to start making that point.

Some genuine friends of Israel have shrugged their shoulders over the latest foolish attempt by the Obami to lure the parties back to the non-peace talks. OK, they concede, it won’t work and is absurd (another 90 days won’t matter), but what is the harm? Besides, Israel gets those planes (but what if after 90 days the talks end?). Elliott Abrams succinctly explains in a Voice of America interview why the deal is not just ludicrous but also dangerous:

“They have been negotiating for a very long time and they have not been able to overcome the differences on some critical issues like Jerusalem or security arrangements,” said the former foreign policy advisor to U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. “It may be too optimistic to expect the Israelis and Palestinians to come to an agreement by 2011 on all issues which separate them when they have not yet started negotiations.” …

“It is the linkage.” he says. “The Israeli agreement to extend their construction freeze in the West Bank by 90 days is now linked to a squadron of jets and to U.S. vetoes in the U.N. Security Council.”

Abrams believes neither of these linkages should be connected with the issue of a West Bank construction freeze by the Israelis.  He said the U.S. should be making decisions in the Security Council on the basis of principle.

“If it is a bad resolution we should veto it,” the Middle East scholar says. “Similarly the U.S. should give Israel what it needs, but it should not be linked to a 90 day extension of the freeze.”

For the same reason that it is unseemly for the U.S. to make the offer, it is unwise for the Israelis to play along.

And really, isn’t it time to pull the plug on this destructive and distracting sideshow? If the U.S. and our allies spent half the time and effort on constructing a viable plan to prevent Iran from going nuclear as they do trying to badger Israel into making concessions to Palestinian “leaders” who can’t and won’t make a deal, we’d all be a lot safer, and Obama’s reputation abroad might rebound. Pro-Israel groups and lawmakers would do well to start making that point.

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Bureaucracy 101

A college course could be built around the new UN report on North Korea’s continuing proliferation activities. The report, released on Friday, was ready for publication in May 2010 but was delayed for six months by China’s Security Council veto. That veto having been lifted, the report is now available to the public.

The news stories surrounding the report are focused on North Korea’s attempts to ship weapons and their components to Iran and Syria, in the months after the “tough” sanctions adopted by the UN in mid-2009. (Pyongyang’s underground nuclear test in May 2009 prompted the newest sanctions.) The UN report cites four instances of cargo being interdicted by other nations, including episodes in Thailand and the UAE that were widely reported in the Western media.

But the real story in this report is its dryly precise account of the implementation of sanctions. Read More

A college course could be built around the new UN report on North Korea’s continuing proliferation activities. The report, released on Friday, was ready for publication in May 2010 but was delayed for six months by China’s Security Council veto. That veto having been lifted, the report is now available to the public.

The news stories surrounding the report are focused on North Korea’s attempts to ship weapons and their components to Iran and Syria, in the months after the “tough” sanctions adopted by the UN in mid-2009. (Pyongyang’s underground nuclear test in May 2009 prompted the newest sanctions.) The UN report cites four instances of cargo being interdicted by other nations, including episodes in Thailand and the UAE that were widely reported in the Western media.

But the real story in this report is its dryly precise account of the implementation of sanctions. As of April 30, 2010, for example, the panel compiling the report found that only 48 UN member nations had submitted their “national implementation reports” for the provisions of the 2009 round of sanctions. The national reports, according to the panel, “vary considerably in content, detail, and format.” The panel acknowledges that this is at least partly because the original UN resolutions didn’t specify that certain significant measures be reported (e.g., withholding pier services from North Korean ships or refusing training to North Korean specialists).

The UN panel observes – without editorializing – that North Korea basically remains free to operate shell companies in a number of other nations. As outside investment in North Korea declines, however, Pyongyang’s economic reliance on China is growing. It’s evident from the incidents recounted in the report that the typical maritime shipment of prohibited cargo from North Korea makes its first stop in China – but the report doesn’t explicitly make that point.

It does, on the other hand, convey the good news that vigilant officials in Japan and Italy have been able to prevent the delivery of two yachts, four Mercedes-Benzes, and 37 pianos to North Korea. Unfortunately, these are rare instances; the UN panel states, on a regretful note, that the interdiction of luxury goods “continues to lag.” In general, successful interdiction of goods both into and out of North Korea is hampered, in the panel’s view, by a lack of uniformity in shipping documentation and the lack of a single, all-encompassing list of prohibited items. Apparently, member states have to consult multiple lists to determine what is prohibited.

The wonder here is that any cargo interdiction happens at all. The bottom line is something we knew already: G-8 governments are acting with some level of vigilance, but there are big, unplugged holes in the sanctions; China is an unacknowledged vulnerability; and there are large swaths of territory in Asia and Africa where no attempt at enforcement is being made. This is our approach, as a collective of nations, to preventing the proliferation of WMD.

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New Challenges for Pro-Israel Activists

Former UN ambassador John Bolton, as he is wont to do, sounds a warning:

Once past Nov. 2 and faced with the impending and embarrassing collapse of direct talks, President Obama may well be moved to punish Israel or at least fashion a teachable moment out of his diplomatic failure.

The Obama administration has a jaundiced view of Israel, but actual U.S. recognition of “Palestine” seems a remote prospect in the near term. The domestic political firestorm for the president—already likely to be badly wounded in midterm elections and deeply concerned about his own prospects in two years—would simply be too much.

A more indirect but still effective course is to let statehood emerge through a Security Council resolution. Prior U.S. administrations would unquestionably have voted “no,” thus vetoing such a proposal, but Mr. Obama’s penchant for publicly pressuring Israel is a foreshadow that Washington may decide not to play its traditional role. While even Mr. Obama is unlikely to instruct a “yes” vote on a Security Council resolution affirming a Palestinian state and subsequent U.N. membership, one could readily envision the administration abstaining. That would allow a near-certain majority, perhaps 14-0, to adopt the resolution.

In any other administration, this would be inconceivable; however, this administration is like no other. Yes, this would be a major step forward for the delegitimizers. (“By defining ‘Palestine’ to include territory Israel considers its own, such a resolution would delegitimize both Israel’s authority and settlements beyond the 1967 lines, and its goal of an undivided Jerusalem as its capital.”) Yes, it would be politically unpopular, given the country’s pro-Israel orientation. And yes, it would send a dangerous signal to Iran that Israel’s fate is not tied to our own, and that Israel’s existential threat is Israel’s problem alone.

But the possibility is real given Obama’s track record, the leaks about an imposed peace deal, and the president’s own rhetoric. (“In his September 2009 speech at the U.N., for example, he supported a Palestinian state ‘with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967.'”) So what should pro-Israel groups and lawmakers do?

Well, come January, one or both houses of Congress will be in GOP hands. It is time to start using the power of the bully pulpit (in the form of resolutions) and the purse (to defund the UN Human Rights Council, for example) to push back on the Obama assault on Israel.  A shot across the bow of the White House — a resolution condemning any effort to impose a deal or divide territory that does not arise from direct negotiations — would be a good start.

But as frightening a prospect as all this is, it pales in comparison to the threat to which Obama turns a blind eye: a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state. This is quite a bit more difficult. The Congress can’t order a military strike if needed. But here, too, pro-Israel advocates and lawmakers should not dally. A declaration of support for Israel, oversight hearings on the paltry results from sanctions, and a robust effort to inform and rally the American people are all needed. Mainstream Jewish pro-Israel groups have been befuddled by the administration, falling prey to the same non-direct, non-peace-talk obsession that has snared the Obami. They should reorient themselves to dual missions: heading off any scheme to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state and encouraging the administration to stand by its declaration that a nuclear-armed Iran is truly “unacceptable.”

Former UN ambassador John Bolton, as he is wont to do, sounds a warning:

Once past Nov. 2 and faced with the impending and embarrassing collapse of direct talks, President Obama may well be moved to punish Israel or at least fashion a teachable moment out of his diplomatic failure.

The Obama administration has a jaundiced view of Israel, but actual U.S. recognition of “Palestine” seems a remote prospect in the near term. The domestic political firestorm for the president—already likely to be badly wounded in midterm elections and deeply concerned about his own prospects in two years—would simply be too much.

A more indirect but still effective course is to let statehood emerge through a Security Council resolution. Prior U.S. administrations would unquestionably have voted “no,” thus vetoing such a proposal, but Mr. Obama’s penchant for publicly pressuring Israel is a foreshadow that Washington may decide not to play its traditional role. While even Mr. Obama is unlikely to instruct a “yes” vote on a Security Council resolution affirming a Palestinian state and subsequent U.N. membership, one could readily envision the administration abstaining. That would allow a near-certain majority, perhaps 14-0, to adopt the resolution.

In any other administration, this would be inconceivable; however, this administration is like no other. Yes, this would be a major step forward for the delegitimizers. (“By defining ‘Palestine’ to include territory Israel considers its own, such a resolution would delegitimize both Israel’s authority and settlements beyond the 1967 lines, and its goal of an undivided Jerusalem as its capital.”) Yes, it would be politically unpopular, given the country’s pro-Israel orientation. And yes, it would send a dangerous signal to Iran that Israel’s fate is not tied to our own, and that Israel’s existential threat is Israel’s problem alone.

But the possibility is real given Obama’s track record, the leaks about an imposed peace deal, and the president’s own rhetoric. (“In his September 2009 speech at the U.N., for example, he supported a Palestinian state ‘with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967.'”) So what should pro-Israel groups and lawmakers do?

Well, come January, one or both houses of Congress will be in GOP hands. It is time to start using the power of the bully pulpit (in the form of resolutions) and the purse (to defund the UN Human Rights Council, for example) to push back on the Obama assault on Israel.  A shot across the bow of the White House — a resolution condemning any effort to impose a deal or divide territory that does not arise from direct negotiations — would be a good start.

But as frightening a prospect as all this is, it pales in comparison to the threat to which Obama turns a blind eye: a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state. This is quite a bit more difficult. The Congress can’t order a military strike if needed. But here, too, pro-Israel advocates and lawmakers should not dally. A declaration of support for Israel, oversight hearings on the paltry results from sanctions, and a robust effort to inform and rally the American people are all needed. Mainstream Jewish pro-Israel groups have been befuddled by the administration, falling prey to the same non-direct, non-peace-talk obsession that has snared the Obami. They should reorient themselves to dual missions: heading off any scheme to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state and encouraging the administration to stand by its declaration that a nuclear-armed Iran is truly “unacceptable.”

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Obama’s Repudiation of Promises to Israel Comes Back to Haunt Him

The Israeli media ran a mind-boggling story today: in exchange for a two-month extension of the freeze on settlement construction, Barack Obama has offered Israel various mouth-watering goodies, as Jen noted in an earlier post. Yet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is leaning toward refusing.

Obama’s offer reportedly includes the following (see here and here, for instance): support for Israel’s demand that any Israeli-Palestinian deal include a long-term Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley; a Security Council veto of any anti-Israel resolution submitted in the coming year; additional military aid; advanced weaponry; stringent measures to halt arms smuggling; and a pledge not to seek another extension when this one expires.

Israel needs all of the above, and Obama has hitherto often failed to provide them. Thus the offer’s benefits would seem to far outweigh the damage of extending the freeze for two months. Yet Netanyahu claims his cabinet — those same ministers who approved a 10-month freeze in exchange for nothing — wouldn’t approve another two months, even for these lavish promises. What gives?

I suspect Netanyahu resorted to this flimsy excuse because the real reason is too undiplomatic to state publicly: Obama, by his own actions, has shown he views presidential promises as made to be broken. And Israel’s government is loath to incur the real damage of extending the freeze (which J.E. Dyer ably explained here) in exchange for promises that will be conveniently forgotten when they come due.

Israel, after all, received its last presidential promise just six years ago, in exchange for leaving Gaza. In writing, George W. Bush said the Palestinian Authority must end incitement and terror, voiced support for Israel “as a Jewish state,” vowed to “strengthen Israel’s capability” to defend itself, and said any Israeli-Palestinian deal should leave Israel with the settlement blocs and “defensible borders” and resettle Palestinian refugees in the Palestinian state rather than Israel. He also promised orally that Israel could continue building in the settlement blocs.

But when Obama took office, he denied the oral pledge’s very existence, infuriating even Israeli leftists. As Haaretz’s Aluf Benn wrote, it was possible to argue the policy should change, “but not to lie.”

And while Obama hasn’t denied the written document’s existence, he’s nullified it de facto through his every word and action: he’s never challenged PA incitement; he’s advocated the indefensible pre-1967 borders, including in East Jerusalem (where he bullied Israel into halting construction even in huge Jewish neighborhoods that will clearly remain Israeli under any deal); he hasn’t publicly demanded that the PA recognize Israel as a Jewish state or said the refugees can’t be resettled in Israel; and far from strengthening Israel’s defensive capabilities, he’s condemned Israel’s enforcement of an arms blockade on Hamas-run Gaza, bullied Israel into accepting a UN probe of its raid on a blockade-busting flotilla, imposed unprecedented restrictions on Israel’s purchase of F-35 fighters, and more. He has supported Israel only when domestic pressure necessitated it.

With enough domestic pressure, Obama would probably do everything in the latest offer anyway. But without it, Israelis fear he’ll renege the moment he finds it convenient.

And for that, Obama has only himself to blame.

The Israeli media ran a mind-boggling story today: in exchange for a two-month extension of the freeze on settlement construction, Barack Obama has offered Israel various mouth-watering goodies, as Jen noted in an earlier post. Yet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is leaning toward refusing.

Obama’s offer reportedly includes the following (see here and here, for instance): support for Israel’s demand that any Israeli-Palestinian deal include a long-term Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley; a Security Council veto of any anti-Israel resolution submitted in the coming year; additional military aid; advanced weaponry; stringent measures to halt arms smuggling; and a pledge not to seek another extension when this one expires.

Israel needs all of the above, and Obama has hitherto often failed to provide them. Thus the offer’s benefits would seem to far outweigh the damage of extending the freeze for two months. Yet Netanyahu claims his cabinet — those same ministers who approved a 10-month freeze in exchange for nothing — wouldn’t approve another two months, even for these lavish promises. What gives?

I suspect Netanyahu resorted to this flimsy excuse because the real reason is too undiplomatic to state publicly: Obama, by his own actions, has shown he views presidential promises as made to be broken. And Israel’s government is loath to incur the real damage of extending the freeze (which J.E. Dyer ably explained here) in exchange for promises that will be conveniently forgotten when they come due.

Israel, after all, received its last presidential promise just six years ago, in exchange for leaving Gaza. In writing, George W. Bush said the Palestinian Authority must end incitement and terror, voiced support for Israel “as a Jewish state,” vowed to “strengthen Israel’s capability” to defend itself, and said any Israeli-Palestinian deal should leave Israel with the settlement blocs and “defensible borders” and resettle Palestinian refugees in the Palestinian state rather than Israel. He also promised orally that Israel could continue building in the settlement blocs.

But when Obama took office, he denied the oral pledge’s very existence, infuriating even Israeli leftists. As Haaretz’s Aluf Benn wrote, it was possible to argue the policy should change, “but not to lie.”

And while Obama hasn’t denied the written document’s existence, he’s nullified it de facto through his every word and action: he’s never challenged PA incitement; he’s advocated the indefensible pre-1967 borders, including in East Jerusalem (where he bullied Israel into halting construction even in huge Jewish neighborhoods that will clearly remain Israeli under any deal); he hasn’t publicly demanded that the PA recognize Israel as a Jewish state or said the refugees can’t be resettled in Israel; and far from strengthening Israel’s defensive capabilities, he’s condemned Israel’s enforcement of an arms blockade on Hamas-run Gaza, bullied Israel into accepting a UN probe of its raid on a blockade-busting flotilla, imposed unprecedented restrictions on Israel’s purchase of F-35 fighters, and more. He has supported Israel only when domestic pressure necessitated it.

With enough domestic pressure, Obama would probably do everything in the latest offer anyway. But without it, Israelis fear he’ll renege the moment he finds it convenient.

And for that, Obama has only himself to blame.

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“Count the Lies”

That’s how one observer of  J Street’s meltdown put it. Honestly, it’s hard to keep track. Eli Lake reveals a bunch more in his latest bombshell report:

J Street — the self-described pro-Israel, pro-peace lobbying group — facilitated meetings between members of Congress and South African Judge Richard Goldstone, author of the U.N. report that accused the Jewish state of systematic war crimes in its three-week military campaign against Hamas in Gaza.

Aside from the inexcusable shillery for the man whose report “is widely viewed as slanderous toward the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) among the American Jewish community and in Israel,” J Street — I know, you’ll be shocked — lied about its assistance to Goldstone. Lots of times.

First, there was Knesset member Colette Avital, who arranged the visit:

“When Judge Goldstone came to Washington, [J Street leaders were] suggesting that they might help him set up his appointments on Capitol Hill,” she said. Ms. Avital later disavowed knowledge of J Street’s dealings with Judge Goldstone during a conference call arranged by J Street’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami.

After inducing Avital to recant, there were Ben-Ami’s own deceptions:

In a statement provided to The Washington Times this week, Mr. Ben-Ami said, “J Street did not host, arrange or facilitate any visit to Washington, D.C., by Judge Richard Goldstone.”

He went on to say, however, that “J Street staff spoke to colleagues at the organizations coordinating the meetings and, at their behest, reached out to a handful of congressional staff to inquire whether members would be interested in seeing Judge Goldstone.”

But it was far more than that, Lake reveals:

A senior officer of J Street, however, played a central role in arranging Judge Goldstone’s visit.

Judge Goldstone told The Times in an interview that he had sought the meetings after a discussion with longtime friend Morton H. Halperin — president of the Open Society Institute (OSI) and one of five senior officers at J Street, according to the group’s federal tax returns. Those forms list Mr. Halperin as a “director,” and say he spends 10 hours a week on J Street business.

“He suggested — and I agreed — that it would be a good idea for me to meet with some of the leading members of Congress,” Judge Goldstone said. “I thought it was important to correct the misimpressions.” He added that Mr. Halperin had hand-delivered a personal letter he had written to members of Congress.

And it turns out it was 10 or 12 meetings.

Another Ben-Ami half-truth: he claims that J Street “criticized the process at the U.N. Human Rights Council that led to his report and urged the U.S. to veto a possible Security Council resolution based on the report.” But, in fact, Halperin drafted Goldstone’s defense on Capitol Hill, and J Street never condemned the report’s contents.

And, of course, Soros and his multipronged operation are at the center of all of this:

All three organizations associated with Judge Goldstone’s visit to Washington — J Street, NAF and OSI — receive substantial funding from Hungarian-born billionaire, George Soros, a fierce critic of AIPAC and Israeli policies.

OSI controls nearly $2 billion in assets provided by Mr. Soros over the years. NAF, in turn, received $855,000 from OSI in 2009, though the money was not set aside for the think tank’s Middle East program. The Times disclosed last week that J Street had received $750,000 from Mr. Soros and his family despite repeated denials from the group that it had received any funding from Mr. Soros in the past.

Take your pick– is it the embrace of Israel’s enemies and slanderers or the lies that should send Soros Street to the ash heap of history? Both, I would suggest. Try as they might, not even the recipients of Soros Street’s cash (nor JTA) can spin this away. If you are on Richard Goldstone’s side, you are not pro-Israel. If you lie repeatedly, you lose your credibility, even with sympathetic media outlets. J Street is guilty on both counts. Perhaps Halperin, the all-purpose fixer for Soros, will turn off the lights at J Street on his way out.

That’s how one observer of  J Street’s meltdown put it. Honestly, it’s hard to keep track. Eli Lake reveals a bunch more in his latest bombshell report:

J Street — the self-described pro-Israel, pro-peace lobbying group — facilitated meetings between members of Congress and South African Judge Richard Goldstone, author of the U.N. report that accused the Jewish state of systematic war crimes in its three-week military campaign against Hamas in Gaza.

Aside from the inexcusable shillery for the man whose report “is widely viewed as slanderous toward the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) among the American Jewish community and in Israel,” J Street — I know, you’ll be shocked — lied about its assistance to Goldstone. Lots of times.

First, there was Knesset member Colette Avital, who arranged the visit:

“When Judge Goldstone came to Washington, [J Street leaders were] suggesting that they might help him set up his appointments on Capitol Hill,” she said. Ms. Avital later disavowed knowledge of J Street’s dealings with Judge Goldstone during a conference call arranged by J Street’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami.

After inducing Avital to recant, there were Ben-Ami’s own deceptions:

In a statement provided to The Washington Times this week, Mr. Ben-Ami said, “J Street did not host, arrange or facilitate any visit to Washington, D.C., by Judge Richard Goldstone.”

He went on to say, however, that “J Street staff spoke to colleagues at the organizations coordinating the meetings and, at their behest, reached out to a handful of congressional staff to inquire whether members would be interested in seeing Judge Goldstone.”

But it was far more than that, Lake reveals:

A senior officer of J Street, however, played a central role in arranging Judge Goldstone’s visit.

Judge Goldstone told The Times in an interview that he had sought the meetings after a discussion with longtime friend Morton H. Halperin — president of the Open Society Institute (OSI) and one of five senior officers at J Street, according to the group’s federal tax returns. Those forms list Mr. Halperin as a “director,” and say he spends 10 hours a week on J Street business.

“He suggested — and I agreed — that it would be a good idea for me to meet with some of the leading members of Congress,” Judge Goldstone said. “I thought it was important to correct the misimpressions.” He added that Mr. Halperin had hand-delivered a personal letter he had written to members of Congress.

And it turns out it was 10 or 12 meetings.

Another Ben-Ami half-truth: he claims that J Street “criticized the process at the U.N. Human Rights Council that led to his report and urged the U.S. to veto a possible Security Council resolution based on the report.” But, in fact, Halperin drafted Goldstone’s defense on Capitol Hill, and J Street never condemned the report’s contents.

And, of course, Soros and his multipronged operation are at the center of all of this:

All three organizations associated with Judge Goldstone’s visit to Washington — J Street, NAF and OSI — receive substantial funding from Hungarian-born billionaire, George Soros, a fierce critic of AIPAC and Israeli policies.

OSI controls nearly $2 billion in assets provided by Mr. Soros over the years. NAF, in turn, received $855,000 from OSI in 2009, though the money was not set aside for the think tank’s Middle East program. The Times disclosed last week that J Street had received $750,000 from Mr. Soros and his family despite repeated denials from the group that it had received any funding from Mr. Soros in the past.

Take your pick– is it the embrace of Israel’s enemies and slanderers or the lies that should send Soros Street to the ash heap of history? Both, I would suggest. Try as they might, not even the recipients of Soros Street’s cash (nor JTA) can spin this away. If you are on Richard Goldstone’s side, you are not pro-Israel. If you lie repeatedly, you lose your credibility, even with sympathetic media outlets. J Street is guilty on both counts. Perhaps Halperin, the all-purpose fixer for Soros, will turn off the lights at J Street on his way out.

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Western Inaction Makes Another Israel-Lebanon War More Likely

After last Tuesday’s incident on the Israeli-Lebanese border, Western states hastened to call for calm and restraint on both sides. The implicit message was that the West sought to avoid another Israel-Lebanon war. Yet war is precisely where Western inaction is inexorably leading.

By Wednesday, UNIFIL had already announced its unequivocal findings: not only did the Lebanese shoot first, with no provocation, but the Israeli soldiers they targeted — killing one and seriously wounding another — were all on Israel’s side of the border. At no point did any Israelis stray, as Lebanon had claimed, into Lebanese territory. Moreover, the attackers were regular Lebanese Army soldiers, not Hezbollah terrorists for whom the government could disclaim responsibility.

But the border is unmarked at that point, lying some 70 meters north of the fence Israel built, and the Israelis were clearing vegetation between the fence and the border. So had Lebanon simply apologized and said it was an honest mistake — that its soldiers erroneously thought the Israelis were violating its sovereignty — there might have been justification for letting the incident slide.

But that isn’t what Beirut said. Instead, Lebanese Information Minister Tarek Mitri announced that Lebanon doesn’t recognize the international border (the so-called Blue Line) at that point; it claims additional territory south of the line. In short, far from apologizing and promising to respect the Blue Line henceforth, Lebanon’s government announced that its policy is to ignore the international border wherever it disputes the UN demarcation.

As UNIFIL noted, both Israel and Lebanon dispute this demarcation at various points, but both had pledged to respect it until those disputes were resolved. Now Beirut has essentially renounced that pledge.

Moreover, there is strong evidence that the shooting was planned in advance — namely, the presence of numerous Lebanese journalists, including the one from the daily Al-Akhbar who was killed when Israel returned fire. Mainstream Lebanese journalists don’t normally flock to the border to watch Israeli soldiers do routine tree-trimming. That so many were there last Tuesday indicates they had been told to expect action.

To sum up, Lebanon’s official army launched a planned, unprovoked attack on Israel. Lebanon’s government not only endorsed the attack but also proudly proclaimed its contempt for the international border. This stance elicited predictable cheers from radicals like Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran, and even “moderates” like Jordan backed it.

But from the West, there has been nothing except evenhanded calls for restraint on both sides: no blistering condemnations, no urgent Security Council deliberations, no demands for an international investigation, no threats of, say, reducing Western military aid to Lebanon.

Thus the lesson for Beirut is that such incidents are all gain, no pain: by attacking Israel, it can earn credit and breathing space from the radicals — a serious concern for a government that exists only at their mercy — without incurring any penalties whatsoever from the West. That gives it a strong incentive to launch additional attacks.

Eventually, it may well go too far, sparking another Israel-Lebanon war. And the West will have only itself to blame.

After last Tuesday’s incident on the Israeli-Lebanese border, Western states hastened to call for calm and restraint on both sides. The implicit message was that the West sought to avoid another Israel-Lebanon war. Yet war is precisely where Western inaction is inexorably leading.

By Wednesday, UNIFIL had already announced its unequivocal findings: not only did the Lebanese shoot first, with no provocation, but the Israeli soldiers they targeted — killing one and seriously wounding another — were all on Israel’s side of the border. At no point did any Israelis stray, as Lebanon had claimed, into Lebanese territory. Moreover, the attackers were regular Lebanese Army soldiers, not Hezbollah terrorists for whom the government could disclaim responsibility.

But the border is unmarked at that point, lying some 70 meters north of the fence Israel built, and the Israelis were clearing vegetation between the fence and the border. So had Lebanon simply apologized and said it was an honest mistake — that its soldiers erroneously thought the Israelis were violating its sovereignty — there might have been justification for letting the incident slide.

But that isn’t what Beirut said. Instead, Lebanese Information Minister Tarek Mitri announced that Lebanon doesn’t recognize the international border (the so-called Blue Line) at that point; it claims additional territory south of the line. In short, far from apologizing and promising to respect the Blue Line henceforth, Lebanon’s government announced that its policy is to ignore the international border wherever it disputes the UN demarcation.

As UNIFIL noted, both Israel and Lebanon dispute this demarcation at various points, but both had pledged to respect it until those disputes were resolved. Now Beirut has essentially renounced that pledge.

Moreover, there is strong evidence that the shooting was planned in advance — namely, the presence of numerous Lebanese journalists, including the one from the daily Al-Akhbar who was killed when Israel returned fire. Mainstream Lebanese journalists don’t normally flock to the border to watch Israeli soldiers do routine tree-trimming. That so many were there last Tuesday indicates they had been told to expect action.

To sum up, Lebanon’s official army launched a planned, unprovoked attack on Israel. Lebanon’s government not only endorsed the attack but also proudly proclaimed its contempt for the international border. This stance elicited predictable cheers from radicals like Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran, and even “moderates” like Jordan backed it.

But from the West, there has been nothing except evenhanded calls for restraint on both sides: no blistering condemnations, no urgent Security Council deliberations, no demands for an international investigation, no threats of, say, reducing Western military aid to Lebanon.

Thus the lesson for Beirut is that such incidents are all gain, no pain: by attacking Israel, it can earn credit and breathing space from the radicals — a serious concern for a government that exists only at their mercy — without incurring any penalties whatsoever from the West. That gives it a strong incentive to launch additional attacks.

Eventually, it may well go too far, sparking another Israel-Lebanon war. And the West will have only itself to blame.

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What Was Sestak Thinking When He Wrote to UN Human Rights Council?

If Joe Sestak was hoping to shore up his pro-Israel bona fides, he badly miscalculated with his “please be impartial” letter to the UN Human Rights Council. Dan Senor of the Council on Foreign Relations had this response, pointing to Israel’s own investigation:

The investigation is already taking place. If Sestak was genuinely concerned, he could have written the UNHRC and called it out for existing and operating in a blizzard of double-standards, and make it clear that he would not support any UNHRC investigation of Israel under any circumstances until the Council repudiates the Goldstone Report and stops singling out Israel time after time. That would have been praiseworthy. Instead he endorsed the investigation.

The American Jewish Committee, a rather liberal outfit, had this to say in early June:

“The UN Human Rights Council remains a kangaroo court, in which repressive and authoritarian states like Cuba, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan can indulge their obsession with Israel, while ignoring serial violators such as Iran and North Korea,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Fresh from convicting Israel through the notoriously biased Goldstone Report into the war in Gaza, which presumed Israel’s ‘guilt’ before launching a fact-finding mission, the Council is now embarking on a new attempt to vilify Israel.”

(Well, before Harris got to the National Jewish Democratic Council, he was a bit more candid.)

Early last month, AIPAC also went after the UNHRC, urging that the Obama administration “maintain its longstanding position not to allow the Security Council and other U.N. organs such as the U.N. Human Rights Council to exploit unfortunate incidents by passing biased, anti-Israel resolutions that obscure the truth and accomplish nothing.”

What activist, lawmaker, or pro-Israel advocacy group (J Street, not you) genuinely concerned about the bile-drenched UNHRC and its serial attacks on the Jewish state would have sent a letter like Sestak’s? I’m going out on a limb: none.

Rep. Peter King gets it. He e-mails: “We should have no contact whatsoever with the UN Human Rights Council. It is impossible for that Council to even begin a fair investigation.”

CORRECTION: David Harris of the AJC and David Harris of the NDJC are not one and the same. David Harris of the AJC remains as candid as ever. I regret the error.

If Joe Sestak was hoping to shore up his pro-Israel bona fides, he badly miscalculated with his “please be impartial” letter to the UN Human Rights Council. Dan Senor of the Council on Foreign Relations had this response, pointing to Israel’s own investigation:

The investigation is already taking place. If Sestak was genuinely concerned, he could have written the UNHRC and called it out for existing and operating in a blizzard of double-standards, and make it clear that he would not support any UNHRC investigation of Israel under any circumstances until the Council repudiates the Goldstone Report and stops singling out Israel time after time. That would have been praiseworthy. Instead he endorsed the investigation.

The American Jewish Committee, a rather liberal outfit, had this to say in early June:

“The UN Human Rights Council remains a kangaroo court, in which repressive and authoritarian states like Cuba, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan can indulge their obsession with Israel, while ignoring serial violators such as Iran and North Korea,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Fresh from convicting Israel through the notoriously biased Goldstone Report into the war in Gaza, which presumed Israel’s ‘guilt’ before launching a fact-finding mission, the Council is now embarking on a new attempt to vilify Israel.”

(Well, before Harris got to the National Jewish Democratic Council, he was a bit more candid.)

Early last month, AIPAC also went after the UNHRC, urging that the Obama administration “maintain its longstanding position not to allow the Security Council and other U.N. organs such as the U.N. Human Rights Council to exploit unfortunate incidents by passing biased, anti-Israel resolutions that obscure the truth and accomplish nothing.”

What activist, lawmaker, or pro-Israel advocacy group (J Street, not you) genuinely concerned about the bile-drenched UNHRC and its serial attacks on the Jewish state would have sent a letter like Sestak’s? I’m going out on a limb: none.

Rep. Peter King gets it. He e-mails: “We should have no contact whatsoever with the UN Human Rights Council. It is impossible for that Council to even begin a fair investigation.”

CORRECTION: David Harris of the AJC and David Harris of the NDJC are not one and the same. David Harris of the AJC remains as candid as ever. I regret the error.

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A Tale of Two Ships

It is instructive to see how differently the UN and the Obama team reacted to two naval incidents: the terrorist flotilla and the sinking of a South Korean ship. Israel was and remains the target of the unending ire of the “international community,” which thrills at the prospect of another excuse to lambaste the Jewish state and to launch another attack on its legitimacy. But it’s quite a different story when there is an act of unprovoked aggression by a totalitarian state.

The Wall Street Journal editors write:

It’s as if the attack was a Sherlock Holmes mystery about a murder without a body. Never mind that everyone in the world knows that the Cheonan was sunk by a North Korean torpedo, killing 46 sailors in one of the worst acts of aggression since the Korean War ended nearly 60 years ago. A May report by a panel of global experts convened by South Korea to investigate the sinking left no doubt that the North perpetrated the act, despite Pyongyang’s denials.

Seoul went to the Security Council to seek the global rebuke of the North, but China objected to a resolution that specifically blamed its clients in Pyongyang. Thus the Security Council retreated to writing a resolution that condemned the act of aggression but named no aggressor. Apparently the rogue underwater missile targeted and then launched itself against the South Korean vessel. I, Torpedo.

This episode is a microcosm of the feckless Obama policy. First, there is the disingenuousness, which is needed to disguise the ineptness:

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice tried to make the best of this embarrassment by saying the message to the North was “crystal clear” and that “The Security Council condemns and deplores this attack. It warns against any further attacks. And insists on full adherence to the Korean Armistice Agreement.”

Then there is the appeasement mentality: “Follow the logic: Since the North wasn’t condemned for doing what everyone knows it did it, the North’s leaders might now be appeased enough to return to the nuclear talks they walked out of last year.”

Most tragically, however, it is the reliance on morally decrepit international institutions in lieu of American power and, yes, smart diplomacy. The Obami insist on using institutions that don’t — despite all his speechifying — share our values and interests. The result, whether on North Korea or Iran, is thin gruel sanctions and watered-down statements, which encourages rather than retard aggression by rogue states.

It is these same institutions that revel in the opportunity to call out Israel and condemn the Jewish State for daring to defend itself against those wishing its annihilation. Like the equally bankrupt “peace process,” Obama’s fixation on multilateralism is making the world more dangerous, America weaker, and despots breathe easier — and, of course, Israel more embattled, as the Israel-haters enjoy newfound respectability and attention from the U.S. and, therefore, the West more generally. A “smart” diplomatic approach would downplay and minimize the role of these bodies and instead emphasize the full panoply of weapons (diplomatic, economic, and military) in the U.S. arsenal. That Obama has done the opposite goes a long way toward explaining why his foreign policy is in such disarray.

It is instructive to see how differently the UN and the Obama team reacted to two naval incidents: the terrorist flotilla and the sinking of a South Korean ship. Israel was and remains the target of the unending ire of the “international community,” which thrills at the prospect of another excuse to lambaste the Jewish state and to launch another attack on its legitimacy. But it’s quite a different story when there is an act of unprovoked aggression by a totalitarian state.

The Wall Street Journal editors write:

It’s as if the attack was a Sherlock Holmes mystery about a murder without a body. Never mind that everyone in the world knows that the Cheonan was sunk by a North Korean torpedo, killing 46 sailors in one of the worst acts of aggression since the Korean War ended nearly 60 years ago. A May report by a panel of global experts convened by South Korea to investigate the sinking left no doubt that the North perpetrated the act, despite Pyongyang’s denials.

Seoul went to the Security Council to seek the global rebuke of the North, but China objected to a resolution that specifically blamed its clients in Pyongyang. Thus the Security Council retreated to writing a resolution that condemned the act of aggression but named no aggressor. Apparently the rogue underwater missile targeted and then launched itself against the South Korean vessel. I, Torpedo.

This episode is a microcosm of the feckless Obama policy. First, there is the disingenuousness, which is needed to disguise the ineptness:

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice tried to make the best of this embarrassment by saying the message to the North was “crystal clear” and that “The Security Council condemns and deplores this attack. It warns against any further attacks. And insists on full adherence to the Korean Armistice Agreement.”

Then there is the appeasement mentality: “Follow the logic: Since the North wasn’t condemned for doing what everyone knows it did it, the North’s leaders might now be appeased enough to return to the nuclear talks they walked out of last year.”

Most tragically, however, it is the reliance on morally decrepit international institutions in lieu of American power and, yes, smart diplomacy. The Obami insist on using institutions that don’t — despite all his speechifying — share our values and interests. The result, whether on North Korea or Iran, is thin gruel sanctions and watered-down statements, which encourages rather than retard aggression by rogue states.

It is these same institutions that revel in the opportunity to call out Israel and condemn the Jewish State for daring to defend itself against those wishing its annihilation. Like the equally bankrupt “peace process,” Obama’s fixation on multilateralism is making the world more dangerous, America weaker, and despots breathe easier — and, of course, Israel more embattled, as the Israel-haters enjoy newfound respectability and attention from the U.S. and, therefore, the West more generally. A “smart” diplomatic approach would downplay and minimize the role of these bodies and instead emphasize the full panoply of weapons (diplomatic, economic, and military) in the U.S. arsenal. That Obama has done the opposite goes a long way toward explaining why his foreign policy is in such disarray.

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Beyond Sanctions

There was bipartisan praise for the sanctions resolution that emerged from the long-delayed House-Senate conference committee. AIPAC cheered the passage of the “toughest sanctions ever passed.” Its news release asserted:

The new legislation seeks to exploit Iranian economic vulnerabilities in order to persuade Iran’s regime to curtail its nuclear ambitions and support of terrorism. CISAD [the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act] explicitly targets the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), requiring financial sanctions on entities that facilitate any IRGC activity. CISAD also mandates broad financial sanctions on any entity involved with Iran’s nuclear weapons program or support for terrorism. CISAD seeks to limit investments in Iran’s energy sector by sanctioning offending companies and barring them from federal contracts. The bill presumes denial of export licenses to countries permitting sensitive technology diversions to Iran. CISAD also prohibits U.S. nuclear technology export licenses to any country assisting Iran’s nuclear weapons pursuit.

CISAD provides the President with a narrow diplomatic window to significantly curb Iran’s refined petroleum imports and its ability to expand its own refinery operations; if diplomacy fails, the President must impose sanctions on companies in violation of CISAD.

But what do sanctions really mean at this stage? Not all that much, as this report explains:

Senior US officials have acknowledged that newly imposed sanctions against Iran would not be enough to end its quest for nuclear capabilities, but told Congress that the approach was bearing fruit.

“It will certainly not change the calculations of the Iranian leadership overnight, nor is it a panacea,” William Burns, under-secretary for political affairs at the State Department, said of US-backed sanctions passed by the UN Security Council earlier this month during testimony Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “But it is a mark of the potential effect that Iran has worked so hard in recent months to avert action in the Security Council and tried so hard to deflect or divert the steps that are now under way.”

And the administration still wishes to see changes to the sanctions deal:

“We will continue to work with the Congress over the coming days as it finalizes work on this important bill, and in our ongoing efforts to hold Iran accountable,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs in a statement.

The administration has long had reservations that the legislation would restrict the president’s ability to provide exemptions to countries considered helpful on international sanctions and which he would not want to alienate.

“It is no secret that our international partners contain their enthusiasm for extra-territorial applications of US legislation, and that’s why we continue to work closely with you and your colleagues to try to ensure that the measures are going to be targeted in a way that maximizes the goal here,” Burns told the Senate panel.

So to sum up, we have UN sanctions and are on the verge of passing unilateral sanctions. What we don’t have is an effective, timely means of thwarting Iran’s nuclear program. As Jamie Fly of the Foreign Policy Initiative explained via e-mail, “The bottom line with this is that it is good it is finally moving and will become law, but in reality, the impact will be minimal.”

We had other options — vigorous support for the Green Movement, a full-court press to isolate Iran diplomatically, and the use of force (or the realistic threat of force) — but instead Obama chose prolonged “engagement” and sanctions that are unlikely to slow progress on Iran’s nuclear program.

The administration must now be pressed to answer two questions: how will we know if sanctions are working? And what are we prepared to do if they don’t? One suspects the administration doesn’t have a ready answer for either and that neither Congress nor Jewish groups are all that eager to pose them. But both lawmakers and Jewish groups need to keep their eyes on the ball. The goal here was not to pass sanctions; the goal was to stop Iran from going nuclear. The former is means to the end, although “smart” diplomats often get confused when asked to distinguish between lovely paper documents and effective policy.

Those who cannot conceive of an effective “containment” policy for a nuclear Iran had better think ahead. Unless they begin to forcefully press the administration to think about options if and when sanctions fail and to commit to supporting Israel in the event that the Jewish state is forced to act on its own, they will be ill prepared for the day when Obama, as he certainly will,  moves from deterrence to containment and announces: “We tried everything we could but we told you sanctions might not work.”

There was bipartisan praise for the sanctions resolution that emerged from the long-delayed House-Senate conference committee. AIPAC cheered the passage of the “toughest sanctions ever passed.” Its news release asserted:

The new legislation seeks to exploit Iranian economic vulnerabilities in order to persuade Iran’s regime to curtail its nuclear ambitions and support of terrorism. CISAD [the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act] explicitly targets the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), requiring financial sanctions on entities that facilitate any IRGC activity. CISAD also mandates broad financial sanctions on any entity involved with Iran’s nuclear weapons program or support for terrorism. CISAD seeks to limit investments in Iran’s energy sector by sanctioning offending companies and barring them from federal contracts. The bill presumes denial of export licenses to countries permitting sensitive technology diversions to Iran. CISAD also prohibits U.S. nuclear technology export licenses to any country assisting Iran’s nuclear weapons pursuit.

CISAD provides the President with a narrow diplomatic window to significantly curb Iran’s refined petroleum imports and its ability to expand its own refinery operations; if diplomacy fails, the President must impose sanctions on companies in violation of CISAD.

But what do sanctions really mean at this stage? Not all that much, as this report explains:

Senior US officials have acknowledged that newly imposed sanctions against Iran would not be enough to end its quest for nuclear capabilities, but told Congress that the approach was bearing fruit.

“It will certainly not change the calculations of the Iranian leadership overnight, nor is it a panacea,” William Burns, under-secretary for political affairs at the State Department, said of US-backed sanctions passed by the UN Security Council earlier this month during testimony Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “But it is a mark of the potential effect that Iran has worked so hard in recent months to avert action in the Security Council and tried so hard to deflect or divert the steps that are now under way.”

And the administration still wishes to see changes to the sanctions deal:

“We will continue to work with the Congress over the coming days as it finalizes work on this important bill, and in our ongoing efforts to hold Iran accountable,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs in a statement.

The administration has long had reservations that the legislation would restrict the president’s ability to provide exemptions to countries considered helpful on international sanctions and which he would not want to alienate.

“It is no secret that our international partners contain their enthusiasm for extra-territorial applications of US legislation, and that’s why we continue to work closely with you and your colleagues to try to ensure that the measures are going to be targeted in a way that maximizes the goal here,” Burns told the Senate panel.

So to sum up, we have UN sanctions and are on the verge of passing unilateral sanctions. What we don’t have is an effective, timely means of thwarting Iran’s nuclear program. As Jamie Fly of the Foreign Policy Initiative explained via e-mail, “The bottom line with this is that it is good it is finally moving and will become law, but in reality, the impact will be minimal.”

We had other options — vigorous support for the Green Movement, a full-court press to isolate Iran diplomatically, and the use of force (or the realistic threat of force) — but instead Obama chose prolonged “engagement” and sanctions that are unlikely to slow progress on Iran’s nuclear program.

The administration must now be pressed to answer two questions: how will we know if sanctions are working? And what are we prepared to do if they don’t? One suspects the administration doesn’t have a ready answer for either and that neither Congress nor Jewish groups are all that eager to pose them. But both lawmakers and Jewish groups need to keep their eyes on the ball. The goal here was not to pass sanctions; the goal was to stop Iran from going nuclear. The former is means to the end, although “smart” diplomats often get confused when asked to distinguish between lovely paper documents and effective policy.

Those who cannot conceive of an effective “containment” policy for a nuclear Iran had better think ahead. Unless they begin to forcefully press the administration to think about options if and when sanctions fail and to commit to supporting Israel in the event that the Jewish state is forced to act on its own, they will be ill prepared for the day when Obama, as he certainly will,  moves from deterrence to containment and announces: “We tried everything we could but we told you sanctions might not work.”

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What Comes from Equivocation

The Obama administration has pointedly refused to rule out a UN inquest into the flotilla incident. Jewish groups have been giving him a pass in public as they hand wring in private. Now we learn:

A spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today that the secretary-general remains “hopeful” that the body will approve a new international inquiry into the Gaza flotilla incident — on top of Israel’s own domestic investigation — after it found overwhelming support in a closed Security Council meeting Tuesday.

“We are continuing to talk with all parties about an international inquiry, and we remain hopeful that Israel will accept that,” a spokesman for the Secretary-General, Farhan Haq, said.

A diplomat with one Security Council member said that 14 of 15 nations had expressed support today for some form of panel established by the Secretary-General — rather than by a Security Council vote, which the U.S. could block — to investigate the deaths on a Turkish ship bound for Gaza. The U.S. was the sole nation not to support the measure in the closed session, the source said.

This is what flows from playing footsie with the Israel-haters and not making clear that the U.S. will block all measures to unleash the UN on Israel. The administration insults our intelligence by declaring, “As we always do, we will work hard to make sure that Israel is not treated unfairly at the U.N.” As we always do? Like when we sat idly by as the UN Human Rights Council bashed Israel? Like when Obama signed on to a statement setting up Israel, but not Turkey, for international scrutiny?

Now imagine if at the time of the UN statement, every pro-Israel member of Congress of both parties and the major Jewish groups had strongly and publicly rebuked the administration. Do we think we’d be sitting on the verge of “Goldstone: The Sequel”? Instead, once again, we have signaled to Israel’s enemies that the U.S. values agreement with the “international community” more than our relationship with the Jewish state. The price for silence by weak-kneed supporters of Israel will be borne by Israelis and those who are likewise left to the mercy of the world’s bullies, who know Obama is not about to stop them.

The Obama administration has pointedly refused to rule out a UN inquest into the flotilla incident. Jewish groups have been giving him a pass in public as they hand wring in private. Now we learn:

A spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today that the secretary-general remains “hopeful” that the body will approve a new international inquiry into the Gaza flotilla incident — on top of Israel’s own domestic investigation — after it found overwhelming support in a closed Security Council meeting Tuesday.

“We are continuing to talk with all parties about an international inquiry, and we remain hopeful that Israel will accept that,” a spokesman for the Secretary-General, Farhan Haq, said.

A diplomat with one Security Council member said that 14 of 15 nations had expressed support today for some form of panel established by the Secretary-General — rather than by a Security Council vote, which the U.S. could block — to investigate the deaths on a Turkish ship bound for Gaza. The U.S. was the sole nation not to support the measure in the closed session, the source said.

This is what flows from playing footsie with the Israel-haters and not making clear that the U.S. will block all measures to unleash the UN on Israel. The administration insults our intelligence by declaring, “As we always do, we will work hard to make sure that Israel is not treated unfairly at the U.N.” As we always do? Like when we sat idly by as the UN Human Rights Council bashed Israel? Like when Obama signed on to a statement setting up Israel, but not Turkey, for international scrutiny?

Now imagine if at the time of the UN statement, every pro-Israel member of Congress of both parties and the major Jewish groups had strongly and publicly rebuked the administration. Do we think we’d be sitting on the verge of “Goldstone: The Sequel”? Instead, once again, we have signaled to Israel’s enemies that the U.S. values agreement with the “international community” more than our relationship with the Jewish state. The price for silence by weak-kneed supporters of Israel will be borne by Israelis and those who are likewise left to the mercy of the world’s bullies, who know Obama is not about to stop them.

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Still Trying Not to Offend Obama and His Offensive Israel Policy

AIPAC released a statement on the flotilla. It is a remarkable effort to weave around the Obama administration, which plainly doesn’t see things AIPAC’s way. But far be it from AIPAC to make that clear. The statement, with my translation in brackets, reads as follows:

AIPAC commends Israel’s decision to undertake a thorough, introspective look at all aspects of the flotilla incident. The Jewish state’s long tradition of transparent self-examination is dramatic and courageous, and it highlights what distinguishes Israel from its neighbors and many of its harshest — and most hypocritical — critics.  Unlike any other country in the Middle East, and many throughout the world, Israel is a fellow democracy with a celebrated legal tradition and judiciary, and a Supreme Court with a history of independence and credibility. [Unfortunately, we have to say this because the administration doesn’t comprehend this and continues to insult the only democracy in the region.]

We welcome [because we have to say “welcome” or the administration will be mad at us, but we really mean we’re gritting our teeth about] the Obama administration’s support [grudging and condescending] for the Israeli commission investigating the flotilla incident, which clearly meets the call of the Security Council for a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation. [But Obama won’t say this and continues to leave the door open for an international kangaroo court.]

The White House recognized Israel’s decision to investigate itself as an “important step forward” and expressed its respect for the Israeli judicial system [but obnoxiously ordered it to present the findings for the thugocracies that populate the UN]. AIPAC calls on the Obama administration to act decisively at the United Nations and other international forums to block any action — including alternative investigations supported by the Secretary General — which would isolate Israel. [Which it hasn’t done, and we compounded the offense by praising the UN Security statement.]

At a time when the so many countries are seeking to unfairly stigmatize and isolate Israel, challenge its right to self-defense and judge it by a double standard, once again we expect the United States to stand with our ally Israel. [But it hasn’t, so how can we, as the premier pro-Israel group, remain silent?]

In fact, in private and off the record, there isn’t a Jewish “leader” among the many that populate mainstream Jewish groups who wouldn’t agree with the “translation.” It is only by convincing themselves that “working quietly through back channels” is an effective strategy that they have decided not to say these things in public, on the record. I wouldn’t begrudge them that approach if there were the slightest indication it is working. But it’s not. And that, too, they will privately concede.

AIPAC released a statement on the flotilla. It is a remarkable effort to weave around the Obama administration, which plainly doesn’t see things AIPAC’s way. But far be it from AIPAC to make that clear. The statement, with my translation in brackets, reads as follows:

AIPAC commends Israel’s decision to undertake a thorough, introspective look at all aspects of the flotilla incident. The Jewish state’s long tradition of transparent self-examination is dramatic and courageous, and it highlights what distinguishes Israel from its neighbors and many of its harshest — and most hypocritical — critics.  Unlike any other country in the Middle East, and many throughout the world, Israel is a fellow democracy with a celebrated legal tradition and judiciary, and a Supreme Court with a history of independence and credibility. [Unfortunately, we have to say this because the administration doesn’t comprehend this and continues to insult the only democracy in the region.]

We welcome [because we have to say “welcome” or the administration will be mad at us, but we really mean we’re gritting our teeth about] the Obama administration’s support [grudging and condescending] for the Israeli commission investigating the flotilla incident, which clearly meets the call of the Security Council for a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation. [But Obama won’t say this and continues to leave the door open for an international kangaroo court.]

The White House recognized Israel’s decision to investigate itself as an “important step forward” and expressed its respect for the Israeli judicial system [but obnoxiously ordered it to present the findings for the thugocracies that populate the UN]. AIPAC calls on the Obama administration to act decisively at the United Nations and other international forums to block any action — including alternative investigations supported by the Secretary General — which would isolate Israel. [Which it hasn’t done, and we compounded the offense by praising the UN Security statement.]

At a time when the so many countries are seeking to unfairly stigmatize and isolate Israel, challenge its right to self-defense and judge it by a double standard, once again we expect the United States to stand with our ally Israel. [But it hasn’t, so how can we, as the premier pro-Israel group, remain silent?]

In fact, in private and off the record, there isn’t a Jewish “leader” among the many that populate mainstream Jewish groups who wouldn’t agree with the “translation.” It is only by convincing themselves that “working quietly through back channels” is an effective strategy that they have decided not to say these things in public, on the record. I wouldn’t begrudge them that approach if there were the slightest indication it is working. But it’s not. And that, too, they will privately concede.

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Calling ‘Em Like You See ‘Em on the Middle East

James Lindsay of the Council on Foreign Relations writes of the UN sanctions against Iran:

These are not the crippling sanctions that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had promised about a year ago. To the contrary. As the price of their support, veto-holding members China and Russia insisted that the resolution contain nothing that would impose broad costs on the Iranian economy — or damage Chinese and Russian commercial interests in the country.

The Obama administration calculates that even a watered-down resolution will put pressure on Tehran to return to the negotiating table. The resolution shows that the Security Council’s permanent members remain united in their demand that Iran come clean on its nuclear program, makes it harder for Iran to acquire nuclear technology, and opens the door to additional sanctions by the European Union and others.

Tehran will likely read the resolution’s passage differently. The weaker-than-threatened sanctions came only after months of haggling, making the prospect of tougher sanctions down the road look remote. Moreover, Brazil and Turkey voted against new sanctions (and Lebanon abstained). No country had voted against any of the three previous resolutions.

So if a mainstream foreign-policy guru can readily reach this conclusion, why aren’t Jewish groups sounding the alarm? It’s because they have bought into a strategy — or rather refuse to give up on a strategy — which amounts to “don’t annoy those in power.” That works fine when those in power have pro-Israel instincts and a basic understanding of the history and motivations of the players in the Middle East. However, with this administration, it is counterproductive — if not disastrous — both for the course of American foreign policy and for the reputation and integrity of pro-Israel groups. The inevitable result is to ignore bad news, cheer the unacceptable, and provide cover for an administration badly in need of scrutiny.

In sum, if the CFR refuses to make excuses for the administration, why should American Jewish groups? The former is rightly concerned with maintaining its intellectual credibility; the latter should start being so.

James Lindsay of the Council on Foreign Relations writes of the UN sanctions against Iran:

These are not the crippling sanctions that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had promised about a year ago. To the contrary. As the price of their support, veto-holding members China and Russia insisted that the resolution contain nothing that would impose broad costs on the Iranian economy — or damage Chinese and Russian commercial interests in the country.

The Obama administration calculates that even a watered-down resolution will put pressure on Tehran to return to the negotiating table. The resolution shows that the Security Council’s permanent members remain united in their demand that Iran come clean on its nuclear program, makes it harder for Iran to acquire nuclear technology, and opens the door to additional sanctions by the European Union and others.

Tehran will likely read the resolution’s passage differently. The weaker-than-threatened sanctions came only after months of haggling, making the prospect of tougher sanctions down the road look remote. Moreover, Brazil and Turkey voted against new sanctions (and Lebanon abstained). No country had voted against any of the three previous resolutions.

So if a mainstream foreign-policy guru can readily reach this conclusion, why aren’t Jewish groups sounding the alarm? It’s because they have bought into a strategy — or rather refuse to give up on a strategy — which amounts to “don’t annoy those in power.” That works fine when those in power have pro-Israel instincts and a basic understanding of the history and motivations of the players in the Middle East. However, with this administration, it is counterproductive — if not disastrous — both for the course of American foreign policy and for the reputation and integrity of pro-Israel groups. The inevitable result is to ignore bad news, cheer the unacceptable, and provide cover for an administration badly in need of scrutiny.

In sum, if the CFR refuses to make excuses for the administration, why should American Jewish groups? The former is rightly concerned with maintaining its intellectual credibility; the latter should start being so.

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What Is Obama Up To?

Bill Kristol reports that the administration is telling foreign governments that it will back an international panel’s investigation of Israel concerning the flotilla incident:

The White House has apparently shrugged off concerns from elsewhere in the U.S. government that a) this is an extraordinary singling out of Israel, since all kinds of much worse incidents happen around the world without spurring UN investigations; b) that the investigation will be one-sided, focusing entirely on Israeli behavior and not on Turkey or on Hamas; and c) that this sets a terrible precedent for outside investigations of incidents involving U.S. troops or intelligence operatives as we conduct our own war on terror.

While UN Ambassador Susan Rice is reported to have played an important role in pushing for U.S. support of a UN investigation, the decision is, one official stressed, of course the president’s. The government of Israel has been consulting with the U.S. government on its own Israeli investigative panel, to be led by a retired supreme court justice, that would include respected international participants, including one from the U.S. But the Obama administration is reportedly saying that such a “kosher panel” is not good enough to satisfy the international community, or the Obama White House.

In any other administration this would be unthinkable, as would the kosher-panel remark. But with this team anything is possible. Recall that this week Obama himself spoke about an international board of inquiry. And other sources confirm to me that, indeed, this was Susan Rice’s recommendation. (This may explain why the U.S. was mute when Israel was condemned by the Human Right Council.)

But this brain storm might be a bridge too far, even for timid Democrats on the Hill. So (like the leaks about an imposed peace plan from James Jones meeting with such illustrious characters as Zbigniew Brzezinski), this may be an idea that the Obama administration really, really wants to pursue but doesn’t know if it can pull off. Test the waters, make Israel nervous. Turn up the heat. Show the Arabs what good guys we are. But if the game plan is exposed and a firestorm erupts, well, then — retreat. Deny that was ever the intention and come up with a plan that is less offensive — another “compromise.”

There is another alternative, of course. Veto (if it should come to the Security Council) and/or refuse to cooperate with any UN investigation. Support an Israeli investigation. The administration can and should do both. Perhaps the revelation that Obama is playing footsie with the UN (again, and as he did with the NPT group), will cause the administration to sound the retreat (as the Obama team was forced to do regarding the trial balloon on an imposed peace plan). But Obama can never bring himself to wholeheartedly embrace Israel and say no to the international community. Let’s see if he can manage to do that this time around.

Bill Kristol reports that the administration is telling foreign governments that it will back an international panel’s investigation of Israel concerning the flotilla incident:

The White House has apparently shrugged off concerns from elsewhere in the U.S. government that a) this is an extraordinary singling out of Israel, since all kinds of much worse incidents happen around the world without spurring UN investigations; b) that the investigation will be one-sided, focusing entirely on Israeli behavior and not on Turkey or on Hamas; and c) that this sets a terrible precedent for outside investigations of incidents involving U.S. troops or intelligence operatives as we conduct our own war on terror.

While UN Ambassador Susan Rice is reported to have played an important role in pushing for U.S. support of a UN investigation, the decision is, one official stressed, of course the president’s. The government of Israel has been consulting with the U.S. government on its own Israeli investigative panel, to be led by a retired supreme court justice, that would include respected international participants, including one from the U.S. But the Obama administration is reportedly saying that such a “kosher panel” is not good enough to satisfy the international community, or the Obama White House.

In any other administration this would be unthinkable, as would the kosher-panel remark. But with this team anything is possible. Recall that this week Obama himself spoke about an international board of inquiry. And other sources confirm to me that, indeed, this was Susan Rice’s recommendation. (This may explain why the U.S. was mute when Israel was condemned by the Human Right Council.)

But this brain storm might be a bridge too far, even for timid Democrats on the Hill. So (like the leaks about an imposed peace plan from James Jones meeting with such illustrious characters as Zbigniew Brzezinski), this may be an idea that the Obama administration really, really wants to pursue but doesn’t know if it can pull off. Test the waters, make Israel nervous. Turn up the heat. Show the Arabs what good guys we are. But if the game plan is exposed and a firestorm erupts, well, then — retreat. Deny that was ever the intention and come up with a plan that is less offensive — another “compromise.”

There is another alternative, of course. Veto (if it should come to the Security Council) and/or refuse to cooperate with any UN investigation. Support an Israeli investigation. The administration can and should do both. Perhaps the revelation that Obama is playing footsie with the UN (again, and as he did with the NPT group), will cause the administration to sound the retreat (as the Obama team was forced to do regarding the trial balloon on an imposed peace plan). But Obama can never bring himself to wholeheartedly embrace Israel and say no to the international community. Let’s see if he can manage to do that this time around.

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Marco Rubio Gets It

Marco Rubio addressed a gathering of Jewish Republicans in Florida on Thursday. The entire speech should be read in full. It is frankly the best speech on Israel since George W. Bush went to the Knesset.

A few points are most noteworthy. First, he understands that the flotilla incident is part of a larger history and that America in the past has responded quite differently when Israel was assaulted for defending itself:

Support for Israel by the United States in a time of crisis has been a given for over 60 years. And yet, lately, there is the emerging sense that this long-standing relationship isn’t what it used to be. We are in the midst of an all out, concerted global effort to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist. The recent flotilla incident and the reaction of many in the international community is nothing more than a part of that effort. In no way can the U.S. allow a path to be cleared that would enable the United Nations or any international body to discredit and diminish our democratic friend and partner. If Israel’s right to self-defense is undermined by efforts to lift its legal and necessary blockade of Gaza, which serves to stop Hamas from arming itself with deadly weapons, there will be lasting consequences not only for Israel, but also for the U.S. and the entire world.

Second, he understands that Israel and the U.S. are joined in facing common foes:

Israel’s enemies are or will soon be America’s enemies as well. They are emboldened every time they sense any sort of daylight between the United States and Israel. Now more than at any other time, it is important America have a firm and clear relationship with Israel.  . . Israel is a valued American ally, our closest and most reliable friend in the Middle East, and the only democracy there. Living in a democracy, Israel’s Arabs enjoy fundamental human rights and liberties that are limited or virtually non-existent in majority-ruled Arab countries.  Israel is not a problem or obstacle to peace and should not be treated as one. In every incident, every pronouncement and every action related to Israel, enemies like Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah look for signs of weakness in America’s support as an invitation to undermine Israel and move one step closer to her destruction. The stronger the U.S.-Israel alliance, the stronger the moderate, pro-U.S. elements in the Arab world will be. If the U.S. shows itself to be an unreliable ally to Israel, moderate Arab states will take note that they cannot trust the U.S. to be a reliable friend for them either.

Third, he understands that the obstacle to peace is not Israel and that the U.S. has no business imposing a peace deal:

So long as other governments mercilessly criticize Israel, so long as the Palestinians ignore the problems of their own society and blame everything on Israel, and so long as Palestinian extremists are emboldened by extremist forces across the region, a two-state solution almost certainly can’t happen. … We should always remember that the obstacle to peace isn’t Israel; it is Palestinian extremists and Islamic terrorists who will not accept the Jewish State.

Next he pushes back against Obama’s Jerusalem-housing obsession and his fetish for a West Bank settlement freeze:

Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, as the U.S. Congress has repeatedly recognized. The U.S. should work toward the goal of moving our Embassy there. We should stop condemning or punishing Israel for allowing Jews to build homes in their capital city, one to which Jews have an historic and religious attachment. … [C]onstruction activity in West Bank settlements has never before prevented negotiations, and a “construction freeze” should not be a precondition for them. Israel has shown — in Sinai, Gaza, and the West Bank — the willingness to remove settlements and their inhabitants. The Government of Israel, under several prime ministers, has made clear its understanding that a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians will require removal of many West Bank settlements. The U.S. must continue to support the position expressed by President Bush in a 2004 letter to Prime Minister Sharon, which stated that there would be no return to the 1949 armistice lines and that those lines would have to be adjusted to reflect changes on the ground since 1967 — major new settlements where thousands of Israeli families live.

Then he goes after Obama for the administration’s conduct in international bodies:

In recent weeks, tensions have heightened in the Middle East with the confrontation provoked by the Turkish Flotilla. It was outrageous for the United States to abandon Israel at the UN, and support a Security Council statement condemning the acts that led to bloodshed, including Israel’s need to defend itself. There will be world-wide consequences if the United States continues to pressure Israel to lift its legal and necessary blockade of Gaza. Iran and its terrorist surrogates are the only ones who will benefit. …

It is also important to highlight the outrageous actions of the Obama Administration in supporting the UN resolution – passed at the Nuclear Non-proliferation Conference – just three days before the Flotilla incident. … I am deeply concerned that the U.S. chose to support a UN resolution that undermines Israel’s security, while giving Iran a “free pass.”

He concludes by addressing “the singles greatest threat” to Israel and the U.S. — a nuclear-armed Iran. He argues for stronger sanctions, pointing out the absurdity of allowing a carve-out for Russia’s S300 sale to Iran. And he includes something we have never heard from Obama:

Military action against Iran is undesirable. However, a nuclear Iran is unacceptable. Ultimately, we must use all means at our disposal to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. And if Israel needs to act to prevent this we should give her our full support.

This is what we should demand and expect of every candidate and official who styles himself as “pro-Israel.” And it is an embarrassment that the finest explication of these issues and statement of determination does not come from Jewish leaders, who still scurry here and there trying to reconcile two irreconcilable realities (i.e., Obama’s stance toward Israel and defense of the Jewish state). When a new occupant enters the White House, he or she would do well to pull out Rubio’s speech and use it as the foundation for America’s Israel policy.

Marco Rubio addressed a gathering of Jewish Republicans in Florida on Thursday. The entire speech should be read in full. It is frankly the best speech on Israel since George W. Bush went to the Knesset.

A few points are most noteworthy. First, he understands that the flotilla incident is part of a larger history and that America in the past has responded quite differently when Israel was assaulted for defending itself:

Support for Israel by the United States in a time of crisis has been a given for over 60 years. And yet, lately, there is the emerging sense that this long-standing relationship isn’t what it used to be. We are in the midst of an all out, concerted global effort to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist. The recent flotilla incident and the reaction of many in the international community is nothing more than a part of that effort. In no way can the U.S. allow a path to be cleared that would enable the United Nations or any international body to discredit and diminish our democratic friend and partner. If Israel’s right to self-defense is undermined by efforts to lift its legal and necessary blockade of Gaza, which serves to stop Hamas from arming itself with deadly weapons, there will be lasting consequences not only for Israel, but also for the U.S. and the entire world.

Second, he understands that Israel and the U.S. are joined in facing common foes:

Israel’s enemies are or will soon be America’s enemies as well. They are emboldened every time they sense any sort of daylight between the United States and Israel. Now more than at any other time, it is important America have a firm and clear relationship with Israel.  . . Israel is a valued American ally, our closest and most reliable friend in the Middle East, and the only democracy there. Living in a democracy, Israel’s Arabs enjoy fundamental human rights and liberties that are limited or virtually non-existent in majority-ruled Arab countries.  Israel is not a problem or obstacle to peace and should not be treated as one. In every incident, every pronouncement and every action related to Israel, enemies like Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah look for signs of weakness in America’s support as an invitation to undermine Israel and move one step closer to her destruction. The stronger the U.S.-Israel alliance, the stronger the moderate, pro-U.S. elements in the Arab world will be. If the U.S. shows itself to be an unreliable ally to Israel, moderate Arab states will take note that they cannot trust the U.S. to be a reliable friend for them either.

Third, he understands that the obstacle to peace is not Israel and that the U.S. has no business imposing a peace deal:

So long as other governments mercilessly criticize Israel, so long as the Palestinians ignore the problems of their own society and blame everything on Israel, and so long as Palestinian extremists are emboldened by extremist forces across the region, a two-state solution almost certainly can’t happen. … We should always remember that the obstacle to peace isn’t Israel; it is Palestinian extremists and Islamic terrorists who will not accept the Jewish State.

Next he pushes back against Obama’s Jerusalem-housing obsession and his fetish for a West Bank settlement freeze:

Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, as the U.S. Congress has repeatedly recognized. The U.S. should work toward the goal of moving our Embassy there. We should stop condemning or punishing Israel for allowing Jews to build homes in their capital city, one to which Jews have an historic and religious attachment. … [C]onstruction activity in West Bank settlements has never before prevented negotiations, and a “construction freeze” should not be a precondition for them. Israel has shown — in Sinai, Gaza, and the West Bank — the willingness to remove settlements and their inhabitants. The Government of Israel, under several prime ministers, has made clear its understanding that a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians will require removal of many West Bank settlements. The U.S. must continue to support the position expressed by President Bush in a 2004 letter to Prime Minister Sharon, which stated that there would be no return to the 1949 armistice lines and that those lines would have to be adjusted to reflect changes on the ground since 1967 — major new settlements where thousands of Israeli families live.

Then he goes after Obama for the administration’s conduct in international bodies:

In recent weeks, tensions have heightened in the Middle East with the confrontation provoked by the Turkish Flotilla. It was outrageous for the United States to abandon Israel at the UN, and support a Security Council statement condemning the acts that led to bloodshed, including Israel’s need to defend itself. There will be world-wide consequences if the United States continues to pressure Israel to lift its legal and necessary blockade of Gaza. Iran and its terrorist surrogates are the only ones who will benefit. …

It is also important to highlight the outrageous actions of the Obama Administration in supporting the UN resolution – passed at the Nuclear Non-proliferation Conference – just three days before the Flotilla incident. … I am deeply concerned that the U.S. chose to support a UN resolution that undermines Israel’s security, while giving Iran a “free pass.”

He concludes by addressing “the singles greatest threat” to Israel and the U.S. — a nuclear-armed Iran. He argues for stronger sanctions, pointing out the absurdity of allowing a carve-out for Russia’s S300 sale to Iran. And he includes something we have never heard from Obama:

Military action against Iran is undesirable. However, a nuclear Iran is unacceptable. Ultimately, we must use all means at our disposal to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. And if Israel needs to act to prevent this we should give her our full support.

This is what we should demand and expect of every candidate and official who styles himself as “pro-Israel.” And it is an embarrassment that the finest explication of these issues and statement of determination does not come from Jewish leaders, who still scurry here and there trying to reconcile two irreconcilable realities (i.e., Obama’s stance toward Israel and defense of the Jewish state). When a new occupant enters the White House, he or she would do well to pull out Rubio’s speech and use it as the foundation for America’s Israel policy.

Read Less

Middle East Realists vs. Middle East Fabulists

There is a clear division not only between politicians but also Middle East hands on the UN sanctions. The Washington Post sets the table. On one side is the reality-based community (not to be confused with “realists,” who aren’t at all):

“It is ironic that Bush had a far better record at the U.N. than Obama, as there was a unanimous UNSC vote under Bush, and Obama has lost it,” said Elliott Abrams, a deputy national security adviser under Bush. He said the reason is not that the Iranians’ behavior has improved, because “the clock keeps ticking, and Iran gets closer and closer to a bomb.” The reason, Abrams said, “is simply that American weakness has created a vacuum, and other states are trying to step into it.”

[John] Bolton argues that the administration’s willingness to operate within the U.N. system left it at a negotiating disadvantage. “Everyone believes the Obama administration is joined at the hip to the council, which is a position of negotiating weakness,” he said. “Weakness produces today’s result.”

(In the category of “elections have consequences,” imagine if a Republican were in the White House taking advice from these two.)

And then there is the fabulist Martin Indyk:

But Martin Indyk, vice president for foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution, said that the no votes were “a product of the shifting templates in international affairs that is in part a result of Bush’s policies that squandered American influence when it was at its height, allowing for regional powers to emerge with greater ambitions and independence.”

Indyk said that the fact that Russia and China — two of the five permanent Security Council members with veto power — have yet again joined in new sanctions “should serve to underscore the Obama administration’s considerable achievement in maintaining P5 consensus in a new era in which the United States can no longer dictate outcomes.”

I don’t know what the heck he is talking about. Obama is in office two years and has produced an incoherent and ineffective Iran policy, but the no votes from two nations (whose drift into Iran’s orbit has been accelerated by this administration) are George W. Bush’s fault. Even for Indyk this is lame. But you have to hand it to him: he simultaneously touts the loophole-ridden sanctions as a great achievement and then concedes that America is in retreat (“the United States can no longer dictate outcomes”). For those who root for Hillary Clinton’s departure, or George Mitchell’s, it is useful to remember that those who would fill the spots are going to sound like Indyk and not Abrams or Bolton.

Made obvious by Indyk’s gobbledygook, there really is no credible defense for Obama’s diplomatic malpractice. Kori Schake, writing in Foreign Policy, sums up:

he Obama administration is doing its best to put a good face on a major disappointment: After sixteen months’ effort, they have succeeded in delivering less international support than did the Bush administration for a problem everyone agrees is growing rapidly worse. … Sanctions aren’t a strategy, they’re a tool for achieving the strategic objective of preventing Iran becoming a nuclear weapons state. We’re over-reliant on sanctions to deliver that weighty objective and need to be thinking much more creatively about how to impose costs on the Iranian government — internationally and domestically — for their choices.

In the absence of anyone in the administration willing to press this point with Obama, we are headed for a nightmarish choice. We will either have a war or see a nuclear-armed Iran. Either way it will be the greatest foreign-policy disaster since, well, maybe ever. The tragedy is that we had the chance to follow a different strategy and avoid the Hobson’s choice.

There is a clear division not only between politicians but also Middle East hands on the UN sanctions. The Washington Post sets the table. On one side is the reality-based community (not to be confused with “realists,” who aren’t at all):

“It is ironic that Bush had a far better record at the U.N. than Obama, as there was a unanimous UNSC vote under Bush, and Obama has lost it,” said Elliott Abrams, a deputy national security adviser under Bush. He said the reason is not that the Iranians’ behavior has improved, because “the clock keeps ticking, and Iran gets closer and closer to a bomb.” The reason, Abrams said, “is simply that American weakness has created a vacuum, and other states are trying to step into it.”

[John] Bolton argues that the administration’s willingness to operate within the U.N. system left it at a negotiating disadvantage. “Everyone believes the Obama administration is joined at the hip to the council, which is a position of negotiating weakness,” he said. “Weakness produces today’s result.”

(In the category of “elections have consequences,” imagine if a Republican were in the White House taking advice from these two.)

And then there is the fabulist Martin Indyk:

But Martin Indyk, vice president for foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution, said that the no votes were “a product of the shifting templates in international affairs that is in part a result of Bush’s policies that squandered American influence when it was at its height, allowing for regional powers to emerge with greater ambitions and independence.”

Indyk said that the fact that Russia and China — two of the five permanent Security Council members with veto power — have yet again joined in new sanctions “should serve to underscore the Obama administration’s considerable achievement in maintaining P5 consensus in a new era in which the United States can no longer dictate outcomes.”

I don’t know what the heck he is talking about. Obama is in office two years and has produced an incoherent and ineffective Iran policy, but the no votes from two nations (whose drift into Iran’s orbit has been accelerated by this administration) are George W. Bush’s fault. Even for Indyk this is lame. But you have to hand it to him: he simultaneously touts the loophole-ridden sanctions as a great achievement and then concedes that America is in retreat (“the United States can no longer dictate outcomes”). For those who root for Hillary Clinton’s departure, or George Mitchell’s, it is useful to remember that those who would fill the spots are going to sound like Indyk and not Abrams or Bolton.

Made obvious by Indyk’s gobbledygook, there really is no credible defense for Obama’s diplomatic malpractice. Kori Schake, writing in Foreign Policy, sums up:

he Obama administration is doing its best to put a good face on a major disappointment: After sixteen months’ effort, they have succeeded in delivering less international support than did the Bush administration for a problem everyone agrees is growing rapidly worse. … Sanctions aren’t a strategy, they’re a tool for achieving the strategic objective of preventing Iran becoming a nuclear weapons state. We’re over-reliant on sanctions to deliver that weighty objective and need to be thinking much more creatively about how to impose costs on the Iranian government — internationally and domestically — for their choices.

In the absence of anyone in the administration willing to press this point with Obama, we are headed for a nightmarish choice. We will either have a war or see a nuclear-armed Iran. Either way it will be the greatest foreign-policy disaster since, well, maybe ever. The tragedy is that we had the chance to follow a different strategy and avoid the Hobson’s choice.

Read Less




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