Commentary Magazine


Topic: Tel Aviv

Gaza Celebrates Bus Bombing in Tel Aviv

The terrorist bombing of a Tel Aviv bus wounded 23 this morning. The last time there was an attack like this in Tel Aviv was 2006, and it raises the obvious questions about the danger of this conflict taking repeated aim at the bustling population center. This wasn’t a suicide bombing, and the two suspects are reportedly on the run.

Also, in case there was any doubt this would hinder a potential cease-fire deal, the Jerusalem Post reports that Hamas has already started celebrating in Gaza:

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The terrorist bombing of a Tel Aviv bus wounded 23 this morning. The last time there was an attack like this in Tel Aviv was 2006, and it raises the obvious questions about the danger of this conflict taking repeated aim at the bustling population center. This wasn’t a suicide bombing, and the two suspects are reportedly on the run.

Also, in case there was any doubt this would hinder a potential cease-fire deal, the Jerusalem Post reports that Hamas has already started celebrating in Gaza:

Hamas praised the terrorist bombing of a bus in Tel Aviv Wednesday afternoon, but stopped short of claiming responsibility.

“Hamas blesses the attack in Tel Aviv and sees it as a natural response to the Israeli massacres…in Gaza,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters. “Palestinian factions will resort to all means in order to protect our Palestinian civilians in the absence of a world effort to stop the Israeli aggression.”

On Twitter, Hamas’s armed wing posted: “We told you #IDF that our blessed hands will reach your leaders and soldiers wherever they are, ‘You opened the Gates of Hell on Yourselves.’”

Sweet cakes were handed out in celebration in Gaza’s main hospital, which has been inundated with wounded from IAF strikes as part of Operation Pillar of Defense. Celebratory gunfire reportedly rang out as news of the attack spread throughout the Strip.

The White House and Hillary Clinton, who had just arrived in Cairo to help broker a cease-fire, released the following statements:

The White House denounced the attack, saying “these attacks against innocent Israeli civilians are outrageous.”

“The United States will stand with our Israeli allies, and provide whatever assistance is necessary to identify and bring to justice the perpetrators of this attack,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement. 

“The United States strongly condemns this terrorist attack and our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and the people of Israel.” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday.

“As I arrive in Cairo, I am closely monitoring reports from Tel Aviv, and we will stay in close contact with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s team. The United States stands ready to provide any assistance that Israel requires,” she added.

Fatah-affiliated Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade has claimed responsibility for the attack, but JPost says police haven’t confirmed.

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UK Press Commission to Media: Stop Lying About Israel’s Capital

Israel won a rare media victory this week when the UK’s nongovernmental press regulator ruled that the Guardian was wrong to call Tel Aviv Israel’s capital. The ruling by the UK Press Complaints Commission, according to Honest Reporting (which filed the PCC complaint), “set a precedent on British coverage of Israel, effectively barring all British publications from referring to Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital.”

The commission also did the Guardian, and the British press in general, a favor. Since Jerusalem is, in point of fact, Israel’s capital, and since a large part of Jerusalem is uncontested, the refusal to put embassies there or to refer to Jerusalem as the capital has always been an assault not only on the Jewish state’s sovereignty but also on basic logic. However, calling Tel Aviv the capital is inexplicable. Whatever Israel’s opponents think of Jerusalem, how could anyone possibly justify inventing a new capital for the Jewish state? No newspaper that refers to Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital could possibly retain any credibility. The Times of Israel reports:

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Israel won a rare media victory this week when the UK’s nongovernmental press regulator ruled that the Guardian was wrong to call Tel Aviv Israel’s capital. The ruling by the UK Press Complaints Commission, according to Honest Reporting (which filed the PCC complaint), “set a precedent on British coverage of Israel, effectively barring all British publications from referring to Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital.”

The commission also did the Guardian, and the British press in general, a favor. Since Jerusalem is, in point of fact, Israel’s capital, and since a large part of Jerusalem is uncontested, the refusal to put embassies there or to refer to Jerusalem as the capital has always been an assault not only on the Jewish state’s sovereignty but also on basic logic. However, calling Tel Aviv the capital is inexplicable. Whatever Israel’s opponents think of Jerusalem, how could anyone possibly justify inventing a new capital for the Jewish state? No newspaper that refers to Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital could possibly retain any credibility. The Times of Israel reports:

In Monday’s decision, the PCC concluded that “the unequivocal statement that Tel Aviv is the capital of Israel had the potential to mislead readers and raised a breach of… the Editors’ Code of Practice.”

The editor’s code states that the press “must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information.”

The PCC initially ruled in the Guardian’s favor, and Honest Reporting took steps toward filing for judicial review, leading the PCC to reverse course. The same article also pointed out the effect that making up the news can have on reporting in general: it can encourage other newspapers to make things up out of whole cloth as well. The paper notes a truly sad correction issued by the Daily Mail:

A Comment article on 23 August mistakenly suggested that Israel’s government was in Tel Aviv when it is, of course, in Jerusalem.

Of course. But you can almost begin to understand how such a mistake happens. If newspapers like the Guardian are unchallenged in their assertion that Israel’s capital is Tel Aviv, it would follow that they had done so because the buildings housing Israel’s government are in Tel Aviv. But they are not; they are in Jerusalem. Swindled by the Guardian, the Daily Mail invented government-related accommodations that didn’t exist, as if reporting on Israel is basically just playing a game of Sim City.

The Jewish people’s physical and spiritual connection to Jerusalem is such that it animates an overwhelming amount of Jewish ritual, from prayer to weddings to holiday traditions. As such, it’s easy to understand why Israel’s antagonists focus on the city. The denial of Jewish rights in Jerusalem takes many forms, including the Guardian’s shameful behavior.

After driving through the serene woodlands of Canada, Winston Churchill once turned to his son and said: “Fancy cutting down those beautiful trees we saw this afternoon to make pulp for those bloody newspapers, and calling it civilization.” Hard to argue with the sentiment while reading papers like the Guardian.

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Jay Carney Caught Flat-Footed

There was a bizarre scene during today’s White House briefing, when White House Press Secretary Jay Carney flat-out refused to say whether the capital of Israel was Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, despite repeated questioning from multiple reporters. The Washington Examiner’s Joel Gehrke reports:

Carney was caught flat-footed when asked which city is Israel’s capital. “I haven’t had that question in awhile,” he said after some hesitation. “Our position has not changed. You know our position.” The reporter said she didn’t know, but Carney moved on to another question.

That answer touched off a somewhat unruly scene, as WND’s Lester Kinsolving interjected that “she doesn’t know, that’s why she asked.” Carney moved on.

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There was a bizarre scene during today’s White House briefing, when White House Press Secretary Jay Carney flat-out refused to say whether the capital of Israel was Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, despite repeated questioning from multiple reporters. The Washington Examiner’s Joel Gehrke reports:

Carney was caught flat-footed when asked which city is Israel’s capital. “I haven’t had that question in awhile,” he said after some hesitation. “Our position has not changed. You know our position.” The reporter said she didn’t know, but Carney moved on to another question.

That answer touched off a somewhat unruly scene, as WND’s Lester Kinsolving interjected that “she doesn’t know, that’s why she asked.” Carney moved on.

The Weekly Standard’s Dan Halper has video of the exchange:

At one point, a visibly uncomfortable Carney says the White House’s “position has not changed.” In March, there was a similar exchange between State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland and reporters. The Obama administration has refused to acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in contrast to Obama’s own statements to the AIPAC conference during his 2008 campaign.

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The Guardian Wants Its Two-State Solution Back. Beware.

When the Guardian launched its “Palestine Papers” on Sunday, the sensational leak was accompanied by an editorial, which was sensationally titled “Pleading for a fig leaf” and just as sensationally subtitled “The secret notes suggest one requires Panglossian optimism to believe that these negotiations can one day be resurrected.”

The editorial went on to accuse the Palestinian leadership of being a bunch of collaborators — it described them as “weak” and “craven” — a mixture of poodles and quislings. It decried their humiliating readiness “to flog the family silver” in order to get “a puppet state.” It then proclaimed: “The Palestinian Authority may continue as an employer but, as of today, its legitimacy as negotiators will have all but ended on the Palestinian street.”

So, on January 23, the peace process is dead, unless you are a “Panglossian optimist.”

This was not just an isolated 0pinion piece — this was an opening salvo from the editor. Somehow, it looks like someone may have regretted going so far, because just two days later, a new editorial with a contrary headline appeared — “Despair. But we still need a deal” — with a subtitle that was also the opposite of that of the January 23 editorial: “A two-state solution remains the only show in town.” Read More

When the Guardian launched its “Palestine Papers” on Sunday, the sensational leak was accompanied by an editorial, which was sensationally titled “Pleading for a fig leaf” and just as sensationally subtitled “The secret notes suggest one requires Panglossian optimism to believe that these negotiations can one day be resurrected.”

The editorial went on to accuse the Palestinian leadership of being a bunch of collaborators — it described them as “weak” and “craven” — a mixture of poodles and quislings. It decried their humiliating readiness “to flog the family silver” in order to get “a puppet state.” It then proclaimed: “The Palestinian Authority may continue as an employer but, as of today, its legitimacy as negotiators will have all but ended on the Palestinian street.”

So, on January 23, the peace process is dead, unless you are a “Panglossian optimist.”

This was not just an isolated 0pinion piece — this was an opening salvo from the editor. Somehow, it looks like someone may have regretted going so far, because just two days later, a new editorial with a contrary headline appeared — “Despair. But we still need a deal” — with a subtitle that was also the opposite of that of the January 23 editorial: “A two-state solution remains the only show in town.”

The Guardian now says it wants the two-state solution back — two days after it inaugurated the latest effort to sabotage it and a day before the head of Hamas’s international-relations department was given a prominent platform in the paper.

Nice try, but this does not in any way match the impact of the avalanche of op-eds, news coverage, and profiles the Guardian provided and continues to provide in order to support the perception that the Palestinian leadership betrayed their people.

In other words, the Guardian believes in the two-state solution, just not the one that could be realistically negotiated, because that constitutes a betrayal of the Palestinian cause; and not one under U.S. auspices, because the Americans are not honest brokers; and not one where Israel gets its way on settlements, Jerusalem, or refugees, because that is “craven.”

In short, the Guardian is for a two-state solution where Israel, not the Palestinians, surrenders.

The Guardian has always taken the Palestinian narrative as the truth. The leaks, accompanied by an accusing finger pointed at the Palestinian negotiators, is a cry of “betrayal” of the Palestinian cause. They are more Palestinian than the Palestinians themselves.

Just consider the Guardian’s wise counsel on how successfully negotiate:

[T]alks succeed only when each side can put itself in the shoes of the other. To imagine that Abu Mazen could put to a referendum a deal in which Israel got its way on all the core issues – settlements, Jerusalem, the return of refugees – and to imagine that such a deal would be durable, is the ultimate failure of a negotiator’s imagination.

There. The Guardian can only put itself in the shoes of the Palestinians — but no word of Israeli and Jewish pain, when Israel’s leaders would have to relinquish Hebron, the second holiest place for Judaism; or Bethlehem, where one of four matriarchs of Israel, Rachel, is buried; or Nablus, where Jacob’s son Joseph is buried; or the entire biblical heartland, which, more than Tel Aviv and the entire coastline of Israel, is filled with longing and memories of Jewish identity.

No pain is registered, because the Guardian, in its cravenness, sees Israel as the Palestinians see it — a colonialist, European implant, based on a racist and imperialist ideology that crafted an imagined past fed by religious superstition and devoid of the authenticity of the indigenous culture.

Their leaks may be a treasure trove for the impatient historian who won’t need to wait 30 years to access classified material. It may be a golden opportunity to undermine the Palestinian Authority and poke Israel in the eye in the process. And it is no doubt great for Internet traffic. But it has no value whatsoever in terms of advancing the cause the Guardian pretends to support.

That plea for a two-state solution is just their fig leaf — a convenient cover before they charge ahead.

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Israel: 1991-2011

Twenty years ago, Saddam Hussein’s Scud rockets began to rain down on Tel Aviv. The specter of a chemical attack was Israel’s nightmare, because anthrax was a reality in Saddam’s Iraq. Thirty-nine missiles fell on Israel. On those cold nights, the Israelis wore gas masks, because Saddam had revived the idea in the Israeli unconscious that the Jews could be gassed again. The Israelis checked the shelters, sealing doors and windows, they stood in line for gas masks in the hallways of neighborhood elementary schools, and watched chemical-warfare defense videos. Food cans quickly disappeared from the supermarkets. “Drink a lot of water” was the army’s advice against the effects of a possible biochemical attack. Saddam’s Scuds damaged 4,393 buildings, 3,991 apartments, and 331 public institutions. This accounting does not include the incalculable costs of equipping every Israeli with a gas mask, of the need for every Israeli family to prepare sealed rooms, of the national disruption caused by multiple alerts, and of lost business and tourism.

Twenty years ago, Saddam Hussein threatened to “burn half of Israel.” Today Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has promised to wipe out the “dead rats,” as he called the Israelis. Tehran is the biggest strategic threat to Israel’s existence, especially by the terror satellites of Hezbollah and Hamas. According to the new Israeli intelligence reports, Iran would now be able to launch 400 “lethal” missiles on Tel Aviv. Hezbollah could launch up to 600 rockets per day. From Teheran to Tel Aviv, an Iranian Shihab-3 rocket would take 12 minutes to hit the Jewish state. The Dan area of Tel Aviv, where live a quarter of the entire Israeli population, is the target of the next war, about which nobody knows if and when it will burst, but everyone knows that it will have emblazoned within it the eyes of the ayatollahs.

Israel is investing in its own survival. Both Tel Aviv and the port city of Haifa were severely hit by the rockets of 1991. But, for the first time since the birth of Israel, tomorrow these cities could be reached by devastating bombs. The power of death in the region has risen dramatically. It has been estimated that four years ago, Syria had 300 missiles that could reach Tel Aviv, a dozen for Hezbollah, 50 for Iran, and nothing for Hamas. Two years later, Syria had 1,300, Hezbollah 800, Hamas a dozen, and Iran 300. Today it’s 2,300 for Syria, 1,200 for Hezbollah, 400 for Teheran, and a good arsenal of Fajr-5 for Hamas. Jerusalem could be hit with a precision that would leave intact the Al-Aqsa Mosque. So Tel Aviv today is not extending only to the sky with its beautiful skyscrapers but also sinks into the ground because it’s a new target for Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas. Read More

Twenty years ago, Saddam Hussein’s Scud rockets began to rain down on Tel Aviv. The specter of a chemical attack was Israel’s nightmare, because anthrax was a reality in Saddam’s Iraq. Thirty-nine missiles fell on Israel. On those cold nights, the Israelis wore gas masks, because Saddam had revived the idea in the Israeli unconscious that the Jews could be gassed again. The Israelis checked the shelters, sealing doors and windows, they stood in line for gas masks in the hallways of neighborhood elementary schools, and watched chemical-warfare defense videos. Food cans quickly disappeared from the supermarkets. “Drink a lot of water” was the army’s advice against the effects of a possible biochemical attack. Saddam’s Scuds damaged 4,393 buildings, 3,991 apartments, and 331 public institutions. This accounting does not include the incalculable costs of equipping every Israeli with a gas mask, of the need for every Israeli family to prepare sealed rooms, of the national disruption caused by multiple alerts, and of lost business and tourism.

Twenty years ago, Saddam Hussein threatened to “burn half of Israel.” Today Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has promised to wipe out the “dead rats,” as he called the Israelis. Tehran is the biggest strategic threat to Israel’s existence, especially by the terror satellites of Hezbollah and Hamas. According to the new Israeli intelligence reports, Iran would now be able to launch 400 “lethal” missiles on Tel Aviv. Hezbollah could launch up to 600 rockets per day. From Teheran to Tel Aviv, an Iranian Shihab-3 rocket would take 12 minutes to hit the Jewish state. The Dan area of Tel Aviv, where live a quarter of the entire Israeli population, is the target of the next war, about which nobody knows if and when it will burst, but everyone knows that it will have emblazoned within it the eyes of the ayatollahs.

Israel is investing in its own survival. Both Tel Aviv and the port city of Haifa were severely hit by the rockets of 1991. But, for the first time since the birth of Israel, tomorrow these cities could be reached by devastating bombs. The power of death in the region has risen dramatically. It has been estimated that four years ago, Syria had 300 missiles that could reach Tel Aviv, a dozen for Hezbollah, 50 for Iran, and nothing for Hamas. Two years later, Syria had 1,300, Hezbollah 800, Hamas a dozen, and Iran 300. Today it’s 2,300 for Syria, 1,200 for Hezbollah, 400 for Teheran, and a good arsenal of Fajr-5 for Hamas. Jerusalem could be hit with a precision that would leave intact the Al-Aqsa Mosque. So Tel Aviv today is not extending only to the sky with its beautiful skyscrapers but also sinks into the ground because it’s a new target for Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas.

The Habima Theater, for example, will have four underground floors, with entrances on each side. Jerusalem should see the opening of the largest nuclear bunker across the country: 80 feet underground to accommodate 5,000 people. Haifa, the third-largest city in Israel, is building “the largest underground hospital in the world.” And the state is continuing the distribution of gas masks. These first appeared in 1991, when Benjamin Netanyahu, then the Israeli deputy foreign minister, appeared on CNN with a mask. Today thousands of private Israeli homes have been equipped with nuclear-proof shelters ranging from air filters to water-decontamination systems.

Drills have become a routine all over the country. Hospitals and emergency facilities have to be ready in case of necessity, and the municipalities have evacuation protocols. A postcard of the Home Front Command, delivered to Israeli citizens, divide the country into six regions, from the Negev to the Golan. Each region has different times of reaction in case of attack. If you live along the Gaza Strip, you have 20 seconds to shelter. In Jerusalem, it’s three minutes. But if you live close to Lebanon or Syria, the color red means that, unless you are already in a bunker, you just have to wait for the rocket. The Knesset, Israel’s parliament, is building a labyrinth of underground tunnels and rooms where the Jewish leadership would guide the country in case of attacks.

Twenty years after the first Gulf War, Israel remains the only “bunkered” democracy in the world and is now even more relentlessly demonized and ghettoized. But if in 1991 Israel responded with understatement and quiet civil courage, it will probably react differently to Iran’s nuclearization. Because, as Joe McCain wrote few years ago, “the Jews will not go quietly again.”

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The Culture War Against Israel

In 2010, the hard-core left married pro-Islamic and pro-Palestinian organizations and gave birth to an entertainment-boycott campaign aimed at Israel. Cultural-boycott efforts have spilled over into 2011, as American soul singer Macy Gray is now the target of hysterical attacks for her slated Tel Aviv concerts in February. She appears to have defied the Israel-bashers, saying, “I like coming to Israel.”

She used some intemperate and unsavory language, however, when describing Israeli security policies. Gray wrote on Facebook that “I’m getting a lot of letters from activists urging and begging me to boycott by not performing in protest of apartheid against the Palestinians. What the Israeli government is doing to the Palestinians is disgusting, but I want to go. I have a lot of fans there that I don’t want to cancel on, and I don’t know how my not going changes anything. What do you think? Stay or go?”

After roughly 4,000 fans responded, she tweeted that she plans to perform in Israel. To her credit, she defied the Arab lobby’s campaign to silence artistic free speech, which appears to be intimidating some. According to a Reuters news item: “Earlier this month, French singer Vanessa Paradis, who is married to actor Johnny Depp, canceled a February 10 concert in Israel. She said it clashed with an important meeting, but the Israeli media have speculated that is was a political decision.”

Last year, Grammy winner Carlos Santana, the alternative band the Pixies, and British singer Elvis Costello pulled the plug on their Israel concerts, a sign of mass artistic cowardice. In sharp contrast, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Leonard Cohen, and Johnny Rotten of the now-defunct punk band the Sex Pistols all performed last year in Israel.

Rotten, who now goes by his birth name, John Lydon, summed up, in a flash of neoconservative punkism, the misguided Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) campaign against the region’s only real democracy: “I really resent the presumption that I’m going there to play to right-wing Nazi jews [sic]. If Elvis-f-ing-Costello wants to pull out of a gig in Israel because he’s suddenly got this compassion for Palestinians, then good on him. But I have absolutely one rule, right? Until I see an Arab country, a Muslim country, with a democracy, I won’t understand how anyone can have a problem with how they’re treated. ”

The lesson here? Go on the offensive, as did Lydon, when engaged in combating the BDS campaign to block entertainers from performing in Israel.

In 2010, the hard-core left married pro-Islamic and pro-Palestinian organizations and gave birth to an entertainment-boycott campaign aimed at Israel. Cultural-boycott efforts have spilled over into 2011, as American soul singer Macy Gray is now the target of hysterical attacks for her slated Tel Aviv concerts in February. She appears to have defied the Israel-bashers, saying, “I like coming to Israel.”

She used some intemperate and unsavory language, however, when describing Israeli security policies. Gray wrote on Facebook that “I’m getting a lot of letters from activists urging and begging me to boycott by not performing in protest of apartheid against the Palestinians. What the Israeli government is doing to the Palestinians is disgusting, but I want to go. I have a lot of fans there that I don’t want to cancel on, and I don’t know how my not going changes anything. What do you think? Stay or go?”

After roughly 4,000 fans responded, she tweeted that she plans to perform in Israel. To her credit, she defied the Arab lobby’s campaign to silence artistic free speech, which appears to be intimidating some. According to a Reuters news item: “Earlier this month, French singer Vanessa Paradis, who is married to actor Johnny Depp, canceled a February 10 concert in Israel. She said it clashed with an important meeting, but the Israeli media have speculated that is was a political decision.”

Last year, Grammy winner Carlos Santana, the alternative band the Pixies, and British singer Elvis Costello pulled the plug on their Israel concerts, a sign of mass artistic cowardice. In sharp contrast, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Leonard Cohen, and Johnny Rotten of the now-defunct punk band the Sex Pistols all performed last year in Israel.

Rotten, who now goes by his birth name, John Lydon, summed up, in a flash of neoconservative punkism, the misguided Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) campaign against the region’s only real democracy: “I really resent the presumption that I’m going there to play to right-wing Nazi jews [sic]. If Elvis-f-ing-Costello wants to pull out of a gig in Israel because he’s suddenly got this compassion for Palestinians, then good on him. But I have absolutely one rule, right? Until I see an Arab country, a Muslim country, with a democracy, I won’t understand how anyone can have a problem with how they’re treated. ”

The lesson here? Go on the offensive, as did Lydon, when engaged in combating the BDS campaign to block entertainers from performing in Israel.

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RE: Palin and the Blood Libel

As Sarah Palin has just learned, keeping up with the rules about using phrases that are associated with Jewish history is not as simple as it used to be. I was under the impression that the list of phrases that were considered off limits for general consumption was confined more or less to those associated with the Holocaust. Meaning, for instance, that the use of the word “holocaust” should be confined to discussion of events surrounding the genocide of Jews in Europe between 1933 and 1945. But even that stricture has been hard to enforce. Indeed, when an episode of the TV show The X-Files once referred to the mysterious death of amphibians in a lake as a “frog holocaust,” you knew that the word had become more of a metaphor than a specific historical term.

But when it comes to some people, the rules are apparently even more stringent than any of us might have thought. Thus, today Sarah Palin is being widely condemned for using the term “blood libel” when referencing the slanderous suggestions that she is in some way connected to the tragedy in Arizona. According to those who claim that Palin has somehow caused pain to the Jewish people, it is wrong to use that phrase to describe anything other than the false accusation that Jews kidnap and murder Christian children and use their blood to help bake matzoh for Passover. This canard was popularized during the Middle Ages by European Christians and has been revived in recent decades in the Arab world as Jew-hatred has become an unfortunate staple of contemporary Islamic culture.

But the idea that this term cannot be used to describe anything else is something new. Granted, most of the uses of this phrase that come quickly to mind have had Jewish associations. For example, the accusation that right-wing Zionists were behind the murder of Haim Arlosoroff, a Labor Zionist official who was killed on a Tel Aviv beach in 1933, has always been called a “blood libel” by those who believed the failed effort to pin the killing on Labor’s Jewish opposition was a political plot to discredit them. In just the past couple of years, the term “blood libel” has been applied by writers here at COMMENTARY to describe the false charges put forward by Human Rights Watch and the UN Goldstone Commission against Israeli forces fighting Hamas terrorists in Gaza, as well as to the malicious falsehoods published by a Swedish newspaper that claimed Israel was murdering Palestinians and then harvesting their organs for medical use.

So the claim that Palin has crossed some bright line in the sand and “stolen” a phrase that has always and should always be used to describe only one thing is absurd. Like so much else that has been heard from the left in the wake of the shootings in Arizona, this further charge against Sarah Palin is groundless. The fact is, those who are trying to link her or other conservatives to this crime are committing a kind of blood libel. Take issue with her politics or dislike her personality if that is your inclination, but the idea that she has even the most remote connection to this event is outrageous. So, too, is the manufactured controversy over “blood libel.”

As Sarah Palin has just learned, keeping up with the rules about using phrases that are associated with Jewish history is not as simple as it used to be. I was under the impression that the list of phrases that were considered off limits for general consumption was confined more or less to those associated with the Holocaust. Meaning, for instance, that the use of the word “holocaust” should be confined to discussion of events surrounding the genocide of Jews in Europe between 1933 and 1945. But even that stricture has been hard to enforce. Indeed, when an episode of the TV show The X-Files once referred to the mysterious death of amphibians in a lake as a “frog holocaust,” you knew that the word had become more of a metaphor than a specific historical term.

But when it comes to some people, the rules are apparently even more stringent than any of us might have thought. Thus, today Sarah Palin is being widely condemned for using the term “blood libel” when referencing the slanderous suggestions that she is in some way connected to the tragedy in Arizona. According to those who claim that Palin has somehow caused pain to the Jewish people, it is wrong to use that phrase to describe anything other than the false accusation that Jews kidnap and murder Christian children and use their blood to help bake matzoh for Passover. This canard was popularized during the Middle Ages by European Christians and has been revived in recent decades in the Arab world as Jew-hatred has become an unfortunate staple of contemporary Islamic culture.

But the idea that this term cannot be used to describe anything else is something new. Granted, most of the uses of this phrase that come quickly to mind have had Jewish associations. For example, the accusation that right-wing Zionists were behind the murder of Haim Arlosoroff, a Labor Zionist official who was killed on a Tel Aviv beach in 1933, has always been called a “blood libel” by those who believed the failed effort to pin the killing on Labor’s Jewish opposition was a political plot to discredit them. In just the past couple of years, the term “blood libel” has been applied by writers here at COMMENTARY to describe the false charges put forward by Human Rights Watch and the UN Goldstone Commission against Israeli forces fighting Hamas terrorists in Gaza, as well as to the malicious falsehoods published by a Swedish newspaper that claimed Israel was murdering Palestinians and then harvesting their organs for medical use.

So the claim that Palin has crossed some bright line in the sand and “stolen” a phrase that has always and should always be used to describe only one thing is absurd. Like so much else that has been heard from the left in the wake of the shootings in Arizona, this further charge against Sarah Palin is groundless. The fact is, those who are trying to link her or other conservatives to this crime are committing a kind of blood libel. Take issue with her politics or dislike her personality if that is your inclination, but the idea that she has even the most remote connection to this event is outrageous. So, too, is the manufactured controversy over “blood libel.”

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Afternoon Commentary

A member of the Iranian Qods force, an elite branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard corps, was found to be moonlighting as a Taliban commander. As Stephen Hayes points out at the Weekly Standard, this development is further evidence that the doctrinal differences between Iranians and the Taliban don’t preclude them from working together.

From Scott Brown’s Senate win to Glenn Beck’s big rally, Politico counts down the top 10 political moments of 2010.

While national security experts remain concerned about the growing military capabilities of China’s navy, the Washington Post notes that the country is still struggling with some basic components of its air force technology.

Why do Israelis support a two state solution, but oppose a freeze on settlement construction? Jeremy Sharon argues that it’s because they have become discouraged about the possibility of a peace deal at this point in time: “Support for the notion of ‘two states for two peoples’ remains high at over 60 percent because Israelis acknowledge that ultimately, continued rule over the Palestinians is untenable. But there is no desire to rush into an irreversible agreement which could result not with the shelling of Sderot or Haifa, but of Tel Aviv.”

A member of the Iranian Qods force, an elite branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard corps, was found to be moonlighting as a Taliban commander. As Stephen Hayes points out at the Weekly Standard, this development is further evidence that the doctrinal differences between Iranians and the Taliban don’t preclude them from working together.

From Scott Brown’s Senate win to Glenn Beck’s big rally, Politico counts down the top 10 political moments of 2010.

While national security experts remain concerned about the growing military capabilities of China’s navy, the Washington Post notes that the country is still struggling with some basic components of its air force technology.

Why do Israelis support a two state solution, but oppose a freeze on settlement construction? Jeremy Sharon argues that it’s because they have become discouraged about the possibility of a peace deal at this point in time: “Support for the notion of ‘two states for two peoples’ remains high at over 60 percent because Israelis acknowledge that ultimately, continued rule over the Palestinians is untenable. But there is no desire to rush into an irreversible agreement which could result not with the shelling of Sderot or Haifa, but of Tel Aviv.”

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Israel’s Critics Cry About Being Repressed … from Their Usual Soapbox at the New York Times

That the New York Times’s Roger Cohen has a problem with Israel is not exactly a secret. As far as he is concerned, the country’s democratically elected government and the people who elected it don’t measure up to his moral standards. Moreover, he and those who share his views, like writer Peter Beinart, think that any Jewish or non-Jewish friends of Israel who prefer to focus their efforts on continuing to defend Israel against an Arab/Muslim siege and anti-Zionist campaigners who seek to isolate it rather than spend their time flaying it for perceived sins are also not living up to the standards they are setting for them.

Today Cohen weighs in again to tell the sad tale of a liberal American who went to Israel to work for left-wing causes there and claims to have gotten into a scuffle with right-wingers after a demonstration in Tel Aviv during which he and his friends waved signs that said “Zionists Are Not Settlers.” Politics in Israel can be a bit rougher than what we’re used to here in America, but there’s no excuse for violence. It would have been far better for his antagonists to merely point out that Zionists have always been “settlers,” since there would be no state of Israel had not some Jews had the chutzpah to jump-start the rebirth of Jewish life in the Jewish homeland by planting roots in places where Arabs didn’t want them to be. Like, for example, the metropolis of Tel Aviv, where the demonstration took place, which a century ago was nothing but a small annoying Jewish settlement on the outskirts of Arab Jaffa.

But Cohen isn’t content to merely blackguard Israelis or their supporters. In order to put forward his argument in a way in which those who agree with him can be portrayed as victims rather than judgmental critics who don’t understand Israel’s dilemma, he has to claim that their views are being suppressed. Thus, it isn’t enough for him to promote the views of the left-wing lobby J Street or to echo the arguments of Beinart about Israel’s moral failures; he must also claim that the “debate remains stifled.” Read More

That the New York Times’s Roger Cohen has a problem with Israel is not exactly a secret. As far as he is concerned, the country’s democratically elected government and the people who elected it don’t measure up to his moral standards. Moreover, he and those who share his views, like writer Peter Beinart, think that any Jewish or non-Jewish friends of Israel who prefer to focus their efforts on continuing to defend Israel against an Arab/Muslim siege and anti-Zionist campaigners who seek to isolate it rather than spend their time flaying it for perceived sins are also not living up to the standards they are setting for them.

Today Cohen weighs in again to tell the sad tale of a liberal American who went to Israel to work for left-wing causes there and claims to have gotten into a scuffle with right-wingers after a demonstration in Tel Aviv during which he and his friends waved signs that said “Zionists Are Not Settlers.” Politics in Israel can be a bit rougher than what we’re used to here in America, but there’s no excuse for violence. It would have been far better for his antagonists to merely point out that Zionists have always been “settlers,” since there would be no state of Israel had not some Jews had the chutzpah to jump-start the rebirth of Jewish life in the Jewish homeland by planting roots in places where Arabs didn’t want them to be. Like, for example, the metropolis of Tel Aviv, where the demonstration took place, which a century ago was nothing but a small annoying Jewish settlement on the outskirts of Arab Jaffa.

But Cohen isn’t content to merely blackguard Israelis or their supporters. In order to put forward his argument in a way in which those who agree with him can be portrayed as victims rather than judgmental critics who don’t understand Israel’s dilemma, he has to claim that their views are being suppressed. Thus, it isn’t enough for him to promote the views of the left-wing lobby J Street or to echo the arguments of Beinart about Israel’s moral failures; he must also claim that the “debate remains stifled.”

What is his proof? Because left-wingers who tried to disrupt a speech being given by Israel’s prime minster were “dragged out” of the auditorium where Netanyahu was trying to speak in New Orleans. Never mind that if someone tried to do that to President Obama, he’d be arrested. What else? Because one synagogue in Massachusetts decided not to host a J Street leader. Shocking. Want more? Cohen claims that AIPAC, a vast group with across-the-board support from American Jews, won’t debate J Street, a small group largely funded by financier George Soros (though the group spent years inexplicably lying about Soros’s role in propping up this Potemkin organization) that is dedicated to supporting American pressure on Israel. Even worse, the young Jew whose story Cohen tells is getting some negative feedback from friends about his J Street activities. Isn’t that awful?

The truth is, despite promoting itself as the liberal alternative to AIPAC, a stance that ought to make it popular due to the fact that most Jews are liberals, J Street has little grassroots Jewish support. That’s because it has systematically taken stands on Israel’s right to self-defense and the nuclear threat from Iran that strike most Jews as being outside the pro-Israel consensus. But far from being silenced, J Street is the darling of a mainstream media that has consistently promoted it, especially in places where Israel’s supporters have trouble making their voices heard. Like the opinion pages of the New York Times.

But Cohen did get one thing right. He notes in passing that the administration’s latest attempt to pressure Israel failed because “President Barack Obama had virtually no domestic constituency” for his policy. This is absolutely true. The vast majority of Americans, both Jewish and non-Jewish, support the Jewish state and oppose twisting its arm in this manner. That they hold to this belief despite the constant drumbeat of attacks on Israel, such as those by Cohen, his Times colleague Nicholas Kristof, and Peter Beinart, speaks volumes about how marginal J Street still is.

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The Myth of Jewish-Only Roads

Helen Thomas is at it again.

“I can call a president of the United States anything in the book,” she said at an anti-Arab-bias workshop in Detroit, “but I can’t touch Israel, which has Jewish-only roads in the West Bank. No American would tolerate that — white-only roads.”

She’s right that no American would tolerate white-only roads. Israelis, likewise, would never tolerate roads for Jews only. That’s why such roads don’t exist.

The roads she’s referring to in the West Bank are Israeli, and they’re not just for Jews. Israeli Arabs can drive on them, and so can non-Jewish foreigners, including Arab and Muslim foreigners. Palestinians were once able to drive on them but have not been allowed to do so since the second intifada, when suicide bombers used them to penetrate Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in order to massacre people.

There are also, by the way, Palestinian roads in the West Bank that Israelis can’t use.

I don’t know if Helen Thomas knows this and is lying or if she’s just an ignoramus. What I’ll bet she doesn’t know is that Arab residents of Jerusalem can use both the Israeli roads and the Palestinian roads. They’re the only people who live in the area who can do this. (Foreigners also are allowed to use both.)

This doesn’t remotely line up with her narrative of perfidious Zion. But it’s true.

Helen Thomas is at it again.

“I can call a president of the United States anything in the book,” she said at an anti-Arab-bias workshop in Detroit, “but I can’t touch Israel, which has Jewish-only roads in the West Bank. No American would tolerate that — white-only roads.”

She’s right that no American would tolerate white-only roads. Israelis, likewise, would never tolerate roads for Jews only. That’s why such roads don’t exist.

The roads she’s referring to in the West Bank are Israeli, and they’re not just for Jews. Israeli Arabs can drive on them, and so can non-Jewish foreigners, including Arab and Muslim foreigners. Palestinians were once able to drive on them but have not been allowed to do so since the second intifada, when suicide bombers used them to penetrate Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in order to massacre people.

There are also, by the way, Palestinian roads in the West Bank that Israelis can’t use.

I don’t know if Helen Thomas knows this and is lying or if she’s just an ignoramus. What I’ll bet she doesn’t know is that Arab residents of Jerusalem can use both the Israeli roads and the Palestinian roads. They’re the only people who live in the area who can do this. (Foreigners also are allowed to use both.)

This doesn’t remotely line up with her narrative of perfidious Zion. But it’s true.

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TSA Scanners vs. Profiling Redux

As they say in Congress, I would like to expand and clarify my previous remarks on TSA security screening. Abby Wisse Schachter at the New York Post has a thoughtful response taking issue with my endorsement of body scanners and pat-downs. She concedes that racial/ethnic profiling doesn’t work, but goes on to argue:

I differ with Boot when he dismisses behavioral profiling because it isn’t a perfect cure-all. Wouldn’t it be possible to profile everyone in line at security by conducting an interview to suss out an individual [who] seems like they might be a security threat based on their behavior, then have a second layer of pat-downs and nudie screening for those who didn’t pass the interview? Why is it necessary to essentially terrorize children in order to provide security which if we’re being realistic is not going to work 100 percent of the time. I’m not convinced the TSA has exhausted the benefits of other less invasive security techniques that they can plausibly claim this is the only way to go.

I was not dismissing behavioral profiling. I think it is vital and necessary but insufficient. To truly secure anything, you need multiple defenses. Thus military bases have an outer and an inner perimeter so that if the first is breached, the second will stand. In the same way, we need various defenses to stop terrorists from hitting our aviation system. Behavioral profiling is certainly part of it. So is interviewing at least some passengers. But there are limits to how far we can go with interviews. This is something that Israeli airport security personnel do extensively (I always seem to get asked if I’m Jewish and to name my rabbi), but they have the luxury of guarding only one airport. In the U.S., we have hundreds and hundreds of airports with thousands of flights every day. Imagine subjecting every single passenger to the kind of (sometimes lengthy) interrogation that Israeli security personnel do. It would slow the entire system to a crawl and generate more complaints than the body scanners. It would also be much more difficult to do because you would have to train tens of thousands of personnel in very difficult interrogation techniques. Far easier to train them to monitor a body scanner or to pat you down.

Even when done by well-trained Israeli operatives, the interviews are sometimes insufficient. That is made clear by this account (from the website of Israel’s security agency, Shabak) of a 1988 attempted bombing of an El Al flight from London to Tel Aviv:

The passenger, a 32 year old Irish woman named Anne-Marie Murphy, who was six months pregnant, arrived at the check-in desk some forty minutes before it closed. She was approached and questioned by the deputy security officer as part of routine passenger security checks.

No suspicious signs were revealed during her questioning. The passenger, who gave the impression of being a simple woman, responded in the negative when asked if she had been given anything to bring to Israel. During the questioning she was calm, and revealed no sign of nervousness. In the check of her baggage, suspicious signs came to light: a Commodore scientific calculator with an electric cable was found; the bag raised suspicion due to its unexpectedly heavy weight. The security officer’s examination of the bag revealed explosives concealed in the bottom of the bag, under a double panel. He called the police, and the passenger was arrested.

Turns out Ms. Murphy — who did not fit the profile of a terrorist or act like one — had been given a bomb by her Jordanian boyfriend. In this case, only physical examination of her luggage revealed the device. But that wouldn’t work with some of the more recent al-Qaeda bombers, who are secreting explosives in their underwear or elsewhere on their person. The only way they can be reliably detected is with the body scanners and pat-downs that the TSA is now rolling out.

By all means, we should do various kinds of profiling and interviewing, but we also need another line of defense. This is it.

As they say in Congress, I would like to expand and clarify my previous remarks on TSA security screening. Abby Wisse Schachter at the New York Post has a thoughtful response taking issue with my endorsement of body scanners and pat-downs. She concedes that racial/ethnic profiling doesn’t work, but goes on to argue:

I differ with Boot when he dismisses behavioral profiling because it isn’t a perfect cure-all. Wouldn’t it be possible to profile everyone in line at security by conducting an interview to suss out an individual [who] seems like they might be a security threat based on their behavior, then have a second layer of pat-downs and nudie screening for those who didn’t pass the interview? Why is it necessary to essentially terrorize children in order to provide security which if we’re being realistic is not going to work 100 percent of the time. I’m not convinced the TSA has exhausted the benefits of other less invasive security techniques that they can plausibly claim this is the only way to go.

I was not dismissing behavioral profiling. I think it is vital and necessary but insufficient. To truly secure anything, you need multiple defenses. Thus military bases have an outer and an inner perimeter so that if the first is breached, the second will stand. In the same way, we need various defenses to stop terrorists from hitting our aviation system. Behavioral profiling is certainly part of it. So is interviewing at least some passengers. But there are limits to how far we can go with interviews. This is something that Israeli airport security personnel do extensively (I always seem to get asked if I’m Jewish and to name my rabbi), but they have the luxury of guarding only one airport. In the U.S., we have hundreds and hundreds of airports with thousands of flights every day. Imagine subjecting every single passenger to the kind of (sometimes lengthy) interrogation that Israeli security personnel do. It would slow the entire system to a crawl and generate more complaints than the body scanners. It would also be much more difficult to do because you would have to train tens of thousands of personnel in very difficult interrogation techniques. Far easier to train them to monitor a body scanner or to pat you down.

Even when done by well-trained Israeli operatives, the interviews are sometimes insufficient. That is made clear by this account (from the website of Israel’s security agency, Shabak) of a 1988 attempted bombing of an El Al flight from London to Tel Aviv:

The passenger, a 32 year old Irish woman named Anne-Marie Murphy, who was six months pregnant, arrived at the check-in desk some forty minutes before it closed. She was approached and questioned by the deputy security officer as part of routine passenger security checks.

No suspicious signs were revealed during her questioning. The passenger, who gave the impression of being a simple woman, responded in the negative when asked if she had been given anything to bring to Israel. During the questioning she was calm, and revealed no sign of nervousness. In the check of her baggage, suspicious signs came to light: a Commodore scientific calculator with an electric cable was found; the bag raised suspicion due to its unexpectedly heavy weight. The security officer’s examination of the bag revealed explosives concealed in the bottom of the bag, under a double panel. He called the police, and the passenger was arrested.

Turns out Ms. Murphy — who did not fit the profile of a terrorist or act like one — had been given a bomb by her Jordanian boyfriend. In this case, only physical examination of her luggage revealed the device. But that wouldn’t work with some of the more recent al-Qaeda bombers, who are secreting explosives in their underwear or elsewhere on their person. The only way they can be reliably detected is with the body scanners and pat-downs that the TSA is now rolling out.

By all means, we should do various kinds of profiling and interviewing, but we also need another line of defense. This is it.

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Out of the TSA Scanner and into the Fire

Looks like there might be a simple fix to the problem of full-body scans at airports: distorting the images so that they no longer look like naked people but rather fun-house images. According to the nuclear scientist who came up with the solution and offered it to the TSA four years ago, hidden explosives or weapons would still show up on the scan, without travelers feeling that their privates had been exposed to the world.

The new rallying call on the right is to drop the scans and pat-downs for most passengers in favor of profiling. Charles Krauthammer’s funny and provocative column last week made the case that the only reason we continue to inconvenience all travelers in the name of protecting security is that “people are too cowed to even question the absurd taboo against profiling — when the profile of the airline attacker is narrow, concrete, uniquely definable, and universally known.”

Would that we could easily profile what a terrorist looks like. Does anyone really believe that al-Qaeda is likely to place a bomb on a passenger outfitted in traditional Muslim garb? Or even on a typically Middle Eastern–looking passenger? Among recent terrorists who have been arrested or killed are blond, blue-eyed Germans and Americans, including an American woman, and a number of Africans, like the underwear-bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, and a group of Somalis in Minnesota. Ignoring people who “don’t look like terrorists” would be dangerous policy indeed.

Nor is the Israeli model the answer. Israel has one major airport in a tiny country. As anyone who has been through Israeli security knows, we could never adopt the thorough questioning and screening used there in our busy hubs. Years ago, I learned firsthand exactly how serious the Israelis are when I was pulled out of line at Tel-Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport. After more than a half-hour’s questioning and pat-down, with all my luggage unpacked and carefully inspected, I asked whether I was ever going to be permitted to leave Israel, which I was visiting as an official guest of the government at the time. “Yes,” the agent told me, “but not necessarily on an airplane.” Eventually I was allowed to board, but only after the intervention of an American-born Israeli soldier who recognized me from the newspaper and confirmed that I really was who I claimed to be.

I, for one, would rather endure a body scanner than a half-hour interrogation each time I fly.

Looks like there might be a simple fix to the problem of full-body scans at airports: distorting the images so that they no longer look like naked people but rather fun-house images. According to the nuclear scientist who came up with the solution and offered it to the TSA four years ago, hidden explosives or weapons would still show up on the scan, without travelers feeling that their privates had been exposed to the world.

The new rallying call on the right is to drop the scans and pat-downs for most passengers in favor of profiling. Charles Krauthammer’s funny and provocative column last week made the case that the only reason we continue to inconvenience all travelers in the name of protecting security is that “people are too cowed to even question the absurd taboo against profiling — when the profile of the airline attacker is narrow, concrete, uniquely definable, and universally known.”

Would that we could easily profile what a terrorist looks like. Does anyone really believe that al-Qaeda is likely to place a bomb on a passenger outfitted in traditional Muslim garb? Or even on a typically Middle Eastern–looking passenger? Among recent terrorists who have been arrested or killed are blond, blue-eyed Germans and Americans, including an American woman, and a number of Africans, like the underwear-bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, and a group of Somalis in Minnesota. Ignoring people who “don’t look like terrorists” would be dangerous policy indeed.

Nor is the Israeli model the answer. Israel has one major airport in a tiny country. As anyone who has been through Israeli security knows, we could never adopt the thorough questioning and screening used there in our busy hubs. Years ago, I learned firsthand exactly how serious the Israelis are when I was pulled out of line at Tel-Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport. After more than a half-hour’s questioning and pat-down, with all my luggage unpacked and carefully inspected, I asked whether I was ever going to be permitted to leave Israel, which I was visiting as an official guest of the government at the time. “Yes,” the agent told me, “but not necessarily on an airplane.” Eventually I was allowed to board, but only after the intervention of an American-born Israeli soldier who recognized me from the newspaper and confirmed that I really was who I claimed to be.

I, for one, would rather endure a body scanner than a half-hour interrogation each time I fly.

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Extending the Settlement Freeze Would Undermine a Vital Israeli Security Interest

Thomas Friedman argues in today’s New York Times that Israel should extend its freeze on settlement construction because when a key ally like America “asks Israel to do something that in no way touches on its vital security … there is only one right answer: ‘Yes.’” Friedman is, of course, correct that countries should help allies anytime they can do so without great cost to themselves. Where he’s wrong is in saying that no vital Israeli security interest is at stake.

It’s true that Israel has no real security interest in a few more houses here or there. But it does have a vital security interest in ultimately securing defensible borders, which can’t be done without retaining some territory on the other side of the Green Line under any deal. And continuing the settlement freeze would undermine Israel’s negotiating position on this issue.

Israel’s need for defensible borders was first recognized in UN Security Council Resolution 242, which is still considered the basis for resolving the conflict: this resolution deliberately demanded an Israeli withdrawal “from territories” captured in 1967 rather than from “all the territories,” as the Arabs had wanted, to enable Israel to retain some of this land.

As Lord Caradon, the British UN ambassador who drafted it, later said, “It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967, because those positions were undesirable and artificial.” Similarly, America’s then-ambassador to the UN, Arthur Goldberg, said the resolution’s goal was to secure “less than a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces … inasmuch as Israel’s prior frontiers had proved to be notably insecure.”

Many settlements were subsequently built for precisely this purpose: to thicken Israel’s narrow pre-1967 waist and create a buffer around its major population center (the greater Tel Aviv area), its capital (Jerusalem), and its only international airport (Ben-Gurion).

Israel’s experience with previous withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza — which, as Friedman admitted, gained it nothing but rocket fire in return — has only made this more important. Even with the new Iron Dome anti-rocket system, a territorial buffer is essential to protect these vital areas from short-range rockets: not only can the system not stop weapons launched from less than 4.5 kilometers away, but it’s economically prohibitive against anything beyond very occasional fire.

Thus Israel has a valid security-based claim to these areas, and a onetime, temporary building moratorium as a goodwill gesture to promote peace, like the one Israel instituted last November, doesn’t undermine it. But extending the freeze would, because that implies the moratorium isn’t a onetime goodwill gesture on Israel’s part, but — as most of the world indeed claims — a necessary condition for progress, since this land a priori belongs to the Palestinians, and Israel has no right to it.

Israel can’t stop other countries from rejecting its claim to this land. But for Jerusalem to itself denigrate this claim by extending the freeze would undermine its negotiating position on a vital security issue: defensible borders. And that is something no country with any vestige of a survival instinct should agree to do.

Thomas Friedman argues in today’s New York Times that Israel should extend its freeze on settlement construction because when a key ally like America “asks Israel to do something that in no way touches on its vital security … there is only one right answer: ‘Yes.’” Friedman is, of course, correct that countries should help allies anytime they can do so without great cost to themselves. Where he’s wrong is in saying that no vital Israeli security interest is at stake.

It’s true that Israel has no real security interest in a few more houses here or there. But it does have a vital security interest in ultimately securing defensible borders, which can’t be done without retaining some territory on the other side of the Green Line under any deal. And continuing the settlement freeze would undermine Israel’s negotiating position on this issue.

Israel’s need for defensible borders was first recognized in UN Security Council Resolution 242, which is still considered the basis for resolving the conflict: this resolution deliberately demanded an Israeli withdrawal “from territories” captured in 1967 rather than from “all the territories,” as the Arabs had wanted, to enable Israel to retain some of this land.

As Lord Caradon, the British UN ambassador who drafted it, later said, “It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967, because those positions were undesirable and artificial.” Similarly, America’s then-ambassador to the UN, Arthur Goldberg, said the resolution’s goal was to secure “less than a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces … inasmuch as Israel’s prior frontiers had proved to be notably insecure.”

Many settlements were subsequently built for precisely this purpose: to thicken Israel’s narrow pre-1967 waist and create a buffer around its major population center (the greater Tel Aviv area), its capital (Jerusalem), and its only international airport (Ben-Gurion).

Israel’s experience with previous withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza — which, as Friedman admitted, gained it nothing but rocket fire in return — has only made this more important. Even with the new Iron Dome anti-rocket system, a territorial buffer is essential to protect these vital areas from short-range rockets: not only can the system not stop weapons launched from less than 4.5 kilometers away, but it’s economically prohibitive against anything beyond very occasional fire.

Thus Israel has a valid security-based claim to these areas, and a onetime, temporary building moratorium as a goodwill gesture to promote peace, like the one Israel instituted last November, doesn’t undermine it. But extending the freeze would, because that implies the moratorium isn’t a onetime goodwill gesture on Israel’s part, but — as most of the world indeed claims — a necessary condition for progress, since this land a priori belongs to the Palestinians, and Israel has no right to it.

Israel can’t stop other countries from rejecting its claim to this land. But for Jerusalem to itself denigrate this claim by extending the freeze would undermine its negotiating position on a vital security issue: defensible borders. And that is something no country with any vestige of a survival instinct should agree to do.

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Settlement Freeze: An Unacceptable Veto

It has always been the case that Israel’s government would have to choose, at some point, to lift the freeze on settlement construction. The reason is simple: Israel can’t give anyone else an effective veto over settlement activities. Protecting settlements in Judea and Samaria is a matter of national security: it prevents the Palestinian Arabs from using the territory to menace Israelis across the Green Line. Past Israeli withdrawals from strategic or disputed territories have produced ever-present menaces along its other boundaries, as demonstrated in Gaza and the Hezbollah fiefdom in southern Lebanon. The West Bank, moreover, is an even more dangerous case from a geographic standpoint, because its mountainous heights look down on Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, the heart of Israel’s national and economic life.

In the absence of an enforceable, good-faith agreement with the Palestinian Authority, Israel can’t let either the PA or the U.S. exercise a de facto veto over its administration of the settlements. The right to such a veto, once established, would be wielded in incremental steps to prejudice Israel’s security and bargaining position. It would amount to much more than a minor concession in the interest of the current talks. Accepting a de facto settlement veto would open the door to a campaign of attrition against the settlements, just as it would validate the Palestinian negotiating principle of winning major and debilitating concessions as a prior condition of talks — and therefore without the Palestinians themselves having to commit to anything.

In light of this reality, the lament of Roger Cohen in the New York Times today is both ironic and poignant. If the talks break down over the settlement issue, says Cohen, “Netanyahu and Abbas know … Obama would look amateurish.” It would be a “terrible mistake,” in his view, for Netanyahu to reject a formal extension of the settlement freeze. He and Abbas both need the United States, which is “an incentive to avoid humiliating Obama.” Obama himself “should fight it until the last minute. His international credibility is on the line.”

But it’s Obama who put himself in this position. He and his foreign-policy team are amateurish; that’s the whole problem. Regardless of whether they agree with Israel’s view of the settlements and their relation to national security, they should have understood and acknowledged it as real. No negotiations can succeed if the concerns of one party are ignored or dismissed. For that party, accepting the breakdown of negotiations is likely to be the lesser of two evils.

Netanyahu must lift the settlement freeze sometime, and the longer he waits, the more of a political disruption it will be.  He can’t let it become the status quo by default. He may yet find some way to navigate between two difficult positions, at least for another few weeks. But ultimately, his obligation is to the security of Israel. I believe that will be at least as much of a motive for him as retaining his coalition in the Knesset.

Obama’s credibility, meanwhile, is Obama’s problem. If he wants to see it undamaged, he could not do better than to learn from the present impasse and avoid backing himself into a corner again. Roger Cohen may think it’s a good idea to bolster Obama’s credibility with unilateral security concessions from Israel, but it’s a good bet Bibi doesn’t.

It has always been the case that Israel’s government would have to choose, at some point, to lift the freeze on settlement construction. The reason is simple: Israel can’t give anyone else an effective veto over settlement activities. Protecting settlements in Judea and Samaria is a matter of national security: it prevents the Palestinian Arabs from using the territory to menace Israelis across the Green Line. Past Israeli withdrawals from strategic or disputed territories have produced ever-present menaces along its other boundaries, as demonstrated in Gaza and the Hezbollah fiefdom in southern Lebanon. The West Bank, moreover, is an even more dangerous case from a geographic standpoint, because its mountainous heights look down on Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, the heart of Israel’s national and economic life.

In the absence of an enforceable, good-faith agreement with the Palestinian Authority, Israel can’t let either the PA or the U.S. exercise a de facto veto over its administration of the settlements. The right to such a veto, once established, would be wielded in incremental steps to prejudice Israel’s security and bargaining position. It would amount to much more than a minor concession in the interest of the current talks. Accepting a de facto settlement veto would open the door to a campaign of attrition against the settlements, just as it would validate the Palestinian negotiating principle of winning major and debilitating concessions as a prior condition of talks — and therefore without the Palestinians themselves having to commit to anything.

In light of this reality, the lament of Roger Cohen in the New York Times today is both ironic and poignant. If the talks break down over the settlement issue, says Cohen, “Netanyahu and Abbas know … Obama would look amateurish.” It would be a “terrible mistake,” in his view, for Netanyahu to reject a formal extension of the settlement freeze. He and Abbas both need the United States, which is “an incentive to avoid humiliating Obama.” Obama himself “should fight it until the last minute. His international credibility is on the line.”

But it’s Obama who put himself in this position. He and his foreign-policy team are amateurish; that’s the whole problem. Regardless of whether they agree with Israel’s view of the settlements and their relation to national security, they should have understood and acknowledged it as real. No negotiations can succeed if the concerns of one party are ignored or dismissed. For that party, accepting the breakdown of negotiations is likely to be the lesser of two evils.

Netanyahu must lift the settlement freeze sometime, and the longer he waits, the more of a political disruption it will be.  He can’t let it become the status quo by default. He may yet find some way to navigate between two difficult positions, at least for another few weeks. But ultimately, his obligation is to the security of Israel. I believe that will be at least as much of a motive for him as retaining his coalition in the Knesset.

Obama’s credibility, meanwhile, is Obama’s problem. If he wants to see it undamaged, he could not do better than to learn from the present impasse and avoid backing himself into a corner again. Roger Cohen may think it’s a good idea to bolster Obama’s credibility with unilateral security concessions from Israel, but it’s a good bet Bibi doesn’t.

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Why Mahmoud Abbas Cannot Make Peace

Once in a while, I “meet” someone online, on blogs and in comment sections, who thinks the current round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks might end the conflict, but I don’t think I know anyone in person who lives in the Middle East who believes this. Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh summed up the consensus view a few days ago. “The peace process is going nowhere,” he wrote, “and everyone is just pretending.”

Nations make peace with their enemies, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas — also known as Abu Mazen — is not really Israel’s enemy. He’s hardly a friend or an ally, but the Israeli army and Abbas’s security forces have a better and more professional working relationship with each other right now than they ever have. Even Israel’s hard-line foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, doesn’t think of Abbas as the leader of the enemy camp. “I repeat,” he said a few weeks ago, “Abu Mazen will not fight us.”

Israel’s enemy is the Resistance Bloc consisting of Syria, Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah. No one from that bloc is participating in peace talks. Even if Abbas signed a treaty with Israel — a most unlikely event while Hamas holds a gun to his head and even he refuses to recognize Israel as a Jewish state — it would only mean the war between Israel and Abbas was over. But that war is effectively, though perhaps just temporarily, over already. Not much would actually change. The Arab-Israeli conflict would rage on, as would the Islamist-Israeli conflict. Not even the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would end if Abbas signed a treaty. He couldn’t enforce it.

“By being forced out of the Gaza Strip,” Toameh wrote, “Abbas lost direct control over some 1.5 million Palestinians, roughly half the Palestinians living in the Palestinian territories. … So if Abbas cannot go to the Gaza Strip and has limited control over the West Bank, where is he supposed to implement a peace agreement? In downtown Ramallah? In Tel Aviv?”

The only reason he retains even limited authority is because he extended his expired term in office and is propped up by Israel. He has no authority whatsoever in Gaza and lacks even influence in Lebanon, Syria, and Iran.

If the Iran-led Resistance Bloc was wounded or crumbling, if it was under irresistible pressure from within and without to reform or die, a deal might be possible and would be worth exploring. But that’s not what’s happening. None of the bloc’s leaders will even start peace talks, let alone finish them, while they’re rising in power and have no need to change.

Just a few years ago, Hamas was but one force among several in Gaza, but today it rules with a totalitarian fist. Syria and Hezbollah have seized de facto control over Lebanon, despite Hezbollah’s poor performance in the recent election, while Iran is nearing the threshold of becoming a nuclear-armed regional superpower.

If Abbas had the authority of the Jordanian and Egyptian governments, he might be able to force a cold peace on his people, but he doesn’t. The Resistance Bloc has successfully embedded itself in the Palestinian population and rules roughly half of it. Hamas would simply ignore any treaty Abbas might sign and continue its war against Israel, just as Hezbollah does whatever it wants up north in Lebanon. Abbas can’t put a stop even to his own part of this region-wide conflict any more than Saad Hariri in Beirut can end his.

Once in a while, I “meet” someone online, on blogs and in comment sections, who thinks the current round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks might end the conflict, but I don’t think I know anyone in person who lives in the Middle East who believes this. Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh summed up the consensus view a few days ago. “The peace process is going nowhere,” he wrote, “and everyone is just pretending.”

Nations make peace with their enemies, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas — also known as Abu Mazen — is not really Israel’s enemy. He’s hardly a friend or an ally, but the Israeli army and Abbas’s security forces have a better and more professional working relationship with each other right now than they ever have. Even Israel’s hard-line foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, doesn’t think of Abbas as the leader of the enemy camp. “I repeat,” he said a few weeks ago, “Abu Mazen will not fight us.”

Israel’s enemy is the Resistance Bloc consisting of Syria, Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah. No one from that bloc is participating in peace talks. Even if Abbas signed a treaty with Israel — a most unlikely event while Hamas holds a gun to his head and even he refuses to recognize Israel as a Jewish state — it would only mean the war between Israel and Abbas was over. But that war is effectively, though perhaps just temporarily, over already. Not much would actually change. The Arab-Israeli conflict would rage on, as would the Islamist-Israeli conflict. Not even the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would end if Abbas signed a treaty. He couldn’t enforce it.

“By being forced out of the Gaza Strip,” Toameh wrote, “Abbas lost direct control over some 1.5 million Palestinians, roughly half the Palestinians living in the Palestinian territories. … So if Abbas cannot go to the Gaza Strip and has limited control over the West Bank, where is he supposed to implement a peace agreement? In downtown Ramallah? In Tel Aviv?”

The only reason he retains even limited authority is because he extended his expired term in office and is propped up by Israel. He has no authority whatsoever in Gaza and lacks even influence in Lebanon, Syria, and Iran.

If the Iran-led Resistance Bloc was wounded or crumbling, if it was under irresistible pressure from within and without to reform or die, a deal might be possible and would be worth exploring. But that’s not what’s happening. None of the bloc’s leaders will even start peace talks, let alone finish them, while they’re rising in power and have no need to change.

Just a few years ago, Hamas was but one force among several in Gaza, but today it rules with a totalitarian fist. Syria and Hezbollah have seized de facto control over Lebanon, despite Hezbollah’s poor performance in the recent election, while Iran is nearing the threshold of becoming a nuclear-armed regional superpower.

If Abbas had the authority of the Jordanian and Egyptian governments, he might be able to force a cold peace on his people, but he doesn’t. The Resistance Bloc has successfully embedded itself in the Palestinian population and rules roughly half of it. Hamas would simply ignore any treaty Abbas might sign and continue its war against Israel, just as Hezbollah does whatever it wants up north in Lebanon. Abbas can’t put a stop even to his own part of this region-wide conflict any more than Saad Hariri in Beirut can end his.

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Inclusive Israel Gets No Credit

Earlier today, I remarked that the left is unmoved by Israel’s protection of the rights of gays and women. It’s not simply that Israel isn’t hanging gays as they do in Iran, or that it doesn’t permit six-year-old girls to be married off; no, it’s a modern, inclusive democracy — a fact that seems to escape its critics’ notice (especially those on the UN Human Rights Council, whose treatment of women and gays is atrocious). Likewise, the media, even in the face of abundant evidence, is slow to credit Israel for human-rights policies and a nondiscriminatory legal system vastly superior to those of its neighbors.

A case in point: “Israel’s Supreme Court has ordered the Jerusalem city government to provide more than $120,000 in funding for a prominent gay community center.” The report spins it this way, however: “Thursday’s ruling was the latest sign that a hostile climate toward Jerusalem’s gay community may be abating.” Well, other signs would be that gay Palestinians have fled there. (“According to some estimates, there are now 300 gay Palestinian men secretly living and working in Israel. Their willingness to live there — despite the risk of being detained and deported as a security threat — is due to Palestinian attitudes toward gay men, they claim.”) In April this year, Israel took flack from the Catholic Church for allowing a gay-pride parade in Jerusalem. And then there is this:

The right to be openly gay has been acknowledged in the Israeli military since 1993, and there is little evidence that policy has caused any problems. Even beyond the army, Israeli law is generally progressive on issues of sexual orientation. Even though marriage is controlled by the ultra-Orthodox rabbinic establishment, Israeli authorities recognize same-sex marriages performed abroad, and same-sex partners receive the same economic benefits as married couples.

“Out” magazine has named Tel Aviv the gay capital of the Middle East in acknowledgment of its thriving gay culture.

Military expert Levy said the editor of the primary army newspaper, Bamachane, is openly gay. He estimates the percentage of gay soldiers at 10 percent in general and somewhat less in field units.

Former soldier [Eli] Kaplan said certain intelligence and naval units were known for having a large proportion of gay soldiers.

So there have been plenty of “signs” of Israel’s tolerance and acceptance of gays, despite the AP’s obtuseness. And no, the left in America and the elites of the “international community” don’t give a darn about any of that. Why? Because it’s the Jewish state and the rules are different.

Earlier today, I remarked that the left is unmoved by Israel’s protection of the rights of gays and women. It’s not simply that Israel isn’t hanging gays as they do in Iran, or that it doesn’t permit six-year-old girls to be married off; no, it’s a modern, inclusive democracy — a fact that seems to escape its critics’ notice (especially those on the UN Human Rights Council, whose treatment of women and gays is atrocious). Likewise, the media, even in the face of abundant evidence, is slow to credit Israel for human-rights policies and a nondiscriminatory legal system vastly superior to those of its neighbors.

A case in point: “Israel’s Supreme Court has ordered the Jerusalem city government to provide more than $120,000 in funding for a prominent gay community center.” The report spins it this way, however: “Thursday’s ruling was the latest sign that a hostile climate toward Jerusalem’s gay community may be abating.” Well, other signs would be that gay Palestinians have fled there. (“According to some estimates, there are now 300 gay Palestinian men secretly living and working in Israel. Their willingness to live there — despite the risk of being detained and deported as a security threat — is due to Palestinian attitudes toward gay men, they claim.”) In April this year, Israel took flack from the Catholic Church for allowing a gay-pride parade in Jerusalem. And then there is this:

The right to be openly gay has been acknowledged in the Israeli military since 1993, and there is little evidence that policy has caused any problems. Even beyond the army, Israeli law is generally progressive on issues of sexual orientation. Even though marriage is controlled by the ultra-Orthodox rabbinic establishment, Israeli authorities recognize same-sex marriages performed abroad, and same-sex partners receive the same economic benefits as married couples.

“Out” magazine has named Tel Aviv the gay capital of the Middle East in acknowledgment of its thriving gay culture.

Military expert Levy said the editor of the primary army newspaper, Bamachane, is openly gay. He estimates the percentage of gay soldiers at 10 percent in general and somewhat less in field units.

Former soldier [Eli] Kaplan said certain intelligence and naval units were known for having a large proportion of gay soldiers.

So there have been plenty of “signs” of Israel’s tolerance and acceptance of gays, despite the AP’s obtuseness. And no, the left in America and the elites of the “international community” don’t give a darn about any of that. Why? Because it’s the Jewish state and the rules are different.

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Hezbollah’s “Soviet” Southern Lebanon

Michael J. Totten hits one out of the park today with his account of an interview with Jonathan Spyer, a journalist and research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center in Herzliya. Spyer, who fought with the IDF in Lebanon in 2006, is publishing a book on his recent visits to southern Lebanon, the Hezbollah enclave he describes to Totten as “a fanatical Iranian province.”

It’s a wide-ranging interview, but its core theme is the palpable totalitarianism of the civic atmosphere in southern Lebanon. The links to Iran are visible everywhere. Says Spyer:

You have to experience it to understand just how strange and extreme the situation actually is. Between Beirut and Tel Aviv there is this enclave of Iran, this strange dark kingdom. And I found it fascinating.

At the entrance to one of these towns, there’s an old piece of the South Lebanon Army’s armor, a T-55 tank I think. And Hezbollah put up this huge cardboard statue of Ayatollah Khomeini…

I also saw Iranian flags down there. That’s how blatant and obvious it all is.

Totten: You don’t see the Lebanese flag in the south.

Spyer: Right. Only the Hezbollah flag, the Amal flag, and the Iranian flag. It was a real eye-opener. I knew this already, but it’s something else to see it in person.

Spyer analogizes the feel of civil life across Lebanon’s political divide – the divide between the official government in Beirut and the Hezbollah enclave in the south – to the conditions in the former Soviet Union and the communist regimes of Eastern Europe. He captures vividly and convincingly how the people look over their shoulders and fear the unseen hand in their daily lives. And he acknowledges that Hezbollah in southern Lebanon is more effectively totalitarian than the Iranian regime itself is today. (It’s worth noting, as an aside, that Hezbollah has achieved this while operating cheek-by-jowl with UNIFIL.)

The interview is an excellent read, and not just because I agree with Spyer’s assessments of Iranian intentions, the ethnic tensions of the Middle East, and the Oslo process. Totten, for his part, has done a superb job of juxtaposing illustrative photos with the text. As Spyer suggests, we may know many of these things already, but it’s something else to “see” them in person, through the eyes of a first-hand witness. Spyer is one I want to hear more from.

Michael J. Totten hits one out of the park today with his account of an interview with Jonathan Spyer, a journalist and research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center in Herzliya. Spyer, who fought with the IDF in Lebanon in 2006, is publishing a book on his recent visits to southern Lebanon, the Hezbollah enclave he describes to Totten as “a fanatical Iranian province.”

It’s a wide-ranging interview, but its core theme is the palpable totalitarianism of the civic atmosphere in southern Lebanon. The links to Iran are visible everywhere. Says Spyer:

You have to experience it to understand just how strange and extreme the situation actually is. Between Beirut and Tel Aviv there is this enclave of Iran, this strange dark kingdom. And I found it fascinating.

At the entrance to one of these towns, there’s an old piece of the South Lebanon Army’s armor, a T-55 tank I think. And Hezbollah put up this huge cardboard statue of Ayatollah Khomeini…

I also saw Iranian flags down there. That’s how blatant and obvious it all is.

Totten: You don’t see the Lebanese flag in the south.

Spyer: Right. Only the Hezbollah flag, the Amal flag, and the Iranian flag. It was a real eye-opener. I knew this already, but it’s something else to see it in person.

Spyer analogizes the feel of civil life across Lebanon’s political divide – the divide between the official government in Beirut and the Hezbollah enclave in the south – to the conditions in the former Soviet Union and the communist regimes of Eastern Europe. He captures vividly and convincingly how the people look over their shoulders and fear the unseen hand in their daily lives. And he acknowledges that Hezbollah in southern Lebanon is more effectively totalitarian than the Iranian regime itself is today. (It’s worth noting, as an aside, that Hezbollah has achieved this while operating cheek-by-jowl with UNIFIL.)

The interview is an excellent read, and not just because I agree with Spyer’s assessments of Iranian intentions, the ethnic tensions of the Middle East, and the Oslo process. Totten, for his part, has done a superb job of juxtaposing illustrative photos with the text. As Spyer suggests, we may know many of these things already, but it’s something else to “see” them in person, through the eyes of a first-hand witness. Spyer is one I want to hear more from.

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Will’s Formula for Peace: Stop the Process

George Will has been on a roll, writing one blockbuster column after another on Israel and what he correctly dubs the “mirage” that passes for a “peace process.” He gives some context:

Since 1967, faced with unrelenting Palestinian irredentism, Israel has been weaving the West Bank into a common fabric with the coastal plain, the nation’s economic and population center of gravity. Withdrawal from the West Bank would bring Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion Airport within range of short-range rockets fired by persons overlooking the runways. So, the feasibility of such a withdrawal depends on how much has changed since 1974, when Yasser Arafat received a standing ovation at the United Nations when he said Israel had no right to exist.

Thirty-six years later, Israelis can watch West Bank Palestinian television incessantly inculcating anti-Semitism and denial of Israel’s right to exist. Across the fence that has substantially reduced terrorism from the West Bank, Israelis see Ramallah, where Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Palestinian Authority, lives and where a square was recently named in honor of Dalal Mughrabi. In 1978, she, together with 11 other terrorists, hijacked an Israeli bus and massacred 37 Israelis and one American. Cigarette lighters sold on the West Bank show, when lit, the World Trade Center burning.

But undaunted by reality, Obama’s self-grandiosity — and frenzy to deflect attention from his failure to devise an effective Iran policy — once again comes to the fore. Substituting bumper-sticker sloganeering for careful analysis, the president demands not just talks ”but ‘comprehensive’ solutions to problems, [which] may yet make matters worse by presenting its own plan for a final settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian problem. Barack Obama insists that it is ‘costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasure,’ although he does not say how.”

The left (the rest of the left, for Obama is very much their man in this regard) is infatuated with negotiations because the hope springs eternal that Israel can be bludgeoned into submission or ostracized if it resists. That also explains why Gen. David Petraeus’s ill-chosen words, which Will recites – “Israeli-Palestinian tensions ‘have an enormous effect on the strategic context’” — have been adopted as watchwords on the left. You see, if Israel is a national security liability, rather than an asset, the pummeling is not only justified but essential. (It is also nonsensical, as Will points out: “As though, were the tensions to subside, the hard men managing Iran’s decades-long drive for nuclear weapons would then say, ‘Oh, well, in that case, let’s call the whole thing off.’”)

Will gets to the nub of the matter: “The biggest threat to peace might be the peace process — or, more precisely, the illusion that there is one. The mirage becomes the reason for maintaining its imaginary ‘momentum’ by extorting concessions from Israel, the only party susceptible to U.S. pressure.”

In this regard, the Israeli government, by mouthing the same platitudinous phrases and offering a moratorium before partaking in another peace-process charade, has done itself no favors. The calculation, no doubt, is born out of necessity: the desire to avoid irreparable injury to the already bruised relationship with the U.S. requires complicity in the peace-process scam.

OK, so the Israeli government believes there is no alternative, but what has been the excuse for pro-Israel (the real pro-Israel ones, I mean) American Jewish groups? Why are they fixated, obsessed, and distracted by the non-peace process while the Iran nuclear program marches apace? Force of habit, perhaps. It is what they have been doing since Oslo (and before that); they have no other script. They also are, as we’ve much discussed, in the business of trying to get along as best they can with those in power. If those in power are determined to process the peace, then, by gosh, they are too. But even their ardor has cooled, and the lowering of expectations has become obvious. Sometimes one simply can’t keep up the pretense.

It would be a refreshing and important development if American Jewish leaders adopted Will’s approach: utter candor. The peace process is destructive, masks continued bad behavior by the Palestinians, and promotes animosity between the U.S. and Israel. Let’s get on with what matters: Iran. It would be bracing, brave, and clarifying. That it is also inconceivable tells you much about the state of mainstream American Jewish organizations and why so many of them teeter on the verge of irrelevance.

George Will has been on a roll, writing one blockbuster column after another on Israel and what he correctly dubs the “mirage” that passes for a “peace process.” He gives some context:

Since 1967, faced with unrelenting Palestinian irredentism, Israel has been weaving the West Bank into a common fabric with the coastal plain, the nation’s economic and population center of gravity. Withdrawal from the West Bank would bring Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion Airport within range of short-range rockets fired by persons overlooking the runways. So, the feasibility of such a withdrawal depends on how much has changed since 1974, when Yasser Arafat received a standing ovation at the United Nations when he said Israel had no right to exist.

Thirty-six years later, Israelis can watch West Bank Palestinian television incessantly inculcating anti-Semitism and denial of Israel’s right to exist. Across the fence that has substantially reduced terrorism from the West Bank, Israelis see Ramallah, where Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Palestinian Authority, lives and where a square was recently named in honor of Dalal Mughrabi. In 1978, she, together with 11 other terrorists, hijacked an Israeli bus and massacred 37 Israelis and one American. Cigarette lighters sold on the West Bank show, when lit, the World Trade Center burning.

But undaunted by reality, Obama’s self-grandiosity — and frenzy to deflect attention from his failure to devise an effective Iran policy — once again comes to the fore. Substituting bumper-sticker sloganeering for careful analysis, the president demands not just talks ”but ‘comprehensive’ solutions to problems, [which] may yet make matters worse by presenting its own plan for a final settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian problem. Barack Obama insists that it is ‘costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasure,’ although he does not say how.”

The left (the rest of the left, for Obama is very much their man in this regard) is infatuated with negotiations because the hope springs eternal that Israel can be bludgeoned into submission or ostracized if it resists. That also explains why Gen. David Petraeus’s ill-chosen words, which Will recites – “Israeli-Palestinian tensions ‘have an enormous effect on the strategic context’” — have been adopted as watchwords on the left. You see, if Israel is a national security liability, rather than an asset, the pummeling is not only justified but essential. (It is also nonsensical, as Will points out: “As though, were the tensions to subside, the hard men managing Iran’s decades-long drive for nuclear weapons would then say, ‘Oh, well, in that case, let’s call the whole thing off.’”)

Will gets to the nub of the matter: “The biggest threat to peace might be the peace process — or, more precisely, the illusion that there is one. The mirage becomes the reason for maintaining its imaginary ‘momentum’ by extorting concessions from Israel, the only party susceptible to U.S. pressure.”

In this regard, the Israeli government, by mouthing the same platitudinous phrases and offering a moratorium before partaking in another peace-process charade, has done itself no favors. The calculation, no doubt, is born out of necessity: the desire to avoid irreparable injury to the already bruised relationship with the U.S. requires complicity in the peace-process scam.

OK, so the Israeli government believes there is no alternative, but what has been the excuse for pro-Israel (the real pro-Israel ones, I mean) American Jewish groups? Why are they fixated, obsessed, and distracted by the non-peace process while the Iran nuclear program marches apace? Force of habit, perhaps. It is what they have been doing since Oslo (and before that); they have no other script. They also are, as we’ve much discussed, in the business of trying to get along as best they can with those in power. If those in power are determined to process the peace, then, by gosh, they are too. But even their ardor has cooled, and the lowering of expectations has become obvious. Sometimes one simply can’t keep up the pretense.

It would be a refreshing and important development if American Jewish leaders adopted Will’s approach: utter candor. The peace process is destructive, masks continued bad behavior by the Palestinians, and promotes animosity between the U.S. and Israel. Let’s get on with what matters: Iran. It would be bracing, brave, and clarifying. That it is also inconceivable tells you much about the state of mainstream American Jewish organizations and why so many of them teeter on the verge of irrelevance.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Isn’t it funny how the press doesn’t go nuts when this happens in a Democratic administration? “Before Marie Antoinette ‘Farmer in the Dell’ Obama’s even had a chance to teach low-income obese children how to sow and harvest and eat like so many little Johnny Appleseeds, her ‘Let’s Move’ initiative may lighten them up perforce, as Dem legislators find they are obliged to slash the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, to pay for it.”

Isn’t it interesting how Obama always delivers the message the “Muslim World” wants to hear? The Emergency Committee for Israel calls on the Obami to disassociate themselves from Imam Rauf: “The employment of Mr. Rauf by the State Department lends American credibility to a disturbing trend in the West: the idea that terrorism against Israelis falls into a different and less objectionable category from terrorism against other people. This may be fashionable in Europe, but the United States does not embrace an Israel exception to the unacceptability of suicide bombings. One of the most important messages the United States can deliver to the Middle East is that there is never a justification for jihadist murder, whether in New York, Madrid, London — or Tel Aviv. … There are numerous Muslim leaders in America who are willing to speak the plain truth about Hamas.”

Isn’t it a travesty that it took six years?: “The Justice Department has informed former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) that the government has ended a six-year investigation of his ties to the disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, according to DeLay’s lead counsel in the matter. … The investigation lasted through two presidents and four attorneys general. Its demise provides a stark footnote to the lobbying scandals that helped Democrats regain the House majority they held for 40 years.”

Isn’t it getting to be desperation time for the Democrats? “Republican candidates have jumped out to a record-setting 12-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, August 15, 2010. This is the biggest lead the GOP has held in over a decade of Rasmussen Reports surveying.”

Isn’t it time someone in the White House told Obama to stop saying “it’s clear” when it’s not? In Wisconsin, Obama was at it again: “What’s clear is that we are heading in the right direction.” But the press now is cutting him no slack: “But despite positive signs in the manufacturing sector, the White House has found itself at odds with continued high unemployment rates and anemic job growth, and the shadow of an uncertain future hung low over the event.”

Isn’t it a bad sign for Obama when he loses even Harry Reid on the Ground Zero mosque?

Isn’t the time when corporate America was trying to get along with Obama only a dim memory? Now it’s a pitched battle: “U.S. Chamber of Commerce economist Martin Regalia on Monday said the tax increases advocated by President Obama would essentially kill any chance for an economic rebound. ’That’s what you’re suggesting, is a corporate bullet in the head,’ Regalia said. ‘That is going to be a bullet in the head for an awful lot of people that are going to be laid off and an awful lot of people who are hoping to get their jobs back.’”

Isn’t parody dead when TNR praises Ross Douthat’s rant against the rubes in “Second America” as “studiously non-judgemental”?

Isn’t it funny how the press doesn’t go nuts when this happens in a Democratic administration? “Before Marie Antoinette ‘Farmer in the Dell’ Obama’s even had a chance to teach low-income obese children how to sow and harvest and eat like so many little Johnny Appleseeds, her ‘Let’s Move’ initiative may lighten them up perforce, as Dem legislators find they are obliged to slash the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, to pay for it.”

Isn’t it interesting how Obama always delivers the message the “Muslim World” wants to hear? The Emergency Committee for Israel calls on the Obami to disassociate themselves from Imam Rauf: “The employment of Mr. Rauf by the State Department lends American credibility to a disturbing trend in the West: the idea that terrorism against Israelis falls into a different and less objectionable category from terrorism against other people. This may be fashionable in Europe, but the United States does not embrace an Israel exception to the unacceptability of suicide bombings. One of the most important messages the United States can deliver to the Middle East is that there is never a justification for jihadist murder, whether in New York, Madrid, London — or Tel Aviv. … There are numerous Muslim leaders in America who are willing to speak the plain truth about Hamas.”

Isn’t it a travesty that it took six years?: “The Justice Department has informed former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) that the government has ended a six-year investigation of his ties to the disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, according to DeLay’s lead counsel in the matter. … The investigation lasted through two presidents and four attorneys general. Its demise provides a stark footnote to the lobbying scandals that helped Democrats regain the House majority they held for 40 years.”

Isn’t it getting to be desperation time for the Democrats? “Republican candidates have jumped out to a record-setting 12-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, August 15, 2010. This is the biggest lead the GOP has held in over a decade of Rasmussen Reports surveying.”

Isn’t it time someone in the White House told Obama to stop saying “it’s clear” when it’s not? In Wisconsin, Obama was at it again: “What’s clear is that we are heading in the right direction.” But the press now is cutting him no slack: “But despite positive signs in the manufacturing sector, the White House has found itself at odds with continued high unemployment rates and anemic job growth, and the shadow of an uncertain future hung low over the event.”

Isn’t it a bad sign for Obama when he loses even Harry Reid on the Ground Zero mosque?

Isn’t the time when corporate America was trying to get along with Obama only a dim memory? Now it’s a pitched battle: “U.S. Chamber of Commerce economist Martin Regalia on Monday said the tax increases advocated by President Obama would essentially kill any chance for an economic rebound. ’That’s what you’re suggesting, is a corporate bullet in the head,’ Regalia said. ‘That is going to be a bullet in the head for an awful lot of people that are going to be laid off and an awful lot of people who are hoping to get their jobs back.’”

Isn’t parody dead when TNR praises Ross Douthat’s rant against the rubes in “Second America” as “studiously non-judgemental”?

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Hey Ayatollah, Leave Those Kids Alone

A few days ago, I interviewed the brilliant Israeli writer Benjamin Kerstein — who also happens to be my friend — at a café in central Tel Aviv. We talked about, among other things, what outsiders often don’t understand about Israel. The list of things is a long one. We also discussed, as people in Israel so often do, the danger posed by Iran’s Islamic Republic regime.

“Iran used to be secular, open, and friendly to Israel,” Kerstein said. “It once was pro-Western. Jews were at least nominally tolerated. It was seen as a place where there was a certain degree of cultural development. Persian culture used to be recognizable to us like Lebanese culture is. The Iran that is currently ruled by the theocracy is alien and threatening to us. We see it as a cold and hateful place. It’s a place that hates us.”

I know what he means about a culture being “recognizable.” Lebanese culture is indeed recognizable from an American and even an Israeli perspective. Beirut has more in common with Tel Aviv than with any Arabic city in the world. That recognition, so to speak, is sometimes reciprocated. Some of my Beiruti friends are fascinated by Tel Aviv and how it is, in many ways, a Hebrew-speaking sister city of theirs.

Iran’s Khomeinist government — and, by extension, its Hezbollah proxy in Lebanon — really does, by comparison, seem as though it’s from another planet. Everyone I know who has been to Iran lately, however, says the country is totally different at street level — where real life is lived and culture is shaped. I believe them, and I believed them before millions of Iranians screamed “death to the dictator” from the rooftops last year.

Take a look at the music video by Blurred Vision, an Iranian exile band based in Toronto. The song is a remake of “Another Brick in the Wall” by Pink Floyd, updated and changed ever so slightly to apply to Iran in 2010 rather than to Britain in the 1970s. A culture that produces this is perfectly recognizable. And it’s hard to imagine anything like it emerging from any other country in the region aside from Lebanon.

It’s an electrifying piece of music video art, especially the scene at the end where a Persian woman steps into the light and removes her state-mandated head covering. And the scenes where Iranians battle it out in the street with state-security thugs weren’t shot on a film set in Canada. They’re real and were shot in Tehran.

Perhaps the Middle East hasn’t yet made me sufficiently pessimistic, but I strongly doubt that a radical Islamist regime can rule indefinitely over the kinds of people who produce this sort of thing. When, for example, Palestinians flee Gaza and make these kinds of videos, I think it will signal that something important has changed.

A few days ago, I interviewed the brilliant Israeli writer Benjamin Kerstein — who also happens to be my friend — at a café in central Tel Aviv. We talked about, among other things, what outsiders often don’t understand about Israel. The list of things is a long one. We also discussed, as people in Israel so often do, the danger posed by Iran’s Islamic Republic regime.

“Iran used to be secular, open, and friendly to Israel,” Kerstein said. “It once was pro-Western. Jews were at least nominally tolerated. It was seen as a place where there was a certain degree of cultural development. Persian culture used to be recognizable to us like Lebanese culture is. The Iran that is currently ruled by the theocracy is alien and threatening to us. We see it as a cold and hateful place. It’s a place that hates us.”

I know what he means about a culture being “recognizable.” Lebanese culture is indeed recognizable from an American and even an Israeli perspective. Beirut has more in common with Tel Aviv than with any Arabic city in the world. That recognition, so to speak, is sometimes reciprocated. Some of my Beiruti friends are fascinated by Tel Aviv and how it is, in many ways, a Hebrew-speaking sister city of theirs.

Iran’s Khomeinist government — and, by extension, its Hezbollah proxy in Lebanon — really does, by comparison, seem as though it’s from another planet. Everyone I know who has been to Iran lately, however, says the country is totally different at street level — where real life is lived and culture is shaped. I believe them, and I believed them before millions of Iranians screamed “death to the dictator” from the rooftops last year.

Take a look at the music video by Blurred Vision, an Iranian exile band based in Toronto. The song is a remake of “Another Brick in the Wall” by Pink Floyd, updated and changed ever so slightly to apply to Iran in 2010 rather than to Britain in the 1970s. A culture that produces this is perfectly recognizable. And it’s hard to imagine anything like it emerging from any other country in the region aside from Lebanon.

It’s an electrifying piece of music video art, especially the scene at the end where a Persian woman steps into the light and removes her state-mandated head covering. And the scenes where Iranians battle it out in the street with state-security thugs weren’t shot on a film set in Canada. They’re real and were shot in Tehran.

Perhaps the Middle East hasn’t yet made me sufficiently pessimistic, but I strongly doubt that a radical Islamist regime can rule indefinitely over the kinds of people who produce this sort of thing. When, for example, Palestinians flee Gaza and make these kinds of videos, I think it will signal that something important has changed.

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