Commentary Magazine


Topic: U.S. administration

How the Guardian Helped Kill the Peace Process

As Alana noted yesterday, the extent of Palestinian concessions during peace talks, once made public, has seriously damaged PA leaders — and the State Department has weighed, noting that things are now going to be even harder than they were already.

The immediate fallout from the leaks should raise a number of important questions for the Guardian, but judging by the way it is spinning the story, it is hard to believe introspection is coming.

First, the Guardian appears shocked and angered by the extent of Palestinian concessions on settlements and yet blames Israel for the subsequent impasse on account of … settlements!

As Noah pointed out, if the main cause for lack of progress in the past 24 months was Palestinian insistence on an Israeli settlement freeze, one that included Jerusalem, as a precondition for talks — and this, thanks to U.S. backing — the papers reveal that it was merely a cynical pretext for the Palestinians’ not resuming talks once Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu took power. Otherwise, why make a sacred cow of something they had already conceded before? The answer may be that the Palestinians neither accepted nor rejected the Olmert offer but, rather, regarded it as still on the table, allowing them time to see if Olmert was going to survive politically. With Olmert (and Livni) out and Obama in, then, the Palestinians may have concluded that a better deal could be had with a more sympathetic U.S. administration in place. This is consistent with Palestinian behavior historically and a tried-and-tested recipe for disaster for their aspirations.

In his Guardian op-ed on the leaks, Jonathan Freedland wrote that:

Surely international opinion will see concrete proof of how far the Palestinians have been willing to go, ready to move up to and beyond their “red lines,” conceding ground that would once have been unthinkable — none more so than on Jerusalem. In the blame game that has long attended Middle East diplomacy, this could see a shift in the Palestinians’ favour. The effect of these papers on Israel will be the reverse.

What Freedland is telling us is not what might happen but rather what he ardently wishes would happen. He may be right, of course — but it is not like Israel was basking in the light of international favor before the leaks!

So in effect, the Guardian is saying, Thank heaven Israel will be forced to give back what the Palestinians conceded — that will surely lead to a more equitable result! (Though the Guardian also concedes that the chances for a deal are now dead in the water, thanks to their leak!)

Second, the fallout caused by the Guardian leak is that, in the short term, Palestinian negotiators will have to heed the calls of the street and be much less amenable to compromise than was demonstrated in the leaked papers. Why is it that private virtue and public vice deserve praise? Read More

As Alana noted yesterday, the extent of Palestinian concessions during peace talks, once made public, has seriously damaged PA leaders — and the State Department has weighed, noting that things are now going to be even harder than they were already.

The immediate fallout from the leaks should raise a number of important questions for the Guardian, but judging by the way it is spinning the story, it is hard to believe introspection is coming.

First, the Guardian appears shocked and angered by the extent of Palestinian concessions on settlements and yet blames Israel for the subsequent impasse on account of … settlements!

As Noah pointed out, if the main cause for lack of progress in the past 24 months was Palestinian insistence on an Israeli settlement freeze, one that included Jerusalem, as a precondition for talks — and this, thanks to U.S. backing — the papers reveal that it was merely a cynical pretext for the Palestinians’ not resuming talks once Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu took power. Otherwise, why make a sacred cow of something they had already conceded before? The answer may be that the Palestinians neither accepted nor rejected the Olmert offer but, rather, regarded it as still on the table, allowing them time to see if Olmert was going to survive politically. With Olmert (and Livni) out and Obama in, then, the Palestinians may have concluded that a better deal could be had with a more sympathetic U.S. administration in place. This is consistent with Palestinian behavior historically and a tried-and-tested recipe for disaster for their aspirations.

In his Guardian op-ed on the leaks, Jonathan Freedland wrote that:

Surely international opinion will see concrete proof of how far the Palestinians have been willing to go, ready to move up to and beyond their “red lines,” conceding ground that would once have been unthinkable — none more so than on Jerusalem. In the blame game that has long attended Middle East diplomacy, this could see a shift in the Palestinians’ favour. The effect of these papers on Israel will be the reverse.

What Freedland is telling us is not what might happen but rather what he ardently wishes would happen. He may be right, of course — but it is not like Israel was basking in the light of international favor before the leaks!

So in effect, the Guardian is saying, Thank heaven Israel will be forced to give back what the Palestinians conceded — that will surely lead to a more equitable result! (Though the Guardian also concedes that the chances for a deal are now dead in the water, thanks to their leak!)

Second, the fallout caused by the Guardian leak is that, in the short term, Palestinian negotiators will have to heed the calls of the street and be much less amenable to compromise than was demonstrated in the leaked papers. Why is it that private virtue and public vice deserve praise?

Again: in the established tradition of Arab leadership, privately held views can never be aired in public, because the public cannot take the truth. This is what the leaks show: Palestinian leaders — much like their Arab counterparts and their Palestinian predecessors — are prisoners of their own past lies and public rhetoric. What they might have agreed to in private has exploded in their faces once made public.

How then can one expect these talks to have ever come to fruition? Surely had the Palestinians and the Israelis signed such a deal, the reaction would have been the same — a rejection of the deal and the questioning the PA leadership’s legitimacy, as the Guardian has indeed done on Sunday.

The Guardian has then chosen to leak the papers with a goal – to discredit Israel and the Palestinian leadership at the same time, to peddle its own rejectionist agenda. And what exactly is this agenda? Today’s commentary on the leaks, titled, tellingly, “Papers reveal how Palestinian leaders gave up fight over refugees” by Seumus Milne and Ian Black, is worth quoting:

The documents have already become the focus of controversy among Israelis and Palestinians, revealing the scale of official Palestinian concessions rejected by Israel, but also throwing light on the huge imbalance of power in a peace process widely seen to have run into the sand.

Milne is an anti-imperialist firebrand, who has applauded “the resistance” against the war on terror in Afghanistan and Iraq, trivialized the scale of Stalinist atrocities, repeatedly shilled for Hamas, and staunchly defended unrealistic Palestinian claims on refugees. In short, he’d be probably kicked out of the Nation for being too left-wing; but at the Guardian, he is the mainstream.

To him, the leaks are a wonderful opportunity to berate what appear to be much-needed Palestinian concessions for a viable agreement as a surrender to Israel and a betrayal of Palestinian rights.

The Guardian hates the revelations in these papers not because they supposedly show that Palestinian leaders were ready to make the necessary concessions for peace and that Israel was intransigent, but because it hates the fact that Palestinians must make any concessions if peace is ever to be achieved. That is why the real story behind the leaks is not the papers themselves but the Guardian’s agenda for leaking them.

The sanctimony of its articles since last weekend shows a contempt for the kinds of concessions that everyone knows are the necessary preconditions for a deal. Milne is flummoxed by the fact that the Palestinians would renounce the refugees’ claim to a right of return; his colleagues are fuming because Israeli settlements would be allowed to survive under Israeli sovereignty; the lead editorial on Sunday decried Hamas’s exclusion from negotiations; and they lament “the huge imbalance of power” between Israel and the Palestinians — something they wish would change in favor of the Palestinians so that it would be Israel, not the PA, that would have to concede.

The peace process may have been moribund, but surely, after this weekend’s leak, it is dead. The Guardian has just given it the coup de grace and is now busy taking credit for it.

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New Yorker Editor Just Can’t Take Israel Anymore

Examples abound of leading American Jewish liberals who find the State of Israel to be beneath their sympathy. There is also no shortage of those who have just gotten bored with the Middle East conflict. But you’d have to go far to do better than New Yorker editor David Remnick’s comments to Yediot Ahronot’s Friday Political Supplement available in English translation on Coteret.com. Remnick trots out the usual stuff about a new generation of Jews who only see Israel as an “occupier” and rants that:

Even people like me, who understand that not only one side is responsible for the conflict and that the Palestinians missed an historic opportunity for peace in 2000, can’t take it anymore.

The U.S. administration is trying out of good will to get a peace process moving and in return Israel lays out conditions like the release Jonathan Pollard. Sorry, it can’t go on this way. The Jewish community is not just a nice breakfast at the Regency. You think it’s bad that a U.S. president is trying to make an effort to promote peace? That’s what’s hurting your feelings? Give me a break, you’ve got bigger problems. A shopping list in exchange for a two-month moratorium on settlement construction? Jesus.

It might be easier to understand Remnick’s position if he didn’t throw in that line about the Palestinians in 2000. But since he acknowledges that the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected peace (and rejected an even better offer in 2008 and will now no longer even negotiate directly with Israel), it’s hard to accept his criticism of the Jewish state. After all, if Israel already knows that sacrifices of territory won’t bring peace, why should it make unilateral concessions simply to appease an American president who acts as if history began on the day he took office? Shouldn’t the fact that Israel is still faced with a Palestinian foe that is so committed to its destruction that it won’t make peace on even favorable terms influence the discussion?

As for Pollard, why shouldn’t the Israelis ask for clemency for a spy who has already served 25 years in prison when those who have spied on the United States for hostile powers — rather than a friend — have received far less or no prison time at all (such as the recent haul of Russian spies who were quickly exchanged)?

The point here is that Remnick, and other Jewish liberals like him, simply can’t be bothered to think seriously about the Middle East anymore. Sure, Israel, like the United States or any other democracy, has its flaws and its unpleasant actors, such as the rabbis who issued a directive opposing the sale of property to Arabs, which Remnick cites elsewhere in the interview without also noting that they were condemned by Israel’s prime minister and many Israeli rabbis. But why should that be a reason for Jews to distance themselves from it? The answer is that liberals like Remnick are simply tired of standing up for a cause that has become unpopular on the left.

Since being pro-Israel these days requires a degree of moral courage, they simply stamp their feet with childish impatience at the willingness of Israelis to stand up for themselves. While Israel will continue to struggle with a difficult security situation and a flawed political system, the unwillingness of liberals like Remnick to stick with it says far more about them than it does about the Jewish state.

Examples abound of leading American Jewish liberals who find the State of Israel to be beneath their sympathy. There is also no shortage of those who have just gotten bored with the Middle East conflict. But you’d have to go far to do better than New Yorker editor David Remnick’s comments to Yediot Ahronot’s Friday Political Supplement available in English translation on Coteret.com. Remnick trots out the usual stuff about a new generation of Jews who only see Israel as an “occupier” and rants that:

Even people like me, who understand that not only one side is responsible for the conflict and that the Palestinians missed an historic opportunity for peace in 2000, can’t take it anymore.

The U.S. administration is trying out of good will to get a peace process moving and in return Israel lays out conditions like the release Jonathan Pollard. Sorry, it can’t go on this way. The Jewish community is not just a nice breakfast at the Regency. You think it’s bad that a U.S. president is trying to make an effort to promote peace? That’s what’s hurting your feelings? Give me a break, you’ve got bigger problems. A shopping list in exchange for a two-month moratorium on settlement construction? Jesus.

It might be easier to understand Remnick’s position if he didn’t throw in that line about the Palestinians in 2000. But since he acknowledges that the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected peace (and rejected an even better offer in 2008 and will now no longer even negotiate directly with Israel), it’s hard to accept his criticism of the Jewish state. After all, if Israel already knows that sacrifices of territory won’t bring peace, why should it make unilateral concessions simply to appease an American president who acts as if history began on the day he took office? Shouldn’t the fact that Israel is still faced with a Palestinian foe that is so committed to its destruction that it won’t make peace on even favorable terms influence the discussion?

As for Pollard, why shouldn’t the Israelis ask for clemency for a spy who has already served 25 years in prison when those who have spied on the United States for hostile powers — rather than a friend — have received far less or no prison time at all (such as the recent haul of Russian spies who were quickly exchanged)?

The point here is that Remnick, and other Jewish liberals like him, simply can’t be bothered to think seriously about the Middle East anymore. Sure, Israel, like the United States or any other democracy, has its flaws and its unpleasant actors, such as the rabbis who issued a directive opposing the sale of property to Arabs, which Remnick cites elsewhere in the interview without also noting that they were condemned by Israel’s prime minister and many Israeli rabbis. But why should that be a reason for Jews to distance themselves from it? The answer is that liberals like Remnick are simply tired of standing up for a cause that has become unpopular on the left.

Since being pro-Israel these days requires a degree of moral courage, they simply stamp their feet with childish impatience at the willingness of Israelis to stand up for themselves. While Israel will continue to struggle with a difficult security situation and a flawed political system, the unwillingness of liberals like Remnick to stick with it says far more about them than it does about the Jewish state.

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WikiLeaks Has Succeeded Only in Reinforcing a Culture of Secrecy

Regrettably, Pete, it looks like the answer is never (as Jennifer has noted). This, just in from the Guardian — a veritable barometer of the liberal mindset, at least as far as Europe goes. The best of the liberal crowd from the UK — a pro-Iranian campaigner, a leading voice of Bolshevik nostalgia who is also a dedicated promoter of Islamic radicalism, Juan Cole, and several other colorful opinion makers — weigh in on the significance of the WikiLeaks data dump on the Middle East.

For anyone harboring optimism about the ability of ideologues to change their minds, this is compulsory reading. I detect no mea culpa, no concession on the liberal animus toward Israel and America, no recoiling from the morbid sympathy for Iran and its nuclear ambitions, no hint of doubt.

Who knows, by the time all WikiLeaks documents have made their way into the public domain, perhaps even the die-hard Guardian ideologues will see the light. I am not holding my breath.

Colleagues may understandably dismiss the Guardian’s collection as a largely fringe phenomenon, but another reason I do not think the leaks will significantly affect people’s mindset one way or another is that the current U.S. administration, and many other liberals in Congress, the State Department, and various other agencies of the federal government, were privy to some, if not all, the content of the leaks before the public was — and that did not change their worldview or the policies they pursued.

Anyone who thinks that the WikiLeaks silver lining is in the “moment of truth” value should remember that WikiLeaks was irrelevant for the bigger picture — it revealed nothing we did not either instinctively or advisedly know about the world already. The information was entertaining in a tabloid way (as Max has said) — but again, gossip about Berlusconi’s lifestyle and Qaddafi’s erratic behavior were already available before this event. What value did we get out of this exposure that we had not already gotten out of a subscription to Hello! magazine?

Undoubtedly, the embarrassment from the exposure will eventually subside because, after all, governments made uncomfortable by these leaks must have similar documents in mind that their own diplomats have produced about U.S. leaders. Such is the nature of diplomacy, after all — to offer frank, unadorned assessments under the assumption that they will stay secret until long after they have become irrelevant.

In sum, the only enduring consequences of this affair are negative. First, there is the potential damage caused to sources of information — past, present, and future. Will the likelihood of being exposed as an informant in societies where such activity may be punished with death, loss of face or revenue, or damage to family, help or hinder the future recruitment of sources? Will current sources, seeing how they could easily be exposed, continue or discontinue their cooperation with American (and other) diplomats? Will they have the luxury of this choice, given that being exposed could lead to their death? And will they have continued access to information, given that they have now been exposed?

Then there is the real damage done to the quality of diplomatic communication. WikiLeaks stupidly boasts of serving transparency. The fact of the matter is that its irresponsible and puerile act of exposure will not obviate the need for discretion in the way governments conduct their affairs of state. To the contrary, it will force governments to build more impenetrable firewalls for their vital internal communications — with increased costs to the public coffers and with an increase in the kind of “culture of secrecy” that WikiLeaks so ardently wishes to undermine.

Regrettably, Pete, it looks like the answer is never (as Jennifer has noted). This, just in from the Guardian — a veritable barometer of the liberal mindset, at least as far as Europe goes. The best of the liberal crowd from the UK — a pro-Iranian campaigner, a leading voice of Bolshevik nostalgia who is also a dedicated promoter of Islamic radicalism, Juan Cole, and several other colorful opinion makers — weigh in on the significance of the WikiLeaks data dump on the Middle East.

For anyone harboring optimism about the ability of ideologues to change their minds, this is compulsory reading. I detect no mea culpa, no concession on the liberal animus toward Israel and America, no recoiling from the morbid sympathy for Iran and its nuclear ambitions, no hint of doubt.

Who knows, by the time all WikiLeaks documents have made their way into the public domain, perhaps even the die-hard Guardian ideologues will see the light. I am not holding my breath.

Colleagues may understandably dismiss the Guardian’s collection as a largely fringe phenomenon, but another reason I do not think the leaks will significantly affect people’s mindset one way or another is that the current U.S. administration, and many other liberals in Congress, the State Department, and various other agencies of the federal government, were privy to some, if not all, the content of the leaks before the public was — and that did not change their worldview or the policies they pursued.

Anyone who thinks that the WikiLeaks silver lining is in the “moment of truth” value should remember that WikiLeaks was irrelevant for the bigger picture — it revealed nothing we did not either instinctively or advisedly know about the world already. The information was entertaining in a tabloid way (as Max has said) — but again, gossip about Berlusconi’s lifestyle and Qaddafi’s erratic behavior were already available before this event. What value did we get out of this exposure that we had not already gotten out of a subscription to Hello! magazine?

Undoubtedly, the embarrassment from the exposure will eventually subside because, after all, governments made uncomfortable by these leaks must have similar documents in mind that their own diplomats have produced about U.S. leaders. Such is the nature of diplomacy, after all — to offer frank, unadorned assessments under the assumption that they will stay secret until long after they have become irrelevant.

In sum, the only enduring consequences of this affair are negative. First, there is the potential damage caused to sources of information — past, present, and future. Will the likelihood of being exposed as an informant in societies where such activity may be punished with death, loss of face or revenue, or damage to family, help or hinder the future recruitment of sources? Will current sources, seeing how they could easily be exposed, continue or discontinue their cooperation with American (and other) diplomats? Will they have the luxury of this choice, given that being exposed could lead to their death? And will they have continued access to information, given that they have now been exposed?

Then there is the real damage done to the quality of diplomatic communication. WikiLeaks stupidly boasts of serving transparency. The fact of the matter is that its irresponsible and puerile act of exposure will not obviate the need for discretion in the way governments conduct their affairs of state. To the contrary, it will force governments to build more impenetrable firewalls for their vital internal communications — with increased costs to the public coffers and with an increase in the kind of “culture of secrecy” that WikiLeaks so ardently wishes to undermine.

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Cables Tell Us: Linkage Was Nonsense

The WikiLeaks documents have multiple ramifications, but I will focus on one: the confirmation that the Obama “linkage” argument was pure bunk. Recall that the Obama team over and over again has made the argument that progress on the Palestinian conflict was essential to obtaining the help of the Arab states in confronting Iran’s nuclear threat. We know that this is simply and completely false.

The documents show that the Arab states were hounding the administration to take action against Iran. The King of Bahrain urged Obama to rec0gnize that the danger of letting the Iranian nuclear program come to fruition was worse than the fallout from stopping it. He wasn’t alone: there was also “King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who according to another cable repeatedly implored Washington to ‘cut off the head of the snake’ while there was still time.” The New York Times connects some of the dots:

At the same time, the cables reveal how Iran’s ascent has unified Israel and many longtime Arab adversaries — notably the Saudis — in a common cause. Publicly, these Arab states held their tongues, for fear of a domestic uproar and the retributions of a powerful neighbor. Privately, they clamored for strong action — by someone else. …

Crown Prince bin Zayed [of Abu Dhabi], predicting in July 2009 that an Israeli attack could come by year’s end, suggested the danger of appeasing Iran. “Ahmadinejad is Hitler,” he declared.

Seemingly taken aback, a State Department official replied, “We do not anticipate military confrontation with Iran before the end of 2009.”

Obama’s outreach efforts only increased the Arab states’ panic:

The election of Mr. Obama, at least initially, left some countries wondering whether the sanctions push was about to end. Shortly after taking office, in a videotaped message timed to the Persian New Year, he reiterated his campaign offer of a “new beginning” — the first sustained talks in three decades with Tehran.

The United Arab Emirates called Mr. Obama’s message “confusing.” The American Embassy in Saudi Arabia reported that the talk about engaging Iran had “fueled Saudi fears that a new U.S. administration might strike a ‘grand bargain’ without prior consultations.”

In short, there is zero evidence that the Palestinian non-peace talks were essential to obtaining the assistance of the Arab states on Iran. To the contrary, what emerges is precisely the portrait that knowledgeable critics of the administration had already painted: Obama has taken his eye off the real ball, placed friendly Arab states in a precarious situation, and misrepresented to the American people and the world that the non-peace talks are necessary to curb the Iranian threat. To the contrary, those talks have been a grand waste of time and a dangerous distraction. Obama frittered away two years that could have been spent cementing an Israeli-Arab alliance against Tehran. Why? Perhaps he is blinded by ideology. Perhaps he realized it was his only chance for a diplomatic win. But whatever the explanation, we should be clear: linkage was a tale told to justify the president’s obsession with a Palestinian-Israeli peace deal.

The WikiLeaks documents have multiple ramifications, but I will focus on one: the confirmation that the Obama “linkage” argument was pure bunk. Recall that the Obama team over and over again has made the argument that progress on the Palestinian conflict was essential to obtaining the help of the Arab states in confronting Iran’s nuclear threat. We know that this is simply and completely false.

The documents show that the Arab states were hounding the administration to take action against Iran. The King of Bahrain urged Obama to rec0gnize that the danger of letting the Iranian nuclear program come to fruition was worse than the fallout from stopping it. He wasn’t alone: there was also “King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who according to another cable repeatedly implored Washington to ‘cut off the head of the snake’ while there was still time.” The New York Times connects some of the dots:

At the same time, the cables reveal how Iran’s ascent has unified Israel and many longtime Arab adversaries — notably the Saudis — in a common cause. Publicly, these Arab states held their tongues, for fear of a domestic uproar and the retributions of a powerful neighbor. Privately, they clamored for strong action — by someone else. …

Crown Prince bin Zayed [of Abu Dhabi], predicting in July 2009 that an Israeli attack could come by year’s end, suggested the danger of appeasing Iran. “Ahmadinejad is Hitler,” he declared.

Seemingly taken aback, a State Department official replied, “We do not anticipate military confrontation with Iran before the end of 2009.”

Obama’s outreach efforts only increased the Arab states’ panic:

The election of Mr. Obama, at least initially, left some countries wondering whether the sanctions push was about to end. Shortly after taking office, in a videotaped message timed to the Persian New Year, he reiterated his campaign offer of a “new beginning” — the first sustained talks in three decades with Tehran.

The United Arab Emirates called Mr. Obama’s message “confusing.” The American Embassy in Saudi Arabia reported that the talk about engaging Iran had “fueled Saudi fears that a new U.S. administration might strike a ‘grand bargain’ without prior consultations.”

In short, there is zero evidence that the Palestinian non-peace talks were essential to obtaining the assistance of the Arab states on Iran. To the contrary, what emerges is precisely the portrait that knowledgeable critics of the administration had already painted: Obama has taken his eye off the real ball, placed friendly Arab states in a precarious situation, and misrepresented to the American people and the world that the non-peace talks are necessary to curb the Iranian threat. To the contrary, those talks have been a grand waste of time and a dangerous distraction. Obama frittered away two years that could have been spent cementing an Israeli-Arab alliance against Tehran. Why? Perhaps he is blinded by ideology. Perhaps he realized it was his only chance for a diplomatic win. But whatever the explanation, we should be clear: linkage was a tale told to justify the president’s obsession with a Palestinian-Israeli peace deal.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Here’s the “civil war” the liberal punditocracy has been pining for: “Liberals want Obama to confront Republicans more directly. Moderates, remembering how Bill Clinton altered course after losing control of Congress in 1994 and won reelection in 1996, want the president to work more cooperatively with Republicans in hopes of avoiding gridlock.”

Here’s another national security disaster in the making: “The Obama administration has dispatched a team of experts to Asian capitals to report that North Korea appears to have started a program to enrich uranium, possibly to manufacture more nuclear weapons, a senior U.S. administration official said Saturday. The team was sent out after North Korea told two visiting American experts earlier this month that it possessed such a program and showed them a facility where it claimed the enrichment was taking place.” It sort of puts in context how daft were those meetings and planning for a “nuke-free world.”

Here’s the beginning of the walk-back: “Heeding a sudden furor, John Pistole, administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, said in a Sunday afternoon statement to POLITICO that airport screening procedures ‘will be adapted as conditions warrant,’ in an effort to make them “as minimally invasive as possible, while still providing the security that the American people want and deserve.”

Here’s why voters hate pols: there is always one rule for politicians and another for the rest of us. “Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday that security threats were a concern in the Transportation Security Administration’s new invasive pat-downs and body scans, but heartily acknowledged that she wouldn’t want to go through the screening herself.”

Here’s Mona Charen’s case for why Sarah Palin shouldn’t run for president: “Voters chose a novice with plenty of starpower in 2008 and will be inclined to swing strongly in the other direction in 2012. Americans will be looking for sober competence, managerial skill, and maturity — not sizzle and flash. … There is no denying that Sarah Palin has been harshly, sometimes even brutally, treated by the press and the entertainment gaggle. But any prominent Republican must expect and be able to transcend that. Palin compares herself to Reagan. But Reagan didn’t mud-wrestle with the press. Palin seems consumed and obsessed by it, as her rapid Twitter finger attests, and thus she encourages the sniping.” I imagine that such advice is simply brushed off as part of the GOP establishment plot to get her.

Here’s further evidence that the Obami just don’t get it. Hillary Clinton isn’t giving up on civilian trials for terrorists. “So I don’t think you can, as a — as a rule, say, ‘Oh, no more civilian trials,’ or ‘no more military commission.'” Sure you can; it’s just that the leftists who dominate the Obama legal brain trust are putting up quite a fuss.

Here’s another sign that Obama’s ditzy peace-process Hail Mary isn’t going to help matters: “The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, said on Sunday that any American proposal for restarting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations must include a complete halt in Israeli settlement building, including in East Jerusalem.” Gosh, where do you think he got the idea that building in Jerusalem was such a hot-button, non-final-status issue?

Here’s the “civil war” the liberal punditocracy has been pining for: “Liberals want Obama to confront Republicans more directly. Moderates, remembering how Bill Clinton altered course after losing control of Congress in 1994 and won reelection in 1996, want the president to work more cooperatively with Republicans in hopes of avoiding gridlock.”

Here’s another national security disaster in the making: “The Obama administration has dispatched a team of experts to Asian capitals to report that North Korea appears to have started a program to enrich uranium, possibly to manufacture more nuclear weapons, a senior U.S. administration official said Saturday. The team was sent out after North Korea told two visiting American experts earlier this month that it possessed such a program and showed them a facility where it claimed the enrichment was taking place.” It sort of puts in context how daft were those meetings and planning for a “nuke-free world.”

Here’s the beginning of the walk-back: “Heeding a sudden furor, John Pistole, administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, said in a Sunday afternoon statement to POLITICO that airport screening procedures ‘will be adapted as conditions warrant,’ in an effort to make them “as minimally invasive as possible, while still providing the security that the American people want and deserve.”

Here’s why voters hate pols: there is always one rule for politicians and another for the rest of us. “Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday that security threats were a concern in the Transportation Security Administration’s new invasive pat-downs and body scans, but heartily acknowledged that she wouldn’t want to go through the screening herself.”

Here’s Mona Charen’s case for why Sarah Palin shouldn’t run for president: “Voters chose a novice with plenty of starpower in 2008 and will be inclined to swing strongly in the other direction in 2012. Americans will be looking for sober competence, managerial skill, and maturity — not sizzle and flash. … There is no denying that Sarah Palin has been harshly, sometimes even brutally, treated by the press and the entertainment gaggle. But any prominent Republican must expect and be able to transcend that. Palin compares herself to Reagan. But Reagan didn’t mud-wrestle with the press. Palin seems consumed and obsessed by it, as her rapid Twitter finger attests, and thus she encourages the sniping.” I imagine that such advice is simply brushed off as part of the GOP establishment plot to get her.

Here’s further evidence that the Obami just don’t get it. Hillary Clinton isn’t giving up on civilian trials for terrorists. “So I don’t think you can, as a — as a rule, say, ‘Oh, no more civilian trials,’ or ‘no more military commission.'” Sure you can; it’s just that the leftists who dominate the Obama legal brain trust are putting up quite a fuss.

Here’s another sign that Obama’s ditzy peace-process Hail Mary isn’t going to help matters: “The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, said on Sunday that any American proposal for restarting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations must include a complete halt in Israeli settlement building, including in East Jerusalem.” Gosh, where do you think he got the idea that building in Jerusalem was such a hot-button, non-final-status issue?

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The Value of a Written Commitment

An Israeli official noted on Friday that the U.S. had still not produced a letter confirming the promises made to Benjamin Netanyahu the week before, including the pledge to give Israel 20 F-35 stealth warplanes worth $3 billion, which produced this reaction from Benny Begin:

“It looks like the free stealth fighters have slipped,” said Benny Begin, a minister from Netanyahu’s Likud party who is opposed to the proposed U.S. deal, warning that Washington was setting a trap to extract major concessions later down the line.

“One may wonder if you cannot agree to understandings from one week to the next, what could happen over three months,” Begin told the Army Radio on Friday.

With this administration, it is a good idea to get oral understandings in writing, since Hillary Clinton famously argued last year that a six-year unwritten understanding of a “settlement freeze” (no new settlements or expansion of the borders of existing ones) was “unenforceable” — and that henceforth every new apartment (or announcement of one) would be considered a “settlement.” No wonder the Israeli security cabinet decided that an oral understanding would not be worth the paper it was written on.

Of course, with this administration, the value of a written understanding may not be worth much more. One of the provisions of the 2004 Bush letter was that the “United States will do its utmost to prevent any attempt by anyone to impose any other plan” than the Roadmap (emphasis added), with its requirement of a negotiated settlement based on UN Resolution 242. Israel sought the commitment to prevent the possibility that a complete withdrawal from Gaza might eventually lead the UN (or a subsequent U.S. administration) to seek to impose a complete withdrawal from the West Bank, rather than an agreed withdrawal to defensible borders.

Rather than reaffirm that commitment, the new U.S. letter commits only to opposing a UN declaration of a Palestinian state for a year (which coincidentally ends at the same time the Palestinian prime minister says he will have established the institutions of a state). The one-year commitment is thus less a promise than a threat — you’ve got a year to come to an agreement — that will add a perverse influence to the process: pressure on Israel from the time limit and a reverse incentive for the Palestinians to wait for its expiration, in the hope they can then transfer the issue to the UN without opposition from the United States. It is not clear what the value of such a letter is.

An Israeli official noted on Friday that the U.S. had still not produced a letter confirming the promises made to Benjamin Netanyahu the week before, including the pledge to give Israel 20 F-35 stealth warplanes worth $3 billion, which produced this reaction from Benny Begin:

“It looks like the free stealth fighters have slipped,” said Benny Begin, a minister from Netanyahu’s Likud party who is opposed to the proposed U.S. deal, warning that Washington was setting a trap to extract major concessions later down the line.

“One may wonder if you cannot agree to understandings from one week to the next, what could happen over three months,” Begin told the Army Radio on Friday.

With this administration, it is a good idea to get oral understandings in writing, since Hillary Clinton famously argued last year that a six-year unwritten understanding of a “settlement freeze” (no new settlements or expansion of the borders of existing ones) was “unenforceable” — and that henceforth every new apartment (or announcement of one) would be considered a “settlement.” No wonder the Israeli security cabinet decided that an oral understanding would not be worth the paper it was written on.

Of course, with this administration, the value of a written understanding may not be worth much more. One of the provisions of the 2004 Bush letter was that the “United States will do its utmost to prevent any attempt by anyone to impose any other plan” than the Roadmap (emphasis added), with its requirement of a negotiated settlement based on UN Resolution 242. Israel sought the commitment to prevent the possibility that a complete withdrawal from Gaza might eventually lead the UN (or a subsequent U.S. administration) to seek to impose a complete withdrawal from the West Bank, rather than an agreed withdrawal to defensible borders.

Rather than reaffirm that commitment, the new U.S. letter commits only to opposing a UN declaration of a Palestinian state for a year (which coincidentally ends at the same time the Palestinian prime minister says he will have established the institutions of a state). The one-year commitment is thus less a promise than a threat — you’ve got a year to come to an agreement — that will add a perverse influence to the process: pressure on Israel from the time limit and a reverse incentive for the Palestinians to wait for its expiration, in the hope they can then transfer the issue to the UN without opposition from the United States. It is not clear what the value of such a letter is.

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New Reports Show Another Freeze Won’t Buy Israel Quiet with U.S.

When the emerging U.S.-Israel deal on another three-month settlement freeze was first reported, I could understand the argument (ably made by  Jonathan) that despite the freeze’s many negative consequences, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should acquiesce. But if subsequent reports are true, another extension would be disastrous. If Israel is going to spend the next two years fighting with Washington over construction with or without the deal, it can so do more effectively without another freeze.

Yesterday, Haaretz reported that contrary to previous reports, Barack Obama isn’t promising not to seek further moratoriums: his proposed letter to Netanyahu would merely say that “progress over the next three months would render another freeze unnecessary.”

Yet the chances of progress during these months rendering “another freeze unnecessary” are nonexistent. Nothing less than a signed-and-sealed deal on borders would let Israel build in “its” parts of the West Bank without Palestinian objections, and even Washington doesn’t believe that’s achievable in just three months. Thus, when the three months end, Palestinians will once again object to Israeli construction on “their” land — and Obama will once again back them by demanding another freeze.

Then came today’s report — again contradicting earlier ones — that the U.S. won’t really exempt East Jerusalem from the moratorium. A “senior U.S. official” told Haaretz that even if Israel extends the freeze, “we will continue to press for quiet throughout East Jerusalem during the 90 days.”

The official added that President Barack Obama had committed in an oral message to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas last April that the U.S. expects both sides to refrain from “actions that would seriously undermine trust,” including in East Jerusalem, and would respond with “steps, actions, or adjustments in policy” to any such provocative actions as long as negotiations are underway.

The U.S. administration has defined “actions that would seriously undermine trust” as including major housing announcements, demolitions, or evictions in East Jerusalem.

“This policy will continue if the negotiations resume under a 90-day moratorium and the Israelis know it”, said the US official.

In other words, even if Israel extends the freeze, it won’t get quiet: it will spend the next three months fighting with Obama over Jerusalem, followed by another major fight over the West Bank when the three months end.

And if so, better to have the fight now, when Netanyahu can still reasonably argue that the original 10-month freeze was a one-time gesture that Abbas wasted by refusing to negotiate, and that the onus is therefore now on Abbas, not him, to make the next gesture.

But the minute Netanyahu agrees to another freeze, he accepts two dangerous principles: that the freeze wasn’t an exceptional one-time gesture but instead a tolerable long-term policy, and that it’s never Abbas who needs to make gestures; it’s always and only Israel’s turn. And that leaves him no justification for not extending the freeze again in another three months.

For two years of quiet with Washington, another three-month freeze might be worth it. But if what Israel will really get is just two more years of continued fighting, the only sensible answer is “no.”

When the emerging U.S.-Israel deal on another three-month settlement freeze was first reported, I could understand the argument (ably made by  Jonathan) that despite the freeze’s many negative consequences, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should acquiesce. But if subsequent reports are true, another extension would be disastrous. If Israel is going to spend the next two years fighting with Washington over construction with or without the deal, it can so do more effectively without another freeze.

Yesterday, Haaretz reported that contrary to previous reports, Barack Obama isn’t promising not to seek further moratoriums: his proposed letter to Netanyahu would merely say that “progress over the next three months would render another freeze unnecessary.”

Yet the chances of progress during these months rendering “another freeze unnecessary” are nonexistent. Nothing less than a signed-and-sealed deal on borders would let Israel build in “its” parts of the West Bank without Palestinian objections, and even Washington doesn’t believe that’s achievable in just three months. Thus, when the three months end, Palestinians will once again object to Israeli construction on “their” land — and Obama will once again back them by demanding another freeze.

Then came today’s report — again contradicting earlier ones — that the U.S. won’t really exempt East Jerusalem from the moratorium. A “senior U.S. official” told Haaretz that even if Israel extends the freeze, “we will continue to press for quiet throughout East Jerusalem during the 90 days.”

The official added that President Barack Obama had committed in an oral message to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas last April that the U.S. expects both sides to refrain from “actions that would seriously undermine trust,” including in East Jerusalem, and would respond with “steps, actions, or adjustments in policy” to any such provocative actions as long as negotiations are underway.

The U.S. administration has defined “actions that would seriously undermine trust” as including major housing announcements, demolitions, or evictions in East Jerusalem.

“This policy will continue if the negotiations resume under a 90-day moratorium and the Israelis know it”, said the US official.

In other words, even if Israel extends the freeze, it won’t get quiet: it will spend the next three months fighting with Obama over Jerusalem, followed by another major fight over the West Bank when the three months end.

And if so, better to have the fight now, when Netanyahu can still reasonably argue that the original 10-month freeze was a one-time gesture that Abbas wasted by refusing to negotiate, and that the onus is therefore now on Abbas, not him, to make the next gesture.

But the minute Netanyahu agrees to another freeze, he accepts two dangerous principles: that the freeze wasn’t an exceptional one-time gesture but instead a tolerable long-term policy, and that it’s never Abbas who needs to make gestures; it’s always and only Israel’s turn. And that leaves him no justification for not extending the freeze again in another three months.

For two years of quiet with Washington, another three-month freeze might be worth it. But if what Israel will really get is just two more years of continued fighting, the only sensible answer is “no.”

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Shifting Positions in the Far East?

While President Obama danced with Indian children and admired a moghul’s monument, our secretaries of state and defense were busy restructuring America’s security posture in Asia. It wasn’t clear before they went, as far as I can tell, that this is what they’d be doing. The Obama administration seems to keep finding major strategy shifts unexpectedly while rooting around in its pockets.

Hillary Clinton and Bob Gates have just concluded a successful visit to Australia during which they obtained agreements to significantly increase the use of Australian bases by the U.S. military. Now, I can attest that Townsville and Darwin, on Australia’s northern coast, are superb liberty ports. Working with our Australian allies is always a top-notch experience; count me a fan of having Oz on your “closest allies” list. But enlarging the U.S. military footprint anywhere is the kind of thing America does sparingly, for serious strategic reasons — and in the context of deliberate and announced policy. No such context is apparent with this move.

Speculation is rampant, however. The Australian media think we’re preparing for the likelihood that our major bases in Okinawa will have to close. The fate of the Marine Corps air forces stationed there does remain uncertain, but that difficult issue could be negotiated without sending a series of counterproductive signals during the process. There is no emergency demanding an immediate increase of U.S. forces in East Asia; under current conditions, shifting our basing scheme there can only be seen as a preemptive shift away from Japan. Read More

While President Obama danced with Indian children and admired a moghul’s monument, our secretaries of state and defense were busy restructuring America’s security posture in Asia. It wasn’t clear before they went, as far as I can tell, that this is what they’d be doing. The Obama administration seems to keep finding major strategy shifts unexpectedly while rooting around in its pockets.

Hillary Clinton and Bob Gates have just concluded a successful visit to Australia during which they obtained agreements to significantly increase the use of Australian bases by the U.S. military. Now, I can attest that Townsville and Darwin, on Australia’s northern coast, are superb liberty ports. Working with our Australian allies is always a top-notch experience; count me a fan of having Oz on your “closest allies” list. But enlarging the U.S. military footprint anywhere is the kind of thing America does sparingly, for serious strategic reasons — and in the context of deliberate and announced policy. No such context is apparent with this move.

Speculation is rampant, however. The Australian media think we’re preparing for the likelihood that our major bases in Okinawa will have to close. The fate of the Marine Corps air forces stationed there does remain uncertain, but that difficult issue could be negotiated without sending a series of counterproductive signals during the process. There is no emergency demanding an immediate increase of U.S. forces in East Asia; under current conditions, shifting our basing scheme there can only be seen as a preemptive shift away from Japan.

Rumors like this one, about a supposed drawdown of U.S. F-16s from Hokkaido, abound throughout Japan right now. Some Japanese suspect the U.S. is trying to wrest concessions from Tokyo with such drawdown threats. But I fervently hope we aren’t: if anything, at this moment, we should be strengthening and talking up our alliance with Japan. China and Russia have both made power moves against Japan in the past two months — moves involving history’s most common casus belli, disputed territory. By affirming a united front with Japan, we could induce them to step back. But sending random and confusing signals about our strategic intentions and true priorities is merely an accelerant to instability.

It’s not a policy-neutral act to shift our locus of military logistics away from Japan and toward Australia, Singapore, and Guam. Besides the politics, the distances involved are huge and significant to military operations. South Korea can be forgiven for doubting our commitment if we seem to be playing games with our bases in Japan. China, on the other hand, is justified in wondering what we have in mind, with this talk of a “military build-up” in Australia and Singapore. Neither venue is well suited to supporting a defense of Taiwan. There is an unpleasantly imperial ring to the proposition that we should ensure we can keep lots of forces in the theater regardless of any specific requirement for them.

That implication is especially discordant when the U.S. administration seems to be giving short shrift to the intrinsic importance of alliances. From the standpoint of American security, the single most significant factor in East Asia is our alliance with Japan. It is crude, mechanistic, and shortsighted to suppose that military force by itself can do the work of a key alliance. An alliance, however, can obviate much military force and many needless threats.

Bases in East Asia have been a benefit for us, but the alliance with Japan is the prize we need to tend. It does great harm to send the signal that we can’t wait for a political resolution with this longstanding ally before adjusting our military basing arrangements. If there is some emergency erupting in Southeast Asia that justifies ill-timed action in this regard, it would be nice if the Obama administration would clarify for the American people what it is.

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Tea Leaves and the Taliban

In the New York Times report that NATO has escorted Taliban leaders to talks in Kabul, there is a slight but eye-catching overemphasis on the importance of withholding the names of the Taliban. The Times cites a request from U.S. and Afghan officials that the names be withheld for fear of retaliation against the Taliban delegates by Pakistani intelligence or other Taliban. But a moment’s reflection informs us that the Taliban leaders’ associates know exactly who they are — and there are plenty of cell phones in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It cannot be a secret for long who went to Kabul.

Strictly necessary or not, the security warning to the Times appears oddly pointed, fingering the Pakistani intelligence agency with an uncharacteristic lack of dissimulation about Pakistan’s quality as an antiterrorism ally. It is attributed to an Afghan official, but it comes across as representative of general concerns held also by the U.S. There seems to have been no attempt by Obama’s officials to leave a different impression. Intentionally or by default, the security warning serves as the rhetorical cutting of a tether: the end of a politically unifying narrative about the Afghan conflict and the beginning of something else. What that something else will be is not clear, but the central role of the Taliban in this strategic hinge point is informative.

The Times and others have picked up on the fact that the “discussions [in Kabul] appear to be unfolding without the approval of Pakistan’s leaders … The Afghan government seems to be trying to seek a reconciliation agreement that does not directly involve Pakistan.” If the U.S. is backing this play — and our concern about secrecy for the Taliban negotiators suggests we are – that’s a major development in our policy. Revealing such developments obliquely through oracles and signs is becoming a tiresome pattern with the Obama administration. It certainly doesn’t burnish our image of integrity as a global power. And as the Times points out, with masterly understatement, this particular policy shift “could backfire by provoking the Pakistanis.”

I agree with Max Boot that the military situation in Afghanistan is not such as to force the Taliban to negotiate. But the apparent import of the outreach to the Taliban is divorced from that consideration. This looks like evidence of an emerging policy initiative to exclude Pakistani influence from the reconciliation talks, independent of security conditions in Afghanistan.

If that is a misperception, it’s an awfully big and significant one to leave uncorrected. The U.S. headlines have been full of Pakistani perfidy for weeks now; my impression from the Obama administration’s effective silence has been that it has no interest in counteracting the animus that naturally arises in the American public in the face of such themes. In a rare editorial last week, Ryan Crocker, former ambassador to Pakistan and Iraq, was moved to defend the difficult situation of the Pakistani government, urging the U.S. administration not to turn its back on partnership with the struggling democracy. He appears to be swimming against the tide of headlines and administration policy.

Something that requires no divination to understand is the goal of the Taliban. Long War Journal’s Threat Matrix blog reports that the Taliban website, Voice of Jihad, has posted a demand that the U.S. guarantee in writing to withdraw its troops on a specified timeline (i.e., July 2011), as a good-faith gesture toward reconciliation talks. It’s hard to ignore the uncanny similarity of this demand to Hezbollah’s demand for the same guarantee from a prospective Maliki government in Iraq. Maliki’s Hezbollah-backed coalition with the radical Shia cleric al-Sadr is emerging as a fait accompli in Baghdad, in spite of U.S. opposition; the Taliban cannot be pessimistic about their own chances with reconciliation talks and a withdrawal timeline.

In the New York Times report that NATO has escorted Taliban leaders to talks in Kabul, there is a slight but eye-catching overemphasis on the importance of withholding the names of the Taliban. The Times cites a request from U.S. and Afghan officials that the names be withheld for fear of retaliation against the Taliban delegates by Pakistani intelligence or other Taliban. But a moment’s reflection informs us that the Taliban leaders’ associates know exactly who they are — and there are plenty of cell phones in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It cannot be a secret for long who went to Kabul.

Strictly necessary or not, the security warning to the Times appears oddly pointed, fingering the Pakistani intelligence agency with an uncharacteristic lack of dissimulation about Pakistan’s quality as an antiterrorism ally. It is attributed to an Afghan official, but it comes across as representative of general concerns held also by the U.S. There seems to have been no attempt by Obama’s officials to leave a different impression. Intentionally or by default, the security warning serves as the rhetorical cutting of a tether: the end of a politically unifying narrative about the Afghan conflict and the beginning of something else. What that something else will be is not clear, but the central role of the Taliban in this strategic hinge point is informative.

The Times and others have picked up on the fact that the “discussions [in Kabul] appear to be unfolding without the approval of Pakistan’s leaders … The Afghan government seems to be trying to seek a reconciliation agreement that does not directly involve Pakistan.” If the U.S. is backing this play — and our concern about secrecy for the Taliban negotiators suggests we are – that’s a major development in our policy. Revealing such developments obliquely through oracles and signs is becoming a tiresome pattern with the Obama administration. It certainly doesn’t burnish our image of integrity as a global power. And as the Times points out, with masterly understatement, this particular policy shift “could backfire by provoking the Pakistanis.”

I agree with Max Boot that the military situation in Afghanistan is not such as to force the Taliban to negotiate. But the apparent import of the outreach to the Taliban is divorced from that consideration. This looks like evidence of an emerging policy initiative to exclude Pakistani influence from the reconciliation talks, independent of security conditions in Afghanistan.

If that is a misperception, it’s an awfully big and significant one to leave uncorrected. The U.S. headlines have been full of Pakistani perfidy for weeks now; my impression from the Obama administration’s effective silence has been that it has no interest in counteracting the animus that naturally arises in the American public in the face of such themes. In a rare editorial last week, Ryan Crocker, former ambassador to Pakistan and Iraq, was moved to defend the difficult situation of the Pakistani government, urging the U.S. administration not to turn its back on partnership with the struggling democracy. He appears to be swimming against the tide of headlines and administration policy.

Something that requires no divination to understand is the goal of the Taliban. Long War Journal’s Threat Matrix blog reports that the Taliban website, Voice of Jihad, has posted a demand that the U.S. guarantee in writing to withdraw its troops on a specified timeline (i.e., July 2011), as a good-faith gesture toward reconciliation talks. It’s hard to ignore the uncanny similarity of this demand to Hezbollah’s demand for the same guarantee from a prospective Maliki government in Iraq. Maliki’s Hezbollah-backed coalition with the radical Shia cleric al-Sadr is emerging as a fait accompli in Baghdad, in spite of U.S. opposition; the Taliban cannot be pessimistic about their own chances with reconciliation talks and a withdrawal timeline.

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Missing the Big Picture in Sudan

John Bolton has a good opinion piece about the upcoming (January 2011) referendum on independence for Southern Sudan. He points out that a break-up and its aftermath are likely to have repercussions for the internal ethnic disputes in many nations across Africa. The Obama administration, he says, is miscalculating badly in its carrot-and-stick approach to the Bashir government in Khartoum; its policy of “appeasing Khartoum” is only making the situation worse.

There are other considerations as well. Khartoum and the southern insurgency aren’t conducting their messy business in a vacuum. They’ve got plenty of outside help. China has been known for some years as the principal backer of the Bashir regime, but the southern insurgency is gaining patrons of its own from among the globe’s usual suspects in king-making and insurgency-arming. Russian and German international firms are taking out a big stake in Southern Sudan — and the Russians may be arming the South.

As Bolton notes, the majority of Sudan’s proven oil and gas reserves are concentrated in the territory that would go to the South in a break-up. Less visible to most Americans is the fact that the South is landlocked, and, under current conditions, largely inaccessible to modern transport facilities. The region’s aging and inadequate infrastructure has been an insuperable obstacle to independent economic development. This shortfall has made UN-contracted air links — in which Russian peacekeepers and aviation companies have figured prominently — a lifeline for Southern Sudan. It has also meant that any independence achieved by the South would be vulnerable and contingent.

This past weekend, however, African new outlets were full of a story that has been building since 2007. A consortium made up of German giant ThyssenKrupp, Russia’s MosMetrostroy, and the Texas-based firm Ayr Logistics Group will begin work in October on a long-planned modern rail line from Southern Sudan to Uganda — and ultimately, it is hoped, to the Kenyan ports of Mombasa and Lamu. This is somewhat more than just good news for Southern Sudan’s economic prospects. By promising to confer independent economic viability on the South, the rail project increases the stakes for everyone involved. From Khartoum’s perspective, the meaning of political independence for Southern Sudan will expand dramatically, and to Khartoum’s disadvantage, this would happen when the railroad becomes operational.

China has put a great deal into the national government in Khartoum and will view with disfavor the prospect of an economically connected South seceding with most of the oil and gas. Russia is positioned well to bolster the South’s bid for independence, however, with its commercial stake in the region’s development and its military force deployed with the UN peacekeepers. In a sign that Moscow recognizes the freighted significance of a North-South breakup, the Russians have recently sold the South 10 military transport helicopters, which can easily be fitted with weapons.

China also has a peacekeeping force in Darfur, however, and has been implicated this year in direct military support to the Bashir regime. The conditions are aligning for Sudan’s internal arrangements to become a proxy showdown for China and Russia, the world’s most brutal competitors for natural resources. Only one nation has the stature and power to discourage the Sudan question from hardening into such a proxy clash, to the detriment of the Sudanese people and the surrounding region. But as John Bolton observes, the U.S. administration is narrowly focused on incentivizing the Bashir regime with an all-carrot approach — a strategy that could hardly be surpassed for sheer uselessness.

John Bolton has a good opinion piece about the upcoming (January 2011) referendum on independence for Southern Sudan. He points out that a break-up and its aftermath are likely to have repercussions for the internal ethnic disputes in many nations across Africa. The Obama administration, he says, is miscalculating badly in its carrot-and-stick approach to the Bashir government in Khartoum; its policy of “appeasing Khartoum” is only making the situation worse.

There are other considerations as well. Khartoum and the southern insurgency aren’t conducting their messy business in a vacuum. They’ve got plenty of outside help. China has been known for some years as the principal backer of the Bashir regime, but the southern insurgency is gaining patrons of its own from among the globe’s usual suspects in king-making and insurgency-arming. Russian and German international firms are taking out a big stake in Southern Sudan — and the Russians may be arming the South.

As Bolton notes, the majority of Sudan’s proven oil and gas reserves are concentrated in the territory that would go to the South in a break-up. Less visible to most Americans is the fact that the South is landlocked, and, under current conditions, largely inaccessible to modern transport facilities. The region’s aging and inadequate infrastructure has been an insuperable obstacle to independent economic development. This shortfall has made UN-contracted air links — in which Russian peacekeepers and aviation companies have figured prominently — a lifeline for Southern Sudan. It has also meant that any independence achieved by the South would be vulnerable and contingent.

This past weekend, however, African new outlets were full of a story that has been building since 2007. A consortium made up of German giant ThyssenKrupp, Russia’s MosMetrostroy, and the Texas-based firm Ayr Logistics Group will begin work in October on a long-planned modern rail line from Southern Sudan to Uganda — and ultimately, it is hoped, to the Kenyan ports of Mombasa and Lamu. This is somewhat more than just good news for Southern Sudan’s economic prospects. By promising to confer independent economic viability on the South, the rail project increases the stakes for everyone involved. From Khartoum’s perspective, the meaning of political independence for Southern Sudan will expand dramatically, and to Khartoum’s disadvantage, this would happen when the railroad becomes operational.

China has put a great deal into the national government in Khartoum and will view with disfavor the prospect of an economically connected South seceding with most of the oil and gas. Russia is positioned well to bolster the South’s bid for independence, however, with its commercial stake in the region’s development and its military force deployed with the UN peacekeepers. In a sign that Moscow recognizes the freighted significance of a North-South breakup, the Russians have recently sold the South 10 military transport helicopters, which can easily be fitted with weapons.

China also has a peacekeeping force in Darfur, however, and has been implicated this year in direct military support to the Bashir regime. The conditions are aligning for Sudan’s internal arrangements to become a proxy showdown for China and Russia, the world’s most brutal competitors for natural resources. Only one nation has the stature and power to discourage the Sudan question from hardening into such a proxy clash, to the detriment of the Sudanese people and the surrounding region. But as John Bolton observes, the U.S. administration is narrowly focused on incentivizing the Bashir regime with an all-carrot approach — a strategy that could hardly be surpassed for sheer uselessness.

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Blair: Use Military Force on Iran If Neccessary

An experienced Middle East hand directs me to Tony Blair’s comments yesterday:

“I am saying that I think it is wholly unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapons capability and I think we have got to be prepared to confront them, if necessary militarily. I think there is no alternative to that if they continue to develop nuclear weapons. They need to get that message loud and clear.” . . .

“Now other people may say: ‘Come on, the consequences of taking them on are too great, you’ve got to be so very careful, you’ll simply upset everybody, you’ll destabilise it.’ I understand all of those arguments. But I wouldn’t take the risk of Iran with a nuclear weapon.”

In the postscript to his book, Blair writes: “Iran with a nuclear bomb would mean others in the region acquiring the same capability; it would dramatically alter the balance of power in the region, but also within Islam.”

Those “other people” concerned about destabilization, of course, include some in the Obama administration. Blair’s comments are significant and could potentially be persuasive with the Iran doves in the administration, including the president. Blair is, after all, the Quartet’s envoy in the Middle East, and has at times enjoyed the “lavish praise” of Obama.

As military operations in Iraq wind down and the obviously limp-wristed Iran sanctions prove to be exactly as critics predicted — wholly ineffective — Blair’s and others’ voices, both here and abroad, will certainly make the effort to focus the U.S. administration on the Iranian threat. And, with a more Republican House and Senate (majorities quite possible in both), U.S. lawmakers may turn up the heat as well. A new leadership team and crop of committee chairmen will be in a position to press Obama and his advisers, pass resolutions, and conduct debate. That all this is necessary to direct Obama to the most urgent national-security matter we face is regrettable. But if Blair is any indication, and we fervently hope he is, lawmakers, foreign leaders, and domestic hawks will make every effort to ensure that Obama does not go down in history as the president who allowed Iran to get the bomb.

An experienced Middle East hand directs me to Tony Blair’s comments yesterday:

“I am saying that I think it is wholly unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapons capability and I think we have got to be prepared to confront them, if necessary militarily. I think there is no alternative to that if they continue to develop nuclear weapons. They need to get that message loud and clear.” . . .

“Now other people may say: ‘Come on, the consequences of taking them on are too great, you’ve got to be so very careful, you’ll simply upset everybody, you’ll destabilise it.’ I understand all of those arguments. But I wouldn’t take the risk of Iran with a nuclear weapon.”

In the postscript to his book, Blair writes: “Iran with a nuclear bomb would mean others in the region acquiring the same capability; it would dramatically alter the balance of power in the region, but also within Islam.”

Those “other people” concerned about destabilization, of course, include some in the Obama administration. Blair’s comments are significant and could potentially be persuasive with the Iran doves in the administration, including the president. Blair is, after all, the Quartet’s envoy in the Middle East, and has at times enjoyed the “lavish praise” of Obama.

As military operations in Iraq wind down and the obviously limp-wristed Iran sanctions prove to be exactly as critics predicted — wholly ineffective — Blair’s and others’ voices, both here and abroad, will certainly make the effort to focus the U.S. administration on the Iranian threat. And, with a more Republican House and Senate (majorities quite possible in both), U.S. lawmakers may turn up the heat as well. A new leadership team and crop of committee chairmen will be in a position to press Obama and his advisers, pass resolutions, and conduct debate. That all this is necessary to direct Obama to the most urgent national-security matter we face is regrettable. But if Blair is any indication, and we fervently hope he is, lawmakers, foreign leaders, and domestic hawks will make every effort to ensure that Obama does not go down in history as the president who allowed Iran to get the bomb.

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Juan Williams vs. Israel

On Fox News Sunday, Juan Williams had this to say about the upcoming talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel:

Well, the question is about settlements. I mean, you know, what you hear from Abbas is if they go back into the settlements that he cuts off the talk.

Last time the reason the talks got cut off was because Israel launched an offensive in Gaza. So now we have a break. The question is can Netanyahu hold together as — his forces in Israel in terms of Israeli politics to say, “You know what? We are best served by some sort of peace, despite the pressures,” and I think there are tremendous pressures on Israel, that there has to be a sense that we are about peace first and foremost.

And I think for the — for the last few times that negotiations have taken place, the emphasis has been on asserting that Israel has been victimized by terrorist activities, by Hamas, by the failure of the Palestinians to govern themselves.

This perfectly expresses the views of the left on Israel — and is perfectly wrong. If it were all about the settlements, the Palestinians would have their own state several times over — at Camp David, and on silver platter from former prime minister Ehud Olmert, most recently. We have had an extended “break” not because of Gaza but because Obama spent 18 months dangling the prospect of a settlement freeze before Abbas’s eyes and leading him to believe the Palestinians could get everything their hearts desired from the U.S. administration.

Next up in the misinformation and outright distortion parade: Bibi is somehow out of step with Israeli public opinion. Yes, the majority of Israelis want talks and a two-state solution, but the infatuation with “land for peace” has dulled considerably in the wake of land-for-war episodes (Lebanon and then Gaza). And Bibi is quite popular. Does Williams expect that some other government could forge a consensus for a peace deal? (Perhaps the 10 percent of Israelis who like Obama would.)

The last is the doozy, and it unfortunately represents the left’s growing indifference to Israel’s security. You see, Williams lectures, we’ve spent altogether too much time talking about terrorism and the Palestinians’ utter failure at self-government. After all, who wants to talk about the refusal of the PA to condemn terrorism? Why do we need to focus on the Palestinians’ ongoing violence and continual calls for incitement (in Arabic) while they talk peace (in English)? And really, what do viable civil institutions — that can enforce the rule of law and a peace deal and develop a productive relationship with Israel — have to do with peace talks?

It is all perfectly foolish and, unfortunately, one suspects, representative of the Obami’s thinking. You can hear the teeth-grinding inside the White House, the impatience with all this concern about defensible borders and an enforceable peace. This is the mindset of the gang that is “affronted” when Israel builds in its own capital and treats the Israeli prime minister as if he were a fly to be swatted away.

As Charles Krauthammer aptly summed up:

The world is tired of these troublesome Jews, 6 million — that number again — hard by the Mediterranean, refusing every invitation to national suicide. For which they are relentlessly demonized, ghettoized and constrained from defending themselves, even as the more committed anti-Zionists — Iranian in particular — openly prepare a more final solution.

The only good news on the horizon is that with Obama’s plummeting popularity and evident nervousness about American Jewish support (otherwise why the charm offensive?), Israel has good reason to wait him out. Go ahead, talk — every two weeks. When the Palestinians are ready to renounce violence and give up the dream of a one-state solution (200 meetings from now? a thousand?), Israel will be waiting.

On Fox News Sunday, Juan Williams had this to say about the upcoming talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel:

Well, the question is about settlements. I mean, you know, what you hear from Abbas is if they go back into the settlements that he cuts off the talk.

Last time the reason the talks got cut off was because Israel launched an offensive in Gaza. So now we have a break. The question is can Netanyahu hold together as — his forces in Israel in terms of Israeli politics to say, “You know what? We are best served by some sort of peace, despite the pressures,” and I think there are tremendous pressures on Israel, that there has to be a sense that we are about peace first and foremost.

And I think for the — for the last few times that negotiations have taken place, the emphasis has been on asserting that Israel has been victimized by terrorist activities, by Hamas, by the failure of the Palestinians to govern themselves.

This perfectly expresses the views of the left on Israel — and is perfectly wrong. If it were all about the settlements, the Palestinians would have their own state several times over — at Camp David, and on silver platter from former prime minister Ehud Olmert, most recently. We have had an extended “break” not because of Gaza but because Obama spent 18 months dangling the prospect of a settlement freeze before Abbas’s eyes and leading him to believe the Palestinians could get everything their hearts desired from the U.S. administration.

Next up in the misinformation and outright distortion parade: Bibi is somehow out of step with Israeli public opinion. Yes, the majority of Israelis want talks and a two-state solution, but the infatuation with “land for peace” has dulled considerably in the wake of land-for-war episodes (Lebanon and then Gaza). And Bibi is quite popular. Does Williams expect that some other government could forge a consensus for a peace deal? (Perhaps the 10 percent of Israelis who like Obama would.)

The last is the doozy, and it unfortunately represents the left’s growing indifference to Israel’s security. You see, Williams lectures, we’ve spent altogether too much time talking about terrorism and the Palestinians’ utter failure at self-government. After all, who wants to talk about the refusal of the PA to condemn terrorism? Why do we need to focus on the Palestinians’ ongoing violence and continual calls for incitement (in Arabic) while they talk peace (in English)? And really, what do viable civil institutions — that can enforce the rule of law and a peace deal and develop a productive relationship with Israel — have to do with peace talks?

It is all perfectly foolish and, unfortunately, one suspects, representative of the Obami’s thinking. You can hear the teeth-grinding inside the White House, the impatience with all this concern about defensible borders and an enforceable peace. This is the mindset of the gang that is “affronted” when Israel builds in its own capital and treats the Israeli prime minister as if he were a fly to be swatted away.

As Charles Krauthammer aptly summed up:

The world is tired of these troublesome Jews, 6 million — that number again — hard by the Mediterranean, refusing every invitation to national suicide. For which they are relentlessly demonized, ghettoized and constrained from defending themselves, even as the more committed anti-Zionists — Iranian in particular — openly prepare a more final solution.

The only good news on the horizon is that with Obama’s plummeting popularity and evident nervousness about American Jewish support (otherwise why the charm offensive?), Israel has good reason to wait him out. Go ahead, talk — every two weeks. When the Palestinians are ready to renounce violence and give up the dream of a one-state solution (200 meetings from now? a thousand?), Israel will be waiting.

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RE: The F-35 and the Israel-Obama Relationship

Evelyn Gordon’s post from Thursday highlights a Team Obama method that increasingly comes across as precious, annoying, and insidious. I’m not sure there’s a single word to describe it, but it involves a sort of inversion by which the administration of policy conveniently supersedes the purpose and substance of policy. In some cases, obstacles are allowed to dictate outcomes as if the U.S. administration has no discretion over them. In other cases, bureaucratic arcana serve as dodges. And in others, like Obama’s approach to Iran, procedural checklists are wielded as surrogates for policy, generating a kind of lottery in which we all watch to see what fate the procedures will eventually confer on us.

The case of the F-35 and Israel appears to fall into the first category. The F-35, or Joint Strike Fighter, has been known for some time to be ill-suited to modifications in its avionics and weapons-control systems. Israel expressed concern about that almost two years ago – and Israel isn’t the only F-35 customer to have reservations, as this Congressional Research Service study from April 2010 outlines. The tightly integrated nature of the F-35’s avionics was intended to be a design feature, not a bug. It is also, however, a 1990s-era design concept that will probably be updated eventually to accommodate more interchangeability of components in future production blocks of the F-35.

A constructive approach to this impasse would certainly be possible. A U.S. administration eager to tend alliances would review the sunk costs of the current design, balance that consideration with the importance of America’s global partnerships, and probably make the commitment now to begin a design migration that would work better for allies. Israel might well find it acceptable to be met halfway and may agree without complaint to buy the first 20 fighters as-is.

But this situation is tailor-made for Team Obama’s unique methods. In negotiations with one of our closest allies, the administration has simply left a known sticking point to fester. From the standpoint of professionalism, there is no good excuse for this: the issue has been recognized in the halls of government and industry for some time. But as Evelyn Gordon observes, it’s something the public knows little about. Obama pays no real price for his administration’s behavior.

An explanation for that behavior has to be deduced by process of elimination. Neither a well-intentioned ally nor a motivated seller behaves this way, so we are left with fecklessness or bad intentions. The Obama image is not enhanced by either possibility. When it comes to his administration’s foreign-policy posture, I’m reminded often of P.J. O’Rourke’s characterization of the French, in a 1986 Rolling Stone article (“Among the Euro-Weenies”), as “masters of the ‘dog ate my homework’ school of diplomatic relations.” It doesn’t quite reach the level of a “Twinkie defense” school of diplomatic relations, but it’s still unbecoming in the leader of the free world.

Evelyn Gordon’s post from Thursday highlights a Team Obama method that increasingly comes across as precious, annoying, and insidious. I’m not sure there’s a single word to describe it, but it involves a sort of inversion by which the administration of policy conveniently supersedes the purpose and substance of policy. In some cases, obstacles are allowed to dictate outcomes as if the U.S. administration has no discretion over them. In other cases, bureaucratic arcana serve as dodges. And in others, like Obama’s approach to Iran, procedural checklists are wielded as surrogates for policy, generating a kind of lottery in which we all watch to see what fate the procedures will eventually confer on us.

The case of the F-35 and Israel appears to fall into the first category. The F-35, or Joint Strike Fighter, has been known for some time to be ill-suited to modifications in its avionics and weapons-control systems. Israel expressed concern about that almost two years ago – and Israel isn’t the only F-35 customer to have reservations, as this Congressional Research Service study from April 2010 outlines. The tightly integrated nature of the F-35’s avionics was intended to be a design feature, not a bug. It is also, however, a 1990s-era design concept that will probably be updated eventually to accommodate more interchangeability of components in future production blocks of the F-35.

A constructive approach to this impasse would certainly be possible. A U.S. administration eager to tend alliances would review the sunk costs of the current design, balance that consideration with the importance of America’s global partnerships, and probably make the commitment now to begin a design migration that would work better for allies. Israel might well find it acceptable to be met halfway and may agree without complaint to buy the first 20 fighters as-is.

But this situation is tailor-made for Team Obama’s unique methods. In negotiations with one of our closest allies, the administration has simply left a known sticking point to fester. From the standpoint of professionalism, there is no good excuse for this: the issue has been recognized in the halls of government and industry for some time. But as Evelyn Gordon observes, it’s something the public knows little about. Obama pays no real price for his administration’s behavior.

An explanation for that behavior has to be deduced by process of elimination. Neither a well-intentioned ally nor a motivated seller behaves this way, so we are left with fecklessness or bad intentions. The Obama image is not enhanced by either possibility. When it comes to his administration’s foreign-policy posture, I’m reminded often of P.J. O’Rourke’s characterization of the French, in a 1986 Rolling Stone article (“Among the Euro-Weenies”), as “masters of the ‘dog ate my homework’ school of diplomatic relations.” It doesn’t quite reach the level of a “Twinkie defense” school of diplomatic relations, but it’s still unbecoming in the leader of the free world.

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Why Bother?

As I observed on Friday, onlookers and officials could barely muster the forced smiles and rote expressions of optimism that normally accompany the “beginning” of (OK, the never-ending, fruitless) direct negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. The New York Times confesses:

There is little confidence — close to none — on either side that the Obama administration’s goal of reaching a comprehensive deal in one year can be met. … Yossi Beilin, for example, who left politics in 2008 after years as a leftist member of Parliament and government minister, said Friday that the Obama administration was wrong to set a one-year goal without consequences.

“I think this is a huge mistake by the U.S. administration,” he said by telephone. “There is not a chance in the world that in a year — or two or three — peace can be achieved. The gap between the sides is too big. Netanyahu did not come to power to divide Jerusalem or find a solution to the Palestinian refugees.

And now even the mainstream media don’t bother to conceal the PA’s game:

[Mahmoud Abbas] was hoping that the Obama administration would impose a solution, which he imagined would push Israel to yield more land and authority to him than the Netanyahu government favored.

That is why the Palestinians wanted only indirect talks brokered by the Americans. But Mr. Abbas failed to obtain what he sought, and the administration pushed him toward direct talks. He has agreed only from a position of weakness, he and others say.

Abbas did not disappoint, threatening “that the new round of Middle East peace talks announced Friday by the Obama administration could be over as soon as they begin if Israel continues new construction on the West Bank.” Bibi has already said he will not extend the moratorium. Abbas, you see, is already planning his escape route from the talks.

Umm, did the Obama team not realize all this? And really, what is the point? As one canny observer put it:

Nothing good has ever come of decades of American meddling in the Israeli-Arab “peace process”—at best, it’s been a monumental waste of everyone’s time; at worst, it produced the Second Intifada—and nothing good can come of this latest and most farcical effort.

On the merits, the time and effort invested in the counterproductive “peace process” cannot be justified. But Obama persists, one can surmise, for reasons that have nothing to do with a “two-state solution.” (For that, as George Will correctly observes, is “delusional” at this point.)

Imagining his mere appearance on the stage and a huge amount of suck-uppery to Muslims would deliver the peace that has eluded his predecessors, Obama invested a huge amount of his personal credibility in brokering a deal. He elevated this issue to the top of his foreign-policy agenda. He strained our relationship with Israel to the breaking point. To give up now, as his domestic standing is crumbling, would be a blow — both personal and political — too great to endure. He is merely postponing a humiliation, and at the price of further fraying ties with Israel and provoking yet another intifada when talks inevitably end and Israel is fingered as the culprit.

And, if Obama did not have the endless “peace process” to hide behind and to discuss with the increasingly irritated American Jewish community, what would there be to talk about? Oh, yes, the existential threat to Israel, the rise of a hegemonic-minded Iran, the drift of Turkey into the Islamist orbit, the rearming of Hezbollah, the abominable state of human rights in Muslim countries, and the failure of his administration to do much of anything about any of these issues. Just as Arab despots in the region point to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to distract “Arab street” from their own shortcomings, Obama has used the “peace process” like a gaudy bauble to dangle before American Jews, elite opinion makers, and the media. And to a large degree, he’s suceeeded in lulling them into a semi-catatonic state (and snagging himself a Nobel Peace Prize, which by the way, looks even more ludicrous now than at the time it was bestowed). Once the “peace process” charade ends, the focus would once again be on him and his failure to abate  — in fact his apparent effort to accelerate –the decline of American power in the region. And the president can’t have that, can he?

As I observed on Friday, onlookers and officials could barely muster the forced smiles and rote expressions of optimism that normally accompany the “beginning” of (OK, the never-ending, fruitless) direct negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. The New York Times confesses:

There is little confidence — close to none — on either side that the Obama administration’s goal of reaching a comprehensive deal in one year can be met. … Yossi Beilin, for example, who left politics in 2008 after years as a leftist member of Parliament and government minister, said Friday that the Obama administration was wrong to set a one-year goal without consequences.

“I think this is a huge mistake by the U.S. administration,” he said by telephone. “There is not a chance in the world that in a year — or two or three — peace can be achieved. The gap between the sides is too big. Netanyahu did not come to power to divide Jerusalem or find a solution to the Palestinian refugees.

And now even the mainstream media don’t bother to conceal the PA’s game:

[Mahmoud Abbas] was hoping that the Obama administration would impose a solution, which he imagined would push Israel to yield more land and authority to him than the Netanyahu government favored.

That is why the Palestinians wanted only indirect talks brokered by the Americans. But Mr. Abbas failed to obtain what he sought, and the administration pushed him toward direct talks. He has agreed only from a position of weakness, he and others say.

Abbas did not disappoint, threatening “that the new round of Middle East peace talks announced Friday by the Obama administration could be over as soon as they begin if Israel continues new construction on the West Bank.” Bibi has already said he will not extend the moratorium. Abbas, you see, is already planning his escape route from the talks.

Umm, did the Obama team not realize all this? And really, what is the point? As one canny observer put it:

Nothing good has ever come of decades of American meddling in the Israeli-Arab “peace process”—at best, it’s been a monumental waste of everyone’s time; at worst, it produced the Second Intifada—and nothing good can come of this latest and most farcical effort.

On the merits, the time and effort invested in the counterproductive “peace process” cannot be justified. But Obama persists, one can surmise, for reasons that have nothing to do with a “two-state solution.” (For that, as George Will correctly observes, is “delusional” at this point.)

Imagining his mere appearance on the stage and a huge amount of suck-uppery to Muslims would deliver the peace that has eluded his predecessors, Obama invested a huge amount of his personal credibility in brokering a deal. He elevated this issue to the top of his foreign-policy agenda. He strained our relationship with Israel to the breaking point. To give up now, as his domestic standing is crumbling, would be a blow — both personal and political — too great to endure. He is merely postponing a humiliation, and at the price of further fraying ties with Israel and provoking yet another intifada when talks inevitably end and Israel is fingered as the culprit.

And, if Obama did not have the endless “peace process” to hide behind and to discuss with the increasingly irritated American Jewish community, what would there be to talk about? Oh, yes, the existential threat to Israel, the rise of a hegemonic-minded Iran, the drift of Turkey into the Islamist orbit, the rearming of Hezbollah, the abominable state of human rights in Muslim countries, and the failure of his administration to do much of anything about any of these issues. Just as Arab despots in the region point to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to distract “Arab street” from their own shortcomings, Obama has used the “peace process” like a gaudy bauble to dangle before American Jews, elite opinion makers, and the media. And to a large degree, he’s suceeeded in lulling them into a semi-catatonic state (and snagging himself a Nobel Peace Prize, which by the way, looks even more ludicrous now than at the time it was bestowed). Once the “peace process” charade ends, the focus would once again be on him and his failure to abate  — in fact his apparent effort to accelerate –the decline of American power in the region. And the president can’t have that, can he?

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Riyadh Votes No-Confidence in Iran Sanctions

The report that Saudi Arabia has agreed to let Israeli jets transit its airspace to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities indeed shows, as Jennifer noted, that progress in the “peace process” is not necessary to secure Israeli-Arab cooperation on a grave mutual threat. But it also constitutes a vote of no-confidence — by both Saudi Arabia and at least someone in the U.S. administration — in the anti-Iran sanctions that the UN Security Council approved last week.

At a time when the Muslim world is still seething over Israel’s botched raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, nothing could be more embarrassing for Saudi Arabia than a report that it is cooperating with the hated Zionist entity in planning an attack on another Muslim country. Under these circumstances, only one thing could motivate a Saudi official to actually confirm this cooperation to the London Times: sheer terror.

And the report’s timing — just days after U.S. President Barack Obama proclaimed the new round of toothless sanctions a great achievement, even as he openly acknowledged that they will not stop Iran’s nuclear program — makes the source of this terror clear: Saudi Arabia is now convinced that the West, in general, and Americans, in particular, will do nothing substantive to stop Iran’s nuclear program. Saudi Arabia has thus concluded that the only hope of making Tehran rethink the program’s wisdom is a credible threat of force. By agreeing to let Israeli jets transit its airspace, thus shortening the distance they would have to fly, Riyadh has greatly increased the credibility of this threat by making an Israeli strike more feasible.

The same logic applies to the U.S. The Obama administration has repeatedly and publicly trumpeted its efforts to thwart an Israeli strike; indeed, the Times reported that Washington still refuses to let Israeli jets transit Iraqi airspace, which the U.S. controls. Moreover, Obama continues to invest great efforts in outreach to the Muslim world. That a U.S. “defense source” confirmed this story to the Times and even asserted that the deal was concocted “with the agreement of the [U.S.] State Department” is deeply embarrassing to the administration, depicting it as downright hypocritical: publicly voicing full-throated opposition to an Israeli raid even as it secretly brokers a deal with Riyadh to facilitate such a raid.

And here, too, the motive is clear: at least someone in the administration has concluded that truly painful sanctions — the kind that might actually affect Tehran’s behavior — are never going to be enacted, so the only hope is a credible threat of military force.

It is, of course, encouraging to learn that both Riyadh and at least some parts of Washington still have a grasp of reality. Yet given the almost unanimous agreement among Western leaders that a military strike on Iran would be disastrous, it is deeply discouraging that they nevertheless remain incapable of mustering the will to enact the kind of sanctions that are the only alternative to such a strike — other than a nuclear Iran.

The report that Saudi Arabia has agreed to let Israeli jets transit its airspace to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities indeed shows, as Jennifer noted, that progress in the “peace process” is not necessary to secure Israeli-Arab cooperation on a grave mutual threat. But it also constitutes a vote of no-confidence — by both Saudi Arabia and at least someone in the U.S. administration — in the anti-Iran sanctions that the UN Security Council approved last week.

At a time when the Muslim world is still seething over Israel’s botched raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, nothing could be more embarrassing for Saudi Arabia than a report that it is cooperating with the hated Zionist entity in planning an attack on another Muslim country. Under these circumstances, only one thing could motivate a Saudi official to actually confirm this cooperation to the London Times: sheer terror.

And the report’s timing — just days after U.S. President Barack Obama proclaimed the new round of toothless sanctions a great achievement, even as he openly acknowledged that they will not stop Iran’s nuclear program — makes the source of this terror clear: Saudi Arabia is now convinced that the West, in general, and Americans, in particular, will do nothing substantive to stop Iran’s nuclear program. Saudi Arabia has thus concluded that the only hope of making Tehran rethink the program’s wisdom is a credible threat of force. By agreeing to let Israeli jets transit its airspace, thus shortening the distance they would have to fly, Riyadh has greatly increased the credibility of this threat by making an Israeli strike more feasible.

The same logic applies to the U.S. The Obama administration has repeatedly and publicly trumpeted its efforts to thwart an Israeli strike; indeed, the Times reported that Washington still refuses to let Israeli jets transit Iraqi airspace, which the U.S. controls. Moreover, Obama continues to invest great efforts in outreach to the Muslim world. That a U.S. “defense source” confirmed this story to the Times and even asserted that the deal was concocted “with the agreement of the [U.S.] State Department” is deeply embarrassing to the administration, depicting it as downright hypocritical: publicly voicing full-throated opposition to an Israeli raid even as it secretly brokers a deal with Riyadh to facilitate such a raid.

And here, too, the motive is clear: at least someone in the administration has concluded that truly painful sanctions — the kind that might actually affect Tehran’s behavior — are never going to be enacted, so the only hope is a credible threat of military force.

It is, of course, encouraging to learn that both Riyadh and at least some parts of Washington still have a grasp of reality. Yet given the almost unanimous agreement among Western leaders that a military strike on Iran would be disastrous, it is deeply discouraging that they nevertheless remain incapable of mustering the will to enact the kind of sanctions that are the only alternative to such a strike — other than a nuclear Iran.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

It took too long, but the myth of Obama’s competence is crumbling: “The WH political shop leaves much to be desired. Take your pick as to which is worse: The fact that Pres. Obama’s team opened itself up to GOP ridicule over feelers it put out to Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) and ex-CO House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D); the fact that those feelers didn’t actually work, displaying an ineptness absent during George W. Bush’s tenure; or the fact that the WH has gone more than a week without being able to move past the story.”

It took too long, but the Obama spin on the economic “recovery” is no longer carrying the day: “Private employers did little hiring last month, undermining hopes that the economic recovery was gathering pace and helping send U.S. stocks down more than 3% on the day. The Labor Department said Friday that 431,000 jobs were added in May. But the vast majority were temporary workers hired by the government to conduct the 2010 Census. Private-sector employment rose by only 41,000, the smallest monthly increase since January. Without faster private-sector job growth, the U.S. faces a bumpy recovery restrained by households with little income to spend.”

It took too long, but even the New York Times has stopped shilling for Obama with respect to the economy: “President Obama tried to put a gloss on the jobs report, telling workers at a trucking company in Hyattsville, Md., that the numbers showed an economy that was ‘getting stronger by the day.’ Mr. Obama mentioned that Census Bureau hiring accounted for most of the new jobs, but he added that the nation had added jobs for each of the last five months. ‘These numbers do mean that we are moving in the right direction,’ he said. ‘There are going to be ups and downs.’ In fact, the May figures suggested a job market wheezing after months of more vigorous growth.”

It took too long, but the Washington Post is calling for transparency on the Joe Sestak and Andrew Romanoff job offers:”Is President Obama comfortable with the actions of White House officials in dangling federal jobs as political inducements? An episode involving former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D) is more troubling than the previously disclosed incident involving Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.). . .  White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said that Mr. Obama did not know about the Romanoff overtures in advance, and Mr. Gibbs blew off questions about his reaction by saying he hadn’t discussed the matter with the president. That’s not sufficient. The American people deserve to hear directly from the president about whether he is happy with this behavior.”

It took too long, but an advocate for Israel emerges in the administration: “Biden’s instinctive embrace of Israel at a moment it was under fire from the international community was the most vivid example yet of Biden’s emergence as the West Wing’s most prominent public supporter of the Jewish state. ” Too bad Obama isn’t and he ignores most of what Biden says.

It took too long, but foreign-policy gurus across the political spectrum are complaining that “when it comes to the question of democracy in the Muslim world, many see a U.S. administration more keen to reinforce status quo support for authoritarian regimes than to push for meaningful political reform.”

It took too long, but cranky Republicans are admitting that, “after this Obama nightmare, the Bush brand is looking pretty good.” (The occasion was a New York GOP convention at which Jeb Bush stole the show.)

It took too long, but there is a is a brilliant novel of teenage angst other than (and smarter than) Catcher in the Rye. (The most insightful review is, of course, in this month’s COMMENTARY.)

And with plenty of time to spare, Mitch Daniels emerges as a potential 2012 contender: “He is at once so visible and so self-effacing that he seems to have sunk into a black hole of personal magnetism and come out the other side, where the very lack of charisma becomes charismatic. He is the un-Obama. Republicans — notably some wealthy and powerful ones who have decided he should be president​ — seem to like that.”

It took too long, but the myth of Obama’s competence is crumbling: “The WH political shop leaves much to be desired. Take your pick as to which is worse: The fact that Pres. Obama’s team opened itself up to GOP ridicule over feelers it put out to Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) and ex-CO House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D); the fact that those feelers didn’t actually work, displaying an ineptness absent during George W. Bush’s tenure; or the fact that the WH has gone more than a week without being able to move past the story.”

It took too long, but the Obama spin on the economic “recovery” is no longer carrying the day: “Private employers did little hiring last month, undermining hopes that the economic recovery was gathering pace and helping send U.S. stocks down more than 3% on the day. The Labor Department said Friday that 431,000 jobs were added in May. But the vast majority were temporary workers hired by the government to conduct the 2010 Census. Private-sector employment rose by only 41,000, the smallest monthly increase since January. Without faster private-sector job growth, the U.S. faces a bumpy recovery restrained by households with little income to spend.”

It took too long, but even the New York Times has stopped shilling for Obama with respect to the economy: “President Obama tried to put a gloss on the jobs report, telling workers at a trucking company in Hyattsville, Md., that the numbers showed an economy that was ‘getting stronger by the day.’ Mr. Obama mentioned that Census Bureau hiring accounted for most of the new jobs, but he added that the nation had added jobs for each of the last five months. ‘These numbers do mean that we are moving in the right direction,’ he said. ‘There are going to be ups and downs.’ In fact, the May figures suggested a job market wheezing after months of more vigorous growth.”

It took too long, but the Washington Post is calling for transparency on the Joe Sestak and Andrew Romanoff job offers:”Is President Obama comfortable with the actions of White House officials in dangling federal jobs as political inducements? An episode involving former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D) is more troubling than the previously disclosed incident involving Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.). . .  White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said that Mr. Obama did not know about the Romanoff overtures in advance, and Mr. Gibbs blew off questions about his reaction by saying he hadn’t discussed the matter with the president. That’s not sufficient. The American people deserve to hear directly from the president about whether he is happy with this behavior.”

It took too long, but an advocate for Israel emerges in the administration: “Biden’s instinctive embrace of Israel at a moment it was under fire from the international community was the most vivid example yet of Biden’s emergence as the West Wing’s most prominent public supporter of the Jewish state. ” Too bad Obama isn’t and he ignores most of what Biden says.

It took too long, but foreign-policy gurus across the political spectrum are complaining that “when it comes to the question of democracy in the Muslim world, many see a U.S. administration more keen to reinforce status quo support for authoritarian regimes than to push for meaningful political reform.”

It took too long, but cranky Republicans are admitting that, “after this Obama nightmare, the Bush brand is looking pretty good.” (The occasion was a New York GOP convention at which Jeb Bush stole the show.)

It took too long, but there is a is a brilliant novel of teenage angst other than (and smarter than) Catcher in the Rye. (The most insightful review is, of course, in this month’s COMMENTARY.)

And with plenty of time to spare, Mitch Daniels emerges as a potential 2012 contender: “He is at once so visible and so self-effacing that he seems to have sunk into a black hole of personal magnetism and come out the other side, where the very lack of charisma becomes charismatic. He is the un-Obama. Republicans — notably some wealthy and powerful ones who have decided he should be president​ — seem to like that.”

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U.S. Chooses International Consensus over Israel

Eli Lake reports on the document that the U.S. signed off on last Friday at the Non-Proliferation Treaty conference:

The final document of the monthlong review conference calls on Israel to join the treaty, a move that would require Israel to disclose and then give up its undeclared nuclear arsenal. The document does not, however, make mention of Iran’s failure to comply with the demands of the International Atomic Energy Agency to stop the enrichment of uranium.

Because these diplomatic documents require a consensus of all nations at the conference, the United States, like any other NPT signatory, had an effective veto over the measure.

Understandably, Bibi is not pleased and issued a statement blasting the document. (“It singles out Israel, the Middle East’s only true democracy and the only country threatened with annihilation. … Yet the terrorist regime in Iran, which is racing to develop nuclear weapons and which openly threatens to wipe Israel off the map, is not even mentioned in the resolution.”) So where was the United States, which the administration keeps telling American Jews is there to stand up for Israel in international bodies? Apparently Obama simply caved:

The U.S. delegation, led by Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher, initially opposed singling out Israel. A senior State Department official told The Times, “We did fight hard to get that language out of the final document.”

Not all that hard, however.

Now, Obama has apparently told Bibi that the secret understanding that has existed between the U.S. and Israel remains in effect.  (“In exchange for Israel not publicly disclosing its nuclear weapons, the United States does not pressure Israel to join the NPT and shields Israel from pressure to join the treaty.”) But by allowing the document to single out Israel, the U.S. has revealed its priorities — again. A Republican staffer tells Lake that “this is the first time a U.S. administration has placed a greater priority on getting a consensus NPT review conference document than on America’s traditional role as protecting Israel’s nuclear ambiguity.”

Bibi will have his time to raise this in his meeting with Obama. And once again, we wonder, where are the Jewish pro-Israel groups? It seems they have ceased to object to much of anything this administration does. So long as the administration doesn’t insult Bibi in public, mouths some platitudes, and continues the kabuki dance of pursuing sanctions (albeit totally ineffective ones), they remain mum.

Eli Lake reports on the document that the U.S. signed off on last Friday at the Non-Proliferation Treaty conference:

The final document of the monthlong review conference calls on Israel to join the treaty, a move that would require Israel to disclose and then give up its undeclared nuclear arsenal. The document does not, however, make mention of Iran’s failure to comply with the demands of the International Atomic Energy Agency to stop the enrichment of uranium.

Because these diplomatic documents require a consensus of all nations at the conference, the United States, like any other NPT signatory, had an effective veto over the measure.

Understandably, Bibi is not pleased and issued a statement blasting the document. (“It singles out Israel, the Middle East’s only true democracy and the only country threatened with annihilation. … Yet the terrorist regime in Iran, which is racing to develop nuclear weapons and which openly threatens to wipe Israel off the map, is not even mentioned in the resolution.”) So where was the United States, which the administration keeps telling American Jews is there to stand up for Israel in international bodies? Apparently Obama simply caved:

The U.S. delegation, led by Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher, initially opposed singling out Israel. A senior State Department official told The Times, “We did fight hard to get that language out of the final document.”

Not all that hard, however.

Now, Obama has apparently told Bibi that the secret understanding that has existed between the U.S. and Israel remains in effect.  (“In exchange for Israel not publicly disclosing its nuclear weapons, the United States does not pressure Israel to join the NPT and shields Israel from pressure to join the treaty.”) But by allowing the document to single out Israel, the U.S. has revealed its priorities — again. A Republican staffer tells Lake that “this is the first time a U.S. administration has placed a greater priority on getting a consensus NPT review conference document than on America’s traditional role as protecting Israel’s nuclear ambiguity.”

Bibi will have his time to raise this in his meeting with Obama. And once again, we wonder, where are the Jewish pro-Israel groups? It seems they have ceased to object to much of anything this administration does. So long as the administration doesn’t insult Bibi in public, mouths some platitudes, and continues the kabuki dance of pursuing sanctions (albeit totally ineffective ones), they remain mum.

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Farcical Proximity Talks

The “peace process” is underway, George Mitchell boasts. But the first “achievement” reveals how inane the entire exercise is. This report explains that the State Department crows that “Israel had pledged not to build in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood of East Jerusalem for two years.” But wait:

Sources close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the American announcement later Sunday, confirming that the housing project intended for the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood would not be built in the coming two years. The sources added that even when the Ramat Shlomo crisis first erupted, when the housing project was announced just as U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was visiting Israel, Israel told the U.S. administration that the project was only in very initial stages and construction would not begin for at least two years.

So what was the cause of an international incident is now touted as a success. That’s the Orwellian world of peace talks. And the PA’s contribution? They promise not to incite violence. Hmm. Will they rename Dalal Mughrabi square after someone who did not slaughter 38 Israeli civilians? Will we hear a call to end the days of rage? For now, each party pretends something is happening. Meanwhile, the “achievements” remain ephemeral, their only purpose being to secure further employment for George Mitchell.

Thus, the “peace process” exercise, to any knowledgeable onlooker, devolves into farce. And in the end, it is counterproductive, tragically so. For, of course, the Palestinians could have had their own state 60 years ago. Or 10 years ago. Or last year. They’ve been offered one over and over again. Perhaps it’s time to try something new. One clear-eyed commentator suggested:

If the Palestinians free themselves, finally, of the Jew-hatred that has for so long permeated their history books, if they overcome the odds against them of a leadership that for generations has enriched itself on the backs of their misery and preferred their wretchedness to nationhood, if they actually succeed in building a state, not a single one of the nearly infinite number of hours wasted on that goal by all the James Bakers and Dennis Rosses and Condoleeeza Rices and George Mitchells of the world will have been responsible. Their own will, and the outstretched hands of the people they’ve spent all those decades blaming for their desolation and trying to destroy will have helped them get there. And that’s a peace process we can believe in.

But so long as the Palestinians have George Mitchell to carry their water and strong-arm Israel, why not stick — quite literally — to their guns? Obama might just deliver a Palestinian state, and an emaciated and indefensible Israel, to them.

The “peace process” is underway, George Mitchell boasts. But the first “achievement” reveals how inane the entire exercise is. This report explains that the State Department crows that “Israel had pledged not to build in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood of East Jerusalem for two years.” But wait:

Sources close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the American announcement later Sunday, confirming that the housing project intended for the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood would not be built in the coming two years. The sources added that even when the Ramat Shlomo crisis first erupted, when the housing project was announced just as U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was visiting Israel, Israel told the U.S. administration that the project was only in very initial stages and construction would not begin for at least two years.

So what was the cause of an international incident is now touted as a success. That’s the Orwellian world of peace talks. And the PA’s contribution? They promise not to incite violence. Hmm. Will they rename Dalal Mughrabi square after someone who did not slaughter 38 Israeli civilians? Will we hear a call to end the days of rage? For now, each party pretends something is happening. Meanwhile, the “achievements” remain ephemeral, their only purpose being to secure further employment for George Mitchell.

Thus, the “peace process” exercise, to any knowledgeable onlooker, devolves into farce. And in the end, it is counterproductive, tragically so. For, of course, the Palestinians could have had their own state 60 years ago. Or 10 years ago. Or last year. They’ve been offered one over and over again. Perhaps it’s time to try something new. One clear-eyed commentator suggested:

If the Palestinians free themselves, finally, of the Jew-hatred that has for so long permeated their history books, if they overcome the odds against them of a leadership that for generations has enriched itself on the backs of their misery and preferred their wretchedness to nationhood, if they actually succeed in building a state, not a single one of the nearly infinite number of hours wasted on that goal by all the James Bakers and Dennis Rosses and Condoleeeza Rices and George Mitchells of the world will have been responsible. Their own will, and the outstretched hands of the people they’ve spent all those decades blaming for their desolation and trying to destroy will have helped them get there. And that’s a peace process we can believe in.

But so long as the Palestinians have George Mitchell to carry their water and strong-arm Israel, why not stick — quite literally — to their guns? Obama might just deliver a Palestinian state, and an emaciated and indefensible Israel, to them.

Read Less

NPT Mischief-Making

Eli Lake details the three-ring circus that is about to open at the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty conference this week. He explains that while the Obmai are marshaling support for their anemic sanctions, Iran — with help from Egypt — is trying to make Israel the focus of the “international community”:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will attend the conference as the head of his country’s delegation. He is expected to raise the issue of Israel’s nuclear weapons to deflect attention from Iran’s enrichment of uranium. Iran could have an ally in traditional rival Egypt, whose delegation will be pushing for a resolution that would have the effect of singling out Israel, one of the three countries in the world that has never signed the NPT.

It seems for all our suck-uppery to the Muslim World, Egypt — who Obama has largely accommodated by his reticence on its political thuggery and human-rights abuses — is at the center of the trouble-making:

For 40 years, the United States has been a partner in Israel’s nuclear opacity as well. In a deal fashioned in 1969 between President Nixon and Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, the United States does not pressure Israel to join the treaty, which would require the Jewish state to give up its nuclear weapons. Israel, in turn, does not acknowledge it has the weapons.

The Egyptian working paper of March 2010 on the nuclear-free Middle East threatens to upset this secret understanding. Specifically, it would require member states of the NPT to “disclose in their national reports on the implementation of the resolution on the Middle East all information available to them on the nature and scope of Israeli nuclear facilities and activities, including information pertaining to previous nuclear transfers to Israel.”

This aptly illustrates the many deficiencies with Obama’s Middle East policy and nuclear-proliferation approach. By elevating the non-proliferation gambit, he has given a forum to distract and complicate reasonable measures focused on the only nuclear threat that matters right now — Iran. By ingratiating himself with Arab states and savaging Israel, he has only encouraged the former to do the same. And by taking the nuclear-free Middle East pipe dream seriously, we only encourage further mischief. A case in point:

David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, said a deal with the Egyptians is within reach.

“The key is for the U.S. administration to quietly let the Egyptians know that at the presidential and vice-presidential level, the United States takes the issue of a WMD-free zone in the Middle East seriously.”

That’s exactly wrong. We should be signaling that we take this not seriously at all and want to focus solely on the Iranian threat. But then the Obami are willing players in the game of misdirection and stalling when it comes to confronting the mullahs, so don’t expect them to take a firm hand with Egypt.

Eli Lake details the three-ring circus that is about to open at the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty conference this week. He explains that while the Obmai are marshaling support for their anemic sanctions, Iran — with help from Egypt — is trying to make Israel the focus of the “international community”:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will attend the conference as the head of his country’s delegation. He is expected to raise the issue of Israel’s nuclear weapons to deflect attention from Iran’s enrichment of uranium. Iran could have an ally in traditional rival Egypt, whose delegation will be pushing for a resolution that would have the effect of singling out Israel, one of the three countries in the world that has never signed the NPT.

It seems for all our suck-uppery to the Muslim World, Egypt — who Obama has largely accommodated by his reticence on its political thuggery and human-rights abuses — is at the center of the trouble-making:

For 40 years, the United States has been a partner in Israel’s nuclear opacity as well. In a deal fashioned in 1969 between President Nixon and Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, the United States does not pressure Israel to join the treaty, which would require the Jewish state to give up its nuclear weapons. Israel, in turn, does not acknowledge it has the weapons.

The Egyptian working paper of March 2010 on the nuclear-free Middle East threatens to upset this secret understanding. Specifically, it would require member states of the NPT to “disclose in their national reports on the implementation of the resolution on the Middle East all information available to them on the nature and scope of Israeli nuclear facilities and activities, including information pertaining to previous nuclear transfers to Israel.”

This aptly illustrates the many deficiencies with Obama’s Middle East policy and nuclear-proliferation approach. By elevating the non-proliferation gambit, he has given a forum to distract and complicate reasonable measures focused on the only nuclear threat that matters right now — Iran. By ingratiating himself with Arab states and savaging Israel, he has only encouraged the former to do the same. And by taking the nuclear-free Middle East pipe dream seriously, we only encourage further mischief. A case in point:

David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, said a deal with the Egyptians is within reach.

“The key is for the U.S. administration to quietly let the Egyptians know that at the presidential and vice-presidential level, the United States takes the issue of a WMD-free zone in the Middle East seriously.”

That’s exactly wrong. We should be signaling that we take this not seriously at all and want to focus solely on the Iranian threat. But then the Obami are willing players in the game of misdirection and stalling when it comes to confronting the mullahs, so don’t expect them to take a firm hand with Egypt.

Read Less

Bibi Calls for a Response to Evil

On the eve of Yom Hashoah, the Holocaust Memorial Day, Bibi Netanyahu gave a moving and thoughtful speech. It should be read in full. His comments relating the Nazi horror to the current threat posed by Iran were especially noteworthy:

The historic failure of the free societies when faced with the Nazi animal was that they did not stand up against it in time, while there was still a chance to stop it.

And here we are today again witnesses to the fire of the new-old hatred, the hatred of the Jews, that is expressed by organizations and regimes associated with radical Islam, headed by Iran and its proxies.

Iran’s leaders race to develop nuclear weapons and they openly state their desire to destroy Israel.  But in the face of these repeated statements to wipe the Jewish state off the face of the Earth, in the best case we hear a weak protest which is also fading away.

The required firm protest is not heard – not a sharp condemnation, not a cry of warning.

The world continues on as usual and there are even those who direct their criticism at us, against Israel.

Today, 65 years after the Holocaust, we must say in all honesty that what is so upsetting is the lack of any kind of opposition.  The world gradually accepts Iran’s statements of destruction against Israel and we still do not see the necessary international determination to stop Iran from arming itself.

But if we learned anything from the lessons of the Holocaust it is that we must not remain silent and be deterred in the face of evil.

I call on all enlightened countries to rise up and forcefully and firmly condemn Iran’s destructive intentions and to act with genuine determination to stop it from acquiring nuclear weapons.

His point is well taken. A serious plan by the U.S. administration to thwart the mullahs’ acquisition of nuclear weapons is not all that’s lacking — there is also a lack of moral outrage. I am hard-pressed to recall Obama or any senior official making the connection between Iran’s nuclear ambitions and its radical ideological fervor and desire for destruction of the Jewish state. This, of course, is the administration that doesn’t like to bring up such things. But in doing so, it also lessens the urgency and undercuts the moral imperative for preventing Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon.

And frankly, there is a shocking lack of urgency within the American Jewish community, as well. When the president goes into his que sera, sera stance regarding the crisis in Iran, where is the outrage? Where are the statements and the protests? Entirely lacking. It is not hard to discern the administration’s abject lack of seriousness with regard to stopping the mullahs’ nuclear program, yet the leadership of the American Jewish community has play-acted along with the administration. Oh yes, sanctions are coming. We got very reassuring answers from Hillary. This is what you hear from supposedly serious-minded Jewish activists. Certainly they have read Secretary of Defense Robert Gates pooh-poohing of military action and the news reports of watered-down sanctions. So when do they plan on speaking up? Are we to see a repeat of the 1930s and 40s, when the American Jewish community remained largely mute, wary of raising a fuss as the Nazi menace ravaged European Jewry?

Netanyahu’s speech was a plea for moral seriousness in the West — and also among American Jewish leaders, who are curiously and tragically underwhelming in their advocacy for a more robust response from the administration to Israel’s existential threat. There is grave doubt whether American Jewish leaders will heed his call and do so in a timely and effective manner.

On the eve of Yom Hashoah, the Holocaust Memorial Day, Bibi Netanyahu gave a moving and thoughtful speech. It should be read in full. His comments relating the Nazi horror to the current threat posed by Iran were especially noteworthy:

The historic failure of the free societies when faced with the Nazi animal was that they did not stand up against it in time, while there was still a chance to stop it.

And here we are today again witnesses to the fire of the new-old hatred, the hatred of the Jews, that is expressed by organizations and regimes associated with radical Islam, headed by Iran and its proxies.

Iran’s leaders race to develop nuclear weapons and they openly state their desire to destroy Israel.  But in the face of these repeated statements to wipe the Jewish state off the face of the Earth, in the best case we hear a weak protest which is also fading away.

The required firm protest is not heard – not a sharp condemnation, not a cry of warning.

The world continues on as usual and there are even those who direct their criticism at us, against Israel.

Today, 65 years after the Holocaust, we must say in all honesty that what is so upsetting is the lack of any kind of opposition.  The world gradually accepts Iran’s statements of destruction against Israel and we still do not see the necessary international determination to stop Iran from arming itself.

But if we learned anything from the lessons of the Holocaust it is that we must not remain silent and be deterred in the face of evil.

I call on all enlightened countries to rise up and forcefully and firmly condemn Iran’s destructive intentions and to act with genuine determination to stop it from acquiring nuclear weapons.

His point is well taken. A serious plan by the U.S. administration to thwart the mullahs’ acquisition of nuclear weapons is not all that’s lacking — there is also a lack of moral outrage. I am hard-pressed to recall Obama or any senior official making the connection between Iran’s nuclear ambitions and its radical ideological fervor and desire for destruction of the Jewish state. This, of course, is the administration that doesn’t like to bring up such things. But in doing so, it also lessens the urgency and undercuts the moral imperative for preventing Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon.

And frankly, there is a shocking lack of urgency within the American Jewish community, as well. When the president goes into his que sera, sera stance regarding the crisis in Iran, where is the outrage? Where are the statements and the protests? Entirely lacking. It is not hard to discern the administration’s abject lack of seriousness with regard to stopping the mullahs’ nuclear program, yet the leadership of the American Jewish community has play-acted along with the administration. Oh yes, sanctions are coming. We got very reassuring answers from Hillary. This is what you hear from supposedly serious-minded Jewish activists. Certainly they have read Secretary of Defense Robert Gates pooh-poohing of military action and the news reports of watered-down sanctions. So when do they plan on speaking up? Are we to see a repeat of the 1930s and 40s, when the American Jewish community remained largely mute, wary of raising a fuss as the Nazi menace ravaged European Jewry?

Netanyahu’s speech was a plea for moral seriousness in the West — and also among American Jewish leaders, who are curiously and tragically underwhelming in their advocacy for a more robust response from the administration to Israel’s existential threat. There is grave doubt whether American Jewish leaders will heed his call and do so in a timely and effective manner.

Read Less




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