Commentary Magazine

The Hagel Factor

The Hagel Factor
Throughout his reelection campaign President Obama pledged that he would keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. In particular, he said that the United States would not resort to a policy of containment but try to actively prevent Tehran’s nuclear ambition from being realized. With his choice of former Senator Chuck Hagel as his new secretary of defense, however, the president has sent a clear signal that his promises to halt Iran’s nuclear ambition are in doubt. Hagel has stalwartly opposed tough policy on Iran and has called to take the option of using force against that country off the table. He has also criticized what he called “the Jewish lobby” and earned a reputation as a critic of the U.S.-Israel alliance. Those who claimed that Obama can be relied upon to deal with Iran must now acknowledge that if Hagel is confirmed, the head of the U.S. defense establishment will be urging inaction on Iran. This news will encourage the Iranians, already floating the possibility of another round of futile nuclear diplomacy, to believe they needn’t fear whether the United States will make good on the president’s promises. It also signals to the Israelis that they may well be on their own when it comes to this existential threat.

Preparing for a Third Intifada
After the general assembly of the United Nations voted to upgrade the status of the Palestinian Authority, there were few signs the Ramallah government was doing anything to improve the lot of the citizens of the would-be state. PA policy in the wake of the UN victory was focused not so much on statehood as on trying to solidify an alliance with its supposed Hamas foes. Hamas runs what is in actuality the real independent Palestinian state, and it responded to this outreach by allowing the PA’s ruling Fatah Party to hold its first rally in Gaza since the bloody 2007 coup that brought the Islamists to power.

But there appears to be more at work here than a new era of good feelings between the rival terrorist movements. Reports out of Ramallah indicated that the PA was preparing to launch a third intifada in 2013 in hopes that a new campaign of violence would heighten Israel’s diplomatic isolation. The PA and Hamas remain divided on many questions but seem to have a genuine meeting of the minds when it comes to avoiding peace talks with Israel. Just as the PA went to the UN to avoid another round of negotiations sponsored by the Obama administration, so it is now hoping to circumvent any genuine effort to make peace by engaging in demonstrations that can be used to create incidents in which Israeli self-defense will be further demonized.

Al Jazeera’s Voice Gets Louder
The Al Jazeera news network, based in and funded by Qatar, has had little success breaking into the American television market. There isn’t much demand for its well-known anti-American and anti-Israel bias in the States. However, the channel got a major break when former vice president Al Gore sold his little-watched Current TV network to Al Jazeera. Leaving aside the hypocrisy of the world’s most famous environmentalist getting a reported $100 million in Arab oil money, the most disturbing facet of this transaction is Gore’s advocacy for the Al Jazeera brand of journalism. Gore, who turned down a bid for Current TV from conservative pundit Glenn Beck, seems to think the Islamists’ favorite network is in some way compatible with his self-declared mission to promote liberal ideology. The notion that there is any congruence between the two modes of thought is absurd. But the willingness of a liberal icon like Gore to embrace Al Jazeera is a troubling development to those who seek to maintain a bipartisan coalition to support Israel and oppose the spread of Islamist terror.

Iran’s Newtown Slander
While this country debated the merits of gun control in the aftermath of the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, the Iranian media used the tragedy to ride its favorite hobbyhorse: anti-Semitism. Iran’s Press TV claimed the crime was carried out by an Israeli hit squad. Many in this country won’t take this risible slander seriously, but it is significant for being the latest salvo in a long-running campaign of anti-Semitic invective that has gained a remarkably large audience in the Arab and Islamic worlds. Rather than dismiss this story as absurd, Americans need to realize that it is outrageous lies like this that fuel hatred for America and Israel.

Brotherhood, Egyptian Style
By the end of 2012, there was no indication that the State Department’s infatuation with the Muslim Brotherhood government of Egypt was wearing off, even though President Mohamed Morsi tried to seize total power and put an end to any hope for democracy in the wake of the Arab Spring protests. Few in Washington seemed to be paying attention, but one of Morsi’s top advisers made it clear that Cairo is now thinking along the same lines as Hamas in regard to Israel. Essam al-Arian, deputy head of the Muslim Brotherhood, said Israel would cease to exist within 10 years. For those arguing that this doesn’t represent Morsi’s thinking, a tape of a 2010 television interview with the Egyptian president recently surfaced in which he not only denounces peace talks with Israel but also says Israelis are the “descendants of apes and pigs.” That is the context in which the decision to maintain the flow of billions of dollars in U.S. aid to Egypt should be discussed.

About the Author

Jonathan Tobin is senior online editor of COMMENTARY.

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