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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

When and why Obama meddles

In light of what happened in Honduras this past weekend, Michael Ledeen tries to set out a standard for when the Obama administration will meddle in another country's affairs.
Andy is quite right to point out Obama's willingness to meddle in Honduran affairs, but not Iranian ones, and to put it alongside his meddling in Hamastan — to which we can add Israel (the settlements). The basic pattern seems to be ideological. Meddling on behalf of causes that the Left supports is fine (especially, it seems, if by so doing he supports anti-democratic regimes and leaders). And then there's the personal component: He was annoyed when the Iranian people interrupted his incipient love affair with Iran's tyrant. And he's annoyed when the Honduran people have the nerve to hold their would-be tyrant — a guy he seems to like — to the standards of their Constitution.
Makes Obama look awfully small, doesn't he?

Alright! Spain drops Shehadeh 'war crimes' prosecution

A Spanish review board has blocked a local judge from continuing a 'war crimes' prosecution against high-ranking IDF officers and Israeli political leaders that arose out of the targeted assassination of Saleh Shehadeh. Shehadeh (pictured), the head of Hamas' military wing, was killed along with fourteen human shields on July 22, 2002.
Spanish Judge Fernando Andreu cannot investigate the IAF bombing in Gaza on July 22, 2002 that killed Hamas terrorist Sheikh Salah Shehadeh and 14 others, Spain's National Court ruled Tuesday.

The Penal Hall of the court decided, in a vote of 14 against 4, not to proceed with the war crimes allegations against seven senior Israeli officials, including former IDF chiefs of staff Dan Halutz and Moshe Ya'alon, and former defense minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer.

The panel supported prosecutors who opposed the probe on the ground that Israel was already investigating the attack, the court said in a statement. The judges announced only their decision, not the specific legal reasoning behind it. The court said that would be published in a matter of days.

The complaint was lodged by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) after Israel had refused to answer the questions from an investigative commission in August 2008.

...

PCHR can still appeal to the Supreme Court in an effort to keep the case alive.
I discussed the Shehadeh case, as well as the principle of 'universal jurisdiction,' at length here, here, here, here and here. You may also want to read this post regarding the recent legislation in Spain restricting the courts' ability to employ 'universal jurisdiction.' That legislation is not applicable to the Shehadeh case.

We don't take orders from Obama!

In case you missed the implication of what I posted on Monday, I believe that the announcements regarding Migron/Adam, Givat Zev and Maaleh Adumim over the weekend and on Monday were attempts to tell the Obama administration that Israel does not take orders from The One. In fact, it kind of reminded me of the good old days when Yitzchak Shamir was Prime Minister and every time George H. W. Bush would send someone here to visit, we would start a new 'settlement' on his arrival.

Two analysts are asking today whether the timing of the announcements cited above is coincidental. One is Haaretz's Akiva Eldar, who asks why Israel is 'blatantly breaking US rule on settlements.'
Defense Minister Ehud Barak most certainly knows better than anyone else that there is no chance of the U.S. accepting the Migron-Adam deal, put forth by the Defense Ministry on Monday before the Supreme Court. Even those who claim that the Bush administration allowed them to continue building to meet the needs of "natural growth" in settlement blocs know fully well that the exchange deal, offering Adam for Migron, would be inacceptable to even the most ardent Netanyahu supporters in Washington.

...

Eitan Broshi, the defense minister's aide for settlement affairs, argued Monday that this was part of a plan that had been approved by a previous government during the late 1990s. However, if the decisions of previous governments to expand settlements or to build new ones pave the way for the infusion of ever more settlers into the territories, there is no point to the commitment to freeze construction and to haggle over "natural growth." Such earlier decisions allow Israel to place a settlement under any tree located in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
I have four comments to this. First, no one elected Obama, Clinton and Co. to rule Israel. The entire notion that we are 'breaking a US rule' is laughable. The US doesn't make rules for us - we are not the 51st state. We have an elected government that makes rules for us.

Second, obviously, the definition of what is 'construction in progress' is something that will need to be discussed. And yes, it's unlikely those units will be built while a 'temporary freeze' is in effect, so there's no need to go getting all the Israel-haters in America and Europe exorcised about it. But the reality of the approval and construction process in this country is that it takes years. One personal story: We live in an area of the eastern part of Jerusalem (it was actually 'no man's land' before 1967). We signed up for our apartment in early 1992 and did not formally go to contract until late 1993 (and didn't move in until mid-1996 - but that's another story). In the fall of 1993, we had to put up money without yet having a contract because rumor had it that there was going to be a construction freeze in Jerusalem, and the dividing line was going to be whether you had your foundations down. So the contractors (with their Arab workers) were working frenetically to put foundations down for every apartment in the neighborhood so that they would be able to keep building. Since we had already been allocated our apartments, but did not have a formal contract, everyone knew who was paying for what. In the end, there was no freeze in 1993 (there was one in Judea and Samaria for several months as a concession under Oslo but not in Jerusalem). But look for foundations to be the dividing line between what is under construction and what is not.

Third, no one is agreeing to a permanent freeze - or a freeze until negotiations are concluded. And given how long it takes to get approvals here (they first discussed building where my neighborhood is now located in the late '70's!) no one is going to suggest that we start that process all over again. No one except Akiva Eldar.

Fourth, assuming the residents of Migron accept relocation to Adam, which is unlikely, I'd love to hear Eldar explain how that increases the number of Jews living in Judea and Samaria.

In the JPost, Yaakov Katz questions the timing of the announcements - particularly regarding Migron.
There are two possibilities regarding the bad timing in this case. One option is that the court had simply set the date for filing the affidavit without taking any external factors into account. However, one could ask why the Defense Ministry, which knew early last week about Barak's meeting with Mitchell, didn't just ask the court for an extension - something the ministry often does in similar cases.

The second possibility is that the filing of the affidavit as Barak left for the US was done on purpose to send a message to the Obama administration that Israel does not plan to cave in completely to America's demand for a settlement freeze. The construction in Adam is meant to pave the way for the evacuation of the illegal settlement of Migron, which is in itself just as important to the US - if not more so, since the outpost was built on private Palestinian land.
Obviously, I believe Katz's second alternative. Barak was trying to send a message to Obama that he's going to have to compromise. Let's see if Obama gets it.

Oh joy! Let's have a 'peace conference'

The UAE's Khaleej Times reports that if Israel agrees to a 'settlement freeze' its reward will be an 'international conference' at which the entire world can gang up on us.
U.S. official reiterated refusal of the United States for the continued building of settlements, "Israeli" in the West Bank, and noted that Washington had accepted the proposals in the event held by the War Minister, Ehud Barak, there will be a meeting of parties to the peace process in the Middle East at the end of July or early August to prepare for a major international conference.
The 'peace conference' would take place in September.

At least three ministers oppose 'temporary settlement freeze'

At least three of the six ministers in Prime Minister Netanyahu's security cabinet oppose even a 'temporary' freeze on construction in the 'settlements.' The three are Moshe (Boogie) Yaalon (pictured), Benny Begin and Avigdor Lieberman.
Monday morning the forum, which includes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and ministers Dan Meridor, Benny Begin and Moshe Ya'alon, met to agree on a position that Barak would then present to Mitchell.

Barak supported a formula according to which Israel would freeze settlement construction completely, except for projects that have already started, and would require U.S. guarantees on the future of the peace process.

A political source in Jerusalem said that Barak's position was countered by Lieberman, Begin and Ya'alon, who opposed his proposal. The three argued that "a temporary freeze" of settlement construction will create a precedent and may become permanent. "If we start it will be difficult to go back," the three said.

It is unclear what the positions of Netanyahu and Meridor were.

According to the three ministers opposing Barak, Israel must not propose a "temporary freeze" without a commitment for similar and equal concessions by Arab states and the Palestinian Authority, and as part of a broader package deal. Another argument put forth was that Israel must request guarantees from the U.S., so that it is not surprised by American initiatives without earlier consultation.

"We must explain to the Americans that we, too, have red lines," Deputy Prime Minister Ya'alon said during the meeting.
According to Haaretz, Barak will present a more 'watered-down' proposal in his meeting with Mitchell on Tuesday.
During the meeting with Mitchell, Barak intends to present a more watered-down proposal, which will include a declared wish to resolve the settlements issue during negotiations with the Palestinian Authority over a final settlement agreement. Moreover, the proposal will be to limit new construction to the addition of stories to existing structures in the settlements, except for projects that have already begun.
Arutz Sheva reports that the State Department is now more 'open' to negotiations over the freeze:
Nevertheless, the spokesman hinted that a compromised agreement would be acceptable. “Well, inherent in the word ‘negotiation’ is, of course, sitting down and finding what one side – what the other side wants and then working out a way to come to a resolution that leads to our goal of a lasting peace in the Middle East,” Kelly said. “I’m not going to say we’re not willing to compromise or – I mean, let’s just see what happens,” the State Department official added, referring to Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s intended meeting Tuesday with U.S. special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell.
On Monday, the New York Times reported that Israel is more open to a compromise on a 'settlement freeze.'
Israel would be open to a complete freeze of settlement building in the West Bank for three to six months as part of a broad Middle East peace endeavor that included a Palestinian agreement to negotiate an end to the conflict and confidence-building steps by major Arab nations, senior Israeli officials said Sunday.

The officials spoke before a planned meeting in Washington on Tuesday between Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, and George J. Mitchell, the Obama administration’s Middle East envoy, and said this was the message Mr. Barak would take with him.

The freeze would not affect construction that was already under way, nor include East Jerusalem. But it would mean that during the specified time no construction of any kind could start even in the close-in settlement blocks that Israel expects to keep in any future two-state agreement with the Palestinians.
I doubt this is going to be more than three months, and I believe that it will not apply to 'East Jerusalem' nor to existing construction. I also believe it will be a de facto freeze - Defense Minister Barak won't issue any more permits, but the cabinet will not adopt any resolution nor will the Knesset, so that no one can argue down the road that this is a legal undertaking. I don't believe the Obama administration can press Israel on this anymore because they have overplayed their hand by making a big deal out of this issue and people are starting to wake up to it.

Obama the ideologue

Although he came into office claiming to be a 'realist,' Caroline Glick has concluded that Barack Hussein Obama is an ideologue of the worst kind.
So if Obama's foreign policy has already failed or is in the process of failing throughout the world, why is he refusing to reassess it? Why, with blood running through the streets of Iran, is he still interested in appeasing the mullahs? Why, with Venezuela threatening to invade Honduras for Zelaya, is he siding with Zelaya against Honduran democrats? Why, with the Palestinians refusing to accept the Jewish people's right to self-determination, is he seeking to expel some 500,000 Jews from their homes in the interest of appeasing the Palestinians? Why, with North Korea threatening to attack the US with ballistic missiles, is he refusing to order the USS John McCain to interdict the suspected North Korean missile ship it has been trailing for the past two weeks? Why, when the Sudanese government continues to sponsor the murder of Darfuris, is the administration claiming that the genocide in Darfur has ended?

The only reasonable answer to all of these questions is that far from being nonideological, Obama's foreign policy is the most ideologically driven since Carter's tenure in office. If when Obama came into office there was a question about whether he was a foreign policy pragmatist or an ideologue, his behavior in his first six months in office has dispelled all doubt. Obama is moved by a radical, anti-American ideology that motivates him to dismiss the importance of democracy and side with anti-American dictators against US allies.

For his efforts, although he is causing the US to fail to secure its aims as he himself has defined them in arena after arena, he is successfully securing the support of the most radical, extreme leftist factions in American politics.

Like Carter before him, Obama may succeed for a time in evading public scrutiny for his foreign-policy failures because the public will be too concerned with his domestic failures to notice them. But in the end, his slavish devotion to his radical ideological agenda will ensure that his failures reach a critical mass.

And then they will sink him.
Unfortunately, they won't sink him quickly enough. We are stuck with President Obumbler until January 20, 2013. History does not stop because the occupant of the White House is determined to abandon each and every one of America's allies.

But Obama thinks he is winning. If he is, that is a pyrhic win at best.

'Twas a famous victory.

Israel Navy blocks blockade busting ship; UPDATE: Ship boarded and towed to Ashdod

Israel's Navy has blocked the Spirit of Humanity S.S. Moonbat from reaching the shore of the Gaza Strip. At the moment, the ship is in international waters off Israel's coast. One of those aboard is former US Representative Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.).
The Free Gaza ship, The Spirit of Humanity, left Cyprus early Monday and reached the edge of Israeli maritime jurisdiction on Monday night, after crossing from Lebanese waters. Israeli naval vessels apparently contacted the ship and blocked its progress south to Gaza in the middle of the night. Activists on board claimed they were threatened and had their navigational equipment electronically jammed by the IDF.

Shortly afterwards, the Spirit headed West in order to be sure to remain in international waters. Later in the morning on Tuesday, the ship was still off Israel's coast, "continuing to Gaza," according to the Free Gaza organization.

Israeli naval vessels repeated a warning message to the would-be infiltrators that they "will not be allowed to proceed to Gaza."

Foreign Ministry sources confirmed that "because of the history of this organization, we informed them that they would not be permitted to [go to Gaza]." Officially, the Spirit of Humanity is registered as on its way to Port Said, Egypt.
I wonder what would happen if they got a little hole in the deck....

UPDATE 7:20 PM

The boat has now been towed to Ashdod port in southern Israel. This is from the IDF spokesperson.
In the last hour, an Israeli Navy force intercepted, boarded, and took control of the cargo boat 'Arion,' which was bearing the flag of Greece and was illegally attempting to enter the Gaza Strip.

The boat departed from Cyprus yesterday. Yesterday evening, the Israeli Navy contacted the boat while at sea, clarifying that it would not be permitted to enter Gazan coastal waters because of security risks in the area and the existing naval blockade.

Disregarding all warnings made, the cargo boat entered Gazan coastal waters. As a result of the actions taken by the boat crew, an Israeli Navy force intercepted, boarded, and took control of the boat, directing it towards Ashdod, Israel.

No shots were fired during the boarding of the boat. The boat crew will be handed over to the appropriate authorities.

Humanitarian goods found on board the boat will be transferred to the Gaza Strip, subject to authorization.

The IDF Spokesperson Unit would like to emphasize that any organization or country that wishes to transfer humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, can legally do so via the established crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip with prior coordination.
In other words, this entire stunt is nothing but a show. Israel would have delivered the aid unless it can be used to make rockets (i.e. no cement).

Lame duck?

A duck with a message for President Obama?

Let's go to the videotape.



We all knew he was lame even before this, right?

Heh.

Hamas playing mind games?

Hamas has been hinting lately that kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit was killed during Operation Cast Lead this past winter.
Hamas leader Osama Al-Mazini promised on Monday to deliver a letter from the family of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit if the prisoner survived Israel's assault on Gaza last winter.

"Hamas received the letter and promised to send it to the relevant persons. If he is alive it will reach him, but if he is dead it won’t reach him because we actually don’t know if he is still alive after the Gaza war," he said.
Surveys taken last summer in the lead-up to the exchange of Samir al-Kuntar and four lesser lights for (what turned out to be) the bodies of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev HY"D (may God avenge their blood) showed that most Israelis are unwilling to pay the same ransom for a dead soldier that they are willing to pay for a live one. At the very least, before Israel pays an exorbitant price for Shalit's release, we need to verify that he is alive.

This is especially true if the following claim by Hamas is true.
He also said that Israel has agreed not to rearrest anyone freed in the deal, but that there were no guarantees the country's military would not attempt to assassinate them later.
While I'd be happy to see many of these creeps killed, the precautions that Israel must take in order to avoid harming others in a targeted assassination makes it unlikely that Israel could kill all of the terrorists.

Confirmed: 'Palestinian' prof who terrorized students gets tenure at Columbia

Back in April, I reported that Columbia University would 'neither confirm nor deny' that Joseph Massad, a 'Palestinian' professor who was found to have terrorized students who disagreed with him, had been granted tenure by the university. Now, with the students gone for the summer and unable to protest, it has been confirmed that the story broken in April is true. Massad has been granted tenure. And the manner in which it was done smells rotten to the core.
In 2007, months after Massad completed his latest book, a committee rejected his tenure application. Tenure candidates rarely get a second shot at Columbia, but Dirks intervened and pushed for a second committee, sources say.

Oddly, the professor who led the first review of Massad refused to serve again. Even odder, the administration justified the do-over by claiming that Massad had switched his field of specialty from political science to cultural studies.

After the second committee approved Massad, President Lee Bollinger and Provost Alan Brinkley took extraordinary measures to protect the secrecy of Massad's tenure case and guard against an outcry from Jewish alumni and donors.

The last step in the process was the trustees. The administration refused to share with the trustees any list of who was on the two tenure committees. The board was also kept in the dark as to why Massad failed the first review. Bollinger and Brinkley also refused to discuss in detail why Massad was permitted another shot.

Instead, the administration -- apparently more interested in managing public relations than dealing with the substance of the underlying problem -- simply provided the trustees with a set of talking points with "helpful facts" about the university's Jewish student center.

When I tried contacting trustee Esta Stecher, a senior administration official alerted the board about my inquiries and reminded the trustees that the university doesn't comment on tenure cases.

In the end, Columbia's board of trustees approved Massad's tenure appointment before ever getting answers.

Which raises the question: Just what does a trustee do? Are they merely fund-raisers? Do they view the title as a ceremonial honor? What's the point?

As for Bollinger, one wonders how he allowed his faculty to undermine his authority and the university's reputation.

The promotion of Massad isn't a victory for academic freedom but a cheapening of it. The freedom extended to a Columbia faculty member isn't the same as the rights of a soapbox crank. Protecting free inquiry and valuing scholarship are not mutually exclusive goals, but together define the university ideal.
Unfortunately, academic freedom is long since gone from many campuses around the world. It's been replaced by political correctness. After watching the news out of Tehran for the last couple of weeks, I'm starting to think that there may be more academic freedom on the campuses that spawned the revolution than there is on the campus of my alma mater. How sad.

By the way, Massad doesn't just hate Jews and Israelis:
In a recent work, "Desiring Arabs," Massad claimed to expose yet another plot against the Muslim world -- the "Gay International." He describes how a vast conspiracy of gay activists descended on Arab countries and endangered the lives of "practitioners of same-sex contact" by transforming them into "subjects who identify as 'homosexual' and 'gay.' "

Nor is Massad fond of the women's rights movement, or "colonial feminism," as he calls it. He bristles at the attention paid to the Muslim practice of honor killings, which he likens to "crimes of passion," accusing women's groups of ignoring "rampant Western misogyny."
Read the whole thing.

Is Israel a banana republic?

In September 1982, Prime Minister Menachem Begin rejected the 'Reagan Plan,' which called for an Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, by throwing the official envelope in the lap of the US ambassador and announcing that 'we are not a banana republic.' Tonight, as is often the case, Begin is sorely missed.

Israel's Channel 2 television reported tonight that French President Nikolai Sarcozy told Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during their meeting last week that he should get rid of foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman and replace him with the previous foreign minister, Tzipi Livni. According to Israel Radio, Netanyahu's response to the story was that he never discusses the contents of his conversations with other leaders. If I were Lieberman, I would not be pleased.
According to Channel 2, in the closed-door meeting, Sarkozy told Netanyahu that he "needs to get rid of" Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

"You need to get rid of this man," the French president reportedly said. "You need to remove him from this position."

Sarkozy had apparently taken issue with some of Lieberman's fringe political stances, Channel 2 reported, and he said that opposition Leader Tzipi Livni was a far better choice for the position of foreign minister. In response, Netanyahu was quoted as telling the French leader that Lieberman "sounds really different" in private conversations.

The French president, undeterred, reportedly retorted that even Jean-Marie Le Pen is a nice person in private conversations. Le Pen, the founder and president of the National Front party in France, is considered by many to hold somewhat extreme right-wing political views.

The Prime Minister's Office denied the report, while a Lieberman aide blasted the comments.

"If the words attributed to the French president are correct, then the intervention of the president of a respected, democratic state in the affairs of another democratic state is a grave and unacceptable thing," he said. "We expect that - regardless of political affiliation - all political bodies in Israel condemn this callous intervention of a foreign state in our internal affairs."
Lieberman is right. This is the third time today there's been an insinuation like this against him. Earlier this evening, it was reported that Netanyahu would like to replace Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party in the coalition with Livni's Kadima party. That story was also denied. And this morning there were comments about Defense Minister Ehud Barak going to Washington rather than Foreign Minister Lieberman. That was supposedly because the Americans don't like Lieberman. I actually thought he did pretty well against Clinton.

Netanyahu may be trying to keep a potentially troublesome cabinet member in line. But this is not the way to do it. Keep your dirty laundry at home and don't hang it outside your hotel room in Paris. Netanyahu should have told Sarco it was none of his business, and then insisted on moving on to something else. If he didn't do that, he owes Lieberman a public apology.

Isn't it funny how no one had problems when Olmert made the clueless and incompetent Amir "Comrade" Peretz defense minister three years ago? I wonder why.

We are not a banana republic. It's time not only for our friends to realize that, but for our own ministers to realize it too.

Monday, June 29, 2009

ACLU helping raise money for Hamas

The ACLU has released a report and a video criticizing US government efforts to shut down terror-financing activities. The reason - you guessed it - is that the ACLU claims that efforts to shut down terror-financing activities disproportionately impact Muslims. I wonder why (Hat Tip: Nathan L).
The ACLU asserts that post-September 11 policies targeting these charities have a "disproportionate" effect on Muslims and "are undermining American Muslims' protected constitutional liberties and violating their fundamental human rights to freedom of religion, freedom of association, and freedom from discrimination."

It recommends a series of policy changes which include repealing Executive Order 13224, issued shortly after September 11, which creates mechanisms for designating persons and organizations as "specially designated global terrorists" (SDGTs). The ACLU also calls on the FBI to employ the" least intrusive means" necessary to accomplish its investigative objectives and urges the federal government to ban law enforcement practices that "disproportionately" target people "based on ethnicity, national origin or religion."

In his June 4 Cairo speech, President Obama asserted that there are too many impediments to Muslim efforts to fulfill their obligation to give charity, or zakat. As we have previously noted, this is patently untrue. The only way "loosen" restrictions would be to effectively to cripple current U.S. law barring material support for terrorism.

The ACLU recommendations mean "more money for Hamas," said Dennis Lormel, who created the FBI's terror financing section. Terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah use the charities to build hospitals and provide food to the poor to win the trust of local Muslims. They then use "this credibility to enlist children as suicide bombers," Lormel said.

But if the ACLU had its way, the U.S. government would lose critical tools for preventing U.S. charities from sending money to terrorist organizations. Using the "least intrusive means" would make it much more difficult (if not impossible) to shut down terrorist- financing charities like HLF, Lormel told IPT News, because they could deny the government the ability to use methods like wiretaps which were critical to building a case against the group for providing funds to Hamas.

Ending the SDGT designations would take away a valuable deterrent to abuse. "We know from experience that people stop donating to these charities once they are designated as supporters of terrorism," added Lormel, a 28-year FBI veteran who oversaw its stepped-up efforts to shut off the flow of funds to terrorist organizations after September 11.
Read the whole thing. Is this what President Obama had in mind when he spoke about removing impediments to Muslims giving zakat? That's what it sounds like.

Just imagine a Supreme Court with Obama appointees in a dominant position. How would that court vote on a case like this? How would Sonia Sotomayor vote?

Oh my! WaPo slams Obama for painting himself into a corner over a 'settlement freeze'

Perhaps Jackson Diehl - who was never pro-Israel - may have had an epiphany last month when he met with 'moderate' 'Palestinian' President Mahmoud Abbas Abu Mazen. In Monday's Washington Post, he slams the Obama administration for painting itself into a corner regarding the 'settlement freeze.'
This absolutist position is a loser for three reasons. First, it has allowed Palestinian and Arab leaders to withhold the steps they were asked for; they claim to be waiting for the settlement "freeze" even as they quietly savor a rare public battle between Israel and the United States. Second, the administration's objective -- whatever its merits -- is unobtainable. No Israeli government has ever agreed to an unconditional freeze, and no coalition could be assembled from the current parliament to impose one.

Finally, the extraction of a freeze from Netanyahu is, as a practical matter, unnecessary. While further settlement expansion needs to be curbed, both the Palestinian Authority and Arab governments have gone along with previous U.S.-Israeli deals by which construction was to be limited to inside the periphery of settlements near Israel -- since everyone knows those areas will be annexed to Israel in a final settlement. Before the 2007 Annapolis peace conference organized by the Bush administration, Saudi Arabia and other Arab participants agreed to what one former senior official called "the Google Earth test"; if the settlements did not visibly expand, that was good enough.
Diehl advocates a compromise, and apparently believes that the administration is now - way too late - coming around to that view:
The result of such posturing is that the administration now faces a choice between a protracted confrontation with Israel -- an odd adventure given the pressing challenges from Iran and in Iraq, not to mention the disarray of the Palestinian camp -- or a compromise, which might make Obama look weak and provide Arab states further cause to refuse cooperation. The White House, I'm told, still hopes Netanyahu will accept a construction moratorium, with a time limit and perhaps a waiver for some buildings under construction. But at this point some damage is probably unavoidable: If Barak and Middle East envoy George J. Mitchell agree on any formula short of that spelled out by Clinton and her spokesman, Arab media will trumpet it as an Obama cave-in.

The best course nevertheless lies in striking a quick deal with the left-leaning Barak this week under cover of the tumult in Tehran. The administration could then return to doing what it intended to do all along: press Palestinians as well as Israelis, friendly Arab governments and not-so-friendly Iranian clients such as Syria to take tangible steps toward a regional settlement. Such movement would be the perfect complement to the cause of change in Iran; how foolish it would be to squander it over a handful of Israeli apartment houses.
From the rumblings here in Israel over the weekend and on Monday morning, the Obama administration may already have missed the opportunity to reach a compromise with Israel. Consider the following four items:

1. Over the weekend, I reported that Defense Minister Ehud Barak was likely to carry to Washington an offer for a three-month freeze with exceptions for buildings already under construction. I wrote that I did not believe that would satisfy Washington, and that we'd be better off not proposing it because it was a slippery slope.

On Israel Radio, about an hour and a half ago, I heard an interview with Eitan Baroshi, the Defense Minister's assistant for 'settlement affairs,' who must approve any new construction in the Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria. Baroshi denied that Barak was taking any kind of offer to Obama, claiming that the cabinet had approved nothing like what I reported this weekend. Further, Baroshi announced that his ministry had told the High Court of Justice (which is on the verge of ordering the 'evacuation' of Migron - see below) that the government had approved the construction of 50 new housing units in Adam, a small village just outside the green line, to accommodate the revenants that the government hopes to evacuate from Migron, which it terms an 'illegal outpost' (despite the fact that Migron had been approved by the government many years ago - this is not the time or place to get into that).

2. JPost reported on Monday morning that Givat Zev, which is just north of Jerusalem, across the green line, straddling Route 443, the alternate highway to Tel Aviv, will complete another 300 homes this year, raising its population by about 1,000 persons, and has approval promised from the Olmert government to start building an additional 380 homes.

3. Over the weekend, Arab media reported that Israel has decided to 'register' 13,900 hectares of land next to Maaleh Adumim, which could signal that Israel is planning to take the land for the city's expansion.
The Palestinian Al Quds newspaper published an order on Friday from the Israeli military telling Arab residents living near the massive Maale Adumim settlement outside Jerusalem to register their land within 45 days.

On Saturday, the newspaper reported that the order concerns some 13,900 hectares of land east of Maale Adumim, near the Dead Sea and the Jordan Valley.

The sparsely populated desert region is mostly inhabited by Arab Bedouin tribes, who have been expelled during previous expansions of the settlement, the boundaries of which already extend to the Jordan Valley.
This is apparently NOT connected with the area known as E-1, which is west of Maaleh Adumim.

4. Arutz Sheva (Israel National News) reports from the Hebrew daily Yisrael HaYom that the Netanyahu government is 'fed up' with the Obama administration's continued declarations against Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria.
A senior Israeli government official said that Israel is “fed up” with American statements against Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, the Hebrew-language Yisrael HaYom (Israel Today) newspaper reported Monday.

As Defense Minister Ehud Barak flies to Washington for meetings with U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell, the unnamed senior official stated, “Israel will demand that any compromise be part of a wider program of regional peace, and only after agreement on the basic principles outlines by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in his [recent] speech at Bar-Ilan University.”

...

Government sources told Yisrael HaYom that during Defense Minister Barak’s visit, “The Americans will hear decisive statements regarding the possibility of freezing construction for Jews in Judea and Samaria. Israel will be prepared to listen to a freeze only if it is temporary and if the Americans will explicitly state” that it will later approve building in communities with a high concentration of Jewish residents.

Israel has stated for public consumption that good relations with the U.S. are important, but any freeze, even temporary, is likely to meet stiff opposition from Shas and Likud party ministers. Shas leader Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) said, "This kind of thinking is incorrect. The discussion needs to be not only about ‘settlements’ but also about obligations of the PA.”
I believe what's going on here is that Israel is telling the US that if it is going to insist on playing hardball on the 'settlement freeze,' Israel can play hardball too. There is very little support for a 'settlement freeze' in the US, and my sense is that a lot of Senators and Representatives are getting very nervous about going too far in supporting Obama on this issue. Obama has overplayed his hand.

Maybe three months of freeze with a lot of exceptions will be the endgame after all. Most Americans aren't ready to bow to Saudi King Abdullah even if their President is. And neither are most Israelis.

How Western kids are brainwashed to believe the 'Palestinian' narrative

If you thought that it's only 'Palestinians' who are brainwashed into believing the narrative that they were forced out of what is now the modern State of Israel, you're mistaken. This is a question from a Canadian provincial practice history test for high school students:
The multiple-choice question was available on the website as part of a practice test for students studying for History 12 provincial exams.

It asked students to identify the following group: “They have been fighting to regain a homeland since they were driven out in 1948. Some have lived their entire lives in refugee camps. Forty years later, Israel still refuses to recognize their right to exist as a nation.”

Among the choices for the answers were: Jews, Iranians, Egyptians or Palestinians.
Which province? It wasn't Quebec, which is what I would have guessed. Go here to find the guilty province.

The offending question has been removed from the Education Ministry web site.

How Israelis view Obama

This is a fair summary of how Israelis view Obama.
Netanyahu's centrist approach also strengthened the chances that his coalition will survive potential tensions with Washington. Netanyahu reluctantly agreed to mention the two-state solution to please the US.

It is not yet clear if Washington is looking for a confrontation with Jerusalem by focusing on a total settlement freeze. Israelis are likely to view such an insistence primarily as a pretext for ulterior motives and are likely to support their government. After all, the territory of the settlements is less than 2 percent of the West Bank and even the PLO agreed to an exchange of territory to incorporate the bloc settlements into Israel. Israelis reject a total freeze in the settlement blocs near the 1967 border line, wanting these areas incorporated into Israel in a future peace deal.

Moreover, the Israeli political system has demonstrated its capacity to remove settlements when necessary. Israel dismantled settlements in Sinai in the framework of a peace treaty with Egypt in 1981 and in Gaza and Samaria in 2005. Finally, the Palestinian demand to receive a Judenrein area is racist and unacceptable. If Israel hosts an Arab minority, why can't a few thousands of Jews reside in a Palestinian state, which occupies part of the Jewish homeland?

The Obama vision of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement within two years is not realistic. While in Cairo, Obama suggested that the Muslim world adopt a pragmatic approach because Israel is a fait accompli that cannot be eradicated. Pragmatism is hardly characteristic of the Palestinian political culture. Israel is still viewed as a temporary entity implanted by the West in the middle of the Muslim patrimony, evident from the Palestinian refusal to accept the generous offer by Ehud Barak in 2000 and the even more generous proposal by Ehud Olmert in 2008. Finally, the Palestinians are beleaguered by internal divisions, culminating with the Hamas takeover of Gaza. They suffer from corruption at the highest levels and the inability to build a state. Palestinian society under the spell of Hamas is moving in the wrong direction.

The Israeli government will try to avert a crisis in US-Israeli relations and will hope for a fast learning curve by the naive Obama administration. Jerusalem can still count on a reservoir of friendship on Capitol Hill and by the American public at large. Due to this support, Israel might decide to put up a fight and play for time.
Heh.

Obama's exercise in futility

Writing in Sunday's Washington Post, David Ignatius - not a huge supporter of Israel by any stretch - points out the flaw in the Obama administration's pressure on Israel for a 'settlement freeze':
The White House believes that if it comes to a showdown, Netanyahu will compromise. His coalition government, the administration reasons, is too weak to sustain an open break with its key ally, the United States. If Netanyahu defies the United States, his coalition will splinter. The administration is already talking with Ehud Barak, the Labor Party leader and defense minister, who might form a new government if Netanyahu falls.

It's a hardheaded strategy, but it has one big flaw: The Obama team is assuming that if it can pressure Israel into a real settlements freeze, the Arabs will respond with meaningful moves toward normalization of relations -- which will give Israel some tangible benefits for its concessions. But that hope appears to be misplaced.

"What will I do in exchange for a settlements freeze? Nothing," says a senior Arab diplomat. "We're not interested in confidence-building, or a step-by-step approach," he continues. Instead, the Arabs would like Obama to spell out the details of a final agreement, now. "Unless we define the endgame, this will be a road map to nowhere," the Arab diplomat argues.

A settlements halt would produce some limited Arab response. Trade or diplomatic contacts might be revived by countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman and others. But Saudi Arabia, the Arab kingpin, probably wouldn't offer major concessions until the negotiating process was further along.
Ignatius is correct about the Arabs doing nothing. But he's way off about two other points in this column, one of which appears in the quote above.

If the Obama administration believes that Ehud Barak is capable of forming a government, they've really misread the situation here. Labor got 12 seats in the Knesset. Half the MK's aren't really part of the coalition. Barak may be thrown out as party chief when they next have primaries - they are required by their constitution to hold them within 14 months after losing an election. He can't even control his own party, let alone form a government. Netanyahu wanted Barak personally as defense minister because that's what the coutry wanted, and because it placed Netanyahu at the center of his own coalition. But we've been down the road of Ehud Barak as Prime Minister from 1999-2001 and it was a disaster. Especially in the current environment in Israel, there is no way Barak is going to be Prime Minister in the foreseeable future even if the US cuts relations with us altogether. Tzipi Livni will be Prime Minister before Barak will - if she still has a party to lead into a coalition.

The other point on which Ignatius is way off - as is most of the American media - is the perception that Rahm Emmanuel somehow has extra credibility here because his father was in the Irgun - Zev Jabotinsky and Menachem Begin's militia from which the Likud party was largely spawned. As Ignatius and many others in the American media put it:
An influential hawk on the issue is Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff and a former member of the House Democratic leadership. Emanuel has special credibility as a strong defender of Israel's security. His father was born in Jerusalem and was a member of the militant underground organization known as the Irgun.
Emmanuel may be very valuable to Obama as someone who 'understands' Israelis, but Israelis have no special regard for him. He has lived in the US for more than thirty years but visited family here in the summers when he was younger. That gives him no special credibility.

As to the repeated claims that Emmanuel is 'special' because he came here to volunteer during Gulf War I, hundreds of Americans did the same thing (I remember planeloads leaving from New York that were chartered by Yeshiva University) and over the years, thousands of Americans have come here to volunteer back in the days when Israel was what mattered most to American Jews.

Emmanuel is not Bibi Netanyahu who returned to Israel and served in the most elite combat unit after growing up in America. Emmanuel is a cheap imitation who packed doggie bags for a couple of weeks during the Gulf War. No one gives Emmanuel any special credibility here. Even his own father has criticized him for the Obama administration's positions on Israel.

UPDATE 10:59 AM

Reader Danny A expands on my quip comparing Rahm Emmanuel with Bibi Netanyahu:
I would suggest that it should be obvious by now that we're seeing an instance of "the personal as political" writ large: Rahm Emanuel envies Binyamin Netanyahu, and is thus driven to mount an attack on Bibi to assuage his own feelings of comparative shortcoming.

It must drive Rahm to distraction to run through in his mind the contrasts between Bibi and himself--to realize that he, Rahm, could never be elected as the leader of his country, could never achieve a popular mandate to unite and protect his people, and indeed achieve this via an improbable comeback from US-imposed (indeed, Rahm-imposed) political purgatory.

The best Rahm could do electorally for himself was a bloody street-fight for the dubious prize of Rod Blagojevich's old Congressional district. Thereafter, he reverted to type as an inside-guy strategist for the national Democratic Congressional Campaign machine, gaining adulation from fellow pols, not the public at large. More of the same ensues now in his Obama White House role.

And of course throw in the other contrasts in background: ballet versus Sayeret Matkal; Sarah Lawrence versus MIT; father as Etzel rank-and-file versus father as secretary to Jabo himself; a brother known as the repugnant real-life basis for the Hollywood agent TV show "Entourage" versus a brother known as an eternal national hero who died so others may live. If he lets himself think about these points, Rahm must really start to grind his teeth. And scheme about how he can bring Bibi down.
I agree with Danny A.

There are more pertinent comments here.

Oh my: IAF preparing F-15's for use against Iran

The Israel Air Force is upgrading its F-15 and F-15I (the latter being an F-15 designed specifically for Israel) fighter jets for use in long-distance operations. That likely means for Iran.
According to IDF journal BaMachaneh, the F-15I model is currently being fitted with two new systems – one called “Barad Pelada” (“Steel Hail”), and another named Lightning.

The Barad Pelada advanced weapons system has been operational in the IAF’s F-16s for almost four years, but had to be modified in order to fit the F-15.

Barad Pelada is an advanced Israeli armament that operates like a smart bomb. “The system is unique in that it is able to plan the bombing in an accurate way by identifying the target from above,” a knowledgeable source in the IAF explained. “After the identification, the system carries out guidance to the target and only then is impact made.”

The Lightning advanced attack system has also been in use in the IAF’s other jets. Until now, the F-15I jets had to rely on the older Inbar system, which used to be fitted in all of the IAF’s jets but was gradually phased out.

The Inbar system is capable of providing an operational solution in some ranges, but other attack scenarios require advanced systems like the Lightning, IAF sources said. “The need for the new system led to an accelerated procedure of development of advanced means,” a source in the IAF’s Weapons Department explained. “Once the testing at the Flight Experiment Center is finished, we will complete the system’s integration in the aircraft.”
Hmmm.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

1939 and 2009: The parallels are eerie

What do Barack Obama and Neville Chamberlain have in common? Even more than you thought already says Jonathan Rosenblum.
THE PARALLELS between today and the earlier period are eerie. Chamberlain, like US President Barack Obama today, enjoyed an overwhelming majority in Parliament. His party whips enforced party discipline with an iron hand - think Rahm Emanuel - and backbenchers who stepped out of line jeopardized their political futures.

In another interesting parallel, Chamberlain enjoyed almost across-the-board fawning support from the press and the BBC. That included self-imposed censorship on the information reaching the British public. After the Anschluss, British papers carried no pictures of the hundreds shot in the first days after the Nazi takeover, of the tens of thousands arrested and sent to concentration camps, or of Nazi soldiers forcing Jewish doctors, lawyers and professors to scrub streets and clean toilets on their hands and knees. When reporters asked Chamberlain about such matters, he snapped at them for believing "Jewish-communist propaganda," and that was the end of the matter.

The British press ignored both the massive German arms buildup prior to the war and the pitiful state of British preparedness. Both before and after the conflict started, it suppressed mention or quotations from Hitler's speeches that would have conveyed a much different impression of his goals. As a British TV character tartly observed 40 years later: "It is hard to censor the press when it wants to be free, but easy if it gives up its freedom voluntarily."

Chamberlain never read Mein Kampf, in which Hitler laid out in startling fashion both his future plans for the Jews and for German conquest. Far from viewing Hitler as an evil man, Chamberlain believed him to be a "gentleman," with whom he could do business. He was more than once shocked to find that Hitler had lied to him, even though that too was foreshadowed in Mein Kampf. Said future prime minister Harold Macmillan: "He didn't believe people existed [who would] say one thing and do another... It was pathetic, really."

According to Olsen, Chamberlain "could never bring himself to believe that [Hitler and Mussolini] wanted to go to war. Clinging to the security of his ignorance, he created a peace-loving image of them that defied reality." For a decade, the English and French did nothing in response to fascist aggression in Abyssinia (Ethiopia), Austria and Czechoslovakia, and precious little even in the wake of the German invasion of Poland.

France and England thereby encouraged Hitler to believe they were too weak to prevail - a judgment in which he was very nearly right. That should have taught us - but did not - that those who hope to avoid war via appeasement inevitably end up fighting later on worse terms.

At no point did Chamberlain recognize that Hitler constituted a mortal threat to Western civilization. As a consequence, he displayed far more ruthlessness in fighting those within his own party who dared challenge his policies than he did in fighting Hitler.
Read it all.

By the way, one other parallel between Chamberlain and Obama: their disregard for Jews.
One of the greatest controversies of Chamberlain's premiership concerned the government's policy on the future of the British Mandate of Palestine. After successive commissions and talks had failed to achieve a consensus, the government argued that the Balfour Declaration's aim of a homeland for Jews in Palestine had been achieved now that over 450,000 had settled there and proposed a quota of 75,000 further immigrants, with restrictions on the purchase of land. These proposals were set out in the MacDonald White Paper of 1939, so named after the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Malcolm MacDonald.

The introduction of the White Paper caused massive outcry, both in the Jewish world and in British politics. Many supporting the National Government were opposed to the policy on the grounds that it contradicted the Balfour Declaration. Many government MPs either voted against the proposals or abstained, including Cabinet Ministers such as the Jewish Leslie Hore-Belisha. Although adopted, implementation was slow; when the Government fell the following year, the plans were dropped.
It was NOT dropped (I have no idea where Wikipedia got that and it should be corrected). In fact, the White Paper was used to prevent hundreds of thousands of Jews from emigrating to Israel from Europe, condemning them to death in the gas chambers.

How Europe would administer the Gaza Strip

This is from an interview with Jan Kohout, foreign minister of the Czech Republic, which is one of the EU countries that is considered 'friendly' to Israel:
Asked what the EU expected of Israel as far as the opening of crossings into Gaza, Kohout said that more humanitarian goods and supplies should be allowed to pass through.

"From what I understand, there are some 800 items being requested in Gaza and only 90 of them are being allowed through," he said. "What we are asking for is to open the crossings for humanitarian goods, and then supervision from UNRWA and other NGOs, to act as monitoring bodies, to make sure items like cement and steel are being used for reconstruction efforts and not the building of rockets."
UNRWA? The people who knowingly hire terrorists? They want to trust UNRWA to ensure that steel and cement go for construction and not for rockets? Good luck with that.

Obama adviser David Axelrod on Iran

Obama adviser David Axelrod appeared on Meet the Press on Sunday morning. Here's the segment where they discussed Iran. Let's go to the videotape.



Here's more from the JPost.
"Let's be clear that we didn't meddle in the election in Iran," Axelrod said. "The dispute in Iran is between the leadership in Iran and their own people, and plainly, Mr. Ahmadinejad thinks that by fingering the United States, that he can create a political diversion. So I'm not going to entertain his bloviations that are politically motivated."

He said Ahmadinejad's accusations are meant for domestic consumption and to quell unrest after his re-election that his opponents call a fraud.

Axelrod stressed that the Obama administration's willingness to hold diplomatic talks with the Iranian leadership was not to be regarded as a reward.

"We are not looking to reward Iran. We are looking to ... sit down and talk to the Iranians and offer them two paths. And one brings them back into the community of nations, and the other has some very stark consequences," Axelrod said.

...

Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations, made similar comments on Sunday, saying that Ahmadinejad is falling back on his government's usual strategy of blaming the West and the US in particular for its internal problems.

"This is a profound moment of change. And what Ahmadinejad says to try to change the subject is, frankly, not going to work in the current context, because the people understand that the United States has not been meddling in their internal affairs," she said.

The legitimacy of the government, while questioned by the people of Iran, is not the critical issue for the US goal of preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability, Rice said.

"It's in the United States' national interest to make sure that we have employed all elements at our disposal, including diplomacy, to prevent Iran from achieving that nuclear capacity," she said.
ALL elements? How about military force?

Stark consequences? Like what? Toothless sanctions?

The problem with this administration is that they are convinced that they can solve all of the world's problems by having long conversations around Mona's dinner table. They cannot or will not understand (aside from their visceral hatred of Israel) that the rest of the world doesn't necessarily conform to their ideals.

The mainstream media's double standard

This is from Khaled Abu Toameh, best-known as the JPost's 'Palestinian' correspondent. This story has gotten way too little exposure in the media (Hat Tip: Melanie Phillips).
As for the international media, it's time to abandon the policy of double standards in covering the Israeli-Arab conflict. For many years, the mainstream media in the US and Europe turned a blind eye to stories about financial corruption under Yasser Arafat. The result was that Arafat and his cronies got away with stealing billions of dollars that had been donated to the Palestinians by the Americans and Europeans.

Back then, many foreign journalists said they believed that the stories about financial corruption in the Palestinian areas were "Zionist propaganda." Other journalists said they would rather file an anti-Israel story because this way they would become more popular with their editors and publishers.

Recently, a Palestinian TV crew was stopped at a checkpoint in the West Bank, where soldiers confiscated a tape and erased its content.

This incident, hardly received any coverage in the mainstream media in the US and Europe.

The reason? The perpetrators were not IDF soldiers, but Palestinian Authority security officers. And the checkpoint did not belong to the IDF; it was, in fact, a Palestinian checkpoint.

The story of the detention of the TV crew -- which, by the way, belonged to Al-Jazeera and the erasure of the footage did not make it to the mainstream media even after Reporters Without Borders, an organization that defends journalists worldwide, issued a statement strongly condemning the assault on the freedom of the media.
Read the whole thing.

When you're done, here's your exit question: Why is Fatah any better than Hamas?

Obama's double standard

Melanie Philips' Friday column in Britain's Jewish Chronicle is spot-on:
As the world watched events unfold in Iran, Obama’s double standard over Israel was illuminated in flashing neon lights. How come he’s saying it is wrong for him to tell the Iranians what to do, people asked themselves, when he is dictating to Israel its policy on settlements?

Why was he so concerned not to antagonise the Iranian regime? Was it because he hopes to reach a Grand Bargain which would allow Iran to develop nuclear capability, provided it promises him ever so nicely it would never turn this into weapons — in exchange for which, Israel would be offered up on a plate?

For the past six months, while Obama has been holding out the hand of friendship to Iran, he has been showing Israel a mailed fist.

Why, people asked themselves, was he singling out Iran’s putative victim for the heavy treatment while soft-soaping Tehran? Why had he torn up the Road Map which requires the Palestinians to dismantle their infrastructure of terror before anything else can happen, telling Israel instead that its stubbornness over the settlements was the main impediment to a Palestinian state?

Why didn’t he acknowledge the blindingly obvious — that the Palestinians’ continuing, explicit refusal to accept Israel as a Jewish state was the fatal impediment?
Indeed.

Read it all.

What a 'temporary freeze' might look like

The Hebrew daily Yediot Aharonot reports today that Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who heads to Washington this week, will be bringing along a proposal for a three-month 'temporary freeze' on 'settlement' construction.
The freeze, that would apply to all new construction - including in the settlement blocs (though not clear if also applies to Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem) - would be in order to facilitate the renewal of talks with the PA.

According to Schiffer, the proposed freeze would not apply to projects already well underway that include some 2,000 buildings - principally public buildings - in the settlement blocs.

Schiffer notes that a study of construction carried out three weeks ago by Yediot Ahronot found that at the end of 2008 no less than 3,200 new housing units were under construction in Judea and Samaria.
I'm opposed to any kind of 'temporary freeze,' because I think it's a slippery slope, and even if the administration agreed to it now, we'd be under a lot of pressure to extend it because of 'progress' in the 'negotiations' when it runs out. My own view is that we should gut it out and tell the Obumbler we're going no further than we've gone already.

Over the weekend, Caroline Glick made the point that more Democrats are willing to go to war to enforce 'international law' (71%) than are willing to go to war to help spread democracy to the world (7%). While that may be true, I don't believe that 95% of the Americans to the right of Samantha Power have taken leave of their senses enough to back Obama going to war with us for the 'Palestinians.' For example, among Republicans, 53% are willing to go to war to spread democracy while only 36% are willing to go to war to enforce 'international law.' I believe Israel can say no, and it won't bring American troops to our doorstep.

Having said all that, if the Netanyahu government - and Barak in particular - believe that the reaction from the Obama administration to that proposal is going to be anything other than laughing in Barak's face, they have completely misread Obama. Nothing less than six months (which is what Obama wanted just to 'talk' to Iran) stands a chance, and maybe nothing less than a year. And sadly, there are far too many exceptions built in for Obama and Clinton and friends to agree to this 'temporary freeze.' It would be better not to propose it at all.

US trying to bring Hamas into negotiations

Last week, a regular reader sent me an email asking whether I had seen any evidence that US Middle East envoy George Mitchell had met with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal while he was in Syria recently, and suggesting that I keep my eye out for evidence that such a meeting took place or will take place. There is good reason to be concerned. By hook or by crook, the Obama administration is likely set on bringing Hamas into the 'peace process.'
Meanwhile, four senior Republican and Democratic figures, including former president Jimmy Carter and former secretary of state James Baker, called on President Barack Obama to initiate a dialogue with Hamas without delay. Speaking during interviews organized by the Foundation for Middle East Peace, Baker said that just like the U.S. found a way to begin dialogue with the PLO, it must do so with Hamas. Baker noted that it is impossible to make peace with people if you are unwilling to talk with them.

Former national security adviser under President George H.W. Bush, Brent Scowcroft, said that if the peace process moves forward, the U.S. will urge Hamas to become part of it in order to avoid isolation.

The elder statesmen expressed their full support for the Obama administration's policies in the Middle East, and agreed that the peace process will not be able to move forward without active American involvement on all levels of negotiations. They also said that an end to Arab-Israeli hostilities is essential for achieving the strategic goals of the U.S. in the Middle East.
I would bet that the Obama administration will find a way to bring Hamas into the 'peace process' on its own terms. And if it manages to do so as part of a 'national unity' government with Fatah, there's going to be a lot of pressure on Israel to negotiate with that 'government.'

Hopenchange anyone?

The next war with Hezbullah may not be so easy

When the story of the arrest of Israeli intelligence operatives in Lebanon first started breaking, I thought it possible that the charges were trumped up and that those arrested were not Israeli spies. This set of facts makes that scenario seem unlikely.
The alleged agents included a former general in Lebanon's premier security service, two army colonels and a former mayor. Lebanese authorities say most of those arrested, including those just listed, have all confessed that they had been spying in Lebanon for years.

Some said they were recruited by Israel's various intelligence services -- Mossad, which operates outside Israel; the Shin Bet internal security service, which operated in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories; and Aman, military intelligence -- as far back as 1982 when Israel invaded Lebanon.

In Lebanon, given Hezbollah's nationwide military structure and the danger it poses for the Jewish state, the Israelis will have to rebuild the networks smashed by Lebanese intelligence and Hezbollah's security branch to regain the intelligence flow that is vital to military operations.

This means that to an extent that can only be guessed at, the Israelis are more vulnerable regarding Hezbollah than they have been for many years.

When Hezbollah abducted Israeli soldiers on the border on July 12, 2006, Israel responded with wave after wave of airstrikes in what became a 34-day war. The Israelis were able to destroy bunkers containing most of Hezbollah's long-range rockets capable of striking deep into Israel, almost to Tel Aviv, in under an hour.

Their intelligence was that good, and some of that must have come from agents they had on the ground. Those assets may no longer be available, and the Israeli air force may not be able to strike with such devastating accuracy next time around.
Well, maybe. But what if the 40 spies arrested are 40 out of 400 or 4000? Hmmm.

Let's hope we get the two at the top next time.

Who will stand up to Iran?

The Iranian government has arrested eight 'local employees' of the British embassy in Tehran, for what was described as their alleged role in post-election protests. The implication of the term 'local employees' is that they are Iranian nationals and not Brits. Nevertheless, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has demanded their release.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband on Sunday demanded the release of eight Iranian British Embassy employees detained by Iranian authorities in Teheran, warning Iran that "continued harassment will be met by a strong and united EU response."

Miliband flatly rejected Iranian claims that the embassy employees were involved in anti-government protests in the country.
If Miliband is looking for a 'strong and united EU response,' I suggest that he check behind him. EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana presented anything but a 'strong and united EU response' to the arrests:
Javier Solana said the EU did not want to interfere in Iran's internal affairs, but would continue its criticism of the conduct of the security forces and the arrests of demonstrators.

Still, the EU also wants to leave the door open for the resumption of the dialogue with Teheran on its nuclear program, he said.

Solana spoke Sunday before a meeting of EU foreign ministers dedicated to Iran.
And you thought Obama was the only weakling on Iran.

Moreover, those who were suspicious as to 'opposition candidate' Mir Hossein Mousavi's willingness to see this through to the end are rapidly being proven correct.
Mir Hossein Mousavi, who claims he actually won the June 12 presidential vote that sparked the unrest, indicated he would seek official permission for any future rallies, effectively ending his role in street protests.
Good luck with that. We know what the odds are that will happen.

Captain Ed thinks this is not the end of the road for the revolutionaries.
The mullahs may have momentarily succeeded in repressing the street demonstrations and open defiance of the regime, but they lost their legitimacy over the last two weeks, and they know it. That’s why they’re trying so desperately to frame the Brits for the protests, in an attempt to discredit them. But when millions of people face off against the armed forces of a dictatorship, it’s usually at least the beginning of the end for the tyrants. And as we’ve been saying, this stopped being about Mousavi after the first few days of the crisis.
I'm sure the people in the streets would agree.

But with both the United States and the European Union still seeking to 'engage' the Ahmadinejad junta, with so many of their number murdered, wounded and/or under arrest, and with their nominal 'leader' backing off because they have already served his purpose, for these kids to succeed in overthrowing the Iranian regime, they will need new leadership.

Who will step forward?

UPDATE 6:05 PM

Iran's Press TV confirms that those arrested were Iranians and not Brits. Let's go to the videotape.

video

Iran's revolutionaries aren't fooling themselves about Mousavi

I've gotten a number of emails from people reminding me - justifiably - that 'opposition candidate' Mir Hossein Mousavi has a past that is nearly as bad as Mahmoud Ahamadinejad's. Those people have therefore questioned how I can support the Iranian revolutionaries, arguing that the revolution is unlikely to lead to anything better.

The revolutionaries do not delude themselves about Mousavi. They know that he is trying to use them, just as they are trying to use him. I suspect that they may soon part company from him. Consider this:
From the very first days of this election we announced that election in Iran dose not follow any democratic rules and is not similar to any election which happens in west.This election called selection from our side and we asked people not to participate in that.Islamic Republic of Iran faced this matter in the internal factions that has to make the internal of the government entirely from one faction and even to move all the internal opposing to the side.All the Mir-Hossein Mousavi,Khatami ,Hashemi and all opposing candidates is to take a part in the power division and share the public wealth.What has made Mousavi and his supporter team not to retreat in fact is to get what they want and not to defend people's rights.People participated in this election to get more freedom in veil, social and welfare.People participated in election to say a big"NO" to Ahmadinejad,supreme leader and a current situation in Iran But clear fraud and ignoring the basic people's freedom and selecting Ahmadinejad as a president made them to go out to the streets again.

Now it's revolutioner fighter's duty to warn angry people in the street and in the middle of a real war field with regime , to be aware of reformists imminent compromise.

To be mentioned and considered that reformists faction are just using people's power as an advantage to force hardliners to share more wealth and power with them and after reaching their goal will be the first people to suppress the riots.Getting angry and uprising is not only because reformists lose the election by leader , actually this anger comes from thirty years suppression and strangulation and now it is freedom political fighter's duty to radicalize this huge opposing movement and guide people to deny and ignore the authoritarian regime.

We emphasize that the origins of protest is not to defend a particular regime faction because all the people who voted just wanted to prove that they do not want the fascism regime. This is a spontaneous overflow and none of the regime's factions(hardliners and reformists) are leading it and it is like a really powerful and huge flame which will be dead without a leader and a organization.
Read the whole thing.

Photo of the day

There's a great picture of recent events in Iran here (Hat Tip: Instapundit).

Unfortunately, it's only a photoshop, but I like it.

Yes, I know, it's in a foreign language

I have installed a new widget called Outbrain and it's giving results in a foreign language. I am aware of the problem and trying to resolve it.

UPDATE 2:28 PM

The problem seems to have resolved itself. When I actually told the template to save the changes (as opposed to just previewing them), they magically became English. Go and figure.

The Obama administration goes limp on the axis of evil

Before he went soft in his second term, George W. Bush referred to Iraq, Iran and North Korea as the 'axis of evil.' It was a speech that was reminiscent of Ronald Reagan's 'evil empire' speech of the 1980's (for those under 20, he was referring to the Soviet Union), and many hoped that the Bush administration would take action against those who spread fear and terrorism around the world. Bush took action against Iraq, but went soft in his second term, even removing North Korea from the international terror list.

Recent developments have made the North Koreans the subject of a UN resolution that prohibits them from shipping weapons. But like so many other UN resolutions, this one has no teeth. It gives other countries the right to track North Korean ships, but not to board them without permission. As a result, the USS John McCain is now tracking the North Korean ship Kan Nam, which apparently has arms and is heading for Burma. What arms it might be carrying and what it plans to do with them is anyone's guess.

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il has promised that his country will launch a missile toward the United States on July 4. Pam Geller believes that the Kan Nam is carrying a missile for that purpose, but the missile will not contain fissile material. She believes it will launch its payload from a point closer than Burma. She believes that the US is being tested.

Ashok Malik believes that the missile will be launched from Burma, and notes that a Taepodong-2 missile has a range of 6500 km while it is 7000 km from Burma to Hawaii.

Irrawaddy, a magazine of Burmese exiles, raises the possibility that Burma itself is seeking to acquire missiles, so as to threaten neighboring Thailand.

And another story I saw last week speculated that Burma could actually be a transhipment point for sending weapons to Iran.

Any or all of these scenarios could be correct. But what all of them make clear is that the Obama administration shown itself to be a paper tiger after just six months in office. It is quickly turning America into a laughingstock. As Claudia Rosett notes:
What neither North Korea nor Iran has felt from the U.S. is any demonstration of will to get rid of either regime. At this point, we know plenty about the trangressions, aggressive ambitions, and growing dangers of North Korea and its pals. What’s missing — apart from the brave strike by Israel on the Syrian reactor two years ago — is the will to do anything about it. All courses are fraught with risk. But the worst possible course is to bluster, and talk, and wheedle, and confirm to Pyongyang, Tehran and the rest of world’s web of rogue and nuclear-aspiring states that America, faced with a game of chicken, will stand down.

Recall that cooling tower at North Korea’s Yongbyon reactor complex, which the North Koreans blew up with great fanfare last year, while the Bush administration paid the out-sized bill of millions for the farcical demolition. I wonder — might America be safer today if Bush had chosen to impress North Korea with a different sort of display for the occasion — and dispatched that cooling tower with a strike from a cruise missile?
Ironically, the only country on which the Obama administration has brought pressure to bear is Israel. Perhaps we too should ignore them.

The photoshop at the top of Jimmy Obama came from The American Thinker's home page.

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