On Wednesday, I reported that the Netanyahu government had decided not to dismantle 23 'outposts' built after March 2001 that the Sharon government had committed to demolish. The reason for the government's decision was that the commitment to demolish the 'outposts' was given in exchange for a commitment from President Bush to recognize 'changing realities' along the 'green line' and that the major 'settlement blocs' would remain part of Israel in any agreement with the 'Palestinians.' The Obama administration having disavowed that commitment, goes the argument, what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
“The Israeli government has pledged to take specific actions,” US State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said. “They have responsibilities and we would expect them to fulfill those responsibilities.”
The American government also pledged to take specific actions, which we expect them to fulfill and which they are now disavowing. Why should we keep our word if you won't keep yours?
At least there's some 'good news' in this report:
State Department officials, however, are denying a report in a Roger Cohen column in The New York Times this week that the US administration had presented the Palestinians with a letter promising an intense effort to produce a Palestinian state in two years, accompanied by a pledge – if Israel seriously undermines trust between the two parties – to withhold its veto from a Security Council resolution condemning Israel.
In contrast to the defeatist 'peace plans' of some members of Israel's government, Professor Dan Pipes has a much simpler strategy: Win baby, win.
My peace plan is simple: Israel defeats its enemies.
Victory uniquely creates circumstances conducive to peace. Wars end, the historical record confirms, when one side concedes defeat and the other wins. This makes intuitive sense, for so long as both sides aspire to achieve their ambitions, fighting continues or it potentially can resume.
Victory means imposing one's will on the enemy, compelling him to abandon his war goals. Germans, forced to surrender in World War I, retained the goal of dominating Europe and a few years later looked to Hitler to achieve this goal. Signed pieces of paper matter only if one side has cried "Uncle": The Vietnam War ostensibly concluded through diplomacy in 1973 but both sides continued to seek their war aims until the North won ultimate victory in 1975.
Willpower is the key: shooting down planes, destroying tanks, exhausting munitions, making soldiers flee, and seizing land are not decisive in themselves but must be accompanied by a psychological collapse. North Korea's loss in 1953, Saddam Hussein's in 1991, and the Iraqi Sunni loss in 2003 did not translate into despair. Conversely, the French gave up in Algeria in 1962, despite out-manning and out-gunning their foes, as did the Americans in Vietnam in 1975 and the Soviets in Afghanistan in 1989. The Cold War ended without a fatality. In all these cases, the losers maintained large arsenals, armies, and functioning economies. But they ran out of will.
Likewise, the Arab-Israeli conflict will be resolved only when one side gives up.
Ironically, Israelis over time responded to the incessant assault on their country by losing sight of the need to win. The right developed schemes to finesse victory, the center experimented with appeasement and unilateralism, and the left wallowed in guilt and self-recrimination. Exceedingly few Israelis understand the unfinished business of victory, of crushing the enemy's will and getting him to accept the permanence of the Jewish state.
Obama promises Abu Mazen a 'state' within two years
Reneging on his promise not to impose 'peace' on Israel, President Obumbler has promised 'moderate' 'Palestinian' President Mahmoud AbbasAbu Mazen a statereichlet within two years, an Egyptian official told the London-based pan-Arabic daily al-Hayat on Thursday.
Obama promised Abbas that the United States would make great effort to help see that Palestinian goal achieved, the official told the London-based newspaper.
The official also told Al-Hayat that Israel had rejected special U.S. envoy George Mitchell's proposal to withdraw Israel Defense Forces troops from Palestinian-occupied sections of the West Bank, as it did on the eve of the Second Intifada in 2000.
According to the report, Israel told Mitchell that it could not guarantee such a move before beginning direct peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
So does that mean that if there are direct 'negotiations' Israel will withdraw the troops? That's insane.
In place of withdrawing troops, the official told Al-Hayat, Israel offered other goodwill gestures, such as removing checkpoints and releasing certain Palestinian prisoners.
Earlier in the week, I reported on an amendment to the Likud constitution that would allow Prime Minister Netanyahu to entrench himself in power within the party. The amendment would allow the party's Central Committee to delay holding elections for up to three years after a general election. When is the last time this country went three years without a general election? 1992-96 if I am not mistaken. There hasn't been a Likud Central Committee election since 2002.
The amendment needed two thirds of the voting Likud Central Committee members to pass. In retrospect, I suppose it is not surprising that these people voted to keep themselves in power. The amendment garnered 77% of the vote. Nevertheless, Moshe Feiglin, who spearheaded the drive to oppose the amendment (and whose supporters were its principal target) is not discouraged.
The official results of the voting today indicate that 77% of the Likud Central Committee voters went with Bibi, preferring to defer Likud elections - probably indefinitely. There were many obvious problems and irregularities with today's voting, but it will not help us to turn to the courts or to be "sore losers." And this dark cloud definitely has a silver lining.
After a long and hectic week, we can summarize that Moshe Feiglin and Manhigut Yehudit took a giant leap forward toward leadership of Israel. Moshe Feiglin was in the media constantly. Even those journalists who have traditionally been openly hostile to Moshe related to him with seriousness and respect. There is no doubt that Moshe has positioned himself as an alternative leader for Israel.
There was only one major force this week that opposed Bibi and his planned disengagement from Jerusalem: Moshe Feiglin. He was articulate, determined and unequivocal as he warned of Bibi's plans - very much the next leader in the making.
Read the whole thing. It's hard not to get the sense that Thursday's vote postponed the inevitable. Still, there is a long struggle ahead.
Michael Rubin wonders whether it is time to disband UNIFIL, the 'peacekeeping force' in southern Lebanon (Hat Tip: Daled Amos).
The rearming of Hezbollah — to the point that, as Secretary Gates points out, they now have more missiles than most countries — highlights the utter failure of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. What was a force of slightly less than 2,000 men, before the 2006 war, ballooned in the aftermath of the end of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 ending that war into more than 11,000 troops — the budget for which, this year, is more than $500 million. Rather than maintain peace or prevent Hezbollah's rearmament, UNIFIL has become, in effect, the world's most expensive summer camp.
Not only has UNIFIL failed in its mission, but its continued presence in southern Lebanon has also transformed it into a human shield for Hezbollah. UNIFIL's deployment has convinced Hezbollah that they can rearm without consequence. Is President Obama really prepared for Hezbollah's launching rockets from behind 11,000 hostages, even if none of them are American? On the other hand, if the United States and its remaining European allies disbanded UNIFIL, might it convince Syria, Iran, and Lebanon that the time for three-card missile monte is over and they need to reassess their strategies?
While I'm not entirely opposed to disbanding UNIFIL on the grounds that it's a waste of money, I doubt that doing so would convince Syria, Iran and Lebanon of anything. Additionally, it is only fair to point out that UNIFIL's ineffectiveness is not entirely UNIFIL's fault. They are victimized by an impossible mandate. Resolution 1701, which established the expanded UNIFIL, was flawed from the outset by requiring that the Lebanese army request UNIFIL's intervention rather than giving UNIFIL free reign. The result is that areas like the Syrian border, the Mediterranean coast line and parts of southern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley are essentially off limits to UNIFIL troops.
Talya Lador-Fresher, Israel's deputy ambassador to Britain, was attacked by pro-'Palestinian' 'students' on Wednesday night as she left a lecture she had given at the University of Manchester (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).
The protesters were waiting for Lador-Fresher outside the lecture hall, but this did not deter her from entering as planned. Immediately upon her exit, the protesters lunged at the diplomat, prompting security guards to whisk her back into the hall. Following a consultation on the site, it was decided to escort her out of the premises in a police car.
The deputy ambassador was removed from the hall and into the police vehicle. However, this did not block the protesters, who surrounded the car and climbed on the hood, trying to break the windshield.
Lador-Fresher ultimately was taken away from the scene safe and sound.
But here's the amazing part:
Israeli Ambassador to Britain Ron Prosor praised his deputy for her determination and fighting spirit and emphasized that the embassy expects a sweeping denunciation of the event from the local authorities and universities in Britain.
Don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen. This is Britain where Israeli politicians are candidates for arrest and Israeli academics are subjects for boycott.
It was apparently known that this was likely to happen - the lecture had been postponed because of warnings of violence, and yet the police were apparently unable to prevent these thugs from approaching Lador - Fresher.
And indeed, Lador-Fresher managed to give her talk, although she was interrupted several times by students who hoisted Palestinian flags and called out anti-Israel slogans. But when she had finished speaking and was trying to head out of the auditorium, it became clear to her security that the way out was blocked by more demonstrators who had been waiting there throughout the hour-long event. The demonstrators had identified the Israeli embassy car and were surrounding it.
Why didn't the police push the 'demonstrators' away from the car?
“I don’t think they wanted to kill me, but I genuinely believed they wanted to physically hurt me," she said. "If I had not had the police and security team, I would have been beaten up.”
Lador-Fresher told the Jewish Chronicle, “No foreign diplomat should have to go through what I went through.”
She had been scheduled to give the lecture in February, but it was postponed following reports of planned demonstrations and the inability of university authorities to properly protect her. At that time, more than 300 protesters from the Action Palestine student society scuffled with Jewish students and police.
The lecture was scheduled for Wednesday, when police and university authorities said they were prepared to deal with the demonstrators, including a complete lockdown of the building, a high-level security presence, ID checks at the door and ticket-only arrangements.
Just imagine how much worse the situation will get in Britain if Nick Clegg wins the election. What could go wrong?
"Westerners said 40 years ago 'let us control the population'... now look at them. Their population is old and ageing," Ahmadinejad said, according to a report by ISNA news agency.
"Some people turned up in our country and blindly said let us do what they are doing and said that two kids are enough and also passed a law concerning this."
He was referring to a 1993 family planning law passed to control population growth in Iran after the baby boom years which followed the 1979 Islamic revolution, when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini urged Iranians to have more kids.
Iran's population grew at an annual rate of 3.2 percent for more than a decade from around 36 million around the time of the revolution.
The swelling demographics forced the regime to implement the family planning law in 1993 as government representatives went door to door handing contraceptives and educating people about the benefits of small families.
Since then the annual population growth rate has dipped to around 1.6 percent and Iran eventually won a United Nations award for its family planning programme.
"Now the average Iranian family is under four people. We will face a dangerous situation 30 years from now," Ahmadinejad said.
He insisted that Iranian "people want to have kids" adding that "God is there to nourish them."
Anyone else think he's looking to increase the population of potential suicide bombers? While the birthrate was high in Iran between 1979-93, there were also thousands of people sent to their deaths clearning minefields during the war with Iraq (1980-88). If there's another war like that today, he may not have enough suicide bombers.
What's the US up to with Syria? Why is Obama so determined to 'engage' the Assad regime? It's not just that the pompous President is convinced that he can talk anyone into anything. It's the same tired narrative that all roads to peace in the World lead through Jerusalem - and the Golan Heights.
Although the basic components of US policy had been hinted at earlier, this was the first time that an official openly laid out what the administration’s end game is. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, who was the official testifying before the subcommittee, outlined the administration’s conceptual framework as follows: The US is working to mitigate Iran’s regional influence, which Syria facilitates. But Syria is not Iran, and there’s a basic policy difference between them: Unlike Iran, Syria has an interest in negotiating a peace agreement with Israel. Therefore, the peace process is, in Feltman’s words, the “big game”. The administration believes that a peace deal between Damascus and Jerusalem would cure the Syria problem.
If this sounds like a familiar tune from the 1990s, that’s because in the end it's nothing but a reprise of the view that holds the conflict with Israel as the engine driving all regional dynamics and regime behavior. It’s the politics of grievance.
This line of thinking plays right into the Syrians’ hands, affording them a pass for their actions and duplicity pending the conclusion of a peace deal that may not materialize for years, if ever.
Witness, for example, this statement by Feltman: “Syria's relationship with Hezbollah and the Palestinian terrorist groups is unlikely to change absent a Middle East peace agreement.” The logic of this statement is but one step removed from justifying the arming of Hezbollah. It’s the logic that holds Syrian policy to be reactive and grievance-based. But the Obama administration’s “big game” is nothing if not a cocktail of this grievance logic and the infamous concept of “linkage”.
This toxic viewpoint was echoed by National Security Advisor Jim Jones at a recent event at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy: “One of the ways that Iran exerts influence in the Middle East is by exploiting the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict… Advancing this peace would... help prevent Iran from cynically shifting attention away from its failures to meet its obligations.”
Such an outlook, distilled in Feltman’s testimony, poses as a grand strategic concept that purports to help mitigate the challenge posed by Iran and the collapse of the Arab-Israeli peace process all at once. It proposes that by draining the swamps of grievance, Syria will be neutralized, and consequently so will Hamas and Hezbollah, leaving Iran “isolated”. This in turn sets the stage for uniting the Arabs and Israelis under the American umbrella facing Iran. While this does nothing to prevent Iran from going nuclear, it could be the blueprint for a future “containment” option, supposedly denying Iran the ability to project power by using the region’s open conflicts.
It’s the new domino theory. Only there’s nothing new about it. As some of us reasoned, Bashar al-Assad made his gamble with the Scuds calculating that this peace processing impulse would be the administration’s default position. If the US endgame is a comprehensive peace deal, one that by definition involves Syria, then Assad can buy immunity and even leverage, simply by declaring he wants peace.
Thus, Obama becomes trapped by his own “big game”. If Syria is deemed necessary for his regional peace/containment edifice, then the US will not be able to declare engagement a failure and suspend it, or else the entire edifice collapses. The result is the confused paralysis evident in the administration’s reaction to the Scud crisis: doubling down on engagement and the need to convince Assad that his “real” interests lay not with Iran but with the US.
And Assad is laughing all the way to the bank. What could go wrong?
Obama administration too busy to enforce sanctions against Iran
Rick Richman provides some statistics about the enforcement of existing sanctions against Iran that were cited by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman at the conference committee on the currently pending Iran sanctions:
Then he gave a description of enforcement by the U.S. of prior sanctions legislation, indicating that it has had no effect whatsoever:
And let me address one more critical issue. In the years since the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act was first passed in 1996, there has been only one instance in which the President determined that a sanctionable investment had taken place. That was in 1998, and the purpose of President Clinton’s determination was to waive the sanction. Since then, there has never been a determination of sanctionable activity, notwithstanding the fact that recent GAO and CRS reports – and, for a time, even the Department of Energy website – have cited at least two dozen investments in Iran’s energy sector of sanctionable levels.
Berman argues that the pending bill needs to require the President to investigate all reasonable reports of sanctionable activity, determine whether the reported activity is sanctionable, and, “if it is, to go ahead and either impose sanctions or, if he chooses, waive sanctions.” But Berman knows that the Obama administration opposes even that:
I know the Administration officials don’t want our bill to require the Executive Branch to investigate each report of sanctionable activity. They especially don’t want the bill to require them to make the determination as to whether or not to actually impose sanctions. They want to be authorized to impose sanctions, if they so choose, but they don’t want to be required to impose them. They cite a number of legitimate reasons for their position: workload concerns, constitutional concerns, and foreign policy concerns.
Since the enforcement problem dates back to 1996, George W. Bush can share in the blame for the current state of affairs. And when Iran goes nuclear, he can just blame Bush. That ought to make Obama happy.
An increase in terrorist attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan triggered a spike in the number of civilians killed or wounded there last year, pushing South Asia past the Middle East as the top terror region in the world, according to figures compiled by a U.S. intelligence agency.
Thousands of civilians — overwhelmingly Muslim — continue to be slaughtered in extremist attacks, contributing to the instability of the often shaky, poverty-stricken governments in the region, the statistics compiled by the National Counterterrorism Center show.
The struggling nations provide havens for terrorists who are increasingly targeting the U.S. and other Western nations. At the same time, U.S.-led operations against insurgents increased in both countries.
"The numbers, to a certain extent, are a reflection of where the enemy is regathering," said Juan Zarate, a top counterterrorism official in the Bush administration who is now senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
"So, to the extent we are seeing more attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan, it's a reflection of resistance to U.S. policy and presence as well as a strategic shift by groups like al Qaeda and foreign jihadis to concentrate where they think they will be most effective," he said.
And I'm sure they're murdering each other because they're hoping it will solve the 'Palestinian problem.' Yeah, that must be it.
So that's what they mean by needing Arab help with Iran
The Obama administration keeps insisting that it needs Arab help to stop Iran, and I keep wondering what they're talking about - after all, no one other than Israel is more interested in seeing Iran stopped than 'moderate' Arab countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Unless, those countries have given up all hope of Iran being stopped and are moving into Iran's camp to back the "strong horse."
This conclusion emerges from two incidents reported by HaaretzArab affairs analyst Zvi Bar’el. First, Iran’s military exercises in the Persian Gulf this week were observed by “a high-level military delegation from Qatar. It was headed by Admiral Abed al-Rahim al-Janahi, who said his country wants to benefit from the Iranian experience, and that he was planning joint exercises for the two armies.”
This is particularly noteworthy given a fact that Bar’el didn’t mention: U.S. forces used Qatar’s Al Udeid Air Base for their campaigns in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Indeed, Qatar originally upgraded the base to lure the U.S. military. Now it’s planning joint military exercises with Iran.
Bar’el also quoted an Al-Arabiya interview with Turki al-Faisal, head of the King Faisal Institute of Global Strategic Studies — and also a former head of Saudi Arabian intelligence, a former ambassador to London and Washington, the Saudi foreign minister’s brother, and King Abdullah’s cousin. As such, Bar’el wrote, al-Faisal most likely represents the ruling family’s views.
And what are those views? Hitherto, Riyadh has considered Tehran its chief regional rival. But al-Faisal termed the Gulf states’ ties with Iran “historic ties that are built on interests, blood relationships and proximity.” He also opposed sanctions on Tehran, saying he prefers “dialogue,” and said Israel posed a far greater threat to the region than Iran does.
So, at the end of the day, the Obama administration will do nothing to stop Iran and then will blame Israel because the Obami are unable to get Arab cooperation for something Obama has no stomach to do anyway.
According to ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman: “No matter how odious, bigoted, biased and unconstitutional Arizona's new law may be, let's be clear that there is no comparison between the situation facing immigrants, legal or illegal, in Arizona and what happened in the Holocaust. Let's remember that the Nazi identity cards were part and parcel of a plan to force Jews into ghettos and for their ultimate deportation to extermination camps.”
The new immigration law in Arizona, signed last week, requires local and state police to question people about their immigration status if there is reason to suspect they are in the country illegally. It also makes it a state crime to be in the US illegally. The strict new law led to outrage in the US, with many claiming that it will lead to racial profiling, and demands for a comprehensive immigration bill to be passed in Congress have been renewed.
“We are seeing these offensive and inappropriate Nazi and Holocaust comparisons come to the fore in the public debate once again,” Foxman continued. “We saw it in the health care debate, and now we are seeing it with Arizona. It is disturbing that in speaking out against the bill a number of individuals have taken to...describing the legislation as being reminiscent of Nazi policies that required Jews and others to carry identity cards, or in comparing the governor and other Arizona officials as being like Hitler.”
A U.S. military official says the Navy had a close encounter with an Iranian surveillance jet last week in the Gulf of Oman.
The official says the jet buzzed a Navy aircraft carrier, the USS Eisenhower, coming within about 1,000 yards of the ship. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, said the April 21 incident occurred in international waters.
The jet was described as a maritime patrol aircraft generally used for surveillance.
The official says "there was nothing threatening about the aircraft itself or how it presented itself."
The official could not confirm reports by NBC and CBS that the jet made three passes over the Navy ship.
Go and figure.... The White House has invited Interior Minister Eli Yishai to visit.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai received an official invitation to Washington late Wednesday, in a move meant to foster closer relations between the Obama administration and Israeli officials responsible for exacerbating tensions between the two countries over the issue of Jewish construction in Jerusalem.
The invitation was given to Yishai by Dan Shapiro, a Middle East expert at the US National Security Council.
In March, Yishai had stood behind the announcement of new construction in Ramat Shlomo, in the northeastern part of the capital, during US Vice President Joe Biden's recent visit to the region.
Wait until he tells them he doesn't make a move without asking his rabbi. Heh.
The David Petraeus comments from last month continue to be played as if there were practical actions that could be taken from them. Laura Rozen has a lengthy piece on them at Politico, which probably ought to be answered.
"What we do believe is that the -- heretofore, the lack of progress in the peace process has provided political ammunition to our adversaries in the Middle East and in the region, and that progress in this arena will enable us not only to perhaps get others to support the peace process, but also support us in our efforts to try and impose effective sanctions against Iran,” Gates said Tuesday.
Two points bear raising here. First, the lack of progress in the 'peace process' isn't Israel's fault. In 2000, in 2001 and in 2008 (that we know of), incredibly generous offers were made to the 'Palestinians.'If what they wanted was a state, they would have accepted one of those offers. But they didn't.
Second, progress in the 'peace process' has NOTHING to do with imposing effective sanctions against Iran. Even if one assumes that the Arab countries care about the 'peace process' (which is a big assumption), they are all in favor of the United States (preferably) or even Israel (if no one else will) stopping Iran. The parties that are blocking sanctions are Russia and China, and they are blocking sanctions out of greed and not because they are conditioning their support on the creation of a 'Palestinian state.'
General Petraeus is right. We can't get around that. He is, essentially, the American ambassador to the Arab world, and to the Muslim world beyond it. The State Department has ambassadors on the ground, but Petraeus is something above ambassador, and when he goes around the Middle East he meets ferquently with heads of state, and from what I understand, he hears quite often about settlements on the West Bank and about what the Arabs call Israeli intransigence, and occasionally his interlocutors answer his requests for help on various issues by saying, 'Let's see what you guys do on the Palestinian question and then we'll see what we can do for you on your problems.'
"Is there hypocrisy here? Of course there's hypocrisy. Does the average Arab leader care about the Palestinians? If they cared, they would have bought them new houses with their oil money a long tim ago. But they know that their people, thanks to al Jazeera, care, and are aware of the situation on the ground, and they know that America is Israel's prime benefactor. The point is, the perception of israeli intransigence makes it seem like the deck is stacked against the Arabs and considering that we need the Arabs for oil, to stand against Iran, for all kinds of things, it's Israel's job to help its main ally unstack that deck a little. Petraeus was just telling the truth about the on-the-ground reality."
Regarding Iran, see above. Regarding oil, there hasn't been an Arab oil boycott over Israel in 37 years, and I don't expect we will see one again over the 'Palestinians.' The Arabs need the money.
But most importantly, the Arabs know that there is nothing the United States or anyone else can do for the 'Palestinians.' They are wallowing in their own incompetence, corruption and murderous hatred. And the Arab leaders don't want the problem solved, because any deal that allowed two states to exist side by side would of necessity preclude the 'return' of the descendants of 'Palestinian refugees' to a rump State of Israel. What would happen to all of those 'refugees' who are living in squalor in Lebanon and Syria and Jordan and Iraq waiting to go 'home' to 'Palestine'? One of two things would happen: Either the Arab governments would have to accept them into their countries as full citizens, which they have shown no willingness to do, or they would be faced with violent rebellion by these people who have no place to go. Sounds like a massacre in the making.
Curiously, the so-called 'Jewish leaders' with whom Goldberg and Rozen spoke, were afraid to go on the record. The Talmud says in Sotah and Sanhedrin that in the generation before the Messiah comes, "the face of the generation will be like the face of a dog." Our rabbis explain that this means that the 'leadership' won't lead; instead they will keep looking back to make sure everyone is following. These putative leaders fit right in.
Finally, Rozen cites a Haaretz quote from former Sharon adviser Dov Weisglass that I discussed here. What I wrote there bears repeating, but first I'd like to expand the quote. Here's what Weisglass said including things that Rozen didn't quote:
"Netanyahu should have taken into account the change within the American Jewish community," Dov Weisglass, a senior adviser to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, told the MESS Report. "Their support for Israel is decreasing and they will defend Israel in the face of the administration only on matters where there is a real threat to Israel. I have serious doubt that U.S. Jews see the Netanyahu government's territorial aspirations in Judea and Samaria [West Bank] and the Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem as an existential matter."
And my response:
This is true. It's partly because we have pretended for the last 16.5 years that the 'peace process' will lead to 'peace' and that we can afford to give up Judea and Samaria. We have to stop doing that. We have to show again and again why Judea and Samaria are vital for Israel's security. If Judea and Samaria - God forbid - go to form a 'Palestinian state,' the Jewish state's long-term survival is very much in jeopardy.
But the second part of that statement is also true. We have lost American Jewry. Not all of it. But we've lost most of the non-Orthodox and nearly all of the intermarried. We have to acknowledge that - like it or not - our power base in the US is Christian. Without Christian support, America would not be supporting us. The Jews will vote for Obama regardless of what he does to us. The Christians won't. Either we cultivate that relationship or somewhere down the road they will tire of us and we will lose it. How do we cultivate that relationship? Stand up for ourselves. Show off our history. Judea and Samaria are where our biblical forefathers walked. They are God's country and God promised it to us. There's nothing wrong with making the security argument and the entitlement argument side by side. One doesn't preclude the other.
In summary, there is no agreement between Israel and the 'Palestinians' on the table because the 'Palestinians' will not accept a Jewish state of any size. This isn't about 'settlements' - it's about Israel's existence.
The argument that the Arab states would be more cooperative with the United States if only the US 'resolved' the 'Palestinian problem' is bogus, especially when one considers that the only resolution acceptable to the Arabs is the destruction of the Jewish state. The Arabs will act in their own interests, and will cooperate with the United States when they see that as being in their interest. The 'Palestinian problem' has no connection to Iran. The Arabs will support anything the US agrees to do about Iran (which is so far nothing) and they are not the ones holding up sanctions.
The vast majority of American Jewry will support Obama regardless of what he does to Israel. It's the opposite of James Baker's "F**k the Jews - they don't vote for us anyway." It's "F**k the Jews - they'll vote for us anyway. American support for Israel is not dependent on the 1.7% of the US population that identifies as Jewish. American support for Israel comes from America's Christian heartland, and they will vote for either party. Thus all the 'Jewish leaders' who are afraid to have Rozen and Goldberg identify them can remain anonymous.
We in Israel have to keep acting in our own interests. Returning to the 1967 borders would be an existential danger for us. We saw it in Lebanon (which we left ten years ago this week), and we saw it in Gaza. If God forbid we return to the 1967 borders, within a few years, we won't have a state left.
The Israeli embassy throws Nir Barkat under the bus
The Israeli embassy has thrown Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat under the bus this week according to Jonathan Tobin.
The reaction from the Obama administration has been chilly but perhaps not as chilly as that of the Israeli Embassy. The New York Times, which contrasted the chummy reception that Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak got here this week from the Obami with that given to Barkat, noted that a spokesman from the Israeli embassy was at pains to distance the embassy from Barkat.
“For us, it’s lousy timing,” said a spokesman for the embassy, Jonathan Peled. He tried to put things in perspective, comparing Mr. Barkat to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty of Washington. “He’s not going to be the one negotiating peace with the Palestinians, in the same way that Fenty is not going to be the one negotiating the Start agreement with Russia,” Mr. Peled said.”
It’s true that Barkat is not a member of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government — or even of one of the parties that forms his coalition — and is not bound to follow its lead nor empowered to represent it. But neither is he an insignificant or powerless functionary who deserves to be ignored or mocked. Moreover, his position opposing both Jerusalem’s partition and a Jewish building freeze (while Arab building continues at a higher rate and without protest from anyone) happens to be identical to that of Netanyahu.
It’s easy to understand the embassy’s desire to downplay any differences between Israel and the administration during such a tense time. Moreover, if Netanyahu has actually caved in to Obama and promised to put in place some sort of unannounced freeze in Jerusalem, he’s got to be unhappy about Barkat either opposing such a change or making it clear that development in the city will continue regardless of what Obama wants.
But people who, like Peled, are tasked with the difficult job of selling Israel’s position on its capital to both the administration and to the American public, should be wary of making it appear as though they are throwing Barkat under the proverbial bus. Disavowing a respected mayor who is also an articulate advocate for the same position as the Netanyahu government on Jerusalem may make it a little easier to deal with the White House this week but in the long run it can have a deleterious effect on Israel’s efforts to defend its capital in Washington and at home.
It's only 'lousy timing' if - contrary to what Netanyahu would have us believe - Netanyahu has agreed to freeze housing construction in 'east' Jerusalem, including all the suburbs built since the 1967 War. That's the only explanation for the treatment that Barkat has received from the Israeli embassy in Washington this week.
Obama pushing exemption that would gut US sanctions on Iran
If you want to get angry, read Eli Lake's column about how the Obama administration is trying to push through a 'cooperating country' exception in Congress' refined fuel sanctions bill. The exception would effectively ensure that China and Russia could continue to sell gasoline to Iran unfettered. The bill is currently in a House - Senate conference, and is expected to be reported out before Memorial Day (May 31) (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).
"It's incredible the administration is asking for exemptions, under the table and winking and nodding, before the legislation is signed into law," Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican and a conference committee member, said in an interview. A White House official confirmed Wednesday that the administration was pushing the conference committee to adopt the exemption of "cooperating countries" in the legislation.
Neither the House nor Senate version of the bill includes a "cooperating countries" provision even though the administration asked the leading sponsors of the Senate version of the bill nearly six months ago to include one.
The legislation, aimed at companies that sell Iran gasoline or equipment to refine petroleum, would impose penalties on such companies, up to the potentially crippling act of cutting off the company entirely from the American economy. It also would close a loophole in earlier Iran sanctions by barring foreign-owned subsidiaries of U.S. companies from doing business in Iran's energy sector.
"We're pushing for a 'cooperating-countries' exemption," the White House official said. "It is not targeted to any country in particular, but would be based on objective criteria and made in full consultation with the Congress."
Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen, however, said the exemption "is aimed at China and Russia specifically."
"The administration wants to give a pass to countries for merely supporting a watered-down, almost do-nothing U.N. resolution," she said.
All past sanctions against Iran have included a waiver that lets the president refrain from penalizing foreign companies that are doing business with Iran.
The "cooperating countries" language that the White House is pressing would allow the executive branch to designate countries as cooperating with the overall strategy to pressure Iran economically.
According to three congressional staffers familiar with the White House proposal, once a country is on that list, the administration wouldn't even have to identify companies from that country as selling gasoline or aiding Iran's refinement industry.
Even if, as current law allows, the administration can waive the penalties on named companies for various reasons, the "cooperating countries" language would deprive the sanctions of their "name-and-shame" power, the staffers said.
The prospect that China and Chinese firms would be exempt from penalty follows reports that Beijing is cooperating with Iran's missile program. On April 23, Jane's Defense Weekly reported that China broke ground on a plant in Iran this month that will build the Nasr-1 anti-ship missile.
This is not the first time that the Obama administration has attempted to gut the sanctions through a 'cooperating countries' exemption. Here's what Josh Rogin reported on this issue back in March: "When we had the discussions in December about cooperating countries, it boiled down to the fact that the administration was demanding an exemption that was large enough to drive a truck through and that was not well received in the Congress," said one senior congressional aide close to the discussions.
The aide spelled out two hypothetical scenarios: In Scenario A, the Security Council puts in place a very tough sanctions regime with China's signoff. In that case, the imperative for stringent congressionally mandated sanctions could diminish.
In Scenario B, despite a year spent on engagement, sold as necessary to rally the international community, sanctions are weak and China is not forced to change its behavior. In that case, the aide said, it will be very hard for the administration to turn to Congress and say "You don't need to move on tough sanctions now."
I first reported the story here, and noted that the original proposal was a blanket exception for the P 5+1, which, as you might imagine, angered other US allies like Japan and South Korea.
Well, you didn't think Obama was going to drop it, did you?
My guess is that Democrats who are worried about their seats come November are not going to vote with Obama on this. Hopefully, that's all of them.
Noah Pollak has given me an excuse to play a great old song from my youth.
Let's go to the videotape.
The sounds of silence are emanating from Human Rights Watch, which is hoping that Benjamin Birnbaum's expose of the group's Middle East and North Africa division will just go away. The latest update on that is here.
Rabbi Shmuely Boteach met with the Pope in St. Peter’s Square and gave him a watch as a gift. This is what ensued.
Rabbi Boteach said that the Pope remarked: "It has two faces on it" and, the Rabbi continued, "this was the perfect introduction for me to share the issues I had prepared. I said, ‘Pope Benedict, it’s an honor to meet you. This watch has the times of Rome and Jerusalem on it, signifying the eternal friendship between our two faiths. I also hope that when you wear it the future of the Jewish people will always be on your mind, as Israel struggles with existential threats, like Iran, who threaten to wipe it off the map. Your voice against these threats is essential, Your holiness.’
He said ‘Yes,’ nodding his head in agreement.”
It's a thought, but I have my doubts that it will do any good. After all, to Ahmadinejad, the Pope is just another infidel.
Speaking with reporters at the United Nations today, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has applied for a visa today to come to New York for a non-proliferation conference.
"My understanding is as of today he has filed an application for a visa," Rice said in response to a question about Ahmadinejad.
Ahmadinedjad apparently is interested to come to attend a major review conference of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) getting underway at the UN in New York next week, and which is set to last for most of the month of May. But it also comes as the U.S. is working intensively with other members of the UN Security Council plus Germany to pass a resolution sanctioning Iran over its nuclear program, and Iran is lobbying countries hard against the sanctions.
"With respect to Iran and our work to achieve a resolution on sanctions, that work continues," Rice said. "We are in very intensive discussions in New York and capitals with colleagues in the P5+1 and we look forward, at the appropriate time, to continuing our discussions and consultations with other members of the Council."
Jonathan Tobin gets the impact of Barack Obama's war on Jerusalem right (Hat Tip: NY Nana).
Obama’s war on Jerusalem has not brought peace closer. His pressure on Israel has helped to harden the Palestinians rejectionist position on Jerusalem as the call for a freeze in the city means the Palestinians are likely to demand an Israeli evacuation of the neighborhoods where U.S. officials treat Jewish housing starts as an “insult.” This has made the already dim prospects for peace even more unlikely. But one thing the administration has accomplished is to change the terms of argument about Jerusalem. The nerves of some Jewish Democrats may be calmed by the charm offensive that has led administration figures to fan out to Jewish groups and reassure them of the strength of the alliance with Israel in spite of the recent controversy. But by treating Jewish Jerusalem as just another illegal settlement, the president has done more in the last six weeks to undermine Israel’s hold on Jerusalem than a generation of Arab propaganda.
That ought to make those of you who are getting sucked in by the 'charm offensive' think twice.
Ben Shapiro writes an open letter to the American Jewish community. This is spot-on.
American Jews, I have one request of you: please pull your heads out of your posteriors.
I mean that in all sincerity. Your continued support for Democrats and an administration that is openly anti-Semitic is a disgrace. Your embrace of a party that seeks to hamstring Israel in the name of a wholly fictitious Middle East peace process is contemptible. Your loyalty to a president who consistently sides with Palestinian and Iranian mass murder-supporters is disgusting.
Your backing of a man who has spent his life surrounding himself with the worst anti-Semites America has to offer -- Jeremiah Wright, Rashid Khalidi (former Palestinian terrorist spokesman), Louis Farrakhan ("I don't like the way [Jews] leech on us"), Samantha Power, Robert Malley, to name a few -- is nothing short of reprehensible. Rahm Emanuel's presence in the Obama cabinet doesn't ameliorate Obama's anti-Semitism -- it just provides it convenient cover. Al Sharpton wrongly called Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell "house negroes"; Emanuel is a kapo.
Even as you continue to buttress a president who seeks the destruction of your co-religionists, you demonstrate your myopia by rejecting the tea party movement and evangelical Christian Israel-supporters.
I discussed Artists4Israel's trip to Israel here. The JPost did a nice spread on their work in Sderot on Wednesday.
Participating in the project are 25 artists, including some of the top names in New York City’s urban art scene. In Sderot, the group of non-Jewish, American and international artists joined Israelis to contribute their talent to beautify the city.
“Some of the artists here are used to being flown first-class and housed in five-star hotels for commissioned work. Here they sleep on the floor, six people to a room at the local yeshiva building,” said Dershowitz. “They contributed valuable time and art that can sometimes be sold for as much as $10,000, expressing their support for Sderot and Israel.
“There tends to be a misconception that the arts community is liberal and as such doesn’t support Israel. The truth is that those who do are oftentimes silent,” said Dershowitz.
“The graffiti community is never silent,” he continued. “Israel as victim doesn’t resonate with the machismo mindset of graffiti artists, but Israel as a strong, proud defender of its freedoms does… The message of ‘don’t f*** with us!’ sits well with the graffiti mindset.”
Sderot spokesman Shalom Halevi said that the artists’ “can-do” attitude was apparent from the start.
“On the first evening after their arrival, once we’d welcomed them, they were eager to hit the streets. At 10:30 at night, after landing from a nine-hour flight, they were roaring to go and immediately went to work on nearby walls. They painted into the night and only finished at two o’clock in the morning,” said Halevi.
“That’s the kind of attitude you can’t help but admire. Their work here is extremely welcome, both for the aesthetic benefit for the city and the moral support.”
From 1967 until roughly the start of Oslo, Israel held out for direct negotiations with each of the neighboring states (not the 'Palestinians'), while the Arab countries held out for a massive international conference at which they would outnumber Israel and not sit in a room with it. In fact, the Madrid Conference in 1991 was the first time that the Arab countries sat in a room with Israel. The sole exception to this was the Egyptians, who made peace with Israel between 1977 and 1982.
Israel feared an 'international conference' because it feared being outnumbered and it feared an environment where the lowest common denominator - i.e. the most extreme Arab countries - would dominate. We are going back to that environment.
First, Abbas is now refusing to make any decision about peace, instead deferring to Arab states. With all the talk about the critical importance of Palestinian independence, this is a giant--even historic--step backwards. His motivations are not complex: He wants to avoid Palestinian and wider Arab criticism. As long as he follows Arab League strictures he will. But the price paid is hugely reduced flexibility, and a return to the days when the Palestinians were under the control of Arab states rather than masters of their own future.
Second, putting the Arab League in charge magnifies the influence of bad actors. To get negotiations going, the Obama administration now has to convince not only Abbas, but Bashar al Assad. Perhaps this helps explain why George Mitchell has visited Damascus and why the administration persists in “outreach” to Syria despite its continuing evil conduct (most recently, reports of the shipment of Scud missiles to Hezbollah). Having committed itself to the “peace process,” the administration simply cannot afford to treat Syria as it deserves; Syria has too much clout now.
The Arab League Monitoring or "follow-up committee" includes Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, the Palestinian Authority, Qatar, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, Oman, Algeria, Bahrain, Yemen, and Arab League Secretary General Amre Moussa. This means that the influence of Egypt and Jordan, which have peace treaties with Israel, is undermined by that of Syria, Qatar, and Moussa--all likely to take positions adverse to U.S. and Palestinian interests. Abbas’s refusal to provide firm leadership (also evident in the amount of time he spends circling the globe or living in his home in Amman, Jordan) may prove costly to both the United States and his own people.
The Obama administration ran Abu Mazen up a tree with its over-eagerness and its overzealous advocacy of what it decided was the 'Palestinian' position. Then it climbed out of the tree and took away the ladder, continuing to be more 'Palestinian' than the 'Palestinians,' and leaving Abu Mazen with no choice but to play along. Now, Abu Mazen is afraid to come out of the tree. He is looking for the Arab countries to provide him with a ladder. He has made himself into their puppet.
But the Arab countries have no interest in providing that ladder. They'd rather lift Abu Mazen right off the stage. If Abu Mazen were ever to reach a deal with Israel, one of that deal's elements would be the waiving the putative 'right of return' to Israel proper that has been claimed by the 'Palestinians' for four generations. If that were to happen, the Arab countries would have to do something about their 'Palestinian' populations. If they were left to fester in 'refugee camps' with no prospect at all of returning to where their ancestors lived in pre-State Israel (as they have been for the last 62 years), they would undoubtedly revolt against their host country regimes and possibly endanger their continued rule. So the Arab countries can never approve of waiving the 'right of return,' and if the 'Palestinians' cannot make a deal without the Arab countries, there will be no deal.
Moreover, Abu Mazen has no legitimacy whatsoever. His term in office ended more than a year ago, but he cannot and will not call elections. Half his population lives in Gaza under the Hamas terror organization, a problem that the Obami continue to try to ignore.
The prospect of Abu Mazen turning himself into an Arab League puppet makes 'peace' even less likely than ever. It makes it more likely that there will instead be an 'international conference' that will go nowhere. You have to wonder why the Obami haven't realized this, and why they continue to expend political capital on something that has no chance of happening.
Some of you may recall that a little more than a year ago, I did an interview with Moshe Feiglin (one-on-one) that I wrote up here. For those of you who are relatively new and have not read it, it's probably worth reading. For now, I'm just going to cut and paste one small quote.
I asked Moshe why he joined the Likud rather than start a new party. He said he was going to speak about that at the dinner we were both attending that night, rather than answering me individually. Here's what he said about it at the dinner:
On the question of why he came to the Likud and did not start (or head) another party, he gave an analogy from Jewish law of how milk and meat (which are prohibited from being eaten together under Jewish law) that are mixed together can become Kosher. In a nutshell, the only way it can happen is if there is a massive infusion of one that overwhelms the other.
It's been a long battle to reach the point where the part Feiglin represents - the Jewishly committed part - is going to overwhelm the rest of the Likud. But there are small indications that others are coming around to Feiglin's viewpoint.
So it was encouraging to read the following notice in a local newsletter (Hebrew only) published by the West Bank settlement of Eli: “After much thought, it has been decided by the [Givat Hayovel neighborhood] committee, the town council and rabbis, with backing from senior officials involved in the matter, to register people for Likud. Likud is the ruling party, and that is where we need to have an influence. … Joining Likud is the most effective way of influencing ministers and Knesset members to work with us on both the court case and other matters of importance to the town.”
Granted, Eli is only one settlement, and its decision stems from a very specific problem: the aforementioned court case, in which Peace Now is seeking a court order to raze Givat Hayovel on the grounds that it was built illegally. Eli contends that the neighborhood, built with massive government support, was always slated for legalization and needs only the final government permits — hence its quest for lobbying clout.
Nevertheless, this is a revolution. During Likud’s last membership drive, in 2008, a party activist who canvassed Eli and other settlements using this very same argument told me despairingly that most people didn’t get it. Now it is being promoted by the town’s entire political and religious leadership.
Moreover, many other settlements face similar problems with permits. So if Eli has reached this conclusion, it’s likely that other settlements are or will be doing the same.
In light of Aaron David Miller and Richard Haass throwing in the towel on the Middle East 'peace process,' Youssef Ibrahim asks what should come next. The answer may surprise some people.
The new enemy rising to challenge America is not an unresolved dispute between Israelis and Palestinians but Islamic fundamentalism that rejects all western concepts of modernization and equal rights for women and citizens. Its tentacles run out of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, ironically all three categorized as friends of the USA.
Finally, as paradigms go, strategically and tactically speaking, the US has no closer ally in the world than Israel. We could not operate in the Middle East without Israeli assistance and our population, the grand majority of Americans and their representatives in Congress, would never allow Israel to stand alone under attack. This is a basic fact of political life in America that the Obama White House understands too well.
Speaking as an Arab-American, I welcome the protection that Israel’s existence as a minority Jewish state in the Muslim Middle East projects for other minorities including some 25 million Christian Arabs under extreme pressure, 30 million Kurds and other tribal or religious populations who must live free of persecution. Israel stands as a symbol that it is possible to have a multi-cultural tolerant Middle East.
What Miller and Zinni and more analysts are asking is why, therefore, is this administration expanding such extraordinary resources to resolve what clearly has receded to a minor strategic threat when far greater menaces loom?
As Miller pointed out on CNN in an interview with John King: Would Obama become the first US president on whose watch Iran turns into nuclear power? He also wonders, correctly, if Israeli’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would accept being the first Israeli prime minister to let this happen.
Another primary strategic concern for the USA is the ongoing disintegrations of both Iraq and Afghanistan.
What is our strategy in Iraq should civil war break out again as it seems it could? How do we define “winning” there? And, will thousands of American forces in Afghanistan do baby-sitting for a decade, or longer?
These appear pressing issues with not a single indication of an American strategy.
On the Israeli side, one can assume the country can take care of itself militarily and otherwise. It has matured into a nation of 7.5 million including 1.5 million Arab Israelis who are not as unhappy as their Palestinian brethren suggest, and would, if pressed, more likely opt for an Israeli quality of life. Israel just hit a per capita income level of around $ 35,000, putting it squarely in the higher-ranks of the industrialized Western living standards, with an economy bigger than all its neighboring countries. It has never lost a war and can still win any.
Beyond this, the best strategy for the White House, when it comes to those Middle East ‘’tribes with flags,’’ may be “benign neglect.” When you think of it, despite predictions of dire consequences such as World War Three out there, the Middle East dispute has already survived quite well, with various accommodations, for over a 100 years.
Jerusalem planning council to meet next week; 'east' Jerusalem on the agenda
For the first time since Vice President Joe Biden's visit here in March, the Jerusalem Planning and Building Council will meet on Tuesday and construction in 'east' Jerusalem will be on the agenda.
Since the Biden crisis, the committee hasn’t reconvened, and Jerusalem construction proceedings were frozen off, even for housing in west Jerusalem.
The first committee meeting on Tuesday will not deal with east Jerusalem building permits, but a second session on Thursday will discuss small plans, that include prospective housing units in east Jerusalem
Along with the move, Interior Minister Eli Yishai instructed the committee to submit any politically sensitive building plans to him for approval prior to proceeding with them, Army Radio reported Wednesday.
My guess is that meeting on Thursday will deal with things like someone in a Jewish suburb in 'east' Jerusalem who wants to add a basement onto his house (yes, that requires approval too plus the consent of all of your neighbors believe it or not - that's why so many Jews here build illegally as well and why there is an inordinate amount of tattling to the City). I doubt that anything serious is going to be approved.
In other words, without knowing the agenda, this meeting is unlikely to prove anything either way regarding whether or not there is a building freeze for Jews in 'east' Jerusalem.
For those who missed the announcement earlier today, Mrs. Carl and I became grandparents again this afternoon, our first granddaughter. In honor of the occasion, Shy Guy sent me this video of what the Hasidim call a mitzva tantz (mitzva dance), which is usually done toward the end of the wedding. I don't know whose wedding this is, but the older gentleman is almost certainly the bride's grandfather. The song is sung by Avraham Fried.
The Likud's Central Committee will vote on Thursday on an amendment to its charter that would allow Prime Minister Netanyahu to avoid internal party elections (for the party's central committee) for three years. The amendment is being opposed by Moshe Feiglin's Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership) faction, which believes that if internal elections are held now, its strength within the Likud will grow. Netanyahu is arguing for the amendment because he says that he wants to add to the Likud's membership rolls before holding elections - in other words, he wants to keep Feiglin out and flood the party with 'centrists.'
I am a member of both the Likud and Manhigut. I am not a member of the Central Committee. I was invited to participate in a conference call on Wednesday night at 10:00 for guidance on soliciting votes for Thursday. Shortly after 10:00 I got an email saying that the response was so overwhelming that the conference call collapsed. The guidance was posted to Manhigut's website at 11:00 here (it's in Hebrew).
If enthusiasm is any guide, Netanyahu is going to go down to a stunning defeat on Thursday.
Caroline Glick reviews President Obama's failures in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria and with the 'Palestinians' and concludes that President Obama will not back off Israel regardless of what his bullying costs him politically.
In his interview last week with Channel 2, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said he has no doubt that if Obama wishes to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons he is capable of doing so. As he put it, “Barack Obama demonstrated his determination with regard to issues he felt were important, and his determination was quite impressive. I think President Obama can show that same determination with regard to Iran.”
No doubt Netanyahu is correct. Moreover, the politics of such a move would make sense for him. Whereas Obama’s decision to ram the nationalization of the US healthcare industry through Congress against the wishes of the American public caused his personal ratings and those of his party to plummet, were Obama to decide to take on Iran, he would win the overwhelming support of the American public. Indeed, a determined and successful bid by Obama to block Iran’s nuclear aspirations could potentially block what is currently looking like a midterm election catastrophe for his party in November.
But as Gates’s memo about Iran, Clinton’s announcement that the administration will go ahead with its plan to dispatch an ambassador to Damascus, Mitchell’s latest failure with the Palestinians, Jones’s newest accusation against Israel, and the US’s strategic incoherence in Iraq and Afghanistan all show, mere politics are irrelevant to Obama. It doesn’t bother him that his most loyal supporters abandoning him. It doesn’t matter that his policies have endangered the Middle East and the world as a whole.
Obama’s refusal to acknowledge his own failures make clear that his goal is different than that of his predecessors. He is here to transform America’s place in the world, not to safeguard the world. And he will move ahead with his transformative change even if it means abetting war. He will push on with his transformative change even if it means that Iran becomes a nuclear power. And he will push on even if it means that US forces are forced to leave Afghanistan and Iraq in defeat.
The bigger problem is that bullying Israel may cost Obama nothing politically. This is Ed Koch - Ed Koch! - who was ripping Obama a week ago for doing nothing about Iran. After seeing Obama's letter to Alan Solow, Ed Koch was gone silent.
I accept the letter as having been written in good faith. I cannot state that it restores my absolute good faith in the president. The unique trust that I and so many others, Christians and Jews, placed in him on the issue of supporting our close alliance with the Jewish state does not exist to the same extent, so I will look more to his actions than to his words. However, his letter is a start that I hope will be followed by concrete deeds.
Is there a building freeze in Jerusalem? MK Benny Begin (Likud) insists that there is not one.
Speaking to Likud members in Tel Aviv Tuesday night, Minister Binyamin Begin said that "there is no truth to the rumors that there is a quiet understanding between the Prime Minister and the United States to avoid building in Jerusalem.
"This is a false rumor with no basis in reality. Our friends the Americans know this, and it will be proven in the near future," said Begin.
So does Prime Minister Netanyahu, whose attempt to avoid internal elections in the Likud looks like it will go down to a narrow defeat on Thursday:
Speaking to Likud Central Committee members in Ashkeklon Tuesday, Netanyahu slammed Feiglin supporters ahead of an internal Likud vote saying "Such impudence! They won't to teach Bogie (Vice Premier Moshe Yaalon) and me how to protect Jerusalem." He added that US President Barack Obama and European leaders were well aware of Israel's stand on Jerusalem..
But from Washington, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who is not a member of the Likud, says that there is a freeze.
But Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat admitted during a visit to Washington on Tuesday that a "temporary freeze" is in place regarding the 1,600 units in Ramat Shlomo. Jerusalem city counselors meanwhile say that the city's building approval committee has not met since U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's visit.
Time Magazine does some investigating and also concludes that there is a freeze in effect.
Take Plan number 12705 for the new Shimon HaTzadik neighborhood in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem, which would demolish 40 low-rise Palestinian homes built in traditional local stone to make way for modern apartment blocks up to 18 stories high, containing 200 residential units for Israelis. There have been weekly demonstrations at the site since the landowners, Nahalat Shimon International, began evicting the Palestinians who had been living in the area when it was captured by Israeli forces in the war of 1967. Despite U.S. demands that Israel halt construction on territory occupied in 1967 in order to restart peace talks, Shimon HaTzadik Plan 12705 was approved by the Jerusalem District Planning Committee of the Israeli Ministry of the Interior on March 2, and forwarded to the Jerusalem Municipality Planning Committee.
But while nobody's admitting that Plan 12705 is under some sort of political freeze, it appears to have been stalled by bureaucratic inertia. The Jerusalem Municipality Planning Committee has met several times since March 2, but Plan 12705 hasn't been on its agenda. Likewise with other plans for residential development in East Jerusalem. Over at the Interior Ministry, the District Planning Committee has not convened since the visit to Israel by Vice President Joe Biden, during which Israel-U.S. ties were plunged into a crisis by the announcement of a plan to build 1,600 new housing units on occupied land. Meir Margalit, an opposition member of the Jerusalem City Council, tells TIME that an unofficial freeze is already in effect, despite the official denials.
"Since Vice-President Biden was here, they refuse even to bring to the committee projects for Jewish buildings in East Jerusalem," says Margalit.
"The committee told them wait for better timing. De-facto, not one project of settlers in East Jerusalem has been approved or come for approval to the committee," he says. "Just to give the possibility to start negotiations, the government and municipality must stop building. It's very important to do it because peace is more important than houses."
Margalit says a major religious housing project slated for the north of the city neighboring Ramallah, was recently canceled after U.S. intervention.
I am an Orthodox Jew - some would even call me 'ultra-Orthodox.' Born in Boston, I was a corporate and securities attorney in New York City for seven years before making aliya to Israel in 1991 (I don't look it but I really am that old :-). I have been happily married to the same woman for thirty-two years, and we have eight children (bli ayin hara) ranging in age from 9 to 30 years and five grandchildren. Our eldest daughter and eldest son are married! Before I started blogging I was a heavy contributor on a number of email lists and ran an email list called the Matzav from 2000-2004. You can contact me at: IsraelMatzav at gmail dot com