Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Middle East Sampler 10/22/2012: Reporter Succeeds In Benghazi Where FBI Fails?

From DG:

1) Benghazi

In his initial reporting of the attack on the American consulate, David Kirkpatrick reported in Anger Over a Film Fuels Anti-American Attacks in Libya and Egypt:
Protesters angry over an amateurish American-made video denouncing Islam attacked the United States Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Tuesday, killing a State Department officer, while Egyptian demonstrators stormed over the fortified walls of the United States Embassy here. 
The United States Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. An American staff member was killed there, Libyan officials said. 
On the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, the assaults were a violent reminder that the changes sweeping the region have hardly dispelled the rage against the United States that still smolders in pockets around the Arab world.
The next day he (and Steven Lee Meyers) followed up in Libya Attack brings challenges for the U.S.:

American and European officials said that while many details about the attack remained unclear, the assailants seemed organized, well trained and heavily armed, and they appeared to have at least some level of advance planning. But the officials cautioned that it was too soon to tell whether the attack was related to the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. 
Fighters involved in the assault, which was spearheaded by an Islamist brigade formed during last year’s uprising against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, said in interviews during the battle that they were moved to attack the mission by anger over a 14-minute, American-made video that depicted the Prophet Muhammad, Islam’s founder, as a villainous, homosexual and child-molesting buffoon. Their attack followed by just a few hours the storming of the compound surrounding the United States Embassy in Cairo by an unarmed mob protesting the same video. On Wednesday, new crowds of protesters gathered outside the United States Embassies in Tunis and Cairo. 
The wave of unrest set off by the video, posted online in the United States two months ago and dubbed into Arabic for the first time eight days ago, has further underscored the instability of the countries that cast off their longtime dictators in the Arab Spring revolts. It also cast doubt on the adequacy of security preparations at American diplomatic outposts in the volatile region.
 The bolded text suggest that Kirkpatrick source appears to have been some of the actual attackers.

MEMRI released the testimony (taken from an Arab newspaper) of one of the Libyans who had been charged with guarding the consulate compound:
'Ali, who was assigned to the consulate's main gate (referred to as "Charlie 1"), was taken by surprise by the attack, which he said "seemed to come out of nowhere." He said that he first noticed that the police car outside the consulate – an additional layer of security provided by the Libyan government – "took off quickly, fleeing the scene." He then saw some 50 men, mostly unarmed, approaching the consulate by foot on the dirt road leading up to it, headed by eight masked men, two of whom carried RPGs. Another guard said that the mob seemed to be unsure as to the exact layout of the consulate, because they were searching the various entrances for "Charlie 1." Shortly thereafter, one of the attackers fired three rounds at the main gate, while others stormed the consulate wall.
"[C]ame out of nowhere," does not suggest a demonstration but a planned attack. I am unaware that the New York Times used the account given here.

Charles Krauthammer contradicts President Obama's outrage over the charge that the administration has not been forthright about the events in Libya on September 11.
No one misled? His U.N. ambassador went on not one but five morning shows to spin a confection that the sacking of the consulate and the murder of four Americans came from a video-motivated demonstration turned ugly: “People gathered outside the embassy and then it grew very violent and those with extremist ties joined the fray and came with heavy weapons.”
But there was no gathering. There were no people. There was no fray. It was totally quiet outside the facility until terrorists stormed the compound and killed our ambassador and three others.
Not wishing to admit that we had just been attacked by al-Qaeda affiliates, perhaps answering to the successor of a man on whose grave Obama and the Democrats have been dancing for months, the administration relentlessly advanced the mob/video tale to distract from the truth.
Kirkpatrick, this past week tracked down one of the terrorists reportedly involved in the attack, Ahmed Abu Khattala, and interviewed him.
Owing in part to the inability of either the Libyans or the Americans to mount a serious investigation, American dissections of the assault on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi have become muddled in a political debate over the identities and motivations of the attackers. Some Republicans have charged that the Obama administration initially sought to obscure a possible connection to Al Qaeda in order to protect its claim to have brought the group to its knees.
Mr. Abu Khattala, 41, wearing a red fez and sandals, added his own spin. Contradicting the accounts of many witnesses and the most recent account of the Obama administration, he contended that the attack had grown out of a peaceful protest against a video made in the United States that mocked the Prophet Muhammad and Islam. 
He also said that guards inside the compound — Libyan or American, he was not sure — had shot first at the demonstrators, provoking them. And he asserted, without providing evidence, that the attackers had found weapons, including explosives and guns mounted with silencers, inside the American compound.
Of course this raises the question, if a reporter for the New York Times could contact one of those responsible for the Benghazi attack, why can't the United States and deliver the retribution that President Obama promised last night in the debate?

2) Daylight

Last week, Shmuel Rosner tweeted:
Did Obama say he'd put "daylight" between US-Israel? http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/17/us/politics/a-closer-look-at-some-disputed-claims.html?pagewanted=2&_r=0&smid=tw-nytimes …
The New York Times article linked to argues:
Mr. Romney said that “the president said that he was going to put daylight between us and Israel.” Is he correct?
The newspaper account did not quote Mr. Obama as explicitly stating that his “goal” was to put distance between the United States and Israel, as Mr. Romney characterized Mr. Obama’s intentions during a recent speech. 
Instead, the account indicates that Mr. Obama was complaining that what he suggested was the Bush administration’s unwillingness to challenge the Israelis had reduced the American government’s leverage over Israel and hurt its reputation with Muslim countries. At the same time, a plain reading of the account would also suggest that Mr. Obama wanted for his administration to be seen as less of a rubber stamp for Israel than the Bush administration was.
The New York Times article did not link to the "newspaper account" cited as the source for Romney's statement. (CNN quoted Romney more fully.)

In the final paragraph cited, the reporter is arguing that President Obama "was complaining" about "reduced ... leverage." If that was Obama's complaint that, in no way, contradicts Gov. Romney's charge. It provides a reason for it.

CNN also "fact checked" Romney.
The Obama administration has stressed repeatedly that it is committed to maintaining a strong relationship with Israel. In May 2011, Obama said, "The bonds between the United States and Israel are unbreakable, and the commitment of the United States to the security of Israel is ironclad." 
The exact context of Obama's remarks in his closed July 2009 meeting with Jewish leaders is not clear. And it hasn't been proven Obama "explicitly stated" then that it was "his goal" to put "daylight" between the two countries. His remarks, as reported, suggest rather that "our credibility with the Arab states" suffers when U.S. and Israeli policies are mirror images of each other.
Again CNN plays word games. If President Obama said (or implied) that "daylight" between Israel and the United States was something that was necessary, why wasn't that a goal.

One newspaper account pretty much confirmed this.
The glimmers of daylight between United States and Israeli interests began during President George W. Bush’s administration, when the United States became mired in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Three years ago, Condoleezza Rice, then secretary of state, declared during a speech in Jerusalem that a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians was a “strategic interest” of the United States. In comments that drew little notice at the time, she said, “The prolonged experience of deprivation and humiliation can radicalize even normal people.”
But President Bush shied away from challenging Israeli governments. 
The Obama administration’s new thinking, and the tougher policies toward Israel that could flow from it, has alarmed American Jewish leaders accustomed to the Bush administration’s steadfast support. They are not used to seeing issues like Jewish housing in the West Bank or East Jerusalem linked, even by implication, to the security of American soldiers. Some fret that it raises questions about the centrality of the American alliance with Israel, which the administration flatly denies.
That's from the New York Times. It's true that the article attributes the divergence between Israel and the United States to beginning during the Bush administration. But the report argues that the Obama administration adopted "tougher policies" towards Israel. In other words its actions matched its rhetoric.

3) Jimmy, again

I have no idea why but Jodi Rudoren finds Jimmy Carter newsworthy. In In Israel, Carter Derides Netanyahu and Obama, Rudoren reports:
A born-again Christian who served a single term as president from 1977 to 1981, Mr. Carter said he has been to Israel and the Palestinian territories about 30 times. He recalled swimming in the Dead Sea on his first visit, in 1973, and noted that there were then about 1,500 Jewish settlers in the West Bank, compared with the 350,000 living there now. And he has long been an outspoken critic of Israeli policy, particularly in his 2006 book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.” 
But Mr. Carter said Monday that the situation is “worse now than it’s ever been for the Palestinians” because of the expanding settlements and lack of prospects for change. 
Describing himself as “grieved, disgusted and angry,” he said the two-state solution is “in death throes,” which he called “a tragic new development that the world is kind of ignoring.”
Surveys show Palestinians and Israelis overwhelmingly support a two-state solution, but intellectuals on both sides have increasingly been talking about a binational, single state. But models for such a state generally either imagine Israel losing its Jewish character, or ruling over a Palestinian majority in an undemocratic way. Mr. Carter called the one-state option “a catastrophe — not for the Palestinians, for Israel.”
Mr. Burg said Mr. Carter dominated the three-hour conversation and displayed impeccable knowledge of the intricacies of the situation. Mr. Abdul Hadi said the former president urged the Palestinians to follow through on their bid for statehood at the United Nations — a move the Obama administration opposes — and to reconcile the rift between the Fatah faction, which dominates in the West Bank, and Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.
Note that the way things are presented the problem is the "rift" between Fatah and Hamas, not Hamas's continued terrorism.

Late in the story Rudoren quotes Mark Regev, but why didn't she, in any form, challenge Carter's false charges? Or is it that Rudoren believes that anything anti-Israel is news, regardless of its plausibility.

The reason I bring up Carter, is because there's perhaps a bigger story that Rudoren misses.

In his analysis of the Israeli election campaign, Israeli Political parties find their voices, Seth Mandel quotes Yair Lapid.
The Yesh Atid leader courted rightwing voters, saying “I’m not a lefty,” that settlement blocs, including the city of Ariel, must stay under Israeli sovereignty, and Jerusalem should not be divided. 
As for the lack of peace talks in recent years, Lapid said “the Palestinians brought this upon themselves. If after the disengagement [from Gaza] they didn’t build hospitals and schools, but training sites, there is no doubt that it is their responsibility – but we also need negotiations for ourselves.”
This is the land of the Jews, and we have the right to finally get rid of the Palestinians. There won’t be a new Middle East, but we won’t have 3.5 million Palestinians in Israeli territory.”
Lapid is seeking votes. He doesn't see any benefit to calling for more concessions or condemning his nation. I would argue that Lapid's view is the "center" in Israeli politics.

Carter and his cheerleaders may think that this anti-peace or to Israel's detriment, but they are caught  in a time warp in which Israel never withdrew from most of Judea and Samaria; Israel didn't pull out of southern Lebanon; Israel didn't withdraw from Gaza - and in each case was rewarded with an increase in terror rather than peace.

Rudoren appears to be reporting from some ivory tower version of Israel that exists in the minds of academics, diplomats and activists, but she is not reporting from the real Israel.

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