Thursday, February 26, 2009

Off To Ohio

Leaving now to visit family--blogging will be sporadic, if even that.

Kosher Cooking Carnival #39--Almost Purim Edition--Is Up!

me-ander is hosting this month's Kosher Cooking Carnival #39: Almost Purim!

Check out the posts from around the JBlogosphere about everything Kosher.

Next month’s edition will be hosted by Material Maidel of Kosher Cuisine fame. Please send in any suitable posts you write or see via blog carnival. And if you'd like to host an edition, please email shilohmuse at yahoo dot com

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The Mystery Of Iran's Jews: Not Such A Mystery (Updated))

Roger Cohen, writing for The New York Times, believes
Still a mystery hovers over Iran’s Jews. It’s important to decide what’s more significant: the annihilationist anti-Israel ranting, the Holocaust denial and other Iranian provocations — or the fact of a Jewish community living, working and worshipping in relative tranquillity.

Perhaps I have a bias toward facts over words, but I say the reality of Iranian civility toward Jews tells us more about Iran — its sophistication and culture — than all the inflammatory rhetoric.
While it is not clear towards which facts Cohen is more biased, Holocaust denial in Iran is more than just inflammatory rhetoric--and when a government-financed TV show appeared in Iran that allegedly admitted that the Holocaust took place, people lauded this sympathetic program that could not have appeared with the government's permission.

AllahPundit had a post that indicated that praise for the program was badly misplaced:
Reader Niko K. writes below that a Spiegel story on the miniseries sharply contradicts the AP’s account. So sharply, in fact, that I’m wondering now if the AP story is a deliberate whitewash. Writes Niko:

The article has it all wrong, and also the Wall Street Journal article that appeared earlier.

Mohammed Reza Kazemi cleared up the matter in a recent SPIEGEL article (link in German only, sorry). Main points:

* the major point of the series is that it was allegedly the German Jews themselves who collaborated with Hitler to kill those Jews who opposed the re-settlement of Palestine

* for example, a plot line shows that a Jewish researcher is in possession of documents that prove the connection between Hitler and Zionists

* the credits of each episode feature the work of anti-Semite Roger Garaudy as a “historical source”

* “historical adviser” to the series is Holocaust denier Abdollah Shahbazi who openly admits in his blog that he’s a denier

* director and screenwriter Hassan Fatthi alleged to SPIEGEL that according to “historical evidence” a majority of Hitler’s victims were those who opposed the re-settlement of Palestine

Cohen takes his job as an apologist for Iran very seriously, resolving the contradiction between Iranian threats and rhetoric with "Iranian warmth":
That may be because I’m a Jew and have seldom been treated with such consistent warmth as in Iran. Or perhaps I was impressed that the fury over Gaza, trumpeted on posters and Iranian TV, never spilled over into insults or violence toward Jews. Or perhaps it’s because I’m convinced the “Mad Mullah” caricature of Iran and likening of any compromise with it to Munich 1938 — a position popular in some American Jewish circles — is misleading and dangerous.

...Double standards don’t work anymore; the Middle East has become too sophisticated. One way to look at Iran’s scurrilous anti-Israel tirades is as a provocation to focus people on Israel’s bomb, its 41-year occupation of the West Bank, its Hamas denial, its repetitive use of overwhelming force. Iranian language can be vile, but any Middle East peace — and engagement with Tehran — will have to take account of these points.
But there are other points to take into account as well--for instance, what Iranian Jews say about Iran after they leave. In 2007 Yedioth Ahronoth ran a Hebrew article by Ariela Ringel Hoffman featuring interviews with Jews who had escaped from Iran, which I summarized in a post: Iranian Jews Speak Out!
o Hoffman describes the situation [minimal Jewish emigration] as a conflict between fear of life in Iran and the ability to adapt and lead a normal life there; between the worry of leaving everything behind and the desire to lead a new life in Israel.

o According to Jeff Kaye, an official of the Jewish Agency, there good reason to worry about the fate of the Jews of Iran--the same reasons that pushed Israel to bring Jews out of Syria, Lebanon and Iraq to Israel or the US exist also in Iran.

o One Iranian Jew interviewed by Hoffman said that Jews in Iran know they are sitting on a powder keg--at least half of them think that either Israel or the US will attack Iran's nuclear reactors. And when they do, the Jews of Iran will pay the price. Even without encouragement from the government, the Iranians on the street will take it out on the Jews.

o Another Iranian Jew tells Hoffman that it was not the threat of war that brought him to Israel, but the desire to live as a Jew. "There, it is difficult to keep Mitzvot, to keep Kosher, to pray and to learn about Judasim. On Shabbat the children have to go to school--everything there is more difficult.

o In Iran, serving in the army is mandatory. Many Jews avoid service by paying someone off--something that is not limited to the Jews alone. One who ended up serving in the army recounts how the Iranians who served were religious and treated him like someone impure, and gave him the hardest jobs. Though service is for 24 months, after 20 months he got disgusted and deserted.

o The problem is that the Iranian Jews don't want to leave, I say to him [Yossi Shraga]. That is true, he says--they may not say it, but that does not free us. This is similar to the situation the Jews faced in Europe before the rise of the Nazis. Jews have the tendency, says Shraga, to believe that everything will turn out all right. But back then, there was no Jewish state, no government. Today there is, and we will not be able to forgive ourselves if something happens.
Read the entire post.

Some of those interviewed said that conditions in Iran have improved; some thought conditions were not so terrible--and then there is one interviewee (those interviewed are not mentioned by their actual names out of fear for family left behind) who said
"I can tell you, based both on personal experience and on what I hear from friends, that there are places [in Iran] where Muslims have already divided among themselves the homes and property of their Jewish neighbors. They say that if there will be a war, the first thing they will do is slaughter the Jews."
Before bragging about "a bias toward facts over words," perhaps Cohen should actually talk to Iranian Jews who are free to express how they feel.

I'm familiar with the synagogue and attended it when I lived in Isfahan. I chatted with some of the university-aged students who had taken shelter in an attached guesthouse because, as Jews, they were beat up in the university dormitories. Men and women both referred to the Jews' representative in the Parliament as a flunky for the regime, and would not discuss problems or issues when he was around. Several would say one thing in the synagogue, but when we went to parks on took walks through the city, they would bend over backwards to make clear that they cannot talk freely in the synagogue since the walls have ears. The same sentiment was expressed at synagogues in Tehran and Shiraz. Cohen, however, talks to him as the authority and takes his word that he is not a quisling. True, Jews are better of in Iran than in many neighboring countries, but there is a reason why their number has dropped by 80% over the last three decades. Cohen simply appears on a propaganda tour; parachuting in, an eager recepticle for his regime minders. It should not surprise that his column now graces the pages of the regime's mouth piece, The Tehran Times.

You'd think after the Grey Lady would have learned her lesson after, a few years ago, the New York Times correspondent visited Tehran and quoted a University of Tehran professor talking about domestic protests. The correspondent was simply unaware that the man he quoted was known to every academic who went into Iran as the person in charge of 'minding' foreign visitors to Iran.
Crossposted on Soccer Dad

[Hat tip: Best of the Web]

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For 'The People Of The Book,' Jewish Culture Should Be About More Than Just A Bagel

Writing for The New Republic, Peter Miller describes how, upon entering a special exhibit
a sanctuary of civilization, was available to the roughly 10,000 people who in recent weeks packed the tenth-floor galleries at Sotheby's in New York to view the 13,000 books of the Valmadonna Trust collection. They were vouchsafed a vision as hallucinatory as any in Borges.

This astounding collection was begun at the turn of the century, but for the past seven decades it has been in the hands and in the London home of the Antwerp-born Jack Lunzer, a dealer in industrial diamonds by day and a lover of Hebrew books by night. During these decades it has grown from a small collection focused on 16th-century Italian Hebrew imprints--in some sense a golden age of Hebrew printing--to one that has taken the entirety of the Jewish historical experience as its purview, "books that are not only rare but truly significant for illustrating and understanding the Jewish diaspora."
But more than being an astounding collection of Jewish books from centuries past, it is also a testimony to Jewish communities that once flourished and have since disappeared--in more ways than one:
And there is still another sense, proved at Sotheby's recently, in which the people are gone. The visitors who snaked along the ropes set up in the auction house's lobby and out the door and up the street were quite obviously Jews. Some wore the anachronistic dress of early modern Polish nobility, others the modern yeshiva fashions of Washington Heights and Brooklyn. But almost none of them, at least when I was visiting, had uncovered heads. What does this mean? In 1990, a scholar of modern American Jewry wrote a book about orthodox Jews entitled New York's Jewish Jews. Well, if books are the heritage of the Jews, then don't they belong to non-religious Jews as well? (I leave aside the bigger and even more important questions of why a show of this magnitude would attract only Jews, or what it would mean if the majority of the visitors were not Jews.)

Where were the non-religious Jews who are mesmerized by the traditional Jewish bookshelf? Is the demography of the audience for a high-end show of Hebrew books, like that of rallies in support of the State of Israel, revealing an ever greater split between identifying with things Jewish and identifying as Jewish? If it is true--and, I agree, this is a big "if," which of course requires million-dollar studies by foundations and sociologists before it can be discussed with all due seriousness--then we may be witnessing the deterioration of the idea that one can be "culturally Jewish." For if the Valmadonna Library documents anything, it is the culture of Jews, the Jewish culture of Jews, over the last five hundred years.
This opens what Jewish culture means today, where it is likely to be associated most easily with Jewish food than with anything else. At a time when American Jews will proclaim their concern for Israel--but list it low among their considerations when at the voting booth, just what is it that binds Jews today?

Today, 'Jewish culture' is more likely to refer to tastes and manners than to knowledge and values--and when it does refer to values, it more often refers to liberal values that have more to do with politics than Judaism.

What is happening to The People of the Book?

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Chas Freeman Appointment: Mearsheimer & Walt Go To Washington

No word yet on whether proposed Charmian of the National Intelligence Council, Chas Freeman, has an autographed copy of The Israel Lobby, but as Marty Peretz writes:
But Freeman’s real offense (and the president’s if he were to appoint him) is that he has questioned the loyalty and patriotism of not only Zionists and other friends of Israel, the great swath of American Jews and their Christian countrymen, who believed that the protection of Zion is at the core of our religious and secular history, from the Pilgrim fathers through Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy. And how has he offended this tradition? By publishing and peddling the unabridged John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt book, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, with panegyric and hysteria [through the Middle East Policy Council of which he is president]. If Freeman believes that this book is the truth he can’t be trusted by anyone, least of all Barack Obama. I can’t believe that Obama wants to appoint someone who is quintessentially an insult to the patriotism of some many of his supporters, me included. [emphasis added]
Is the selection of Freeman another example of Obama's vetting committee at work? We have already seen that if enough questionable appointments are made, some will get through--whether past actual committess or just the general public. Is there any reason to hope that Freeman will be thrown under the bus?

Gabriel Shoenfeld notices a disconnect in the choice of Freeman:
Unsurprisingly, Mr. Freeman has views about Middle East policy that differ rather sharply from those held by supporters of the state of Israel. More surprisingly, they also differ rather sharply from the views -- or at least the views stated during the campaign -- of the president who has invited him to serve.

While President Obama speaks of helping the people of Israel "search for credible partners with whom they can make peace," Mr. Freeman believes, as he said in a 2007 address to the Washington Institute of Foreign Affairs, that "Israel no longer even pretends to seek peace with the Palestinians; it strives instead to pacify them." The primary reason America confronts a terrorism problem today, he continued, is "the brutal oppression of the Palestinians by an Israeli occupation that is about to mark its fortieth anniversary and shows no sign of ending."
Pundits have written that as Obama is required to make actual decisions, his true beliefs and policies will become more and more clear. Nevertheless, the choice of someone like Freeman, who among other things defends China's actions in the Tiananmen Square in massacre in 1989.

Schoenfeld concludes:
If someone with such extreme views has been appointed to such a sensitive position, is this a reflection of Mr. Obama's true predilections, or is it proof positive that the Obama White House has never gotten around to vetting its own vetters?

Either way, if those complaining loudest about politicized intelligence have indeed placed a China-coddling Israel basher in charge of drafting the most important analyses prepared by the U.S. government, it is quite a spectacle. The problem is not that Mr. Freeman will shade National Intelligence Estimates to suit the administration's political views. The far more serious danger is that he will steer them to reflect his own outlandish perspectives and prejudices.
Read the whole thing.

More at Memeorandum

[Hat tip: Jennifer Rubin]

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The Threat To Israel From Dubai Is On A Par With Iran

Laura Goldman, who worked on Wall Street for 25 years and now owns her own firm, LSG capital, in Tel Aviv writes on Pajamas Media about The Danger From Dubai:
Although it was reprehensible that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) refused to give Israeli tennis player Shahar Peer an entry visa for a WTA-sanctioned tournament and the world stood idly by, there might be a silver lining to the whole episode. It could serve as a wake-up call to remind the world of the dangers that the UAE poses to Israel — while most of the international attention is focused on Iran.
Goldman notes that while the threat from Dubai is financial, it is no less serious a threat to Israel and its economy:
While it makes for great newspaper headlines when Netanyahu proclaims that “it is 1939 all over again” with regard to Iran, I am equally concerned that landmark days in Israeli history like February 17, 1982, will stop happening. February 17 was the date that the first Israeli company, Teva Pharmaceuticals, went public on the Nasdaq exchange. This exchange is now partially Arab controlled. If the Arab boycott were extended to the Nasdaq, the Israeli economy would lose an important source of capital.
The threat is real when you look at the numbers--and it has nothing to do with Sharia law and Islamic finance:
Where does the Dubai purchase of the Nasdaq leave Israel? The total market capitalization of Israeli companies on the NASDAQ is approximately $50 billion (pre market crash). Israel is the number one foreign issuer with a total of 90 companies. The Nasdaq, in appreciation of the value of Israeli companies on the exchange, currently defrays some of the cost of listing for Israeli companies. In addition, the Nasdaq holds Israeli Company Day to introduce Israeli stocks to institutional investors. With Arab owners, it is doubtful that these activities will continue during flush times.

The logical Israeli response would be to turn to the London Stock Exchange (LSE). But we will be blocked there also. In a related transaction, the Nasdaq sold Borse Dubai a 28% stake in the LSE. The government of Qatar also bought a 24% stake in the LSE at the same time. Israeli companies now face the prospect of listing on an exchange that is almost 50% owned by Arabs.

...Some may underestimate the threat of Arab ownership of the exchanges to Israel. Hi-tech is Israel’s oil. Israel’s version of oil needs capital to operate. Although there are several ways to access capital, the public stock markets have proven the most effective at maximizing the value of businesses in Israel. The effect of the reduced access to capital will not be limited to the hi-tech sector in Israel. If hi-tech in Israel catches a sniffle, the Israeli government budget comes down with the flu. [emphasis added]
The threat from Dubai goes beyond the exchanges--there are other puchases that Dubai has made whose import apparently is going unnoticed:
The bad news from Dubai is not finished. The government of Abu Dubai purchased a 7.5% stake in the private equity firm the Carlyle Group, well-known for its ownership of defense contractors. The many defense contractors controlled by the Carlyle Group could refuse to use Israeli subcontractors in deference to Abu Dhabi. In 2006, defense exports from Israel totaled $4.4 billion. Even worse, the government of Dubai could block the IDF from purchasing weapons vital to Israel’s defense from these military suppliers. They will also have the direct access to purchase them for their own defense.

The Carlyle group, with a Jewish David Rubinstein at the helm, is already participating in the Arab boycott without recriminations from the rest of the world. Carlyle has established a Middle East fund to invest in the region that will exclude investment in Israel. The New York Times sanguinely reports that sources close to the fundraising for this fund say that it would be next to impossible to raise money from other Middle East countries if Israel was one of the countries in the Middle East fund.

The threat may not manifest until the return to a better economy, but when the pressure will be applied profit will undoubtedly precede principle and the threat will become very real.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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A Test To See How Serious The World Is To Stop The Rockets From Gaza

The rockets from Gaza just keep on coming--despite the Hamas declaration of a 'ceasefire':
Qassams fired from Gaza land in open areas within Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council; no injuries reported. In response, Israeli aircraft bomb smuggling tunnels under Gaza-Egypt border.
Post Options
...Despite Hamas' declaration of a ceasefire following Operation Cast Lead, Palestinian gunmen have continued firing several rockets and mortar shells almost every day, making life very difficult for southern Israel's residents.
Now we know that the UN had no problem withholding supplies to Gaza until Hamas returned stolen supplies--and in fact Hamas did return those stolen supplies.

Since we know this kind of pressure works, why not withhold all of the money and supplies that have been collected for Gaza until the rockets completely stop--and threaten that at any point should rockets be fired, all supplies will be withheld for a week?

The answer why this will not be done is because of the UN mentality, which distinguishes between food and arms. When the UN--for reasons unknown--put tons of unexploded Israeli arms under the greedy watchful eye of Hamas and it was stolen. The UN reaction was far more muted and as Elder of Ziyon has noted, the arms are in the hands of terrorists and are being dismantled to use for bombs against Israel.

Apparently, far be it that the UN should take an active interest in the explosives that were under its control--and far be it that the West take active steps to use pressure to prevent bloodshed.

Sanctions are for Saddam's Iraq, not for Hamas.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Israelis Getting Younger While Palestinian Arabs Getting Older

One of the key arguments used in defense for land-for-peace in general and the formation of a second Palestinian state in particular has been the fear that the time and demographics were on the side of the Palestinian Arabs. According to the argument, the Palestinian Arab birth rate was higher than the Jewish birth rate and inevitably--if the Palestinian Arabs were not given a land of their own--Israel would some day become an Arab state. There have been clear indications that those arguments are based on false data--and now the numbers from the Central Bureau of Statistics is backing this up as well:
The bubble of demographic fatalism is bursting, according to the most recent data, published by the Central Bureau of Statistics. The data should be leveraged by the new government to formulate a demographic policy aimed at increasing the current 67 percent Jewish majority west of the Jordan River (without Gaza). The road map [that's road map, not Road Map, DA] would uproot demographic fatalism and advance demographic optimism, thus energizing aliya, the economy, overseas investments, diplomacy, national security, posture of deterrence and minimizing Jewish-Arab tension, which is fed by demographic fear.

ccording to the CBS, the country's Jewish population is getting younger and the Arab population getting older. The number of annual Jewish births increased by 45% between 1995 (80,400) and 2008 (117,000), as a result of aliya from the USSR, the shift by the Soviet olim from a typical Russian rate of one birth per woman to a typical Israeli rate of two-three births, the rising secular Jewish rate and the sustained high Orthodox and haredi rate.
The opposite trend among the Arab population is due to a number of factors:
large scale emigration, entrenched family planning, reduction of teen pregnancy, rapid urbanization, expanded education especially among women, record divorce rate and higher median marriage age.
The road map referred to above would would have a number of facets to it, as enumerated by the article's author, Yoram Ettinger--who has written about this topic extensively:
THE JEWISH DEMOGRAPHIC tailwind behooves the new government to introduce a demographic road map, which would increase the Jewish majority, while respecting the rights of the Arab minority:
1. Placing aliya at the top of the order of national priorities, as expected from the Jewish state and as required by economic and security challenges. The global economic meltdown, and the rise in anti-Semitism should be leveraged to increase aliya from the former USSR, US, Europe, Latin America and South Africa.

2. The conversion of some 250,000 olim from the former USSR - in accordance with Jewish laws - should be expedited.

3. Jewish immigration to - instead of emigration from - Jerusalem would be facilitated by the availability of jobs and lower-cost housing, created through entrepreneurs attracted by a drastic enhancement of the city's infrastructure (airport, fast railroad, Loop, additional freeway, industrial and residential zones).

4. Enticing the return of expatriates and reducing the number of quality emigrants by improving education and research and development infrastructures.

5. Expanding high school and academic programs for prospective olim.

6. Significant development of infrastructure in the Galilee and in the Negev, triggering emigration from the Greater Tel Aviv area, which would yield economic, environmental and demographic benefits.

7. Synchronizing industrial and educational 9-5 schedule, which would facilitate raising children and obtaining employment.

8. The establishment of a global Jewish foundation, which would support Jewish fertility worldwide, in view of high assimilation, low fertility rates among non-Israeli Jews and Holocaust-driven demographic challenges.
Keep in mind that the information on Arab demographics is important for the US--and Europe--as well, to the extent that the aid that is given to the Palestinian Arabs relies to an extent to the number of Palestinian Arabs that are supposedly receiving that aid.

It was reported back in 2006:
Congress today will be presented with a new study that documents the Palestinians have inflated their population numbers by over 50 percent and that almost $3 billion in United States taxpayer funds may have been provided as aid to the Palestinians in part based on fraudulent data.
Now that the US is giving $900 million to Gaza, it might be a good idea for the US to verify and be extra sure for what it will be used and to whom it will be given.
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Shai Agassi Tests His Electric Car Idea With 19 Companies

I've posted about Shai Agassi and his electric cars before--here and here--and now Agassi is taking the first step toward testing the concept widely:
In a move that thrilled Israeli opponents to foreign energy dependence as well as environmentalists across the country, 19 Israeli companies have signed cooperation agreements to test the suitability of electric cars for their company fleets in the first stage of the electric car program of Israeli venture-company Better Place.

Aiming to reduce global oil dependency and provide consumers with cleaner, sustainable personal transportation, Better Place employs swappable batteries, battery charging spots and battery exchange stations, and is aiming to operate its first electric car charging network in Israel and Denmark by 2011.

Israeli companies taking part in the test project represent Israeli high tech, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, finance, food, manufacturing and telecommunications industries. Participants include Israel Corporation, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Pelephone Communications, Partner Communications, Matrix IT, Direct Insurance- Financial Investments, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Netafim, Keter Plastics, Orbotech, Jafora Tabori, Manpower Israel, SQlink, Nike Israel, and Glasshouse Technologies.

The first stage of development will include designing and installing recharging points for company parking lots and employee homes.

Better Place CEO Shai Agassi called the program "the tip of the iceberg of global demand," saying he believes there is a potential global market of 50 million cars.
Apparently, OPEC had no direct comment--but they are probably watching:
"These [OPEC] projects are on hold ... and will continue to be until the (oil) price recovers," OPEC Secretary General Salem El-Badri told journalists. And as a result of the project delays, OPEC will not be able to increase production capacity by all of the five million barrels a day by 2012 that was previously expected, said El-Badri.

El-Badri's comments came after United Arab Emirates Oil Minister Mohammad Al-Hamli warned that weak oil prices and economic recession are threatening longer-term spending on Middle East oil projects.

In the rush to undermine this oil rich region, and in the race to somehow break the addiction to "Arab oil," one shouldn't undermine the future of this energy-driven civilization.
Such concerns are apparently not reciprocal, judging from the Oil Embargo of 1973.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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Why Can't The US Talk Straight About Durban II (Updated)

There is no escape from Durban II — at least with our vital principles intact.
Anne Bayefsky
Anne Bayefsky has noted that what the US has been saying about its participation in Durban II does not correlate well with the reality:
On Monday, President Obama's decision to wander into the Durban II sinkhole also raised concerns in the Jewish community. In deciding to attend the planning session, Obama had ignored the direct plea from Israel's Foreign Minister to stay away, along with Israel and Canada. Instead, on Monday the President sent reassuring messages via phone calls from senior White House and State Department officials.

According to reports, these officials claimed "that Washington's decision to participate in the conference was being coordinated with the Israeli government." That would be true — if "coordination" meant announcing hours in advance that the United States intended to do the opposite of what had been requested.

Jewish leaders were also told that the U.S. presence was "an effort to change the direction of the conference." Apparently, someone in the administration forgot to read the map. The conference objectives have already been unanimously agreed to by all participants, including the European Union. Objective number one is to "foster the implementation of the Durban Declaration" — the same one that claims Israelis are racists, in fact, the only racists U.N. member states could recall. Those directions aren't going to be changed. On the contrary, the opening words of the Durban II document — also already accepted by consensus — read "reaffirming the Durban Declaration." Change you can't believe in, again. [emphasis added]
In her article for Forbes, Bayesky finds more obfuscation:

The Obama administration's decision to join the planning of the U.N.'s Durban II "anti-racism" conference has just taken a new twist: cover-up. On Friday, State Department officials and a member of the American Durban II delegation claimed the United States had worked actively to oppose efforts to brand Israel as racist in the committee drafting a Durban II declaration. The trouble is that they didn't.

The Feb. 20 State Department press release says the U.S. delegation in Geneva "outline[d] our concerns with the current outcome document" and in particular "our strong reservations about the direction of the conference, as the draft document singles out Israel for criticism." One member of the delegation told The Washington Post: "The administration is pushing back against efforts to brand Israel as racist in this conference." In fact, tucked away in a Geneva hall with few observers, the U.S. had done just the opposite. The U.S. delegates had made no objection to a new proposal to nail Israel in an anti-racism manifesto that makes no other country-specific claims.

Here is an example of the US putting its foot down at the Durban conference--if this is typical of what the US is doing there, both Israel and the US are in big trouble:

Here is how the American delegates responded to a proposal they understood was incompatible with U.S. interests (“Brackets” denote withholding approval at any given moment in time.): “I hate to be the cause of unhappiness in the room . . . I have to suggest this phrase remains in brackets and I offer my sincere apologies.” [emphasis added]
Oh, brother...we are in for a bad case of Durban Renewal.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, not everyone is following the US example:
Britain and Italy could join Canada and Israel in refusing to attend the Durban II Review Conference in April unless they receive cast-iron guarantees that it will not turn into an antisemitic, anti-Israel arena of hate.
--And The US itself still fails to inspire confidence at Durban II:
In the last week, the Palestinians tried to introduce language into the document regarding the 2004 advisory ruling by the International Court of Justice at The Hague against the security barrier, said Leshno Yaar.

The Americans were present but did not appear to have made improvement in the document, which he said "is getting worse every day."
The current outlook for Durban II is bleak:
"As far as we believe, Durban II is going to be the anti-Semitic event of 2009," said Amos Hermon, the head of the task force. "It looks worse than we expected, even though it's not yet clear what the end result will be."

The meeting also broached the possibility of demonstrations, the use of Holocaust imagery to draw comparisons between Israel's recent military strike in Gaza and the systematic murder of millions during World War II and an all-out "hate-fest" on behalf of anti-Israel NGO's present at the conference.
If US participation is supposed to prevent this sort of exploitation, now would be a good time to prove it.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Nachum Segal Interviews Malcolm Hoenlein 2/20/09

On Friday's, Nachum Segal interviews Malcolm Hoenlein:
Nachum interviewed Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, who called in live from Jerusalem for the latest Weekly Update. Nachum and Malcolm began by discussing the upcoming Durbin Conference and how President Obama might be able to have an impact on the event. They then spoke at length about the current efforts to form the Government of Israel. Nachum asked Malcolm to address various details of the process to clarify what will be going on over the upcoming days. They covered several other important issues including: Dubai's denial of a visa for Shahar Peer, the 48th-ranked women's tennis player in the world, to the Dubai Tennis Championship, the status of Gilad Shalit's return, statements made regarding a Palestinian unity government, Senator Kerry's visit to Israel, and much more. Click the link to listen.

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One Jerusalem--End of Week Review: February 22, 2009

From an email from One Jerusalem:

End of Week Review: February 22, 2009

Dear Friend of Jerusalem,

Here are the latest headlines from the One Jerusalem Blog:

Netanyahu To Form Next Israeli Government: The minor bit of suspense that accompanied the results of Israel's national elections has come to an end. Israel's President has formally asked former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to create a majority coalition to form the next government.Netanyahu will lead... (read more)

Israel Bashing At The Kennedy Center: Arab oil money and the Kennedy Center International Committee on the Arts are sponsoring "Arts of the Arab World."Lorin Maazel, the conductor who brought the New York Philharmonic to North Korea, and the Master Musicians of Jajouka are set to... (read more)

Israel's Elections: Middle East Forum Interview: Middle East Forum interviews yours truly on the results of the Israeli elections: Written summary and link to audio.... (read more)

Obama's Team Starts Talking to Anti-Israel Terrorists And...: What a sad day for America and oppressed people the world over. Today, President Obama's foreign policy team began implementing their new, talk oriented foreign policy.Anne Bayefsky reports, that the Obama team began talks with the UN organizers of the... (read more)

Why The Left (Livni) Lost Israel's Elections: Today, Tzipi Livni, the leader of Kadima, told American Jewish leaders that Israel would have to give up "half of the Land of Israel."If Livni had her way, half of Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Golan would go from... (read more)

Obama Team Engages Anti-Semites: For months, One Jerusalem has expressed concern about several of President Obama's foreign policy advisers.The first set of foreign policy initiatives by the Obama Administration appear to confirm our worst fears. President Obama made the President of the Palestinian Authority... (read more)

The One Jerusalem Team

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Just In: Blogging Is Good For Your Brain!

From Just One Minute: Blog For Your Brain:
Great news from the world of medicine:

Participating in certain mental activities, like reading magazines or crafting in middle age or later in life, may delay or prevent memory loss, according to a study released today that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 61st Annual Meeting in Seattle, April 25 to May 2, 2009.

...The study found that during later years, reading books, playing games, participating in computer activities and doing craft activities such as pottery or quilting led to a 30 to 50 percent decrease in the risk of developing memory loss compared to people who did not do those activities. People who watched television for less than seven hours a day in later years were 50 percent less likely to develop memory loss than people who watched for more than seven hours a day.

People who participated in social activities and read magazines during middle age were about 40 percent less likely to develop memory loss than those who did not do those activities.

There you go - reading, computer activities, socializing - clearly this is all about blogs. 

This really is great news--but I still want to know: if blogging is so good for my memory, why do I forget to go to bed. I'm not asking for myself--my wife needs to know.

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Obama Publicly Endorses Netanyahu-Lieberman Right Wing Coalition!

No of course not, silly. That would not be the way to peace. This is the way to peace:
The Obama administration has given the Palestinian Authority a "green light" to talk to Hamas about forming a Palestinian unity government, a PA official in Ramallah said over the weekend.

The official said that Washington had also given Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak the go-ahead to resume his efforts to achieve reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah.

"The new administration has a different policy than that of [former US president] George W. Bush," the official told The Jerusalem Post. "The administration of President Barack Obama believes that a Hamas-Fatah government is good for stability." [emphasis added]
In an ironic twist, the US is apparently hoping that past performance is not a guarantee of future results, because stability has not exactly been the hallmark of either terrorist group--separately or together.

Other absurdities in this story:
Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri said that for the talks to succeed, the PA must first release all "political prisoners" from its West Bank jails.
Yeah, this from the same terrorists holding Gilad Shalit. Maybe Abbas will demand the release of all of the bodies of the members of Fatah murdered by Hamas--you know, in the interests of stability.
Another Fatah official, Ibrahim Abu al-Naja, said the fact that Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu has been tasked with forming the next government "proves that Israeli public opinion favors war and destruction."
Right--and the willingness of Abbas, who has refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state--his teaming up with the terrorist group bombing Israel proves what, exactly?
Meanwhile, Hamas leaders said over the weekend that Democratic Sen. John Kerry's visit to the Gaza Strip last Thursday signaled a change in US policy toward their movement.

"The visit is a move in the right direction," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said. "We consider the visit as an indirect step aimed at ending the boycott of Hamas by the Americans and the international community."
And why shouldn't they? By supporting Hamas in this way, the US government has completely undermined any benefit that may have come out of Operation Cast Lead to lead to a phasing out of Hamas.
Welcoming the apparent shift in US policy, the Hamas spokesman expressed hope that the Obama administration would "repair" the damage and injustice done to Hamas after it won the January 2006 election, when the Bush administration decided to boycott and impose sanctions on it.
I guess Hamas can think of this as their second coup.

You really have to hand it to Obama--he said he would not negotiate with Hamas: and he doesn't have to. All he needs do is get Hamas and Fatah back together again and claim that a new entity has been created: apparently terrorists, like tainted money, can be laundered.

The question is, what will come of these machinations of the US. Powerline has a post with commentary from Dan Diker of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs:

Senator John Kerry's visit late last week to Gaza and Syria was well received in Tehran. Their response was clear. Israel was hit with rockets from southern Lebanon and Gaza this weekend. Hizbullah denied involvement, but attacks from southern Lebanon do not take place without Hizbullah agreement and a green light from Iran's Supreme leadership. Hizbullah Deputy Secretary Sheik Naim Kassam made the point in an April 15 2007 interview with the Iranian Arabic language TV station al Qawthar.

Israeli Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh reminded us that American outreach is strengthening Hamas and further undermining PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on the Palestinian Street. Senior Fatah officials emphasized the point during my visit to Ramallah this past Friday. A Fatah official told me: "Fatah is not returning to Gaza, Hamas will massacre us."

American engagement of Hamas reflects a misunderstanding of Palestinian political culture. Palestinian unity is an illusion. Fatah and Hamas hate one another more than Palestinians reject Israel. They are playing a zero sum game for leadership of the Palestinian Authority. Hamas' Fatah torture sessions (videohere and here) make the point. But Washington's more conciliatory approach has forced Abbas (and Egypt) to honor Hamas and "beg" for national unity and a reconciliation government.

American pursuit of "real cooperation," as Kerry put it, with Syria's Bashar Assad -- Iran's key Arab ally, whom the United States believes is key to Hamas and Fatah unity -- is a victory for Iran and its proxies and undermines Washington's Arab allies in the region.

Perhaps the upside to Washington's engagement policy is that it will likely speed up the imminent collision between radical Islam and the West. The downside is that Israel, which the Arab and Muslim world see as Washington's democratic proxy in the Middle East, will be forced to pay a heavy price.

Imagine: this Hamas-Fatah coalition would only serve to weaken Abbas--just like the US support of the election that brought Hamas into power to begin with. Looks like Obama really is just following in Bush's footsteps. Also, keep in mind that this new Israel-Palestinian policy is brought to us by the same person who mocked the ability of the surge in Iraq to have an effect--and never acknowledged that he was wrong. 

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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But Don't Expect British Muslims To Be Accused Of Dual Loyalty

From The Telegraph:
British Muslims are providing the Taliban with electronic devices to make roadside bombs for use in attacks against British forces serving in southern Afghanistan, The Telegraph can disclose.

...When asked how the components had reached Afghanistan, the officer explained that they had either been sent from Britain, or physically brought to Afghanistan by British Muslims who had flown over.
The disclosure is the latest in a string of suggestions from British commanders about the connections between British Muslims and violence in Afghanistan.
In August, Brigadier Ed Butler, the former commander of UK forces in Afghanistan, told the Telegraph that there are "British passport holders" in the Taliban ranks. Other officers believe their soldiers have killed British Muslims fighting alongside the Taliban.
And last year, it was revealed that RAF Nimrod surveillance planes monitoring Taliban radio signals in Afghanistan had heard militants speaking with Yorkshire and Midlands accents
Obviously this is being done by a small group of British Muslims and is not indicative of the vast majority, but yet we see the UK--and Europe as a whole--jumping on the bandwagon of anti-Jewish hatred as Anti-Semitism jumps throughout that area.

[Hat tip: Andrew Stuttaford]

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Can Livni Pass The Test?

David Hazony notes that Livni's decision on whether to join Netanyahu's coalition or take up a position as part of the opposition constitutes a test and an opportunity for Livni:
Opposition can be great for a party with a clear ideological or policy platform, or a strong tradition of governance that can attract voters dissatisfied with the government’s performance. But that’s not the case here. If Livni leads Kadima into the opposition, there’s a reasonable chance that the party, or at least Livni’s chairing of it, will not survive. With a major faction led by Shaul Mofaz already clamoring to join the government, Livni will need to face a party that may already be quite tired of her.
In being called upon by Peres to put together a coalition, Netanyahu is not the only one being tested, but he may be the only one thus far responding.

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At Least Hillary Did Not Kiss Him

Gordon G. Chang writes about Hillary Clinton's visit to China:
“It’s a bit chilly in Beijing,” said Yang Jiechi, “but I have confidence that you will see the biggest number of smiling faces here.” China’s foreign minister was not commenting on yesterday’s weather in friendly banter with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. His point was that China’s happy people were proof of the regime’s good human rights record.

Yang was lying, of course. But that’s not the point. Clinton knew he was lying, and that’s not the point either. The point is that Yang knew that Clinton knew he was lying but did not challenge him. The Chinese, in short, were putting forth their version of reality and Americans were accepting it. Minister Yang knew he had just humbled the United States. [emphasis added]
Thinking back, Hillary Clinton did not challenge Soha Arafat either. Remember when at a joint appearance years ago Soha Arafat claimed that Israel used poison gas against Palestinian children--and when Arafat was finished speaking Clinton gave her a kiss.

Apparently, that kiss created a change in Hillary Clinton's expressed attitude towards Israel. Just last month, the following was reported on NBC Nightly News:
On Friday’s NBC Nightly News, correspondent Andrea Mitchell filed a report that reminded viewers of an embarrassing political episode from Hillary Clinton’s past: the controversial hug and kiss she shared with Yasser Arafat’s wife, Suha, during a trip to the West Bank. The NBC correspondent related that Clinton had taken a position favoring a Palestinian state early on, but, after her controversial "embrace" with Mrs. Arafat, she became known for being "an unrelenting supporter of Israel," and argued that Mrs. Clinton’s popularity in the Arab world, and that of former President Clinton, would be an asset as Secretary of State.

Mitchell: "As first lady, Hillary Clinton was an early advocate of a Palestinian state until a misplaced embrace of Yasser Arafat's wife, Suha, backfired politically back home. From then on, Clinton was an unrelenting supporter of Israel but, experts say, is still well known and liked by Arab leaders."
The last politician I know of who was known to be pro-Arab and was supported by Palestinan Arabs before suddenly turning around and declaring himself a supporter of Israel--is Barack Obama.

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Haveil Havalim 205 - From Down Under --Is Up!

This week, Sarah's View is hosting Haveil Havalim 205 - From Down Under, with the usual wide variety of ecclectic posts from around the JBlogosphere.

For information about hosting, email Jack at talktojacknow-at-sbcglobal-dot-net. You can submit your post to the next edition of haveil havalim using the carnival submission form.

Past posts and future hosts can be found at the blog carnival index page.
Listed at the Truth Laid Bear Ubercarnival.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

If You Want Someone To Bring Your Mail To Israel, Do Not Contact Senator Kerry

Last I heard, Senator Kerry will not be bringing mail to Israel on his next trip to the Middle East:

U.S. Sen. John Kerry has turned over to the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem a letter from Hamas to President Obama that Kerry had received during his trip to the Middle East, FOX News has learned.

Kerry spokesman Frederick Jones said the Democratic senator was not aware that the letter was from Hamas when he accepted it from a United Nations official, and only heard media reports of its origin, which prompted him to relinquish it.

I wonder what the reaction at the consulate was. Was their a heightened sense of risk or danger? And those are the ones that must be brought into the peace process.

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Obama Pick To Head National Intelligence Council Got The Surge Wrong And Wants To Talk To Hamas

Arutz Sheva is reporting:
A flurry of reports over the weekend said that the former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, considered a sharp critic of Israel, is to be named to a top intelligence post in the administration of President Barack Obama. Chas W. Freeman Jr., who was U.S. ambassador to Riyadh from 1989-1992, is set to be named chairman of the National Intelligence Council, which has a strong influence on the content of the intelligence briefings presented to the President (and puts together the National Intelligence Estimate, or NIE, which in 2007 dissuaded the Bush regime from attacking Iran). The Council chairman is also often called on to give direct briefings to the President.

Freeman has expressed concern about how the rest of the world judges the US because of Iraq.

In September 2007 on the surge (PDF):

And now I understand that weʹre hanging around there and shooting the place up in the hope that something positive will turn out and happen. But I donʹt see it happening.

...And, finally, I think we have to take account of the fact that this war has taken a huge toll on American prestige and leadership internationally.

When we call, no one answers anymore. The costs of this adventure go well beyond the Middle East.

In October 2007

By invading Iraq, we transformed an intervention in Afghanistan most Muslims had supported into what looks to them like a wider war against Islam. We destroyed the Iraqi state and catalyzed anarchy, sectarian violence, terrorism, and civil war in that country.

Freeman was wrong about the surge--of course he is not the only one; Obama was wrong too. But more than that, we have clearly seen that the US did not destroy the Iraqi state--nor have we "catalyzed anarchy, sectarian violence, terrorism, and civil war in that country." The rash words of Chas Freeman do not bear even a passing resemblance to what exists in that country today.

Freeman is equally wary of what the world will think of the US because of Israel:

Arab identification with Palestinian suffering, once variable in its intensity, is now total. American identification with Israeli policy has also become total. Those in the region and beyond it who detest Israeli behavior, which is to say almost everyone, now naturally extend their loathing to Americans. This has had the effect of universalizing anti-Americanism, legitimizing radical Islamism, and gaining Iran a foothold among Sunni as well as Shiite Arabs. For its part, Israel no longer even pretends to seek peace with the Palestinians; it strives instead to pacify them. Palestinian retaliation against this policy is as likely to be directed against Israel's American backers as against Israel itself. Under the circumstances, such retaliation – whatever form it takes – will have the support or at least the sympathy of most people in the region and many outside it. This makes the long-term escalation of terrorism against the United States a certainty, not a matter of conjecture. [emphasis added]

Before Freeman goes around blaming Israel for terrorist attacks, does he blame Israel for the over 30,000 murdered and injured around the world by Islamist terrorists in 41 countries?

Palestinian Authority
Saudi Arabia10

Something is clearly going on--but this is global terrorism, and it is past time to direct our anger against the perpetrators and not on the country that takes the battle to them.

Unfortunately, Freeman is likely to fit right in as an adviser to Obama, who wants to talk to Iran--Freeman wants to go a step further, urging that the US talk with Hamas too:

we must talk with all parties, whatever we think of them or their means of struggle. Refusal to reason with those whose actions threaten injury to oneself, one's friends, and one's interests is foolish, feckless, and self-defeating.

So just why is Obama picking Freeman?

Based on his past experience as ambassador to Saudi Arabia, it is because of Freeman's expertise in the Middle East.

And based Freeman's incorrect analysis of Iraq and his willingness--if not eagerness--to talk to Hamas, we have here another appointment by Obama that is less than reassuring.

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Netanyahu--The Next Winston Churchill?

In the past I have only compared Bibi to former President George Bush. Now comes Investors Business Daily and compares Netanyahu to Winston Churchill:

Bibi Netanyahu, former prime minister and current Likud Party leader, has just been asked by President Shimon Peres to form a new coalition government after the close results in the recent Knesset elections.

His coalition will undeniably be fragile, depending on the support of one or a handful of the Jewish state's tiny fringe parties. But Netanyahu used his first statement as prime minister-presumptive to send a powerful message to both Iran and the Obama administration.

To the shock of many, he pointedly refused even to mention the Palestinian peace process, which has been going nowhere of late. Nor was there, again clearly deliberately, any reference made to the so-called two-state solution, which those negotiations had been aiming to find.

Instead, the man who will soon once again lead the state of Israel spoke of "the gravest threat to our existence since the war of independence" — Tehran's Islamofascist regime, which for years now has been pursuing a uranium enrichment program it claims to be peaceful, but which even the United Nations diplomats who seek to appease Iran know to be an unprecedented danger to the free world.

...Like Churchill, Benjamin Netanyahu is calling on his political rivals to unite in a broad "national unity" coalition government.

Read the whole thing.

That is an awful lot of history to place on the shoulders of one man. Considering how poorly the world as a whole has done in its feeble efforts to stop Iran's drive towards nuclear power, it is difficult to see how Israel can be expected to do much--especially since Iran has had so much time to prepare against a repeat performance of Israel's bombing of the Iraqi reactor.

Better to first let Netanyahu try assembling a unity coalition.

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Sweden Dissuades Israeli Taekwondo Team From Participating

As vociferous as the world reaction to Dubai not allowing Israel's tennis team in, that is how little attention was paid to a different sports event during February 14-15 that dissuaded Israel from participating:

An Israeli taekwondo delegation, consisting of 45 athletes and 5 coaches, was supposed to travel last weekend to Trelleborg for the Swedish championship (Trelleborg Open). However, the trip was canceled due to threats by a Muslim organization.

The Swedish Federation warned the Israeli delegation that they had concrete threats of an attack on the Israelis during the competition. They asked the Israeli delegation to cancel the trip due to security problems and the flight was indeed canceled.

A senior Swedish taekwondo official told his colleagues in Israel: "Ten thousand members of a Muslim organization are threatening to settle the account with you because of the war in Gaza." The threat was received by email from somebody claiming to represent a pro-Palestinian organization.

Hat tip: Islam in Europe

Mere Rhetoric notes that the consequences of Sweden giving in to the threats goes way beyond the theoretical:

Whether those threats are credible is one thing. Whether Sweden is making the situation worse by granting these violent fanatics a hecklers' veto - which is how they've been dealing with anti-Jewish incitement for years - is something totally different. Across Sweden Jewish buildings are being set on fire...Mobs are have been rampaging through the streets chanting "Hitler! Hitler! Hitler!" At the end of last month police stood aside while Jews were attacked in broad daylight on Swedish streets.

Read the whole thing.

Another point worth mentioning is that Sweden is also among those European countries who have made a new friend in the Middle East:

Mr Hamdan [Hamas representative in Lebanon] said yesterday that since the end of last year, MPs from Sweden, the Netherlands and three other western European nations, which he declined to identify, had consulted with Hamas representatives.

Besides calling into question their overall judgement, the fact that Sweden would talk to the terrorist group--without its having recognized Israel's right to exist or calling an end to its terrorist attacks--indicates that Sweden is less than reliable when it comes to the safety of its Jewish citizens, a point aptly demonstrated by Mere Rhetoric above.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Does The US Prefers Hamas To Netanyahu?

I can understand that the US believes that Avigdor Lieberman is too right-wing, especially since Obama wants to go along the same path as his predeccessors, pushing for a second Palestinian state. Therefore, I am not surprised to read this:
Kurtzer: Netanyahu-Lieberman is 'bad combination' for U.S.

Daniel Kurtzer, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel, said on Tuesday that a government led by Benjamin Netanyahu that also included Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman would be a "bad combination for American interests." 

"It would be much more difficult for the right-wing even with determined American leadership to advance the peace process," Kurtzer said. "Not impossible, but very difficult."
But if Lieberman is so radical and the US feels it cannot pursue peace--at least not easily--with Lieberman as part of the government, then by what logic would the US look favorably on including a terrorist group that has pledged to destroy Israel in a Palestinian "unity" coalition? Is that going to encourage peace?

Yet, according to George Mitchell, the US is prepared to support a Palestinian government that includes the terrorist group Hamas:
Mitchell expressed support for Egyptian efforts to forge a Palestinian national unity government, indicating that America could take a new tack on Fatah-Hamas reconciliation.

Mitchell said that Hamas would still need to adhere to the Quartet’s demands that it halt violence, recognize Israel and accept previous Palestinian-Israeli agreements in such a government.
Let's assume that Obama will keep to that proviso--just what kind of message is he trying to send Gazans? Is he giving an excuse to start talking to Hamas without having to do so privately as Europe is doing?

If Obama is offering a carrot to Hamas in order to bring them into the fold, what is he willing to do for Israel? Would he be willing to pardon Jonathan Pollard?

After all, before the inevitable confidence building measure of releasing Arab terrorists that Israel is encouraged--if not forced--to do, why shouldn't the US make a meaningful gesture towards Israel to inspire confidence in the new Administration?

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If Bibi Is Bush, Why Can't Livni Be Gore?

In a previous post, I drew comparisons between Bush and Bibi, noting the level of hate that has been exhibited towards both of them--with my going so far as to suggest that the day may come when BDS will be an abbreviation for Bibi Derangement Syndrome. I also suggested that if Netanyahu becomes the new Prime Minister, then like Bush he could face resentment for becoming Prime Minister contrary to the popular vote.

Peres has given Netanyahu the job of forming a coalition government, and now it looks like Netanyahu will be following in George Bush's footsteps, assuming the position of Prime Minister instead of Livni--and Gil Hoffman of the Jerusalem Post notes that Livni is refusing to play her part in the scenario:
When then-vice president Al Gore won the popular vote for the US presidency by a margin of 543,895 ballots, but lost in the decisive Electoral College, he challenged the results in the state of Florida and only conceded defeat fully 37 days after the election, having gone all the way to the Supreme Court.

But then Gore respectfully accepted the outcome and vowed to work to heal the rifts in the nation caused by the divisive campaign and the legal aftermath of the close race.

"For the sake of the unity of the people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession," Gore said. "Let there be no doubt that while I strongly disagree with the court's decision, I accept it. I accept the finality of this outcome."

Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu can only wish that Livni would act like Al Gore and let him return to the Prime Minister's Office in peace and quiet.

When Livni won the premiership in the popular vote by 28,978 ballots, but lost in the decisive coalition process, she decided to join the opposition and do everything possible to bring a Netanyahu government down. [emphasis added]
No such luck. 

In an interesting sidepoint, Hoffman urges Livni to follow the examples of both Peres and Gore in what can be achieved even when not gaining the highest office, referring to Peres being Foreign Minister to Prime Minister Sharon despite their differences:
Peres and Gore might be losers, but they both are Nobel Prize winners who took steps to unite their nations later in their careers.

Gore galvanized his people and the world to prepare for the threat posed by global warming. Israel is facing a threat to its existence from Iran. [emphasis]
I would have compared Gore's campaigning on the dangers of global warming with Livni's pushing for the two-state solution.
As with the case made for creating a second Palestinian state, in the case of global warming as well there are strong reasons to be made against the idea.

As with those who back the idea of an Arab Palestinian State, with Global Warming too, we find alarmism instead of open debate of the facts.
Be that as it may, the question is what Livni hopes to gain should her actions in fact lead to the coalition government falling apart. Does she really expect Israelis to thank her?

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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The New Israeli Government: E Pluribus Duo?

Shmuel Rosner writes about the criticism of already being heard of the Netanyahu government, based on the assumption that without the addition of Livni and the inclusion of Lieberman it will be an extreme right-wing coalition. Livni is thus holding back from Netanyahu the ability to create a unity government that will negate that labeling:
If Livni chooses not to join the coalition and Labor remains in the opposition (left-wing Meretz, with its meager three mandates, has little bearing on the viability of a coalition) - who else would there be for Netanyahu to work with? Do these doomsday-prophets want Israel to vote again because they didn’t like the initial outcome? Do they want the interim government to stay in power indefinitely?
Putting aside that the answer is yes--to both of those questions, Paul Mirengoff of Powerline suggests that Netanyahu might yet be able to include Kadima in a coalition, even without Livni:

But I wonder whether the less leftist, more hawkish elements of Kadima might be willing to join a Netanyahu government. After all, Kadima was not founded (only a few years ago) as a party committed to making concessions to the Palestinians in the hope of obtaining promises of peace. To the contrary, Kadima was founded by the hawkish Ariel Sharon on a platform disengagement from the Palestinians. To be sure, this meant giving up land, but the territory was abandoned unilaterally, not pursuant to a peace process but in order to make Israel easier (with the help of a massive fence) to defend.

Those who joined Kadima did so in part, I suspect out of opportunism/loyalty to Sharon and in part because they agreed with Sharon at that moment about withdrawing from certain territory. Today, the opportunistic move might well be to abandon this borderline ersatz party. And Sharon's program, which he carried out in part, no longer defines the debates.

The defining issues now are whether to revisit the "land for peace" dead end and what to do about Iran. It's not hard to imagine that there are elements in Kadima with views on these matters are closer to Netanyahu's than to Livni's.

Even assuming Mirengoff is right, the point Rosner raises still remains: critics of Netanyahu will still claim that Netanyahu's coalition is a unity government in name only, consisting only of right-wingers.

Will the end result be a coaltion with Netanyahu and Livni rotating as leaders of Israel?

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This Week The World Finally Reacted To Anti-Israel Bias

Eric Trager notes that when Israeli tennis star Shahar Peer was denied a visa by the UAE and excluded from the Dubai Tennis Championships this past weekend, something unexpected happened: there was international outrage:
For once, Jewish leaders weren’t the only voices speaking out against anti-Israeli exclusion.  Indeed, the Wall Street Journal withdrew its sponsorship; the Women’s Tennis Association, which initially considered canceling the event until Peer rejected the idea, announced that it might eliminate the event from next year’s schedule; and the Tennis Channel refused to broadcast the week-long tournament in protest.  The response was so overwhelming that the U.A.E. was immediately on the defensive: the tournament’s organizers first claimed - very dubiously - that they were merely trying to protect Peer from anti-Israel protesters, but later vowed that Andy Ram, another Israeli player, would be granted a visa for next week’s men’s bracket. That has since happened.
While Trager credits the nature of sports for bringing this incident out into the open and encouraging both world reaction and condemnation, the bottom line is that:
if Shahar Peer’s exclusion from the Dubai Tennis Championships has served any greater purpose, it is to call attention to decades of Arab discrimination against Israelis and - within one fateful week - reverse it on a most public stage.
And that is a victory too.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

What US Ban On Hamas--US Delegation Visits Gaza

A US delegation is visiting Gaza:
A U.S. congressional delegation visited Gaza Thursday, marking the first time that American lawmakers have entered the Hamas-controlled Palestinian territory in eight years, according to the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem.

The delegation included Reps. Brian Baird, D-Washington, and Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, who is the first Muslim to serve in the U.S. Congress.
The delegation's protection is being provided by Hamas--the same terrorist group that somehow lost the unexploded bombs that the UN gave them to protect.

Kerry, who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, apparently has not made a statement yet--but that has not stopped Baird and Ellis:
Baird said that the visit represents a change in the United States' attitude and approach to Gaza, under newly elected President Barack Obama.

The destruction from Israel's recent military operation in Gaza was beyond description, Ellison said. The two men visited the United Nations headquarters in Gaza City, and toured homes that had been destroyed in Israel's three-week military campaign.
Well, at least Obama did not make Hamas his second official phone call after Abbas...

The delegation will visit Sderot as well, where Israel actually provides its citizens with bomb shelters--instead of rockets. Perhaps Baird and Ellis will notice the difference.

American Thinker notes the message being sent:
Baird is not speaking for the Administration. Nor is Ellison. Nor are any of the politicians meeting with Hamas officials (at least, “officially”). And with European politicians also speaking with Hamas, it may not seem like much. Nevertheless, the breaking of the de facto ban on Members of Congress visiting Gaza is telling.
Especially when you include the US involvement in Durban II this time around.

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Tibet -- China's Gaza Strip

That is the name of this article I found on Spiegel Online:
Tibet -- China's Gaza Strip
By Jürgen Kremb

The violence in Lhasa is not part of a separatist campaign. Rather, it is the result of failed political policies. To avoid an Olympic-sized debacle, it is time for Beijing to sit down together with the Dalai Lama. The radical Tibetan alternative is far more dangerous.
Read the whole thing.

I don't have time right now to read it and comment on it, but I hope to have time tonight. In the meantime, if anyone has time to read it and has comments, please feel free to share in the comments.

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A Mundane Turn In The AIPAC Case--And The Absurdity Required To Reach It

The current issue is rather mundane, but read to the end to get a picture of the absurdity that had to be pursued to reach this point.
Judge allows ‘classification czar’ in AIPAC case

The judge in the classified information leak case against two former AIPAC staffers is allowing the Bush administration's former "classification czar" to testify for the defense.

William Leonard, who headed the Information Security Oversight Office, could be the most damaging defense witness when Keith Weissman, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's former Iran analyst and Steve Rosen, its former foreign policy chief, go to trial for allegedly relaying classified information to colleagues, journalists and Israeli diplomats.

Lawyers for Rosen and Weissman sought the testimony of Leonard, who over saw classification procedures from 2002-2008, and his predecessor, Steven Garfinkel, because both men have argued in retirement that the government overclassifies. Their expertise could undermine arguments that the information allegedly handled by Rosen and Weissman met the standards of "national defense information," which federal Judge T.S. Ellis III has said the government must prove.

Prosecutors sought to bar Leonard from the witness stand, saying that his testimony would violate a law banning government officials who have been substantially involved in an investigation from bearing witness for any party contesting the United States in court case arising out of the investigation.

In an order released Wednesday, Ellis summarily dismissed prosecution claims that an hour-long conversation prosecutors had with Leonard in 2006 qualified as "substantial involvement" in the investigation as defined by the law.

Read the whole thing.

Now this is only the latest development in one of the odder aspects of Leonard's testimony that goes back to September. Back then, Leonard's attorney squashed the subpoena requiring him to testify in order to allow the judge to force Leonard to testify:

In an unusual maneuver designed to evade a threat of government sanction, a key defense witness in the trial of two former officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) who are charged with mishandling classified information last week moved to quash (pdf) a subpoena summoning him to testify at their upcoming trial.

J. William Leonard, the former director of the Information Security Oversight Office, indicated he was prepared to testify that the classified information at issue did not meet the standards for national security classification. If so, the defendants could not have violated the law by receiving and transmitting the information without authorization. Not only would they not be guilty, there would have been no crime.

But prosecutors objected to Mr. Leonard’s testimony, arguing that he should not be permitted to appear since he briefly consulted with prosecutors about the case while he was still a government employee in 2006. In a March 31 motion (pdf), they even suggested that he could be liable to a year in jail if he testified for the defense.

In the normal course of events, government officials are sometimes threatened with sanctions if they refuse to testify in a judicial or congressional proceeding. But in the topsy-turvy world of the AIPAC case, Mr. Leonard is threatened with sanctions if he does testify.

To forestall that eventuality, Mr. Leonard was formally subpoenaed (pdf) by the defense on July 25. His attorney, Mark S. Zaid, then moved to quash the subpoena on August 28, in the expectation that the court would issue an order compelling Mr. Leonard to testify. Such an order would serve to shield him against the threatened sanctions from the prosecution.

The fact that the judge has now ruled on permitting Leonard to testify would imply that the judge did issue the order compelling Leonard to appear.

Maybe we can look forward to seeing this case finally resolved.

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