Saturday, May 1, 2010

Strikingly Unpresidential

 

by David Limbaugh

President Barack Obama doesn't deserve the reputation he's had for his style and temperament and for being gracious, civil, bipartisan and post-racial. He is often ungracious, uncivil, hyper-partisan, race-oriented and vindictive. He mocks and ridicules almost for sport. More than any president in my memory, he often does not comport himself presidentially.

Why does this matter? Well — if I even have to answer that — he is the face of America. The left constantly talked about George W. Bush's swagger and his cowboy diplomacy and how that damaged our "image" in the world and our relations with other nations.

But George W. Bush was nothing if not circumspect, discreet and respectful in his dealings with foreign leaders and his dealings with his political opponents. He was exceedingly presidential, demonstrating an extremely high respect for the office he held and what it represented.

How the president presents himself does matter for all the obvious reasons, but I believe Obama's behavior and the public's perception of it are relevant for other equally important reasons. He came into office with a reputation for being sophisticated, gentlemanly, above the political fray and open-minded. But it was a facade, facilitated by good looks, a seemingly pleasant demeanor and an extraordinarily fawning — and forgiving — media. He has been getting a pass on his unseemly conduct for way too long, which partially explains the disconnect between his personal likability and the unpopularity of his socialist agenda.

I believe that if the public were fully attuned to how unpresidentially he has consistently behaved, it wouldn't be as approving of him personally, and in turn, politicians wouldn't be so afraid to call him out on his Machiavellian and brutish behavior, the exposure of which would have an electoral impact. If more people understood what I believe to be this man's actual character, they wouldn't — in the face of his consistently highhanded tactics in pushing each and every one of his destructive agenda items — reflexively assume he's such a nice guy who means well. Then, they might be more vigilant, and heaven knows we need megadoses of vigilance these days.

I have theories about why Obama is consistently getting a pass, beyond the media's corrupt liberalism and the allies he's created through his racial and class warfare, but that's another column. The point for now is that he is getting a pass, and his behavior is increasingly indefensible.

We talk about Obama as a graduate of Saul Alinsky's school of thuggish street agitation, but it is more than just a casual charge.

 

He is Alinsky personified with a disarming smile. It's not just a matter of his having embraced a political strategy that involves hitting below the belt and abusing power to help his friends and hurt his enemies. His behavior is not just a tactic; it's part of who he is. It is apparent that he has been coddled so long that he simply has zero tolerance for any opposition.

Indeed, he is exactly the opposite of who he billed himself to be: "I will bring a new type of politics to Washington." As a committed liberal ideologue, he is neither a uniter nor one willing to consider both sides of an issue. But it's not just his extremist views that are divisive. He is also often personally divisive, petty and mean-spirited.

From the time he cavalierly dismissed Hillary Clinton during a presidential debate with "You're likable enough, Hillary," I knew some cold blood ran through his veins. As president, he has been gratuitously nasty with people who have dared oppose him, and he has affirmatively targeted and demonized entire industries to advance his agenda.

Consider: his command that "the folks who created the mess" not "do a lot of talking"; his endless scapegoating of George Bush; his rude treatment of foreign leaders, from Britain's Gordon Brown to France's Nicolas Sarkozy; his abominable treatment of Israel and its leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; his character assassination of inspector general Gerald Walpin for blowing the whistle on his friends; his demonization of surgeons and primary care physicians as dishonest mercenaries, Republicans as "liars," secured creditors as "speculators," tea partiers as "domestic terrorists," Arizonans as "irresponsible," rural Americans as bitter clingers and America itself as being "dismissive," "arrogant" and "derisive" and as having "a responsibility to act" because it is the only nation to have ever "used a nuclear weapon"; his vilification of Wall Street "fat cat" bankers, big pharma, big oil, insurance companies, big corporations, corporate executives, Cambridge policemen, conservative talk show hosts and Fox News; his snubbing even of the liberal press pool; his egomaniacal behavior at the health care summit; and his administration's flirtation with criminalizing Bush-era officials for their legal opinions.

David Limbaugh is a writer, author and attorney. His book "Bankrupt: The Intellectual and Moral Bankruptcy of Today's Democratic Party" was released recently in paperback.

resident Barack Obama doesn't deserve the reputation he's had for his style and temperament and for being gracious, civil, bipartisan and post-racial. He is often ungracious, uncivil, hyper-partisan, race-oriented and vindictive. He mocks and ridicules almost for sport. More than any president in my memory, he often does not comport himself presidentially.

Why does this matter? Well — if I even have to answer that — he is the face of America. The left constantly talked about George W. Bush's swagger and his cowboy diplomacy and how that damaged our "image" in the world and our relations with other nations.

But George W. Bush was nothing if not circumspect, discreet and respectful in his dealings with foreign leaders and his dealings with his political opponents. He was exceedingly presidential, demonstrating an extremely high respect for the office he held and what it represented.

How the president presents himself does matter for all the obvious reasons, but I believe Obama's behavior and the public's perception of it are relevant for other equally important reasons. He came into office with a reputation for being sophisticated, gentlemanly, above the political fray and open-minded. But it was a facade, facilitated by good looks, a seemingly pleasant demeanor and an extraordinarily fawning — and forgiving — media. He has been getting a pass on his unseemly conduct for way too long, which partially explains the disconnect between his personal likability and the unpopularity of his socialist agenda.

I believe that if the public were fully attuned to how unpresidentially he has consistently behaved, it wouldn't be as approving of him personally, and in turn, politicians wouldn't be so afraid to call him out on his Machiavellian and brutish behavior, the exposure of which would have an electoral impact. If more people understood what I believe to be this man's actual character, they wouldn't — in the face of his consistently highhanded tactics in pushing each and every one of his destructive agenda items — reflexively assume he's such a nice guy who means well. Then, they might be more vigilant, and heaven knows we need megadoses of vigilance these days.

I have theories about why Obama is consistently getting a pass, beyond the media's corrupt liberalism and the allies he's created through his racial and class warfare, but that's another column. The point for now is that he is getting a pass, and his behavior is increasingly indefensible.

We talk about Obama as a graduate of Saul Alinsky's school of thuggish street agitation, but it is more than just a casual charge.

He is Alinsky personified with a disarming smile. It's not just a matter of his having embraced a political strategy that involves hitting below the belt and abusing power to help his friends and hurt his enemies. His behavior is not just a tactic; it's part of who he is. It is apparent that he has been coddled so long that he simply has zero tolerance for any opposition.

Indeed, he is exactly the opposite of who he billed himself to be: "I will bring a new type of politics to Washington." As a committed liberal ideologue, he is neither a uniter nor one willing to consider both sides of an issue. But it's not just his extremist views that are divisive. He is also often personally divisive, petty and mean-spirited.

From the time he cavalierly dismissed Hillary Clinton during a presidential debate with "You're likable enough, Hillary," I knew some cold blood ran through his veins. As president, he has been gratuitously nasty with people who have dared oppose him, and he has affirmatively targeted and demonized entire industries to advance his agenda.

Consider: his command that "the folks who created the mess" not "do a lot of talking"; his endless scapegoating of George Bush; his rude treatment of foreign leaders, from Britain's Gordon Brown to France's Nicolas Sarkozy; his abominable treatment of Israel and its leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; his character assassination of inspector general Gerald Walpin for blowing the whistle on his friends; his demonization of surgeons and primary care physicians as dishonest mercenaries, Republicans as "liars," secured creditors as "speculators," tea partiers as "domestic terrorists," Arizonans as "irresponsible," rural Americans as bitter clingers and America itself as being "dismissive," "arrogant" and "derisive" and as having "a responsibility to act" because it is the only nation to have ever "used a nuclear weapon"; his vilification of Wall Street "fat cat" bankers, big pharma, big oil, insurance companies, big corporations, corporate executives, Cambridge policemen, conservative talk show hosts and Fox News; his snubbing even of the liberal press pool; his egomaniacal behavior at the health care summit; and his administration's flirtation with criminalizing Bush-era officials for their legal opinions.

David Limbaugh is a writer, author and attorney. His book "Bankrupt: The Intellectual and Moral Bankruptcy of Today's Democratic Party" was released recently in paperback.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

Friday, April 30, 2010

Is Obama Winning His War on Jerusalem?

 

by Jonathan Tobin

The Israeli government is walking a fine line as it tries holding out against the Obama administration's demand for a building freeze while simultaneously fending off charges that it is not interested in making peace with the Palestinians. The predictable result is confusion. The Netanyahu government's defiance of the American diktat is contradicted by news reports about a de facto suspension of planning for projects by Israel in those parts of the city under Jordanian occupation between 1948 and 1967.

It isn't clear whether the slow-down of Jewish construction in Jerusalem is merely an attempt by the government to ensure that it will not be taken unaware by housing announcements, as it was during the recent visit of Vice President Joe Biden, or by an actual freeze. But either way, it appears that Netanyahu's desire to avoid giving a clearly hostile Obama any ammunition with which he can paint the Israelis as provocative or intransigent about peace is having an impact on the pace of building.

The American pressure on Jerusalem is a break from the past because no previous administration has ever made an issue of the building of homes for Jews in neighborhoods that were founded in the aftermath of the unification of the city in 1967. The United States has never recognized Israel's sovereignty over any part of the city, including the parts that were held by the Jews at the time of the 1949 armistice that ended Israel's War of Independence. But Obama breaks from past administrations when he insists that that Jewish neighborhoods in the city founded after 1967 are merely illegal "settlements," no different from the most West Bank outpost. This is an implicit American endorsement of the Palestinian claim that any theoretical peace deal must hand over all of the area of Jerusalem that Israel took in 1967 (which is called East Jerusalem in the press but which actually comprises the northern, eastern and southern outskirts of the city), where today over 200,000 Jews live. After all, if "East Jerusalem" is truly disputed territory in America's eyes, then Washington ought to be calling for a building freeze by both sides to the dispute. That is not the case, as home-building by Arabs in the area in which America demands a Jewish freeze continues at a breakneck pace.

This is, as Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said yesterday, "a slap in the face" to Israel. Barkat claims talk of Israel bending to Obama's demand for a freeze in Jerusalem is unfounded. But although Israelis have consistently supported their government's refusal to knuckle under to American attacks on the status of their capital, the impact of the dispute has created a narrative in which so-called Israeli "foot-dragging" is the principal obstacle to peace, not Palestinian intransigence.

That's the impression that Washington has done everything it can to reinforce, but it is worth reiterating that such an impression is utterly false. While Netanyahu has agreed to a two-state solution and even agreed to a freeze on settlements in the West Bank, the Palestinians' supposedly moderate leader Mahmoud Abbas won't even sit and negotiate in the same room with the Israelis. Nor is there any reason to believe the so-called proximity talks that Obama is so eager to launch (so named because of the Palestinian refusal to negotiate directly with Israel) will lead to an agreement because Abbas has already rejected Israel's offer of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem in 2008.

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.

 

Jonathan Tobin

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

How Hamas Tortures Gaza

 

by Joseph Klein

 

John Ging, the Director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Operations in Gaza, briefed correspondents at the United Nations headquarters in New York last week on the humanitarian plight of the people in Gaza. He said that the Palestinian people in Gaza faced "a struggle to survive on a daily basis."

Ging noted that Gaza's infrastructure was in a state of collapse, as there was no legitimate economy anymore due to lack of commercial trade into or out of the area, nor was there any prospect of a restoration of it as long as the blockade instituted by Israel at the border crossings continued.  He also blamed the blockade for preventing the import of vital construction materials needed to build more UNRWA-run schools and classrooms to accommodate the expanding child population in Gaza.

While acknowledging some recent positive developments as Israel has allowed more commercial truckloads to enter Gaza, he said they were "a drop in the bucket."

"So, if we can have 20 truckloads of aluminium (sic) a month; then why not 50?  And if you can have 50, why not a 100?" Ging asked.

Ging blamed the current situation on the failure to implement the detailed Agreement on Movement and Access in Gaza that Israel and the Palestinian Authority negotiated in November 2005 with the help of the World Bank and the Special Envoy of the Mideast Quartet.  Although the agreement had specified certain steps to be taken to keep the crossings open and vital supplies flowing into Gaza, those steps were never taken, he claimed, resulting in "bewildering human suffering and misery" for 1.5 million inhabitants of the Gaza.

What Ging neglected to mention is that Hamas and its radical Islamic allies bear much of the blame for the human suffering in Gaza because they are the reason that the Agreement on Movement and Access in Gaza was never fully implemented.

For its part, Israel had in good faith begun to implement this agreement by allowing a significant increase of truckloads into and out of Gaza through the crossing points bordering Israel, after it unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and turned over governing responsibilities to the Palestinian Authority.

The Palestinian Authority had agreed on a number of key security measures, including:

• Using international experts and Israeli recommendations to develop a

comprehensive security plan for one of the key border crossings;

• Establishing a secure perimeter to include security fencing, cameras, and motion detectors;

• Establishing a central security control room;

• Procuring appropriate cargo scanning equipment; and

• Developing and documenting security procedures and instructions, including those for coordination with Israeli personnel, and for the training of security personnel.

Israel began following through on its commitments despite the Palestinians' failure to follow through on their security obligations spelled out in the agreement.  And the reason for the Palestinians' failure was the rise of Hamas in Gaza, the terrorist group that has refused to abide by agreements entered into between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Even after Hamas won a majority of legislative seats in January 2006 on a platform that included the vow to destroy the Jewish state, the truckloads continued to flow into and out of Gaza.  Data compiled by the Palestine Trade Association provides compelling proof of Israel's incredible forbearance in the face of Hamas' provocations and threats to its security.  Israel was still hoping to work with Fatah, which maintained some executive powers in Gaza following its legislative defeat and which maintained control of most of the Palestinian security apparatus, to provide for the security that was the condition for Israel to maintain more open border crossings.

Israel's forbearance continued even after Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was kidnapped by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip in a summer 2006 cross-border raid and after Hamas resumed the launching of rockets from Gaza into southern Israel in June 2006 with this threat:

"The earthquake in the Zionist towns will start again and the aggressors will have no choice but to prepare their coffins or their luggage."

The Al Montar/Karni crossing was the main crossing of the Gaza Strip for both imports and exports.  This was the crossing that the Palestinian Authority was supposed to help secure in particular.  That did not happen.  Nevertheless, between December 2005 and June 2007, according to the Palestine Trade Association, an average of 450 truckloads a day was imported, and an average of 70 truckloads a day was exported. Sufa was used exclusively for the imports of construction materials, with a daily average of about 160 truckloads.

The event that forced Israel's hand and finally led to the full-blown blockade was when Hamas took over the Gaza Strip completely in a bloody coup against Fatah in June 2007.  Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak called Hamas' take-over a "coup against the Palestinian legitimacy."  Not only did Israel lose the partner it had reached agreement with and upon whom it had relied to help ensure its security.  The very entity that Israel saw as the main threat to its security from Gaza was now in complete charge of Gaza.

Beginning June 14, 2007, the Al Montar/Karni crossing was officially closed for both imports and exports. The crossing reopened on June 28, 2007 for limited imports of goods such as wheat and animal feed. Since then, Sufa and Karem Abu Salem /Kerem Shalom crossings were also used, primarily for imports of humanitarian goods, including basic food commodities (e.g. wheat flour, rice, pulses, cooking oil), animal feed and medical equipment.  From January 2008 until June 19, 2008, when a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel commenced, over 2000 rockets and mortars were launched by Hamas and its extremist Islamic terrorist allies against Israel.

During the cease-fire or "hudna" period, that started on June 19, 2008 and ended on December 19, 2008, commercial goods were allowed to enter the Gaza Strip including aggregates, cement, construction metal, wood, car tires, clothes, shoes, and fruit juice, but at a much diminished rate compared to the pre-coup period.  Hamas "concession" was to agree to stop the launching of unprovoked rocket attacks against Israeli civilians.

Hamas put on a show of discouraging rocket attacks from other terrorist groups during the cease-fire period but explicitly stated it would not police the border with Israel.  Some rocket attacks still continued. As reported by Human Rights Watch, while Hamas made some arrests of people accused of firing rockets, all were later released, and no charges were brought against them.

Hamas believed that its restraint in tamping down rocket attacks against innocent Israeli civilians should have been rewarded by an end of the Israeli blockade altogether.  Hamas conditioned its willingness to extend the cease-fire upon the complete lifting of the blockade even though by November 2008 about 700 truck loads of goods went into Gaza, which was about the amount of material that would have gone through in a single day even without a blockade.

Hamas' offer of undertaking to continue trying to stop all rocket attacks against Israel in exchange for a complete lifting of the Israeli blockade was extortion pure and simple, as Hamas had no intention of fulfilling the original security obligations undertaken by the Palestinian Authority in the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access in Gaza.

On December 20, 2008, Hamas officially announced that it would not agree to extend the cease-fire, which had expired on December 19th, citing Israeli border closures as the primary reason, and resumed its shelling of the western Negev.  On December 24, 2008 alone, Hamas launched eighty-seven mortar shells and Katyusha and Qassam rockets in an operation it called "Operation Oil Stain."  Hamas also rejected European mediation of the talks to release Gilad Shalit.

Israel waited eight days after the expiration of the cease-fire, which Hamas refused to renew, and issued a final warning to Hamas.  Despite the rocket attacks, Israel even reopened five crossings between Israel and Gaza for humanitarian supplies.  Hamas continued the rocket barrage.  Israel finally had enough and responded by launching Operation Cast Lead.

Since coming to power in Gaza, Hamas has followed a reckless course that put the Palestinian people living in Gaza in harm's way.  Hamas is responsible for the continuing blockade because its actions have heightened the very security threat that Israel had negotiated with the Palestinian Authority to help prevent, as an integral part of the deal to open up the border crossings in the first place.

Israel is cautiously testing the waters by restoring the level of truckloads of imports entering Gaza in March 2010 to the level it was during the pre-Operation Cast Lead cease-fire period.  However, as long as Hamas continues to smuggle arms into Gaza for use against Israel, keeps in effect its Charter's vow to destroy Israel and continues to renege on agreements entered into between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, including the Palestinians' security commitments in the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access in Gaza, it is unreasonable to expect Israel to fully open its borders to the threat of more terrorism.

It is Hamas that continues to hold its own people hostage to its extremist agenda rather than act like the responsible partner for peace that Israel had expected after it turned Gaza over to the Palestinian Authority nearly five years ago.

 

Joseph Klein

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

Republicans, Democrats and Israel

 

by Caroline B. Glick

 

Bipartisan support for Israel has been one of the greatest casualties of US President Barack Obama's assault on the Jewish state. Today, as Republican support for Israel reaches new heights, support for Israel has become a minority position among Democrats.

Consider the numbers. During Operation Cast Lead — eleven days before Obama's inauguration — the House of Representatives passed Resolution 34 siding with Israel against Hamas. The resolution received 390 yea votes, five nay votes and 37 abstentions. Democrats cast four of the nay votes and 29 of the abstentions.

In November 2009, Congress passed House Resolution 867 condemning the Goldstone report. The resolution urged Obama to disregard its findings which falsely accused Israel of committing war crimes in Cast Lead. 344 Congressman voted for the resolution. 36 voted against it. 52 abstained. Among those voting against, 33 were Democrats. 44 Democrats abstained.

In February 2010, 54 Congressmen sent a letter to Obama urging him to pressure Israel to open Hamas-ruled Gaza's international borders and accusing Israel of engaging in collective punishment. All of them were Democrats.

In the midst of the Obama administration's assault on Israel over construction for Jews in Jerusalem, 327 Congressmen signed a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling for an end to the public attacks on the Israeli government. Of the 102 members that refused to sign the letter, 94 were Democrats.

These numbers show two things. First, since Obama entered office there has been a 13 point decline overall in the number of Congressmen willing to support Israel. Second, the decrease comes entirely from the Democratic side of the aisle. There the number of members willing to attack Israel has tripled.

As discouraging as they are, these numbers tell only part of the story. The pro-Israel initiatives the remaining Democrats agree to support today are less meaningful than those they supported before Obama entered office.

Resolution 34 during Cast Lead was substantive. It unhesitatingly blamed Hamas for the conflict, supported Israel and asserted that future wars will only be averted if Hamas is forced to fundamentally change.

Last month's letter to Clinton was much more circumscribed. It focused solely on ending the Obama administration's very public assault on Israel and ignored the nature of that assault. At the insistence of the Democrats, the administration was not criticized for its bigoted demand that Jews not be allowed to construct new homes in Jewish neighborhoods in Israel's capital city.

This week Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat visited Washington. Congressmen Eric Cantor and Peter Roskam — the Republican co-chairmen of the House's Israel caucus — held a public event with Barkat where they voiced strong support for Israel's right to build in Jerusalem without restrictions.

In contrast, their Democratic counterparts refused to meet publicly with Barkat. They also refused to issue any statements supporting Israel's right to its undivided capital.

In the midst of administration's assault on Israel's right to Jerusalem last month, Representative Doug Lamborn drafted Resolution 1191 calling for the administration to finally abide by US law and move the US Embassy to Jerusalem. Lamborn gathered 18 co-sponsors for the resolution. All of them were Republican.

Acting on orders from Obama, House and Senate Democrats have tabled the sanctions bills that passed overwhelmingly in both houses. This week Obama asked Congressional Democrats to water down the sanctions bills to permit him to exempt China and Russia. In so doing, Obama exposed the entire push for sanctions as a dangerous, time-consuming joke. No sanctions passed in Congress or at the UN will make Iran reconsider its decision to build a nuclear arsenal.

This of course has been apparent for some time to anyone paying attention. And recognizing this state of affairs in January, Lamborn and Representative Trent Franks authored a letter to Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates urging the administration, "to support Israel's sovereign right to take any action it feels compelled to make in its self-defense."

Their letter was signed by 22 other Congressmen. All were Republican. Then there is Iran.

Similarly, since November Representative Louie Gohmert has been working on a resolution supporting Israel's right to attack Iran's nuclear installations. Gohmert's resolution condemns Iran's threat to commit nuclear genocide against Israel and expresses "support for Israel's right to use all means necessary to confront and eliminate nuclear threats post by Iran, defend Israeli sovereignty, and protect the lives and safety of the Israeli people, including the use of military force if no other peaceful solution can be found within a reasonable time."

To date, Gohmert has racked up more than forty co-sponsors. All are Republicans.

Recent opinion polls show that the Republican- Democrat divide on Israel in Congress reflects a growing partisan gap among the general public. A Gallup poll conducted in February showed that whereas 85 percent of Republicans support Israel, (up from 77 percent in February 2009), and 60 percent of Independents support Israel, (up from 49 percent in February 2009), only 48 percent of Democrats support Israel, (down from 52 percent in February 2009).

To date, both the Israeli government and AIPAC have denied the existence of a partisan divide. This has been due in part to their unwillingness to contend with the new situation. One of Israel's greatest assets in the US has been the fact that support for the Jewish state has always been bipartisan. It is hard to accept that the Democrats are jumping ship.

AIPAC also has institutional reasons for papering over the erosion in Democratic support for Israel. First, most of its members are Democrats. Indeed, AIPAC's new President Lee Rosenberg was one of Obama's biggest fundraisers.

Then too, AIPAC is concerned at the prospect of its members abandoning it for J-Street. J-Street, the Jewish pro-Palestinian lobby is strongly supported by the Obama administration.

According to Congressional sources, AIPAC's desire to hide the partisan divide has caused it to preemptively water down Republican initiatives to gain Democratic support or torpedo Republican proposals that the Democrats would oppose. For instance, an AIPAC lobbyist demanded that Gohmert abandon his efforts to advance his resolution on Iran. Sources close to the story say the AIPAC lobbyist told Gohmert that AIPAC opposes all Iran initiatives that go beyond support for sanctions.

And now of course, as Obama makes a mockery of AIPAC's sanctions drive by watering them down to nothingness, AIPAC's sanctions-only strategy lies in ruins. But again in the interest of promoting the fiction of bipartisan support for Israel, AIPAC can be expected to pretend this has not happened.

And many prominent Republican Congressmen are loath to call their bluff. Like the Israeli government itself, Republican House members express deep concern that blowing the lid off the Democrats will weaken Israel. As one member put it, "I don't want to encourage the likes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to attack Israel by exposing that the Democrats don't support Israel."

While this argument has its merits, the fact is that many Democrats remain staunch supporters of Israel. Representatives like Shelley Berkley, Nita Lowey, Steve Israel, Anthony Weiner, Jim Costa and many others have not taken stronger stands in support Israel because thanks to AIPAC, they haven't been challenged to do so. If going into the November midterm elections House Republicans were to initiate an aggressively pro-Israel agenda as members like Lamborn, Franks, Gohmert, Cantor, Roskam, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and others are already doing, they would compel Democratic members to join them or risk being criticized for abandoning Israel by their Republican opponents in November's elections.

And that's the thing of it. While under Obama bipartisan support for Israel has eroded, popular support for Israel has grown. Indeed polls show a direct correlation between Democratic abandonment of Israel and popular abandonment of the Democrats. What this means is that the partisan divide on Israel is a good election issue for Republicans.

If as projected Republicans retake control over the House of Representatives in November, they will be in a position to limit Obama's ability to adopt policies that weaken Israel. And due to the widespread expectation that Republicans will in fact take over the House, if the Republicans set out clear policy lines on Israel today, their declared policies will immediately impact Obama's maneuver room on Israel. So too, a clear Republican policy on Israel will motivate pro-Israel Democrats to more stridently distance themselves from Obama on issues related to Israel.

Take the Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's threat that he will unilaterally declare Palestinian independence in August 2011. To date, Obama has refused to say if he will recognize such a unilaterally declared Palestinian state. Fearing that he may recognize such a state, Israel has gone out of its way to appease Obama.

If House Republicans and Republican House candidates were to collectively pledge to cut off US funding for the PA in the aftermath of such a declaration, they could neutralize the threat. And if they pledged not to fund a US embassy in such a Palestinian state, they would make it impossible for Obama to continue holding his decision over Israel's head.

As for Iran, if Republicans win the House, they will be in a position to use omnibus budgetary bills to force the administration to provide Israel with the military equipment necessary to win a war against Iran and its allies. This would limit Obama's capacity to threaten Israel with an arms embargo in the increasingly likely event that the Iranian axis attacks the Jewish state.

In some House races, Democratic abandonment of Israel is already a key issue. For instance, in Illinois, the race between Republican challenger Joel Pollak and incumbent Democrat Jan Schakowsky has been dominated by Schakowsky's close ties to J-Street and tepid support for Israel. And recent polling data indicate that once a long-shot candidate, Pollak is steadily closing in on Schakowsky's lead.

Exposing the Democrats' abandonment of Israel will be an unpleasant affair. But it won't add to the dangers arrayed against Israel. Israel's enemies are already aware of Obama's animus towards the Jewish state. Demonstrating that the Democrats on Capitol Hill are following his lead on Israel will not add or detract from Iran's willingness to attack Israel either directly or through its Arab proxies, or both.

Moreover, forcing Democrats to account for their behavior will have a salutary long-term effect on their party and on the US as a whole. Support for Israel is a benchmark for support for US allies generally. Obama's abandonment of Israel has gone hand in hand with the cold shoulder he has given Colombia, Honduras, Britain, Poland, the Czech Republic, Japan, South Korea and other key US allies worldwide. In the long-term, it will be catastrophic if one of the US's two political parties maintains this strategically disastrous policy.

By using support for Israel as a wedge issue in the upcoming elections Republicans will do more than simply constrain Obama's ability to harm the Jewish state. They will be setting a course for a Democratic return to strategic sanity in the years to come. And nothing will guarantee the return of bipartisan support for Israel more effectively and securely than that.


Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East Fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, DC and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

Throwing Jerusalem's Barkat Under the Bus

 

by  Jonathan Tobin

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat is no extreme right-wing extremist. A generally non-ideological and secular Jew who served in the paratroopers, he was a successful high-tech venture capitalist before entering politics. Barkat’s career has, to date, been solely centered on the city of Jerusalem. He was elected mayor of the city only days after Barack Obama was elected president of the United States in November 2008. The important fact about Barkat’s win was that he beat an ultra-Orthodox candidate, a symbolic as well as a tangible victory for those who hope to keep Israel’s capital from becoming a Haredi shtetl.

In his years on the city council and now as mayor, Barkat’s focus has been on development and improved services but he also understands that the city’s future depends on it remaining united. If it is once again divided, as it was during Jordan’s illegal occupation of half of it from 1948 to 1967, the city will be an embattled and ghetto-ized backwater with no hope of attracting investment. Thus, he is adamantly opposed to those who want to make Arab neighborhoods into a capital of a putative Palestinian state, despite the fact that even the “moderate” Palestinian leadership won’t sign a deal that recognizes the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders might be drawn. Dividing the city is, he says, like putting a “Trojan Horse” within Israel. He is also appalled, as are most Israelis, at the idea of treating the post-67 Jewish neighborhoods, where over 200,000 Jews live, as illegal settlements by an Obama administration that is demanding a building freeze in Jerusalem. He rightly sees Israeli acquiescence to this unreasonable demand as a blow to Israel’s sovereignty over its capital as well as a threat to the Jews of Jerusalem.

These are points that Barkat has been making to the press and the public during a visit this week to Washington. 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.

 

Jonathan Tobin

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

U.S. Official Explains (Reluctantly?) Why U.S. is Engaging Syria; Egypt Rushes to Get in Good with Winning Iran-Led Side?


by Barry Rubin

Listen how the administration's best expert on Syria tries to defend U.S. policy of being nice to the regime there. Then listen to the Egyptian foreign minister interpreting this policy as meaning Syria and its friend Iran are winning so Egypt better start thinking of jumping on the bandwagon.

Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs Jeffrey Feltman is one of the smartest people in the administration's foreign policy hierarchy. As former U.S. ambassador to Lebanon, he understands what Syria's regime is like and how Damascus along with Iran and Hizballah are trying to take over Lebanon.

What's really fascinating is when smart people support administration policy in an honest way, since that shows just how thin the veneer is. My favorite was last September's New York Times editorial touting the great foreign policy achievements of the administration. All it could up with were closing Guantanamo Bay (nope, not yet done seven months later) and getting the Russians to "think" about sanctions (same as above).


So in this vein, here's Feltman explaining U.S. policy toward Syria in a congressional hearing. Let's listen:


"While the United States is working with our international partners to mitigate Iran's influence in the region, Syria stands out for its facilitation of many of Iran's troubling policies. Syria's relationship with Iran seems primarily based on perceived political interests, rather than cultural ties or complementary economies."

Good that he starts by pointing out how Syria helps Iran. But then he tries—in very clear language—to explain why the U.S. government is engaging Syria's regime and going soft on it.

What does he come up with? First, true they have perceived political interests in common but what about those cultural ties and economies? Regarding economies, Iran gives Syria lots of money, funds that Syria desperately need. That sounds pretty complementary to me regarding Syria's interests. As for a lack of cultural ties, does this mean they can't be allies because Syrians don't like Iranian music? Or perhaps they have more culturally in common with the United States than with fellow Muslim-majority Iran?


"But as with most partnerships, there are clear policy differences. With respect to Israel, the Syrians have a clear interest in negotiating a peace agreement for the return of the Golan Heights, whereas Iran opposes any form of peace with Israel."


Well, they have a lot of policy similarities: They both want control over Iraq, Lebanon, the Palestinians, in fact the whole region. They both want Israel wiped off the map and America kicked out of the region. As for Syria's "clear interest" one might ask: Who says so?

We get into the dangerous area here of the United States trying to tell Syria's government what its interests are rather than seeing what the Syrian government thinks and then acting accordingly. Note how the U.S. policy today is similar toward Iran and other dictatorships. Nothing is more ridiculous than some Westerner with no experience in running a Third World dictatorship telling the elite there that their real interest is being moderate and democratic.


Helpful Hint: If those countries become moderate and democratic than those running them now will become imprisoned or dead. The truth is that Syria, like Iran, also "opposes any form of peace with Israel." The regime just plays with the idea in order to lure unwary Westerners into the quicksand of giving it lots of concessions and gifts in exchange for nothing.

"Syria has a secular government, whereas Iran has a theocratic one."

Well, that's true as far as it goes. But precisely because Syria has a secular government it needs the Islamic cover of Iranian approval, with Tehran saying: Yeah, these guys might seem like godless Alawite* pagan infidels but in fact we give them our certificate of approval as good Shia Muslims who support revolutionary Islamism.

I mean, what's the problem? When they hold joint meetings to plot anti-American terrorist attacks and Islamist takeovers in Iraq, Lebanon, the West Bank, and Israel the Syrian leaders have to forego a scotch and soda?

Feltman continues:

U.S. policy therefore does not operate from an assumption that these two countries are a permanent bloc." Ok, fair enough. But one should mention that their alliance has now endured for around 30 years with hardly a scratch or a dent, that's the entire life of the Islamic republic of Iran so far! I'd suggest that one might say that the United States and the United Kingdom also don't necessarily form a "permanent bloc" either despite their cultural similarities. A few more gag gifts from President Obama to the queen and who knows?


"The goal of U.S. policy is to press both governments to adopt policies that advance regional stability and security." Agreed.

"One way to do that is to demonstrate to Syria why it is clearly in Syria's national interests -- as well as ours -- for Syria to have better relations with its neighbors and the West and to end its support for terrorism and other actions that undermine peace and prosperity."

Right. But there is more than "one way" to demonstrate this idea. An alternative is to inflict high costs on Syria to persuade it to change and block its ambitions. Such a strategy might also involve helping their intended victims—Israel, Lebanon's moderate forces, Iraq (though the U.S. government has turned down Baghdad's pleas to get tougher on Syrian help for terrorists murdering Iraqis and Americans there), and the internal Syrian opposition (and I don't mean the Muslim Brotherhood).


Feltman, I'm confident in asserting though I don't know him and have no inside information, understands everything I've written here is true. But as an administration official he has to say that stuff. The problem is that when we read his words we understand even better what's wrong with the strategy they're trying to sell. Of course, one could argue that U.S. policy was tough on Syria for part of the previous administration and the regime there didn't crumble. But then, when Syria is tough on the United States, Europe, and their friends, they do indeed crumble.

U.S. policy today is sort of like the Monty Python skit about the Spanish Inquisition in which victims are "tortured" by putting them in a "comfy chair." Syria's policy is more like the real Spanish Inquisition.

Once again, thank goodness for the Washington Post as a voice of sanity. It's
latest editorial explains:


"Bashar al-Assad is proving to be an embarrassment for the Obama administration....The problem isn't that Mr. Assad is not getting the U.S. message. It's that he sees no need to listen."

Despite U.S. envoys heading to Damascus in relays, the Syrian to "engage" him, the Syrian dictator keeps kicking America in the groin, tightening his friendship with Iran and shipping missiles to Hizballah. And because Feltman is good, he knows what should be done: "President Assad is . . . making decisions that could send the region into war. He's listening to Ahmadinejad. He's listening to Hassan Nasrallah. He needs to listen to us, too."

Right, and how to make him listen? Do I need to tell you the old country joke about how to get a mule to listen?

The punchline is: You have to get his attention first. I'll leave you to fill in the rest.

But there's someone else listening: Egypt. And it is concluding that what it's hearing is that it also better listen to Ahmadinejad and Nasrallah and Bashar al-Asad.

So now the Egyptian government is starting to sound like it's moving closer to Damascus. Perhaps this was politeness and a desire to mend fences, but it seems to me like the sour fruit of U.S. policy.

The current Egyptian government doesn't like its Syrian counterpart for lots of reasons, some going back decades. The two countries have long been rivals for Arab leadership and Syria led the other states in boycotting Egypt after it made peace with Israel. More recently, the Egyptian regime views Syria as a traitor for siding with non-Arab Iran against its Arab brothers.

In addition, Egypt is angry over Syrian sponsorship of Hamas (which works with the Egyptian government's Islamist enemies) and Hizballah (which threatened to overthrow the Egyptian government last year). Indeed, an Egyptian court has
just convicted 26 men of working with Hizballah to launch terrorist attacks within Egypt.

Why then all the sudden friendliness toward Syria?

Well, the Egyptians may conclude he's on the winning side. The United States is trying to engage Syria so why shouldn't Egypt also forget about its differences with a fellow Arab dictatorship. Iran, Syria's ally, is speeding largely unimpeded toward nuclear weapons. Hamas is still in power while Syria and Hizballah are gaining more control over Lebanon.

So the Egyptian foreign minister leaped to Syria's defense in proclaiming that Israel was lying in claiming Syria sent Hizballah long range missiles and warned that if Israel ever attacked Syria or Lebanon, Egypt would take their side. Note that it didn't do so in the 1982 or 2006 wars. He referred to Israel as an enemy and Syria as a sister. There are hints that this is only the beginning of a major rapprochement between Egypt and Syria.

The Egyptians aren't so naive. They have tried and failed to reconcile Hamas and Fatah, surely knowing that Syrian and Iranian backing for Hamas is a big part of the problem. They are worried about Iran getting nuclear weapons and Syrian ambitions. They can't be expectant about dramatic progress in the Israel-Palestinian peace process.

Rather, their problem is that if the only superpower isn't going to stand up and support their interests while acting against the radicals, the Egyptian government better start building its own bridges. This is nothing compared to what's going to happen when Iran has nuclear weapons.

*The Alawites comprise only about 12 percent of Syria's population but almost all the ruling elite. In my view they are not Muslim but the rulers pretend to be Shia Muslims. If they didn't have this cover the two-thirds or so of the Syrian population who are Sunni Muslims would be far more unhappy with the current regime. The Muslim Brotherhood portrays the Alawite rulers as non-Muslims. (The Sunni/Shia issue is ignored in Syria though of course the distinction is important elsewhere.) See my book, The Truth About Syria, for a detailed discussion of this issue.


Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

My Peace Plan: An Israeli Victory

 

by Daniel Pipes

This month, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak declared that Israel must withdraw from Palestinian territories. "The world isn't willing to accept — and we won't change that in 2010 — the expectation that Israel will rule another people for decades more," he said. "It's something that doesn't exist anywhere else in the world."

Is he right? Is peace even possible? And if so, what form should a final agreement take? Those are the questions we asked National Post writers in our series "What's Your Peace Plan?"

 

 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.

The goal of victory is not exactly something novel. Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese strategist, advised that in war, "Let your great object be victory." Raimondo Montecuccoli, a seventeenth-century Austrian, said that "The objective in war is victory." Carl von Clausewitz, a nineteenth-century Prussian, added that "War is an act of violence to compel the enemy to fulfill our will." Winston Churchill told the British people: "You ask: what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory - victory - at all costs, victory, in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be." Dwight D. Eisenhower observed that "In war, there is no substitute for victory." These insights from prior eras still hold, for however much weaponry changes, human nature remains the same.

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.

Until now, through round after round of war, both sides have retained their goals. Israel fights to win acceptance by its enemies, while those enemies fight to eliminate Israel. Those goals are raw, unchanging, and mutually contradictory. Israel's acceptance or elimination are the only states of peace. Each observer must opt for one solution or the other. A civilized person will want Israel to win, for its goal is defensive, to protect an existing and flourishing country. Its enemies' goal of destruction amounts to pure barbarism.

For nearly 60 years, Arab rejectionists, now joined by Iranian and leftist counterparts, have tried to eliminate Israel through multiple strategies: they work to undermine its legitimacy intellectually, overwhelm it demographically, isolate it economically, restrain its defenses diplomatically, fight it conventionally, demoralize it with terror, and threaten to destroy it with WMDs. While the enemies of Israel have pursued their goals with energy and will, they have met few successes.

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.

Fortunately for Israel, it need only defeat the Palestinians, and not the entire Arab or Muslim population, which eventually will follow the Palestinian lead in accepting Israel. Fortunately too, although the Palestinians have built an awesome reputation for endurance, they can be beaten. If the Germans and Japanese could be forced to give up in 1945 and the Americans in 1975, how can Palestinians be exempt from defeat?

 Of course, Israel faces obstacles in achieving victory. The country is hemmed in generally by international expectations (from the United Nations Security Council, for example) and specifically by the policies of its main ally, the U.S. government. Therefore, if Jerusalem is to win, that starts with a change in policy in the United States and in other Western countries. Those governments should urge Israel to seek victory by convincing the Palestinians that they have lost.

This means undoing the perceptions of Israel's weakness that grew during the Oslo process (1993-2000) and then the twin withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza (2000-05). Jerusalem appeared back on track during Ariel Sharon's first three years as prime minister, 2001-03 and his tough stance then marked real progress in Israel's war effort. Only when it became clear in late 2004 that Sharon really did plan to withdraw unilaterally from Gaza did the Palestinian mood revive and Israel stopped winning. Ehud Olmert's debilitating prime ministry has been only partially remedied by Binyamin Netanyahu over the past year.

Ironically, an Israeli victory would bring yet greater benefits to the Palestinians than to Israel. Israelis would benefit by being rid of an atavistic war, to be sure, but their country is a functioning, modern society. For Palestinians, in contrast, abandoning the fetid irredentist dream of eliminating their neighbor would finally offer them a chance to tend their own misbegotten garden, to develop their deeply deficient polity, economy, society, and culture.

Thus does my peace plan both end the war and bring unique benefits to all directly involved.

 

Daniel Pipes
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

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