Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Elder of Ziyon: Yemeni clerics support child marriages

Yemeni clerics support child marriages

From Arab News:

Some of Yemen’s most influential Islamic leaders, including one the US says mentored Osama Bin Laden, have declared supporters of a ban on child brides to be apostates.

The religious decree, issued Sunday, deeply imperils efforts to salvage legislation that would make it illegal for those under the age of 17 to marry.

The practice is widespread in Yemen and has been particularly hard to discourage in part because of the country’s gripping poverty — bride-prices in the hundreds of dollars are especially difficult for poor families to pass up.

More than a quarter of Yemen’s women marry before age 15, according to a report last year by the Social Affairs Ministry. Tribal custom also plays a role, including the belief that a young bride can be shaped into an obedient wife, bear more children and be kept away from temptation.

A February 2009 law set the minimum age for marriage at 17, but it was repealed and sent back to parliament’s constitutional committee for review after some lawmakers called it un-Islamic. The committee is expected to make a final decision on the legislation next month.

Some of the clerics who signed Sunday’s decree sit on the committee.

The group behind the declaration also includes Yemen’s most influential cleric, Sheikh Abdul-Majid Al-Zindani, whom the United States has branded a spiritual mentor of Bin Laden. Al-Zindani denies being a member of Al-Qaeda.

The religious leaders organized a protest against the legislation on Sunday by a group of women. The women carried signs that read “Yes to the Islamic rights of Women.”

“I was married at 15 and have many children now,” said one of the women, Umm Abdul-Rahman. “And I will marry my daughter at the same age if I decide she is ready for it.”

The issue of Yemen’s child brides vaulted into the headlines three years ago when an 8-year-old girl boldly went by herself to a courtroom and demanded a judge dissolve her marriage to a man in his 30s. She eventually won a divorce, and legislators began looking at ways to curb the practice.

In September, a 12-year-old Yemeni child-bride died after struggling for three days in labor to give birth, a local human rights organization said.

A rights group pushing for a ban planned a protest for Tuesday.

“The government has two options: To give girls in Yemen a chance at life or to condemn them to a death sentence,” said Amal Basha, chairwoman of the group, Sisters Arab Forum in Yemen.

Yemen once set 15 as the minimum age for marriage, but parliament annulled that law in the 1990s, saying parents should decide when a daughter marries.

Elder of Ziyon: Yemeni clerics support child marriages

Love of the Land: Missionary man in Damascus

Missionary man in Damascus

Tony Badran
NOW Lebanon
23 March '10

Last week, the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the nomination of Robert Ford as the new ambassador to Syria. While Ford’s confirmation still awaits a full Senate hearing, which has yet to be scheduled, the nominee’s statements painted a problematic picture of what the Obama administration’s Syria policy is premised on.

Despite repetition by administration officials that they are “under no illusions” when approaching Syria, comments made at the hearing betrayed a line of thinking focused on what the administration believes Syria’s “real interests” to be, rather than what Syria sees them to be. This was evident in the discussion of Syria’s relationship with Iran and Iraq.

The tone was set by committee chairman Senator John Kerry, a leading advocate for a new Syria policy: “I believe [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad] understands that his country’s long-term interests... are not well served by aligning Syria with a revolutionary Shiite [sic] regime in Iran and its terrorist clients.” This is the driving logic behind Obama’s Syria policy: the old – and repeatedly failed – objective of prying Syria away from Iran.

Ford echoed this line in his prepared testimony: “[W]e must persuade Syria that neither Iran nor Hezbollah shares Syria’s long-term strategic interest in… peace.” Paradoxically, Ford followed this assertion by expressing uncertainty as to “whether the Syrians are truly interested in negotiating that peace agreement with Israel.”

Such reasoning betrays an inability, or an unwillingness, to understand Syrian behavior spanning over 30 years; it also misconstrues the nature of the Syrian-Iranian alliance. Tehran and Damascus’ relationship was never reactive and defensive, as is commonly held – a tactical convergence against common enemies such as Iraq. It was always based on the two states’ conception of their role in the region and their shared desire to shape events in the Middle East to their advantage.

(Read full article)

Love of the Land: Missionary man in Damascus

Israel Matzav: The Netanyahu diaries

The Netanyahu diaries

Bret Stephens found some notes that Prime Minister Netanyahu left on his plane to Washington on Monday morning.

But on to more pressing matters. We've had a bad few weeks, your administration and mine. I'm glad we can talk them over face-to-face. As Hillary told me the other day [isn't she a charmer?], it takes a true friend to tell the hard truth. I'm sure you'll agree that in our friendship that works both ways.

I know that, from your part, you think the hard truth is that we've got to get out of the settlements. You don't have to sell me on that score. I've said repeatedly that we don't want to rule over the Palestinians; I'm all for a two-state solution in theory. It's the practice of it that's got me concerned. In fact, it's what got me elected.

So here's the first hard truth: Just as you've got your Ben Nelsons and Bart Stupaks, I've got my Avigdor Lieberman ultra-nationalists and Eli Yishai ultra-Orthodox. Some of them have ideological red lines; some of them just want stuff. That's how politics works. So what's my Cornhusker kickback, or my executive order on abortion funding? I'd welcome your ideas; [you're obviously good at this].

This brings me to the second hard truth, Mr. President: Most Israelis don't trust you, the way they trusted George W. Bush or [even] Bill Clinton. And let me tell you why that's a problem.

When my predecessor Arik Sharon pulled out of Gaza, he didn't do so through negotiations with the Palestinians. Those negotiations fail time and again, in part because the Palestinians figure they can hold out for more, in part because they're cutting their own deals with Hamas.

So what Sharon did was negotiate with you, the United States. And what he got was a promise, in writing, that the U.S. would not insist on a full withdrawal to the 1967 lines in any final settlement agreement.

My problem is that Hillary disavowed that promise last year, and you did so again by treating a neighborhood in Jerusalem as a "settlement." So when you pledge your commitment to Israel's everlasting security, how can we take your word for it, or know that your successor won't also renege? We don't want to wind up like Belgium before World War I, relying on phony guarantees of neutrality.

Mr. President, you need to start building some serious trust with Israelis if you mean to give me the political tools to negotiate with the Palestinians. Honestly, you didn't help yourself by ratcheting up the rhetoric against us the way you did. If your purpose was to show the Palestinians that you're going to play hardball with us, all you did was give them a reason to be even more uncompromising than before. And if your purpose was to try to drive me from office, it didn't work either: To Israelis, you came across not as anti-Bibi, but as anti-Israel.

But the hardest truth is that Israelis are losing faith that you'll do whatever it takes to stop Iran's nuclear bid. The sanctions you promise keep getting delayed and watered down. Hillary gave a fine speech at AIPAC yesterday, but we all know that you're already planning on containing a nuclear Iran. That's not acceptable to me.

Let's make a deal, Mr. President: Our settlements for your bombers. We can't fully destroy Iran's nuclear sites—but you can. You can't dismantle our settlements—but we can. We'll all come out the better for it, including the Palestinians. Think about it, Barack.

Read the whole thing.

Well this deal is not going to happen anytime soon, and I don't think I want it to happen ever. The reason it won't happen anytime soon is that trust is hard to gain, but easy to lose. President Obumbler has been losing it for the last 14 months straight, as far as Israel is concerned.

What's worse, how can we ever trust his successor knowing that when the President changes the policy changes - sometimes in ways we didn't anticipate.

Jennifer Rubin adds:

You recall that the Obami were all about linking progress on the Palestinian issue to a successful effort to block the Iranian nuclear program. Yes, it was a non sequitur, but that’s what they said. In reality, the Obami’s Middle East policy is communicating a different message to Israel: you’re going to have to take care of Iran on your own. The U.S. is so enamored of getting along in the Muslim World and so unwilling to draw a line with the mullahs that Israel will/is faced with a choice: do nothing (which is the same as waiting around for the Obami to act) or take military action themselves.

By his recent verbal assault, Obama meant perhaps to paralyze Israel, creating uncertainty as to whether the U.S. would be with Israel if it came down to a military action against Iran. But Israel cannot be paralyzed into inactivity (for reasons amply stated by Alan Dershowitz on the same newspaper page). The result then of all the Obami carrying on is to create a less secure U.S.-Israel relationship and to spur Israel to act unilaterally. Unfortunately, that part isn’t fictional.

No, it isn't. There's a hard truth to be told here. We don't trust Barack Obama. If anything, the last 14 months with him in power have only made things worse.

Israel Matzav: The Netanyahu diaries

Elder of Ziyon: Bahrain minister laundering money for Iran?

Bahrain minister laundering money for Iran?

The Arabic media is abuzz over rumors that a high-ranking Bahraini minister was fired because he was laundering money for Iran's Revolutionary Guards.

The LA Times blog Babylon and Beyond is more skeptical, but it is a story worth following.

Elder of Ziyon: Bahrain minister laundering money for Iran?

RubinReports: The Obama Administration's Coolness to Israel is No Mirage but it is a Manageable Problem

The Obama Administration's Coolness to Israel is No Mirage but it is a Manageable Problem

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By Barry Rubin

As my readers know, I have often defended the Obama Administration against excessive criticism, conspiracy theory charges, and claims that it wants to destroy or at least damage Israel as some ideological goal. And I've also been willing to criticize it for its foreign policy mistakes when, unfortunately, all too often that's been necessary.

But when David Remnick writes in the New Yorker that Israelis inexplicably have this strange mistaken, paranoid perception that President Barack Obama doesn't really love them, that crosses the line. The president, he explains, has Jewish friends and they think he is quite warm toward Israel.

Not only is it inaccurate and insulting to claim Israelis are just imagining that a real problem exists here but it misunderstands a very simple point that we daily observe: Israel's elite, academics, and journlaists understand the United States far better than current U.S. leaders, academics, journalists, and members of the policy elite understand Israel. Of course, Remnick's approach is also just one more way that opinionmakers and journalists have been avoiding the need to deal with the very real problems and shortcomings that do exist.

Here's the bottom line: It is hard to argue (honestly, at least) that Obama isn't the least-warm president to Israel while in office since the country was established in 1948. The "while in office" phrase is meant to include Jimmy Carter whose great hostility came mostly after he left the White House.

This doesn't mean the Obama Administration cannot be worked with. From about April 2009 to early March 2010, U.S.-Israel relations were going pretty well. Two groups in particular deserve credit for this:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, President Shimon Peres and their team handled a difficult, potentially dangerous problem quite well.

Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas and his colleagues systematically destroyed their opportunity to take advantage of Obama's Third World, pro-Palestinian, eager-to-please-Muslims-and- Arabs orientation.

If not for the badly timed announcement over apartments in Jerusalem, bilateral relations would be quite good now, as they largely were since last summer. It is wrong, I believe, to think that the Administration leaped on this mishap as a chance to bash Israel. It was genuinely angry that what comes close to being its only foreign policy achievement--and a minor one at that--getting indirect Israel-Palestinian negotiations going had suddenly crashed. This is not to say that the Administration handled the crisis in a smart manner, but this was a spontaneous problem and one it wishes to fix as fast as possible.

There are lots of reasons why, despite the lack of warmth toward Israel, the Obama Administration can be dissuaded from hostility in practice. These include different opinions in the administration regarding Israel and the Middle East, with many officials not at all unfriendly. In addition, there is the force of events--including Palestinian intransigence--and the administration's ability to learn which were displayed in the president's January interview saying he learned not much progress was possible in the peace process.

Then, too, there are counter-forces like American public opinion, the role of Congress, and electoral considerations that temper the administration's behavior. Indeed, the degree of concern and criticism on this issue has in itself been an important factor in subverting any Administration ardor for punishing or distancing itself from Israel.

Finally, Obama and his colleagues have seen that they can walk over with relative ease may forces always thought powerful--banks, insurance companies, the energy industry, and individual states, for example. Only in the case of Israel has there been public and even Democratic party push-back. Savvy politicians notice that kind of thing.

The White House's main goal at this point is not to bash Israel but rather to claim victory at getting indirect negotiations going and to avoid upheavals which officials think would interfere with U.S. policies elsewhere in the region.

And as I've said often, the real problem is not with U.S.-Israel relations but with the failures of U.S. policy to recognize and deal with the region-wide expansion of radical forces and especially of the Iran-Syria axis. By the same token, the real threat is not to Israel's interests--nothing is going to change on the ground and there won't be any major diplomatic shift--but to U.S. interests.

Ironically, Israel is not so different in its perceptions of the Administration from its Arab neighbors. In their case, though, the problem for most Arab states is that while they see a president who wants to be friendly to Arabs and Muslims, the specific Arabs and Muslims it is trying to be most friendly with are their own eneies, mainly Iran, Syria, and--to a far lesser extent so far--Islamist revolutionaries. They see this as a sign of weakness that might jeopardize their survival.

Ironically, their common discomfort with what's coming out of Washington may actually push Israel and moderate Arabs together far more than any U.S. attempt at peacemaking.

At any rate, it is true that the views of some right-wingers that demonize Obama and his government are quite excessive. But to claim that the existence of certain ideological viewpoints, policies, and attitudes in this president and his administration are imaginary figments, misunderstandings, and paranoid fantasies goes too far.

The most interesting thing about recent Obama Administration rhetoric toward Israel--especially clear in Clinton's AIPAC speech--is that it thinks it is positioning itself like a moderate left Israeli. The problem is that what they are trying to copy is the position of Labor Party people, and arguably the majority in Israel, during the second half of the 1990s, when there was hope that big concessions to the Palestinian Authority might produce a stable peace based on compromise. Today, such a belief is held by perhaps 20 percent or so of Israeli voters, and that includes Arab voters.

And how seriously are Israelis going to take the idea that the Obama Administration knows better how to preserve their lives and national security when Clinton, beneficiary of supposedly the world's best intelligence agencies and so many "experts"--mistakenly condemned Hamas in her AIPAC speech for renaming "a square after a terrorist who murdered innocent Israelis" when it was in fact the Palestinian Authority that did so? This is no sophisticated analysis of the radicalism and intransigence in the PA but merely a mantra: Hams Bad; PA Good!

If through its behavior and official statements, this administration wants to assure Israelis and its own public that it understands the threats to Israel, the country's security requirements, and its legitimate goals that is a good thing. But this U.S. government must first demonstrate some comprehension that the PA is a major--or even better but too unlikely, the major--factor blocking peace. It has to show some readiness to pressure and criticize the PA, not just Israel.

In addition, such words must come from the president and his chief lieutenants, not from non-government sources whose goal is to boast the administration by denying that anything whatsoever is going on here.

Don't get me wrong. It is indeed quite proper for American Jewish organizations, individual politicians in the United States and Israel, and certainly for Israel's government to deny that there is any deep problem. This stance makes them far more able to resolve tensions. But the job of scholars, journalists, and academics is to speak the truth, which is--or should be--our distinctive contribution to solving as well as avoiding problems.

Once again, I think issues of U.S.-Israel relations are a distraction from what's really important. Nothing is going to happen on the peace process front or on U.S.-Israel relations during the next two or three years. What will happen is the erosion of the U.S. strategic position in the region as radical forces--and Iran gets nuclear weapons--grow stronger and moderate ones are frightened into silence or appeasement. This is the real danger and the front toward which American energy and determination should be directed.

RubinReports: The Obama Administration's Coolness to Israel is No Mirage but it is a Manageable Problem

Love of the Land: Obama, Israel, and Iran

Obama, Israel, and Iran

Edward Olshaker
American Thinker
22 March '10

Last Saturday, while the nation's attention was focused on health care, President Obama sent New Year greetings to Iran that contained a promise our ally Israel would envy.

Although he condemned the Iranian regime's belligerence toward the international community and murderous crackdown on pro-democracy activists, Obama pledged that his administration "does not meddle in Iran's internal affairs." (This echoed the non-interference theme of his celebrated Cairo speech, when he assured the Muslim world, "America does not presume to know what is best for everyone.")

Not long ago, the concept of "evenhandedness" between our democratic allies and terror-sponsoring regimes was widely considered a betrayal of our most fundamental values. Yet, incredible as it sounds, evenhandedness now would be an improvement. Imagine Prime Minister Netanyahu requesting of Obama, in their Tuesday meeting, that the US apply its "Iran standard" of no internal meddling to Israel's housing decisions. Imagine Obama seeing the logic and basic decency of such a request, and agreeing to it.

(Read full article)

Love of the Land: Obama, Israel, and Iran

Love of the Land: Would Palestinian state stymie Iran's plans?

Would Palestinian state stymie Iran's plans?

Ephraim Kam
23 March '10

The writer is deputy director of the Institute for National Security Studies.

David Petraeus is an American general with an impressive record and a great deal of influence in Washington. He can be credited with reducing violence and terror in Iraq, as well as with the blows dealt to Al-Qaida since 2007. He has been the head of U.S. Central Command, responsible for the Middle East, since 2008. People who have met him say he is friendly to Israel.

Last week, testifying before the Senate Armed Forces Committee, Petraeus came up with a significant insight. The hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors, he said, pose a challenge to U.S. interests in the region. This conflict enflames Arab anti-American feelings because the United States is perceived as supporting Israel. Arab rage springing from the Palestinian problem limits the depth of the partnership with governments in the region, weakens the legitimacy of moderate Arab regimes and helps Al-Qaida mobilize support. Therefore, a credible American effort to solve the Arab-Israeli dispute would undermine Iran's militant policies, and progress on the Israeli-Syrian track would disrupt Iranian support for Hezbollah and Hamas.

Petraeus made his remarks during a long presentation on the threats and challenges to the United States in this part of the world. He did not blame Israel for the situation but simply discussed the problem and its repercussions. Petraeus painted a similar picture last year in front of the same panel, without attracting attention. But this time his analysis was seen as part of the pressure that the Obama administration is putting on Israel, as a continuation of the linkage it is trying to create between progress in the peace process and its handling of the Iranian issue.

Basically, it's hard to see how such progress would help block the Iranian nuclear threat. Iran would certainly not give up its goal of achieving a nuclear weapons capability, something that has nothing to do with the Palestinian question.

(Read full article)

Love of the Land: Would Palestinian state stymie Iran's plans?

Israel Matzav: UNICEF sponsored ad calls for boycotting Israel

UNICEF sponsored ad calls for boycotting Israel

Your tax dollars are at work again.

The ad below was sponsored by UNICEF, a United Nations agency. You can see the UNICEF logo in the bottom left corner of the ad.

Palestinian Media Watch explains:
This advertisement is another example of the misuse of UN funding. An ad by a Palestinian youth organization, PYALARA, which is funded by UNICEF, shows an axe destroying a Star of David. The UNICEF logo is right on the ad. The large Star of David that has been destroyed has on it pictures of stars and stripes, presumably representing the USA, and an additional smaller Star of David.

The organization PYALARA (Palestinian Youth Association for Leadership and Rights Activation) has been funded by UNICEF since the year 2000: "PYALARA has been chosen by UNICEF as a major strategic partner in Palestine." [PYALARA website]

On the axe that destroys the Star of David is the word: "Boycott!" in the imperative tense. Youth are invited to watch the PA TV program calling for a boycott of Israel. In the program the host acknowledges that they are aware that the boycott is illegal but they have chosen to ignore this:
"We know that the Palestinian Authority is tied to a number of agreements that prohibit it from completely boycotting Israel... we call upon all the youth, to all the residents, to all businesses and stores, to completely boycott the Israeli goods in their stores."

The program started as follows: "The program Speak Up has decided to dedicate this program to a theme which is a national obligation upon each of us - the topic of boycotting Israel in all ways."
[PA TV March 21, 2010]
The ad reads that the weekly youth program Speak Up is "produced in cooperation with PBC (PA TV) with the support of UNICEF."
Aren't you glad that your tax dollars (if you're in the US, your government pays 22% of the United Nations' annual budget) is going to support this?

Israel Matzav: UNICEF sponsored ad calls for boycotting Israel

Israel Matzav: Israel a primary issue in midterm elections

Israel a primary issue in midterm elections

Politico reports that many candidates for House and Senate seats in the US midterm elections later this year are finding that Israel has become a primary issue in their campaigns.

The White House-Israel feud over settlement building in East Jerusalem has Republicans racing to attack the White House as squishy and disloyal to Israel, weak-kneed on foreign policy and even soft on Iran. Democrats, meanwhile, are dealing with sensitive intraparty conflicts between those who want to reiterate America’s strong support for Israel and a more dovish wing that insists a tougher approach to Israel is the best way to push the peace process forward.

“I think candidates are just hiding under their desks because no one wants to get into this,” said Steve Rabinowitz, a longtime Democratic strategist and Clinton administration official who has advised Jewish groups. “This week, the answer is to just not dance.”

The disparate postures on the matter — as well as its sudden emergence as a point of contention in various races — reveal that even at a time when domestic policy is dominating the election debate, candidates in both parties recognize that the equilibrium of America’s relationship with Israel remains a critical concern for voters.

For many Republicans — particularly conservative Christians who are strongly pro-Israel — President Barack Obama’s nuanced approach, and its results so far, represent a betrayal of a key ally. Many also view the ongoing debate as a proxy for the debate over the muscularity of American foreign policy.

“Support for Israel is one of those issues, like anti-communism used to be, that holds together a number of pieces of the conservative movement, including evangelicals but also neocons, economic conservatives and foreign policy hawks,” said Tevi Troy, a visiting senior fellow at the Hudson Institute who served as Jewish liaison in the George W. Bush White House.

For Democrats, the issue is less cut and dried. Democratic candidates must straddle the divide between the party’s hawkish pro-Israel wing and a constituency that views the intransigence of Israel’s conservative government as a serious obstacle to peace.

“It’s easier to be a Republican on this issue. It’s a lot harder to be an honest Democrat,” said Rabinowitz. “I just don’t think it’s in a Democrat’s interest to follow Eric Cantor or Sarah Palin. If you’re a Republican candidate, no problem.”


Troy said the conservative movement’s unification around Israel comes as a welcome diversion at a time when the broader conservative coalition is experiencing deep rifts — particularly between evangelicals and tea party activists, who have found themselves at odds over the centrality of social issues.

“There has been a sense that Obama has not been [as much of] a supporter of Israel as he could have been,” said Troy. “Mark my words: Whoever is the Republican nominee in 2012 is going to be hitting this issue hard. This just will not be forgotten.”

I can't wait.

Read the whole thing. They review a number of races to see how Israel is playing out as a US election issue. Some of them are races that I have discussed here (California Senate, Florida Senate), while others are not.

Israel Matzav: Israel a primary issue in midterm elections

Yaacov Lozowick's Ruminations: One More on Obamacare

One More on Obamacare

I finally had a conversation this afternoon with a fellow who knows what he's talking about. An American who lives in Israel; a scholar whose entire career is about public health policies and that sort of thing; a Lefty-bleeding-heart-liberal chap bereft of the starry-eyed ability of uninformed folks to pretend the world is nicer than it is and ever can be (which is to say: a rather common type of Israeli).

"So tell me", I inquired, "what's the story of this Obamacare thingy? Is it good for the world or bad?"

He launched into a learned speech... and then stopped. "You know what? Go read David Brooks in the NYT today. He's got it right".

I did.

Yaacov Lozowick's Ruminations: One More on Obamacare

Elder of Ziyon: J-Street's polls are designed to elicit the answers they want

J-Street's polls are designed to elicit the answers they want

J-Street is trumpeting a poll that, they say, shows that American Jews agree with their politics. A short examination of their methodology shows that the poll itself was designed to generate the answers that the J-Streeters are looking for.

Since they do not give the exact methodology, it is hard to go into detail on the bias inherent in the poll, but one question they show in full:

Professional pollsters know that the order of the choices can influence results. The wording here shows that they always presented their own preference first for this question, and the "other" side last.

Since the poll shows pretty convincingly that most American Jews do not follow Israel closely, it means that the interviewees are especially prone to manipulation since they do not have strong views on the topic.

In this case, J-Street first presents a statement that sounds reasonable to an little-informed subject:

Some Jewish organizations in the United States say that America has a special relationship with Israel and we must support our democratic ally, but this latest incident that took place during Vice President Biden's visit to Israel was an insult to America and damages our interests in a region where we are fighting two wars. The relationship between the United States and Israel must be a two-way street that allows an honest public discussion, and even criticism, when our two countries disagree.

A person without strong opinions will hear that statement and will generally agree as it sounds reasonable. The question itself is a form of education for the person polled.

Then, J-Street talks about "others," meaning people who do not agree with the already established reasonable statement:

Other Jewish organizations in the United States say that Israel is America's closest ally in the Middle East, and the Obama Administration's recent statements regarding the U.S. relationship with Israel are a matter of serious concern. The Obama Administration should work closely with Israel in a manner befitting strategic allies, make a conscious effort to move away from public demands and unilateral deadlines directed at Israel, and take immediate steps to defuse tension with the Jewish state.

Now that the subject already has committed himself to the first statement, he will be reticent to change his mind so quickly when hearing the second, "other" statement.

I can guarantee you that if the two questions were reversed, switching "some" with "others," the results would be reversed as well.

It is also telling that J-Street doesn't bother finding out what Jews who are care the most about Israel feel. They rely on the ignorant, apathetic Jewish majority for their support. Which means that they rely on Jews they can manipulate.

Elder of Ziyon: J-Street's polls are designed to elicit the answers they want

Israel Matzav: Israelis: Bibi knew but building in Jerusalem like building in Tel Aviv

Israelis: Bibi knew but building in Jerusalem like building in Tel Aviv

The monthly 'war and peace index' from Tel Aviv University came out on Monday, and they asked a few questions about the latest dust-up between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu. Most Israelis believe that Netanyahu knew the Ramat Shlomo announcement was coming. And while they also believe Israel should consult with the United States on these issues, the bottom line is that building in Jerusalem is like building in Tel Aviv.

The poll found that 62% of Israelis do not believe Netanyahu's disavowal of knowledge, and 54% believe Israel must consider Washington's stance on the expansion of settlements, even due to "natural growth".

However most of those asked by the survey supported the view that construction in east Jerusalem should be treated like construction in Tel Aviv, despite the harsh criticism launched at the government over the recent diplomatic dispute with the US.

Only a quarter of those polled believe the construction project should not have been approved, with 41% saying that only the timing was wrong. The number of people supportive of the construction in Ramat Shlomo neighborhood is twice that of its objectors.

Other than that, we're pretty evenly divided on just about everything, as usual.

Israel Matzav: Israelis: Bibi knew but building in Jerusalem like building in Tel Aviv

Israel Matzav: Koch: The trust is gone

Koch: The trust is gone

My parents knew Ed Koch growing up. Koch and my parents were among the leaders of a youth group that was a forerunner of one of today's Jewish youth groups. My parents told me that Koch was a straight shooter, and that certainly has always seemed to be the case from when I've seen Koch in action.

Koch also loves Israel. The comments I made about Alan Dershowitz last night (Democrat, liberal, loves Israel) apply even more to Koch. He's a liberal Democrat whose love for Israel - at least in my experience - is absolute. He's a throwback to the liberal Democrats of the '60's. And he's slamming the Obama administration for its treatment of Israel (Hat Tip: Soccer Dad).

What is most disturbing about the truly harsh and inflammatory rhetoric of both Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton directed at the government of Israel, is that it is speculated President Obama himself may have ordered Biden and Clinton to make the statements they made. The Times of March 16th reported, "...the President was outraged by the announcement of 1,600 housing units in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in East Jerusalem during Mr. Biden's visit, administration officials said. Mr. Obama was deeply involved in the strategy and planning for Mr. Biden's visit and orchestrated the response from Mr. Biden and Mrs. Clinton after it went awry, these officials said." President Obama and his administration's overly harsh public reaction to the construction in East Jerusalem appears to have emboldened Israel's enemies and provided a cover for their extremist views. It has also created a serious crisis of confidence among the Israeli public that it can depend on this administration for its security.

There will be an effort this week when Prime Minister Netanyahu meets with President Obama to mend fences. There will be huggy-kissy pictures with Hillary and handshakes by Bibi Netanyahu with Joe Biden and the President, but the relations will never be the same again. Humpty Dumpty has been broken and the absolute trust needed between allies is no longer there. How sad it is for the supporters of Israel who put their trust in President Obama.

Indeed. I would say that the trust is shot at least until there's a new President in the US.

What could go wrong?

Israel Matzav: Koch: The trust is gone

Israel Matzav: Pro-Obama, Pro-Imposed 'solution'

Pro-Obama, Pro-Imposed 'solution'

J Street, the pro-Obama, pro-imposed 'solution' lobby, ran a full-page ad in the New York Times on Monday, in which it called for the Obama administration to impose a 'solution' to the impasse between Israel and the 'Palestinians.' The clock was part of the ad. It's a rather curious clock - you can find out more about it here. You can find the full text of the ad here.

J Street's ad is basically a call for Israel to commit suicide - and Americans and Israelis both know it. But of course, the Obami will be happy to use J Street to bludgeon Israel anyway.

Great comment on this story from Aaron Lerner here.

Israel Matzav: Pro-Obama, Pro-Imposed 'solution'

Israel Matzav: Britain expels senior Mossad representative in London

Britain expels senior Mossad representative in London

Britain has expelled a senior representative of the Mossad who was attached to the Israeli embassy in London as part of the fallout from the al-Mabhouh liquidation. The man left the UK on Monday night. Curiously, his name is not mentioned in the British media (I would not have expected it to be mentioned in the Israeli media.

Here's a brief clip from Foreign Secretary David Miliband's statement on the subject.

Let's go to the videotape.

The Times of London has more on Israel's reaction (Hat Tip: NY Nana).

Israel said it regretted the British move. “The relationship between Israel and Britain is mutually important. We therefore regret the British decision,” said Yigal Palmor, the spokesman for the Foreign Ministry.

While the government was measured in its response to the new diplomatic crisis erupting with the UK, MPs from the far right were quick to denounce the British as “dogs” who were not to be trusted.

"I think the British are behaving hypocritically and I don't want to offend dogs on this issue, since some dogs are utterly loyal," MK Aryeh Eldad, of the National Union, an ultra-nationalist pro-settler party, told Sky News. "Who are they to judge us on the war on terror?"

Mr Eldad called for a tit-for-tat expulsion of a senior British diplomat, but Israeli officials said such a move was out of the question.

Another National Union MP, Michael Ben-Ari, added, "The British may be dogs, but they are not loyal to us, but rather to an anti-Semitic system, and Israeli diplomacy partially plays into their hands. This is anti-Semitism disguised as anti-Zionism".

Other, more centrist MPs said however that Israel’s policy of refusing to respond to such accusations had served it well and allowed it to weather the diplomatic storm that erupted when Dubai police accused Mossad of killing the Hamas leader.

"I believe keeping silent was a good policy at the height of the Dubai crisis, and certainly it is now, when it is nearly behind us," said Tzahi Hanegbi, a member of the opposition Kadima Party who chairs the parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee.

Isn't it curious that they managed not to interview a single coalition MK?

I think it's unfortunate that the Brits decided to do this but it's not the end of the world. While a few more European countries may expel Israeli diplomats in a similar manner, it seems like short of someone actually finding a real Mossad agent who was involved in the liquidation, this is the end of it. And that's a good thing.

Israel Matzav: Britain expels senior Mossad representative in London

Israel Matzav: Charlie Rose interviews Michael Oren

Charlie Rose interviews Michael Oren

On Friday, PBS's Charlie Rose interviewed Israel's ambassador to the United States Michael Oren.

I tried to embed the video (spent a long time doing it), but it turns out that both Blogger and LiveLeak have a 100mb limit and this video - nearly half an hour long - runs about 130 mb.

But it's a great interview, so go watch it by going here. I thought Oren was masterful.

Israel Matzav: Charlie Rose interviews Michael Oren

Israel Matzav: Netanyahu and the Dalai Lama

Netanyahu and the Dalai Lama

Prime Minister Netanyahu is meeting with President Obama at 5:30 pm Israel time (11:30 am Washington time). In what is seen as a sign that Obama is still angry at Netanyahu, the Prime Minister will once again have to enter through the White House's rear entrance and no photographers will be present. The only other leader to be treated similarly by Obama was the Dalai Lama.

Politico claims that Netanyahu will be facing a smug Obama at the White House (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).

Obama’s health care victory may prove a decisive pivot point in the way he is viewed both domestically and abroad and in how powerful a negotiator he is perceived to be by foreign leaders. And nowhere is that true more than in Israel, a place obsessed with American politics.

“Every time I met with an Arab diplomat or anyone from the Middle East, including Israelis, they would invariably ask me, ‘How’s health care going?’” said former Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), who retired in December to become president of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace. “And the first couple [of] times, I didn’t really realize what they were actually asking. They were asking, ‘How strong is the president of the United States?’”

Netanyahu’s aides have recently confided that they see Obama as a weak leader whose tenure they can weather, but that calculus may now have to change. After his health care victory, says Wexler, “the president is now a much stronger president, and that will play out in a variety of ways in the Middle East, and also in his direct relations with the leaders in the region, especially Prime Minister Netanyahu.”


“Definitely Bibi’s inner circle ... their strategy has almost literally ... been to wait out Obama,” said one Washington Middle East hand who asked for anonymity. Even as recently as last month, Netanyahu’s advisers were saying, ‘We just need to wait him out.’ They [thought] he is a one-term president and that he’s weak.”

Asked about those reports, Wexler said he wasn’t “certain that was [Netanyahu’s] strategy. But if it was, I think that strategy today is dead.”

Administration officials indicated an empowered Obama would not press any new demands on the parties. “Neither our commitment nor our goal has changed,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference the morning after Obama’s health care victory. “The United States will continue to encourage all parties to take steps that advance the prospects for peace.”


One former congressional Democratic staffer said the health care victory’s impact may not be so much on the Mideast peace process but on Obama himself, who saw the rewards of tenacity.

“When Netanyahu meets Obama in the White House Tuesday, he will meet a smiling Obama, who has aged a bit over health care but who has been vindicated,” the former staffer continued. “What people learned about Obama, and what Obama learned about the process [himself], is you have got to keep pushing.”

That realization is likely to affect how the Obama administration deals with other challenges both domestic and foreign, he said, including how hard to push for the two-state solution amid both resistance and cynicism from Middle Eastern leaders.

“The day after a potentially transformative president shepherds his signature health care legislation through Congress, the troublesome Israelis show up in town,” said veteran Middle East peace negotiator Aaron David Miller.

“The storm is coming as differences between the U.S. and Israel on settlements and the negotiations loom large. The real question is: Does Obama have the smarts and the b---- to be both reassuring and tough when the time comes to push both Israelis and Palestinians to an agreement?”

Miller said he doesn’t know the answer.

I don't see this having a long-term effect on the 'peace process.' While Obama's poll numbers may enjoy a positive bounce over the next few days, they will be reversed by the taxes that will be needed to pay for Obamacare and the shellacking the Democrats are likely to take in November. Sure, Obama saw that he could get what he wants, but it comes at a tremendous price. What price is he willing to pay for a 'Palestinian state'? A lot more than Bibi Netanyahu is willing to pay. And Bibi's poll numbers are still better than Obama's.

Can Obama be waited out? The question is almost irrelevant. You wait someone out in the hope of getting someone better in the next go-round. But we have no clue whom that someone might be, and in any event, I don't believe Netanyahu is capable of giving Obama or the 'Palestinians' anywhere near what they want.

Aaron David Miller is likely right that there will be a storm between Israel and Obama, but I don't see him blowing Bibi over. The Dalai Lama stuck to his guns. Bibi will stick to his.

Israel Matzav: Netanyahu and the Dalai Lama

Israel Matzav: Netanyahu defiant

Netanyahu defiant

In his AIPAC speech on Monday night, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu did not back down.

Netanyahu, who apologized for the announcement of new housing in Jerusalem during Joe Biden's visit ten days ago, does not reprise his apology, according to prepared remarks. Instead, he reminds the White House that the new housing -- though a thumb in the eye -- did not actually violate any commitment he'd made, as any settlement freeze always excluded Jerusalem.

"The connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel cannot be denied.The connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem cannot be denied," Netanyahu says. "The Jewish people were building Jerusalem 3,000 year ago and the Jewish people are building Jerusalem today.Jerusalem is not a settlement.It is our capital."

"Everyone knows that these neighborhoods will be part of Israel in any peace settlement.Therefore, building them in no way precludes the possibility of a two-state solution," Netanyahu said.

During Bibi's first term, he was known for insisting on reciprocity (yitnu, yekablu, lo yitnu.... - if they give, they will receive, and if they don't give....). Netanyahu returned to that theme on Monday night.

"Peace requires reciprocity .It cannot be a one-way street in which only Israel makes concessions. Israel stands ready to make the compromises necessary for peace. But we expect the Palestinian leaders to compromise as well," he says.

"The future of the Jewish state can never depend on the goodwill of even the greatest of men. Israel must always reserve the right to defend itself," Netanyahu says.

Obviously, that's meant to include Iran.

Netanyahu also had a few words for those who think he will lead Israel to retreat to anything close to the 1949 armistice lines.

Experience has shown that only an Israeli presence on the ground can prevent weapons smuggling.This is why a peace agreement with the Palestinians must include an Israeli presence on the eastern border of a future Palestinian state.As peace with the Palestinians proves its durability over time, we can review security arrangements. We are prepared to take risks for peace, but we will not be reckless with the lives of our people and the life of the one and only Jewish state.

You can - and should - read the whole thing here.

Israel Matzav: Netanyahu defiant

Israel Matzav: Israel produces another 1000-page response to Goldstone

Israel produces another 1000-page response to Goldstone

The IDF has prepared another 1,000-page report to the Goldstone Report accusations, but the report has to be 'converted' from diplospeak to legalese.

Its release will be delayed for an opportune moment, probably when UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon issues his next report in about four months. The completion of the paper comes fast on the heels of a 500-page report, first revealed by the Post last week, that was written by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center and that documents how the Goldstone Commission whitewashed the way Hamas waged its battle against Israel.

While that report dealt with Hamas and its tactics, the still-unpublished IDF report examines the sections of the Goldstone Report on how the IDF operated, and refutes Goldstone’s allegations of war crimes on a case-by-case basis.

Another integral part of the IDF’s counter-Goldstone Report is the chapter on the humanitarian efforts the IDF made during the three-week operation.

While this report is expected to go a long way toward battling the Goldstone Commission findings, it will probably not be published until there is some Goldstone-related development, perhaps the report that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has to present to the General Assembly in some four months on progress Israel and the Palestinians have made on investigating the Goldstone findings.

“We don’t just want to take this report and throw it into the air,” the diplomatic official said. “We want to peg it to something concrete.”

I hope none of you believes that any of these reports are going to stop the UN from condemning us. They won't. In a best case scenario, the report might make a difference to countries that might be predisposed to look more objectively at what happened in Gaza. But given that the last time a Goldstone-related motion came up for a vote in the General Assembly, countries admitted to voting against us because of allegations that we participated in the al-Mabhouh liquidation, I look upon the production of reports like this one as an expensive but necessary exercise in futility.

Israel Matzav: Israel produces another 1000-page response to Goldstone

Israel Matzav: Britain to formally accuse Israel of liquidating al-Mabhouh, expel Israeli diplomat

Britain to formally accuse Israel of liquidating al-Mabhouh, expel Israeli diplomat

The British government is to formally accuse Israel of being behind the liquidation of Hamas murderer and arms dealer Mahmoud al-Mabhouh by a team of liquidators traveling on 'cloned' British passports (Hat Tip: Russel H).

Ron Proser, the Israeli Ambassador to London, was summoned to the Foreign Office on Monday to be told the results of an inquiry into the murder of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, whose body was discovered in a luxury Dubai hotel room in January.

Several members of the team suspected of killing him were found to be travelling on passports cloned from documents belonging to British citizens living in Israel. Other passports had been stolen from Irish, German, Australian and French citizens.

Speculation has been growing that a senior Israeli diplomat would be expelled as a mark of the “anger” within the Government that British passport holders had been put at risk as a result of the operation.

A ministerial statement to be made to Parliament will formally name the Israeli security services as responsible for the cloning of up to 15 British passports, which were copied after being taken away by airport officials.

The statement will say that it proved impossible to confirm definitively whether Mossad, the feared Israeli secret intelligence service, was responsible for the operation, with suspicion also resting on the Military Intelligence Directorate.

But the probe had determined for certain that the passports were cloned when British citizens passed through airports on their way into Israel, with officials taking them away for “checks” which lasted around 20 minutes.

Foreign Office sources expressed frustration that there was little more that could be done to “punish” Israel over the affair.

A later report indicates that Foreign Minister David Milliband will address Parliament about this issue on Tuesday afternoon and that one Israeli diplomat will be expelled.

So does that mean that this is the end of the affair or the beginning of a new phase? It sounds like the end of it to me. And by the way, why isn't anyone investigating al-Mabhouh's forged passport?

Israel Matzav: Britain to formally accuse Israel of liquidating al-Mabhouh, expel Israeli diplomat

Israel Matzav: And again: Abu Mazen content to sit and wait

And again: Abu Mazen content to sit and wait

True to form, 'moderate' 'Palestinian' President Mahmoud Abbas Abu Mazen has decided once again that he is going to sit and wait for the Obama administration to deliver Israel on a silver platter. Once again, he is refusing to return to talks, except that this time the talks are 'indirect' talks.

The Palestinians would agree to hold indirect talks with Israel if they received assurances that the government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu would abide by the recent Quartet demand for a total freeze on settlement construction, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Monday.

Abbas, who was speaking in the Jordanian capital of Amman after meeting with US Middle East envoy George Mitchell, said he was now waiting to hear whether Israel would heed the Quartet’s call and freeze all settlement construction, including in east Jerusalem.

“Today we had a good and thorough meeting,” Abbas said. “Now we are waiting for a response [from Mitchell] in the next few days. We hope this response would be seen as a commitment to what was mentioned in the recent statement issued by the Quartet. This is what we are searching for.”

Some 'Palestinians' view Abu Bluff's statement as signaling a willingness to return to talks. It's not. Abu Bluff knows that Netanyahu cannot and will not agree to a full freeze in Jerusalem, and certainly not on the record.

Oh, and by the way, the 'man of peace' who has - in Hillary Clinton's words - 'put the Palestinians on the path to peace,' issued another threat:

Referring to the recent wave of violence, Abbas said the Palestinians maintained the right to launch a “popular resistance” against Israel.

I don't get it. Why doesn't Abu Bluff feel the fierce moral urgency to make peace that Obama feels? What could go wrong? Hmmm.

Israel Matzav: And again: Abu Mazen content to sit and wait

Israel Matzav: The New York Times covers for Egyptian anti-Semitism

The New York Times covers for Egyptian anti-Semitism

Barry Rubin dissects a New York Times article on the re-dedication of the Maimonides synagogue in Cairo, and discovers that the Times is covering for anti-Semitism by the Egyptian government (and for its suppression of democratic reformers). Read the whole thing to find out why today you have to be informed before you open your morning newspaper.

Israel Matzav: The New York Times covers for Egyptian anti-Semitism

Israel Matzav: My home town's terror connection

My home town's terror connection

Back in January, I did a post about a parlor party in my home town, Newton, Massachusetts (I lived there from ages 7-17 and my parents lived there until 1999), for terror-enabling Code Pink. Unfortunately, it took two months for Newton resident Kerry Hurwitz to get the local newspaper to publish this article warning Newton residents of the terror supporters in their midst. But it's worth reading, especially because the town in question could be yours. Here's how Kerry describes some of Code Pink's activities in the Boston area:

Every single one of the [Gaza Freedom] march’s organizers, including its “official sponsor” Code Pink, wants to abolish the State of Israel and thereby subject its inhabitants to a regime which officially supports the genocide of the Jewish people. This aim is so horrible that it boggles the mind — it’s almost impossible to believe anyone would actually want this. But these groups do, although they disguise it in terms like “binational state” (where Jews would soon be a minority among peoples who voted into power the genocidal and totalitarian Hamas and the equally genocidal though slightly less totalitarian Palestinian Authority) and “right of return,” which would permit each and every one the 4 million descendants of almost any Arab who left Israel or the West Bank for any reason after 1948, most of whom have no connection to the area at all, to not only become citizens but to expropriate land, buildings and businesses from Jewish and Christian Israelis. (About 6 million Jews and 1.5 million Arabs currently live in Israel.)

In addition to proposing the destruction of the only democracy in the Middle East and a “peace plan” that could lead to a second Holocaust, Code Pink is unabashedly anti-Semitic. They organized last October’s anti-Israel demonstration in Brookline, when protestors deliberately routed their march past synagogues on a Shabbat and Jewish High Holy Day in an area they knew contained many elderly Holocaust survivors. Signs at recent Code Pink demonstrations urged “America Stop Fighting for the Jew” and “Victory to Hamas” and featured Hamas flags. And when asked whether they were concerned about Hamas’ sponsorship of the Gaza Freedom March, both a participant and a pastor who had raised money for the event replied “no” (this occurred in a church, no less, St. Peter’s Episcopal in Cambridge).

Until Code Pink got involved with the Gaza Freedom March, I thought they were strictly focused on domestic (US) issues and I paid them very little attention. But what we see in Code Pink is something we are seeing throughout the US and Europe: The alliance between the radical Left and radical Islam. If we don't fight against it, it will destroy our homes, our countries and our values.

Read the whole thing.

The map at the top superimposes a map of the Boston area on the range of Hamas missiles coming from Gaza. I wonder whether it would matter to these people if they were in missile range like we are. Or perhaps, they are so enamored of their own rhetoric that they are simply suicidal.

Israel Matzav: My home town's terror connection

Israel Matzav: The Dersh goes after the wrong target

The Dersh goes after the wrong target

Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, whose pro-Israel, liberal and Democratic credentials are all impeccable, went after J Street's representatives at the AIPAC conference on Monday for not being pro-Israel. While every word Dershowitz said to J Street's Hadar Susskind was correct, Jonathan Tobin writes that Dershowitz is going after the wrong target.

In 2008, Dershowitz argued that not only were Obama’s pro-Israel credentials impeccable but that it would be a boon to Israel to have a liberal president who backed the Jewish state. That was because he thought that having a liberal icon like Obama who supported Israel in the White House would convince young people and others on the Left that it was okay for them to do the same. But the opposite has happened. The pointless fights that Obama has picked with Israel (while he continues to dither on the threat from Iran) have helped to further discredit Israel among liberals and Democrats while J Street disingenuously stamps his policies “pro-Israel.”

But while he is prepared to get tough with Obama’s J Street spear-carriers, the redoubtable Professor Dershowitz is still unwilling to take on their inspirational leader in the White House. Slashing away at J Street’s stands is nice but if you’re going to keep giving Obama a pass for policies that put the left-wing lobby’s misguided principles into action, you’re wasting everybody’s time. The next time Dershowitz feels the urge to belabor Susskind and the rest of the J Street crowd, he should instead focus his anger on the real offender: Barack Obama.


Israel Matzav: The Dersh goes after the wrong target

Israel Matzav: Who is blundering toward disaster?

Who is blundering toward disaster?

David Horovitz has an interesting series of comments on Secretary of State Clinton's AIPAC speech. I urge you to read the whole thing - I'm just going to discuss a small part of it.

Horovitz entitles his piece 'Blundering toward disaster.' He never makes clear who he believes is blundering toward disaster, but the implication (at least as I understood it) is that it is the Netanyahu government or Israel. While Israel may ultimately, God forbid, suffer from the disaster, it is my belief that it is not Israel that is blundering but the Obama administration in its blind faith in the good intentions of the oft-proven malicious 'Palestinians.' Here are two short quotes from Horovitz's article:

But the stress that Clinton chose to place on the untenability of the current reality, and her repeated exhortations to the Israeli leadership to change it – along with markedly less prominent and detailed demands for the Palestinians and the Arab world to do their bit – suggested one of two real problems in the critical US-Israel relationship: Either Israel, under this government, is not demonstrating to a savvy, worldly Washington that it is truly doing what it can to advance the shared interest of peace; or Israel is genuinely doing what it can, but the Obama administration is too inexpert, too influenced by those who place insufficient blame on the Arab side for the deadlock, to appreciate it.

“Last June at Bar-Ilan University, Prime Minister Netanyahu put his country on the path to peace. President Abbas has put the Palestinians on that path as well,” Clinton declared at one point. Much of her text indicated that she doubted the first of those two sentences. Very little of her text suggested that she doubted the second.

It's not that Netanyahu doesn't want peace. It's that there is no interlocutor on the other side and that Netanyahu - not his coalition - is willing to take risks for peace, but not potentially suicidal risks. Abu Mazen takes no risks, pockets concessions received from the United States, and has done nothing to put his country on the 'path to peace.' That Clinton and Obama cannot - or more likely will not - see that is the real blunder toward disaster here.

Here's the second quote:

So is the problem here that Israel, for all Netanyahu’s declared support for a two-state solution, his easing of West Bank freedom of access and his facilitation of major projects to improve the West Bank economy, is nonetheless dashing a willing Palestinian leadership’s desire for viable peace terms through the expansion of settlements and Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem and other provocative actions?

Or is it the case that the Palestinian leadership re-demonstrated its intransigence when rebuffing Ehud Olmert’s take-it-all peace terms, and that the Arab world underlined its hostility by rejecting the Obama administration’s entreaties to normalize ties with Israel, even just a little?

If most Israelis believe the latter, if most Israelis have long since recognized that the much-cited status quo is working against us, if most Israelis fervently wish that Israel could through its own actions resolve our conflict with the Palestinians and the Arab world, the message behind Secretary Clinton’s speech on Monday – for all its phrases of friendship and solidarity and partnership – was that the administration thinks differently.

Horovitz is right that this administration sees things differently than Israelis do. And if what he meant by blundering toward disaster is that we are on the way to blowing our special relationship with the United States, he may well be right, at least so long as the Obama administration is in power.

But that relationship was blown from the moment Obama took office for at least so long as he remains in office. Obama was predisposed against Israel, and had definite and immutable ideas how to solve the conflict even before he knew anything about it, as Horovitz himself noted when he interviewed Obama in the summer of 2008 (the original JPost link no longer works).

There is a limit to what can be gauged of a politician's views as expressed in a relatively short interview at the height of an election campaign. But Obama, who chose to give the Post one of the only two formal sit-down interviews he conducted during his visit, was clearly conveying a carefully formulated message - and it was striking in several areas.

He sought to sound resolute on thwarting Iran's nuclear drive, while insisting on the need to "exhaust every avenue" before the military option. He was optimistic on the prospects of potential Syrian moderation. He was succinct and blunt on Jerusalem - and distinctly different from the "poor phrasing" of his "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided" comments during his address to AIPAC's policy conference last month. And most notably, he was explicit and unsympathetic on the matter of West Bank settlement.


And on Wednesday evening, Obama answered my question about whether Israel has a right to try and maintain a presence in the West Bank, for security, religious, historic or other reasons, with a vigor and detail that also seemed to confirm Olmert's assessment of where conventional friendly wisdom stands and that expanded significantly on his brief settlement remarks in the AIPAC speech.

And here's more from a JPost editorial published at the time of Obama's visit.

We asked Obama whether he too could live with the "67-plus" paradigm. His response: "Israel may seek '67-plus' and justify it in terms of the buffer that they need for security purposes. They've got to consider whether getting that buffer is worth the antagonism of the other party."

Without that "buffer," the strategic ridges of the West Bank that overlook metropolitan Tel Aviv and the country's main airport would be in Palestinian hands. Eighteen kilometers - or 11 miles - would separate "Palestine" from the Mediterranean, the narrow, vulnerable coastal strip along which much of Israel's population lives.

While Obama promises to dedicate himself, from the "first minute" of his presidency, to solving the conflict, his apparent sanguinity over an Israel shrunk into the 1949 Armistice Lines is troubling. Half the Palestinian polity is today in the clutches of the Islamist rejectionists in Gaza. If the IDF precipitously withdrew, the other half, ruled by the "moderate" Ramallah-based leadership, would quickly fall under Islamist control. And that is something no American president would desire.

Obama's position on territorial compromise, in part, may be a consequence of Israel's abiding inability to achieve a consensual position regarding those areas of Judea and Samaria it feels must be retained under any peace accord, and then to assiduously explain that position internationally.

But he sounded surprisingly definitive in his outlook on this immensely sensitive issue - more so, indeed, than did McCain when we interviewed him in March - even though he was making only his second visit to Israel. He owes it to Israelis and Palestinians - and to himself - to return here for a deeper look.

That 'deeper look' never happened. Obama has not been back here since. But his preconceived notions about Israel and his sanguinity about an Israel shrunken to the 1949 armistice lines (God forbid) remains.

So who is blundering toward disaster? I believe it's the Obama administration that's blundering with their blind adherence to a third-world narrative that sees Israel as an interloper and a colonizer. But the impending disaster won't just impact the United States. God forbid, it could impact all of us.

Israel Matzav: Who is blundering toward disaster?

Elder of Ziyon: Hi Lady Liberty, nice to see you again

Hi Lady Liberty, nice to see you again

In my career, I have been fortunate enough to have worked in two locations where I had a clear view of the Statue of Liberty, one of them from my desk.

For the last couple of years, though, I did not have that privilege.

Today, I happen to be working in an office from which I can see Lady Liberty again. It is a cloudy day and she is not too close, but I didn't realize how much I missed her until I saw her again. My camera phone doesn't do her justice.

Nice to be back, even if only for a day.

Elder of Ziyon: Hi Lady Liberty, nice to see you again

Love of the Land: What About The Arab Apartheid? Part II

What About The Arab Apartheid? Part II

Khaled Abu Toameh
Hudson New York
23 March '10

The Palestinian Authority and most of the Arab governments have not missed a chance since US Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel to remind us that construction of 1,600 new apartments in the Jewish neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, as well as the renovation of an ancient synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem, would trigger a "third intifada" or, even worse, an all-out war in the Middle East -- and is the biggest threat to stability in the Middle East.

It is funny to see countries such as Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Egypt condemn Israel for being an "apartheid" state and for restricting freedom of religion. These countries, along with the Palestinian Authority and predominantly Islamic countries, should be the last to talk about "apartheid," freedom of religion bad persecution of minorities.

Of all Arab and Islamic countries, Saudi Arabia is often described as a "glaring example of religious apartheid."

Although Saudi authorities allow Christians to enter the country as temporary workers, they don’t permit them to practice their faith. Items and articles belonging to religions other than Islam are prohibited. Conversion by a Muslim to another religion is considered apostasy, a crime punishable by death. Saudi Arabia does not allow non-Muslim clergy to enter the kingdom country for the purpose of conducting religious services. Christians, and other non-Muslims, are prohibited from entering the cities of Mecca and Medina.

In Riyadh, the death sentence against a Lebanese charged with "sorcery" has just been re-confirmed. The man, Ali Hussein Sibat, a father of five, is a former host of a popular call-in-show that aired on a Lebanese satellite TV channel. H was arrested by Saudi Arabia’s religious police and charged with sorcery while visiting the country in May 2008. According to his lawyer, Sibat’s only crime was the he used to predict the future on his show and give out advice to his audience.

The real threat to peace in the Middle East is the absence of freedom, democracy and transparency in the Arab and Islamic world.

(Read full article)

Related: What about the Arab apartheid? Part 1

Love of the Land: What About The Arab Apartheid? Part II

Love of the Land: The White House War Against Israel

The White House War Against Israel

Edward Alexander
23 March '10

The decision of the Obama White House to pick a public fight with Israel over its interior ministry’s fairly routine announcement of progress towards approval of the construction (some years from now) of apartments in northeast Jerusalem has by now been subjected to sharp and justified criticism for its disproportionality; its bad faith in reneging on signed agreements with Israel; its mean-spirited spitefulness; its dogged attachment to the exploded assumption that “settlements” are the cause of Arab intransigence; its desire to keep intact the possibility of an apartheid state of Palestine that would not accommodate a single Jew; and its entire indifference to the violence that its reckless statements could (and did) incite in Jerusalem.

But there is a more sinister aspect to the relentless expressions of “insult” and “offense” coming from Vice-President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and White House advisor David Axelrod. It is the invocation, undoubtedly originating in the Oval Office itself, of a long-recognized trope of anti-Semitism, a lethal mixture of the ancient blood libel and the modern conspiracy libel.

Already in July 2009, long before the current ruckus, President Obama told Jewish leaders at a White House meeting that he wanted to “change the way the Arabs see us” by putting “space” between the U. S. and Israel. More recently Biden, according to several reports, told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that

“What you’re doing here [i.e., building houses for Jews in “settlements”] undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That endangers us and it endangers regional peace.”

(Read full article)

Love of the Land: The White House War Against Israel
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