Today, the Washington Post reported that "the Obama administration has abandoned its effort to persuade Israel to renew a construction freeze." Actually, the administration had persuaded Israel to renew the freeze for three months. It did so by offering certain incentives to Israel.
Laura Rozen at Politico reports that President Obama has written a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu offering various "assurances" to Israel if it will extend for two months its moratorium on construction in the West Bank. Her report comes via Middle East specialist David Makovsky, who co-authored a book about the Middle East with Dennis Ross, a top presidential adviser on the Middle East and a veteran "peace" negotiator. Presumably, then, it comes from the White House.
A growing crisis between American Jews and the Israeli government over a proposed law on religious conversion was averted or at least delayed this week, with both sides agreeing to a six-month period of negotiation. But the depth of American anger and the byzantine complexity of Israeli politics suggest that a solution is a long way off.
There was plenty of hand-wringing after IDF commandos stopped the Mavi Mamara from running Israel's blockade of Gaza, though not on this blog if I recall correctly. Israel's action, which brought international condemnation, was said to have injured Israel's standing and provided a boast to Hamas. But according to this analysis by David Pollack in the Jerusalem Post, the attempt at blockade-busting has, if anything, backfired on Hamas. Moreover, Israel's blockade remains in place, which was Israel's purpose in stopping the Mavi Mamara. Israel has expanded the list of items it will allow into Gaza, though.
Lost in the latest Middle Eastern controversy is the fact that the prospects for Israeli-Arab peace are steadily improving, and that the apparently impending defection of Turkey from the Western camp is a great opportunity. The predictable consequence of Europe s treating Turkey like a shabby, swarthy mendicant knocking at its back door for 30 years embracing it when an ally in the region was needed, but rebuffing it at other times is the defeat of the Kemalist Western emulators by the Muslim Turkish nativists.
Note that Ms. Thomas did not call for just a West Bank free of Jews. And she did not just wish for the elimination of the nation of Israel itself. Rather, Thomas envisions the departure of Israelis to the sites of the major death camps seven decades ago where six million Jews were gassed.
Christopher Caldwell has written a column for the Financial Times defending Israel s actions: "Botched"and "stupid" are adjectives that have been applied all week to the events of Monday, when Israeli soldiers killed nine passengers and wounded dozens more on the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish flagship of a six-boat convoy. The boats, sponsored [...]
Unfortunately, back in what passes for the real world, there is no stability. History is always on the march, and, if it s not moving in your direction, it s generally moving in the other fellow s. Take this humanitarian aid flotilla. Much of what went on the dissembling of the Palestinian propagandists, the hysteria of the U.N. and the Euro-ninnies was just business as usual. But what was most striking was the behavior of the Turks. In the wake of the Israeli raid, Ankara promised to provide Turkish naval protection for the next aid convoy to Gaza. This would be, in effect, an act of war more to the point, an act of war by a NATO member against the State of Israel.
The "world," including the Obama administration, knows its mind when it comes to Israel. The important thing now is that Israel know its mind when it comes to the rest of the world. As long as Israel indulges in wishful thinking about how others, such as President Obama, view it, the government will be at a disadvantage when it comes to making good decisions about key matters like how to deal with Iran and Lebanon. The good news is that, after a tough half year, Israel seems to have developed a good understanding of how Obama, French Presient Sarkozy, and other world leaders view Israel. This, I think, explains one of the emerging talking points in the aftermath of the Mavi Marmara incident, which is captured in the title a piece in today's Washington Post by a former U.S. ambassador to Israel - "The world is angry; why doesn't Israel care?" The answer is "you don't just read the book, the book reads you." In other words, "the world" cannot, without consequence, continuously render verdicts about Israel that Israelis considered patently unjust. The world's proclivity to do so seems finally to have produced the inevitable blowback. Consider the demand that Israel submit to an "international investigation" of the Mavi Marmara incident, which Israel has rejected out of hand. As Alan Dershowitz explains: In a world in which North Korea sinks a South Korean naval vessel killing dozens, Iran arms Islamic terrorists, who kill hundreds, Russia bombs Chechnya, killing thousands, and the United States and Great Britain, while targeting al Qaida and Taliban, kill an indeterminate number of civilians, only Israel is subjected to international "investigations" such as that conducted by Richard Goldstone and that being called for by the Security Council in the wake of the recent flotilla fiasco. Why only Israel? Why is the United Nations silent about other situations th
As we and many others have written, the "freedom flotilla," the Rachel Corrie, etc., are all about Iran's effort to supply rockets and other arms to its creature Hamas in Gaza so that Israel can be more effectively attacked and the Jews, some day soon, exterminated. Iran apparently is frustrated that its efforts to break the Gaza blockade have so far failed, and now threatens to up the military ante: Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards are ready to provide a military escort to cargo ships trying to break Israel's blockade of Gaza, a representative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Sunday. "Iran's Revolutionary Guards naval forces are fully prepared to escort the peace and freedom convoys to Gaza with all their powers and capabilities," Ali Shirazi, Khamenei's representative inside the Revolutionary Guards, was quoted as saying by the semi-official Mehr news agency. The prospect of a Revolutionary Guards escort tells you all you need to know about the "peace and freedom convoys." If Iran follows through on this threat, it would seem that the prospect of war will become very real. One wonders what could have happened on the international scene over the last sixteen months to embolden Iran to threaten such a provocation. As we and many others have written, the "freedom flotilla," the Rachel Corrie, etc., are all about Iran's effort to...
When Israeli commandos intercepted the Turkish flotilla to Gaza, they were ambushed on board the Mavi Marmara. The ambush produced the desired publicity and international furor sought by the friends of Hamas among the flotilla's organizers and passengers. The object of the flotilla was obviously to facilitate in one way or another Iran's takeover of Gaza as a base to conduct its war against Israel. Mainstream media organizations like the AP dutifully played their accustomed role as useful idiots in playing along with the purported "humanitarian" nature of the flotilla's mission. To understand the game afoot in the flotilla's effort to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza, it helps to understand the political situation in Turkey. For help in understanding, I recommend columns by astute observers who know what they are talking about. Among these columns I would point to Robert Pollock's "Erdogan and the decline of the Turks," Claudia Rosett's "Turkey's two-faced aid for Gaza," Ralph Peters's "DC's Turkish denial," and Mark Steyn's "Israel, Turkey and the end of stability." The Jerusalem Post continues to shed light on the nature of the flotilla. Among its recent reports are "PM: Mercenaries aboard Gaza ship" and "Pics of beaten commandos published." The Jerusalem Post reports that the IDF has identified a group of about 50 men - of the 700 on board - who were wel
Earlier today, as John reported below, Israeli troops boarded the Rachel Corrie, an Irish vessel participating in the "Freedom Flotilla," and took it to Ashdod to have its cargo inspected before it is forwarded to Gaza. Fortunately, there was no violence. Before this non-incident fades, though, I want to add one footnote. This morning, in its report that the Rachel Corrie was headed towards the blockade, the Washington Post noted that the boat's passengers included "an Irish Nobel peace laureate, a former U.N. diplomat, and a best-selling Malaysian author. What an illustrious passenger list! But let's enlist Jay Nordlinger to help us look behind these mini-bios. The Nobel peace laureate is Mairead Corrigan Maguire, a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for 1976 for opposing the violence in Northern Ireland. Nordlinger describes her as a worthy winner. He adds, however, that Maguire is an "old anti-Israel hand" who has accused Israel of ethnic cleansing. No surprise there. But Maguire is also rabidly anti-American, so much so that she vociferously opposed awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama on the grounds that "giving this award to the leader of the most militarized country in the world, which has taken the human family against its will to war, will be rightly seen by many people around the world as a reward for his country's aggression and domination." What about the "former U.N. diplomat?" He turns out to be Denis Halliday, who was in charge of the U.N.'s corrupt and cynical Oil-for-Food program in Iraq. Halliday resigned from that post, not on the grounds that the program was enriching Saddam Hussein, but on the theory that the U.N. sanctions were "genocide." The Malaysian author is Matthias Chang Wen Chieh, a crackpot anti-semite (here I rely on my own i
Israeli troops have boarded the Rachel Corrie, an Irish vessel participating in the "Freedom Flotilla" and purporting to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza. Thankfully, the pro-Hamas activists on board did not initiate violence, and the ship is being taken peacefully to Ashdod, where the cargo will be inspected before being forwarded to Gaza. The incident has brought Rachel Corrie's name back into the news. Time, for example, offers a tribute to her here. Corrie was a young American woman who foolishly got herself killed in Gaza in 2003 by kneeling in the path of a bulldozer. Since then, she has been the subject of much adulation. In fact, however, she was not so much a human rights activist, as she is portrayed in the press, as a hater who was closely allied with terrorists. In this photo, taken a month before her death, she was burning a fake American flag at a Hamas rally: At The Corner, Mark Steyn brings our attention to this piece by Tom Gross called "The Forgotten Rachels." Written in 2005, it is even more timely today: Rachel Thaler, aged 16, was blown up at a pizzeria in an Israeli shopping mall. She died after an 11-day struggle for life following a suicide bomb attack on a crowd of teenagers on 16 February 2002. Even though Thaler was a British citizen, born in London, where her grandparents still live, her death has never been mentioned in a British newspaper. Rachel Thaler is not the
Writing on Commentary’s Blog, Max Boot argues that even though Israel is in the right, it still needs to be careful about international opinion: In the Wall Street Journal today, I write about the disastrous consequences of Israel's boarding operation off Gaza. Although the Israelis were perfectly justified in trying to stop Hamas from [...]
The organizers of the original pro-Gaza flotilla report that additional ships are heading to the Gaza strip: Organizers of an aid flotilla to Gaza kept mum Tuesday on additional ships scheduled to arrive in Israel’s international waters in the coming days, while Israeli officials mulled possible response Greta Berlin, of the heads of the [...]
The Washington Post's editors declare the IDF's capture of the Marmara a "fiasco." If so, it is that special kind of fiasco that attains such status only by virtue of people like those on the editorial board of the Washington Post declaring it one. And the willingness of such folks to cry "fiasco" (or not) too often depends on their agenda, not the facts of the case.
What differentiates the Marmara incident from prior Israeli PR disaster such as the so-called Jenin "massacre"? At first sight, not much. Yet politicians in Europe have already fallen in line with the anti-Israel stance.
That's what Jake Tapper was told by a "senior administration official:" I'm told there won't be any daylight between the US and Israel in the aftermath of the incident on the flotilla yesterday, which resulted in the deaths of 10 activists. Regardless of the details of the flotilla incident, sources say President Obama is focused on what he sees as the longer term issue here: a successful Mideast peace process. ...
There's plenty of hand-wringing today from Israel's supporters about the boarding of the Marmara, and the ensuing battle. Max Boot's column is a good example. He speculates that perhaps Israeli agents could have sabotaged the ships before they even left port. Or maybe they should have allowed the ships to be off-loaded in Gaza and then disabled them to prevent any further trips. Boot's alternatives don't seem very compelling. Israel would face at least as much condemantion were it suspected of having sabotaged boats in a foreign port. And preventing one set of boats from returning to Gaza would not have prevented further instances of embargo-running. But let's assume, as may well be the case, that the IDF failed to pick the best option, and then failed to execute it optimally. What conclusions follow? My conclusion is that no military makes and executes decisions flawlessly and that, even if the IDF were to do so, it would still come in for harsh criticism from the usual suspects. Or, in the best case scenario, the usual suspects would hold their fire until the next time Hamas and its supporters provoked the IDF to act. In other words, Israel isn't being criticized because the likes of Nicolas Sarkozy are assessing its self-defense operations in good faith and finding them wanting. Rather, Sarkozy and company are finding Israel's self-defense operations wanting because they lack good faith and are eager to criticize Israel. How else does one explain Sarkozy's rush to claim, before any solid facts were in, that Israel used disproportionate force? The hand-wringing is unwarranted for an additional reason -- Gaza, the PA, and even Hamas represent a side-show. Israel has won this battle and the latest incident isn't likely to overturn that result. Consider what the oft-criticized IDF and I
Those manning the Turkish Hamas flotilla seeking to run the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza were no fools. They knew exactly what they were doing -- see Jonathan Schanzer's "The terror finance flotilla" -- and they accomplished their mission in part. The fools weren't on the ship. The fools are on dry land, as can be deduced from the ship-of-fools quality to the response to Israel's encounter with the flotilla. See Wesley Pruden's "A shocking story of Israeli survival" and Caroline Glick's "Ending Israel's losing streak." See also Mona Charen's "Flotillas and falsehoods" (query: "Don't members of the press ever resent being so used?") and David Hornik's "World regrets death of jihadists, vilifies Israel." For a footnote involving the New York Times, see Seth Lipsky's "Mavi Marmara and the Exodus." Those manning the Turkish Hamas flotilla seeking to run the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza were no fools. They knew...
The reaction of European leaders to the clash between the Israeli Defense Force and the armed activists who, it appears, attacked them when they boarded a boat headed to Gaza has been swift, predictable, and baseless. It is summarized in this equally predictable headline in the New York Times: "Deadly Israeli Raid On Aid Flotilla Draws Condemnation." French President Nicolas Sarkozy, once considered a friend of Israel but now a reliable purveyor of whatever anti-Israeli line seems fashionable, called Israel's use of force "disproportionate." This is the mindless buzzword employed Israel's knee-jerk critics whenever Israelis successfully defend themselves after being attacked with deadly force. It's certainly conceivable that the IDF's response was disproportionate. But Sarkozy has no basis for forming such a judgment at this stage. His judgment is based not on facts known to him, but on the anti-Israeli bias that has become a familiar feature of his foreign policy utterances. I'm happy to say that, so far, the Obama administration's response has been far more measured. Bill Burton, a deputy press secretary for the White House, said, "The United States deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries sustained and is currently working to understand the circumstances surrounding this tragedy." Understand before judging -- that's perhaps the most basic duty of anyone who wishes to be taken seriously on any subject. Even before the latest controversy, Sarkozy and other European politicians had forfeited the right to be taken seriously on issues pertaining to Israel. Let's hope that Predient Obama has learned from his past mistakes and is interested in regaining his credibility on these matters. The reaction of European leaders to the clash between the Israeli Defense Force and the armed activists who, it appears,...
A new book on Israel's relations with apartheid South Africa revives the old false claim that Zionism and apartheid are similar and that today's Israel is the heir of yesterday's South Africa.
With age and success, it sometimes happens that early friendships fall away. That has been Israel's fate. A generation ago, it lost the non-Jewish left. In recent years, the Jewish left has been falling away too.
Australia has expelled an Israeli diplomat because of a connection with the Mossad assassination of Hamas leadership in Dubai: Australia's government said on Monday it had ordered the expulsion of an Israeli diplomat over the use of fake passports in the assassination of a top Hamas militant in Dubai in January.
Earlier this week, I noted that PA President Abbas was in the process of deciding whether to engage in "proximity talks" with Israel, and would consult with Arab states about the matter this week. However, I neglected to emphasize the sad fact that Abbas thinks he needs approval from Arab leaders before he can engage in non-talk talks with Israel. That fact is not lost on Elliott Abrams. In a column called "Who Speaks for the Palestinians?" he presents a compelling case that the answer is not the hapless Abbas. According to Haaretz, the PA president will dutifully await a Saturday vote by the Arab League's "Monitoring Committee for the Arab Peace Initiative" and is unlikely to accept any offer for peace talks that does not meet the panel's approval. This means that Israel cannot truly engage in a "peace process" with the Palestinians (a foolish enough errand under current circumstances), but instead will ultimately be negotiating with the Arab states, including the likes of Syria which is currently supplying Hezbollah with Scud missiles. Abbas is scheduled to visit the White House in mid-May. But, other than conferring undeserved prestige on the PA president, Obama's goals would be better served by inviting Bashar al Assad and eliminating the middle man. As Abrams concludes, "once again the Arab states intrude deeply into the 'peace process,' and as always they will have their own national interests at heart--not the fate of the Palestinians." Moreover, "it is a keen measure of the fall of American influence in the region when a Palestinian leader responds to intense American pressure to go to the negotiating table by waiting to see if Arab League foreign ministers will let him take that step." Earlier this week, I noted that PA President Abbas was in the process of deciding whether to engage in "proximity talks"...
Frankly, I do not think that Barack Obama ever really believed that an accommodation with Iran over its nuclear designs was possible. What follows is that he prevaricated about this promising turn in diplomacy and that one, all the while knowing he was going straight down a dead-end street. And going down that street in a quite cavalier fashion so as to keep his critics at bay. Some Americans were even persuaded by the seemingly confident president that he must have something up his sleeve. After all, we d like to have faith in his strategic savvy, especially when a Hitlerian maniac has appeared on the world scene and appeared, as it were, with nukes. Alas, that confidence was a bad attribution.
The Anti-Defamation League has taken issue with comments from President Barack Obama that the ADL says reflect a "significant shift" in U.S. policy toward Israel and the peace process.
The Jerusalem Post reports that President Obama's envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, is set to leave Israel without having launched "proximity talks" between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority. Mitchell is said to have "arrived in Israel on Thursday amid high hopes of a breakthrough" with respect to proximity talks. But PA president Mahmoud Abbas has taken the position that "there will be no resumption of the talks until the settlement construction stops, not only in the West Bank but also in east Jerusalem." And Benjamin Netanyahu has made it clear that an end to construction in the Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem is a "non-starter."
As I noted last night, President Obama's envoy to the Middle East has wrapped up his latest diplomatic mission without getting the Palestinians to agree even to indirect peace talks with Israel. The problem for Mitchell is that the parties are at an impasse -- the PA says it won't talk, even indirectly, unless Israel agrees not to build in East Jerusalem, while Israel says the idea of not building in the Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem is a non-starter.
Last week we wrote about both Ronald Lauder's open letter to President Obama and Elie Wiesel's open letter to an unnamed addressee. Both letters took issue with President Obama's diplomatic assault on Israel. The Obama administration got the letters but didn't appreciate the message. Ron Radosh summarizes the letters and takes note of the Obama administration's response, via Haaretz: "'All these advertisements are not a wise move,' one senior American official told Haaretz." Radosh comments: Am I incorrect to think that this little item, buried at the end of a story in the Israeli paper Haaretz, is more than unusual? American citizens, a category that include both Lauder and Wiesel, have the right to speak out, and to exercise their First Amendment rights to disagree with administration policy, and even to spend their own money to advertise their views. What right does any unnamed official - one must ask whom they are - have to publicly chastise them and release a statement to that effect in Israel and to the world press? In a matter of hours, the Haaretz story spread all over the world on the internet. We must ask what this says about the Obama administration, which seems to find any criticism extremely threatening. In acting to stifle those with the courage to take them on, the Obama team demeans itself, and again shows how it is seeking to tilt our traditional Middle East policy in a new direction. Radosh describes the response as "acting to stifle" criticism. I doubt that the vague threat voiced by an anonymous official qualifies as action, but it is distasteful nonetheless. Last week we wrote about both Ronald Lauder's open letter to President Obama and Elie Wiesel's open letter to an unnamed...
Aaron David Miller was a devout believer in and diplomatic practitioner of the so-called Israel-Palestinian "peace process" promoted by the United States for lo, these many years. In a timely personal essay, Miller now renounces "The false religion of Mideast peace." Miller gets rolling in these three paragraphs: Like all religions, the peace process has developed a dogmatic creed, with immutable first principles. Over the last two decades, I wrote them hundreds of times to my bosses in the upper echelons of the State Department and the White House; they were a catechism we all could recite by heart. First, pursuit of a comprehensive peace was a core, if not the core, U.S. interest in the region, and achieving it offered the only sure way to protect U.S. interests; second, peace could be achieved, but only through a serious negotiating process based on trading land for peace; and third, only America could help the Arabs and Israelis bring that peace to fruition. As befitting a religious doctrine, there was little nuance. And while not everyone became a convert (Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush willfully pursued other Middle East priorities, though each would succumb at one point, if only with initiatives that reflected, to their critics, varying degrees of too little, too late), the exceptions have mostly proved the rule. The iron triangle that drove Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and now Barack Obama to accord the Arab-Israeli issue such high priority has turned out to be both durable and bipartisan. Embraced by the high priests of the national security temple, including State Department veterans like myself, intelligence analysts, and most U.S. foreign-policy mandarins outside government, these tenets endured and prospered even while the realities on which they were based had begun to change. If this wasn't the
Israel must eventually give Palestinians their independence, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said in an interview. "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.
The Obama administration's attacks on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shouldn't obscure the fact that Netanyahu's government has taken three significant steps in an effort to improve relations with the Palestinians. First, Netanyahu publicly endorsed Palestinian statehood. Second, Israel agreed to a10-month freeze on new Jewish construction in the West Bank. Third, Israel took a series of measures to improve the economy of the West Bank. These included removing roadblocks and checkpoints, extending the opening hours and improving efficiency at the Jordan crossing points, and easing the transfer of goods to the Palestinian areas via Israel. In addition, the government has encouraged Israeli companies and international firms to do business in the territories. According to Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, these measures have helped produce a growth rate in the West Bank of more than 10 percent over the past 12 months. Unfortunately, Israel has received no positive gestures from the Palestinians in return. To the contrary, as Steinitz points out, even as Israel encourages countries to do business in the West Bark, the Palestinians are urging the same countries to boycott the Israeli economy. And, of course, the Palestinians have refused to resume "peace" talks. Accordingly, Steinitz proposes that Israel cancel the 10-month freeze on new Jewish construction in the West Bank if the Palestinian Authority does not agree to resume peace negotiations within a month or two. The idea is a sensible one. It would put the ball in the Palestinian court, where it belongs after Israel has made the series of concessions/gestures described above. And it would force Obama, if he is actually interested in peace talks as opposed to hammering Israel, to devote some serious attention to the Palestinian side of the equation. Finally, it would demonstrate to the Palestinians that their strategy of responding to I
The New York Times has a front page story about the "far-reaching shift" under the Obama adminisration in how the White House "views the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and how aggressively it might push for a peace agreement." When Mr. Obama declared that resolving the long-running Middle East dispute was a "vital national security interest of the United States," he was highlighting a change that has resulted from a lengthy debate among his top officials over how best to balance support for Israel against other American interests. This shift, described by administration officials who did not want to be quoted by name when discussing internal discussions, is driving the White House's urgency to help broker a Middle East peace deal. It increases the likelihood that Mr. Obama, frustrated by the inability of the Israelis and the Palestinians to come to terms, will offer his own proposed parameters for an eventual Palestinian state. Mr. Obama said conflicts like the one in the Middle East ended up "costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasure" -- drawing an explicit link between the Israeli-Palestinian strife and the safety of American soldiers as they battle Islamic extremism and terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Obama's claim that the absence of a settlement in the Middle East results in Americans being killed in combat is just a pretext for doing what Obama wants to do for ideological and perhaps psychological reasons -- help the Palestinians obtain a state. Those who take up arms against our troops in Afghanistan (or to a very limited degree now in Iraq) do so to advance their interests (secular or religious) in the power struggle that's occurring in their country. Neither Obama, Gen. Petraeus (who has flirted with Obama's pet theory), nor anyone else has presented evidence that Americans are being killed in Afghanistan or I
We wrote about the disruption of Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren's planned talk at the University of California Irvine this past February here and here. In both posts we noted the obvious central role played by UCI's Muslim Student Union in orchestrating the disruption that prevented Ambassador Oren from speaking on campus. Our friends at Solomonia wonder whether we ca we still identify the UCI perpetrator as the Muslim Student Union in light of the rules governing Obamaspeak. Solomonia raises the question as it returns to the scene of the UCI crime, pointing to the Investigative Project on Terrorism's revelation of the goods that blow the lid off the Muslim Student Union plot to silence Israel's ambassador. Now what?
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has decided not to attend next week's Nuclear Security Summit in Washington. He will send Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor instead. Netanyahu reportedly decided not to come to Washington because U.S. sources informed Israel that a group of participating Arab countries led by Turkey and Egypt plan to use the summit to demand that Israel sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and allow its nuclear capabilities to be placed under international inspection. Previously, the Obama administration had assured Netanyahu that it would not let this issue take over the conference, the focus of which is supposed to be on keeping nuclear capabilities out of the hands of terrorists. But at this point, Netanyahu has no reason to credit any assurances from the Obama administration.
One thing you can say for Barack Obama, he knows who his enemies are: Great Britain, Israel, the newly free East European countries, Honduras, Colombia. America's friends in general. Republicans, of course, above all. Thus, in Prague to celebrate the execution of a nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia, Obama explained the treaty as a victory over his bitterest enemy, George W. Bush: I also came to office committed to "resetting" relations between the United States and Russia, and I know that President Medvedev shared that commitment. As he said at our first meeting in London, our relationship had started to drift, making it difficult to cooperate on issues of common interest to our people. And when the United States and Russia are not able to work together on big issues, it's not good for either of our nations, nor is it good for the world. Together, we've stopped that drift, and proven the benefits of cooperation. So the Russians have always been reasonable, and once Bush was out of the picture, the "drift" stopped. Of course, the "drift" consisted mostly of the fact America's security interests coincided with Europe's, so that we agreed with several European nations to install missile defense systems on their soil. These systems were aimed at Iran, not Russia, but Putin didn't like them anyway, since he and his constituents, Russia's oligarchs and gangsters, want to dominate Eastern Europe. Hence the "drift." Thanks to Obama, the "drift" is over, and America no longer represents a serious obstacle to Russia's expansionist impulses. President Medvedev made the connection explicit: We have appreciated the steps by the current U.S. administration in terms of the decisions in the area of anti-missile defense of the present administration, and this has led to progress. Right. Medvedev held out the hope of a future, world-wide anti-missile system: We offered to the United States that we help th
Israel is an American ally and therefore subject to the same shabby treatment accorded other prominent American allies by the Obama administration. But there is something distinctive about the shabby treatment accorded Israel by Obama. I offer six related hypotheses in the spirit of inquiry. First, Obama doesn't like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Among other things, Obama would prefer to deal with another Israeli leader who would be more pliable on issues of Israeli national security. He feels free to treat Netanyahu with extraordinary hostility. Second, Obama -- how shall we say it? -- also really doesn't like Israel very much. He conceives of it as a Western outpost superimposed over a native Arab population to right a historical wrong. He does not acknowledge the deep historical roots of the Jewish people in the land of Israel. He seems to buy the Arab narrative regarding Israel. Third, Obama simply doesn't assent to the strategic interest of the United States in Israel. He's not particularly big on the defense of the United States to begin with. Fourth, Obama conceives of Israel as a strategic detriment to the United States. Unlike most of the other American allies toward which Obama is hostile, in Obama's eyes, Israel is an inconvenient ally. It is an impediment to his grand vision of a post-American world. Fifth, Obama thinks that he could befriend the Arab/Muslim world if only a Palestinian state were to be created. Of course, he also needs to wean Americans from the perception that Islam is associated with jihadi terrorism, but that too would be easier, in his view, if the problem of the Palestinian Arabs were resolved. Obama means to oversee the creation of a Palestinian state come hell or high water. Sixth, Obama thinks both extraordinarily highly of himself and extraordinarily poorly of those who beg to differ with him. He conceives of himself as a world-historic figure. While others may be too benighted to see their own interest and act
Max Boot is a good historian. On Islam, I often disagree with him, finding in his work the wishful thinking common among Islamic Democracy Project enthusiasts. Still, he is thoughtful and civil, so one always expects to learn something from reading him. It was therefore jarring to read his smug attempt to drum Diana West out of the conservative movement.
Could Barack Obama be the American president who makes history by settling the Palestinian/Israel conflict once and for all? He and his closest advisers seem to think so. And why not? The received wisdom is that the outlines of a settlement have long been apparent: a two-state solution similar to what then-Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak offered then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in 2000 and what then-Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert offered Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in 2008
The Obama administration's policy of sanctions to prevent Iran from completing its nuclear weapons program is lapsing into farce. Yesterday's Wall Street Journal reported that the Obama administration is still struggling to win China's pivotal backing for a new round of United Nations sanctions against Iran and is increasingly worried about gaining the support of some other members of the U.N. Security Council including Brazil, Turkey and Lebanon. According to the Washington Post, the administration is now pushing to carve out an exemption for China and other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council from legislation pending in the Senate and the House that would tighten sanctions on companies doing business in Iran. Other than that, the administration's purported push for sanctions is proceeding swimmingly. Given the farcical course of the administration's push for sanctions, such as it is, the administration is concerned about keeping Israel on board with its plans and interested in shoving Prime Minister Netanyahu to the side. It is accordingly dispatching Joe Biden to Israel for a three-day visit next week. In his press conference in Jerusalem this past Monday, John Kerry explained the purpose of his and other related visits. "...I am here and other people were here and Vice President Biden is coming shortly... to make sure we are all on the same page and that we are all clear about [Iran]." Caroline Glick devotes her column today to the subject of Biden's upcoming visit. Glick notes that during his trip Biden will give what is being billed as a major policy speech at Tel Aviv University. She also gives four good reasons why Biden's mission is a lost cause. The fact that Joe Biden is a pompou
Israel is likely to expand its operations in the Gaza Strip within the next few days, according to the Jerusalem Post. The IDF apparently has dropped leaflets throughout Gaza warning residents of the expanded operations. The expansion of operations could take either of two forms. The IDF might move deeper into Gaza City or it might push into Southern Gaza. Thereafter, Israel would have to decide whether to attempt fully to reoccupy Gaza and to topple Hamas. In the meantime, an expansion of operations certainly makes sense. Otherwise, Israeli forces will become static targets. As one officer put it, "the troops cannot just stand and wait; they always need to be on the move." And, as always, Israel must take into account that a cease fire may be around the corner. Speaking of static targets, IDF forces reportedly killed killed Amir Mansi, a senior member of Hamas's military wing and commander of its rocket division in Gaza City. Mansi, who had close ties to Hezbollah, was killed while attempting to fire mortars at IDF forces in Northern Gaza. The IDF considers it a good sign that a senior operator like Mansi was personally involved in firing mortars. According to one officer, entire Hamas companies have been wiped out, and some Hamas fighters have gone AWOL or fled the fighting, leaving Mansi to "fire rockets on his own." This may be reading too much into Mansi's demise. Nonetheless, it seems clear that the attack on Gaza is going much better than the 2006 war in South Lebanon, and that Hamas isn't acquitting itself nearly as well as Hezbollah did.