March 30, 2009

Senator Arlen Specter Snuffs Card-Check

(Card check = Union attempt to ban worker’s right to secret ballots)

Earlier this week, Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) announced that he would join 40 other Republican Senators in voting to block Senate action on the extremely controversial "Employee Free Choice Act" (EFCA), bill labor unions had described as their highest priority and spent millions to promote.

The bill is often referred to as "card-check," a short-hand for a provision that would enable unions to acquire collective bargaining authority over a workplace without a secret ballot election if a majority of the workers there could be prevailed upon to sign a card indicating their preference for unionization.

Equally controversial is the provision in EFCA to make labor-management disputes subject to binding arbitration by government bureaucrats if the parties cannot come to terms. Business advocates have warned that either one of these two EFCA provisions would have dire consequences for jobs and economic growth.

While Specter's decision would appear to seal EFCA's fate for the remainder of the 111th Congress, foes of the measure warn that Democrat leaders may try to split or tweak it. Most Jewish organizations have been silent on this dangerous and dishonestly named bill -- and a few have even come out in support of it. (So, what else is new? Jsk)

The Republican Jewish Committee (RJC) is strongly opposed and will remain vocal and vigilant against efforts to pass EFCA and against its core components: the abolition of secret-ballot elections and binding arbitration. We appreciate Senator Specter's good decision to thwart this ill-advised measure.

Posted by Jerome S. Kaufman at 07:33 PM | Comments (0)

March 28, 2009

In all due respect - The Nonsense of Kennedy Camelot

Camelost

Redacted from a review by:

PHILIP TERZIAN

The Weekly Standard, March 30, 2009

It is perhaps fitting that as metropolitan newspapers fade from the scene, the Boston Globe should remind us why this is happening by producing not one but two hagiographies of Edward Kennedy. The 77-sear-old Kennedy is mortally ill, and certainly entitled to the victory lap he is taking in the political culture. However, these two portentous volumes—the dimensions of the second, Ted Kennedy: Scenes from an Epic Life, are ideal coffee table fixtures and tell us considerably more about the Globe than about Senator Kennedy.

First, there is the “last lion” business. Kennedy has long since grown accustomed to being referred to in the press as the “liberal lion” of the Senate—fair enough. But, now that his days in office are numbered, the cliché machine has anointed him the ‘last lion,” the last of a vanishing breed, the last giant to stalk the corridors of the Senate, we shall not see his like again, and so on. Oh, please. The last time this phrase was employed in a book title, by the late William Manchester, the subject was Winston Churchill. Surely, the Globe isn’t drawing a comparison?

Moreover, since the dawn of the republic, the Senate has been routinely populated with “last lions.” A litany of whom—Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, John C Calhoun, John Sherman, Robert La Follette, Henry Cabot Lodge, George Norris, Richard Russell, Hubert Humphrey, et al—left a far more significant mark on the politics of their times than Edward Kennedy. In statesmanship, as in life, there is a qualitative difference between longevity and distinction. And Edward Kennedy’s primary distinction—apart from his ex officio fame as a Kennedy—has been his election, and subsequent multiple re-elections, by the voters of Massachusetts.

Then there is the fundamental dishonesty of the Globe’s approach. Ted Kennedy is what used to be called a lip-reader’s book—lots of pictures and informative captions, separated by easy-to-read blocks of anodyne text— and certainly slick by the standards of the trade. But, Last Lion purports to be a serious account of Kennedy’s career, and his impact on American history.

This would have been easier to accomplish if the Globe writers had undertaken an objective assessment of their subject, but that is not the intent here. The point of Last Lion is to transform Kennedy’s undistinguished tenure in the Senate, and his thwarted ambition in national politics, into a kind of virtual triumph. To be sure, to pull it off would require the narrative skills of a gymnast—to twist the facts to shape the thesis—and the Globe writers are only newspapermen.

Edward Kennedy was the youngest of the nine children of Joseph and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, and lost in the family shuffle below the radar of his father’s maniacal ambition. He was famously expelled from Harvard for hiring a substitute to take a Spanish exam but, unlike his older brothers, he held his own on the football team. In 1962, having barely reached the constitutional age to serve, he was elected to his brother John’s Senate seat, which had been kept warm during the intervening two years by a faithful family retainer. In the general election he defeated the estimable George Lodge, a victor for the Irish mafia over Brahmin Boston; but it was in the bitter Democratic primary that his rival, Edward McCormack, pronounced the words that would haunt Kennedy ever afterwards: “If your name were Edward Moore instead of Edward Moore Kennedy, your candidacy would be a farce.”

The great fulcrum of Kennedy’s career, of course, is Chappaquiddick. Before 1969, he was a plausible Democratic aspirant for the presidency, and was climbing the greasy pole of Senate influence. After 1969, he was demoted in the Senate hierarchy by, of all people, Robert Byrd; and his 1980 campaign against a sitting Democratic president remains a classic in the annals of political egotism and self-destruction.

Here is where the Globe’s ingenuity is put to the test. Instead of recognizing that Kennedy’s political future perished with Mary Jo Kopechne, and that’s that, Last Lion argues that the death of his presidential ambitions “liberated” Kennedy to dominate the Senate—and by inference, his times.

This is complete nonsense. Kennedy’s rear-guard warfare against a resurgent conservatism in the 1980s and ‘90s—most notably his personal assault on Judge Robert Bork—was purely reactionary. There is no major legislation, certainly nothing resembling a political philosophy, associated with Kennedy’s name. In addition, for all his passion in repeating Theodore Sorensen’s sonorous prose, his most famous pronouncement is his incoherent response to Roger Mudd’s innocuous question, “Why do you want to be president?”

Philip Terzian is the literary editor of THE WEEKLY STANDARD.

Posted by Jerome S. Kaufman at 09:25 PM | Comments (0)

March 26, 2009

The Prophet of the New Russian Empire

(A few tell-tale paragraphs from a 26 page article by Yigal Liverant)

AZURE, Winter 2009

...Since Putin has replaced Yeltsin as president, Moscow has abandoned the desire to integrate with the West, and adopted an unambiguously hawkish position. Between 2000 and 2007, Russia’s security budget has grown more than fourfold. Plans are now in place for a comprehensive modernization of the military at a total cost of five trillion rubles, which will include the acquisition of intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers. All the while, Russia is doing its best to intimidate its pro-Western neighbors, and has proven the seriousness of its intentions by invading Georgia.

Its declarations concerning the Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic states are even more aggressive than its old Cold War rhetoric. Kremlin spokesmen do not hesitate to raise the possibility of nuclear war in order to alert the arrogant West that Judgment Day, which appeared to have been delayed with the fall of the communist bloc, may still be right around the corner. Russian decisions to renounce the CFE treaty, which limits the deployment of armed forces in the area between the Atlantic Ocean and the Urals, and to re-institute long-range strategic bomber flights around the world, give the belligerent statements of its leaders a disturbing gravity.

It seems, in short, that Russia under Putinism has enthusiastically embraced the Eurasian vision. Putin himself publicly announced as much in an article he published toward the end of 2000, entitled “Russia Has Always Identified Itself as a Eurasian Country. Eurasian ideas—developed by Gumilev and his disciple Dugin—are essential to any understanding of Moscow’s intentions in the international arena. Russia’s hostility toward the United States, its efforts to increase its influence in Europe (and particularly in Germany), its ties with Iran, and its attempts to regain its standing in the Middle East all demonstrate a determined effort by policymakers in the Kremlin to create an anti-American alliance or an anti-Atlantic alliance, in which Russia will play the leading role.

The Russian collective memory is also being fundamentally revised in line with the Eurasian vision. After years of rejecting its Soviet past, Russia is now overwhelmed with nostalgia for communist imperialism. This is clearly evident in Putin’s public statements. In April 2005, he stated in his annual address to the Russian nation, “the collapse of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century. The course of action implied in Putin’s words has already achieved concrete expression in the realm of education.

New Russian history and social science textbooks teach an old-new historical narrative in which Stalin was a glorious leader. The wide-scale purges he conducted in the 1930s were necessary for “invigorating the rank.” Hardliner Leonid Brezhnev, general secretary from 1964 to 1982, ensured the Soviet Union’s stability and prosperity which was the “model of an ideal society in the eyes of millions around the world.” Gorbachev and Yeltsin brought destruction to the once-mighty superpower; and Putin, not surprisingly is responsible fur every advancement in Russian society since the year 2000.

Posted by Jerome S. Kaufman at 08:50 PM | Comments (0)

March 24, 2009

Another US newly-found Arab “friend” while staunch supporter, Israel, is sold down the river.

The New York Times, March 23, 2009

TRIPOLI, Libya — Forty years after he seized power in a bloodless coup d’etat, Col. Moammar Gadhafi, the Libyan leader once called the mad dog of the Middle East by President Reagan, has achieved the international status he always craved as chairman of the African Union.

Gadhafi’s selection last month to lead the 53-nation African Union coincided with his emergence as a welcomed figure in Western capitals, where heads of state are eager to tap Libya’s vast oil and gas reserves and to gain access to virgin Libyan markets.

But, Gadhafi remains the same eccentric, unpredictable revolutionary as always. He has used his new status to promote his call for a United States of Africa, with one passport, one military and one currency. He has blamed Israel for the conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan,

A malicious, calculated lie that deflects blame from the Arab forces that have taken over the Sudanese government to wage genocide against the non-Muslim and non-Arab Muslims that live in southern Sudan) jsk

See: Israel Commentary Archives, November 24, 2007

...defended Somali pirates for fighting “greedy Western nations” and declared that multiparty democracy was not right for the people of Africa.

At one time, Gadhafi, who was born in 1942, tried to position himself as the next Pan-Arab leader. However, he was rejected, at times mocked for his eccentric style and pronouncements. His country was isolated for decades because he sent his agents to kill civilians, including in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie Scotland in 1988. Now in Africa, he has found traction. African heads of state view him suspiciously, and his One Africa as unworkable But he is embraced for his growing status in the West, the lack of credible alternatives across the continent and his money.
Many stories are told in Tripoli of African leaders visiting Gadhafi and leaving with suitcases full of cash that can’t be confirmed but that have become conventional wisdom.

While Libya’s strongman is enjoying his burnished image, it has come at a cost to his nation of 5.5 million people and to the 2 million Africans who have flocked to Libya believing that they would find warm receptions good jobs and, perhaps, an easy path to Europe. Instead, they found a hostile environment. “They call us animals and slaves,” said Paul Oknonghou, a Nigerian who lives with about a dozen other Nigerians in a house under construction that lacks running water a bathroom or a kitchen. He said he and his friends considered themselves lucky that they did not have to sleep on the streets.

That hostile reality contrasts sharply with the image that Gadhafi likes to portray. His capital city is filled with billboards showing Libya as the one bright spot on the continent. His Africa agenda helps empower him in other ways, too. Diplomats here said it gave him leverage in keeping African and European leaders listening. If Libya sent all the migrants home, they would become a burden to poorer African nations, which would have to absorb them while losing out on the remittances they send home. In addition, diplomats here said, Libya has made it plain to European countries, especially Italy that if Libya chose to look the other way, most of those immigrants would head for European shores.

Gadhafi will serve only a one-year term as chairman of the African Union, but his quest to use Africa as a stepping stone to greater world influence and credibility is likely to continue well past that. Last August, 200 kings and traditional African leaders traveled to Libya and anointed him with a more permanent moniker. They crowned him king of kings.


Posted by Jerome S. Kaufman at 04:33 PM | Comments (0)

March 22, 2009

$9 Trillion, 300 billion Ten-year Deficit in Obama Economy Plan

By Andrew Taylor

Associated Press, March 21, 2009

President Obama’s budget would produce $9.3 trillion in deficits over the next decade, more than four times the deficits of George W Bush’s presidency congressional auditors said Friday. The new Congressional Budget Office figures offered a far more dire outlook for Obama’s budget than the new administration predicted just last month — a deficit $2.3 trillion worse.

During his White House run, Obama assailed the economic policies of his Republican predecessor. But the eye-popping deficit number threaten to swamp his ambitious agenda of overhauling health care, exploring new energy sources and enacting scores of domestic programs. The dismal figures, if they prove accurate, raise the prospect that Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress may have to consider raising taxies once the recession ends or pare back the president’s agenda.

According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office’s calculation,
Obama’s budget would generate deficits avenging almost $1 trillion a year from 2010 to 2019. The report says the deficit under Obama% policies would never go below 4 percent of the size of the economy - figures that economists agree are unsustainable. By the end of the decade, the deficit would exceed 4 percent of the gross domestic product, a dangerously high level.

White House budget chief Peter Orszag said the Congressional Budget Officers long-range economic projections are more pessimistic than those of the White House, private economists and the Federal Reserve He said he remained confident that Obama’s budget, if enacted, would produce smaller deficits.

Even so, Orszag acknowledged that if the projections prove accurate, Obama’s budget would produce deficits that could not be sustained. “I think deficits of 5 percent (of GDP) are unsupportable,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’sEonomy. com. “It will lead to higher interest rates to the point where it will force policymakers to make changes.”

Republicans immediately piled on. “This report should serve as the wake-up call this administration needs.” said House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio. “We simply cannot continue to mortgage our children and grandchildren’s future to pay for bigger and more costly government.”

Obama insisted Friday that his agenda is still on track. “What we will not cut are investments that will lead to real growth and prosperity over the long term,” Obama said. “That’s why our budget makes a historic commitment to comprehensive health care reform. That’s why it enhances America’s competitiveness by reducing our dependence on foreign oil and building a clean energy economy.”

Obama’s $3.6 trillion budget for the 2010 fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 contains programs to overhaul the health care system and initiate new “cap-and-trade” rules to combat global warming. Both initiatives involve raising federal revenues sharply but those dollars would not be used to defray the burgeoning deficit. Instead, they would help pay for Obama’s health plan and implement a $400 tax credit for most workers and $800 for couples.

Obama’s budget promises to cut the deficit to $533 billion in five years. The Congressional Budget Office says the red ink for that year will total $672 billion.Most disturbing to Obama’s allies such as Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., are the longer-term projections, which climb back above $1 trillion by the end of the next decade and approach 6 percent of GDP by 2019.

Among about a dozen major changes to Obama’s budget, Conrad is to curb a 9 percent increase for non-defense appropriations to show short-term progress. The long-term deficit and debt crisis will have to be addressed by a bipartisan commission, Conrad said. “The budget that I’ll submit will cut the deficit by more than two-thirds over these first five years,” he said. “These imbalances are just absolutely unsustainable.”

The worsening economy is responsible for the even deeper fiscal mess inherited by Obama. As an illustration, the Congressional Budget Office says the deficit for the current budget year, which began Oct. 1, will top $1.8 trillion, $93 billion more than foreseen by the White House. That would equal 13 percent of the GDP a level not seen since World War II.

Posted by Jerome S. Kaufman at 08:52 PM | Comments (0)

March 20, 2009

“What Obama is actually very good at is campaigning.”

By Fred Barnes, Executive Editor

The Weekly Standard
March 9, 2009

When Barack Obama met with TV anchors at a White House lunch last week, he assured them he likes being president. “And it turns out I’m very good at it,” he added. Well, not exactly. What Obama is actually very good at is campaigning. He did it for two years as a presidential candidate, and it’s pretty much what he’s been doing in the six weeks since he was sworn in.

Moreover, it’s working. (At least it was when this was written March 9 – not anymore. Jsk) Despite the bad economy he inherited, the political circumstances for Obama are favorable. He’s popular, as new presidents usually are. He talks about “hard choices” but hasn’t made any. With large Democratic majorities in Congress, he’s free of worry about rebellion on Capitol Hill. Despite glitches in picking his cabinet, his cool demeanor is unshaken. He governs campaign-style, largely with speeches and announcements. No wonder he enjoys being president. Accountability comes later.

But, there’s a problem. Candidates don’t have to deal with reality. They talk about the wonderful things they can accomplish as if advocating them is the same as achieving them. They live in a world of political make-believe in which everything from reconciling conflicting interests to paying for costly programs is easy.

That’s the world Obama continues to inhabit. Like a candidate, he’s a quick-change artist, constantly switching roles. Twice last week, he insisted he doesn’t favor “big government.” Then he proposed a budget that would vastly expand the size and reach of the federal government, add $600 billion to the deficit, and produce a one-year shortfall of $1.2 trillion (or more). This prompted House Republican leader John Boehner to proclaim, quite accurately, that the “Era of big government is back.”

That wasn’t all. For Obama, a spending spree and fiscal prudence are practically synonymous. He conducted a “fiscal responsibility summit” a few days after pushing a $1 trillion “stimulus” bill through Congress, not a cent of it offset by cuts in spending programs. Following the summit, Obama declared a “consensus” was emerging between Democrats and Republicans on some issues—his issues—and could be forged on others. He was dreaming.

Even the stimulus, which only three Republicans in Congress voted for, represented more agreement than not in Obama’s view. “If you look at the differences, they amounted to maybe 10, maybe 15 percent of the total package,” Obama said. No, the differences amounted to maybe 75 percent. Glossing over differences is a familiar tack. Candidates do it.

Next came Obama’s nationally televised speech to Congress. It was a campaign speech posing as a presidential address to the nation. In fact, it sounded like a reprise of speeches Obama gave during the campaign. The purpose was not to explain, defend or justify new domestic programs but simply to proclaim them necessary. This Obama did brilliantly. But, again more like a candidate than a president, he said things he couldn’t possibly believe and indulged in rhetorical tricks. “Nobody messes with Joe.” Obama said, referring to Vice President Biden, who will “lead a tough, unprecedented oversight effort” to keep the stimulus on track. In truth, nobody pays any attention to Joe, as Obama surely knows.

He expressed pride in his opposition to earmarks, cleverly steering around his swallowing of 8,500 of them in a spending bill left over from last year. The stimulus was “free of earmarks,” he said, “and I want to pass a budget next year” without them. The 2008 bill went unmentioned. Obama specializes in knocking down straw men. “I reject the view that says our problems will simply take care of themselves,” he said, implying that’s the view of Republicans. It’s the view of almost no one.

Candidates don’t routinely offer budgets, at least not ones as detailed as the official White House spending plan unveiled by Obama last week. His $3.6 trillion budget, Obama said, provides “an honest accounting” and tells, “The whole truth ... about what costs are being racked up. So far so good. The most striking thing about Obama’s budget is its new definition of “savings” and its use of dubious assumptions. In normal parlance, savings are the opposite of spending. Savings are what you get when you cut spending. Not to Obama, however. He claims $2 trillion in savings in his l0-year budget blueprint, but they mostly are tax increases or money collected from companies in Obama’s cap-and-trade program to curb carbon pollution. Actual cuts are microscopic.


The president has described the economy as teetering on the edge of catastrophe, but you’d never know it from the assumptions about economic growth in the budget. It assumes the economy will grow at 13.2 percent clip in 2010, 4 percent in 2011, and 4.6 percent in 2012—considerably higher than the assumptions of private forecasters. It will generate a surge in tax revenues. That’s wildly optimistic. So, don’t hold your breath.

Okay, it’s true that presidents often present rosy scenarios. However, economic recovery programs like Obama’s, with heavy spending and borrowing plus tax hikes on the investing class, have never caused such a sudden explosion of growth. Obama’s budget has one attribute of a candidate’s makeshift budget: Its author is winging it. Obama wants to exploit economic fears to enact his entire, massive domestic agenda this year. That was the point of his speech to Congress and the country. He’s gotten part of it—the stimulus. Relying on his skill as campaigner in chief, not commander in chief, may get him the rest.

Financial markets have already registered a vote of no confidence in Obama’s economic plan. However, the political community and the public are reserving judgment. At some point, reality will intrude, followed by accountability. But, not yet.

Posted by Jerome S. Kaufman at 06:41 PM | Comments (0)

The Right won the election despite Netanyahu

By Moshe Feiglin

The Jewish Press, March 13, 2008

The Right won the elections, says Moshe Feiglin, “but Netanyahu and the Likud lost.” In Feiglin’s opinion, there is one person responsible for the “unimpressive” election results - Binyamin Netanyahu. “If I would have been at the head of the Likud, we would have won without a doubt, “claims the chief intra-party opposition to Netanyahu.

Feiglin has good reason to be upset with Netanyahu. Bibi pulled all the tricks — some even say dirty tricks — to force Feiglin off the Likud roster. The Likud members elected Feiglin to the 20th slot but he was forced down to the 36th slot on the Likud roster by Ofir Okunis, Netanyahu’s ex-adviser. But, Feiglin is Feiglin. He doesn’t give up.

Interviewer: As you see it, the Right won despite Binyamin Netanyahu?
Moshe Feiglin: I think that that is a good description. Yes.

Interviewer: What were Netanyahu’s mistakes?
Feiglin: I am not interested in criticizing Bibi. He is not the issue. Netanyahu represents a larger problem; in fact, the Right has always had a problem. Even when it wins the elections, the Left remains in control. That is because the Right has no real alternative to the agenda of the Left. In the recent elections, the right wing grew, but its ruling party lost. Netanyahu has a major role in this defeat. Everyone who follows politics in Israel knows that support for the Likud began to decline when Netanyahu began his campaign against me.

Interviewer: Why is Bibi fighting against you?
Feiglin: What we have seen in these elections is the attempt to create a political alternative to the Left. But, there is no real fundamental alternative — except for what I represent in the Likud.

Interviewer: What do you say about journalist Shalom Yerushalmi’s claim that Netanyahu purposely didn’t campaign hard so that the more rightist and Manhigut Yehudit candidates placed lower on the roster would not get into the Knesset?
Feiglin: Yerushalmi made front-page headlines with his scoop. His source was “Likud candidates for ministerial positions,” but Netanyahu himself said basically, the same thing. He was interviewed by Channel 10’s Lior Shlein the day before the elections, and he stated the following: “Give me 35 mandates. That will be just fine with me.”

Interviewer: Do you think that if you were at the helm of the Likud, the results would have been better?
Feiglin: I have no doubt. Even if a broom had been at the helm of the Likud, the results would have been better. This defeat is so resounding because Netanyahu’s battle against me did so much damage to the Likud. He has turned himself into the perennial loser — the Shimon Peres of the Likud.

Interviewer: Toward the end of the elections, Netanyahu signed an agreement with religious nationalist Effie Eitam. It looks like he realized that he must turn more to the Right, and not only to the Center.
Feiglin: It was a pathetic move — especially when made with Effie Eitam, who Netanyahu did not allow to run in the Likud primaries.

Interviewer: So Netanyahu didn’t really want the religious Zionists to join the Likud?
Feiglin: That’s how it looks. The public is not that stupid.

Interviewer: Did the Religious Zionist parties succeed in the elections?
Feiglin: If I were not in the Likud, I wouldn’t vote at all. There is no democracy in Israel, so its politics have no real significance. That is why the “sectoral parties” are irrelevant. The Israeli citizen has no real way to influence his fate. True, the politicians vie for his vote. He can choose between candidates, but he cannot choose between ideas. And, that is what is important. In other words, Israel’s democracy is actually a fiction. Currently, the only idea with substance developing within the political system is the Jewish Leadership agenda. This agenda can only develop in the Likud.

As far as I am concerned, it makes no difference if Netanyahu will manage to put together a rightist coalition or a national unity government. I am not involved. We are suffering from national paralysis. The Jewish majority that should be leading this country, according to Jewish values, has no leadership tool because, its ruling party lost the only way to stop the collapse is for the ruling party to establish a true alternative to the Left.

Posted by Jerome S. Kaufman at 06:20 AM | Comments (0)

March 18, 2009

Zalman Shoval, former Israeli Ambassador to US, responds to European Union threat

EU’s Solana: “Don’t drop two-state solution

By Tova Lazaroff

International.jpost.com, March 17, 2009

The European Union's foreign policy chief Javier Solana warned on Monday that the bloc may re-evaluate its ties with Israel. The warning came even as a top diplomatic adviser to Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu predicted Israel and the EU would continue to enjoy a good relationship.

Speaking to reporters in Brussels on Monday, Solana said the EU might re-consider its links with Israel if the country's incoming government wasn't committed to establishing a Palestinian state. The bloc "will be ready to do business as usual, normally, with a government in Israel that will continue talking for a two-state solution," Solana told reporters in Brussels before a meeting of EU foreign ministers. "If that's not the case, the situation will be different," Solana said.

On Sunday, in a conversation with reporters, he urged Netanyahu to craft a government which embraced the long-standing goal of a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinian territories. In an unusually harsh statement, Solana warned: "Let me say very clearly that the way the European Union will relate to an [Israeli] government that is not committed to a two-state solution will be very, very different."

However, in a conversation with The Jerusalem Post on Monday, Zalman Shoval, a former ambassador to the US and a top adviser to Netanyahu, said the new government has every intention of respecting its international obligations as long as they did not pose a security threat. "The European Union and this government are going to get along very well, given that most of the countries in Europe today are under leaderships who are basically friendly to Israel," said Shoval. "I do not foresee any major problems." Netanyahu, he said, intended to continue to actively pursue negotiations with the Palestinians. However, he added, "we are not saying a priori what the solution would be."

In his conversation with the Post, he shied away from the phrase "two-state solution" and favored instead words like "arrangement" or "international obligations." He preferred to speak of the Palestinian "entity" rather than state. "But we are definitely going to continue political talks," Shoval said. A "two-state solution should not be regarded as an ideology or a mantra, but as a formula which has to be judged according to its practical ability," said Shoval.

"We do hope that the European Union will regard any possible solution in a pragmatic way, without preconceived ideas," said Shoval. He added that he had every reason to believe that the new administration in the United States under President Barack Obama would do the same. No one, he said, wanted to revive the Annapolis process under which talks with the Palestinians were held during the last year. At the same time, "we are not saying that everything has to start from square one," said Shoval.

He noted Netanyahu has had a history of respecting past diplomatic initiatives and did not abandon Oslo when he was prime minister from 1996 to 1999. However, it was clear that the previous administration under former president George Bush did not make progress and that new ideas must be tried, said Shoval.

Even Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have said their efforts had failed, continued Shoval. "The achievements were zero, so why would we go blindly down the same track without adding additional ideas," he said. Netanyahu, he said, would be looking to propose new ideas on how to move the peace process forward, with a focus on improving the Palestinian's economic situation.

The solution to the Palestinian Israeli conflict, he said, could be based on
the US-backed "road map" initiated by Bush in 2002, which speaks of a Palestinian state. However, in considering that document, Shoval said Netanyahu's government would want to focus on elements that have yet to be tried. He added that the road map document he referenced was the one which was amended by Israel. Olmert's government erred, he said, by moving to the final stages of the road map process without insuring the initial ones were fulfilled. The issue of borders comes up only in the third stage, he added.

In spite of Shoval's optimistic statements about the continuation of the diplomatic process with the Palestinians, Arab leaders this week said they were deeply concerned by Netanyahu's choice of Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman as Foreign Minister. Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said the international community must not remain silent about the prospect of a far Right Israeli government with Lieberman as a top official. Lieberman has said Palestinian prisoners should be drowned in the Dead Sea, that Israeli-Arab lawmakers meeting with Palestinian militants should be executed and that the president of Egypt could "go to hell," said Malki.

"The international community has to take its responsibility and also to address this issue very seriously," Malki told a news conference after the talks at the EU. According to AFP, Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said he feared that the new government would have a negative impact on the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. "We have a negative, possibly damaging factor, which is the emergence of an extreme Right government in Israel," he told members of the European Parliament in Brussels. "If they would implement what they've been talking about over the last few years, we would all of us face dire difficulties and face the most extreme of situations," he said.

AP and Bloomberg contributed to this report.



Posted by Jerome S. Kaufman at 05:35 PM | Comments (0)

March 16, 2009

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton – Still heroes of Jewish Liberals? Probably.

Obama takes anti-Israel Tilt

By JOHN BOLTON
March 13, 2009

The Obama administration is increasingly fixed on resolving the "Arab-Israeli dispute," seeing it as the key to peace and stability in the Middle East. This is bad news for Israel - and for America. In its purest form, this theory holds that, once Israel and its neighbors come to terms, all other regional conflicts can be duly resolved: Iran's nuclear-weapons program, fanatical anti-Western terrorism, Islam's Sunni-Shiite schism, Arab-Persian ethnic tensions.

Some advocates believe substantively that the overwhelming bulk of other Middle Eastern grievances, wholly or partly, stem from Israel's founding and continued existence. Others see it in process terms - how to "sequence" dispute resolutions, so that Arab-Israeli progress facilitates progress elsewhere. Pursuing this talisman has long characterized many European leaders and their soul mates on the American left. The Mid East "peace process" is thus the ultimate self-licking ice cream cone - its mere existence being its basic justification. Now the Obama administration has made it US policy.

This is evidenced by two key developments: the appointment of former Sen. George Mitchell as special envoy for the region, and Secretary of State Hillary's Clinton's recent insistence on a "two-state solution" sooner rather than later. Naming Mitchell as a high-level, single-issue envoy - rather than keeping the portfolio under Secretary Clinton's personal control - separates Israel from the broader conduct of US diplomacy. Mitchell's role underlines both the issue's priority in the president's eyes and the implicit idea it can be solved in the foreseeable future.

Obama and Mitchell have every incentive to strike a Middle East deal - both to vindicate themselves and, in their minds, to create a basis for further "progress." However, there are few visible incentives for any particular substantive outcome. It is very troubling for Israel, since Mitchell's mission essentially replicates (unsuccessfully - jsk) in high-profile form exactly the approach the State Department has followed for decades. When appointed, Mitchell said confidently: "Conflicts are created, conducted and sustained by human beings. They can be ended by human beings." This is true, however, only if the conflict's substantive resolution is less important than the process point of "ending" it one way or another. Surrender, for example, is a guaranteed way to end conflict.

Here, Clinton's strident insistence on a "two-state solution" during her recent Mid East trip becomes important. She essentially argued predestination: the "inevitability" of moving toward two states is "inescapable," and "there is no time to waste." The political consequence is clear: Since the outcome is inevitable and time is short, there is no excuse for not making "progress." Delay is evidence of obstructionism and failure - something President Obama can't tolerate, for the sake of his policies and his political reputation.

In this very European view, failure on the Arab-Israeli front presages failure elsewhere. Accordingly, the Obama administration has created a negotiating dynamic that puts increasing pressure on Israel, Palestinians, Syria and others. Almost invariably, Israel is the loser - because Israel is the party most dependent on the United States, most subject to US pressure and most susceptible to the inevitable chorus of received wisdom from Western diplomats, media and the intelligentsia demanding concessions. When pressure must be applied to make compromises, it's always easier to pressure the more reasonable side.

How will diplomatic pressure work to change Hamas or Hezbollah, where even military force has so far failed? If anything, one can predict coming pressure on Israel to acknowledge the legitimacy of these two terrorist groups, and to negotiate with them as equals (albeit perhaps under some artful camouflage). The pattern is so common that its reappearance in the Mitchell-led negotiations is what is really "inevitable" and "inescapable."

Why would America subject a close ally to this dynamic, playing with the security of an unvarying supporter in world affairs? For America, Israel's intelligence-sharing, military cooperation and significant bilateral economic ties, among many others, are important national-security assets that should not lightly be put at risk.

The only understandable answer is that the Obama administration believes that Israel is as much or more of a problem as it is an ally - at least, until Israel's disagreements with its neighbors are resolved. (When exactly would that be? Jsk). Instead of seeing Israel as a national-security asset, the administration likely sees a relationship complicating its broader policy of diplomatic "outreach."

No one will say so publicly, but this is the root cause of Obama's "Arab-Israeli issues first" approach to the region. This approach is exactly backward. All the other regional problems would still exist even if Mahmoud Ahmadinejad got his fondest wish and Israel disappeared from the map. Iran's nuclear-weapons program; its role as the world's central banker for terrorism; the Sunni-Shiite conflict within Islam; Sunni terrorist groups like al Qaeda and other regional ethnic, national and political animosities would continue as threats and risks for decades to come.

Instead, the US focus should be on Iran and the manifold threats it poses to Israel, to Arab states friendly to Washington and to the United States itself - but that is not to be. President Obama argues that he will deal comprehensively with the entire region. Rhetoric is certainly his specialty, but in the Middle East, rhetoric only lasts so long. Performance is the real measure - and the administration's performance to date points in only one direction: pressuring Israel while wooing Iran. Others in the world - friend and foe alike - will draw their own conclusions.

Former UN Ambassador John Bolton is an American Enterprise Institute senior fellow.

Posted by Jerome S. Kaufman at 09:46 PM | Comments (0)

March 14, 2009

Hillel Halkin’s Baffling Review of “Waltz with Bashir"

By Jerome S. Kaufman

(Relative to Halkin's article in Commentary, March 2009)

No wonder “Waltz with Bashir” has won all those awards as best foreign film of 2008. It speaks unequivocally for the notoriously politically left wing media round the world, whose mission in life is to discredit Israel, its leaders and its armed forces. The film blames the entire massacre in the Sabra and Shatilla camps on the Israelis. Nary a word is mentioned as to Palestinian Arab culpability or the long history of the conflict prior to that incident. It brushes over the fact that Arafat deliberately left some of his armed forces hidden within the camps as a nucleus for later wars against Israel and its Christian and Muslim allies. It glosses over the fact that it was Christian militias (Falangists) exclusively, that eliminated PA forces from within the camps. It instead, relentless builds a propaganda case that the IDF and the Israeli government were complicit in the entire operation.

Unfortunately, the Falangists did carry the clean-up of Arafat’s men too far and civilians were killed. Is this something new in warfare? Menachem Begin described the history of the event perfectly but Hillel Halkin chooses to denigrate Begin’s observation that, “Christians murder Muslims and the world blames the Jews.” Is that not exactly what has happened? However, I don’t believe Begin anticipated that Israelis would make a film to also blame Israelis and assume their usual guilt mode – a bizarre unique trait of Jews and Israelis that defies rational explanation.

As to the film itself: It was completely animated and beyond grotesque in its portrayals - A bunch of cartoon characters with Hebrew words put in their mouths and tacked on as sub-titles for the Hebrew illiterate. The characters were made to say whatever the self-destructive ideology of the filmmakers wanted them to say. In addition, every hackneyed emotional film trick was employed - the beautiful young Arab girl at the train station weeping her boyfriend good-bye as he is taken prisoner by the Israelis: dead bodies, murdered and placed aimlessly in bizarre, grotesque positions: isolated children’s heads, hands and hair in every other contrived cartoon scene; the aimless killing of innocent dogs, innocent pure-bred Arabian horses. And, finally a band of babushked old women flaying their breasts over a grotesque display of dead bodies in a supposed news clip of questionable origin. And then, repeated ugly caricatures of the primary Israeli villains - Ariel Sharon and Menachem Begin - in damning conversational poses.

The film awards presented by the various august far left media organizations were no surprise. Shocking was Hillel Halkin’s own devotion to and acclamation of the film and the historical revisionism he presented. His opening paragraph, describing Israel’s war with Lebanon, is truly remarkable in its blaming Israel for a supposed pointless and unnecessary invasion of Lebanon in June 1982. Halkin speaks of a June 6, 1982 “collapse of a year-long truce between Israel and the PLO” in the passive voice as if the collapse had just broken out like a case of measles.

He speaks of a long truce that in fact, never really existed. He wrote as if Israel had made an agreement with some legitimate power instead of the world’s father of terrorism, Yasser Arafat, who had taken over all of southern Lebanon, set up an illegal operation against the wishes of the legitimate Lebanese government and used that area for constant harassment of the communities of Northern Israel, killing Israelis at random.

He then excuses Arafat and the PLO for attacking Israel as if it were simply a retaliation for an Israeli air strike on Beirut responding to an Arab attempt at assassinating an Israeli diplomat in London. He also excuses Arafat of the assassination attempt because it was supposedly carried out by some “splinter group” not under the benign Arafat’s command.

Very late in the review, after having extolled the virtues of this blatantly anti-Israel piece of ugly propaganda, Halkin admits the film was devoid of any factual material, devoid of background history and in fact, a bunch of imagery. Barely and belated noted in the review was the fact that Arafat and the PLO had previously set up a similar mini-state in Jordan attempting to eliminate King Hussein. The King, not having Israel’s reluctance to eliminate his enemies, began what the Palestinian Arabs call Black September, a massacre of Arafat’s forces in Jordan that somehow, the world and left wing media has chosen to ignore. There has been no “Waltz with King Hussein,” no misrepresenting what actually happened and no self-recriminations by the Jordanians.

In the film review, Halkin shares his own judgment as to the good that resulted from Israel’s invasion of Lebanon: “ The PLO was so weakened that it was forced within a few years to abandon the call for Israel’s destruction, endorse a two-state solution to the conflict and engage in the negotiations that led to the 1993 Oslo Agreement.”

Evidently, Halkin still believes the Oslo Agreement that has resulted in the loss of vital Israeli territory, empowered Israel’s mortal enemy, caused the killing and maiming of thousands of Israelis and raised the expectations of so-called Palestinian Arabs to a level that no rational Israeli government could accept, is a great plus. If that is indeed Halkin’s conclusion, it speaks volumes to his favorable review of this ugly anti-Israel propaganda film.

Jerome S. Kaufman
www.israel-commentary.org

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Posted by Jerome S. Kaufman at 09:14 PM | Comments (0)

March 12, 2009

As to the objectivity of reputed media giants...

BBC FIGHTS TO HIDE REPORT ON ANTI-ISRAEL BIAS

Week in Review, The Jewish Press, February 20, 2009
Compiled by Shmuel Ben Eliezer

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is fighting a court order that would force it to reveal an internal report on anti-Israel bias. The 20,000-word report is rumored to be concluded that the BBC’s coverage was biased against Israel - a conclusion that attorney Steven Sugar of London says is of public interest.

The media giant has reportedly spent 200,000 British pounds on the case. The legal battle was started by Sugar, who contends that the report must be made public under the Freedom of Information Act. The BBC argues that the document is protected under a clause exempting information held for journalistic purposes from the Freedom of Information Act. (Huh!) The case has teen through Britain’s Information Tribunal, High Court and Appeals Court, and will now return to the High Court.

Posted by Jerome S. Kaufman at 07:20 PM | Comments (0)

March 09, 2009

Why Ehud Barak as Netanyahu’s choice for Defense Minister or anything else?

By Jerome S. Kaufman

March 9, 2009

Mordechai Nissan, in the International Jerusalem Post June 4, 2004 wrote: “The May 23, 2000 withdrawal from Lebanon refuses to evaporate either militarily or politically. ...The decision by former PM Ehud Barak for the precipitous flight from southern Lebanon was not part of a coherent policy initiative. His claim that either the Lebanese government or the United Nations would assume security control of the south proved baseless. The broader and deeper ramifications for Israel are these:

We callously committed a moral crime in abandoning our friends and allies - Christian. Druse, and Shi’ite — serving in the South Lebanese Army.

The withdrawal enabled Syria’s sweeping occupation of Lebanon. Beirut, its government and parliament, press and television, army and secret services, is submerged under Damascus’s domination.

Creative and spirited Lebanon had served as the historic beating heart for modern Arab nationalism, the home for European enlightenment and arena for Francophone culture, but has now become the province of fundamentalist Islam.

‘Lebanon in Gaza’ is the troubling reality confronting Israel today. The withdrawal we have seen is not a prescription for peace but a catalyst for war. Until Southern Lebanon and Beirut are liberated from terror and fanaticism, and the exiles from the land of the Cedars return home to establish a government committed to democracy and peace, Israel’s May 2000 flight (orchestrated by Ehud Barak)_will continue to cast a dark shadow on Israeli lives.”

(Syria has now been forced, for the moment, to withdraw its troops from Lebanon but its domination over Lebanese politics remains, orchestrated by assassinations whenever deemed necessary.)

Recently adding to the commentary on Ehud Barak, Bret Stephens, former editor of the Jerusalem Post and now on the Editorial Board of the Wall Street Journal, reminds us of Barak’s infamous history of capitulation under Arafat and Bill Clinton. Stephens touched upon Barak in his brilliant article against possible Syrian rapprochement by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in the latest Commentary, March 2009.

He re-visits the Ehud Barak/Hafaz al-Assad/Bill Clinton negotiations following Ehud Barak’s defeat of Netanyahu in the 1999 Israeli elections with the overt assistance, by the way, of Clinton’s high wire political operatives exported from the United States.

“... For all of Barak’s eagerness to reach out to Syria, the Syrians were considerably less eager to reciprocate. Indeed, their first “overtures” to Barak consisted of a series of calculated snubs, beginning with the demand not only that Israel withdraw to the June 4 line artificially created prior to the 1967 Six Day War, but that it relinquish sovereignty over a portion of Lake Kinneret, the body of water also known as the Sea of Galilee. The lake, a critical component of Israel’s fresh-water supply, has always been legally recognized as sovereign Israeli territory and the demand is one no Israeli government could possibly concede.

... Nevertheless, Barak pressed ahead, despite growing skepticism about the wisdom of returning the Golan. Barak agreed to an offer in which Israel would relinquish the heights entirely, with only a narrow territorial buffer of about 500 meters to separate the Syrian border from the Sea of Galilee along its NE shore. Against the advice of his own generals, he decreed that Syrian military forces would not have to remain behind certain lines within Syria, as previous Israeli negotiating formulas demanded.

All Barak asked for was a tiny temporary presence of an Israeli monitoring team on Mount Hermon, along with some good-will gestures from Syria. This time, Assad decided not only to reject Barak’s proposal outright, but insult Bill Clinton, in his refusal, as well. Fortunately, Assad died a few months later, in June 2000 before Barak could give away any more Israel water or territory.”

How then is Ehud Barak the guy Netanyahu wants as defense minister or in his government in any way? As if on cue, ignoring the calumny of previous Syrian negotiations and demands, Caroline Glick just recently warned, that Netanyahu and the Americans are about to enter negotiations with Syria once again. Where can any such negotiations ever end but with Israel, demanded by the Syrians and the American State Department to give up more vital territory in order to facilitate the next Arab attempt at Israel’s annihilation.

How much more of their dedication to self-destruction can the Israelis survive?


Jerome S. Kaufman

Posted by Jerome S. Kaufman at 10:20 PM | Comments (0)

March 08, 2009

The Bare Basic Facts of the History of “Palestine.”

Why the “Occupation” is Still a Lie

By Louis Rene Beres

Professor of International Law, Department of Political Science, Purdue University

The Jewish Press, February 21, 2009

President Barack Obama has already placed the Middle East at the very top of his foreign policy agenda. There is nothing inherently wrong with this - quite the contrary. The problem, however, is that the new administration’s ambitious negotiations remain structured upon altogether erroneous assumptions. In this connection, the gravest continuing misrepresentation of all is that there are Arab lands under an Israeli “occupation.”

Today, as always, words matter. Over the years, a notably durable Arab patience in building “Palestine” upon whole mountains of Jewish corpses has drawn directly upon a prior linguistic victory. Yet, the still generally unchallenged language referring provocatively to an Israeli “occupation” always overlooks the pertinent and logically incontestable history of the West Rank (Judea/Samaria) and Gaza

Perhaps the most evident omission still concerns the precise and unwitting manner in which these “Territories” fell into Israel’s hands in the first place. Here it is simply and widely disregarded that occupation followed the multi-state Arab state aggression of 1967. Egypt Syria or Jordan, of course, never disguised this aggression.

A sovereign state of Palestine did not exist before 1967 or 1948. Nor, did UN Security Council Resolution 242 ever promise a state of Palestine. Contrary to popular understanding, a state of Palestine has never existed. Never. Even as a non-state legal entity Palestine ceased to exist m 1948 when Great Britain relinquished its League of Nations mandate. During the 1948-49 Israeli War of Independence (a war of survival fought because the entire Arab world had rejected the authoritative United Nations resolution creating a Jewish State), the West Bank and Gaza came under flagrantly illegal control of Jordan and Egypt, respectively. These Arab conquests did not put an end to an already-existing state or to an ongoing trust territory. What these aggressions did accomplish was the effective prevention, sui generis, (Being the only example of its kind; unique) of a state of Palestine.

Let us return to an earlier history. From the Biblical Period (ca 1350 BCE to 586 BCE) to the British Mandate (1918 - 1948), the land, named by the Romans after the ancient Philistines was controlled only by non-Palestinian elements. Significantly, however, a continuous chain of Jewish possession of the land was legally recognized after World War I at the San Remo Peace Conference of April 1920. There, a binding treaty was signed in which Great Britain was given mandatory authority over Palestine (the area had been ruled by the Ottoman Turks since 1516) to prepare it to become the ‘national home for the Jewish People. ‘Palestine’, according to the Treaty comprised territories encompassing what are now the Jordan and Israel, including the West Bank and Gaza.

Present day Israel comprises only 22 percent of Palestine as defined and ratified at the San Remo Peace Conference. In 1922, Great Britain unilaterally and without any lawful authority split off 78 percent of the lands promised to the Jews - all of Palestine east of the Jordan - and gave it to Abdullah, the non-Palestinian son of the Sharif of Mecca. Eastern-Palestine now took the name Transjordan, which it retained until April 1949, when it was renamed as Jordan. From the moment of its creation, Transjordan was closed to all Jewish migration and settlement - a clear betrayal of the British promise in the Balfour Declaration of 1917, and a patent contravention of its Mandatory obligations under international law.

On July 20, 1951, a Palestinian Arab assassinated King Abdullah for the latter’s hostility to Palestinian aspirations and concerns. Regarding these aspirations, Jordan’s ‘moderate” King Hussein - 19 years later, during September 1970 - brutally murdered thousands of defenseless Palestinians under his jurisdiction. In 1947, several years prior to Abdullah’s killing, the newly-formed United Nations, rather than designate the entire land west of the Jordan River as the long-promised Jewish national homeland, enacted a second partition. Curiously, because this second fission again gave complete advantage to Arab interests, Jewish leaders accepted the painful judgment.

As readers of The Jewish Press already know all too well, the Arab states did not. On May 15, 1948, exactly 24 hours after the State of Israel came into existence, Azzam Pasha, Secretary General of the Arab League, declared to a tiny new country founded upon the ashes of the Holocaust: “This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre.” This unambiguous declaration of genocide has been at the core of all subsequent Arab orientations toward Israel, including those of ‘moderate' Fatah. Even, by the strict legal standards of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Arab actions and attitudes toward the microscopic Jewish state in their midst, has remained patently devoted to the annhilation of Israel. For some reason, this persistence has repeatedly been made to appear benign. However, President Obama and Senator Mitchell now have a clear obligation to look behind these propagandistic appearances.

In 1967, almost 20 years alter Israel’s entry into the community of states, the Jewish state, as a result of its unexpected military victory over Arab aggressor states, gained unintended control over West Bank and Gaza. Although the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war is properly codified in the UN Charter, there existed no authoritative sovereign to whom the Territories could be returned. Israel could “hardly have been expected to transfer them back to Jordan and Egypt, which had exercised unauthorized and terribly cruel control since the Arab-initiated war of “extermination” in 1948-49. Moreover, the idea of Palestinian “self-determination” had only just begun to emerge after the Six-Day War, and, significantly, had not even been included in UN Security Council Resolution 242 which was adopted on November 22, 1967.

For their part, the Arab states convened a summit in Khartoum in August 1967, concluding "no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it." The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was formed three years earlier, in 1964, before there were any Israeli ‘Occupied Territories.’ Exactly what was it, therefore that the PLO sought to liberate between 1964 and 1967? This critical question should now be considered by Barack Obama’s special envoy to the region, Senator George Mitchell.

This has been a very brief account of essential historic reasons why the so-called ‘Palestinian Territories’ are not occupied by Israel. Several other equally valid reasons stem from Israel’s intrinsic legal right to security and self-defense. As I have said so often in this column, international law is not a suicide pact. Because a Palestinian state would severely threaten the very existence of Israel- a fact that remains altogether unhidden even in the Arab media and governments - the Jewish State is under no binding obligation to-end a falsely alleged ”occupation.” No state, not even a Jewish one, can ever be required to accept complicity in its own dismemberment.

No doubt, both President Obama and Senator Mitchell want to be fair and evenhanded in their developing plans for the Middle East. To meet this obligation, however, it is essential that they first build all pertinent negotiations upon a firm foundation of historical accuracy and ethical truth. This means, at a minimum, the aspiring US peacemakers must familiarize themselves with correct history, and not simply allow themselves to be swallowed up with their many predecessors in ritualistic dogma and empty platitudes.

LOUIS RENÉ BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph D, 1971) and is a long-time expert in international relations and international law.

Copyright© The Jewish Press, February 27,2009. All rights reserved

Posted by Jerome S. Kaufman at 04:22 AM | Comments (0)

March 06, 2009

Ominous vibes from the Obama administration

Redacted from an article by Isi Leibler originally in the Jerusalem Post

March 2, 2009

There are ominous vibes emanating from Washington signaling impending confrontations between the Obama administration and the incoming Netanyahu government. Over recent weeks the administration has appointed to senior government postings, personnel with track records of hostility towards Israel such James Jones and Samantha Power.

But, what utterly shocked friends of Israel was the selection of former US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Chas Freeman, to head the National Intelligence Council. Freeman, who will determine what intelligence is to be presented to the president and personally attend his intelligence briefings, is a bitter foe of Israel. Until now, he actually headed the Saudi-funded Middle East Policy Council where he justified Palestinian terror against Israel and even tried to rationalize Hamas behavior. Last year he accused the Bush administration of "supporting right wing Israeli governments to undo the Oslo Accords and to pacify the Palestinians rather than make peace with them.” He also dismissed the two state solution as too little and too late "because what is on offer looks to Palestinians more like an Indian reservation than a country.”

Hitherto, the US administration and Israel agreed not to negotiate with Hamas unless it unequivocally reneged on its objective to destroy the Jewish state. Mitchell has now planted the seeds for a confrontation with the incoming Netanyahu government by asserting that the divisions between the two Palestinian factions represent a major obstacle towards achieving a settlement and urged Hamas and Fatah to unite. He failed to explain the benefits of submerging the weaker Fatah into the more powerful Iranian proxy whose extremism matches that of the Taliban.

There are other troubling signals. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is providing Gaza with close to a billion-dollar bailout to be transferred through tainted bodies like UNWRA which will unquestionably strengthen Hamas. Clinton also angrily insists that Israel open border crossings, dismissing the fact that Gilad Schalit remains incarcerated and that Hamas continues launching missiles and shooting at Israelis.

Former US ambassador to Israel Dan Kurzer, a long-standing Obama Middle East adviser, warned that "a government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu which included Avigdor Lieberman would be a bad combination for American interests" which would be loath to "embrace a government that included a politician who was defined as a racist."

But, the greatest shock was the initial decision by the administration to participate "for the time being" in the preparatory committee for the Durban II conference, scheduled in Geneva on April 20. The original Durban "anti racism" conference in 2001 was a vile anti-Semitic hate fest boycotted by the Bush Administration. The Durban II Preparatory Committee is under the auspices of the Orwellian named UN Human Rights Commission, an evil body dominated by a coven of Moslem states and tyrannical regimes creating an obscene parody of human rights.

Confronted by an eruption of public indignation, the administration subsequently withdrew from this despicable forum. But, enormous damage has already been incurred, and some European countries who initially intended absenting themselves might still participate.
_____________________________________________________________

After my article had appeared today in the Jerusalem Post, I received a devastating expose by Anne Bayefsky containing information of which I was unaware. I was shocked to learn that the Obama administration compensated for their enforced withdrawal from Durban by participating for the first time in the despicable Human Rights Council. This decision was buried in a press release relating to Durban.

It makes a mockery of the purported US stand against anti-Semitism and Israel bashing to begin at this time participating in a body purporting to promote human rights which is controlled by the organization of the Islamic conference and other rogue states and spends most of its time demonizing Israel.

To make matters worse, Bayefsky alleges that the State Department intends to fully legitimize this bogus organization purporting to promote human rights, by running for election to obtain a seat on the Council. It is inexplicable that US and international Jews have made press releases profusely praising the Obama administration for withdrawing from Durban but made no reference to this outrageous gesture enhancing the status of an international organization pledged to undermine Israel.

ileibler@netvision.net.il

Posted by Jerome S. Kaufman at 04:11 AM | Comments (0)

March 03, 2009

A Wake-Up Call to the West? Where are you spending your next vacation?

BUDGET TRAVEL

By ARTHUR FROMMER
Palm Beach Post, March 1, 2009

I have never understood how anyone could opt for a vacation in a resort location mired in the atmosphere and policies of the Middle Ages.
That’s Dubai, the supposedly enlightened member of the United Arab Emirates, whose progressive dictator has launched a massive building program of fanciful deluxe hotels, high-rise condos and artificially cooled, indoor ski slopes and other fun attractions. Recently, I wrote about the two unmarried English tourists who were imprisoned in Dubai (and later expelled) for having sex, which is prohibited in Dubai between unmarried people.

Now, in recent news reports, we are told about the thousands of foreign adventurers who took jobs in Dubai in headier times and are being dropped from their jobs and forced to leave because of the dramatic slowdown in construction and tourism resulting from the worldwide economic crisis. One young woman who has just lost her job and is frantically looking for another was interviewed under the condition that her name not appear. Why? Because she may be unable to keep up the payments on the condo that she bought a year ago and therefore faces being sent to debtors’ prison.

Debtors’ prison! (Are you kidding me? – Jsk)
We are not talking about the Britain of Charles Dickens, but about a supposedly enlightened modem state making a massive effort to attract international tourism. The press also tells us of a parking lot outside the Dubai airport filled with cars whose foreign owners also lost their jobs and could not keep up payments, and therefore parked the cars there before boarding a plane that would enable them to escape Dubai. The reason - a fear they might be snatched up and sent to debtors’ prison!

Recent articles also tell of legislation recently passed in Dubai that prohibits any resident from disparaging the government or even economic conditions in Dubai, a ban enforced by criminal sanctions.

But wait, there’s more. In subsequent news reports, it has been learned that Dubai’s government has denied a visitor’s visa to a female Israeli tennis star, Shahar Peer, for participating in the Dubai Tennis Championships. Reason for the denial: Shahar’s nationality, as a citizen of Israel. Already, in protest of that action, a major U.S. tour operator has canceled its entire program of tours to Dubai and urged other tour operators to do the same. And although Shahar and her family have asked the Women’s Tennis Association not to cancel its tournament, that action was considered.

Protesting Dubai’s act of discrimination, tennis star Venus Williams has stated: “All the players support Shahar. We are all athletes and we stand for tennis.” Also, in its statement canceling all tour programs to Dubai, the same prominent member of the United States Operators Association, added that, “despite its massive investment in tourism infrastructure, Dubai appears not ready to be a member of the world tourism family.”

What a fun place! What a locale for a carefree vacation! Isn’t it time for all of us to say bye-bye to Dubai?

Posted by Jerome S. Kaufman at 12:52 PM | Comments (0)

March 01, 2009

Bursting the Demography Scare Bubble in Israel

Redacted from an article by Yoram Ettinger

The Jerusalem Post, February 23, 2009

The bubble of demographic fatalism is bursting, according to the most recent data, published by the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics (ICBS). The data should be leveraged, by the government, to formulate a demographic policy aimed at increasing the current 67 percent Jewish majority, west of the Jordan River (without Gaza). The policy would uproot demographic fatalism and advance demographic optimism, thus energizing aliya, (the immigration of Jews to Israel) the economy, overseas investments, diplomacy, national security, posture of deterrence and minimizing Jewish-Arab tension, which is fed by demographic fear.

According to the ICBS, the country's Jewish population is getting younger and the Arab population getting older. The number of annual Jewish births increased by 45% between 1995 (80,400) and 2008 (117,000), as a result of aliya from the USSR, the shift by the Soviet Olim (Russian immigrants already in Israel) from a typical Russian rate of one birth per woman to a typical Israeli rate of two-three births. This is the rising secular Jewish rate and the sustained high Orthodox and Haredi (Ultra Orthodox religious) rate.

The number of annual Arab births has stabilized - since 1995 - at around 39,000, reflecting a most successful integration by Arabs into the country's infrastructures of education, health, human services, commerce, finance, culture, sports and politics. The fertility gap is down from six births per woman in 1969 to 0.7 in 2009, and the proportion of Jewish births has grown from 69% (of total births) in 1995 and 74% in 2007 to 75% in 2008.

The downward trend typifies, also, the Arabs in Judea and Samaria due to large scale emigration, entrenched family planning, reduction of teen pregnancy, rapid urbanization, expanded education, especially among women, record divorce rate and higher median marriage age.

The Westernization of Arab fertility rate (3.5 births per woman in pre-1967 Israel and four in Judea and Samaria) is apparent throughout most of the Arab and Muslim world. For instance, the 2008 map of the UN Population Division documents an average fertility rate of two-four births, compared with over four births 30 years ago. Even Yemen, the flagship of robust Arab demography, is adopting family planning. This month it approved a new law setting the minimum age for marriage at 17 for boys and girls, prohibiting marriage without the consent of the woman and benefiting divorced women.

THE JEWISH DEMOGRAPHIC tailwind behooves the new government to introduce a demographic road map, which would increase the Jewish majority, while respecting the rights of the Arab minority:

1. Placing aliya at the top of the order of national priorities, as expected from the Jewish state and as required by economic and security challenges. The global economic meltdown, and the rise in anti-Semitism should be leveraged to increase aliya from the former USSR, US, Europe, Latin America and South Africa.

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. The establishment of a global Jewish foundation, which would support Jewish fertility worldwide, in view of high assimilation, low fertility rates among non-Israeli Jews and Holocaust-driven demographic challenges.

In 1949, David Ben-Gurion considered demography a top priority to salvage the Jewish state, thus transferring to his successors a foundation for a long-term robust Jewish majority. In 2009, the new government will enjoy an impressive critical mass of demography, military, economy and technology. Will it resurrect the Ben-Gurion legacy and buttress the future of the Jewish state by reinforcing Jewish majority?

Ambassador Yoram Ettinger is a consultant on US-Israel relations as well as the Chairman of Special Projects at the Ariel Center for Policy Research.

Posted by Jerome S. Kaufman at 04:21 PM | Comments (0)