Saturday, March 14, 2009

Durban II and Obama's Foreign Policy Mantra

This article, by Anne Bayefsky, originally appeared in Pajamas Media.

The Obama administration promised transparency. It seems only fitting, therefore, to release a transcript (produced unofficially) of a conference call between Karen Stewart - acting assistant secretary for democracy, human rights, and labor - and a group of highly select organizations, which took place on February 27, 2009. On the phone line with this top State Department official was a small cabal of human rights organizations, UN-associated organizations, and an Arab NGO. At stake - U.S. participation in April's UN's Durban II "anti-racism" conference and the UN Human Rights Council. The conversation reveals which groups the administration is trying to please and what would please them. It also points to the devastating impact that can be expected from the Obama foreign policy mantra of "engagement." Now on the chopping block - Israel, equality rights, and American values. The Background of Durban II

Durban I is the infamous racist anti-racism conference that took place in South Africa and ended three days before 9/11. Durban II is the UN's effort to launch another round of anti-Semitism via its unique global megaphone. It is also the vehicle for Islamic states to change permanently the world of human rights: the point is to move from protecting rights and freedoms to curtailing them in the name of so-called religious sensitivities.

At the time of the conference call everyone knew that the draft declaration on the table (scheduled to be adopted at the conference itself) called Jewish self-determination racist, Israel an apartheid state, questioned the veracity of the Holocaust, introduced limits on free speech, and manufactured worldwide Muslim victims of Western racism (known as "Islamophobia.")

The chair of the drafting committee for Durban II is Libya; Iran is a vice-chair and Cuba is the rapporteur.

Even without the new abominations, the purpose of Durban II is to reaffirm and to implement the Durban I Declaration. But that declaration says Israelis are racists - the only racist country that UN "human rights" authorities could identify. So fixing Durban II is not possible. Protecting human rights would require burying Durban I, not reaffirming and implementing it.

The Background of the UN Human Rights Council

The Human Rights Council is the UN's lead human rights agency. It was created after the previous incarnation, the ignominious Human Rights Commission, was disbanded in 2006. The UN creators of the Human Rights Council rejected an American idea of instituting a membership condition about actually protecting human rights. So the Bush administration saw no reason to join or to pay for it.

At the time of this conference call everyone knew that the Human Rights Council has proved to be more extreme than its predecessor. It has reduced the influence of democracies and shifted the balance of power to the Islamic bloc. As a consequence, it has had 10 regular sessions on human rights all over the world and five special sessions to condemn Israel alone. It has adopted more resolutions and decisions condemning Israel than all of the other 191 UN states combined. It has one standing agenda item on alleged Israeli violations and one standing item on general human rights issues for everybody else. It has terminated human rights investigations, left over from the Human Rights Commission, on some of the worst places on the planet: Belarus, Cuba, Iran, and Uzbekistan. It trashed its only resolution on freedom of expression, forcing every Western state to withdraw support from this democratic lifeline.

Durban II and the Human Rights Council are intertwined. The council is the preparatory committee for Durban II and has pushed it from the beginning. Elections for membership on the council take place in May of this year, only a few weeks after Durban II ends. Refusing to legitimize Durban II may hurt a state's chances of election to the council. Furthermore, if the only foreign policy mantra the Obama administration can think of is "engagement," there doesn't appear to be anything that ought to prevent the U.S. from jumping on board everything in sight - Durban II and the Council - substance be damned. However, the UN is required to undertake a five-year review of Council operations in 2011. By staying out until that time, the United States would be in a position to leverage its potential membership - and the instant credibility of the participation of the world's greatest democracy - in exchange for reform. U.S. membership should be earned.

The Jewish Problem

The 2001 Durban I was divided into an NGO Forum and a governmental conference. The NGOs adopted a declaration, which said Zionism is racism and got worse from there. An NGO meeting on anti-Semitism that had been planned for months was disrupted and cut short by a screaming mob. The international NGOs, such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (now called Human Rights First), decided not to vote against the NGO declaration. They also decided not to vote when a suggestion by Jewish groups concerning anti-Semitism was deleted from that same declaration. The world's leading international NGOs thought there was a midway point between espousing anti-Semitism and denouncing it.

Overall, the hundreds of participating NGOs either agreed outright with the anti-Semitism or believed that the discrimination and demonization of the Jewish state was the price to be paid for getting their own equality issues on the agenda. They never understood that equality rights for some cannot be built on the inequality of others, that anti-Semitism poisons the human rights wellspring, and that intolerance that begins with Jews does not end with Jews.

Although UN officials - most notably the current High Commissioner for Human Rights - claim that only the NGO Forum was problematic, this is not true. Attending both, I watched almost every mention of anti-Semitism deleted from the government draft declaration and witnessed the objectionable bargain that was ultimately reached. After the United States and Israel walked out of Durban I in disgust, the European Union - led by the French - cut a deal. The result allowed a few mentions of anti-Semitism and acknowledgment of the Holocaust, in exchange for casting Israel as racist. Canada joined consensus on most of the document, but made a strong reservation to the Israel-related sections. However, every copy of the Durban Declaration produced by the UN since that time omits the Canadian reservation and claims all of Durban was adopted by consensus.

After Durban, the UN engaged in a major cover-up. For more than seven years, they made the Durban Declaration the centerpiece of the UN's anti-racism movement and spawned multiple Durban "follow-up" activities. They blamed NGOs for all that had gone wrong. They claimed the government conference was a model of civility and the Durban Declaration a human rights godsend.


The same forces present at Durban I are still operating. The Islamic bloc and Arab interests intend to use the global conference as a means to demonize and destroy their enemy on the political battlefield. Human rights organizations are prepared to throw Jews overboard while protecting other people's human rights. The European Union is looking for a way to be the kingpin on the global stage. The new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, is claiming Durban I got a bad rap and recently made the ugly suggestion of a Jewish conspiracy lurking behind criticism of Durban II.

The behavior of Pillay tells us a lot about the nature of the UN machine and how it pushes anti-Semitism as human rights. Pillay has a vested interest in ensuring the "success" of Durban II. She is the secretary-general of the conference. She is also a native of Durban, South Africa, and when she was appointed last July said the mayor asked her to "rescue" the city's good name. Rather than admitting the past and seeking to avoid its repetition, Pillay has taken on the job of revisionism with a vengeance:

I am fully aware that the legacy of the 2001 Durban Conference has been tainted by the anti-Semitic behavior of some NGOs at the sidelines of that conference. . [T]he Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, the document that emerged from the conference in 2001, transcended divisive and intolerant approaches.

She has also deliberately sought to repeat exactly what went wrong. Asked by the Durban II drafting committee to recommend suggestions for inclusion in the final declaration, she contributed: "We must reaffirm the DDPA [Durban Declaration and Programme of Action] without reservation."

Pillay finds fault not with Durban I and its Declaration and Durban II and its draft declaration - but with the critics. More specifically, Jewish critics. On February 20, 2009, she said:

[T]he review conference has also been the target of a disparaging media and lobbying campaign on the part of those who fear a repetition of anti-Semitic outbursts. This is unwarranted. . Narrow, parochial interests and reflexive partisanship must be cast aside in the interest of a greater common good.

Those narrow-minded Jews uninterested in the common good - who have actually been at the forefront of human rights movements the world over and have six million good reasons for being concerned about demonization - might be surprised to learn of how the UN's leading spokesperson for human rights ended this speech. Pillay said: "Let me reiterate that - sustained by the United Nations principles of impartiality, independence, and integrity -I regard my office as a springboard for the betterment and welfare of all and a place where all are given a fair audience." Well, not quite all.

So where does all this leave President Obama and the United States? Taking advice from those who, like the UN's top human rights officer, advocate throwing Israel and Jews who support Israel under the bus for the sake of the greater good. In some cases, exactly the same organizations that distinguished themselves at Durban I by refusing to vote against "Zionism is racism."

Here is the transcript (prepared unofficially) of the conference call between the acting assistant secretary of state and this powerful constituency that the Obama administration wants to please. As Durban II and the Human Rights Council elections fast approach, the question remains: will the administration cater to them?


On the conference call, February 27, 2009:

* Karen Stewart, Acting Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
* Peter Timko, The Arab-American Institute
* [T.] Kumar, Amnesty International
* Paula Schriefer, Freedom House
* Peggy Hicks, Human Rights Watch
* [Jamil Dakwar], American Civil Liberties Union
* William H. Luers, United Nations Association -USA
* Steve Dimoff, United Nations Association - USA
* Susan Myers, UN Foundation
* Eric [Tars], National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty
* L. Bennett Graham, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
* Ken [Wollack], National Democratic Institute
* AFL-CIO Solidarity Center
* Democracy Coalition Project

and a handful of others.

Ambassador Karen Stewart

I am the Acting Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. I'm very glad we managed to get you all on the phone. I have been asked to give you the latest in the administration's thinking on the Human Rights Council and on the Durban Review Conference. Let me make some points and then I would be happy for comments and questions.

With regard to Durban - consistent with President Obama's commitment to change direction - the US sent a strong and credible delegation to negotiate in good faith on the "Outcome Document" [ed. draft of Durban II declaration]. As part of the mission - there to assess state of play - we met with over 30 delegations and the High Commissioner for Human Rights and other interested parties. Our engagement was warmly welcomed, and we appreciated that welcome, and we also consulted with many governments and capitals on their efforts. The delegation came back and we have been discussing the process to date with them, and considering what has gone on there, and concluded that the current text is not salvageable and consequently we will not participate on further negotiations and further not participate in conference on that text. We would be prepared for an Outcome Document that was much shortened, with a constructive affirmative approach to race, tackling the challenges of racism, and not unequivocally reaffirming the Durban program of action, no references to one country or a single conflict, defamation of religions, and does not go further than Durban [ed. Declaration] on reparations for slavery. We will observe developments and in capitals to see if such a document emerges and we will reengage if such a document does emerge. I know that many of you may have favored our engagement. Understand our principled stand, key reason why we had such thorough and deliberative discussions. This was not a lightly-taken decision, but as we were closely following the negotiations, we concluded that there were far too many obstacles to overcome with several key issues - biased treatment of Israel and freedom of religions to erode freedom of expression. So we couldn't continue negotiations with this document. But we are strongly committed to fighting racism and intolerance and we are also committed to working in international fora and we welcome your input as we proceed.

Taking from that point - the Human Rights Council. After considerable deliberation the administration has decided to participate as an active observer starting Monday. We are impressed by countries that asked us to reengage, and are advocating for that position. President Obama is committed to an active and effective engagement with institutions - to play a vital role in challenges - so we look forward to building a more secure and peaceful world with our partners around the world. We share concerns that the trajectory is disturbing, and it needs to do more to help people around the world and end unbalanced criticism of Israel. We need your help on issues of freedom of expression and defamation of religions. We will do more to achieve these ends if we are part of the conversation and we participate fully at the negotiating table so we will be participating in Human Rights Council sessions. We will use this opportunity to strengthen old and forge new alliances, to engage in active participation as an observer to advance human rights in multilateral arenas. We look forward to your cooperation to make sure it is focused on the human rights concerns of our time. You heard President Obama speak on February 24 - "In words and deeds, we are showing the world that a new era of engagement has begun. We know that America cannot meet the threats of this century alone, but the world cannot meet them without America." We can't shun the negotiating table. We must fulfill our engagement now.

Those were lot of talking points to lay out for you. I welcome any comments.

Kumar from Amnesty International

Thank you for the briefing. Did you make any decision about running for the Human Rights Council?

Ambassador Karen Stewart

Not yet - it is still under review. So no decision yet.

William H. Luers - UNA - USA

The initial statement on Durban strikes me as being more or less sensible - if you have in it the possibility to come back with a revised statement. Are you in the business of trying to encourage a statement closer to what the US thinks appropriate or is this a final declaration?

Ambassador Karen Stewart

The message we put out there - not engaging with this text and the list. Our final message is that if a new document emerges that meets our concerns than we would reengage.

William H. Luers - UNA - USA

Do you think they will work toward a new document?

Ambassador Karen Stewart

I would say we have just been making these calls to both capitals and in Geneva and on the Hill and you and other NGO communities all through the last 24 hours and we got a variety of reactions, some who I think will be trying to see if they can change, others who think it is not possible. There is no conclusive view yet. We are sorting.

William H. Luers - UNA - USA

If you could give us encouragement to see whether the NGO community and governments could get the document closer to what we want and then have negotiations rather than saying it has to be this or nothing. The outline of things you feel are necessary. You don't require everything? Negotiating on what would help the US change its mind?

Ambassador Karen Stewart

I have to say, I hear your tone on what we are laying down - preconditions, and I'm not authorized to say we would negotiate it any way. We laid out what we are prepared to see in a new document.

Peggy Hicks, Human Rights Watch

We followed this closely and are concerned about the turn the administration is now taking on Durban. The talking points you have on the table blur for us two issues. It is going to be a different document - which is not on its face unachievable - but of course this is coming very late in the process and will be quite difficult and put unnecessary burdens on the process. But our biggest concern is the blending together of the problem areas that are new to this document - defamation of religions - which we agree entirely has to come out - with the US new position here, which is that we need something better than Durban and we can't have unequivocal support for Durban itself. That it cannot contain any reference to a single country or conflict, referring to the Middle East peace process and conflict is very problematic. And basically my understanding is that a group of moderate states would work with the US to draft a simpler document, but if the US is going on record saying that any reference to the Middle East conflict is unacceptable, then we're setting a standard that is unachievable. And we will give cover to governments to back out now, and that would be destructive to the Durban Review process, but even more to the Human Rights Council itself where the dynamics are obstacles, to committed administration too, and if the Durban process falls apart it will make our work at the Human Rights Council more difficult.

Ambassador Karen Stewart

I'm trying to make a note of it so we can tell the senior levels the reactions we're getting.

William H. Luers - UNA - USA

I agree with Peggy. From our standpoint a spoken willingness to negotiate and discuss how this can be improved and even - as has been suggested by Human Rights Watch - indicating the directions in which the document can be changed so that the US would be more prepared to consider participation, this is the ideal moment to change the pattern of the past, "either our road or the highway" and we shouldn't do that - we now must show a different pattern of US response to such controversial issues. If we're prepared to participate under better conditions than we see today it could be an excellent way to get countries to come together and reshape the declaration. If it's a declaration of "this way or no way" then it becomes very problematic. And could even be that we could help if we thought there is a chance that the US government would respond to a more reasonable document.

Susan Myers - UN Foundation

Following onto Ambassador Luers' remarks, I'm just curious if there is some sort of statement going out because what is in that statement could essentially box in the administration and if there is some effort to create a document more agreeable to the administration then whatever is said in coming days, it could undercut the ability of the US to reengage should there be something we could agree to.

Ambassador Karen Stewart

We are planning on making a public statement on our decisions in this area over the weekend. We wanted time to inform and consult with other countries and the Hill. I haven't seen the text of the statement, so yes we would be saying something before Monday when we turn up in Geneva.

William H. Luers - UNA - USA

Could you add that the US government is interested in discussing further the changes we think are essential? Saying that you're open to discussion is extremely important.

Ambassador Karen Stewart

I'm not making any promises. I will take that comment back but can't promise that that is going to happen.

Paula Schriefer, Freedom House

We're very encouraged that the US will participate in the upcoming session. We do think it's important to go beyond acting as an observer and seek a seat in the upcoming elections. They are typically held in May so there is not much time. It would be automatic that the US would be elected, which may not be the case at the same time next year. In 2011 there will be an official review of the Council and as you noted, for the US to be part of a credible group shaping changes to the Council, it will be important to have been on the Council for a period of time. We agree there are some real problems, but they are not problems that cannot still be fixed and the US should play an important role and increase the chances of doing so.

Ambassador Karen Stewart

Those factors are going into our review of that decision. Likelihood of successful elections.

Eric [Tars], National Law Center of Homelessness and Poverty

Do you have any information about reinvigorating the inter-agency working group for facilitating the reporting process and bringing the results from the review into the US?

Ambassador Karen Stewart

I don't. The inter-agency working group on human rights - I don't specifically, we're still organizing under the new administration on how to do inter-agency groups and although I've been here for 6-7 months, I'm not always sure of the institutions set up beforehand so have to take that question.

Democracy Coalition Project

I wanted to echo what Paula was saying and encourage the US to run. We are very concerned that regions of the world are slipping back into clean slates - even in WEOG [ed. Western European and Others regional group, one of five regional groups in the UN] there are only three candidates running for three seats. It could be they're waiting for the US to run. Many have been encouraging the US to run. It's a procedural issue - to encourage competition in each region. In several regions there has been regression over the years and it is important that the US support competition and weigh in on this.

L. Bennett Graham, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

We're paying closest attention to the defamation of religions issue, and I want to be sure - and we were encouraged in the past on this issue - that you are preparing for what seems to be a major push to relook at Article 20 [ed. of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights] and the fears we have about lowering the threshold on what Article 20 looks at. The US has a reservation on it, but we hope you are looking for creative solutions to making sure that the defamation issue is not entrenched into a binding covenant.

Ambassador Karen Stewart

We made sure to get ideas from you on the next session of the Human Rights Council. We ensure . defamation of religions has been a big issue for some time and so that is of great concern to us and we will be working on all ways to try and fend that off. I hope we can be creative. Any ideas you have later on we would welcome.

Peggy Hicks, Human Rights Watch

On defamation of religions, I didn't mention it on the Durban side but we feel strongly that there is a contradiction in the US position on the Durban Review. The key way to make sure that the current Durban text doesn't include defamation of religions is that the original Declaration didn't have that issue in it. Pakistan acknowledges this and knows they will have to give up because of that. The problem is that the US position would reopen the terms of the Durban document and once you reopen it to take out references to the Middle East then you open the door to say new things have to be put into it. To follow up on Susan Myers, while I understand the negotiated position is that you want bottom lines to have, if we expect moderate states to work on a new document then to go on record saying "those are the red lines and it is only an acceptable document that meets all those conditions" is very difficult to achieve and will put states in an unworkable position and take us off track in a way that I hope your office doesn't do.


The following table summarizes the organizations' responses to the U.S. State Department's stated conditions for participating in Durban II.

U.S. State Department stated conditions for participating in Durban II Human Rights Watch response to U.S. conditions for participating in Durban II UN Association - USA response to U.S. conditions for participating in Durban II UN Foundation response to U.S. conditions for participating in Durban II What this cabal will devise in negotiations now underway in Geneva
(1) not unequivocally reaffirming the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action Don't like any firm American bottom lines. A declaration of "this way or no way" becomes very problematic Don't like any firm American bottom lines. Could essentially box in the administration .it could undercut the ability of the US to reengage. ?
(2) no references to one country or a single conflict [ed. - Israel, Middle East] Disagree That it [ed. the final outcome of Durban II] cannot contain any reference to a single country or conflict, referring to the Middle East peace process and conflict is very problematic. And basically my understanding is that a group of moderate states would work with the US to draft a simpler document, but if the US is going on record saying that any reference to the Middle East conflict is unacceptable, then we're setting a standard that is unachievable. The problem is that the US position would reopen the terms of the Durban document and once you reopen it to take out references to the Middle East.[it] is very difficult to achieve and will put states in an unworkable position. Disagree I agree with Peggy [ed. Human Rights Watch]. We now must show a different pattern of U.S. response to such controversial issues.Don't like any firm American bottom lines. A declaration of "this way or no way" becomes very problematic. Don't like any firm American bottom lines. Could essentially box in the administration .it could undercut the ability of the US to reengage. ?
(3) "defamation of religions" - [ed. concept must be taken out] Agree take out. Don't like any firm American bottom lines. A declaration of "this way or no way" becomes very problematic. Don't like any firm American bottom lines. Could essentially box in the administration .it could undercut the ability of the US to reengage. ?
(4) not go further than the Durban Declaration on reparations for slavery Don't like any firm American bottom lines. A declaration of "this way or no way" becomes very problematic. Don't like any firm American bottom lines. Could essentially box in the administration .it could undercut the ability of the US to reengage. ?

For a complete source of information on Durban II

EYEontheUN monitors the UN direct from UN Headquarters in New York. EYEontheUN brings to light the real UN record on the key threats to democracy, human rights, and peace and security in our time. EYEontheUN provides a unique information base for the re-evaluation of priorities and directions for modern-day democratic societies.


Morton Klein

PHILADELPHIA (JTA) -- Hillary Rodham Clinton as New York's U.S. senator from 2001 to 2009 was a reliable and vocal supporter of Israel. She was especially strong on Jerusalem, stating in a September 2007 position paper, "I believe that Israel's right to exist in safety as a Jewish state, with defensible borders and an undivided Jerusalem as its capital, must never be questioned."Her spokesman said the paper "is a reflection of her consistent policy" and "that hasn't changed."

Clinton also repeatedly warned of the monumental dangers of Palestinian incitement to hatred and murder of Israeli Jews in their schools, media and mosques as having "dire consequences for peace for generations to come." She even said, "It is clear that the Palestinian Authority, as we see on PATV, is complicit" in terrorist attacks and that we should condition U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority on a "cessation of Palestinian propaganda and hateful rhetoric."

It took only a matter of weeks to confirm that on Israel, Secretary of State Clinton bears little resemblance to Senator Clinton.

Now she enthusiastically supports an unconditional increase in U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority and Gaza, to $900 million a year -- a significant increase. This week, after criticizing Israel for not opening up border crossings to Hamas-controlled Gaza while Hamas rockets were still flying, she demanded Israel allow illegally built Palestinian Arab homes in eastern Jerusalem while demanding that Israel stop allowing legally built Israeli/Jewish homes in eastern Jerusalem. Such Jewish construction, she said, was "unhelpful." (Even the very liberal Israeli Supreme Court has upheld Israel's right to demolish these illegal structures.)

Suddenly, parts of an "undivided Jerusalem" are places where Jews may not move or build, even though Jews were a majority in eastern Jerusalem from the mid-1800s until 1948 -- when Jordan forced the Jewish residents to flee -- and again are the majority. Jerusalem has always been the religious, historical and political capital of the Jewish people.

Secretary Clinton justifies her criticism of Jewish building by reference to the 2003 "road map" peace plan, which she claims Israel is not fulfilling. Yet the road map, which Israel only accepted with 14 published reservations, calls for a freeze on Israeli settlement activity while simultaneously requiring various obligations to be fulfilled by the Arab states and the Palestinian Authority -- obligations they have not fulfilled.

These include ending incitement against Israel, confiscating illegal weapons, cutting off all funding to terror groups and an immediate call for an end to all violence against Israelis.

Senator Clinton took these violations seriously, especially the incitement. As she said in an October 2003 Senate committee hearing at which I testified, "How can you think about building a better future, no matter what your political views, if you indoctrinate your children to a culture of death?"

And again, in February 2007: "We must stop the propaganda . in idealizing for children a world without Israel," adding that "children are taught never to accept the reality of the State of Israel."

Clinton went on to say, "We cannot build a peaceful, stable, safe future on such a hate-filled, violent and radical foundation" and that "there has still not been an adequate repudiation of this by the Palestinian Authority."

Yet since becoming secretary of state, Clinton has failed to utter a word on Palestinian incitement to hatred and murder. Thus, when interviewed this week on a P.A. teen television show and asked, "What would you do if your daughter was unfortunate enough to have been born under occupation, born deprived of freedom and liberty?" Secretary Clinton legitimized the question's false premise and actually helped incite hatred against Israel by not refuting it and ignoring the fact that 98 percent of Palestinians actually live under the Palestinian Authority or Hamas, not Israeli control.

Instead, Clinton responded, "Well, I would do what so many parents here in the West Bank and in Gaza do. I would love her . I would get the best education I could for her . I would never give up on the dream of a Palestinian state."

That an alarming number of Palestinian parents have encouraged their children to become suicide bombers was somehow lost from Secretary Clinton's response.

Why is Secretary Clinton publicly criticizing Israel's alleged violations of the road map while ignoring the almost complete violation by the Palestinian Authority, not only of the road map but of every written commitment it has signed from Oslo to Wye to Annapolis?

Secretary of State Clinton is deaf to the words that Senator Clinton once passionately uttered. It is notable that Secretary Clinton's recent criticisms of Israel impelled Mortimer Zuckerman, publisher of the New York Daily News, to say that he was surprised by some of her recent statements.

New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a Brooklyn Democrat, observed, "I liked her a lot more as a senator from New York."

Hikind also mused, "Now I wonder . who the real Hillary Clinton is."


If we are talking about issues of being all good or all bad we see this situation is nearly impossible to find . Hillary, in announcing the $900 million to be given PA and Hamas at the recent donors meeting of Arab States at Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt [Editors Note: It hurts to say Egypt] said, all states receiving US funds must promise to recognize Israel and end terrorism. Yet, objectively we know that Hillary as Secretary of State is far less the friend of Israel than she was as a sitting Senator from NY State with its large, influential Jewish population. Yet, in response to Clinton's demand, Hamas has refused to recognize Israel, saying among other things that it was democratically elected.§ionid=351020202 It must be recalled that at the time of Hamas' election, the West announced that it would not deal with the movement until it recognized Israel and denounced "violence". Hillary had reiterated the conditions of the Quartet and of the Roadmap.>Senator Clinton repeatedly warned of the monumental dangers of Palestinian incitement to hatred and murder of Israeli Jews in their schools, media and mosques as having "dire consequences for peace for generations to come." She even said, "It is clear that the Palestinian Authority, as we see on PATV, is complicit" in terrorist attacks and that we should condition U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority on a "cessation of Palestinian propaganda and hateful rhetoric." Now, as Secretary of State, she enthusiastically supports an unconditional increase in U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority and Gaza, to $900 million a year. Whether the release of the funds will be authorized will ultimately be conditioned upon their recognizing Israel and (whose to evaluate) the ending terror, is up to President Obama.

I believe Secretary Clinton over stepped the lines of propriety when she appeared this week on a P.A. teen television show and when asked, "What would you do if your daughter was unfortunate enough to have been born under occupation, born deprived of freedom and liberty?" Secretary Clinton legitimized the question's false premise and actually helped incite hatred against Israel by not refuting it and ignoring the fact that 98 percent of Palestinians actually live under the Palestinian Authority or Hamas, not Israeli control. Instead, Clinton responded, "Well, I would do what so many parents here in the West Bank and in Gaza do. I would love her . I would get the best education I could for her . I would never give up on the dream of a Palestinian state."

2> Dr Daud Abdullah, deputy director-general of the Muslim Council of Britain one of the UK's most influential Islamic leaders, who has helped counter extremism in the country's mosques, is accused of advocating attacks on the Royal Navy if it tries to stop arms for Hamas being smuggled into Gaza.
3>A final thoughts on Freeman, on the perceived Israel Lobby, the anti-Israel 'bent' of elite academics - This well expressed article was taken from a blog, , and signed only with the name Pomona-on-Wed.
4>Names to remember, an Honor Roll - Those who fought to end Freeman's candidacy for the intelligence post that would present to the President a synthesized view of threats world-wide from intelligence provided by the 16 intelligence services. There will certainly be penalties for those who spoke out. There is one particular, self proclaimed critic, quite a surprise - Finding out will keep you reading thru to the end.

Friday, March 13, 2009

PRUDEN: 'Blaming the Jews' doesn't always work

Wesley Pruden


It's getting crowded under that bus where President Obama throws the discards no longer useful to him. Fortunately, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright is there to offer the last rites, this time for Charles W. Freeman Jr., may peace be on him.

Mr. Freeman is the well-paid shill for the Saudis and the Chinese who was stopped just before he was to assume the chairmanship of the National Intelligence Council, where he would have directed the preparation of intelligence briefings for the president and other high government officials - an official largely responsible for what the president should know and when he should know it. The appointment does not require Senate endorsement and the White House apparently figured it could slip him past whoever was not looking. Mr. Freeman, to put a fine point on it, does not like the Israelis very much. He comes out of the State Department, where bagels and lox are not a big breakfast favorite in the cafeteria, and was once a medium-high official at Foggy Bottom, a "principal deputy assistant secretary" to somebody who rides to the office in one of the longer limousines. (The State Department is fond of titles too long to fit on a calling card.) Mr. Freeman doesn't like anybody who makes trouble for China very much, either, particularly if they're demonstrating for democracy at Tiananmen Square or Tibetans struggling to get their country back.

Fortunately, it occurred to a few key Republicans and several Democrats that he was a very odd choice for the job. The Republicans were mostly Christians, the Democrats were mostly Jewish, and it's a shame this is important but Mr. Freeman's friends on the left are trying to make this a religious issue. It's time to blame the Jews again, this time for ruining poor Mr. Freeman's new career as the chef in charge of cooking the intelligence served in the Oval Office.

Mr. Freeman has had a long if not distinguished career in berating the Israelis for struggling for survival and apologizing for Chinese repression of dissidents struggling only to breathe free. In a speech in 2005 he described Israel as the aggressor in the Middle East, and two years later accused the United States of "embracing Israel's enemies as our own." He apparently "forgot" that Israel's enemies had on terrible occasion made themselves enemies of the United States, with their suicide-bomber attacks on targets in the Middle East and finally on the Twin Towers on September 11. But blame the Jews, anyway.

When Mr. Freeman surrendered to the inevitable and withdrew his name from consideration he distributed a two-page rant casting himself as a martyr to Jewish perfidy and treachery, done in by a Jewish lobby whose "tactics plumb the depths of dishonor and decency." These Jews are "intent on enforcing adherence to the policies of a foreign government."

Blaming "lobbyists," whether Jewish, Catholic or Presbyterian, is an odd excuse for Mr. Freeman, who is himself a lobbyist. He runs a think tank, the Middle East Policy Council, with money supplied by Saudi Arabia, which he lovingly describes as a kingdom ruled by the beneficent "Abdullah the Great," and serves on the board of a Chinese government-owned oil company. He may regard his description of Chinese repression of Tibetan demonstrators as a "race riot" as noble advocacy, but anyone else can recognize it as lobbying. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

Mr. Freeman has his defenders. Nearly all on the left, naturally. The Nation magazine decries "a thunderous coordinated assault" on him; David T. Ellwood, the dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and author of an earlier screed against "the Israeli lobby," called the citations (all accurate) of Mr. Freeman's work "a despicable smear campaign" for "some rather mild public criticisms of Israeli policy." Mr. Freeman's critics, the professor says, intended to force him out of the job. Hmmmmm. Well, yes, that was the idea.

What really bugs Mr. Freeman and his friends is that he was recognized for who he is. "I think their goal is not to stop me but to keep others from speaking out," he said on the way out, just as the door was about to bang him on the butt. Nobody has tried to shut up Mr. Freeman, his defenders or his detractors; it's the public noise, the noise that the elites no longer control, that did him in.

The more disturbing question is why the White House agreed to this appointment in the first place. Not all of Israel's enemies live in the Middle East. Some of them live just down the street.

• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

"Standing Strong"

Arlene Kushner

I cannot let the Freeman incident pass without an additional comment:

I have picked up some observations that Jews should perhaps have stayed out of the fray with regard to appointing Freeman to a sensitive US intelligence post. Because, those making these observations say, look at the anti-Semitism that will now be aroused, look how the anti-Semites have been given a hook: that Jews control the government. (Which was Freeman's charge.) ut I would disagree. Anti-Semites will find reasons to attack if they choose. It is important for Jews to be able to voice legitimate concern without fear. And not only was this legitimate -- the issues regarding Freeman far transcend his antipathy to Israel.


Egypt, which is mediating talks between Palestinian factions in an effort to forge a unity government, has told these factions -- primarily Fatah and Hamas, but including other smaller groups -- that they need to complete an agreement in power sharing for a government by the end of the week. Egypt believes this government must be formulated before reconstruction of Gaza can begin in earnest.

There are, however, major stumbling blocks on the way to forging the government.

One is the treatment of members of Hamas by the PA in Judea and Samaria. A Hamas official has revealed that in the last few days PA security forces have arrested 38 Palestinians on charges of belonging to Hamas. All in all the PA is holding over 400 Hamas-affiliated persons in prison without trial. Hamas, infuriated, has said talks will fail unless all detainees are released and the PA stops pursuing members of Hamas


This is a fascinating scenario. For, until very recently, this is what the PA was supposed to be doing, and had been trained to do with US support. Hamas members were the bad guys, and Fatah, fashioned as the good guys, were supposed to keep them down.

But now, the magical formula calls for a unity government in which all factions are supposed to be good guys. It's a very rapid 180 degree turn-around.

The problem is that, whatever Fatah is or is not, Hamas does not consist of good guys. And who is to say (I've picking up nothing on this) what Hamas might be planning inside Judea and Samaria to weaken Fatah or attack Israelis. One Hamas charge is that some of the people picked up by the PA forces just came out of Israeli prisons -- names are mentioned, four from the Nablus area and four from the Hevron area. The accusation is that Fatah is working at the bidding of Israel. Interesting...


Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman had made the suggestion at the beginning of negotiations that a cabinet be formed of independent experts who are not party-affiliated at all. This has been rejected roundly.

Each group wants the upper hand in the formation of the government. A PA officials says that, according to the PA constitution, only Abbas, as president, has the authority to appoint a prime minister and other ministers.

Hamas disputes this, arguing that as Hamas won the majority in the legislature in the last elections it should select the prime minister.

Please, do not hold your breath waiting for a satisfactory and stable resolution here.


What I notice is that Hamas is not challenging Abbas in his position as president. If you remember, Hamas had said his term ended in January, as he had served four years, while Abbas claimed that he had another year in order to have presidential and legislative elections at the same time.

And I note here that Salam Fayyad -- who was appointed prime minister by Abbas in lieu of Ismail Haniyeh after Hamas took over Gaza and the two factions split -- has submitted his resignation for the end of March, to make way for a unity government.

Fayyad, who belongs to neither party, is the favorite of the Western world.


Another stumbling block to forming a Palestinian unity government that would facilitate Gaza construction is Secretary Clinton's reiteration the other day of the US insistence that there cannot be dealings with Hamas unless it recognizes Israel, renounces terrorism, and accepts previous PA-Israeli agreements.

This is simply not going to happen. Hamas will not renounce terrorism and accept the principles of Oslo. The question is whether the US will stand strong on these demands or find ways to look the other way in order to proceed with Gaza reconstruction. Europe is already moving in the direction of looking the other way.

The stipulation that Hamas must "recognize Israel" is the one that I see as most slippery. Hamas has said on occasion something like: "Israel (the Zionist entity, or whatever they call us) exists. We don't deny that it exists. We even have indirect talks with them."

Will this sorely inadequate statement, or one similar, suffice? There are two words missing from the demand that Hamas "recognize Israel." One is that Israel has a RIGHT to exist. And two that she has a right to exist AS A JEWISH STATE. That will never ever be forthcoming -- even Abbas wouldn't agree to this. And it bothers me more than a little that this is not an explicit and on-going part of the demand, part of the formula of what's expected. What does this say about the US? (No, I don't expect this of the UN, or the EU.)

This bears close watching.


Here at home formation of the government is moving slowly. It had been expected that a coalition agreement would be signed between Likud and Yisrael Beitenu today, but this did not happen as there are still outstanding issues.

One of those issues is the retention of Daniel Friedmann as Justice Minister, which Lieberman has been pumping for. Friedmann, who has taken on the justice system in Israel and challenged the amount of control it wields, is controversial in the eyes of some. (Not my eyes.)

Unofficially it's now being reported that Lieberman is willing to show some flexibility on this -- permitting someone Lieberman proposes and both parties can agree upon. The names now being suggested are either Uzi Landau -- formerly of Likud and once a public security minister, now Lieberman's second -- or Yaakov Neeman -- who was Minister of Justice under Netanyahu but does not now sit in the Knesset.

After this agreement is signed, Shas will be next, followed by United Torah Judaism and HaBayit Hayehudi (The Jewish Home - formerly NRP). Whether National Union will be part of the coalition is still not clear.

Netanyahu wants all of this completed by next Wednesday.


Obama, in an interview with the NY Times the other day, spoke about reaching out to the moderate members of the Taliban. What struck me immediately is that "moderate Taliban" is an oxymoron, if ever there was one.

And, it turns out, the head of the Taliban, Mullah Mohammad Omar, seems to agree. According to a Reuters report cited by Jihad Watch, a spokesman for the Taliban said, in response to a Reuters query in Kabul:

"This does not require any response or reaction for this is illogical. The Taliban are united, have one leader, one aim, one policy...I do not know why they are talking about moderate Taliban and what it means.

"If it means those who are not fighting and are sitting in their homes, then talking to them is meaningless. This really is surprising the Taliban."


What is not surprising, sadly, is that in his eagerness to do this "dialogue," this reaching out, Obama is not doing his homework regarding what is possible and risks making a fool of himself and his nation.

That point was made by several persons commenting on this posting on Jihad Watch.

One said:

"What ticks me off the most is that Obama and the liberal leaning press would never have questioned the farce of the term 'moderate Taliban' if the Taliban themselves did not do so.

"What kind of dream world are we living in if 7th century barbarians have to correct world leaders...And how will Obama deal with national security if he cannot even acknowledge our enemies or their nature?"


Ofer Dekel, Israel's key negotiator for the release of Gilad Shalit, is in Cairo, having extended his stay because of reported "progress." But exactly what that progress might be was not made clear. Hamas is demanding the release of over 1,000 prisoners, some 450 of whom have been involved in deadly terrorist attacks against Israel. The very notion that they might be released wrenches the stomach.
And, apparently, the powers that be in Jerusalem deciding on this matter are also finding the terms objectionable. The end is not in sight. This in spite of the PR pressure that Noam Shalit, Gilad's father, is putting on Olmert to finalize a deal before he leaves office.

see my website

Obama Administration Overhauls US Mideast Policy

Meredith Buel
11 March 2009

Buel report - Download (MP3) audio clip
Buel report - Listen (MP3) audio clip

The Obama administration is moving quickly to overhaul American policy on the Middle East, sending top envoys to the region and promising to push hard for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some regional analysts warn conditions on the ground may make progress especially difficult. U.S. President Barack Obama has been in office less than two months. During that brief period, however, he has already dispatched Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, special envoy George Mitchell, and other diplomats from the State Department and White House to the Middle East.

Mr. Obama says his administration will engage "vigorously and consistently" in order to achieve genuine progress, although he has cautioned that breakthroughs are not likely to occur overnight.

Congressional delegations have also been visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories, including one led by the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry.

"We all know exactly what it is going to take, two states, living side-by-side, in peace and security," he said.

Critics say former President Bush was too focused on the war in Iraq, and failed to pay enough attention to other nations and issues in the region until his final year in office.

Senator Kerry says Mr. Obama's election presents what he calls an extraordinary chance to signal a new regional approach to the Middle East.

"To start with we need to fundamentally re-conceptualize the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a regional problem that demands a regional solution. The challenges that we face there - Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and the Middle East peace process - form an interconnected web that requires an integrated approach," he said.

The Obama administration has decided to engage Syria, even though U.S. officials have criticized the country for supporting militant groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (l) meets with U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, at the Syrian presidential palace in Damascus, 21 Feb 2009
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (l) meets with U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, at the Syrian presidential palace in Damascus, 21 Feb 2009
Two senior envoys have visited Syria, the highest level talks between Washington and Damascus since 2005.

Robert Malley, the Middle East program director at the International Crisis Group, says regional progress should be the focus of the Obama administration.

"If I were advising the administration I would say you could work on the margins - Palestinian reconciliation, reaching out to Syria, restarting Syrian-Israeli negotiations, reaching out to Iran. I think by changing that landscape you may do more to help move towards a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than by focusing on a two-state solution right now," he said.

Malley says current realities on the ground diminish hopes of quick progress on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel's Likud party leader and Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Jerusalem Tuesday, 03 March 2009
Israel's Likud party leader and Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Jerusalem, 03 March 2009
The Israeli leadership is in transition following elections. Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to declare his support for a totally independent and sovereign Palestinian state.

It is not clear whether Egyptian-backed negotiations can unite the Palestinian leadership.

In other developments, President Obama has announced the timetable for withdrawal of American combat forces in Iraq.

On Iran, Mr. Obama has decided to open the door to the possibility of direct engagement with Tehran.

Senator Kerry says there has been a tectonic shift in the geopolitics of the Middle East.Kerry says the rise of Iran following the war in Iraq has created an unprecedented willingness among moderate Arab nations to work with Israel.

"So there is a new reality - moderate Arab countries and Israel alike are actually more worried together about Iran than they are about each other. As a result, they are now cooperating in ways that were unimaginable just a couple of years ago. The truth is that an international initiative to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon is an essential building block of stability in the Middle East. If we succeed, Arab moderates will be stronger and Israel will be much more likely to take the risks for peace," he said.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) is welcomed by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas at the Palestinian Authority headquarters in Ramallah, 04 Mar 2009
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) is welcomed by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas at the Palestinian Authority headquarters in Ramallah, 04 Mar 2009
Ghaith al-Omari is a former director of international relations for the Palestinian Authority and is currently the advocacy director for the American Task Force on Palestine.

Al-Omari says the Obama administration itself is the most important component of the evolving situation in the Middle East.

"The really new element, which I think is most important, is the issue of the Obama administration. I think that the honeymoon, the kind of impact that the Obama administration brings in, the honeymoon is still there. I think we have an opening right now to shape policy. And I think there is a hunger in the region for an active American role, an active American engagement," he said.

President Obama is scheduled to travel next month to Turkey, which has played a key role in Middle East peace efforts because of its ties to Arab states and Israel.

"Post Purim"

Arlene Kushner

Well, the celebration of Purim -- with both its frivolity and its message of import -- has ended, and we are back to the every-day world of here and now, such as that may be. I will begin to pick up on what has been going on.


The good news is that Chas Freeman has withdrawn from the position of chair of the National Intelligence Council even before his vetting has been completed. This is a stunning example of the way in which raising our voices in concern over issues can make a difference.Freeman, however (providing more evidence of his lack of qualifications for the position), has turned on the "Israel lobby" for doing a smear job on him.

What he actually said was: "There is a powerful lobby determined to prevent any view other than its own from being aired...The tactics of the Israel lobby plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency and include character assassination, selective misquotation, the willful distortion of the record, the fabrication of falsehoods, and an utter regard for the truth."

Did he leave anything out?


The simple fact of the matter is that Freeman's appointment was inappropriate for reasons that had nothing to do with Israel: he has been in the paid employ of/and has lucrative business connections with foreign governments -- and has demonstrated a bias towards those governments.

As JINSA points out (Report #868 ), Freeman sits on the board of the Chinese state oil company, which pumps oil in Sudan:

"Two weeks ago, the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for Sudan's President Omar Bashir for crimes in Darfur. Bashir, in retaliation, ousted several of the nonprofit food and medical organizations that keep the people of Darfur alive...A few of the civilized countries, including the United States, tried to get a UN Security Council resolution condemning Bashir for tossing the food and medical people. China has a history of defending Sudan in the Security Council and in this instance threatened to exercise its veto on behalf of its state oil company."

Says JINSA: "Forget Israel. Try defending that in front of Congress."

JINSA's conclusion: "...once he aroused public and then Congressional interest and knew he would have to explain himself outside his cozy circle, he had neither the desire nor the ability to defend being paid by Saudi Arabia and sitting on the Board of a Chinese state oil company."


I had thought by now Netanyahu would have put together his coalition, but it's moving slowly.

Word is that Moshe Ya'alon, former Chief of Staff who fell into disfavor with Sharon for speaking out against the "disengagement," will be Minister of Defense. This would be good news.

Apparently Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beitenu) is holding tight in his demand that he be given the Foreign Ministry post. This is a case of coalition politics generating a situation in which the best man for the job is not appointed, but rather the one who brings in a solid number of mandates. Silvan Shalom (Likud), who had previously held the position of Foreign Minister and coveted it again, is greatly disgruntled, and has the capacity to cause problems.


A Freudian slip by Hillary Clinton? Or a deliberate statement?

As reported by Palestinian Media Watch, Clinton was interviewed live on Sunday for a Palestinian TV show for teenagers. One of her young interviewers asked her about a particular exchange program, and how it might help to bridge a cultural gap.

Clinton responded: "I am hoping to play a big role in working to connect the Palestinian people and American people more closely. As you know, we have many Palestinian Americans, we have very successful Palestinians in every walk of life; in business, in academia, you name it, in every walk of life. And I want to do more to connect up our two countries..."

Connect our two countries?

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Obama Waging War on Prosperity

Dick Morris & Eileen McGann

President Lyndon Johnson's administration was known for his “war on poverty.” President Obama's will become notable for his “war on prosperity.”

We're speaking, of course, of Obama's plans to hike income taxes on the most wealthy 2 percent or 3 percent of the nation. He's not just raising the top rate to 39.6 percent; he's also disallowing about one-third of top earners’ deductions, whether for state and local taxes, charitable contributions or mortgage interest. This is an effective hike in their taxes by an average of about 20 percent. And soon the next shoe will drop — he'll announce that he's keeping yet another of his campaign promises: to apply the full payroll tax to all income over $250,000 a year. (Right now, the 15.3 percent Social Security tax only applies to the first $106,800 of income. You neither pay the tax on income above that, nor accumulate added benefit.)

For many taxpayers in this bracket, this hike will raise their total taxes by about half.

Finally, he's declaring war on investors by raising the capital gains tax rate to 20 percent.

These increases are politically insignificant: The top 2 percent of the nation casts only about 4 percent of the votes, barely enough to attract the notice of even the most meticulous pollsters. But they have enormous economic significance.

Those who earn more than $200,000 pay almost 60 percent of America's income taxes and account for a third of its total disposable income. If these spenders and investors are hunkering down, waiting for the revenuers to beat down their doors, their confidence will be anything but robust. Their spending will drop; they'll be unlikely to invest (except in new tax shelters).

Franklin Roosevelt's presidency was marked by an emphasis on recovery in his first term and class warfare (which he called "reform") in his second.

Campaigning for re-election in 1936, FDR famously declared, "I should like to have it said of my first administration that in it the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I would like to have it said of my second administration that in it these forces met their master."

Obama seems to have skipped the first-term FDR program and jumped right into the class divisions and warfare of the second.

The president would do well to remember that Roosevelt's assault on the rich led directly to the recession of 1937-39 — when unemployment soared back up to 19 percent. (It was brought down only by World War II.)

Obama must realize that his tax hikes will dampen investment and consumer spending and prolong and deepen the economy's woes — this is presumably why he's postponing most tax hikes until 2011. But taxpayers, particularly wealthy taxpayers, are not dumb: They'll know what's coming, and look to secure the hatches in advance by sitting on their money.

But then, Obama must also realize that his stimulus package, with its massive growth of government, is going to kindle huge inflation in coming years. And he surely realizes that he can't expand government health insurance as massively as he intends introducing rationing of medical services.

He must know, but not care.

Here is a president who would rather redistribute income than create wealth. He thinks it more important to grow government than to fight inflation. He believes that it is crucial to expand healthcare to the young and middle aged, even if it means cutting it back for the elderly. He's more committed to effecting "broad change" in his first term than he is to winning a second one.

We have a president, in short, who will stand on his principles. Unfortunately, they're bad ones.

© 2009 Dick Morris & Eileen McGann

Fischer’s ‘Modest’ Rescue Plan

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu Fischer’s ‘Modest’ Rescue Plan

Bank of Israel Governor Prof. Stanley Fischer presented a “modest” 4.4 billion shekel-$1.1 billion economic rescue plan on Tuesday for more government spending and a higher deficit, but he has no magic wand to stop the recession.

His program calls for increased aid for lower-income families, including a negative income tax, incentives for increased exports and industry and stimulus outlays for the labor marker.Labor union and businessmen praised Fischer’s proposal despite his own admission that it will give limited help to the ailing economy, which by all accounts is in a recession.

Fischer explained that the suggested government outlays are a lot less than those proposed by other countries but that “we do not have a lot of leeway in government spending” because of the high personal and government debt.

He suggested increasing the government deficit to 5.8 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), 10 percent higher than the current deficit and far higher than the previous maximum target of three percent.

Higher oil prices and the higher exchange rate also may spark a reversal in falling energy prices and cause higher inflation. The worse scenario for the economy may be “stagflation,” whereby the economy sags while inflation rises.

The Bank cannot stimulate the economy by lowering interest rates much more because they already are near zero, one of the reasons that the shekel-dollar rate has soared from 3.30 to 4.25 in the past year. The higher rate encourages exports but also may cause higher inflation, primarily in real estate deals that are quoted in dollars.

The stimulus program will save 15,000 families from unemployment, according to Fischer, whose term of office ends in May. He recently stated his conditions for accepting another three-year term, and the Finance Ministry will likely approve despite its being upset with his demands for less ministry authority in overseeing the capital markets.

Obama’s Budget Faces Test Among Party Barons


WASHINGTON — What the Democratic barons of Congress liked best about President Obama’s audacious budget was his invitation to fill in the details. They have started by erasing some of his. The apparent first casualty is a big one: a proposal to limit tax deductions for the wealthiest 1.2 percent of taxpayers. Mr. Obama says the plan would produce $318 billion over the next decade as a down payment for overhauling health care.

But the chairmen of the House and Senate tax-writing committees, Senator Max Baucus of Montana and Representative Charles B. Rangel of New York, have objected to the proposal, citing a potential drop in tax-deductible gifts to charities.

Billions in savings from cutting government subsidies to big farmers and agribusinesses? No dice, said Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota, who heads the Senate Budget Committee.

Mr. Conrad also panned the limit on tax deductions. And his criticisms of those savings proposals aside, Mr. Conrad said Mr. Obama’s 10-year plan would not do enough to reduce future debt.

Shrink spending on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security? Representative John M. Spratt Jr. of South Carolina, chairman of the House Budget Committee, suggested Mr. Obama’s proposals did not go far enough.

Cap industries’ emissions of the gases blamed for climate change? Representative Henry A. Waxman of California, who leads the House Energy and Commerce Committee, will have to contend with dissent on a panel with Democrats from coal and manufacturing states.

“The legislative process requires compromise and being open to different alternatives,” Mr. Waxman said.

Mr. Obama is taking a gamble in outsourcing the drafting of his agenda’s details to these five veteran lawmakers and others in Congress, each with his own political and parochial calculations.

“This is not an easy budget to market, for sure,” Mr. Spratt said.

He said he and other Democratic leaders would have to sell it one lawmaker at a time, but sell it they would. “Not every problem is a deal breaker,” Mr. Spratt said. “We will try and make corrections and accommodations.”

The process is like “a giant jigsaw puzzle,” Mr. Rangel said. “But it is going to come together.”

If the budget is to come together, the responsibility will be on the Democratic committee chairmen to deliver since most Republicans seem to have little appetite for the president’s proposals.

After a $787 billion economic stimulus package and a $410 billion appropriations measure for the current year, “Republicans feel like they can oppose this spending spree and this shifting of power from Main Street to Washington enthusiastically,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina to whom the administration has looked for bipartisanship. “It means the year could be an ideological struggle instead of a problem-solving year.”

The House and Senate are aiming to agree on a budget in April, but it will not require Mr. Obama’s signature.

Instead, that budget serves as a nonbinding blueprint for the committees — chiefly the Ways and Means and Finance panels — to write the legislation that Mr. Obama would sign into law. The changes he envisions for health care, energy, taxes, education, transportation and more have stymied Congress for years; in his budget, they come packaged together, and the resistance will be multiplied as a result.

The White House, meanwhile, is making clear that it is ready to push back, judging by its reaction to the strong resistance to its proposal to limit wealthy taxpayers’ deductions.

When Mr. Baucus, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, told Timothy F. Geithner, the Treasury secretary, soon after the Obama budget’s release that the administration must find a more “viable” source of revenue for its health care plan, Mr. Geithner expressed openness to other options.

The next day, however, Mr. Geithner staunchly defended the proposed limit, telling the House Budget Committee it would affect few taxpayers and still let them take deductions at the same level as in the Reagan years: a 28 percent rate, nearly twice what most taxpayers can claim.

The White House has sought to broaden that defense, emphasizing that the impact on charitable giving is likely to be small and that the proposal is hardly radical. Mr. Geithner has called it “fair and reasonable.”

Mr. Baucus, a veteran of 34 years in Congress, has welcomed Mr. Obama’s determination to overhaul health care this year. But he also has been drafting his own plan to contain costs and expand insurance coverage, putting him in potential conflict not only with the White House, but also with Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts and the chairman of the Senate health committee.

For instance, Mr. Baucus has suggested that one way to raise money would be to tax as income the value of the health insurance some employees get on the job, an approach Mr. Obama attacked when Senator John McCain, his Republican rival for the presidency last fall, proposed it.

For Mr. Conrad and some other Democrats, the political problem is that the upfront costs of health care reforms are huge while the promised cost savings are years in the future.

“When people say we won’t see the results of any of that spending for 10 years, I become skeptical,” Mr. Conrad said.

Early meetings of representatives of his Budget Committee and the Senate’s finance and health committees, Mr. Conrad said, have made for “very lively debates.”

As difficult as addressing health care will be, the energy issue may prove even more contentious and from the perspective of many lawmakers is the element of the administration’s agenda most likely to be set aside temporarily if a major initiative must be sacrificed to push through other programs.

To spur development of alternative energy, reduce dependence on foreign oil and help arrest climate change, Mr. Obama proposes a cap-and-trade system after 2011 that would require polluting industries to buy permits to emit carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases. Because companies would pass on the costs to customers, most of the revenues from auctioning permits would go to payments to low-wage and middle-income workers to offset their higher utility bills and other expenses. The rest would pay for alternative energy programs.

Republicans are already digging in against Mr. Obama’s approach, opposing both mandates that businesses buy pollution permits, and the idea of tax refunds to workers who earn too little to pay income taxes.

Democrats have their own divisions on energy legislation. Further complicating matters is the fact that Mr. Rangel, who will have to share responsibility for health care with Mr. Waxman, wants his panel to have a piece of the energy policy fight as well. Both men say they can resolve such territorial disputes.

“We are going to have to work out whatever issues there are,” Mr. Waxman said.

# Need a Real Sponsor here
MARCH 10, 2009
The Charity Revolt
Liberals oppose a tax hike on rich donors.

* Article

Among those shocked by President Obama's 2010 budget, the most surprising are the true-blue liberals who run most of America's nonprofits, universities and charities. How dare he limit tax deductions for charitable giving! They're afraid they'll get fewer donations, but they should be more concerned that Mr. Obama's policies will shove them aside in favor of the New Charity State.

What did these nonprofit liberals expect, anyway? Mr. Obama is proposing a vast expansion of the entitlement state, and he has to find some way to pay for it. So logically enough, one of his ideas for funding public welfare is to reduce the tax benefit for private charity. His budget proposes to raise the top personal income tax rate to 39.6% in 2011 from 35%, and the 33% rate to 36% while reducing the tax benefit from itemized deductions for the top two brackets to 28% from 35% and 33%, respectively. The White House estimates the deduction reduction will yield $318 billion in revenue over 10 years.

From the Ivy League to the United Jewish Appeal, petitions and manifestos are in the works. The Independent Sector, otherwise eager to praise the Obama budget, worries the tax change "could be a disincentive to some donors." According to the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, total itemized contributions from the highest income households would have dropped 4.8% -- or $3.87 billion -- in 2006 if the Obama policy had been in place. That year, Americans gave $186.6 billion to charity, more than 40% from those in the highest tax bracket. A back of the envelope calculation by the Tax Policy Center, a left-of-center think tank, estimates the Obama plan will reduce annual giving by 2%, or some $9 billion.

In defense, White House budget chief Peter Orszag wrote on his blog: "If you're a teacher making $50,000 a year and decide to donate $1,000 to the Red Cross or United Way, you enjoy a tax break of $150. If you are Warren Buffet or Bill Gates and you make that same donation, you get a $350 deduction -- more than twice the break as the teacher." This Administration wants to turn even philanthropy into a class issue.

Mr. Orszag revealed the real agenda at work when he pointed out that the money taken from the "rich" would be used to fund such Obama state-run charities as universal health care. The argument is that any potential declines in private gifts, whether to universities or foundations, will be balanced by increases in government grants paid with higher taxes -- redistribution by another means. This is how Europe's welfare state works: Taxes are so high that private citizens have come to believe it is only the state's duty to support cultural institutions and public welfare. The ambit for private giving shrinks.

America has always operated on a different philosophy, going back to Tocqueville's discovery of thousands of private associations that sustained communities without a commanding state. We doubt that a tax benefit is what drives most giving even today. The exception may be the confiscatory death tax that drives many of the superrich to form foundations to avoid the tax. But we suspect that without the death tax the wealthy would give even more of their income away.

Americans of all income levels have long given generously, notably in the 1980s as income tax rates fell and the economy boomed. Over the last five decades, American giving overall has hardly deviated from 2% of personal income, according to the Tax Foundation. In an ideal world, the U.S. would eliminate most tax deductions, including the one for charity, in return for a simpler, flatter tax that would help create more wealth to give away. With his many new income-limited tax credits and deduction phase-outs, however, Mr. Obama is sprinting in the opposite direction.

Meanwhile, the White House may have underestimated the power of the liberal nonprofit lobby. The charity deduction cut is the only one of the President's many tax increases that Democrats on Capitol Hill have publicly criticized. Politics hath no fury like a rich liberal scorned.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Some UK kids: Auschwitz a type of beer

New poll shows 8% of 1,000 British secondary school pupils believe concentration camp is a country bordering Germany, 2% think it is a drink, and 1% say it is a type of bread. Jewish Cultural Center: If we are not careful, Holocaust will disappear into realms of history

Israel Jewish Scene

Some British schoolchildren believe Auschwitz is the name of a type of beer or a religious festival, rather than the notorious concentration camp, a new poll shows. The poll was commissioned by Miramax and the London Jewish Cultural Centre to mark the DVD release of "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas".

According to The Telegraph, the survey of more than 1,000 secondary school pupils aged 11-16 revealed that a quarter did not know Auschwitz's purpose.

Of those, about 10% were not sure what it was, eight percent thought it was a country bordering Germany, 2% thought it was a beer, the same proportion said it was a religious festival and a further 1% said it was a type of bread, the British daily reported.

The London Jewish Cultural Center said that, as there are around 4.5 million 11 to 16-year-olds in Britain, this is the equivalent of 90,000 youngsters wrongly identifying Auschwitz as a drink and 45,000 mistaking it for bread.

The poll further revealed that six in 10 youngsters did not know what the Final Solution was, with a fifth claiming it was the name of peace talks held to end the war, The Telegraph said.

Obama to step up strikes in Pakistan in effort to force "moderate" Taliban to negotiate

This is curious. We seem to hear a lot about how fighting back against jihadists "radicalizes" people who were once mild-mannered moderates save for the brutish and insensitive workings of American foreign policy. Interesting. Has there been a breakthrough in "hearts and minds" technology for the Predator drones?Again, "moderation" in this context boils down to simply being less extreme than the next guy, which is not a useful predictor of someone's inclination to contribute to a stable, modern Afghanistan. The Taliban who might come to negotiate may think twice about dying in an airstrike, but not at all about the ultimate imperative to impose Islamic law by any means necessary.

More on this story. "US to step up attacks on Pakistan as it forces Taliban to talk," by Dean Nelson and Ben Farmer for the Telegraph, March 8:

The United States is planning to escalate aerial bombing raids on Pakistan's tribal areas in tandem with efforts to force moderate elements of the Taliban to the negotiating table, the Telegraph has learned.

Officials in contact with the State Department said on Sunday that a new offensive would see a dramatic increase in Predator drone attacks on Taliban targets in defiance of Pakistani objections to cross-border attacks.

President Barack Obama on Sunday admitted that the US military was pushing for talks with the Taliban, but officials consulted on the plans said the military conflict would be raised to new levels of intensity before talks could begin. "There will be talks but the Taliban are going to experience a lot of pain first, on both sides of the border," said one senior Western diplomat.

There are hopes of establishing a "hammer and anvil" encirclement of the Taliban with the Pakistan Army expected to extend its bombardment of terrorist safe havens within the Tribal Area's Bajaur agency.

"Hope is not a method." - Military adage

President Obama told the New York Times that the United States was not winning the war in Afghanistan as he hinted at the possibility of talks with the Taliban insurgents. The US leader said General David Petraeus, one of the key strategists in the war on al-Qaeda and its allies, believed "part of the success in Iraq involved reaching out to people that we would consider to be Islamic fundamentalists.

"At the heart of a new Afghanistan policy is going to be a smarter Pakistan policy," Mr Obama said. "As long as you have got safe havens in these border regions that the Pakistani government can't control or reach in effective ways, we're going to continue to see vulnerability on the Afghan side of the border.

"And so it's very important for us to reach out to the Pakistani government and work with them more effectively."

The architect of Mr Obama's "smarter policy," former US ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Holbrooke, has appointed Afghan policy expert Barnett Rubin to co-ordinate an approach to the Taliban.

In an article in Foreign Affairs magazine last December, Mr Rubin proposed a 'grand bargain' in which NATO would end military action if the Taliban agreed "to prohibit the use of Afghan (or Pakistani) territory for international terrorism". Such an agreement would "constitute a strategic defeat for al-Qaeda," he wrote....

But it would immediately degenerate into bickering about the nature of "terrorism," which, like "moderation," is another perilously vague term.

Monday, March 09, 2009

A Toe in the Water

'Direct diplomacy' with Iran and Syria starts small.

Monday, March 9, 2009; A14

THE OBAMA administration's opening forays into foreign affairs have been as calibrated and cautious as its domestic policy has been bold. Last month President Obama laid out a strategy for Iraq that tracked more closely with that recommended by the military commanders appointed by President George W. Bush than with his own campaign promises. Now Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has opened Mr. Obama's much-promised "direct diplomacy" with adversaries with a couple of low-level contacts with Syria and an invitation to Iran to join a multinational conference on Afghanistan. Ms. Clinton says that she is "testing the waters," and she has been appropriately guarded in her expectations. That's good: A bolder U.S. offer to either country would alarm U.S. allies in the region and probably be rejected. During her first tour of the Middle East as secretary of state, Ms. Clinton got an earful from Arab rulers alarmed both by Iran's continued belligerence across the region and by the notion that a deal between Washington and Tehran might be in the works. "There's a great deal of concern about Iran in the entire region," she said after three days of talks; a senior State Department official said that Ms. Clinton had expressed doubt in one of her private meetings that Iran would respond to a U.S. offer of engagement. That was only logical, given the latest tirade of Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who called Israel "a cancerous tumor," rejected Mideast peace negotiations and said that Mr. Obama was following the same "crooked path" as Mr. Bush. Ms. Clinton's suggestion that Tehran participate in the Afghanistan conference came on a front where the two countries have collaborated in the past; Iran's initial response was positive.

The outreach to Syria seems more promising to many. Several former senior U.S. diplomats in the Middle East are saying that Bashar al-Assad's regime is eager to improve relations with the United States. Syria seeks an easing of U.S. economic sanctions and would also like to see U.S. mediation of peace talks with Israel. For its part, the administration wants Syria to curtail its material support for Hamas and Hezbollah; both the United States and Israel dream of rupturing Syria's alliance with Iran.

There are big and probably insurmountable obstacles to any such breakthrough. Mr. Assad heads a murderous regime; a United Nations tribunal was established last week to consider political murders in Lebanon that most likely were authored in Damascus. Mr. Assad continues to seek hegemony over Lebanon, something that the United States should not countenance. Israel's next government will probably be led by Binyamin Netanyahu, who promised immediately before his election that he would not return the occupied Golan Heights to Syria.

Yet the Obama administration, Syria and Israel may all benefit by engaging even in negotiations that go nowhere. The appearance of better relations with the United States may attract more European investment and diplomatic support for Syria; it may also inject an irritant into relations between Syria and Iran. Mr. Netanyahu's unwillingness to discuss Palestinian statehood may draw him toward talks with Syria despite his pledges. Such modest movement may be all Mr. Obama can hope for from "direct diplomacy," at least in the short term.

U.S. warns it won't recognize PA unity gov't sans Fayyad

Akiva Eldar and Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondents and Agencies

The United States will only recognize a future Palestinian unity government if Salem Fayyad is reappointed prime minister, according to a message relayed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to European and Arab leaders at last week's donor summit in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh. The same message was relayed to Hamas by the Norwegian government, in response to the organization's demand that Fatah replaces Fayyad with an independent candidate.Senior Palestinian sources yesterday told Haaretz that the sudden resignation of Fayyad was a tactical move, designed to pressure Hamas into softening its opposition to Fayyad serving as prime minister in a unity government. The sources believe that the American threat, which is likely to be backed by the European Union and Egypt, will lead to Hamas changing its position and Fayyad rescinding his resignation. It is also feasible that the continuation of Fayyad's term as Palestinian prime minister will be on the agenda during talks between the U.S. and Syria, where the head of Hamas' political wing resides.

Western diplomats confirmed over the weekend that Washington has relayed messages to Hamas, via a European country that is in contact with the organization. The message intimated that a future unity government in the Palestinian Authority must be composed of technocrats who are members of neither Hamas nor Fatah, apart from Fayyad.

Even though Fayyad is not officially a member of Fatah, the U.S. administration sees him as the leading candidate to replace Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas following the election that is due to be held within the next 12 months. While Marwan Barghouti enjoys wide popular support, Washington does not believe he is ready to assume the mantle of leadership. Fayyad, who studied in the United States and was a senior staffer at the World Bank for several years, is trusted by the administration and the international financial establishment.

Fayyad was also favored by the previous U.S. administration, and was roundly praised in an article published last week in The Weekly Standard by the former deputy national security adviser in the Bush administration, Elliot Abrams. Alongside the complements he had for Fayyad, Abrams was also highly critical of Fatah and the lack of leadership displayed by its two seniormost officials, Abbas and Ahmed Qureia. The article raised a storm of protest within Fatah, and one senior member told Haaretz yesterday that Abrams and other neo-conservatives like him, who ignored the expansion of the occupation and the settlements, are primarily responsible for the failure of the peace process over the past eight years.

Enhancing national dialogue

Abbas yesterday asked Fayyad to remain in his post until the successful conclusion of Hamas-Fatah reconciliation talks. Earlier in the day, Abbas said Fayyad's resignation would aid the negotiations with Hamas. "Fayyad's resignation comes to enhance and support the national dialogue to reach a national unity government," Abbas said.

Abbas also said he hoped a transition government could be formed by the end of March, suggesting that power-sharing talks have moved into a high gear, following failed attempts in the past.

The Palestinian prime minister's decision was meant as a confidence-building measure ahead of the resumption of Palestinian reconciliation talks on Tuesday in Cairo. Negotiators from Hamas and Abbas' Fatah movement are trying to form a transition government that is to prepare for presidential and legislative elections by January 2010.

Fayyad, 57, said he would step down after the formation of a new government, but no later than the end of March. However, Abbas aide Nabil Abu Rudeineh suggested that Abbas could reappoint Fayyad if power-sharing talks fail.

Hamas seemed dismissive yesterday, arguing that the Fayyad government had been unconstitutional from the start. "This government did not work for the sake of the Palestinians, it worked for its own agenda. This end was expected for a government that was illegal and unconstitutional," said Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza.

A senior Western diplomat said Fayyad has been saying privately for weeks that he wanted to leave his post "because he doesn't see any hope" of making progress in peace talks with Israel and healing factional rifts.

Support for U.S.-educated Fayyad translated into massive amounts of foreign aid for the Palestinians. In 2007, donor countries pledged $7.7 billion over three years for the Fayyad government. Last week, the pledging conference at Sharm el-Sheikh yielded $5.2 billion over two years.

Fayyad said in a statement that he was hoping to pave the way for a unity government. "This step comes in the efforts to form a national conciliation government," he said.

Hamas officials, meanwhile, suggested that in the event of a power-sharing deal, elections could be put off for several months beyond January 2010, as the two sides try to improve their standing with voters. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the proposal is informal and has not been raised in unity talks.

ICC prosecutor mulls 'Gaza war crimes' probe

Luis Moreno-Ocampo tells Argentinean newspaper he is considering launching investigation into Israel's alleged use of white phosphorus shells in densely-populated areas during recent offensive

The chief prosecutor of the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) announced he may launch an investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes committed during its recent military offensive in Gaza.

Legal State?
Palestinian ministers want Israel probed / AFP
Ministers say Palestine is legal state, can therefore ask for probe on 'war crimes' since 2002
Full Story

"We are in the analysis phase. I have not yet decided whether we will launch an investigation, but it is a possibility," Luis Moreno-Ocampo told the Argentinean newspaper Perfil, just a few days after the ICC issued an international arrest warrant against Sudanese president Omar el-Bashir, accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

In the interview, published Sunday, Moreno-Ocampo said he was examining complaints filed by Palestinian Justice Minister Ali Kashan in January according to which Israel used incendiary white phosphorus shells in crowded civilian areas in Gaza, contrary to international law.

According to the ICC prosecutor, Amnesty International and the Arab League had also presented his office with documentation related to Israel's alleged illegal activities in the Hamas-ruled territory.

Moreno-Ocampo initially dismissed the Palestinians' appeals to the ICC, saying he could not build a case against Israel as it is not a signatory of the Treaty of Rome. However, he said he was reexamining the possibility of launching an investigation against Israel after the Palestinian Authority submitted documents it said proved Palestine was a legal state with the right to request such a probe.

The Rome Statute that created the ICC determines that only a state could accept the court's jurisdiction for such an investigation to be launched.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Rocket Roulette, IDF Retaliation

Hana Levi Julian Rocket Roulette, IDF Retaliation

Gaza terrorists fired four short-range Kassam rockets at western Negev communities at around 8:30 a.m. Sunday, continuing the practice of near-daily barrages against Israeli civilians. Two of the rockets slammed into an open area in the Sha'ar HaNegev region. Two others landed in the Eshkol region, according to Voice of Israel government radio.

No one was wounded and no damage was reported in any of the explosions.

The attacks followed overnight air strikes in Gaza by Israel Air Force fighter pilots, which came in retaliation for six rocket attacks that were fired at Israel over the weekend. Rockets struck the Eshkol and Ashkelon Coastal regions on Saturday morning.

According to local Gaza sources, Israel Air Force pilots killed one terrorist and wounded two more in an air strike near the town of Beit Lahiyeh that followed in rapid response. Hours later, on Saturday night, Israel Air Force pilots also destroyed an arms warehouse in Gaza City and two smuggling tunnels in the southern border town of Rafiah.

Hamas and allied terrorists have attacked southern Israel with more than 100 rockets and mortar shells since the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza.