Saturday, July 11, 2009

Media Coverage? Israeli Policy? You be the Judge


Barry Rubin

Uzi Arad, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's national security advisor, gave a fascinating, broad, and detailed interview to one of Israel's top reporters. Arad explained why he didn't believe there was any real Palestinian partner for peace, discussed the tremendous importance of the Iranian nuclear issue, and said a number of important things--many of them for the first time--explaining the regional situation and Israel's policy. So how did the Associated Press, the world's biggest provider of news to the media, cover it? Almost every word was devoted to saying that Israel wasn't planning to withdraw from the entire Golan Heights to give it to Syria. The headline by the way, is "No Golan Pullout for Peace," implying that Israel wouldn't give up the land even in exchange for peace, while Arad's clear point is that Israel doesn't believe it would get peace even if it gave up the whole Golan Heights, a rather crucial difference!

And how did Reuters cover it? Just as narrowly but choosing a different, equivalent, angle, that Israel threatened to hit Iran with nuclear weapons if Iran attacked Israel using them. What did this leave out? A whole discussion of the threat from the Iranian regime to destroy Israel and how it might be countered in a variety of ways.

I've been talking for years about how much of the media--and especially the wire services--never really report Israel's positions, analyses, and explanations for its behavior. Now here is a superb example.

Compare the two and see. And if you want to understand Israeli policy, read the Arad interview.

Misunderstanding Syria: How the Media Leaves out the Important Stuff

Posted: 10 Jul 2009 02:32 AM PDT
By Barry Rubin

Western coverage of the Arabic-speaking world is often a trifle one-sided, to say the least. Take the question of Syria. Hundreds of articles present the case for Syria becoming more moderate and engaging with the West without even mentioning factors to the contrary. Today, let’s consider Sam. F. Ghattas, “Syria mends US, Arab ties as ally Iran in turmoil,” Associated Press, July 3, 2009.

In general, this article is professionally done which makes this kind of distortion all the more noticeable.

Briefly the story is this:

“Syria's leader sent a July 4 message full of praise to President Barack Obama on Friday and invited him to visit Syria , the latest signs Damascus is hedging its bets in Mideast politics, warming up to its rival the United States at a time when its longtime ally Iran is in turmoil.”

“The United States and its Arab allies have been hoping to pull Syria out of the fold of Iran and Islamic militant groups in the region.”

Ok, fair enough. But what’s missing? Ghattas gives all the reasons why Syria might go along with this but none of the reasons why it might not! True, he writes: “Damascus so far appears unlikely to take such a dramatic step, but it does appear worried about Iran's reliability and the long-term impact of that country's postelection unrest. Also, its Lebanese ally Hezbollah suffered a setback when its coalition failed to win June parliament elections, beaten out by a pro-U.S. bloc.”

He continues that events make dialogue “look even more attractive,” quotes Assad’s “peace” rhetoric extensively, says success with Syria would be a major victory, quotes the Syrian dictator’s wife and a pro-Syrian newspaper editor on how the regime wants good relations with the United States, and points out that Iran has problems following the internal crisis over the stolen election. It tells us:

“Syria also wants U.S. economic sanctions lifted and foreign investment, particularly Gulf Arab money for its economy. It is also wary of an international tribunal set up to try the perpetrators of the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Beirut at a time when Syria controlled the country.”

But what doesn’t it tell us?

--Syria is ruled by a radical, anti-American dictatorship which directs its media to produce a high daily level of hatred and antisemitism (for example, a multi-part television series showing Jews as seeking to take over the world and drinking the blood of non-Jewish children).

--The regime regime, of course, genuinely mistrusts America and the West and would never abandon a reliable, fellow radical ally to throw itself on the West's mercy.
--Iran provides badly needed Islamic religious cover for Syria’s non-Muslim rulers.

--Iran provides extremely important strategic depth for Syria whose alternative would be to throw itself on the mercy of Americans and Europeans it mistrusts. Once Iran gets nuclear weapons--which the Syrian leadership knows is on the way--it will be an even more indispensible ally.

--Syria is sponsoring terrorism against American soldiers and Iraqi civilians in Iraq, as well as against Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel.

--Iran pays for Syria’s weapons. Is America going to do this? Of course not. So how could Syria possibly switch?

--Iran subsidizes Syria’s (and Iran’s) clients Hamas and Hizballah.

--If Syria were to open for “foreign investment” the regime would risk its tight control over the economy and country, having seen how such a step in Communist countries led to the regime’s downfall.

--If Syria were to make peace with Israel, it would face pressure from hardliners who would deem it to be traitorous and demands from citizens for more democracy. Making peace with Israel would be disastrous for the regime.

Not a single one of these points is made or even hinted at? Why not? Such arguments are almost always left out of articles. Many newspapers run op-eds or articles claiming that Syria can be wooed away from Iran and is becoming more moderate without mentioning, much less refuting, all these points.

So while this article contains none of the annoying open propagandizing so common today, it is still ridiculously one-sided. The job of news stories or analyses is not to present a thesis and then ignore every counter argument. It should either be balanced or at least honestly present evidence to the contrary and then prove why the author’s thesis is correct.

And consequently, Syria is profoundly misunderstood in Western policymaking circles, making the fantasy of Syria leaving the radical camp something credible in which time, resources, and concessions are invested.

More Attacks in Iraq? Some Things Can be Predicted in the Middle East

Posted: 09 Jul 2009 12:00 PM PDT
By Barry Rubin

Some things in the Middle East should be totally predictable. When U.S. forces pull out of Iraqi cities, of course terrorists are going to increase attacks to the highest possible level.

This is, of course, what’s happening now. In effect, the terrorists are saying that the U.S. effort didn’t work and that the Iraqi government cannot protect citizens from the revolutionary Islamist forces. It also may show that Syria, which to some extent controls the inflow of terrorists, can cause trouble so Washington better be nice to it. Sort of like the local gangsters going into a store and breaking things to ensure the flow of “protection” money.

What else is predictable? Lots of things! For example if Israel-Palestinian peace ever appeared closer to achievement (which isn’t going to happen for a long time) terrorists will increase attacks in order to destroy any possibility of success. Of course, knowing that they would be targeted for agreeing to a compromise peace is the last of many arguments that ensures Palestinian Authority leaders won’t make such an agreement.

It’s predictable that the current course of Western diplomacy won’t stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons, or persuade Arab states to help in the peace process. It’s predictable that Iran getting nuclear weapons would set off a wave of Islamist recruitment and violence that could dwarf previous destruction from such operations.

A lot is predictable for those who really know the region. Of course, for those whose knowledge is superficial or just plain wrong, they will always guess wrong. If only someone was keeping score perhaps it would be possible to separate the charlatans from the authoritative..

Numbering the days of dictators


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had reason to feel good about himself this week. Less than a month after he secured his hold on power for another four years by rigging the presidential elections, Ahmadinejad felt comfortable addressing his subjugated nation as its rightful dictator. So in a chilling televised performance on Tuesday, he triumphantly declared the stolen June 12 poll the "freest" and the "healthiest" elections in the world and promised they would act as a harbinger for Islamic revolution worldwide.

Ahmadinejad's accomplishments these past few weeks have been vast and unmistakable. By securing the unconditional support of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for his power grab, Ahmadinejad killed three birds with one stone. He ensured that the clerical hierarchy in Qom - which is dependent on Khamenei for its financial stability - acquiesced to his authority. He expanded the Revolutionary Guards Corps' control over the country by making it the indispensable guardian of the revolution. And he effectively transformed Khamenei from the "supreme leader" into a creature of Ahmadinejad's will. The moment that Khamenei gave Ahmadinejad his full support and gave a green light to the Revolutionary Guards to repress the protesters, Khamenei tied his own fate to that of his president.

This means that today Ahmadinejad is completely free to maintain and escalate his policy of international brinksmanship on all levels. From Iran's race toward nuclear capabilities, to its efforts to destabilize Iraq and Afghanistan, to its support for Hizbullah and Hamas, to its support for anti-American regimes in Latin America and its cultivation of terror networks in the Western hemisphere, to its strategic proliferation alliance with North Korea, Ahmadinejad's continued reign means that the world can expect expanded Iranian activity on all these fronts.

In the meantime, the rest of the world's response to events in Iran has been discouraging. The G-8's decision Wednesday to wait until late September to even consider stronger sanctions against Iran means that at a minimum Ahmadinejad has another three months to enrich uranium without worry. And given that US President Barack Obama is on record supporting pursuing negotiations with Iran until at least January 2010, it is hard to imagine that the international community will take any concerted action against Iran in the foreseeable future.

As he moves forward, no doubt Ahmadinejad takes heart from the supine US response to North Korea's July 4 missile launches. On Tuesday, Yediot Aharonot reported that Israeli analysts who reviewed videotapes of North Korea's missile tests concluded that alongside the various short range Scuds it sent over the Sea of Japan, Pyongyang also launched a Taeopodong-2 multi-stage long range missile capable of reaching Alaska. Tal Inbar, head of the Space Research Center, said, "The three seconds seen [of the Taeopodong-2] on the video prove how much North Korea's long range missile program has advanced."

At the same time, both South Korean intelligence and US Defense Department sources have accused North Korea of responsibility for launching massive cyber-attacks against US and South Korean computer systems over the past week. The attacks temporarily crippled multiple systems including those of the National Security Agency, Homeland Security Department, the South Korean Foreign Ministry, the Nasdaq and the New York Stock Exchange, and The Washington Post.

In the face of all of this, the Obama administration has been disturbingly timid. The White House's most consistent response to North Korea's belligerent moves has been to ignore them and hope North Korea decides to behave itself.

Matching their meekness toward Iran, the G-8 leaders responded to Pyongyang's most recent provocations with an announcement that they would like to become friends with Kim Jong Il. As Obama put it, "It's very important for the world community to speak to countries like Iran and North Korea and encourage them to take a path that does not result in a nuclear arms race in places like the Middle East."

OVER THE past several weeks, as the regimes in Pyongyang and Teheran have become ever more brazen in demonstrating their belligerent contempt for the West, the prevailing wisdom has argued that the West has no good options for containing or defeating them.

The traditional take on North Korea is that the world's leading missile and nuclear proliferator poses less of a burden to global stability than a post-regime North Korea filled with millions of starving people who have been cut off from the world for 60 years. By this thinking, the world is better off living with a psycho-state capable of fomenting a global nuclear war than caring for its victims.

As for Iran, as Gabriel Schoenfeld wrote last month in The Wall Street Journal, due to the gutting of the CIA's capacity to conduct covert political warfare during the 1970s, today the US lacks the capability to assist Iranian regime opponents in their efforts to overthrow the mullocracy. As Schoenfeld put it, "the US appears utterly powerless to influence the course of events."

Schoenfeld urged the US to move swiftly to rebuild its covert political operations capacity. While this certainly makes sense, in truth, the US doesn't need to build up much of a capacity to topple either the regime in Pyongyang or the regime in Teheran.

Despite Ahmadinejad's success in maintaining his grip on power, it is an indisputable fact that regime opponents succeeded these past few weeks as never before in destabilizing the regime and in demonstrating its hollow core. Even as Ahmadinejad was glorying in his victory, his opponents - defeated presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi and former president Muhammad Khatami - were calling for a three-day national strike.

On Thursday, thousands of Iranians risked life and limb to heed the call to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the regime crackdown on university students. That the 1999 crackdown occurred on Khatami's orders shows that regime opponents are looking for fundamental, revolutionary change in the regime - not cosmetic reforms.

It is worth noting that Iran's current revolutionary ferment arose from the unlikeliest of sources. The June 12 elections were not supposed to pose a challenge to the regime. All they were supposed to do was pit one regime loyalist against three other regime loyalists.

The fact that the public could view Ahmadinejad's decision to steal the election from former prime minister and regime loyalist Mousavi as an opportunity to bring down the regime demonstrates clearly the magnitude of the public's rejection of the Islamic Revolution. Quite simply, if the Iranian people can take these elections as an excuse to call for the overthrow of the regime, any spark can light that fire.

WHILE A refurbished CIA would no doubt be helpful in this regard, it is not necessary. The international community already has the necessary tools to do the job. All it needs - indeed all any one country needs - is the will to actively assist Iran's disparate dissident groups who separately and together wish to see the end of the mullocracy.

Iran's borders are porous. Whether through international defense contractors or covert operatives working for any country, arms can be easily smuggled to various disaffected minorities from the Azeris to the Kurds, the Baluchis the Ahwaz Arabs, and the Baha'is. Iraq's ratlines run two ways. So do Afghanistan's.

As to the Persians, they are already taking the lead in calling for national strikes. They should be supported through Internet, radio and satellite broadcasts. Whether through the Voice of America, the Voice of Israel, Radio Free Europe, or Radio Free Iran, foreign agents can pump in truthful and relevant information about the regime and enable coordinated, countrywide unrest that could potentially topple the regime in a matter of days or weeks.

Then there is North Korea. As ailing dictator Kim Jong Il uses his brinksmanship to secure a smooth transfer of control over his malnourished slave state to his son ahead of his death, it seems as though no one in the West has a clue what to do about North Korea. The US, we have been told, is too overextended with its deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq to successfully deter or prevent North Korea from carrying out further provocations and proliferation activities. And anyway, for years we have been told that North Korea isn't really serious about its threats. As far as the "experts" are concerned, North Korea's leaders don't really mean anyone any harm. They just want to scare us all a little to make sure we don't get any ideas about bringing them down.

But the fact is that between its own provocations and its massive proliferation of missiles and nuclear technology, North Korea is an enormous threat to global security. And it is also a fact that overthrowing the regime in North Korea is the easiest, safest, fastest, and most humane way to prevent the likes of Kim Jong Il from provoking and proliferating the world into a nuclear conflagration.

All it would take to put an end to this monstrous regime is for South Korea to open up its borders. How long would it take for the last North Korean to turn off the lights when Seoul beckoned over the horizon?

THE MODELS for overthrowing the regimes in Teheran and Pyongyang are not new. Modified versions were successfully implemented just 20-odd years ago. The model for Iran is Poland circa 1981. The model for North Korea is East Germany in 1989.

Unfortunately, whereas in the 1980s the leaders of the Free World were committed to winning the Cold War against the Soviet Union by securing the freedom of those who lived under Communism's jackboot, today, led by Obama, the Free World behaves as though the Berlin Wall fell of its own devices. The will of free men and women risking everything to oppose tyranny had nothing to do with it, we are told. If we care about peace, we should appease the likes of Ahmadinejad and Kim, not bring them down.

On Tuesday, an insect wrecked Ahmadinejad's victory speech. As he bragged that Iranian democracy is a role model for the world, a large moth zoomed around him, breaking his train of thought. Ahmadinejad was brought low before his people by a moth he couldn't swat.

If a bug could humiliate Ahmadinejad in what was supposed to be his moment of triumph, surely the willing nations of the world - or even just Israel - together with the brave Iranian people can bring him down. It would certainly be more cost effective than trying to negotiate a deal with a nuclear-armed mullocracy.

And certainly the South Koreans and the Japanese can feed the starving North Koreans and free them from the bondage of their monstrous regime. Doing so would be vastly less expensive than living under the shadow of Pyongyang's nuclear-armed psycho-regime.

Just because the US is currently on vacation from its role as leader of the Free World doesn't mean that other free people cannot do the right thing.

This article can also be read at /servlet/Satellite?cid=1246443770574&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull

Friday, July 10, 2009

Remembering a good man

Remembering Tashbih Sayyed
Robert Spencer

My friend Tashbih Sayyed, a Jihad Watch Board member, died last week. When I got the news, I did not have words, and posted only this. Now, on Memorial Day, I wanted to try to make up for that.Tashbih Sayyed was that most rare of human beings: a man absolutely fearless in his commitment to the truth. After 9/11, American Muslim advocacy groups began, with the willing complicity of the mainstream media, to flood the airwaves with a huge mass of disinformation and misinformation about jihad activity in the United States and around the world, and above all about its provenance within Islamic theology and tradition. Instead of acknowledging that there was a mandate to wage war against unbelievers that was rooted in the Qur'an and Islamic tradition, Islamic spokesmen routinely denied this, and castigated those who contended otherwise as "bigots" and "Islamophobes."

Amid all this Tashbih stood virtually alone as an honest man. He stood out sharply among contemporary Muslim spokesmen and activists by admitting that there was a problem within Islam that needed to be solved. As he once told me: "My whole life is devoted to one end: to make the Muslims understand that their theology needs to be reformed and reinterpreted. Anybody who thinks that there's nothing wrong with their theology is either a blind person or an apologist. There are many things in Muslim Scripture that need to be reshaped and reframed and reinterpreted, so that they cannot be used by terrorists to justify homicide bombings and honor killings."

This stance, of course, earned him ostracism and threats, but Tashbih was undaunted. I will never forget his reaction when I asked him whether he thought I should go ahead and write a sira -- a biography of Muhammad -- as I had been considering doing. He said "Of course you should" so quickly that it took me aback: usually when I broached the idea with people their reaction had been to tell me that if I did write such a book I would be threatened and possibly even killed. But Tashbih never flinched. He went on to explain to me that it needed to be done, that the truth needed to come out about these issues -- and clearly that was all that mattered, as far as he was concerned. He knew that if the world was going to prevail against the global jihadist threat, we would all have to take certain risks. And he himself never hesitated to put his life on the line for the truth.

Would that now we had hundreds, and hundreds of thousands, and millions like him, with his quiet strength, his good humor, and his indomitable and unshakeable love for the truth. If we did, the outcome of this present conflict would not be in the slightest doubt.

Tashbih, I am honored that you called me your friend, and I will miss you tremendously. And the forces of civilization have lost a warrior who cannot be replaced.
Thanks Jihad Watch

Delusions of Greendeur

Tait Trussell

President Obama promises to create five million “Green jobs” over the next decade – a goal he believes will radically transform society for the better. He is partly right: it will radically transform society. But what if Americans do not want to trade their SUVs for bicycles, their coal-fired electric plants for non-existence wind power, or their hard-earned tax dollars for inefficient industries and an additional rank of lawyer-laden environmentalist bureaucracy? . According to Obama, mandated technologies can not only provide jobs to help eliminate our dependence on foreign and even domestic petroleum – it can virtually overturn every problem since Original Sin. Obama’s “Green jobs” adviser Van Jones has presented this leftist agenda as a panacea for all of society’s problems: “We imagine formerly incarcerated people moving from jail cells to solar cells—helping to harvest the sun, heal the land, and repair our souls.”

Unfortunately, promoters of the Green jobs agenda use dubious assumptions and analyses that could lead to “a smaller economy and...a society that will lessen the well-being” of most Americans, according to the Property & Environmental Research Center (PERC), the nation’s oldest non-profit think tank focusing on free-market solutions for the environment. PERC’s researchers from universities around the country examined Green job analyses conducted by such sources as the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) and the Center for American Progress (CAP), a left-wing organization headed by former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta. PERC scholars found the potential to create decent jobs in wind and solar power industries immeasurably overstated.

The Center for American Progress asserts optimistically that Green jobs will be created “in every region and state of the country.” Green jobs promotional studies yield “seemingly precise estimates that give the illusion of scientific reliability to numbers that are actually based on faulty assumptions,” according to PERC. Claims of economic multipliers also are used to stretch the supposed expansion of jobs. Multipliers are based on the theory that an increase in activity in one firm will automatically lead to increases in other firms.

Early in his presidency, Obama said he wanted to spend $150 billion over the next 10 years on solar, wind, and other renewable sources as well as energy conservation, but significant progress will not be seen at less than the cost of hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars—“possibly trillions of dollars,” according to a United Nations estimate, PRRC said.

The exact definition of a Green job is dubious. Positions can be considered Green merely because they fit the Left’s political priorities. The Mayors Report defines “government administration of environmental programs” as a source of Green jobs, for example “secretarial positions, bookkeepers, janitors, and lawyers.” The last is most disconcerting.

America already gets 20 percent of its power from nuclear energy, which is as carbon-free as wind and solar, but it is considered verboten by the Greens. The UN Energy Report, for instance, maintains that “nuclear power is not considered an environmentally acceptable alternative to fossil fuels, given unresolved safety, health, and environmental issues.” The Energy Report of the U.S. Conference of Mayors includes present nuclear power jobs as Green jobs—but it does not count future jobs in nuclear power.

The Mayors Report instead praises “additional investment” to “develop the nation’s alternative energy infrastructure” by using such items as wood waste, ethanol, used railroad ties, “and old utility polls.”

Most damaging to the Green cause is the dismal outlook for wind and solar energy. The Mayors Report declares, “wind energy is currently the fastest growing alternative energy resource in the country” and “solar power is an alternative energy source providing opportunity for massive job growth.”

A realistic look at wind and solar power tells another tale. The Department of Energy forecasts that, largely through subsidies, wind as a contributor to “renewable” electrical generation (“Renewable” electricity production has been subsidized with a federal tax credit as an incentive.) is estimated to increase from 7 percent in 2006 to 16 percent in 2020 and 20 percent in 2030. It is unlikely to rise to any significant level over the foreseeable future in terms of total national energy. Wind currently provides less than 0.6 percent of total U.S. energy production, according to federal figures. The Department of Energy’s latest projections say wind will account for less than 0.9 percent of total energy consumption in 2020 and 1.1 percent in 2030.

Wind power has significant problems. Wind turbines cannot produce when wind speed is too high or low, or if the turbine blades become iced. While wind is free, the construction, installation, and transmission costs necessary to develop and deliver it are not. Another problem associated with wind energy is that many of the most favorable locations for wind are not accessible to the electric grid. The Department of Energy estimates an added 12,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines costing $60 billion would be needed to get the contribution of wind to the nation’s electric production up to 20 percent by 2030.

As for another Obama favorite, solar power, huge hurdles face any meaningful expansion of solar electric generation. In spite of large subsidies and “decades of effort, the contribution to meeting the nation’s energy needs is only 0.05 percent,” according to the Energy Information Agency (EIA). By 2030, the contribution of solar to energy production is projected by EIA to rise to a mere 0.13 percent.

Such unproductive resources fit well with the environmentalists’ aversion to productivity in general. The Green jobs literature not merely leads toward but praises inefficiency. The UN Energy Report argues that “a negative feature of today’s economy is that it has increased labor productivity and so reduced the amount of labor necessary to deliver goods and services.” The report also knocks the steel and oil industries for increasing labor productivity. PERC notes eco-hysteria’s propaganda contains “three highly peculiar assumptions about human well-being”:

* Increasing labor productivity should be discouraged;
* Low labor productivity does not produce low wages; and
* Subsidizing labor at the expense of capital will not delay the development of new technologies that increase the efficiency with which scarce resources are used.

The resultant cost is high. The CAP Green paper declared that if $100 billion is spent on Green activities that 935,200 jobs would be directly created, implying a cost of $107,000 per new job created. PERC notes such firms will be “unable to compete in the marketplace without permanent subsidies due to the costs inherent in such inefficiencies.”

Government mandates can’t take the place of free markets. Resource conservation, which the “Green’s purport to support, has been a natural incentive for markets throughout our nation’s history. Companies using resources typically have encouraged resource conservation—such as the forest products industry, which plants millions of trees a year, replacing more than those harvested. There is scant evidence that command-and-control economics accomplish efficient conservation.

Much of the arguments promoting Green jobs are hostile toward free markets. Anti-trade sentiment flows through the Green job promotional propaganda. The UNEP is explicit in its anti-trade positions. It contends, “Companies like Wal-Mart (with its policy of global sourcing and especially its policy of searching for cheap products, with potential negative impacts for labor and the environment) are major drivers and symptoms of” increased global trade. Green job backers fail to acknowledge that their anti-trade assumptions “are contrary to standard economic theory,” as PERC puts it.

The environmental community wants to reach beyond economics to affect the personal lives and standard of living of every Westerner. Chief among these desires is the hope more Americans can be shamed out of their SUVs and squeezed into public mass transit. CAP, for example, argues that light rail and subway systems will provide “job growth in engineering, electrical work, welding, metal fabrication, and engine assembly sectors.” But they don’t take into account the need for an extensive feeder system to bring riders to and from rail stops.

And not everyone gets to ride in a motorized vehicle. UNEP insists, “Bicycles and modern bicycle rickshaws offer a sustainable alternative and create employment in manufacturing and transportation services.”

“Nothing better captures the demeaning attitude toward ordinary people, that is rampant in the Green jobs literature,” wrote the PERC researchers, “than the suggestion that rickshaws could become a significant form of transportation in a Green economy.”

Not only the untold costs, but the scale of social change in the deeply flawed vision of the Green proponents would affect nearly every aspect of life.


Dispelling the many myths, describing the promotion of Green jobs, and furnishing grounds for caution in accepting the Greens’ conclusions are largely the work of Andrew P. Morriss, the H. Ross and Helen Workman Professor of Law & Professor of Business at the University of Illinois, and a senior fellow at PERC; William T. Bogart, the Dean of Academic Affairs and Professor of Economics at York College of Pennsylvania; Andrew Dorchak, Head of Reference Services and a Foreign & International Specialist for the Case Western Reserve University School of Law; and Roger E. Meiners, the Goolsby Distinguished Professor of Economics and Law at the University of Texas at Arlington and a senior fellow at PERC.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Allenby Bridge to operate 24 hours a day to boost PA economy

Cabinet decides on measure as part of effort to ease daily life of West Bank residents, promote joint economic ventures. Deputy Minister Ayalon: Palestinians must come to their senses and cooperate

Roni Sofer

The Allenby Bridge crossing on the Israeli-Jordanian border will remain open 24 hours a day for the transfer of goods as part of the government's effort to ease the daily life of Palestinians residing in the West Bank. The decision, which was reached Wednesday during a meeting of a ministerial committee headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Regional Development Minister Silvan Shalom, is also aimed at promoting a number of joint economic ventures with the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Until now the Allenby crossing would close its gates at 8 pm. Unlimited availability would foster an increase in the amount of goods transferred from Jordan to the PA, and the Israeli government contends that an increase in the transfer of goods would significantly improve the Palestinian economy.

'Delay Palestinians' fault'

Shalom, who is also minister for the development of the Negev and the Galilee, said the decision shows "major progress that will assist in the implementation of (the joint projects) and promote economic cooperation with the Palestinians."

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told Ynet, "The initiative proves to the international community that Israel is willing to ease restrictions on the Palestinian population, especially with regards to the opening of the crossings.

"However," the minister added, "the Palestinians must come to their senses and cooperate to promote ventures that are conducive to their welfare, not only those that are short term, but also the long-term projects."

The ministerial committee convened to discuss four key projects. One of the projects being promoted is a pilgrimage site along the banks of the Jordan River, which, if implemented, will boost the PA's economy by increasing the flow of foreign currency. South Korea, which is home to some 15 million Christians, has expressed interest in the project.

Another project, which is backed by Germany, involves the construction of an industrial park north of Jenin in the West Bank. Israel and the PA have been planning another industrial park in Bethlehem, while the fourth joint project will see the establishment of an industrialized agricultural zone north of Jericho. This project is being backed financially by Japan.

Minister Shalom briefed his fellow cabinet members on the projects, and said the barriers that are delaying their completion can be removed in order to promote economic peace by building a relationship with the Palestinians "from the ground up".

Minister Ayalon presented the Foreign Minister's position, according to which the Palestinians are at fault for the delay in the projects' implementation and are not living up to their obligations.

Comment: The boomerang politics have begun anew. To receive nothing from the Palestinians in return for our shift in actions only proves, once again, that we have no back bone and demonstrates to our enemy that we ultimately cave in. This strategy only lengthens and hurts the rode to peace. Within 72 hours they will demand even greater "gifts"-watch!

"More of Same"

Arlene Kushner

I would like to begin today with Caroline Glick's latest piece, "Avoiding an American Ambush," which addresses issues I wrote about in my last posting.. After discussing Obama's immovable radical ideology, Glick says:

"Since the Netanyahu government took office three months ago, the Obama administration has placed inordinate pressure on Jerusalem in a bid to coerce it into making massive concessions to the Palestinians. These concessions are demanded not for peace, but simply for the sake of placing pressure on Israel. Obama wishes to pressure Israel to show his good intentions to the Arabs and Iran.

"To date, Obama's loudest demand has been to officially prohibit all Jewish construction in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. Although the demand is intrinsically bigoted, illegal and immoral, and although the consequences of the expulsion of all Jews from Gaza in 2005 show that Israeli land giveaways and ethnic cleansing bring war not peace, the Netanyahu government has opted not to get into an open confrontation with the administration on the issue.

"Instead, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his government have sought to treat Obama's offensive as a routine disagreement between otherwise close allies. [Note: this is precisely what disturbed me about Ron Dermer's interview.] Rather than defending the principles of Jewish national, legal and human rights and the country's right to security, Netanyahu has sought to reach an accommodation with Obama by reducing the discussion to a conversation about the inevitable natural growth of Jewish communities due to expanding families.

"But what Obama's slavish devotion to his radical world view shows is that Netanyahu's decision to seek an accommodation is not simply an exercise in futility, it is a recipe for disaster. Obama and his advisers...are looking to fight because they believe that the US is best served by fighting with its allies - particularly with Israel. Any concession Netanyahu makes will just form the basis for the next round of demands.

"Far from seeking an agreement with Obama, Netanyahu should realize that given the president's ideological rigidity, there is no agreement to be had..." /servlet/Satellite?cid=1246443736579&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull


Repeatedly, press reports indicate that there are two positions within the government with regard to standing strong against Obama. Those who would put up a fight include Ya'alon, Begin, and Lieberman. Those who are seeking "compromises" with the US are, of course, Barak, who is the voice of Labor inside the government, and Dan Meridor, who is to the left within Likud. And then, Netanyahu. who is always linked with these two.

Thus do we have the babble about how the bonds between Israel and America are eternal and unbreakable. And thus is it Barak who is doing the major negotiating on the settlement freeze issue.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman just gave an "interesting" reason as to why he couldn't do that negotiating. As he lives in Nokdim -- a community that is part of Gush Etzion, near Tekoa, in Judea -- he explained that he might be accused of having a conflict of interest. Well, I don't buy it: he lives in Nokdim because he has a certain philosophy in terms of the right of our people to live in Judea and Samaria, and there's no reason why that philosophy shouldn't be brought to bear in negotiations. Barak also has a vested interest that could be called a conflict of interest -- he represents a party that doesn't adhere to this philosophy. In fact, he's willing to do a "temporary freeze" on settlement construction. If not Lieberman, why not Strategic Minister Ya'alon, who lives in Maccabim-Reut (Modiin), inside the Green Line?

Why not? Because Netanyahu is giving substantial weight to the left-wing member of his coalition.


Barak's latest meeting with Mitchell was held in London two days ago, and it wasn't pretty. It was said that "progress" was made on the issue of freezing settlements. Barak assured Mitchell that we would evacuate 23 "illegal outposts" within weeks or months, not years. As one senior minister, who preferred to remain anonymous, told YNet: Barak made this offer "in exchange for nothing."

Where is Netanyahu's principle of reciprocity?


This question of reciprocity is significant in several contexts. And I want to back up for a minute and look at Netanyahu's own words as he began his position at the helm of the new government. "We are not living in normal times," he told us. We are confronting "extraordinary dangers" and he must consider this as he makes his decisions, for it is his job as prime minister to keep us safe.

The obvious implication of this was that in return for certain concessions to Obama we would find ourselves in a better place with regard to attacking Iran. What we would get wasn't clear, but apparently there would be some quid pro quo: Approval to fly over Iraq? Some bunker busters we sought?

After his Bar Ilan speech, last month, when he uttered the words "Palestinian state," I said I was not yet ready to second guess him. And Caroline Glick at that point expressed a similar feeling, saying, "...If his speech succeeded in blunting US pressure on Israel - even temporarily - on the Palestinian front, and... Netanyahu has gained the opportunity to act on the Iranian front..."


Well, this week Netanyahu gave Obama that phrase he so much coveted": "two states living side by side." It was like a punch in the solar plexus, and what makes it worse is that there is no evidence of anything forthcoming from the US.

Obama had his chance. While he was in Russia yesterday, journalists queried him about Biden's remark that Israel was a sovereign nation and can decide for itself about attacking Iran. His answer made headlines: The US has "absolutely not" given Israel the green light to attack Iran.

"We have said directly to the Israelis that it is important to try and resolve this in an international setting in a way that does not create a major conflict in the Middle East...[it is] very important that I'm as clear as I can be..."

So much for that. The Washington Times reported yesterday that Netanyahu has pointedly not asked the White House for assistance in a possible attack on Iran, or for permission [WHY would we need "permission"?] since it was feared that the US would say no.

In fact, National Security Advisor Uzi Arad is of the opinion that Biden's comment about our being a sovereign country that can make its own decisions was not directed at Jerusalem at all, but at Teheran. This, says, Arad, was to distinguish the US from Israel and make it clear to the Iranians that the US would have no part in whatever Israel might decide to do.

And so, as there seems to be no quid pro quo after all, there also seems no reason to cut Netanyahu slack with regard to concessions to Obama he is inclined to make. I suppose one might make the case that Netanyahu at one time thought, or hoped, there would be a quid pro quo, because Obama had made a link between handling Iran and progress on the "peace process." But now he has to have been disabused of this -- now he certainly must understand how obstinate and devious Obama truly is.


One other note on Iran and the US, before leaving the topic:

US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm Mike Mullen spoke yesterday about Iran acquiring nuclear weapons: "I believe Iran is very focused on developing this capability, and I think when they get it, or should they get it, it will be very destabilizing." (Is this news?) But then he said an attack on Iran would also be destabilizing.

He gave a nod to the Obama policy: "There is a great deal that certainly depends on the dialogue and the engagement..." But then said something we almost never hear from the Americans any longer: "The clock is ticking, that's why I'm as concerned as I am...I think we need to do that [dialogue] with all options remaining on the table, including, certainly, military options."

A rational thought! Like a breath of fresh air.


The concessions that we're making don't end with phraseology. Defense Minister Barak has approved the transfer of 1,000 Kalashnikov rifles to the PA.

Before they are transferred, ballistics tests are done so the weapons can be identified if they are used in a terror attack.


This is all in line with the philosophy of strengthening the PA security forces, ostensibly so that they can fight terrorism (thereby permitting the pullback of IDF forces). US Security Coordinator Lt.-Gen. Dayton is currently training troops toward this end.

The PA, however, has run into a problem: They are having trouble recruiting people for the three additional battalions -- 2,000 soldiers -- they hoped to add to the existing four battalions that have already been deployed in Jenin, Hebron, Jericho and Bethlehem.

There has been a good deal of speculation as to why this is happening. Perhaps young men are still scarred by the Intifada, maybe they are too cynical. But what I suspect is a key reason hasn't been mentioned at all: They don't want to take on their brothers in Hamas. At the end of the day, the people with allegiance to the PA (and that is likely a tentative allegiance), and those who are Hamas-affiliated are bonded in a variety of ways. These young men who are potential recruits may be asking themselves why they should do the bidding of the US, and challenge their own people in the process. Many is the quote I've encountered that expressed this very sentiment.


And then we must ask how effective those who already serve in the existing battalions will be at actually battling terrorism. Will they have the willpower to do what the IDF has been doing? Rhetorical question.

Palestinian Media Watch tells us that on PA TV, on June 29, PA Minister of Prisoners Ashraf al-Ajrami spoke with pride about the bravery of the "security forces" of the PA during the Intifada:

"Now they [Hamas] are speaking [disparagingly] about the [PA's security forces, calling them] 'Dayton Forces.' These [security] forces paid the heavy price in the second Intifada, both as Shahids [Martyrs] and as prisoners. The greatest number of prisoners is from the security forces sector. They are the ones who bore arms and carried out the greatest and most important operations [terror attacks] against the Israeli occupation..."

Dayton would say that today's forces are being vetted more carefully. And yet... and yet...

They're doing ballistics tests on those rifles for a reason.


The European Commission issued an outrageous statement on Monday, saying that Israel's settlement policy strangles the PA economy and makes it more dependent on European aid. " is the European taxpayers who pay most of the price of this dependence." This apparently came from EC representatives in Jerusalem.

The charge is that we expropriate fertile land for settlements, build roads that only serve settlers, and put up checkpoints -- all of which inhibits economic growth and makes the Palestinians dependent on the Europeans, who have this year already paid more than 200 million euros ($280 million) to help cover the Palestinian budget deficit.

There are a host of responses to these unreasonable charges. That the Palestinians, by virtue of terrorism, make the checkpoints necessary. That no Palestinian land is being appropriated for settlements (remember -- the talk is of construction within existing borders of settlements). That the single worst deterrent to economic growth in the PA is the high level of corruption, which funnels money into private pockets so that it doesn't end up where it should. The Europeans bear enormous responsibility here, for they have over the years been very lax in demanding transparency with regard to how their money is expended.

In a fury, our foreign ministry summoned EU ambassador to Israel, Ramiro Cibrián-Uzal, to register a protest.

The ultimate irony is that the PA economy in Judea and Samaria grew by 5% in 2008, while in Gaza during that period there was decline (this is before Cast Lead). The very thing that pro-Palestinian people are screaming about -- building in the settlements -- in point of fact provides solid income for Palestinian workers who don't want to see the building stopped.

Israeli government sources said that the charge that the Jews are to blame for the Europeans having to give money to the Palestinians "borders on anti-Semitism." I would concur.


I have acquired additional names of Likud faction members who signed the letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu initiated by MK Tzipi Hotovely protesting his advocacy of a Palestinian state. In total, so far, my understanding is that the following signed it:

Gilad Erdan, Yuli Edelstein, Ayoub Kara, Gila Gamliel, Danny Danon, Miri Regev, Tzion Pinyan, Carmel Shama, Yariv Levin, and Ze'ev Elkin. I believe there may be another two or three names. I remain most curious as to where top tier Likud right wingers such as Benny Begin and Moshe Ya'alon stand with regard to this letter and have not abandoned attempts to learn more.


"The Good News Corner"

An Israeli company, BiondVax Pharmaceuticals, is developing a universal flu vaccine that would be effective against any flu, including pandemics such as the swine flu, for a period of five years.

Clinical trials are about to begin.


Israeli architect Eyal Amitzur has invented a new game that is a three-dimensional spin-off of the very popular Sudoku. Called Tredoku, the game utilizes the same rules as Sukoku, but is played with variable three-dimensional shapes.

see my website

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

"Mainstream" Islamist Convention Features Hate Speech and Hezbollah Defense

IPT News
July 8, 2009

A top aide to President Barack Obama provided a keynote address at last weekend's 46th Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) national convention, a gathering that attracted thousands of people and also featured anti-Semitic, homophobic rhetoric and defense of the terrorist group Hezbollah.. In her remarks, Senior Advisor for Public Engagement and International Affairs Valerie Jarrett noted she was the first White House official to address ISNA. She spoke in general terms about interfaith dialogue and cooperation. She praised her hosts for "the diversity of American organizations, and ideas that are represented and will be debated" at the convention.

And she openly invited ISNA President Ingrid Mattson to work on the White House Council on Women and Girls that Jarrett leads.

During her 15-minute remarks Friday, Jarrett briefly echoed the challenge her boss issued in Cairo last month about the changes needed to bring peace between Palestinians and Israelis. "Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and it does not succeed," Obama said in his speech.

"Hamas," he added, "must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, recognize Israel's right to exist."

Jarrett was less specific, saying:

"Lasting peace will require a concerted effort on behalf of the Palestinians as well to end incitement and increase security and by Israel's Arab neighbors to take steps towards normalizing [relations with] Israel."

That's a significant shift since ISNA is an unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas-support conspiracy and maintains significant leadership ties to its foundation 28 years ago by members of the Muslim Brotherhood in America. A more pointed statement also would have stood as a powerful retort to extremist sentiments offered in other segments of the conference.

While many panels featured criticism of U.S. policy and law enforcement, one stood out for its hate-filled rhetoric, and ISNA officials should have seen it coming a mile away. During a "meet the authors" session, Imam Warith Deen Umar, former head of the New York state prison chaplain program managed to:

* Argue that key Obama aides are "Israeli," proving Jews "have control of the world."
* Malign the motives of Jews active in the Civil Rights movement.
* Portray the Holocaust as punishment of Jews for being "serially disobedient to Allah."
* Insinuate that Hurricane Katrina was a result of tolerance for homosexuality.

Umar's radicalism is no secret. He previously hailed the 9/11 hijackers as martyrs who were secretly admired by Muslims. He has called for violent jihad. In a January 2004 speech, he urged people:

"Rise up and fight. And fight them until turmoil is no more and strike terror into their hearts." You think there is no terror in Quran? It's called [word unclear] read it in the 56th Surah of the Quran. There's no lack of translation, there's no mistranslation There's not one Sheikh says one thing, no, it's very clear. 'When you fight, you strike terror into the heart of the disbeliever.'"

He has a website promoting a past book, Judaiology, which features an excerpt describing "the inordinacy of Jewish power." Jews, he wrote, are "an amazing people who can steal you blind as you watch. If you discover the theft, they can put you to sleep. If you wake up to them, they can put you back to sleep with mind games, tricks of fancy, smoke screens, and magic. Henry Ford almost uncovered them."

Umar's ISNA appearance Sunday afternoon promoted his latest book, Jews for Salaam: The Straight Path to Global Peace. In discussing it, Umar first thanked ISNA for inviting him to speak.

He then described a distinction between "holy Jews," who are devout, apolitical and poor, and "unholy Jews" who are greedy, conniving and all powerful. He looked to the White House for an example (hear the clip here):

"You need to know that Obama, the first man that Obama picked when we were so happy that he was the President, he picked an Israeli – Rahm Emanuel – his number one man. His number two man – [David] Axelrod – another Israeli person. Why do this small number of people have control of the world? You need to go back into your history and find out about France and Germany and England and America got together and offered the Israelites, who became the Israelites, they offered them Ghana, the plains of Ghana. Why don't you take Ghana since we beat you down so badly? That's what the Holocaust was all about. You need to read my chapter on the Holocaust and the anti-Holocaust movement. There's some people in the world says no Holocaust even happened. Some of their leaders say no Holocaust even happened. Well it did happen. These people were punished. They were punished for a reason because they were serially disobedient to Allah." [Emphasis added]

ISNA described the author's panel as "an interactive session which provides a wonderful platform to learn, share ideas, and provide literary contributions to society." Remarkably, ISNA included Umar in that platform despite a very public record of anti-Semitism, advocacy for jihad, and praise for the 9/11 hijackers.

Umar shared the microphone with another author who did not spew out bigotry, but who did cast Hezbollah as an innocent player subject to incessant Israeli onslaught. Cathy Sultan described her book, Tragedy in South Lebanon: The Israeli/Hezbollah War of 2006, as a history of "the tragedy of the repeated incursions and wars in South Lebanon, the complexities of the Lebanese politics."

She made no mention of Iranian funding for Hezbollah or Syrian meddling in Lebanese politics or its suspected involvement in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Instead, she lumps Hariri among a list of "docile Arab rulers willing to acquiesce to the West and to Israelis' demands ... provided they eliminate or at least contain and disarm Hamas and Hezbollah."

Nor did Sultan describe indiscriminate Hezbollah rocket fire toward Israeli civilian communities, or the cross-border attack on an Israeli army base by Hezbollah that left three soldiers dead and two others kidnapped.

In response to a question, Sultan said "Hezbollah still serves a role. I think that Lebanon is still under constant threat from its southern neighbor. And I see nothing wrong, as long as Hezbollah abides by certain rules and regulations; I see no reason why Hezbollah should not remained armed."

The United States considers Hezbollah to be a terrorist group, and some experts consider it a bigger potential threat to the United States than Al-Qaeda.

The panel did not feature anyone with contrasting viewpoints to challenge Sultan or Umar. The program drew about 50 people, who sat passively during most of the remarks.

Umar's books were available for purchase at the convention. Government agencies were represented with booths of their own, including the departments of Justice, State, Homeland Security, Commerce, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

Before the convention started, ISNA posted a statement for vendors which said "Any literature (fundraising or otherwise) is restricted to the assigned booth and must be pre-approved in writing by ISNA, in ISNA's sole and absolute discretion. Book selling vendors must complete enclosed form providing inventory of the literature to be sold at ISNA."

Judaiology devotes two pages to "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," allegedly the minutes of a meeting of Jewish leaders at the first Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897, in which they plotted to take over the world. Researchers have definitively proved that the Protocols were in fact forged in Paris sometime between 1895 and 1899 by an agent of the Russian secret police. This has not kept anti-Semitic groups from believing the validity of this forgery. For example, the Charter of Hamas states:

"For Zionist scheming has no end, and after Palestine they will covet expansion from the Nile to the Euphrates. Only when they have completed digesting the area on which they will have laid their hand, they will look forward to more expansion, etc. Their scheme has been laid out in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and their present [conduct] is the best proof of what is said there."

To Umar, however, the Protocols "remain a mystery:"

"Jewish leaders have denied [the Protocols] and called them a forgery, a pact [sic] of lies, absurd and counterintuitive. No Jew, they say, would ever resort to writing down such self-defeating words and plans. However their denials appear ineffective because the Protocols actually explain and reveal what others observe about the real activities and results of Jewish diplomatic, industrial, business, and political involvement among the peoples of the world... What is revealed and clarified is so shocking and stunningly in accord with the behavior and results of world events that involve Jews that it gives credence and importance, relevance and standing to what otherwise would simply be a biased and discredited documents."

A woman in the audience reminded Umar that Jews marched with Black people during the Civil Rights movement. But, Umar said, that was not motivated by a genuine desire for justice:

"The Jews in America used the black community to advance the Jewish community. In many instances in history, they gained much of what they gained by putting the African Americans out front to get things that were necessary to get through the politics of this country and of the social setting of this country."

Umar also managed to stray into a reference about same-sex marriage, which he said would prompt God's wrath:

"It's against the laws of Allah and against the laws of the Bible for homosexuality. And if you think the Quran talks about harsh punishment from Allah, you should read what the Bible says. I don't have the time to go into it, but it's in my book. The Bible is very hard on, he says, Allah says that the land itself is doomed. You wonder why things are happening in America are going to happen? You think that Katrina was just a blow of wind?"

This is the man responsible for the Muslim chaplain program in New York prisons for 20 years. He was forced out of that job after his praise for the 9/11 hijackers became known. This is who ISNA chose to showcase in a "meet the authors" panel and provide an unchallenged platform.

"My conclusion is that there should be more jihad," he said. "But people don't want to hear that. They're scared."

In Cairo, the President said:

"Threatening Israel with destruction -- or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews -- is deeply wrong" and a hindrance to peace. [Emphasis added]

But somehow, partnering with a group that invites the same thing is okay?

Will Netanyahu Change Israel Forever?

Moshe Phillips
American Thinker

While keen observers of Israel's political scene clearly understand that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is Israel's most Americanized prime minister in its history, little is ever discussed as to what this means for the future of Israel's political system.Prime Minister Netanyahu has spent more time in the U.S. than any of the previous twelve prime ministers in Israel's history. Because of this, his perception of the world has clearly been affected.

In a starkly American way, he is an enthusiast for democracy, egalitarianism and civil liberties. Netanyahu, in his well publicized June 14, 2009 speech at Bar Ilan University in Tel Aviv, stated, "I share the desire of the President of the United States to bring about a new era of reconciliation in our region." Netanyahu believes that if the Islamic states that surround Israel will just embrace post-modernism as it regards democracy, egalitarianism and civil liberties and put the Koran on the back shelf that there will be peace. In Netanyahu's fantasy, a vibrant regional economy -- central to his vision -- and western education will remake the conflict. Ultimately, his view differs from Obama's in nuance only.

While often depicted in the media as a hardliner, a rightist, or a hawk, he is no more these things than was former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Netanyahu is, in the realm of ideas, a post-modern disciple; there is nothing essentially conservative or classical in his world-view. He sees religiosity as something best left in the past; he is the consummate pragmatist.

From his previous stint as Israel's prime minister from 1996-1999, Netanyahu should have learned that the political structure of Israel must be fundamentally changed if he and his Likud party are to ever achieve the kind of hegemony in Israeli politics and culture that the socialists held from 1948-1977.

We should expect the following from Netanyahu:

1) A radical expansion of executive powers. This expansion will be highly difficult to roll back when the power shifts back to the leftist parties. (See Public Policy and Electoral Reform: The Case of Israel by Gideon Doron and Michael Harris for Netanyahu's record on this in his first term.)

2) An increase in the use of American political strategists such as Arthur J. Finkelstein, a New York based Republican consultant. Finkelstein has worked on Israeli campaigns for over ten years and has advised Netanyahu in the past. More time and money will be spent protecting popularity ratings than substantive progress. Netanyahu will also encourage his admirers to continue supporting sycophant think tanks. Ideas will be trumped by image.

3) Netanyahu will once again push for the return of direct election of the prime minister-- a particular personal fixation that allowed his election in 1996. This effort will be paired with a renewed and sustained effort to move Israel to personality based election campaigning.

4) Tighter control of the Likud primary election system. Netanyahu will want to avoid, at all cost, any efforts by the right wing of Likud to make the Likud into the nationalist party that its Herut party forefathers intended. He finds the rhetoric of the Orthodox Jewish and pro-settlement nationalists to be embarrassing and distasteful. He wants the Likud to be portrayed as analogous to the blue-blood, pre-Reagan Republican Party in the United States. It matters not that Likud's platform is much closer to the Democratic Party on far too many domestic issues.

5) Party governance in the Likud will become even less democratic. A purge of the religious and nationalist elements of the party will be carried out. The internal party courts and apparatuses will be fully deployed in this effort. Primary elections in Likud will become rubber stamps.

6) The Netanyahu camp will insist on a dramatic increase in the minimum Knesset election threshold as a centerpiece of their political system reboot. The lasting effect of reengineering the Knesset election threshold will be to permanently destroy all small and medium size parties and those renegade Likud elements through marginalization.

The goal is to manipulate the Knesset landscape so that the current twelve parties will be whittled down significantly. The change in the threshold will cause one combined far left Jewish / Arab list and one combined far right / Orthodox Jewish list to be created. Netanyahu's goal is to create a system with just two parties within the next two to four elections. Likud and Labor will be increasingly portrayed as Republicans and Democrats. Factions will develop within each party just as has taken place within American politics since Teddy Roosevelt. Netanyahu will make moves in the future to change the system even more. Both Tzipi Livni's Kadima and Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu parties will be placed into the vise and, if at all possible, eliminated or forced to negotiate a merger. The settlers in particular would have their political clout diminished to a potentially fatal level.

Netanyahu, however, with his obsessions of all things American, will not support a constitution for Israel and will continue to marginalize this fundamental flaw within the Israeli body politic. As constitutional scholar Dr. Paul Eidelberg has pointed out, there is an enduring "myth that Israel is a functioning, free democracy with a constitution, representative districts and a balance of powers similar to the U.S. system." Netanyahu will do nothing to destroy that myth while maintaining the status-quo after all; he has been one of its greatest beneficiaries.

Postscript: The book The Myth of Israeli Democracy: Toward A Truly Jewish Israel by Paul Eidelberg is a must read. Order the book and share it with everyone you know who is concerned about Israel's future. Eidelberg has long sought the introduction of a bicameral legislature and the direction election of members of Knesset. Those innovations will go a long way in revitalizing Israel's wellbeing.
Moshe Phillips is a member of the executive committee of the Philadelphia Chapter of Americans for a Safe Israel / AFSI. The chapter's website is at: and Moshe's blog can be found at

Page Printed from: at July 08, 2009 - 11:58:02 AM EDT

Saudi sanctimony


His Royal Highness Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud, the king of Saudi Arabia, works hard to get good press. He throws swell up-market galas, puts on grand interfaith conferences and finances numerous think tanks and lobbying firms. He also hands out fancy gold medals on thick gold chains - of which Barak Hussein Obama was a recent enchanted recipient. Every once in a distant while, the savvy Saudi king also pulls the best trick in the book. He lets loose a feeble - but tantalizing - hint about the remote possibility of a theoretical chance that he might, someday, under exceptional circumstances and only if he unconditionally gets his way, begrudgingly accede to some faint warming of ties with Israel.

It's a soft lob, a pain-free ploy, Saudi sophistry at its best. Yet the ruse works wonders. Speak very vaguely and indirectly about peace with Israel, and presto! You're in Washington's good books. You're now a peace process "leader" with a diplomatic "initiative" in your name. No concrete follow-up required. No need to put your money where your mouth is.

Not that the king doesn't know how to act decisively, or spread around a few American dollars, when he needs and wants to.

The Saudis hauled in truckloads of cash to buy the recent elections in Lebanon to ensure a Sunni (i.e., non-Hizbullah) victory. They've bankrolled Lashkar e-Taiba (of Mumbai infamy), Hamas and other radical Islamic movements worldwide when it suited them, while brutally crushing other groups, like al-Qaida, when these became a threat to them.

They've openly embraced, then bluntly cold-shouldered, different Palestinian and American leaders, as per their changing interests. Riyadh also funds madrassas and mosques the world over to aggressively promote its purist Wahhabi brand of Islam.

THUS, SAUDI KINGS and princes know how to make things happen, when they want to.

So, if King Abdullah, really wanted to lead the Arab world toward peace with Israel, he could find a way or two to express his "moderation" more clearly and make things happen.

But the sanctimonious Saudis always seem to hew to the PR minimum. When they had a 9/11 image problem (15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis, remember?), then-Crown Prince Abdullah nattered to The New York Times about "full normalization" with Israel in exchange for "full withdrawal" from the territories. It sounded pretty good. In a flash, Abdullah transformed the discourse from Saudi involvement in terrorism to Saudi peacemaking.

However, as Prof. Joshua Teitelbaum of the Dayan Center has pointed out, by the time the Abdullah trial balloon reached the Arab summit in Beirut in March 2002, the initiative had been modified and its terms hardened. It watered down "full normalization," rewarded Syria with a presence on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and enshrined a Palestinian "right of return" to Israel.

Since then, the sangfroid Saudis haven't been willing to bat an eyelash at Israel. But the dodge worked so well that today the Obama administration is touting the Saudi "led" Arab peace initiative as a cornerstone of its regional peace diplomacy.

The only problem is that the supercilious Saudi king doesn't really want to lead. He can't even bring himself to give President Obama some rope with which to entice, or hang, Israel. According to news reports, Washington can't seem to squeeze any commitments about normalization from the Saudis, even if Israel freezes all settlement activity and paints the Jerusalem Old City walls in the Saudi national colors.

NOW, NOBODY was expecting the supreme Saudi king to come to Jerusalem, God forbid, Anwar Sadat style. Nor could we reasonably expect Abdullah to offer cash for resettling Palestinian refugees outside of Israel. Nor will he likely curtail the vicious anti-Israel propaganda pumped out daily to the Arab world by his Middle East Broadcasting channel (MBC) or through films like the malevolent Saudi-produced Olive Dream. Naw, that would be asking too much.

But Abdullah might have, and still could - if peace truly was his goal - authorize a meeting of Israeli and Saudi academics on desertification and desalinization or other nonpolitical environmental matters. He could quietly allow the opening of a low-level Saudi commercial interest section in a Tel Aviv-based foreign embassy, as some of the other Gulf states have already done. He could send us a Rosh Hashana card.

Heck, Israel would settle for something simple, like approval for El Al to fly over Saudi airspace en route to New Delhi and Beijing. We would even be willing to refrain from serving kosher food, flushing toilets and playing "Hava Nagila" on the speaker system as our Zionist planes traverse the sacrosanct Saudi heavens.

But no. King Abdullah can't countenance such muffled gestures toward Israel. Not even for his friend Obama.

Now here's a thought: Perhaps Obama isn't pressing the Saudis and other Arabs hard enough about normalizing ties with Israel? Perhaps Abdullah has the impression that Obama is going to "deliver" Israel to the Arabs, and wrest from Binyamin Netanyahu a settlement freeze, then withdrawals and then a handover of Jerusalem? Where oh where could Abdullah have possibly gotten that impression?

The writer is director of public affairs at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. /servlet/Satellite?cid=1246443728813&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull

Living it up at the public trough

By Dr. Paul L Williams* and the staff of

“In my own life, in my own small way, I have tried to give back to this country that has given me so much,” she said. “See, that’s why I left a job at a big law firm for a career in public service, “ Michelle Obama No, Michele Obama does not get paid to serve as the First Lady and she doesn’t perform any official duties. But, this hasn’t deterred her from hiring an unprecedented number of staffers to cater to her every whim and to satisfy her every request in the midst of the Great Recession. Just think Mary Lincoln was taken to task for purchasing china for the White House during the Civil War. And, Mamie Eisenhower had to shell out the salary for her personal secretary.

How things have changed! If you’re one of the tens of millions of Americans facing certain destitution, earning less than subsistence wages, stocking the shelves at Wal-Mart or serving up McDonald cheeseburgers, prepare to scream and then come to realize that the benefit package for these servants of Miz First Lady Michele are the same as members of the national security and defense departments. Furthermore, John Q. Public pays the bill for these assorted lackeys. Here is a list of her personal helpers: Total of salaries listed for personal attendants - $1,564,500!

$172,200 - Sher, Susan (CHIEF OF STAFF)















Bookey, Natalie (STAFF ASSISTANT)

*Paul L. Williams is the author of such best-selling books:
· The Day of Islam: The Annihilation of America and the Western World (Prometheus, 2007),
· The Dunces of Doomsday (Cumberland/WND Books, 2006),
· The Al Qaeda Connection (Prometheus, 2005),
· Osama’s Revenge: The Next 9/11 (Prometheus, 2004),
· The Vatican Exposed (Prometheus, 2003),
· Everything You Always Wanted to Know about the Catholic Church But Were Afraid to Ask for Fear of Excommunication (Doubleday, 1990).

In addition, he has written several Idiot Guides, including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Lives of the Saints (Alpha/Penguin, 2002) and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Crusades (Alpha, Penguin 2001) and a scholarly text The Moral Philosophy of Peter Abelard, which garnered a National Book Award. He has been the subject of a PBS documentary and programs on the Discovery and History channels. He is a frequent guest on such national news networks as ABC News, CBS News, Fox News, MSNBC and NPR.

Williams holds a Ph.D. in philosophical theology from Drew University (1976). He has been the recipient of six major academic scholarships and a teaching fellowship from Lehigh University, and, for over a decade, has taught philosophy, religion and the humanities at The University of Scranton and Wilkes University.

As a journalist, Williams served as the editor/publisher of The Metro, the largest weekly newspaper in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The Metro, under his leadership/ownership, was named one of the best newspapers in the state for editorial content by the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publishers’ Association, and, in 1993, he became the only journalist to capture three first-place Keystone Press Awards in three distinct categories in the same year.

In addition, he has served as a correspondent on terrorism and world affairs for World Net Daily and NewsMax, and has penned feature articles for National Review (one of which sparked the longest running print debate in the history of a major periodical), USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal.

A British military expert tells truth to prejudice

Melanie Phillips

During Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza at the turn of the year, when it was being demonised daily for its ‘disproportionate’ response to Gaza’s rocket attacks and accused (falsely) of recklessly or wilfully killing huge numbers of Palestinian civilians, particularly children, the BBC conducted an interview which shone out like a diamond on a dunghill in those dark and bigoted days. It was with Colonel Richard Kemp, formerly both commander of British forces in Afghanistan and the intelligence co-ordinator for the British government.In that interview, Col Kemp disconcerted the BBC’s boilerplate group-thinking presenter by stating that

I don’t think there’s ever been a time in the history of warfare when any army has made more efforts to reduce civilian casualties and deaths of innocent people than the IDF is doing today in Gaza.

Now Col Kemp has amplified his remarks in a speech at a conference in Israel. It is worth watching or reading this remarkable speech in full -- because he says things that are as well-informed, obvious and decent as they are rare and poorly understood in the society that he has spent his life defending. He points out, for example, that Britain, America and Israel are up against the same type of enemy which operates under a new and very different set of rules:

Hizballah and Hamas over here, Al Qaida, Jaish al Mahdi and a range of other militant groups in Iraq. Al Qaida, the Taliban and a diversity of associated fighting groups in Afghanistan. They are different but they are linked. They are linked by the pernicious influence, support and sometimes direction of Iran and/or by the international network of Islamist extremism. These groups, as well as others, have learnt and continue to learn from each others’ successes and failures. Tactics tried and tested on IDF soldiers in Lebanon have also killed British soldiers in Helmand Province and in Basra. These groups are trained and equipped for warfare fought from within the civilian population.

Do these Islamist fighting groups ignore the international laws of armed conflict? They do not. It would be a grave mistake to conclude that they do. Instead, they study it carefully and they understand it well. They know that a British or Israeli commander and his men are bound by international law and the rules of engagement that flow from it. They then do their utmost to exploit what they view as one of their enemy’s main weaknesses.

Their very modus operandi is built on the, correct, assumption that Western armies will normally abide by the rules. It is not simply that these insurgents do not adhere to the laws of war. It is that they employ a deliberate policy of operating consistently outside international law. Their entire operational doctrine is founded on this basis. In Gaza, as in Basra, as in the towns and villages of southern Afghanistan, civilians and their property are routinely exploited by these groups, in deliberate and flagrant violation of any international laws or reasonable norms of civilised behaviour for both tactical and strategic gain.

Stripped of any moral considerations, this policy operates simply and effectively at both levels. On the tactical level, protected buildings, mosques, schools and hospitals, are used as strongholds allowing the enemy the protection not only of stone walls but also of international law. On the strategic level, any mistake, or in some cases legal and proportional response, by a Western army will be deliberately exploited and manipulated in order to produce international outcry and condemnation. And in sophisticated groupings such as Hamas and Hizballah, the media will be exploited also as a critical implement of their military strategy. [my emphasis]

And of course the British and American media have done everything they can to act as the jihadis’ fifth column against the west – nowhere more so than in Israel, on which Col Kemp had this to say:

What is the other challenge faced by the IDF that we British do not have to face to the same extent? It is the automatic, Pavlovian presumption by many in the international media, and international human rights groups, that the IDF are in the wrong, that they are abusing human rights.

So what did the IDF do in Gaza to meet their obligation to operate within the laws of war? When possible the IDF gave at least four hours’ notice to civilians to leave areas targeted for attack. Attack helicopter pilots, tasked with destroying Hamas mobile weapons platforms, had total discretion to abort a strike if there was too great a risk of civilian casualties in the area. Many missions that could have taken out Hamas military capability were cancelled because of this.

During the conflict, the IDF allowed huge amounts of humanitarian aid into Gaza. This sort of task is regarded by military tacticians as risky and dangerous at the best of times. To mount such operations, to deliver aid virtually into your enemy’s hands, is to the military tactician, normally quite unthinkable. [my emphasis] But the IDF took on those risks.

In the latter stages of Cast Lead the IDF unilaterally announced a daily three-hour cease fire. The IDF dropped over 900,000 leaflets warning the population of impending attacks to allow them to leave designated areas. A complete air squadron was dedicated to this task alone. Leaflets also urged the people to phone in information to pinpoint Hamas fighters vital intelligence that could save innocent lives.

The IDF phoned over 30,000 Palestinian households in Gaza, urging them in Arabic to leave homes where Hamas might have stashed weapons or be preparing to fight. Similar messages were passed in Arabic on Israeli radio broadcasts warning the civilian population of forthcoming operations. Despite Israel’s extraordinary measures, of course innocent civilians were killed and wounded. That was due to the frictions of war that I have spoken about, and even more was an inevitable consequence of Hamas’ way of fighting.

By taking these actions and many other significant measures during Operation Cast Lead the IDF did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other Army in the history of warfare. But the IDF still did not win the war of opinions – especially in Europe.

Israel’s military therefore observes a high standard of ethical behaviour and concern for innocent life which is simply without parallel or precedent anywhere else in the world. And yet it is Israel which the west singles out for demonisation and delegitimisation for ‘war crimes’ -- so much so that the very same Israeli military eulogised by Col Kemp cannot set foot in Britain without a ‘human rights’ lawyer trying to arrest them for ‘crimes against humanity’ as soon as they step off the plane.

Go figure..

Israeli Economy a Draw for North American Immigrants

Rachel Abrams Israeli Economy Boosts US Aliyah

The ideological bottom line may remain the same, but those looking to Aliyah may finally have large financial incentives to cross the ocean. "For the first time in history, the Israeli economy is looking better than the American economy", says Danny Oberman, executive vice president of operations at Nefesh B'Nefesh. A leading organization which finds and assists Jews wishing to make Aliyah [immigration to Israe, the group has reported an average of 25 new inquiries each day from people looking to begin the application process. "We are seeing an unprecedented level of interest from North America," says Oberman, "and it's not just people who have lost their jobs but people who don't see a serious upside in the near future."

Click here to hear interview with Oberman.

For young singles and couples, the advantages afforded by Israel's current economic edge are especially appealing. The job market is wider for recent university graduates, and families with young children can find more affordable Jewish or college education in Israel than back in the U.S. and Canada. Israeli health insurance, free for between the first six to 12 months for new arrivals and amounting to $50 to $100 a month after that, is also a cheaper option than many health insurance plans in the U.S.

Immigrants also are given a discount on car purchases and are eligible for free education if they are under the age of 27. For those generating income from overseas, no taxes are taken for the first 10 years of residence. These lower costs, combined with an overly burdened and strained American economy, are enticing more North American Jews than ever to emigrate.

In 2008, Nefesh B'Nefesh reported that 3,000 immigrants to Israel were from North America. This year, the organization is expecting upwards of 4,000.

"What we're seeing is…people who had considered Aliyah, people who had visited Israel in the past, people who had a connection, but who stayed in North America because they were doing well; they were comfortable," says Oberman. Now, however, with Israel faring considerably better in the global economic crisis, families are in a better position than before to line up their ideological and fiduciary concerns.

"Anybody who has visited here has seen that the opportunities here, and the ways kids are brought up and the social environment is different than North America. It's a healthy environment… For anyone who's looking for a different set of values, Israel's definitely an option."

Minister: Barak-Mitchell talks 'huge flop'

Defense minister briefs senior cabinet members on London meeting with Obama's Mideast envoy; one of them quoted as saying Barak 'offered dismantling of illegal West Bank outposts in exchange for nothing'

Roni Sofer

"(Defense Minister Ehud) Barak returned with nothing from his talks with (special US Mideast envoy) George Mitchell; it appears that he offered the dismantling of illegal West Bank outposts in exchange for nothing," a senior minister said Tuesday. The minister, who asked to remain nameless, was also quoted by his associates as saying, "The inclusion of Syria and Lebanon in the statement on a comprehensive peace agreement that followed the (Barak-Mitchell) meeting is a huge flop."

During their meeting in London on Monday, Barak told the US envoy that "Israel is committed to evacuating the 23 illegal outposts within weeks or months, not years."

Barak's entourage characterized the meeting, which lasted a little over an hour, as positive, and said progress had been made on several issues – including clarifying the status of construction in existing settlements and Israel's willingness to enter negotiations with the Palestinians and other Arab nations in exchange for a normalization of relations.

On Tuesday Barak briefed a group of senior cabinet members, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on the meeting with Mitchell.

Ministers Moshe Yaalon, Benny Begin and Avigdor Lieberman have tried to obstruct Barak's attempts at reaching a compromise with the US, which demands a complete halt to all settlement construction.

However, Minister Dan Meridor and Netanyahu himself are in favor of finding ways to alleviate the ongoing dispute with US President Barack Obama's administration.

The defense minister, who is willing to offer a temporary freeze on settlement building as a confidence building measure, said he informed Mitchell of the complexities a complete settlement freeze would involve.

Barak also briefed the ministers on American efforts to promote the normalization of ties between Israel and the Arab world. Mitchell is expected to visit a number of Arab capitals during his upcoming tour of the region towards this end. He is scheduled to meet Netanyahu in Jerusalem sometime after the expected approval of the State Budget on July 15.

While Barak's office called the minister's claims "inaccurate", one of his associates said the issue of dismantling illegal outposts "was not related to the Americans" and is "part of the defense minister's obligation to uphold the law and act in accordance with the State of Israel's obligation to its citizens."

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Rules of the Contemporary Potemkin Universe: How Media and Academia Works Today

Barry Rubin

Perhaps you’ve heard the expression “Potemkin villages.” These were supposedly stage-set prosperous villages created by Grigory Potemkin to impress the Russian Empress Catherine II when she visited the Crimea in 1787. The idea was to show her that he was doing a great job enhancing the region’s prosperity.. Historians are divided as to whether Potemkin really did this but Communist and other totalitarian countries repeatedly used this gimmick in fooling foreign reporters and delegations about the well-being and good treatment of people who were actually suffering deprivation and repression.

Later, Soviet officials dubbed those so duped as “useful idiots,” a tradition which Roger Cohen of the New York Times recently showed to be very much alive when his regime-managed visit to Iran convinced him what a great place it was. The current upheaval followed immediately thereafter but Cohen, after a brief and partial apology that he was 100 percent duped by the dictatorship, is still writing about Iran as if he were some kind of expert.

A couple of years ago the top official running the Middle East division in the Foreign Ministry of a certain country told me that he thought Iran was a free country because when he walked around the area of his hotel he didn’t see a lot of armed police. And, no, I’m not making that up.

Often, today, it seems as if we are living in a Potemkin universe. There are many reasons for this but let me mention some. The key is a modernization of the old medieval concept of the “torturable” and the “untorturable” classes. We now have the "criticizable" and the "uncriticizable" sectors. The old Enlightenment notion which worked so well and built democratic, prosperous societies has gone out the window faster than you can say "politically correct," "multi-cultural," "hate crimes based on offending someone," and "affirmative action quotas."

Law Number One: If you are considered to be on the left you cannot be criticized by the dominant Western intellectual elite; on anyone else (including people who in the not so distant past would be regarded as mainstream liberals) it is open season.

Law Number Two: If you are in the Third World, you cannot be criticized by the dominant Western intellectual elite; on anyone else it is open season.

Law Number Three: Law Number Two trumps Law Number One, for example in the treatment of radical Islamist groups and regimes. During periods of crisis—the current upheaval in Iran, for example—Law Number One may temporarily take precedence but only for the most limited possible time. [Note, a special exemption might be made in the case of a Third World politician or intellectual who loves Western civilization. See, for example, Ayaan Hirsi Ali.]

Law Number Four: Women will be treated according to these laws and will receive little special consideration. [See Law Number Five, below].

Law Number Five: Social class will be treated according to these laws and will receive little special consideration. If someone from further down the social ladder—e.g., Sarah Palin, Joe the Plumber—falls under Law Number One, the full force of social snobbery may be unleashed against them. Being poor—beyond the most basic lip service—is out; being downtrodden is in.

Law Number Six: The mass media and academia in general follow these laws. If necessary under duress, however, they will fall back on the claim that they are fair and balanced. A key element of being fair and balanced is to accord proven liars, dictators, and terrorists total credibility as to their claims. Since these two institutions are structurally independent and judge only themselves, in any self-examination they will always be acquitted by themselves.

Law Number Seven: There are a growing list of sins—which do not include being a dictator or a terrorist—which result in someone being cast into the outer darkness. At one time, this list more reasonably included real racism, real sexism, and mass murder. Today, the list includes disbelief in human-made global warming, opposition to unlimited immigration, the idea that the United States is and has been a great country, and many more such items. Once someone is classified under the heading of thought criminal, any point that person may make will be ignored or distorted to a ridiculous extent.

Law Number Eight: In contrast, a member of the "uncriticizable" categories by definition cannot be racist (a Latina is a better court judge? International economic problems caused by people with blue eyes? No problem), sexist (Chadors? Female genital mutilation? Local customs!), or oppressive (They love being ruled by Hamas, the Taliban, etc.).

Law Number Nine: Any attempt to mention for the first time in these circles the misdeeds of the uncriticizable categories will be met by instant invocation of some misdeed of the Western or democratic society which has been endlessly discussed because that society itself uncovered and repudiated the fault.

Note 1: Of course these are generalizations and do not apply to many individuals, institutions, or even issues. But it is an attempt to understand the underlying structure of the contemporary Western intellectual/media reality.

Note 2: To keep this post from getting too long, I am providing a little case study of how some of this works as a separate post: “Aspen Suspension of Credibility.”

Obama Meets, Greets, and Self-Inflicts Defeats

Posted: 06 Jul 2009 06:04 PM PDT
Some months ago I teased a European ambassador by saying, "You Europeans have spent years pulling back the United States from one direction and now you're going to have to pull it back from the opposite direction." He laughed, understanding the point precisely. Europeans thought Bush was too far to the right, now they have to deal with an American president who, even for their tastes, is too far to the left.

The G-8 meeting will show how much this factor is in play. Clearly, a number of European countries were tougher on the Iranian regime than was Obama. But still, the Europeans don't actually want to do anything so perhaps the Americans and Europeans will get along okay any way.

Obama's visit to Moscow, in contrast, looks like a failure to anyone other than the mass media for which he cannot do much wrong. Given the massive problems and misunderstandings plauging the relationship, getting an agreement on reduction of nuclear arms doesn't achieve very much.

A serious U.S. president would have been dealing with differences over Central Europe and the south Caucasus, as well as regarding sanctions on Iran. But Obama's world view seeks to avoid trouble so--except when dealing with Israel or Honduras--he ignores actual problems (North Korea, Iran crisis, Somali pirates, instability in Pakistan, for example). That's the first thing wrong with Obama's policy.

There is something profoundly revealing about his use of the phrase "bearing witness" regarding the conflict within Iran. The issue is not that a U.S. president should intervene internally there, but certainly if America becomes witness rather than leader, observer rather than shaper of events, there is a second aspect of Obama's policy that is seriously wrong.

In the stead of real issues we get utopianism, the third thing wrong. Obama wants to eliminate nuclear weapons, he says, and so the deal with Russia can be portrayed as such. But there's a mistake here. America's problem is not with Russian nukes but with Pakistani and Iranian nukes. No matter how few warheads the United States and Russia have will not contribute anything to world peace or stability.

Similarly, Obama wants to obtain a quick Arab-Israeli peace agreement but gets tangled up in details; to make friends with Iran and Syria but they keep biting his hand; and make Muslims love America by pretending that radical Islamists are an insignificant minority that's got nothing much to do with Islam.

As the administration approaches the six-month mark, one can be grateful that not more damage has been inflicted but it's still early and the president has not faced a crisis yet. True, there have been some crises, but he didn't face them either..