Saturday, July 18, 2009

A brief guide to the differences between Palestinian Authority, Syrian, and Iranian Strategies toward the West


Barry Rubin

Here's a brief guide to the differences between Palestinian Authority (PA), Syrian, and Iranian strategies toward the United States and the West. While expressing it in a succinct and perhaps amusing way to make it easier to grasp, I really do believe this is an accurate depiction and distinction. Palestinian Authority line: We benefit greatly from the fact that Western leaders race around talking about how much we are suffering and how desperate we are for change. In reality, though, we are telling you to go solve the problem for us. Pressure Israel to give us what we want. We aren't going to do anything. On the contrary, we have great patience and prefer to wait a century rather than to make any concessions.

Iranian regime line: We're going to do whatever we want. You are declining, we are getting stronger. Soon we will have nuclear weapons. You want to talk? Sure, we'll talk. We'll make commitments and not keep them. So what are you going to do about it? Nothing? We thought so!
Syrian line: We are very powerful! No matter what the regional issue is you cannot do anything without our help: Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Palestinians, terrorism, etc. You name it. You need us. So give us what we want and we will help you. (Though of course even if you give us what we want--say, control over Lebanon--we still won't help you.)

Syria interesting facts 1: A great example of this Syrian behavior was when Iran kidnapped and then released some British navy personnel. The Syrian government claimed credit for the release--though clearly Damascus had nothing to do with it--and the British government actually said "thank you."

Syria interesting facts 2: Syria does sometimes, however, try the gambit of wanting to be helpful but needing to get some reward in order to be able to do so. The classic example was when the government begged for night-vision goggles from the Europeans for the supposed purpose of stopping arms smuggling into Lebanon (which, of course, the regime itself was supervising). Then it turned the night goggles over to Hizballah to use in fighting Israel..

Israeli figures:CPI makes 0.9% leap against predictions

Consumer Price Index published by Central Bureau of Statistics much higher than early assessments, which spoke of 0.3-0.5% rise. CPI up 3.6% in past 12 months

Gil Kol
YNET News,7340,L-3747407,00.html

Surprise: The Consumer Price Index jumped 0.9% in June, following a 0.4% rise in May and an accumulated increase of 1.9% in the previous three months, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported Wednesday.. Early assessments for June spoke of a 0.3-0.5% rise in the CPI. This is the fourth monthly increase in a row despite the recession in the Israeli market.

Footwear and clothing prices made a 12.2% leap in June, transportation and communication prices rose 2.6%, the Cost of Building Index was up 0.1%, and health services were 0.6% more expensive. Fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, became 3.6% cheaper.

Since the beginning of the year, the CPI has risen 2.1%. In the past 12 months (June 2009 compared to June 2008), the CPI rose 3.6%.

The rise in the CPI is not expected to affect Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer's decision as to the interest rate, which is likely to remain 0.5%. The Bank of Israel has signaled that it is focusing on fighting the recession and encouraging productive activity in the economy.

Bank of Israel economists believe that the inflation will not go beyond the target set by the bank – 1-3%. Fischer is expected to wait for positive figures before raising the interest rate, in light of a 3.9% shrinkage in the national product in the first quarter of 2009, the damage caused to the productive activity and the rise in unemployment.

According to estimates presented by economists at different investment banks, the inflation level in 2009 is expected to total about 3%.

Yair Hasson contributed to this report

Comment: We own a small business in Israel, our numbers continue to decline yet we are beginning to see the bottom. Sales have seemingly stabilized and with some disposable income Israelis will begin to visit stores located inside and outside the malls-we are thankful for a recovery soon.

Business news:Shopping malls see 5.4% drop in sales

Commercial centers lose NIS 113 million in proceeds in first half of 2009 compared to first six months of last year; recovery recorded throughout June

Gali Berger, Calcalist
YNET News,7340,L-3746941,00.html

The first half of 2009 recorded a 5.4% drop in the sales of shopping centers in Israel compared to the first half of the previous year, according to data compiled by the Retail Information System (RIS). The fashion industry's sales fell by 7%. The overall sales of stores which are members of RIS, compared to similar stores, totaled NIS 1.8 billion (about $459 million) in the first half of the year – a drop of NIS 113 million ($29 million) compared to the first half of 2008. About NIS 90 million ($23 million) of the lost earnings are ascribed to the fashion industry.

While the first quarter of 2009 was badly affected by the recession and the late winter and left the goods on the shelves, the second quarter saw a recovery and a 14% rise in sales, although we are still talking about a 5.5% drop compared to the second quarter of 2008.

An examination of the data with values adjusted to the Consumer Price Index presents a more negative picture. According to RIS data, the fashion industry saw a real drop of about 13% in sales in the first four months of the year, compared to the same period in 2008. April saw a real drop of 18%. In May, the real drop stood at only 2.4% - a significant improvement compared to the previous four months.

June's results, which reflect a 5.7% drop, show that we are still in the midst of a recession but that the trend of sharp declines has been stopped. The real test will take place in the coming months.

June's sales results are relatively encouraging, with a moderate drop of 0.9% in the sales of commercial centers compared to June 2008. Nonetheless, the fashion industry recorded last month a 3.6% drop in sales, despite aggressive sales campaigns – both on the part of the chains and on the part of the malls' m

Rabbis who bear false witness against Israel

David Bedein
Fri Jul 16 2009

Protesting a blockade of Gaza where there is no blockade

Jerusalem; The PLO and Hamas web sites have worked over time in the last few days, proclaiming that Philadelphia Rabbis Arthur Waskow and Rabbi Shai Gluskin had organized a fast day on Thursday (see www. to protest what Rabbis Waskow and Gluskin describe the Israeli "blockade" of Gaza, with claims that Israel is not allowing food and humanitarian supplies into Gaza. The only fly in the ointment is that there is no Israeli "blockade" of Gaza. What is going on is that Israel restricts munitions and building material into Gaza that could be used for the war effort against Israel.

Only two weeks ago, Palestinian and Israeli business people gathered for a meeting of the Israeli Palestinian Chamber of Commerce, with the report that Israel now exports two billion shekels of products to Gaza and thirteen billion shekels worth of products to Palestinians who live in Judea and Samaria on the west bank.

Last week, more than a dozen reporters visited the Sufa Trade junction where Israeli products of all kinds are shipped into Gaza. Some of the items were luxury items - like 10,000 bottles of Head and Shoulders Shampoo, along with every food product and medical supplies imaginable.

Yet the Palestinian information machine grinds out daily reports of deprivation and hunger in Gaza, ascribing it to Israel's "blockade", with stories that Israel simply does not allow food and medical supplies into Gaza to feed the 1.2 million residents of Gaza, half of whom dwell in UN refugee camps for more than 60 years. under the premise and promise of the "right of return" to their villages that they lost in the 1948 war in southern Israel - making them the only refugee population that the UN refuses to resettle.

Rabbi Waskow was asked to respond to the fact that no blockade exists, but would not return the phone call. Reached at his home, Rabbi Gluskin said that he was too busy to respond to the question as to where it was that he had heard of an Israeli "blockade" of humanitarian supplies to Gaza.

Yet Rabbi Waskow and Rabbi Gluskin have managed to recruit 55 Rabbis from around the United States to join them in a fast to protest an action which Israel is not taking against the Palestinian population.

It will be instructive to see how many of these 55 Rabbis show up at the Sufa junction to observe the daily routine of Israeli trucks delivering food and medical supplies to GAza.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Hillary Is Wrong About the Settlements
The U.S. and Israel reached a clear understanding about natural growth.


Despite fervent denials by Obama administration officials, there were indeed agreements between Israel and the United States regarding the growth of Israeli settlements on the West Bank. As the Obama administration has made the settlements issue a major bone of contention between Israel and the U.S., it is necessary that we review the recent history. In the spring of 2003, U.S. officials (including me) held wide-ranging discussions with then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Jerusalem. The "Roadmap for Peace" between Israel and the Palestinians had been written. President George W. Bush had endorsed Palestinian statehood, but only if the Palestinians eliminated terror. He had broken with Yasser Arafat, but Arafat still ruled in the Palestinian territories. Israel had defeated the intifada, so what was next?

We asked Mr. Sharon about freezing the West Bank settlements. I recall him asking, by way of reply, what did that mean for the settlers? They live there, he said, they serve in elite army units, and they marry. Should he tell them to have no more children, or move?

We discussed some approaches: Could he agree there would be no additional settlements? New construction only inside settlements, without expanding them physically? Could he agree there would be no additional land taken for settlements?

As we talked several principles emerged. The father of the settlements now agreed that limits must be placed on the settlements; more fundamentally, the old foe of the Palestinians could -- under certain conditions -- now agree to Palestinian statehood.

In June 2003, Mr. Sharon stood alongside Mr. Bush, King Abdullah II of Jordan, and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas at Aqaba, Jordan, and endorsed Palestinian statehood publicly: "It is in Israel's interest not to govern the Palestinians but for the Palestinians to govern themselves in their own state. A democratic Palestinian state fully at peace with Israel will promote the long-term security and well-being of Israel as a Jewish state." At the end of that year he announced his intention to pull out of the Gaza Strip.

The U.S. government supported all this, but asked Mr. Sharon for two more things. First, that he remove some West Bank settlements; we wanted Israel to show that removing them was not impossible. Second, we wanted him to pull out of Gaza totally -- including every single settlement and the "Philadelphi Strip" separating Gaza from Egypt, even though holding on to this strip would have prevented the smuggling of weapons to Hamas that was feared and has now come to pass. Mr. Sharon agreed on both counts.

These decisions were political dynamite, as Mr. Sharon had long predicted to us. In May 2004, his Likud Party rejected his plan in a referendum, handing him a resounding political defeat. In June, the Cabinet approved the withdrawal from Gaza, but only after Mr. Sharon fired two ministers and allowed two others to resign. His majority in the Knesset was now shaky.

After completing the Gaza withdrawal in August 2005, he called in November for a dissolution of the Knesset and for early elections. He also said he would leave Likud to form a new centrist party. The political and personal strain was very great. Four weeks later he suffered the first of two strokes that have left him in a coma.

Throughout, the Bush administration gave Mr. Sharon full support for his actions against terror and on final status issues. On April 14, 2004, Mr. Bush handed Mr. Sharon a letter saying that there would be no "right of return" for Palestinian refugees. Instead, the president said, "a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel."

On the major settlement blocs, Mr. Bush said, "In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949." Several previous administrations had declared all Israeli settlements beyond the "1967 borders" to be illegal. Here Mr. Bush dropped such language, referring to the 1967 borders -- correctly -- as merely the lines where the fighting stopped in 1949, and saying that in any realistic peace agreement Israel would be able to negotiate keeping those major settlements.

On settlements we also agreed on principles that would permit some continuing growth. Mr. Sharon stated these clearly in a major policy speech in December 2003: "Israel will meet all its obligations with regard to construction in the settlements. There will be no construction beyond the existing construction line, no expropriation of land for construction, no special economic incentives and no construction of new settlements."

Ariel Sharon did not invent those four principles. They emerged from discussions with American officials and were discussed by Messrs. Sharon and Bush at their Aqaba meeting in June 2003.

They were not secret, either. Four days after the president's letter, Mr. Sharon's Chief of Staff Dov Weissglas wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that "I wish to reconfirm the following understanding, which had been reached between us: 1. Restrictions on settlement growth: within the agreed principles of settlement activities, an effort will be made in the next few days to have a better definition of the construction line of settlements in Judea & Samaria."

Stories in the press also made it clear that there were indeed "agreed principles." On Aug. 21, 2004 the New York Times reported that "the Bush administration . . . now supports construction of new apartments in areas already built up in some settlements, as long as the expansion does not extend outward."

In recent weeks, American officials have denied that any agreement on settlements existed. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated on June 17 that "in looking at the history of the Bush administration, there were no informal or oral enforceable agreements. That has been verified by the official record of the administration and by the personnel in the positions of responsibility."

These statements are incorrect. Not only were there agreements, but the prime minister of Israel relied on them in undertaking a wrenching political reorientation -- the dissolution of his government, the removal of every single Israeli citizen, settlement and military position in Gaza, and the removal of four small settlements in the West Bank. This was the first time Israel had ever removed settlements outside the context of a peace treaty, and it was a major step.

It is true that there was no U.S.-Israel "memorandum of understanding," which is presumably what Mrs. Clinton means when she suggests that the "official record of the administration" contains none. But she would do well to consult documents like the Weissglas letter, or the notes of the Aqaba meeting, before suggesting that there was no meeting of the minds.

Mrs. Clinton also said there were no "enforceable" agreements. This is a strange phrase. How exactly would Israel enforce any agreement against an American decision to renege on it? Take it to the International Court in The Hague?

Regardless of what Mrs. Clinton has said, there was a bargained-for exchange. Mr. Sharon was determined to break the deadlock, withdraw from Gaza, remove settlements -- and confront his former allies on Israel's right by abandoning the "Greater Israel" position to endorse Palestinian statehood and limits on settlement growth. He asked for our support and got it, including the agreement that we would not demand a total settlement freeze.

For reasons that remain unclear, the Obama administration has decided to abandon the understandings about settlements reached by the previous administration with the Israeli government. We may be abandoning the deal now, but we cannot rewrite history and make believe it did not exist.

Mr. Abrams, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, handled Middle East affairs at the National Security Council from 2001 to 2009.

Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A15

Copyright 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Israel: The Israeli Navy and Iran

The Israeli submarine Dolphin surfaces


Israeli submarines and surface combatants reportedly have been transiting the Suez Canal since June, with the latest passage occurring July 14 when two Israeli corvettes entered the Red Sea. The recent activity has been characterized as unprecedented, although it is thought to have been planned for some time. While the move may merely be a reminder to Iran that Israel is capable of unilateral military action, the Israeli navy faces real limitations conducting operations off the Iranian coast.The Israeli Saar 5-class corvettes Eilat and Hanit passed through the Suez Canal into the Red Sea July 14, according to Egyptian port authorities. Reports claim that the Hanit, which was struck by an antiship missile off the coast of Lebanon in 2006, also crossed into the Red Sea through the canal and returned to the Mediterranean in June. In addition, on July 3, an Israeli Dolphin-class submarine transited the canal (on the surface) for maneuvers in the Gulf of Aqaba, near Eilat. The sub returned two days later, ending a deployment that allegedly was planned months in advance.

Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi reportedly ordered the transits before the Egyptians arrested on July 9 some 25 al Qaeda-linked militants suspected of planning attacks on ships passing through the Suez Canal, and after an assessment that Egyptian authorities had addressed the threat against shipping in the canal (as reported, the sequence of events does not entirely add up).

Image removed by sender. map: israel's naval access to iran

While Ashkenazi’s original deployment plan reportedly predates the Iranian elections, it is certainly no coincidence that the Suez transits are being repeated and played up in the regional press. They can serve a political role by supplementing Israel’s increasingly bellicose rhetoric about the clerical regime and its nuclear ambitions, reminding Iran that Israel also has the means to strike from the sea.

Most of the Israeli navy is based on the Mediterranean coast at Haifa and Ashdod. There is also a small and vulnerable naval installation at Eilat that hosts patrol boats used to combat local smuggling. The Israeli navy is the smallest of the three branches of the IDF, consisting of some 9,500 active officers and sailors (about a third of the latter are conscripted) and operating three diesel-electric submarines and three corvettes (all of the Saar 5 class). The remainder of the fleet is composed of patrol and coastal combatants. This severely limits Israel’s naval options in the Gulf of Oman — nearly 2,500 nautical miles from Eilat on the Gulf of Aqaba and more than 2,500 nautical miles from the larger Israeli naval stations on the Mediterranean coast.

Without underway replenishment or a nearby port, the Saar 5-class corvettes would likely be operating at or beyond the limits of their endurance in the Gulf of Oman (Israel does not officially have any underway replenishment ships and it would have difficulty finding a friendly port in the neighborhood). While the corvettes are known to train with Israel’s naval commandos and their capability to embark a helicopter could be useful, they have only limited land-attack capability. In addition, weight and financial constraints have reportedly prevented these ships from being fully armed with their planned complement of weapon systems.

This leaves Israel’s small submarine fleet. Specially built in Germany for Israel, each boat has four larger 650mm torpedo tubes in addition to the standard six 533mm tubes. These are thought to be for an indigenous submarine-launched cruise missile, probably nuclear-capable. In other words, these submarines are a part of the Israeli nuclear deterrent and therefore a national asset of strategic significance.

Unlike the Saar 5-class corvettes, these submarines could reach the Gulf of Oman and remain on station for a period of time before returning — perhaps as long as a week to several weeks. However, these are small boats with 30-man crews and limited weapons capacity (a mix of about 20 torpedoes, Harpoon antiship missiles and cruise missiles). A good portion of this capacity would be dedicated to antisubmarine and antiship weapons for self-defense, so each submarine would likely only be able to launch a handful of cruise missiles.

And the target set for a cruise-missile strike would also be limited. Because of its range, cruise missiles launched from Israeli subs in the Gulf of Oman would be able to reach only a few hundred miles from their launch points, which would preclude targeting some important nuclear sites as well as Tehran itself.

Generally, cruise missiles — especially those launched from submarines — are also poor at penetrating hardened facilities because of their limited payload. Even one modified for the purpose would likely have less than optimum effect, which would mean that hardened installations like Natanz, where Iran uses cascades to enrich uranium, would likely be left largely intact following a cruise-missile strike (unless, of course, Israel chose to use nuclear warheads, which seems unlikely at this point). Unless Israel had pinpoint, actionable intelligence on unhardened but critical targets within range of its cruise missiles, it is difficult to see how such a strategy would achieve the Israeli objective of eviscerating Iran’s nuclear program.

The limitations of capacity and range also apply to other Israeli sub-attack scenarios, including special operations. Only a small complement of naval commandos could be embarked aboard each sub, and without aviation support, they would be limited to targets along the coastline.

Israel could try to impose a limited naval blockade on Iran. If all three submarines are in good operational condition, a rotation could hypothetically establish a continual submarine presence outside the Strait of Hormuz. But submarines are not ideal blockade enforcers unless they intend only to sink ships. They cannot approach and board suspected vessels. This limited menu of submarine options makes escalation of force difficult. And even if Iran attempted to break the blockade (which is unlikely), the submarines would have to fire on merchant traffic with limited magazines of torpedoes and missiles that could not be replenished at sea.

The question is not only one of capability but also of purpose and consequence. A limited strike that did not meaningfully set back Iran’s nuclear program would only harden the clerical regime’s resolve. Tehran is likely to take any direct challenges seriously — even a blockade — which could invite new attacks on Israeli territory by Iranian proxy Hezbollah. Even a limited blockade could hurt Iran economically, but it would leave the primary Israeli concern untouched, and Tehran is unlikely to surrender its nuclear program under such indirect Israeli pressure.

But since the Iranian presidential election, the United States, Europe and Russia as well as Israel are rethinking their standing policies on Iran. While this reevaluation is going on, it is important to consider all options that might be on the table and their implications.

Info gathering on the exiled


King Jehoiachin was only 18 years old and had occupied the throne of Judah barely three months when he was led off into Babylonian captivity in 598 BCE together with his wives, his mother, his servants, his eunuchs and thousands of "the chief men of the land."

But what happened to them when they reached Babylon?And what happened there to the tens of thousands of others who joined them in exile when the First Temple was destroyed a decade later? The Bible tells us of the return to Judah half a century later but virtually nothing of what the expellees experienced in Babylon itself. It tells us even less about the fate of the northern tribes of Israel - the "10 lost tribes" - which had been marched out of history by the Assyrians a century earlier.

However, scholars have been able to gain a measure of access to these missing years from cuneiform documents unearthed in Iraq in the last century, including a trove illicitly dug up in the final years of Saddam Hussein's regime and only now nearing publication. The documents are innocuous - business records, land deeds, tax accounts - but together are able to shed light, feeble but suggestive, on this central period in Jewish history

"We have been able to make history out of dry documents," says Prof. Israel Eph'al of the Hebrew University, an epigrapher and historian of the ancient Near East.

Early last century, archeologists digging in Babylon, the capital of Babylonia, uncovered cuneiform tablets in a vaulted chamber beneath the ruins of an ancient structure believed by some to have been the base of the fabled "Hanging Gardens" of Babylon. These tablets, deciphered in the 1930s by German Assyriologist Ernst Weidner, detailed the storage of oil and other commodities and their distribution. Four of the badly damaged tablets concerned the supply of oil to "Jehoiachin, king of Judah" and his five sons. The date is five years after he was taken captive. The fact that he was being provisioned by the Babylonian authorities and that he retained his royal title suggests that he was being treated with deference even though he had been taken captive because his father, Jehoiakim, had rebelled against Babylon. Favorable treatment is also suggested by the fact that at 23 he already has five sons, indicating that the young royal was not deprived of the wives who had accompanied him.

The major source regarding the exiles in Babylonia to date is a cuneiform archive found in the 1890s by a University of Pennsylvania expedition at the site of ancient Nippur. The area, 180 kilometers southeast of Baghdad, has seen heavy fighting since the Allied incursion in 2003. The archive consisted of extensive business records maintained by the Bit Murashu family over three generations. The business details are mundane, but the people and communities mentioned in the more than 700 documents depict a rural region in which 30 percent of the population has non-Babylonian names, according to a study by Prof. Ron Zadok of Tel Aviv University.

"The Babylonians resettled many nations on their territory," says Eph'al, "not just the Jews."

In fact, only 3 percent of Bit Murashu clients had clearly Jewish names, mainly names that began or ended with "yahu," a theophoric element that embeds the name of the Hebrew God. Since some exiles are known to have adopted Babylonian names, clouding their ethnic origin, the actual figure might be higher than 3 percent.

THE JEWS in this area were at the opposite end of the social spectrum from the exiled royals and their hangers-on in the capital. "Some were small farmers who leased land," says Eph'al. "Some were low-ranking clerks. Some were fishermen. We have the record of one fisherman so poor he did not own a net and had to rent one."

The most notable aspect illuminated by the Bit Murashu documents is the ethnic cohesion maintained by all the exile groups, plainly with Babylonian encouragement. "The Bit Murashu documents show at least 10 settlements in the vicinity of Nippur whose inhabitants were defined according to their land of origin," says Eph'al.

Two exile settlements named in other documents were Ashkelon and Gaza, housing expellees from those Philistine cities seized by Nebuchadnezzar, the king who captured Jerusalem and destroyed the First Temple. The two towns lived in greater harmony on the banks of the Euphrates than they have more recently on the Mediterranean shore.

These ethnic groupings constituted landsmanschaften, similar to the associations established in the United States last century by Jewish immigrants originating from the same European region. The prophet Ezekiel, who was among the exiles, preached in a village named in the Bible as Tel Aviv. Eph'al notes that the translation from the original Akkadian is not "spring hill" as in the Hebrew name of the Israeli metropolis, but a site that had been wasted in a great flood.

A promising new cache of documents attesting to

< Info gathering...

the Jewish presence in Babylon has come to light only in the past decade after the cuneiform tablets, apparently illicitly excavated in the wake of the first Gulf War, reached private collectors in the West who made them accessible to scholars. Among the settlements inscribed on these documents is al-Iahudu, the City of Judah, a name used in antiquity as a designation for Jerusalem. Some 120 individuals bearing Jewish names have been identified among the 600 persons mentioned in the documents. Two-thirds of the Jewish names are from al-Iahudu and the rest from nearby. The contents of only three of the approximately 100 documents have been published so far, but the rest are expected to be published within a year or so. The site of al-Iahudu has been tentatively identified by an American scholar as ancient Borsippa (today's Birs Nimrud) on the Euphrates, about 110 kilometers southwest of Baghdad.

THE MOST dramatic evidence of the communal cohesion maintained by the Jewish exiles in Babylon is the way those who returned to Zion organized themselves. (It is not clear what percentage of the exiles chose to return to Judah after Babylon fell to the Persians and what percentage chose to remain.) Those whose families had been associated with the Jerusalem temple before the exile now identified themselves once more as priests, singers, gatekeepers and temple servants in anticipation of the rebuilding of the temple, as described in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Others organized themselves by town of origin.

"These are the people who came up from among the captive exiles in Babylon, and that returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own city" (Ezra 2:1).

The Jews are the only ethnic group among the many in Babylonian exile known to have returned to their homeland, except for one other group from Neirab in northern Syria. The Jews who remained behind in Babylonia were without exception the only group to preserve their identity and way of life down through the ages until their dispersal in the current generation. Babylonian Jewry would not only survive and prosper for 2,500 years but would for centuries serve as the spiritual center of world Judaism, the place where the Babylonian Talmud was forged. The Jewish community in Babylon would be strongly reinforced a few centuries after the exile, notes Eph'al, when many residents of Judah fled eastward during the Roman period to escape severe drought and famine.

The difference between the Babylonian exile and the Assyrian exile is stark. Both nations exiled populations to punish them or to forestall the possibility of revolt. But the Assyrians, described by Eph'al as creators of "the world's first empire," also needed manpower to service their rapidly expanding realm. Their aim was to harness the exiles to this task as efficiently as possible and this meant exploiting them as individuals rather than as communities. "The Assyrian kings were determined to assimilate the deported populations," says Eph'al. "They enforced mingling of the populations and their 'Assyrianization.'"

UNLIKE THE Babylonians, the Assyrians depleted conquered areas entirely of their original population and replaced them with deportees from elsewhere, as was done in Samaria after the Israelites were uprooted.

The exiles were not treated as prisoners of war once the transfer was completed but as productive assets. They made the 1,000-kilometer trek from Israel and Judah to Assyria and Babylon over several months, not in a straight line across the desert but via the Fertile Crescent. The route crossed the Euphrates at Carchemish, on the Turkish-Syrian border of today. They traveled in groups of less than 1,000, says Eph'al, with administrators along the way charged with providing them with food. "We have a letter from a district governor complaining that many more people arrived than he had been told to prepare provisions for."

Some of the exiles to Assyria, particularly craftsmen and builders, were settled in new cities. Others were directed to sparsely settled rural areas. Parts of the defeated Israelite army were incorporated directly into the Assyrian army. Fifty captured chariots and their drivers were integrated as an organic unit into the Assyrian armored corps under King Sargon. One cuneiform tablet identifies an Israelite named Hilkiah as being in charge of scores of soldiers. Some scholars have identified a group of soldiers in Sennacherib's elite royal guard, depicted in an Assyrian relief in the king's palace, as Judahites because their dress resembles that of the Jewish defenders of Lachish shown in another relief in the same building. In some of the Assyrian records, titles are added to Jewish names like "holder of reins," "charioteer," "guardsman" (bodyguard to the king), or "chief accountant." Many were settled around the Assyrian capital of Nineveh, near present-day Mosul in northern Iraq.

Over the course of several generations under Assyrian rule, the Israelites - the bulk of the Jewish people - were in effect killed off as Jews with kindness. There is scholarly speculation that some managed to join the Jews of Babylonia to the south or even the returnees to Jerusalem. The bulk, however, simply disappeared into the population mass of Mesopotamia, a loss to Jewish demography that would grow exponentially with the millennia. In time, the legend of the "lost tribes" would lead to claims that they were progenitors of the Afghan Pashtuns, Japanese, Ethiopian Jews, the English or even American Indians. A less fanciful if more jarring notion is that the lost Israelites stayed put in Mesopotamia and that their DNA lies just below the skin of many of the current inhabitants of Iraq and Iran, perhaps even that of some of the current leadership.
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What Happened to the Suicide Bombers of Jerusalem?

Nasty, fanatical old men, not human emotions, decided who died and when.
By Christopher Hitchens

Park Hotel bombing in Netanya, Israel in 2002. Click image to expand.The Passover suicide bombing in 2002 in Netanya, IsraelIt is sometimes important to write about the things that are not happening and the dogs that are not barking. To do so, of course, can provide an easy hostage to fortune, which is why a lot of columnists prefer not to risk it. For all I know, some leering fanatic is preparing to make me look silly even as I write. But I ask anyway: Whatever happened to the suicide bombers of Jerusalem?
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It's not that long since the combination of self-immolation and mass murder was a regular event on Israeli soil. Different people drew radically different conclusions from the campaign, which had a nerve-racking effect not just on Israeli Jews but on Israeli Arabs and Druze—who were often among the casualties—and on visiting tourists. It was widely said by liberals, including people as eminent as Tony Blair's wife, Cherie Blair, that the real cause of such a lurid and awful tactic was despair: the reaction of a people under occupation who had no other avenue of expression for their misery and frustration.

Well, surely nobody will be so callous as to say that there is less despair among Palestinians today—especially since the terrible events in the Gaza Strip and the return to power of the Israeli right wing as well as the expansion of Jewish-zealot settler activity. And yet there is no graph on which extra despair can be shown to have eventuated in more suicide. Indeed, if there is any correlation at all, it would seem to be in reverse. How can this be?

Of the various alternative explanations, one would be the success of the wall or "fence" that Israel has built or is building, approximating but not quite conforming to the "green line" of the 1967 frontier. Another would be the ruthless campaign of "targeted assassinations," whereby Israeli agents took out important leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the two organizations most committed to "martyrdom operations." A third might be the temporary truces or cease-fires to which Hamas (but not Islamic Jihad) have from time to time agreed.

But, actually, none of these would explain why the suicide campaign went into remission. Or, at least, they would not explain why it went into remission if the original cause was despair. If despair is your feeling, then nothing can stop you from blowing yourself up against the wall as a last gesture against Israeli colonial architecture. If despair dominates your psyche, then targeted assassinations of others are not going to stop you from donning the shroud and the belt and aiming yourself at paradise, even if only at a roadblock. If despair is what has invaded your mind, why on earth would you care about this or that short-term truce?

"It's Not Pretty"

Arlene Kushner

In fact, a good deal of what I'm going to write about here is downright ugly, if not totally obscene.

According to The Times (London) a deal is being worked out in which an Israeli strike on Iran would be facilitated by the international community in return for Israeli concessions on settlements and "peace negotiations."

Don't know if it's true or not, but the first thing that ran through my mind, quite honestly, was that this might, after all, be the quid pro quo that Netanyahu has hinted at -- when he has suggested that he might make decisions he otherwise would not because in these "extraordinary times" he must consider our security first. The next thing that I thought was that this, if true, is both obscene and insane. And a few other unmentionable things to boot. (Note to Dick: My "exasperation" is REALLY showing now.)

Is the world doing us a favor to "allow" us to attack Iran? It is Israel that will be doing the world a favor, as the whole world, starting with Obama, has proven itself to be craven, and breathtakingly, narrow-mindedly self-serving, with regard to Iran.


I'm no military strategist, and I cannot, in the end, make informed judgments as to how much would be gained with regard to international support for our efforts. It could be that this support would provide critical elements that might seriously improve our ability to achieve military success. But from my gut, as a non-military strategist, I have the desire to see us tell the world where to get off.

One thing does seem to be the case: We're preparing to hit Iran. Whether it turns out we actually do or not, we are getting ready.

There are hints, and various articles afloat, that suggest that things are simmering still inside of Iran and the position of the mullahs is not what it was just a short time ago. So there is just a tiny, tiny sense that we don't know yet how this will play out. (Sandra?)


Back to Obama. With all I wrote about that meeting, and the diligence I devoted to giving an accurate picture, I ended up omitting one piece of information that had leaked early:

As Barak Ravid wrote in Ha'aretz: "Obama told the leaders that he wants to help Israel overcome its demographic problem by reaching an agreement on a two-state solution, but that in order to do so, Israel would need "to engage in serious self-reflection."

He's pushing us in order to "help" us? Right... The condescension of his tone. The insult of it!

And the idea of the least self-reflective of men (he doesn't need to self-reflect, for he's perfect) saying this to Jews, who are the most self-reflective of people -- neurotically, agonizingly so. It's a parody, really.


And yet, in spite of this, the American Jewish Committee put out a statement (thanks to all who sent it) by Jason Isaacson, its director of government and international affairs, who was at the Obama meeting: “The President could not have been clearer that his primary motivation in seeking to re-energize an Israeli-Palestinian peace process is Israel’s long-term security.”

In my humble opinion, Jason Isaacson should hang his head in shame. How could he possibly believe this, when it's clear how Obama is courting the Arab/Muslim world?

Isaacson also said: “Nor could he have been clearer in the priority he assigns to building international unity against Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons capability.” And here we have the hint of the "link" between our concessions and "building international unity." Apparently this is all right with Isaacson.

If this is a representative sample of American Jewish "leadership" than American Jews are in even more trouble than I thought.


Barak Ravid has written another article about Obama, this one concerning the "peace plan" that he is expected to be unveiling soon. It will provide a "framework" for negotiations, and a "binding timetable," in order to obligate the parties to make progress.

Been there. Done that. Didn't he notice that this was sort of what Bush had in mind? It ain't gonna work. How do you, from the outside "bind" two parties to make an agreement by a certain date when they cannot come to terms?

But here's where it gets a bit vague: "A senior Western diplomat" says the US is only interested in pursuing this after the settlement issue and the matter of pro-Israel gestures from the Arab states are resolved. Remember, I wrote about this: What we seem to be seeing is that if we don't resolve the settlement issue with Obama, then he won't pressure us with a timetable.


Sounds crazy, of course, but what this means is that he needs to know first that there's a certain amount of readiness to offer concessions, for he realizes that otherwise his plan is dead in the water. But his plan is dead in the water anyway.

Let's follow this a bit. There has been talk about some sort of "compromise" with us with regard to allowing us to complete housing construction in Judea and Samaria that has already been contracted or begun. Ravid says that the US shifted its position on a total freeze partly because of a recognition that it's not possible. But there is also another reason:

"...the refusal on the part of the moderate Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia, to make significant normalization gestures toward Israel. In all probability, when the Americans understood that in any event they would not obtain substantial gestures from the Arabs, they decided to reach a compromise with Israel."

Well, then. US diplomats are eager to show there is "achievement" in the "process" by getting us to compromise on the housing issue. But it apparently doesn't occur to them that if the Arabs won't agree to any steps toward normalization, they are also not going to move towards "peace."


As obscene as anything I'm writing about today is this, and it's more difficult because it's a source of internal shame:

Major Roi Klein died three years ago in the Second Lebanon war, the noblest of heroes. He threw himself on a hand grenade, thereby absorbing the impact of its explosion into his own body and saving the soldiers under his command. The epitome of all that is selfless, his last words (as befits a believing Jew) were "Shema Yisrael." The State posthumously awarded him the Medal of Valor.

Here you see Roi with his family:

להפסיק את הליך הריסת ביתו של רס

His widow and children live in the Hayovel neighborhood of the community of Eli, near Ariel, in Samaria, about 30 minutes from Jerusalem. This neighborhood has received government services for more than a decade, but never was fully "authorized."

Peace Now and Yesh Din, two anti-Zionist organizations on the far left, took themselves to the High Court with the claim that 11 houses in the Hayovel neighborhood were on Arab-owned land. According to local residents, part of one house, only, extends onto Arab land, and the rest were built on state land. Claims are often made and sometimes verification is not as easy as it should be. (There have been other Peace Now charges that were later demonstrated to be false.) At any rate, the Court ruled with Peace Now.

Eleven houses in Eli are due to be destroyed. One of them is the Klein home.

This is simply wrong, wrong, wrong. Sometimes it's an issue of human decency, and not legality. This is how the State treats the widow of a genuine hero?


Following the ruling, the Land of Israel Legal Forum sent an appeal to Defense Minister Ehud Barak, asking him to honor Major Klein by authorizing his family's home as legal.

"Will your hand, as that responsible for destroying the home of this hero of Israel, not tremble as you sign the demolition order?" asked Forum chairman Nachi Eyal. "If there remains any significance to 'our duty to the fallen' - now is the time to prove it."

The letter said: "With your signature, you could turn his home 'legal,' but you refuse... The law does not require you to destroy the home of a hero of Israel who gave his life for his people. If there is any legal way to prevent this travesty, you must make use of it."

Please, see this site for a petition to sign, to save the Klein house:

100,000 signatures are being sought -- about 30,000 have been secured so far. It's in Hebrew. Scroll down to the form. The first field is for your complete name (and it will accept it in English) and the third is for your city. Both are required. (The second, for your age, is optional.) Then hit the Hebrew word "chatimah" (signature) which is in red, at an angle on the form, to register your name on the petition.


I'm reading reports of major fires raging in the hills outside of Jerusalem. Haven't seen it with my own eyes yet, but will undoubtedly be deeply saddened when I do. These wooded hills outside of Jerusalem are so beautiful, and the trees so valued. Arson is strongly suspected. Firefighters from all over the country have been called in.

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Chaos and Unity

David Suissa opinion/article/chaos_and_unity_20090714/

Israel is not a great country for neat freaks. The place is all mixed up. The trivial mixes with the existential, the silliness with the deadly serious, the sacred with the irreverent.

Every impulse gets a hearing, and every hearing gets an argument. This messiness was obvious to me during my two weeks in the Holy Land. And it was captured perfectly one morning on the front page of the Jerusalem Post. Study this page and you’ll understand Israel.

On the top left was a controversy over an annual “water fight” event in Tel Aviv — yes, people frolicking with water guns — right next to a story on the looming geopolitical battle between the United States and Russia.

The Tel Aviv frolickers were battling their critics, who were outraged that anyone would think of holding a water fight in a drought-ridden country. The frolickers countered that they would use only water from a public fountain to “prove that you can have fun while conserving water.”

Just below the water drama was a story about how Israel was preparing itself for a nuclear attack. “In Face of Iranian Threat, IAF to Train Overseas,” the headline blared. The story reported that “Saudi Arabia green-lights IAF flyover” (which Israel denied), as well as Vice President Biden’s statement that the United States “won’t stop Israeli attacks on nuclear facilities” (which his boss later contradicted).

Israel has a large Russian population, so it wasn’t surprising to see a story on “Decoding Russia: A Six-Step Plan, as Obama heads to Moscow.”

Right next to the Russian story was one on Israeli and Palestinian teens collaborating on a “song of peace.”

Below the fold were three stories on the Israel-Palestinian conflict. On the left was Prime Minister Netanyahu uttering to his cabinet, for the first time, the “two states for two peoples” formula, which Washington had urged him to do. But lest you get too encouraged by that news, another story on the far right reported that “new home buyers [are] still offered incentives to move to settlements.”

And lest you get too discouraged by that news, the story in the middle reported that Israel had approved the transfer of 1,000 Kalashnikov rifles to the Palestinian security forces to help them fight terrorism.

In all those stories, there were vigorous internal debates and disagreements.

Open the paper and the mess continues: A story on a petition filed by Peace Now calling for the dismantling of the illegal outpost of Migron, right next to one on the Palestinian Prime Minister saying that “Jews would be welcome in a future Palestinian state,” right next to a controversial decision not to send ambulances into Arab villages without a police escort.

By now you’re probably thinking: “Hey, there’s nothing new here. Israeli society has always been chaotic and full of contradictions and disagreements. Those are the hallmarks of a robust democracy.”

Well, yes. That’s why it was fascinating for me to see that, in Israel today, there is one thing that almost all Israelis agree on.

It has to do with President Obama.

Over my two weeks there, I talked to all kinds of people — cab drivers, peaceniks, right-wing hawks, religious and secular Jews, artists, academics, bellboys, rabbis and more — and asked them how they felt about Obama and the “conflict with the Palestinians.”

Just about everyone I spoke with is wary of the American president. They think his obsession with a settlement freeze has overshadowed much bigger threats (like a nuclear Iran) and much bigger obstacles to peace (like a terror state in Gaza). They see him as naïve at best and abusive at worst — abusing a friendly ally to curry favor with the Arab and Muslim worlds.

What I found most fascinating was that in a country that argues about everything, I couldn’t find anyone — not even opposition parties in the Knesset — who would argue that a radical settlement freeze should be the centerpiece of the peace process.

Many Israelis I spoke with aren’t pleased that Obama has ignored previous understandings with the Sharon government that allowed for “natural growth” in the settlement blocks. Even those who are against the settlements have seen how the relentless U.S. pressure on Israel has given the Palestinians the perfect excuse to be even more intransigent, and pulled the two sides even further apart.

Above all, unlike many Jews in America who are still under the Obama spell, Israelis understand that a total settlement freeze is extreme and absurd. How do you tell a family in Efrat that they need to get special permission from the leader of the free world if they want to add a bedroom or bathroom to their house?

By focusing on freezing Jewish bedrooms while a Persian madman is focusing on nuking 6 million Jews, Obama has frozen the hearts of Israelis. A recent poll in the Jerusalem Post backed up what I saw: Only 6 percent of Israelis consider him pro-Israel.

I’m sure the president saw something “neat” in pressuring Israel for a perfect freeze. But in his zeal to bring neatness to a messy conflict, President Obama has pulled off a double miracle — he has united the Jews and made things even messier.

David Suissa, an advertising executive, is founder of OLAM magazine, and He can be reached at .

© Copyright 2009 The Jewish Journal and
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Thursday, July 16, 2009

"That Meeting"

Arlene Kushner

The Monday meeting, of course, with 16 representatives of American Jewish organizations and President Obama, accompanied by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and political adviser David Axelrod.

There has been a bit of time for the dust to settle now -- but the communication on this, and the sharing of articles, has been fast and furious. (To all of you, thanks) There are certain things that must be understood up front: In no way was this a meeting to garner Jewish opinion, with an eye towards allowing it to modify policy. This was a carefully choreographed event in which a well-prepared Obama sought to mollify/bring on board American Jew leaders of a certain stripe.

He played his role well, from what I'm hearing. He's a master at this sort of thing, which is how he got elected.

But do I believe for a split second that the pressure on us to freeze settlements is only a "family" disagreement, or that he puts as much pressure on the Arabs/Muslims as he does on Israel? Of course not.


What we need to look at is how he behaves, not what he says in such a meeting. Show me, please, the balance in his showcase Cairo talk, in which he singled out the settlements as an issue and vociferously made demands of us, while he offered Iran an outstretched hand and refrained from demanding that they stop their nuclear development. (What's a nuclear bomb here and there, compared with Jews building homes on "Palestinian" land?)

Do I think it doesn't matter that he bounces all over the globe, and bows to a Saudi king, but hasn't seen fit to set foot on Israeli soil since he's been elected? No, the symbolism of these acts matters.

Have I encountered indications of meetings between Mitchell and the PA Minister of Education designed to work out a plan for revamping the PA school books, which teach jihad? No... But last I looked teaching jihad is destructive to the "peace process."

Have I heard of a single US demand that the PA rename every official institution or building that is currently named to honor a suicide bomber (a shahid, or "martyr," in their vernacular)? That would be an easy-to-achieve "token of good faith." Hey, we've taken down checkpoints (something I don't think we should do) -- would it be too much to ask the PA, in return, to stop honoring suicide bombers? There's an intrinsic link here: Maybe we'd have less need for checkpoints if the PA stopped signaling their people that terrorism is good.

Since inherent rights and moral culpability are not equally balanced in our conflict with the Palestinians, I don't actually believe that "even-handed" is fair or right. But when you look at Obama's behavior you don't even see the "even-handedness" he proudly professes to embrace.


I find it regrettable, but not surprising, that some people do buy what Obama is selling. There is for example, a quote in today's Post from Rabbi Steven Wernick, who was at the meeting in his capacity as executive vice president of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism: "I am prepared to give the president an opportunity to test his assumptions and his principles...because he reassured me personally, and everyone else there, on the strength of...his and the administration's commitment to Israel."

Does Rabbi Wernick have the authority to speak for "everyone else there" with regard to this? Think not. What struck me is that a certain atmosphere was obviously created -- easy to do when you're the president and you're welcoming people to the White House. Sort of a "bandwagon" mentality.

From what I read, only one person directly challenged Obama during discussion. I am assuming this was Steven Stavisky, president of the Orthodox Union, the most right wing group present. Stavisky put out a statement after the meeting saying that he "remains deeply troubled."

What is perhaps exceedingly telling is that one representative (identified as male) who was present was willing to give a statement, but only anonymously. (Just as most of those with reservations refused to identify themselves.) What was he afraid of? Was the atmosphere that was created that intimidating? How can he do credible advocacy for Israel when so afraid?

At any rate, this anonymous person offered a serious critique:

"This meeting does not allay my concerns because it confirms that this isn't just a willy-nilly decision by some Arabists in the State Department but part of a framework Obama thinks will solve all the problems in the region."


Rabbi Eric Yoffie, who was there in his capacity as president of the Union for Reform Judaism, ended up calling Obama a "friend of Israel." Not a surprise to me, for I know Yoffie's positions. But this allows me to come full circle to the issue of definitions. Yoffie is able to term someone who thinks we need to go back to pre-'67 lines "a friend." I am not.

Similarly, Ira Forman, CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council, shared with NBC News Obama's "fundamental Israel’s peace and security.” More throw-away words that can take you off guard if you're not careful. And if Obama thinks he's serving our "security" by pushing a "two state solution"?


Obama didn't call this meeting. Alan Solow, who is chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, requested it. It should be noted that Solow, a Chicago lawyer, is a huge supporter of Obama.

Once that request was made, it was the White House that controlled the guest list. I provide the list at the bottom of this discussion; in several places I have seen references to 16 organizations, but in fact there were 14 organizations represented -- in two instances organizations had two representatives in attendance:

Both the president and the president-elect of AIPAC came, and, with Solow, Malcolm Honlein, who is Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents attended. (Malcolm, I will note, is not where Solow is, politically.) That the Conference should be on record with a political position strikes me as inappropriate in any event, as it an umbrella for a large number of organizations with great diversity.

Right wing organizations -- with the exception of OU, the most moderate of "right wing" groups -- were excluded: JINSA (which I'll return to in a minute), ZOA, Simon Wiesenthal Center, AFSI, etc. etc.
Leo Rennert, writing in the American Thinker, makes a pungent observation with regard to the blocking of right wing groups (in particular, Mort Klein, head of ZOA, who is a critic of the president): "But one would think that Obama, who of all people is a stout exponent of engaging some of the world's harshest critics of U.S. policy, would want to accord the same courtesy to Morton Klein." One would think. But one would be mistaken.

That far left organizations -- notably, Peace Now and JStreet, neither of which are friends of Israel -- were included, is no surprise.

The rest? Mainstream Jewish organizations -- establishment, pretty much, but not exclusively, centrist-left with regard to Israel. But pro-Israel, broadly speaking. How they were selected, and not certain others, I cannot say.


Kennert writes:

"As reported by Politics Daily, the White House tried to keep the meeting under wraps by omitting it from the official public calendar of Obama's July 13 meetings...Until that is, Politics Daily exposed the omission and the White House only then scrambled to acknowledge it."


Lastly, here on this issue, I want to cite JINSA (Report #907):

"We in the American Jewish community have varied opinions about Israel, the threats it faces and the options it has to meet the threats. Most of us - liberals, conservatives and those in between - are passionately attached to the wellbeing of the Jewish state. But Israel has a government elected by its people in free and open elections. They choose their government, the government makes decisions and Israelis live with the consequences. We do not, and our government does not.

"...It would be a mistake for an American president to ask us what he should be asking the prime minister of Israel. It would be a mistake for an American president to tell us what he should be telling the Government of Israel. It would be a mistake for an American president to ask us to sell his program to the Government of Israel or to support him in pressuring the prime minister...

"...There are always people - 'The Jews' or a new administration - who think they know better than Israel and think the 'judicious' application of pressure 'to do what is in Israel's own best interest,' will result in 'peace.' It would be a mistake for us - or any group of us - to ask the President to pressure an Israeli government, or cheer when he chooses to.

..."'The Jews' who covet their invitation to this - or any White House - and think they know better than the Government of Israel, do a disservice to Israel, to the White House and to 'The Jews.'

"But mostly to Israel."


The list:

AIPAC -- Lee Rosenberg, President-elect
AIPAC -- David Victor, President
American Jewish Committee -- Jason Isaacson, Director of Government and International Affairs
Americans for Peace Now -- Debra DeLee, President and CEO
Anti-Defamation League -- Abraham Foxman, National Director
Conference of Presidents of Major Amer. Jewish Org. -- Alan Solow, Chairman,
Conference of Presidents of Major Amer. Jewish Org. -- Malcolm Honlein, Executive Vice Chair
Hadassah -- Marla Gilson, Washington Director
J STREET -- Jeremy Ben Ami, Executive Director
Jewish Council for Public Affairs -- Andrea Weinstein, Chair
National Council of Jewish Women -- Nancy Ratzan, President
National Jewish Democratic Council -- Ira Forman, CEO
Orthodox Union -- Stephen Savitsky, President
Union for Reform Judaism -- Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President
United Jewish Communities -- Kathy Manning, Chair, Executive Committee
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism -- Rabbi Steven Wernick, Executive Vice President


I want to spread the word on this: Two marvelous activists, Lori Lowenthal Marcus of Philadelphia and Allyson Rowen Taylor of Los Angeles, have launched a proud Zionist advocacy organization: Z Street. It's brand new and seeking support.

The group has obtained permits for a huge rally in front of the White House on October 27th - the same week that the anti-Zionist J Street holds its first annual meeting in the nation’s capital.

I don't see it on the website yet, but ultimately there will be information on how to join. See


Joke of the day (wish I really had one very day): Hamas is accusing Israel of importing gum containing aphrodisiacs into Gaza to corrupt their youth.


As ridiculous as this charge is, it occurs to me that if the Gazan young men were doing more of what an aphrodisiac would encourage them to do, they might actually be less morally corrupt with regard to more serious offenses such as violence, digging smuggling tunnels, and building rockets. That's the bitter irony here: Hamas is building a sharia society that is supposed to be super pure with regard to sex, but which encourages acts of terrorism against innocents. The world is nuts.

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Israel is Set Fiscally Through 2010

Hillel Fendel
A7 News

The Knesset passed Israel’s first two-year budget on Wednesday night, a 616-billion shekel affair, by a majority reflecting the coalition-opposition margin.The budget stands at 316.5 billion shekels for 2009, and 325.2 billion for 2010. Passage of the two-year budget obviates the need to go through the tiring and arduous budget-passing process once again in the very near future for 2010, and grants fiscal stability during financially precarious times.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, for whom the passage of the budget is a personal accomplishment, praised it as “important economically, in that it backs our financial program designed to deal with the crisis, and is also super-social.” He noted that stipends for the elderly and families with 3-4 children will be increased, and that the subsidized medicines basket will be increased by some 400 million shekels.

Government employees’ salaries, a permanent fixture in the national budget, cost some 100 billion shekels yearly, while some 75 billion shekels are needed to pay for the deficit. Education – nursery through university – is budgeted at nearly 20 billion shekels a year, and defense and security needs cost us close to 50 billion shekels. Approximately 38 billion shekels are budgeted for welfare needs, including the government’s share in National Insurance payments as well as allowances and subsidies for basic foodstuffs (1.5 billion). In addition, some 16-18 billion shekels go towards health services. (Figures supplied by Tzvi Lavi of Ynet.)

Yesha Suffers Discrimination

MK Uri Ariel (National Union) said that he is gravely disappointed that the “right-wing, nationalist government has passed a budget that is so discriminatory against the residents of Judea and Samaria (Yesha).” He noted, for instance, that while farmers in the rest of Israel pay water rates that are 1/5 those of regular consumers, “Yesha farms such as our wineries have to pay regular water rates – five times more than other farmers. Another example: We must provide security for our communities, but when we ask for money to reinforce buses or vans for special education, we are told that there is no budget.”

“We pay our debts like everyone else, but we don’t share in the privileges,” Ariel said. He acknowledged, however, that in terms of building classrooms and school transportation, there is no discrimination.

‘Iron Dome’ Hits the Target

Avraham Zuroff Iron Dome's Success on Target

Israel's new anti-ballistic defense system, designed to protect civilians against terrorist rocket fire from Gaza, passed series of live tests on Wednesday.

A defense official explained that the test of the Iron Dome defense system marked the first time that the system tested a mid-air deception of a target rocket, which was completely destroyed.

Iron Dome works by intercepting medium-range Katyusha rockets as well as the shorter, homemade Kassam rockets and mortar shells fired by Gaza terrorists. It uses a small kinetic missile interceptor called the “Tamir.” The anti-ballistic sytem is expected to intercept rockets between the ranges of 2-45 miles (3-72 km).

Defense Minister Ehud Barak is pleased with the continued successful testing of Iron Dome. Barak said that the multi-tiered defense system is a national strategic goal for the State of Israel.

Barak said the Iron Dome’s successful implementation will allow the IDF to fulfill its obligations to protect Israeli citizens in the best way possible. The Ministry’s director general, Pinchas Buchris, hailed the successful testing of Iron Dome performed this week as a milestone in the development of the system against ballistic threats. Defense Ministry officials said that the trials complete a series of preparations for the Israel Air Force, and are being run according to schedule.

Developed under contract by Israel Military Industry’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, the $300 million system which was tested at the Ramon Air Force Base in southern Israel will reportedly be ready for operation by 2010.

It is meant to become part of a multi-layered defense system aimed at protecting Gaza Belt residents from shelling by Gaza terrorists, and residents in northern Israel from rocket attacks fired by Hizbullah terrorists in southern Lebanon.

The system might also be used to protect the rest of Israel from longer range attacks launched against the Jewish state from Syria or Iran. Israel has asked the United States to foot the bill for approximately 65 percent of the development costs for the project.

Palestinian Authority terrorists have launched more than 4,000 Kassam rockets at southern Israel since the Disengagement from Gaza in August 2005.

Residents in the north suffered a similar number of rocket attacks, with more than 4,000 Katyusha missiles fired by Hizbullah terrorists at Israeli communities as far south as Afula during the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A U.S. Middle East Policy Emerges: Great in Theory, Certain to Fail in Practice

Barry Rubin*

July 14, 2009

A clear, consistent, and carefully formulated U.S. strategy is emerging in the Middle East. Unfortunately, it’s a badly flawed one that won’t work. Probably, the Obama administration will spend the next six months finding out what I’ve just told you. Hopefully, it will learn and change as a result. Let’s consider the interrelated U.S. policy regarding Iran and the Arab-Israeli conflict. On Iran, the U.S. plans to build sanctions against Iran, going slowly to keep Europeans on board and to win assent from Moscow.

The other arm of this policy has been a careful effort to avoid friction with Tehran. Some in the administration think that engagement might work but probably more and more view it simply as a way to show the world that America has tried and that Iran is intransigent (something the world should already know).

At any rate, starting in September the administration intends to spring its trap! Everything will be ready: allies coordinated, rationale laid. Tougher sanctions will be raised against Iran; stronger warnings will be made.

Yet if one puts aside all the atmospherics and personalities, doesn't this put the Obama administration in October 2009 about where the Bush administration was regarding Iran in October 2008? In other words, U.S. policy will not be noticeably more likely to affect Iranian behavior now than it was then.

The big difference is supposedly that Obama's popularity and the fact that he tried engagement with Iran will translate into strong European support for sanctions.

But even with their liking Obama, how much more will Europeans do? Moreover, Obama is neither wildly popular nor has he made progress with the two biggest barriers to strong sanctions: Russia and China.

Foreign support for getting tough with Iran is not just a function of disliking former President George Bush or thinking Iran hasn’t been given enough chance to repent. Europeans have spent years at engaging Iran.

No, their motive is:

--Economic self-interest. There are big profits to be made from trade and investment.

--Desire to avoid confrontations with Iran, a country that has a lot of money and which kills people who oppose it.

--Belief that a nuclear-armed Iran can be managed.

As for Russia, it views Iran as an asset. Tehran buys its nuclear equipment, weapons, and helps subvert U.S. policies. In China’s case, aside from the profit motive, is fear of setting a precedent with sanctions which some day might be used against itself over human rights, or Taiwan, or Tibet.

True, Obama has a plan for winning over Russia. It just isn’t a good one. His advisor on nuclear issues, an able, decent expert (but not on international politics) named Gary Samore says, "I think the effort to reset the relationship with Russia... can have the effect of making it more likely that Russia will cooperate with us in dealing with Iran."

More likely, "very slightly less likely" rather than "more likely," but it still won't happen in any meaningful way.

Samore continues:

"That strategy of working on a new START treaty in parallel with efforts to improve our coordination on Iran seems to be working and we'll find out later this year whether that ends up being successful."

But is Russia going to trade, as the Obama team hints, a nuclear treaty in exchange for serious cooperation over Iran? No. Reducing America's nuclear arsenal, which is not a desperate need for Russia any way, would already be paid for by Russia's reducing its own arsenal!

[Update: I was right! Russia rejects this deal completely:

In other words, no matter how charming Obama is, no matter how many concessions he makes to the Europeans and Russia, no matter how much he proves himself willing to be friends with Tehran, it won’t change that much.

Furthermore, just how tough will be the sanctions Obama will request, much less get? They are not likely to be "killers" to start with and then will get watered down further to win broad support. And then after being announced they will be watered down even more in order to ensure adaption. And then after being agreed to they might well not be completely enforced.

In short, Tehran isn't trembling.

But let’s take the best-case outcome. Suppose everyone is ready to agree to tougher sanctions. These would still be far too low to force Iran to give in. Moreover, the new Iranian government is tougher than ever and less inclined not only to compromising away the nuclear weapons’ drive but even to slowing it down. Having crushed demonstrations in Tehran these aren’t leaders to be cowed by finger-wagging from diplomats in suits more expensive than the average Iranian makes in a year.

Meanwhile, Obama’s general rhetoric and overall approach to international affairs convinces Tehran that the West is weak. Ignore it, say the mullahs. Full speed ahead! Then when we have nukes, who cares what the West says, If it even dares complain.

So this Iran policy, though it seems brilliant to its creators, is hopeless.


Now, let’s turn to Arab-Israeli conflict policy. Alexander Pope wrote: "A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again."

In other words, the Obama administration has learned part of the truth but this has made things worse.

What it understands correctly is that most Arab regimes (excluding Iran’s little buddy, Syria) are more worried about Iran and radical Islamist groups than about Israel.

In light of this correct insight, the administration has devised a brilliant—in its own mind—plan.

This policy is not a repeat of the old panacea--bash Israel and get peace—is a mistake. It is a more updated, softer (but not necessarily more sophisticated) strategy which can be summarized as: get Israel to make one concession and everything will fall into place.

Here's the grand plan: The United States will force Israel to freeze construction on Jewish settlements on the West Bank, then using this proof of evenhandedness, will go to Arab regimes and say: You see we’re ready to push Israel, now your job is to push the Palestinians toward compromise, convince Israel of your own readiness for peace, and stand with us more vigorously in containing Iran.

Arab rulers will reply—indeed, the Saudis, Egyptians, and Jordanians have already done so—“not by the hairs on your chinny-chin-chin,” as the three pink mammals, whose species cannot be mentioned in these Politically Correct times, put it in the nursery rhyme. Or in more scientific language, “You get bupkis!”

They'd probably say this any way but can do so more easily knowing that Obama is not going to huff, and puff, and blow their houses down. At the same time, they know that the Iranian regime and their own people are far scarier than Barack Obama.

And so this strategy, too, will fail.

I certainly agree that forming an alliance of the West, Israel, and most Arab states is the central task in the Middle East today, but Obama and his colleagues hugely underestimates the difficulty in doing so.

It wasn’t just mean old George Bush that prevented the Arab-Israeli conflict from being solved but Palestinian and Syrian intransigence plus Arab state passivity.

It wasn’t just mean old unpopular George Bush that prevented Arab states from doing more to help U.S. policy to stabilize Iraq and contain Iran. It was the self-interest of those regimes that did so.

At best, while most Arab regimes agree that the main danger is Iran and radical Islamism, they aren't going to stick their necks out, especially now that the United States seems weak and uncertain about providing real leadership. And they are still content to let America do all the work.

If this analysis were a cartoon, then, the caption would be: "Smithers, it is a carefully composed, comprehensive, detailed, and internally logical plan. Congratulations. Unfortunately, it is a very bad plan and it won't work."

Think of how an alternative might look. Last May 27 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said:

"With respect to settlements, the President was very clear....He wants to see a stop to settlements – not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions....That is our position. That is what we have communicated very clearly...And we intend to press that point."

What would this approach would sound like if applied to Iran’s regime:

"With respect to nuclear weapons and sponsorship of terrorism, the President was very clear....He wants to see a stop to nuclear weapons--not some nuclear weapons, not just the warheads, not just the missiles....That is our position. That is what we have communicated very clearly....And we intend to press that point."

Or how about Syria’s regime?

"With respect to Syrian sponsorship of terrorism, the President was very clear....He wants to see a stop to Syrian sponsorship of terrorism–not just training terrorists, not just financing terrorists, not just ordering them to attack, not just giving them safe passage across the border, not just against Lebanon, not just against Syria, not just against Israel....That is our position. That is what we have communicated very clearly....And we intend to press that point."

But of course such a policy would require some real toughness against enemies on real big issues, not just gigantic posturing against an ally on a really small issue. U.S. policy neither intends nor in the end will sell out Israel. The problem is much worse from an American standpoint: it is dangerously subverting its own interests.

There's a problem when any serious and well-informed observer should be able to see six months ahead of time that U.S. policy isn't going to work.

There’s an even bigger problem when administration officials and the media are so busy congratulating the genius of the current administration that no one notices the train is speeding toward a chasm without a bridge.

So, Mr. President, save this column and read it again in six months. It will make more sense to you.


*Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books, go to

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The unemployment rate in Michigan is more than 14% and the state is projected to lose more than 310,000 jobs in 2009. A recent study by the Kaufman Fo

Movement launches new campaign aimed at reminding public of security, diplomatic and economic cost of settlement project

Efrat Weiss

"Not Obama's. Not the world's. The settlements are your problem" – this is the slogan chosen to lead Peace Now's new media campaign against the Israeli expansion in the West Bank. . The movement's Secretary General Yaniv Oppenheimer explained at a press conference Tuesday that the campaign aims to "wake up the public, who's forgotten that freezing construction in the settlements serves the Israeli interest, first and foremost."

He added that the campaign, which addresses the diplomatic, security and economic cost of the settlements, sends the message that not all the Israeli public stands behind the settlement project. In time the organization plans to start staging demonstrations within the Green Line and in settlements and outposts.

Oppenheimer and Raz present the data (Photo: Gil Yohanan)

According to Peace Now, at the end of 2008, 52% of the population living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea were Jewish and 48% were Palestinian. If natural growth in the area continues at the same rate, by 2015 the situation is expected to be reversed – with 51.5% Palestinians and 48.5% Jews.

'Settlements are a burden'

The movement said this would be the end of the Jewish State. Therefore, they said, Israel should actively pursue the two-state solution, to which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was committed in his Bar Ilan policy speech. And since the settlements are an obstacle to this solution, their expansion should be halted.

On the security level, Peace Now said that there was currently a need to evacuate 100 illegal outposts, which house some 4,000 people. They claimed that at least 36 outposts were constantly being guarded by 700 soldiers.

Economically speaking, the group stated that over NIS 100 billion (roughly $25 billion) have been invested in the settlements over the years.

"The settlements are a security burden and soldiers died to protect them. I call on the opposition, Kadima and Meretz to start acting on the matter immediately," said Peace Now's Mossi Raz.

Comment: It has begun-I warned against this a long time ago. So, get angry and do nothing or step up now and attack. Let's begin: First their demographic numbers are incorrect-they are lying to the public. Second, follow the money-guaranteed this "campaign" comes from outside the country-demand a public accounting of monies and expose those who contribute. Third, the entire campaign is designed to divide and conquer-pit Israeli against Israeli, use money as the means to point out the cost to an average Israeli-given the economic difficulties this is a tactic that has legs. Fourth, settlements are villages, townships,towns and cities inhabited by Israeli citizens living in the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria-this is a true and accurate statement-read it, study it and learn the facts then stand up and fight!

Obama to U.S. Jewish leaders: Israel must engage in self-reflection

Barak Ravid

U.S. President Barack Obama met yesterday for the first time with 15 American Jewish leaders at the White House, for talks aimed at clearing the air following allegations that his administration was taking a tough line with Israel over settlement activity. At the meeting, Obama told the leaders that he wants to help Israel overcome its demographic problem by reaching an agreement on a two-state solution, but that in order to do so, Israel would need "to engage in serious self-reflection."

On the Iranian nuclear issue, Obama told the leaders that "the door to dialogue is open. If the Iranians do not walk through it, however, we will have to see how we proceed. But it would be a mistake to talk now about what we're going to do and how we're going to do it."

One of the participants at the meeting asked the president to take a lower profile regarding the public differences between his administration and the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the United States' demand that Israel freeze all settlement construction activity in the West Bank. "This situation is not helpful," he told the president, who rejected the request, saying that during the eight years of the Bush administration, such disagreements were never made public but that such an approach was not helpful in advancing the peace process. [SMACKDOWN FOR THE ONLY ONE WHO AT LEAST ENTERED THE ROOM WITH COJONES. LLM]

Obama added that there is a narrow window of opportunity for advancing the peace process [WHY DO THEY ALWAYS TALK ABOUT THIS WINDOW? I THINK THEY ALL NEED A NEW INTERIOR DECORATOR TO EXPLAIN THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A WINDOW AND A SOLID WALL. LLM] and that he plans to speak openly and honestly with Israel - "a true friend of the U.S." - just as he did with the Arab nations in his speech at Cairo University in June. [THIS IS THE FIRST PIECE OF GOOD NEWS I'VE SEEN - IF HE IS AS COMPLIMENTARY WITH ISRAEL AS HE WAS WITH THE MUSLIMS IT MIGHT BE A LOVELY CONVERSATION. BUT I DOUBT HE WILL AND I DOUBT IT WILL BE. LLM]

Among the groups attending the meeting were the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, Hadassah, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the National Jewish Democratic Council, the Orthodox Union, the United Jewish Communities, the Union for Reform Judaism, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the American Jewish Committee and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, which is led by long-time Obama acquaintance Alan Solow, who requested the meeting. [FYI - ZOA AND CAMERA WERE NOT INVITED TO THE POW-WOW. LLM]

Jeremy Ben-Ami, executive director of J Street, who also attended the meeting, said afterwards that he believed that President Obama was asserting positions aimed at achieving two states for two peoples, a stance he claimed is supported by the majority of the Jewish community in the United States that voted for Obama. [OH, SO NOW THE TRUTH COMES OUT - ISN'T THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES SUPPOSED TO CARE WHAT ALL AMERICANS THINK AND NOT ONLY THE ONES WHO VOTED FOR HIM?? LLM]

Meanwhile, Netanyahu met with the Quartet's Middle East envoy Tony Blair yesterday to discuss ways to improve the Palestinian economy. Netanyahu told Blair that the West Bank's Palestinian residents could achieve more if they were to increase their cooperation with Israel.

Guest Comment:This is almost the last straw for me. Who does this man think he is? Lecturing to a sovereing state that has done everything and beyond to try to reach a peace agreement with those who want to destroy it. Worse yet, he is using Jewish leaders in the US to put on the squeeze. Note that ZOA and CAMERA were not invited. Clearly, Obama did not want a confrontation or debate; he wanted to lecture--to lay down the law. And there was J Street, the peace now, back-stabbing cheerleaders who lied to the Jewish voters about Obama's dedication to Israel's security concerns.

Even now in the face of Abbas refusing to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and other PA leaders announcing that they do not want peace, but are simply feigning the desire in order to get international assistance, he has the chutzpah to tell Jewish leaders that Israel needs serious self-reflection!!!!!!! How about telling the Arabs that if they want peace, they must teach it to their children and in their mosques? How about arresting and trying terrorists? How about stopping the honoring of terrorists? How about accepting the presence of Jews in Judea and Samaria, Jewish land? Aggie

Five Criticisms of George Bush That Could Be Better Applied to Barack Obama

ohn Hawkins
Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Most liberals in this country are intellectually dishonest which is why they don't have the slightest qualms about grotesque double standards. That's why Al Gore can live in a mansion that consumes energy like a football stadium while he tells you to cut back. It's why Sarah Palin can be sliced apart for things said by Tina Fey on Saturday Night Live while Joe Biden is treated seriously despite being the biggest doofus ever to occupy the Vice-Presidency. It's also why Barack Obama gets a free pass for many of the same things that George Bush was criticized for doing. Here are just a few of the criticisms aimed at George Bush that could be better applied to Barack Obama.

Barack Obama is a chickenhawk: How often did we hear liberals sneer that George Bush was a chickenhawk? How could someone who had never served in combat lead America as Commander-in-Chief?

Well, excuse me for noticing, but George Bush did at least fly planes for the National Guard. On the other hand, despite the fact that Barack Obama never served at all, he's fighting the same two wars that Bush did in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is even ramping things up in Afghanistan while simultaneously forcing our troops to engage in combat under onerous new rules of engagement that will make it much tougher on our soldiers. Guess it's easy for a chickenhawk like Obama to handcuff our troops going into battle when he has never been into combat himself.

Barack Obama is a shameless liar: Bush lied! Bush lied! Bush lied! How many times did we hear that over the last eight years? It was repeated endlessly despite the fact that whatever else you want to say about George Bush, he could fairly be called one of the most honest politicians in America. That's why the "lies" he was supposed to be telling were always things like, "He thought there were WMDS in Iraq, but there weren't" or "Bush said he wants to bring democracy to Iraq, but he's lying!"

Meanwhile, Barack Obama has already broken more campaign promises in less than six months than Bush did in two terms. Obama promised no tax increases for people under $250,000 and he's working on multiple bills, including health care and cap and trade, that would raise taxes even on the poor. He promised transparency, to hold all bills for 5 days before they are signed so the public could comment. It hasn't happened once yet. Barack even promised to "negotiate health care reform in public sessions televised on C-SPAN." How's that pie-in-the-sky promise working out?

Additionally, almost everyone reading this article could probably name off at least one or two more whoppers that President Jug Ears has reeled off. During the campaign, he was promising fluffy rainbows and multi-colored kittens to make every child in the world happy and now that Obama's President, it's "Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?"

Barack Obama is spending us into bankruptcy: George Bush was savagely criticized by the Right for his spending. In fact, it was the single biggest criticism of him throughout his administration -- and rightfully so. The Left even got in on the act. The mainstream media hammered Bush for the deficit and so did the Democrats, despite the fact that they always seemed to be screeching that we weren't spending enough money.

Fast forward to Barack Obama, who is already the biggest spender we've ever had in the White House. The previous champ, FDR, at least had a depression and WWII to deal with. On the other hand, at a time when ordinary Americans have had to cut back, Obama supported Bush's 700 billion dollar plus TARP bill and funneled hundreds of billions of dollars to fat cats in the banking industry. He spent billions more of your money helping his union pals at Chrysler and GM. He slammed through a stimulus bill that will cost more than a trillion dollars despite the fact that it hasn't stimulated the economy -- and since economists were already projecting that the economy would recover in the 2nd half of 2009, if not now, then when? Meanwhile, Obama wants to take over the health care system, he wants to spend billions on Cap and Trade, and they've even been floating the idea of a 2nd Stimulus Bill. Bush may have been like an irresponsible person who was living month to month by paying bills with his credit card, but Obama's like someone taking out a third mortgage on his mother’s house so he can spend the next few months buying rounds of beer for his friends at his favorite bar.

Barack Obama is ruining America's reputation around the world: It's fair to say that George Bush was not well liked around the world and that America's reputation suffered under his presidency. However, that was not because George Bush was an obnoxious Texas yahoo who was upsetting the delicate sensibilities of the "world community;" it was because George Bush was fighting a global war on terror and had to ask our "allies" to actually do things to help us.

It's very easy to love America when it's all "gain" and "no pain." When Americans give you money, fight your wars for you, and do your dirty work while asking almost nothing in return because they errantly believe that "good will" can be stored up like money in a bank, it's easy to say a few nice words about America. But, when the Americans expect you to actually pay them back for all they've done by taking their side against terrorists or worse yet, actually fight with them the same way they've done for you in the past, that is a different matter entirely.

Nevertheless, Barack Obama promised us a new day when he got into the White House. Oh, we were going to see what real diplomacy looks like when Barack Obama stepped into the Oval Office! However, that hasn't worked out so well, has it? Obama has managed to insult our best allies in Britain multiple times, he sold our Eastern European allies out to the Russians, who incidentally, have run rings around him so far, and he stayed silent for far too long when he should have been speaking up for the people in Iran. Obama has also sided with a dictator-wannabe over freedom-loving people in Honduras, the Taliban have taken over half the country in Pakistan under his watch, and he is already proving to be the most anti-Israeli President we've had in the White House for decades. In other words, our friends now wonder if they can rely on us and our enemies have been emboldened. Even Jimmy Carter took a couple of years to screw things up this badly on the foreign policy front.

Barack Obama is dumb: Yes, I know that Barack Obama went to Columbia University and Harvard Law School. However, George W. Bush also went to Harvard and no one on the Left ever seemed to think that made it difficult to hang the "dumb" label around his neck. What’s good for the goose should be good for the gander.

Admittedly, George Bush was not the most eloquent President we've ever had, but of course, neither is Barack Obama once he gets off his teleprompter. The biggest difference between the two men is not their speaking ability; it's that the mainstream media decided from day one that George Bush was dumb just because he was a Republican from Texas. Then, they spent years highlighting every teeny, tiny piece of evidence that they could find to try to prove their theory. If Bush mangled a word, it was because he was stupid. If he made a mistake -- stupid. If they disagreed with his position? Stupid! On the other hand, the very same media has decided that Barack Obama is smart because he's a liberal; so no matter how many dumb things he says or does, it’s ignored because it doesn't fit the template that the media created based on his ideology.

Yet and still, was it George Bush who claimed that there were more than 57 states? Did Bush say he saw our "fallen heroes" in the audience during a speech? Was it George Bush who made a racist comment about "typical white people?" Did W. spend 20 years without complaint at a church where the pastor spouted off ignorant, anti-Semitic ideas and conspiracy theories? Was George Bush so much of an airhead that he actually ended up "thanking himself in a speech" because that's what his teleprompter said to do? Was it George W. Bush who tried to walk into the White House through a window? If Barack Obama were a Republican, the words "Too dumb to be President?" would have already appeared beside of his picture thousands of times by now.

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