May 2010 Archives

Legacy of disengagement

Almost five years ago, Israel pulled every last Jew, soldier and civilian, dead and alive, out of the Gaza strip.  In announcing his "disengagement" plan at the Herzliya Conference in December, 2003, Ariel Sharon said:

The purpose of the Disengagement Plan is to reduce terrorism as much as possible, and grant Israeli citizens the maximum level of security. The process of disengagement will lead to an improvement in the quality of life, and will help strengthen the Israeli economy. . . . These steps will increase security for the residents of Israel and relieve the pressure on the IDF and security forces in fulfilling the difficult tasks they are faced with. The Disengagement Plan is meant to grant maximum security and minimize friction between Israelis and Palestinians. 
Of course, it did not.  None of those things happened.  Instead, the communities in the Negev got thousands of Kassams blasting into their homes, their streets, their schools.  Instead, Hamas took over Gaza and used it as a base for terror war against Israel.  Instead, with the Gaza port in the hands of Hamas, the "peace boats" started making their runs.  What happened today was not a matter of if, but when.

Some of Israel's friends are upset.  Embarrassed.  Not happy with the headlines they have to defend.  Israel should have been prepared, they say.  Israel should have known better.  Israel fell into a trap.

Well, maybe.  We'll see.  The Free Gaza spokesmouth made sure to publicize that the "peace activists" on the boats wouldn't be armed and wouldn't fight if boarded.  She lied.  But in light of that representation, the Israeli navy took care not to bring heavy weapons with them and not to use the light weapons they had until it was clear their lives were in danger.  And their lives were most certainly in danger.

And if they had boarded with guns instead of paintball rifles?  It's not improbable that all of those knives and pipes would have remained securely tucked into galley drawers and tool boxes, and an incident in which one or more "activists" were killed would nonetheless have "spontaneously" erupted.  That's a trap, and a well-laid one. 

This much is crystal clear.  The people on that boat intended to either reach Gaza or be "martyred."  They didn't seem to care much which way it went, because they would either bust the blockade or set Israel up for major international rebuke.

Jonathan Tobin says: "Liberal Zionists" Must Choose: Hamas or Israel.

Americans who are looking to excuse themselves from the more difficult task of explaining the truth of Israel's dilemma to a hostile world may seize upon the convoy deaths as a fresh rationale for quitting the ranks of country's supporters. But if that is what amounts to liberal Zionism these days, then its adherents must be judged as, at best, fair-weather friends and, at worst, little different from open anti-Zionists who implicitly support the Palestinian terror organization's goal of eliminating the Jewish state. If liberal Zionism in 2010 amounts to the backing of Hamas's propaganda campaign and the delegitimization of Israeli self-defense, then it is time to admit that such liberals have left the Zionist camp altogether.
I'm afraid it's not only liberals who are going to be faced with this choice in the coming days. 

Flotilla buzz

I'm not going to post the many videos of the attempted lynch and kidnapping here.  But here's tape of the warning the Israeli navy gave to the Mavi Marmara and the putative blockade busters' reply ("Negative. Negative.  Our destination is Gaza.")

Solomonia has extensive coverage with embedded video, especially here, as does Jameel, who has been live blogging the coverage most of the day.

And here's video from Al-Jazeera, posted by Palestinian Media Watch that definitively gives the lie to the peaceful intentions of the flotilla.

The blatant lies of ISM co-founder Huwaida Arraf (dutifully repeated by the MSM) notwithstanding.

Speaking by satellite phone early Sunday from the Challenger 1 boat, which has foreign legislators and other high-profile figures on board, a Free Gaza Movement leader, Huwaida Arraf, said: "We communicated to them clearly that we are unarmed civilians. We asked them not to use violence."

Earlier Sunday, Ms. Arraf said the boats would keep trying to move forward "until they either disable our boats or jump on board."

Someone missed the memo.

Last word on Sestak

For a while, anyway.  People are telling me I'm obsessed.  Could be.

First a brief disclaimer about Friday's post.  It's always embarrassing to learn a day after you painstakingly put one of these things together that others, elsewhere, in much more prominent places, have already done virtually the same thing, and better.  I honestly had not seen this excellent analysis by Daniel Foster at The Corner, until long after that post went up.  I just discovered this one a few minutes ago.  (Can I cop a GMTA?)

There are just two additional points I'd like to make, and then I'll try to shut up about this for a while.

First, as has been repeatedly pointed out elsewhere, the White House memo says with respect to contacts with Sestak that "efforts were made in June and July of 2009" to determine whether he'd be interested in an alternative to entering the Senate race, but that both the White House and Clinton agree there was only one brief conversation between them.  So what were the other "efforts?"  To that I'd just add that, at least according to Larry Kane, Sestak himself claimed back in February that, in his own words, " 'he was called many times' to pull out."  So at the very least, one conversation with Clinton is not the end of the story, especially as too many elements of that story don't mesh.

The other question that may end up playing a part in this saga, other than what was offered to Sestak, is what was offered to Specter in exchange for his party switch.  Was a promise made to keep Sestak out of the race or at least to try to keep Sestak out of the race?  While I don't know if that sort of quid pro quo would rise (sink) to the level of violation that a job offer would, the answer might add an interesting piece to the puzzle.

And now, having gotten that off my chest, I'm off to enjoy this beautiful Sunday afternoon, bearing in mind the sacrifices of those who gave their lives to preserve for all of us our liberty and freedom.


Man of the hour

Larry Kane is practically a fixture around these parts.  In the Delaware Valley, his voice is familiar to just about everyone and his name has for decades been closely associated with "the news," as an anchor and an analyst.  He's had a long and fascinating career, but back on February 18, he asked a question he probably didn't even expect an answer to, and the rest may well end up making history.

"Were you ever offered a job to get out of this race? (The contest against Arlen Specter).

Sestak didn't flinch .

"Yes," he answered.

"Was it Navy Secretary?", I asked

"No comment."

He proceeded to talk about staying in the race but added that "he was called many times" to pull out.

Later, I asked,  "So you were offered a job by someone in the White House?"

He said, "Yes."

When the taping stopped, Joe Sestak looked surprised .

"You are the first person who ever asked me that question."

It's taken well over three months of innuendo, denial and obfuscation for Sestak and the White House to make an effort to come clean on this story.  Today, they did, in lockstep.

"Last summer, I received a phone call from President Clinton," Sestak confirmed Friday in a written statement. "During the course of the conversation, he expressed concern over my prospects if I were to enter the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. ... He said that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had spoken with him about my being on a presidential board while remaining in the House of Representatives. I said no."

Something doesn't fit here.  Let's review:

In February: Sestak said he was "offered a job by someone in the White House." 

Today:  Sestak said he was offered a (non-paying) spot on a presidential panel by Bill Clinton.

In February, Sestak told Larry Kane that "he was called many times" to pull out of the race.

Today: Sestak told reporters:  "This was the only time" that Clinton called him about pulling out.  So who were the other calls from?

Maybe Sestak was confused by the question and misspoke?  But after taping the interview with Kane, he confirmed the story.  On more than one occasion.  Last Sunday, on Meet the Press:

"It's interesting. I was asked a question about something that happened months earlier, and I felt that I should answer it honestly, and that's all I had to say about it." Sestak said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." "Anybody else has to decide on what they will say upon their role. That's their responsibility."

"I was offered a job, and I answered that," Sestak said. "Anything that goes beyond that is for others to talk about."

And Monday, on CNN (sort of):

Someone, as I said, was asked. I answered the question, and I did forthrightly for my personal accountability in that matter.

Must reads

I just finally and very belatedly got around to reading this most extraordinary book (also here).  I wish I could put a copy on the desk of every politician, every academic and every journalist, everywhere.  If you haven't already read it (and I'm sure many of you have), please do.

wisse.gifSo to make up for being so delinquent in getting around to that one, next up is Ephraim Karsh's new book, Palestine Betrayed.  A good reading week.

Shabbat Shalom.

He's toast

Joe Sestak says:

"I've said I was offered something. I don't have to go beyond that. I don't think it helps anybody."
Robert Gibbs says:

"I don't have anything to add."
Hey.  Read the whole piece.  This is going to be a problem for Sestak.  Either the Obama administration offered Sestak a plum job (allegedly, Secretary of the Navy) to drop/stay out of the PA Senate race or ... Sestak is a liar.  Either way, it's not a pretty picture.

Arlen Specter cooked his own goose.  And he was helped by what will probably go down in history as one of the most effective last minute political ad campaigns ever.  Gotta give Joe (or his advisors) credit for that.

But, despite this, once the citizens of Pennsylvania (especially those in the middle of the Commonwealth) get a good look at Joe Sestak running against an opponent who actually has the full backing of his party (Craig Williams did not) and who hasn't been compromised by dirty tricks, I expect a landslide (not in his favor).

Which, BTW, I would say accurately characterizes Sestak's victory over Specter.  60.5% to 39.5% in a race that was pretty much declared a dead heat.  I can't help but think of this as a mercy defeat for Arlen, who really had exceeded his expiration date and will hopefully now get to spend some quality time with his family before ... whatever.

The feast of weeks

Now this is a good explanation.  Short, sweet and to the point.

Among many Jews, it is customary to eat blintzes on Shavuot, undoubtedly because they are so delicious.
Much more here.


Chag sameach!

Where's Obama?

Flashback.  Last April, immediately after Arlen Specter's defection ...

President Barack Obama will throw his "full support" behind Republican-turned-Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday.

Obama will campaign and raise money for Specter's reelection in Pennsylvania next year, Gibbs said at the daily briefing.

Asked if that applied to a Democratic primary, Gibbs said: "Full support means full support."

But here we are on primary eve 2010 and Obama is nowhere to be seen.

President Barack Obama says he loves Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) -- just not quite enough to hazard an 11th-hour political trip to Pennsylvania for an ally of convenience increasingly viewed as unlikely to win.

Just last year, the White House was crowing about Specter's conversion to the Democratic Party, and Obama pledged, "He will have my full support. . ."

Tuesday's primary is telling a different story: Once thought to be an unalloyed asset for most any Democratic candidate, Obama's personal involvement is no longer guaranteed - or guaranteed to succeed.

Just ask Martha Coakley.  Or Jon Corzine.  Or Creigh Deeds.  Hey, it's a cold, cruel world out there, Arlen, where allegiances can shift on a dime.  But then, you knew that, didn't you?

Nevertheless, I wouldn't count old Arlen out.  He does have a record of pulling out of electoral tight spots at the last minute, and his opponent ... does not

While it's tough to pick a side in this race between disgraceful and repugnant, here are a few factoids to keep in mind:

  • Barely three months into his first term in the House, Sestak agreed to give this keynote speech at a fundraising dinner for the Philadelphia chapter of CAIR.  More on that here, and here
  • In January, 2010, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), supported by J Street (of course), spearheaded a letter to President Obama urging him to lift Israel's "Gaza blockade."  Joe Sestak was one of just 54 (count 'em) members of the House who signed that letter.
  • In March, 2010, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), spearheaded a letter to Secretary Clinton re-affirming the U.S. commitment to the bond between the U.S. and Israel.  Joe Sestak was not among the 334 members of the House (164 of them Democrats) to sign that one.  (A similar letter in the Senate was signed by Arlen Specter.)

No longer being a Democrat, it's not my choice.  Good luck, PA.

Note:  For those overachievers who find this six-year-old post of mine ... what can I say?  I've evolved.

Bad start

I don't have a real good feeling about the Flyers' chances tonight, especially down 2-0 after just over 9 minutes.  But you never know ...

Wait.  They can't lose.  'Cause I'm not going to let that happen.

There.  All fixed.

Uh, oh.  3-0.  Guess I don't have "the touch." 

Heh.  3-1.

Shabbat Shalom.



Abbas says the settlements are a "major obstacle" in the so-called "proximity talks." 

What a great euphemism.  The talks are, of course, anything but proximate.  They are designed to be distant and obfuscatory, to cause confusion and further muddy the waters.  Only a diplomat could justify using the word "proximity" to characterize such a charade.

For the record: the only thing "the settlements" are a major obstacle to is the destruction of the State of Israel.  Bibi knows it, Abbas knows it, and I won't comment on who else probably knows it too.

Mellon Arena?

When I was growing up, it was the "Civic Arena" or "the Igloo."  My dad took me to hockey games there when it first opened (it was the Pittsburgh Hornets back then).  I was too young to go see The Beatles in 1964, but I caught a bunch of other acts there later in the decade: Janis Joplin, The Doors, Led Zeppelin and ... oh, yeah (full disclosure) The Monkees (I was so much younger then).

Tonight, the 2009 championship Penguins lost their bid to move on to the 2010 NHL Eastern Conference Stanley Cup finals, and so have played their last game in the Igloo, which is being retired this year.  To everything there is a season ...

The Jerusalem quiz

Tomorrow is Yom Yerushalayim, celebrating 43 years of the reunification of Jerusalem in the Six Day War.

Here's a short and informative quiz (and beautiful photo) from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs to test your knowledge of the history and current status of the city.


Playing both sides

What exactly is Israel's construction policy in Jerusalem right now?  As clear as mud.  But that's nothing new.

The policy seems to be to sort of let everyone hear what they want to hear.  Take this headline at Israel National News:

White House Reports Two-Year Building Freeze in Ramat Shlomo
Or this one in yesterday's Jerusalem Post:

'No R. Shlomo construction for 2 yrs'
(You have to wonder what the Post's deal is with these text-ish headlines ... tabloid chic?)

But the sub-head starts to tell a different story.

PMO downplays pledge, says building wasn't meant to begin yet anyway.
And this is actually the case, as the JPost article explains.

Soon after the State Department released the statement, sources close to Netanyahu released a statement of their own, explaining the commitment regarding Ramat Shlomo, the northern Jerusalem neighborhood where plans to build 1,600 new homes were publicized during Vice President Joe Biden's visit here in March, triggering a crisis in US-Israel ties.

According to the sources close to Netanyahu, the prime minister announced during Biden's visit that for all practical purposes, the planning process for Ramat Shlomo would continue for another year, and actual construction would only begin in a number of years.

"A description of that situation was made known to the American administration," the sources said.
Not to put too fine a point on it,

In fact, just before Biden delivered his supportive parting speech at Tel Aviv University, which Jerusalem erroneously thought signaled the end of the Ramat Shlomo crisis, the Prime Minister's Office put out a statement that read, "The Prime Minister informed the Vice President that this specific project [Ramat Shlomo] had moved through various planning stages over several years. The final approval process will in all likelihood take more than a year and the beginning of actual construction would likely take several years."
The "two year freeze" line allows the O Admin to look like it's flexed some muscle, whereas it's now clear this project has been on the drawing board for years already and was still working its way through the rather cumbersome and sometimes circular approval process when it exploded into the headlines in March.  Meanwhile, elsewhere in "east" Jerusalem ...

Construction of new housing for Jews in east Jerusalem will press forward, Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser illustrated in a statement on Monday. This drew Palestinian accusations that the plans could undermine newly relaunched peace talks.

"Building is expected to begin soon in Har Homa ... and Neve Yaakov, where (construction) bids have been issued," Hauser told Army Radio, referring to two east Jerusalem neighborhoods. "Building in Jerusalem is continuing according to its regular pace."

Despite Hauser's claim, Israeli construction in east Jerusalem has been held back, though not halted, since the dispute over Ramat Shlomo erupted in March. Israel has not approved any new housing plans, but construction on hundreds of apartments that were previously approved has proceeded.
To say that building in the parts of Jerusalem that lie on, near or over the green line is an incredibly complex subject is not even to skim the surface.  One thing to keep in mind is that the actual planning, zoning and construction is at one level not nearly as important as the public posture that's maintained with respect to that planning, zoning and construction.  The palestinian arabs are all too well aware of this, whereas the international press, by and large, is clueless and the U.S. agenda, at the moment, is on a different planet. 

But more crucial than foundations that may be being laid in stone and concrete are the foundations that are being laid in the public consciousness about the right of Israel not only to secure and defensible national borders but also to secure and defensible neighborhoods, roads and institutions in and around her capital city.  Regardless of whether there are temporary halts in the physical process, Israel simply can't afford to concede an inch in the war over its ultimate right to build and expand Jewish communities in Jerusalem. 

Nor can her advocates.

No longer an MP

George Galloway loses his seat in the British Parliament.

Too bad, so sad.  Maybe he can move to Gaza and run for office there

On civility

This piece by Peter Wehner at Contentions is too good to miss.

The president himself pretends to engage his critics' arguments even as his words are used like a flamethrower in a field of straw men. It's hard to tell if we're watching a man engaged in an elaborate political shell game or a victim of an extraordinary, and nearly clinical, case of self-delusion. Perhaps there is some of both at play. Regardless, President Obama's act became tiresome long ago.

Bookmark it.

Tone deaf and creepy too

Pennsylvania is taking some hits over this tax amnesty ad.  It's a little creepy, I admit, but not nearly as creepy as this debate Saturday night between Senator Arlen Specter and Congressman Joe Sestak, both running for the Democrat nomination for Specter's senate seat.

The worst part is that both of these bozos are my "representatives" but, fortunately, Sestak won't be for long.  He gave up his House seat (in my district) to run for the Senate and there's a decent chance that Pat Meehan (R) will win it this fall, a point Specter used to bash Sestak during the debate.  A lot of the debate centers around who's the "real" Democrat in the room, with Sestak constantly pointing out Specter's votes for the "Bush agenda" throughout his 30 years as a Republican in the senate (I know, the math doesn't add up, but it's the sound bite that counts, right?) and Specter pointing out that nearly every big Democrat in Washington has endorsed him.  All this should make great fodder for Pat Toomey in November.

Between Specter's accusations that he was misled by Chief Justice Roberts during his confirmation hearing and Sestak's constant mantra that Bush, Cheney and the Republicans alone led this country to the brink of an economic disaster that only Obama's stimulus could reverse, there's enough fuzzy thinking in here to clog an army of vacuum cleaners.  Here's the exact quote on the Specter gaffe

I believe that in evaluating Supreme Court nominees, it has been a mistake to listen to what they say in their testimony, even though it is under oath, and I'll be specific.
Priceless.  As is his constant bragging about how he voted against the interests of his party for years (he exaggerates that just a bit).  As much as Sestak creeps me out in his demeanor and his speech patterns (not to mention most of his ideas), I think he got the better of this debate in many ways.  He got Specter to remind the voters repeatedly that he can't be trusted.  Whether they'll pay attention is anyone's guess.

And then, of course, there's always this.

Fortunately, I no longer vote in the Democratic primary, so I don't have to choose between these two.

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This page is an archive of entries from May 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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