Israel’s defense minister blasts Iran deal

The agreement with Iran will endanger world peace. So argues Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. His comments made during an army graduation ceremony. Ya’alon arguing the permanent five members of the UN Security Council and Germany ignored Iran’s history of exportation of terrorism. And that the West mistakenly trusts Iran. President Obama argues the deal is based on verification – not trust.

ROMNEY ANNOUNCES SUPPORT FOR INDEPENDENT PALESTINE

By GEOFF HOLTZMAN
Talk Radio News Service

WASHINGTON – During a major foreign policy speech in Virginia today, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said he would back a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine.

The candidate who told supporters earlier this year that Palestinians have “no interest whatsoever” in establishing peace with Israel, declared today that as president, he “will recommit America to the goal of a democratic, prosperous Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with the Jewish state of Israel.”

“On this vital issue, the president has failed, and what should be a negotiation process has devolved into a series of heated disputes at the United Nations. In this old conflict, as in every challenge we face in the Middle East, only a new President will bring the chance to begin anew.”

Romney has attacked President Obama repeatedly during the campaign for calling on Israel to return to its pre-1967 borders, a proposal that has no legs with the current Israeli regime.

The speech, which Romney delivered on the campus of the Virginia Military Institute, comes roughly one week before his next debate against Obama, which will cover some foreign policy issues.

 

OBAMA’S SEPTEMBER SURPRISE PROVES POPULARITY CAN’T BE PURCHASED

By JONATHAN ROSENBLUM

Judd Gregg, a former Republican senator from New Hampshire and President Obama’s first choice for Secretary of Commerce, penned an op-ed piece two months ago entitled “Heading toward a Sept. surprise,” in which he noted that September has often proven to be a month of disaster. The Great Depression started in September (though Black Monday came in October); in 2008, Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns both failed in September, and the world stood on the brink of another massive depression.

Gregg even offers a partial explanation for September’s unfortunate prominence: “It seems September is the point in the year where people assess where they have gone, and what the next year will be like, and make investment decisions based on their conclusions.”

One thing Gregg does not do, however, is note that September almost always overlaps with the Days of Judgment, when Jews too assess where they have gone astray in the past year and where they would like to go in the year to come.

Jews too can think of many wake-up calls around this time of the year. The so-called Al Aksa intifada broke out just before Rosh Hashanah 5761, and claimed over a thousand Jewish lives over the next two years. The U.S. presidential election was deadlocked heading into Rosh Hashanah of 2008/5769. By the time Rosh Hashanah was over, Barack Obama had taken a large lead, which was never again threatened.

Nothing of that magnitude took place this past Rosh Hashanah. But the murder of the U.S. ambassador to Libya by al-Qaeda affiliated terrorists and the overrunning of the U.S. embassy in Cairo by irate mobs, just days before Rosh Hashanah, could yet have a decisive impact on the 2012 presidential election. Those two events and wave of anti-American riots throughout the Muslim world that followed dramatically exposed some of the conceits of the Obama administration’s foreign policy.

Of late, the President has juxtaposed his calmness and foreign policy experience in comparison to the allegedly inexperienced Romney. That is a bit rich for someone who entered office with neither any foreign policy experience nor any other experience of the slightest relevance to the presidency. His major adult achievement, prior to entering the White House, was to have written not one but two autobiographies, which we now know to be false in many respects – or filled with brilliant literary devices, if you will, according to the special dispensation that hovers over Obama.

THE ESSENCE OF OBAMA’S foreign policy approach was his near mystical belief in his own powers of persuasion and the force of his charisma. Early in his presidency, he flew off to personally make the case for Chicago as the 2016 Olympic host city, only to be overwhelming rebuffed by the Olympic selectors. One can only imagine the ruthless Vladimir Putin’s amusement at the neophyte’s confidence that he could charm him to push a “reset” button on U.S.-Russian relations, with the abandonment of previous American commitments to the Poles and Czechs and dramatic reductions in the American nuclear arsenal thrown in as additional inducements.

In no area did the President display greater confidence in his magical abilities than with respect to the Muslim world. He touted his formative years spent in Muslim Indonesia and his knowledge of the Koran as marvelous tools to place relations with the Islamic world on a completely new footing. Five years of futile negotiations between the Europeans and Iran over its nuclear program did not suggest to the new president that his hand “extended in friendship” might also be rebuffed. And so five has become nine.

In his much praised 2009 Cairo speech – to which he insisted that Muslim Brotherhood representatives be invited – Obama proclaimed, without a scintilla of evidence, the identity of Islamic and American values: “[Islam and America] share common principles – principles of justice and progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings . . . Let there be no doubt Islam is part of America.”

The speech was filled with apologies to the Muslim world for a litany of American sins, including having acted “contrary to our ideals” in the interrogation of Muslim prisoners. He implied that anti-Muslim prejudice, Islamaphobia, lies behind criticism of Islamic intolerance, anti-Semitism, misogyny: “We cannot disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretense of liberalism.”

An aspect of that outreach effort was to “put daylight” between the United States and Israel, with strong criticism of Israeli settlement policy and a misguided effort to equate Palestinian suffering with that of Jews during the Holocaust.

How have these efforts fared? Recent events provide a partial answer. Obama raised expectations that he could not possibly fulfill. His criticism of Israeli settlements effectively ended all direct negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel, as the former were emboldened to demand Israel’s acquiescence to a return to the 1967 borders as a pre-condition for negotiations. America’s ability to influence events in the Muslim world is, in every respect, less than it was in 2008.

The hasty abandonment of Mubarak and the equally ill-conceived support for a Muslim Brotherhood takeover in Egypt cost the United States its most reliable Middle East ally outside of Israel and raised concerns among other traditional American allies. America is today, in Islamic eyes, including most notably those of the Iranian mullahs, viewed as neither a reliable friend nor an enemy to be feared. It has had no influence over events in Syria, despite America’s vital interest in who succeeds Bashar Assad and in depriving the Iran-Hizbullah nexus of its Syrian link.

Nor has weakness resulted in popularity – not that such popularity would be worth much. America’s unfavorability ratings in both Egypt and Jordan are higher than they were at the end of George W. Bush’s second term.

RECENT EVENTS should have put to end forever, the myth that popularity can be purchased with obsequious bows or rhetorical flourishes. They exposed the United States’ foreign policy as both incompetent and fantastical.

The night prior to the assassination of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other embassy personnel in Benghazi, one of those slain, Sean Smith, posted online a premonition of what was to come: “Assuming we don’t die tonight. We saw one of our ‘police’ that guard the compound taking pictures.” Yet nothing was done to protect the compound.

As early as September 8, an Arabic website called for the burning of the U.S. embassy in Cairo, unless certain demands were met (none of which involved an offensive movie), and Raymond Ibrahim of the Middle East Forum published an article on September 10 entitled, “Jihadis Threaten to Burn U.S. Embassy in Cairo.” Yet nothing was done, and the U.S. Marine guards at the compound were not provided with any ammunition to protect the compound.

Equally feckless was the administration’s reactions to the attacks. Secretary of State Clinton plaintively wondered how such a tragedy could have taken place in Libya, after everything the United States had done for the people of Libya. Despite the $1.3 billion dollars in emergency aid recently provided Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood government, it did not occur to Clinton to warn President Mohamed Morsi of dire consequences if the American embassy was violated. Instead terrified personnel within the compound were left to Twitter their revulsion at an anti-Islamic video said to have triggered the rioters, in the vain hope of chilling their ardor.

Four days after the Benghazi and Cairo attacks, Press Secretary Jay Carney continued to insist that the violent protests were not a response “to United States policy, and obviously not the administration or the American people, but to “a film we have judged to be reprehensible and disgusting.” In part, this is political spin: Carney cannot simply state the obvious – the President’s outreach to the Islamic world has been a total failure.

Carney’s description of a spontaneous outpouring of righteous indignation does not pass the laugh test. The Libyan assassins were armed with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns, not the usual side-arms for overwrought protestors. The leader of the Cairo rioters was Muhammed al-Zawahiri, brother of Al-Qaeda chief honcho, Ayman al-Zawahiri. The video in question only became known because a radical Salafist station in Egypt broadcast it to create a pretext for an attack on the U.S. embassies.

Worse even than the political spin are indications that the administration believes its own fables. Martin Dempsey, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff called a Florida pastor asking him not to publicize the video. Worst of all, the administration kow-towed to Egyptian President Morsi’s demand that the producer of the video be prosecuted. Brown-shirted U.S. Probation officers knocked on his door in the middle of the night to take him away for interrogation about possible probation violations.

So intent is the administration on not refuting Obama’s Cairo equation of American and Islamic values that it is consistently downplayed the jihadi impulse in the Muslim world as a marginal phenomenon and described the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Al-Qaeda and Hamas are spawn, as a moderating influence.

When Mitt Romney had the temerity to say that it is never a good idea for the American government to apologize for American values, the mainstream media rose up with unanimity to decry his politicizing the tragedy. Not a word about the President carrying on with a Las Vegas campaign event or his failure to participate in a national security briefing the next morning, even as additional U.S. embassies were overrun.

During the Battle of the Bulge, Brig.-Gen. Anthony McAuliff, the acting commander of the 101st Airborne Division, responded to the demand to surrender Bastogne to the Germans, who had encircled his troops and badly outnumbered them, with one word: “Nuts.” The coming election will determine whether something of that spirit still remains in America. Or whether, as Lee Smith puts it, a new dispensation reigns: If you murder our diplomats and ransack our embassies, we will tell other Americans to shut up so as not to give offense.

Jonathan Rosenblum blogs at http://www.jewishmediaresources.com/.

Israel uses Internet to reach out directly to Arabs

ISRAEL TODAY

JERUSALEM – The Arab world has officially blacklisted Israel. But new media technology is allowing the government of Israel and individual Israelis to directly communicate with Arab people across the region.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently ordered his staff to set up direct lines of communication with Arab Internet surfers. Netanyahu is scheduled to hold an open chat with Arab users of Facebook and Twitter in the near future.

Ahead of that online appointment, Netanyahu’s spokesman to the Arab media, Ofir Gendelman, held a preliminary chat with those same users. Gendelman was surprised to find himself actively engaged, and not only by those taking the opportunity to spew hostile remarks at an Israeli representative.

“We knew it would be an interesting experience, but we had no idea we would receive such a wave of interest,” Gendelman told Israel’s Yediot Ahronot daily newspaper. “There is a real thirst for knowledge about Israel in the Arab world.”

Gendelman said the sudden widespread usage of services like Facebook and Twitter in the Arab world (adoption of the services increased by 2000 percent in the Arab world in 2011) has granted Israel unfiltered access to the Arab masses.

“A year or two ago, we could only get our message to the Arab masses via Al Jazeera or Al-Arabiyah (satellite networks),” said Gendelman. And the Arab networks were prone to editing the Israeli message in a negative manner. “Now we can have real, direct dialogue like never before.”

In his first foray into this arena, Gendelman said he received some 500 questions from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Yemen, Tunisia and elsewhere. Most revolved around the recent “Arab Spring” revolutions in the region, future relations between Israel and Egypt, and whether or not Israel is going to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities.

While there were many negative remarks made by Arab respondents, particularly from Egyptians, Gendelman said most were quickly shot down by other Arabs who wanted to genuinely engage the Israeli official. “There were Iraqis who wanted to know why there are not diplomatic relations between our two nations,” said Gendelman. “Tunisians, Egyptians and Saudis wanted to know when they can come visit Israel.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry has also been directly engaging Arab and Iranian web surfers for some months already. Ministry officials regularly hold open chats with and respond to emails from Arab and Iranian visitors to the ministry’s Arabic- and Farsi-language websites.

Obama administration’s naive view of the Middle East

By AVI PERRY
http://www.aviperry.org/

In his latest speech at the Brookings Institute, Leon Panetta offered Israel his words of wisdom. “Just get to the damn [negotiating] table, reach out and mend fences with the Palestinians, or risk facing even greater isolation. If the gestures are rebuked, the world will see those rebukes for what they are, and Israel’s moral standing will grow even higher.”

Echoing these words so that Panetta could benefit from his own wisdom would sound like this: “Just get to the damn [negotiating] table, Mr. Panetta, reach out and mend fences with al Qaeda, Iran, North Korea, or even the Republican Party back in D.C., or risk facing even greater foreign policy failures, and further political deadlock at home…”

Really?

There are two traits, which point to the core of the faulty doctrine held by the leader of the western world.

a. The Obama administration does not seem to comprehend the meaning of extreme ideology. It believes that all humans are reasonable rational people who could be convinced once the truth is presented in a clear, transparent form, supported by facts, reinforced by historical or scientific evidence.

Obama fails to understand that fervent insistence on ideology (including deep-seated religious beliefs) makes evidence, expertise, or any line of reasoning irrelevant: If some people believe that they possess the absolute truth, they view those who disagree with them as wrong and misguided (in many cases they deem those who disagree with them as criminals). Evidence contradicting their beliefs becomes irrelevant, a violation. Respectful arguments not in line with their ideology are of no use. Compromise is a bad word since it shows frailty.

Obama seems to understand this simple truth when it applies to his own situation concerning al Qaeda. Yet he fails to apply the identical logic when Israel enters the picture. Hamas and the Palestinians are to Israel what Iran and al Qaeda are to the US. These Islamic extremists are trapped inside their own ideology. Peace and compromise are deemed blasphemy. The more you concede to these adversaries the bolder they become. It’s a war they started; they won’t end it unless Israel is destroyed, unless the US is defeated. It’s an all-or-nothing guiding principle where no other middle ground settlement is possible. This conclusion is supported by so much evidence that to list it would require another volume.

b. The Obama administration believes that compromise is always possible because both sides to a conflict or the argument always swear by a common goal like world peace or global economic growth. The president and his team believe that all people are reasonable; they all strive for the same goals of bettering the lives of their fellow citizens.

Obama fails to appreciate that many of his adversaries do not share his goals. If the other side wants you dead; if they want you to disappear, to be wiped off the map—even at the cost of their own welfare; if their talk concerning peace and cooperation is designed to mask their true intentions, they will never compromise. Iran and North Korea deem Obama’s attempts at compromising a weakness and stupidity (can’t this idiot see what we are up to? They ponder); they will never admit failure of their policies. Instead, they will double down. The Palestinians will never accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. Instead, they keep promoting hate speech and glorification of terrorist murderers; they keep firing rockets at Israeli civilians. They brainwash the young generation, employing Nazi style anti-Semitism, so that real peace will be precluded from taking any roots for the next century and beyond.

The Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world’s Islamists do not see peace with Israel as their objective. Their only aim is to see Israel wiped off the map whereas Israel’s objective comprises a peaceful co-existence. These two ends could never intersect. Accordingly, no compromise can take roots and no negotiations around the “damn table” can bear fruits.

Obama’s olive branch offer to Iran’s leaders at the commencement of his government’s rule was, still is viewed as weakness and stupidity. Iran will not pull away from their path toward becoming a nuclear-armed power by the soundness of Obama’s logical arguments. Their intentions collide with Obama’s. Iran does not look forward to world’s peace; they are lying in wait for Armageddon; it’s their crazy religious dogmas and their Islamic ideology that stand in the way of any compromise or logical undertaking.

And finally, Obama’s own neighbors here at home, the Republican Party, have professed via their leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell that their foremost objective is to see Obama out of office. This goal may even come at the expense of seeing to an improvement in the country’s economy. In fact, since “it’s the economy, stupid” that may decide the fate of Obama’s success in securing his second term, the goal of removing him from office is contradictory to the goal of seeing to an improved economy. Still, Obama continues to seek bipartisan support; he continues to offer compromise where compromise is unacceptable, rather than declaring an all-out war, employing al the weight his position can muster.

Obama, Panetta, Clinton have failed to recognize that negotiations—with those whose goals are diametrically opposed to theirs, or with those whose ideology prevents them from accepting any compromise—would achieve the exact opposite of what they are intended to. A willingness to negotiate with fanatics who reject compromise can only make those fanatics tougher and more confident that their position is spot-on since it weakens the other side.

When the ideologues, the ones who want to see you expire declare an all-out uncompromising war on you, Mr. President, the only way you have a chance of surviving is not trying to “get to the damn table and negotiate” with those who reject negotiations and compromise, but rather, draw on every weapon in your disposal to strike back and win.

Do not confuse cause and effect; do not put pressure on Israel to keep conceding; do not let the Iranian mullahs gain time by pretending that peace is on their mind, because when your adversaries’ goals are dichotomous to yours, when their ideology stands in the way of reason, the only option left on the table is an unwavering confrontation.

“And that’s the way it is,” Mr. President.

Dr. Avi Perry, a talk show host at Paltalk News Network, is the author of “Fundamentals of Voice Quality Engineering in Wireless Networks,” and more recently, “72 Virgins,” a thriller about the covert war on Islamic terror. He was a VP at NMS Communications, a Bell Laboratories distinguished staff member and manager, a delegate of the US and Lucent Technologies to UN International Standards body, a professor at Northwestern University and Intelligence expert for the Israeli Government. More information is available at www.aviperry.org

Jewish victimhood gets in the way of peace

By IRA CHERNUS
http://chernus.wordpress.com/

When nations go abroad to fight, their wars inevitably come home to haunt them, changing politics and society on the homefront too. Gershon Gorenberg applies that insight to Israel, perceptively and compellingly, in a recent op-ed in the S unday New York Times. The right-wing Israelis’ drive to dominate the Palestinians — and indeed all opponents of their intolerant ideology — is most obvious in the West Bank settlements, which are beyond Israel’s borders. But the same drive for domination is increasingly played out within Israel itself, as Gorenberg shows, in ways that are changing the very structure of Israeli life.

The growing power of the Israeli right is indeed a tragic spectacle that we Americans who care about Israel watch with sorrow, apparently helpless to do anything about it. Of course we are not Israelis. some say we have no business getting involved in their politics anyway, and that may well be true.

But we surely have a right, even an obligation, to influence our own government’s policies. We know that Washington could put much more pressure on Israel to halt settlement expansion and negotiate a two-state solution in good faith. Indirectly, such pressure might help derail the right-wing shift within Israel too, as Gorenberg implies. Yet when it comes to the Israel-Palestine conflict the Obama administration, like most of its predecessors, has been long on words and depressingly short on constructive action.

Many U.S. progressives have given up even trying to move the administration toward a more just and even-handed approach. They are content to heap up the critiques of both Obama and Israel, with no hope that anything will ever change. They will welcome Gorenberg’s article as more grist for their mill and let it go at that.

But those who know how much power the U.S. can wield over Israel, if it wants to, might not give up so easily. Even those who don’t care what happens in Israel may still be moved to political action when they see such obvious injustice in our government’s biased policy.

Those who still have the energy to wage this political battle would do well to read Gershon Gorenberg’s other recent article, which appeared in the American Prospect. It’s the one I wish the New York Times had printed, because it speaks about the issue that matters most in this country: not what’s happening in Israel but what’s happening here in the U.S., and its Jewish community in particular.

The U.S. Jewish community has no control over U.S. policy, and it’s probably not even the strongest force shaping Obama’s positions on the issue. There’s a powerful Christian Zionist lobby, and beyond it a broader Republican political machine ready to pounce on Obama for any hint of pressure on or even criticism of Israel.

But the Jewish community holds the key to changing U.S. policy. If Jews strongly voiced their support for an end to settlement expansion, a fair two-state solution, and U.S. pressure toward those goals, it would mute much of the Republican critique. How could Christians convincingly support policies of the Jewish state that Jews themselves consistently oppose?

And the Jewish community is the place in the U.S. where pressure for changing opinion can be most successfully applied, because the Jewish community here is changing so fast. Gorenberg’s American Prospect piece inadvertently illustrates the point. He focuses on the continuing right-wing slant of many Jews, drawing evidence from his recent speaking tour in the U.S. But he mentions in passing that he, a progressive peace advocate, was repeatedly speaking in synagogues where no one had ever been allowed to voice the peace perspective before.

That’s just one of a mountain of anecdotes I’ve compiled in the last few years pointing to a sea change in the U.S. Jewish community. Support for a two-state solution and opposition to the West Bank settlements, once considered absolutely taboo in organized Jewish life, is now hotly debated. But the very fact that it’s a well-established position in a contentious dialogue shows how far the U.S. Jewish community has come in just the past few years. The shift continues and may well be accelerating.

That’s why I say the Jewish community is the place where pressure can be most fruitfully applied to change the climate of public opinion in general. If that change reaches a tipping-point (which often comes when we least expect it), a president would have enough political cover to take more even-handed positions, which would clearly be in the national interest.

How to promote such a change? This brings us to the heart of Gorenberg’s American Prospect piece, the paragraphs that I wish every American interested in the issue could not only read but memorize:

“victimhood is part of the story that Jews tell about their past. In that story, a besieged, endangered Israel is the sequel to the Holocaust. … The victimhood was very real. But for most Jews living today in America, the trauma is a taught memory, passed on by previous generations, out of sync with their current condition. And seeing Israel as the symbol of victimhood is discordant: Zionism was a rebellion against Jewish powerlessness, and present-day Israel testifies to the rebellion’s success.

However, Gorenberg continues, “when you challenge a group’s narrative, some members will take that as a denial of their identity. They’ll get angry. They will repeat their story more loudly. They may accuse you of telling falsehoods.” In fact they will accuse you, I would add, based on plenty of personal experience.

This is the essential message that all U.S. Jews – and indeed all Americans – need to hear, over and over again. Since the Six-Day War of June, 1967, American Jewish identity has been massively dominated by a fiction-laced story of victimhood and powerlessness. In recent years it has begun to unravel at the edges. But it still holds a powerful command in the public mind, Jewish and non-Jewish alike.

And it’s reinforced almost every day by journalists who assume it, and thus give it credibility, as they supposedly report just the facts. A recent example: Two New York Times reporters file a story from Jerusalem stating that “Hamas rejects Israel’s existence,” stating it almost in passing, as if it were an obvious fact that needed no evidence or justification.

Never mind that the Times itself published an interview with the head of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, two and a half years ago, in which he clearly stated his acceptance of a two-state solution. Never mind that Meshaal has said the same in many sources for years now. Israel must be presented as a little nation facing a fierce enemy sworn to its destruction, and someone must play the role of the enemy. Facts must give way to the power of the story.

American supporters of the Israeli right use their story as a bludgeon, fending off anyone who suggests a meaningful shift in U.S. policy. As long as that story remains so widely believed, it will continue to be an effective weapon dominating the political landscape. no matter how much ugly truth about Israel progressives offer, Israel’s defenders will merely repeat that nation’s favorite mantra: “For the sake of security.” It’s all justified, they’ll say, to keep the Jewish state secure against supposedly (but in fact non-existent) enemies who are dedicated, and powerful enough, to destroy Israel.

So no matter how high the mountain of morally disturbing facts about Israel’s policies and behavior, those facts alone can never constitute a strategy for changing U.S. policy. The story framing the facts, the story that Gorenberg lays out so concisely and accurately, must be confronted head on and debunked. That should be the spearhead of strategy for anyone hoping to see a more even-handed policy coming from Washington.

Ira Chernus is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Read more of his writing on Israel, Palestine, and the U.S. on his blog.