Friday, July 30, 2010

Soccer Dad

Soccer Dad

Arab League Gives Abbas Go Ahead To....Do What He's Already Doing?

Posted: 30 Jul 2010 08:02 AM PDT

If Israel completely halts construction in the settlements, negotiations with the Palestinians on a final-status agreement can be completed within six months, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told Haaretz Tuesday, adding that Israel needn't declare the freeze, just carry it out.

Abbas, who appeared self-assured and upbeat during the exclusive interview, said the Palestinians had no preconditions for talks with Israel [sic] but wanted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to meet his obligations to the road map, which calls for a cessation of construction in the settlements. [hat tip: Rick Richman]

We're well past Abbas's self-imposed deadline, everyone thought the peace talks were going nowhere and that Abbas conferring with the Arab League was just a formality--to support his boycott of peace talks.

But instead: Arab League endorses direct talks

Arab League foreign ministers on Thursday authorized the Palestinian Authority to enter into direct negotiations with Israel, but left it up to PA President Mahmoud Abbas to decide on the timing.

Jerusalem immediately welcomed the decision, taken at a special meeting in Cairo, with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu issuing a statement saying he was "prepared to begin direct and honest discussions with the Palestinian Authority in the coming days."

Leave it to Abbas to decide on the timing?

We've already seen how that has been working.

Still, this is supposed to be promising, but let's not forget just how reliant Israel's alleged peace partner is on the 22 countries of the Arab League.

One senior Israeli official said that the League's decision could have been "much worse," and that it could have piled on a number of conditions for Abbas before enabling him to enter the talks.

"Abbas now has the backing to go into the talks," the official said, adding that the Arab League gave him the ball to do with it what he wanted.

Interesting metaphor--so just how many plays do you think Abbas can really call on his own before he is forced to go back to the sidelines and confer with his 22 coaches?

Here are some comments from one of them:

The Qatari minister said that Thursday's meeting did not discuss when and how the direct talks would take place. "The Palestinians will decide when conditions are suitable for the negotiations," he said.

"We are sure that Israel is not serious about the peace process," the minister said. "Israel just wants to waste time. On the other hand, we are confident that the US is serious and we are sure of Obama's intentions to achieve peace."

He said that the Arab ministers were originally opposed to direct talks with Israel, but changed their mind due to the "situation in the Arab world."

He added: "Whether we hold indirect or direct talks with Israel, there will be no progress as long as [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu is around. But we want to prove to the world that we want peace, without giving up our principles, and that there's a price for peace." [emphasis added]

Other than leaving it to Abbas to decide when to resume talks--which does sort of seem like an endorsement of the status quo--note that the Qatari minister insists that the Arabs will stick to their 'principles'--so just who do you think he was referring to when he said "there's a price for peace"?

In other words--don't expect any concessions. No negotiating.

  • According to Qatar: "We are sure that Israel is not serious about the peace process."
  • According to Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa: "This is what we are trying to prevent by proving that they are not serious."

So now after Netanyahu says to Abbas: Put up or shut up!

Abbas/Arab League responds: No, you put up or shut up!

Just how far can they get, daring each other/calling what they think is each other's bluff?

It's a heck of a way to negotiate peace.

And before you shrug and say, "well, at least it's something"--here is Muhammad Dahlan, a senior Fatah official:

"We continue to insist on receiving assurances before moving to direct talks that would serve as a reference for the peace process and would be based on the two-state solution," Dahlan said. "It's clear to us that the US administration has failed to get any assurances from Israel. Nor has it managed to change the Israeli government's position. Therefore we declare that we won't move to direct negotiations until the conditions set by Fatah and the Palestinian Authority are fulfilled."

There, feel better now?

Check out Israel Matzav: Arab League agrees to direct talks but....

and Elder of Zion: The "Direct Talks" Farce

by Daled Amos

If ... you must 073010

Posted: 30 Jul 2010 03:57 AM PDT

If you haven't read NYT slams Israel airline security program at JoshuaPundit; you must.
When I saw this article at the New York Times, I couldn't figure out what the big deal is. But if Israeli security isn't willing to certify a pilot to land in Israel, might the airline in question have bigger problems than its logistics?
If you haven't The New York Times covers up at the Weekly Standard blog; you must.
How many people must die for a scoop?
If you haven't read Did the WaPo "Top Secret America" project succeed? at Hot Air; you must.
So American created a new bureaucracy. It's obvious that there'd be redundancies and inefficiencies? But despite everything did it improve America's security or not?
If you haven't read Multicultural Literacy Quiz at the Volokh conspiracy; you must.
I botched the question about Jews. I read it wrong. But I guess that was the point of the quiz.
If you haven't read Persistent Persecution at Powerline; you must.
It's not only Israel and Goldstone. I'm not sure that makes me feel better.

... or forever hold your peace

Posted: 30 Jul 2010 03:37 AM PDT

In The Palestinian Authority Struggles to Sabotage Any Chance for Peace, Barry Rubin observes:

And here, too, is the PA openly thwarting President Barack Obama, who publicly bristles at the tiniest Israeli disagreement, yet seems to accept this disrespect without demur.

And it's not just President Obama.

Roger Cohen:

No American definition of what such trust-undermining acts might be was offered, which is why Erekat pressed Mitchell in their meeting last Friday on what would constitute "provocative actions" by Israel.

But it seems clear that any reprise of the Ramat Shlomo debacle, which infuriated Obama, would meet American criteria. The bottom line to Israel is: Hold the building, hold the tenders and hold any other provocations while Mitchell shuttles.

Thomas Friedman:

President Obama was 100 percent right to call out Israel on its settlement expansion, which undermines the opportunities inherent in this moment.

Both, of course, have been silent about Mahmoud Abbas's continuting passive aggressive approach to negotiations. Jackson Diehl, to his credit, noticed back in March that what Israel does or doesn't do; it's Abbas who refuses to negotiate:

That's when Rice learned another lesson the new administration seems not to have picked up: This Palestinian leadership has trouble saying "yes." Confronted with a draft deal that would have been cheered by most of the world, Abbas balked. He refused to sign on; he refused to present a counteroffer. Rice and Bush implored him to join Olmert at the White House for a summit. Olmert would present his plan to Bush, and Abbas would say only that he found it worth discussing. The Palestinian president refused.

This isn't something new.

The question is when will the Israel bashers start to acknowledge that it isn't Israel that's obstructing peace but their second favorite "moderate" Palestinian leader?

Crossposted on Yourish.

A health plan for rube (goldberg)

Posted: 30 Jul 2010 12:09 AM PDT

A friend (ETbuzz) once told me this joke. I won't say how long ago. :-) (Yes it's funnier in person, but bear with me.)

A man brings his suit in to a tailer for alterations. When the suit comes back one pants leg is shorter than the other. The man - rather unhappy - points this out to the tailor. The tailor tells him to bend one leg and sure enough - the legs are now even. But now, walking at a slight angle, one sleeve is a bit too short. The tailor again recommends a new contortion that miraculously evens out the sleeves but affect the fit of the suit elsewhere. After several rounds of this, the customer bent over and twisted like a pretzel hobbles out of the store, thrilled with his new suit.

Soon two peoples pass him in the street. The first one says, "Look at that poor, poor man. I wonder what's wrong with him." His friend answers, "but at least his suit fits perfectly!"

I remember my Senator telling me that healthcare reform was broken that that he, his Democratic colleagues and the adminstration fixed it. But look at this chart prepared by Congressional Republicans. (via memeorandum) It doesn't look like an organizational chart as much as it looks like a Rube Goldberg invention.

Really, a little honesty and modesty would be welcome from my Senator. He has no business claiming that the health care system was broken and that he fixed it; the system is imperfect and he and his colleagues have made it worse. Or as CATO concludes:

The rest of the sector was heavily distorted by government intervention. Obamacare simply makes a bad situation worse.

When yousef al-otaiba is in israel's amen corner

Posted: 29 Jul 2010 11:53 PM PDT

Joel Brinkley on a recent announcement made by Yousef al-Otaiba, ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the United States:

That's why Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba's remarks were so remarkable. Asked during the Aspen Ideas Festival whether he wanted the United States "to stop the Iranian nuclear program by force," he answered exuberantly: "Absolutely. Absolutely!"

He said his view was the result of "a cost-benefit analysis."

"Despite the large amount of trade we do with Iran, which is close to $12 billion ... there will be consequences, there will be a backlash and there will be problems with people protesting and rioting and very unhappy that there is an outside force attacking a Muslim country.

"If you are asking me, 'Am I willing to live with that versus living with a nuclear Iran?' my answer is still the same: 'We cannot live with a nuclear Iran.' I am willing to absorb what takes place."

But of course:

The ambassador spoke the truth, but he also broke the rule. So a few hours later, his country's foreign minister said al-Otaiba's remarks, as quoted in news stories, "are not precise" and were "taken out of their context."

It's a fascinating bit of news referred to by Charles Krauthammer in Iran feels the heat:

"They [the United States and Israel] have decided to attack at least two countries in the region in the next three months."

-- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, July 26

President Ahmadinejad has a penchant for the somewhat loony, as when last weekend he denounced Paul the Octopus, omniscient predictor of eight consecutive World Cup matches, as a symbol of decadence and purveyor of "Western propaganda and superstition."

But for all his clownishness, Ahmadinejad is nonetheless calculating and dangerous. What "two countries" was he talking about? They seem logically to be Lebanon and Syria. Hezbollah in Lebanon has armed itself with 50,000 rockets and made clear that it is in a position to start a war at any time. Fighting on this scale would immediately bring in Syria, which would in turn invite Iranian intervention in defense of its major Arab clients -- and of the first Persian beachhead on the Mediterranean in 1,400 years.

Arguing that Ahmadinejad has no basis for this charge. (Well, recently Defense Minister Barak did say that if Hezbollah attacked Israel, Israel would strike back at Lebanon. So the charge is a distortion of something that an Israeli official said.)

Krauthammer argues:

It is a sign that he is under serious pressure. Passage of weak U.N. sanctions was followed by unilateral sanctions by the United States, Canada, Australia and the European Union. Already, reports Reuters, Iran is experiencing a sharp drop in gasoline imports as Lloyd's of London and other players refuse to insure the ships delivering them.

Second, the Arab states are no longer just whispering their desire for the United States to militarily take out Iranian nuclear facilities. The United Arab Emirates' ambassador to Washington said so openly at a conference three weeks ago.

It does appear that Iran is facing a more united front against its acquisition of nuclear weapons. So Krauthammer argues that Ahmadinejad is making the charge to deflect attention from himself channeling Pat Buchanan from 20 years ago:

Shortly before the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Pat Buchanan famously said that the "only two groups" that wanted the United States to forcibly liberate Kuwait were "the Israeli Defense Ministry and its amen corner in the United States." . . . Twenty years later, the libel returns in the form of the scurrilous suggestion that the only ones who want the United States to attack Iran's nuclear facilities are Israel and its American supporters.

So to defend his position Ahmadinejad effectively says that Yousef al-Otaiba is in Israel's amen corner. Krauthammer says that it's because he feels desperate; I hope there's something to that and that maybe it will induce him to stand down.

On Sherrod's suit against Breitbart

Posted: 29 Jul 2010 07:15 PM PDT

The suit might succeed, but I don't think the facts are on her side. The video was not diabolically edited. It wasn't stitched together from tiny fragments of the speech in order to make it look as if she was saying something utterly unconnected to what she was saying. As a number of people have pointed out, the excerpt even included some of the moralizing at the end that was meant to make her story more palatable. I did not see it until I knew about the controversy, but I think an intelligent person watching it would have taken it as a confessional moment. It was an excerpt.

Here is what I take to be Breitbart's version:

This little episode from Sherrod's speech is what it is. I grew up in the Deep South. I'm not old enough to exactly remember Jim Crow, but I can remember a very brief bit of time before desegregation and a long time afterward when there was still a certain smell in the air. Feelings of superiority, disdain, hostility usually evoke reciprocal feelings. It's just human nature, so I can cut Sherrod some slack--I don't think it is reasonable to expect her to be the world's most post-racial person. Breitbart seems to be guilty of nothing more than the crime of disagreeing with me.

Crossposted on Judeopundit

Submitted 07/29/2010

Posted: 29 Jul 2010 04:29 AM PDT

Watcher's council submissions are UP for this week.

Council Submissions

Non - Council Submissions

Read. Enjoy. Be informed.

If ... you must 072910

Posted: 29 Jul 2010 04:29 AM PDT

If you haven't read Nick Cannon thanks his mother for not aborting him; feminists jeer at the Green Room ; you must.
I don't know what's to jeer. The song's not quite my taste, but the message is very sweet.
If you haven't read 45,000 Fewer Students and 7,800 More Teachers at the Green Room; you must.

A number of years ago I looked at the Maryland state education budget. One thing I noticed that over time there were a higher number of employees of the education system, but as the numbers increased so did the percentage of non-teachers. Politicians love to say that they're supporting education and they show this support by spending more on education. But spending more doesn't translate to better education.

If you haven't read The Boston Cluster and Extended Connections: Case Study on Homegrown Radicalization at the Counterterrorism blog; you must.
Related, see Solomonia.
If you haven't read Pat Sajak vs. the Zombie Horde at Snapped Shot; you must.
Well yes. As Instapundit says, I'll believe it's a crisis when the people who say that it's a crisis start acting it's a crisis.
If you haven't read Byrd's real legacy at Don Surber; you must.
Pork may not be red meat, but still too much of it isn't good for you.

Flattery will get you nowhere, but keep talking

Posted: 29 Jul 2010 02:45 AM PDT

In an uncredited article, that seems largely based on Robert Mackey's account, the New York Times once again reports:

Using unusually blunt language for a British prime minister speaking about Arab-Israeli tensions, Mr. Cameron added: "Let me also be clear that the situation in Gaza has to change. Humanitarian goods and people must flow in both directions. Gaza cannot and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp."

Really, there was a lot more to the speech than that and Barry Rubin has "fisked" PM Cameron's efforts at currying favor with Erdogan in How Not to Conduct Diplomacy: A Case Study: UK PM in Turkey. The short critique:

What is the effect? A man goes into a bazaar, points to a carpet and says: That is the most beautiful carpet I have ever seen. I must have it no matter what the price! How much is it?

A specific example is:

"I've come to Ankara today to establish a new partnership between Britain and Turkey. I think this is a vital strategic relationship for our country."

Note the cringing here. A proper prime minister might have said: "I think this is a vital strategic relationship for our countries." In other words, the speaker would stress there is a mutual benefit. Instead, this polite approach makes it sound as if Turkey is doing the United Kingdom a favor by having a strategic relationship to it while Turkey doesn't need Britain at all.

And this is precisely the interpretation put on such things in the local context: The Turkish regime can take its Western alliances for granted while taking the side of the West's radical Islamist enemies.

Much of the rest of the critique involves similar statements made by Cameron. But it's interesting to note that the Obama administration could be viewed as taking the same tack with the Palestinians. Also from Barry Rubin:

--U.S.-Israel relations are quite good, the best at any time during the current presidency, and this could be expected to continue into early 2011 at least.

--The U.S. government has upgraded the Palestinian Authority representatives in the United States to the level of a general delegation, allowing them to fly the Palestinian flag in Washington DC. If this had come after the PA accepted direct negotiations with Israel that might have been understood. But once again we see the fatal pattern: first give a unilateral concession in hope that the other side will reciprocate. Shall I list the occasions on which that approach has failed during the last 18 months? You can develop your own list. That's not the way to do foreign policy.

Essentially, the administration decided that it considered Palestinian cooperation essential so it flattered the PLO. But by showing how essential it considered the Palestinians, the administration gave the Palestinians a veto. What it did wasn't a bribe; it was sacrificing its leverage. (And where is the administration's outrage over one more Palestinian snub?)

It's also outrageous that the Washington Post chooses to report Pressure mounts for Mideast talks as Israel's settlement freeze nears end, without even mentioning once that it's Abbas who has been refusing to engage with direct talks with Israel. By fawning all over Abbas and the Palestinians, this administration (and to be sure the Bush and Clinton administrations too) continues to allow Abbas to engage in his passive aggressive diplomacy and ensure that nothing gets done.

UPDATE: I forgot about Martin Peretz's critique of Cameron, David Cameron Has Been to Washington. He Got The Message...And Now He's Delivering It.

Peretz' clearly means that Cameron got the Obama administration's message figuratively, but Jonathan Hoffman thinks it may be literally:

I may have maligned the FCO who reportedly were as surprised as anyone to see the Cameron comments about Israel. It seems that Obama may have been the one who fed him the drivel -- and that he willingly swallowed...

Crossposted on Yourish.

Rethinking the administration and israel, iran

Posted: 29 Jul 2010 02:45 AM PDT

Last week, based on some upbeat articles, I wondered if the administration was changing its approach. Now Caroline Glick argues against that proposition in The New Improved Obama.

The basic notion informing both of these nearly identical articles is that the Obama administration's foreign policy is fundamentally pragmatic rather than ideologically motivated. Both Ya'ari and Benn, like many of their fellow commentators on the Left, argue that Obama's decision to invite Netanyahu to Washington and treat him like an ally rather than an enemy is proof that when stripped to its essentials, his foreign policy is pragmatic.

After a year and half in office, Obama recognized that his previous view of the Middle East was wrong. And as a pragmatist, he has embarked on a new course.

Yet before the ink on their proclamations had a chance to dry, Obama demonstrated that their enthusiasm was misplaced. Late last week the administration decided - apropos of nothing - to upgrade the diplomatic status of the PLO mission in Washington.

From now on, the PLO will be allowed to fly its flag like a regular embassy.

Its representatives will enjoy diplomatic immunity just like diplomats from states.

I'm not sure that the articles were claiming that Obama administration was pragmatic rather than ideological as much as they were claiming that the administration realized that its strategy was failing and that it fears that open hostility towards Israel will hurt Democrats in November. Still the upgrade in the PLO's status certainly showed that the administration cannot be considered pro-Israel.

On the other hand there have been a few more articles playing up the administration's military support for Israel. I have to believe that, at the very least, for its own political purposes, the administration wants to keep the diplomatic waters with Israel calm. That's not to say that allowing the PLO to fly its flag at its embassy hasn't been counterproductive.

But my other speculation (based on someone else's speculation) that perhaps it was indicative of the administration's changing views of the Iranian threat, is just speculation.

Crossposted on Yourish.

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