Tag Archives: Israel Matzav

Statements And Resolutions… Wasn’t That A Paul Simon Song?

Colum Lynch at Foreign Policy:

The U.S. informed Arab governments Tuesday that it will support a U.N. Security Council statement reaffirming that the 15-nation body “does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity,” a move aimed at avoiding the prospect of having to veto a stronger Palestinian resolution calling the settlements illegal.

But the Palestinians rejected the American offer following a meeting late Wednesday of Arab representatives and said it is planning to press for a vote on its resolution on Friday, according to officials familar with the issue. The decision to reject the American offer raised the prospect that the Obama adminstration will cast its first ever veto in the U.N. Security Council.

Still, the U.S. offer signaled a renewed willingness to seek a way out of the current impasse, even if it requires breaking with Israel and joining others in the council in sending a strong message to its key ally to stop its construction of new settlements. U.S. officials were not available for comment, but two Security Council diplomats confirmed the proposal.

Jennifer Rubin:

The U.S., according to an informed source on Capitol Hill, also offered “support for a UNSC fact-finding mission to the Middle East, which the Russians have been pushing.” And there was “some sort of Quartet statement that would reference the 1967 borders.” Israel, of course has made perfectly clear that 1967 borders are unacceptable, and, in any case, that this is an issue for direct negotiations. (That would be the direct negotiations that the Palestinians walked out of last fall.)

This remarkable deviation from past administrations’ treatment of Israel was not lost on Pawlenty. His spokesman provided a statement via e-mail, “The Obama administration has shown an astonishing unwillingness to stand by Israel at the United Nations, an organization with a long history of blaming Israel for just about every problem in the Middle East. It’s time for our UN ambassador to finally show some leadership, draw a line in the sand, and defend our historic ally. Global stability depends more than ever on a respected America that is loyal to our allies and realistic about the malice of our adversaries.”

Pawlenty is exactly right. Because this administration does not want to do what its predecessors did — exercise the Security Council veto to shield Israel from one-sided resolutions seeking to isolate the Jewish state in the international community — it instead has offered to join the pack of jackals that seek, at best, to extract concessions and impose a deal on Israel and, at worst, delegitimize Israel.

Hugh Hewitt:

This is as shocking. For the president to undercut Israel even as instability mounts on all of Israel’s borders is a clear signal that Team Obama is either indifferent to Israel or incompetent beyond even its critics estimates.

The presider-in-chief is presiding over a major and unprecedented turning against Israel.  Allahpundit says it isn’t a “total sellout” of Israel, but it is a major blow to Israel at precisely the moment when Muslim radicals are wondering if they can run the board, and whether the U.S. will stand behind its long-time ally. Ben Smith has some updates.  Even if the blowback forces the U.S. to do what it ought to have done from the beginning –threaten a swift and conclusive veto on any such resolution– no supporter of Israel ought to forget that at a moment of great peril to Israel, President Obama endorsed piling on with statements of disapproval from the Security Council.   Perhaps the U.S. ought to have suggested statements of disapproval of Iran, Libya, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas were all in order first.

John Tabin at American Spectator:

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-New York) gets it exactly right:

This is too clever by half. Instead of doing the correct and principled thing and vetoing an inappropriate and wrong resolution, they now have opened the door to more and more anti-Israeli efforts coming to the floor of the U.N. The correct venue for discussions about settlements and the other aspects of a peace plan is at the negotiating table. Period.

This is a moment of uncertainty in the Middle East, with a wave of protest movements threatening the stability of autocrats across the region. If this leads to the opening of Arab societies, that’s a good thing in the long term (tyranny has bred radicalism; freedom is likely to breed moderation). But in the short term, a more democratic Arab world could be enormously destabilizating; people who have been fed decades of propaganda laden with Jew-hatred will be tempted to embrace a politics of confrontation with Israel. Maintaining Israel’s ability to project strength is the best bet for maintaining peace — Israel must be able to credibly say things like “You don’t like Camp David? We’ll be taking the Sinai back, then.” This is no time to be shy about reminding the world the the US has Israel’s back.

Danielle Pletka at AEI:

Hmmmm, how do we get back to a more “balanced approach”? Aha! The way we always do: Screw Israel. After all, the resolution the Palestinians are pushing is little more than cheap maneuvering. It certainly isn’t going to advance the peace. What the administration fails to appreciate is that this “feed the beast” move is going to have the effect that feeding the beast always has. It will be hungrier. So of course, the White House’s execrable “compromise” has only encouraged Israel’s (and our) enemies to up the ante. Clever.

Israel Matzav:

On Wednesday night, a couple of hours before this report broke, an Israeli Radio commentator expressed amazement that with all that’s going on in the Arab world today, the Arabs are still aggressively pursuing this resolution. After watching what has happened in Egypt, my sense is that the Wikileaks disclosures to which Omri referred reflected the views of the elites and not those of the Arabs on the street. The Arabs may be trying to save their regimes by distracting them with Israel big time. The US is apparently willing to help them out, even at the expense of throwing its most loyal ally under the bus. And the Europeans, as always, are cheering them on.

Maybe the US is hoping the ‘Palestinians’ will once again not miss the opportunity to miss an opportunity by saying that the Council statement isn’t good enough?

What could go wrong?

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Filed under International Institutions, Israel/Palestine

Let’s Go Back To WikiLeaks And Learn Something Interesting!

John Vidal at The Guardian:

The US fears that Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest crude oil exporter, may not have enough reserves to prevent oil prices escalating, confidential cables from its embassy in Riyadh show.

The cables, released by WikiLeaks, urge Washington to take seriously a warning from a senior Saudi government oil executive that the kingdom’s crude oil reserves may have been overstated by as much as 300bn barrels – nearly 40%.

The revelation comes as the oil price has soared in recent weeks to more than $100 a barrel on global demand and tensions in the Middle East. Many analysts expect that the Saudis and their Opec cartel partners would pump more oil if rising prices threatened to choke off demand.

However, Sadad al-Husseini, a geologist and former head of exploration at the Saudi oil monopoly Aramco, met the US consul general in Riyadh in November 2007 and told the US diplomat that Aramco’s 12.5m barrel-a-day capacity needed to keep a lid on prices could not be reached.

According to the cables, which date between 2007-09, Husseini said Saudi Arabia might reach an output of 12m barrels a day in 10 years but before then – possibly as early as 2012 – global oil production would have hit its highest point. This crunch point is known as “peak oil“.

Husseini said that at that point Aramco would not be able to stop the rise of global oil prices because the Saudi energy industry had overstated its recoverable reserves to spur foreign investment. He argued that Aramco had badly underestimated the time needed to bring new oil on tap.

One cable said: “According to al-Husseini, the crux of the issue is twofold. First, it is possible that Saudi reserves are not as bountiful as sometimes described, and the timeline for their production not as unrestrained as Aramco and energy optimists would like to portray.”

It went on: “In a presentation, Abdallah al-Saif, current Aramco senior vice-president for exploration, reported that Aramco has 716bn barrels of total reserves, of which 51% are recoverable, and that in 20 years Aramco will have 900bn barrels of reserves.

“Al-Husseini disagrees with this analysis, believing Aramco’s reserves are overstated by as much as 300bn barrels. In his view once 50% of original proven reserves has been reached … a steady output in decline will ensue and no amount of effort will be able to stop it. He believes that what will result is a plateau in total output that will last approximately 15 years followed by decreasing output.”

Kevin Drum:

This won’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s been following the oil industry over the past few years. Matthew Simmons’ Twilight in the Desert, which I reviewed six years ago, made a detailed case that Saudi Arabia’s production capacity had pretty much maxed out already, and Business Week published an article three years ago based on internal Saudi documents that said much the same: the Saudis could pump 12 million barrels a day in short spurts but only 10 million barrels on a steady basis — and that’s all there is. Production capacity just isn’t going up.

Steve LeVine at Foreign Policy:

The issue is pivotal. Put simply, the price of oil — the price you are paying at the pump, indeed the cost of everything in your home — is wholly determined by what oil traders think Saudi reserves and production capability really are. As an example, oil plunged yesterday to their lowest price of the year — $87.87 a barrel — when Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi (pictured above) suggested that the kingdom will put new oil supplies on the market to compensate for any uptick in global demand.

The thing is, the Saudis are highly secretive about these figures — unlike almost every important petro-state on the Earth outside the Middle East, the Saudis will not permit their oilfields to be independently audited. One might wonder why that would be the case, and the late Matt Simmons, for example, made much hay suggesting that the reason is that the Saudis simply don’t have as much oil as they claim. I myself got ahold of documents back in 2008 suggesting the same. Sensible voices, however, said such are the thoughts of the conspiratorial-minded, and that the Saudis genuinely possess what they claimed — they were denying the right to verify because … well because that’s just what they do.

Ryan Avent at Free Exchange at The Economist:

It’s interesting to look at recent production data with this kind of news in mind (to see production numbers you can download  this PDF, or check out charts at the Oil Drum). What we observe is that from around 2004, oil production hasn’t increased very much, even as prices have soared. Now, one reason for this plateau may be the lag in bringing new supply online. During the cheap oil 1990s, production growth and exploration were limited. As prices rose in the early 2000s, producers brought existing, high-cost facilities online, adding to supply. But once existing production was running at capacity, the industry had to wait to get new facilities up to increase supply, and that process doesn’t happen overnight. So it could be that, globally, we’re experiencing a temporary period of high prices and stagnant supply while new extraction is set up.

Of course, in an environment of growing demand, a temporary supply limit can be costly.

But let’s think about one other potential dynamic. In the old days, OPEC attempted to use its cartel status to artificially limit supply and raise prices. This, however, was difficult to orchestrate; there was always the incentive to cheat and sell more than one’s quote of oil at the artificially high price, and as more participants cheated the supply limit fell apart. But as global supply runs against natural limits, incentives begin shifting the other way.

If an individual gains information suggesting that oil reserves are overstated, then they’re likely to expect an increase in future prices. Such an individual could bet on this outcome by buying oil futures, but this behaviour is limited by the nature of the contract; at some point traders may need to take delivery of actual oil, in which case they’ll need a place to store it, and that storing activity would be highly visible in the form of rising inventories.

But what if you’re an oil producer, and you learn this information? Well, obviously you’d like to make the same bet, and hold on to your oil until you can sell it at a higher price. Fortunately for you, oil producer, nature has provided a natural storage tank. All you have to do to make your bet is not produce any more oil than you need to sell to cover costs.

All of which is to say, the world doesn’t need to experience declines in potential oil production to see a rise in oil prices. All it needs is for oil producers to see that such limits loom and begin betting on the near-certainty of rising prices. Of course, different countries will face different liquidity constraints; some leaders may find themselves producing full out in order to sustain their socialist paradise, particularly when prices temporarily dip thanks to recession. But at those times, other countries with fiscal room to spare should cut back their production further—to buy more, essentially, when prices are low in order to sell more when prices are high.

Ariel Schwartz at Fast Company:

Even Jeroen van der Veer, the chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell, has admitted that oil supply may no longer keep up with demand by 2015. But the just-released cables, which detail a back-and-forth between the U.S. consul general and geologist Sadad al-Husseini, the former head of exploration at Saudi Aramco, confirms that the situation is serious.

Weasel Zippers

Israel Matzav:

If this is taken seriously, it should accelerate the search for alternative energy sources and reduce the influence of ‘our friends the Saudis.’ Both those results would be blessings.

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Filed under Energy, Middle East

A Church Bombing In Egypt

Liam Stack at The Daily Beast:

The recent bombing of a crowded church Mass is being blamed on the terrorist group, but as Liam Stack reports from Alexandria, Christians and Muslims are blaming Egypt’s own government.

A woman hunched over a table in the office of the Saints Church sobbing heavily with her face in her hands, a black crucifix swinging from her neck. Shattered glass from a row of blown-out windows crunched beneath her feet.

“I can’t bear it! I can’t!” She wailed, “Oh God, I can’t!”

A friend held her and slowly stroked her hair, concealed beneath the ceremonial veil Coptic Christian women wear during a religious service.

“It’s OK, it’s OK,” she soothed, “God is here. God is here.”

Sunday Mass at Saints Church was a frightened and somber affair, less than two days after the calm of Friday’s New Year’s Eve service was shattered by a deadly bomb attack that killed at least 21 and injured dozens here in Egypt’s second largest city, the Mediterranean port of Alexandria.

Many Sunday churchgoers wept quietly in their pews, while others dabbed their eyes, put on a stiff upper lip and sang hymns in the ancient Coptic language. Fear and sorrow hung in the air.

“I am afraid for the future,” said Malak Guirguis, a 17-year-old boy with a peach fuzz mustache who fought back tears after Sunday Mass. “I do not want to die here like these people did.”

Egypt’s interior ministry says Friday’s blast was the work of a suicide bomber possibly affiliated with al Qaeda, a potentially serious national-security development in a country that has long denied al Qaeda activity within its borders.

The sophistication of the attack and the large number of dead and wounded have also ratcheted up tensions in the often uneasy relationship between Egypt’s Muslim majority and its Christian minority, which makes up roughly 10 percent of its population of 80 million. Nearly 1,000 people were packed inside the church at the time of the attack.

Weasel Zippers:

Oh so predictable.

(JPost)– Counselors tell rally attack was Mossad reaction to uncovered spy ring; Egyptian authorities point towards al-Qaida involvement.

A coalition of Egyptian lawyers accused Israel of being behind an terror attack in Alexandria that killed 22 members of the Christian Copt sect attending midnight mass on New Year’s eve, Army Radio reported Monday.

“The Mossad carried out the the operation in a natural reaction to the latest uncovering of an Israeli espionage network,” the lawyers accused at a rally in memory of the victims, organized by the Egyptian Bar Association, according to the report.

Ed Morrissey:

For its part, the Egyptian government has remained mum on the motives of the bomber, claiming that the terrorism “hurt hearts of the Egyptians, Muslim and Coptics.” However, not all governments were as discreet, or even sane. Iran and its puppet front group Hezbollah in Lebanon have identified what they see as the real culprits (via Jeff Dunetz):

The fresh plot by terrorists to target churches is an organized Zionist scenario aimed at creating a rift between Muslims and Christians.

Following its intelligence and security failures in Egypt and the apprehension of a number of Mossad agents by Egyptian intelligence apparatus, the Zionist regime of Israel is set to exact vengeance on the Egyptian nation…..All the existing evidence proves that the Alexandria church explosion, though appearing to have been carried out by extremist groups, is the handiwork of the Israeli intelligence service Mossad.

And in Egypt, 22 lawyers publicly accused Israel of the crime as well:

A coalition of Egyptian lawyers accused Israel of being behind an terror attack in Alexandria that killed 22 members of the Christian Copt sect attending midnight mass on New Year’s eve, Army Radio reported Monday.

“The Mossad carried out the the operation in a natural reaction to the latest uncovering of an Israeli espionage network,” the lawyers accused at a rally in memory of the victims, organized by the Egyptian Bar Association, according to the report.

The bomber died in the blast, according to Egyptian officials, which would tend to rule out the Mossad, which doesn’t exactly have a track record of conducting suicide bombings. That distinction goes to the radical Islamists in the region, the same kind of terrorists (if not perhaps the same al-Qaeda brand) who bombed a Christian church in Baghdad not long ago.

Jeffrey Goldberg:

I’ve been struck over the past couple of days by the lackadaisical coverage of what seems to be the most important story coming out of the Middle East right now — the terrible attack early on New Year’s Day on a Coptic church in Egypt, in which 21 Christians were killed, and 79 people, mostly Christian, were injured. The attack, it seems, came from either domestic Egyptian Muslim extremists, or foreign, al Qaeda-influenced terrorists, but the meaning is mainly the same, no matter the exact perpetrator: The Salafist war on Christians in the Middle East is intensifying fairly rapidly, with profound consequences not only for Christians in the lands of their faith’s earliest history (keep in mind that Christianity had planted itself in Egypt well before the birth of Muhammad) but for the rights of all ethnic and religious minorities in the greater Middle East.

The relative dearth of coverage might have to do with holiday understaffing at news outlets, or it might not: I’m not one to generally go after news organizations for overemphasizing the troubles of Christians in Israel (who, don’t, in fact, have many troubles) and underplaying the near-genocidal campaign of Muslim extremists against Christians in places like Egypt and Iraq, but this attack seems like a watershed moment, and not only for Egypt, which is entering a long and dangerous moment as it changes leadership. One way to think about the Muslim Arab Middle East is as a place historically intolerant of the rights of non-Arab Muslim minorities: The blacks of Sudan, who are trying to break free of Khartoum’s hold; the Kurds in Iraq and Syria; Christians in Lebanon, Egypt and Iraq; and the Jews of Israel, among others. In Saudi Arabia, of course, it is illegal even to build a church, and I’m afraid it will soon be illegal to build one in Iraq.

Israel Matzav:

There have been many suicide bombings – inhumane acts – carried out by Muslims. And if Muslims and Christians get along so well, why are there constant complaints from the Copts in Egypt about discrimination and why is the only country in the Middle East where the Christian population is growing… you guessed it… Israel.

Here’s the Lebanese statement.

A top Shiite Muslim leader in Lebanon, Sheikh Abdel Amir Kabalan, denounced the attack as a “terrorist act aimed at sowing chaos and fear in Egypt”.

“This terrorist act bears the fingerprints of Zionists who keep on targeting religious sights and are working to … sow discord between Muslims and Christians,” Kabalan said in a statement.

The question is whether anyone will condemn Kabalan’s statement. Don’t hold your breaths.

Michelle Malkin:

What does the White House have to say? Here’s the full statement, but this is all you need to read:

I strongly condemn the separate and outrageous terrorist bombing attacks in Egypt and Nigeria. The attack on a church in Alexandria, Egypt caused 21 reported deaths and dozens of injured from both the Christian and Muslim communities.

Er. As Gadi Adelman points out:

I’m glad our President was so much quicker condemning this act of terror while on vacation than he was last year with the ‘underwear’ bomber.

Just one problem, just a little mistake in his sentence. He stated “deaths and dozens of injured from both the Christian and Muslim communities”. Wrong!

There was not one Muslim death, not one, unless of course you count the suicide bomber. Each person that died was a Christian; the bomb went off outside a Coptic Church.
As far as the injured, only 8 out of the 79 were Muslim.

More whitewashing of jihad here.

New year, same old reckless political correctness run amok.

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Filed under Foreign Affairs, GWOT, Religion

A Saber Rattle Called An Ambassador

Jeff Neumann at Gawker:

Ahmadinejad unveiled his new jet-powered giant dildo bomber one day after Iran began fueling its first nuclear power reactor. The Ambassador of Death has a range of 620 miles and can carry four cruise missiles to “keep the enemy paralyzed in its bases.” Ahmadinejad spoke about his new toy’s dual purpose: “The jet, as well as being an ambassador of death for the enemies of humanity, has a main message of peace and friendship.” How cute!

Israel Matzav:

Hmmm. That ought to make ‘our friends the Saudis’ feel real secure.

Scott Lucas at Enduring America

Weasel Zippers:

Ahmahomo Introduces the “Ambassador of Death”…

Isn’t that the “prophet” Mohammed’s role?…

Keith Thomson at Huffington Post:

Depending on the mission, according to the Iranian Defense Ministry, the 13-foot-long, remotely-piloted aircraft can deliver either a pair of 250-pound bombs, a single 450-pound laser-guided bomb, or a quartet of cruise missiles. The UAV travels 560 miles per hour with 620-mile range. It should be noted that past Iranian defense claims have made fish stories seem reliable, and, among other red flags waving today, cruise missile capability would extend the Ambassador of Death’s range well past 620 miles. But taking the specs at face value, here’s how Ahmadinejad’s new saber measures up:

The poster child of UAVs, the 27-foot-long Predator has a cruise speed of 84 mph and a range of 454 miles. Originally developed for reconnaissance by the U.S. Department of Defense in the mid-1990s, Predators were fitted with a pair of Hellfire missiles after an American general remarked, “I can see the tank. Now I’d like to see it blown up.”

When that worked, the Department of Defense commenced development of the Reaper UAV. In operation since 2006, the 36-foot-long Reaper boasts a cruise speed of around 230 mph, a 3,682-mile range, and a relative arsenal including Hellfires, Sidewinder missiles and 500-pound laser-guided bombs–a potent enough package overall that the Air Force subsequently decided to train more pilots to fly aircraft from ground operations centers than from cockpits.

Two years later, Israel unveiled the Heron UAV, 43 feet long with a wingspan of 85 feet, or about that of a Boeing 737. Its range is 5,000 miles–or deep into Iran and back twice. The Karrar’s stated range would leave it nearly 500 miles shy of Israel. The Heron’s weapons payload, meanwhile, can be 4,000 pounds, or about eight times that of Iran’s new aircraft.

This April brought the introduction a jet-powered version of the Predator, the Avenger, with a top speed of close to 500 mph and, more importantly, a good deal of infrared and radar-proof stealth design–without stealth, the Ambassador of Death may find itself the jet-powered version of a sitting duck.

James Jewell, President of UAV MarketSpace and one of America’s top unmanned aerial systems experts, speculated that Iran’s new offering is “nothing special,” adding of today’s announcement, “I suspect it has an element of hyperbole since it comes so close to the nuclear reactor fueling announcement.”

Jewell also noted several other countries with UAV systems comparable or superior to Iran’s, notably France, Italy, and South Africa (for a fairly extensive international UAV roster, see Wikipedia’s unmanned aerial vehicle page).

The Ambassador of Death, however, has the scariest name.

Noah Shachtman at Wired:

According to the official word from Tehran, the 13-foot Karrar (’striker”) drone is capable of carrying four cruise missiles. That’s really unlikely. Even smaller-sized cruise missiles, like the Russian Kh-135s, weigh a more than a thousand pounds and are about nine feet long; it’s tough to imagine a relative pipsqueak like the Karrar lugging such a hefty package. [Update: As Pirouz notes in the comments, Iran calls its anti-ship missiles, like the Chinese C-701, “cruise missiles.” Those are compact enough for drone duty.] State television later claimed that the Karrar could carry a pair of 250-pound bombs or a single 500-pounder. That’s more believable (although the single bomb the drone is carrying in the video above looks more like a 250-pound model to me).

Iran has been making its own drones for a while; the U.S. even shot one down over Iraq last year. Since 2004, a small number of those unmanned aerial vehicles have made their way into Hezbollah’s hands. This, however, would be Iran’s first armed robo-plane. In so doing, state television crows, “Iran broke the military advantage of America” — and prepped the country for the looming days of all-robot warfare. That should arrive around 2020, the Iranian Defense Ministry guesstimates.

Tehran’s scientists went “500,000 hours without sleep and eating” while designing the drone, according the state TV report. That figure sounds about as authentic as Iran’s 2007 pronouncement that it had fired off a space-ready missile (which turned out to be nothing more than a modified Scud), or July 2008’s picture of a missile barrage (most of which were Photoshopped dummies).

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Filed under Middle East

Say “Divest” In A Bahston Accent

Hillel Koren at Globes:

In another blow to Israeli shares, the Harvard Management Company notified the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Friday that it had sold all its holdings in Israeli companies during the second quarter of 2010. No reason for the sale was mentioned. The Harvard Management Company manages Harvard University’s endowment.

Harvard Management Company stated in its 13-F Form that it sold 483,590 shares in Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (Nasdaq: TEVA; TASE: TEVA) for $30.5 million; 52,360 shares in NICE Systems Ltd. (Nasdaq: NICE; TASE: NICE) for $1.67 million; 102,940 shares in Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: CHKP) for $3.6 million; 32,400 shares in Cellcom Israel Ltd. (NYSE:CEL; TASE:CEL) for $1.1 million, and 80,000 Partner Communications Ltd. (Nasdaq: PTNR; TASE: PTNR) shares for $1.8 million.

Stephen Bainbridge:

I’m not sure where Globes got the sales data. The 13-F form is a holdings report, not a transaction report. In other words, institutional investors use the 13-F to report their current holdings at the end of the quarter, not sales. But if you compare the first quarter and second quarter 13-Fs, the endowment management company owned the stocks in question at the end of the first quarter and no longer owned them at the end of the second quarter.

In one sense, Harvard did divest–they dumped all their Israeli stocks. But most people use divest in a more nuanced way; i.e., to intentionally sell and thereafter refrain from investing in stocks of a particular country for political reasons. So the interesting question is why Harvard sold the stocks at issue. Was it coincidence, a purely investment-driven decision, or a surrender to political activists opposed to Israel? Only the latter would count as divestment in my book.

John Hinderaker at Powerline:

If this is right, it assorts oddly with Harvard’s acceptance of large amounts of money from Saudi Arabian sources. Also, what are Harvard’s largest securities holdings? Two ETFs, each worth $295 million, one in Chinese equities and the other in emerging markets. So Israel doesn’t meet Harvard’s moral test, but China does; and it would be interesting to see what countries are included among those emerging markets.

There is a pretty clear pattern here–again, assuming that the five nearly-simultaneous sales of shares in Israeli companies were not coincidental. Harvard is happy to do business with oppressors–real oppressors, that is–as long as there is enough money in it. China and Saudi Arabia have, in sheer monetary terms, a lot to offer. But taking a “principled” stand against Israel, still the Middle East’s only democracy (unless you count Iraq, on which the jury is still out) and the only country in the region with a Western human rights sensibility, is cost-free. Sort of like banning military recruiters.

Israel Matzav:

On Monday morning, there were several comments and emails providing plausible explanations for Harvard’s sale of their Israeli shares (and apparent purchase of Turkish shares in their place) for reasons that are not political. There are two principle schools of thought.

One is that with Israel’s admission into the OECD, we are no longer an emerging market, and therefore the emerging market section of the portfolio had to be reshuffled.

The other is that the Israeli stocks in Harvard’s portfolio had performed poorly of late.

I actually find the first explanation more plausible than the second. University endowments are long-term investments and would not be likely to be reshuffled solely on the basis of a quarter or two of poor performance. On the other hand, the OECD admission is a recent, verifiable event.

One would hope that a statement from Harvard will be forthcoming once the business day starts in the US. But that could be a vain hope. The SEC report on which the Globes article was ostensibly based (which is nothing but a list of Harvard’s current holdings) is here, here and here (an overall document and two subparts).

Globes probably put together the list of Israeli shares sold by comparison to last quarter’s report and updating the prices. But that says nothing about why the shares were sold.

Pam Geller:

Look at how far we have sunk. America’s once leading institution for higher learning pimps for jihad. We knew that these institutions like Harvard, Georgetown, etc., would unashamedly dance on demand when those Saudi 20 million dollar gifts began rolling in. Middle Eastern Studies departments are hotbeds of radicalism. Jewish students are persecute, harassed and physically threatened on these campuses.

If these institutions of higher learning get federal taxpayers dollars, is this not against the law? It’s one thing when jihadist frenemies violate the Arab boycott of Israel. We expect that from these players, they lie and are incapable of being honest merchants. When Saudi Arabia joined the World Trade Organization, they promised to end their participation in the Arab boycott of Israel, but they have not done so.

But this is Harvard. It is wrong, outrageous, that these tools of the stealth jihad are supported by your taxpayer dollars and private endowments (many from Jewish families). The whole moral structure is disintegrating before our very eyes. These whorehouses do not deserve one thin dime from public or Jewish coffers. This is getting very ugly. I expect Tariq Ramadan will be offered the Edward Said chair at Columbia in no short order.

Hugh Hewitt:

I find it hard to believe that the country’s oldest university would take such a step at all, much less without a full discussion and consultation with the broader university community.

This would be a very big story if it is in fact correct, so look for MSM to follow up tomorrow.  Certainly thousands of alums will react with extraordinarily negative consequences for the university, so President Drew Gilpin Faust should move quickly to answer all questions about the concern.

Jeffrey Goldberg:

I read on the Atlantic Wire earlier today that Harvard’s endowment had quietly dumped its investments in Israeli companies. Several bloggers had already picked up on the story, following a report in an Israeli newspaper. This seemed strange to me (for, among other reasons, the simple fact that there is no divestment campaign targeting Harvard at the moment) so I contacted Harvard. I was told that the university was not divesting itself of Israeli companies; quite the opposite, it was moving its Israeli investments out of a developing-market fund to another fund focused on more advanced economies. An hour later, Harvard issued a statement saying the same thing.

So the question is: Why didn’t anyone simply pick up the phone and call Harvard’s public relations office and find out exactly what was happening before posting, and repeating, what turned out to be pure speculation?

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Filed under Education, Israel/Palestine

The Tree In Lebanon

Max Fisher at The Atlantic with the round-up. Fisher:

Israeli and Lebanese forces briefly exchanged fire across the border today, killing an Israeli officer, three Lebanese soldiers, and a Lebanese journalist. The conflict has sparked tension on both sides of the border and raised fears of a return to the periodic Israeli-Lebanese violence that most recently recurred in Israel’s 2006 invasion in retaliation against Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah.

Gregg Carlstrom at Al Jazeera live-blogged:

1:24pm: A few regional reactions. Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, phoned Sleiman and told him Syria “stands with Lebanon.”

And Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Egyptian foreign minister, spoke with Hariri and promised Egyptian support. He also called for “self-restraint,” and asked the UN to intervene to “de-escalate” the situation.

1:14pm: Many reports say this whole incident started because Israeli troops were trying to cut down a tree on the Lebanese side of the border.

The US television network MSNBC has posted a photograph that appears to show an Israeli soldier, in a crane, cutting down a tree on the Lebanese side of the border fence.

1:08pm: The Israeli military, which issued only a brief statement this morning on the clashes, just e-mailed a longer statement to reporters.

It claims an Israeli army unit was carrying out “routine maintenance” along the border, and that the work was “pre-coordinated” with UNIFIL, the United Nations peacekeeping force in the region.

The IDF force immediately returned fire with light arms at a force of the LAF, and the IDF also made use of artillery fire.

[…] The IDF holds the LAF responsible for the incident that disrupted the calm in the region, and its consequences.

12:56pm: Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, meanwhile, said Israel “holds the Lebanese government responsible” for the incident.

This recent violation is one of many violations of Resolution 1701, the most severe of which is the massive rearmament of Hizbullah, including the rearmament of Hizbullah units in southern Lebanon.

He also directed the Israeli representative at the United Nations to file a formal complaint about Lebanon.

12:51pm: Saad Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister, and Michel Sleiman, the Lebanese president, were the first two senior Lebanese politicians to comment on the clash.

Hariri’s statement was predictable: It condemned Israel’s “violation of Lebanese sovereignty” and demanded that the UN stop the fighting.

Sleiman said much the same thing, but he also included a message for the Lebanese army, asking it to “confront any Israeli aggression, whatever the sacrifices.”

12:45pm: There are many conflicting reports from southern Lebanon, but the latest confirmed details right now (from the Lebanese defence ministry) are that three Lebanese soldiers were killed, and four others wounded.

There are also reports of an Israeli soldier killed in the fighting – the Al-Manar television station, which is run by Hezbollah, has carried that story for an hour or so – but no confirmation from the Israeli military.

A journalist was also killed in the fighting; Lebanese media are identifying him as Assaf Abou Rahhal, from the Al-Akhbar newspaper.

Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs:

UNIFIL says IDF activity did not warrant Lebanese fire:

UNIFIL forces who toured the site of Tuesday’s deadly exchanges of fire on the northern border said the IDF’s activity did not warrant the attack launched by Lebanese Army soldiers, Israeli army officials who spoke to UNIFIL representatives said.

According to the IDF, soldiers were performing routine operations in a border-area enclave within Israeli territory when they were ambushed by Lebanese troops.

Weasel Zippers:

According to my sources:

  • IDF in coordination with the UN and Lebanese army were working within Israeli territory to fix security cameras.
  • Overconfident due to this coordinated effort, the soldiers did not mind the watchful eye of Lebanese soldiers at close range.
  • Lebanese forces opened fire, Israel says a few soldiers were wounded (recent wording on Israeli news site suggest possible casualties).
  • Israelies retaliated, killing 3 soldiers and a news reporter.
  • Lebanese president came out in statements supporting further escalation.
  • Rockets were fired again at northern Israeli towns.
  • Lebanese villagers are packing their bags and fleeing.
  • Israeli officials stated they do not wish to continue escalation, while certain operations within Lebanon are in action.

Edward Teller at Firedoglake:

In clear violation of U.N. Resolution 1701, which Israel signed at the conclusion of their ignominious defeat in July-August 2006, Israeli troops violated Lebanese sovereignty this morning, cutting down a tree on the Lebanese side of the border. An MSNBC video and still clearly show the Israelis, attempting to cut down the first tree on the Lebanese side of the border.

The Lebanese Army (not Hizbollah) responded with warning shots, then with live fire. The Israeli counter-reasponse apparently killed three Lebanese soldiers and a reporter. A sniper from the Lebanese side of the border then killed “a high-ranking Israeli officer.

Although Israel routinely violates Resolution 1701 (overflights, shelling of Lebanese fishing boats, etc.), Hizbollah has also done so, though less blatantly.

The Israelis are now responding with heavy artillery and rocket fire, as well as white phosphorus. Numerous Lebanese soldiers and civilians have been injured in the exchange, which is probably escalating to include Hizbollah rockets, as I write.

UPDATE: Israel Matzav

Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit

UPDATE #2: Daniel Levy at Foreign Policy


Filed under Israel/Palestine, Middle East

Postcards From The Hanging

Tehiya Barak at Yediot Ahronoth:

He asserted that Israel committed war crimes and came out against the Israel Defense Forces, whom he claimed violated basic human rights. Judge Richard Goldstone forgot just one thing – to look long and hard in the mirror and to do some soul-searching before he rushes to criticize others.

A special Yedioth Ahronoth investigation reveals Richard Goldstone’s dark side as a judge during the Apartheid era in South Africa. It turns out, the man who authored the Goldstone Report criticizing the IDF’s actions during Operation Cast Lead took an active part in the racist policies of one of the cruelest regimes of the 20th century.

During his tenure as sitting as judge in the appellant court during the 1980s and 1990s sentenced dozens of blacks mercilessly to their death.This stain on Goldstone’s past kept him from coming out against the death penalty on many occasions and from vehemently criticizing countries who still allow executions. Goldstone didn’t bother confessing and telling about his actions in any of his statements or speeches.

Jeffrey Goldberg:

Goldstone is the author, of course, of a UN report excoriating Israel for alleged war crimes in Gaza. It turns out that this hero of the anti-Israel left (that branch of the left that equates Israeli policies in the Occupied Territories to the policies of white South Africa) sentenced twenty-eight blacks to hang for criminal offenses. To be fair, Yediot’s reporting doesn’t find that these defendants weren’t guilty, and hanging was the law of the land. What is strange is that Goldstone sometimes appeared to embrace his role as punisher of blacks a bit more enthusiastically than might have been necessary:

Even when it came to far less serious offenses, Goldstone sided through and through with the racist policies of the Apartheid regime. Among other things, he approved the whipping of four blacks found guilty of violence, while he acquitted four police officers who had broken into a white woman’s house on suspicions that she was conducting sexual relations with a black man – something considered then in South Africa as a serious crime.

In another incident, Goldstone sentenced two young black men merely for being in possession of a video tape showing a speech given by one of the senior officials in Nelson Mandela’s party.
The most serious charge leveled against Goldstone — one of the most serious, anyway — is that he is a man without a moral compass, who did what he did at the UN because he wants to be remembered as an avatar of human rights, and he knew that one way to become a favorite of the human rights community would be to lead the charge against that community’s most favored target. This new report suggests not only that Goldstone is at best intermittently principled, but that he knew his old hanging-judge record would one day catch up with him.

Jonathan Chait at TNR:

This doesn’t prove or even suggest that Goldstone is, or was, a racist or an Apartheid supporter. It’s morally murky territory — the ultimate question is whether and to what degree a white South African could take a position such as a judge for a regime that had such despicable laws. I don’t think the answer is clear. But it certainly adds some texture to the portrait of Goldstone as a man. (He privately called the UN Human Rights Council “hopeless,” then wrote a report vindicating its geopolitical prejudices.) Goldstone seems to be disinclined to make a brave, lonely stand against the prevailing currents.

Matthew Yglesias on Chait:

At some point, though, critics of Goldstone’s work on the Gaza War are going to have to face the fact that whether or not they like what he’s said on this subject it’s just not the case that Israel’s been the victim of a frameup by white supremacists. For example, I take it that nobody is going to question the anti-apartheid credentials of Desmond Tutu and I don’t think Chait is going to endorse this or this or much anything else he’s had to say on the subject.

I posit that people who don’t like the Goldstone Report ought to actually think harder about international humanitarian law. The American right has a longstanding complaint on this score that international humanitarian law’s even-handed nature constitutes de facto unfair treatment of “the good guys.” Their point of view is that, in essence, you ought to look at a conflict, identify who the bad guys is (the Taliban rather than the US, Hamas rather than Israel), and focus your ire on the bad guy instead of nitpicking at the good guy’s conduct. Hawkish Arabs also join in this critique, though of course in their view it’s Israel who’s in the “bad guy” role. Personally, I don’t find this critique persuasive and I believe in international humanitarian law—just like Human Rights Watch does and Desmond Tutu does and Richard Goldstone does, which is why these organizations find themselves in the position of criticizing both Israeli and Palestinian conduct.

Chait responds:

I believe there’s a need for international humanitarian law. The first problem is that the law as defined by organizations like Human Rights Watch makes it not merely difficult to wage war, which is appropriate, but actually impossible. Thus a country like Israel, which is frequently attacked by non-uniformed militias operating among civilians, literally has no ability to defend itself without being branded a war criminal. That to me suggests the construction of the law is a problem.

Second, even within the overly-strict construction of these laws, it seems clear that these organizations attract a lot of individuals who take a deeply unfriendly view of Israel. Thus the Goldstone Report, while raising some very valid criticisms of Israel’s misguided assault on Gaza, also makes a lot of misleading claims. Likewise, Human Rights Watch, while also making a lot of valid criticisms of Israeli military actions, turns out to slant its findings, both in its area of focus and within individual reports. I think the substance of the criticisms of the Goldstone Report and HRW are the primary issue, and I’d recommend the two very thorough, fair-minded critiques I just linked.

As for Goldstone, again, I don’t think his Apartheid history makes him anything like a Nazi. But he’s an important character in the whole drama. His champions have portrayed him as a brave truth-teller, and his critics as a weak bureaucratic figure currying favor with the powers that be. The revelations about his history do lend more plausibility to the latter interpretation.


As I noted in my previous post on this controversy, I find it a bit curious that strident defenders of Israeli foreign policy take a harder line on Richard Goldstone’s apartheid-era conduct than does Nelson Mandela and the leadership of the African National Congress. It’s almost enough to make you think that some of these attacks on Goldstone are offered in bad faith, and are more motivated by dislike for his conclusions about Israeli conduct during the Gaza war than genuine concern about his past conduct


This is a good example of the general phenomenon I’m talking about. Begin with the characterization “strident defenders of Israeli foreign policy.” I’m certainly more strident than Yglesias. But I (hesitantly) opposed the Gaza incursion. I blame Netanyahu, not the Obama administration, for the recent Israel-U.S. blow-up. Goldberg made his name authoring a book critical of Israel’s occupation, wrote a long op-ed blasting Aipac, and so on. Goldberg and I do find Israel distinctly more sympathetic than Hamas. Yglesias would probably object to somebody who painted the United States as no better than al Qaeda. That wouldn’t make him a “strident defender of American foreign policy.” At best Yglesias has picked an imprecise description, and at worst he’s outright misleading his readers.

Next, there’s the charge that I’m taking “a harder line” than Mandela and the ANC on Goldstone’s enforcement of Apartheid. It’s not really that hard a line — I called it “morally murky,” and explicitly said that it doesn’t suggest Goldstone is or was a racist or an Apartheid supporter. Yglesias proceeds to cite Goldstone’s subsequent, post-Apartheid work with the Commission on Public Violence and Intimidation, which helped lead Mandela to appoint him to the Constitutional Court. But of course the charge isn’t that Goldstone was a conscious supporter of Apartheid — it’s that he was a get-along, go-along functionary. Working to investigate the Apartheid system after it fell hardly refutes that picture. Moreover, it explains pretty well why Mandela would have reason to embrace Goldstone. Mandela was a politician who had to reconcile a bitterly-divided country, not some sage who was free to make philosophical judgments untainted by politics that the rest of us must abide.

Of course, Yglesias isn’t saying we must abide Mandela’s judgments. He’s saying, or implying, that Goldberg and I lack credibility as critics of Apartheid, that our sole interest in the matter is as allegedly reflexive defenders of Israel. Goldberg was an anti-South Africa activist in the 1980s and was arrested while protesting on behalf of divestiture. I wasn’t an activist for any cause, and I can’t really prove that I “really” opposed Apartheid, but, well, I did.

Yglesias leaps directly from the fact that Mandela appointed Goldstone to a court to his conclusion that only “bad faith” could explain anybody mentioning Goldstone’s history with Apartheid. Accusations of bad faith are both impossible to disprove and an effective tactic for avoiding the substance of the issue. As I’ve said before, the important question is the truth of Goldstone’s findings. He did report evidence of Israeli war crimes in Gaza. He also made a lot of shaky or hard-to-justify claims. Part of the controversy around Goldstone has dipped into questions of his character — supporters paint him as a fearless truth-teller, critics as a man who molds himself to the ideology of whatever institution he’s attached to. I think his Apartheid history has some relevance to this small but non-trivial question.

Andrew Sullivan:

The hounding continues for anyone who dares criticize the policies of Israel with respect to the blockade and pulverization of Gaza. The personal viciousness of the AIPAC crowd never ceases to amaze.

Israel Matzav at Sullivan:

Yes, that’s Sullivan’s entire post. You didn’t really expect him to substantively address facts that don’t fir with his narrative, did you?

Sasha Polakow-Suransky at Foreign Policy:

Goldstone’s apartheid-era judicial rulings are undoubtedly a blot on his record, but his critics never mention the crucial part he played in shepherding South Africa through its democratic transition and warding off violent threats to a peaceful transfer of power — a role that led Nelson Mandela to embrace him and appoint him to the country’s highest court.

More importantly, Ayalon’s and Rivlin’s moralism conveniently ignores Israel’s history of arming the apartheid regime from the mid-1970s until the early 1990s. By serving as South Africa’s primary and most reliable arms supplier during a period of violent internal repression and external aggression, Israel’s government did far more to aid the apartheid regime than Goldstone ever did.

The Israel-South Africa alliance began in earnest in April 1975 when then-Defense Minister Shimon Peres signed a secret security pact with his South African counterpart, P.W. Botha. Within months, the two countries were doing a brisk trade, closing arms deals totaling almost $200 million; Peres even offered to sell Pretoria nuclear-capable Jericho missiles. By 1979, South Africa had become the Israeli defense industry’s single largest customer, accounting for 35 percent of military exports and dwarfing other clients such as Argentina, Chile, Singapore, and Zaire.

High-level exchanges of military personnel soon followed. South Africans joined the Israeli chief of staff in March 1979 for the top-secret test of a new missile system. During Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, the Israeli army took South African Defense Force chief Constand Viljoen and his colleagues to the front lines, and Viljoen routinely flew visiting Israeli military advisors and embassy attachés to the battlefield in Angola where his troops were battling Angolan and Cuban forces.

There was nuclear cooperation, too: South Africa provided Israel with yellowcake uranium while dozens of Israelis came to South Africa in 1984 with code names and cover stories to work on Pretoria’s nuclear missile program at South Africa’s secret Overberg testing range. By this time, South Africa’s alternative sources for arms had largely dried up because the United States and European countries had begun abiding by the U.N. arms embargo; Israel unapologetically continued to violate it.

The blatant hypocrisy of the latest attack on Goldstone is nothing new. In November 1986, Benjamin Netanyahu, then Israel’s U.N. ambassador, gave a stirring speech to the General Assembly denouncing apartheid and insisting that “Arab oil producers provide the umbilical cord that nourishes the apartheid regime.” (Never mind that Israel remained absent from the 1980 U.N. vote to impose an oil embargo on South Africa in deference to its friends in Pretoria.)

Netanyahu was right that Arab and Iranian oil was flowing through middlemen to the apartheid regime, but he categorically denied Israel’s extensive military and trade ties with South Africa, calling charges of lucrative arms sales “flat nonsense” and accusing his critics of trying “to defame Israel.”

In fact, Israel was profiting handsomely from selling weapons to Pretoria at the time. Writing in the New York Times, Thomas Friedman estimated that the two countries did $400 mllion to $800 million of business in the arms sector in 1986. According to declassified South African documents, the figure was likely even greater: A single contract for modernization of South African fighter jets in the mid-1980s amounted to “approximately $2 billion,” and  arms sales in 1988 — one year after Israel imposed sanctions against the apartheid regime — exceeded $1.5 billion. As the former head of the South African Air Force Jan van Loggerenberg told me bluntly: “Israel was probably our only avenue in the 1980s.”

Declassified South African arms-procurement figures (which exclude lucrative cooperative ventures and shared financing arrangements) reveal the full extent of Netanyahu’s lie. The “independent IMF figures” he cited (which excluded diamonds and arms) suggested trade was a minuscule $100 million annually. It was actually between five to 10 times that amount — depending on the year — making the apartheid regime Israel’s second- or third-largest trading partner after the United States. Not all of the weapons Israel sold were used in external wars, and there is no denying that Israeli arms helped prolong the rule of an immoral and racist regime.

Before casting stones from their glass house, Ayalon, Rivlin, and Israeli journalists would do well to examine — and acknowledge — their government’s own shameful history of collaboration with the apartheid regime.

Daniel Larison:

It is supposed to be some sort of contradiction that Goldstone upheld harsh laws as a judge then and now is trying to hold another government accountable for its military excesses against a civilian population, but at worst this shows a habit of judging actions according to the law that exists. It could just as easily show a desire to hold even powerful states accountable for their violations of international law. Goldstone has been criticized as a “man of double standards,” but if his record shows us anything it is that this is precisely what he is not. Indeed, the reason why he has been subjected to these attacks is that he is not applying one standard for one group and another for a different group. What drives his attackers crazy is that he has applied the law to both sides of the conflict. His attackers might insist that Israel be given on a pass on any excesses and crimes it commits because Israel is on “our side” or is “like us” or “shares our values,” or more basically because Israel has a “right to defend itself” (which some of them take to mean a license to do whatever it wants). If the judgment seems biased against the vastly more powerful side, that is mostly a function of the disparity of power between the two sides. That “bias” could only be avoided if the jurist were constantly compensating for the disparity in power rather than looking at the actions committed.

Ron Radosh at Pajamas Media:

Readers of this blog know that PJM previously reported, as Jennifer Rubin noted at Commentary’s “Contentions” blog, that we spotted  “Goldstone’s apartheid record a few months back.” If you follow the link to her citation, you will find my old column and the link to documented reports that show more evidence of Goldstone’s actions in support of apartheid. In particular, the lengthy article by Ayal Rosenberg, who knew Goldstone, contains further revelations about his sorry record as a judge.


Actually the de Klerk government, with Mandela’s support, began the shepherding of South Africa to democratic transition, much to the consternation of Afrikaaner hard-liners who wanted to hold out towards the end. And Goldstone’s sorry role was part and parcel of his now documented opportunism.

Scores of other white judges, professionals, doctors and lawyers opposed to apartheid left South Africa, preferring exile to raising their children in the confines of an inhuman oppressive state which they opposed. Goldstone, however, stayed in South Africa during apartheid and its aftermath, putting career first and serving both masters — Botha and his successors and later Mandela — allowing himself to rise in the ranks of the judiciary and to render decisions serving the interests first of apartheid and later of the ANC.

Second, Palakow-Suransky pulls a clever trick — that of conflating the actions of a state, however morally questionable, with the actions of an individual who can take a moral position and oppose and question the actions of a government in which he lives.  Polakow-Suransky brings up the well known fact that in the 1970s through the 1990s, Israel was an arms supplier to the apartheid government in South Africa. The author writes that this military aid  “did far more to aid the apartheid regime than Goldstone ever did.”

The truth is that all governments have and do make alliances of necessity that many find objectionable. There were plenty of people in and outside Israel who criticized this policy at the time. Others argued that Israel’s enemies themselves made unsavory alliances. Indeed, the ANC and the African liberation movements as a whole supported the most pro-Soviet and  totalitarian states including the Soviet Union, as well as corrupt African and Arab regimes that gave them support. No one’s hands were entirely clean at the time.

None of this can serve as an excuse for the actions of Judge Goldstone, who could have used his position to rule against apartheid when it might have helped destroy it, or could have with many of his contemporaries gone into exile in protest. Instead, he stayed in the judiciary, first serving the apartheid regime and then shifting as the tides turned to support the ANC. Obviously, career and power was his first concern.

In Polakow-Suransky’s eyes, there is nothing that anyone should apologize for, except the state of Israel. That, of course, is precisely the thrust of the Goldstone Report. The logic is that of the political left world-wide, and this blogger at Foreign Policy does not depart from it.

The truth about Goldstone, whatever rationales people come up for him, is now out. No wonder that this week, the judge is most probably not a very content man.

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Filed under Africa, History, Israel/Palestine

Eli Lake Gets The Scoop On The Soft

Eli Lake at Washington Times:

The Obama administration is pressing Congress to provide an exemption from Iran sanctions to companies based in “cooperating countries,” a move that likely would exempt Chinese and Russian concerns from penalties meant to discourage investment in Iran.

The Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act is in a House-Senate conference committee and is expected to reach President Obama’s desk by Memorial Day.

“It’s incredible the administration is asking for exemptions, under the table and winking and nodding, before the legislation is signed into law,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican and a conference committee member, said in an interview. A White House official confirmed Wednesday that the administration was pushing the conference committee to adopt the exemption of “cooperating countries” in the legislation.

Neither the House nor Senate version of the bill includes a “cooperating countries” provision even though the administration asked the leading sponsors of the Senate version of the bill nearly six months ago to include one.

Ben Smith at Politico:

A Middle East hand sends over an excerpt of Eli Lake’s story today on the White House working to soften congressional plans to sanction Iran on behalf of Chinese and Russian companies. My source says the following took place in the bicameral, bipartisan leadership meeting with Obama at the White House April 14:

One congressional staff member working on the bill told The Washington Times that Mr. Obama personally asked the House leadership this month to put off the sanctions bill until after the current work period. Shortly after that meeting, both the House and Senate named conferees for the legislation.

Jennifer Rubin at Commentary:

What could possibly be the rationale for this? Why the Obami are working on an international agreement, of course, and we can’t let sanctions with bite get in the way of international sanctions without any. This is the substitution of the intermediary goal — international agreement — for the end goal (it is the end goal, right?): an effective sanctions regimen to thwart Iran’s nuclear program. It seems our real interest is to make China and Russia happy — and exempt them from public scrutiny for doing business with the mullahs


Apparently, the administration has given up on the end goal of effective sanctions and is now in the business of papering over its failure with an international agreement (that must be held together with bribes and favors to Russia and China). This is the equivalent of “engagement” — a time waster that allows the Iranian regime still more time to proceed with its nuclear plans.

Israel Matzav:

I first reported the story here, and noted that the original proposal was a blanket exception for the P 5+1, which, as you might imagine, angered other US allies like Japan and South Korea.

Well, you didn’t think Obama was going to drop it, did you?

My guess is that Democrats who are worried about their seats come November are not going to vote with Obama on this. Hopefully, that’s all of them.

Mark Hemingway at The Washington Examiner:

The article also notes that China recently broke ground on a factory in Iran “that will build the Nasr-1 anti-ship missile.”

Daniel Foster at The Corner

John Hinderaker at Powerline:

In foreign policy, the Obama administration is setting a new standard for fecklessness.

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Filed under Legislation Pending, Middle East

Senator Schumer Has Something To Say

Ben Smith at Politico:

New York Senator Chuck Schumer harshly criticized the Obama Administration’s attempts to exert pressure on Israel today, making him the highest-ranking Democrat to object to Obama’s policies in such blunt terms.

Schumer, along with a majority of members of the House and Senate, signed on to letters politely suggesting the U.S. keep its disagreements with Israel private, a tacit objection to the administration’s very public rebuke of the Jewish State over construction in Jerusalem last month.

But Schumer dramatically sharpened his tone on the politically conservative Jewish Nachum Segal Show today, calling the White House stance to date “counter-productive” and describing his own threat to “blast” the Administration had the State Department not backed down from its “terrible” tough talk toward Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Schumer, a hawkish ally of Israel since his days as a Brooklyn Congressman, described “a battle going on inside the administration” over Middle East policy.

“This has to stop,” he said of the administration’s policy of publicly pressuring Israel to end construction in Jerusalem.

“I told the President, I told Rahm Emanuel and others in the administration that I thought the policy they took to try to bring about negotiations is counter-productive, because when you give the Palestinians hope that the United States will do its negotiating for them, they are not going to sit down and talk,” Schumer told Segal. “Palestinians don’t really believe in a state of Israel. They, unlike a majority of Israelis, who have come to the conclusion that they can live with a two-state solution to be determined by the parties, the majority of Palestinians are still very reluctant, and they need to be pushed to get there.

“If the U.S. says certain things and takes certain stands the Palestinians say, ‘Why should we negotiate?'” Schumer said.

Schumer described the recent confrontation over construction in Jerusalem as a “kerfuffle.”

Israel Matzav:

After being badgered by Ed Koch, New York Senator Chuck Schumer (D) finally blasted President Obama on Israel on Thursday. No, not on Fox or CNN or CBS or ABC, but on Nachum Segal’s JM in the AM (Hat Tip: Memeorandum) morning drive time show (which was on WFMU when I lived in New Jersey – sounds like it’s on WMPS today). Here’s a transcript: Chuck Schumer Interview with Nachum Segal 4/22/10

Nachum Segal: Straight to what has become one of the most concerning issues in the Jewish Community certainly, and for anybody in the United States, and anywhere in the world who cares somewhat, or more, about Israel. There is a perception that the White House and Jerusalem are not enjoying the same type of relationship that the White House and Jerusalem have enjoyed in the past. Need we be concerned?

SCHUMER: Well of course we should be concerned, and the thing we should most be concerned about, of course, the threat to Israel…I mean it always changes but it’s always there it seems to be the fate if Israel and it seems to be the fate of the Jewish people. Right now what are the threats? I would rank them in this order: Greatest threat- Nuclear Iran, obviously as Netanyahu has said that’s an existential threat. Second greatest threat- SCUDs in Syria these are rockets that can go four or five hundred miles and carry a bigger payload and could be launched by Hezbollah and hit any part of Israel far more damaging and devastating than the katyusha rockets. And third actually is what everyone is focused on, which is the disagreements between the United States and Israel, very real, on how to sit down and negotiate with the Palestinians. The irony is Nachum, on the first two, if you talk to the Prime Minister if you talk to the Israeli military, US-Israeli cooperation continues strong and hand in glove. Both the US and Israel greatly fear a nuclear Iran, and there are very serious discussions going on as to how to deal with it. We in the Congress Senator Lieberman and myself, Senator Bayh, are working up our sanctions bill, which even if the UN sanctions are weak we could have unilateral sanctions by the United States, for instance, if you cut of gasoline. Iranians do not produce their own gasoline, and by the way the Iranian people are ready to rebel and overthrow this regime, and if we would squeeze them economically that could happen.

SEGAL: If in fact all this is true, and let’s assume there is no reason not to believe that it’s true, that in fact Israel and the United States continue the same cooperation level they have had in the past, and we know that when it comes to serious matters, especially military matters, it’s been great cooperation, Why wouldn’t the President of the U.S. want that perception to be out there? Why would he want to alienate so many who care about Israel.

SCHUMER: Nachum this is the question I talked to Rahm Emanuel about, and the President about this week. I told the President, I told Rahm Emanuel and others in the administration that I thought the policy they took to try to bring about negotiations is counter-productive, because when you give the Palestinians hope that the United States will do its negotiating for them, they are not going to sit down and talk. Palestinians don’t really believe in a state of Israel, they, unlike a majority of Israelis, who have come to the conclusion that they can live with a 2-state solution to be determined by the parties, the majority of Palestinians are still very reluctant, and they need to be pushed to get there. If the U.S. says certain things and takes certain stands the Palestinians say, “Why should we negotiate?” So that’s bad and that should change and we are working on changing it. But the other two are very good, according to both the Israeli government and the Israeli military and the U.S. government. But we should make that known, why don’t they? I asked them to do just that, I said we should make it public because it will, at least, give people, who are supportive of Israel, Jew and non-Jew alike, a little bit of solace.

Jennifer Rubin at Commentary:

That’s simply remarkable, albeit long overdue. It tells me several things. First, Schumer, who is nothing if not politically astute when it comes to New York politics, senses that there is no upside to sticking with the president on this. One wonders how many constituents he’s heard from and who is threatening to cut off the money flow to Democrats.

Second, one suspects that Schumer has gotten nowhere in private and is now forced to unload in public. It seems that while Schumer cares what American Jews think, Obama is unmoved by quiet persuasion.

Third, Schumer and other pro-Israel Democrats now have a dilemma: what do they do when the president refuses to sign on to petroleum sanctions? What do they do when the next round of bullying starts up again? They’ve been painfully mute until now, which has no doubt encouraged the White House. If Schumer is as outraged as he sounded on the radio, this will end.

We can hope this is an important step forward and will be followed by other Democratic lawmakers. Who knows, in a week or so some major Jewish organization might actually pipe up with an equally bracing evaluation of the Obami’s onslaught on the Jewish state.

One aside: Schumer also had this to say about the origin of his name: “It comes from the word shomer, which mean guardian. My ancestors were guardians of the ghetto wall in Chortkov, and I believe Hashem, actually, gave me the name as one of my roles that is very important in the United States Senate to be a shomer, to be a shomer for Israel.” Suffice it to say that if Sarah Palin ever said that God had given a name to her with a mission in mind, the chattering class would go bonkers. But of course, it is perfectly acceptable for liberals to get messages from God without cries of indignation echoing throughout the media. That said, if Schumer takes his name to heart, albeit belatedly, and shows some leadership in gathering other Democrats to his position (that’s what Senate leaders do, after all), there will be reason to celebrate.

Allah Pundit:

He let The One off the hook a bit by not touching on his repulsive treatment of Netanyahu at the White House or his harebrained idea to propose a Palestinian state himself, but otherwise he’s on target — especially vis-a-vis the Palestinians’ willingness to adjust their demands to exploit disagreements between the U.S. and Israel. As Yossi Klein Halevi put it, “Obama is directly responsible for one of the most absurd turns in the history of Middle East negotiations. Though Palestinian leaders negotiated with Israeli governments that built extensively in the West Bank, they now refused to sit down with the first Israeli government to actually agree to a suspension of building. Obama’s demand for a building freeze in Jerusalem led to a freeze in negotiations.”

It’s not just Schumer who’s souring on Obama on this point either. According to Quinnipiac, his approval rating on the Israeli/Palestinian issue stands at a robust 35/44, with — wait for it — two-thirds of Jewish voters saying they disapprove, down from 55 percent approval last month. Good work, champ. Exit question: Is it in fact a sign of the End Times that a libertarian with the surname Paul is now issuing strong pro-Israel statements? And if not, how long can he keep that up before the Paulnut faithful start to defect?

Steve Clemons:

This is the 2nd time I know of that Schumer has publicly crossed the line when it came to zealously blaming his own government and colleagues in delicate matters of US-Israel-Palestine policy.

During the third of three major efforts of the George W. Bush administration to get the recess appointed US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton confirmed in the US Senate, Senator Schumer launched a passionate personal campaign to help Bolton succeed.

Schumer called many Democratic Senate colleagues and bluntly said, “A vote against John Bolton is a vote against Israel.”

Senator Christopher Dodd finally challenged Schumer’s advocacy for Bolton and this statement in a meeting of the weekly Democratic Senate Caucus at the time — and put an end to Schumer’s campaign.

What Schumer was distorting was that every administration, Republican and Democrat, had in the past been a good friend of Israel. Bolton represented the face of Jesse Helms-inspired pugnacious American nationalism largely disdainful of international institutions and engagement, and it was well within the latitude of the United States Senate to reject Bolton, or in this case filibuster him, on numerous grounds without having the Israel card pulled.

Schumer has an Israel blind spot.

MJ Rosenberg at Huffington Post:

There is nothing wrong with criticizing a President’s foreign policy (although Schumer went out of his way to support former President George W. Bush on Iraq), but the words he uses in talking about Obama’s policies are utterly inappropriate.

I am not saying that Schumer, in any way, puts Israel’s interests above those of his own country. On the contrary, his main concerns are domestic and, with a few notable exceptions, he has been a strong progressive force.

Given the nature of American politics and the need to fill one’s political war chest, a certain amount of pandering is to be expected. But this time he went too far. Does he really believe that what happens in Brooklyn stays in Brooklyn? He owes the President an apology. And, by undermining an effort that could bring security to Israel, he owes the Israeli people an apology too.

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What A Load Of Scud

Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel at Haaretz:

Two reports from recent days in a Kuwaiti daily shed new light on the recent tension between Israel and Syria and Lebanon. According to the newspaper Al-Rai Al-Aam, Syria has recently shipped ballistic missiles of the Scud type to Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon.

The newspaper further reported that the United States administration has postponed “until further notice” the appointment of a new ambassador to Damascus. The U.S. has not posted an ambassador in Syria since 2005, and the appointment of Ambassador Robert Ford was supposed to get Senate approval on Monday, but did not.

According to the Kuwaiti newspaper, the decision to postpone the appointment was made following the transfer of truckloads of scud missiles from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon, in a shipment sanctioned by the Syrian government. The report is based on quotes from American sources who spoke with Al-Rai Al-Aam’s Washington reporter.

The report added that Syria trained Hezbollah fighters in the use of Scud missiles and advanced anti-aircraft missiles last summer, on its soil. The exact type of Scud missile was not specified.

Scud B missiles have a range of up to 300 kilometers, which means they can reach most of Israel. Scud C and D missiles can reach as far south as Eilat.

The report says that Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, passed the Syrian leadership a message from the U.S. administration when he visited Damascus earlier this month. Kerry asked for explanations about the relationship between Syria and Hezbollah, and voiced reservations over Syrian support for the Shi’ite organization.

The American source told the reporter the kind of weapons transported to Hezbollah could start a new war with Israel.

Noah Pollak at Comentary:

The Scud-D has been around for decades; why is it being transferred to Hezbollah at this particular moment? There are two likely reasons: (1) the White House has become the most prominent Western critic of Israel, and Syria is confident that President Obama will not do much to either punish an Israeli enemy or speak clearly in Israel’s defense. (2) Under the Obama Doctrine, many enemies of America are treated with kindness in order to prove that they should not fear us, under the theory that once the fear is gone, there will be very little to obstruct the progression of smooth relations. The engagement policy thus requires the overlooking of all kinds of bad behavior.

Syria, it appears, has made an accurate calculation on both of the above counts.

Remember how critics of the Bush administration always said that the neocon cowboys in the White House clung stubbornly to failed policies out of ideological conviction? Here’s the final paragraph of the WSJ story:

U.S. officials stressed, however, that the White House wasn’t second-guessing its engagement strategy and was pushing forward with Mr. Ford’s nomination. “Sending an Ambassador to Syria who can press the Syrian government in a firm and coordinated fashion … is part of our strategy to achieve comprehensive peace in the region,” the White House said in a statement.

I’m sure Mr. Ford is a talented diplomat, but is there any chance that his presence in Damascus would have stopped the transfer of long-range missiles to Hezbollah?

Israel Matzav:

But get a load of the Syrian excuse for slapping Obama and his ‘engagement’ effort in the face:

Syrian officials also have voiced frustration with the pace of the U.S. rapprochement. Some have said they believed sanctions could be removed quicker. They also said Washington appeared unable to extract from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a meaningful commitment to negotiations aimed at reverting the Golan Heights region to Syrian sovereignty.They sound just like the ‘Palestinians.’ They have no concept of what it means to build and maintain trust. They act like a bunch of spoiled children who want their toys NOW.

But the Obama administration doesn’t know how to take ‘no’ for an answer.

White House supporters replied that the U.S. needs close engagement with Syria all the more because of provocations like the Scud surprise, in order to be better placed to sway Syria.

“If anything, we need (an ambassador) in Damascus full time just to ensure that reality gets its day in court now and then,” a senior administration official said.A civilized country should maintain diplomatic relations with civilized countries – not with warmongers. The US should no more maintain diplomatic relations with Syria than it should with Iran, Sudan, North Korea, Venezuela or Cuba. Ooops – those are exactly the countries Obama wants to ‘engage.’

What could go wrong?

The Jawa Report:

If you want to know the truth, I’ve found a lot of Obama’s foreign policy quite rational and I might even have to admit that, looked at individually, many of them make sense.

But there’s a meta-narrative going on here as well, and foreign policy cannot be broken down to a bunch of discrete and unconnected actions: they also send signals.

Add many of Obama’s policies together and the signal being sent to terror supporting states like Syria is that we are much less apt to respond should they attack Israel. Not that Israel needs protection from us, but to the Mad Mullahs and their puppets in Damascus the only thing keeping Israel from utter destruction is our protection.

Mad because in reality the only thing keeping the Israelis from completely annihilating their enemies is our protection … of Israel’s enemies!

We wouldn’t want to upset Arabs with oil now would we?

So, it was only a matter of time before the Syrians decided to carpe dium and pull something like this

Paul Mirengoff at Powerline:

Naturally, the Syrians, while denying the transfer, are complaining about the pace with which the Obama administration is making concessions to them. The implication is that unless Obama moves more quickly on the concessions front, Syria is prepared to make mischief.

The White House, not surprisingly, is basically endorsing Syria’s narrative that the latest mischief counsels in favor of quickening the pace of rapprochement. In response to congressional resistance to confirming an ambassador to Syria in light of Syria’s latest acts of hostility towards Israel, a senior administration official says, “if anything, we need (an ambassador) in Damascus full time just to ensure that reality gets its day in court now and then.”

Unfortunately, reality has gotten its day in court in Damascus. The reality, as Bashar Assad has grasped, is that Syria can do what it wishes without fear of consequential American action because for Obama nothing must stand in the way of engaging our adversaries. Assad also grasps that the Obama presidency reduces the chances of Israeli action against Syria, at least in the short term, because Obama can be counted upon to discourage Israel from taking such action.

UPDATE: Andrew Tabler at Foreign Policy

Chris Dierkes at The League

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