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PS  A just published simple solution by Ambassador John Bolton. Please see below.

 

Petition created by Christians United for Israel

Christians United for Israel (CUFI) is the largest pro-Israel organization in the United States with over two million members and one of the leading Christian grassroots movements in the world. We have over two million members and conduct over 40 pro-Israel events every month.

(Copy and Paste to your Search Engine:)

https://secure2.convio.net/cufi/site/Advocacy;jsessionid=BB63A64FF46A12D24451C88967062D17.app220a?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=351

(Please send note below immediately to your Senators and Congressmen.  Their email addresses are easily found on the Internet or by calling their offices and asking for their vote at the same time)

http://israel-commentary.org/?p=11015

Dear (Your Senator/Congressmen),

Please ensure that Congress will review and modify as necessary any nuclear agreement with Iran.

Every major arms-control agreement in recent history has been submitted to Congress for approval. A nuclear agreement with Iran should be no different.

This is why I strongly support S. 615, the Corker-Menendez Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015. This bill ensures that Congress will review any nuclear agreement with Iran.

If you have already co-sponsored S. 615, thank you. You are upholding your vow to protect our Constitution and our country.

If you have not co-sponsored this bill, I ask that you do so as soon as possible.

Things are moving quickly. The Administration may reach a framework agreement with Iran by the end of this month. You must act now to ensure that any final deal is subject to your final approval.

Sincerely,
[Your Name]
[Your Address]
[City, State ZIP]

Must view Video:

US Admiral James (“Ace”) Lyons on the failure of US Policy vs. Islamic Fundamentalism

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II   Simple solution by Ambassador John Bolton (My man!)

Jerome,

Here’s some free advice for President Obama – to stop Iran’s bomb, bomb Iran.

My editorial in yesterday’s New York Times was the most emailed article on their site for a single reason… The American people understand the grave threat posed by Iran better than our president does. And certainly more than Hillary Clinton does.

I’m not blind to the threat, nor am I afraid to say and do what’s necessary to protect America.

 

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SHABAT HAGADOL

By Rabbi Berel Wein

Jerusalem, Israel

The Shabbat that immediately precedes the holiday of Passover carries with it the title of being Shabbat Hagadol – the great and exalted Shabbat. There are many explanations advanced as to why this Shabbat should merit that special title. The one most often advanced is that the tenth day of Nissan – the day when the actual redemption from Egypt began by the Jews taking the paschal lamb into their possession – fell on the Shabbat before the actual exit from Egypt.

This traditional explanation has always been found somewhat wanting and many other explanations have been advanced over the centuries. It is said that once the door has been opened for the great, then even the small may also enter. Therefore I am taking advantage of this opportunity to offer my own idea regarding Shabbat Hagadol.

The rabbis taught us that every generation has people who expound ideas on Torah subjects that are relative to the issues and mindset of that particular generation and environment. In fact, the task of the Torah scholar and communal leader is to show and teach the relevance of the eternal Torah to the particular circumstances and events of the present time.

I feel that Shabbat Hagadol has special significance and importance to our current situation in the general and Jewish worlds. Shabbat Hagadol represents the prelude to redemption, the beginning of the process, the bumpy ride that comes before the smooth highway and the ultimate goal of freedom, liberty, security and spiritual attainment.

I am not a kabbalist or philosopher. I would not hazard to say that this is the immediate pre-messianic time or that it is not. Far greater people than I are involved in such discussions, which until now have come to no resolution. But I do feel that any rational observer of the Jewish world currently senses a volatility….. a feeling of change that dominates and makes obsolete old programs and policies.

After over a millennia of teeming Jewish life, scholarship and community on the European continent, it is now obvious to all that as far as Jews are concerned, Europe is done. The State of Israel, surrounded by enemies, violence, political turmoil and engulfed in its own internal divisions and societal conflicts, thrives and grows.

It is interesting and perhaps even disturbing to note that the current diplomatic conflict between Israel and the United States administration occupies more media space and comment then any other current topic. It is ludicrous to think that our little state, the size of New Jersey and with a population approximately perhaps equaling that of New York City should argue on equal terms with the country of the size, strength and population of the United States of America.

But that is exactly what is happening before our eyes. Europe, the United States, the Moslem world, are all engaged in momentous sociological, diplomatic and technological change. Our world is one that would be completely unrecognizable to the generation of our great grandparents. This great wave of change, of uncertainty and danger, of fear and optimism combined, is the Shabbat Hagadol of our current generation. It is the prelude to better times leading to Jewish and human redemption.

I think that all sections of the Jewish world recognize this fact. Some sections react to it by redoubling their efforts to hold onto the past, sanctifying the bathwater and not only the baby. Others wish to plunge headlong into the future, but because events and consequences are unforeseen, their policies and struggles may in the end tend to be meaningless.

Shabbat Hagadol should serve as a stabilizing rudder in the rough seas that we sail upon. For Shabbat, in all of its greatness, serves to face forward and yet look back at one and the same time. It ends the week and begins the week for us. That is why it is hagadol – great beyond all days and holy beyond all ordinary concepts.

It begins the process of redemption within all of us and points towards the ultimate deliverance of Israel and of all of humankind. Without the passage through Shabbat Hagadol there can be no Passover. For the achievement of freedom and liberty, of holiness and purpose, of sanctity and uniqueness is a process and not an instantaneous sudden event.

We are in the midst of such a process that forces us to rethink our past and to somehow chart a course of action, thought and belief for our future. The holiday of Passover, which will be soon upon us, will give us time and opportunity to reflect on what Shabbat Hagadol has taught us. There is no greater “greatness” than being realistic while anticipating miraculous events.

We shall yet live to see that “as in the past days of the Exodus from Egypt, so shall I show you miracles once again.”  

Shabbat shalom,

Berel Wein

Rabbi Berel Wein is the founder and director of the Destiny Foundation. For over 20 years, he has been identified with the popularization of Jewish history through lectures, more than 1000 audiotapes, books, seminars, educational tours and, most recently documentary films.  He has authored five Jewish history books. His newest book is The Oral Law of Sinai. He is a member of the Illinois Bar Association and lives and teaches in Jerusalem. 

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I  ANOTHER SCORNED U.S. ALLY TURNS TO RUSSIA

http://israel-commentary.org/?p=10979

By AARON KLEIN

Editor, World Net Daily

Saudi Arabia has quietly reached out to our arch foe Russia in an attempt to temper Iran’s regional influence and reach a compromise on Tehran’s nuclear program, Middle Eastern defense officials told WND (World Net Daily).

The Saudi move already has resulted in the opening of back-door dialogue between the two countries aimed at possibly forging a new alliance, the officials said.

The talks may showcase Saudi desperation in light of the Obama administration’s rapprochement toward Iran, perhaps the House of Saud’s biggest competitor for influence in the Middle East and Persian Gulf.

Already, the shifting U.S. regional alliances have seen Russia’s military relationship with long-time U.S. ally Egypt grow ever closer.

The Obama administration has been cool to the secular, moderate government of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, which ousted the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies led my Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

Ever since the U.S. abandonment of Sisi’s regime, Egypt has grown increasingly closer to Russia, as evidenced by the $3.5 billion arms deal between Cairo and Moscow signed last year.

Earlier this month, Egyptian Defense Minister Sidqi Sobqi and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced in Moscow the expansion of Russian military cooperation, which will reportedly include a historic joint naval drill in the Mediterranean Sea.

Additionally, Egyptian soldiers and officers will reportedly train in Russian military academies, reported the Moscow Times.

Now the purported opening of a new dialogue between Moscow and Riyadh seems to continue the trend of former U.S. allies reaching out to the Russian axis.

There is much bad blood between Saudi Arabia and Russia. The Saudis have been backing the insurgency targeting the regime of Syrian President Basher al-Assad, known to closely cooperate with Moscow.

Moscow has long accused the Saudis of supporting Islamists operating in the Caucuses, primarily Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia, as part of an alleged destabilization campaign.

The Russians have also claimed the Saudis, working in conjunction with the West, have been attempting to lower oil prices in a scheme to damage the Russian economy.

The sour relations go back to the Cold War era, when the Saudis sided with the U.S. by supporting the American-aided mujahedeen in Afghanistan against the Russian invasion there.

II   Let’s take a quick  count of the US allies that Obama has deliberately alienated since he took office.

By Jerome S. Kaufman

1. The minute he took office Obama returned to England the treasured bust of Winston Churchill that was given to us by the British in appreciation of the fantastic victory our two countries had accomplished over Nazi Germany in WWII.   To Obama, Churchill represented the British colonialism against which his father, through his mother, had indoctrinated him.  

2. Obama Threw Eastern Europe Under the Bus.  The  Heritage Foundation criticized the Obama administration for abandoning its Eastern European allies. Obama gave up proposed missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic.  This emboldened Russia and increased our own vulnerability to Iran’s missile capabilities. The abandonment  certainly has done just that with Russia gobbling up Crimea and a large chunk of Georgia and the Ukraine with much more to come. The Baltic states now live in fear for their very existence now that the US military umbrella is gone.

3. Obama ruined our relationship with Syria by deliberately vacillating between supporting Bashar Assad or the Syrian people that had rebelled against him. Syria is now, in fact, a non-existent country. How far behind is Lebanon with the Islamic State on its borders and those of Israel? 

4. He destroyed the hard won victories and territories US Forces had accomplished in Iraq. The country is in complete disarray with control being contested by ISIS and Iran and the US no longer a consideration.

5. The Gulf Emirates no longer have any faith in our defending them against Iran and its impending nuclear power.

6. Obama will soon abandon Afghanistan  leaving it vulnerable to the guaranteed resurgence of the Taliban

7. Alienated the French.  U.S. attorney general Eric Holder,  in Paris for a terrorism summit, did not join world leaders German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu  for the march and rally that drew a million people days after 12 French civilians were shot at the offices of satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo. 

8. Obama is throwing our staunch ally Israel under the bus, allowing and promoting Iran’s development of  nuclear weapons and threatening to stop protecting Israel against the threats and insane rulings of the UN and the World Court.

Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The whole iceberg portrays a US military force deliberately decimated by Obama with his complete plans  yet to be  fulfilled. Russia, China, Iran, the Islamic State are all well aware of this decimation and are taking full advantage — grabbing territories and killing people all over the world in their thirst to fill the power vacuum Obama cleverly created.

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How Russia Views the Iran Nuclear Talks

By Anna Borshchevskaya

PolicyWatch March 12, 2015

Diplomats from Iran and the P5+1 nations — the United States, Russia, Britain, China, France, and Germany — are rushing to conclude a nuclear agreement before the self-imposed March 24 deadline. While many details remain unavailable, the technical debate largely centers around the “sunset clause” under which international limitations on Iran’s uranium enrichment program would expire after a set time period, with some constraints perhaps lifted earlier to reward good behavior. Critics — most prominently Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu — argue that rather than preventing Iran from producing nuclear weapons, such a deal could put it on a path to reaching that capability legally.

Moscow’s approach to the negotiations is a complicated mix of skepticism and realpolitik, and it should be viewed through the lens of broader Russian policy toward the United States. On the one hand, Iranian officials have noted that the Kremlin remains their closest ally in the talks. And according to Sergei Chemezov — the chief executive of the Russian defense company Rostec, who has been on U.S. sanctions lists since April 2014 in connection with the Ukraine crisis — Moscow offered to sell Tehran the advanced Antey-2500 air defense system last month. On the other hand, Russia has threatened and withdrawn such offers in the past, including a frozen 2010 contract for the less advanced S-300 system.

Moreover, U.S. officials generally regard Russia’s behavior in the actual negotiations as more helpful than not, and Moscow has largely fulfilled its commitment to enforce some of the international sanctions against Iran — this despite its skepticism about the utility of such measures and its past efforts to water down the toughest sanctions. Even so, Russia’s warming relationship with Iran and its wider policies toward the Middle East pose significant challenges to U.S. security interests, and Washington should tailor its approach to dealmaking and Russia diplomacy accordingly

The closeness of current Russo-Iranian ties is unprecedented, with many Iranian diplomats openly referring to Moscow as a friend. On the nuclear front, the state-run Russian firm Atomstroyexport helped the Iranians complete the Bushehr nuclear power plant and officially gave them control of the facility in September 2013. And last November, Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom announced an agreement to build two new reactor units in Iran, possibly to be followed by six more.

Bilateral cooperation has intensified and expanded to other sectors in the context of President Vladimir Putin’s standoff with the West over Russian aggression in Ukraine. In August 2014, for example, the Russian Energy Ministry announced an oil-for-goods deal with Iran worth $1.5 billion per month; under the proposed terms, approximately 500,000 barrels of Iranian oil per day would be provided at a discount in exchange for Russian goods and services. Analysts questioned the accord’s logistical feasibility, and its current status is unclear, but the agreement remains on the table.

Similarly, Iranian ambassador to Russia Mehdi Sanaei reportedly announced plans in December to boost bilateral trade from the current $3-5 billion to $70 billion. Previously, in a June 2014 interview with the influential journal Russia in Global Affairs, he had offered advice on how to minimize the effects of Western sanctions and praised the prominent role Moscow is taking internationally.

Meanwhile, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani has met with Putin four times in the past year, and other senior officials have held multiple meetings as well. Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu traveled to Tehran in January, the first such visit by an official in his position in fifteen years. He and his Iranian counterpart Hossein Dehghan signed a memorandum of understanding on military cooperation, and while the details remain sparse, the document apparently mentioned joint military drills. Russian press reports of such cooperation are only increasing as the P5+1 talks intensify this month.

In general, Moscow has sought to minimize tough sanctions on Iran, with top officials frequently claiming there is no evidence that Tehran is conducting nuclear weapons research. Indeed, when the International Atomic Energy Agency announced in November 2011 that Tehran had apparently been working for years on a weapon, the Kremlin accused the agency of bias and said it was interfering with diplomatic efforts toward a solution. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has also argued that Iran deserves to be an “equal partner” in resolving Middle East issues, and that sanctions hurt Russian-Iranian trade.

During the P5+1 negotiations, Russia has been a strong voice in favor of relaxing sanctions. In 2010, the Kremlin agreed to support the proposed sanctions, yet it convinced the UN to water them down, and it also extracted an unprecedented concession: the lifting of U.S. sanctions against the Russian military complex, which would technically allow Moscow to sell antiaircraft batteries to Tehran. As mentioned previously, however, Russia agreed to suspend (but not cancel) an $800 million contract with Iran for S-300 antiaircraft missiles — a system that could help shoot down American or Israeli warplanes in the event of a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Similarly, Russia played a prominent role in the November 2013 Geneva deal that aimed to grant Iran sanctions relief. Putin noted the success of Russian diplomacy in those negotiations; according to a report last month by the Kremlin-operated news agency RIA Novosti, he stated, “We put forth a conceptual basis for movement along this path — the principles of gradualism and reciprocity. This approach was supported by all stakeholders.”

For all of Moscow and Tehran’s lofty public pronouncements about friendship and cooperation, Russia’s Iran policy is ultimately driven by its global interests: namely, reducing the West’s influence and raising Russia’s, even at the expense of security. Iran’s interests largely coincide with these goals, so cooperation with Tehran fits well with Moscow’s agenda. Putin’s repeated calls for a “multipolar” approach are simply a means of achieving these aims rather than a genuine interest in multilateralism.

From this perspective, Iranian analysts privately express reservations about the true extent of Moscow’s cooperation with Tehran, and Russian analysts argue that Iranians have not forgotten the S-300 snub. Tehran would no doubt feel more assured if Moscow rejected sanctions altogether. It is also doubtful that Russia can deliver as much on the economic front as it promises. Yet the two countries share clear geopolitical and defense interests and will try to cooperate on them despite international sanctions, as signaled by the recent Antey-2500 offer.

This interest-based approach could affect Iran’s nuclear future as well. The Russian nuclear industry has grown substantially since the mid-1990s, and the Kremlin plans to significantly expand the role of nuclear energy, new reactor technology, and exports of nuclear goods and services. For example, according to the World Nuclear Association, Russia is a global leader in fast neutron reactor technology. Further cooperation with Iran on nuclear energy therefore fits well with Russia’s plans. Moscow often asserts that Iran is not an “outcast” and therefore sees no reason to halt cooperation.

Both countries also oppose any attempts to support democratic movements in the Middle East. Most notably, they continue to back the Assad regime in Syria and hold similar views on the Taliban in Afghanistan.

WHAT CAN WASHINGTON EXPECT FROM RUSSIA?

Moscow will no doubt continue to emphasize the importance of finding a multilateral solution to the Iranian nuclear issue — it will also continue using this multilateral forum to push its own self-serving agenda. Although Moscow does not want Tehran to develop a nuclear weapon, it feels less threatened by Iran’s program than the West. So if the P5+1 is unable to reach a deal, Moscow can wait and then continue expanding nuclear cooperation with Tehran. And if a deal is reached, Moscow will strive to ensure that the terms allow it to maintain such cooperation.

In either case, the United States can count on Moscow using Iran as a bargaining chip to extract concessions from the West on a number of fronts, such as minimizing international pressure related to Russia’s behavior in Ukraine and Syria. Putin knows that Washington wants a nuclear deal more than Russia does, so why not profit from this disparity?

With or without a deal, the Kremlin will continue supporting Assad, proceeding with aggression in Ukraine, and attempting to profit from regional conflicts. In February, for example, Chemezov told reporters that conflicts in the Middle East help Russia’s arms sales, which reached $13 billion in 2014: “I don’t hide it, and everyone understands that the more conflicts there are, the more weapons are bought from us. Our volumes continue to grow, despite sanctions.”

If Washington hopes to counter this strategy, it would need to remind the Kremlin that a nuclear Iran is not in Russia’s long-term interest, and that playing a constructive role in curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions would raise Russia’s status as a global power that truly helps ensure global and regional security. Ultimately, however, Washington should have no illusions about Putin’s intentions, and should not be quick to offer generous concessions for little in return.

Anna Borshchevskaya is an adjunct fellow at The Washington Institute, focusing on Russia’s policy toward the Middle East. In addition, she is a fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy and was previously with the Peterson Institute for International Economics and the Atlantic Council. 

Originally from Moscow, Ms. Borshchevskaya came to the United States as a refugee in 1993 and has since received an MA in international relations from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and a BA in political science and international relations from the State University of New York at Geneseo.

II   According To Dick Cheney, This Is Why President Obama Is The Worst President In His Lifetime

BY KAY STEIGER

MARCH 17, 2015

Former Vice President Dick Cheney said that President Barack Obama was “playing the race card” to excuse criticism of his record as president. “I think they’re playing the race card, in my view. Certainly we haven’t given up—nor should we give up—the right to criticize an administration and public officials. To say that we criticize, or that I criticize, Barack Obama or Eric Holder because of race, I just think it’s obviously not true,” Cheney said in a wide-ranging interview with Playboy magazine released on Tuesday. “My view of it is the criticism is merited because of performance—or lack of performance, because of incompetence. It hasn’t got anything to do with race.”

Cheney likewise thought that the protests in Ferguson and the Black Lives Matter movement that stemmed from it had been wrongly linked to race. “Well [pauses], what I see is disturbing. It’s always a tragedy when there is a death involved and so forth. But it seems to me it’s a clear-cut case that the officer did what he had to do to defend himself. He was perfectly within his authorities to take action …

And I’ve been disappointed, I guess, in the Obama administration’s response. I think there should have been more people who were ready to stand up and say, ‘Look, the evidence is pretty overwhelming. The grand jury has reviewed it thoroughly. Here’s what we know. This is what happened.’ And that we should not sort of throw it all over on the burden of race, or racial inequality or racial discrimination, as being responsible for this particular event,” Cheney said. “I don’t think it is about race. I think it is about an individual who conducted himself in a manner that was almost guaranteed to provoke an officer trying to do his duty,” Cheney concluded.

Cheney went on to say that Obama had undone some of the legacies of President George W. Bush. “[H]is precipitous withdrawal and refusal to leave any stay-behind forces, to negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqis, was a huge mistake; we are paying a price for it now. He’s having to go back in now, and the guy who campaigned on the basis of bring the boys home and get out of Iraq is now redeploying forces to Iraq,” he said.

Cheney also called Obama “the worst president in his lifetime,” even when stacked up against other liberal presidents. “I look at Barack Obama and I see the worst president in my lifetime, without question—and that’s saying something. I used to have significant criticism of Jimmy Carter, but compared to Barack Obama and the damage he is doing to the nation—it’s a tragedy, a real tragedy, and we are going to pay a hell of a price just trying to dig out from under his presidency,” he said

The conservative critique that the Obama administration is “playing the race card” is fairly common. After Obama gave a deeply personal speech about race after the death of African-American teen Trayvon Martin in Florida, conservatives were quick to say that Obama was the “first racist in chief” or that Obama was making the death of the unarmed teen “all about race.”

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I Dramatic Decisive Victory

By David Daoud

The Algemeiner

MARCH 17, 2015 9:01 PM

20th Knesset. With almost all the ballots counted for Israel’s general election held today, the ruling Likud party of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has scored a dramatic and decisive victory over the rival Zionist Union party

99% of votes have been counted from a total of 4,223,057 and Likud is in first place with 23.29 percent. Zionist Union is trailing far behind in second place with 18.76 percent, almost 5 percentage points behind Likud.  (Media and Polls caught lying through their wishful thinking teeth once again)

The results give Netanyahu 29 seats in Israel’s Knesset, a full 5 more than the Zionist Union with 24. The tally significantly exceeds exit poll results which showed the two parties in a dead heat.

The United Arab List is in third place at 10.95 percent or 14 seats, followed by the centrist Yesh Atid with 8.78 percent or 11 seats and Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu with 7.42 percent or 10 seats. Bayit Yehudi now holds 6.40 percent or 8 seats, Shas has 5.82 percent or 7 seats, Yisrael Beiteinu has 5.17 percent or 6 seats, and United Torah Judaism has 5.18 percent.

Meretz (The Left wing party) looks like it has barely passed the threshold at 3.90 percent or 4 seats, but Eli Yishai’s Yachad only has 2.98 percent and does not pass the electoral threshold.

71.8% of those eligible to vote made their way to the election booths on Tuesday from all around Israel, and some Israelis even traveled from abroad to cast their vote. This is the highest voter turnout since the 1999 elections, and is 4% more than the elections in 2013.

II Netanyahu: the Comeback Kid

By Michael Freund
Jerusalem Post
March 17, 2015

Going in to today’s balloting, Benjamin Netanyahu was Israel’s Prime Minister and, if the exit polls on Israel’s main television stations prove accurate, he will not be looking for a new job any time soon.

After months of trailing the Zionist Union party at the polls, Netanyahu’s Likud pulled off a stunning come-from-behind victory.

Despite the disgraceful way in which Israel’s left-wing media went after the premier and his family in a thinly-veiled attempt to topple him, Netanyahu emerged on top, with the Likud tying or edging out the Zionist Union in all three television exit polls.

Quite simply, Netanyahu is the comeback kid of Israeli politics, the man who has managed to defy the critics, the media, various American Jewish millionaires and the administration in Washington, all of whom sought to bring him down.

Like Bill Clinton in the 1992 Democratic primaries, Netanyahu overcame scandalous allegations in the press, and surged to victory.

In the coming weeks, he will patch together a coalition and form the next government.

It will presumably include Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home, the Haredim, Avigdor Lieberman’s Israel Beitenu and Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu, with the Likud serving as the leading party.

This will give Netanyahu a coalition whose seats will number in the low 60s. Though far from ideal, it will nonetheless enjoy an internal cohesion and ideological consistency that was largely missing from the outgoing government.

In today’s voting, the right-wing and religious parties have once again prevailed, underlining the fact that a majority of Israelis continue to cherish the Land of Israel and will not countenance turning over territory to our enemies.

The results are a ringing defeat for the left and their policies of appeasement.

At a time of grave peril, with the threat from Iran mounting daily, the people of Israel knew exactly whom to trust, giving Netanyahu the push he needed to make it past the finish line.

Despite the vitriol hurled at him daily for the past few months, our premier refused to back down, and would not give in. And now he will have an unprecedented opportunity not only to write yet another chapter in his storied political career, but to lead the nation with a solid right-wing team around him. The comeback kid is here to stay.

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The Israelis prove they are no different from the rest of the world – indulge in their own “entitlements” (freebies), while they enable their own self-destruction, refusing to acknowledge that their only hope of survival is their military strength.

The freebies they get from ISIS or Iran or Saudi Arabia when its own crisis is over, will not quite approach what they get in their own country and … may G-d have mercy on their souls. Over two thousand years of exile has taught them nothing. 

Jerome S. Kaufman

Netanyahu Slips in Polls Days Before Israeli Elections

Labor Party Leader Herzog Benefits from Perception That Prime Minister is Not Focused on Economy

By Joshua Mitnick
The Wall Street Journal
March 11, 2015

TEL AVIV—Less than a week before Israel’s general elections, the party of incumbent Benjamin Netanyahu has begun to fall behind an opponent who promises to restart talks with Palestinians and smooth the prime minister’s notoriously rocky relations with the White House.

Two polls on Wednesday put Isaac Herzog, leader of the dovish Labor Party, slightly ahead and suggest that support for Mr. Netanyahu and his Likud party among working-class Jews has eroded because of their widespread perception that he has focused on nuclear threats from Iran and extremist Muslims at the expense of economic problems.
“He’s talking about something that isn’t relevant—Iran and ISIS,’’ (Not relevant! How stupid can you get?)  said Avi Biton, owner of a snack bar and a Likud voter in previous elections. “Today my kids don’t have the ability to settle down and buy a house. If they can’t do that, this country has no reason to exist.”

Polls by Israel Army Radio and the daily Haaretz released on Wednesday showed Mr. Herzog’s Zionist Union, a new, center-left alliance of the Labor Party with another political faction, winning 24 of the 120 seats in the Knesset, or parliament, to 21 for Likud party. A survey on Tuesday by Channel 2 television showed Zionist Union picking up 25 seats to Likud’s 21.

The polls show Mr. Netanyahu, who is seeking a fourth term as prime minister, lost support after his speech to Congress last week warning against the terms of a nuclear deal being negotiated between six world powers and Iran. The speech, cheered by Republicans in Congress, angered President Barack Obama. At home, former supporters of the prime minister said they were concerned more about the threat of rising housing prices than the threat of a nuclear Iran. Some retired generals  criticized Mr. Netanyahu for alienating Israel’s most important ally.

On March 3, the day of the congressional speech, Labor had a narrower lead over Likud. In early February, polls showed Likud slightly ahead in a race that has always been close. The trend appears to have raised alarm bells within Likud.

“If in the coming days we don’t close the gap between Likud and Labor, there is a genuine risk that Tzipi Livni and Herzog will be the next prime ministers of Israel,” Mr. Netanyahu told a gathering of supporters according to the Israeli newspaper Makor Rishon. Ms. Livni heads the Ha’tnuah party that joined forces with Labor in the alliance. Mr. Herzog agreed to rotate the prime ministry with her after two years if they win.

If Labor does come out ahead, it would almost certainly offer Mr. Herzog the major advantage of being given the presidential mandate to form a governing coalition supported by a parliamentary majority. Mr. Netanyahu may still be in a better position to form a coalition, while Mr. Herzog would be faced with the difficult task of putting together a majority coalition among many parties that normally clash. At the very least, a result mirroring the current polls could weaken Mr. Netanyahu politically and he would be forced to wait to see if his opponent fails to cobble together a majority.

According to a Channel 2 poll on Tuesday night, Likud and hard-line allies would still control the largest bloc of seats in the parliament, with 44 seats. Labor and one other leftist party would have 30, centrist parties would control 20, and ultra-orthodox and Arab parties each control 13 seats.

A scion of one of Israel’s most prominent political families, Mr. Herzog is promising to reset Israeli-U.S. ties and deal more discreetly with their differences over the Iran nuclear deal. He also pledges to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and make housing prices more affordable. The latter point speaks to what Israelis say is the most important election issue this time around—the high cost of living and other socioeconomic problems.

If Mr. Herzog succeeds in forming a coalition, it would make him the first Israeli leader in 16 years to hail from the Labor Party, which dominated for the first three decades of Israel’s existence and spearheaded peace talks with the Palestinians in the 1990s.
The 54-year-old partner at one of Israel’s leading law firms is the grandson of Israel’s first chief Ashkenazi rabbi. His father Chaim Herzog was a general in Israel’s military and served as Israel’s president and its ambassador to the U.N. His uncle, Abba Eban, was Israel’s foreign minister.

Still, to most Israelis he lacks Mr. Netanyahu’s stage presence, combat history and experience handling national-security issues. Mr. Herzog still faces the daunting challenge of persuading undecided Israeli voters he should be the beneficiary of their dissatisfaction with Mr. Netanyahu. Even for longtime Labor Party supporters such as 63-year-old Nava Rosenberg, this election remains a referendum on Mr. Netanyahu.

Herzog hasn’t inspired the enthusiasm enjoyed by previous leaders of his party such as Yitzhak Rabin or the country’s revered founder, David Ben-Gurion, even among his supporters. He is battling an image as stiff and timid. But he has been aided considerably by joining forces in December with Ms. Livni, a former peace negotiator. Their alliance has helped unite centrist and left-wing Israelis and invigorated Labor’s platform for the first time in years.

“Herzog isn’t strong, he’s not decisive, he doesn’t have the personality to lead the Israeli people to big decisions,’’ she said. “But I hate Bibi, so I’m voting for Herzog. It isn’t because I love Herzog. There is nobody else.  (Huh?)

 

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By  AMBASSADOR JOHN BOLTON

II Video: Political analyst Dinesh D’Souza weighs in on President Obama’s difficult relationship with Israel and Hillary’s latest gaff

March 3, 2015

http://israel-commentary.org/?p=10858

The Wall Street Journal,

February 18, 2015

With the supposed cease-fire in eastern Ukraine a mirage, the White House can soon be expected to return to its public pondering of whether to supply Kiev’s military with lethal aid to fend off the Russian-backed insurgency. If President Obama finally does decide to send antitank weapons and other hardware the Ukrainians have pleaded for, it will be only the latest example of the administration’s too-little-too-late temporizing.

Indecisiveness is the predominant characteristic of how Mr. Obama executes U.S. national-security policy. Undoubtedly there are other influences: ideological blinders; mistrust of America’s presence in the world; inadequate interest, knowledge, focus and resolve. But in implementing his policies, good or bad, the president has shown that equivocating is what he does best.

Mr. Obama’s approach is the polar opposite of the “energy in the executive” that Alexander Hamilton advocated in Federalist No. 70, especially in foreign policy. The unitary presidency, not Congress, possesses “decision, activity, secrecy and dispatch” so necessary for high statecraft. This president’s record of dithering is long and depressing.

In June 2009 Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ’s rigged presidential election in Iran spurred massive, peaceful protests. For several days Mr. Obama declined to address the ayatollahs’ unleashing of the Basiji militia against innocent civilians, prompting dissenters to make signs asking, “Are you with us or against us?” The Revolutionary Guards were certainly against them—and the Green Movement was brutally repressed. By the time Mr. Obama finally spoke out, haltingly, the moment had passed, and the Islamic Revolution had stabilized.

Similar hesitation applies to Mr. Obama’s handling of Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program. He has relied on negotiations and sanctions to transform Iran’s weapons infrastructure into a “peaceful” program, but this approach has consistently failed. To be effective, sanctions must be comprehensive (targeting only named individuals or firms is easily circumvented); universally accepted (not true here, as China and Russia repeatedly demonstrate); and vigorously enforced. The Obama administration’s episodic, negligently enforced Iran sanctions meet none of these tests.

President Obama chronically disregards the integral relationship between diplomacy and force. His foreign-policy mantra that “all options are on the table” regarding Iran proves the point. What from some presidents might sound ominous, from Mr. Obama sounds pro forma.

Colin Powell as secretary of state once advised British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw that “if you want to bring the Iranians around, you have to hold an ax over their heads.” Instead, Mr. Obama is holding a selfie stick over his own. The U.S. has done too little on Iran, and now we are nearly too late to stop the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Regarding North Korea’s nuclear program, Mr. Obama hasn’t acted at all. Pyongyang has had six years to advance its nuclear program and ballistic-missile efforts. In recent months U.S. and South Korean commanders have voiced fears that North Korea is near to miniaturizing its weapons and mounting them on ICBMs capable of reaching the U.S. West Coast.

In Syria, whatever slim chance there was of empowering a “moderate” anti-Assad opposition when the civil war began four years ago disappeared while Mr. Obama dithered. His declaration of a “red line” regarding Bashar Assad ’s use of chemical weapons in Syria might have been a sign of forceful policy; it quickly faded.

In Iraq, the president’s inability or unwillingness to reach a “status of forces” agreement resulted in the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. forces, thereby leading directly to increased Iranian influence in Baghdad. The Islamic State terrorist hordes rose almost inexorably from the ashes of al Qaeda in Iraq, and its increasing control over vast portions of Syria and Iraq followed. Today, Mr. Obama’s feeble proposed authorization for military force against Islamic State should top the list of prime too-little-too-late exhibits.

Libya’s collapse after the fall of Moammar Gadhafi and the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi further show Mr. Obama’s unwillingness to see the growing radical-Islamist threat. He didn’t handle the threat adequately before the consulate attack, didn’t act decisively during the attack and, most egregiously, failed to retaliate or exact retribution afterward. Yemen’s current disintegration is a tragic reprise of the Libya debacle.

Mr. Obama’s sanctions-focused response to Russian aggression in Ukraine has been similarly piecemeal and ineffective. Authoritarian regimes are not impressed by hardships imposed on mere citizens; the real peril to Vladimir Putin comes from collapsing global oil prices. If the U.S. had supplied weapons to Ukraine early, it might have deterred Moscow’s aggressiveness, preventing or minimizing the conflict, thereby avoiding the slow-motion partition of Ukraine now under way. Today is too late.

Note also that the leader of the West has been absent from negotiations over Ukraine’s fate. Instead, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has the initiative—ruling out military aid, seeking a deal with Russia—largely because she assesses accurately that Mr. Obama will do nothing consequential to constrain Moscow.

Nowhere is Ukraine more closely watched than in Beijing, where Mr. Obama’s weakness and irresolution are empowering China to make ever-broader territorial claims in the East and South Seas, to suppress dissent in Hong Kong and to turn a covetous eye on Taiwan. Beijing is surely calculating that as U.S. leadership falters in Europe, so it will in the Pacific.

Why is Mr. Obama unwilling to act swiftly and decisively in foreign affairs? The most basic reason is his deterministic view of an “arc of history” bending inevitably to outcomes he finds ideologically desirable. And since a critical element of his ideology is that America’s presence in the world contributes to problems as much as solving them, the president’s policy of withdrawal and passivity is no surprise.

Failing to act when it could make a difference only feeds the appetites of aggressors. Europe acquiesced as Hitler reoccupied the Rhineland, undertook Anschluss with Austria, annexed the Sudetenland and subsequently destroyed Czechoslovakia. When Poland’s turn came, these prior hesitations had convinced Hitler that he enjoyed impunity. He told his generals weeks before invading: “Our enemies are little worms. I saw them at Munich.” Imagine what our adversaries today think of us.

Mr. Bolton is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of “Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad” (Simon & Schuster, 2007).

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I   The Arab Challenge

II Netanyahu’s Challenge by the Wall Street Journal Editorial (below)

I  The Arab Challenge

Al-Arabiya’s English edition editor-in-chief Faisal J. Abbas wrote a surprising op-ed on Tuesday, calling on US President Barack Obama to listen to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu after the latter addressed Congress on the dangers of an Iran nuclear deal being formulated.

Abbas, whose paper is openly anti-Israel and Saudi-owned, began by scornfully conceding “it is extremely rare for any reasonable person to ever agree with anything Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says or does. However, one must admit, Bibi did get it right, at least when it came to dealing with Iran.”

The editor backed Netanyahu’s recent comment that Middle Eastern countries are collapsing creating a void being filled by “terror organizations, mostly backed by Iran,” in an op-ed following an article by a Saudi columnist columnist similarly supporting Netanyahu’s appraisal.

“What is absurd, however, is that despite this being perhaps the only thing that brings together Arabs and Israelis (as it threatens them all), the only stakeholder that seems not to realize the danger of the situation is President Obama, who is now infamous for being the latest pen-pal of the Supreme Leader of the World’s biggest terrorist regime: Ayottallah Ali Khamenei,” Abbas wrote.

Criticizing Obama for his mismanagement of the region, Abbas continued by saying the president rid Syria of its chemical weapons but left the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in place to continue “to slaughter their own people.”

Using this example of Iran’s ally Assad, he opined “the real Iranian threat is not JUST the regime’s nuclear ambitions, but its expansionist approach and state-sponsored terrorism activities which are still ongoing.”

Iran today is no longer plotting its “terror activities in secret,” he wrote, instead documenting openly how Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ covert operations Al-Quds Force and formerly a very secretive person, is actively managing the fighting in Iraq and being photographed while doing so.

“Among his many handlings, Soleimani is the godfather of Iraq’s infamous ‘Asaa’ib Ahl Al-Haq’ (AAS) brigade, a Shiite paramilitary terrorist group responsible for dozens of atrocious attacks and murdering of both Iraqis and Americans,” wrote Abbas.

“Not only is Iran responsible for sponsoring Shiite terrorist groups, but Sunni ones too,” he added. “In fact, according to the U.S.’s own State Department, Tehran was home to a number of Al-Qaeda facilitators and high ranking financiers. These accusations are also backed by findings of the U.S. Treasury Department as well.”

Defending Saudi Arabia, which as noted is a key owner of his paper, Abbas said some would argue other Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia should not be left out of the equation in blaming most regional problems on Iran.

“On the contrary, it would be biased and/or naïve NOT to blame Iran for such problems,” he said. “After all, yes there are terrorists in Saudi Arabia and there are people who financed terrorism, but these are officially outlaws, who are either in jail, being hunted down or are hiding in the caves of Tora Bora or some other remote area.”

“The same, sadly, doesn’t apply to the terrorists of Iran; these are in uniform, hold government positions and are not bothering to hide their evil plots anymore!” concluded the editor.

Abbas’s op-ed comes as Netanyahu warned in Congress that Iran’s regional expansionism threatens Arab states as well as Israel, and if unchecked will lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East

II  Netanyahu’s Challenge

The Wall Street Journal March 3, 2015

President Obama thought so little of Benjamin Netanyahu ’s speech to Congress Tuesday that he made clear he hadn’t watched it and said the text didn’t “offer any viable alternatives” to the Administration’s pending nuclear deal with Iran. We’ll take that presidential passive-aggression as evidence that the Israeli Prime Minister’s critique was as powerful as Mr. Obama feared.

For all the White House’s fretting beforehand about the speech’s potential damage to U.S.-Israel relations, Mr. Netanyahu was both bipartisan and gracious to Mr. Obama for all he “has done for Israel,” citing examples previously not publicly known. But the power of the speech—the reason the Israeli leader was willing to risk breaking diplomatic china to give it—was its systematic case against the looming nuclear deal.

Point by point, he dismantled the emerging details and assumptions of what he called a “very bad deal.” The heart of his critique concerned the nature of the Iranian regime as a terror sponsor of long-standing that has threatened to “annihilate” Israel and is bent on regional domination.

The Administration argues that a nuclear accord will help move the revolutionary regime toward moderation. But Mr. Netanyahu spent some 15 minutes laying out the regime’s historical record. Since Hasan Rouhani became president in 2013, Iran’s internal repression has become worse than in the days of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad . Iran has doubled down on its military support for Bashar Assad in Syria, gained control of north Yemen through its Houthi militia proxies, and continued to arm Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza and Shiite militias in Iraq.

Mr. Netanyahu noted that the pending deal would lift the economic sanctions that have driven Iran to the negotiating table. “Would Iran be less aggressive when sanctions are removed and its economy is stronger?” Mr. Netanyahu asked. “Why should Iran’s radical regime change for the better when it can enjoy the best of both worlds: aggression abroad, prosperity at home?” These are good questions that the Administration should be obliged to answer.

The Prime Minister also rightly raised doubts about whether even an intrusive inspections regime could guarantee enough notice if Iran seeks to divert its nuclear capabilities to build a bomb. North Korea agreed to inspectors in a deal with the Clinton Administration, he noted, only to oust them years later and build its nuclear arsenal: “Here’s the problem: You see, inspectors document violations; they don’t stop them.”

He also zeroed in on the deal’s acceptance of Iran’s already robust nuclear infrastructure, coupled with a 10-year sunset provision after which Iran could enrich as much uranium in as many centrifuges as it likes. To appreciate the scope of this concession, recall that the Administration and U.N. Security Council demanded that Iran “halt all enrichment activities” in a resolution adopted in 2010.

The Administration now says that it can’t plausibly forbid Iran from having some enrichment capability. But the only alternative to zero enrichment isn’t the major capacity the White House is now prepared to concede to Tehran. Such a capability makes it easier for Iran to cheat on any agreement it signs. The sunset provision also means that Iran can simply bide its time to build an even larger nuclear capacity.

“Iran could get to the bomb by violating the deal,” Mr. Netanyahu said, and it could also “get to a bomb by keeping the deal.”

Mr. Netanyahu was especially effective in rebutting the Administration’s claim that the only alternatives at the current moment are Mr. Obama’s deal—or war. This is the familiar false choice—his way or disaster—that has become a hallmark of the President’s political argumentation.

But Mr. Netanyahu said there is a third choice—negotiate a better deal. He pointed out that sanctions had driven Iran to the negotiating table when oil was $100 a barrel and it would be under greater pressure now when oil is closer to $50. For all of its fanaticism and ambition, Iran is still a relatively weak country under great economic pressure. The U.S. has leverage to drive a harder bargain if it is willing to use it.

Mr. Netanyahu hinted that he could still accept some kind of agreement, despite attempts to portray him as opposed to any concessions. But the Prime Minister made clear in particular that any sunset provision would only be acceptable if it hinged on a change in Iran’s behavior.

“If the world powers are not prepared to insist that Iran change its behavior before a deal is signed, at the very least they should insist that Iran change its behavior before a deal expires,” he said to a standing ovation.

Given Mr. Obama’s reaction, the Prime Minister knows his real audience is Congress and the American people. His speech raised serious doubts about an accord that has been negotiated in secret and which Mr. Obama wants Americans to accept without a vote in Congress. Now maybe we can have a debate worthy of the high nuclear stakes.

 

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By the brilliant, erudite retired ambassador Yoram Ettinger

Purim guide for the perplexed, 2015 (excerpts)

1. Purim’s Scroll of Esther represents fundamental tenets of Judaism:

*Faith in God, in contrast to idolatry and cynicism;

*Faith in mankind’s capabilities, as God reduces direct involvement (from Genesis and Exodus to Esther Scroll – which does not mention God’s name – Ezra and Nehemiah);

*Value/principle-driven realism, in contrast to opportunism and wishful-thinking;

*Attachment to roots (religious, cultural, historical), in contrast to detachment and assimilation;

*Liberty – the core of personal/national existence (just like Sukkot/Tabernacles, Chanukah and Passover);

*Community/national-driven responsibility, in contrast to selfishness (Queen Esther assumed responsibility, while risking her life and convenience);

*The ingathering of Jews to the Land of Israel (opposed by Haman and advanced by Mordechai);

*Optimism, confidence and courage, in contrast to pessimism, despair and fear;

*Tenacious defiance of enormous adversity, in contrast to defeatism, submission and accommodation. Problems = opportunities in disguise.

2. Purim’s Clash of Civilizations exemplifies an early edition of the war between right and wrong, liberty and tyranny, justice and evil, truth and lies, as were/are Adam/Eve VS. the Snake, Abel VS. Cain, Abraham VS. Sodom & Gomorrah, Jacob VS. Esau (grandfather of Amalek), the Maccabees VS. the Assyrians, the Allies VS. the Nazis, the West VS. the Communist Bloc and Western democracies VS. Islamic rogue and terrorist regimes.

3. “Purimfest 1946” yelled Julius Streicher, the Nazi propaganda chief, as he approached the hanging gallows (Newsweek, October 28, 1946, page 46). On October 16, 1946 (in the Jewish year 5707), ten convicted Nazi war criminals were hanged in Nuremberg. An 11th Nazi criminal, Hermann Goering, committed suicide in his cell. Julius Streicher’s library, in his ranch, documented his interest in Purim and its relevance to the enemies of the Jewish people.

According to the Scroll of Esther, King Ahasuerus allowed the Jews to defend themselves and hang Haman and his ten sons. The Talmud (Megillah tractate, 16a) claims that Haman had an 11th child, a daughter, who committed suicide following her father’s demise.

4. Purim is celebrated on the 14th/15th days of the Jewish month of Adar. Adar (אדר) is the root of the Hebrew adjective Adir (- (אדיר glorious, awesome, exalted, magnificent. It is, also, a derivative of the Akkadian word Adura (heroism). In Jewish tradition (Babylonian Talmud) Adar is featured as a month of happiness, singing and dancing. The zodiac of Adar is Pisces (fish), which is a symbol of demographic multiplication.

Hence, Adar is the only Jewish month, which doubles itself during the 7 leap years, in each 19 year cycle. Purim is celebrated on the 14th day in non-walled towns and in Jerusalem on the 15th day of Adar, commemorating the deliverance of the Jewish People from the jaws of a holocaust in Persia. It also commemorates the 161 BC victory of Judah the Maccabee over Nikanor, the Assyrian commander. Moses – who delivered the Jewish People from a holocaust in Egypt and whose burial site is unknown – was born and died (1273 BC) on the 7th day of Adar, which is Israel’s Memorial Day for soldiers, whose burial sites are unknown.

(PS  My father, obm, passed away on the first day of Adar II, the leap year – the doubled month to which Ambassador Ettinger refers)

5. Purim’s (פורים) Hebrew root is fate/destiny (פור), as well as “lottery” (commemorating Haman’s lottery which determined the designated day for the planned annihilation of the Jewish People), “to frustrate,” “to annul” (להפר), “to crumble” and “to shutter” (לפורר), reflecting the demise of Haman.

6. Mordechai, the hero of Purim and one of Ezra’s deputies, was a role model of principle-driven optimism in defiance of colossal odds, in the face of a super power and in defiance of the Jewish establishment. He fought Jewish assimilation and urged Jews to sustain their roots and return to their Homeland.

Mordechai was a politically-incorrect, out-of-the-box thinking leader and a retired military commander, who preferred a disproportionate pre-emptive offensive to retaliation, appeasement and defense. The first three Hebrew letters of Mordechai (מרדכי) spell the Hebrew word “rebellion” (מרד). Mordechai did not bow to Haman, the second most powerful person in the Persian Empire. He was a member of the tribe of Benjamin, the only son of Jacob who did not bow to Esau. The name Mordechai is also a derivative of Mordouch, the chief Babylonian god.

7. Mordechai was a descendant of King Saul, who defied a clear commandment to eradicate the Amalekites, sparing the life of Agag, the Amalekite king, thus precipitating further calamities upon the Jewish People. Consequently, Saul lost his royal position and his life. Mordechai learned from Saul’s error, destroying Haman, a descendant of Agag the Amalekite, thus sparing the Jewish People a major disaster.

8. The Persian King appointed Mordechai to be his top advisor, overruling Haman’s intent to prevent the resettling of Jews in Zion, the reconstruction of the Temple and the restoration of the wall around Jerusalem. The king prospered as a result of his change of heart and escaped assassination. That was also the case with Pharaoh, who escaped national collapse and starvation and rose in global prominence after he appointed Joseph to be his deputy.

9. Queen Esther, the heroine of Purim’s Scroll of Esther, was Mordechai’s niece. Esther demonstrated the centrality of women in Judaism, shaping the future of the Jewish People, as did Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Leah, Miriam, Batyah, Deborah, Hannah and Yael. Sarah was the first – and Esther the last – Jewish women mentioned in the Bible. Sarah lived 127 years and Esther ruled over 127 countries. The name Esther (אסתר) is a derivative of the Hebrew word הסתר , “to conceal” – reflective of her initial concealment of her Jewish identity, while the Hebrew word for “scroll,” מגילה, derives from מגלה – “to reveal.” God is concealed in the scroll of Esther, which is the only Biblical book that does not mention God. The Purim custom of wearing costumes highlights the transition from concealment to revelation of identity.

Purim’s four commandments:

*Reading/studying the Scroll of Esther within the family, emphasizes the centrality of the family, education, memory and youth as the foundation of a solid future.

*Gifts to relatives, friends and strangers emphasize the importance of family, community and collective responsibility.

*Charity (at least the value of a meal) reflects compassion and communal responsibility. According to Maimonides, “there is no greater or more glorious joy than bringing joy to the poor.” Purim is celebrated when Jews study the portion of the Torah, תרומה (charity, donation in Hebrew), which highlights giving and contributing to others as a means of enhancing solidarity and reducing egotism. According to the Torah, contributions benefit the contributor more than the recipient.

*Celebration and Happiness sustain optimism and faith – the backbone of individuals and nations.

 

Wishing you Happy Purim and a rewarding week,

Yoram Ettinger, Jerusalem, “Second Thought: a US-Israel initiative”

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FROM: TO PRAY AS A JEW (or anyone else)

By Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin
Library of Congress 1980

(Some used copies may still be available at abebooks.com.  Well worth the study.)

Page 4    We live in an age when it is not fashionable to pray. Even among those who join synagogues, only a small percentage pray daily or even weekly. Those who do not worship regularly put on an air that they are somehow beyond that stage, that they do not need to pray. Their reason for affiliating with a synagogue is to identify with the Jewish people and the Jewish community, and perhaps even with the Jewish faith. But not for the purpose of prayer.

Some consider the spiritual arrogance of contemporary man to be a stumbling block to prayer. Since prayer requires the capacity to be in awe and to feel thankful, the immodest and arrogant personality simply cannot pray because he has no sense of awe or gratitude. He puts too much faith in his own ability to do wonders and ascribes all achievements to his own powers. He lacks the necessary measure of humility.

While this may be true for some individuals, it is perhaps skepticism and doubt that make it difficult for other people to engage God in conversation. It is not that they are atheists or even agnostics; it is simply that they waver between faith and doubt. Even of Noah, who is described in the Bible as a “righteous man” who “walked with God,” it is said that “he believed and didn’t believe,” for he lacked the faith to move immediately into the ark that he was commanded to build, and did not move in until the very last moment (Rashi, Gen. 7:7).

Our generation, too, often appears to be precariously balanced between believing and not believing, sometimes leaning in one direction, sometimes in the other. Or perhaps the reason for the unfashionability of prayer is simply that most people don’t know how to pray. They were never properly taught. Yet prayer is more commonplace than most people realize if  we do not think of it as taking place only within a structured religious service and only through the medium of prescribed and sanctioned words.

“Dear God, Please make her well” is as simple and classic a prayer as there can be. Moses said this prayer for his sister Miriam when she was stricken with Leprosy  (Numbers 12:13. In one form or another this prayer is recited by countless mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, children, friends, and lovers.

Or consider the sigh of relief, “Thank God!” that comes after going through a period of intense anxiety in the wake of a serious accident or a dangerous illness or a fateful mission, or when loved ones seem suspended between life and death or between success and ruin. This, too, is a prayer and is just as likely to be said by people who think that they never pray as by those who pray with deliberate and conscious regularity.

Or consider the feeling of awe and admiration that wells up in one’s heart when coming upon great natural scenes: vast oceans, breathtaking mountains, stunning deserts. King David summed it up saying, “Oh Lord, how great are Thy works!” Is this not a prayer, even though it may come out simply as “Magnificent!” by those with less poetic talent than the author of the Book of Psalms? But if they believe these phenomena to be God’s handiwork and mean to praise Him, then this word, too, constitutes a prayer.

Or consider the person who has qualms of conscience about some wrongdoing and in the privacy of his own thoughts says, “How truly sorry I am!” This, too, is a prayer, especially if the words “forgive me” are added.

These examples are universal and herein  lies a clue to the real purpose for engaging in prayer. Whether we petition God to give us what we need, or thank Him for whatever good was granted, or extol Him for His awesome attributes, all prayer is intended to help  make us into better human beings.

 

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Forward from the booklet Jabotinsky … The Man and the Vision

By William Mehlman

A publication of Americans for a Safe Israel   (and a Safe America)

www.afsi.org;        afsi@ren.cem

Seven decades have passed since the death of Ze’ev Jabotinsky. In that time great and terrible events have transpired to reshape Jewish life and thought: A third of our people perished in the camps and crematoria of Eastern and Central Europe; a Jewish state was , reborn and has fought seven wars for its continued existence, and an ingathering into  Israel of the exiles began that has already reclaimed more than two million Jews, including nearly one million from the former Soviet Union, once thought to be beyond the reach of Zion.

Amidst such events, most figures of the distant Jewish past would rate at best a sentimental footnote. Jabotinsky is an exception. Like Theodor Herzl before him, he was a man not merely of his own time but for all time. He defined Jewish statehood at a period when the very term “Jewish State” was considered a provocation. He established a doctrine of Jewish self-defense when the idea of a Jew defending himself was still regarded as ludicrous or dangerous.

He was the “old” Jew – a throwback to the Maccabees and Bar Kochba – who heralded the coming of the “new” Jew, fiercely proud of his ancient culture, free of the dark fears and inferiorities of the ghetto, fully capable of meeting the non-Jew on equal terms. Having been born in the future, the future has finally caught up with Jabotinsky. He was better understood in his own day by the youth than by his contemporaries, and at its zenith, there were close to 80,000 young people around the world gathered under the  banner of “Betar,” the passionately Zionist youth movement he created and headed.

Not since Biblical times has any Jewish leader had so massive a personal following. One has the feeling that Jabotinsky would again be better understood by the national Zionist youth of this day than by their fathers and uncles, a youth angered and sickened by the spectacle of incremental appeasement masquerading as “moderation,” longing for a clear, courageous unequivocal stand on matters critical to Jewish national existence. Jabotinsky was a man who had no fear of saying no and meaning it, surely a man for this day when every no and every yes has been prostituted by a but. The question “What would Jabotinsky have done?” is heard more and more frequently from a generation awed by the incomparable leadership he provided while he lived.

His writings and speeches on virtually every subject of national concern have weathered time and circumstance. If they do not provide sure solutions to our present dilemma, they at least point us in the right direction. It is time to reopen the book on Jabotinsky. It’s astonishing that it should ever have been closed. His neglect is an appalling comment on Jewish values and sense of history. With Herzl, he stands as one of two seminal figures of modem Zionism, the greatest purely Jewish intellectual of the 20th Century, the ideological bedrock upon which Israel’s ruling political party rests, the creator of the World War I “Jewish Legion, Betar and Haganah,” the Israel Defense Force. Yet millions of Jewish children – and their parents – are barely familiar with his name. It would be comparable to an Englishman not knowing who Winston Churchill was.

In reintroducing a new generation to Ze’ev Jabotinsky, it is hoped that readers will be drawn toward a more intensive exploration of this remarkable visionary and his writings An excellent way to pursue that quest is with a reading of Lone Wolf, the brilliant two- volume biography by his last secretary, historian Shmuel Katz (available through afsi@ren.com). Jabotinsky was conspicuously free of Messianic pretentious. Yet, history has shown repeatedly over the years since his passing that the circumference of his personal vision was wide enough to encompass us all. He knew us well. Our need to know him at this critical juncture in Jewish history couldn’t be more compelling.

Jerusalem, January 2010

 

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His proposed authorization for use of military force might do lasting damage to the separation of powers.

(Which is exactly what he has in mind!)

By MICHAEL B. MUKASEY And DAVID B. RIVKIN JR.

The Wall Street Journal
Feb. 20, 2015

President Obama last week sent to Congress a draft resolution regarding an authorization for use of military force, or AUMF, against the terrorist group Islamic State. Although presidents have constitutional power to defend American national-security interests, seeking an AUMF is both constitutional and sound. The measure enables Congress to show its support for military efforts and encourages public approval of them. From the nation’s founding, dozens of AUMFs have been enacted. The 2001 resolution authorizing war against al Qaeda and its affiliates and the 2002 authorization of the Iraq war are only the most recent.

AUMFs also have legal significance. They buttress the president’s powers and, consistent with Supreme Court precedent, provide legal support when such aspects of war-fighting as electronic surveillance, detention of enemy combatants and use of deadly force against American nationals who have joined the enemy are challenged in court.

One can argue whether Congress’s constitutional power to declare war serves principally to distinguish formally among enemies, friends and neutrals, or has broader effect. However, AUMFs have become particularly important in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks, as federal courts have involved themselves to an unprecedented degree in scrutinizing such activities. The relevant judicial decisions often cite the existence of an AUMF.

Despite the benefits of traditional AUMFs, President Obama’s proposal is fundamentally flawed. Attempting to obtain political cover for his strategy to fight Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, he has asked Congress to ban “enduring offensive ground operations” and to terminate the authorization after three years.

Congress cannot restrain the president’s core constitutional authority to wage war, even when congressionally imposed restrictions are minor—as was true with 2001 legislation that purported to limit the president’s authority to place U.S. armed forces under the command of foreign officers as part of U.N. peacekeeping missions. Congress did not bar the president from placing U.S. troops under foreign command, but merely required that certain procedures be followed in such cases. Even so, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel correctly concluded that “it is unconstitutional for Congress to place conditions, whether substantive or procedural, on the president’s exercise of his constitutional authority as Commander-in-Chief.”

Every president from Richard Nixon on has maintained that the 1973 War Powers Resolution, requiring that the president notify Congress within 60 days of committing U.S. troops abroad, is unconstitutional. Yet each president also has—voluntarily—complied with it. Except President Obama, who directed U.S. military intervention in Libya and claimed that the 1973 law did not apply because the effort was too limited to be called a “war.” Yet now the Obama AUMF purports to impose major constraints on the president’s commander-in-chief authority—both his own, and his successors’.

The Founders were careful to vest responsibility for waging war in a unitary executive, rather than in a multimember legislature. They made the decision based on their historical knowledge that the unity of command is the prerequisite for military success, and on their own experience during the Revolutionary War—which had been managed by committees of the Continental Congress. James Wilson, among the most learned lawyers of the Founding generation, reasoned that, with a unitary executive “[w]e secure vigor. We well know what numerous executives are. We know there is neither vigor, decision nor responsibility in them.”

The Founders also trusted in the power of political accountability, which is why they decisively rejected an executive branch composed of a president and executive council in favor of the unitary executive branch we now enjoy. In Federalist No. 70, Alexander Hamilton observed that political accountability can exist only if the president cannot shift responsibility for his actions onto others: “It often becomes impossible, amid mutual accusations, to determine on whom the blame of punishment of pernicious measures, ought really to fall.” The public, he concluded, would be “left in suspense about the real author” of bad policy.

If Congress were to limit President Obama’s commander-in-chief power by banning what his resolution calls “enduring offensive combat operations”—whatever that means—Congress would effectively operate as an executive council to Mr. Obama, allowing him to evade accountability for his halfhearted prosecution of war against ISIS. It is bad enough that legislation to tie a president’s hands is being proposed by a president. That it is proposed by this president, who has been so willing to exceed his constitutional authority in domestic affairs—by rewriting immigration laws, anti-narcotics laws, ObamaCare and so on—underscores the administration’s cynicism and its disdain for the Constitution.

If Congress buys into this presidential plan it will set a dangerous precedent that might do lasting damage to the separation of powers. With the two political branches seemingly in accord on joint responsibility for waging war, the federal courts might bless this arrangement, handicapping future presidents.

In recent years, congressional Democrats have been content to accommodate President Obama, whether he chose to enlarge the president’s constitutional prerogatives or diminish them. Congressional Republicans, having chosen to litigate against President Obama when he invaded Congress’s lawmaking authority by rewriting ObamaCare, should display the same principled determination to uphold the president’s constitutional prerogatives. No AUMF is better than one that is constitutionally flawed.

Mr. Mukasey served as U.S. attorney general (2007-09) and as a U.S. district judge for the Southern District of New York (1988-2006). Mr. Rivkin is a constitutional litigator and served in the Justice Department and White House Counsel’s Office in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations.

(Let us hope that the Congress has enough good sense to understand that this is just another Obama power grab. In this case the power grab has a very specific intent – Obama wants to re-enforce or diminish his powers to wage war as he choses against ISIS – the most diabolical, destructive, anti-Christian, Anti-Israel, anti-Western civilization we may have ever seen. And, what Obama wants to do against them is exactly what he has done for the last couple of years — virtually nothing. He apparently wants to give ISIS free reign to do as much damage as possible to the free world and enlarge their power to the point that they have, in fact, regained their ambition of an Islamic world-wide Caliphate demanding and enforcing  world submission to the most awful aspects of Sharia Law. 

And … What Congress’s “good sense” will decide remains very much to be seen) jsk

PS If you happen to think the above is an absurd estimation of Barack Obama and his foreign policy, you might like to see the video of Rudy Guiliani giving  his recent views on Mr. Obama and his presidency. 

Raging Rudy Giuliani Destroys Obama’s Policies on Islamism and Iran

http://israel-commentary.org/?p=10872

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The Dangerous Lie That ‘Bush Lied’

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Some journalists still peddle this canard as if it were fact. This is defamatory and could end up hurting the country.

By LAURENCE H. SILBERMAN
The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 9, 2015

In recent weeks, I have heard former Associated Press reporter Ron Fournier on Fox News twice asserting, quite offhandedly, that President George W. Bush “lied us into war in Iraq.”

I found this shocking. I took a leave of absence from the bench in 2004-05 to serve as co-chairman of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction—a bipartisan body, sometimes referred to as the Robb-Silberman Commission. It was directed in 2004 to evaluate the intelligence community’s determination that Saddam Hussein possessed WMD—I am, therefore, keenly aware of both the intelligence provided to President Bush and his reliance on that intelligence as his primary casus belli. It is astonishing to see the “Bush lied” allegation evolve from antiwar slogan to journalistic fact.

The intelligence community’s 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) stated, in a formal presentation to President Bush and to Congress, its view that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction—a belief in which the NIE said it held a 90% level of confidence. That is about as certain as the intelligence community gets on any subject.

Recall that the head of the intelligence community, Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet, famously told the president that the proposition that Iraq possessed WMD was “a slam dunk.” Our WMD commission carefully examined the interrelationships between the Bush administration and the intelligence community and found no indication that anyone in the administration sought to pressure the intelligence community into its findings. As our commission reported, presidential daily briefs from the CIA dating back to the Clinton administration were, if anything, more alarmist about Iraq’s WMD than the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate.

Saddam had manifested sharp hostility toward America, including firing at U.S. planes patrolling the no-fly zone set up by the armistice agreement ending the first Iraq war. Saddam had also attempted to assassinate former President George H.W. Bush —a car-bombing plot was foiled—during Mr. Bush’s visit to Kuwait in 1993. But President George W. Bush based his decision to go to war on information about Saddam’s WMD. Accordingly, when Secretary of State Colin Powell formally presented the U.S. case to the United Nations, Mr. Powell relied entirely on that aspect of the threat from Iraq.

Our WMD commission ultimately determined that the intelligence community was “dead wrong” about Saddam’s weapons. But as I recall, no one in Washington political circles offered significant disagreement with the intelligence community before the invasion. The National Intelligence Estimate was persuasive—to the president, to Congress and to the media.

Granted, there were those who disagreed with waging war against Saddam even if he did possess WMD. Some in Congress joined Brent Scowcroft, a retired Air Force lieutenant general and former national security adviser, in publicly doubting the wisdom of invading Iraq. It is worth noting, however, that when Saddam was captured and interrogated, he told his interrogators that he had intended to seek revenge on Kuwait for its cooperation with the U.S. by invading again at a propitious time. This leads me to speculate that if the Bush administration had not gone to war in 2003 and Saddam had remained in power, the U.S. might have felt compelled to do so once Iraq again invaded Kuwait.

In any event, it is one thing to assert, then or now, that the Iraq war was ill-advised. It is quite another to make the horrendous charge that President Bush lied to or deceived the American people about the threat from Saddam.

I recently wrote to Ron Fournier protesting his accusation. His response, in an email, was to reiterate that “an objective reading of the events leads to only one conclusion: the administration . . . misinterpreted, distorted and in some cases lied about intelligence.” Although Mr. Fournier referred to “evidence” supporting his view, he did not cite any—and I do not believe there is any.

He did say correctly that “intelligence is never dispositive; it requires analysis and judgment, with the final call and responsibility resting with the president.” It is thus certainly possible to criticize President Bush for having believed what the CIA told him, although it seems to me that any president would have credited such confident assertions by the intelligence community. But to accuse the president of lying us into war must be seen as not only false, but as dangerously defamatory.

The charge is dangerous because it can take on the air of historical fact—with potentially dire consequences. I am reminded of a similarly baseless accusation that helped the Nazis come to power in Germany: that the German army had not really lost World War I, that the soldiers instead had been “stabbed in the back” by politicians.

Sometime in the future, perhaps long after most of us are gone, an American president may need to rely publicly on intelligence reports to support military action. It would be tragic if, at such a critical moment, the president’s credibility were undermined by memories of a false charge peddled by the likes of Ron Fournier.

 

Mr. Silberman, a senior federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, was co-chairman of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction.

 

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I  Barack Obama, Empire Builder — But, Not Ours

Redacted from an article by Victor Davis Hanson

National Review Online

(A brilliant, terrifying summation of the world scene thanks to the diabolical maneuvers of Barack Hussein Obama)

Not since the 1930s and early 1940s have we seen so many malevolent empires on the rise.

Empires can rise and fall quickly. After World War I, the Austro-Hungarian, German, Ottoman, and Russian Empires abruptly collapsed amid military defeat, rising nationalism, and revolution.

Yet on the eve of World War II four new empires suddenly grew out the wreckage of old Europe and Asia. A weak Italy under Fascist Benito Mussolini in just a few years grabbed much of East and North Africa, as well as the Dalmatian coast. Hitler’s so-called “Third Empire” carved off Austria and strips of Eastern Europe — and planned to go to war for more. The Soviet Union absorbed the Baltic states and southern Finland. Japan declared first Manchuria, and then Southeast Asia, part of its new “Co-Prosperity Sphere.”

But by the war’s end in 1945, the Japanese and Italian empires had collapsed. So did the Third Reich — and soon the British Empire as well. The Soviet implosion in 1991 was expected by very few.
We are now in an equally turbulent age of rising empires — mostly due to a new American indifference and passivity. Or, to put it more exactly, President Obama believes that his own legacy rests with avoiding all confrontations overseas, withdrawing as many troops as he can, and cutting the defense budget as much as Congress will allow so as to use the funds to address supposed inequality at home. If chaos results abroad, he can either blame his predecessor, George W. Bush, or assume that his successor will have to deal with what he wrought — or both. Obama is running out the clock of his presidency on the premise of Après moi, le déluge.

The Iranian theocracy fancies itself the reincarnation of the ancient Persian Empire of Cyrus and Xerxes. A soon-to-be nuclear Iran, through its operatives, now controls portions of Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and, soon, Yemen — and dreams of overturning the Sunni sheikhdoms in the Gulf. If you assert that administration talking points come right out of Tehran — as Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey recently did — Obama will characterize such objections not as principled differences, but as cynical attempts to please “donors” — a veiled reference to rich Jews whose money, Obama apparently believes, distorts policy. I think the administration’s policy toward the new Iranian Empire is something like, “They probably won’t get the bomb until 2017.”

Russian president Vladimir Putin has added parts of Ukraine to his earlier land conquests in Georgia and Crimea. He dreams of updating 19th-century Czarist Russia. Putin’s next target will probably be half of Estonia, a NATO country, whose implosion would render the postwar alliance null and void. Putin is dangerous not just because he runs an autocratic nuclear state and has dreams of restoring 19th-century imperial Russia under Orthodoxy and a new czardom, but also because he has developed a perverse delight in gratuitously humiliating Barack Obama, by exposing his sermonizing platitudes as both hypocritical and impotent.

Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan dreams of reviving the Ottoman Empire. He flexes Turkey’s new muscles in both the Arab and the Mediterranean worlds, as he slowly strangles Turkish democracy. Erdogan’s foreign policy is based on a pathological hatred of Israel and claims of a special multicultural relationship with Barack Obama. Erdogan certainly rejects the secularized vision of the founder of the modern Turkish state, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and he seems to wish to see pro-Western Arab dictatorships replaced by more revolutionary Islamist governments that will look to Turkey for spiritual guidance.

The new terrorist Islamic State has grandiose schemes of recreating the medieval pan-Arab caliphate. After carving off much of Syria and Iraq for their new theocracy, the jihadists plan to topple the rich Gulf sheikhdoms and grab the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. The Islamic State grew out of two laxities. First, no Western power tried to organize a non-Islamist alternative to the bloody pro-Iranian, pro-Hezbollah Syrian dictatorship of Bashar Assad, which was on the verge of falling during the Arab Spring four years ago; instead, Western nations may well have ended up arming and abetting ISIS thugs. Second, for the price of a cheap 2012 reelection talking point, the U.S. fled from Iraq in 2011, after enormous sacrifices in blood and treasure had achieved, in the words of Barack Obama, a relatively stable and secure Iraq that might have been, in the words of Joe Biden, the administration’s greatest achievement. Supporters of Obama claim the Iraq War created ISIS; in fact, the disintegration of Syria and the abrupt U.S. withdrawal from Iraq did.

China has terrified almost all of its Westernized neighbors — Australia, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, and Taiwan. It is trying to recreate its own version of the imperial Japanese Co-Prosperity Sphere through cash, mercantilism, threats, and the overstepping of borders. Its defense build-up and new aggressive foreign policy reflect a hunch that America’s old Pacific and Asian allies are no longer securely beneath the American defensive umbrella, that they recognize their vulnerability, and that Chinese money and threats are more relevant than U.S. platitudes and indifference.

There are several common denominators to the grandiose visions of these five would-be empires. All are anti-democratic. They are certainly anti-American. They are bullies who pick fights only with entities deemed smaller and weaker than themselves. And they have all been empowered by the recessional of the lead-from-behind United States from the world stage. In other words, they believe their aggrandizement is either ignored by an Obama administration that feels deterring them is too costly and unpopular, or tactically condoned as the inherent right of countries to adjudicate politics in their own spheres of influence, without an intrusive American global cop sticking its post-colonial, imperialist nose where it has no business.

There used to be a dominant American-led West that sought to encourage abroad constitutional government, market capitalism, and human rights. The so-called New World Order that followed the Cold War was backed by U.S. economic muscle, an overpowering military, and advocacy for freedom. America showed a fierce loyalty to its longtime friends in Europe and the Middle East and no tolerance for outlaws like Manuel Noriega, Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, the Taliban, and the Iranian theocracy. It had a special concern for the proverbial small and vulnerable countries and peoples such as Israel, the Kurds, Taiwan, and Greece. Now, Iran, Russia, Turkey, the Islamic State, and China have taken note that this is no longer the case.

Obama is abetting five new empires that believe their reactionary autocracy, anti-Americanism, and growing military power should earn them greater material rewards and global influence. To paraphrase the Roman historian Tacitus, where Obama has helped to create chaos, he calls it peace.

We are witnessing empire-building unlike anything seen since the 1930s and early 1940s. What is different this time around is not just the older themes of American isolationism, indifference, and appeasement, but also a new, bizarre twist. The Obama administration feels almost as if these rising suzerainties have a more legitimate right to carve out regional empires than the United States has to stop them.

— NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Savior Generals.

II  Pursuing A Legacy At Israel’s Expense?

By: Editorial Board, The Jewish Press
Published: February 4th, 2015

From the outset, it was difficult to understand the confrontation between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu over the latter’s accepting, without prior consultation with the White House, an invitation from House Speaker John Boehner to speak to Congress on the Iranian nuclear crisis.

After all, contrary to an early inaccurate report, later corrected, from The New York Times, Mr. Netanyahu accepted the invitation only after the administration had been informed of it. And Mr. Netanyahu had to know the negative fallout would be intense, not only because he was vulnerable to the charge of having publicly disrespected the president but also, given the sharp disagreement he and House Republicans have had with the president on the issue, he could also easily be portrayed as seeking to undermine the president’s policy on Iran, even as negotiations were being pursued.

Last week we cautioned that the always tense relationship between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu should not be allowed to obscure the real issue here – namely, what kind of deal would emerge from the talks.

Developments since then have only served to underscore that warning while shedding some light on Mr. Netanyahu’s decision to address Congress even at the risk of further alienating the president.

Israeli Army Radio reported on Tuesday that Israeli officials had been told in recent days that the United States and Iran were closing in on an agreement that would lift the current economic sanctions regime and require certain monitoring mechanisms. But it would also permit Iran to retain a significantly large number of centrifuges – close to the number Iran insisted it had to keep and nowhere near what the U.S. had originally sought. Iran will also obligate itself to rein in terrorism and unrest in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria.

For a president bent on burnishing his legacy, the purported agreement raises the possibility that the Middle East will be considerably quieter than it is now (except perhaps on the Israeli-Palestinian front) during his final two years in office, even if the lull will eventually prove illusory, since even Mr. Obama cannot really believe Iran will honor its commitments.

It is also noteworthy that several days ago the Obama administration hotly denied an Israeli television report that the U.S. had agreed to 80 percent of Iran’s demands, characterizing it as “complete nonsense.”

Yet the apparent level of U.S. concessions strongly points in the opposite direction, and would certainly explain why the White House would kick up such a fuss about an Israeli prime minister going before Congress and challenging, by implication, the president and his negotiating positions.

It also explains why Mr. Netanyahu was willing to risk a serious break with the president and why he would consider that risk not only warranted, but an Israeli national security imperative.

Last November, the Wall Street Journal reported that President Obama secretly wrote to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, purportedly – “according to people briefed on the correspondence” – linking Iran’s cooperation in fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria with a comprehensive agreement on Iran’s future nuclear program.

When questioned about this, Secretary of State John Kerry refused to confirm or deny the existence of the letter though he insisted that “No conversation, no agreement, no exchange, nothing has created any deal or agreement with respect to any of the events that are at stake in the Middle East…. There is no linkage whatsoever of the nuclear discussions with any other issue. And I want to make that absolutely clear. The nuclear negotiations are on heir own. They’re standing separate from anything else. And no discussion has ever taken place bout linking one thing to another.”

Be that as it may, Iran has somehow gone from a supplicant seeking to end crippling economic sanctions and forestall possible military action to a full negotiating partner able to extract concessions from the U.S.

Plainly, the Iranians have something President Obama desperately wants, apparently even at the expense of permitting Iran to eventually emerge as a nuclear military power.

So what is in play here is a clash between Benjamin Netanyahu’s concern for Israel’s future and Barack Obama’s quest for a legacy of peace, even one of fleeting duration.

We hope Mr. Netanyahu succeeds in rousing Congress, which is, after all, a co-equal branch of government with the presidency. This is hardly a time for Israeli sacrifices on the altar of Mr. Obama’s vainglory.

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SAVE OUR INTERNET FREEDOM. CONTACT YOUR CONGRESSMAN. VOTE IS ON FEB. 26!

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Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is circulating a petition calling for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to scrap its proposed takeover of the Internet, a plan it will vote on Feb. 26.

Feb  09, 2015
By Nick Sanchez

“An unregulated Internet has been the single greatest catalyst in history for individual liberty and free markets on the planet. It has created the greatest revolution since Henry Ford invented the Model T,” Paul said in a Monday email sponsored by the petitioning organization, Protect Internet Freedom.

“Let’s get this straight — technology has progressed because it has been driven by a free and open Internet — not because of DC bureaucrats. This latest attempt to regulate the web threatens to interrupt that positive innovation, set the market back, and kill jobs.”

Paul has long decried the FCC’s attempts to impose so-called “net neutrality” by regulating the business of Internet service providers (ISPs) like Comcast and AT&T.

The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that the FCC’s previous attempt to create net neutrality was thwarted by a federal judge in 2010. If passed, the new plan will also be challenged in court by ISPs.

“A barrage of litigation which could well wind up in the Supreme Court is sure to follow,” Peter Karanjia, a former deputy general counsel at the FCC, told The Journal.

In its previous attempt, the FCC’s rule making relied on Congress’ 1996 overhaul of the Communications Act of 1934, whereas the current plan relies on the agency’s Title II authority for its legal underpinnings.

The new plan would classify the Internet as a public utility like railroads or water, however FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said he won’t enact strict provisions like price controls.

“These attempts to regulate the Internet are a direct attack on the freedom of information and an innovative market. The government needs to stay out of the way,” Paul wrote Monday in response.

The Great Internet Power Grab

By L. GORDON CROVITZ

The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 8, 2015

Last week Washington abandoned open innovation when the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission yielded to President Obama ’s demands and moved to regulate the freewheeling Internet under the same laws that applied to the Ma Bell monopoly. Unless these reactionary regulations are stopped, they spell the end of the permissionless innovation that built today’s Internet.

Until now, anyone could launch new websites, apps and mobile devices without having to lobby a regulator for permission. That was thanks to a Clinton-era bipartisan consensus that the Internet shouldn’t be treated as a public utility. Congress and the White House under both parties kept the FCC from applying the hoary regulations that micromanaged the phone system, which would have frozen innovation online.

Last week’s announcement from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler rejects 20 years of open innovation by submitting the Internet to Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. Once Mr. Wheeler and the commission’s Democratic majority vote this month to apply Title II, the regulations will give them staggering control. Any Internet “charges” and “practices” that the bureaucrats find “unjust or unreasonable is declared to be unlawful.”

This is an open invitation to entrenched companies challenged by new technologies. The Internet has been a source of creative destruction, upending industries from music, movies and newspapers to retail, travel and banking. History teaches that companies threatened by competition will hire as many lawyers as necessary to get regulators to protect them.

Under Title II, regulators will have the power to invalidate many Internet practices that deliver enormous value to consumers. Today, Amazon has a deal with Sprint enabling Kindle’s rapid downloads of e-books, which competing e-book sellers could claim was “unjust.” The WhatsApp messaging system acquired by Facebook lets people text for free, which traditional mobile phone companies might well consider “unreasonable.” Netflix will regret lobbying for Title II if its competitors object to its special deals that enable its smooth delivery of bandwidth-intensive video.

Under Title II, almost all Web operations will be subject to bureaucratic control. In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court warned that if the FCC treated the Internet as a telecommunications service, it “would subject to mandatory common carrier regulation all information service providers that use telecommunications as an input to provide information service to the public”—in other words, almost all websites and apps would be subject to regulation.

This means the FCC will be able to decide the “reasonableness” of many websites and services: Regulators could micromanage Google search results on the ground that the company uses “telecommunications” to link to other sites. The FCC could oversee news publishers that link to other news sites or have online advertisements connecting to advertiser websites. Social media such as Facebook and Twitter involve telecommunication services, as do email services from Google and Yahoo .

In anticipation of Title II, BlackBerry is already lobbying the FCC to force Netflix and Apple to offer apps for its phones, which have a small market share.

Mr. Wheeler has promised to “forbear” from some regulations, but once regulators get power, they use it. And if there is any forbearance, there will be litigation from companies seeking to burden their competitors with regulation.

President Obama claims that Title II would boost broadband, but the opposite is true. Today, Google Fiber is the main threat to the phone and cable broadband duopoly. Under Title II, cable and telecom lawyers will be able to press the FCC to declare Google’s business model “unjust or unreasonable.” They can object to Google serving only certain areas. They can say it’s unfair that Google can charge consumers less because it benefits from advertising.

The FCC claims that it is supporting “net neutrality,” but Title II was not designed to keep the Internet free of content discrimination. It actually enforces non-neutrality and fast lanes so long as bureaucrats deem them “reasonable.”

It likely will take the courts into the next presidency to litigate the enormity of this FCC power grab, but the sooner we return to the national consensus against heavy regulation, the better. The culture of American innovation and the freedom of the Internet hang in the balance.

PS Louis Gordon Crovitz is an American media executive and advisor to media and technology companies. He is a former publisher of The Wall Street Journal who also served as executive vice-president of Dow Jones and launched the company’s Consumer Media Group. Crovitz is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Chicago. He received a law degree as a Rhodes Scholar from Wadham College of Oxford University and later a law degree from Yale Law School.

Excerpted from: Why Download Europe’s Lousy Broadband Policy?

Treating the Internet like a utility has been tried, with deleterious effects on innovation and costs.

By RICK BOUCHER And FRED CAMPBELL
Wall Street Journal, Feb. 11, 2015

Europe has been experimenting with heavy-handed Internet regulation since 2002, and the results are a warning of what the U.S. can expect.

That is the conclusion of a new study by our organization, the Internet Innovation Alliance, a coalition of businesses and nonprofits. Over the past two decades, the U.S. has benefited from a bipartisan, light-touch broadband regulatory regime that has spurred more capital investment, more competition and—perhaps most important—more broadband capacity than in the European Union, which has a larger population and similar economy.

Consider capital investment, without which broadband networks do not exist and cannot be modernized. Fixed-broadband operators in the U.S. invested $137 billion in 2011 and 2012, more than four times Europe’s $31 billion over the same time period. U.S. mobile operators, at $55 billion, invested twice as much as their European counterparts’ $29 billion. Even when the comparison is made as a percentage of industry revenue, the U.S. investment advantage persists.

Europe’s “wholesale-access” regulatory regime, under which fixed operators must make their networks available to competitors at a regulated price, was ostensibly designed to promote competition. Yet in Europe, powerful incumbent carriers hold 65% of the local telephone market, while in the U.S. 59% of the local telephone market is served by new competitors. More than 90% of U.S. households can choose from among 10 or more providers.

The study’s analysis of mobile networks also illustrates how the U.S. offers greater access than Europe to the highest-speed, so-called LTE networks. In 2012 only 30% of European households had access to LTE, while 79% of American households did.

So where does this leave us? Net-neutrality proponents assume that the impact of common-carrier regulations will be minimal and that the U.S. will maintain its technology lead forever, but the European regulatory example suggests that such an outcome is far from certain. It is more likely that imposing regulations crafted for last century’s monopoly telephone service will have a crippling and chilling effect on broadband investment. Investment drives innovation: As the Internet Innovation Alliance study demonstrates, Europe has fallen badly behind the U.S.

Mr. Boucher, a former Democratic congressman from Virginia, is a partner at Sidley Austin LLP and honorary chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance. Mr. Campbell, formerly chief of the Federal Communications Commission’s Wireless Bureau, is the author of the study discussed in this op-ed.

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