Follow Up on the Expulsion from Beit HaShalom in Hebron
by Arlene Kushner
There are a few items that might qualify for this modifier, but what I have in mind is this:
At the Cabinet meeting today, Olmert said:
"As a Jew, I'm ashamed of the sight of Jews firing at Arabs in Hebron. I have no other definition for what we saw but a pogrom."
"Pogrom." I cited the use of this word by our government before, knowing that it was a gross exaggeration. But this time I decided to look it up: "An organized, often officially encouraged massacre or persecution of a minority group; the savage killing of many victims." And, indeed, when we Jews have suffered pogroms, we have been killed and terrorized.
What Olmert is talking about is a bunch of disorganized kids who ran around -- exactly how many kids did exactly what running around is vague -- breaking a car window here, setting fire to a tree or a clothesline there, pulling down an occasional satellite dish. There were claims of a house set on fire but the Hevron police said no complaint was filed with regard to this. There were apparently some stones thrown at houses.
Not nice. Not right. Not to be excused. But is this is a "pogrom"? No Arab lives were lost and in the one instance in which there was shooting (this by an adult), the Jews involved say it was self-defense. In fact, except for this one shooting, I believe all the damage was done to property and not persons.
Note that there is no statement by Olmert regarding Arab provocation and rock-throwing by Arabs as the house was being evacuated.
So, is Olmert speaking thus to curry favor with the Arabs and the international community, or to further delegitimize the "settlers"? Maybe both.
Ron Breiman, former chair of Professors for a Strong Israel, used not the word but the imagery of "pogrom" today, in a piece in YNet. But his imagery concerned behavior of the government:
"The aggressive and unwise evacuation of the house in Hebron was undertaken thuggishly, and seemingly on behalf of the law, yet in fact was carried out based on considerations that have nothing to do with law or security. Ehud Barak's thuggish conduct in Hebron is befitting of the Cossacks: There it was a case of 'hit the Jews and salvage Russia,' and here it was a case of 'hit the Jews and salvage the Labor party."
What is certainly the case is that it ill-befits the head of a government that has come down on its Jewish citizens with excessive force to use the language Olmert has used.
Orit Struk, who is legal counsel for the Hevron community, has stated in a radio interview that media reports about "settler violence" are exaggerated. Indeed.
On Friday, the Jerusalem Post ran a photo of a group of people facing off against each other, in sort of crouching positions. The caption: "Settlers throw stones at Palestinians.... "
Today, the Post ran a correction. Oops. This wasn't a picture of stone-throwing, but rather a basketball game. How about that!
What fascinates me is not that the caption writer got it wrong with regard to this being an act of stone throwing, but that s/he knew that it was the Jews throwing the stones, since none were in evidence.
With regard to Ze'ev Brauda of Kiryat Arba, the man accused of the shooting, the situation was filmed by someone on the scene for B'Tselem -- the ostensible human rights organization that is blatantly anti-Israel. B'Tselem has a history of doctoring film to make a case.
And it seems that Judge Malka Aviv, who remanded the suspect, raises her own questions about the B'Tselem footage, which she has seen:
"... there are a number question marks regarding the behavior of the people who were allegedly shot by the suspect; when they are seen getting up and proceeding to pelt the suspect with rocks. Further on in the clip one can also see the 'evacuation' of one of the casualties, whose shirt did not show any sign that he had been shot."
Meanwhile, the Hevron Jewish Community Council has sent a letter of protest to local IDF commanders, protesting the implementation by the IDF and police of "collective punishment" on the Jews of Hevron:
"Time after time Jews suffer life-threatening attacks by Arabs as soldiers and police stand from afar and don't act to stop the attacks or to enforce the law against Arab rioters, all while claiming that these are the instructions they have received."
In its letter, the Council cited several instances of neglect by IDF and police.
"With all appreciation for the anger of the IDF and the police at the strikes on Arabs by Jews in recent days, we will not agree to a 'price-tag' policy of 'collective punishment' against the Jewish residents in the area."
At last, everyone but everyone -- with the single exception of our putative defense minister -- admits that the "quiet" with regard to Gaza is over.
Over the weekend, some 20 rockets and mortars were fired from Gaza.
Said the mayor of Ashkelon:
"We saw that when the defense minister wishes to show determination and resolve, he knows how to do that. He did it while handling the case of the house in Hebron. I would like to see the same determination when it comes to the rocket fire."
Well, Barak has to want to show determination, and where the rockets are concerned, he isn't interested. He is against a major operation into Gaza.
Things have gotten so bad that members of the Kadima party -- partners with Barak's Labor party in the current coalition -- are calling for action.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, in an attack on Barak at today's Cabinet meeting, said:
"There is no cease-fire in Gaza. Anyone who calls this 'calm' doesn't know what's happening there. Whoever is responsible for security needs to act."
She is calling for meetings between herself, Barak and Olmert to decide on new actions.
Shaul Mofaz, Transportation Minister, said in a radio interview -- given from Washington DC -- this morning that it's time for a change in Israel's policy with regard to Hamas. He believes a message must be sent to the terrorist organizations indicating that they're not immune to a blow to their leadership or their infrastructure. Not a ground strike, he said, but some "new strategies."
And Haim Ramon declared in an Army Radio interview today that:
"A strategic decision is needed, and regretfully it has not yet been made... We can't continue with Hamas control in the Strip [as it is an] intolerable threat to the State of Israel."
Ramon is also calling for targeting of Hamas infrastructure.
Aside from keeping crossings closed -- which is totally ineffective as a deterrent -- the only action being taken now against launching of rockets is attacks on the sites of the launchings. Fairly ineffective. Sometimes someone doing the launching is hit, sometimes not. The terrorists can always pull out another rocket from their huge supplies, and launch from elsewhere next time.
And here is something else that is despicable. According to one "official" cited by the Post:
"Now is not the time for a large-scale operation, although this could change the moment many people are killed in a Kassam attack."
Wonderful. Let's wait until people are killed first, to provide the rationale and get the nation stirred up --instead of making sure people are not killed. Why is "now not the time"? I would say because Barak's afraid that getting bogged down in a prolonged operation might work against him in the election.
Here we go again: The Prisoner Release Committee (comprised of ministers) has given approval to Olmert for the release of 230 prisoners (not the original 250 proposed) from Fatah as a "goodwill gesture" for the holiday of Eid al-Adha (which commemorates the Islamic version of the Akeida, the sacrifice of Isaac, with Ishmael in their version). The release is scheduled for Tuesday.
There will be the usual protests, and attempts to block this via the courts -- using evidence of other terrorists released who returned to terror. And then the court will give the go-ahead.
Along with this gesture come several others. The list was presented to PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad by Ehud Barak in Jerusalem today. It includes such things as a period of greater flexibility regarding which Palestinians can enter Israel to visit family.
Results are in from Labor's primary, held last Thursday after an earlier false start because of malfunctioning computers. Ehud Barak at the top of the list is followed by Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog, Ophir Paz-Pines, Avishay Braverman, Shelly Yacimovich, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna'i, Eitan Cabel, National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Education Minister Yuli Tamir and Amir Peretz.
The party is doing so badly in the polls that there is no certainty that it will achieve as many as ten mandates so that all of those listed here will have seats.
Now we are headed into the Likud primary. There is no way for me to begin to list those running, so very large is the list of contenders. This is a complicated primary, with some candidates running on national slots -- for whom everyone who is a member of Likud may vote -- and regional slots for whom only those who are Likud members from designated geographical areas can vote. Additionally certain slots are reserved for newcomers, women, etc.
Enormous tension exists between Binyamin Netanyahu and Moshe Feiglin, head of the traditionally oriented and nationalist Manighut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership) faction of the party. Netanyahu, who is trying to position himself and his party as centrist, is trying to squeeze him out.
Posting: December 6, 2008
Motzei Shabbat (After Shabbat)
"A Necessary Response"
It has been a difficult Shabbat because my mind has been so much on the happenings in Hevron. The bias of the media is most distressing and factual errors abound. Consistently the impression is left that Barak had no choice but to evacuate Beit HaShalom, when in actuality the option was his.
The fact that he opted for the forceful way when another choice was available to him speaks volumes about his intentions and his style.
Says Noam Arnon, who is the Chair of the Jewish Community of Hevron, says:
"We tried our best to convince the government to solve this in a peaceful way, but the government chose to act brutally, we think, in order to turn people against us in Hevron."
Barak is cashing in on that "style" now -- representing himself with a broad grin as the "tough" defender of the State.
A mere day after the Beit HaShalom evacuation, his campaign (for the general elections in February ) released four posters. Each has the same photo of him. Each has a different phrase describing him: "Not a pal" "Not sympathetic" "Not nice" "Not trendy"
The media has also been talking about "violent settlers," painting all with the same brush, because of a handful of kids who acted inappropriately. I hope to learn more about exactly how many acted this way, and what they actually did, in due course -- it is not clear that all reports of fires set, etc. are accurate although some clearly are. There were, for example, reports of two Jews who shot an Arab, but they have turned themselves in and what I'm hearing is that they say they were attacked and acted in self-defense.
Noam Arnon has made the policy of the Jewish Community of Hevron crystal clear: They are against any violence, any action against soldiers or innocent Arabs.
Noam also provided additional information that is of interest: There were two different groups of youngsters at Beit HaShalom. One group consisted of Yeshiva students from Judea and Samaria who had been invited -- with their teachers -- by the Hevron community. They remained in the house, studying and praying, as they would have done in their yeshivas.
The other group consisted of youngsters from all over the country -- not yeshiva students. They came to lend support, on their own, not accompanied by teachers. Ultimately, whatever their motivation, some number of them acted foolishly and rashly.
Noam says that the community holds the government responsible for what happened because these kids were exposed to an anti-Jewish policy.
In saying this he gave voice to part of what has been going round in my head all this day. I do not condone violence, either. And I do not excuse those who were violent. But I can put the behavior of these kids into a context:
The reaction of the Israeli government, after statements by the PA, seemed more supportive of the PA than of the Jewish community -- there was no defense of Jewish rights, but rather a declaration of commitment to protect Palestinians.
Following this, Barak refused to negotiate with the community in good faith to prevent the evacuation. And then, when the evacuation took place, with excessive force, Arabs gloated -- on the roofs of nearby buildings they danced, and even came closer calling out their expressions of delight.
What was the feeling on the part of these youngsters? Fury. A sense of betrayal and abandonment by the government. And a sense of being on the losing side vis-a-vis the Arabs. A sense of being squeezed into a corner.
What I have been thinking about is the sin -- I know no other word for it -- of turning Jew against Jew when it is not necessary to do so.
In particular I want to mention use of the army for evacuations of citizens. In this country it is legal to use the IDF this way -- although there are those campaigning for a change in the law. Most -- if not all -- other democracies forbid soldiers to act against citizens of the country: Soldiers are only to protect citizens against enemies. There are dangers implicit in using them as they were used last week:
It demoralizes the soldiers and puts them in an emotional/ethical bind. We need a strong army and that requires them to have strong morale.
And it diminishes respect for our armed forces.
Lastly, we cannot forget that we are greatly beleaguered in this world -- attacked from all sides. This is hardly the time to foment tensions between various segments of the population. We require a cohesiveness and inner strength.
Barak's "toughness" weakened our nation in several respects. He acted in a manner both self-serving and short-sighted.
Nadav Shragai, writing in Haaretz, put it thus:
"... our nation's government is developing its own fanaticism whereby the ends - the banishment of Jews from Hebron - justify nearly all the means, to the point where that government and its mouthpieces become mute, deaf and blind. Even in the face of the facts and from a moral standpoint."
Posting: December 4, 2008
How else does one describe the actions of the government -- and most specifically of Defense Minister Barak --last night and today?
A review of the sequence of events regarding Beit HaShalom in Hevron since I wrote roughly 24 hours ago:
Late yesterday, the leadership of the PA released statements regarding the tensions surrounding Beit HaShalom. Saying that settlers were committing "a despicable crime" in attacking innocent Palestinians, they indicated that president Mahmoud Abbas was thinking of calling an urgent meeting of the Security Council to discuss the situation.
Maintaining that "the presence of the Jewish settlers in the city is a serious provocation," they demanded that the Israeli government remove them from Hevron.
Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh called the violence "an organized terror campaign," as the settlers "constitute a real danger to the Palestinians and their lands."
The PA security officer for Hevron declared, "The Israeli government's failure to stop the settlers is threatening our security plan. We have been working hard to restore law and order and our efforts have thus far been very successful. But what the settlers are doing now poses a major threat to our efforts."
Now, this was grandstanding -- a political ploy, based on gross distortions and exaggerations of the situation. It is clear, has been clear for many, many years, that the Arabs don't wish to share Hevron, but wish the Jews gone completely. This attitude fueled the 1929 Hevron massacres. Now the PA saw their chance to make their case.
It was the place of our government, then, to respond to this by exposing the ridiculousness of the charges:
Palestinians weren't attacked in a "terror campaign." There were altercations between Jews and Palestinians that, according to eyewitness reports, were begun by the Palestinians. One Jewish boy was seriously injured when a rock was thrown at his head by a Palestinian on a roof.
Jews are in Hevron by right of a 4,000 year tradition as well as by law -- per an Oslo agreement. The Jews are not leaving Hevron.
Whatever has transpired has been within the area of Hevron controlled by Israel. PA security forces don't operate in this area and the situation in no way affects their ability to do their job.
But the Israeli government didn't do this. Perhaps they were responding defensively, perhaps they welcomed what the PA officials said as providing a rationale for getting tougher. I cannot be sure. I was startled to read one statement about how "pogroms against Palestinians" would be prevented. Pogroms?
Then, too, there is the fact that the Labor primary was held today and Barak may have been playing "big man" for potential supporters.
Whatever the motivation, they did get tougher. It was announced that policy had changed and Border Police were going to be making arrests. The road to Beit HaShalom was closed at 5:00 p.m. A resident of Kiryat Arba, who was present, recounted to me today the appearance on the scene of the Yassamnikim -- from what is called the "special reconnaissance unit." The toughest -- most ruthless -- of troops, they were very active in the Gush Katif expulsion and are called out for "special" situations such as demonstrations.
She said that they came in full gear, and she saw stun grenades (which cause a loud sound and emit a flash or smoke) tossed into a crowd that was not violent, as well as girls, who offered no resistance, picked up "like rag dolls."
This morning there was a period of hopefulness, with reports that Barak was meeting with representatives of the Yesha Council and the Hevron Jewish community in order to reach a compromise. What the Hevron community proposed was that the residents of Beit HaShalom be permitted to stay in the house until the final court decision, but that all those who didn't live there be required to leave, with the understanding that the residents would also leave quietly if the final decision was against them.
Barak left the meeting and promptly declared that evacuation of the house would proceed. The Yesha Council and Hevron community, feeling a sense of betrayal, were greatly angered -- they don't believe Barak negotiated in good faith at all.
Six hundred troops -- both IDF and Border Police -- came to Beit HaShalom, circling around from the back of the building (down a hillside where Arab houses sit). Tear gas was tossed into the building. Some troops went in, others remained outside. The house was evacuated with excessive use of force. My information is that 28 residents and protesters were injured.
Barak is now patting himself on the back for "upholding the law" [as if the law required an evacuation of the house] and protecting the integrity of the State. Others are echoing him. Misrepresentations of the situation abound in media sources.
I cannot emphasize enough that Barak precipitated this crisis. When the High Court said that the government could choose to evacuate the house for the period before the final decision was made, or not, he had the option of doing nothing. That would have been entirely within the strictures of the Court, and had he decided to leave the situation alone, there would have been no tension, no violence. It was Barak's declared intention to do an evacuation of the house that brought out the young people.
But as late as this morning, even after all of this, there was a way to arrive at an equitable resolution without violence: What the Jewish community of Hevron proposed was fair and reasonable. It would have dissipated the crowds of supporters and reduced local tensions, and it assured that the residents would leave quietly later if findings required them to. Barak didn't choose to go this route, and his failure to negotiate in good faith further exacerbated anger.
There are reports now of "settlers" rioting and damaging Palestinian houses in the area, in anger and frustration at what has transpired. I am loathe to give these reports full credence -- I simply don't know at this point.
What I do know is that attorney Yossi Fuchs, who's as decent and straight as they come, has filed a complaint against the Hevron police commander and the regional IDF spokesman for a false report they issued today stating that a Jewish activist had sprayed a police officer with acid and caused him serious injuries -- a report that was picked up by media sources.
Fuchs was able to determine, with a simple check, that no ambulance had been called to Hevron, no medical personnel drawn upon, to treat a police officer with acid burns. He suspects the deliberate spreading of a libelous falsehood.
And as this did happen, it is important to view other reports with a jaundiced eye until there is final verification of facts.
Will the court finally find in favor of the Jewish community of Hevron and acknowledge that Beit HaShalom was legally purchased and is theirs? If there is justice, it will. But I am not necessarily expecting that justice, nor is the community. (May we all be pleasantly surprised!) In any event the Jewish community of Hevron has made it clear that they are working on other house purchases.
They are still my heroes.
And so "shameful" remains a good way to describe what went on in Hevron today. One week after Jews in India were attacked by Islamic jihadist terrorists because they were Jews, we see Jews facing off against Jews here in Israel. The father of Rivka Holtzberg (z"l) asked the government to keep things quiet at least for the shiva week, but it was not to be.
"Painful" is another.
Posting: December 3, 2008
"The View from Beit HaShalom"
I've written about this a couple of times in recent days, and find it important to return to the subject now.
Beit HaShalom (House of Peace) is the large house in Hevron -- on the road called Worshippers' Way, leading from adjacent Kiryat Arba to the Ma'arat HaMachpela (the Cave of the Patriarchs) -- that was purchased by the Jewish community. It is within the area of Hevron controlled by Israel. Title to the property is being challenged by the prior owner (a Palestinian who would be in considerable hot water with the PA for selling to Jews).
Anyone genuinely conversant with the situation is able to see that the current furor over ownership of the building is political and not legal. The community has extensive documentation regarding the purchase, some of which -- astonishingly -- even the attorney general has refused to look at. We are dealing with several factors here, including a government more interested in placating the Arabs than protecting Jewish rights and a defense minister who -- facing an election in which his party, Labor, is expected to show abysmally poor results -- is courting an "anti-settler" left wing by being "tough." There is no question but that this government would be quite content -- in defiance of Jewish rights and traditions and legal standing -- to turn all of Hevron over to the Arabs.
The High Court has said that while a lower court is deciding on the ownership of the property, the government may (not "must") evacuate the building. The government has decided it will do so. Some days ago it was thought that the evacuation would take place, but it was delayed. Two days ago, border police began moving into Hevron in numbers that suggested that an evacuation was imminent. Word went out then that it was time for those prepared to give support to the residents (some 20 plus families) to come. And come they have, by the hundreds. Some adults and primarily young people.
Yesterday there were reports of violent clashes between local Arabs and young people at Beit HaShalom. Arutz Sheva cited local Jewish residents who said the Arabs were incited by a photojournalist to throw rocks at the Jewish area and young Jews then responded in kind. From there the situation escalated.
Today David Wilder, spokesman for the Jewish community of Hevron, explained that there was quiet about 98% of the time over the past 20 months that Jews have been living in Beit HaShalom. What has happened is that the Israeli government decision to remove the residents, and to challenge their right to be there, has served as incitement to the Arabs, who now see themselves as having the upper hand: They see the Jews as not being supported by their own government (to the everlasting shame of the government).
Yesterday, an Arab on the roof of a building some 30 or 40 feet away from Beit HaShalom threw a large rock. It hit the head of 16 year old Elyasav Asban, who may have suffered permanent brain damage.
When I entered Beit HaShalom today, my first thought was: "This? This is what the government is making the fuss about." An expansive, multi-story building, it is largely in a primitive state, with bare concrete walls, metal girders exposed, etc. Certain areas have been sectioned off to make apartments, some of which have had dry-wall added and have the accoutrements of normal living -- normal bathrooms, kitchens, etc.
All about I saw religious young people. Some were sitting and talking or eating, some praying, some studying religious texts. On the grounds around Beit HaShalom, and within the building, there was a sense of peacefulness (I use the word with full consciousness). While I cannot swear that none of these young people are itching to be violent (there is certainly reason to believe that a small handful may be itching for it), an ambiance of violence was not in the air. I cannot offer proof, but it has been suggested that those few who may be violent-prone are plants, sent there to incite.
What I saw also was that the media representatives there tended to ask the leaders of the community questions that exposed their bias: Questions of the "Why are you allowing these young people to be violent?" sort. If only these troublesome "settlers" would play by the "rules" there would be no problem.
The position of the leadership of the community is clear: We do not condone violence, they say, or instruct these young people to ever be violent. (David Wilder said some young people who vandalized were sent away.) But neither will we back off passively. This is our property. We bought it legally. In any other country this would have been acknowledged by now. We want only to be allowed to live in peace here. If the police are foolish enough to try to evict us then we will not go quietly. And we will not rein in the young people as they respond in self-defense.
They, the leadership, and the young people present, know that the people of Gush Katif went quietly and were subsequently not treated with fairness by the government. The lesson has been learned.
"We will not go quietly." If the government is foolish enough to proceed, there will be blood.
For me these people continue to be heroes. Risking physical harm, they are prepared to stand strong for the right of Jews to live in the land of Israel, on property that has been acquired legally.
They are drawing a line in the sand and saying, no more. The lesson is for the government and for all those who envision a division of the land that calls for the residents of Judea and Samaria to be evicted from their homes. Should this be attempted, there would be civil war.
There is so much to be attended to, that the government should invest energy on this is pathetic. Not to mention that the specter of Jew against Jew is obscene and to be avoided. But this requires the government to be smart about it. And not only are they not smart, they misrepresent. Olmert just made this statement:
"There are phenomena that one cannot come to terms with, and the government that I am heading is unable to accept them."
This shows that he's tough.
"The debate on the Land of Israel is legitimate, and the resolve to keep a Jewish presence in the holiest and most significant of our cities is understood. However, this resolve must not overpower the court's decision."
Two lies here. The first is his laughable pretense of sympathy for the cause, as he is itching to give away Judea and Samaria. Olmert? Describing Hevron as"the holiest and most significant of our cities"? The second is his comment about "the court's decision," as if the government is merely following a court order to evict, when in fact eviction is at the option of the government.
This story is not yet over.
On to an entirely different subject:
Obama has selected Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, Susan Rice as ambassador to the UN, Gen. James Jones as national security advisor, and is allowing Robert Gates to remain as defense secretary.
Other than pondering how Obama supporters hoping for a "change" feel about these several re-runs (Rice being the only truly new face), I do not intend to consider here the several implications for the US of these appointments.
I, rather, want to focus on the way in which Obama's policies will impinge on Israel and the Mid-East --succinctly now, with considerably more to follow over time, of course.
In some measure, we are facing a "wait and see" situation. But there are some things that need to be said up front.
Hillary and Bill Clinton, alike, are widely considered to be "pro-Israel." I would suggest otherwise. President Clinton was an Arab appeaser who did us great harm. Over and over he invited Arafat to the White House -- more often than he invited any head of state -- as a foolish and futile inducement when Arafat didn't fulfill commitments. This empowered Arafat and ultimately sent the message that he didn't have to honor commitments.
Then, in his rush to push through a "peace deal" before leaving office (this rush, you see, is endemic to retiring presidents), Clinton was willing to apply pressure on Israel to make concessions, even though he knew that Arafat could not be relied upon. He was after the photo-op on the lawn, not what was in his ally's best interest from a perspective of either rights or security.
Hillary was consistently to the left of her husband. So she's going to have to prove her pro-Israel credentials.
And Jones? He has a reputation here of tilting pro-Palestinian during the time he has served under Condoleezza Rice as a special security envoy to Israel and the PA. He has touted a plan for having us draw back from Judea and Samaria and then bringing in NATO forces to fight terrorism, as it's acknowledged that the PA isn't really up to it. This is a terrible plan, about which I will say more later. Jones needs to be watched, and, as appropriate, opposed by our government (which is very much against a use of NATO forces).
Obama has not yet appointed a special envoy to the Middle East, but two names that have been bandied about are Jimmy Carter and Daniel Kurtzer, who has been serving Obama in an advisor capacity. Neither one is remotely a friend or objective in the broadest sense. Some people are under the impression that Kurtzer, a Jew and former US ambassador to Israel, is a supporter of Israel. It's not so. He has long espoused the position that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at the core of the tensions in the Middle East, which is blatantly erroneous. And he believes in strongly pressuring Israel. I see Kurtzer's positions reflected in some Obama comments.
Most disconcerting to me when Obama announced his appointments was a statement he made regarding his priorities: assuring that Iran doesn't get nuclear weapons, bringing about an Israeli-Palestinian peace, and "strengthening international institutions."
The first priority is laudable. It remains to be seen how he intends to go about this and if he is prepared to launch a military attack if all else fails.
The second is troublesome, for it implies -- as I've suggested above -- that he sees a resolution of this conflict as being at the core of matters in the ME. In the week that saw the Mumbai disaster, it is regrettable that he did not list as a priority of the highest order (for it IS a priority of the highest order) winning the war against Islamic jihadism and its use of terror. If this war is not won very little else will matter. Will he have blinders on with regard to this? Is he -- this is almost surely the case -- far too politically correct to name the enemy that seeks to destroy us?
Lastly, the notion of endowing "international institutions" (most notably the corrupt and totally anti-Israeli UN) with further power means relinquishing American power in a manner that can have serious consequences for us all.
I want to mention here a most disturbing report that has just been released, which impinges upon the subject of Obama policy in the ME. I will follow through tomorrow with more extensive analysis.
This report, which was 18 months in the making, is entitled "Restoring the Balance - A Middle East Strategy for the Next President." It comes to us courtesy of Richard N. Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, and Martin Indyk, director of the Saban Center.
According to the Jerusalem Post: It recommends dialogue at all levels with Iran; it says military confrontation with Iran might not be worth the effort, and that it might be necessary to accommodate a nuclear Iran.
With regard to the "peace process," it says that Palestinian unity is necessary so that there is one diplomatic address for negotiations, and to that end Hamas should be incorporated into the Palestinian Authority.
A great deal indeed to say about this...
Arlene Kushner is Senior Policy Analyst, Center for Near East Policy Research