Scott Johnson: Live from Jerusalem
My jet lag and laptop are giving me fits in Jerusalem, where I have arrived to attend the Fourth Israeli Presidential Conference. Tonight’s opening ceremonies featured the awarding of Israel’s Presidential Medal of Merit to Henry Kissinger by President Peres himself. Peres gave a moving tribute to Kissinger in Hebrew followed by an equally good but different one in English. Kissinger opened his remarks with the observation (I am quoting from imperfect memory): “It isn’t often that an 89-year-old accepts an award saying, if only my parents were here.” He said that of all the awards he has received, this one would have made them the proudest. Kissinger described the signing of the Egypt-Israel agreement in 1973 as the greatest moment of his professional career.
The award ceremony was followed with a keynote speech by Tony Blair. Blair’s speech was mostly great, with a slight admixture of nonsense. But his central point was excellent and maybe even brave. He held Israel up as an example for the countries of the region to emulate. He cited democratic institutions. He cited freedom of speech. He cited freedom of religion. He asserted the insufficiency of elections. I thought for a man in his position, it was a remarkable speech.
FP: Ah, yes, there is no better spectatcle than the Jimmy Carter of Israel, responsible for Oslo and walker on the beach holding hands with Arafat, honoring Kissinger, who managed the negotiations between Israel and Arabs by telling the latter to be patient, as in a couple of decades Israel will be struggling to exist. Should his parents be proud about that?
Add to this a keynote speech by Blair, who has parlayed his job as the Quartet emissary into his own, immensely profitable private business. Any wonder why the West goes down and Israel is in strategic trouble? (see next)
Some 60 rockets, including Grads, launched at western Negev since Monday night • Rocket attack injures four Border Policemen • Israel kills al-Qaida operative who took part in Monday's cross-border attack.
Dan Margalit: Cast Lead 2 is just a matter of time
What the IDF can do in the Gaza Strip – retaliate forcefully – does not apply to Sinai, where any attempt to target terrorist squads would be a violation of Egyptian sovereignty.
FP; Well, a bit more difficult now, with a power struggle in Egypt between Islamists and the Army, the instinct of both being to distract from internal problems and prove is more anti-Israel.
And what will Israel do about Sinai as it becomes a terror base? Violate Egyptian territory to defend itself?
And if a major miltary conflict erupts who will be with and support Israel. Is there any doubt that this is precisely what Hamas is trying to achieve?
Palestinians first blame Tuesday's death on Israel Air Force strike, but a Hamas official later attributes incident to Palestinian rocket fire • Despite this credible report, Chinese and French media report child died in "mysterious" blast.
FP: See what I mean? Here we go again.
Following Israeli urging, U.S. Congress asks the U.N. to clarify why Palestinians can transfer their "refugee" status to descendants • The request could possibly change U.S. funding for UNRWA.
FP: When pigs fly.
Even if a Palestinian state were declared tomorrow, it would still remain dependent on massive aid in perpetuity, because it would not be viable, and a source of nothing but problems, yet another Arab failed state. There is no way that such a state could digest 5 million “refugees” or that Arab countries could accept them. Congress does not have to ask, that was exactly the whole idea for refugee status inheritance: to reach a mass that would make an Arab solution impossible and make the right of return the only possible solution. That is the conclusion to which the West will come to at some point and there is every indication that it is on its way already
Bill Katz: YAWN
The talks over Iran's nuclear program, held in Moscow between the major powers and Iranian representatives, have essentially collapsed. No one is hiding that fact. The only talks scheduled are technical ones.
The Washington Post, whose liberal editorial page is actually thoughtful on national-security issues, sums up the dilemma after the collapse:
If there is a positive aspect to this outcome, it is that the United States and its partners appear to be sticking to their position on what Iran must do to open the door to a diplomatic solution — and are prepared to let the process lapse. No further negotiations have been scheduled — only an experts’ session early next month to go over technical details, followed by contacts between the deputies and chiefs of the delegations. Western officials say further meetings will depend on whether Iran shows itself ready to carry out the package of steps originally proposed last month, including a freeze of its most advanced form of uranium enrichment, the export of its existing stockpile of that enriched uranium, and the closure of an underground processing facility known as Fordow. “The choice is Iran’s,” said Ms. Ashton’s statement.
The Obama administration must nevertheless be prepared to take an Iranian “no” for an answer. It should resist any effort by Russia or other members of the international coalition to weaken the steps that Iran must take, or to grant Tehran major sanctions relief for partial concessions. It should continue to reject recognition of an Iranian “right” to enrich uranium.
The United States and its allies also should have a strategy for quickly and significantly increasing the pressure on the Khamenei regime if the negotiations break down. Israel may press for military action; if that option is to be resisted, there must be a credible and robust alternative.
COMMENT: Even old Henry Kissinger said yesterday that the crunch with Iran will come in a matter of months. In other words, it will come right before our election.
It's been clear that Obama wants no disruptions to his election campaign. While most sane Americans would understand, and support, strong action against the Iranian nuclear program, Obama's base, with its heavy dependence on the committed left and its financial backers, might not.
In foreign policy, nothing is going well for this president right now. That is what happens when you project drift and weakness. The Iranians give the impression that they don't fear us, nor even take us seriously.
The crunch is indeed coming.
FP: The Iran negotiations are very similar to those between Israel and the PalArabs. No matter how outrageous the latter behave and how many times they collapse the talks, they know that Israel will come back in some way and make another concession (the latest Ulpana kerfuffle is exactly a signal to that effect). In the case of Israel, it is the Oslo syndrome, Western pressure, and a strong leftist elite in the bureaucracy, media, and academia, coupled with right PM’s who delude themselves that they can appease the West and will be the “peace PM”. This sums up as the Blackmailer Paradox game, on which I wrote more than once before.
In the case of Iran, with American power in steep decline and the Europe in freefall, there is nobody with the wherewithal to stand up to aggressive power plays of the enemies and competitors of the West. The best example of this is the military excercises that China, Russia, Syria and Iran are going to conduct: they essentially hold the West in contempt and tell it “FU”. And remember the Turks making decisions for NATO?
This is precisely what the PostWest looks like. So only one of two things will happen: the West will ultimately find some way to cave that can be spinned as a win, or it will do nothing. In either case it will invite further aggression and steeper decline. About the only possibility of crunch I see is if Obama becomes desperate electorally (see next), and if he does anything in these circumstances it has a good chance to end up just like Carter failed attempt to rescue the hostages and cause major damage for nothing.
But there is nothing I would like better than to be proven wrong.
We mentioned in the post just below that this president has been projecting weakness and drift. Anyone who saw the shocking pictures of Obama at the G20 summit in Mexico this week know he's also projecting some other things – fatigue, confusion, smallness.
Even Frank Bruni of The New York Times, a paper not known to be anti-Obama, was startled by what he saw, as he noted in an interview with CNN's Piers Morgan.
He is in trouble, and it's showing. There are enormous pressures on Obama, and he just doesn't handle them well. He's a campaigner, a talker, not a doer. His whole political life was a life of advocacy before he became president. He'd never actually done anything.
And now he's confronted an intransigent Putin, who apparently lectured him as a teacher lectures a child. And his negotiators have confronted an intransigent Iran, which is gambling that we'll cave in the nuclear talks. And at home the economy is not being helpful.
President Kennedy was lectured to by Khrushchev at the Vienna conference of 1961. Kennedy's poor performance, which he readily acknowledged to aides, led Khrushchev to believe, correctly, that he could build the Berlin wall, which he did. Kennedy learned from the bitter experience. Obama never seems to learn. Kennedy described himself as an idealist without illusions. Obama is an idealist with illusions, and he never concedes that the illusions are just that. The reset with Russia. The "engagement" with Iran. The new approach to the Muslim world. Nothing works, and nothing seems to change.
FP: There are two problems much more serious than Obama: the American electorate that elected him and the hugely damaging consequences of his presidency for America and the West which are not reversible.
Former Mossad chief Dagan notes radicals no longer in Arab League; Ross lays out steps to restore faith in two-state solution.
FP: On what planet are these people living? Ross is a peace processor, but to think that Dagan was the head of the Mossad. Frightening.
Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger refuses to sign letter by Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar calling on rabbis to attend conference against Reform movement • Ashkenazi Rabbi Aharon Shteinman says ultra-Orthodox have more urgent problems.
FP: Religion is religion is religion. Do we want these people serving in IDF?
Navy chief tells outgoing Shayetet 13 commander: Under your leadership Shayetet 13 was the IDF's vanguard • Colonel "S" commanded the 2010 raid of the Mavi Marmara ship, which attempted to break through Israel's blockade of Gaza.
FP: Draw your own conclusions.