Watcher’s Council Nominations – Yippee-Ki-Yay Edition

The Watcher’s Council

Welcome to the Watcher’s Council, a blogging group consisting of some of the most incisive blogs in the ‘sphere and the longest running group of its kind in existence. Every week, the members nominate two posts each, one written by themselves and one written by someone from outside the group for consideration by the whole Council. Then we vote on the best two posts, with the results appearing on Friday morning.

Council News:

The Council In Action!

This week, Midknight Review, Le·gal In·sur·rec·tion and The Pirate’s Cove earned honorable mention status with some great articles.

You can, too! Want to see your work appear on the Watcher’s Council homepage in our weekly contest listing? Didn’t get nominated by a Council member? No worries.

To bring something to my attention, simply head over to Joshuapundit and post the title and a link to the piece you want considered along with an e-mail address (which won’t be published) in the comments section no later than Monday 6 PM PST in order to be considered for our honorable mention category. Then return the favor by creating a post on your site linking to the Watcher’s Council contest for the week when it comes out Wednesday morning.

Simple, no?

It’s a great way of exposing your best work to Watcher’s Council readers and Council members, while grabbing the increased traffic and notoriety. And how good is that, eh?

So, let’s see what we have this week…

Council Submissions

Honorable Mentions

Non-Council Submissions

Enjoy! And don’t forget to like us on Facebook and follow us Twitter… ’cause we’re cool like that!


Winding Down

Arlene from Israel

Preparing for the Pesach holiday, just a day away now. Beginning to turn away from everyday happenings, to focus on ultimate questions, family, and the ritual of Seder. I will not be posting again before the holiday starts on Monday night. And I do not know that I will have a chance to post in the course of the week-long holiday.

I wish one and all a joyous and meaningful holiday: Chag Pesach Kasher v’Sameach.

Credit: fhdphotos

I read a commentary the other day, about how we were able to come out of Egypt, with the help of the Almighty, because we had courage to move on, chutzpah (nerviness), this commentator said. This is what our people here, and our leadership especially, require today.

It occurs to me, as well, that we were brought from Egypt to come to Sinai and the Torah, and then to enter the Land. And now it is our task to hold fast to our inheritance. Something to be remembered at this time especially.


There is no telling what the “peace process” situation will be by the time Pesach is over. I had, foolishly, assumed that – while it would ultimately come back to haunt us – we had a reprieve that would last for a while. But the “doctors” at the US State Department insist on trying to put the patient on a respirator. In the course of those US efforts, rumor-based headlines are generated that occasionally give one a near heart attack.

Pure logic tells us that there cannot be a resumption of the talks now. (Although pure logic is not exactly the best yardstick to use in assessing this situation.) Netanyahu has said unequivocally that we would not come back to the table unless the PA withdraws its applications to international organizations, and Abbas has said, figuratively, that he’d rather die than do this. In any event those applications have been accepted.

On Friday, Channel 10 News cited Israeli officials who declared that there was “zero chance that an agreement [that would bring the parties back to the table] will be reached in the coming weeks.”


But then again, other sources hint that something might still happen. Depends on which unnamed source is being cited and the political orientation of that source, as well as the political orientation of the media site doing the citing.


What I’m seeing – at least now and please Heaven may it continue – is that Netanyahu is standing strong, not caving to the US pressure for us to make additional concessions, or back off on our position. Quite the contrary. In spite of the disapproval registered by the US, Israel is taking actions against the PA.

The Israeli action that has most rattled the PA is the decision to withhold some of the tax revenues (customs, etc.) that Israel by agreement collects for the PA and then turns over to Palestinian Arab officials. We are not going to withhold all revenues – only the amount that Abbas pays to terrorists and their families: Every Palestinian Arab in Israeli prison because of terror-related crimes receives a “salary.” See http://www.palwatch.org/main.aspx?fi=1005 on this – it’s eye-opening.

The money that is withheld will go to paying off debts that the PA has accrued with Israel. The PA owes $400 million to Israel just for electricity that Israel supplies, per agreement.


So I think this will be splendid, if it really happens. What has galled me no end is that Israel – presumably fearing international condemnation – has not simply stopped supplying electricity to them. (This is in spite of the fact that electric rates for Israelis were on the cusp of being increased to cover this default.) My electricity would be cut off if I consistently reneged on paying my bill.

The idea of withholding money to pay these bills was advanced as a sort of “retribution” for the PA having filed with international agencies. But it shouldn’t have been linked to other PA behaviors, or considered “retribution,” it should have been done because it is necessary and right.

Other actions, such as limiting transfers between Israeli and PA banks are also projected.


The PA – which diverts international donations to “pay” terrorists – is alarmed at the idea that their funds should be cut. Abbas even made a statement about how this might cause the PA to collapse and there have been charges that what Israel is about to do is “illegal.”

What I observe is the pathological need the international community has to keep the PA afloat, even when evidence of misuse of funds donated abounds.

According to Palestinian Media Watch, “monthly salaries to prisoners ( which goes to their families) range from 2,400 shekels [about $700] to 12,000 shekels [about $3,500]. The PA economic report listed the prisoners’ salaries as part of the PA general salary budget, which includes civil servants, military personnel and others.” In other words, terrorists are doing the work of the PA.

There is a correlation between the amount paid per month and the length of the sentence – those who have committed more heinous crimes apparently meriting more monthly. Please, wrap your heads around this fact. Those Palestinian Arabs in Israeli prisons for non-terror related crimes receive no “salary.”

Additionally, those prisoners who have been released as the part of the deal to bring the PA to the table have received from the PA $2,000 for every year served. This amounts to tens of thousands per prisoner, because these were all convicted pre-Oslo – we’re looking at $40,000 plus per prisoner for over 70 prisoners or well over $2 million.

Yet, completely ignoring the need for PA fiscal accountability (and we haven’t even mentioned the incredible corruption that puts money in the pockets of PA leaders), State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki was able to say on Friday that:

“…We believe that the regular transfer of the Palestinian Authority’s tax revenues and economic cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority has been beneficial and is important to the well-being of the Palestinian economy.”


Please keep in mind that, per capita, the PA receives more money in international assistance than any other group or country.


At least one EU official – European Parliament Budget Committee Chairman Michael Theurer – has finally seen the light with regard PA funding by the EU, the PA’s largest donor. Writing in the Wall Street Journal last week, he said (emphasis added):

“In its report, issued in December, the European Court of Auditors revealed major dysfunctions in the management of EU financial support to the Palestinian Authority, and called for a serious overhaul of the funding mechanism…

“…the Palestinian Authority is the only body that receives EU funds regardless of its human rights record or economic performance.”

Theurer is disturbed by the fact that EU funds are utilized in “paying the salaries of Palestinian Authority officials living in the Gaza Strip, who in fact do not work at all and have not for years since the Hamas takeover in 2007.” He also notes that the salaries paid to the terrorists are five times the average paid by the PA to workers in Judea and Samaria.



Please, my friends, the myth of the poor suffering Palestinians, who are deprived because of the Israeli “occupation,” persists. Utilize this information about PA funds broadly in setting the record straight. Share with others, do talk-backs, write letters to the editor, etc.


According to the Times of Israel:

“… unnamed senior Israeli official, quoted by Channel 2 on Friday night, asserted that it was Kerry who was to blame for the breakdown [in talks]. ‘He’s responsible for the crisis,’ the official reportedly said. This was because Kerry inaccurately told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that Israel would be willing to release Israeli Arabs in the fourth group of prisoners, when Israel had not agreed to do so. There was also a difference between the sides about how many prisoners would go free. The secretary had months to try to resolve the discrepancies but failed to do so, the report said.” (Emphasis added)


It is crystal clear why Kerry proceeded in this fashion: he gave the PA what it demanded, assuming that in due course he would be able to pressure Israel to agree. Bravo for us that we didn’t.


According to the Washington Free Beacon, the Obama administration waged a “secret media war” against Israel after talks fell apart. They “sought to lay the groundwork for Israel to take the blame for talks collapsing by peddling a narrative to the Israeli press claiming that the Palestinians were outraged over Israeli settlements…This paved the way for Secretary of State John Kerry to go before Congress…and publicly blame Israel for tanking the talks.

“…The primary source of these multiple reports has been identified as Middle East envoy Martin Indyk and his staff…” (Emphasis added)


This should comes as no surprise – anyone who has been following the situation over the years knows full well that Indyk is no friend to Israel. Nor should we think that this is an isolated incident. The name of the “negotiations” game is pressuring Israel in one way or another.


I knew that the PA has been refusing to sit directly with Israel in negotiations. But I have just learned that it has been thus since November – that’s more than half the allotted time for these talks. Their negotiators insist on dealing with US officials only. A farce. Kerry cannot be truly hopeful that anything good can result from such a situation. It’s all a matter of appearances.

Indyk has now returned home for the week of Pesach. (It’s painful for me to acknowledge that he is a Jew.)

I begin our holiday grateful that no catastrophe has ensued, and yet am careful not to be naïve about what may yet happen. To our prime minister, I can only say Chazak! Chazak! Be strong, be ever strong!


I mention here only in passing that, not unexpectedly, this “negotiations” situation has placed some strains on the coalition. This is both with regard to Naftali Bennett (head of Bayit Hayehudi) threating to leave if Israel releases Israeli Arab prisoners, and parties on the left making similar threats if “peace negotiations” are not advanced. Avigdor Lieberman (head of Yisrael Beitenu) is making noises about separating from the Likud in due course and aiming for the position of prime minister down the road.

What I hope to be able to do after Pesach is focus on other issues. Too much time and too many words have been devoted to the “negotiations” nonsense. Around us, chaos abounds and the dangers increase.

Nothing, but nothing, is more serious than the matter of the negotiations the P5+1 are holding with Iran: Appeasement rules the day. Poison gas has been used in Syria again, with each side accusing the others. Rockets have come now and again from Gaza and the situation in Egypt is unsettled, to put it mildly. All these situations require attention in my writing.


Among the dangers that I see is an erosion of genuine democracy in the US.

Shame of major proportions accrues to Brandeis University in the instance I address here. Brandeis was scheduled to give an honorary degree at commencement time to Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali, best-selling author and human rights activist, now living in the US.

Credit: FreedomsPhoenix

But under pressure from groups such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Muslim Students Association, the offer was withdrawn. Both groups, reports Steve Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism, have documented roots in the Muslim Brotherhood.
“Hirsi Ali, born and raised into a Muslim family, renounced her faith and chronicled her reasons why in two best-selling books. She has been targeted for death by radical Islamists, including in a note pinned onto the body of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh after he was shot and stabbed to death on an Amsterdam street.

“The two collaborated on a short film, ‘Submission,’ which was critical of the way women are treated in Islam. Hirsi Ali has made many statements critical of the religion, and her foundation works to protect women from physical abuse like honor violence, genital mutilation and forced marriage.

“Such a life, such a dedication to improving women’s lives, is deserving of an honor like the one Brandeis planned. But the school reneged, issuing a statement which said it could not fulfill its promise due to ‘certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.’”


So much for free speech in America, when that speech is critical of Islam.


What makes this more horrendous is that Brandeis gave the same award to radical leftist anti-Israel playwright Tony Kushner (NO relation). When Kushner’s political views were called into question, the response of then-president of Brandeis Yehuda Reinhartz was that:

“Mr. Kushner is not being honored…for his political opinions. Brandeis is honoring him for his extraordinary achievements as one of this generation’s foremost playwrights, whose work is recognized in the arts and also addresses Brandeis’s commitment to social justice.”


And Hirsi Ali did not deserve recognition for her extraordinary commitment to social justice??


With the holiday of Pesach approaching, and its themes of freedom, this feels all the more distressing and reprehensible.


Is there good news? Sure enough.

Pesach is upon us, with it messages of hope and redemption.


A very special song for Pesach – my very favorite – is this rendition of V’hi She’amda, arranged by Yonaton Razel and sung by Razel and Ya’akov Shwekey:


The words are from the Pesach Haggadah: “This is what has stood by our fathers and us: For not just one alone has arisen against us to destroy us, but in every generation they rise against us to destroy us; and the Holy One blessed be He, saves us from their hand!”

Lazer Brody (http://lazerbrody.typepad.com/lazer_beams/) calls this the Eternal Promise. “It conveys a very timely message for the Jewish people: He who stood by our forefathers stands by us to deliver us from the hands of our enemies in every generation.”


On a lighter note, but carrying the same theme, is this neat Pesach song video by a group of young boys:



American Journalism: From Farce to Fraud to Espionage

By: Cliff Kincaid
Accuracy in Media

You may have heard that the fake anchorman Ron Burgundy is the star of an exhibit at the Newseum, a building in Washington, D.C. that honors the pursuit of the First Amendment right to freedom of the press. I like a joke, but featuring some props, costumes and footage from the 2004 comedy, “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” doesn’t strike me as a fitting tribute to the journalism profession. But the thinking of the media elite must be that if people are laughing at you, at least they’re paying attention to what you do for a living. Grabbing and maintaining that audience is the name of the game, even if you do the news without pants.

On Monday, another fateful decision for the media will be made. Sig Gissler, administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes since 2002, will announce this year’s winners. Burgundy is not in the running (to my knowledge), but Edward Snowden’s comrades in the media are. It will be a tragedy for the journalism business if Russian espionage comes away this year as a winner. Vladimir Putin will be laughing all the way into Western Ukraine.

At the same time that the Pulitzer board grapples with the issue of honoring the manipulation of the media by the Russian propagandists in charge of the Snowden operation, it should be taking another look at the Pulitzer awarded 82 years ago to Walter Duranty of The New York Times. His stories about the USSR, which paved the way for official U.S. recognition of the communist regime, ignored the mass murder of millions of Ukrainians in a forced famine engineered by Joseph Stalin. This remains a major black eye for the Pulitzers, and continues to serve as evidence of the corruption of the journalism business.

On Monday, at a news conference in New York City, and later at Columbia University itself, a group of concerned citizens will be asking for higher ethical standards for the press, in terms of avoiding any honors to Snowden’s media collaborators, and again asking for Duranty’s prize to be revoked.

I decided to hold these events, on this important day for American journalism, because of Accuracy in Media (AIM) founder Reed Irvine’s influence, stemming from my early days at AIM when he told me about the travesty of the Duranty Pulitzer and the suffering of the people of Ukraine. I worked with Reed on numerous occasions, especially at stockholder meetings of The New York Times, to strongly urge the owners of the paper, the Sulzbergers, to give back the award and disavow Duranty’s reporting. They decided to have an investigation of the matter and leave it in the hands of the Pulitzer board, which ruled in 2003 that there was no hard evidence of deliberate deception on Duranty’s part. That claim is false, since the famous Kliefoth memorandum proves that Duranty knew his stories were propaganda for the Soviets. Kliefoth, an American diplomat, had talked to Duranty about his work, noting that Duranty himself admitted his stories were cleared by the communist regime.

Former KGB colonel Oleg Gordievsky, a former highest-ranking Soviet spy, wrote in the book, KGB: The Inside Story, that “One of the most successful Soviet ‘active measures’ of the 1930s was to persuade most of the outside world, as well as gullible Western visitors and journalists actually in the Soviet Union, that one of the worst famines in modern history was no more than a piece of anti-Soviet propaganda.” He names Duranty as one of these “gullible” journalists. The Kliefoth memorandum demonstrates that the problem went beyond gullibility. Duranty was a Soviet agent of influence; he knew what he was doing.

Ray Gamache, Ph.D, Assistant Professor of Mass Communications at King’s College, agrees, telling me, “The best evidence against Duranty and the Times is the Kliefoth memorandum from 1931, which proves unequivocally that the Times and Soviet authorities had agreed to publish his official dispatches, little more than pure propaganda.”

Gamache has written a powerful book on Gareth Jones, recognized as one of the first journalists to reveal the horror of the Soviet-induced famine. The book is titled, Gareth Jones: Eyewitness to the Holodomor.

In a July 2, 1999 letter to Seymour Topping, then the administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, Reed Irvine urged the revocation of the award in the context of the suffering of the people of Ukraine, noting, “The famine was planned by Stalin to destroy the opposition to his collectivization program in the Ukraine.”

Irvine went on to note that another fake—Janet Cooke’s story in The Washington Post about a child heroin addict who did not exist—won a Pulitzer Prize. The Post gave back the award after the fraud was exposed.

Irvine said, “Correcting errors is supposed to be a hallmark of good journalism. Awarding the Pulitzer Prize to Walter Duranty was obviously a monumental error, and it cries out for correction. Of course, it is not the only one that has ever been made. I don’t recall the board refusing to accept the Washington Post’s return of the prize awarded to Janet Cooke in 1981. Admitting that her selection was a serious mistake was the honorable thing to do. It is hard to conceive of the board allowing that award to stand had Ms. Cooke refused to give it up.”

In the case of Duranty’s Pulitzer, we are looking at the fate of millions of people and the future of a nation: Ukraine. The Janet Cooke story led the Washington, D.C. police on a wild goose chase for the fictitious child that cost money, not lives.

Irvine added that revoking an award “would signal that honesty and accuracy are indispensable requirements both for stories nominated for Pulitzer Prizes in the future and for those that have won them in the past. If this is not done, the prize will lose respect. It will signal that the standards for integrity and honesty demanded of journalists are lower than those demanded of pop singers by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.”

He was referring to the Academy revoking a 1989 Grammy awarded to a group called Milli Vanilli, when it was discovered that the “singers” had lip-synched the voices of others.

“Trust in journalists and the media is at a low ebb,” Irvine said at the time. “One journalistic organization recently recommended that those who hand out awards to journalists pay more attention to the accuracy of the stories they honor. When flawed stories win prizes, respect for journalism plummets.”

The situation can only get worse for the media if the Pulitzer board honors the work of those who have facilitated the espionage operation of Edward Snowden.

The damage will be compounded by the public recognition that Snowden’s theft of classified information and leaks to the media have not only damaged America’s national security, but enabled the Russian military to manage the infiltration and invasion of Ukraine, as The Wall Street Journal revealed, in a manner that evaded U.S. electronic and intelligence intercepts.

It is safe to say that most of the damage caused by Snowden has not yet been realized. But Putin’s aggression is damaging enough to people who have already suffered for far too long at the hands of the media and their communist manipulators.

Unlike Ron Burgundy, this is not a laughing matter.

  • Join us in New York City on April 14, from 11:00 am to 12:30 p.m., at the Women’s National Republican Club (Lincoln Room), 3 West 51st Street, New York, New York. Walter Zaryckyj, executive director of the Center for U.S.-Ukrainian Relations, will join Cliff Kincaid, director of the Accuracy in Media Center for Investigative Journalism, to comment on the impending announcements by the Pulitzer Prize board. Comments will also be available later in the day, from 3:30 to 4:00 p.m., outside Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism (The main entrance is on Broadway at West 116th Street), after the official announcements are made. Contact Phil Kent at philkent@philkent.com or (404) 226-3549.

Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism and can be contacted at cliff.kincaid@aim.org. View the complete archives from Cliff Kincaid.


The Council Has Spoken!! This Weeks’ Watcher’s Council Results – 04/11/14

The Watcher’s Council

We Stand With Cliven Bundy

Alea iacta est… the Council has spoken, the votes have been cast and we have the results for this week’s Watcher’s Council match-up.

“In war, truth is the first casualty” – Aeschylus

“We maintain peace through our strength; appeasement only invites aggression” – President Ronald Reagan, 1983

“They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.” – Jeremiah 8:11

This week’s winner was Joshuapundit’s Yes, The Peace Talks Are Dead – And An Opportunity For Real Peace Comes Alive. Here’s the real story of how things imploded and why, and how the Obama Administration set things up for failure. I attempt to wrap up the post mortum and show that there’s an opportunity for real peace here, what I think it would take and what it might look like. Here’s a slice:

While neither side has formally acknowledged it, the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are dead, and even John Kerry has thrown in the towel.

The Obama Team would never admit it, but they’re fully aware that it was Palestine’s unelected dictator Mahmoud Abbas that pulled the trigger and ended the talks, and his own controlled Palestinian media proudly admits it. Both Palestinian and Israeli media outlets on Thursday night quoted Abbas as saying, “I would rather become a martyr” than rescind the applications he signed on Tuesday to join 15 UN and other international treaties and conventions.

Kerry and the rest of the Obama team managed to arm twist the Israelis into discussing a further release of convicted terrorists along with releasing the fourth batch provided Abbas rescinded the UN membership applications and agreed to extend the deadline of the talks.

Instead of agreeing to what amounted to another gimmee, Abbas came out with a whole new set of pre-conditions to continue talks, conditions he knew no Israeli government could accept. According to Abbas’ own Palestinian News Agency Ma’an, the new pre-conditions included formal Israeli recognition of the borders of ‘Palestine’ as the pre-67 lines with all of East Jerusalem as its capitol; the release of 1,200 Palestinian prisoners including convicted terrorist leaders Marwan Barghouti, Fuad Shweiki and Ahmad Saadat; a Israeli building freeze in East Jerusalem and all of Judea and Samaria; Israeli citizenship for 15,000 Palestinians under a ‘family reunification program’ essentially a recognition of a Palestinian ‘right of return’; the end of Israel’s blockade of Hamas in Gaza; the right of return for PLO terrorists who were exiled to European countries under an agreement between the EU and Israel after the 2002 Palestinian siege of the Church of the Nativity; forbidding the IDF to enter Area A, the part of Judea and Samaria under PA control which would essentially create an escape zone for terrorists after attacks on Israelis since the PA has never jailed anyone for murdering an Israeli; and Palestinian control of parts of Area C, the areas now under full Israeli sovereignty.

And that was just to continue listening to Abbas say no for another few months!

Kerry’s deputy Martin Indyk mediated a nine hour meeting between head Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, Head of Palestinian intelligence Majid Faraj, and Israeli negotiators Tzipi Livni and Yitzhak Molcho and tried to cable together some semblance of a reasonable platform, but he was yelled down by the Palestinian negotiators and the entire meeting turned into a shouting match, with even the ever flexible Tzipi Livni unable to contain herself. At one point, Livni reportedly demanded of Erekat that Abbas rescind the applications to the 15 UN organizations and conventions he’d submitted in order to negotiate any other preconditions. Erekat flatly refused, and Livni announced the next day that Israel would definitely not release that fourth batch of convicted Palestinian terrorists.

When Indyk tried to reason with the Palestinians, saying that any agreement had to consider Israel’s security considerations, Faraj snapped back that the Palestinians weren’t there to discuss Israeli security, but to negotiate over a timetable to get all of their demands met.

Things went quickly downhill from there, with the Palestinians threatening to join even more international bodies and take prosecute Israel for ‘war crimes’ at the International Criminal Court and the Israelis promising retaliation if they did so.

Abbas never had any intention of actually negotiating. Even Saeb Erekat admitted earlier this month that Abbas was staying in the talks just to get the terrorist releases.

Much more at the link.

In our non-Council category, the winner was Matt WalshHey gay rights militants: your fascism is showing, submitted by Joshuapundit. It’s Walsh’s defiant blowback to the Gay Mafia and progressive fascism in general, and it makes for some stirring reading.

Okay, here are this week’s full results.

Council Winners

Non-Council Winners

See you next week! Don’t forget to tune in on Monday AM for this week’s Watcher’s Forum, as the Council and their invited special guests take apart one of the provocative issues of the day with short takes and weigh in… don’t you dare miss it. And don’t forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter… ’cause we’re cool like that!


Crossing Lines

Arlene from Israel

Has our government finally learned? No matter what efforts we make, no matter the concessions – in the end it is Israel that faces accusations when things go wrong. The lesson here is that we should stop trying and refrain from further concessions.

What I am referring to is the tone, as well as content, of testimony given by Kerry yesterday to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Tovah Lazaroff, providing an analysis in the JPost, wrote:

“It wasn’t what Secretary of State John Kerry said…it was how he said it….

“It was a narrative exclamation, and pause, strong enough to be heard round the world.

“It fell, like a slow drumbeat…”

Kerry’s accusation: that an announcement by Israel about building over the ‘67 line is what killed the chance to revive the “peace negotiations”



Lazaroff describes the progression of events that Kerry presented. I want to review it quickly here because Kerry’s misrepresentations require correction. No one should take him at his word.

Israel – which had committed to the release of 106 pre-Oslo prisoners, in four stages, in order to get the PA to the table for nine months – announced towards the end of March that the final group of prisoners would not be released as scheduled because of evidence that this painful (and, many would say, horribly inappropriate) concession was not achieving its intended results. The Palestinian Authority had stopped participating in direct negotiations – there was only separate contact by each party with US negotiators. What is more, there was solid evidence that once Abbas secured the release of that last group of prisoners, he was intending to call a halt to “talks.” He had been hanging in at a minimal level only to achieve the victory of the release of terrorists.

Israel said that the final group of prisoners would be released only if the PA committed to another nine months at the table after April 29th. A predictable furor followed, with the PA saying that it was entitled to the final prisoner release without having to make any further commitment.

At this point the US, seeking to salvage the process, intervened, and the news was full of talk about Pollard possibly being let out of prison (to “motivate” members of the Israeli government to agree to further concessions), and Israel agreeing both to the release of that final group of prisoners plus another 400 and, to boot, a partial freeze in construction in Judea and Samaria (NOT including Jerusalem and exempting building for which tenders were already out). All so the PA would stay at the table for another nine months.

Enough to give a nationalist Zionist a heart attack, even with the tentative talk about Pollard’s release (a cruel manipulation). But from the US perspective there should have been acknowledgement that Netanyahu was really trying.


Before this grand new deal could be finalized, Abbas announced that he had signed applications for membership in 15 international organizations. This was precisely what he was not supposed to do, as long as there were negotiations. And this was the final blow. Kerry cancelled plans to fly to Ramallah to finalize the expanded deal, the US announced that it was no longer considering the release of Pollard, and Israel said all offers were off the table.

At the time this happened, I was astounded, that Abbas could very likely have secured the release of some 420 prisoners, and yet opted to go a different route instead. To me it was obvious that he was tired of the negotiations charade and was prepared to move to the next step – one that was well planned and bound to come sooner or later. Abbas blew it, willfully and defiantly.


At the same time all of this was transpiring, an announcement was made by Israel regarding the construction of 700 new housing units in the Gilo neighborhood of Jerusalem. The tenders for this construction had been put out prior to this. It was not something new.

Kerry, however, has now chosen to point his finger at Israel, saying that this announcement about construction is what destroyed the possibility of salvaging the process.

This is how Lazaroff describes Kerry’s testimony (emphasis added):

“But while Kerry said the 15 applications were not helpful, he didn’t pause in that part of the narrative, nor did he state that this was the point of no return.

“He described matter-of-factly what happened after the March 29 release was delayed as both sides tried to conclude a deal to keep the talks going for another nine-months.

“’Unfortunately the prisoners weren’t released on Saturday, when they were suppose to be released,’ Kerry said.

“’A day went by. Day two went by. Day three went by,’ Kerry said. He moved his arms to underscore his words.

“’And then in the afternoon, when they were about to maybe get there, 700 settlement units were announced in Jerusalem and, poof,’ Kerry said as he spread his arms wide and paused. It was a move that accentuated the drama.

“Kerry then finished his sentence: ‘That was sort of the moment,’ he said as he brought his hands down.’”

Poof? Kerry has sunk to a new low, even for him.


I want to make several points here:

First, Israel had not committed to freezing building under the terms of the current negotiations, nor is there anything in the Oslo Accords that would prohibit this. Israel was in the process of offering a partial freeze when things fell apart, but had already clarified that the partial freeze would not include Jerusalem.

Gilo is over the ‘67 line, but it stands on what had been Jewishly owned property even prior to 1967.

Credit: JerusalemShots

The Arabs refer to it as being in “East” Jerusalem, but in point of fact it is in Jerusalem’s south (or more accurately south west).

Credit: Crethiplethi

Sometimes Gilo is referred to as a “settlement” – which is what Kerry just did: it’s more dramatic than talking about a part of Jerusalem. Gilo, however, is solidly within the municipal borders of Jerusalem. It is a Jewish neighborhood with over 40,000 residents that no one believes would ever become part of a Palestinian state even if one were – Heaven forbid – to be established.

The furor over this is nothing but posturing.


Jonathan Tobin, editor of Commentary, responded similarly to Kerry’s “poof” statement. “Why did Kerry lie about Israeli blame?” he asks. And then proceeds to answer the question (emphasis added):

“…to blame the collapse on the decision to build apartments in Gilo…is, to put it mildly, a mendacious effort to shift blame away from the side that seized the first pretext to flee talks onto the one that has made concessions in order to get the Palestinians to sit at the table. But why would Kerry utter such a blatant falsehood about the process he has championed?

“The answer is simple. Kerry doesn’t want to blame the Palestinians for walking out because to do so would be a tacit admission that his critics were right when they suggested last year that he was embarking on a fool’s errand…

“Since Kerry hopes to entice the Palestinians back to the talks at some point, blaming Israel also gives him leverage to demand more concessions from the Jewish state to bribe Abbas to negotiate. Being honest about the Palestinian stance would not only undermine the basis for the talks but also make it harder to justify the administration’s continued insistence on pressuring the Israelis rather than seek to force Abbas to alter his intransigent positions.

“Seen in that light, Kerry probably thinks no harm can come from blaming the Israelis who have always been the convenient whipping boys of the peace process no matter what the circumstances. But he’s wrong about that too. Just as the Clinton administration did inestimable damage to the credibility of the peace process and set the stage for another round of violence by whitewashing Yasir Arafat’s support for terrorism and incitement to hatred in the 1990s, so, too, do Kerry’s efforts to portray Abbas as the victim rather than the author of this fiasco undermine his efforts for peace.”


It is said sometimes that trying to make peace cannot hurt. But we see that it can, when the effort is mismanaged.

Tobin’s assumption that Kerry hopes to entice the Palestinians back at some point is probably correct. Until today I have avoided posting about the interminable haggling about the end of this process. It has been unbearable to witness.

I do think it’s come to an end, for now, even though Kerry is still talking about what the next few days may bring. Imagine, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki saying, “Gaps remain, but both sides are committed to narrow[ing] the gaps.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu, for his part, has instructed ministers to cut off high-level contacts with the Palestinian Authority on non-security related issues (Tzipi Livni excepted).


Some are speaking about scaling down expectations. Thus did Shlomo Avineri, a former director general of the Israeli foreign ministry say, “The gap between the most moderate position in Israel and the most moderate position in the Palestinian leadership is too [wide] right now. It’s time for the U.S. to think of a contingency plan —treating this as a conflict-management situation.”

Perhaps a short term compromise, of sorts. What I see, however, is that Israel is trapped by Oslo, as these accords call for negotiations to resolve final issues. Thus will the process of negotiations come back to haunt us again and again, in various formulations, until there is the courage in the government to declare Oslo failed, and null and void because the PLO has abrogated its terms.


Watcher’s Council Nominations – The New Fascism Edition

The Watcher’s Council

It’s all over the place, isn’t it? ‘Nuff said.

Welcome to the Watcher’s Council, a blogging group consisting of some of the most incisive blogs in the ‘sphere and the longest running group of its kind in existence. Every week, the members nominate two posts each, one written by themselves and one written by someone from outside the group for consideration by the whole Council. Then we vote on the best two posts, with the results appearing on Friday morning.

Council News:

First off, we have a party to go to, we do. Nice Deb’s actual birthday was April 6th, but we’ll celebrate it in style today!

First off, a cake. I chose a double Dutch chocolate number, with chocolate ganache icing and just a lil’ bit of rum for flavor.

Beverage? I thought some Kristal Brut would go nicely. Can’t go wrong with a classic, yes?

Our friend Debra is fairly new to the Council. Back last June, when a vacancy opened up, I happened across her site and really liked what this no nonsense conservative lady was putting out. Her response when I asked if she’d be interested in joining the Council? “Sure, sounds like fun.”

You see, that’s the other side of her persona. Among her other attributes, she has a really good sense of humor, so I knew right then she’d fit in well with the rest of the gang. And she certainly has, to say the least.

Not that it should be any surprise, of course. As she’s shown me and her other Council mates on many occasions, she really is Nice Deb.

Happy Birthday, Debra… and many, many more.


This week, Midknight Review, Right Reason, Maggie’s Notebook and The Pirate’s Cove earned honorable mention status with some fine articles.

You can, too! Want to see your work appear on the Watcher’s Council homepage in our weekly contest listing? Didn’t get nominated by a Council member? No worries.

To bring something to my attention, simply head over to Joshuapundit and post the title and a link to the piece you want considered along with an e-mail address (which won’t be published) in the comments section no later than Monday 6 PM PST in order to be considered for our honorable mention category. Then return the favor by creating a post on your site linking to the Watcher’s Council contest for the week when it comes out Wednesday morning.

Simple, no?

It’s a great way of exposing your best work to Watcher’s Council readers and Council members, while grabbing the increased traffic and notoriety. And how good is that, eh?

So, let’s see what we have for you this week…

Council Submissions

Honorable Mentions

Non-Council Submissions

Enjoy! And don’t forget to like us on Facebook and follow us Twitter… ’cause we’re cool like that!