03/23/15

Overwrought

Arlene from Israel

That’s been the overriding climate here in Israel for several days now – whether it is a mood of anguish or of euphoria, it has all been rather frenetic.

In the days leading up to the election, I observed (and experienced) a mood akin to grief, at the prospect that Buji Herzog might win; this then morphed into jubilation at the subsequent electoral victory of Bibi.

But in some quarters on the right, there was an over-reaction.  Bibi was hailed as the leader of the free world (there is a case for this, as he’s the only one who has spoken out on Iran with courage), and it was assumed that he would now have the latitude to move forward in significant ways.  There was even an assumption voiced that he would now be able to annex Judea and Samaria.

Because he garnered 30 mandates?  He still has to face down the world, and form his coalition. Ain’t gonna happen now, no how, however fervent the desire that it should.

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What Bibi had said in the course of the last days of the campaign was that there would be no Palestinian state established on his watch as prime minister.  The day before the election, in an interview, he declared:

“Anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state, anyone who is going to evacuate territories today, is simply giving a base for attacks to the radical Islam against Israel. This is the true reality that was created here in the last few years.”  (Emphasis added)

Those on the left, who say otherwise, are “sticking their head in the sand, time and time again.”

http://edition.cnn.com/2015/03/16/middleeast/israel-netanyahu-palestinian-state/

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Bibi was only stating an obvious truth that anyone with a minimal grasp of the situation can see. His statement is not radical.  It could have (we might have said, should have) gone further: No state, because it’s our land.  But he didn’t say this.

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After the election, the Obama administration came out swinging at Bibi.  The American government, it was announced, was going to be re-evaluating its relationship with Israel and might opt to change its policy regarding standing with us in the UN.

Again, enormous anxiety: What if the Security Council voted to demand that we move back to the ‘67 line, or created a full Palestinian state?

My own feeling on this was that there was a certain amount of grandstanding in this statement of “re-evaluation.” It was, quite simply, a threat:  You don’t want to move with me in my desire to achieve a two-state solution? (Which solution is impossible anyway, but never mind that.) This is what you have to look forward to.

I believe that Obama will do whatever he can to damage us, that there is an irrational hatred at work with regard to how he responds to us.  For example, he has just allowed a forty-year agreement guaranteeing that Israel would be able to purchase oil to lapse.  A maliced act:

http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/j-e-dyer/obama-let-40-year-old-oil-supply-guarantee-to-israel-expire-in-november-2014/2015/03/17/0/

He should never, ever be trusted.

But at the same time, I believe he retains sufficient rationality to do what he perceives as being most prudent or in his own best interest – in terms of achieving his own goals, looking good, etc.

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My first thought on learning about the “re-evaluation” was that the possible scenarios in the UN that were being projected carried within them their own stumbling blocks: It was very likely not as simple as was being suggested. The UN, according to international law, cannot “create” a state; and to vote for Israel to move back to the ‘67 lines conflicts with Security Council Resolution 242, which said this was not required.

Israel, it seemed to me, had to consult with the finest of international lawyers, military advisors and diplomats and respond offensively.  It might be pointed out, for example, that a UN resolution demanding that we move back to the ‘67 lines would render Oslo – which requires negotiations to determine a border – deader than dead. Deader than it already is now.  We might let US officials know that if this were the case, there would be absolutely no cooperation with the Palestinian Authority at all from the day the vote was taken.  No tax collection, no security provisions, no electricity or water, no cooperation in marketing of produce (all of these things spelled out in Oslo).  Obama might think twice about this, and the repercussions that would follow.

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As it is,  Netanyahu took the step of “explaining” what he meant.  In an interview early on Thursday, he said:

“I don’t want a one-state solution. I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution. But for that, circumstances have to change.”

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4638988,00.html

In other words, don’t point a finger at me – my commitment has stayed the same.  It’s the situation that is different.

Bibi was then accused here in Israel of backtracking on his pre-election position of no Palestinian state.  But if you look carefully, it’s not quite so – although his emphasis has certainly shifted. Painful as it is to hear him reiterate commitment to a “two state solution,” he did say there would be no Palestinian state because of a changed situation; he never actually said that he had changed his mind on two-states, in principle.

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My first impulse was Oi!  Did he have to say this?  He backed off – or gave the appearance of backing off – in the face of Obama’s threats.  This can come across as weakness and encourage even more threats.

But I’ve since re-thought the matter.  The situation Bibi is facing on several fronts is horrendous.  I think it behooves us to cut him a bit of slack here, if he has decided that minimizing the tensions with the US administration is in Israel’s best interest right now.

What must be watched carefully are the decisions he makes once there is a government. He has said that there will be no more releasing of prisoners as a “gesture.”  If the PA should demand this, and Obama push for it, we must see that it does not happen.  This, or similar other “gestures.”

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The big question is whether Bibi means it when he speaks of a “two-state solution,” whether he meant it when he gave his Bar Ilan speech. My guessing is that this is not his ideology, but his MO – which involves “playing the game” at some level, rather than being confrontational.  If he says he is for two-states, but then refuses to move forward in real terms because of the security risks implicit, he will be holding the line for the short term. (We’ll get to the long term when there is recognition at the highest levels of government that we have legal rights in Judea and Samaria, and all of Jerusalem.)

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At first, Obama declared himself suspicious of the sincerity of Bibi’s statement. But by later on Thursday, he had called our prime minister to offer congratulations.  Reports are that it was a “tough” conversation, but what was made public was that the two leaders had agreed to move forward on ways to find peace (whatever that means).

US Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, said today that there was no choice but to examine Netanyahu’s “confusing” statements. But he also indicated that at the moment there are no changes in policy.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/pms-comments-confusing-but-no-changes-yet-says-us-envoy/

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One of the things that I believe made Obama think twice regarding his attack on Netanyahu has been the response of several members of Congress.

Take the stunning speech by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CdMWbqZsyuM&feature=youtu.be

Or that of Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), which is even stronger:

https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=426721624156045

These distinguished gentleman forthrightly call Obama on his irrational antipathy to Netanyahu.

It is said that this very autocratic/non-democratic president does as he pleases. But this is not quite so.  Congress can cut funding for programs that Obama wants to see sustained, and can use its leverage to make things difficult for a president who chooses to make matters difficult for Israel.

Senator Cotton has now said he will support legislation to cut US funding to the UN, if it takes action against Israel.

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And this morning Senator John McCain (R-AZ) severely criticized Obama on CNN:

Noting that Israel had a “free and fair” democratic election – “the only nation in the region that will have such a thing,” he said it’s time for Obama to “get over it,” if he doesn’t like the results.

“Get over your temper tantrum, Mr. President. It’s time that we work together with our Israeli friends and try to stem this tide of ISIS and Iranian movement throughout the region which is threatening the very fabric of the region. The least of your problems is what Bibi Netanyahu said during a reelection campaign.”

http://dailysignal.com/2015/03/22/mccain-obama-needs-to-get-over-his-temper-tantrum-about-netanyahus-reelection/

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I would like to briefly comment on one accusation that is being made against Netanyahu: It is being said that he made “racist” remarks against Israeli Arabs during the election, pointing out that they were coming to vote in large numbers, which required the right wing to come out in large numbers as well.

That is not quite accurate.  Netanyahu’s concern was with the fact that US money had been utilized to promote the left in the campaign, and it was believed that US money was paying for the buses to bring the Arabs to the polls.  This is clearly not as it should be, and he was calling for a strong response against it.

One very interesting news item helps put lie to the accusation that Netanyahu is racist:  In one Bedouin village in the north of Israel, over 76% of the votes were cast for Netanyahu and Likud:

http://jewishbusinessnews.com/2015/03/19/bedouin-village-gave-76-of-its-votes-to-netanyahu/

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As to the election, the early stages of coalition building are in process now.  I will write about this when next I post.  It is not a pretty picture, not as I write tonight, at any rate.

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I cannot close without a mention of the vile/hateful/destructive and totally perverse positions of Obama, whatever his motivations (do NOT write to tell me what they are, please – this is rhetorical).  Right after the elections here, the PLO moved to increase its connection with Hamas and Islamic Jihad in order to establish a “unity government.” I’ve lost count of how many times they’ve moved towards a unity government.  But the point is that there can be no “negotiations” for a “two-state solution” if the PA is in bed with Hamas. And yet, from the Obama administration I’ve seen not a single word of criticism about this being “counterproductive” to peace – never mind threats to re-evaluate the US support for the PA.

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But then again, what can we expect:

“An annual security report submitted recently to the US Senate by James Clapper, director of National Intelligence, removed both Iran and Hezbollah from the list of terrorism threats to the United States for the first time in years.” (emphasis added)

https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/americas/17579-us-removes-iran-and-hezbollah-from-list-of-terror-threats

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Speaking of Iran…

There are officials here in Jerusalem who believe that Obama’s attack on Netanyahu was designed to deflect attention from the nuclear negotiations, which should be coming to a close within days.  Obama may be seeking ways to “discourage” Netanyahu from speaking out on what is taking place.

http://www.pressreader.com/israel/jerusalem-post/textview

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No wonder the climate here is overwrought.  The situation to be coped with is insane.  Not least is a pogrom that took place in London last night.  A terrifying harbinger of things to come?

http://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/Attackers-yelling-we-will-kill-you-storm-synagogue-in-London-suburb-leave-worshipers-bloody-394684

There is no room for complacency or apathy now.  And support for Israel and her rights is essential. What happens to the Jews of the world depends in good part upon the Jewish state.

03/19/15

With Gratitude and Gladness!

Arlene from Israel

The Israeli election campaign just ended has been one hell of a dismal and ominous ride.  I knew that well enough, but it was only when near-final results were released, and I began to cry, that I realized how very frightened I had been.  For this nation that I love, and for the free world.

Credit: Reuters/Amir Cohen

And so I am grateful.  First to the Almighty.  And then to the people of Israel, who saw their way past the nonsense, and saved the day.

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The campaign was one that I found shameful on several counts, something I have written about in recent days:

It was personalized – an attack directly on Binyamin Netanyahu (with ridiculous accusations against his wife), rather than primarily a debate on the issues. This was ugly, and unbecoming.

What is more, there is solid reason to believe that the campaign incorporated outside American interference, which is unacceptable by all measures of diplomatic conduct.  Such was the desire and determination of the Obama administration to take down Netanyahu.  (More on this below.)  The campaign advice provided to “the Zionist Camp” was slick – starting, I strongly suspect, with the fact that the merged Labor-Hatenua faction renamed themselves “Zionist Camp,” thereby creating the possibility of confusion in people’s minds.  And, I just as strongly suspect, including an announcement by Livni, just hours before the voting was to start, that she was pulling out of the shared premiereship deal with Herzog (clearly because internal polls indicated he would do better without her).

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That in the end the people of Israel did not buy the rhetoric of the campaign on the left is a source of great gladness.

For – and this is the heart of the matter!! – it is difficult to exaggerate the damage that Buji and Livni might have done, had they gained the reins of the government.  They would have created a threatening situation for us at home with their “two state” negotiations nonsense, would have invited attack by Hamas and Hezbollah with their appeasement, and would have left Obama in the White House and the mullahs in Tehran laughing their heads off.

But we are not in that place.  Thank God, thank God.

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Coming into the election, Bibi was trailing Buji by some four mandates, and it was a scary time. A concerned Bibi let it be known that if the electorate was interested in a nationalist government, they would have to center their votes on Likud, and not spread them out amongst the nationalist parties. For if the nationalist vote was divided, and Herzog came in with more mandates, President Rivlin might select Herzog to first try to form a coalition.

The people heard.

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When the polls closed at 10 PM yesterday, the nation was provided with the results of several media exit polls that had been done in the course of the day.  These polls were supposed to be a reasonably solid predictor of the actual results.

What we were told was that Bibi and Buji were just about neck and neck, at 27 mandates each by most accounts.  This was reassuring – a far cry from the information we had via the final polls five days before the election. There was now solid hope for Likud, as it was being predicted that Bibi had a better chance to form a coalition. But it was still too close for real comfort.  Netanyahu claimed victory; Herzog declined to congratulate him, assuming a “wait and see” stance instead.

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But as the night wore on, the picture changed to one increasingly positive, until it was at last clear that Bibi Netanyahu and Likud had secured an amazing win, with 30 mandates to 24 for Buji and the Zionist Camp.

Buji then congratulated Bibi on his win.  And now it is a sure thing that Rivlin will ask Bibi to form the government.

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Prior to the election, the far left Hadash had joined with the Arab parties for a united list, and they came in third at 14 mandates.  It is expected that they will now break apart again.

Then: Yesh Atid (Lapid) 11, Kulanu (Kahlon) 10, Habayit Hayehudi (Bennett) 8, Shas (Deri) 7, United Torah Judaism (Litzman/Gafni) 6, Yisrael Beitenu (Lieberman) 6, Meretz 4.

Just as Habayit Hayehudi lost mandates (some 12 had been anticipated), because of the call for votes to Likud, so, too, did Eli Yishai’s new party Yahad fail to make the electoral cut-off.  I am sorry about that.  A break off from Shas, and solidly Orthodox/ultra-Orthodox, it was also shaping up as a nationalist party.  I believe Yishai is a good man, and hope he finds his way.

The numbers I cite here represent 99% of the vote, there are still votes from soldiers and others to be counted.  That last 1% is unlikely to change matters – but it could cause a shift, as has happened before.

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I want to mention Naftali Bennett here, because he has conducted himself as a true mensch – a person who behaves with integrity and decency.  He and other members of the party (notably Ayelet Shaked) were able to rejoice at a right wing win, even though it was at the cost of some Habayit Hayehudi mandates.  Said Bennett to his gathered supporters (emphasis added):

“Netanyahu called me. I praised him for the great victory of the national camp. We concluded that we will begin negotiations to establish the government. I tell you, my friends, in these negotiations we will not focus on cabinet positions, rather on values.

“We will take care to ensure a government … that will safeguard the Land of Israel in its entirety. A government that will ensure the Jewish character of the State of Israel. A government that will protect IDF soldiers from outside [legal] persecution.

“We will secure a government that will safeguard a united Jerusalem under the sovereignty of Israel, and Israel only. And a government that will not give a centimeter of Israeli land to the Arabs.

We’re running long distance. We are not afraid, and we don’t lower our heads. We raise our heads higher and higher. We love the people of Israel, the land of Israel. We, all of us, love the Torah of Israel and the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces.”

http://www.timesofisrael.com/despite-poll-battering-jewish-home-party-defiantly-upbeat/

Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett waves to onlookers following elections, March 17, 2015. (photo credit: Avi Lewis/ Times of Israel, Jon Weidberg)

Credit: Avi Lewis/Times of Israel

Bennett’s day will come.  So often politicians are concerned only with the success of their own party, and this is refreshing.

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In terms of how Bibi conducted himself here, we are also seeing integrity.  Bennett was the first one he called, and – undoubtedly appreciating the hit Bennett had taken – he let him know that they would work together to form a nationalist government.  Another cause for gratitude. A new day. There has been all together too much tension between these men, and they should be partners in important work now.

Bibi has said he will form a nationalist religious coalition.  Its exact nature has yet to unfold. There is, of course, much speculation – with many parameters being examined.  In the formation of a coalition government, various factions make demands. Now it is a question of how much Netanyahu needs any given faction, and what the head of that faction is demanding.  The fact that Likud has 30 mandates and not 27 somewhat reduces the bargaining power of the various other parties.

Kahlon is focused on social issues and wants the Finance Ministry (and perhaps housing).  Bibi is prepared to give him Finance, certainly.  Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to the US, and now a prominent member of Kulanu, is a two-state man, and makes me nervous.  Lieberman, who has gone way down in the number of mandates his party has, is talking big in terms of wanting Defense.  I would be shocked if he got it.  Lapid is talking about sitting out the coalition and acting in the opposition.  (Suffice it to say here that the ultra-Orthodox parties and Lapid are on opposite sides of a huge divide.)

Bibi does not need all of these parties.  He would be able to pass over at least one if not two of them and still end up with 61 or more mandates.  We’ll watch, and see how it plays over the next couple of weeks.

When I speak of a “new day,” I believe it may be coming in a couple of contexts.  Please note that last time around he gave Livni the Justice Ministry.  Now he speaks of a nationalist religious government.  I believe that Bibi has been pushed hard enough by Obama so that he is in no mood for conciliatory gestures.  Sometimes it has to get worse before it can get better.

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Just a few final thoughts here now.

What is most important is that the world see that a right-leaning nationalist government is where the Israeli electorate stands. This does not make us radicals, even though a left-leaning media will paint us so.  A democratic election was held and the people have spoken.  We will, we must, move on from here.

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To the extent that the left focused on issues during the campaign, they were social/economic issues, such as the need for more housing.  The problem with their perspective is that they represent these issues as the primary and most critical ones.

These issues are very real, but security is and must be treated as more urgent. I read a comment by someone (sorry I cannot quote, as I do not remember who) that: It’s wonderful if the government will build us new apartment complexes, but what good will it do us if Iran nukes them.  Crudely put, but absolutely true.  The right is not mistaken, to be concerned first with Iran, and what would happen if we gave the Palestinian Arabs a state, and what Hezbollah intends to do.

But it would be prudent if Bibi now gave a more serious nod to those economic/social issues.

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For your information: Zahava Gal-On has resigned as head of Meretz because she takes responsibility for the fact that her party only pulled four mandates (at one point it was thought they might not make the cut-off).

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As to the meddling from the US, I would not want to see this issue dropped.  It must be pursued to its end, and it falls to those who are American citizens to demand that this be done.

Please see the article below which appeared a couple of months ago in no less than Haaretz:

“…With the help of American money and a former campaign adviser to President Barack Obama, V15 is trying to replace Israel’s government. The money and organization comes from V15’s partnership with OneVoice…

Their secret campaign weapon is Jeremy Bird, a 36-year-old American political strategist who worked for Obama. Bird has come with a team of four consultants that will try to channel the energies of V15 into an organized methodology.”

http://www.haaretz.com/news/israel-election-2015/.premium-1.639158

And this (emphasis added):

“…the [Senate] probe is looking into funding of the OneVoice Movement, a Washington-based group that has received $350,000 in recent State Department grants. A subsidiary of OneVoice is the Israel-based Victory 15 campaign, guided by top operatives of the White House, which openly seeks to ‘replace the government’ of Israel.”

http://unitedwithisrael.org/is-the-obama-administration-interfering-in-israels-elections/

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There is going to be a great deal to track, as we move forward now. And I am eager to look at a variety of news items, regarding a very defiant Iran, a belligerent Palestinian Authority, and more.

03/11/15

An Open Letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner

By: Ashraf Ramelah
Voice of the Copts

Al Sisi for president

Al Sisi for President

john boehner

John Boehner

Please allow me to congratulate you on your tremendous success in having Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu address Congress. The world needs to hear the truth from our friend, Israel. For decades Israel has suffered terrorist aggression from neighboring states.

Allowing Iran to have nuclear weapons would not only be a danger to the State of Israel but a threat to the entire world. At your invitation, Americans heard the Israeli Prime Minister unfold the truth to the American Congress.

The positive and urgent message of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech will resonate for some time to come and hopefully lead to the desired goal.

Likewise, another important leader in the Middle East may prove to be enlightening on the issue of fighting Islamic terrorism. I refer to the president of Egypt, Abd El Fatah El Sisi. If Egypt’s current president were invited to address Congress, America could know firsthand the works of Al Sisi’s government in eradicating terrorism.

Your invitation to the Israeli leader has shown America’s support of Israel in light of much opposition. Having President El Sisi address the Congress would offer Americans the same opportunity to show support for Egypt’s initiatives — tempering Islamic clerics, approaching Coptic Christians, and fighting extremist organizations linked to terror.

Mr. Speaker, you have already been instrumental in illustrating America’s support of real leadership against terrorism in the Middle East. Extending a hand now to President El Sisi would only emphasize America’s resolve to stand with rational and courageous leaders and support the outcomes of reduced terrorism in the Middle East and around the world.

For this reason, I kindly request, on behalf of my organization, Voice of the Copts, that you extend an invitation to President El Sisi of Egypt to address a joint session of the American Congress in the very near future.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Ashraf Ramelah
Founder and president
Voice of the Copts

03/10/15

Obama and Hillary: What Did They Know, and When Did They Know It?

By: Roger Aronoff
Accuracy in Media

The latest revelations about Hillary Clinton’s use of private emails while Secretary of State for the Obama administration have proven “politically problematic,” and invited discomfort by some of her fellow Democrats, possibly encouraging other ambitious Democratic hopefuls to contend for the presidential primary, according to some in the media.

By defining the problem as just “political,” these reporters can cast the issue as one dividing political parties to distract from the pressing issues of the day. This media frenzy works in the Obama administration’s favor. “…why did Hillary Clinton become the Obama administration’s bête noire this very week…? questions Lee Smith writing for Tablet Magazine. Perhaps because Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent speech before Congress reflected badly on the administration’s plan for an Iran deal. “This week’s tarring of Hillary Clinton is part of the White House’s political campaign to shut off debate about its hoped-for deal,” he asserts.

Smith’s suspicions are raised by the fact that Gawker’s John Cook emailed then-deputy White House press secretary Josh Earnest, now White House press secretary, about the issue of Clinton’s private email account back in 2013—two years ago!

Yet on Saturday, President Barack Obama told CBS News’ Bill Plante in an interview that he learned about Mrs. Clinton’s private email system at “The same time everybody else learned it through news reports,” much like he claims to have learned about so many others of his scandals.

The most recent claim apparently didn’t stand up to common sense scrutiny. After all, one needed only to ask if the President and Secretary of State hadn’t exchanged emails for years. On Monday Josh Earnest told the press that President Obama and Secretary Clinton had exchanged emails, that the President had noticed the private address, and that “The point that the President was making is not that he didn’t know Secretary Clinton’s email address… But he was not aware of the details of how that email address and that server had been set up or how Secretary Clinton and her team were planning to comply with the Federal Records Act.” Yeah, that’s the ticket.

But few in the media seem to be asking about who actually saw Cook’s email back in 2013. Either the White House has known about the potential political fallout for years, or someone failed to pass the word up the chain of command.

Some members of the media prefer to view this latest scandal, like so many others, as some sort of right-wing conspiracy, with conservatives out to get Mrs. Clinton. Michael Tomasky of The Daily Beast stubbornly refuses to define this growing debacle as a “scandal,” writing instead, “If she does become president, the right is going to be gunning for her from Day One, sniffing around for impeachable offenses from the second she takes the oath.” This implies, again, that opposition to Clinton’s lack of transparency is rooted in politics and ideology, as if real outrage were impossible or unjustified.

It’s not just the right this time, with people like Ruth Marcus, Mark Halperin, Mika Brzezinski, Maureen Dowd and Ron Fournier also taking Hillary to task. It’s enough to suggest a different conspiracy theory: that the left wants to dump Hillary for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), or someone they believe would be more electable, and more to their liking.

And while some in the media may have tacitly admitted that there is already blood in the proverbial water, and that Clinton may see greater challenges coming from other candidates, the narrative persists that the Select Committee on Benghazi was established simply to damage Mrs. Clinton. So the villain in this growing scandal, for Clinton acolytes, is not Clinton herself. It is, instead, the Select Committee on Benghazi, which apparently had known about her multiple private email accounts since at least last summer, according to National Review’s Andy McCarthy.

“The panel’s Republican House members are seizing on the revelations regarding Clinton’s private e-mail domain to expand their committee’s mandate, delay Clinton’s testimony and extend their investigation indefinitely,” write Josh Rogin and Eli Lake for Bloomberg. Similarly, Tomasky writes that “… it smells like the Times may have been rolled by the Republican staff of the Benghazi panel. And hey, great work by them and Chairman Trey Gowdy to use the nation’s leading liberal newspaper in this way.”

Mrs. Clinton and President Barack Obama were some of the main decision-makers during the 2012 Benghazi attacks, and have always dominated the heart of the Benghazi scandal—as inconvenient as this may be for some in the media.

The media are, once again, accusing the Republicans on the Select Committee of engaging in run-away politicking during an election season. “Republican Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy has insisted he wants his investigation to be impartial, not to be partisan nor about Hillary Clinton personally,” reports The Daily Beast. “But the pull of conservatives clamoring for answers regarding the scandal has focused the committee’s attention on the presumptive front-runner for the Democratic nomination.”

These politicized assessments ignore and minimize the valid security and transparency concerns raised by Clinton’s exclusive use of a private email account during her entire term as Secretary. But the lack of transparency revealed by this latest Clinton scandal demonstrates that Mrs. Clinton has a problem with humility, and as “heir apparent” for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination may have internalized a feeling of invincibility—as if she is above public accountability and standards of conduct.

The additional debate about fairness to Mrs. Clinton in The New York Times reporting also ignores the larger, overlooked picture: the Obama administration’s culpability in enabling Mrs. Clinton’s behavior. In cases where Clinton’s email was requested by citizens’ groups and news reporters, “the State Department acknowledged receipt of the [Freedom of Information Act] requests and assigned case numbers but did not produce any of the requested documents,” The New York Times reported.

According to the Associated Press, the State Department “never suggested that it didn’t possess all her emails” when the A.P. requested records more than a year ago. That is a scandal in and of itself.

To put it mildly, the fact that there were no records to produce from Mrs. Clinton’s service until this recent date likely proved politically convenient for the administration, and provides further evidence of a government cover-up on Benghazi. Now-public records have already demonstrated Mrs. Clinton’s guilty knowledge about the attacks. Her pro-active attempts at concealing her communications through the use of a private email server have already been thwarted by the Freedom of Information Act.

The newly released Judicial Watch emails documenting correspondence sent to Cheryl Mills (then-Chief of Staff to Sec. Clinton), Jacob Sullivan (then-Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy), and Joseph McManus (then-Hillary Clinton’s Executive Assistant) provided ample evidence that Mrs. Clinton had guilty knowledge of the nature of the terrorist attack in Benghazi as early as a half an hour after the attack.

“Also littered throughout the State Department emails, obtained by conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, are references to a so-called Benghazi Group,” reports Catherine Herridge for Fox News. “A diplomatic source told Fox News that was code inside the department for the so-called Cheryl Mills task force, whose job was damage control.”

And as I have previously reported, the President was told this was an attack by terrorists—not the result of a spontaneous demonstration that got out of control—by his military advisors on September 11, 2012, shortly after the attacks began.

Mrs. Clinton has now requested her emails’ public release, and may hold a press conference in the next several days, according to Politico. Perhaps it was the ridicule from Saturday Night Live that convinced her to speak up, or the sting from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) on Meet the Press calling on Hillary to come clean if she expects to be the party’s standard bearer. But the process of releasing her emails could take months, according to Reuters, which reports that “The email controversy could intensify long-standing Republican criticism of Clinton’s transparency and ethics.”

Clinton’s request to make her emails public should be treated with urgency, and may yet yield additional information regarding the Benghazi attacks and other administration policies during her time as Secretary. But in a real sense it may not matter now whether the State Department actually releases this set of emails, as they were first vetted by Clinton’s advisers. One must ask: What did these advisers choose to omit?

The media shouldn’t be fooled by these “latest [Clinton] efforts to demonstrate transparency” if they are designed to conceal politically damaging material from the public while appearing to be open and fair. Neither should they accept platitudes from Mrs. Clinton if and when she does hold her press conference. But in an even greater sense, the media spotlight shouldn’t be on Mrs. Clinton—it should be on President Obama. What did he know, and when did he know it?

03/7/15

White House Takes Out Two Democrat Critics of its Insane Iran Deal in One Week: Hillary and Menendez

Doug Ross @ Journal

It would appear that the Obama back office is far more competent than its front office.

Lee Smith asks a logical question: We’ve Known About Hillary’s Email for Years. Why the Hoopla This Week?

Hillary Clinton…the public first became aware that Clinton was using her personal email two years ago, in March 2013, when a Romanian Internet activist using the nickname Guccifer hacked into Clinton ally Sidney Blumenthal’s AOL account and uncovered a trove of work emails between the two from and to her personal account…

So, why did it take the Obama Administration two years to admit to what was already known and to then suggest that Clinton’s behavior was reckless and may have even been criminal? And why did it take so long for a major news organization like the New York Times to come up with the big “scoop” it published earlier this week?

Or to put the question another way, why did Hillary Clinton become the Obama Administration’s bête noire this very week, the same one during which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pulled all of the world’s focus onto the issue of the administration’s negotiations with Iran?

The answer is that the two are related: This week’s tarring of Hillary Clinton is part of the White House’s political campaign to shut off debate about its hoped-for deal. It’s not hard to see why they’re anxious. With Netanyahu’s speech forcing lawmakers and editorial writers to face up to the proposed agreement’s manifest problems, the administration fears the prospect of Democrats jumping ship and signing on to Kirk-Menendez sanctions legislation that also would give Congress oversight on the deal. So far, the White House has managed to keep Democratic lawmakers in line, no matter how much they seem to question the wisdom of the proposed deal. Hillary Clinton, gearing up for a 2016 run in which she is likely to put some distance between herself and Obama’s dubious Middle East policies, is the one major national Democratic figure who can give Democrats in Congress cover.

Did someone say Menendez?

Via CNN:

The Justice Department is preparing to bring criminal corruption charges against New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, alleging he used his Senate office to push the business interests of a Democratic donor and friend in exchange for gifts.

People briefed on the case say Attorney General Eric Holder has signed off on prosecutors’ request to proceed with charges, CNN has learned exclusively.

Back in January, Sen. Menendez made headlines for blasting the Obama administration’s handling of the Middle East, saying that the White House sounds as if their talking points “come straight out of Tehran.”

The “timing” was noticed:

Let’s see. The DOJ has ignored a series of egregious felonies committed by Lois Lerner, Eric Holder, Steven Miller, Lisa Jackson, and a host of others.

Why then, would it now attack Robert Menendez, Democrat Senator from New Jersey?

Well, just four days ago, the National Journal reported that “At AIPAC, Sen. Menendez Goes Head-to-Head With the Obama Administration on Iran”</strong>.

March 2, 2015 Sen. Bob Menendez takes joy in being on the wrong side of Tehran, and he’s not afraid of being at odds with his own party’s White House.

“When it comes to defending the U.S.-Israel relationship, I am not intimidated by anyone—not Israel’s political enemies and not by my political friends when I believe they’re wrong,” Menendez declared to an energized crowd at the AIPAC policy conference Monday evening… A call to action for his fellow members of Congress, Menendez vowed never to back down from a brawl to defend the U.S. and Israel’s “sacrosanct” and “untouchable” relationship.

Menendez’s speech marked a crescendo in a long and—at times—tense relationship with the Obama administration. As the White House seeks to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran, Menendez has been the leading Democrat questioning the process. While President Obama has demanded cooperation from Congress, the Foreign Relations Committee’s top Democrat sponsored legislation in December that aimed to bog Iran down with more economic sanctions. His intent was to put more pressure on the country to cooperate with the United States, but the White House claimed it undermined its months-long discussions.

Gee, but I’m sure all of these revelations and criminal charges are just a coincidence.

Hat tip: BadBlue News.

03/4/15

Netanyahu and Jewish Survival

By: Alan Caruba
Warning Signs

Iran - All Smiles

In 1933, approximately 9.5 million Jews lived in Europe, representing 1.7% of the total European population which, in turn, was about 60% of the Jewish world population, estimated to have been 15.2 million.

By 1945, in the wake of the Holocaust, two out of every three Jews would be dead.

By 2012 the global Jewish population had reached 13.75 million. That is less than 0.2 percent of the world’s population.

The Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics reported that 43% of the world’s Jewish community lives in Israel. Sharing Israel as their home were 1,636,600 Arabs and a diverse population of Christians and non-Jews, numbering around 318,000.

If the Iranians make good on their threat to “wipe Israel off the map”, presumably with nuclear weapons they would acquire by stealth and deception, the Jewish world population would be cut nearly in half.

Benjamin NetanyahuAll of this will be on Benjamin Netanyahu’s mind when, as the Prime Minister of Israel, he addresses a joint meeting of Congress. It will be his third such speech. On July 10, 1996, he said the world must act to prevent Iran’s nuclearization, since “the deadline for attaining this goal is getting extremely close.”

In 2011 he returned, saying “When I stood here, I spoke of the consequences of Iran developing nuclear weapons. Now time is running out. The hinge of history may soon turn, for the greatest danger of all could soon be upon us, a militant Islamic regime armed with nuclear weapons.”

So now it is 2015 and the only thing Netanyahu knows for sure is that the Iranians remain intent on being able to produce their own nuclear weapons.

The March 2nd edition of The Times of Israel reported that Yukiya Amano, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said “Iran has yet to provide explanations that enable the agency to clarify two outstanding practical measures”, a diplomatic way of referring to “alleged explosive tests and other issues related to research that may also be useful for military uses of atomic energy.” This is the same problem that the U.N. agency has with North Korea.

Netanyahu was worried about Iran’s nuclear weapons program in 1996, in 2011, and now in 2015; more than enough time for Iran to have made considerable progress toward their goal. At the heart of this third address to Congress is the survival of nearly half of all the Jews in the world because they live in Israel.

It’s no secret there is no love-loss between Bibi Netanyahu and Barack Obama, but this third effort to urge Congress to go on record supporting the survival of Israel is necessary because, for the first time since 1948, there is some cause to wonder whether a war-weary U.S. would come to Israel’s defense.

Obama has said in no uncertain terms that he wants to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. However, the world has learned that the gap between what he says and what he does is often wide or non-existent. It must be said, however, that past Presidents have decried North Korea’s acquisition of nuclear weapons, but that has not translated into any direct action because China entered the Korean conflict in the 1950s to defend it and no one wants a repeat of that.

Netanyahu does not speak for “all Jews.” He speaks for Israel and other than national survival the political divisions there are even more diverse than our own. The fact that he is running for reelection there is not a factor for his speech to Congress—timing is.

One suspects that the best intelligence both Israel and the U.S. have been able to secure suggests that, this time, Iran is very close to its goal of being able to produce its own nuclear weapons despite the sanctions that have been imposed.

Netanyahu is understandably concerned about the negotiations that Obama has relentlessly pursued with Iran, the result of which has alienated not only Israel, but Saudi Arabia and all of the Gulf nations. The P5+1 parties to the negotiations include Russia, China, France, United Kingdom and Germany. The negotiations have deadlocked in the past and may do so again despite the fact that both Russia and China have close ties to Iran.

Even if Iran agrees to terms that would supposedly slow or stop its nuclear weapons program, there is not a scintilla of evidence that they would fulfill their promises. Iran, after all, is the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism worldwide.

The odds are that Netanyahu knows that Iran, this time, is very close to becoming militarily nuclear. Addressing Congress calls attention to the danger, not only domestically, but worldwide.

What Netanyahu also knows is that President Obama seems to have blind spot when it comes to the growing anti-Semitism that resembles what existed in the 1930s in Europe. When Jews in a French kosher supermarket were murdered, Obama referred to it as an act of “violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.”

Whoa! It wasn’t “a bunch of folks.” They were Jews buying food for the Sabbath meal. And those “violent, vicious zealots” were Muslims, just like the ISIS Muslims beheading, crucifying, burning, kidnapping, and enslaving those they don’t kill for being Christian, Jewish, Yazidis, or just not Muslim enough!

Netanyahu’s speech will, indeed, be historic. It may not be his last visit to the chambers of Congress.

© Alan Caruba, 2015

03/4/15

Fact-checking Netanyahu, Not Obama or the Media

By: Cliff Kincaid
Accuracy in Media

Prior to the speech of the Israeli Prime Minister to Congress, CNN’s Fareed Zakaria sang the praises of a story from the pro-Edward Snowden publication, The Intercept, suggesting that Benjamin Netanyahu just can’t be trusted. The story claimed Netanyahu has been “crying wolf” about the Iranian nuclear weapons program by changing his estimate of how close the Iranians are to getting the bomb.

The implication is that we should ignore Netanyahu and sit back and wait on the Obama approach of negotiating a deal with Iran—however bad that deal is.

The Intercept is funded by the French-born Iranian-American Pierre Omidyar.

Yet, Netanyahu’s claims over the years have depended on a number of outside factors, including sanctions, Iranian support from Russia, and other efforts to thwart the nuclear program.

For example, if Snowden had not disclosed ways that the NSA monitors or counters our adversaries and enemies, we might have a better handle at this point in time as to just how close the regime is to developing a nuclear weapon.

Snowden has made it part of his espionage mission to expose how U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies, including the NSA, have cooperated to delay the Iranian program. For example, he has talked openly, in violation of his secrecy oath, about the U.S. and Israel developing a computer virus to cripple the Iranian program.

Here is an excerpt of an interview conducted with Snowden by the German magazine Der Spiegel:

Interviewer: Does the NSA partner with other nations, like Israel?

Snowden: Yes. All the time. The NSA has a massive body responsible for this: FAD, the Foreign Affairs Directorate.

Interviewer: Did the NSA help to create Stuxnet? (Stuxnet is the computer worm that was deployed against the Iranian nuclear program.)

Snowden: NSA and Israel co-wrote it.

The New York Times reported that the virus set back Iran’s nuclear weapons program by 18 months to two years. Delays like this obviously affect the timetable for Iran’s development of nuclear weapons.

The Washington Post reported in 2012 that “The United States and Israel jointly developed a sophisticated computer virus nicknamed Flame that collected intelligence in preparation for cyber-sabotage aimed at slowing Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon, according to Western officials with knowledge of the effort.”

Clearly, the idea of “crying wolf,” as the media call it, depends on the ability of the outside world, primarily the U.S. and Israel, to slow down the Iranian program, as well as to keep those efforts secret. Disclosures by defectors or spies like Snowden help make that difficult, if not impossible.

Indeed, last month The Intercept disclosed a document stolen by Snowden demonstrating Israeli cooperation with U.S. and British intelligence agencies to monitor Iranian leaders.

On the same day as Netanyahu’s speech, Snowden was back in the news again, apparently saying through his Russian lawyer that he wants to come back to the United States.

Former National Security Council staffer Oliver North had previously commented that Snowden is a “dead man walking,” and that it is likely he will be murdered. North said that it is likely the case that the Russians will kill Snowden once they are done with him, and then blame his death on the U.S.

Snowden’s reported decision to return follows the murder of a Russian activist opposed to Vladimir Putin. Perhaps this development led to Snowden’s desire to leave.

Our media had trumpeted the revelations of NSA defector Snowden and the Oscar given to his Hollywood collaborators for the movie about him, “Citizenfour.” All of a sudden, however, as Netanyahu was preparing to address Congress, our media were consumed with the notion that the Israeli Prime Minister would disclose classified information to make his case against the Obama negotiations with Iran.

As Netanyahu was walking through the Capitol, getting set to address Congress, you could hear CNN reporter Dana Bash shouting at the Israeli Prime Minister, asking if he was going to disclose classified information.

This was the bizarre claim being made by the Obama administration and its allies in the press. Netanyahu didn’t disclose anything of a classified nature and had no plans to do so.

Our media seem to be in favor of disclosing secret information when it harms America and its allies, such as Israel.

If the media are going to scrutinize Netanyahu’s claims, why not examine the media’s track record? As we have noted, CNN’s Zakaria has made a claim about alleged Iranian opposition to nuclear weapons that has been shown to be bogus. He has stated that the Iranian Ayatollah has issued a “fatwa,” or binding religious edict, against developing nuclear weapons.

For example, he stated in a 2009 column, “The country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a fatwa in 2004 describing the use of nuclear weapons as immoral.”

This is false. Khamenei has issued various statements or messages about the dangers of nuclear and other weapons, but none of them is a fatwa with special religious significance.

It doesn’t really matter to Zakaria. He has written that, “…even if one day Tehran manages to build a few crude bombs, a policy of robust containment and deterrence is better to contemplate than a preemptive war.”

So we know where he stands.

Obama has also made the false claim that “Iran’s supreme leader has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons.”

One of Netanyahu’s most fantastic claims in his speech to Congress was that “Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei spews the oldest hatred, the oldest hatred of anti-Semitism with the newest technology.He tweets that Israel must be annihilated—he tweets. You know, in Iran, there isn’t exactly free Internet. But he tweets in English that Israel must be destroyed.”

Was he lying in this case?

According to CNN, his claim is true. CNN reported last year that Khamenei posted a series of tweets that included a document called “9 key questions about elimination of Israel.” He outlined the “proper way of eliminating Israel.”

Our media basically gave up trying to fact-check Netanyahu, instead relying on the notion that he is “crying wolf.”

The recent series of “crying wolf” claims about Netanyahu seems to have first surfaced on Press TV, an outlet for the Iranian government, in an interview with “author and radio host” Stephen Lendman. His website features such articles as, “The CIA-Controlled Neocon Washington Post,” and “NYT Editors Support Fascist Extremism.”