Friday, November 30, 2007

The Next President of the United States--Huck Norris

Too bad, Mitt, you would have made a fine President. Rudy, we'll never know if you could have transformed the U.S. like you did New York City. Hillary, Obama and John, it's time to fold your tents and go home. It's all over. The 2008 Presidential election is decided. Chuck Norris has endorsed Mike Huckabee. What better news for the Free World? In fact, I propose a co-Presidency, of the type once foreseen for Bill and Hillary Clinton. Call them "President Huck Norris."

But wait a minute. Doesn't Huckabee look familiar? Haven't we seen a President of the United States who looks an awful lot like Mike Huckabee? Oh no! Huckabee is really Charles Logan, the nemesis of Jack Bauer on 24. Mitt, there's only one way to save us now! Call in Jack Bauer. If anyone can stop Chuck Norris, it's Jack!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Annapolis Post-Mortem

In truth, the title to this post is a bit misleading, because most of the links are to pre-conference critiques of Annapolis. Nonetheless, they provide a valuable basis for a post-mortem assessment, which is to say that they concur with my own views.

The following four columns all are available for reading at Jewish World Review:

Daniel Pipes agrees with me that the central issue at Annapolis, and any post-Annapolis negotiations, and the central issue of the Arab-Israeli conflict from the outset, is Arab recognition and acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state.

Michael Freund, writing after the conference, observes that the reception afforded Israel's representatives by Arab nations at the conference reminded him ever so much of Alice In Wonderland, with Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice as the Queen of Hearts, and a Mad Tea Party at which the guests all take turns bashing Alice (Israel). He notes:

" With that image in mind, consider how Israel has been greeted by various Arab participants at the Annapolis gathering.
"Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal declared that he would not even shake Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's hand, and on Monday, the Saudi embassy in Washington expelled Israeli journalists from its premises for seeking to attend a press conference.
"The Gulf Arab emirate of Bahrain flatly rejected a proposal to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, while the Palestinians refuse even to recognize the country as a Jewish state.
"If our Arab foes won't shake hands with us and won't even recognize us, then what are the chances that they will truly wish to live in peace with us? Or, as Alice herself put it, 'It's the stupidest tea party I ever was at in all my life!'"

Caroline Glick writes:

"There is a bit of perverse poetry in the fact that the Annapolis conference is taking place the same week as the 60th anniversary of the UN General Assembly's resolution recommending that the British Mandate of Palestine be partitioned between a Jewish and Arab state.
"What the confluence of events serves to show is just how little has changed in the past 60 years.
"Both the 1947 UN resolution and the Annapolis conference are dedicated to the task of forcing the Jewish people to compromise their rights in a bid to appease Israel's neighbors who still 60 years on maintain their refusal to accept the right of the Jewish people to sovereignty over their land. And both are presented as diplomatic achievements by the Israeli government."

Ms. Glick takes to task all those (and the Kosher Hedgehog recently has been among the guilty parties) who "celebrate... the 1947 UN resolution as if it were the foundation of Israel's international legitimacy." She points out that as a General Assembly Resolution, Resolution 181 had no force of law, and that the League of Nations Palestine Mandate was the legal basis in international law for the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. She argues that the 1947 UN resolution was simply an acknowledgment of the already existing de facto Jewish state, and that Israel would have declared its independence in 1948 even if the 1947 resolution had failed to pass. Indeed, foreshadowing the next 60 years of UN mistreatment of Israel, the 1947 UN resolution legitimated the actions of the Mandatory Power, Great Britain, from 1922 on, that sought to prevent the emergence of a Jewish state in Palestine, in blatant violation of the League of Nations mandate.

It is Ms. Glick's boss at the Center for Security Policy, Frank Gaffney, who writes most bitterly about Annapolis, likening it to the scandalous midshipmen rape incidents that have blackened the reputation of the U.S. Naval Academy in recent years. "Despite official efforts to low-ball its significance, Ms. Rice's conclave is shaping up to be a gang-rape of a nation on a scale not seen since Munich in 1938, when the British and French allowed Hitler and Mussolini to have their violent way with Czechoslovakia." Gaffney warns that Annapolis, like Munich, eventually will prove injurious to the interests of the United States and the Free World.

Gaffney condemns Secretary of State Rice and the Bush Administration for abandoning the principles of the Road Map for Middle East Peace, which required progress by the Palestinian Authority in scaling back terrorist attacks against Israel as a precondition to further Israeli territorial concessions and the emergence of a Palestininan state:

"Even before Annapolis, Condi Rice has found it inexpedient to do more than mouth platitudes of the kind that once governed George Bush's policies vis a vis the Jewish State and its enemies. Today, Palestinians can remain in the terror business — they can even officially and explicitly refuse to recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish homeland — and still enjoy the Administration's political support and access to U.S. military equipment, training and vast amounts of taxpayers' funds."

Annapolis is a Bush Foreign Policy Triumph Even if it Does Not Advance MidEast Peace

Zev Chafets, writing in yesterday's L.A. Times, correctly observes that the Annapolis Conference was a foreign policy triumph for the George W. Bush Administration, regardless of its ultimate effect on Middle East Peace. It unequivocably confirmed that the United States remains the reigning leader of the free world and that, contrary to his critics, President Bush has only enhanced this country's world standing. Some excerpts:

"This is Bush's bash. His name is on the invitation. The party is at his place. The guests are strictly A-list. Every country that matters, and a lot that don't, will be represented. The European Union, the United Nations and the Arab League will be there too. They are all coming for the same reason: They have been summoned by the one man in the world to whom no one wants to say no.

"It turns out that Bush, far from wrecking America's prestige and influence, has compounded it. Every government in the world knows that attending the Annapolis conference under the aegis of the president of the United States is an unmistakable acknowledgment that America remains the world's indispensable state."

Also in the Times yesterday, Jonah Goldberg explains why he is "At Peace With Pax Americana." He concludes:

"America has picked up where the British left off. Whatever sway the U.S. holds over far-flung reaches of the globe is derived from the fact that we have been, and hopefully shall continue to be, the leader of the free world, offering help and guidance, peace and prosperity, where and when we can, as best we can, and asking little in return. If that makes us an empire, so be it. But I think "leader of the free world" is the only label we'll ever need or -- one hopes -- ever want."

In the realm of foreign affairs, it was one heck of a good week for the Bush Administration.

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Open Letter to Jeremy Katz, White House Liaison to the Jewish Community

"This settlement will establish Palestine as a Palestinian homeland, just as Israel is a homeland for the Jewish people."--Address by President George W. Bush at Annapolis Conference, Memorial Hall, U.S. Naval Academy, November 27, 2007.

Dear Jeremy:

I followed the Annapolis conference closely. The key missing element for a peaceful settlement, in my opinion, is that it is not enough for the Arab nations and the Palestinian Authority to recognize Israel’s existence; they must recognize its legitimate existence as a Jewish state, the Jewish National Home. Indeed, I was gratified to see that President Bush said as much in his closing remarks at the conference.

Unfortunately, both PA President Abbas and his lead negotiator Saeb Erekat publicly stated prior to the conference that the Palestinians would never recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and would continue to insist on a right of return to Israel of the 4 million Palestinian refugees and their descendents. If the PA , Saudi Arabia and the other Arab nations adhere to that position, peace is impossible, because then the two-state solution means a Palestinian state living along side a bi-national state with an Arab majority—in other words, the disappearance of Israel as the Jewish state. The much vaunted Arab League peace plan would be revealed to be no more than a plan to destroy Israel in phases. Indeed, it is worthwhile remembering that that is exactly how the late Chairman of the PLO, Yassir Arafat, characterized the Oslo Accords to Arab audiences.

The legitimacy of the Jewish state cannot not be open to question or negotiation. The June 1922 League of Nations resolution establishing the British Mandate over Palestine stated as its purpose "the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine." United Nations General Assembly Resolution Number 181, passed November 29, 1947, provided for the partition of Palestine into "independent Arab and Jewish States.” If the PA and the Arab nations do not accept that concept, we have made no progress since 1947.

It would be extremely important as a confidence-buildling measure for Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to state publicly that it is the position of the United States government that a final peace agreement must include as a necessary element the recognition of the legitimate existence of Israel as a Jewish state.

Very truly yours,
Ralph B. Kostant

Monday, November 26, 2007

To Succeed, Annapolis Must Confirm the Legitimacy of the Jewish State

"We've come together this week because we share a common goal: two democratic states -- Israel and Palestine -- living side by side in peace and security. " So said President George W. Bush as he opened the Annapolis Conference. Indeed, everyone at Annapolis agrees on a two-state solution, but which two states? Specifically, will the Arab world accept not merely the existence of Israel, but also the existence of Israel as a Jewish state?

Hugh Hewitt.'s website quotes extensively from a column by Bernard Lewis in the Wall Street Journal, in which Professor Lewis assesses the potential for meaningful negotiations at Annapolis, and thereafter, in the following terms:

"If the issue is about the size of Israel, then we have a straightforward border problem, like Alsace-Lorraine or Texas. That is to say, not easy, but possible to solve in the long run, and to live with in the meantime.

If, on the other hand, the issue is the existence of Israel, then clearly it is insoluble by negotiation. There is no compromise position between existing and not existing, and no conceivable government of Israel is going to negotiate on whether that country should or should not exist."

Well, I hope so, although with the Olmert government, one can never be certain.

Unfortunately, neither President Bush, nor Professor Lewis went quite far enough in their remarks, and I fear that in the case of the President, it was a deliberate ambiguity, attempting to diplomatically paper over the real issue of Middle East peace. That issue is the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state.

It is a true measure of Arab intransigence that the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state is still considered open to question. The June 1922 League of Nations resolution establishing the British Mandate over Palestine stated as its purpose "the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine." United Nations General Assembly Resolution Number 181, passed November 29, 1947, provided for the partition of Palestine into "independent Arab and Jewish States."

However, Palestinian Arabs and the other Arab nations rejected the creation of a Jewish state in 1947, and have refused to recognize its legitimate existence ever since. Even today the Arabs continue to insist upon a right of not only all surviving Palestinian refugees from the 1947-1949 War of Israeli Independence, but also their millions of descendents, to live in Israel. That is the essence of the Arab League's much vaunted peace plan supposedly leading to recognition of Israel. Of course, any such two-state solution would comprise an entirely Arab state and a binational state with an Arab majority. That is not a recognition of Israel's existence; it is a plan for eradication of Israel's existence.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert certainly sold the Annapolis conference to the Israeli public as an opportunity to obtain Arab recognition of Israel's legitimacy as a Jewish state. On Monday, November 12, he told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee: "We won't hold negotiations on our existence as a Jewish state. This [Annapolis conference] is a launching point for all negotiations. We won't have an argument with anyone in the world over the fact that Israel is a state of the Jewish people. Whoever does not accept this cannot hold any negotiations with me. This has been made clear to the Palestinians and the Americans."

Perhaps it was not made clear enough. In reaction to Prime Minister Olmert's statement, the lead negotiator for the Palestinian Authority, Saeb Erekat, declared that the Palestinians would not recognize Israel as a Jewish state. During the Israeli-Palestinian talks leading up to Annapolis, directed toward agreement on a joint statement to be issued at the conference, the Palestinians refused to include the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state in the draft declaration.

Based on Olmert's declaration, that refusal should have signalled the end of negotiations. The fact that Israel nonetheless is in attendence at Annapolis is therefore troubling, indicating that Olmert perhaps once again has erased a supposed red line. Still more troublesome are rumors floating today that the Annapolis Conference will indeed issue a joint declaration. If that is the case, and the declaration fails to include the principle of recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, the Annapolis declaration may some day be seen as the first step taken to undo UN General Assembly Resolution 181, and reverse international approval for the existence of a Jewish state.

That certainly is the declared goal of some parties attending the Annapolis conference. In addition to the public position taken prior to the Conference by the Palestinian Authority, the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad declared, via an editorial in state newspaper Teshreen, that its goal at Annapolis is "to foil Olmert's plan to force Arab countries to recognize Israel as a Jewish state." (That declaration is one of the reasons why Bret Stephens, in today's Wall Street Journal, calls into question the wisdom of Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice in inviting Syria to participate at Annapolis.)

Now the opinion of the Assad regime matters little. The opinion of the United States, however, matters a great deal. That is why I find so disturbing the omission from the President's remarks of the principle of the legitimacy of Israel not merely to exist, but to exist as a Jewish State. One hopes that it was just diplomacy, indicative of a desire not to rock the boat at the conference's opening dinner. Yet, even so, what is the justification for such reticence? The international community approved the existence of a Jewish state in 1922, and again in 1947. President Bush has not hesitated to declare his support for a Palestinian state living beside Israel. He likewise should forgo all diplomatic ambiguity, and forthrightly declare to the Arab world that peace in the Middle East requires Arab recognition of the legitimate existence of Israel as a Jewish state.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

"Huckabee, the False Conservative"

I am a Mitt Romney guy, but Robert Novak certainly can't be accused of that. Novak says this about Mike Huckabee:

"Who would respond to criticism from the Club for Growth by calling the conservative, free-market campaign organization the "Club for Greed"? That sounds like Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich or John Edwards, all Democrats preaching the class struggle. In fact, the rejoinder comes from Mike Huckabee, who has broken out of the pack of second-tier Republican presidential candidates to become a serious contender -- definitely in Iowa and perhaps nationally.

"Huckabee is campaigning as a conservative, but serious Republicans know that he is a high-tax, protectionist, big-government advocate of a strong hand in the Oval Office directing the lives of Americans. Until now, they did not bother to expose the former governor of Arkansas as a false conservative because he seemed an underfunded, unknown nuisance candidate. Now that he has pulled even with Mitt Romney for the Iowa caucuses with the possibility of more progress, the beleaguered Republican Party has a frightening problem on its hands."

Read the whole thing.

Friday, November 23, 2007

A Thanksgiving Must-Read from Nancy French

Nancy French is a writer and the wife of David French, who's serving in Iraq. Nancy and David also happen to be the founders of Evangelicals for Mitt, a well-known political blog. Her post at National Review Online should be read by all of us at Thanksgiving. She begins:

My social skills disappeared when my husband was deployed to Iraq, because
even casual greetings at church immobilized me. I detested the automatic
responses which fall from everyone’s mouths — as if “How are you” is a quarter
in the Presbyterian Vending Machine and “fine” is the conversational candy, all
dusty and stale. It doesn’t matter if the dog died, the rent check bounced, or
the in-laws are staying an extra week, it seemed the only appropriate response
was “fine.” And, frankly, I wasn’t.

However, since I could tell the conversations would go no deeper than
lyrics to a Mariah Carrey ballad, I lied.

Read the whole thing.

Olmert Rearms PA

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is pictured above with American Jewish comedian Jerry Seinfeld. While Seinfeld is the more successful comic, Olmert is certainly the bigger joke. However, while Seinfeld's comedy only figuratively "kills" his audience, Olmert's policies really kill Israelis.

It's like ant scientists working to develop new insecticides. The Olmert government of Israel, as a"confidence-building gesture" in advance of the Annapolis peace conference, has announced that it will allow the transfer of 25 Russian armored vehicles and two million bullets to the Palestinian Authority headed by President, and Fatah Chairman, Mahmoud Abbas.

This brilliant diplomatic move comes just 5 months after Hamas took control of Gaza by force, in the process capturing armored vehicles and other weapons stores that the U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice had arranged to be transferred to the Palestinian Authority in Gaza back in December 2006. Those weapons were quite promptly redirected at Israel, which is the probable future as well of the weapons shipments approved this week by the Olmert government.

In a well-reasoned editorial, the Jerusalem Post notes that the latest one-sided Israeli concession came just one day after the funeral of Ido Zoldan, a 28-year old father of two, shot to death in his car by Fatah terrorists [see "Israelis Begin to Pay the Price for Annapolis", The Hedgehog Blog, Nov. 20, 2007], thereby proving that Abbas does not even control his own faction, much less exercise enough control to deliver on any Palestinian peace promises. "This is an abuse of the word 'gesture,' which usually means something inconsequential and easily reversible," the Post editorial writer notes.

The Post also observes that while Olmert continues to make concession after in concession in advance of Annapolis, Egypt, probably as a deliberate policy aimed at weakening Israeli security, continues to allow, or even encourage, massive smuggling of arms across the Egyptian border to Hamas in Gaza. While the world condemns Israel for having turned Gaza into the "world's largest prison," the fact that Gaza shares a long border with Egypt, apparently permeable only to weapons shipments, somehow escapes international notice.

UPDATE: DryBones gives notes what Israel may expect from the Palestinians in return:

Joel Kotkin Looks at Levittown and the American Dream

Joel Kotkin is the anti-snob. He is a scholar of land use and urban planning who studies how land-use decisions affect society, but he utterly lacks the patronizing superiority that professional academics often project. He does not pretend to know better than the average guy what is best for the average guy. He champions the ordinary joe whose hard work, law-abidingness and middle-class moral values preserve liveable society.

In an essay in today's Opinion Journal, Kotkin, a resident of my own suburban community, Valley Village, California, marks the 60th anniversary of the development of Levittown, the iconic American suburb on Long Island, New York. He notes that despite the criticism of the social elites, who perceived only boredom, vulgarity and a cultural desert in the new American suburbs, the affordablility of suburban single-family homes brought to fruition the American Dream of home ownership, on a mass scale unprecedented in history. "Indeed," Kotkin notes, "by the mid-1980s America enjoyed a rate of homeownership--roughly two-thirds of all families--double that of Germany, Switzerland, France and Britain." He observes that the success of Levittown and its descendents, "revolves around many of the basics that [Levittown developer] William Levitt recognized as critical--affordable homes, good schools, nice parks and public safety," and concludes, "As long as suburbs continue to deliver them, the master developer's legacy is likely to live on for another 60 years."

A good read and, as a child who grew up in an American suburb, a good reminder to me of "the accidents of birth" for which I am so thankful on this Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Quote of the Day: Hillary "is not one of us"

Joan Di Cola, a Boston attorney, writing to the Wall Street Journal:

The reason Mrs. Clinton is behind among members of my demographic -- professional women making more than $75,000 a year -- is because she is simply not one of us. She hasn't accomplished anything on her own since getting admitted to Yale Law. Take a look behind her resume. Yes, she made partner two years after joining the Rose Law Firm -- because her husband was the governor and was able to direct a lot of business their way.

I have no idea what she did as first lady of Arkansas, besides maintaining her maiden name. What did she do as first lady of the U.S.? Nothing that I can see, except cover for her philandering husband, replace the White House travel office, help herself to White House furniture and prepare for her own future administration.

No, Mrs. Clinton is not one of us.

She isn't Dianne Feinstein, who spent years as mayor of San Francisco before becoming a senator, or Nancy Pelosi, who became Madam Speaker on the strength of her political abilities. All Hillary is, is Mrs. Clinton. She became a partner at the Rose Law Firm because of that, senator of New York because of that, and (heaven help us) she could become president because of that.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Israelis Begin to Pay the Price for the Annapolis Conference

Ido Zoldan was 29 years old, a loving husband and father of two young children. That is Ido with his wife and children in the photo above. Zoldan was murdered Monday night, while driving past the Arab village of Funduk, between the settlements of Kedumim and Karnei Shomron, when Palestinian gunmen opened fire. The Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades said it carried out the attack to demonstrate its opposition to the planned Annapolis conference. Fatah, of course, is the Palestinian Arab faction headed by the "moderate" President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, who will lead the Palestinian delegation to the Annapolis conference, and on whom the hopes of the United States and the so-called Quartet are based.

What I most hate about the idealistic fantasies of the so-called Peace Camp is that their schemes are paid for in the blood of ordinary people. How many, both Jew and Arab, have now died as a result of the Oslo Accords, the Gaza Disengagement and now, the Annapolis peace conference! How many children such as the Zoldans will grow up without a father, or a mother! Nobel Peace Prize winner Shimon Peres, before he was driven from the Prime Minister's office by public outrage over terrorist bombings, once famously said that "peace, like war, has its sacrifices." How obscene. These are sacrifices to Moloch, whose worshipers threw their own children into the fire. Now the offerings to the idol Annapolis have begun.

The New Republic: Romney's Not Only a Mormon; He's a Bad Mormon!

Jonathan Chait (photo left) is a specialist in political hatred. Back in September 2003, this senior editor of The New Republic made a big splash in the mainstream media when he published a column in TNR entitled, "The Case For Bush Hatred," which began with the subtle statement, "I hate President George W. Bush."

Currently at The New Republic online, Chait demonstrates that his hatred has not lost its edge, but he has perhaps learned to be more subtle. The target now is Mitt Romney, and the column is entitled, "Pray Tell, The Wrong Reason to Hate Mitt Romney." Which of course suggests that there is a right reason to hate Mitt Romney. Indeed, on The New Republic's home page, the article is linked with the come-on line "The Legitimate Reason to Hate Mitt Romney." Gee, I thought it was we right-wingers who are consumed by hatred.

Chait actually purports to show sympathy for Romney: "If it were possible for apolitician to sue voters for religious discrimination, Mitt Romney would have an open-and-shut case against the Republican electorate. Here is a man possessing all the known qualifications for the job of GOP presidential nominee--strong communications skills, a successful governorship, total agreement on every issue, Reaganesque hair--and yet he may well be denied it on account of his faith."

And who will deny Mitt Romney on the basis of his faith? Why none other than those Christian conservatives, of course. "These attacks have nothing to do with how Romney would conduct himself as president. They're purely theological. Romney's critics are declaring they couldn't support Romney on the sole basis that they consider Mormonism un-Christian."

The New Republic was not yet through with Romney for this week. It turns out that now Mormons dislike Romney as well. Also currently featured at The New Republic is an article by Josh Potashnik entitled, "Latter Day Skeptics, Mormons Against Romney." It turns out that the Mormons hate Mitt almost as much as the conservative Christians do! Only very late in the article does the author somewhat begrudgingly admit, "For now, the majority of Mormons remain favorably inclined toward Romney." Just for now, folks. The tipping point is coming and we are going to see a tidal wave of anti-Romney backlash from his co-religionists. Why, I understand that Harry Reid has already thrown his support to a Democrat!

What is truly mind-boggling, however, is Mr. Potashnik's explanation of what had shaken Mormon support of Mitt Romney: "Romney has vaulted to the lead in Iowa and New Hampshire largely on the strength of backing from evangelical Protestants-- historical adversaries of the LDS Church, not to mention competitors in the worldwide race for converts."

So there you have it. On the very same day that one article in The New Republic tells us that Mitt Romney will be denied the Republican nomination for President because of opposition from evangelical Protestants, another article explains that he has surged to the lead in the GOP primary races in New Hampshire and Iowa (and alienated Mormon supporters in the process) based on strong support from evangelical Protestants. Chait, you're a senior editor--do you ever read your own magazine?

Alright, I know it's my problem, not TNR's--my right-wing rigid mindset simply cannot tolerate logical inconsistency. However, just for a moment, I thought that Chait and Potashnik, in their rush to stereotype religious Protestants and Mormons, and despite their innate liberal ability to grasp subtle distinctions that a conservative can't possibly appreciate, might somehow have failed to appreciate this subtle distinction: "Some evangelical Christians support Mitt Romney. Some don't. Some Mormons support Mitt Romney. Some don't."

The real question is why The New Republic has such a fixation about Mitt Romney. Could it be that he is the candidate that its staff would least like to see facing off against the Democratic nominee in November 2008?

[Lowell the Hedgehog appends: I know a little something about this, being, ahem, a life-long church-goin' Mormon. Mitt Romney has alienated Mormons who are Democrats. This is, well, unsurprising. Romney has alienated even some Mormons who are Republicans. Also unsuprising. Jonathan Chait is one clueless polemicist. No suprise there, either!]

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Monday, November 19, 2007

MItt Romney's "American Family" Ad

This is the latest Romney ad airing in Iowa. If Romney is nominated, I think the Clinton campaign will be hard-pressed to come up with an answer to this kind of message.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Mitt Romney on Those Anti-Mormon Push Polls

This is a must-watch for anyone following the Republican presidential race:

And this is a must read: The editorial position of National Review Online. The money quote:

It is tempting to say that citizens should never consider a candidate’s religion when voting, but one can imagine extreme cases where his beliefs were so perverse, and had such alarming implications for government policy, that conscientious citizens would have to take them into account. Romney’s Mormonism does not raise these questions, and should not concern voters.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Dry Bones Reacts to Prospect of Another OJ Trial

The War Against Islamism: The Third Ideological World War

We had not heard from guest columnist Paul Kujawsky (photo left) for a while now. (I suspect that's because he was successful in getting his essays published by more traditional media.) Paul is a teacher, a lawyer and a Democratic Party political activist, of the endangered Kennedy-Jackson-Lieberman species. He is a board member of Democrats for Israel. Here is his latest offering:

Norman Podhoretz’s new book, World War IV, raises the question of the relationship of our current conflict with previous wars. It’s true that our war is global in character; and it’s also true that the Cold War is properly conceived of as a genuine world war. But Podhoretz doesn’t go far enough. We should take the opportunity to reconsider, and rename, the great conflicts of the twentieth century.

Giving World War II a number emphasized its similarities with World War I. However, the principal common feature was simply their global scope. More significant was what distinguished WW II from its predecessor. WW II was the first modern ideological world war. Rather than being a fight principally about borders, resources, or imperial claims, it was a struggle between incompatible political and social visions. Thus, WW II should be renamed the War Against Fascism. This new name clarifies what was at stake.

The Cold War was also a world-wide conflict with an ideological basis. Once again, an unfree system sought to expand at the expense of the liberal democracies. Consequently, while WW III fits, the War Against Communism is even more apt.

Today we face a political interpretation of Islam which is violent, expansionist, and incompatible with liberal democracy. We are engaged in the War Against Islamism.

By conceptually linking today’s war with the ideological wars of the twentieth century (and distancing it from WW I), certain insights emerge. For example, in the War Against Communism, while there were "hot" episodes (e.g., the Korean War, the Viet Nam War, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan), much of the warfare was carried out in the spheres of economics, politics, propaganda and statecraft. The same will be true of the War Against Islamism.

A related point is that while battlefield victories are necessary, they aren’t sufficient. The Helsinki Accords did as much as NATO, or more, in bringing down the Soviet Union. Supporting liberal Muslims, liberal interpretations of Islam, and human rights in the Muslim world will be decisive in the long run. As Daniel Pipes says, "Radical Islam is the problem; moderate Islam is the solution."

Finally, like the War Against Communism, the War Against Islamism is likely to be a generational struggle. Patience and fortitude will be required to reach the ultimate victory.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Israel, the Jewish National Home, Exists by Right Not on Sufferance

"When it is asked what is meant by the development of the Jewish National Home in Palestine, it may be answered that it is not the imposition of a Jewish nationality upon the inhabitants of Palestine as a whole, but the further development of the existing Jewish community, with the assistance of Jews in other parts of the world, in order that it may become a centre in which the Jewish people as a whole may take, on grounds of religion and race, an interest and a pride. But in order that this community should have the best prospect of free development and provide a full opportunity for the Jewish people to display its capacities, it is essential that it should know that it is in Palestine as of right and not on sufferance. That is the reason why it is necessary that the existence of a Jewish National Home in Palestine should be internationally guaranteed and that it should be formally recognized to rest upon ancient historic connection."
--Winston Churchill, British Secretary of State for the Colonies, June 1922

(HT: Children of Holocaust Survivors Los Angeles)

With the greatest respect to Sir Winston, may his memory be for a blessing, in acknowledging the foundations of the right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, one must give primacy not to the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine, of which he was speaking, but rather to that "ancient historic connection" that he mentioned. To whit:

"And behold the Lord stood beside him [Jacob] and said, 'I am the lord, the God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I give to you and your descendents. And your descendents shall be as the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the ornth, and to the south. And in you and your seed all the families of the earth will be blessed." Genesis, 28: 13-15, Torah Portion of Vayetze (to be read this coming Sabbath).
(Illustration, "Jacob's Ladder", by Mike Segal.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

What have 40 years of Jewish rule brought to Jerusalem? For the first time in history, the holy places of all three western monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, have been protected. For the first time in history, adherents to each of those faiths are permitted to worship freely in Jerusalem. Indeed, ironically, the only exceptions to that general statement, other than occasional security closures, are that the Israeli government allows the Moslem Waqf to prohibit Jewish prayer on the top of the Temple Mount, and that the non-Orthodox denominations of Judaism argue that they are discriminated against at the Western Wall.

Arabs and Jews, as wells as Christians from around the world, live in safety and security in Jerusalem. While since the 1980s it often has been dangerous for Jews to walk through Arab neighborhoods, the Arab citizens of Jerusalem have free run of the entire city

Compare the present situation to the conditions that prevailed before June 1967. From 1948 until 1967, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan controlled Jersusalem, Hebron and Bethlehem. Jews were not permitted to visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron or the Tomb of Rachel in Bethlehem. Over 30 Jewish synagogues that existed in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem in 1948 were destroyed and looted by the Arabs after the Jordanian Arab Legion conquered the Jewish Quarter during the 1948 War of Independence. Those destroyed synagogues included the 700 year old Ramban Synagogue, the famous Hurva synagogue, completed in 1864; and the Sephardic Porat Yosef Yeshiva. The ethnic cleansing of Jews actually began in the 1920s, when Arab rioters and murderers drove Jews out of centuries-old communities in the sections of the Old City of Jerusalem, outside the Jewish Quarter, and from Hebron. After 1948, even the Jewish Quarter was "judenrein." The Jewish cemeteries on the Mount of Olives were desecrated, and their ancient tombstones used by the Arabs to pave roads and build latrines. Arab snipers stationed on the walls of the Old City would periodically shoot Israelis on the streets of the neighboring sections of Jerusalem that were under Israeli control.

Even during the centuries of Islamic rule preceding 1948, Jews visiting the Tomb of the Patriarchs could not enter the buidling, all of which was a mosque, but could only walk up the the seventh step of the outer staircase. While one must note and acknowledge the horror of the massacre perpetrated by a deranged Jew against Moslem worshipers in 1994, with that one tragic exception, both Jews and Moslems have been able to worship in the mosques and synagogues inside the Tomb of the Patriarchs since 1967.

Does anyone believe this present era of religious tolerance will continue if the Palestinian Authority or a new Palestinian state governs the Old City of Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Hebron? If so, consider this mental exercise: Arabs have lived in safety and security as citizens of Israel for the past 60 years. Why then is the idea of Jews living in Gaza, Yehuda and Shomron, under Palestinian Arab governance, so farfetched as to seem preposterous?

For that matter, why does Saudi Arabia not allow Jews to live there, or even allow Jewish and Christian visitors to practice their religions? What happened to the Jewish tribes that flourished in the Arabian penisula prior to the time of Mohammed? Why was the population of Baghdad over 20% Jewish less than 100 years ago, and yet only a handful of Jews remain there today? What happened to the once robust Jewish communities of Syria, Egypt, and Yemen? Israel is often accused of genocide and ethnic cleansing against Palestinian Arabs, by the Palestinians, the Arab and Islamic world and the European and American Left. Who really has committed ethnic cleansing and genocide in the Middle East?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Iran Responds to Arrest Warrants for 1994 Bombing of Buenos Aires Jewish Center by Summoning Accusers to Teheran Court

On July 18, 1994, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, an explosives-laden van detonated outside the Jewish Community Center, leveling the seven-story building, killing 85 people and injuring some 200 more. No one has ever been brought to justice for this bombing.

Argentine prosecutors have long contended that the bombing plot was hatched at a 1993 meeting in Mashad, Iran, between representatives of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards (recently added to the U.S. State Department's list of terrorist organizations) and the Lebanese-based terrorist group Hezbollah. As reported in the yesterday, the current Argentine prosecutor on the case has issued six arrest warrants, naming five top Tehran officials and Lebanese Hezbollah Lebanese operative Imad Moughnieh, one of the world's most notorious terrorists.

The most prominent Iranian official named in the warrants is Ahmad Vahidi, who is Iran's deputy defense minister, a brigadier-general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, and in charge of the Iranian regime's defense procurement and rocket and missile programme. At the time of the bombing, the deadliest attack on a Jewish target since the Second World War, General Vahidi was the commander of the Quds (Jerusalem) Force, the Guards' international operations wing, accused by the West of organising foreign terrorist activities. Others named includeAli Fallahian, the former intelligence minister who is now a senior security advisor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Mohsen Rezai, then commander-in-chief of the Revolutionary Guards.

Based on the beefed-up case presented to Interpol, the international police coordinating agency, on November 7 Interpol added the names of the six men coverd by the Argentine arrest warrants to its most-wanted list, over furious Iranian objections. Teheran's envoys mounted a fierce defence ahead of Interpol's general assembly in Morocco last week, accusing Israel and the US of trying to hijack its operations to harm Iran's image. International delegates rejected their arguments, voting by 76 to 14 to issue the "red notices" after a heated closed-door session. Such notices are circulated by Interpol to member countries naming individuals wanted for extradition and seeking the assistance of national police forces.

Now the mullahs' regime has apparently decided that the best defense is a good offense. According to the Associated Press, Iran has summoned five Argentine nationals to appear in court over accusations by Teheran that they orchestrated a scenario to implicate Iran in the 1994 terrorist bombing. The five Argentines summoned by Iran include Argentina's former Interior Minister Carlos Corach; president of the Buenos Aires Jewish Jewish Community Center Ruben Beraja; Judge Juan Jose Galeano; prosecutor Eamon Mullen and a fifth man, identified only as Jose Barbaccia. Iranian Deputy Prosecutor General, Yadollah Alizadeh said that the five should report to the Teheran Justice Department, but gave no timing. If they fail to do so, Iran will demand Interpol issue international arrest warrants for them, he was quoted as saying.

Belated Veteran's Day Salute to the Last Surviving U.S. WWI Overseas Vet

The Hedgehog Blog gives a belated Veteran's Day salute and thank you to Frank Buckles, age 106, living on his farm near Charles Town, West Virginia, and identified by Richard Rubin in this article in the New York Times as very likely our country's last surviving veteran of overseas service during World War I. Of course, Veteran's Day began as Armstice Day, a national holiday declared by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919 to commemorate the end of the Great War. Only in 1954 was the name of the holiday changed, to honor all American veterans.

One of the facts that make me aware of my age is that America's entry into World War I on April 6, 1917 is now farther in the past than the outbreak of the Civil War, with the firing on Fort Sumter (April 12, 1861), was at the time of my birth in 1951. When I was a boy, there were still a handful of surviving Civil War veterans. Best wishes to Frank Buckles, apparently our lone surviving veteran who saw service in France in the First World War, to see many more Veteran's Days before he answers his last bugle call. (HT: Instapundit.)

Monday, November 12, 2007

So Much for the Annapolis Conference? Olmert Says Israel Will Insist on Palestinian Recognition of Israel as a Jewish State; PA's Ekrekat Says No!

Everything you need to know about the Arab-Israeli struggle is illustrated by the photo above, depicting members of Fatah's Al Aqsa terrorist militia trodding on an Israeli flag, painted for that purpose (HT: Boker Tov, Boulder), and by this headline from the Jerusalem Post online: "Ekrekat: We Wouldn't Accept Jewish Israel."

Keep in mind folks, that the State of Israel came into existence as the result of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181, passed on November 29, 1947, which provided for the division of the territory covered by the British Mandate over Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. The Jewish Agency, which was the official representative of the Jewish population of Palestine under the Mandate, accepted the partition, even though both the 1917 Balfour Declaration by Great Britain and the June 1922 League of Nations action creating the British Mandate had declared as their purpose "the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine," i.e., all of Palestine, which then included all of the territory comprising the pre-June 1967 borders of Israel, Gaza, Yehuda and Shomron (the so-called "West Bank") and the Kingdom of Jordan. Indeed, contrary to the express provisions of the League of Nations Mandate, which directed that Great Britain "shall be responsible for seeing that no Palestine territory shall be ceded or leased to, or in any way placed under the control of the Government of any foreign Power," the British in September 1922, had taken 77% of the lands covered by the Mandate to create the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan (now Jordan), to be ruled by Emir Abdullah, the son of their wartime Arab ally Sharif Hussein of Mecca. So even prior to November 1947, the future Jewish State had lost 77% of the lands originally designated for it in the Balfour Declaration and the League of Nations Mandate. Nonetheless, the Jewish Agency accepted the further partition called for in Resolution 181, and on May 15, 1948 declared the independence of the State of Israel on the territories allocated to it by Resolution 181.

The Arabs of Palestine, however, and their brethren in the surrounding Arab nations of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, rejected Resolution 181 and invaded the newborn Jewish State. For the next 60 years, to the present day, it is the refusal of the Arabs to accept the existence of Israel as a Jewish State, and only that refusal, that has prevented a peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the creation of a Palestinian Arab state in a portion of Palestine. (Of course, one might well conclude based on the history recounted above that such a Palestinian Arab state already exists, in 77% of Mandatory Palestine. It's called the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.) All of the Palestinian, Arab and Islamic condemnations of "occupation" to the contrary, the statement today by top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Ekrekat proves that such is still the case, and would still be the case in Annapolis.

Moreover the Israeli and American Jewish Left, as exemplified by Shimon Peres and Peace Now, has always argued, as its leading rationale for territorial concessions, that Israel must cease occupation over areas with an Arab majority population, in order to preserve the identity of Israel as both a democracy and a Jewish State. Ekrekat's statement shows that the Palestinians will never accept the Jewish character of the State of Israel, and will actively work to undermine it following any peace agreement. Indeed, by his declaration, Ekrekat has implicitly repudiated the Oslo Accords, which committed the Palestinian Authority to recognize Israel.

"There is no country in the world where religious and national identities are intertwined," Erekat told Radio Palestine, conveniently forgetting about Saudi Arabia, to say nothing about Great Britain. The utterly disingenuous nature of the Palestinian position becomes clear when one realizes that while Israel has some 1.4 million Arab citizens, who enjoy full civil rights, no Jew could survive openly in any area governed by Hamas or the Palestinian authority for more than a few hours.

So does that mean we now can bid goodbye to a still-born Annapolis conference? Unfortunately, the current government of Israel has never drawn a line in the sand that it was not willing to erase. My dire prediction is that Israel will attend the Annapolis conference despite the declaration of the Palestinian Authority that it will never agree to accept the existence of Israel as a Jewish State. By doing so, the Olmert government will reduce the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish State to just one more issue on the negotiating table, ripe for compromise and concession at the insistent prompting of the United States and the Quartet sponsors of the conference.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sunni Ambush of Al Qaeda Not Reported by Los Angeles Times

If there is good news from Iraq, you can rest assured it will not appear in the Los Angeles Times.

On Saturday, former Sunni insurgents ambushed Al Qaeda terrorists, killing 18. The Sunni forces actually requested that U.S. troops not interfere until the battle ended. The story was carried by the New York Daily News; and by CBS News. But not a word about the battle appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

It would be difficult indeed to dispute the newsworthiness of this story. Here in the clearest terms is evidence of the success of the anti-insurgency strategy implemented by U.S. Army General David Petraeus (photo above right). Not only were the forces fighting Al Qaeda former enemies of the U.S. troops, and now their allies, but they demonstrated the ability to take the initiative against Al Qaeda and win, without U.S. troop or air support.

Of course, that is exactly why the story did not appear in the Los Angeles Times. It is inconsistent with the perspective on the Iraq War that the Times feeds its readers. As current trends on the battlefield continue, it will become harder and harder for the Los Angeles Times to ignore that U.S. military and political goals are being achieved. However, you can rest assured that the readers of the Los Angeles Times will be the last to know.

Update, November 12, 2007: Well, shut my mouth! While still not having reported the Sunni ambush of Al Qaeda terrorists on Saturday, apparently the Los Angeles Times has concluded that it can no longer ignore the progress made by U.S. military forces in Iraq. In an editorial published today, the Times editorial writers note:

The latest statistics are in and, by every reasonable measure, the U.S. military is making commendable progress in lessening the violence in Iraq. Iraqi civilian and military deaths have plummeted in recent months, as has the number of American soldiers killed or wounded. Bombings are down, attacks on U.S. troops have plunged and the ghastly daily count of corpses bearing the signs of sectarian torture is markedly lower. While the U.S. military's data are rosier than some other tallies, all the indicators of violence are now, mercifully, pointing down. As a result, some of the 2 million Iraqi refugees who have fled their homes have begun to come back -- 46,030 of them reentered the country in October, according to the Iraqi government.

And what lesson does the Times draw from all this good news--that it's time to cut and run! "The surge has created an opportunity to leave -- and leave we must." Remember, being a Lefty means never having to say you're sorry (or were wrong).

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Thought for the Weekend

From Hugh Hewitt:

"Justice Stevens is 87. Justice Ginberg is 74. Justices Scalia and Kennedy are 71. Justice Beyer is 69. Justice Souter is 68. A President Clinton or a President Giuliani will have at least two and could have perhaps as many as six Supreme Court appointments to make over the next eight years. A vote for Huckabee by a voter who doesn't trust Rudy on judicial nominations --I do, but this is about the choice facing the anti-Giuliani Huckabee voter--is a vote to abandon the Supreme Court to activist justices for more than a generation."

I hope people are thinking about these things.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Labor Party Minster Ben Eliezer Admits Gaza Disengagement was "a Big Mistake"

Benyamin Ben Eliezer is an Israeli Labor Party politician and the Minister of National Infrastructure in the Kadima Party-led coalition government, headed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. In a radio interview broadcast on Thursday in Israel (there is a 9 hour time difference), and reported in the Jerusalem Post, Ben Eliezer remarked:

"I admit and confess," Ben Eliezer said, "I was with those who strongly supported [former prime minister] Ariel Sharon, and today I say with my head held high: We erred, we made a very big mistake."

Regarding the ongoing Kassam rocket fire at Israel from the Gaza Strip, Ben Eliezer said there is no escaping the need to act and to respond to the barrages. That presumably means the possibility of the Israeli Defense Forces reentering Gaza in force. Of course, the supposed unbearable burden of the IDF protecting the Gaza settlements was one of the rationales that Ariel Sharon and his supporters offered for the disengagement.

It is therefore difficult to understand how Ben Eliezer can say he erred with his head held high. Many of the settlers removed from the Gaza settlements are still without jobs or permanent homes. Perhaps Ben Eliezer should have realized his error before these Gush Katif children lost their homes:

Or before the synagogue and homes on this beautiful Gush Katif street were reduced to rubble and the families that lived in them sent into exile:

Or before this farmer's greenhouse was destroyed:

I would think, Minister Ben Eliezer, that you would hang your head in shame.

Annapolis Conference: It's The Nightmare From Which Israel Can't Wake Up

Or like watching a train crash and being powerless to stop it. Or perhaps like this image from Dry Bones:

Yaakov "Bones" Kirschen writes: "Caution! Danger ahead at Annapolis! Events are unfolding like a movie scene of a horrendous crash, shown in slow motion! How do we stop this farce? We probably can't? So get ready. We're about to go over the falls."

Perhaps the lesson here is that for Israel, for the United States, for the Jewish people, for all people everywhere, the idea that we control our fate and can influence history is an illusion. [See Tolstoy's essay on history at the conclusion of War And Peace, and Isaiah Berlin's commentary on Tolstoy's view of history in the essay that inspired this blog, "The Hedgehog and the Fox."] The same goes, and all the more so, for reliance on President George W. Bush (may he live and be well) or, in the words of the Psalmist, on horses and chariots. As the Chassidic saying goes, "Ein lanu al mi lismoach eleh HaKadosh Boruch Hu levad." "We have no one on whom to rely except the Holy One, blessed be He, alone."

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Hamas Plans 200 Million Dollar Hollywood-Style Media City in Gaza

NEW! From the people who brought you Farfur the Hamas Mouse (shown at left firing an AK-47 at Israeli occupiers).

In a story that proves that reality totally outstrips the imagination of any striking Writer's Guild member, AP reports that Gaza's Hamas rulers plan to build a $200,000,000 movie studio and media center, "at a time when the Gaza economy has ground to a standstill and its people are struggling to feed themselves because of Israeli and international sanctions against the Islamic group listed as a terror organization. " Fathi Hamad, a Hamas lawmaker and head of the project, said the project's directors have raised $1 million, a small fraction of the $200 million price tag. He said he was confident the group could raise the rest from local donations and from Palestinians living abroad. Talal Okal, a Palestinian political writer close to Hamas, said finding the money would be difficult, but not impossible, because of Hamas' network of supporters in the Arab world. He said the announcement was an important first step toward obtaining full control over the media. "(Hamas) realizes the importance of the media," Okal said.

They certainly do, but Hamas is not burdened with Western concepts of press freedom. The same AP story notes:

Hamas officials refuse to speak to Palestinian journalists who have not applied for Hamas press cards, and the group often harasses reporters who are not loyalists. On Tuesday, Hamas police stormed the house of reporter Hisham Sakallah, an editor of a local news Web site, and confiscated his computer and archives.

In sadly related news, the U.N. agency responsible for aiding Palestinian refugees indicated today that it knows exactly who to blame for the economic disaster in Gaza. Is it Hamas, which prefers raising two hundred million dollars for a media outlet for its propaganda, rather than constructing power plants, water treatment plants and factories that might actually improve the lives of Gazan Arabs? No, of course not--it's those damn Israelis.

"They're trying to punish those who've taken control of Gaza but in fact they're punishing everybody inside Gaza, a very small percentage of whom support the people who are controlling Gaza right now," Karen Koning AbuZayd of the United Nations Works and Relief Agency said at a press conference in New York. AbuZayd said that that Israel's near economic blockade of the Gaza Strip is fueling support for extremists and shattering hopes for a peaceful future. She did not mention that the "very small percentage" of Gaza residents who support Hamas actually elected them into power; that the United States and the European Union have supported the economic isolation of Hamasistan in Gaza; that Hamas vows the destruction of Israel; or that Hamas militias and other Palestinian terrorist militias launch daily rocket attacks at Israeli towns. She also didn't mention Hamas Media City.

While we are on the subject, why are the Palestinian refugees the only group of refugees in the history of the United Nations to have its own UN welfare agency, UNWRA? The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, established in 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly, has a mandate to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide, with the sole exception of Palestinian refugees. UNWRA also began operations in 1950, and, according to its official website, "In the absence of a solution to the Palestine refugee problem, the General Assembly has repeatedly renewed UNRWA's mandate, most recently extending it until 30 June 2008." Moreover, "[o]riginally envisaged as a temporary organization, the Agency has gradually adjusted its programmes to meet the changing needs of the refugees. Today, UNRWA is the main provider of basic services - education, health, relief and social services - to over 4.4 million registered Palestine refugees in the Middle East."

Gee, imagine that. In the 57 years since the creation of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, millions upon millions of international refugees have been resettled and have gotten on with their lives in their new homes. The website of the UNHCR states, "In more than five decades, the agency has helped an estimated 50 million people restart their lives."

In contrast, during the same time period, the number of registered Palestinian refugees, according to UNWRA, has increased from the original 910,000 (many of whom presumably have died over the past six decades) to today's 4.4 million. Surely, having successfully resettled 50 million refugees, it would not have been difficult for the UN to resettle the original 910,000 Palestinian refugees, or even their 4.4 million descendents. Why therefore has there been no "solution to the Palestinian refugee problem"? Primarly because the Arab nations and their third-world allies believed, and still believe, that the only acceptable solution to the Palestinian refugee problem is the eradication of the State of Israel. Within the UN itself, there is tremendous institutional pressure to avoid a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem, because that would remove the need for UNWRA, its $487,100,000 annual budget and its 25,000 employees, including Ms. Karen Koning AbuZayd.

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Olmert Voted Israel's Most Corrupt Government Minister for Second Consecutive Year

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert actually finished on top of an opinion poll this week, although it is unlikely to put a smile on his face. Public sympathy following his announcement that he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer did not prevent Olmert from being voted Israel's most corrupt government minister, and for the second year in a row. Indeed, the percentage of those questioned who described Olmert's public service as "corrupt to very corrupt" actually increased from last year's poll results, from 42% to 56%.

What does it say about the overall corruption of the Israeli body politic that, in a parliamentary system, where a single no-confidence vote in the Knesset would trigger new elections, the least popular and perhaps the most corrupt Prime Minister in Israeli political history continues to hold office? Shame on Kadima's coalition partners--Labor, SHAS and Yisrael Beiteinu--for conspiring to keep this albatross around Israel's neck, in order to preserve their own petty political fiefdoms.

Hillary Clinton Struggling to Answer A Straight Question

This is just too fascinating. The CNN interviewer asks good questions, and Hillary Clinton tries to be Bill Clinton, but lacks the skill.

AND . . . Bill tries to change the subject, and two leading Democrats call him on that. This is really fun to watch.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

A Few Anti-Hillary Digs on "Saturday Night"

I haven't much to day about this, other than that it's just . . . funny.

World Leaders Delude Themselves Over Palestinian Intentions as Rockets Continue to Fall on Sederot

Israeli-American billionaire Haim Saban; U.S. Secretary of State Condi Rice; former British Prime Minister and current "Quartet" diplomat Tony Blair; and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (pictured above) got together to celebrate the outbreak of Middle East peace at the Saban Forum in Jerusalem Sunday Evening. They are all thrilled about the upcoming Annapolis conference, which unquestionably will bring Israel the "peace in our time" once promised to Great Britain by Neville Chamberlain. Prime Minister Olmert grandly pronounced, "At the top of the Palestinian leadership stand leaders committed to agreements signed in past years."

Unfortunately, even as these elites toasted the success of their diplomatic efforst, reality intruded on the poor and forgotten people of Sederot. Last week a leader of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a terrorist militia affiliated with Fatah, the party led by Palestinian "moderate" and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, publicized that his group that uses the satellite imagery of Google Earth to help it identify targets for rocket attacks in the Negev desert town. Perhaps this technological innovation assisted the terrorists today, when rockets struck an electrical line, causing a complete power blackout in the beleagered town. Israel's pathetic government offers Sederot no succor, even as it continues to provide electricity, gas and water to the very enemy whose rocket attacks have placed the town under siege.

Sederot is a civilian town located entirely within the pre-June 1967 borders of Israel. The targeting of its civilian population by Palestinian terrorists demonstrates that when the Palestinians speak of "fighting the occupation by Israel of Palestinian land," they mean that they are fighting the existence of Israel, period. And the fact that a Fatah group, nominally under the command and control of Mahmoud Abbas, brags openly about those attacks proves that either "the top of the Palestinian leadership" is not committed to past agreements such as the Oslo Accords, which recognized the legitimacy of Israel's existence and required the Palestinians to cease terrorist attacks on Israel; or that the "Palestinian leadership" in fact has no control over its armed militias, and would be unable to deliver on its commitments in a peace agreement. In either case, further Israeli territorial concessions at Annapolis would be the height of self-destructive folly.

Viking History Proves Global Warming Not All Bad

You could have read it in the Op-Ed column by Joe Queenan in this Sunday's Los Anglese Times, entitled "Climate Change Lessons From the Vikings". Or you might have read the essay by Daniel Botkin back on October 21 in the Opinion Journal, entitled "Global Warming Delusions." Both pieces, while conceding (as do most conservatives) that a global warming trend is occurring, challenge the doomsday scenarios pushed by Al Gore and the United Nations report on global climate change. But you could have read it first back on February 19, 2007 right here on the Hedgehog Blog [see "Ellen Goodman Compares Denial of Global Warming to Denial of the Holocaust"]. (Alright, I cited Mark Steyn in that column, but I was right behind him.) [See also, "Warming Trend Benefits Greenland," The Hedgehog Blog, October 29, 2007.]

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Musings on Mukasey, Waterboarding

According to our West Coast newspaper of record, the nomination of Judge Michael Mukasey (photo at right) for Attorney General is in trouble. Yesterday, two more Democratic Senators on the Judiciary Committee, Assistant Majority Leader Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, vowed to fight his nomination. In addition to Durbin and Whitehouse, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) has said he will not support the nomination. The other Democrats on the panel -- Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California, Charles E. Schumer of New York, Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, Herb Kohl and Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin and Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland -- are officially undecided.

Shumer's position is particularly precarious, because he publicly recommended Judge Mukasey's nomination. Glen Reynolds at Instapundit quips, "I guess Schumer's too far-right for today's Democratic Party!"

And what is the scandal that has turned three Democratic Senators against a nominee whose qualifications they all concede? Judge Mukasey refused to state at his confirmation hearings that waterboarding is torture and therefore illegal. His reason for refusing to make such a categorical statement seems impecably sound to me. By declaring waterboarding to be illegal under all circumstances, the nation's future chief law enforcement official would be declaring, without any factual context as guidance, that numerous military intelligence and CIA personnel have committed criminal acts, exposing them to prosecution. That is not a judgment to be made in the abstract in the rarified air of a Senate committee hearing. Judge Mukasey is adhering to a principled stance even if it costs him the post of Attorney General; which by my lights amply qualifies him to be Attorney General.

About a year ago, Fox News reporter Steve Harrigan voluntarily underwent waterboarding to assess what it was. You can see his report here at HOT AIR. Harrigan readily admits the experience was devastingly unpleasant and that he does not know how any interogee could experience it for more than a few minutes without cracking and agreeing to talk. However, he also notes that withint a few minutes after a waterboarding session, he felt fully recovered, and that when done in the way it was done to him, the subject does not suffer any physical harm. Of course, it no doubt also can be done in a way that would cause serious physical harm. But that fact only points up the danger of generalizing regarding the interrogation practice. The fact that a technique is extremely unpleasant and effective does not automatically make it toture or unlawful under all circumstances, as Judge Mukasey recognizes, but the Democrats seem to miss.

A note of personal disclosure and a closing observation: Michael Mukasey, like Senator Joe Lieberman and like the Kosher Hedgehog, is a Torah-observant Jew, of the Modern Orthodox school of thought. Judge Mukasey is a graduate of Ramaz, one of our nation's foremost yeshiva day schools and high schools, located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. First Senator Lieberman, and now Judge Mukasey seem to be having a hard time with the present-day Democratic party. I believe there is a philosophical reason for that, beyond mere Democratic politicking.

Torah observance is all about living according to Jewish law, halachah, which governs not only ritual matters, but all aspects of life. Deciding issues of Jewish law demands the application of hard-headed rational analysis to the specific facts of a specific case. Emotional responses and generalities are antithetical to halachic resaoning. The American legal training of both Senator Lieberman and Judge Mukasey further reinforced that outlook. While emotionally-based generalizations are not unknown among conservatives (see, e.g., Ann Coulter), Dennis Prager has aptly noted that the predominance of emotion over reason exemplifies modern liberalism. Therefore a clash of world views between Torah-observant Jews and the dominant left-wing of the Democratic Party is perhaps inevitable.

Billary Clinton

I hope lots of people read this Opinion Journal piece, which is dead-on. Key 'graph:

The political strategy is clear enough. Mrs. Clinton wants to roll to her party's nomination on a tide of "inevitability" while disguising her real agenda as much as possible. But Democratic voters ought to consider whether they want to put all their hopes for retaking the White House on Mrs. Clinton's ability to obfuscate like her husband without his preternatural talent for it. Aside from lacking her husband's political gifts, Hillary's challenge is that we've all seen this movie before. And performances like Tuesday's might be enough to convince voters to opt for a candidate who is his own man.
Read the whole thing.