Sometimes the issues seem so diverse and overwhelming that it truly is difficult to know what merits first attention.
Nothing, but nothing, that comes to me (and so much does!) with regard to what is going on in the US is good news.
There will be many issues to visit, but today I picked up an editorial in The Washington Times (thank you, Dianne E.) reporting that Obama is quietly ending the federal firearms program that allowed pilots on commercial flights to carry a gun if they completed a federal safety program.
This was instituted after 9/11, when terrorists hijacked planes with intention of ramming them into the Twin Towers. Says the editorial, Obama is “risking public safety on airlines in the name of an anti-gun ideology.”
Then there is a proposal, backed by Obama, which I find deeply offensive, that would require civilian insurance companies to cover medical claims by veterans for service related injuries. This is to save money, at a time when projects worth billions and trillions are bandied about.
As JINSA put it: “The Obama Administration appears willing to sell out its moral obligation to our armed forces for $540 million. Words fail us – and regular readers know that words almost never fail us.”
On Monday, former vice president Dick Chaney told CNN that he believes President Barack Obama has made Americans more vulnerable to attack, because of his decisions to close down the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, end harsh interrogations, and close down secret CIA detention sites abroad.
Several people have sent me information about the fact that Israeli Chief of Staff Ashkenazi found doors closed to him on his recent trip to the US. He wasn’t seen by Defense Secretary Gates, or, as it turns out, by US Chief of Staff Mullen (who I thought had see him). He did see Dennis Ross, whose new portfolio includes Iran, and possibly Sec. Clinton.
I took the time today to check this with a very informed source in the US and was told that indeed doors were closed but the reason why is still unclear. It may be a new policy, or, I’ve been told, it may be because Israel is between governments and US officials are uneasy about meeting with Ashkenazi when they are unsure who he speaks for. (My source says US officials would be more caught up in this than Israelis, who tend to see the military as separate.) If I learn more I will share.
This is something that should be marked very very well, especially when US spokespeople come knocking at our doors telling us what we should do for Abbas’s Fatah.
Mohammad Dahlan, who was previously head of Fatah security in Gaza and is an all-around bum, has called on Hamas not to recognize Israel. Speaking during an interview on PA TV, he explained that Fatah never has.
Let me repeat that: a major figure in Fatah says that this Palestinian faction — which dominated the PLO when Oslo was signed and until 2006 dominated the PA — has never recognized Israel.
What he said was:
“They [Hamas people] say that Fatah has asked them to recognize Israel’s right to exist and this is a big deception. For the one thousandth time, I want to reaffirm that we are not asking Hamas to recognize Israel’s right to exist. Rather, we are asking Hamas not to do so because Fatah never recognized Israel’s right to exist.”
Dahlan makes it all clear (clear to someone with Arab thinking, at any rate):
“We acknowledge that the PLO did recognize Israel’s right to exist, but we are not bound by it as a resistance faction.”
I’ve heard this argument posed to Hamas by Abbas before: Don’t worry, you don’t have to recognize Israel, just join a unity government and the government will recognize Israel.
This is the first time I’ve heard it applied overtly to Fatah, although what has always been on the record is that Fatah’s charter still calls for Israel’s destruction. Everyone just ignores this.
As a side point: Dahlan has not been heard from in some time, and his appearance now may signal renewed influence within Fatah.
The issue of Shalit and negotiations with Hamas is still being hotly discussed here. Suggestions have been made — what took so long!! — that we reduce the conditions for Hamas prisoners we are holding.
What conditions would be restricted? Oh, things like their right to take courses, or use cell phones, receive family visitations or be provided with television privileges. Am I joking? No, unfortunately I’m not. Men in our prisons who planned and assisted in terrorist acts that killed innocent Jews get to watch TV, talk to people on cell phones, and earn credits towards college degrees. Are we the ultimate do-gooder nation, or what?
There are international laws regarding treatment for prisoners, but, as we are way beyond the required minimum, we can cut back and still conform to those standards. In spite of this, there are groups on the very far left protesting what they say would be collective punishment. Heaven help us, that there should be some among us concerned with defense of the terrorists when so much in this world cries out for attention.
My own opinion is that they should consider themselves lucky that they are in a nation where there is not capital punishment. Because that is what the worst of them deserve.
Netanyahu still hopes to come in under the deadline for forming a coalition (that deadline being slightly vague, but falling within the next few days). But he has not yet finalized agreements with the other groups, and has once again, now that Livni has declined to join him, started courting Barak and Labor.
It seems that Barak is genuinely interested but that strong ambivalence remains within the party.
It is making news that Russia may be selling S-300 air defense missiles to Iran, after all. The deal to do this was signed two years ago, but Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, had assured Israel that nothing would be done that changes the balance of power in the region. This would change the balance of power.
There were also suggestions that Obama’s courting of Russia had diminished the possibility that this deal would go through.
At this point, for all the talk, there is still uncertainty — about which version of the missile would go to Iran (one version being considerably more effective than another), and when the missiles might be delivered, none having been shipped yet.
This air defense system would make an attack on Iran considerably more difficult, and if delivery is imminent presumably might push forward Israeli attack plans.
But the is another factor that needs to be considered: There is talk of deploying the US-made F-22 jet — which can survive in airspace defended by the S-300 — to the region.
Even more speculative is the possibility of the US lifting its ban on foreign sales of the F-22, thus perhaps paving the way for Israel to acquire it.
Soon to be revisited: issues concerning Durban 2.