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May 10, 2009: Holding Fast

July 6, 2009

There are many contexts in which this concept is relevant.

At a Likud forum today PM Netanyahu vowed that “Israel will not withdraw from the Golan Heights.”

His comment was prompted by a question posed by Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, who then said,

“I view this declaration as a message to the Golan’s residents and to all of Israel’s residents. The prime minister’s statement carries good news [for] Israel’s security. It is a message to the United States, the region’s countries and the rest of the world.

“The message is that Israel will be ready for negotiations in the future, but that there will not be an Israeli commitment to withdraw from the Golan, so that they know the rules in advance. This message is undoubtedly very significant, on the eve of the prime minister’s visit to the White House.”


While he indeed may apply pressure on us in this regard, it’s just possible that Obama will take this decision more in stride than we might have expected. For — in spite of his having sent US emissaries to Syria in an effort to improve US-Syrian relations and his having expressed intent to promote Israeli-Syrian negotiations — Obama himself has just taken a stand against Syria.

Just five years ago, President Bush issued an executive order with regard to Syria, declaring a national emergency in dealings with this nation and authorizing sanctions.

The law states that the sanctions will be automatically terminated at the end of a year unless the president provides notification of intent to continue them. This process has been sustained annually until now.

Now President Obama has officially provided notification again:

“The actions of the Government of Syria in supporting terrorism, pursuing weapons of mass destruction and missile programs, and undermining U.S. and international efforts with respect to the stabilization and reconstruction of Iraq pose a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States. For these reasons, I have determined that it is necessary to continue in effect the national emergency declared with respect to this threat and to maintain in force the sanctions to address this national emergency.”

In fairness, just how hard could he push us to negotiate with a state that he describes this way?


Would that Obama demonstrated so clear-eyed an understanding of matters in other regards.

Jeff Jacoby, in his latest column, “Lady Justice’s blindfold,” describes one way in which Obama is missing the boat. This particular situation reflects a left-wing, “touchy-feely” approach that is actually contrary to the spirit of how the US is supposed to operate. (As will become clear, I am able to say “supposed to” without fear of contradiction here.) What is more, it exemplifies an attitude that I would suggest is at the heart of what’s wrong with Obama’s foreign policy more broadly.

Jacoby provides us with the oath taken by every federal judge:

“I . . . do solemnly swear that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me…”

Impartiality is at the core of this pledge. Says Jacoby, “Without judicial restraint there is no rule of law. We live under ‘a government of laws and not of men.'”

But Obama is calling for something else:

“Time and again, Obama has called for judges who do not put their private political views aside when deciding cases. In choosing a replacement for Justice David Souter, the president says, he will seek not just ‘excellence and integrity,’ but a justice whose ‘quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people’s hopes and struggles,’ would be ‘an essential ingredient’ in his jurisprudence. In an interview last year, he said he would look for judges ‘sympathetic’ to those ‘on the outside, those who are vulnerable, those who are powerless.’

“…in 2005, Obama declared that the ‘truly difficult’ cases that come before the Supreme Court can be decided only with reference to ‘the depth and breadth of one’s empathy,’ and that ‘the critical ingredient is supplied by what is in the judge’s heart.'”

As Jacoby points out, “Sympathy for others is an admirable virtue, but a judge’s private commiserations are not relevant to the law he is expected to apply.

“If Obama means what he says, he wants judges who can be counted on to violate their oath of office.”



And if this is the yardstick utilized for making decisions in the international arena?

If one identifies, for example, with Palestinians who call themselves refugees, or has great empathy for them in one’s heart, does this mean one judges with less severity terrorist acts for which they are responsible, or demands less transparency with regard to how they expend funds?


The nation is currently in a turmoil because of budget issues. And so we might apply the term “holding fast” here as well. In a time of global economic downswing, PM Netanyahu, who rescued us from financial straights via his policies as finance minister just a few short years ago, is now attempting to levy budget cuts. But they are not being well received in several quarters — most notably Labor and Shas, but even within his own party. Already the prime minister has backed down on some projected cuts.

Of concern here is a coalition rift with internal fiscal battles just on the eve of Netanyahu’s important meetings in Washington. He is walking a tight-rope between the necessity of tightening the national belt and responding to protested concerns with regard to education, childcare subsidies and more.


The Pope, Benedict XIV, will be arriving here for an official visit tomorrow and the tone in the nation is one of enormous ambivalence

His predecessor, John Paul II, worked sincerely on improving Catholic-Jewish relations and was loved here. Born Karol Jozef Wojtyla, he served as Bishop of Krakow and was sensitized by what he witnessed during the Holocaust. A supporter of Vatican II, he declared, “We owe a debt to our older brother, the Jewish People.”

Benedict XIV, on the other hand, was born Joseph Alois Ratzinger in Germany, and during the Second World War, when a young teenager, served in the Hitler Youth. A theological conservative, he embroiled himself in controversy recently when he reinstated the excommunicated Holocaust-denying Bishop Richard Williamson.

It has further been noted that only weeks ago, when Ahmadinejad spoke at Durban 2, the EU delegates left the hall but the delegates of the pope remained.

Former chief rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, himself a survivor of the Holocaust, advises, “We must not rebuff the visit. We need not bend over backwards or flatter him, but it should not be rejected.”


The pope will be visiting the Al-Aida refugee camp outside of Bethlehem, and — as I had indicated — bells went off for me when his representative said the camp, “Symbolizes the right of return.” Then, just the other day, the bells got louder, when a statement on behalf of the pope was released. He was coming in a spirit of peace he said, because for 60 years now there has been injustice in this part of the world.

And how would that be?


The PA, hoping to politicize the pope’s visit to the camp, arranged for the ceremonies to be adjacent to the security fence. The plans have since been readjusted at Israeli insistence (the refugee camp is in an area controlled by Israel). Still, every effort will be made by the Palestinians to get that fence, promoted as a sign of Palestinian suffering, into photographs that will be taken. Never mind that the fence — having been necessitated by Palestinian terrorism — can also be seen as a means for saving Jewish lives.


There is the possibility that Netanyahu will meet with Jordan’s king Abdullah before he goes to the States. Our prime minister will be meeting with Egyptian president Mubarak tomorrow. Their top agenda item will be Iran


I was not happy to see today that James Jones, US National Security Adviser, is mouthing the same nonsense about a link between Iran and an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement as other members of the Obama administration. In an ABC interview, he said:

“There are a lot of things that you can do to diminish that existential threat [Iran] by working hard towards achieving a two-state solution.”

According to Arutz Sheva, Jones “added that European and Arab leaders had high expectations of the United States advancing a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.”

Sigh. A whole lot of people are going to be disappointed here.


There is the possibility that my next posting will not come until Wednesday or Thursday.

On the agenda to be examined: Durban follow-up and UN charges against Israel. (No, it never ends.)

Tomorrow night and Tuesday are Lag B’Omer — the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer, which lasts from the second day of Pesach until Shavuot. This is counted as the day when a plague that fell upon the students of Rabbi Akiva stopped and is celebrated here with bonfires at night and a day of fun.


“The Good News Corner”

Toxicity in soil (waste products, including toxic metals such as lead and cadmium, from various industries)presents a serious problem. The toxicity has to be kept from entering the food chain, and can render real estate worthless. But now a solution may be on the way.

Professors from the life sciences, chemistry and engineering faculties of Tel Aviv University are working on an innovative technique for cleaning soil, using a cement mixer as a giant “washing machine.” The secret is a complex, biodegradable, environmentally-safe formulation for cleaning soil. Ultimately it should be possible for soil by the truckload to be cleaned and returned to its source. The compound binds to and removes toxic materials but leaves beneficial minerals in place. The product will be able to be customized to remove specific chemicals or minerals.




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