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November 30, 2009: When I Stop Laughing

April 11, 2010

Sometimes I have a choice: either I laugh, or I weep.  And, as my friends know, while it’s not always possible (I cannot laugh about a nuclear Iran), I do try to choose the former.  Without laughter, I’d lose it completely in this insane world.
That said… I look at a piece by Barry Rubin.  The settlement freeze, he tells us, has improved US-Israel relations.  No surprise there, and nothing funny either. This, clearly, is what Netanyahu was about with that freeze: attempting to make the US administration happy, or at least less discontent.
The freeze will have no effect, however, Rubin advises us: “On the contrary, the Palestinians and the Arab states will complain that it isn’t enough and that they have more demands.”
Then, says Rubin, whom I respect as a frequently savvy, “tell-it-like-it-is” observer of the political scene, “In giving something in exchange for no material gain or even a gesture from the other side, Israel can only hope that the president appreciates this and remembers that he did not deliver on his promise to get some concession from the Arab side to match it.”
That’s when I started laughing.  For, rather than feeling appreciation and recalling that he let us down, Obama has already tightened the screws.  Hope? We can expect nothing from him, and any expectation that it is otherwise will turn out to be, well, laughable.
Consider this report from today’s Haaretz, which is right in line with what I wrote about yesterday.  Israel is now announcing that the number of prisoners to be released to Hamas, if there is a trade for Shalit finalized, will be 980, released in two stages (if this progresses, I’ll follow with details).  However, this does not account for “the hundreds of prisoners Israel is likely to release in a bid to furbish the image of PA leader Mahmoud Abbas.”
The release would be done at the behest of the American president, if reports are correct.  Some gratitude.  At the end of the day, we may see close to 2,000 prisoners released.  This is cause for weeping and wailing.

In passing I would like to mention one other possible motivation for Netanyahu to have decided on that freeze.  I doubt that this was the major factor, but a factor it indeed may have been:
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who is head of the Labor party, has been having trouble within his party with dissidents who are threatening to split.  They had been sorely discontented with the leader of their left-wing party holding a major position in a centrist/right government.  Then, lo and behold! the centrist/right prime minister out-does leftist prime ministers with his offer to freeze building in Judea and Samaria. 
Yesterday, Barak told his party’s executive committee that he was responsible for the decision to freeze building. See? he declared to the rebels, there is good and solid reason for us to be in this government.  And at least some of the rebels are listening.
All of this plays to the stability of Netanyahu’s coalition.
What is unsettling is one comment that Barak made, which has the absolute ring of truth. “Everyone should close their eyes and ask themselves who would be in the government without us. [National Union MKs Ya’akov] Katz,Uri Ariel and [Michael] Ben Ari.  Would a narrow right-wing government have frozen settlements and could it have begun a diplomatic process?”
Well, never mind that there is no diplomatic process because the PA doesn’t want one.  Barak’s point is clear.  And we are left to ponder precisely what Netanyahu had in mind when he chose Labor as a coalition partner over National Union.
I spoke today with the Chief of Staff for MK Danny Danon, who says that Netanyahu can make declarations as he wishes about not honoring requests to hold a debate about the freeze in the Likud Central Committee, but the law is not with him.  Danon has collected the necessary 500 signatures on the required petition and expects to gather some 200 additional signatures.  I will be following with more on this.
Iran.  It is behaving as obstinately and non-cooperatively as possible, which is stiffening backs somewhat. The latest ominous announcement is that there will be another 10 uranium enrichment plants developed.  The decision to do this was made, it seems, as an act of deliberate defiance.  According to the Washington Post :

“Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi told state radio that Iran needed to give a strong response to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s resolution Friday demanding that Iran halt…construction of its newly revealed uranium enrichment facility and end all other enrichment activities.”

But stiffened backs is not enough. What is needed is international outrage of such proportions that actions are actually taken. And somehow, that point is never quite reached.

For example, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said yesterday:

“If true, this would be yet another serious violation of Iran’s clear obligations under multiple UN Security Council resolutions and another example of Iran choosing to isolate itself….Time is running out for Iran to address the international community’s growing concerns about its nuclear program.” 

Time is running out??? It ran out a long time ago.

But the Washington Post also cited “a senior official” as saying:

“Iran will face a ‘package of consequences’ if it does not soon become a ‘willing partner’ in talks on its nuclear ambitions. 

That allusion to Iran as a willing partner is worth at least a chuckle.  If anything, Iran would be dragged kicking and screaming, but even that is not going to happen.


And yet, and yet, we do seem to be at a turning point that will lead to actions against Iran.  They better be taken mighty fast, and they had better be serious. The Wall Street Journal reports that discussions with regard to sanctions are focusing on specific areas that could be targeted: Iranian banks, shipping companies, insurance firms and energy assets. “U.S. officials said they have also focused on the assets of Iran’s elite military unit, the Revolutionary Guard.”

Iran is vulnerable and serious sanctions could have the desired effect.  The Iranians are defiant now, but may face the point at which they must cave or collapse.


Please see this extremely important piece by Fouad Adjami in the Wall Street Journal, “The Arabs have stopped applauding.”


“‘He talks too much,’ a Saudi academic in Jeddah, who had once been smitten with Barack Obama, recently observed to me of America’s 44th president. He has wearied of Mr. Obama and now does not bother with the Obama oratory.

“He is hardly alone, this academic. In the endless chatter of this region, and in the commentaries offered by the press, the theme is one of disappointment. In the Arab-Islamic world, Barack Obama has come down to earth.

“He has not made the world anew, history did not bend to his will…”

“…There is little Mr. Obama can do about this disenchantment. He can’t journey to Turkey to tell its Islamist leaders and political class that a decade of anti-American scapegoating is all forgiven and was the product of American policies—he has already done that. He can’t journey to Cairo to tell the fabled ‘Arab street’ that the Iraq war was a wasted war of choice, and that America earned the malice that came its way from Arab lands—he has already done that as well. He can’t tell Muslims that America is not at war with Islam—he, like his predecessor, has said that time and again.

“…Steeped in an overarching idea of American guilt, Mr. Obama and his lieutenants offered nothing less than a doctrine, and a policy, of American penance. No one told Mr. Obama that the Islamic world, where American power is engaged and so dangerously exposed, it is considered bad form, nay a great moral lapse, to speak ill of one’s own tribe when in the midst, and in the lands, of others.

“The crowd may have applauded the cavalier way the new steward of American power referred to his predecessor, but in the privacy of their own language they doubtless wondered about his character and his fidelity. ‘My brother and I against my cousin, my cousin and I against the stranger,’ goes one of the Arab world’s most honored maxims. The stranger who came into their midst and spoke badly of his own was destined to become an object of suspicion.

“Mr. Obama could not make up his mind: He was at one with ‘the people’ and with the rulers who held them in subjugation. The people of Iran who took to the streets this past summer were betrayed by this hapless diplomacy—Mr. Obama was out to ‘engage’ the terrible rulers that millions of Iranians were determined to be rid of.

“On Nov. 4, on the 30th anniversary of the seizure of the American embassy in Tehran, the embattled reformers, again in the streets, posed an embarrassing dilemma for American diplomacy: “Obama, Obama, you are either with us or with them,” they chanted. By not responding to these cries and continuing to ‘engage’ Tehran’s murderous regime, his choice was made clear. It wasn’t one of American diplomacy’s finest moments.

“Mr. Obama has himself to blame for the disarray of his foreign policy. American arms had won a decent outcome in Iraq, but Mr. Obama would not claim it—it was his predecessor’s war. Vigilance had kept the American homeland safe from terrorist attacks for seven long years under his predecessors, but he could never grant Bush policies the honor and credit they deserved. He had declared Afghanistan a war of necessity, but he seems to have his eye on the road out even as he is set to announce a troop increase in an address to be delivered tomorrow.

“…Nor was he swayed by the fate of so many peace plans’ that have been floated over so many decades to resolve the fight between Arab and Jew over the land between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean. Where George W. Bush offered the Palestinians the gift of clarity—statehood but only after the renunciation of terror and the break with maximalism—Mr. Obama signaled a return to the dead ways of the past: a peace process where America itself is broker and arbiter.

“…The laws of gravity, the weight of history and of precedent, have caught up with the Obama presidency. We are beyond stirring speeches. The novelty of the Obama approach, and the Obama persona, has worn off. There is a whole American diplomatic tradition to draw upon—engagements made, wisdom acquired in the course of decades, and, yes, accounts to be settled with rogues and tyrannies. They might yet help this administration find its way out of a labyrinth of its own making.”



Switzerland has passed a law that forbids the building of new minarets — the towers on mosques from which the call to prayer is done. 


Daniel Pipes sees this as a possible turning point. 

“The constitutional amendment does not ban mosques, it does not pull down the country’s four existing minarets, nor does touch the practice of Islam in Switzerland…

“But on another level, the 57.5 to 42.5 percent vote represents a possible turning point for European Islam, one comparable to the Rushdie affair of 1989. That a large majority of those Swiss who voted on Sunday explicitly expressed anti-Islamic sentiments potentially legitimates such sentiments across Europe and opens the way for others to follow suit. That it was the usually quiet, low-profile, un-newsworthy, politically boring, neutral Swiss who suddenly roared their fears about Islam only enhances their votes’ impact.”


Commentator Robin Shepherd agrees:

“It looks as though a backlash against Islam in Europe by nationalist forces energized by the failures of multiculturalist orthodoxies is now really starting to take hold. There’s more of this to come. You can rely on it.”

Let us pray that Europe will respond now, at the 11th hour, before it is too late.




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