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October 10, 2009: From the Sublime to the Ridiculous

November 10, 2009

Motzei Shabbat (After Shabbat)

Today we celebrated Simchat Torah here in Israel, ending the holiday season.  Outside of Israel, it will be celebrated tomorrow, and there are some of you who will not see this until tomorrow evening.  But there is so very much to say, that I wanted to pick up, and at least begin.  A very active week it was.


Only hours ago, I danced with the Torah.  This is the ultimate in sanity.  Then, as the holiday ended, I turned to the ways of the world and confronted insanity on a number of fronts.

The “ridiculous” that I refer to here is the conferring upon Barack Obama of the Nobel Peace prize.  My mailbox is full of comments about this “happening,” but I could not pass without adding my own.

Almost universally the response has been “What?”  What has he done to merit such a prize?  The answer, of course, is nothing.  In fact, even before this news broke (right before the beginning of Shabbat/Chag on Friday), I had been planning to write about Obama’s total failure in achieving his goals.  There has been mockery about the fact that he wasn’t even able to convince the Olympics Committee to hold the competitions in Chicago.  Never mind that as he courts Arab and Muslim states they defy his requests for cooperation and undoubtedly laugh behind his back, seeing themselves further empowered.  The world is a more dangerous place — in no way closer to peace — since he has taken office.


What must be remembered is that this prize is totally politicized.  How could anyone take it seriously, knowing that it was awarded to the unrepentant, Jew-hating terrorist Yasser Arafat because he signed his name to the Oslo Accords (which he failed to honor)?

Thus the only questions worth considering, I think, are political ones.  How, if at all, will this impact Obama nationally and internationally?

Over a period of time now, Obama’s domestic popularity has been dropping, and it has been my deep hope (shared with many, many others) that this would ultimately limit his ability to carry out goals that threaten to do damage — that as his coat tails got shorter, members of Congress, eager for re-election, would balk.  Will this award have a serious impact on this scenario?  I’m not certain, at all.  But it’s worrisome.

Daniel Pipes, it should be noted, thinks that this award will work against Obama: “the absurdity of the prize decision will harm Obama politically in the United States, contrasting his role as international celebrity with his record devoid of accomplishments.”

And internationally?  Will the president of the United States curry more respect because of this?  Could this be a good thing in terms of international leverage?  Or could it motivate Obama to pressure us further?  In many ways a truly weak America is a frightening prospect.  (Nod to Debbie B. here.) The conundrum, of course, is that the president directly impacts how the US is seen.  It’s a trick to wish the US well (and oh! I do), while hoping that its chief executive is unable to succeed in advancing his dangerous goals on a variety of fronts.

Here, Pipes is cynical, seeing the Norwegian Nobel Committee as having lauded Obama for using dialogue in difficult situations — with the political goal of making it harder for him to now use military force against Iran.



Just after I had finished my appeal a bit more than a week ago — with regard to contacting elected officials to block the Goldstone Report from going to the UN — and had gone to help finish decorating my children’s sukkahs, there was a dramatic shift in the situation:

The Palestinians, under pressure from the Western nations and particularly the US (there are reports that Obama may have intervened personally), opted to withdraw until March a demand that the Goldstone Report be voted on. 

The fallout from this has been enormous, however.  Palestinians across the board are furious that Abbas had bowed to pressure.  Not just the radicals, including Hamas, but Abbas’s own Fatah party. 

Wrote Khaled Abu Toameh in the Post yesterday:

“The phrase, ‘Abbas and Fatah are finished’ was uttered by almost every respected political analyst in the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the past week.”

Explaining that there is widespread perception that Abbas is a pawn of Israel and the US, Abu Toameh said:

“If there’s truth to the PA claim that its decision to ditch the Goldstone Report was taken as a result of American pressure and threats, then the Obama administration has effectively undermined and discredited Abbas and Fatah…

“Thanks to the recent mistakes made by the Obama administration, not only has Hamas’s power grown, but it would be difficult to find a Palestinian who would agree to purchase a second-hand car from Abbas, let alone accept a peace agreement he brokered with Israel.”


It is important to mention this, which has the Israeli government furious:

During our military operation in Gaza, the PA encouraged us to take out Hamas, even providing information that led us to certain targets. But once the hostilities ceased, the PA reversed itself 180 degrees, charging us with horrendous war crimes for our actions in Gaza.

This playing both ends against the middle is very typical and should be noted well.


Abbas and his party are now attempting to redeem their position in different ways.

Abbas — who is even being accused of treason — ordered a “commission of inquiry” to find out what happened with regard to the PA withdrawal of its demands on the report. This is shtuyote, nonsense.

As one PA minister said:

“What’s the president trying to tell us — that he didn’t take the decision to kill the resolution…?

“Well, if he didn’t take the decision, we want to know who’s running the Palestinian Authority.”


Far, far more serious has been the PA participation in fomenting violence in Jerusalem during the course of this past week of Sukkot — as many thousands of worshippers flock to the Kotel during this time.  I’ve written many times about radical elements, such as the Islamic Movement, which have incited violence by telling people that the Jews are endangering the Al Aksa Mosque on the Temple Mount. 

But now, Abu Toameh tells us, PA/Fatah people were also involved — telling Palestinians to save the Mosque from being “destroyed” or “captured” by Jewish “fanatics.”  The PA role here has been seen as an attempt to deflect attention from the Goldstone embarrassment.

Last Sunday there were clashes between police and Muslims throwing rocks and bottles, just outside the Old City.  Additionally, stores of rocks were found stockpiled on the Mount, which overlooks the Kotel and the Jewish worshippers. That there was no major incident over the holiday week is due to the diligence of the police and IDF.

There has been concern that the violence in Jerusalem might lead to another “intifada” or war. I will return to this in a great deal more detail in due course.  The ability of the PA to turn in a minute is well documented.


Lastly, there are now attempts by the PA to redeem itself by keeping the Goldstone Report alive, appealing to Arab and Muslim states in this regard.  On Wednesday, the UN Security Council met in secret session at the instigation of Libya, which is a temporary member of the Council, to discuss holding a full Council meeting on the subject of the report.  The decision was to hold that meeting this coming Wednesday.


Last Sunday, Hamas and Fatah representatives announced that they are about to sign a “reconciliation agreement” on October 22, following a conference to discuss “national unity.”

Hamas has since expressed anger at Fatah over its position on the Goldstone Report, and hesitation about proceeding.  It remains to be seen if Fatah will sufficiently redeem itself in Hamas’s eyes for plans to continue.

The “reconciliation,” such as it might be — and it would be fragile, certainly — would not represent a true coming together in unity of the two factions. This is simply impossible. What we’re looking at is more of a coalition, forged for pragmatic reasons. 

The implications here are enormous and bear close monitoring.  Every time there is talk of reconciliation, Fatah shifts to a more radical stance.


Gilad Shalit is apparently alive. That was determined by our government a week ago Friday, when a video of Shalit — studied carefully by various agencies — was received from Hamas in return for the 20 women prisoners we released in exchange.  The video was made in September; no intelligence could be gleaned from it.

And now? There are those (notably Hamas) who say, once again, that a deal is near, and others (notably Netanyahu’s people) who caution this isn’t necessarily so.

There is talk, which I cannot quite wrap my head around, that the right wing Netanyahu government might agree to Hamas terms that Olmert refused.  That may or may not be.  What is clear is that there is certainly another factor at work:

A Hamas-Fatah “unity” deal would include arrangements for elections early next year.  It seems that Hamas is eager for an agreement on Shalit, with release of many hundreds of prisoners, before such elections take place.  For bringing those prisoners home will enhance Hamas popularity and its chances at the polls.


This past week Obama voiced cautious satisfaction over Iran’s apparently increased cooperation on nuclear issues.  The Iranians have now agreed to allow inspectors into the recently revealed Qom site.  But there were no discussions on halting uranium enrichment.  Analysts are warning that what seems to be a more conciliatory approach by Iran is consistent with its leaders pattern of weaving between cooperation and resistance, while continuing with its nuclear program.  In other words, smoke and mirrors.


“The Good News Corner”

The Nobel Peace Prize is highly politicized. The other prizes are based on very real achievements.  This week, Israeli Professor Ada Yonath of the Weismann Institute won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her work on protein development in cells and links to bacteria resistant antibiotics.

Yonath is the 9th Israeli to win a Nobel prize since the founding of the modern state of Israel and the 171st Jew to win since the prizes were founded in 1901.  In that time, Nobel prizes have been bestowed on Muslims, who constitute one-fifth of the world’s population, nine times.

(Yonath is obviously brilliant in her scientific work, and a source of pride to Israel.  But please, do not attend to any political comments she felt moved to make to journalists regarding the fact that we wouldn’t have our soldiers kidnapped if we didn’t hold any Palestinian prisoners.  This is clearly not her expertise.)




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