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22 February 2009


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Netanyahu won't be able to form a viable coalition.


mlaw -

I'd like to agree, but I'm not sure I'm optimistic. For example, "Americans inherently dislike arrogrance...": that seems to fly in the face of the elections of the Bushie cabalists, and the new savior in the White House doesn't seem too short on that score either and that should have been evident during the electoral campaign. Not that there's anything wrong with arrogance - I've got my fair share of it....

"Were I a Palestinian, I would spend a few million dollars and hire the most prestigious western Pr firms in the world to pitch my cause in vernacular English all over the cable networks. Of course I would also begin a non violent campaign which remains far more effective than any intifada could ever be."

I agree to the extent that Palestinian PR sucks - some of it their own shortcomings, some of it our useless mass media.

Palestine does have a tradition of non-violent resistance - in fact, there is a village cut by the Wall where non-violent demonstrations have regularly occured only to be repeatedly fired on with rubber bullets. If it wasn't 12:50 AM I would look for a web reference. However, you can read http://www.ap-agenda.org/11-02/asaleh.htm for a historical overview: the first intifada was basically non-violent until the Israeli response (h/t Helena Cobban's Just World News).

Anyway, an interesting if demoralazing thread. Thank you again, Col. Lang, for the fabulous committee of correspondence.

Not encouraged by Ross getting the special advisor nod, but then I didn't really expect anything better.

Still unemployed in Houston (thank the gods for the occasional paying gig!) -


Charles I

mlaw230 re:

"I was surprised to learn that the recent Gaza unpleasantness. . ."

I'm dismayed at your surprise, inured to it in general.

I'm appalled by your description of full bore modern aerial, artillery, tank, and gunboat warfare, savagely unleashed contrary to international law, the Geneva conventions, many UN Resolutions, and bilateral munitions end-use limitation agreements between the U.S. and Israel, against
besieged, captive sanctioned, starved urbanites armed with homemade fertilizer powered rockets wielded, as you note, "without effect", as "unpleasantness".

Language is a powerful tool. As are modern armaments, and as you astutely point out, public relations. All critical to defining and holding the elusive "moral High ground", should reference to it be required over and above the more pressing and pedestrian consideration of "exactly what is in it for us".

Unpleasantness is when a drunken guest pees on your couch after you're kind enough to hide his car keys. When your kid is caught shoplifting. When your spouse is cheating, or an addict. That's unpleasantness.

Gaza was the murder of innocents preceded by decades of ruthless colonial land theft and suppression of the oldest kind, the boot to the neck, the chokehold you rightly note, by a victor who dices and despoils what it does not seize outright.

Gaza was subjected to hundreds of thousands of the highest tech munitions to devastating effect that you may review at such sites as:



or at the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights:


UNOSAT at the UN in particular has comprehensive photographic battle damage assessment of Gaza here:


Similar information for the Israeli-suffered BDA is not evident.

You may visit Debkafile and review the breathless accounts of psychological trama inflicted upon thousands of equally innocent Israelis(aside from those armed Israeli combatants participating in the Occupation or in illegal agressive war) as they cower in well equipped bomb shelters under an intolerable rain of rockets("without effect".C

Compare and contrast those reports with the evidence from the cited sites above of the actual physiological effect of modern warfare upon the hapless captives it is visited upon.

I'm at a loss as to just how the point at which " the American public simply refuses to back further support" of the blatantly criminal colonial warfare described above "would be a historic and moral failure".

I would find it an occasion for celebration and salutation.

NOTHING Hamas could do would change my view of that fact. Though if they set off a bomb where I live, hurt mine, well I'd sic the Hounds of Hell on those misguided perpatrators. Gazans didn't deserve that war and the Palestinians deserve a state. Israel deserves to be opposed, International Law and the U.N charter mandate it.

There is NO Israeli moral high ground. Israel deserves to be opposed, International Law and the U.N charter mandate it.

What could possibly be in "it", whatever "it" is, for ANYONE to support such criminality, all the moreso, as you say, because it imperils the very existence of the state of Israel?

Which I support in theory as I now clamour for its reduction in fact and footpr-, er, jackbootprint.

Nascent sanction, divestment and boycott campaigns are gaining new traction. A Spanish Judge has opened a war crimes file upon petition by the Palestinians. I'll be lining up for the first new Palestine Bonds.

As you not a Palestinian in pursuit of spin and an clever ad campaign, nor apparently, not an unreconstructable Zionist, I pray you continue your surprising learning and share it further abroad than this column, the latter now drearily familiar with my little rants.

I really do hope you look at some of the destruction wrought in Gaza. There are other satellite resources available detailing the extent of the colonization and balkanization of the West Bank I'm too indolent ot find just now.

I in turn am so pissed off that I am working furiously for the Palestinian cause. I hope that it can gain enough momentum, if not the moral high ground (which as the Occupied Party of an aggressive expansionist neighbour it already occupies in any event, no matter how much you squint at the rubble nor how loud the We-Own-The-Holocaust-So-All-AntiZionism-Is-AntiSemitism chorous screeches) required to force a just two state solution on the 1967 border prior to the destruction of the present Israeli state.

If not, I'd be morally comfortable with a democratic one state final solution. The present state of affairs is immoral, illegal, intolerable and for that latter reason alone, unsustainable.

At the very least, until we positively stop enabling Israeli "unpleasantness", we are morally complicit with it.

David Habakkuk

I see from Jim Lobe's blog that Ambassador Chas Freeman has been appointed head of the National Intelligence Council. Having much enjoyed the wisdom -- and wit -- with which he has chaired forums at Middle East Policy, I find this enormously heartening.
An excerpt from a speech he made in December 2007, which Lobe quotes, sums up much of what has been wrong with U.S. -- and British -- policy since the attack on the World Trade Center.
'In retrospect, Al Qaeda has played us with the finesse of a matador exhausting a great bull by guiding it into unproductive lunges at the void behind his cape. By invading Iraq, we transformed an intervention in Afghanistan most Muslims had supported into what looks to them like a wider war against Islam. We destroyed the Iraqi state and catalyzed anarchy, sectarian violence, terrorism, and civil war in that country.
'Meanwhile, we embraced Israel’s enemies as our own; they responded by equating Americans with Israelis as their enemies. We abandoned the role of Middle East peacemaker to back Israel’s efforts to pacify its captive and increasingly ghettoized Arab populations. We wring our hands while sitting on them as the Jewish state continues to seize ever more Arab land for its colonists. This has convinced most Palestinians that Israel cannot be appeased and is persuading increasing numbers of them that a two-state solution is infeasible. It threatens Israelis with an unwelcome choice between a democratic society and a Jewish identity for their state. Now the United States has brought the Palestinian experience – of humiliation, dislocation, and death – to millions more in Afghanistan and Iraq. Israel and the United States each have our reasons for what we are doing, but no amount of public diplomacy can persuade the victims of our policies that their suffering is justified, or spin away their anger, or assuage their desire for reprisal and revenge.'
(See http://www.ips.org/blog/jimlobe/?p=229.)


new CBS VP. (expect propaganda to come out of that outfit when Bibi hit the button and yank the chain.)


CBS News named Jeff Ballabon, a New York Republican activist, to serve as the Senior Vice President of Communications.

What is CBS thinking? This guy is very far out there with his partisan rhetoric.

A decade ago, I debated Ballabon in New York. I represented the Democratic Jewish community while he spoke on behalf of Republican Jews. During the debate, Ballabon claimed that, after his most recent job in Washington, he became convinced that Democrats are inherently bad people and Republicans are fundamentally good people.

What planet does this guy come from? It's astonishing that CBS News would name Ballabon to its senior management.

In fact, it is not atypical of Ballabon to use this kind of extreme partisan rhetoric. During the 2008 election, Ballabon said, "Obama is incredibly dangerous."

During the 2004 elections, JTA reported, "AIPAC has touted this election [in 2004] as a 'win-win' proposition, noting Bush's strong support for Israel and Kerry's 100 percent pro-Israel voting record in the Senate." In response, Ballabon wrote, "Bush and Kerry 'win-win?' Republicans and Democrats indistinguishable? It would


"why the Israeli electorate has created the preconditions for that meeting" ?


Green Zone Cafe

If Israel changed its electoral system from extreme proportional representation to single member winner-takes-all districts (like in the US House), their politics would be tremendously moderated.

You'd have Kadima and Labor fighting for the center instead of whackos like Avigdor Lieberman acting as kingmakers.


CBS News named Jeff Ballabon, a New York Republican activist, to serve as the Senior Vice President of Communications.

What is CBS thinking? This guy is very far out there with his partisan rhetoric: Ballabon claimed that, after his most recent job in Washington, he became convinced that Democrats are inherently bad people and Republicans are fundamentally good people.

It didn't take long for the press to return to their adversarial ways vis-a-vis the administration in power. I wonder if they'll play the "Yakkity-Yak" theme during Mr Obama's prime time speech tonight?


double or nothing. (but this is debka we are talking about)

Netanyahu eyes Nathan Sharansky for foreign minister

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report

After Labor and Kadima leader Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni refused to join his wall-to-wall national government, Israel's designated prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has launched negotiations for a centrist government coalition supported by a parliamentary majority of 65 members of the right-of-center and religious parties. Nathan Sharansky is Netanyahu's choice for the foreign ministry; governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fisher may be offered finance and a professional soldier or security figure is sought for defense.



Clinton warns Israel over delays in Gaza aid

Two weeks ago, four senior European Union officials sent a letter to the prime minister, foreign minister, defense minister and Yitzhak Herzog, the minister charged with humanitarian aid transfers to the Gaza Strip, protesting delays in the flow of aid through the crossings into Gaza. The officials also demanded that Israel formulates a clear policy on this issue.

In response, Israel explained that the delay stems, in part, from the uncertainty regarding the fate of abducted soldier Gilad Shalit, but also stressed that efforts are being made to improve the situation.

Herzog also asked Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak to hold a meeting in order to revaluate current policy on the delivery of aid to Gaza.

Clifford Kiracofe

1. Bibi's political "base" in the United States contains perhaps 25-50 million Americans: the "Christian" Zionists led by Hagee etal. I do not see him, or others on the far right of Israeli politics, losing this fanatic and superstitious American political base. As the economy unravels further, perhaps Christian Zionist numbers will grow anticipating the "End Times."

2. Patrick Seale's take on Bibi and Obama:



Professor Kiracofe:

Bibi's political "base" in the United States contains perhaps 25-50 million Americans: the "Christian" Zionists led by Hagee etal. I do not see him, or others on the far right of Israeli politics, losing this fanatic and superstitious American political base.

True, but it's doubtful that any of the members of that special-interest group voted for Obama, or for Democratic candidates in general. They did constitute an important plank in the GOP alliance that elected Bush II, but that coalition is falling apart, and the votes on the stimulus bill demonstrated that Obama can set policy without much help from those in Congress who Hagee would support.

This class of Zionists may grow as the economy unravels, but then again, it may not. Those who go to these churches seeking religious and financial advice may choose to go elsewhere when all they get is bad international politics instead. Megachurches like Hagee's may prove to be too big to succeed in hard times, and many may fail just as Promise Keepers did.

Clifford Kiracofe


It will be interesting to see the analyses of the 2010 elections.

After the 1929 Crash, and during the 30s and 40s in the US, the Fundamentalists took a lower public profile, partially as a result of fallout from Scopes.

Nonetheless, their numbers grew as they focused on building their institutional base of churches and educational institutions. Outreach was assisted through use of new communication technology: radio.

Thus, by the 1950s the Fundamentalist movement was large and active in the US and has grown ever since to its present day size. Over the past decade, the fastest growing segment has been the Pentecostals.

The Pew Forum has the following report which is the most recent and comprehensive.

Prof. John C. Green at the University of Akron is one of the leading US academic analysts on religion and domestic politics and may have some recent insight. There is an increasingly rich and dense body of scholarly literature on the subject from different disciplines: sociology, anthropology, political science, etc.


Professor Kiracofe:

Thanks for your well-considered insights, and for the link to the Pew Forum studies. I am looking forward to reading your book on this subject when it comes out this summer.



The Obama administration has notified Congress that Chas Freeman has been appointed chairman of the National Intelligence Council, demonstrating a willingness to rebuff pro-Israel activists and an embrace of a more realist foreign policy line.

Freeman, who drew fire for defending the Chinese and Saudi governments, doesn't represent the mainstream of the administration. He's also a broadly knowledgeable, polyglot, experienced diplomat with many friends in foreign policy and intelligence circles, including Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair.

But his inclusion in an important, low-profile job represents, among other things, the vastly diminished sway of the neocons — long at odds with the professional intelligence community — who launched a concerted, public effort to torpedo the move.

"Ambassador Freeman will be responsible for overseeing the production of National Intelligence Estimates (NIE) and other Intelligence Community analytical products, providing substantive counsel to the DNI and senior policymakers on issues of top national security importance, reaching out to nongovernmental experts in academia and the private sector to broaden the Intelligence Community's perspective, and articulating substantive intelligence priorities and procedures to guide intelligence collection and analysis," says the notification, which lists his qualifications: "Ambassador Freeman brings a diverse background in defense, diplomacy, and intelligence to this position having served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Deputy Chief of Mission and Charge d'Affaires in Bangkok and Beijing, Director of Chinese Affairs at U.S. State Department, and Distinguished Fellow at the United States Institute of Peace and the Institute for National Security Studies. He received his J.D. from the Harvard School of Law."



Netanyahu Fails to Land Centrist Rival's Support

JERUSALEM, Feb. 27 -- Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu failed a second time Friday to win Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's agreement to join a government of national unity, increasing the likelihood that Israel will be led by a narrow coalition of parties opposed to or skeptical of talks with the Palestinians.


Israel's Netanyahu gives up on alliance with Livni


JERUSALEM, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Israel's right-wing Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu has abandoned efforts to talk centrist Tzipi Livni into forming a broad coalition government, a spokeswoman said on Saturday.

The decision, made after a second round of negotiations on Friday ended in disagreement, increased the likelihood that Netanyahu's Likud party would turn to rightist factions opposed to territorial withdrawals in peace talks with the Palestinians.



TEL AVIV, March 2 (RIA Novosti) - Israeli authorities plan to build over 73,300 housing units in the Palestinian territories which will see the number of settlers double there, an Israeli left-wing NGO said on Monday.

Acccording to the report by Peace Now, based on data published on the Israeli housing ministry's website, planning permission to build 15,156 dwellings has been given, while permission for another 58,146 has yet to be approved.

"If all the plans are realized, the number of [Jewish] settlers in the [Palestinian] territories will double - an addition of approx. 300,000 persons, based upon an average of 4 persons in each housing unit," the organization said.

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