Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"Never Again?" and Parenting !

George Friedman sees a deal between Israel and Syrian coming and it being opposed by The U.S., Hezballah and Iran. Therefore, it may not occur. Friedman explains the basis for why such a deal appeals to Syrian and Israeli interests. (See 1 below.)

Mofaz asserts Israel will not allow Iran to go nuclear and that any methods of prevention of such is legitimate. (See 2 below.)

Lee Carey dissects the implications of the Wright-Obama feud and concludes it is basically over and probably now plays to Obama's advantage because his slow to renounce response demonstrated loyalty and his final disengagement will be accepted so Hillary may not get the vote bounce she expects.

What Carey does not understand is why the Wright connection took so long to surface in the regular media and press. (See 3 below.)

From my perspective, to stave off a further voter melt-down, Sen. Obama, as is his want, has "changed" his message. He has now discovered responsible parenting is a selling one. No doubt questions about why he and Michelle exposed their young daughters to Rev. Jeremiah's racial rantings began to register among voters.

Obama is a clever politician and has proven quite capable of change. His problem is it takes him too long to reverse field and by the time he does he is often fighting a read guard action.

Perhaps his campaign strategy gives insight into how he would handle his various Iraq retreat proposals. First pull out and "bring 'em home," then elevate the war in Afghanistan where we should have been along and, by the way, pursue al Qaeda and bomb Pakistan and now it might be more judicious to withdraw from Iraq gradually.

The press and media folks will probably not connect these dots but I do. You decide.

Meanwhile, GW's rating plunge as voters go to the gas pump and grocery store, truckers waste gas protesting its high cost and politicians run for cover and/or make dumb suggestions leaving the Fed to clean up the mess. Just another day in Disney East.

Today is "Rememberance Day" and there are a series of parades, articles suggesting "never again." Should these comments be taken seriously or are they just empty boasts which Iran will choose to ignore? Only time will tell as Iran moves towards becoming a nuclear nation. For sure, as the article below points out, Israel is the only nation whose survival is constantly threatened and which exercises restraint in the fact of such existential threats. (See 4 below.)


1) The Shift Toward an Israeli-Syrian Agreement
By George Friedman

The Middle East, already monstrously complex, grew more complex last week. First, there were strong indications that both Israel and Syria were prepared to engage in discussions on peace. That alone is startling enough. But with the indicators arising in the same week that the United States decided to reveal that the purpose behind Israel’s raid on Syria in September 2007 was to destroy a North Korean-supplied nuclear reactor, the situation becomes even more baffling.

But before we dive into the what-will-be, let us first explain how truly bizarre things have gotten. On April 8 we wrote about how a number of seemingly unconnected events were piecing themselves into a pattern that might indicate an imminent war, a sequel to the summer 2006 Lebanon conflict. This mystery in the Middle East has since matured greatly, but in an unexpected direction. Israeli-Syrian peace talks — serious Israeli-Syrian peace talks — are occurring.

First, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the Israeli media that Israel had been talking to the Syrians, and then that “Very clearly we want peace with the Syrians and are taking all manners of action to this end. They know what we want from them, and I know full well what they want from us.” Then Syrian President Bashar al Assad publicly acknowledged that negotiations with Syria were taking place. Later, a Syrian minister appeared on Al Jazeera and said that, “Olmert is ready for peace with Syria on the grounds of international conditions, on the grounds of the return of the Golan Heights to Syria.” At almost exactly the same moment, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said that, “If Israel is serious and wants peace, nothing will stop the renewal of peace talks. What made this statement really interesting was that it was made in Tehran, standing next to Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, an ally of Syria whose government rejects the very concept of peace with Israel.

We would have expected the Syrians to choose another venue to make this statement, and we would have expected the Iranians to object. It didn’t happen. We waited for a blistering denial from Israel. Nothing came; all that happened was that Israeli spokesmen referred journalists to Olmert’s previous statement. Clearly something was on the table. The Turks had been pressing the Israelis to negotiate with the Syrians, and the Israelis might have been making a gesture to placate them, but the public exchanges clearly went beyond that point. This process could well fail, but it gave every appearance of being serious.

* According to the existing understanding of the region’s geopolitical structure, an Israeli-Syrian peace deal is impossible.
The United States and Iran are locked into talks over the future of Iraq, and both regularly use their respective allies in Israel and Syria to shape those negotiations. An Israeli-Syrian peace would at the very least inconvenience American and Iranian plans.
* Any peace deal would require defanging Hezbollah. But Hezbollah is not simply a Syrian proxy with an independent streak, it is also an Iranian proxy. So long as Iran is Syria’s only real ally in the Muslim world, such a step seems inimical to Syrian interests.
* Hezbollah is also deeply entwined into the economic life of Lebanon — and in Lebanon’s drug production and distribution network — and threatening the relationship with Hezbollah would massively impact Damascus’ bottom line.
* From the other side, Syria cannot accept a peace that does not restore its control over the Golan Heights, captured during the 1967 war. Since this patch of ground overlooks some of Israel’s most densely populated regions, it seems unnatural that Israel ever would even consider such a trade.

Forget issues of Zionism or jihadism, or even simple bad blood; the reality is that any deal between Israel and Syria clashes with the strategic interests of both sides, making peace is impossible. Or is it? Talks are happening nonetheless, meaning one of two things is true: Either Olmert and Assad have lost it, or this view of reality is wrong.

Let’s reground this discussion away from what everyone — ourselves included — thinks they know and go back to the basics, namely, the geopolitical realities in which Israel and Syria exist.

Peace with Egypt and Jordan means Israel is secure on its eastern and southern frontiers. Its fundamental problem is counterinsurgency in Gaza and at times in the West Bank. Its ability to impose a military solution to this problem is limited, so it has settled for separating itself from the Palestinians and on efforts to break up the Palestinian movement into different factions. The split in the Palestinian community between Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza helped this strategy immensely, dividing the Palestinians geographically, ideologically, economically and politically. The deeper the intra-Palestinian conflict is, the less of a strategic threat to Israel the Palestinians can be. It is hardly a beautiful solution — and dividing the Palestinians does not reduce the security burden on Israel — but it is manageable.

Israel does not perceive Syria as a serious threat. Not only is the Syrian military a pale shadow of Israeli capability, Israel does not even consider sacrificing the Golan Heights to weakening the Israeli military meaningfully. The territory has become the pivot of public discussions, but losing it hasn’t been a real problem for Israel since the 1970s. In today’s battlefield environment, artillery on the heights would rapidly be destroyed by counter-battery fire, helicopter gunships or aircraft. Indeed, the main threat to Israel from Syria is missiles. Damascus now has one of the largest Scud missile and surface-to-surface missile arsenals in the region — and those can reach Israel from far beyond the Golan Heights regardless of where the Israeli-Syrian political border is located. Technological advances — even those from just the last decade — have minimized the need for a physical presence on that territory that was essential militarily decades ago .

The remaining threat to Israel is posed by Lebanon, where Hezbollah has a sufficient military capability to pose a limited threat to northern Israel, as was seen in the summer of 2006. Israel can engage and destroy a force in Lebanon, but the 1982-2002 Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon vividly demonstrated that the cost-benefit ratio to justify an ongoing presence simply does not make sense.

At the current time, Israel’s strategic interests are twofold. First, maintain and encourage the incipient civil war between Hamas and Fatah. The key to this is to leverage tensions between neighboring Arab states and the Palestinians. And this is easy. The Hashemite government of Jordan detests the West Bank Palestinians because more than three-quarters of the population of Jordan is Palestinian, but the Hashemite king rather likes being king. Egypt equally hates the Gaza Palestinians as Hamas’ ideological roots lie in the Muslim Brotherhood — a group whose ideology not only contributed to al Qaeda’s formation, but also that of groups who have exhibited a nasty habit of assassinating Egyptian presidents.

The second Israeli strategic interest is finding a means of neutralizing any threat from Lebanon without Israel being forced into war — or worse yet, into an occupation of Lebanon. The key to this strategy lies with the other player in this game.

Ultimately Syria only has its western border to worry about. To the east is the vast desert border with Iraq, an excellent barrier to attack for both nations. To the north are the Turks who, if they chose, could swallow Syria in a hard day’s work and be home in time for coffee. Managing that border is a political matter, not a military one.

That leaves the west. Syria does not worry too much about an Israeli invasion. It is not that Damascus thinks that Israel is incapable of such an operation — Israel would face only a slightly more complicated task of eliminating Syria than Turkey would — but that the al Assads know full well that Israel is happy with them in power. The al Assads and their fellow elites hail from the Alawite sect of Islam, an offshoot of Shiite Islam that the Sunnis consider apostate. Alawite rule in Syria essentially is secular, and the government has a historic fear of an uprising by the majority Sunnis.

The Israelis know that any overthrow of the al Assads would probably land Israel with a radical Sunni government on its northeastern frontier. From Israel’s point of view, it is far better to deal with a terrified and insecure Syrian government more concerned with maintaining internal control than a confident and popular Syrian government with the freedom to look outward.

Just as Syria’s defensive issues vis-à-vis Israel are not what they seem, neither are Syrian tools for dealing with Israel in an offensive manner as robust as most think.

Syria is not particularly comfortable with the entities that pose the largest security threats to Israel, namely, the main Palestinian factions. Damascus has never been friendly to the secular Fatah movement, with which it fought many battles in Lebanon; nor is it comfortable with the more fundamentalist Sunni Hamas. (Syria massacred its own fundamentalists during the 1980s.) So while the Syrians have dabbled in Palestinian politics, they have never favored a Palestinian state. In fact, it should be recalled that when Syria first invaded Lebanon in 1975, it was against the Palestinians and in support of Lebanese Christians.

That invasion — as well as most Syrian operations in Lebanon — was not about security, but about money. Lebanon, the descendent of Phoenicia, has always been a vibrant economic region (save when there is war). It is the terminus of trade routes from the east and south and the door to the Mediterranean basin. It is a trading and banking hub, with Beirut in particular as the economic engine of the region. Without Beirut and Lebanon, Syria is an isolated backwater. With it, Damascus is a major player.

As such, Syria’s closest ties among Israel’s foes are not with the two major indigenous Palestinian factions, but with the Shiite group Hezbollah. The Syrians have a somewhat tighter religious affinity with Hezbollah, as well as a generation of complex business dealings with the group’s leaders. But its support for Hezbollah is multifaceted, and anti-Israeli tendencies are only one aspect of the relationship. And Hezbollah is much more important to Syria as a tool for managing Damascus’ affairs in Lebanon.
The Basis of a Deal

Israel and Syria’s geopolitical interests diverge less than it might appear. By itself, Syria poses no conventional threat to Israel. Syria is dangerous only in the context of a coalition with Egypt. In 1973, fighting on two fronts, the Syrians were a threat. With Egypt neutralized now and behind the buffer in the Sinai, Syria poses no threat. As for unconventional weapons, the Israelis indicated with their bombing of the Syrian research facility in September 2007 that they know full well how — and are perfectly willing unilaterally — to take that option off Damascus’ table.

Since neither side wants a war with the other — Israel does not want to replace the Alawites, and the Alawites are not enamored of being replaced — the issue boils down to whether Israel and Syria can coordinate their interests in Lebanon. Israel has no real economic interests in Lebanon. Its primary interest is security — to make certain that forces hostile to Israel cannot use Lebanon as a base for launching attacks. Syria has no real security interests so long its economic primacy is guaranteed. And neither country wants to see an independent Palestinian state.

The issue boils down to Lebanon. In a sense, the Israelis had an accommodation with Syria over Lebanon when Israel withdrew. It ceded economic pre-eminence in Lebanon to the Syrians. In return, the Syrians controlled Hezbollah and in effect took responsibility for Israeli security in return for economic power. It was only after Syria withdrew from Lebanon under U.S. pressure that Hezbollah evolved into a threat to Israel, precipitating the 2006 conflict.

This was a point on which Israel and the United States didn’t agree. The United States, fighting in Iraq, wanted an additional lever with which to try to control Syrian support for militants fighting in Iraq. They saw Lebanon as a way to punish Syria for actions in Iraq. But the Israelis saw themselves as having to live with the consequences of that withdrawal. Israel understood that Syria’s withdrawal shifted the burden of controlling Hezbollah to Israel — something that could not be achieved without an occupation.

What appears to be under consideration between the supposed arch rivals, therefore, is the restoration of the 2005 status quo in Lebanon. The Syrians would reclaim their position in Lebanon, unopposed by Israel. In return, the Syrians would control Hezbollah. For the Syrians, this has the added benefit that by controlling Hezbollah and restraining it in the south, Syria would have both additional strength on the ground in Lebanon, as well as closer economic collaboration — on more favorable terms — with Hezbollah. For Syria, Hezbollah is worth more as a puppet than as a heroic anti-Israeli force.

This is something Israel understands. In the last fight between Israel and Syria in Lebanon, there were different local allies: Israel had the South Lebanese Army. The Syrians were allied with the Christian Franjieh clan. In the end, both countries dumped their allies. Syria and Israel have permanent interests in Lebanon. They do not have permanent allies.
The Other Players

The big loser in this game, of course, would be the Lebanese. But that is more complicated than it appears. Many of the Lebanese factions — including most of the Christian clans — have close relations with the Syrians. Moreover, the period of informal Syrian occupation was a prosperous time. Lebanon is a country of businessmen and militia, sometimes the same. The stability the Syrians imposed was good for business.

The one faction that would clearly oppose this would be Hezbollah. It would be squeezed on all sides. Ideologically speaking, constrained from confronting Israel, its place in the Islamic sun would be undermined. Economically speaking, Hezbollah would be forced into less favorable economic relations with the Syrians than it enjoyed on its own. And politically speaking, Hezbollah would have the choice of fighting the Syrians (not an attractive option) or of becoming a Syrian tool. Either way, Hezbollah would have to do something in response to any rumors floating about of a Syrian deal with the Israelis. And given the quality of Syrian intelligence in these matters, key Hezbollah operatives opposed to such a deal might find themselves blown up. Perhaps they already have.

Iran will not be happy about all this. Tehran has invested a fair amount of resources in bulking up Hezbollah, and will not be pleased to see the militia shift from Syrian management to Syrian control. But in the end, what can Iran do? It cannot support Hezbollah directly, and even if it were to attempt to undermine Damascus, those Syrians most susceptible to Tehran’s Shiite-flavored entreaties are the Alawites themselves.

The other player that at the very least would be uneasy about all of this is the United States. The American view of Syria remains extremely negative, still driven by the sense that the Syrians continue to empower militants in Iraq. Certainly that aid — and that negative U.S. feeling — is not as intense as it was two years ago, but the Americans might not feel that this is the right time for such a deal. Thus, the release of the information on the Syrian reactor might well have been an attempt to throw a spoke in the wheel of the Israeli-Syrian negotiations.

That might not be necessary. Nothing disappears faster than Syrian-Israeli negotiations. In this case, however, both countries have fundamental geopolitical interests at stake. Israel wants to secure its northern frontier without committing its troops into Lebanon. The Syrians want to guarantee their access to the economic possibilities in Lebanon. Neither care about the Golan Heights. The Israelis don’t care what happens in Lebanon so long as it doesn’t explode in Israel. The Syrians don’t care what happens to the Palestinians so long as it doesn’t spread onto their turf.

Deals have been made on less. Israel and Syria are moving toward a deal that would leave a lot of players in the region — including Iran — quite unhappy. Given this deal has lots of uneasy observers, including Iran, the United States, Hezbollah, the Palestinians and others, it could blow apart with the best will in the world. And given that this is Syria and Israel, the best will isn’t exactly in abundant supply.

2)Mofaz: Israel will not accept a nuclear-armed Iran. All means of prevention legitimate

The Israeli transport minister Shaul Mofaz, speaking at Yale University Tuesday night, April 30, on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, warned Iran may attain command of enrichment technology before the end of this year. He said: “Israel will not tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran. This time, the Jewish people won’t let it happen. I would like to believe the world will not let it happen. To prevent this, all means are legitimate.”

Israel’s annual Holocaust remembrance ceremonies focused this year on the theme of courage displayed by Warsaw Ghetto Uprising leaders 65 years ago, knowing they were doomed. Israeli’s president and prime minister laid wreaths in their honor at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Institute in Jerusalem.

Israelis stood in silence as sirens wailed for two minutes in remembrance of the victims of Nazi World War II genocide, two-thirds of Europe’s nine million Jews. Cafes and places of entertainment were closed and TV and radio broadcast special programs.

In Sderot, memorial ceremonies took place in a new, fortified social center under relentless Palestinian missile fire from Gaza - nine by midday Thursday.

And in Poland, Israel’s chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi led the March of Life from the gates of the former Auschwitz concentration camp to Birkenau. He was joined by 12,000 people from 52 countries. In a short speech, the general noted that the world had stood aside when the Nazis murdered the Jews of Europe.

Avram Grant, the British Chelsea football team’s Israeli coach, whose mother was a Holocaust survivor, joined the procession.

3) Lesson From Jeremiah
By Lee Cary

The Jeremiah Wright story will have a dead cat bounce, but the political lesson from Obama's pastor is, for all intents and purposes, over. Some impact may be measured in the vote analysis after next week's Indiana and North Carolina primaries. But, if the Clinton campaign expects a big decisive swing in Hillary's favor because of Wright, they could be disappointed.

Going forward, Obama can shrug off further questions about his relationship with Wright by saying, "I've already answered those questions to the best of my ability." If asked to explain why it took him so long to make a clean break from his preacher (but not the church), Obama can say,

Look, while it was Rev. Wright who first drew me to Christ and Trinity church, I and my family have developed many important friendships there over the years. Sure, I heard Rev. Wright say some things I wouldn't say, but never to the point of causing me to disassociate myself from the other 6,000 church members there, many with whom the Obama's have become close friends. After all, the pastor doesn't equal the church; the pastor serves the church.

If some reporter asks Obama if he regrets the donations he's given to the church over the years, Obama can say,

Michelle and I contribute money to the church because that's our responsibility as members. In fact, when you join the United Church of Christ you make a pledge to support the church with your gifts. The overwhelming majority of member donations go to support the many ministries that serve the community - and not just the immediate community in Chicago, but the global ministries of the denomination.

This will fly. Why? Because more than a few church goers, of all flavors and colors, don't like their current pastor but won't leave their church because their allegiance isn't primarily to the pastor. They stay loyal through the good, the bad, and the ugly preachers because they value the life-long connections with friends in the congregation.

Obama has established a narrative that incorporates credible denial concerning his knowledge of, and support for, his pastor's expressions of black liberation theology. "Credible denial" is the ability to tell a story with a narrative line that cannot be undeniably rejected as false on its face. While credible denial may stretch credulity to the max, it retains a toe-hold on the theoretically possible. It's possible that Barack Obama wasn't aware of his pastor's rants, even though accepting that proposition requires a major league stretch that takes us just a skosh short of the Land of Incredible Denial. But a skosh is all Obama needs for credible denial.

Because Obama only arrived at the point where he definitively disconnected from Wright through a tedious labyrinth of partial denials, some accuse him of being indecisive. On the other hand, others attribute his incremental distancing from Wright to a heartfelt hesitancy to disconnect from an old friend. The true story is probably more complicated and based on carefully calculated motives difficult for outsiders to decipher. In the long run though, his incremental separations, rather than an early and complete disavowal, put Obama in the best light, albeit dim, in the face of a situation that his campaign handlers had to have known was coming, sooner or later.

The episode could not have come at a better time in Obama's overall campaign in order to deliver minimum long-term damage. (Meanwhile, the MSM needs to answer this question: What took so long for the Wright story to surface?) It came too late to swing the nomination to Clinton, and too early help McCain in the general election. Wright will be ancient history by November.

There is, though, one important outcome that could resurface to McCain's advantage in the general election campaign, if Obama is the nominee. It is this.

Either Democratic candidate will work hard to associate John McCain with President Bush, calling a President McCain a Third Bush term. If Obama plays that card, McCain can say,

I'm no more George Bush than Barack Obama is Jeremiah Wright. So why don't we just focus on what we, the candidates, think, rather than try to muddy the waters by calling on each other to account for what other adults, beyond our control, do or say. That's only fair.

4) Clear message to the world: ‘Never Again’ means that those who harm Israel will pay full price for it
By Uzi Arad

One of the unique characteristics of our national security policy is the limitations Israel assumed upon itself with regards to the use of force and its decision to adhere to a restrained line in its response to threats of extermination.

It is clear that the threats hurled at us frequently by Iran’s leaders and their emissaries (Hamas, Hizbullah, etc.) are no less than a call – or pledge – for genocide. Some of them deny the Holocaust, yet at the same time justify their war against us by claiming that Israel was forced upon the region by those who perpetrated the Holocaust – and this entire twisted argument is meant to pave the way for the holocaust that would befall Israel.

The world hears the voices and sees the deeds, yet aside from a few (but important) friends it watches idly and adopts a complacent attitude. In fact, predictions regarding Israel’s possible demise are becoming increasingly fashionable among some elements worldwide: Within governments, at university campuses, and in intellectual magazines. Apocalyptic terms have gained a foothold even in Israel.

Those who address Israel’s prospects of survivability from the outside include some who wish to see Israel disappear and work to bring this about, and those who would rejoice at our downfall. There is a reason why the BBC’s latest global survey revealed that Israel is almost the most hated country in the world.

Against this backdrop of risks and solitude, Israel’s quiet policy is prominent. When Shimon Peres responded, about two years ago, to Ahmadinejad’s threats to wipe Israel off the map by saying, in a rather incidental manner, that Iran too can be ruined, senior defense officials were quick to distance themselves from the words. When Binyamin Ben-Eliezer warned Iran, about two weeks ago, that if it attacks us it will bring ruin upon itself, senior political officials were quick to distance themselves from his statement.

In the face of the threats, which are as blatant and violent as can possibly be, Israel has adopted a quiet and restrain declarative line according to any criteria. Anyone who deviates from this line is immediately called to order.

Israel more restrained than any democracy

Yet this policy goes unnoticed by foreigners. Professor George Steiner, for example, slammed Israel several years ago for betraying Judaism’s universal values, while claiming that Jews in the Diaspora are able to maintain their moral values. Steiner’s baseless claim was refuted on the spot: He was reminded of Fritz Haber, who in World War I, worked in Germany to advance the development and use of chemical weapons, Chaim Weizmann in Britain, who contributed to upgrading the arms of his host country, and Robert Oppenheimer in World War II America, who was among those who promoted the development and utilization of nuclear weapons. How can they be compared to the “thuggery” at the roadblocks that so bothered the Jewish intellectual?

Steiner and those like him miss the tragic element regarding the state of the Jews. Israel is the only country in the world that sees other countries calling, either bluntly or meekly, for wiping it off the map. Not only do he and his colleagues fail to recognize this, they also fail to note that Israel is actually the one that adopts limitations and restraint on using its defensive force, and even on addressing it, more than any other defensive democracy. Perhaps it does so precisely because of its moral heritage and Jewish values.

However, on Holocaust Memorial Day, we are permitted to – and in fact, obligated to – make it clear to others that there will be no situation whereby the State of Israel will be harmed without those who perpetrate this, including their collaborators, paying the full price for it. The decree “Never Again” does not only mean that no longer will we be defenseless, but also that those who harm us will not be spared.

Peres and Ben-Eliezer made it clear - and they were telling the truth. Recognizing this would ensure the realization of the “Never Again” decree’s original meaning – there will no longer be anyone who will dare rise against us.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Billie Carter ,Jeremiah Wright and Pepto-Bismo!

Jimmy had Billie and Obama has Jeremiah. You could laugh off Billie but Jeremiah is scary and so are his disciples - Michelle and Obama.

Rev. Wright, like his young disciple Obama, is most capable of deflecting attention away from the issue at hand. Wright asserts media and press attacks are not personal but are aimed at the Black church. That elevates the matter by some 20 or more million and allows Wright to defend a large number of folks who he has chosen to suck in by his own inflammatory demagoguery. Whatever attacking is occurring in not against the Black Church. It is simply a revulsion against Rev. Wright's over the hill comments. The fact that Obama has chosen to defend his minister is admirable but what Obama has been saying, or failing to say, in defense of his minister comes across as disingenuous.

Rev. Wright is enjoying the limelight. He is intoxicated by it no less than Jimmy by going to Meshaal and laying a wreath at Arafat's tomb. Meanwhile, the Senator from Illinois is probably chugging Pepto Bismo, because his minister is surely giving him and his campaign staff serious heartburn. Wright is making it increasingly difficult for Obama's healing message to hold traction and it is probably giving many white voters, who were pre-disposed towards Obama, to re-think.

Why? Simply because the race issue has swamped the Democrats' nominating effort, the remarks of Michelle and Wright are like salt thrown into a re-opened wound and Obama has waffled in his various renunciations. Most Americans are genuinely fair minded, most Americans are sloppy sentimentalists but most Americans do not like hearing their nation damned and blamed for past ills which they have worked hard at putting behind them. Most importantly of all, Americans understand there are inconsistencies and economic stratification among various ethnic groups but they reject wholesale blame and for sure think better of their nation than Rev. Wright and Michelle.

Hillary received a second wind from her Pennsylvania vote and Rev. Wright is sucking the air out of Obama's hot air balloon. Both happenings must be giving super-delegates extreme discomfort.

Is a cease fire going to be implemented? If so, is it for real or an opportunity for Hamas to re-arm? Also, Israel will never win a propaganda war but it seems no longer to care. (See 1 below.)

CIA Director,Hayden, asserts Syria would have been capable of making enough Plutonium for several weapons (not bombs) in a short period of time. (See 2 below.)

Karl Rove gives Sen. Obama some free advice. Was it well intended or was it a clever way of reinforcing, in the minds of voters, that the wheels are coming off the Obama train and he is not up to the task of being president? You decide!(See 3 below.)

Dean throws down the gauntlet and says either Obama and Hillary must quit after the last June vote. In fact, Dean should be the one resigning for having structured a nominating strategy that made a fool of his party. (See 4 below.)

Tom Sowell, sees an old newness as I pointed out months ago , ie "Everything old is New Again." Sowell believes we are approaching Obama as if we were engaged in the show game of in "Trivial Pursuit." (See 5 below.)


1) ANALYSIS / Hurry up and shoot before the cease-fire
By Amos Harel

The Israel Defense Forces avoided accepting any form of responsibility for the death of Miyasar Abu Muatak and her four young children in a shanty neighborhood of Beit Hanun Monday. According to the army's version, the mother and children were not killed by two missiles fired from an aircraft, as the Palestinians maintain, but as a result of "secondary explosions." The missiles were aimed at two Islamic Jihad militants that had been identified carrying large bags, which are believed to have included explosive devices. As a result of the blast, the shed which was the family's home was destroyed. Defense Minister Ehud Barak did not bother with the details. As far as he was concerned, he said Monday, only Hamas - whose gunmen operate among civilians - are responsible for the death of "uninvolved civilians."

The Israeli version relies on descriptions by Givati Brigade officers, who called in the aircraft, and on photos of the damage. Also important is the type of munitions that Israel has deployed in recent years in the Gaza Strip. They are lethal, but more precise, so their collateral damage is relatively limited. The damage evident at the site of the killing is much more like that caused by the detonation of a large explosive device.

It is hard to imagine that the army, after seven and a half years of the second intifada, does not appreciate the need to immediately respond in the media. Most likely is that photos, if it has them, do not provide unequivocal evidence to boost the IDF's claims.

It is also doubtful whether the release of photographs will make a difference. The Hamas media warned Monday of an Israeli "campaign to exterminate the Palestinian people." The scenes from Beit Hanun offered perfect proof as far as the radical Islamic group is concerned. The foreign media, who only emerge from their slumber after scenes like this, are also certain who is responsible for the killing of women and children: Israel.

Even if the Palestinian version is debatable, there have been plenty of precedents in the Strip: from the killing of the seven members of the Ghalia family on the Gaza beach in June 2006 (responsibility for which Israel denied), to the artillery barrage that killed 19 civilians in Beit Hanun in November that year.

Nonetheless, it is not at all certain that Monday's killing will affect the cease-fire negotiations. The Hamas political leadership is very keen to achieve a hudna, a cease-fire, even though the group's military wing has reservations. It is possible that Hamas will make do with the Qassam barrages it fired Monday as the appropriate Palestinian response to the incident. Its real test will be its ability to impose its will on the smaller factions, and Tuesday will be critical in signaling which way the situation may go. Representatives of Hamas and the smaller Palestinian factions are scheduled to meet in Cairo with representatives of Egyptian intelligence.

For the time being the IDF is behaving as if there is no hudna on the horizon. The attacks inside the Strip continue as usual, based on the argument that a cease-fire is not effective and the "ticking bombs" - imminent terrorist attacks - are still ticking. Intelligence seems to back this position. But from a diplomatic point of view, it is difficult to comprehend Israel's stance: Even if a cease-fire collapses, as the senior officers argue, why not allow the Palestinians to be the ones who break it?

Israel was drawn into a hudna after Egyptian pressure and the government's concerns that a major ground operation in Gaza would result in heavy IDF casualties. But the government is not pleased with the idea of a cease-fire: It seems there is a zero-sum game mentality dominating the political leadership. After all, they argue, if Hamas is so desperate for a cease-fire, it can't be a good thing for Israel. Khaled Meshal, the head of the Hamas politburo in Damascus, did nothing to assuage Israel's concerns on Sunday, when he declared that any cease-fire will be a temporary hiatus in the fighting, which will allow Hamas to strengthen its ranks for the next confrontation. It is therefore no wonder that the IDF is pushing to carry out as many strikes as possible before a cease-fire

2) Hayden: Syria was close to getting nukes

CIA Director Michael Hayden said Monday the alleged Syrian nuclear reactor destroyed by an Israeli air strike in September would have produced enough plutonium for one or two bombs within a year of becoming operational.

US intelligence and administration officials publicly disclosed last week their assessment that Syria was building a covert nuclear reactor with North Korean assistance. They said it was modeled on the shuttered North Korean reactor at Yongbyon, which produced a small amount of plutonium, and was within weeks or months of being operational.

"In the course of a year after they got full up they would have produced enough plutonium for one or two weapons," Hayden told reporters after a speech at Georgetown University.

Neither the United States nor Israel told the International Atomic Energy Agency about the Syrian site until last week, about a year after they obtained what they considered to be decisive intelligence: Dozens of photographs from a handheld camera that showed both the interior and exterior of the mysterious compound in Syria's eastern desert.

From the CIA's perspective, that intelligence was not the United States' to share with the UN nuclear watchdog, Hayden said.

"We've made it clear we did not have complete control over the totality of the information because obviously it was the result of a team effort," he said. "One has to respect the origin of the information in terms of how it is used."

The head of the UN nuclear watchdog agency chastised the United States on Friday for withholding information on the alleged Syrian reactor. One of the IAEA's missions is to try to prevent nuclear proliferation, and it depends on member states for information to carry out that task.

A senior administration official told reporters last week that the United States kept the information secret after the Israeli strike because it feared revealing it might provoke Syria to strike back at Israel.

3)Dear Senator Obama ...

President Bush's former senior adviser offers advice for fighting the 'elitist' label.
By Karl Rove

Four months ago, you took the political world by storm in Iowa. The media were agog. They called your words "gorgeous," your victory "a message to the world." You "made history" and Americans could "look at ourselves with pride" in "a moment to marvel."

Times change. The six weeks leading into Pennsylvania were difficult. You excelled at raising money and gaining endorsements, but got weaker as big problems emerged. Before you can fix them, you must understand them. In Pennsylvania, you won only 30 percent among Catholics and 29 percent among white working-class voters. Defections like this elect Republicans.

Even liberal commentators who adore you warn you can't win with a McGovern coalition of college students and white-wine sippers from the party's left wing. Saying small-town voters cling to guns, faith and xenophobia because of economic bitterness hurt you; it reinforced the growing sense you don't share Middle America's values. So did asking about the price of arugula in Iowa, dismissing the "true" patriotism of people who wear a flag lapel pin, being "friendly" (as your chief strategist, David Axelrod, put it) with a violent, unrepentant '60s radical and having a close relationship with an angry pastor who expressed anti-American sentiments.

You argue the son of a single working mom can't be an elitist. But it's not where you start in life; it's where you end up. After a prestigious prep school, Columbia and Harvard, you've ended up with the values of Cambridge, San Francisco and Hyde Park. So you're doing badly in Scranton, Youngstown and Erie, where ordinary Americans live.


1. Your stump speech is sounding old and out of touch. You made a mistake by not giving the bored press (and voters) something new last Tuesday when you lost Pennsylvania. Come up with something fresh that's focused on the general election. Recapture the optimistic tone of your start and discard the weary, prickly and distracted tone you've taken on.

2. When you get into trouble, pick one, simple explanation. And stay with it. Take the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. You said you weren't sitting in church when he said those ugly things. Two days later, you excused him, saying his comments didn't give "a well-rounded portrait" of him. Two days after that, you condemned his statements as "not only wrong but divisive" but still couldn't "disavow him" any more than you could your grandmother. Ten days later, you implied if Wright hadn't retired, you might have left his church. It would have been better to say from the start that Wright's words were wrong and offensive and you should have spoken out earlier. The applause would have been deafening.

3. Your lack of achievements undercuts your core themes. It's powerful when you say America is not "Red States or Blue States but the United States." The problem is, you don't have a long Senate record of working across party lines. So build one. In the coming months, say that you'll appoint Republicans to your cabinet and get a couple to say they'd serve. Highlight initiatives Republicans can agree on. Most importantly, push for a bipartisan issue now before Congress.

4. You speak of the "fierce urgency of now" that calls leaders to confront important challenges. Sounds good, but people are asking, what urgent issues have drawn your enormous talents? It's counterintuitive, but spend less time campaigning and more time working the Senate. Pick a big issue and fight hard for it. Win or lose, you'll give your argument substance.

5. Stop the attacks. They undermine your claim to a post-partisan new politics. You soared when you seemed above politics, lost altitude when you did what you criticize. Attacks are momentarily satisfying but ultimately corrode your appeal.

6. To answer growing questions about your inexperience, people need to know, in concrete and credible ways, what they can expect from you as president. That's missing now. And don't think those position papers written by academics and posted on the Web do the job. They have a check-the-box quality to them. Americans want to see your passion and commitment to things they care about, in ways that give them confidence you're up to the job. They can smell when something is poll-tested and focus-grouped, not from the heart. Also, you can't bluff anymore like you did on "Meet the Press" in October 2006. (You weren't officially running for president yet, but it's still telling.) Tim Russert pointed to the passage in "The Audacity of Hope" that says "no small number of government programs don't work as advertised," and he asked for an example. You cited Medicaid and Medicare, saying: "I think that there's no doubt that we could squeeze more efficiencies out of those systems there. Simple example, we don't use electronic billing for Medicare and Medicaid providers. Now there's no other business on earth that still has people filling out paper forms to get reimbursed, especially for a system that large. We could drastically reduce the costs of those systems."

The only problem is, the Bush administration, building on the good work of the Clinton administration, already put in place in 2003 a regulation that requires electronic billing of Medicaid and Medicare. Since then, all but a handful have been electronic. You won't get a pass on bluffing anymore. You'll have to do both your homework and occasionally something that's difficult for you (and most other politicians): admit you don't know.

You have talent, intelligence and tapped into something powerful early in your campaign. But running for president is unlike anything you've ever done. You're making mistakes and making people worry that you're an elitist. So while you'll almost certainly win the nomination, Democrats are nervous about the fall. You've given them reasons to be.

4) One candidate must quit in June, Democratic chairman says
By Lisa Tozzi and Brian Knowlton

WASHINGTON: Raising the pressure to avoid a cripplingly drawn-out selection process, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee said Monday that either Hillary Rodham Clinton or Barack Obama needed to drop out of the presidential race in June for the party to win the White House in November.

"We really can't have a divided convention," Howard Dean said on ABC. "If we do, it's going to be very hard to heal the party afterward."

Also Monday, Obama's former pastor, whose words rocked the campaign for weeks, spoke at length in Washington, and far from retracting any earlier comments, he added fuel to the fire.

With the two Democratic senators locked in a bruising battle - one that could easily extend until the Democrats meet in Denver in late August to select a nominee - party activists increasingly fear that whoever ultimately prevails will emerge seriously weakened.

Dean did not say who should drop out, only that it should happen after the voters had their say in the primaries, which end June 3.

"This is not about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama," Dean said. "This is about our country."

He added: "If it's time for them to go, they'll know it."

In an interview with NBC, referring to the presumptive Republican nominee, Dean said, "The only way John McCain wins this race is if Democrats are not united."

Obama retains a lead in committed delegates and popular votes, but Clinton's hopes were raised by a 9-point victory in Pennsylvania on April 22. Both candidates see the Indiana primary on Tuesday as potentially decisive. North Carolina also votes that day.

As Obama struggles to fend off Clinton's repeated charges, she has been helped by a firestorm surrounding Obama's former pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright Jr. Wright's exhortation "God damn America" has been particularly damaging.

On Monday, at a time when the Wright controversy had receded a bit, the minister thrust himself back into the spotlight in an appearance at the National Press Club in Washington. Wright was funny, entertaining and provocative - but clearly not inclined to apologize or retreat.

Asked about his comment after the Sept. 11 terror attacks that the "chickens have come home to roost," he said, "You cannot do terrorism on other people and expect it never to come back on you."

He rejected suggestions that his association with Louis Farrakhan, the head of the Nation of Islam, meant he was anti-Semitic by association, but he also said Farrakhan was a black leader who could not be ignored.

When Farrakhan speaks, Wright added: "All black America listens. Whether they agree with him or not, they listen."

Asked about remarks that some critics have called unpatriotic, Wright bristled. He noted that he had spent six years in the military, then added, with a reference to the vice president: "How many years did Cheney serve?" Asked whether he might owe the American people an apology for his "God damn America" comment, Wright retorted simply, "No!" His disagreement, he said, was with governmental policies, not the American people.

Obama has denounced many of Wright's more controversial comments.

If Obama is elected, Wright said Monday, he himself would hold no mystical powers over the country's first black president. "I'm not a 'spiritual mentor' - hoodoo," he said. "I'm his pastor. And I said to Barack Obama last year, 'If you get elected, November the 5th I'm coming after you, because you'll be representing a government whose policies grind under people.' All right?"

Wright also said he hoped that the controversy over his relationship with Obama would help the country move toward more enlightened attitudes.

Centuries of slavery and discrimination have given black churches a special focus on the themes of liberation and transformation, he said, and forced them to do so largely out of view of white Americans. Thus, he said, some whites might find his sermons unsettling.

But perhaps, he said, "this dialogue on race can move the people of faith in this country from various stages of alienation and marginalization to the exciting possibility of reconciliation."

5) An Old Newness
By Thomas Sowell

Many years ago, a great hitter named Paul Warner was nearing the end of his long career. He entered a ballgame with 2,999 hits -- one hit away from the landmark total of 3,000, which so many hitters want to reach, but which relatively few actually do reach.

Warner hit a ball that the fielder did not handle cleanly but the official scorer called it a hit, making it Warner's 3,000th. Paul Warner then sent word to the official scorer that he did not want that questionable hit to be the one that put him over the top.

The official scorer reversed himself and called it an error. Later Paul Warner got a clean hit for number 3,000.

What reminded me of this is the great fervor that many seem to feel over the prospect of the first black President of the United States.

No doubt it is only a matter of time before there is a black president, just as it was only a matter of time before Paul Warner got his 3,000th hit. The issue is whether we want to reach that landmark so badly that we are willing to overlook how questionably that landmark is reached.

Paul Warner had too much pride to accept a scratch hit. Choosing a President of the United States is a lot more momentous than a baseball record. We the voters need to have far more concern about who we put in that office that holds the destiny of a nation and of generations yet unborn.

There is no reason why someone as arrogant, foolishly clever and ultimately dangerous as Barack Obama should become president -- especially not at a time when the threat of international terrorists with nuclear weapons looms over 300 million Americans.

Many people seem to regard elections as occasions for venting emotions, like cheering for your favorite team or choosing a Homecoming Queen.

The three leading candidates for their party's nomination are being discussed in terms of their demographics -- race, sex and age -- as if that is what the job is about.

One of the painful aspects of studying great catastrophes of the past is discovering how many times people were preoccupied with trivialities when they were teetering on the edge of doom. The demographics of the presidency are far less important than the momentous weight of responsibility that office carries.

Just the power to nominate federal judges to trial courts and appellate courts across the country, including the Supreme Court, can have an enormous impact for decades to come. There is no point feeling outraged by things done by federal judges, if you vote on the basis of emotion for those who appoint them.

Barack Obama has already indicated that he wants judges who make social policy instead of just applying the law. He has already tried to stop young violent criminals from being tried as adults.

Although Senator Obama has presented himself as the candidate of new things -- using the mantra of "change" endlessly -- the cold fact is that virtually everything he says about domestic policy is straight out of the 1960s and virtually everything he says about foreign policy is straight out of the 1930s.

Protecting criminals, attacking business, increasing government spending, promoting a sense of envy and grievance, raising taxes on people who are productive and subsidizing those who are not -- all this is a re-run of the 1960s.

We paid a terrible price for such 1960s notions in the years that followed, in the form of soaring crime rates, double-digit inflation and double-digit unemployment. During the 1960s, ghettos across the countries were ravaged by riots from which many have not fully recovered to this day.

The violence and destruction were concentrated not where there was the greatest poverty or injustice but where there were the most liberal politicians, promoting grievances and hamstringing the police.

Internationally, the approach that Senator Obama proposes -- including the media magic of meetings between heads of state -- was tried during the 1930s. That approach, in the name of peace, is what led to the most catastrophic war in human history.

Everything seems new to those too young to remember the old and too ignorant of history to have heard about it.

Obama's yelling uncle every time Wrights speaks!

It is hard to keep a demagogue down and apparently Rev. Wright, like Carter, is so full of himself he could not keep his mouth shut so this morning he gave the nation another ear full and, in the process, probably drove another nail into Obama's coffin.

Don't forget, Obama said Wright was his mentor. Obama's problem is that he has no way of monitoring his mentor.

What does the Democrat Party do about all of this?(See 1 and 2 below.)

IDF has enlisted the first robot soldier to track terrorists. (See 3 below.)

Barry Rubin writes a thoughtful piece arguing why moderation towards radical Islamists is not the route to travel. (See 4 below.)

Abbas' next diplomatic weapon of choice is a wet noodle. (See 5 below.)

More editorial commentary regarding Rev. Wright's speech at The National Press Club,today. Sen Obama refered to Rev.as an old uncle. Well Obama must be yelling uncle every time the Rev speaks. (See 6 below.)

1) For Obama, a Voice of Doom?
By Dana Milbank

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, explaining this morning why he had waited so long before breaking his silence about his incendiary sermons, offered a paraphrase from Proverbs: "It is better to be quiet and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt."

Barack Obama's pastor would have been wise to continue to heed that wisdom.

Should it become necessary in the months from now to identify the moment that doomed Obama's presidential aspirations, attention is likely to focus on the hour between nine and ten this morning at the National Press Club. It was then that Wright, Obama's longtime pastor, reignited a controversy about race from which Obama had only recently recovered - and added lighter fuel.

Speaking before an audience that included Marion Barry, Cornel West, Malik Zulu Shabazz of the New Black Panther Party and Nation of Islam official Jamil Muhammad, Wright praised Louis Farrakhan, defended the view that Zionism is racism, accused the United States of terrorism, repeated his view that the government created the AIDS virus to cause the genocide of racial minorities, stood by other past remarks ("God damn America") and held himself out as a spokesman for the black church in America.

In front of 30 television cameras, Wright's audience cheered him on as the minister mocked the media and, at one point, did a little victory dance on the podium. It seemed as if Wright, jokingly offering himself as Obama's vice president, was actually trying to doom Obama; a member of the head table, American Urban Radio's April Ryan, confirmed that Wright's security was provided by bodyguards from Farrakhan's Nation of Islam.

Wright suggested that Obama was insincere in distancing himself from his pastor. "He didn't distance himself," Wright announced. "He had to distance himself, because he's a politician, from what the media was saying I had said, which was anti-American."

Explaining further, Wright said friends had written to him and said, "We both know that if Senator Obama did not say what he said, he would never get elected." The minister continued: "Politicians say what they say and do what they do based on electability, based on sound bites, based on polls."

Wright also argued, at least four times over the course of the hour, that he was speaking not for himself but for the black church.

"This is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright," the minister said. "It is an attack on the black church." He positioned himself as a mainstream voice of African American religious traditions. "Why am I speaking out now?" he asked. "If you think I'm going to let you talk about my mama and her religious tradition, and my daddy and his religious tradition and my grandma, you got another thing coming."

That significantly complicates Obama's job as he contemplates how to extinguish Wright's latest incendiary device. Now, he needs to do more than express disagreement with his former pastor's view; he needs to refute his former pastor's suggestion that Obama privately agrees with him.

Wright seemed aggrieved that his inflammatory quotations were out of the full "context" of his sermons -- yet he repeated many of the same accusations in the context of a half-hour Q&A session this morning.

His claim that the September 11 attacks mean "America's chickens are coming home to roost"?

Wright defended it: "Jesus said, 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.' You cannot do terrorism on other people and expect it never to come back on you. Those are biblical principles, not Jeremiah Wright bombastic divisive principles."

His views on Farrakhan and Israel? "Louis said 20 years ago that Zionism, not Judaism, was a gutter religion. He was talking about the same thing United Nations resolutions say, the same thing now that President Carter's being vilified for and Bishop Tutu's being vilified for. And everybody wants to paint me as if I'm anti-Semitic because of what Louis Farrakhan said 20 years ago. He is one of the most important voices in the 20th and 21st century; that's what I think about him. . . . Louis Farrakhan is not my enemy. He did not put me in chains, he did not put me in slavery, and he didn't make me this color."

He denounced those who "can worship God on Sunday morning, wearing a black clergy robe, and kill others on Sunday evening, wearing a white Klan robe." He praised the communist Sandinista regime of Nicaragua. He renewed his belief that the government created AIDS as a means of genocide against people of color ("I believe our government is capable of doing anything").

And he vigorously renewed demands for an apology for slavery: "Britain has apologized to Africans. But this country's leaders have refused to apologize. So until that apology comes, I'm not going to keep stepping on your foot and asking you, does this hurt, do you forgive me for stepping on your foot, if I'm still stepping on your foot. Understand that? Capisce?"

Capisce, reverend. All too well.

2) The Moment of Truth for the Left has Arrived
By James Lewis

If you haven't listened to Jeremiah Wright's hate sermons at Hugh Hewitt's website, you must do so. Every American with open eyes and ears has to listen to the voice of racial hatred, coming not from the Klan but from a clergyman of the Christian Left. Reading his words isn't enough, because you won't hear the unmistakable meaning of his vocal intonations. If you are a person of good will you will feel upset. But it's of the utmost importance to understand this moment of truth.

Because Jeremiah Wright -- the respectful word "Reverend" seems grotesquely out of place now -- is shouting out the slander catechism of the Left. His sermons say exactly what other Leftists say in calm voices, over and over again. Mr. Wright just does it with real, raw hatred, and every new slam is cheered on by his jubilant congregation. His is not a lone voice. He just sings the music to fit the words.

We have been nursing a viper in our national bosom. Seven years after September 11, 2001, this is the moment of truth, when the Left must finally decide what side it's on. Wright's sermons may signal the end of the Obama campaign, and they may mean the breakup of the Democratic Party as we know it. I don't see how any centrist Democrat can still belong to this party if Obama is its nominee. Jeremiah Wright may mean the historical end of the Civil Rights Era, because fifty years after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Left's presumption of Victimhood and innocence is now gone.

The Rev is only the visible bulge of this lethal political tumor. This is Saul Alinsky's sociopathic teachings on display, and this is what Hillary Clinton learned back at Wellesley College. It is the voice of feminists who hate all men, and of radicalized blacks who hate all whites.

Hate mongers collect injustices. If you and I did that, we could collect an endless laundry list about all the bad things somebody did to us. Maybe we have been hurt by men, or by women. Maybe we have been hurt by rich people, or by the angry poor. Maybe we have been hurt by Jews or blacks or whites, and we can put all our built-up rage on their heads. It's been done many times in the human past; that's exactly the psychology we see at work in Africa, the former Yugoslavia, Sri Lanka, and various Muslim nations (among others), when explosive massacres take place. Mob psychology has been manipulated by demagogues throughout history. This is simply the another version of the Kluxers and Jim Crow lynch mobs. Today I see that psychology clearly enough on the Left, but outside of the ranting rooms of verifiable paranoids I don't see it many other places in this country.

Selectively collected injustices can keep us on the boil for a lifetime, because we ruminate on and on in all our waking hours about all the terrible things people have done to us. That is what the Left feeds itself in an endless stream; it is not a healthy thing to do. But it's what Jeremiah Wright has done to himself and to his congregation -- and who knows to how many thousands of other people? -- for almost all of his adult life. This is the Grand Inquisitor's view of America, the enraged prosecution case, without even imagining the possibility of innocence. This is what demagogues and witch hunters have always done, but I had never thought I'd see it in my lifetime.

Most of us take a more balanced view on our lives; we've had undeserved good fortune some of the time, and we've suffered undeserved pain at other times. That's life. If you look at the facts of Jeremiah Wright's life, he has been a child of good fortune -- excellent schooling well into graduate school, privilege and money, the support of a community of believers, vast political clout in Chicago. But hate mongers don't think that way. They just collect more and more injustices as they go through life, and load it all onto some enemy. They are constantly reading the minds of the enemy -- whites and especially Jews, in the case of Mr. Wright -- and all they see there is malevolence. Evil is what evil sees.

For Jeremiah Wright, the enemy comes with a white skin. He has taken historical injustices and turned them into a lifelong call for vengeance. This is the official doctrine of Black Liberation Theology, and it is freely supported by powerful institutions on the religious Left. BLT's founder, Dr. Jim Cone, is a professor of systematic theology at the Union Theological Seminary. It's utterly bizarre but true.

So it's not just Senator Obama who is stuck with Mr. Wright today. We are all stuck with a rageful Left, which really wants to destroy rather than to build. They mentally rehearse perceived injustices over and over again, and they blame this country for all the evil in the world, including AIDS in the black community. They never look at another side. Many have no honest conception of other countries, other cultures, or other points of view. They are not balanced people.

So the entire American body politic has a festering sore on its hands. This will not go away by itself. It will not be bought off by more money. It must be repudiated by the sensible Left, if it is still there. Just as William F. Buckley denounced the anti-Semites on the right, and sensible Americans rejected segregation and the Klan, just as American unions expelled Stalinist unions from the AFL-CIO, the time has come for the decent Left to draw a bright line in the sand, and keep the hate mongers out.

3) Four wheels and an electronic brain: Meet IDF's newest soldier

Israel's newest soldier can see at night, never nods off on sentry duty and can carry 300 kilograms (660 pounds) without complaining.

The Guardium, an unmanned ground vehicle commissioned by the Israel Defense Forces is essentially a robotic soldier, among the first in the world to be operational. It can replace human soldiers in dangerous roles, cutting casualty rates.

Like the pilot-less drones that have become a mainstay of air forces in Israel, the U.S. and elsewhere, the four-wheeled Guardium is operated from a command room that can be far from the front line. It can be mounted with cameras, night-vision equipment and sensors, as well as more lethal tools like machine guns.

Following pre-programmed routes, it can navigate alone through cities - the vehicle knows how to deal with intersections, traffic and road markings. It can patrol borders, its cameras scanning 360 degrees at all times, and alert operators if it spots anything suspicious.

The Guardium never mentally wanders or falls asleep, as soldiers have been known to do during mind-numbing guard or patrol missions. And it doesn't have a family that will miss it when it's away on reserve duty.

"Representatives of armies with troops who are taking high casualties in asymmetric warfare, from threats like roadside bombs, get excited about this product," said Erez Peled, director general of G-Nius Unmanned Ground Systems, the company that developed the robot.

The control panel includes two large screens and a joystick. If the operator wants to take control, he can do so from a steering wheel and gas and brake pedals that lend the console the look of a video arcade game.

"Any kid who grew up with a PlayStation will be able to come in here and learn this in seconds," Peled said.

A vehicle alone costs approximately $600,000 (385,000 euros). With the operating system, the price runs to several million dollars, depending on what equipment is installed on the robot.

The Israeli military said the Guardium has yet to enter operational service, and would provide no further comment.

John Pike, director of the Virginia-based military think tank Global security.org, said there is only one other similar vehicle operational - a South Korean robot used to patrol the demilitarized zone with North Korea. With the details of the Korean vehicle classified, Pike could not say which was more advanced.

"Robots like this are potentially the future of ground warfare," Pike said.

"A robot does what it's told, and you'll be able to get them to advance in ways it's hard to get human soldiers to do. They don't have fear, and they kill without compunction."

"But more importantly," he added, "A robot means you don't have to write a condolence letter."

4) The Region: Stuck in the Middle Ages, Islam targets moderation

If history works out in the end, the high price paid in blood and suffering can at least be justified as having produced some good. But what happens when it doesn't?

Clearly, radical Islamism and the region's current political troubles have parallels with the European history of Christianity and Judaism. Yet often the nearest equivalents date not from a few decades back but rather from the 1500s and 1600s. That calendar gap shows why the region's task is so monumental and lengthy.

In the 1500s and 1600s, Europe and its two main religions struggled with the impact of modernization, rationalism and scientific thinking; the challenge of new ideas; and revitalized interest in ancient pagan Greece and Rome. Despite much bloodshed and repression, a way was found to manage these contradictions.

Islam and the Arabic-speaking world, not to mention Iran, have still not done so on a large scale. Before there can be democracy, rapid development, social progress, equal rights for women and other such changes, this job has to be done. And the work has barely begun.

How did the West move from a medieval world view into the Renaissance and Enlightenment, and then on into the modern age? That's a complex question, but basically the answer includes:

# the confidence that increasing knowledge, even if seemingly contradicting religious dogma, was a way to understand the deity's true plan for the world. The church sometimes acted against science or technology, but not very often;

# accepting pluralism of belief, with Protestantism playing a key role in establishing a range of alternative interpretations;

# incorporating a pragmatic view in which success was the ultimate test, and practice trumped ideology;

# adopting reason as the ultimate tool for living in this world;

# a growing separation between religion and state, and room for secularism in the public sphere.

WHAT DOES this all have to do with the contemporary Middle East? Quite a lot. Not only do regional Muslim-majority states not accept these principles but Islamists, with real success, are trying to turn back the clock even further. Moreover, there's an additional problem: Islamists and even mainstream Muslim clergy know how the story turned out in the West, bringing about a vast decline of religion.

Thus Saudi cleric Muhammad al-Munajid, and many others, sound like Spanish Inquisition zealots determined to stamp out anything new, different, original, or individual.

Another parallel with Western history is the use of the Jew as the demon of modernization, conspiring to subvert traditional society and change as a way of gaining power.

Those who think the problem stems from a need to make Western policy more palatable, showing enough empathy or appeasement, have no idea of the historical processes in play. Consider an interview by Munajid on Al-Majd television on March 30.

Focusing on the threat within Islam, Munajid warns (translation by MEMRI) that advocates of change are heretics engaged in "a very dangerous conspiracy." Why? Because rather than depending on clerics, they claim the right to interpret Islam, are reopening the gates of ijtihad - closed among Muslims for almost 1,000 years - and applying reason to religious doctrine. "This is the prerogative of religious scholars, not of ignorant people... fools or heretics."

Of course, Islamists as well as liberal reformers threaten the mainstream (conservative) clerics' monopoly over Islam. Many Islamists are not qualified theologians.

But moderates are more dangerous, in the mainstream view, since they may loosen religion's hold altogether. Thus, mainstream clerics are more sympathetic to radical Islamists - a key factor in the reformers' weakness and the Islamists' strength. To paraphrase an old Cold War slogan, they say: "Better green than dead."

Islamists and mainstream clerics carry this idea even into Europe itself, trying either to keep the Enlightenment out of their own communities, or even roll back European history. Sometimes they are helped by befuddled "native" elites who have lost confidence in their own civilization.

IN CONTRAST, among Jews and Christians, despite reactionary tendencies, new interpretations were permitted to keep up with the times. This came gradually to be considered the best way for these faiths to survive and flourish. Many of their reformers were themselves highly qualified clerics.

Early Protestants were burned at the stake; others won their rights only in combat. But Europe changed.

Reformers could call for support on nationalism (Czechs and Dutch revolting against foreign rulers); on aristocratic rulers seeking their own interests (Henry the Eighth's divorce, nobles seeking to loot monasteries' wealth); and on peasants' class resentment. These factors play little or no such role in the Middle East today. On the contrary, instead of a way to win more freedom or power, reform is seen as a destabilizing tool used against Islam by foreign powers and culture.

Moreover, Munajid and others know something past Europeans didn't: how far secularism can go. As a result, Muslims are extraordinarily insecure. Munajid warns that reformers "want to open up everything for debate," so that "anyone is entitled to believe in whatever he wants... If you want to become an apostate - go ahead. You like Buddhism? Leave Islam, and join Buddhism. No problem...."

Today, new interpretations; tomorrow, rampant alcoholism, short skirts, empty houses of worship, and punk rock. It begins with freedom of thought, it continues with freedom of speech, and it ends up with freedom of belief.

In England, even when William Shakespeare was young, British universities highlighted teaching about ancient pagan cultures. The first modernist biography of Christianity's founder was published by 1830. Their equivalents are impossible in the Arab world in 2008.

Most clerics and their supporters simply don't believe they can win a fair fight in the battle of ideas. Therefore, only repression will do. Conflict is far "safer" than peace.

This is the real, underlying critique of the West and Israel: that these places are bad role models, against whom windows and doors must be barred. They must be made to seem so horrible as to close the eyes and ears of the faithful to the temptations they offer. An iron curtain must be lowered, behind which the isolated enthusiastically embrace their isolation.

One sees this process at work even in "liberated" Iraq and Afghanistan. The radicals want to roll back the West and destroy Israel, which, they argue, wants to subordinate the Middle East politically and transform it culturally. Most of the relative moderates - regimes and mainstream clerics - want, at a minimum, to hold Israel at bay and avoid a formal peace with it.

Remember, Sayyid Qutb of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood was driven to extremism by his horror at life in 1950s' small-town Kansas. What effect must 21st-century Western life, with its far greater excesses, have?

Today the advocates of "medievalism" in the Middle East have mass communications, modern organizational techniques - and, soon, even nuclear weapons.

5) PA introduces new boycott

Dignitaries who attend Israel's Independence Day festivities to be shunned by Palestinians

Presidents, prime ministers and other dignitaries who attend Israel's 60th anniversary celebrations next month will be shunned by Palestinian leaders if they visit the West Bank.

Palestinian officials said the decision by Palestinian resident Mahmoud Abbas and his government in the West Bank to temporarily boycott world leaders who visit the West Bank during Israeli festivities amounted to a symbolic protest.

It was not clear if any did plan to go there.

"Whoever participates in such (Israeli) events will be persona non grata," said one Palestinian official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"We will be marking the Nakba. They (visiting leaders) have to be a bit more sensitive about the feelings of the Palestinian people," said a second Palestinian official.

Bush-Abbas meeting to go ahead

Israel is expected to host at least six current heads of state, including US President George W. Bush, for the 60th anniversary celebrations.

Palestinian officials said leaders who attended those festivities and went to the West Bank would not be banned for life and could meet Palestinian leaders in the West Bank at a later date.

Bush plans to meet Abbas in Egypt after visiting Israel, and Palestinian officials said those talks would go ahead as planned.

6) Wright Defends Church and Blasts Media
By Kate Phillips

In three major appearances in the last four days, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. offered a full-throated historical defense of black church traditions. But his re-emergence on the national stage has certainly served to provide more sound-bites that already have begun to haunt Senator Barack Obama on the campaign trail.

With Senator John McCain’s new criticisms of Mr. Wright and Republicans painting him and Mr. Obama as extremist in commercials using snippets of sermons, Mr. Wright, longtime pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, defiantly and passionately argued that such criticisms were attacks on the black church and its faith traditions, not attacks on him.

In an appearance this morning at the National Press Club in Washington, Mr. Wright mixed biblical passages and scholarly works with sarcasm and humor in his efforts to address the nearly two months’ long barrage of questions that have dogged his church and Mr. Obama since excerpts of his sermons first began looping around on television and the Internet.

Asked why he chose to speak out now, Mr. Wright said: “On November the 5th and on January 21st, I’ll still be a pastor. As I’ve said, this is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright. It has nothing to do with Senator Obama. This is an attack on the black church launched by people who know nothing about the African- American religious tradition.”

Mr. Obama, a parishioner at Mr. Wright’s church for about 20 years, tried to tamp down the controversy in Philadelphia more than a month ago, with a major speech on race relations. In that address and since then, Mr. Obama said he disagreed with some of Mr. Wright’s remarks but would not denounce him because he had become like family.

In an interview on Fox News on Sunday, Mr. Obama said he had not talked with the reverend about his decision to embark on a public defense of his reputation. Asked to respond to Mr. Wright’s contention that he has been the victim of a smear campaign, Mr. Obama said: “No. I think that people were legitimately offended by some of the comments that he had made in the past. The fact that he is my former pastor I think makes it a legitimate political issue. So I understand that.”

But he also said that media coverage of Mr. Wright had simplified his service in the church, and turned him into a caricature.

Our colleague Jeff Zeleny tells us that associates of Mr. Obama said privately that his campaign was furious at Mr. Wright’s decision to step forward so publicly, but that they were unable to do anything to control this. They added, however, that the pastor’s actions prove that he and Mr. Obama are not that close, otherwise why would Mr. Wright do this now?

The timing may be critical, though, for Mr. Obama, who has struggled to regain his footing (and retooled his message) after Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton trounced him in Pennsylvania where his remarks about small-town Americans may have influenced a swath of white voters to support her.

Despite Mr. Wright’s efforts to school the public and the media on theology and the black church, some of his responses this week bring the issue of race and the church’s association with divisive figures like the Rev. Louis Farrakhan into sharp relief. Senator Clinton has already said Mr. Wright would not be her pastor, and she has pounded home the issue of Mr. Obama’s electability — given such vulnerabilities that the Republicans would seize upon in the general election.

During his remarks today, Mr. Wright chided the media for distorting his sermons and for their ignorance of biblical history and black worship traditions, joked that he had served six years in the Marines while Vice President Dick Cheney had not, and lectured his audience repeatedly about the need for reconciliation among faiths and races.

Reprising themes from the speech he gave to the NAACP in Detroit this weekend, Mr. Wright offered:

“The prophetic theology of the black church in our day is preached to set African-Americans and all other Americans free from the misconceived notion that different means deficient. Being different does not mean one is deficient. It simply means one is different, like snowflakes, like the diversity that God loves. Black music is different from European and European music. It is not deficient. It is just different. Black worship is different from European and European-American worship. It is not deficient. It is just different. Black preaching is different from European and European-American preaching. It is not deficient. It is just different. It is not bombastic. It is not controversial. It’s different.”

Before we break off some bullet points to his responses, here’s a transcript of his full address today so that readers can appreciate the full defense Mr. Wright tried to offer.

In the question-and-answer session this morning, Mr. Wright was asked about some of the statements he’s made that were deemed incendiary and about his church’s associations with Mr. Farrakhan.
Here are a few bullet points:

Farrakhan: Mr. Wright praised Mr. Farrakhan’s ability to get 1 million people to march on the Washington Mall. Then, he added:

“He is one of the most important voices in the 20th and 21st century; that’s what I think about him. I said, as I said on Bill Moyers, when Louis Farrakhan speaks it’s like E.F. Hutton speaks. All black America listens. Whether they agree with him or not, they listen.

Now, I am not going to put down Louis Farrakhan any more than Mandela will put down Fidel Castro. You remember that Ted Koppel show where Ted wanted Mandela to put down Castro because Castro is our enemy, and he said, “You don’t tell me who my enemies are; you don’t tell me who my friends are.”

Louis Farrakhan is not my enemy. He did not put me in chains, he did not put me in slavery, and he didn’t make me this color.

The 9/11 Remarks:

On the excerpt of his sermon after the Sept. 11 attacks when he remarked that the “chickens were coming home to roost,” Mr. Wright first chided the questioner for not having listened to the entire sermon.

“Well, let me try to respond in a non-bombastic way.
If you heard the whole sermon, first of all, you heard that I was
quoting the ambassador from Iraq. That’s No. 1. But No. 2, to quote the Bible, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked, for whatsoever you sow that you also shall” — (he held his hand to his ear and the audience shouted “Reap!”)

Jesus said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” You cannot do terrorism on other people and expect it never to come back on you. Those are biblical principles, not Jeremiah Wright bombastic divisive principles.

The Remarks About America:

The government of leaders, those — as I said to Barack Obama, my member — I’m a pastor; he’s a member. I’m not a “spiritual mentor” — hoodoo. I’m his pastor. And I said to Barack
Obama last year, “If you get elected, November the 5th I’m coming
after you, because you’ll be representing a government whose policies grind under people.” All right? It’s about policy, not the American people.

And if you saw the Bill Moyers show, I was talking about, although it got edited, I was — do you know, that’s biblical? God doesn’t bless everything. God condemns something. And D-E-M-N, demn, is where we get the word damn. God damns some practices.

And there is no excuse for the things that the government, not
the American people, have done. That doesn’t make me not
like America, or unpatriotic. So when Jesus says, not only you brood of vipers, now he’s playing the dozens because he’s talking about their mamas. To say brood means your mother is an asp, A-S-P. (Laughter.) Should we put Jesus out of the congregation?

When Jesus says, you will be brought down to hell, that’s not —
that’s bombastic device of speech. Maybe we ought to take Jesus out of this Christian faith. No.

What I said about and what I think about and what — again until
I can’t — until racism and slavery are confessed and asked for — we asked the Japanese to forgive us. We have never as a country — in fact, Clinton almost got in trouble because he almost apologized at Goree Island.

We have never apologized as a country. Britain has apologized to
Africans. But this country’s leaders have refused to apologize. So until that apology comes, I’m not going to keep stepping on your foot and asking you, does this hurt do you forgive me for stepping on your foot, if I’m still stepping on your foot. Understand that? Capice?

On His Patriotism:

I feel that those citizens who say that have never heard my sermons, nor do they know me. They are unfair accusations taken from sound bites, and that which is looped over and over again on certain channels.

I served six years in the military. Does that make me patriotic? How many years did Cheney serve?

Now, Mr. Wright dismissed the idea that it was God’s will that Mr. Obama become president. And he joked about running for vice president. Of former President Bill Clinton’s comments that many African-Americans found offensive during the South Carolina primary, Mr. Wright said: “I don’t think anything about them. I came here to talk about the prophetic theology of the black church. I’m not talking about candidates or their positions or their feelings or what they have to say to get elected.”

We have yet to hear today from Mr. Obama on Mr. Wright’s remarks. But David Axelrod, the campaign’s chief strategist, was questioned closely this morning on MSNBC about whether the pastor’s very public speeches will harm the candidate. “How many times,” Mr. Axelrod asked, “how many times can you say, ‘I don’t agree with him, some of the things he says are outrageous, and he doesn’t speak for me?’ ”

He was also asked by Pat Buchanan, the conservative commentator, whether Mr. Wright’s decision to speak at the National Press Club, a high-profile platform, wasn’t exploitative of his relationship with Mr. Obama?

“And does that not put sort of a burden on Barack Obama, who is trying to be a unifying figure, to have to cut this guy loose in a way that he was unable to do or would not do in Philadelphia?” Mr. Buchanan asked.

“Well, he — first of all, Pat, Barack Obama is a unifying figure, always has been in our politics here in Illinois and in everything that he’s ever done. And I think people will judge him on that basis,” Mr. Axelrod said. “I’m not going to comment on Reverend Wright’s motivations or, you know, the sort of political implications of what he’s doing. We’re going to go out — I mean, the one thing that I’m going to make clear and that we’ll continue to make clear is that he does not speak for us.”

Saturday, April 26, 2008

We've dumbed ourselves down/money not the answer!

Ironically the States of Florida and Michigan have become the new "chad" problem for Democrats. For a Party that demanded all votes be counted the elimination of two entire states is quite iconoclastic. But then politics is not always logical or moral.(See 1 below.)

A soldier-journalist gives his view of reporting on the Gaza conflict and, once again, bias towards the IDF is indisputable. Arabs have learned well the art and effective use of propaganda to slant news their way. The press and media are either directionally and philosophically anti-Israel or are incapable of resisting manipulation. There are too many episodes of bias and subsequent revelations contradicting initial reports. (See 2 below.)

Charles Finn discusses, in a WSJ Op-editorial, the progress, or lack thereof, made in our education system since the report "A Nation at Risk" was issued 25 years ago.
Some progress has been made but we are falling behind in relation to the world and thus, increasingly at risk. Finn writes other nations are beginning to eat our lunch and the very survival of our competitive status is in doubt. He offers these suggestions to reverse the trend:

a) Don't expect or allow Uncle Sam to manage the reform process. DC Lacks the capacity, creativity and allowing Washington to intrude lets others off the hook.

b) Retain civilian control and push for more governor continuity.

c) Don't seek grand innovation. There are no silver bullets.

d) Content matters.

I have always maintained good education is simple and basic. It entails providing a safe and conducive environment, hiring qualified personnel capable of motivating and leaving them free to teach, a rigorous program of study, an ability to and support of throwing out incorrigbles and a reduction in stifling administrative demands. Anything beyond that is superfluous.

We go off track when we prevent competition, load up on administration and record keeping, and dumb down class curriculum. Turf battles protecting educators and making teaching students secondary is immoral and hypocritical.

I received a solid prep school education in an academic environment where discipline was enforced and core curriculum was emphasized. No gut courses! Money is not the problem it becomes the lame excuse for perpetuating failure.

We have far too many single parent families and far too many parents who do not care about education and/or understand its importance and can read. Far too many families do not provide a proper environment for learning, are themselves not good education roll models and make few demands their children learn. Consequently schools become the dumping ground for solving all our social ills. Schools are not up to the task and get kids too late even if they were.

The way we educate will only change after the problem gets worse and politicians can pull out that time worn "crisis" label but by then several generations will have been lost and America will be worse off because of it. Furthermore, crisis responses generally do not produce proper results. In fact, they generally worsen the problem.

If truth be told, we really don't care about education nationally, only individually.

Amos Harel makes the point that I have made many times - awarding Hamas for terrorism is dumb and could evoke more terrorism. Harel also points out that a cease fire agreement would strengthen Hamas' standing while downgrading Abbas' and Fatah.

Ironically the Palestinians present Israel with a two headed dog - one Fatah and Abbas, the other Hamas. This places Israel in both an awkward and conflictual position. Israel would love to achieve a true cease fire which would restore calm to Sderot and Ashkelon thereby providing its citizens with a semblance of normalcy. Hamas may not be able to deliver because various Palestinian factions may choose to continue their acts of terrorism notwithstanding and based on Hamas' purported terms it would be free to transfer their acts of terrorism to the West Bank. Certainly that would be uacceptable.

Second, as Harel points out, any agreement with Hamas undercuts Abbas and drives a further wedge between Fatah and Hamas, making it harder for Israel to achieve any ultimate satisfactory agreement. The schism that exists between Hamas and Fatah is equally destabilizing for the Palestinians, and worsens their own plight.(See 3 below.)

Assad speaks on Al Jazeera and denies Syria's nuclear goals in an interview of half-truths? (See 4 below.)

I have been told by a fellow memo reader that the movie "Where in The World is Osma Bin Laden" is very good and audiences are flocking to it when it is shown in their city.

1) Superdelegate Stalemate Shows No Sign of Easing

Jeanne Lemire Dahlman, a Montana superdelegate and rancher, has declared her allegiance to Senator Barack Obama. But she said voters in her state, whose primary is June 3, are thrilled by the unresolved Democratic nominating fight, which gives them a potential voice in a nominating process that has usually bypassed them.

“A part of me would like to wrap this up,” she acknowledged. “But I think Senator Clinton should continue, unless she tanks in Indiana.”

The Pennsylvania primary was supposed to help clarify the picture for the 795 Democratic superdelegates, but Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s strong victory there on Tuesday has in many ways complicated matters for them, furthering a stalemate that has deeply divided the party even as top Democrats called this week for them to make up their minds by June.

The latest New York Times survey of superdelegates — the party leaders and elected officials who essentially have the power to determine the nominee — finds that Mrs. Clinton holds a 16-person edge that slices into Mr. Obama’s overall lead in delegates. And those 478 superdelegates who have declared their allegiances show no signs of switching sides as the primary calendar proceeds toward its June 3 ending.

Donald L. Fowler is a South Carolina superdelegate who supports Mrs. Clinton. His wife, Carol, is a superdelegate too, but she supports Mr. Obama. Needless to say, they have very different views of how the party should proceed in light of Mrs. Clinton’s Pennsylvania victory.

“It’s sort of like what you would have heard at the Super Bowl at the end of the third quarter,” Mr. Fowler said. “Patriot fans are anxious and optimistic, and Giant fans are hopeful and a little bit more anxious. But the game is not over.”

He said Clinton supporters like him “are encouraged” by the Pennsylvania results, “but we’re not naïve.” He added: “We’re still behind and we’ve got a lot to do to catch up. She’s playing games now where she has to win them all.”

Ms. Fowler, who is chairwoman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, said that once the primaries were over, she would like to see a prompt resolution. “I’ve been in politics long enough to know that when you get close to the end, people get cranky with each other,” she said. “But I believe that won’t continue forever. People will find that the wounds are not so deep they can’t be healed.”

As with previous contests, Pennsylvania did little to change the math in terms of superdelegates. In interviews, superdelegates supporting Mrs. Clinton seized on the results to push for the contest to continue, while Obama backers often focused on the need for party unity. And some expressed trepidation about their newfound power.

One superdelegate, David E. Price, was a member of the Hunt Commission, which created the superdelegate system in the early 1980s. Now a representative from North Carolina who has endorsed Senator Obama, Mr. Price says he notices “a certain deterioration out there of the climate, but I don’t want to exaggerate that.” Because the views of Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama are so close on most issues, “it is tempting to pick each other’s words apart and concentrate on lesser matters,” he said. “That does become irritating and wear on voters. But we will get past it.”

What appears to worry him more is the idea, advanced by some of Mrs. Clinton’s advisers and supporters, that the superdelegates have the authority to be the final arbiters in the Clinton-Obama race. He said the superdelegates should intervene only in extraordinary circumstances that do not now exist.

“The fact is that the unpledged delegate group was added not to be kingmakers or queenmakers but simply to give each state a few extra slots without having to sign in blood for a presidential candidate or run against their own constituents,” he said. “I don’t think anyone thought this would be the decisive voting bloc, let alone overturn a popular verdict.”

The biggest well of superdelegates is in Congress. There, Democrats in the House and the Senate seemed resigned to the likelihood that the nominating contest would stretch on at least to June.

They sought to play down the potential damage to the party of an extended nominating fight. And they emphasized the enthusiasm shown by voters and said they believed that Democrats fervently committed to one or the other candidate would rally to the eventual nominee once the contrast is shown between any Democrat and Senator John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican nominee.

Yet there was a clear sentiment that the rest of the Democratic campaign and the way it is resolved would be crucial. “The way the loser loses,” said Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, who is close to both candidates but has made no endorsement, “will determine whether the winner wins in November.”

The Democrats’ national chairman, Howard Dean, told The Financial Times in an article on Friday: “I think the race is going to come down to the perception in the last six or eight races of who the best opponent for McCain will be. I do not think in the long run it will come down to the popular vote or anything else.”
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A Shrinking Advantage in Superdelegates
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Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, another publicly neutral superdelegate, said the nominating contest would take care of itself. “I still say it will never get to the superdelegates,” said Mr. Harkin, who once ran for president himself. “Within 10 days of the last primary, one or the other will drop out.”

Mr. Harkin was among those who were skeptical of the claim that disheartened supporters of Mr. Obama or Mrs. Clinton would abandon the party if their choice lost and possibly back Mr. McCain. “That’s now,” Mr. Harkin said. “Two months later, three months later, of course they are all going to be on board. Emotions run high in primaries, but time heals all wounds and political wounds tend to heal faster.”

Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, a strong backer of Mr. Obama, said she believed the thousands of new voters being drawn into the primary process would coalesce around the Democratic nominee once the candidates and the party begin to define Mr. McCain better on issues like the war and the economy.

“I think that will turn the tide for the people who are going in that direction,” she said of those saying they could abandon the winner. “We have a job to do, and shame on us if we don’t create that definition,” she said of the distinctions between the Democratic nominee and Mr. McCain.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, another Obama backer, also noted the enthusiasm, particularly among young voters, that he had witnessed when campaigning for Mr. Obama. He said that zeal should end up being “enormously constructive and valuable and helpful.”

Representative John Tanner of Tennessee gave Mrs. Clinton his superdelegate support on Wednesday after Pennsylvania, but he said the current economic and political climate would seem to favor either Democrat over Mr. McCain in November.

“But I think she presents the most pragmatic view of our problems,” he said. “You can talk all you want, have all the rhetoric you want about how it ought to be, but we have got to have somebody who is a pragmatist: What is possible? How is it possible to reverse the financial ruination occurring before our very eyes?”

Representative Henry A. Waxman of California, who has announced no preference in the race so far, said he believed the contest was only strengthening the nominee.

“I would prefer the issue be resolved so we had a nominee and not give John McCain the opportunity to put together his base,” Mr. Waxman said. “But I think our nominee will be stronger as the result of this fight.”

2) Between the Lines: 'The first casualty of war is the truth'
By Calev Ben-David

On April 16, Palestinian cameraman Fadel Shana, 23, in the employ of the Reuters news agency, was killed while filming a clash between the IDF and Hamas gunmen in Gaza.

According to Palestinian sources, Shana died as the result of being hit by a flechette shell - which, upon detonation, releases small, dart-like projectiles over a wide area - fired near his position by a tank. Two Gazan teenagers were killed along with him; his soundman was wounded; and three more bystanders reportedly later died of their wounds.

A mere two days after the incident, Human Rights Watch (HRW), a non-governmental organization often critical of Israeli policy and actions, claimed that its "investigation" determined IDF soldiers had acted recklessly - perhaps even deliberately - in firing near the Reuters crew. (How it could possibly investigate this so quickly, without even speaking to the soldiers involved, is beyond me, but this is all too typical of HRW's methodology.)

Pressed by Reuters and other organizations, the IDF subsequently announced it was conducting its own inquiry into the incident.

Palestinian journalists held a protest march in Ramallah last Sunday calling for an independent investigation.

Before we go any further in discussing this matter, some points clearly need to be stated. The death of any civilian in this conflict is a human tragedy, and of any journalist killed in the line of duty a professional one, as well. The authorities need to investigate this incident as thoroughly and impartially as possible, and if the soldiers or commanders involved acted in an improper or reckless manner, they should be accordingly punished and the survivors duly compensated. These points are incontrovertible.

But some other points need to be made, as well. Gaza - all of it - is a war zone. This is not Israel's doing, but of its Hamas rulers, who have chosen to use every inch of it as a staging ground for indiscriminate terrorist acts specifically aimed at Israeli civilians.

The death of Shana came on a day of fierce gunfights in this part of Gaza, begun earlier when IDF forces detected Hamas gunmen attempting to penetrate the border fence, and moved in to intercept them - with the result being the death of three soldiers, a fact that several subsequent media accounts of the incident have failed to mention.

Almost all of the articles do mention that Shana was wearing a vest marked "Press," as was his vehicle parked next to him - one of the reasons HRW claims his death may have been deliberate. As it turns out, Shana actually succeeded in filming the tank as it fired near his position right before he was killed. In the frames of that footage available on the Internet, it is not easy to make out any of the details of the tank, which reportedly was some 1.5 kilometers away. Thus, it would certainly have been difficult for the tank crew to make out "Press" markings from that distance with the naked eye.

But even if they had, there is no guarantee they would have held their fire if they believed there was Palestinian shooting emanating from that particular area. And unfortunately, Gazan terrorists have also utilized vehicles disguised with "Press" markings, including in an attempted car-bombing attack on a border position last June.

Much coverage of the incident focused on the IDF's use of a flechette shell, quoting the NGO B'tselem, another frequent critic of Israeli policy, that use of the weapon was "potentially illegal," given the conditions in Gaza. In a 2003 case on the IDF's use of the shell brought before the High Court of Justice, the court found that no nation in the world, or recognized body of international law, bans the use of flechettes. (Maybe they should, but it's only the IDF's use of it that is especially singled out.) As to why anyone would use such a particular weapon, its advantage is that it can penetrate tree cover more effectively than normal shells - and terrorist gangs in northern Gaza use the groves there as cover for rocket and sniper attacks.

That, of course, doesn't mean that its use was appropriate in this case. The IDF, fighting its enemies in difficult conditions, does sometimes make the same terrible errors that other armies do in similar circumstances.

Just this week it was reported that Israel is weighing a multi-million dollar compensation payment to the family of James Miller, a British documentary filmmaker shot by a soldier in Rafah five years ago. It would be false, though, to claim that in every case in which a journalist was injured or killed by IDF fire, Israel has always responded adequately; all military organizations, even in democracies, look first to protect their own soldiers.

I also can't claim to be objective in these matters, having both served as a soldier in Gaza and worked there as a journalist. But I do think my position is at least more honest than that of some of my colleagues, who claim a mantle of impartiality on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which I know they do not always wear.

The most oft-quoted remark about war reporting is, "The first casualty of war is the truth."

That certainly is the case with the situation in Gaza, where the international media often fails to present the conflict in the proper context to adequately explain why Hamas and other Islamic terror groups bear primary responsibility for the civilian deaths there.

But sometimes the casualties of war are just that, including when they are journalists. So let us mourn the death of Fadel Shana, who died bravely on the job, and hope the truth does come out in this case.

3) ANALYSIS: Cease-fire with Hamas would make PA irrelevant
By Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' statement Friday in Washington that he had failed to move ahead negotiations with Israel after talks with President George W. Bush reveals how anxious the Fatah leadership is over a possible cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which would make the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank almost irrelevant.

While no apparent progress has been made between Israel and the PA on the final-status agreement, Hamas will have one of the most significant victories in its history, if not the most significant.

Palestinian public opinion may see the agreement, which lifts the blockade in exchange for a cessation of hostilities, as proof that only attacks and Qassam rockets can wrest concessions from Israel.

Palestinian and Egyptian sources say the cease-fire will initially apply to the Gaza Strip only, but six months later, if quiet prevails, it will expand to the West Bank, something the PA has failed to do for seven and a half years. Under those circumstances, who needs Abbas - they might really be able to start packing at the Muqata.

Hamas is also demanding that during the cease-fire in Gaza, Israel does not respond militarily there to attacks in the West Bank or within the Green Line. This is a stumbling block for Israel, which is concerned that the agreement will increase Hamas' motivation to carry out attacks in the West Bank.

Another weakness in the agreement is that it apparently does not include the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.

The head of Hamas' political wing in Damascus, Khaled Meshal, took pains yesterday in Qatar to explain that Hamas is not keen for the cease-fire to happen. But in reality, Hamas is very interested, so the economic blockade can be lifted and its position strengthened.

If Hamas fails this week in Cairo to persuade the other groups in Gaza to join it, its dilemma will be whether to restrain Islamic Jihad, or risk the collapse of the understandings with Egypt and Israel.

Without the other groups on board, Israel will discount the agreement. The murder Friday of two Israelis at the Nitzanei Shalom industrial zone near Tul Karm might be the first of a wave of terror by Islamic Jihad and other groups hoping to disrupt the calm in the Strip.

4)Analysis: Assad’s one half-truth and three lies to al Watan

In an interview Sunday, April 27 with the Qatari daily al Watan , Syrian president Bashar Assad said: "We don’t want a nuclear bomb, even if Iran acquires one. Military sources say that was only half true.

What he omitted to mention was the division of labor agreed between Damascus and Tehran in a potential war against Israel: The Syrian reactor Israel destroyed last September would produce “dirty weapons,” while Iran would go for a nuclear bomb. Tehran therefore funded the North Korean reactor in Syria. The radiological weapons made there were to be distributed to the terrorist organizations fighting Israel and used as leverage to control them.

“How would we use it? And where? No nuclear bomb has been used since World War II,” the Syrian ruler protested in the interview - three days after intelligence of his plutonium reactor weeks away from operation was presented to US congressmen in Washington.

Our military sources stress that a single radiological bomb released by just one terrorist group against a major Israeli city would have been an existential threat to the Jewish state.

Assad’s first outright lie was his insistence that future Middle East wars would be conventional. Sources point out Syria and Iran have recently supplied the Lebanese Hizballah with surface missiles capable of carrying chemical warheads. And Syria’s own air defenses are composed of Scud C and D missiles able to deliver chemical and biological weapons.

His second lie was the site Israel raided last year was no nuclear site but a military facility under construction. To prove his point, he asked: “Does it make sense that we would build a nuclear facility in the desert and not protect it with anti-aircraft defenses?”

The deployment of air defenses batteries, especially in a desolate corner of the Syrian Desert would have attracted immediate attention and betrayed its presence - even before the top-secret facility was functioning.

Assad’s third lie was the real point of the al Watan interview, although the least obvious: The Syrian ruler, according to intelligence sources, decided last week to bury the results of the inquiry into the death of Hizballah commander Imad Mughniyeh in February. That report accused Saudi undercover agencies of involvement in the murder together with the Israeli Mossad.

Saudi ire forced Assad to back away from this allegation. This he did in the interview when he declared that “no Arab hand” was found to have taken part in the Mughniyeh slaying.

The interview was therefore aimed more at placating Riyadh than highlighting the Syrian ruler’s issues with Israel.