Yoni Goldstein finds nothing redeeming about Olmert's time in office. (See 1 below.)
Obama now favors off shore drilling. Obama keeps changing his views and embracing McCain's. Obama is becoming a clone of McCain and perhaps McCain could ask Obama to run as his VP. (See 2 below.)
I only want to sit down with terrorists because debating McCain might be too revealing. Obama the toreador, Ferdinand or Man from La Mancha? (See 3 below.)
Assad and Ahmadinejad celebrate victory over West. Merkel gas deal undercuts potential Western sanctions. She visited in Israel, spoke to the Knesset all the while cutting a deal with Iran which just became known. Duplicity? You Judge. (See 4 below.)
Hamas clobbers Fatah and where do they escape to - Israel of course. (See 5 below.)
Investor's Daily on Obama's energy program. (See 5 6 below)
1)Yoni Goldstein: Good riddance to Ehud Olmert
Ehud Olmert, the current Israeli Prime Minister who announced on Wednesday his intentions to step down as leader of the ruling Kadima party in September, will leave no legacy at all. This is the ultimate mark of a failed statesman. During his two-and-a-half years as PM, a position he assumed when Ariel Sharon was felled by a massive stroke that has left him unconscious to current days, he accomplished virtually nothing. Compare Israel in August, 2008, to the Israel of January, 2006: Nothing much has changed, and the things have changed have been inarguably for the worse.
One might argue that it is unfair to compare Olmert to his predecessor Sharon, who will surely go down in history as one of Israel’s greatest, most courageous leaders. Olmert, it’s quite obvious, isn’t built of the same kind of stuff. But in the Middle East’s sole democracy, in a country surrounded by enemies bent on its destruction, there is no latitude for indecisive, passive leadership. Every Israeli head of state must be ready to move aggressively — to make peace or in self-defence — at a moment’s notice. Israeli leaders must be the embodiment of conviction, anything else represents weakness, and Israel can never afford to be, or even appear to be, weak.
This was Olmert’s mistake throughout the 2006 Lebanon war, which he mishandled pathetically. Olmert and his cabinet never pulled the trigger on a full-scale ground invasion of Lebanon, which was necessary to weed out Hezbollah terrorists hiding amongst the general Lebanese populace. Instead, Olmert ordered air strikes, which did destroy Hezbollah outposts, but also quite a bit of non-Hezbollah stuff. And all the while, Hezbollah rockets rained down on Israel, forcing a million people from their homes.
Only in the final days of the war, with a UN-brokered ceasefire already negotiated, did Olmert initiate major ground attacks. Within two days, Israel was out of Lebanon again, having accomplished virtually nothing in its own war on terror. Mission unaccomplished.
The January, 2008, final report from the Winograd Commission, established in the aftermath of that war to figure out how Israel had managed to lose in Lebanon, stated: “A semi-military organization of a few thousand men resisted for a few weeks the strongest army in the Middle East, which enjoyed full superiority and size and technology advantages. The barrage of rockets aimed at Israel’s civilian population lasted throughout the war and the IDF did not provide an effective response to it.” Ultimately, the blame for those failures fall at the feet of Ehud Olmert.
Lebanon was Olmert’s biggest gaffe, to be sure, but there are others as well.
He destroyed Kadima, Sharon’s centrist party. Kadima represented the once unthinkable possibility of true coalition governance in Israel — not a patchwork minority government, but a powerhouse majority composed of politicos genuinely willing to work together to find common ground. Now, Kadima faces the probability of members defecting back to Labour and Likud, two parties never happy to help each other.
He failed to stop the barrage of bombs in Sderot. More than 1,000 bombs have exploded in the small southern city in the past year, yet the Olmert government has refused to take serious action against Gaza.
Israeli-Palestinian relations are no better — or worse — since Olmert took office. Hamas remains in power in Gaza, left to gather and organize jihadi terrorists and arms as it sees fit. And in the West Bank, Mahmoud Abbas remains a weak authoritative figure. There have been renewed peace talks of late, but despite some confident speechifying, there is little real sense that a significant peace deal is close, or even achievable.
To be forgotten is a difficult accomplishment for a head of state, but I suspect Ehud Olmert’s reign as leader of Israel will quickly be swept under the rug by historians. And Israelis. To stand prone, to not act, is the worst path a politician can ever take for it presents as weakness, and the voting public have little patience for anemic leadership. In the end, Ehud Olmert never appeared interested in undertaking the kinds of bold actions that mark the greatest, and the worst, of world leaders. He was happy to just stand still; Israeli voters have made it clear they want movement.
2) In major change, Obama says he'll support offshore drilling
By David Lightman
WASHINGTON — Barack Obama Friday dropped his opposition to offshore oil drilling, saying he could go along with the idea if it was part of a broader energy package.
Obama made his comments in St. Petersburg during an interview with the Palm Beach Post. "My interest is in making sure we've got the kind of comprehensive energy policy that can bring down gas prices," he said.
"If, in order to get that passed, we have to compromise in terms of a careful, well thought-out drilling strategy that was carefully circumscribed to avoid significant environmental damage - I don't want to be so rigid that we can't get something done," the paper quoted Obama as saying.
The change is dramatic because Obama often pointed to his opposition to drilling as a key difference between himself and presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain.
"I will keep the moratorium in place and prevent oil companies from drilling off Florida’s coasts," Obama said in Florida in June.
Friday, he said he was still not a fan of drilling, telling the Palm Beach paper, "I think it's important for the American people to understand we're not going to drill our way out of this problem."
Obama also said, in a separate statement issued by his campaign, that he supported the bipartisan energy plan offered by 10 senators Friday.
"Like all compromises, it also includes steps that I haven't always supported," he said. "I remain skeptical that new offshore drilling will bring down gas prices in the short-term or significantly reduce our oil dependence in the long-term, though I do welcome the establishment of a process that will allow us to make future drilling decisions based on science and fact."
The proposal would end most of the ban on drilling. It would allow a 50-mile buffer on the east coast, as well as Florida's west coast. Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia and South Carolina would be permitted to start oil and natural gas exploration outside the buffer.
Any oil, the senators said, would have to stay in this country.
McCain reacted quickly to Obama's switch in positions, telling the Associated Press, "We need oil drilling and we need it now offshore. He has consistently opposed it. He has opposed nuclear power. He has opposed reprocessing. He has opposed storage."
Experts estimate that even if drilling proves to sharply increase oil supplies, its effects will not be felt for at least seven and probably 10 years.
But the concept has proven popular, and McCain has made it a centerpiece of his stump speeches and some of his television ads.
Political momentum has been moving in favor of opening up U.S. coastlines. There were two bars to offshore drilling, one first imposed by Congress in 1981 and another signed by President Bush's father in 1990 and renewed in 1998 by President Clinton. Bush lifted the executive ban last month; Congress, which left Friday for a five-week recess, has not acted.
The government bans exploration and drilling on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts and most of the eastern Gulf of Mexico, to protect U.S. beaches and fisheries from pollution.
3) Obama backs away from McCain's debate challenge
By DOUGLASS K. DANIEL
WASHINGTON - Democratic candidate Barack Obama on Saturday backed away from rival John McCain's challenge for a series of joint appearances before the political conventions, agreeing only to the standard three debates in the fall.
In May, when a McCain adviser proposed a series of pre-convention appearances at town hall meetings, Obama said, "I think that's a great idea." In summer stumping on the campaign trail, McCain has often noted that Obama had not followed through and joined him in any events.
On Saturday, in a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said the short period between the last political convention and the first proposed debate made it likely that the commission-sponsored debates would be the only ones in the fall.
"We've committed to the three debates on the table," campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Saturday in an interview. "It's likely they will be the three appearances by the candidates this fall."
Asked by The Associated Press if that meant Obama would not agree to any other debates, Psaki said, "We're not saying that." She said the McCain campaign had rejected Obama's proposal for two joint town hall meetings.
The McCain campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The first debate planned by the commission is set for Sept. 26 in Oxford, Miss., three weeks after the Republican National Convention concludes Sept. 4. The Democratic convention is scheduled for Aug. 25-28.
The other presidential debates are set for Oct. 7 and Oct. 15 and the vice presidential debate for Oct. 2.
A day after Obama clinched the Democratic nomination in early June, McCain challenged Obama to a series of 10 town hall meetings with voters in the months leading up to the conventions. The candidates' campaigns began negotiations, telling reporters that they agreed in spirit to the joint appearances.
When the idea first came up from the McCain campaign that May, Obama was still battling Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic nomination. Obama said then: "Obviously, we would have to think through the logistics on that, but ... if I have the opportunity to debate substantive issues before the voters with John McCain, that's something that I am going to welcome."
In June, Plouffe had suggested Obama-McCain meetings more along the lines of the historic Lincoln-Douglas debates. In 1858, during Abraham Lincoln's Senate campaign against Stephen Douglas, the candidates met seven times across Illinois. One spoke for an hour, the other for an hour and a half, and the first was allowed a half-hour rebuttal.
Plouffe said Saturday that Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois will be Obama's representative in further discussions with the commission.
The Commission on Presidential Debates, established in 1987, sponsors and produces debates featuring the presidential and vice presidential candidates of the major parties. The nonprofit and nonpartisan organization has sponsored all the presidential debates since 1988.
4)Tehran hosts Assad to celebrate winning nuclear dispute with West and cooling of US-Israel ties
The Syrian president Bashar Assad was due to visit Tehran in a week’s time. The trip was brought forward to Saturday, Aug. 2 to coincide with the deadline the six powers gave Iran for an answer to its offer of benefits in return for its consent to suspend uranium enrichment – or face a fourth round of sanctions.
Middle East sources report: Iranian and Syrian rulers are so pleased with their unforeseen success in outmaneuvering the West that they called an urgent summit for follow-up planning.
When a line of Iranian leaders rejected the ultimatum on their “right” to develop a nuclear program, Washington responded mildly “we are not counting the days”, while the European Union said there was no hurry. In any case a huge German energy deal with Iran has drawn the sting of any prospective penalties.
The Syrian-Iranian get-together also follows the failure of top Israeli leaders traveling to Washington in the past three weeks to persuade the Bush administration of the urgency of considering military action against Iran’s nuclear installations – or at least backing an Israeli operation.
Transport minister Shaul Mofaz was the last arrival after chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, foreign minister Tzipi Livni and defense minister Ehud Barak.
Iran’s supreme ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, president Mahmoud Ahminejad and Assad can therefore pat each others backs over the cooling of US-Israeli strategic relations in on top of their other successes.
Their feats owe more to the way the West plays into their hands than their own ingenuity:
1. In mid-June, the Bush administration decided to embark on a secret dialogue with the Islamic Republic. After procuring a direct line for business with US government leaders, and wrapping up deals, mostly behind Israel’s back, on the burning issues of oil pricing, Iraq and Lebanon, Iran nullified any leverage Washington had. Tehran can now afford to make light of the six-power ultimatum on its nuclear activities.
2. At about the same time, Israel entered into peace talks with Syria through Turkish mediation. The result: While Iran was developing its back-door rapprochement with the US, the Syrian ruler had hit the jackpot for buying back international legitimacy and a respected role in Middle East politics, without giving up his warm ties with Tehran or his sponsorship of terror.
Damascus can now afford to dump its diplomatic track with Israel as soon as Ehud Olmert steps down as prime minister in September.
The insistence of Olmert’s would-be successors – Livni and Mofaz from his own Kadima and Labor leader Barak – on continuing the talks with Syria, on condition that Assad pulls away from Tehran – not only mislead the public about their purpose, but feed the Damascus-Tehran alliance which is aimed against Israel.
3. French president Nicolas Sarkozy gave Assad a massive boost to the stability of his regime when he hosted him as the guest of honor at the last French Bastille Day parade. Sarkozy assured him then that he would act through the UN Security Council to abolish the international tribunal set up to prosecute the murderers of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005. This let the chief suspects, Assad’s close kin and intelligence chiefs, off the hook.
4. A torrent of studies suddenly coming out of US think tanks in recent weeks shows how hard American research and intelligence circles are leaning on the administration to expand its dialogue with Tehran. Bush is being urged to call off sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program and withdraw US backing from Iran’s disaffected minorities’ revolt against the Islamic regime – all for the purpose of putting US-Iranian relations on a normal footing.
5)Fatah men flee in droves to Israel after battling Hamas
Over 180 Fatah loyalists - some wounded during a bloody day-long battle with Hamas operatives in the Gaza Strip that left four dead and dozens hurt - fled to the Israel late Saturday as Hamas mortar shells and small army fire attempted to prevent their escape, Army Radio reported.
Hamas security forces are...
The IDF confirmed that it allowed wounded Palestinians to cross the border after having been stripped of their weapons, saying that permission was granted as part of a "humanitarian gesture." At least 20 of them were taken to hospitals in Beersheba and Ashkelon for medical treatment, while others were being transferred to the West Bank.
Earlier in the day, loud explosions and gunfire could be heard across Gaza City. as Hamas security forces asserted control in a stronghold of political rival Fatah. Hamas said it arrested dozens of people, including 10 who had tried to flee disguised as women, and confiscated weapons. In addition to the fatalities, at least 80 people were wounded.
The fighting raged for most of the day in the crowded Shijaiyeh neighborhood of Gaza City, home to some 100,000 people, including members of the Fatah-linked Hilles clan. Hamas alleged that the clan was hiding suspects in a car bombing last week that left five Hamas members dead and sparked a Hamas crackdown on Fatah.
By Saturday afternoon, hundreds of Hamas security forces members were deployed in the neighborhood, patrolling the streets and searching houses. Hamas policemen fired in the air in celebration. A senior Hamas police official said searches would continue in coming days. Hamas also fired several mortar shells toward the nearby border with Israel, apparently to prevent fugitives from getting away.
Since last week's bombing, Hamas has systematically rounded up Fatah supporters, in an apparent attempt to crush remaining pockets of opposition and cement control.
The remains of a car that...
Following the bombing, Hamas seized more than 200 Fatah supporters in the biggest crackdown since wresting control of the territory from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in June 2007. Fatah retaliated by arresting scores of Hamas activists in the West Bank.
On Saturday, Abbas's forces widened their sweep to include members of the Liberation Party, a pan-Islamic movement that has sharply criticized the West Bank leadership but says it espouses non-violent change. In the past, members of the movement were able to march in the West Bank without hindrance.
However, demonstrations in recent days were broken up by Abbas's security forces, and one senior security official said there is growing fear Hamas is using the Liberaton Party as a front in the West Bank.
Since Thursday, dozens of Liberation Party members have been arrested, said its spokesman, Baher Saleh. On Saturday, dozens more party members were detained as police tried to break up a rally in Ramallah.
Deeb al-Ali, chief of the national security forces in the West Bank, said all political gatherings were banned because of the growing tensions with Hamas. "We have to stop rallies and marches or anything that leads to mass gatherings," he said.
Saturday's raid in Gaza began under heavy morning fog when Hamas police took up positions in Shijaiyeh. Hamas security men stormed several high-rise buildings and arrested rooftop snipers, as well as gunmen and wounded fighters, said Islam Shahwan, a Hamas police spokesman.
Ahmed Hilles, a clan leader and Fatah official, said Hamas police cut off electricity as they launched the raid. Explaining why the clan fought back, he said: "You have to decide: Either be trampled under Hamas' shoes, or stand in dignity."
Three Hamas police and a member of the Hilles clan were killed.
By Saturday afternoon, Hamas police seized control of the neighborhood, declaring it a closed military zone and arresting more than 50 in house-to-house searches.
Hamas officials also shut down a radio station affiliated with the small Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, saying that the station was reporting "lies and rumors and inciting sedition," the group said.
A senior Abbas aide in the West Bank, Tayeb Abdel Rahim, denounced Gaza's Hamas rulers as "the new Mongols." But in act of goodwill, Hamas released 10 Fatah leaders after Egyptian mediation.
Hamas said two more supporters were arrested in the West Bank overnight, bringing the total in the past week to more than 150.
Meanwhile, five Palestinians were killed and 18 wounded in a smuggling tunnel under the Gaza-Egypt border after Egyptian troops blew up the entrance, officials said Saturday.
The destruction of the entrance deprived those inside the tunnel of oxygen, said the Egyptian official, who is stationed at the border and spoke on customary condition of anonymity.
The tunnel entrance was destroyed late Friday, near the Gaza border town of Rafah.
Networks of tunnels run under the Gaza-Egypt border and are used to bring supplies into Gaza. The territory has been virtually cut off from the world since June 2007 when Hamas seized control by force. Both Israel and Egypt have enforced the closure of Gaza.
In the past week, Egypt has destroyed 14 tunnels, the Egyptian official said. Since the beginning of the year, 27 Palestinians have been killed in tunnels, including the five killed late Friday.
6) Phony 'Emergency'
By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAIly
Stimulus: Barack Obama's newly unveiled "Emergency Economic Plan" is quite a document, sounding more like the rantings of an extremist fringe candidate than a serious contender for the presidency.
Read More: Economy | Election 2008
The six-page package is a doozy, replete with populist ideas that will wreck the economy and leave us poorer. The only real emergency we should worry about is the debacle that would follow its passage.
It's shocking that a mainstream candidate, with so many supposedly well-regarded economists advising him, would produce such a shoddy, poorly thought-out plan.
Take his proposal to send every family a check for $1,000. Don't worry, he assures us, we won't have to pay for it. "Windfall profits from Big Oil" will pick up the tab — in this case.
Sen. Obama seems to be trying to take advantage of reports that Exxon Mobil reported record second-quarter income — indeed, the highest quarterly profit for any corporation ever.
But the reality is that as Obama and his equally unknowing friends push windfall taxes, Exxon Mobil has already given the U.S. a massive windfall. As economist Mark Perry has noted, Exxon Mobil will pay more taxes this year to the U.S. Treasury than the bottom 50% of all taxpayers — combined.
In the first half, Exxon Mobil's after-tax income rose 15% to $22.6 billion. A lot of money, to be sure, until you consider that Exxon Mobil paid $61.7 billion in taxes — also a record.
People shouldn't fall for such cheap, recycled class-warfare argument. Yet many will. Sadly, it will saddle big energy companies with higher taxes and crimp their exploration and drilling budgets. That means less oil on the market and higher prices.
We know this because it has been tried before. Jimmy Carter's windfall profits tax led to a 6% drop in domestic oil output and as much as a 15% surge in oil imports, according to the Congressional Research Service. Now, Obama wants to play it again.
The rest of Obama's plan is just as nonsensical. It would spend $50 billion on various kinds of stimulus, including $25 billion to help erase state government budget deficits. In other words, he'll reward profligate states and punish thrifty ones. This is "stimulus" only if you think stimulus is saving government jobs.
Another $25 billion would go towards "replenishing" the Highway Trust Fund to rebuild the nation's roads and bridges. The problem with this idea is that we're already paying for it, with a 18.3- cents-a-gallon tax on gasoline and even more on diesel.
Unfortunately, under the last transportation bill, Congress chose to spend more than it had coming in — the result of runaway pork-barrel politics, not need.
As the Transportation Department's inspector general wrote in a scathing 2007 report, "Many earmarked projects considered by the agencies as low priority are being funded over higher-priority, non-earmarked projects."
The real problem is not that we pay too little in taxes, or that "Big Oil" is enjoying "windfall profits." It's a big-spending, big-taxing Congress that "emergency" plans such as Obama's will only embolden. This lame plan will hurt the economy, not stimulate it.