Sunday, May 15, 2011

An Unilateral Palestinian State and The Consequences!

From a dear British friend and memo reader: "The real reason that we can't have the Ten Commandments posted in a courthouse or Parliament, is this -

You cannot post 'Thou Shalt Not Steal', 'Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery' and 'Thou Shall Not Lie' in a building full of lawyers,judges and politicians..... It creates a hostile work environment."

Sign of the times.
Hamas and Fatah: Will their union prove fatal as those before?

Then other views. (See 1, 1a and 1b below.)
Randall Hoven offers a sober assessment of Obama's record and comes up with some interesting results. That said, Hoven still finds Obama offensive but not the Satan others find him.

In Hoven's mind, it is simply an East vs West matter. Meanwhile, the horse has already left the barn in terms of America. In Hoven's view we are already a European styled socialist state based on our current metrics.(See 2 below.)
Steve Plocker discusses why only past and current U.S. president(s) are seeking a Palestinian State. (See 3 below.)
As expected Obama's bin Laden bump appears ephemeral. (See 4 below.)
Peter Beinart has a somber view of Netanyahu's efforts to ignore what Beinart believes is inevitable - a Palestiniain State which will leave Israel and America in the dust bin of history, covered with the sand of the Middle East thwarting their ability to control events as in the past. (See 5 below.)

The Middle East is a vast region of sand yet changing events make the region's politics fluid.

No one really can predict what turns will govern the direction the various Arab/Muslim states will take but the Middle East genii is out of the bottle and I am not sure anything Obama and/or Israel can do will get it back. Events have a way of taking over and ignorance and passions are powerful forces.

As I have written, in time I am convinced the Middle East will democratize itself because, as GW fervently believed, people do want to be free, to have a greater say over their own destiny - be they Arab/Muslim, Asians or Westernized.

The question, which I have also raised, is how many millions will die before this eventual democratization occurs?

As the U.S's grip over the Middle East loosens and various autocratic regimes fall by the wayside only to be replaced, for possibly a long interim period, by regimes that also fall short of expectations greater instability is something I would anticipate.

Lamentably, continued Arab/Muslim flirtation with death, hatred and destruction seems to me a continuing phase the world must endure and cannot effectively corral.
1)Hamas and Fatah:
A Temporary Marriage of Convenience
By Dr. Mordechai Kedar

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The Hamas-Fatah agreement creates a Janus-faced government in the West Bank and Gaza, which is more smoke and mirrors than reality. When the time comes to divide up the bearskin – perhaps after international recognition (if this takes place) of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza – the deep-seated divisions between Hamas and Fatah will again come to the fore.

Both parties to the Hamas-Fatah “unity” agreement are acting on the basis of expediency. In fact, the appearance of unity and the accolades for achieving it are of more significance than unity itself.

Mahmoud Abbas is racing forward in preparation for the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, a move strongly backed by Europe, by some defeatist Israelis, and perhaps even by the White House. At this rate, in September 2011 he will become the president of a Palestinian state.

However, this in fact would be domestically disastrous for him. In Palestinian and Arab eyes, Abbas would be viewed as a traitor for relinquishing Haifa and Jaffa (i.e. Israel of 1948), for forsaking the refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, and for building a state on “only” 22 percent of Palestine. This situation would be intolerable for Abbas as it would create too wide a disparity between his favorable international status and his domestic status as a “traitor.” He requires backup in order to silence his worst critics, i.e., Hamas. Even if such an agreement enables the Islamist Hamas to win the majority of seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council, as occurred in January 2006, and even if Hamas achieves the sought-after position of president in the elections that must be held within a year according to the agreement – Abbas prefers this to being branded a traitor. He must prepare for September by establishing a temporary state of calm in his backyard – this is what he aims to achieve through the agreement with Hamas.

Hamas, for its part, is amazed by the way the world ignores its de facto state in Gaza, with an army, a missile industry, a legislative system, law and order. Everyone is speaking only with Abbas, preparing a state for him, and filling his coffers, while they – the authentic and legitimate representatives of the Palestinian people, as Hamas views it – are left out of the discussion entirely. Hamas is concerned that the PLO will be recognized as the official ruling body in the new state, which is unacceptable to it. Can Hamas, who suffered years of blockade, siege and hunger, who firmly withstood bombings and assassinations, and who undermined Israel's international standing through Goldstone and peace flotillas, now hand the controls over to Mahmoud Abbas, who actually encouraged Olmert to embark on Operation Cast Lead? The recent agreement, therefore, is favorable to Hamas as it enables both groups to share the steering wheel: Abbas with his foot on the gas and Hamas riding the breaks.

The agreement stipulates a "non-partisan 'experts' government," which essentially means they have decided not to decide. The designation of executive positions, those which enable ministers to appoint their own people to positions of control, power and money, will be delayed until the next stage, if only to postpone the tussle over "dividing up the cake." The critical issue at present is deciding who will control the security mechanisms, as these constitute the true source of power. Initially, Hamas will retain control over the Gaza strip. Abbas will pay a courtesy call after Hamas places behind bars all members of radical groups to guarantee his security. In the West Bank, Abbas will take measures to ensure that Hamas does not become too prominent, and that its leaders, who will be released from prison as part of the agreement, are well aware of the surveillance placed upon them.

While the PLO and Hamas differ ideologically, the main difference is in the sociological composition of the two organizations. The average age of Hamas activists and leaders is 30-40 while the average age of PLO activists is 60-70. The PLO represents the Naqba generation, an oppressed, exiled generation who would be satisfied with partial achievements before moving on to the next world. Among the PLO, many were born in the land on which the State of Israel was established in 1948, like Abbas, who was born in Safed. They are not perceived as "sons of the town" (Abnaa' al-Balad) either in Ramallah or in Gaza, but as foreigners. They have no local family clan (hamula) to stand up in their support. The middle generation of PLO has a stronger connection to the area (Sa'eb 'Arekat is from Jericho), but they are still an echelon above the common people, with suits, ties and gold cufflinks; they smoke cigars and travel in luxury vehicles with tinted windows.

In contrast, Hamas' members are closer to the indigenous population, particularly to those in refugee camps who, for 63 years, remained marginalized socially, economically and politically, and who served as menial laborers of the effendis in Nablus, Ramallah and Gaza. These are the people who spent many years in Israeli prisons and are proud of the scars on their bodies rather than of suits they do not wear.

Another difference between the two groups, somewhat of a skeleton in the closet, is that Hamas is an authentic representation of the Gaza population, 90 percent of which is of Bedouin origin, while the PLO represents the urban, educated elite of the West Bank. Many of the women in the West Bank dress in flattering, modern fashion and reveal their hair, while the women of Gaza cover their bodies with loose-fitting jilbabs to hide their shape. They also conceal their hair with khimars and many even wear a heavy face covering. The West Bank residents look down on the Gaza residents. The two regions differ in culture, worldview and even in dialect. In the Middle East, a marriage between a Bedouin family and an urban family is never considered to have good prospects.

Despite the agreement, PLO-Hamas relations will continue to be ridden with suspicions from both sides. Hamas will constantly suspect Abbas of flirting with the United States, Europe and Israel, while Abbas will always be on the lookout for Hamas attempts to recruit members of his own camp.

The world has ceased to count the number of accords that the PLO and Hamas have signed. The best example is the signing of the Mecca agreement in February 2007, in front of the holy Kaaba shrine, following unrestrained physical force by Saudi King Abdallah. The aim of this agreement was to mend PLO-Hamas relations after the fallout that occurred when Hamas won the majority of parliamentary seats in the previous year's elections. For an entire year, the PLO had refused to transfer any authority or governing positions to Hamas. Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, a Hamas member, had his hands tied due to the rift with Israel, the Quartet's hostility, the refusal of the US to recognize Hamas as a legitimate entity, and Europe's aversion to funding an entity ruled – at least by name – by a terror organization.

The Mecca agreement should have directed both parties' efforts toward common objectives – for instance, overcoming the Zionist occupation, freeing Jerusalem, promoting the return of the refugees, and releasing the imprisoned. The two sides agreed at the time to implement "political pluralism," an expression used to avoid decision making on the political and operative guidelines. They also consented on the principle of political collaboration, which outwardly meant joint decision making, but in practice meant a mutual freeze of both parties to the agreement. The agreement eventually led to the establishment of a unity government in March 2007. However, disagreements along the way, over the identity of the decision makers, resulted in its collapse and in the Hamas takeover of Gaza that year.

Disagreements between the PLO and Hamas over objectives and methodology still exist today. Their differing worldviews have not diminished over the years of severance, accusations and defamations. While Hamas does not believe in the slogans propagated by Abbas about not relenting on the Palestinians' rights, they are prepared, once again, to enter into a non-binding agreement with the PLO. This willingness has been spurred by the public demand in Gaza and Ramallah to solve the dispute and bridge the gaps, as a high political cost has been incurred by both sides due to the divisiveness.

Nevertheless, Hamas' security apparatus, led by the 'Izz-addin al-Qassam brigades, will never give in to the PLO agenda. The armed wing of the PLO, as well, will not consider, even for a moment, abiding by demands dictated by anyone from the Hamas camp. The contradictions within this Janus-faced emerging entity will continue to divide the Palestinian Authority, despite attempts to mitigate the discord. When the time comes to divide up the bearskin – perhaps after international recognition (if this takes place) of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza – the deep-seated divisions between Hamas and Fatah will again come to the fore.

Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Mordechai Kedar, a 25-year veteran of Israeli military intelligence, teaches Middle Eastern history at Bar-Ilan University, and is a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies

1a)Assad tried pro-Palestinian Golan stunt to foil Egypt's Hamas takeover

President Bashar Assad had more than one objective in bussing thousands of demonstrators to Israel's Golan border Nakba Day, Sun. May 15. Showing how easily he and his Hizballah partner could capture a village on the Israeli side of the enclave was only one. The other was to put a spoke in Egypt's wheel for transferring Hamas' command centers from Damascus to the Gaza Strip as part of its moves for taking the Gaza Strip and its Hamas rulers under Cairo's wing against Israel.

In the light of this contest, the case for renewing peace talks with the Palestinians, argued interminably between Israel's government and opposition leaders (despite the Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas's two-year refusal) has lost its relevance. The rejectionist Syria, Hizballah and Hamas are now calling the Palestinian shots, a fact which is not brought to the attention of the Israeli public.

Hizballah helped Syria organize the mass infiltration of Palestinians and Syrians into the Golan while using the same civilian Palestinian mob weapon to breach the Lebanese-Israeli frontier from Maroun a-Ras.

The fact is that Israel and the Palestinian Authority are adrift after losing Hosni Mubarak as their key Arab peace champion.

Saudi Arabia is up to its ears building a royalist Muslim bloc to counter the Muslim lineup President Barack Obama is in the process of fashioning with Israel's foe, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. Israel's Binyamin Netanyahu and Abbas and their international lobbies have been shunted aside as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria and Turkey bid for regional dominance.

That is why Nakba Day had such little impact on the streets of the West Bank Israeli Arab towns. The main arena had shifted Israel's external borders with Syria and Lebanon with regional connotations.

Military and intelligence sources disclose that, shortly between the Palestinian unity pact was signed between Fatah and Hamas on May 4, Egypt's foreign minister Nabil Elaraby and intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Murad Muwafi gave Hamas' Damascus-based leader Khaled Meshaal a guarantee: Cairo would hold Israel back from hitting the Gaza Strip in reprisal for Hamas' missile blitz, if this radical Palestinian group promised to halt all attacks on Israeli targets, whether raids on the Gaza-Israel border fence, the planting of bombs or mortar and missile cross-border fire.
For the first time in the 44 years since Egyptian troops abandoned the Gaza Strip in 1967, Cairo took military responsibility for this coastal enclave against the Israeli Defense Forces, a commitment which put Israel's relations with Egypt on a new footing, very much at the expense of its military standing.

That deal, rather than Israel's deterrent strength, produced the calm prevailing for the past two weeks on the Gaza-Israeli front.

Systematically shunned by Mubarak, the deal was the hidden trigger which set in motion the thousands of Palestinians sent by Damascus and Hizballah to mob Israel's borders and move into the Israeli Golan Druze village of Majd al-Shams on Nakba Day.
This chain of events, starting with the Fatah-Hamas pact in May, could have been averted if only a month earlier in April, Israel had taken military responsibility for its own security and destroyed Hamas' ability to shoot missiles and mortars at will into southwestern Israel. A defeated Hamas would have been less attractive to Cairo as a protégé and as the object of pursuit by rival Arab champions who exploited the vacuum created by Israel's military and diplomatic passivity and adherence to such outdated mainstays as its bygone strategic partnership with Egypt.
Still, Israel's policymakers fail to grasp the relevance of the intelligence laid before them: When Gen. Muwafi promised Meshaal to separate the Gaza Strip from Israel, which Israel had supposedly executed in its 2005 withdrawal from the territory he explained that he meant a "complete cutoff" whereas Israel had not gone beyond "disengagement."

Cairo has therefore undertaken not only to provide the Palestinian enclave with a military shield against Israel but also replaces Israel as the supplier of all its needs for fuel, flour, foodstuffs. Egyptian currency will replace the Israeli shekel as legal currency.

The Gaza Strip is therefore reverting to its pre-1967 Egyptian military occupation plus patronage of the fundamentalist Hamas, a step which neither Damascus nor the Iran-backed Hizballah can possibly accept because it displaces their influence with the Palestinians.

The failure at the top levels of Israeli government to appreciate the fallout from this contest left the IDF's Northern Command without the tools for predicting the Damascus-engineered assault on Majd al Shams. None of the officers imagined Syria would use Nabka Day to hit two targets: Israel and Egypt.

1b)Israel and the "Palestinian State"
By Yisrael Ne'eman

The façade of reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas leaves Israel with serious challenges to its diplomatic standing and security come this September when the Palestinian Authority (PA) is expected to announce the establishment of an independent state within the 1967 armistice lines delineating the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Those voting for Palestinian State recognition in the UN will relate to it internationally as one unit while in reality there will be two entities – Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza. Recognition of Palestinian territorial sovereignty will include areas where Jewish settlements and army bases exist in the West Bank and will be understood to render any Israeli presence illegal by international law. Israel will be defined as an intruder. Until now, what is termed the "occupation" is legal despite the passage of 44 years. Serious judicial arguments revolve around aspects of the "occupation" and the relationship between the Israeli State and the Arab population and who follows or disobeys the rules as set out in the Geneva Convention of August 1949.

Many Israelis view the West Bank (and Gaza) as "disputed territory" since these regions were meant to be part of an Arab State whose leadership cancelled its own birthright in 1947 when they along with the Arab/Muslim World rejected UN Resolution 181 calling for a two-state (one Jewish and one Arab) solution to the continued troubles in the British administered Mandate. Furthermore from a religious perspective these territories are part of the Biblical Land of Israel. After 1948 the West Bank and Gaza Strip were occupied by Jordan and Egypt respectively and only 19 years later did Israel replace them.

Come September how should Israel respond to an internationally sanctioned Palestinian State resulting from a UN General Assembly vote? What parameters should be used to contain an accelerating conflict as evidenced by this week's Nakba (catastrophe) Day attacks and demonstrations on and within Israel's borders? What should Israel demand of the Palestinians and are Gaza and the West Bank to be treated as a single entity?

* On the ground Israel must treat Gaza and the West Bank as two entities, especially if the usual border problems erupt in the former and quiet is kept in the latter. The response to a Hamas attack coming out of Gaza must be a military operation on the same front. Despite the formalities West Bank PA/Fatah forces have no influence in Hamas controlled Gaza.

* Politically and internationally Israeli policy towards the Palestinians needs to be uniform. The Hamas - Fatah unity government or whatever other arrangement is decided upon must accept the two-state solution and all agreements signed between Israel and the PA from previous years. Most importantly a prerequisite to peace is the recognition of Israel's legitimate right to exist and not only an acknowledgement of Israel's mere existence, one interpreted as temporary at best once Israel is deemed to be less than legitimate.

* There cannot be refugee return to Israel. The whole issue of the Palestinian refugee status is different from others world wide. Following WWII refugee issues were to be settled after two years and refugee status could not be handed down to one's offspring. Only in this case is there a pro-Palestinian discrimination as determined by the UN, allowing for unlimited refugee status both in time and as an inheritance. For the rest of the world the idea was to settle refugee problems, help people begin their lives anew and not perpetuate such social dislocations. Arab/Muslim world policy succeeded in leaving the refugee problem as a festering wound. UN Res. 194, Clause 11 (12/1948) deals with possible "compensation" for refugees and this is the track is to be taken. There can be re-settlement in the Palestinian national entity or in a third party state.

Simultaneously, Jews who were forced to leave Arab countries (1940s – 60s) must by the exact same principle be allowed to sue for damages and receive compensation. These Jews are the forgotten refugees, suffered no less than Palestinian Arab refugees and must receive treatment equal to that of the Palestinians.

* The tricky question of the anti-Israel and antisemitic foundational documents of the Palestine National Charter (PNC) and the Hamas Covenant must be exposed and confronted. All calls for Israel's destruction as expressed in the PNC were to be eliminated as a result US Pres. Clinton visit to Israel and the Palestinian areas in Dec. 1998. This has yet to be done. A Hamas Covenant rewrite must follow the same principle of erasing all antisemitic and anti-Zionist/Israel exhortations. More often than not, political and religious loyalties in the Arab/Muslim world take precedence over state authority, hence such demands are necessary to ensure conflict resolution. The Arab/Muslim world today defines the peace treaties between Jordan/Egypt and Israel as "a peace between governments" not between peoples. This cannot be allowed to repeat itself with the Palestinians, both the PLO/Fatah and Hamas must accept Israel's legitimacy as the nation state of the Jewish People. Israel will recognize Palestine as the nation state of the Palestinian Arab People.

* As already agreed upon in the Clinton Parameters and in other previous negotiations the Palestinian State will be demilitarized or "non-militarized" and the Jordan River would serve as Israel's security border to the east.
Israel must coordinate with the European Union and America the implementation of Stage II of the Bush "Road Map" envisioning a Palestinian State with temporary borders but honoring international obligations while securing the rights of a state. Israel and the Palestinians would then negotiate the two-state solution with each side fully accepting the other's national/religious legitimacy and right to exist.

Numbers wise Israel will lose the UN vote. Israel needs to coordinate with the West and the world's developed nations to avoid conflict and reach an agreement with the Palestinians. Any crisis can quickly become a clash with Hamas in the lead undermining Fatah while Hizbollah, Syria and Iran join in. The Palestinians are to be reminded that the West Bank institutional and economic development of the past two to three years could be wiped out and the Arafat era of constant uprisings, instability and competing Palestinian militias in constant clash with each other will replace the state frameworks developed by PM Salam Fayyad. The quality, level of economic, political and democratic development of those countries working with Israel to achieve conflict resolution are more important than the absolute numbers of the others voting in favor of a Palestinian State in four months time. Israel needs to put together a coalition of 40 – 50 key states who will not support unilateral Palestinian statehood.

On the other hand negotiating in earnest to end the conflict involves not only getting to Stage II but Stage III of the Bush Road Map and a permanent status agreement. Pillared in here is the "economic peace" discussed so often by PM Netanyahu, a concept intersecting with Fayyad's plans for development. Israel must stand up for its fundamental needs while turning the approaching diplomatic crisis into an advantage to move forward on the two-state solution to arrive at conflict resolution.

Netanyahu's speech to the Knesset yesterday dealt with many of these issues, included others not mentioned here and omitted others. Taken together with his upcoming appearance before the US Congress it will be possible to analyze the Likud government's position for an agreement. More about specifics on this matter next week.
2)The Article Liberals Are Too Stupid to Write (and Republicans too reluctant to read)
By Randall Hoven

Why, after all this, does President Obama enjoy an approval rating near 50%? How can people even think of voting for him over the Republican nominee in 2012? Well wonder no more.

The economy.

•The Great Recession, which began in 2007, ended in June 2009, just five months after Obama was sworn into office.
•Since June 2009, real Gross Domestic Product has grown in every quarter, at an average annual rate of 2.8%. In the preceding eight years, from 2000 to 2008 (4th quarter to 4th quarter), average growth was only 1.7% per year. Real GDP is now at an all-time high.
•Over the last 14 months, over two million private sector jobs were added to the economy. Over that same period, over 300,000 government jobs were cut.
•The stock market is up over 60% since Obama was inaugurated. It is now at levels not seen since June 2008, or before Bush bailed out Fannie and Freddie and gave us TARP.


•There has been no tax increase since Obama entered office. In fact, he cut taxes.
•The tax rates enacted under President Bush were extended. We are now paying at the same tax rates we were in 2007 and 2008, if not less.
•The stimulus was about one third tax cuts and tax credits.
•As part of the legislation extending the Bush tax rates, Obama added billions more in tax cuts and credits.
•A big reason that the federal deficit is so large is that federal receipts are 4.1% of GDP lower in 2011 than in 2007. (OMB Table 1.2)


•It is true that the federal government is spending 4.6% of GDP more in 2011 than it did in 2008, but 67% of that is due to built-in increases in the mandatory programs, primarily Social Security and Medicare, and interest on the debt. Another 15% of that increase is due to increased Defense spending. (OMB Table 8.4)
•Non-defense discretionary spending increased only 0.7% of GDP from 2008 to 2011. That is, 85% of the increase in spending was either outside the President's control or was due to increased Defense spending.

The War On Terror.

•Osama bin Laden was killed by US forces. His computers, notebooks and other materials were taken into custody in one of the greatest anti-terror intelligence finds ever.
•The troop drawdown in Iraq essentially followed the plans of President Bush. When Obama was inaugurated, there were 142,000 US troops in Iraq. One year later there were still 110,000 US troops there. Even now, almost 2 ½ years into Obama's term, 46,000 US troops remain in Iraq.
•In Afghanistan, Obama more than tripled the number of US troops there: from about 33,000 to 100,000. He essentially gave his generals, such as Petraeus, everything they asked for.
•Obama has ordered more drone attacks than Bush ever did.
•Gitmo is still open and in business with about 160 jihadis in cells there. Military tribunals continue.
•The Patriot Act was extended.
•On February 22, Sarah Palin said, "NATO and our allies should look at establishing a no-fly zone so Libyan air forces cannot continue slaughtering the Libyan people." Within weeks, by March 17, the UN approved such a no-fly zone and by March 19, US forces and NATO allies were part of the coalition enforcing that no-fly zone.
•Obama retained George W. Bush's Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates.


•In 2005, the Republican-led Congress mandated that 652 miles of fence be built along the US-Mexican border. That fence is now 649 miles long, or 99.5% complete.
•There are almost 20% more border agents now than when Obama took office, bringing the number to an historical high.
•More illegal aliens are being deported than ever before, especially criminal aliens.
•Comparing 2010 to 2008: 31% more criminal aliens were apprehended; 38% more criminal aliens were processed for removal; 93% more criminal aliens were ordered removed; and 40% fewer re-entered the US.

Compared to other advanced economies.

•According to IMF figures, the US economy grew 2.9% (inflation-adjusted) from 2007 to 2011 - the Great Recession years. That is more than 20 of the 34 countries classified as "advanced economies." Specifically, that is a better growth rate than Denmark (-2.4%), the UK (-2.2%), Spain (-2.2%), France (0.6%), the Netherlands (1.1%), Germany (1.9%), and Norway (2.7%).
•In 2011, net government debt in the US was 72.4% of GDP. While high, 8 of 26 advanced economies had higher: Belgium, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Portugal and the UK, ranging from 75% of GDP (UK) to 152% (Greece).

Compared to Republicans.

•The bailout of banks? Bush started that.
•The bailout of auto companies? Bush started that.
•Government take-over of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and 90% of the home mortgage business that went with them? Bush did that.
•Adding a new entitlement? Bush did that (Medicare Part D), to the tune of almost $8trillion in unfunded government liabilities, more than the entire unfunded liability of Social Security.
•Ethanol subsidies? Pushed by many Republicans and expanded by Bush.
•Outlawing light bulbs? Bush did that.
•Mandating individual health insurance? Mitt Romney did that.
•"Comprehensive" immigration reform? Both Bush and McCain pushed that.
•Campaign Finance Reform? McCain pushed that and Bush signed it into law.
•No Child Left Behind? Ted Kennedy and George W. Bush pushed that, and Bush signed it into law.
•Earl Warren, Harry Blackmun and David Souter? All appointed to the Supreme Court by Republican Presidents.
•Do you want a vigorous attack against waterboarding? Just ask John McCain.
•Concerned about Climate Change? So are John McCain and Newt Gingrich.
•In favor of "Democrat" wars like Yugoslavia and Libya? So were most Republicans, McCain in particular.

Do I think Obama had anything to do with any of the good news above? No. Most of it was on automatic pilot. Recessions end, even if you do nothing about them. Obama was cautious enough to let Bush's War On Terror continue as planned, rhetoric aside. The bad things really were inherited - from LBJ and FDR. Entitlements are eating up everything.

Did Obama's stimulus help? No. Was it terrible? If we hadn't done it, government debt would be about 67% of GDP instead of 72%. My guess is the opposite of Obama's economic advisors: unemployment would have been one percentage point lower without the stimulus -- or 8% now instead of 9%. The stimulus was bad, but not the Apocalypse.

Is ObamaCare that terrible? Health care was already a mess. Now it is a bigger, costlier mess -- maybe 1% of GDP more costly. And trust me, Republicans will not end it. If we elect a Republican in 2012, within six months in office, if not before, his message will become some version of "mend it, don't end it." Wanna bet?

You might have read about various budget proposals. At one extreme we have Obama's proposed budget for 2012, which the CBO scored as costing 24.2% of GDP in 2021. At the other "extreme," we have Rep. Paul Ryan's plan, which the CBO scored as costing 20.25% of GDP in 2022. Obama's Deficit Commission proposed spending 21% of GDP.

That's it. This entire debate is about a difference that is less than 4% of GDP. According to IMF figures, government in the US is spending 41% of GDP in 2011. The current debate is about whether government spends 40% or 44% of GDP. That is, whether we should be more like Luxembourg (39%), Canada (42%) or Norway (44%).

Nine advanced economies, of 34, have smaller government than we have right now:

•Singapore (19% of GDP)
•Taiwan (20%)
•Hong Kong (21%)
•South Korea (21%)
•Switzerland (34%)
•Australia (36%)
•New Zealand (36%)
•Slovak Republic (38%)
•Luxembourg (39%)

Five of those nine already outrank us on the Heritage Freedom Index.

We are already a "European" country. In fact, we are more European than Switzerland and Luxembourg. We are to the European side of our English-speaking cousins of Australia, New Zealand and Canada. If we are anti-Obama because we don't want to be like Europe, that horse has already left the barn.

None of this changes my mind about Obama. I think he is a doctrinaire Marxist. I think he is one of the stupidest people to hold that office. And for my money he is by far the most obnoxious (the I-me-my president) in my lifetime, and perhaps history.

But that does not make him Satan. It makes him merely European. More precisely, 1980s European. Obama is behind the curve. He wants us to go where Europe has already been.

The real choice seems to be between East and West. If you look at the above international comparisons, we should become more like the Asian Tigers, Australia, New Zealand or even Canada. And we should be befriending China and India as they climb out of socialism and into freedom.

Obama is going in the other direction: imitating Europe (failing) and befriending the Middle East (failed).

I think that is the real choice: East or West. Unfortunately, there is really nothing to energize voters here, including me. It's not much comfort to know we're not too much worse than Canada.
3)Who wants Palestine?

Op-ed: At this time, only Americans want to see establishment of sovereign Palestinian state

Sever Plocker Published: 05.15.11, 23:53 / Israel Opinion

Does anyone in the region want a Palestinian state now? No. Yet nonetheless, such state may be established after all. Oh, the slyness of history.

At this time, the Palestinians themselves don’t want a state. The Palestinians – and I am referring here to their political and social elites – very much want to see an end to Israel’s occupation. Yet a state is a different story.

What Lies Ahead?

A legal tsunami called Palestine / Ronen Medzini

Legalists warn fledgling Palestinian state may cause abundance of legal trouble for Israel, but say unilateral steps can only go so far
Full Story

The Palestinians understand, for example, that upon the establishment of their state they will have to forever give up the land beyond its borders. They realize that founding the Palestinian nation’s only sovereign state will automatically bury the “right of return.” They understand that economically and geopolitically they will depend on the goodwill of neighboring states.

And what kind of relationship will be maintained between the Palestinians in Palestine and those in Jordan, Lebanon and Israel? Nobody is asking, or answering, this question.

The Palestinian movement has always defined itself as a national liberation movement – liberation from Israel’s occupation – and not as a national revival movement. With the exception of a few remarkable figures, such as Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, the PLO did not deal with establishing a future state, because it was in no rush to found one. This is particularly true for Hamas and its affiliates.

The current Palestinian leadership seeks one tangible diplomatic achievement: An end to settlement construction. It views the expanding settlements as an open wound and a constant Jewish provocation. Beyond that, as far as they’re concerned the negotiations with Israel can last forever.

Arab states too do not truly want the Palestinians to soon have a tiny nation-state with an unstable regime; a state that is geographically split and threatens the current order. Had they wanted such state, it would have been established long ago. The indifference over the dream of a sovereign Palestinian state is conspicuous in the democratization wave currently sweeping the Arab street. Some 95% of democracy protestors make no mention of Palestine. They truly don’t care.

Another Israeli bluff

Israel’s political Left and Center, and recently Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, sound as though they espouse the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel and endorse the “two-state solution.” Yet this is yet another case of an Israeli bluff and self-deception. A Palestinian state means, for example, dividing Jerusalem. The Jewish parts will go to the Jews and the Arab parts to the Arabs. Does anyone know how to do this? It also means evacuating some 100,000 settlers and absorbing them in Israel. Did anyone formulate a practical plan for doing this?

A Palestinian state also means rather sizeable territorial tradeoffs: Did anyone think of the difficulties inherent in executing such move? Words are one thing, yet actions are quite another. So we pay lip service to the “two-state” notion while boosting the Jewish population across the 1967 border to 500,000.

Most Israelis intuitively feel, just like former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon did, that “the occupation is bad for Israel.” They would like, somehow, miraculously, to end it; to disengage from the Palestinians without asking what shall come next. Sharon did it in Gaza. But an independent neighboring state with border crossings, full territorial control, airports and seaports, safe passage through all its parts, and sovereignty in Jerusalem? Now that’s going too far.

The European Union passed several decisions in favor of the “two-state solution,” but did nothing to implement them. European statesmen both in the east and west learned from the cruel, never-ending Balkan wars that it would be better to avoid recognition of small, separatist states with constant explosive potential. For the Europeans, a stable, quiet Middle East that supplies oil and gas on time is the ideal.

So who does want a Palestinian state now? The Americans do. US presidents, ranging from Clinton to Bush and Obama already established Palestine in their speeches, recognized it, crafted its borders and pledged to assist it. They view it as an anchor for their policy and a just end to an ancient conflict they would like to resolve for religious, ideological and strategic reasons.

The Palestine project is therefore an (almost) exclusively American enterprise. I would not underestimate this. Over their history, the Americans proved that when they truly insist on something, they achieve it regardless of anything.
4)Obama's Post-Bin Laden Bounce Disappears In Gallup Poll
By Steven Shepard

Share The bump President Obama received after the killing of Osama bin Laden more than two weeks ago in Pakistan has vanished completely, according to the latest Gallup Tracking poll released Monday.

Obama's approval rating is now at 46 percent, equal to his approval rating in the last tracking poll conducted before Obama addressed Americans late on May 1 and informed them of bin Laden's death. Forty-four percent of Americans now disapprove of the job Obama is doing as president.

According to the Gallup poll, Obama's approval rating crested at 52 percent after the bin Laden killing. His disapproval rating never fell lower than 40 percent.

Obama's bounce is smaller in magnitude and shorter in duration than the bumps enjoyed by other presidents over the past 70 years, according to a study by Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies. For example, George W. Bush received a 15-point bump after the capture of Saddam Hussein in 2003 -- a bounce that lasted seven weeks.

The poll also comes the same day as Gallup announced that three in four Americans "name some type of economic issue as the 'most important problem' facing the country today -- the highest net mentions of the economy in two years. Those numbers, combined with Obama's fleeting boost, suggest the economy remains -- by far -- the dominant issue of the 2012 presidential campaign.

The Gallup poll was conducted Friday, Saturday and Sunday, surveying 1,547 adults. The margin of error is +/- 2.5 percent.
5)Israel's Palestinian Arab Spring
By Peter Beinart

The converging of thousands of Palestinians on Israel’s borders is a sign that they have lost faith in American promises—and that if Israel and the U.S. don't work toward a Palestinian state near 1967 lines, others will seize the initiative in shaping the Middle East, writes Peter Beinart. Plus, Dan Ephron on the violent preview to peace talks.

Why did thousands of Palestinians yesterday converge upon Israel’s borders? Partly because Syria’s war-criminal leader, Bashar al-Assad, and his ally, Hezbollah, wanted them to. But there’s more to it than that. Palestinians also marched from Jordan and Egypt, whose governments did their best to stop the protests. In fact, they marched from every corner of the Palestinian world, in a tech-savvy, coordinated campaign. What hit Israel yesterday was the Palestinian version of the Arab spring.

Something fundamental has changed. I grew up believing that we—Americans and Jews—were the shapers of history in the Middle East. We created reality; others watched, baffled, paralyzed, afraid. In 1989, Americans gloated as the Soviet Union, our former rival for Middle Eastern supremacy, retreated ignominiously from the region. When Saddam Hussein tried to challenge us from within, we thrashed him in the Gulf War. Throughout the 1990s, we sent our economists, law professors and investment bankers to try to teach the Arabs globalization, which back then meant copying us. In a thousand ways, sometimes gently, sometimes brutally, we sent the message: We make the rules; you play by them.

For Jews, this sense of being history’s masters was even more intoxicating. For millennia, we had been acted upon. Mere decades earlier, American Jews had watched, trembling and inarticulate, as European Jews were destroyed. But it was that very impotence that made possible the triumph of Zionism, a movement aimed at snatching history’s reins from gentiles, and perhaps even God. Beginning in the early 20th century, Zionists created facts on the ground. Sometimes the great powers applauded; sometimes they condemned, but acre by acre, Jews seized control of their fate. As David Ben-Gurion liked to say, “Our future does not depend on what gentiles say but on what Jews do.” The Arabs reacted with fury, occasional violence, and in Palestine, a national movement of their own. But they could rarely compete, either politically or militarily. We went from strength to strength; they never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

That world is gone. America and Israel are no longer driving history in the Middle East; for the first time in a long time, Arabs are. In Tahrir Square, Egypt’s young made a revolution. President Obama bowed to reality and helped show Hosni Mubarak the door; Benjamin Netanyahu stood athwart history, impotently yelling stop. Now Egypt’s leaders are doing its people’s will, bringing Hamas and Fatah together in preparation for elections. Hamas and Fatah are complying because they fear their own Tahrir Square. They sense that in Palestine too, a populist uprising stirs; that’s part of what yesterday’s marches were about. For American and Israeli leaders accustomed to Palestinian autocrats and Palestinian terrorists, this is something new. Netanyahu and his American backers are demanding that Obama rewind the clock, but he can’t. The Palestinians no longer listen to functionaries like George Mitchell. They have lost faith in American promises, and they no longer fear American threats. Instead, they are putting aside their internal divisions and creating facts on the ground.

When Israelis look at Salam Fayyad, who Mahmoud Abbas reportedly wants to be prime minister of the united Palestinian government, they see a man with all the qualities old-fashioned Zionists revere. He does not bluster; he builds his state. And he does so based on a ruthlessly unsentimental view of the world. While Netanyahu and the gerontocrats of the American Jewish establishment yearn for a return to the days of George W. Bush, Fayyad has developed a strategy for the post-American age. He knows that if Netanyahu continues to entrench the occupation and Palestinian leaders keep nonviolently demanding a state near the Green Line, it won’t ultimately matter what Obama does. The more America sticks by Netanyahu, the less relevant America will become. Other powers will begin taking matters into their own hands, and their strategies for achieving a two-state solution will have none of the tenderness of Dennis Ross. Just last week, German and French companies pulled out of railway projects in the West Bank.

The more America sticks by Netanyahu, the less relevant America will become.

The Palestinians could still blow it. They could return to widespread terrorism; yesterday’s protests, if they continue, could force Abbas to take a harder line on refugee return, thus making it easier for Netanyahu to say no. But Netanyahu would be foolish to bet on that. From Egypt to Turkey to Palestine, Israel now faces something it hasn’t faced before: adversaries at home in a democratic age. This is not a movement that tear gas can stop.

The Palestinians are taking control of their destiny because Israel has not. Zionism, which at its best is the purposeful, ethical effort to make Jews safe in the land of Israel, has become—in this government—a mindless land grab, that threatens Jewish safety and Jewish ethics alike. Once upon a time, when the Arabs were hapless and America was omnipotent, Israel could get away with that. Not anymore. If Barack Obama cannot get Benjamin Netanyahu to endorse—and work toward—a Palestinian state near 1967 lines, events will pass them both by. Others will take the initiative; in the Middle East, the U.S. and Israel will increasingly find their destinies in other nation’s hands. For those of us raised to believe that Americanism and Zionism were can-do faiths, it is harder to imagine any crueler irony than that.

Peter Beinart, senior political writer for The Daily Beast, is associate professor of journalism and political science at City University of New York and a senior fellow at the New America Foundation. His new book, The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris, is now available from HarperCollins.

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