Haggai's Place

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Your humble narrator is...
...a research analyst at a think tank in the Washington DC area. Born in Israel, raised in Kentucky, movie fanatic and sports nut.
My first-hand account of the Palestinian divestment conference at the U. of Michigan

:: Saturday, July 03, 2004 ::

Kerry's Israel policy? Troubling.
His latest assurances to American Jewish groups aren't too encouraging on his support for Israel:
In a position paper outlining his stance on Israel, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry promises not to negotiate with Yasser Arafat and expresses support for Israel's right to defend itself by attacking terrorist organizations.

The paper, entitled "John Kerry: Strengthening Israel's Security and Bolstering the U.S.-Israel Special Relationship," was sent in mid-June to a group of people in the Jewish community as part of the Kerry attempt to maintain contact with Jewish supporters in the United States and to clarify his positions on Israel.
Hmmm. But surely a UN-loving leftist like him will unleash the Israel-bashing world forums on issues like the security fence, not to mention settlements and refugees?
The presumptive Democratic nominee also declares his opposition to transferring debate on the fence to international forums. The paper shows consistent support for Israel on all the issues at hand: Kerry backs Israel's disengagement plan and also the two central points in President Bush's letter to Prime Minister Sharon - the resettlement of Palestinian refugees in the Palestinian state, not within Israel, and recognition of Jewish population concentrations in the West Bank when establishing the permanent borders. "In light of demographic realities, a number of settlement blocs will likely become a part of Israel," Kerry wrote his supporters.
Oh. Interesting. Ah, but here we go, he's a flip-flopper who can't be trusted:
Kerry, who previously spoke against the separation fence at a gathering of the Arab-American Institute, is now seeking to correct that impression: "The security fence is a legitimate act of self-defense erected in response to the wave of terror attacks against Israeli citizens."
Surely anyone who ever spoke against the fence can't be trusted to back Israel in a time of need. Like when the IDF first launched its Operation Defensive Shield in April 2002, after more than a hundred Israelis were killed in terrorist attacks in the previous month, Bush's first major public statement was this:
Flanked by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, President Bush on Saturday urged Israel to withdraw from Palestinian territories "without delay" -- some of his strongest words directed at the long-time U.S. ally since he took office.
Almost forgot about that one. But then a month later, Bush and Sharon had a friendly press-conference together at the White House, and all calls for immediate withdrawal were forgotten. Meaning that Bush had...um...flip-flopped from his earlier position. But what was Kerry saying in April 2002, when Bush was calling on Israel to withdraw from the West Bank?
If the United States has a right to respond in Afghanistan to suicide attackers in New York City -- and we do - then Israel has a right to respond to suicide bombers in the West Bank. But our role - and our responsibility - is to engage more aggressively and positively -- and to stay engaged.
Well, there you go.

All sarcasm aside, my point is obviously not that Bush's "withdraw without delay" statements from two years ago prove that he's anti-Israel. Clearly, he's about as pro-Israel a president as there's ever been, and one statement that he made before flip-flopping a month later doesn't change that. My point is that the same standard has to apply to Kerry. His Israel record over the years is as supportive as almost anyone else's, and one statement he might have made (and later walked back on) against the fence, or about possibly appointing Jim Baker as a Middle East envoy (assuming one sees that as some dramatically anti-Israel move), doesn't change that, no matter how much some people insist on pretending otherwise.
11:20 AM
:: Friday, July 02, 2004 ::
Egypt in Gaza
Dennis Ross hopes that it might work, but he says it needs US support:
Ironically, Sharon's decision to leave Gaza has led Egypt to assume the role previously played by the United States. It is now Egypt that seeks to coordinate Israel's withdrawal and the parallel assumption of responsibilities by the Palestinian Authority. It is Egypt that seeks to address Israeli security concerns to ensure that the withdrawal will be complete. And it is Egypt that is trying to reorganize, restructure and train Palestinian security forces, and empower the Palestinian prime minister...

It's hard to believe that such coordination can work out if there is not a cease-fire -- a real cease-fire. Unquestionably, the Egyptians will also try to produce that. But all this is a tall order, and the Egyptians are unlikely to succeed without active U.S. support. Already the Egyptian timetable of two months for Arafat to concede on the consolidation of Palestinian security forces suggests to some Palestinians and Israelis that the Egyptians are reluctant to push too hard when they believe the U.S. administration is otherwise occupied.

Middle East moments have a way of appearing and disappearing quickly. The time to prepare for the Gaza withdrawal is now. We had better reinforce the Egyptian effort soon lest it too slip away.
Yossi Alpher says forget about it:
The Egyptian initiative to facilitate Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip is not going to work. That is the only conclusion one can draw after studying the demands put forward by Egyptian Minister of Intelligence Omar Suleiman, and juxtaposing them with the known political and security priorities of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat...

Like those before them who attempted over the past four years to end this conflict, the Egyptians may soon become frustrated with both Arafat and Sharon. They may then seek alternative ways to rebuff the threat of radical Islam in Gaza and to deflect American pressures for reform--the real reasons for their current intervention. Or they may continue to cultivate unrealistically broad expectations. Either way we are liable soon to confront the thesis presented disdainfully by Joseph Samaha in al-Safir on June 24: "'Mubarak's plan' is the missing link between a unilateral withdrawal that may never take place, and a roadmap that may never be implemented."
I'm more sanguine about the prospects of some sort of withdrawal happening, since most of the Israeli political spectrum is firmly behind the concept now. I'm a lot less confident about it being successfully conducted by the likes of Sharon.
11:36 AM
:: Monday, June 28, 2004 ::
Aren't you forgetting something?
This is from a Washington Post article about the political fighting that's going on about homeland security:
In the first two years after the [9/11] attacks, the politics of homeland security were relatively easygoing. Congressional Republicans were as likely as Democrats to criticize the Bush administration for foot-dragging and inattention... But the two-party collegiality on homeland security has worn thin in recent months.
In fact, a new department of homeland security started as a Democratic proposal not long after 9/11. Bush opposed it, very intensely, for about half a year, before making an unambiguous flip-flop in mid-2002, when he suddenly started supporting it. He then made a shrewd political move in demanding expanded presidential powers to override union protections for government workers in the new department, if the president determines that it's necessary on national security grounds. Rather stupidly, the Democratic congressional leadership walked right into the trap, opposed Bush's proposals on union-related grounds, and got hammered in the 2002 congressional elections as being against Bush's homeland security proposals--the very idea that he had co-opted from them after spending half a year in severe opposition to it. In terms of Democrat-bashing, Bush never even went as far on Iraq as he did on this issue, when he disgracefully claimed--twice!--that Democrats who opposed his version of the new department were "not interested in the security of the American people."

The Washington Post reporters know all of this, so deosn't it sort of contradict their thesis that "the politics of homeland security were relatively easygoing" from the 9/11 attacks up until the last few months? The fierce political battle over the creation of the Department of Homeland Security is probably worth a mention in an article that discusses the politics of homeland security.
12:13 PM

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