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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Did Obama Order Netanyahu to Agree to an Immediate Unilateral Ceasefire? My Sources Say "Yes"

Notwithstanding identical denials from Obama's West Wing and Netanyahu's PMO (Prime Minister's Office), did Obama instruct Bibi on Sunday to agree to an immediate unilateral ceasefire, as reported yesterday by Israel's Channel 1? Did Obama say that he trusts Qatar and Turkey, and that Israel is not in a position to choose its mediators?

I have been told that the substance of the transcript of the conversation, translated from English to Hebrew and then back to English (see:, is correct.

Later today, I'm hoping to have more details, which I might, or might not, be able to share.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Maureen Dowd, "Night at the Opera?": Or For Whom the Bell Tolls?

In her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Night at the Opera?" (, Maureen Dowd tells us of the budgetary travails of the Metropolitan Opera and the angst of its general manager, Peter Gelb. Dowd concludes her opinion piece by observing:

"As the clock ticks down, I’m rooting for Valhalla, not Götterdämmerung."

I don't know anything about opera, but I wonder whether Dowd shouldn't be training her eye on her own employer, The New York Times, instead of the Metropolitan. Yesterday, The New York Times reported its operating results for the second quarter of 2014, which included a decrease in print advertising revenue of 6.6 percent compared with the corresponding period in 2013, and an increase in operating costs of 5.2 percent.

Missing the earnings expectations of analysts, The New York Times was one of the 10 biggest percentage decliners on New York Stock Exchange (

Regarding prospects for the third quarter of 2014, The New York Times stated (

"In the third quarter of 2014, total circulation revenues are expected to be flat compared with the third quarter of 2013.

Total advertising revenues in the third quarter of 2014 are expected to decrease in the mid-single digits compared with the third quarter of 2013.

Operating costs and adjusted operating costs are each expected to increase in the low- to mid-single digits in the third quarter of 2014 compared with the third quarter of 2013.

In addition, the Company expects the following on a pre-tax basis in 2014:

Results from joint ventures: loss of $1 to $3 million,

Depreciation and amortization: $75 to $80 million,

Interest expense, net: $53 to $57 million, and

Capital expenditures: $40 to $50 million."

These are indeed worrisome times for the Gray Lady, which is in desperate need of rejuvenation. Maybe, looking ahead, Obama can lend the Times some money. What a shame . . .

Roger Cohen, "Zionism and Its Discontents": With Zionists Like Cohen, Who Needs Enemies?

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Zionism and Its Discontents" (, subtitled "Zionism and Israel’s War with Hamas in Gaza," Roger ("Iran is not totalitarian") Cohen tells us that he is a Zionist. However, Cohen immediately goes on to say:

"What I cannot accept, however, is the perversion of Zionism that has seen the inexorable growth of a Messianic Israeli nationalism claiming all the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River; that has, for almost a half-century now, produced the systematic oppression of another people in the West Bank; that has led to the steady expansion of Israeli settlements on the very West Bank land of any Palestinian state; that isolates moderate Palestinians like Salam Fayyad in the name of divide-and-rule; that pursues policies that will make it impossible to remain a Jewish and democratic state; that seeks tactical advantage rather than the strategic breakthrough of a two-state peace; that blockades Gaza with 1.8 million people locked in its prison and is then surprised by the periodic eruptions of the inmates; and that responds disproportionately to attack in a way that kills hundreds of children."

What isn't Cohen telling us this time?

As always, Cohen makes certain not to mention that in 2008, when Israeli Prime Minister Olmert offered Palestinian Authority President Abbas an independent state along the 1967 lines with agreed upon land swaps and Palestinian control of east Jerusalem, Abbas refused. Cohen also ignores the fact that several years earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Barak similarly offered to withdraw from 97 percent of the West Bank and tear down 63 Israeli settlements. In exchange for the settlements that would remain part of Israel, Barak said he would increase the size of Gaza by a third. Barak also agreed to Palestinian control of much of East Jerusalem, which would become Palestine's capital, and Palestinian sovereignty over the Temple Mount. Arafat, however, also refused.

Cohen tells us that Gaza has "1.8 million people locked in its prison." However, Cohen fails to mention that the population of Gaza was some 300,000 in 1967 after Israel occupied Gaza during the Six Day War (Israel unilaterally evacuated Gaza in 2005). Needless to say, the main reason Gaza is so crowded is that Gazans have been very busy having children. Then, too, life expectancy in Gaza of 74.64 years, according to the CIA World Factbook, is considerably higher than life expectancy in Turkey amounting to 73.29 years.

Cohen doesn't tell us about Gaza's eight universities and colleges, or its gourmet restaurants (e.g., "Roots"), or its 5-star hotel ("The al-Mashtal"). And then there was also the "Crazy Water Park," which was burned down by Hamas, because Hamas didn't want men and women intermingling.

That's quite an extraordinary prison you have there, Roger.

Cohen also fails to note that the border between Israel and Gaza was not always closed. It was closed after suicide bombers, sent into Israel from Gaza and the West Bank, killed more than 1,000 Israeli civilians. By the same token, Cohen ignores the more than 10,000 rockets and mortar rounds that were fired from Gaza at Israeli towns and cities prior to the current war.

Regarding the death of children in Gaza, Cohen refuses to acknowledge that many of the more than 3,000 rockets targeting Israel during the past three weeks have been fired from Gazan hospitals, schools and mosques.

By the way, for the third time during the current round of fighting, UNRWA has discovered rockets stored in its Gazan schools (see:

Cohen is a Zionist? With Zionists like Cohen, who needs enemies?

Obama Allegedly Demands That Israel Agree to an Immediate Unilateral Ceasefire

Is Obama seeking to deprive Israel of its sovereignty and its right to defend itself?

Israel's Channel 1 has published a Hebrew transcript of President Obama's conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on Sunday. The White House had previously released a "read out" of Obama's conversation with Netanyahu (, but apparently much "went missing" from this summary.

According to the English translation of the Hebrew transcript of a highly revealing segment of this alleged conversation (see: between Barack Obama (BO) and Benjamin Netanyahu (BN):

"Barack Obama: I demand that Israel agrees to an immediate, unilateral ceasefire and halt all offensive activities, in particular airstrikes.

Benjamin Netanyahu: And what will Israel receive in exchange for a ceasefire?

BO: I believe that Hamas will cease its rocket fire — silence will be met with silence.

BN: Hamas broke all five previous ceasefires. It’s a terrorist organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel.

BO: I repeat and expect Israel to stop all its military activities unilaterally. The pictures of destruction in Gaza distance the world from Israel’s position.

BN: Kerry’s proposal was completely unrealistic and gives Hamas military and diplomatic advantages.

BO: Within a week of the end of Israel’s military activities, Qatar and Turkey will begin negotiations with Hamas based on the 2012 understandings, including Israel’s commitment to removing the siege and restrictions on Gaza.

BN: Qatar and Turkey are the biggest supporters of Hamas. It’s impossible to rely on them to be fair mediators.

BO: I trust Qatar and Turkey. Israel is not in the position that it can choose its mediators.

BN: I protest because Hamas can continue to launch rockets and use tunnels for terror attacks –

BO: (interrupting Netanyahu) The ball’s in Israel’s court, and it must end all its military activities."

If this transcript is correct, are we to understand that Israel must agree to an immediate unilateral ceasefire, notwithstanding the fact that Hamas has broken all previous ceasefires?

Are we to understand that Israel has no say regarding the mediators?

Are we to understand that Obama trusts Turkey and Qatar?

Hamas, which has been bankrolled by Qatar, is designated by the US as a terrorist organization. Qatar is also infamous for its abuse of foreign laborers.

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan is known for his horrific anti-Semitic outbursts and recently declared:

"[Israel] curse[s] Hitler morning and night. However, now their barbarism has surpassed even Hitler’s."

Meanwhile, as also being reported by The Times of Israel:

"Muhammad Deif, the titular head of Hamas’s Al-Qassam Brigades, says in a recorded statement broadcast on Al Aqsa TV that his forces will not accede to a ceasefire until Israeli hostilities end and the siege on Gaza is lifted."

Deif further explicitly declared on Tuesday (see:

"There will be no ceasefire. Victory will be ours."

[Both the US National Security Council and the Prime Minister of Israel’s Office are claiming in identical statements that the transcript is a "fabrication." However, as reported by The Times of Israel: "Despite rejections by American and Israeli officials, Channel 1′s Or Nahari insists that the transcript leaked to him by a 'senior American official' is authentic, but acknowledges that the quotes he published were merely an excerpt from a long conversation."]

Monday, July 28, 2014

David Brooks, "No War Is an Island": Obama, Read This Op-ed!

Yesterday, the US State Department's Jen Psaki ("It's simply not the way partners and allies treat each other") and an "anonymous" senior aide to Obama were busy berating the Israeli government for scorning John Kerry's efforts to reach a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas pursuant to the terms of Hamas (see: As reported by The Washington Free Beacon (

"According to the AP’s Matt Lee and Julie Pace, administration officials used 'unusually harsh language' to declare that 'criticism of Kerry could put the relationship between the U.S. and Israel in jeopardy' and had 'crossed a line.'"

However, the threatening language directed at Israel mysteriously disappeared from the article written by Lee and Pace (see:, and suddenly both Obama and Kerry were talking about the need for a demilitarized Gaza, a key Israeli demand which was absent from Kerry's cease-fire proposal.

What happened? Why did the White House back off?

As might be expected, conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer yesterday went further than the Israeli cabinet in denouncing Kerry (

"Kerry goes over and negotiates in Paris, who with? Qatar and Turkey. And returns essentially as the lawyer for Hamas, hands Israel a proposition that is so outrageous that the cabinet votes 19-0 against it. Israeli cabinets have never voted 19-0 on whether the sun rises in the east. It was unbelievable. It would have given Hamas all of its demands."

But the real bombshell for the Obama administration was the Washington Post opinion piece entitled "John Kerry’s big blunder in seeking an Israel-Gaza cease-fire" ( by David Ignatius, a friend of the White House, who yesterday observed:

"Kerry’s error has been to put so much emphasis on achieving a quick halt to the bloodshed that he has solidified the role of Hamas, the intractable, unpopular Islamist group that leads Gaza, along with the two hard-line Islamist nations that are its key supporters, Qatar and Turkey. In the process, he has undercut not simply the Israelis but also the Egyptians and the Fatah movement that runs the Palestinian Authority, all of which want to see an end to Hamas rule in Gaza."

Suddenly, the West Wing woke up to the havoc wrecked by Kerry and feverishly entered into damage-control mode.

Which brings us to David Brooks's latest New York Times op-ed entitled "No War Is an Island" (, subtitled "When Middle East Conflicts Become One." Brooks, who is read by Obama, writes today:

"After the Arab Spring, the Islamists briefly gained the upper hand [in Egypt]. But when the Muslim Brotherhood government fell, the military leaders cracked down. They sentenced hundreds of the Brotherhood’s leadership class to death. They also closed roughly 95 percent of the tunnels that connected Egypt to Gaza, where the Brotherhood’s offshoot, Hamas, had gained power.

As intended, the Egyptian move was economically devastating to Hamas. Hamas derived 40 percent of its tax revenue from tariffs on goods that flowed through those tunnels. One economist estimated the economic losses at $460 million a year, nearly a fifth of the Gazan G.D.P.

Hamas needed to end that blockade, but it couldn’t strike Egypt, so it struck Israel. If Hamas could emerge as the heroic fighter in a death match against the Jewish state, if Arab TV screens were filled with dead Palestinian civilians, then public outrage would force Egypt to lift the blockade. Civilian casualties were part of the point."

Or stated otherwise, Hamas is bankrupt, isolated and fighting for its survival on the world stage. Hamas has nothing to lose in this war, and will not agree to a cease-fire without first having something tangible to show to the Arab street for its efforts.

Brooks fails to mention that Hamas lost the support of Iran, after Hamas backed the rebels fighting against Bashar al-Assad in Syria and moved its headquarters from Damascus to Qatar. It is no accident that Hezbollah, Iran's proxy in Lebanon, has refused to fire a single missile at Israel during the past three weeks. (The scattering of rockets fired at northern Israel from Lebanon during the past three weeks has been attributed to militant Palestinian factions.)

Essentially, Kerry spent the past week in Cairo, Tel Aviv, Ramallah and Paris in an effort to throw a lifeline to Hamas, which has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States. Kerry is only now beginning to comprehend the damage caused by his acceptance of the cease-fire terms demanded by Hamas, as pressed upon him by Qatar and Turkey. Notwithstanding Obama administration declarations to the contrary, these were not the cease-fire terms of Egypt, and the terms did not take into account Israeli calls for a demilitarized Gaza.

Egypt, by the way, has become overtly contemptuous of Obama. As part of a widely publicized effort to demean the American secretary of state, Kerry last week was screened with a metal detector device before meeting with Egyptian President Sisi. Kerry, however, seems to have been blissfully unaware of this Middle Eastern insult.

Is Kerry hostile to Israel? I don't think so. The man is simply out of his depth.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

David Grossman, "An Israel Without Illusions": Talk With Hamas?

I am a great admirer of Israeli author David Grossman, whom I have met only once. Several years ago, we sat next to one another on a flight to Amsterdam, and he mentioned to me that there had been a bit of confusion concerning our seating arrangement owing to our shared surname. I mentioned that my oldest boy was a paratrooper, and I wanted to ask about his suffering after the death of his son in the 2006 Lebanon War, but I dared not broach the subject.

Today, in a guest New York Times op-ed entitled "An Israel Without Illusions" (, David Grossman writes:

"Since I cannot ask Hamas, nor do I purport to understand its way of thinking, I ask the leaders of my own country, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his predecessors: How could you have wasted the years since the last conflict without initiating dialogue, without even making the slightest gesture toward dialogue with Hamas, without attempting to change our explosive reality? Why, for these past few years, has Israel avoided judicious negotiations with the moderate and more conversable sectors of the Palestinian people — an act that could also have served to pressure Hamas? Why have you ignored, for 12 years, the Arab League initiative that could have enlisted moderate Arab states with the power to impose, perhaps, a compromise on Hamas? In other words: Why is it that Israeli governments have been incapable, for decades, of thinking outside the bubble?"

"Without even making the slightest gesture toward dialogue with Hamas"? My own feeling is that it is extremely difficult to engage in dialogue with persons belonging to a party whose charter calls for the murder of all Jews, not just Israelis.

Grossman goes on to say:

"[T]he Palestinian majority, represented by Mahmoud Abbas, has already decided in favor of negotiation and against terrorism."

Well, not quite. According to the recent results of a Washington Institute for Near East Policy poll (, "a clear majority [of Palestinians] (60% overall, including 55% in the West Bank and 68% in Gaza) say that the five-year goal 'should be to work toward reclaiming all of historic Palestine, from the river to the sea.'"

Of course, I share David Grossman's desire to see a democratic prosperous state of Palestine. However, I have no illusions concerning the ultimate desires of a majority of Palestinians, particularly at a time when Islamic radicalism is sweeping the Middle East.

If Israel will only be nicer to the Palestinians, might their attitude toward Israel change? This is not far removed from the Father Flanagan style of diplomacy adopted by Barack Obama when he entered the Oval Office in 2009: If America will merely extend a hand of friendship to the world's bullies and tyrants, they will surely find their way back into the fold of moderate nations ("There's no such thing as a bad leader"). Five and a half years later, given developments in the Ukraine, Syria, Iran, Libya and Iraq, I would imagine that even Obama is prepared to admit that his policy has proven a catastrophic geopolitical experiment.

Obama? Over the course of the past few days, his secretary of state, John Kerry, has managed to infuriate Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority - no small achievement - by seeking a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel, based upon the demands of Hamas.  Kerry's proposal included:

  • Acceptance of Hamas demands for the opening of border crossings into Gaza, which of necessity would facilitate shipment of armaments to Hamas and Islamic Jihad;
  • The building of a seaport for Gaza, opening the way for the import of large advanced weapons systems, which, in the past, could not squeeze through the tunnels from Egypt;
  • The free flow of funds for Hamas from Qatar and Iran, despite the fact that Hamas is designated by the United States as a terrorist organization.

On the other hand, John Kerry's proposal would have prevented Israel from continuing to destroy the Hamas tunnel network.

Israel's reaction? As reported by The Times of Israel (

"Channel 2′s diplomatic reporter Udi Segal said 'voices' from the cabinet had described Kerry as 'negligent,' 'lacking the ability to understand' the issues, and 'incapable of handling the most basic matters.'"

Given the firestorm created by Kerry's whirlwind trip to Cairo, Tel Aviv and Paris, Obama is now attempting to put out the flames. Yesterday, Obama called Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, after which the White House issued a "readout" of the conversation ( (my emphasis in red):

"Building on Secretary Kerry’s efforts, the President made clear the strategic imperative of instituting an immediate, unconditional humanitarian ceasefire that ends hostilities now and leads to a permanent cessation of hostilities based on the November 2012 ceasefire agreement. The President reaffirmed the United States’ support for Egypt’s initiative, as well as regional and international coordination to end hostilities. The President underscored the enduring importance of ensuring Israel’s security, protecting civilians, alleviating Gaza’s humanitarian crisis, and enacting a sustainable ceasefire that both allows Palestinians in Gaza to lead normal lives and addresses Gaza’s long-term development and economic needs, while strengthening the Palestinian Authority. The President stressed the U.S. view that, ultimately, any lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must ensure the disarmament of terrorist groups and the demilitarization of Gaza."

Regrettably, Kerry did not take into account Egypt's terms for a cease-fire. Instead, he accepted all of the demands of Hamas, proposed by Qatar and Turkey, whose foreign ministers participated in Kerry's partie in Paris (representatives of Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority were not on the guest list). In addition, Kerry's proposal did not call for the disarmament of Hamas and the demilitarization of Gaza.

The US State Department is now in a huff over criticism of the secretary of state. As reported by The Times of Israel (

"[A] senior US official said Sunday night that the ceasefire proposal ostensibly issued by Kerry, which the Israeli cabinet rejected unanimously, was just a confidential draft to be used for deliberations and did not give in to Hamas’s demands. Kerry spoke to Hamas supporters Qatar and Turkey to exert greater influence over the terrorist organization, he said.

The official also harshly attacked Israeli reports that criticized the secretary of state for championing a proposal they reported as being too generous to Hamas while all but ignoring Israel’s security needs.

. . . .

Many reports in the Israel media about the American initiative were either inaccurate, contained 'overheated assertions' or mischaracterized Kerry’s strategy and motivations, the plainly bitter official lamented. Some articles about the secretary included 'ad hominem and gratuitous attacks on him, even going as far as to accuse him of betrayal of our ally Israel, which is a charge I think is extremely offensive,' he said."

Ad hominem attacks against John "Botox-face" Kerry? Given all of Kerry's imbecilic self-gratifying efforts over the past week, why would anyone stoop to that level?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Open Letter to President Obama: Keep Kerry Away From the Middle East

Dear President Obama,

Over the past five and a half years as President of the United States, you have routinely declared your support of Israel. On March 5, 2012 you stated:

"Our commitment to the security of Israel is rock solid. And as I've said to the Prime Minister in every single one of our meetings, the United States will always have Israel's back when it comes to Israel's security. This is a bond that is based not only on our mutual security interests and economic interests, but is also based on common values and the incredible people-to-people contacts that we have between our two countries."

Indeed, your willingness to fund the Israeli-developed short-range rocket defense system called Iron Dome has enabled Israel to withstand the current onslaught of more than 2,500 rockets fired from Gaza at Israeli population centers over the past three weeks. For this assistance, Israel is forever grateful.

However, if your support is "rock solid," why did your secretary of state initiate his efforts to achieve a cease-fire involving the current war between Israel and Hamas by traveling to Egypt? If Israel is indeed an ally, shouldn't John Kerry have begun his discussions by meeting with Israel's government in order to better understand its needs in this time of crisis?

John Kerry flew from Cairo to Tel Aviv, notwithstanding a ban on flights to Israel by America's Federal Aviation Administration, a move regarded by many in Israel as intended to place pressure on Israel to agree to the terms of a cease-fire being imposed proposed by Kerry. As you can well imagine, this ban threatened to choke off Israeli commerce at a time when Israel was desperately in need of support from its friends.

Prime Minister Netanyahu explained to John Kerry during his visit to Israel that the Israel Defense Forces had obtained intelligence that Hamas intended to attack Israeli agriculural communities via a network of tunnels during the upcoming Jewish High Holy Days, in order to take hostages back to Gaza. Ignoring this information, John Kerry proposed a week-long cease-fire that included:

  • Acceptance of Hamas demands for the opening of border crossings into Gaza, which of necessity would facilitate shipment of armaments to Hamas and Islamic Jihad;
  • The building of a seaport for Gaza, opening the way for the import of large advanced weapons systems, which, in the past, could not squeeze through the tunnels from Egypt;
  • The free flow of funds for Hamas from Qatar and Iran, despite the fact that Hamas is designated by the United States as a terrorist organization.

On the other hand, John Kerry's cease-fire proposal would have prevented Israel from continuing to destroy the Hamas tunnel network.

After Israel rejected the risible terms of John Kerry's proposed one-week cease-fire, Mr. Kerry traveled to Paris, where he engaged in discussions with diplomats from France, Britain, Italy and Germany, and also the foreign ministers of Qatar, which has been primarily responsible for funding Hamas armaments and tunnels, and of Turkey, whose prime minister welcomes Hamas visitors and regularly engages in anti-Semitic diatribes. Although Qatar and Turkey were allowed by Kerry to advocate on behalf of Hamas, Israel was prevented from attending the conference. Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, opponents of Hamas and also refused entry to Kerry's Parisian partie, are also furious with America's secretary of state.

John Kerry's conduct of these negotiations has created significant backlash in Israel. As reported by The Times of Israel (

"Channel 2′s diplomatic reporter Udi Segal said 'voices' from the cabinet had described Kerry as 'negligent,' 'lacking the ability to understand' the issues, and 'incapable of handling the most basic matters.'"

Mr. President, you have stated that "the United States will always have Israel's back when it comes to Israel's security." Well today, we have learned that Kerry has once more acted behind Israel's back and promised Hamas a pay-off in exchange for its agreement to his cease-fire terms. Again, as reported by The Times of Israel (

"US Secretary of State John Kerry informed Hamas via Qatar last week that under his proposal for a ceasefire with Israel, based on the original Egyptian initiative, the US would guarantee the fulfillment of many of Hamas’s demands for an end to the war, Palestinian sources told The Times of Israel on Saturday.

. . . .

The guarantees promised to Hamas by Kerry under a ceasefire, as relayed to The Times of Israel by the Palestinian sources, pertain to the following issues: an easing of restrictions on the passage of goods from Israel to Gaza; an easing of restrictions on the passage of traders and businessmen from Gaza to Israel; expansion of the permitted Gaza fishing zone to 12 miles off the coast; the opening of the Rafah crossing with Egypt, to be manned by Palestinian Authority officials; and a promise to ensure the transfer of salaries to Gaza’s government employees."

I ask you, Mr. President, does John Kerry's behavior evidence "rock solid" support of Israel? Is this any way to treat an ally in a time of crisis? Please explain to me how Kerry's offer to Hamas does not amount to appeasement of a terrorist organization?

Mr. President, you appointed John Kerry as secretary of state, and it is for you alone to judge his diplomatic capabilities, as evidenced by his handling of the crisis in the Ukraine, Iran's nuclear weapons development program, and the negotiations he sponsored between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. On the other hand, Kerry's most recent communications with Israel concerning his cease-fire proposal can only be described as antagonistic, self-aggrandizing and destructive of America's longstanding relationship with Israel.

Mr. President, if you believe that John Kerry is advancing American overseas credibility, it is of course your prerogative to retain him as your secretary of state. On the other hand, if your support of Israel is truly "rock solid," please find someone else to engage in cease-fire negotiations involving the war in Gaza.

John Kerry is no friend of Israel.

Yours sincerely,