Archive for July, 2011

UPDATE on Danny Ayalon: Twitter Warfare Between Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic and DFM Ayalon Himself

July 29, 2011 Comments off

Seems that Jeffrey Goldberg’s blogpost yesterday inspired a response from Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon in the flesh (or at least, in the Tweet). Which led to a response from Goldberg, and so on back and forth.

 Marc Tracy of the Tablet Magazine [which, if you are into “Jewish”, is worth checking out] frames the exchange as a twelve round prize-fight.

Ayalon vs. Goldberg, on Twitter

Let’s get ready to rumble!

Gentlemen, you know the rules: Twelve rounds, obey my instructions at all times, no hits below the belt, and keep it to 140 characters. Ding-ding!

After 8 rounds, he has Goldberg up – but judge for yourself.  It’s very clever and an enjoyable read:



Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon, Shills For The Settlers

July 28, 2011 1 comment
Daniel Ayalon

Image via Wikipedia

In a very interesting story, Danny Ayalon, Israeli’s Deputy Foreign Minister and one of the notoriously right-wing members of the Netanyahu government has made a video supporting the occupation of the West Bank – er, excuse me, Israel controlling the “disputed territories” (after you watch the video, you will understand).  But, the truly interesting part is that the images used in the video were exactly the same as those used for a pro-settler lobbying group.  Gal Beckerman in the Forward says:

Ayalon’s video is identical, image for image and in large part word for word, with one he made in May for the YESHA Council, the organization that represents and lobbies for the settlers.

Read more:


It is a great piece of propaganda.  Watch it here:


Mid-East Peace? Here Is An Organization You Need To Know About: The Council for Peace and Security

July 27, 2011 2 comments

Gen (Ret) Nati Sharoni - Wouldn't you listen to this General?

Who do you think would be most worried about whether or not Israel has defensible borders?  Who would be most wary of trusting the Arabs?  Who might you think would believe that maintaining the settlements, and particularly the outposts, should be a cornerstone of Israeli defense policy?  The obvious answer would be:  former IDF and security (Shin Bet, Mossad, etc.) officers, right?  Think again.

Some of Israel’s most recognized and decorated soldiers, sailors, airforce personnel, security directors and staff have joined together with other prominent diplomats and academics to form the one thousand strong Council For Peace and Security.  The Council describes itself as a “Non-Profit Organization of Experts on Peace and Security”.  One of the statements in its website’s Profile sums up their point of view:

“It (the Council) considers the support of the Middle East Peace Process to be a necessary component of National Security.” 

The Council’s current President, Gen (ret) Nati Sharoni, is going to be in Chicago speaking this Thursday (July 28) at a private home in the city.  I urge you to come hear him.  If you are interested – please email me directly at

To understand more about the Council, here are the Guiding Principles that all members must accept:


The members of the Council are not wild-eyed, left-wing radicals whose views can be dismissed with the usual argument of naiveté.  They are seasoned military and security thinkers who have come to the very rational conclusion that Israel’s long term security depends on achieving a two-state solution – as soon as possible.  Disappointedly, I have never heard of the Council For Peace and Security in any of the Jewish circles that I am involved with in the United States. 

To remedy that, J Street is sponsoring nine members to travel the country so that American Jews can listen to the conclusions of these military and security experts.  It is particularly important  because the conclusions they have arrived at are almost 180 degrees opposite from what Mr. Netanyahu’s government is espousing – along with the American Jewish organizations which believe that there should be “no daylight” between American Jews and the Israeli government.  Personally, I think that it is irresponsible  for American Jews not to listen to the point of view of these extremely experienced and battle-hardened military and strategic experts.  Listening only to people who tell you what you want to hear is the easiest way to make tragically wrong decisions.

So, again, if you are available on Thursday night and would like to meet General (Ret) Sharoni (along with Col (Ret) Shaul Arieli), please send me an email at – and feel free to pass the information along to others who might be interested.

Who is to Blame for the Tremendous Increase in the U.S. Deficit?

July 27, 2011 Comments off

I have heard a lot of folks (including my own father – bless his Republican soul) blaming our current President as the cause of the huge increase in the deficit.  And yes, the deficit has grown tremendously since Obama took office – but there is a reason.  For right or wrong, the current administration passed a very large stimulus package to attempt to keep our economy from going over the cliff.  Obama also passed an extension of the Bush tax cuts to prevent all of the middle class tax cuts to expire while we were in the deepest recession since the Great Depression.  I don’t think this should be considered profligate spending – because it was very reasoned, purposeful spending.  Now some economists disagree with whether this was the right thing to do, but that does not mean that the spending was done without thought or intention. 

In any event, I found out quite a lot about the cause of the $8.5T increase in the deficit from approximately $5.8T in 2001 to approximately $14.3T today. An article in this morning’s Chicago Sun-Times ( ) outlines specific causes of $6T out of the $8.5T increase.  I have broken that $6T down between George W Bush and Obama as follows:

1. 2001 & 2003 tax cuts: $1.6T
2. Additional interest over that period $1.4T (so let’s give W at least $1T of this)
3. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan $1.3T
4. Medicare prescription drug program $300B
5. 2008 financial corporation bailout $200B
6. Lower tax revenues due to the great recession which began in 2007 to date: hundreds of billions

1. Economic stimulus package 2008: $800B
2. Balance of additional interest per above $400B
3. 2010 tax cut compromise with the Republicans that extended unemployment & payroll tax temp reduction $400B

So let’s do the math on the dollars they identified:
George W – $4.4T
Obama – $1.6T

Even if every single unlisted dollar was due to the current administration (which is an unrealistic assumption), it would still show that more of the deficit was caused by George W.  So, if you hear anyone say “the damage was done by nancy(sic), Harry and Obama” – as someone commented in the WSJ today – make them “show you the money”.  Er, at least, show you the figures.  It is great to hear people run down the current administration as ‘tax and spend’.  Unfortunately, the previous administration was just ‘spend’.

Another Look at the Obama and Netanyahu Speeches Given In May

July 23, 2011 Comments off

Back then, I published a parsing of the speeches given by the President and the Prime Minister.  I believe it is worth republishing this comparison since some may have missed it because the topic may not have been clear from the title.  Back then,  I was upset at how both the MSM (main stream media) and Congress dealt with both the visit in general and more specifically, the speeches that were given. A close analysis of all four speeches shows that they both used virtually the same language in dealing with the topics, yet one would never know it from reading the press accounts or the sound bites of those in the Congress on both sides of the aisle. Additionally, it is worth viewing for yourself the press conference after Obama and Netanyahu’s meeting because you first need to hear what the President said and then listen to Bibi’s response.  My take on it was that rather than Bibi “lecturing” Obama, Bibi simply went off into a soliloquy in which he presented his point of view, but wasn’t really addressing the President.  It would have been nice if at least one journalist had expressed this take on the interchange – but I have yet to see one.

As for Netanyahu’s speeches, one would certainly have expected a warm welcome from the AIPAC attendees, but the love fest in Congress was over the top. Interestingly, on a recent conference call, I heard one Congresswoman characterize the speech as “masterfully written” because just reading the text clearly showed all of the applause points. As she said: “Who isn’t going to stand up for ‘mom and apple pie'”.
What follows is a topic by topic comparison of the language of the four speeches given in the five days surrounding the Israeli Prime Minister’s trip.  These are all direct quotes.

1. Obama at the State Department, May 19

2. Obama at AIPAC, May 22

3. Netanyahu at AIPAC, May 23

4. Netanyahu before Congress, May 24

The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.
The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.
Borders The Sequel
By definition, it means that the parties themselves – Israelis and Palestinians – will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. It is a well known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation
The status of the settlements will be decided only in negotiations. But we
must also be honest. So I am saying today something that should be said
publicly by anyone serious about peace. In any peace agreement that ends
the conflict, some settlements will end up beyond Israel’s borders. The
precise delineation of those borders must be negotiated.
Borders III
It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last forty-four years, including the new demographic realities on the ground and the needs of both sides.
This compromise must reflect the dramatic demographic changes that have occurred since 1967.
Enough with the Borders Already
We will be very generous on the size of a future Palestinian state. But as President Obama said, the border will be different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. Israel will not return to the indefensible lines of 1967.
Palestinian Right of Return
Open issue
Palestinians from around the world should have a right to immigrate, if they
so choose, to a Palestinian state. This means that the Palestinian refugee
problem will be resolved outside the borders of Israel.
Open issue
As for Jerusalem, only a democratic Israel has protected freedom of worship
for all faiths in the city. Jerusalem must never again be divided.
Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel. I know that this is a
difficult issue for Palestinians. But I believe with creativity and goodwill
a solution can be found.
Israel as a Jewish State
Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people; each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace. [Emphasis added]
My friends, this must come to an end. President Abbas must do what I have
done. I stood before my people, and I told you it wasn’t easy for me, and I
said… “I will accept a Palestinian state.” It is time for President Abbas to
stand before his people and say… “I will accept a Jewish state.”
As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself — by itself — against any threat
As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself – by itself – against any threat.
When we say never again, we mean never again. Israel always reserves the right to defend itself.
Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism; to stop the infiltration of weapons; and to provide effective border security. The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state. The duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated.[Emphasis added]
Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism; to stop the infiltration of weapons; and to provide effective border security. The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state. The duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated.
So it is therefore absolutely vital for Israel’s security that a Palestinian state be fully demilitarized. And it is vital that Israel maintain a long-term military presence along the Jordan River. Solid security arrangements on the ground are necessary not only to protect the peace, they are necessary to protect Israel in case the peace unravels. For in our unstable region, no one can guarantee that our peace partners today will be there tomorrow.
Obama Admin Commitment to Israel
As for Israel, our friendship is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values. Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable. And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums. But precisely because of our friendship, it is important that we tell the truth: the status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.
Yesterday President Obama spoke about his ironclad commitment to Israel’s
security. He rightly said that our security cooperation is unprecedented. He
spoke of that commitment in front of AIPAC. He spoke about it in two
speeches heard throughout the Arab world. And he has backed those words
with deeds.
Security Cooperation
It’s why we’ve increased cooperation between our militaries to unprecedented levels.
He rightly said that our security cooperation is unprecedented
Advanced                        Technologies
It’s why we’re making our most advanced technologies available to our Israeli allies
Military $$
And it’s why, despite tough fiscal times, we’ve increased foreign military financing to record levels.
I know these are tough economic times. So I want to thank the president and
Congress for providing Israel with vital assistance so that Israel can
defend itself by itself
Thank you all, and thank you President Obama,
for your steadfast commitment to Israel’s security. I know economic times
are tough. I deeply appreciate this.
Iron Dome
That includes additional support – beyond regular military aid – for the Iron Dome anti-rocket system. This is a powerful example of American-Israel cooperation which has already intercepted rockets from Gaza and helped saved innocent Israeli lives. … make no mistake, we will maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge.
I want to thank you all for supporting the Iron
Dome missile defense system
Agreement Must Be Between the Two Parties
These are the facts. I firmly believe, and repeated on Thursday, that peace cannot be imposed on the parties to the conflict.
For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state.
You also see our commitment to Israel’s security in our steadfast opposition to any attempt to de-legitimize the State of Israel. As I said at the United Nation’s last year, “Israel’s existence must not be a subject for debate,” and “efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakeable opposition of the United States.”…No vote at the United Nations will ever create an independent Palestinian state. And the United States will stand up against efforts to single Israel out at the UN or in any international forum. Because Israel’s legitimacy is not a matter for debate.
Hamas As a Partner
Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection.
Moreover, we know that peace demands a partner – which is why I said that Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with Palestinians who do not recognize its right to exist, and we will hold the Palestinians accountable for their actions and their rhetoric.
And Hamas is not a partner for peace. Hamas remains committed to Israel’s
destruction and to terrorism. They have a charter. That charter not only
calls for the obliteration of Israel, but says ‘kill the Jews wherever you
find them’. Hamas’ leader condemned the killing of Osama bin Laden and
praised him as a holy warrior.
Hamas-Fatah Unification
the recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel — how can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist. In the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question.
And I indicated on Thursday that the recent agreement between Fatah and Hamas poses an enormous obstacle to peace. No country can be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction. We will continue to demand that Hamas accept the basic responsibilities of peace: recognizing Israel’s right to exist, rejecting violence, and adhering to all existing agreements
Israel’s Right to Exist
And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.
My friends, this must come to an end. President Abbas must do what I have
done. I stood before my people, and I told you it wasn’t easy for me, and I
said… “I will accept a Palestinian state.” It is time for President Abbas to
stand before his people and say… “I will accept a Jewish state.”
Gilad Shalit
And we once again call on Hamas to release Gilad Shalit, who has been kept from his family for five long years.
And you’ve joined
President Obama and me in denouncing Hamas and demanding that it release our captive soldier, Gilad Shalit
New Proposals?
There was nothing particularly original in my proposal; this basic framework for negotiations has long been the basis for discussions among the parties, including previous U.S. Administrations.…By definition, it means that the parties themselves – Israelis and Palestinians – will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. It is a well known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation If there’s a controversy, then, it’s not based in substance. What I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately. [Emphasis added]
Palestinian intransigence
So why has peace not been
achieved? Because so far, the Palestinians have been unwilling to accept a Palestinian state, if it meant accepting a Jewish state alongside it.…You see, our conflict has never been about the establishment of a Palestinian state. It has always been about the existence of the Jewish state.
See below
A nuclear-armed Iran would ignite a nuclear arms race in the Middle East…This is why I ask you to continue to send an unequivocal message: That America will never permit Iran to develop nuclear weapons.
Obama’s Actions Against Iran
You also see our commitment to our shared security in our determination to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Here in the U.S., we’ve imposed the toughest sanctions ever on the Iranian regime. At the United Nations, we’ve secured the most comprehensive international sanctions on the regime, which have been joined by allies and partners around the world. Today, Iran is virtually cut off from large parts of the international financial system, and we are going to keep up the pressure. So let me be absolutely clear – we remain committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
It is even worse because there
are many who rush to condemn Israel for defending itself against Iran’s
terror proxies.  But not you. Not America. You have acted differently. You’ve condemned the Iranian regime for its genocidal aims. You’ve passed tough sanctions against Iran. History will salute you America.  President Obama has said that the United States is determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. He successfully led the Security Council to adopt sanctions against Iran. You in Congress passed even tougher sanctions. These words and deeds are vitally important.
Arab Teaching Hatred
For Israelis, it has meant living with the fear that their children could get blown up on a bus or by rockets fired at their homes, as well as the pain of knowing that other children in the region are taught to hate them.
They continue to educate their children to hate. They continue to name
public squares after terrorists. And worst of all, they continue to
perpetuate the fantasy that Israel will one day be flooded by the
descendants of Palestinian refugees.
Related articles

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I’m Back

July 23, 2011 Comments off

It’s been quite awhile since you’ve heard from me – and I apologize for that.
I could tell you that I’ve been on vacation, that I’ve been very busy with work and family, and that I’ve been meeting with various folks all summer. While that is all true, the fact is that events in the Middle East (and perhaps even more so, here with domestic politics) have left me both depressed and dumbfounded.  As many have said, we seem to be on the way to a “train wreck” in the Middle East, and I feel like it’s an extremely excruciating one.  Kind of like watching that fantastic scene from “The Fugitive” (the movie, not the TV series) where  they are transporting Harrison Ford downstate by bus, a fight ensues and the bus goes over a railing and ends up straddling some train tracks with a huge freight train barreling down on it.  There is a tremendous crash which allows him to escape into the woods. The train crash is shown in intimate detail, from several different angles, and as the engine caroms off the track, we see dirt and metal and wood flying all over the place as the train’s inertia keeps tearing through the underbrush.*  All of the time, Harrison Ford is trying to hop away with his arms and legs shackled.  Pretty good analogy for what is happening in the Middle East from all sides – the Palestinians, the Israelis, us and the Europeans – trying to avoid the fallout from the prospective UN vote.  Oy! 

And unfortunately, that ain’t the only thing going on.  Here is my current rundown of agita producing events:

Middle East:

  1. Upcoming September vote in the UN where the Palestinians will be seeking recognition as a State
  2. The erstwhile flotilla and fly-tilla of “humanitarian” aid headed for Gaza
  3. The recent passing in the Knesset of an “anti-boycott law” wherein anyone who supports a boycott of Israeli products, services etc. can be sued for both actual and potential(!) damages.
  4. As always, new announcements of continued settlement activity. 


  1. The Republicans refusal to compromise on a balanced package to raise the debt ceiling.
  2. The Republicans ability to lie with a straight face – and have the public not able to see it.  We had 8 years of the “no tax increase” policy under Bush and it destroyed the economy.  (However, it did result in the largest transfer of wealth to the top 1% of the country in history.  And I thought that the Republicans were against redistribution of wealth?)
  3. The Democrats inability to come up with virtually any effective messaging.  If I hear the “corporate jet-owners” and “big oil companies” one more time I’ll puke – it just isn’t working.
  4. Obama’s refusal to get mad as hell – and call out the Republicans. (He’s starting to, but it is a case of too little too late.)
  5. I have hardly  heard one commentator speculate that the Republicans actually have no interest in raising the debt ceiling because if the economy melts down, so do Obama’s chances of reelection.  I hate to be so cynical, but it appears that the Republicans have no qualms about the doomsday option because they will be able to blame the disaster on Obama and the “unreasonable” Senate Democrats who refused to bring their Cap and Trade (oops, Cut, Cap and Balance) bill to the floor.  And those same Senate Democrats who wouldn’t bring their own budget bill to the floor.  (Of course, they forget to inform the American public the minor detail that the way our forefathers set up the Constitution, budget bills can only be originated from the House.) 

OK, so I am going to try to overcome my doldrums and begin explaining why I am so upset by some of these issues – and you should be to.  But my next post will actually be about some very positive news – the current tour of several extremely prominent Israeli military and political figures who have come to the U.S. to discuss their assessment of the urgency of coming to a two-state agreement as the only way to assure Israel’s security.  They are here to discuss the Israel Peace Initiative and the activities of the Council for Peace and Security in Israel.


*By the way, that was a REAL train crash in The Fugitive that they set up and filmed – however, I would guess that Harrison Ford wasn’t actually running from it!  Check out the aftermath 18 years later:

Where Are All of the Moderate Muslims? This Past Weekend They Were In Chicago

July 5, 2011 Comments off

This Saturday, I was lucky enough to be guided around the Bazaar at the Convention of ISNA, the Islamic Society of North America. The convention was held at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center near O’Hare. This is the largest convention center in Illinois after Chicago’s gargantuan McCormick Place.

My guide was a new friend, Eiman, who was kind enough to offer to act as my tour guide (along with two of his children) to the Exhibition Floor:  the Bazaar. As we entered the exhibition hall, “Bazaar” was the perfect descriptor.  We were bombarded with a cacophony of energy with hundreds of people wending their way through the narrow aisles between rows of convention booths.  The variation of wares, clothing and people represented the diversity of the growing Muslim population here in the US.  There were goods of all sizes and shapes being sold including saffron and cerulean saris, books and tapes of the Quran and related Islamic topics, and even a singer personally autographing her CD’s.  Other booths represented the collision of ancient religious practices with the realities of 21st Century life:  halal meat providers, Islamic bankers/financiers who have figured out how to lend money within the restrictions of Islamic law which prohibits payment of interest, and the producers of a new feature-length documentary about some Muslim high school football players in Dearborn, MI dealing with the realities of being Arab-American teenagers and including maintaining their faith during Ramadan while facing opponents on the field (check out info on “Fordson”, here  Finally, there were booths related to charities and the related concept of Zakat (very similar to the Jewish principle of Tzedukah).  While there have been examples of the use of Islamic charities as a cover for funneling money to terrorist groups – and that is obviously a concern – that should not tar all Islamic charities with the same brush.  Few can argue with at least one project represented:  one of the most prominent signs in the entry way requested attendees to sign up for the National Bone Marrow Registry in memory of Bilal, a seventeen year old boy whose life was lost because of the lack of a matching donor.

Some people on the internet have described this convention as a meeting of radical extremists, terrorists and other trying to bring Sharia law to the United States.  While one can never know what thoughts and motives lie behind anyone’s outer appearance, it sure didn’t look that way to me.  What I saw was hundreds of middle class Americans trying to see what items were available that related to their religion and cultures.  And when I say “cultures” with an “s”, there were people there that represented a rainbow of cultures from Arabian to Pakistani-Indian to African dressed in a similar array of outfits that spanned the globe from women hidden under black burkas to many women wearing modern, colorful headscarves to young men with t-shirts and jeans.  If you want to learn more about the Convention and get a flavor of it, you can check out the convention program here to understand what the conference sessions were all about and actually see highlights from the Convention at the ISNA website here.

Eiman explained to me that as the son of Egyptian PhD professors, he is now a leader in the Chicago community trying to handle one of the primary, universal issues that has confronted all second generation immigrants to America:  How to embrace the best of American economic and cultural opportunities, while somehow making sure that the third generation still retains ties to the old religion, culture and values.

Location:Chicago, IL

Categories: Israel
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