Israel

The War on Terror Spectator

Kerry Shows His True Colors on Israel—Again

By 7.23.14

It should come as no surprise to anyone that our secretary of state, John Kerry, was caught on a hot mic bashing Israel during a commercial break while in an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. Kerry sarcastically characterized the IDF’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza as a “hell of a pinpoint operation” while on speaker-phone with an adviser. 

After all, it was less than three months ago that Kerry said Israel could become an Apartheid state if a Palestinian state were not established. This comment, made behind closed doors during a sitting of the Trilateral Commission, put Kerry on the defensive for a few days before he issued a classic non-apology apology.  

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The Obama Watch

The Gang That Couldn’t Speak Straight

By 7.22.14

Great piece by former colleague Alyssa Mastromonaco who defines smart, savvy and fashionable.

Thus began a tweet on Thursday by Jen Psaki, the execrable State Department spokeswoman who thought it would be a good idea to depart from that day’s shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH-17 over the Ukraine by Russian separatists, if not actual Russian military operators, using a SA-11 missile system.

It was the second Psaki gaffe of the day, as she had already opened her daily briefing not with reaction to the downing of the plane, but rather a series of minutiae so insignificant that Fox News’s Shepard Smith angrily denounced her as “highly inappropriate” for wasting airtime.

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Polls Give a Nod to Non-Interventionists

By on 7.21.14 | 3:12PM

As politicians across the country continue to fight amongst themselves over wedge issues that the average voter does not care about—specifically birth control—Ukraine, Iraq, Israel, and several other countries are on fire. As foreign policy continues to come to the forefront, a debate is raging over what involvement the United States should have in helping settle these crises. One thing, however, is clear: the McCains and Grahams of the Senate are losing popularity.

According to a poll done by Politico, while Republicans have a seven-point advantage on foreign policy, the hawks are losing their edge by a wide margin:

In the big picture, two-thirds of respondents agreed with the statement that U.S. military actions should be “limited to direct threats to our national security.” Only 22 percent agreed with the statement that as a “moral leader,” the United States “has a responsibility to use its military to protect democracy around the globe."

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A Tribute to the Onion

By on 7.21.14 | 11:41AM

Let the world take note of the Onion and its incredible commentary on the Middle East. On Friday, it tackled the escalating conflict in Gaza with the headline: “Palestinians Starting To Have Mixed Feelings About Being Used As Human Shields.” The piece employs sarcastic understatement with aplomb, pointing out the lunacy of human action.

It would ruin the humor to try and summarize the deceptively mundane “news” article that follows that title. It’s the truth artfully concealed as a lie, however. Whether or not Palestinians have awoken to the reality that it is their leaders who put them in the line of fire and give Israel cause to retaliate, the Onion points out that truth for anyone who gets their news on the Internet.

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Hamas Searches for a Better Bargain

By on 7.16.14 | 5:01PM

Shopping in the Middle East can be a surprise to Westerners. There's the greeting, the inquiry after one's family, leading questions from the buyer, perhaps a cup of Arabic coffee from the seller. The buyer suggests a price, and the vendor protests that to accept it would bring his children to the brink of starvation. The buyer strides ostentatiously from the establishment, only to be called back by a better deal.

The rejection by Hamas of Egypt's cease-fire deal after more than a week of missile exchange with Israel was merely good business for Middle Eastern bargaining, said Ghaith al Omari of the American Task Force on Palestine at an American Enterprise Institute discussion. 

The Egyptian deal did not meet any of Hamas's demands, namely: a re-release of the prisoners Israel first freed in 2011, funds from Qatar to pay employees' salaries, and a reopening the "secret" supply tunnels between Egypt and Gaza. That last one is especially relevant; some have speculated that the supply tunnels are what drove Hamas to enter a unity government with Fatah, which is what started the recent hostilities in the first place. 

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The Dead in Gaza

By on 7.15.14 | 10:44AM

War is hell, not just for the soldiers, but also for those caught in the crossfire, the puppets and victims. The noncombatants of Gaza are bearing the brunt of the violence and bombings of the last week. They are cornered between Hamas, which has not hesitated to use them as human shields, firing rockets from within civilian neighborhoods and buildings, and Israel, which, although it tries to forewarn nonmilitants of attacks, remains relentless in its bombardment of Hamas’s rocket launch sites. The result for the people of Gaza: some 174 dead and thousands of refugees. 

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Israel’s Show of Force

By on 7.8.14 | 5:34PM

"We win every battle, but we lose the war," said Ami Ayalon, who once led the Israeli secret service. Ayalon spoke in the documentary "The Gatekeepers" about Israel's strategy for the Palestinians, one that was highlighted by events over the last month in Israel and the West Bank.

The two-week-long search by Israeli officials for three kidnapped Israeli teenagers in the West Bank was the most aggressive in decades. The search for three teens, it turns out, required Israeli officials to blow up two houses, arrest nearly 400 people, and kill five civilians, one of whom was sixteen, the same age as the young Israeli hitchhikers.

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The Kurds: Underdogs of the Middle East

By on 6.30.14 | 4:44PM

If after the World Cup anyone is looking for a new underdog worthy of support, I submit the Kurds as the most up-and-coming players of the geopolitical world.

The Kurds are the Middle East's classic underdog story: a swashbuckling ethnic group numbering 30 million and residing in pockets of Syria, Turkey, Iran, and Iraq. Left out of the twentieth-century nation-making due to a PR problem, the Kurds have been the favorite pin cushion of their respective governments. After decades of being used as pawns in geopolitical power plays, the Kurds have used the recent distraction of terrorists taking over Sunni Iraq to improve their real estate options.

The Kurdish Peshmerga army is the only fighting force that has successfully retaken Iraqi territory from the Sunni militant group ISIS. The Kurds have taken over much of northern Iraq, including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. They plan to make the move permanent, said Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, at a news conference Friday:

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Palestinian Groups Unite to Israel’s Dismay

By on 6.2.14 | 5:54PM

The reunion was highly unexpected, but governments can form quickly in the Middle East. The West Bank and the Gaza Strip are back together for now, at least politically speaking. According to the AP:

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas swore in a national unity government Monday, formally ending a crippling seven-year split with his Islamic militant Hamas rivals but drawing Israeli threats of retaliation.

The formation of the unity government and Israel's tough response are part of a wider competition between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for international support since the collapse of U.S.-led peace talks between them in April. 

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The Plight of Arab Israeli Christians

By on 5.22.14 | 3:53PM

Arab Israeli Christians of military age will now receive a non-binding invitation to volunteer for the Israeli army, partly because of efforts by an Arab Israeli priest.

The Greek Orthodox priest, Father Gabriel Naddaf of Nazareth, has faced tremendous opposition from the Christian and Muslim communities alike, some of whom see this as Israel's latest attempt to "divide and conquer" along religious lines, according to the Washington Free Beacon. Christians represent 2 percent of the Israeli population and 10 percent of Arab Israelis, but the number of Christians in the Israeli army has tripled to 150 since Father Naddaf's campaign began.

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