Last night with Bernie


Last night at Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Bernie Sanders waited a long, long time to say the “C” word.

He took the stage late.  At about 11 pm—an hour after Sanders was expected to speak–  the crowd of at least a thousand people started screaming and chanting.  For hours, they had been pumped up with rock music, waving “Bernie 2016” placards, bursting into spontaneous cheers. 

When their man finally appeared, it was several minutes of exultation.

“BERNIE OR BUST! BERNIE OR BUST!” a middle-aged blonde woman started screaming from the back of the crowd.

A man standing in front of her, wearing an American flag like a prayer shawl, turned around and asked her to stop it.

“That’s not what this is about,” he said, calmly.  He suggested she let Bernie deliver his own message.

Bernie Sanders speaking at the rally

The candidate stood high above the crowd.  Behind him rose a bleacher full of mostly young supporters,  a high-energy backdrop for the solid bank of television cameras and print reporters in the press section across the cavernous room.  Between them the floor was packed with a mixed crowd of young and old, die-hards and the curious. Some people wore their “Occupy” buttons.  Many kept their iPhones high, to record the moment.

A Bernie puppet made an appearance among the throngs of Sanders supporters

“Our vision is the future of America,” Sanders said. “We will not allow the right wing to control our country. We will not allow Donald Trump to become President!” 

The crowd was with him.  A man kept a Bernie puppet aloft on his shoulders.  A woman waved a placard showing Bernie in an elf hat.  There was something moving about seeing such acceptance and popularity for the first serious Jewish American candidate for President.  As much as Hillary cracked the glass ceiling for women, Sanders, without making too much of it, cracked the blue-and-white ceiling for Jews. 

There was speculation that Sanders would take the stage and acknowledge defeat and throw his support behind Clinton.   When Bernie did, finally, late in his speech, congratulate Clinton for her California victory, the wave of boos was deafening.  

“You know Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s stages of grief?” Avery Krut, a campaign consultant said. “He’s in denial.  And the crowd is in anger.”

And Sanders fed their anger.  He vowed to fight on to the primary in Washington, DC and the convention in Philadelphia.  Big cheers. 

Taking a page from Trump’s playbook, he accused the media of bias against him.  At that point a chorus of boos rose up and the crowd turned and faced the press section, motioning their thumbs down and jeering.   Most of the reporters didn’t look up from their MacBook Air’s to see the reaction—probably for the better. 

Could Bernie, if he wanted, have really turned the crowd toward Hillary?

Richard Greene, a communications strategist among the crowd, said that’s what a leader does: take the crowd where it needs to go. 

“Here’s what he could have said,” Greene said. “’The battle for the Presidency is over. The battle for America has just begun.’”

Perhaps Sanders hinted at that, by focusing more on Trump than on Hillary, by reminding his audience who the real enemy was.  It’s possible his strategy was to let his supporters take a day or so to grieve, then concede.

Who knows?  Sanders wrapped up his speech to wild applause.  He spread his arms, basking in the adulation, looking like Larry David at the Emmys.

Then he turned and quickly departed. 

The crowd spilled out into the warm Santa Monica night. Outside the security team was dismantling the metal detectors.   

A man in a tall pointed felt hat was yelling. “Bernie’s the man! Bernie’s the man!” over and over.   Another man was just screaming something unintelligible at anyone who would listen.

A woman turned to her companion as they climbed into their Uber ride.

“I didn’t realize there’s so many homeless people for Bernie,” she said.

Rob Eshman is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TRIBE Media Corp/The Jewish Journal of Los Angels. He can be reached at robe@jewishjournal.com

Leaked documents show Palestinian peace concessions


Palestinian peace negotiators were willing to turn over nearly all of the Jewish neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem and accept a shared authority of the Temple Mount, leaked Palestinian documents reveal.

More than 1,600 Palestinian documents about the peace process with Israel were leaked to the Qatar-based Al Jazeera network, which shared them with Britain’s The Guardian newspaper. They began appearing Sunday night in the two media outlets.

According to the documents, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told U.S. officials that the Palestinians were giving Israel “the biggest Yerushalayim in history,” The Guardian reported.

They show that during negotiations in 2008 and 2009, Palestinian negotiators offered Israel all of the Jewish neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem, with the exception of Har Homa, which now has 20,000 residents. PLO leaders also suggested trading parts of the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah for land located elsewhere, according to The Guardian.

The Palestinian negotiators also proposed a joint committee to take over the Jewish and Palestinian holy sites on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

The documents show that the Palestinians agreed that Israel would take 10,000 Palestinians refugees under the right of return and that they would recognize Israel as a Jewish state. In addition, Israel offered to transfer Israeli Arabs to the Palestinian state.

They also reveal that Palestinian Authority leaders in the West Bank, including President Mahmoud Abbas, were warned in advance about the Gaza war, which began in December 2008 and lasted for one month.

The documents reportedly were leaked over several months from more than one source, according to a Guardian editors’ statement. The identity of the leakers is being protected by Al Jazeera and The Guardian.

On Monday, Erekat called the report on the documents “lies and half truths.”

Ahmed Qureia, who led the negotiations in 2008, told The Associated Press that “many parts of the documents were fabricated, as part of the incitement against the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian leadership.” Abbas said that nothing reported in the documents is secret, and that the PLO was updated on all offered concessions.

Abbas also rejected the report that said the number of Palestinians being allowed to return to Israel would be severely limited.

Sharon Wins Big With Bush


One historic concession deserves another. Just four months after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon — the father of the settlement movement — stunned Israelis by pledging to evacuate some settlements, he got his payback from President Bush, who reversed decades of U.S. policy by recognizing Israel’s claim to parts of the West Bank.

It was compensation, with interest: Sharon had scored perhaps the most stunning diplomatic triumph in the U.S.-Israeli alliance in a generation.

"In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final-status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949," Bush said Wednesday at a White House appearance with Sharon after the two leaders met. "It is realistic to expect that any final-status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities."

The statement, reiterated in a letter to Sharon, represents the first time the U.S. government has provided a formal commitment to Israel’s claim on parts of the West Bank.

Bush’s commitment came without any mention of land from Israel and was widely seen as a significant shift in U.S. policy in the region. It was a soaring historical moment fraught with grinding political realities.

Bush needs a Middle East success to bolster a reputation as a bold foreign policy leader that flags with each U.S. casualty in Iraq.

For his part, Sharon needs to show Israelis that his leadership through some of the nation’s most traumatic years is resulting in a diplomatic breakthrough.

In addition, Sharon faces a May 2 Likud Party referendum on his plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip, and other Likud figures have vowed to challenge any uprooting of settlements.

When talks on the dimensions of a withdrawal began in February, the Americans rejected out of hand any recognition of Israeli claims in the West Bank. Subsequently, U.S. officials said they would consider such a recognition depending on the breadth of the withdrawal.

According to a senior Israeli official, the disengagement plan Sharon presented to Bush calls for an Israeli withdrawal from all of the Gaza Strip and four settlements in the West Bank.

The settlements, encompassing 500 settlers, include Ganim, Homesh, Kadim and Sanur, all in the northern West Bank. The withdrawal from these settlements would provide contiguity for the Palestinians between Jenin and Nablus, a major Palestinian concern.

The official said any future withdrawal would depend on how the Palestinians respond to this proposal and whether they live up to their commitments.

No one expected Bush to so explicitly bury years of U.S. policy, which traditionally said all the land Israel captured in 1967 was up for negotiation.

At best, Bush was expected to recognize vague "demographic realities." Instead, he said it was "unrealistic" to expect Israel to return to its pre-1967 lines.

Bush moreover threw in an endorsement of Israel’s controversial security barrier as it is now routed.

"The barrier being erected by Israel as a part of that security effort should, as your government has stated, be a security rather than political barrier," he said.

Finally, Bush expressed his most emphatic rejection to date of the Palestinian demand that Arab refugees and their descendants be allowed to return to land in Israel that they left in 1948.

"It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final-status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state and the settling of Palestinian refugees there rather than Israel," he said.

Sharon gave very little in return. Against Bush’s repeated assurances that the Gaza withdrawal would spur forward the U.S.-led "road map" peace plan and its goal of a Palestinian state, Sharon referred only obliquely to "your vision" in his public remarks Wednesday.

The biggest political loser Wednesday appeared to be the Palestinians, who were paying the price for a leadership that refused to stop terrorism and never successfully engaged Bush.

"He is the first president who has legitimized the settlements in the Palestinian territories when he said that there will be no return to the borders of 1967," Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei was quoted as saying by Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper.

Qurei’s outlook was bleak.

"We as Palestinians reject that, we cannot accept that, we reject and refuse it," he said.

Senior Bush administration officials, however, said the Palestinians should view the letters as an opportunity.

"What we want is a situation where Palestinian leaders, committed to democracy and fighting terror, have a chance to take control of that territory as a down payment on the way toward a Palestinian state," one said. "And we propose to engage very vigorously with the Palestinian Authority to try and create the institutions that will allow them to do that."

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