A call from the shelter, and other stories

November 18, 2012

A. Worried father in Santa Monica

Here’s a link to my IHT-NYT article from Friday:

My five-year-old daughter Yael just called from Tel Aviv to say that she’s doing fine. She’s a bit scared, but that’s only because I’m not there to watch her — if I were home, she would not be afraid. The brave soul: it was her first time in a bomb shelter. Until yesterday, for our family rocket fire was a troubling part of life but not a personal experience: the last time that Tel Aviv was under fire was during the first Gulf War, back in 1991.

I got my first lesson about Middle East instability at about the same age as Yael… Not much has changed since then…

Read the rest of it here.


B. Susan Rice for State? Our panel says no

Not that it matters much now, when debate in Washington over Susan Rice’s possible candidacy for Secretary of State rages well beyond the small world of Israel-related policies. But it is worth mentioning that among the many people and groups opposing such candidacy – see Dana Milbank for all the gory details – one can also count our Israel Factor panel of experts.

In our latest survey we asked the panel to rank possible candidates for the top State job. It was before the election so candidates of both Obama and Romney were lined up for the panel to rank. The question was framed thus: “On a scale of 1 (poor candidate) to 10 (great candidate), please rank the following candidates for secretary of state in the next Obama (O) or Romney (R) administration”. The outcome for Obama candidates shows that there’s truly one candidate that our panel doesn’t consider a very good idea – that’s Rice. Take a look:


Tom Donilon


John Kerry


Ambassador Susan Rice


Ambassador William Burns



C. Netanyahu, before and after Gaza

This might become irrelevant as the Gaza operation changes the political landscape as well. But not wanting a good story to go to waste, here’s a link to another IHT-NYT article from last week. An article in which I explained why Netanyahu might have miscalculated by merging his Likud Party with Israel Beiteinu:

His merger with Lieberman pushed him further to the right. Having to make do with the hawkish [former Netanyahu chief of staff and long-time critic Naftali] Bennett will push him even farther right. And, for some, Netanyahu’s bet on Romney will undermine the special relations between Israel and the United States. Netanyahu should have run as Israel’s one viable centrist leader, its only responsible adult. But by rushing to protect himself from rivals who stood very little chance of defeating him, he only made their case stronger.

In his Friday column, Yossi Verter explains (from behind a pay wall) that Ehud Olmert was about to announce that he intends to run against Netanyahu when the Gaza operation began. His true motivation though, as Verter explains, is not to be the next prime minister – there’s very little chance of that – but rather to become the only alternative in the next round that he hopes will come soon.

D. Presbyterians against Israel

This piece could have been on our Must Read daily feature, but we missed it and more pressing things make it unlikely that it will get a mention in the coming days. Since I was late to read it, I’m also late to link to it. But it is a worthy read on the motivation behind liberal Christian harsh criticism of Israel – and the critical letter that was sent to Congress by leaders of most of the major mainline Protestant denominations and the National Council of Churches:

If anti-Semitism is not lurking behind the letter to Congress, then what motivated it? There are some not very profound explanations: These individuals probably believe (mistakenly, I think) that the unsolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the root cause of all problems in the Middle East and that US pro-Israel policy is a negative factor for the quest of peace—and, as mentioned above, they believe that this letter may help to bring about a “reset” of the policy. Also, for many years there have been strong ties between American churches and the (alarmingly shrinking) small community of Arab Protestants in the Holy Land, so that there is a particular empathy with the plight of this community.

However, I think that there is a more profound explanation: Since the 1970s mainline Protestantism has been strongly influenced by every progressive ideology that came down the pike—anti-capitalist neo-Marxism in economic and social perspectives, anti-Americanism and pacifism in world affairs, and every variety of “victimological” identity politics. For some years the pronouncements rolling off the presses of the World Council of Churches, the National Council of Churches and mainline Protestant denominations read like reprints of manifestos composed by rioting students on the Berkeley campus.

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