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October 9, 2015 / 26 Tishri, 5776
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About Wolves and Boys who Cry too Much

I occasionally enjoy those Monty Python-style sketches otherwise referred to as State Dept. press briefings.
Patrick Ventrell, Acting Deputy Spokesperson

Patrick Ventrell, Acting Deputy Spokesperson

The late Israeli humorist Ephraim Kishon once wrote a short piece about a boy who cried wolf, but when the people of the village came over, they realized the wolves were way too big for them to do anything about, so the beat up the little boy and the wolves proceeded to eat all their sheep.

That’s what’s taking place today at the Dept. of State, as reported with much flair by our own Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu (Kerry Refuses Israeli Intel on Assad’s Use of Chemical Weapons).

But a failed foreign policy as magnificent as the United States’ shows up not only through learned reporting. It expresses itself in many different artistic forms, most notably as those Monty Python-style sketches otherwise referred to as State Dept. press briefings.

Subscribers the world over, I’m sure, are reading those emailed briefings not so much for content – we know they’re lying, all the time, to everyone, including each other and each man to himself – but for comedic technique, for that artistic touch that turns a heaping pile of putrid ox droppings into a message of hope.

Last night I received the most recent installment of that artistic series, created by the sure hands of Patrick Ventrell, Acting Deputy Spokesperson, in Washington, DC, April 23, 2013. The curtain is already up, the audience is listening, riveted, there’s a tense hush over the hall…

Reporter: The Israelis seem to be claiming that the Assad regime has repeatedly used chemical weapons – 100 percent. So, do you consider that they have crossed a redline right now?

Mr. Ventrell: Again, the Secretary answered this in a press availability already earlier today, and we’ll get the transcript to you shortly. But the bottom line is that we continue to support an investigation of all credible allegations of chemical weapons used to establish the facts of exactly what did or didn’t happen. But in terms of new information today, I don’t have anything for you one way or another other than to say that we coordinate closely with our partners, including the French, British, and the Israelis.

Reporter: You’re saying that we are supporting these investigations, but we all know the Syrian regime has been refusing the UN team. How are you going to able to investigate it if the regime is not allowing you to do that? Or how long you are going to use this rhetoric even though nothing is happening on the ground?

Mr. Ventrell: We are encouraging the Syrians to allow the team in, but we’ll be looking at all sources of evidence in terms of chemical weapons use. And we are strongly urging the regime not to use chemical weapons.

Reporter: Do you have any kind of a timetable? I mean, if the regime keeps refusing that for two more months, are you going to just use same arguments that it should be happening but it’s not happening?

Mr. Ventrell: I’m not going to preview any potential next steps, but we’re closely coordinating with our allies and watching the situation very carefully.

Reporter: Do you think that the Israelis are making it up with respect to the chemicals, since you didn’t concur with the report?

Mr. Ventrell: I mean, I’d really refer you to the Israelis for more information. I think the Secretary also talked about a phone call he had with Prime Minister Netanyahu this morning. So, again, I refer you to the Israelis for more details about who it was in the government that spoke at what level, but I refer you to them for clarification.

Reporter: But they said they conveyed it to Washington and Washington didn’t agree with the information. So, again, do you have any suspicion that the Israelis are making it up?

Mr. Ventrell: I don’t think we’d characterize it that way. I think you need to look at the Secretary’s transcript where he talks about his discussion with the Prime Minister of Israel, which we’ll be releasing shortly. That was in a press availability just a few minutes ago.

Reporter: Is the U.S. determination on whether chemical weapons are used or not a political determination or a technical determination?

Mr. Ventrell: I mean, I think I would describe it as a technical determination in terms of the various materials that may or may not have been used. And so we’ll continue to look at that very closely.

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.

The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.

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