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J Street Boasting of Defeating Israel’s Friends, But its Relevance Is Questionable

Monday, November 12th, 2012

Given the large election majority received by President Obama and many other of their favored candidates, a reasonable morning-after position for a group such as J Street would be one of quiet satisfaction, or even – why not? – gleeful rejoicing.

But J Street, which has rarely met a critic of Israel it didn’t like, instead tried to promote itself as an integral part of the campaign, a driving wind propelling Democratic victories. So eager to claim a starring role, J Street released details of several exit polls they commissioned which, upon examination, tell far more about how little J Street matters.

But first, to refresh your memory regarding the quality of candidates supported by J Street:

In the Wisconsin race for U.S. Senator, the Democratic contender, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, defeated former Wisconsin governor Republican Tommy Thompson. Although Israel was not much of an issue in the race, the Emergency Committee for Israel, a staunchly pro-Israel organization with conservative political roots, aired an ad attacking what they called Baldwin’s anti-Israel position during her congressional career.

ECI said Baldwin was “nothing less than hostile to the U.S.-Israel alliance. She has accused Israel of war crimes, befriended anti-Israel groups, refused to sign bipartisan letters of support for Israel, and defended the libelous Goldstone Report.”

Yes, that was J Street’s candidate in that race.

J Street supported Cheri Bustos in the 17th Congressional District of Illinois, and she defeated Republican Bobby Schilling. Unlike Baldwin, Bustos has nothing whatsover to say about foreign policy. Her issues are jobs, the economy, Medicare and Social Security, and the second Amendment. But in losing Schilling, Israel has lost a great friend in Congress, with a 0 rating by the Arab American Institute.

There goes another J Street-targeted friend of Israel.

And, as was to by expected, J Street threw their support behind the CAIR and Hamas man in Washington, Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota. He is a regular at CAIR fundraisers and pro-Hamas rallies. A former member in Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam, Ellison has also participated, later in life, in interfaith dialogue (mostly with Reform rabbis). Even if we were to discard past accusations of Antisemitism and his defense of Farrakhan – what business does a Jewish PAC have supporting him?

J Street also supported Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, one of the most widely recognized anti-Israel members of Congress. With a +3 rating by the Arab American Institute, Dingell voted No on withholding US contributions until the UN retracts accusations of Israeli war crimes, on opposing any unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state, and Absent on a bill to ensure that United States taxpayer dollars are not used to fund terrorist entities in Lebanon. What point is J street making by giving him PAC money, and why are they so happy he won?

LITTLE ACTUAL INFLUENCE

The above short list demonstrates rather well J Street’s agenda in these elections, but the fact that candidates they supported have won does not mean that the organization’s contribution actually got them over the threshold.

J Street’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, boasted in an email sent out to thousands with the subject line “Astounding! J Street Goes 71 for 70 on Election Day,” but with respect to Jewish voters—whom J Street claims it represents, and whom it is trying to persuade—in very few of the campaigns in which it contributed heavily did the Jewish voters who were in play make a difference.

In an upstate New York race, Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R) was defeated by the man she herself had defeated two years ago, Dan Maffei. J Street backed Maffei, but the hot issue in that race was abortion, not Israel. Maffei successfully tied Buerkle to Missouri’s Republican contender for Senator Todd Akin, notorious for his unfortunate “legitimate rape” comment.

In Florida, Republican Rep. Allen West was defeated by Patrick Murphy in an extremely tight race. West was redistricted out of his comfortable seat, and Israel was far down on the list of issues on which Murphy focused.

In Illinois, Democrat Tammy Duckworth defeated sitting Congressman Joe Walsh. Walsh is an ardent Israel supporter, but the district they battled over is a majority Democratic one, and Duckworth had received the endorsement of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The focus of her attention was energy, the economy and education – not Israel.

And in Ohio, where Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown handily won over his upstart Republican challenger Josh Mandell, a New York Times editorial written by Mitt Romney back in 2oo8 probably did more to defeat any Ohio Republican challenger for office in 2012. In this state, second only to Michigan for auto-related employment, Romney’s opposition to the automobile industry bailout and his op-ed, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” was just too much of a kick in the home state face to overcome. Even though what Romney actually called for was a re-structuring of the car companies, a “managed bankruptcy,” the details were swept away while the headline hung there and hanged the Republicans.

It is clear that J Street’s role in this year’s election was basically irrelevant, and certainly far humbler than its own superlative: “astounding.” While revealing just how unabashedly anti-Israel their choices are, Ben-Ami et al simply have not demonstrated that they mobilized the Jewish vote in a direction it wasn’t already following.

DISMAYING POLL RESULTS

The Republican Jewish Coalition also released poll results, in which they tracked the same few Jews, in virtually the same ways, and received pretty much the same results.

In the broadest terms: Obama won. He won big amongst Jews. No argument from either group. According to the RJC, Romney received just under 32 percent of the votes cast by Jews, according to J Street, Romney received 30%. Not such a big difference.

Where the information and the analysis did begin to differ, was in determining whether there was a significant decrease in Jews voting for Obama this election, versus 2008. While most agreed that Barack Obama received approximately 78% of the Jewish vote in 2008, J Street is now claiming that a more recent calculation revised that number downwards to 74%. With the four fewer percentage points in 2008, and a two point lower estimate in 2012, the differences become more significant.

If, as the RJC claims, there was a 10% increase in Jews voting for the Republican presidential candidate, which amounts to a 50% gain (22% of American Jews cast their vote for McCain in 2008, and 32% of American Jews cast their vote for Romney in 2012), that reflects a recognizable and significantly growing trend, albeit with only two data points.

If you accept J Street’s sudden revision of historic facts, claiming that a greater percentage of Jews cast their votes for the Republican candidate in 2008, and, consequently, that somewhat fewer Jews voted for Romney this time around, the loss of Jewish voters to the Democratic candidate becomes only four percentage points, which means that over the lifetime of Obama’s “blocking back,” J Street, there have not been nearly as many Jews jumping from the Democrats’ ship.

Either way, of course, far fewer Jews cast their votes for President Obama this time around, and either way, of course, President Obama remains in office for four more years.

First, the information provided by the exit polls paints an alarming picture, even without looking at whom the respondents chose.

For Jewish Press readers, there’s a frightening picture that calls out for action: American voting Jews don’t care all that much about Israel, and they really don’t care about Israel’s number one concern: Iran.

The J Street and the RJC polls asked the question slightly differently, but either way, only about 10% of American Jews consider Israel to be an issue that drives their voting decisions (J Street poll), and for more than 21% Israel is of no importance in making the decision for whom to vote (RJC poll). To look on the bright side, slightly more than 75% consider Israel to be either very important (30.2%) or somewhat important (46.3%). But still, we are talking about Jews here, not the general public.

The denominational breakdown between the two polls is of vital interest: 11.9% of the RJC poll respondents identified as Orthodox and 31.1% identified as Conservative, while only 10% of the J Street poll respondents identified as Orthodox and 27% identified as Conservative. In both polls the largest denomination was the Reform movement.

Only the RJC poll asked about synagogue attendance, but the responses there were interesting. Slightly more than 25% of those answering the poll claimed they attend synagogue almost every day or once a week, but 13.9% said they never attend, and nearly 2% refused to answer the question.

One quirky finding is who received high favorability ratings. President Obama garnered a 60% favorability rating, the second highest of those included in the question (Bill Clinton received the highest). But Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu received a 59% rating, beating even Vice President Joe Biden, who came in with a 54% rating. And DNC Chair Cong. Debbie Wasserman Schultz had a 46% favorability rating — that’s far below any of the other Democrats, Netanyahu, or the Democratic Party as a whole.

Although Iran and Israel are not significant voting issues for American Jews, fewer than half of those polled think that sanctions and diplomacy as tools for dealing with Iran’s nuclear race should be given more time, and a full 35% think those methods have failed.

The RJC poll asked about respondents’ understanding of Barack Obama’s attitude towards Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. Nearly 45% believe Barack Obama is more pro-Israel, 22.8% more pro-Palestinian, and 17.4 believes he is neutral, while a full 15.3 either refused to answer the question or said they did not know.

So, strangely enough, while J Street cannot show serious influence in this election, essentially cheering races that would have been won without them – the overall picture emerging from the polls of Jewish voters’ attitudes are an icy shower to American Jews with traditional Jewish values.

Yori Yanover contributed to this article.

Sandy’s Wrath Spurs Comprehensive Jewish Community Response

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

NEW YORK—Hurricane Sandy stormed into New York and New Jersey with unmitigated force, carrying death and destruction, disrupting lives, and devastating neighborhoods in America’s most densely populated regions – which happen to be home to some of the country’s largest Jewish populations.

In response, the Jewish community banded together to meet immediate needs and plan for a long-term revival.

Cheryl Fishbein, chair of the Emergency Committee of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), told JNS.org Sunday that the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC-NY) is working on insurance – or lack thereof – issues.

“We’re pulling together, recognizing that people have really been demolished,” Fishbein said.

“The entire community – religious, not religious, left to right, Chabad and secular, synagogues, organizations – everybody is under the tent, a tent that stretches as big as it can possibly be,” she said. “People need to know we’re out there, checking on one another, making sure everyone is safe.”

Carol Goldstein, president of the Marks Jewish Community House in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, detailed the work being done by volunteers and staff. “I’m so proud to be part of an agency that exemplifies the Jewish belief we are responsible one to another,” she said.

Marks Jewish Community House Executive Director Alex Budnitsky, together with staff and volunteers, climbed innumerable flights of stairs, carrying meals and water to those trapped in high-rise apartments without electricity. Brooklyn’s Neptune Avenue, he said, “truly looked like a war zone.”

“I applaud the efforts of the volunteers of the community,” he said. “The response is unprecedented. People of all ages from all over Brooklyn have given their time, energy, knowledge, language skills and more to make sure care is taken of everybody from seniors to kids.”

Several Jewish communal organizations joined together to create the The Emergency Sandy Chesed. The fund will be managed by Chevra Hatzalah with the support of local Hatzolah groups, Shomrim, Misaskim, Chaveirim, Met Council on Jewish Poverty, Yad Ephraim and neighborhood Jewish community councils.

Volunteers from synagogues and Entwine, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) young leadership program that usually works in eastern European Jewish communities, were on the ground in Brooklyn, according to Goldstein. The director of a clinic in Kharkov, Ukraine, asked how he could help Russian-speaking Jews in Brooklyn. Teens whose classes were canceled visited the elderly and calls were made to Holocaust survivors, she said.

Sigal Greenfeld Middelman arrived in New York just days before the storm. She is chaperon of the Israeli contingent of the America Israel Friendship League’s YASE (Young Ambassadors Student Exchange) program. Sandy, she said, created “a really awful situation.”

“I had to keep the kids calm and assure their safety – especially without electricity,” she told JNS.org. “Parents were worried – there was no phone service for days.” E-mail and Skype helped Middelman keep parents 6,000 miles away as calm as possible.

U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), who represents several of the devastated Brooklyn neighborhoods, said Sandy should lead to a “massive reordering of priorities.” His district includes Sea Gate, a historic “gated community” that suffered massive wind and water damage. Many homes were entirely washed away. Rabbi Chaim Brikman of Chabad by the Ocean, which serves Sea Gate and Coney Island, said that Sandy “hit with about 10 feet of water.”

“Everything was destroyed – offices, classrooms, the library,” Rabbi Brikman said. “Somehow I had the intuition to bring all the Torahs to the upper floor – some are over 100 years old.”

Rivkah Brikman, the rabbi’s wife, stressed that the storm did not stop Shabbat. “Homemade food came from Crown Heights,” she said. “We gathered in one of only three undamaged homes. Even without heat, the warm feelings made it the most beautiful Shabbat ever.”

“This is a very loving community,” she added. “Everyone is helping one another – Jews and non-Jews: reaching out to one another. No hurricane will stop us.”

In Manhattan Beach, Congregation Shaarey Torah had 25 people in the shul, usually known as the Shtieble, on Shabbat morning braving the lack of lights and heat. In fact, Manhattan Beach, of all places, actually hosted refugees, as those without electricity were hosted in homes that were not affected by the storm.

Can Romney Win? A Tale of Three Maps

Monday, November 5th, 2012

I’m addicted to the website Real Clear Politics, like most political junkies, and these past few weeks I’ve increased my dose several times over. The last time I was this engaged in a presidential campaign was back in 2004, when, a couple of days before V-day the swing states, as if magically, lined up for Democratic candidate John Kerry. So I went with a Kerry prediction, which made me look like a total goat – in fact, a few loving readers, God bless their hearts, emailed me goat images for my personal amusement (and theirs).

I’m not doing that again. But I’ve been staring at the RCP maps for a whole lot of time and it looks like Obama has not been able to shake off the Romney hold, has not managed to break away from the tie. Today, 11/05/2012, Obama has 47.9% of the national vote, compared with Romney’s 47.4%. Yesterday – exactly the same numbers. Saturday, 11/03/2012, Obama 47.4%, Romney 47.2%. Romney’s numbers are tenacious, they’re not going to change come election day, in terms of the national vote. So, it comes down to the swing states’ vote.

Here’s the way the vote looks today in the states:

Clearly, neither candidate has been able to get even close to the needed 270 electoral votes. They’ve been stuck with these numbers since the debates, and the numbers show that the country, both on a national and on a state-by-state level, thinks both candidates are equally qualified for the job. That, by itself, is a big advantage for Romney. But it doesn’t seem to be enough to get him through the finish line. In fact, judging by the 2004 election, the close vote goes to the incumbent.

This is the map of the Tuesday, 11/6/2012 vote, if every swing state where Obama is leading goes to him, and every Romney-leaning state goes to Romney.

Obama wins handily. It’ll be far from a landslide, but a win is a win is win, and President Barack Obama will have received a mandate from the nation to carry out his agenda for four more years.

What options are open to Romney?

There’s one blue state in which the Obama lead is around half a percentage point, which means he has no lead at all. That’s Colorado. On the unhappy map above it shows blue, but, in reality, it could just as well be showing red. Romney can take Colorado, it’s a realistic expectation.

Colorado delivers 9 electoral votes. If Romney wins, his tally goes up to 257, Obama’s goes down to 281. That’s not enough, obviously.

Which brings us back to the ancient truism about Republican candidates after WW2 having to win Ohio. Take a look at the map – Ohio brings 18 seats. With all other states staying as they are, a red Ohio takes Romney/Ryan to the White House.

What are Romeny’s chances of winning Ohio? Surprisingly good. The RCP average gives Ohio to Obama right now at 2.9% advantage over Romney (49.4% – 46.5%). That’s just outside the margin of error, which means, with a lot of help from the weather, a get-out-the-vote infrastructure, the governor (Republican) and the secretary of state (Republican), and many local events – Ohio could just as easily go red as it could go blue.

Come back to the Jewish Press website election night, we’re planning to open a live chat forum for pundits and readers, yapping about the one thing about which we can no longer do anything…

By the way, the Redskins have lost their most recent game, which is one of the signs that the incumbent in Washington loses. See? We’re very scientific over here, at the Jewish Press online.

Flood Photos Submissions

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

Do you have a photo from the storm and flood? Send them in to to the Jewish Press, and we’ll publish the best ones.

 

Pro-Obama Video by Sarah Silverman’s Sister to Begin Airing in Florida

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

A video in support of President Obama produced by the sister of comedian Sarah Silverman will begin airing in Florida.

The video by Rabbi Susan Silverman, a Reform rabbi who lives in Jerusalem, posted last week on Facebook shows Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak in an interview and Israelis throughout the country praising Obama’s support for Israel’s security.

A 30-second version is scheduled to run in Florida television markets on Monday during the foreign policy debate between Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Susan Silverman, who lives in Israel with her husband, Arava Power CEO Yosef Abramowitz, and their five children, became involved in making the video after asking her famous sister to make a video about Israelis’ support for Obama.

Sarah Silverman made “The Great Schlep” video in support of Obama four years ago to convince her grandparents and other grandparents to vote for Obama. Earlier this year she made a video asking casino mogul Sheldon Adelson to switch his support to Obama.

The video comes on the heels of an Op-Ed published in the Jewish Press in which Rabbi Yaakov Rosenblatt criticizes Sarah Silverman for being “crude” and “vulgar.” He suggested that she channel her energy into marrying and having children. The Silvermans’ father, Donald, responded with a vulgar statement of his own.

Anti-Israel, Pro-Hamas Muslim Leader Is US Delegate to Warsaw Human Rights Conference

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

For two weeks every year, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe holds what it refers to as the world’s largest human rights and democracy conference, called the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting.  Organized by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, this year’s meeting is taking place in Warsaw, and it began last week.  Special attention is focused this year on freedom of religion and belief, the rights of Roma (formerly called gypsies) women and the rights of national minorities in OSCE countries.

The head of the U.S. delegation to the conference this year is Ambassador Avis Bohlen, a retired foreign service officer whose career included serving as Ambassador to Bulgaria from 1996 – 1999.

There are three public members of the U.S. delegation.  Nida Gelazis, of the Woodrow Wilson Center, is a scholar of  international human rights, international law and citizenship policies and protection of national minorities.

Dr. Ethel Brooks, professor of sociology at Rutgers University, is the second representative of the U.S.  at the conference. Brooks has published many articles on her research areas which include child labor in third world countries, globalization and political economies.

The third public member chosen to attend the human rights conference as a representative of the U.S. is Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

While two out of three of the U.S. representatives are scholars whose fields suggest expertise in human rights and democratization, and are entirely consistent with the themes of the OSCE and, specifically, human rights and democracy, Al-Marayati’s appointment raises serious questions.

Counter-terrorism expert Steve Emerson told The Jewish Press that

Al-Marayati’s appointment is not just scandalous but also does incalculable damage to our values as a nation whose core principles categorically reject the legitimization of a racist supporter of terrorism, and an incendiary proponent of paranoid conspiracies that provides the motivation for radical Muslims to carry out terrorism.

Al-Marayati is not a scholar.  His only graduate degree is in business and his undergraduate degree is in science.  He has been involved with MPAC since its founding in 1986.  Without any scholarly article to his credit, his expertise is in matters concerning the role of Islam and Muslims in America and elsewhere.

In fact, Al-Marayati is better known, at least to members of the American Jewish community, for his defense of those who are on the scrutiny end of the human rights examining lens.  Perhaps his most infamous statement was during a radio interview immediately following the attacks by Muslim terrorists against the United States on September 11, 2001.

On that day, as the buildings were still smoldering, Al-Marayati told radio interviewer Warren Olney on KCEW-FM’s “Which Way, LA?” in response to questions about who might be behind the terrorist attacks,

If we’re going to look at suspects, we should look to groups that benefit the most from these kinds of incidents, and I think we should put the state of Israel on this list because I think this diverts attention from what’s happening in the Palestinian territories so that they can go on with their aggression and occupation and apartheid policies.

While Al-Marayati is generally more in control about publicly expressing his views regarding Israel and comporting himself in an even-keeled manner when with civic and political leaders, there have been many other instances in which his support for Muslims seems to override his concern for the human rights and safety of others.

For example, at a 2005 conference held by the Islamic Society of North America, Al-Marayati told his fellow Muslims not to respond to requests from the FBI to work with them, saying, “we reject any efforts, notion, suggestion that Muslims should start spying on one another.”

Even as he publicly engages in many interfaith efforts, Al-Marayati continues to sow the seeds of division between religious groups.  In 2009 he spoke at a J Street conference, telling the audience of  “Palestine Now At Any Price” liberals that the absence of a Palestinian State was the major cause for Muslim unrest in Pakistan, and that it was “the central issue critical to the hearts and minds of all 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide.”

Al-Marayati spoke before the OSCE conference on Tuesday, October 1, about the situation of Muslims as a religious minority in America.  He quoted President Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech, in which he said, “‘it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit – for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear,’” and called for “governments to ‘stop targeting Muslims through legislation or policy, and instead enshrine the ground of religion or belief as a prohibited ground of discrimination in all realms.”

When asked to comment about Al-Marayati’s appointment to represent the United States at a global human rights and democracy conference, Steve Emerson, one of the premier counter-terrorism experts, and someone who has conducted extensive research into Al-Marayati’s background, told The Jewish Press,

For this administration to appoint to an august human rights organization Salam Al-Marayati, who has openly supported Hizbollah, claimed that the FBI has illegally incited Muslims on terrorism charges because of FBI sanctioned policies of “racial profiling,” has defended as innocent the most notorious members of Hamas who were found guilty of laundering millions of dollars to a terrorist group, and someone who has complained of ‘having the Holocaust shoved down [his] throat,’ is an outrage.

Emerson suggested  that the appointment of Al-Marayati as a representative of the U.S. at one of the world’s largest human rights conference,

cries out for a congressional investigation of the larger and more heinous scandal of the unprecedented degree to which the Obama administration has embraced and collaborated with radical Muslim groups in the U.S. whose lineage derives directly from the world wide totalitarian Muslim Brotherhood movement.

The conference concludes at the end of this week.

Ambassador Bohlen did not respond to a request for comment by the Jewish Press.

Contrary to J Street and Media Claims, Former IDF Chief Halutz Is Hawkish on Iran

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Former Israel Defense Force Chief of Staff Dan Halutz is being shepherded around the United States to talk about the international crisis with Iran.  The anti-Netanyahu group J Street is promoting Halutz as critical of Israeli policy and supportive of their position of opposing military action.

But at the first two talks given by Halutz, one of which was attended by a Jewish Press reporter and the other of which can be can be viewed online, it appears that Halutz’s positions are far more complex and nuanced than J Street and their fellow promoters understand.

What is Halutz saying?

On negotiations: “negotiations have failed”;  on diplomacy: “enough Viennese coffee without results”; on sanctions: without the participation of China, Russia and India – all of which have been given exemptions by the US government – the sanctions will take too long to work; and on the issue of “red lines,” the problem isn’t that they are too bellicose, it is that they give the enemy an advantage you don’t want it to have.

On Tuesday, September 11th, Halutz spoke at the Saban Center For Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. On Wednesday evening he spoke at a large suburban Philadelphia Conservative synagogue.  Thursday night the former IDF Chief of Staff spoke at a synagogue in West Chester County, New York, and he is scheduled to speak sometime soon to the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the coordinating body for local Jewish community relations organizations.

Lt. Gen. Halutz is actually making the argument, in an admittedly very circumspect manner, that it is the international community – that is, everyone besides Israel – which is to blame for the current cataclysm precisely because the actions taken thus far are inadequate and it is that failure which may result in Israel, alone, having to take military action against Iran.  And that is a situation no one wants.

Sanctions

According to Halutz, the international response to Iran’s nuclear activity has been inadequate on just about all fronts.  With respect to sanctions, there aren’t enough countries participating and there aren’t enough products on the banned list.  In particular, without China, Russia and India’s full participation in sanctions – all of which received exemptions from the United States — the impact on the Iranian economy has been too small to encourage the regime to cease its path to nuclear weapons.

Halutz told the Brookings audience that despite some reports to the contrary, the sanctions are not really having an impact on the Iranian economy.  “It was just reported,” he said, “that the Iranian currency dropped by 8 percent compared to the dollar.”  The Iranians are “not yet convinced that there is a real cost imposed upon them because their leadership has chosen to move forward on a project which is unacceptable to the world.” Unless they are forced to do that, to choose between “bread or nuclear weapons,” the sanctions will not work.

An additional reason sanctions are not working is because not enough products are involved.  Halutz explained that there need to be many more products, “thousands of them” placed on the sanctions list.  He offered two examples. The Iranian airlines and the Iranian shipping lines are still operating in the world and, if they weren’t, the Iranians would be seriously impacted.   Right now they aren’t.

In other words, sanctions only work if they cause sharp pain.  Right now there’s barely a mild caress.

Diplomacy

Halutz believes that diplomatic efforts must continue, but he is contemptuous of the public versions taking place.  “Enough Viennese coffees,” he said, referring to the rounds of talks that have already taken place, after each one of which the Iranians have refused to cease their nuclear activities.

However, he was quite supportive of one diplomatic effort that he believes, if only more countries would join in, could be fruitful.  The bold shuttering of the Iranian Embassy in Canada by President Stephen Harper is exactly the kind of diplomatic effort that needs to be undertaken, but “others must follow.”  Again, as with sanctions, unless many countries – diplomatically important countries – join in, weak diplomatic energy will bear no fruit.

Red Lines

Publicly, J Street repeatedly states that Halutz is against the drawing of “red lines,” that is, the line in the sand beyond which military action against Iran must be taken.  This is significant because President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu have engaged in a public spat over the US refusal to set red lines.  The Israeli government is claiming that without them, it cannot rely on the United States and Israel will have to take action on its own.  There are commentators who crow that Halutz’s opposition to red lines reveals a reluctance to use force against Iran, and that it is an explicit criticism of the Israeli prime minister.

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