This article originally appeared at LobeLog, one of the very best sites for foreign policy analysis, and of which I am proud to be a part. Please check it out.

Chris Christie addressing the 2014 CPAC convention. Credit: Gage Skidmore

Chris Christie addressing the 2014 CPAC convention. Credit: Gage Skidmore

The absurdity of political campaigns in the United States added another chapter recently when New Jersey governor Chris Christie made the “Republican hajj” to Las Vegas. Ostensibly, he was going to speak to the Republican Jewish Coalition, but the real pilgrimage was to grovel at the feet of billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson in the hope of getting the kind of fat contribution that Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich availed themselves of in 2012.

During his RJC speech, Christie made the grave mistake of using a clear fact that was unacceptable to the RJC and even more so to Adelson. He called the West Bank “the Occupied Territories.” Gasps were heard nationwide. Christie was forced to ramp his groveling up to supersonic levels as he moved to apologize to Adelson for this nearly unforgivable blunder.

Such is the role of truth when it comes to Israel in the bizarre world of Republican pro-Israel politics. And it’s not just confined to the GOP. The Democrats have also dodged this very simple fact, and it has created a political climate where the US media also rarely refers to the Occupied Territories as “occupied territories.” The politically correct term for moderates is “disputed territories.” On the right, it’s the biblical designation, “Judea and Samaria.” Nowhere else but in the United States, not even in Israel, is it this controversial to call the West Bank “occupied territory.” Continue Reading »


There is a word in Hebrew that marvelously describes what Benjamin Netanyahu has turned both the Palestinian Authority and the

John Kerry meets US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro in Tel Aviv, March 31, 2014.

John Kerry meets US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro in Tel Aviv, March 31, 2014.

Obama Administration into. That word is “frier.” Not as in a vat of oil to make chips, but as in what would be most closely translated as “sucker,” a person who is easily scammed, who buys the Brooklyn Bridge with their life savings.

The deal which, according to the New York Times, US Secretary of State John Kerry is trying to sell today to the Palestinians exemplifies everything that is wrong with the American-brokered Oslo process. The deal itself was hammered out only between Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It reflects the absence of the Palestinians in the discussions, because it offers them nothing but the opportunity to capitulate again to American and Israeli power.

Under the terms of the deal, the United States would release Jonathan Pollard, the Jewish American who was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 for spying for Israel. Pollard has been a cause celebre for the right wings of both the American-Jewish and Israeli communities for years, but no president has ever seriously considered releasing him before. Israel would, essentially, concede nothing in exchange.

The Israelis would agree to “show restraint” in expanding settlements in the West Bank. That is a vague and meaningless wording which, given the amount of construction Israel has undertaken when they’ve actually agreed to what they call a “freeze” cannot possibly have any real impact. Continue Reading »


It’s easy to feel like one is trapped in some sort of alternate reality where the world is just a big funhouse of mirrors these days. After

US Secretary of State John Kerry is greeted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he arrives at his office in Jerusalem on March 31, 2014, for peace talks with his government and Palestinian Authority leaders. Credit: State Department

US Secretary of State John Kerry is greeted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he arrives at his office in Jerusalem on March 31, 2014, for peace talks with his government and Palestinian Authority leaders. Credit: State Department

decades of right wing Israelis and even more radically right wing American Jews campaigning for the release of Jonathan Pollard, his release might actually happen. But it will not be a result of the right wing campaign, nor will it be the US playing its ace in the hole with Israel for some extraordinary Israeli concessions. It won’t even be some dramatic gesture of friendship or a “humanitarian” gesture now that Pollard is old and has been reportedly sickly.

No, Pollard might be released so that the talks between Israel and the Palestinians, which have gone on for eight months with noting but negativity resulting from them, can continue pointlessly. All this time, freeing Pollard has been one thing every administration has refused to do, and now they will do it for, essentially, nothing. Why? I explore this and other questions today at LobeLog.

Framing Putin


The past month has been nostalgic for me. The crisis over Ukraine and Crimea has felt and sounded, in the media and common conversation, very much like the halcyon days of my youth when the Cold War raged with all its mindless enmity. It’s a bit depressing to think someone like Hillary Clinton, who compared Vladimir Putin to Hitler thereby demonstrating she has absolutely no understanding of the situation and an even worse sense of global perspective, would be the person I’d be compelled to vote for if presidential elections were held today. I examine the atmosphere around Putin and the crisis in today’s Souciant. Check it out.


An edited version of this article first appeared in LobeLog

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met with U.S. President Barack Obama this week, following in the footsteps of

Abbas and Obama confer at the White House

Abbas and Obama confer at the White House

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier in the month. But unlike Netanyahu, Abbas is a much less heralded, or even well-known figure in Washington. And, above all, he is a man with far fewer options.

With a deadline looming at the end of April by which U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had promised first to broker a permanent Israel-Palestine agreement and, later, a more modest goal of a framework for continuing talks, Abbas arrived in Washington with little to offer and less room to make further concessions. It’s a familiar position for the Palestinian leader, one he has been in since 2004, when he assumed the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) upon the death of Yasir Arafat.

Arafat was a universally respected leader to the Palestinian people, even, grudgingly, among his rivals; a fighter who had proven his worth in conflict. Abbas, by contrast, had long been Arafat’s number two, but he was more intellectual, having been an advocate, a resistance politician and a fundraiser for most of his time in exile and then after his return to the Palestinian Territories in 1994. Continue Reading »


Yesterday, an old Israeli “war hero” died. His name was Meir Har-Zion. He was a veteran of the Israeli military in its formative

Meir Har-Zion in 1954

Meir Har-Zion in 1954

years after the creation of the state, and we should look very carefully at the re-telling, upon his death, of an incident that took place in 1954.

The incident was an act of vengeance that Har-Zion, along with several accomplices, enacted in response to the killing of his sister, Shoshanna. We’ll get to it in a minute. But first, let’s understand how Har-Zion is viewed in Israel.

Moshe Dayan called Har-Zion “the greatest Jewish warrior since Bar Kochba.” That’s a description we should take a close look at. Bar Kochba is a Zionist icon, and a symbol of the nationalist revision of Jewish history. For most of pre-Zionist Jewish history, Bar Kochba was a very divisive figure, but the majority view of him was negative. He was seen as a false prophet (which he undoubtedly was) who duped the greatest religious figure of his day, Rebbe Akiva ben Yoseph (though some argue that he was not actually involved with Bar Kochba’s revolt) into supporting him and eventually led the Jews to final defeat and exile at the hands of the Romans. Continue Reading »


My latest piece at LobeLog reviews the failure of virtually all of Benjamin Netanyahu’s objectives during his trip to the United States last week. I strongly recommend it.

I hope to have something up on LobeLog later today about the spasm of violence in Gaza and Southern Israel. Here’s a hint: I don’t think it is what it seems to be.

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