Kahane won

Rabbi Meir Kahane can rest in peace: His doctrine has won. Twenty years after his Knesset list was disqualified and 18 years after he was murdered, Kahanism has become legitimate in public discourse. If there is something that typifies Israel’s current murky, hollow election campaign, which ends the day after tomorrow, it is the transformation of racism and nationalism into accepted values.

If Kahane were alive and running for the 18th Knesset, not only would his list not be banned, it would win many votes, as Yisrael Beiteinu is expected to do. The prohibited has become permitted, the ostracized is now accepted, the destestable has become the talented – that’s the slippery slope down which Israeli society has skidded over the past two decades. [continued…]

Fatah fears Shalit deal will bring down Abbas

Concerned voices have been heard in the Muqata in Ramallah over the past few days: Senior Palestinian Authority and Fatah officials are speaking openly of the end of an era if an agreement to free abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit is reached.

Palestinian officials say a Shalit deal would bring about early elections in the territories, and Hamas would win again – but this time it would win the Palestinian presidential election, too. Israel would then be forced to deal with a Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip, they say. [continued…]

Rift between Hamas and Fatah grows after Gaza

Hamas officials have accused Abbas’ former national security chief, Mohamed Dahlan, of colluding with Israelis in advance of the invasion in a bid to weaken Hamas’ resistance.

A senior Hamas official alleged to Time that Dahlan appeared in El Arish, an Egyptian coastal town near Gaza, shortly before the Israel attack, and had sent in Fatah loyalists to “cooperate with the Israelis” in hunting down Hamas commanders. Hamas officials say their allegation is based on interrogation of suspected collaborators accused of helping to pinpoint Hamas’ hideouts and weapons caches for Israeli targeting. The objective, say Hamas officials, was to help Israel decimate the Islamists in the hope of reestablishing Fatah control in Gaza. Aides to Dahlan deny the allegations. [continued…]

After Gaza: Prominent Israelis and Palestinians evaluate where the two sides are

Efraim Halevy: The United Nations, the European Union, Russia and the United States laid down three conditions for negotiations with Hamas. Two of these are not only valid, they are essential. First, that Hamas accept all previous agreements the Palestinian Authority entered into with the international community. Second, that it refrain from all acts of hostility.

But the third condition, that Hamas recognize Israel’s right to exist, is an ideological one. This is something we have never demanded of anyone else in the past. We didn’t demand it of Egypt. We signed peace agreements with Egypt even as it continued to press for the annihilation of Israel until after the Yom Kippur War.

We should engage Hamas — not directly but through a national unity government, and propel them into a position where they will see the necessity of doing business with us. Hamas is not a religious movement. It’s not like in Iran, where you have a religious leadership. Hamas is a temporal secular movement of people who do have deep religious beliefs, but their decisions are reached by political bodies. This is very important. Hamas leaders have been proved to be pragmatists when it’s been in their interest. [continued…]

After Gaza: In interviews at schools in the West Bank and Israel, 11th-graders talk about their views of the future

As the war in Gaza was drawing to a close last month, Times editorial writer Marjorie Miller Marjorie Miller traveled to Israel and the Palestinian territories to discuss prospects for peace in the region. Today, in the first of two parts, she reports from the Ramallah Friends School, which educates many children of West Bank Palestinian elites, and Hebrew University Secondary School in Jerusalem, one of Israel’s best high schools. Many of the 11th-graders she interviewed were born in 1993, the year the Oslo peace accord was signed. But they came of age during the second intifada, or Palestinian uprising. Their points of reference are suicide bombings, rocket attacks, gunships and tanks, and a concrete and barbed-wire barrier separating Israelis and Palestinians. [continued…]

The Mitchell paradox

Mitchell ostensibly represents both Obama’s readiness to talk to America’s Islamist adversaries as well as his own legacy of including all combatants. In addition, he concentrated during this visit on ways to channel reconstruction aid into the Gaza Strip. Moreover, his mandate presumably includes not only Israeli-Palestinian but Israel-Syria issues as well.

Yet Mitchell did not attempt to talk to Hamas or even visit the Strip during the visit. Like many others in the West and the Arab world, he appears to believe it is possible to rebuild Gaza yet ignore its (Hamas) government. His itinerary took him to Ramallah, Cairo, Amman and Riyadh–but not to Damascus. He cancelled a visit to Turkey after a high-level Israeli-Turkish clash at the Davos World Economic Forum–as if this somehow rendered Ankara’s own Middle East mediation efforts, past and future, less relevant.

A Mitchell visit to Gaza, Damascus or Ankara would not in any way have betrayed Israel or the administration’s basic undertaking regarding Israel’s security. On the contrary, it would have served them. If Obama and his emissary for Arab-Israel affairs intend to represent a new and refreshing departure in America’s approach to the Middle East, Mitchell’s first visit was not characteristic of this approach. It seemed to reflect attitudes regarding the identity of America’s interlocutors that characterized the Bush era. [continued…]

You can cap the pay, but the greed will go on

President Obama is now three weeks into his new job — annual salary $400,000 — and already he and his team are working overtime to make sure that no one at the helm of a bailed-out firm will pocket much more than he does. It’s time, the president said last week, for “restraint,” not millions in bonuses.

The indignation over executive excess has mounted as the wretched indulgences stack up. Bank of America ($45 billion in bailout money) sponsored a five-day “NFL experience” at the Super Bowl; Wells Fargo ($25 billion in bailout funds) was planning 12 nights in Las Vegas for select employees.

With business executives seemingly oblivious to the nation’s crisis, it’s easy to see the appeal of capping exorbitant pay and wild spending. But corporate America’s problem is more fundamental than that.

Since roughly the mid-1980s, the American public corporation has been run primarily for the purpose of creating vast wealth for its senior executives. True, executives have also sought to produce a return for shareholders and to deliver useful products or services to customers. And, of course, their businesses do provide jobs. But these concerns, for the most part, have been ancillary to the primary objective of enriching those at the very top.

Take the now-infamous example of the recently ousted Merrill Lynch chief John Thain, who not only splurged on his office decor but also had the audacity to propose a $10 million bonus for himself. In recognition of what? A year’s work in which the company continued to make bad business decisions, lost about 80 percent of its value, sold itself to Bank of America to stave off possible collapse and appears to have seriously damaged its buyer’s franchise? After a less-than-heroic performance, Thain’s grasping for $10 million — presumably because he thought it could be had — represents what has come to be expected from America’s business leaders. [continued…]

Editor’s Comment — A leader is someone whose courage and vision allows them to discern and proceed in a direction that others can then safely follow.

America has very few business leaders. It has a business elite. It is an elite that protects its own interests at the expense of others and it views with contempt the mass of Americans who live outside its ranks. The irony and sad folly is that so many Americans look up to these people as though they are the models of success — but perhaps that’s now changing.

The destructive center

What do you call someone who eliminates hundreds of thousands of American jobs, deprives millions of adequate health care and nutrition, undermines schools, but offers a $15,000 bonus to affluent people who flip their houses?

A proud centrist. For that is what the senators who ended up calling the tune on the stimulus bill just accomplished.

Even if the original Obama plan — around $800 billion in stimulus, with a substantial fraction of that total given over to ineffective tax cuts — had been enacted, it wouldn’t have been enough to fill the looming hole in the U.S. economy, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates will amount to $2.9 trillion over the next three years.

Yet the centrists did their best to make the plan weaker and worse. [continued…]

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