Israelis to Obama – “Save us from ourselves!”

On June 5, when several hundred Israelis marched from Tel Aviv’s Yitzhak Rabin Square to the Israeli Defense Ministry to protest the anniversary of the Six Day War, I was able to meet some of the country’s most vociferous cheerleaders of Barack Obama. In complete contrast to the characters who appeared in my video report, “Feeling the Hate in Jerusalem,” those I interviewed at the demonstration (organized by the Israeli left-wing party Hadash) were invigorated by Obama’s speech in Cairo, and excited by the prospect of an American president who would pressure Israel into making meaningful concessions towards peace. As one demonstrator remarked to me, “[Obama] must save us from ourselves.”

Whether the two-state solution Obama proposes is possible is another story. Israelis view Obama’s policies towards Israel with extreme negativity, and consider him biased towards the Palestinians, though they simultaneously believe Benjamin “Yahoo” Netanyahu should bend to Washington’s will.

“You see how few we are,” said a demonstrator holding a sign reading “Obama, Yes-U-Can.” “This is about all the Israelis who really oppose the Occupation — it’s very small. Most of the Israelis don’t care about the Occupation and what goes on in the Occupied Territories and about the suffering of the Palestinians. I think it must come from the — the pressure must come from the outside… From here, there’s not enough.” [continued…]

Editor’s Comment — The Dahaf poll that Max links to here needs to be carefully parsed. First comes the progressive headline: majority of Israelis support Obama’s demand for a settlement freeze. 56% say Netanyahu should acquiesce to Obama’s demands. The problem is, 54% support “natural growth” in settlements. The headline should really be: Israelis think they can have their cake and eat it. They think they can make Obama happy and allow the settlements to grow. They can carry on with business as usual — a settlement freeze that’s melting at the edges.

There should be something instructive for America’s “pro-Israel, pro-peace movement” about witnessing the realism of peace protesters in Tel Aviv. The protesters have no illusions about the sentiment of most Israelis. They don’t pretend they’re speaking for a silent majority. Their blunt message is that Israel can’t save itself. They know that if there remains any possibility that a two-state solution will get implemented, it’s not going to happen by gently coaxing Israel in the right direction. If it’s going to happen, there’s going to be a lot of kicking and screaming and maybe even worse violence.

Can Netanyahu repair the rift with the U.S.?

When an Israeli cabinet minister proposes that his country impose sanctions on the United States, his government is clearly in a state of distress. Pressure from the Obama Administration to freeze Israeli settlement construction and move toward a two-state peace with the Palestinians has reportedly spurred Minister-without-Portfolio Yossi Peled (who belongs to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s own Likud party) to recommended that Israel shop outside the U.S. for aircraft and military hardware, sell sensitive technology to clients disapproved of by Washington, and invite America’s rivals to play a greater role in the Middle East. And if that sounds like chutzpah given the continued U.S. direct aid to Israel — $2.5 billion in military aid this year alone — two Israeli newspapers reported Wednesday that Peled had even proposed that Israel use its influence with some Democratic donors in the U.S. as leverage against Obama’s positions. [continued…]

Commander maps new course in Afghan war

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, in his first interview since being named the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said his front-row seat for the wars there and in Iraq has altered the view of combat he has held since training as a Green Beret to kill enemies quickly and stealthily.

After watching the U.S. try and fail for years to put down insurgencies in both countries, Gen. McChrystal said he believes that to win in Afghanistan, “You’re going to have to convince people, not kill them.

“Since 9/11, I have watched as America tried to first put out this fire with a hammer, and it doesn’t work,” he said last week at his home at Fort McNair in Washington. “Decapitation strategies don’t work.” [continued…]

US senator opens Iran nuclear debate

One of the most senior Democrats in Washington has dismissed a key element in the west’s long standing strategy on Iran’s nuclear programme as “ridiculous”. His comments throw open the debate about how far the US and its partners should go in seeking a compromise with Tehran after on Friday’s presidential election.

John Kerry, chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee and the Democrats’ 2004 presidential nominee, told the Financial Times in an interview that Iran had a right to uranium enrichment – a process that can produce both nuclear fuel and weapons grade material.

The US and the world’s other big powers have repeatedly demanded that Tehran suspend enrichment – a policy pioneered by the former Bush administration that has since been given the force of international law by successive United Nations Security Council resolutions. [continued…]

Some in Qaeda leave Pakistan for Somalia and Yemen

American officials say they are seeing the first evidence that dozens of fighters with Al Qaeda, and a small handful of the terrorist group’s leaders, are moving to Somalia and Yemen from their principal haven in Pakistan’s tribal areas. In communications that are being watched carefully at the Pentagon, the White House and the Central Intelligence Agency, the terrorist groups in all three locations are now communicating more frequently, and apparently trying to coordinate their actions, the officials said.

Some aides to President Obama attribute the moves to pressure from intensified drone attacks against Qaeda operatives in Pakistan, after years of unsuccessful American efforts to dislodge the terrorist group from their haven there.

But there are other possible explanations. Chief among them is the growth of the jihadist campaigns in both Somalia and Yemen, which may now have some of the same appeal for militants that Iraq did after the American military invasion there in 2003. [continued…]

Sentence reduced for Pentagon analyst who leaked to AIPAC officials

A former Pentagon analyst who pled guilty to passing secret information to two former AIPAC staffers had his sentence drastically reduced.

Larry Franklin was sentenced to probation and 10 months of “community confinement,” or a halfway house, along with 100 hours of community service. In 2005, he had received a sentence of 12 and 1/2 years in prison but was free pending his cooperation with prosecutors in the case against the two formers AIPAC staffers, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman.

The charges against those two men for passing classified information were dropped by federal prosecutors last month who said that restrictions the judge had placed on the case made the government unlikely to prevail. [continued…]

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