Israel Fears Foreign Secretary Clegg

Left-wing politico may be top U.K. diplomat

Clegg campaigning in Liverpool, England, yesterday.(Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The heated British elections are tomorrow, and with the out-of-nowhere Liberal Democrats still looking strong, Israeli officials have (unofficially) began to worry that, should neither the (leading) Conservative nor (incumbent but ailing) Labour Parties gain an outright majority of Parliamentary seats, one of the two will have to bring the Lib Dems into a coalition. And that, in turn, would likely make Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg—the most left-wing of the three major party leaders—the foreign minister. Much to the Israeli government’s chagrin.

Weeks ago, the Financial Times argued that Clegg (whom the Times profiled today) would likely be the foreign minister (or secretary of state, in American English). Junior coalition partners in other European countries frequently receive the foreign ministry. But new reports yesterday confirmed that the Lib Dems would demand six ministerial posts, including the Foreign Office, in exchange for serving as a coalition’s junior partner.

The problem, as Israel sees it, is that Clegg—potentially Britain’s chief diplomat—has severely criticized Israel over Operation Cast Lead and the subsequent Gaza blockade; at one point called on European countries to stop selling Israel weapons; and, maybe worst of all, is seen as overly soft on Iran. (Incidentally, a Clegg-run foreign ministry would also probably see a slightly less strong British-American alliance.)

As things stand now, the Tories have a decent chance at capturing an outright majority of Parliamentary seats, which would all but completely foreclose a major Lib Dem role in the government. However, if Tories fail to get a House of Commons majority (and if Labour, a longer shot, fails to as well), look for the Tories or Labour to secure the prime ministership by allowing a comparatively marginal party to run the country’s foreign policy. You know, like Israel’s government does.

A Worried Jerusalem Watches the Rise of Nick Clegg
Earlier: British Election Is Actually Kind Of Thrilling

Daybreak: Hopefully, They Didn’t Start the Fire

Plus de-linking ‘linkage,’ non-Ambassador Dershowitz, and more in the news

Professor Dershowitz in 1996.(Evan Agostini/Getty Images)

• Palestinian leadership warned that a West Bank mosque fire yesterday could threaten the planned proximity talks. Many Palestinians believe Israeli settlers lit the flame; Israeli authorities are not yet convinced the cause was arson. [NYT]

• Before departing New York, President Ahmadinejad pledged that new sanctions wouldn’t halt Iran’s nuclear development—though they will, he added, kill any chance at reconciliation with the United States. [WSJ]

• Both Egypt and Jordan argued that a nuclear-free Mideast, which a 1995 U.N. resolution calls for, would make dealing with Iran easier. The only (unofficially) nuclear state in the Mideast is, of course, Israel. [JPost]

• President Obama had lunch at the White House with Elie Wiesel yesterday, in what is being seens as the most blatant symbol yet of the administration’s “charm offensive” toward American Jews and Israelis. [NYT]

• More charm: An Obama national security official assured the Anti-Defamation League that the administration does not overly “link” the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to others in the region. [Jeffrey Goldberg]

• Israel reportedly tried and failed to convince Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz to make aliyah and serve as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations. [JTA/Forward]

Sundown: Recapturing a Lost Berlin

Plus the ‘schmuck’ wars, Boca in Japanese, and more


• Prompted by a newly translated German novel, Roger Cohen imagines what it would have been like to be a Jew in Berlin when the Nazis came to power. [NYT]

• Israeli painter Avigdor Arikha, a Holocaust survivor who went on to become one of the world’s foremost figurative painters, died at 81. [JTA/Forward]

• A Yiddish word—you know it as “schmuck”—has become ensnared in a controversial movie-naming story. [NYT]

• The untold tale of the planned early-20th-century Japanese utopia in … Boca. [The Smart Set]

• The latest graphic novel from James Sturm, a recent Vox Tablet guest, gets “Lowbrow-Brilliant” treatment on the Approval Matrix. [NYMag]

• Contributing editor Joshua Cohen’s massive new novel Witz gets a tiny (but positive!) blurb. [The New Yorker]

Tonight, on ESPN’s E:60 at 7 pm E.S.T., a report on Yuri Foreman. Here’s the trailer:

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Iran?

Elliott Abrams wants ‘crippling sanctions’ … for now

Elliott Abrams.(Council on Foreign Relations)

Yesterday, with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “dominating” the first day of a United Nations conference on nuclear arms reduction just a few blocks up the street, three experts on the Iranian president’s ambitions—including Elliott Abrams, the influential Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush foreign policy adviser recently profiled by Tablet Magazine—took the stage at Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women to discuss “What to Do About Iran’s Nuclear Program.”

Although Abrams is best known as an architect of neoconservative foreign policy, he, along with Robin Wright, a veteran foreign affairs journalist, and David Albright, an authority on the technical side of nuclear weaponry, all spoke with the profound intellectual ambivalence of chessmasters facing an equally brilliant opponent. “It’s hard to believe that Iran’s not making nuclear weapons, but it’s very hard to prove that Iran is making nuclear weapons,” Albright admitted. And the point at which the United States will decide to take stronger action against Ahmadinejad’s regime, he added, will likely be the point at which we can no longer say with certainty that Iran does not have nukes. It’s the kind of Schrödinger’s cat scenario that gave schoolchildren and senior policy analysts anxiety attacks during the Cold War.

No one on stage was itching for either an immediate U.S. or Israeli military strike on Iran, though Abrams, more than the others, argued that such a strike could eventually become the best available option. Even Abrams maintained that, for now, a window remains open for the U.N. Security Council to impose “crippling sanctions” on Iran—essentially, stopping the country from exporting oil and importing petroleum—in a bid to stoke government-toppling unrest among Iran’s civilians. But that window is closing, Abrams noted: “They don’t talk about ‘crippling sanctions’ anymore—they talk about ‘sanctions that bite.’ But I can tell you, what’s going to come out of the Security Council is sanctions that nibble.”

Ultimately, the crowd seemed to have a much clearer opinion of “What to Do About Iran’s Nuclear Program” than the speakers did. The panelists, seated beneath twin American and Israeli flags, only occasionally brought up Israel, and when they did, they discussed it as just one of several important players in the Iranian nukes game. But every time the prospect of an Israeli military strike came up, the crowd cheered. The garrulous man sitting next to me, a retired civil servant named Michael Kirmayer who wore a “Friends of the IDF” cap and wristbands calling for the release of Gilad Shalit, knew exactly what ought to be done: bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran. “Bush wanted to do it, but was stopped by liberal left anti-Israel people,” he told me. “I have no question,” he added, “that Obama’s not qualified or competent to be president of this country.”

I’ll take Elliott Abrams any day.

Related: The Shadow Viceroy [Tablet Magazine]

Obama Leaves ‘Our Lord’ Out of It

Stays squarely in the Common Era


This is actually awesome. You would be hard-pressed to find a young Jewish boy or girl who didn’t at some point look at a parent’s diploma and wonder why it had to use the words, “In the Year of Our Lord,” given that Hhe really isn’t everyone’s Llord. (A.D. has the same problem, standing for “Anno Domini,” the Latin original of ITYOOL.)

Which is why, in this blogger’s opinion, it was super-cool of the Obama administration to omit any reference to the Christian divine in its announcement of Jewish Heritage Month. Instead, it merely said “in the year two thousand ten.” In addition to being more sensitive, it’s also more accurate: As pedantic Jews like me never tire of pointing out, Jesus Christ was actually born in 5 B.C.—that is, Before Christ. Which, come to think of it, would constitute something of a miracle.

White House Drops Christian Dating for Jewish Proclamation
[Ben Smith]
Earlier: Happy Jewish Heritage Month!

Bravo Airs Kid’s Comment About Sidecurls

‘Real Housewives’ daughter won’t marry a Jew. Her loss!


The first episode of the second season of Bravo’s Real Housewives of New Jersey aired last night, with some controversy. The daughter of one of the titular femmes made an … interesting comment about her future romantic prospects. After her grandmother instructs Gia, 9, that she is going to marry an Italian man, Teresa, her mother, suggests she marry a Jew—she hears Jewish guys bow down to their wives. (That sound you hear is a thousand sarcastic comments.) Gia responds by saying she doesn’t want to marry a Jewish guy, and “goes on to make a gesture mocking Hasidic Jews’ long, curly hair.”

In an interview last month, Teresa told folks to lay off her child—or, at least, to lay off herself: “I can’t control what my daughter says,” she pleaded. “Kids say dumb things … what, am I going to be crucified for it?” Get it: Crucified? Like Jesus, that Jew!

Of course, kids say the darndest things, but television shows don’t necessarily air them—or specifically select them to be sent to media outlets before the season even begins. “I was a little surprised last night that the comment was left in,” noted one viewer, who may or may not be my mom. “Surely they have enough footage that it could have been left out. I think it speaks as much about the producers as the Housewives (and I’m pretty sure Andy Cohen is one of the producers).”

NJ Housewife Teresa Giudice Defends Daughter’s Racist Comments [Reality Tea]

Kent State, Forty Years Later

Three of four victims were Jews

Famous photo from that day. The dead student is Jeffrey Miller, who was Jewish.(Forward)

On May 4, 1970, four unarmed students at Vietnam War protests at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, were killed by National Guardsmen. The Forward helpfully reminds us that three of these four were Jewish.

Incidentally, two of the victims (one of them Jewish) were not actually protesters; they were bystanders. Those were slightly crazy times.

Remembering Kent State as an American Tragedy With a Jewish Face [Forward]

Today in Tablet

Merkin delves into a psychologist’s past, and more in the news


Today in Tablet Magazine, contributing editor Daphne Merkin remembers Alice Miller, a psychologist whose speciality was childhood trauma—perhaps because she herself was born in prewar Lvov, Poland (and what happened next isn’t entirely clear). Books critic Adam Kirsch lauds Jennifer Gilmore’s new novel, a carnivalesque depiction of late-1970s campus protests. If you ever want The Scroll to parody even more ridiculous late-2000s campus protests, just ask.

John Mearsheimer Has Got a Little List

‘Israel Lobby’ co-author names ‘New Afrikaners,’ ‘Righteous Jews’

Professor John J. Mearsheimer.(University of Chicago)

Last Friday at The Palestine Center in Washington, D.C., Professor John J. Mearsheimer opined that the two-state solution is a “fantasy,” and predicted that the Palestinian territories “will be incorporated into a ‘Greater Israel,’ which will be an apartheid state bearing a marked resemblance to white-ruled South Africa.” This will, in turn, become “a democratic bi-national state, whose politics will be dominated by its Palestinian citizens. In other words, it will cease being a Jewish state, which will mean the end of the Zionist dream.”

But that, actually, wasn’t the controversial part of this speech by the already-controversial co-author of The Israel Lobby (the book which postulates that an overwhelmingly Jewish lobby influences American Israel policy in a way that harms U.S. interests). Even if you don’t agree with this stuff, you should learn to get used to it. The one-state solution has been amply and eloquently advocated for; even Israel’s own defense minister has used the “a” word.

No, what has gotten various folks’ collective goat was Mearsheimer’s decision to divide Jewish Americans into three groups: “New Afrikaners,” “who will support Israel even if it is an apartheid state”; “the great ambivalent middle,” which is what it sounds like; and “Righteous Jews,” who “believe that self-determination applies to Palestinians as well as Jews.” It’s this part of the speech that Jeffrey Goldberg compared to something out of Father Coughlin. And, I mean, ‘Righteous Jews’? Even if that’s not some sort of analogy to ‘Righteous Gentiles,’ Mearsheimer can kind of go to hell.


Daybreak: Bibi the Shuttling Diplomat

Plus Wiesel dines Chez Obama, Mideast nukes, and more in the news

Elie Wiesel last December.(Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

• President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu talk about the talks. [JPost]

• Netanyahu and Egyptian President Mubarak talk about the talks. Oh, and everyone is lowering expectations. [NYT]

• Tacit U.S. acceptance of Israeli nuclear weapons despite the Mideast’s ostensibly being a nuke-free zone has made it more difficult to fight Iranian and also Egyptian proliferation. [WP]

• Three assailants vandalized a synagogue in Nîmes, France, and hurled tear gas at a senior Jewish man, on Sunday. This was two days after a Jewish man was stabbed in front of a synagogue in downtown Strasbourg. [NYT]

• In a column critical of Obama, Jackson Diehl notes, regarding Israel (and Afghanistan), “Quiet diplomacy by the administration’s special envoys … has achieved what presidential lectures did not.” [WP]

• Elie Wiesel will have lunch at the White House today. And you thought the “charm offensive” was just a series of coincidences! [JTA]

Sundown: A’Jad Walked Out On

Plus realists rising, Patti is right, and more


• At the U.N. General Assembly, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for universal nuclear disarmament, and accused “the Zionist regime” (hint: he doesn’t mean Laos) of violating what should be his country’s nuke-free region. The British, French, and U.S. representatives all conspicuously left in the middle of his speech.* [WSJ]

• Prominent foreign policy realists Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski, whom the Obama administration first embraced and later backed away from over Israel, were spotted chatting with super-influential administration adviser Denis McDonough at last weekend’s White House Correspondents Association dinner. [Ben Smith]

• The American Jewish Committee has a new president, named Robert Elman. Rumor is he is himself Jewish. [JTA]

• Paul Berman’s Flight of the Intellectuals gets a rave in the Times. Tablet Magazine interviewed Berman a couple months ago about his book’s subject, Tariq Ramadan. [NYT]

Memoirist Kai Bird on growing up in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. [NYT]

• Patti Stanger advises young women to smile more, and whaddya know? It works! [Crushable]

Orthodox divorce: the pop-punk version.

*An Anti-Defamation League press release I just got praised those countries whose representatives walked out on A’jad: “Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Morocco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and the United Kingdom.” Oh, and, “Canada reportedly boycotted the speech from the outset.”

Polanski Speaks

Director issues first self-defense since arrest

Polanski in Paris last year.(Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

Roman Polanski today released his first statement since last September, when he was arrested in Switzerland over an extradition request regarding infamous decades-old rape charges. (The statement has been circulated primarily by famed French intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy, whose lifelong commitment to the New Philosophy and left-wing principles compels him to stand up for a man who has admitted to having sex with a drugged-up 13-year-old.) The famed director, who as a boy survived the Krakow Ghetto, declares, “I can remain silent no longer because the request for my extradition
addressed to the Swiss authorities is founded on a lie.” You can read the whole thing here.

Polanski Breaks Long Silence on His Extradition [NYT]

How the Obama-ites Are Redefining Judaism

Much to learn from NYT’s ’20-Somethings’

The White House Seder.(NYT)

If you got to the end of yesterday’s New York Times Magazine feature on the “Obama 20-Somethings”—a fawning but, if you like this sort of thing, irresistible portrait of the social lives of the administration’s young staffers—you may have had your suspicions confirmed that, regarding the Jew-factor, this crew is somewhere between the Freedom Riders and Camp Ramah. To wit:

Eric Lesser looked out over the containers of Thai carryout, the bottles of wine and the Shabbat candles. ‘Should we do Shalom Aleichem?’ he asked, and the whole table began singing a warbled but hearty version of the song that welcomes Shabbat. In Lesser’s group house of Obama staff assistants, Friday-night Shabbat dinners have become something of a ritual, a chance to relax and spend a few hours with friends.


At the Doctor’s Office

An old Jew tells a joke


Today’s joke is short and sweet. Not unlike other things.

Obama’s Non-Campaign Against Bibi

Sometimes criticism is just criticism

Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday.(Lior Mizrahi/AFP/Getty Images)

The Bulletin, a Philadelphia-area newspaper, on Sunday gave the broadest airing I’ve yet seen of the theory (which I first saw floated by Jeffrey Goldberg) that the Obama Administration is actively, consciously seeking to undermine Prime Minister Netanyahu in order to have him lose his grip on power and be replaced with, presumably, a government more amenable to U.S. demands. Centers of this new strategy include former Clinton Administration Ambassador Martin Indyk and one-time negotiator Aaron David Miller (whom Lee Smith profiled last week).

Problem is, the tensions of March have since given way to the lovefest of April and May: steadfast praise and declared support for Israel from all quarters of the Administration; a rolling out of the red carpet for Defense Minister Ehud Barak last week; and a general aura of better times. A cynic would note that the Administration’s earlier condemnations only buttressed Netanyahu domestically, as Israelis rallied ‘round the flag. Still, the current era of good feeling is probably dispositive of the theory of a concerted Administration effort to topple Bibi. Only when Obama starts saying nice things about opposition leader Tzipi Livni will it have legs. That is what you should be on the lookout for—though I suspect you’ll probably end up disappointed.

Is Obama Moving To Topple Israel’s Prime Minister? [The Bulletin] (via Vos Iz Neias?)
Related: Religion of Yes [Tablet Magazine]

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