Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat shake hands on the White House lawn.(Reuters)
Despite President Barack Obama’s tougher line on Israel, particularly regarding West Bank settlements, support for the Jewish state among the U.S. population has rarely been as high as it is now. Gallup found that 63 percent of Americans favor Israel more than the Palestinians. That figure has not been that high since Saddam Hussein attacked Israel in 1991; in the late ‘90s, it dipped below 40 percent.
Sixty-seven percent of Americans are very skeptical that Israel will ever be at peace with its Arab neighbors (or with all of them, anyway), which means a sizable chunk both supports Israel over the Palestinians and thinks Israel will never be at peace.
I’m not sure how much sense that makes. An Israel at peace with its neighbors requires some sort of equitable resolution for the Palestinians. You can think that the lack of peace, and the absence of a Palestinian solution, is overwhelmingly not Israel’s fault, and yet still believe there are better policies Israel could adopt in order to increase the likelihood of peace. Maybe the more useful question is not whom you support between the two sides, but whether you are satisfied with the overall direction.
• We learn that two of the suspected (and allegedly Mossad) assassins of Hamas’s chief weapons man escaped to Iran after the killing. The Scroll will have more on the yet more bizarre mystery later in the day. [NYT]
• In public and private, the Obama administration tsk-tsked Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision to landmark two Biblical sites in Israel-controlled West Bank. [AP/Haaretz]
• Israel has become crucial to California’s Republican primary for the U.S. Senate, with candidate Tom Campbell’s support for the Jewish state being questioned by two rivals. [LAT]
• Now that the New York Times has published a fairly damning story regarding New York Gov. David Paterson and his alleged intervention in a longtime aide’s assault case, it’s worth noting that the lieutenant governor—who would assume the job if Paterson leaves—is Richard Ravitch, a Jew. [NYT]
• Selma G. Hirsh, a longtime staffer and then official at the American Jewish Committee, died at 92. [AP/NYT]
• Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-New York) decries Republican health-care “chutzpah.” It’s really funny (and great, if you happen to agree with Weiner’s analysis).
• Laura Rozen notes a spurt in high-level diplomatic and defense meetings between the United States and Israel. Most notably, Vice President Biden heads there next month. [Laura Rozen]
• Could recent scandals in the ultra-Orthodox community—Tropper, Balkany, Dwek, et al—lead to a waning of the bloc’s political influence? [The Jewish Week]
• Dan Senor, one of the top Jewish foreign policy advisers in the Bush administration, is mulling a Senate run … for Kirsten Gillibrand’s New York seat, also (maybe) to be contested by Mort Zuckerman and Harold Ford. [NY Post]
• The number of anti-Semitic incidents in Canada rose over 11 percent from 2008 to 2009, reaching its highest figure in three decades. False reports alleging Jewish/Israeli organ trafficking were blamed in part. [JTA]
• The family of Rachel Corrie—the American pro-Palestinian activist who was killed by an IDF bulldozer in Gaza in 2003—is suing Israel in Israeli court. An army investigation found that her death was accidental, and that the bulldozers driver did not see her. [JTA]
• Ira Stoll: anti-Semite. (If you know who Ira Stoll is, you know how funny this is.) [JTA]
Iran’s possession of such weapons will sow in Israel a sense of insecurity—and this sense alone will be enough to shatter the glass palace of this illegitimate regime in the Middle East. An Iran with nuclear weapons means an end to the dream of “secure Israel”—and this means the exodus of most of the residents.
To read a timeline of the Dubai killing and its aftermath, click here.
To read last Friday’s update, click here.
To read Monday’s update, click here.
To read yesterday’s update, click here.
The big news today is the Dubai police’s disclosure of 15 additional suspects in the assassination (likely carried out by Mossad) of Hamas weapons man Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, bringing the total to 26. These suspects’ passports—which, according to host countries, were “issued in an illegal and fraudulent manner”—were from Britain, France, Ireland, and (this is a new one) Australia. One of the Australian passports was that of Marcus Korman, who lives in Tel Aviv … and has never been to Dubai. “It’s identity theft—simply unbelievable,” Korman told a reporter.
Yet even as Korman and the others whose passports were forged supply a compelling anti-assassination human interest story, the Jerusalem Postreports that diplomatic tensions related to the incident are falling; Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the whole thing didn’t come up during a lengthy meeting with his European counterparts in Brussels (instead, they discussed Iran and the Palestinians). Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman theorize that European political leaders will be talked out of their anger by European intelligence leaders, who know that Mossad does far more good than harm: “Israeli intelligence can get its contacts in London’s MI6 and Berlin’s BND to put in a good word, pointing to favors Israel regularly does for European security agencies. The Mossad might even unveil dossiers showing how dangerous Hamas is to everyone.”
Raviv and Melman also see no reason to believe this will be Mossad’s final assassination:
Mossad, on the other hand, might well do again what it apparently did in Dubai. The agency would prefer not to—and certainly they would rather choose cities and streets not covered by CCTV systems and competent police forces. But Israel’s spymasters don’t mind being perceived by their enemies as still running “Murder, Inc.” from Warsaw to Bangkok, and from Paris to Dubai. And while they don’t relish risky assassinations, when the target is important enough, Mossad’s chiefs have been known to say, “Nothing is impossible.”
Meanwhile: where previously a couple of Fatah or ex-Fatah folks have been implicated in the plot, now a Hamas man—an associate of al-Mabhouh’s in Syria, in fact—was reportedly arrested by the Syrians on Dubai’s behalf. The man, Mahmoud Nasser, was apparently aware of al-Mabhouh’s plans, and arrived in Dubai shortly before he did. Hamas, on the other hand, denies he was arrested. Well, somebody’s not telling the truth.
Lakshmi in New York in December.(Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)
We hear … and by hear, I mean read in Page Six … that the mystery baby-daddy of former model, Salman Rushdie ex, and Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi is may be Adam Dell, the younger brother of Dell founder and CEO Michael Dell. Dell, who was raised Jewish in Houston, is reportedly going to play a fatherly role to Krishna Thea Lakshmi, who was born Saturday (UPDATE: her actual biological father is unconfirmed). So, mazel tov to both parents.
If the story of the Mahmoud al-Mahbouh assassination leaves you wanting more cloak-and-dagger spy stuff, Haaretz broke a much-buzzed-about story today revealing that the Israeli security service’s best informant within Hamas during the early-2000s Second Intifada was the son of one of Hamas’s founders and top officials.
Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, left the West Bank a few years ago and now lives in California as a Christian. But several years before, he was known in Shin Bet as “The Green Prince”; information he gave them led to the arrests of a number of powerful Palestinian military leaders, including notorious terrorist Marwan Barghouti. (Yousef is only 32 now; that would have made him only 18 when he was first held by Shin Bet and began to cooperate.)
Yousef’s zeal of the converted extends beyond his religion, as he tells Haaretz:
Hamas cannot make peace with the Israelis. That is against what their God tells them. It is impossible to make peace with infidels, only a cease-fire, and no one knows that better than I. … They do not hesitate to massacre people in a mosque or to throw people from the 15th or 17th floor of a building, as they did during the coup in Gaza. The Israelis would never do such things. I tell you with certainty that the Israelis care about the Palestinians far more than the Hamas or Fatah leadership does.
Hamas and the Yousef family, which resides in Ramallah (interestingly, not in Hamas-controlled Gaza), have returned the compliment, claiming the story is incorrect and libelous.
Every Wednesday, Senior Writer Allison Hoffman recaps the previous night’s episode of the glory that isMillionaire Matchmaker.
Good news! Bravo reran the season premiere of Millionaire Matchmaker last night—presumably in an effort to get us all to watch the twirling Olympic sprites on parent network NBC—which gives us the chance to fill in a little blank in the recap archive. So, sit back and listen to the ballad of Nick and Omar.
Nick Friedman (yes, he’s Jewish) and Omar Soliman are definitely pretty-lookin’ people; so pretty-lookin’, in fact, that their multimillion-dollar business is called College Hunks Hauling Junk. They’re high-school buddies who, at 27, have blossomed into entrepreneurs, though it probably didn’t hurt that their high school was Sidwell Friends, one of the most prestigious prep schools in Washington, D.C., where their classmates included Chelsea Clinton and Al Gore III. But they’ve clearly worked hard to build the brand, and now deserve to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Enter Patti Stanger, the titular Matchmaker, who knows from fruit: she’s getting nachas in heaven, and nachas in life. In this case, “nachas” means a sparkly new four-carat diamond ring her fiancé, Andy Friedman (no relation to Nick, we think), picked up for her in Israel. (“It’s a non-conflict stone,” Patti toldPeople).
But the true do-gooder—as profiled by the Daily Beast—needs no rest; she’s got work to do, too. See, Omar is a freak about women wanting him for his money, and Nick is a little immature. Also, they live in Tampa. Ick!
Luckily, Omar’s uncle has a house in L.A., and the boys have flown in. First up, Omar: he’s half-Egyptian and half-Italian, he’s clean-cut, and he has a Maserati. W00t! But, not so fast. See, his idea of a dream date is “Take Your Girl to Work Day.” Like, he wants her to haul junk with him. Like, actual trash. “If you’re testing girls that way, this is the reason you’re single,” Patti tells him. She suggests he take his girl on a hot-air balloon ride, because of some crackpot theory about how thin air gets the love pheromones pumping.
Next, Nick. This boy, who grew up in leafy northwest D.C. and went to Pomona College in California, shows up in his audition video speaking fluent faux-thug. Patti is appalled. “You’re JEWISH,” she shouts. Nick didn’t want to be on the show—he’s just supporting his boy Omar, who needs serious help. Although, he says, some of his friends have gotten engaged recently. And, he admits, his mom does harass him about his dating “Barbie dolls” who aren’t smart enough for him. Patti decides to break him of his bimbo addiction. No sex before monogamy, she intones. Nick’s eyes bulge out of his head. See, he’s got franchises all over the country, and monogamy isn’t part of that business model.
Patti skitters off to find these two some girls. For Omar, she picks Rachel, a pretty brunette who “radiates exotic sensuality.” For Nick, there’s Dakota, a German-Puerto Rican choreographer who’s a few years older. On to the mixer! Everyone’s cleaned up nicely, but—oh, no. Nick didn’t get his hair cut! “This is my Greek-god, Julius Caesar hair,” he insists. “It’s a Jewfro, man!” Patti retorts. Thankfully, you can get lots of things delivered in L.A. these days, including haircuts; stylist Tiffany shows up and solves the problem.
Newly shorn, Nick flourishes, like a reverse Samson. There he is, rollin’ in a bright-red Bentley! Now he’s taking his girl to the Hollywood sign! Here they are at Kress! And, what? Dakota isn’t in a relationship because she’s always traveling for work? “Well, to be honest, that’s probably better for me, because that’s how my life is,” Nick says. And then he promptly sticks his tongue down her throat.
Meanwhile, Omar. Silly Omar ignored Patti and picked up exotic, sensual Rachel in a garbage truck. “You’re the hottest hunk I’ve ever seen,” Omar says. “Tha-anks,” replies Rachel, slipping a bright green suit on over her cocktail dress. And off they go to work. There’s something winning about Omar’s relentless naïveté. “It’s been a while since I’ve been out in the field,” he admits. “I kind of forgot how bad it can be.” How bad can it be? Well, he shatters a big-screen TV, and he admits that that was wrong of him. “This freakin’ sucks,” he observes. But Rachel proves she is a good sport, and she is rewarded with dinner at Il Cielo in Beverly Hills. Unfortunately, she does not return the favor: it is an early night for the two. “Going to dinner with Omar felt like a guy friend,” Rachel tells the camera. And Omar starts asking the right questions: “Am I just an idiot?” he wonders. Well, Omar, yes.
Today in Tablet Magazine, Josh Lambert looks at Playboy’s golden years, and finds that many of the editors responsible for making it smart and sophisticated were Jewish. Mideast columnist Lee Smith responds to Flynt and Hillary Mann Leveretts’ retorts against him with brand-new reporting that casts them as much closer to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard than they claim. It’s worth reading The Scroll for more than just the pictures of naked women.
In last week’s Jewish Week, James Besser expressed concern that the rise of the right-wing Tea Party movement within the Republican Party could cause the GOP real problems with minority voters—including, and maybe especially, Jews—once the Tea Partiers moved beyond taxes and health care and into social issues. A number of political scientists agreed. One argued:
This is bad news for Jewish Republicans. The Tea Party movement hearkens back to the old anti-immigration movement, to the Ku Klux Klan, to the George Wallace movement in the 1960s. Lurking behind all of these was the idea of 100 percent “pure” Americanism—and of taking America back from the “outsiders.”
The Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman told Besser, “It’s not a danger at the moment, but it bears watching.”
Well, those watching last weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference will have noticed, as Besser did, that the potential presidential candidate favored by attendees in a straw poll was … Texas Rep. Ron Paul (Mitt Romney won second; Sarah Palin came in a distant third).
Forget the cultural cues that infamously makes Jews “hate” Palin. Paul opposes sanctions on Iran and aid to Israel, and has compared Gaza to a “concentration camp.”
“Yes I know,” Besser concludes,
the tea party movement is a big, churning and somewhat diverse collection of people, including some conservatives who think Israel is cool.
But as almost all the political scientists I talked to said, the insurgent movement also includes elements that are likely to scare the heck out of Jewish voters.
At least regarding his extreme-isolationist foreign policy views, Paul is probably not exactly whom Besser was talking about. He represents a totally different type of knot.
• Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile defense system seems wonderful in theory, but it’s not perfect yet still costly, and is therefore stirring controversy. [LAT]
• Dubai has 15 new suspects in the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, all of whom carried European or—in a new twist—Australian passports. The Scroll will have a full update later today. [Ynet]
• The Los Angeles Times press critic argues that New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner should be kept in his job—and not booted since his son joined the IDF—because he is a scrupulous writer and reporter. [LAT]
• It turns out that Israel’s most valuable Palestinian informant during the Second Intifada was the son of a prominent Hamas founder and official. [Haaretz]
• At least one Palestinian group has vowed to resume attacks in Israel in response to the landmarking of Abraham’s and Rachel’s tombs. [Ynet]
• Jewish-American leader Mortimer B. Zuckerman continued maneuvers toward running for Senate from New York as a Republican. [NYT]
• An Arab League-backed resolution to give Israel and Hamas five-month extensions to complete probes recommended by the Goldstone Report is expected to pass the U.N. General Assembly. Israel opposes any further investigation into its conduct during the 2009 Gaza War. [JPost]
• Columnist Anne Applebaum considers what the consequences for America would be if Israel bombed Iranian nuclear facilities. [Slate]
• The Palestinian Authority took credit for thwarting an Islamic Jihad-sponsored suicide attack on Israel last month. [Haaretz]
• Erwin Chemerinsky, the University of California-Irvine law school’s founding dean and a First Amendment scholar, holds that those students who disrupted Ambassador Michael Oren’s lecture at the university are not protected by free-speech guarantees. [Jewlicious]
• Charlie White, a Jewish-American skater, took the ice-dancing silver medal last night in Vancouver. [JTA]
• A columnist posits that international recognition of Palestinian statehood should be considered, not as the culmination of independence, but rather as an early, “constructive” step on the road there. [IHT]
To read a timeline of the Dubai killing and its aftermath, click here.
To read last Friday’s update, click here.
To read yesterday’s update, click here.
Some of the biggest news broken today about the Dubai assassination of Hamas weapons man Mahmoud al-Mabhouh comes courtesy Judith Miller, who reported in Tablet Magazine that Mossad tried to kill al-Mabhouh (at least) twice before. She also placed the successful plot in the context of Mossad’s general policy of terrorist and terrorist-sponsor assassination, as did the Los Angeles Times, which concluded: “The policy is not likely to change, analysts and diplomats say, because such killings, from Israel’s point of view, have proved effective in fighting a nonconventional enemy. And despite legal questions and international backlash, Israel has usually emerged unscathed.”
But this just may have scathed it. While plenty in both the Israeli and British presses have celebrated Mossad’s “““““alleged””””” killing, there are at least six people who are not so happy: those folks, all with dual British-Israeli citizenship, whose faked passports were used by the assassins “were completely unaware of this abuse,” notesDer Spiegel. “They are shocked and are demanding an investigation.” The European Union condemned the faked passports, though its official statement did not mention Israel. Oh, and Iran used the occasion to argue, “Israel’s existence is itself based on terrorist activities.” But it does that every Tuesday.
Some may have called for Mossad chief Meir Dagan to step down, but he is way too important to Israel’s low-temperature conflict with Iran to be sacked. In Israel, the plot may on some level be controversial, but opposition leader Tzipi Livni rallied around the flag: “that a terrorist was killed, and it doesn’t matter if it was in Dubai or Gaza, is good news,” she said.
Is that true? In Slate, Shmuel Rosner says it’s too soon to tell if al-Mabhouh’s death is worth the ostensible hit Mossad is taking to its reputation. And Der Spiegel—whose lengthy treatment of the story is amply worth your time if you’ve read this far—makes a great point:
Mossad was apparently prepared to accept the possibility that the identities of its agents would be revealed. In fact, it was even willing to jeopardize the security of Israel’s own citizens, whose very protection it cites as justification for its actions. … the death of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh must have been very important to Jerusalem.
Angrily responding to an article in the prior issue of Foreign Policy, former President Jimmy Carter—who helped orchestrate the Camp David agreement with Egypt, and in recent years has emerged as an especially staunch critic of Israel—offers this apologia pro vita sua regarding his presidency’s Israel policy:
There was no pressure on me to launch a peace initiative in the Middle East, but I did so from my first days in office. I realized that there had been four wars against Israel during the preceding quarter-century, with Egypt being the only Arab force that was strong enough to be a real threat. At Camp David and during the following weeks, we negotiated a resolution to the Palestinian issue and a treaty of peace early in 1979 between Egypt and Israel. Although written commitments to the Palestinians have not been honored, not a word of the peace treaty has been broken. Tragically, there has been little if any real progress since that time.
In writing that final sentence, Carter must not be including Israel’s similar peace deal with Jordan, in 1993. Still, and if nothing else, the following is true: at no time since 1979, at the least, has there been greater international consensus and hope for an independent Palestinian state. If Carter thinks that shouldn’t count as “real progress,” then I hope his objection is merely a semantic one.
The Jewish Review of Books just published its inaugural issue, and the new quarterly journal looks to be worth bookmarking. In name, content, and even look, its clear inspiration is the New York Review of Books; like that venerable publication, it consists of extended essays on books and ideas by leading intellectual lights. Only, you know, it’s all Jewish.
• Tablet Magazine book critic Adam Kirsch reviews36 Arguments for the Existence of God, a new novel from Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, who is also the author of Nextbook Press’s Betraying Spinoza (got all that?).
• Hillel Halkin—author of Nextbook Press’s brand-spankin’-new biography of Yehuda Halevi—considers a new American Orthodox siddur.
• Ron Rosenbaum discusses Bob Dylan as an explicitly Jewish figure.
• Michael Weingrad interrogates why, amid a sea of Christian allegories, there are few if any good Jewish-inspired fantasy novels.
• Harvey Pekar and Tara Seibel offer a graphic review of comic artist R. Crumb’s Book of Genesis.