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Op-Eds Duel Over Netanyahu’s Freeze

East Jerusalem is central, and not just geographically

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Barghouti in Ramallah in April, 2007.(Jamal Aruri.AFP/Getty Images)

Two op-eds appearing side-by-side this morning in the International Herald Tribune illustrate how peace in the Middle East could make real progress in the near future—and how the current settlement freeze’s failure to include East Jerusalem might doom this opportunity.

Mustafa Barghouti, the highly respected Palestinian politician, accuses the current Israeli government of intransigence (in an accusation we haven’t seen before, he claims that Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman leaves the room whenever U.S. Envoy George Mitchell mentions East Jerusalem) and the Obama administration of weakness. He carefully advocates continued nonviolent Palestinian protest, while disdaining a settlement freeze that does not explicitly include East Jerusalem. “Eventually,” he concludes, “we will be free in our own country, either within the two-state solution or in a new integrated state.”

On the other side, former Labor Party prime ministerial spokesperson Uri Dromi comes to praise Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, not to bury him, and to ask Israelis to get behind him. The West Bank settlement freeze and the increased proximity of a deal for captured soldier Gilad Shalit are evidence, Dromi argues, of Netanyahu’s successful balancing among a United States anxious for peace, a Likud Party skeptical of Palestinian goodwill, and a demographic reality that will soon see Israel “either lose its Jewish identity or become an apartheid state.”

Evidence suggests that the Palestinians are trying to lay favorable groundwork—see: a full construction freeze, including in East Jerusalem—for new talks. Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas asserted that peace can happen in six months … if Israel imposes a total construction freeze outside the Green Line. Palestinian and Egyptian negotiators also leaked a maybe-true report that Egypt, France, and the United States have asked Israel for a full five-month freeze; America quickly denied the report. So, in conclusion, East Jerusalem is the most ostentatious stumbling-block. That is, unless you count another issue, one that neither op-ed even slightly engaged with: Hamas-controlled Gaza.

When Will It Be Our Time? [IHT]
Netanyahu’s High-Wire Act [IHT]
Abbas to ‘Haaretz’: Peace Possible in Six Months if Israel Freezes All Settlements
U.S. Official Denies Report of New Settlement Deal [Ben Smith]

This is What a Bullet-Riddled Laptop Looks Like

Israel is reimbursing American tourist

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Below, an interview with Lily Sussman, the American tourist whose laptop is a bit dinged up after Israeli border security put three bullets through it. A lot of good shots of the corpse included. Israel is reimbursing her.

Israeli Authorities Will Reimburse Girl After Shooting Holes Through Her Laptop [Gizmodo]

Palin and Huckabee Use Settlements to Set Themselves Apart

Top Jewish Republican strategist explains issue’s appeal

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Noam Neusner, a former speechwriter and Jewish liason for President George W. Bush, has a theory (in the Forward) for why Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee, two possible 2012 Republican presidential candidates, have opposed a West Bank settlement freeze more vociferously and more loudly than even many of their Republican rivals:

their focus on settlements could also be seen as a calculated political move to distinguish themselves from the Republican pack. With virtually the entire Congress—Democrats and Republicans—reliably lining up to support Israel on the easy stuff, you can’t make your mark unless you take on the hard stuff and go further than anyone else.

Palin and Huckabee may also genuinely believe that a settlement freeze is as dangerous as they say. Still, it’s worth distinguishing the robustness of their opposition from that of other potential Republican candidates, who, says Neusner, “have found a way to take issue with the Obama administration’s stance on settlements without climbing out on the limb that Huckabee and Palin have.” For example, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the minority whip, has simply called the whole settlement issue a “distraction” from the more important matter of Iran’s nuclear program. Cantor probably does not need to make quite the same effort to distinguish himself on Middle East concerns, particularly among voters who share his Jewish faith.

Why Palin and Huckabee Dig Settlements [Forward]

A First-Hand Account of Barack and Michelle’s Hanukkah Party

Tablet author lit menorah last night

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The Buckholtzes and the Obamas last night at the White House.(White House Flickr)

To the left is Alison Buckholtz and Ethan and Esther Moran, the wife, son, and daughter of a Jewish Navy pilot currently serving in Iraq. In case you could not tell, they are at the White House, to which they had been invited yesterday to light the menorah for Hanukkah’s sixth night. Buckholtz wrote about being a mother in a wartime military family in her book, Standing By, as well as for Tablet Magazine. This morning, she spoke with The Scroll about her family’s “magical,” “dream-like” evening.

For Ethan, 6, and Esther, 4, Buckholtz related, the highlight was meeting Sasha, Malia, and especially Bo, the world’ s most famous Portuguese Water Dog (“he’s very soft,” Buckholtz said). For Buckholtz, though, the real privilege was “to meet the people who make the decisions about our lives, and really see they have a deep understanding for the challenges military families face during wartime.” The President and the First Lady knew who her husband was, where he was stationed, and for how long, she reported; Vice President Biden, meanwhile, spoke movingly about his own son, Beau Biden, who until recently was deployed to Iraq. “It gave me a lot of comfort, and it gave me confidence, knowing these people really do appreciate the sacrifice,” she said.

Buckholtz lit the shamash, the central lead candle; her son lit the first three; and her daughter the second three (“thank God there was an even number!”). At the reception, Buckholtz met several other guests, including senior adviser David Axelrod. Despite recent controversy over his position on health-care reform, everyone seemed to want to talk to Sen. and Mrs. Lieberman, Buckholtz said. Finally, early this morning, Buckholtz’s husband, Scott, was able to call from Baghdad. She told him all about the event, and then they wished each other a happy eighth anniversary—it, too, was yesterday.

Related: Onward, Jewish Soldiers! [Tablet Magazine]
Standing By: The Making of an American Military Family in a Time of War
Obama Opens Jewish Holiday Fete [Politico]
White House Koshers Its Kitchen for Obama Hanukkah Party [Daily Flotus]

Today on Tablet

Levy the wrestler, olives for Hanukkah

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Today in Tablet Magazine, Eddy Portnoy profiles long-gone wrestler Martin “the Blimp” Levy, who weighed in at over 600 pounds yet could display surprising grace—“a freak with class,” his manager said. Ruth Ellen Gruber ponders the juxtaposition of Hanukkah and olive-harvest season at her grove in Umbria, Italy. From our archives, Ben Birnbaum remembers Brooklyn Hanukkahs growing up, set against the backdrop of his parents’ marriage’s dissolution. We will try to highlight at least some happier things today on The Scroll.

Daybreak: The Land Swap That Never Was

Plus Iran test-launches and Germany donates to Auschwitz, and more in the news

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Haaretz uncovers the deal then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered the Palestinians over one year ago: in exchange for the small part of the West Bank home to 75 percent of the territory’s Israelis, he would have given up nearly as much of Israel proper in areas bordering Gaza, as well as a safe-passage route from Gaza to Hebron. [Haaretz]
• Iran test-launched an improved version of its most sophisticated missile, provoking international condemnation. Fired from Iran, the Sajjil-2 can reach parts of Europe, as well as Israel. [WP]
• This morning, Israeli officials arriving in the West Bank settlement of Talmon to monitor the construction freeze were met with somewhat violent resistance from settlers. [JPost]
• After months of negotiations, Germany agreed to contribute over $87 million to the upkeep of the memorial at Auschwitz, in Poland. [WSJ]
• Britain’s highest court struck down a North London Jewish day school’s admissions policy of judging an applicant’s Jewishness by the traditional test of whether his or her mother is Jewish. [NYT]

Sundown: A Screaming Comes Across the Gaza Sky

Plus new Hanukkah music and Ah-nuld does the Hora

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• Despite a Hamas-declared moratorium on such attacks, missiles have been launched from Gaza twice in the past week; today, one hit the Israeli town of Sderot, causing no casualties. [Haaretz]
• A list of updated takes on Hanukkah songs includes a link to Sen. Orrin Hatch’s “’gift’” for Tablet Magazine (though we’re not sure what to make of the scare-quotes placed around “gift”). [T Magazine]
• Ninety-nine percent of the West Bank land area under Palestinian control is still closed to construction by Israeli order, according to a new U.N. report. [Haaretz]
• Enjoy this picture of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger dancing the Hora at a Chabad-sponsored Hanukkah candle-lighting in Sacramento, California. [Vos Iz Neias?]
• If you were at the White House Hanukkah party, you would be eating these latkes. [Twitter]

‘Time’ Names Bernanke ‘Person of the Year’

Fed Chairman is third Jew to win honor

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Princeton economics professor turned Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke scored the famous year-end Time cover, it was revealed today. “There is irony here,” notes Time managing editor Richard Stengel in an interview with Bernanke, “that here’s this man who spends his life distinguishing himself studying economic history—and then one day you wake up and realize that you’re at the center of economic history in a really unusual chapter.”

The mild-mannered—let’s say “nerdy,” since everyone else does—yet super-powerful policymaker becomes the third Jew to receive Time’s designation, after Yitzhak Rabin and Henry Kissinger, both of whom shared the honor with others. Bernanke grew up in Dillon, South Carolina, in “an observant Jewish family in a tight-knit Christian community where social life revolved around church.” What distinguished the Bernankes most, though, was not their religion but their attitude toward blacks: “Once,” we learn, Bernanke’s “house was egged after he ate dinner with a black friend named Kenneth Manning at the local Shoney’s.” Finally, Bernanke plays down his pre-Fed leadership experience, which was basically confined to heading Princeton’s economics department, thusly: “he liked to joke that his major decisions involved what type of bagels to order for faculty meetings.”

Person of the Year 2009 [Time]

Earlier: ‘Foreign Policy Names Top Global Thinkers

Top Latkes

The five best potato pancakes in New York City

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Latkes from Stage Restaurant.(Always Hungry NY)

You’re darn right latkes deserve their own year-end list. This writer has partaken of four of the five selections, and can seriously recommend the Ukrainian East Village mainstay Veselka (their cheese blintz complements their latke nicely), as well as the Park Avenue Winter selection (a bit precious, but the size and density are appealing). Experience confirms that the more explicitly Jewish food-stops Barney Greengrass and Sammy’s Roumanian deliver an “old school” latke— formidable, dense, and savory, with a little sprinkle of Hebraic know-how. Stage Restaurant is our next destination: we hope to make it there by the eighth night.

Top 5: Latkes [Always Hungry NY]

U.K. Pledges to Prevent Future War-Crimes Charges

Israel is angry, Britain apologetic after attempted Livni arrest

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Brown in London yesterday.(Matthew Lloyd - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Prime Minister Gordon Brown called Tzipi Livni, the Israeli opposition leader, to tell her she was “most welcome” on his fair isle despite that time a few days ago when a British judge issued an arrest warrant for her on war-crimes charges stemming from last January’s Gaza conflict. Additionally, Britain is “urgently” examining how to prevent such an incident from ever happening again. On the Israeli side, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman gave his British counterpart, David Miliband, a piece of his mind over the phone (that must have been fun for Miliband), while Britain’s ambassador to Israel was summoned and rebuked in person (that must have been even more fun). The British government’s unequivocal atonement here, while commendable, was entirely predictable. What will be more interesting to see is if Britain’s Labor leadership is forced to pay for it domestically: there is, after all, something of a constituency there that saw the Livni warrant as a positive step. And a general election, which the opposition Tories are favored to win, will take place in the spring… .

Brown Says Livni ‘Most Welcome’ in U.K. [Ynet]
U.K. Ponders Law Change After Tzipi Livni Arrest Warrant [BBC News]
Lieberman, British FM Discuss Arrest Warrants [Arutz Sheva]

Earlier: U.K. Court Issued Warrant for Livni

House Passes Symbolic Iran Sanctions Bill

Why nothing has happened and everybody has won

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Last night, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 412-12 in favor of legislation intended to punish Iran for pursuing its nuclear program. But the bill, introduced by Rep. Howard Berman, a California Democrat (and, yes, Jewish), would not directly impose sanctions on Iran itself; rather, it would bar the mostly European oil companies that do business with Iran from doing business in the United States. Which may be why the White House, anxious about alienating countries whose support is needed for more direct sanctions proposals at the United Nations, has been pushing hard to slow the progress of companion legislation in the Senate. That leaves the broad array of Jewish groups that backed the Berman bill—everyone from AIPAC to J Street—at loggerheads with President Barack Obama and Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts), who controls the bill’s fate in the Senate, as JTA’s Ron Kampeas noted yesterday.

Except … it doesn’t, really. Since the whole effort is merely an exercise in political saber-rattling anyway, everyone is both having and eating their respective cakes: hawks—Jewish or not—can say Congress is willing to move against Iran, with or without help from other countries; and Obama can still go to prospective allies and say he’d like their help, and actually, hey, could they please get on board sooner rather than later, because Congress is getting a little restive, you know? “The administration did not say, ‘Go ahead,’ and they did not tell me not to go ahead,” Berman told reporters yesterday. And what did Israel—whose security is a key part of why everyone’s so worried about Iran getting nuclear weapons—say? Ambassador Michael Oren “deeply appreciates” the U.S. effort to stop Iran from getting the bomb. Win-win-win.

House Votes to Expand Sanctions on Iran [AP]
Obama and Kerry Slowing Sanctions Legislation Push [JTA]
Berman: Iran Sanctions Bill Empowers Obama [Politico]

Rabbi Boteach Cashes in on Michael Jackson

Complete with lousy ‘Thriller’ jokes

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Jackson and Boteach in New York in February, 2001.(Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

Thank goodness the A.V. Club’s Nathan Rabin read Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s The Michael Jackson Tapes so we don’t have to, confirming the suspicion that the book, a combination of interviews with Jackson and the New Jersey-based rabbi’s own thoughts, is “the worst kind of posthumous cash-in from a rabbi who accomplishes the seemingly impossible feat of being creepier than Michael Jackson.” Boteach, who fancies himself ‘America’s Rabbi’—“the Semitic Billy Graham,” as Rabin puts it—strives to portray Jackson as a “normal” heterosexual male, but, according to Rabin, “the best Boteach can muster is an anecdote about Jackson asking him to set him up on a date with Katie Couric.” Ultimately, Rabin concludes that Boteach’s decision to publish the interviews (despite a falling-out with Jackson) is primarily an opportunity for the rabbi to showcase his own righteousness, as demonstrated by his assertion that he has “tried to educate my children to know always that no man but God is the real Thriller.”

The Michael Jackson Tapes by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach [A.V. Club]

Today on Tablet

A Jewish doll, middle-class art collecting, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, Daphne Merkin takes a look at Rebecca Rubin, the American Girl series’s first permanent-collection Jewish doll. Senior Writer Allison Hoffman profiles Herbert and Dorothy Vogel, a solidly middle-class hamishe New York couple who somehow turned themselves into formidable contemporary art collectors. For those in more of a watching than reading mood, Yuri Baranovsky presents a Hanukkah-themed episode of his Web show, Break a Leg. From our archives, novelist Jonathan Tropper remembers one especially fraught pubescent Hanukkah. And we will try to hide our voice cracks by speaking very softly today on The Scroll.

Memphis Boasts Young Jewish Basketball Coach

NYT profiles ‘climber with a conscience’ Josh Pastner

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Josh Pastner, head coach of the Memphis Tigers.(NYT)

Today, the New York Times introduces 32-year-old Josh Pastner, the first-year head coach of the Memphis Tigers men’s basketball team. Pastner is the rare case of the college basketball player—he was on the Arizona Wildcats in the late 1990s, when they won the national championship—who wanted to be a coach all along (his father was also a basketball coach). And, though the Times article doesn’t mention this, Pastner is Jewish. Memphis has of late been the NCAA’s winningest program, and this year it is off to a 7-1 start.

Josh Pastner Has Memphis Sailing in Calipari’s Wake [NYT]
Pastner’s Passion is Hoops [Jewish News of Greater Phoenix]

Daybreak: President-For-Now Abbas

Plus a new peace push, if Netanyahu will have it, and more in the news

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• The Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive council extended President Mahmoud Abbas’s presidential term indefinitely, until credible elections can be held. [LAT]
• The United States, Egypt, and France plan a push to restart peace negotiations predicated on the 1967 borders and an undeclared construction freeze, including in East Jerusalem, according to Egypt’s foreign minister. [Haaretz]
• The New York Times weighs whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a genuine peace maker, or if the typical skepticism is justified. [NYT]
• The U.S. House of Representatives passed new economic sanctions against Iran; however, a Senate vote is not expected this year. [JPost]
• Christian evangelist and university founder Oral Roberts died. Here, Rabbi David Wolpe remembers, Roberts “considered himself a friend to the Jewish people.” [WP]

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