Netanyahu: Start Talks ASAP

Maybe, says Abbas. Now, says Obama.

Netanyahu, Obama, and Abbas at their meeting today.(John Angelillo-Pool/Getty Images)

With expectations set so low for today’s three-way meeting between President Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, what counts as success? Netanyahu said after the session that he thought the important thing was that everyone showed up. “The importance of this meeting was actually its existence—in this case, this common saying says a lot,” he said in a press conference.

He also told reporters ithat the Israelis and the Palestinians agreed that they should start talks again “as soon as possible, with no preconditions.” Abbas, for his part, seemed not quite to agree. In a statement, he said the Palestinians remain committed to the Bush road map, and would only start peace talks if the Israelis would agree to withdraw to 1967 borders. “We also demanded that the Israeli side fulfill its commitments on settlements, including natural growth,” he said.

Which is a little awkward, but no matter—Obama says he’s on it. “It is past time to stop talking about starting negotiations, and time to move forward,” he said, sternly, after talking with both men. He said envoy George Mitchell, whose fruitless trip to the Middle East last week provoked today’s last-minute session among the three leaders at the Waldorf-Astoria, would meet in Washington next week with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators. Hillary Clinton is due to report back on the status of the negotiations by mid-October. Why the rush? Well, he said, because peace isn’t just about the Israelis and the Palestinians. “It’s critical for the world, it is in the interests of the United States,” Obama said. “We are going to work as hard as necessary to accomplish our goals.”

PM: Israel, PA Agreed to Begin Talks Without Preconditions [JPost]
Netanyahu: All Sides Agree Peace Talks Should Start Soon [Ha’aretz]
Obama Calls for an End to Stalling on Mideast Talks [NYT]
Related: Photo Ops [Tablet]

The Fall of Lev Leviev

Economy more than hubris hurt Israeli mogul, MarketWatch says


The titanic fall of Lev Leviev, the Uzbekistan-born Israeli diamond and real estate mogul, gets attention from MarketWatch today. Ranked by Forbes as the world’s 210th richest man just two years ago, Leviev and his diamond mining company, Africa-Israel, are now mired in debt. He was famous for his ego, but it was the economy that felled Leviev, argues writer Amotz Asa-El. A longtime funder of Chabad, Leviev has faced criticism (along with censure) over the years for doing business with Angola, Burma, and apartheid-era South Africa. But that was nothing compared to diving “into the U.S. property market just when the subprime bubble was about to burst” and being heavily invested in Russia “when the war with Georgia chased away foreign investors and depressed local demand.” Leviev’s bad investment luck continues, Asa-El writes: He bought a $70 million spread in the London suburbs, which he’d probably like to unload now, “but for the condition of the British property market.”

How an Israeli King of diamonds overplayed his hand

Diamond Billionaire Takes New York [Forward]

Today’s Sorry

Pets and procrastination


It’s less than a week till Yom Kippur, and we’re still publishing our Daily Sorry, a series of phoned-in atonements for ways you’ve strayed this year. Today’s installment comes from a woman who lost a beloved pet and has put off performing the final rites for far too long. You can listen to it here .

We’d still like to hear from you, too. Call our Sorry Hotline at 718-360-4836, and tell us what you’re sorry for.

Arab States Offer Relations, Flyovers, Travel

If Israel halts settlements, U.S. official says


Here’s another carrot to push Israel toward a settlement freeze: Several Arab states are willing to give Israeli airliners flyover rights, open low-level diplomatic offices in Israel, and end travel restrictions on Israeli cititzens in exchange for halting all settlement construction, according to a report in today’s Washington Times. An unnamed U.S. official told reporter Eli Lake that the offer was conveyed informally to Middle East envoy George Mitchell, although Saudi Arabia has apparently refused to consent to the deal without a viable peace agreement. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is meeting with Obama and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas today at Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Manhattan. And while Netanyahu has agreed to a six-to-nine-month settlement freeze, Lake reports that Israeli officials say that Israel still plans to construct more than 2,500 new housing units in the occupied territories.

EXCLUSIVE: Israel Makes Secret Offer on Settlements [Washington Times]

Glenn Beck Announces Yom Kippur Fast

His is for the Republic, not for redemption.


We were busy last Saturday, and so we failed to notice that Fox News host Glenn Beck chose Rosh Hashanah to declare his latest initiative: a day of Fast and Prayer for the Republic. When, exactly, will this new fast day fall? Conveniently enough for us, on Yom Kippur! In a Twitter post, Beck exhorted his 132,735 followers to “spread the word. Let us walk in the founders steps.”

Luckily, National Jewish Democratic Council spokesman Aaron Keyak spent some time considering Beck’s proposal in his Huffington Post column, and offers three possibilities: that Beck was trying to co-opt the Jews, that Beck was trying to co-opt all of Yom Kippur, or, more plausibly, that Beck just didn’t really notice. “Maybe Beck will be surprised when his Jewish staff doesn’t show up on Monday,” Keyak wrote. “I bet he will be surprised when they take the Fast and Prayer Day for the Republic that seriously.”

But here’s a question Keyak didn’t consider: when Beck invoked “the founders,” was he talking about George Washington and his friends or Abraham and his sons? Because as far as we know, George Washington and Ben Franklin were neither Jews nor given to observing Yom Kippur, and, you know, there wasn’t any Republic to fast for way back 5770 years ago. Mysteries upon mysteries! Anyway, we’ll keep you posted on how the fast parties shape up.

Glenn Beck: The Grinch Who Stole Yom Kippur [HuffPost]

On Tablet Today

The summit, the mikveh, recording the writing life, and memories of Kristol


On the occasion of today’s planned meeting between President Obama, and the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Allison Hoffman looks back at past summits. Our podcast Vox Tablet follows writer C.A. Blomquist to the mikveh for the last step in her conversion to Judaism. Adam Kirsch reviews the “terrific” new collection of essays on writing by columnist Michael Greenberg. Seth Lipsky memorializes the “journalistic sagacity” of the late Irving Kristol. And this blog, The Scroll, remains your source for news and culture updates throughout the day.

Why Is Israel So Upset by Goldstone Report?

Because it’s a loss in the ‘Legitimacy War,’ Princeton prof argues

Goldstone visiting Gaza City in June.(Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images)

Why is Israel reacting with such fervent anger to the Goldstone report? The 575-page paper compiled by South African Jewish jurist and U.N. prosecutor Richard Goldstone, which alleges that Israel committed war crimes in the Gaza War, doesn’t contain much that NGOs like Human Rights Watch hadn’t already reported—and that Israel hadn’t already objected to—argues Richard Falk, a retired Princeton professor and a U.N. monitor in Gaza, in an article being forwarded around the lefty blogosphere. (The article has no clear source, but there’s no indication that it wasn’t written by Falk.) The Goldstone report “added little to what was previously known,” Falk writes. “Arguably, it was more sensitive to Israel’s contentions that Hamas was guilty of war crimes by firing rockets into its territory than earlier reports had been. And in many ways the Goldstone Report endorses the misleading main line of the Israeli narrative by assuming that Israel was acting in self-defense against a terrorist adversary.”

But several things particularly spooked Israel (and the United States) about the report, Falk writes. First, Goldstone is “an eminent international personality who cannot credibly be accused of anti-Israel bias, making it harder to deflect attention from the findings no matter how loud the screaming of ‘foul play.’” Plus, “the unsurprising findings are coupled with strong recommendations” for the Security Council to send Israel (and Hamas) to the International Criminal Court in the Hague if they don’t conduct adequate internal investigations—and could also put Israeli officials at risk for being detained for prosecution or extradition when traveling abroad. What all this leads to, Falk concludes, is a loss for Israel in the “Legitimacy War.” He explains: “Such a war fought on a global political battlefield is what eventually and unexpectedly undermined the apartheid regime in South Africa, and has become much more threatening to the Israeli sense of security than has armed Palestinian resistance.”

Why the Goldstone Report Matters [Mondoweiss]

Daybreak: Mixed Expectations for Summit

Obama says one thing, Peres says another, and more in the news


• The White House has “no grand expectations” about today’s planned meeting between President Barack Obama, Israeli P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. [Reuters]
• Undeterred, Israeli President Shimon Peres is “sure that Netanyahu will take these expectations to their highest.” [Haaretz]
• An editorial criticizes J Street’s decision to invite Salam Al-Marayati to a conference next month, saying the director of Muslim Public Affairs Council is anti-Israel. [Jewish Journal]
• The Young World Zionist Labor Movement has declared a campaign to express solidarity with Iranian student protesters, including a demonstration against the U.N. Assembly this week. [JPost]

Sundown: She’s Been In the Wings Too Long

Borat and Bart, the internet as shtetl, and last Afghani Jew wants a break


• Barbra Streisand, who New York Magazine says entered the mainstream by “smoothing out all her misfit attributes until she seemed almost homogenized: like buttah,” has returned to form with her new album Love is the Answer, which she will promote with a show at her old New York haunt the Village Vanguard on Saturday. [NY Mag]
• Once, Jews operated in a shtetl system, living in small communities of insiders; now, “our physical locations change while the internet has created a sort of virtual community.” [New Voices]
• At a Rosh Hashanah meal, the last remaining Jew in Afghanistan told a reporter from the Los Angeles Times, “Don’t talk about the Taliban, just eat.” [LAT]
• Sacha Baron Cohen will perform the voice of an Israeli tour guide on an upcoming Simpsons episode “that all faiths can come together and be offended by.” [JTA]
The New York Times calls a new biography of Louis Brandeis by Melvin I. Urofsky “long, stately and satisfying.” [NYT]

U.S. Should Shoot Down Israeli Planes

If Israel tries to attack Iran, Brzezinski says

Brzezinski at a conference in April.(Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Does Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served as Jimmy Carter’s former national security adviser, want U.S. planes to shoot down Israeli planes if Israel attempts a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear weapons program? That seems to be what he’s asking for in a interview with Gerald Posner published on The Daily Beast.

When asked how aggressive the Obama administration should be in forestalling an Israeli attack, Brzezinski reminded Posner that the U.S. still controls Iraqi air space and added, just to be clear, “If they fly over, you go up and confront them. They have the choice of turning back or not. No one wishes for this but it could be a Liberty in reverse.” By “Liberty,” Brzezinski was referring to the incident in which Israeli jets and torpedo boats hit the USS Liberty in international waters during the Six-Day War in 1967. Israel said it was an accident, the result of friendly fire. Brzezinski, unless he chooses his analogies carelessly, seems to think otherwise.

How Obama Flubbed His Missile Message [Daily Beast]

Leonard Cohen Makes the Political Personal

With concert in Israel this week, after recovering from food poisoning

Leonard Cohen at the Nice Jass Festival in France in the summer of 2008.(Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images)

During a concert in Spain on Friday, Leonard Cohen collapsed onstage and was briefly hospitalized for food poisoning. This bout with illness, however, is not going to stop the 75-year-old icon from performing in Tel Aviv this Thursday as planned. The Jerusalem Post has taken the opportunity to look back at Cohen’s involvement with Israel, coming to the conclusion that “the singer-songwriter-poet-novelist-monk’s apolitical platform is marked by enough mystique and individualism to keep him from having to wave any specific flag, perhaps even allowing the show to serve as a true ‘Concert for Reconciliation, Tolerance and Peace,’ as it has been billed.”

On the other hand, the article presents some conflicting evidence. In 1973, Cohen “dropped everything to participate in the Yom Kippur War” as an entertainer. He was criticized for his decision to play in Israel, and his detractors were not placated by his offer to play a second show in Ramallah a few days afterward. And, says the Post, “Cohen’s oft-uniformed ‘Field Commander Cohen’ persona, which has informed several works and inspired the title of a 1979 concert tour, grew out of his posturing as a guerrilla of verse, a rogue revolutionary who champions the cause of the underdog.” Of course, when it comes to Israel and the Palestinians it is increasingly unclear who fits that designation.

Rather than being “apolitical,” Cohen’s history suggests that he acts with an artist’s cautious engagement toward politics. The proceeds from his show in Israel will be going to his own new fund dedicated to “little-known but groundbreaking grassroots initiatives,” as a way to avoid supporting either a specifically Israeli or Palestinian cause. Despite his financial troubles, Cohen could not bring himself to reap profits from the performance, saying “I just can’t take any money out. I want it to stay there.”

Leonard Cohen Collapses on Stage During Spanish Concert [Times of London]
Leonard Cohen’s Israel Show Set to Go Ahead Despite his Collapse in Spain [JPost]
Nothing on his Tongue but ‘Hallelujah’ [JPost]

Pro-Israel Ad Campaign on ‘NYT’ Website?

Refutes Gaza War criticisms UPDATED


While reading about tomorrow’s scheduled meeting between Barack Obama, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Mahmoud Abbas, on the New York Times website last night, we were surprised to find a black, white, and orange banner ad that read, simply, “Gaza. Hamas. Conflict. Facts!” Clicking through brought us to the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s web site, which now features a special “Gaza Facts” section to rebut allegations of war crimes made in the United Nations report released last week.

The banner ads seem to have since disappeared, but Google Ads is still promoting the link on the Times site, including on the page for a story from Saturday headlined “Lack of Progress in Mideast Defies Obama’s Hopes.” Ironic, no? Israeli Foreign Ministry officials in New York, Washington, and Tel Aviv said they weren’t aware of the ad campaign and couldn’t comment on whether it was really meant to coincide with this week’s efforts at getting peace negotiations back on track.

UPDATE: Joel Lion, the spokesman at the Israeli consulate in New York, says the ads—which are also running on the website of NPR, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post—are part of an international campaign orchestrated by the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem in response to the Goldstone Report. Ads are running on news sites in France, Slovakia, Slovenia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, all members of the U.N.’s Human Rights Council, which commissioned the report. It is, Lion said, the first time such a coordinated effort has been attempted. “The rationale is to expose our messages to a wider public, using new media,” Lion explained.

Gaza Facts – The Israeli Perspective [Ministry of Foreign Affairs]

Today’s Sorry

Porn star deserves better


There’s a week left until Yom Kippur, which makes it high time to reflect on your actions over the past year, what you liked about what you did and what you didn’t like. That makes it also a good time to apologize to those you treated poorly. Today’s sorry is from a woman who feels bad for gossiping about a friend’s questionable career choice.

It’s not too late to get things off your chest. Call our Sorry Hotline at 718-360-4836, and tell us what you’re sorry for.

Remembering Irving Kristol

‘Journal,’ ‘TNR,’ Podhoretz, others eulogize


Neoconservatives mourn the death of the “Godfather,” Irving Kristol, who died of lung cancer Friday at the age of 89. Known for his wit, allusiveness, and great ability to find and cultivate new talent, Kristol was among the most influential policy intellectuals of the postwar period—and one of the pioneer critics of Great Society liberalism and the welfare state.

The Wall Street Journal, where Kristol wrote a monthly column for 25 years, carries an unsigned editorial pointing out that he “helped shape the basis for many opposition ideas to the modern political left, in both domestic and foreign policy. American politics rarely bends for long to the ideas of one person, a modest truth that Irving Kristol understood. So it should be noted that he enlisted a small army of similarly minded intellectuals (‘like-minded’ would be an oxymoron among this crowd) to carry the fight.”

James Q. Wilson in the Journal writes: “Irving Kristol’s talents were remarkable: He did for The Public Interest what he had earlier done for Commentary, the Reporter and Encounter—find good people and induce them to say important things even when it did not improve the revenues of the magazine. The Public Interest always relied on financial support from a few friends and rarely sold more than 12,000 copies. That didn’t bother Irving at all: What counts is who reads it, not how many read it. And for 40 years a lot of important people did read it.”

As for Kristol’s most memorable line—that a neoconservative is a liberal who’s been mugged by reality—Kristol’s friend and City Journal editor-at-large Myron Magnet observed: “What he really meant, of course, was simply a liberal who’d been mugged—who’d seen that all the liberal, welfare-state ideals for the uplift of the poor, and especially the minority poor, had in the end produced a criminal underclass, exactly the opposite of the intended uplift. The good intentions counted for nothing with him and even sparked a certain dry contempt; it was the result that mattered.”

Commentary Editor-in-Chief John Podhoretz remembers Kristol’s acumen as a fundraiser for little magazines. Having started the conservative college magazine Midway (later Counterpoint) at the University of Chicago in 1979, Podhoretz “called [Kristol], and he instructed me on the fine art of writing a grant proposal to a new foundation he had begun called the Institute for Educational Affairs. A few weeks later, he called me to report that a grant of $2,000 had been approved and, moreover, that he had used our little magazine as an example of what might be done on college campuses to encourage non-Leftist thinking among students. The board of the foundation found his pitch compelling, and it was decided that efforts should be made to encourage the creation of other publications like Counterpoint. From this seedling came a project that would, by the mid-1980s, lead to the creation of more than 50 college newspapers and magazines across the country engaged in a vital intellectual project to bring ideological diversity to campus life.”

Slate’s Christopher Hitchens recalls a dinner in Manhattan at which he and Kristol were in attendance and from which Hitchens took away the following: “Irving Kristol’s great charm … was that he didn’t care overmuch for the charm business. Most of his celebrated quips and interventions had a tough-guy street feel to them, a manner probably retained from his Marxist days. Typical of him (and I think also truthful) was the claim that he hadn’t known about CIA funding for Encounter but wouldn’t have given much of a damn if he had known.”

Damon Linker at The New Republic is less flattering: “What’s less often recognized is that while Kristol was growing more conservative he was also undergoing a different sort of transformation—from a dispassionate analyst of American politics and culture to a fully engaged advocate for a comprehensive political ideology. Lamentably, it is this change more than Kristol’s gradual drift to the right that may have done more to shape the contemporary conservative mind.”

The New York Times noted that Kristol “never sought celebrity; in fact, he was puzzled by writers who craved it…. He was happier consulting with a congressman like Jack Kemp about the new notion of supply-side economics and then watching with satisfaction as Mr. Kemp converted President Ronald Reagan to the theory.”

And The Washington Post quotes Karl Rove as saying that Kristol “made it a moral imperative to rouse conservatism from mainstream Chamber of Commerce boosterism to a deep immersion in ideas.”

Today on Tablet

Books, basics, and the mouths of babes


Tablet Magazine provides a handy guide to the upcoming High Holiday, Yom Kippur. Marjorie Ingall offers advice to young innocents on atoning. Josh Lambert checks out books about Greek Jews, food, and a family in Fascist Italy, among others. Plus, of course, we’ll keep you updated on The Scroll throughout the day.

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