Monday, June 29, 2009

I have posted a few times about my recently resolved din torah. My lawyer during that ordeal was Ed Rubin z"l. Ed and I would get together whenever he was in Israel or I was in the States, ostensibly to discuss the case. We'd invariably discuss the case for about three minutes and then spend hours chatting about Israeli politics, the heimish Upper West Side scene, Rebbishe politics (he was a Rubin and a Halberstam, Rebbishe yichus on both sides, and lawyer for his wayward cousins), all topics with which he was intimately familiar and had insightful opinions. He was a tenacious lawyer, but always fought with integrity.

Ed passed away suddenly a few weeks ago at the way-too-young age of 57. Our relationship began as lawyer-client, but ended as a friendship. I will miss him.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

I was off in the U.S. so am a bit late weighing in on The Speech and other developments. A few too brief comments.

1. I liked Bibi's speech, though it was only a start. The fundamental asymmetry in all Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is that the Palestinians make concrete demands (territory) backed by threats (terror). Israel simply resists but makes no demands and no threats. Thus, for a diplomat, the only game in town is wearing Israel down. Netanyahu has at least made some concrete demands: that the Palestinians agree to demilitarization and to recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. It doesn't matter that these demands are inadequate and unenforceable. All that matters is that the Palestinians will never agree to them. Eventually, Netanyahu will need to follow up with the threat: what Israel will do to make the world miserable so long as the Palestinians do not agree to these minimal demands.

2. There are a number of indications that power in Israel is shifting rightward. The judicial appointments committee now tilts slightly rightward. The leftist political appointments in the broadcast commission have all resigned. In court hearings on illegal building in Yesha, the State has finally defended its delay in destroying houses on the same grounds it has succesfully used to justify delays in destroying illegal Arab building, namely, the State's perogative to establish priorities. To be sure, none of these matter much. Due to Gideon Saar's amendment to the judicial appointments law, seven votes are needed to get a Supreme Court justice appointed, so even under ideal conditions the three justices on the committee have veto power (not to mention that Yacov Ne'eman can be counted on not to ruffle Beinish's feathers). Likewise, nobody watches Channel 1, anyway. And the Court has not yet accepted the State's argument with regard to demolitions. The point, however, is that since so many Israel makhers are short on conviction and long on getting along with what they believe is the center of power, we can very quickly reach a tipping point.

3. Obama only seems to be one step behind the curve on Iran. His comment that Moussawi is not very different than Ahmadinejad would have been apt had Moussawi won. Under the circumstances, however, the issue is the whole regime, not Moussawi. Obama's subsequent attempt to "take a stand" by addressing the protesters' right of assembly again falls short; the issue is the very nature of this oppressive regime, not the way it handles protests. But, in fact, what seems to be flat-footedness is actually moral relativism. Obama and the rest of the Best and Brightest simply don't deign to take sides on the substance. There are no good guys and bad guys in their world, only rules of engagement.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Amidst all the mindless chatter about Obama's rhetoric, the only important line in the whole speech has been missed. Forget the even-handed bromides. Forget the offensive equation of the Holocaust with Palestinian suffering. Forget the unhappy fact that Obama has essentially become a salesman for the Geneva "accords". The one line in the speech that should cause every Israeli to lose sleep is this:

"I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons. That is why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. And any nation – including Iran – should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the Treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I am hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal."

What he is saying here is that a) he will allow Iran to develop nuclear power (which in their case is only a few weeks different than developing nuclear weapons) and b) he will demand that Israel sign the NPT.

(Article VI of the NPT reads as follows:
"Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.")

In short, it looks like on the nuclear weapons issue, he's not going after Iran, a signatory state of the NPT, even if a mendacious one. He's coming after us.