Barack’s foreign policy: change or continuity?

Two very learned men have recently written treatises analysing the Barack administration’s foreign policy. Tariq Ali is a socialist, a historian and an editor of the New Left Review. Zbigniew Brzezinski is a realist, a professor of American foreign policy at Johns Hopkins University and former National Security Advisor to Jimmy Carter. Though these men are not actually debating each other, I have chosen to put them in a post and let them duke it out. The question before them is, does Barack Obama’s foreign policy represent a break with that of his predecessors, or a continuation of it?

Tariq has no doubt: Barack has not broken the trajectory of US imperium. The end of the disastrous Bush administration being over, we all believed change was in the air. “Rarely has self-interested mythology—or well-meaning gullibility—been more quickly exposed.” The Middle East, including Afghanistan and Pakistan (“AfPak”), is still “the central battlefield for the imposition of American power around the world.

Zbigniew, however, is less dismissive. Though he has not scored many major successes yet, Zbigniew notes, Barack has reordered American foreign policy with respect to all of its most important features, presenting “a strategically and historically coherent worldview.” But what, in effect, has changed? Let us delve deeper.

Whither the peace process?

Both men recognise Israel as central to American foreign policy. Tariq points out that Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli massacre in the Gaza Strip, carefully timed to fall between Barack’s election and his inauguration, elicited not a word from the new president about the plight of the Palestinians. In fact, he expressed sympathy for the Israelis, who vocally championed their war against “Hamas”. Barack picked the “ultra-Zionist” (Tariq’s words) Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff. Like every US president, Barack has called for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, an end to settlement building and the renunciation of terrorism. But settlement building, which necessarily includes demolishing Arab houses in the Occupied Territories, is continuing, Palestinians are getting angrier, and peace seems as remote as ever. With no change in the “special relationship” between the US and Israel, we can expect more of the same.

Zbigniew reminds us that the reordering of Barack’s foreign policy includes the essential ideas that Islam is not the enemy and the War on Terror is not the focal point of American foreign policy anymore; and that the US will be an honest broker in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In fact, it has to be if the fighting is ever to end. Jews and Arabs will never achieve peace on their own. “[T]he Palestinians are too divided and too weak to make the critical decisions necessary to push the peace process forward, and the Israelis are too divided and too strong to do the same.” But Zbigniew agrees with Tariq that the push for peace, the necessary stimulus only the US government can provide, has not been forthcoming. He outlines the international consensus on the necessary conditions for Israeli-Palestinian peace: no right of return for Palestinian refugees; a shared Jerusalem; a two-state solution along the 1948 partition lines but that incorporate some of the larger West Bank settlements; and American or NATO troops stationed along the Jordan River to keep the peace. Barack has publicly urged these ideas, “[b]ut so far, the Obama team has shown neither the tactical skill nor the strategic firmness needed to move the peace process forward.

Questions on Iran

The structures of both articles are similar: both begin with Israel-Palestine, close with Afghanistan and Pakistan, and right in the centre is Iran. Zbigniew calls Barack’s declared intentions to pursue negotiations with Iran over its nuclear programme a step in the right direction. “[H]e has basically downgraded the U.S. military option, although it is still fashionable to say that ‘all options remain on the table.’” But two questions are central to this issue. First, are the Iranians willing to negotiate? They are not about to give up uranium, but they may be persuaded not to produce the bomb. Second, are the Americans? “It would not be conducive to serious negotiations if the United States were to persist in publicly labeling Iran as a terrorist state, as a state that is not to be trusted, as a state against which sanctions or even a military option should be prepared. Doing that would simply play into the hands of the most hard-line elements in Iran. It would facilitate their appeal to Iranian nationalism, and it would narrow the cleavage that has recently emerged in Iran between those who desire a more liberal regime and those who seek to perpetuate a fanatical dictatorship.” Barack will not get what he wants with Iran by holding out one hand to shake and the other to punch.

Zbigniew expresses skepticism with sanctions, but admits they may become necessary. As a statesman, he points out that the US government should think strategically about their long term relations with Iran. Do they want Iran to become an ally once again? Or are they intent on treating it with hostility and potentially further destabilising an already unstable region? Despite all these questions, Zbigniew maintains that Barack has, so far, shown leadership on Iran.

Tariq writes from the premise that, regarding Iran policy in Washington, Israel is calling the shots. Because Iran continually (verbally) threatens Israel, and because the Israel Lobby ensures that a challenge to the Israeli monopoly on WMDs in the Middle East is intolerable, Barack has few friendly words for Persia. Barack initially considered “a forgive-and-forget dialogue with Tehran“. But when the protests began in Iran, “the opportunity for ideological posturing was too great to resist.” Barack sanctimoniously lamented the death of a protester in Tehran on the same day an American drone killed 80 civilians in Pakistan. Like George Bush, Barack is using his political capital to impose more sanctions and opprobrium on Iran. The air strikes, looming menacingly, while unlikely, cannot be ruled out, says Tariq, “if only because once the West at large—in this case not only Obama, but Sarkozy, Brown and Merkel—has pronounced any Iranian nuclear capability intolerable, little rhetorical room for retreat is left if this should materialize.” Along with Israel’s apologists, the Saudis want to cut off Iran’s influence in the Middle East and isolate it. Kowtowing to Israel and Saudi Arabia is not new and is a clear indication that Barack has not broken with the past.

Escalation in Central Asia

Afghanistan and Pakistan are the last, but not least important, of Barack’s priorities that our unwitting debaters touch on. Tariq has always been a critic of the NATO presence in Afghanistan, and sees Barack’s policies in the region as “widening the front of imperial aggression with a major escalation of violence, both technological and territorial.” In an article in 2008, Tariq takes apart the canard that Afghanistan is a “just war”, and he castigates Barack for keeping his promise to send more troops and firepower to crush the native resistance. He also takes the president to task for making no changes to the corrupt and undemocratic regime of Hamid Karzai. But the proof is in the pudding, right? Afghani guerrillas are not relenting and still control most of the country; drone attacks are up and killing more innocents; drug production is up, so global crime syndicates have an interest in continued instability in the region. In his scathing review, Tariq likens the AfPak war to Vietnam.

Zbigniew begins his section on Central Asia with “the United States must be very careful lest its engagement in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which still has primarily and most visibly a military dimension, comes to be viewed by the Afghans and the Pakistanis as yet another case of Western colonialism and elicits from them an increasingly militant response.” (I wonder if they do not already feel this way.) He does not advocate withdrawal from Afghanistan but neither recommends attempting to obliterate the resistance. The Northern Alliance and the Afghani government should be reaching out to the Taliban with concessions, attracting the ones it can and then defeating the remainder. The reality in the region “demands a strategy that is more political than military.” Barack should also strengthen the transatlantic alliance on Afghanistan and draw China in as a partner with a stake in regional stability.

Conclusions

Despite their different ideological points of view, Tariq Ali and Zbigniew Brzezinski are in agreement about one thing: Barack has not brought any big changes to the world through his foreign policy. Tariq’s thesis is that Barack has not broken with his predecessor. His rather cynical tone indicates that only the rhetoric has changed, and even the rhetoric continues to portray the typical manichean impulses of US governments: America bears a “special burden” in carrying the world; “Our cause is just, our resolve unwavering“; “The Palestinians must renounce violence“, and “the Iraqi people are ultimately better off” for American occupation. In other words, lower your expectations. The emperor has only changed his clothes.

Zbigniew propounds that, while he has restructured American foreign policy, which may lead to long term gains down the line, Barack has yet to make the changes everyone anticipates. His job will be to manage the complicated web of relationships, (if possible) break away from the domestic lobbies that his foreign policy is beholden to, and pursue the audacious vision he has set out in speeches. “[H]e has not yet made the transition from inspiring orator to compelling statesman. Advocating that something happen is not the same as making it happen.

My opinion is that the long term vision of a democratic and prosperous world that the US government has always claimed to pursue is so ethereal, and is causing such short term damage, that it is not worth the pain. Tariq’s article is a reminder that we must always consider our vision in light of the costs of our policies, and not simply the other way round. In this way, I agree with him. However, Tariq is not a statesman, and he does not consider the strategic side of the foreign policy equation. Zbigniew reminds Barack that he needs to effectively cultivate the strategic relationships with China, Russia and the like if he wants the US to remain the undisputed hegemon. He believes that American power can be a force for good in the world, and while I agree that it could be, it is often far more destructive than constructive. In the end, I believe that, if Barack wants to help the world, he should play to his strength, bringing people closer together, and leave the troops at home.

Ali, Tariq. “President of Cant.” New Left Review 61. January-February 2010. http://www.newleftreview.org/?page=article&view=2821

Brzezinski, Zbigniew. “From hope to audacity: appraising Obama’s foreign policy.” Foreign Affairs 89.1 (2010): 16. CPI.Q (Canadian Periodicals). Web. 25 Feb. 2010. http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/65720/zbigniew-brzezinski/from-hope-to-audacity

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One week at the throats of newspapers at the throat of the Holy Land

Day 5

I get the newspapers I am reading from two lists, found here and here. I am hobbled somewhat in my weeklong endeavor by not knowing Arabic or Hebrew, but there seem to be a variety of news sources in English. Some of them are niche media, and others have wide appeal, and most are important because of the people they represent and influence. Unfortunately, as we shall see, they are not all equally worthy of our time.

The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy

I like global dialogue and democracy. Let’s take a look.

This organisation’s vision is an independent, democratic Palestinian state. The leader has a picture and headline about George Mitchell shaking hands with Mahmoud Abbas. This is Week in Review. For some reason this paper is also called Miftah (and is at miftah.org), which is shorter than the Palestinian Initiative… so I will call it Miftah. According to Miftah, “[t]his week was all about diplomacy”. US envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Miftah says “Mitchell basically carried the message of his big boss, US President Barack Obama, urging the Israeli government to freeze settlement activity while pushing for its acceptance of the two-state solution.” Notice the words used. “Basically” sounds to me like “only”, implying that the big boss is calling the shots and the Israeli government has heard it before.

This article talks about potentially reassuring moves from the United States, and after each point begins a paragraph with “Still…” to say why things might not be wonderful yet. And for a recap, this article has some small stories. “Occupation authorities” (that’s the Israeli government) forced a man named Mohammed Gosheh to demolish his own home. When newspapers want to bring out your emotions, they make things personal, giving you a victim, a specific person you can feel sorry for.

A special report on “the Myth of Incitement in Palestinian Textbooks” is a prominent link. The Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace, an organisation not described in this article, only named, “persisently” publishes articles on how textbooks produced and read by Palestinians incite hatred against Jews. As I said, this piece does not describe the Center, except to say that “the Center’s first director, Itamar Marcus, is a right wing Israeli supporter and resident of the West Bank settlement of Efrat.”

“The Center’s work reveals a deeply flawed methodology aimed at misleading the reader.” Unfortunately, we do not know anything about that methodology because, again, this paper does not describe it. I personally have trouble believing that the textbooks do not make people angry, as I find history books to be a hugely powerful propaganda tool. (Read this post for related discussion.) However, if I were a Palestinian, I would probably be pretty angry at the Israelis for everything. History books, newspapers, word of mouth: all carry stories about very bad things the Israelis have done to the Palestinians. And when an identity such as “Israeli” or “Palestinian” is thrust upon us, we usually want to defend its collective manifestation to the death.

This article was not particularly well written, as you only need to see what it leaves out to find its bias. More useful, therefore, are the 23 links it provides to back up its premise. Many of them are to Miftah and even Geocities, but some are to the European Union. One final note on this long list of links that supposedly proves this journalist’s point: the links to Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post are dead. Did the newspapers themselves take the stories out? Or are there not really any stories in those papers about the myth of incitement in Palestinian textbooks? Or am I reading something into nothing?

The heading that caught my eye fastest was actually the second from the top, but I resisted reading it until the apparently more important meetings of George Mitchell and the bulldozing of Mohammed Gosheh’s house. The heading reads “Doughnuts for Residency”. “Anyone who knows Arab culture,” the item reads, “will know that a sweet treat is usually offered by the bearer of good news.” (That could be useful to know.) The writer just bought doughnuts because she finally got her residency permit, which make her a legal resident of Jerusalem. She has lived there for 11 years already. The reason she and her husband have had to wait so long for a permit to live together, she writes, as if I could not guess, are the “complicated and extremely discriminatory” laws designed to screw with Arabs. The writer of this article has some very angry things to say about Israeli law, though she hides her anger under smooth-flowing, personal-feeling prose.

Miftah is not only news. As far as I can tell, it is more of a think tank, with leadership and policy programmes, and links to other organisations, such as Al-Quds 2009, where I found these evocative paintings by a Palestinian artist.

Jerusalem Newswire

I get an idea of this paper’s orientation from its main headline: “Israelis tell ‘Bibi: Reject Obama’s demands”. Right underneath this was a link for donations reading “Help keep JNW on the front lines of the media war”. I did not know the media were at war as well.

The main article says that “a strong majority” (clarified later in the article as “nearly six out of ten”) of Israelis told Binyamin Netanyahu that they do not want anyone building a Palestinian state in Israel on land that, really, is just for Jews. The journalist discusses Netanyahu’s speech this coming Sunday, where he is expected to address “President Barack Obama’s belligerent foray into Middle East politics, the Israeli-‘Palestinian’ conflict and the Iranian nuclear threat to Israel – an issue Washington has relegated to a position of secondary importance.” So Barack’s reaching out to Muslims is belligerence, the ‘Palestinians’ have no legitimate argument and Iran’s nukes are no longer interesting to the US. The final paragraph is on the two-state “‘solution’ [which] calls for the peace-loving Israelis to give their land to the Jew-hating Palestinian Arabs who remain committed to destroying what would be left of Israel.” This writer’s bias is palpable and his inability to see clearly on this issue makes this whole article a joke. And when I realise that this whole website is written by the same author, I find it is he who is the joke. Let us try again.

Arutz Sheva (Channel Seven)

At IsraelNationalNews.com, Arutz Sheva is Israel’s #1 news site, eh? Does that mean #1 for feelings of superiority and hatred too? There is only one way to find out.

The leader is about Jimmy Carter. Because three days ago Jimmy Carter declared “Mideast peace is impossible without Hamas”, and yesterday won an award from the Palestinian Authority, residents of a Jewish town he is planning to visit called Gush Etzion “express their disapproval of the meeting.” The article quotes a grassroots committee who issued a statement reading “Carter has always, and will always, speak up and defend those who wish to destroy the State of Israel. He pushes an anti-Israel agenda, while presenting himself as a good-willed broker who seeks peace and is ready to listen to ‘both sides.’ This makes him all the more dangerous.” This article is designed to pick Carter apart so thoroughly as to be able to counterpunch his every argument and deed. And it claims only to be quoting from a letter by an unofficial group in a Jewish town of 44,000. Perhaps this newspaper believes the group speaks for all Jews.

According to this article in another newspaper, Arutz Sheva is a religious Zionist radio station and is viewed as the voice of the Israeli settler movement. Also known as Arutz-7, it has been shut down by the authorities for being pirate radio (transmitted from a boat and over the internet). Gush Etzion, as you may have guessed, is in the West Bank, not far from Bethlehem. Along with the two-state solution, the question of Jewish settlers in the West Bank seems the most controversial, and both are being pushed hard by the Americans. Therefore, if we want to understand the issues, we should listen to the settlers. Whether you agree with it or not, Arutz Sheva is an important read.

Israel’s foreign ministry says that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s electoral win in Iran means the world must act now. Actually, it does not say what action we, the world, must take. All Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is quoted as saying is that “the international community must continue to act in an uncompromising manner to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear [weapons] and to cease its support for terror organizations and destabilization of the Middle East.” No specifics on what we should do or what Iran does.

An article near the top is about a rocket fired by “Gaza Arab terrorists” that did not hit anyone or do any damage. The Palestinian Authority blames Israel (though I do not know how you could blame a country for something) for wild boars in Samaria that are destroying Palestinians’ crops. Israel (again I wonder who) is apparently doing its best to cull the hungry swine. And while I was thinking the Jerusalem Newswire was just a radical rag, I found an article just like the one I turned my nose up at earlier. 56% of 503 survey respondents said that Netanyahu does not need to agree to freeze construction of settlements in the West Bank. The good thing about this article is that it can teach you about each major Israeli political party, because the writer breaks down how the supporters of each answered the survey. 81% of those who vote Likud said Israel can continue building settlements, whereas 68% of those who vote Kadima believe Israel has no choice but to give in to American demands to halt construction. It is clear that Likud voters (and the party that answers to them) are tough and steadfast, and Kadima voters are a bunch of pussies.

One week of Israeli-Palestine conflict news from the source

Day 2

The Jerusalem Post

Today’s headline reads “Security cabinet directs IDF [Israeli Defence Forces] to respond to any Gaza aggression.” That doesn’t sound good. Next to it is a photo of guys in a quarry wearing ski masks jumping through a hoop of fire with the caption “PRC [don’t know] terrorists train in the central Gaza Strip.” The US wants Israel to ease the blockade of Gaza and the Israeli security cabinet is trying to figure out how to allow more goods to be traded without endangering Israelis.

The Gaza Strip is treated like a kind of rat’s nest: don’t let any of them out or they could bite you. Keep them stuffed in there and if any tries to bite you from inside, throw the poison down. According to the Post, a terrorist attack near the Karni crossing was foiled earlier this week. And the matter of the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit could lead to a prisoner swap. Interesting that they refer to an Israeli prisoner by name but do not hint at the name of any Palestinians. Perhaps the Palestinians do not have names.

“[D]efense officials continue opposing bringing concrete and steel into the Gaza Strip, arguing that it would be used not only to reconstruct buildings, but also to construct arms smuggling tunnels and rebuild Hamas’ rocket building capacity.” So do not expect a lot of reconstruction in the material sense. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak maintains there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. We cannot know from this article if he is right because it does not mention food. But the security cabinet, Ehud Barak and Binyamin Netanyahu all reaffirmed their commitment to the security of both the Israelis and the Palestinians.

A video of “Arafat’s ex-manager” reads “Israel and America killed Yasser Arafat”. Another video shows US Mideast envoy George Mitchell shaking hands with Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. Related articles are titled “Some Islamic extremists respond positively to Obama’s speech,” “Hillary Clinton’s troubling transformation on Israel” and the one I read yesterday, “Why Obama is wrong on Israel and the Shoah.” It is possible that the Jerusalem Post is trying to systematically take apart the Barack administration’s stance on Israel and Palestine in order to legitimise Netanyahu’s government’s dissent from it.

One article quotes Ehud Barak at length on Arab-Israeli matters such as Barack’s speech in Cairo, the two-state solution and Iran’s nuclear development. It is rare that one sees a Canadian or American newspaper with such full quotes of their leaders. It is perhaps an effort not to take Mr Barak out of context. The same article shows a photo of him shaking hands playfully with a group of smiling seventh graders.

Today’s Must-Reads includes “Taking a stand on Iran”, about Canadian legislation called the Iran Accountability Act, holding Iran and apparently everywhere else accountable for genocide. The article says that, while all signatories to the 1948 Convention of the Prevention of Genocide have a responsibility to stop genocide when it happens, “they have largely ignored…the world’s greatest threat [Iran].” Apparently, Iran is the most likely country in the world to commit genocide.

One Op Ed piece recognises, for the first time as I have read this week, the ideological divisions within Israeli discourse regarding human rights and security concerns. The rest of the articles tend to leave the impression of consensus, and the consensus is of taking a hard line on the enemy. This one, by senior fellows at the Israel Democracy Institute, a think tank, says that the US could learn something about counterterrorism from Israel, and that the ideological differences between Dick Cheney’s “no middle ground” on terror attitude and President Barack’s constitutional approach parallels the debate in Israel today. Thank you, gentlemen, for showing there are both soft and hard views in Israel on security and not simply varying degrees of hawk.

The Palestine Chronicle

“Lebanon’s Election Results and the Age of Resistance”: An election observer named Franklin Lamb, who saw it all, describes at length first the peaceful prayer that took place after the election in Lebanon on Monday, and then the peaceful elections. From his description, they sound very much like elections I have worked for in Canada, except with soldiers. The losing coalition is described as “disappointed but civil”. Mr Lamb quotes a member of Michel Aoun (leader of the losing coalition)’s senior political bureau, two members of Hezbollah and no one from the winning group.

On an angrier note, Mr Lamb proceeds to say that the Barack administration is disappointed their side did not perform better in the election, that they violated Lebanese voting laws by campaigning for their favourites and felt contempt for Lebanon’s voters. With regard to the weapons of “the resistance” (Hezbollah), which was such a big issue in this election, Israel insists on decommissioning them, but political will in Lebanon to do anything about it is weak. In other words, don’t expect Hezbollah to give up its arms.

At the end of the article, Mr Lamb puts somewhat confusing rallying calls for the National Lebanese Resistance to “defend a Zionist-terrorised Lebanon, staking their lives on their basic belief in God and the independence and sovereignty for their country and the Liberation of Palestine…. As this era of Resistance to Zionism spreads around the World and intensifies here and abroad, every hour that Lebanon resists brings the region closer to justice and real peace.”

The Chronicle featured two interesting commentaries on the US government: “Obama Spoke to Muslims for Oil, not Humanity” and “Obama’s Outreach to Muslims: Same Old Policies”. They might as well have been the same article. One writer suggests Barack’s campaign slogan should have been “Continuity We Can Believe In”. Without a lot of analysis, he says Barack was using “soft power” (influence through carrots rather than sticks) and peripherally examines his choice of Egypt to give his speech as likely to be popular with Americans. He also disagrees with Barack’s statement that the image of the US as a self-interested empire is a stereotype. The writer finds it “difficult for those with knowledge of American foreign policy history to believe.”

As with yesterday’s Palestine Times (and all newspapers, really), there are some perfunctories attacks on the paper’s enemies. One is about a town of 170 Jewish families in Israel. The town has begun requiring its citizens to take an oath of loyalty to “Zionism, Jewish heritage and settlement of the land”. The article called this “a thinly veiled attempt to block Arab applicants from gaining admission.” Really? It is veiled? I would call it an unveiled attempt to keep Arabs out. It was a move by the town council to put “Zionist values and Jewish heritage…at the heart of [the town’s] way of life. We don’t see this as racism in any way.” While I believe towns should have this right, it is clearly racist and highly reminiscent of the town of Herouxville, Quebec, that did something similar a few years ago. Nonetheless, does blasting a small town’s prejudiced choices really advance the Palestinian people’s cause?

I just realised that the Palestinian Chronicle is written largely by non-Muslims. The names of the contributors are most Anglo-Saxon or German (Jewish?)-sounding. Makes sense: get non-Muslims on your side to show that others agree with you, and even that the world is on your side. Its tagline reads “global voices for a better world”. Considering the nature of the articles, on the sinister US, terrorist Israel, and the plight of the Palestinians, it seems ironic to use a “better world” tagline and photo of olives, friendship and art to represent your cause. The paper is more about how they are making the world worse than how we can make the world better.

Haaretz

Being a newspaper more for English-speaking Jews around the world than Israelis alone, the leader of today’s Haaretz was that an 89-year-old (89!) white supremacist opened fire at a Holocaust museum in the United States. (When I return to the Jerusalem Post, its first article has been updated to the same news.) The second article was the same as the first of the Jerusalem Post, “Cabinet to IDF: Repond to any attack from Gaza”. This is clearly a big issue in Israel and it scares me to think of that “any” aggression from Palestinians in Gaza could mean a repeat of the war at the beginning of this year.

“US envoy: Obama won’t yield on settlement freeze”. This article says that Netanyahu has rejected the US demand, though it is an obligation under the Road Map to Peace. It also makes the first mention I have seen so far that George Mitchell, Barack’s Middle East envoy, was a a senator and the broker of the Good Friday peace agreement in Northern Ireland. This is the first article mentioning anyone from the US administration that makes an American seem human.

This item references Prime Minister Netanyahu as saying “Israel is acting to advance peace and security with the Palestinians and the Arab world,” and yet gave no details. Is this short statement meant to appease Israelis? To me at least, the lack of any details on this seemingly noteworthy act is suspicious. But perhaps I am in the minority, and Israelis reading it will nod their heads in understanding. The article gives more voice to Mr Mitchell and has him state clearly, “Let me be clear. These are not disagreements among adversaries. The United States and Israel are and will remain close allies and friends.” That’s pretty clear.

Writing on Ehud Barak’s speech to the Council for Peace and Security, comprising IDF, Shin Bet and Mossad veterans, one journalist says it was filled with the “staples: a little peace, an open hand extended to our neighbors, an existential threat or two.” He got a short interview with Mr Barak and protrays him as somewhat pessimistic. On one hand, his government is committed to the Road Map and the two-state solution; on the other, says Barak, “[t]he Road Map should be changed now that Hamas is in power.”

The Defense section had more words from Defense Minister Barak’s speech, tainted with the fear that American weapons to Lebanon’s army would end up in Hezbollah’s hands; and yet another on Barak and his comments foreshadowing more wars like Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in January. I don’t like labeling people I do not know personally, but it could be fair to call Barak a hawk.

A lot more of the headlines are related to Jewish West Bank settlements, though some are about Jewish comedy, a Tel Aviv gay pride parade and Liberian warlord Charles Taylor’s conversion to Judaism. And most interesting to me, both Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post have side bars about Jews marrying non-Jews. Scandalous!