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Member since: 2002
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Journal Archives

Luckovich: On second thought...

Haaretz editorial: Lapid must stand up for peace

Lapid must stand up for peace

Now is the time to form a peace-seeking government made up of parties that are able to lead Israel according to the Bar-Ilan framework.

Haaretz Editorial
Jul. 10, 2014

Opposition chairman MK Isaac Herzog (Labor) was asked what he would do if he were prime minister. “I would do everything that is necessary to prevent the intolerable rocket fire on southern Israel,” he answered, “and I would go Ramallah to advance an agreement with the Palestinians.” Herzog combined finding a tactical solution to this acute problem with a strategy for preventing future conflicts.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told Akiva Eldar during an interview for the Israel Conference on Peace that he would uphold his promise to hold another nine months of negotiations if Israel lives up to its previous commitment to release the fourth round of prisoners. Abbas also stated that a Palestinian commitment to talks would hinge on an Israeli commitment to discuss borders during the first three months of the talks, as well as refrain from building new settlements.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid said during the Herzliya Conference last month that Israel must define its borders, stop settlement construction outside of the large blocs, and renew talks with the Palestinian Authority. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected Lapid’s suggestions, calling him inexperienced. How can Israel “give” the Palestinians borders without receiving anything in exchange, Netanyahu asked. But Lapid was right, and Netanyahu was wrong, or perhaps he preferred to halt any progress. An agreement, if and when it is signed, would include many issues; it will be impossible to implement a proposal or accord based on a single issue. It must be part of an overarching agreement. It’s hard to believe that the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority engaged in negotiations for nine months but didn’t talk about borders. Abbas’ demand that this be the first issue discussed in a new round of talks is justified, and according to Lapid, it’s in Israel’s interest as well. Abbas and Lapid also both see the Arab Peace Initiative of 2003 as a basis for an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. The reason there are currently no negotiations is clear: Either the prime minister does not believe the things he said during his Bar-Ilan speech or he is unable to prevail over the extreme right-wing elements in his coalition, thereby making him unfit to lead.

Now is the time to form a government made up of parties that are able to lead Israel according to the Bar-Ilan framework articulated by Netanyahu and the strategy put forth by Lapid and Herzog. Netanyahu could put together a coalition without Habayit Hayehudi and certain MKs from Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu who wish to continue representing the settlers. Lapid must issue an ultimatum to the prime minister:

Either with me on the path to peace, or without me.

Luckovich: Welcome to Five Guys

Luckovich: What's next?

Michael Tomasky: The Woman at the Center of the IRS ‘Scandal’ Must Be Clairvoyant

The Woman at the Center of the IRS ‘Scandal’ Must Be Clairvoyant
Michael Tomasky

Remember those two years of missing emails the Republicans were going on about? It turns out the former commissioner’s computer crashed 16 days before she learned of IRS targeting.

If I were the Republican Party, rather than attacking Lois Lerner as a modern-day E. Howard Hunt, I’d hire her as an election consultant. Why? Because the former commissioner at the center of the “newly re-burgeoning” IRS “scandal” is clearly a clairvoyant. I should think she’d be pretty handy for Reince Priebus to have around this October. You see, she can see things 16 days before they happen.

How do I know this? Consider the timeline of events. Lerner, who worked in the service’s Washington office, was first alerted that employees in the Cincinnati branch were using “inappropriate criteria” (key words like “tea party”) to process the applications of nonprofit groups on June 29, 2011. This comes from the very Treasury Department IG report that first made this whole business public. See the timeline here.

OK, so that’s that. Now, you’ve been hearing all this stuff lately about her lost emails, right? Her emails from between January 2009 and April 2011 disappeared. Went poof. It was in early 2010 that the IRS began using the inappropriate criteria. Looks awfully suspicious, doesn’t it? She lost all her emails pertaining to the period under examination and then some. Stinks to high heaven. Some have compared the missing two-plus years to the famous 18 1/2-minute gap in the Watergate tapes.

One problem. Her computer crashed on June 13, 2011. It was the following day that she wrote to other IRS personnel to tell them: “My computer crashed yesterday.” This date was noted week by Sander Levin, the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee.



Fred Kaplan: Why Iran Is America’s Best New Partner in the Middle East

Why Iran Is America’s Best New Partner in the Middle East

Sometimes we must form alliances with unpleasant nations to prevent something worse.

By Fred Kaplan

Iraqi security forces patrol an area near the borders between Karbala and Anbar provinces on June 16, 2014.
Photo by stringer/Reuters

It’s stunning that, as we witness the spectacle of a crumbling Iraq and wonder what to do about it, the media turn for wisdom to the junkyard oracles who helped spawn the mess to begin with.

Bill Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz, L. Paul Bremer—no one should care a whit what they think, they’ve been so consistently wrong about everything. (As the first U.S. proconsul in post-Saddam Iraq, Bremer issued two directives—abolishing the Iraqi army and ousting all Baathists from government jobs—that had the effect of fueling the Sunni insurgency, prolonging the war, and siring the jihadist movement that’s causing trouble today.) Yet there they are, granted airtime not on Fox News but the three major networks, spouting advice to President Obama on how to fix things.

In Monday’s New York Times, Jason Horowitz has a jaw-droppingly fawning profile of historian Robert Kagan, author of a long essay in the New Republic that criticizes Obama for abandoning what he sees as America’s mission to spread democracy around the world. Horowitz suggests that the crisis in Iraq vindicates Kagan’s critique. Alternative views are barely acknowledged. Incisive reviews of Kagan’s New Republic piece, by serious foreign-policy analysts, go unmentioned. Nor does the article (and this is an article in the news section of the paper) recite Kagan’s record as a front-line cheerleader for the invasion of Iraq (and for the use of military force in nearly every crisis) or his assurances, throughout the war, that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

Certainly this new crisis in Iraq is serious. It is not in U.S. interests for a well-armed, well-funded jihadist group like the Islamist State of Iraq and Syria to fulfill its self-proclaimed destiny, i.e., to create an Islamist state that spans Iraq and Syria. The question is how to stop this from happening and what role, if any, the United States should play in the stopping.



Luckovich: 'Liberators'

Fred Kaplan: If jihadists control Iraq, blame Nouri al-Maliki, not the United States.

After Mosul
If jihadists control Iraq, blame Nouri al-Maliki, not the United States.

By Fred Kaplan

Civilian children stand next to a burnt vehicle during clashes between Iraqi security forces and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, on June 10, 2014.
Photo by Reuters/Stringer.

The collapse of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, has little to do with the withdrawal of American troops and everything to do with the political failure of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

As the U.S. pullout began under the terms of a treaty signed in 2008 by then-President George W. Bush, Maliki, the leader of a Shiite political party, promised to run a more inclusive government—to bring more Sunnis into the ministries, to bring more Sunnis from the Sons of Iraq militia into the national army, to settle property disputes in Kirkuk, to negotiate a formula on sharing oil revenue with Sunni districts, and much more.

Maliki has since backpedaled on all of these commitments and has pursued policies designed to strengthen Shiites and marginalize Sunnis. That has led to the resurgence of sectarian violence in the past few years. The Sunnis, finding themselves excluded from the political process, have taken up arms as the route to power. In the process, they have formed alliances with Sunni jihadist groups—such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, which has seized not just Mosul but much of northern Iraq—on the principle that the enemy of their enemy is their friend.

Something like this has happened before. Between 2005 and 2006, jihadists who called themselves al-Qaida in Iraq, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, took control of Anbar province, in the western part of the country, by playing on the population’s fear of the anti-Sunni ethnic-cleansing campaigns launched by Maliki’s army.* ISIS, an offshoot of Zarqawi’s organization, is following the same handbook, picking up support from one of northern Iraq’s leading Sunni militias, Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqah al-Naqshbandia, or JRTN. That is a risky move for a group like JRTN, which shares neither the millenarian goals nor the extremely violent tactics of ISIS (which, it’s worth noting, was expelled from al-Qaida because even current al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri considered the group too violent). But JRTN’s leaders have accepted the risk for now to advance their own goal of overthrowing Maliki. (They boast that they have been fighting alongside ISIS, but disavow involvement in the killing of civilians.)


Slate's Fred Kaplan: The Bergdahl Deal Could Be the Start of Something Big

What People Don’t Understand About the Bergdahl Deal
America negotiates with terrorists. These were not terrorists. And this could be the start of something big.

By Fred Kaplan

The news channels are blaring two misconceptions about the recovery of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who had been held captive by the Taliban for five years until this past weekend, when he was traded for five Guantánamo Bay detainees.

First, contrary to claims by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers and others, the Obama administration did not negotiate with “terrorists” to get Bergdahl back.

But, second, contrary to messages conveyed by President Obama and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, this is not an occasion for unblemished celebration.

The first point is politically important. Many columnists and congressmen make a big point that America doesn’t negotiate with terrorists. Well, sometimes America does, but the key thing here is that the Taliban delegates, with whom U.S. officials have been negotiating in Qatar over the fate of Sgt. Bergdahl, are not terrorists. They represent a political faction and a military force in Afghanistan; they are combatants in a war that the United States is fighting. In other words, Bergdahl was not a “hostage” (another erroneous term uttered by Rogers). He was a prisoner of war, and what happened on May 31 was an exchange of POWs.

The Bergdahl deal may serve as a prelude to a wider set of talks with the Taliban.



The President's Weekly Address: Reducing Carbon Pollution in Our Power Plants

Weekly Address: Reducing Carbon Pollution in Our Power Plants

David Hudson
May 31, 2014
06:00 AM EDT

In this week’s address, President Obama discussed new actions by the Environmental Protection Agency to cut dangerous carbon pollution, a plan that builds on the efforts already taken by many states, cities and companies. These new commonsense guidelines to reduce carbon pollution from power plants were created with feedback from businesses, and state and local governments, and they would build a clean energy economy while reducing carbon pollution.

The President discussed this new plan from the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where he visited children whose asthma is aggravated by air pollution. As a parent, the President said he is dedicated to make sure our planet is cleaner and safer for future generations.

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