Yaakov Kornreich

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Israel Preparing for a First Strike on Iran

Newly uncovered intelligence over the scope of Iran’s nuclear weapons program has brought the long-simmering confrontation between Israel and Iran much nearer to the boiling point. Concern that an Israeli first strike may be imminent has been fueled by unusually blunt recent public statements by top Israeli government leaders, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and even the usually dovish President Shimon Peres. Those statements have been widely interpreted as clear warnings that Israel believes that time has run out for the international community try to slow down or halt the Iranian program through international sanctions or diplomacy. Furthermore, on a recent visit to Israel, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta reportedly came away without assurances from Israeli leaders that the US would be asked for a green light to launch such a strike, or even be given much advance notice before it takes place.

GOP Settles Into 3-Way Presidential Race

With the decision last week by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to forgo a run for the Republican presidential nomination, Republicans finally seem to have accepted that their candidate will be one of those who are already in the race. They have begun the difficult task of searching their own consciences and priorities to decide which one they would prefer. Another recent change is the replacement of Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann in the top tier of candidates with businessman Herman Cain. He, along with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Texas Governor Rick Perry. now makes up the short list of top GOP contenders. Cain has apparently inherited those supporters who left Perry since the August candidate debates. Romney’s level of support has remained relatively constant almost since the campaign began.

GOP Campaign Takes Shape

Republicans and the Tea Party put on a most impressive and fiery presidential candidate debate in Tampa Monday night. Each of the 8 candidates participating in the wide-ranging 2 hour discussion had their moments. Even the long shots in the field demonstrated an impressive command of the issues in the race. The debate format maximized the direct interaction between the candidates. The discussion was sharp and provocative. The moderator kept the discussion moving and covered a lot of territory, while giving each participant a fair opportunity to present or defend their position. The debate focused almost entirely on domestic issues. All the candidates readily agreed that Obama’s job creation and other economic policies have failed, and that Obamacare must be repealed. But during the sometimes heated exchanges, they managed to differentiate themselves from one another on such issues as Social Security and Medicare reform, tax policy, government mandates and immigration policy. Going into the debate, many media analysts suggested that the race for the nomination had become a two-man contest between 3-term Texas Governor Rick Perry, and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney who made a strong run for the nomination in 2008 and is the leading centrist candidate in the current GOP field. Many suggested that the debate was Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann’s last chance to defend her former status as one of the leading GOP candidates before Perry entered the race.

The Road to Election 2012: Obamanonics vs. Reaganomics

There is fresh evidence that US economic growth has slowed. This has forced economists to reduce their estimates for 2011 year-long growth, and increased the possibility of a double dip recession in 2012. The average monthly rate of job growth has been cut in half since the beginning of the year. The long-depressed housing sector has shown fresh signs of weakness, with an unexpected recent increase in mortgage defaults. The Commerce Department has also reduced its previous growth estimate for the second quarter of 2011, from 1.3% to 1.0%, meaning that the recovery slowed even more drastically than most realized during the spring. The continued high unemployment rate, plus the recent turmoil in the financial markets and the gridlock in Washington this summer over efforts to raise the federal debt ceiling, have combined to damage consumer confidence. Consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the US economy remains depressed. Some blame this in part to the high price of gasoline at the pump. Even though the price of crude oil on international markets has fallen sharply in recent weeks, the average price at the pump is still a dollar higher per gallon than it was a year ago.

Greek Tragedy: An Economic Morality Tale

Once upon a time there was a small southern European country which had a very high standard of living, and enjoyed the prosperity of its larger and economically stronger neighbors, by sharing the common euro currency, and free trade. The country had a very inefficient bureaucracy, and suffered from high levels of tax evasion and corruption, but as long as prosperity reined in the rest of Europe, the resulting economic problems could be easily ignored by borrowing money. Then, the 2008 world economic crisis hit. As the country’s tourist-based economy collapsed due to a lack of visitors, it did what it always had done before, turning to its lenders to borrow more money. However, something had changed. In 2009, after 15 consecutive years of economic growth, the little country suffered a recession. Suddenly, the little country had the biggest budget deficit in Europe. Those European banks, which used to be happy to buy as many of the country’s bonds as it was willing to sell, were now asking for much more interest in return. They were also demanding to know when the little country would stop running up budget deficits and get its debt under control. Because of the financial crisis, the banks now had to worry about when and how its loans would be repaid, and whether the little country’s bonds which they had bought, and were holding on their books as assets, would continue to pay their scheduled dividends.

Israel Facing a Diplomatic Storm

It now seems painfully clear that as long as Barack Obama remains president, Israel will face increasingly serious diplomatic difficulties in protecting itself against an Arab strategy to challenge its legitimacy. This has become painfully clear with Obama’s now open efforts to force Israel back to indefensible pre-‘67 borders. The Arabs are now so confident in their strategy that they have completely abandoned the negotiations process started 18 years ago with the signing of the Oslo accords. They are not interested in reaching a negotiated settlement of the dispute with Israel on any terms except Israel’s complete surrender to their demands. While Obama and his European allies continue to talk about two states, Israel and Palestine, living peacefully side by side, PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas has shown by his recent actions that he has abandoned that goal. That is the unmistakable message of his new alliance with Hamas, followed quickly by his outreach to Islamic Jihad, two organizations which reject the very concept of peaceful coexistence with Israel or acceptance of its legitimacy.

GOP’s 2012 Field Begins to Take Shape

After a late start, the field of would-be GOP opponents to President Obama’s 2012 re-election began to take shape last week. One 2008 conservative favorite, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, announced over the weekend that he would not be running, leaving that segment of the GOP primary vote, including the evangelical Christians, up for grabs. Huckabee first won recognition as a serious GOP presidential contender after he won the 2008 Iowa caucuses. In this election cycle, he was seen by many analysts as the most electible of the potential GOP social conservative candidates. Before his announcement, Huckabee was at the top of the Republican polls in the early caucus and primary states of Iowa and South Carolina, and near the top in many national surveys of GOP 2012 favorites. Many of the other candidates will have difficulty matching Huckabee’s populist appeal, which was one of the main factors in his success.

Hamas and Abbas Unite

Supporters of Israel were taken by surprise last week with the announcement that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and the leaders of Hamas who now rule Gaza have patched up their differences and agreed to try again to form a unity government. They are attempting to pave the way for long overdue Palestinian national elections and an effort in September to secure recognition for a Palestinian state by the UN Security Council without a negotiated agreement with Israel. The deal was brokered by Egypt’s interim military government, as part of its effort to break with the unpopular policies advocated by Hosni Mubarak over the past 30 years, and reclaim Egypt’s previous role as a recognized leader of the Arab states. While the interim Egyptian government has promised to continue observing the terms of the Camp David peace agreement signed with Israel by Anwar Sadat in 1979, it has also announced that it intends to open up the Gaza border crossing to allow a free flow of goods, effectively breaking the Israeli embargo which has been in effect since Hamas took over Gaza in 2007.

Goldstone’s Retraction and Lessons from Munich

Judge Richard Goldstone has retracted the primary conclusion of his notorious report which accused the Israeli army of deliberately committing war crimes against civilians during the invasion of Gaza two years ago. Goldstone, a retired South African judge who became famous for investigating war crimes in Yugoslavia, followed the mandate of the anti-Semites who dominate the laughably mis-named UN Human Rights Council. He issued a report on the war on September 15, 2009, endorsing the Arab “blood libel.” He accused Israel of launching “a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population” and suggested that Israeli soldiers who fought in Gaza be tried as criminals,. without considering the Israeli side of the story. Israel refused to cooperate in the Goldstone panel’s investigation, rightly concluding that the outcome of the probe was pre-judged by the condemnation of Israel in the resolution creating the panel. Goldstone, a secular Jew who claims to be a supporter of Israel, still seeks to justify his decision to lead the probe by citing the fact that his report also condemned war crimes committed by Hamas, namely the deliberate bombardment of civilian population areas in Israel which precipitated the retaliation by the army. However, the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly totally ignored that aspect of Goldstone’s report. They used its accusations against the army to pass resolutions condemning only Israel’s actions during the Gaza fighting.

Analysis: Two Battles in the Same Deficit War

The battle now going on in Wisconsin over the proposal by its newly elected governor, Scott Walker, to remove many of the collective bargaining rights of the state’s public employee unions, and the battle in Washington over the deep cuts in spending for the balance of the current fiscal year passed by House Republicans over the weekend, may seem on the surface to be separate events, but they are not. They are parts of a larger political war between Democrats and Republicans over whether to get serious about attacking the root causes of the chronic deficit spending which threaten to bankrupt our country. Republicans have finally stepped up to this problem, both on the state and federal levels, and proposed not only necessary spending cuts, but also more fundamental changes to the system to address the underlying causes of this country’s runaway government spending problem. On the state level, these include the imposition of limitations on the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions, as proposed by Governor Walker, which have been driving up government’s labor costs. The Republican governors, led by Indiana’s Mitch Daniels, also are demanding significant modifications to key provisions in the implementation of Obamacare on the state level, to prevent a further expansion of unfunded federal mandates which the states will ultimately have to pay for. Finally, governors across the country from both parties are now making painful but necessary cuts in public school spending and Medicaid benefits as the only way to balance their budgets for the coming year.

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