Israel

Unsettled

  The Gush Katif Museum in Jerusalem was a fitting venue for U.S. presidential hopeful and Republican leader Mike Huckabee this past Wednesday. The museum is a monument to the Gaza disengagement, which most Israelis see as a failure--and which looms large in their minds as they anticipate demands from Obama for further settlement evictions. Huckabee has come to the Holy Land this week to present Israelis with a completely different vision, spending much of his trip condemning Obama's pressure to halt settlement construction.

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The administration has not yet commented--and probably won't comment--on the news that the president of the Palestinian Authority, partner of the U.S. and Israel in peace processing, is today on a visit to Khartoum for talks with the president of Sudan. Omar al-Bashir has a warrant out for his head on charges of genocide. This indictment by the International Criminal Court has never bothered any other leaders of the Arab world. So why should it perturb Abbas? (But I want to be fair.

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  At a world economic summit in London this April, Barack Obama had his first encounter with the king of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz. With TV cameras rolling, Obama strode up to the elderly Saudi monarch, extended his hand, and smiled broadly as he bent at the waist in a swift but unmistakable bow. As the image rocketed around the Internet, the White House was quick to insist that the move had not been one of supplication. "It wasn't a bow," one aide told Politico at the time.

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The Evolution of God By Robert Wright (Little, Brown, 567 pp., $25.99) I. Over its history, science has delivered two crippling blows to humanity's self-image. The first was Galileo's announcement, in 1632, that our Earth was just another planet and not, as Scripture implied, the center of the universe.

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Last week, the White House released a list of recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor that the United States government can afford a civilian. Among the 16 awardees are truly great figures: breast cancer philanthropist Nancy Goodman Brinker, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, and Sidney Poitier, the first African-American to win an Academy Award for Best Actor.

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Disengagement

The pun in the title of Israel Is Real, the new book by Rich Cohen, is silly but not meaningless. The problem of reality, and how to distinguish it from fantasy, fear, and hope, has been with the Zionist project since the very beginning.

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Two Israeli writers caused a stir last week by calling on President Obama to speak directly to Israelis, similar to the way he has addressed populations from Cairo to Moscow. “Simply stated, take your campaign directly to the Israeli people, and soon,” Bradley Burston wrote in a Haaretz blog post.

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Obama's point man on Iran, Dennis Ross, recently visited Israel, just one among a cadre of Obama officials to trek there this summer in an effort to get the peace process moving. As Bill Clinton's chief Middle East peace negotiator, Ross is no stranger to Jerusalem, and his visit inspired me to check his 800-page account of those years for insights about the current Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Ross's book, The Missing Peace, paints a rather unflattering portrait of Netanyahu, whose first term as prime minister ran from June 1996 to July 1999.

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Rahm And Israel, Cont'd

His father, whose public comments have caused trouble in the past, talks again to for a long Ha'aretz article about the White House chief of staff and Israel: When Rahm's father hears that the interlocutor is an Israeli journalist, Dr. Benjamin Emanuel, a retired Jerusalem-born pediatrician who moved to Chicago in the 1950s after finishing his studies in Switzerland, switches to Hebrew. "I'm simply surprised that in Israel they jump down his throat," he says angrily. "I love the country, my children are Zionists, they came to Israel every year, and I don't know why they're attacking Rahm.

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Family Feud

Jerusalem, Israel   Are we in the early stages of an American-Israeli crisis? Or are the growing and public disagreements between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government over settlements and Jerusalem merely arguments "within the family," as President Obama insisted in his recent meeting with American Jewish leaders?   According to one poll, only six percent of Israelis consider Obama a friend. That perception of hostility is new. Israelis welcomed Barack Obama when he visited here in July 2008 and many responded enthusiastically to his election.

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