Friday, May 11, 2012

It's Grading Time!

Grading exams. Really, my first time out (obviously I graded last term too, but I only had six students and four of them did reaction papers throughout the term). This, hopefully, explains my silence.

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All-boys Catholic school forfeits league championship rather than play baseball against a (*gasp*) girl.

Shorter Joshua Trevino: Physically assaulting people who look weird is what I look for in a candidate.

Jonah Goldberg is a moron: A closer look.

Out in Florida, one entrepreneur is selling a Trayvon Martin gun range target (George Zimmerman's attorney, unsurprisingly, harshly condemned this).

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) on marriage equality.

Monday, May 07, 2012

What's The Impact of the Grand Coalition

The shocking news out of Israel is that Kadima has agreed to join with Likud in a unity coalition formed of 90+ MKs. New Kadima head Shaul Mofaz will join the government as Deputy Prime Minister. Bibi had been in the process of calling early elections that would have almost certainly seen Likud gain seats and Kadima lose (a great many of) them. So it was unexpected that Bibi would agree to this, and everyone is trying to figure out what's going on -- who wins and who loses.

The obvious winner is Kadima -- which just staved off a crushing, potentially back-breaking election defeat. Equally obvious losers are Labor -- which was looking like it was poised to bounce back in the new elections, and Yair Lapid, who had formed a new party that looked like it was gaining traction on a populist platform. But with Likud gaining new breathing room, folks are inevitably wondering if any of Bibi's current coalition partners are on the outs, and eyes are falling both on Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu. The former seems the more immediate target, as one of the first things the new coalition plans on doing is reforming the laws granting ultra-orthodox Jews exemptions from military service. But I'm hearing a lot of chatter that it is Avigdor Lieberman in the cross-hairs. Corruption issues aside, and his disastrous reign as Foreign Minister also aside, Lieberman and his party represent the biggest threat to Likud's dominance as the preeminent right-wing party. It wouldn't surprise me if Bibi was trying to hobble their stratospheric momentum.

Kadima's decision to join the government breaks persistent party policy dating from the last election -- a policy Mofaz swore to continue when he was campaigning for party chairmanship last month. I remember being very sympathetic to Kadima not joining the governing coalition back in 2009. It was a principled stand on the notion that Kadima just couldn't link arms with an essentially fascist party like Yisrael Beiteinu.

But the thing about principled stands is that they come with costs. And this one has been costly. The right/far-right coalition that emerged instead has been a disaster for Israel. And the fact that essentially all of Bibi's coalition partners were to his right meant that the Prime Minister was forced to be far less accommodating and far more belligerent than I think even he would have liked.

J.J. Goldberg makes the case that may well save the Israeli peace camp. Mofaz ousted Tzipi Livni, whom I admired, but on substance they aren't that far apart. That includes Mofaz having good social democratic instincts and, more importantly, a clear-eyed picture of the situation with the Palestinians. Putting Mofaz in government gives Netanyahu a countervailing voice, which at least makes it more likely he'll move the peace process forward. We can only hope, anyway.

The other major question around this whole thing is what it means for Israel's Iran policy. Here, I have little to say. Mofaz is Iranian-born and this an issue close to his heart. But I've seen wildly conflicting predictions about what direction this pushes Israel vis-a-vis Iran. Some think "grand unity coalition" equals run-up to war. Others think that Mofaz has demonstrated no interest in Israel adopting a more aggressive posture. I don't know what to think on this, so I'll just wait and see, like everyone else.

More Deafening Silence from "Pro-Israel" Stalwarts

Back in March, I noted my growing frustration that mainline pro-Israel groups were staying silent as one-staterism grows in influence and respectability, particularly amongst the American right. Endorsements by the RNC, two state legislatures, and several high-profile Republicans have been met with nothing but a blank page from groups like the AJC, ADL, JCPA, and others.

The other day, Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) took to the Washington Times to explicitly say what many on the right are thinking -- no to a two-state solution. Israel should annex the West Bank outright. Recognizing that this would force Israel to choose between being a full democracy or a Jewish state, Walsh elects for the latter, and reduces Palestinians to only a limited degree of political rights. It is equally obvious to the rest of us that this is unsustainable, and while Walsh is already sacrificing Israel's democratic character, he'd likely end up sacrificing its Jewish nature as well. Either way, it's the end of the Zionist dream of a Jewish, democratic homeland in Israel.

Walsh is certainly not as high-profile as, say, Rick Santorum. He has also not been a friend to Israel or Jews. But in dedicating a column explicitly to supporting a one-state solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, Walsh immediately has made one of the highest-profile gestures towards mainstreaming that position in American politics.

Over the last few days, I've been searching in vain to see Jewish, pro-Israel groups denounce Walsh's dangerous proposal. J Street has a tweet up (update: and now a full post). And ... that's it. ADL? Nothing. AJC? Nothing. JCPA? Nothing. We Are For Israel? Nope.

All of these groups purport to denounce one-stateism. And they'll do it, when the promoters are some fringe academics or lunatic activists. But none of them have the guts to take it on when it presents itself as an actual threat -- from U.S. Congressmen, from major political players, from folks with money and power and influence. In other words, none of them are ready to defend Israel when it matters. It's pathetic.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Olmert Blames American Right-Wing for Blocking Peace Deal

I just feel compelled to point this out: Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says that it was right-wing American dollars that prevented his peace plan from going through back in 2008. He didn't name names, but we know the sorts of folks who is referring to. They like to call themselves pro-Israel. They're anything but. And as far as Olmert is concerned, that Israel didn't get a peace deal signed with the Palestinians is directly on their heads.