Respected Columnist To Israelis, Palestinians:
United States Should Put You On Your Own

Finally, finally, a respected Jewish American has put into national circulation a message which the United States should deliver to the Israelis and Palestinians, a message with which I believe a majority of the American people would agree.

The respected voice is that of Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman.  His message was included in a Sunday column in The Times.

Friedman noted that Israel had turned down a $3 billion “bribe” (including advanced F-35 aircraft) which was offered to induce Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to agree to a 90-day settlement freeze and resume settlement-agreement talks with the Palestinians under United States sponsorship.  Friedman wrote:

“At a time of nearly 10% unemployment in America, we have the Israelis and Palestinians sitting over there with their arms folded, waiting for more U.S. assistance or money to persuade them to do what is manifestly in their own interest:  Negotiate a two-state deal.

“The people running Israel and Palestine have other priorities.  It is time we left them alone to pursue them and to live with the consequences…

“They just don’t get it; we’re not their grandfather’s America anymore.  We have bigger problems.”

Columnist’s Advice:  Consider Problems Facing U.S.

Friedman said the Israeli and Palestinian negotiators should consider the domestic problems confronting the United States—budget cuts affecting everything from fire departments to public schools.

Then this plain language directed to Israel:  “Israel, when America, a country that has lavished billions on you over the last 50 years, and taken up your defense in countless international forums, asks you to halt settlements for three months to get peace talks going, there is only one right answer, and it is not:  ‘How much?’  It is ‘Yes, whatever you want because you’re our only true friend in the world.’”

And this message to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas:  “What are you thinking?…Instead of chasing after Obama and telling him you’ll show up for negotiations anywhere under any circumstances the president asks, you’re also setting your own terms.

“Here’s some free advice:  When America goes weak, if you think the Chinese will deliver Israel for you, you’re wrong.  I know China well.  It will sell you out for a boatload of Israeli software microchips so fast that your head will spin.”

Jewish Philosopher Warns:  Time Is Running Short

Friedman quotes Hebrew University philosopher Moshe Halvertal as saying that the window for a two-state solution is rapidly closing and Israel will end up permanently occupying the West Bank with its 2.5 million Palestinians, along with 1.5 million Arabs who are Israeli citizens.  “Then the only question will be what will be the nature of this one state—it will either be apartheid or Lebanon.  We will be confronted with two horrors.”

Friedman quotes Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as saying, in effect:  “We’re working on a deal.  We’re close.”  To which Friedman responds:

“It’s all a fraud.  America must get out of the way so that Israelis and Palestinians can see clearly, without any obstructions, what reckless choices their leaders are making.

“Make no mistake, I am for the most active U.S. mediation effort possible to promote peace, but the initiative has to come from them.”

I quote at such length from Tom Friedman because he is highly respected as a knowledgeable commentator on international issues and, perhaps most importantly, because I believe his views reflect those of a great majority of Americans, in contrast to the views of the politically-influential pro-Israel Washington lobby.

Incidentally but importantly, Friedman spent three high school summer vacations living on a Kibbutz in Israel.  He once said his high school years were “one big celebration of Israeli’s victory in the Six-Day War.”

* * *

Recall Effort Includes Politics At Its Worst
And Some Journalism Far From Its Best

Turning to an issue much closer to home:  the effort to oust Mayor Jim Suttle through a recall election—an effort which to date has included some examples of politics at its worst and also, in some instances, journalism far from its best.

Political-officeholder wannabe businessman David Nabity was quietly bankrolling the recall effort without any public acknowledgement from either Nabity or the original sponsors until they tangled in a disagreement.  We learned then that in the words of a news story, “Nabity has provided crucial support” to the committee which originated the recall idea.  (If you read far enough into the story, in one of those too-frequent searches for important facts, you discovered in the 14th paragraph, on an inside page, the fact that Nabity raised about $200,000 of the $287,000 that the recall committee collected.)

Nabity gets continuing publicity based on his public criticism of various government officials and public policies.  He is frequently referred to as an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican nomination for governor in 2006.

My in-depth research department—my assistant Jackie Wrieth—turns up a fact which is rarely if ever reported in connection with Nabity’s campaign for governor.  He received 14,786 votes, 5.3% of the total cast for the three candidates (Dave Heineman received 138,216 votes, Tom Osborne received 121,973.)

It is understandable that there is speculation that Nabity’s interest in a recall election might very well be based on a desire to run for mayor if he can help succeed in ousting Suttle.

Irresponsible Tactics By Some Petition Circulators

Another regrettable aspect of the recall campaign is the fact that volunteers who started the campaign as a grass-roots effort  found themselves so far short of the required signatures that in the final weeks they hired paid petition circulators.  (Some grass-roots campaign!)

The paid circulators got the job done by tactics such as the following:  Telling potential petition signers that Suttle had increased taxes by many millions of dollars more than the tax increases finally approved by the City Council.  Telling potential petition signers that the cost of the recall election would be paid for by the federal government.  Tactics which appraoched harassment in some cases, as in the story told by a UNO student who said he signed the petition to end harassment by petition circulators so he could get to class.

Another signer admitted to a reporter that he didn’t know much about the issue but signed because his girlfriend asked him to.

Time after repeated time, petition recall campaigners and the news media referred to “Suttle’s tax increases.”  The truth, of course, is that Suttle proposed tax increases, which were modified by the City Council, and finally improved by a four to three City Council vote.

Four Council Members Authorized Tax Increases

At the time, I praised the four City Council members who had the political courage to approve tax increases, necessary as they were but still unpopular with a good many people who think tax increases are never necessary but insist on “cutting expenses”—usually without specifying what expenses should be cut.

This is not to suggest that Suttle didn’t have responsibility for initiating tax increase proposals—initiating them as a result, to a large extent because of problems he had inherited from previous administrations.  But the increases were the result of action by the City Council, whose majority members (Ben Gray, Chris Jerram, Garry Gernandt and Thomas Mulligan) have not spoken up as the recall campaign goes forward.

Another interesting and pertinent question has not been addressed by either the recall proponents or the news media as the campaign has heated up.

We read or hear repeatedly that 26,643 valid signatures are required to bring about the recall election.  But how was that number determined?  News media accounts have repeatedly cited the figure without explaining how it was arrived at.

The facts:  The legal requirement for forcing the recall election is valid signatures of at least 35% of the voters who turned out for the mayoral election in May, 2009.  A total of 76,122 Omahans voted then, so 35% equals the much-cited 26,643 valid signature requirement.

Another statistic which is not controlling but is an interesting—and disturbing—reflection of voter apathy:

Only about 30% of Omahans eligible to vote did so when Jim Suttle was elected mayor.  Nearly 170,000 eligible voters figuratively stayed home, shirking their civic responsibility, as I see it.

Suttle has received some advice from a journalist friendly to his cause but critical of the fact he is spending time on a court test of the validity of the petition signatures rather than mounting a campaign telling voters why he should be retained in office.  I respectfully disagree with my journalistic colleague.

The special election, if not invalidated in court, presumably will be three weeks or so into January—adequate time for an effective campaign.  Consider the difficulty of starting a campaign during the Christmas holiday season, when the campaign might be an irritating distraction.

* * *

Pelosi And Her Lame-Duck Followers
Act As If There Were No Elections

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who thinks it’s questionable that Nancy Pelosi and like-minded Democrats see nothing irresponsible about trying to turn a “lame duck” session of Congress into a “we’ll stick it to them” eleventh-hour effort by Democrats who seem to pretend that their party didn’t get hammered in the November elections.

Presumably, what Pelosi and her colleagues accomplish in the lame-duck session can be undone, to the extent necessary, when Republicans take control of the House of Representatives and seat a larger percentage of Republicans in the Senate come January 20.

Incidentally, I have not seen any news media description of the Democratic performance as that of some pretty lame ducks.

* * *

After Two Questionable Calls, Fans Hope
For Upbeat Finish For Pelini, Huskers

A column is hardly complete these days without some reference to the Nebraska Cornhusker football program, its problems and its opportunities.

The problems are pretty obvious:  Putting together a game plan that allows the Huskers to prove that their 35-point victory over the University of Washington Huskies in September was no fluke.  The Huskers, as Nebraska fandom well knows, got about the worst post-season bowl assignment possible; i.e., playing Washington again, this time in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego.

I’m not suggesting that the Huskers need to beat the Huskies by 35 points again, but the ultimate embarrassing end to the season, after three-point losses to Texas A&M and Oklahoma, would be to lose or squeak out a very narrow victory over Washington, which finished the season with last-minute victories which just enabled the Huskies to finish with a 6-6 record and thus qualify for a bowl bid.

I haven’t talked to a single Husker fan who endorses two recent decisions by Head Coach Bo Pelini:

First, going with a hobbled quarterback, red shirt freshman Taylor Martinez the entire Big Twelve championship game against Oklahoma.  The Huskers lost, 23-20.  At least two of the decisive plays in the three point loss could be directly attributed to Martinez, in the opinion of every Husker fan I’ve talked to.

The other decision by Coach Pelini which was criticized by every Husker fan I’ve talked to:  Bo’s failure to speak out immediately when reports in a Florida newspaper identified him as one of the prospects for possible hiring to fill the vacant head coaching job at the University of Miami.

Instead of moving immediately to squelch the rumor, Pelini—and Athletic Director Tom Osborne—declined prompt comment.  When Pelini got around to commenting, he said something to the effect that he doesn’t comment on rumors but that he had no intention of doing anything but continuing his head coaching job at the University of Nebraska.  A more prompt statement of that position would have gone down better with Husker fans, in my opinion.

But I think the fans continue strong in their support of Pelini and hope that the Huskers performance in the Holiday Bowl will end the season on an upbeat note.

# # #

This entry was posted in Column. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply