Posted by Joshua on Saturday, November 8th, 2008
It will be interesting to see if Emanuel feels compelled to say anything about his father’s statement. Probably not. So far it hasn’t been quoted in the main stream press. Some say his pro-Israel views and loyalty to his boss may actually benefit Obama’s ability to make peace in the Middle East and pressure the Israelis. “Israelis will not be able to pull the wool over his eyes,” and “complete loyalty to his boss [Clinton] made the Israelis afraid to talk near him,” Haaretz’s Natasha Mozgovaya and Anshel Pfeffer write.
Most pundits, however, believe Emanuel’s appointment does not augure well for an Arab-Israeli peace.
In an interview with Ma’ariv, Emanuel’s father, Dr. Benjamin Emanuel, said he was convinced that his son’s appointment would be good for Israel. “Obviously he will influence the president to be pro-Israel,” he was quoted as saying. “Why wouldn’t he be? What is he, an Arab? He’s not going to clean the floors of the White House.””
Barack Obama once joked at a charity dinner that when Rahm Emanuel severed his middle finger, it almost rendered him mute. Obama, criticized by Republicans during the campaign for his contacts with Palestinian advocates, named in Emanuel a person with strong family ties to Israel.
Benjamin Emanuel participated in the Irgun, a pre- statehood group seeking independence for Israel. As he was putting up posters to promote the resistance, he was struck on the head by a British officer’s baton, a wound that is still visible today. Benjamin’s brother, Emanuel, was killed, and he changed the family name from Auerbach to Emanuel in his honor.
It was a competitive family. Emanuel’s mother jokingly calls her middle son, “Rahmbo.” When he was 17, Emanuel severed half of his middle finger while working at an Arby’s restaurant.
Haaretz on Emanuel, “U.S. Jews laud Obama pick of Rahm Emanuel for chief of staff ”
“Choosing Rep. Emanuel is a sign that President-elect Obama is learning from the mistakes of the two most recent Democratic Presidents, who brought in Washington outsiders to run the White House, and did so at their own peril – often finding themselves in battles with the Washington Democratic establishment. Emanuel’s selection will avoid such ‘freshman mistakes’,” The UJC official continued.
“Rep. Emanuel is also a good friend of Israel, coming from good Irgun stock, davening at an Orthodox synagogue, and sending his children to Jewish day schools,” Daroff concluded.
Ira N. Forman, Executive Director of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC), echoed Daroff’s approval, saying in a statement Thursday that “Obama made an outstanding selection. Emanuel has been a forceful and effective leader within the Democratic Party. His voting record and leadership in support of the U.S.-Israel relationship are outstanding.”
“Emanuel has deep Jewish roots and strong ties to the Jewish community. Emanuel, the son of an Israeli immigrant, has a proven commitment to Israel’s security and served as civilian volunteer on an Israeli military base during the Persian Gulf War of 1991,” the statement continued.
“We congratulate Emanuel and look forward to continuing to work with Emanuel in his new role in the Obama administration.” Forman added.
Emanuel, a hard-charging Chicagoan, accepted Obama’s offer for the job after struggling over family and political considerations. By moving into a top White House job for a second time, Emanuel will have to put aside hopes of becoming speaker of the lower chamber.
The son of a Jerusalem-born pediatrician who was a member of the pre-state Irgun, Emanuel was a key figure in the administration of former President Bill Clinton, where he was known for his blunt management style. His selection is a shift in tone for Obama, who chose more low-key leadership for his presidential campaign.
In the tense talks with the Palestinians at Wye Plantation in 1998, the Israeli team headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was especially wary of one of President Bill Clinton’s aides – Rahm Emanuel. His fluent Hebrew, his instinctive grasp of the “Israeli” mind set and above all his complete loyalty to his boss made the Israelis afraid to talk near him.
Ten years later, Israel’s next prime minister will meet Emanuel in a loftier post, as Obama’s chief of staff.
“He has a kind of directness and coarseness that is very familiar to Israelis,” a veteran Israeli diplomat told Haaretz yesterday. “But it doesn’t necessarily bring him closer to us. One thing is certain – Israelis will not be able to pull the wool over his eyes.”
Emanuel… represents the worst of the Clinton years. His profile as regards Israel is explored well on this site by lawyer John Whitbeck. He’s a former Israeli citizen, who volunteered to serve in Israel in 1991 and who made brisk millions in Wall Street. He is a super-Likudnik hawk, whose father was in the fascist Irgun in the late Forties, responsible for cold-blooded massacres of Palestinians. Dad’s unreconstructed ethnic outlook has been memorably embodied in his recent remark to the Ma’ariv newspaper that “Obviously he [Rahm] will influence the president to be pro-Israel… Why wouldn’t he be [influential]? What is he, an Arab? He’s not going to clean the floors of the White House.”
Working in the Clinton White House, Emanuel … He favored the war in Iraq, and when he was chairing the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2006 he made great efforts to knock out antiwar Democratic candidates. On this site in October and November, 2006, John Walsh documented both the efforts and Emanuel’s role in losing the Democrats seats they would otherwise have won.
In 2006 Emanuel had just published a book with Bruce Reed called The Plan: Big Ideas for America, with one section focused on “the war on terror”. Emanuel and Reed wrote, “We need to fortify the military’s ‘thin green line ‘around the world by adding to the U.S. Special Forces and the Marines, and by expanding the U.S. army by 100,000 more troops. …Finally we must protect our homeland and civil liberties by creating a new domestic counterterrorism force like Britain’s MI5.” Recall that Obama has been calling throughout his recent campaign for an addition of 92,000 to the US Army and US Marine Corps.
Emanuel and Reed had fond words for the mad-dog Peter Beinart, neocon warrior theoretician for the Democrats, roosting Marty Peretz’s The New Republic, and author of The Good Fight where Beinart explained why a tough new national security policy is as essential to the future of of progressive politics as a united front against totalitarianism and communism was to the New Deal and the Great Society. …
Walsh took a hard look at the 2006 Democratic primary race between Christine Cegelis and Tammy Duckworth in Illinois’s 6th CD, a Republican District, which had elected the disgusting Henry Hyde from time immemorial. In 2004 Cegelis, who iwas only mildly antiwar, ran as the Democrat with a grass roots campaign and polled a remarkable 44 per cent in her first run. It was not too long before Hyde decided to retire, and the field seemed to be open for Cegelis in the November poll, in 2006.
Enter Rahm Emanuel, who promptly dug up a pro-war candidate, Tammy Duckworth. Although she had both her legs blown off in Iraq, she remained committed to “staying the course” in Iraq. Duckworth had no political experience and did not live in the 6th District. Emanuel raised a million dollars for her and brought in Joe Lieberman, Barak Obama, John Kerry, John Edwards and Hillary Clinton to support her. Despite all this help and with the Cegelis campaign virtually penniless, Duckworth barely managed to eke out a primary victory by a measly four percentage points.
To win the House, the Dems had to win 15 seats from the Republicans. Walsh identified 22 candidates hand picked by Emanuel to run in open districts or districts with Republican incumbents. Of these, nine adopted a US “must win” in Iraq position and only one of Rahm’s candidates was for prompt withdrawal from Iraq.
Then, after the election, Walsh assessed Rahm’s supposed brilliance in winning back the House. “Looking at all 22 candidates hand-picked by Rahm, “ Walsh wrote, “we find that 13 were defeated [including Duckworth], and only 8 won! And remember that this was the year of the Democratic tsunami and that Rahm’s favorites were handsomely financed by the DCCC. The Dems have picked up 28 seats so far, maybe more. So out of that 28, Rahm’s choices accounted for 8! Since the Dems only needed 15 seats to win the House, Rahm’s efforts were completely unnecessary. Had the campaign rested on Rahm’s choices, there would have been only 8 or 9 new seats, and the Dems would have lost. In fact, Rahm’s efforts were probably counterproductive for the Dems since the great majority of voters were antiwar and they were voting primarily on the issue of the war (60 per cent according to CNN). But Rahm’s candidates were not antiwar. … [read the rest]
Instead of panicking over fears that his administration’s approach to the peace process will be decided by at least two high-profile men, Dennis Ross and Rahm Emmanuel, whose pro-Israeli sentiments are a matter of public record, we should be preparing to make the best of whatever situation arises.
The presence of Ross, for instance, does not necessarily mean that he will influence policy. It would guarantee, however, that if Obama means to honor his campaign pledge to tackle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict early, he would have a walking repository of information at his disposal. Ross was at the heart of then-President Bill Clinton’s repeated bids to strike a peace deal in the 1990s, and although those efforts ultimately failed, knowledge of why they failed will be crucial to any future attempt. In addition, both Ross and Emmanuel would be useful “cover” for the inevitable cries of “anti-Semitism” that will result if and when an Obama administration has to pressure an Israeli government to accept a fair agreement….
The challenge for Arabs and Muslims, therefore, is not to stand around and wait for the new president to make all their dreams come true. It is to forget virtually everything they know about past American heads of state and figure out how to talk to this one.
Stephen Zunes on Emanuel: “Is Obama Screwing His Base with Rahm Emanuel Selection?”
Emanuel was a major supporter of the Iraq War resolution that authorized the invasion of Iraq. Indeed, he was the only one of nine Democratic members of Congress from Illinois who backed granting Bush this unprecedented authority to invade a country on the far side of the world that was no threat to the United States at the time. Even more disturbingly, when asked by Tim Russert on “Meet the Press” whether he would have voted to authorize the invasion “knowing that there are no weapons of mass destruction,” Emanuel answered that he indeed would have done so, effectively acknowledging that his support for the war was not about national security, but about oil and empire. Not surprisingly, he has also voted with the Republicans in support of unconditional funding to continue the Iraq War and has consistently opposed efforts by other Democrats to set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. occupation forces from that country and related Congressional efforts to end the war.
At a time of record budget deficits, Emanuel has been a passionate supporter of increased spending for the Pentagon and has resisted efforts by fellow Democrats to trim excesses in the Bush administration’s bloated military budget. For example, he has repeatedly voted against amendments to cut funding for Bush’s dangerously destabilizing missile defense and even voted against an amendment to identify unnecessary Pentagon spending by examining the need, relevance and cost of Cold War weapons systems designed to fight the former Soviet Union.
A major hawk regarding Iran, Emanuel has also voted against Democratic efforts to prevent the Bush administration from launching military action against that country and has joined the administration in exaggerated claims about Iran’s alleged nuclear threat. He is not opposed to nuclear proliferation if it involves U.S. allies, however. Emanuel has consistently voted against a series of Democratic amendments that would have strengthened safeguards in the Bush administration’s nuclear cooperation agreement with India to prevent U.S. assistance from supporting India’s nuclear weapons program.
Emanuel is also a prominent hawk regarding Israel, attacking the Bush administration from the right for criticizing Israel’s assassination policies and other human rights abuses. He was also a prominent supporter of Israel’s 2006 attacks on Lebanon, even challenging the credibility of Amnesty International and other human rights groups that reported Israeli violations of international humanitarian law. Emanuel’s father had emigrated from Israel in the 1950s, where he had been a member of the terrorist group Irgun, which had been responsible for a series of terrorist attacks against Palestinian and British civilians in mandatory Palestine during the 1940s. Emanuel himself served in a civilian capacity as a volunteer for the Israeli army in the early 1990s.
It is unclear how serious of a blow Obama’s selection of Emanuel is to those who hoped that Obama might actually steer the country in a more progressive direction. It’s easy to see it as nothing less than a slap in the face of the progressive anti-war elements of the party
…. Whether it’s ripping up contributions of political donors who lacked the good survival sense to write a bigger check, or mailing a dead fish to express his extreme displeasure or repeatedly stabbing a steak knife into a table to punctuate a list of Democratic politicians he was putting on a “dead” list, Rahm Emanuel mastered hardball long before Chris Matthews peddled it on TV. Would Emanuel be displeased by the above description? Nope. He revels in the legend….. If you hire an enforcer, are you, de facto, an enforcer, too? Yes.
Nearly 200 rallied in the Syrian capital in protest to a decree issued by the President Bashar Al-Assad forbidding the sale without prior authorization of land and property in border areas.Reports indicate that Police detained 192 of the demonstrators including eight leaders from political parties.
The protestors were, however, released a day after to ‘reassure them that the decree was not aimed at the Kurdish population but applied to all of Syria’s border regions,’ a human rights group, the National Organization of Human Rights in Syria, said in a statement.
Persuading the Uncertain and Punishing the Recalcitrant: Al-Qaeda Seeks to Absorb Iraq’s Awakening Councils By Murad Batal al-Shishani
There are indications that al-Qaeda’s struggle with Iraq’s U.S.-sponsored tribal Awakening Councils is far from over. An attack on the Baquba home of Awakening Council militia leader Shaykh Abdul Karim Hassan al-Dahlaji on October 29 left three family members dead and 14 others injured. A police source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the raid was likely to have been carried out by al-Qaeda. Four days later, a roadside bomb killed Shaykh Abbas al-Tami and his family near Baquba, the capital of Diyala province. The shaykh was the head of the Majmaa tribe and a prominent Awakening council leader. These incidents appear to be part of a strategy imposed by al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) in their fight with the Majalis al-Sahwat (Awakening Councils). READ FULL STORY
IDF concludes drill simulating war with Syria and Lebanon
By Amos Harel
Haaretz.com, 7 November 2008
The Israel Defense Forces Northern Command concluded a large-scale exercise yesterday which simulated a double-front conflagration with Syria and Lebanon.
The drill, codenamed “Shiluv Zro’ot III” (Crossing Arms III), was the second largest of its kind since the end of the Second Lebanon War in 2006. The exercise drilled the Israel Air Force and the Home Front Command in dealing with protocol and problem-solving missions under the simulated firing of thousands of rockets and missiles into the heart of Israel’s population centers.
In addition to the Northern Command, the air force and the home front command, Crossing Arms involved the IDF Military Intelligence directorate and the general staff. Unlike headquarter-level exercises from the past, Crossing Arms entailed the deployment of troops on the ground, comprising mainly reservists.
Additionally, helicopter gunships and airplanes were sent on mock raids and evacuation missions. The aircraft did not fire live ammunition, according to army sources.
During the drill, the striking aircraft were under orders to focus on imaginary long and medium-range missile launchers. The responsibility for knocking out shorter range rockets lay on ground troops that were ordered to carry out an on-paper invasion into Syrian and Lebanese territory.
Speaking before subordinate officers, Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi said that the importance attached to Crossing Arms III stemmed from the fact that it involved all IDF operational arms, and from the fact that it was put together in a way which internalized the lessons of the Second Lebanon War.
During the exercise, Ashkenazi flew aboard a Boeing Integrated Defense Systems AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter. He also went aboard an Israel Navy submarine. Other visitors included President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
Major-General Yishai Bar – who commanded one of the drill’s assault armies under Northern Command Chief Gadi Eizenkot – announced his retirement during the drill. Yishai said he will retain his position as commander of the IDF’s all-purpose reserves army, but will do so as a reservist himself.
Restoring America’s standing
By Mark A. Heller
The International Herald Tribune, 7 November 2008
….Obama will have to make good on his campaign pledge to restore America’s standing in the world, which has taken a fearful beating in the last five years.
He has already accomplished a good part of that task just by not being George W. Bush. …Whatever he does, Obama will be hard pressed to overcome the resentment caused by the perceived habit of the United States, as the biggest kid on the block, to act with insufficient regard for the role of international institutions and international law.
In late October, a cross-border raid by U.S. forces on foreign fighters in Syria suspected of aiding the insurgency in Iraq was denounced by Syria and a few others as a violation of Syrian sovereignty. For the most part, however, Syria’s complaint elicited little sympathy, probably because the Syrian regime had itself, over the previous four decades, directly or indirectly (through the use of proxies) violated the sovereignty of every one of its five neighbors…More than 1.5 million Kurds comprising nine percent of the total population live in Northern regions of Syria bordering Turkey and Iraq.