Daily Archives: May 8, 2012

Hollande likely to stick with Sarkozy policies on Iran, Syria, but 2012 Afghan withdrawal expected


French President-elect Francois Hollande is likely to speed up the withdrawal of French troops from Afghanistan and won’t support U.S. efforts to deploy a missile-defense system in Europe, policy changes that would affect France’s position on key international security issues.

But the new French government, headed by a member of the Socialist Party for the first time in 17 years, is unlikely to stray far from the policies of defeated conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy in areas such as Iran’s nuclear program and the conflict in Syria.

Bassma Kodmani, a leading figure in the opposition Syrian National Council, the internationally recognized umbrella group for opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad, said in an interview in Paris that he expected no change in French policy toward his country. Sarkozy and his foreign minister, Alain Juppe, have been among Assad’s harshest international critics, backing calls for the creation of a humanitarian corridor where Assad opponents could take shelter from Syrian military campaigns.

“Francois Hollande and other socialist leaders have been very supportive,” Kodmani said. “We can expect the next French government to be consistent.”

Hollande has made no speech since his Sunday election that touches on foreign policy matters, but during his campaign he said France would participate in military intervention in Syria “if it is done in the framework of the U.N.” – a step that would first have to win approval of the United Nations Security Council, where it would face a likely Russian veto.

Experts here saw a thaw in Iranian-French relations as unlikely under Hollande. During the campaign, Hollande called Iran’s nuclear program “a vital danger for Israel and for world peace,” and he promised no letup in French pressure on the regime in Tehran.

The French Socialists have long criticized Sarkozy’s 2009 decision to return France to the integrated military command of NATO, but military experts said they doubted Hollande would want to change that decision now. But a former key French military commander – who asked that he not be quoted by name because he did want to be involved in what he said was essentially a political matter – said he thought Hollande would likely oppose French participation in a missile defense shield for Europe.

The retired general said Hollande is expected to make that point at the NATO summit meeting scheduled for May 19 in Chicago, four days after Hollande assumes office. 

Hollande expressed reservations about missile defense during his campaign, noting on one occasion that French companies “have no opportunity to participate commercially in this program.” He also said a missile-defense system undercuts “the very idea of deterrence” – the concept that nuclear-armed nations are less likely to resort to those weapons if they themselves could be the subject of a nuclear attack.

Sarkozy already had said that French troops would be out of Afghanistan by the end of 2013, a year ahead of the planned U.S. troop withdrawal. But Hollande has said he wants the 3,500 French forces there out by the end of this year.

Juppe said in April that he does not think so quick a departure could be arranged, “not as part of an organized return.” He said a withdrawal that quickly “would be a rushed escape” and “brings dishonor militarily.”

Sarkozy ordered French troops to come home early after an Afghan soldier killed four French colleagues in January. Sarkozy also ordered French troops to cease participating in combat missions. Eighty-two French soldiers have died in Afghanistan since 2001.

Comments Off on Hollande likely to stick with Sarkozy policies on Iran, Syria, but 2012 Afghan withdrawal expected

Filed under News

Israeli candidate runs for Congress in Texas



DALLAS, Texas – Hundreds of Israelis are running for a seat in the Knesset. Only one is running for a seat in Congress.

Itamar Gelbman was born in New York 30 years ago and as a child moved with his parents to Herzliya, where he was raised. He studied business management and computer science at Tel Aviv University and served as an undercover reserve officer in the Tel Aviv Police District.

After graduation, Gelbman joined the IDF where he was a lieutenant in what he calls the “army special forces.” He said he could not be more specific about what he did in the army but that he received multiple awards, including a commendation from the IDF chief of staff.

Eight years ago, he moved to Texas. After US President Barack Obama was elected in 2008, Gelbman decided to get involved in politics. At first he wanted to volunteer for a politician, but he did not like the current crop of politicians where he lives.

“I didn’t like what I saw, so I decided to step up and run myself,” he said.

Gelbman is running in the May 29 Republican Primary in Texas’s Sixth Congressional District, which is outside Dallas. He will face off against incumbent Joe Barton, who was first elected in 1984 and has never won reelection with less than 60 percent of the vote, and challenger Joe Chow.

After Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly and the television show Inside Edition ran critical reports of Barton receiving a car paid for by taxpayers, Gelbman said he is confident he could beat him. One of his reasons for optimism is that voters in the heavily Evangelical Christian district like his connection to Israel.

“I’m the only candidate for the seat who is pro-Israel,” Gelbman said.

“Barton has been in office for 28 years and has never been publicly outspoken on Israel. He votes with Republicans in favor of Israel, but he never visited. Israel’s not his thing,” he said.

Gelbman said he believes American politicians need to give Israel the benefit of the doubt. He does not believe the US should involve itself in the settlement issue and he would work to block foreign aid to Islamic countries that act against Israel and the United States.

“I would defend Israel and be their voice in the House,” he said.

“Israel should be allowed to do whatever it needs to do. The Palestinians need to change their education system and accept Israel as a Jewish state with Jerusalem as its capital.”

Gelbman said he would work to make sure a law requiring the US to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem would be enforced.

He received national attention when Muslims in his district were offended by his campaign flyer in which vowed to “fight the Islamization of America.”

Asked for his views on Iran, he said he was “100% against the Iranian nuclear weapons program and 100% behind Israel’s right to defend itself.”

He said that if Iran’s nuclearization was prevented, it would make the entire world safer.

Gelbman recently came to Israel to spend Passover with family. While he was in the country, he met with MK Danny Danon and other Likud politicians. He said he’s not a religious person but that he respects Jewish tradition.

Though Gelbman bills himself as the “first American- Israeli running for US Congress,” current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose father was born in Jerusalem and served in the Irgun, was in Congress from 2002 to 2009.

“Rahm Emanuel isn’t Israeli,” Gelbman said. “He never lived in Israel, and never served in the IDF. His father is Israeli.”



Comments Off on Israeli candidate runs for Congress in Texas

Filed under News

Congressman Endorses Apartheid, Ethnic Cleansing for Palestinians


The Atlantic

In a Washington Times op-ed, Rep. Joe Walsh, a Tea Party Republican from Illinois, unveils his new plan for solving the Israel-Palestine problem: 

1) Make the occupied territories part of Israel;

2) Give Palestinians who live in those territories “limited voting power” in the new, bigger Israel that they’ll have suddenly become residents of. (Walsh doesn’t define his euphemism, but no doubt the idea is that Jews get one-person-one-vote and Palestinians get something less, so that Israel can remain a Jewish state.)

3) Palestinians who don’t like having “limited voting power” can move to Jordan.

There are, of course, people who say that Israel already practices apartheid. Their argument: Israel has ruled West Bank Palestinians for 45 years, shows no signs of ending the occupation (and indeed keeps expanding the settler population), and doesn’t let these Palestinians vote in Israeli elections even though Jewish settlers in the West Bank do get to vote. The counter-argument is that, since the West Bank isn’t part of Israel, the policies that prevail there can’t make Israel an apartheid state. Joe Walsh’s plan would end the argument once and for all, making apartheid official Israeli policy.

As for whether this plan would also constitute ethnic cleansing: Well, when you (1) tell members of an ethnic group that the land they live on is being given to another nation; (2) tell them that neither they nor their descendants will be allowed to vote in that nation’s elections, even though next-door neighbors of a different ethnicity can; (3) tell them that the only way to avoid this fate is to go to another country–yeah, I’d call that ethnic cleansing, at least of a “soft” variety. (The harder variety, involving physical intimidation, is already practiced by the more extreme settlers–with little success thus far, though it could no doubt work in powerful synergy with Walsh’s subtler approach.)

Offhand, I don’t recall a member of Congress in my lifetime saying anything so grotesquely at odds with American ideals about ethnic relations and for that matter basic human rights. Will the Anti-Defamation League denounce Walsh? Will the American Jewish Committee? Will AIPAC have anything to say about the congressman whose strongly pro-Israel views its newsletter approvingly highlighted? If not, why not?

Comments Off on Congressman Endorses Apartheid, Ethnic Cleansing for Palestinians

Filed under News