Washington Power Shabbas Whispers

Gershom Gorenberg

I try to get away from business on Shabbat. I don’t read newspapers. They make me feel like I’m at work. OK, if my kids are reading this, they’ll point out, gently I hope, that I don’t try very hard not to talk politics. I can’t go 25 hours without a fix.

In Washington last Shabbat, it wasn’t even worth trying. At a shul in an unrevealed location, people who work in Interesting Places drifted around the kiddush tables, handing me nibbles of rumors. It was a power Shabbas.

Even so, conversations on Shabbat are off-off-record. In fact, I never actually talked to anyone at all. Merely by the feel of the hall, I picked up these ideas. If they turn out wrong, I take no responsibility for a hint, a whisper and speculation. If they turn out to be true, I’ll take credit for my great sources.

Hint: Dennis Ross is in. He’ll be a special adviser to HRC. “Special adviser” isn’t an insult or demotion, despite what some people think. Dennis can’t be appointed special envoy to Iran, because Washington doesn’t yet talk to Iran. And no, it’s not strange that his appointment hasn’t been announced yet. First the cabinet secretaries, then the undersecretaries. Afterward, envoys and advisers.

Then again, George Mitchell has already been appointed as a special envoy, even before Obama had put his kids’ pictures on his desk. This may also be a hint, indicating how important O thinks that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is. Or that thought may be merely Shabbat optimism.

Whisper: Various press reports say that the Obama administration is putting pressure on Tzipi Livni to get together with Bibi in a unity government. I heard a whisper that this is ridiculous. The second-hand whisper said that actually, it would be better for Livni to stay out, and let Netanyahu form a narrow rightwing government that will fall quickly, so that new elections can be held. I didn’t hear any whisper as to whether the O Team would lean a little to help it fall.

Speculation, or evaluation: Congress was once the back-up for AIPAC, ready to provide pressure on any administration that pressures Israel over issues such as settlement. But Congress may finally be shifting. At long last, maybe too late, the need for a two-state solution has become conventional wisdom there as well. At a hearing of the House of Representatives Middle East subcommittee last week, strongly pro-Israel congressman Gary Ackerman criticized settlement building and settler “pogroms” as adding to a “downward spiral” in the conflict. People who work in Interesting Places noticed and talked about this.

If the O Team does lean on Israel on these topics, there may be some grumbling in Congress. The speculation says the grumbling won’t be as strong as it once was. That will give Obama a freer hand.

Kids, I promise you, I never even opened a newspaper last Shabbat. Who needed to?

9 thoughts on “Washington Power Shabbas Whispers”

  1. Unfortunately here in Detroit and most of the Upper Midwest there is little to no interest in Israel’s election or” who’s on first ” . Nothing in the local newscasts or papers and really the populace in large part doesn’t give a crap. So the so-called political leaders need to pay heed to the attention Obama has shown them or they may soon find themselves irrelevant as the Republican Party. Much of the New York Times Sunday Edition dealt with memories of Roosevelt’s First 100 days and the History channels spent an inordinate amount of time on the Depression this weekend. The nation is transfixed and Israel and it’s problems are of “no moment” which can turn into “out of sight ,out of mind” quick. I see no real statesmanship being put forth by Israel by the way of a personage who could captivate interest and really folks most Americans don’t care if the Palesinians beat the poop out of you. I care but I’m 73 years old and the recession (depression) probably won’t touch me.

  2. George says:
    ————————————————————
    I see no real statesmanship being put forth by Israel by the way of a personage who could captivate interest and really folks most Americans don’t care if the Palesinians beat the poop out of you.
    ————————————————————

    On the other hand, polls clearly showed that most folks don’t care if we Israelis beat the hell out of the Palestinians, either. And that’s the way it should be. We’ll take care of ourselves. That’s the whole idea behind Zionism.

  3. Psst. Here is another Shabbas rumor. Iran is building nuclear weapons. If you want to prevent old Mr Hilborn from having his wet dream realized by having Iran nuke Israel, youd better think of something soon. As for Ackermann, his Jewish donors were madoffed and he is now looking for the Saudis for support

  4. Regarding Dennis Ross, I thought the reason he has not been given any position re: the middle east is that he is perceived as being pro-israel and lacking credibility as an envoy or mediator, and that Mitchell or even Kurtzer are more appropriate.

    It seems to me that the position of a general advisor to Hilary Clinton is an attempt to give Ross some position (after all, he supported Obama), but with little influence re: the middle east.

    Personally, I think it is a good decision. His performance at Camp David and beyond, having read the accounts was very ordinary and he was clearly more sympatheic to Israeli as opposed to Palestinian demands (compared to Miller or Malley).

  5. Kurtzer claims to be an Orthodox Jew. Isn’t nice that an Orthdox Jew can make himself “neutral” and not, perish the thought “pro-Israel”. I am glad he can dispassionately watch Jews being murdered as long as this corresponds to the interests of his United States (e.g. Secretary of State Powell’s endless ranting about “disproportionality” when Israel was trying to defend itself from Arafat’s murderous suicide bomber campaign).
    A real success story for American Orthodox Jewry. Something on the order of Noach Feldman.

  6. Kurtzer is just a failed promoter trying to make a buck. This hapless schmatta peddler was on the outs during the Bush years, along with Aardon David Miller and other schnorrers. Kurtzer could care less if innocent Jews die as long as he receives his paycheck

  7. Interesting whisper on the Netanyahu coalition front. I’m a little skeptical, though. Would a short-term, right-wing failed Netanyahu coalition necessarily lead to better results in the next election, where better means more centrist? (This hope seems to be what the “whisper” implies.) Reminds me a bit of a gambler at the Vegas tables–“just one more go and I know I’ll win this time!” In the meantime, do we want to risk a Netanyahu/Lieberman dominated government? Yikes.
    I’d like to hear your takes on this, G & H.

  8. Lisa-
    You just had a Leftist-“peace camp” government in power. Did they make peace? No. So then what are you worried about if the Right should be in power?

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