Fatah says no to unity government with Hamas

How does that old Tom Lehrer song (National Brotherhood Week) go?  “Oh, the white folks hate the black folks, And the black folks hate the white folks. To hate all but the right folks,  is an old established rule.” and “Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics, And the Catholics hate the Protestants, And the Hindus hate the Muslims, And everybody hates the Jews.”  (See the entire lyrics at http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/National-Brotherhood-Week-lyrics-Tom-Lehrer/625DBDA1F04F231148256A7D0025A2FC).

In reading Khaled Abu Toameh’s article in today’s Jerusalem Post (http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=210090), I can only wonder how quickly the blame for Fatah not wanting to deal with Hamas or Fayyad will shift to Israel and the Jews.  Maybe I’m paranoid, but I don’t think so.

It does beg the question –  “So who really is the elected government of the Palestinians?   If Fayyad, Abbas, and Hamas are all illegitimate, since elections haven’t been held on schedule, they won’t work together to have elections, and they tend to kill one another when possible, who, specifically, speaks for the Palestinians?”

The obvious conundrum in this is, as always, who should Israel negotiate with to settle the issues? 

If they negotiate with Fayyad, Fatah and Hamas won’t accept any agreements.

If they negotiate with Hamas (which isn’t going to happen – this is just hypothetical), the PA and Fatah won’t accept any agreements.

If they negotiate with Fatah, Hamas won’t agree with any agreements. The PA MIGHT accept those agreements, but it appears unlikely.

Of course, to the world, this is all Israel’s fault, because of course, the reason the Palestinians can’t agree with one another and continue to kill one another is because of the occupation, right?

But, if Israel pulled out of the West Bank tomorrow, evacuated all the “settlements”, evacuated all the Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, what would change in the inter-Palestinian relationships?

Would that miraculously generate peace between the various factions? Would it engender a peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict? Would it stop the rockets from Gaza from falling on Southern Israel, or, would rockets start flying to Israel from the West Bank?

I find it REALLY disturbing that these questions are glossed over by the governments of most of the world who point the finger of blame at Israel and demand that Israel not defend itself against attacks, or try to interdict arms shipments to Hamas.

I won’t stoop to the obvious response that it’s due to anti-Semitism, because I think that’s overly simplistic, but, I don’t have any other rational explanation for it, either….

The Budget, Deficit, and Spending Cuts – Part 2

Yesterday, I wrote about our national budget, the deficit (amount we spend beyond what we take in in taxes), our national debt, and the ridiculously ineffective shell game our legislators are playing, trying to convince us that saving $4 billion will somehow make a difference in our fiscal health.

Today, I’d like to talk a little more about this topic.

Let’s mention first that currently, the annual interest on our national debt (of which about 50% goes to creditors outside the USA, like China) is approximately $169 BILLION.  That’s just the INTEREST on what we owe.

That means that we spend roughly 4.5% of our budget just to pay the interest on our national debt.  $4 billion (the amount the government is fighting so mightily to cut from our spending) is roughly 2.4% of what we spend on interest payments on the national debt.

Frankly, I don’t know whether to laugh, cry, bang my head against the wall, or just lay down and give up.

When you spend more money than you earn, you have only a few options.

1.    You can cut your spending.  If you’re a family who suddenly loses a job, takes a pay cut, etc., you cut out all discretionary spending.  You pay your mortgage, buy basic food, pay your utilities, but you also cut spending on clothing, vacations, new cars, eating out, and anything else you can.  Maybe you start cutting your kids’ hair yourself, repairing things instead of replacing them, you turn down the thermostat to save on utility bills, etc.   Perhaps you walk away from your home, in extreme cases, and move somewhere you can afford given your new circumstances.    In short, you cut whatever you absolutely can cut, while not blowing off your obligations. 

2.    You can increase your earning power.  Perhaps you take a part time job, a second job, or find a new job that pays more.  Perhaps your kids take part time jobs at McDonalds to help pay the bills.    This clearly is harder, usually, than decreasing your spending, but you can’t always cut enough to make it.

3.    You can declare bankruptcy and start over.  This is a drastic action, and not recommended for sissies.  Your creditors are out of luck, and your credit will be destroyed for a long time.  This is a last resort.

What you DON’T do, unless you’re really stupid or insane, is continue spending at the same levels, racking up debt on your credit cards, barely paying the minimum by shifting money from credit card to credit card by taking cash advances.

Basic financial planning tells us that the proper course of action is to cut up the credit cards, cut expenses, pay off the higher interest debt first, and work to spend ONLY what you can afford.

I have to wonder why our legislators don’t get that.  What is it about spending taxpayer money that makes it ok to continue spending more than we have?

So, what’s the solution?

It’s probably a combination of the options mentioned above.

First – NO SPENDING BEYOND INCOME!!!!!

Our deficit spending ($1.27 Trillion) is about 1/3 of our budget for 2011.  That means that we need to cut $1.27 TRILLION, not $4 BILLION from our budget for this year.

Clearly, that’s not realistic in the short term.  We have too many sacred cows, too many people who aren’t willing to have their ox gored, and way too many special interests.  But, it’s necessary.

Second – INCREASE INCOME!!!!

As much as I would hate to see increased taxes, it may be necessary.  There are ways to do this without targeting any particular segment of the population.  Yes, the rich have more, but they already pay more.  If you took 100% of what they make, it still wouldn’t make a significant difference in paying down the debt.  EVERYONE needs to share in the burden.  We all benefit from government to some degree – we drive on interstates, we have armed forces to protect us, we get social security, medicaid, medicare, and other things that we can’t just stop doing.

Somehow, we have to pay for those things that are NECESSITIES.

But, there has to be a balance between spending cuts and income increases.

Doing just cuts is not enough, but it is definitely necessary.  A first step would be a 15-25% cut in the budgets of ALL federal programs and departments, across the board, for the 2012 fiscal year.  The howls will reach the sky, but frankly, just like in the private sector, we need to learn to do more with less.  Then, do it again for 2013, and again for 2014.

In some cases, that will mean layoffs of public employees.  In other cases, it will mean reductions in benefits and salaries.  In hopefully more cases, it will mean implementation of efficiencies in how we do things.

There is absolutely NO excuse for our government to avoid the hard decisions and cuts necessary to streamline our expenses.

As the economy improves (as it surely will eventually), our income will rise as a natural effect of people making more money and paying more taxes.  As that happens, take whatever increases we get AND USE IT TO PAY DOWN THE NATIONAL DEBT UNTIL IT IS GONE.  Do not allow ANY additional spending until the debt is gone and we are not spending ANYTHING as deficit spending.

I know that this is overly simplistic.  I am not an economist, a political scientist, or (thank G_D) a politician, but this is really just common sense (yes, I know, common sense isn’t common).

If the people we have elected don’t have the brains or the fortitude to do what is necessary, we have elections again in 2012.  Perpetuating the same abuses and excesses of the system is not an option….

The Budget, Deficit, and Spending Cuts

So, now the congress is arguing about $4 billion in spending cuts.  There have been proposals for $32 billion and $61 billion, and our leaders are arguing as if those numbers are meaningful.

In truth, they are just pissing in the wind.

Let’s look at just a few numbers:

  1. The 2011 Budget is $3.83 TRILLION

  2. The federal DEFICIT was forecasted to be $1.56 TRILLION in 2010 and $1.27 TRILLION in 2011.  I’m not sure what it actually is, but for the sake of argument, let’s call it over $1.25 TRILLION.  This is the amount of money our government will write checks we cannot cover.

  3. Our national debt, which is changing by the second, is over $14 TRILLION

Let’s assume that the congress actually was able to pass and implement their $61 BILLION in cuts.  That represents a whopping 4.8% of our DEFICIT SPENDING.

It represents a whole 1.6% of the Federal budget.

It represents an amazing 0.4% of our national debt.

So, what does this mean in real terms?  Absolutely nothing.  By cutting $61 billion, our leaders believe that somehow, we are too stupid to realize that they have done (and they haven’t even done that, yet) absolutely nothing.  $61 billion is not enough to do anything.

Unless our leaders (and I use the term loosely) get their acts together and figure out that in order to bring our runaway spending under control means making REALLY hard choices, and actually do it, their chances of reelection in 2012 are dwindling quickly.

Personally, I prefer to see drastic cuts in anything not absolutely vital to our basic functioning.  If that has to come with tax hikes, so be it.

But, to pretend that a measly $61 billion (which in all likelihood will end up being $4 billion) will make any difference whatsoever in the future fiscal soundness of our nation is much, much worse than a lie.  It’s insulting to think that our “leaders” think we would pat them on the back for being so bold and cutting essentially nothing.

Response to Jerry Haber’s ridiculous comments

I ran across the blog of a Jerry Haber, which apparently is a pseudonym for the author (see below).  The post below is copied from http://972mag.com/thank-you-mr-president/ so I can reply, point by point, to his comments, which I find incredibly naive (at best) and incredibly malicious toward Israel.  I suspect (LOL!) that Haber’s comments are sarcastic.  I’m happy to respond to them anyway.

Jeremiah (Jerry) Haber is the nom de plume of an orthodox Jewish studies and philosophy professor, who divides his time between Israel and the US. This article was published on Jerry’s blog, The Magnes Zionist.

I do frequently wonder how people who should know better arrive at views like those of Mr. “Haber”.

Please see his comments and my response to them below:

Haber: Thank you, Mr. President, for vetoing the UN Security Counsel Resolution condemning the Israeli settlements as illegal.

Poris: Well, I agree with that statement, even though I believe that the resolution wouldn’t have existed had Obama and Biden made such a colossal blunder last year by making an enormous issue of Jewish building in Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem.  Neighborhoods, by the way, that broad consensus agreed would remain part of Israel in any peace agreement.  That blunder drove the PA away from the negotiating table and set the stage for the current round of Abbas going all over the world to gain support for a unilateral declaration of statehood, and refusing to negotiate without his “pre-conditions” being met in advance of any negotiations.  Of course, those “pre-conditions” simply give the Palestinians everything they claim to want.  As a negotiating tactic, it’s smart, but as a tool to reach an actual peace agreement, it’s beyond stupid (and harmful).

Haber: Thank you for making America the only country in the world to support Israel on this matter.

Poris: Again, I have to agree with Mr. Haber.  Indeed, thank you for actually supporting our only real ally in the Middle East, no matter how grudgingly you did it, and no matter how backhanded the commitment to Israel’s security and status as our ally.

Haber: Thank you for contradicting long-standing US policy on the settlements.

Poris: See my comment just above.  Add to it my contempt for that “long-standing US policy on the settlements.”   While I am not a proponent of settlements deep inside the West Bank, it is not because I think they’re illegal.  It’s simply because I believe that they are counter-productive to reaching a long-term peace agreement.

Haber: Thank you for not abstaining on this vote – which is what the US has done in the past.

Poris: Again – on a roll here.  I totally agree with that statement, although I suspect Haber might have meant it “tongue in cheek”.  See my comment above.  The US DEFINITELY needed to veto this.  Abstaining would imply that we agree with the resolution, but don’t have the courage to stand up and be counted one way or the other.  I do not believe the settlements, especially those in Jerusalem (which are NOT settlements, but neighborhoods, some of which have been Jewish for hundreds and thousands of years aside from 1948-1967, when they were occupied by Jordan).

Haber: Thank you for talking the talk on settlements but not walking the walk.

Poris:  Well, I actually have to agree that Obama contradicted himself here, although as you might have inferred from my comments, I’m glad he did.  I think the US’ stance is wrong, as is that of the rest of the world, especially with regards to Jerusalem and the settlements straddling or just over the “Green Line”.   Again, it’s not a matter of law, since I don’t think the Palestinians have any more legal claim to the land than do the Israelis.  They clearly have world opinion on their side, but that is not a legal argument, nor really a moral one.

Haber: Thank you for allowing Israel to say, as it always does, “We and the US have disagreements on various items, but our bond is strong.”

Poris:   Why shouldn’t Israel say that we have disagreements but our bond is strong?  What is wrong with that?  Because we’re allies, are we required to be locked together on every issue?  Is Israel required to salute and say “yes sir, may I have another” every time the US decides something that is NOT in Israel’s best interests?  What alliance does not have disagreements, including marriage?    Do husbands and wives, or friends, always agree, or do they sometimes agree to disagree even though they stay friends?   Somehow, Haber seems to imply by that statement that Israel has no right to determine its own foreign or domestic policy, and that they are bound to do whatever the US says.  That clearly is not the case with other US “allies” who receive huge amounts of military and foreign aid, but NEVER vote with or support the US in any way.  Israel has earned the right to disagree sometimes.  They are clearly the most faithful ally this country has, and the only one in the Middle East with values even remotely close to our own.

Haber:  Thank you for doing nothing about the biggest settlement activity within East Jerusalem in over forty-three years.

Poris:  Hmmmm.  I think that Haber’s comment about “settlement activity within East Jerusalem” is actually an oxymoron.  The neighborhoods in East Jerusalem are not “settlements”.  Many of these neighborhoods were Jewish before 1948, when Jordan occupied them and drove out the Jewish residents.  Other areas were vacant.  Clearly, some had Arab residents.  Some left, some sold, and some were driven out.  None of those things are very nice.  But frankly, there is a lot more Arab building going on in both the West Bank and in East Jerusalem than Jewish building, most without permits.  I don’t see anyone complaining about how the Arabs are disrupting the “status quo” by creating “facts on the ground”, even though if a Jew does it, suddenly it’s horrific.  Many of these areas have been understood for years to be part of Israel in any peace agreement.  That has been verified by the recent leak of the Palestine Papers published by Al Jazeerah and the Guardian.  Surely, no one can claim that those two media outlets are pro-Israel and taking Israel’s side.  Everything they write is significantly biased against Israel.  That they published those papers at all is staggering since they clearly demonstrate that the PA has been ready for years to concede those areas of Jerusalem to Israel.  Why SHOULD Israel stop building in them?  It’s clear that they will remain part of Israel.  In the event they don’t, Israel will either leave Jewish residents as part of a Palestinian state, or evacuate those areas.  Pretty simple concept, really.

Haber: Thank you for undermining the PA and Abu Mazen.

Poris: Truthfully, I’m having trouble not laughing out loud to the point of collapse.  Obama doesn’t need to undermine Abbas and the PA.  They have done that just fine all by themselves by lying to their people about what they were willing to give up in negotiations, in their support for terror and terrorists, in their horrendously vile anti-Semitic “education”, in their glorification of a culture of death, and even more, by their inability to even reconcile with the “government” in Gaza.  Frankly, THERE ISN’T ANYONE FOR ISRAEL TO NEGOTIATE WITH.

Israel is willing to sit down with the Palestinians, with no pre-conditions on either side.  The Palestinians and the world can continue to excoriate and pillory Israel, but the FACT is that the Palestinians refuse to sit down and negotiate.  That is not something I’m making up.    It’s pretty clear if you listen to and read their statements.    But, again, the problem is, even if the parties DO sit down to negotiate, what would an agreement be worth?  Would the PA be able to honor it, or would they be thrown out of office a la Mubarak?  What about Hamas?  They control Gaza.  Will Gaza be part of a Palestinian state, together with the PA, or not?  Right now, the two sides can’t even agree about holding internal elections.  How should Israel approach negotiations with a PA/Fatah government that has passed its elected mandate by a couple of years already and a group of terrorist thugs whose stated aim is to wipe Israel off the map?

If one could “undermine” them any further than they’ve already done for themselves, I really don’t see how it is possible.  What a dumb statement.

Haber:  Thank you for showing the Palestinian people how much – or how little – you can be relied upon.

Poris:  Hmmm.  Why should the Palestinians be any different from Mubarak?  The Israelis?  Anyone else Obama and his crew have shown that their word is worthless, and that we (the US) won’t honor any commitments?  The whole Middle East is shifting toward Iran as a result of Obama’s inability to comprehend that one supports ones’ friends and stands tall against common enemies.

Haber:  Thank you for holding the Palestinians hostage to a non-existent (fortunately) peace process.

Poris:  The Palestinians are quite good at holding themselves hostage to a non-existent peace process.  I fail (utterly) to understand Haber’s parenthesized comment about “non-existent (fortunately) peace process”.  Is he saying that there should not be a peace process or negotiations?    The only impediment to the Palestinians having a state, as has been demonstrated amply in the past, is the Palestinians themselves.  They have turned down flat every offer that even came close, launched intifadas, refused to negotiate, and incited violence against Jews around the world.  They act like spoiled children having a temper tantrum and wonder why they don’t get what they profess to want.  Unfortunately, what they profess to want (a state of their own on something close the the 1948-1967 armistice lines) and what they really want are not the same.  That is the root cause of the issue.  The Palestinians want ALL the land from Jordan to the Mediterranean.  They state it clearly, often enough, and show it on their maps of the region, which don’t even show Israel.

Haber:   Thank you for allowing Israel to kill any chance of a two-state solution.

Poris:  Israel hasn’t done that – the PA has.  But, the chance isn’t dead, it’s just dormant.  Even Benjamin Netanyahu, a hawk if ever there was one, has spoken openly about Israel’s willingness to see a Palestinian state on Israel’s Eastern border.   All the Palestinians need to do is sit down and hammer out the details.  It is not Israel’s doing that Abbas and the PA continue to play games.  I will agree with Haber’s comment, though, to the extent that Obama and Biden’s blunder (discussed above) last year set the stage for the Palestinians to refuse to negotiate without getting an unconditional freeze on the vaguely understood concept of “settlements” and building in Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem.  Had Obama come out at the time and told the PA flat out that the only way to get Israel to stop building is to sit down and talk, that might have worked.  Instead, Obama decided that appeasement and propitiation of the entire Arab and Muslim world is the best way to make friends.  Too bad that’s not the case….

Haber:  Thank you for making the United States irrelevant in the Middle East.

Poris:  Well, I can hardly argue with that!  But, it’s not the result of vetoing this resolution.  It goes back to Obama’s speech in Cairo 2 years ago, where he decided to try talking with enemies and essentially lost the respect (very important in that part of the world!) of pretty much everyone.

Haber:  And Shabbat Shalom from your neighbor up 16th Street.

Poris:  Whew!!  Something we can totally agree on!!!  Shabbat Shalom!

Democracy in Action in Palestine

The recent announcement by the Palestinian Authority that they will hold elections in the West Bank and Gaza, and the reaction from Hamas, illustrate clearly that Israel really has no one with whom to talk about peace.

Hamas stated categorically that there will be no elections in Gaza, ostensibly because such elections won’t represent Hamas supporters sufficiently.  In reality, I suspect, Hamas is afraid that their popular support might not be as high as they claim it to be.  They claim (not totally erroneously) that the Fatah government is illegitimate, since Abbas has held onto his position long after his term expired.  Of course, Hamas is also no “angel” when it comes to the democratic process, having won power in Gaza in an election, then killing, torturing, and expelling most of the Fatah functionaries shortly thereafter.

This is a prime example of “Democracy in Action” among the Palestinians.  They can’t even agree among themselves to hold elections or govern what they have now, yet they expect Israel to miraculously give in to their demands under the premise that any agreements reached with “The Palestinians” will be binding and honored.

And, Israel is somehow expected to negotiate with, well, who?  Fatah?  Hamas?  Both?  Egypt?

Nevertheless, in order to reach a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, it is pretty clear that there have to be negotiations.

To date, the Palestinians, both Hamas and Fatah, refuse to sit down with Israel, each for their own reasons.  Hamas refuses to sit down with Israel because they consider Israel to be a bunch of Jewish interlopers who have no business being in the Middle East (despite a couple of thousand years of history there) and Hamas is determined to drive them all into the sea.  There is no chance of Hamas recognizing Israel’s right to exist, or of them sitting down with Israel.  Israel concurs with this, rightfully considering Hamas to be a terrorist, illegitimate “government”, and refuses to sit with them, too.

Fatah refuses to sit down with Israel because they claim there is no point, since Israel won’t implement a “freeze” on construction, won’t agree to the “framework” Fatah wants, won’t agree in advance to the 1949 armistice lines (frequently referred to, incorrectly, as “The 1967 borders”), and generally, because they claim that Israel wants to continue creating “facts on the ground” (uvdot b’shetach in Hebrew).

The irony of Fatah’s position is that without negotiations, there can be no peace agreement.  Without a peace agreement, there can be no viable Palestinian state in the West Bank (let’s leave Hamas and Gaza aside for a moment).  Without a peace agreement, Israelis will continue to live in the West Bank settlements, since there is no real legal argument preventing them from doing so.

If Fatah and the Palestinians really want a state and really want the settlements gone, they will, eventually, have to prepare their people to accept a Jewish state on their “border”, and will have to actually sit down at the negotiating table to reach an agreement.

All the posturing, demands for “pre-conditions”, gallivanting around the globe searching for recognition, and demanding that the UN declare the settlements illegal won’t get them what they claim to want – their own state.

Of course, they could have had their state any number of times in the past, but turned down offers of 97% of the West Bank, all of Gaza, land swaps to make up for the other 3%, East Jerusalem as their capitol, etc.

I believe they turned it down because they have “educated” their people to believe that “The Jews” will acquiesce someday to a “right of return” for Arabs to move to Israel – clearly something the Jewish state cannot agree to, ever, and, they have “educated” them to believe that eventually, the Palestinians will throw “The Jews” out of ALL the land between Jordan and the Mediterranean.

Given that premise, it’s no wonder they’re afraid, especially in the wake of the recent Egyptian unrest, to tell their people that “This is it, folks.  This is what we can get.  Take it or leave it.”   Until they do, there will be no peace.

Ironic, isn’t it?   The world blames Israel for the lack of progress, yet there really is no one on the Palestinian side with the authority to negotiate or reach an agreement with Israel.

If the Palestinians REALLY want peace and a country of their own, there is a pretty short road to get there.  It’s called “sitting down and talking”…..

Of COURSE it’s all Israel’s fault! Not…..

So, the Arab “street”, along with Arab and Muslim governments is quickly reaching the conclusion that Mubarak was a puppet of the US and Israel, and that his oppression of the Egyptian people is the fault of Israel.

Well, of COURSE they think that!

It would be funny, if it weren’t so sad.

During Mubarak’s 30 years of rule, Israel and the Jews have been a scapegoat for all the country’s ills.  Don’t have jobs?  Broadcast the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”.    Torture and kill your own citizens?  Blame the Jews!

Yes, Mubarak maintained the (somewhat cold) peace treaty with Israel, but in 30 years of rule, he never once set foot in Israel.

What’s really striking is that throughout the Middle East, the “education systems” slam the Jews at every opportunity, blaming them for all of society’s ills, castigating them as “sons of monkeys and donkeys”, killers and imbibers of the blood of non-Jews, controlling the world, etc.

What’s funny (ironic) about it is that Jewish law forbids partaking of blood.  That’s why, when Jews kill animals for meat, they drain all the blood and discard it, then salt the carcass to get rid of every last drop of blood.  To most Jews, the idea of eating a bloody steak is, well, disgusting.  The idea of drinking the blood of a human is even more disgusting.

Wikileaks, Palileaks, and recent events have shown us that the excesses and oppression of the Arab dictators is the root cause of the misery in their countries.  It is not the Jews.

Likewise, the wailing and gnashing of teeth around the world, proclaiming that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the root cause of all the ills of the middle east, is also proven totally false.

Until the Arabs take responsibility for their own lives and destiny and stop blaming the Jews, they will never progress beyond being miserable, backwards, oppressive societies.

They would do far better to make peace with Israel and learn from them, since clearly, Israel and the Jews have a lot to offer, unlike the Arabs….