Friggin’ peachy: now we’re going to be engaging the Islamists:
The incoming Obama administration is prepared to abandon George Bush’s doctrine of isolating Hamas by establishing a channel to the Islamist organisation, sources close to the transition team say.
The move to open contacts with Hamas, which could be initiated through the US intelligence services, would represent a definitive break with the Bush presidency’s ostracising of the group. The state department has designated Hamas a terrorist organisation, and in 2006 Congress passed a law banning US financial aid to the group.
The Guardian has spoken to three people with knowledge of the discussions in the Obama camp. There is no talk of Obama approving direct diplomatic negotiations with Hamas early on, but he is being urged by advisers to initiate low-level or clandestine approaches, and there is growing recognition in Washington that the policy of ostracising Hamas is counter-productive. A tested course would be to start contacts through Hamas and the US intelligence services, similar to the secret process through which the US engaged with the PLO in the 1970s. Israel did not become aware of the contacts until much later.
Why are they doing that? So that the world will like us, “will really like us”: Call it the Sally Field school of diplomacy:
Obama has said repeatedly that restoring America’s image in the world would rank among the top priorities of his administration
Maybe Obama will send Sally to do the talking.
The rash reality (which will get harsher) is that the US, as long as it stands for freedom and democracy, will never be liked by its enemies.
Here’s what’s going on:
Andres Oppenheimer, reporting from Buenos Aires finds Chávez, allies manipulating anti-Israel views
Earlier this week, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez — who has signed a ”strategic alliance” with Iran, main state sponsor of Hamas — expelled the Israeli ambassador, citing Israel’s alleged ”genocide” in Gaza. While there were heated street rallies in Miami and other U.S. cities, in South American cities they have been bigger and more violent.
Argentina’s government-backed leftist street protests organizer Luis D’Elia, who this week confirmed to Noticias magazine that he had received $1 million from Cuba to pay for anti-American protests during President George W. Bush’s 2005 visit to Argentina, on Tuesday led a rally in front of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires. Protesters threw paint and other objects at the mission.
What is going on? I asked myself. Is it because Argentina and Uruguay have large Jewish and Arab communities? Is it because of a somewhat perverse subliminal feeling of comfort that people in other regions have it worse than South Americans?
ALL ABOUT POLITICS
Many people told me that it all boils down to politics, and petro-dollars. Chávez and his allies, including Argentina’s President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, are importing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a region where Jews and Muslims used to live in significant harmony.
The region’s involvement in Middle Eastern politics has intensified since 2006, when Chávez first hosted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad has since returned to Venezuela, and has also visited Cuba, Nicaragua and Bolivia, in addition to receiving other Latin American presidents in Tehran.
Ahmadinejad signed several economic and political agreements, including plans to finance new pro-government television and radio stations in Bolivia and other Latin American countries.
Emilio Cardenas, a former Argentine ambassador to the United Nations, says Iran and Venezuela are benefiting from stirring up anti-Israeli sentiment in the region.
When the Venezuelan government-financed regional Telesur television station feeds free footage of Palestinian children hit by Israeli bombs to Argentine and other Latin American television stations, the not-so-subliminal message is that Washington is backing an atrocity, Cardenas said.
”For Chávez, knocking on Israel is knocking on the United States,” Cardenas said. ``Stirring up anti-American and anti-Israeli sentiment is functional to both Venezuelan and Iran’s political propaganda purposes.”
Ah, yes, Iran and Venezuelan, those tiny countries that pose no serious threat:
As a result of Chavez’s policy, which according to Obama “poses no threat,” Venezuela’s Jews close their schools
The rabbi said the latest incident affecting the Jewish community was the decision by the government to expropriate ownership of a large mall that was built by a Jewish businessman outside the San Bernadino district in Caracas.
In addition, twice in recent years Venezuelan military forces have raided the 1,400-pupil Jewish school in the Los Chorros neighborhood, ostensibly looking for arms.
But the most important development, which could have a major impact on the future of the country, is a referendum slated for next month.
Venezuelans will be asked to approve a measure that would allow Chavez and other politicians to be reelected indefinitely.
Chavez has been president since 1998.
“If that referendum passes I expect a lot of Jews will leave Venezuela, because it would mean Chavez is here to stay,” the rabbi said.
Shmuel Kornblit, Bnei Akiva’s Buenos Aires-based regional director for Latin America, said that in addition to the diplomatic staff, Bnei Akiva’s emissary to Venezuela, Yoav Weiner, and his wife, Maya, a Jewish Agency emissary were forced to leave.
“This move does not bode well for Jewish education in Venezuela,” Kornblit said by by telephone from Argentina.
“Jewish education in South America depends on outside educators. Now with the diplomatic mission forced to leave it will be very difficult to convince educators to come to Venezuela,” he said.
Kornblit explained that for security reasons the Weiners could not remain in Caracas. He added that Israelis who lacked non-Israeli passports had a difficult time obtaining visas to visit Venezuela.
“There is a strong anti-Israel sentiment in Venezuela, not so much anti-Semitism more anti-Zionism. That’s why Haredim have fewer problems there.”
Hugo’s going to love Obama.
The rest of us are going to look back fondly to the disastrous Carter administration and think of it as “the good ol’ days.”
As Richard put it, every nightmare begins with a dream.
On second thought
Maybe Obama should pick Blagojevich as Mid-East Envoy