American Elephants

Smiles and Hugs in Israel,Tense Underneath. by The Elephant's Child

President Obama is on a trip to Israel, his first as President of the United States. Expectations for the trip have been very low, as Obama’s relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been — difficult, as has been his relation with the Israeli people.

It didn’t start off well, the presidential armored limousine known as “the beast” broke down and had to be hauled away. Only 10 percent of Israelis hold a favorable view of Obama and his foreign policy. Palestinians are even less enthusiastic, and staged demonstrations.

The map of the Middle East displayed in an administration video released just before the trip, showed the Jewish state without the Golan Heights, which were shown as part of Syria, without parts of northern Israel, Jerusalem ans surrounding territory was shown as part of the West Bank. The itinerary at the White House website also implied that Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, was neither the capital nor even part of Israel. So do you believe the nice words, or the unacceptable map?

Obama made a fine speech to the people of Israel, connecting Israel to Biblical history, and correctly described the goal of Zionism as the wish “to be a free people in your homeland,” which is a major improvement. On the other hand, students from Ariel University in the West Bank were excluded from attendance.

When he discussed Iran, he said that “time is not unlimited” for negotiations and flatly said “Iran must not get a nuclear weapon. “This is not a danger that can be contained,” he added.”America will do what we must” to stop Iran.  This is as tough as the administration has been. We’ll see if he means it this time, or if it is  once again, just words.

Obama came into office with the firm belief that one of his great accomplishments as president would be bringing peace to the Middle East by making peace between Israel and Palestine — the two state solution.

It was an incredibly naive view of the Middle East as his fumbles in Cairo, and his misunderstanding of the so-called “Arab Spring” have proved. Israel has always been open to peace, and ardently desires it, even being willing to trade land for peace in the past. They learned that land is not the problem, the problem is that Palestinians desperately want to destroy Israel, and have no interest whatsoever in peace. Palestinians continued rocket attacks while the president was there, and staged demonstrations against him.

Since Obama has been in office, the Middle East has become a far more dangerous and unstable place. Al Qaeda is on the rise, Hamas continues to fire rockets into Israel, Syria is in a state of civil war, with the use of poison gas rumored, Iranian proxies are advancing regionally and they continue to work, unchecked, on acquiring nuclear weapons. “Israel remains the best and only truly stable ally the United States has in the Middle East.”as Heritage senior research fellow Jim Phillips wrote.

Powerline recalled this video that Andrew Klavan made a while back, which makes the point rather well.


Saudi Arabia Gets “Trusted Traveler” Status From Janet Napolitano. by The Elephant's Child

Perhaps you remember, in the wake of 9/11, the uproar when we began airport screening and our government twisted itself into politically correct pretzels to avoid paying extra attention to young men from the Middle East of the same general age as the 9/11 terrorists, who perhaps were buying one-way tickets, had little or no luggage, that kind of thing. We could not single out people like that, that would be racist!

Nevermind that 15 of the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia. Nevermind that one part of the Saudi government is sponsoring radical Wahhabi schools throughout the Muslim world. Nevermind lingering questions and concerns about possible Saudi Arabian support for some of the hijackers or the Ministry of Interior’s inconsistent record on sharing intelligence on suspected terrorists and terror financiers. Nevermind that Saudi terrorists released from Guantanamo are the most likely to be recidivists.

So Homeland Security has embarked on a new program intended to give “trusted traveler” status to low-risk airline passengers which will be extended to Saudi travelers. The Saudi government will vet their own people and they can give them fast-track entry into the United States. We don’t give “trusted traveler” status to France or Germany.  How about Poland? No. Just Canada, Mexico, South Korea and the Netherlands. Israel has reached a deal, but the partnership has not yet been implemented. It makes no sense.

I understand that Saudi Arabia walks a careful tightrope in the Middle East between the radical elements that surround them, the Western world, Wahhabism, Aramco Oil, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and the Arab Spring. The Royal family is huge, and while some members are friendly with the West, others support the Wahhabi movement, whose madrassas are a spawning ground for terrorism, and the regime is constantly threatened.

The decision is a turnaround, the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) notes, from when Saudi Arabia was briefly placed on a list of countries whose U.S. bound travelers would receive extra scrutiny in the wake of the failed Christmas Day bombing attempt in 2009.

Secretary Janet Napolitano spoke highly of “the bond between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” when she announced the change in January.

By enhancing collaboration with the government of Saudi Arabia, we reaffirm our commitment to more effectively secure our two countries against evolving threats while facilitating legitimate trade and travel.

The program which began in 2008 to expedite pre-approved passengers through airport customs and security when they arrive in the U.S., is designed to weed out low-risk passengers and enable authorities to zero in on those who may pose a threat. Passengers can skip the line at customs and complete their entry process at an automatic kiosk. Once accepted, travelers can enjoy the greater freedom for five years.

Saudi Arabia sends thousands of travelers into the U.S. each month, and more than 92 percent of Saudis who seek entry visas receive them. In 2012, 20,677 student visas were granted to Saudi citizens. The United States and Saudi Arabia do about $60 billion in business each year, most of it in Saudi oil exports.

Florida Senator Bob Graham, who served on the 9/11 Commission, said the Commission lacked the time and resources “to pursue all potentially relevant evidence” involving Saudi Arabia.  “Significant questions remain unanswered.” Graham has spent years arguing that a 28-page chapter from that inquiry would cast things in a different light if it ever is declassified.

Including Saudi travelers in Global Entry may be “a continuation” of an American policy of deference toward Saudi Arabia. “The question is what was the first step in approving a country to be involved in this? What are the requirements?” Graham asked. “This is not a theoretical. This really happened that 15 Saudis came into the country. I think all by aviation…It would seem there would be some red flags.”

Political correctness should have no place in the government’s business, and especially no place in our national security. This administration does not understand that, and has gotten a lot of our people killed because of that misconception.

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