Political tidbits: Possible Clinton-Jones tension on Israel, Power is back

  • The Los Angeles Times reports on Middle East reaction to Hillary Clinton’s nomination as secretary of state: "Cautiously, Israelis are now applauding Clinton’s all-but-certain nomination as a sign that Obama can be trusted to act firmly against Iran’s nuclear ambitions and to refrain from pressing Israel to accept a weak, violence-prone Palestinian state on its borders,"  the Los Angeles Times. "Arabs and especially Palestinians, on the other hand, say the news has damped their optimism that Obama will veer from the Bush administration’s hawkish policies and from what they call America’s long-standing pro-Israel tilt."
  • The New Republic’s Eli Lake argues that Clinton and national security adviser nominee James Jones have real differences over the Middle East: "When he speaks of his faith in the peace process, Jones isn’t just mouthing the conventional wisdom of the foreign policy elite. He is speaking out of convictions born of experience on the ground. He will feel like he has unique authority to direct policy towards Palestine. Similarly, Clinton has gone much further than any previous secretary of state in her expressions of solidarity with a signature issue of the Israeli right. She has repeated these sentiments so many times that there’s reason to believe that they are more than just pandering."
  • Susan Rice, Obama’s nominee for U.S. representative to the United Nations, said the Clinton administration’s lack of action in Rwanda taught her a lesson, according to this New York Times biographical sketch from last month:  “I swore to myself that if I ever faced such a crisis again, I would come down on the side of dramatic action, going down in flames if that was required.”
  • Barack Obama’s house in Chicago once housed a yeshiva, reports the Chicago Jewish News: "The title history of the Obama house shows it has a rich Jewish history, one that encompasses both of Chicago’s rival communities, the Reform Hyde Park German Jews and the Orthodox West Side Russian Jews."
  • Looking back on the campaign, Jewish Council for Education and Research co-founder Mik Moore blogs, at Jspot.org, that Jews were initially reluctant to support Barack Obama because "they had been listening for years to a wholesale smearing of black leaders by Jewish leaders" throughout the 1980s and 90s. … Obama had to prove to some subset of Jews that despite what they had been told, a different kind of black leader was possible." Moore concludes that Jewish fears of Obama, though, were overwhelmed by even greater fears of Sarah Palin: "Many of the same Jews who stoked Jewish fear of blacks have also stoked Jewish fear of evangelical Christians. When confronted with a choice between Obama (scary black guy) and Palin (crazy Christian lady), people decided that scary was better than crazy."
  • Jim Besser in The Jewish Week responds to Moore’s piece by listing the "intriguing questions" about the Jewish vote that came out of the election, including why "the significance of Israel in the election seemed to reach a new low. Is that because Israel is not as important to generations of Jews who don’t remember its birth and struggles for survival?  Or because Jewish voters simply assumed both presidential candidates were fine on Israel, so they could focus on other issues, especially a sinking economy? Is it because of the widely discussed gap between Israel-focused Jewish leaders and the Jewish grassroots, more concerned about close-to-home issues? And what does that mean for the future of the pro-Israel movement?"
  • Samantha Power, who has been a critic of Israel, is "advising the president-elect on transition matters relating to the State Department," reports the Washington Post. She left the campaign in March after calling the Secretary of State nominee, Hillary Clinton, a "monster." Shmuel Rosner, at Commentary, revisits his interview with Power from earlier this year, in which Power said she absolutely does not believe in "imposing a settlement."
  • The election of Barack Obama could change the debate over issues such as intermarriage and conversion in the Jewish community, says Brandeis University professor Jonathan Sarna in a Jerusalem Report article by Eetta Prince-Gibson: "In Jewish communal life, Sarna predicts, the growing acceptance of mixed, non-essential and individually defined identities will ‘strengthen the hands of those who want to see a more inclusive, less rigid definition of who belongs to the Jewish community. They will point to the president and say, if he can transcend essentialism, if he can escape identity-as-destiny, then why can’t the Jews? And outside of the rigid bounds of the Orthodox community, that will be a tough argument to counter. … The discussion of ‘who is a Jew’ now sounds like the discussions that preceded Obama’s."

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