- Shmuel Rosner, at the Jerusalem Post, reads through Martin Indyk and Richard Haas’s Middle East advice for Barack Obama and notes that they come down on the "Syria-first" side of the negotiations debate. But he says that they don’t answer a key question: "What if Syria wants to keep its relations with Iran as close as they are now? Will this mean an end to the Syrian track Haas and Indyk would try to pursue?"
- The Associated Press reports that Al Franken gained some ground yesterday, but is still 303 votes behind Norm Coleman in the endless Minnesota Senate recount: "As Ramsey County wrapped up its recount, officials there discovered and tallied 171 ballots that weren’t counted on election night. Franken gained 37 votes on Coleman’s lead. … The lead has bounced up and down since the recount began, but the exact margin is difficult to know because both sides have put thousands of ballots in limbo through challenges. The disputed ballots won’t be sorted out until a canvassing board meeting that begins Dec. 16."
- But Franken’s lawyer said yesterday that the Democrat is only behind by 50 votes, according to MinnPost.com: "The 50-vote margin … is based on election judges’ calls on ballots at the recount tables.That is, even if ballots are challenged in precincts, the Franken camp is counting the original decision at the local level. The assumption is that the State Canvassing Board would likely rule just as a local election official does. The count on the secretary of state’s website doesn’t account for such an analysis. It simply counts challenged votes.
- The Miami Herald says two Jewish Democrats, U.S. Rep. Ron Klein and state Sen Dan Gelber could jump into the 2010 U.S. Senate race in Florida if the state’s chief financial officer, Alex Sink, decides not to run. On the Republican side, if former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush wants to run to replace Mel Martinez, the nomination will be his.
- The diplomatic and defense editor of the BBC Newsnight program, Mark Urban, blogs that with the nomination of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, "the plot thickens for those who wish to imply that a good man — President-elect Obama — is surrounding himself with ‘zionists’ who will prevent any fresh thinking about Middle East peace." He concludes: "The anti-American imperative is so central to certain ideologies — in this case militant Islam — that any Jewish appointees or appeals to Jewish voters will be used to argue the administration is pro-Zionist. It might turn out to be, but shouldn’t everyone wait until the new president has been sworn in and set out some Middle East policies before jumping to that conclusion?"
- The Tehran Times carries a piece by Madison, Wisconsin-based Robert Weitzel: "Unbeknownst to most Americans, Israel’s westernmost settlement is not located in Palestine-Israel, but is 6000 miles away on the high ground overlooking Foggy Bottom in Washington, D.C."
- The Jerusalem Post editorializes that Barack Obama’s national security appointments "sent a message that was, by and large, reassuring." It adds: "The Obama administration can be expected to pursue the same fundamental US Mideast policy that has been in place since 1967: finding the right modality to exchange land for peace. This formula nowadays means creating a Palestinian Arab state alongside the Jewish state – an approach Jerusalem embraces on the basis of "1967-plus" so long as the Palestinians drop their demand for the "right of return." The temptation, however, to view the Palestinian issue as the nub of the problem radical Islam has with the civilized world must be resisted."
- Charles Smolover in the Philadelphia Jewish Voice said reciting the Amidah’s twelfth blessing, and its statement "may there be no hope for the slanderers among us, reminded him of this JTA op-ed by Republican Jewish Coalition executive director Matt Brooks: "It reminded me how unseemly it was for an organization with the word ‘Jewish’ in its title to unapologetically ignore the contempt our faith has traditionally held for rumor and character assassination."
Political tidbits: The latest on Franken-Coleman, possible Fla. 2010 candidates