Political tidbits: The Ross-Kurtzer divide, Wright returns to the spotlight (UPDATED)

  • "Top policy jobs haven’t been filled — the org chart, insiders say, hasn’t even been drawn — but Middle East politics watchers, and Obama backers concerned with Israel, are carefully eyeing the interplay between two of his most important advisers on the Middle East," reports Politico’s Ben Smith in an article focusing on Clinton administration Middle East envoy Dennis Ross and former U.S. ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer. "The difference is a matter of degrees — and not very many degrees — within a firmly pro-Israel policy team, and there are no obvious differences of policy between the two men. … But some close watchers of the negotiations in the region think that choosing Ross would indicate that Obama plans to make tough negotiations with Iran, with a focus on weakening its regional grip, a priority, and to work closely with Israel in negotiations with the Palestinians. They think the choice of Kurtzer might mean a slightly tougher stance toward the Israeli government, and a more rapid push for a historic South Lawn handshake between Israeli and Palestinian leaders."
  • Rev. Jeremiah Wright gave his first sermon since the election over the weekend, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. He called "The View’s" Elizabeth Hasselback "that dumb broad" and said Obama made a "bad decision" in distancing himself from Wright but that it was OK: "The hatred of the media and the haters in politics may have caused him to distance himself from us, but the love of Christ will never allow me to distance myself from him. I can no more disown him than I can disown any other child of mine who makes [a] bad decision. He made a bad decision, but he’s still my child." (Meanwhile, ABC News has the anti-Wright ad the McCain campaign prepared, but never ran.)
  • The Washington Post’s David Ignatius looks at national security adviser-designate Gen James Jones’ performance as special envoy for Middle East security in the Bush administration: "His effort there has helped yield one of the few recent success stories in the grinding Israeli-Palestinian stalemate. .. The retired Marine general’s approach, in the simplest terms, has been to build consensus by working on practical problems from the bottom up. The Israelis and Palestinians were dug into their positions on the big issues, and Rice’s larger peacemaking effort gradually stalled. But there was some give on the day-to-day security issues that were part of Jones’s mission. And to an extent that has surprised the Israelis, the Palestinian security push has been successful."
  • Former Carter national security adviser, and Obama endorser, Zbigniew Brzezinski claims Israel is lobbying for an American strike on Iran and  tells Haaretz’s Natasha Mozgovaya that it’s a bad idea: "Brzezinski told Haaretz: ‘One [piece of] advice that I would give the Israeli government is not to engage in this campaign for an American attack on Iran, because I don’t think America is going to attack Iran, and if it did, and the consequences would be disastrous. It wouldn’t be particularly good for American-Israeli relations, and there will be a lot of resentment against [Israel],’ he said. ‘There already has been some after the war in Iraq.’"
  • Norm Coleman leads Al Franken by 192 votes with the Minnesota U.S. Senate recount virtually complete, but an official winner is still far from being declared. The St. Paul Pioneer Press detalis what will be happening in the ensuing days: "The next phase in the recount begins Monday, when counties begin separating rejected absentee ballots into five stacks — those rejected for one of the four reasons spelled out in state law and a fifth pile that could include improperly rejected absentee votes. The state canvassing board will debate what to do with that fifth pile when it meets Friday, but some counties won’t finish sorting the rejected absentees until Dec. 17 or later." The paper adds that "If the recount follows the course of other recounts and lands in court, it’s hard to tell how long it could be before a winner isdeclared."
  • Shmuel Rosner, in Commentary, reads the advice for Hillary Clinton from five previous secretaries of state in the Los Angeles Times and notices the stark differences between the advice on the Middle East that Jim Baker and George Shultz offer: "Although Hillary is the new darling of the Right (‘foreign policy is the one area in which her ideas seem somewhat in line with those of conservatives,’ wrote Noemie Emery of the Weekly Standard), it remains to be seen whether she narrows her options down to a choice between the conservative Baker-way or the conservative Shultz-way — or if she takes another route altogether."
  • With it now in the headlines again because of Attorney General nominee Eric Holder’s involvement, former Forward editor Seth Lipsky defends Bill Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich and his partner, Pincus Green, in the New York Times: Having covered the case for years, I, for one, came to view the attempt to prosecute them as an error and a tragedy — and Mr. Clinton’s decision as precisely an example of how the pardon power was intended to be used."
  • Former congressman, and vehement AIPAC critic, Paul Findley, writes in the State Journal-Register of Springfield, Ill., that he doesn’t have a problem with Obama’s choice of Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff: "I doubt Obama selected Emanuel because of his Israeli connections. Obama needs a strong loyalist who can be counted on to get things done. Will Emanuel be a roadblock to Middle East justice, the goal of my endeavors for nearly 40 years? Only if Obama allows it. The president-elect strikes me as the strongest, most disciplined and most committed politician ever."
  • The New Republic’s Martin Peretz rips the Zionist Organization of America for criticizing Samantha Power and vouches for the Obama adviser: The fact is that she truly, truly loves Israel and the people of Israel. They appeal to both her ecstatic imagination and to her understanding of the gravity of the world. To her defiance and to her discipline. If anybody thinks she is an enemy of Israel or even less than that, not a true friend, that anybody needs to know that love and affection always require questions. Adoration does not help Israel. It misleads it.

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