- The Forward’s Nathan Guttman reports on pro-Israel dovish groups’ unsuccessful attempt to influence a congressional resolution on the Gaza situation:
Dovish groups bombarded lawmakers with calls and e-mails in an attempt to influence the wording of pro-Israel resolutions being shaped in the House and Senate. The groups’ line in the sand on those resolutions was straightforward: Unless the House and Senate included a call for an immediate cease-fire, the dovish groups would call on their supporters to actively oppose them.
For the Jewish peace camp, the first Middle East crisis of the new Congress and administration was an opportunity to flex its muscles and show presence on the national scene.
But in the end, they lost.
- The Guardian reports that President-elect Obama is willing to "open contacts" with Hamas:
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.
- Foreign Policy.com reports that Obama has offered Jewish Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein the job of running the office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Perhaps also significant about Sunstein is his new wife, who has drawn criticism from some quarters of the pro-Israel community for past statements about the Middle East:
This past summer, Sunstein married Samantha Power, a former Obama advisor on foreign policy, whom he met while both were advising the campaign. Power, of course, infamously referred to Hillary Clinton as a "monster" on the trail last year and resigned.
- Democrats are open to seating Al Franken even before Norm Coleman’s legal appeals are exhausted, reports Politico:
How long Franken will be in limbo is unclear, and Democrats have called on Coleman to concede and drop his pending litigation. If it drags on, Democrats are signaling they may move ahead.
When asked whether he would seat Franken before the litigation is resolved, Reid said: "We’re going to be very patient and not rush through it."
But Reid made clear to Politico in an interview earlier this week that he would not hesitate to send the Franken-Coleman case to the Rules and Administration Committee, which handles election disputes. Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the hard-nosed Democratic partisan, will soon assume the chairmanship of that panel, but refused to comment Thursday.
- Prominent pro-Israel lobby critic Stephen Walt is a new blogger at ForeignPolicy.com, and David Rothkopf, another blogger on the site, ripped into one of Walt’s first posts on the site earlier this week:
But just as proponents of a strong U.S. relationship with Israel would do well to realize the damage that has been done to Israel’s case by over-aggressive actions (most egregiously those associated with the brutal and mismanaged invasion of Lebanon in the early 1980s), proponents of the Palestinian cause would do well to recognize that is grotesquely counter-productive to explicitly or implicitly support the leadership or the interests of Hamas, Iranian-backed terrorists who have violated their public trust with the Palestinian people by both failing to serve their basic needs and actively choosing to put them at mortal risk.
- The Washington Jewish Week talks to Charlie Brotman, who will be the announcer for the inaugural parade for the 10th time:
But, not everything always goes off without a hitch. Sometimes, Brotman’s numerous ad-libs land him in hot water. At President George W. Bush’s second inaugural parade in 2005, Brotman came face to face with an irate Secret Service agent.
The Washington Nationals baseball team had just arrived back in town and the fearless announcer took that occasion to put Bush on the spot, saying, "Mr. President … baseball fans throughout Washington are hopeful that you will be available to throw out the first pitch for their new baseball team. Will you be available?"
This simple question, Brotman recalled, left Bush flummoxed. "He’s looking now at me and shrugging his shoulders like, ‘I’m not sure just where I’m supposed to be or what I’m supposed to do.’ "
And the president’s handlers, it appears, weren’t too pleased themselves. "Less than three minutes after I made that announcement, a man came up … and said, ‘I’m with the Secret Service and I do not want you to make any more direct [contact with] the president.’ "
Brotman’s reply: "Yes sir!"
- House Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Republican Minority Whip Eric Cantor team up for an op-ed defending Israel in the Washington Times:
America would never sit still if terrorists were lobbing missiles across our border into Texas or Montana; and just as we assert our right to defend ourselves, Israel has every right to protect its own citizens from the implacable foes on its borders. Support for Israel in her time of need, from both Democrats and Republicans, is not just the logical choice. It is both a strategic and moral imperative.