Israel to become ultimate swing state? (& Sarkozy: Obama’s stance on Iran is “utterly immature”)

October 29, 2008

* French President Sarkozy: Obama’s stance on Iran is “utterly immature” and comprised of “formulations empty of all content,” reports Ha’aretz

* Palestinians host first international soccer match
* Significance far beyond soccer: During the game, for the first time Palestinian security forces controlled a Jerusalem neighborhood. Was this a tentative trial run for the division of the greater Jerusalem area?



1. Good news for Kinneret Chaya
2. “Kinneret died that night in the flames, but Kinneret Chaya was born”
3. Rare footage of a 1951 Air France flight to Tel Aviv
4. Israel to become ultimate swing state
5. Sarkozy: Obama’s stance on Iran is “utterly immature”
6. Poll: Israel votes McCain in U.S. elections
7. But a closer vote among American Jews in Israel
8. AP re-writes Netanyahu history
9. U.S.: Syria raid killed major figure in smuggling of foreign fighters
10. Little sympathy for Syria in the American media
11. Talmud school burned in Akko
12. Palestinians host first international soccer match
13. For the first time, Palestinian security forces control Jerusalem neighborhood
14. Joe the Plumber: A vote for Obama is a vote for the death of Israel

[All notes below by Tom Gross]


Since these dispatches so often contain depressing items, first some good news.

Kinneret Chaya, the beautiful young ballerina who was a victim of a suicide bomber as she worked as a waitress in Tel Aviv, and whom I have written about previously, is pregnant, despite being given less than a 2 % chance of living.

Kinneret Chaya still only has one fully operating lung, sees in only one eye and hears in only one ear, and her body bears the terrible scars of burns over 85% of her skin, and she spends time in a heavy pressure suit and face mask to prevent the scarring getting even worse. She cannot go out in the day because the sun has become her enemy.

Kinneret Boosani was 23 years old, a professional dancer and a student of alternative medicine, when she was blown up on March 30, 2002. To earn extra money she worked as a waitress in a small coffee shop on Tel Aviv’s Allenby Street. Exceptionally beautiful, heads would turn wherever she went.

Her injuries that night were so horrific, that the doctors at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv gave her a 2% chance of survival. She remained in a coma for 88 days before she could breathe alone, and it was longer still until she was able to eat or stand by herself. Her family gave up their jobs and didn’t leave her side for over a year.


When she awoke, she changed her name from Kinneret to Kinneret Chaya (“Kinneret Lives”). In Kinneret Chaya’s words, “Kinneret died that night in the flames, but Kinneret Chaya was born.”

She is a fantastic young woman who tries to help those she feels are worse off than she is. She remains in a remarkably positive mood despite having many years of agonizing surgery ahead of her. She has already undergone numerous operations to restore her face, and has gone through it all with enormous grace.

Last November, Kinneret married. Since her scarring does not allow the normal skin flexibility of pregnancy, she needs twice-daily treatment on her stomach as her belly grows with the baby.

(With thanks to Sheila Raviv of Jerusalem, and Mike Evans of Christian friends of Israel of Bedford, Texas, both of whom have stayed in touch with Kinneret, for help in supplying this information.)

Footnotes: (1) The BBC and other media have in the past given a sympathetic portrayal of the terrorist who disfigured Kinneret and killed others. Others might use rather different words to describe him. (2) Rachel Charhi, who died in the café while Kinneret served her with coffee that day, is one of the “Forgotten Rachels” featured in this article.


With a baby on the way, and unable to earn any money since the terror attack, Kinneret could do with some financial help to supplement the meager wages her husband earns at the Ramat Gan Safari Park and her Social Security disability pension. Since Kinneret can barely go outside in the daytime, the costs of childrearing will be greater than normal. If anyone would like to help in a modest way, please let me know and I will put you in touch with Sheila Raviv, who has become her “second mother.” (If you want to help, please email me through the email address at the foot of my biography page on this website.)



For those interested, this film, with rare footage of a flight to Israel followed by scenes at different locations in Israel in 1951, has just been posted on line here.

There is some amazing archival footage in this film.



In most countries, according to opinion polls, if the local populations had a vote in next week’s American presidential elections, they would choose Barack Obama over John McCain.

Among the exceptions (where McCain would win) are Israel, Iraq, Georgia and the Philippines (all countries that have had to cope with terrorism).

In Iraq, John McCain remains popular for being at the forefront of advocating the so-called “surge,” which has delivered a greatly improved life to ordinary Iraqis. Indeed many in Iraq now say it is the freest and potentially most prosperous major Arab state.

This is also reflected in the price of stocks; Iraq is one of the only countries in the world where share prices have continued to rise recently as they tumble elsewhere.



In Israel, most people tell pollsters they would prefer John McCain because they are concerned about the anti-Israeli positions of many of the people Barack Obama has appointed to advise him on foreign policy, and because – in the words of French President Nicolas Sarkozy as quoted in yesterday’s Ha’aretz – Obama’s stance on Iran is “utterly immature” and comprised of “formulations empty of all content.” (I may write more about Sarkozy’s views in a separate dispatch on Iran on Friday.)



In the latest poll of Israelis in general, the country’s largest newspaper, Yediot Ahronot, finds John McCain has a 12% lead over Barack Obama.

The poll was conducted by the Yitzhak Rabin Center for Israel Studies among over 500 Israelis aged 18-65.

In a specific question concerning which presidential candidate could best handle the Iranian threat, Obama gained the confidence of just 27.6% of those polled, as opposed to 52.5% for McCain.

However, the Democratic candidate did better on the issue of the global economy, with 40.9% saying they thought he was better equipped to deal with the current crisis than McCain, who received 34.2% support.



However, whereas the general Israeli population prefer McCain, among American Jews in Israel – who do actually have the vote – polls indicate a much tighter race. American Jews tend to be more left-wing on average than the Israeli population as a whole.

In the 2000 and 2004 elections, Israel had the third-largest group of American voters abroad, behind only Canada and Britain.

This year, a record number of American citizens in Israel are expected to vote, and many have been going to the polls already this week.

According to analysts, almost half of the 42,000 registered U.S. voters living in Israel come from the key swing states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. If the election is close, these votes could make a difference.

According to polls, American Arabs in Israel, and Palestinians in Gaza, overwhelmingly prefer Obama.



This piece of mine was originally published on National Review Online last Monday:

Yesterday, the leader of Israel’s ruling Kadima party, Tzipi Livni, gave up on her attempts to form a new governing coalition in Israel. She called instead for general elections, tentatively scheduled for February 10.

The election campaign was barely 2 hours old, however, before the Associated Press began falsifying the record of Likud opposition leader and probable election frontrunner Benjamin Netanyahu’s previous tenure as prime minister.

The AP’s misinformation made it into just about every story on Israel from around the world today. I have already seen it in newspaper websites in America, Europe, Australia and Africa.

Indeed the following AP sentence is to be found in at least 100 newspapers in America alone. For example, here in The Las Vegas Sun:

“Peacemaking foundered during Netanyahu’s three-year tenure as prime minister in the 1990s, and his election would likely spell the end of the current peace talks.”

Not true. From 1996-99 Netanyahu withdrew from large parts of the West Bank and transferred it to Palestinian Authority control. His successor, Labor Party leader Ehud Barak, did not withdraw from one inch. Netanyahu also signed the Hebron and Wye agreements. Barak signed nothing.

Are the big news agencies, never going to provide us with accurate, impartial reporting when it comes to Israel?


Tom Gross adds: Just to make it clear, I don’t support Benjamin Netanyahu (or any other Israeli political leader) but I do think press coverage of them should be accurate.

To judge by other recent historical parallels, Netanyahu may be the only leader strong enough to actually deliver a two-state solution. It is almost always the right that does. Think Reagan and the Soviets, Nixon and China, Sharon and Gaza, De Gaulle and Algeria, Thatcher and Irish republicans, and so on.



An American official has said that the unprecedented heli-borne U.S. Special Forces raid into Syrian territory on Sunday, which Damascus is calling a “criminal act,” would have a “debilitating effect” on the network that smuggles foreign terrorists into Iraq. Abu Ghadiyah, responsible for supplying many of the deadliest suicide bombers, is believed to have died in the raid along with his chief lieutenants. The American military had on many occasions requested the Syrians turn over Abu Ghadiyah, but Damascus consistently refused.

The official Syrian Arab News Agency said the attack occurred at the al-Sukariah Farm, five miles inside the Syrian border. Four helicopters attacked a building under construction, firing at people inside shortly before sundown, the Syrian statement said. Witnesses said some of the helicopters landed and troops exiting the aircraft fired on a building.

The raid, which left 8 people dead and three wounded, suggests that the desert frontier between Syria and Iraq remains a key battleground, more than five years into the Iraq war. The Syrian government said there were civilians among the dead, including four children. But a journalist from The Associated Press who attended the funeral said that only the bodies of seven men were displayed.

It seems that Syria’s era of impunity has ended.



Even though civilians may have been killed, the American media have been thoroughly unsympathetic to Syria. The Washington Post editorial yesterday was titled “Mr. Assad’s Medicine,” and began: “After sponsoring terrorism against three of its neighbors [Israel, Iraq and Lebanon], Syria plays the victim when its own border is breached.”

A Wall Street Journal editorial was titled “Hitting Syria, Five Years Late.” It began: “After five years and six months during which Syria has been an active accomplice to the insurgency in Iraq, the U.S. has finally struck back. Historians will be left to ponder how the course of the Iraq war might have changed if President Bush had acted sooner.”

It continued: “We wonder how differently the war in Iraq might have gone had the U.S. conducted this kind of raid as often as necessary in 2003 and 2004, or if it had put Mr. Assad on notice that his survival in power was at risk if he continued to support the insurgency. Our guess is that the war would have been shorter, far less bloody for American and Iraqi troops, and less politically costly to Mr. Bush.”



Police in Akko (Acre) authorized the holding of a service in a Talmudic (Jewish) school in the Wolfson district of the northern Israeli port city on Sunday night, a day after it was set on fire. About 400 people attended the service, and 150 police were deployed throughout the city to maintain security, which has recently witnessed Arab-Jewish rioting. The burning of the school was condemned by Arab as well as Jewish leaders in Akko. The arsonists have yet to be apprehended.

* Also yesterday, three Palestinians were arrested near Ramallah while preparing molotov cocktails and flaming tires to launch against cars with Israeli license plates. And two Palestinians tried to stab a 20-year-old Jewish man in the Talpiot industrial zone in southern Jerusalem. The victim managed to escape, uninjured.



The Palestinians on Sunday hosted their first international football (soccer) game on territory they call their own. Although none of the other ethnic stateless people around the world have been allowed to participate at state level, the match (against Jordan) was sanctioned by the international football federation, FIFA, and attended by its president, Sepp Blatter, who heralded the occasion as “historic”.

The match was made possible by the construction of a 6,000-seat stadium in Ram, just outside Jerusalem – the first Palestinian venue to meet FIFA requirements. The Palestinians have been members of FIFA since 1998, but have been unable to host home games, playing instead in Jordan and Qatar. Sunday’s match with Jordan ended in a 1-1 draw.



The significance of this game goes far beyond football. For the first time ever, Palestinian security forces deployed inside Israel’s self-proclaimed borders, and took control of parts of a small neighborhood on the periphery of Jerusalem in a clear sign of their expected future sovereignty over the area.

Ram lies just north of Jerusalem on the West Bank’s border. The game was attended by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, and other Palestinian and Jordanian officials, and they were protected by a delegation of over 250 members of Force 17, Abbas’ presidential guard unit. The Palestinian forces blocked traffic, created a parameter and took over all security in Ram on both sides of the security barrier Israel has erected.

Although Abbas’ Fatah party maintains a civilian security infrastructure in some eastern Jerusalem neighbors, the event marked the first time Palestinian security forces entirely occupied an area under Israeli control.

Ram, as well as some eastern and northern districts of Jerusalem, may become part of an independent Palestinian state as a result of U.S.-brokered talks aimed at creating such a state by the end of the Bush presidency.



The Associated Press reports this morning:

Joe the Plumber: A vote for Obama is a vote for the death of Israel
October 29, 2008

“Joe the Plumber,” the small business aspirant and overnight media sensation who has endorsed John McCain’s presidential campaign, said on Tuesday that he believed a Barack Obama presidency would spell “the death of Israel.”

Tom Gross adds: I wouldn’t necessarily base your vote on Joe the Plumber’s political instincts. However, I would ask voters to carefully consider the pieces and analysis about the American election that have occasionally appeared in these dispatches during recent months.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.