James Besser's blog

The old status quo just ain't what it used to be

What's most striking to me about recent events in the Middle East is how just about all the experts – the administration deep thinkers, their Republican critics, the academics and the foreign policy talking heads – failed to predict the seismic forces that are reshaping the region in ways we can't begin to fathom.

This isn't a matter of partisan politics. The Obama administration is clearly clueless about a region in turmoil, but I haven't heard anything resembling acumen from the Republicans, either.

Adam Hasner in Fla. Senate race: Can a Tea Party Republican get the Jewish vote?

Every time I ask GOP sources about up-and-coming Republicans who might be positioned to provide some communal companionship for the lonely Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va), now the only Jewish Republican in Congress, the first name I generally hear is Adam Hasner, the former state House Majority Leader.

Major US initiative in the works? Don't bet on it.

Over the holiday I had several interesting calls and emails about the prospects for a major new U.S. Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative.

A friend who's left of center emailed to say that the Obama administration, seeing no alternative, is about to launch a major new peace push that will include U.S. bridging proposals, a paper outlining elements of previous negotiations and a significant amount of pressure on both sides.

That's really good news for Israel, this activist trilled.

A social justice Passover in Washington

Passover being a holiday marking affliction and freedom, it wouldn't be complete without Washington seders focusing on economic and social justice issues.

On Wednesday, the Jewish Funds for Justice and the Progressive Jewish Alliance will hold a “Food and Social Justice Seder” at the Department of Agriculture in downtown Washington, hosted by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Helen Thomas bows out of anti-AIPAC conference, and is Code Pink 'shrill?'

 Some followups on my pre-Passover blog on the upcoming "Move Over AIPAC" meetings planned to coincide with the lobby group's annual policy conference in Washington:

A Code Pink supporter wrote that “I object to using the word "shrill" to characterize women activists. It's old school sexism and I think you can do better.”

'Move over AIPAC': Preaching to the extremist choir?

JTA is reporting that plans are underway for a “pro-Palestinian conference aiming to counter AIPAC's annual gathering” in late May, featuring retired journalist Helen Thomas, Code Pink and scholars/ AIPAC critics Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer.

I'm guessing AIPAC officials aren't losing much sleep over the planned “Move Over, AIPAC” conference.

WaPo blockbuster: US secretly supporting Syrian opposition

A blockbuster story at the Washington Post this morning: turns out the U.S. government has “secretly financed Syrian political opposition groups and related projects, including a satellite TV channel that beams anti-government programming into the country, according to previously undisclosed diplomatic cables.”

Pollard, presidential politics and the Chief Rabbi

Israel's chief Ashkenazi rabbi is calling on President Obama to released convicted spy Jonathan Pollard. With all respect to Rabbi Yonah Metzger, his compassion for Pollard is appropriate but his political sophistication is a little lacking.

According to Israel Radio, Metzger tied Pollard's release to Obama's reelection hopes next year.

Budget stuff: Reform ambivalent about Obama deficit speech, JCPA defends domestic programs, President defends foreign aid

I was wondering how Jewish progressives would respond to President Obama's big speech on deficit reduction on Wednesday – a speech that many critics called long on rhetoric, short on specifics.

Now we know; the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the beacon of progressive Jewish activism in Washington, wasn't too impressed.

Pro-Israel hawk Shelley Berkley throws hat in Senate ring

One of the most hawkish pro-Israel voices in the U.S. House has announced that she thinks it's time for a promotion.

Rep. Shelley Berkley – who is Jewish - announced today that she will see the Democratic nomination to run for the seat being vacated by Sen. John Ensign, a Republican, who is retiring.

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