Sept 17, 2009 Obama Cancels European Missile Defense,New Year in Israel

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A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman

Sept 17, 2009 Obama Cancels European Missile Defense,New Year in Israel

It is almost Rosh Hashana and Israeli media has been engaged today in both a retrospective of the year as well as the traditional New Year's interview with the Prime Minister. I will discuss this subject at the end of the column but there were some serious news stories today that need to be examined.

Today President Obama announced the cancellation of the Bush administration's missile defense program in Eastern Europe. Obama, who made the announcement himself, explained the decision by stating that Iranian missiles have developed slower than was thought and that the Iranian missiles were not a threat to Western Europe or the US, and instead more effort would be spent on regional defense. The reasons for the decision were most likely multi faceted, first to save money, and seco nd and probably more important, to remove a matter of dispute with Russia, who strongly opposed the stationing of American missiles in Eastern Europe.

However, the administration's decision is problematic. The first question is what did President Obama get from the Russians in return? At least publicly it would seem like he did not receive anything. If he received their support for stronger sanctions against Iran and a decision not to sell them the advanced anti aircraft missiles that were promised, then there might be some justification, but absent that it is a problematic decision. Second the reason given is false; Iran successfully tested a two stage solid fuel rocket this year. That rocket potentially gives Iran the ability to reach Western Europe. Thirdly, the timing is unfortunate. This afternoon the AP released a story that IAEC has a report that has not been released that states that Iran now has the capability to manufacturer the atomic bomb. Finally, Obama’s actions states that the Iranian problem is not a worldwide problem as Israel has been trying to stress, but instead, only a regional problem.

The United States has made it clear that on the issue of the Goldstone report it will stand by Israel and try to block any action by the UN. Two days later and despite the op-ed piece today by Goldstone in the New York Times, the report seems ever more absurd. Once again, I do not claim that Israel acted perfectly in Gaza, but in historic perspective calling Israel's actions war crimes is turning history on its head, and is certainly minimizing the meaning of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In his interview Prime Minister Netanyahu made a clear statement that he will not freeze settlements. He stated that it is not an option. He stated that he is willing to take some actions but not freeze the settlements. While he was not sure there would be a summit next week with the Palestinians, Netanyahu said would be happy to meet with them but he did not request the meeting and was not all that concerned whether the meeting would take place or not. Yet, he claimed relation with the United States were excellent. I guess Netanyahu must have seen the warm Shanna Tova message that President Obama will be releasing tomorrow. It must be the President's near recitation of Shana Tova was that convinced him. I must say Obama's accent is not bad.

Channel 10 in Israel did a list of the major events of the year- the order of the list is interesting and indicative of the view of many Israelis on the importance of the events 1) Gilad Shalit still held by Hamas 2) The Rise in Violence (i. e. the murders that took place on the beach and other places) 3) Swine Flue 4) Economic Crisis 5) Gaza War 6) The Elections 7) The criminal cases against many ministers, Prime Minister Olmert and former President Katzav 8) Tel Aviv 100 9) The movie Waltz with Bashir worldwide acclaim 10) Dudu Topaz was arrested and committed suicide

There are two pieces of good news. First the Shas Rabbi and member of Knesset Rabbi Amsalem has issued a controversial halachic order, that any Israeli of mixed marriage (from the Soviet Union, Ethiopia etc) who is not considered Jewish by birth should be converted in a very lenient process. He states that any one whose ancestors are Jewish and decides to risk his life and limb for the Jewish people by serving in the IDF has made a clear statement of his identity as a Jew and thus should be converted with as little difficulty as possible. If there were only a few more brave Rabbis out there. I would suggest anyone who sees his or her Rabbi over Rosh Hashanah should ask them what they think of that ruling.

Finally, it rained in Israel today, and even more importantly the current forecast calls for a major rain storm for the second day of Rosh Hashana. While that may not be the most comfortable forecast for either the Israelis walking to synagogue or enjoying the holiday on the beaches or parks, for a country that has been suffering a drought of five years, an early rain (before we even say the Blessing or rain) is excellent news.

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