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Monday, March 13, 2006 

Caroline Glick on Dubya's port deal and Kadima

Caroline Glick talks about how Bush, in his arrogant attempt to gain approval for the seaport deal with Dubai that's more or less damaged his credibility, has succeeded in sending a wake-up call to Americans that even a president like him can be unreliable and/or do appalling things that go against the public interest, and also how the Bush administration's ties with Israel have not been positive, which could stem from the same positions that drove him to his attempt to push through the port deal that the public wasn't even informed about until the last minute:
US President George W. Bush is immersed in a political crisis of his own making. For the first time in his presidency, Americans trust the Democrats more than the president on issues of national security.
Well, not neccasarily. It could very easily be that the Dems pounced on this subject in what they hope will save their already flagging credibility with the public. If anything, let's not let the Dems fool us.
There is an Israel angle to Bush's current misfortunes. In fact, the nature of the mess in which Bush now finds himself explains a great deal about the nature of Israel's relationship with America. It also shows how that relationship is harmed by the expedient interests of both the Bush administration and the Israeli government.
Right you are there, Caroline. And in some of the following in the column, she helps us to understand why.
Last month, the administration announced it had approved a deal to place the management of 21 US ports in the hands of the United Arab Emirates-owned firm Dubai Ports World or DPW. This caused an uproar on Capitol Hill. Citing Dubai's documented connections to al-Qaida, legislators from both parties demanded the deal's cancellation.

Rather than bowing to pressure, Bush surprised his supporters by insisting the deal go through. Accusing its detractors of anti-Arab bigotry, Bush - who has never used his presidential veto - threatened to veto any bill that cancels the DPW deal. Bush's response precipitated several investigative reports in the US media that exposed wide ranging business connections between high level administration officials - including Treasury Secretary John Snow - and DPW.

The Jerusalem Post's report last week which exposed DPW's adherence to the Arab boycott of Israel caused the administration additional headaches. It is against US law to adhere to the boycott. In a stuttered response, administration spokesmen intimated vaguely that Dubai is being pressured to end its participation in the boycott.

According to polling data, by the end of last month, only 17 percent of Americans supported the deal with Dubai while 63% opposed it. Given its enormous opposition, Bush's refusal to set the deal aside has led several Republican lawmakers to openly criticize him. Indeed, Republican legislators are working steadily to kill the deal as quickly as possible to end their embarrassment.

To date, the deal's many opponents have suffered one major setback. It came from an unexpected source: Israel.

Last week, Idan Ofer, the CEO of Israel's shipping line Zim, wrote a letter to New York Senator Hillary Clinton in which he praised DPW and expressed his support for the deal. In Ofer's words, "During our long association with Dubai Ports World we have not experienced a security issue in these ports or in any of the terminals operated by them." He added, "We are proud to be associated with Dubai Ports World and look forward to continue working with it in the future." Given Dubai's adherence to the Arab boycott and the fact that in his letter Ofer acknowledged that Zim's ships are forced to fly under foreign flags in order to dock in Dubai's ports, opponents of the deal scratched their heads in puzzlement and exasperation at Ofer's move.
To comment on this, I am absolutely angry that Zim has been trying to whitewash any matters surrounding how they're able to sail to the docks of Dubai, or that they're even doing business with them to begin with! What disgust. Israelis should strongly censure Zim, and so should Jews everywhere.
The deal reportedly raised the hackles of Pentagon and FBI officials. They allege that since Sourcefire's software programs are used to protect US military and intelligence computer systems from infiltration, its acquisition by Check Point [Israeli software company] will seriously damage US national security. Just as the storm of protest against the DPW deal tells us something about the American public's view of the Arabs, so the FBI and Pentagon's objection to the Check Point deal and their support for the DPW deal tell us something about the state of the administration's relations with the Israeli government.

CFIUS's counterintuitive treatment of the DPW and Check Point deals tells us two things about how the administration makes its decisions. First, money talks. Not only is Dubai the banking capital of the Persian Gulf, flush with oil revenues, it has become an active investor in the US. In response to the uproar over the DPW deal, the UAE announced that if the deal is cancelled, it will reconsider its stance regarding its ongoing free trade negotiations with the US. UAE officials have also intimated in media interviews that they may limit its investments in the US if the deal does not go through.

So rather than addressing Congress's concerns about Dubai's links to Islamist terror, pledging not to take any steps that might endanger US national security, apologizing for its past support for Osama bin Laden or ending its participation in the boycott of Israel, Dubai is threatening the US with sanctions if Congress torpedoes the ports deal. And the administration has responded to those threats by endangering its political support base and marring its credibility as a champion of national security in order to defend Dubai.

The administration's support for Dubai shows that it respects power and those who wield it. Similarly, by treating Check Point as if it were an enemy state, the administration demonstrates its contempt for weakness.
Some good lessons to be learned here. As for Dubai and the rest of the UAE, if they want to pull out of their trade deals with the US and other such countries, they can go right ahead and do so, who needs them.

Now, here's what the administration's relations with Israel have really been like:
OVER THE past several years, Israel has demonstrated unprecedented weakness in its dealings with Washington. This weakness has caused a situation where Prime Minister Ariel Sharon acclaimed the Bush administration as the best friend Israel has ever had, while the administration ended Israeli participation in multiple joint military research and development projects.

The administration further demanded Israel accept encroachments on its sovereignty by forcing Israel to sign a commitment to give the US veto power over a significant share of its military exports. The economic consequence of this unprecedented step is that Israel must now receive the approval of its chief business competitor in the international arms market before concluding any major deal.

So in stark contrast to declarations by Israeli and American policymakers alike, Israel's relationship with the administration in recent years has not been particularly positive. Rather, its prominent features have been American intimidation and Israeli kowtowing. Sharon's desperate, irrational and personal need to feel accepted by Washington rendered him effectively incapable of representing Israel's interests to the administration. What Sharon craved was not substantive cooperation in war, but declarations of support in him personally by the Bush and his senior advisers.

In Sharon's absence, his Kadima party maintains the same dependence on expressions of support from the administration even when such declarations come at the price of undermining Israel's basic strategic interests. That is, under Sharon and Kadima, it has become possible to make a distinction between administration support for the Israeli government and administration support for Israel. Given this, it isn't difficult to surmise the background to Ofer's odd statement of support for the DPW deal. From all this we learn that like the Kadima government, the administration is fully capable of ignoring the US's national security interests when doing so advances its political interests.
Hmm, an interesting point indeed. I wouldn't be surprised if Ofer of the Zim company had any ties with politicians like those led now by Ehud Olmert. And no, the US administration's relations with Israel, and that includes Condi Rice, haven't been very positive or productive either.

What can be done to repair this situation? Caroline says:
In sharp contrast to the administration's counterintuitive and opportunistic preference for Arab despotisms over Israel, the American public follows its intuition and is generally unsupportive of the Arabs, whom Americans regard as their foes, and consistently supportive of Israel, which they regard as their ally in the war against the global jihad.

In the public's outcry against the DPW deal we see the vast potential for changing the administration's attitude towards Israel. Just as the American public decries the notion of turning America's ports over to Arab control, so too, the American public would back an Israeli refusal to transfer control over its national security to Hamas. And just as the public's rejection of the port deal will eventually force the administration to cancel it, so too, were Israel to decide to assert its rights as a sovereign nation in Washington by defining victory against the Palestinian terror war as its strategic aim, it would be able to tap into deep reservoirs of support in the US that would force the administration to back its moves.

Sadly, in what can only be judged as pathological opportunism, rather than encouraging its American supporters, Israel's government is undermining them by publicly siding with the administration in the Dubai port dispute. The government's behavior in this matter is reflective of the Kadima party's general policy. Kadima, like its founder Ariel Sharon, operates under the guiding assumption that Israel is weak and cannot defend itself without international support generally and American support specifically.

Like Israel's other leftist parties, Kadima assumes that the only way to receive the administration's support is by weakening Israel still further. This is why Sharon decided to withdraw from Gaza and northern Samaria and it is why Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert today claims that Israel must vacate most of Judea and Samaria, with the land to be transferred to Hamas, and continue enabling the transfer of "humanitarian aid" to the Hamas-led PA. That is, Kadima believes that its international support is dependent on weakening Israel and strengthening Israel's enemies. By all counts, it is right to believe this.

Today the Bush administration is aggressively backing Kadima in the elections. Last month, administration officials reportedly pressured PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to postpone the formation of the Hamas government until after the Israeli elections because they believed that doing so will help Kadima against the Likud.

In backing Kadima, a party committed to transferring lands and money to the Hamas-led PA, the US has effectively made strengthening the Iranian-backed Hamas its central aim in the region. From this it becomes apparent that Kadima's party interests are diametrically opposed to Israel's national interests.

What the adamant public opposition to the Dubai deal shows is that regardless of how the administration may presently be treating Israel, if Israel elects a different government this month, the administration will not be able to easily oppose it if it decides to actually advance Israel's national interests for a change. Indeed, as is the case with the DPW deal, if a new Israeli government projects a powerful image in Washington, accompanied by a dedication to the goal of ending the Palestinian war in victory, not surrender, the American people will intuitively support it and force the administration to support it as well.
I think that, if the good US public can help in pointing out that Kadima is as bad as it is, and help the Israeli public in seeing to it that such politicians get the drubbing they deserve, that can certainly help in fixing the situation. Naturally, the US public needs a clearer view of what Kadima is really like, and these topics here (and also this article about Amir Peretz from Labor) can help offer some insight.

Also, here's some more eyebrow-raising info about the port deal. From Bloomberg.Com (H/T: Debbie Schlussel):
March 12 (Bloomberg) -- A group representing U.S. companies in the United Arab Emirates said it will invite ``The Oprah Winfrey Show'' among other talk shows to the Gulf to alter American public opinion which helped block Dubai's takeover of five U.S. ports.

The American Business Group of Abu Dhabi, which has more than 500 members including Boeing Co. and Exxon Mobil Corp., wants Winfrey to host a show from the Persian Gulf sheikhdom as it seeks to convince Americans that the country isn't a threat to national security, Kevin Massengill, a board member of the group said in a phone interview yesterday from Abu Dhabi.

"We want to reach out to the average guy in the U.S. and explain why the U.A.E. is important,'' the former adviser to the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi, who is among a delegation from the group that plans to visit Washington this month to discuss the blocked deal with lawmakers, said.

DP World, a ports company owned by the Maktoum family that rules Dubai, one of the seven sheikdoms in the United Arab Emirates, was forced to sell the U.S. port operations of Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co. after Congressional leaders said it could open the U.S. to terrorist attack.

A CNN poll on March 2 showed that 75 percent of Americans believed the Dubai takeover of ports posed a threat to U.S. security. Two of the Sept. 11 attackers came from the United Arab Emirates, whose banks were used by the plotters to funnel money for the operation.

[...]

Dubai Port's $6.8 billion buyout of the U.K.'s P&O had been approved by President George W. Bush before a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers led by New York Senator Charles Schumer requested that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States investigate the purchase.
And, look at what Hugh Fitzgerald reveals:
A larger question in the now-dead Dubai deal revolves around the large number of people who received large sums of money, as always happens when the Arabs and petro-dollars are involved, to push for the deal. Madeleine Albright, of "the Albright Group," seems to have been in on it. Bill Clinton, he of the "Clinton World Initiative," also. I don't know if Kissinger of "Kissinger Associates" was in on it, but possibly Brent Scowcroft of that same "Kissinger Associates" was. Nor do I know about William Cohen of "The Cohen Group."

The scandal is that any high officials were paid anything to push for that Dubai port deal.
Clinton is now on his way to becoming one of America's least favorite presidents. Albright has slipped into obscurity, and would do best to remain there. That said, this is certainly telling quite a lot about the Democrats, and their gravitation towards the money pit (not that the Bush Republicans are any different).

Also available at Adam's Blog, Basil's Blog, bRight & Early, Cao's Blog, Is it Just Me, Jo's Cafe, The Liberal Wrong-Wing, NIF, Stuck on Stupid, Third World County, TMH's Bacon Bits.

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The amount of ignorance on this subject is staggering. Almost all of our ports are run by foreign countries. Many of those countries have significant immigrant populations from the Middle East. The whole complaint against this was stupid.

All the best,
KT

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