Statement by the Prime Minister of Canada on the 66th Anniversary of Israel’s Independence – ****

Prime Minister Stephen Harper today issued the following statement to mark Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day:
“Today, on the 66th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel, I would like to extend my warmest regards to all those celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut.
“The story of Israel is a great example to the world. It is a story of a people who have overcome great suffering and unspeakable tragedy to realize a two thousand year old dream and build a nation based on the values of freedom and democracy.
“The deep friendship that Canada enjoys with Israel is rooted in these shared values and it is my hope that this relationship will only continue to grow stronger with each passing year. Canada is proud to support the Jewish State of Israel. We believe that the Jewish people deserve the opportunity to live safely and peacefully in their ancestral homeland.
“Despite facing constant threats to their existence, Israel and its people have not only endured, but thrived. Israel is helping to shape the world through advances in many areas, most significantly through innovation in the fields of medical research and high technology.
“Earlier this year, Laureen and I were very pleased to visit Israel and to see first-hand the beauty of the land and the way in which this great country has flourished since its founding in 1948. It was a deeply moving trip with visits to Yad Vashem, the Western Wall, and many other holy and historic sites. I was honoured to be granted the privilege of speaking to the Knesset and delighted to visit the bird sanctuary in HulaValley that bears my name.
“The visit reinforced my image of Israel as a truly modern country, firmly ensconced in the family of democratic nations and as an example to others in the region.
“I wish all those celebrating this historic day a Yom Ha’atzmaut Sameach.”


Israeli Independence Day, 2014

On Monday evening and Tuesday, Israel marks its 66th Independence Day. Each year this day is preceded by Remembrance Day for Fallen Soldiers. The one holiday segues into the other, a few minutes after sundown, with the raising of the national flag on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem from half-staff to full height.

That moment, one of the most defining and resonant in Israeli life, signifies that the country owes its existence to those who have been willing to sacrifice for it. And with Remembrance Day for Fallen Soldiers coming only a week after Holocaust Remembrance Day, it also represents a subtle, profound shift from mourning to celebration.

And celebrate is what Israel does on Independence Day. With all-night festivities in city squares; the awarding of the Israel Prize to twelve high-achieving citizens; a reception for 120 outstanding soldiers at the president’s residence; above, in the nation’s skies, amazing displays of prowess by air force jets; the International Bible Quiz in Jerusalem; massive flocking to parks and nature reserves; flags lining city streets and flying from balconies and car windows.

Although by now a veteran immigrant, I’m struck anew each year by the depth and authenticity of sentiment that this day evokes. After two thousand years of dispersion, 66 years of restored statehood is still a very short time. And I predict that in another 66 years this day, so permeated with history and meaning, will be no less intense.

Each year, a few days before Independence Day, Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics releases numbers that get widely reported in the media.

The numbers tell remarkable stories. The country’s population now stands at almost 8.2 million—compared to 860,000 in 1948, the year the state was declared. Of today’s total, 75 percent are Jews, 21 percent are Arabs, and the rest are mostly Russian immigrants who are connected to Jewish families and identify with the Jewish collective.

May Southern Primaries Set Up GOP for Fall Battles By Rich Baehr

Kimberley Strassel has an article in the Wall Street Journal [1] suggesting that an array of conservative groups, including Tea Party organizations, seem headed for a string of defeats in GOP primaries in their attempts to knock off Republican Senate incumbents. Most of those efforts are in states where the Republican nominee, whether the incumbent or a challenger, is likely to win in November (e.g., Mississippi, Texas, South Carolina). Kentucky is the exception: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell seems headed for a decisive primary victory on May 20 against Matt Bevin; after that, McConnell faces a close fall matchup [2] to retain his seat against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes.

In the election cycles of 2010 and 2012, Republican contests in several Senate primaries produced either hopelessly unelectable nominees such as Christine O’Donnell, or badly flawed candidates such as Sharron Angle, Ken Buck, Todd Akin, and Richard Mourdock. All of these candidates self-destructed in the general election campaign, losing winnable races. In each of these cases, the eventual nominee ran well to the right of more mainstream incumbents (Richard Lugar) or other primary contestants.

The GOP hopes for taking control of the Senate in November (by picking up a net six seats) rely on winning two open seats now held by Democrats in South Dakota and West Virginia, and the seat held by a recently appointed replacement senator in Montana. After these three races, all of which now look very good for the GOP, the task gets harder. They must defeat incumbents in Louisiana (Mary Landrieu), North Carolina (Kay Hagan), Arkansas (Mark Pryor), and Alaska (Mike Begich). Two other open seat races held by Democrats (Iowa and Michigan) and two other incumbents (Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire and Jeff Merkley in Oregon) now face bigger challenges than many expected.

In Georgia, the seat of retiring Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss has produced a wide open GOP primary. Five candidates at one time or another have held the lead, and four of the five are still tightly bunched [3] just days out from the May 20 primary (only Congressman Phil Gingrey has faded).

Georgia has become reliably Republican over the last five presidential races and in other statewide races, but is now experiencing rapid demographic shifts [4] that favor Democrats. Mitt Romney won the state by 7%, but the Obama campaign did not actively work the state as they did North Carolina or Virginia. The state’s rapidly expanding economy has attracted hundreds of thousands of Asians and Latinos, and the Atlanta area has always been an attractive location for African Americans, and many are moving to or returning to the area from other states.


Initial reports of high turnout and relative security during Iraq’s parliamentary elections have buoyed optimism that things might not be so bad there after all. Unfortunately, a smooth election and even the formation of a new government are not likely to reverse the negative security trends that are bringing Iraq ever closer to full-scale sectarian war.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) has established havens in Anbar, Diyala, and southern Baghdad in many of the locations from which al-Qaeda in Iraq, its ancestor, threatened the capital in 2006.

ISIS drove the Iraqi Security Forces from Fallujah in January. The Iraqi army has operated from the city’s outskirts but lacks the urban warfare capability to clear its interiors. It is shelling the city. Nearly 73,000 Iraqi families from Anbar have fled their homes, according to United Nations figures on internally displaced persons.

ISIS has been advancing on Baghdad since January. The gunmen who have controlled the Fallujah dam have twice flooded areas between Fallujah and Baghdad. ISIS destroyed an oil pipeline near the Tigris in ways that contaminated the capital’s water supply.

Shi’a militias have mobilized to counter the growing threat from ISIS and to serve the political parties with which they are affiliated. Militias have engaged in retaliatory executions and sectarian killings in several provinces. Some militias have forcibly displaced residents of Sunni villages; they have razed Sunni homes in Diyala province. Sunni families in remote areas have fled their villages en masse.

Cooperative relationships exist between Shi’a militias and the Iraqi Security Forces. These conditions do not bode well for any Iraqi government. Should Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki win a third term, he would do so having lost a province to terrorists and having entrusted terrain to militias. Meanwhile, competitors for power have organized militias with which to engage Mr. Maliki and one another.


For days I have been putting the same question to soldiers of the Afghan National Army: How do you feel about the imminent departure of Coalition forces? The answers are always variations on this one: “We are happy and sad,” they say. “The Americans are our friends and partners. They helped us tremendously. We are sad to see them go. But we are happy that they can go back to their families. And we are happy that we can now defend our own country and defeat the enemy.”

It’s a heartening reply, accompanied by assurances that they have the military situation well in hand. They had better. The fighting season begins in a few days, once the poppy harvest is brought in. Few places in Afghanistan have seen as much bloodshed as this fertile belt running along the banks of the Helmand River. The British, who lost more than 100 of their troops here, found it impossible to control. The U.S. Marines took over in 2010, losing another 50 men.

The Marines won the fight. But now they are gone for good. Late Sunday night, I watched them depart from Forward Operating Base Nolay, the last of what were once 30 bases in the valley. As a final order of business they picked up the trash, turned over the garbage cans, and drove away, a long convoy of heavily armored vehicles slowly making their way to Camp Leatherneck in the desert, 60 miles away.

So are the Afghans ready?

The Marines who have been training and advising them for the past year are cautiously optimistic. The Afghans have been conducting security operations on their own for a year while the Marines have mostly stuck to their bases. They have shown initiative, adaptability, discipline, coordination and a fighting spirit. “At a time when nobody’s talking about winning,” one Marine officer tells me, “they are talking about winning.”

The best evidence was the peaceful April 5 national election, in which Afghan soldiers and police were able to maintain security—and ballot-box integrity—at more than 6,000 polling places. Nobody expected the Afghans to perform so well. In Sangin alone, some 5,000 people, or 58% of the electorate, turned out to vote; in the 2009 election, just 179 people did.


Tal Fortgang has offended the offense-takers. The Princeton University freshman wrote an essay for a student publication, since reprinted in Time magazine, skewering the progressive trope “check your privilege.”

If you haven’t been told to “check your privilege,” you don’t spend enough time on college campuses, or on progressive websites, where the phrase is considered a debate-clinching rejoinder suitable for any occasion. It is an injunction to admit the privilege — whiteness, maleness, heteroness, middle-classness, and some other -nesses — behind any uncongenial point of view.

On websites, people with presumably too much time on their hands do for “checking your privilege” what Judith Martin does for etiquette — describe an elaborate system of rules for how the privileged can appropriately interact with the nonprivileged. It’s Emily Post meets Michel Foucault. Or “Ms. Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Politically Correct Behavior.”

One feminist writer explains that “just as you have to learn a bunch of new terms for things like science class, so too do you need to do so for non-privileged groups.” It evidently never occurs to them that treating the “non-privileged” as an alien class incapable of having normal interactions with other people is itself deeply insulting, but all is fair in the fight against privilege.

After being told to “check his privilege” a few times, Fortgang writes, he checked the family background that had produced the rank privilege he enjoys as a white, male Princeton student. He found grandparents who barely escaped the Nazis and came here with nothing, a father who earned his success, and parents who passed along their faith and belief in education.

“That’s the problem with calling someone out for the ‘privilege’ which you assume has defined their narrative,” Fortgang writes. “You don’t know whose father died defending your freedom. You don’t know whose mother escaped oppression. You don’t know who conquered their demons, or may still [be] conquering them now.”

The push-back against his essay — which has generated incredible attention, including a profile of Fortgang in the New York Times — has featured the snotty in the service of the ridiculous. The collective response could be summed up as “Please, try to check your privilege again.”


‘Where’s the scandal?” Bill Maher shouted, and if you want the voice of the incoherent and self-satisfied progressive id, you could do worse than to take the temperature of Bill Maher. The scandal, if you don’t know, is the White House’s maliciously misleading the American public about four dead Americans killed by preventable al-Qaeda attacks on the anniversary of 9/11 in order to serve its own narrow political purposes. The scandal itself is not very difficult to understand, unless you have a personal commitment to not understanding it. Such commitments frequently are rooted in partisanship and ideology, but in the case of our supine media and Democrats occupying the commanding heights of culture, it may be simple shame. They were intentionally misled by an administration that holds their intelligence in light esteem even as it takes for granted their support.

The odd thing is that Benghazi did not have to be a scandal. We may be used to, if not exactly resigned to, politicians who distort the facts or fabricate outright lies when it seems politically necessary to do so; nobody really expected Bill Clinton, a man constitutionally incapable of honestly answering a question about what he wants for lunch, to simply confess to what he was up to with the White House intern pool. What’s unusual in this case is the unnecessary dishonesty, as though the Obama administration simply reflexively recoiled from the truth.

How bad would it have been to own to up what happened in Benghazi and Cairo? After the worldwide exertions of the Bush years, with their attendant expenditures and terrible loss of life, a great many Americans not only were and are weary of being perpetually waist-deep in the snake-pit that is the Middle East but also are genuinely confused about what our role in the world should be going forward. The death of Osama bin Laden combined with the drawing down of our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan might have provided an opportunity to pause and reflect, and Barack Obama was elected to the presidency partly in the naïve hope that his elevation to that office might provide a respite, a period of relative quiet. If President Obama ever intended such a thing, he has been successful to only a very modest degree: The war abroad has been expanded to include the assassination of American citizens, while the omnipresence of the surveillance state at home has been revealed as being even more complete than most of us had feared.


It doesn’t matter if you belong to the 0.1 percent as long as you say the right things.

The qualifications of a Tommy “Dude” Vietor or Ben Rhodes that placed them in the Situation Room during Obama-administration crises were not years of distinguished public service, military service, prior elected office, a string of impressive publications, an academic career, previous diplomatic postings, or any of the usual criteria that have placed others at the nerve center of America in times of crisis. Their trajectory was based on yeoman partisan PR work, and largely on being young, hip, and well connected politically. I don’t think either of these operatives has a particular worldview or competency that would promote the interests of the United States. But they do talk well, know the right people, and are hip. Again, they have no real expertise or even ideology other than that.

Al Gore is said to be our leading green activist, and the Steyer brothers the most preeminent green political donors. But do they really believe in reducing carbon emissions to cool down the planet?

Not really. The latter made much of their fortune in the sort of high-stakes speculations that the Left supposedly despises. Many of their financial payoffs derived from promoting coal burning abroad, of the sort most liberals wish to stop.

As for Gore, he cannot really believe in big green government or he would not have tried to beat the capital-gains tax hike when he peddled his failed cable network to a petrodollar-rich Al Jazeera, whose cash comes from the very sources of energy that Gore claims he hates. Do you make millions, and then in eleventh-century fashion repent so that you can enjoy them all the more? Gore certainly in the past has not lived modestly; the carbon footprint of keeping Al Gore going — housing, travel, and tastes — is quite stunning. Both the Steyers and the Gores of our human comedy know that it is lucrative business to appear green, and that by doing so one can keep one’s personal life largely exempt from scrutiny in general and charges of hypocrisy in particular. For them, 21st-century liberalism is a useful badge, a fashion not unlike wearing good shades or having the right sort of cell phone.

Advice for Benghazi Select Committee: Don’t Draft McCarthy By Andrew C. McCarthy

Bestselling author Andrew C. McCarthy’s new book, Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment, will be published by Encounter Books on June 3. It is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

The Benghazi Massacre — specifically, the commander-in-chief’s derelictions of duty and his administration’s fraudulent depiction of the terrorist attack in the 2012 campaign stretch — was the subject of my weekend column, as well as a column late last week after newly revealed e-mails corroborated what several of us have been arguing ever since four Americans were killed in the September 11, 2012, terrorist attack: “Blame the Video” was an Obama administration-crafted lie. It now looks like House speaker John Boehner will finally do what he should have done at least a year and a half ago: Appoint a select committee with subpoena power to get to the bottom of what happened.

Here at NRO, the editors do a great job today of explaining why Benghazi matters. Steve Hayes is on the case again at TWSunwinding the administration’s misrepresentations. In addition, Jed Babbinmakes all the right points today at TAS regarding how the committee should be staffed, what its mandate ought to be, and how it should proceed.

I’d be delighted if Representative Trey Gowdy (R., S.C.) were chosen to head the committee because he is experienced and competent, and because he has been highly engaged and effective in pursuing the truth despite the severe limitations of the congressional committee format that is so ill-suited to investigations of this kind. But, as Jed urges, neither Representative Gowdy nor anyone else should accept the assignment without assurances of the committee’s ability to conduct an investigation that follows the facts wherever they go and for however long it takes to get through the formidable Obama stonewall. A proper select committee is vital; a poorly conceived select committee would be worse than what we have now.

On that score, I am flattered beyond words that people for whom I have great respect — particularly Hugh Hewitt and Istanpundit’sRandy Barnett — have suggested that I’d be a good choice as the committee’s special counsel. Yet, tempting as the prospect seems, I think it would be a mistake to pick me or someone like me — specifically, a commentator who has publicly drawn conclusions based on the already-known facts.


The Palestinian Authority’s new unity pact with Hamas “surprised officials in Washington,” The New York Times reports. The Obama administration was “apparently taken unawares” by the P.A.’s move, according to the Washington Post.

It’s hardly the first time.

In December 1988, the incoming George H.W. Bush administration announced that recent statements by Yasser Arafat were sufficiently “moderate” to warrant U.S. negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization. Eighteen months later, the Palestine Liberation Front, a PLO constituent group, launched a major terrorist attack against Israel and Arafat refused to condemn it. Surprise, surprise. The shocked Bush administration ended its dealings with the PLO.

In 2000-2001, during the wholesale terror of the “second intifada,” the George W. Bush administration insisted that Arafat and his Palestinian Authority were peace-loving moderates and repeatedly pressured Israel to make more concessions to the P.A. Israel warned that Arafat had never changed his terrorist ways, but nobody listened. Until January 2002, that is, when Arafat was caught red-handed after Israel intercepted the Karine-A, a ship loaded with several tons of rockets, mines, assault rifles, explosives and ammunition that Arafat bought from Iran. Once again, the White House was shocked.

In 2006, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice thought that having Palestinian elections in the Gaza Strip would be a great idea. It turned out that democratic elections do not always produce democratic leaders: Gazans voted to install a Muslim Brotherhood-style theocracy headed by the Hamas terrorists. The White House was surprised. Israel got stuck with the consequences, in the form of rockets fired daily at the kindergartens and synagogues of Sderot, including several last week on the last day of Passover.

Now Israel’s “peace partner” Mahmoud Abbas walks away from nine months of negotiations relentlessly pursued by John Kerry and signs a unity deal with Hamas.

The question is: Why are U.S. officials always so surprised by Palestinian actions?