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Blog: June 2008 Archives

Sanctions and such seem very far away just now, as I navigate my way through Israeli seas that can be radically deceiving, so calm on the surface, so churning just below. There are pinpricks of hope against a background of resignation. But even with a cease fire with Hamas now in fragile place, and even with a prisoner exchange with Hezbollah evidently imminent, and even with something new and possibly important developing on the Syrian front, and even with a sudden and unexpected turn towards Lebanon, and even with continuing negotiations between Israel and the Palestine Authority and now and rarely then rumors of some progress there, there's little political conversation. And I think I know why: Everything that can be said about "hamatzav," the situation here, has been said, long since, and again and again. For years now, experts and laypeople alike have claimed that "everyone" knows the parameters of the permanent resolution that remains so elusive. The Clinton parameters, or Geneva light, or call it what you will - a shared Jerusalem, no right of return but the admission to Israel of on the order of 100,000 refugees over, say, ten years, borders very near the Green Line, dismantling of all but a handful of settlement blocs, lots of technical stuff (water, security, and so forth).

AIPAC Robotics & McCain's Theory of Sanctions

Our topic today is sanctions.

First, a well-kept (until now) secret: The annual event known as the AIPAC Policy Conference is a fraud. It is actually only semi-live. With several exceptions to maintain the illusion, the people on the stage are in fact brilliantly designed robots. From year to year, they say the same things, as do the invited keynoters, themselves also robots. With tiny variations, the script is the same from year to year; you know the language: "unshakable," " absolute," "shared values" and so forth. The audience, to the best of my knowledge and with the possible exception of the students who attend (1200 this year) is real, but even up as close as they are, they do not discern the visual and mechanical trick being played on them. It is, in truth, an awesome achievement, never imagined by Si Kenan, who founded AIPAC, nor by Morris Amitay, who led it for six years; rumor has it that Tom Dine, AIPAC's exec for 13 years, had a glimmer of the idea after a weekend with his artist brother, Jim Dine. But, like so many things about AIPAC, it was actually a lay leader, Larry Weinberg of Los Angeles, who developed the idea and blunted it through to fruition. Curiously - life's coincidences - it was less the result of Weinberg's proximity to Hollywood - he was, in fact, deeply engaged with the fortunes of the Portland Trail Blazer, which he owned (and which is brilliantly chronicled by the late David Halberstam in his The Breaks of the Game) than the fact that another Larry Weinberg, who lived not far away, was a brilliant animator, winner of four Clios for special effects as well as an Oscar and sundry other awards, and once raised the possibility with Weinberg I in a different context. One thing led to another, and here we are, in 2008, in the immediate aftermath of the latest and (inevitably) most remarkable production ever. Think of it - three robotic presidential candidates (even though, since "Obama" and "Clinton" spoke the morning after the real Obama had achieved the delegate majority needed to be the party's nominee, only Obama and McCain were by that time left), one robotic ruling (don't laugh) Israeli prime minister and one R2D2 incumbent secretary of state. (That's incumbent, not recumbent.) More attendees than ever.