Rahm Emanuel and Israel

It was inevitable that the world would eventually realize the unhappy fact that President-elect Barack Obama will not represent a complete break with the past 60 years of American diplomacy. By tapping Rahm Emanuel, a fierce partisan of Israel who volunteered as a mechanic in northern Israel during the first Gulf War, it is fair to say that process has already begun.

For example, what does Abu Jayab, the young Palestinian in Gaza who was cold-calling Americans, imploring them to vote for Obama, think about the fact that the president-elect's first major appointment is a man who is being hailed by the Israeli press as "our man in the White House?"

Rahm's father Benjamin Emanuel served in the Irgun, a Jewish terrorist group that targeted British and Palestinian civilians -- most famously with the King David Hotel bombing and the Deir Yassin massacre -- to advance the goal of creating a Zionist state. This week, the elder Emanuel has not exactly assuaged doubts about his son's pedigree. "Obviously, he will influence the president to be pro-Israel," he told the Israel daily Maariv, "Why wouldn't he be? What is he, an Arab?"

But Rahm Emanuel has always combined hyper-partisan rhetoric with relatively centrist policy views, and that may hold true for his stance on Israel as well. During his work on the Oslo Accords under President Clinton, he developed his closest relationships with the aides to the dovish Labor Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. If Emanuel is seen as sympathetic to Israel's plight, but also unafraid to use his legendary toughness to pressure Israeli leaders during the inevitable foot-dragging over the removal of key settlements in Gaza and the West Bank, he could be a key player in the upcoming Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Photo: Lauren Victoria Burke/ABC NEWS via Getty Images


Twenty questions for Barack Obama

He's the biggest celebrity in the world. And today, after meeting with his economic advisors, he'll be giving his first press conference as president-elect of the most powerful country on Earth. So, what should the media ask Barack Obama?

I imagine most questions will be related to the transition and cabinet appointments. It seems likely he'll announce his Treasury secretary, so there may also be some questions related to how Larry Summers, Tim Geithner, or John Corzine whoever that person is will operate during the next few months.

But let's pretend there will also be time for serious questions about policy and the world. Below, my list:

  1. What type of economic stimulus package would you support and should it go forward before you take office in January?
  2. What are your hopes for the upcoming "Bretton Woods II" conference in Washington?
  3. Do you support a bailout for the U.S. automotive industry? Why or why not?
  4. The world has overwhelmingly rejoiced at your election. Are expectations too high? Are you worried that you will let people down?
  5. Aside from stabilizing the global economy, what are your top three priorities in foreign policy?
  6. Some people have said that Rahm Emanuel, your new chief of staff, is a "pro-Israel hardliner." Is that why you picked him? To reassure Israelis and Jewish-American voters that you will be a strong defender of Israel?
  7. You spoke with at least nine foreign leaders this week. What did you tell them?
  8. Were you upset by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's speech this week? Do you think Russia is trying to test you by threatening to base missiles on the Polish border?
  9. You were criticized during the campaign for saying you would meet without preconditions with the leaders of Iran and Venezuela. Now that your victory has been welcomed by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chávez, will you be calling them as well? 
  10. What is your message for foreign governments, such as that of Iraq or North Korea, that are currently engaged in negotiations with the Bush administration?
  11. You've said you want to focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan. How do you envision your relationship with Gen. David Petraeus, the CENTCOM commmander who is in charge of U.S. military forces in that region?
  12. Do you envision some sort of new aid package for Pakistan?
  13. Will you allow General Petraeus to meet with top Syrian officials? Were you disappointed that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad didn't send you a congratulatory message?
  14. How soon do you plan to roll back sanctions on Cuba?
  15. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice conceded Thursday that Israel and the Palestinians would not be able to reach some sort of peace agreement this year. How soon do you plan to pick those negotiations back up and what will your initial goals be?
  16. Will you commit to closing the Guantánamo Bay prison?
  17. Will the current economic situation make it impossible to enact your agenda on climate change?
  18. What is your position on NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine, which the organization will be considering in December?
  19. Do you still back a windfall profits tax on oil companies now that oil prices are down to nearly $60 a barrel? 
  20. Would you support setting a "floor" under oil prices so that alternative energy remains economically viable?

Add your own in comments.

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