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Obama’s failed policy on Israel

Try as he might this late in the game, President Barack Obama’s Israel policy should go down in history as a failure.

Although some of the worst accusations against him claim that the president’s failure is intentional, because he hates Israel itself, the weight of the evidence suggests a less sensational problem. In keeping with a broader pattern, the White House has expected Israel to accept its judgments on the largest matters, such as Iran, and then has become frustrated when Israel reacts poorly to its judgments on smaller ones, such as the status of settlements.

That is why the administration has gotten so little political mileage out of its fresh military aid package with Israel, offering nearly $40 billion over the next 10 years. Obama pledged it would make “a significant contribution to Israel’s security in what remains a dangerous neighborhood,” helping protect it “from all manner of threats.”

On that basis, the White House has guided its team to push hard for what the president has long believed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is too irresolute and weak to achieve: the ground-level preconditions for the so-called “two-state solution,” which would place a recognized territorial Palestinian regime side by side, “in peace,” with Israel. Obama seems to have reasoned that Israel is strong enough and safe enough to wipe out any excuse for slow-walking peace.

Here, the White House has only made matters worse for Israel, which is why Israel and its U.S. supporters have taken such offense to its Israel policy as a whole, and its last-minute push against settlements in particular. Even some of Obama’s defenders must admit that elevating settlements to a first-tier issue underscores the absurdity and futility of the president’s long-term approach.

Had Obama taken a more focused tack years ago, in concert with a far different approach to Iran and its proxies, the sentiments and stakes surrounding settlements would be considerably different. Had Obama accepted that the results of his Mideast policy have been controversial and mixed, at best, he could have adopted a posture toward Israel that could have succeeded.

He did not, and it has not, and no diplomatic spasm this month can change that.

The Orange County Register, Dec. 30

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A parrot helps researchers understand flight

Obi may be a small Pacific parrot, but he doesn’t want a cracker. Obi is much too sophisticated for that. Where other parrots (e.g., Polly) settle for mimicking human speech and begging, Obi is engaged in cutting-edge scientific research to understand flight.

Believe it or not, Obi wears goggles that protect his eyes as he flies through laser beams. He’s the star of an experiment at Stanford University designed to test the accuracy of various mathematical methods for using the swirls of air in a bird’s wake to understand what’s keeping it aloft as it beats its wings.

If all goes according to plan, scientists will understand a little more about how to calculate lifts and vortexes and the mysteries of maintaining flight thanks to Obi and his laser-measured flapping wings.

A lot of theories and predictions are on the line. That’s why Obi has gone where no bird has gone before and lived to tweet about it — or whatever it is that Pacific parrots do.

Sure, even Obi the goggle-wearing parrot may settle for a mere cracker every now and then, but after a bird with his talent has tasted the glory of scientific discovery, how is he supposed to get used to the taste of crumbs again?

​Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Dec. 30

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