Monday, February 23, 2015
By Shirly Seidler
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not do a good enough job defeating Hamas to be able to advise others on how to deal with Iran, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Monday.
He was referring to Netanyahu's controversial March 3 speech before both houses of Congress, which he is expected to devote to the specter of a nuclear Iran.
"It's impossible to speak about Iran when we don't know how to resolve the problem with Hamas," Lieberman said during a visit to Sderot, one of the main targets of Hamas rockets. "It's impossible to preach to the world about how to fight terrorism if we are unable to defeat [Hamas], to win and overthrow terrorism. Terrorists need to get the death penalty. … Give an order to the Israel Defense Forces that the next operation will be the final operation, and will end with destroying the Hamas regime."
The comments appear to be an attempt to outflank Netanyahu from the right and win votes for Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party in the March 17 national election. This marks a change from the last election, in 2013, when the two leaders presented a united front because they were running on a joint ticket.
Netanyahu has consistently been hawkish on Iran, and Lieberman's comments indicate the Yisrael Beiteinu chairman is aiming at the prime minister's point of pride by arguing that Netanyahu is not as strong a leader as he purports to be, even on the issue on which he is most outspoken.
In an interview with Channel 2 on Friday, Lieberman compared Netanyahu unfavorably to former prime ministers Menachem Begin and Ehud Olmert. Begin authorized Israel's attack on a nuclear reactor near Baghdad in 1981, and Olmert was premier when, according to foreign news reports, Israel destroyed aSyrian nuclear reactor in 2007.
"What I can say is that in the two previous instances, when Begin decided to destroy the Iraqi reactor, there were not speeches and there wasn't any public or political struggle or debate, or any leaks," Lieberman said in the television interview. "We woke up one morning and there was no reactor, without speeches and without stories. Also regarding what we read in the media about Syria."
How Russia could arm LibyaThe UNSC resolution 2174 (2014) allows, however, the sale of armaments to internationally recognized authorities, which is the government in Tobruq, with the approval of the UNSC Sanctions Committee. Russia could request such an authorization at the Security Council without having the embargo lifted altogether.
How Libya fits into Russia’s naval strategy for the Mediterranean
The leaders of France and Germany genuinely want to find a compromise that would help end the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in his latest interview.
Speaking to Rossiya 1 TV channel on the conflict and the breakthrough of the Minsk agreement, Putin said that “it seemed to me [the leaders of France and Germany], have a genuine desire to find such compromise solutions that would lead to the final settlement [of the conflict]...”
He cited the Minsk protocol which includes the decentralization of power in Ukraine and a “reference explaining what it implies.” The authors of the reference are "our German and French partners,” he said, adding that this speaks of their sincerity in finding a compromise.
“I had the impression that our partners have more trust in us than distrust, and in any case believe in our sincerity,” Putin said on Monday.
Putin once again underlined the importance of implementing the Minsk agreement reached on February 12 by the Normandy Four – Ukraine, Russia, France, and Germany. “If the Minsk agreement will be implemented, I’m sure the situation will gradually normalize,” he said.
While answering a question about the possibility of Russia waging war with Ukraine, Putin said that “such an apocalyptic scenario is hardly possible, and I hope this will never happen.”
Putin also dismissed as “complete nonsense”claims made by Poroshenko and the head of the Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU), Valentin Nalyvaychenko, that Russia’s presidential aide Vladislav Surkov was involved in tragic events during last year’s protests in Kiev.
Speaking on Crimea, the president urged the international community to respect the region’s choice to rejoin Russia.
“With regard to nationality, the residents of Crimea have made their choice [when they voted to join Russia] and it should be respected. Russia cannot treat it otherwise,” he said.
Commenting on Poroshenko’s statement that Kiev intends to regain Crimea, Putin said that such actions have a “revenge nature.” He stressed that as a large European country, Ukraine should focus on“strengthening the economy and social sector, and mend relations with the southeastern part of the country.”
By Andrew Beatty
Barack Obama is expected to issue the third and most significant veto of his presidency Tuesday, embracing raw executive power in the twilight of his administration.
"This is even better than the veto pen," said a steely Obama, gripping a silvery hockey stick gifted to him in the midst of another fight with Republicans.
Combative and confident, it is just the sort of defiant tone that Obama has adopted since Republicans seized control of both houses of Congress.
Since last November, Obama has threatened to veto more than a dozen Republican-backed bills -- from tougher sanctions on Iran to rules undercutting his hallmark healthcare reforms.
On Tuesday he is likely to make good on another veto promise, rejecting a bill pushing for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring oil from Canada to the United States.
While flexing his veto power Obama has also embraced the use of controversial executive orders, which bypass hostile legislators to make law by decree.
In one of over 200 orders so far, Obama protected five million illegal immigrants from deportation, leading to a fierce legal challenge from Republicans.
There is a "clear political imperative" for Obama's more muscular use of presidential power, said Julian Zelizer, a Princeton University professor.
"The opposition is strong, time is limited and you can't do much pro-actively.
"It's important for Democrats not to end the last two years (of Obama's term) with Republicans not only controlling Congress, but doing a lot."
- No Franklin Roosevelt -
Yet despite the tough talk, Obama is a relative neophyte when it comes to the ultimate expressions of presidential political power.
Before Keystone, the 44th commander-in-chief used his veto power only twice in six years, to reject rules on notarizations and a defense funding resolution that had become obsolete.
That is fewer vetoes than any president since James Garfield, who was in office in 1881 for 200 days -- close to half of them spent (unsuccessfully) trying to recover from an assassin's bullet.
According to Senate records, you have to go back two centuries -- to the age of the Seminole wars, the first Mississippi steam boats and the presidency of founding father James Monroe -- to find a two-term president who has issued fewer vetoes.
At the same time, Obama has averaged around 33 executive orders a year, the lowest rate since Grover Cleveland's first term ended in 1889, according to the American Presidency Project.
"I think there is genuine hesitance about overreaching," said Zelizer, pointing to Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, when he repeatedly voiced concerns about George W. Bush's use of executive power.
"He also ultimately believed that he would be able to get the legislative process moving. It took him a long time to realize that is not the case."
Obama's low veto tally could also be a sign of his political success.
For most of Obama's time in the Oval Office, Democrats had a strangle hold on Congress.
"In Obama's first two years in office, his party had big majorities in the House and Senate," said Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.
"Given how ideologically similar Obama and congressional Democrats are, Congress generally wasn't going to pass something through both houses that was not also supported by the president."
Even until last November Obama had the buffer of a Democrat-controlled Senate, which prevented Republican-backed bills from landing on the Resolute desk.
Minority lawmakers' willingness to use procedural rules to stall legislation may also have helped Obama avoid executive action, according to Sarah Binder of the Brookings Institution.
"I suspect that the minority's increased willingness to filibuster majority party priorities in the Senate also limits the frequency of veto bait sent up to the White House," she said.
With Republicans now in control of both houses, Obama could yet emulate Bush, who vetoed 11 bills in his last two years following the Democratic takeover of Congress in 2006.
But even if Obama embarks on a spree of orders and vetoes, he cannot come close to Franklin Roosevelt, a fellow Democrat, who used his veto 635 times and issued over 3,700 executive orders.