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December 22, 2005

My Gift List

http://www.jewishjournal.com/rob_eshman/article/my_gift_list_20051223

My wife and I don't make a big deal out of Chanukah presents. Our family tradition stops far short of indulging in the orgy of getting and spending that overtakes America every holiday, I mean, Christmas, season.

One look around our house reminds us that neither our closets nor shelves need any more stuff. So when my wife asked me what I wanted for Chanukah, I came up with this wish list:

I want a president who will take Iran 1,000 times more seriously than he did Iraq.

For the past three months, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been saying that the Holocaust never happened, that Israel should be dismantled and moved to Europe, and that Israel should be "wiped off the map." In the meantime, his country has deceived and stalled U.N. weapons inspectors even as it has announced plans to build 20 more nuclear reactors. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has indicated that Iran is in breach of its obligations to comply with its agreement against developing nuclear weapons.

The Bush administration, which took a gung-ho approach to the now-disproven Iraqi threat, has taken a passive and gutless approach to Iran. Earlier this month it supported a Russian proposal that would allow Iran to domestically manufacture all but one element of the nuclear fuel cycle, and it again allowed the IAEA to defer referral of Iran's nuclear program to the U.N. Security Council. That move prompted a rare public condemnation from the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, hardly a fount of administration criticism: "This decision will facilitate Iran's quest for nuclear weapons and undermines international efforts to stop Iran from achieving such a capability."

The nutty Iranian president and the radical mullahs in charge will have nuclear weapons as early as this year, according to some Israeli analysts (see story, p. 20) -- unless the U.S. and the international community acts forcefully now.

I want the U.S. Senate to derail, crash and blow up the House of Representatives' attempt -- again -- to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

This isn't about saving caribou or protecting tundra -- not that there's anything wrong with that -- but about forcing Congress and the president to develop a real, sustainable energy policy.

One reason for this is the environmental cost of burning fossil fuels. The other, made clear by Israeli energy expert Gal Luft on a swing through Los Angeles last week, is this: our growing dependence on Mideast oil fuels extremism and terrorism and "poses lethal threats to America and its allies."

Luft said that although only about 12 percent of our oil comes from the Mideast today, 66 percent of global oil reserves are in the hands of Middle Eastern regimes. Saudi Arabia alone has 25 percent and Iran 8 percent. That means that our Mideast policy will not only fund more terror, but eventually bring us into conflict with the fast-developing economies of China and India. Luft's Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (www.iags.org) has specific, hard-headed ways to avoid this bleak future.

I want Jews to keep a sense of perspective about "Munich."

Mel Gibson didn't start pogroms with "The Passion of the Christ" and Steven Spielberg's new movie won't destroy Israel. As a thriller it is intermittently successful, as history it is suspect and as a political tract it raises questions that will -- and should -- provoke thoughtful debate. Why Spielberg would step down from the pedestal that "Schindler's List" built to enter the fray of Mideast politics and -- worse! -- Jewish politics, I have no idea, but the phrase "glutton for punishment" comes to mind. Still, there is no doubt his effort is well-intentioned, so let's keep the fist-shaking and name-calling to a minimum. That would be a Chanukah miracle.

I want the middle to continue to expand, until it squeezes all the hot air out of the far left and far right.

The signs are encouraging: Prime Minister Ariel Sharon stood up to his right and withdrew Israel from Gaza; Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Democrat, has offered a sober defense of the administration's Iraq policy; the Republican-controlled Senate slapped the president's wrist on the Patriot Act; and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed a Democrat as his chief of staff. Are these signs that the next presidential election will actually be about effective policy, not platitudes? McCain-Feingold in '08, anyone?

I want "Never Again!" to mean "Never Again!"

Jewish groups have been in the forefront in condemning the genocide in Darfur and in aiding its victims. But we need to do more to push our leaders to impose sanctions and no-fly zones and offer additional aid on behalf of the victims in Sudan. Earlier this month Congress voted to cut out all $50 million in the current budget to help pay for African peacekeepers in Darfur. If there is no national outcry, there will be no political will to help, and the words we have brought to international conscience will rightfully ring that much more hollow.

That's all I want for Chanukah -- oh, and maybe a nice bottle of red wine.

Happy Chanukah.

 

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