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NYT Book Review: ‘Debriefing the President’ Tears Into the C.I.A. & more from Peter Myers

(1) NYT Book Review: ‘Debriefing the President’ Tears Into the C.I.A.(2) Trump Sets the Cat Among the Jewish Pigeons - Israel Shamir(3) Jewish Power is now British Law – It’s Official! by Gilad Atzmon(4) Report: Mossad head briefs Trump staff during secret meeting(5) Do Illegal Votes Decide Elections?(6) A tale of two Hanukkah parties: Obama’s last and Trump (International’s) first(7) Israel wants ‘butcher’ Assad ousted, defense minister says(8) Jewish Storm Builds Over David Friedman’s Appointment as Israel Ambassador(1) NYT Book Review: ‘Debriefing the President’ Tears Into the C.I.A. ‘Debriefing the President’ Tears Into the C.I.A.Books of The TimesBy JAMES RISEN DEC. 18, 2016Most C.I.A. memoirs are terrible — defensive, jingoistic and worst of all, tedious. Others are doomed by the C.I.A.’s heavy-handed and mandatory censorship.There are exceptions, and that list includes the refreshingly candid "Debriefing the President: The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein" by John Nixon.Mr. Nixon, the first C.I.A. officer to interrogate Hussein after his capture in December 2003, reveals gobsmacking facts about that deposed Iraqi leader that raise new questions about why the United States bothered to invade Iraq to oust him from power. These details will likely appall Americans who have watched their nation’s blood and treasure wasted in Iraq ever since.More broadly, Mr. Nixon offers a stinging indictment of the C.I.A. and what he sees as the agency’s dysfunctional process for providing intelligence to the president and other policy makers. The agency, he writes, is so eager to please the president — any president — that it will almost always give him the answers he wants to hear.Mr. Nixon’s book comes at an extraordinary moment, when President-elect Donald J. Trump is already at war with the C.I.A. He has attacked the C.I.A.’s assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 presidential election to help his candidacy, and he has cited the agency’s failures on prewar intelligence on Iraq as an example of how the C.I.A. is often wrong."Debriefing the President" will add fuel to the fire of the Trump-led criticism. It will also send a chilling warning to anyone counting on the C.I.A. to stand up to Mr. Trump once he is in office.Mr. Nixon had been preparing for his interrogation of Hussein for years before he ever met him. Mr. Nixon, 55, did graduate work at New York University and Georgetown University, where he wrote about Hussein in his master’s thesis. He joined the C.I.A. in 1998, and was immediately assigned to be a "leadership analyst" on Iraq, which meant that his job was the full-time study of Hussein.Mr. Nixon was an analyst in Iraq when the United States military captured Hussein, and he was asked to identify him so the Americans could be certain they had the right man. Mr. Nixon confirmed Hussein’s identity by checking for a tribal tattoo on the back of his right hand and a scar from a 1959 bullet wound.Once he began debriefing Hussein, though, Mr. Nixon realized that much of what he thought he knew about him was wrong.His most astonishing discovery was that by the time of the United States-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Hussein had turned over the day-to-day running of the Iraqi government to his aides and was spending most of his time writing a novel. Hussein described himself to Mr. Nixon as both president of Iraq and a writer, and complained to Mr. Nixon that the United States military had taken away his writing materials, preventing him from finishing his book. Hussein was certainly a brutal dictator, but the man described by Mr. Nixon was not on a mission to blow up the world, as George W. Bush’s administration had claimed to justify the invasion."Was Saddam worth removing from power?" Mr. Nixon asks. "I can speak only for myself when I say that the answer must be no. Saddam was busy writing novels in 2003. He was no longer running the government." Strikingly, Mr. Nixon says that the C.I.A. had some evidence that this was the case before the invasion, but that "it was never relayed to policy makers and emerged only after the war." By 2003, Mr. Nixon writes, Hussein’s disengagement meant that he "appeared to be as clueless about what was happening inside Iraq as his British and American enemies were."With Hussein increasingly detached, Mr. Nixon says that by 2003 Iraqi foreign policy decision-making had fallen to his lieutenants, led by the "unimaginative and combative" Iraqi vice president, Taha Yassin Ramadan, who "repeatedly missed opportunities to break Iraq’s international isolation."Regarding Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction, the justification for the 2003 invasion, Hussein admits to Mr. Nixon that it was a mistake for him not to make clear before the war that he had long since gotten rid of them. "Saddam turned philosophical when asked how America got it so wrong about weapons of mass destruction," Mr. Nixon writes. He quotes him as saying that "the spirit of listening and understanding was not there … I don’t exclude myself from this blame."Hussein never understood the United States, and Mr. Nixon describes him as repeatedly mystified by American intentions in the Middle East. After the Sept. 11 attacks, Hussein fatally misread how America would react. He thought the attacks would bring the United States and Iraq closer together to jointly combat Islamic extremists."In Saddam’s mind, the two countries were natural allies in the fight against extremism," Mr. Nixon writes, "and, as he said many times during his interrogation, he couldn’t understand why the United States did not see eye to eye with him."The findings from Mr. Nixon’s interrogations of Hussein that cast doubt on the Bush administration’s original justifications for the war, Mr. Nixon says, were ignored by senior officials at the C.I.A. and the White House. "The policy makers at the White House and the leadership on the seventh floor at the C.I.A. didn’t want to hear that many of the reasons for going after Saddam were based on false premises," he writes.Mr. Nixon’s most scathing criticism is reserved for the C.I.A, which he describes as a haven for yes-men excessively eager to please the White House. When he joined the C.I.A., Mr. Nixon says, he was told that analysts should "dare to be wrong" — in other words, be willing to take chances when the evidence called for counterintuitive reasoning. But he says experience taught him that the C.I.A. didn’t really reward out-of-the-box thinking. "As I found out in the Clinton, Bush and Obama years, the agency’s real operating principle was ‘dare to be right.’"Mr. Nixon, who left the C.I.A. in 2011 when, he says, the work no longer excited him, depicts a sclerotic agency not much different from the Agriculture Department or any other large bureaucracy, complaining that the agency "was governed by lines of authority that were often clogged by people who got ahead by playing it safe and who regarded fresh thinking as a danger to their careers." Since he had to submit the book to the C.I.A.’s censors, he doesn’t identify the stultifying bureaucrats and timeservers, although he does reserve special wrath for one boss he names only as "Phil," who, he says, "as a schmoozer, had few equals."Mr. Nixon thoughtfully argues that the C.I.A.’s overeagerness to please the White House has led to a serious degradation in the quality of its intelligence. Virtually the entire analytical arm of the C.I.A. is focused on quickly pumping out short memos on the issues of the day that are immediately read at the White House. But the agency has largely abandoned its tradition of freeing up analysts to engage in deeper, long-term research. As a result, Mr. Nixon writes, few analysts at the agency now know very much about anything. "Expertise is not valued, indeed not trusted."The C.I.A.’s brief memos have become like "crack cocaine for consumers of classified information," Mr. Nixon says. It’s as if the C.I.A.’s analytical branch has been transformed from a college faculty into a cable news network.The trend toward quick-hitting but shallow intelligence reports — which other former C.I.A. analysts have also criticized in recent years, particularly since 9/11 — makes the agency much more susceptible to manipulation and politicization, and to repeating the kinds of mistakes it made when it inaccurately concluded that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.When it came to Iraq, Mr. Nixon writes, the "agency slavishly sought to do the president’s bidding — as it usually does — in an effort to get a seat near the center of power and justify its budget. That was the institutional imperative."Mr. Trump may soon test whether the C.I.A. has learned any lessons.Debriefing the President: The Interrogation of Saddam HusseinBy John Nixon242 pages. Blue Rider Press. $25.A version of this review appears in print on December 19, 2016, on Page C1 of the New York edition with the headline: Hussein, the C.I.A. and Me.(2) Trump Sets the Cat Among the Jewish Pigeons - Israel ShamirDate: Sun, 18 Dec 2016 23:34:50 +0300Subject: [shamireaders] Trump Sets the Cat Among the Jewish Pigeons Sets the Cat Among the Jewish PigeonsISRAEL SHAMIRDECEMBER 18, 2016I learned of Trump’s choice for his ambassador in Tel Aviv ten days before it was announced (and published that <>in Russian), so I had enough time to discuss the nominee with Palestinians and Israelis, as well as with Russian diplomats. The nomination of David Friedman horrified liberal Israelis, cheered Palestinian activists, befogged the Israeli and Palestinian officials, and created a great rift among US Jews. With one brilliant stroke Donald Trump made more mischief than one would think possible. If you have no time for details, I’ll tell you: it is a good, even very good development for Palestine and Palestinians, and it is likely to save Trump’s skin back home.For many years, liberal Israelis perpetrated a hoax (yes, I’ve said, hoax) of "struggling against occupation" and wishing to divide historical Palestine into two states, a Jewish state and a Palestinian state. Israeli officials negotiated for years and years with the US, with the quartet, with PA, and gave absolutely nothing in return for the time they gained. Millions of dollars, of European and American tax-payers were poured into soft life of these negotiators. How could the Israelis achieve this glorious (for them) result? Thanks to liberal progressive Israelis. Without liberal Israelis complicity, Jewish moderate nationalists of Bibi Netanyahu wouldn’t be able to slowly and at peace devour and digest Palestine piece by piece.Every year they confiscate a few hundreds strategically located square miles, and plant there a few thousand of settlers. Step by step, they ate Palestine like mouse eats cheese. Now they are shocked that their charmed life will soon be over and their fraud is out.Hard Jewish nationalists always wanted to annex the whole of Palestine. The moderates and the liberals thought it would implode the Jewish state, as in the new one state the Jews will hardly be in majority. There are various statistics and different assessments, but by the most optimistic (for Jews) count, they will present 50% of the population. The One state won’t be "Jewish" or it won’t be "Democratic", is a usual answer. The hard nationalists answered that "we’ll see". Let us get there, and we shall work it out.The smart moderate bastards and their liberal crypto-supporters would answer: we’d love to, but America does not allow us to do it. And the US obediently provided the Israeli Jews with alibi: yes, we would not allow you to annex Palestine, yes, we want you to negotiate in order to reach Two States’ Solution. Now this is over, too.If the Jews will annex Palestine, their long systematic fraud of "occupation" and "struggle against occupation" will be over. They will give Palestinians equal rights, including the right to vote for Knesset, and then there will be power-sharing, and other fruits of democracy. If they won’t give Palestinians equal rights, there will be something simple and clear to struggle for, namely for equal rights and against vestiges of apartheid.This is a view of a marvelous activist from Bethlehem, Prof Mazin Qumsiyeh, the Director of Palestine Natural Museum, previously of Yale. Qumsiyeh signs himself "A Bedouin in cyberspace, a villager at home", and he is a scion of an old Christian family. Reflecting on this nomination of Friedman, Qumsiyeh writes: "This maybe better as it can remove the fog and perhaps the last fig leaf covering the absurdity that is the endless "negotiations" for "two-state solution" (aka mirage to hide ongoing apartheid and colonialism)".This is more or less what I <> wrote in long-gone 2001: "the idea of two states in Palestine is, and has always been, a bluff. No Israeli politician, including the late lamented Mr Rabin, has ever seriously considered relinquishing any part of historical Palestine. The endless negotiations have been a sideshow designed to mollify the public. Behind the smoke screen of ‘temporary military occupation’, the hard-nosed Israeli leadership has confiscated Palestinian fields and houses to make room for Jewish settlements, and imprisoned and killed thousands of Palestinians. A succession of leftist and rightist Israeli regimes perpetuated this legal fiction in order to deny the civic rights of the conquered population. It was a brilliant idea, worthy of the Jewish genius: to carry on negotiations forever while giving lip service to the idea of two states.My Palestinian and Israeli friends, you’ve been duped. Our wise men played a cruel game with you, teasing you with empty promises like the stale old ‘tale of two states’. There have always been only two paths for the Palestinians to emerge from serfdom. One is to beat Israel; the second is to join it. The third option, of a new partition, is just an illusion: a juicy but unreachable carrot dangled in front of the donkey.If I were a fan of conspiracy theories I could well imagine that these good people of the Israeli peace movement intentionally supplied this left leg to our shaky apartheid structure. By continually re-painting the [old armistice] Green Line, they have endorsed the non-citizen status of the Palestinians in their own land. By calling some lands ‘occupied territories’ they have exempted themselves from the need to battle against the exclusion of Palestinians from the country’s political life. By combating the annexation of the territories they have helped to concoct the fraud of independent Palestinian Bantustans.Even a kid watching James Bond movies eventually understands that the hero won’t be eaten by crocodiles and won’t die in the flames, and that there is no reason for expecting these eventualities. There is even less reason for expecting that an Israeli government will sign a just peace with the Palestinians. They will always deploy an exit-strategy in the `peace process’.A better strategy leads through annexation of Palestinian territories and full equality for all dwellers of historical Palestine. The Jews do not like to give, but can’t restrain themselves from taking. The result can be the same. There is an old oriental story about the wise joker Haji Nasreddin, who passed by a lake and saw a drowning man. Many bystanders tried to save him. They stretched their hands and shouted: Give me your hand! But the drowning man was going down. Who is this man?- asked Haji. – He is a moneylender, people replied. That is not the way to save a moneylender, – said Haji. Moneylenders do not know how to give. Instead, shout: "Take my hand!" and he will clutch at it. This is what Haji Nasreddin did, and saved the drowning man.Using his advice, we should say to the Jews, "Annex the territories, but give the Palestinians full equality." The way out of present situation is not partition into two states but absorption and equality". (Galilee Flowers)For this reason, I am not scared by nomination of Mr Friedman. Let him lead Israel into annexation of Palestine, and equality for its dwellers. He seems to be a fair man, as much as a Jewish lawyer can be. He even established a rehabilitation clinic for Jewish AND Palestinian kids in the South of Israel.Sure, a US ambassador in Israel has less powers than a Roman prefect of Judaea had. But it would be difficult for an Israeli leader that he does not annex Palestine because of American veto. After annexation, we shall all push for equality with greater ease.This solution makes more sense as there is great dissatisfaction in the Palestinian territories. Last elections were held in 2006; for last five years Mahmud Abbas’ PNA rules without a people’s mandate, by virtue of Israeli permission. For this Israeli support, the PNA swore to "security cooperation" with the Jews. Israeli soldiers and police can (and do) come into Palestinian territories anytime they want and seize whoever they wish. People are unhappy about this cooperation, as PNA police arrests demonstrators against Israeli occupation. They see the PNA as a junior partner in the Israeli occupation apparatus. It is not necessary to compare them with Vichy France, with Quisling of Norway or with Jewish Judenrat: the situation is different, and people need some local authority to sweep the streets and deliver mail.PNA is not terribly bad; the majority of officials are good and sincere people, though their ability to do something good is very limited by Israelis. Lack of democracy is a problem: in the last elections, the majority voted for Hamas, a moderate Islamic party similar to one of Erdogan in Turkey, but at Israeli and American insistence, the winners went mainly to jail, instead of forming the government. Since then, the PNA finds new reasons why to postpone new elections: they do not believe they will win.Hamas runs Gaza, where they succeeded in coming to power legitimately, but people there are also tired of their rule. Palestinians say, the Hamas-controlled Gaza would vote for Fatah, while Fatah-controlled West Bank would vote for Hamas. Perhaps. Last month, there were violent clashes between PNA police and supporters of Mr Mohammed Dahlan, an exiled ex-minister, who wants to become the new president. Mahmud Abbas does not want to part with his presidential seat despite his age (over eighty).Israeli and Palestinian observers think that the PNA is likely to collapse this year. Abbas said many times that he is ready to return the keys to Israel: let them rule, for they made his job impossible.Palestinians would prefer to be absorbed into Israel, with its limited democracy, law and order and relative prosperity. No Palestinian village in Israel would agree to be absorbed in the PNA-ruled Palestine: this was discussed many times, and the offer had no takers. Palestinians are smart enough to run a country, but limitations imposed by Jews are too severe to manage. So let it be annexation and equality.Palestine/Israel will be transformed into a democratic state, where Jews and Palestinians will live happily ever after, as equals. But the Democratic State wouldn’t be a Jewish state, people would object. That is the best part of it, I would say. The Jewish state is as bad as the Aryan state, or the Islamic state, and whoever rejects the Aryan state and the Islamic state, should reject the Jewish state, as well. This would impact the Obscure Entity: Israel has an important place in their plans, and disappearance of the Jewish state will undermine these plans.Without the Jewish state, the Jews of the US and other lands will return to their normal life, will forget the wet dreams of the world domination and become law-abiding citizens of their respective countries.And how this nomination will save Trump? It will mobilise hard-core Zionists to support him against their moderate and liberal brethren. The hard-core Zionists fought against moderate Zionists in Palestine in 1947-48, and they can easily fight against liberal Jews.Though for the reasons of political correctness people refer to Jews as "Zionists", it is just a figure of speech. Their priorities are very different. The liberals want to establish New World Order, that would have a good and generous place for the Jewish state. For the hard-core, the world is of little importance, they want Palestine now.The hard-core Zionists are not clever enough to understand that the moderates are going in the same direction. They want to take what they can now. That’s why they will get carried away by the idea of the whole hog now. I think they will support Trump, and perhaps this support will help him to get through Scylla of Electoral College and Charybdis of the House of Representatives.<>So, do not be afraid of bad Mr Friedman. He is likely to do a lot of good. And definitely he can’t make things any worse. Nobody believes the Jews will give some parts of Palestine to Palestinians, anyway. So let them take all of it and make it a democracy. This will undo the Zionist enterprise faster and better than any war can do.Israel Shamir can be reached at Jewish Power is now British Law – It’s Official! by Gilad Atzmon Power is now British Law – It’s Official!By Gilad Atzmon on December 16, 2016Gilad Atzmon — Dec 13, 2016For years I have argued that Jewish power is the power to silence criticism of Jewish Power. Now, UK Prime Minister Theresa May has confirmed that my observation is spot on. PM May has decided to accept the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism and to integrate it into British law.According to the IHRA, "antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities."Pretty lazy definition I’d say. Substitute the word ‘antisemitism’ with ‘bigotry’ and the word ‘Jews’ with ‘one people’ and you end up with a reasonably good definition of hatred itself. But our Theresa thinks Jews deserve special protection. And why? Because although in Britain, as in the USA, Germany and France everyone is equal in the eyes of the law, Jews are somehow more equal than others.Sir Eric Pickles, government envoy for ‘post-Holocaust issue’s, is also committed to the Jews and the primacy of their suffering, so much so that he has morphed into a giant gefilte fish.  As Pickles told the BBC, the new definition "catches up with modern antisemitism". It was, he said, "important not to conflate Jewish people with Israel." I couldn’t agree more. We should never conflate Jews with Israel.First, Jews are wonderfully, innocent, peace loving people – except perhaps the 14 million or so of them who support Israel and give the entire tribe a bad name – and second, it would be an absurd  to ignore the five or so  Jews who oppose Israel and truly support Palestine. Maybe Pickles should use his position and influence to lobby the Israeli government to stop defining Israel as the "Jewish state" – now, wouldn’t that stop people conflating the Jews with their state!According to the IHRA, antisemitism can include denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination. Again, I couldn’t agree more. Since Britain supported the rise of ISIS and armed its battalions, it’s only fair that it should also support the Jews-only state. And it’s never too late for Britain to admit that maybe an Aryan-only State is also a pretty kosher idea. And what about a White state? Do white people not also have the right to self-determination? I think we should be told.Nor should it surprise us that man-of principle Jeremy Corbyn and his Labour Party rushed to back May’s move. After all, who more than that ‘man of the people’ Jeremy Corbyn would understand the need of British workers to attach themselves to Jewish sensitivities?The Jewish Chronicle was kind enough to list the names of the Jewish leaders that congratulated the move. For example, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis saluted the Prime Minister for her commitment to tackling the scourge of anti-Semitism and Jonathan Arkush, Board of Deputies president also welcomed the government decision. I wonder, is there not one Jewish leader who can see that such a move, one that makes Jews special in the eyes of the law, is a recipe for disaster? Does any Jewish leader really believe such a law will make British Jews loved or respected?Jewish history actually proves the opposite. It is always Jewish exceptionalism that evolves into Jewish disaster.(4) Report: Mossad head briefs Trump staff during secret meeting 18, 2016 12:38pmJERUSALEM (JTA) — The head of Israel’s Mossad national intelligence agency made a secret visit to the United States to meet with members of President-elect Donald Trump staff and give a security briefing.Mossad Director Yossi Cohen briefed the Trump staff members on the Iranian nuclear deal, the Syrian civil war, terror threats and the Palestinian issue, Ynet reported Saturday. The report did not say when the briefings took place.The security delegation was organized by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to Ynet, and was led by National Security Council head Yaakov Nagel. Israeli ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer reportedly also attended the meetings.The Israeli officials also reportedly discussed with Trump officials a proposed regional conference to jumpstart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process to be held in Egypt and an anti-settlement United Nations resolution by the Palestinians and backed by New Zealand.(5) Do Illegal Votes Decide Elections? von Spakovsky · Dec. 17, 2016Editor’s note: This piece is coauthored by John Fund.Donald Trump’s claim that illegal voting may have cost him a popular-vote majority has touched off outrage. Widespread voter fraud, the media consensus suggests, isn’t possible. But there is a real chance that significant numbers of noncitizens and others are indeed voting illegally, perhaps enough to make up the margin in some elections.There’s no way of knowing for sure. The voter-registration process in almost all states runs on the honor system. The Obama administration has done everything it can to keep the status quo in place. The Obama Justice Department has refused to file a single lawsuit to enforce the requirement of the National Voter Registration Act that states maintain the accuracy of their voter-registration lists. This despite a 2012 study from the Pew Center on the States estimating that one out of every eight voter registrations is inaccurate, out-of-date or duplicate. About 2.8 million people are registered in more than one state, according to the study, and 1.8 million registered voters are dead. In most places it’s easy to vote under the names of such people with little risk of detection.An undercover video released in October by the citizen-journalist group Project Veritas shows a Democratic election commissioner in New York City saying at a party, "I think there is a lot of voter fraud." A second video shows two Democratic operatives mulling how it would be possible to get away with voter fraud.The Justice Department has opposed every effort by states — such as Kansas, Arizona, Alabama and Georgia — to verify the citizenship of those registering to vote. This despite evidence that noncitizens are indeed registering and casting ballots. In 2015 one Kansas county began offering voter registration at naturalization ceremonies. Election officials soon discovered about a dozen new Americans who were already registered — and who had voted as noncitizens in multiple elections.How common is this? If only we knew. Political correctness has squelched probes of noncitizen voting, so most cases are discovered accidentally instead of through a systematic review of election records.The danger looms large in states such as California, which provides driver’s licenses to noncitizens, including those here illegally, and which also does nothing to verify citizenship during voter registration. In a 1996 House race, then-challenger Loretta Sanchez defeated incumbent Rep. Bob Dornan by under 1,000 votes. An investigation by a House committee found 624 invalid votes by noncitizens, nearly enough to overturn the result.How big is this problem nationally? One district-court administrator estimated in 2005 that up to 3% of the 30,000 people called for jury duty from voter-registration rolls over a two-year period were not U.S. citizens. A September report from the Public Interest Legal Foundation found more than 1,000 noncitizens who had been removed from the voter rolls in eight Virginia counties. Many of them had cast ballots in previous elections, but none was referred for possible prosecution.The lack of prosecutions is no surprise. In 2011, the Electoral Board in Fairfax County, Va., sent the Justice Department, under then-Attorney General Eric Holder, information about 278 noncitizens registered to vote in Fairfax County, about half of whom had cast ballots in previous elections. There is no record that the Justice Department did anything.A 2014 study by three professors at Old Dominion University and George Mason University used extensive survey data to estimate that 6.4% of the nation’s noncitizens voted in 2008 and that 2.2% voted in 2010. This study has been criticized by many academics who claim that voter fraud is vanishingly rare. Yet the Heritage Foundation maintains a list of more than 700 recent convictions for voter fraud.A postelection survey conducted by Americas Majority Foundation found that 2.1% of noncitizens voted in the Nov. 8 election. In the battleground states of Michigan and Ohio, 2.5% and 2.1%, respectively, of noncitizens reported voting. In 2013, pollster McLaughlin & Associates conducted an extensive survey of Hispanics on immigration issues. Its voter-profile tabulation shows that 13% of noncitizens said they were registered to vote. That matches closely the Old Dominion/George Mason study, in which 15.6% of noncitizens said they were registered.Fixing this problem is very straightforward. The Trump administration should direct the Department of Homeland Security to cooperate with states that want to verify the citizenship of registered voters. Since this will only flag illegal immigrants who have been detained at some point and legal noncitizens, states should pass laws, similar to the one in Kansas, that require proof of citizenship when registering to vote. The Justice Department, instead of ignoring the issue, should again start prosecuting these cases.The bottom line is that the honor system doesn’t work. There are people — like those caught voting illegally — who are willing to exploit these weaknesses that damage election integrity.(6) A tale of two Hanukkah parties: Obama’s last and Trump (International’s) first tale of two Hanukkah parties: Obama’s last and Trump (International’s) firstBy Ron Kampeas December 16, 2016 11:28amWASHINGTON (JTA) — Weird paradoxes have been packed into Hanukkah observance forever.It’s the holiday about killing infidels that is now celebrated as a victory of religious pluralism. It’s the unofficial little Jewish holiday that a U.S. congressman once tried to turn into a major American holiday. It’s the Jewish holiday with terrible songs written by Jews competing with the Christian holiday with wonderful songs, also written by Jews.Add this to the ironies: When eight or so Jewish organizations dropped out of a Hanukkah party this year because of its associations with President-elect Donald Trump, ambassadors from Muslim countries replaced them.For all the laughs packed into Wednesday’s marathon of D.C. Hanukkah celebrations, there was also earnestness: a loving, if mournful, farewell delivered by President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, to the Jewish community.A few blocks away, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Azerbaijan Embassy co-hosted a Hanukkah party at the Trump International Hotel.Eight liberal Jewish groups said they would not attend the event because of its associations with Trump, some citing his broadsides against Muslims, Mexicans and other groups, and others questioning the propriety of making payments to a business owned by the incoming president. Some groups also objected to the association with Azerbaijan, an autocracy that scores low on the human rights index even as it becomes more friendly with Israel. Another three or four centrist groups did not attend, they said, because of scheduling conflicts. (The rancor over the venue was item No. 1 on the agenda of a Presidents Conference meeting in New York the evening previous, sources told JTA.)That didn’t diminish the holiday spirit, according to folks we spoke to who attended: Every seat was filled, and Malcolm Hoenlein, the Presidents Conference’s executive vice president, presented 13 envoys – including seven from Muslim majority nations – with commemorative menorahs for the assistance by their countries in putting out last month’s devastating forest fires in Israel."Not can we only light candles together, we can douse flames together, and the fact that all of you represent countries who in our hour of need were there for us is deeply appreciated, and I want to thank each and every one of you for doing that," said Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer.One remarkable presence among the honorees, given the near total breakdown in Israeli-Palestinian Authority relations, was Maen Areikat, the Palestine Liberation Organization envoy. The P.A. assisted in putting out the fires.The event, participants told me (it was closed to the media), had the air of the incoming administration. Among those attending were Elliott Abrams, the former senior national security counselor in both Bush administrations who reportedly is under serious consideration for a deputy secretary spot at the State or Defense departments in the incoming Trump administration.The groups on hand leaned more hawkish on foreign policy, particularly on Israel: the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, B’nai B’rith International, the Middle East Forum, the Zionist Organization of America and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. The National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry was also present, having close relationships with some of the embassies represented."It had a good turnout, but it was pretty obvious which organizations weren’t there," said Shai Franklin, a veteran Jewish insider who attended. "There were not a lot of liberal Jews there."Edwin Black, an author who in recent years has investigated liberal nonprofits critical of Israel, said the Trump hotel event was "historic" and chided those who were not present. The event "strengthened the visible and growing ties between Israel and many Muslim countries," said Black, who posed for a selfie with Areikat.Dermer in his remarks tipped his hat to the venue in an allusion to Trump’s campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again": Hanukkah, he explained, commemorates a period that "made Jews proud again."Clever slogans abounded as well outside the hotel, where about 200 demonstrators joined a protest of the event by IfNotNow, the mostly millennial group that in recent years has arisen to claim that the establishment Jewish agenda does not reflect the community, and especially its younger members."Worst Hanukkah Party Ever," said one placard, and "We want none of Trump’s hate" – with the word "none" represented by the Hebrew letter "nun" on the side of a dreidel.There was also a small contingent – about a dozen or so folks — from a group calling itself Jews Choose Trump. Both sides, armed with megaphones, sang dueling Hanukkah songs.I hope you never have to live through a battle of Hanukkah songs, but having done so, I can tell you, the leftists won. They rendered almost tuneful renditions of "Esh Tamid Tukad Al HaMizbah LoTikveh," "The Eternal Flame" and "Sura Hoshech, Halaa Shachor" ("Begone Darkness").The Jews Choose Trump presented English-language versions of "Rock of Ages" and "Dreidel Dreidel Dreidel," and then "Trump, Trump, Trump" set to the melody (I think) of "Dreidel Dreidel Dreidel." Their Hanukkah repertory exhausted, they ran the gamut of patriotic songs from "The Star-Spangled Banner" through "My Country, ‘Tis of Thee."Two robustly built Armenian gentlemen bearing placards protesting Azerbaijan wandered between the two groups.The Trump International Hotel is a block or so from the White House – at the corner of 14th and Pennsylvania — and the Presidents Conference/Azerbaijan Embassy party was timed in part so guests could attend the festivities at both venues. (The Obamas will be in Hawaii during Christmas break, hence the party predating the actual holiday by 10 days.)But there wasn’t much crossover – Dermer and the Presidents Conference chiefs, as well as AIPAC officials, were present at both events. So was Rabbi Levi Shemtov, the president of American Friends of Lubavitch, who koshered the White House kitchen ahead of the party. That was pretty much it.Which perhaps was appropriate: Shifting the mood from the White House (morose and sentimental) to the Trump Hotel (upbeat and expectant) might have been too jarring by half.The day started with special White House briefings for those in attendance on the robust health of the U.S.-Israel security relationship.The panels were off the record, but I’m not giving anything away to say that the tone was one of defiant woundedness – of an administration and its supporters who wondered why the closeness between security establishments never supplanted the tensions between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the preeminent narrative.Obama was rushed by adoring fans at both receptions, with many lamentations about how this would be the last chance to introduce their families to a president they admire.A White House staffer eagerly guided guests to a display about the letter George Washington wrote to the Jewish community of Rhode Island pledging religious tolerance. Obama read from the letter at the evening reception, and implied a rebuke of Trump’s campaign call for a ban on Muslims entering the United States: "Washington assured the Jews of Newport, Rhode Island, that the United States ‘gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance,'" he said to applause. "He went on to write that all that is required of those ‘who live under [the nation’s] protection’ is that they be ‘good citizens.’"The president thanked his Jewish guests and said, "The story of this community and the work you continue to do to repair the world forever reminds us to have faith that there are brighter days ahead."There was some jaded laughter and Michelle Obama interjected, "They’re a little cynical."Obama rejoined, "No, no, no, they’re not cynical."Six years ago, at the inaugural White House Jewish American Heritage Month reception, Obama celebrated Jewish heroes and celebrities who, to me and other observers, defied Jewish stereotypes, including athletes, military figures and astronauts.Now, on his way out, he honored the memories of Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust memoirist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and Shimon Peres, an Israeli founding father.By honoring them and inviting their families, Obama seemed to have internalized that Jews were not simply American and that their history stretches back millennia, through unimaginable loss, across the globe, and into a difficult nation state. And he emphasized the idea that friends don’t always agree — indeed, Obama at times had a contentious relationship with Wiesel, who opposed the president’s Iran policies.At the afternoon reception, describing the menorah designed by Wiesel’s young granddaughter, Obama said, "It’s got bolts and tiles and glue, and it looks like some balsa wood."Shira Wiesel interrupted: "It’s actually melted wax."Obama smiled. "Over the years, your grandfather also corrected me several times," he said. "And it was always very helpful."(7) Israel wants ‘butcher’ Assad ousted, defense minister says 16, 2016 4:29am(JTA) — The removal from power of Bashar Assad is an Israeli interest and ultimate goal, Israel’s defense minister said amid claims that troops loyal to the Syrian president were perpetrating a massacre in Aleppo.Avigdor Liberman made the remarks, which constitute an unusual departure from Israel’s policy of nonalignment in Syria, on Thursday in Eilat, where he was speaking before participants of that city’s Limmud FSU conference on Jewish learning."Assad is a butcher who has massacred people," Liberman said, adding: "The State of Israel has said ‘never again,’" a reference to the rejection of genocidal policies following the Holocaust perpetrated by Nazi Germany and its allies against Jews during the Holocaust. "This massacre, occurring in plain view with chemical weapons, is morally unacceptable."But Liberman said that Assad’s removal was an "ultimate goal" for Israel as opposed to an immediate one.Many thousands of people, including a large number of civilians, have been killed during the fierce fighting in Aleppo between Assad’s forces and rebels who have controlled parts of the city for the past four years.More than 3,000 people were taken out of the fighting zone on the first day of the evacuation on Thursday, but the United Nations said that as many as 50,000 are still trapped, the BBC reported Friday.The U.S. accused the Syrian government of carrying out "nothing short of a massacre" in the city."The only remaining question is whether the Syrian regime, with Russia’s support, is willing to go to Geneva prepared to negotiate constructively, and whether or not they’re willing to stop this slaughter of their own people," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said.Syria and Russia have repeatedly denied targeting civilians.Assad on Thursday hailed the "liberation" of Aleppo after more than four years of fighting, saying that history was being made.(8) Jewish Storm Builds Over David Friedman’s Appointment as Israel Ambassador GuttmanDecember 16, 2016President-Elect Donald Trump’s decision to appoint David Friedman as his ambassador to Israel is brewing into a Jewish battle royale for supporters and detractors of the two-state solution.For the Jewish left, Friedman appointment has quickly emerged as a banner for rallying troops already concerned with the impact the Trump presidency will have on the Israeli - Palestinian conflict. On the right, Trump’s choice of a pro-settlement bankruptcy lawyer as chief envoy to Israel is seen as ushering in a new era of settlement expansion and changing the fundamentals of American policy toward the conflict.The importance of Friedman’s appointment cannot be overstated, according to former ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer."Every thing an ambassador says and does has an impact on policy," said Kurtzer. He added that usually an ambassador implements policies set by the administration, but Friedman seems intent on forging his own stands. To prove the point, Kurtzer referred to Friedman’s comment in the official statement on his appointment in which he expressed his intention to work "from the U.S. embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.""The president hasn’t been sworn in yet, the Secretary of State hasn’t spoken about this, and he’s already talking about the policy he is going to change," said Kurtzer. "This is unheard of."But what Kurtzer and others see as an alarming development, pro-settler activists view as a blessing, hoping it will herald a shift in American policy toward the settlements and Jerusalem."Friedman has a deep love for all of the land and people of Israel, including those in Judea and Samaria," said Oded Revivi, spokesman for the settlement council Yesha."David Friedman is the first ambassador that tells the truth and promotes the truth," said Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America in an interview. This truth, according to Klein, is that "the Arabs want to continue killing Jews" and they refuse to accept Israel as a Jewish state.Morton Klein, of the ZOA, praised Tump in a Thursday statement.Klein also expressed his conviction that with Trump as president and Friedman as ambassador, the Israeli government will be free to expand building within the boundaries of the existing settlements without the U.S. administration limiting its actions. "We will now see the prime minster building more because he will no longer have the fear of consequences imposed by the United States," Klein said.Friedman, who was largely unknown in the organized Jewish community before joining the Trump campaign, has been reaching out to Jewish officials recently, even before being announced as Trump’s pick for ambassador to Israel. But in the meetings and discussions, Friedman has made no attempt to bridge the gaps with the liberal wing of the community. Last week he met with members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in New York and laid out, according to a Jewish leader who attended the meeting, his belief that America should move beyond discussing the issue of occupation and highlight what he sees as Palestinian refusal to accept Israel as a Jewish state.David Friedman Raised Millions for Radical West Bank Jewish SettlersJudy Maltz (Haaretz)December 16, 2016The newly appointed ambassador, speaking in a closed forum in early December, was given the opportunity to retract his comments, made before the elections, stating that the left-leaning pro-Israel lobby J Street "are worse than kapos." Friedman chose to stand behind his accusation comparing the left wing lobby’s actions to those of Jews who cooperated with the Nazis during the Holocaust.J Street, under attack, sought to leverage Friedman’s disdain to the group into a mobilizing and fundraising effort."Trump’s newest pick said something about you," read an email soliciting donations sent out by J Street Friday morning. The pitch, according to officials within the group, brought in tens of thousands of dollars within a few hours.But the group is hoping for more than an end-of-year fundraising bonanza.Since the announcement Thursday night, J Street has been working to mobilize its supporters in an effort to derail Friedman’s Senate confirmation. With Republicans in full control of the Senate, it is a tall order, which will require all Democrats to vote against Friedman’s confirmation as well as at least three Republican senators who will have to cross party lines.J Street pitch targets mainstream Republicans warning them of the consequences a change in policy driven by Friedman would entail. "Given that Mr. Friedman’s hostility to a two-state solution is such a departure from longstanding bipartisan policy, we’re already starting to see real discomfort among many lawmakers from both parties about Mr. Friedman’s positions," said Dylan Williams, the group’s vice president for government affairs.One lawmaker to already speak out against Friedman is Democrat Jerrold Nadler from New York. "Mr. Friedman’s views and comments about a two-state solution are not only a total break from decades of American and Israeli policy, but are fundamentally out-of-step with the views of the majority of American Jews," Nadler said in a statement. He noted that both J Street and AIPAC support a two-state solution.But those looking, either in fear or in expectation, for a shift in American policy taking place in the near future as Friedman assumes his position, may have to wait.On Friday, the Trump transition team already put a damper on Friedman’s promise to move the American embassy to Jerusalem. Jason Miller, Trump’s senior adviser made clear that while the president-elect still firmly supports moving the embassy to Jerusalem, it would be "premature" to present a timetable for such a move.Meaning Friedman may have to at least start his term as ambassador in the same old Tel-Aviv office as his predecessors.-- Peter MyersAustraliawebsite: