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March 30, 2012

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AGE 4A The Good 00ord By David Bot.ein Vly mother who lives alone A few weeks ago my mother missed her eading group. Within a few hours alarms gere raised. Friend called friend. I got a call tom my aunt and cousin, both of whom were :oncerned about her safety and well-being. had my own full schedule to keep, and a laughter who was driving home on her own for pring break from Athens, Ga., so I was already Lnxious and a little strung out. Finally, with Lo answer on either her home or cell phone, ny wife and I drove to her house, imagining ,est- and worst-case scenarios. Best case: we ind herwatching TVin her bedroom, oblivious o the panic going on around her. Worst case: don't want to think about the worst case. Of course, neither came to pass. As we pulled nto my mother's driveway she was pulling in ight in front of us, andwe spoke to her in the iarage. She explained what had happened that norning. She went to the wrong house because he normal meeting place had been changed, mbeknownst to her. She got lost. She called some, but not all of the people in her group. I was too distraught to do anything but show my angst and frustration, and so we left with a "We're glad you're all right," and nothing more. An hour later she called me to tell me how angry she was that I hadn't reacted with more concern for her, that I hadn't kissed her hello or good-bye, that I had chastised instead of been effusive with relief. And the truth is, I wasn't compassionate. I was stressed. And that is the problem. Many of you know my mother. Fiery, bright, active and independent to a fault. She sometimes moves too fast for her own good. She's opinionated and tough, and she's also generous, caring, understanding and has shown an amazing capacity for growth for a woman approaching 87. That being said, she is also a perfect example of what many of us face--parents growing older, and with their age the need for additional help, new limits and restrictions while at the same time (and The irrelevance of J Street By Jonathan S. Tobin Jointmedia News Service In January 2009, flushed with the success ,f Barack Obama's election to the presidency, aany on the left assumed that the new left-wing )bby J Street would soon be a major force in Vashington. They thought that even if it did not eplace AIPAC as the voice of American Jewry ,n Israel, it would, at the very least, be a potent ival that wouldhelp the new administration's olicy of pressure on the Jewish state survive riticism from the right. But as J Street's supporters gather for their bird annual conference March 24-27 in Wash- agton, they face avery d'ffferent political environ- aent than their founders may have envisioned. Though the group's identity is still bound up pith the fortunes of President Obarna, he has rgely abandoned them. J Street loyally backed Obama in every one of is spats with the Israeli government in the last hree years. J Street cheered every attempt by he administration to hammer the Israelis on ettlements, borders and Jerusalem. Yet with his mind focused on his re-election ght and chastened by the way the Palestinians ,ave rebuffed his efforts'to tilt the diplomatic laying field in their direction, Obama dropped irtually all mention of J Street's issues when he poke to the conference held by AIPAC earlier ais month. Instead, the president concentrated on ctirrying lvor with the mainstream group that he knows .,presents the views of most pro-Israel voters. 'here was no way of interpreting his decision to pt for an election year charm offensive aimed at aose who disagreed with J Street other than as harsh rebuff to the group's hopes for influence. J Street has suffered a similar fate on Capitol fill where even most liberal Democrats don't ive it the time of day. Its knee-jerk reflex to riticize Israeli measures of self-defense, help )r the infamous Goldstone Commission and ;fusal to go along with the rest of the pro- rael community on consensus issues such=as an and opposition to unilateral Palestinian dependence has crippled their ability to make roads outside of the left. Just as important, J Street is out of touch with events on the groand in the Middle East. Those Israelis who share the group's views have been discredited by the events of the last two decades. The Israeli left has been utterly ruined by its blind faith in Palestinian good will. No better indication of this disconnect can be found than the fact that a special guest at J Street's conference will be former Prime Minister EhudOlmert. Olmert is avirtual pariah in Israel and not just because he is under indictment on corruption charges. He is widely seen as probably the worst leader in the country's history. Olmert's lame duck attempt to hand the Pales- tinians statehood in Gaza, virtually all of the West Bank, and part of Jerusalem in 2008, was rejected by Mahmoud Abbas. The offer was just the latest proof that Israel has no peace partner but this is a message that has yet to get through to J Street. Olmert will get applause at their conference that he could not hope to get at home, but that only goes to emphasize the chasm that exists between J Street and the people of Israel. J Street's platform, which is predicated on the notion that American Jews must help save Israel from itself, might have made sense generations ago before the OsloAccords and subsequent events exposed the Palestinians' disinterest in peace. But after all the withdrawals and the creation of a terror state in Gaza that no sane Jew would wish to duplicate in the West Bank, the idea that Israel needs to be pressured to make sacrifices for the sake of peace belongs in the dustbin of history. Though J Street can always count on a sympa- thetic hearing in the liberal mainstream press, it has failed to make a dent in AIPAC's influence or to have any impact on Congress. Contrary to those who saw the group's emergence as a genuine threat to the pro-Israel consensus, the hopes of its supporters and the fears of its op- ponents have been largely unrealized. J Street isn't a danger to Israel. It's irrelevant. JNS Columnist Jonathan S. Tobin is senior online editor of COMMENTARY magazine and chief poh'tical blogger at www.commentar- He can be reached via e-mail at: Follow him on Twitter at!frobin- Commentary. 'HE VIEWS EXPRESSED ON THIS PAGE ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE VIEWS OF HERITAGE MANAGEMENT. I   CENTRAL FLORIDA'SINDEPENDENTJEWISHVOICE   ISSN 0199-0721 W'mnerof40PreAwards HERITAGE Florida Jewish News (ISN 0199-0721) is published weekly for $37.95 per year to Florida ad- dresses ($46.95 for the rest of the U.S.) by HERITAGE Central Florida Jewish News, Inc., 207 O'Brien Road, Suite 101, Fern Park, FL 32730. Periodicals postage paid at Fern Park and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes and other correspondence to: HERITAGE, P.O. Box 300742, Fern Park, FL 32730. MAILING ADDRESS PHONE NUMBER P.O. Box 300742 (407) 834-8787 Fern Park, FL 32730 FAX (407) 831-0507 emaih n,lwr Jeffrey Gaeser Editor Emeritus Associate Editor Assistant Editor Gene Starn Mike Etzkin Kim Fischer Society Editor Editor at Large Bookkeeping Gloria Yousha Lyn Davidson Paulette Harmon Account Executives Barbara do Carmo Marci Gaeser Contributing Columnists Jim Shipley Ira Sharkansky Tim Boxer David Bornstein Terri Fine Ed Ziegler Production Department David Lehman David Gaudio Teri Marks Loft Apple Elaine Schooping * Gil Dombrosky HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MARCH 30, 2012 this is the catch) maintaining their sense of "self-dignity and freedom. It's a difficult, near -impossible balancing act, especially with someone like my mother who keeps her hands busy and my hands full. You see, every time I call her house and she doesn't answer, I worry. Ifa few days go by and I don't hear from her, I worry. When she calls me at odd hours of the night, I d0n'tjustworry, I momentarily panic, until she tells me she'S trying to remember the date of the Entebbe raid, or something like that. Is that reason enough to insist that she give up what she perceives as the definition of her independence--her living by herself and tak- ing care of herself? Probably not. Is the time coming when her need for ad- ditional care may mandate a move? Possibly. Most assisted living facilities won't take in an already infirmed senior, so the move has to be made while she's well. But does my peace of mind supersede her desire to live alone, and her disdain, for whatever reason, of apartment-style senior housing? Not yet. But at some point it will. I can tell how cautious she is about what she tells me, about how she eats, how she drives, how well she's doing in general. She's scared of my forming the opinion that now is thetime to make a move, that I'm going to push her into selling her home, and so I see her act warily around me on occasion, and I don't want that, either. What I want is for her to be well, to be happy, to live in her old age as she wants. But I don't want her or anyone else getting hurt in the proce. When do you tell your parent they can no longer drive? When do you decide that they've lost too much weight? When do you say enough, it's time to acknowledge the limitations of your age? It's a high wire my mother and I walk together, and the fear is falling without a safety net, and the reality is that getting old isn't easy, but neither is watching your parent grow old while you stand helplessly by. And that's the good word. The opinions in th[s column are those of the writer and not the Heritage or any other individual, agency or organization. Send your thoughts, comments, andcritiques to the Heritage or email dsb328@ I I I-00anl N--oort-h Korea and the rest of us By Ira Sharkansky In the profound lack of certainty and the possibility of dire consequences concerned with Iran's nuclear program, it is possible to conceive of a scenario that is less than perfect, but way short of catastrophic. Let's start with some basics. In politics, it is generally impossible to achieve ideal solutions for serious prob- lems. Individuals, groups and national govern- ments have their separate interests. One must give in order to get. A guiding principal is not to make things worse. And insofar as hardly anything is worse than a war, it is wise to avoid that if at all pos- sible. To be sure, it isn't always possible. Some participants in politics are so stubborn, or so ideological, or so fixed on a religious fantasy as to make the normal process of give-and-get impractical. There is good reason to wonder if Iran falls outside of the political realm, due to the extreme role that religion plays in the present regime, and the irrational denial of history in the case of the Holocaust. If regime leaders truly are crazy, then war may be the only way to keep them from creating nuclear weapons that theywill use in the expectation of religious fulfillment. A similar assessment might be made of North Korea, Instead of an extreme brand of Islam, its leadership has been guided by an extreme variety of authoritarianism. It has succegded in keeping its population on something close to starvation rations while it has pursued ex- pensive programs of research and development in nuclear weapons and the missiles capable of delivering them. Its rhetoric is hardly different from that of the Iranian leadership, although the targets of its apocalyptic threats are a different set of enemies. Also in the case of North Korea, there is a history of outside pressure, distrust, and a great lack of certainty about intentions and capacities. While it is widely believed that North Korea has successfully tested a nuclear device, there is dispute about the size of the explosions and even its success. Japanese, American and South Korean of- ficials have expressed their great concern and sense of threat on account of the North Korean program, and they have joined in efforts to constrain the North Koreans with counter- threats and inducements. Money and food lead the list of inlucements, along with joint projects providing employment and industrial development on North Korean soil bankrolled and managed by. South Koreans. Given the history of animosity and the highly destructive Korean war, one would expect the South Koreans to be at a fever pitch of concern. Yet my own Contacts with South Korean academics, government personnel and others have given me an untested feeling that they are less fearful about their relatives to the north than are more distant observers. The North Korean model may work for Iran. Its ingredients include persistent pressure to give up the development of nuclear weap- ons, demands for inspections and positive inducements in exchange for cooperation. The record in the case of North Korea is pledges of cooperation, perceptions of cheating on a grand scale once aid has been delivered, along with claims by North Korea that the aid promised was not delivered. Most recent has been another commitment of giving up the nuclear option in exchange for promises Of substantial aid. No doubt that the North Korean model is imperfect. Butso farsogood, which is a decent standard for judging cooperation between governments or other political actors in a setting of great differences in ideology and regime character, against a background of distrust. Those who have suffered most from the awkward and unsatisfactory impasse are the people of North Korea. Many of them are close, or actually over the line of starvation, as well as being deprived of minimum forms of individual liberties and opportunities to improve the living conditions of themselves and their families. All that sounds like what may be brewing in the case of Iran. Existing sanctions have produced high inflation, and the most re- cent and severe limitations on international banking may not yet have begun to bite. Like North Koreans, Iranians have suffered due to the resources allocated to nuclear programs, and Iranians have suffered due to considerable other resources allocated to regime friends like Hezbollah and Hamas, seemingly meant to realize the regime's fantasy of destroying Israel. New restrictions on currency transfers may limit the regime's capacity to sell oil, as well as the import of food and other consumer goods. It is difficult to judge the credibility of threats from Israel and the United States concerned with military action. That is, we don't know if Israel or the United States are close to--or distant from--taking action, and we don't know how Iranian officials view their threats. If the North Korean model works for Iran, its officials may increase the credibility of their statements about not developing nuclearweap- ons, perhaps in exchange for some moderation of sanctions or other benefits. In the best of conditions, we can expect that inspections will be imperfect, and that some observers will remain unconvinced. As in the case of North Korea, there may be a continuing series of commitments made and broken, then made again, with each side blamingthe other for a lack of compliance and credibility. One can imagine further into the futtlre and expect politicians in Israel and the United States to claim credit for turning Iran away from its nuclear option, even while others express their lack of certainty or their lack of belief. And again, we may not get to the point of self-congratulations. War may come due to the enormous gaps in political culture between an Iran governed by Shi'ites who view the world in apocalyptic terms, Israelis who know the apocalypse from the experiences of parents and grandparents, and Americans who see a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threatto pax Americana. We can hope for the best, without being sure Of what we expect. Ira Sharkansky is professor emeritus in the Department of Political Science, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.