The news that Rahm Emanuel has accepted Barack Obama's request to be his chief of staff is fascinating on many levels, not least of which is Rahm's deep Israel credentials. First, in the interest of full disclosure, I've known Rahm for a long time, and he's yelled at me for no good reason on many occasions. This, of course, is the way he expresses affection. I do believe, despite the yelling, that Rahm is an excellent choice to run the White House, and I'll get into that later.
But for now, a couple of comments about the Israel connection:
1) This choice makes the entire "Does Obama secretly hate Israel?" conversation seem a bit ridiculous (Though the vast majority of Jewish voters seemed to have figured that out by the election). Rahm did not, despite the rumors, serve in the Israeli Army, but he is deeply and emotionally committed to Israel and its safety. We've talked about the issue a dozen times; it's something he thinks about constantly, and his appointment gives me further reason to believe that the Obama Administration will not wait seven years to address the Israeli-Arab crisis.
2) Peace-processors take heart: Rahm, precisely because he's a lover of Israel, will not have much patience with Israeli excuse-making, so when the next Prime Minister tells President Obama that as much as he'd love to, he can't dismantle the Neve Manyak settlement outpost, or whichever outpost needs dismantling, because of a) domestic politics; b) security concerns, or c) the Bible, Rahm will call out such nonsense, and it will be very hard for right-wing Israelis to come back and accuse him of being a self-hating Jew. This is not to say that he's unaware of Palestinian dysfunction, or Iranian extremism, but that he has a good grasp of some of Israel's foibles as well. All in all, it's a very heartening choice.
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