When Bob Filner was sworn in as mayor of San Diego last month, he delivered part of his inauguration speech in Spanish.Apparently you don't become a 10-term congressman or mayor of the country's eighth-largest city without knowing your audience. And while some parts of the U.S.-Mexico border have more cultural tension--such as Arizona--residents living on both sides of the San Diego-Tijuana boundary tend to see the area as one region rather than two countries.It's a region that now has a championship soccer team in the Xoloitzcuintles of Tijuana, which won the Mexican first division title the day before Filner took office."The virtue of having una region y dos ciudades is when our guys are not doing well -- like the Chargers -- we have champions," Filner, switching from English to Spanish and back again, told the soccer team during its visit to San Diego three weeks later. "So you're our champions also.... Everyone in San Diego is following you."Don't believe him? Just check the dirt parking lot surrounding the Xoloitzcuintles' new 23,000-seat stadium. Many of those who came to last weekend's 2013 home opener arrived in cars with California plates, supporting team estimates that one-third of its fan base lives in the U.S. and as many as 5,000 people regularly cross the border for games."It's the nature of both cities," says assistant general manager Roberto Cornejo, who, like many fans, lives in San Diego. "They're sister cities crossed by the border. And something like sports especially -- and soccer even more -- transcends that border."You get fans from both countries, from both cultures, uniting and celebrating."
In the Great Synagogue in central Jerusalem a young, articulate politician is making the case for an Israeli peace deal with the Palestinians. Hisses and boos erupt from the floor. The young woman carries on regardless.But it is all too clear that Laura Wharton, a Harvard graduate and mother of two who represents Meretz (one of Israel's smaller political parties) does not reflect the mood of the audience of more than 500 Israeli voters.An hour earlier, the same audience had clapped encouragingly as a rival politician made a speech in which he called for the Palestinians to be thrown out of the West Bank in what he called a "religious war".Arieh Eldad, a plastic surgeon and retired Israeli army brigadier who specialises in treating burns, declared that "the land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel and nobody else", adding that "this is a religious war. We are here because God promised the land of Israel to the Jewish people."Caustically attacking Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu for once speaking in favour of a two-state solution, Eldad insisted: "We must end the occupation. Of course I'm referring to the Muslim occupation of the land of Israel, starting in the seventh century." The crowd clapped as he added: "The Palestinians already have a state - in Jordan."It is shocking to hear talk of this kind, with its ugly endorsement of ethnic cleansing, in any country. And it is especially shocking to hear it in Israel's Great Synagogue, and from a respected member of the national assembly, the Knesset.
Despite their reputation as two of Netanyahu's favorites in the Likud party, Yuli Edelstein, a Cabinet minister, and Ze'ev Elkin, chairman of the Likud's Knesset coalition, have called for gradually annexing the West Bank. And while they have left the details vague, they apparently foresee some Palestinians who live there becoming Israeli citizens.Though Netanyahu has supported a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since 2009, the ideas of his two close associates have significant, if still minority, support within the Likud's Knesset ranks. The annexation move also has the full and vigorous support of the Jewish Home party, the Orthodox Zionist party that is expected to emerge from the January 22 elections as the second-largest party on the right and at least the third largest in the Knesset.When the right-wing activist group Women in Green organized a special pre-election "sovereignty" conference, Edelstein, who is minister of Information and Diaspora, and Elkin addressed the 800-strong audience from the podium. The Jerusalem event was Women in Green's third "sovereignty" conference -- but the first that has attracted ruling Likud party members of this stature.Polling commissioned by the group and conducted ahead of the conference by The New Wave Research, one of Israel's largest polling companies, concluded that 73% of Israelis who consider themselves right-wing support annexation. Only 9% opposed the idea.
Bitter experience -- from getting the most modest arms control agreement through the Senate his first year, trying and failing to engage leaders in Iran and North Korea, discovering his lack of leverage over Egypt, Pakistan and Israel, and finding Afghanistan to be a costly waste of American lives and resources -- is driving him to a strategy reminiscent of one of his Republican predecessors, President Dwight D. Eisenhower.It is a strategy in which Mr. Obama will try to redirect world events subtly, rather than turning to big treaties, big military interventions and big aid packages."The appeal of the Eisenhower approach is that it had a big element of turning inward, of looking to rebuilding strength at home, of conserving American power," said one of Mr. Obama's senior national security advisers, who would not agree to be quoted by name.
The Reverend King had gone pretty far wrong by then, descending into stock Leftism -- welfare mau-mauing and appeasement of the Soviet Union -- but while he didn't get to the Promised Land with us he did get us there. When you listen to his speeches you realize how important it was to have the leader of the civil rights movement make moral claims rooted in Judeo-Christianity upon an American people informed by the faith. He succeeded because we could not be both segregationist and American.
[originally posted: 4/04/07]