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Posts For: September 15, 2013

The Depravity of the Anti-Israeli Left

One is tempted to leave Ian Lustick’s Sunday op-ed, “Two-State Illusion,” alone. Its stench is so overwhelming that one might expect it to harm Lustick’s cause without the need for commentary. But because Lustick is a political science professor at the University of Pennsylvania, one of our most prestigious universities, and because the New York Times has chosen to amplify his view, it is worth considering as a symptom of the depravity of the anti-Israeli left, as what passes for sober commentary in that crowd.

Let me set aside Lustick’s argument against the two-state solution and begin with what is most shocking in his op-ed, his own proposed solution. Lustick argues that the U.S. and others should abandon the two-state solution and let the parties fight it out. The key passage must be quoted at length:

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One is tempted to leave Ian Lustick’s Sunday op-ed, “Two-State Illusion,” alone. Its stench is so overwhelming that one might expect it to harm Lustick’s cause without the need for commentary. But because Lustick is a political science professor at the University of Pennsylvania, one of our most prestigious universities, and because the New York Times has chosen to amplify his view, it is worth considering as a symptom of the depravity of the anti-Israeli left, as what passes for sober commentary in that crowd.

Let me set aside Lustick’s argument against the two-state solution and begin with what is most shocking in his op-ed, his own proposed solution. Lustick argues that the U.S. and others should abandon the two-state solution and let the parties fight it out. The key passage must be quoted at length:

With a status but no role, what remains of the Palestinian authority will disappear. Israel will face the stark challenge of controlling economic and political activity and all land and water resources from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. The stage will be set for ruthless oppression, mass mobilization, riots, brutality, terror, Jewish and Arab emigration and rising tides of international condemnation of Israel (my emphasis).

Lustick makes explicit the nihilism of the anti-Israeli left. He has no strong reason to believe that the bloodbath he wishes on the Israelis and Palestinians will have results favorable to either.  But why not break a few eggs if there’s some prospect of an omelette? Like many on the anti-Israeli left, but more explicitly, Lustick is prepared to entertain a morally satisfying position, which costs him nothing but means a blood sacrifice for those whose best interests he professes to have in mind.

Having dealt with the most disgusting elements of the op-ed, let me draw attention to the schoolboy contradiction at the heart of Lustick’s argument. He thinks that a two-state solution is impossible. The sole reason he offers for thinking it impossible is that the facts on the ground, from Israeli settlers to Islamic fundamentalism, make such a solution very difficult. But in defense of the extremely unlikely proposition that a one-state solution can succeed, he offers numerous examples of outcomes once thought impossible that have come to pass, from a solution to the Irish situation to the fall of the Soviet Union.

In other words, Lustick does not really think a two-state solution impossible. Instead, he thinks that when confronted with a choice between two difficult ways forward, one should choose the one that results in the end of the State of Israel. Again, Lustick says out loud what his crowd thinks:

The disappearance of Israel as a Zionist project, through war, cultural exhaustion, or demographic momentum, is at least as plausible as a two state solution.

Lustick’s op-ed should be required reading for anyone who thinks that to stand with the anti-Israeli left is to support of the rights of Palestinians. To stand with the anti-Israeli left is instead to hope for an open conflict that will result in the end of Israel. It is not just friends of Israel who should be disgusted with academics who hope to foment such a conflict, knowing, unless they are complete fools, that in making a poorly thought out, long-odds bet on a one-state solution, they gamble with the lives of Palestinians and Israelis.

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Obama Lost More than Style Points in Syria

President Obama is touting the deal Secretary of State John Kerry has made with the Russians over Syria’s chemical weapons as the “first step” toward a solution to all of that country’s problems. He is also, predictably, taking credit for creating the pressure that made all these good things possible. As for the chorus of criticism from across the political spectrum about the manifest incompetence and lack of leadership he displayed in the last few weeks, the president dismisses that as mere carping about “style” rather than substance. But by backing down on his threats to use force and then agreeing to a toothless deal that allows Russian President Vladimir Putin to save the Assad regime after President Obama had repeatedly called for the fall of the dictator, there is more wrong here than a sloppy presentation.

As our Max Boot noted earlier today, the Russian-sponsored process to get rid of Assad’s chemical weapons is an invitation for the Syrian tyrant to delay and obstruct any efforts to actually remove the toxic material and lock the U.S. into a partnership with a man that even United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon labeled as a criminal. Even worse, by authorizing Secretary Kerry to bow to Russian demands to remove any threat of force from operative UN resolutions that will govern the process, the president has virtually guaranteed that there will be no consequences for Assad cheating or a chance that this murderous ally of Russia and Iran will be deposed. Obama has avoided an embarrassing defeat in Congress over authorization of force against Syria and can pretend that he has advanced the cause of peace since no Americans will be involved in any fighting (in contrast to the Syrian people who continue to be slaughtered by Assad). But all he has accomplished in the last month is to trash U.S. credibility and to grant Putin an unexpected victory that will further embolden Iran and its friends. This gives the lie to those who blithely claim Obama’s supine stance on Syria will not inform his policy toward Tehran’s plans for its own weapons of mass destruction.

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President Obama is touting the deal Secretary of State John Kerry has made with the Russians over Syria’s chemical weapons as the “first step” toward a solution to all of that country’s problems. He is also, predictably, taking credit for creating the pressure that made all these good things possible. As for the chorus of criticism from across the political spectrum about the manifest incompetence and lack of leadership he displayed in the last few weeks, the president dismisses that as mere carping about “style” rather than substance. But by backing down on his threats to use force and then agreeing to a toothless deal that allows Russian President Vladimir Putin to save the Assad regime after President Obama had repeatedly called for the fall of the dictator, there is more wrong here than a sloppy presentation.

As our Max Boot noted earlier today, the Russian-sponsored process to get rid of Assad’s chemical weapons is an invitation for the Syrian tyrant to delay and obstruct any efforts to actually remove the toxic material and lock the U.S. into a partnership with a man that even United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon labeled as a criminal. Even worse, by authorizing Secretary Kerry to bow to Russian demands to remove any threat of force from operative UN resolutions that will govern the process, the president has virtually guaranteed that there will be no consequences for Assad cheating or a chance that this murderous ally of Russia and Iran will be deposed. Obama has avoided an embarrassing defeat in Congress over authorization of force against Syria and can pretend that he has advanced the cause of peace since no Americans will be involved in any fighting (in contrast to the Syrian people who continue to be slaughtered by Assad). But all he has accomplished in the last month is to trash U.S. credibility and to grant Putin an unexpected victory that will further embolden Iran and its friends. This gives the lie to those who blithely claim Obama’s supine stance on Syria will not inform his policy toward Tehran’s plans for its own weapons of mass destruction.

Putin is sealing his triumph over Obama by announcing his plans to visit Iran to confer with his partners in propping up the Assad regime. In doing so, the Russian authoritarian proclaimed his support for Iran’s right to a nuclear program including the enrichment of uranium. While the Obama administration and the rest of the West has assumed all along that Putin shared their fear of a nuclear Iran, he has always been operating from a different playbook. The keynote of Russian foreign policy under Putin remains his dream of reconstituting the old Soviet empire and to frustrate the U.S. at every turn. By demonstrating his lack of will to act on what he has rightly labeled a human-rights catastrophe, President Obama has not only secured the Russian base in Syria; he has sent the region a signal that the U.S. is a paper tiger.

The new Middle East that has emerged from Obama’s Syria fiasco is one in which the Russians are no longer marginal players clinging to a sole outpost in Syria. It is also one in which the Iranians and their Hezbollah allies who have actively intervened in the Syrian civil war are the victors in a power struggle with moderate Arabs. It was one thing for the president to spend two years dithering over Syria while more than 100,000 people died. It is quite another to sign on to a diplomatic process that ensures a murderer will not only not face justice but will also have impunity to use chemical weapons.

The Iranians have spent the five years of Obama’s time in the White House skillfully playing the West with diplomatic feints that have given it more time to develop a nuclear capability. With Russian backing and with Obama showing himself incapable of taking decisive action, there is no reason for them to back down or to treat rumblings from Washington about force being the last resort if the talks fail again seriously.

Had President Obama not played Hamlet about acting on his own authority to strike Syria none of this needed to happen. Several months ago the Russians feared they were about to lose the last vestige of their once-formidable sphere of influence in the region as Assad tottered. Now they are back in business and Assad is even deeper in their debt than before. Bolstered by victory in Syria, Iran also has good reason to be more confident about stalling or even defying the West on the nuclear issue. All this is something Obama handed to them free of charge on a silver platter. That isn’t “style” Mr. President; it’s substance. And the consequences will be suffered by the people of Syria, regional allies like Israel, and an American people who, despite their justified worries about trusting Obama with military force in Syria, will soon realize that American prestige and influence has never been so low since Jimmy Carter sat in the White House.

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Two States and the Anti-Zionist Illusion

Twenty years after the signing of the Oslo Peace Accords the two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs that was its premise remains unrealized. Indeed, support for the idea that a century-old struggle can be ended merely by the stroke of a pen and a new round of concessions on the part of the Israelis is smaller than ever in Israel, even if some elsewhere (such as Secretary of State John Kerry) cling to such illusions. As I wrote last week, it is clear that while the majority of Israelis seem to have drawn some appropriate conclusions to twenty years of peace processing, there remains a constituency in Washington that is determined to ignore the costly mistakes that were made in 1993 and since in the name of promoting peace. So long as the Palestinians are unable to re-imagine their national identity outside of an effort to extinguish the Zionist project and to therefore recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn, negotiations are doomed to fail.

This is frustrating for the vast majority of Israelis who, despite their political divisions, are united in a longing for peace that made projects like Oslo and other such initiatives possible. It also exasperates foreign onlookers who wrongly believe the Arab-Israeli conflict is the root of all trouble in the Middle East (a myth that has been exploded by the Arab Spring and its battles in Egypt and Syria that have nothing to do with Israel).

But it is welcomed by those in the West whose dreams have never centered so much on schemes of a “New Middle East” in which economic cooperation will make everyone happy as they have on simply ending the Zionist dream. One such dreamer is the University of Pennsylvania’s Ian Lustick, a political science professor and sometime State Department consultant who was given the front page of the New York Times Sunday Review today to explain in 2,300 words why the obsession with two states should give way to the project of simply eliminating Israel and replacing it with an Arab-majority nation. Given the persistent and increasingly obvious anti-Israel bias of the paper (especially its editorial and op-ed pages) it is hardly a surprise that it would give such prominent play to a piece with such a goal. But even by the low standards that currently govern that section, the disingenuous nature of Lustick’s rant is stunning.

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Twenty years after the signing of the Oslo Peace Accords the two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs that was its premise remains unrealized. Indeed, support for the idea that a century-old struggle can be ended merely by the stroke of a pen and a new round of concessions on the part of the Israelis is smaller than ever in Israel, even if some elsewhere (such as Secretary of State John Kerry) cling to such illusions. As I wrote last week, it is clear that while the majority of Israelis seem to have drawn some appropriate conclusions to twenty years of peace processing, there remains a constituency in Washington that is determined to ignore the costly mistakes that were made in 1993 and since in the name of promoting peace. So long as the Palestinians are unable to re-imagine their national identity outside of an effort to extinguish the Zionist project and to therefore recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn, negotiations are doomed to fail.

This is frustrating for the vast majority of Israelis who, despite their political divisions, are united in a longing for peace that made projects like Oslo and other such initiatives possible. It also exasperates foreign onlookers who wrongly believe the Arab-Israeli conflict is the root of all trouble in the Middle East (a myth that has been exploded by the Arab Spring and its battles in Egypt and Syria that have nothing to do with Israel).

But it is welcomed by those in the West whose dreams have never centered so much on schemes of a “New Middle East” in which economic cooperation will make everyone happy as they have on simply ending the Zionist dream. One such dreamer is the University of Pennsylvania’s Ian Lustick, a political science professor and sometime State Department consultant who was given the front page of the New York Times Sunday Review today to explain in 2,300 words why the obsession with two states should give way to the project of simply eliminating Israel and replacing it with an Arab-majority nation. Given the persistent and increasingly obvious anti-Israel bias of the paper (especially its editorial and op-ed pages) it is hardly a surprise that it would give such prominent play to a piece with such a goal. But even by the low standards that currently govern that section, the disingenuous nature of Lustick’s rant is stunning.

The core conceit of Lustick’s piece is to put forward the idea that a radical transformation of the conflict is not only possible but also probable. Thus, he claims that “the disappearance of Israel as a Zionist project through war, cultural exhaustion or demographic momentum” is a plausible outcome. Indeed, though his essay occasionally hedges its bets, his enthusiasm for the prospect of the end of the Jewish state is palpable. Indeed, he compares it to the end of British rule over all of Ireland, the French hold on Algeria, or the collapse of the Soviet Union, historical events that he claims were once thought unthinkable but now are seen as inevitable outcomes. These analogies are transparently specious, but they are telling because they put Israel in the category of imperialist projects rather than as the national liberation movement of a small people struggling for survival. That tells us a lot about Lustick’s mindset but little about the reality of the Middle East. Unlike the Brits’ Protestant ascendancy in Ireland or the French pieds noirs of Algeria or even the Soviet nomenklatura, the Jews of Israel have nowhere to go. That he also compares Israel to apartheid South Africa, the Iran of the shah, or Saddam Hussein’s Iraq shows just how skewed his view of the country has become and how little he understands its strength and resiliency.

Let’s concede that Lustick is right about one thing. The two-state solution as conceived by the authors of Oslo or those piously pushing Kerry’s negotiations is not likely to happen in the foreseeable future. The maximum concessions offered by Israel don’t come close to satisfying the minimal requirements of the Palestinians.

In 2000, 2001, and 2008, Israel offered the Palestinians a state in almost all of the West Bank, Gaza, and a share of Jerusalem and was turned down every time. Lustick found no space to mention this fact in his article, just as he failed to mention what happened in 2005 when Israel withdrew every last soldier, settler, and settlement from Gaza, a concession that only led to the area being converted into a terrorist launching pad rather than an experiment in peace and nation building. Even the moderate Palestinians that are supposedly Israel’s negotiating partners continue to use their broadcast and print media as well as their educational system to foment hatred of Israel, laud terrorism, and to make it clear their goal is not two states living in peace alongside each other, but the extinction of the Jewish state.

Such inconvenient details don’t make it into Lustick’s narrative because they undermine his basic premise that it is Israel’s settlement policy that makes peace impossible. He even claims that if only the Carter administration had listened to him back in 1980, a full-fledged U.S. effort to force Israel to bow to Palestinian demands (at a time when the PLO wasn’t even pretending as it does now that its goal was not Israel’s destruction) would have brought about Oslo a decade earlier when he thinks it might have worked. But since the Palestinian culture of rejectionism and violence that he persists in ignoring now was even stronger then, the claim is as illogical as it is egotistical.

But this piece of shameless self-promotion isn’t nearly as outrageous as his vision of a post-Zionist Middle East. There is no rational scenario under which the current State of Israel will collapse and/or would allow itself to be dismantled or to be converted into an Arab-majority country. Those who dwell in the dream castles that they have built are generally insensible to the world in which the rest of us live. It is not surprising that those who, like Lustick, have spent their lives predicting Israel’s demise and cheering every sign of disarray in its society have come to believe in this notion with a faith that is as pure as that of any religious believer. Perhaps to those who believe everything that radical anti-Zionist columnists write in a left-wing newspaper like Haaretz, Israel’s destruction is not only possible but also inevitable. But the disconnect between that newspaper and the majority of Israelis is far greater than the gap between the visions of the liberals who edit the New York Times and the views of most Americans.

Unlike the nations of the past to which he compares Israel, the Jewish state has grown in strength, both economic and military, in recent decades. It continues to be assailed by an unreasoning hate that is rooted in anti-Semitism rather than petty disputes about borders or settlements. But unlike Western audiences who are insensible to the events of the last 20 years, during which the Jewish state has tried to trade land for peace and instead wound up trading land for terror, most Israelis have been paying attention to these facts. Though they have more than their share of problems, are weary of war and eager for peace, they have no intention of giving up. Why should they since the history of the last century has shown that in spite of obstacles that would have daunted far more powerful peoples from even trying to persist, Zionism has gone from strength to strength as Israel today is a regional military superpower and economic giant?

They also understand just how dishonest Lustick’s vision of a post-Zionist Middle East is. The professor claims Israel’s collapse will lead to an alliance between secular Palestinians and post-Zionist Jews (those Haaretz columnists) and others to build a secular democracy. He thinks the large percentage of Israelis whose families fled or were thrown out of Arab and Muslim countries (a refugee population that no one thinks to compensate for their losses) will come to think of themselves as Arabs. He also posits an alliance between anti-Zionist Haredim and Islamists. He claims Jews who want to live in the West Bank can be accommodated in the post-Zionist world. All this is nonsense.

Israeli Jews know the fate of non-Muslim minorities in the Arab and Muslim world. If Israel acknowledges that all Jews would be evacuated from a putative Palestinian state it is not because they agree with the Arab vision of a Judenrein entity but because even those on the left know the Jews there would last as long as the greenhouses left behind in Gaza in 2005. Those “Arab Jews” that Lustick thinks will be at home in the Greater Palestine he envisages know exactly what fate awaits them in a world where they are not protected by a Jewish army.

The problem with Lustick’s anti-Zionism is not just that it is built on such blatantly misleading proposals. It is that his determination to ignore the nature of Palestinian intolerance for Jews causes him not only to misunderstand why peace efforts have failed but also to be blind to the certainty that the end of Israel would lead to bloodshed and horror.

Much as it may disappoint the legion of Israel-haters and anti-Semites, as President Obama reminded them during his visit to the Jewish state earlier this year, the State of Israel “isn’t going anywhere.” As difficult as their plight may be in some respects, Israelis understand that they have no choice but to survive and to wait as long as it takes for the Palestinians to give up on dreams of their destruction. Unfortunately, that day is not brought closer by the decision of a prominent organ such as the Times to give such prominent placement to dishonest pieces that serve only to feed those noxious fantasies of Israel’s destruction.

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Syria Deal Faces Long Odds

If John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov have concluded a deal that will really result in the elimination of Syria’s entire arsenal of chemical weapons by this time next year, they will win the Nobel Peace Prize–and, unlike so many previous Nobel recipients, they would have earned theirs. But there is good cause for concern that the deal will fall apart long before next year’s Nobels are handed out.

Indeed, if the deal is implemented as advertised, it would be an unprecedented and almost unbelievable achievement: UN inspectors will have to catalogue, seize, and destroy some 1,000 tons of chemical weapons while a brutal civil war rages around them. Little wonder that Kerry added, when he first offered a way for Syria to avoid American military action, that such a plan couldn’t and wouldn’t be accepted. Now it has been accepted at least by the U.S. and Russia but without any obvious sticks to compel Assad’s cooperation, with Russia steadily refusing to support a Chapter VII resolution to compel Syrian compliance.

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If John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov have concluded a deal that will really result in the elimination of Syria’s entire arsenal of chemical weapons by this time next year, they will win the Nobel Peace Prize–and, unlike so many previous Nobel recipients, they would have earned theirs. But there is good cause for concern that the deal will fall apart long before next year’s Nobels are handed out.

Indeed, if the deal is implemented as advertised, it would be an unprecedented and almost unbelievable achievement: UN inspectors will have to catalogue, seize, and destroy some 1,000 tons of chemical weapons while a brutal civil war rages around them. Little wonder that Kerry added, when he first offered a way for Syria to avoid American military action, that such a plan couldn’t and wouldn’t be accepted. Now it has been accepted at least by the U.S. and Russia but without any obvious sticks to compel Assad’s cooperation, with Russia steadily refusing to support a Chapter VII resolution to compel Syrian compliance.

The indications from Damascus are, at best, mixed: Assad most recently said he would eliminate his chemical weapons only if the U.S. stopped threatening him and stopped supporting the opposition. This, mercifully, President Obama has not pledged to do, but his misguided decision to seek congressional authorization for a strike against Syria–authorization which, it was clear, would not be forthcoming–has substantially weakened the threat of American military action which is necessary to compel Assad’s compliance.

The danger here–indeed the likelihood–is that Assad will drag this process out as long as possible, offering partial compliance, for example submitting a list of some, but not all, of his chemical weapons. Indeed, if he submitted a full and complete list of weapons and sites he would be in danger of putting a noose around his neck, since it would be tantamount to an admission that the chemical-weapons attack which killed some 1,400 civilians was carried out by government forces–something that Moscow and Damascus continue to strenuously deny, in no small part because Assad must know he faces the possibility of trial as a war criminal.

So the odds are that Assad will offer limited, not whole-hearted cooperation, and all the while this is going on the United States and the rest of what passes for the civilized world is, in effect, locked into a partnership with this murderous regime. Assad thereby gains added legitimacy on the international stage and decreases the threat of international military action against him.

If we could actually eliminate all of Syria’s chemical weapons, this might be a bargain worth taking but, again, the odds of success are not good.

It is imperative that, whatever happens, we not lose sight of the bigger strategic picture: Assad is a rabidly anti-American, anti-Israel leader, an ally of Iran and Hezbollah, whose overthrow is in America’s strategic interest. Whatever happens with his chemical weapons, we must not lose sight of the imperative to support the moderate elements of the Syrian opposition striving to overthrow him.

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