Commentary Magazine


Peacemongers in Israel; business in the EU; women at work; etc.

Israel TO THE EDITOR: Norman Podhoretz does an excellent job of describ- ing the bankruptcy of the Middle-East "peace process" ["Oslo: The Peacemongers Return," October 2001]. Yet he sees "no glimmer of light at the end of this dark and gloomy tunnel," and his only counsel is that Israel "keep its powder dry"-that is, merely respond to attacks.

Is this what Mr. Podhoretz envisions for Israel until the day comes when, in his words, "the Arab world will make its own peace with the existence of aJewish state"? This view is no better than that of the "peacemongers." A holding pattern allows ag- gressors to exact an enor- mous price. Following this strategy, Israel has been un- dermined on all levels, leav- ing a once proud nation to cower in a state of siege. Is- rael is at war, and in war there is no substitute for victory.

ALLEN WEINGARTEN Morristown, New Jersey To THE EDITOR: Norman Podhoretz’s crit- icisms of Shimon Peres were, if anything, too mild.

Early on in the Oslo "peace process," Peres conclud- ed that Yasir Arafat and the Palestinian Authority (PA) wanted peace and that the Palestinians could live peacefully next to Israel.

He became a victim of these beliefs, refusing to acknowl- edge that the PA aims to obliterate Israel. In this pe- riod of uncertainty, Israel thus has a foreign minister who does not publicly sup- port the policies of his own government.

PHILIP J. SCHILLER Chicago, Illinois To THE EDITOR: As usual, Norman Pod- horetz’s analysis is insight- ful. But he understates the case in his comparison of Shimon Peres with Neville Chamberlain. For Cham- berlain to have reached Peres’s level of appeasement, he would have had to offer Hitler not just Czechoslo- vakia but parts of England and London itself, and he would have had to do so not before the war but while German bombs were killing and terrorizing British civil- ians. His appeasement at Munich would have had to take place after Hitler broke his word hundreds of times and after Chamberlain had violated British law by ne- gotiating previous agree- ments. Chamberlain would also have needed to supply Hitler with some of the weapons being used against England. Furthermore, Hitler’s objective would have to have been the eth- nic cleansing of the entire English population.

MARC MEHLMAN West Haven, Connecticut To THE EDITOR: Norman Podhoretz says so well what needs to be said, but permit me one tiny quib- ble. He characterizes Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as "Alas, no Churchill." I think he is wrong. Sharon’s leader- ship is easily of the same or- der of magnitude. Both men are associated with the idea that one must "never give up." But Sharon is probably a better tactician than was Churchill, and he is now proving himself a genuine statesman with remarkably clear vision. Defending Israel with measured force while keeping the U.S. State De- partment out of his hair (at least for the present) is as good a balancing act as Churchill ever performed.

Louis S. LYONS Woodland Hills, California To THE EDITOR: In his brilliant essay, Norman Podhoretz won- ders why Yasir Arafat failed to accept Israel’s offer of more than 90 percent of the occupied territories in or- der to use the resulting state as a base from which to launch further operations.

I suspect it is because, at age 72 and in failing health, Arafat was terrified by the prospect of making peace with Israel only to die be- fore he could start the next [3]COMMENTARY JANUARY 2002 war, thus going down in his- tory as the great betrayer of the Palestinian dream. He rejected Israel’s offer out of concern for his legacy.

SANFORD FRANK Encino, California To THE EDITOR: Norman Podhoretz has written another essential ar- ticle on the "peace process." His analysis is especially credible when compared with that of Deborah Son- tag, whose front-page article in the New York Times he ex- amines at length. One searches Sontag’s article in vain for the names of the "many" who supposedly now agree with the view that "all the parties, not just Arafat, were to blame" for the col- lapse of negotiations. The only person she quoted to that effect was the UN spe- cial envoy Terje Rod-Larsen.

Throughout the article, Sontag relied on Israel’s foreign minister, Shlomo Ben-Ami. But this is what Ben-Ami said in a lengthy in- terview published in Haaretz: Arafat’s concession vis-a- vis Israel at Oslo was a for- mal concession. Morally and conceptually, he did not recognize Israel’s right to exist. … Neither he nor the Palestinian national movement accepts us.

Perhaps all parties to the Oslo negotiations made mistakes, although Sontag is unconvincing on that point. What is indisputable is that the Palestinians came to the summit unprepared to reach a settlement, re- jected the offer of a state, made no counteroffer, and then left and started a war.

Mr. Podhoretz’s article goes a long way toward explain- ing why.

RICK RICHMAN LosAngeles, California To THE EDITOR: Norman Podhoretz writes that the Israelis "had never interpreted Security Coun- cil Resolution 242 as de- manding that they return to the pre-1967 borders." But this is not just the Israeli po- sition. According to Arthur J. Goldberg, who was a principal drafter of the res- olution as the U.S. repre- sentative at the UN, it neither commands nor prohibits total Israeli with- drawal. Rather it remits the extent and timing of any withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza Strip to the parties to the con- flict to negotiate.

Misinterpreting Resolu- tion 242 to require with- drawal from all the occupied territories is endemic. In fact, Israel is not required to withdraw unless its new borders will be secure and recognized.

NATHAN DODELL Rockville, Maryland To THE EDITOR: Norman Podhoretz shows remarkable restraint.

He could have said, "I told you so," having warned from the start that the peace process was a chimera, rest- ing on wishful thinking and mass delusion. Instead, he has patiently explained why the obstacle to peace is not the Israelis but Palestinian leaders who refuse to com- promise.

JACKSON TOBY New Brunswick, New Jersey To THE EDITOR: Considering the events of September 11, Norman Podhoretz’s article was pre- scient. Certainly his quota- tions from terrorist leaders foretold the coming tragedy. Would that our national in- telligence services had tak- en the same pains to inform themselves.

S. DAVID HARRISON Hastings-on-Hudson, New York To THE EDITOR: As someone whose grandparents helped found Israel, I felt immense sad- ness after reading Norman Podhoretz’s powerful analy- sis. There appear to be only two possible outcomes to this conflict. Israel may eventually choose to follow the path of the late Meir Kahane’s Kach movement, and exterminate or expel Palestinians from Israel and the West Bank. Or the end- less bloodshed will produce an accelerating exodus of Is- raeli Jews to America and other more peaceful and af- fluent places, eventually leading to a collapse of the Jewish state.

Since I doubt that Israel will ever develop a consen- sus for killing or expelling millions of Palestinians, I expect the country’s trajec- tory to follow that of the Crusader kingdoms, surviv- ing for 70 or 80 years after its establishment in 1948 and then collapsing under continual Muslim pressure and flagging ideological commitment.

Centuries of oppression provided the original ideo- logical impetus for Zionism, and the Holocaust directly led to the creation of the Jewish state. But more than a half-century of very good circumstances for Jews in America and the West has dissipated the practical pres- sure for Israel’s existence.

Younger generations ofJews, both American and Israeli, experience virtually no sense of alienation or fear living in non-Jewish societies. In recent years, the flow of Jews from Israel to the West has probably substantially exceeded that in the reverse direction. For most Jews around the world, Israel is no longer the essential life raft it seemed immediately following World War II. Al- though we should certainly continue to hope for Israel’s permanent existence, hopes and expectations are two en- tirely different things.

RON UNZ Palo Alto, California NORMAN PODHORETZ writes: Having expected to be told in tones of outrage that my comparison of Shimon Peres to Neville Cham- berlain went too far, I was surprised to see Philip J.

Schiller and Marc Mehlman telling me that it failed to go far enough.

Frankly, however, I can- not find it in my heart to quibble with their very harsh characterizations of Peres.

There was a time when he did the state more service than Othello did for Venice.

Yet all his past contributions to the security of Israel have in my judgment been nulli- fied by the role he has played in the past decade or so. It is almost incompre- hensible to me that, after Arafat’s rejection of the Barak-Clinton deal and the unleashing of another and bloodier intifada, Peres should still be doing busi- ness at the same old stand: encouraging mortally dan- gerous delusions about the prospect of peace with the Palestinians and press- ing the government in which he is foreign minis- ter to act on those fantasies.

As Rick Richman points out, even Shlomo Ben-Ami, the extreme dove who was foreign minister in the Ba- rak government, emerged from the negotiations at Camp David and the ones [4]COMMENTARY JANUARY 2002 that followed it with the re- alization that neither Arafat nor "the Palestinian move- ment" recognizes "Israel’s right to exist." (This, I take it, is what Sanford Frank is also suggesting in bringing up Arafat’s concern with his "legacy.") In other words, the main assumption behind the "peace" process is, and was, a lie. But the peacemongers, led by Peres, have blithely gone on acting as if it were true and had been vindicat- ed. Whichever way one looks at this-politically, in- tellectually, morally-it is an unmitigated disgrace.

Which brings me to Louis S. Lyons’s defense of Ariel Sharon. As other cor- respondents think I was too soft on Peres, Mr. Lyons thinks I was too hard on Sharon. They argue (as I myself did, though on dif- ferent grounds) that Peres is worse than Chamberlain; Mr. Lyons contends (as against my own estimate) that Sharon is better than Churchill.

Now, I am willing to ac- knowledge that the count is not yet in on Sharon, either as a tactician or as a wartime leader. But thus far, alas, I see no sign of Churchillian greatness in him. For one essential thing, he lacks the eloquence that Churchill used so effectively in rally- ing and maintaining the morale of his people in their darkest hour.

As I write, Sharon is re- taliating for the terrible sui- cide bombings that took place in Jerusalem and Haifa while he was in Washington to meet with President Bush. There is no predict- ing what the outcome will be, but it seems clear that a turning point has been reached in the relations be- tween Israel and the Pales- tinian Authority. How Sha- ron will emerge from this new test of his leadership is impossible to say.

In the meantime, an au- thentic Churchillian note is sounded by Allen Wein- garten when he declares (in a formulation that actually comes not from Churchill himself, but from Douglas MacArthur) that "in war there is no substitute for victory." But at the risk of seeming to contradict my- self, I confess that I cannot envisage what victory would look like in this context.

If Mr. Weingarten means the reoccupation by Israel of all the territories it captured in the Six-Day war, he is kid- ding himself, since the Unit- ed States and the rest of the world would never permit this. Yet even in the almost inconceivable event that the world were to turn a blind eye to reoccupation, Israel would then become unviable as a Jewish state with a demo- cratic government unless it were-in Ron Unz’s words– to "develop a consensus for killing or expelling millions of Palestinians." Again, on the even more dubious as- sumption that the world would turn a blind eye to such a policy, I agree with Mr. Unz that the Israelis themselves would be incapa- ble of going down that path.

On the other hand, I dis- agree strongly with Mr. Unz about the alternative scenario he draws (one, incidentally, that is very popular among many Arabs). I do not accept that Israel will wind up as an- other Crusader kingdom, "collapsing under continual Muslim pressure and flag- ging ideological commit- ment." It would be foolish to dismiss this possibility alto- gether, and Mr. Unz makes a strong case for its realiza- tion. But I am still convinced that if the Israelis can hold on tight against the forces he specifies, the day may yet come when the Arab world will call off the war it has been waging against theJew- ish state since 1948.

Indeed, the war the Unit- ed States declared against terrorism after September 11 could hasten that day if it is pursued with as much seriousness and persistence as President Bush has prom- ised. If, in addition, the President can rectify the in- coherence involved in em- bracing some of the coun- tries that have nurtured and sponsored the very disease he has committed us to ex- tirpate, this war could well act as a powerful accelera- tor of the changes in the Arab world that are a pre- condition to its acceptance of a sovereign Jewish state in its midst. (Nathan Do- dell, incidentally, is right about Security Council Res- olution 242, and I did not mean to imply that only Is- rael has interpreted it in the way he describes.) A good first step was taken when, after the assaults on Jerusalem and Haifa at the beginning of Decem- ber, the Bush administration finally dropped the stance of moral equivalence between terrorism and the defense against it that is implied by the phrase "cycle of violence." Instead, Arafat was warned that his future as a leader de- pended upon putting an end to terrorism, and Washing- ton for once refrained from urging restraint upon Sha- ron in retaliating for the three assaults.

But only time will tell whether Israel will be ac- cepted as a partner in the war against terrorism rather than an obstacle and a nuisance.

If such a change in American policy were to take hold, it would eliminate at least one source of confusion about our aims in the war against terrorism. And it would cer- tainly discourage the expec- tation of the Palestinians that the United States will go on tying Sharon’s hands as they murder more and more Is- raeli civilians.

For the rest: I thank Jackson Toby and S. David Harrison, as well as the many readers who have communicated with me pri- vately, for their generous comments. Several of these private correspondents have asked for the source of the quotation from Bill Clinton with which my article con- cludes. I first came upon it in a newspaper story, but more research has uncov- ered the original source as a report in the June 27, 2001 issue of Newsweek, whose version is more colorful than the one I relied upon.

According to that report, Clinton told the guests at a dinner party in New York that he began his response to Arafat’s praise of him as a great man with the words, "The hell I am" (rather than, as I had it, "I am not").

The rest of his comment- "I am a colossal failure, and you made me one"-is the same in both versions, ex- cept that Newsweek has Clinton using the contrac- tion "I’m" instead of "I am." Business in the EU To THE EDITOR: Congratulations to Irwin Stelzer for his superb piece, "Is Europe a Threat?" [Oc- tober 2001]. I wholeheart- edly agree with his assess- ment of the situation in Europe at the moment and the dangers for American [6] I I cowCOMMENTARY JANUARY 2002 companies. Since 1990,3,500 new EU "directives" have been issued by Brussels each year, and this tide of regu- lation shows no sign of be- ing reversed. Businesses are now told, for example, how their employees should climb ladders, and a "vibra- tions directive" restricts the number of hours a farmer may sit on his tractor. An- other recent regulation on workplace discrimination shifts the burden to em- ployers to prove their inno- cence if brought to court.

Though the actual num- ber of new pieces of EU legislation has fallen since 1990, the regulations being imposed are much broader, requiring no fewer than 400,000 British civil servants to implement them in the United Kingdom alone.

Worse, British regulators often "gold-plate" this leg- islation, interpreting it more strictly than was intended by the EU and thus making the burden on business even greater. If the last two dec- ades are any indication, the European regulatory envi- ronment seems certain to become more difficult for American business as the EU looks to expand into Eastern Europe in the years ahead.

JOHN GRIMLEY London, England IRWIN STELZER writes: John Grimley is kind to make a few points that I missed. It is true that the British authorities tend to "gold-plate" EU regulations.

which means that they try to make a real effort to enforce them, something that their creators on the Continent rarely do. One Italian diplo- mat told me that his coun- try views EU regulations as "purely theoretical" and hence easily ignored if cir- cumstances require. The British, more accustomed to the rule of law, have no such escape hatch available.

But Mr. Grimley may have missed one cheery pos- sibility. Instead of the reg- ulatory environment be- coming "more difficult for American business" as the EU expands, it may collapse of its own weight, and be- come so clearly unenforceable in those diverse economies as to demand major reform.

Not likely, but possible.

Women at Work To THE EDITOR: Noemie Emery’s review of Naomi Wolf’s Misconcep- tions: Truth, Lies, and the Un- expected on the Journey to Motherhood was delightful [Books in Review, October 2001].

What I find most strik- ing about the "feminism" of Wolf and her peers is that, for the most part, it amounts to nothing more than an elaborate, politi- cized defense of careerism.

Does anyone beside me re- member that a chief aim of the 1960’s counterculture was to allow baby-boomers to escape the conformist tyranny of the career-ob- sessed "rat race" that had typified their parents’ lives? Whatever happened to the hippie rejection of mater- ialism? Whatever happened to those "earth mamas" in their peasant dresses and sandals, baking organic whole-wheat bread? Feminist ideologues like Wolf and Susan Estrich look at women’s lives in terms of career advance- ment and argue for govern- ment-funded programs to facilitate the upwardly-mo- bile lifestyles of white-col- lar professional women like themselves. What shall be the fruit of such an ideolo- gy, except distaff versions of the "Organization Man"? Had the feminists of 1969 foreseen that their move- ment would yield today’s typical career woman- stuck in rush-hour traffic, talking to a client on her cell phone, wondering if this month’s child support payment will be enough to cover the day care bill-I suspect they might have called the whole thing off.

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Singles $175-180 Doubles $190 Suites $220-260 21 st and Lexington Avenue New York, New York 1001 (212) 475-4320 (800) 22 Fax: (212) 505-0535 www.gramercyparkhotel .col n e 10 rrr’i 1-4083 is a~ Lr r a U (A L~ L uu~~rrY L1 ==~~:~L· Do– rat -em The Peace Process That Wasn’t "The judgment of history should be straightforward: the almost ten-year-old Oslo misadventure was born of misconception, delusion, conformity, and cowardice." -FROM THE AFTERWORD BY MARK HELPRIN LAUNCHED IN 1993 AFTER AN AGREEMENT AT OSLO, the Middle East "peace process" was solemnized in the famous handshake between Yitzhak Rabin and YasserArafat on the White House lawn. In return for renouncing violence and terrorism, and accepting Israel, the Palestinians were to be given a state. In return for giving up land, the Israelis would get peace. But after seven fitful years, the process collapsed in bloodshed in the autumn of 2000, and since then the bloodshed has grown ever more violent. Today, Israelis and Palestinians are more bitterly divided than ever before.

The Mideast Peace Process tells what went wrong and why. For decades, the Israeli negotiating posture was summed up in the phrase "land for peace." Its greatest achieve- ment was the 1977 overture by President Anwar Sadat of Egypt that led to a historic peace deal with Israel and the return to Egypt of the conquered Sinai peninsula. But with Olso, this hard-headed and successful diplomacy was replaced by wishful thinking and the sometimes surreal negotiations presided over by the Clinton administration.

Comprising essays from the pages of Commentary by David Bar-Illan, Douglas Feith, Daniel Pipes, Norman Podhoretz, and other leading observers, this book is a fever chart as well as an autopsy of a spectacularly failed diplomatic initiative. Writing at ground level as the peace process careened from one crisis to the next, the authors show us step by step how Oslo took the Mideast back to a future- of guerrilla struggle and terrorism, if not outright war- ENCOUNTER BOOKS that was exactly the future it promised to prevent. www.encounterbooks.com ,~L ~ I, I ~ IL IbNI 1IH ICOMMENTARY JANUARY 2002 A Classic To THE EDITOR: Thank you so much for Nancy Yos’s "Civilization Meets the Durants" [Octo- ber 2001]. It is beautifully written. At the heart of her disillusionment with Will Durant are two issues on which I can shed some light: his literary style and his competence as a historian.

I should begin by saying that Will and Ariel Durant knew me from the day I was bom in 1931. When Iwas or- phaned as a teenager, I was taken in and raised by a cousin who was married to Will’s sister Ethel. They lived in the same house that Will grew up in, and I occupied the large bedroom that had been his from childhood.

Still in the room was a large bookcase filled with the Latin and Greek textbooks that Will had used at St. Pe- ter’s Prep and St. Peter’s College in nearby Jersey City. Will was an outstand- ing exemplar of the Jesuit rhetorical training he had received at these schools.

His writing conformed to the classical norms of Greek and Latin literature. For years Will was my host for dinner every Sunday even- ing at Chasen’s Restaurant here in Los Angeles. To Ariel’s delight, he would re- cite entire orations of De- mosthenes in Greek and complete discourses of Ci- cero in Latin while he en- joyed his special hash browns followed by a gen- erous serving of strawberry shortcake.

Even more significantly, Will followed classical models in his approach to writing philosophy and his- tory. Like the narratives of Xenophon, Thucydides, and Tacitus, the Durants’ 11-volume account of civi- lization is a story. This is very different from the modern understanding of history.

HERBERTJ. RYAN Loyola Marymount University Los Angeles, California TO THE EDITOR: As one who had a similar experience years ago with Arnold Toynbee’s History of Civilization, I appreciated Nancy Yos’s intelligent and entertaining sentiments about first encountering the work of the Durants.

WILLIAM H. RIDDELL Tampa, Florida Poland & the Jews To THE EDITOR: Robert S. Wistrich’s su- perb review of Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jew- ish Community ofJ edwabne, Poland by Jan T. Gross [Books in Review, October 2001] touches on the failure of several parties to reveal the truth about what actu- ally happened at Jedwabne, but leaves untouched the following question: if, as I surmise, the relevant docu- ments about the massacre were readily available at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem for a half-century, why did Israeli scholars not do anything with them? EDWARD ALEXANDER Seattle, Washington Going Pro To THE EDITOR: Though an excellent arti- cle in most respects, Chester E. Finn’s "The Cost of Col- lege Sports" [October 2001] fails to address a key factor in our college athletics pro- grams: namely, that they have become a farm-club system for professional sports.

So what are colleges to do? As I see it, their choice is either to abolish college athletics entirely and there- by discontinue this arrange- ment, or to start awarding two sorts of degrees, one representing proficiency in academic work and the oth- er in athletics.

PETER H. KAUFMAN Oceanside, California

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