Commentary Magazine


Topic: Arab League

Europe; In League with the Arab League

After five days of silence, the European Union has finally released a stock-statement condemning the kidnapping of three Israeli students. But even this only comes after Prime Minister Netanyahu poured scorn on European countries for their harsh criticism of Israel as compared to their total failure to condemn such terrorist acts. The full extent of the EU’s Israel problem was demonstrated last week at a conference in Athens where European foreign ministers and their Arab League counterparts signed a ten page declaration that outrageously praised the Palestinians for their supposed commitment to peace and democracy while castigating Israel for its “unilateral’” actions. EU diplomats have feebly attempted to explain this indefensible document, claiming that they were able to “draw the Arabs toward [their] position, as opposed to the other way around.”

If there is any truth in that statement then it hardly says very much in the EU’s defense. The idea that this disgraceful document in some way represents the European position doesn’t exactly set the EU in any better light. Obviously the lasting European taste for concession and appeasement wouldn’t have made it difficult for the Arab League members to win over their counterparts. But given the current mood toward Israel among EU diplomats one doubts whether they needed much persuading. Indeed, looking over the moral inversions in this document each could have just as plausibly been authored by the Arab states as the European ones. And when there’s no perceivable distinction between the foreign policy of Europe and that of the Arab world then—discounting the possibility that everyone in the Middle East has become a Swedish style pacifist—you know there’s cause for concern.

Read More

After five days of silence, the European Union has finally released a stock-statement condemning the kidnapping of three Israeli students. But even this only comes after Prime Minister Netanyahu poured scorn on European countries for their harsh criticism of Israel as compared to their total failure to condemn such terrorist acts. The full extent of the EU’s Israel problem was demonstrated last week at a conference in Athens where European foreign ministers and their Arab League counterparts signed a ten page declaration that outrageously praised the Palestinians for their supposed commitment to peace and democracy while castigating Israel for its “unilateral’” actions. EU diplomats have feebly attempted to explain this indefensible document, claiming that they were able to “draw the Arabs toward [their] position, as opposed to the other way around.”

If there is any truth in that statement then it hardly says very much in the EU’s defense. The idea that this disgraceful document in some way represents the European position doesn’t exactly set the EU in any better light. Obviously the lasting European taste for concession and appeasement wouldn’t have made it difficult for the Arab League members to win over their counterparts. But given the current mood toward Israel among EU diplomats one doubts whether they needed much persuading. Indeed, looking over the moral inversions in this document each could have just as plausibly been authored by the Arab states as the European ones. And when there’s no perceivable distinction between the foreign policy of Europe and that of the Arab world then—discounting the possibility that everyone in the Middle East has become a Swedish style pacifist—you know there’s cause for concern.

In places the assertions of the ten-page declaration are laughable. There is praise for the Palestinian commitment to democracy; this despite the fact that the Palestinian Authority has been postponing an election that became overdue in 2009, while in Gaza Hamas, who seized power in a military coup, murdered the political opposition, and censored the press, has never countenanced an election since. Similarly, the declaration welcomes the new Fatah-Hamas unity government, calling on Israel to work with it and claiming that this represents a promising step toward a two-state solution. How anyone that claims to favor two states can welcome a Hamas backed government—Hamas being the terrorist movement committed to extinguishing the Jewish state—is simply unfathomable. And no less contradictory is the declaration’s condemnation of Israel’s “unilateral” acts in Jerusalem alongside its support for Palestinian unilateral acts to pursue membership of committees at the United Nations. For one thing it is absurd that when Arabs build homes in Jerusalem it’s just Arabs building homes in Jerusalem, but when Jews have the audacity to build homes in their own religious, historical and political capital, well then it’s a strategic unilateral act warranting a mini-diplomatic crisis. But more importantly the Palestinian moves at the United Nations are in direct breach of the Oslo peace accords, and many of the signatories of this declaration were supposed to serve as guarantors to Oslo.

Most appalling of all is the declaration’s utter failure to condemn Hamas rocket fire against Israeli civilians. Yes, there’s one of those completely redundant lines about opposing “all acts of violence” by both sides. But nowhere is there any specific mention of the civilian-bound rockets dispatched from Hamas controlled Gaza on a daily basis. Yet the declaration complains at length about the “grave humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip largely caused by the closure imposed by the Occupying Power.” The ministers also stressed their position that “Israeli settlements, the separation barrier built anywhere in the occupied Palestinian territory, home demolitions and evictions are illegal under international law and constitute obstacles for peace and they endanger the viability of the two-state solution.”

The Arab world’s attitude toward the Jewish state has long been considered alongside the fact that the ancient Jewish communities in these countries were decimated and forced to flee in the same decade that the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe were made to vanish. But given the worsening condition of Jewish life in Western Europe, for how long can the EU’s attitude toward the Jewish state and the fate of its own Jews not be considered in light of one another? Over the weekend Paris witnessed a spate of anti-Semitic incidents, and in all of these places Jews are considering their future; whether to stay or go. By the best assessment Europe is failing in its primary obligation to protect a part of its citizenry. But in light of these failings to protect the basic human rights of their own Jews, it is extraordinary that Europeans think they’re in a position to join with the Arab League, with its abominable human rights record, in lecturing the Jewish state.

Read Less

Kerry’s Illusion of Momentum

Lest anyone think Secretary of State John Kerry was working hard to deal with urgent foreign-policy problems today, fear not. Although he was doing nothing to end the standoff with Russia over Edward Snowden, stop Iran’s nuclear program, deal with the chaos in Egypt or the ongoing civil war in Syria that is strengthening Tehran’s hand, he didn’t come away empty-handed from his latest trip to the Middle East to make peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Nobody other than Kerry seriously believes Kerry’s efforts to re-start the peace process will succeed. Both sides are at pains to try to avoid getting the blame for the inevitable failure. Yet Kerry hasn’t persuaded the Palestinians to negotiate, let alone actually end the conflict with Israel and, indeed, may be making things worse by encouraging them to ask for more preconditions that serve as a pretext for staying away from the talks. But his fool’s errand did get the endorsement of the Arab League today.

The statement from the League won’t alter the division among Palestinians between Hamas and Fatah that makes peace impossible. Nor will it prevent Abbas from raising the ante, as he keeps demanding more concessions from Israel in order to sit with them while having no intention of actually negotiating. But it does give Kerry the illusion of momentum that he needs so desperately in order to justify wasting his time on a dead end that offers no chance of a resolution while urgent situations that require his attention are given short shrift.

Read More

Lest anyone think Secretary of State John Kerry was working hard to deal with urgent foreign-policy problems today, fear not. Although he was doing nothing to end the standoff with Russia over Edward Snowden, stop Iran’s nuclear program, deal with the chaos in Egypt or the ongoing civil war in Syria that is strengthening Tehran’s hand, he didn’t come away empty-handed from his latest trip to the Middle East to make peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Nobody other than Kerry seriously believes Kerry’s efforts to re-start the peace process will succeed. Both sides are at pains to try to avoid getting the blame for the inevitable failure. Yet Kerry hasn’t persuaded the Palestinians to negotiate, let alone actually end the conflict with Israel and, indeed, may be making things worse by encouraging them to ask for more preconditions that serve as a pretext for staying away from the talks. But his fool’s errand did get the endorsement of the Arab League today.

The statement from the League won’t alter the division among Palestinians between Hamas and Fatah that makes peace impossible. Nor will it prevent Abbas from raising the ante, as he keeps demanding more concessions from Israel in order to sit with them while having no intention of actually negotiating. But it does give Kerry the illusion of momentum that he needs so desperately in order to justify wasting his time on a dead end that offers no chance of a resolution while urgent situations that require his attention are given short shrift.

Though the New York Times trumpeted the Arab League statement as proof that Kerry’s efforts are being rewarded with success, the real news came out of Ramallah where, as Ynet reported, Abbas was doubling down on his insistence on a laundry list of preconditions before he will consider returning to the negotiations that he has been boycotting since the start of the Obama administration. According to Western sources, Kerry’s latest meeting with Abbas to get him to rejoin the talks didn’t get him to budge but it did yield more demands from the Fatah leader.

In addition to the massive infusion of Western aid into the coffers of the Palestinian Authority that Kerry has been offering Abbas, they are now asking for an airport and the right to build hotels on the Dead Sea in areas that have heretofore been under exclusive Israeli control, as well as more work permits for Palestinians to enter Israel. The ostensible purpose of these provisions would be to boost the dormant Palestinian economy, but obviously Israelis would have reason to worry about how Fatah would use an airport and whether the permits might open up an avenue for terrorism that has been closed by the security fence in the West Bank.

It isn’t likely that Israel would agree to all of these demands any more than they will give in on the various other points raised by the Palestinians. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has rightly insisted on negotiations without preconditions, a stand endorsed by President Obama during his visit to the region in March. But what Kerry doesn’t seem to realize is that the endless bargaining in which the Palestinians talk about talking is merely another delaying tactic intended to serve as an excuse for their failure to actually negotiate. Though Kerry claimed a victory today and keeps saying that the gap between the sides is getting smaller, his trips only seem to encourage the Palestinians to keep asking for more without ever gaining their assent to deal with the Israelis.

There are those who may wonder what the president thinks about the secretary’s lack of actual success, but the more time he spends pursuing this dead end, the more likely it is that President Obama is perfectly happy to let Kerry chase his tail in this manner since it takes him out of the loop on other, more important issues that are being handled out of the White House. Kerry’s mythical illusion of momentum allows him to continue in this manner, but it also may be serving as an excuse to keep him from applying his inept diplomatic style elsewhere. As bad as the president has been doing on other fronts, it is, perhaps, a blessing in disguise that Kerry is diverted elsewhere, lest he make things even worse in Egypt, Syria, Iran or Russia.

Read Less

Is the Arab Peace Plan Really About Peace?

Secretary of State John Kerry hailed the idea of reviving the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative put forward yesterday in Washington by a delegation from the Arab League. Kerry, who reportedly is hoping to host a multi-party peace conference this spring, was pleased that Qatar’s foreign minister had suggested that the proposal might be modified from its original take-it-or-leave-it demand that Israel return to the 1967 lines to one that allowed for a mutually-agreed “minor swap of land” that would modify the border.

This is progress of a sort, and should not be entirely dismissed. But before those advocating for more Israeli concessions in response to the proposal get too excited, it’s important to remember why this initiative flopped the first time around: it’s not really a peace proposal.

While the Arab Peace Initiative continues to be cited by Israel’s critics as proof that the Jewish state really does have partners, this idea has always been more about polishing the image of the Arab world in the United States than anything else. Conceived in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks when the Arab states, and in particular Saudi Arabia, were viewed with disgust by most Americans, the initiative was part of an effort to rehabilitate their image. But despite the fact that New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman (who claimed it stemmed from a conversation he had with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah) and others in the foreign policy community promoted the idea, it fizzled. Why? Because it was not an invitation to negotiate, but a diktat. Even worse, it contained a vital poison pill: the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel that would, in effect, mean the end of the Jewish state, not peace with it.

Read More

Secretary of State John Kerry hailed the idea of reviving the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative put forward yesterday in Washington by a delegation from the Arab League. Kerry, who reportedly is hoping to host a multi-party peace conference this spring, was pleased that Qatar’s foreign minister had suggested that the proposal might be modified from its original take-it-or-leave-it demand that Israel return to the 1967 lines to one that allowed for a mutually-agreed “minor swap of land” that would modify the border.

This is progress of a sort, and should not be entirely dismissed. But before those advocating for more Israeli concessions in response to the proposal get too excited, it’s important to remember why this initiative flopped the first time around: it’s not really a peace proposal.

While the Arab Peace Initiative continues to be cited by Israel’s critics as proof that the Jewish state really does have partners, this idea has always been more about polishing the image of the Arab world in the United States than anything else. Conceived in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks when the Arab states, and in particular Saudi Arabia, were viewed with disgust by most Americans, the initiative was part of an effort to rehabilitate their image. But despite the fact that New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman (who claimed it stemmed from a conversation he had with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah) and others in the foreign policy community promoted the idea, it fizzled. Why? Because it was not an invitation to negotiate, but a diktat. Even worse, it contained a vital poison pill: the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel that would, in effect, mean the end of the Jewish state, not peace with it.

While the initiative does not specifically mention the so-called “right of return” by which the descendants of the Arab refugees of 1948 would be allowed to enter Israel, Prince Abdullah made this clear when he said this on the day the Arab League adopted the proposal:

I propose that the Arab summit put forward a clear and unanimous initiative addressed to the United Nations security council based on two basic issues: normal relations and security for Israel in exchange for full withdrawal from all occupied Arab territories, recognition of an independent Palestinian state with al-Quds al-Sharif as its capital, and the return of refugees.

It should be conceded that this is better than the famous “three no’s” enforced throughout the Arab world in the aftermath of the 1967 Six-Day War, when Muslim countries said they would not make peace, recognize or negotiate with Israel. But the effect is not all that different. The Arab League proposal envisions normal relations with an Israel that has been forced to retreat from all territories it won in a defensive war in 1967. But the Israel they want to make peace with is one that would be forced to accept millions of Arabs who would change it from a Jewish nation into yet another Arab one.

If Kerry really wants to promote the cause of peace, what he needs to do is tell the Arab League that while their support for recognition of Israel might be helpful, their proposal will not be allowed to be used as a distraction from the direct peace talks without preconditions that both President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu have endorsed. The Palestinian Authority, which has neither the will nor the ability to end the conflict or recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn, has been trying to avoid such talks.

Instead of providing a distraction from this crucial question, the Arab League needs to be prodding the PA to drop its excuses and return to the negotiating table. The PA walked away from direct talks more than four years ago in order to avoid having to respond to the last Israeli proposal that offered them an independent state. With Hamas stronger than ever and emboldened by its friendship with the Islamist governments of Egypt and Turkey, the odds of getting the PA back to the table, let alone agreeing to peace, are slim.

Negotiations, rather than fiats that dictate the results even before talks begin, are the only path to statehood for the Palestinians. Yesterday, Netanyahu repeated his support for the creation of a Palestinian state living in peace alongside Israel. If the Palestinians can ever get past their ideologically-driven rejection of the Jewish state’s legitimacy, they will find there is a sturdy Israeli majority in favor of peace even along lines that many Israelis will find difficult to accept. But so long as the Arab world continues to attempt to divert the world with public-relations tricks, the Palestinians will continue to believe that if they wait long enough, the world will deliver Israel to them on a silver platter.

No peace proposal that has an attempt to sneak in the right of return at its core is really about peace. It’s time the U.S. told the Arab world to forget about this disingenuous idea and face reality. What the Middle East needs is not a John Kerry photo op in Washington but a sea change within the culture of the Palestinians that will enable their leaders to come to grips with the need to end the conflict and recognize the Jewish state. Until that happens, this latest version of Abdullah’s PR initiative will be as much of a dead end as the first time it was trotted out by Friedman.

Read Less

Would Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge Survive Hagel?

In 2008, William Wunderle and Andre Briere, political military planners in the Joint Strategic Plans and Policy (J-5) Directorate of the Joint Staff, penned a piece for the Middle East Quarterly looking at the notion of Israel’s qualitative military edge (QME). Every president since Lyndon Johnson has noted the importance of maintaining Israel’s QME. The logic was simple: Israel would be outnumbered in both men in uniform and hardware by its neighbors: The Arab League contains moire than 400 million people; Israel tops out at less than 8 million. The 2012 Democratic Party Platform paid lip service to the QME, noting, “The administration has also worked to ensure Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region. And we have deepened defense cooperation—including funding the Iron Dome system—to help Israel address its most pressing threats, including the growing danger posed by rockets and missiles emanating from the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran.”

In their article, Wunderle and Briere describe how the Pentagon calculates the QME and they make a persuasive case that, from time to time, the United States must recalibrate and readjust the notion of QME to take events into account. This will certainly be the case with the next QME. No longer can Israel (and American policymakers) assume the vitality of the Camp David Accords or that a Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Egypt would not pose a military threat to Israel. Jordan’s stability can no longer be taken for granted. This year could very well be the year the Arab Spring strikes down its first Arab monarch. Likewise, the QME cannot simply be an Arab-vs.-Israel calculation because when it comes to Iran, Israel finds itself on the same side as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates.

Read More

In 2008, William Wunderle and Andre Briere, political military planners in the Joint Strategic Plans and Policy (J-5) Directorate of the Joint Staff, penned a piece for the Middle East Quarterly looking at the notion of Israel’s qualitative military edge (QME). Every president since Lyndon Johnson has noted the importance of maintaining Israel’s QME. The logic was simple: Israel would be outnumbered in both men in uniform and hardware by its neighbors: The Arab League contains moire than 400 million people; Israel tops out at less than 8 million. The 2012 Democratic Party Platform paid lip service to the QME, noting, “The administration has also worked to ensure Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region. And we have deepened defense cooperation—including funding the Iron Dome system—to help Israel address its most pressing threats, including the growing danger posed by rockets and missiles emanating from the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran.”

In their article, Wunderle and Briere describe how the Pentagon calculates the QME and they make a persuasive case that, from time to time, the United States must recalibrate and readjust the notion of QME to take events into account. This will certainly be the case with the next QME. No longer can Israel (and American policymakers) assume the vitality of the Camp David Accords or that a Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Egypt would not pose a military threat to Israel. Jordan’s stability can no longer be taken for granted. This year could very well be the year the Arab Spring strikes down its first Arab monarch. Likewise, the QME cannot simply be an Arab-vs.-Israel calculation because when it comes to Iran, Israel finds itself on the same side as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates.

Hagel has always worn his philosophy on his sleeve, but as a senator, he has never needed to really delve into the details. He was for the Iraq war before he was against it: It was a lot easier for the populist senator to pull the rug out from under the troops on America’s frontline than partake in the far harder task of crafting a strategy to win. Likewise, it is easy to propose unconditional talks with Iran; it is far more difficult to discuss the metrics by which Hagel would judge those talks or detail redlines if, indeed, he feels the United States should subscribe to any.

When it comes to Israel’s QME, perhaps one of the first questions the Senate should ask their former colleague is whether he believes that maintaining Israel’s QME continues to have a place in America’s national security, how recent events should mandate that QME be calculated, what cost is acceptable to maintain the QME, and what changes, if any, he would like to see made to it. He might also be asked to speculate the cost of maintaining the QME versus the cost of Israel losing it, assuming Hagel saw it as an American national interest to defend an ally facing an existential threat (much as we did in 1990 when, to protect Saudi Arabia and liberate Kuwait, the United States went to war in the Middle East).

Read Less

Not a Parody: Head of Arab League Monitors in Syria Led Darfur Genocide

The notion that the Arab League was going to stand up for human rights in Syria was always somewhat farcical. This is, after all, a group that has numbered among its members some of the worst tyrants in the world and which has supported terrorist groups so long as their targets were Jews and not Arab oligarchs. Nevertheless the world applauded when the League turned on Bashar Assad’s murderous Syrian regime and viewed its offer of placing monitors to ensure that the violence there ended. But in case anyone in the West is actually paying attention to the slaughter in Syria, the identity of the head of that peace mission ought to pour cold water on the idea that it will do much to help alleviate human rights abuses.

As David Kenner reports in Foreign Policy, the head of the mission is none other than Sudanese General Mohammad Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi. Al-Dabi just happens to be the man who created the murderous janjaweed militias that were the principal perpetrators in the Darfur genocide. So we should take his claims that the Assad government has so far been “very cooperative” and that all is going well in the country where thousands of have been slaughtered by the regime with a shovelful of South Sudanese salt.

Read More

The notion that the Arab League was going to stand up for human rights in Syria was always somewhat farcical. This is, after all, a group that has numbered among its members some of the worst tyrants in the world and which has supported terrorist groups so long as their targets were Jews and not Arab oligarchs. Nevertheless the world applauded when the League turned on Bashar Assad’s murderous Syrian regime and viewed its offer of placing monitors to ensure that the violence there ended. But in case anyone in the West is actually paying attention to the slaughter in Syria, the identity of the head of that peace mission ought to pour cold water on the idea that it will do much to help alleviate human rights abuses.

As David Kenner reports in Foreign Policy, the head of the mission is none other than Sudanese General Mohammad Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi. Al-Dabi just happens to be the man who created the murderous janjaweed militias that were the principal perpetrators in the Darfur genocide. So we should take his claims that the Assad government has so far been “very cooperative” and that all is going well in the country where thousands of have been slaughtered by the regime with a shovelful of South Sudanese salt.

His boss, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, for which al-Dabi also bears no small responsibility.  He founded the janjaweed during his service as the regime’s head of military operations from 1996-1999. Since then he has served al-Bashir loyally in a number of different job, including some diplomatic postings.

The irony of sending a war criminal to try and stop the commission of war crimes is lost on the Arab League. It is also lost on Syria’s dissidents who continue to be killed and harassed by the government with the so-called monitors doing nothing.

President Obama has done his best to ignore the ongoing massacre of protesters in Syria and, like many others in the West, seems content to let the Arabs sort out the mess there without much fuss from the United States. But al-Dabi’s role in this farce should serve as a reminder that Assad is counting on a quiescent Arab world and its Iranian ally to survive. If he does, along with the new Egypt, Syria will be more proof that the Arab Spring’s promise of democracy has turned out to be a sad delusion.

Read Less

Is the Arab League Betraying Syrians?

Several weeks ago, the Arab League made headlines when the notoriously ineffective body first chided and then sanctioned Syria. Alas, it seems the Arab League has now reverted to its usual, leaving the Syrian people the sacrificial lamb.

The Arab League just nominated Sudanese Lt. Gen. Mohammad al-Dabi to head its mission in Damascus. Previously, Al-Dabi served as the Sudanese government’s top representative for Darfur in which capacity he obfuscated international efforts to alleviate the mass murder the Sudanese government sought to perpetrate in that western province. With Al-Dabi in Damascus, what could possibly go wrong?

Several weeks ago, the Arab League made headlines when the notoriously ineffective body first chided and then sanctioned Syria. Alas, it seems the Arab League has now reverted to its usual, leaving the Syrian people the sacrificial lamb.

The Arab League just nominated Sudanese Lt. Gen. Mohammad al-Dabi to head its mission in Damascus. Previously, Al-Dabi served as the Sudanese government’s top representative for Darfur in which capacity he obfuscated international efforts to alleviate the mass murder the Sudanese government sought to perpetrate in that western province. With Al-Dabi in Damascus, what could possibly go wrong?

Read Less

An Internet Divided

Americans paid little attention in September 2009 when the Obama administration relinquished the traditional U.S. role in supervising policy for the global Internet. The eyes glaze over, after all, at the profusion of acronyms and the allusions to obscure functions in uninteresting federal agencies. When the U.S. Department of Commerce terminated its exclusive policy relationship with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the tech world was aflutter, but the event seemed to have no impact on the average American’s interactions with the Web.

That is going to change. ICANN is now supervised by an international body, the Government Advisory Council, in which the U.S. has no veto or even any institutionalized leadership role. We have voting representation in the body today, and some unique legacy influence, but there is no guarantee we will always have that. In the planned restructuring of ICANN’s governing board, the U.S. faces being relegated to a defined region of the globe in which we will be one of dozens of European and North American nations vying for the region’s five voting slots. Meanwhile, another newly defined “Arab States” region will bestow five voting slots on a bloc whose membership is, in effect, the Arab League.

The Arab League has already achieved policy triumphs in ICANN deliberations, as summarized in December at the Lawfare Project website. The record is unpromising: if Western governments can’t hang tough on some of the very basic concepts they have waffled on, there is reason to doubt their performance in other matters. We can have no doubts, however, about the likelihood of the Arab states arguing for censorship and illiberality in Internet policy.

Their region contains a number of the nations perennially identified by watchdog groups as the most hostile to Internet freedom, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Algeria, and Tunisia. (Reporters without Borders and the Global Integrity Report issue regular assessments.) One concern is the ongoing project of the Islamic nations to criminalize criticism of Islam, a key element of the bloc’s agenda in the Durban conference series sponsored by the UN. But blogger Daniel Greenfield also points out that domain names like JihadWatch.org and TheReligionofPeace.com could well be prohibited under Arab-state rules, along with their website content. Indeed, Israel’s national “top level domain” — .il — could be eliminated entirely by a voting bloc on the ICANN board. Read More

Americans paid little attention in September 2009 when the Obama administration relinquished the traditional U.S. role in supervising policy for the global Internet. The eyes glaze over, after all, at the profusion of acronyms and the allusions to obscure functions in uninteresting federal agencies. When the U.S. Department of Commerce terminated its exclusive policy relationship with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the tech world was aflutter, but the event seemed to have no impact on the average American’s interactions with the Web.

That is going to change. ICANN is now supervised by an international body, the Government Advisory Council, in which the U.S. has no veto or even any institutionalized leadership role. We have voting representation in the body today, and some unique legacy influence, but there is no guarantee we will always have that. In the planned restructuring of ICANN’s governing board, the U.S. faces being relegated to a defined region of the globe in which we will be one of dozens of European and North American nations vying for the region’s five voting slots. Meanwhile, another newly defined “Arab States” region will bestow five voting slots on a bloc whose membership is, in effect, the Arab League.

The Arab League has already achieved policy triumphs in ICANN deliberations, as summarized in December at the Lawfare Project website. The record is unpromising: if Western governments can’t hang tough on some of the very basic concepts they have waffled on, there is reason to doubt their performance in other matters. We can have no doubts, however, about the likelihood of the Arab states arguing for censorship and illiberality in Internet policy.

Their region contains a number of the nations perennially identified by watchdog groups as the most hostile to Internet freedom, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Algeria, and Tunisia. (Reporters without Borders and the Global Integrity Report issue regular assessments.) One concern is the ongoing project of the Islamic nations to criminalize criticism of Islam, a key element of the bloc’s agenda in the Durban conference series sponsored by the UN. But blogger Daniel Greenfield also points out that domain names like JihadWatch.org and TheReligionofPeace.com could well be prohibited under Arab-state rules, along with their website content. Indeed, Israel’s national “top level domain” — .il — could be eliminated entirely by a voting bloc on the ICANN board.

I do not believe American citizens and others who prize freedom of expression will watch passively as such clamps are applied to the Internet. But in a practical sense, it may be much easier to start an alternative Internet — or a set of them — than to reclaim the U.S. leadership relinquished last year by President Obama. The technology certainly exists to do so. If domain names and Web content are indeed censored by an ICANN voting bloc, the concept of a truly alternative Internet will be increasingly obvious.

The associated national-policy issues are certainly interesting to speculate about. But of greater significance would be the suspension of the global-information idea. That idea always required unified leadership — and to some extent an arbitrary policy posture — if it was to retain any liberal characteristics. Administered instead by a council of coequal voters with conflicting concepts of information and intellectual freedom, the global-information idea cannot remain liberal.

Western flight from a censored Internet might well portend a hardening of global divisions based on incompatible views of reality. The echoes of the Cold War — and, indeed, of the 1930s — are unmistakable. I have no doubt that the citizens of the West can keep an intellectually free Internet available, nor do I doubt that the world’s peoples would prefer access to it over a censored Internet. Ultimately, any Arab-states takeover of ICANN is more likely to discourage current globalization trends than to confer on the Arab League a position of unchallenged informational power. But that unplanned consequence is a silver lining in what promises to be a dark cloud on the Internet’s horizon. There are policy battles ahead that will affect all of us.

Read Less

The Resolution and the Process

The Palestinians are upset at the unanimously adopted Congressional Resolution, authored by the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and its ranking Republican member, which opposes any attempt to establish a Palestinian state outside a negotiated agreement. The resolution calls on the administration to lead a diplomatic effort against a unilaterally declared state, affirm that the U.S. would not recognize it, and veto any UN resolution seeking to establish one. The resolution — and the Palestinian reaction to it — caps a series of clarifying developments over the past year and a half:

First, the Palestinians refused to negotiate unless Netanyahu endorsed a two-state solution and froze settlement construction; Netanyahu did both, and the Palestinians refused to negotiate. They had to be dragged into “proximity talks” and then dragged into “direct negotiations” and then left.

Second, the Palestinian Authority canceled local elections in the West Bank, unwilling to risk them even in the part of the putative state it nominally controls. The PA is now headed by a “president” currently in the 72nd month of his 48-month term, with a “prime minister” appointed by the holdover “president” rather than by the Palestinian parliament (which, unfortunately, is controlled by the terrorist group the Palestinians elected five years ago). These days, the PA turns for approval not to its public or its parliament but rather to the Arab League, while the other half of the putative state is run by the terrorist group. As a democratic state, “Palestine” is already a failed one.

Third, the peace-partner Palestinians rejected the two criteria that Netanyahu set forth for a peace agreement: recognition of a Jewish state and demilitarization of the Palestinian one. The first requirement reflects a series of essential points: the Palestinians cannot have a state and a “right of return” to the other one; there cannot be a two-stage plan to obtain a second state and then work to change the character of the first one; and a peace agreement must contain an “end-of-claims” provision precluding further disputes. The second requirement reflects the obvious fact that, having withdrawn completely from Lebanon and Gaza only to have them become staging areas for new wars, Israel would be crazy to expose its eastern border to the same thing with a militarized Palestinian state. But the Palestinians rejected both of the requirements.

Fourth, the peace-partner Palestinians objected to an Israeli referendum on any peace agreement, considering democratic approval an obstacle to peace. A referendum serves as a necessary check on the legitimacy of the process; it is why the PA itself continually assures its own public (and the terrorist group in Gaza) that any peace agreement would be subject to a Palestinian referendum. But the peace-partner Palestinians do not want one for the Israeli public if it would serve as a check on further one-sided concessions.

Israel is currently faced with a PA that is unwilling to meet the basic requirements of a permanent peace, lacks the political authority to enter into a peace agreement (much less the ability to implement one), opposes any process in which the Israeli public can assure itself of the result, and wants a state simply imposed on Israel by the U.S. or the UN. If the Congressional Resolution helps disabuse it of these notions, it will be a significant contribution to the current non-peace non-process.

The Palestinians are upset at the unanimously adopted Congressional Resolution, authored by the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and its ranking Republican member, which opposes any attempt to establish a Palestinian state outside a negotiated agreement. The resolution calls on the administration to lead a diplomatic effort against a unilaterally declared state, affirm that the U.S. would not recognize it, and veto any UN resolution seeking to establish one. The resolution — and the Palestinian reaction to it — caps a series of clarifying developments over the past year and a half:

First, the Palestinians refused to negotiate unless Netanyahu endorsed a two-state solution and froze settlement construction; Netanyahu did both, and the Palestinians refused to negotiate. They had to be dragged into “proximity talks” and then dragged into “direct negotiations” and then left.

Second, the Palestinian Authority canceled local elections in the West Bank, unwilling to risk them even in the part of the putative state it nominally controls. The PA is now headed by a “president” currently in the 72nd month of his 48-month term, with a “prime minister” appointed by the holdover “president” rather than by the Palestinian parliament (which, unfortunately, is controlled by the terrorist group the Palestinians elected five years ago). These days, the PA turns for approval not to its public or its parliament but rather to the Arab League, while the other half of the putative state is run by the terrorist group. As a democratic state, “Palestine” is already a failed one.

Third, the peace-partner Palestinians rejected the two criteria that Netanyahu set forth for a peace agreement: recognition of a Jewish state and demilitarization of the Palestinian one. The first requirement reflects a series of essential points: the Palestinians cannot have a state and a “right of return” to the other one; there cannot be a two-stage plan to obtain a second state and then work to change the character of the first one; and a peace agreement must contain an “end-of-claims” provision precluding further disputes. The second requirement reflects the obvious fact that, having withdrawn completely from Lebanon and Gaza only to have them become staging areas for new wars, Israel would be crazy to expose its eastern border to the same thing with a militarized Palestinian state. But the Palestinians rejected both of the requirements.

Fourth, the peace-partner Palestinians objected to an Israeli referendum on any peace agreement, considering democratic approval an obstacle to peace. A referendum serves as a necessary check on the legitimacy of the process; it is why the PA itself continually assures its own public (and the terrorist group in Gaza) that any peace agreement would be subject to a Palestinian referendum. But the peace-partner Palestinians do not want one for the Israeli public if it would serve as a check on further one-sided concessions.

Israel is currently faced with a PA that is unwilling to meet the basic requirements of a permanent peace, lacks the political authority to enter into a peace agreement (much less the ability to implement one), opposes any process in which the Israeli public can assure itself of the result, and wants a state simply imposed on Israel by the U.S. or the UN. If the Congressional Resolution helps disabuse it of these notions, it will be a significant contribution to the current non-peace non-process.

Read Less

To Get Arab Support on Iran, Take a Leaf from Bush Sr.

As Jennifer noted yesterday, the latest WikiLeaks revelations definitively refute Barack Obama’s “linkage” theory: that Israeli concessions to the Palestinians were necessary to persuade Arab states to oppose Iran’s nuclear program. But what the documents reveal about the profound strategic misconception behind this theory is frightening.

The list of Arab states urging America to bomb Iran, and the forcefulness with which they urged it, is astonishing. It includes Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates; virtually the only exception was Qatar. Clearly, no Israeli concessions were needed to persuade these countries that strong action against Iran was desirable.

But both Obama and his predecessor George W. Bush insisted that this behind-the-scenes urging wasn’t enough; they needed Arab states to go public with it. As CENTCOM commander Gen. John Abizaid told UAE officials in 2007, “we need our friends to say that they stand with the Americans.”

If Bush had any strategy for achieving this goal, it doesn’t emerge from the reports I’ve seen. But Obama did: linkage. If America showed that it’s on the Arabs’ side by extracting Israeli concessions, the theory went, then Arab states would no longer be reluctant to stand publicly beside the U.S.

But the idea that “soft power” could solve a quintessentially hard-power problem is a profound misconception, because the issue wasn’t the Arabs’ view of Washington as too pro-Israel; that never stopped them from supporting America if it served their interests before.

The real issue was their fear, given the visible reluctance to attack Iran displayed by both Bush and Obama, that if they publicly urged America to bomb Iran, and then America didn’t do it — they would be left alone to face the wrath of a nuclear-armed neighbor. And no amount of arm-twisting directed at Israel could possibly assuage that fear.

Indeed, only one thing could have done so: a clear American determination to attack Iran. You needn’t look far to find the model; it’s the one used by the first President George Bush in the Gulf War.

When Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, Arab states also initially refused to publicly back American action against Iraq. The day after the invasion, the Arab League even passed a resolution warning against outside intervention in the conflict.

But Bush, ignoring the verbiage, took swift action to assure Iraq’s neighbors that America wouldn’t leave them to face Iraq alone. Within a week, two naval battle groups had deployed to the area and more than 80 fighter jets had begun patrolling Saudi Arabia’s border. More forces arrived subsequently.

Only then did he start forming his coalition to invade Iraq. And with their protection assured, nine Arab states ultimately joined it.

Today, too, Arab states won’t publicly support attacking Iran without the surety that America will follow through. Nor can you blame them: they’re the ones who will have to live with a vengeful nuclear neighbor if America punts.

But you can certainly blame Washington for the delusion that gestures on an unrelated issue would suffice to allay a well-grounded existential fear — and be deeply worried that American leaders could misread the situation that profoundly.

As Jennifer noted yesterday, the latest WikiLeaks revelations definitively refute Barack Obama’s “linkage” theory: that Israeli concessions to the Palestinians were necessary to persuade Arab states to oppose Iran’s nuclear program. But what the documents reveal about the profound strategic misconception behind this theory is frightening.

The list of Arab states urging America to bomb Iran, and the forcefulness with which they urged it, is astonishing. It includes Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates; virtually the only exception was Qatar. Clearly, no Israeli concessions were needed to persuade these countries that strong action against Iran was desirable.

But both Obama and his predecessor George W. Bush insisted that this behind-the-scenes urging wasn’t enough; they needed Arab states to go public with it. As CENTCOM commander Gen. John Abizaid told UAE officials in 2007, “we need our friends to say that they stand with the Americans.”

If Bush had any strategy for achieving this goal, it doesn’t emerge from the reports I’ve seen. But Obama did: linkage. If America showed that it’s on the Arabs’ side by extracting Israeli concessions, the theory went, then Arab states would no longer be reluctant to stand publicly beside the U.S.

But the idea that “soft power” could solve a quintessentially hard-power problem is a profound misconception, because the issue wasn’t the Arabs’ view of Washington as too pro-Israel; that never stopped them from supporting America if it served their interests before.

The real issue was their fear, given the visible reluctance to attack Iran displayed by both Bush and Obama, that if they publicly urged America to bomb Iran, and then America didn’t do it — they would be left alone to face the wrath of a nuclear-armed neighbor. And no amount of arm-twisting directed at Israel could possibly assuage that fear.

Indeed, only one thing could have done so: a clear American determination to attack Iran. You needn’t look far to find the model; it’s the one used by the first President George Bush in the Gulf War.

When Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, Arab states also initially refused to publicly back American action against Iraq. The day after the invasion, the Arab League even passed a resolution warning against outside intervention in the conflict.

But Bush, ignoring the verbiage, took swift action to assure Iraq’s neighbors that America wouldn’t leave them to face Iraq alone. Within a week, two naval battle groups had deployed to the area and more than 80 fighter jets had begun patrolling Saudi Arabia’s border. More forces arrived subsequently.

Only then did he start forming his coalition to invade Iraq. And with their protection assured, nine Arab states ultimately joined it.

Today, too, Arab states won’t publicly support attacking Iran without the surety that America will follow through. Nor can you blame them: they’re the ones who will have to live with a vengeful nuclear neighbor if America punts.

But you can certainly blame Washington for the delusion that gestures on an unrelated issue would suffice to allay a well-grounded existential fear — and be deeply worried that American leaders could misread the situation that profoundly.

Read Less

Desperation Time

As I’ve noted over the past few days, the Obama team’s last-ditch effort to restart the non-peace talks has taken on a cringe-inducing quality. As the Washington Post editors remark, the smorgasbord of “incentives” appears to almost everyone, other than the Obami themselves, to be nothing more than “desperate improvisation.”

Let’s count the ways in which that is so. For starters, it’s not clear Bibi’s cabinet would accept it. Second, the Arab League and its Palestinian clients have already said there’s no deal without a freeze on building in East Jerusalem (a demand that even the Obama team has finally learned is a non-starter). Third, a 10-month settlement freeze didn’t do the trick, so what is the next 90-day freeze supposed to bring? And finally, as the rest of the players in the Middle East look on, they learn a lesson: the Obama team will pay a very high price to avoid humiliating the president. The mullahs, the Syrians, the Turks, and all the rest will learn from this as they calculate what they too might extract from the U.S.

And let’s not forget how we got here: Obama and his “smart” diplomats elevated this issue, forcing both Bibi and the PA into a no-win bargaining position — hence, the high price to extract himself from the collapse of an initiative that he made a top priority. That, too, was a mistake, for it has let other issues fester, unnerved the Arab states who wonder when we’re going to devote ourselves to de-fanging the Iranian regime, and damaged our relationship with the Jewish state with no appreciable gain in our standing with Israel’s neighbors.

As I’ve noted over the past few days, the Obama team’s last-ditch effort to restart the non-peace talks has taken on a cringe-inducing quality. As the Washington Post editors remark, the smorgasbord of “incentives” appears to almost everyone, other than the Obami themselves, to be nothing more than “desperate improvisation.”

Let’s count the ways in which that is so. For starters, it’s not clear Bibi’s cabinet would accept it. Second, the Arab League and its Palestinian clients have already said there’s no deal without a freeze on building in East Jerusalem (a demand that even the Obama team has finally learned is a non-starter). Third, a 10-month settlement freeze didn’t do the trick, so what is the next 90-day freeze supposed to bring? And finally, as the rest of the players in the Middle East look on, they learn a lesson: the Obama team will pay a very high price to avoid humiliating the president. The mullahs, the Syrians, the Turks, and all the rest will learn from this as they calculate what they too might extract from the U.S.

And let’s not forget how we got here: Obama and his “smart” diplomats elevated this issue, forcing both Bibi and the PA into a no-win bargaining position — hence, the high price to extract himself from the collapse of an initiative that he made a top priority. That, too, was a mistake, for it has let other issues fester, unnerved the Arab states who wonder when we’re going to devote ourselves to de-fanging the Iranian regime, and damaged our relationship with the Jewish state with no appreciable gain in our standing with Israel’s neighbors.

Read Less

Why Israel Shouldn’t Do Foolish Things

The Palestinians’ response to the Obami-inspired 90-day settlement moratorium offer simply reinforces the foolishness of the endeavor:

An Arab League official said Monday that a possible three-month-long temporary freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank would be unlikely to be enough to prompt Palestinian and Arab support for Mideast peace talks.

“If the news is true about there being a settlement freeze that excludes Jerusalem and that takes the criticism off Israel, I cannot imagine that would be acceptable to the Palestinian side or the Arab side,” said Hesham Youssef, an official with the office of the secretary general of the Arab League.

Of course it’s not “enough.” It’s never enough. Meanwhile, the Palestinians’ own refusal to recognize the Jewish state (oh yes, that) goes unremarked upon. And no, Israel will get little or zero credit for knuckling under to another incarnation of the same fundamentally flawed approach, which has not only set back the cause of peace but also has diminished whatever semblance of credibility Obama has been able to cling to.

But does Israel still get the planes? No, seriously. If the “hardware” was the reward for Bibi putting his government at risk and reducing his own credibility (when Israel says “no,” does the government really mean no?), it seems only fair that Israel should get to keep the bribe planes. And what about the promised veto of anti-Israel resolutions? Bibi has now, it seems, established the precedent that the support of  the U.S. in international bodies is a bargaining chip between the U.S. and the Jewish state.

Those cheering or excusing the latest effort to “rescue” the peace talks make a fundamental error. The U.S. is acting in foolish and desperate ways. Israel cannot afford to be either, or to convey to the Jewish state’s enemies, especially the Iranian regime, that it will be cowed by the U.S.’s pressure tactics. Israel must, even if the U.S. does not, convey that its oft-repeated positions are more than words. Call it linkage — but if Israel isn’t serious about a futile settlement extension, is it serious about more weighty matters?

Bibi, in essence, blinked –something for which he is certainly deserving of criticism. Is it hard navigating the waters with an American president as hostile as this one to the Jewish state? Sure, but indulging foolishness is not a recipe designed to help improve the security of the U.S. or Israel.

The Palestinians’ response to the Obami-inspired 90-day settlement moratorium offer simply reinforces the foolishness of the endeavor:

An Arab League official said Monday that a possible three-month-long temporary freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank would be unlikely to be enough to prompt Palestinian and Arab support for Mideast peace talks.

“If the news is true about there being a settlement freeze that excludes Jerusalem and that takes the criticism off Israel, I cannot imagine that would be acceptable to the Palestinian side or the Arab side,” said Hesham Youssef, an official with the office of the secretary general of the Arab League.

Of course it’s not “enough.” It’s never enough. Meanwhile, the Palestinians’ own refusal to recognize the Jewish state (oh yes, that) goes unremarked upon. And no, Israel will get little or zero credit for knuckling under to another incarnation of the same fundamentally flawed approach, which has not only set back the cause of peace but also has diminished whatever semblance of credibility Obama has been able to cling to.

But does Israel still get the planes? No, seriously. If the “hardware” was the reward for Bibi putting his government at risk and reducing his own credibility (when Israel says “no,” does the government really mean no?), it seems only fair that Israel should get to keep the bribe planes. And what about the promised veto of anti-Israel resolutions? Bibi has now, it seems, established the precedent that the support of  the U.S. in international bodies is a bargaining chip between the U.S. and the Jewish state.

Those cheering or excusing the latest effort to “rescue” the peace talks make a fundamental error. The U.S. is acting in foolish and desperate ways. Israel cannot afford to be either, or to convey to the Jewish state’s enemies, especially the Iranian regime, that it will be cowed by the U.S.’s pressure tactics. Israel must, even if the U.S. does not, convey that its oft-repeated positions are more than words. Call it linkage — but if Israel isn’t serious about a futile settlement extension, is it serious about more weighty matters?

Bibi, in essence, blinked –something for which he is certainly deserving of criticism. Is it hard navigating the waters with an American president as hostile as this one to the Jewish state? Sure, but indulging foolishness is not a recipe designed to help improve the security of the U.S. or Israel.

Read Less

The End of Obama’s Non-Peace-Talk Charade

No surprise here:

In perhaps the shortest round of peace negotiations in the history of their conflict, talks between the Israelis and Palestinians have ground to a halt and show little sign of resuming.

But this explanation has to make one smile:

Pressure to restart the talks eased after the Arab League said it would wait a month — until Nov. 8 — before ending Abbas’s mandate for negotiations, thus pushing the issue beyond the U.S. midterm elections. But if Republicans score big gains, some Israelis argue, that could limit Obama’s ability to pressure Israel to make concessions.

Because, for all the whining about making Israel a partisan issue, there is no doubt that support for Israel and opposition to Obama’s pitched assault on it are strongest on the Republican side of the aisle.

The extent of the administration’s naivete and incompetence is something to behold (my comments in brackets):

The Obama administration, worried that the impending end of the settlement freeze would leave a potentially dangerous vacuum, rushed forward with talks without a plan for dealing with the end of the moratorium, analysts say. The hope was that sheer momentum would carry the talks forward. [What momentum?]

That decision has come with costs, including some to Obama’s credibility. [Some? It does rather shatter it, no?] The president invested his personal prestige in launching the talks, and even appealed to Israel to extend the freeze during a speech at the U.N. General Assembly. [Because he imagined that the sheer swellness of himself, coupled with threats, could achieve what the Israelis plainly said was unacceptable?]

The Palestinians, taking their cue from previous administration statements, have made a settlement freeze a key requirement for continued talks, so any reversal in that stance would make them appear weak. Netanyahu, concerned about the impact an extension of the freeze would have on his right-leaning coalition, has put new demands on the table, such as upfront Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. [In other words, he screwed up the whole thing.]

Having demonstrated that the U.S. is such a feckless friend of Israel and an unreliable interlocutor for the PA, Obama now faces the prospect that his beloved multilateral institution will try to dismember the Jewish state:

“We are going to go to Washington to recognize a Palestinian state on 1967 borders. If that doesn’t work, we’ll go to the U.N. Security Council and will ask Washington not to veto,” [PA negotiator Muhammad] Shatayeh said. If Washington vetoes, he said, then the Palestinians will appeal to the U.N. General Assembly.

Does the UN General Assembly have such power? Two foreign policy experts tell me that the involvement of the UN General Assembly is not unprecedented in such matters. The General Assembly was responsible for the 1947 partition. More recently, as they gurus explained, “after Kosovo declared its independence, Serbia asked the U.N. General Assembly to intervene and U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution requesting the International Court of Justice to issue an opinion, which it did.”

General Assembly resolutions are not, strictly speaking, binding. But legality is not the issue; this is a thugocracy, after all, which has been empowered and elevated by none other than Barack Obama. It is hard to believe that a single administration in just two years could have made such hash out of Middle East policy.

No surprise here:

In perhaps the shortest round of peace negotiations in the history of their conflict, talks between the Israelis and Palestinians have ground to a halt and show little sign of resuming.

But this explanation has to make one smile:

Pressure to restart the talks eased after the Arab League said it would wait a month — until Nov. 8 — before ending Abbas’s mandate for negotiations, thus pushing the issue beyond the U.S. midterm elections. But if Republicans score big gains, some Israelis argue, that could limit Obama’s ability to pressure Israel to make concessions.

Because, for all the whining about making Israel a partisan issue, there is no doubt that support for Israel and opposition to Obama’s pitched assault on it are strongest on the Republican side of the aisle.

The extent of the administration’s naivete and incompetence is something to behold (my comments in brackets):

The Obama administration, worried that the impending end of the settlement freeze would leave a potentially dangerous vacuum, rushed forward with talks without a plan for dealing with the end of the moratorium, analysts say. The hope was that sheer momentum would carry the talks forward. [What momentum?]

That decision has come with costs, including some to Obama’s credibility. [Some? It does rather shatter it, no?] The president invested his personal prestige in launching the talks, and even appealed to Israel to extend the freeze during a speech at the U.N. General Assembly. [Because he imagined that the sheer swellness of himself, coupled with threats, could achieve what the Israelis plainly said was unacceptable?]

The Palestinians, taking their cue from previous administration statements, have made a settlement freeze a key requirement for continued talks, so any reversal in that stance would make them appear weak. Netanyahu, concerned about the impact an extension of the freeze would have on his right-leaning coalition, has put new demands on the table, such as upfront Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. [In other words, he screwed up the whole thing.]

Having demonstrated that the U.S. is such a feckless friend of Israel and an unreliable interlocutor for the PA, Obama now faces the prospect that his beloved multilateral institution will try to dismember the Jewish state:

“We are going to go to Washington to recognize a Palestinian state on 1967 borders. If that doesn’t work, we’ll go to the U.N. Security Council and will ask Washington not to veto,” [PA negotiator Muhammad] Shatayeh said. If Washington vetoes, he said, then the Palestinians will appeal to the U.N. General Assembly.

Does the UN General Assembly have such power? Two foreign policy experts tell me that the involvement of the UN General Assembly is not unprecedented in such matters. The General Assembly was responsible for the 1947 partition. More recently, as they gurus explained, “after Kosovo declared its independence, Serbia asked the U.N. General Assembly to intervene and U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution requesting the International Court of Justice to issue an opinion, which it did.”

General Assembly resolutions are not, strictly speaking, binding. But legality is not the issue; this is a thugocracy, after all, which has been empowered and elevated by none other than Barack Obama. It is hard to believe that a single administration in just two years could have made such hash out of Middle East policy.

Read Less

Pulling Teeth at the State Department

Having kept a running count of the number of times the Obama administration has refused to answer if it is bound by the 2004 Bush letter (22 times so far), it is a pleasure to report that it took only six attempts yesterday to get the State Department spokesman, P.J. Crowley, to answer whether the U.S. recognizes Israel as a Jewish state.

Crowley’s first response tried to throw reporters off the track with the tantalizing suggestion that George Mitchell just might go — it would be logical — back to the region at some point. Asked a second time, Crowley responded that we “recognize [Israel’s] aspiration.” On the reporters’ third through fifth tries, Crowley proved hard of hearing. On the sixth attempt, after a 14-word preface, he finally responded: “yes.”

QUESTION: P.J., do you recognize Israel as a Jewish state and will you try to convince the Palestinians to recognize it?

MR. CROWLEY: We will continue our discussions with the parties. I would expect, following up on the Arab League meetings of late last week that George Mitchell will go to the region at some point. I’m not announcing anything, but I — it would be logical for us to follow up directly with the parties, see where they are. [Blah, blah, blah.] Read More

Having kept a running count of the number of times the Obama administration has refused to answer if it is bound by the 2004 Bush letter (22 times so far), it is a pleasure to report that it took only six attempts yesterday to get the State Department spokesman, P.J. Crowley, to answer whether the U.S. recognizes Israel as a Jewish state.

Crowley’s first response tried to throw reporters off the track with the tantalizing suggestion that George Mitchell just might go — it would be logical — back to the region at some point. Asked a second time, Crowley responded that we “recognize [Israel’s] aspiration.” On the reporters’ third through fifth tries, Crowley proved hard of hearing. On the sixth attempt, after a 14-word preface, he finally responded: “yes.”

QUESTION: P.J., do you recognize Israel as a Jewish state and will you try to convince the Palestinians to recognize it?

MR. CROWLEY: We will continue our discussions with the parties. I would expect, following up on the Arab League meetings of late last week that George Mitchell will go to the region at some point. I’m not announcing anything, but I — it would be logical for us to follow up directly with the parties, see where they are. [Blah, blah, blah.]

QUESTION: And do you recognize Israel as a Jewish state?

MR. CROWLEY: We recognize the aspiration of the people of Israel. It has — it’s a democracy. In that democracy, there’s a guarantee of freedom and liberties to all of its citizens. But as the Secretary has said, we understand that — the special character of the state of Israel.

QUESTION: Is that a yes or no?

QUESTION: P.J., it’s — do you want to answer his question or –

QUESTION: Did you say yes or no to that question from Michel?

MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?

QUESTION: Michel’s question was a yes or no sort of question. I was wondering whether that was a yes or no.

MR. CROWLEY: We recognize that Israel is a – as it says itself, is a Jewish state, yes.

The original question had a second part to it: “ … and will you try to convince the Palestinians to recognize it?” After a reporter repeated the question, it took Crowley 162 halting words to respond:

QUESTION: … Does the U.S. want the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state?

MR. CROWLEY: Look, I will be happy to go back over and offer some — I’m trying — I’m not making any news here. We have recognized the special nature of the Israeli state. It is a state for the Jewish people. It is a state for other citizens of other faiths as well. But this is the aspiration of the — what Prime Minister Netanyahu said yesterday is, in essence, the — a core demand of the Israeli Government, which we support, is a recognition that Israel is a part of the region, acceptance by the region of the existence of the state of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people and that is what they want to see through this negotiation. We understand this aspiration and the prime minister was talking yesterday about the fact that just as they aspire to a state for the Jewish people in the Middle East, they understand the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a state of their own.

Why is it so hard to get the Obama administration to reiterate basic commitments the U.S. has made — in writing — to Israel? The Bush letter stated that the U.S. is “strongly committed to … [Israel] as a Jewish state.” This administration has to be prodded six times to answer whether it recognizes Israel as a Jewish state and — after an affirmative response is extracted — cannot give a one-word answer on whether it wants the Palestinians to recognize one as well.

Read Less

The Peace Process Lacks Palestinian Peacemakers

Oh no, they tell us Mahmoud Abbas is on the ropes. A new cadre of PA figures is on the rise that is “less supportive of negotiations with Israel’s government.” Less than Abbas? Or more candid? You can’t get much less supportive than Abbas and his current crew, who continue to extol the names of terrorists and flee negotiations at the first opportune moment. But then again, Abbas has been reduced to the status of Arab League messenger boy. The new PA leadership wants to employ Gandhi-like nonviolent resistance? All they need is a tradition of nonviolent resistance, an ideology that shuns violence, and a popular consensus that killing Jews is a bad thing. I think Gandhi’s idea of a “march to the sea” isn’t exactly what the Palestinians have in mind.

But let’s understand the import of this: even within the PA, Abbas lacks a base of support. And he, we are told by the Obami, is the man and this is the unique moment that are going to give birth to a peace deal. Yes, it’s quite absurd.

It seems there is never quite the right Palestinian leader in place. This one is well-meaning, but has no backing. That one is popular, but allergic to peace talks. Another, after all, was imprisoned for terrorism. Perhaps there just isn’t someone who is willing to make a deal and who enjoys support within the Palestinian leadership and population. It might just be that the past 18 months of peace-processing, not to mention the past 60 years, have been a colossal waste of time.

Oh no, they tell us Mahmoud Abbas is on the ropes. A new cadre of PA figures is on the rise that is “less supportive of negotiations with Israel’s government.” Less than Abbas? Or more candid? You can’t get much less supportive than Abbas and his current crew, who continue to extol the names of terrorists and flee negotiations at the first opportune moment. But then again, Abbas has been reduced to the status of Arab League messenger boy. The new PA leadership wants to employ Gandhi-like nonviolent resistance? All they need is a tradition of nonviolent resistance, an ideology that shuns violence, and a popular consensus that killing Jews is a bad thing. I think Gandhi’s idea of a “march to the sea” isn’t exactly what the Palestinians have in mind.

But let’s understand the import of this: even within the PA, Abbas lacks a base of support. And he, we are told by the Obami, is the man and this is the unique moment that are going to give birth to a peace deal. Yes, it’s quite absurd.

It seems there is never quite the right Palestinian leader in place. This one is well-meaning, but has no backing. That one is popular, but allergic to peace talks. Another, after all, was imprisoned for terrorism. Perhaps there just isn’t someone who is willing to make a deal and who enjoys support within the Palestinian leadership and population. It might just be that the past 18 months of peace-processing, not to mention the past 60 years, have been a colossal waste of time.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Quicker than we imagined: “By 47 to 45 percent, Americans say Obama is a better president than George W. Bush. But that two point margin is down from a 23 point advantage one year ago. ‘Democrats may want to think twice about bringing up former President George W. Bush’s name while campaigning this year,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.’”

Sooner than either imagined: “Embattled Democrats are increasingly turning to former President Bill Clinton to prop up their campaigns in the final weeks before November’s midterm elections. The former president is far and away the biggest draw for the party less than a month out, hitting races in states where Democrats would rather President Obama stay away.”

A White House departure didn’t come fast enough for some. Peter Feaver: “The only thing surprising about Jim Jones’s departure is he survived this long.” His buffoonery was his defining characteristic.

About time that someone started debunking the president’s accusations about “foreign money.” The Gray Lady: “[A] closer examination shows that there is little evidence that what the [Chamber of Commerce] does in collecting overseas dues is improper or even unusual, according to both liberal and conservative election-law lawyers and campaign finance documents. In fact, the controversy over the Chamber of Commerce financing may say more about the Washington spin cycle — where an Internet blog posting can be quickly picked up by like-minded groups and become political fodder for the president himself — than it does about the vagaries of campaign finance.” Actually, it says more about the president’s penchant for telling untruths.

Belatedly, we learn that Jewish-American leaders had serious concerns all along about Obama’s Middle East policy. How brave of them to go public only when Obama’s political standing is in decline.

Democrats finally run out of patience with Jerry Brown and demand that he apologize for a campaign associate who called Meg Whitman a “whore.” Yes, there goes the Golden State. Again.

Much too late, Obama gets around to publicly calling for the release of Chinese dissident and now Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.

No rush — the Arab League stalls, hoping the Obami might up the bribes incentives for Bibi to extend the settlement moratorium. “Arab countries will give the US one month to find a compromise which can save peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians after negotiations stalled over the issue of Israeli building in West Bank settlements, AFP reported a diplomat at the Arab League meeting in Libya as saying on Friday. The unnamed diplomat said that a resolution to be approved later Friday by the Arab League Follow-up Committee on the peace process calls for the US administration to be given ‘a one month chance to seek the resumption of negotiations, including a halt to settlement [building].’”

Suddenly, David Broder discovers Rob Portman: “Now 54 and a fitness fanatic, Portman has achieved his status by being smart, disciplined and a team player. Business people know he does his homework, and Democrats find him approachable. Except for [Mitch] Daniels, there are few Republicans who have delved as deeply into fiscal and budgetary policy, trade and health care as has Portman, who notably expanded the Office of Management and Budget’s focus on Medicare and Medicaid, even when Bush showed little interest in the issue.”

An overnight sensation: Wisconsin GOP Senate candidate Ron Johnson. “In this year of political surprises, Mr. Johnson inhabits a niche all his own. He emerged from the tea party without being fully of it. … Mr. Johnson says he employs 120 people at a single plant that makes specialized plastics. ‘I’m not some big corporation. I run the type of business [that] is the backbone of our economy, the engine of job creation.’ America’s prosperity stems from its ‘freedoms, the free market,’ Mr. Johnson says. ‘I think people get that.’”

Eventually, we come full circle. Bush administration critic Jack Goldsmith argues we shouldn’t have military tribunals or civil trials. Just lock ‘em up. Sounds good to me.

It took long enough. Jeffrey Goldberg confirms that Matthew Yglesias is an ignoramus when it comes to Israel.

Quicker than we imagined: “By 47 to 45 percent, Americans say Obama is a better president than George W. Bush. But that two point margin is down from a 23 point advantage one year ago. ‘Democrats may want to think twice about bringing up former President George W. Bush’s name while campaigning this year,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.’”

Sooner than either imagined: “Embattled Democrats are increasingly turning to former President Bill Clinton to prop up their campaigns in the final weeks before November’s midterm elections. The former president is far and away the biggest draw for the party less than a month out, hitting races in states where Democrats would rather President Obama stay away.”

A White House departure didn’t come fast enough for some. Peter Feaver: “The only thing surprising about Jim Jones’s departure is he survived this long.” His buffoonery was his defining characteristic.

About time that someone started debunking the president’s accusations about “foreign money.” The Gray Lady: “[A] closer examination shows that there is little evidence that what the [Chamber of Commerce] does in collecting overseas dues is improper or even unusual, according to both liberal and conservative election-law lawyers and campaign finance documents. In fact, the controversy over the Chamber of Commerce financing may say more about the Washington spin cycle — where an Internet blog posting can be quickly picked up by like-minded groups and become political fodder for the president himself — than it does about the vagaries of campaign finance.” Actually, it says more about the president’s penchant for telling untruths.

Belatedly, we learn that Jewish-American leaders had serious concerns all along about Obama’s Middle East policy. How brave of them to go public only when Obama’s political standing is in decline.

Democrats finally run out of patience with Jerry Brown and demand that he apologize for a campaign associate who called Meg Whitman a “whore.” Yes, there goes the Golden State. Again.

Much too late, Obama gets around to publicly calling for the release of Chinese dissident and now Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.

No rush — the Arab League stalls, hoping the Obami might up the bribes incentives for Bibi to extend the settlement moratorium. “Arab countries will give the US one month to find a compromise which can save peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians after negotiations stalled over the issue of Israeli building in West Bank settlements, AFP reported a diplomat at the Arab League meeting in Libya as saying on Friday. The unnamed diplomat said that a resolution to be approved later Friday by the Arab League Follow-up Committee on the peace process calls for the US administration to be given ‘a one month chance to seek the resumption of negotiations, including a halt to settlement [building].’”

Suddenly, David Broder discovers Rob Portman: “Now 54 and a fitness fanatic, Portman has achieved his status by being smart, disciplined and a team player. Business people know he does his homework, and Democrats find him approachable. Except for [Mitch] Daniels, there are few Republicans who have delved as deeply into fiscal and budgetary policy, trade and health care as has Portman, who notably expanded the Office of Management and Budget’s focus on Medicare and Medicaid, even when Bush showed little interest in the issue.”

An overnight sensation: Wisconsin GOP Senate candidate Ron Johnson. “In this year of political surprises, Mr. Johnson inhabits a niche all his own. He emerged from the tea party without being fully of it. … Mr. Johnson says he employs 120 people at a single plant that makes specialized plastics. ‘I’m not some big corporation. I run the type of business [that] is the backbone of our economy, the engine of job creation.’ America’s prosperity stems from its ‘freedoms, the free market,’ Mr. Johnson says. ‘I think people get that.’”

Eventually, we come full circle. Bush administration critic Jack Goldsmith argues we shouldn’t have military tribunals or civil trials. Just lock ‘em up. Sounds good to me.

It took long enough. Jeffrey Goldberg confirms that Matthew Yglesias is an ignoramus when it comes to Israel.

Read Less

Same Old PA, Same Old “Peace Process”

In a Thursday interview, Ambassador Michael Oren was the first Israeli official to talk openly about the bribes incentives offered by the Obami to Israel to extract an extension of settlement freeze. Was this another off-the-reservation moment for Oren, an argument to his own government that Israel would really be “getting something” for extending a settlement moratorium? Hard to say. But Bibi, speaking later on the same day that Oren confirmed the U.S. offer, was having none of that, as this report explains:

“We honored the government decision and took upon ourselves a commitment to the international community and the US to start the peace talks,” Netanyahu said of the 10- month moratorium that ended nearly two weeks ago.

“The Palestinians waited over nine months and, immediately at the onset of the talks, set a precondition even though they had promised that there would be no preconditions.”

The prime minister said that just as his government honored its commitment regarding the settlement moratorium, “we very much hope that the Palestinians will stay in the peace talks.”

But, said Netanyahu during a visit to Lod, “Today, the questions need to be directed to the Palestinians: Why are you abandoning the talks? Don’t turn your backs on peace; stay in the talks. This is what needs to be asked today, and not of the Israeli government.”

But the Arab League may not issue a permission slip for Abbas to return:

In Jerusalem, meanwhile, the widespread assessment was that the Arab League would back Abbas’s decision to leave the talks if Israel did not declare another settlement freeze, or did not declare that it would accept the principle of a Palestinian state based on the June 4, 1967, borders. …

[I]n what was perhaps a sign of low expectations in Jerusalem of any dramatic breakthrough, no meeting of the security cabinet or Netanyahu’s senior decision-making forum, the septet, had been scheduled for Friday. …

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a PLO leader and close adviser to Abbas, was quoted by Agence France-Press as saying that there can be no peace as long as Netanyahu is in power. … Abbas, meanwhile, has returned to his old habit of threatening to resign if Israel does not comply with his demands, making his latest threat during a meeting in Jordan on Wednesday night with members of the Palestine National Council, the PLO’s parliament- in-exile.

Perhaps the PA will return to the talks. Perhaps not. Now, Obama told us that this was a unique “opportunity” to reach a peace deal; but so far, it appears to be just like every other fruitless round of talks with Palestinian “leaders” who lack a constituency and the will to end the perpetual war against the Jewish state.

In a Thursday interview, Ambassador Michael Oren was the first Israeli official to talk openly about the bribes incentives offered by the Obami to Israel to extract an extension of settlement freeze. Was this another off-the-reservation moment for Oren, an argument to his own government that Israel would really be “getting something” for extending a settlement moratorium? Hard to say. But Bibi, speaking later on the same day that Oren confirmed the U.S. offer, was having none of that, as this report explains:

“We honored the government decision and took upon ourselves a commitment to the international community and the US to start the peace talks,” Netanyahu said of the 10- month moratorium that ended nearly two weeks ago.

“The Palestinians waited over nine months and, immediately at the onset of the talks, set a precondition even though they had promised that there would be no preconditions.”

The prime minister said that just as his government honored its commitment regarding the settlement moratorium, “we very much hope that the Palestinians will stay in the peace talks.”

But, said Netanyahu during a visit to Lod, “Today, the questions need to be directed to the Palestinians: Why are you abandoning the talks? Don’t turn your backs on peace; stay in the talks. This is what needs to be asked today, and not of the Israeli government.”

But the Arab League may not issue a permission slip for Abbas to return:

In Jerusalem, meanwhile, the widespread assessment was that the Arab League would back Abbas’s decision to leave the talks if Israel did not declare another settlement freeze, or did not declare that it would accept the principle of a Palestinian state based on the June 4, 1967, borders. …

[I]n what was perhaps a sign of low expectations in Jerusalem of any dramatic breakthrough, no meeting of the security cabinet or Netanyahu’s senior decision-making forum, the septet, had been scheduled for Friday. …

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a PLO leader and close adviser to Abbas, was quoted by Agence France-Press as saying that there can be no peace as long as Netanyahu is in power. … Abbas, meanwhile, has returned to his old habit of threatening to resign if Israel does not comply with his demands, making his latest threat during a meeting in Jordan on Wednesday night with members of the Palestine National Council, the PLO’s parliament- in-exile.

Perhaps the PA will return to the talks. Perhaps not. Now, Obama told us that this was a unique “opportunity” to reach a peace deal; but so far, it appears to be just like every other fruitless round of talks with Palestinian “leaders” who lack a constituency and the will to end the perpetual war against the Jewish state.

Read Less

Cleaning Up After Mitchell and Obama

The Washington Post tells us that Dennis Ross is cultivating a “back channel” to Israeli officials to minimize the damage done by George Mitchell, the decidedly Israel-hostile State Department, and the president. Now the Post doesn’t put it quite that bluntly. But it comes close:

Ross’s role, described by officials and other sources close to the process, is highly sensitive because it might be seen as undercutting the mission of George J. Mitchell, President Obama’s special envoy for Middle East peace. Virtually no one interviewed would agree to be quoted by name because of such concerns. …

Sources in both the United States and Israel said that Ross has provided an element that had been missing from the bilateral relationship, which has been rocky since Obama took office.

But of course, if Obama really enjoyed a warm relationship with, or was even respected and trusted by, the Israeli government, no alternative channel would be needed, nor would the administration need to recite its bribes … er, promises … in writing to prevent the direct negotiations from unraveling.

But is Ross accomplishing anything? It doesn’t appear so. To be fair, he’s handicapped by the flawed approach that the president has clung stubbornly to, namely, the fixation on a settlement moratorium and a willful disregard of the PA’s inability and unwillingness to take the essential steps needed (e.g., recognition of the Jewish state) to reach a meaningful peace deal.

Ross may have convinced himself that things would be much worse were it not for his soothing presence, an unprovable hypothesis that one suspects is nevertheless necessary if one is to justify serving in an administration such as this. But frankly, all this remains a dangerous sideshow. As Abbas waits for instructions from his overseers at the Arab League, and Obama’s promises must be documented (we hope a notary is not required as well), those centrifuges keep spinning in Iran. No back channel to repair that debacle-in-the-making.

The Washington Post tells us that Dennis Ross is cultivating a “back channel” to Israeli officials to minimize the damage done by George Mitchell, the decidedly Israel-hostile State Department, and the president. Now the Post doesn’t put it quite that bluntly. But it comes close:

Ross’s role, described by officials and other sources close to the process, is highly sensitive because it might be seen as undercutting the mission of George J. Mitchell, President Obama’s special envoy for Middle East peace. Virtually no one interviewed would agree to be quoted by name because of such concerns. …

Sources in both the United States and Israel said that Ross has provided an element that had been missing from the bilateral relationship, which has been rocky since Obama took office.

But of course, if Obama really enjoyed a warm relationship with, or was even respected and trusted by, the Israeli government, no alternative channel would be needed, nor would the administration need to recite its bribes … er, promises … in writing to prevent the direct negotiations from unraveling.

But is Ross accomplishing anything? It doesn’t appear so. To be fair, he’s handicapped by the flawed approach that the president has clung stubbornly to, namely, the fixation on a settlement moratorium and a willful disregard of the PA’s inability and unwillingness to take the essential steps needed (e.g., recognition of the Jewish state) to reach a meaningful peace deal.

Ross may have convinced himself that things would be much worse were it not for his soothing presence, an unprovable hypothesis that one suspects is nevertheless necessary if one is to justify serving in an administration such as this. But frankly, all this remains a dangerous sideshow. As Abbas waits for instructions from his overseers at the Arab League, and Obama’s promises must be documented (we hope a notary is not required as well), those centrifuges keep spinning in Iran. No back channel to repair that debacle-in-the-making.

Read Less

Empty Promises to Bibi

Josh Rogin reports on the non-progress in restoring the non-peace talks:

Special Envoy George Mitchell is back in the U.S. after a tour through the Middle East that included stop in Qatar, Egypt and Jordan. No progress reported on saving the peace talks and the key meeting of the Arab League where Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will speak has been postponed until Friday. Clinton phoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the weekend.

[State Department spokesman P.J.] Crowley couldn’t and therefore didn’t answer persistent questions coming from one press corps member seeking to know when was the last time the U.S. failed to back up Israel at the U.N. The questioner was ostensibly referencing reports that the administration was trying to convince the Israelis to extend the settlement freeze by promising to veto any future attacks on Israel in international fora. “I’m not sure that is a question that can possibly be answered,” Crowley said.

Actually, reports during the Obami’s temper tantrum over housing permits in Jerusalem suggested that the administration was threatening not to veto such resolutions in the future. So we actually did have such a situation in March. But the Obami said they were “confused” and couldn’t  manage to veto a statement singling out Israel that surely would have been vetoed under the Bush and Clinton administrations.

So to put this in context, the administration is trying to lure Bibi into extending a freeze with the promise not to do (refrain from anti-Israel vetoes) what previously would never have been done — and therefore would never have been considered a bargaining chip. You can understand why Bibi is not jumping at the offer.

Josh Rogin reports on the non-progress in restoring the non-peace talks:

Special Envoy George Mitchell is back in the U.S. after a tour through the Middle East that included stop in Qatar, Egypt and Jordan. No progress reported on saving the peace talks and the key meeting of the Arab League where Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will speak has been postponed until Friday. Clinton phoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the weekend.

[State Department spokesman P.J.] Crowley couldn’t and therefore didn’t answer persistent questions coming from one press corps member seeking to know when was the last time the U.S. failed to back up Israel at the U.N. The questioner was ostensibly referencing reports that the administration was trying to convince the Israelis to extend the settlement freeze by promising to veto any future attacks on Israel in international fora. “I’m not sure that is a question that can possibly be answered,” Crowley said.

Actually, reports during the Obami’s temper tantrum over housing permits in Jerusalem suggested that the administration was threatening not to veto such resolutions in the future. So we actually did have such a situation in March. But the Obami said they were “confused” and couldn’t  manage to veto a statement singling out Israel that surely would have been vetoed under the Bush and Clinton administrations.

So to put this in context, the administration is trying to lure Bibi into extending a freeze with the promise not to do (refrain from anti-Israel vetoes) what previously would never have been done — and therefore would never have been considered a bargaining chip. You can understand why Bibi is not jumping at the offer.

Read Less

Bad to Worse

The Obami are now groveling with Bibi to extend the moratorium: please, please, 60 more days, and we won’t ask again! They throw in promises to do what any administration should do: veto UN resolutions against Israel (but just for a year), “accept the legitimacy of Israel’s security needs and not seek to redefine them,” agree Israel could leave forces “in the Jordan Valley for an extended period of time,” and agree to further upgrades of Israel’s “defense capabilities in the even the parties reach security arrangements.” It’s embarrassing that Obama should plead so in public and pathetic that he is essentially offering nothing more than what a pro-Israel administration would grant under ordinary circumstances.

And, of course, it is making matters worse. The Arab League has postponed a meeting with its minion Abbas. Why meet if Obama can bribe Israel for them?

This won’t end well. Either Bibi will rebuff Obama again, humiliating the administration, or he’ll agree, convincing the Palestinians that throwing a temper tantrum pays off. Either way, we’re no closer to “peace.” Before the Obama team pulls any more stunts like this, perhaps they should consult with someone who actually understands the Middle East. Plainly, there is no one in the current administration who does.

The Obami are now groveling with Bibi to extend the moratorium: please, please, 60 more days, and we won’t ask again! They throw in promises to do what any administration should do: veto UN resolutions against Israel (but just for a year), “accept the legitimacy of Israel’s security needs and not seek to redefine them,” agree Israel could leave forces “in the Jordan Valley for an extended period of time,” and agree to further upgrades of Israel’s “defense capabilities in the even the parties reach security arrangements.” It’s embarrassing that Obama should plead so in public and pathetic that he is essentially offering nothing more than what a pro-Israel administration would grant under ordinary circumstances.

And, of course, it is making matters worse. The Arab League has postponed a meeting with its minion Abbas. Why meet if Obama can bribe Israel for them?

This won’t end well. Either Bibi will rebuff Obama again, humiliating the administration, or he’ll agree, convincing the Palestinians that throwing a temper tantrum pays off. Either way, we’re no closer to “peace.” Before the Obama team pulls any more stunts like this, perhaps they should consult with someone who actually understands the Middle East. Plainly, there is no one in the current administration who does.

Read Less

A Mess of His Own Making

The non-peace talks are on hiatus while Mahmoud Abbas goes running to the Arab League for instructions. Elliott Abrams explains why we shouldn’t much care:

The sky is not falling. Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations were suspended on Sunday, perhaps briefly and perhaps for months, after Israel’s 10-month moratorium on settlement construction expired. Palestinian officials said they would refuse to talk if construction restarted, and so they did. Yet war hasn’t broken out, nor will it. …

Also last week, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reminded his people that “we tried the intifada and it caused us a lot of damage.” Hamas, the terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip, can commit acts of terror at any time. But with Israeli and Palestinian officials working together to keep the peace, Hamas can’t create a general uprising.

Peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) have been an on-again, off-again affair since they began with the Oslo Accords in 1993. During the Arafat years talks alternated with terrorism, for Arafat viewed both as useful and legitimate tactics. After the so-called second intifada of 2000-2001 and the 9/11 attacks, Israel’s then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ran out of patience with that game, as did President George W. Bush. From then on they worked to push Arafat aside.

As Abrams points out, the Bush team oversaw negotiations for five years, under the “in and up” but not “out” understanding on settlements:

The Obama administration junked that deal, and its continuing obsession with a settlement freeze—Mr. Obama mentioned it again at the U.N. last week—has cornered Mr. Abbas. The Americans are effectively urging him back to the table while making it impossible for him to get there. This diplomatic problem is what medical science calls “iatrogenic”: a disease caused by the physicians themselves.

Whether or not the parties return to the table, Abrams explains, it is important to keep our eyes on the real world. On the West Bank, economic progress continues. Security has improved. (“Most of this good news came, of course, during 18 months when there were no peace negotiations at all.”) So long as the Obami manage not to get in the way of all that, there is hope that one day there will be a Palestinian society that supports a peace deal. But not now. So let the diplomats shuttle. Or not.

The greatest danger right now is not to “peace” but to Obama’s prestige and credibility. And frankly, that’s an iatrogenic phenomenon, too. Or in common parlance, Obama has made his bed, and unless the Arab League and Bibi rescue him out, he will be forced to lie in it.

The non-peace talks are on hiatus while Mahmoud Abbas goes running to the Arab League for instructions. Elliott Abrams explains why we shouldn’t much care:

The sky is not falling. Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations were suspended on Sunday, perhaps briefly and perhaps for months, after Israel’s 10-month moratorium on settlement construction expired. Palestinian officials said they would refuse to talk if construction restarted, and so they did. Yet war hasn’t broken out, nor will it. …

Also last week, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reminded his people that “we tried the intifada and it caused us a lot of damage.” Hamas, the terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip, can commit acts of terror at any time. But with Israeli and Palestinian officials working together to keep the peace, Hamas can’t create a general uprising.

Peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) have been an on-again, off-again affair since they began with the Oslo Accords in 1993. During the Arafat years talks alternated with terrorism, for Arafat viewed both as useful and legitimate tactics. After the so-called second intifada of 2000-2001 and the 9/11 attacks, Israel’s then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ran out of patience with that game, as did President George W. Bush. From then on they worked to push Arafat aside.

As Abrams points out, the Bush team oversaw negotiations for five years, under the “in and up” but not “out” understanding on settlements:

The Obama administration junked that deal, and its continuing obsession with a settlement freeze—Mr. Obama mentioned it again at the U.N. last week—has cornered Mr. Abbas. The Americans are effectively urging him back to the table while making it impossible for him to get there. This diplomatic problem is what medical science calls “iatrogenic”: a disease caused by the physicians themselves.

Whether or not the parties return to the table, Abrams explains, it is important to keep our eyes on the real world. On the West Bank, economic progress continues. Security has improved. (“Most of this good news came, of course, during 18 months when there were no peace negotiations at all.”) So long as the Obami manage not to get in the way of all that, there is hope that one day there will be a Palestinian society that supports a peace deal. But not now. So let the diplomats shuttle. Or not.

The greatest danger right now is not to “peace” but to Obama’s prestige and credibility. And frankly, that’s an iatrogenic phenomenon, too. Or in common parlance, Obama has made his bed, and unless the Arab League and Bibi rescue him out, he will be forced to lie in it.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.