Commentary Magazine


Topic: Arafat

Portraits of the Peace Process in Its 92nd Year

In the National Interest, Benny Morris succinctly summarizes the peace process, writing that there can be disagreement about tactical mistakes made over the years, but that:

[T]here can be no serious argument about what transpired in July and December 2000, when Arafat sequentially rejected comprehensive Israeli and Israeli-American proposals for a two-state solution which would have given the Palestinians (“the Clinton Parameters”) sovereignty and independence in 95% of the West Bank, all of the Gaza Strip, and half of Jerusalem (including half or three-quarters of the Old City).

And further that:

[T]here can be no serious argument either about Abbas’s rejection of the similar, perhaps even slightly better deal, offered by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2008. (Indeed, these rejections of a two-state solution were already a tradition set in stone: The Palestinians’ leaders had rejected two-state compromises in 1937 (the Peel proposals), 1947 (the UN General Assembly partition resolution) and (implicitly) in 1978 (when Arafat rejected the Sadat-Begin Camp David agreement, which provided for “autonomy” in the Palestinan territories).

That is six Palestinian rejections of a Palestinian state: 1937, 1947, 1978, 2000 (twice), 2008.

Actually, the correct number is seven, since Morris omitted the first one: in 1919, Chaim Weizmann, president of the World Zionist Organization, and Emir Feisal Ibn al-Hussein al-Hashemi signed an agreement providing for Arab recognition of the Balfour Declaration, Arab retention of the Muslim holy sites, and WZO agreement to the establishment of an Arab state. Later that year, the Arabs repudiated the agreement.

We are now in the 92nd year of a peace process in which the Palestinians are the first people in history to be offered a state seven times, reject it seven times, and set preconditions for discussing an eighth offer.

In the February 10 issue of the New York Review of Books, Hussein Agha and Robert Malley also provide an interesting analysis of the peace process. They assert the Obama administration has badly damaged U.S. credibility:

[It] was repeatedly rebuffed—by Israel, from whom it had demanded a full halt in settlement construction; by Palestinians it pressed to engage in direct negotiations; by Arab states it hoped would take steps to normalize relations with Israel. An administration that never tires of saying it cannot want peace more than the parties routinely belies that claim by the desperation it exhibits in pursuing that goal. Today, there is little trust, no direct talks, no settlement freeze, and, one at times suspects, not much of a US policy.

Agha and Malley do not recommend a policy of their own. They suggest Mahmoud Abbas is the “last Palestinian” able to end the conflict, but it is an unconvincing conclusion. He has already missed multiple moments: in 2005, he received all of Gaza and presided over its conversion into Hamastan; in 2006, he could not win an election against a terrorist group; in 2007, he got thrown out of Gaza altogether; in 2008, he received the seventh offer of a state and turned it down; in 2009, he arrived in Washington D.C. and told the Washington Post he would do nothing but wait; in 2010, he is turning to the UN rather than negotiate. His term of office ended more than two years ago.

Rather than being the key to peace, he is a reflection of the fact that on the Palestinian side, in the 92nd year, there is no one there to make it.

In the National Interest, Benny Morris succinctly summarizes the peace process, writing that there can be disagreement about tactical mistakes made over the years, but that:

[T]here can be no serious argument about what transpired in July and December 2000, when Arafat sequentially rejected comprehensive Israeli and Israeli-American proposals for a two-state solution which would have given the Palestinians (“the Clinton Parameters”) sovereignty and independence in 95% of the West Bank, all of the Gaza Strip, and half of Jerusalem (including half or three-quarters of the Old City).

And further that:

[T]here can be no serious argument either about Abbas’s rejection of the similar, perhaps even slightly better deal, offered by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2008. (Indeed, these rejections of a two-state solution were already a tradition set in stone: The Palestinians’ leaders had rejected two-state compromises in 1937 (the Peel proposals), 1947 (the UN General Assembly partition resolution) and (implicitly) in 1978 (when Arafat rejected the Sadat-Begin Camp David agreement, which provided for “autonomy” in the Palestinan territories).

That is six Palestinian rejections of a Palestinian state: 1937, 1947, 1978, 2000 (twice), 2008.

Actually, the correct number is seven, since Morris omitted the first one: in 1919, Chaim Weizmann, president of the World Zionist Organization, and Emir Feisal Ibn al-Hussein al-Hashemi signed an agreement providing for Arab recognition of the Balfour Declaration, Arab retention of the Muslim holy sites, and WZO agreement to the establishment of an Arab state. Later that year, the Arabs repudiated the agreement.

We are now in the 92nd year of a peace process in which the Palestinians are the first people in history to be offered a state seven times, reject it seven times, and set preconditions for discussing an eighth offer.

In the February 10 issue of the New York Review of Books, Hussein Agha and Robert Malley also provide an interesting analysis of the peace process. They assert the Obama administration has badly damaged U.S. credibility:

[It] was repeatedly rebuffed—by Israel, from whom it had demanded a full halt in settlement construction; by Palestinians it pressed to engage in direct negotiations; by Arab states it hoped would take steps to normalize relations with Israel. An administration that never tires of saying it cannot want peace more than the parties routinely belies that claim by the desperation it exhibits in pursuing that goal. Today, there is little trust, no direct talks, no settlement freeze, and, one at times suspects, not much of a US policy.

Agha and Malley do not recommend a policy of their own. They suggest Mahmoud Abbas is the “last Palestinian” able to end the conflict, but it is an unconvincing conclusion. He has already missed multiple moments: in 2005, he received all of Gaza and presided over its conversion into Hamastan; in 2006, he could not win an election against a terrorist group; in 2007, he got thrown out of Gaza altogether; in 2008, he received the seventh offer of a state and turned it down; in 2009, he arrived in Washington D.C. and told the Washington Post he would do nothing but wait; in 2010, he is turning to the UN rather than negotiate. His term of office ended more than two years ago.

Rather than being the key to peace, he is a reflection of the fact that on the Palestinian side, in the 92nd year, there is no one there to make it.

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An Edifice Over an Abyss

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s valuable interview with Jennifer Rubin (part one on Friday; part two today) contains a useful observation about the current Palestinian push for recognition of a state. Oren says there are two models of Middle East state-building:

In the first, you build from the bottom up. Then you are bestowed or declare independence. The second is that you attain independence and figure out what institutions you will have later. This was the model for Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Israel is the first model. We had more than 60 years to build institutions. … Oslo was the classic second model, and Arafat rejected institution building. We saw how that worked out. It’s building an edifice over an abyss.

This reminds me of Ron Dermer’s presentation to AIPAC in May 2009, previewing the one Netanyahu would make days later in his first meeting with President Obama. Dermer described Netanyahu’s plan as a three-track approach: two bottom-up tracks (security and economic development) combined with a top-down one (political negotiations). The goal was not an immediate “peace-to-end-all-peace, deal of the century,” but developments on the ground necessary to make peace possible:

What happened in Annapolis is that the government almost exclusively focused on political negotiation. They invested all their energy … in reaching an elusive agreement. And I agree with Aaron [David Miller] that there is no way now on the Palestinian side to make the sorts of compromises that will be required for a deal on the core issues. Yet despite that, the previous government just decided to negotiate, and negotiate, and negotiate …

What Netanyahu will do – and you will see it in a rather dramatic fashion over the next two years … is work to change the reality on the ground, first through security [by facilitating creation of a Palestinian police force] … and [removing] bureaucratic obstacles to economic development. …

What has happened up to now is to try to build the pyramid from the top down. It doesn’t work that way. You have to … have the Palestinians have rule of law, have a decent economy … and slowly but surely you actually build lots of stakeholders.

In the last two years, security in the West Bank has improved, as has the Palestinian economy – developments for which Netanyahu has been given insufficient credit. But Palestinian society remains steeped in anti-Semitism, and the Palestinian Authority lacks the rule of law: a “president” whose term expired two years ago; an unelected “prime minister;” local elections that were cancelled; and political reform that is, in the words of a former PA minister, “a joke.” The next chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee says it is impossible to track the PA’s use of American aid (“Try looking at their budgets … you’ll never find out where that money goes”).

An undemocratic, anti-Semitic state, unwilling to recognize a Jewish one (much less one with defensible borders), is unlikely to “live side by side in peace.” The Palestinians are pushing the edifice, but the abyss is still there.

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s valuable interview with Jennifer Rubin (part one on Friday; part two today) contains a useful observation about the current Palestinian push for recognition of a state. Oren says there are two models of Middle East state-building:

In the first, you build from the bottom up. Then you are bestowed or declare independence. The second is that you attain independence and figure out what institutions you will have later. This was the model for Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Israel is the first model. We had more than 60 years to build institutions. … Oslo was the classic second model, and Arafat rejected institution building. We saw how that worked out. It’s building an edifice over an abyss.

This reminds me of Ron Dermer’s presentation to AIPAC in May 2009, previewing the one Netanyahu would make days later in his first meeting with President Obama. Dermer described Netanyahu’s plan as a three-track approach: two bottom-up tracks (security and economic development) combined with a top-down one (political negotiations). The goal was not an immediate “peace-to-end-all-peace, deal of the century,” but developments on the ground necessary to make peace possible:

What happened in Annapolis is that the government almost exclusively focused on political negotiation. They invested all their energy … in reaching an elusive agreement. And I agree with Aaron [David Miller] that there is no way now on the Palestinian side to make the sorts of compromises that will be required for a deal on the core issues. Yet despite that, the previous government just decided to negotiate, and negotiate, and negotiate …

What Netanyahu will do – and you will see it in a rather dramatic fashion over the next two years … is work to change the reality on the ground, first through security [by facilitating creation of a Palestinian police force] … and [removing] bureaucratic obstacles to economic development. …

What has happened up to now is to try to build the pyramid from the top down. It doesn’t work that way. You have to … have the Palestinians have rule of law, have a decent economy … and slowly but surely you actually build lots of stakeholders.

In the last two years, security in the West Bank has improved, as has the Palestinian economy – developments for which Netanyahu has been given insufficient credit. But Palestinian society remains steeped in anti-Semitism, and the Palestinian Authority lacks the rule of law: a “president” whose term expired two years ago; an unelected “prime minister;” local elections that were cancelled; and political reform that is, in the words of a former PA minister, “a joke.” The next chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee says it is impossible to track the PA’s use of American aid (“Try looking at their budgets … you’ll never find out where that money goes”).

An undemocratic, anti-Semitic state, unwilling to recognize a Jewish one (much less one with defensible borders), is unlikely to “live side by side in peace.” The Palestinians are pushing the edifice, but the abyss is still there.

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Lessons of the Peace Process: The Missing Reflection

The final chapter of Dennis Ross’s 800-page book on the Oslo Process (The Missing Peace) is entitled “Learning the Lessons of the Past and Applying Them to the Future.” Among his lessons was a warning that the process can become “essentially an end in itself” — self-sustaining because there is never a right time to disrupt it. He concluded that less attention should have been paid to the negotiators and more to preparing their publics for compromise. With respect to the Palestinians, it is a lesson still unlearned.

The lessons the Bush administration drew from the Clinton experience were that Arafat was an obstacle to peace; the Palestinian Authority needed new leadership and democratic institutions; and peace could be achieved only in phases, not all at once. Bush endorsed a Palestinian state in 2002; arranged the three-phase Roadmap in 2003; assured Israel in 2004 of the U.S. commitment to defensible borders; facilitated the Gaza withdrawal in 2005; began moving the parties in 2006 to final status negotiations; and sponsored the Annapolis Process in 2007-08, which produced another Israeli offer of a state and another Palestinian rejection. In the meantime, the Palestinians elected Hamas — an inconvenient fact that peace processors simply ignore.

There were multiple lessons to be drawn from the successive failures of Clinton and Bush, but Obama did not pause to consider them. He appointed George Mitchell on his second day in office and sent him immediately to the Middle East on the first of an endless series of trips. He sought a total Israeli construction freeze and reciprocal Arab concessions — getting nothing from the Arabs but obtaining a one-time Israeli moratorium, which produced nothing. The administration has tried “proximity talks,” followed by “direct talks,” and now “parallel talks.”

The process has produced an endless supply of names for unproductive procedures, but not much else. It has become essentially an end in itself, and it is time, once again, to learn the lessons of the past so we can apply them to the future. Aaron David Miller and Jennifer Rubin have produced about seven between them.

But the most relevant lesson may be the one Obama disregarded when he rushed into his own peace process. In a December 2008 article, Obama’s erstwhile adviser Robert Malley urged him to slow down and reflect on “the reasons for recurring failures, the effectiveness of U.S. mediation, the wisdom and realism of seeking a comprehensive, across-the-board settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or even the centrality of that conflict to US interests.”

The Palestinian goal seems less to obtain a state (they have repeatedly rejected one) than to reverse history: a return to the 1967 lines would reverse the 1967 war; a “right of return” would reverse the 1948 one; and controlling the Old City (aka East Jerusalem) would reverse the history before that. At the end of his book, Ross describes the Oval Office meeting where Arafat rejected the Clinton Parameters, with Arafat denying that the Temple ever existed in Jerusalem. Ten years later, the PA denies any Jewish connection to the Western Wall. Not only has the PA taken no steps to prepare its public for peace; its maps and media presume Israel does not exist.

In thinking about the recurring failures of the peace process, it is time to reflect on that.

The final chapter of Dennis Ross’s 800-page book on the Oslo Process (The Missing Peace) is entitled “Learning the Lessons of the Past and Applying Them to the Future.” Among his lessons was a warning that the process can become “essentially an end in itself” — self-sustaining because there is never a right time to disrupt it. He concluded that less attention should have been paid to the negotiators and more to preparing their publics for compromise. With respect to the Palestinians, it is a lesson still unlearned.

The lessons the Bush administration drew from the Clinton experience were that Arafat was an obstacle to peace; the Palestinian Authority needed new leadership and democratic institutions; and peace could be achieved only in phases, not all at once. Bush endorsed a Palestinian state in 2002; arranged the three-phase Roadmap in 2003; assured Israel in 2004 of the U.S. commitment to defensible borders; facilitated the Gaza withdrawal in 2005; began moving the parties in 2006 to final status negotiations; and sponsored the Annapolis Process in 2007-08, which produced another Israeli offer of a state and another Palestinian rejection. In the meantime, the Palestinians elected Hamas — an inconvenient fact that peace processors simply ignore.

There were multiple lessons to be drawn from the successive failures of Clinton and Bush, but Obama did not pause to consider them. He appointed George Mitchell on his second day in office and sent him immediately to the Middle East on the first of an endless series of trips. He sought a total Israeli construction freeze and reciprocal Arab concessions — getting nothing from the Arabs but obtaining a one-time Israeli moratorium, which produced nothing. The administration has tried “proximity talks,” followed by “direct talks,” and now “parallel talks.”

The process has produced an endless supply of names for unproductive procedures, but not much else. It has become essentially an end in itself, and it is time, once again, to learn the lessons of the past so we can apply them to the future. Aaron David Miller and Jennifer Rubin have produced about seven between them.

But the most relevant lesson may be the one Obama disregarded when he rushed into his own peace process. In a December 2008 article, Obama’s erstwhile adviser Robert Malley urged him to slow down and reflect on “the reasons for recurring failures, the effectiveness of U.S. mediation, the wisdom and realism of seeking a comprehensive, across-the-board settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or even the centrality of that conflict to US interests.”

The Palestinian goal seems less to obtain a state (they have repeatedly rejected one) than to reverse history: a return to the 1967 lines would reverse the 1967 war; a “right of return” would reverse the 1948 one; and controlling the Old City (aka East Jerusalem) would reverse the history before that. At the end of his book, Ross describes the Oval Office meeting where Arafat rejected the Clinton Parameters, with Arafat denying that the Temple ever existed in Jerusalem. Ten years later, the PA denies any Jewish connection to the Western Wall. Not only has the PA taken no steps to prepare its public for peace; its maps and media presume Israel does not exist.

In thinking about the recurring failures of the peace process, it is time to reflect on that.

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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.

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This Time, You’ve Got Me

In his article, “Hillary’s Dangerous Mideast Leap” (which Jen discusses here), Leslie Gelb caustically suggests that Hillary Clinton (“Washington’s current flavor of the month”) and her boss (“the administration’s other Middle East expert”) must know something we don’t:

You wouldn’t think the two American leaders would risk the prestige and power of the United States of America on yet another effort to reconcile these two blood enemies without good grounds for doing so, would you?

Gelb hopes that the Obama administration “did not shove Palestinians and Israelis into direct talks … just to get them talking to each other,” because once such talks fail, the explosion will likely be greater than if there had been no negotiations at all — an observation Jeffrey Goldberg calls “very smart.”

The peace process is too big to fail after only one month — especially one month before a U.S. election, shaping up as a referendum on Obama — so the administration will likely find a way to get Abbas to back down from his insistence on preconditions, which Obama himself already abandoned. But why would anyone think a process featuring a Palestinian “president” whose term of office ended 20 months ago, who cannot set foot in half his putative state, who cannot schedule local elections even in the half he nominally controls, who has failed to condition his public for compromise, and whose reluctance to negotiate is palpable, might succeed?

Near the end of his 800-page book on The Missing Peace, in a chapter entitled “Learning the Lessons of the Past,” Dennis Ross wrote that:

Whenever my exasperation with Arafat was reaching its limits, [Mahmoud Abbas], Abu Ala, or [others] … would remind me that only Arafat had the moral authority among Palestinians to compromise on Jerusalem, refugees, and borders. … “Remember, he is the only one who can concede on fundamental issues.” Often [Abbas] … or other Palestinian negotiators would tell me, “You prefer dealing with us because you see us as more moderate, but we cannot deliver, only he can.”

Ross wrote that the U.S. had created a process that became “self-sustaining and essentially an end in itself” — which seems a good description of the process in which Obama is currently engaged. The failed peace processes of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush should have cautioned against simply starting a new one, but Obama rushed right back in, from the first week of his presidency, and now is deeply invested in a process he cannot allow to end, even if it is obvious that it cannot succeed. What was he thinking?

In his article, “Hillary’s Dangerous Mideast Leap” (which Jen discusses here), Leslie Gelb caustically suggests that Hillary Clinton (“Washington’s current flavor of the month”) and her boss (“the administration’s other Middle East expert”) must know something we don’t:

You wouldn’t think the two American leaders would risk the prestige and power of the United States of America on yet another effort to reconcile these two blood enemies without good grounds for doing so, would you?

Gelb hopes that the Obama administration “did not shove Palestinians and Israelis into direct talks … just to get them talking to each other,” because once such talks fail, the explosion will likely be greater than if there had been no negotiations at all — an observation Jeffrey Goldberg calls “very smart.”

The peace process is too big to fail after only one month — especially one month before a U.S. election, shaping up as a referendum on Obama — so the administration will likely find a way to get Abbas to back down from his insistence on preconditions, which Obama himself already abandoned. But why would anyone think a process featuring a Palestinian “president” whose term of office ended 20 months ago, who cannot set foot in half his putative state, who cannot schedule local elections even in the half he nominally controls, who has failed to condition his public for compromise, and whose reluctance to negotiate is palpable, might succeed?

Near the end of his 800-page book on The Missing Peace, in a chapter entitled “Learning the Lessons of the Past,” Dennis Ross wrote that:

Whenever my exasperation with Arafat was reaching its limits, [Mahmoud Abbas], Abu Ala, or [others] … would remind me that only Arafat had the moral authority among Palestinians to compromise on Jerusalem, refugees, and borders. … “Remember, he is the only one who can concede on fundamental issues.” Often [Abbas] … or other Palestinian negotiators would tell me, “You prefer dealing with us because you see us as more moderate, but we cannot deliver, only he can.”

Ross wrote that the U.S. had created a process that became “self-sustaining and essentially an end in itself” — which seems a good description of the process in which Obama is currently engaged. The failed peace processes of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush should have cautioned against simply starting a new one, but Obama rushed right back in, from the first week of his presidency, and now is deeply invested in a process he cannot allow to end, even if it is obvious that it cannot succeed. What was he thinking?

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The Alternative to Obama’s Israel Stance

Michael Goodwin notes that there is an alternative to Obama’s assault on Israel:

As the White House continues to turn the screws on Israel, some in Congress finally are saying, “Stop!” Unfortunately, none is a Democrat. Rep. Pete King, a Long Island Republican, aims to put America squarely on the side of our beleaguered ally. That King sees the need to do it through binding legislation tells you how far President Obama has careened off course.

The America Stands with Israel Act is direct and, at five pages, refreshingly concise. Noting that Hamas is a terrorist organization that aims to destroy Israel, the bill would require the US to withdraw from the loony UN Council on Human Rights, which, predictably, condemned Israel after the Gaza flotilla incident. The bill also would prohibit the use of American funds to investigate Israel.

About 40 Republicans have signed on as co-sponsors, but not a single Democrat has. Given the stakes and clarity, it seems fair to conclude all Dems agree with Obama that Israel is the obstacle to peace, or they are guilty of putting party loyalty ahead of Israel’s survival.

King’s office has also sent out a press release:

On Monday, June 14th at 11:00am, the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC-NY), together with U.S. Representatives Eliot Engel, Carolyn Maloney, Jerrold Nadler, Charles Rangel and Anthony Weiner, NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and a host of additional State and City public officials, will call on the U.S. State Department to investigate any and all passengers on the Mavi Marmara and other ships from Turkey’s IHH flotilla who apply for visas to enter the United States. A speaking tour has been announced for some of these passengers with a planned New York City event in the coming weeks. A petition calling for this investigation has already captured over 20,000 signatures and will be presented by JCRC-NY to Rep. Engel for delivery to the appropriate authorities in Washington, DC.

Perhaps some of those Democrats will sign on to King’s resolution, provided — of course — that the House leadership and the White House aren’t strong-arming them not to.

King, quoted by Goodwin, lays out the conceptual problem at the root of Obama’s stance toward Israel: “Barack Obama’s view of the world is that there is too much belligerency coming from the United States and Israel. … He looks at the plight of the Palestinians and blames Israel. Not Arafat, not Abbas and not the Arab countries that have let the Palestinians live in squalor for 60 years.” That is, of course, the worldview of the left — the U.S. and the West more generally are guilty of insufficient humility, Israel is an occupying force, Israel is not like any other democracy, and the “international community” composed of despots is entitled to sit in judgment of Israel (in part because nation-states have less moral standing than international bodies, many of whose members routinely brutalize their own people). No president to date has embraced this perspective.  But Obama is unlike any of his predecessors, and hence we have a foreign policy that is more Noam Chomsky than Ronald Reagan (or Bill Clinton, for that matter).

We are fortunate that King and others in Congress have figured this out. When will Democrats and American Jewry?

Michael Goodwin notes that there is an alternative to Obama’s assault on Israel:

As the White House continues to turn the screws on Israel, some in Congress finally are saying, “Stop!” Unfortunately, none is a Democrat. Rep. Pete King, a Long Island Republican, aims to put America squarely on the side of our beleaguered ally. That King sees the need to do it through binding legislation tells you how far President Obama has careened off course.

The America Stands with Israel Act is direct and, at five pages, refreshingly concise. Noting that Hamas is a terrorist organization that aims to destroy Israel, the bill would require the US to withdraw from the loony UN Council on Human Rights, which, predictably, condemned Israel after the Gaza flotilla incident. The bill also would prohibit the use of American funds to investigate Israel.

About 40 Republicans have signed on as co-sponsors, but not a single Democrat has. Given the stakes and clarity, it seems fair to conclude all Dems agree with Obama that Israel is the obstacle to peace, or they are guilty of putting party loyalty ahead of Israel’s survival.

King’s office has also sent out a press release:

On Monday, June 14th at 11:00am, the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC-NY), together with U.S. Representatives Eliot Engel, Carolyn Maloney, Jerrold Nadler, Charles Rangel and Anthony Weiner, NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and a host of additional State and City public officials, will call on the U.S. State Department to investigate any and all passengers on the Mavi Marmara and other ships from Turkey’s IHH flotilla who apply for visas to enter the United States. A speaking tour has been announced for some of these passengers with a planned New York City event in the coming weeks. A petition calling for this investigation has already captured over 20,000 signatures and will be presented by JCRC-NY to Rep. Engel for delivery to the appropriate authorities in Washington, DC.

Perhaps some of those Democrats will sign on to King’s resolution, provided — of course — that the House leadership and the White House aren’t strong-arming them not to.

King, quoted by Goodwin, lays out the conceptual problem at the root of Obama’s stance toward Israel: “Barack Obama’s view of the world is that there is too much belligerency coming from the United States and Israel. … He looks at the plight of the Palestinians and blames Israel. Not Arafat, not Abbas and not the Arab countries that have let the Palestinians live in squalor for 60 years.” That is, of course, the worldview of the left — the U.S. and the West more generally are guilty of insufficient humility, Israel is an occupying force, Israel is not like any other democracy, and the “international community” composed of despots is entitled to sit in judgment of Israel (in part because nation-states have less moral standing than international bodies, many of whose members routinely brutalize their own people). No president to date has embraced this perspective.  But Obama is unlike any of his predecessors, and hence we have a foreign policy that is more Noam Chomsky than Ronald Reagan (or Bill Clinton, for that matter).

We are fortunate that King and others in Congress have figured this out. When will Democrats and American Jewry?

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Ya’alon Unloads on Obami

The entire interview with Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon should be read in full here. But a few of the Q&As are certainly of particular note. On the American administration’s amnesia:

Does the US not see in Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s refusal to accept Ehud Olmert’s generous offer in 2008 as a lack of willingness on the Palestinian side to come to an agreement?

Apparently not. From the dawn of Zionism there has not been a Palestinian leadership willing to recognize Israel’s right to exist as the national home of the Jewish people. This is the source of the problem, and not what is called the occupied territories since ’67. The opposition to Zionism began before we liberated Judea, Samaria and Gaza; before we established a state.

On the issue of settlements:

Israel’s critics say enlarging settlements helps Palestinian extremists and ruins any efforts to get the Palestinians to recognize our right to be here.

The prime minister said before the elections he was willing to accept the commitments of the previous government, among them the understanding between [George] Bush and [Ariel] Sharon, that no new settlements would be built in Judea and Samaria, and that construction in the settlements would be allowed [to enable] normal life, not exactly natural growth. That was the understanding, and construction continued through the Olmert and Sharon governments.

More than that, [Netanyahu] said we accept our commitment regarding dismantling 23 outposts that were defined by the Sharon government as illegal. He accepted that, until it became clear that the US administration does not accept the commitments of the previous administration.

Secondly, we completely reject the argument that the settlements are the reason there is no peace. I think Arafat was willing to go to Oslo because of the settlements. When he saw the [massive Russian] aliya, and the settlements, he thought he was going to lose everything.

But if we are talking about coexistence and peace, why the insistence that the territory they receive be ethnically cleansed of Jews? Why do those areas have to be Judenrein? Don’t Arabs live here, in the Negev and Galilee? Why isn’t that part of our public discussion? Why doesn’t that scream to the heavens?

In order for there to a proper prognosis, you need a proper diagnosis. We are arguing, and not only with them, but with the Israeli Left, about what is the root of the problem. Part of the issue, which influences the US and European positions, is our internal confusion.

I also used to think the solution was land for peace, until I became the head of military intelligence, saw things from up close and my thinking underwent an evolution.

And on the American role in thwarting Iran’s nuclear ambitions:

Which leaders today are the most determined regarding Iran?

We see France today demonstrating the right policies, and Britain. They understand the enormity of the challenge.

Does Obama?

Something has happened here that we haven’t seen in the past. Previously the US led the aggressive line. Today, as I said, the president of France and prime minister of Britain are leading a more aggressive line than the president of the US. And then you have Germany and Italy, who join up with the American position.

I don’t think there is an actor in the world who wants to see a nuclear Iran.

There is much more of interest, including his take on the potential for an  imposed settlement. (“If someone really thinks they can impose peace just like that, then they are detached from reality.”) What is most noteworthy is the candor with which the disdain for the American administration comes through. It seems the Israelis have at least adopted one of Obama’s suggestions — be more “honest” in public and in private.

It’s incumbent on the American Jewish community now to do likewise. It is a time to make clear whether it intends to shuffle along, meekly accepting the administration’s inertness on Iran and its ferocity toward our democratic ally.

The entire interview with Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon should be read in full here. But a few of the Q&As are certainly of particular note. On the American administration’s amnesia:

Does the US not see in Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s refusal to accept Ehud Olmert’s generous offer in 2008 as a lack of willingness on the Palestinian side to come to an agreement?

Apparently not. From the dawn of Zionism there has not been a Palestinian leadership willing to recognize Israel’s right to exist as the national home of the Jewish people. This is the source of the problem, and not what is called the occupied territories since ’67. The opposition to Zionism began before we liberated Judea, Samaria and Gaza; before we established a state.

On the issue of settlements:

Israel’s critics say enlarging settlements helps Palestinian extremists and ruins any efforts to get the Palestinians to recognize our right to be here.

The prime minister said before the elections he was willing to accept the commitments of the previous government, among them the understanding between [George] Bush and [Ariel] Sharon, that no new settlements would be built in Judea and Samaria, and that construction in the settlements would be allowed [to enable] normal life, not exactly natural growth. That was the understanding, and construction continued through the Olmert and Sharon governments.

More than that, [Netanyahu] said we accept our commitment regarding dismantling 23 outposts that were defined by the Sharon government as illegal. He accepted that, until it became clear that the US administration does not accept the commitments of the previous administration.

Secondly, we completely reject the argument that the settlements are the reason there is no peace. I think Arafat was willing to go to Oslo because of the settlements. When he saw the [massive Russian] aliya, and the settlements, he thought he was going to lose everything.

But if we are talking about coexistence and peace, why the insistence that the territory they receive be ethnically cleansed of Jews? Why do those areas have to be Judenrein? Don’t Arabs live here, in the Negev and Galilee? Why isn’t that part of our public discussion? Why doesn’t that scream to the heavens?

In order for there to a proper prognosis, you need a proper diagnosis. We are arguing, and not only with them, but with the Israeli Left, about what is the root of the problem. Part of the issue, which influences the US and European positions, is our internal confusion.

I also used to think the solution was land for peace, until I became the head of military intelligence, saw things from up close and my thinking underwent an evolution.

And on the American role in thwarting Iran’s nuclear ambitions:

Which leaders today are the most determined regarding Iran?

We see France today demonstrating the right policies, and Britain. They understand the enormity of the challenge.

Does Obama?

Something has happened here that we haven’t seen in the past. Previously the US led the aggressive line. Today, as I said, the president of France and prime minister of Britain are leading a more aggressive line than the president of the US. And then you have Germany and Italy, who join up with the American position.

I don’t think there is an actor in the world who wants to see a nuclear Iran.

There is much more of interest, including his take on the potential for an  imposed settlement. (“If someone really thinks they can impose peace just like that, then they are detached from reality.”) What is most noteworthy is the candor with which the disdain for the American administration comes through. It seems the Israelis have at least adopted one of Obama’s suggestions — be more “honest” in public and in private.

It’s incumbent on the American Jewish community now to do likewise. It is a time to make clear whether it intends to shuffle along, meekly accepting the administration’s inertness on Iran and its ferocity toward our democratic ally.

Read Less

The Error-Ridden Obama Middle East Policy

In a must-read analysis of the Obami assault on Israel, Elliott Abrams writes:

Since the Oslo Accords of 1993, 17 years of efforts under three American presidents and six Israeli prime ministers have taught five clear lessons. Each of them is being ignored by President Obama, which is why his own particular “peace process” has so greatly harmed real efforts at peace. Today the only factor uniting Palestinian, Israeli, and Arab leaders is distrust of the quality, sagacity, and reliability of American leadership in the region.

The lessons Abrams enumerates suggest that we are in for a dangerous and destabilizing period in which the U.S.-Israeli alliance is torn asunder. First in the list of grievous errors: rather than provide Israel with security and reassurance, the Obami are out to bludgeon the Jewish state to cough up concessions:

During the George W. Bush years, the leader of the Israeli right, Ariel Sharon, decided to abandon the idea of a “Greater Israel,” impose constraints on settlement construction in the West Bank (no new settlements, no outward expansion of settlement territory), and remove every settlement in Gaza and four small ones in the West Bank. His closest advisers say all of this was possible for him only in the context of unwavering American support for Israel’s security steps—including the targeting and killing of Hamas terrorists and the refusal to deal with a terrorist leader like Arafat. What was the turning point for Sharon? Bush’s June 24, 2002, speech, where he abandoned Arafat, denounced Palestinian terrorism, and said thorough reforms were the only possible basis for Palestinian statehood. Reassured, Sharon began to act.

Contrast this with the Obama administration, where Israel has been “condemned”—the toughest word in the diplomatic dictionary—for a housing project.

Second, the Obami have failed to hold the Palestinians accountable for their own behavior or make any demands that one would ordinarily place on a party to a negotiation:

Had there been early and regular insistence that incitement end, the Mughrabi incident would never have taken place. The price for such negligence is being paid in both Israeli and Palestinian society: Every such action and every vicious broadcast helps persuade Israelis that Palestinians do not truly seek peace and helps raise a new generation of Palestinians who see Jews as enemies to hate, not neighbors with whom to reach an accommodation. This infantilization of Palestinian society, moreover, moves it further from the responsibilities of statehood, for it holds harmless the most destructive elements of West Bank life and suggests that standards of decency are not necessarily part of progress toward “peace.”

Coupled with these errors is the inordinate fixation on the Palestinian conflict, as the Iran menace goes unchecked. (“Arab leaders want to know what we will do to stop Iran; they want to know if their ally in Washington is going to be the top power in the region. Israelis wonder where the “uh oh, this will make Islamic extremists angry” argument stops. Does anyone think al-Qaeda or the Taliban would be mollified by a settlement freeze?”) And then we see the obsession with what has surely become a counterproductive peace process: “First, it means we care more about getting Syria, Egypt, or others to endorse some negotiating plan than we do about their own internal situations. . . . Second, we use all our chips for the negotiating sessions, instead of applying them to the hard work of nation building. We ask Arab states to reach out to Israel (which they will not do) when we should be demanding that they reach out to the Palestinians (which they might).”

In assessing all of this, one can’t but conclude that the errors are too fundamental and too serious to be easily reversed. It is not as if the problem were a stray comment or a clumsy encounter or one misguided adviser. It is rather the confluence of all of the bad judgments and ill-conceived ideas, which Abrams sets forth, surely held near and dear by the president himself, that have brought about the current crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations. The fixation on fruitless peace processing is not unique to the Obama administration, but has become a far more dangerous endeavor in combination with the Obami’s infatuation with the Palestinian bargaining stance and their determination to muscle Israel into concessions. It’s one thing to have fruitless talks in which the Israelis need not fear the American interlocutors; it’s quite another to be dragged to the table fearing that the Obami have in a very real sense bought into the Palestinian victimology and have become their agent rather than the proverbial “honest broker.”

The results of the Obami’s error-ridden approach are becoming apparent with each passing day: more international attacks on the legitimacy of the Jewish state and its right to self defense (Obama does it, why shouldn’t they?), the reinforcement of the Palestinian rejectionist mentality, and the looming danger of a nuclear-armed Iran, to which the U.S. has no serious response. The Obami are not simply placing Israel at risk; they are marginalizing the U.S. as a bulwark against the terror-sponsoring states of Iran and Syria and against despotic regimes far from the Middle East (they too are watching the Obami’s conduct and drawing lessons). And along the way, we have forfeited that credibility which Clinton told AIPAC the U.S. was so concerned about.

What must friends and foes think, after all, when we abandon our ally, when we ignore violent provocations, when we water down to thin gruel any response to the mullahs, and when we ignore the human-rights atrocities throughout the Muslim World? They see, sadly, the reality of the Obama White House — an administration that is frittering away America’s standing in the world and fast losing its reputation as a defender of democracy, human rights, and freedom. Israel is the immediate victim, but the entire world will become more dangerous and less free as a result.

In a must-read analysis of the Obami assault on Israel, Elliott Abrams writes:

Since the Oslo Accords of 1993, 17 years of efforts under three American presidents and six Israeli prime ministers have taught five clear lessons. Each of them is being ignored by President Obama, which is why his own particular “peace process” has so greatly harmed real efforts at peace. Today the only factor uniting Palestinian, Israeli, and Arab leaders is distrust of the quality, sagacity, and reliability of American leadership in the region.

The lessons Abrams enumerates suggest that we are in for a dangerous and destabilizing period in which the U.S.-Israeli alliance is torn asunder. First in the list of grievous errors: rather than provide Israel with security and reassurance, the Obami are out to bludgeon the Jewish state to cough up concessions:

During the George W. Bush years, the leader of the Israeli right, Ariel Sharon, decided to abandon the idea of a “Greater Israel,” impose constraints on settlement construction in the West Bank (no new settlements, no outward expansion of settlement territory), and remove every settlement in Gaza and four small ones in the West Bank. His closest advisers say all of this was possible for him only in the context of unwavering American support for Israel’s security steps—including the targeting and killing of Hamas terrorists and the refusal to deal with a terrorist leader like Arafat. What was the turning point for Sharon? Bush’s June 24, 2002, speech, where he abandoned Arafat, denounced Palestinian terrorism, and said thorough reforms were the only possible basis for Palestinian statehood. Reassured, Sharon began to act.

Contrast this with the Obama administration, where Israel has been “condemned”—the toughest word in the diplomatic dictionary—for a housing project.

Second, the Obami have failed to hold the Palestinians accountable for their own behavior or make any demands that one would ordinarily place on a party to a negotiation:

Had there been early and regular insistence that incitement end, the Mughrabi incident would never have taken place. The price for such negligence is being paid in both Israeli and Palestinian society: Every such action and every vicious broadcast helps persuade Israelis that Palestinians do not truly seek peace and helps raise a new generation of Palestinians who see Jews as enemies to hate, not neighbors with whom to reach an accommodation. This infantilization of Palestinian society, moreover, moves it further from the responsibilities of statehood, for it holds harmless the most destructive elements of West Bank life and suggests that standards of decency are not necessarily part of progress toward “peace.”

Coupled with these errors is the inordinate fixation on the Palestinian conflict, as the Iran menace goes unchecked. (“Arab leaders want to know what we will do to stop Iran; they want to know if their ally in Washington is going to be the top power in the region. Israelis wonder where the “uh oh, this will make Islamic extremists angry” argument stops. Does anyone think al-Qaeda or the Taliban would be mollified by a settlement freeze?”) And then we see the obsession with what has surely become a counterproductive peace process: “First, it means we care more about getting Syria, Egypt, or others to endorse some negotiating plan than we do about their own internal situations. . . . Second, we use all our chips for the negotiating sessions, instead of applying them to the hard work of nation building. We ask Arab states to reach out to Israel (which they will not do) when we should be demanding that they reach out to the Palestinians (which they might).”

In assessing all of this, one can’t but conclude that the errors are too fundamental and too serious to be easily reversed. It is not as if the problem were a stray comment or a clumsy encounter or one misguided adviser. It is rather the confluence of all of the bad judgments and ill-conceived ideas, which Abrams sets forth, surely held near and dear by the president himself, that have brought about the current crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations. The fixation on fruitless peace processing is not unique to the Obama administration, but has become a far more dangerous endeavor in combination with the Obami’s infatuation with the Palestinian bargaining stance and their determination to muscle Israel into concessions. It’s one thing to have fruitless talks in which the Israelis need not fear the American interlocutors; it’s quite another to be dragged to the table fearing that the Obami have in a very real sense bought into the Palestinian victimology and have become their agent rather than the proverbial “honest broker.”

The results of the Obami’s error-ridden approach are becoming apparent with each passing day: more international attacks on the legitimacy of the Jewish state and its right to self defense (Obama does it, why shouldn’t they?), the reinforcement of the Palestinian rejectionist mentality, and the looming danger of a nuclear-armed Iran, to which the U.S. has no serious response. The Obami are not simply placing Israel at risk; they are marginalizing the U.S. as a bulwark against the terror-sponsoring states of Iran and Syria and against despotic regimes far from the Middle East (they too are watching the Obami’s conduct and drawing lessons). And along the way, we have forfeited that credibility which Clinton told AIPAC the U.S. was so concerned about.

What must friends and foes think, after all, when we abandon our ally, when we ignore violent provocations, when we water down to thin gruel any response to the mullahs, and when we ignore the human-rights atrocities throughout the Muslim World? They see, sadly, the reality of the Obama White House — an administration that is frittering away America’s standing in the world and fast losing its reputation as a defender of democracy, human rights, and freedom. Israel is the immediate victim, but the entire world will become more dangerous and less free as a result.

Read Less

Jerusalem: It’s All in the Timing

The New York Times has taken the plunge. In a report today about the Israeli government’s decision to build 1,600 housing units in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood — which, like most of Jerusalem, lies across the “Green Line” separating pre- and post-1967 territory, the NYT headline proudly refers to the “new settlements” that are, according to another NYT headline about the responses to the declaration, “clouding” the visit of Vice President Biden to the Middle East, who had arrived to announce the renewal of indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinians. An earlier version of the piece, which has since been edited, described Jerusalem as home to “thousands of settlers.” This whole terminology is fairly new, but we can hardly blame the Times. It is, after all, the official position of the U.S. government.

Netanyahu is denying that he knew of the decision, and the NYT piece takes him at his word. Many commentators in Israel are not so quick to believe it, seeing in his denial a classic Bibi move to fake Left, go Right, deny and obfuscate whenever it serves his purposes. Assuming he really did know about the decision, why did he do it? And if he didn’t, why doesn’t he intervene to stop it?

The NYT puts the blame on his coalition partners: ”when he formed his coalition a year ago,” we are told, “he joined forces with several right-wing parties, and has since found it hard to keep them in line.” This is, of course, a bizarre distortion: Netanyahu chose his coalition partners as a product of their strength, which in turn reflects what the voters actually wanted on issues like these. It’s also a distortion because the left-wing Labor party, which is in the coalition, doesn’t seem to be pulling out any time soon. And it’s a distortion because the Kadima party, the leading opposition party and the only alternative to Netanyahu’s coalition partners, was founded on a platform that included the indivisibility of Jerusalem.

What Netanyahu knows, and Biden apparently does not, is that the vast majority of Israelis, including those who favor a land-for-peace deal with the Palestinians, do not, and will never, look at Jerusalem as a settlement or at residents of its neighborhoods as “settlers.” We can fully understand why Biden might have thought the move to be “precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now.” At a time when he’s trying to show the American public that he and the president are capable of bringing a new era of peace in the region, such an announcement certainly does not make his job easier. But unlike the U.S., Israel is an actual party to the negotiations and has a right to draw red lines. One such line that must not be crossed is undoing the unification of Jerusalem that happened in 1967 and that still captures the imagination and commitment of both the great majority of Israelis and a very large number of Diaspora Jews. Jerusalem is home to more than 700,000 citizens, of whom two-thirds are Jews. It has granted far greater and more liberal access to non-Jews worshiping at its shrines than the Palestinians have ever done with regard to Jewish (and Christian) freedom in the territories it controls. This is a great deal to ask in time of ongoing war.

One of the worst things about the Oslo Accords was the logic that said, “Let’s take care of the easy things first, and wait on the hard issues until later.” And so, while the Palestinians were allowed to create a heavily armed, ideologically belligerent, terror-supporting government in the territories Israel vacated, Israel gained nothing in terms of security, while the “hard issues” like Jerusalem and the repatriation of millions of Palestinians remained up in the air, not as questions to be resolved, but as threats hanging over Israelis’ heads: You can give us these, and face demographic and symbolic decimation; or you can refuse, and face a renewal of violence. When it became clear to Arafat that Israel had no intention of giving in on these core issues, all the “trust” that had been built was suddenly meaningless. He launched the second intifada, and the rest is too well known.

In making the move on Jerusalem, the Israeli government is trying to avoid the ambiguities that were the undoing of Oslo. Anyone hoping for a successful negotiation leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, they are saying, had better forget about the division of Jerusalem. Sometimes, it’s the timing that drives the point home.

The New York Times has taken the plunge. In a report today about the Israeli government’s decision to build 1,600 housing units in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood — which, like most of Jerusalem, lies across the “Green Line” separating pre- and post-1967 territory, the NYT headline proudly refers to the “new settlements” that are, according to another NYT headline about the responses to the declaration, “clouding” the visit of Vice President Biden to the Middle East, who had arrived to announce the renewal of indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinians. An earlier version of the piece, which has since been edited, described Jerusalem as home to “thousands of settlers.” This whole terminology is fairly new, but we can hardly blame the Times. It is, after all, the official position of the U.S. government.

Netanyahu is denying that he knew of the decision, and the NYT piece takes him at his word. Many commentators in Israel are not so quick to believe it, seeing in his denial a classic Bibi move to fake Left, go Right, deny and obfuscate whenever it serves his purposes. Assuming he really did know about the decision, why did he do it? And if he didn’t, why doesn’t he intervene to stop it?

The NYT puts the blame on his coalition partners: ”when he formed his coalition a year ago,” we are told, “he joined forces with several right-wing parties, and has since found it hard to keep them in line.” This is, of course, a bizarre distortion: Netanyahu chose his coalition partners as a product of their strength, which in turn reflects what the voters actually wanted on issues like these. It’s also a distortion because the left-wing Labor party, which is in the coalition, doesn’t seem to be pulling out any time soon. And it’s a distortion because the Kadima party, the leading opposition party and the only alternative to Netanyahu’s coalition partners, was founded on a platform that included the indivisibility of Jerusalem.

What Netanyahu knows, and Biden apparently does not, is that the vast majority of Israelis, including those who favor a land-for-peace deal with the Palestinians, do not, and will never, look at Jerusalem as a settlement or at residents of its neighborhoods as “settlers.” We can fully understand why Biden might have thought the move to be “precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now.” At a time when he’s trying to show the American public that he and the president are capable of bringing a new era of peace in the region, such an announcement certainly does not make his job easier. But unlike the U.S., Israel is an actual party to the negotiations and has a right to draw red lines. One such line that must not be crossed is undoing the unification of Jerusalem that happened in 1967 and that still captures the imagination and commitment of both the great majority of Israelis and a very large number of Diaspora Jews. Jerusalem is home to more than 700,000 citizens, of whom two-thirds are Jews. It has granted far greater and more liberal access to non-Jews worshiping at its shrines than the Palestinians have ever done with regard to Jewish (and Christian) freedom in the territories it controls. This is a great deal to ask in time of ongoing war.

One of the worst things about the Oslo Accords was the logic that said, “Let’s take care of the easy things first, and wait on the hard issues until later.” And so, while the Palestinians were allowed to create a heavily armed, ideologically belligerent, terror-supporting government in the territories Israel vacated, Israel gained nothing in terms of security, while the “hard issues” like Jerusalem and the repatriation of millions of Palestinians remained up in the air, not as questions to be resolved, but as threats hanging over Israelis’ heads: You can give us these, and face demographic and symbolic decimation; or you can refuse, and face a renewal of violence. When it became clear to Arafat that Israel had no intention of giving in on these core issues, all the “trust” that had been built was suddenly meaningless. He launched the second intifada, and the rest is too well known.

In making the move on Jerusalem, the Israeli government is trying to avoid the ambiguities that were the undoing of Oslo. Anyone hoping for a successful negotiation leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, they are saying, had better forget about the division of Jerusalem. Sometimes, it’s the timing that drives the point home.

Read Less

J Street’s Agenda Remains Irrelevant to Middle East Realities

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, threw the left-wing lobby J Street a few bones in an interview last week. JTA quotes Oren as telling a California Jewish newspaper that the “J Street controversy has come a long way toward resolving. The major concern with J Street was their position on security issues, not the peace process. J Street has now come and supported Congressman [Howard] Berman’s Iran sanction bill; it has condemned the Goldstone report; it has denounced the British court’s decision to try Tzipi Livni for war crimes, which puts J Street much more into the mainstream.”

By refusing to appear at J Street’s conference last fall and saying that its views on Israel were “dangerous,” Oren demonstrated Israel’s impatience with a lobby whose agenda was solely focused on instigating pressure on Israel from the Obama administration while foiling pressure on Iran. It’s understandable that Oren would attempt to reward some moderation in their stands. His priority is to aid the assembly of the largest possible coalition of support for Israel, not to punish those whose efforts are, at best, less than helpful. However, to the extent that J Street is trying to behave like a mainstream organization — an assumption that is certainly open to debate — this change reflects two important factors.

First is the complete irrelevance of J Street’s main idea: that there is a need for a Jewish lobby whose purpose is to push Washington to push Israel to make peace. As the events of the last year continue to prove, the obstacle to peace remains the Palestinians and their political culture of violence and hatred for Israel. As much as the Jewish Left has gained in the United States during the Obama presidency, the Left in Israel is as close to dead as it can be. That’s because the overwhelming majority of Israelis understand that after Oslo’s false promises, Arafat’s refusal of a state in the West Bank and Jerusalem in 2000 and 2001, and Mahmoud Abbas’s refusal of an even more generous offer in 2008, the Palestinian nationalist movement Fatah has proved it is not interested in a state as long as that state must live in peace alongside Israel. That the even more extreme Hamas terrorist movement controls Gaza and might expand someday into the West Bank if Israel abandons its security presence there has rendered the idea of further concessions and withdrawals absurd. This is a political reality that no amount of pressure from either Obama or the American Left can alter.

But just as the Obama administration may be backing off its initial desire to push Israel into a corner, its Jewish cheering section at J Street may be starting to see that its initial extreme positions, such as opposing Israel’s counteroffensive into Gaza last year (an operation that had wall-to-wall political support in Israel), were a disaster. For all the controversy in the American Jewish community about whether J Street is “pro” or “anti” Israel, the bottom line is that J Street’s platform is simply irrelevant to the situation that Israel actually faces.

But J Street’s real purpose was never so much about influencing the peace process as it was a reflection of the desire on the part of the American Jewish Left to challenge mainstream groups for influence here, not at the peace table in the Middle East. J Street’s agenda is about American politics, not peace. But though most American Jews remain loyal liberal Democrats, the idea that a new group was needed to push for more Israeli concessions after all that has happened in the past two decades is ludicrous. The issue for American friends of Israel today is whether they are prepared to speak up for the existence of the Jewish state and its right of self-defense, not the stale old Left-Right arguments that have been rehearsed again and again in the past quarter century. If J Street wants to be anything more than the Jewish rump of Moveon.org, it must do things like support sanctions on Iran and back Israel’s right to self-defense. These are positions that undermine the entire reason for the group’s founding. But whether they can stay on this path — and I doubt it — this pat on the head from Israel’s ambassador reflects the fact that it has failed to muster support for an extreme agenda that it must either downplay or abandon.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, threw the left-wing lobby J Street a few bones in an interview last week. JTA quotes Oren as telling a California Jewish newspaper that the “J Street controversy has come a long way toward resolving. The major concern with J Street was their position on security issues, not the peace process. J Street has now come and supported Congressman [Howard] Berman’s Iran sanction bill; it has condemned the Goldstone report; it has denounced the British court’s decision to try Tzipi Livni for war crimes, which puts J Street much more into the mainstream.”

By refusing to appear at J Street’s conference last fall and saying that its views on Israel were “dangerous,” Oren demonstrated Israel’s impatience with a lobby whose agenda was solely focused on instigating pressure on Israel from the Obama administration while foiling pressure on Iran. It’s understandable that Oren would attempt to reward some moderation in their stands. His priority is to aid the assembly of the largest possible coalition of support for Israel, not to punish those whose efforts are, at best, less than helpful. However, to the extent that J Street is trying to behave like a mainstream organization — an assumption that is certainly open to debate — this change reflects two important factors.

First is the complete irrelevance of J Street’s main idea: that there is a need for a Jewish lobby whose purpose is to push Washington to push Israel to make peace. As the events of the last year continue to prove, the obstacle to peace remains the Palestinians and their political culture of violence and hatred for Israel. As much as the Jewish Left has gained in the United States during the Obama presidency, the Left in Israel is as close to dead as it can be. That’s because the overwhelming majority of Israelis understand that after Oslo’s false promises, Arafat’s refusal of a state in the West Bank and Jerusalem in 2000 and 2001, and Mahmoud Abbas’s refusal of an even more generous offer in 2008, the Palestinian nationalist movement Fatah has proved it is not interested in a state as long as that state must live in peace alongside Israel. That the even more extreme Hamas terrorist movement controls Gaza and might expand someday into the West Bank if Israel abandons its security presence there has rendered the idea of further concessions and withdrawals absurd. This is a political reality that no amount of pressure from either Obama or the American Left can alter.

But just as the Obama administration may be backing off its initial desire to push Israel into a corner, its Jewish cheering section at J Street may be starting to see that its initial extreme positions, such as opposing Israel’s counteroffensive into Gaza last year (an operation that had wall-to-wall political support in Israel), were a disaster. For all the controversy in the American Jewish community about whether J Street is “pro” or “anti” Israel, the bottom line is that J Street’s platform is simply irrelevant to the situation that Israel actually faces.

But J Street’s real purpose was never so much about influencing the peace process as it was a reflection of the desire on the part of the American Jewish Left to challenge mainstream groups for influence here, not at the peace table in the Middle East. J Street’s agenda is about American politics, not peace. But though most American Jews remain loyal liberal Democrats, the idea that a new group was needed to push for more Israeli concessions after all that has happened in the past two decades is ludicrous. The issue for American friends of Israel today is whether they are prepared to speak up for the existence of the Jewish state and its right of self-defense, not the stale old Left-Right arguments that have been rehearsed again and again in the past quarter century. If J Street wants to be anything more than the Jewish rump of Moveon.org, it must do things like support sanctions on Iran and back Israel’s right to self-defense. These are positions that undermine the entire reason for the group’s founding. But whether they can stay on this path — and I doubt it — this pat on the head from Israel’s ambassador reflects the fact that it has failed to muster support for an extreme agenda that it must either downplay or abandon.

Read Less

Undeserved Hosannas

* “Kill the Jews wherever you find them. Kill them with your arms, with your hands, with your nails and teeth.”

* “After we perform our duty in liberating the West Bank and Jerusalem, our national duty is to liberate all the Arab territories.”

* “The removal of the Israeli occupation from our occupied land, Palestine, is the first and basic condition for just peace. … The Islamic nation and just believers in any religion or creed will not accept the situation of the … cradle of prophets and divine messages being captive of Zionist occupation.”

Quick — name the Jew hater or vicious enemy of Israel capable of spouting such venom. Arafat? Khadaffi? Ahmadinejad? Actually, the speaker in all three cases was everyone’s favorite Arab moderate, the late King Hussein of Jordan (on, respectively, Radio Amman, June 6, 1967; Radio Amman, Dec. 1, 1973; and Amman Domestic Service, July 11, 1988).

I have this little calendar that lists the names of prominent people who died or were born on each specific date. Seeing that the anniversary of Hussein’s death (Feb. 7, 1999) is upon us brought to mind both the decades of duplicity that defined the king’s life until almost the very end and the Hosannas that have been coming his way for the past 11 years. (The trend continued in two recent, largely positive, biographies.)

So desperate are we for any sign of non-fanaticism on the part of an Arab leader, we seem to gladly downplay or overlook the negative and play up the positive, with little regard for historical truth or future implications.

The floodgates of Hussein revisionism were opened immediately upon his passing. Typical was a sugary tribute from columnist Richard Chesnoff, in the New York Daily News:

Now this great son of the desert is gone, and all the children of Abraham weep. We will sorely miss this brave brother of ours.

Also typical of the distortions by a media intent on canonizing the king was the assertion by New York Times foreign-affairs sage Thomas Friedman that Hussein “talked himself out of the 1973 war.”

While it’s true Hussein was considerably less enthusiastic about going to war in ’73 than he’d been in ’67 — losing a large chunk of your kingdom will do that to you — he was far from a passive bystander.

As noted out in the indispensable Myths and Facts, published by Near East Report, Hussein sent “two of his best units — the 40th and 60th armored brigades — to Syria. This force took positions in the southern sector, defending the main Amman-Damascus route and attacking Israeli positions along the Kuneitra-Sassa road on October 16. Three Jordanian artillery batteries also participated in the assault, carried out by nearly 100 tanks.”

Nearly forgotten in the rush to sanctify Hussein was the scorn that had come his way over the years for such behavior as his constant double-dealing in his relations with Israel, the U.S., and his fellow Arabs; his permitting the desecration of Jewish holy places when Jordan had possession of East Jerusalem (gravestones of Jews were used as latrines in army camps and dozens of synagogues were demolished or turned into stables and chicken coops); and his support of Saddam Hussein during the 1991 Gulf War, coupled with his circumvention of the U.S.-led blockade of Iraq.

By all indications, the elder-statesman persona adopted by King Hussein in the final years of his life was genuine, and even before then, he was the lesser of evils when compared with other Arab leaders. But to trumpet him as something of a historical giant or visionary is to drain those words of any real meaning and lower the bar for what should constitute forthright and reliable Arab leadership.

* “Kill the Jews wherever you find them. Kill them with your arms, with your hands, with your nails and teeth.”

* “After we perform our duty in liberating the West Bank and Jerusalem, our national duty is to liberate all the Arab territories.”

* “The removal of the Israeli occupation from our occupied land, Palestine, is the first and basic condition for just peace. … The Islamic nation and just believers in any religion or creed will not accept the situation of the … cradle of prophets and divine messages being captive of Zionist occupation.”

Quick — name the Jew hater or vicious enemy of Israel capable of spouting such venom. Arafat? Khadaffi? Ahmadinejad? Actually, the speaker in all three cases was everyone’s favorite Arab moderate, the late King Hussein of Jordan (on, respectively, Radio Amman, June 6, 1967; Radio Amman, Dec. 1, 1973; and Amman Domestic Service, July 11, 1988).

I have this little calendar that lists the names of prominent people who died or were born on each specific date. Seeing that the anniversary of Hussein’s death (Feb. 7, 1999) is upon us brought to mind both the decades of duplicity that defined the king’s life until almost the very end and the Hosannas that have been coming his way for the past 11 years. (The trend continued in two recent, largely positive, biographies.)

So desperate are we for any sign of non-fanaticism on the part of an Arab leader, we seem to gladly downplay or overlook the negative and play up the positive, with little regard for historical truth or future implications.

The floodgates of Hussein revisionism were opened immediately upon his passing. Typical was a sugary tribute from columnist Richard Chesnoff, in the New York Daily News:

Now this great son of the desert is gone, and all the children of Abraham weep. We will sorely miss this brave brother of ours.

Also typical of the distortions by a media intent on canonizing the king was the assertion by New York Times foreign-affairs sage Thomas Friedman that Hussein “talked himself out of the 1973 war.”

While it’s true Hussein was considerably less enthusiastic about going to war in ’73 than he’d been in ’67 — losing a large chunk of your kingdom will do that to you — he was far from a passive bystander.

As noted out in the indispensable Myths and Facts, published by Near East Report, Hussein sent “two of his best units — the 40th and 60th armored brigades — to Syria. This force took positions in the southern sector, defending the main Amman-Damascus route and attacking Israeli positions along the Kuneitra-Sassa road on October 16. Three Jordanian artillery batteries also participated in the assault, carried out by nearly 100 tanks.”

Nearly forgotten in the rush to sanctify Hussein was the scorn that had come his way over the years for such behavior as his constant double-dealing in his relations with Israel, the U.S., and his fellow Arabs; his permitting the desecration of Jewish holy places when Jordan had possession of East Jerusalem (gravestones of Jews were used as latrines in army camps and dozens of synagogues were demolished or turned into stables and chicken coops); and his support of Saddam Hussein during the 1991 Gulf War, coupled with his circumvention of the U.S.-led blockade of Iraq.

By all indications, the elder-statesman persona adopted by King Hussein in the final years of his life was genuine, and even before then, he was the lesser of evils when compared with other Arab leaders. But to trumpet him as something of a historical giant or visionary is to drain those words of any real meaning and lower the bar for what should constitute forthright and reliable Arab leadership.

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Re: Obama, the Overmatched President

Pete, the whining is a bit much to take, isn’t it? But it is not uncommon and seems to be a sort of rhetorical tic employed by many Democratic presidents. They seem to think we should be impressed because they work hard or think deeply about the things they are elected to handle. Remember Bill Clinton reminding us about how hard he worked and about all the late-night meetings? Obama and his spinners also liked to regale us with tales about his endless, soul-searching Afghanistan seminars. They imagine the public is going to give them credit simply for working at a job they were elected to perform.

And they seem to think the public will be impressed because they have a command of minutiae. Obama knows how many troops we should have in each and every Afghan province! Clinton knew the maps and relative population figures for Palestinians and Israelis better than the two sides! Seriously, none of that matters. The minutiae are going to change with the first contact with reality. (Gen. Stanley McChrystal is going to put the troops where they need to go, so long as the White House doesn’t micromanage the battle.) And if the president gets the big things wrong (e.g., supposing Arafat wanted a peace deal, setting up a withdrawal deadline that freaks out our allies and emboldens our foes), none of the small stuff matters.

So why do these Democratic presidents do it? It is the triumph they imagine of intentions over results. And it is a huge act of ego — the hubris of believing that they should be applauded for being so diligent rather than be judged on the results they achieve.

Pete, the whining is a bit much to take, isn’t it? But it is not uncommon and seems to be a sort of rhetorical tic employed by many Democratic presidents. They seem to think we should be impressed because they work hard or think deeply about the things they are elected to handle. Remember Bill Clinton reminding us about how hard he worked and about all the late-night meetings? Obama and his spinners also liked to regale us with tales about his endless, soul-searching Afghanistan seminars. They imagine the public is going to give them credit simply for working at a job they were elected to perform.

And they seem to think the public will be impressed because they have a command of minutiae. Obama knows how many troops we should have in each and every Afghan province! Clinton knew the maps and relative population figures for Palestinians and Israelis better than the two sides! Seriously, none of that matters. The minutiae are going to change with the first contact with reality. (Gen. Stanley McChrystal is going to put the troops where they need to go, so long as the White House doesn’t micromanage the battle.) And if the president gets the big things wrong (e.g., supposing Arafat wanted a peace deal, setting up a withdrawal deadline that freaks out our allies and emboldens our foes), none of the small stuff matters.

So why do these Democratic presidents do it? It is the triumph they imagine of intentions over results. And it is a huge act of ego — the hubris of believing that they should be applauded for being so diligent rather than be judged on the results they achieve.

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The Meaning of Palestinian Politics

Over at the New Republic, Steven A. Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations speaks a few truths about Palestinian politics that aren’t often mentioned. His “The Third Intifada” discusses the likelihood of the current diplomatic standoff between Israel and the Palestinians resulting in a new round of violence. But rather than going the route of conventional wisdom and blaming it all on the hard-hearted Israelis, who won’t make enough concessions to appease their antagonists, Cook goes straight to the heart of Palestinian political culture when he notes that, as in the not-so-distant past, their leaders will resort to bloodshed as a way out of the corner into which they have painted themselves and as a means to bolster their credibility with constituencies that seem only to respect violence.

Another intifada makes no sense for the Palestinians. Another campaign of attacks on Israeli targets has little chance of success and it would, without doubt, cost far more Palestinian than Israeli lives. It would also ruin, as the first and second intifadas did, the economic progress Palestinians have made in recent years and inflict a new round of misery on them. But, as Cook points out, none of that will matter because “if history is any guide, the Palestinian leadership of the West Bank — whether it includes Mahmoud Abbas or not — may again look to a violence to improve its sagging domestic popularity. Throughout contemporary Palestinian history, spilling Israeli blood has often been the best way for competing political factions to burnish their nationalist credentials.”

In an important point often overlooked by apologists for Abbas, Cook also believes that “faith” in the ability or willingness of the new Palestinian Authority security forces to stop anti-Israel terror in the future “seems misguided.” Those forces have been the subject of much positive comment from both Jerusalem and Washington, but Cook understands that in order to maintain their credibility among Palestinians these units will have to turn their guns on their erstwhile Israeli partners if push comes to shove. Since this is exactly what happened in 2000 when the second intifada broke out — when Palestinian policeman who had also received U.S. training joined mobs attacking Israeli positions rather than try to restrain them — why should anyone doubt that another intifada will produce the same result?

But lest anyone conclude that the only alternative to another intifada is a more forthcoming Israeli negotiating position, it is important to remember a few points that go unmentioned in Cook’s article. Far from a lack of diplomatic progress providing a spur to Palestinian violence, it is the Palestinian leadership’s unwillingness to make peace that is the root cause of the problem. Having rejected a state in the West Bank and Gaza in exchange for recognizing Israel’s legitimacy both in 2000 and 2008, it is more than obvious that their real fear doesn’t stem from the unlikelihood of peace but rather from the certainty of a deal if they should actually seriously pursue one. Though Barack Obama gave them a new excuse for dragging their feet this year by trying to make a settlement freeze a precondition for talks, Abbas must follow Arafat’s precedent and choose war over peace because anything less would result in his destruction.

Whether or not Israelis build new homes in their own capital, a point that Cook wrongly acknowledges as a seeming justification for Palestinian unhappiness, rejection of Israel’s existence and belief in the inherent legitimacy of anti-Israel violence is still the core of Palestinian political identity. Unless and until that changes, all we can expect is an endless stream of intifadas undertaken not out of frustration but as a way to avoid making peace.

Over at the New Republic, Steven A. Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations speaks a few truths about Palestinian politics that aren’t often mentioned. His “The Third Intifada” discusses the likelihood of the current diplomatic standoff between Israel and the Palestinians resulting in a new round of violence. But rather than going the route of conventional wisdom and blaming it all on the hard-hearted Israelis, who won’t make enough concessions to appease their antagonists, Cook goes straight to the heart of Palestinian political culture when he notes that, as in the not-so-distant past, their leaders will resort to bloodshed as a way out of the corner into which they have painted themselves and as a means to bolster their credibility with constituencies that seem only to respect violence.

Another intifada makes no sense for the Palestinians. Another campaign of attacks on Israeli targets has little chance of success and it would, without doubt, cost far more Palestinian than Israeli lives. It would also ruin, as the first and second intifadas did, the economic progress Palestinians have made in recent years and inflict a new round of misery on them. But, as Cook points out, none of that will matter because “if history is any guide, the Palestinian leadership of the West Bank — whether it includes Mahmoud Abbas or not — may again look to a violence to improve its sagging domestic popularity. Throughout contemporary Palestinian history, spilling Israeli blood has often been the best way for competing political factions to burnish their nationalist credentials.”

In an important point often overlooked by apologists for Abbas, Cook also believes that “faith” in the ability or willingness of the new Palestinian Authority security forces to stop anti-Israel terror in the future “seems misguided.” Those forces have been the subject of much positive comment from both Jerusalem and Washington, but Cook understands that in order to maintain their credibility among Palestinians these units will have to turn their guns on their erstwhile Israeli partners if push comes to shove. Since this is exactly what happened in 2000 when the second intifada broke out — when Palestinian policeman who had also received U.S. training joined mobs attacking Israeli positions rather than try to restrain them — why should anyone doubt that another intifada will produce the same result?

But lest anyone conclude that the only alternative to another intifada is a more forthcoming Israeli negotiating position, it is important to remember a few points that go unmentioned in Cook’s article. Far from a lack of diplomatic progress providing a spur to Palestinian violence, it is the Palestinian leadership’s unwillingness to make peace that is the root cause of the problem. Having rejected a state in the West Bank and Gaza in exchange for recognizing Israel’s legitimacy both in 2000 and 2008, it is more than obvious that their real fear doesn’t stem from the unlikelihood of peace but rather from the certainty of a deal if they should actually seriously pursue one. Though Barack Obama gave them a new excuse for dragging their feet this year by trying to make a settlement freeze a precondition for talks, Abbas must follow Arafat’s precedent and choose war over peace because anything less would result in his destruction.

Whether or not Israelis build new homes in their own capital, a point that Cook wrongly acknowledges as a seeming justification for Palestinian unhappiness, rejection of Israel’s existence and belief in the inherent legitimacy of anti-Israel violence is still the core of Palestinian political identity. Unless and until that changes, all we can expect is an endless stream of intifadas undertaken not out of frustration but as a way to avoid making peace.

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Re: In Praise of “Disrespect”

I disagree, Abe. When Muslim publics cite the Western boycott of Hamas in the aftermath of the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections as an example of disrespect, they are correct–but for the wrong reasons. No, it’s not disrespectful for the United States to refuse to deal with Hamas until it meets the basic conditions that one expects from any responsible political party–namely, recognizing Israel, recognizing previously signed agreements, and renouncing terrorism. However, it was profoundly disrespectful-not to mention politically foolish–to outline these conditions only after Hamas won elections that the Bush administration publicly supported as “a key step in the process of building a peaceful, democratic Palestinian state.”

A better strategy would have been to address the Palestinian public directly prior to the elections, explaining the consequences of electing Hamas for U.S.-Palestinian relations. Had this happened, our response to the elections’ outcome would have boosted American credibility, rather than catalyzing rampant charges of disrespect.

Yet, according to a State Department official I spoke with at the time, the administration feared that expressing its views on Palestinian affairs would lead Palestinian voters to retaliate with strong support for Hamas–an outcome that the administration didn’t want to encourage. In turn, the U.S. opted to avoid eye contact with the Palestinians completely, quietly funneling $2 million to the Palestinian Authority for public works expenditures intended to boost Fatah’s popularity. Of course, this approach failed miserably, and the cautious optimism of the previous fourteen months–which developed as a result of Arafat’s death, Abbas’ victory in the January 2005 presidential elections, and Israel’s disengagement from Gaza-immediately mutated into the diplomatic hopelessness that persists today.

Sadly, the wrong lessons have been drawn from this episode-namely, that the U.S. should make amends for its “disrespect” towards the Palestinian electoral outcome by engaging Hamas. This fails to consider the relative value of Muslim public support for the U.S., which pales in comparison to the value of maintaining our policy against engaging terrorist groups diplomatically. But if the ultimate objective is maintaining–and preferably boosting–American credibility, then there is a substantial value-added to communicating directly with the foreign constituents of our policies. At the very least, Muslim publics deserve to be told why we do what we do. They call it respect; I call it public diplomacy.

I disagree, Abe. When Muslim publics cite the Western boycott of Hamas in the aftermath of the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections as an example of disrespect, they are correct–but for the wrong reasons. No, it’s not disrespectful for the United States to refuse to deal with Hamas until it meets the basic conditions that one expects from any responsible political party–namely, recognizing Israel, recognizing previously signed agreements, and renouncing terrorism. However, it was profoundly disrespectful-not to mention politically foolish–to outline these conditions only after Hamas won elections that the Bush administration publicly supported as “a key step in the process of building a peaceful, democratic Palestinian state.”

A better strategy would have been to address the Palestinian public directly prior to the elections, explaining the consequences of electing Hamas for U.S.-Palestinian relations. Had this happened, our response to the elections’ outcome would have boosted American credibility, rather than catalyzing rampant charges of disrespect.

Yet, according to a State Department official I spoke with at the time, the administration feared that expressing its views on Palestinian affairs would lead Palestinian voters to retaliate with strong support for Hamas–an outcome that the administration didn’t want to encourage. In turn, the U.S. opted to avoid eye contact with the Palestinians completely, quietly funneling $2 million to the Palestinian Authority for public works expenditures intended to boost Fatah’s popularity. Of course, this approach failed miserably, and the cautious optimism of the previous fourteen months–which developed as a result of Arafat’s death, Abbas’ victory in the January 2005 presidential elections, and Israel’s disengagement from Gaza-immediately mutated into the diplomatic hopelessness that persists today.

Sadly, the wrong lessons have been drawn from this episode-namely, that the U.S. should make amends for its “disrespect” towards the Palestinian electoral outcome by engaging Hamas. This fails to consider the relative value of Muslim public support for the U.S., which pales in comparison to the value of maintaining our policy against engaging terrorist groups diplomatically. But if the ultimate objective is maintaining–and preferably boosting–American credibility, then there is a substantial value-added to communicating directly with the foreign constituents of our policies. At the very least, Muslim publics deserve to be told why we do what we do. They call it respect; I call it public diplomacy.

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Khalid Meshal’s Doublespeak

Imagine if Barack Obama had been able to control completely the public’s awareness of his relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright. In all likelihood, he would have emphasized this connection to a small segment of the African-American community, and otherwise denounced Wright forcefully when addressing the broader American public. Of course, this was hardly a realistic option: in the United States, such bold attempts at duplicitous crowd-pleasing are quickly exposed, and accusations of hypocrisy often become overwhelming. For Obama, an attempt to reconcile his connection to Wright with his campaign’s unifying claims thus became a necessity.

Yet the rules are substantially different in Palestinian politics, where audience-dependent double-speak—in which mutually exclusive positions are routinely aired to separate constituencies—is a long-cherished art form. Indeed, Yasser Arafat refined this strategy down to a science, saying entirely different things to his Arabic- and English-language audiences. For example, not long after vowing to pursue “coexistence” on the White House lawn during the 1993 signing of the Oslo Accords, Arafat promised a Johannesburg mosque audience, “The jihad will continue!” Through this strategy, Arafat kept western diplomatic and financial support flowing, even while satisfying his Palestinian base and preparing for future war with Israel via the Second Intifada.

Naturally, the double-speak strategy that Arafat employed requires access to both Arabic- and English-speaking audiences, as well as proficiency in English. But for Hamas politburo chief Khalid Meshal, these qualifications are deeply problematic. After all, Meshal generally confines himself to his Damascus headquarters and, if his recent interview with Sky News (a must-watch) is any indicator, his command of English is quite rudimentary.

Well, Meshal has apparently located an alternate strategy for producing effective double-speak: issuing conciliatory statements towards Israel that are withheld from his Palestinian base through Hamas’ press censorship. Indeed, in an interview with the pro-Fatah al-Ayyam, Meshal declared Hamas’ support for a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza—in theory, a major concession considering the Hamas Charter’s call for raising “the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.” Yet Hamas’ political base will never hear of Meshal’s statement, as Hamas has banned al-Ayyam in Gaza for the past fifty days. Even Gaza’s Internet users will be left in the dark: the online edition of al-Ayyam says nothing of Meshal’s openness to a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders, and only carries his statements regarding Palestinian prisoners and failed ceasefire negotiations. As a result, Meshal’s supposed concession carries no political price, and therefore no political significance.

For the time being, there is good news: with the exception of the ever-optimistic Ha’aretz, Meshal’s statements have gone entirely unnoticed in the western press. Let’s hope that this is because the top media outlets have learned from previous experiences with Arafat, and not because they’re stuck in Gaza.

Imagine if Barack Obama had been able to control completely the public’s awareness of his relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright. In all likelihood, he would have emphasized this connection to a small segment of the African-American community, and otherwise denounced Wright forcefully when addressing the broader American public. Of course, this was hardly a realistic option: in the United States, such bold attempts at duplicitous crowd-pleasing are quickly exposed, and accusations of hypocrisy often become overwhelming. For Obama, an attempt to reconcile his connection to Wright with his campaign’s unifying claims thus became a necessity.

Yet the rules are substantially different in Palestinian politics, where audience-dependent double-speak—in which mutually exclusive positions are routinely aired to separate constituencies—is a long-cherished art form. Indeed, Yasser Arafat refined this strategy down to a science, saying entirely different things to his Arabic- and English-language audiences. For example, not long after vowing to pursue “coexistence” on the White House lawn during the 1993 signing of the Oslo Accords, Arafat promised a Johannesburg mosque audience, “The jihad will continue!” Through this strategy, Arafat kept western diplomatic and financial support flowing, even while satisfying his Palestinian base and preparing for future war with Israel via the Second Intifada.

Naturally, the double-speak strategy that Arafat employed requires access to both Arabic- and English-speaking audiences, as well as proficiency in English. But for Hamas politburo chief Khalid Meshal, these qualifications are deeply problematic. After all, Meshal generally confines himself to his Damascus headquarters and, if his recent interview with Sky News (a must-watch) is any indicator, his command of English is quite rudimentary.

Well, Meshal has apparently located an alternate strategy for producing effective double-speak: issuing conciliatory statements towards Israel that are withheld from his Palestinian base through Hamas’ press censorship. Indeed, in an interview with the pro-Fatah al-Ayyam, Meshal declared Hamas’ support for a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza—in theory, a major concession considering the Hamas Charter’s call for raising “the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.” Yet Hamas’ political base will never hear of Meshal’s statement, as Hamas has banned al-Ayyam in Gaza for the past fifty days. Even Gaza’s Internet users will be left in the dark: the online edition of al-Ayyam says nothing of Meshal’s openness to a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders, and only carries his statements regarding Palestinian prisoners and failed ceasefire negotiations. As a result, Meshal’s supposed concession carries no political price, and therefore no political significance.

For the time being, there is good news: with the exception of the ever-optimistic Ha’aretz, Meshal’s statements have gone entirely unnoticed in the western press. Let’s hope that this is because the top media outlets have learned from previous experiences with Arafat, and not because they’re stuck in Gaza.

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Gaza Confidential

The exciting piece of foreign policy reportage to hit the presses this week is David Rose’s account in Vanity Fair of the covert strategy the Bush administration pursued to undermine Hamas after the group came to power in the 2006 Palestinian elections. The administration’s idea was to use an old Fatah security strongman, Muhammad Dahlan, to head up a new security force that would serve two U.S. policy goals: the unification and reform of the byzantine PA security services, and the assemblage of a Fatah force that would be able to put Hamas in its place.

As Rose reports,

A State Department official adds, “Those in charge of implementing the policy were saying, ‘Do whatever it takes. We have to be in a position for Fatah to defeat Hamas militarily, and only Muhammad Dahlan has the guile and the muscle to do this.’ The expectation was that this was where it would end up—with a military showdown.”

As everyone knows by now, there was no military showdown in Gaza — there was a rout of Fatah’s forces by Hamas.

On one level, this story can be filed away as a smaller example of the failure of American state-building among the Palestinians. No matter how many different and creative ways successive American administrations have arranged incentives, disincentives, aid packages, diplomatic agreements, and the like, little is to show for it but Palestinian violence — whether the 2000-2004 terror war that followed Oslo, or Hamas’ rocket war today. Relying on Palestinian strongmen/terrorists has been a disaster (Arafat); relying on Palestinian elections has been a disaster (Hamas); and now we have evidence that an even finer-grained involvement in Palestinian internal affairs — assigning a Palestinian strongman the task of dispatching with a democratically-elected terror group — helped precipitate the Hamas coup in Gaza. More disaster.

On another level, there is something irreconcilable in all of this furious gamesmanship: The Bush administration wishes to promote democratic Palestinian statehood, yet refuses to make an honest assessment of the political ambitions of the Palestinian people. There does not seem to be a great deal of appreciation for the idea that Hamas represents something genuine about the worldview of a large faction of Palestinians — a refusal to accept Israel; a choice of violence over diplomacy; and a desire in governance for the Islamic over the secular. Given this level of self-deceit, it is not surprising that Condi Rice’s skulduggery only served to worsen the situation.

The exciting piece of foreign policy reportage to hit the presses this week is David Rose’s account in Vanity Fair of the covert strategy the Bush administration pursued to undermine Hamas after the group came to power in the 2006 Palestinian elections. The administration’s idea was to use an old Fatah security strongman, Muhammad Dahlan, to head up a new security force that would serve two U.S. policy goals: the unification and reform of the byzantine PA security services, and the assemblage of a Fatah force that would be able to put Hamas in its place.

As Rose reports,

A State Department official adds, “Those in charge of implementing the policy were saying, ‘Do whatever it takes. We have to be in a position for Fatah to defeat Hamas militarily, and only Muhammad Dahlan has the guile and the muscle to do this.’ The expectation was that this was where it would end up—with a military showdown.”

As everyone knows by now, there was no military showdown in Gaza — there was a rout of Fatah’s forces by Hamas.

On one level, this story can be filed away as a smaller example of the failure of American state-building among the Palestinians. No matter how many different and creative ways successive American administrations have arranged incentives, disincentives, aid packages, diplomatic agreements, and the like, little is to show for it but Palestinian violence — whether the 2000-2004 terror war that followed Oslo, or Hamas’ rocket war today. Relying on Palestinian strongmen/terrorists has been a disaster (Arafat); relying on Palestinian elections has been a disaster (Hamas); and now we have evidence that an even finer-grained involvement in Palestinian internal affairs — assigning a Palestinian strongman the task of dispatching with a democratically-elected terror group — helped precipitate the Hamas coup in Gaza. More disaster.

On another level, there is something irreconcilable in all of this furious gamesmanship: The Bush administration wishes to promote democratic Palestinian statehood, yet refuses to make an honest assessment of the political ambitions of the Palestinian people. There does not seem to be a great deal of appreciation for the idea that Hamas represents something genuine about the worldview of a large faction of Palestinians — a refusal to accept Israel; a choice of violence over diplomacy; and a desire in governance for the Islamic over the secular. Given this level of self-deceit, it is not surprising that Condi Rice’s skulduggery only served to worsen the situation.

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Abbas’s Failed Strategy Returns

In the Palestinian political arena, “national unity” is a critical catchphrase, evoking the illusion of collective strength against Israeli occupation. Of course, the reality—which Monty Python beautifully satirized—is that Palestinian politics have been historically fragmented, with the current Hamas-Fatah standoff the most dangerous, deeply divided incarnation yet.

But don’t tell that to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who apparently believes that “national unity” remains within reach. Speaking at an Arab League conference yesterday in Cairo, Abbas called for a new round of elections, declaring, “We are ready to immediately take this step to restore national cohesion.” According to his strategy, elections will provide the “democratic solution” for restoring political legitimacy in the Palestinian territories, and thus provide an opportunity for pursuing Israeli-Palestinian peace along the lines of the “Arab Initiative.”

Yet this strategy has been tried before—and has created immense peril for the Palestinians, as well as Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects. When Abbas won the January 2005 presidential elections with 62.5% of the vote, Hamas—which had boycotted the elections—was at the nadir of its power, with two of its top leaders recently assassinated and Israeli counterterrorism effectively curtailing its capabilities. But rather than using Hamas’ weakness as a pretext for disarmament, Abbas insisted on Hamas’ incorporation through their participation in the January 2006 parliamentary elections, arguing, “by engaging them to solve problems politically, there will be no need to resolve to military conflict.” Naturally, Abbas believed that Hamas would lose, and that the popular repudiation of Hamas’ extremism would force it to moderate. Of course, this didn’t quite pan out: Hamas won, and later used the popular affirmation of its extremism to seize control of Gaza.

Given these realities, it is hard to fathom why Abbas believes that this strategy will work now. Perhaps the pro-Fatah love-fest that greeted Abbas in Cairo—including the Arab League’s announcement that it would establish the Yasser Arafat Foundation in Ramallah—skewed Abbas’ perceptions. Indeed, Fatah will be working at a significant disadvantage if Palestinians return to the polls anytime soon—particularly in Gaza, where the PA-funded al-Ayyam has been banned for the past sixteen days after it published a cartoon mocking Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. Moreover, the prospect of early presidential elections seems particularly inviting of increasing Hamas’ power. After all, Abbas cannot point to any concrete successes in his three-plus years as PA president, while failures abound.

In turn, the likely consequence of early Palestinian elections would be the ultimate achievement of “national unity,” with Hamas likely reclaiming the parliament and winning the presidency. The Bush administration—which has long supported Abbas after judiciously boycotting Arafat—should ask Abbas whether this is the unity he has in mind, warning him that a PA unambiguously dominated by Hamas would jeopardize U.S. support for Palestinian statehood for years to come.

In the Palestinian political arena, “national unity” is a critical catchphrase, evoking the illusion of collective strength against Israeli occupation. Of course, the reality—which Monty Python beautifully satirized—is that Palestinian politics have been historically fragmented, with the current Hamas-Fatah standoff the most dangerous, deeply divided incarnation yet.

But don’t tell that to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who apparently believes that “national unity” remains within reach. Speaking at an Arab League conference yesterday in Cairo, Abbas called for a new round of elections, declaring, “We are ready to immediately take this step to restore national cohesion.” According to his strategy, elections will provide the “democratic solution” for restoring political legitimacy in the Palestinian territories, and thus provide an opportunity for pursuing Israeli-Palestinian peace along the lines of the “Arab Initiative.”

Yet this strategy has been tried before—and has created immense peril for the Palestinians, as well as Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects. When Abbas won the January 2005 presidential elections with 62.5% of the vote, Hamas—which had boycotted the elections—was at the nadir of its power, with two of its top leaders recently assassinated and Israeli counterterrorism effectively curtailing its capabilities. But rather than using Hamas’ weakness as a pretext for disarmament, Abbas insisted on Hamas’ incorporation through their participation in the January 2006 parliamentary elections, arguing, “by engaging them to solve problems politically, there will be no need to resolve to military conflict.” Naturally, Abbas believed that Hamas would lose, and that the popular repudiation of Hamas’ extremism would force it to moderate. Of course, this didn’t quite pan out: Hamas won, and later used the popular affirmation of its extremism to seize control of Gaza.

Given these realities, it is hard to fathom why Abbas believes that this strategy will work now. Perhaps the pro-Fatah love-fest that greeted Abbas in Cairo—including the Arab League’s announcement that it would establish the Yasser Arafat Foundation in Ramallah—skewed Abbas’ perceptions. Indeed, Fatah will be working at a significant disadvantage if Palestinians return to the polls anytime soon—particularly in Gaza, where the PA-funded al-Ayyam has been banned for the past sixteen days after it published a cartoon mocking Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. Moreover, the prospect of early presidential elections seems particularly inviting of increasing Hamas’ power. After all, Abbas cannot point to any concrete successes in his three-plus years as PA president, while failures abound.

In turn, the likely consequence of early Palestinian elections would be the ultimate achievement of “national unity,” with Hamas likely reclaiming the parliament and winning the presidency. The Bush administration—which has long supported Abbas after judiciously boycotting Arafat—should ask Abbas whether this is the unity he has in mind, warning him that a PA unambiguously dominated by Hamas would jeopardize U.S. support for Palestinian statehood for years to come.

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Bottoms Up!

It has been called “Israel’s Abu Ghraib” by Israeli Arab parliamentarian and former Arafat toady Ahmed Tibi. This horrific incident has proved once and for all, Tibi continues, that Israeli soldiers ”have long been stripped of their humane values…. Israeli society should be shamed by this footage, especially the families who raised such monsters.” The IDF has rushed to apologize, insisting that “this was apparently a severe and rare occurrence, which contradicts the spirit, values and norms the army demands of its soldiers. The incident is being investigated by the Central Command.”

Now, I do not think it is either prudent military practice or diplomatically savvy for an Israeli soldier to flash his bottom at a shepherd. It is, in fact, an insensitive thing to do. But Tibi, whose mentor invented the idea of butchering elementary-school children to terrorize a country, really should not be talking about monsters.

It has been called “Israel’s Abu Ghraib” by Israeli Arab parliamentarian and former Arafat toady Ahmed Tibi. This horrific incident has proved once and for all, Tibi continues, that Israeli soldiers ”have long been stripped of their humane values…. Israeli society should be shamed by this footage, especially the families who raised such monsters.” The IDF has rushed to apologize, insisting that “this was apparently a severe and rare occurrence, which contradicts the spirit, values and norms the army demands of its soldiers. The incident is being investigated by the Central Command.”

Now, I do not think it is either prudent military practice or diplomatically savvy for an Israeli soldier to flash his bottom at a shepherd. It is, in fact, an insensitive thing to do. But Tibi, whose mentor invented the idea of butchering elementary-school children to terrorize a country, really should not be talking about monsters.

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O Little Town of Bethlehem

Every year around Christmas, the international media swoop down to the little town of Bethlehem, just south of Jerusalem, to see how Jesus’s birthplace is doing. And every year, the news is bad—the Christian population has in the last decade gone from a majority to a fairly small minority, and it is now a Muslim city. But as Aaron Klein writes in a moving op-ed on Ynet, the media seem convinced this is Israel’s fault, to be blamed on the security barrier Israel erected to prevent the infiltration of terrorists. (For an especially egregious example of this tendentious reading, see Newsweek editor Kenneth L. Woodward’s December 24th op-ed in The Wall Street Journal.) Klein rebuts this quite nicely:

Simple demographic facts will answer this question. Israel built the barrier five years ago. But Bethlehem’s Christian population started to drastically decline in 1995, the very year Arafat’s Palestinian Authority took over the holy Christian city in line with the U.S.-backed Oslo Accords…. As soon as he took over Bethlehem, Arafat unilaterally fired the city’s Christian politicians and replaced them with Muslim cronies. He appointed a Muslim governor, Muhammad Rashad A-Jabar and deposed of Bethlehem’s city council, which had nine Christians and two Muslims, reducing the number of Christians councilors to a 50-50 split. Arafat then converted a Greek Orthodox monastery next to the Church of Nativity, the believed birthplace of Jesus, into his official Bethlehem residence. Suddenly after the Palestinians gained the territory, reports of Christian intimidation by Muslims began to surface. Christian leaders and residents told me they face an atmosphere of regular hostility. They said Palestinian armed groups stir tension by holding militant demonstrations and marches in the streets. They spoke of instances in which Christian shopkeepers’ stores were ransacked and Christian homes attacked.

The result of this is the effective de-Christianization of Bethlehem:

Bethlehem consisted of upwards of 80 percent Christians when Israel was founded in 1948, but since Arafat got his grimy hands on it, the city’s Christian population dove to its current 23 percent. And that statistic is considered generous since it includes the satellite towns of Beit Sahour and Beit Jala. Some estimates place Bethlehem’s actual Christian population at as low as 12 percent, with hundreds of Christians emigrating per year.

What’s unclear about the media’s take on this front is what interest Israel could possibly have in turning Bethlehem into another Jenin, Nablus, or Ramallah. Read the whole thing.

Every year around Christmas, the international media swoop down to the little town of Bethlehem, just south of Jerusalem, to see how Jesus’s birthplace is doing. And every year, the news is bad—the Christian population has in the last decade gone from a majority to a fairly small minority, and it is now a Muslim city. But as Aaron Klein writes in a moving op-ed on Ynet, the media seem convinced this is Israel’s fault, to be blamed on the security barrier Israel erected to prevent the infiltration of terrorists. (For an especially egregious example of this tendentious reading, see Newsweek editor Kenneth L. Woodward’s December 24th op-ed in The Wall Street Journal.) Klein rebuts this quite nicely:

Simple demographic facts will answer this question. Israel built the barrier five years ago. But Bethlehem’s Christian population started to drastically decline in 1995, the very year Arafat’s Palestinian Authority took over the holy Christian city in line with the U.S.-backed Oslo Accords…. As soon as he took over Bethlehem, Arafat unilaterally fired the city’s Christian politicians and replaced them with Muslim cronies. He appointed a Muslim governor, Muhammad Rashad A-Jabar and deposed of Bethlehem’s city council, which had nine Christians and two Muslims, reducing the number of Christians councilors to a 50-50 split. Arafat then converted a Greek Orthodox monastery next to the Church of Nativity, the believed birthplace of Jesus, into his official Bethlehem residence. Suddenly after the Palestinians gained the territory, reports of Christian intimidation by Muslims began to surface. Christian leaders and residents told me they face an atmosphere of regular hostility. They said Palestinian armed groups stir tension by holding militant demonstrations and marches in the streets. They spoke of instances in which Christian shopkeepers’ stores were ransacked and Christian homes attacked.

The result of this is the effective de-Christianization of Bethlehem:

Bethlehem consisted of upwards of 80 percent Christians when Israel was founded in 1948, but since Arafat got his grimy hands on it, the city’s Christian population dove to its current 23 percent. And that statistic is considered generous since it includes the satellite towns of Beit Sahour and Beit Jala. Some estimates place Bethlehem’s actual Christian population at as low as 12 percent, with hundreds of Christians emigrating per year.

What’s unclear about the media’s take on this front is what interest Israel could possibly have in turning Bethlehem into another Jenin, Nablus, or Ramallah. Read the whole thing.

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Palestinian Poetry

For those wondering whether the UN is going to continue to serve as a global platform for anti-Semitism—webcast around the world, free for all Internet users, and archived so that it may be accessed for a long, long time—the mystery is over. The UN Human Rights Council today broadcast uninterrupted hate speech—in the name of “human rights.” Palestinian UN representative Muhammad Abu-Koash had this to say on December 12, 2007 in the middle of the Council’s current session:

The Israeli creeping geography has been countered . . . as the victims of Aryan purity have been transformed into the proponents of Jewish purity . . . .

I will revert to poetry to deliver the message clearly to the Ambassador of Israel

Mr. Jail Man, do you not understand

Scars of concentration camps mark your hand . . .

Draw your lesson from France and Deutschland . . .

Washington, Mandela and Arafat stand so grand

Though called terrorists by occupiers in command

Mr. Jail man, you do not want to understand

You gave occupation new attire with Semitic brand. . .

{T]hose who suffered in Europe, those who came from concentration camps, those who came from the ghettos, they should not act as our masters. They should know the meaning of suffering.”

The hatred marking the delivery of the Palestinian “peace-partner’s” speech is hard to miss. So is the goal of branding Israelis as Nazi equivalents—and it doesn’t have much to do with “peace.”

For those wondering whether the UN is going to continue to serve as a global platform for anti-Semitism—webcast around the world, free for all Internet users, and archived so that it may be accessed for a long, long time—the mystery is over. The UN Human Rights Council today broadcast uninterrupted hate speech—in the name of “human rights.” Palestinian UN representative Muhammad Abu-Koash had this to say on December 12, 2007 in the middle of the Council’s current session:

The Israeli creeping geography has been countered . . . as the victims of Aryan purity have been transformed into the proponents of Jewish purity . . . .

I will revert to poetry to deliver the message clearly to the Ambassador of Israel

Mr. Jail Man, do you not understand

Scars of concentration camps mark your hand . . .

Draw your lesson from France and Deutschland . . .

Washington, Mandela and Arafat stand so grand

Though called terrorists by occupiers in command

Mr. Jail man, you do not want to understand

You gave occupation new attire with Semitic brand. . .

{T]hose who suffered in Europe, those who came from concentration camps, those who came from the ghettos, they should not act as our masters. They should know the meaning of suffering.”

The hatred marking the delivery of the Palestinian “peace-partner’s” speech is hard to miss. So is the goal of branding Israelis as Nazi equivalents—and it doesn’t have much to do with “peace.”

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