Commentary Magazine


Topic: Ariel Sharon

Everyone Knows Why Clinton Wouldn’t Put Her Promises in Writing

A day after the news of the Obama administration’s decision to abandon efforts to force Israel to agree to another freeze on building in Jewish settlements became known, we’re starting to learn a bit more about the way events unfolded. Though the Palestinians are predictably blaming it all on Israeli intransigence, it’s interesting to note that the “senior American official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the administration’s internal deliberations,” admitted to the New York Times that “even if Mr. Netanyahu persuaded his cabinet to accept a freeze — which he had not yet been able to do — the 90-day negotiating period would not have produced the progress on core issues that the United States originally had sought.”

Which is to say that even with Israel making a unilateral concession, there was little or no hope that the Palestinians would negotiate in good faith, let alone be willing to exhibit the sort of flexibility that an actual agreement would require. But then again, why did anyone in Washington think they would? The Palestinians had several months during which a freeze was put in place to demonstrate their willingness to negotiate, but they pointedly refused to do so until the temporary freeze expired. This was no surprise to observers of Palestinian politics who remembered that the Palestinian Authority and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, had already rejected Israel’s offer in 2008 of a state that included virtually all the West Bank, Gaza, and a share of Jerusalem.

Though Times reporter Mark Landler uses his interview with the “senior” official to repeat the usual mainstream-media mantra about Netanyahu being inflexible and to sow doubt about his capacity to negotiate a final deal, he also mentions the fact that the prime minister actually did agree to a freeze in direct consultations with Secretary of State Clinton after she made various promises to the Israelis. But, as Landler notes in passing, Clinton wouldn’t put her promises in writing so as to allow Netanyahu to sell the deal to his cabinet.

Why were Obama and Clinton reluctant to do so? The reason ought to be obvious even to a child: they had no intention of keeping their promises and wanted to avoid producing a document that would enable the Israelis to cry foul. At the very least, there’s little doubt that once the freeze was put in place, Clinton would have reinterpreted the terms of the agreement to Israel’s disadvantage, if not to repudiate it altogether in the way they have reneged on previous U.S. commitments to Israel, such as George W. Bush’s 2004 letter to Ariel Sharon recognizing Israel’s claim to hold on to parts of the West Bank in a peace settlement. Regardless of whether the Obama peace initiative was a good idea in the first place, this episode provides yet another example of this administration’s inept diplomacy, which has made the already remote chances of achieving peace even more unlikely.

A day after the news of the Obama administration’s decision to abandon efforts to force Israel to agree to another freeze on building in Jewish settlements became known, we’re starting to learn a bit more about the way events unfolded. Though the Palestinians are predictably blaming it all on Israeli intransigence, it’s interesting to note that the “senior American official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the administration’s internal deliberations,” admitted to the New York Times that “even if Mr. Netanyahu persuaded his cabinet to accept a freeze — which he had not yet been able to do — the 90-day negotiating period would not have produced the progress on core issues that the United States originally had sought.”

Which is to say that even with Israel making a unilateral concession, there was little or no hope that the Palestinians would negotiate in good faith, let alone be willing to exhibit the sort of flexibility that an actual agreement would require. But then again, why did anyone in Washington think they would? The Palestinians had several months during which a freeze was put in place to demonstrate their willingness to negotiate, but they pointedly refused to do so until the temporary freeze expired. This was no surprise to observers of Palestinian politics who remembered that the Palestinian Authority and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, had already rejected Israel’s offer in 2008 of a state that included virtually all the West Bank, Gaza, and a share of Jerusalem.

Though Times reporter Mark Landler uses his interview with the “senior” official to repeat the usual mainstream-media mantra about Netanyahu being inflexible and to sow doubt about his capacity to negotiate a final deal, he also mentions the fact that the prime minister actually did agree to a freeze in direct consultations with Secretary of State Clinton after she made various promises to the Israelis. But, as Landler notes in passing, Clinton wouldn’t put her promises in writing so as to allow Netanyahu to sell the deal to his cabinet.

Why were Obama and Clinton reluctant to do so? The reason ought to be obvious even to a child: they had no intention of keeping their promises and wanted to avoid producing a document that would enable the Israelis to cry foul. At the very least, there’s little doubt that once the freeze was put in place, Clinton would have reinterpreted the terms of the agreement to Israel’s disadvantage, if not to repudiate it altogether in the way they have reneged on previous U.S. commitments to Israel, such as George W. Bush’s 2004 letter to Ariel Sharon recognizing Israel’s claim to hold on to parts of the West Bank in a peace settlement. Regardless of whether the Obama peace initiative was a good idea in the first place, this episode provides yet another example of this administration’s inept diplomacy, which has made the already remote chances of achieving peace even more unlikely.

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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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Prime Minister Cameron’s Slander Against Israel

In a speech in Ankara, Turkey, British Prime Minister David Cameron said this:

I know that Gaza has led to real strains in Turkey ‘s relationship with Israel. But Turkey is a friend of Israel. And I urge Turkey, and Israel, not to give up on that friendship. Let me be clear. The Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla was completely unacceptable. And I have told PM Netanyahu, we will expect the Israeli inquiry to be swift, transparent and rigorous. Let me also be clear that the situation in Gaza has to change. Humanitarian goods and people must flow in both directions. Gaza cannot and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp. But as, hopefully, we move in the coming weeks to direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians so it’s Turkey that can make the case for peace and Turkey that can help to press the parties to come together, and point the way to a just and viable solution.

Prime Minister Cameron’s claim that the “Israeli attack” on the Gaza flotilla was “completely unacceptable” is utter nonsense. As I argued at the time:

The blockade was justified by international law. (Egypt , by the way, had also imposed a blockade on Gaza because of the threat from the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, which illegally seized control of Gaza in 2007.) The Israeli navy first tried to warn the ships off verbally. The “peace activist” on board assaulted Israeli commandos (who were armed with paintball guns) with clubs, knives, metal pipes, stun grenades, and handguns; it turns out that many of them were recruited specifically to attack Israeli soldiers. The “humanitarian relief” the flotilla was supposedly bringing to Palestinians in Gaza was in fact no such thing (food, medicine, relief supplies, and electricity continue to pour into Gaza on a daily basis). And the “charity” that helped organize the flotilla was in fact the radical Turkish group IHH (Insani Yardim Vakfi), which has longstanding ties to Hamas and the global jihadist movement. Yet somehow, some way, it is Israel that is condemned when it acts in its own self-defense.

All of these facts are highly relevant, yet Cameron mentions none of them. I wonder why.

As for Gaza being a “prison camp”: if that’s what it is, Gaza is a prison camp of the Palestinian leadership’s own making.

It cannot be said often enough: in 2005, Israel and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon — in unilaterally withdrawing from Gaza — did for the Palestinians what the Turks (and, among others, the British, Egyptians, and Jordanian rulers of Palestine) never did: it granted them sovereign control in Gaza (see more here). Rather than build a peaceful and prosperous state, however, Hamas — which seized control of Gaza — decided to launch thousands of rocket and mortar attacks against unarmed Israelis. Israel responded as any sane, sovereign state would with measures including a blockade. Yet Cameron has no words of condemnation for Hamas. This sounds like midsummer madness.

The truth Cameron cannot abide is that the responsibility for the suffering in Gaza lies not with the Israelis but with Hamas and the Palestinians. And for the Prime Minister of Great Britain not only to deny this truth but also to engage in a smear of an estimable and admirable nation like Israel — all to establish a “new partnership” between Britain and Turkey and, in the process, to win applause from Turkey’s increasingly radicalized leadership — is troubling and disappointing. Prime Minister Cameron’s approach is morally offensive and strategically foolish.

On this matter at least, the British prime minister knows not of what he speaks.

In a speech in Ankara, Turkey, British Prime Minister David Cameron said this:

I know that Gaza has led to real strains in Turkey ‘s relationship with Israel. But Turkey is a friend of Israel. And I urge Turkey, and Israel, not to give up on that friendship. Let me be clear. The Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla was completely unacceptable. And I have told PM Netanyahu, we will expect the Israeli inquiry to be swift, transparent and rigorous. Let me also be clear that the situation in Gaza has to change. Humanitarian goods and people must flow in both directions. Gaza cannot and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp. But as, hopefully, we move in the coming weeks to direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians so it’s Turkey that can make the case for peace and Turkey that can help to press the parties to come together, and point the way to a just and viable solution.

Prime Minister Cameron’s claim that the “Israeli attack” on the Gaza flotilla was “completely unacceptable” is utter nonsense. As I argued at the time:

The blockade was justified by international law. (Egypt , by the way, had also imposed a blockade on Gaza because of the threat from the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, which illegally seized control of Gaza in 2007.) The Israeli navy first tried to warn the ships off verbally. The “peace activist” on board assaulted Israeli commandos (who were armed with paintball guns) with clubs, knives, metal pipes, stun grenades, and handguns; it turns out that many of them were recruited specifically to attack Israeli soldiers. The “humanitarian relief” the flotilla was supposedly bringing to Palestinians in Gaza was in fact no such thing (food, medicine, relief supplies, and electricity continue to pour into Gaza on a daily basis). And the “charity” that helped organize the flotilla was in fact the radical Turkish group IHH (Insani Yardim Vakfi), which has longstanding ties to Hamas and the global jihadist movement. Yet somehow, some way, it is Israel that is condemned when it acts in its own self-defense.

All of these facts are highly relevant, yet Cameron mentions none of them. I wonder why.

As for Gaza being a “prison camp”: if that’s what it is, Gaza is a prison camp of the Palestinian leadership’s own making.

It cannot be said often enough: in 2005, Israel and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon — in unilaterally withdrawing from Gaza — did for the Palestinians what the Turks (and, among others, the British, Egyptians, and Jordanian rulers of Palestine) never did: it granted them sovereign control in Gaza (see more here). Rather than build a peaceful and prosperous state, however, Hamas — which seized control of Gaza — decided to launch thousands of rocket and mortar attacks against unarmed Israelis. Israel responded as any sane, sovereign state would with measures including a blockade. Yet Cameron has no words of condemnation for Hamas. This sounds like midsummer madness.

The truth Cameron cannot abide is that the responsibility for the suffering in Gaza lies not with the Israelis but with Hamas and the Palestinians. And for the Prime Minister of Great Britain not only to deny this truth but also to engage in a smear of an estimable and admirable nation like Israel — all to establish a “new partnership” between Britain and Turkey and, in the process, to win applause from Turkey’s increasingly radicalized leadership — is troubling and disappointing. Prime Minister Cameron’s approach is morally offensive and strategically foolish.

On this matter at least, the British prime minister knows not of what he speaks.

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Anthony Julius’s Trials of the Diaspora

In the New York Times Book Review, Harold Bloom reviews Anthony Julius’s monumental new book, Trials of the Diaspora. It is a cover review — an indication of the book’s importance — and a uniformly favorable one: a “strong, somber book” reflecting “extraordinary moral strength.” But even those complimentary terms, from one of America’s leading literary critics, do not begin to convey the scope and magnitude of Julius’s achievement.

The book’s subtitle is A History of Anti-Semitism in England, which itself understates the significance of the book, since the book covers aspects of the psychology and sociology of anti-Semitism that extend far beyond a single country’s experience. Julius has provided probably the most in-depth discussion of the “blood libel” in any volume meant for general readers; and without understanding the blood libel it is impossible to understand the literary power of Shakespeare’s Shylock or Dickens’s Fagin — and without understanding the power of those literary portrayals, one cannot understand modern English anti-Semitism. The literary analysis of Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Dickens in this book is masterful, but even more significant is the connections Julius makes from literature to culture to politics.

Julius is one of England’s most prominent lawyers, best known in America for his representation of Deborah Lipstadt in the libel action that Holocaust denier David Irving brought against her. He also represented Ariel Sharon in connection with the Independent’s anti-Semitic cartoon of Sharon eating a Palestinian child (itself an allusion to the blood libel); he represented the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) against London’s then mayor, Ken Livingstone; both Haifa University and Hebrew University against the Association of University Teachers (AUT); and Israeli universities and Jewish academics against the National Association of Teachers, among other actions — all of which has given him a perhaps unique understanding of contemporary anti-Semitism in England. He is also a literary critic with a gift for a telling phrase, such as his description of certain Jewish ideologists as “proud to be ashamed they are Jews.”

Julius is particularly eloquent on two matters: first, the sheer surreality and incoherence of anti-Semitism:

The Holocaust should have altogether put paid to anti-Semitism. It should have rebutted once and for all the principal anti-Semitic fantasy of malign Jewish power; it should have satiated the appetite of the most murderous anti-Semites for Jewish death. And yet instead it precipitated new anti-Semitic versions or tropes: (a) Holocaust denial, (b) the characterizing of Zionism as an avatar of Nazism, and (c) the cluster of allegations that the Jews are exploiting the Holocaust in support of false compensation claims, the defense of Israeli policies, the defense of Zionism, etc. Many Arab and Muslim anti-Semites somewhat promiscuously embrace all three tropes – denying the Holocaust, praising Hitler, and representing Israel as the successor to the Nazi state.

And second: the enduring power throughout history and into the present of even a surreal and incoherent view of a small people.

Julius acknowledges the need for nuance and judgment in evaluating anti-Semitic sentiment at any particular historical point in time, and the unemotional discussion that characterizes his book makes his conclusion about the present particularly chilling:

Trials of the Diaspora has been written across a period of rising violence and abuse directed at English Jews. Of the present conjuncture, then, my provisional judgment is that it is quite bad, and might get worse. Certainly, it would seem that the closed season on Jews is over.

This is a very important book.

In the New York Times Book Review, Harold Bloom reviews Anthony Julius’s monumental new book, Trials of the Diaspora. It is a cover review — an indication of the book’s importance — and a uniformly favorable one: a “strong, somber book” reflecting “extraordinary moral strength.” But even those complimentary terms, from one of America’s leading literary critics, do not begin to convey the scope and magnitude of Julius’s achievement.

The book’s subtitle is A History of Anti-Semitism in England, which itself understates the significance of the book, since the book covers aspects of the psychology and sociology of anti-Semitism that extend far beyond a single country’s experience. Julius has provided probably the most in-depth discussion of the “blood libel” in any volume meant for general readers; and without understanding the blood libel it is impossible to understand the literary power of Shakespeare’s Shylock or Dickens’s Fagin — and without understanding the power of those literary portrayals, one cannot understand modern English anti-Semitism. The literary analysis of Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Dickens in this book is masterful, but even more significant is the connections Julius makes from literature to culture to politics.

Julius is one of England’s most prominent lawyers, best known in America for his representation of Deborah Lipstadt in the libel action that Holocaust denier David Irving brought against her. He also represented Ariel Sharon in connection with the Independent’s anti-Semitic cartoon of Sharon eating a Palestinian child (itself an allusion to the blood libel); he represented the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) against London’s then mayor, Ken Livingstone; both Haifa University and Hebrew University against the Association of University Teachers (AUT); and Israeli universities and Jewish academics against the National Association of Teachers, among other actions — all of which has given him a perhaps unique understanding of contemporary anti-Semitism in England. He is also a literary critic with a gift for a telling phrase, such as his description of certain Jewish ideologists as “proud to be ashamed they are Jews.”

Julius is particularly eloquent on two matters: first, the sheer surreality and incoherence of anti-Semitism:

The Holocaust should have altogether put paid to anti-Semitism. It should have rebutted once and for all the principal anti-Semitic fantasy of malign Jewish power; it should have satiated the appetite of the most murderous anti-Semites for Jewish death. And yet instead it precipitated new anti-Semitic versions or tropes: (a) Holocaust denial, (b) the characterizing of Zionism as an avatar of Nazism, and (c) the cluster of allegations that the Jews are exploiting the Holocaust in support of false compensation claims, the defense of Israeli policies, the defense of Zionism, etc. Many Arab and Muslim anti-Semites somewhat promiscuously embrace all three tropes – denying the Holocaust, praising Hitler, and representing Israel as the successor to the Nazi state.

And second: the enduring power throughout history and into the present of even a surreal and incoherent view of a small people.

Julius acknowledges the need for nuance and judgment in evaluating anti-Semitic sentiment at any particular historical point in time, and the unemotional discussion that characterizes his book makes his conclusion about the present particularly chilling:

Trials of the Diaspora has been written across a period of rising violence and abuse directed at English Jews. Of the present conjuncture, then, my provisional judgment is that it is quite bad, and might get worse. Certainly, it would seem that the closed season on Jews is over.

This is a very important book.

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Martin Indyk’s Israel Animus

Last week I took a look at Martin Indyk’s latest bit of Israel-bashing and questioned his account of Ariel Sharon’s motives in the Gaza withdrawal. Isi Leibler takes note as well of Indyk’s new role as apologist for the Obami’s assault on Israel. (“Indyk has been intensifying his attacks on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, blaming him for the crisis and slandering him as an instrument of extremist nationalist elements.”) Leibler examines the cheerleaders for Obama’s anti-Israel stance:

Jewish supporters of Obama’s harsh and one-sided offensive against the current government fall into two broad categories.

There are those like J Street who are either genuinely anti-Israel or convinced they know better than Israelis what is best for Israel and are willing to lobby their government to force the Jewish state to continue making unilateral concessions. Needless to say, according to the most recent poll, more than 90 percent of Israelis are opposed to Obama imposing a solution.

The second category are the acolytes of Obama seeking to ingratiate themselves with the administration by acting as its apologists. Indyk understands both the Arab-Israeli conflict and the nature of Israeli domestic policies, and on the basis of his ferocious criticisms of the government, one is tempted to conclude that as a member of the administration, he is not merely promoting a partisan agenda, but deliberately distorting reality.

Leibler then points to even more egregious comments by Indyk. In this Jerusalem Post report, Indyk sounds like he’s auditioning for the directorship of J Street, threatening Israel over the Obami’s obsession (settlements):

When asked by Army Radio if Israel had to choose between Washington and a settlement such as Nokdim, Indyk responded, “Yes.” He warned that Israel stood to jeopardize its historically strong relationship with the US if it continued to take steps that harmed America’s vital interests in the Middle East.

Indyk then plays the foreign-aid card: “If Israel is a superpower and does not need $3 billion in military assistance and the protection of the US, and the efforts of the US to isolate and pressure Iran, then go ahead and do what you like. If you need the US then you need to take American interests into account.” And he then goes around the bend and beyond the pale, invoking the deaths of American servicemen:

What is at issue here is that the US now believes that a continued Israeli-Palestinian conflict harms its strategic interests in the Middle East, he said, adding that this perception emerged under former US President George Bush, and is not just a consequence of the policies of Obama’s administration.

“It is important for Israelis to understand that something fundamental has changed,” said Indyk.

The situation is now such that when it comes to east Jerusalem, “A zoning committee in the ministry of the interior can now do damage to the national interests of the United States,” said Indyk.

As a result, “Israel has to adjust its policy to the interest of the United States or there will be serious consequences,” he said. …

The US is now involved in two wars in the Middle East, said Indyk. Obama signs 30 to 40 condolence letters a month, which is “many more than the Israeli prime minister signs,” he added, so it has a vested interest it reducing tensions in the region.

These comments are especially noxious. First, the notion that Obama’s Middle East policy is simply the natural continuation of the Bush years is bizarrely untrue — a fantasy not even the Obami accept. They celebrate their break with past policy and have touted their new course. If Indyk wants to get a job with the Obami, he’d do well to stay on the same spin page. No, it’s the Obami who’ve decided to advance the hooey that the peace “process” is necessary for America’s war against the Taliban, its democracy-building in Iraq, and its non-efforts to stave off Iranian aggression in the region. And here Indyk, in loathsome fashion, suggests that American troops are dying because of Bibi’s intransigence. In fact, more Americans than Israelis are dying, he boasts. This is vile stuff.

Leibler speculates why Indyk has taken such a turn: he’s afraid of incurring the “dual loyalty” charge that’s been thrown in Dennis Ross’s face. Maybe. Or Indyk is auditioning for a job in the Obama administration. Or Indyk has spent his life on fruitless peace-processing and now must place blame for decades of failure. It’s fashionable in his circles to blame the Jewish state, and he does so with abandon. Well, if he keeps it up, he can look forward to joining Richard Goldstone among the heroes of the anti-Israel left.

But the reasons for Indyk’s descent into Israel-bashing matter hardly at all. What is certain is that Indyk parrots what he thinks the Obami want to hear. And that is what is most disturbing. Indyk’s public career may be over, but Obama’s term is not.

Last week I took a look at Martin Indyk’s latest bit of Israel-bashing and questioned his account of Ariel Sharon’s motives in the Gaza withdrawal. Isi Leibler takes note as well of Indyk’s new role as apologist for the Obami’s assault on Israel. (“Indyk has been intensifying his attacks on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, blaming him for the crisis and slandering him as an instrument of extremist nationalist elements.”) Leibler examines the cheerleaders for Obama’s anti-Israel stance:

Jewish supporters of Obama’s harsh and one-sided offensive against the current government fall into two broad categories.

There are those like J Street who are either genuinely anti-Israel or convinced they know better than Israelis what is best for Israel and are willing to lobby their government to force the Jewish state to continue making unilateral concessions. Needless to say, according to the most recent poll, more than 90 percent of Israelis are opposed to Obama imposing a solution.

The second category are the acolytes of Obama seeking to ingratiate themselves with the administration by acting as its apologists. Indyk understands both the Arab-Israeli conflict and the nature of Israeli domestic policies, and on the basis of his ferocious criticisms of the government, one is tempted to conclude that as a member of the administration, he is not merely promoting a partisan agenda, but deliberately distorting reality.

Leibler then points to even more egregious comments by Indyk. In this Jerusalem Post report, Indyk sounds like he’s auditioning for the directorship of J Street, threatening Israel over the Obami’s obsession (settlements):

When asked by Army Radio if Israel had to choose between Washington and a settlement such as Nokdim, Indyk responded, “Yes.” He warned that Israel stood to jeopardize its historically strong relationship with the US if it continued to take steps that harmed America’s vital interests in the Middle East.

Indyk then plays the foreign-aid card: “If Israel is a superpower and does not need $3 billion in military assistance and the protection of the US, and the efforts of the US to isolate and pressure Iran, then go ahead and do what you like. If you need the US then you need to take American interests into account.” And he then goes around the bend and beyond the pale, invoking the deaths of American servicemen:

What is at issue here is that the US now believes that a continued Israeli-Palestinian conflict harms its strategic interests in the Middle East, he said, adding that this perception emerged under former US President George Bush, and is not just a consequence of the policies of Obama’s administration.

“It is important for Israelis to understand that something fundamental has changed,” said Indyk.

The situation is now such that when it comes to east Jerusalem, “A zoning committee in the ministry of the interior can now do damage to the national interests of the United States,” said Indyk.

As a result, “Israel has to adjust its policy to the interest of the United States or there will be serious consequences,” he said. …

The US is now involved in two wars in the Middle East, said Indyk. Obama signs 30 to 40 condolence letters a month, which is “many more than the Israeli prime minister signs,” he added, so it has a vested interest it reducing tensions in the region.

These comments are especially noxious. First, the notion that Obama’s Middle East policy is simply the natural continuation of the Bush years is bizarrely untrue — a fantasy not even the Obami accept. They celebrate their break with past policy and have touted their new course. If Indyk wants to get a job with the Obami, he’d do well to stay on the same spin page. No, it’s the Obami who’ve decided to advance the hooey that the peace “process” is necessary for America’s war against the Taliban, its democracy-building in Iraq, and its non-efforts to stave off Iranian aggression in the region. And here Indyk, in loathsome fashion, suggests that American troops are dying because of Bibi’s intransigence. In fact, more Americans than Israelis are dying, he boasts. This is vile stuff.

Leibler speculates why Indyk has taken such a turn: he’s afraid of incurring the “dual loyalty” charge that’s been thrown in Dennis Ross’s face. Maybe. Or Indyk is auditioning for a job in the Obama administration. Or Indyk has spent his life on fruitless peace-processing and now must place blame for decades of failure. It’s fashionable in his circles to blame the Jewish state, and he does so with abandon. Well, if he keeps it up, he can look forward to joining Richard Goldstone among the heroes of the anti-Israel left.

But the reasons for Indyk’s descent into Israel-bashing matter hardly at all. What is certain is that Indyk parrots what he thinks the Obami want to hear. And that is what is most disturbing. Indyk’s public career may be over, but Obama’s term is not.

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RE: Martin Indyk Tries Out His Israel-Bashing

There is reason to believe that Indyk is playing fast and loose with the facts. In his op-ed, he states:

As he studies his options, Netanyahu would do well to reflect on the decisions taken by two earlier prime ministers from his Likud Party — Menahem Begin and Ariel Sharon.

Begin gave up all of Sinai for a peace deal with Egypt that avoided a fight with Jimmy Carter over a Palestinian homeland. Sharon believed that the best way to survive politically was to allow no daylight to show between him and the president of the United States. That led him to propose full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in order to head off what he foresaw as inevitable friction with the United States over the West Bank and Jerusalem. Both Sharon and Begin were excoriated by their right wings.

The fear of creating “inevitable friction” is a bizarre explanation, especially given the close and productive relationship between the Bush administration and the Sharon government. Other individuals with direct knowledge of the relevant negotiations say just the opposite: that it was the close relationship with the Bush team and promises concerning settlements and the final status of Jerusalem (which the Obami have now reneged on) that induced the withdrawal.

Indeed, there is no evidence that Indyk’s version is correct. A knowledgeable source relates that no one on Sharon’s staff “can recall such a conversation between PM Sharon and Indyk — indeed they cannot recall Indyk ever visiting Sharon when Sharon was PM during the Bush years.” So what’s the basis for Indyk’s claim — or is he making it up? After all, the alternative version, which Bush officials have confirmed, doesn’t mesh with the Obami’s favorite narrative.

There is reason to believe that Indyk is playing fast and loose with the facts. In his op-ed, he states:

As he studies his options, Netanyahu would do well to reflect on the decisions taken by two earlier prime ministers from his Likud Party — Menahem Begin and Ariel Sharon.

Begin gave up all of Sinai for a peace deal with Egypt that avoided a fight with Jimmy Carter over a Palestinian homeland. Sharon believed that the best way to survive politically was to allow no daylight to show between him and the president of the United States. That led him to propose full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in order to head off what he foresaw as inevitable friction with the United States over the West Bank and Jerusalem. Both Sharon and Begin were excoriated by their right wings.

The fear of creating “inevitable friction” is a bizarre explanation, especially given the close and productive relationship between the Bush administration and the Sharon government. Other individuals with direct knowledge of the relevant negotiations say just the opposite: that it was the close relationship with the Bush team and promises concerning settlements and the final status of Jerusalem (which the Obami have now reneged on) that induced the withdrawal.

Indeed, there is no evidence that Indyk’s version is correct. A knowledgeable source relates that no one on Sharon’s staff “can recall such a conversation between PM Sharon and Indyk — indeed they cannot recall Indyk ever visiting Sharon when Sharon was PM during the Bush years.” So what’s the basis for Indyk’s claim — or is he making it up? After all, the alternative version, which Bush officials have confirmed, doesn’t mesh with the Obami’s favorite narrative.

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Martin Indyk Tries Out His Israel Bashing

Following the example of Robert Gibbs on how to get kudos from the Obami, Martin Indyk, former U.S. ambassador to Israel and presumably a whisperer in George Mitchell’s ear, takes to the mainstream media to bash Israel. It’s Bibi, wacky extremist that he is, who “has made Iran’s nuclear threat to Israel’s existence the central organizing principle of his second term.” (But isn’t a nuclear-armed Iran an existential threat?) It is Bibi who stiffed Obama — by not showing up to his summit where everything BUT Iran was the focus of Obama’s attention. No mention is made of Obama’s atrocious treatment of Bibi. Obama meanwhile, Indyk would have us believe, was “persuading China to join in a new round of UN sanctions against Iran.” (Really? The Chinese keep saying they haven’t agreed to anything at all.)

Indyk also repeats the Palestinian talking point, which not surprisingly happens to be Obama’s as well, that “the inability to make progress on the Palestinian issue enables Iran’s leaders to appeal a to the Arab street, claiming they are the real supporters of the Palestinian cause through sponsorship of violence and terrorism and threats to destroy Israel. The tension also gives Iran the opportunity to use Hamas and Hezbollah proxies to provoke conflict with Israel, with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seen as the hero.” Really — so if we had a peace accord, Iran would give up its nuclear ambitions? (And what of the Arab leaders who continue to plead in private for the administration to do something about Iran, now?)

And Indyk goes further, repeating the Obami’s spin about the housing blowup:

For Obama, however, Netanyahu’s apology doesn’t begin to address the real problem. His envoy, George Mitchell, had been struggling for nine months to launch Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The day before Biden’s visit, Mitchell had announced agreement with Netanyahu and the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, to commence “proximity talks.” The East Jerusalem building announcement came the next day, rendering those negotiations over before they had even started.

Weren’t proximity talks on the rocks before that? And wasn’t it the Obami who elevated this to a crisis point, rather than quietly handling the matter as the Bush administration had done on a similar Jerusalem builing matter? And on Indyk goes, ignoring the history of Palestinian rejectionism, the conciliatory moves Bibi has already made, the prior Bush agreement with Ariel Sharon on Jerusalem housing, and the continued incitement to violence by the PA. Is this his job application to replace George Mitchell?

Following the example of Robert Gibbs on how to get kudos from the Obami, Martin Indyk, former U.S. ambassador to Israel and presumably a whisperer in George Mitchell’s ear, takes to the mainstream media to bash Israel. It’s Bibi, wacky extremist that he is, who “has made Iran’s nuclear threat to Israel’s existence the central organizing principle of his second term.” (But isn’t a nuclear-armed Iran an existential threat?) It is Bibi who stiffed Obama — by not showing up to his summit where everything BUT Iran was the focus of Obama’s attention. No mention is made of Obama’s atrocious treatment of Bibi. Obama meanwhile, Indyk would have us believe, was “persuading China to join in a new round of UN sanctions against Iran.” (Really? The Chinese keep saying they haven’t agreed to anything at all.)

Indyk also repeats the Palestinian talking point, which not surprisingly happens to be Obama’s as well, that “the inability to make progress on the Palestinian issue enables Iran’s leaders to appeal a to the Arab street, claiming they are the real supporters of the Palestinian cause through sponsorship of violence and terrorism and threats to destroy Israel. The tension also gives Iran the opportunity to use Hamas and Hezbollah proxies to provoke conflict with Israel, with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seen as the hero.” Really — so if we had a peace accord, Iran would give up its nuclear ambitions? (And what of the Arab leaders who continue to plead in private for the administration to do something about Iran, now?)

And Indyk goes further, repeating the Obami’s spin about the housing blowup:

For Obama, however, Netanyahu’s apology doesn’t begin to address the real problem. His envoy, George Mitchell, had been struggling for nine months to launch Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The day before Biden’s visit, Mitchell had announced agreement with Netanyahu and the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, to commence “proximity talks.” The East Jerusalem building announcement came the next day, rendering those negotiations over before they had even started.

Weren’t proximity talks on the rocks before that? And wasn’t it the Obami who elevated this to a crisis point, rather than quietly handling the matter as the Bush administration had done on a similar Jerusalem builing matter? And on Indyk goes, ignoring the history of Palestinian rejectionism, the conciliatory moves Bibi has already made, the prior Bush agreement with Ariel Sharon on Jerusalem housing, and the continued incitement to violence by the PA. Is this his job application to replace George Mitchell?

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Just for Show

Many savvy observers of the Obami assault on Israel have concluded that the fuss over the Jerusalem housing permit was concocted by the Obami to ingratiate themselves with the Palestinians, who were threatening to walk from the proximity talks. There is ample support for this theory, not the least of which is the prior positions of the three players in the Obama freak-out drama — Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and the president. The colorfully named Sultan Knish has compiled a useful bit of history that includes Biden’s co-sponsorship of Senate Resolutions 1322, 113, and 106 (between the years 1990 and 1995):

Biden co-sponsored three Senate resolution, all three of which insisted that Jerusalem should remain Israel’s undivided capital. One of which insisted that it was vital for the peace process that Jerusalem should be affirmed by US policy as Israel’s undivided capital. So naturally, like any good politician, he was insulted by Israel taking him at his word. To argue that Biden was gravely insulted by Israel, is to argue that he was insulted by the policies he himself supported.

Not just passively supported, but co-sponsored in three Senate resolutions which repeatedly stated that these were meant to be the policy of the United States.

But of course the hypocrisy train doesn’t just stop at Joe Biden Station.

Hillary Clinton who claimed that Israeli housing “was not only an insult to Biden, but an insult to the United States“, in 2007 (barely 2 and a half years ago) issued a paper stating,

Hillary Clinton believes that Israel’s right to exist in safety as a Jewish state, with defensible borders and an undivided Jerusalem as its capital, secure from violence and terrorism, must never be questioned.”

And barely 2.5 years later, Hillary Clinton is vocally doing the questioning. And the woman who not that long ago said that an “Undivided Jerusalem” must never be questioned, was pretending that Israel approving housing in Jerusalem was a grave insult to the United States.

The question must then be asked, if Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton supported an undivided Jerusalem and if Israeli housing projects in Jerusalem are an insult to the United States– weren’t Hillary and Joe insulting the United States. Or were they just insulting the Jewish voters who believed their empty promises?

(Obama made a similar statement in the 2008 campaign, which lasted 24 hours before it was qualified.) And, of course, there was an agreement between the government of Ariel Sharon and the administration of George W. Bush that did not include any freeze on Jerusalem housing and specifically designated that the resolution of  the capital as a final-status issue. But that’s a no-nevermind sort of thing for the Obami crowd. Nor do they concede that every Israeli government since 1967 has allowed building in the Israeli capital.

We have two alternative explanations for the Obami’s behavior: they are appallingly ignorant about previous U.S. policy and have forgotten their own roles in advancing the position that Israel is entitled to occupy and build in its eternal and undivided capital; or the administration seized on an opportunity to savage its ally for the purpose of trying to ingratiate itself with the Muslim World. You decide.

Many savvy observers of the Obami assault on Israel have concluded that the fuss over the Jerusalem housing permit was concocted by the Obami to ingratiate themselves with the Palestinians, who were threatening to walk from the proximity talks. There is ample support for this theory, not the least of which is the prior positions of the three players in the Obama freak-out drama — Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and the president. The colorfully named Sultan Knish has compiled a useful bit of history that includes Biden’s co-sponsorship of Senate Resolutions 1322, 113, and 106 (between the years 1990 and 1995):

Biden co-sponsored three Senate resolution, all three of which insisted that Jerusalem should remain Israel’s undivided capital. One of which insisted that it was vital for the peace process that Jerusalem should be affirmed by US policy as Israel’s undivided capital. So naturally, like any good politician, he was insulted by Israel taking him at his word. To argue that Biden was gravely insulted by Israel, is to argue that he was insulted by the policies he himself supported.

Not just passively supported, but co-sponsored in three Senate resolutions which repeatedly stated that these were meant to be the policy of the United States.

But of course the hypocrisy train doesn’t just stop at Joe Biden Station.

Hillary Clinton who claimed that Israeli housing “was not only an insult to Biden, but an insult to the United States“, in 2007 (barely 2 and a half years ago) issued a paper stating,

Hillary Clinton believes that Israel’s right to exist in safety as a Jewish state, with defensible borders and an undivided Jerusalem as its capital, secure from violence and terrorism, must never be questioned.”

And barely 2.5 years later, Hillary Clinton is vocally doing the questioning. And the woman who not that long ago said that an “Undivided Jerusalem” must never be questioned, was pretending that Israel approving housing in Jerusalem was a grave insult to the United States.

The question must then be asked, if Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton supported an undivided Jerusalem and if Israeli housing projects in Jerusalem are an insult to the United States– weren’t Hillary and Joe insulting the United States. Or were they just insulting the Jewish voters who believed their empty promises?

(Obama made a similar statement in the 2008 campaign, which lasted 24 hours before it was qualified.) And, of course, there was an agreement between the government of Ariel Sharon and the administration of George W. Bush that did not include any freeze on Jerusalem housing and specifically designated that the resolution of  the capital as a final-status issue. But that’s a no-nevermind sort of thing for the Obami crowd. Nor do they concede that every Israeli government since 1967 has allowed building in the Israeli capital.

We have two alternative explanations for the Obami’s behavior: they are appallingly ignorant about previous U.S. policy and have forgotten their own roles in advancing the position that Israel is entitled to occupy and build in its eternal and undivided capital; or the administration seized on an opportunity to savage its ally for the purpose of trying to ingratiate itself with the Muslim World. You decide.

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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.

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On Obama’s Behavior Toward Israel

By now the efforts of the White House to isolate and humiliate Israel because of the latter’s decision to approve 1,600 new Jewish homes in East Jerusalem (which is, after all, its capital) are well known: from the scolding language to the leaks about Secretary Clinton’s phone call dressing down Prime Minister Netanyahu to the failure to release even one official photograph of the prime minister’s meeting with President Obama to much else. One cannot but conclude that this escalation of tensions with Israel is not the result of a misunderstanding or of things spinning unexpectedly out of control. No, what we are seeing is premeditated, calculated, and indefensible.

Among the practical outcomes, this will lead to further Palestinian intransigence. We have already seen this. Thanks to the approach taken by the Obama administration, Palestinians are for the first time demanding as a precondition for negotiations a freeze on settlements, even as they haven’t offered any concessions of their own.

It will embolden the enemies of Israel and America. Memo to the Obama administration: we share the same ones. As Norman Podhoretz pointedly once wrote, “the hatred of Israel is in large part a surrogate for anti-Americanism.” And the president’s actions will make Israel more reluctant to make concessions of any kind. If Israel’s most important ally is undercutting her, then she will feel doubly threatened and significantly more insecure. (One of the reasons Ariel Sharon felt he could withdraw from Gaza was because in George W. Bush, Israel knew it had a strong and faithful friend in the White House.)

The entire theory on which the Obama administration is operating is false. The problem isn’t with Israel’s unwillingness to negotiate or even any dispute over territory; it is with the Palestinians’ unwillingness to make their own inner peace with the existence of a Jewish state.

Yet in thinking through all this, what is most striking to me is the disfiguring of moral considerations. Barack Obama is treating one of our best allies, and one of the most admirable and impressive nations in the world, worse than he treats the theocratic dictatorship in Iran or the anti-American dictator Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Obama bows before autocrats and shakes the hands of tyrants and speaks with solicitude and undeserved respect to malevolent leaders. Yet with Israel he is petulant and angry, unable to detach himself from a weeks-long tantrum. Or, perhaps, unwilling to detach himself.

There is in the Obama administration an animus toward Israel that is troubling and may be unmatched in modern times (though Jimmy Carter, as ex-president, probably rivals it). Because of what is unfolding, there will be significant injury to our relationship with Israel. But it is also doing considerable damage to America’s moral standing. At its best, America stands for the right things and stands beside the right friends. In distancing us from Israel, Obama is distancing America from a nation that has sacrificed more for peace, and suffered more for their sacrifices, than any other. It is a deeply discouraging thing to see. And it is dangerous, too. Hatred for Israel is a deep and burning fire throughout the world. We should not be adding kindling wood to that fire.

Barack Obama is an ambitious man. He’s undertaking a project to remake America in deep and important ways. Health care is one arena. This, sadly, is another.

By now the efforts of the White House to isolate and humiliate Israel because of the latter’s decision to approve 1,600 new Jewish homes in East Jerusalem (which is, after all, its capital) are well known: from the scolding language to the leaks about Secretary Clinton’s phone call dressing down Prime Minister Netanyahu to the failure to release even one official photograph of the prime minister’s meeting with President Obama to much else. One cannot but conclude that this escalation of tensions with Israel is not the result of a misunderstanding or of things spinning unexpectedly out of control. No, what we are seeing is premeditated, calculated, and indefensible.

Among the practical outcomes, this will lead to further Palestinian intransigence. We have already seen this. Thanks to the approach taken by the Obama administration, Palestinians are for the first time demanding as a precondition for negotiations a freeze on settlements, even as they haven’t offered any concessions of their own.

It will embolden the enemies of Israel and America. Memo to the Obama administration: we share the same ones. As Norman Podhoretz pointedly once wrote, “the hatred of Israel is in large part a surrogate for anti-Americanism.” And the president’s actions will make Israel more reluctant to make concessions of any kind. If Israel’s most important ally is undercutting her, then she will feel doubly threatened and significantly more insecure. (One of the reasons Ariel Sharon felt he could withdraw from Gaza was because in George W. Bush, Israel knew it had a strong and faithful friend in the White House.)

The entire theory on which the Obama administration is operating is false. The problem isn’t with Israel’s unwillingness to negotiate or even any dispute over territory; it is with the Palestinians’ unwillingness to make their own inner peace with the existence of a Jewish state.

Yet in thinking through all this, what is most striking to me is the disfiguring of moral considerations. Barack Obama is treating one of our best allies, and one of the most admirable and impressive nations in the world, worse than he treats the theocratic dictatorship in Iran or the anti-American dictator Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Obama bows before autocrats and shakes the hands of tyrants and speaks with solicitude and undeserved respect to malevolent leaders. Yet with Israel he is petulant and angry, unable to detach himself from a weeks-long tantrum. Or, perhaps, unwilling to detach himself.

There is in the Obama administration an animus toward Israel that is troubling and may be unmatched in modern times (though Jimmy Carter, as ex-president, probably rivals it). Because of what is unfolding, there will be significant injury to our relationship with Israel. But it is also doing considerable damage to America’s moral standing. At its best, America stands for the right things and stands beside the right friends. In distancing us from Israel, Obama is distancing America from a nation that has sacrificed more for peace, and suffered more for their sacrifices, than any other. It is a deeply discouraging thing to see. And it is dangerous, too. Hatred for Israel is a deep and burning fire throughout the world. We should not be adding kindling wood to that fire.

Barack Obama is an ambitious man. He’s undertaking a project to remake America in deep and important ways. Health care is one arena. This, sadly, is another.

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A Rhetorical Commitment from the Words-Matter Administration

Hillary Clinton’s AIPAC speech ended with a rhetorical flourish, reaching back to David Ben-Gurion to list the Israeli leaders who made “difficult but clear-eyed choices to pursue peace” by giving up land. Her final paragraph was an exhortation to continue this “tradition”:

[F]or the state to flourish, this generation of Israelis must also take up the tradition and do what seems too dangerous, too hard, and too risky. And of this they can be absolutely sure: the United States and the American people will stand with you. We will share the risks and we will shoulder the burdens, as we face the future together.

It is extraordinary for a nation to advise another to do what seems “too dangerous, too hard, and too risky” — in reliance upon a promise of the first nation to “stand with” it and “share the risks” from far away.

Sometimes what seems too dangerous, too hard, and too risky is in fact too dangerous, hard, and risky. And sometimes you cannot be absolutely sure the United States will stand with you — ask Poland, Georgia, and the Czech Republic.

Or ask Ariel Sharon (if you could) about the Gaza disengagement, in which Israel turned over half the putative Palestinian state in one of those difficult but clear-eyed choices to pursue peace. As Bret Stephens notes in his column, the disengagement was done in exchange for a letter, signed by the president of the United States, containing explicit assurances (described in the letter as the “steadfast commitment” of the United States) about the positions the U.S. would take on (a) defensible borders and (b) the major Israeli settlements necessary to defend them. The commitment given in exchange for Israel’s dangerous, hard, and risky action proved inoperative (or “unenforceable,” as Hillary might say). This is not a tradition that any nation would want to repeat.

As Benjamin Netanyahu noted last night in his AIPAC speech, the strategic position of Israel is now comparable to that of New Jersey facing thousands of rockets both from its north and south (and its back to the sea), with more demands to give up land for “peace.” Hillary Clinton might have used her speech at least to endorse the two minimal conditions for the “peace process” that Netanyahu has put forth: Palestinian recognition of a Jewish state, and demilitarization of any Palestinian one. Instead she chose a meaningless rhetorical commitment — one that would be relied upon only by a nation without a tradition of learning from history.

Hillary Clinton’s AIPAC speech ended with a rhetorical flourish, reaching back to David Ben-Gurion to list the Israeli leaders who made “difficult but clear-eyed choices to pursue peace” by giving up land. Her final paragraph was an exhortation to continue this “tradition”:

[F]or the state to flourish, this generation of Israelis must also take up the tradition and do what seems too dangerous, too hard, and too risky. And of this they can be absolutely sure: the United States and the American people will stand with you. We will share the risks and we will shoulder the burdens, as we face the future together.

It is extraordinary for a nation to advise another to do what seems “too dangerous, too hard, and too risky” — in reliance upon a promise of the first nation to “stand with” it and “share the risks” from far away.

Sometimes what seems too dangerous, too hard, and too risky is in fact too dangerous, hard, and risky. And sometimes you cannot be absolutely sure the United States will stand with you — ask Poland, Georgia, and the Czech Republic.

Or ask Ariel Sharon (if you could) about the Gaza disengagement, in which Israel turned over half the putative Palestinian state in one of those difficult but clear-eyed choices to pursue peace. As Bret Stephens notes in his column, the disengagement was done in exchange for a letter, signed by the president of the United States, containing explicit assurances (described in the letter as the “steadfast commitment” of the United States) about the positions the U.S. would take on (a) defensible borders and (b) the major Israeli settlements necessary to defend them. The commitment given in exchange for Israel’s dangerous, hard, and risky action proved inoperative (or “unenforceable,” as Hillary might say). This is not a tradition that any nation would want to repeat.

As Benjamin Netanyahu noted last night in his AIPAC speech, the strategic position of Israel is now comparable to that of New Jersey facing thousands of rockets both from its north and south (and its back to the sea), with more demands to give up land for “peace.” Hillary Clinton might have used her speech at least to endorse the two minimal conditions for the “peace process” that Netanyahu has put forth: Palestinian recognition of a Jewish state, and demilitarization of any Palestinian one. Instead she chose a meaningless rhetorical commitment — one that would be relied upon only by a nation without a tradition of learning from history.

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The Other Side of the “Peace” Process

While most of the world rattles on about how Israel’s impudent decision to build apartments for Jews in an existing Jewish neighborhood of Jerusalem will harm the peace process, the real obstacles to peace staged yet another demonstration of Middle East realities. In the last two days, Palestinian terrorists fired three rockets into southern Israel. Two landed near the town of Sderot in Southern Israel on Wednesday. One adult and a child suffered from shock from that blast. Then today, a rocket hit nearby Moshav Netiv Ha’asara, killing a worker from Thailand. Thirty such rockets have landed in southern Israel since the beginning of 2010.

Apologists for the Hamas terrorists, who run Gaza as a private fiefdom, were quick to blame the attacks on splinter groups beyond the control of the supposedly responsible thugs of Hamas. Two such groups claimed responsibility. One is an al-Qaeda offshoot, and the other is none other than the al-Asqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, the terrorist wing of the supposedly moderate and peace-loving Fatah Party that controls the West Bank.

The rockets were an appropriate welcome to the Dame Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s top foreign-policy official, who was in Gaza for a visit. Though Ashton won’t meet with Hamas officials, her trip to Gaza is seen as helping the ongoing campaign to lift the limited blockade of the terrorist-run enclave even though Israel allows food and medical supplies into the Strip, so there is no humanitarian crisis. Those who would like to see this Hamasistan freed from all constraints say that the “humanitarian” issues should take precedence over “politics.” But their humanitarianism takes no notice of Israelis who still live under the constant threat of terrorist missile attacks. Nor do they think Hamas should be forced to free kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for an end to the blockade.

Such “humanitarianism” is also blind to why Israelis are leery of any further territorial concessions to the Palestinians – because they rightly fear that the ordeal of Sderot could easily be repeated in any part of Central Israel, as well as in Jerusalem, once Israel’s forces are forced to completely withdraw from the West Bank. Gaza is not just a symbol of the failures of Palestinian nationalism, as the welfare of over a million Arabs has been ignored as Hamas pursues its pathologically violent agenda of hostility to Israel. It is also a symbol of the failure of Ariel Sharon’s unilateral withdrawal policy, which Americans once hoped would allow the area to become a zone of peace and prosperity.

For all of the recent emphasis on Israel’s behavior, Gaza stands as both a lesson and a warning to those who heedlessly urge further concessions on Israel on behalf of a peace process in which the Palestinians have no real interest.

While most of the world rattles on about how Israel’s impudent decision to build apartments for Jews in an existing Jewish neighborhood of Jerusalem will harm the peace process, the real obstacles to peace staged yet another demonstration of Middle East realities. In the last two days, Palestinian terrorists fired three rockets into southern Israel. Two landed near the town of Sderot in Southern Israel on Wednesday. One adult and a child suffered from shock from that blast. Then today, a rocket hit nearby Moshav Netiv Ha’asara, killing a worker from Thailand. Thirty such rockets have landed in southern Israel since the beginning of 2010.

Apologists for the Hamas terrorists, who run Gaza as a private fiefdom, were quick to blame the attacks on splinter groups beyond the control of the supposedly responsible thugs of Hamas. Two such groups claimed responsibility. One is an al-Qaeda offshoot, and the other is none other than the al-Asqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, the terrorist wing of the supposedly moderate and peace-loving Fatah Party that controls the West Bank.

The rockets were an appropriate welcome to the Dame Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s top foreign-policy official, who was in Gaza for a visit. Though Ashton won’t meet with Hamas officials, her trip to Gaza is seen as helping the ongoing campaign to lift the limited blockade of the terrorist-run enclave even though Israel allows food and medical supplies into the Strip, so there is no humanitarian crisis. Those who would like to see this Hamasistan freed from all constraints say that the “humanitarian” issues should take precedence over “politics.” But their humanitarianism takes no notice of Israelis who still live under the constant threat of terrorist missile attacks. Nor do they think Hamas should be forced to free kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for an end to the blockade.

Such “humanitarianism” is also blind to why Israelis are leery of any further territorial concessions to the Palestinians – because they rightly fear that the ordeal of Sderot could easily be repeated in any part of Central Israel, as well as in Jerusalem, once Israel’s forces are forced to completely withdraw from the West Bank. Gaza is not just a symbol of the failures of Palestinian nationalism, as the welfare of over a million Arabs has been ignored as Hamas pursues its pathologically violent agenda of hostility to Israel. It is also a symbol of the failure of Ariel Sharon’s unilateral withdrawal policy, which Americans once hoped would allow the area to become a zone of peace and prosperity.

For all of the recent emphasis on Israel’s behavior, Gaza stands as both a lesson and a warning to those who heedlessly urge further concessions on Israel on behalf of a peace process in which the Palestinians have no real interest.

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How Many Lives Is Biden’s Pride Worth?

What prompted this morning’s violence in Jerusalem’s Old City? Though the stone-throwing and disruptions resulted in only eight Israeli security personnel being wounded and a similar number of Palestinian casualties, the context of the American diplomatic offensive against the Jewish state must be seen as an incentive for the Palestinians to do their own part to ratchet up the pressure. While the Obama administration is using its hurt feelings about the announcement of building homes in a Jewish neighborhood of Jerusalem to put the screws to the Netanyahu government, the Palestinians have their own game to play here. And since Washington has decided to go all out to falsely portray the Israelis as the primary obstacle to peace, it should be expected that the supposed victims of the new housing — Palestinians who are in no way harmed by the building of new apartments — will seek to keep events churning.

The rumors filtering through the Islamic world about supposed “threats” to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount are clearly efforts to foment violence — reminiscent of the bloody 1929 riots which led to Arab pogroms against Jews living in Jerusalem and Hebron and of the fake controversy over Ariel Sharon’s walk on the Temple Mount, which Yasir Arafat used as cover for launching the second intifada. The Jerusalem Post reports that busloads of Arabs are heading to the capital to “protect” the Temple Mount against mythical Jewish attempts to undermine the mosque’s foundations. They appear to be referring to this week’s rededication of the Hurva Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, whose destruction by Jordan’s Arab Legion in 1948 was a symbol of the expulsion of Jews from the Old City. The mere act of reasserting the Jewish presence there is viewed as an affront by a Muslim world that still refuses to accept Israel’s legitimacy.

The point here is that while the Obama administration’s huffing and puffing about the insult given by Vice President Joe Biden last week may be about an effort to undermine the Netanyahu government, their decision to brand all Jewish building in the city as illegal and as reason for American rage means something very different to the Palestinians. The ultimatum delivered to Netanyahu by Secretary of State Clinton, in which she demanded that the housing plan be rescinded, is viewed by many Palestinians as American support — not only for their ambitions for a redivided city but also for the expulsion of the Jews from all of East Jerusalem.

Even more to the point, the attacks on Israel emanating from Washington in both on- and off-the-record interviews with administration officials, may be tempting the Palestinians to do more than throw stones. An isolated Israel looks like a vulnerable Israel to the Palestinians, and that has always served as an incentive to further violence. And since neither the Palestinian Authority nor Hamas have any intention of following up Clinton’s demands by actually negotiating for peace in good faith, they may decide that now is the perfect moment to exploit Obama’s rage by raising the stakes with a mini intifada or with acts of terrorism, since they may think Washington will now oppose any Israeli counterattack or retaliation.

Biden may have had a genuine beef with Netanyahu for the blunder over the timing of the announcement but does this man, who has always touted himself as “Israel’s best friend in the Senate,” really want an argument over his injured pride to serve as the excuse for a new round of bloodshed? Do those left-wing American Jews, like the J Street lobby, who are now calling for more pressure on Jerusalem understand the possible cost of their signal to the Palestinians that Israel’s democratically elected government has lost its only ally? Those Americans who are heedlessly stoking the fires of resentment against Israel may soon have more to answer for than merely prejudicial attacks against Netanyahu.

What prompted this morning’s violence in Jerusalem’s Old City? Though the stone-throwing and disruptions resulted in only eight Israeli security personnel being wounded and a similar number of Palestinian casualties, the context of the American diplomatic offensive against the Jewish state must be seen as an incentive for the Palestinians to do their own part to ratchet up the pressure. While the Obama administration is using its hurt feelings about the announcement of building homes in a Jewish neighborhood of Jerusalem to put the screws to the Netanyahu government, the Palestinians have their own game to play here. And since Washington has decided to go all out to falsely portray the Israelis as the primary obstacle to peace, it should be expected that the supposed victims of the new housing — Palestinians who are in no way harmed by the building of new apartments — will seek to keep events churning.

The rumors filtering through the Islamic world about supposed “threats” to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount are clearly efforts to foment violence — reminiscent of the bloody 1929 riots which led to Arab pogroms against Jews living in Jerusalem and Hebron and of the fake controversy over Ariel Sharon’s walk on the Temple Mount, which Yasir Arafat used as cover for launching the second intifada. The Jerusalem Post reports that busloads of Arabs are heading to the capital to “protect” the Temple Mount against mythical Jewish attempts to undermine the mosque’s foundations. They appear to be referring to this week’s rededication of the Hurva Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, whose destruction by Jordan’s Arab Legion in 1948 was a symbol of the expulsion of Jews from the Old City. The mere act of reasserting the Jewish presence there is viewed as an affront by a Muslim world that still refuses to accept Israel’s legitimacy.

The point here is that while the Obama administration’s huffing and puffing about the insult given by Vice President Joe Biden last week may be about an effort to undermine the Netanyahu government, their decision to brand all Jewish building in the city as illegal and as reason for American rage means something very different to the Palestinians. The ultimatum delivered to Netanyahu by Secretary of State Clinton, in which she demanded that the housing plan be rescinded, is viewed by many Palestinians as American support — not only for their ambitions for a redivided city but also for the expulsion of the Jews from all of East Jerusalem.

Even more to the point, the attacks on Israel emanating from Washington in both on- and off-the-record interviews with administration officials, may be tempting the Palestinians to do more than throw stones. An isolated Israel looks like a vulnerable Israel to the Palestinians, and that has always served as an incentive to further violence. And since neither the Palestinian Authority nor Hamas have any intention of following up Clinton’s demands by actually negotiating for peace in good faith, they may decide that now is the perfect moment to exploit Obama’s rage by raising the stakes with a mini intifada or with acts of terrorism, since they may think Washington will now oppose any Israeli counterattack or retaliation.

Biden may have had a genuine beef with Netanyahu for the blunder over the timing of the announcement but does this man, who has always touted himself as “Israel’s best friend in the Senate,” really want an argument over his injured pride to serve as the excuse for a new round of bloodshed? Do those left-wing American Jews, like the J Street lobby, who are now calling for more pressure on Jerusalem understand the possible cost of their signal to the Palestinians that Israel’s democratically elected government has lost its only ally? Those Americans who are heedlessly stoking the fires of resentment against Israel may soon have more to answer for than merely prejudicial attacks against Netanyahu.

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Human Rights Watch: The World Needs More Corrupt and Politicized “International Justice”

Predictable, of course. Clive Baldwin, a “senior legal adviser” to HRW, finds it “most embarrassing of all” that the British attorney general “gave a speech in Jerusalem on 5 January declaring that the government was ‘determined that Israel’s leaders should always be able to travel freely to the UK.'”

Can’t have that, can we?

This really isn’t about international justice, of course. It’s about the desire of many human-rights activists — today they unfortunately are almost exclusively drawn from the far Left — for more political power. Here’s how the international justice game is played:

Groups like HRW rely on fraudulent or biased testimony in Gaza and Lebanon (or Iraq) combined with creative interpretations of the “laws of war” to produce claims of war crimes; these claims are received as legitimate and trustworthy in UN bodies, among allied NGOs, and in the international press; activist lawyers use the now-laundered allegations to file universal jurisdiction lawsuits with sympathetic British judges; arrest warrants are issued. But then government officials recognize the awful reality of this politicized little merry-go-round and speak out against the practice — prompting HRW to protest that politicians are interfering in the independence of the court system. Chutzpah.

There are at least a few people left in the UK who understand the perniciousness of “universal jurisdiction.” One is MP Daniel Hannan, who wrote a terse seven-point refutation of the idea yesterday (h/t Andrew Stuttaford):

1. Territorial jurisdiction has been a remarkably successful concept. Ever since the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, it has been broadly understood that crimes are the responsibility of the state where they are committed. … Western liberals might say: “Since Karadzic won’t get justice in Serbia, he should get it at The Hague.” But an Iranian judge might apply precisely the same logic and say: “Adulterers in Western countries are going unpunished: we must kidnap them and bring them to a place where they will face consequences”. …

2. International jurisdiction breaks the link between legislators and law. Instead of legislation being passed by representatives who are, in some way, accountable to their populations, laws are generated by international jurists. …

7. The politicisation of international jurisprudence seems always to come from the same direction: a writ was served against Ariel Sharon, but not against Yasser Arafat. Augusto Pinochet was arrested, but Fidel Castro could attend international summits. Donald Rumsfeld was indicted in Europe, but not Saddam Hussein.

What you’ll always find about the international-justice hustle is that its proponents never explain how these fatal problems can be resolved. In this case, the problems, of course, are the solutions. That’s because universal jurisdiction isn’t about justice. It’s about power.

Predictable, of course. Clive Baldwin, a “senior legal adviser” to HRW, finds it “most embarrassing of all” that the British attorney general “gave a speech in Jerusalem on 5 January declaring that the government was ‘determined that Israel’s leaders should always be able to travel freely to the UK.'”

Can’t have that, can we?

This really isn’t about international justice, of course. It’s about the desire of many human-rights activists — today they unfortunately are almost exclusively drawn from the far Left — for more political power. Here’s how the international justice game is played:

Groups like HRW rely on fraudulent or biased testimony in Gaza and Lebanon (or Iraq) combined with creative interpretations of the “laws of war” to produce claims of war crimes; these claims are received as legitimate and trustworthy in UN bodies, among allied NGOs, and in the international press; activist lawyers use the now-laundered allegations to file universal jurisdiction lawsuits with sympathetic British judges; arrest warrants are issued. But then government officials recognize the awful reality of this politicized little merry-go-round and speak out against the practice — prompting HRW to protest that politicians are interfering in the independence of the court system. Chutzpah.

There are at least a few people left in the UK who understand the perniciousness of “universal jurisdiction.” One is MP Daniel Hannan, who wrote a terse seven-point refutation of the idea yesterday (h/t Andrew Stuttaford):

1. Territorial jurisdiction has been a remarkably successful concept. Ever since the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, it has been broadly understood that crimes are the responsibility of the state where they are committed. … Western liberals might say: “Since Karadzic won’t get justice in Serbia, he should get it at The Hague.” But an Iranian judge might apply precisely the same logic and say: “Adulterers in Western countries are going unpunished: we must kidnap them and bring them to a place where they will face consequences”. …

2. International jurisdiction breaks the link between legislators and law. Instead of legislation being passed by representatives who are, in some way, accountable to their populations, laws are generated by international jurists. …

7. The politicisation of international jurisprudence seems always to come from the same direction: a writ was served against Ariel Sharon, but not against Yasser Arafat. Augusto Pinochet was arrested, but Fidel Castro could attend international summits. Donald Rumsfeld was indicted in Europe, but not Saddam Hussein.

What you’ll always find about the international-justice hustle is that its proponents never explain how these fatal problems can be resolved. In this case, the problems, of course, are the solutions. That’s because universal jurisdiction isn’t about justice. It’s about power.

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Palestinians See Netanyahu as a “Man of His Word”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is trying hard to blame Israel for the absence of peace talks, with predictable support from Europe: addressing the European Parliament last week, brand-new EU foreign minister Catherine Ashton parroted PA criticisms of Israel wholesale, not even hinting at any Palestinian responsibility for the impasse. But Washington has yet to weigh in. Before doing so, it should consider the following astounding report:

“This is the place to note that, surprisingly, [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu is widely perceived in the West Bank as a man of his word,” Haaretz’s Palestinian affairs reporter wrote, commenting on Abbas supporters’ claim that Netanyahu’s actions are mere “maneuvers” aimed at avoiding final-status talks. “In the period of [his predecessors] Ehud Olmert, Ariel Sharon and [Ehud] Barak there may have been peace talks, but the number of checkpoints reached a new high every week and chaos reigned in the West Bank.”

Netanyahu, in contrast, has kept his promise to remove checkpoints and otherwise facilitate Palestinian economic development — and it’s working. As the Jerusalem Post noted yesterday:

Only 14 major IDF security checkpoints remain inside the West Bank, easing the commute between Palestinian population centers. Unemployment is down to 18 percent (compared to over 40% in Gaza). The local stock market is on an upswing; likewise foreign investment.

A new mall has opened in Nablus. The cornerstone of a new neighborhood in Jenin was laid by PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Plans for a new suburb in the hills of Ramallah for middle-class Palestinians are advancing. A Bethlehem industrial zone is in the works. …

People are buying more cars. Bethlehem alone hosted a million tourists last year. West Bank imports and exports have exceeded $4.3 billion this year.

Indeed, the Haaretz report quoted a Palestinian journalist who termed the situation in the West Bank “not only better than in the past, but ‘terrific.’ ”

Netanyahu seems equally determined to keep his word on the settlement freeze, judging by a document leaked by an Israeli army source to settlers, and thence to Haaretz. The army has clearly been ordered to treat the freeze like a military operation.

For instance, the document states, “all agencies will be used” to detect violations of the freeze, “including the intelligence branch of the [Central] Command, the Shin Bet [intelligence agency] and regular troops.” And any illegal construction will be destroyed in blitzkrieg operations in which “tactical surprise” will be achieved “by blocking off the area with large forces so as to paralyze” resistance.

One might question the wisdom of a full-throttle military operation against one’s own citizens, but it certainly indicates determination on Netanyahu’s part to keep his word.

So might Netanyahu be equally sincere in claiming that he truly wants to reach an agreement with Abbas? If “agreement” is defined as complete capitulation to Abbas’s demands, no. But a deal produced by genuine negotiations, in which both sides make concessions? There’s only one way to find out. And it isn’t by letting Abbas demand ever more upfront concessions just to get him to the table.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is trying hard to blame Israel for the absence of peace talks, with predictable support from Europe: addressing the European Parliament last week, brand-new EU foreign minister Catherine Ashton parroted PA criticisms of Israel wholesale, not even hinting at any Palestinian responsibility for the impasse. But Washington has yet to weigh in. Before doing so, it should consider the following astounding report:

“This is the place to note that, surprisingly, [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu is widely perceived in the West Bank as a man of his word,” Haaretz’s Palestinian affairs reporter wrote, commenting on Abbas supporters’ claim that Netanyahu’s actions are mere “maneuvers” aimed at avoiding final-status talks. “In the period of [his predecessors] Ehud Olmert, Ariel Sharon and [Ehud] Barak there may have been peace talks, but the number of checkpoints reached a new high every week and chaos reigned in the West Bank.”

Netanyahu, in contrast, has kept his promise to remove checkpoints and otherwise facilitate Palestinian economic development — and it’s working. As the Jerusalem Post noted yesterday:

Only 14 major IDF security checkpoints remain inside the West Bank, easing the commute between Palestinian population centers. Unemployment is down to 18 percent (compared to over 40% in Gaza). The local stock market is on an upswing; likewise foreign investment.

A new mall has opened in Nablus. The cornerstone of a new neighborhood in Jenin was laid by PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Plans for a new suburb in the hills of Ramallah for middle-class Palestinians are advancing. A Bethlehem industrial zone is in the works. …

People are buying more cars. Bethlehem alone hosted a million tourists last year. West Bank imports and exports have exceeded $4.3 billion this year.

Indeed, the Haaretz report quoted a Palestinian journalist who termed the situation in the West Bank “not only better than in the past, but ‘terrific.’ ”

Netanyahu seems equally determined to keep his word on the settlement freeze, judging by a document leaked by an Israeli army source to settlers, and thence to Haaretz. The army has clearly been ordered to treat the freeze like a military operation.

For instance, the document states, “all agencies will be used” to detect violations of the freeze, “including the intelligence branch of the [Central] Command, the Shin Bet [intelligence agency] and regular troops.” And any illegal construction will be destroyed in blitzkrieg operations in which “tactical surprise” will be achieved “by blocking off the area with large forces so as to paralyze” resistance.

One might question the wisdom of a full-throttle military operation against one’s own citizens, but it certainly indicates determination on Netanyahu’s part to keep his word.

So might Netanyahu be equally sincere in claiming that he truly wants to reach an agreement with Abbas? If “agreement” is defined as complete capitulation to Abbas’s demands, no. But a deal produced by genuine negotiations, in which both sides make concessions? There’s only one way to find out. And it isn’t by letting Abbas demand ever more upfront concessions just to get him to the table.

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Wooing the Israeli Center

The 10-month settlement freeze announced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week entails obvious risks, from the danger of being perceived as vulnerable to pressure to the time bomb of what happens when the 10 months end. And if the goal is to placate the Palestinians, Arab states, Europe, or the U.S., it also entails few rewards: all have already declared it insufficient (though some deemed it a “positive” first step).

But the freeze, like Netanyahu’s speech last June outlining his principles for a two-state solution, is probably aimed first and foremost at a domestic audience. And on this level, it may be sound tactics.

One lesson Netanyahu learned from both his first term as prime minister and his time in Ariel Sharon’s government was the importance of keeping the Israeli Center behind him. He currently faces two major problems — a nonexistent peace process and a likely need to order military action against Iran — that are liable to result in widespread international condemnation, escalated anti-Israel terror, pressure for potentially dangerous concessions, and perhaps even sanctions. To withstand this, he will need solid domestic support, which means he must convince the Israeli majority that neither problem is his fault: that he truly tried to restart peace talks and thereby also spur international action on Iran, given the West’s claim that such action would be easier if peace talks were progressing.

Faced with similar circumstances — a stalled peace process, a looming Iranian threat, growing international pressure, and consequent eroding domestic support — Sharon decided to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza. That achieved its goal: it got the Israeli Center behind him. But the price, in terms of both security and Israel’s image (as January’s Gaza war showed), was horrific.

The settlement freeze is a far smarter means of achieving the same goal. The only security risks it poses are those that stem from being perceived as easily pressured. Yet it is a concession no previous Israeli prime minister ever offered, and a substantial one: it even applies to settlement blocs that Israel wants to keep under any agreement and where even the moderate Left deems continued construction no impediment to peace.

Thus even if it fails to satisfy the Arabs, Europeans, and Americans, Netanyahu’s hope is that it will satisfy most Israelis: that when the world begins condemning Israel for the lack of progress toward peace and demanding additional, more dangerous concessions, the Israeli majority will not blame Netanyahu’s “intransigence” — after all, he has shown great flexibility — but rather the Palestinians’ unwillingness to respond to his gesture, and the world’s unwillingness to pressure them to do so instead of once again pressuring Israel. And it will therefore back him in refusing to make further concessions.

The freeze is a high-stakes gamble and could easily prove to be just the first of many Netanyahu capitulations to pressure. But if it pays off in mainstream Israeli support for confronting the difficult challenges ahead, it will be well worth the price.

The 10-month settlement freeze announced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week entails obvious risks, from the danger of being perceived as vulnerable to pressure to the time bomb of what happens when the 10 months end. And if the goal is to placate the Palestinians, Arab states, Europe, or the U.S., it also entails few rewards: all have already declared it insufficient (though some deemed it a “positive” first step).

But the freeze, like Netanyahu’s speech last June outlining his principles for a two-state solution, is probably aimed first and foremost at a domestic audience. And on this level, it may be sound tactics.

One lesson Netanyahu learned from both his first term as prime minister and his time in Ariel Sharon’s government was the importance of keeping the Israeli Center behind him. He currently faces two major problems — a nonexistent peace process and a likely need to order military action against Iran — that are liable to result in widespread international condemnation, escalated anti-Israel terror, pressure for potentially dangerous concessions, and perhaps even sanctions. To withstand this, he will need solid domestic support, which means he must convince the Israeli majority that neither problem is his fault: that he truly tried to restart peace talks and thereby also spur international action on Iran, given the West’s claim that such action would be easier if peace talks were progressing.

Faced with similar circumstances — a stalled peace process, a looming Iranian threat, growing international pressure, and consequent eroding domestic support — Sharon decided to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza. That achieved its goal: it got the Israeli Center behind him. But the price, in terms of both security and Israel’s image (as January’s Gaza war showed), was horrific.

The settlement freeze is a far smarter means of achieving the same goal. The only security risks it poses are those that stem from being perceived as easily pressured. Yet it is a concession no previous Israeli prime minister ever offered, and a substantial one: it even applies to settlement blocs that Israel wants to keep under any agreement and where even the moderate Left deems continued construction no impediment to peace.

Thus even if it fails to satisfy the Arabs, Europeans, and Americans, Netanyahu’s hope is that it will satisfy most Israelis: that when the world begins condemning Israel for the lack of progress toward peace and demanding additional, more dangerous concessions, the Israeli majority will not blame Netanyahu’s “intransigence” — after all, he has shown great flexibility — but rather the Palestinians’ unwillingness to respond to his gesture, and the world’s unwillingness to pressure them to do so instead of once again pressuring Israel. And it will therefore back him in refusing to make further concessions.

The freeze is a high-stakes gamble and could easily prove to be just the first of many Netanyahu capitulations to pressure. But if it pays off in mainstream Israeli support for confronting the difficult challenges ahead, it will be well worth the price.

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The Perils of Freelance Diplomacy

Shaul Mofaz has spent the past two weeks hawking his peace plan overseas. He has met with Obama administration officials Dennis Ross, Dan Shapiro, and Jeffrey Feltman; U.S. congressmen; UN officials; and the American, Turkish, Russian, Egyptian, and Jordanian ambassadors to Israel. But unless you follow Israeli politics closely, you’re probably wondering, “Who?”

And that’s the point: Mofaz isn’t a member of Israel’s government or even a party leader; he’s the No. 2 man in the largest opposition party, Kadima — which has yet to even discuss his plan. In other words, the plan he’s marketing abroad is one he hasn’t yet managed to sell even to his own party, much less to the Israeli public; moreover, he occupies no post that would enable him to implement it.

Nor is this unprecedented: other freelance Israeli diplomats have received equal or greater attention overseas. Yossi Beilin, for instance, met with high-ranking officials worldwide about his Geneva Initiative (a proposed Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement) in 2003, though he held no public office at the time. And when he did run for the Knesset three years later, the party he headed won five seats in the 120-seat Knesset. Not exactly a resounding vote of confidence from Israel’s public.

Were these foreign officials merely wasting their time, nobody would care. But this behavior has two pernicious effects.

First, it feeds the illusion among overseas governments that they don’t have to contend seriously with the positions of actual Israeli governments elected by actual Israeli voters; they can just sit and wait until the inconvenient incumbents are replaced by their pet opposition politician. Barack Obama’s failure to realize that treating Israel’s capital as a “settlement” would bolster Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rather than weaken him, since Netanyahu’s positions on Jerusalem in fact reflect those of Israel’s majority, is a classic example of the pitfalls of such illusions.

In reality, people freelance precisely because they are unable to convince their own public to put them in power. Beilin, for instance, went freelance after failing to make it into the Knesset in 2003; Mofaz is freelancing now because he lost Kadima’s leadership contest last fall. And there is no reason to believe such freelancers will be more electable in the future.

Second, international backing for freelancers can panic Israeli governments into moves that undermine the world’s stated goals. Global enthusiasm for the Geneva Initiative, for instance, helped push Ariel Sharon to unilaterally quit Gaza: he considered Geneva disastrous and wanted to distract attention from it. Yet the disengagement, which Palestinians considered a victory for terror, led to Hamas’s electoral victory in 2006 and its subsequent takeover of Gaza in 2007, both of which complicated peacemaking efforts.

Thus the proper response to freelance diplomats should be “first, convince your own public; then we’ll talk.” Granted, that would force world leaders to deal with actual Israeli positions rather than unelectable fantasies. But since Israel must ultimately approve any deal, a plan that can’t command an Israeli majority isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on anyway.

Shaul Mofaz has spent the past two weeks hawking his peace plan overseas. He has met with Obama administration officials Dennis Ross, Dan Shapiro, and Jeffrey Feltman; U.S. congressmen; UN officials; and the American, Turkish, Russian, Egyptian, and Jordanian ambassadors to Israel. But unless you follow Israeli politics closely, you’re probably wondering, “Who?”

And that’s the point: Mofaz isn’t a member of Israel’s government or even a party leader; he’s the No. 2 man in the largest opposition party, Kadima — which has yet to even discuss his plan. In other words, the plan he’s marketing abroad is one he hasn’t yet managed to sell even to his own party, much less to the Israeli public; moreover, he occupies no post that would enable him to implement it.

Nor is this unprecedented: other freelance Israeli diplomats have received equal or greater attention overseas. Yossi Beilin, for instance, met with high-ranking officials worldwide about his Geneva Initiative (a proposed Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement) in 2003, though he held no public office at the time. And when he did run for the Knesset three years later, the party he headed won five seats in the 120-seat Knesset. Not exactly a resounding vote of confidence from Israel’s public.

Were these foreign officials merely wasting their time, nobody would care. But this behavior has two pernicious effects.

First, it feeds the illusion among overseas governments that they don’t have to contend seriously with the positions of actual Israeli governments elected by actual Israeli voters; they can just sit and wait until the inconvenient incumbents are replaced by their pet opposition politician. Barack Obama’s failure to realize that treating Israel’s capital as a “settlement” would bolster Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rather than weaken him, since Netanyahu’s positions on Jerusalem in fact reflect those of Israel’s majority, is a classic example of the pitfalls of such illusions.

In reality, people freelance precisely because they are unable to convince their own public to put them in power. Beilin, for instance, went freelance after failing to make it into the Knesset in 2003; Mofaz is freelancing now because he lost Kadima’s leadership contest last fall. And there is no reason to believe such freelancers will be more electable in the future.

Second, international backing for freelancers can panic Israeli governments into moves that undermine the world’s stated goals. Global enthusiasm for the Geneva Initiative, for instance, helped push Ariel Sharon to unilaterally quit Gaza: he considered Geneva disastrous and wanted to distract attention from it. Yet the disengagement, which Palestinians considered a victory for terror, led to Hamas’s electoral victory in 2006 and its subsequent takeover of Gaza in 2007, both of which complicated peacemaking efforts.

Thus the proper response to freelance diplomats should be “first, convince your own public; then we’ll talk.” Granted, that would force world leaders to deal with actual Israeli positions rather than unelectable fantasies. But since Israel must ultimately approve any deal, a plan that can’t command an Israeli majority isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on anyway.

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Re: The Value of an International Guarantee

Let me add a note to Evelyn Gordon’s important posts yesterday and today regarding Mahmoud Abbas’s weekend assertion that the UN should endorse a two-state solution “based on the June 4, 1967 borders” – a solution he contends is reflected in the relevant UN Security Council resolution and the Roadmap.

As Evelyn’s first post demonstrated, Resolution 242 (1967) refers to a withdrawal from an unspecified portion of “territories” (not “the” or “all the” territories) and to “secure and recognized boundaries.” Former UN Ambassador Arthur J. Goldberg wrote that “the notable omissions in language used to refer to withdrawal are the words the, all, and the June 5, 1967 lines.” The resolution was intended to ensure that Israel would not have to withdraw to the indefensible borders that provoked the Six-Day War.

The Roadmap calls for final-status negotiations in Phase III “based on UNSCR 242.” It does not mention the June 4, 1967, lines, much less endorse them as “borders.” The U.S. has at least three times formally assured Israel of “defensible borders” as the outcome of the peace process: (1) in the January 16, 1997, letter from Secretary of State Warren Christopher to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; (2) in the April 14, 2004, letter from President George W. Bush to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon; and (3) in the January 16, 2009, Memorandum of Agreement between the U.S. and Israel. Only such borders meet the Resolution 242 requirement that Israel’s borders be not only recognized but also secure.

Evelyn’s second post demonstrates that it would be a breach of a longstanding international guarantee to Israel for the UN to endorse the June 4, 1967, lines as the basis of a Palestinian state. It would also violate repeated assurances made to Israel by the United States.

Let me add a note to Evelyn Gordon’s important posts yesterday and today regarding Mahmoud Abbas’s weekend assertion that the UN should endorse a two-state solution “based on the June 4, 1967 borders” – a solution he contends is reflected in the relevant UN Security Council resolution and the Roadmap.

As Evelyn’s first post demonstrated, Resolution 242 (1967) refers to a withdrawal from an unspecified portion of “territories” (not “the” or “all the” territories) and to “secure and recognized boundaries.” Former UN Ambassador Arthur J. Goldberg wrote that “the notable omissions in language used to refer to withdrawal are the words the, all, and the June 5, 1967 lines.” The resolution was intended to ensure that Israel would not have to withdraw to the indefensible borders that provoked the Six-Day War.

The Roadmap calls for final-status negotiations in Phase III “based on UNSCR 242.” It does not mention the June 4, 1967, lines, much less endorse them as “borders.” The U.S. has at least three times formally assured Israel of “defensible borders” as the outcome of the peace process: (1) in the January 16, 1997, letter from Secretary of State Warren Christopher to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; (2) in the April 14, 2004, letter from President George W. Bush to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon; and (3) in the January 16, 2009, Memorandum of Agreement between the U.S. and Israel. Only such borders meet the Resolution 242 requirement that Israel’s borders be not only recognized but also secure.

Evelyn’s second post demonstrates that it would be a breach of a longstanding international guarantee to Israel for the UN to endorse the June 4, 1967, lines as the basis of a Palestinian state. It would also violate repeated assurances made to Israel by the United States.

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Five Tips for Effective Peace-Processing

The New York Times reported yesterday that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, speaking of declaring a Palestinian state unilaterally, announced:

“We feel we are in a very difficult situation,” Mr. Abbas said. “What is the solution for us? To remain suspended like this, not in peace? That is why I took this step.” Aides have said that Mr. Abbas, who said recently that he did not wish to run again for the Palestinian leadership, is dispirited by the lack of movement in the peace process.

Dispirited by the lack of movement in the peace process?

Six months ago, lack of movement was not cause for concern but part of the plan. After Abbas met with President Obama on May 28, the Washington Post reported the new strategy: wait for things that Abbas knew would never happen.

Abbas and his team fully expect that Netanyahu will never agree to the full settlement freeze. … So they plan to sit back and watch while U.S. pressure slowly squeezes the Israeli prime minister from office. “It will take a couple of years,” one official breezily predicted. …

Instead, [Abbas] says, he will remain passive. “I will wait for Hamas to accept international commitments. I will wait for Israel to freeze settlements,” he said. “Until then, in the West Bank we have a good reality . . . the people are living a normal life.”

The current “difficult situation” is not the result of any deterioration in the good life in the West Bank. On the contrary, that situation has improved since May, as the Netanyahu government has dismantled checkpoints and administrative barriers to economic activity. The difficult situation is rather the result of an Obama diplomatic process that will be studied for years as a lesson in self-propelled hoisting.

Here is how Robert Satloff, in a perceptive presentation for the Washington Institute, describes what happened:

Where Bush was willing to reach quiet, practical, de facto, but very real understandings with Israel on settlement activity, Obama would deny that such understandings ever existed and demand something that no Israeli government could deliver (and, as a result, what no Palestinian leader since the years of the Oslo Accords had ever insisted on): an absolute, 100 percent, not-one-brick freeze on construction in any non-Arab site in either the West Bank or Jerusalem.

* * *

What Netanyahu offered the United States on settlements was certainly constructive and helpful but probably did not merit the accolade “unprecedented,” as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Jerusalem. Here, the failing was the administration’s unwillingness to accept the original understandings on settlement activity reached by Ariel Sharon and George W. Bush. If those understandings had not existed, then Bibi’s offer would have been, in a sense, unprecedented, but everyone — Israelis, Palestinians, other Arabs — knew that the Sharon-Bush understandings did exist. Washington was caught in a web of its own making.

Lessons for future Diplomacy 101 students: (1) do not renege on understandings with another country, even though they were reached before you took office; (2) do not deny that an understanding existed when everyone knows it existed; (3) try to build on what your predecessor achieved, instead of denying he achieved anything; and (4) do not slowly squeeze allies (save that for adversaries).

One other tip: do not start your peace process by reneging, denying, and squeezing one side while giving the other side the impression that all it needs to do is sit back and watch you do it. It will create a difficult situation.

The New York Times reported yesterday that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, speaking of declaring a Palestinian state unilaterally, announced:

“We feel we are in a very difficult situation,” Mr. Abbas said. “What is the solution for us? To remain suspended like this, not in peace? That is why I took this step.” Aides have said that Mr. Abbas, who said recently that he did not wish to run again for the Palestinian leadership, is dispirited by the lack of movement in the peace process.

Dispirited by the lack of movement in the peace process?

Six months ago, lack of movement was not cause for concern but part of the plan. After Abbas met with President Obama on May 28, the Washington Post reported the new strategy: wait for things that Abbas knew would never happen.

Abbas and his team fully expect that Netanyahu will never agree to the full settlement freeze. … So they plan to sit back and watch while U.S. pressure slowly squeezes the Israeli prime minister from office. “It will take a couple of years,” one official breezily predicted. …

Instead, [Abbas] says, he will remain passive. “I will wait for Hamas to accept international commitments. I will wait for Israel to freeze settlements,” he said. “Until then, in the West Bank we have a good reality . . . the people are living a normal life.”

The current “difficult situation” is not the result of any deterioration in the good life in the West Bank. On the contrary, that situation has improved since May, as the Netanyahu government has dismantled checkpoints and administrative barriers to economic activity. The difficult situation is rather the result of an Obama diplomatic process that will be studied for years as a lesson in self-propelled hoisting.

Here is how Robert Satloff, in a perceptive presentation for the Washington Institute, describes what happened:

Where Bush was willing to reach quiet, practical, de facto, but very real understandings with Israel on settlement activity, Obama would deny that such understandings ever existed and demand something that no Israeli government could deliver (and, as a result, what no Palestinian leader since the years of the Oslo Accords had ever insisted on): an absolute, 100 percent, not-one-brick freeze on construction in any non-Arab site in either the West Bank or Jerusalem.

* * *

What Netanyahu offered the United States on settlements was certainly constructive and helpful but probably did not merit the accolade “unprecedented,” as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Jerusalem. Here, the failing was the administration’s unwillingness to accept the original understandings on settlement activity reached by Ariel Sharon and George W. Bush. If those understandings had not existed, then Bibi’s offer would have been, in a sense, unprecedented, but everyone — Israelis, Palestinians, other Arabs — knew that the Sharon-Bush understandings did exist. Washington was caught in a web of its own making.

Lessons for future Diplomacy 101 students: (1) do not renege on understandings with another country, even though they were reached before you took office; (2) do not deny that an understanding existed when everyone knows it existed; (3) try to build on what your predecessor achieved, instead of denying he achieved anything; and (4) do not slowly squeeze allies (save that for adversaries).

One other tip: do not start your peace process by reneging, denying, and squeezing one side while giving the other side the impression that all it needs to do is sit back and watch you do it. It will create a difficult situation.

Read Less

Olmert the Etrog?

John wrote about this already, but I want to put in my two cents. Less than a day has passed since the Israeli Supreme Court dealt a major blow to Ehud Olmert’s bid to stay out of jail, by ruling that Israeli Police may take a deposition from the New York businessman who allegedly bribed him–and now we have the Prime Minister’s Office making a dramatic announcement that peace talks are under way with Syria.

Coincidence, you say? Unlikely. One of the most disturbing aspects of Ariel Sharon’s tenure as Prime Minister was the bizarre tendency for his criminal investigations to disappear from the public eye every time it seemed like he was about to do something that could be seen as leading to peace–especially the 2005 disengagement from Gaza. It has become something of an open secret in Israel that both the justice system and journalists bend for its leaders’ peace initiatives, and that a peace-seeking Prime Minister becomes, in the words of one commentator, an “etrog”–a beautiful fruit that must be handled with care and protected at all cost.

But there is reason to think that what worked for Sharon will not work for Olmert. Sharon knew how to cultivate his image, and he was far more respected by both the Israeli elites and the general public than is Olmert, whose popularity has dropped way below even Sharon’s lowest point as Prime Minister. But more importantly, Sharon’s government was, by all appearances at the time, far more likely to pull off the disengagement from Gaza than Olmert is to sign a peace accord with Syria. First, disengagement was a unilateral move, whereas a treaty with Syria will require that the Assad regime abandon the central cause it has rallied around for a generation: War with Israel. Second, the Golan Heights, which would be the necessary price Israel would pay for any peace deal, is seen by a far greater number of Israelis as an inseparable part of the Jewish state than the Gaza strip ever was. And third, Sharon always carried with him the mystique of a man who can be counted on to follow through with his plans, regardless of whether you agreed with him; while Olmert has proven time and again the triviality of his promises.

The biggest reason, however, might come from the sea of police and justice officials who have been working on the most important criminal investigation of their lives. After massive leaks have suggested that an indictment is on its way, and Olmert has pledged to resign if indicted–maybe this ball has too much momentum to be stopped by the unlikely prospect of peace with a member of the Axis of Evil? Maybe the etrog has already fallen?

John wrote about this already, but I want to put in my two cents. Less than a day has passed since the Israeli Supreme Court dealt a major blow to Ehud Olmert’s bid to stay out of jail, by ruling that Israeli Police may take a deposition from the New York businessman who allegedly bribed him–and now we have the Prime Minister’s Office making a dramatic announcement that peace talks are under way with Syria.

Coincidence, you say? Unlikely. One of the most disturbing aspects of Ariel Sharon’s tenure as Prime Minister was the bizarre tendency for his criminal investigations to disappear from the public eye every time it seemed like he was about to do something that could be seen as leading to peace–especially the 2005 disengagement from Gaza. It has become something of an open secret in Israel that both the justice system and journalists bend for its leaders’ peace initiatives, and that a peace-seeking Prime Minister becomes, in the words of one commentator, an “etrog”–a beautiful fruit that must be handled with care and protected at all cost.

But there is reason to think that what worked for Sharon will not work for Olmert. Sharon knew how to cultivate his image, and he was far more respected by both the Israeli elites and the general public than is Olmert, whose popularity has dropped way below even Sharon’s lowest point as Prime Minister. But more importantly, Sharon’s government was, by all appearances at the time, far more likely to pull off the disengagement from Gaza than Olmert is to sign a peace accord with Syria. First, disengagement was a unilateral move, whereas a treaty with Syria will require that the Assad regime abandon the central cause it has rallied around for a generation: War with Israel. Second, the Golan Heights, which would be the necessary price Israel would pay for any peace deal, is seen by a far greater number of Israelis as an inseparable part of the Jewish state than the Gaza strip ever was. And third, Sharon always carried with him the mystique of a man who can be counted on to follow through with his plans, regardless of whether you agreed with him; while Olmert has proven time and again the triviality of his promises.

The biggest reason, however, might come from the sea of police and justice officials who have been working on the most important criminal investigation of their lives. After massive leaks have suggested that an indictment is on its way, and Olmert has pledged to resign if indicted–maybe this ball has too much momentum to be stopped by the unlikely prospect of peace with a member of the Axis of Evil? Maybe the etrog has already fallen?

Read Less




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