Commentary Magazine


Topic: broker

RE: It’s Not About Settlements

As Jennifer noted yesterday in her comments on Giora Eiland’s Ynet op-ed, Palestinian unwillingness to recognize Israel as a Jewish state is the make-or-break issue of the peace process. She’s also correct that the Obama administration shows no signs of recognizing this fact. But two recent developments make this blindness particularly puzzling.

First, the critical importance of recognition is not an obscure point that an honest broker could easily overlook; it has by now become glaringly obvious to an overwhelming majority of ordinary Americans.

In an Israel Project poll released this week, 63 percent of respondents said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “is mostly about religion and ideology,” so “the key to peace is each side acknowledging the other’s right to exist.” That is double the 32 percent who thought it’s “mostly about land,” so “the key to peace is figuring out how to divide the land they share, establish borders, and address Jerusalem.”

Nor did respondents have trouble identifying which party was actually unwilling to recognize the other: 61 percent said Israel was “more committed” to reaching a deal; only 11 percent chose the Palestinians.

But the administration’s inability to grasp what is obvious to most Americans is even more bewildering given that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has spared no effort recently to drive the point home.

Even at the talks’ gala Washington launch on September 2, when both sides were presumably at their most conciliatory, Abbas used the opening ceremony to announce that he would never recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

A few days later, he told the Al-Quds newspaper that he won’t even discuss recognizing Israel as a Jewish state. And if he’s pressured to make any concessions on this point, or on the refugees’ “right of return” — a euphemism for eradicating the Jewish state through demography — he will “pack his bags and leave.”

Other leading Palestinian officials, such as senior negotiator Nabil Shaath, have echoed this refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Yet Barack Obama and his team still insist, in the teeth of all this evidence, that the most critical issue is getting Israel to continue its moratorium on settlement construction. “I told [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu that ‘you’ve got to show president Abbas that you’re serious,’” he told reporters last week.

And this week, U.S. mediator George Mitchell once again touted his favorite idea (Hebrew only): that the talks for now should focus solely on borders, because once the border is finalized, settlement construction — which is clearly Washington’s primary concern — would cease to be an issue. But Netanyahu again rejected it, pointing out that in practice, this means Israel ceding land without the Palestinians’ having to address any of Israel’s main concerns, like recognition.

In last week’s interview, Obama also said that “the only way to succeed [in the talks] is to see the world through the other person’s eyes.” Perhaps he should take his own advice and look at the world through Israeli, or even ordinary American, eyes. For unless he grasps that the real issue is not settlements, but recognition, negotiations don’t have a prayer.

As Jennifer noted yesterday in her comments on Giora Eiland’s Ynet op-ed, Palestinian unwillingness to recognize Israel as a Jewish state is the make-or-break issue of the peace process. She’s also correct that the Obama administration shows no signs of recognizing this fact. But two recent developments make this blindness particularly puzzling.

First, the critical importance of recognition is not an obscure point that an honest broker could easily overlook; it has by now become glaringly obvious to an overwhelming majority of ordinary Americans.

In an Israel Project poll released this week, 63 percent of respondents said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “is mostly about religion and ideology,” so “the key to peace is each side acknowledging the other’s right to exist.” That is double the 32 percent who thought it’s “mostly about land,” so “the key to peace is figuring out how to divide the land they share, establish borders, and address Jerusalem.”

Nor did respondents have trouble identifying which party was actually unwilling to recognize the other: 61 percent said Israel was “more committed” to reaching a deal; only 11 percent chose the Palestinians.

But the administration’s inability to grasp what is obvious to most Americans is even more bewildering given that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has spared no effort recently to drive the point home.

Even at the talks’ gala Washington launch on September 2, when both sides were presumably at their most conciliatory, Abbas used the opening ceremony to announce that he would never recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

A few days later, he told the Al-Quds newspaper that he won’t even discuss recognizing Israel as a Jewish state. And if he’s pressured to make any concessions on this point, or on the refugees’ “right of return” — a euphemism for eradicating the Jewish state through demography — he will “pack his bags and leave.”

Other leading Palestinian officials, such as senior negotiator Nabil Shaath, have echoed this refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Yet Barack Obama and his team still insist, in the teeth of all this evidence, that the most critical issue is getting Israel to continue its moratorium on settlement construction. “I told [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu that ‘you’ve got to show president Abbas that you’re serious,’” he told reporters last week.

And this week, U.S. mediator George Mitchell once again touted his favorite idea (Hebrew only): that the talks for now should focus solely on borders, because once the border is finalized, settlement construction — which is clearly Washington’s primary concern — would cease to be an issue. But Netanyahu again rejected it, pointing out that in practice, this means Israel ceding land without the Palestinians’ having to address any of Israel’s main concerns, like recognition.

In last week’s interview, Obama also said that “the only way to succeed [in the talks] is to see the world through the other person’s eyes.” Perhaps he should take his own advice and look at the world through Israeli, or even ordinary American, eyes. For unless he grasps that the real issue is not settlements, but recognition, negotiations don’t have a prayer.

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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.

Read Less

What Did You Do?

As Jonathan has noted, we don’t know exactly how shabby the Obami’s behavior toward Bibi Netanyahu was. It is cause for alarm if it was remotely like this:

After failing to extract a written promise of concessions on Jewish settlements, Mr Obama walked out of his meeting with Mr Netanyahu but invited him to stay at the White House, consult with advisors and “let me know if there is anything new”, a US congressman who spoke to the Prime Minister said today.

“It was awful,” the congressman said. One Israeli newspaper called the meeting “a hazing in stages”, poisoned by such mistrust that the Israeli delegation eventually left rather than risk being eavesdropped on a White House phone line. Another said that the Prime Minister had received “the treatment reserved for the President of Equatorial Guinea”.

But even if lacking the abject rudeness, both the projected air of chilliness and the ensuing deadlines that we have learned have been imposed on the Israeli government are enough to confirm that the relationship between the two countries is anything but “rock solid,” as Hillary Clinton claimed during her AIPAC speech. This report suggests, at the very least, that the Obami are sticking with their modus operandi — preconditions and ultimatums for the Israelis, and water-carrying for the Palestinians:

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will convene his senior ministers on Friday to discuss the demands made by US President Barack Obama and his overall trip to Washington – a trip that, because of negative atmospherics and amid a paucity of hard information, has been widely characterized as among the most difficult in recent memory.

Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office continued to throw a blackout on the Netanyahu-Obama meeting, as well as give only very sketchy information about the commitments that the US is demanding of Israel as a precursor to starting the proximity talks with the Palestinians. The US, according to officials, wants these commitments by Saturday so it can take them to the Arab League meeting in Libya and receive that organization’s backing for starting proximity talks. …

According to various Israeli sources, the Obama administration is asking for Israel to commit to some type of limitation on building in east Jerusalem; to show a willingness to deal with the so-called core issues of borders, refugee and Jerusalem already in the indirect talks; and to agree to a number of confidence building measures, including the release of hundreds of Fatah prisoners.

There were also reports, not confirmed, that the administration had asked for a commitment to extend the moratorium on housing starts in the West Bank settlements beyond the 10-months originally declared.

Netanyahu reportedly wanted to know where the “reciprocity” was and why he was the one making all the concessions. (“Netanyahu, according to senior officials, said that while the US held him responsible for the timing of the announcement to build 1,600 units in Ramat Shlomo, rather than holding Interior Minister Eli Yishai responsible, Abbas was not held responsible when it came to the PA — which recently presided over the naming of a square in Ramallah for the terrorist responsible for the Coastal Road massacre.”) Well, had the Obami been honest, they would have said that they can’t get the Palestinians to agree to anything, so they’ve decided to squeeze the Israelis — even though this seems only to increase the Palestinians’ demands for even more concessions. But, no, I don’t suppose the White House bullies were that candid.

All this makes clear just how disingenuous was Clinton’s entire appeal to AIPAC this week. She protested that it was Israel creating the daylight by announcing a routine housing permit. She pleaded that the fuss was needed to restore the administration’s credibility as an honest broker in the peace process. (Or was it to enhance its credibility to Iran? It’s hard to keep the excuses straight.) She assured the crowd that Israel’s security was paramount to the U.S. Then she declared that of course, of course an Iranian nuclear-weapons program was “unacceptable.” It all seems patently absurd as events continue to unfold.

It is not that the Obami fear daylight between the U.S. and Israel; it is that they flaunt it. It is not credibility as an honest broker that the Obami are establishing but rather fidelity to the Palestinian negotiating stance. And after all this, and the revelation that the proposed sanctions will be pinpricks at best, would any reasonable Israeli leader believe this administration will do everything (or even anything too strenuous) to remove the existential threat to the Jewish state?

The low point in the history of U.S.-Israel relations has come about not because of a housing permit but because we have a president fundamentally uninterested in retaining the robust, close relationship between the two countries that other administrations of both parties have cultivated. The Obami set out to separate the U.S. from Israel, to pressure and cajole the Jewish state, and to remake the U.S. into an eager suitor to the Muslim World. In the process, anti-Israel delegitimizing efforts have been unleashed as Israel’s enemies (and our own allies) sense that we have downgraded the relationship with the Jewish state, the Israeli public has come to distrust the administration, the American Jewish electorate is somewhere between stunned and horrified, and Israel is less secure and more isolated than ever before.

If mainstream Jewish organizations are serious about their stated mission, it is incumbent upon them to protest this state of affairs clearly and loudly and make their support for this president and his congressional enablers conditional, based on a change of policy in regard to Israel. Otherwise, they are enabling a potentially fatal assault on the security of the Jewish state. Silence is acquiescence; meekness is shameful. A generation from now, Jews will be asking those who led key American Jewish organizations, what did you do to protect Israel? What did you do to protest the creep toward a “containment” policy for a nuclear-armed Iran? They better have a good answer.

As Jonathan has noted, we don’t know exactly how shabby the Obami’s behavior toward Bibi Netanyahu was. It is cause for alarm if it was remotely like this:

After failing to extract a written promise of concessions on Jewish settlements, Mr Obama walked out of his meeting with Mr Netanyahu but invited him to stay at the White House, consult with advisors and “let me know if there is anything new”, a US congressman who spoke to the Prime Minister said today.

“It was awful,” the congressman said. One Israeli newspaper called the meeting “a hazing in stages”, poisoned by such mistrust that the Israeli delegation eventually left rather than risk being eavesdropped on a White House phone line. Another said that the Prime Minister had received “the treatment reserved for the President of Equatorial Guinea”.

But even if lacking the abject rudeness, both the projected air of chilliness and the ensuing deadlines that we have learned have been imposed on the Israeli government are enough to confirm that the relationship between the two countries is anything but “rock solid,” as Hillary Clinton claimed during her AIPAC speech. This report suggests, at the very least, that the Obami are sticking with their modus operandi — preconditions and ultimatums for the Israelis, and water-carrying for the Palestinians:

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will convene his senior ministers on Friday to discuss the demands made by US President Barack Obama and his overall trip to Washington – a trip that, because of negative atmospherics and amid a paucity of hard information, has been widely characterized as among the most difficult in recent memory.

Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office continued to throw a blackout on the Netanyahu-Obama meeting, as well as give only very sketchy information about the commitments that the US is demanding of Israel as a precursor to starting the proximity talks with the Palestinians. The US, according to officials, wants these commitments by Saturday so it can take them to the Arab League meeting in Libya and receive that organization’s backing for starting proximity talks. …

According to various Israeli sources, the Obama administration is asking for Israel to commit to some type of limitation on building in east Jerusalem; to show a willingness to deal with the so-called core issues of borders, refugee and Jerusalem already in the indirect talks; and to agree to a number of confidence building measures, including the release of hundreds of Fatah prisoners.

There were also reports, not confirmed, that the administration had asked for a commitment to extend the moratorium on housing starts in the West Bank settlements beyond the 10-months originally declared.

Netanyahu reportedly wanted to know where the “reciprocity” was and why he was the one making all the concessions. (“Netanyahu, according to senior officials, said that while the US held him responsible for the timing of the announcement to build 1,600 units in Ramat Shlomo, rather than holding Interior Minister Eli Yishai responsible, Abbas was not held responsible when it came to the PA — which recently presided over the naming of a square in Ramallah for the terrorist responsible for the Coastal Road massacre.”) Well, had the Obami been honest, they would have said that they can’t get the Palestinians to agree to anything, so they’ve decided to squeeze the Israelis — even though this seems only to increase the Palestinians’ demands for even more concessions. But, no, I don’t suppose the White House bullies were that candid.

All this makes clear just how disingenuous was Clinton’s entire appeal to AIPAC this week. She protested that it was Israel creating the daylight by announcing a routine housing permit. She pleaded that the fuss was needed to restore the administration’s credibility as an honest broker in the peace process. (Or was it to enhance its credibility to Iran? It’s hard to keep the excuses straight.) She assured the crowd that Israel’s security was paramount to the U.S. Then she declared that of course, of course an Iranian nuclear-weapons program was “unacceptable.” It all seems patently absurd as events continue to unfold.

It is not that the Obami fear daylight between the U.S. and Israel; it is that they flaunt it. It is not credibility as an honest broker that the Obami are establishing but rather fidelity to the Palestinian negotiating stance. And after all this, and the revelation that the proposed sanctions will be pinpricks at best, would any reasonable Israeli leader believe this administration will do everything (or even anything too strenuous) to remove the existential threat to the Jewish state?

The low point in the history of U.S.-Israel relations has come about not because of a housing permit but because we have a president fundamentally uninterested in retaining the robust, close relationship between the two countries that other administrations of both parties have cultivated. The Obami set out to separate the U.S. from Israel, to pressure and cajole the Jewish state, and to remake the U.S. into an eager suitor to the Muslim World. In the process, anti-Israel delegitimizing efforts have been unleashed as Israel’s enemies (and our own allies) sense that we have downgraded the relationship with the Jewish state, the Israeli public has come to distrust the administration, the American Jewish electorate is somewhere between stunned and horrified, and Israel is less secure and more isolated than ever before.

If mainstream Jewish organizations are serious about their stated mission, it is incumbent upon them to protest this state of affairs clearly and loudly and make their support for this president and his congressional enablers conditional, based on a change of policy in regard to Israel. Otherwise, they are enabling a potentially fatal assault on the security of the Jewish state. Silence is acquiescence; meekness is shameful. A generation from now, Jews will be asking those who led key American Jewish organizations, what did you do to protect Israel? What did you do to protest the creep toward a “containment” policy for a nuclear-armed Iran? They better have a good answer.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

The Washington Post‘s idea of an “Islamic scholar” was Hitler’s pal and Muslim recruiting officer for the SS.

The issue going forward for Obama’s Israel policy is, as Elliott Abrams puts it, “Do you dig in, or do you try to dig out?”

For now, they are digging in: “Obama reportedly asked Netanyahu to put in writing assurances that Israel would make gestures to the Palestinians in order to coax them back to negotiations, and that Israel would be willing to discuss final-status issues such as Jerusalem and borders during the upcoming round of indirect talks.” More unilateral concessions and final-status issues with the U.S. as the “honest broker” — what’s not for Bibi to like? Everything.

Why it’s fun having Mickey Kaus in the California Democratic Senate primary: “I don’t for one minute believe that the bill’s new, highly subsidized system of insurance ‘exchanges’–allowing millions of less affluent citizens to gain access to ever-more-complicated medical technology–will  ‘bend the curve’ of health care costs downwards or help the nation’s deficit situation.”

A revealing video – the hyper-partisan, pro–individual health-care mandate candidate in the 2008 Democratic primary wasn’t Barack Obama. So when Obama says, “That’s what elections are for,” I suppose the end of that sentence is “so you can win and then do what you really wanted to all along but couldn’t tell the rubes without frightening them.”

Another video points out that you get a much warmer greeting from Obama if you are a despotic thug than if you are the Israeli prime minister.

Charles Krauthammer explains: “They meet for several hours — no press, no pictures, no joint appearances, as if the prime minister of Israel is toxic, as if somehow he represents a pariah state. It feeds into the perception around the world, particularly in the Arab world and in some elements in Europe, of Israel as a pariah state.”

A silver lining? Post-ObamaCare, Sen. Lindsey Graham postulates that “Democrats from conservative states will now be less likely to embrace the climate effort now that they’ve cast a tough vote on healthcare. … ‘Go talk to Blanche Lincoln. Hey, you want to do energy and climate? You want to do immigration? Go talk to [Jon] Tester, to Ben Nelson, give them a shout-out,’ he said. ‘I just think the idea of doing hard things has been tainted because the blowback they are getting on health care has made them risk averse.’”

Phil Gramm joins the “Repeal and Reform” brigade: “Republicans have a job to do. They must make it clear to the American people that this is only the beginning of the debate. There will be two congressional elections and a presidential election before the government takeover is implemented in 2014. I believe that Republicans should take the unequivocal position that if they are given a majority in Congress in November, they will stop the implementation of the government takeover. And if a Republican is elected president in 2012, they will do with Mr. Obama’s health-care bill what the American voters will have done to the Democrats: throw it out.”


The Washington Post‘s idea of an “Islamic scholar” was Hitler’s pal and Muslim recruiting officer for the SS.

The issue going forward for Obama’s Israel policy is, as Elliott Abrams puts it, “Do you dig in, or do you try to dig out?”

For now, they are digging in: “Obama reportedly asked Netanyahu to put in writing assurances that Israel would make gestures to the Palestinians in order to coax them back to negotiations, and that Israel would be willing to discuss final-status issues such as Jerusalem and borders during the upcoming round of indirect talks.” More unilateral concessions and final-status issues with the U.S. as the “honest broker” — what’s not for Bibi to like? Everything.

Why it’s fun having Mickey Kaus in the California Democratic Senate primary: “I don’t for one minute believe that the bill’s new, highly subsidized system of insurance ‘exchanges’–allowing millions of less affluent citizens to gain access to ever-more-complicated medical technology–will  ‘bend the curve’ of health care costs downwards or help the nation’s deficit situation.”

A revealing video – the hyper-partisan, pro–individual health-care mandate candidate in the 2008 Democratic primary wasn’t Barack Obama. So when Obama says, “That’s what elections are for,” I suppose the end of that sentence is “so you can win and then do what you really wanted to all along but couldn’t tell the rubes without frightening them.”

Another video points out that you get a much warmer greeting from Obama if you are a despotic thug than if you are the Israeli prime minister.

Charles Krauthammer explains: “They meet for several hours — no press, no pictures, no joint appearances, as if the prime minister of Israel is toxic, as if somehow he represents a pariah state. It feeds into the perception around the world, particularly in the Arab world and in some elements in Europe, of Israel as a pariah state.”

A silver lining? Post-ObamaCare, Sen. Lindsey Graham postulates that “Democrats from conservative states will now be less likely to embrace the climate effort now that they’ve cast a tough vote on healthcare. … ‘Go talk to Blanche Lincoln. Hey, you want to do energy and climate? You want to do immigration? Go talk to [Jon] Tester, to Ben Nelson, give them a shout-out,’ he said. ‘I just think the idea of doing hard things has been tainted because the blowback they are getting on health care has made them risk averse.’”

Phil Gramm joins the “Repeal and Reform” brigade: “Republicans have a job to do. They must make it clear to the American people that this is only the beginning of the debate. There will be two congressional elections and a presidential election before the government takeover is implemented in 2014. I believe that Republicans should take the unequivocal position that if they are given a majority in Congress in November, they will stop the implementation of the government takeover. And if a Republican is elected president in 2012, they will do with Mr. Obama’s health-care bill what the American voters will have done to the Democrats: throw it out.”


Read Less

Obama’s Strategy Is to Weaken or Remove Bibi

The Obama administration seeks to recover from the stagnation it imposed on the peace process a year ago by doubling down on its strategy of making impossible demands on the Israelis, hoping that this time they will cave.

The administration thought it had discovered a way forward in the form of proximity talks, in which the U.S. would serve as mediator in indirect negotiations between the two sides, being that the Palestinians are refusing direct talks (this ongoing Palestinian refusal, of course, earns zero criticism from the White House).

But now the administration is attaching new demands to the commencement of the talks:

to reverse last week’s approval of 1,600 housing units in a disputed area of Jerusalem, make a substantial gesture toward the Palestinians, and publicly declare that all of the “core issues” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the status of Jerusalem, be included in upcoming talks.

It should be obvious, at this point, that Obama is trying to manufacture an immense political dilemma for Netanyahu by forcing him to choose between two crises — one with the United States should he accept the demands, the other with his coalition partners and the Israeli public should he reject them. For Netanyahu, this is a no-win situation. The only choice is between less damaging options.

Netanyahu should reject the new demands, because they are not made in good faith, they are a reversal of previous Obama commitments, and, most important, the proximity talks themselves are a trap.

Obama has demonstrated very clearly that he is not an “honest broker” — he is instead behaving as a lawyer for the Palestinians. The danger of proximity talks in which all the “core issues” of the conflict would be on the table is that the U.S. would act not as mediator but in tandem with the Palestinians to pressure Israel into making dangerous and unprecedented concessions. As Haaretz reported two weeks ago,

According to a senior official in the Palestinian Authority, the Obama administration has promised Abbas that if either side fails to live up to expectations, the United States will not conceal its disappointment, nor will it hesitate to take steps to remove the obstacle. In addition, the PA was promised that the United States would not be satisfied with playing the role of messenger. According to what the official read to me, the Obama administration will present its own proposals in an effort to bridge the gaps.

Obama has shown very clearly that, as on health care, he is personally passionate, emotionally invested, and possessed of the belief that he has the power to push through sweeping changes. The proximity talks would give Obama just the opening he needs to subject Netanyahu to an escalating series of demands and punishments — confronting him with the same dilemma he faces right now, only even more severe. Danger lies ahead.

The Obama administration seeks to recover from the stagnation it imposed on the peace process a year ago by doubling down on its strategy of making impossible demands on the Israelis, hoping that this time they will cave.

The administration thought it had discovered a way forward in the form of proximity talks, in which the U.S. would serve as mediator in indirect negotiations between the two sides, being that the Palestinians are refusing direct talks (this ongoing Palestinian refusal, of course, earns zero criticism from the White House).

But now the administration is attaching new demands to the commencement of the talks:

to reverse last week’s approval of 1,600 housing units in a disputed area of Jerusalem, make a substantial gesture toward the Palestinians, and publicly declare that all of the “core issues” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the status of Jerusalem, be included in upcoming talks.

It should be obvious, at this point, that Obama is trying to manufacture an immense political dilemma for Netanyahu by forcing him to choose between two crises — one with the United States should he accept the demands, the other with his coalition partners and the Israeli public should he reject them. For Netanyahu, this is a no-win situation. The only choice is between less damaging options.

Netanyahu should reject the new demands, because they are not made in good faith, they are a reversal of previous Obama commitments, and, most important, the proximity talks themselves are a trap.

Obama has demonstrated very clearly that he is not an “honest broker” — he is instead behaving as a lawyer for the Palestinians. The danger of proximity talks in which all the “core issues” of the conflict would be on the table is that the U.S. would act not as mediator but in tandem with the Palestinians to pressure Israel into making dangerous and unprecedented concessions. As Haaretz reported two weeks ago,

According to a senior official in the Palestinian Authority, the Obama administration has promised Abbas that if either side fails to live up to expectations, the United States will not conceal its disappointment, nor will it hesitate to take steps to remove the obstacle. In addition, the PA was promised that the United States would not be satisfied with playing the role of messenger. According to what the official read to me, the Obama administration will present its own proposals in an effort to bridge the gaps.

Obama has shown very clearly that, as on health care, he is personally passionate, emotionally invested, and possessed of the belief that he has the power to push through sweeping changes. The proximity talks would give Obama just the opening he needs to subject Netanyahu to an escalating series of demands and punishments — confronting him with the same dilemma he faces right now, only even more severe. Danger lies ahead.

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No Way to Run a Foreign Policy

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors share many observers’ consternation over the Obami’s latest war of words with Israel. The editors note that engagement is all the rage when it comes to Syria but not when it comes to the Jewish state. On the flap over building in Jerusalem, they write:

In a speech at Tel Aviv University two days after the Israeli announcement, Mr. Biden publicly thanked Mr. Netanyahu for “putting in place a process to prevent the recurrence” of similar incidents.

The subsequent escalation by Mrs. Clinton was clearly intended as a highly public rebuke to the Israelis, but its political and strategic logic is puzzling. The U.S. needs Israel’s acquiescence in the Obama Administration’s increasingly drawn-out efforts to halt Iran’s nuclear bid through diplomacy or sanctions. But Israel’s restraint is measured in direct proportion to its sense that U.S. security guarantees are good. If Israel senses that the Administration is looking for any pretext to blow up relations, it will care much less how the U.S. might react to a military strike on Iran.

As we’ve noted here before, the Obami’s temper tantrum looks especially unwarranted given the particulars of this situation. (“Israeli anxieties about America’s role as an honest broker in any diplomacy won’t be assuaged by the Administration’s neuralgia over this particular housing project, which falls within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries and can only be described as a ‘settlement’ in the maximalist terms defined by the Palestinians.”) Perhaps this is a pretext for regime change (i.e., to go after Bibi). Maybe this is the undisciplined and very thin-skinned Obami demonstrating their lack of professionalism. Or maybe this is par for the course — courting our enemies while squeezing our friends.

Whatever it is, it’s counterproductive. The Obami have made hash out of the U.S.-Israel relationship:

Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, has told the country’s diplomats there that U.S.-Israeli relations face their worst crisis in 35 years, despite attempts by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office to project a sense of “business as usual.” Oren was speaking to the Israeli consuls general in a conference call on Saturday night.

And this certainly isn’t going to move the ball ahead on the “peace process.” As Bill Kristol put it on Fox News Sunday:

Why are there proximity talks instead of direct peace talks? Whose insistence is that? Netanyahu wants to have direct peace talks. That’s the Palestinians who already are saying we can’t have direct talks, we have to have only proximity talks. Then the U.S. wildly overreacts and now, of course, there are not even going to be proximity talks. So, fine. If that’s what the Obama administration wants, there won’t be these talks, which weren’t going anywhere anyway.

It’s difficult to see who could possibly be pleased with this performance — not skeptics of the peace process, not boosters of it, and certainly not the Israelis. For those enamored of processing peace, this must surely come as unwelcome news, for why would the Palestinians make any move at the bargaining table “when the international community continues to press for maximum concrete concessions from the Israelis in exchange for words more worthless than the air upon which they float away as soon as they’re uttered.” And as for the Palestinians, well they’re delighted to have a president so infatuated with their grievances. They’re once again learning the wrong lesson: fixation on settlements and obstruction gets them American support. What it won’t get them, of course, is their own state.

If they’re honest, those who vouched for Obama’s superior temperament and his pro-Israel bona fides must be embarrassed. For those of us who suspected that this president lacked a fundamental attachment to Israel, critical national-security experience, and a full appreciation for why we don’t have “peace” in the Middle East (it’s not housing sites, especially ones clearly within the Jewish state in any future two-state deal), there’s little comfort in saying, “We told you so.”

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors share many observers’ consternation over the Obami’s latest war of words with Israel. The editors note that engagement is all the rage when it comes to Syria but not when it comes to the Jewish state. On the flap over building in Jerusalem, they write:

In a speech at Tel Aviv University two days after the Israeli announcement, Mr. Biden publicly thanked Mr. Netanyahu for “putting in place a process to prevent the recurrence” of similar incidents.

The subsequent escalation by Mrs. Clinton was clearly intended as a highly public rebuke to the Israelis, but its political and strategic logic is puzzling. The U.S. needs Israel’s acquiescence in the Obama Administration’s increasingly drawn-out efforts to halt Iran’s nuclear bid through diplomacy or sanctions. But Israel’s restraint is measured in direct proportion to its sense that U.S. security guarantees are good. If Israel senses that the Administration is looking for any pretext to blow up relations, it will care much less how the U.S. might react to a military strike on Iran.

As we’ve noted here before, the Obami’s temper tantrum looks especially unwarranted given the particulars of this situation. (“Israeli anxieties about America’s role as an honest broker in any diplomacy won’t be assuaged by the Administration’s neuralgia over this particular housing project, which falls within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries and can only be described as a ‘settlement’ in the maximalist terms defined by the Palestinians.”) Perhaps this is a pretext for regime change (i.e., to go after Bibi). Maybe this is the undisciplined and very thin-skinned Obami demonstrating their lack of professionalism. Or maybe this is par for the course — courting our enemies while squeezing our friends.

Whatever it is, it’s counterproductive. The Obami have made hash out of the U.S.-Israel relationship:

Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, has told the country’s diplomats there that U.S.-Israeli relations face their worst crisis in 35 years, despite attempts by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office to project a sense of “business as usual.” Oren was speaking to the Israeli consuls general in a conference call on Saturday night.

And this certainly isn’t going to move the ball ahead on the “peace process.” As Bill Kristol put it on Fox News Sunday:

Why are there proximity talks instead of direct peace talks? Whose insistence is that? Netanyahu wants to have direct peace talks. That’s the Palestinians who already are saying we can’t have direct talks, we have to have only proximity talks. Then the U.S. wildly overreacts and now, of course, there are not even going to be proximity talks. So, fine. If that’s what the Obama administration wants, there won’t be these talks, which weren’t going anywhere anyway.

It’s difficult to see who could possibly be pleased with this performance — not skeptics of the peace process, not boosters of it, and certainly not the Israelis. For those enamored of processing peace, this must surely come as unwelcome news, for why would the Palestinians make any move at the bargaining table “when the international community continues to press for maximum concrete concessions from the Israelis in exchange for words more worthless than the air upon which they float away as soon as they’re uttered.” And as for the Palestinians, well they’re delighted to have a president so infatuated with their grievances. They’re once again learning the wrong lesson: fixation on settlements and obstruction gets them American support. What it won’t get them, of course, is their own state.

If they’re honest, those who vouched for Obama’s superior temperament and his pro-Israel bona fides must be embarrassed. For those of us who suspected that this president lacked a fundamental attachment to Israel, critical national-security experience, and a full appreciation for why we don’t have “peace” in the Middle East (it’s not housing sites, especially ones clearly within the Jewish state in any future two-state deal), there’s little comfort in saying, “We told you so.”

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RE: Appalling Double Standards

Noah, if you recall, the administration quite candidly announced its intention to “put daylight” between Israel and the U.S. This was under the guise of gaining credibility as an impartial arbitrator, an honest broker, as they say. That, in and of itself, is problematic, given the U.S. historic relationship with the Jewish state. But frankly, even moral equivalence would be an improvement over what we have now. The Obama policy seems to see the U.S. not as an honest broker but an advocate for the Palestinians — taking up their rhetoric, their fractured view of history, and their excuses for failing to recognize the Jewish state.

It will be interesting to see how lawmakers react. The reviews from the weekend have been negative. But this may also become an issue for the campaign. A spokesman for Marco Rubio e-mails me, “Mr. Rubio believes that, by making unilateral demands on the Israeli government regarding settlements, the White House took away Israel’s leverage and has sent a message that America is not as committed to Israel as it once had been.” We’ll see if other candidates and office holders take that view as well. In the public at large and among members of Congress, there is, I would suggest, little stomach for bullying our democratic ally. On this, Obama may find himself with few defenders and many chagrined Democrats trying to figure out why, with so much on their plate, the Obami have decided to pick a fight with an ally so beloved by the American people.

Noah, if you recall, the administration quite candidly announced its intention to “put daylight” between Israel and the U.S. This was under the guise of gaining credibility as an impartial arbitrator, an honest broker, as they say. That, in and of itself, is problematic, given the U.S. historic relationship with the Jewish state. But frankly, even moral equivalence would be an improvement over what we have now. The Obama policy seems to see the U.S. not as an honest broker but an advocate for the Palestinians — taking up their rhetoric, their fractured view of history, and their excuses for failing to recognize the Jewish state.

It will be interesting to see how lawmakers react. The reviews from the weekend have been negative. But this may also become an issue for the campaign. A spokesman for Marco Rubio e-mails me, “Mr. Rubio believes that, by making unilateral demands on the Israeli government regarding settlements, the White House took away Israel’s leverage and has sent a message that America is not as committed to Israel as it once had been.” We’ll see if other candidates and office holders take that view as well. In the public at large and among members of Congress, there is, I would suggest, little stomach for bullying our democratic ally. On this, Obama may find himself with few defenders and many chagrined Democrats trying to figure out why, with so much on their plate, the Obami have decided to pick a fight with an ally so beloved by the American people.

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More Criticism

As Noah and I have pointed out, the administration’s peevishness is unprecedented. It is also proving to be alarming to those on both sides of the aisle. A spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner had this reaction: “The tone and substance we are seeing emerge as a pattern for this Administration are both disappointing and of great concern. Israel has been and remains a close friend and ally, and we need to focus our efforts and energy on the issues of mutual concern for both countries, most especially Iran.” Democratic Congresswoman Shelley Berkley has weighed in as well with a written statement, declaring:

I am deeply concerned over the comments of the last two days by the Vice President and the Secretary of State. They assert that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the special 60-year bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Israel have been jeopardized by this week’s announcement that Israel plans to build housing units in East Jerusalem.

The Administration’s strong implication that the enduring alliance between the U.S. and Israel has been weakened, and that America’s ability to broker talks between Israel and Palestinian authorities has been undermined, is an irresponsible overreaction. No doubt the administration’s overwrought rhetoric is designed to try to appease Palestinian politicians and convince them the U.S. is an honest broker in the peace process by seizing every available opportunity to criticize the actions of our ally Israel.

That strategy also includes ignoring the myriad provocations by Palestinian leaders that make pursuing peace such a long and arduous process. Where, I ask, was the Administration’s outrage over the arrest and month-long incarceration by Hamas of a British journalist who was investigating arms-smuggling into Gaza? Where was the outrage when the Palestinian Authority this week named a town square after a woman who helped carry out a massive terror attack against Israel? It has been the PA who has refused to participate in talks for over a year, not the government of Israel.  Yet once again, no concern was lodged by the Administration. And, all the while, Hamas restocks its terror arsenal and fires rockets into Israel.

I advocate an even-handed, not a one-sided, U.S. policy as we do the difficult work of establishing peace, and eventually, a Palestinian state. These are critical goals for our nation and for the future of the Middle East. We owe the process nothing less than fairness, candor, and intellectual honesty, not a policy of constant appeasement and reinforcement of the Palestinians’ failings as legitimate partners in the peace process.

I strongly believe that despite this week’s flap over Israel’s announcement regarding housing construction, the U.S.-Israel relationship is strong and our partnership in pursuit of peace remains undiminished. I call on the White House to rethink its counterproductive rhetoric and to affirm that the U.S. and Israel remain united in pursuing a fair, equitable, and honest peace process with the Palestinian powers that be.

The administration is not only fraying the relationship between the U.S. and Israel but also isolating itself from the broad bipartisan coalition in favor of a warm and respectful U.S.-Israeli relationship. It is, as Berkley explains, breathtaking that an administration that can rarely muster condemnation for the most brutal regimes has lashed out — repeatedly now — against its sole democratic ally in the region. That simply isn’t going to sit well with a Congress and American public that is broadly pro-Israel.

Whether Noah is correct — that this is a convoluted gambit to paralyze an Israeli strike on Iran — or this is simply the administration revealing its true predilections (antagonistic toward Israel, sycophantic toward the “Muslim World”) is nearly unfathomable. But as with so much else, the results rather than the motives matter most.

And let’s not kid ourselves: the rest of the world is watching, just as other nations looked on as we shoved the Hondurans under the bus when confronted with a lackey of Hugo Chavez, and just as we did to the Czech Republic and Poland in an effort to ingratiate ourselves with the Russian bear. This administration has an unseemly habit of trashing our allies so as to prevent conflicts with our foes. In the end, we will be low on allies and our foes will be emboldened. As for our standing in the world, I suggest it’s about to reach Jimmy Carter–like depths. That’s what happens when friends come to regard the American president as untrustworthy and motivated by personal pique. (So much for the president with the “superior temperament.”) Let’s see if the administration can undo the mess it has made. It won’t be easy.

As Noah and I have pointed out, the administration’s peevishness is unprecedented. It is also proving to be alarming to those on both sides of the aisle. A spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner had this reaction: “The tone and substance we are seeing emerge as a pattern for this Administration are both disappointing and of great concern. Israel has been and remains a close friend and ally, and we need to focus our efforts and energy on the issues of mutual concern for both countries, most especially Iran.” Democratic Congresswoman Shelley Berkley has weighed in as well with a written statement, declaring:

I am deeply concerned over the comments of the last two days by the Vice President and the Secretary of State. They assert that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the special 60-year bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Israel have been jeopardized by this week’s announcement that Israel plans to build housing units in East Jerusalem.

The Administration’s strong implication that the enduring alliance between the U.S. and Israel has been weakened, and that America’s ability to broker talks between Israel and Palestinian authorities has been undermined, is an irresponsible overreaction. No doubt the administration’s overwrought rhetoric is designed to try to appease Palestinian politicians and convince them the U.S. is an honest broker in the peace process by seizing every available opportunity to criticize the actions of our ally Israel.

That strategy also includes ignoring the myriad provocations by Palestinian leaders that make pursuing peace such a long and arduous process. Where, I ask, was the Administration’s outrage over the arrest and month-long incarceration by Hamas of a British journalist who was investigating arms-smuggling into Gaza? Where was the outrage when the Palestinian Authority this week named a town square after a woman who helped carry out a massive terror attack against Israel? It has been the PA who has refused to participate in talks for over a year, not the government of Israel.  Yet once again, no concern was lodged by the Administration. And, all the while, Hamas restocks its terror arsenal and fires rockets into Israel.

I advocate an even-handed, not a one-sided, U.S. policy as we do the difficult work of establishing peace, and eventually, a Palestinian state. These are critical goals for our nation and for the future of the Middle East. We owe the process nothing less than fairness, candor, and intellectual honesty, not a policy of constant appeasement and reinforcement of the Palestinians’ failings as legitimate partners in the peace process.

I strongly believe that despite this week’s flap over Israel’s announcement regarding housing construction, the U.S.-Israel relationship is strong and our partnership in pursuit of peace remains undiminished. I call on the White House to rethink its counterproductive rhetoric and to affirm that the U.S. and Israel remain united in pursuing a fair, equitable, and honest peace process with the Palestinian powers that be.

The administration is not only fraying the relationship between the U.S. and Israel but also isolating itself from the broad bipartisan coalition in favor of a warm and respectful U.S.-Israeli relationship. It is, as Berkley explains, breathtaking that an administration that can rarely muster condemnation for the most brutal regimes has lashed out — repeatedly now — against its sole democratic ally in the region. That simply isn’t going to sit well with a Congress and American public that is broadly pro-Israel.

Whether Noah is correct — that this is a convoluted gambit to paralyze an Israeli strike on Iran — or this is simply the administration revealing its true predilections (antagonistic toward Israel, sycophantic toward the “Muslim World”) is nearly unfathomable. But as with so much else, the results rather than the motives matter most.

And let’s not kid ourselves: the rest of the world is watching, just as other nations looked on as we shoved the Hondurans under the bus when confronted with a lackey of Hugo Chavez, and just as we did to the Czech Republic and Poland in an effort to ingratiate ourselves with the Russian bear. This administration has an unseemly habit of trashing our allies so as to prevent conflicts with our foes. In the end, we will be low on allies and our foes will be emboldened. As for our standing in the world, I suggest it’s about to reach Jimmy Carter–like depths. That’s what happens when friends come to regard the American president as untrustworthy and motivated by personal pique. (So much for the president with the “superior temperament.”) Let’s see if the administration can undo the mess it has made. It won’t be easy.

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War and Peace in the Levant

The dramatic scale of Hezbollah’s rearmament will not be without consequences. Jeffrey Feltman, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, told Haaretz yesterday that “he was growing increasingly worried by reports describing the quantity and types of weapons being smuggled to the terrorist organization.” The Washington Post reports that Hezbollah has dispersed its rockets throughout Lebanon, ensuring a conflict that will engulf the entire country. Tony Badran wonders whether Bashar Assad has foolishly convinced himself that he will again be held harmless if another war breaks out.

The war calculations of Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah involve an estimation of how much time the Obama administration will give Israel to fight. In 2006 — very much owing, of course, to Israel’s poor performance — the IDF fought for only a month before accepting terms from the UN. There are good reasons to believe that next time, Israel will have even less time.

A new war would explode the myth that Obama’s outreach to the Arabs and pressure on Israel have set the Middle East on a new path. Israeli-Arab wars, this narrative holds, were the kind of things that happened during the Bush years, when the president ignored the peace process and alienated Muslims, and neocons imperiled world peace before breakfast. To have a war unfold in the enlightened, post-Cairo speech era, after dozens of visits by George Mitchell to the region — that would be quite an embarrassment.

How many days — much less weeks — would pass before Obama began criticizing the Israeli operation and refusing diplomatic protection at the UN?

The resistance groups are surely counting on America to enforce a short conflict that restricts the IDF’s ability to strike back forcefully at Hezbollah. But it is not clear, given Obama’s declining political fortunes, how much leverage he will have over Israel. In private, the Arabs will be telling Obama to let Israel finish the job. What Nasrallah is counting on, Obama may not be able to deliver. Or may choose not to. Or F-16s may begin sorties over Damascus. The uncertainty about where America stands is dangerous.

Obama hoped that tilting the United States away from Israel and toward the Arabs would transform America into an “honest broker” and, therefore, a trusted mediator. He has been fastidiously promoting a narrative of equal culpability. But as we have seen over the past year, this rhetoric, aside from its departure from reality, alienates Israelis while gaining nothing from the Arabs but a hardening in their belief that their intransigence will win out in the end.

To the extent that Obama’s evenhandedness is interpreted by Hezbollah as a sign that the risks associated with another attack on Israel have been lessened, there will be a heightened likelihood of conflict. America, as the ultimate guarantor of the regional order, has over the past few decades internalized a hard truth about the Middle East: be a strong ally of Israel and prevent conflict, or be an indecisive friend and invite conflict. Obama imagines that his presidency allows the United States to transcend old choices — “false choices” as he calls them — but one decision he will always have to make is where he stands between friends and enemies. Not to choose is also a choice.

The dramatic scale of Hezbollah’s rearmament will not be without consequences. Jeffrey Feltman, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, told Haaretz yesterday that “he was growing increasingly worried by reports describing the quantity and types of weapons being smuggled to the terrorist organization.” The Washington Post reports that Hezbollah has dispersed its rockets throughout Lebanon, ensuring a conflict that will engulf the entire country. Tony Badran wonders whether Bashar Assad has foolishly convinced himself that he will again be held harmless if another war breaks out.

The war calculations of Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah involve an estimation of how much time the Obama administration will give Israel to fight. In 2006 — very much owing, of course, to Israel’s poor performance — the IDF fought for only a month before accepting terms from the UN. There are good reasons to believe that next time, Israel will have even less time.

A new war would explode the myth that Obama’s outreach to the Arabs and pressure on Israel have set the Middle East on a new path. Israeli-Arab wars, this narrative holds, were the kind of things that happened during the Bush years, when the president ignored the peace process and alienated Muslims, and neocons imperiled world peace before breakfast. To have a war unfold in the enlightened, post-Cairo speech era, after dozens of visits by George Mitchell to the region — that would be quite an embarrassment.

How many days — much less weeks — would pass before Obama began criticizing the Israeli operation and refusing diplomatic protection at the UN?

The resistance groups are surely counting on America to enforce a short conflict that restricts the IDF’s ability to strike back forcefully at Hezbollah. But it is not clear, given Obama’s declining political fortunes, how much leverage he will have over Israel. In private, the Arabs will be telling Obama to let Israel finish the job. What Nasrallah is counting on, Obama may not be able to deliver. Or may choose not to. Or F-16s may begin sorties over Damascus. The uncertainty about where America stands is dangerous.

Obama hoped that tilting the United States away from Israel and toward the Arabs would transform America into an “honest broker” and, therefore, a trusted mediator. He has been fastidiously promoting a narrative of equal culpability. But as we have seen over the past year, this rhetoric, aside from its departure from reality, alienates Israelis while gaining nothing from the Arabs but a hardening in their belief that their intransigence will win out in the end.

To the extent that Obama’s evenhandedness is interpreted by Hezbollah as a sign that the risks associated with another attack on Israel have been lessened, there will be a heightened likelihood of conflict. America, as the ultimate guarantor of the regional order, has over the past few decades internalized a hard truth about the Middle East: be a strong ally of Israel and prevent conflict, or be an indecisive friend and invite conflict. Obama imagines that his presidency allows the United States to transcend old choices — “false choices” as he calls them — but one decision he will always have to make is where he stands between friends and enemies. Not to choose is also a choice.

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Honest Broker, Anyone?

Nothing in George Mitchell’s interview with PBS last week received more attention than the envoy’s implied threat to revoke American loan guarantees to Israel. That’s a pity — because far more worrisome is the goal he set for the negotiations, as highlighted by Aluf Benn in today’s Haaretz. “We think the way forward … is full implementation of the Arab peace initiative,” Mitchell declared“That’s the comprehensive peace in the region that is the objective set forth by the president.”

The Arab initiative mandates a full Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines — every last inch of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights. It also demands a solution to the refugee problem “in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194,” which Arabs interpret as allowing the refugees to “return” to Israel.

Later in the interview, Mitchell says this initiative requires “a negotiation and a discussion,” and that you can’t negotiate by telling “one side you have to agree in advance to what the other side wants.” Yet by saying his goal is “full implementation” of this initiative, he’s effectively saying, “You can have your negotiation and discussion, but Washington has no intention of being an honest broker: it fully backs the Arab position on borders, Jerusalem, and even (to some extent) the refugees.”

This is the administration’s clearest statement yet that it’s abandoning the position held by every previous U.S. administration: that Israel needs “defensible borders” — which everyone agrees the 1967 lines are not. Mitchell also thereby abandoned the position, held by every previous administration, that any deal must acknowledge Israel’s historic ties to the Temple Mount via some Israeli role there, even if only symbolic (see Bill Clinton’s idea of “sovereignty under the Mount”). The Arab initiative requires Israel to just get out.

And Mitchell effectively took Syria’s side on that border dispute: no Israeli government ever agreed to withdraw farther than the international border, whereas the Arab initiative mandates the 1967 lines — i.e., including the territory Syria illegally annexed pre-1967.

Even worse, the Arab initiative addresses none of Israel’s concerns, such as recognition as a Jewish state or security arrangements. That means Mitchell just announced support for all Arab demands without obtaining any parallel concession to Israel. Under those circumstances, why would the Arabs bother making any?

And his repeated demand that Israeli-Palestinian talks deal with borders first indicates that this was no slip of the tongue. After all, the only thing Israel has to give is territory; having once ceded that via an agreement on borders, it has nothing left to trade for, say, security arrangements — which, as a veteran Israeli negotiator told Benn, has actually proved one of the hardest issues to resolve in previous rounds of talks. Borders first, an Israeli minister summed up, is “a trap. We only give, we don’t get anything.”

George Bush’s Road Map viewed the Arab initiative as merely one of many “foundations” for talks. Mitchell’s adoption of its “full implementation” as a goal thus represents a deterioration in U.S. positions that ought to worry all Israel supporters.

Nothing in George Mitchell’s interview with PBS last week received more attention than the envoy’s implied threat to revoke American loan guarantees to Israel. That’s a pity — because far more worrisome is the goal he set for the negotiations, as highlighted by Aluf Benn in today’s Haaretz. “We think the way forward … is full implementation of the Arab peace initiative,” Mitchell declared“That’s the comprehensive peace in the region that is the objective set forth by the president.”

The Arab initiative mandates a full Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines — every last inch of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights. It also demands a solution to the refugee problem “in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194,” which Arabs interpret as allowing the refugees to “return” to Israel.

Later in the interview, Mitchell says this initiative requires “a negotiation and a discussion,” and that you can’t negotiate by telling “one side you have to agree in advance to what the other side wants.” Yet by saying his goal is “full implementation” of this initiative, he’s effectively saying, “You can have your negotiation and discussion, but Washington has no intention of being an honest broker: it fully backs the Arab position on borders, Jerusalem, and even (to some extent) the refugees.”

This is the administration’s clearest statement yet that it’s abandoning the position held by every previous U.S. administration: that Israel needs “defensible borders” — which everyone agrees the 1967 lines are not. Mitchell also thereby abandoned the position, held by every previous administration, that any deal must acknowledge Israel’s historic ties to the Temple Mount via some Israeli role there, even if only symbolic (see Bill Clinton’s idea of “sovereignty under the Mount”). The Arab initiative requires Israel to just get out.

And Mitchell effectively took Syria’s side on that border dispute: no Israeli government ever agreed to withdraw farther than the international border, whereas the Arab initiative mandates the 1967 lines — i.e., including the territory Syria illegally annexed pre-1967.

Even worse, the Arab initiative addresses none of Israel’s concerns, such as recognition as a Jewish state or security arrangements. That means Mitchell just announced support for all Arab demands without obtaining any parallel concession to Israel. Under those circumstances, why would the Arabs bother making any?

And his repeated demand that Israeli-Palestinian talks deal with borders first indicates that this was no slip of the tongue. After all, the only thing Israel has to give is territory; having once ceded that via an agreement on borders, it has nothing left to trade for, say, security arrangements — which, as a veteran Israeli negotiator told Benn, has actually proved one of the hardest issues to resolve in previous rounds of talks. Borders first, an Israeli minister summed up, is “a trap. We only give, we don’t get anything.”

George Bush’s Road Map viewed the Arab initiative as merely one of many “foundations” for talks. Mitchell’s adoption of its “full implementation” as a goal thus represents a deterioration in U.S. positions that ought to worry all Israel supporters.

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A Conference That Only Makes Sense

The blogosphere is in an uproar over this week’s unprecedented conference for all of Israel’s “heads of mission” – ambassadors and consuls – in Jerusalem. The Foreign Ministry’s news release acknowledges that this is the first such meeting ever convened for all Israeli heads of mission at one time. It makes a reasonable case that the conference is a policy-improvement measure of a kind common in other nations; but the conspiracy-minded see this simultaneous recall of all Israel’s diplomats as a sign that the bombing of Iran will commence shortly.

That is unlikely. The potential for an attack on Iran is undoubtedly a key topic at the conference, but as one agenda item rather than the primary purpose. Foreign policy in general is, in fact, enough of a pretext for the kind of conference going on this week. There are good reasons to believe Netanyahu perceives the U.S.-led world order to be in flux to the extent that Israeli foreign-policy thinking needs a larger scope. The assumption that Israel’s security conditions will be managed in a Washington-centered world order may soon become dangerously obsolete.

Clues that Netanyahu is seeking a broader footing for Israeli security ties have included the parade of Israeli officials to Russia in 2009 and Israel’s first high-level visits in decades to Latin America.  Bibi has always had strong links with the U.S., but Avigdor Lieberman’s links to Russia give him a special and valuable access to the alternative geopolitical thinking in Moscow. And there is definitely alternative thinking in Moscow, whether on Iran, the fierce intra-Asian competition for the natural gas trade, or the future security of Europe.

Netanyahu will not, of course, distance Israel from the U.S. He is seeking to supplement old ties, not supplant them. Like Japan, Brazil, India, and Turkey, which are all engaged in exactly such preparations, Israel will need a broader set of security links if the power shifts expected by many nations do, in fact, emerge from the rivalry of Russia and China.

President Obama could have taken the path of strengthening links that have gradually weakened in the U.S.-led global order since the end of the Cold War. But he has chosen instead to deliberately undermine some especially crucial ones: America’s commitment to missile defense as a non-negotiable security principle; and our posture as an honest broker between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. Our reliability as a regional actor in Middle Eastern security matters is more questionable than at any time since the Carter administration.

Israel must perceive, as other nations do, that any new global patterns set in motion during Obama’s tenure might not be easily reversed by a successor. A nuclear-armed Iran is only one aspect of the changed world Israel can expect in the coming years. It would actually be more surprising to not see this week’s conference than it is to see Netanyahu’s foreign-policy team gathered to consider the watershed in Israel’s national life that is probably coming in 2010.

The blogosphere is in an uproar over this week’s unprecedented conference for all of Israel’s “heads of mission” – ambassadors and consuls – in Jerusalem. The Foreign Ministry’s news release acknowledges that this is the first such meeting ever convened for all Israeli heads of mission at one time. It makes a reasonable case that the conference is a policy-improvement measure of a kind common in other nations; but the conspiracy-minded see this simultaneous recall of all Israel’s diplomats as a sign that the bombing of Iran will commence shortly.

That is unlikely. The potential for an attack on Iran is undoubtedly a key topic at the conference, but as one agenda item rather than the primary purpose. Foreign policy in general is, in fact, enough of a pretext for the kind of conference going on this week. There are good reasons to believe Netanyahu perceives the U.S.-led world order to be in flux to the extent that Israeli foreign-policy thinking needs a larger scope. The assumption that Israel’s security conditions will be managed in a Washington-centered world order may soon become dangerously obsolete.

Clues that Netanyahu is seeking a broader footing for Israeli security ties have included the parade of Israeli officials to Russia in 2009 and Israel’s first high-level visits in decades to Latin America.  Bibi has always had strong links with the U.S., but Avigdor Lieberman’s links to Russia give him a special and valuable access to the alternative geopolitical thinking in Moscow. And there is definitely alternative thinking in Moscow, whether on Iran, the fierce intra-Asian competition for the natural gas trade, or the future security of Europe.

Netanyahu will not, of course, distance Israel from the U.S. He is seeking to supplement old ties, not supplant them. Like Japan, Brazil, India, and Turkey, which are all engaged in exactly such preparations, Israel will need a broader set of security links if the power shifts expected by many nations do, in fact, emerge from the rivalry of Russia and China.

President Obama could have taken the path of strengthening links that have gradually weakened in the U.S.-led global order since the end of the Cold War. But he has chosen instead to deliberately undermine some especially crucial ones: America’s commitment to missile defense as a non-negotiable security principle; and our posture as an honest broker between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. Our reliability as a regional actor in Middle Eastern security matters is more questionable than at any time since the Carter administration.

Israel must perceive, as other nations do, that any new global patterns set in motion during Obama’s tenure might not be easily reversed by a successor. A nuclear-armed Iran is only one aspect of the changed world Israel can expect in the coming years. It would actually be more surprising to not see this week’s conference than it is to see Netanyahu’s foreign-policy team gathered to consider the watershed in Israel’s national life that is probably coming in 2010.

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Book Review: In the Ruins of Empire

More than six decades after the end of World War II, Asia continues to grapple with the legacy of war. Unlike in Europe, where countries have attempted to create a new set of norms and institutions designed to link them ever more closely together, Asia in many ways seems stuck in history, revisiting old wounds and squabbling over the same territory. In his compelling new history of the aftermath of war in the Pacific, In the Ruins of Empire: The Japanese Surrender and the Battle for Postwar Asia (Random House, $27.95), Ronald Spector argues that the region’s future was largely determined in the year after the Japanese surrender, and was doomed primarily by the misguided and unrealistic attempts of the victorious Western allies to impose order on the chaos unleashed by Japan’s surrender and abandonment of its occupied territories. Washington spent much of the cold war dealing with the resulting instability.

Certainly in comparison to Europe, postwar Asia seemed almost incomprehensibly complex. Moreover, as Washington grappled with creating a pax Americana, Asia appeared less strategically important than Europe, in part because nothing like the specter of all-out conflagration hung over the region, and in part due to the absence of ethnic connection to the Atlantic world. And yet at the same time, while the cold war certainly affected Asia, causing extensive destruction in Korea, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, the region’s nations were spared Europe’s draining twilight struggle.

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More than six decades after the end of World War II, Asia continues to grapple with the legacy of war. Unlike in Europe, where countries have attempted to create a new set of norms and institutions designed to link them ever more closely together, Asia in many ways seems stuck in history, revisiting old wounds and squabbling over the same territory. In his compelling new history of the aftermath of war in the Pacific, In the Ruins of Empire: The Japanese Surrender and the Battle for Postwar Asia (Random House, $27.95), Ronald Spector argues that the region’s future was largely determined in the year after the Japanese surrender, and was doomed primarily by the misguided and unrealistic attempts of the victorious Western allies to impose order on the chaos unleashed by Japan’s surrender and abandonment of its occupied territories. Washington spent much of the cold war dealing with the resulting instability.

Certainly in comparison to Europe, postwar Asia seemed almost incomprehensibly complex. Moreover, as Washington grappled with creating a pax Americana, Asia appeared less strategically important than Europe, in part because nothing like the specter of all-out conflagration hung over the region, and in part due to the absence of ethnic connection to the Atlantic world. And yet at the same time, while the cold war certainly affected Asia, causing extensive destruction in Korea, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, the region’s nations were spared Europe’s draining twilight struggle.

American and European policymakers found themselves at odds over what to do with Asia almost as soon as the Japanese surrendered. For Americans, the basic template they applied to Europe—liberalism versus Communism—quickly dominated their thinking. The potential loss of China was contrasted with the success of a democratizing Japan, while naked aggression by North Korea against the South in 1950 would be repulsed as the front line in the struggle against Communism in Asia. The British, French, and Dutch tenuously sought to recreate their prewar spheres of influence and control. Both the Americans and Europeans, however, found themselves enmeshed in the quicksand of the numerous liberation movements, revived ethnic conflicts, and simple power struggles that erupted throughout the region, from Indonesia to the Korean peninsula.

Best known for his classic one-volume history of the Pacific War, Eagle Against the Sun, Spector here turns his gaze on the confused conditions prevailing immediately after Tokyo’s surrender in August 1945. Noting that the traditional historical narrative assumes that the end of war meant the end of fighting and the spontaneous regeneration of order, Spector argues that the post-World War II “peace” in Asia was the continuation of war under another name (with, in some cases, fiercer fighting than during the war). His book, inasmuch as it tells this story, neatly complements John Dower’s Embracing Defeat, which tells a similarly revisionist tale of the U.S. occupation of Japan. Both works give primary importance to the mistakes, failures, and naiveté of the so-called victorious powers; both assert that domestic players and local conditions truly created postwar Asia.

The central dynamic in Spector’s story is the disintegration of empire—that of wartime Japan, and the feeble attempts at reconstituting the empires of prewar Europe. The Japanese had erected an ideological scaffolding of colonial liberation over their wartime occupation of most of Asia. They justified their brutal control over China and Korea with the goal of creating a new Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. The conditions the Japanese had faced quickly transferred to the victors. In some areas of Japanese control, such as in China, occupation overlay an existing condition of civil war. In Indochina, Japanese troops fought rebels, like Ho Chi Minh, who were experienced in combating European powers. The pre-1937 dynamics continued into the postwar period, and were realized fully in China: stabilizing Chiang Kai-shek became Washington’s primary Asian policy. Spector’s first three chapters cover well-trodden ground, emphasizing the incompatibility of America’s attempt to act as an honest broker between the Nationalists and Mao Zedong’s Communists with its effort to secure Chiang’s victory. (Not even the great George Marshall could square that circle.)

That, indeed, is the leitmotif of Spector’s book: the basic inability of the Allied powers to adjust to the realities on the ground. Wishful thinking and good intentions proved no match for unleashed nationalist passions, as Spector’s subsequent chapters show. In Malaya, for example, the British attempt to reassert control lasted less than a year, until April 1946. The ineffective British Military Administration proved helpless in the face of intense ethnic strife between Chinese and Malays, in which Communists and mystical Islamic movements all contributed to chaos and bloodletting. Nor were the Allies above using their erstwhile enemies, the Japanese, thousands of whom were enrolled to fight rebels and Communists; for these soldiers, too, the end of war did not bring about the end of fighting. Spector condemns in particular the French and Dutch (as well as the rapacious Soviets), whose violent and stubborn attempts to reconstitute prewar empires in Indochina and Indonesia, respectively, led to widespread atrocities and scuttled any possibility of reaching some type of negotiated settlements among the parties. The particular tragedy of Vietnam, where the anti-colonial animus of the Americans was subordinated to supporting a European ally, underscores Spector’s analysis of the irreconcilable tensions in U.S. Asian policy.

What also emerges with crystal clarity from Spector’s account is the importance of personalities. Bucking the trend among professional academics, Spector shows that individuals count, and in some cases were the deciding elements in the paths their countries took. Not only well-known figures such as Mao and Ho, but equally important leaders in Indonesia and Korea, who frustrated European and American plans, and labored to realize their own visions.

Given the rich history of post-1947 Asia, one might be dissatisfied with the limited chronological scope of Spector’s book. The pivotal events in the region all happened after 1947, and none of them was foreordained. In that respect, it is impossible to judge whether Spector’s assertion—that the vacuum of the immediate postwar months set the path for the following decades—is accurate or overstated. Moreover, strained comparisons between postwar Asia and postwar Iraq, which read like afterthoughts, fail as attempts to make the book somehow more timely or relevant. As his fluid prose and thorough archival research show, telling the story of the battle for postwar Asia needs no justification.

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Blair in the West Bank

“If Tony Blair thinks we’re going to roll out a red carpet for him, he’s in for a surprise.”

This is what a senior Palestinian official in the office of Mahmoud Abbas told me when I asked him over the weekend about the visit to the region by the former British prime minister, now a special envoy of the Middle East Quartet.

“The president is not going to welcome him at the entrance to his office and we will send only one police car to accompany his motorcade when it enters Ramallah.”

The Palestinians have never liked Blair, largely because of his close alliance with George W. Bush, and his role in the Iraq war. That’s why it was hard this week to find one Palestinian who was pinning high hopes on Blair’s new mission as the top representative of the Quartet.

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“If Tony Blair thinks we’re going to roll out a red carpet for him, he’s in for a surprise.”

This is what a senior Palestinian official in the office of Mahmoud Abbas told me when I asked him over the weekend about the visit to the region by the former British prime minister, now a special envoy of the Middle East Quartet.

“The president is not going to welcome him at the entrance to his office and we will send only one police car to accompany his motorcade when it enters Ramallah.”

The Palestinians have never liked Blair, largely because of his close alliance with George W. Bush, and his role in the Iraq war. That’s why it was hard this week to find one Palestinian who was pinning high hopes on Blair’s new mission as the top representative of the Quartet.

As far as most Palestinians and Arabs are concerned, Blair is nothing but a puppet in the hands of Bush. “He’s coming here to help Bush and the Jews,” another Palestinian official in Ramallah told me. “For us, Blair is not an honest broker because he’s biased in favor of Israel.

So if the Palestinians don’t trust Blair and don’t believe that he can make a contribution to the peace process, why are they still willing to deal with him?

The answer is simple: Mahmoud Abbas and his corruption-riddled Fatah faction, beaten harshly by Hamas, need money and cash, even from “infidels and Crusaders” like Bush and Blair. Abbas and his Fatah lieutenants have only one thing in mind: avenging their humiliating defeat in the Gaza Strip at the hands of Hamas.

To this end, they are prepared to ally themselves with anyone who is willing to provide them with millions of dollars and thousands of rifles so that they can fight Hamas. But Abbas is not going to fight Hamas—he never has, which is why Hamas managed to overrun the Gaza Strip so easily.

The name of the game in Middle East diplomacy these days is: “Let’s support the moderate Palestinians against the radicals.” Over the past two years, millions of dollars have been poured on Abbas and Fatah to help them undermine the growing power of Hamas. This tactic has not worked.

On Tuesday, Blair will hear from Abbas and his aides that only if the international community gives them more money and weapons will they be able to wipe out Hamas. Blair, of course, is most likely to buy this plea. He will go back to his partners in the Quartet and urge them to channel more funds to Abbas. And for his part, Abbas will fail to combat Hamas.

Blair is welcome in the Fatah-controlled West Bank only as long as he can promise financial aid and weapons. But it’s only a matter of time before Blair and Bush wake up to find that Hamas has devoured the West Bank. If Bush and Blair want to help Abbas, they must pressure him to establish good governance and to end rampant corruption. That’s the best way to undermine Hamas.

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