Commentary Magazine


Topic: Camp David

“Paranoid” about Malley?

Now that Samantha Power has left Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, attention should perhaps turn to Obama foreign policy adviser Robert Malley. Perhaps best known for his gushing over Yasser Arafat and Camp David revisionism, Malley’s true danger lies in the extent to which he has called key events in the Palestinian arena–his supposed area of expertise–blatantly wrong. As I noted a few weeks ago, Malley supported allowing Hamas’ participation in the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections, and welcomed last year’s brief period of Hamas-Fatah “unity governance,” predicting that a “wholesale breakdown of relations between the two groups” was unlikely. In short, Malley has a consistent record of supporting policies that ultimately strengthened Hamas and undermined Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects, thus warranting the scrutiny he has received as Obama’s adviser.

But Aaron David Miller, Malley’s former peace-processing colleague during the Clinton administration, won’t have any of this. In yesterday’s LA Times, Miller ignored these substantive criticisms, attributing the backlash against Malley to Jewish paranoia. Miller argues that the charges against Malley stem from “the tendency of many American Jews active in pro-Israeli causes to worry about everything”; he continues:

I’ve lost count of the number of times Jewish activists or friends have said to me that this official or that journalist or this academic must be anti-Semitic. On other occasions, I have been told that I myself should not be so publicly critical of Israel, lest we give our enemies grist for their propaganda mills.

Yet Miller’s charge that Jewish identity politics–rather than Malley’s own faulty ideas–have informed public scrutiny of Malley is profoundly ironic. After all, insofar as Miller depicts criticisms of Malley in “us versus them” terms, he is guiltiest of playing identity politics.

Still, if Miller’s utter misrepresentation of the case against Malley in a major U.S. newspaper requires further proof of its substance, examples of Malley’s dubious policy analysis abound. So, here’s another one. While addressing the Council on Foreign Relations in the aftermath of Hamas’ Gaza coup last June, Malley argued that the United Nations had erred in not engaging Hamas:

The UN, of all entities, has made the biggest mistake, because they had no restrictions on talking to anyone-their role is to speak to everyone. To talk to Hamas and to give them more realistic things that they should be doing: imposing a ceasefire and empowering Abbas to talk to Israel.

Of course, the notion that Hamas would empower Abbas to talk to Israel is delusional. But perhaps more disturbing is Malley’s belief that the UN should talk to terrorist organizations. And, to correct Miller, one need not be Jewish or paranoid to say so.

Now that Samantha Power has left Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, attention should perhaps turn to Obama foreign policy adviser Robert Malley. Perhaps best known for his gushing over Yasser Arafat and Camp David revisionism, Malley’s true danger lies in the extent to which he has called key events in the Palestinian arena–his supposed area of expertise–blatantly wrong. As I noted a few weeks ago, Malley supported allowing Hamas’ participation in the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections, and welcomed last year’s brief period of Hamas-Fatah “unity governance,” predicting that a “wholesale breakdown of relations between the two groups” was unlikely. In short, Malley has a consistent record of supporting policies that ultimately strengthened Hamas and undermined Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects, thus warranting the scrutiny he has received as Obama’s adviser.

But Aaron David Miller, Malley’s former peace-processing colleague during the Clinton administration, won’t have any of this. In yesterday’s LA Times, Miller ignored these substantive criticisms, attributing the backlash against Malley to Jewish paranoia. Miller argues that the charges against Malley stem from “the tendency of many American Jews active in pro-Israeli causes to worry about everything”; he continues:

I’ve lost count of the number of times Jewish activists or friends have said to me that this official or that journalist or this academic must be anti-Semitic. On other occasions, I have been told that I myself should not be so publicly critical of Israel, lest we give our enemies grist for their propaganda mills.

Yet Miller’s charge that Jewish identity politics–rather than Malley’s own faulty ideas–have informed public scrutiny of Malley is profoundly ironic. After all, insofar as Miller depicts criticisms of Malley in “us versus them” terms, he is guiltiest of playing identity politics.

Still, if Miller’s utter misrepresentation of the case against Malley in a major U.S. newspaper requires further proof of its substance, examples of Malley’s dubious policy analysis abound. So, here’s another one. While addressing the Council on Foreign Relations in the aftermath of Hamas’ Gaza coup last June, Malley argued that the United Nations had erred in not engaging Hamas:

The UN, of all entities, has made the biggest mistake, because they had no restrictions on talking to anyone-their role is to speak to everyone. To talk to Hamas and to give them more realistic things that they should be doing: imposing a ceasefire and empowering Abbas to talk to Israel.

Of course, the notion that Hamas would empower Abbas to talk to Israel is delusional. But perhaps more disturbing is Malley’s belief that the UN should talk to terrorist organizations. And, to correct Miller, one need not be Jewish or paranoid to say so.

Read Less

More on Malley

In the ongoing debate regarding Barack Obama’s stance on Israel, Obama foreign policy adviser Robert Malley has emerged as a divisive figure.

Malley’s supporters and critics agree that he embraces a pro-Palestinian narrative in his approach towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As President Bill Clinton’s special adviser on Arab-Israeli affairs from 1998-2001, Malley was the only American official to blame the United States and Israel—rather than Yasser Arafat—for the failure to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace at Camp David in 2000. Since leaving government, Malley has further developed his pro-Palestinian credentials: he has gushed over Arafat; partnered with Arafat adviser Hussein Agha in promoting his revisionist account of Camp David; and blamed the Bush administration overwhelmingly for continued Israeli-Palestinian strife.

Given Malley’s unabashed bias, supporters of Israel have questioned his true motives, with Martin Peretz’s determination that Malley is a “rabid hater of Israel” representative of the debate’s deteriorating tenor. Last week, Malley’s fellow peace processors shot back, calling the attacks “an effort to undermine the credibility of a talented public servant who has worked tirelessly over the years to promote Arab-Israeli peace and US national interests.” Malley’s former colleagues further wrote that he neither harbors an anti-Israel agenda nor has sought to undermine Israeli security.

Yet the very question of whether or not Malley is a “anti-Israel” is a red herring. Rather than psychoanalyzing Malley to uncover his true motivations, we should assess Malley’s policy prescriptions as to whether they have advanced Israeli-Palestinian peace—the cause for which Malley was employed. It is within this framework that Malley’s insufficiency as a presidential foreign policy adviser is most profoundly exposed.

Consider, for example, Malley’s address at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in September 2005. While debating U.S. policy towards Islamist parties, Malley argued that the U.S. should allow Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to permit Hamas’ participation in the upcoming parliamentary elections. Malley said:

[Abbas] thinks that it’s the only way that he can restore political stability; that he can regenerate his own political party; and that he can sustain the ceasefire. . . . We should not be second-guessing that assessment.

Of course, Malley’s policy of not “second-guessing” Abbas on Hamas was an unambiguous disaster, with Hamas’ subsequent election dashing all hopes that the post-Arafat era could yield peaceful compromise.

Or, consider Malley’s analysis of last February’s Mecca Agreement, which heralded a four-month period of Hamas-Fatah “national unity” governance. In a May article, Malley welcomed the agreement as a “first step” towards clarifying Palestinian politics, and assessed that “an immediate wholesale breakdown of relations between the two groups” was unlikely. Of course, such a breakdown occurred barely a month after Malley’s piece went to print, with Hamas violently seizing Gaza.

The gist of it is that Malley has a clear record of advocating policies in the Palestinian sphere that undermine U.S. interests almost instantaneously. Indeed, it hardly matters whether Malley is motivated by anti-Israel bias. After all, we have far more damning reasons to doubt his calls for engaging Iran and Syria: namely, that his analytical framework is consistently proven wrong.

In the ongoing debate regarding Barack Obama’s stance on Israel, Obama foreign policy adviser Robert Malley has emerged as a divisive figure.

Malley’s supporters and critics agree that he embraces a pro-Palestinian narrative in his approach towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As President Bill Clinton’s special adviser on Arab-Israeli affairs from 1998-2001, Malley was the only American official to blame the United States and Israel—rather than Yasser Arafat—for the failure to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace at Camp David in 2000. Since leaving government, Malley has further developed his pro-Palestinian credentials: he has gushed over Arafat; partnered with Arafat adviser Hussein Agha in promoting his revisionist account of Camp David; and blamed the Bush administration overwhelmingly for continued Israeli-Palestinian strife.

Given Malley’s unabashed bias, supporters of Israel have questioned his true motives, with Martin Peretz’s determination that Malley is a “rabid hater of Israel” representative of the debate’s deteriorating tenor. Last week, Malley’s fellow peace processors shot back, calling the attacks “an effort to undermine the credibility of a talented public servant who has worked tirelessly over the years to promote Arab-Israeli peace and US national interests.” Malley’s former colleagues further wrote that he neither harbors an anti-Israel agenda nor has sought to undermine Israeli security.

Yet the very question of whether or not Malley is a “anti-Israel” is a red herring. Rather than psychoanalyzing Malley to uncover his true motivations, we should assess Malley’s policy prescriptions as to whether they have advanced Israeli-Palestinian peace—the cause for which Malley was employed. It is within this framework that Malley’s insufficiency as a presidential foreign policy adviser is most profoundly exposed.

Consider, for example, Malley’s address at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in September 2005. While debating U.S. policy towards Islamist parties, Malley argued that the U.S. should allow Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to permit Hamas’ participation in the upcoming parliamentary elections. Malley said:

[Abbas] thinks that it’s the only way that he can restore political stability; that he can regenerate his own political party; and that he can sustain the ceasefire. . . . We should not be second-guessing that assessment.

Of course, Malley’s policy of not “second-guessing” Abbas on Hamas was an unambiguous disaster, with Hamas’ subsequent election dashing all hopes that the post-Arafat era could yield peaceful compromise.

Or, consider Malley’s analysis of last February’s Mecca Agreement, which heralded a four-month period of Hamas-Fatah “national unity” governance. In a May article, Malley welcomed the agreement as a “first step” towards clarifying Palestinian politics, and assessed that “an immediate wholesale breakdown of relations between the two groups” was unlikely. Of course, such a breakdown occurred barely a month after Malley’s piece went to print, with Hamas violently seizing Gaza.

The gist of it is that Malley has a clear record of advocating policies in the Palestinian sphere that undermine U.S. interests almost instantaneously. Indeed, it hardly matters whether Malley is motivated by anti-Israel bias. After all, we have far more damning reasons to doubt his calls for engaging Iran and Syria: namely, that his analytical framework is consistently proven wrong.

Read Less

Obama and American Jews

Throughout his presidential campaign, Barack Obama has faced a series of disturbingly slanderous e-mails. Obama has been falsely accused of being secretly Muslim; studying in an Indonesian madrassa; and refusing to say the pledge of allegiance, among other charges. Sensing that these e-mails were particularly prevalent within Jewish circles, Obama held a conference call with Jewish journalists yesterday afternoon.

During the call, Obama sought to reassure the Jewish community by addressing Jewish identity issues. He thus declared his support for Israel “as a Jewish state”; expressed concern for continued rocket attacks from Gaza; stated that the Palestinian right of return could not be interpreted “in any literal way”; and opposed negotiations with Hamas so long as it denies Israel’s right to exist. He further denied that he had ever practiced Islam, and said that his church leader had made a “mistake of judgment” in honoring Louis Farrakhan. “My church has never issued anti-Semitic statements, nor have I heard my pastor utter anything anti-Semitic,” he said. “If I have, I would have left the church.”

The implication that Obama—by virtue of his church leader’s connections with Farrakhan—is anti-Semitic is hard to swallow. After all, Obama remains one solid degree removed from Farrakhan—highly significant in a political environment in which Joseph Lieberman declared his “respect” for Farrakhan during his 2000 vice-presidential candidacy. Moreover, it is saddening that Obama continually feels the need to address his non-Islamic faith, particularly when doing so insultingly implies that Islam is undesirable.

Yet one question remains legitimate: how can voters who care about the U.S.-Israel relationship be reassured that Obama’s staunchly pro-Israel declarations are not mere pandering? After all, Obama is on record as having called for an “even-handed approach” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 2000, just as the Palestinians commenced the Second Intifada following Camp David. According to Electronic Intifada founder Ali Abunimah, Obama’s pro-Israel epiphany occurred shortly before his 2004 U.S. Senate campaign—an about-face for which Obama apologized to Abunimah. “Hey, I’m sorry I haven’t said more about Palestine right now, but we are in a tough primary race. I’m hoping when things calm down I can be more up front,” Obama said at the time.

Obama’s apology to Abunimah—a major proponent of the one-state “solution”— indicates an unsophisticated view of American politics, in which success requires whispering sweet Zionist nothings to satisfy the almighty, one-issue Jewish electorate. Obama’s foreign policy advisers have similarly promoted this inflated vision of Jewish power. As my contentions colleague Noah Pollak has assiduously noted, Obama adviser Samantha Power has declared that sound Middle East policy might require “alienating a domestic constituency”—guess which one. His staff further features Zbigniew Brzezinski, who has defended the Walt-Mearsheimer “Israel Lobby” thesis that the U.S.-Israel relationship is the product of Jewish power politics, rather than strategic interest.

This mixture of prior statements and advisory influences suggests little regarding how Obama might act towards Israel if elected. Obama has repudiated Brzezinski’s call for dialogue with Hamas, while Power’s support for ending U.S. foreign military aid to Israel probably represents too radical a departure from historic U.S. policy to be taken seriously.

Rather, Jewish concerns regarding Obama’s candidacy should focus on whether Obama and his posse view American Jewry as a stumbling block in the way of promoting U.S. interests in the Middle East. This is the insidious crux of the “Israel Lobby” thesis, and Obama’s prior statements to Abunimah—as well as the writings of Power and Brzezinski—are hardly reassuring.

Throughout his presidential campaign, Barack Obama has faced a series of disturbingly slanderous e-mails. Obama has been falsely accused of being secretly Muslim; studying in an Indonesian madrassa; and refusing to say the pledge of allegiance, among other charges. Sensing that these e-mails were particularly prevalent within Jewish circles, Obama held a conference call with Jewish journalists yesterday afternoon.

During the call, Obama sought to reassure the Jewish community by addressing Jewish identity issues. He thus declared his support for Israel “as a Jewish state”; expressed concern for continued rocket attacks from Gaza; stated that the Palestinian right of return could not be interpreted “in any literal way”; and opposed negotiations with Hamas so long as it denies Israel’s right to exist. He further denied that he had ever practiced Islam, and said that his church leader had made a “mistake of judgment” in honoring Louis Farrakhan. “My church has never issued anti-Semitic statements, nor have I heard my pastor utter anything anti-Semitic,” he said. “If I have, I would have left the church.”

The implication that Obama—by virtue of his church leader’s connections with Farrakhan—is anti-Semitic is hard to swallow. After all, Obama remains one solid degree removed from Farrakhan—highly significant in a political environment in which Joseph Lieberman declared his “respect” for Farrakhan during his 2000 vice-presidential candidacy. Moreover, it is saddening that Obama continually feels the need to address his non-Islamic faith, particularly when doing so insultingly implies that Islam is undesirable.

Yet one question remains legitimate: how can voters who care about the U.S.-Israel relationship be reassured that Obama’s staunchly pro-Israel declarations are not mere pandering? After all, Obama is on record as having called for an “even-handed approach” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 2000, just as the Palestinians commenced the Second Intifada following Camp David. According to Electronic Intifada founder Ali Abunimah, Obama’s pro-Israel epiphany occurred shortly before his 2004 U.S. Senate campaign—an about-face for which Obama apologized to Abunimah. “Hey, I’m sorry I haven’t said more about Palestine right now, but we are in a tough primary race. I’m hoping when things calm down I can be more up front,” Obama said at the time.

Obama’s apology to Abunimah—a major proponent of the one-state “solution”— indicates an unsophisticated view of American politics, in which success requires whispering sweet Zionist nothings to satisfy the almighty, one-issue Jewish electorate. Obama’s foreign policy advisers have similarly promoted this inflated vision of Jewish power. As my contentions colleague Noah Pollak has assiduously noted, Obama adviser Samantha Power has declared that sound Middle East policy might require “alienating a domestic constituency”—guess which one. His staff further features Zbigniew Brzezinski, who has defended the Walt-Mearsheimer “Israel Lobby” thesis that the U.S.-Israel relationship is the product of Jewish power politics, rather than strategic interest.

This mixture of prior statements and advisory influences suggests little regarding how Obama might act towards Israel if elected. Obama has repudiated Brzezinski’s call for dialogue with Hamas, while Power’s support for ending U.S. foreign military aid to Israel probably represents too radical a departure from historic U.S. policy to be taken seriously.

Rather, Jewish concerns regarding Obama’s candidacy should focus on whether Obama and his posse view American Jewry as a stumbling block in the way of promoting U.S. interests in the Middle East. This is the insidious crux of the “Israel Lobby” thesis, and Obama’s prior statements to Abunimah—as well as the writings of Power and Brzezinski—are hardly reassuring.

Read Less

Choreographing the Synchronicity of Mutually-Reinforcing Couplings

That, my friends, is what Robert Malley and Hussein Agha would like us to understand is the key to peace in the Middle East. In an op-ed in today’s Washington Post, they start with a somewhat reasonable premise:

Nervous about being left out, all three parties are laboring mightily to avert an understanding between the other two. . . . The end result is collective checkmate, a political standstill that hurts all and serves none.

But then the analysis gets buried in so much vague diplomatic twaddle that all of the realities of the conflict become helpfully obscured — which seems to be the point. “Fatah and Hamas will need to reach a new political arrangement, this time not one vigorously opposed by Israel.” Oh, that will be nice. So it was Israel that caused all of that unpleasantness in Gaza over the summer? “Hamas and Israel will need to achieve a cease-fire and prisoner exchange, albeit mediated by Abbas.” Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?

“And Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will need to negotiate a political deal with Abbas, who will have to receive a mandate to do so from Hamas.” Did you catch that? Hamas will grant its rival, Mahmoud Abbas, who Hamas views as a Zionist puppet, a “mandate” to negotiate a peace deal with the country whose annihilation is the premise of Hamas’ existence. There is not the slightest shred of evidence that Hamas would ever even think of doing this — but why should that stop Malley and Agha from predicting it on the Washington Post op-ed page?

They conclude this acid trip by saying:

The current mind-set, in which each side considers dealmaking by the other two to be a mortal threat, could be replaced by one in which all three couplings are viewed as mutually reinforcing. For that, the parties’ allies ought to cast aside their dysfunctional, destructive, ideologically driven policies. Instead, they should encourage a choreography that minimizes violence and promotes a serious diplomatic process.

Translation into plain English: Gosh, peacemaking would be so simple if everyone would just make peace already! And I want a pony for my birthday. I’m going to go huff some lighter fluid and see if I can get a piece in the Post, too.

Meanwhile, take note of who Robert Malley is: the leader of a group of revisionists who are attempting to shift blame for the failure of the 2000 Camp David negotiations onto Israel and America. His co-author was an adviser to Yasser Arafat. Most disturbingly, Malley is also a foreign policy adviser to Barack Obama. See here, here, and here for more.

That, my friends, is what Robert Malley and Hussein Agha would like us to understand is the key to peace in the Middle East. In an op-ed in today’s Washington Post, they start with a somewhat reasonable premise:

Nervous about being left out, all three parties are laboring mightily to avert an understanding between the other two. . . . The end result is collective checkmate, a political standstill that hurts all and serves none.

But then the analysis gets buried in so much vague diplomatic twaddle that all of the realities of the conflict become helpfully obscured — which seems to be the point. “Fatah and Hamas will need to reach a new political arrangement, this time not one vigorously opposed by Israel.” Oh, that will be nice. So it was Israel that caused all of that unpleasantness in Gaza over the summer? “Hamas and Israel will need to achieve a cease-fire and prisoner exchange, albeit mediated by Abbas.” Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?

“And Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will need to negotiate a political deal with Abbas, who will have to receive a mandate to do so from Hamas.” Did you catch that? Hamas will grant its rival, Mahmoud Abbas, who Hamas views as a Zionist puppet, a “mandate” to negotiate a peace deal with the country whose annihilation is the premise of Hamas’ existence. There is not the slightest shred of evidence that Hamas would ever even think of doing this — but why should that stop Malley and Agha from predicting it on the Washington Post op-ed page?

They conclude this acid trip by saying:

The current mind-set, in which each side considers dealmaking by the other two to be a mortal threat, could be replaced by one in which all three couplings are viewed as mutually reinforcing. For that, the parties’ allies ought to cast aside their dysfunctional, destructive, ideologically driven policies. Instead, they should encourage a choreography that minimizes violence and promotes a serious diplomatic process.

Translation into plain English: Gosh, peacemaking would be so simple if everyone would just make peace already! And I want a pony for my birthday. I’m going to go huff some lighter fluid and see if I can get a piece in the Post, too.

Meanwhile, take note of who Robert Malley is: the leader of a group of revisionists who are attempting to shift blame for the failure of the 2000 Camp David negotiations onto Israel and America. His co-author was an adviser to Yasser Arafat. Most disturbingly, Malley is also a foreign policy adviser to Barack Obama. See here, here, and here for more.

Read Less

“Occupation”?

In Ramallah yesterday President Bush declared there “should be an end to the [Israeli] occupation that began in 1967.”

Invoking the word “occupation,” which Israeli leaders have also used, strikes me as an odd and unhelpful thing. The West Bank and Gaza, as well as the Sinai desert and Golan Heights, were lost in an Arab war of aggression against Israel–and yet the aggressor states took on the mantle of the aggrieved. This historical fact cannot be stressed often enough: Israel did not set out to conquer anything; it seized the land in a war of self-defense. And Israel ceded—at Camp David in 1979—more land in pursuit of peace than virtually any victor in history. Israel gave up more than 90 percent of the land, including oil-rich land, it won in a war in which it was not the aggressor state. Post-World War II Germany lost land compared to pre-World War II Germany—but Germans do not refer to that lost land as “occupied territory.” It lost the land in a war—and when you lose a war, you often lose land, and the claims on that land.

It’s worth adding that if Arab nations have such a deep, abiding interest in a Palestinian homeland, why didn’t they give them one when they could. During their 19-year rule (1948-1967) neither Jordan nor Egypt made any effort to establish a Palestinian state in either the West Bank or Gaza. No demands for a West Bank and Gaza independent state were heard until Israel took control of these areas in a defensive war for its survival.

This does not necessarily mean that Israel should not cede land in the West Bank; it might be in Israel’s interest to do such a thing, given the demographic and security realities it faces. But to keep referring to the West Bank as “occupied territory” perpetrates a myth—holds Israel to a double standard that is often used and always wrong.

In Ramallah yesterday President Bush declared there “should be an end to the [Israeli] occupation that began in 1967.”

Invoking the word “occupation,” which Israeli leaders have also used, strikes me as an odd and unhelpful thing. The West Bank and Gaza, as well as the Sinai desert and Golan Heights, were lost in an Arab war of aggression against Israel–and yet the aggressor states took on the mantle of the aggrieved. This historical fact cannot be stressed often enough: Israel did not set out to conquer anything; it seized the land in a war of self-defense. And Israel ceded—at Camp David in 1979—more land in pursuit of peace than virtually any victor in history. Israel gave up more than 90 percent of the land, including oil-rich land, it won in a war in which it was not the aggressor state. Post-World War II Germany lost land compared to pre-World War II Germany—but Germans do not refer to that lost land as “occupied territory.” It lost the land in a war—and when you lose a war, you often lose land, and the claims on that land.

It’s worth adding that if Arab nations have such a deep, abiding interest in a Palestinian homeland, why didn’t they give them one when they could. During their 19-year rule (1948-1967) neither Jordan nor Egypt made any effort to establish a Palestinian state in either the West Bank or Gaza. No demands for a West Bank and Gaza independent state were heard until Israel took control of these areas in a defensive war for its survival.

This does not necessarily mean that Israel should not cede land in the West Bank; it might be in Israel’s interest to do such a thing, given the demographic and security realities it faces. But to keep referring to the West Bank as “occupied territory” perpetrates a myth—holds Israel to a double standard that is often used and always wrong.

Read Less

Annapolis — Will It Matter At All?

Pray for low expectations when it comes the Annapolis summit, because then it will not lead inexorably to disaster. That seems to be the consensus to emerge from a very interesting symposium at jpost.com featuring (among others) Jerusalem Post editor David Horovitz, his colleague Saul Singer, and Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum.

Horovitz: “The greater the expectations pinned on Annapolis, the more serious the dangers if it fails. And a stark failure, as Camp David 2000 proved, can unleash devastating terrorism, and deprive moderate forces of hope….For it to stand as a positive event, Annapolis has to be seen as a beginning — a beginning of a return to sanity first and foremost on the Palestinian side.”

Singer: “Annapolis won’t ‘fail’ because by the time it happens the standards for success will be set so low that they are, almost by definition, met.”

Pipes: “The consequences of Annapolis failing depend on whom the US government blames. If it basically faults the Palestinian side, as happened in 2000, then nothing much changes….But should the Bush administration primarily fault the Israeli side, watch out.”

The strangest aspect of the walk-up to Annapolis is that the only person really talking up the epoch-altering nature of the Annapolis summit is Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert — the same fantasist over-promiser who vowed in the summer of 2006 that the war in Lebanon would lead to the destruction of Hezbollah.

“This is a good moment,” Olmert said on Sunday. “I am excited by the chance to contribute to our chances. I know all the excuses and arguments why not, but I believe – from the bottom of my heart – that the time has come. In this spirit, I will come to Annapolis; to extend my hand in friendship and good will to all those who come to the meeting, and I promise: the State of Israel will be there. Indeed, we will come with caution; we will examine every issue responsibly; we will consider every proposal sensitively; but we come in good will, happily and full of hope.”

A serious world leader does not offer dewy-eyed pronouncements like this just before he is to enter deadly serious negotations involving the most basic existential questions of his nation’s future. Managing expectations so that they do not come back to haunt your cause later is one of the most basic rules of diplomacy. Olmert, yet again, disappoints. Worse yet, he is behaving exactly as he behaved during the war last summer — as though he doesn’t know the first thing about what to do when the spotlight is shining on him and on Israel.

Pray for low expectations when it comes the Annapolis summit, because then it will not lead inexorably to disaster. That seems to be the consensus to emerge from a very interesting symposium at jpost.com featuring (among others) Jerusalem Post editor David Horovitz, his colleague Saul Singer, and Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum.

Horovitz: “The greater the expectations pinned on Annapolis, the more serious the dangers if it fails. And a stark failure, as Camp David 2000 proved, can unleash devastating terrorism, and deprive moderate forces of hope….For it to stand as a positive event, Annapolis has to be seen as a beginning — a beginning of a return to sanity first and foremost on the Palestinian side.”

Singer: “Annapolis won’t ‘fail’ because by the time it happens the standards for success will be set so low that they are, almost by definition, met.”

Pipes: “The consequences of Annapolis failing depend on whom the US government blames. If it basically faults the Palestinian side, as happened in 2000, then nothing much changes….But should the Bush administration primarily fault the Israeli side, watch out.”

The strangest aspect of the walk-up to Annapolis is that the only person really talking up the epoch-altering nature of the Annapolis summit is Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert — the same fantasist over-promiser who vowed in the summer of 2006 that the war in Lebanon would lead to the destruction of Hezbollah.

“This is a good moment,” Olmert said on Sunday. “I am excited by the chance to contribute to our chances. I know all the excuses and arguments why not, but I believe – from the bottom of my heart – that the time has come. In this spirit, I will come to Annapolis; to extend my hand in friendship and good will to all those who come to the meeting, and I promise: the State of Israel will be there. Indeed, we will come with caution; we will examine every issue responsibly; we will consider every proposal sensitively; but we come in good will, happily and full of hope.”

A serious world leader does not offer dewy-eyed pronouncements like this just before he is to enter deadly serious negotations involving the most basic existential questions of his nation’s future. Managing expectations so that they do not come back to haunt your cause later is one of the most basic rules of diplomacy. Olmert, yet again, disappoints. Worse yet, he is behaving exactly as he behaved during the war last summer — as though he doesn’t know the first thing about what to do when the spotlight is shining on him and on Israel.

Read Less

The Zbig Lie

On Wednesday, the Obama campaign received an important new endorsement: Zbigniew Brzezinski, best known for having been Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, introduced Obama on the occasion of his Iraq speech in Iowa. Expect to hear a great deal from Brzezinski about his triumphs of Middle East diplomacy, which he—not to mention Jimmy Carter—is quite fond of recounting. “The fact of the matter is that I’m part of the only administration that brought about peace between Israel and its neighbors,” Brzezinski told NBC News on the day Obama delivered his Iraq policy speech. “And so I’m proud of my record in the Middle East.”

This is a deceptive attempt at rewriting history, one that Brzezinski and his gang have been pursuing for years in an effort to manufacture retroactively a success story for the Carter administration. The administration didn’t “bring about” peace between Israel and Egypt so much as hold a summit at Camp David to work out the details after Israel and Egypt had already committed themselves, independently and entirely in pursuit of their own interests, to a peace treaty. From the outset of the Carter administration, the American commitment had been not to a deal between Israel and Egypt, but to a comprehensive resolution of the Palestinian question, and it was during the administration’s busy pursuit of a renewed Geneva Conference, inclusive of the Soviet Union, Israel, and the PLO, that the Israel-Egypt deal essentially fell into Carter’s lap.

Read More

On Wednesday, the Obama campaign received an important new endorsement: Zbigniew Brzezinski, best known for having been Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, introduced Obama on the occasion of his Iraq speech in Iowa. Expect to hear a great deal from Brzezinski about his triumphs of Middle East diplomacy, which he—not to mention Jimmy Carter—is quite fond of recounting. “The fact of the matter is that I’m part of the only administration that brought about peace between Israel and its neighbors,” Brzezinski told NBC News on the day Obama delivered his Iraq policy speech. “And so I’m proud of my record in the Middle East.”

This is a deceptive attempt at rewriting history, one that Brzezinski and his gang have been pursuing for years in an effort to manufacture retroactively a success story for the Carter administration. The administration didn’t “bring about” peace between Israel and Egypt so much as hold a summit at Camp David to work out the details after Israel and Egypt had already committed themselves, independently and entirely in pursuit of their own interests, to a peace treaty. From the outset of the Carter administration, the American commitment had been not to a deal between Israel and Egypt, but to a comprehensive resolution of the Palestinian question, and it was during the administration’s busy pursuit of a renewed Geneva Conference, inclusive of the Soviet Union, Israel, and the PLO, that the Israel-Egypt deal essentially fell into Carter’s lap.

In the mid-1970′s, Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian dictator, was in a bad position: The war he launched in 1973 to wrest the Sinai back from Israel had been a humiliating catastrophe, and he was under growing internal pressure to do something—anything—to salvage Egypt’s honor and retrieve its lost territory. Sidelined by the Carter administration’s focus on the Palestinians, Sadat’s only option was to pursue the Sinai through peaceful means, by directly engaging Israel. A series of monumental and previously unthinkable events took place: In November 1977, Sadat announced to the Egyptian parliament that “Israel will be astonished to hear me say now, before you, that I am prepared to go to their own house, to the Knesset itself, to talk to them.” Four days later Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin formally invited Sadat to Jerusalem, and a week later Sadat’s plane touched down at Ben Gurion airport. Sadat visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, and then addressed the Knesset, declaring that “we accept living with you in peace and justice.” All of this happened entirely independent of—and actually in defiance of—the Carter administration, whose agenda in the region was entirely focused on laying the groundwork for the hoped-for Geneva Conference (which never ended up happening).

The Carter administration was caught completely off guard by this sudden rapprochement, and had no option but to try to include itself as much as possible in the dealmaking. By the time the Camp David summit was convened in September 1978, the only thorny issue left to resolve was the question of whether there would be any Israeli presence left in the Sinai as part of a peace treaty; Begin was initially intransigent on the question, but eventually conceded to a complete withdrawal. Peace between Israel and Egypt was born.

And so today, when Brzezinski brags to the press about how his dedication to diplomacy got results—as opposed, he intones, to the senseless warmongering of the Bush administration—we are witnessing a self-aggrandizing swindle, an attempt not only at enhancing the legacy of the Carter administration but of advancing the proposition that in the Middle East, peace is always possible with the right amount of skilled and dedicated American diplomacy.

The true lesson of the Egypt-Israel rapprochement is actually the opposite of what people like Brzezinski would like it to be: It is a lesson in the sometimes irrelevance of American diplomacy in forging peace between nations, and more importantly it is an example of the reality that peace between implacable foes is usually only possible when one has so thoroughly beaten the other on the battlefield that the defeated party is left with only one option, to sue for peace. People like Brzezinski would like us to believe that heroic diplomacy in 1978 midwifed a peace treaty. Candidate Obama will be ill-served listening to this nonsense.

Read Less

The Dangers of Patience

On Tuesday, referring to North Korea’s failure to live up to its pledge to shut down and seal the nuclear reactor in Yongbyon by April 14, Condoleezza Rice remarked that “we don’t have endless patience.” North Korea made its promise to shut down the reactor in February at six-party disarmament talks as a part of a two-step plan to dismantle its nuclear-weapons program. The talks were sponsored by Kim Jong Il’s only ally, China, which pressured the United States to accept the deal.

Secretary Rice was repeating comments made last Friday by President Bush, who declared that “Our patience is not unlimited” as he stood next to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Camp David. (To their credit, Abe and his predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi, have been pushing the United States to adopt a stiffer policy toward Kim Jong Il.)

These latest statements add to the collection of similar warnings that Kim has collected over the past two weeks. “Our patience is not infinite,” Reuters reported a senior U.S. official as saying on April 14. On that day the State Department’s Christopher Hill, the chief American negotiator at the talks, said, “We are not indifferent to missing a deadline.”

Maybe the Bush administration is not indifferent, but it has been very tolerant. The same unidentified American official said that Washington was willing to give Pyongyang “a few more days.” In fact, the U.S. has given the North Koreans a few more weeks.

Read More

On Tuesday, referring to North Korea’s failure to live up to its pledge to shut down and seal the nuclear reactor in Yongbyon by April 14, Condoleezza Rice remarked that “we don’t have endless patience.” North Korea made its promise to shut down the reactor in February at six-party disarmament talks as a part of a two-step plan to dismantle its nuclear-weapons program. The talks were sponsored by Kim Jong Il’s only ally, China, which pressured the United States to accept the deal.

Secretary Rice was repeating comments made last Friday by President Bush, who declared that “Our patience is not unlimited” as he stood next to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Camp David. (To their credit, Abe and his predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi, have been pushing the United States to adopt a stiffer policy toward Kim Jong Il.)

These latest statements add to the collection of similar warnings that Kim has collected over the past two weeks. “Our patience is not infinite,” Reuters reported a senior U.S. official as saying on April 14. On that day the State Department’s Christopher Hill, the chief American negotiator at the talks, said, “We are not indifferent to missing a deadline.”

Maybe the Bush administration is not indifferent, but it has been very tolerant. The same unidentified American official said that Washington was willing to give Pyongyang “a few more days.” In fact, the U.S. has given the North Koreans a few more weeks.

What’s next? Well, American policymakers will undoubtedly confront Kim Jong Il with . . . more patience. For his part, Kim seems to have a more robust strategy for dealing with us. Last week, for the first time in fifteen years, he showed off missile systems in a military parade. There were three new systems, but what caught analysts’ attention was a new intermediate-range ballistic missile with a maximum range of 4,000 kilometers. It can reach the American territory of Guam. Kim’s Taepodong-2 missile—though not yet deployed—will be able to reach America’s West Coast with a nuclear payload.

So perhaps it would be a good time to start paying attention to Pyongyang’s leader. As Kim Myong Chol, often described as North Korea’s “unofficial spokesman,” wrote at the beginning of this year, “Kim is now one click away from torching the skyscrapers of New York.” This is an exaggeration: at this particular moment, the worst the North Korean leader could do is to incinerate Anchorage or Honolulu. But if North Korea’s arms development continues at this pace, in five to seven years, Kim’s technicians will be able to miniaturize nuclear weapons, mate them to missiles, and deploy them in a launch vehicle that can reach any point in North America.

Perhaps we should move the White House to Bermuda.

Read Less

The Arabs’ Turn

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice just spent three days visiting Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority. She spoke seven times, including interviews, press roundtables, and press conferences with assorted leaders. But reporters did not find much to say about Rice’s tour, beyond noting her announcement that henceforth Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Mahmoud Abbas will hold meetings twice a month. (Perhaps she reasoned that the two leaders would end the conflict just to get out of having such frequent meetings.)

Read More

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice just spent three days visiting Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority. She spoke seven times, including interviews, press roundtables, and press conferences with assorted leaders. But reporters did not find much to say about Rice’s tour, beyond noting her announcement that henceforth Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Mahmoud Abbas will hold meetings twice a month. (Perhaps she reasoned that the two leaders would end the conflict just to get out of having such frequent meetings.)

What wasn’t given due notice was Rice’s unveiling of a new philosophical component of the peace process, even though it cropped up across her whole trip, from her press roundtable in Washington on Friday to her closing statement in Jerusalem on Tuesday morning. Here it is, from that summary statement:

Just as Israelis and Palestinians must clarify a political horizon together, the Arab states must clarify a political horizon for Israel. These paths do not substitute for one another; they reinforce one another.

The Arab states should begin reaching out to Israel—to reassure Israel that its place in the region will be more, not less secure, by an end to the occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian state; to show Israel that they accept its place in the Middle East; and to demonstrate that the peace they seek is greater than just the absence of war. Such bold outreach can turn the Arab League’s words into the basis of active diplomacy, and it can hasten the day when a state called Palestine will take its rightful place in the international community.

If pursued seriously, this new approach could be revolutionary. Rice is challenging a premise that has stood since the last Arab peace treaty with Israel over a decade ago: the idea that the Arab states can sit back and complain to the U.S. about Israel while taking no responsibility for moderating the Palestinians through their own example.

After Ehud Barak put a state on the table at Camp David, and Ariel Sharon disengaged from settlements in order to create one in 2005, there was not much more that Israel could do to demonstrate the obvious: it actively wants a Palestinian state. The Palestinians reacted to all this not by meeting Israel halfway, but by running in the other direction—becoming more violent and radicalized. And while all this was going on, the Sunni Arab world has been much more concerned about Iranian power in the region than about the Arab-Israel conflict, which has become a tool in Iran’s hands.

Rice is right: the Arab states need to help the Palestinians out of their radical spiral, and this means thawing Arab relations with Israel. But opening trade offices and holding low-level meetings will not be enough. Ultimately, the boulder that must be rolled aside to unblock the road to a Palestinian state is the Palestinian claim to a right of return, which infringes gravely on Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

The Palestinians are too weak and radicalized to make this move, so the Arab states have to start by saying there will be no “right of return” to Israel, only to Palestine. But why should the Arabs say this when even the U.S. hesitates to talk about it? Now that Israel has taken massive risks for peace and paid dearly, it is time for the U.S. and the Arab states to take much smaller risks with much greater chances of bearing fruit.

Read Less

The New Peacemaker?

All at once everyone is talking about Saudi Arabia as the new Israeli-Palestinian peacemaker. What the United States could not do, what Europe could not do, what the Quartet could not do, the Saudis, we are being told, having just brokered an agreement between Fatah and Hamas, are the ones to do.

To take one of the many commentators in whose thinking this idea has crystallized, here is David Makovsky, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, writing in an op-ed in the February 13 International Herald Tribune:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is heading for the Middle East next week to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in a new effort to pursue peace through informal negotiations. . . . If there is one hope for the Rice idea, it is in Saudi Arabia. . . . The fact that the Palestinian talks between Abbas and Hamas during the last few days took place in Saudi Arabia demonstrates that Riyadh now recognizes that it cannot continue to stand aside, that diplomacy must be energized [in order to meet] Arab concern over the ascendance of Iran and other Islamist radicals in the region.

But with all due respect to the Saudis, all that the (in all likelihood very temporary) “success” of the Fatah-Hamas talks in Mecca demonstrates is how limited the Saudis’ ability to affect Palestinian attitudes toward Israel is. If after first banging Mahmoud Abbas and Ismail Haniyeh’s heads together and then parading them in décollete around the Kaaba, all they could get out of the two was Abbas’s accession to Haniyeh’s agreement to “honor” past PLO-Israel agreements while continuing to declare that Hamas would never recognize Israel (some way of “honoring” the Oslo Declaration of Principles!)—well, David Makovsky and all the others may as well forget it.

What Yasser Arafat was not willing to put his name to at Camp David and Taba in 2000 without Hamas—i.e., the most concessionary of all possible Israeli positions—Mahmoud Abbas will not by any stretch of the imagination put his name to now that the Saudis have yoked him to Hamas. And should he ever seek to unyoke himself, he will be a wagon without a horse. Whistling in the dark is never very effective, but this whistle doesn’t even carry the tune of peace.

All at once everyone is talking about Saudi Arabia as the new Israeli-Palestinian peacemaker. What the United States could not do, what Europe could not do, what the Quartet could not do, the Saudis, we are being told, having just brokered an agreement between Fatah and Hamas, are the ones to do.

To take one of the many commentators in whose thinking this idea has crystallized, here is David Makovsky, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, writing in an op-ed in the February 13 International Herald Tribune:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is heading for the Middle East next week to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in a new effort to pursue peace through informal negotiations. . . . If there is one hope for the Rice idea, it is in Saudi Arabia. . . . The fact that the Palestinian talks between Abbas and Hamas during the last few days took place in Saudi Arabia demonstrates that Riyadh now recognizes that it cannot continue to stand aside, that diplomacy must be energized [in order to meet] Arab concern over the ascendance of Iran and other Islamist radicals in the region.

But with all due respect to the Saudis, all that the (in all likelihood very temporary) “success” of the Fatah-Hamas talks in Mecca demonstrates is how limited the Saudis’ ability to affect Palestinian attitudes toward Israel is. If after first banging Mahmoud Abbas and Ismail Haniyeh’s heads together and then parading them in décollete around the Kaaba, all they could get out of the two was Abbas’s accession to Haniyeh’s agreement to “honor” past PLO-Israel agreements while continuing to declare that Hamas would never recognize Israel (some way of “honoring” the Oslo Declaration of Principles!)—well, David Makovsky and all the others may as well forget it.

What Yasser Arafat was not willing to put his name to at Camp David and Taba in 2000 without Hamas—i.e., the most concessionary of all possible Israeli positions—Mahmoud Abbas will not by any stretch of the imagination put his name to now that the Saudis have yoked him to Hamas. And should he ever seek to unyoke himself, he will be a wagon without a horse. Whistling in the dark is never very effective, but this whistle doesn’t even carry the tune of peace.

Read Less




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

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

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

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

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