Commentary Magazine


Topic: Daniel Levy

Flotsam and Jetsam

J Street throws in the towel, conceding that co-founder Daniel Levy said, “I believe that where Jewish history was in 1948 excused, for me — it was good enough for me — an act that was wrong.” The Soros Street gang even provides video.

The PA throws the offer of a settlement freeze back in Bibi’s face. “Senior Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat on Monday stated that the Palestinian Authority unreservedly rejected Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s offer of a renewed building freeze in the West Bank in exchange for PA recognition of Israel as the Jewish national home.” I guess it’s not all about the settlements.

Voters are ready to throw out the Dems and with them, the Obama agenda. In every policy area listed (including the economy, spending, ethics, immigration, health care, and terrorism), at least 50 percent of voters think the Democrats’ policies are taking us in the wrong direction.

And more and more voters want to throw them out every day. The GOP hits a high in the RCP generic congressional polling, with an 8.2 point advantage.

Maybe it’s time for the Dems to throw a Hail Mary: “Democratic concerns about the House playing field broadening to record levels appear to only be getting worse as reports that Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) are vulnerable surfaced over the weekend. … The fact that the White House is focused on an inside-baseball campaign finance issue [its unsupported allegation that the Chamber of Commerce collects overseas money for campaign donations], instead of the economy shows how bad the political environment is for Democrats this year.”

Attacking mythical foreign donors isn’t working, so Obama throws this into the mix: “President Obama on Monday called for a ‘fundamental overhaul’ to the nation’s infrastructure that involves a $50 billion investment in roads, bridges, railways and electric grids he says are ‘woefully’ inadequate.” Excuse me, but wasn’t this what the stimulus was going to be used for? We’ve spent under Bush and Obama a couple of trillion, and we still need to spend more because that amount didn’t cover things we absolutely need? You can see why voters are infuriated.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) throws out a few arguments in favor of ObamaCare’s constitutionality. None of them fly. She turns heel. I sometimes get the idea that liberals are unaccustomed and unprepared to have their deeply held, unsubstantiated beliefs challenged.

J Street throws in the towel, conceding that co-founder Daniel Levy said, “I believe that where Jewish history was in 1948 excused, for me — it was good enough for me — an act that was wrong.” The Soros Street gang even provides video.

The PA throws the offer of a settlement freeze back in Bibi’s face. “Senior Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat on Monday stated that the Palestinian Authority unreservedly rejected Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s offer of a renewed building freeze in the West Bank in exchange for PA recognition of Israel as the Jewish national home.” I guess it’s not all about the settlements.

Voters are ready to throw out the Dems and with them, the Obama agenda. In every policy area listed (including the economy, spending, ethics, immigration, health care, and terrorism), at least 50 percent of voters think the Democrats’ policies are taking us in the wrong direction.

And more and more voters want to throw them out every day. The GOP hits a high in the RCP generic congressional polling, with an 8.2 point advantage.

Maybe it’s time for the Dems to throw a Hail Mary: “Democratic concerns about the House playing field broadening to record levels appear to only be getting worse as reports that Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) are vulnerable surfaced over the weekend. … The fact that the White House is focused on an inside-baseball campaign finance issue [its unsupported allegation that the Chamber of Commerce collects overseas money for campaign donations], instead of the economy shows how bad the political environment is for Democrats this year.”

Attacking mythical foreign donors isn’t working, so Obama throws this into the mix: “President Obama on Monday called for a ‘fundamental overhaul’ to the nation’s infrastructure that involves a $50 billion investment in roads, bridges, railways and electric grids he says are ‘woefully’ inadequate.” Excuse me, but wasn’t this what the stimulus was going to be used for? We’ve spent under Bush and Obama a couple of trillion, and we still need to spend more because that amount didn’t cover things we absolutely need? You can see why voters are infuriated.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) throws out a few arguments in favor of ObamaCare’s constitutionality. None of them fly. She turns heel. I sometimes get the idea that liberals are unaccustomed and unprepared to have their deeply held, unsubstantiated beliefs challenged.

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You Can’t Get Much More Anti-Israel Than This

From the inception of J Street, I and other conservatives have argued that its “pro-Israel” label was false. Both in actions and in words it has revealed itself to be in league with Israel’s foes. It has fanned the flames of delegitimization efforts. It has incorporated Hamas’s talking points as its own. It has supported candidates most hostile to Israel and to a robust U.S.-Israel relationship.

In case you had any doubt (but really, who but Ron Kampeas does?), this report should clear things up. “J Street co-founder, advisory board member, and international socialite Daniel Levy” helped escort Richard Goldstone around Capitol Hill, and it was his ” New America Foundation that hosted a high-caliber lunch for Goldstone.”

According to the report, Levy was on an all-star panel of Israel-haters last May (“with Abdel al-Bari Atwan, the editor in chief of al-Quds al-Arabi, NAF Strategic Program Director Steve Clemons, surreal Hamas apologist and one-stater Allister Sparks, and accused terrorist Basheer Nafi”) when he shared this:

One can be a utilitarian two-stater, in other words think that the practical pragmatic way forward is two states. This is my understanding of the current Hamas position. One can be an ideological two-stater, someone who believes in exclusively the Palestinian self-determination and in Zionism; I don’t believe that it’s impossible to have a progressive Zionism. Or one can be a one-stater. But in either of those outcomes we’re going to live next door to each other or in a one state disposition. And that means wrapping one’s head around the humanity of both sides. I believe the way Jewish history was in 1948 excused — for me, it was good enough for me — an act that was wrong. I don’t expect Palestinians to think that. I have no reason — there’s no reason a Palestinian should think there was justice in the creation of Israel.

His remarks also apparently included the assertion that it was “‘natural’ for Gazans to want to attack Israelis.” I await the denial by Soros Street, the production of the complete transcript, and then the emergence of the pro-J Street spin squad to explain that Levy didn’t really mean what he said. Or J Street doesn’t believe this. Or whatever. But I think those who have given money to J Street or accepted endorsements or cash from it under the pretense that it was a pro-Israel group were defrauded. And I think J Street is kaput.

From the inception of J Street, I and other conservatives have argued that its “pro-Israel” label was false. Both in actions and in words it has revealed itself to be in league with Israel’s foes. It has fanned the flames of delegitimization efforts. It has incorporated Hamas’s talking points as its own. It has supported candidates most hostile to Israel and to a robust U.S.-Israel relationship.

In case you had any doubt (but really, who but Ron Kampeas does?), this report should clear things up. “J Street co-founder, advisory board member, and international socialite Daniel Levy” helped escort Richard Goldstone around Capitol Hill, and it was his ” New America Foundation that hosted a high-caliber lunch for Goldstone.”

According to the report, Levy was on an all-star panel of Israel-haters last May (“with Abdel al-Bari Atwan, the editor in chief of al-Quds al-Arabi, NAF Strategic Program Director Steve Clemons, surreal Hamas apologist and one-stater Allister Sparks, and accused terrorist Basheer Nafi”) when he shared this:

One can be a utilitarian two-stater, in other words think that the practical pragmatic way forward is two states. This is my understanding of the current Hamas position. One can be an ideological two-stater, someone who believes in exclusively the Palestinian self-determination and in Zionism; I don’t believe that it’s impossible to have a progressive Zionism. Or one can be a one-stater. But in either of those outcomes we’re going to live next door to each other or in a one state disposition. And that means wrapping one’s head around the humanity of both sides. I believe the way Jewish history was in 1948 excused — for me, it was good enough for me — an act that was wrong. I don’t expect Palestinians to think that. I have no reason — there’s no reason a Palestinian should think there was justice in the creation of Israel.

His remarks also apparently included the assertion that it was “‘natural’ for Gazans to want to attack Israelis.” I await the denial by Soros Street, the production of the complete transcript, and then the emergence of the pro-J Street spin squad to explain that Levy didn’t really mean what he said. Or J Street doesn’t believe this. Or whatever. But I think those who have given money to J Street or accepted endorsements or cash from it under the pretense that it was a pro-Israel group were defrauded. And I think J Street is kaput.

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What Is Irreversible and What Is Not

Ed Koch finds the Obami’s treatment of Israel “outrageous and a breach of trust” and concludes that the “relations will never be the same again. Humpty Dumpty has been broken and the absolute trust needed between allies is no longer there. How sad it is for the supporters of Israel who put their trust in President Obama.” Those Israel supporters who put their trust in Obama have a lot to answer for, but I do not believe that the rift between the countries is permanent or that the U.S.-Israel relationship is irretrievably damaged. Israel’s relationship with this administration may be marred, but Obama, as we have seen this week, is unique, even within his own party, in his fondness for Israel-bashing and disdain for the elected government of the Jewish state.

The overwhelming opposition of Republicans to the Obami Israel offensive suggests that its party nominee in 2012 will be genuinely and avowedly pro-Israel. An e-mail from Eric Cantor’s office this morning began — even though health care was seemingly at the top of the agenda — with this:

Yesterday, the Prime Minister from one of America’s closest and most strategic allies visited the White House. But did anyone know it? Nope. For the second time in a row, the White House apparently didn’t want the President to be seen with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Was he trying to avoid difficult questions from the press? Did he not want the photo to appear on newspapers across the world? Was he sending a message to our allies or our enemies? Surely the White House made the strategic decision to keep the meeting closed for a reason, but doesn’t feel it necessary to explain why. One thing is clear — President Obama missed an opportunity to show the world that the special relationship between Israel and the United States remains strong.

The flip side, however, is that we may regrettably be reaching the point at which there is a distinct partisan difference — despite American Jews’ unflinching loyalty to the Democratic party — on Israel policy. As the Washington Times reports, most Democrats remain obsessed with domestic issues. Daniel Levy of the leftist New America Foundation in essence concedes that Democrats really don’t care all that much about Israel: “The vast majority of American Jewish voters in November won’t be basing their vote on this spat. … A small minority [of] Jewish Democrats will raise it, and part of the Republican base will use it as one of many mobilizing vehicles, but those voters will be mobilized anyway — though, on margins, it could raise money for certain candidates.” Well, at least in 2012, voters will have a choice between Obama and a candidate sharply critical of and willing to reverse the administration’s Israel policy.

Nevertheless, we should not be so pollyannaish to believe that much of what the Obami are up to won’t have long-lasting consequences, even if a more pro-Israel president enters the White House in two and a half years. The Obami are of course reinforcing the well-known predilection of Palestinian rejectionists to hold out for more unilateral concessions. The goal of a two-state solution is therefore being undermined by the administration, which is straining so hard to champion the peace process. Even more dangerous, the administration’s behavior signals to those whose aim it is to delegitimize Israel that the U.S. might not leap to Israel’s defense. If we’ve had a plethora of Israel-bashing from international institutions lately, be prepared for more. And then let’s not forget the most permanent damage that the Obami might leave behind: a revolutionary Islamic state with nuclear weapons. That truly is irreversible, and calamitous.

The bottom line then: the U.S.-Israel relationship may recover, but not before much harm is done to Israel and ultimately to our own security. That is the price for electing the most openly anti-Israel president in history.

Ed Koch finds the Obami’s treatment of Israel “outrageous and a breach of trust” and concludes that the “relations will never be the same again. Humpty Dumpty has been broken and the absolute trust needed between allies is no longer there. How sad it is for the supporters of Israel who put their trust in President Obama.” Those Israel supporters who put their trust in Obama have a lot to answer for, but I do not believe that the rift between the countries is permanent or that the U.S.-Israel relationship is irretrievably damaged. Israel’s relationship with this administration may be marred, but Obama, as we have seen this week, is unique, even within his own party, in his fondness for Israel-bashing and disdain for the elected government of the Jewish state.

The overwhelming opposition of Republicans to the Obami Israel offensive suggests that its party nominee in 2012 will be genuinely and avowedly pro-Israel. An e-mail from Eric Cantor’s office this morning began — even though health care was seemingly at the top of the agenda — with this:

Yesterday, the Prime Minister from one of America’s closest and most strategic allies visited the White House. But did anyone know it? Nope. For the second time in a row, the White House apparently didn’t want the President to be seen with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Was he trying to avoid difficult questions from the press? Did he not want the photo to appear on newspapers across the world? Was he sending a message to our allies or our enemies? Surely the White House made the strategic decision to keep the meeting closed for a reason, but doesn’t feel it necessary to explain why. One thing is clear — President Obama missed an opportunity to show the world that the special relationship between Israel and the United States remains strong.

The flip side, however, is that we may regrettably be reaching the point at which there is a distinct partisan difference — despite American Jews’ unflinching loyalty to the Democratic party — on Israel policy. As the Washington Times reports, most Democrats remain obsessed with domestic issues. Daniel Levy of the leftist New America Foundation in essence concedes that Democrats really don’t care all that much about Israel: “The vast majority of American Jewish voters in November won’t be basing their vote on this spat. … A small minority [of] Jewish Democrats will raise it, and part of the Republican base will use it as one of many mobilizing vehicles, but those voters will be mobilized anyway — though, on margins, it could raise money for certain candidates.” Well, at least in 2012, voters will have a choice between Obama and a candidate sharply critical of and willing to reverse the administration’s Israel policy.

Nevertheless, we should not be so pollyannaish to believe that much of what the Obami are up to won’t have long-lasting consequences, even if a more pro-Israel president enters the White House in two and a half years. The Obami are of course reinforcing the well-known predilection of Palestinian rejectionists to hold out for more unilateral concessions. The goal of a two-state solution is therefore being undermined by the administration, which is straining so hard to champion the peace process. Even more dangerous, the administration’s behavior signals to those whose aim it is to delegitimize Israel that the U.S. might not leap to Israel’s defense. If we’ve had a plethora of Israel-bashing from international institutions lately, be prepared for more. And then let’s not forget the most permanent damage that the Obami might leave behind: a revolutionary Islamic state with nuclear weapons. That truly is irreversible, and calamitous.

The bottom line then: the U.S.-Israel relationship may recover, but not before much harm is done to Israel and ultimately to our own security. That is the price for electing the most openly anti-Israel president in history.

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Comedy from J Street

J Street is “gravely concerned about escalating threats to the character of Israel’s democracy” and is worried about “a perfect storm brewing that threatens the core of Israel’s democratic character.” The e-mail that contains these warnings is titled “Swiftboating Israel’s democracy.” Time to stockpile bottled water everyone, something serious is happening! It is this: an obscure Zionist youth group has criticized the leftist New Israel Fund for giving money to leftist NGOs.

This youth group is, of course, doing something fully consistent with democratic values — participating, albeit harshly, in a political debate.

There is a group, however, that indeed doesn’t have much regard for Israel’s democracy. Leading figures in this organization have frequently expressed their wish that the United States would do more to reverse the democratic choices of the Israeli electorate. It is named J Street. Here is Jeremy Ben-Ami, the executive director, in an unguarded moment:

There’s got to be some sort of intervention here where the U.S. says to Israel the time has come to finally do something. … And within Israel, the Israeli prime minister may have a tough time because of their domestic politics fulfilling their commitments. It’s going to be a lot easier if they say to their coalition partners and to the rest of the government, “I have to do this because the president of the United States is telling me to do it.”

Or take a recent Daniel Levy piece in Foreign Policy. Both the Israeli democracy and the PA are “deeply dysfunctional polities,” he writes, and the peace process is “too important for them and for America for it to be left to the mercy of the vicissitudes of their respective domestic politics.”

J Street is scandalized that some Americans have given money to the Zionist youth group, but J Street has never protested the millions of dollars that European governments and the UN spend on anti-Israel political groups NGOs that play such an intrusive role in Israel’s democracy.

It’s time for J Street to send out a press release condemning J Street’s efforts to subvert Israeli democracy.

J Street is “gravely concerned about escalating threats to the character of Israel’s democracy” and is worried about “a perfect storm brewing that threatens the core of Israel’s democratic character.” The e-mail that contains these warnings is titled “Swiftboating Israel’s democracy.” Time to stockpile bottled water everyone, something serious is happening! It is this: an obscure Zionist youth group has criticized the leftist New Israel Fund for giving money to leftist NGOs.

This youth group is, of course, doing something fully consistent with democratic values — participating, albeit harshly, in a political debate.

There is a group, however, that indeed doesn’t have much regard for Israel’s democracy. Leading figures in this organization have frequently expressed their wish that the United States would do more to reverse the democratic choices of the Israeli electorate. It is named J Street. Here is Jeremy Ben-Ami, the executive director, in an unguarded moment:

There’s got to be some sort of intervention here where the U.S. says to Israel the time has come to finally do something. … And within Israel, the Israeli prime minister may have a tough time because of their domestic politics fulfilling their commitments. It’s going to be a lot easier if they say to their coalition partners and to the rest of the government, “I have to do this because the president of the United States is telling me to do it.”

Or take a recent Daniel Levy piece in Foreign Policy. Both the Israeli democracy and the PA are “deeply dysfunctional polities,” he writes, and the peace process is “too important for them and for America for it to be left to the mercy of the vicissitudes of their respective domestic politics.”

J Street is scandalized that some Americans have given money to the Zionist youth group, but J Street has never protested the millions of dollars that European governments and the UN spend on anti-Israel political groups NGOs that play such an intrusive role in Israel’s democracy.

It’s time for J Street to send out a press release condemning J Street’s efforts to subvert Israeli democracy.

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Hamas, Unrepentant

Remember, last month, when the credulosphere trembled in excitement at the thought that Hamas had given up its desire to destroy Israel? Khaled Meshaal muttered something about being reconciled to Israel, and the floodgates opened.

Gershom Gorenberg wrote long, breathless articles for the American Prospect and his blog announcing the good tidings, Ezra Klein wrote a shorter, dumber post earnestly heralding the “bombshell” in the peace process (if only the warmongers would notice!), Daniel Levy declared that Hamas now accepts Israel in pre-1967 borders, and the smug harrumphing about the reasonableness of Hamas pretty much foamed off your computer screen.

But killjoy, spoilsport, wet-blanket conservatives laughed at all of this: It is one thing to remain willing to pursue peace with honest interlocutors, and it is another altogether to behave like a desperate, manipulable fool. These thoughts came to mind today while reading the remarks of Mahmoud Zahar, one of Hamas’ highest-ranking officials, reported in the Jerusalem Post:

[We] “will continue to persecute the Zionists wherever they are, after we prove that the Zionist army can be defeated — contrary to what was believed in the past, that it is impossible to beat the Zionists.”

Speaking in the Gaza Strip, he went on to affirm Palestinian right of return, claiming that the “right of return of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians is closer than ever.”

“After we defeat the Zionists we will persecute them . . . we will persecute them to eternity, and the sun of the freedom and independence of the Palestinians will burn all of the Zionists,” he continued.

This will be rigorously ignored by Gorenberg, Klein, Levy et al. Nothing to see here, folks. Say, can I interest you in some diplomacy?

Remember, last month, when the credulosphere trembled in excitement at the thought that Hamas had given up its desire to destroy Israel? Khaled Meshaal muttered something about being reconciled to Israel, and the floodgates opened.

Gershom Gorenberg wrote long, breathless articles for the American Prospect and his blog announcing the good tidings, Ezra Klein wrote a shorter, dumber post earnestly heralding the “bombshell” in the peace process (if only the warmongers would notice!), Daniel Levy declared that Hamas now accepts Israel in pre-1967 borders, and the smug harrumphing about the reasonableness of Hamas pretty much foamed off your computer screen.

But killjoy, spoilsport, wet-blanket conservatives laughed at all of this: It is one thing to remain willing to pursue peace with honest interlocutors, and it is another altogether to behave like a desperate, manipulable fool. These thoughts came to mind today while reading the remarks of Mahmoud Zahar, one of Hamas’ highest-ranking officials, reported in the Jerusalem Post:

[We] “will continue to persecute the Zionists wherever they are, after we prove that the Zionist army can be defeated — contrary to what was believed in the past, that it is impossible to beat the Zionists.”

Speaking in the Gaza Strip, he went on to affirm Palestinian right of return, claiming that the “right of return of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians is closer than ever.”

“After we defeat the Zionists we will persecute them . . . we will persecute them to eternity, and the sun of the freedom and independence of the Palestinians will burn all of the Zionists,” he continued.

This will be rigorously ignored by Gorenberg, Klein, Levy et al. Nothing to see here, folks. Say, can I interest you in some diplomacy?

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Syriana

When anything of international importance happens in or around Syria, there predictably follows a salivating at the prospect of “flipping” the Assad regime — of a peace deal with Israel, a renaissance in relations with the U.S., and a Syria that abandons, finally, its role as the Grand Central Station of terrorism in the Levant. After Jimmy Carter’s visits to Damascus and with Hamas, and then the embarrassing disclosure last week of a Syrian-North Korean nuclear program, peace-processors everywhere again caught a case of Damascus fever, the only prescription for which is more diplomacy.

As Jimmy Carter wrote in the NYT, “Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, has expressed eagerness to begin negotiations with Israel to end the impasse on the Golan Heights.” And the nuclear program? Daniel Levy thinks it was just a bargaining chip to be used in future peace talks — because that’s how badly Syria wants to get into the good graces of Israel and the U.S.

The timing of the White House’s release of intelligence about Israel’s airstrike — it happened on the same day that Syria disclosed it had been secretly negotiating with Israel by way of Turkey — fueled the idea that perhaps there was some kind of grand breakthrough in the making. And remember the Mugniyah assassination a couple of months ago? Maybe Assad pulled it off as a demonstration to the world that he is running the show in Damascus and can deal with Hezbollah and the Iranians if he wishes.

So why would Assad be talking to Israel about peace if he wasn’t serious about peace? There are an abundance of good reasons: to deflect international outrage over the disclosure of his nuclear program; to make his Iranian patron ever-so-slightly nervous and thus extract more favorable terms from Tehran; to undermine international unity on the Hariri tribunal (Daniel Levy, for example, has already called for “flexibility” on the tribunal in exchange for Syrian good behavior in other areas); to placate those in Washington who wish to return to the comparatively warmer relations of the 1990’s; to make credulous liberals swoon and fill their blogs and op-ed pages with hopeful predictions of a breakthrough (see links above). And, the overarching reason — because Assad finds himself under acute pressure. As David Schenker recently said on NPR, “These diplomatic signals of Syrian willingness for peace, they’re almost routine now — you can almost plot it on a graph. At moments of maximum pressure, the Syrians are always mentioning the idea of peace with Israel.”

If you take a moment and think about this situation from the perspective of Syria, you’ll quickly understand why no breakthrough is in the offing.

If you are Bashar Assad, you’re in the enviable position of being the only Arab ally of Iran, which you believe will soon be the greatest regional power, and a nuclear one. You were recently forced out of Lebanon, but your ally Hezbollah is still there, growing in power, ensuring your political influence today and your return in the future. You provide aid and safe haven to Hamas, which gives you a strong hand not only in thwarting America and Israel in the peace process, but in manipulating Palestinian violence. Your minority Allawite rule is bolstered by the state of emergency that has been in effect since Israel took the Golan Heights in 1967. The only real problems you have to weather are isolation from the U.S. and Israel and some impotent resentment from the Arab states — and once Iran goes nuclear, that Arab resentment will magically turn into obsequiousness.

If you’re Bashar Assad, why would you give up your alliance to the ascendant power in the Middle East and the connections to the terror groups that ensure your ability to dominate your neighbors? For nice words from the Americans? Barack Obama might be president soon, so you’ll probably get those anyway.

When anything of international importance happens in or around Syria, there predictably follows a salivating at the prospect of “flipping” the Assad regime — of a peace deal with Israel, a renaissance in relations with the U.S., and a Syria that abandons, finally, its role as the Grand Central Station of terrorism in the Levant. After Jimmy Carter’s visits to Damascus and with Hamas, and then the embarrassing disclosure last week of a Syrian-North Korean nuclear program, peace-processors everywhere again caught a case of Damascus fever, the only prescription for which is more diplomacy.

As Jimmy Carter wrote in the NYT, “Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, has expressed eagerness to begin negotiations with Israel to end the impasse on the Golan Heights.” And the nuclear program? Daniel Levy thinks it was just a bargaining chip to be used in future peace talks — because that’s how badly Syria wants to get into the good graces of Israel and the U.S.

The timing of the White House’s release of intelligence about Israel’s airstrike — it happened on the same day that Syria disclosed it had been secretly negotiating with Israel by way of Turkey — fueled the idea that perhaps there was some kind of grand breakthrough in the making. And remember the Mugniyah assassination a couple of months ago? Maybe Assad pulled it off as a demonstration to the world that he is running the show in Damascus and can deal with Hezbollah and the Iranians if he wishes.

So why would Assad be talking to Israel about peace if he wasn’t serious about peace? There are an abundance of good reasons: to deflect international outrage over the disclosure of his nuclear program; to make his Iranian patron ever-so-slightly nervous and thus extract more favorable terms from Tehran; to undermine international unity on the Hariri tribunal (Daniel Levy, for example, has already called for “flexibility” on the tribunal in exchange for Syrian good behavior in other areas); to placate those in Washington who wish to return to the comparatively warmer relations of the 1990’s; to make credulous liberals swoon and fill their blogs and op-ed pages with hopeful predictions of a breakthrough (see links above). And, the overarching reason — because Assad finds himself under acute pressure. As David Schenker recently said on NPR, “These diplomatic signals of Syrian willingness for peace, they’re almost routine now — you can almost plot it on a graph. At moments of maximum pressure, the Syrians are always mentioning the idea of peace with Israel.”

If you take a moment and think about this situation from the perspective of Syria, you’ll quickly understand why no breakthrough is in the offing.

If you are Bashar Assad, you’re in the enviable position of being the only Arab ally of Iran, which you believe will soon be the greatest regional power, and a nuclear one. You were recently forced out of Lebanon, but your ally Hezbollah is still there, growing in power, ensuring your political influence today and your return in the future. You provide aid and safe haven to Hamas, which gives you a strong hand not only in thwarting America and Israel in the peace process, but in manipulating Palestinian violence. Your minority Allawite rule is bolstered by the state of emergency that has been in effect since Israel took the Golan Heights in 1967. The only real problems you have to weather are isolation from the U.S. and Israel and some impotent resentment from the Arab states — and once Iran goes nuclear, that Arab resentment will magically turn into obsequiousness.

If you’re Bashar Assad, why would you give up your alliance to the ascendant power in the Middle East and the connections to the terror groups that ensure your ability to dominate your neighbors? For nice words from the Americans? Barack Obama might be president soon, so you’ll probably get those anyway.

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Daniel Levy, Making Stuff up Again

Ah, Daniel Levy. He is the far left’s favorite analyst of the Israeli-Arab dispute, and he is possessed of some very strange ideas. Several months ago I wrote a long piece laying out a few of his mendacities for NRO.

I happened upon his big-think Middle East piece in the current Prospect, and couldn’t help but take a quick look. It’s more or less a long tour of foreign policy fantasy-land. But this item in particular jumped off the page:

Recalibrating policy toward Hamas has become central to progress on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Contrary to popular misperception, Hamas and al-Qaeda are adversaries, not allies. Hamas is about ending the occupation and reforming Palestinian society; al-Qaeda, about opposing the West per se and spreading chaos in the Muslim world and beyond. One is reformist, the other revolutionary; one nationalist, the other post-nationalist; one grievance-based, the other fundamentalist.

Amazing! The leaders of Hamas have, in Levy’s telling, been lying for decades about what they want. You thought Khaled Meshaal and Ismail Haniyeh wish to destroy Israel, because that’s what they’ve promised to do over and over again? Well, you must be a simpleton. Or maybe you read the Hamas charter: “The Islamic Resistance Movement . . . strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.” Is it possible that Levy doesn’t understand that when Hamas leaders talk about “the occupation,” they mean Tel Aviv, not the West Bank? No — he certainly knows this. Maybe he received a secret communiqué in which Hamas rescinded its most basic principles?

And Hamas as a nationalist movement? Also a figment Levy’s imagination. Here’s the Charter again:

As for the objectives: They are the fighting against the false, defeating it and vanquishing it so that justice could prevail, homelands be retrieved and from its mosques would the voice of the mu’azen emerge declaring the establishment of the state of Islam, so that people and things would return each to their right places and Allah is our helper.

“The state of Islam.” Note to Levy: this is different than the state of Palestine.

All of this reminded me of Michael Young’s most recent column in the Beirut Daily Star, which perfectly anticipated Levy’s essay. Young’s topic is the foolishness of western apologists for Islamist groups:

Why is the topic important? Because over the years academics, analysts, journalists, and others, particularly the Westerners among them, who write about militant Islamist groups, have tended to project their own liberal attitudes and desires onto such groups, misinterpreting their intentions and largely ignoring what these groups say about themselves. Inasmuch as most such observers cannot really fathom the totalitarian strain in the aims and language of armed Islamists, totalitarian in the sense of pursuing a total idea, total in its purity, they cannot accept that the total idea can also be apocalyptic. Where Nasrallah and the leaders of Hamas will repeat that Israel’s elimination is a quasi-religious duty, the sympathetic Westernized observer, for whom the concept of elimination is intolerable, will think much more benignly in terms of well-intentioned “bargaining.” Hamas and Hizbullah are pragmatic, they will argue, so that their statements and deeds are only leverage to achieve specific political ends that, once attained, will allow a return to harmonious equilibrium.

This argument, so tirelessly made, is tiresomely irrelevant.

Young concludes: “For outside observers to ignore or reinterpret their words in order to justify a personal weakness for these groups’ revolutionary seductions is both self-centered and analytically useless.”

I don’t know how self-centered Levy is. But analytically useless? Most definitely.

Ah, Daniel Levy. He is the far left’s favorite analyst of the Israeli-Arab dispute, and he is possessed of some very strange ideas. Several months ago I wrote a long piece laying out a few of his mendacities for NRO.

I happened upon his big-think Middle East piece in the current Prospect, and couldn’t help but take a quick look. It’s more or less a long tour of foreign policy fantasy-land. But this item in particular jumped off the page:

Recalibrating policy toward Hamas has become central to progress on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Contrary to popular misperception, Hamas and al-Qaeda are adversaries, not allies. Hamas is about ending the occupation and reforming Palestinian society; al-Qaeda, about opposing the West per se and spreading chaos in the Muslim world and beyond. One is reformist, the other revolutionary; one nationalist, the other post-nationalist; one grievance-based, the other fundamentalist.

Amazing! The leaders of Hamas have, in Levy’s telling, been lying for decades about what they want. You thought Khaled Meshaal and Ismail Haniyeh wish to destroy Israel, because that’s what they’ve promised to do over and over again? Well, you must be a simpleton. Or maybe you read the Hamas charter: “The Islamic Resistance Movement . . . strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.” Is it possible that Levy doesn’t understand that when Hamas leaders talk about “the occupation,” they mean Tel Aviv, not the West Bank? No — he certainly knows this. Maybe he received a secret communiqué in which Hamas rescinded its most basic principles?

And Hamas as a nationalist movement? Also a figment Levy’s imagination. Here’s the Charter again:

As for the objectives: They are the fighting against the false, defeating it and vanquishing it so that justice could prevail, homelands be retrieved and from its mosques would the voice of the mu’azen emerge declaring the establishment of the state of Islam, so that people and things would return each to their right places and Allah is our helper.

“The state of Islam.” Note to Levy: this is different than the state of Palestine.

All of this reminded me of Michael Young’s most recent column in the Beirut Daily Star, which perfectly anticipated Levy’s essay. Young’s topic is the foolishness of western apologists for Islamist groups:

Why is the topic important? Because over the years academics, analysts, journalists, and others, particularly the Westerners among them, who write about militant Islamist groups, have tended to project their own liberal attitudes and desires onto such groups, misinterpreting their intentions and largely ignoring what these groups say about themselves. Inasmuch as most such observers cannot really fathom the totalitarian strain in the aims and language of armed Islamists, totalitarian in the sense of pursuing a total idea, total in its purity, they cannot accept that the total idea can also be apocalyptic. Where Nasrallah and the leaders of Hamas will repeat that Israel’s elimination is a quasi-religious duty, the sympathetic Westernized observer, for whom the concept of elimination is intolerable, will think much more benignly in terms of well-intentioned “bargaining.” Hamas and Hizbullah are pragmatic, they will argue, so that their statements and deeds are only leverage to achieve specific political ends that, once attained, will allow a return to harmonious equilibrium.

This argument, so tirelessly made, is tiresomely irrelevant.

Young concludes: “For outside observers to ignore or reinterpret their words in order to justify a personal weakness for these groups’ revolutionary seductions is both self-centered and analytically useless.”

I don’t know how self-centered Levy is. But analytically useless? Most definitely.

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Talking to the Enemies?

In yesterday’s New York Times, Helene Cooper speculates that the tide is turning on the Bush administration’s “Don’t-Talk-To-Evil” policy. Her prediction: by the first two years of the next administration, the United States will be talking to, well, everybody—North Korea, Iran, Syria, Cuba, Libya, and Venezuela. After all, she argues, the Bush administration’s recent overtures to Syria and low-level contacts with Iran regarding Iraq will likely intensify once Bush leave office, while relations with Cuba might be just a Castro heartbeat away.

But if an era of good feelings with Hugo Chavez seems just a bit far-fetched, Cooper outdoes herself, adding Hamas and Hizballah to the next administration’s buddy list. Under what circumstances might the U.S. deal with Hamas? Cooper writes:

If the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, who is currently a United States darling, kisses and makes up with Hamas and somehow gets the organization to agree to recognize Israel, there’s a chance.

Apparently someone forgot to tell Cooper that approximately 250,000 Hamas supporters marched in Gaza on Saturday to mark Hamas’s 20th anniversary, with trilingual banners declaring, “We Will Not Recognize Israel.” But who needs a reality check when think-tank star power can be summoned to predict the equally outlandish future U.S.-Hizballah relationship? Relying on New America Foundation stud Daniel Levy, who has become the go-to man for all sound bites in support of engaging terrorists, Cooper writes:

[Hizballah’s] case, while hard, may not be as tough a nut as Hamas, especially if the ongoing Syrian-American détente continues. “The Americans are already talking to Nabih Berri,” says a former Israeli peace negotiator, Daniel Levy, referring to a Shiite Muslim Lebanese politician who has close ties to Hizballah and Syria.

Of course, the U.S. primarily deals with Nabih Berri because, for all the duplicity that one finds in Lebanese politics, he still isn’t an actual member of Hizballah. But raising this objection completely misses the point. After all, in soliciting advice from Levy in an article packed with fact-free analysis, Cooper mistakenly engages an unreliable “expert” long before the U.S. forges any questionable alliances. It’s thus the Times’s journalism—and not U.S. foreign policy—that is showing the most profound signs of slippage.

In yesterday’s New York Times, Helene Cooper speculates that the tide is turning on the Bush administration’s “Don’t-Talk-To-Evil” policy. Her prediction: by the first two years of the next administration, the United States will be talking to, well, everybody—North Korea, Iran, Syria, Cuba, Libya, and Venezuela. After all, she argues, the Bush administration’s recent overtures to Syria and low-level contacts with Iran regarding Iraq will likely intensify once Bush leave office, while relations with Cuba might be just a Castro heartbeat away.

But if an era of good feelings with Hugo Chavez seems just a bit far-fetched, Cooper outdoes herself, adding Hamas and Hizballah to the next administration’s buddy list. Under what circumstances might the U.S. deal with Hamas? Cooper writes:

If the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, who is currently a United States darling, kisses and makes up with Hamas and somehow gets the organization to agree to recognize Israel, there’s a chance.

Apparently someone forgot to tell Cooper that approximately 250,000 Hamas supporters marched in Gaza on Saturday to mark Hamas’s 20th anniversary, with trilingual banners declaring, “We Will Not Recognize Israel.” But who needs a reality check when think-tank star power can be summoned to predict the equally outlandish future U.S.-Hizballah relationship? Relying on New America Foundation stud Daniel Levy, who has become the go-to man for all sound bites in support of engaging terrorists, Cooper writes:

[Hizballah’s] case, while hard, may not be as tough a nut as Hamas, especially if the ongoing Syrian-American détente continues. “The Americans are already talking to Nabih Berri,” says a former Israeli peace negotiator, Daniel Levy, referring to a Shiite Muslim Lebanese politician who has close ties to Hizballah and Syria.

Of course, the U.S. primarily deals with Nabih Berri because, for all the duplicity that one finds in Lebanese politics, he still isn’t an actual member of Hizballah. But raising this objection completely misses the point. After all, in soliciting advice from Levy in an article packed with fact-free analysis, Cooper mistakenly engages an unreliable “expert” long before the U.S. forges any questionable alliances. It’s thus the Times’s journalism—and not U.S. foreign policy—that is showing the most profound signs of slippage.

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Annapolis: Engaging With What?

Yesterday I attended two Annapolis-related presentations in Washington, the first at the New America Foundation and the second at the National Press Club, sponsored by The Israel Project. The events offered a useful contrast in the way that two camps view not just the state of the peace process, but the conflict itself. The Israel Project symposium featured Shmuel Rosner of Haaretz, Tamara Cofman Wittes of Brookings, and David Wurmser, the former Middle East adviser to Vice President Cheney. This was by far the more interesting presentation, as the three participants were serious people trafficking in serious ideas.

The New America event, on the other hand, was intended to publicize the “re-release” of a letter first published in the New York Review of Books on October 10th, most notably signed by Zbigniew Brzezinski, Lee Hamilton, and Brent Scowcroft, which has now attracted a couple dozen more signatories. It was ignored the first time it was published, and it’s enjoyable to predict that the addition of the signatures of Joseph Wilson and Gary Hart is going to further cement its irrelevance.

In any event, the New America panelists were Daniel Levy, Robert Malley, Ghaith al-Omari, and Steve Clemons, and they lodged as their major criticism the United States and Israel’s refusal to “engage” Hamas. That refusal is shaping up, for the realist and leftist critics of the peace process, as a primary objection, and in the coming months it will likely be invoked by the same critics as a major reason why Annapolis accomplished nothing. This faction is positioning its argument so that the failure of Annapolis can be leveraged to undermine the isolation of Hamas. As such, it is worth wondering whether people like Malley and Levy actually have a point.

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Yesterday I attended two Annapolis-related presentations in Washington, the first at the New America Foundation and the second at the National Press Club, sponsored by The Israel Project. The events offered a useful contrast in the way that two camps view not just the state of the peace process, but the conflict itself. The Israel Project symposium featured Shmuel Rosner of Haaretz, Tamara Cofman Wittes of Brookings, and David Wurmser, the former Middle East adviser to Vice President Cheney. This was by far the more interesting presentation, as the three participants were serious people trafficking in serious ideas.

The New America event, on the other hand, was intended to publicize the “re-release” of a letter first published in the New York Review of Books on October 10th, most notably signed by Zbigniew Brzezinski, Lee Hamilton, and Brent Scowcroft, which has now attracted a couple dozen more signatories. It was ignored the first time it was published, and it’s enjoyable to predict that the addition of the signatures of Joseph Wilson and Gary Hart is going to further cement its irrelevance.

In any event, the New America panelists were Daniel Levy, Robert Malley, Ghaith al-Omari, and Steve Clemons, and they lodged as their major criticism the United States and Israel’s refusal to “engage” Hamas. That refusal is shaping up, for the realist and leftist critics of the peace process, as a primary objection, and in the coming months it will likely be invoked by the same critics as a major reason why Annapolis accomplished nothing. This faction is positioning its argument so that the failure of Annapolis can be leveraged to undermine the isolation of Hamas. As such, it is worth wondering whether people like Malley and Levy actually have a point.

The engagement camp says that it wishes to bolster the moderates while engaging the extremists, which is presented as a cost-free way to conduct diplomacy—never mind that U.S. diplomatic attention directed at Hamas thoroughly would discredit Mahmoud Abbas, whose only selling point to the Palestinian people at this point is the fact that he is the Palestinians’ only focal point for American and Israeli attention. That is a rather obvious point, of course. But the one I wish to emphasize involves the incompleteness with which the engagement camp makes its case.

What I have always found strange about the engagers is their reluctance to make arguments that move beyond bumper-sticker bromides about the need to talk to your enemies, and to explain precisely what would be up for discussion with Hamas. The Hamas charter seems to preempt diplomacy insofar as it says that “there is no solution for the Palestinian question except through jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.” I say “seems,” because perhaps in practice Hamas does not hew to the strict language of its founding declaration—but alas, there is no historic or contemporary evidence for this conceit. Hamas is famous for denying the right of Israel to exist, but not many people seem to pay much regard to the fact that Hamas also denies the right of Palestine to exist: Hamas has always been abundantly clear that its goal is the violent imposition of an Islamic caliphate throughout the Middle East—not the establishment of a Palestinian state.

So what, pray tell, do people like Daniel Levy and Robert Malley propose is up for negotiation with Hamas? In the face of both Hamas’s plainly stated antipathy to diplomacy, in addition to decades of concrete experience of the same, would it not behoove Levy and Malley to pay special attention to this particular aspect of engaging Hamas? Shouldn’t an explanation about the contours of, and prospects for, a successful pursuit of diplomacy with Hamas indeed be the very first thing to which Levy and Malley set themselves? I know that if I were arguing in good faith for engagement, this is where I would be compelled to start: to provide an answer to the question, What can Israel offer Hamas other than its own suicide?

At yesterday’s event, as he has elsewhere, Levy proposed an Israel-Hamas cease-fire as a starting measure…and then changed the subject. Well, what comes after that, Daniel? How many times has Hamas agreed to cease-fires with Israel (and with Fatah) out of its own need to regroup and rearm, only to attack later at a time of its choosing? At what point in the course of the “engagement” process do the leaders of Hamas renounce the basic premises and tactics for which their movement stands? Does Khaled Mashal march down to his local Al Jazeera office in Damascus to announce to the world that because he got a phone call from a member of the Quartet, he’s realized that all the crazy stuff in the Hamas charter—about how the Jews started the French Revolution, the Communist Revolution, both World Wars, the League of Nations, the United Nations, the Rotary Club and the Freemasons, all in pursuit of Zionist world domination—was perhaps a bit too anti-Semitic? Can you tell us, Robert Malley—you who has argued repeatedly that giving money, diplomatic attention, and concessions to Hamas will change the group—of a single instance in which Hamas permanently has moderated a position or altered its behavior because of diplomatic pressure? As people who continuously are banging on the table about “genuine engagement” with Hamas, is it too much to ask, you know, for some genuine details?

As it stands right now, the intellectual output of the Levy-Malley faction involves bromides about “engagement” that are quickly buried in an avalanche of ambiguous diplomatic jargon designed to avoid the possibility of having to commit themselves to engaging in a serious explanation of how diplomacy is going to transform Hamas from a genocidal Islamic supremacist group to a peaceful Palestinian nationalist movement. This is an act of alchemy that Levy and Malley cannot credibly perform, and it is the reason why all of their voluminous babble about engagement never manages to rise above the level of the vague cliché.

There are dozens of reasons why Annapolis will be unable to achieve anything close to its stated goals, but, contrary to popular opinion, one of them is not the absence, next week, of representatives of Hamas at the Naval Academy. Nevertheless, that absence will emerge, from the Scowcrofts and Malleys, as a major source of the peace process’s failure. I propose a different failure: the refusal of the most prolific advocates for engagement to display a little intellectual courage and put themselves on the record explaining how their concessions are going to transform Hamas. Because if that actually works, and one of the most intransigent Islamist groups in the world can be defeated by diplomacy, then clearly there are two other diplomatic summits that should be convened—between Israel and Hizballah, and the United States and al Qaeda.

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Hamas, Three Months After

It has been three months since Hamas took power in Gaza, and what a short, strange trip it’s been. In the beginning, Hamas spokesmen assuaged the consciences of credulous op-ed page editors everywhere with submissions that promised an enlightened, progressive Islamist government. One spokesman wrote in the New York Times that “Our sole focus is Palestinian rights and good governance.” He also said in a Washington Post op-ed that Hamas’s ambitions in Gaza are actually western ambitions: “self-determination, modernity . . . and freedom for civil society to evolve.” Another wrote, in the Los Angeles Times, that “Gaza will be calm and under the rule of law—a place where all journalists, foreigners, and guests of the Palestinian people will be treated with dignity.” (At the time he offered no word on how many yoga studios and organic food stands would be opened.)

The English-language spokesmen for Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups have long since mastered the democratic political lexicon, and the number of westerners eager to be taken in by such clichés has always been high. But now that Hamas has been in power for a quarter-year, it has an actual political track record to observe. And this record shows that Hamas, in defiance of the fervent wishes and predictions of its western apologists, has behaved exactly as many of us predicted at the beginning of the summer: In ideology, ambition, and style of governance, Hamas has come to resemble most closely its major regional patron, Iran.

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It has been three months since Hamas took power in Gaza, and what a short, strange trip it’s been. In the beginning, Hamas spokesmen assuaged the consciences of credulous op-ed page editors everywhere with submissions that promised an enlightened, progressive Islamist government. One spokesman wrote in the New York Times that “Our sole focus is Palestinian rights and good governance.” He also said in a Washington Post op-ed that Hamas’s ambitions in Gaza are actually western ambitions: “self-determination, modernity . . . and freedom for civil society to evolve.” Another wrote, in the Los Angeles Times, that “Gaza will be calm and under the rule of law—a place where all journalists, foreigners, and guests of the Palestinian people will be treated with dignity.” (At the time he offered no word on how many yoga studios and organic food stands would be opened.)

The English-language spokesmen for Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups have long since mastered the democratic political lexicon, and the number of westerners eager to be taken in by such clichés has always been high. But now that Hamas has been in power for a quarter-year, it has an actual political track record to observe. And this record shows that Hamas, in defiance of the fervent wishes and predictions of its western apologists, has behaved exactly as many of us predicted at the beginning of the summer: In ideology, ambition, and style of governance, Hamas has come to resemble most closely its major regional patron, Iran.

The new climate in Gaza is fearsome. Hamas has banned unapproved public gatherings, routinely beaten political opponents, intimidated journalists, and imposed a de facto regime of shari’a law. The internal purge continues, with regular death threats against Fatah loyalists and in many cases the firings of Fatah-associated doctors and other professionals. The only parts of the Gaza economy that still have a pulse are those bankrolled by foreign aid. In a long report in yesterday’s Washington Post, Scott Wilson gives readers a taste of the new Gaza:

After Friday prayers in recent weeks, Fatah supporters have marched through Gaza’s streets in protest against the Hamas administration. “Shia! Shia!” the demonstrators shouted, an insulting reference to the Sunni Muslim movement’s inflexible Islamic character and financial support from the Shiite government of Iran.

Their numbers have swelled into the thousands, and Hamas’s patience appears exhausted. The Palestinian Scholars League, an Islamic council dominated by Hamas clerics, issued a fatwa early this month prohibiting outdoor prayer.

The past three months have also been a test of the theory that power would moderate Hamas. After Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections in January 2006, many people—including President Bush—predicted that a certain pragmatism finally would be forced on the Islamist group, and that it would be compelled to shift its focus from terrorism to the humdrum of daily governance.

But the decline of Gaza has not given Hamas’s leaders a moment’s pause in their pursuit of an external war against Israel and an internal war against Fatah. Rockets are fired from Gaza on a daily basis, and attempted infiltrations of Israel, many of them for the purpose of abducting another IDF soldier, are a regular occurrence. In many ways Hamas has been emboldened by the continued arrival, regardless of its terror war, of foreign aid money and water and electricity from Israel. Hamas, in other words, has been given the ability to run a consequence-free jihad.

The only good news to come out of all this is that at least for now, the movement to “engage” Hamas—most popular in Britain and Europe—has fallen into dormancy. Such calls might be revived as planning for the Bush administration’s regional conference intensifies, but the Hamas leadership may yet prove to be so ideologically stubborn and politically obtuse that even people like Daniel Levy and Colin Powell will not be able to help.

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Daniel Levy

Interviewed in the Sunday Telegraph, Daniel Levy—a former Israeli government staffer and policy analyst—was quoted as saying that Tony Blair, in his new capacity as special envoy to the Middle East, should negotiate with Hamas. Otherwise, Levy bluntly claimed, “he’ll fail.” Levy has now rectified the quote on his blog, claiming he meant something else:

My argument is that the policy of isolating and excluding Hamas cannot work. The important thing is to open meaningful channels of dialogue to Hamas. Whether that is initiated by Blair or others is secondary. In fact, it would be unlikely (and understandably so) for Blair to take the lead role in this respect.

While you’re busy parsing his equivocation, one thing should be said about Daniel Levy: his career as a peacemaker uniquely qualifies him to know what failure is. He served in the Barak government as head of Jerusalem affairs when Barak proposed to divide Jerusalem. He served with Yossi Beilin at the Ministry of Justice, and was part of the Israeli delegation at the Taba talks in 2001, when the most dovish delegation Israel could produce failed to charm its Palestinian counterparts. He’s been an analyst at the International Crisis Group and was a party to the Geneva accords. Given his past accomplishments and his recipe for peacemaking, it would be arrogant to doubt his wisdom. Then again, given what Levy views as success, Blair’s “failure”, in this case, might not be so bad.

Interviewed in the Sunday Telegraph, Daniel Levy—a former Israeli government staffer and policy analyst—was quoted as saying that Tony Blair, in his new capacity as special envoy to the Middle East, should negotiate with Hamas. Otherwise, Levy bluntly claimed, “he’ll fail.” Levy has now rectified the quote on his blog, claiming he meant something else:

My argument is that the policy of isolating and excluding Hamas cannot work. The important thing is to open meaningful channels of dialogue to Hamas. Whether that is initiated by Blair or others is secondary. In fact, it would be unlikely (and understandably so) for Blair to take the lead role in this respect.

While you’re busy parsing his equivocation, one thing should be said about Daniel Levy: his career as a peacemaker uniquely qualifies him to know what failure is. He served in the Barak government as head of Jerusalem affairs when Barak proposed to divide Jerusalem. He served with Yossi Beilin at the Ministry of Justice, and was part of the Israeli delegation at the Taba talks in 2001, when the most dovish delegation Israel could produce failed to charm its Palestinian counterparts. He’s been an analyst at the International Crisis Group and was a party to the Geneva accords. Given his past accomplishments and his recipe for peacemaking, it would be arrogant to doubt his wisdom. Then again, given what Levy views as success, Blair’s “failure”, in this case, might not be so bad.

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