Commentary Magazine


Topic: David Hazony

Israeli Shakeup Another Setback for Obama

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s decision to break away from the Labor Party and form his own centrist faction is a boost to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. With the remaining members of Labor now shifted to the opposition, Netanyahu has rid his coalition of several Knesset members who are opposed to his policies. In the long run, Barak’s new party will, as David Hazony noted yesterday, provide unwanted competition for the largest opposition party, Kadima, making the path to power for it and its leader, Tzipi Livni, far more difficult.

Livni is understandably upset about this development and vented her spleen today in some over-the-top comments when she complained that Barak’s decision was “the dirtiest act in history.” Given the fact that party-jumping has been a staple of Israeli politics throughout the country’s short history, it’s hard to make an argument that this understandable breakup between the centrists and the old leftists in Labor is any kind of a scandal. It is just the belated recognition on the part of Barak that he is better off letting Labor’s far-left activists merge with what remains of those factions that were to Labor’s left rather than sticking with them. Labor was once Israel’s dominant and natural party of government, but today it is as bankrupt — and obsolete — as the kibbutzim that symbolized the country’s socialist dreams.

But while Livni is the biggest Israeli loser in this transaction, there’s little doubt that it is just as much of a blow to President Barak Obama and his unrealistic approach to the Middle East. Read More

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s decision to break away from the Labor Party and form his own centrist faction is a boost to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. With the remaining members of Labor now shifted to the opposition, Netanyahu has rid his coalition of several Knesset members who are opposed to his policies. In the long run, Barak’s new party will, as David Hazony noted yesterday, provide unwanted competition for the largest opposition party, Kadima, making the path to power for it and its leader, Tzipi Livni, far more difficult.

Livni is understandably upset about this development and vented her spleen today in some over-the-top comments when she complained that Barak’s decision was “the dirtiest act in history.” Given the fact that party-jumping has been a staple of Israeli politics throughout the country’s short history, it’s hard to make an argument that this understandable breakup between the centrists and the old leftists in Labor is any kind of a scandal. It is just the belated recognition on the part of Barak that he is better off letting Labor’s far-left activists merge with what remains of those factions that were to Labor’s left rather than sticking with them. Labor was once Israel’s dominant and natural party of government, but today it is as bankrupt — and obsolete — as the kibbutzim that symbolized the country’s socialist dreams.

But while Livni is the biggest Israeli loser in this transaction, there’s little doubt that it is just as much of a blow to President Barak Obama and his unrealistic approach to the Middle East.

From the moment he took office, Obama has sought to overturn the cozier relationship that existed between Washington and Jerusalem under his predecessor. Throughout his first year in office, Obama seemed to be aiming at unseating Netanyahu, who had been elected weeks after the president was sworn in. By picking pointless fights over settlements and Jewish building in Jerusalem, Obama sought to destabilize Netanyahu’s coalition and hoped Livni would soon replace him. But his ill-considered attacks merely strengthened Netanyahu, who wisely sought to avoid a direct confrontation with his country’s only ally. It was already obvious that, far from collapsing, Netanyahu’s government would survive to the end of its four-year term or close to it. While the outcome of the next Israeli election that will probably occur in 2013 is as difficult to predict as that of Obama’s own re-election effort in 2012, Barak’s move renders the hopes of Livni — the Israeli leader whom both Obama and Secretary of State Clinton continue to treat as America’s favorite Israeli — less likely.

That means Obama is going to have to spend the rest of his term continuing to try to learn to live with the wily Netanyahu. Both Obama and the Palestinian Authority have spent the past two years acting as if they were just waiting around for a new weaker-willed Israeli government to materialize that would then magically create the circumstances under which peace would be achieved. As Barak-faction member Einat Wilf told the New York Times today, “I don’t belong to the camp that believes Israel is solely responsible for the failure of these negotiations. The Palestinians bear responsibility for not entering the talks. Some people have sent them a message to wait around for a new government.”

Barak’s move makes it clear that isn’t going to happen. While Israel’s critics will lament this development, it is high time that Americans accept the fact that the verdict of the Jewish state’s voters must be respected and that the Israeli consensus that has developed about the futility of further unilateral concessions to the Palestinians is entirely justified.

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Waiting for “Isratine”

In Monday’s Washington Post, Jackson Diehl reminds us of what the true stumbling block is on the road to peace. Referring to Condoleezza Rice’s peace efforts during George W. Bush’s second term, he has this to say:

Eventually, Olmert presented Abbas with a detailed plan for a final settlement — one that, in its concessions to Palestinian demands, went beyond anything either Israel or the United States had ever put forward. Among other things it mandated a Palestinian state with a capital in Jerusalem and would have allowed 10,000 refugees to return to Israel. That’s when Rice learned another lesson the new administration seems not to have picked up: This Palestinian leadership has trouble saying “yes.” Confronted with a draft deal that would have been cheered by most of the world, Abbas balked. He refused to sign on; he refused to present a counteroffer. Rice and Bush implored him to join Olmert at the White House for a summit. Olmert would present his plan to Bush, and Abbas would say only that he found it worth discussing. The Palestinian president refused.

Three times in the past 10 years, the Palestinians were presented with comprehensive peace proposals that would establish a Palestinian state in most of the West Bank and Gaza, would put its internationally recognized capital in Arab Jerusalem, would offer a solidly funded, reasonable and dignified solution to the refugee issue, and would put an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict once and for all. First, it was Ehud Barak’s Camp David proposal. Then it was the Clinton Parameters. Then it was Olmert’s peace plan. Each time, confronted with an Israeli prime minister who was ready, pen in hand, to put his name on the dotted line and face the fury and discontent of part of his political constituency to take a risky peace gamble, Palestine’s acclaimed peace seekers — Yassir Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas — walked away.

This history alone should encourage U.S. and European leaders to recognize that the burden of proof, when it comes to peace credentials and readiness for compromise, is on the Palestinian side, not the Israeli one. But history lessons and Aristotelian logic do not always intersect.

For one thing, the Palestinians have learned that every time they say no, sooner or later pressure will be brought to bear on Israel, and a new offer — better than the previous one — will be coming their way. Meanwhile, their tireless efforts to undermine, isolate, delegitimize, and demonize Israel in the international arena strengthen their bargaining position over time and enable them to expect more for less.

This, incidentally, offers at least a partial answer to David Hazony’s post from the other day, when my colleague was understandably puzzled about a growing support for a one-state solution among Palestinians. Why would a national movement give up its dream and settle for such a solution? After all, the Palestinians never seriously entertained this notion when a handful of Jewish intellectuals were toying with the idea in the 1930s and early 1940s. Brith Shalom and Ihud, the two small organizations that counted Yehuda Magnes and Martin Buber in their ranks, after all, not only could not get traction within the Yishuv — they never even got a single Arab leader interested in discussing their vision of a bi-national state for the Palestine Mandate, where Jews would forever be relegated to the role of a minority.

Clearly, the difference is that, back then, the Zionist movement was weak, its staying power in Palestine was questionable, its backing from Britain was waning, and its reservoir of support in Europe’s Jewish Diaspora under mortal threat of annihilation. Why would the Palestinians concede little when they believed — as they certainly did then — that they could have it all?

History offers some reckoning and what looked like a flight of fancy in the mid-1930s is more attractive today. A bi-national state is actually more promising than a nation-state, at least for Palestinian intellectuals, not so much because it would force them to renounce their aspirations but because it would keep their nationalist dream alive — a dream whereby, as Professor Fouad Ajami once so artfully put it, “there still lurks in the Palestinian and Arab imagination a view, depicted by the Moroccan historian Abdallah Laroui, that “on a certain day, everything would be obliterated and instantaneously reconstructed and the new inhabitants would leave, as if by magic, the land they had despoiled.” Arafat knew the power of this redemptive idea. He must have reasoned that it is safer to ride that idea, and that there will always be another day and another offer.”

Little by little, the sands are shifting in the Middle East — or rather, in the perception of the Middle East as seen from Western capitals. Why sign on the dotted line when more pressure will be brought to bear on Israel? Why agree to end the conflict when Israel’s legitimacy is eroded day by day, with its traditional allies ready to do less and less to support the Jewish state? Why not embrace the rhetoric of a bi-national state — in the silly spirit of our irresponsible age — where you can plan the destruction of your adversary and make it look like a human-rights crusade?

A bi-national state is just a stage to redress the balance of power between the two conflicting national claims. It would not be the end of the story though but the beginning of another chapter where the Zionist movement would be stripped of its national symbols, its power to control immigration, and its ability to define national security exclusively in the name of the Jewish people. Meanwhile, the keys to the Middle East’s most prosperous economy and most powerful army would have to be handed over to the Palestinians for power-sharing. It would be a stage on the way to fulfilling the dream of obliterating the consequences of the last century of Middle East history.

Fanciful? Maybe, but if you take the long view of history, and the mismatch between the reality of a small shoe-box-size Palestinian state and the dream of a whole “Isratine” is unbearable, it makes perfect sense.

In Monday’s Washington Post, Jackson Diehl reminds us of what the true stumbling block is on the road to peace. Referring to Condoleezza Rice’s peace efforts during George W. Bush’s second term, he has this to say:

Eventually, Olmert presented Abbas with a detailed plan for a final settlement — one that, in its concessions to Palestinian demands, went beyond anything either Israel or the United States had ever put forward. Among other things it mandated a Palestinian state with a capital in Jerusalem and would have allowed 10,000 refugees to return to Israel. That’s when Rice learned another lesson the new administration seems not to have picked up: This Palestinian leadership has trouble saying “yes.” Confronted with a draft deal that would have been cheered by most of the world, Abbas balked. He refused to sign on; he refused to present a counteroffer. Rice and Bush implored him to join Olmert at the White House for a summit. Olmert would present his plan to Bush, and Abbas would say only that he found it worth discussing. The Palestinian president refused.

Three times in the past 10 years, the Palestinians were presented with comprehensive peace proposals that would establish a Palestinian state in most of the West Bank and Gaza, would put its internationally recognized capital in Arab Jerusalem, would offer a solidly funded, reasonable and dignified solution to the refugee issue, and would put an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict once and for all. First, it was Ehud Barak’s Camp David proposal. Then it was the Clinton Parameters. Then it was Olmert’s peace plan. Each time, confronted with an Israeli prime minister who was ready, pen in hand, to put his name on the dotted line and face the fury and discontent of part of his political constituency to take a risky peace gamble, Palestine’s acclaimed peace seekers — Yassir Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas — walked away.

This history alone should encourage U.S. and European leaders to recognize that the burden of proof, when it comes to peace credentials and readiness for compromise, is on the Palestinian side, not the Israeli one. But history lessons and Aristotelian logic do not always intersect.

For one thing, the Palestinians have learned that every time they say no, sooner or later pressure will be brought to bear on Israel, and a new offer — better than the previous one — will be coming their way. Meanwhile, their tireless efforts to undermine, isolate, delegitimize, and demonize Israel in the international arena strengthen their bargaining position over time and enable them to expect more for less.

This, incidentally, offers at least a partial answer to David Hazony’s post from the other day, when my colleague was understandably puzzled about a growing support for a one-state solution among Palestinians. Why would a national movement give up its dream and settle for such a solution? After all, the Palestinians never seriously entertained this notion when a handful of Jewish intellectuals were toying with the idea in the 1930s and early 1940s. Brith Shalom and Ihud, the two small organizations that counted Yehuda Magnes and Martin Buber in their ranks, after all, not only could not get traction within the Yishuv — they never even got a single Arab leader interested in discussing their vision of a bi-national state for the Palestine Mandate, where Jews would forever be relegated to the role of a minority.

Clearly, the difference is that, back then, the Zionist movement was weak, its staying power in Palestine was questionable, its backing from Britain was waning, and its reservoir of support in Europe’s Jewish Diaspora under mortal threat of annihilation. Why would the Palestinians concede little when they believed — as they certainly did then — that they could have it all?

History offers some reckoning and what looked like a flight of fancy in the mid-1930s is more attractive today. A bi-national state is actually more promising than a nation-state, at least for Palestinian intellectuals, not so much because it would force them to renounce their aspirations but because it would keep their nationalist dream alive — a dream whereby, as Professor Fouad Ajami once so artfully put it, “there still lurks in the Palestinian and Arab imagination a view, depicted by the Moroccan historian Abdallah Laroui, that “on a certain day, everything would be obliterated and instantaneously reconstructed and the new inhabitants would leave, as if by magic, the land they had despoiled.” Arafat knew the power of this redemptive idea. He must have reasoned that it is safer to ride that idea, and that there will always be another day and another offer.”

Little by little, the sands are shifting in the Middle East — or rather, in the perception of the Middle East as seen from Western capitals. Why sign on the dotted line when more pressure will be brought to bear on Israel? Why agree to end the conflict when Israel’s legitimacy is eroded day by day, with its traditional allies ready to do less and less to support the Jewish state? Why not embrace the rhetoric of a bi-national state — in the silly spirit of our irresponsible age — where you can plan the destruction of your adversary and make it look like a human-rights crusade?

A bi-national state is just a stage to redress the balance of power between the two conflicting national claims. It would not be the end of the story though but the beginning of another chapter where the Zionist movement would be stripped of its national symbols, its power to control immigration, and its ability to define national security exclusively in the name of the Jewish people. Meanwhile, the keys to the Middle East’s most prosperous economy and most powerful army would have to be handed over to the Palestinians for power-sharing. It would be a stage on the way to fulfilling the dream of obliterating the consequences of the last century of Middle East history.

Fanciful? Maybe, but if you take the long view of history, and the mismatch between the reality of a small shoe-box-size Palestinian state and the dream of a whole “Isratine” is unbearable, it makes perfect sense.

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Politics Of The Olympics

In the substantive debate, aptly argued by Gordon Chang and David Hazony, over whether the U.S. should participate in the Olympics, I find myself searching for a clear middle ground. To my shock, Hillary Clinton steps forward to offer this:

The violent clashes in Tibet and the failure of the Chinese government to use its full leverage with Sudan to stop the genocide in Darfur are opportunities for Presidential leadership. These events underscore why I believe the Bush administration has been wrong to downplay human rights in its policy towards China. At this time, and in light of recent events, I believe President Bush should not plan on attending the opening ceremonies in Beijing, absent major changes by the Chinese government. I encourage the Chinese to take advantage of this moment as an opportunity to live up to universal human aspirations of respect for human rights and unity, ideals that the Olympic games have come to represent. Americans will stand strong in support of freedom of religious and political expression and human rights. Americans will also stand strong and root for the success of American athletes who have worked hard and earned the right to compete in the Olympic Games of 2008.

This strikes me, aside from the argument’s merits, as just plain smart politics. It shifts the focus off Penn-gate. It sounds a note simultaneously likely to appeal to those on the Right (who like standing up to dictators) and Left (who want more attention to human rights). She was first of the candidates to speak up on this issue and now looks bolder than her opponents. If this is a sign of the post-Penn Hillary, things may be looking up.

In the substantive debate, aptly argued by Gordon Chang and David Hazony, over whether the U.S. should participate in the Olympics, I find myself searching for a clear middle ground. To my shock, Hillary Clinton steps forward to offer this:

The violent clashes in Tibet and the failure of the Chinese government to use its full leverage with Sudan to stop the genocide in Darfur are opportunities for Presidential leadership. These events underscore why I believe the Bush administration has been wrong to downplay human rights in its policy towards China. At this time, and in light of recent events, I believe President Bush should not plan on attending the opening ceremonies in Beijing, absent major changes by the Chinese government. I encourage the Chinese to take advantage of this moment as an opportunity to live up to universal human aspirations of respect for human rights and unity, ideals that the Olympic games have come to represent. Americans will stand strong in support of freedom of religious and political expression and human rights. Americans will also stand strong and root for the success of American athletes who have worked hard and earned the right to compete in the Olympic Games of 2008.

This strikes me, aside from the argument’s merits, as just plain smart politics. It shifts the focus off Penn-gate. It sounds a note simultaneously likely to appeal to those on the Right (who like standing up to dictators) and Left (who want more attention to human rights). She was first of the candidates to speak up on this issue and now looks bolder than her opponents. If this is a sign of the post-Penn Hillary, things may be looking up.

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Re: Why We Shouldn’t Boycott the 2008 Games

David Hazony, in a well-reasoned posting in this forum, argues that nations should not boycott this year’s Summer Olympics, scheduled to begin in August in Beijing. No one wants to snuff out young athletes’ dreams, as he puts it, but we must remember that they are not the only ones whose fortunes are at stake. Chinese people have been forcibly relocated, illegally incarcerated, and unjustifiably deprived of basic rights so that autocrats can stage a celebration of more than a half century of misrule. They have, in order to put on their extravaganza, reemployed mass-mobilization techniques and reimposed strict social controls, the essential tools of totalitarian governance.

At home, China’s government has implemented a campaign of repression now lasting five years. Abroad, Beijing in this half decade has continued its support for criminal regimes and persisted in other irresponsible policies. Whether we like it or not, participation in the Olympics is giving legitimacy to all the Chinese state has done internally and externally. Moreover, that state is having an extended argument with its people, and by participating in the Olympics we are taking the wrong side.

As China’s Communist Party so often says, the Games should not be “politicized.” Yet the reality is that it has already done so. Beijing made the promotion of Chinese human rights a foundation of its Olympic bid. It will be using its Olympic torch relay, the longest in history, to bolster its claim to restive areas, including Tibet. And Chinese leaders have, without precedent, invited about fifty heads of state to the opening ceremony on August 8 so that they can, at least in China’s eyes, pledge their allegiance to the People’s Republic of China.

Nonetheless, Hazony says we should refuse to boycott the Games so that athletes can conduct a “symbolic debate on the playing field.” I agree that we should not punish the contestants for the gross error made by others of awarding the Olympics to China. But now that this mistake has been made, no world leader should show support for the Chinese Communist Party. The opening ceremony has nothing to do with sport. This year, it will be a mass event with totalitarian overtones. For the sake of the great people of China, no one-no president, prime minister, or athlete-should participate in this glorification of all that is reprehensible and repugnant.

David Hazony, in a well-reasoned posting in this forum, argues that nations should not boycott this year’s Summer Olympics, scheduled to begin in August in Beijing. No one wants to snuff out young athletes’ dreams, as he puts it, but we must remember that they are not the only ones whose fortunes are at stake. Chinese people have been forcibly relocated, illegally incarcerated, and unjustifiably deprived of basic rights so that autocrats can stage a celebration of more than a half century of misrule. They have, in order to put on their extravaganza, reemployed mass-mobilization techniques and reimposed strict social controls, the essential tools of totalitarian governance.

At home, China’s government has implemented a campaign of repression now lasting five years. Abroad, Beijing in this half decade has continued its support for criminal regimes and persisted in other irresponsible policies. Whether we like it or not, participation in the Olympics is giving legitimacy to all the Chinese state has done internally and externally. Moreover, that state is having an extended argument with its people, and by participating in the Olympics we are taking the wrong side.

As China’s Communist Party so often says, the Games should not be “politicized.” Yet the reality is that it has already done so. Beijing made the promotion of Chinese human rights a foundation of its Olympic bid. It will be using its Olympic torch relay, the longest in history, to bolster its claim to restive areas, including Tibet. And Chinese leaders have, without precedent, invited about fifty heads of state to the opening ceremony on August 8 so that they can, at least in China’s eyes, pledge their allegiance to the People’s Republic of China.

Nonetheless, Hazony says we should refuse to boycott the Games so that athletes can conduct a “symbolic debate on the playing field.” I agree that we should not punish the contestants for the gross error made by others of awarding the Olympics to China. But now that this mistake has been made, no world leader should show support for the Chinese Communist Party. The opening ceremony has nothing to do with sport. This year, it will be a mass event with totalitarian overtones. For the sake of the great people of China, no one-no president, prime minister, or athlete-should participate in this glorification of all that is reprehensible and repugnant.

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Love Lost for the Palestinians

It took me a while, but I’ve finally come around on David Hazony’s argument that Gaza has become Egypt’s problem. Beyond the strategic implications of this development, Egypt’s newfound responsibility for containing Gaza—and all the security risks it entails—has serious implications for the way Egyptians will view the Palestinian issue.

Consider the sudden shift in public debate at the American University in Cairo. Although AUC has long been a hotbed of anti-Israel activism, students are exhibiting a staggering decline in their enthusiasm for the Palestinian cause, with a rift developing between a small cadre of pro-Palestinian activists—most of whom are Palestinian—and the rest of the student body. Last week, the pro-Palestinian Al-Quds Club organized the “End the Siege on Gaza” sit-in—an effort that was heavily promoted on campus and via Facebook. During the demonstration, protesters held posters accusing Israel of terrorism and ominously vowing, “Palestine, we die so we can live!” Meanwhile, student speakers compared Gaza to a cage—all in all, typical rhetoric that the AUC student body had long embraced as doctrine.

Yet the student body—which is roughly 80% Egyptian—was hardly impressed. According to The Caravan, turnout was far less than expected, with students noticeably uninterested in the sit-in. But the true insult to pro-Palestinian activism came in The Caravan’s weekly “Q & A,” which asked students what the Egyptian government should do about the Gaza border. Without exception, students’ responses sounded shockingly Lou Dobbsian:

“The government has an obligation to protect its border and its people.”

“This is not one nation’s problem, Egypt should join forces with other countries to find satisfactory solutions.”

“They should close it. Only medical conditions should be admitted.”

In short, AUC students are indicating that, with Hamas now firing at Egyptian workers, the Palestinian cause is just a bit less compelling.

It took me a while, but I’ve finally come around on David Hazony’s argument that Gaza has become Egypt’s problem. Beyond the strategic implications of this development, Egypt’s newfound responsibility for containing Gaza—and all the security risks it entails—has serious implications for the way Egyptians will view the Palestinian issue.

Consider the sudden shift in public debate at the American University in Cairo. Although AUC has long been a hotbed of anti-Israel activism, students are exhibiting a staggering decline in their enthusiasm for the Palestinian cause, with a rift developing between a small cadre of pro-Palestinian activists—most of whom are Palestinian—and the rest of the student body. Last week, the pro-Palestinian Al-Quds Club organized the “End the Siege on Gaza” sit-in—an effort that was heavily promoted on campus and via Facebook. During the demonstration, protesters held posters accusing Israel of terrorism and ominously vowing, “Palestine, we die so we can live!” Meanwhile, student speakers compared Gaza to a cage—all in all, typical rhetoric that the AUC student body had long embraced as doctrine.

Yet the student body—which is roughly 80% Egyptian—was hardly impressed. According to The Caravan, turnout was far less than expected, with students noticeably uninterested in the sit-in. But the true insult to pro-Palestinian activism came in The Caravan’s weekly “Q & A,” which asked students what the Egyptian government should do about the Gaza border. Without exception, students’ responses sounded shockingly Lou Dobbsian:

“The government has an obligation to protect its border and its people.”

“This is not one nation’s problem, Egypt should join forces with other countries to find satisfactory solutions.”

“They should close it. Only medical conditions should be admitted.”

In short, AUC students are indicating that, with Hamas now firing at Egyptian workers, the Palestinian cause is just a bit less compelling.

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Egypt “Solves” the Gaza Problem

When Israel sealed Gaza last week—cutting fuel supplies and food imports, among other resources—this blog was somewhat divided as to whether the fallout would be beneficial for Israel.  I argued that Israel had acted counterproductively, undermining its own strategy against Hamas while taking a substantial toll on Palestinian civilians.  My contentions colleagues Noah Pollak and David Hazony countered that Israel’s actions had made Gaza Egypt’s problem—a responsibility that Egypt had unwittingly accepted once it responded permissively to Hamas’ breach of the Gaza-Egypt border.

Unfortunately, my colleagues neglected a substantial difference between Israel and Egypt’s positions vis-à-vis Hamas-controlled Gaza.  While Israel justifiably refuses to deal with Hamas, Egypt continues to do so and can provide Hamas what it needs most—political legitimacy, particularly among Palestinians.  Egypt thus has substantial leverage for inducing Hamas to make sure that Gaza does not become Cairo’s problem—something that Hamas can provide so long as it maintains exclusive control of Gaza.

This morning, Egypt ensured that Gaza would not become its problem, welcoming Hamas leader Khalid Meshal in Cairo for meetings with Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit and Head of Intelligence Omar Suleiman.  As Egypt won Hamas’ agreement to seal the Gaza-Egypt border, it entertained a variety of demands aimed at repealing the understandings under which Israel left Gaza in 2005.  Hamas has thus called for removing European Union monitors; opening the Rafah crossing to non-Palestinian Authority ID cardholders; and repealing Israel’s veto over the Rafah’s status.  Most critically, it has called for negotiations with Mahmoud Abbas regarding Rafah’s administration, refusing to accept “anything less than a major role.”

For the time being, Abbas is refusing to deal with Hamas and standing by his previous agreements with Israel regarding Rafah.  But one can hardly bank on Abbas neglecting Hamas for too long, and Egypt’s dealings with Meshal suggest that the guarantees that Israel achieved upon leaving Gaza are under diplomatic attack.  In short, so long as Israel fails to construct a military strategy narrowly tailored towards defeating Hamas—or at least damaging Hamas’ ability to reliably produce security for Egypt—Gaza will remain its problem exclusively.

A word to the wise: he may be the dullest of dictators, but never underestimate Hosni Mubarak’s ability to determine and protect his interests effectively.

When Israel sealed Gaza last week—cutting fuel supplies and food imports, among other resources—this blog was somewhat divided as to whether the fallout would be beneficial for Israel.  I argued that Israel had acted counterproductively, undermining its own strategy against Hamas while taking a substantial toll on Palestinian civilians.  My contentions colleagues Noah Pollak and David Hazony countered that Israel’s actions had made Gaza Egypt’s problem—a responsibility that Egypt had unwittingly accepted once it responded permissively to Hamas’ breach of the Gaza-Egypt border.

Unfortunately, my colleagues neglected a substantial difference between Israel and Egypt’s positions vis-à-vis Hamas-controlled Gaza.  While Israel justifiably refuses to deal with Hamas, Egypt continues to do so and can provide Hamas what it needs most—political legitimacy, particularly among Palestinians.  Egypt thus has substantial leverage for inducing Hamas to make sure that Gaza does not become Cairo’s problem—something that Hamas can provide so long as it maintains exclusive control of Gaza.

This morning, Egypt ensured that Gaza would not become its problem, welcoming Hamas leader Khalid Meshal in Cairo for meetings with Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit and Head of Intelligence Omar Suleiman.  As Egypt won Hamas’ agreement to seal the Gaza-Egypt border, it entertained a variety of demands aimed at repealing the understandings under which Israel left Gaza in 2005.  Hamas has thus called for removing European Union monitors; opening the Rafah crossing to non-Palestinian Authority ID cardholders; and repealing Israel’s veto over the Rafah’s status.  Most critically, it has called for negotiations with Mahmoud Abbas regarding Rafah’s administration, refusing to accept “anything less than a major role.”

For the time being, Abbas is refusing to deal with Hamas and standing by his previous agreements with Israel regarding Rafah.  But one can hardly bank on Abbas neglecting Hamas for too long, and Egypt’s dealings with Meshal suggest that the guarantees that Israel achieved upon leaving Gaza are under diplomatic attack.  In short, so long as Israel fails to construct a military strategy narrowly tailored towards defeating Hamas—or at least damaging Hamas’ ability to reliably produce security for Egypt—Gaza will remain its problem exclusively.

A word to the wise: he may be the dullest of dictators, but never underestimate Hosni Mubarak’s ability to determine and protect his interests effectively.

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Thanking Hamas

As Eric Trager has pointed out, Israel’s sealing off of Gaza raises some dangerous potentialities. One such potentiality has come to life, as Hamas just toppled a fence on Gaza’s Rafah border crossing allowing thousands of Palestinians to stream into Egypt. The New York Times describes the event as “a great bazaar” and seems to think the security breach represents a problem no greater than, say, Black Friday shoppers sustaining injuries during a door-buster sale. Meanwhile, the potential for arms replenishment is sure to be exploited to the hilt (as David Hazony notes below). But what really jumps out at the reader is this:

People began pouring over the fence before dawn, said one witness, Fatan Hessin, 45. She had crossed into Egypt to be reunited with a childhood friend from whom she had been separated by the border. “I am a Palestinian. I am not Hamas or Fatah, but I thank Hamas for this,” she said.

[…]

Ms. Hessin, who had used the breach of the border to meet up with her friend, Inshira Hanbal, on the Egyptian side of the border, said: “We are extremely tired of this life. The closure, the unemployment, the poverty. No one is working in my household.”

In these two quotes we see the flimsy declaration of Palestinian victimology for what it is: I’m not a terrorist or even politically-minded. I’m just a human being who wants to live freely. If Hamas delivers this freedom, then I thank them. But as for the poverty, the restrictions, and the violence that continue to quash my hopes for a decent existence—well, I’m extremely tired of it.

Ms. Hessin should thank Hamas for furnishing the daily hell that is her life in Gaza. Yet, she makes no connection between the Qassam rockets that regularly land on Israeli homes and the miserable conditions in which she lives.

As Eric Trager has pointed out, Israel’s sealing off of Gaza raises some dangerous potentialities. One such potentiality has come to life, as Hamas just toppled a fence on Gaza’s Rafah border crossing allowing thousands of Palestinians to stream into Egypt. The New York Times describes the event as “a great bazaar” and seems to think the security breach represents a problem no greater than, say, Black Friday shoppers sustaining injuries during a door-buster sale. Meanwhile, the potential for arms replenishment is sure to be exploited to the hilt (as David Hazony notes below). But what really jumps out at the reader is this:

People began pouring over the fence before dawn, said one witness, Fatan Hessin, 45. She had crossed into Egypt to be reunited with a childhood friend from whom she had been separated by the border. “I am a Palestinian. I am not Hamas or Fatah, but I thank Hamas for this,” she said.

[…]

Ms. Hessin, who had used the breach of the border to meet up with her friend, Inshira Hanbal, on the Egyptian side of the border, said: “We are extremely tired of this life. The closure, the unemployment, the poverty. No one is working in my household.”

In these two quotes we see the flimsy declaration of Palestinian victimology for what it is: I’m not a terrorist or even politically-minded. I’m just a human being who wants to live freely. If Hamas delivers this freedom, then I thank them. But as for the poverty, the restrictions, and the violence that continue to quash my hopes for a decent existence—well, I’m extremely tired of it.

Ms. Hessin should thank Hamas for furnishing the daily hell that is her life in Gaza. Yet, she makes no connection between the Qassam rockets that regularly land on Israeli homes and the miserable conditions in which she lives.

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More on the Decline of Terrorism

I was cheered to read David Hazony’s report that terrorism against Israel hit a new low in 2007, with both Israeli and Palestinian deaths down. That would seem to vindicate one of the most controversial Israeli decisions in recent years: to evacuate the Gaza Strip. That was something that the Israeli right-wing fought against, arguing that such a unilateral concession would encourage more terrorism.

I wrote in this Los Angeles Times op-ed in August 2005 that the withdrawal was the right move even though it would undoubtedly turn Gaza into a “Hamastan.” I argued that the evacuation would regain the initiative, strategically and morally, for the Jewish state, and that Israel would actually be more free to respond to terrorism from Gaza if it were no longer under “occupation” but the territory of a sovereign state.

The growing number of rocket attacks from Gaza into southern Israel has led me recently to start wondering whether I was wrong. But the figures Hazony cites suggest that the rockets are much less deadly than the suicide bombers of old. Moreover, Israel is starting to respond more effectively to those provocations, with, for instance, targeted strikes on terrorist masterminds.

In retrospect, the removal of Israeli settlers does not seem to have done any real damage to Israeli security interests. That doesn’t mean, however, that Israel can entirely separate itself from developments in Gaza. It appears likely that the Israeli Defense Forces will continue to have to make incursions to root out terrorist networks. But while such missions continue, the IDF no longer has to worry about protecting isolated Jewish settlements. That, I think, is all to the good.

I was cheered to read David Hazony’s report that terrorism against Israel hit a new low in 2007, with both Israeli and Palestinian deaths down. That would seem to vindicate one of the most controversial Israeli decisions in recent years: to evacuate the Gaza Strip. That was something that the Israeli right-wing fought against, arguing that such a unilateral concession would encourage more terrorism.

I wrote in this Los Angeles Times op-ed in August 2005 that the withdrawal was the right move even though it would undoubtedly turn Gaza into a “Hamastan.” I argued that the evacuation would regain the initiative, strategically and morally, for the Jewish state, and that Israel would actually be more free to respond to terrorism from Gaza if it were no longer under “occupation” but the territory of a sovereign state.

The growing number of rocket attacks from Gaza into southern Israel has led me recently to start wondering whether I was wrong. But the figures Hazony cites suggest that the rockets are much less deadly than the suicide bombers of old. Moreover, Israel is starting to respond more effectively to those provocations, with, for instance, targeted strikes on terrorist masterminds.

In retrospect, the removal of Israeli settlers does not seem to have done any real damage to Israeli security interests. That doesn’t mean, however, that Israel can entirely separate itself from developments in Gaza. It appears likely that the Israeli Defense Forces will continue to have to make incursions to root out terrorist networks. But while such missions continue, the IDF no longer has to worry about protecting isolated Jewish settlements. That, I think, is all to the good.

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More on Haaretz

David Hazony is actually too kind to “Israel’s paper of record,” Haaretz, when in an earlier post he says one of its editorials exposes the paper’s “severe disconnect with the Israeli public.” Haaretz is not disconnected; rather, it is connected—fiercely so—to its vision of what Israel should be.

Two recent stories serve as perfect examples. First, an op-ed column by Tom Segev on the 60th anniversary of the United Nations vote to partition Palestine into two states—one Jewish and one Arab. Segev is one of Israel’s preeminent historians and a regular Haaretz contributor. On this occasion, rather than express any sense of celebration, gratitude, or even mild happiness that the UN voted in favor of a Jewish State, Segev decides to question the legitimacy of his own country. “With every settler who moves to the territories and with every Palestinian child who is killed by Israel Defense Forces fire, Israel loses some of the moral justification that led to the decision on the 29th of November 60 years ago,” Segev explains. The editors of Haaretz publish such opinions—and worse—on a daily basis.

But Haaretz’s ideological crusade is not limited to the editorial or opinion pages. Its editors are only too happy to publish defamatory feature stories as well. On November 30, the weekend section of Haaretz (the equivalent of the New York Times’s Sunday Magazine) featured a cover story on the Shalem Center, a Jerusalem think tank that, incidentally, used to employ Mr. Hazony. A shorter English version of the article is available here. So egregious were the mistakes and so blatant the inaccuracies that the Shalem Center posted the following response on its own Web site. Haaretz has thus far issued no correction nor has it provided space to rebut the claims made in its original article. And for good reason: The sole purpose of the story is to disparage a think-tank whose world-view the editors of Haaretz oppose. But instead of a feature analyzing the center’s stated beliefs versus its accomplishments, or even questioning the legitimacy of Shalem’s Zionist mission, the story deals in gossip, supposed improprieties, and the personal habits and salaries of Shalem’s founders. This is worth 4,500 words? It is when your goal is to defame an organization whose success you envy and whose vision you loathe.

Haaretz is often described as Israel’s New York Times, and when it comes to ideological crusading, the two papers do resemble one another. Except that the New York Times doesn’t stoop this low.

David Hazony is actually too kind to “Israel’s paper of record,” Haaretz, when in an earlier post he says one of its editorials exposes the paper’s “severe disconnect with the Israeli public.” Haaretz is not disconnected; rather, it is connected—fiercely so—to its vision of what Israel should be.

Two recent stories serve as perfect examples. First, an op-ed column by Tom Segev on the 60th anniversary of the United Nations vote to partition Palestine into two states—one Jewish and one Arab. Segev is one of Israel’s preeminent historians and a regular Haaretz contributor. On this occasion, rather than express any sense of celebration, gratitude, or even mild happiness that the UN voted in favor of a Jewish State, Segev decides to question the legitimacy of his own country. “With every settler who moves to the territories and with every Palestinian child who is killed by Israel Defense Forces fire, Israel loses some of the moral justification that led to the decision on the 29th of November 60 years ago,” Segev explains. The editors of Haaretz publish such opinions—and worse—on a daily basis.

But Haaretz’s ideological crusade is not limited to the editorial or opinion pages. Its editors are only too happy to publish defamatory feature stories as well. On November 30, the weekend section of Haaretz (the equivalent of the New York Times’s Sunday Magazine) featured a cover story on the Shalem Center, a Jerusalem think tank that, incidentally, used to employ Mr. Hazony. A shorter English version of the article is available here. So egregious were the mistakes and so blatant the inaccuracies that the Shalem Center posted the following response on its own Web site. Haaretz has thus far issued no correction nor has it provided space to rebut the claims made in its original article. And for good reason: The sole purpose of the story is to disparage a think-tank whose world-view the editors of Haaretz oppose. But instead of a feature analyzing the center’s stated beliefs versus its accomplishments, or even questioning the legitimacy of Shalem’s Zionist mission, the story deals in gossip, supposed improprieties, and the personal habits and salaries of Shalem’s founders. This is worth 4,500 words? It is when your goal is to defame an organization whose success you envy and whose vision you loathe.

Haaretz is often described as Israel’s New York Times, and when it comes to ideological crusading, the two papers do resemble one another. Except that the New York Times doesn’t stoop this low.

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