Commentary Magazine


Topic: Dennis Ross

“Right of Return” Is Not About “Refugees”

In A Jewish State,”the Wall Street Journal notes that “the right of return, with its implicit promise to eliminate Israel, is the centerpiece of the conflict” between Israelis and Arabs. The Journal observes that it is a “right” recognized “for no other refugee group in the world,” and that its acceptance by Israel would risk “a demographic time bomb that could turn the country into another Lebanon, sectarian and bloody.” The Journal explains the Palestinian rejection of a Jewish state as follows: “As to why Mr. Abbas won’t accept a Jewish state, it’s because doing so means relinquishing what Palestinians call the ‘right of return.’”

The Journal’s otherwise excellent editorial confuses a tactic and a goal. The reason the Palestinians won’t accept a Jewish state is not because it means relinquishing the “right of return.” It is the other way around: they won’t relinquish the “right of return” because it would mean accepting a Jewish state. Nor is this simply a matter of substituting the converse for the Journal’s formulation. Rather, it reflects a fundamental point that Ron Dermer (then one of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s closest aides and currently Israel’s ambassador to the U.S.) made in a May 2009 AIPAC presentation. Dermer’s point was that the “core issue” in the conflict was not refugees, but recognition:   

The half of the Palestinian polity that is not openly dedicated to Israel’s destruction is unwilling to recognize Israel as the Jewish state … For those of you who think that this has anything to do with the refugee issue — you’re wrong. In 1947, there wasn’t a single refugee, and the Palestinian and the Arab world was not willing to recognize a nation state for the Jewish people. That is a core issue, the core issue …

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In A Jewish State,”the Wall Street Journal notes that “the right of return, with its implicit promise to eliminate Israel, is the centerpiece of the conflict” between Israelis and Arabs. The Journal observes that it is a “right” recognized “for no other refugee group in the world,” and that its acceptance by Israel would risk “a demographic time bomb that could turn the country into another Lebanon, sectarian and bloody.” The Journal explains the Palestinian rejection of a Jewish state as follows: “As to why Mr. Abbas won’t accept a Jewish state, it’s because doing so means relinquishing what Palestinians call the ‘right of return.’”

The Journal’s otherwise excellent editorial confuses a tactic and a goal. The reason the Palestinians won’t accept a Jewish state is not because it means relinquishing the “right of return.” It is the other way around: they won’t relinquish the “right of return” because it would mean accepting a Jewish state. Nor is this simply a matter of substituting the converse for the Journal’s formulation. Rather, it reflects a fundamental point that Ron Dermer (then one of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s closest aides and currently Israel’s ambassador to the U.S.) made in a May 2009 AIPAC presentation. Dermer’s point was that the “core issue” in the conflict was not refugees, but recognition:   

The half of the Palestinian polity that is not openly dedicated to Israel’s destruction is unwilling to recognize Israel as the Jewish state … For those of you who think that this has anything to do with the refugee issue — you’re wrong. In 1947, there wasn’t a single refugee, and the Palestinian and the Arab world was not willing to recognize a nation state for the Jewish people. That is a core issue, the core issue …

The Palestinians use a definition of “refugee” that makes their “refugeehood” hereditary. Other refugees get resettled; Palestinian refugees get born. They may have never lived in Israel, but they are classified as “refugees” at birth, on grounds that their grandparents (or great grandparents) were refugees 65 years ago. This is why each year the number of Palestinian refugees increases, while the number of other refugees in the world decreases. The Palestinians have been repeatedly offered a state to which their refugees could “return,” but they repeatedly reject it, clinging to a specious “right” of “return” to Israel not because it is necessary for the “refugees,” but because it is a tool in the fight against the Jewish state.

The latest tactic is the Palestinian assertion (swallowed whole by the New York Times) that recognition of a Jewish state is a new issue, allegedly raised by Netanyahu to prevent peace. It is a Big Lie. Last Wednesday Ambassador Dennis Ross, speaking on “Israel, America, and the Middle East: Challenges for 2014,” summarized the Israeli position (my transcription and italics):

From the Israeli standpoint, they say look, if you believe in two states, why is it that Israel being the nation-state of the Jewish people is something that you can’t accept? Why is it that self-determination for the Jewish people in a part of historic Palestine is something that you can’t embrace? And it’s pretty fundamental.

When I hear it said that this is the first time this issue has been raised – the people who say that think that no one knows history.  Now maybe it’s true that most people don’t know history. But they should never say it to me. When we were at Camp David, this issue was raised. In the period after Camp David, before we did the Clinton Parameters, this issue was raised. This issue has been raised for obvious reasons. From the Israeli standpoint, there is a need to know that the Palestinians are committed to two states, meaning in fact that one state is Palestinian and one is the state of the Jewish people. They need to know the Palestinians are not about two states, one Palestinian and one bi-national.

In 1947, the Jews accepted the UN two-state resolution; the Arabs not only rejected it, but started a war the next day. In 1948, when Israel declared itself a state, the Arab states sent their armies in, seeking to destroy it. Instead, they created a “catastrophe” for themselves. More than 65 years later, the Palestinians and their Arab allies still reject a Jewish state. They need to recognize it, not only for Israel’s benefit but their own: it is the necessary first step on their long road back from the self-created “catastrophe.” For the reasons succinctly stated in Ambassador Ross’s summary, no “two-state solution” is possible until they take that first step. But the Palestinians appear to have already made it clear they will not miss the opportunity to say “no” once again.

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Obama Loses Pro-Israel Surrogates

Conservative pro-Israel groups are preparing for a massive assault on President Obama’s Israel record that will dwarf any similar efforts from four years ago. But this time around, Obama won’t have support from his top Israel surrogate, Dennis Ross, a trusted face in the Democratic pro-Israel community who stumped at synagogues and helped calm Jewish voters in 2008. Eli Lake reports:

“I am the counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy,” [Dennis] Ross said in an email on Friday. “The Washington Institute is a non-profit organization and I cannot do political work from here. When I acted for the campaign in 2008, I had to take a leave of absence to do so. Having only recently returned to the Institute, I cannot now again take a leave of absence.” …

Ross himself said, “I can give substantive advice to the administration, the president’s campaign, or any campaign that would ask for it. And, of course, when I speak I can talk about my views on policy and I have been supportive of the president’s policy on leading foreign policy issues.”

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Conservative pro-Israel groups are preparing for a massive assault on President Obama’s Israel record that will dwarf any similar efforts from four years ago. But this time around, Obama won’t have support from his top Israel surrogate, Dennis Ross, a trusted face in the Democratic pro-Israel community who stumped at synagogues and helped calm Jewish voters in 2008. Eli Lake reports:

“I am the counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy,” [Dennis] Ross said in an email on Friday. “The Washington Institute is a non-profit organization and I cannot do political work from here. When I acted for the campaign in 2008, I had to take a leave of absence to do so. Having only recently returned to the Institute, I cannot now again take a leave of absence.” …

Ross himself said, “I can give substantive advice to the administration, the president’s campaign, or any campaign that would ask for it. And, of course, when I speak I can talk about my views on policy and I have been supportive of the president’s policy on leading foreign policy issues.”

Ouch. Ross can advise any campaign? And speaking in the past tense about supporting Obama’s policies? It doesn’t sound like there was much love lost there. Ross did just return to the Washington Institute, but it’s hard to imagine he would be blamed for taking some time to help the president of the United States on the campaign trail. Note that Ross also bluntly criticized the president’s early focus on the settlement freeze in WaPo last month.

Aaron David Miller, Ross’s deputy on the peace talks under the Clinton administration, suggests that Ross wasn’t thrilled with the idea of trying to sell Obama’s Israel record to Jewish voters:

“Dennis is about doing things,” said Aaron Miller, who was Ross’s deputy on the peace process during the Clinton years and is now a scholar at the Wilson Center, a public policy think tank in Washington, D.C. “The peace process is stuck and is likely to remain stuck. The fact is no amount of hand-holding is going to assuage the concerns and suspicions of a pro-Israel community which has now seen some of its fears realized. It may well be that this is the other piece of this. I wouldn’t want to try to sell Obama to the Jewish community in this environment.”

Whatever the reason for Ross sitting this one out, it doesn’t look good for Obama or his pro-Israel outreach. The New York Times reports that another one of Obama’s top Jewish surrogates, Penny Pritzker, is also taking a less active role in the campaign than she did in 2008. Obviously, the president will always have the die-hard believers to stump for him at synagogues — Alan Solow, DWS, Robert Wexler. But will that be enough to combat the GOP’s serious play for the Jewish vote?

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Iran Thinks the West is Bluffing

One of the ironies of the last few months of international efforts to force Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions has been the fact that Western Europe has generally been much more aggressive about its willingness to put the screws to Tehran than the United States. Britain and especially France have been willing to talk about an oil embargo of Iran while the Obama administration has been much more circumspect about both the possibility of such a measure and its enforcement. But apparently, the Iranians are not quite convinced by the bluster coming from French President Sarkozy and other Europeans. Tehran’s official news agency announced today the regime called in the ambassadors of France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Greece and Portugal to tell them if they don’t shut up about the nuclear issue, the Iranians will pre-empt them and cut off the flow of their oil to Europe.

Tehran’s hope is the Europeans will take the bait laid out for them in the form of a message to the EU about a willingness to resume negotiations on the issue. In today’s New York Times, Dennis Ross, the former Obama staffer who continues to consult with the administration, wrote an op-ed in which he claimed the time is ripe to resume talks. But while the administration may see the article as a signal to Iran that talks are the only way for Iran to avoid an embargo or worse, Iran may interpret it as a sign of weakness by the United States.

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One of the ironies of the last few months of international efforts to force Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions has been the fact that Western Europe has generally been much more aggressive about its willingness to put the screws to Tehran than the United States. Britain and especially France have been willing to talk about an oil embargo of Iran while the Obama administration has been much more circumspect about both the possibility of such a measure and its enforcement. But apparently, the Iranians are not quite convinced by the bluster coming from French President Sarkozy and other Europeans. Tehran’s official news agency announced today the regime called in the ambassadors of France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Greece and Portugal to tell them if they don’t shut up about the nuclear issue, the Iranians will pre-empt them and cut off the flow of their oil to Europe.

Tehran’s hope is the Europeans will take the bait laid out for them in the form of a message to the EU about a willingness to resume negotiations on the issue. In today’s New York Times, Dennis Ross, the former Obama staffer who continues to consult with the administration, wrote an op-ed in which he claimed the time is ripe to resume talks. But while the administration may see the article as a signal to Iran that talks are the only way for Iran to avoid an embargo or worse, Iran may interpret it as a sign of weakness by the United States.

While the threat to the Europeans may be dismissed as bluster, the Iranians are acting as if they think the European Union is bluffing about going to the mat over the nuclear issue by scheduling an embargo to begin on July 1. Moreover, the Iranian threat, which noted that the regime can “find other customers for its oil” is no lie. As we noted last week, China has been negotiating oil deals at cut-rate prices intended to take advantage of the pressure building on Iran. Though Saudi Arabia has vowed to make up any shortfall in the supply of oil as a result of this standoff, the Iranians may reason that when push comes to shove the Europeans won’t be willing to risk the impact such a confrontation might have on their economies.

Of even greater concern is that Ross’s article may reinforce Tehran’s belief it can lure the West back into dead-end negotiations.

Ross’s premise is the sanctions orchestrated by President Obama have brought the Iranians to their knees and made them ready to back down on the nuclear issue. The obvious drawback to a Western assent to resumed negotiations is Iran would have every incentive to drag out the process and run out the clock until their program succeeds. Ross’s answer to this concern is the European threat of an oil embargo this summer would ensure Tehran could not play that game.

But Ross, who is a veteran of two decades of failure on the Israeli-Palestinian negotiating track, fails to take into account the very real possibility  a new round of talks would give the Europeans the excuse many of them have been waiting for to back away from a confrontation. Their main concern has been to heighten the pressure on Iran so as to convince the Israelis not to launch an attack that might create an international crisis with unforeseen circumstances.

Unlike Ross, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has shown he doesn’t take either President Obama or the Europeans seriously when it comes to their threats. He may be gambling that both are far more interested in avoiding the use of force than they are in actually stopping Iran’s nuclear plans. Unfortunately, the Ross op-ed, which will rightly be viewed as an open peace feeler from Obama to Iran, will only reinforce Khamenei’s belief the U.S. doesn’t mean business. Moreover, there is no reason to believe a fanatical regime such as the Islamist government in Tehran would be willing to give up on its nuclear dream.

President Obama’s rhetoric on the necessity of stopping Iran has been faultless. But after more than three years of irresolute American diplomacy, the Iranians have come to believe both the U.S. and Europe are bluffing about an oil embargo. Iranians may think a dead-end negotiation will allow them to avoid more sanctions while bringing them closer to a nuclear weapon.

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It’s Time to Take Incitement Seriously

Shortly after the Clinton administration ended and George W. Bush took office, and amidst the ashes of the Oslo process, Dennis Ross, Clinton’s Middle East envoy, was asked at a Washington Institute for Near East Policy talk what in hindsight he would identify as the greatest U.S. mistake in the long process to broker Arab-Israel peace. He was correct to identify incitement.

Whether it was the tendency of Yasser Arafat to say one thing in English and the opposite in Arabic, or the constant barrage of hatred which Palestinian textbooks and media indoctrinate, the State Department turned a deaf ear. Incitement was seen as secondary to diplomatic progress and was a headache which, if dealt with, might hamper the ability to get to yes on whatever interim agreement loomed at the time.

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Shortly after the Clinton administration ended and George W. Bush took office, and amidst the ashes of the Oslo process, Dennis Ross, Clinton’s Middle East envoy, was asked at a Washington Institute for Near East Policy talk what in hindsight he would identify as the greatest U.S. mistake in the long process to broker Arab-Israel peace. He was correct to identify incitement.

Whether it was the tendency of Yasser Arafat to say one thing in English and the opposite in Arabic, or the constant barrage of hatred which Palestinian textbooks and media indoctrinate, the State Department turned a deaf ear. Incitement was seen as secondary to diplomatic progress and was a headache which, if dealt with, might hamper the ability to get to yes on whatever interim agreement loomed at the time.

Diplomats reached agreements but, in practice, they meant little. Rather than prepare Palestinians for compromise, the Palestinian Authority used incitement to fan the flames of hatred, and then used that public disapproval of any peace as an excuse to avoid the difficult steps necessary.

It is not only the Palestinians who have been guilty of incitement. For many diplomats, the 1978 Camp David Accords suggest that perseverance against all odds can lead to peace. And, with Egypt-Israel peace now in doubt, some Israeli officials and scholars long for a return to Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship. Mubarak, however, bears much culpability for the current actions of the Egyptian public. As president, he oversaw a regime which used its state media to perpetuate anti-Semitism and crass conspiracies, and used its bureaucracy to quash any attempts by civil society to promote tolerance and interchange. The hatred which populists now channel against Israel is the result of more than three decades of unchecked incitement.

Alas, having turned a blind eye to incitement for so long, Americans will now feel its bite. After squandering the opportunity for four decades to reform, professionalize, and free the Egyptian media, Egypt’s new government now uses its media to incite against the United States and, specifically, the Americans the transitional Egyptian regime holds hostage.

Years of neglect suggest there will be no happy ending to the current crisis which increasingly appears as a repeat of the Iran hostage drama, but in slow motion. Perhaps it’s time for the State Department and Congress to have a fundamental rethink about the priority incitement has in its calculations. Should any country use public media to promote religious hatred or anti-Americanism, that country is not serious about peace nor is it deserving of American aid. Rather than treat incitement as a hiccup to ignore on the road to an agreement, perhaps it is time to address incitement as the primary hurdle which must be overcome before any aid can be expended or serious peacemaking can begin.

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Breaking Up is Hard to Do

A few weeks ago, I joked that the Obama White House is “the Hotel California of presidential administrations.” It looks like we can add another name to the list of advisers who can never leave. Last week, Haaretz reported that longtime Mideast hand Dennis Ross was still advising President Obama on the Middle East, though no one was quite sure to what extent.

Today, Haaretz follows up by noting the White House took the “unusual” step of installing a direct phone line from Ross’s office at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy to the White House. The State Department says Ross is an unpaid adviser, but Haaretz says Ross has been conducting some pretty important meetings on the president’s behalf:

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A few weeks ago, I joked that the Obama White House is “the Hotel California of presidential administrations.” It looks like we can add another name to the list of advisers who can never leave. Last week, Haaretz reported that longtime Mideast hand Dennis Ross was still advising President Obama on the Middle East, though no one was quite sure to what extent.

Today, Haaretz follows up by noting the White House took the “unusual” step of installing a direct phone line from Ross’s office at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy to the White House. The State Department says Ross is an unpaid adviser, but Haaretz says Ross has been conducting some pretty important meetings on the president’s behalf:

During his visit to Israel last week, Ross met secretly with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as with his adviser Yitzhak Molho. American officials estimated that Ross’ talks with Netanyahu are on behalf of President Obama, and part of a channel of communication that bypasses the government.

One journalist insistently asked [spokesperson Victoria] Nuland whether Ross is bypassing the State Department in his talks with Netanyahu. “With regard to this specific mission and how much of it is Dennis’s private travel and how much of it is in this role as an uncompensated adviser, you need to talk to the White House about that. I don’t have those details. But frankly, Dennis has been a good partner to administrations of all kinds, whether he was in government or out of government, and always remains in close touch.”

In other words, yes, Ross is bypassing the State Department, which probably knows as much about Ross’s ghost diplomacy as Haaretz does. This is important for two reasons: first, those expecting any diplomatic adjustment from the Obama White House can now forget it. They’re running with the same all-star team that has pummeled the peace process to within an inch of its life in only three years. But second, the president is signaling he not only can accept failure, but prefers the failure he knows to the possibility of failure he doesn’t know.

Jonathan offered a good eulogy of the Dennis Ross era in which he acknowledged the fact that Ross’s streak of bungling Mideast affairs for the White House was about to begin its third decade. The interesting part of Ross’s inability to be fired is that neither side in the negotiations trusts him. Israel, however, probably trusts him more than they trust Obama or the president’s judgment in choosing a successor to Ross. But more importantly, the American Jewish community tends to trust Ross. (Though at this point, there is probably more of a perceived trust where there used to be an actual trust, and few are willing to say this out loud and bring down the house of cards on which Ross’s reputation, such as it is, rests.)

But if the Obama administration thinks the American Jewish community trusts Ross, why would they keep Ross’s continued involvement in the administration’s Mideast shenanigans a secret? Perhaps Obama was actually trying to keep it a secret from those still working as official, paid advisers to the president whose advice is being summarily ignored in favor of Ross’s but who didn’t know it. They will no doubt be encouraged to learn that not only is their advice being ignored, but when Ross’s next failure comes–and if history is any guide, it will be sooner rather than later–it will have their names but not their fingerprints on it, the most insulting possible combination.

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Still Another Peace Plan

Today’s New York Times describes the report by David Makovsky of the Washington Institute — “Imagining the Border: Options for Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian Territorial Issue” — which provides detailed maps showing that Israel’s borders could cover 80 percent of the settlers while providing Palestinians a contiguous state on 95 percent of the West Bank. Makovsky tells the Times that his report shows peace is possible:

The goal, Mr. Makovsky said, is to “demystify” the territorial hurdles that divide Israelis and Palestinians, and to debunk the notion that there is no way to reconcile the Palestinian demand for sovereignty over the West Bank with the Israeli demand for control over a majority of the settlers. … “There are land swaps that would offset whatever settlements Israel would retain. The impossible is attainable.”

Makovsky’s report demonstrates that the stated premise of the Palestinian’s draft UN resolution — that the settlements are “a major obstacle to the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace” — is false. But this is not exactly news: the premise has been demonstrably false for more than 10 years. If you look at the Makovsky map the Times links to in its article and compare it to Dennis Ross’s map of the Clinton Parameters (posted here), you can see the two maps are substantially the same.

In the past 10 years, the Palestinians received two offers of a contiguous state on virtually the entire West Bank — first in 2000 and again in 2008 — and rejected them both (for a total of seven rejections of a state since 1919). They received a settlementrein Gaza in 2005 and turned it into Hamastan. They demanded a settlement freeze as a precondition to negotiations (without offering any concessions of their own), got a 10-month moratorium on new construction … and refused to negotiate.

They could have had a state long ago, if a second state were what they wanted. But the Palestinian Authority is already a failed state several times over — unwilling to recognize a Jewish state next to it, unable to “live side by side in peace and security”™ even when given land without a single settler in it, unable to negotiate even when given a 10-month settlement freeze, unable even to hold local elections in the half-state it governs.

The Makovsky report is ultimately irrelevant, since it proposes a “solution” to what is not the problem.

Today’s New York Times describes the report by David Makovsky of the Washington Institute — “Imagining the Border: Options for Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian Territorial Issue” — which provides detailed maps showing that Israel’s borders could cover 80 percent of the settlers while providing Palestinians a contiguous state on 95 percent of the West Bank. Makovsky tells the Times that his report shows peace is possible:

The goal, Mr. Makovsky said, is to “demystify” the territorial hurdles that divide Israelis and Palestinians, and to debunk the notion that there is no way to reconcile the Palestinian demand for sovereignty over the West Bank with the Israeli demand for control over a majority of the settlers. … “There are land swaps that would offset whatever settlements Israel would retain. The impossible is attainable.”

Makovsky’s report demonstrates that the stated premise of the Palestinian’s draft UN resolution — that the settlements are “a major obstacle to the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace” — is false. But this is not exactly news: the premise has been demonstrably false for more than 10 years. If you look at the Makovsky map the Times links to in its article and compare it to Dennis Ross’s map of the Clinton Parameters (posted here), you can see the two maps are substantially the same.

In the past 10 years, the Palestinians received two offers of a contiguous state on virtually the entire West Bank — first in 2000 and again in 2008 — and rejected them both (for a total of seven rejections of a state since 1919). They received a settlementrein Gaza in 2005 and turned it into Hamastan. They demanded a settlement freeze as a precondition to negotiations (without offering any concessions of their own), got a 10-month moratorium on new construction … and refused to negotiate.

They could have had a state long ago, if a second state were what they wanted. But the Palestinian Authority is already a failed state several times over — unwilling to recognize a Jewish state next to it, unable to “live side by side in peace and security”™ even when given land without a single settler in it, unable to negotiate even when given a 10-month settlement freeze, unable even to hold local elections in the half-state it governs.

The Makovsky report is ultimately irrelevant, since it proposes a “solution” to what is not the problem.

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Lessons of the Peace Process: The Missing Reflection

The final chapter of Dennis Ross’s 800-page book on the Oslo Process (The Missing Peace) is entitled “Learning the Lessons of the Past and Applying Them to the Future.” Among his lessons was a warning that the process can become “essentially an end in itself” — self-sustaining because there is never a right time to disrupt it. He concluded that less attention should have been paid to the negotiators and more to preparing their publics for compromise. With respect to the Palestinians, it is a lesson still unlearned.

The lessons the Bush administration drew from the Clinton experience were that Arafat was an obstacle to peace; the Palestinian Authority needed new leadership and democratic institutions; and peace could be achieved only in phases, not all at once. Bush endorsed a Palestinian state in 2002; arranged the three-phase Roadmap in 2003; assured Israel in 2004 of the U.S. commitment to defensible borders; facilitated the Gaza withdrawal in 2005; began moving the parties in 2006 to final status negotiations; and sponsored the Annapolis Process in 2007-08, which produced another Israeli offer of a state and another Palestinian rejection. In the meantime, the Palestinians elected Hamas — an inconvenient fact that peace processors simply ignore.

There were multiple lessons to be drawn from the successive failures of Clinton and Bush, but Obama did not pause to consider them. He appointed George Mitchell on his second day in office and sent him immediately to the Middle East on the first of an endless series of trips. He sought a total Israeli construction freeze and reciprocal Arab concessions — getting nothing from the Arabs but obtaining a one-time Israeli moratorium, which produced nothing. The administration has tried “proximity talks,” followed by “direct talks,” and now “parallel talks.”

The process has produced an endless supply of names for unproductive procedures, but not much else. It has become essentially an end in itself, and it is time, once again, to learn the lessons of the past so we can apply them to the future. Aaron David Miller and Jennifer Rubin have produced about seven between them.

But the most relevant lesson may be the one Obama disregarded when he rushed into his own peace process. In a December 2008 article, Obama’s erstwhile adviser Robert Malley urged him to slow down and reflect on “the reasons for recurring failures, the effectiveness of U.S. mediation, the wisdom and realism of seeking a comprehensive, across-the-board settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or even the centrality of that conflict to US interests.”

The Palestinian goal seems less to obtain a state (they have repeatedly rejected one) than to reverse history: a return to the 1967 lines would reverse the 1967 war; a “right of return” would reverse the 1948 one; and controlling the Old City (aka East Jerusalem) would reverse the history before that. At the end of his book, Ross describes the Oval Office meeting where Arafat rejected the Clinton Parameters, with Arafat denying that the Temple ever existed in Jerusalem. Ten years later, the PA denies any Jewish connection to the Western Wall. Not only has the PA taken no steps to prepare its public for peace; its maps and media presume Israel does not exist.

In thinking about the recurring failures of the peace process, it is time to reflect on that.

The final chapter of Dennis Ross’s 800-page book on the Oslo Process (The Missing Peace) is entitled “Learning the Lessons of the Past and Applying Them to the Future.” Among his lessons was a warning that the process can become “essentially an end in itself” — self-sustaining because there is never a right time to disrupt it. He concluded that less attention should have been paid to the negotiators and more to preparing their publics for compromise. With respect to the Palestinians, it is a lesson still unlearned.

The lessons the Bush administration drew from the Clinton experience were that Arafat was an obstacle to peace; the Palestinian Authority needed new leadership and democratic institutions; and peace could be achieved only in phases, not all at once. Bush endorsed a Palestinian state in 2002; arranged the three-phase Roadmap in 2003; assured Israel in 2004 of the U.S. commitment to defensible borders; facilitated the Gaza withdrawal in 2005; began moving the parties in 2006 to final status negotiations; and sponsored the Annapolis Process in 2007-08, which produced another Israeli offer of a state and another Palestinian rejection. In the meantime, the Palestinians elected Hamas — an inconvenient fact that peace processors simply ignore.

There were multiple lessons to be drawn from the successive failures of Clinton and Bush, but Obama did not pause to consider them. He appointed George Mitchell on his second day in office and sent him immediately to the Middle East on the first of an endless series of trips. He sought a total Israeli construction freeze and reciprocal Arab concessions — getting nothing from the Arabs but obtaining a one-time Israeli moratorium, which produced nothing. The administration has tried “proximity talks,” followed by “direct talks,” and now “parallel talks.”

The process has produced an endless supply of names for unproductive procedures, but not much else. It has become essentially an end in itself, and it is time, once again, to learn the lessons of the past so we can apply them to the future. Aaron David Miller and Jennifer Rubin have produced about seven between them.

But the most relevant lesson may be the one Obama disregarded when he rushed into his own peace process. In a December 2008 article, Obama’s erstwhile adviser Robert Malley urged him to slow down and reflect on “the reasons for recurring failures, the effectiveness of U.S. mediation, the wisdom and realism of seeking a comprehensive, across-the-board settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or even the centrality of that conflict to US interests.”

The Palestinian goal seems less to obtain a state (they have repeatedly rejected one) than to reverse history: a return to the 1967 lines would reverse the 1967 war; a “right of return” would reverse the 1948 one; and controlling the Old City (aka East Jerusalem) would reverse the history before that. At the end of his book, Ross describes the Oval Office meeting where Arafat rejected the Clinton Parameters, with Arafat denying that the Temple ever existed in Jerusalem. Ten years later, the PA denies any Jewish connection to the Western Wall. Not only has the PA taken no steps to prepare its public for peace; its maps and media presume Israel does not exist.

In thinking about the recurring failures of the peace process, it is time to reflect on that.

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Debating the Middle East Debacle

Politico devotes part of its Arena discussion to Ben Smith’s compelling report on Obama’s Middle East blunders. What is interesting is that, aside from the executive director of the notoriously anti-Israel group the Jerusalem Fund, no one from this ideologically diverse bunch differs with the premise of the article (Obama has made things much worse) or cheers the president’s latest desperation move.

From David Aaron Miller: “[I]n the face of this difficult situation, the administration came out loud, hard and fast — focused largely on a settlements freeze it had no chance of producing or sustaining. Twenty months in, the president — a wartime leader with a Nobel Peace Prize (only the second in American history) finds himself with no freeze, no negotiations, no agreement and no process to get there.”

Bob Zelnick adds: “It takes some effort to mess things up as quickly and completely as the Obama team. But if you let settlements — a final status issue — put in a position to queer the whole deal, if it takes 20 fighter planes to make sure Netanyahu shows up for class, and if you have no coherent plan to build on the diplomatic path plowed by George W. Bush’s Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the chances are you will not get the parties to move much beyond their opening positions and that those at the table will begin to view your opinions as having little more than nuisance value.”

James Carafano reminds us: “Figure out the right thing to do, do the opposite … that pretty much defines the Obama Middle East strategy. The White House fell for the most obvious trap — that negotiating peace between Israel and Palestine is the ‘easy button’ and that a settlement will make that whole part of the world blossom into a land of milk and honey. The White House should have started at the other end — standing tall as a firm friend of Israel and focusing like a laser on the key problem Iran. Trumping Iran and backing Israel marginalizes Hamas and makes peace possible, not the other way round.”

The Obami remain impervious, however, to the near-unanimous criticism of their approach. It is among the Obama team’s most curious undertakings. As faulty as many of Obama’s foreign policy gambits may be, there are few (perhaps human rights is another) that have been so universally panned as his Middle East maneuvering. There is no pivot and no recognition that he is sowing additional discord and reducing America’s stature. Why do we suppose he is so immune to advice? I suspect it is because this particular policy is near and dear to the president’s heart and nearly entirely the product of his own ego and mistaken diagnosis of the region’s problems. He is tragically and completely lacking in an appreciation for the political realities, and apparently not an aide in his entire administration is willing or able to dissuade him. At most, the mission now is to try to spare him a personal humiliation.

You wonder what Dennis Ross, peace-processor extraordinaire, is telling himself. Things would be worse without him? Hardly seems possible. If you just keep processing, the peace “momentum” will build? It’s hard to fathom. But history’s judgment will be especially severe, both for him and for others who should know better. A heck of a way to end a career in Middle East diplomacy, no?

Politico devotes part of its Arena discussion to Ben Smith’s compelling report on Obama’s Middle East blunders. What is interesting is that, aside from the executive director of the notoriously anti-Israel group the Jerusalem Fund, no one from this ideologically diverse bunch differs with the premise of the article (Obama has made things much worse) or cheers the president’s latest desperation move.

From David Aaron Miller: “[I]n the face of this difficult situation, the administration came out loud, hard and fast — focused largely on a settlements freeze it had no chance of producing or sustaining. Twenty months in, the president — a wartime leader with a Nobel Peace Prize (only the second in American history) finds himself with no freeze, no negotiations, no agreement and no process to get there.”

Bob Zelnick adds: “It takes some effort to mess things up as quickly and completely as the Obama team. But if you let settlements — a final status issue — put in a position to queer the whole deal, if it takes 20 fighter planes to make sure Netanyahu shows up for class, and if you have no coherent plan to build on the diplomatic path plowed by George W. Bush’s Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the chances are you will not get the parties to move much beyond their opening positions and that those at the table will begin to view your opinions as having little more than nuisance value.”

James Carafano reminds us: “Figure out the right thing to do, do the opposite … that pretty much defines the Obama Middle East strategy. The White House fell for the most obvious trap — that negotiating peace between Israel and Palestine is the ‘easy button’ and that a settlement will make that whole part of the world blossom into a land of milk and honey. The White House should have started at the other end — standing tall as a firm friend of Israel and focusing like a laser on the key problem Iran. Trumping Iran and backing Israel marginalizes Hamas and makes peace possible, not the other way round.”

The Obami remain impervious, however, to the near-unanimous criticism of their approach. It is among the Obama team’s most curious undertakings. As faulty as many of Obama’s foreign policy gambits may be, there are few (perhaps human rights is another) that have been so universally panned as his Middle East maneuvering. There is no pivot and no recognition that he is sowing additional discord and reducing America’s stature. Why do we suppose he is so immune to advice? I suspect it is because this particular policy is near and dear to the president’s heart and nearly entirely the product of his own ego and mistaken diagnosis of the region’s problems. He is tragically and completely lacking in an appreciation for the political realities, and apparently not an aide in his entire administration is willing or able to dissuade him. At most, the mission now is to try to spare him a personal humiliation.

You wonder what Dennis Ross, peace-processor extraordinaire, is telling himself. Things would be worse without him? Hardly seems possible. If you just keep processing, the peace “momentum” will build? It’s hard to fathom. But history’s judgment will be especially severe, both for him and for others who should know better. A heck of a way to end a career in Middle East diplomacy, no?

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The Latest Trend in Delegitimizing Israel

The ongoing delegitimization campaign against Israel has recently started featuring a bizarre new argument: Israel isn’t really a democracy, because its Arab citizens lack basic civil rights. Good examples include last month’s New York Times column by Ahmad Tibi and today’s Jerusalem Post column by Ray Hanania.

Tibi urged the international community to demand that “in any political agreement, Israel would be required to grant full political and civil equality to Palestinian citizens of Israel. American mediators such as George Mitchell and Dennis Ross, rather than pushing the supremacist notion of a Jewish state, should be pressing Israel to provide equal rights and fair treatment to the Palestinian minority in its midst.” The obvious conclusion is that currently, Israeli Arabs lack civil rights.

That conclusion is somewhat marred by the final line: “Ahmad Tibi, an Arab Israeli, is deputy speaker of the Israeli Parliament.” Neither Tibi nor the Times bothers explaining how a country that denies its Arab citizens “political and civil equality” has an Arab as deputy speaker of its parliament — let alone one who uses this prestigious position mainly to slander his country.

But anyone who didn’t read this tagline, or missed its implications, would come away thinking that Israeli Arabs don’t enjoy “political and civil equality.”

Then there’s Hanania, a self-proclaimed “award-winning columnist,” peace activist, and Chicago radio talk-show host.

“Criticism is a hallmark of true democracies,” he proclaims. “The more Israel tries to silence Arab critics, the more it exposes the limits of its democracy.” Specifically, “the backlash against Arabs citizens challenging Israeli policies started with Azmi Bishara, a Knesset member who was very critical.” Now Israel is persecuting the equally critical MK Haneen Zoabi: “Jewish Knesset members have called for her to be prosecuted and stripped of the immunity that Knesset members enjoy … Zoabi symbolizes a crack that continues to grow in the wall of Israel’s claim to the ‘only democracy in the Middle East.’”

In reality, the “backlash” wasn’t against these MKs’ views but their actions. Bishara was indicted for passing information to Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War. Zoabi’s potential indictment (should Israel’s independent prosecution decide to file one) is for trying to run her own country’s blockade of an enemy with which it’s at war. In short, both allegedly tried to aid an enemy during wartime. That’s not voicing “criticism”; it’s a crime in every democracy on the planet.

Yet Hanania implies that Zoabi’s presence on May’s Turkish-sponsored flotilla to Gaza was a mere peaceful protest, while the charges against Bishara were simply trumped up, a crude attempt to silence a critical voice. And uninformed readers might well believe him. They wouldn’t know, for instance, that Bishara himself was acquitted on unrelated charges just a year earlier — meaning he preferred flight and exile to standing trial, not because “critical” Arabs stand no chance in Israeli courts, but because this time the evidence against him was solid.

It’s hard to believe a slander as demonstrably false as that Israeli Arabs lack civil rights could gain traction. But clearly, it has. Otherwise, two such eminently mainstream newspapers wouldn’t have printed it.

The ongoing delegitimization campaign against Israel has recently started featuring a bizarre new argument: Israel isn’t really a democracy, because its Arab citizens lack basic civil rights. Good examples include last month’s New York Times column by Ahmad Tibi and today’s Jerusalem Post column by Ray Hanania.

Tibi urged the international community to demand that “in any political agreement, Israel would be required to grant full political and civil equality to Palestinian citizens of Israel. American mediators such as George Mitchell and Dennis Ross, rather than pushing the supremacist notion of a Jewish state, should be pressing Israel to provide equal rights and fair treatment to the Palestinian minority in its midst.” The obvious conclusion is that currently, Israeli Arabs lack civil rights.

That conclusion is somewhat marred by the final line: “Ahmad Tibi, an Arab Israeli, is deputy speaker of the Israeli Parliament.” Neither Tibi nor the Times bothers explaining how a country that denies its Arab citizens “political and civil equality” has an Arab as deputy speaker of its parliament — let alone one who uses this prestigious position mainly to slander his country.

But anyone who didn’t read this tagline, or missed its implications, would come away thinking that Israeli Arabs don’t enjoy “political and civil equality.”

Then there’s Hanania, a self-proclaimed “award-winning columnist,” peace activist, and Chicago radio talk-show host.

“Criticism is a hallmark of true democracies,” he proclaims. “The more Israel tries to silence Arab critics, the more it exposes the limits of its democracy.” Specifically, “the backlash against Arabs citizens challenging Israeli policies started with Azmi Bishara, a Knesset member who was very critical.” Now Israel is persecuting the equally critical MK Haneen Zoabi: “Jewish Knesset members have called for her to be prosecuted and stripped of the immunity that Knesset members enjoy … Zoabi symbolizes a crack that continues to grow in the wall of Israel’s claim to the ‘only democracy in the Middle East.’”

In reality, the “backlash” wasn’t against these MKs’ views but their actions. Bishara was indicted for passing information to Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War. Zoabi’s potential indictment (should Israel’s independent prosecution decide to file one) is for trying to run her own country’s blockade of an enemy with which it’s at war. In short, both allegedly tried to aid an enemy during wartime. That’s not voicing “criticism”; it’s a crime in every democracy on the planet.

Yet Hanania implies that Zoabi’s presence on May’s Turkish-sponsored flotilla to Gaza was a mere peaceful protest, while the charges against Bishara were simply trumped up, a crude attempt to silence a critical voice. And uninformed readers might well believe him. They wouldn’t know, for instance, that Bishara himself was acquitted on unrelated charges just a year earlier — meaning he preferred flight and exile to standing trial, not because “critical” Arabs stand no chance in Israeli courts, but because this time the evidence against him was solid.

It’s hard to believe a slander as demonstrably false as that Israeli Arabs lack civil rights could gain traction. But clearly, it has. Otherwise, two such eminently mainstream newspapers wouldn’t have printed it.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

I’m sure it is going to be blamed on the Chamber of Commerce: “Gallup finds 21% of Americans satisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time. If that figure does not improve considerably in the next two weeks, it would be the lowest level of U.S. satisfaction Gallup has measured at the time of a midterm election in more than 30 years of tracking this measure.”

If Jimmy Carter is talking about Israel, it’s going to be slanderous: “Former President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday that Palestinians are ‘living in a cage’ in Gaza and that the militant group Hamas must be included in all major efforts for peace.” Oh, and Obama’s Medal of Freedom winner Mary Robinson was along for the trip.

Now that the PA has bugged out of direct non-peace talks, Israeli leaders are right to be concerned that the next step is going to be an attempt to impose a peace deal. Ambassador Michael Oren is having none of it: “Like Ben-Gurion, Netanyahu will not allow the United Nations, or any other organization, to dictate our borders. They will be determined through negotiations.”

If he’s not taking responsibility for the economy or his party’s train wreck now, there’s no way he’s going to be sticking around to explain the election results: “President Obama is giving Republicans a 10-day window to set the agenda for a lame-duck session and the new legislative year by leaving the country right after the midterm elections.” In short, run away!

Jack Conway is going to be the winner of one contest, according to Jason Zengerle: “There are still two weeks left until the midterm elections, but it’s not too early to declare a winner in the contest for the most despicable political ad of this campaign season. … When the debate was over, Paul refused to shake Conway’s hand. Frankly, I don’t blame him. First, no candidate over the age of, say, 30 should be held politically accountable for anything he or she did in college—short of gross academic misconduct or committing a felony. Second, and more importantly, a politician’s religious faith should simply be off-limits.”

Matt Continetti explains that it’s not going to be easy for Sarah Palin to get the GOP nod: “Palin needs to run a campaign in which she demonstrates the ability to stay on message, raise significant sums of money from a broad group of donors, demonstrate familiarity with the intricacies of domestic and foreign policy, and present a unifying theme of American strength, at home and abroad. It’s a tall order, I know. But the next Republican president will do all these things.” At least she’ll have the argument that an Ivy League degree is irrelevant to the presidency.

It’s going to be a long two years: “[T]he Obama administration is still absorbing the fact that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has to date rejected a proposed American compromise package that would have offered various security and other assurances to Israel in exchange for a 60-day renewal of a partial West Bank settlement freeze that expired last month. The American team is said to be frustrated and upset at Netanyahu’s dismissal to date of the package, which was drafted by the NSC’s Dennis Ross in close consultation with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molho.” They didn’t see this coming? Now that is scary.

I’m sure it is going to be blamed on the Chamber of Commerce: “Gallup finds 21% of Americans satisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time. If that figure does not improve considerably in the next two weeks, it would be the lowest level of U.S. satisfaction Gallup has measured at the time of a midterm election in more than 30 years of tracking this measure.”

If Jimmy Carter is talking about Israel, it’s going to be slanderous: “Former President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday that Palestinians are ‘living in a cage’ in Gaza and that the militant group Hamas must be included in all major efforts for peace.” Oh, and Obama’s Medal of Freedom winner Mary Robinson was along for the trip.

Now that the PA has bugged out of direct non-peace talks, Israeli leaders are right to be concerned that the next step is going to be an attempt to impose a peace deal. Ambassador Michael Oren is having none of it: “Like Ben-Gurion, Netanyahu will not allow the United Nations, or any other organization, to dictate our borders. They will be determined through negotiations.”

If he’s not taking responsibility for the economy or his party’s train wreck now, there’s no way he’s going to be sticking around to explain the election results: “President Obama is giving Republicans a 10-day window to set the agenda for a lame-duck session and the new legislative year by leaving the country right after the midterm elections.” In short, run away!

Jack Conway is going to be the winner of one contest, according to Jason Zengerle: “There are still two weeks left until the midterm elections, but it’s not too early to declare a winner in the contest for the most despicable political ad of this campaign season. … When the debate was over, Paul refused to shake Conway’s hand. Frankly, I don’t blame him. First, no candidate over the age of, say, 30 should be held politically accountable for anything he or she did in college—short of gross academic misconduct or committing a felony. Second, and more importantly, a politician’s religious faith should simply be off-limits.”

Matt Continetti explains that it’s not going to be easy for Sarah Palin to get the GOP nod: “Palin needs to run a campaign in which she demonstrates the ability to stay on message, raise significant sums of money from a broad group of donors, demonstrate familiarity with the intricacies of domestic and foreign policy, and present a unifying theme of American strength, at home and abroad. It’s a tall order, I know. But the next Republican president will do all these things.” At least she’ll have the argument that an Ivy League degree is irrelevant to the presidency.

It’s going to be a long two years: “[T]he Obama administration is still absorbing the fact that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has to date rejected a proposed American compromise package that would have offered various security and other assurances to Israel in exchange for a 60-day renewal of a partial West Bank settlement freeze that expired last month. The American team is said to be frustrated and upset at Netanyahu’s dismissal to date of the package, which was drafted by the NSC’s Dennis Ross in close consultation with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molho.” They didn’t see this coming? Now that is scary.

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The Least-Smart Diplomat of Them All

Jackson Diehl is the latest Middle East watcher to figure out what went wrong with the non-direct, non-peace talks:

For 15 years and more, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas conducted peace talks with Israel in the absence of a freeze on Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Now, it appears as likely as not that his newborn negotiations with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu — and their goal of agreement on a Palestinian state within a year — will expire because of Abbas’s refusal to talk in the absence of such a freeze. …

So why does Abbas stubbornly persist in his self-defeating position? In an interview with Israeli television Sunday night, he offered a remarkably candid explanation: “When Obama came to power, he is the one who announced that settlement activity must be stopped,” he said. “If America says it and Europe says it and the whole world says it, you want me not to say it?”

Well, yes. Just as many conservative critics have been saying — the immediate problem is a self-created one (“the settlement impasse originated not with Netanyahu or Abbas, but with Obama — who by insisting on an Israeli freeze has created a near-insuperable obstacle to the peace process he is trying to promote”). The longer-term problem is that the PA is not ready and able to make an enforceable peace agreement that recognizes the Jewish state. That, too, Abbas has candidly admitted.

You say, but doesn’t Dennis Ross or George Mitchell or Hillary Clinton know better? Maybe not. But even if they do, Obama is running the show, and he plainly doesn’t. Obama and his political hacks David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel may have figured they could topple the Bibi government. But when that didn’t occur, what was the rationale for reintroducing the issue in September? The most generous explanation is that Obama is a novice and unteachable when it comes to the Middle East. A cynic would say that Obama knows very well that the PA can’t make a deal and would rather put the screws on Israel than figure out a way to keep the talks going.

Either way, Obama’s team has achieved some domestic bipartisan consensus here in the U.S.: his administration screwed this up, the PA is intransigent, and it is high time we stopped blaming Israel. For that, I suppose, we can be grateful.

Jackson Diehl is the latest Middle East watcher to figure out what went wrong with the non-direct, non-peace talks:

For 15 years and more, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas conducted peace talks with Israel in the absence of a freeze on Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Now, it appears as likely as not that his newborn negotiations with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu — and their goal of agreement on a Palestinian state within a year — will expire because of Abbas’s refusal to talk in the absence of such a freeze. …

So why does Abbas stubbornly persist in his self-defeating position? In an interview with Israeli television Sunday night, he offered a remarkably candid explanation: “When Obama came to power, he is the one who announced that settlement activity must be stopped,” he said. “If America says it and Europe says it and the whole world says it, you want me not to say it?”

Well, yes. Just as many conservative critics have been saying — the immediate problem is a self-created one (“the settlement impasse originated not with Netanyahu or Abbas, but with Obama — who by insisting on an Israeli freeze has created a near-insuperable obstacle to the peace process he is trying to promote”). The longer-term problem is that the PA is not ready and able to make an enforceable peace agreement that recognizes the Jewish state. That, too, Abbas has candidly admitted.

You say, but doesn’t Dennis Ross or George Mitchell or Hillary Clinton know better? Maybe not. But even if they do, Obama is running the show, and he plainly doesn’t. Obama and his political hacks David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel may have figured they could topple the Bibi government. But when that didn’t occur, what was the rationale for reintroducing the issue in September? The most generous explanation is that Obama is a novice and unteachable when it comes to the Middle East. A cynic would say that Obama knows very well that the PA can’t make a deal and would rather put the screws on Israel than figure out a way to keep the talks going.

Either way, Obama’s team has achieved some domestic bipartisan consensus here in the U.S.: his administration screwed this up, the PA is intransigent, and it is high time we stopped blaming Israel. For that, I suppose, we can be grateful.

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Cleaning Up After Mitchell and Obama

The Washington Post tells us that Dennis Ross is cultivating a “back channel” to Israeli officials to minimize the damage done by George Mitchell, the decidedly Israel-hostile State Department, and the president. Now the Post doesn’t put it quite that bluntly. But it comes close:

Ross’s role, described by officials and other sources close to the process, is highly sensitive because it might be seen as undercutting the mission of George J. Mitchell, President Obama’s special envoy for Middle East peace. Virtually no one interviewed would agree to be quoted by name because of such concerns. …

Sources in both the United States and Israel said that Ross has provided an element that had been missing from the bilateral relationship, which has been rocky since Obama took office.

But of course, if Obama really enjoyed a warm relationship with, or was even respected and trusted by, the Israeli government, no alternative channel would be needed, nor would the administration need to recite its bribes … er, promises … in writing to prevent the direct negotiations from unraveling.

But is Ross accomplishing anything? It doesn’t appear so. To be fair, he’s handicapped by the flawed approach that the president has clung stubbornly to, namely, the fixation on a settlement moratorium and a willful disregard of the PA’s inability and unwillingness to take the essential steps needed (e.g., recognition of the Jewish state) to reach a meaningful peace deal.

Ross may have convinced himself that things would be much worse were it not for his soothing presence, an unprovable hypothesis that one suspects is nevertheless necessary if one is to justify serving in an administration such as this. But frankly, all this remains a dangerous sideshow. As Abbas waits for instructions from his overseers at the Arab League, and Obama’s promises must be documented (we hope a notary is not required as well), those centrifuges keep spinning in Iran. No back channel to repair that debacle-in-the-making.

The Washington Post tells us that Dennis Ross is cultivating a “back channel” to Israeli officials to minimize the damage done by George Mitchell, the decidedly Israel-hostile State Department, and the president. Now the Post doesn’t put it quite that bluntly. But it comes close:

Ross’s role, described by officials and other sources close to the process, is highly sensitive because it might be seen as undercutting the mission of George J. Mitchell, President Obama’s special envoy for Middle East peace. Virtually no one interviewed would agree to be quoted by name because of such concerns. …

Sources in both the United States and Israel said that Ross has provided an element that had been missing from the bilateral relationship, which has been rocky since Obama took office.

But of course, if Obama really enjoyed a warm relationship with, or was even respected and trusted by, the Israeli government, no alternative channel would be needed, nor would the administration need to recite its bribes … er, promises … in writing to prevent the direct negotiations from unraveling.

But is Ross accomplishing anything? It doesn’t appear so. To be fair, he’s handicapped by the flawed approach that the president has clung stubbornly to, namely, the fixation on a settlement moratorium and a willful disregard of the PA’s inability and unwillingness to take the essential steps needed (e.g., recognition of the Jewish state) to reach a meaningful peace deal.

Ross may have convinced himself that things would be much worse were it not for his soothing presence, an unprovable hypothesis that one suspects is nevertheless necessary if one is to justify serving in an administration such as this. But frankly, all this remains a dangerous sideshow. As Abbas waits for instructions from his overseers at the Arab League, and Obama’s promises must be documented (we hope a notary is not required as well), those centrifuges keep spinning in Iran. No back channel to repair that debacle-in-the-making.

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This Time, You’ve Got Me

In his article, “Hillary’s Dangerous Mideast Leap” (which Jen discusses here), Leslie Gelb caustically suggests that Hillary Clinton (“Washington’s current flavor of the month”) and her boss (“the administration’s other Middle East expert”) must know something we don’t:

You wouldn’t think the two American leaders would risk the prestige and power of the United States of America on yet another effort to reconcile these two blood enemies without good grounds for doing so, would you?

Gelb hopes that the Obama administration “did not shove Palestinians and Israelis into direct talks … just to get them talking to each other,” because once such talks fail, the explosion will likely be greater than if there had been no negotiations at all — an observation Jeffrey Goldberg calls “very smart.”

The peace process is too big to fail after only one month — especially one month before a U.S. election, shaping up as a referendum on Obama — so the administration will likely find a way to get Abbas to back down from his insistence on preconditions, which Obama himself already abandoned. But why would anyone think a process featuring a Palestinian “president” whose term of office ended 20 months ago, who cannot set foot in half his putative state, who cannot schedule local elections even in the half he nominally controls, who has failed to condition his public for compromise, and whose reluctance to negotiate is palpable, might succeed?

Near the end of his 800-page book on The Missing Peace, in a chapter entitled “Learning the Lessons of the Past,” Dennis Ross wrote that:

Whenever my exasperation with Arafat was reaching its limits, [Mahmoud Abbas], Abu Ala, or [others] … would remind me that only Arafat had the moral authority among Palestinians to compromise on Jerusalem, refugees, and borders. … “Remember, he is the only one who can concede on fundamental issues.” Often [Abbas] … or other Palestinian negotiators would tell me, “You prefer dealing with us because you see us as more moderate, but we cannot deliver, only he can.”

Ross wrote that the U.S. had created a process that became “self-sustaining and essentially an end in itself” — which seems a good description of the process in which Obama is currently engaged. The failed peace processes of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush should have cautioned against simply starting a new one, but Obama rushed right back in, from the first week of his presidency, and now is deeply invested in a process he cannot allow to end, even if it is obvious that it cannot succeed. What was he thinking?

In his article, “Hillary’s Dangerous Mideast Leap” (which Jen discusses here), Leslie Gelb caustically suggests that Hillary Clinton (“Washington’s current flavor of the month”) and her boss (“the administration’s other Middle East expert”) must know something we don’t:

You wouldn’t think the two American leaders would risk the prestige and power of the United States of America on yet another effort to reconcile these two blood enemies without good grounds for doing so, would you?

Gelb hopes that the Obama administration “did not shove Palestinians and Israelis into direct talks … just to get them talking to each other,” because once such talks fail, the explosion will likely be greater than if there had been no negotiations at all — an observation Jeffrey Goldberg calls “very smart.”

The peace process is too big to fail after only one month — especially one month before a U.S. election, shaping up as a referendum on Obama — so the administration will likely find a way to get Abbas to back down from his insistence on preconditions, which Obama himself already abandoned. But why would anyone think a process featuring a Palestinian “president” whose term of office ended 20 months ago, who cannot set foot in half his putative state, who cannot schedule local elections even in the half he nominally controls, who has failed to condition his public for compromise, and whose reluctance to negotiate is palpable, might succeed?

Near the end of his 800-page book on The Missing Peace, in a chapter entitled “Learning the Lessons of the Past,” Dennis Ross wrote that:

Whenever my exasperation with Arafat was reaching its limits, [Mahmoud Abbas], Abu Ala, or [others] … would remind me that only Arafat had the moral authority among Palestinians to compromise on Jerusalem, refugees, and borders. … “Remember, he is the only one who can concede on fundamental issues.” Often [Abbas] … or other Palestinian negotiators would tell me, “You prefer dealing with us because you see us as more moderate, but we cannot deliver, only he can.”

Ross wrote that the U.S. had created a process that became “self-sustaining and essentially an end in itself” — which seems a good description of the process in which Obama is currently engaged. The failed peace processes of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush should have cautioned against simply starting a new one, but Obama rushed right back in, from the first week of his presidency, and now is deeply invested in a process he cannot allow to end, even if it is obvious that it cannot succeed. What was he thinking?

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J Street Responds

J Street has answered the questions posed by the Emergency Committee for Israel. On whether any old two-state solution will do, J Street declares:

J Street does agree that both states in a two-state solution that ends the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be stable, peace-loving and anti-terrorist. … We’re also very clear that, no, we don’t support the two-state solution no matter the character and borders of the two states. We believe that both states have to be secure, viable and contiguous. That means not simply that Israel’s security must be assured in a two-state deal — that’s a given, and no Israeli government would or should agree to a deal that doesn’t guarantee security. But it’s also in Israel’s interest to ensure that the future Palestinian state is viable and sustainable and offers the Palestinian people a future with dignity, not a half-state that breeds further violence and discontent.

We support a two-state solution built on the 1967 borders with equal land swaps and in which the Jewish and Arab sections of Jerusalem are capitals respectively of Israel and the new Palestinian state.

Well, how is that all that different from those wacky kids at the ECI? In fact, what’s so special about J Street if it is going to mimic the mainstream Jewish position? Well, maybe there is a loophole here. The J Street statement didn’t exactly say it would be a Jewish state. And what if the 1967 borders are no longer a viable dividing line? And, of course, the J Street gang has decided to divide Jerusalem. What if Israelis don’t want to, or what if that makes a two-state solution nonviable? The “solution,” I suspect, is just to issue an ultimatum.

The second answer is more candid and revealing. On whether it “support[s] peace and security for Israel in the absence of a Palestinian state,” the answer is apparently no. “Further, we do not see a formula for ensuring peace and security for Israel or its survival as a Jewish and democratic home over the coming generation without a two-state solution.”

And to prove it, the J Streeters launch a half-hearted attempt to justify the Gaza 54 letter, which accused Israel of perpetrating a great injustice (“collective punishment”) on Palestinians by maintaining a blockade to prevent from entering Gaza materials that would be used to maim and kill Israelis.

This highlights a dilemma for J Street that has hobbled the group since it was founded by George Soros. If it repeats the pablum of mainstream Jewish groups, why is J Street needed? And if it shows its true colors — helping Richard Goldstone draft a defense, cheering on the UN Human Rights Commission, allying themselves with apologists for the Iranian regime, seeking to oust Dennis Ross — then it risks alienating all but the solidly anti-Zionist fringe.

J Street has answered the questions posed by the Emergency Committee for Israel. On whether any old two-state solution will do, J Street declares:

J Street does agree that both states in a two-state solution that ends the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be stable, peace-loving and anti-terrorist. … We’re also very clear that, no, we don’t support the two-state solution no matter the character and borders of the two states. We believe that both states have to be secure, viable and contiguous. That means not simply that Israel’s security must be assured in a two-state deal — that’s a given, and no Israeli government would or should agree to a deal that doesn’t guarantee security. But it’s also in Israel’s interest to ensure that the future Palestinian state is viable and sustainable and offers the Palestinian people a future with dignity, not a half-state that breeds further violence and discontent.

We support a two-state solution built on the 1967 borders with equal land swaps and in which the Jewish and Arab sections of Jerusalem are capitals respectively of Israel and the new Palestinian state.

Well, how is that all that different from those wacky kids at the ECI? In fact, what’s so special about J Street if it is going to mimic the mainstream Jewish position? Well, maybe there is a loophole here. The J Street statement didn’t exactly say it would be a Jewish state. And what if the 1967 borders are no longer a viable dividing line? And, of course, the J Street gang has decided to divide Jerusalem. What if Israelis don’t want to, or what if that makes a two-state solution nonviable? The “solution,” I suspect, is just to issue an ultimatum.

The second answer is more candid and revealing. On whether it “support[s] peace and security for Israel in the absence of a Palestinian state,” the answer is apparently no. “Further, we do not see a formula for ensuring peace and security for Israel or its survival as a Jewish and democratic home over the coming generation without a two-state solution.”

And to prove it, the J Streeters launch a half-hearted attempt to justify the Gaza 54 letter, which accused Israel of perpetrating a great injustice (“collective punishment”) on Palestinians by maintaining a blockade to prevent from entering Gaza materials that would be used to maim and kill Israelis.

This highlights a dilemma for J Street that has hobbled the group since it was founded by George Soros. If it repeats the pablum of mainstream Jewish groups, why is J Street needed? And if it shows its true colors — helping Richard Goldstone draft a defense, cheering on the UN Human Rights Commission, allying themselves with apologists for the Iranian regime, seeking to oust Dennis Ross — then it risks alienating all but the solidly anti-Zionist fringe.

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A Game of JournoList Chicken

Tucker Carlson at the Daily Caller is sitting in the catbird’s seat. He has reams of JournoList e-mails revealing how vicious the blogospheric left is. They wish their opponents dead (Rush Limbaugh). Their contempt for conservatives runneth over. And they plainly are all on the same “team” — plotting, delegating, and coordinating their cheerleading for the Obami, as well as attacks on Obama’s opponents. Moreover, we now have a great mystery, a sort of D.C. parlor game: what else does Carlson have?

“Journalists” — what do we call such people (undercover activists)? — and their editors are waiting for shoes to drop. A case in point: Ben Smith ran a story on the potential involvement of Politico reporters. I then spotted in one of the Daily Caller’s releases the name Laura Rozen, who covers foreign policy for Politico. Her use of a blind quote to relate an accusation of “dual loyalty” against Dennis Ross was widely criticized in a range of Jewish and conservative publications.

A sample via Daily Caller:

Nov. 5

ALYSSA ROSENBERG, GOVERNMENT EXECUTIVE: I’ve gotta be all non-partisan on GovExec, so I hope you’ll all indulge me a minute here. On Monday night in Manassas, the band warming up the crowd before Obama arrived played “I Need You To Survive.” I think the core lyrics are pretty good statement of principles for progressives, especially going forward from a victory like this one:

It is his will, that every need be supplied.
You are important to me, I need you to survive.
You are important to me, I need you to survive.

I pray for you, You pray for me.
I love you, I need you to survive.
I won’t harm you with words from my mouth.
I love you, I need you to survive.

It is his will, that every need be supplied.
You are important to me, I need you to survive.

A lot of horribly ugly stuff got repudiated tonight. But it doesn’t end here. We need to keep making the case to the folks who disagreed with us, the folks who booed McCain during his concession speech tonight.

MATT DUSS, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: [Mccain aide] Randy Scheunemann Fired [last week]

LAURA ROZEN, MOTHER JONES (NOW POLITICO): Can you imagine if these bozos had won?

Nov. 7

LAURA ROZEN: People we no longer have to listen to: would it be unwise to start a thread of people we are grateful we no longer have to listen to? If not, I’ll start off: Michael Rubin.

MICHAEL COHEN, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Mark Penn and Bob Shrum. Anyone who uses the expression “Real America.” We should send there ass to Gitmo!

JESSE TAYLOR, PANDAGON.NET: Michael Barone?  Please?

LAURA ROZEN: Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich (afraid it’s not true), Drill Here Drill Now, And David Addington, John Yoo, we’ll see you in court?

I e-mailed Ben and asked if Rozen didn’t “count” because these comments predated her employment by Politico. He promptly answered that he hadn’t seen this particular e-mail and would have included it and asked his editor about it if he had. He directed me to Jim VanderHei, who asked if I had seen any Rozen JournoList comments after she was hired by Politico. I answered that we were all dealing with what Daily Caller was doling out. He provided this explanation of Politico’s  approach to this issue:

We have an unmistakably clear rule that anyone hired here check their ideology at the door. That means no political contributions or activism — and no partisan comments on air, on Twitter, on Facebook, in print, anywhere. We recognize the people we hire are not dull, blank slates — and that everyone has personal opinions. What we demand is that those opinions remain personal (and private) once hired — and that they fully understand we are a nonpartisan media outlet. We have hired some people with partisan backgrounds and had great success in getting them to go through ideological detox and become straight news reporters. The Laura Rozen emails the Daily Caller reported on pre-dated her work here. I have not seen any emails she wrote as a POLITICO employee that trouble me.

This raises at least two issues. First, it seems that the JournoList participants now have a very high standard of objectivity to maintain, especially if they now want to act as real reporters. Are they really checking their ideology at the door, or are they tipping the scales? The problem with baring one’s partisan views — especially ones so personally vindictive — is that it creates a cloud of doubt about everything you write. Second, VandeHei and every other editor with a JournoList participant is now waiting to see if there are any other e-mails that “trouble” them. If more pop up, will heads roll?

I use Rozen as an example, but the problem is far wider. The Washington Post has been mute. What if anything do they do about Ezra Klein? (Maybe if they were aware of his hyper-nasty attacks on the right, the Post editors wouldn’t have taken his recommendation on Dave Weigel.) The JournoList crowd have done a bang-up job of undermining not only their own credibility but also that of their employers. (Even those who are opinion writers are revealed not to be principled purveyors of ideas but meanspirited attack dogs.) How widespread the damage is has yet to be determined.

Tucker Carlson at the Daily Caller is sitting in the catbird’s seat. He has reams of JournoList e-mails revealing how vicious the blogospheric left is. They wish their opponents dead (Rush Limbaugh). Their contempt for conservatives runneth over. And they plainly are all on the same “team” — plotting, delegating, and coordinating their cheerleading for the Obami, as well as attacks on Obama’s opponents. Moreover, we now have a great mystery, a sort of D.C. parlor game: what else does Carlson have?

“Journalists” — what do we call such people (undercover activists)? — and their editors are waiting for shoes to drop. A case in point: Ben Smith ran a story on the potential involvement of Politico reporters. I then spotted in one of the Daily Caller’s releases the name Laura Rozen, who covers foreign policy for Politico. Her use of a blind quote to relate an accusation of “dual loyalty” against Dennis Ross was widely criticized in a range of Jewish and conservative publications.

A sample via Daily Caller:

Nov. 5

ALYSSA ROSENBERG, GOVERNMENT EXECUTIVE: I’ve gotta be all non-partisan on GovExec, so I hope you’ll all indulge me a minute here. On Monday night in Manassas, the band warming up the crowd before Obama arrived played “I Need You To Survive.” I think the core lyrics are pretty good statement of principles for progressives, especially going forward from a victory like this one:

It is his will, that every need be supplied.
You are important to me, I need you to survive.
You are important to me, I need you to survive.

I pray for you, You pray for me.
I love you, I need you to survive.
I won’t harm you with words from my mouth.
I love you, I need you to survive.

It is his will, that every need be supplied.
You are important to me, I need you to survive.

A lot of horribly ugly stuff got repudiated tonight. But it doesn’t end here. We need to keep making the case to the folks who disagreed with us, the folks who booed McCain during his concession speech tonight.

MATT DUSS, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: [Mccain aide] Randy Scheunemann Fired [last week]

LAURA ROZEN, MOTHER JONES (NOW POLITICO): Can you imagine if these bozos had won?

Nov. 7

LAURA ROZEN: People we no longer have to listen to: would it be unwise to start a thread of people we are grateful we no longer have to listen to? If not, I’ll start off: Michael Rubin.

MICHAEL COHEN, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Mark Penn and Bob Shrum. Anyone who uses the expression “Real America.” We should send there ass to Gitmo!

JESSE TAYLOR, PANDAGON.NET: Michael Barone?  Please?

LAURA ROZEN: Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich (afraid it’s not true), Drill Here Drill Now, And David Addington, John Yoo, we’ll see you in court?

I e-mailed Ben and asked if Rozen didn’t “count” because these comments predated her employment by Politico. He promptly answered that he hadn’t seen this particular e-mail and would have included it and asked his editor about it if he had. He directed me to Jim VanderHei, who asked if I had seen any Rozen JournoList comments after she was hired by Politico. I answered that we were all dealing with what Daily Caller was doling out. He provided this explanation of Politico’s  approach to this issue:

We have an unmistakably clear rule that anyone hired here check their ideology at the door. That means no political contributions or activism — and no partisan comments on air, on Twitter, on Facebook, in print, anywhere. We recognize the people we hire are not dull, blank slates — and that everyone has personal opinions. What we demand is that those opinions remain personal (and private) once hired — and that they fully understand we are a nonpartisan media outlet. We have hired some people with partisan backgrounds and had great success in getting them to go through ideological detox and become straight news reporters. The Laura Rozen emails the Daily Caller reported on pre-dated her work here. I have not seen any emails she wrote as a POLITICO employee that trouble me.

This raises at least two issues. First, it seems that the JournoList participants now have a very high standard of objectivity to maintain, especially if they now want to act as real reporters. Are they really checking their ideology at the door, or are they tipping the scales? The problem with baring one’s partisan views — especially ones so personally vindictive — is that it creates a cloud of doubt about everything you write. Second, VandeHei and every other editor with a JournoList participant is now waiting to see if there are any other e-mails that “trouble” them. If more pop up, will heads roll?

I use Rozen as an example, but the problem is far wider. The Washington Post has been mute. What if anything do they do about Ezra Klein? (Maybe if they were aware of his hyper-nasty attacks on the right, the Post editors wouldn’t have taken his recommendation on Dave Weigel.) The JournoList crowd have done a bang-up job of undermining not only their own credibility but also that of their employers. (Even those who are opinion writers are revealed not to be principled purveyors of ideas but meanspirited attack dogs.) How widespread the damage is has yet to be determined.

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How About Defunding Them?

In the “has everyone gone mad?” department, we’ve been following the story of the decision by the Woodrow Wilson International Center — a taxpayer-supported institution (Why exactly? Heritage and many other think tanks aren’t on the federal dole.) — to give an award to Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Well, when you need to give a ridiculous explanation for an anti-Israel, anti-West, anti common-sense move and to avoid any sharp questioning, you go to Laura Rozen (who also transcribes J Street’s missives and is happy to funnel unsourced, anti-Semitic jibes against Dennis Ross), who dutifully reports the excuse:

Earlier this week, House Middle East Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) released a letter to Woodrow Wilson’s President former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.) — his former chairman and colleague on the House Foreign Affairs Committee- – expressing displeasure that the think tank would honor the Turkish diplomat after Ankara has escalated tensions with Israel in the wake of the Gaza flotilla raid and voted against UN Iran sanctions.

But a Woodrow Wilson Center spokeswoman told POLITICO Thursday that as far as she knew, neither the Center nor Hamilton had received Ackerman’s letter.

“Awardees are not chosen for their political views,” Sharon McCarter, the Woodrow Wilson Center’s vice president for outreach and communications, told POLITICO in an e-mail.

“Mr. Davutoglu has had a diverse career as a scholar, a professor, a political scientist, an author, a civil servant, an international diplomat, and currently as Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs — a position he assumed in May 2009,” McCarter continued. “He also fits the Wilsonian mold of being both a scholar and a policymaker. He was invited to accept the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service in August 2009 in recognition of his lifelong service to the Turkish public in these many professional fields, many of which are similar to Woodrow Wilson’s life.

Apparently, she didn’t think to ask whether McCarter was serious. Would an award have been given to the foreign minister of South Africa during the apartheid? To a Soviet defense minister during the Cold War? Nor does she ask McCarter how it is remotely possible that a well-publicized letter excoriating the Center could have eluded Hamilton.

Here’s an idea: the Center sounds like it isn’t interested in furthering Western values or American interests. Fine. They can knock themselves out shoveling the same internationalist tripe that a dozen Washington think tanks do every day. The taxpayers just shouldn’t have to pay for it.( In fact why is government in the think tank business at all?) Any money spent on those with no moral compass is too much. Let ‘em fend for themselves.

In the “has everyone gone mad?” department, we’ve been following the story of the decision by the Woodrow Wilson International Center — a taxpayer-supported institution (Why exactly? Heritage and many other think tanks aren’t on the federal dole.) — to give an award to Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Well, when you need to give a ridiculous explanation for an anti-Israel, anti-West, anti common-sense move and to avoid any sharp questioning, you go to Laura Rozen (who also transcribes J Street’s missives and is happy to funnel unsourced, anti-Semitic jibes against Dennis Ross), who dutifully reports the excuse:

Earlier this week, House Middle East Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) released a letter to Woodrow Wilson’s President former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.) — his former chairman and colleague on the House Foreign Affairs Committee- – expressing displeasure that the think tank would honor the Turkish diplomat after Ankara has escalated tensions with Israel in the wake of the Gaza flotilla raid and voted against UN Iran sanctions.

But a Woodrow Wilson Center spokeswoman told POLITICO Thursday that as far as she knew, neither the Center nor Hamilton had received Ackerman’s letter.

“Awardees are not chosen for their political views,” Sharon McCarter, the Woodrow Wilson Center’s vice president for outreach and communications, told POLITICO in an e-mail.

“Mr. Davutoglu has had a diverse career as a scholar, a professor, a political scientist, an author, a civil servant, an international diplomat, and currently as Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs — a position he assumed in May 2009,” McCarter continued. “He also fits the Wilsonian mold of being both a scholar and a policymaker. He was invited to accept the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service in August 2009 in recognition of his lifelong service to the Turkish public in these many professional fields, many of which are similar to Woodrow Wilson’s life.

Apparently, she didn’t think to ask whether McCarter was serious. Would an award have been given to the foreign minister of South Africa during the apartheid? To a Soviet defense minister during the Cold War? Nor does she ask McCarter how it is remotely possible that a well-publicized letter excoriating the Center could have eluded Hamilton.

Here’s an idea: the Center sounds like it isn’t interested in furthering Western values or American interests. Fine. They can knock themselves out shoveling the same internationalist tripe that a dozen Washington think tanks do every day. The taxpayers just shouldn’t have to pay for it.( In fact why is government in the think tank business at all?) Any money spent on those with no moral compass is too much. Let ‘em fend for themselves.

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RE: Giving Hamas a Helping Hand

Michael Rubin does the math:

1. There have been eight terrorist attacks against Israel since Obama’s inauguration, so Obama is paying President Abbas a modest sum of $50 million per attack.

2. The were 2,048 rockets and mortars fired from Gaza into Israel in 2008, but let’s not hold that against President Obama since, obviously, to channel our commander-in-chief, that was President Bush’s fault. And during Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli incursion into Gaza from January 1–18, 406 rockets were fired into Israel. Again, let’s not count these against Obama; he hadn’t taken his oath of office yet. Since Hamas’s third ceasefire, however, there have been 370 missiles fired from Gaza into Israel. So, if we want to discount terrorist attacks and just count missile attacks, then President Obama is rewarding Hamas to the tune of $1,080,000 for every rocket or mortar launched.

Well, we’ve come to expect this from Obama. Carrots are for foes; sticks are for friends. I await the explanation from Dennis Ross as to why this all makes perfect sense.

Michael Rubin does the math:

1. There have been eight terrorist attacks against Israel since Obama’s inauguration, so Obama is paying President Abbas a modest sum of $50 million per attack.

2. The were 2,048 rockets and mortars fired from Gaza into Israel in 2008, but let’s not hold that against President Obama since, obviously, to channel our commander-in-chief, that was President Bush’s fault. And during Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli incursion into Gaza from January 1–18, 406 rockets were fired into Israel. Again, let’s not count these against Obama; he hadn’t taken his oath of office yet. Since Hamas’s third ceasefire, however, there have been 370 missiles fired from Gaza into Israel. So, if we want to discount terrorist attacks and just count missile attacks, then President Obama is rewarding Hamas to the tune of $1,080,000 for every rocket or mortar launched.

Well, we’ve come to expect this from Obama. Carrots are for foes; sticks are for friends. I await the explanation from Dennis Ross as to why this all makes perfect sense.

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We’ll Learn His Feelings in Time

Rabbi Victor Urecki — one of the 15 rabbis who met with Rahm Emanuel and Dennis Ross at the White House last month — gave a lengthy talk on June 3 to his congregation about the meetings. The transcript is posted on his Facebook page, which describes him as a “liberal Democrat.” His talk answers a question that Rabbi Jack Moline’s description of the meetings (previously discussed by Jen and me) left hanging: after the rabbis suggested that Obama travel to Israel and speak directly to Israelis, what was the response?

Urecki described the issue the rabbis presented as follows (I have omitted his extended baseball metaphor about needing the key player to bat):

I, and others, raised the issue that the President himself needs to be more fully engaged and show both Israelis and members of the pro-Israel community that he gets it, that we need to see a President that shows, like previous Presidents, that Israel is a friend. This outreach to us is good, but things won’t change until the President does the outreach and we are not seeing that vis-à-vis Israel. He needs to talk directly to the Israelis. … [He] needs to visit Jerusalem and do what he did in Cairo in ’09, namely reach out to Israelis who have serious concerns about him and show he understands their fears.

Here in unabridged form is Urecki’s description of the response the rabbis received:

The answer I and others got was the President will find his opportunities to make his feelings known in time. And that was it.

You don’t need to be a pitcher to read the signs from Barack Obama.

Rabbi Victor Urecki — one of the 15 rabbis who met with Rahm Emanuel and Dennis Ross at the White House last month — gave a lengthy talk on June 3 to his congregation about the meetings. The transcript is posted on his Facebook page, which describes him as a “liberal Democrat.” His talk answers a question that Rabbi Jack Moline’s description of the meetings (previously discussed by Jen and me) left hanging: after the rabbis suggested that Obama travel to Israel and speak directly to Israelis, what was the response?

Urecki described the issue the rabbis presented as follows (I have omitted his extended baseball metaphor about needing the key player to bat):

I, and others, raised the issue that the President himself needs to be more fully engaged and show both Israelis and members of the pro-Israel community that he gets it, that we need to see a President that shows, like previous Presidents, that Israel is a friend. This outreach to us is good, but things won’t change until the President does the outreach and we are not seeing that vis-à-vis Israel. He needs to talk directly to the Israelis. … [He] needs to visit Jerusalem and do what he did in Cairo in ’09, namely reach out to Israelis who have serious concerns about him and show he understands their fears.

Here in unabridged form is Urecki’s description of the response the rabbis received:

The answer I and others got was the President will find his opportunities to make his feelings known in time. And that was it.

You don’t need to be a pitcher to read the signs from Barack Obama.

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Why Israel Can’t Rely on American Jewish “Leaders”

Rabbi Jack Moline, who organized the spin-a-thon for the White House attended by a group of rabbis, has circulated an e-mail summarizing the meeting. It is, to be blunt, embarrassing.

As to the build-up, Moline lets on that no one predisposed to say nasty things about Obama was invited, nor was anyone who didn’t vote for him. (“We also wanted people who had not engaged in the kinds of behaviors I mentioned in my introduction, which is to say people who had been positively predisposed to President Obama once the election was over, but found themselves troubled by what had transpired over the subsequent year.”) How comfy for the White House to be assured of a hand-selected group of those Jews who ignored all signs of Obama’s antipathy toward Israel (20 years in Rev. Wright’s church isn’t nothing) and who voted for Rashid Khalidi’s pal. In other words, these are Jews prone to disregard evidence of Obama’s hostility toward the Jewish state.

As to the substance, Moline got this response to a query as to why a Jerusalem housing permit was more important than stopping an Iranian nuclear program:

I can tell you that our hosts bristled, and they objected mightily to the comparison. Amb. Ross, who is the person in charge of Iran policy, made it clear that nothing is off the table when it comes to the objective of preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power. The goal, however, is not to secure a short-term delay, but to remove possibility that efforts at creating a nuclear arsenal will resurface. That requires isolating Iran in the world community. Two years ago, Mr. Emanuel said, the United States was virtually isolated in the Middle East and Iran enjoyed the sympathy of much of the world. Today that situation is reversed, but both Russia and China are dragging their feet, hoping that the US will relieve them of the need to participate in sanctions and other isolating activities. (I might add here that yesterday afternoon, the announcement was made that Russia and China have signed onto sanctions.) The President spends a huge amount of time every day working on the problem of Iran, and is making progress. Ultimately, the goal is to see the fissures in Iranian society open to create a climate for systemic change.

Let’s count the inanities in that one. First,  Dennis Ross is in charge of Iran policy but hasn’t apparently been able to stop multiple officials from clearly signaling that military force is off the table. Second, it’s false that Iran enjoyed the sympathy of the world (there were multiple sanctions passed for Iran’s violations of UN agreements) or that the U.S. was isolated in the Middle East. For starters, we had a warm and robust relationship with Israel. And we had useful dealings with many of the moderate states, including Jordan, which was not induced by the president to issue provocative statements about Israel. Third, Moline certainly got the sanctions wrong — Russia has been exempted and the sanctions are of minimal value. The administration — of course — concealed Russia’s carve-outs from the assembled group. (Swell to hide the ball from the rabbis, nu?) And lastly, Obama may be working hard but there’s no credible plan to thwart the Iranian nuclear program, as Robert Gates pointed out earlier in the year when he sent up a warning flag.

Next up was the building issue, in which Ross, now the facilitator in chief who has chosen to disregard past lessons learned about Palestinian intransigence, tries to snow the rabbis with this howler:

As for building in Jerusalem, Amb. Ross very calmly pointed out that US policy on building in any territory captured in 1967 has not changed since the Johnson administration. The US has objected officially to all such activity which is defined by policy as settlements. He also noted that the last four high-level US officials to visit Israel were greeted by announcements of new settlement activity, going back to Sec’y of State Condoleeza Rice during the Bush administration. He emphasized that he understood that there were reasons in Israeli domestic politics that may have influenced those decisions, but it was no way to treat an ally out to make a point of support. Amb. Ross said that the matter of settlements and the matter of Palestinian provocations are avoidable distractions. A simple code of conduct that would move talks forward could prevent both, and the administration has been pressing both sides to adopt one.

Ross chose not to mention the Sharon-Bush agreements, on which the Obama team reneged, or to acknowledge that no other administration has made an international incident out of Jerusalem building. And it’s pure gall to chastise Israel that their conduct is “no way to treat an ally.” Apparently Ross was so desperate to return to one final round in government that he is now willing not only to join an administration hostile to Israel but also to join in the Israel-bashing.

Moline then reports on the list of forehead-slappers. There was this: “The Obama administration has been consistent in its support of Israel.” Oh really? Condemning the Jewish state is consistent support? Leaking the potential for an imposed peace deal is consistent support? Repeatedly snubbing Bibi is consistent support? And holding up the Cairo speech as evidence of their support, as Moline reports, is bizarre. It is this speech in which Obama cast the Palestinians in the role of enslaved African Americans, posited that Israel’s legitimacy rests on the Holocaust, soft-pedaled Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and chose to largely ignore 60 years of wars and rejectionism by the Palestinians and by Israel’s neighbors.

Then there is this one: “There has been no change in US policy toward Israel in the United Nations.” Whoa! We failed to veto an anti-Israel resolution. We joined the Israel-bashing Human Rights Council and let Israel’s prime antagonist onto the Commission on the Status of Women. And we apparently told the Palestinians that we wouldn’t veto a future resolution of condemnation if Israel continued to build in its eternal capital.

Moline reports that the administration’s representatives explained the order of their priorities: stopping Iran’s nuclear program, getting out of Iraq, and the Israel-Palestinian “peace process.” Unclear then, why every administration figure who speaks in public, including the president in Cairo, emphasizes the latter and gives short-shrift to Iran. Unclear then why the president has voiced a que sera, sera view of sanctions, carved out Russia from UN sanctions, and spent the last 17 months not promoting regime change, not adhering to deadlines, and not imposing crippling sanctions on the Iranian regime.

Moline said the major responses from the rabbis were to urge Obama to visit Israel, to express some concern of there being a double standard for Israel and to tell Obama that they were not “confident from the President himself that he feels Israel in his kishkes.” Not confident? Well, when you handpick the audience and don’t have knowledgeable representatives willing to take on the administration’s fabrications, that’s what you get. And finally, Moline gets very upset — more upset than at the president — for critics questioning the motives and actions of Rahm Emanuel.

This is what passes for “leadership” in American Jewry. A kabuki dance is orchestrated by an Obama fan to gather other Obama fans to air the mildest criticism and to avoid challenging the factual representations of an administration that is the most hostile to the Jewish state in history. As one Israeli hand who definitely isn’t going to be invited to any meetings with this president put it: “They may be fine rabbis, but they are out of their league here.” And by not directly and strongly taking on the president, they are, in fact, enabling the president’s anti-Israel stance. It is, come to think of it, more than an embarrassment; it is an egregious misuse of their status and it is every bit as dangerous as the quietude of American Jews in the 1930s.

Rabbi Jack Moline, who organized the spin-a-thon for the White House attended by a group of rabbis, has circulated an e-mail summarizing the meeting. It is, to be blunt, embarrassing.

As to the build-up, Moline lets on that no one predisposed to say nasty things about Obama was invited, nor was anyone who didn’t vote for him. (“We also wanted people who had not engaged in the kinds of behaviors I mentioned in my introduction, which is to say people who had been positively predisposed to President Obama once the election was over, but found themselves troubled by what had transpired over the subsequent year.”) How comfy for the White House to be assured of a hand-selected group of those Jews who ignored all signs of Obama’s antipathy toward Israel (20 years in Rev. Wright’s church isn’t nothing) and who voted for Rashid Khalidi’s pal. In other words, these are Jews prone to disregard evidence of Obama’s hostility toward the Jewish state.

As to the substance, Moline got this response to a query as to why a Jerusalem housing permit was more important than stopping an Iranian nuclear program:

I can tell you that our hosts bristled, and they objected mightily to the comparison. Amb. Ross, who is the person in charge of Iran policy, made it clear that nothing is off the table when it comes to the objective of preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power. The goal, however, is not to secure a short-term delay, but to remove possibility that efforts at creating a nuclear arsenal will resurface. That requires isolating Iran in the world community. Two years ago, Mr. Emanuel said, the United States was virtually isolated in the Middle East and Iran enjoyed the sympathy of much of the world. Today that situation is reversed, but both Russia and China are dragging their feet, hoping that the US will relieve them of the need to participate in sanctions and other isolating activities. (I might add here that yesterday afternoon, the announcement was made that Russia and China have signed onto sanctions.) The President spends a huge amount of time every day working on the problem of Iran, and is making progress. Ultimately, the goal is to see the fissures in Iranian society open to create a climate for systemic change.

Let’s count the inanities in that one. First,  Dennis Ross is in charge of Iran policy but hasn’t apparently been able to stop multiple officials from clearly signaling that military force is off the table. Second, it’s false that Iran enjoyed the sympathy of the world (there were multiple sanctions passed for Iran’s violations of UN agreements) or that the U.S. was isolated in the Middle East. For starters, we had a warm and robust relationship with Israel. And we had useful dealings with many of the moderate states, including Jordan, which was not induced by the president to issue provocative statements about Israel. Third, Moline certainly got the sanctions wrong — Russia has been exempted and the sanctions are of minimal value. The administration — of course — concealed Russia’s carve-outs from the assembled group. (Swell to hide the ball from the rabbis, nu?) And lastly, Obama may be working hard but there’s no credible plan to thwart the Iranian nuclear program, as Robert Gates pointed out earlier in the year when he sent up a warning flag.

Next up was the building issue, in which Ross, now the facilitator in chief who has chosen to disregard past lessons learned about Palestinian intransigence, tries to snow the rabbis with this howler:

As for building in Jerusalem, Amb. Ross very calmly pointed out that US policy on building in any territory captured in 1967 has not changed since the Johnson administration. The US has objected officially to all such activity which is defined by policy as settlements. He also noted that the last four high-level US officials to visit Israel were greeted by announcements of new settlement activity, going back to Sec’y of State Condoleeza Rice during the Bush administration. He emphasized that he understood that there were reasons in Israeli domestic politics that may have influenced those decisions, but it was no way to treat an ally out to make a point of support. Amb. Ross said that the matter of settlements and the matter of Palestinian provocations are avoidable distractions. A simple code of conduct that would move talks forward could prevent both, and the administration has been pressing both sides to adopt one.

Ross chose not to mention the Sharon-Bush agreements, on which the Obama team reneged, or to acknowledge that no other administration has made an international incident out of Jerusalem building. And it’s pure gall to chastise Israel that their conduct is “no way to treat an ally.” Apparently Ross was so desperate to return to one final round in government that he is now willing not only to join an administration hostile to Israel but also to join in the Israel-bashing.

Moline then reports on the list of forehead-slappers. There was this: “The Obama administration has been consistent in its support of Israel.” Oh really? Condemning the Jewish state is consistent support? Leaking the potential for an imposed peace deal is consistent support? Repeatedly snubbing Bibi is consistent support? And holding up the Cairo speech as evidence of their support, as Moline reports, is bizarre. It is this speech in which Obama cast the Palestinians in the role of enslaved African Americans, posited that Israel’s legitimacy rests on the Holocaust, soft-pedaled Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and chose to largely ignore 60 years of wars and rejectionism by the Palestinians and by Israel’s neighbors.

Then there is this one: “There has been no change in US policy toward Israel in the United Nations.” Whoa! We failed to veto an anti-Israel resolution. We joined the Israel-bashing Human Rights Council and let Israel’s prime antagonist onto the Commission on the Status of Women. And we apparently told the Palestinians that we wouldn’t veto a future resolution of condemnation if Israel continued to build in its eternal capital.

Moline reports that the administration’s representatives explained the order of their priorities: stopping Iran’s nuclear program, getting out of Iraq, and the Israel-Palestinian “peace process.” Unclear then, why every administration figure who speaks in public, including the president in Cairo, emphasizes the latter and gives short-shrift to Iran. Unclear then why the president has voiced a que sera, sera view of sanctions, carved out Russia from UN sanctions, and spent the last 17 months not promoting regime change, not adhering to deadlines, and not imposing crippling sanctions on the Iranian regime.

Moline said the major responses from the rabbis were to urge Obama to visit Israel, to express some concern of there being a double standard for Israel and to tell Obama that they were not “confident from the President himself that he feels Israel in his kishkes.” Not confident? Well, when you handpick the audience and don’t have knowledgeable representatives willing to take on the administration’s fabrications, that’s what you get. And finally, Moline gets very upset — more upset than at the president — for critics questioning the motives and actions of Rahm Emanuel.

This is what passes for “leadership” in American Jewry. A kabuki dance is orchestrated by an Obama fan to gather other Obama fans to air the mildest criticism and to avoid challenging the factual representations of an administration that is the most hostile to the Jewish state in history. As one Israeli hand who definitely isn’t going to be invited to any meetings with this president put it: “They may be fine rabbis, but they are out of their league here.” And by not directly and strongly taking on the president, they are, in fact, enabling the president’s anti-Israel stance. It is, come to think of it, more than an embarrassment; it is an egregious misuse of their status and it is every bit as dangerous as the quietude of American Jews in the 1930s.

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Aaron David Miller: Obama Is the Biggest Concern in the Middle East

In an interview with JTA, Aaron David Miller recaps and puts an exclamation point on his important piece calling for an end to the “religion” of the peace process — that is, the reality-free belief in the centrality of the Palestinian conflict to all Middle East issues and the equally fantastical conviction that an agreement is possible in the first place. He says:

“What I find difficult to reconcile is how you’re going to get to a conflict-ending agreement which addresses the four core issues that have driven the Israelis and the Palestinians and brought each issue to a finality of claims. … I just do not see how to do that given the gaps that exist and the inherent constraints on the leaders in the absence also of a real sense of urgency.”

He reminds us that the Oslo paradigm is now badly outdated:

Miller describes how the situation has worsened since the last major effort at a resolution, the Camp David-Taba talks of 2000-01: The status of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has been wounded profoundly by the ouster of his moderate party, Fatah, from Gaza at the gunpoint of Hamas; Netanyahu is bound by a right-wing coalition (of his choosing) that is not ready to countenance a full-fledged settlement freeze, never mind compromise on Jerusalem; and Obama has had 15 months, distracted by the economy and health care, to match Clinton’s six full years focused on the issue.

Then there’s the region: “Hezbollah and Hamas,” Miller says referring to the terrorist groups in Lebanon and Gaza, respectively. “You have two non-state actors, two non-state environments who are not proxies of Iran and or Syria but who clearly reflect their capacity to want to influence events — and then you have Iran” and its potential nuclear threat.

What concerns him most? Not another failed round of peace-processing. Not the continued Palestinian radicalization. No, it’s Obama that has him most nervous:

The prospect that Miller says unnerves him most is that the Obama administration says it will step in with a conflict-ending agreement if the current proximity talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians go nowhere.

“I’m very uneasy because at the end of the day, I don’t see what the game is, I don’t see what the strategy is,” he said. “Even if it’s an initiative, what’s the objective, what’s the strategy?”

Interestingly and predictably, Jeremy Ben-Ami lets it be know that he doesn’t care much for reality: “We don’t have the luxury of time; the tensions on the ground are too high. … That’s the difference between being an analyst and actually trying to assess outcomes.” What? Even for him, that’s incoherent.

But it’s a helpful reminder that the people who favor Obama’s obsession with the peace process are the same who demand that Israel make all sorts of unilateral concessions, oppose sanctions against Iran, and are content to carve up the Jewish state into a shrunken carcass of its former self. They couldn’t be happier with Obama — enabled by the no-longer-reality-based Dennis Ross — who’s just the one to jam a deal, or try to, down Israel’s throat.

In an interview with JTA, Aaron David Miller recaps and puts an exclamation point on his important piece calling for an end to the “religion” of the peace process — that is, the reality-free belief in the centrality of the Palestinian conflict to all Middle East issues and the equally fantastical conviction that an agreement is possible in the first place. He says:

“What I find difficult to reconcile is how you’re going to get to a conflict-ending agreement which addresses the four core issues that have driven the Israelis and the Palestinians and brought each issue to a finality of claims. … I just do not see how to do that given the gaps that exist and the inherent constraints on the leaders in the absence also of a real sense of urgency.”

He reminds us that the Oslo paradigm is now badly outdated:

Miller describes how the situation has worsened since the last major effort at a resolution, the Camp David-Taba talks of 2000-01: The status of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has been wounded profoundly by the ouster of his moderate party, Fatah, from Gaza at the gunpoint of Hamas; Netanyahu is bound by a right-wing coalition (of his choosing) that is not ready to countenance a full-fledged settlement freeze, never mind compromise on Jerusalem; and Obama has had 15 months, distracted by the economy and health care, to match Clinton’s six full years focused on the issue.

Then there’s the region: “Hezbollah and Hamas,” Miller says referring to the terrorist groups in Lebanon and Gaza, respectively. “You have two non-state actors, two non-state environments who are not proxies of Iran and or Syria but who clearly reflect their capacity to want to influence events — and then you have Iran” and its potential nuclear threat.

What concerns him most? Not another failed round of peace-processing. Not the continued Palestinian radicalization. No, it’s Obama that has him most nervous:

The prospect that Miller says unnerves him most is that the Obama administration says it will step in with a conflict-ending agreement if the current proximity talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians go nowhere.

“I’m very uneasy because at the end of the day, I don’t see what the game is, I don’t see what the strategy is,” he said. “Even if it’s an initiative, what’s the objective, what’s the strategy?”

Interestingly and predictably, Jeremy Ben-Ami lets it be know that he doesn’t care much for reality: “We don’t have the luxury of time; the tensions on the ground are too high. … That’s the difference between being an analyst and actually trying to assess outcomes.” What? Even for him, that’s incoherent.

But it’s a helpful reminder that the people who favor Obama’s obsession with the peace process are the same who demand that Israel make all sorts of unilateral concessions, oppose sanctions against Iran, and are content to carve up the Jewish state into a shrunken carcass of its former self. They couldn’t be happier with Obama — enabled by the no-longer-reality-based Dennis Ross — who’s just the one to jam a deal, or try to, down Israel’s throat.

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