Commentary Magazine


Topic: Palestinian government

Study: Most of West Bank’s GDP Comes from Foreign Governments

As the Palestinian Authority continues to push for unilateral declarations of statehood, a new study indicates that the West Bank economy is still being propped up by outside donations. Over 60 percent of the PA’s gross domestic product comes from donations from foreign governments and governing bodies, according to a survey conducted by economic analyst Eyal Ofer.

The report found that the Palestinian government receives an average of $1,000 for each Palestinian per year, amounting to roughly $560 each month for a family. But according to researchers, the government has still not succeeded in laying the infrastructure necessary for an autonomous state.

And perhaps unsurprisingly, the reliance on donations has actually slowed the growth of the private sector:

[A]ccording to the study, the facts on the ground indicate that the governmental apparatus and international aid organizations impede the growth of the business sector, while donations are used to preserve the ruling party rather than build a separate economy that is not dependent on foreign donations.

Ofer and Roiter are not the only ones pointing to the worrying trend. A piercing article published in UK-based the Guardian newspaper last November claimed that NGOs have become synonyms with corruption and incompetence, hinting at international donors who the paper claimed thwarted the Palestinian economic development by overinflating the aid industry without supplying long-term solutions.

The latest study reinforces this claim, pointing to the absence of an industrial sector in the Palestinian Authority. “Employers lack the ability or the will to go into industry or development, because they cannot compete with the salaries of governmental organs and that of the aid workers on the ground,” said Ofer, adding, “In reality, their economy is solely based on the trade of services.”

This news is just further evidence of how unhelpful unilateral declarations of statehood are. Yes, the country of Uruguay might “recognize” a Palestinian state, but that doesn’t mean the West Bank currently has the tools necessary to sustain itself economically.

As the Palestinian Authority continues to push for unilateral declarations of statehood, a new study indicates that the West Bank economy is still being propped up by outside donations. Over 60 percent of the PA’s gross domestic product comes from donations from foreign governments and governing bodies, according to a survey conducted by economic analyst Eyal Ofer.

The report found that the Palestinian government receives an average of $1,000 for each Palestinian per year, amounting to roughly $560 each month for a family. But according to researchers, the government has still not succeeded in laying the infrastructure necessary for an autonomous state.

And perhaps unsurprisingly, the reliance on donations has actually slowed the growth of the private sector:

[A]ccording to the study, the facts on the ground indicate that the governmental apparatus and international aid organizations impede the growth of the business sector, while donations are used to preserve the ruling party rather than build a separate economy that is not dependent on foreign donations.

Ofer and Roiter are not the only ones pointing to the worrying trend. A piercing article published in UK-based the Guardian newspaper last November claimed that NGOs have become synonyms with corruption and incompetence, hinting at international donors who the paper claimed thwarted the Palestinian economic development by overinflating the aid industry without supplying long-term solutions.

The latest study reinforces this claim, pointing to the absence of an industrial sector in the Palestinian Authority. “Employers lack the ability or the will to go into industry or development, because they cannot compete with the salaries of governmental organs and that of the aid workers on the ground,” said Ofer, adding, “In reality, their economy is solely based on the trade of services.”

This news is just further evidence of how unhelpful unilateral declarations of statehood are. Yes, the country of Uruguay might “recognize” a Palestinian state, but that doesn’t mean the West Bank currently has the tools necessary to sustain itself economically.

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Another Hand-Wringing Jew

It’s getting to be a trend: Jews publicly expressing their antipathy or outright disdain for Israel. The latest comes from Emily Schaeffer, a 31-year-old lawyer who has come to despise the Jewish state. Perhaps it was her abominable Jewish education, a not uncommon malady:

Schaeffer attended public school, but always felt at home when she took part in activities of the Reform movement. “My parents sent me there when I was five. I went once a week after school, and later twice a week. In the movement we had lessons about Judaism and about Israel, in a very lighthearted way. Once we made a map of Israel out of ice cream and marked the cities with colorful M&M candies. It was Zionism-lite. At that time I also went to synagogue.”

Very lite, it seems. And one suspects she heard from the bima much more about minimum wage and global warming than about Zionism. From there it was on to Reform-movement activities, where she had a grand time and that “altered the course of her life.” She eventually went to live in Israel and, as the lefty Haaretz puts it, became “an Israeli devoid of nationalistic sentiment and full of human compassion.”

Thereafter she fled Israel with a bad case of cognitive dissonance during the second intifada:

“The intifada caused me a profound crisis. I was very disappointed with both sides. I lived on Mahaneh Yehuda street then. Within a day, all the Arab workers, Palestinians from the territories, some of whom I was really friendly with, disappeared. They just disappeared. It was the first time I experienced a war situation. I knew there had been terror attacks in the market and I was tense all the time. I was afraid to be outside too long, I wanted to listen to the news all the time. I was going crazy.”

This caused her not to rethink her chumminess with those killing Jews but rather to return to the U.S. (an option not available to most Israelis), where again she sought out the Israel-haters: “She joined the dialogue group and the Jews Against the Occupation organization in New York. And she once again immersed herself in the bloody conflict that she had abandoned.”

Of course, her “human compassion” does not extend to the Jews attempting to survive in a hostile neighborhood but rather to the killers of Jews:

In Jerusalem she discovered the hidden world, for her at least, of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In those days, before the second intifada, she found a common language with Meretz activists on the Mount Scopus campus. “I met my first Palestinian friend then, Sari Abu-Ziad, the oldest son of Ziad Abu-Ziad, who was a minister in the Palestinian government then. He told me about his childhood, what a checkpoint was, what it meant to feel like you’re living in a prison, what it’s like to be an Arabic-speaker in Israel, how frightened he was. He studied at the Hebrew University. This was before the 1999 election. We gave out stickers that said ‘With Barak There’s Hope.’ We believed that things could change. That year I plunged deep into the conflict, and it broke my heart.”

She really wanted to love Israel, but it wasn’t easy for her. “I grew up with the belief that Jews are moral people, that our job is to help the weak. It might sound naive now, but the contradiction between the essence of the Jewish state and what I saw really upset me. It was hard for my mother to accept the questions and doubts I felt. She said: ‘We were refugees, we suffered, we finally got a state, and Israel has to be a good country.’ I told her it was hard for me to see that my people were capable of doing such terrible things, that the country I dreamed about was occupying another people. That’s still something that’s very hard for me to deal with.”

She now has a spiffy career suing Israel on behalf of the Palestinians, trying to halt construction and alter the course of the “wall,” which has saved countless lives from butchers and pizza bombers. And now she’s suing Canada because two Canadian construction companies operate in what she refers to as the “occupied territories.”

In her counter-reality, Israel was the aggressor and the war criminal in Gaza:

“People think of themselves as moral, and what happened there, the number of children that were killed, the strikes on population centers, raised tough questions. It was hard for Israelis to accept the unnecessary death there. On the other hand, most of the country shifted in the other direction and wholeheartedly supported violence against civilians, and even more have become convinced that there will never be peace, and that the Palestinians, even if they are children, are the enemy.”

Any mention of the Herculean efforts to avoid civilian casualties or of Hamas terrorists who hide behind old women and infants? Oh, no. She’s got “compassion,” you see. And then there was the thrill of meeting with the Elders group — a fine bunch of Israel-haters that includes Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter, and Mary Robinson. Her great joy was receiving a picture of herself with Carter.

Other than signing her up for a lifetime membership in J Street, what is to be done? American Jewry might begin by providing an Israel-strong rather than an Israel-lite education. The Palestinians have done a fine job snaring ill-educated, largely secularized Jews who are steeped in leftism and predisposed to accept the Third World liberation claptrap of the Palestinians. Unless American Jewry does an equally good job restating the case for Israel, explaining Israel’s democratic system (which affords Emily a courtroom to vilify and hamstring the Jewish state), and publicizing the efforts of Israel to grant Palestinians their own state even as the Palestinians continue to reject it and return again and again to violence, there will be many more Emilys. And it wouldn’t hurt if the editors of Haaretz didn’t lionize a woman whose career is based on endangering their lives.

It’s getting to be a trend: Jews publicly expressing their antipathy or outright disdain for Israel. The latest comes from Emily Schaeffer, a 31-year-old lawyer who has come to despise the Jewish state. Perhaps it was her abominable Jewish education, a not uncommon malady:

Schaeffer attended public school, but always felt at home when she took part in activities of the Reform movement. “My parents sent me there when I was five. I went once a week after school, and later twice a week. In the movement we had lessons about Judaism and about Israel, in a very lighthearted way. Once we made a map of Israel out of ice cream and marked the cities with colorful M&M candies. It was Zionism-lite. At that time I also went to synagogue.”

Very lite, it seems. And one suspects she heard from the bima much more about minimum wage and global warming than about Zionism. From there it was on to Reform-movement activities, where she had a grand time and that “altered the course of her life.” She eventually went to live in Israel and, as the lefty Haaretz puts it, became “an Israeli devoid of nationalistic sentiment and full of human compassion.”

Thereafter she fled Israel with a bad case of cognitive dissonance during the second intifada:

“The intifada caused me a profound crisis. I was very disappointed with both sides. I lived on Mahaneh Yehuda street then. Within a day, all the Arab workers, Palestinians from the territories, some of whom I was really friendly with, disappeared. They just disappeared. It was the first time I experienced a war situation. I knew there had been terror attacks in the market and I was tense all the time. I was afraid to be outside too long, I wanted to listen to the news all the time. I was going crazy.”

This caused her not to rethink her chumminess with those killing Jews but rather to return to the U.S. (an option not available to most Israelis), where again she sought out the Israel-haters: “She joined the dialogue group and the Jews Against the Occupation organization in New York. And she once again immersed herself in the bloody conflict that she had abandoned.”

Of course, her “human compassion” does not extend to the Jews attempting to survive in a hostile neighborhood but rather to the killers of Jews:

In Jerusalem she discovered the hidden world, for her at least, of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In those days, before the second intifada, she found a common language with Meretz activists on the Mount Scopus campus. “I met my first Palestinian friend then, Sari Abu-Ziad, the oldest son of Ziad Abu-Ziad, who was a minister in the Palestinian government then. He told me about his childhood, what a checkpoint was, what it meant to feel like you’re living in a prison, what it’s like to be an Arabic-speaker in Israel, how frightened he was. He studied at the Hebrew University. This was before the 1999 election. We gave out stickers that said ‘With Barak There’s Hope.’ We believed that things could change. That year I plunged deep into the conflict, and it broke my heart.”

She really wanted to love Israel, but it wasn’t easy for her. “I grew up with the belief that Jews are moral people, that our job is to help the weak. It might sound naive now, but the contradiction between the essence of the Jewish state and what I saw really upset me. It was hard for my mother to accept the questions and doubts I felt. She said: ‘We were refugees, we suffered, we finally got a state, and Israel has to be a good country.’ I told her it was hard for me to see that my people were capable of doing such terrible things, that the country I dreamed about was occupying another people. That’s still something that’s very hard for me to deal with.”

She now has a spiffy career suing Israel on behalf of the Palestinians, trying to halt construction and alter the course of the “wall,” which has saved countless lives from butchers and pizza bombers. And now she’s suing Canada because two Canadian construction companies operate in what she refers to as the “occupied territories.”

In her counter-reality, Israel was the aggressor and the war criminal in Gaza:

“People think of themselves as moral, and what happened there, the number of children that were killed, the strikes on population centers, raised tough questions. It was hard for Israelis to accept the unnecessary death there. On the other hand, most of the country shifted in the other direction and wholeheartedly supported violence against civilians, and even more have become convinced that there will never be peace, and that the Palestinians, even if they are children, are the enemy.”

Any mention of the Herculean efforts to avoid civilian casualties or of Hamas terrorists who hide behind old women and infants? Oh, no. She’s got “compassion,” you see. And then there was the thrill of meeting with the Elders group — a fine bunch of Israel-haters that includes Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter, and Mary Robinson. Her great joy was receiving a picture of herself with Carter.

Other than signing her up for a lifetime membership in J Street, what is to be done? American Jewry might begin by providing an Israel-strong rather than an Israel-lite education. The Palestinians have done a fine job snaring ill-educated, largely secularized Jews who are steeped in leftism and predisposed to accept the Third World liberation claptrap of the Palestinians. Unless American Jewry does an equally good job restating the case for Israel, explaining Israel’s democratic system (which affords Emily a courtroom to vilify and hamstring the Jewish state), and publicizing the efforts of Israel to grant Palestinians their own state even as the Palestinians continue to reject it and return again and again to violence, there will be many more Emilys. And it wouldn’t hurt if the editors of Haaretz didn’t lionize a woman whose career is based on endangering their lives.

Read Less

Why No Jews in a Palestinian State?

One of the orthodoxies of Middle East peace advocacy is that Jewish settlements in the West Bank (which by now has come to include Jewish neighborhoods in the city of Jerusalem) are a terrible obstacle to peace. You see, so long as Jews are building homes in these places, the Palestinians and their supporters can’t believe in peace. So those who claim to be peace advocates insist that the number of houses and Jews in these towns and villages must be absolutely frozen as prerequisite for peace. And we are assured that, once a peace agreement is signed, this will mean without doubt that all of these settlements, including every single house and every single Jew living in the houses, must be removed. That is, we are assured, the definition of peace for Palestinians.

But a member of Israel’s Cabinet has now asked a very pertinent question. Moshe Ya’alon, a former Israel Defense Forces general who now serves as Benjamin Netanyahu’s strategic affairs minister, posed the following query in an interview published in the Jerusalem Post: “If we are talking about coexistence and peace, why the [Palestinian] insistence that the territory they receive be ethnically cleansed of Jews? Why do those areas have to be Judenrein? Don’t Arabs live here, in the Negev and the Galilee? Why isn’t that part of our public discussion? Why doesn’t that scream to the heavens?” Ya’alon believes that previous withdrawals, such as the evacuation from Gaza, only encouraged Hamas and Hezbollah to raise the ante in terms of violence.

These are excellent questions. If what Israel is being asked to negotiate with the Palestinians is mutual recognition and legitimacy in the context of a cessation of violence, why can’t Jews stay in the areas designated as part of a Palestinian state, just as Arabs live in Israel with full rights as citizens? Indeed, what kind of a crazy peace would create a state alongside Israel in which Jews are forbidden to live and where Arabs face the death sentence for selling property to Jews, as is currently the case in both Jordan and the Palestinian Authority?

Critics of the settlements might answer that the settlers are too extreme and too violent to be allowed to stay behind because some might attempt to sabotage the peace. Others might also point out that without the protection of the IDF, no Jew surrounded by hostile Arabs would be safe. As to the charge that violent settlers would seek to destroy the peace, that might be true of a small minority, but the overwhelming majority of settlers are law-abiding. But the fact that some Israeli Arabs were hostile to Jews didn’t mean that all Arabs couldn’t live in Israel. If there was a commitment to peaceful coexistence from a Palestinian government, there’s no reason why most of the Jews living in outlying settlements on land closely associated with Jewish history and faith couldn’t stay on. As for the threat to the safety of Jews remaining in a putative state of Palestine, that’s a different question that goes to the heart of the problem.

The reason why Palestinians insist that all Jews must leave their future state is because they do not recognize the legitimacy of Israel or the Jewish presence anywhere in the land. And Palestinian political culture is so steeped in violence and hatred of Jews and Israel that it is literally impossible to believe that Jews, even if they behaved like Quakers, could live in a Palestinian state.

Moreover, Ya’alon’s point about the example of Gaza is telling. Removing every Jew from Gaza didn’t satisfy the Palestinians there. Not only did the Palestinians burn the synagogue buildings and the tomato greenhouses left behind by the Israelis for them to use, they immediately began to use that land for launching terrorist missile attacks inside of Israel. So long as the Arabs still view the conflict as zero-sum game in which the goal is to remove or kill every Jew, territorial withdrawals won’t bring peace. If the Palestinian vision of peace — even the vision articulated by so-called moderates like Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas — is predicated on ridding the land of Jews rather than embracing coexistence, then there will be no peace.

One of the orthodoxies of Middle East peace advocacy is that Jewish settlements in the West Bank (which by now has come to include Jewish neighborhoods in the city of Jerusalem) are a terrible obstacle to peace. You see, so long as Jews are building homes in these places, the Palestinians and their supporters can’t believe in peace. So those who claim to be peace advocates insist that the number of houses and Jews in these towns and villages must be absolutely frozen as prerequisite for peace. And we are assured that, once a peace agreement is signed, this will mean without doubt that all of these settlements, including every single house and every single Jew living in the houses, must be removed. That is, we are assured, the definition of peace for Palestinians.

But a member of Israel’s Cabinet has now asked a very pertinent question. Moshe Ya’alon, a former Israel Defense Forces general who now serves as Benjamin Netanyahu’s strategic affairs minister, posed the following query in an interview published in the Jerusalem Post: “If we are talking about coexistence and peace, why the [Palestinian] insistence that the territory they receive be ethnically cleansed of Jews? Why do those areas have to be Judenrein? Don’t Arabs live here, in the Negev and the Galilee? Why isn’t that part of our public discussion? Why doesn’t that scream to the heavens?” Ya’alon believes that previous withdrawals, such as the evacuation from Gaza, only encouraged Hamas and Hezbollah to raise the ante in terms of violence.

These are excellent questions. If what Israel is being asked to negotiate with the Palestinians is mutual recognition and legitimacy in the context of a cessation of violence, why can’t Jews stay in the areas designated as part of a Palestinian state, just as Arabs live in Israel with full rights as citizens? Indeed, what kind of a crazy peace would create a state alongside Israel in which Jews are forbidden to live and where Arabs face the death sentence for selling property to Jews, as is currently the case in both Jordan and the Palestinian Authority?

Critics of the settlements might answer that the settlers are too extreme and too violent to be allowed to stay behind because some might attempt to sabotage the peace. Others might also point out that without the protection of the IDF, no Jew surrounded by hostile Arabs would be safe. As to the charge that violent settlers would seek to destroy the peace, that might be true of a small minority, but the overwhelming majority of settlers are law-abiding. But the fact that some Israeli Arabs were hostile to Jews didn’t mean that all Arabs couldn’t live in Israel. If there was a commitment to peaceful coexistence from a Palestinian government, there’s no reason why most of the Jews living in outlying settlements on land closely associated with Jewish history and faith couldn’t stay on. As for the threat to the safety of Jews remaining in a putative state of Palestine, that’s a different question that goes to the heart of the problem.

The reason why Palestinians insist that all Jews must leave their future state is because they do not recognize the legitimacy of Israel or the Jewish presence anywhere in the land. And Palestinian political culture is so steeped in violence and hatred of Jews and Israel that it is literally impossible to believe that Jews, even if they behaved like Quakers, could live in a Palestinian state.

Moreover, Ya’alon’s point about the example of Gaza is telling. Removing every Jew from Gaza didn’t satisfy the Palestinians there. Not only did the Palestinians burn the synagogue buildings and the tomato greenhouses left behind by the Israelis for them to use, they immediately began to use that land for launching terrorist missile attacks inside of Israel. So long as the Arabs still view the conflict as zero-sum game in which the goal is to remove or kill every Jew, territorial withdrawals won’t bring peace. If the Palestinian vision of peace — even the vision articulated by so-called moderates like Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas — is predicated on ridding the land of Jews rather than embracing coexistence, then there will be no peace.

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How Do You Impose Peace?

This report explains the latest Palestinian celebration of terrorism:

The future Palestinian Authority presidential compound will be built along a street named for an infamous Hamas arch-terrorist, Channel 10 reported on Wednesday.

The Ramallah street was named for notorious Hamas suicide bomb mastermind Yihyeh Ayyash, also known as the “engineer,” who was the architect of multiple attacks, including a 1994 bombing of a Tel Aviv bus, which killed 20 people, and injured dozens.

Ayyash was killed in 1996 in what was most likely an Israeli assassination, after his cell phone exploded in his Beit Lahia home, in the Gaza Strip.

Last time, the Palestinians pulled this – naming a square in Ramallah for terrorist Dalal al-Mughrabi, who killed 38 Israelis — Hillary Clinton tried to pass it off as the doing of Hamas, despite ample evidence that the PA joined in the festivities. It’s going to be even harder for the Obami to make excuses for the PA this time:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement in response to the naming, saying it was an “outrageous glorification of terrorism by the Palestinian Authority.”

“Right next to a Presidential compound in Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority has named a street after a terrorist who murdered hundreds of innocent Israeli men, women and children,” the statement said, adding that “the world must forcefully condemn this official Palestinian incitement for terrorism and against peace.”

So does the Obama team manage to get out a simple declaratory sentence this time — “We condemn this behavior,” for example? But more important, given this is the behavior and mentality of the PA — the supposedly reasonable Palestinian party to negotiations — how do the Obami intend to impose a peace deal? If one party is still caught in the grip of the cult of death, what reason is there to suppose that it is prepared to sign and then live up to an agreement by which they disarm and renounce terrorism?

At the AIPAC conference, Tony Blair laid out the challenge:

Until the year 2000, and with the heroic attempts of President Clinton, we attempted to achieve an agreement first and then shape reality around it. But it was not to be. After that came the Intifada. Thousands died. Then came the withdrawal from Gaza. Israel got out. It took 7000 settlers with it. In Israeli eyes, it received violence and terror in return.

The occupation deepened. Gaza was isolated. Faith in peace collapsed.

Ten years on, that faith has to be restored.

It can’t be done in a summit.

It has to be done patiently, and over time on the ground.

It can’t only be negotiated top-down.

It has also to be built bottom up.

Peace now will not come simply through an agreement negotiated; it must come through a reality created and sustained.

It means building institutions of Palestinian Government: not just well equipped, loyal security forces, but civil police, courts, prisons, prosecutors, the whole infrastructure of the rule of law.

It means treating those who commit acts of terror not only as enemies of Israel but enemies of Palestine.

Obviously, we are not remotely at that juncture – a point utterly lost or ignored by the Obami. So they imagine a pristine paper agreement will create peace — a  notion so divorced from experience and so blind to the realities occurring daily that one is tempted to conclude, “They can’t be serious!”  Blair got it when he declared: “The mentality has to move from resistance to governance. There can be no ambiguity, no wavering, no half heart towards terrorism. It is totally and completely without justification and we will never compromise in our opposition to it or those that practice it.” The Obami don’t.

It therefore follows that the Obami’s indifference to that fundamental requirement for peace disqualifies them as competent interlocutors. They are neither “honest” nor “brokering” — they have become henchmen for the Palestinians who await deliverance of the Jewish state — or what remains of it — without need to root out and renounce violence, without cultivation of the Palestinian institutions that can sustain peace. Israel and its supporters should be clear: there is no role for this administration in any peace process — they are, in fact merely, establishing incentives for violence and Palestinian rejectionism.

This report explains the latest Palestinian celebration of terrorism:

The future Palestinian Authority presidential compound will be built along a street named for an infamous Hamas arch-terrorist, Channel 10 reported on Wednesday.

The Ramallah street was named for notorious Hamas suicide bomb mastermind Yihyeh Ayyash, also known as the “engineer,” who was the architect of multiple attacks, including a 1994 bombing of a Tel Aviv bus, which killed 20 people, and injured dozens.

Ayyash was killed in 1996 in what was most likely an Israeli assassination, after his cell phone exploded in his Beit Lahia home, in the Gaza Strip.

Last time, the Palestinians pulled this – naming a square in Ramallah for terrorist Dalal al-Mughrabi, who killed 38 Israelis — Hillary Clinton tried to pass it off as the doing of Hamas, despite ample evidence that the PA joined in the festivities. It’s going to be even harder for the Obami to make excuses for the PA this time:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement in response to the naming, saying it was an “outrageous glorification of terrorism by the Palestinian Authority.”

“Right next to a Presidential compound in Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority has named a street after a terrorist who murdered hundreds of innocent Israeli men, women and children,” the statement said, adding that “the world must forcefully condemn this official Palestinian incitement for terrorism and against peace.”

So does the Obama team manage to get out a simple declaratory sentence this time — “We condemn this behavior,” for example? But more important, given this is the behavior and mentality of the PA — the supposedly reasonable Palestinian party to negotiations — how do the Obami intend to impose a peace deal? If one party is still caught in the grip of the cult of death, what reason is there to suppose that it is prepared to sign and then live up to an agreement by which they disarm and renounce terrorism?

At the AIPAC conference, Tony Blair laid out the challenge:

Until the year 2000, and with the heroic attempts of President Clinton, we attempted to achieve an agreement first and then shape reality around it. But it was not to be. After that came the Intifada. Thousands died. Then came the withdrawal from Gaza. Israel got out. It took 7000 settlers with it. In Israeli eyes, it received violence and terror in return.

The occupation deepened. Gaza was isolated. Faith in peace collapsed.

Ten years on, that faith has to be restored.

It can’t be done in a summit.

It has to be done patiently, and over time on the ground.

It can’t only be negotiated top-down.

It has also to be built bottom up.

Peace now will not come simply through an agreement negotiated; it must come through a reality created and sustained.

It means building institutions of Palestinian Government: not just well equipped, loyal security forces, but civil police, courts, prisons, prosecutors, the whole infrastructure of the rule of law.

It means treating those who commit acts of terror not only as enemies of Israel but enemies of Palestine.

Obviously, we are not remotely at that juncture – a point utterly lost or ignored by the Obami. So they imagine a pristine paper agreement will create peace — a  notion so divorced from experience and so blind to the realities occurring daily that one is tempted to conclude, “They can’t be serious!”  Blair got it when he declared: “The mentality has to move from resistance to governance. There can be no ambiguity, no wavering, no half heart towards terrorism. It is totally and completely without justification and we will never compromise in our opposition to it or those that practice it.” The Obami don’t.

It therefore follows that the Obami’s indifference to that fundamental requirement for peace disqualifies them as competent interlocutors. They are neither “honest” nor “brokering” — they have become henchmen for the Palestinians who await deliverance of the Jewish state — or what remains of it — without need to root out and renounce violence, without cultivation of the Palestinian institutions that can sustain peace. Israel and its supporters should be clear: there is no role for this administration in any peace process — they are, in fact merely, establishing incentives for violence and Palestinian rejectionism.

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AIPAC: Tony Blair

Tony Blair, the former British prime minister and official envoy for the Quartet, looking a bit grayer and thinner than during his days in office, got an enthusiastic welcome. He began by attesting to his friendship with Israel and its credentials as a democracy. (“Citizens are governed by the rule of law. Men and women are equal before the law. In Israel you can worship your faith in the way you want; or not, as you choose.”) He declared, “In many respects, the Middle East region should regard Israel not as an enemy but as a model.”

He then made a pitch for the two-state solution (“the only path to lasting peace”). He acknowledged: “It isn’t that sensible, well-intentioned people could not sit down and negotiate their way through the issues of borders, refugees, even Jerusalem.” What is key, he says, is “what happens down in the street, in the daily experience of the people.” There can be no Palestinian state, “unless it is sure that state will be securely and properly governed.” Israelis may believe they lack a partner for peace, he explains, because there is doubt “not about whether Palestinian leaders want peace; but whether they can deliver peace.”

Then came the non sequitur — direct negotiations, he said must begin. But, but… yes, what about the inability of the Palestinians to “deliver peace”? Well, Blair has the candor to review recent history — the Palestinians’ rejection of peace at Camp David, the ensuing intifada, and the war that followed the withdrawal from Gaza. So then Blair detoured into a plea to build from the bottom-up the Palestinian institutions. “It can’t be done in a summit. It has to be done patiently, and over time on the ground. . . . It means building institutions of Palestinian government, not just well-equipped, loyal security forces, but civil police, courts, prisons, prosecutors, the whole infrastructure of the rule of law.” And he singled out Salam Fayyad as championing such an approach as well as Bibi for helping to facilitate the economic boom in the West Bank.

Of Israel he asked not to risk its security but “to know that in changing the lives of Palestinians who want peace,” it will enhance its own security. Of the Palestinians he demanded, “The mentality has to move from resistance to governance. There can be no ambiguity, no wavering, no half heart towards terrorism.” [Loud ovation.]

Moving on to Iran he declared, “Iran must not be allowed to acquire nuclear-weapons capability. They must know that we will do whatever it takes to stop them getting it. [Notice the contrast between his formulation and Hillary’s, which resisted the "do whatever it takes" or "all options" formulations.] The danger is if they suspect for a moment we might allow such a thing. We cannot and will not. This is not simply an issue of Israel’s security. This is a matter of global security, mine, yours, all of us.” [Loud ovation]

He summed up with another plea: “If one day Israel can be secure, recognized, understood and respected by the nations which surround it; if one day the Palestinian people can have their own state and can prosper in peace within it and beyond it, we will bring more than peace to people who have lived too long with conflict. We will lift the scourge of extremism and bring hope to the world.”

There is no doubt that Blair is an eloquent speaker and a thoughtful observer. But there was in his speech a central contradiction: if, in fact, a civil society and change of heart from the Palestinians are preconditions for peace, what then is the point of endless peace conferences and negotiations, especially considering the Palestinians’ lack of authority and of will to make any deal, let alone a comprehensive peace? And — indeed — one wonders whether in all the drama and the fights preceding those talks, the cause of building those institutions and the transition in Palestinian mindset is not set back, rather than advanced. What are we accomplishing, especially when the Palestinians are not even willing to meet face-to-face? Other than employing George Mitchell, keeping Hillary busy, and maintaining Obama’s image as a great “peace maker,” it is hard to fathom.

Tony Blair, the former British prime minister and official envoy for the Quartet, looking a bit grayer and thinner than during his days in office, got an enthusiastic welcome. He began by attesting to his friendship with Israel and its credentials as a democracy. (“Citizens are governed by the rule of law. Men and women are equal before the law. In Israel you can worship your faith in the way you want; or not, as you choose.”) He declared, “In many respects, the Middle East region should regard Israel not as an enemy but as a model.”

He then made a pitch for the two-state solution (“the only path to lasting peace”). He acknowledged: “It isn’t that sensible, well-intentioned people could not sit down and negotiate their way through the issues of borders, refugees, even Jerusalem.” What is key, he says, is “what happens down in the street, in the daily experience of the people.” There can be no Palestinian state, “unless it is sure that state will be securely and properly governed.” Israelis may believe they lack a partner for peace, he explains, because there is doubt “not about whether Palestinian leaders want peace; but whether they can deliver peace.”

Then came the non sequitur — direct negotiations, he said must begin. But, but… yes, what about the inability of the Palestinians to “deliver peace”? Well, Blair has the candor to review recent history — the Palestinians’ rejection of peace at Camp David, the ensuing intifada, and the war that followed the withdrawal from Gaza. So then Blair detoured into a plea to build from the bottom-up the Palestinian institutions. “It can’t be done in a summit. It has to be done patiently, and over time on the ground. . . . It means building institutions of Palestinian government, not just well-equipped, loyal security forces, but civil police, courts, prisons, prosecutors, the whole infrastructure of the rule of law.” And he singled out Salam Fayyad as championing such an approach as well as Bibi for helping to facilitate the economic boom in the West Bank.

Of Israel he asked not to risk its security but “to know that in changing the lives of Palestinians who want peace,” it will enhance its own security. Of the Palestinians he demanded, “The mentality has to move from resistance to governance. There can be no ambiguity, no wavering, no half heart towards terrorism.” [Loud ovation.]

Moving on to Iran he declared, “Iran must not be allowed to acquire nuclear-weapons capability. They must know that we will do whatever it takes to stop them getting it. [Notice the contrast between his formulation and Hillary’s, which resisted the "do whatever it takes" or "all options" formulations.] The danger is if they suspect for a moment we might allow such a thing. We cannot and will not. This is not simply an issue of Israel’s security. This is a matter of global security, mine, yours, all of us.” [Loud ovation]

He summed up with another plea: “If one day Israel can be secure, recognized, understood and respected by the nations which surround it; if one day the Palestinian people can have their own state and can prosper in peace within it and beyond it, we will bring more than peace to people who have lived too long with conflict. We will lift the scourge of extremism and bring hope to the world.”

There is no doubt that Blair is an eloquent speaker and a thoughtful observer. But there was in his speech a central contradiction: if, in fact, a civil society and change of heart from the Palestinians are preconditions for peace, what then is the point of endless peace conferences and negotiations, especially considering the Palestinians’ lack of authority and of will to make any deal, let alone a comprehensive peace? And — indeed — one wonders whether in all the drama and the fights preceding those talks, the cause of building those institutions and the transition in Palestinian mindset is not set back, rather than advanced. What are we accomplishing, especially when the Palestinians are not even willing to meet face-to-face? Other than employing George Mitchell, keeping Hillary busy, and maintaining Obama’s image as a great “peace maker,” it is hard to fathom.

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RE: The Fallout

Republican House Minority Whip Eric Cantor has released a blistering critique of the Obama anti-Israel gambit:

To say that I am deeply concerned with the irresponsible comments that the White House, Vice President, and the Secretary of State have made against Israel is an understatement. In an effort to ingratiate our country with the Arab world, this Administration has shown a troubling eagerness to undercut our allies and friends. Israel has always been committed to the peace process, including advocating for direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians, in effort to bring this conflict to an end. Unfortunately, the Palestinian Government continues to insist on indirect talks and slowing down the process. …

While it condemns Israel, the Administration continues to ignore a host of Palestinian provocations that undermine prospects for peace in the region. Where is the outrage when top Fatah officials call for riots on the Temple Mount? Why does the Palestinian Authority get a pass when it holds a ceremony glorifying the woman responsible for one of the deadliest terror attack in Israel’s history? Surely, the Administration’s double standard has set back the peace process. …

Israel continues to be a world leader in the fight against terrorism and speak out against the prospects of a nuclear Iran. For this Administration to treat our special relationship with Israel, one of our closest and most strategic Democratic allies, in this fashion is beyond irresponsible and jeopardizes America’s national security.

Minority Leader John Boehner, embellishing on a brief response over the weekend has weighed in as well:

The Administration’s decision to escalate its rhetoric following Vice President Biden’s visit to Israel is not merely irresponsible, it is an affront to the values and foundation of our long-term relationship with a close friend and ally. The Administration has demonstrated a repeated pattern since it took office:  while it makes concessions to countries acting contrary to U.S. national interests, it ignores or snubs the commitments, shared values and sacrifices of many of our country’s best allies. If the Administration wants to work toward resolving the conflict in the Middle East, it should focus its efforts on Iran’s behavior, including its pursuit of nuclear weapons, its state-sponsorship of terrorism, its crushing of domestic democratic forces, and the impact its behavior is having, not just on Israel, but also on the calculations of other countries in the region as well as on the credibility of international nonproliferation efforts.  House Republicans remain committed to our long-standing bilateral friendship with Israel, as well as to the commitments this country has made.

These statements are significant in that they put the Republican Congressional leadership squarely on the side of Israel supporters, including AIPAC and the ADL, which have objected strenuously to the misplaced priorities and bizarrely hostile treatment shown to our ally Israel. The focus will now be on the Democrats: do they defend the adminsitration or challenge it to clean up the mess made over the last few days?

It is not a good thing for support for Israel to break down on party lines. That has not been the case historically. As noted earlier, in 1991, three founders of the Republican Jewish Coalition — Max Fisher, George Klein, and Dick Fox — penned a letter to then President George H.W. Bush strongly protesting the cutoff of loan guarantees as a lever to get (yes, nearly two decades and not much has changed) Israel to knuckle under at the bargaining table (then it was Madrid). It is the bipartisan support for Israel in Congress and in the United States at large which has been critical to the maintainence of a robust and warm alliance between the two countries. That it is fraying now, when the most critical national-security threat to both (Iran’s nuclear ambitions) looms large, is especially troubling. And that, in the statements from pro-Israel Republicans, AIPAC, the ADL, and others, is what the administration is being asked to focus on. But then, they have no solution or game plan — it seems — on Iran. So beating up on Israel passes the time and excuses, in their own mind, the inactivity on that most critical issue.

A bipartisan coalition in support of Israel, in which stated principles trump partisan loyalty and political convenience, has been the cornerstone of the U.S.-Israel relationship. We are reminded now that for a president to enthusiastically lead, rather than decimate, that coalition is essential. What’s indispensible is a U.S.president who does more than mouth platitudes about our enduring relationship with the Jewish state. What is needed is a president who does not adopt the rhetoric and the bargaining posture of  intransigent Palestinians waiting for the U.S. to deliver Israel on a platter. Can our relationship survive without such a president? We are regrettably going to find out.

Republican House Minority Whip Eric Cantor has released a blistering critique of the Obama anti-Israel gambit:

To say that I am deeply concerned with the irresponsible comments that the White House, Vice President, and the Secretary of State have made against Israel is an understatement. In an effort to ingratiate our country with the Arab world, this Administration has shown a troubling eagerness to undercut our allies and friends. Israel has always been committed to the peace process, including advocating for direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians, in effort to bring this conflict to an end. Unfortunately, the Palestinian Government continues to insist on indirect talks and slowing down the process. …

While it condemns Israel, the Administration continues to ignore a host of Palestinian provocations that undermine prospects for peace in the region. Where is the outrage when top Fatah officials call for riots on the Temple Mount? Why does the Palestinian Authority get a pass when it holds a ceremony glorifying the woman responsible for one of the deadliest terror attack in Israel’s history? Surely, the Administration’s double standard has set back the peace process. …

Israel continues to be a world leader in the fight against terrorism and speak out against the prospects of a nuclear Iran. For this Administration to treat our special relationship with Israel, one of our closest and most strategic Democratic allies, in this fashion is beyond irresponsible and jeopardizes America’s national security.

Minority Leader John Boehner, embellishing on a brief response over the weekend has weighed in as well:

The Administration’s decision to escalate its rhetoric following Vice President Biden’s visit to Israel is not merely irresponsible, it is an affront to the values and foundation of our long-term relationship with a close friend and ally. The Administration has demonstrated a repeated pattern since it took office:  while it makes concessions to countries acting contrary to U.S. national interests, it ignores or snubs the commitments, shared values and sacrifices of many of our country’s best allies. If the Administration wants to work toward resolving the conflict in the Middle East, it should focus its efforts on Iran’s behavior, including its pursuit of nuclear weapons, its state-sponsorship of terrorism, its crushing of domestic democratic forces, and the impact its behavior is having, not just on Israel, but also on the calculations of other countries in the region as well as on the credibility of international nonproliferation efforts.  House Republicans remain committed to our long-standing bilateral friendship with Israel, as well as to the commitments this country has made.

These statements are significant in that they put the Republican Congressional leadership squarely on the side of Israel supporters, including AIPAC and the ADL, which have objected strenuously to the misplaced priorities and bizarrely hostile treatment shown to our ally Israel. The focus will now be on the Democrats: do they defend the adminsitration or challenge it to clean up the mess made over the last few days?

It is not a good thing for support for Israel to break down on party lines. That has not been the case historically. As noted earlier, in 1991, three founders of the Republican Jewish Coalition — Max Fisher, George Klein, and Dick Fox — penned a letter to then President George H.W. Bush strongly protesting the cutoff of loan guarantees as a lever to get (yes, nearly two decades and not much has changed) Israel to knuckle under at the bargaining table (then it was Madrid). It is the bipartisan support for Israel in Congress and in the United States at large which has been critical to the maintainence of a robust and warm alliance between the two countries. That it is fraying now, when the most critical national-security threat to both (Iran’s nuclear ambitions) looms large, is especially troubling. And that, in the statements from pro-Israel Republicans, AIPAC, the ADL, and others, is what the administration is being asked to focus on. But then, they have no solution or game plan — it seems — on Iran. So beating up on Israel passes the time and excuses, in their own mind, the inactivity on that most critical issue.

A bipartisan coalition in support of Israel, in which stated principles trump partisan loyalty and political convenience, has been the cornerstone of the U.S.-Israel relationship. We are reminded now that for a president to enthusiastically lead, rather than decimate, that coalition is essential. What’s indispensible is a U.S.president who does more than mouth platitudes about our enduring relationship with the Jewish state. What is needed is a president who does not adopt the rhetoric and the bargaining posture of  intransigent Palestinians waiting for the U.S. to deliver Israel on a platter. Can our relationship survive without such a president? We are regrettably going to find out.

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Repeating Peace-Process Pablum

Two paragraphs of Joe Biden’s speech yesterday are worth examining. They perfectly encapsulate the infatuation with the “peace process” and the degree to which its premises are accepted but never examined for any passing familiarity with reality. Biden said:

These indirect talks everyone knows are just that, indirect talks, indirect negotiations. The only path, though, to finally resolving the permanent status issues, including borders, security, refugees, and Jerusalem are direct talks. But you’ve got to begin. The process has to begin. Our administration fully supports this effort led by our Special Envoy, Senator George Mitchell, a seasoned negotiator and a proven peacemaker in whom the President, the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and I have complete and utter confidence.

We believe that through good-faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree to an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the ’67 lines with agreed swaps and Israel’s goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israel’s security requirements.

Why is it that “you’ve got to begin”? For what reason must “the process begin?” Well, George Mitchell would have nothing to do with it in his time and the entire apparatus devoted to ceaseless, fruitless negotiations would need to do be redeployed. But Biden never explains why we need to begin a process when there is no remote chance of its success and, furthermore, there is no unified Palestinian government prepared to make peace. He is reduced to pablum, repeated for emphasis but utterly not compelling to anyone whose job doesn’t depend on perpetuating the kabuki theater of negotiations. And he must acknowledge that in this incarnation — indirect talks — we are really engaged in unproductive busy work for diplomats.

This is followed, even for Biden, by a ludicrous declaration: “Our administration fully supports this effort led by our Special Envoy, Senator George Mitchell, a seasoned negotiator and a proven peacemaker in whom the President, the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and I have complete and utter confidence.” Who cares? The question is whether the parties have faith in these people. The answer, especially after this visit, is almost certainly “no.”

Next is the boilerplate repetition that negotiations will lead to a two-state solution. This is where we came in. Why? What facts point to the conclusion that the parties can reach an agreement? There aren’t any.

If Biden’s visit proved anything, it is that diplomatic activity can be counterproductive, inflaming rather than reducing conflicts and deflecting attention from more productive activities. Consider this: is the U.S.-Israeli relationship in a worse or better shape after Biden’s visit? The answer is obvious, as should be the conclusion: sometimes it’s best if everyone stays home.

Two paragraphs of Joe Biden’s speech yesterday are worth examining. They perfectly encapsulate the infatuation with the “peace process” and the degree to which its premises are accepted but never examined for any passing familiarity with reality. Biden said:

These indirect talks everyone knows are just that, indirect talks, indirect negotiations. The only path, though, to finally resolving the permanent status issues, including borders, security, refugees, and Jerusalem are direct talks. But you’ve got to begin. The process has to begin. Our administration fully supports this effort led by our Special Envoy, Senator George Mitchell, a seasoned negotiator and a proven peacemaker in whom the President, the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and I have complete and utter confidence.

We believe that through good-faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree to an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the ’67 lines with agreed swaps and Israel’s goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israel’s security requirements.

Why is it that “you’ve got to begin”? For what reason must “the process begin?” Well, George Mitchell would have nothing to do with it in his time and the entire apparatus devoted to ceaseless, fruitless negotiations would need to do be redeployed. But Biden never explains why we need to begin a process when there is no remote chance of its success and, furthermore, there is no unified Palestinian government prepared to make peace. He is reduced to pablum, repeated for emphasis but utterly not compelling to anyone whose job doesn’t depend on perpetuating the kabuki theater of negotiations. And he must acknowledge that in this incarnation — indirect talks — we are really engaged in unproductive busy work for diplomats.

This is followed, even for Biden, by a ludicrous declaration: “Our administration fully supports this effort led by our Special Envoy, Senator George Mitchell, a seasoned negotiator and a proven peacemaker in whom the President, the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and I have complete and utter confidence.” Who cares? The question is whether the parties have faith in these people. The answer, especially after this visit, is almost certainly “no.”

Next is the boilerplate repetition that negotiations will lead to a two-state solution. This is where we came in. Why? What facts point to the conclusion that the parties can reach an agreement? There aren’t any.

If Biden’s visit proved anything, it is that diplomatic activity can be counterproductive, inflaming rather than reducing conflicts and deflecting attention from more productive activities. Consider this: is the U.S.-Israeli relationship in a worse or better shape after Biden’s visit? The answer is obvious, as should be the conclusion: sometimes it’s best if everyone stays home.

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Re: Re: Re: Re: In Praise of “Disrespect”

Eric, if you find the State Department statement less than meaningful, I must respectfully point out that you introduced it as evidence on which to rest your initial claim—I merely analyzed it afterward.

As for your assertion that the Bush administration should have told the Palestinian Legislative council that the U.S. would cut ties with the Palestinian government if Hamas was elected: it is a debatable point of policy. But simultaneously applauding free elections while effectively qualifying their freedom could not possibly have earned the U.S. any credit for being respectful. The move would have invited the instant charge of hypocrisy.

Eric, if you find the State Department statement less than meaningful, I must respectfully point out that you introduced it as evidence on which to rest your initial claim—I merely analyzed it afterward.

As for your assertion that the Bush administration should have told the Palestinian Legislative council that the U.S. would cut ties with the Palestinian government if Hamas was elected: it is a debatable point of policy. But simultaneously applauding free elections while effectively qualifying their freedom could not possibly have earned the U.S. any credit for being respectful. The move would have invited the instant charge of hypocrisy.

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Re: Re: Re: In Praise of “Disrespect”

Abe, the State Department statement in question doesn’t constitute meaningful public diplomacy for two key reasons.

First, the essence of public diplomacy is that it defends one country’s foreign policy to a foreign public as directly as possible. Yet this statement was merely posted on the State Department’s website—a very indirect mode of communication. This illustrates how the Bush administration hoped to avoid Hamas’ election: by appearing as uninvolved in shaping the outcome of the elections as possible, and thereby doing nothing to encourage Palestinians to protest U.S. involvement by electing Hamas. In this vein, the U.S. quietly gave $2 million to the Palestinian Authority for public works projects intended to boost Fatah, with the typical USAID insignia conspicuously absent.

Second, the statement is hardly explicit regarding how the election of Hamas will affect U.S.-Palestinian relations. It merely says that a group that doesn’t recognize Israel’s right to exist cannot participate in the peace process—a position that is logically obvious and thus hardly a meaningful statement of policy. Put another way, the threat of being excluded from the peace process wasn’t menacing to Hamas or its supporters; but the promise to cut ties with the Palestinian government if Hamas were elected would have been. Palestinians might have still elected Hamas, but they would have done so with more realistic expectations.

Among Palestinians, the cult of helpless victimhood is a dominant theme. By stating that the outcome of their elections could have consequences—which it clearly did—the Bush administration might have finally given the Palestinian people some tangible responsibility for ending the Middle East conflict. This is not disrespectful, but empowering—which was the point of pushing for elections in the first place.

Only a serious attempt at public diplomacy could explain this rationale. When we read that Muslim publics still feel “disrespected” on account of the ongoing western boycott of Hamas, it becomes clear that we have failed to communicate our policies effectively. I would argue that we’ve barely tried.

Abe, the State Department statement in question doesn’t constitute meaningful public diplomacy for two key reasons.

First, the essence of public diplomacy is that it defends one country’s foreign policy to a foreign public as directly as possible. Yet this statement was merely posted on the State Department’s website—a very indirect mode of communication. This illustrates how the Bush administration hoped to avoid Hamas’ election: by appearing as uninvolved in shaping the outcome of the elections as possible, and thereby doing nothing to encourage Palestinians to protest U.S. involvement by electing Hamas. In this vein, the U.S. quietly gave $2 million to the Palestinian Authority for public works projects intended to boost Fatah, with the typical USAID insignia conspicuously absent.

Second, the statement is hardly explicit regarding how the election of Hamas will affect U.S.-Palestinian relations. It merely says that a group that doesn’t recognize Israel’s right to exist cannot participate in the peace process—a position that is logically obvious and thus hardly a meaningful statement of policy. Put another way, the threat of being excluded from the peace process wasn’t menacing to Hamas or its supporters; but the promise to cut ties with the Palestinian government if Hamas were elected would have been. Palestinians might have still elected Hamas, but they would have done so with more realistic expectations.

Among Palestinians, the cult of helpless victimhood is a dominant theme. By stating that the outcome of their elections could have consequences—which it clearly did—the Bush administration might have finally given the Palestinian people some tangible responsibility for ending the Middle East conflict. This is not disrespectful, but empowering—which was the point of pushing for elections in the first place.

Only a serious attempt at public diplomacy could explain this rationale. When we read that Muslim publics still feel “disrespected” on account of the ongoing western boycott of Hamas, it becomes clear that we have failed to communicate our policies effectively. I would argue that we’ve barely tried.

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Polling the Palestinians

Any debate about Israel and the Palestinians invariably arrives at a basic question: What do the Palestinians want? A lot gets said in response. Most of it, as far as I can tell, confuses western hopes about the Palestinians with the actual beliefs of the Palestinians.

One can say such things with some confidence: the West Bank and Gaza are two of the more frequently polled places in the world. And the latest poll finds that Hamas’s popularity has increased substantially in recent months, across a range of issues. The report, from the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, is available here. Among the highlights:

If new presidential elections were to take place today, [PA President] Mahmud Abbas and [Hamas leader] Ismail Haniyeh would receive almost equal number of votes, 46% for Abbas and 47% for Haniyeh. Abbas’s popularity stood at 56% and Haniyeh’s at 37% last December. . . .

Findings show depreciation in the legitimacy of [PA Prime Minister] Fayyad’s government and a significant rise in public perception of the legitimacy of Haniyeh’s government. 49% say Haniyeh should stay in office as Prime Minister while 45% say he should not. Last September only 40% said Haniyeh should stay as prime minister. By contrast, today only 38% say Fayyad’s government should stay in office and 55% say it should not. Support for Fayyad’s government stood at 49% last September. Similarly, 34% say Haniyeh’s government is the legitimate Palestinian government and only 29% say Fayyad’s government is the legitimate one. [Emphasis mine]

Over the past year, many people (including yours truly) imagined that Hamas’s treatment of Gaza was so brutal, and its rocket war against Israel so misguided, that ordinary Palestinians would discover the limits of their tolerance for thuggery masquerading as “resistance.” I was wrong. The depressing truth remains: as has been demonstrated in so many previous polls, Palestinian public opinion rewards those who most conspicuously demonstrate their dedication to violence against Israel, not those who desire peace.

Any debate about Israel and the Palestinians invariably arrives at a basic question: What do the Palestinians want? A lot gets said in response. Most of it, as far as I can tell, confuses western hopes about the Palestinians with the actual beliefs of the Palestinians.

One can say such things with some confidence: the West Bank and Gaza are two of the more frequently polled places in the world. And the latest poll finds that Hamas’s popularity has increased substantially in recent months, across a range of issues. The report, from the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, is available here. Among the highlights:

If new presidential elections were to take place today, [PA President] Mahmud Abbas and [Hamas leader] Ismail Haniyeh would receive almost equal number of votes, 46% for Abbas and 47% for Haniyeh. Abbas’s popularity stood at 56% and Haniyeh’s at 37% last December. . . .

Findings show depreciation in the legitimacy of [PA Prime Minister] Fayyad’s government and a significant rise in public perception of the legitimacy of Haniyeh’s government. 49% say Haniyeh should stay in office as Prime Minister while 45% say he should not. Last September only 40% said Haniyeh should stay as prime minister. By contrast, today only 38% say Fayyad’s government should stay in office and 55% say it should not. Support for Fayyad’s government stood at 49% last September. Similarly, 34% say Haniyeh’s government is the legitimate Palestinian government and only 29% say Fayyad’s government is the legitimate one. [Emphasis mine]

Over the past year, many people (including yours truly) imagined that Hamas’s treatment of Gaza was so brutal, and its rocket war against Israel so misguided, that ordinary Palestinians would discover the limits of their tolerance for thuggery masquerading as “resistance.” I was wrong. The depressing truth remains: as has been demonstrated in so many previous polls, Palestinian public opinion rewards those who most conspicuously demonstrate their dedication to violence against Israel, not those who desire peace.

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Nader Raises Obama’s Israel Issue

Ralph Nader finagled airtime on Meet the Press to announce he is mounting another presidential run, which certainly will garner even less attention than last time. He also contributed this analysis of Barack Obama:

But his better instincts and his knowledge have been censored by himself. And I give you the example, the Palestinian-Israeli issue, which is a real off the table issue for the candidates. So don’t touch that, even though it’s central to our security and to, to the situation in the Middle East. He was pro-Palestinian when he was in Illinois before he ran for the state Senate, during he ran–during the state Senate. Now he’s, he’s supporting the Israeli destruction of the tiny section called Gaza with a million and a half people. He doesn’t have any sympathy for a civilian death ratio of about 300-to-1; 300 Palestinians to one Israeli. He’s not taking a leadership position in supporting the Israeli peace movement, which represents former Cabinet ministers, people in the Knesset, former generals, former security officials, in addition to mayors and leading intellectuals. One would think he would at least say, “Let’s have a hearing for the Israeli peace movement in the Congress,” so we don’t just have a monotone support of the Israeli government’s attitude toward the Palestinians and their illegal occupation of Palestine.
The Republican Jewish Coalition responded with a press release which read, in part:
“People should be very skeptical of Barack Obama’s shaky Middle East policies. When a long-time political activist like Ralph Nader, with a well-documented, anti-Israel bias, claims that Senator Obama shares this anti-Israel bias, that is alarming,” said RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks. “If Senator Obama supports Ralph Nader’s policies, which consistently condemn Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism, and if Sen. Obama has only reversed his positions to run for president, it once again raises serious questions about his grasp of the geo-political realities of the Middle East and puts into doubt his commitment to the safety and security of Israel. These are important questions we in the Jewish community will be asking.”
Now Ralph Nader is not exactly a keen or accurate political observer, but the problematic issue of Obama’s views and advisors on Israel, explored at length here, here and here, is not something the Obama camp can ignore. He recently had this to say in Cleveland:
“Well here’s my starting orientation is A – Israel’s security is sacrosanct, is non negotiable. That’s point number one. Point number two is that the status quo I believe is unsustainable over time. So we’re going to have to make a shift from the current deadlock that we’re in. Number three that Israel has to remain a Jewish state and what I believe that means is that any negotiated peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians is going to have to involve the Palestinians relinquishing the right of return as it has been understood in the past. And that doesn’t mean that there may not be conversations about compensation issues. It also means the Israelis will have to figure out how do we work with a legitimate Palestinian government to create a Palestinian state that is sustainable. It’s going to have to be contiguous, its going to have to work its going to have to function in some way. That’s in Israel’s interest by the way. If you have a balkanized unsustainable state, it will break down and we will be back in the same boat. So those are the starting points of my orientation. My goal then would be to solicit as many practical opinions as possible in terms of how we’re going to move forward on a improvement of relations and a sustainable peace.”
He also sought to distance himself from association with Zbigniew Brzezinski:

“I do not share his views with respect to Israel. I have said so clearly and unequivocally,” Obama said. “He’s not one of my key advisers. I’ve had lunch with him once. I’ve exchanged e-mails with him maybe three times. He came to Iowa to introduce . . . for a speech on Iraq.”

No word as yet on whether he is having second thoughts about advice from Samantha Power or whether his “talking to our enemies” mantra includes Hamas and Hezbollah. This certainly will be a general election issue. It remains to be seen whether Hillary Clinton will raise this as an example of the risk of getting an “unknown quantity” with an Obama presidency (perhaps it would be a more effective argument for her than desperation moves like this).

Ralph Nader finagled airtime on Meet the Press to announce he is mounting another presidential run, which certainly will garner even less attention than last time. He also contributed this analysis of Barack Obama:

But his better instincts and his knowledge have been censored by himself. And I give you the example, the Palestinian-Israeli issue, which is a real off the table issue for the candidates. So don’t touch that, even though it’s central to our security and to, to the situation in the Middle East. He was pro-Palestinian when he was in Illinois before he ran for the state Senate, during he ran–during the state Senate. Now he’s, he’s supporting the Israeli destruction of the tiny section called Gaza with a million and a half people. He doesn’t have any sympathy for a civilian death ratio of about 300-to-1; 300 Palestinians to one Israeli. He’s not taking a leadership position in supporting the Israeli peace movement, which represents former Cabinet ministers, people in the Knesset, former generals, former security officials, in addition to mayors and leading intellectuals. One would think he would at least say, “Let’s have a hearing for the Israeli peace movement in the Congress,” so we don’t just have a monotone support of the Israeli government’s attitude toward the Palestinians and their illegal occupation of Palestine.
The Republican Jewish Coalition responded with a press release which read, in part:
“People should be very skeptical of Barack Obama’s shaky Middle East policies. When a long-time political activist like Ralph Nader, with a well-documented, anti-Israel bias, claims that Senator Obama shares this anti-Israel bias, that is alarming,” said RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks. “If Senator Obama supports Ralph Nader’s policies, which consistently condemn Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism, and if Sen. Obama has only reversed his positions to run for president, it once again raises serious questions about his grasp of the geo-political realities of the Middle East and puts into doubt his commitment to the safety and security of Israel. These are important questions we in the Jewish community will be asking.”
Now Ralph Nader is not exactly a keen or accurate political observer, but the problematic issue of Obama’s views and advisors on Israel, explored at length here, here and here, is not something the Obama camp can ignore. He recently had this to say in Cleveland:
“Well here’s my starting orientation is A – Israel’s security is sacrosanct, is non negotiable. That’s point number one. Point number two is that the status quo I believe is unsustainable over time. So we’re going to have to make a shift from the current deadlock that we’re in. Number three that Israel has to remain a Jewish state and what I believe that means is that any negotiated peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians is going to have to involve the Palestinians relinquishing the right of return as it has been understood in the past. And that doesn’t mean that there may not be conversations about compensation issues. It also means the Israelis will have to figure out how do we work with a legitimate Palestinian government to create a Palestinian state that is sustainable. It’s going to have to be contiguous, its going to have to work its going to have to function in some way. That’s in Israel’s interest by the way. If you have a balkanized unsustainable state, it will break down and we will be back in the same boat. So those are the starting points of my orientation. My goal then would be to solicit as many practical opinions as possible in terms of how we’re going to move forward on a improvement of relations and a sustainable peace.”
He also sought to distance himself from association with Zbigniew Brzezinski:

“I do not share his views with respect to Israel. I have said so clearly and unequivocally,” Obama said. “He’s not one of my key advisers. I’ve had lunch with him once. I’ve exchanged e-mails with him maybe three times. He came to Iowa to introduce . . . for a speech on Iraq.”

No word as yet on whether he is having second thoughts about advice from Samantha Power or whether his “talking to our enemies” mantra includes Hamas and Hezbollah. This certainly will be a general election issue. It remains to be seen whether Hillary Clinton will raise this as an example of the risk of getting an “unknown quantity” with an Obama presidency (perhaps it would be a more effective argument for her than desperation moves like this).

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Why Is Terrorism in Decline?

Now we are confused. For years, we were told that if Israel does not make “painful concessions” to the “moderate” Palestinian government run by Fatah, an “extremist” Hamas government will replace it — and that will be much worse. Then, Israel withdrew from Gaza, uprooting thousands of Jewish families and giving up actual land, with a promise of more to come. Reversal of Logic #1: Israel conceded painfully, then Hamas took power anyway, and within a fairly brief time turned Gaza into the very hell everyone had predicted.

So how bad is this for Israeli citizens trying to live their own lives? Unclear, in light of Reversal of Logic #2: According to reports by both the watchdog group Betzelem as well as Israel’s own Shin Bet security apparatus, despite the rise of Hamas, 2007 was the quietest year in terror since who knows when. Both Palestinian and Israeli deaths are way down. Civilian deaths on the Palestinian side dropped by half compared to 2006. Sure, Hamas and Jihad are launching rockets at Sderot and Ashkelon on a daily basis, but they are not too effective. At the same time, those terror attacks that do take place—such as the murder of two Israeli hikers near Hebron a week ago Friday—are as often carried out by members of Fatah as by the Islamists.

How do we account for the taming of the Hamas beast? Here’s a thought: Israel’s ability to fight terror is, like it or not, inversely proporti onal to the amount of international pressure, especially American pressure, put on Israel to restrain itself. The election of Hamas horrified the West, and Israel got a green light to defend itself. Israel stepped up operations, especially precision ones such as that which took out the Jihad’s military chief in Gaza last month, making the running of terror cells much more difficult. Unable to send suicide bombers across the border into Israel, Hamas and Jihad resorted to terrorizing by lobbing homemade flying IEDs into the town of Sderot — horrible for those who have to endure it, yet a far cry from the bus-bombings of a few years ago. Clarity about the enemy, it seems, is a key to effective self-defense.

And what about Fatah? Same logic, only in reverse. Because it is seen as moderate and the partner for peace, Israel has far less freedom to take out its terror groups, which continue every day to organize attacks on Israelis, just as they did under Arafat. It is true that Fatah under Abu Mazen’s leadership takes public positions that are significantly more measured than are those of Hamas. Yet as the IDF operation in Nablus over the last few days proves, their record in fostering terrorists in their midst is little better than Hamas. And it is unclear whether they have any more political freedom to stop the “resistance” in the West Bank than does Hamas to stop it in Gaza.

A senior defense official told Haaretz that the IDF’s success in 2007 is “as close as possible to a victory over terror.” Maybe that’s an exaggeration. But let’s hope 2008 is even worse for these organizations, and even better for Israelis and Palestinians looking for a future without fear.

Now we are confused. For years, we were told that if Israel does not make “painful concessions” to the “moderate” Palestinian government run by Fatah, an “extremist” Hamas government will replace it — and that will be much worse. Then, Israel withdrew from Gaza, uprooting thousands of Jewish families and giving up actual land, with a promise of more to come. Reversal of Logic #1: Israel conceded painfully, then Hamas took power anyway, and within a fairly brief time turned Gaza into the very hell everyone had predicted.

So how bad is this for Israeli citizens trying to live their own lives? Unclear, in light of Reversal of Logic #2: According to reports by both the watchdog group Betzelem as well as Israel’s own Shin Bet security apparatus, despite the rise of Hamas, 2007 was the quietest year in terror since who knows when. Both Palestinian and Israeli deaths are way down. Civilian deaths on the Palestinian side dropped by half compared to 2006. Sure, Hamas and Jihad are launching rockets at Sderot and Ashkelon on a daily basis, but they are not too effective. At the same time, those terror attacks that do take place—such as the murder of two Israeli hikers near Hebron a week ago Friday—are as often carried out by members of Fatah as by the Islamists.

How do we account for the taming of the Hamas beast? Here’s a thought: Israel’s ability to fight terror is, like it or not, inversely proporti onal to the amount of international pressure, especially American pressure, put on Israel to restrain itself. The election of Hamas horrified the West, and Israel got a green light to defend itself. Israel stepped up operations, especially precision ones such as that which took out the Jihad’s military chief in Gaza last month, making the running of terror cells much more difficult. Unable to send suicide bombers across the border into Israel, Hamas and Jihad resorted to terrorizing by lobbing homemade flying IEDs into the town of Sderot — horrible for those who have to endure it, yet a far cry from the bus-bombings of a few years ago. Clarity about the enemy, it seems, is a key to effective self-defense.

And what about Fatah? Same logic, only in reverse. Because it is seen as moderate and the partner for peace, Israel has far less freedom to take out its terror groups, which continue every day to organize attacks on Israelis, just as they did under Arafat. It is true that Fatah under Abu Mazen’s leadership takes public positions that are significantly more measured than are those of Hamas. Yet as the IDF operation in Nablus over the last few days proves, their record in fostering terrorists in their midst is little better than Hamas. And it is unclear whether they have any more political freedom to stop the “resistance” in the West Bank than does Hamas to stop it in Gaza.

A senior defense official told Haaretz that the IDF’s success in 2007 is “as close as possible to a victory over terror.” Maybe that’s an exaggeration. But let’s hope 2008 is even worse for these organizations, and even better for Israelis and Palestinians looking for a future without fear.

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Prodi’s “Evolution”

Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi suggested on Sunday that dialogue with Hamas might help the Islamist terror organization “evolve.” It was not immediately clear what Prodi meant by “evolution” through “dialogue,” though his spokesman was quick to explain that in no way was the Prime Minister calling for a reversal of EU policy—which keeps Hamas on the EU terror list and shuns the organization.

The Italian government has been flip-flopping on the matter for the last few weeks. Foreign Minister Massimo D’Alema voiced discomfort at the policy of isolation, and warned against “giving Hamas to al Qaeda.” A few days before, the leader of D’Alema’s party, Piero Fassino, had suggested the need for a strategy for dealing with Hamas. Fassino used ambiguous language that implied the need for dialogue; yet, after a visit to Israel with Socialist International, Fassino has since retreated from his statement. Meanwhile, D’Alema has also backtracked somewhat, noting in a parliamentary address on July 24 that he “never suggested that the international community open direct negotiations with Hamas,” and that he meant only to highlight “the need to encourage a return to a Palestinian process of national reconciliation.”

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Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi suggested on Sunday that dialogue with Hamas might help the Islamist terror organization “evolve.” It was not immediately clear what Prodi meant by “evolution” through “dialogue,” though his spokesman was quick to explain that in no way was the Prime Minister calling for a reversal of EU policy—which keeps Hamas on the EU terror list and shuns the organization.

The Italian government has been flip-flopping on the matter for the last few weeks. Foreign Minister Massimo D’Alema voiced discomfort at the policy of isolation, and warned against “giving Hamas to al Qaeda.” A few days before, the leader of D’Alema’s party, Piero Fassino, had suggested the need for a strategy for dealing with Hamas. Fassino used ambiguous language that implied the need for dialogue; yet, after a visit to Israel with Socialist International, Fassino has since retreated from his statement. Meanwhile, D’Alema has also backtracked somewhat, noting in a parliamentary address on July 24 that he “never suggested that the international community open direct negotiations with Hamas,” and that he meant only to highlight “the need to encourage a return to a Palestinian process of national reconciliation.”

To be fair, Italian politicians are not the only ones contemplating dialogue with Hamas: more than 100 British parliamentarians called for dialogue because “peace results from discussions between enemies as well as friends.” Britain’s former shadow Foreign Secretary and one-time chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel, Michael Ancram, went even further, in a Sunday Telegraph editorial in early July, by recommending that newly-appointed Middle East Envoy Tony Blair should “dance with wolves.”

As for Prodi himself, at least he is consistent. After all, in his first interview after winning last year’s parliamentary elections, in April 2006, he said to al-Jazeera: “I shall commit myself at the European level to shape a new position with respect to the new Palestinian government. I am looking with great attention at the signs of an opening being made by Hamas.” Soon after, Prodi spoke to then-Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on the phone, becoming the first European head of government to do so.

We shouldn’t wonder, then, what Prodi meant when he linked dialogue with Hamas to its possible “evolution.” Clearly, the Italian Prime Minister is being optimistic. Yet, can he point to any evolution at all since April 2006? How long will Europeans resist the temptation to engage in dialogue with Hamas?

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Waiting for the Palestinians

Is Hamas showing some statesmanship? According to recent reports, its security forces have arrested a member of the terrorist organization thought to be holding captive the BBC reporter Alan Johnston. If Hamas manages to impose order on the lawlessness that has engulfed Gaza for years, the international community will have little option but to acknowledge its rule. Acknowledging this fact would not necessarily be synonymous with recognizing Hamas (or opening diplomatic relations with it). But it bears noting that while Hamas is trying to restore order in Gaza—its own brand of brutal Islamist order, of course—the Palestinian government the West has chosen to recognize and support looks more and more inept. Fatah is dependent for its survival on Israel’s continued presence (to say nothing of future Israeli military mop-up operations in Gaza to vanquish the party’s bitter rivals).

The international community, naturally, could not have done otherwise than throw its weight behind Fatah: given what it stands for, it had to support Abbas and reject Hamas. It has no alternative now but to focus on the West Bank and help Abbas extricate himself and his followers from the current morass. Still, it is remarkable that only six weeks ago Abbas (with the support of the international community) was decrying Israel’s round-up of Hamas leaders in the West Bank. Now, nobody seems to mind those arrests. Were it not for Hamas’s significant weakening in the West Bank—to say nothing of Israel’s continued military presence there—it might have overrun Ramallah too. One should be under no illusion about the ability of Fatah to assert its authority.

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Is Hamas showing some statesmanship? According to recent reports, its security forces have arrested a member of the terrorist organization thought to be holding captive the BBC reporter Alan Johnston. If Hamas manages to impose order on the lawlessness that has engulfed Gaza for years, the international community will have little option but to acknowledge its rule. Acknowledging this fact would not necessarily be synonymous with recognizing Hamas (or opening diplomatic relations with it). But it bears noting that while Hamas is trying to restore order in Gaza—its own brand of brutal Islamist order, of course—the Palestinian government the West has chosen to recognize and support looks more and more inept. Fatah is dependent for its survival on Israel’s continued presence (to say nothing of future Israeli military mop-up operations in Gaza to vanquish the party’s bitter rivals).

The international community, naturally, could not have done otherwise than throw its weight behind Fatah: given what it stands for, it had to support Abbas and reject Hamas. It has no alternative now but to focus on the West Bank and help Abbas extricate himself and his followers from the current morass. Still, it is remarkable that only six weeks ago Abbas (with the support of the international community) was decrying Israel’s round-up of Hamas leaders in the West Bank. Now, nobody seems to mind those arrests. Were it not for Hamas’s significant weakening in the West Bank—to say nothing of Israel’s continued military presence there—it might have overrun Ramallah too. One should be under no illusion about the ability of Fatah to assert its authority.

Four years too late, Abbas has begun to implement the clauses of the road map that the Palestinian Authority had so far ignored, attempting to impose one law, one army, and one authority over its own territory. (Abbas’s shorthand for this objective—“one gun”— says a great deal about political means and ends among the Palestinians.) It is tragic that Abbas has begun this work only now. But the point, surely, is this: as soon as Hamas emerged victorious in its Gaza takeover, it proceeded to establish its authority, whereas the PA under Fatah studiously avoided doing so, even when it still had the capacity to govern the territories, quell the intifada, and disarm Hamas. This situation raises an impossible dilemma for the international community: the Palestinian government it would like to see in charge is ineffectual; and the Palestinian government with a real chance to impose law and order on the territories is completely unpalatable.

What will come of this increasingly disastrous situation? Abbas and his new prime minister, Salam Fayyad, will move to re-establish their credentials and authority with calls for a return to the Mecca accords and attempts at reconciliation. Given the language they have been using against one another, and the spilled blood of recent weeks, it is hard to believe that Fatah and Hamas could restore any sort of relations. Fatah will end up looking still more ineffectual. Hamas, ever dependent on Iranian help and therefore at the mercy of Tehran’s whims, can survive only if it continues to do Iran’s bidding (i.e., to prosecute its campaign against Israel) in exchange for lavish financial and military support.

And what should the international community do? Having supported a corrupt and ineffectual government for many years, it should now hold Hamas to the clear performance benchmarks the road map sets for the Palestinian Authority. (Direct military aid to Fatah would not be wise: weapons recently delivered to Abbas’s government somehow ended up in Hamas’s hands.) However unlikely it is that Hamas will meet these benchmarks, waiting and hoping are, sad to say, the only real options left.

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The Closing of the British Mind

Last week’s vote by the British Universities and Colleges Union admonishing its members to “consider the moral implications of existing and proposed links with Israeli academic institutions” marks a new stage in the concerted campaign to put Israel into a kind of cultural quarantine. This boycott and others like it are not merely aimed at forcing a change of that country’s policy towards the Palestinians—they are explicitly intended to undermine the legitimacy of the Jewish state. By branding Israel an apartheid state, these academics are denying its right to exist in anything like its present form.

But what are the “moral implications” of aligning the British academic community with those, such as the Palestinian government, who are dedicated to the destruction of Israel? Is it plausible that the universities now under censure would survive a Hamas-led regime? The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, it is true, long preceded the founding of the state of Israel, but the survival of this and other academic institutions in Mandatory Palestine was only possible because they were protected by the British authorities and supported by academics around the world. Had the Hebrew University been left to the mercies of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, its faculty members would have suffered the same fate as the Jewish academics in Germany did at the hands of the Mufti’s ally, Adolf Hitler.

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Last week’s vote by the British Universities and Colleges Union admonishing its members to “consider the moral implications of existing and proposed links with Israeli academic institutions” marks a new stage in the concerted campaign to put Israel into a kind of cultural quarantine. This boycott and others like it are not merely aimed at forcing a change of that country’s policy towards the Palestinians—they are explicitly intended to undermine the legitimacy of the Jewish state. By branding Israel an apartheid state, these academics are denying its right to exist in anything like its present form.

But what are the “moral implications” of aligning the British academic community with those, such as the Palestinian government, who are dedicated to the destruction of Israel? Is it plausible that the universities now under censure would survive a Hamas-led regime? The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, it is true, long preceded the founding of the state of Israel, but the survival of this and other academic institutions in Mandatory Palestine was only possible because they were protected by the British authorities and supported by academics around the world. Had the Hebrew University been left to the mercies of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, its faculty members would have suffered the same fate as the Jewish academics in Germany did at the hands of the Mufti’s ally, Adolf Hitler.

Academic boycotts were a favorite method of the Nazis in the early days of the Third Reich, before all Jews had been excluded from German universities. Viktor Klemperer was one of those Jewish professors who, as veterans of the First World War, were permitted to teach under the Nazi Civil Service code introduced shortly after Hitler seized power. In his diaries, Klemperer describes how his lectures were initially well attended. Clinging to the hope that the regime would not last, he noted with satisfaction, “My most eager student is the Nazi cell leader Eva Theissig.”

Two years later, however, Klemperer was down to one student for his lectures on French and two for those on Italian literature—and in May 1935 he was abruptly dismissed. Then he was banned from using the university library—“the absolute end.” For Klemperer, the academic boycott was an intellectual death sentence, foreshadowing the physical one.

We have seen what happened when the Israeli settlers were evicted from Gaza: the first thing the Palestinians did was to burn the homes and desecrate the synagogues the Jews left behind. The universities of Israel, among the best in the world, would be among the first priorities for destruction if Hamas and Hizbollah were ever to achieve their “right of return,” as the British academics advocate.

It is vital to grasp what is at stake here. Western civilization in general—and the idea of the university in particular—has always depended upon the love of knowledge and the cultivation of the intellect for their own sakes. When science and scholarship are subordinated to political ends, it is not only universities that suffer. The British academics who condemn their Israeli counterparts are in reality perpetrating an act of vandalism against their own institutions—and, indirectly, against the society that supports these institutions and is, in turn, shaped and supported by them.

It is Britain, not Israel, that is most harmed by this vandalism. These academics are cutting themselves off from the mainstream of Jewish intellectual life—from one of the sources of their own civilization. When Alan Bloom conjured the image of the closing of the American mind, he meant just such self-inflicted amnesia. Only this time, it is the British mind that is closing.

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Amos Oz’s Nostra Culpa

It has long been a conviction of Israeli leftists that if they bend over backward far enough, Palestinians and other Arabs will respond in kind, resigning themselves to the idea of peace with the Jewish state. If a historic reconciliation with the Arabs could not be achieved through a policy of military deterrence, might not a new start be made by taking positive steps to accommodate Arab demands? By acknowledging Israeli guilt for Arab suffering? By striving, through political and territorial concessions, to mitigate the “original sin” of the Jewish state’s very existence?

Paradoxically, for proponents of this thesis, the launch of the Palestinian war of terror in September 2000 made it more necessary than ever to cling to the idea of Jewish culpability. Speaking in June 2002, three months after Israel had experienced the bloodiest terror assault in its history, with 126 citizens massacred in near-daily suicide bombings, the novelist A.B. Yehoshua blamed Israel for having driven the Palestinians to “a situation of insanity.”

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It has long been a conviction of Israeli leftists that if they bend over backward far enough, Palestinians and other Arabs will respond in kind, resigning themselves to the idea of peace with the Jewish state. If a historic reconciliation with the Arabs could not be achieved through a policy of military deterrence, might not a new start be made by taking positive steps to accommodate Arab demands? By acknowledging Israeli guilt for Arab suffering? By striving, through political and territorial concessions, to mitigate the “original sin” of the Jewish state’s very existence?

Paradoxically, for proponents of this thesis, the launch of the Palestinian war of terror in September 2000 made it more necessary than ever to cling to the idea of Jewish culpability. Speaking in June 2002, three months after Israel had experienced the bloodiest terror assault in its history, with 126 citizens massacred in near-daily suicide bombings, the novelist A.B. Yehoshua blamed Israel for having driven the Palestinians to “a situation of insanity.”

Now, Amos Oz, perhaps Israel’s most prominent living novelist, has taken up the same theme. “The time has come to acknowledge openly that Israelis had a part in the catastrophe of the Palestinian refugees,” he wrote last Saturday in Canada’s Globe and Mail:

We do not bear sole responsibility, and we are not solely to blame, but our hands are not clean. The state of Israel is mature and strong enough to admit to its share of the blame, and to reach the necessary conclusion: It behooves us to take part in the effort to resettle the refugees, in the framework of peace agreements, and outside Israel’s future peace borders.

Oz fails to explain why Israel should be culpable for the adverse consequences of the violent attempt to destroy it at its birth. (Had there been no such attempt, there would have been no refugee problem in the first place.) Nor does he seem to realize that his proposed resettlement of the refugees “outside Israel’s future peace borders” falls far short of offers made by various Israeli governments during the past sixty years (e.g., the 1949 offer to take back 100,000 Palestinian refugees—equivalent to some 2 million refugees in today’s terms).

Why should the Palestinians settle for a worse solution than the ones they have adamantly rejected for decades? According to Oz,

Israel’s admission of its share in the blame for the Palestinian refugee catastrophe, and its expression of willingness to bear part of the burden of a solution, are capable of causing a positive shiver to run through the Palestinian side. It would be a kind of emotional breakthrough that will make further dialogue much easier.

This, frankly, strains credulity. As is well-known, the refugees have not been kept in squalid camps for decades for lack of ability to resettle them elsewhere, but as a means of besmirching Israel in the eyes of the West and arousing pan-Arab sentiments. The Palestinian government, such as it is, is not going to give up this trump card.

Indeed, throughout the 1990’s, successive academic study groups, made up of the most earnestly forthcoming Israelis and the most grudgingly tractable Palestinians, devoted themselves to formulating a compromise proposal on this issue. They all failed, and the reason for the failure is plain enough: the “right of return” is not, for the Palestinians, a bargaining chip; it is the heart of their entire political strategy.

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The Holocaust and the Nakba

Is it fair for the West to demand that the Palestinian government recognize Israel’s right to exist? In an op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor of February 2, John V. Whitbeck wrote:

There is an enormous difference between “recognizing Israel’s existence” and “recognizing Israel’s right to exist.” From a Palestinian perspective, the difference is in the same league as the difference between asking a Jew to acknowledge that the Holocaust happened and asking him to concede that the Holocaust was morally justified. For Palestinians to acknowledge the occurrence of the Nakba—the expulsion of the great majority of Palestinians from their homeland between 1947 and 1949—is one thing. For them to publicly concede that it was “right” for the Nakba to have happened would be something else entirely. For the Jewish and Palestinian peoples, the Holocaust and the Nakba, respectively, represent catastrophes and injustices on an unimaginable scale that can neither be forgotten nor forgiven.

Whitbeck’s parallelism is disgusting and morally obtuse to the point where one wonders what the CSM editors could have been thinking when they published it. Here are two small differences between these two “injustices.” First, the Palestinians (and their fellow Arabs) started the Nakba by attacking the Jews. The Jews did not start the Holocaust by attacking the Nazis. Second, the victims of the Holocaust were slaughtered, while the victims of the Nakba lost their homes and land. For their part, the Jews had, over the centuries, lost their homes and land many times—events which paled in comparison to the Holocaust.

This bit of ugliness aside, what should the Arabs recognize? Merely that Israel exists? The Serbs recognized that Bosnia existed. That was precisely what they set out to change. Likewise with Saddam Hussein and Kuwait or the Hutus and the Tutsis or, for that matter, the Nazis and the Jews. The Arabs recognize that Israel exists every time they denounce, defame, boycott, or launch rockets against it. This recognition does not bring peace one millimeter closer.

But can the Arabs be expected to recognize Israel’s right to exist? The answer was supplied to me by a young Egyptian writer I know. “The creation of Israel was an injustice,” he said, “but Israel has earned the right to exist.” It has earned this right, he explained, not by its military victories over the Arabs, but by having built a vibrant society that had sunk deep roots.

This struck me as exactly right. Arabs cannot be expected to acknowledge that Israel’s birth was just. But they can be asked to agree that Israel’s destruction now would be a greater injustice. This—and not acknowledgment of the simple fact of Israel’s existence—is the key to resolving the conflict.

Is it fair for the West to demand that the Palestinian government recognize Israel’s right to exist? In an op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor of February 2, John V. Whitbeck wrote:

There is an enormous difference between “recognizing Israel’s existence” and “recognizing Israel’s right to exist.” From a Palestinian perspective, the difference is in the same league as the difference between asking a Jew to acknowledge that the Holocaust happened and asking him to concede that the Holocaust was morally justified. For Palestinians to acknowledge the occurrence of the Nakba—the expulsion of the great majority of Palestinians from their homeland between 1947 and 1949—is one thing. For them to publicly concede that it was “right” for the Nakba to have happened would be something else entirely. For the Jewish and Palestinian peoples, the Holocaust and the Nakba, respectively, represent catastrophes and injustices on an unimaginable scale that can neither be forgotten nor forgiven.

Whitbeck’s parallelism is disgusting and morally obtuse to the point where one wonders what the CSM editors could have been thinking when they published it. Here are two small differences between these two “injustices.” First, the Palestinians (and their fellow Arabs) started the Nakba by attacking the Jews. The Jews did not start the Holocaust by attacking the Nazis. Second, the victims of the Holocaust were slaughtered, while the victims of the Nakba lost their homes and land. For their part, the Jews had, over the centuries, lost their homes and land many times—events which paled in comparison to the Holocaust.

This bit of ugliness aside, what should the Arabs recognize? Merely that Israel exists? The Serbs recognized that Bosnia existed. That was precisely what they set out to change. Likewise with Saddam Hussein and Kuwait or the Hutus and the Tutsis or, for that matter, the Nazis and the Jews. The Arabs recognize that Israel exists every time they denounce, defame, boycott, or launch rockets against it. This recognition does not bring peace one millimeter closer.

But can the Arabs be expected to recognize Israel’s right to exist? The answer was supplied to me by a young Egyptian writer I know. “The creation of Israel was an injustice,” he said, “but Israel has earned the right to exist.” It has earned this right, he explained, not by its military victories over the Arabs, but by having built a vibrant society that had sunk deep roots.

This struck me as exactly right. Arabs cannot be expected to acknowledge that Israel’s birth was just. But they can be asked to agree that Israel’s destruction now would be a greater injustice. This—and not acknowledgment of the simple fact of Israel’s existence—is the key to resolving the conflict.

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