Commentary Magazine


Topic: peace-processors

Lessons of the Peace Process: The Missing Reflection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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An Emotionally Satisfying Peace Process

Jeffrey Goldberg writes that he is “agnostic” about whether the Palestinians must acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state. He needs three hands to set forth his views:  (1) “on the one hand, it seems to be an unnecessary and provocative demand;” (2) but “on the other hand … it would be emotionally satisfying” if the Palestinians acknowledged Jewish ties to the Land; (3) but “on the other other hand, the success of a peace treaty will not hinge on … whether Palestinians acknowledge [a Jewish state] on paper” but on “more practical, concrete, and internationally-safeguarded guarantees.”

If adjectives were analysis, the issue would be clear: between (a) an “emotionally satisfying” paper acknowledgment and (b) “practical, concrete, and internationally-safeguarded guarantees,” one would presumably prefer the latter – at least until one reflected on the meaning of “safeguarded guarantees” (which apparently are “guaranteed guarantees” from that famously reliable guarantor, the international community).

The flurry of adjectives in Goldberg’s post obscures the issue, which is not emotional satisfaction for Israelis but a requirement that Palestinians explain why, exactly, the demand for recognition of a Jewish state is “provocative.”  Netanyahu articulated the issue last month while visiting Sderot (and returned to the subject of a Jewish state in extended remarks to the cabinet yesterday):

When the Palestinians refuse to say something so simple, the question is – why? You want to flood the State of Israel about refugees so that it will no longer have a Jewish majority? You want to tear off parts of the Galilee and the Negev into mini-states? In a peace agreement, there will be simplest symmetry: Israel recognizes the Palestinian state – and the Palestinians recognize the Jewish state. This is so simple.

Guaranteed guarantees may be emotionally satisfying to peace processors, but peace will not occur until the Palestinians and their Arab supporters are ready to recognize Israel as a Jewish state within defensible borders.

Jeffrey Goldberg writes that he is “agnostic” about whether the Palestinians must acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state. He needs three hands to set forth his views:  (1) “on the one hand, it seems to be an unnecessary and provocative demand;” (2) but “on the other hand … it would be emotionally satisfying” if the Palestinians acknowledged Jewish ties to the Land; (3) but “on the other other hand, the success of a peace treaty will not hinge on … whether Palestinians acknowledge [a Jewish state] on paper” but on “more practical, concrete, and internationally-safeguarded guarantees.”

If adjectives were analysis, the issue would be clear: between (a) an “emotionally satisfying” paper acknowledgment and (b) “practical, concrete, and internationally-safeguarded guarantees,” one would presumably prefer the latter – at least until one reflected on the meaning of “safeguarded guarantees” (which apparently are “guaranteed guarantees” from that famously reliable guarantor, the international community).

The flurry of adjectives in Goldberg’s post obscures the issue, which is not emotional satisfaction for Israelis but a requirement that Palestinians explain why, exactly, the demand for recognition of a Jewish state is “provocative.”  Netanyahu articulated the issue last month while visiting Sderot (and returned to the subject of a Jewish state in extended remarks to the cabinet yesterday):

When the Palestinians refuse to say something so simple, the question is – why? You want to flood the State of Israel about refugees so that it will no longer have a Jewish majority? You want to tear off parts of the Galilee and the Negev into mini-states? In a peace agreement, there will be simplest symmetry: Israel recognizes the Palestinian state – and the Palestinians recognize the Jewish state. This is so simple.

Guaranteed guarantees may be emotionally satisfying to peace processors, but peace will not occur until the Palestinians and their Arab supporters are ready to recognize Israel as a Jewish state within defensible borders.

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A Two-State Solution but Not Two Peoples?

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has long been the poster child for Palestinian moderation toward Israel, but his transparent attempts to manufacture a domestic constituency (as opposed to his considerable cheering section in the United States) are rapidly undermining the notion that he is a stalwart advocate of peace. Earlier this year, he staged a photo opportunity in which he led the burning of Israeli goods that he wished Palestinians to boycott. Now he is refusing to pay even lip service to the idea that a two-state solution to the conflict would allow one of those states to be the home of the Jews.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Fayyad stormed out of a United Nations committee meeting in New York and canceled a scheduled joint press conference with Danny Ayalon, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, because Ayalon refused to sign off on a summary of the encounter that mentioned the goal of the negotiation as being “two states” but that also did not include the phrase “two states for two peoples.”

Some peace processors have viewed Ayalon as a troublemaker, but he does not deserve to be blamed for upsetting the Americans’ favorite Palestinian. During the course of this round of peace talks — and every previous one — the Palestinians have always refused to accept the idea that a final resolution of the conflict will recognize Israel as a Jewish state, even as they demand that the other half of the two-state solution be recognized not only as a Palestinian state but one in which no Jews or Jewish community will be permitted to dwell. The “moderate” Fayyad has now apparently extended this lack of recognition to not even acknowledging that another people has a right to live there either. As Ayalon put it, “If the Palestinians are not willing to talk about two states for two peoples, let alone a Jewish state for Israel, then there’s nothing to talk about and … if the Palestinians mean, at the end of the process, to have one Palestinian state and one bi-national state, this will not happen.”

The point here is more than mere sophistry. If the peace talks do not result in recognition of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, then the conflict will not be over. While some groups are putting pressure on Israel to concede its right to build in disputed territories prior to even the start of negotiations (such as the left-wing lobby J Street, which published a full page ad in the New York Times today demanding that Israel freeze settlements without mentioning any corresponding concessions from the Palestinians), the PA won’t even admit that a two-state solution will allow for one of the two to be Jewish. One needn’t be a peace-process cynic to understand that what is going on now is a charade, not a genuine negotiation.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has long been the poster child for Palestinian moderation toward Israel, but his transparent attempts to manufacture a domestic constituency (as opposed to his considerable cheering section in the United States) are rapidly undermining the notion that he is a stalwart advocate of peace. Earlier this year, he staged a photo opportunity in which he led the burning of Israeli goods that he wished Palestinians to boycott. Now he is refusing to pay even lip service to the idea that a two-state solution to the conflict would allow one of those states to be the home of the Jews.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Fayyad stormed out of a United Nations committee meeting in New York and canceled a scheduled joint press conference with Danny Ayalon, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, because Ayalon refused to sign off on a summary of the encounter that mentioned the goal of the negotiation as being “two states” but that also did not include the phrase “two states for two peoples.”

Some peace processors have viewed Ayalon as a troublemaker, but he does not deserve to be blamed for upsetting the Americans’ favorite Palestinian. During the course of this round of peace talks — and every previous one — the Palestinians have always refused to accept the idea that a final resolution of the conflict will recognize Israel as a Jewish state, even as they demand that the other half of the two-state solution be recognized not only as a Palestinian state but one in which no Jews or Jewish community will be permitted to dwell. The “moderate” Fayyad has now apparently extended this lack of recognition to not even acknowledging that another people has a right to live there either. As Ayalon put it, “If the Palestinians are not willing to talk about two states for two peoples, let alone a Jewish state for Israel, then there’s nothing to talk about and … if the Palestinians mean, at the end of the process, to have one Palestinian state and one bi-national state, this will not happen.”

The point here is more than mere sophistry. If the peace talks do not result in recognition of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, then the conflict will not be over. While some groups are putting pressure on Israel to concede its right to build in disputed territories prior to even the start of negotiations (such as the left-wing lobby J Street, which published a full page ad in the New York Times today demanding that Israel freeze settlements without mentioning any corresponding concessions from the Palestinians), the PA won’t even admit that a two-state solution will allow for one of the two to be Jewish. One needn’t be a peace-process cynic to understand that what is going on now is a charade, not a genuine negotiation.

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It’s Not About Settlements

Giora Eiland isn’t impressed with the happy talk coming from the Obama team. George Mitchell may coo all he wants about getting down to “substantive issues,” but the Palestinians show no sign they are willing to accept the most basic element of a peace deal: recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Eiland explains why this is an essential component of any accord:

The Palestinians make a distinction between recognizing the fact that the State of Israel exists and the recognition that it has the right to exist. The camp that supports Mahmoud Abbas has no qualms with the first definition: “Israel exists, and it’s apparently worthwhile to recognize it diplomatically; this is the way to guarantee for the Palestinians what only Israel can give. This agreement is fit for the present, but as to the future – who knows.” …

The entire concept of “Hudna” (long-term ceasefire) is based on an approach that espouses compromise in an effort to elicit what can be achieved now, without abandoning the intention to fight and get much more in the future. The way to curb future demands, especially in respect to the refugee issue, is to create a Palestinian obligation to accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

The Obami, like the rest of the cottage industry of peace processors, operate on a myth: that both sides want peace and the issue is where to draw lines and how to halt and then uproot those darn settlements. It is as if the entire period between 1948 and 1967 never occurred. The Palestinians and their Arab enablers didn’t accept the Jewish state in 1949 (only an armistice was agreed to), didn’t accept the Jewish state in 1967, and still don’t. While Obama is quibbling about settlements in 2010, the Palestinians are still hung up on 1948.

Eiland points to another reason why recognition of the Jewish state is critical:

Should the future Palestinian state not recognize the State of Israel as the Jewish people’s nation-state, there is no chance that the Palestinians residing in Israel will accept it. If we fail to insist on this now, we may find ourselves within a generation or two in a situation where Arab Israelis demand (possibly through violence) equal national rights.

The Palestinian state would support this automatically, and may even view this issue as a reason to breach the peace treaty. The way to minimize this risk, or at least to create a situation where the states of the world support us, is to clearly define (in a manner agreed upon by all sides) the State of Israel as the Jewish people’s nation-state.

The Obami and much of the media fail or are unwilling to concede that what is standing between the parties and peace is more fundamental than a housing moratorium. In short, until the Palestinians cease regarding a “peace” deal as a brief interlude in the struggle to remove the Zionist undertaking from the region, there can never, by definition, be peace. Peace is not a cease-fire; it is an agreement to end hostilities permanently and completely. That the Palestinians won’t do.

Peculiar, isn’t it, that Hillary’s and Obama’s public comments don’t mention that. Well, not peculiar at all, for to concede there is such a fundamental barrier to peace would be to let on that Obama’s entire Middle East policy was misguided and naive. Can’t let that get around.

Giora Eiland isn’t impressed with the happy talk coming from the Obama team. George Mitchell may coo all he wants about getting down to “substantive issues,” but the Palestinians show no sign they are willing to accept the most basic element of a peace deal: recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Eiland explains why this is an essential component of any accord:

The Palestinians make a distinction between recognizing the fact that the State of Israel exists and the recognition that it has the right to exist. The camp that supports Mahmoud Abbas has no qualms with the first definition: “Israel exists, and it’s apparently worthwhile to recognize it diplomatically; this is the way to guarantee for the Palestinians what only Israel can give. This agreement is fit for the present, but as to the future – who knows.” …

The entire concept of “Hudna” (long-term ceasefire) is based on an approach that espouses compromise in an effort to elicit what can be achieved now, without abandoning the intention to fight and get much more in the future. The way to curb future demands, especially in respect to the refugee issue, is to create a Palestinian obligation to accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

The Obami, like the rest of the cottage industry of peace processors, operate on a myth: that both sides want peace and the issue is where to draw lines and how to halt and then uproot those darn settlements. It is as if the entire period between 1948 and 1967 never occurred. The Palestinians and their Arab enablers didn’t accept the Jewish state in 1949 (only an armistice was agreed to), didn’t accept the Jewish state in 1967, and still don’t. While Obama is quibbling about settlements in 2010, the Palestinians are still hung up on 1948.

Eiland points to another reason why recognition of the Jewish state is critical:

Should the future Palestinian state not recognize the State of Israel as the Jewish people’s nation-state, there is no chance that the Palestinians residing in Israel will accept it. If we fail to insist on this now, we may find ourselves within a generation or two in a situation where Arab Israelis demand (possibly through violence) equal national rights.

The Palestinian state would support this automatically, and may even view this issue as a reason to breach the peace treaty. The way to minimize this risk, or at least to create a situation where the states of the world support us, is to clearly define (in a manner agreed upon by all sides) the State of Israel as the Jewish people’s nation-state.

The Obami and much of the media fail or are unwilling to concede that what is standing between the parties and peace is more fundamental than a housing moratorium. In short, until the Palestinians cease regarding a “peace” deal as a brief interlude in the struggle to remove the Zionist undertaking from the region, there can never, by definition, be peace. Peace is not a cease-fire; it is an agreement to end hostilities permanently and completely. That the Palestinians won’t do.

Peculiar, isn’t it, that Hillary’s and Obama’s public comments don’t mention that. Well, not peculiar at all, for to concede there is such a fundamental barrier to peace would be to let on that Obama’s entire Middle East policy was misguided and naive. Can’t let that get around.

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The Consequences of Clinton’s Expectations Game

Hillary Clinton’s happy talk about Middle East peace has become part of the soundtrack of the peace talks the administration has orchestrated. Both before and during her drop-in at Sharm el-Sheik, the secretary of state has exuded optimism about the American push for a renewal of a Jewish settlement freeze and the continuance of the negotiations between Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The rhetoric from the Americans has been largely devoted, as Jennifer noted, to direct pressure on the Israelis to make concessions, while demands on the Palestinians remain amorphous. But this imbalance in pressure is just part of the problem. The raising of expectations about peace arriving within another year (as Obama’s envoy George Mitchell keeps telling the press) may have negative consequences that neither Obama nor Clinton is prepared to face.

Given the realities of Palestinian politics, both parties to the talks know very well that the chances of an agreement on final-status issues are slim and none. With his Hamas rivals in control of Gaza and threatening him in the West Bank (where he maintains control only with the help of Israel), Abbas is in no position to make any move to advance peace. Meanwhile Netanyahu is getting beat up by the Israeli right for being weak in the face of American pressure. He may not wish to make concessions on settlements or borders that will compromise his country’s security and be considered irretrievably ceded to the Arabs no matter the outcome of the talks if there is little likelihood that the Palestinians will declare a complete end to their 62-year-old war to destroy Israel. But he also doesn’t want to be blamed for the collapse of the talks when he knows that sooner or later Abbas will bolt.

However long Clinton and Mitchell force Abbas and Netanyahu to dance with each other, at some point the music is going to stop, and when it does, the Americans will have little to show for this latest attempt to persuade Abbas to do what he knows he cannot do. (It was, after all, Abbas who turned down a Palestinian state only two years ago, when Ehud Olmert offered him the same deal Obama is talking about now.) At that point, the pressure on PA president to initiate a campaign of terror against the Israelis in an effort to compete with Hamas for Palestinian popularity may be irresistible. By building up hopes for peace when the foundation for a lasting agreement doesn’t exist, what Obama and Clinton may be generating is a repeat of the aftermath of Camp David 2000, when Israel said yes and Yasir Arafat said no to a deal very much along the lines that the peace processors claim they want now. Anyone who thinks another intifada is out of the question need only read the statements emanating from Hamas this week. As the New York Times reported this afternoon:

The commander of the military wing of Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that rules Gaza, issued a harsh statement against the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, saying that Hamas remained committed to “liberating” Palestine from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, meaning both Israel itself and the West Bank it occupies. In a letter marking the end of the month of Ramadan, the Hamas military commander, Ahmad Al-Jaabari, said the path of jihad and resistance is the only way forward “until victory or martyrdom.” He criticized the Palestinian Authority under Mr. Abbas for negotiating “with the Zionist enemy.”

While the Americans may pretend that just a few more concessions from Netanyahu will do the trick, the specter of Hamas and a renewal of Palestinian violence remains the real obstacle to peace. Clinton’s sparkling optimism about the magic of diplomacy may be setting the stage for yet more bloodshed.

Hillary Clinton’s happy talk about Middle East peace has become part of the soundtrack of the peace talks the administration has orchestrated. Both before and during her drop-in at Sharm el-Sheik, the secretary of state has exuded optimism about the American push for a renewal of a Jewish settlement freeze and the continuance of the negotiations between Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The rhetoric from the Americans has been largely devoted, as Jennifer noted, to direct pressure on the Israelis to make concessions, while demands on the Palestinians remain amorphous. But this imbalance in pressure is just part of the problem. The raising of expectations about peace arriving within another year (as Obama’s envoy George Mitchell keeps telling the press) may have negative consequences that neither Obama nor Clinton is prepared to face.

Given the realities of Palestinian politics, both parties to the talks know very well that the chances of an agreement on final-status issues are slim and none. With his Hamas rivals in control of Gaza and threatening him in the West Bank (where he maintains control only with the help of Israel), Abbas is in no position to make any move to advance peace. Meanwhile Netanyahu is getting beat up by the Israeli right for being weak in the face of American pressure. He may not wish to make concessions on settlements or borders that will compromise his country’s security and be considered irretrievably ceded to the Arabs no matter the outcome of the talks if there is little likelihood that the Palestinians will declare a complete end to their 62-year-old war to destroy Israel. But he also doesn’t want to be blamed for the collapse of the talks when he knows that sooner or later Abbas will bolt.

However long Clinton and Mitchell force Abbas and Netanyahu to dance with each other, at some point the music is going to stop, and when it does, the Americans will have little to show for this latest attempt to persuade Abbas to do what he knows he cannot do. (It was, after all, Abbas who turned down a Palestinian state only two years ago, when Ehud Olmert offered him the same deal Obama is talking about now.) At that point, the pressure on PA president to initiate a campaign of terror against the Israelis in an effort to compete with Hamas for Palestinian popularity may be irresistible. By building up hopes for peace when the foundation for a lasting agreement doesn’t exist, what Obama and Clinton may be generating is a repeat of the aftermath of Camp David 2000, when Israel said yes and Yasir Arafat said no to a deal very much along the lines that the peace processors claim they want now. Anyone who thinks another intifada is out of the question need only read the statements emanating from Hamas this week. As the New York Times reported this afternoon:

The commander of the military wing of Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that rules Gaza, issued a harsh statement against the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, saying that Hamas remained committed to “liberating” Palestine from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, meaning both Israel itself and the West Bank it occupies. In a letter marking the end of the month of Ramadan, the Hamas military commander, Ahmad Al-Jaabari, said the path of jihad and resistance is the only way forward “until victory or martyrdom.” He criticized the Palestinian Authority under Mr. Abbas for negotiating “with the Zionist enemy.”

While the Americans may pretend that just a few more concessions from Netanyahu will do the trick, the specter of Hamas and a renewal of Palestinian violence remains the real obstacle to peace. Clinton’s sparkling optimism about the magic of diplomacy may be setting the stage for yet more bloodshed.

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The Everyone-Knows Peace Process

The AP reports on a “surprising symmetry” between the U.S.-backed regime of Mahmoud Abbas (about to start the 69th month of his 48-month term) and the Iran-backed dictatorship in Gaza (h/t Seth Leibsohn):

Both governments carry out arbitrary arrests, ban rivals from travel, exclude them from civil service jobs and suppress opposition media, [Palestinian] rights groups say. Torture in both West Bank and Gaza lockups includes beatings and tying up detainees in painful positions.

Not only that, but the arc of history seems to be bending downward: “the crackdowns have become more sweeping in recent months as each aims to strengthen its grip on its respective territory.” It comes at an unfortunate time for the peace-processing industry:

With each incident, the wedge is hammered deeper and the hostility grows between the two halves of what is meant to be a future Palestine, just as the U.S. relaunches Mideast talks at the White House this week in hopes of getting an agreement within a year.

Those who threaten Israel with a one-state solution if it does not hand over land to the West Bank “president” and his unelected “prime minister” might consider that Fatah and Hamas cannot live in a single state, even with themselves. Those who believe the West Bank prime minister is building the institutions of a stable state might reflect on the fact that the regime has canceled not only two presidential elections but one for local officials as well.

Why anyone thinks a Judenrein state, with its headquarters in the capital of the Jewish one, with borders approximating the 1949 armistice line that ended the first Arab war against Israel (until the Arabs could regroup for another one), will produce peace, or why such a state should be a central goal of current U.S. foreign policy, is a bit of a mystery. In “Getting to No,” Donald L. Horowitz, professor of law and political science at Duke, has written an important analysis that challenges the conventional wisdom that “everyone knows” what a peace agreement entails and that majorities on both sides support it:

Like a strong majority of Israelis, a strong majority of Palestinians support a two-state solution, but if its boundaries are not the 1967 lines because of territorial swaps, support shrinks. If Palestinians must acknowledge the Jewish character of the Israeli state, only a bare majority agrees. If the borders are not the 1967 lines, the territory is smaller, there is recognition of the Jewish character of Israel, and Palestine must be demilitarized, approval declines by more than half to about 33 percent, according to surveys conducted by the authoritative Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.

Horowitz identifies the conundrum of the everyone-knows peace process: “compromise facilitates agreement but simultaneously reduces popular support for it” — and such a “peace agreement could actually produce warfare.” The article concludes that it is a serious mistake to think that all that is needed are bridging proposals and U.S. pressure. Peace-processors, realists, and everyone else should read the article.

The AP reports on a “surprising symmetry” between the U.S.-backed regime of Mahmoud Abbas (about to start the 69th month of his 48-month term) and the Iran-backed dictatorship in Gaza (h/t Seth Leibsohn):

Both governments carry out arbitrary arrests, ban rivals from travel, exclude them from civil service jobs and suppress opposition media, [Palestinian] rights groups say. Torture in both West Bank and Gaza lockups includes beatings and tying up detainees in painful positions.

Not only that, but the arc of history seems to be bending downward: “the crackdowns have become more sweeping in recent months as each aims to strengthen its grip on its respective territory.” It comes at an unfortunate time for the peace-processing industry:

With each incident, the wedge is hammered deeper and the hostility grows between the two halves of what is meant to be a future Palestine, just as the U.S. relaunches Mideast talks at the White House this week in hopes of getting an agreement within a year.

Those who threaten Israel with a one-state solution if it does not hand over land to the West Bank “president” and his unelected “prime minister” might consider that Fatah and Hamas cannot live in a single state, even with themselves. Those who believe the West Bank prime minister is building the institutions of a stable state might reflect on the fact that the regime has canceled not only two presidential elections but one for local officials as well.

Why anyone thinks a Judenrein state, with its headquarters in the capital of the Jewish one, with borders approximating the 1949 armistice line that ended the first Arab war against Israel (until the Arabs could regroup for another one), will produce peace, or why such a state should be a central goal of current U.S. foreign policy, is a bit of a mystery. In “Getting to No,” Donald L. Horowitz, professor of law and political science at Duke, has written an important analysis that challenges the conventional wisdom that “everyone knows” what a peace agreement entails and that majorities on both sides support it:

Like a strong majority of Israelis, a strong majority of Palestinians support a two-state solution, but if its boundaries are not the 1967 lines because of territorial swaps, support shrinks. If Palestinians must acknowledge the Jewish character of the Israeli state, only a bare majority agrees. If the borders are not the 1967 lines, the territory is smaller, there is recognition of the Jewish character of Israel, and Palestine must be demilitarized, approval declines by more than half to about 33 percent, according to surveys conducted by the authoritative Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.

Horowitz identifies the conundrum of the everyone-knows peace process: “compromise facilitates agreement but simultaneously reduces popular support for it” — and such a “peace agreement could actually produce warfare.” The article concludes that it is a serious mistake to think that all that is needed are bridging proposals and U.S. pressure. Peace-processors, realists, and everyone else should read the article.

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Proximity Talks Aren’t a “Step Backward” for Obama

I write this only because it keeps being claimed (here is a new example) that the start of “proximity talks” between Israelis and Palestinians is an unfortunate retrogression in the peace process. There certainly have been many foolish plays on President Obama’s part that have led to this point, but he is doing a good job of turning lemons into lemonade. Here is State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley issuing an unconcealed threat:

“As both parties know, if either takes significant actions during the proximity talks that we judge would seriously undermine trust, we will respond to hold them accountable and ensure that negotiations continue,” Crowley said.

The peace processors have seen negotiations, summits, unilateral disengagement, and all the rest fail; it never matters, of course, because they’re always willing to go back into the laboratory and come up with a new formula of diplomacy and concessions and inducements and confidence-building measures and bridging proposals that will finally make it work.

The newest formula is contained in a statement that has become fashionable among peace processors, which goes something like this: “Everyone knows what a deal would look like. We just have to get the two sides to make the hard choices.” If you believe this, you probably also believe that the peace process, as it’s existed since the beginning of Oslo, has always had America in the wrong role — that of facilitator and cajoler, not as the father figure laying down the law with a shotgun on the table.

And if you’re Barack Obama, you’ve always dreamed of imposing terms on the Israelis (and to a lesser degree, the Palestinians). And now the problems you provoked give you the opportunity to do that which has always been lacking. For Obama, the proximity talks are a win, because they liberate the United States from the strictures of its previous approach. It’s true that proximity talks are a reversion to an era when Israelis and Palestinians weren’t even sitting at the same table. But Barack Obama wasn’t president back then.

I write this only because it keeps being claimed (here is a new example) that the start of “proximity talks” between Israelis and Palestinians is an unfortunate retrogression in the peace process. There certainly have been many foolish plays on President Obama’s part that have led to this point, but he is doing a good job of turning lemons into lemonade. Here is State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley issuing an unconcealed threat:

“As both parties know, if either takes significant actions during the proximity talks that we judge would seriously undermine trust, we will respond to hold them accountable and ensure that negotiations continue,” Crowley said.

The peace processors have seen negotiations, summits, unilateral disengagement, and all the rest fail; it never matters, of course, because they’re always willing to go back into the laboratory and come up with a new formula of diplomacy and concessions and inducements and confidence-building measures and bridging proposals that will finally make it work.

The newest formula is contained in a statement that has become fashionable among peace processors, which goes something like this: “Everyone knows what a deal would look like. We just have to get the two sides to make the hard choices.” If you believe this, you probably also believe that the peace process, as it’s existed since the beginning of Oslo, has always had America in the wrong role — that of facilitator and cajoler, not as the father figure laying down the law with a shotgun on the table.

And if you’re Barack Obama, you’ve always dreamed of imposing terms on the Israelis (and to a lesser degree, the Palestinians). And now the problems you provoked give you the opportunity to do that which has always been lacking. For Obama, the proximity talks are a win, because they liberate the United States from the strictures of its previous approach. It’s true that proximity talks are a reversion to an era when Israelis and Palestinians weren’t even sitting at the same table. But Barack Obama wasn’t president back then.

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RE: Stop Worshipping the False “Peace Process” Religion

Jen, nothing better demonstrates the point that Aaron David Miller and you make about the “peace process” than the fact that, when speaking about it, one needs to put air quotes around it. The “peace process” has not produced peace, and these days is not even a process. The proposed “proximity talks” are not really talks, and the word “proximity” means . . . what? That the non-talking parties are physically near each other? That the non-talks are “approximately” talks? It is getting difficult to follow even the euphemisms used for the “peace process” rituals.

The irony is that when Benjamin Netanyahu came to Washington last May, six weeks after forming a government that included both Likud and Labor, he proposed immediate peace negotiations — rejecting the advice of his foreign minister to slow down. Netanyahu was met with a new precondition: cessation of any and all building anywhere east of the 1967 boundaries, even in Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem, and even in major Jewish population centers that Israel would retain in any conceivable peace agreement. No similar cessation was proposed for Arab building, nor was any other precondition proposed for the Palestinians, who only months before had rejected still another Israeli offer of a state that the secretary of state had urged them to accept.

A week later, Obama met with Mahmoud Abbas and undoubtedly told him about the condition he had just imposed on Netanyahu; ever since, Abbas has refused to negotiate until the condition is met. A week after that, Obama went to Cairo and announced to the entire Muslim world that the U.S. did not accept the “legitimacy of continued settlements.” In a little over two weeks, Obama had transformed the “peace process” into a battle over a precondition that no Israeli government could accept and no Palestinian leader could forgo (not after the U.S. had insisted on it and announced it to the world).

To believe that the next logical step should be a U.S. “plan” to be effectively imposed on the parties — or at least one of them, or maybe one and a half of them — is a sign of a religion in search of stone tablets to be handed down. Having failed to initiate talks even after Israel accepted them, the peace processors in the administration now apparently want to jump to the end game and have the president simply announce it. They must think he is sort of a deity.

Jen, nothing better demonstrates the point that Aaron David Miller and you make about the “peace process” than the fact that, when speaking about it, one needs to put air quotes around it. The “peace process” has not produced peace, and these days is not even a process. The proposed “proximity talks” are not really talks, and the word “proximity” means . . . what? That the non-talking parties are physically near each other? That the non-talks are “approximately” talks? It is getting difficult to follow even the euphemisms used for the “peace process” rituals.

The irony is that when Benjamin Netanyahu came to Washington last May, six weeks after forming a government that included both Likud and Labor, he proposed immediate peace negotiations — rejecting the advice of his foreign minister to slow down. Netanyahu was met with a new precondition: cessation of any and all building anywhere east of the 1967 boundaries, even in Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem, and even in major Jewish population centers that Israel would retain in any conceivable peace agreement. No similar cessation was proposed for Arab building, nor was any other precondition proposed for the Palestinians, who only months before had rejected still another Israeli offer of a state that the secretary of state had urged them to accept.

A week later, Obama met with Mahmoud Abbas and undoubtedly told him about the condition he had just imposed on Netanyahu; ever since, Abbas has refused to negotiate until the condition is met. A week after that, Obama went to Cairo and announced to the entire Muslim world that the U.S. did not accept the “legitimacy of continued settlements.” In a little over two weeks, Obama had transformed the “peace process” into a battle over a precondition that no Israeli government could accept and no Palestinian leader could forgo (not after the U.S. had insisted on it and announced it to the world).

To believe that the next logical step should be a U.S. “plan” to be effectively imposed on the parties — or at least one of them, or maybe one and a half of them — is a sign of a religion in search of stone tablets to be handed down. Having failed to initiate talks even after Israel accepted them, the peace processors in the administration now apparently want to jump to the end game and have the president simply announce it. They must think he is sort of a deity.

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An Unusual Alignment of Interests

More than any other Arab head of state in the world, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has mastered the art of telling listeners what they want to hear.

Last week, he said his country is fully committed to peace in the Middle East, though he worries the Israel government isn’t. He knows this is what bien pensants in the West like to believe. He knows they find it refreshing that he can talk like a liberal while Iran’s Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threaten apocalypse.

He also knows how to talk like the right kind of hardliner. Yesterday, he condemned the double suicide-bombing in Moscow’s underground metro and urged the international community to “fight terror around the globe.”

It’s no wonder, then, that some in Washington, Paris, and even Jerusalem think he’s a man they can do business with. All they have to do is convince him that his alliance with Iran is counterproductive, that it runs contrary to his self-evident interests and public pronouncements.

Syria, though, is the most aggressive state sponsor of terrorism in the world after Iran. Assad doesn’t even try to keep up the pretense when he isn’t preening before peace processors. Last week, he said Israel only understands force — a statement perfectly in line with his behavior. And just two days ago, he and Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi urged the Palestinian Authority to scrap negotiations with Israel and return to its terrorist roots.

It’s hard to say if Western diplomats and foreign policy makers are actually suckered in by his act or if they’re just playing along because doing so suits them. Either way, they’d be wise to ignore him even when he makes the right noises and pay a little more heed to what other Arab leaders are saying instead. Their interests are far more in line with ours than Assad’s are.

Over the weekend, all, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, rejected Syria’s and Libya’s calls for armed attacks against Israel. Most aren’t interested in signing a treaty with Benjamin Netanyahu any time soon, but at least they don’t yearn for another Operation Cast Lead or a Third Lebanon War. The status quo ultimately isn’t sustainable, but it’s mostly non-violent right now. There’s nothing urgent about it as long as the Syrian- and Iranian-led resistance bloc isn’t fueling its missiles.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the two most influential of the Sunni Arab regimes, flatly reject the idea of dialogue with Tehran while publicly supporting the peace process theater. Even if they’re no more sincere about the latter than Bashar al-Assad, as long as their rhetoric matches their immobility and conflict aversion, who cares?

Meanwhile, Iraqis gave Ayad Allawi and his slate of staunchly anti-Iranian candidates a plurality of votes in the recent election. The moderate Nouri al-Maliki came in second while the pro-Iranian Iraqi National Alliance came in dead last. Iran tried to Lebanonize Iraq with its Sadrist militias but seems to have failed. The Saudis are profoundly relieved, and the rest of the Arabs outside Syria surely are, too.

So what we have here, for the most part, is an Arab Middle East that wants to put the Israeli conflict on ice and resist the resistance instead — which is more or less what the Israelis want to see happen. It’s an unusual alignment of interests, but it is authentic. Iran’s Khomeinist regime has been gunning for Arabs in the Middle East since it came to power — and not just in Lebanon and Iraq but also in the Gulf and North Africa.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia are unreliable allies (and that’s being generous), but their interests really do overlap with our own and even with Israel’s once in a while. Assad, at the same time, can’t always be bothered even to pretend he shares interests with the U.S. and Israel. His government has been sanctioned and stigmatized for a reason, and it’s not because he’s misguided or misunderstood.

President Barack Obama clearly wants to tilt U.S. foreign policy more toward the Arabs, but he doesn’t have to do it at the expense of our alliance with Israel. Just start with what Washington, Jerusalem, and most of the Arab states have in common and build outward from there. The present alignment may only come round once in a century, so we best not blow it.

More than any other Arab head of state in the world, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has mastered the art of telling listeners what they want to hear.

Last week, he said his country is fully committed to peace in the Middle East, though he worries the Israel government isn’t. He knows this is what bien pensants in the West like to believe. He knows they find it refreshing that he can talk like a liberal while Iran’s Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threaten apocalypse.

He also knows how to talk like the right kind of hardliner. Yesterday, he condemned the double suicide-bombing in Moscow’s underground metro and urged the international community to “fight terror around the globe.”

It’s no wonder, then, that some in Washington, Paris, and even Jerusalem think he’s a man they can do business with. All they have to do is convince him that his alliance with Iran is counterproductive, that it runs contrary to his self-evident interests and public pronouncements.

Syria, though, is the most aggressive state sponsor of terrorism in the world after Iran. Assad doesn’t even try to keep up the pretense when he isn’t preening before peace processors. Last week, he said Israel only understands force — a statement perfectly in line with his behavior. And just two days ago, he and Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi urged the Palestinian Authority to scrap negotiations with Israel and return to its terrorist roots.

It’s hard to say if Western diplomats and foreign policy makers are actually suckered in by his act or if they’re just playing along because doing so suits them. Either way, they’d be wise to ignore him even when he makes the right noises and pay a little more heed to what other Arab leaders are saying instead. Their interests are far more in line with ours than Assad’s are.

Over the weekend, all, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, rejected Syria’s and Libya’s calls for armed attacks against Israel. Most aren’t interested in signing a treaty with Benjamin Netanyahu any time soon, but at least they don’t yearn for another Operation Cast Lead or a Third Lebanon War. The status quo ultimately isn’t sustainable, but it’s mostly non-violent right now. There’s nothing urgent about it as long as the Syrian- and Iranian-led resistance bloc isn’t fueling its missiles.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the two most influential of the Sunni Arab regimes, flatly reject the idea of dialogue with Tehran while publicly supporting the peace process theater. Even if they’re no more sincere about the latter than Bashar al-Assad, as long as their rhetoric matches their immobility and conflict aversion, who cares?

Meanwhile, Iraqis gave Ayad Allawi and his slate of staunchly anti-Iranian candidates a plurality of votes in the recent election. The moderate Nouri al-Maliki came in second while the pro-Iranian Iraqi National Alliance came in dead last. Iran tried to Lebanonize Iraq with its Sadrist militias but seems to have failed. The Saudis are profoundly relieved, and the rest of the Arabs outside Syria surely are, too.

So what we have here, for the most part, is an Arab Middle East that wants to put the Israeli conflict on ice and resist the resistance instead — which is more or less what the Israelis want to see happen. It’s an unusual alignment of interests, but it is authentic. Iran’s Khomeinist regime has been gunning for Arabs in the Middle East since it came to power — and not just in Lebanon and Iraq but also in the Gulf and North Africa.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia are unreliable allies (and that’s being generous), but their interests really do overlap with our own and even with Israel’s once in a while. Assad, at the same time, can’t always be bothered even to pretend he shares interests with the U.S. and Israel. His government has been sanctioned and stigmatized for a reason, and it’s not because he’s misguided or misunderstood.

President Barack Obama clearly wants to tilt U.S. foreign policy more toward the Arabs, but he doesn’t have to do it at the expense of our alliance with Israel. Just start with what Washington, Jerusalem, and most of the Arab states have in common and build outward from there. The present alignment may only come round once in a century, so we best not blow it.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The National Jewish Democratic Council attacks other Jewish organizations for going after Obama on the Israel-bashing. Well, it’s nice to know what the NJDC’s priorities are.

In a radio interview, Carly Fiorina sounds quite knowledgeable on the Jerusalem housing project and bashes Obama for blowing up the incident. She asks why the administration “says nothing” when Syria and Iran talk about the destruction of Israel. She calls on Barbara Boxer to say something. (Boxer has been silent.)

Chuck DeVore also puts out a strong statement excoriating Obama. “For the Administration to ‘condemn’ — the strongest possible diplomatic language — the construction of some apartments in a historically Jewish section of Jerusalem does nothing to advance the cause of peace, and still less the security of our country. Peace is advanced through strength, not weakness — and through unity, not division. At a stroke, President Obama has diminished both.”

Cliff May: “How do you explain the strange calculus that condemns building homes for citizens and condones celebrating terrorism? You start by understanding not how the “peace process” works — because it doesn’t — but how ‘peace processors’ think. They have convinced themselves that the Palestinians will make peace with the Israelis when and if the Israelis make sufficient concessions. So the pressure must always be on the Israelis to offer more concessions.”

Charles Krauthammer in his not-to-be missed smackdown of Obama notes: “Under Obama, Netanyahu agreed to commit his center-right coalition to acceptance of a Palestinian state; took down dozens of anti-terror roadblocks and checkpoints to ease life for the Palestinians; assisted West Bank economic development to the point where its gross domestic product is growing at an astounding 7 percent a year; and agreed to the West Bank construction moratorium, a concession that Secretary Clinton herself called ‘unprecedented.’ What reciprocal gesture, let alone concession, has Abbas made during the Obama presidency? Not one.” Read the whole thing.

More bad news for incumbents: “A gauge of future economic activity rose 0.1 percent in February, suggesting slow economic growth this summer, a private research group said Thursday.”

The ObamaCare effect? “Obama’s job approval in the RCP Average has gone net negative for the first time ever as well. Currently 47.3% of those surveyed approve of the job Obama is doing as President, while 47.8% disapprove.”

That was due, in part, to Gallup: “President Barack Obama’s job approval is the worst of his presidency to date, with 46% of Americans approving and 48% disapproving of the job he is doing as president in the latest Gallup Daily three-day average. … The new low ratings come during a week in which the White House and Democratic congressional leaders are working to convince wavering House Democrats to support healthcare reform, which they hope to pass using a series of parliamentary maneuvers in the House of Representatives and Senate. Americans hold Congress in far less esteem than they do the president — 16% approve and 80% disapprove of the job Congress is doing. … That is just two points off the record-low 14% Gallup measured in July 2008.”

The National Jewish Democratic Council attacks other Jewish organizations for going after Obama on the Israel-bashing. Well, it’s nice to know what the NJDC’s priorities are.

In a radio interview, Carly Fiorina sounds quite knowledgeable on the Jerusalem housing project and bashes Obama for blowing up the incident. She asks why the administration “says nothing” when Syria and Iran talk about the destruction of Israel. She calls on Barbara Boxer to say something. (Boxer has been silent.)

Chuck DeVore also puts out a strong statement excoriating Obama. “For the Administration to ‘condemn’ — the strongest possible diplomatic language — the construction of some apartments in a historically Jewish section of Jerusalem does nothing to advance the cause of peace, and still less the security of our country. Peace is advanced through strength, not weakness — and through unity, not division. At a stroke, President Obama has diminished both.”

Cliff May: “How do you explain the strange calculus that condemns building homes for citizens and condones celebrating terrorism? You start by understanding not how the “peace process” works — because it doesn’t — but how ‘peace processors’ think. They have convinced themselves that the Palestinians will make peace with the Israelis when and if the Israelis make sufficient concessions. So the pressure must always be on the Israelis to offer more concessions.”

Charles Krauthammer in his not-to-be missed smackdown of Obama notes: “Under Obama, Netanyahu agreed to commit his center-right coalition to acceptance of a Palestinian state; took down dozens of anti-terror roadblocks and checkpoints to ease life for the Palestinians; assisted West Bank economic development to the point where its gross domestic product is growing at an astounding 7 percent a year; and agreed to the West Bank construction moratorium, a concession that Secretary Clinton herself called ‘unprecedented.’ What reciprocal gesture, let alone concession, has Abbas made during the Obama presidency? Not one.” Read the whole thing.

More bad news for incumbents: “A gauge of future economic activity rose 0.1 percent in February, suggesting slow economic growth this summer, a private research group said Thursday.”

The ObamaCare effect? “Obama’s job approval in the RCP Average has gone net negative for the first time ever as well. Currently 47.3% of those surveyed approve of the job Obama is doing as President, while 47.8% disapprove.”

That was due, in part, to Gallup: “President Barack Obama’s job approval is the worst of his presidency to date, with 46% of Americans approving and 48% disapproving of the job he is doing as president in the latest Gallup Daily three-day average. … The new low ratings come during a week in which the White House and Democratic congressional leaders are working to convince wavering House Democrats to support healthcare reform, which they hope to pass using a series of parliamentary maneuvers in the House of Representatives and Senate. Americans hold Congress in far less esteem than they do the president — 16% approve and 80% disapprove of the job Congress is doing. … That is just two points off the record-low 14% Gallup measured in July 2008.”

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New Pew Poll on Muslim Opinion

The good news is that Muslims in the Middle East tend not to like the Islamists in their own countries. The bad news is that they tend to like the Islamists in other countries.

Hamas has a 37 percent approval rating in the Gaza Strip, but Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, enjoys 65 percent and 71 percent approval in Gaza and the West Bank, respectively.

Question for the peace processors: Is peace likely when two-thirds of Palestinians think that Hassan Nasrallah is a great guy?

Other interesting tidbits: Nigeria appears to have the highest rate of cognitive dissonance among the countries surveyed, with 81 percent approving of President Obama while 54 percent approve of Osama bin Laden. Where does bin Laden earn his second-highest approval rating, at 51 percent? From the Palestinians. I know that the politically correct, “know hope” thing to say is that the Palestinians overwhelmingly want peace; but as we see again from Pew, the public-opinion data simply do not shown this to be true.

A summary of the survey is here.

The good news is that Muslims in the Middle East tend not to like the Islamists in their own countries. The bad news is that they tend to like the Islamists in other countries.

Hamas has a 37 percent approval rating in the Gaza Strip, but Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, enjoys 65 percent and 71 percent approval in Gaza and the West Bank, respectively.

Question for the peace processors: Is peace likely when two-thirds of Palestinians think that Hassan Nasrallah is a great guy?

Other interesting tidbits: Nigeria appears to have the highest rate of cognitive dissonance among the countries surveyed, with 81 percent approving of President Obama while 54 percent approve of Osama bin Laden. Where does bin Laden earn his second-highest approval rating, at 51 percent? From the Palestinians. I know that the politically correct, “know hope” thing to say is that the Palestinians overwhelmingly want peace; but as we see again from Pew, the public-opinion data simply do not shown this to be true.

A summary of the survey is here.

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A Lesson for London

Meeting with Israeli officials in Jerusalem this morning, British Attorney General Baroness Scotland reiterated her government’s pledge to amend the “universal jurisdiction” law under which British courts have repeatedly issued arrest warrants against Israeli officers and politicians. That pledge, first made by Prime Minister Gordon Brown last month, outraged the Muslim Council of Britain, which accused the government of being “partisan” and “compliant to [Israeli] demands.”

But if Britain keeps its word, the pro-Palestinian activists who keep seeking, and getting, those warrants will have only themselves to blame. After all, British courts have issued such warrants for years without the British government batting an eye, despite vociferous Israeli protests, and could probably have continued doing so had activists only picked their targets a little more carefully. The British couldn’t care less if Israeli army officers canceled planned visits for fear of being arrested, as yet another group did last week. Ditto for right-of-center politicians such as Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who aborted a planned trip in November: Britain would rather not hear from Israelis who think peace with the Palestinians is currently impossible.

But the activists overreached last month by securing a warrant against former foreign minister and current opposition leader Tzipi Livni. Livni is the Great White Hope of peace-processors worldwide, the Israeli deemed most likely to sign a deal with the Palestinians. She won praise from her Palestinian interlocutors during a year of final-status negotiations in 2008; she publicly declares that any Israeli premier’s primary responsibility, far above such trivialities as preventing Iran from getting the bomb, is to create a Palestinian state. And, not coincidentally, she is the most left-wing Israeli who could conceivably become prime minister. If even Livni can’t travel to Britain, London would be left with no Israelis to talk to at all.

And for the pro-Palestinian radicals who seek these warrants, that’s precisely the point. In their view, there are no “good” Israelis; all Israelis (except those who favor abolishing their own country) are evil and deserve to be in jail. There’s no difference between Livni, passionately committed to Palestinian statehood, and a right-wing extremist, because Livni and the extremist are equally guilty of the cardinal sins: both believe Israel should continue to exist as a Jewish state, and both are willing to fight to defend it.

In truth, Britain ought to amend the law for its own sake: while Israelis can live without visiting London, a country whose soldiers are in combat from Iraq to Afghanistan has much to lose from encouraging universal jurisdiction, which allows any country to try any other country’s nationals for “war crimes” committed anywhere in the world, even if neither crime nor criminal has any connection to the indicting country. Hence if the Livni warrant does finally spur London to action, Britain will benefit no less than Israel does.

But it would be even more useful if the case finally prompted Britons to recognize the pro-Palestinian radicals’ true goal: not “peace,” but the end of Israel.

Meeting with Israeli officials in Jerusalem this morning, British Attorney General Baroness Scotland reiterated her government’s pledge to amend the “universal jurisdiction” law under which British courts have repeatedly issued arrest warrants against Israeli officers and politicians. That pledge, first made by Prime Minister Gordon Brown last month, outraged the Muslim Council of Britain, which accused the government of being “partisan” and “compliant to [Israeli] demands.”

But if Britain keeps its word, the pro-Palestinian activists who keep seeking, and getting, those warrants will have only themselves to blame. After all, British courts have issued such warrants for years without the British government batting an eye, despite vociferous Israeli protests, and could probably have continued doing so had activists only picked their targets a little more carefully. The British couldn’t care less if Israeli army officers canceled planned visits for fear of being arrested, as yet another group did last week. Ditto for right-of-center politicians such as Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who aborted a planned trip in November: Britain would rather not hear from Israelis who think peace with the Palestinians is currently impossible.

But the activists overreached last month by securing a warrant against former foreign minister and current opposition leader Tzipi Livni. Livni is the Great White Hope of peace-processors worldwide, the Israeli deemed most likely to sign a deal with the Palestinians. She won praise from her Palestinian interlocutors during a year of final-status negotiations in 2008; she publicly declares that any Israeli premier’s primary responsibility, far above such trivialities as preventing Iran from getting the bomb, is to create a Palestinian state. And, not coincidentally, she is the most left-wing Israeli who could conceivably become prime minister. If even Livni can’t travel to Britain, London would be left with no Israelis to talk to at all.

And for the pro-Palestinian radicals who seek these warrants, that’s precisely the point. In their view, there are no “good” Israelis; all Israelis (except those who favor abolishing their own country) are evil and deserve to be in jail. There’s no difference between Livni, passionately committed to Palestinian statehood, and a right-wing extremist, because Livni and the extremist are equally guilty of the cardinal sins: both believe Israel should continue to exist as a Jewish state, and both are willing to fight to defend it.

In truth, Britain ought to amend the law for its own sake: while Israelis can live without visiting London, a country whose soldiers are in combat from Iraq to Afghanistan has much to lose from encouraging universal jurisdiction, which allows any country to try any other country’s nationals for “war crimes” committed anywhere in the world, even if neither crime nor criminal has any connection to the indicting country. Hence if the Livni warrant does finally spur London to action, Britain will benefit no less than Israel does.

But it would be even more useful if the case finally prompted Britons to recognize the pro-Palestinian radicals’ true goal: not “peace,” but the end of Israel.

Read Less




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