Commentary Magazine


Topic: Rick

Palestine Papers Confirm What Israel Has Said All Along

I don’t know whether the “Palestine Papers” published yesterday by Al Jazeera and the Guardian are real or, as Barry Rubin argues, a fake aimed at discrediting the Palestinian Authority’s current leadership. What is certainly false, however, is the claim, as Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland put it, that “Now we know. Israel had a peace partner.”

If the papers are true, then, as Noah pointed out, they show the PA agreeing to let Israel keep most — though not all — of the huge Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, which are home to hundreds of thousands of Israelis. The Guardian deems this concession shameful. Freedland terms it “unthinkable”; the paper’s editorial goes even further, accusing Palestinians of agreeing “to flog the family silver.”

Yet, as Rick noted, every peace plan of the past decade — starting with the Clinton Parameters in 2000, which virtually the entire world claims to view as the basis for any agreement — has proposed assigning the Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem to Israel. The Guardian is entitled to fantasize about a Palestinian state “created on 1967 borders, not around them,” but no serious mediator or negotiator ever has. Even UN Security Council Resolution 242, which everyone accepts as the basis for talks, was drafted so as to allow changes to the pre-1967 armistice lines.

Indeed, far from constituting an “unthinkable” concession, the PA offer detailed in these documents didn’t even amount to the minimum that every peace plan of the past decade has deemed necessary for an agreement — because every such plan, again starting with the Clinton Parameters, has also proposed giving Israel additional parts of the West Bank (usually in exchange for equivalent territory inside Israel) so as to allow it to retain some of the major settlement blocs. And, according to these documents, the Palestinians wouldn’t agree to that.

This, of course, tallies exactly with what Israel has said for the past decade. Israel never claimed that negotiations broke down over Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, but it repeatedly claimed that talks broke down over other issues, such as borders. In 2008, for instance, Ehud Olmert offered the Palestinians 93 percent of the West Bank plus territorial swaps equivalent to the remainder, but the Palestinians refused to sign: they insisted on land swaps of only about 2 percent (see here or here).

The Palestine Papers also claim that the PA agreed to cede exclusive control over the Temple Mount in favor of management by “a body or committee.” But that, too, was in Olmert’s offer: a five-member committee composed of Palestine, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the U.S., thereby ensuring an Arab majority. And, again, the Palestinians refused to sign. Indeed, PA President Mahmoud Abbas subsequently told the Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl that “the gaps were wide.”

The documents did, however, contain one revealing quote: chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat allegedly told an American official, “Israelis want the two state solution but they don’t trust. They want it more than you think, sometimes more than Palestinians.”

Whether or not Erekat actually said that, it’s unfortunately true. And until it changes, peace will remain a distant dream.

I don’t know whether the “Palestine Papers” published yesterday by Al Jazeera and the Guardian are real or, as Barry Rubin argues, a fake aimed at discrediting the Palestinian Authority’s current leadership. What is certainly false, however, is the claim, as Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland put it, that “Now we know. Israel had a peace partner.”

If the papers are true, then, as Noah pointed out, they show the PA agreeing to let Israel keep most — though not all — of the huge Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, which are home to hundreds of thousands of Israelis. The Guardian deems this concession shameful. Freedland terms it “unthinkable”; the paper’s editorial goes even further, accusing Palestinians of agreeing “to flog the family silver.”

Yet, as Rick noted, every peace plan of the past decade — starting with the Clinton Parameters in 2000, which virtually the entire world claims to view as the basis for any agreement — has proposed assigning the Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem to Israel. The Guardian is entitled to fantasize about a Palestinian state “created on 1967 borders, not around them,” but no serious mediator or negotiator ever has. Even UN Security Council Resolution 242, which everyone accepts as the basis for talks, was drafted so as to allow changes to the pre-1967 armistice lines.

Indeed, far from constituting an “unthinkable” concession, the PA offer detailed in these documents didn’t even amount to the minimum that every peace plan of the past decade has deemed necessary for an agreement — because every such plan, again starting with the Clinton Parameters, has also proposed giving Israel additional parts of the West Bank (usually in exchange for equivalent territory inside Israel) so as to allow it to retain some of the major settlement blocs. And, according to these documents, the Palestinians wouldn’t agree to that.

This, of course, tallies exactly with what Israel has said for the past decade. Israel never claimed that negotiations broke down over Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, but it repeatedly claimed that talks broke down over other issues, such as borders. In 2008, for instance, Ehud Olmert offered the Palestinians 93 percent of the West Bank plus territorial swaps equivalent to the remainder, but the Palestinians refused to sign: they insisted on land swaps of only about 2 percent (see here or here).

The Palestine Papers also claim that the PA agreed to cede exclusive control over the Temple Mount in favor of management by “a body or committee.” But that, too, was in Olmert’s offer: a five-member committee composed of Palestine, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the U.S., thereby ensuring an Arab majority. And, again, the Palestinians refused to sign. Indeed, PA President Mahmoud Abbas subsequently told the Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl that “the gaps were wide.”

The documents did, however, contain one revealing quote: chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat allegedly told an American official, “Israelis want the two state solution but they don’t trust. They want it more than you think, sometimes more than Palestinians.”

Whether or not Erekat actually said that, it’s unfortunately true. And until it changes, peace will remain a distant dream.

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Getting a Grip on Obama’s Real Place in History

During the 2008 campaign, the historian Garry Wills compared Barack Obama’s Philadelphia speech on race with Abraham Lincoln’s Cooper Union address. Now he’s back at it, though he’s raising the bar a bit higher.

As both Alana and Rick have pointed out, according to Wills, President Obama’s Tucson speech “bears comparison with two Lincoln speeches even greater than the Copper Union address” — Gettysburg and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural address.

Actually, it doesn’t.

I thought the president’s speech was a very good one. But the gushing Professor Wills really does need to get a grip on himself.

We also learn in his blog that (surprise) the New York Review wanted to publish a booklet printing the Lincoln and Obama speeches together, but the Obama campaign (wisely) discouraged that idea, perhaps to avoid any suspicion that they were calling Obama a second Lincoln. “Well,” Wills informs us, in the aftermath of the Tucson speech, “I am willing to risk such opposition now.”

It should be clear by now, even to Obama’s most passionate supporters, that he’s no Lincoln (he’s closer to being another Carter). Any effort to pretend that Obama belongs anywhere in same conversation with Lincoln is really quite silly. But such is the state of mind of the New York Review of Books and its writers these days. It’s not enough to be admiring of Obama; they have to be worshipful.

Like besotted adolescents, the left is rekindling its love affair with Barack Obama after only a single speech. Be warned: queasiness to follow.

During the 2008 campaign, the historian Garry Wills compared Barack Obama’s Philadelphia speech on race with Abraham Lincoln’s Cooper Union address. Now he’s back at it, though he’s raising the bar a bit higher.

As both Alana and Rick have pointed out, according to Wills, President Obama’s Tucson speech “bears comparison with two Lincoln speeches even greater than the Copper Union address” — Gettysburg and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural address.

Actually, it doesn’t.

I thought the president’s speech was a very good one. But the gushing Professor Wills really does need to get a grip on himself.

We also learn in his blog that (surprise) the New York Review wanted to publish a booklet printing the Lincoln and Obama speeches together, but the Obama campaign (wisely) discouraged that idea, perhaps to avoid any suspicion that they were calling Obama a second Lincoln. “Well,” Wills informs us, in the aftermath of the Tucson speech, “I am willing to risk such opposition now.”

It should be clear by now, even to Obama’s most passionate supporters, that he’s no Lincoln (he’s closer to being another Carter). Any effort to pretend that Obama belongs anywhere in same conversation with Lincoln is really quite silly. But such is the state of mind of the New York Review of Books and its writers these days. It’s not enough to be admiring of Obama; they have to be worshipful.

Like besotted adolescents, the left is rekindling its love affair with Barack Obama after only a single speech. Be warned: queasiness to follow.

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Obama’s Not-So-Very-Good Week

David Brooks is not only an outstanding columnist; he’s also a friend. And so I want to register a friendly dissent with his column today.

As Rick noted, David argues that Barack Obama ran for president as a “network liberal” — defined as  one who believes progress is achieved by leaders savvy enough to build coalitions. (Brooks contrasts this with “cluster liberals/cluster conservatives,” meaning those who believe that victory is achieved through “maximum unity” and that “partisan might” should be “bluntly applied.”) But in office, Brooks writes, “Obama, like George W. Bush before him, narrowed his networks.”

That is, I think, an unfair reading of the Bush presidency.

One of the first significant legislative undertakings of President Bush, for example, was No Child Left Behind, which was the result of substantial bipartisan cooperation. President Obama has, until now, shown no such inclination to work with Republicans. In the first term, Bush also worked with Democrats on Medicare prescription drugs. Both the Afghanistan and Iraq war resolutions had substantial to overwhelming bipartisan support; so did the Patriot Act. Even on the 2001 tax cuts, Bush worked with Democrats and took into account their input. (Then House Democratic leader Richard Gephardt said a corporate tax cut was a non-starter with his caucus; he suggested instead sending out rebate checks to low- and moderate-income households. In response Bush, against his better judgment, instructed the White House staff to replace the corporate rate cut with Gephardt’s rebates. For more, see Karl Rove’s Courage and Consequence, chapter 19.)

At comparable points in their presidency, then, George W. Bush was much more of a “network conservative” than Obama has been a “network liberal.” Read More

David Brooks is not only an outstanding columnist; he’s also a friend. And so I want to register a friendly dissent with his column today.

As Rick noted, David argues that Barack Obama ran for president as a “network liberal” — defined as  one who believes progress is achieved by leaders savvy enough to build coalitions. (Brooks contrasts this with “cluster liberals/cluster conservatives,” meaning those who believe that victory is achieved through “maximum unity” and that “partisan might” should be “bluntly applied.”) But in office, Brooks writes, “Obama, like George W. Bush before him, narrowed his networks.”

That is, I think, an unfair reading of the Bush presidency.

One of the first significant legislative undertakings of President Bush, for example, was No Child Left Behind, which was the result of substantial bipartisan cooperation. President Obama has, until now, shown no such inclination to work with Republicans. In the first term, Bush also worked with Democrats on Medicare prescription drugs. Both the Afghanistan and Iraq war resolutions had substantial to overwhelming bipartisan support; so did the Patriot Act. Even on the 2001 tax cuts, Bush worked with Democrats and took into account their input. (Then House Democratic leader Richard Gephardt said a corporate tax cut was a non-starter with his caucus; he suggested instead sending out rebate checks to low- and moderate-income households. In response Bush, against his better judgment, instructed the White House staff to replace the corporate rate cut with Gephardt’s rebates. For more, see Karl Rove’s Courage and Consequence, chapter 19.)

At comparable points in their presidency, then, George W. Bush was much more of a “network conservative” than Obama has been a “network liberal.”

Second, David — in contrasting Obama favorably this week with “cluster liberals” — writes:

Cluster liberals in the House and the commentariat are angry. They have no strategy for how Obama could have better played his weak hand — with a coming Republican majority, an expiring tax law and several Democratic senators from red states insisting on extending all the cuts. They just sense the waning of their moment and are howling in protest.

They believe nonliberals are blackmailers or hostage-takers or the concentrated repositories of human evil, so, of course, they see coalition-building as collaboration. They are also convinced that Democrats should never start a negotiation because they will always end up losing in the end. (Perhaps psychologists can explain the interesting combination: intellectual self-confidence alongside a political inferiority complex.)

Some of this analysis I agree with. I would point out, however, that (a) during his press conference, Obama was as visibly angry as many people can recall seeing him, and (b) the term “hostage takers” was used by Obama against Republicans.

Finally, I disagree with David’s verdict that Obama had “a very good week.” Brooks’s argument is that Obama has put himself in a position to govern again, and I understand and have some sympathy with the point he’s making: Obama is distancing himself from his liberal base and, in so doing, embracing a policy that is both fairly popular and wise.

What’s going to damage Obama, though, is the manner in which the distancing was done. The president’s base is enraged at him; what we’re seeing looks very much like a political revolt within his own ranks. It’s stating the obvious to say that having members of your own congressional caucus cursing at you is not a very good thing. And as President George H.W. Bush found out with his violation of his “no new taxes” pledge, creating fury within your base in order to tack to the center can hurt one rather than help one.

Nor is it clear yet that Nancy Pelosi will even bring the legislation Obama has blessed to the floor for a vote without changes. I assume she will — but if the speaker decides not to, and if as a result Obama fails to get this deal signed into law, it will be a terrifically damaging blow to his prestige and his presidency. And even if Obama does succeed, he has created enormous unhappiness and mistrust among his base. This won’t be forgotten any time soon. Presidents, while needing to distance themselves from their base at times, don’t usually succeed when they are at war with it.

Democratic tempers will cool over time; new political battles will reconnect Obama to his party. And the key variable remains the economy. If in 2012 unemployment is going down, if the economy is growing at a brisk pace, and if people are confident about the trajectory the country is on, Obama will be in good shape with both his base and with independents. For now, though, the president is in a precarious position, having (for the moment at least) lost his base without having won over the rest of the country. It may be that the former is necessary to achieve the latter — but the way these things are done matters quite a lot. And this has been ugly all the way around.

If David Brooks is right and this week signaled the beginning of a fundamental change in Obama’s governing philosophy, then the president has helped himself. If, on the other hand, what Obama did this week was simply an anomaly, a tactical shift without a fundamental rethinking, then he has complicated his life and damaged his presidency.

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Where Are the Smart Liberals?

So who does Job remind you of? I bet you didn’t think of Barack Obama. But that’s what pops into Jon Meacham’s mind, as Rick noted, prompting many of us to wonder how Newsweek lasted as long as it did. It was Newsweek‘s Evan Thomas who first proclaimed Obama a “sort of God,” so I suppose this tale is the modern version of Paradise Lost.

Has Obama lost his family? Become destitute? No, he’s just not popular anymore. Meacham explains:

Outside politics, President Obama thinks of himself less as a professor or community organizer and more as a writer — a man who observes reality, interprets it internally, and then recasts it on the page in his own voice and through his own eyes. And he is a reader of serious books.

Given that, he might find Alter’s new book congenial. John Boehner is not exactly a case of boils, but the president may feel differently at the moment, and thus the story of Job could be of some use to him.

Like Obama, Job was once the highly favored one:

Would that I were as in moons of yore, as the days when God watched over me,
when he shined his lamp over my head. …

But the Lord withdraws his protection, inflicting pain and death and misery on Job, who cries:

Terror rolls over me, pursues my path like the wind. …
At night my limbs are pierced, and my sinews know no rest.
With great power he seizes my garment, grabs hold of me at the collar.
He hurls me into the muck, and I become like dust and ashes.

God is having none of it. He will not be questioned by a mortal, even a mortal whom he once loved and who has honored him. Fairly snarling, the Lord taunts Job from a whirlwind: “Where were you when I founded earth? / Tell, if you know understanding.”

If you think about it (stop before you get a headache), this is utter nonsense. Obama has not been tested or punished to measure his faith in God. He’s being evaluated by voters for a shoddy two years. The entire point of the Job story is that Job had done nothing to deserve his fate, so far as mortals can imagine. Read More

So who does Job remind you of? I bet you didn’t think of Barack Obama. But that’s what pops into Jon Meacham’s mind, as Rick noted, prompting many of us to wonder how Newsweek lasted as long as it did. It was Newsweek‘s Evan Thomas who first proclaimed Obama a “sort of God,” so I suppose this tale is the modern version of Paradise Lost.

Has Obama lost his family? Become destitute? No, he’s just not popular anymore. Meacham explains:

Outside politics, President Obama thinks of himself less as a professor or community organizer and more as a writer — a man who observes reality, interprets it internally, and then recasts it on the page in his own voice and through his own eyes. And he is a reader of serious books.

Given that, he might find Alter’s new book congenial. John Boehner is not exactly a case of boils, but the president may feel differently at the moment, and thus the story of Job could be of some use to him.

Like Obama, Job was once the highly favored one:

Would that I were as in moons of yore, as the days when God watched over me,
when he shined his lamp over my head. …

But the Lord withdraws his protection, inflicting pain and death and misery on Job, who cries:

Terror rolls over me, pursues my path like the wind. …
At night my limbs are pierced, and my sinews know no rest.
With great power he seizes my garment, grabs hold of me at the collar.
He hurls me into the muck, and I become like dust and ashes.

God is having none of it. He will not be questioned by a mortal, even a mortal whom he once loved and who has honored him. Fairly snarling, the Lord taunts Job from a whirlwind: “Where were you when I founded earth? / Tell, if you know understanding.”

If you think about it (stop before you get a headache), this is utter nonsense. Obama has not been tested or punished to measure his faith in God. He’s being evaluated by voters for a shoddy two years. The entire point of the Job story is that Job had done nothing to deserve his fate, so far as mortals can imagine.

This brings me to another point. What’s happened to liberal intellectuals these days? It seems they’ve fallen down on the job and ceased to be serious people. I mean, comparing Obama to Job is downright embarrassing. Does the Gray Lady have no standards?

Another case in point: there apparently is a new film out about Fran Lebowitz directed by Martin Scorsese. The problem is that while liberal New Yorkers imagine her to be the quintessential left-leaning intellectual (actually, they don’t need the modifier since, by definition, are intellectuals share their worldview), she hasn’t written anything of note for years, and the sum total of her “contribution” to the intellectual and cultural life of the nation’s greatest city is a string of one-liners. Even this reviewer is somewhat put off:

Except for a children’s book and a series of wise Vanity Fair articles in the 1990s (which were really just well-edited conversations between Lebowitz and an editor on broad subjects such as race and money), Lebowitz hasn’t produced much. Instead, she’s a study in brilliant coasting, which can’t be as fun as it seems. For all its many laughs, “Public Speaking” carries a necessary undercurrent of the morose.

“No one has wasted time the way I have,” Lebowitz tells Scorsese’s camera in her usual rat-a-tat delivery, a voice coarsened by years of smoking. “[I am] the outstanding waster of time of my generation. It was 1979, I looked up, it was 2007.”

Instead of writing, Lebowitz spends her time talking about American society and culture — either through paid appearances on the lecture circuit or from her usual booth at the Waverly Inn, a dimly-lit, exclusively small West Village restaurant co-owned by her friend Graydon Carter, who edits Vanity Fair.

Talking, she says, is all she ever wanted to do.

You really can’t make this stuff up. And one wonders, is this thin gruel of cultural poses and condescension all the left has to offer anymore?

There’s much more: New York is too expensive to be interesting anymore. Tourists are “herds of hillbillies.” Gay men, who so dazzled Lebowitz with their highbrow tastes in the 1970s, have let her down by working so diligently to get married and join the army. And revenge is a wonderful thing: “I absolutely believe in revenge. People always say revenge is a dish best served cold. No. It’s good any time you can get it.”

She is asked: Is there such a thing as being born lucky? Yes, she replies: “Any white, gentile, straight man who is not president of the United States, failed. That’s what a big piece of luck that is, okay?”

Not exactly John Kenneth Galbraith. Or even Dorothy Parker.

The trouble liberals face in maintaining their intellectual chops is that they operate in a world of knowing glances, incomplete sentences, and shared cultural references. Conformity is seen as a sign of intellectual prowess. And you need not write anything intelligible, let alone intellectually compelling, to qualify as a liberal public intellectual.

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What IS Our Iran Policy?

Hillary’s speech, as limited as it was in the discussion of Iran, as opposed to graph after graph on the unsustainability of the status quo with regard to the Palestinians, was a puzzler. Unlike the president’s mute reaction to the June 12 stolen election and the brutal aftermath, Hillary made a convincing case that, yes, the regime is a very bad actor. She pronounced:

Elements in Iran’s government have become a menace, both to their own people and in the region. Iran’s president foments anti-Semitism, denies the Holocaust, and threatens to destroy Israel. The Iranian leadership funds and arms terrorists who have murdered Americans and Israelis alike. And it has waged a campaign of intimidation and persecution against its own people. Last June, Iranians marching silently were beaten with batons; political prisoners were rounded up and abused; and absurd and false accusations were leveled against the United States, Israel, and the West. People everywhere were horrified by the video of a young woman killed in the street. The Iranian leadership is denying its people rights that are universal to all human beings — including the right to speak freely, to assemble without fear; the right to the equal administration of justice, and to express your views without facing retribution.

Fine, as far as it goes. But what are we doing about it? In his address this year for the Iranian New Year, Obama said, “The United States does not meddle in Iran’s internal affairs. Our commitment – our responsibility – is to stand up for those rights that should be universal to all human beings. That includes the right to speak freely, to assemble without fear; the right to the equal administration of justice, and to express your views without facing retribution against you or your families.” Again — no meddling, but what actions are in gear to express our horror? Moreover, there seems to be no recognition that such a regime would be immune to our entreaties. We are, as Hillary often says, “bearing witness” — taking notes and making generalized statements, but not committing ourselves to assist those being murdered and brutalized as they try and wrest their government back from the regime.

Hillary also said today: “In addition to threatening Israel, a nuclear-armed Iran would embolden its terrorist clientele and would spark an arms race that could destabilize the region. This is unacceptable. Unacceptable to the United States. Unacceptable to Israel. And unacceptable to the region and the international community. So let me be very clear: The United States is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.” As Rick noted, what is missing is the rest of the sentence: “The United States is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons by ???” By committing ourselves to regime change? No. By imposition of crippling sanctions that were passed by the House and Senate months ago? Er, no. This is what she offers:

We are working with our partners in the United Nations on new Security Council sanctions that will show Iran’s leaders that there are real consequences for their intransigence, that the only choice is to live up to their international obligations. Our aim is not incremental sanctions, but sanctions that will bite. It is taking time to produce these sanctions, and we believe that time is a worthwhile investment for winning the broadest possible support for our efforts. But we will not compromise our commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring these weapons.

Taking time to produce them? Well, yes, lots and lots of time. Her self-defense is this: “We took this course with the understanding that the very effort of seeking engagement would strengthen our hand if Iran rejected our initiative. And over the last year, Iran’s leaders have been stripped of their usual excuses.” But no, engagement has not in fact resulted in agreement by China and Russia to join in an international sanctions effort. There is a pathetic naïveté here as well — that what was key was the stripping the mullahs of their excuses. Well, they come up with new ones all the time, as do Russia and China, for refusing to cooperate with efforts to impose sanctions.

Once again there is an unmistakable gap between rhetoric (“Unacceptable!”) and policies designed and urgently implemented to achieve those aims. We can surmise that the Obami are either incompetent or that the rhetoric is just that — rhetoric.

Hillary’s speech, as limited as it was in the discussion of Iran, as opposed to graph after graph on the unsustainability of the status quo with regard to the Palestinians, was a puzzler. Unlike the president’s mute reaction to the June 12 stolen election and the brutal aftermath, Hillary made a convincing case that, yes, the regime is a very bad actor. She pronounced:

Elements in Iran’s government have become a menace, both to their own people and in the region. Iran’s president foments anti-Semitism, denies the Holocaust, and threatens to destroy Israel. The Iranian leadership funds and arms terrorists who have murdered Americans and Israelis alike. And it has waged a campaign of intimidation and persecution against its own people. Last June, Iranians marching silently were beaten with batons; political prisoners were rounded up and abused; and absurd and false accusations were leveled against the United States, Israel, and the West. People everywhere were horrified by the video of a young woman killed in the street. The Iranian leadership is denying its people rights that are universal to all human beings — including the right to speak freely, to assemble without fear; the right to the equal administration of justice, and to express your views without facing retribution.

Fine, as far as it goes. But what are we doing about it? In his address this year for the Iranian New Year, Obama said, “The United States does not meddle in Iran’s internal affairs. Our commitment – our responsibility – is to stand up for those rights that should be universal to all human beings. That includes the right to speak freely, to assemble without fear; the right to the equal administration of justice, and to express your views without facing retribution against you or your families.” Again — no meddling, but what actions are in gear to express our horror? Moreover, there seems to be no recognition that such a regime would be immune to our entreaties. We are, as Hillary often says, “bearing witness” — taking notes and making generalized statements, but not committing ourselves to assist those being murdered and brutalized as they try and wrest their government back from the regime.

Hillary also said today: “In addition to threatening Israel, a nuclear-armed Iran would embolden its terrorist clientele and would spark an arms race that could destabilize the region. This is unacceptable. Unacceptable to the United States. Unacceptable to Israel. And unacceptable to the region and the international community. So let me be very clear: The United States is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.” As Rick noted, what is missing is the rest of the sentence: “The United States is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons by ???” By committing ourselves to regime change? No. By imposition of crippling sanctions that were passed by the House and Senate months ago? Er, no. This is what she offers:

We are working with our partners in the United Nations on new Security Council sanctions that will show Iran’s leaders that there are real consequences for their intransigence, that the only choice is to live up to their international obligations. Our aim is not incremental sanctions, but sanctions that will bite. It is taking time to produce these sanctions, and we believe that time is a worthwhile investment for winning the broadest possible support for our efforts. But we will not compromise our commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring these weapons.

Taking time to produce them? Well, yes, lots and lots of time. Her self-defense is this: “We took this course with the understanding that the very effort of seeking engagement would strengthen our hand if Iran rejected our initiative. And over the last year, Iran’s leaders have been stripped of their usual excuses.” But no, engagement has not in fact resulted in agreement by China and Russia to join in an international sanctions effort. There is a pathetic naïveté here as well — that what was key was the stripping the mullahs of their excuses. Well, they come up with new ones all the time, as do Russia and China, for refusing to cooperate with efforts to impose sanctions.

Once again there is an unmistakable gap between rhetoric (“Unacceptable!”) and policies designed and urgently implemented to achieve those aims. We can surmise that the Obami are either incompetent or that the rhetoric is just that — rhetoric.

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They Haven’t Learned the Lesson

Last week, I wrote that American, European, and Arab success in pressuring the Palestinians to resume negotiations could prove a turnabout in the peace process, if the world learned the lesson and began pressing the Palestinians for necessary concessions on substantive issues. But based on its response to last week’s announcement of new construction in Jerusalem’s Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, the world clearly hasn’t learned the lesson.

All the parties concerned were understandably upset by the announcement’s timing: just as proximity talks were about to begin, and while Vice President Joe Biden was in the region. But substantively, the new construction makes absolutely no difference to the prospects of an agreement — because any agreement would unquestionably leave this neighborhood in Israel’s hands.

Ramat Shlomo already has more than 20,000 residents — far too big to be uprooted even without the planned 1,600 new houses. It is also, as Rick noted, of considerable strategic importance, dominating all of Jerusalem’s major roads; thus Israel would insist on retaining it, even if not a single Jew lived there. Finally, its location in no way precludes the division of Jerusalem, which is what both Washington and Europe claim to want: situated in the corner formed by two other huge Jewish neighborhoods to its west and south, it does not block a single Arab neighborhood from contiguity with a future Palestinian state.

Thus if Washington and Europe were serious about wanting an agreement, they would essentially tell the Palestinians: “Grow up. You can’t turn the clock back 43 years, so not everything that was Jordanian-occupied territory in May 1967 will eventually become Palestinian. Some of it will remain Israeli — and that includes Ramat Shlomo. Don’t waste time and energy fighting Israeli construction in areas that will never be part of Palestine; focus on fighting construction in areas that realistically could be Palestinian under any agreement.”

Instead, by their over-the-top condemnations, America and Europe have fed the Palestinians’ fantasy that they can turn the clock back — because the only way this new construction could be the enormous obstacle to an agreement that the world has labeled it is if Ramat Shlomo actually could and should become Palestinian.

Every serious negotiator for the last 17 years has recognized that any agreement will have to take account of developments since 1967. That’s why every serious peace proposal, from the Clinton plan in 2000 to Ehud Olmert’s offer in 2008, has involved Israel keeping about 6 percent of the West Bank (with or without territorial swaps). But the Palestinians still refuse to accept this fact: they continue to insist on swaps comprising at most 2 to 3 percent of the West Bank. That would force Israel to evict hundreds of thousands of Jews from their homes, which is both politically and economically unfeasible.

For any agreement to be possible, the world must finally make the Palestinians recognize that the clock cannot be turned back. By instead doing the opposite over Ramat Shlomo, Washington and Europe are undermining their own stated goal of achieving a peace deal.

Last week, I wrote that American, European, and Arab success in pressuring the Palestinians to resume negotiations could prove a turnabout in the peace process, if the world learned the lesson and began pressing the Palestinians for necessary concessions on substantive issues. But based on its response to last week’s announcement of new construction in Jerusalem’s Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, the world clearly hasn’t learned the lesson.

All the parties concerned were understandably upset by the announcement’s timing: just as proximity talks were about to begin, and while Vice President Joe Biden was in the region. But substantively, the new construction makes absolutely no difference to the prospects of an agreement — because any agreement would unquestionably leave this neighborhood in Israel’s hands.

Ramat Shlomo already has more than 20,000 residents — far too big to be uprooted even without the planned 1,600 new houses. It is also, as Rick noted, of considerable strategic importance, dominating all of Jerusalem’s major roads; thus Israel would insist on retaining it, even if not a single Jew lived there. Finally, its location in no way precludes the division of Jerusalem, which is what both Washington and Europe claim to want: situated in the corner formed by two other huge Jewish neighborhoods to its west and south, it does not block a single Arab neighborhood from contiguity with a future Palestinian state.

Thus if Washington and Europe were serious about wanting an agreement, they would essentially tell the Palestinians: “Grow up. You can’t turn the clock back 43 years, so not everything that was Jordanian-occupied territory in May 1967 will eventually become Palestinian. Some of it will remain Israeli — and that includes Ramat Shlomo. Don’t waste time and energy fighting Israeli construction in areas that will never be part of Palestine; focus on fighting construction in areas that realistically could be Palestinian under any agreement.”

Instead, by their over-the-top condemnations, America and Europe have fed the Palestinians’ fantasy that they can turn the clock back — because the only way this new construction could be the enormous obstacle to an agreement that the world has labeled it is if Ramat Shlomo actually could and should become Palestinian.

Every serious negotiator for the last 17 years has recognized that any agreement will have to take account of developments since 1967. That’s why every serious peace proposal, from the Clinton plan in 2000 to Ehud Olmert’s offer in 2008, has involved Israel keeping about 6 percent of the West Bank (with or without territorial swaps). But the Palestinians still refuse to accept this fact: they continue to insist on swaps comprising at most 2 to 3 percent of the West Bank. That would force Israel to evict hundreds of thousands of Jews from their homes, which is both politically and economically unfeasible.

For any agreement to be possible, the world must finally make the Palestinians recognize that the clock cannot be turned back. By instead doing the opposite over Ramat Shlomo, Washington and Europe are undermining their own stated goal of achieving a peace deal.

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What McCain Gaffe?

When the MSM gets fixated on a certain idea it is almost impossible to dislodge it, regardless of the evidence. One of those ideas is that Sunni and Shiite extremists don’t cooperate with one another or with secular Arab regimes.

Thus, last week, we saw a spate of reports claiming that a government-funded think tank had found no links between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. The report actually finds considerable evidence of Saddam’s links to a number of terrorist groups including Al Qaeda and its constituent organizations. This was noted by commentators such as Steve Hayes in the Weekly Standard but ignored by the MSM.

This week, the MSM is claiming that John McCain made a big gaffe by alleging links between Iran and Al Qaeda. To quote the lead of today’s Washington Post article:

Sen. John McCain, in the midst of a trip to the Middle East that he hoped would help burnish his foreign policy expertise, incorrectly asserted Tuesday that Iran is training and supplying al-Qaeda in Iraq, confusing the Sunni insurgent group with the Shiite extremists who U.S. officials believe are supported by their religious brethren in the neighboring country.

Actually it’s the authors of this Post article who are guilty of making incorrect assertions. There is copious evidence of Iran supplying and otherwise assisting Al Qaeda in Iraq and other Sunni terrorist groups (including Al Qaeda central). The 9/11 Commission itself noted a number of links between Iran and Al Qaeda. That evidence is summarized here. A sample from the Commission report: “There is strong evidence that Iran facilitated the transit of al Qaeda members into and out of Afghanistan before 9/11, and that some of these were future 9/11 hijackers.”

For more recent evidence of Iranian activity, take a look at this American Enterprise Institute report by Danielle Pletka, Fred Kagan and Kim Kagan. There is an entire section on pages 22-23 on “Iranian Support for Al Qaeda.” Relying solely on press accounts and coalition forces briefings, the authors write:

A supply of arms flowed from Iran into al Qaeda strongholds in Salman Pak and Arab Jabour, presumably from the Iranian border to the south and east. From there, al Qaeda transported the munitions to Baghdad. Iranian arms became an important part of al Qaeda’s arsenal. In May 2007, both [Major General Rick] Lynch and Colonel Ricky Gibbs, commander of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, briefed on the use of EFPs by Sunni extremists south of Baghdad.

This and other bits of evidence have been cited on a number of blogs—for instance, weeklystandard.com and powerline. It has even been noted in the past by the MSM. In fact, last year the Washington Post, the very newspaper now so contemptuous of McCain’s statement, ran this article which states: “Citing testimony from detainees in U.S. custody, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell said Iranian intelligence operatives were backing the Sunni militants inside Iraq while at the same time training Shiite extremists in Iran.”

But don’t expect the facts to get in the way of a good story.

When the MSM gets fixated on a certain idea it is almost impossible to dislodge it, regardless of the evidence. One of those ideas is that Sunni and Shiite extremists don’t cooperate with one another or with secular Arab regimes.

Thus, last week, we saw a spate of reports claiming that a government-funded think tank had found no links between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. The report actually finds considerable evidence of Saddam’s links to a number of terrorist groups including Al Qaeda and its constituent organizations. This was noted by commentators such as Steve Hayes in the Weekly Standard but ignored by the MSM.

This week, the MSM is claiming that John McCain made a big gaffe by alleging links between Iran and Al Qaeda. To quote the lead of today’s Washington Post article:

Sen. John McCain, in the midst of a trip to the Middle East that he hoped would help burnish his foreign policy expertise, incorrectly asserted Tuesday that Iran is training and supplying al-Qaeda in Iraq, confusing the Sunni insurgent group with the Shiite extremists who U.S. officials believe are supported by their religious brethren in the neighboring country.

Actually it’s the authors of this Post article who are guilty of making incorrect assertions. There is copious evidence of Iran supplying and otherwise assisting Al Qaeda in Iraq and other Sunni terrorist groups (including Al Qaeda central). The 9/11 Commission itself noted a number of links between Iran and Al Qaeda. That evidence is summarized here. A sample from the Commission report: “There is strong evidence that Iran facilitated the transit of al Qaeda members into and out of Afghanistan before 9/11, and that some of these were future 9/11 hijackers.”

For more recent evidence of Iranian activity, take a look at this American Enterprise Institute report by Danielle Pletka, Fred Kagan and Kim Kagan. There is an entire section on pages 22-23 on “Iranian Support for Al Qaeda.” Relying solely on press accounts and coalition forces briefings, the authors write:

A supply of arms flowed from Iran into al Qaeda strongholds in Salman Pak and Arab Jabour, presumably from the Iranian border to the south and east. From there, al Qaeda transported the munitions to Baghdad. Iranian arms became an important part of al Qaeda’s arsenal. In May 2007, both [Major General Rick] Lynch and Colonel Ricky Gibbs, commander of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, briefed on the use of EFPs by Sunni extremists south of Baghdad.

This and other bits of evidence have been cited on a number of blogs—for instance, weeklystandard.com and powerline. It has even been noted in the past by the MSM. In fact, last year the Washington Post, the very newspaper now so contemptuous of McCain’s statement, ran this article which states: “Citing testimony from detainees in U.S. custody, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell said Iranian intelligence operatives were backing the Sunni militants inside Iraq while at the same time training Shiite extremists in Iran.”

But don’t expect the facts to get in the way of a good story.

Read Less




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