Commentary Magazine


Topic: state solution

Partial Freezes, Complete Freezes, and Eskimos

One of the most interesting “Palestine Papers” is the Minutes of a September 17, 2009, meeting between Saeb Erekat (SE), the chief Palestinian negotiator, and Dan Shapiro (DS) of the White House National Security Council, along with several high level State Department people and George Mitchell’s chief of staff.

The Americans urged the Palestinians to commence negotiations even though the U.S. had been able to obtain only a partial building freeze. The discussion in the Minutes represents, in my view, a microcosm of the 17-year peace process.

Erekat expressed his unwillingness to negotiate with Benjamin Netanyahu (BN), since Netanyahu had made his position clear, which was unacceptable to the Palestinians:

SE: … On substance, from day one BN said: Jerusalem the eternal undivided capital of Israel, demilitarized state without control over borders or airspace, no refugees. Once you agree to this we can negotiate a piece of paper and an anthem.

Erekat’s position was that “anything short of 2 states on the 1967 border is meaningless.” He explained his theory on Netanyahu’s strategy:

SE: When Bibi talks about excluding Jerusalem it is to make sure we can’t attend, because he doesn’t want to.

DS: So by not going aren’t you playing into his hand?

SE: You put me in this position! It’s like having a gun to my head — damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Netanyahu had set forth an adamant negotiating position, but also his willingness to negotiate without preconditions. The Palestinians responded with their own adamant position (nothing short of the indefensible 1967 lines) and their unwillingness to negotiate. If the Palestinians were correct about Netanyahu’s strategy, they were playing right into it — and blaming not themselves but the United States! Read More

One of the most interesting “Palestine Papers” is the Minutes of a September 17, 2009, meeting between Saeb Erekat (SE), the chief Palestinian negotiator, and Dan Shapiro (DS) of the White House National Security Council, along with several high level State Department people and George Mitchell’s chief of staff.

The Americans urged the Palestinians to commence negotiations even though the U.S. had been able to obtain only a partial building freeze. The discussion in the Minutes represents, in my view, a microcosm of the 17-year peace process.

Erekat expressed his unwillingness to negotiate with Benjamin Netanyahu (BN), since Netanyahu had made his position clear, which was unacceptable to the Palestinians:

SE: … On substance, from day one BN said: Jerusalem the eternal undivided capital of Israel, demilitarized state without control over borders or airspace, no refugees. Once you agree to this we can negotiate a piece of paper and an anthem.

Erekat’s position was that “anything short of 2 states on the 1967 border is meaningless.” He explained his theory on Netanyahu’s strategy:

SE: When Bibi talks about excluding Jerusalem it is to make sure we can’t attend, because he doesn’t want to.

DS: So by not going aren’t you playing into his hand?

SE: You put me in this position! It’s like having a gun to my head — damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Netanyahu had set forth an adamant negotiating position, but also his willingness to negotiate without preconditions. The Palestinians responded with their own adamant position (nothing short of the indefensible 1967 lines) and their unwillingness to negotiate. If the Palestinians were correct about Netanyahu’s strategy, they were playing right into it — and blaming not themselves but the United States!

Shapiro suggested that the Palestinians had a sympathetic U.S. president and should start negotiating, given his commitment to them:

DE: The President has demonstrated a personal and real commitment to you. What you are saying indicates that you tend to discount the President’s commitment. It strikes me that it doesn’t seem to be worth a lot to you.

SE: This is not about personalities or conscience. Bush did not wake up one day and his conscience told him “two state solution.” It’s about interests. We have waited a painful 17 years in this process, to take our fate in our own hands.

But quite a lot happened in those 17 years. They got three offers of a state on substantially all the West Bank and Gaza, with a capital in Jerusalem — and turned all three down. They received all of Gaza and a chance to show they could build a state without threatening Israel — and demonstrated the opposite. They got a U.S. president personally committed to them, who undoubtedly would eventually push “bridging proposals” more to their liking than to Israel’s — and they refused to start negotiations without a complete freeze. A lot of opportunities came their way during those 17 years, while they were “waiting.”

In an old joke, a man tells a bartender he lost his religion after his small plane crashed in frozen Alaskan tundra and he lay there for hours, crying for God to save him, and nothing happened. The bartender says, “wait — you’re here.” “Right,” says the man, “because finally a damned Eskimo came along.” Some day Saeb Erekat will explain to some bartender that he was a negotiator for 17 years but nothing happened, except for all the damned Eskimos who came along.

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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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Palestine Papers: 99 Percent Hype, 1 Percent News

You wouldn’t expect Al-Jazeera and the Guardian newspaper in Britain to do anything but spin the “Palestine Papers” — the leaked transcripts of late Bush administration negotiations between Israeli, Palestinian, and American officials — to the max. And so they have, today, with shocked responses from foreign-policy types. Indeed, an editor at Foreign Policy magazine went so far as to declare on Twitter that the “two state solution is dead” as a result.

But the reality of the papers themselves turns out to be incredibly boring. Yes, during the months surrounding the Annapolis summit in 2008, there were negotiations. Yes, these negotiations concerned issues such as borders, Jerusalem, refugees, security, and settlements. Yes, the two sides discussed land swaps that would enable Israel to retain major settlement blocs. Yes, in private, the Palestinians acknowledged that the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem is not going to be handed over to them and that Israel will not consent to being flooded with millions of Arab refugees. Yes, in private, the negotiators treated each other with respect and even graciousness. No, the talks did not succeed. This is news?

The Palestine Papers, however, come off badly for the leader of Israel’s opposition, Tzipi Livni, who was then-PM Ehud Olmert’s foreign minister at the time and one of the dramatis personae of the negotiations. Livni’s political liability is that too many Israelis think she isn’t tough enough to be prime minister. She has a tendency to denigrate her own side as a way of ingratiating herself to hostile audiences. To this day, she forcefully criticizes her own country and government while abroad and in front of audiences who have little affection for Israel (see her recent appearance with ABC’s Christiane Amanpour). She seems to think this wins her points for impartiality.

The Palestine Papers show her doing much the same in private, offering to collude with the Palestinians to invent pretexts for letting terrorists out of jail and dismissing Israel’s claim to the Golan Heights (“We’re giving up the Golan”). These indulgences may stick in voters’ minds in Israel and make it that much harder for her to dispel the fear that if awarded the premiership, she’ll give the store away.

But the biggest loser in the Palestine Papers is someone who was not even on the scene at the time. That is President Obama, who chose to make Israeli settlements the centerpiece of the peace process. The papers show that one of the only areas on which the sides had come close to an agreement was the acceptability of land swaps as a solution to the settlements controversy. Today, at Obama’s behest, the Palestinians insist on a complete settlement freeze before they’ll even talk — including in areas that just two years ago they had agreed were already de facto Israeli. Thus did Obama turn back the clock on one of the only points of relative consensus and progress between the two sides. The opener to this Jerusalem Post story captures the absurdity of the situation:

With the Palestinian Authority making an international incident over every plan to build in Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem beyond the Green Line, a cache of some 1,600 documents—mostly form [sic] the Palestinian Negotiating Unit—shows that in 2008 the PA was willing to recognize eventual Israeli control over all those neighborhoods, with the exception of Har Homa.

This is actually unfair to the Palestinians. They didn’t make construction in Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem an “international incident.” That was Obama, who has criticized construction in these neighborhoods repeatedly. There is not much news in the Palestine Papers to anyone familiar with the Annapolis-era negotiations. But they do provide another example of how badly the Obama administration has handled the peace process.

You wouldn’t expect Al-Jazeera and the Guardian newspaper in Britain to do anything but spin the “Palestine Papers” — the leaked transcripts of late Bush administration negotiations between Israeli, Palestinian, and American officials — to the max. And so they have, today, with shocked responses from foreign-policy types. Indeed, an editor at Foreign Policy magazine went so far as to declare on Twitter that the “two state solution is dead” as a result.

But the reality of the papers themselves turns out to be incredibly boring. Yes, during the months surrounding the Annapolis summit in 2008, there were negotiations. Yes, these negotiations concerned issues such as borders, Jerusalem, refugees, security, and settlements. Yes, the two sides discussed land swaps that would enable Israel to retain major settlement blocs. Yes, in private, the Palestinians acknowledged that the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem is not going to be handed over to them and that Israel will not consent to being flooded with millions of Arab refugees. Yes, in private, the negotiators treated each other with respect and even graciousness. No, the talks did not succeed. This is news?

The Palestine Papers, however, come off badly for the leader of Israel’s opposition, Tzipi Livni, who was then-PM Ehud Olmert’s foreign minister at the time and one of the dramatis personae of the negotiations. Livni’s political liability is that too many Israelis think she isn’t tough enough to be prime minister. She has a tendency to denigrate her own side as a way of ingratiating herself to hostile audiences. To this day, she forcefully criticizes her own country and government while abroad and in front of audiences who have little affection for Israel (see her recent appearance with ABC’s Christiane Amanpour). She seems to think this wins her points for impartiality.

The Palestine Papers show her doing much the same in private, offering to collude with the Palestinians to invent pretexts for letting terrorists out of jail and dismissing Israel’s claim to the Golan Heights (“We’re giving up the Golan”). These indulgences may stick in voters’ minds in Israel and make it that much harder for her to dispel the fear that if awarded the premiership, she’ll give the store away.

But the biggest loser in the Palestine Papers is someone who was not even on the scene at the time. That is President Obama, who chose to make Israeli settlements the centerpiece of the peace process. The papers show that one of the only areas on which the sides had come close to an agreement was the acceptability of land swaps as a solution to the settlements controversy. Today, at Obama’s behest, the Palestinians insist on a complete settlement freeze before they’ll even talk — including in areas that just two years ago they had agreed were already de facto Israeli. Thus did Obama turn back the clock on one of the only points of relative consensus and progress between the two sides. The opener to this Jerusalem Post story captures the absurdity of the situation:

With the Palestinian Authority making an international incident over every plan to build in Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem beyond the Green Line, a cache of some 1,600 documents—mostly form [sic] the Palestinian Negotiating Unit—shows that in 2008 the PA was willing to recognize eventual Israeli control over all those neighborhoods, with the exception of Har Homa.

This is actually unfair to the Palestinians. They didn’t make construction in Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem an “international incident.” That was Obama, who has criticized construction in these neighborhoods repeatedly. There is not much news in the Palestine Papers to anyone familiar with the Annapolis-era negotiations. But they do provide another example of how badly the Obama administration has handled the peace process.

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Afternoon Commentary

A member of the Iranian Qods force, an elite branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard corps, was found to be moonlighting as a Taliban commander. As Stephen Hayes points out at the Weekly Standard, this development is further evidence that the doctrinal differences between Iranians and the Taliban don’t preclude them from working together.

From Scott Brown’s Senate win to Glenn Beck’s big rally, Politico counts down the top 10 political moments of 2010.

While national security experts remain concerned about the growing military capabilities of China’s navy, the Washington Post notes that the country is still struggling with some basic components of its air force technology.

Why do Israelis support a two state solution, but oppose a freeze on settlement construction? Jeremy Sharon argues that it’s because they have become discouraged about the possibility of a peace deal at this point in time: “Support for the notion of ‘two states for two peoples’ remains high at over 60 percent because Israelis acknowledge that ultimately, continued rule over the Palestinians is untenable. But there is no desire to rush into an irreversible agreement which could result not with the shelling of Sderot or Haifa, but of Tel Aviv.”

A member of the Iranian Qods force, an elite branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard corps, was found to be moonlighting as a Taliban commander. As Stephen Hayes points out at the Weekly Standard, this development is further evidence that the doctrinal differences between Iranians and the Taliban don’t preclude them from working together.

From Scott Brown’s Senate win to Glenn Beck’s big rally, Politico counts down the top 10 political moments of 2010.

While national security experts remain concerned about the growing military capabilities of China’s navy, the Washington Post notes that the country is still struggling with some basic components of its air force technology.

Why do Israelis support a two state solution, but oppose a freeze on settlement construction? Jeremy Sharon argues that it’s because they have become discouraged about the possibility of a peace deal at this point in time: “Support for the notion of ‘two states for two peoples’ remains high at over 60 percent because Israelis acknowledge that ultimately, continued rule over the Palestinians is untenable. But there is no desire to rush into an irreversible agreement which could result not with the shelling of Sderot or Haifa, but of Tel Aviv.”

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What’s the Purpose of Pro-Israel Jewish Organizations?

In her primary, Democrat Jane Harman prevailed against Marcy Winograd, an avowed Israel-hater and great supporter of the terrorist flotilla. Her website proclaimed that she wanted to pursue “war crimes” prosecutions in Gaza and southern Israel, end the Gaza blockade, and remove Israeli settlements. She favors a “one or two state solution.” OK, pretty far out there, right? She got 41% of the vote. And to be clear, her Israel-bashing was not an incidental part of the campaign.

Elections like this and ample polling concerning the partisan divide in support for Israel should provoke some soul-searching in mainstream Jewish organizations. It would be swell to maintain a bipartisan pro-Israel coalition. It flourished for decades, to the benefit of our and of Israel’s national security. But that requires two parties fully committed to that coalition. With a Democratic president summoning an international inquiry to investigate Israel and slow-walking toward “containment” of a nuclear-armed Iran – and a Democratic Congress unwilling to cross him — this is quite hard.

It’s admirable to strive for bipartisanship to provide the widest possible support for Israel. But with a Democratic Party that has a significant number of Israel-haters (remember that 54 congressmen signed on to the Gaza letter) and others who cheer the lowest common denominator in every situation to avoid  annoying their leftist colleagues and base (fake sanctions, wish-washy letters to the president), the result is not a robust bipartisan coalition but an ineffective one, which merely legitimizes the Obama assault on the Jewish state. In less than two years of this administration, “Israel’s last line of defense against false claims and promises—the United States—has made itself indistinguishable from the United Nations and Amnesty International and all the other NGOs and religious denominations that have declared virtual war against the Jewish State.” That’s a statement on Obama’s mendacity and on American Jewish leaders’ impotence, if not irrelevance.

I can attest to the schizophrenia this causes among Jewish leaders. Publicly and in the presence of Obama or other members of his administration, they are restrained, polite, even enthusiastic about the president’s actions. In private they grouse and fret — why did he carve out Russia from sanctions? How in the world could he support an international inquest of Israel? Perhaps they think they are doing good, working “behind the scenes,” they say, to persuade and cajole the administration. But look at the results. Obama’s behavior toward Israel is getting worse, not better, even as he tries to “charm” the Jewish community. If the result of “working behind the scenes” is a Swiss-cheese sanctions agreement and administration support for an international inquest on the flotilla, it’s time to concede that the strategy is a failure. And those who argue that it could be “worse” delude themselves. It is not their good offices but rather the financial and electoral support that Jews afford Democrats that provides the only restraint on the administration. And that isn’t much considering the Jews’ “sick addiction” to the Democratic Party, which Obama exploits to the hilt.

Mainstream Jewish organizations have to decide: lose their patina of  bipartisanship (most are avowedly Democratic in membership) and their insider status (which comes with never rocking the boat all that much) – or risk losing their souls and their mission. They are there to promote a robust Israel-U.S. relationship, not to work against Israel’s interests for the sake of comity. If they can’t  fulfill their mission, it is time to either drop the “bigger the bipartisan coalition, the better” mentality or frankly to close up shop. “Never annoyed Barack Obama” is not a legacy to be proud of, nor is easing the consciences of lawmakers who can’t bring themselves to give full-throated support to the Jewish state.

In her primary, Democrat Jane Harman prevailed against Marcy Winograd, an avowed Israel-hater and great supporter of the terrorist flotilla. Her website proclaimed that she wanted to pursue “war crimes” prosecutions in Gaza and southern Israel, end the Gaza blockade, and remove Israeli settlements. She favors a “one or two state solution.” OK, pretty far out there, right? She got 41% of the vote. And to be clear, her Israel-bashing was not an incidental part of the campaign.

Elections like this and ample polling concerning the partisan divide in support for Israel should provoke some soul-searching in mainstream Jewish organizations. It would be swell to maintain a bipartisan pro-Israel coalition. It flourished for decades, to the benefit of our and of Israel’s national security. But that requires two parties fully committed to that coalition. With a Democratic president summoning an international inquiry to investigate Israel and slow-walking toward “containment” of a nuclear-armed Iran – and a Democratic Congress unwilling to cross him — this is quite hard.

It’s admirable to strive for bipartisanship to provide the widest possible support for Israel. But with a Democratic Party that has a significant number of Israel-haters (remember that 54 congressmen signed on to the Gaza letter) and others who cheer the lowest common denominator in every situation to avoid  annoying their leftist colleagues and base (fake sanctions, wish-washy letters to the president), the result is not a robust bipartisan coalition but an ineffective one, which merely legitimizes the Obama assault on the Jewish state. In less than two years of this administration, “Israel’s last line of defense against false claims and promises—the United States—has made itself indistinguishable from the United Nations and Amnesty International and all the other NGOs and religious denominations that have declared virtual war against the Jewish State.” That’s a statement on Obama’s mendacity and on American Jewish leaders’ impotence, if not irrelevance.

I can attest to the schizophrenia this causes among Jewish leaders. Publicly and in the presence of Obama or other members of his administration, they are restrained, polite, even enthusiastic about the president’s actions. In private they grouse and fret — why did he carve out Russia from sanctions? How in the world could he support an international inquest of Israel? Perhaps they think they are doing good, working “behind the scenes,” they say, to persuade and cajole the administration. But look at the results. Obama’s behavior toward Israel is getting worse, not better, even as he tries to “charm” the Jewish community. If the result of “working behind the scenes” is a Swiss-cheese sanctions agreement and administration support for an international inquest on the flotilla, it’s time to concede that the strategy is a failure. And those who argue that it could be “worse” delude themselves. It is not their good offices but rather the financial and electoral support that Jews afford Democrats that provides the only restraint on the administration. And that isn’t much considering the Jews’ “sick addiction” to the Democratic Party, which Obama exploits to the hilt.

Mainstream Jewish organizations have to decide: lose their patina of  bipartisanship (most are avowedly Democratic in membership) and their insider status (which comes with never rocking the boat all that much) – or risk losing their souls and their mission. They are there to promote a robust Israel-U.S. relationship, not to work against Israel’s interests for the sake of comity. If they can’t  fulfill their mission, it is time to either drop the “bigger the bipartisan coalition, the better” mentality or frankly to close up shop. “Never annoyed Barack Obama” is not a legacy to be proud of, nor is easing the consciences of lawmakers who can’t bring themselves to give full-throated support to the Jewish state.

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Which Is It, Senator?

Ron Kampeas spots Chuck Schumer avoiding a fairly straightforward question from Jake Tapper on Obama’s assault on Israel:

TAPPER: The Israeli newspaper Yedioth Achronoth quoted an anonymous confidante to Prime Minister Netanyahu calling President Obama “The greatest disaster for Israel, a strategic disaster.” I’m sure you have some constituents who share those views and perhaps those concerns. Do you think that the White House has behaved toward Israel and the prime minister of Israel as you would want them to?

SCHUMER: Well let me say this: I think everybody here in the United States, virtually everybody, and the vast majority of Israelis, want peace, they’re willing to accept a two state solution. The best way to bring about that peace is let the two sides negotiate and bring them together. I think one of the problems we have faced in the Middle East is that too many of the Palestinians, they elected Hamas, sworn to Israel’s destruction, don’t really believe in peace. And I do believe that you have to let the two parties come together. If the United States imposes preconditions, particularly on the Palestinian and Arab side, they’ll say we won’t come and negotiate.

Tapper didn’t follow up, and Schumer escaped unscathed. But perhaps Schumer’s constituents deserve an answer. After all, Schumer  fancies himself a great friend of Israel and gave a robust speech at AIPAC declaring Iran engagement a failure. In the past he’s signed on to resolutions affirming Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel. So there are two possibilities: (1) he’s changed his mind and now agrees that we need more daylight between the U.S. and Israel, or 2) he’s appalled by Obama’s onslaught but lacks the political courage to speak up. Which is it?

Ron Kampeas spots Chuck Schumer avoiding a fairly straightforward question from Jake Tapper on Obama’s assault on Israel:

TAPPER: The Israeli newspaper Yedioth Achronoth quoted an anonymous confidante to Prime Minister Netanyahu calling President Obama “The greatest disaster for Israel, a strategic disaster.” I’m sure you have some constituents who share those views and perhaps those concerns. Do you think that the White House has behaved toward Israel and the prime minister of Israel as you would want them to?

SCHUMER: Well let me say this: I think everybody here in the United States, virtually everybody, and the vast majority of Israelis, want peace, they’re willing to accept a two state solution. The best way to bring about that peace is let the two sides negotiate and bring them together. I think one of the problems we have faced in the Middle East is that too many of the Palestinians, they elected Hamas, sworn to Israel’s destruction, don’t really believe in peace. And I do believe that you have to let the two parties come together. If the United States imposes preconditions, particularly on the Palestinian and Arab side, they’ll say we won’t come and negotiate.

Tapper didn’t follow up, and Schumer escaped unscathed. But perhaps Schumer’s constituents deserve an answer. After all, Schumer  fancies himself a great friend of Israel and gave a robust speech at AIPAC declaring Iran engagement a failure. In the past he’s signed on to resolutions affirming Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel. So there are two possibilities: (1) he’s changed his mind and now agrees that we need more daylight between the U.S. and Israel, or 2) he’s appalled by Obama’s onslaught but lacks the political courage to speak up. Which is it?

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You Want Moral Clarity?

Via our friends at the Weekly Standard comes a letter to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer from Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt, who argues against the notion that the housing announcement (“an administrative error made by a low-level bureaucrat, and for which Prime Minister Netanyahu has now apologized no less than four times”) was some great insult or affront to Obama. The rabbi recounts:

Why was Assad’s meeting with Ahmadinejad the day after the US announced that we were sending an ambassador to Syria ignored by the State Department and not deemed to be an “insult and affront” to the United States?

Why is Palestinian Authority incitement of rioters in Jerusalem and elsewhere not condemned by this administration and not an “insult and affront” to the United States and the Vice President?

Why is the naming of the main public square in Ramallah by Abbas in honor of Fatah terrorist Dalal Mughrabi, murderer of 38 Israelis – 13 of them little kids not an impediment to the peace process and not an insult and affront to the US and Israel????

Not to mention – why does this administration insist on viewing construction in a vacant piece of land, adjacent to existing housing seen as thwarting the two state solution?

The answer is that Obama seeks to ingratiate himself with the thug-ocracies and put the screws on Israel. The answer is that Obama views Israeli actions not in the best possible light, as one would expect a valued friend to do, but in the worst possible light. And the answer is that neither Obama nor his administration can think through the implications of their actions (Will acquiescence work with Syria? Will bullying win over the Israelis?) or appreciate the moral distinction between a democratic friend and a rogue state. They are both morally obtuse and politically (domestically and internationally) tone-deaf.

If there is a silver lining in all this, it is that a number of groups and individuals have been compelled to restate the case for the U.S.-Israel relationship, review the past history of Palestinian rejectionism, and clarify some basic facts (for example, what’s a “settlement?”). It’s a beneficial development to the extent that the mainstream media have been obliged to recount some of these arguments. And to the extent that this controversy has made it crystal clear to the Obami how little stomach there is in America for Israel-bashing, this is helpful. But these are small consolations indeed. All in all, we’d prefer an enthusiastically pro-Israel president whose moral instincts are as sharp as Rabbi Weinblatt’s. Well, that’s perhaps too much to ask for.

Via our friends at the Weekly Standard comes a letter to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer from Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt, who argues against the notion that the housing announcement (“an administrative error made by a low-level bureaucrat, and for which Prime Minister Netanyahu has now apologized no less than four times”) was some great insult or affront to Obama. The rabbi recounts:

Why was Assad’s meeting with Ahmadinejad the day after the US announced that we were sending an ambassador to Syria ignored by the State Department and not deemed to be an “insult and affront” to the United States?

Why is Palestinian Authority incitement of rioters in Jerusalem and elsewhere not condemned by this administration and not an “insult and affront” to the United States and the Vice President?

Why is the naming of the main public square in Ramallah by Abbas in honor of Fatah terrorist Dalal Mughrabi, murderer of 38 Israelis – 13 of them little kids not an impediment to the peace process and not an insult and affront to the US and Israel????

Not to mention – why does this administration insist on viewing construction in a vacant piece of land, adjacent to existing housing seen as thwarting the two state solution?

The answer is that Obama seeks to ingratiate himself with the thug-ocracies and put the screws on Israel. The answer is that Obama views Israeli actions not in the best possible light, as one would expect a valued friend to do, but in the worst possible light. And the answer is that neither Obama nor his administration can think through the implications of their actions (Will acquiescence work with Syria? Will bullying win over the Israelis?) or appreciate the moral distinction between a democratic friend and a rogue state. They are both morally obtuse and politically (domestically and internationally) tone-deaf.

If there is a silver lining in all this, it is that a number of groups and individuals have been compelled to restate the case for the U.S.-Israel relationship, review the past history of Palestinian rejectionism, and clarify some basic facts (for example, what’s a “settlement?”). It’s a beneficial development to the extent that the mainstream media have been obliged to recount some of these arguments. And to the extent that this controversy has made it crystal clear to the Obami how little stomach there is in America for Israel-bashing, this is helpful. But these are small consolations indeed. All in all, we’d prefer an enthusiastically pro-Israel president whose moral instincts are as sharp as Rabbi Weinblatt’s. Well, that’s perhaps too much to ask for.

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A Lot of E-Mails — from Christian Zionists

On an average day, the White House gets 100,000 e-mails. Yesterday, 20 percent of those, if it was an average day, came from one group, on one issue. Christians United for Israel, in a written statement, explains: “More than 20,000 Christian Zionists emailed the White House in just over twenty-four hours in order to express their disappointment with the Obama Administration’s exaggerated and unnecessary reaction to last week’s announcement by Israel’s Interior Ministry on construction permits in Jerusalem. The emails were sent in response to an action alert distributed at noon yesterday by Christians United for Israel (CUFI).” The statement continues:

“The incredible response to our action alert is a clear indication that Christian Zionists are firmly committed to a strong US-Israel relationship,” said Pastor John Hagee, founder and chairman of CUFI.

“While the timing of the Interior Ministry’s announcement was regrettable, the Administration has turned a minor flap into a much larger incident.  This overreaction does not advance the cause of peace, and may well imperil it.  Let’s not forget that the Israelis have taken repeated risks for peace over the years and continue to support direct negotiations towards a two state solution.  Nothing about this Israeli approach has changed,” said David Brog, CUFI executive director.

“CUFI will continue this effort through the week, and our hope is that in the following days the President will recognize that Americans of all faiths expect his administration to be a more careful steward of the long-standing US-Israel relationship,” Brog said.

There is, it seems, a broad coalition — from secular, liberal Jews to Christian conservatives — that takes strong exception to the Obama anti-Israel offensive. And while the Left and J Street crowd remain on the other side egging the administration on, they seem on this one to be badly outnumbered. As in so many things, the Obami find themselves tied to the hip with the Left — and facing a broad and energized coalition on the other side. No one can say they haven’t brought people together or encouraged political participation.

On an average day, the White House gets 100,000 e-mails. Yesterday, 20 percent of those, if it was an average day, came from one group, on one issue. Christians United for Israel, in a written statement, explains: “More than 20,000 Christian Zionists emailed the White House in just over twenty-four hours in order to express their disappointment with the Obama Administration’s exaggerated and unnecessary reaction to last week’s announcement by Israel’s Interior Ministry on construction permits in Jerusalem. The emails were sent in response to an action alert distributed at noon yesterday by Christians United for Israel (CUFI).” The statement continues:

“The incredible response to our action alert is a clear indication that Christian Zionists are firmly committed to a strong US-Israel relationship,” said Pastor John Hagee, founder and chairman of CUFI.

“While the timing of the Interior Ministry’s announcement was regrettable, the Administration has turned a minor flap into a much larger incident.  This overreaction does not advance the cause of peace, and may well imperil it.  Let’s not forget that the Israelis have taken repeated risks for peace over the years and continue to support direct negotiations towards a two state solution.  Nothing about this Israeli approach has changed,” said David Brog, CUFI executive director.

“CUFI will continue this effort through the week, and our hope is that in the following days the President will recognize that Americans of all faiths expect his administration to be a more careful steward of the long-standing US-Israel relationship,” Brog said.

There is, it seems, a broad coalition — from secular, liberal Jews to Christian conservatives — that takes strong exception to the Obama anti-Israel offensive. And while the Left and J Street crowd remain on the other side egging the administration on, they seem on this one to be badly outnumbered. As in so many things, the Obami find themselves tied to the hip with the Left — and facing a broad and energized coalition on the other side. No one can say they haven’t brought people together or encouraged political participation.

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Is Stephen Walt Actually a Realist?

The silly tagline of Stephen Walt’s blog is: “A realist in an ideological age,” the idea being that realists enjoy a more rational and serene understanding of global affairs than the benighted fanatics who do not adopt realism’s scientific outlook on the world.

Before becoming a full-time member of the Anti-Israel Lobby, Walt was an academic specialist in realist IR theory. Two of the central tenets of realism are: 1) domestic politics make little contribution to a state’s formulation of its foreign policy interests — states are “black boxes,” as the saying goes; and, related, 2) states are rational calculators of their national interests (yes, these two ideas are very much in tension, but ignore that for now).

The reason I bring this up is the fervency with which people like Walt — self-proclaimed realists, that is — make arguments at odds with the principles of their creed. One of Walt’s regular assertions is that Israel is incapable of calculating its own interests, or as Walt would put it, that the interests it pursues are self-destructive or harmful to its real interests, as understood by the noted Zionist, Stephen Walt. He writes this constantly, like yesterday, when he claimed: “A two state solution is also the best guarantee of Israel’s long-term future. … Netanyahu, AIPAC and the rest of the “status quo” lobby don’t get that. … these people are false friends of Israel.” A real realist would say that all of this is highly unlikely, or if he did believe that the Israeli government does not understand its own interests, he would be sufficiently curious about this significant aberration to do more than mention it flippantly.

And then there is the role of domestic politics, which Walt believes controls both American and Israeli foreign policy. In America, it is the pernicious influence of the Israel Lobby that perverts the expression of America’s interests in the Middle East, and in Israel, it is the pernicious influence of the settlers and the “greater Israel” ideologues who prevent Israel from withdrawing from various territories and hastening an era of peace and harmony in the Levant. Realist doctrine, of course, allows little space for the idea that domestic constituencies have significant sway over the expression of the national interest. But that is precisely what Walt argues over and over again on his blog. Maybe the tagline should read: “An ideologue in an ideological age.”

The silly tagline of Stephen Walt’s blog is: “A realist in an ideological age,” the idea being that realists enjoy a more rational and serene understanding of global affairs than the benighted fanatics who do not adopt realism’s scientific outlook on the world.

Before becoming a full-time member of the Anti-Israel Lobby, Walt was an academic specialist in realist IR theory. Two of the central tenets of realism are: 1) domestic politics make little contribution to a state’s formulation of its foreign policy interests — states are “black boxes,” as the saying goes; and, related, 2) states are rational calculators of their national interests (yes, these two ideas are very much in tension, but ignore that for now).

The reason I bring this up is the fervency with which people like Walt — self-proclaimed realists, that is — make arguments at odds with the principles of their creed. One of Walt’s regular assertions is that Israel is incapable of calculating its own interests, or as Walt would put it, that the interests it pursues are self-destructive or harmful to its real interests, as understood by the noted Zionist, Stephen Walt. He writes this constantly, like yesterday, when he claimed: “A two state solution is also the best guarantee of Israel’s long-term future. … Netanyahu, AIPAC and the rest of the “status quo” lobby don’t get that. … these people are false friends of Israel.” A real realist would say that all of this is highly unlikely, or if he did believe that the Israeli government does not understand its own interests, he would be sufficiently curious about this significant aberration to do more than mention it flippantly.

And then there is the role of domestic politics, which Walt believes controls both American and Israeli foreign policy. In America, it is the pernicious influence of the Israel Lobby that perverts the expression of America’s interests in the Middle East, and in Israel, it is the pernicious influence of the settlers and the “greater Israel” ideologues who prevent Israel from withdrawing from various territories and hastening an era of peace and harmony in the Levant. Realist doctrine, of course, allows little space for the idea that domestic constituencies have significant sway over the expression of the national interest. But that is precisely what Walt argues over and over again on his blog. Maybe the tagline should read: “An ideologue in an ideological age.”

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The Parliamentary Imagination

The House of Lords’ EU Committee just released its extensive report, “The EU and the Middle East Peace Process.” Among the pearls of wisdom the report contains: according to the Lords, the EU fathered the ‘imaginative idea’ of the two-state solution. Not the 1947 UN partition plan. Not the 1937 Peel Commission. It was the EU:

Though the U.S. has led the politics [of the peace process], the EU has made a significant policy contribution, not least by taking a lead in producing imaginative ideas, including the two state solution, which were subsequently adopted by the Quartet and the Arab League.

In case you were wondering, you now know why calls to reform this bedrock British institution (and bulwark of unelected privilege) are not entirely out of place.

The House of Lords’ EU Committee just released its extensive report, “The EU and the Middle East Peace Process.” Among the pearls of wisdom the report contains: according to the Lords, the EU fathered the ‘imaginative idea’ of the two-state solution. Not the 1947 UN partition plan. Not the 1937 Peel Commission. It was the EU:

Though the U.S. has led the politics [of the peace process], the EU has made a significant policy contribution, not least by taking a lead in producing imaginative ideas, including the two state solution, which were subsequently adopted by the Quartet and the Arab League.

In case you were wondering, you now know why calls to reform this bedrock British institution (and bulwark of unelected privilege) are not entirely out of place.

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