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Monday, February 18, 2013

Obama v. Hezbullah and Bob Simon v. Iron Dome

Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Monday, February 18.
1) The Obama administration vs. Hezbollah

Today's New York Times features an op-ed, Hezbollah unmasked by President Obama's national security adviser, Thomas Donilon. After providing the details of Hezbollah's blood drenched history, (similar to a case made recently by Ambassador Michael Oren) Donilon concludes:

Now that Bulgarian authorities have exposed Hezbollah’s global terrorist agenda, European governments must respond swiftly. They must disrupt its operational networks, stop flows of financial assistance to the group, crack down on Hezbollah-linked criminal enterprises and condemn the organization’s leaders for their continued pursuit of terrorism. The United States applauds those countries that have long recognized Hezbollah’s nefarious nature and that have already condemned the group for the attack in Burgas. Europe must now act collectively and respond resolutely to this attack within its borders by adding Hezbollah to the European Union’s terrorist list. That is the next step toward ensuring that Burgas is the last successful Hezbollah operation on European soil.
I'm not a big fan of the administration, but this is a welcome development.

2) Bob Simon vs. Iron Dome 


Two thirds of Bob Simon's segment Will Israel's Iron Dome help bring peace? isn't bad. While his emphasis on American funding is a bit disconcerting (especially because of what it's setting up later) overall, the first part of his report is straightforward. But then he starts twisting the report to make his point:
Barak argues that if Iron Dome makes Israelis feel more secure, less threatened, they'll be more willing to make peace with the Palestinians. You wont find many Palestinians who agree.
Husam Zomlot: Before the Iron Dome, they felt no pressure to make any concessions. After the Iron Dome, they will feel the pressure to make concessions? Of course not.
Husam Zomlot is a PLO diplomat and a professor at Bir Zeit University.
Zomlot, of course, is a disinterested observer. (Not!) Why is this even relevant? It recalls Thomas Friedman who argued in Iron Empires, Iron Fists, Iron Domes:
Meanwhile, with a few exceptions, the dome and wall have so insulated the Israeli left and center from the effects of the Israeli occupation that their main candidates for the Jan. 22 elections — including those from Yitzhak Rabin’s old Labor Party — are not even offering peace ideas but simply conceding the right’s dominance on that issue and focusing on bringing down housing prices and school class sizes. One settler leader told me the biggest problem in the West Bank today is “traffic jams.”
The problem isn't that Israel somehow "insulated" from the peace process, but that no one wishes to negotiate with them. Abbas hasn't budged on insisting on a full settlement freeze before he would negotiate.

Though Zomlot here seems to be implying that terror helps bring needed pressure on Israel, when Simon asks him specifically about that, Zomlot denies that he meant that.

Later Simon badgers Barak:
Bob Simon: But how does it work? I mean, right now, Israel has just announced the building of a gigantic settlement project. This is at the same time that the Americans are providing the money for Israel's most important defense system. Ehud Barak: You know, we are highly grateful to the administration, to American people as a whole for this support. I don't think that it's relevant to the issue of Iron Dome. Israelis argue that America's commitment to their security must be kept separate from political disagreements between the U.S. and Israel.
Simon, of course, is exaggerating what the announcement of E-1 was. He's also misleading in that E-1 had always been assumed to remain part of Israel. But he's making a point, "how can Israel disrespect the United States?"

Strangely he doesn't ask a similar question of Zomlot: "The United States has been giving millions of dollars of aid to the Palestinians, why did they refuse to heed the administration and head to the UN in order to gain statehood status?"

Bob Simon is stuck on believing that only Israel is responsible for making peace. Somehow it escaped him that even though Israel withdrew fully from Gaza in 2005, it did not achieve peace in its south. If concrete Israeli concessions really brought peace, Israel would not have had to build Iron Dome. This irony is somehow lost on Bob Simon.

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