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Monday, May 15, 2006

Former State Department Hacks to Israel: Surrender Now!

Robert Malley was a State Department Arabist who became notorious in Jewish circles for penning a lengthy article in the New York Review of Books in which he blamed Ehud Barak for the failure of the Camp David giveaway, despite everyone else's claim that it was Arafat's fault. Aaron David Miller was one of the three court Jews in the Clinton State Department (the others being Dennis Ross and Daniel Kurtzer).

In today's WaPo, Malley and Miller have co-authored an op-ed, in which they claim that it is in both Hamas' and Israel's interests to work together to calm the environment so that Hamas can 'govern' and Israel can carry out its convergence surrender plan. But for calm to prevail, Malley and Miller argue that Israel and the United States must recognize three 'realities' :

First, Hamas will not accept the three conditions put forward by the international community (recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence, acceptance of past agreements), certainly not now and certainly not under threat. Instead, these should be redefined in terms that are both meaningful and realistic: Is the government solidifying the cease-fire and restoring law and order? Is it dealing pragmatically with Israel on issues of mutual concern? Has it endorsed the Arab League's Beirut resolution, which, by calling for normalization of relations with Israel once a peace agreement has been reached, implicitly entails recognition? These are benchmarks that most Palestinians would accept -- and that most Palestinians would blame Hamas for rejecting.

This is nonsense on several counts. First, so long as Hamas does not renounce violence and actively work to oppose it, violence will continue, whether perpetrated by Hamas or by Islamic Jihad and others with Hamas' blessing. Without a renunciation of violence 'solidifying the cease fire' and 'restoring law and order' are meaningless. It would allow violence to resume at any time. Second, so long as Hamas does not recognize Israel, it will not deal with Israel - pragmatically or otherwise. In Hamas' view, dealing with Israel means making demands on it, which Israel has no reason to fulfill. Third, the endorsement of the Beirut resolution is meaningless because it is contingent upon Israel accepting the 'right' of 'Palestinian refugees' to return to their 'homes' in Israel - which Israel can never accept without forfeiting its character as a Jewish state. Sure 'Palestinians' would accept these 'benchmarks.' They'd be happy to see Israel agree to commit national suicide.

Second, U.S. efforts to starve the Palestinian government of funds may be a principled position, but they are certainly not a workable policy. The result would be humanitarian catastrophe, political chaos and domestic mayhem among Palestinians -- as well as resumption of full-scale violence. Instead (and parallel to Hamas's meeting the new benchmarks, particularly cessation of violence), the United States, without altering its own practice, should allow donor countries to engage with the Palestinian government and pay its employees through an international trust fund.

The US has no reason to allow Hamas to obtain funds without giving up terrorism. Forget for a minute that for the US to be seen as backing down from its demands on Hamas would be disasterous for US interests in Iraq, Iran and elsewhere in the Middle East: there is no humanitarian crisis. The 'Palestinian Authority' has money and lots of it. Hamas may not have money, but the 'Palestinian Authority' does.

Third, Israeli unilateralism, for all its shortfalls, is at present the only realistic way forward. Ensuring that it succeeds means providing Olmert with financial and diplomatic support for his planned withdrawal. But it also means setting forth unambiguous red lines to preserve the only option for resolving the conflict: a negotiated two-state solution. The United States should not recognize unilaterally declared permanent borders nor acquiesce in any action in Jerusalem that prejudges the city's future. In fact, at the appropriate time, it should lay out a clear vision of a final settlement.

In other words, Malley and Miller would deny Israel any gain from Olmert's convergence surrender plan. Ehud, are you listening?


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