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Monday, August 18, 2008

The Times ignores the elephants in the room

In an editorial that shows how little it understands of the Middle East, Monday's New York Times once again ignores reality. In the editorial, entitled "Perils of an Israeli Transition," the Times speaks to those it deems possible successors to Prime Minister Ehud K. Olmert.
Those now maneuvering to succeed Mr. Olmert also need to behave responsibly. Two of the main contenders — Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni from Mr. Olmert’s Kadima Party and the Labor Party leader, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, favor a two-state solution. The other two — Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz, also from Kadima, and Benjamin Netanyahu, the Likud Party leader and former prime minister — do not. They need to think again.
I don't know where the Times got the idea that Netanyahu and Mofaz don't favor a 'two-state solution.' Netanyahu has said repeatedly that if the 'Palestinians' fulfill their side of the bargain, he would be willing to give them a state reichlet on some terms. As to Mofaz, I don't recall him speaking to the issue one way or the other, but given that he was the Defense Minister who cheerfully expelled all of Gaza's Jewish residents, I don't know what other 'solution' he might favor. But that is neither here nor there, because the Times goes on to demonstrate a total disregard for Middle Eastern reality.
Negotiating a deal will require enormous political courage — for both the Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Among the many fraught issues are: drawing permanent boundaries that give Israel defensible frontiers and the Palestinians an economically viable state; finding a way for both states to claim Jerusalem as their capital; and compensating and resettling Palestinian refugees in the new Palestinian state.
Drawing 'permanent boundaries that give Israel defensible frontiers and the 'Palestinians' an economically viable state are contradictory goals in and of themselves. As the Times itself pointed out in an editorial two years ago:

Anyone who has ever really looked at a map of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza can see how hard it will be to form a Palestinian state. Even a future Palestine that includes all of the West Bank and Gaza is still going to be in two pieces with Israel in the middle, separating Gaza from the West Bank.

To get an idea of this, imagine a map of Manhattan. The West Bank would be, very roughly, East Harlem and the Upper East Side. Gaza would be Battery Park City, far to the southwest. Now imagine trying to create a fully functioning city with its own economy out of those pieces while an entirely independent, antagonistic city remained in between. [Please note that my lack of response below to the word 'antagonistic' does not mean that I don't object to Israel's characterization as 'antagonistic.' Israelis won't be involved in terror attacks if R"L - God forbid - the 'Palestinians' pass through between the two separate parts of their 'state.' But that's not my point today. CiJ]

Yet that is what the Palestinians will have to do if they even manage to get back to the 1967 borders. (If the Sharon-Olmert plan, now tentatively blessed by Mr. Bush, goes into effect, they won't achieve that.) If Mr. Olmert moves forward with his plan to retain large settlement blocs in the West Bank, the Palestinians may well lose huge parts of their "Upper East Side" and be left trying to form a country out of what's left, and their "Battery Park City." [Not so huge. About 8%. But that's also not the point. CiJ]
And as I commented then:

That's it folks. The elephant in the room is that even if the 'Palestinians' get all of the 'West Bank' and Gaza, they still won't have a contiguous 'state'. Judea and Samaria (the 'West Bank') are landlocked. How are they going to develop an economy (assuming that they have any interest in doing so)? Either they ship through Jordan or they ship through Israel and Gaza. How are they going to travel from one to the other? Well, during the heyday of Oslo there was talk of tunnels and 'safe passage' routes and trains - but no matter how you solve that problem (if it can be solved) every time a 'Palestinian' travels from Gaza to the 'West Bank' they are going to pass through Israel, and given the only 'Palestinian' export to the world - the terror attack - there is going to be a risk of terror attacks against Israelis because that's what the 'Palestinians' do.

The truth is that there cannot be a 'viable Palestinian state' in the 'West Bank' and Gaza. The territory is not suitable for it. And by the way, they are a lot further from each other than the Upper East side is from Battery Park City (and I lived in New York City itself from 1974-78 and 1980-83 and worked there from 1983-91, so I know exactly how far apart those points are). Does anyone really believe that this is what the 'Palestinians' want: a 'state' that has two parts with another country's territory in the middle? Even the 'moderate Palestinians' themselves have talked about the need for continuity, although they have never said explicitly what that means.

No, my friends, the truth is that the 'Palestinians' want something else and that is why there has been no 'Palestinian state' until now. The 'Palestinians' want to destroy the State of Israel. They want to undo the results of the 1948 War of Independence and not just the results of the Six Day War of 1967. The 'Palestine Liberation Organization' exists since 1964 - before there was an 'occupation,' because for the 'Palestinians,' every inch of Israel is 'occupied' by Jews. There is no difference between Tel Aviv and Hebron - for the 'Palestinians' they are all the same. When Ariel Sharon famously equated between Netzarim (in the Gaza Strip) and Tel Aviv, he was right (unfortunately he forgot the comparison and betrayed Netzarim).
Moreover, given that just last week the 'Palestinians' turned down an offer that was 100% of the area of Judea and Samaria (but not 100% of Judea and Samaria), what sort of 'deal' does the Times have in mind? What 'deal' does the Times believe that the 'Palestinians' will accept given that until now - after fifteen years of 'negotiations' - they have shown NO willingness to make a 'deal' (read: compromise) on ANYTHING? (And that includes Jerusalem and 'refugees'). And when have these negotiations ever been about 'defensible borders' for Israel rather than a land mass that comes to 100% of the area of Judea and Samaria?

Then the Times discusses Hamas:
The militant group is currently observing a ceasefire with the Israelis. But it does not acknowledge Israel’s right to exist, condones terrorism and refuses to be bound by past agreements between Israel and the Palestinians. A way must be found to help turn Hamas into a legitimate and acceptable negotiating partner.
And what 'way' might that be? Given the reality of Hamas' ideology, in which alternate reality would they suddenly turn into a 'legitimate and acceptable negotiating partner'? The very idea contradicts their raison d'etre. Just because the Times says that a way 'must be found' doesn't mean that a way can or will be found!

The Times is ignoring reality. Until they wake up and face it, they too should be ignored.


At 12:38 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

It reminds me of your earlier post about the farce that is peace negotiations in the Middle East. It goes like this: the Arabs demand the maximum and the Jews oblige. The Arabs reject what the Jews offer because its not enough. That's exactly the point. The dispute between Israel and the Palestinians is not over land. Its over core values of identity and national existence that do not lend themselves to compromise. And even if the Palestinians accept Israel's offer, it would not really settle the real issue sustaining Arab rejection of the Jewish State to this very day: Israel's existence. That is the real elephant in the room the New York Times blithely ignores. The comparison of Israeli and Arab intransigence is morally obscene and of course ignores the history behind the conflict.

At 6:42 AM, Blogger Batya said...

I also posted about it. I can't stomach those patronizing and idiotic editorials.


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