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Monday, November 22, 2010

The American obsession with a 'Palestinian state'

Ethan Bronner looks at the Obama administration's obsession with a 'Palestinian state.'
The answer has a number of levels, but the most important is this: The United States believes that if it can end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, its fraught relationship with the Muslim world will greatly improve, thereby allowing America to accomplish much that is currently eluding it in places like Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, not to mention easing its role as the prime guarantor of Israel’s own security.


The idea isn’t that the Americans would walk away from Israel, their staunch ally, or see its vital interests undercut in a peace settlement. The idea is that if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were resolved, anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world would diminish, American prospects in its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would brighten, and Arab governments would find it easier to cooperate with Washington as it seeks to blunt Iranian ambitions.

Many Israelis dismiss this as a form of magical thinking.

“Let’s play a mind game,” suggested Mark Heller, a researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. “Let’s assume that you’ve resolved the conflict or that Israel has disappeared or that Israel and the United States are now enemies. Will the Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq suddenly start making love? Will the Sunnis, Shiites and Christians in Lebanon get together? Will it end the oppression of Christians in Egypt? Will it raise the status of women or put an end to the use of violence as a political weapon in the Muslim world? It’s a total illusion.”

There are many illusions at work in this region. The founding charter of Hamas states that after Palestine, the Jews seek to conquer all land between the Nile and the Euphrates. A significant portion of Muslims believe that Israel carried out the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Extremist Jewish settlers believe that if they hold firm, the millions of Palestinians around them will leave their land.
Not that I've ever heard (and I know a lot of people whom the Times would classify as 'extremist Jewish settlers'). That we might eventually pay or force them to leave, yes, but that they're magically going to get up and leave because we're there? No one believes that.
While lower-level Israeli officials have embarrassed the Obama administration this year with ill-timed announcements about housing construction on contested land in East Jerusalem, Israel has also made clear that it knows that a strong Washington on its side is central to its security. A weakened or humiliated United States is not viewed here as in Israel’s interest. That is the main reason that a year ago Mr. Netanyahu froze most settlement building in the West Bank for 10 months — Mr. Obama had made such a point of asking for it.


Beyond this, there is another reason the Obama administration is putting such effort into ending this dispute. Mr. Netanyahu has convinced key members of the administration that he really does want a deal and that, ruling from the right, he has the political clout to carry it off. American officials are also convinced that the current Palestinian leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is more oriented toward negotiations and diplomacy than any other in Palestinian history. Both have repeatedly renounced violence.
If 'American officials' believe that, they are dead wrong. Abu Mazen and Fayyad have no legitimacy and no ability to stand up to Hamas. Does anyone really believe that Abu Mazen and Fayyad are going to undertake a civil war with Hamas for peace with Israel? You've got to be kidding.
One more factor: The administration knows that there is a point beyond which the creation of a Palestinian state will become unachievable — when so many Israeli settlers are spread over so much West Bank land that it will simply no longer be feasible to carve out a viable state. Some argue that with 300,000 settlers, that point has already been reached; all agree that it is not far away.

Finally, there is future violence. Ten years ago, when peace talks led by President Bill Clinton at Camp David fell apart, the second Palestinian uprising broke out, leading to exploding buses, suicide bombings and harsh Israeli countermeasures. Thousands — most of them Palestinians — were killed.

Israeli military and intelligence officials say that while the forces General Dayton helped train are the most professional Palestinian security men ever, their discipline and professionalism could break down without the prospect of an independent state.
Those are true. But they only make it important to make peace (or for Israel to totally decimate the 'Palestinians' militarily - which we could do if the IDF were set loose). They don't make peace possible.

Bronner is citing the official explanations. The real explanation is something completely different and its personal to President Obama. The real explanation begins with President Obama's long-standing friendship with Rashid Khalidi, now a professor at Bir Zeit on the Hudson and a former spokesman for the PLO. It continues with 20 years of listening to Jeremiah Wright's anti-Semitic diatribes week in and week out. And both of those things sit on the bases of Obama's bitter, anti-colonialist father and his Muslim upbringing. Victor Davis Hanson probably came as close as anyone to getting it right when he wrote:
Does Team Obama really believe that a murderous autocratic cabal like Hamas is merely different from a democratic constitutional republic like Israel? At best we have naiveté at the helm (Obama thinks he can mesmerize misunderstood killers), at worst, a genuine feeling that Israel is an aggressive, Western imperialist power exploiting indigenous people of color who simply wish to be free--in other words, the Rev. Wright-Bill Ayers-Rashid Khalidi view of the Middle East.
That 'at worst' view is what makes Obama believe that there's a 'fierce moral urgency' to make a 'Palestinian state' and thus undo the 'injustice' that's been done to this imaginary 'people.' That's the truth - and not what Ethan Bronner writes in the New York Times.

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At 11:44 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Yup. Even if the Israel-Arab conflict was somehow resolved, all the differences in the rest of the Middle East, fueled by factors that have nothing to do with Israel, would continue to exist. Its a fantasy to believe creating a 23rd Arab state in the heart of Israel would somehow improve America's standing in the Muslim World overnight.

The only person who believes it is Barack Obama.

At 3:28 PM, Blogger Sunlight said...

To understand the baseline of Muslim enterprise behavior, uninterrupted by an Israeli state or "western imperialism", read Winston Churchill's book called River War, about Sudan in 1898. In this book, Churchill describes a spell when the West pulled out of Sudan, whereupon the Ottoman (Turkish), Egyptian, and local Islamist enterprises ran amok, killing, slaving, starving, robbing, flattening villages, raping, etc. The Brits re-entered because the church people in the pews were hearing the news and clamoring for stopping the slaughter. But remember, Obama is on record as believing that genocide is not a good enough reason to militarily interfere in these slaughtering countries. Anyway, Carl, this is a great post you've done... if you could add this little sticker as an addendum, I'd like to use it to send to some Los Angeles Times and NYT devotees, who otherwise tend toward reason...

River War: Sudan 1898
by Winston Churchill
Read it! Or download a FREE audio version here:
And put it onto your iPod. Listen to all of the chapters 1 - 22!


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