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Thursday, May 19, 2011

The soft bigotry of wishful thinking

Jackson Diehl writes that it's time to put some pressure on 'moderate' 'Palestinian' President Mahmoud Abbas Abu Mazen, who is on the verge of plunging the Middle East into war (Hat Tip: Soccer Dad).
“It’s more vital than ever that both Israelis and Palestinians find a way to get back to the table,” Obama declared after a meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah on Tuesday. Senior European diplomats who have recently phoned or met with Netanyahu have made clear what that means: Unless he can engage Abbas in negotiations before September, their governments will probably vote for the U.N. declaration of statehood.

Embedded in these demands is what might be called the soft bigotry of wishful thinking about Arab strongmen. U.S. and European leaders indulgently swallow the private assurances they receive from suit-wearing, English-speaking men like Abbas, rather than judging them by their actual behavior. Until this week Western governments have clung to the idea that Syria’s Bashar al-Assad is secretly a “reformer,” even as he guns down his own people. Similarly, Obama persists in telling Jewish leaders and members of Congress that “Abbas is ready to make peace”; it follows that Netanyahu is the problem.

The record of the past several years suggests something very different. In 2008, Abbas refused to accept a far-reaching peace offer from Netanyahu’s predecessor, Ehud Olmert, even as a basis for discussion; nor would he make a counteroffer. “The gaps were wide,” he later told me in an interview. For two years he has stoutly resisted peace talks with Netanyahu, even while conceding that the nominal Linkreason for his intransigence — Israel’s refusal to freeze settlements — was forced on him by Obama.

Now Abbas is trying to transform the Arab Spring into a mass movement against Israel. It’s a maneuver that he knows will not bring peace, but it spares him, at age 76, from bearing the responsibility for making the concessions — on refugees, for example — necessary for a deal with Israel. If he succeeds, he could trigger not just another intifada but another Middle East war. Preventing this requires urgent and concerted U.S. action — and not just another scrape with Bibi Netanyahu.
You will note that I said something similar this week, when I turned David Makovsky's Washington Post op-ed on its head and asked what Abu Mazen would be willing to do for peace.

I'm glad Jackson Diehl noticed. But while he is a widely-read columnist, he holds the power of no branch of government in Washington or Europe. It's time for members of the US Congress and (if there are any who are willing to do so) the European parliament to speak up and hold Abu Mazen's feet to the fire. Unfortunately, it's long past time and may even be too late.

Abu Mazen seems to sense that such pressure might be coming. Unfortunately, he is still posing the same conditions to even resuming negotiations that he set up before. That's just not going to happen.

It's being reported this morning that Prime Minister Netanyahu intends to ask President Obama to shift the focus to Iran. That's also nothing new. Netanyahu may succeed in raising the profile of the Iranian issue. But he also has to succeed in getting Obama to lean on the Europeans to vote against a 'Palestinian state' in September. Otherwise, there just might be a war here.

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At 6:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In this column, Diehl also notes:


Meanwhile, there will be a change in Palestinian doctrine. The new goal will be one on which Abbas and Hamas can agree: not a peace treaty leading to statehood but statehood followed by negotiations, “a key focus” of which “will be reaching a just solution for Palestinian refugees” — whose return to Israel would mean its demise. “Palestine would be negotiating from the position of one United Nations member whose territory is militarily occupied by another,” Abbas declared. This is a formula for war — or “the third intifada,” as Palestinians are already calling it.


In order to derail a preemptive UN declaration, Obama and/or the EU may be pressing for Israel to do something, anything to start negotiations now--the idea being that if the Palestinian strategy runs its course that would be "playing into the hands of the extremists" so Israel should, well, directly place its national assets preemptively into those very same hands. If Bibi and Israel don't, the implication is that the dhimmi west will vote for the resolution, permitting the Palestinian strategy of BSD to go into high gear.

Israel negotiations have only fueled and validated the Palestinian isolation strategy--resuming this validation precisely now with a Fatah-Hamas entente consumed by constantly moving the goal lines would be feckless to suicidal.

If the UN with or without Western support goes for a Palestinian state then Israel can fortify itself against this state or take its own direct action, political, economic, or strategically military. But there is no reason to repeat Czech experience at Munich with a new set of flustered and craven appeasers. War is hell but placing one's neck in a noose is a bitter peace.


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