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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler

Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Tuesday, September 20.
1) Who fact checks the fact checkers?

Glenn Kessler take issue with Gov. Perry Rick Perry’s newbie mistake on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Many thanks to Lynn for pointing this out.) In response to this answer given by Gov. Perry,
Question: Do you believe there should be a Palestinian state?
“I certainly have some concerns. The first step in any peaceful negotiation for a two-state solution for the Palestinians is to recognize the right of Israel’s existence. They have to denounce terrorism in both word and deed. And they have to sit down and negotiate with Israel directly. Anything short of that is a non-starter in my opinion.”
the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler "corrects" the governor. Kessler starts:
Perry’s statement had three parts: Palestinians must recognize Israel’s existence; they have to denounce terrorism; they have to negotiate with Israel directly. “Anything short of that is a non-starter in my opinion,” he declared. Perry is stuck in a time warp. He’s describing a situation that existed in the 1980s, not really today. (Some people might argue about some of that, but we will explain below.)
I do believe there's a time warp, but not in the way Kessler means.
As part of the 1993 Oslo accords, in an exchange of letters between then Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the Palestine Liberation Organization met all of these conditions nearly 20 years ago. The letters are posted on the Web site of the Israeli Foreign Ministry. “The PLO recognizes the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security,” the letter from Arafat said. “The PLO commits itself to the Middle East peace process, and to a peaceful resolution of the conflict between the two sides and declares that all outstanding issues relating to permanent status will be resolved through negotiations. … Accordingly, the PLO renounces the use of terrorism and other acts of violence and will assume responsibility over all PLO elements and personnel in order to assure their compliance, prevent violations and discipline violators.” In 1996, by a vote of 504 to 54, the Palestinian National Council removed the sections in the Palestinian charter that had denied Israel’s right to exist.
Kessler's source is the Israeli Foreign Ministry site. But there's another paragraph later:
On December 14, 1998, the Palestinian National Council, in accordance with the Wye Memorandum, convened in Gaza in the presence of U.S. President Clinton and voted to reaffirm this decision.
In his letter to PM Rabin, Arafat also committed to this:
Consequently, the PLO undertakes to submit to the Palestinian National Council for formal approval the necessary changes in regard to the Palestinian Covenant.
After the 1996 vote, Professor Yehoshua Porat noted that other than the vote nothing was done. A motion was made to rewrite the Covenant but no action was taken. That is why PM Netanyahu insisted on another vote. To the best of my knowledge the Covenant has never been rewritten and no new Covenant has formally been adopted. Still even if there was a new Covenant, the beliefs that animate the document - that advocate the destruction of Israel - remain very much in force. We see this in the Palestinian media and textbooks. Article 20 of the Covenant asserts that there is no historical connection between Jews and the land of Israel. Mahmoud Abbas's continued refusal to state simply that Israel is a Jewish state shows that this is still a deeply held belief. Finally even if one believes that Fatah has sincerely accepted Israel's right to exist and denounces terrorism, Hamas hasn't. A few month ago, though, Abbas had no problem with formally agreeing to operate jointly with Hamas. The Fatah-Hamas unity agreement is a violation of any commitment to denounce terror. But focusing on the technical revocation of the Covenant, Kessler misleads. Subsequently Kessler writes:
The PLO has long recognized Israel’s existence — though not the militant group Hamas that controls the Gaza Strip, so maybe that’s what Perry meant. Israeli officials in recent years have also demanded Palestinian recognition of Israel as a “Jewish state” — which Palestinians have refused — but Perry did not make that distinction. Just to be sure, we sent Perry’s remarks to three experts on Middle East diplomacy — an Israeli, a Palestinian and an American. All three said he appeared to be remarkably uninformed.
As I pointed out, recognition Israel as a Jewish state, is indeed part of accepting Israel's right to exist; it is not some contrived new Israeli requirement. While Kessler acknowledges that Hamas is different from Fatah, he doesn't mention the Fatah-Hamas unity pact. I wonder who Kessler's experts are. But like the reporter, they seem to be remarkably uninformed. But I think his "time warp" comment is useful. Israel's Ambassador to Australia has written UN folly of Palestinians ignores progress post Oslo . The heart of Rotem's argument is:
While it has become fashionable for some to disparage the Oslo process, reality demonstrates that it has brought the Palestinians much closer to real independence and statehood than they were before the process began in 1993. Ongoing co-operation between Israel and the Palestinians in 40 spheres of daily life, including security, water and taxation matters, has led to relative calm in the West Bank and seen significant growth in the Palestinian economy, especially in the past few years. Before 1993, the Palestinians were not in control of a single square inch of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Today, the Palestinian Authority controls all of the major Palestinian population centres in the West Bank and Hamas controls the Gaza Strip.
I've seen in a number of places that the Palestinians are going to the UN because they're still occupied (though practically speaking that is mostly not true) and it's as if there's a time warp where Israel has done nothing. In fact Israel has ceded territory, most Palestinians live under self-rule and it is the Palestinians who refuse to agree to a final deal with Israel. Yet because the Palestinians do not control all the territory they demand, Israel is therefore an illegitimate "occupier" deserving of to be ostracized as a pariah. But let's go into that time warp and go back 25 years - a nice round number - to 1986. What if I told you then that most Palestinians would live under their own governments in 25 years? What if I told you that a Likud Prime Minister would withdraw Israel from most of Hebron? What if I told you that despite continued terror, Israel would still continue with the peace process? What if I told you that following withdrawals from cities in Judea and Samaria, from southern Lebanon and from Gaza, terror attacks against would Israel increase? What if I told you that when Israel responded militarily to this increased terror, it would be condemned for responding disproportionately? What if I told you that when Israel built a wall to deter terror (and avoid a military response) Israel would then be accused of a land grab? What if I told that AIPAC, which supported every Israeli territorial compromise, would be described as "right wing" and an obstacle to peace? What if I told you that despite Israeli concessions and continued Palestinian incitement and rejectionism, Israel would be even more isolated in 2011 than in 1986? If I predicted all those things in 1986 you'd probably ask me who was supplying my hallucinogens. And yet every single one of them has come to be.

2) When apologies don't work

Yossi Klein Halevi on why blaming Israel for its isolation is wrong. He writes in No Apologies:
But in the present atmosphere Jews should resist the temptation for self-blame. Apology is intended to heal. Yet those demanding apologies of Israel aren’t seeking reconciliation, but the opposite—to criminalize the Jewish state and rescind its right to defend itself. If any apologies are forthcoming, they must be on the basis of facts. Erdogan began dismantling the Israeli-Turkish alliance well before the flotilla incident, which he then seized as a pretext to sever ties with Israel: his goal is not to restore Israeli-Turkish relations but to bolster his image in the Muslim world as the leader who humiliated Israel. Still, in the spirit of this season of penitence, Israel could offer Erdogan the following solution: We apologize for the loss of life, and you apologize for encouraging Turkish jihadists to violate Israel’s legal and moral siege against the terrorist regime in Gaza. So too with Egypt: Israel will apologize for the accidental killing of Egyptian soldiers—even though it’s not clear whether they were killed by Israeli fire or by a Palestinian suicide bomber—while Egypt apologizes for the atmosphere of government-instigated hatred against Israel, like the recent cover of one of Egypt’s leading magazines, October, which portrayed Netanyahu as Hitler.
3) Recognition

Stephen Walt, Glenn Greenwald and Mondoweiss have all praised Thomas Friedman's latest unhinged attack on Israel; specifically for blaming the "Israel lobby" for the lack of peace in the Middle East. Friedman should cherish those accolades alongside his Pulitzers.
On that last one, heh.

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