Powered by WebAds

Friday, September 23, 2011

Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler

A reminder that I am in New Jersey for the Sabbath and that the posts will continue (if I have time) until the Sabbath starts here.

Here's is Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Friday, September 23.
1) Revising history

I have a trivia question before our regularly scheduled commentary: To whom did Bill Clinton reportedly say, "I'm a colossal failure, and you made me one...?" After Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin was assassinated in November 1995, he was succeeded by Shimon Peres. Peres quickly after assuming the reins of power started a series of withdrawals from Palestinian cities. Two weeks into his term, Peres withdrew Israeli troops from Jenin. An Associated Press story from November 20, 1995 reported:
Thousands of jubilant Palestinians whistled and clapped as Yasser Arafat arrived by helicopter Sunday to honor the first West Bank city given autonomy under the latest Israeli-PLO agreement. ... Janin is the first of seven West Bank cities that Israeli troops are scheduled to pull out of by spring. The pace of the withdrawal was accelerated after the Nov. 4 assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. "The path of peace continues, and it will not be slowed by those who raise their guns or by assassinations," Arafat said.
At the end of December, 5 1/2 weeks later Israel concluded the scheduled withdrawals. The LA Times reported on December 28, 1995:
In the last seven weeks Israel has handed over six West Bank towns and more than 400 villages to the Palestinian Authority. The authority now controls about 90% of the West Bank's more than 1 million Arabs, and about one-third of the land in the Delaware-size territory. CRUCIAL ELECTIONS: Since May of last year the Gaza Strip has been under the authority's administrative rule. Next March most Israeli forces will leave the West Bank town of Hebron. For nearly all of the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza, self-rule is about to become a reality. The strongest political sign of that reality will come in two elections on Jan. 20. One will be for an 88-member Palestinian Council. The second will be for the council's president, the de facto head of the nascent Palestinian political entity.
At this point the peace process was going well. Binyamin Netanyahu was still stigmatized by accusations that he was responsible for the atmosphere in which Rabin's assassination took place and trailing badly in the polls for an election to take place in mid 1996. (Also note the observation, that I've seen in at least one other contemporaneous account: "The authority now controls about 90% of the West Bank's more than 1 million Arabs ...") But in late February and early March, Israel was struck by an unprecedented wave of terror and this changed the political dynamic. On March 13 the LA Times reported:
Israeli elections are scheduled for May 29. Until Feb. 25, when Islamic militants carried out the first of four suicide bombings inside Israel, Netanyahu was trailing Peres badly in public opinion polls. Since the attacks, polls show Netanyahu either even with or slightly ahead of Peres. This will be the first national balloting in which Israelis vote for their prime minister directly.
On May 29, Netanyahu was narrowly elected Prime Minister of Israel and formed the government. I provided this background because of former President Clinton's comments yesterday.
Who's to blame for the continued failure of the Middle East peace process? Former President Bill Clinton said today that it is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- whose government moved the goalposts upon taking power, and whose rise represents a key reason there has been no Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. Clinton, in a roundtable with bloggers today on the sidelines of the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, gave an extensive recounting of the deterioration in the Middle East peace process since he pressed both parties to agree to a final settlement at Camp David in 2000. He said there are two main reasons for the lack of a comprehensive peace today: the reluctance of the Netanyahu administration to accept the terms of the Camp David deal and a demographic shift in Israel that is making the Israeli public less amenable to peace. "The two great tragedies in modern Middle Eastern politics, which make you wonder if God wants Middle East peace or not, were [Yitzhak] Rabin's assassination and [Ariel] Sharon's stroke," Clinton said.
The timeline presented above disproves Clinton's scurrilous charge. Had Israel enjoyed peace and tranquility subsequent to its withdrawal, Peres would have soundly defeated Netanyahu in 1996. Instead, Arafat failed to live up to his responsibility to fight terror in the areas he controlled. Whether he simply turned a blind eye to Hamas's growing infrastructure, or whether he quietly encouraged them, he allowed terror to flourish under his watch. In May 1996, Israeli's were not "less amenable to peace" as the article obnoxiously terms it. They saw that their concrete concessions were not making them safer but enabling their enemies. Israelis reacted as any rational people would and voted for the candidate who promised security. In fact, during Netanyahu's term in office, terror was less frequent than it had been. I'm also shocked that Clinton fault Netanyahu for not accepting the terms of the Camp David agreement. Here he adds insult to the injury:
"[Palestinian leaders] have explicitly said on more than one occasion that if [Netanyahu] put up the deal that was offered to them before -- my deal -- that they would take it," Clinton said, referring to the 2000 Camp David deal that Yasser Arafat rejected.
What does this count for? We know that Abbas rejected a better deal from Olmert, than the one Arafat rejected. Clinton isn't living history, he's revising it. Trivia answer: Yasser Arafat. Source: Michael Hirsh, "Clinton to Arafat: It's All Your Fault," in Newsweek, June 27, 2001: "Clinton told guests...that Arafat called to bid him farewell three days before he left office. 'You are a great man,' Arafat said. 'The hell I am,' Clinton said he responded. 'I'm a colossal failure, and you made me one.'...He described Arafat as an aging leader who relishes his own sense of victimhood and seems incapable of making a final peace deal." After his statements yesterday, my guess is that if you put the question to Clinton now, he'd answer "Netanyahu." Related at memeorandum. Also see Israel Matzav, Elder of Ziyon and Elliott Abrams. One last semi-related thought. What is Bill Clinton doing here? Lately the Obama administration has been reacting to evidence that it is losing the pro-Israel vote. On Wednesday, the President delivered a speech defending Israel's position in the hostile environs of the UN. So now is the time that Bill Clinton wants to remind us that the previous Democratic president is also a Bibi-basher? Is he trying to be Obama's "frenemy?"

2) We support the President but not Netanyahu

In The Palestinians’ Bid, the editors of the New York Times argue:
Mr. Obama had no choice but to stand by Israel, this country’s historic ally. And we agree that a negotiated deal is the only way to ensure the creation of a viable Palestinian state, guarantee Israel’s security and build a lasting peace. But there should be no illusions about the high cost both Israel and this country will pay if this stalemate is allowed to drag on any longer. There is plenty of blame to go around. The main responsibility right now belongs to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel who refuses to make any serious compromises for peace. He appears far more concerned about his own political survival than his country’s increasing isolation or the threat of renewed violence in the West Bank and all around Israel’s borders. The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, who is understandably frustrated, has forced a process that holds high risks for him as well. The bid to the United Nations is hugely popular among Palestinians. But he may find it hard to contain their disappointment when it becomes clear that maneuvering in New York cannot deliver a state on the ground.
Given the number of opinion articles the New York Times has published lately blaming Netanyahu for one sin or another, it's hardly surprising that the editors single him out. But yesterday, the paper published Ehud Olmert's op-ed that recounted:
The parameters of a peace deal are well known and they have already been put on the table. I put them there in September 2008 when I presented a far-reaching offer to Mr. Abbas. According to my offer, the territorial dispute would be solved by establishing a Palestinian state on territory equivalent in size to the pre-1967 West Bank and Gaza Strip with mutually agreed-upon land swaps that take into account the new realities on the ground. ... These parameters were never formally rejected by Mr. Abbas, and they should be put on the table again today. Both Mr. Abbas and Mr. Netanyahu must then make brave and difficult decisions.
Bill Clinton may insist that the Palestinians would accept such an offer from Netanyahu, but Saeb Erekat told Al Jazeera:
In November 2008… Let me finish… Olmert, who talked today about his proposal to Abu Mazen, offered the 1967 borders, but said: “We will take 6.5% of the West Bank, and give in return 5.8% from the 1948 lands, and the 0.7% will constitute the safe passage, and East Jerusalem will be the capital, but there is a problem with the Haram and with what they called the Holy Basin.” Abu Mazen too answered with defiance, saying: “I am not in a marketplace or a bazaar. I came to demarcate the borders of Palestine – the June 4, 1967 borders – without detracting a single inch, and without detracting a single stone from Jerusalem, or from the holy Christian and Muslim places. This is why the Palestinian negotiators did not sign…
It looks like the well known parameters are not known by the Palestinians. Last week a news article Obama and Abbas: From Speed Dial to Not Talking defended the refusal of Abbas to make peace:
“We hoped a lot that in his administration, there would be real progress,” said Nabil Shaath, who leads the foreign affairs department of Fatah, the main party of the Palestinian Authority. “But later on, disappointment set in,” Mr. Shaath said in a telephone interview from Ramallah on the West Bank. “He really could not deliver what he promised in terms of a cessation of settlement activity.” When Mr. Netanyahu refused to extend a moratorium on construction, Mr. Abbas felt let down. And he blamed Mr. Obama for leading him on. In an interview with Newsweek in April, Mr. Abbas said: “It was Obama who suggested a full settlement freeze. I said O.K., I accept. We both went up the tree. After that, he came down with a ladder and he removed the ladder and said to me, jump.” The Israelis have long contended that negotiations should not be subject to any preconditions, and they view the Palestinians’s focus on settlements as a pretext to avoid serious negotiations.
Though the way the article presented recent history was a defense of Abbas's behavior, it accurately portrayed him as refusing to make peace. This is consistent with Jackson Diehl's less sympathetic portrayal from two years ago:
Yet on Wednesday afternoon, as he prepared for the White House meeting in a suite at the Ritz-Carlton in Pentagon City, Abbas insisted that his only role was to wait. He will wait for Hamas to capitulate to his demand that any Palestinian unity government recognize Israel and swear off violence. And he will wait for the Obama administration to force a recalcitrant Netanyahu to freeze Israeli settlement construction and publicly accept the two-state formula. Until Israel meets his demands, the Palestinian president says, he will refuse to begin negotiations. He won't even agree to help Obama's envoy, George J. Mitchell, persuade Arab states to take small confidence-building measures. "We can't talk to the Arabs until Israel agrees to freeze settlements and recognize the two-state solution," he insisted in an interview. "Until then we can't talk to anyone." ... What's interesting about Abbas's hardline position, however, is what it says about the message that Obama's first Middle East steps have sent to Palestinians and Arab governments. From its first days the Bush administration made it clear that the onus for change in the Middle East was on the Palestinians: Until they put an end to terrorism, established a democratic government and accepted the basic parameters for a settlement, the United States was not going to expect major concessions from Israel.
Whereas the New York Times portrayed Abbas as an innocent disappointed by unmet high but reasonable expectations; Diehl portrayed him as a cynical manipulator eager to have others do his work for him. Everything in Abbas's record suggests that Diehl is correct. But don't expect the editors of the New York Times to evaluate the record, but rather to rely upon their own distorted feelings.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home