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Friday, March 02, 2012

Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler

Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Friday, March 2.
1) Five years of missing peace

In Foreign Policy, Uriel Friedman offers a Short history of the peace process (h/t Shmuel Rosner). At one point there are these two consecutive entries:
Jewish extremist Yigal Amir assassinates Rabin, who in his second term had become a strong advocate of a two-state solution. The Oslo peace process sputters.

U.S. President Bill Clinton convenes Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Camp David to address Oslo's thorniest issues: borders, security, settlements, refugees, and Jerusalem. But the talks collapse and the Second Intifada explodes in violence.
What's missing?

Despite the death of Yitzchak Rabin the peace process did not sputter immediately. In fact within two months of the assassination, the new Prime Minister, Shimon Peres, quickly withdrew Israel from six major Palestinian cities and over 90% of the Palestinian population. At that point the "occupation" was,f or all practical purposes, over.

At this point Peres was extremely popular and would have won re-election. But from February 25 to March 4, 1996 there were four suicide bombings killing nearly 60. It was then that support for Peres started to erode, and in May, 1996, Binyamin Netanyahu narrowly defeated Peres to become Prime Minister.

People usually blame the failure of the peace process on Netanyahu's election. But even Netanyahu kept things going, agreeing to the Hebron Accords in January, 1997.

By skipping from 1995 to 2000, Friedman leaves out essential facts whose absence skews the proper understanding of the events during the course of the peace process.

2) Extortion works

After the American government threatened to cut off aid to Egypt, due to the arrest and threatened trial of American pro-democracy workers, the newly elected Muslim Brotherhood part threatened to review the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. American diplomats then "scrambled" to find some sort of a solution to situation. A solution has been found, or, at least, a ransom has been paid.
Two United States-financed nonprofit groups paid about $4 million in bail on Thursday to fly 11 employees out of reach of Egyptian courts in a deal that capped weeks of bruising diplomatic wrangling and set off a new outpouring of anti-American denunciations here.
The odd wording here, suggests that it was really the American government that paid the "bail." Sen. John McCain, according to the article, praised the Muslim Brotherhood for facilitating the release of the detainees. It's odd that he praised a group that was complicit in holding the Americans in the first place.

3) Israel and Iran, and that poll

One of the underlying elements of coverage of the concerns over Iran's nuclear program, is the effort to portray Israel's concerns over the Iranian as baseless or, at least, exaggerated. Thus the push for action is portrayed as being an Israeli initiative, one that is only held back by the responsible American government.

A recent poll suggests that most Israelis feel that American support is essential to their views as to whether or not Israel should attack Iran. Or at least that's how the poll's results are being interpreted. Omri Ceren argues:
The spin is that under the current configuration – with the U.S. “advising against” a strike – only 19 percent of Israelis support the action. But that’s not what the question asked. It asked about U.S. “support,” against the backdrop of current U.S. “advi[ce].” It’s entirely possible that most Israelis believe the U.S. would still “support” a strike despite Obama’s current position, in which case the number in favor would be closer to 61 percent. And it turns out, per a subsequent question in the very same survey, that’s exactly what they do think!
So most respondents would be reluctant to support an attack unless the U.S. ended up supporting Israel, but most respondents think the U.S. will end up supporting Israel. Unless there’s something very strange going on inside the crosstabs, where the people who think the U.S. would support an attack are also the ones who categorically oppose the attack, then there’s a clear majority for a strike.
Similarly, Shmuel Rosner writes:
Let’s begin with Iran, where most reports on this survey highlighted the fact that, “Only 19 of percent of all Israelis favored a go-it-alone strike by Israel, while 42 percent supported a strike only with U.S. backing, and 34 percent opposed any strike”. Interesting, is it not?
Well, not really, if one considers the way the question was framed: “There has been increased talk of a military strike by Israel against Iran’s nuclear facilities, even though the United States, the UK and Germany have advised against it. What do you think Israel should do?” Three options were presented to respondents: “Strike Iran’s nuclear facilities, even without the support of the US”, “Strike only if Israel gains at least American support”, “Do not strike”. Ask any serious pollster and you’ll get the same answer: Framing a question in such way is asking for a specific answer.
These polls are being reported in such a way as to portray Israel as a dangerously belligerent ally of the United States.
I'd add to item 1 that there's another thing that Friedman omitted. The 'second intifada' didn't explode in a vacuum. It was planned and coordinated by Yasser Arafat's 'Palestinian Authority.'

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