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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler

Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Sunday, September 23.
1) I knew he couldn't do it twice in a row

Thomas Friedman's previous column, Look in your mirror was an excellent must-read.
His latest, Hard Lines, Red Lines and Green Lines is not.
Friedman gave examples of leadership and lack of leadership. (In short, leadership is demonstrated by adopting policies Friedman approves of.) Among those leaders he found lacking - no surprise here - was PM Netanyahu.

Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu of Israel has been loudly demanding that America publicly draw a “red line” in respect to Iran’s nuclear program that would delineate exactly when the U.S. would launch a strike against Tehran. Bibi is Winston Churchill when it comes to demanding that the U.S. draw red lines, but he is a local party boss when America asks him to draw a “green line” delineating where Jewish settlements in the West Bank will stop and a Palestinian state might start. Oh, no! Can’t do that, Bibi tells American officials. “I would lose my coalition.” So America is supposed to risk a war with Iran, but Bibi won’t risk anything to advance a deal with the Palestinians that might create a little more global legitimacy and sympathy for Israel, and America, in the event of a war with Iran. Thanks a lot.
Netanyahu didn't exactly not risk anything to make peace. He froze settlement expansion for nine months. And got nothing from Abbas.

More generally, as a recent Washington Post editorial put it:
During this time Mr. Abbas has mostly refused negotiations with Israel, citing as a pretext the continued construction in Israel’s West Bank settlements. Israel has offered the Palestinian Authority a number of concessions in exchange for renewing the peace process, including prisoner releases and a potentially lucrative natural gas concession. But Mr. Abbas has not agreed.
The other problem with this paragraph is Friedman's line about  "America is supposed to risk a war with Iran." This is a misrepresentation common to the New York Times. Netanyahu isn't asking the United States to risk war with Iran, but rather to be clear about its "red lines" to make war with Iran less likely.

Following a column which he researched and presented straight unadorned facts, Friedman reverted to type: use a series of pithy, but empty word associations to masquerade as analysis. So for those who were worried that Thomas Friedman had been abducted by aliens and replaced with a logical, look-alike android, you have nothing to fear.

Israel Matzav critiques the column from a wider view.

2) The Romney Middle East "gaffe"

In remarks Romney made back in May that were secretly recorded, he told potential donors:
“The idea of pushing on the Israelis to give something up to get the Palestinians to act is the worst idea in the world,” Romney said.
“I’m torn by two perspectives in this regard,” he said at a $50,000-per-plate fund-raising dinner in Boca Raton, Florida, on May 17. “One is the one which I’ve had for some time, which is that the Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace, and that the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish.”
The New York Times has since published three responses to those statements. One, a news story, Middle East comments could vex a Romney administration was a news story written by David Sanger.
But if he is elected president in November and finds himself in negotiations over a future Palestine on Israel’s borders, Mr. Romney may find that his comment at a campaign fund-raiser — captured on video — that “there’s just no way” a separate state can be workable could undermine his effectiveness in bringing the two sides together. And any dealings with the mullahs of Iran may not be facilitated by his description of them, in the same video, as “crazy people.”
To prove the difficulty a President Romney would have with the Palestinians, Sanger provided a quote from a Hamas spokesman.
The Palestinians, not surprising, had a different view. Yehia Moussa, a Hamas official in Gaza, argued that the United States had “never been suitable” as an arbiter in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute because it instinctively sided with Israel.
“We are sensing a new pattern of alliances among the Zionist lobby and the rightist Americans who believe in Zionist legends and predictions,” Mr. Moussa said. “Romney is part of this.”
 Hamas, of course, doesn't believe in peace with Israel, but for the New York Times, Hamas is a credible interlocutor for the Palestinians. But note that Moussa's statement is categorical. In other words he doesn't believe that President Obama, either, has been a "suitable arbiter" either.

Pro-Hamas activist, Robert Mackey, wrote at The Lede blog, Mitt Romney's No-State Solution:
Mr. Romney’s frank remarks, which undercut even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s public endorsement of “a solution of two states for two peoples: a Palestinian state alongside the Jewish state,” seemed to break from decades of official American foreign policy. Since before the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, Republican and Democratic presidents have thrown their weight behind the effort to secure Israel’s future as a democratic state with a Jewish majority by creating a second state for up 2.5 million Palestinians who have lived under Israeli military rule for more than four decades.
Critics of the two-state solution, however, have argued in recent years that Israel’s determination to hold on to large settlement blocks in the West Bank has made the creation of a viable Palestinian state there almost impossible.
The vast majority of Palestinians, of course, haven't lived under Israeli military rule since late in 1995. It's the failure of the Palestinians to build a sustainable infrastructure - preferring instead to seek international pressure on Israel - that makes the creation of a viable Palestinian state nonviable.

In the course of his post, Mackey quotes Edward Said, Yousef Munayyer, Ali Abunimah and the "news blog" +972. In other words Mackey's sources are almost exclusively those who believe that Israel is illegitimate.

Finally, Shmuel Rosner weighed in with Romney and His Palestinian Problem. Even after allowing that Romney's statements reflect the majority views among Israelis and Palestinians and ...
But that is treading into slightly different territory than just gauging the prospects for peace; it’s about guessing, much as Romney has done, at the Palestinians’ intentions. And those, like the intentions of any vast group, can be difficult to assess. According to one poll last year, Palestinians support negotiations with Israel, but by a “2-to-1 margin they also oppose the two-state solution that’s been the stated goal of negotiations,” with most preferring “ending up with a single state” instead. Given many Israelis’ objection to that outcome, to some people, the Palestinians’ preference hardly seems compatible with peace.
Another way of interpreting this data (no matter how much Rosner seeks to explain it away) is that currently the Palestinians as a whole are not much interested in peace - certainly not the kind of peace that is said to be the goal of the American government, meaning two states for two peoples. That being the case, isn't Romney just stating a truism? Still Rosner manages to fault Romney for that too.
Romney’s take on the Palestinian problem is far from extraordinary. But by stating his views so bluntly — and before a bunch of Jewish voters in Florida — he has seriously harmed his ability to talk to the Palestinians. Should he be elected an unlikely peace would become even more unlikely.
The bluntness is the problem?

Did the friendliness of President Obama to Palestinian nationalism make a difference? In an article (oddly seeking to absolve Abbas of responsibility for the failure to make peace, blaming President Obama instead) Mark Landler of the New York Times wrote last year:
But Mr. Abbas has lost faith in Mr. Obama, Palestinian officials said, and after four face-to-face meetings and many regular telephone calls, there is now little contact between them.
Among Palestinians, the disappointment is all the more acute because their hopes for Mr. Obama were so high. Judging by Mr. Obama’s background, temperament and worldview, Palestinians expected him to bring a new focus to the peace process and a greater sympathy for the Palestinian cause. It did not go unnoticed that he is friends with a prominent Palestinian-American scholar, Rashid Khalidi.
Rosner can speculate that Romney's stance, if he's elected President, will make it harder for him to get the Palestinians to make peace, but experience shows that even with a President willing to engages the Palestinians on their own terms, there is little willingness for them to make peace.

But why not turn this around? Why not ask why Abbas, knowing that he may not have as much sympathy from the White House come January 21, won't be more forthcoming in making peace with Israel now? Clearly, the current situation doesn't seem to concern Abbas much.

The subtext of all three of these articles is telling. All three effectively give the Palestinians the veto over what is an acceptable offer from Israel.

Barry Rubin has more on Romney's comments and Israel Matzav brings up questions about the recording.

3) Ajami x 2 on the Muslim riots

Fouad Ajami explained in Why is the Arab world so easily offended?
The ambivalence toward modernity that torments Muslims is unlikely to abate. The temptations of the West have alienated a younger generation from its elders. Men and women insist that they revere the faith as they seek to break out of its restrictions. Freedom of speech, granting license and protection to the irreverent, is cherished, protected and canonical in the Western tradition. Now Muslims who quarrel with offensive art are using their newfound freedoms to lash out against it.
These cultural contradictions do not lend themselves to the touch of outsiders. President George W. Bush believed that America’s proximity to Arab dictatorships had begotten us the jihadists’ enmity. His military campaign in Iraq became an attempt to reform that country and beyond. But Arabs rejected his interventionism and dismissed his “freedom agenda” as a cover for an unpopular war and for domination.
President Obama has taken a different approach. He was sure that his biography — the years he spent in Indonesia and his sympathy for the aspirations of Muslim lands — would help repair relations between America and the Islamic world. But he’s been caught in the middle, conciliating the rulers while making grand promises to ordinary people. The revolt of the Iranian opposition in the summer of 2009 exposed the flaws of his approach. Then the Arab Spring played havoc with American policy. Since then, the Obama administration has not been able to decide whether it defends the status quo or the young people hell-bent on toppling the old order.
About a week later he wrote in more detail about President Obama's conceits in Muslim Rage and the Obama retreat:
The embattled "liberals" in the region were awakened to the truth of Mr. Obama. He was a man of the status quo, with a superficial knowledge of lands beyond. In Cairo, he had described himself as a "student of history." But in his first foreign television interview, he declared his intention to restore U.S. relations with the Islamic world to "the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago."
This coincided, almost to the day, with the 30th anniversary of the Ayatollah Khomeini's rise to power in Iran. That "golden age" he sought to restore covered the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the fall of Beirut to the forces of terror, deadly attacks on our embassies, the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, and more. A trail of terror had shadowed the American presence.
Yet here was a president who would end this history, who would withdraw from both the "good war" in Afghanistan and the bad one in Iraq. Here was a president who would target America's real enemy—al Qaeda. "Osama bin Laden is dead," we've been told time and again, and good riddance to him. But those attacking our embassies last week had a disturbing rebuttal: "Obama, we are Osama!" they chanted, some brandishing al Qaeda flags.
4) At last Zion - again

The editors of Jewish Ideas Daily have reprinted a 14 year old Charles Krauthammer article, At Last Zion with the following introduction:
Nearly 15 years ago in the Weekly Standard, Charles Krauthammer wrote that “the end of Israel means the end of the Jewish people.” His reasons are perhaps even more relevant in today’s atmosphere of nuclear threat than they were when the article was first published. The essay is reprinted here by permission of the author. —The Editors 
Krauthammer's central thesis was this:
Whatever identity or identities are ultimately adopted by Israelis, the fact remains that for them the central problem of Diaspora Jewry—suicide by assimilation—simply does not exist. Blessed with this security of identity, Israel is growing. As a result, Israel is not just the cultural center of the Jewish world, it is rapidly becoming its demographic center as well. The relatively high birth rate yields a natural increase in population. Add a steady net rate of immigration (nearly a million since the late 1980s), and Israel's numbers rise inexorably even as the Diaspora declines.
A century ago, Europe was the center of Jewish life. More than 80 percent of world Jewry lived there. The Second World War destroyed European Jewry and dispersed the survivors to the New World (mainly the United States) and to Israel. Today, 80 percent of world Jewry lives either in the United States or in Israel. Today we have a bipolar Jewish universe with two centers of gravity of approximately equal size. It is a transitional stage, however. One star is gradually dimming, the other brightening.
Soon an inevitably the cosmology of the Jewish people will have been transformed again, turned into a single-star system with a dwindling Diaspora orbiting around. It will be a return to the ancient norm: The Jewish people will be centered—not just spiritually but physically—in their ancient homeland.

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At 2:33 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

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