Friday, April 15, 2011

Mideast Media Sampler 04/15/2011

From an email from DG
 1) We're serious we really are

An op-ed in the International Herald Tribune Libya's Pathway to Peace has been written by Barack Obama, David Cameron and Nicholas Sarkozy.

The three allied leaders explained why they led NATO to war with Libya.

We must never forget the reasons why the international community was obliged to act in the first place. As Libya descended into chaos with Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi attacking his own people, the Arab League called for action. The Libyan opposition called for help. And the people of Libya looked to the world in their hour of need. In an historic resolution, the United Nations Security Council authorized all necessary measures to protect the people of Libya from the attacks upon them. By responding immediately, our countries, together with an international coalition, halted the advance of Qaddafi’s forces and prevented the bloodbath that he had promised to inflict upon the citizens of the besieged city of Benghazi. 
I do think it is worth noting that the Arab League includes Syria as a member, and the Reform Party of Syria reports:

Snipers and Security Men. Syrians are reporting witnessing snipers in Qamoshli stationed in the following areas. In Malikyah/Derek quarter, they are on the rooftops of the Military Intelligence and National Security buildings, on top of the postal office in the Burj region, and on top of the Ba'ath Party HQ. Also, on top of Zein al-Abedeen Mosque on Qowatli street and on top of the bread factory and the court building. More sites coming ...
Doesn't that mean that Bashar Assad is attacking his own people?

In other words we wouldn't act unless all the stars were properly aligned. And what does this internationally approved coalition intend to accomplish?

Our duty and our mandate under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 is to protect civilians, and we are doing that. It is not to remove Qaddafi by force. But it is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Qaddafi in power. The International Criminal Court is rightly investigating the crimes committed against civilians and the grievous violations of international law. It is unthinkable that someone who has tried to massacre his own people can play a part in their future government. The brave citizens of those towns that have held out against forces that have been mercilessly targeting them would face a fearful vengeance if the world accepted such an arrangement. It would be an unconscionable betrayal. 
So the allied goal is to protect the people of Libya. It reads like a call to inaction. They are making clear the limits of their action. Since Qaddafi has superior force and knows that he's not a candidate for removal by NATO, they've committed to an open ended commitment to protect civilians in Libya.

By allowing others to impose limits on its actions America is abdicating its role as a global superpower.

2) What time is it? Time for a new peace process.

The editors of the Washington Post ask Will the Arab Spring bring a peace agreement with Israel?

ONE OF THE MOST remarkable aspects of this year’s Arab uprising has been the absence of the Israeli-Palestinian issue from the agenda of protesters. It turns out that the rising generation of Arabs is preoccupied not with Palestinian statehood but with political freedom and economic opportunity in their own countries. It follows that for the United States and other Western democracies, the most critical challenge in the region in the coming years will be guiding Arab states toward liberal democracy and preventing the rise of new authoritarian or extremist Islamic regimes.
Western diplomats and politicians nevertheless remain preoccupied with creating a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the issue is likely to return to center stage in Washington in the coming month. In a speech this week, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton promised a “renewed pursuit of a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace by the administration,” adding that “there is no substitute for continued, active American leadership.”
First the editors point to the priority of Western foreign policy and then note the incongruity of pushing for a Palestinian state. And yet they seem to think it's a good idea.

Israel hasn't been as absent from the protests as the editorial asserts, as we know from the attack on Lara Logan and from Amr Moussa's threats to Israel.

A more practical approach would be for the administration to press both Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Abbas to begin taking unilateral steps to lay the groundwork for two states. Mr. Netanyahu is said to be considering withdrawing Israeli troops from parts of the West Bank; the administration should embrace this idea and press for the maximum pullback. It should meanwhile pressure Mr. Abbas to begin talking to Palestinians about why peace with Israel is desirable and what concessions will be necessary — something he has never done. Such measures won’t rival the political breakthroughs underway elsewhere in the region, but they would offer something that two years of the Obama administration’s diplomacy has yet to achieve: tangible progress.
This is beyond insulting. Netanyahu has just taken down quite a few checkpoints. He has been doing as much as he can to help the Palestinian economy. And yet Abbas, like Arafat before him, has yet to explain why peace is desirable. And the United States needs to press both sides.

Maybe what we need is time for the foment to settle down and the results of the Arab uprisings are clearer.

Given the underlying assumption of much support of the "Arab spring" - that dictatorships are inherently unstable - why is now a good time for Israel to make a deal with a  hopelessly divided Palestinian Authority, whose leaders are still in power way after their terms have expired? Perhaps the Palestinians need to have an awakening of their own - including elections and the (acceptance of and) promotion of peaceful coexistence. It's more than 17 years since Oslo, wouldn't it be good for the Palestinians to fulfill one of their signed obligations, quite belatedly, before receiving any more tangible assets from Israel?

And maybe the time to push for a new agreement is not when other agreements are in trouble.

3) Those who can't, write op-eds

A few days ago Aaron David Miller wrote an op-ed with his idea for peace.

Now he's back explaining why the push for a Palestinian state is a bad idea.

The timing makes the Palestinian idea even more anomalous. To say that the Obama administration won’t risk spending political capital on an international campaign to isolate Israel in the U.N. General Assembly the year before a presidential election is probably the understatement of the century. And if the campaign pressuring Israel gets serious, Congress will be only too ready to restrict critical aid to the Palestinians and perhaps to Egypt as well if it helps lead the effort.
If the Palestinian state is really ready to be born,

why the need for critical aid?

Apparently, despite everything there is little Palestinian economy outside of foreign aid.

Miller concludes:

Twelve years ago, during the Clinton administration, we faced another Palestinian campaign for a unilateral declaration of statehood. Ehud Barak’s election and Palestinian common sense averted it; instead, Israelis and Palestinians reached anotherinterim agreement at Sharm al-Sheikh in September 1999. 
Today, though, we won’t be nearly as lucky. Averting a train wreck on Palestinian statehood in New York this fall will require a serious Israeli approach to negotiations, a display of guts and strategy from the Obama administration, and a Palestinian national movement ready to make tough choices. If none of this materializes, we’ll have a leadership vacuum. And sadly, what’s likely to fill it are paper resolutions, rhetoric, more violence and empty promises.
Note how Miller credits the election of Ehud Barak for averting a previous Palestinian attempt to declare statehood. The Clinton administration was hostile to Netanyahu's first government and when Arafat complained that Netanyahu wasn't doing enough, the administration demanded nothing of Arafat and the PA and sided with them. The PA learned then, that if they don't like an Israeli government or the course of negotiations, they can just wait things out. Instead of simply despairing over the coming "train wreck" it would be nice if Miller acknowledged his role in teaching the Palestinians that there are no costs to them for saying "no" to peace.
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