Thursday, May 26, 2011

Mideast Media Sampler 05/26/2011

From an email from DG:
1) Two of the President's men

A few weeks ago, the New York Times reported that the President sought out the advice of "experts" such as Thomas Friedman and Fareed Zakaria to help in formulating his Middle East policies. Yesterday, Friedman wrote a column, rightly called "embarrassing" by Meryl Yourish, who wrote further:

What bothers me the most about Friedman is his absolute inability to write about the reality of the situation. He ignores the facts when they contradict his shiny worldview, using them only as instruments to bash Israelis who don’t agree with him.
Now for a fuller understanding of the President's tutelage, here's the latest from Fareed Zakaria:


Conventional wisdom is fast congealing in Washington that President Obama was wrong to demarcate a shift in American policy toward Israel last week. In fact, it was Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who broke with the past — in one of a series of diversions and obstacles Netanyahu has come up with anytime he is pressed. He wins in the short run, but ultimately, he is turning himself into a version of Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, “Mr. Nyet,” a man who will be bypassed by history.
Like Friedman, Zakaria comes up with a historical figure with whom to compare Netanyahu. In this case he goes back two decades. I suppose he thinks it makes him look knowledgeable, to me the effect is pretentious.

Here is what Netanyahu’s immediate predecessor, Ehud Olmert, said in a widely reported speech to the Israeli Knesset in 2008: “We must give up Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem and return to the core of the territory that is the State of Israel prior to 1967, with minor corrections dictated by the reality created since then.” Olmert, a man with a reputation as a hard-liner, said that meant Israel would keep about 6 percent of the West Bank — the major settlements — and give up land elsewhere. This was also the position of Ehud Barak, Israel’s prime minister during the late 1990s.
This is fascinating. By the time Olmert was Prime Minister he was no longer considered a "hard liner" so Zakaria uses a nebulous reference to Olmert's "reputation."

Let me quote Yaacov Lozowick:

We've come a long way from Golda Meir saying "there is no Palestinian nation", and indeed, we've come a long way from the positions of Yitzchak Rabin, remembered worldwide as a brave Israeli leader seeking peace: Rabin never said there'd be a sovereign Palestine, he never intended to move back to the lines of 1967, and he never would have dreamed of dividing Jerusalem. On the first two, Netanyahu, for all his verbal gymnastics, is to Rabin's left.
This characterization of Netanyahu as an inflexible ideologue ignores the political changes in Israel over the past 17 1/2 years.

One final Zakaria paragraph:

Today, Netanyahu says that any discussion of the 1967 borders is treason and that new borders must reflect “dramatic changes” since then. So in three years, an Israeli prime minister’s position has gone from “minor corrections” to “dramatic changes.” Netanyahu’s quarrel, it appears, is with himself. Yet we are to think it is Obama who has shifted policy?
First of all Netanyahu never termed the discussion of the 1967 borders as treason; this is an obvious straw man. Worse, Zakaria here is using references to two different concepts to create a contradiction. The "dramatic demographic changes" would have to be accommodated by the "minor corrections" in the borders. Still the problem, as others have noticed, is not the mention of the borders, but that the way it was done limited Israel's flexibility. All in all, Zakaria's effort would fail as a twelfth grade essay.



2) Jimmah!

Jimmy Carter has taken time off from criticizing his own country while he defends North Korea's dictatorship to argue that Netanyahu is wrong.

U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 of Nov. 22, 1967, concluded the war of that year and has been widely acknowledged by all parties to be the basis for a peace agreement. Its key phrases are, “Emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war,” and “Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.” These included the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, plus lands belonging to Lebanon, Egypt and Syria. 
This is correct as far as it goes, but as Eugene Rostow noted many times the formulation "from territories occupied" left out the qualifier "all." And he left out the next line too:

Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force; 
"[S]ecure .., boundaries" were a condition of those withdrawals. What happened when Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon? Why Hezbollah's power was left unchecked until it threatened northern Israel! Now Egypt is talking about reneging on the Camp David Accords; does Egypt get any criticism for threatening to violate 242?

Later on we read a claim from Carter:

In addition, all 23 Arab nations and all 56 Islamic nations have offered peace and normal relations with Israel, but called upon Israel to affirm: “Full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967. ...” 
"Full Israeli withdrawal" is not what 242 called for. So Carter not only demands that Israel, not its enemies abide by 242; but Israel must observe additional strictures!

All these statements assume, of course, that Israel may live in peace within its internationally recognized borders — but not including territories it occupied during the 1967 war. Israel withdrew from Egypt’s Sinai as a result of the 1979 peace treaty, but still occupies and is colonizing with settlers the Golan Heights of Syria, East Jerusalem and the West Bank. (When I was negotiating during the 1970s, it was clear that neither Israel nor Egypt wanted to retain control of Gaza, from which Israel withdrew in August 2005, but continues to hold under siege.) 
"[H]old under siege?" So when Hamas attacked Israel, Israel apparently was not allowed to defend itself. This use of language is very disturbing.

Let's skip to Carter's conclusion:

Two recent developments add urgency to the peace process: moves to unite the major Palestinian factions so they can negotiate with a single voice, and the potential vote in the U.N. General Assembly in September to recognize Palestine as a state. It is likely that about 150 U.N. members are prepared to take this action.  
The only viable peace alternative is good faith negotiations, with the key issue remaining the same: Israel’s willingness to withdraw from the occupied territories, with the exception of small land swaps as mutually agreed with the Palestinians. 
Carter refers several times to "occupation," which apparently is a grave sin. However he writes about the Fatah-Hamas unity agreement as a positive development. Does the word "terrorism" not exist in Carter's vocabulary.

In 17 1/2 years Israel's has taken risks and ceded territory in good faith, in return it's been even more vilified and isolated even as it has suffered increased terror. Carter really needs to address his "good faith" comments to the Arabs. Of course as someone who defended the brutal North Korean dictatorship, Carter isn't one who knows the meaning of the word.


3) American pressure

In addition to Yaacov Lozowick's post cited above, I think that Victor Shikhman's post is very worthwhile.

Then, as now, Israel's leadership responded how it always has and always will - it resisted. Ben Gurion didn't rush out with a plan of his own, in order to "take the initiative", reduce international pressure and give the Arabs slightly less than Washington wanted. Instead, the "Old Man" stood firm in the face of an unprecedented challenge, with one superpower arming Israel's enemies to the teeth, and the other actually plotting, in secret, to undermine Israel's internationally sanctioned territorial integrity against her will. Operation Alpha is notable for the sheer contempt shown by Washington towards Israeli rights and territorial interests, which, as for any other nation state, are intrinsically tied to security, economics and national identity. It was not, however, the last instance of American pressure being brought to bear against Israel to concede territory to the Arabs.

4) The stall

Since PM Netanyahu seems to have done well with the American Congress, the New York Times sees its role is to show that he's not popular in Israel, so we're treated to Israelis See Netanyahu Trip as Diplomatic Failure

Ben Caspit, a columnist for the newspaper Maariv, who spends much of his time attacking the prime minister, wrote, “This was a good speech, brilliantly delivered, with all the tricks and shticks and highlights in the right places.” He said Mr. Netanyahu was “focused, charismatic and self-confident” and called his address to Congress “a sweeping personal victory.” 
But Mr. Caspit asked whether it was also a national victory. His reply: “O.K., it depends whom you ask, from what angle you look, and what you’re scared of. Those who are scared of peace yesterday got their wish. Those who are scared of war will be a lot more scared today.” 
So in order to make the case that Netanyahu failed, Ethan Bronner surveyed Netanyahu's critics. At least in the case of Ben Caspit he was honest enough to admit it.

But how do real Israeli's feel as opposed to the elites?

A poll commissioned by Maariv, and conducted in one day, found that Mr. Netanyahu’s popularity rose slightly after his Washington visit. Asked who was best suited to be prime minister of Israel, he took 37 percent. Second place went to Tzipi Livni, head of the centrist Kadima Party, with 28 percent, followed by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, head of the ultranationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, with 9 percent. 
AP even reported that Netanyahu's popularity "surged."

The New York Times effort to undermine Netanyahu isn't even subtle.


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