Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Mideast Media Sampler 09/07/2011

From DG:
1) Drezner on Goldberg

Yesterday, Jeffrey Goldberg got everyone's attention by reporting that former Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates considers Israel to be an "ungrateful ally." Ron Kampeas of the JTA linked to a followup piece in Foreign Policy by Dan Drezner "explaining" (rather tendentiously) what Netanyahu's thinking is.

I have no inside information about the Netanyahu regime's internal thinking, but I'd wager that it sounds something like this: 
1)  All else equal, we prefer an administration that's ideologically sympatico with us -- which, in the current moment, means neocon-friendly Republicans;  
2)  The likelihood that Obama will be re-elected in 2012 is diminishing by the day;
3)  Through our strategy of bitching to the media about Obama, we have succeeded in getting every viable GOP contender for president to complain that Obama is "throwing Israel under the bus."
4)  No U.S. administration, regardless of party, wants Iran to wipe Israel off the map.   
5)  Given (1), (2), (3) and (4), why on earth should we do anything differently? 
I reject the premise. The Netanyahu government has not been going out of its way to antagonize the Obama administration. (When Clinton was President during Netanyahu's first term, Netanyahu antagonized Clinton; he has been less confrontational this time with Obama.) When VP Biden threw his tantrum about an internal Israeli policy, building in Ramat Shlomo, the Israeli government acted contritely and agreed to a building freeze in Judea and Samaria. Despite the freeze Abbas still refused to negotiate with Israel until it was about to expire. Abbas has also made a deal (at least one on paper) with Hamas and is pushing for a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) in the UN over American objections. The Obama administration has not rebuked the Palestinians for either action - both of which are rejections of the Oslo Accords - or has it suggested any sort of penalty in terms of reduced aid to the Palestinians. (In fact as the Goldberg article makes clear, the administration considers that it is doing Israel a favor by fighting the UDI, not that it is furthering its own interests.)

Netanyahu makes a convenient bogeyman for critics of Israel, but do any of them really believe the policies pursued by Netanyahu are markedly different than those that would have been pursued by Tzippi Livni? She might be criticizing Netanyahu now, but she's out of power. Abbas rejected a peace offer made by her predecessor, Ehud Olmert in late 2008 and has since refused to return to meaningful negotiations. Does anyone really believe he would have negotiated with a Livni government?

2) Rescuing the relationship with Turkey
At the end of Diplomatic Strains Intensify Between Turkey and Israel, reporters Ethan Bronner and Sebnem Arsu write:
Some in the Israeli government urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to offer the apology to salvage relations with Turkey. But he and most of those around him believe that Turkey is uninterested in such a move. Many analysts in both countries said the relationship would not improve soon.
“No matter what anyone says about the continuation of their historical alliance, the relationship crossed the Rubicon — the red line,” said Cengiz Candar, a Turkish journalist and analyst. “Turkey now claims the leadership of the Arab world that Egypt once held, and therefore it is in competition with Iran. It is in a standoff with Israel in a display of power.” 
This is pretty straightforward, though attributing the observation of Turkey's disinterest in salvaging relations to the Netanyahu government is a bit of misdirection. As Daniel Pipes wrote:
Although disappointed and saddened by the shift taking place in Turkey – as recently as a decade ago, I saw it as a model of modernity and moderation for other Muslims to follow – I am quite content to see the Israeli emissary pack his bags and leave Ankara, for this small drama helps anyone still myopic about Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the AKP to understand just how much they are repositioning Turkey as a state hostile to the West.
I have argued before and repeat here: an ally no more, time has come to remove, or at least to suspend, the Turkish government from membership in the NATO alliance.
I wish that the New York Times would explain this instead of taking the "Can this alliance be saved?" approach.

3) Plan B from Ramallah|

Ethan Bronner reports in Abbas Affirms Palestinian Bid for U.N. Membership 
But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said at a separate event that a Palestinian bid for recognition by the United Nations would “set back peace, and might set it back for years.” Israeli officials argue that a resolution recognizing a Palestinian state could complicate the prospect of talks beyond salvation.
Each side says that it wants direct talks and peace but that the other side does not. 
To whom was Abbas speaking where he affirmed the bid (referred to in the headline)?

Mr. Abbas was speaking in his office to 20 left-wing Israeli intellectuals and artists who had come to urge him to go to the United Nations despite their government’s opposition. Journalists were invited to cover the meeting.
He told the group that he had met abroad secretly three times in recent months with President Shimon Peres of Israel — in London and Rome, and in Amman, Jordan. A fourth meeting was called off by Mr. Peres. Mr. Abbas said he also held a previously undisclosed meeting with Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, 10 days ago. 
So Abbas has time for just about anyone, except Prime Minister Netanyahu and all Bronner observes is that each side blames the other?
For his part, Mr. Netanyahu said direct negotiations were the only option. Speaking after a meeting in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Yves Leterme of Belgium, Mr. Netanyahu said, “Unfortunately, for over two and a half years, the Palestinians have done pretty much everything in their power to avoid such direct negotiations.” 
This is correct. This is exactly what happened. Why isn't this reported as straight fact instead of strictly a statement of Prime Minister Netanyahu?
Mr. Abbas said the Palestinians planned to start their membership drive with the Security Council despite a vow by the Obama administration to exercise its veto there. It is expected that the Palestinians’s next step would be in the General Assembly, where there is no veto but which can grant only observer status, not full membership.
He offered an impassioned defense of his approach.
“Some Israelis complain that this is a unilateral move, but when you address 193 countries, that is not unilateral,” he said. “We are going to complain that as Palestinians we have been under occupation for 63 years.” 
Really. Elder of Ziyon notices the obvious that Bronner ignores.

Josh Rogin lays out some Palestinian alternatives for making mischief at the UN. (h/t Citizen Wald)

While some analysts are portraying the Palestinians statehood bid as being part of the demands for freedom in the Arab world, Jonathan Schanzer takes the opposite approach. (h/t Ben Weinthal)
Fatah – and by default, the PA – has not reformed.

TODAY, ABBAS has the support of the international community, but only because he looks great compared to Hamas. In truth, he is little better than Hosni Mubarak or Gaddafi.

Both of those leaders stayed in power long after their legitimacy had waned. Abbas, too, has now extended his presidency, even after it expired in 2009.

Mubarak tried to use his power to build an empire for his son, Gamal. Gaddafi did the same for his son, Saif al-Islam.

Abbas’s two sons, Yasser and Tarek, have been gobbling up US contracts and are running the West Bank like a mafia family. 
 Elder of Ziyon points to a poll showing that Palestinians are wary of the UN bid.
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