Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mideast Media Sampler 09/22/2011

From DG:
1) NYT ? Erdogan; Bibi not so much

Of Recp Erdogan and Binyamin Netanyahu, which one has a) been carrying out mass arrests of the military and of journalists b) been allying himself with Islamists c) been rewriting the constitution to make it easier for his party to stay in power and d) had his military violate international borders to fight terrorists? Let's go the opinion pages of the New York Times for some clues. There's an op-ed by Carlos Strenger Netanyahu's friends, Democracy's enemies.
His foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has a very different worldview. Mr. Lieberman’s open disdain for European leaders and diplomats is not a failure of diplomacy; he is a shrewd man, who first and foremost seeks to cultivate an image of a strong leader for his right-wing constituency. He believes that the West’s hegemony has come to an end, and that the future lies with autocratic governments like those ruling Russia and China. Hence he believes that Israel has no reason to pander to the West’s values. To him, liberal democracy represents weakness and he contends that Israel should evolve into a stronger state with less individual freedom. At the same time, he is completely secular: his constituency is primarily of Russian origin, and many of its members are not accepted as Jewish by Israel’s Orthodox rabbinical establishment. The national-religious parties in the governing coalition, meanwhile, are based on the belief that the Jewish people have a God-given right to what they call the Greater Land of Israel. In the long run, they want Israel to be a theocracy based on biblical law. Their participation in the democratic game is based on the prediction that Israel’s demography will inevitably lead to an Orthodox Jewish majority, and that they simply need to make sure that Israel doesn’t give up the West Bank before they rule the country.
An editorial Palestinian statehood:
Both sides share the blame with Mr. Obama and Arab leaders (we put the greater onus on Mr. Netanyahu, who has used any excuse to thwart peace efforts). But the best path to statehood remains negotiations. 
Another editorial, Israel and New York's 9th district:
Mr. Obama has not handled the Israeli-Palestinian issue adroitly. Palestinians certainly waited too long to begin negotiations, and Arab leaders failed to offer initiatives that might give Israel confidence that a serious deal was possible. But Mr. Netanyahu has been the most intractable, building settlements and blaming his inability to be more forthcoming on his conservative coalition. Egged on by Congressional Republicans, he has sought to embarrass Mr. Obama — astonishing behavior for so close an ally that does not serve his own country’s interest.
and the coup de grace, Peace now or never by Ehud Olmert!
Because ensuring Israel’s security is vital to the implementation of any agreement, the Palestinian state would be demilitarized and it would not form military alliances with other nations. Both states would cooperate to fight terrorism and violence. These parameters were never formally rejected by Mr. Abbas, and they should be put on the table again today. Both Mr. Abbas and Mr. Netanyahu must then make brave and difficult decisions. We Israelis simply do not have the luxury of spending more time postponing a solution. A further delay will only help extremists on both sides who seek to sabotage any prospect of a peaceful, negotiated two-state solution.
In addition, Israel must make every effort to defuse tensions with Turkey as soon as possible. Turkey is not an enemy of Israel. I have worked closely with the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In spite of his recent statements and actions, I believe that he understands the importance of relations with Israel. Mr. Erdogan and Mr. Netanyahu must work to end this crisis immediately for the benefit of both countries and the stability of the region. In Israel, we are sorry for the loss of life of Turkish citizens in May 2010, when Israel confronted a provocative flotilla of ships bound for Gaza. I am sure that the proper way to express these sentiments to the Turkish government and the Turkish people can be found. The time for true leadership has come. Leadership is tested not by one’s capacity to survive politically but by the ability to make tough decisions in trying times.
Well Olmert wouldn't want his leadership ability to be judged by his ability to survive politically, would he? I know it's easy for people to dislike Avigdor Lieberman and maybe someday he'll be arrested for corruption, but has he done anything anti-democratic during his term in Knesset? Religious parties have been part of Israel's political landscape since its creation. Strenger's column is pure invention, but its title is great for the Bibi haters out there. The two editorials refuse to acknowledge that it is Abbas who last walked out of talks with Israel and has refused to negotiate in good faith since then hoping that American and international pressure will get him more concessions. Finally getting Olmert to bash Bibi was a particularly low blow. I wonder if the New York Times ever got Richard Nixon to write an op-ed criticizing Jimmy Carter. Olmert acknowledges that it was Abbas who walked out of negotiation but clings to the thin reed that Abbas never "formally" rejected Olmert's offer. Maybe not but Saeb Erekat was pretty emphatic about the rejection:
In November 2008… Let me finish… Olmert, who talked today about his proposal to Abu Mazen, offered the 1967 borders, but said: “We will take 6.5% of the West Bank, and give in return 5.8% from the 1948 lands, and the 0.7% will constitute the safe passage, and East Jerusalem will be the capital, but there is a problem with the Haram and with what they called the Holy Basin.” Abu Mazen too answered with defiance, saying: “I am not in a marketplace or a bazaar. I came to demarcate the borders of Palestine – the June 4, 1967 borders – without detracting a single inch, and without detracting a single stone from Jerusalem, or from the holy Christian and Muslim places. This is why the Palestinian negotiators did not sign…
And, of course, advocating that the guy who rejected the deal is in line to receive the same offer regardless of his rejection violates every principle of negotiation. If Olmert's beliefs guided the Israeli government and every rejection meant the offer was still on the table, Abbas would have no incentive to negotiate directly with Israel. As far as Olmert's recommendation regarding Turkey, it's pretty clear that Israel has no remedy for Turkey's increased hostility as long as Erdogan is in power. And what can the New York Times say about Erdogan. This is how an editorial, Turkey's leadership describes the man who is currently actively working against American interests.
The Arab Spring tour taken this month by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey demonstrated the good and the bad of his increasingly confident leadership.  ... There is a lot about Turkey that deserves to be emulated. Over the last nine years, Mr. Erdogan’s party has unleashed the energies of Turkey’s entrepreneurs, asserted civilian control of the once-dominant army and enacted human rights reforms. He also has a worrying authoritarian side and important choices to make as Turkey moves to replace its army-drafted Constitution with one that is fully democratic. Mr. Erdogan is playing a particularly dangerous game with Israel. There is no question that dealing with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel can be frustrating. Turkey downgraded relations after Israel rejected a sound, American-mediated deal to close the book on Israel’s ill-fated assault on a Gaza aid flotilla that killed eight Turks and one Turkish-American.
So Erdogan's heated rhetoric regarding Israel is excused somewhat and blamed on Netanyahu. But despite Erdogan's "worrying authoritarian side" overall the New York Times feels that Erdogan's Turkey ought to be emulated. The fully democratic constitution is not something everyone agree is happening. Note this caution from Soner Cagaptay from last year:
Finally, although the yes vote on September 12 promises short-term political stability, Turkey likely faces long-term instability due to clashes between the AKP and its opponents. Such conflicts will be exacerbated now that the AKP has the power to shape the high courts in its own image, eliminating an important check on its power. Among the 42 percent of voters who rejected the amendments, this development will increase fears that the party's commitment to democracy is simply a means of consolidating power. Barring an AKP change of heart -- one in which the party drafts and implements a truly liberal constitution to ease tension with its opponents -- Turkey faces increased polarization over the coming year as it prepares for general elections in July 2011.
Cagaptay notes that at least superficially the AKP's reforms will improve democracy, but that given its past behavior AKP might still subvert the intent of the new constitution. And someone wrote an editorial No way to run Turkey's democracy a half year ago.
Last week, a leading investigative journalist, Nedim Sener, was arrested. He had earlier angered the authorities by digging into the 2007 murder of Hrant Dink, a Turkish-Armenian journalist who had also run afoul of the government. More recently, Mr. Sener has questioned the government’s handling of an alleged terrorist conspiracy to overthrow the Erdogan government. He is being held on the astonishing claim that he is somehow part of that conspiracy. His lawyers are not permitted to see any evidence the government may have against him. Human rights advocates fear that he could be detained for years. Similar charges have been leveled against another prominent journalist, Ahmet Sik. These arrests are the latest fallout from the Erdogan government’s seemingly out-of-control conspiracy investigations. A parallel investigation into an alleged military coup plot has resulted in the imprisonment of 1 out of every 10 high-ranking officers.
Why that's an editorial in the New York Times. But now apparently jailing critics on paranoid trumped up charges is merely an "authoritarian side" to an otherwise ideal paragon of democratic governance. In contrast, Netanyahu who heads a government that allows free criticism - not just domestically but all around the world - is subjected to a sustained attacks on the opinion pages of the New York Times.

2) NYT ? Abbbas too 

The Palestinian Authority recently had trouble making payroll but that didn't stop them from hiring a public relations firm for $30,000 a month. Given today's Man in the News profile - Taking a Stand, and Shedding Arafat’s Shadow - it seems even more of a shame that the PA had to waste all that money.
For decades, the defiant, charismatic and unpredictable Yasir Arafat, always in military uniform, needed no introduction. Seven years after Mr. Arafat’s death, Mr. Abbas, a gray man of sober suits and sensible shoes, may now be slowly emerging from his shadow. In bringing his cause to the United Nations despite intense American pressure, Mr. Abbas has captivated the annual General Assembly gathering, bolstered the flagging devotion of his people and even cornered his rivals in Hamas. The question is whether this moment of unparalleled prestige for the Palestinian leader will produce concrete results or a new and more dangerous set of risks. Here in New York, leaders are lining up to meet with Mr. Abbas, the central protagonist in the session’s chief drama. In the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinians are offering rare praise for a leader who has mostly been seen as Hamlet-like in his indecision, trying too hard to please the Americans and the Israelis.
"[T]rying ... to please the Americans and Israelis?" Please. As noted above, egged on by heightened expectations of American sympathy he has been defying Israel for the past three years and refusing to negotiate. And he has paid no price. And towards the end:
Mr. Abbas has worked hard to counter Hamas’s focus on resistance and instill a political culture of nonviolence among Palestinians after the bloody uprising that began in late 2000. Normality, with a strong security force and developing economy, has started to set in. Mr. Shikaki, the pollster, said that Mr. Abbas arrived at a time when the public was fatigued with violence “so his message fell on fertile ground.” He added that the recent events in Tahrir Square in Cairo also inspired Palestinians.
As anyone familiar with the Palestinian media will tell you, he has persisted in fostering a climate of hate with regular incitement against Israel. The framework of the government might be in place, but since no significant private economy has emerged, the government is dependent on donations to function (|with 3/4 of the budget coming from the hated Americans and Israelis). The article makes no mention Abbas's personal corruption nor of his increased usurping of power. This profile is publicity you just can't buy.

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