Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Middle East Sampler 2/29/2012: Has Abbas Done Anything For Peace?

From DG:
1) Pin the blame on Bibi

In The Two-State Solution is the Best, and Only, Solution, Jeffrey Goldberg writes:
What is the alternative to a one-state solution? A two-state solution -- a Palestine in the West Bank and Gaza with its capital in East Jerusalem. Why is the one-state idea getting some airplay now? In part because there is little hope at the moment of seeing the two-state solution being implemented. Whose fault is that? Everyone's, including and especially Hamas's, which controls half of would-be Palestine, and Benjamin Netanyahu's, for failing to convince just about anyone that his embrace of two-statism is sincere. 
First of all the equivalence between Hamas and Netanyahu is repugnant. But does Goldberg have any proof for his assertion?
Or is it simply a matter that all the people Goldberg respects don't believe that Netanyahu's sincere? But let's turn that around. Is there anyone on the Palestinian side who's done as much as Netanyahu to promote the peace process? Let's go back 14 years to the signing and implementation of the Hebron Accords. At the time Charles Krauthammer observed:
Remember: Netanyahu may have campaigned personally as one who would retain Oslo while making it more reciprocal, but this was not the unanimous view of Likud. There are many in Likud and, more generally, on the Israeli right who view Oslo as so fundamentally flawed that it needs to be rejected at whatever cost. 
Netanyahu recognized that the cost of this approach would have been far more than Israel could bear. He then proceeded to bring his half of Israel into the peace process. Signing Hebron meant retroactively signing Oslo, and Netanyahu got his "national camp" cabinet to sign, 11-7. In the Knesset, he got his own Likud party to vote more than 2-1 in favor. When Menachem Begin brought Camp David back to the Israeli parliament in September 1978, almost half the Knesset members of Begin's own Herut party failed to support him.
With Hebron, Netanyahu managed to bring most of the nationalist camp of Israel to recognize that Oslo is a fact. He made his own promise to honor it the official policy of a government of the right.
Is there any Palestinian leader who has 1) made a concrete contribution to peace and 2) brought a new constituency into the peace process?

If you want to argue that Abbas and Fayyad have fought terror, that might meet the first condition but they certain haven't fulfilled the second. (I believe that the terror was defeated mostly due to Operation Defensive Shield. Once the terror infrastructure was defeated, it was possible for the PA to more or less maintain things.) But Abbas has never shown any commitment to a two state solution (he won't acknowledge a right for Israel to be a Jewish state) and Fayyad has no constituency.

When President Obama was first elected, Jackson Diehl interviewed Mahmoud Abbas and wrote:
Yet on Wednesday afternoon, as he prepared for the White House meeting in a suite at the Ritz-Carlton in Pentagon City, Abbas insisted that his only role was to wait. He will wait for Hamas to capitulate to his demand that any Palestinian unity government recognize Israel and swear off violence. And he will wait for the Obama administration to force a recalcitrant Netanyahu to freeze Israeli settlement construction and publicly accept the two-state formula.
Until Israel meets his demands, the Palestinian president says, he will refuse to begin negotiations. He won't even agree to help Obama's envoy, George J. Mitchell, persuade Arab states to take small confidence-building measures. "We can't talk to the Arabs until Israel agrees to freeze settlements and recognize the two-state solution," he insisted in an interview. "Until then we can't talk to anyone."
In fact, as Diehl has subsequently written, Abbas has stuck to his game plan. Yet Abbas didn't even get a mention by Goldberg as a contributing factor. Abbas knows his constituency. (His constituency is not the Palestinians.) He knew the peace processors would blame Netanyahu even if he himself refused to negotiate. Goldberg and those like him may pronounce their judgment of Netanyahu, but by providing cover for Abbas, it is they who hinder the peace process.

2) There must be a pony in here somewhere 

After two days of listening to ahistorical, anti-Israel speeches at the International Conference on Jerusalem, token Zionist, Lara Friedman of Americans for Peace Now wrote of her chance to talk at the conference:
So I continued, admittedly a little shaken. I expressed the concerns that had been bothering me since the previous day. I talked about my commitment to a two-state solution with two capitals in Jerusalem, and my concern that most of what I'd heard at the conference, while referencing the rights of Muslims and Christians in Jerusalem, and the legitimacy of their presence and claims there, failed to in any way acknowledge Jewish equities in that same city. I also expressed my surprise that in a committee focused on NGOs, there had been no mention of the important contributions of Israeli NGOs that work to address many of the issues that had been raised in the committee, including concerns about settlements, tunneling, and access to education.
She had heard two days of anti-Israel invective (with perhaps one exception) and she had "concerns?" Given that one of those speeches that denied "Jewish equities" in Jerusalem came from Mahmoud Abbas, Israel's so called peace partner, I'd have hoped that she could have worked up a little outrage. After all if her vision of peace is to work, it requires a party on the other side who shares the same values. Apparently Abbas does not.

And what's the "tunneling" she boasts about Israeli NGO's fighting? Does that mean that the NGO's object to legitimate Israeli archaeological efforts?
But not everything was bad, Friedman writes of the results:
There were four committees that met and delivered final reports at the conference. The Civil Society committee was the only one of the four that mentioned anything like this. And while I didn't agree with every word of the entire report, I think this report's framing is thoughtful, constructive and pro-peace -- framing anchored in tolerance and recognition of the equities of all parties in Jerusalem. I can't say for sure how the report of this committee would have come out if I had not been there and had not spoken up. I am confident that it would not have looked like this. For those who demand that we refuse to engage with people who hold different points of view, my experience in Doha is a powerful reminder of how small-minded such an approach is. 
So there were four reports issued at the conference and only one of them managed not to be thoroughly anti-Israel. What a victory!

If Friedman had shown any outrage at anything she'd heard I might be willing to give her some credit here. But her cynicism is incredible.

On a hunch I checked to see if she'd written anything about PM Netanyahu's speech to Congress. She had "annotated" his speech with cheap shots. Here's a sample:
My friends, you don't have to -- you don't need to do nation- building in Israel. We're already built. (Laughter, applause.) You don't need to export democracy to Israel. We've already got it [pay no attention to the near constant attacks on this democracy in the Knesset, with anti-democratic bills coming one after another, most supported by my government - the people complaining about this are just anti-Semites who want to delegitimize Israel]. (Applause.)

And you don't need to send American troops to Israel. We defend ourselves. (Cheers, applause.) You've been very generous in giving us tools to do the job of defending Israel on our own. Thank you all, and thank you, President Obama, for your steadfast commitment to Israel's security. I know economic times are tough. I deeply appreciate this [But not enough to actually accede to your president's requests on peace process stuff - and not enough to resist sticking it to him with more settlements every time we meet.]. (Applause.)
Lara Friedman went to Doha and heard the head of the Palestinian Authority deny the Jewish historical connection to Jerusalem and declared herself "concerned." When the Prime Minister of Israel made a speech to Congress, she mocked it by twisting his words to fit her own biased perceptions.

The people at Doha thanked her for coming, but not because they valued her opinion. They valued her presence as a self proclaimed Zionist, to serve as a fig leaf for their anti-Zionist, anti-Israel agenda.

Whether or not she officially represented Americans for Peace Now, if she is truly representative of that organization it is neither pro-Israel nor pro-peace.

3) The empire strikes back

Thomas Friedman concludes in There Be Dragons:
The Arab/Muslim awakening phase is over. Now we are deep into the counter-revolutionary phase, as the dead hands of the past try to strangle the future. I am ready to consider any ideas of how we in the West can help the forces of democracy and decency win. But, ultimately, this is their fight. They have to own it, and I just hope it doesn’t end — as it often does in the land of dragons — with extremists going all the way and the moderates just going away.
This certainly doesn't tell the whole story. The Ennahda movement won in Tunisia. Qaddafi no longer rules Libya and was killed. The Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists won control of Egypt's government. Mainly in Syria, do we see the "dead hands of the past" warding off change.

Not even two months ago Friedman was praising the Muslim Brotherhood for its pragmatism. It didn't bother him that the Brotherhood was going all the way while the moderates were just going away.

As he did in a recent column, Friedman again ignores the alliance of the elected Islamists and the remnants of the old regime in Egypt. In Egypt it is the new hands of the present that are also strangling the future.

But there's a bigger problem too. When the Arab spring started, Friedman was one of its biggest cheerleaders. He was an uncritical supporter of the revolutions. He blasted Israel for not being more vocal in its support of the newly empowered Arab masses. But Israel's response was correct. The outcome was far from assured; it made no sense to support one side or another before the results were clear.

But don't expect any mea culpas from Thomas Friedman. When people pay big bucks to hear you pronounce on the issues of the day in Aspen, you don't apologize. Thomas Friedman may be wrong, but he never has to say he is sorry.
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