Monday, March 19, 2012

The Middle East Media Sampler 3/19/2012: The Peter Beinart Principle

From DG:
1) The Peter Beinart Principle

Peter Beinart hoping to promote his recent book and latest project, has been given an op-ed at the New York Times to promote his views, To save Israel, boycott the settlements:
TO believe in a democratic Jewish state today is to be caught between the jaws of a pincer.
On the one hand, the Israeli government is erasing the “green line” that separates Israel proper from the West Bank. In 1980, roughly 12,000 Jews lived in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem). Today, government subsidies have helped swell that number to more than 300,000. Indeed, many Israeli maps and textbooks no longer show the green line at all. 
In 2010, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel called the settlement of Ariel, which stretches deep into the West Bank, “the heart of our country.” Through its pro-settler policies, Israel is forging one political entity between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea — an entity of dubious democratic legitimacy, given that millions of West Bank Palestinians are barred from citizenship and the right to vote in the state that controls their lives. 
Beinart can argue "[t]hrough its pro-settler policies, Israel is forging one political entity between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea," but this premise is factually wrong.
Back in December 1995, the LA Times reported:
In the last seven weeks Israel has handed over six West Bank towns and more than 400 villages to the Palestinian Authority. The authority now controls about 90% of the West Bank's more than 1 million Arabs, and about one-third of the land in the Delaware-size territory. 
For the past sixteen years, the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea has not been a single political entity. 

Beinart can complain about Netanyahu's rhetoric, but historically Netanyahu has a point. Nor does Netanyahu's rhetoric come anywhere close to the absolutist rhetoric of even some "moderate" Palestinians. Beinart acknowledges the discrepancies, but argues:
For their part, American Jewish organizations might argue that it is unfair to punish Israeli settlements when there are worse human rights offenses in the world and when Palestinians still commit gruesome terrorist acts. But settlements need not constitute the world’s worst human rights abuse in order to be worth boycotting. After all, numerous American cities and organizations boycotted Arizona after it passed a draconian immigration law in 2010. 
In this one paragraph, Beinart exposes the hollowness of his thesis. Palestinians may disregard every norm with impunity, but Israel must be held to Beinart's lofty but phony standards. If he believes this he doesn't even believe in peace. 

My Right Word has more.


2) How to succeed in Palestinian politics

Two and a half years ago, in evaluating the elections for the Fatah Congress, Barry Rubin wrote:
Nevertheless, this is neither a group that will make peace with Israel nor one which will ally with Hamas. In other words, this is a group which Israel can work with on status quo issues but not on a comprehensive agreement. 
But there is one aspect of this result so dangerous that it might outweigh everything else. At number one with two-thirds of the vote--a remarkable sign of popularity--is Muhammad Ghaneim. He is increasingly being spoken of as Abbas's successor. 
Ghaneim is an unrepentant extremist, an open opponent of the Oslo agreement. If he becomes the leader of Fatah--and hence of the PA and PLO--you can forget about peace. Violent conflict becomes far more likely. Watch this man: he is the future of the Palestinian movement.
This is important to keep in mind, as political popularity among the Palestinians seems to stem from confrontation with Israel, not from seeking conciliation. 

Two recent analyses underscore this unfortunate dynamic.

Khaled Abu Toameh wrote Analysis: Hamas no longer the major player in Gaza (h/t Daled AmosIn Context):
Back then, Hamas openly challenged the PA by launching terror attacks against Israel. PA leaders Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas also had to turn to the Egyptians to restrain Hamas. 
Today, Hamas is facing the same kind of criticism that was directed back then at the PA: That it is sitting on the fence while Israel is launching military strikes against the Gaza Strip. 
Representatives of Islamic Jihad and PRC and some Palestinians did not hide their discontent with Hamas for failing to participate in the fighting over the past four days.
(I believe that this title overstates the case, as Abu Toameh also recently wrote Hamas Responsible For Attacks on Israel. Hamas is still in charge, but is being challenged.)

Additionally, Ibrahim Sayyed wrote How to Get Elected in the Palestinian Territories:
In our society, people like Prime Minister Salam Fayyad do not get many votes because they did not spend time in an Israeli prison. Fayyad's chances of winning would be higher if he had killed a Jew or sent his son to carry out a suicide bombing in Israel. 
The number of years one spends in Israeli prison can even be a major factor in getting a job or a military rank in the Palestinian Authority. Many of the Palestinian "colonels" and "generals" earned their ranks not by attending military academies, but by spending years in Israeli prison for their involvement in violence. 
PLO Chirman Yasser Arafat would choose his security chiefs and top aide according to the number of years they had spent in prison or the number of Israelis they had killed. "You spent 20 years in prison? Then you get the rank of colonel!" Arafat would say. "You carried out an attack in which three Jews were killed? You are a general!"
One can complain about settlements, as Beinart does, but in the end it isn't the settlements that prevent peace. It is the failure of the peace process to change Palestinian society. People like Beinart simply ensure that a measure of accountability will ever be assigned to the Palestinians.

3) The three hawks

Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post writes in Why the U.S. should intervene in Syria. The stars of the op-ed are Sens. Lieberman, McCain and Graham.
“I feel like we are reliving history,” Lieberman said in a meeting I had with the three senators in his office last week. “What it shows is that civil wars we get involved in can be settled more successfully than civil wars where we don’t get involved.”
...
In some ways, the case for acting in Syria ought to be easier. It is not just a matter of preventing a humanitarian catastrophe, after all: The defeat of Assad would be “the biggest strategic setback for Iran in 20 years,” Central Command chief Gen. James N. Mattis told McCain in a Senate Armed Services committee hearing two weeks ago. 
So far, however, facts and history haven’t helped much in the Syria debate. Instead, all sides are playing their usual roles. The Pentagon is talking about Syria’s allegedly formidable air defenses. Self-styled “realists” are claiming that helping the Syrian opposition will only inflame an incipient civil war. Obama is saying that “the best thing we can do” is to “unify” the “international community.” At times it seems nothing has changed since the Bosnia debate 17 years ago.
Whether or not they were correct in their long term view of Libya remains to be seen. Despite the toppling of Qaddafi, the short term outlook is not good.
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