1) Iron Deficiency
Thomas Friedman today treats us to Iron Empires, Iron Fists, Iron Domes. In typical Friedman fashion, he substitutes clever wordplay for serious analysis. In his final trope he describes his "iron dome" vision:
Israelis have responded to the collapse of Arab iron fists around them — including the rise of militias with missiles in Lebanon and Gaza — with a third model. It is the wall Israel built around itself to seal off the West Bank coupled with its Iron Dome antimissile system. The two have been phenomenally successful — but at a price. The wall plus the dome are enabling Israel’s leaders to abdicate their responsibility for thinking creatively about a resolution of its own majority-minority problem with the Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
I am stunned at what I see here politically.
On the right, in the Likud Party, the old leadership that was at least connected with the world, spoke English and respected Israel’s Supreme Court, is being swept aside in the latest primary by a rising group of far-right settler-activists who are convinced — thanks, in part, to the wall and dome — that Palestinians are no threat anymore and that no one can roll back the 350,000 Jews living in the West Bank. The far-right group running Israel today is so arrogant, and so indifferent to U.S. concerns, that it announced plans to build a huge block of settlements in the heart of the West Bank — in retaliation for the U.N. vote giving Palestinians observer status — even though the U.S. did everything possible to block that vote and the settlements would sever any possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state.
Meanwhile, with a few exceptions, the dome and wall have so insulated the Israeli left and center from the effects of the Israeli occupation that their main candidates for the Jan. 22 elections — including those from Yitzhak Rabin’s old Labor Party — are not even offering peace ideas but simply conceding the right’s dominance on that issue and focusing on bringing down housing prices and school class sizes. One settler leader told me the biggest problem in the West Bank today is “traffic jams.”You would think that 30 years ago, Friedman was a big Likud supporter. I can't be certain, but I doubt it. This is a typical rhetorical device. Pretend that a party had principles you agreed with before and claim that it does not any more.
But 30 years ago (even 20 years ago) the Likud (and most of Israel) would never have negotiated with the PLO or acquiesced to a Palestinian state. Now even the most right wing mainstream politician has accepted an eventual Palestinian state as an likely. Such an opinion was the province of Peace Now prior to the Oslo Accords. The Likud has moved quite a bit politically since 1993, but Friedman won't acknowledge that.
Iron Dome and other defensive measures Israel has adopted during the past two decades have allowed its critics, like Friedman, to "abdicate their responsibility" for advocating policies that made Israel more vulnerable. Trusting Arafat, withdrawing from southern Lebanon and retreating from Gaza strengthened the terrorists of Fatah, Hezbollah and Hamas respectively -- forcing Israel to military actions to defend its citizens from terror. Israel made concrete concessions and got promises but no peace in return. Israel, fortunately, has learned to defend itself, so Friedman can pretend that the policies he supported cost Israel nothing.
Unlike Israelis who have to live with the results of the policies he supported, Friedman doesn't vote in Israeli elections. So he can hector the center and left about failing to address the "occupation." They don't fight it because they know it is a losing issue. Israel has made significant sacrifices for peace and received insecurity and opprobrium in return.
Friedman's failure here isn't just an arrogant refusal to understand Israel, it also represents a remarkable double standard. Last year in Bibi and Barack, Friedman wrote:
Absent that, it’s just silly for us to have Netanyahu addressing the U.S. Congress when he needs to be addressing Palestinians down the street. And it is equally silly for the Palestinians to be going to the United Nations for a state when they need to be persuading Israelis why a Hamas-Fatah rapprochement is in their security interest.Friedman mocks settlers and portrays them as obstacles to peace. But here he advocated that an alliance between the less extreme Fatah and the terrorist organization Hamas would be good for Israel! Does Friedman really believe that including Hamas will bring peace and security to Israel? If he does he's malevolent; if not he's ignorant.
Nearly seventeen years ago, then PM Netanyahu withdrew Israel from most of Hevron. Can Friedman name a single concrete step taken by any Palestinian leader that matches that level of commitment to the peace process?
Writing about Secretary of State Clinton's recent address to the Saban Center, Barry Rubin identified a mindset that afflicts many in our foreign policy establishment.
But here, too, there is a disproportionate idea. Relatively few Israelis reject a two-state solution out of hand. The dominant idea today is: We want a two-state solution but the other side doesn’t. On the Palestinian side, virtually none of the leadership is prepared to implement an achievable two-state solution. Indeed, they increasingly talk of a one-state solution (total victory and Israel’s destruction), an approach that is never heard among Israeli leaders.
What is objectionable is not that she criticizes Israel—she could cite various things like insufficient energy in dismantling outposts or being too permissive toward settlements—but the criticisms she makes. They all fall into the current dominant Western view that the world’s problems are caused by greedy, aggressive, unempathetic white people who oppress everyone else. Implied here is that the only solution is that such people take risks, make unilateral concessions, pay money, and continually apologize for their sins.
And that’s a formula for disaster, not only in U.S. policy toward Israel but everywhere else.What Professor Rubin wrote about Clinton and the Obama administration applies as well to Thomas Friedman.
I say all this not to complain about unfair double standards or even to respond to Clinton. That is a waste of time. What’s important here is to show how her mind works and that of a large portion of the Western elite. Her remarks are not as bad as they sound when taken out of context. She does try to be balanced—though an attempt at equidistance is not exactly showing strong support for Israel—and also does—unlike Obama—criticize the Palestinians. Yet in policy terms at the very moment of culmination for a Palestinian Authority three-year effort to wreck any peace process by unilateral independence and when Hamas has decided the moment has come for a jihad backed up by the Islamist tidal wave in the region, Clinton and the Obama Administration are obsessed with Israel not making even more concessions.
2) The "moderate" brotherhood
Last week as President Morsi of Egypt continued to consolidate his power, Eric Trager wrote Shame on Anyone Who Ever Thought Mohammad Morsi Was a Moderate:
Washington ought to have known by now that “democratic dialogue” is virtually impossible with the Muslim Brotherhood, which is now mobilizing throughout Egypt to defend Morsi’s edict.
The reason is that it is not a “democratic party” at all. Rather, it is a cultish organization that was never likely to moderate once it had grasped power.
That’s because the very process through which one becomes a Muslim Brother is designed to weed out moderates. It begins when specially designated Brotherhood recruiters, who work at mosques and universities across Egypt, identify pious young men and begin engaging them in social activities to assess their suitability for the organization. The Brotherhood’s ideological brainwashing begins a few months later, as new recruits are incorporated into Brotherhood cells (known as “families”) and introduced to the organization’s curriculum, which emphasizes Qur’anic memorization and the writings of founder Hassan al-Banna, among others. Then, over a five-to-eight-year period, a team of three senior Muslim Brothers monitors each recruit as he advances through five different ranks of Brotherhood membership—muhib, muayyad, muntasib, muntazim, and finally ach amal, or “active brother.”
Throughout this process, rising Muslim Brothers are continually vetted for their embrace of the Brotherhood’s ideology, commitment to its cause, and—most importantly—willingness to follow orders from the Brotherhood’s senior leadership. As a result, Muslim Brothers come to see themselves as foot soldiers in service of the organization’s theocratic credo: “Allah is our objective; the Quran is our law; the Prophet is our leader; Jihad is our way; and death for the sake of Allah is the highest of our aspirations.” Meanwhile, those dissenting with the organization’s aims or tactics are eliminated at various stages during the five-to-eight-year vetting period.Though it's not a complete list, Tom Blumber at NewsBusters actually names some names. (h/t Instapundit)
Last week the New York Times expressed its concern about President Morsi's power grab in The crisis in Egypt:
President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt appears to have made a course correction in his latest and most alarming power grab. During a meeting with the country’s top judges on Monday, he reportedly agreed to limit the sweeping authority he seized by unilateral decree last week. Instead of exempting all his decisions from judicial review, he would retain just the power to protect the constitutional assembly from being dissolved by the courts before it finishes its work early next year.
If true — and the details were not entirely clear — Mr. Morsi’s shift would be a pragmatic face-saving measure. The real test is whether it can satisfy his critics, who have filled the streets in protest. They have grown tired of the constant turmoil, economic collapse and decline in government services since Hosni Mubarak was ousted, and they remain distrustful of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party that sponsored Mr. Morsi.
Mr. Morsi’s ill-advised decree reinforced suspicions that he is more like the autocrat he replaced than the democrat many Egyptians long for, and has only exacerbated the country’s divisions.While the skepticism of Morsi was welcome, the editors of the Times still don't seem to grasp that his behavior is to be expected and that whatever course corrections he's made, he's just biding his time.
Finally it appears that Egyptians are not biding their time. Yesterday protesters chased Morsi from the presidential palace. David Kirkpatrick reported in Thousands of Egyptians protest plan for Charter:
The protests did not suggest widespread defections from among core Morsi supporters. The crowd appeared more affluent than those at the usual Tahrir Square protests here, to say nothing of the Islamist rallies. There was an unusually high concentration of women, especially for an event after dark, and very few traditional Islamic headscarves. Interviews suggested a heavy representation from Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority, who fear marginalization under the Brotherhood.
The relative affluence of the crowd “is a good thing,” said Farid Beshay, a 29-year-old Christian. “This is not a revolt of the poor. This is people coming to demand their rights.”
The newspapers that shut down for the day said their action was aimed specifically at the draft constitution’s failure to protect free expression. “You are reading this message because Egypt Independent objects to continued restrictions on media liberties, especially after hundreds of Egyptians gave their lives for freedom and dignity,” a short statement declared Tuesday morning on the Web site of Egypt Independent, the English-language sister publication of the country’s largest independent daily, Al Masry Al Youm.Robert Mackey at The Lede has more on the protests, including:
...Mr. Dahshan observed: “It was the most diverse protest I have seen in quite a while. More socio-economic diversity than the protests in Tahrir; definitely more gender diversity than the MB staged protests!”There's some more commentary from InstaPundit.
Though Islamists won a large majority of parliamentary seats, Morsi's victory over Ahmed Shafik was much narrower. It isn't clear though that these protests will do much other than perhaps slow down Morsi's growing authoritarianism. The protests forced Mubarak from power because the army withdrew its support from him. Is there any force in Egypt right now that can counter Morsi effectively?
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