Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mideast Media Sampler 05/24/2011 Part I

From an email from DG:
1) The damage Bibi is doing?

Whenever you take on the President of the United States, you are taking on a risk. The President is the most powerful man in the world and rubbing him the wrong way can be your undoing. In the case of PM Netanyahu, the question is whether his challenge to the President was wise. And this isn't just because of the political damage he could incur personally, but because of the diplomatic damage Israel could suffer as a result.

During his first term as Prime Minister, Netanyahu, frustrated with President Clinton, purposely snubbed the President and met with Jerry Falwell first when he arrived in the States in 1998. In the end Netanyahu lost the struggle with Clinton and his premiership the following year.

Charles Krauthammer observed in June 1999:

Having failed to topple Saddam Hussein or Slobodan Milosevic, President Clinton had to settle for Benjamin Netanyahu. In a characteristic display of partisan glee, Clinton toasted political consultant Robert Shrum on Tuesday night (reports Lloyd Grove in The Washington Post) to congratulate him (and implicitly, the administration) for helping the Israeli opposition bring down the prime minister Washington loves to hate. 
This time around Netanyahu had suffered a number of indignities at the hands of President Obama. There was the manufactured crisis over building permits for Ramat Shlomo in Jerusalem, there was the snub last year in Washington and most recently as Bret Stephens writes in his latest An anti-Israel President (h/t Ed Lasky)

...it isn't often that this or any other U.S. president welcomes a foreign leader by sandbagging him with an adversarial policy speech a day before the visit.
So on Friday, Netanyahu offered a recounting of Israel's position to the President. 

Perhaps the target was more the American people than the President, but Netanyahu's critics and, according to the New York Times, the White House felt that Netanyahu went too far.

“That was Bibi over the top,” one administration official said Saturday, referring to Mr. Netanyahu by his nickname. “That’s not how you address the president of the United States.” 
I didn't find Netanyahu's speech to be offensive but Jeffrey Goldberg did. Goldberg treated Netanyahu's speech as an unprovoked attack on the President. However as JoshuaPundit observed (in line with Bret Stephens) above:

Goldberg also apparently doesn't read the NY Times, which reported not only that Obama Administration sources admitted that the timing of Obama's speech was planned intentionally to undercut Netanyahu's address to Congress next week but that the president is deliberately trashing Netanyahu, saying he lacks the ability to negotiate a peace deal..as if it was the Israelis and not the Palestinians who were boycotting talks!
Elder of Ziyon provides a framework for understanding (and critiquing) Goldberg; while Daled Amos addresses Golberg's points systematically. Meanwhile James Taranto quotes two observers analyzing the effectiveness of Netanyahu's response.

I think the most important point Netanyahu made was ‘Hamas Attacked You, Mr. President’, effectively emphasizing that Israel and the United States share common enemies.

One remaining question is why should Netanyahu have risked the President's ire. Prof William Jacobson looks at American support for Israel and figures that that support bolstered Netanyahu. (Oddly Matthew Yglesias sees the same thing, but, in contrast, sees it as a bad development. via memeorandum)

I would add two more points that helped Netanyahu in the present, in contrast to his struggles with Clinton. Netanyahu's political position in Israel is stronger than during his first stint as Prime Minister. The first time he barely eked out a victory; and while this time Likud didn't garner the most votes, the coalition he constructed represents the political centerof Israel. Also helping Netanyahu is that he is not facing off against Bill Clinton. Last week, I heard someone describe Clinton as being able to make you feel like you were the only person in a room filled with hundreds of others. Agree or disagree with Bill Clinton, he is very personable. Against Clinton Netanyahu couldn't help coming across as the bad guy. Barack Obama is nowhere nearly as likable as Clinton; Netanyahu benefits by appearing more congenial than President Obama.

2) If the second time is a farce, what's the third time?

In 1999, Charles Krauthammer wrote:

And yet the Clinton administration, remarkably able to take time off from Kosovo to criticize and undermine Netanyahu for this or that, was until last week silent on Arafat's gross undermining of Oslo. After all, Oslo is founded on 242 and 338, reflecting the obvious fact that 181 died 50 years ago with the Arab war on the new Jewish state. 
... And with serious damage to the peace process. After all, Arafat has moved the goal posts. The 181 maneuver will make it infinitely harder for Barak to negotiate the kind of final settlement with the Palestinians that Clinton has been pushing for six years. 
Why then the silence? Isn't it time for an administration that says it believes in Oslo to publicly reprimand Arafat for the 181 maneuver that undermines it? How can an administration that calls itself the friendliest ever to Israel not denounce Arafat's brazen international campaign for the territorial dismantling of pre-'67 Israel?
Eight years ago he wrote:

Then on to the second summit at Aqaba, Jordan. Here, Bush managed to extract enormous concessions from Israel. Ariel Sharon's speech was revolutionary. He explicitly recognized the legitimacy of a Palestinian state. He further recognized that the state would need to be "contiguous," which instantly conceded to the Palestinians most of the territories in the West Bank and Gaza. And even more painful for Sharon was his statement, largely overlooked, that "no unilateral actions by any party can prejudge the outcome of our negotiations." ("Unilateral actions" is Middle East-speak for settlements, which means that in drawing the final border between Israel and Palestine, Jewish settlements would be of no account.)  
This is a serious moving of the goal posts. What did Bush get out of Abbas? Did Abbas recognize Israel as a Jewish state? No. He refused to give up the Palestinian principle of "return," which means eradicating Israel by flooding it with millions of Palestinian refugees (most of whom, by the way, have never lived in Israel). Yet without recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, there is nothing to prevent the disaster of Camp David 2000, when Arafat, after pocketing truly astonishing Israeli concessions, insisted at the last minute that there would be no deal unless Israel agreed to commit suicide by allowing the refugees to move to Israel, instead of to their homeland of Palestine.  

What did Abbas offer? An end to terrorism. Fine. But until the lip service is carried out, this is nothing but a restatement of the famous letter from Arafat to Yitzhak Rabin -- September 1993 -- in which he pledged that "the PLO renounces the use of terrorism and other acts of violence." 
I wish I could say that the President Obama was the first President to demand concrete concessions from Israel and ignore Palestinian obligations and violations. But that's been the pattern for the past 17 1/2 years.

3) Those rich Jews

I don't know how significant it is yet, but a couple of articles have reported that President's stance on the Middle East will cost him some support. Eli Lake reports on two anonymous donors.

Two such donors who asked not to be named said the president’s speech failed to ease concerns about the lack of trust between the governments of Israel and the United States. 
“The speech presented a wonderful opportunity to correct attitudes the White House and supporters of the president believe are misperceptions,” another Jewish community leader told The Washington Times. 
“The ball came right over the home plate. He swung hard, but it lined out foul,” said the donor, a prominent Jewish community leader.
Tundra Tabloids observes how a major Norwegian paper reported similar information.

Continue with Mideast Media Sampler 05/24/2011 Part II

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