Friday, May 27, 2011

Mideast Media Sampler 05/27/2011

From an email from DG:
1) A missed pearl from James Earl

I missed a point that former President Carter made in his recent op-ed:

U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 of Nov. 22, 1967, concluded the war of that year and has been widely acknowledged by all parties to be the basis for a peace agreement. Its key phrases are, “Emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war,” and “Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.” These included the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, plus lands belonging to Lebanon, Egypt and Syria. 
Other than the problem of his obfuscation and equating 242 with the Arab peace initiative which demands Israeli withdrawal from all territories; there's one geographic area here that doesn't belong.
That would be "lands belonging to Lebanon." As you know Israel withdrew to the internationally recognized border of Lebanon in May 2000. This withdrawal was deemed complete by the UN in June, 2000.

In the report, the Secretary-General advises that Israel has met the requirements established in his 22 May report for the implementation of resolution 425. Those requirements were that Israel completely withdraw from Lebanese territory, that the Israeli auxiliary force known as the South Lebanon Army (SLA) be dismantled, and that all detainees in Al-Khiam prison be released. 
(We will ignore that 5 months Hezbollah violated the border, kidnapped and killed three Israeli soldiers and the UN protected Hezbollah, as it isn't relevant to our discussion.)

Skip ahead to 2002. With Thomas Friedman's help, (then) Crown Prince Abdullah advanced the Saudi peace initiative and then traveled the Arab world for support. In early March, 2002 he got support from Bashar Assad.

But the Security Council would not endorse the initiative.

The Saudi plan for putting an end to conflict in the Middle East, based on Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories in return for normal relations with Arab nations, is not likely to be endorsed quickly by the Security Council, diplomats said here today.Even leaving aside the contradictory reactions the proposal has elicited from the Israeli government and Palestinians, there may be obstacles created by the plan itself as backed by the summit-level meeting of Arab leaders in Beirut. 
Some provisions in the plan run counter to existing Security Council resolutions, an official here said. Among these is the call by the Saudi plan for an Israeli withdrawal from Lebanese territory. The Council does not consider Israel to be in control of any Lebanese land after the Israeli withdrawal from the border area two years ago. In Beirut this week, Lebanon revived its claim to a small part of the Israeli-held Golan Heights known as the Sheba Farms.
Remember that Lebanon wasn't independent; so its demand for Shebaa farms came from Syria. The point was to maintain a grievance that Hezbollah could nurse and justify its continued attacks against Israel. Abdullah acquiesced. And remarkably the Security Council stood its ground and would not endorse the Saudi plan. it was like Lucy pulling the football away at the last moment.

So in mentioning Lebanon, Carter 1) denies that Israel fully withdrew from Lebanon and 2) affirms that he agrees that the Arabs should be able to change the terms of negotiations at will.

2) Well not all revolutions are equal

Sheikh Nasrallah apparently lost some favor this week. According to Babylon and Beyond:

You don't bite the hand that feeds you.  
After heartily hailing popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt earlier this year, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has been unenthusiastic about the wave of anti-government protests in Syria, the Shiite militant group's close ally.  
In a speech late Wednesday, Nasrallah threw his full support behind the Syrian regime and denounced international sanctions slapped on Syria for an ongoing brutal crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators that human rights  activists say has left more than 1,000 people dead.
From Twitter, I see that Nasrallah's hurt himself in the eyes of Syrian reformers. After all you don't help your cause of people defeating the Zionist oppressor when you support people being defeated by the Alawite oppressor.

3) A good New York Times sentence

In its editorial The Mideast Peace Process: No Plan for Talks: the editors write:

Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, is refusing to come back to the table and is apparently betting his people’s future on a misguided deal with Hamas and symbolic gestures. 
This is excellent. Unfortunately previously the editorial had chastised PM Netanyahu and also, it continued:

This is more than just a wasted opportunity. Continued stalemate feeds extremism. And there is a deadline looming: Absent negotiations, Palestinians plan to ask the United Nations in September to recognize their state. The measure won’t get them what they want, and the United States will veto it when it gets to the Security Council. But the exercise will further isolate Israel and Washington. 
This is alarmism. The second sentence should have read "Extremism feeds continued stalemate." Instead of condemning the Palestinian's gambit the editorial identifies it as something to fear. Of course by now the Times has identified which party refuses to negotiate: the Palestinians. So we get towards the end and read:

His aides had raised hopes that Mr. Netanyahu would offer new ideas to revive talks, but there was really nothing new there. He insisted that Jerusalem “will never again be divided” and Israel’s Army would remain along the Jordan River. And while he basked in Congress’s standing ovations, Ethan Bronner reported in The Times that in Israel the trip was judged a diplomatic failure. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz said Mr. Netanyahu’s “same old messages” proved the country “deserves a different leader.” Palestinians dismissed the visit and said they would focus on nonviolent protests leading to September. 
Now Bronner's story was written with one goal in mind: to portray Netanyahu's effort as a failure. In fact the opposite was and is true.

... the article is the exact opposite of the truth:  
Ha’aretz headline: “Ha’aretz Poll: Netanyahu’s Popularity Soaring Following Washington Trip”“A new poll conducted by Dialog, under the supervision of Prof. Camil Fuchs of the Tel Aviv University Statistics Department, showed that 47% of the Israeli public believes Netanyahu’s U.S. trip was a success, while only 10% viewed it as a failure.” 
Because the American media wants to tell its public the exact opposite:
First the Times ran an article that mangled the truth, then it used that article to support a mendacious editorial.

In an accompanying editorial, The Mideast Peace Process - Washington Makes things worse, the Times clams:

Pandering on Israel in the hopes of winning Jewish support is hardly a new phenomenon in American politics, but there is something unusually dishonest about this fusillade. 
Actually there's something unusually dishonest about deliberately misinforming readers and then using that misinformation to scold others. The Times identified the cause of the the Middle East stalemate, but refused to come out and condemn it.

4) Why do we need a Jewish-American press?

If the Forward's editorial isn't going to differ substantively from that of the New York Times, why do we need it? Greg Sargent of the Washington Post's Plum Line has been spinning furiously the defend the President for his mis-steps regarding Israel. He linked to the editorial in the Forward, Don't make us choose:

And so for those American Jews who were hoping that this string of public pronouncements would lead to a breakthrough, Netanyahu’s defiant stance puts us in a heart-wrenching conundrum. We can choose to support his view of the world, in which an aggrieved Israel bears no responsibility for the occupation and for the impasse in negotiations — and many American Jews will. They will side with him and the Republicans in Congress who offered him this unusual platform without, of course, any reciprocal chance to hear another point of view.Most American Jews do not share that position. Most don’t want further procrastination, but an end to the conflict, which has stained Israel’s moral standing in the way that occupation and continued violence inevitably do. Most of us dread what will happen in September, if the U.N. vote is successful and Israel becomes even more isolated and demonized.
Except given the Palestinian failure to negotiate in good faith and Fatah's embrace of Hamas there isn't even a fig leaf for negotiations at this point. By making Israel's "moral standing" the major consideration, the Forward has made any other consideration including security irrelevant. Perhaps instead of lamenting the Palestinian tactics, the Forward should be defending Israel against the outrageous and possibly illegal tactics employed by the Palestinians.

5) Krauthammer scores

In What Obama did to Israel Charles Krauthammer writes:
Nothing new here, said Obama three days later. “By definition, it means that the parties themselves — Israelis and Palestinians — will negotiate a border that is different” from 1967.
It means nothing of the sort. “Mutually” means both parties have to agree. And if one side doesn’t? Then, by definition, you’re back to the 1967 lines.
Nor is this merely a theoretical proposition. Three times the Palestinians have been offered exactly that formula, 1967 plus swaps — at Camp David 2000, Taba 2001, and the 2008 Olmert-Abbas negotiations. Every time, the Palestinians said no and walked away.
More importantly he gives the background to the past 17 1/2 years that the Forward, the New York Times and others refuse to acknowledge:
Israel too ? Exactly what bold steps for peace have the Palestinians taken? Israel made three radically conciliatory offers to establish a Palestinian state, withdrew from Gaza and has been trying to renew negotiations for more than two years. Meanwhile, the Gaza Palestinians have been firing rockets at Israeli towns and villages. And on the West Bank, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas turns down then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s offer, walks out of negotiations with Binyamin Netanyahu and now defies the United States by seeking not peace talks but instant statehood — without peace, without recognizing Israel — at the United Nations. And to make unmistakable this spurning of any peace process, Abbas agrees to join the openly genocidal Hamas in a unity government, which even Obama acknowledges makes negotiations impossible.
Obama’s response to this relentless Palestinian intransigence? To reward it — by abandoning the Bush assurances, legitimizing the ’67 borders and refusing to reaffirm America’s rejection of the right of return.
I won't spoil the end for you. Read it yourself.
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