David's Israel Blog


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Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Outrageous Equivalence

In Little Green Footballs, Charles Johnson notes:
Those wacky Palestinian Arabs are trying to turn the tables on Israel; since many sources have pointed out the bloodthirsty incitement to murder that pours out of official Palestinian media 24 hours a day, the PA has issued their own report on Israeli “incitement” ...
It's bad enough that the PA is making this effort, but in the LA Times its reporter treats the "incitement" on both sides equally:
The U.S.-backed peace plan requires both Israelis and Palestinians to immediately stop inciting violence, and Israel has been particularly adamant that Palestinians must get rid of the fiery rhetoric that has characterized the 33-month-old intifada, or uprising.

"Something has to be done," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Jonathan Peled. "This is not a way to raise a generation to peace."

The government of Israel blames TV, radio, newspapers and textbooks for teaching Palestinian youths to hate the Jewish state.

For their part, Palestinians believe Israeli children are raised to stereotype Arabs, that Israelis learn young to write off all Palestinians as "terrorists" and deny their historical land claims.
To equate the two sides is reprehensible. I've been aware the nature of the PA's propaganda from some time. But when I saw a presentation by Itamar Marcus of Palestinian Media Watch last year, I understood that nature of the PA's program was really something unique.

I don't think that there's been such a sustained effort to demonize Jews in sixty years. The pervasiveness of the images of evil Israelis, of public calls to kill Jews and denying Israel's "historical land claims" is beyond belief. It's on radio, television, in the newspapers and the textbooks. If one Israel cabinet minister says something over the top, it in no way compares to the wall to wall incitement generated by the PA's propaganda machine.
The article gets worse:
But incitement is tricky to define, and the project of bleaching it out is somewhat ambiguous. Israel accuses the Palestinian media of worsening a seething political climate; Palestinians reply that their media reflect the world around them.

"If you call these facts, these pictures, incitement, then how should we show fact?" asked Samir Sharif, interim director of the state-run Palestinian Satellite Television. "Official television in any country is a mirror of general politics. If things are on fire, I cannot be calm."
"[T]ricky to define" what weasel words!!! If you show a fictional account of Israeli soldiers massacring a family and raping its daughter at a checkpoint or Mohammed Al-Dura inviting children to join him in paradise, that's not fact!

Charles Johnson has it right:
I don’t know; these examples don’t really seem comparable to “A million martyrs, marching to Jerusalem!” or “Death to the sons of monkeys and pigs!”

But maybe it’s just me.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Fighting Hamas Damages the Peace Process

Ha'aretz seems to be doing its darndest to blame Sharon for the failure, so far, of the Road Map. Here's Amir Oren from "Analysis / Hamas crimes, Sharon sins, Bush mistakes"
Rantisi was incriminated in the attack on the Erez Junction army base, and would direct future attacks. But killing him would not have obstructed a single terrorist action, only punish him and send a signal to his colleagues.
Punishments and signals can be reasonable goals under certain circumstances, but they should not be confused with foiling an attack. The appropriate time for an all-out offensive or assassination of the entire Hamas leadership is after a major terrorist outrage, one of the dozens that are being planned - not before one.
The logic here is astounding. Rantisi was implicated in one terrorist attack and many others were being planned but it made no sense to try and kill him because no terrible outrage had happened yet! The reasoning is absurd if not outright immoral. Still at least Oren makes clear: Rantisi was targeted for a reason, something that isn't clear from Ze'ev Schiff's article "Focus / Americans fear Abu Mazen is further weakened." Schiff allows that the Israeli claimed that Rantisi was a "regular inciter of suicide bombings." But then he advances an American counterclaim that, if true, Rantisi should have been targeted before now. Oren, as noted above, claims that Rantisi was tied to the attack in Gaza on Sunday; was Schiff unaware of the connection? Or was he simply looking to criticize the PM? There is evidence, in the column, that Schiff was gunning for the Prime Minister when he asks in his own voice:
Does Tuesday's assassination attempt indicate his political weakness, or his attempt to prevent a cease-fire (hudna) between Abu Mazen and Hamas, and create a situation in which Abu Mazen is finally forced to use force against the Islamic organizations?
The logical conclusion is that Sharon decided to target Rantisi because he was an immediate threat and because PM Abbas said that he wouldn't take action against Hamas or other rejectionists but would only seek a ceasefire. Despite Oren's illogic and Schiff's imputed cynicism to Sharon, this is the simplest explanation for Sharon's actions. He is willing to make peace, but as much as possible he won't allow innocents to be sacrificed for the noble goal of peace.

And what about the American claim that Schiff mentions:
American sources believe Israel does not understand that after the Aqaba summit, new circumstances have been created. Sharon's Palestinian partner Abu Mazen is weak, and has now been weakened further.
Schiff seems to be saying that strengthening Abu Mazen/Abbas is more important than saving lives. This is wrong on its face but. worse than that, Abbas may not be as weak s he's led us to believe:
Israel Radio reported this afternoon that ISS ("Shabak") head Avi Dichter told the Cabinet today that the PA has 15,000 armed men posted in the Gaza Strip who are trained and ready for action, thus the claims that the PA needs time to build up a force before it acts are groundless. Dichter said that some of these armed PA forces are under Arafat's command while others are under Dahlan's command.
Despite the best efforts of Oren and Schiff, Sharon has done the right thing by targetting Hamas. Alas, their cynicism has a real effect. Here's an observation from the Washington Post:
Sharon professes no contradiction between the two prongs of his policy, even as this week's violence threatens to destroy the road map at its inception. He argues that by eradicating radical groups such as Hamas he is helping Abbas, a political moderate who otherwise would face constant opposition and undermining by extremists. But Abbas's fate is a secondary consideration. Sharon's supreme priority, throughout his 55-year career in the army and politics, has been to protect Israel from its enemies.
It's amazing that the idea that striking at an enemy of peace may actually enhance the prospects of peace is treated as if only Sharon could believe such a thing. (The alternative belief, that allowing your enemies to continue striking at you will bring peace, is absurd.) The cynicism, so apparent in the Israeli media is repeated in America.

Three for the Road

There have been 3 recent articles that have illuminated the current direction the US is heading along its road map. The first of these is Jim Hoagland's "The Price for A Palestinian State." While Hoagland is a good deal more enthusiastic about a Palestinian state than I am he still writes:
Bush also attaches strong conditions to his championing of Palestinian national aspirations through a two-state solution. These include halting terrorism and demilitarization.

"I destroyed a terrorist state in Afghanistan, I destroyed a terrorist state in Iraq and I am not about to help create a terrorist state" on Israel's borders, the president is said to have told aides in discussions about security guarantees that Israel needs for peace.
So maybe the President is allowing the PA (and the Arab world in general) to get away with acting against the "road map") but there's also a cap on what he will allow in the end. This doesn't seem to bother Hoagland. He's not one of those people who believes that "any solution must pick up where Barak and Arafat left off in Camp David."

Hoagland is also cognizant of the fact that even if Israel has undergone a tremendous ideological transformation in the past 35 years, its neighbors have not:
But a paradox develops: At this highest crest of acceptance of a two-state solution since 1947 -- when Israel adopted the original U.N. partition but Arabs did not -- Arab leaders are increasingly edging away from openly recognizing Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state.

That retreat is largely disguised and conducted in diplomatic code. It nonetheless feeds separate tides of anti-Israeli resentment and anti-Semitic hatred of Jews that are rising and fusing in Europe, potentially in the United States and elsewhere. Such behavior does not summon peace to the Middle East.

Arab leaders who met with Bush in Egypt on Tuesday did so on the condition that Israel was excluded. Earlier, Palestinian negotiators told journalists they had turned down a proposed joint communique with the Israelis because of proposed language that could be interpreted as endorsing Israel's existence as a Jewish state.

Saul Singer has expressed similar ideas in his column "Sharon's not-so-secret plan." Singer writes:
IT IS FASHIONABLE on the Right to claim that the road map is worse than Oslo. What is meant by this is that, under the road map, the Palestinians get a state first, before they have to make peace with Israel. In this view, the road map is the latest, most serious step in Israel's serial capitulation to terrorism. "The only consistent element in the Israeli position has been the constant retreat from its stated positions on issues that are critical to the country's future. Evidently, terrorism works," writes reclusive Likud scion Binyamin Begin.

Begin is largely right. Terrorism is what brought Yasser Arafat to power and is bringing the Palestinians a state. But here's the secret. For Sharon, the road map's "independent Palestinian state with provisional borders" is not at the bottom of the slippery slope, but a brake that prevents precisely the slide that Begin fears.
The deal Sharon is offering the Palestinians is a partial state in exchange for a partial peace. You don't want to renounce the "right of return" and accept Israel as a Jewish state? Fine, says Sharon, but for that all you get is a truncated state whose borders are controlled by Israel.
Why would the Palestinians accept such a deal? Because they know that the only alternatives are the status quo, in which both sides bleed indefinitely, or making a full peace, neither of which they want.
He takes things a step further than Hoagland and considers that this provisional state may not be the brake that Sharon envisions. Still it's interesting that Singer implies that Bush doesn't want to see a terrorist state next to Israel. This is exactly what Hoagland quoted the President saying just that.

It's interesting that Singer portrays Sharon's views as being derived from Ben Gurion. Ari Shavit, in Ha'aretz portrays Sharon as "Kissinger's attentive protege." And guess what, Shavit has Sharon believing - as Singer does - that there can't be a final peace with the Palestinians, so Israel needs to make an interim agreement that holds."
According to Bin Nun's theory, Ehud Barak, Yossi Beilin, and Benjamin Netanayhu belonged to the school of political optimism in seeking an end to the conflict. Yitzhak Rabin, Ariel Sharon and perhaps even Shimon Peres belong to the school of practical pessimism that would be satisfied with stabilization and management of the conflict.
The father of the practical-pessimistic school in Israeli political thinking is actually an American named Henry Kissinger. Prof. Itamar
Rabinowitz, who was close to Rabin, says behind Rabin's peace strategy lay Kissinger's deterministic worldview.
I've heard this sort of breakdown before. I don't necessarily agree with the breakdown (Shimon Peres is no "practical pessimist;" he wrote a book called "The New Middle East!") but again, I think that Shavit is correct - following Singer and Hoagland - that this President and this PM are looking for only an interim agreement.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Goodwill Gesture

Israel made another painful concession in return for some vague promises of peace. This concession was the release of a convicted mass murderer, one Ahmad Jubarah. Glenn Frankel of the Washington Post profiles him in an article, "Israel Frees Longest-Held Palestinian" You'd think that maybe the releases were only of political prisoners from the headline. Perhaps "Israel releases mass murderer as gesture for peace" would have been more appropriate, but that would have pointed to the absurdity of Israel's situation.

Anyway our protaganist, Mr. Jubara declares:
In an interview this evening, Jubarah said he hoped "to be the first ambassador for peace. We need a state beside Israel -- two states in Palestine."

Still, he said, he was unhappy that thousands of Palestinians remain in Israeli
prisons. As for his own act 28 years ago, he offered only a justification: "We
were in war and still we are in war." Referring to the Israelis, he said, "They
have killed many of us, in the intifada," the 32-month-old uprising in which
2,000 Palestinians and 780 Israelis have died.
I'm not sure I get that. He says he wants to be for peace but that the Arabs are at war. His son tries to straighten out the contradiction:
"My father, he's the road map, because he believes in peace," said Reda Jubarah. When his father emerged and spoke passionately about the need for more Israeli concessions, the son tugged gently on his father's sleeve, as if willing him to sound more moderate.

"The people at that time believed what he believed -- that it was war," said
Reda Jubarah. "Now we are new people; we're now in a different era. He did what
he did. We have to leave what happened a long time ago and begin a new life for
So if the son is right, then his father was a fighter in the 70's but now there's no war. That doesn't work either, because his father says - even after Yasser Arafat purportedly disavowed the armed struggle ten years ago - at his people are at war.

If it weren't so perverse, it might be funny.

Crossposted on IsraPundit2 and David's Israel Blog.
Powell's Foul

(Thanks to Malka Young for pointing this out)

In a transcript of a press conference carried on VOA makes a really offensive editorial comment:
"Contiguous means that if you're going to have a state, the people will recognize the state," he said. "And the Palestinians will say: this truly is a homeland for us. Then it has to have contiguity. It has to be connected. It has to have means of moving about within that state. So it can't be chopped up in so many ways, in some form of Bantustan, that it would not really be seen as an honest effort to provide a state for the Palestinian people."
By describing a divided Palestinian state as a "Bantustan" Secretary Powell skews the debate. It's not enough for Israel to trade land for peace. It must give the PA contiguity. But Israel gave up land at great risk and great cost for seven years. It was the PA that stopped the process by refusing Barak's offer and starting an intifada. If it happens again is Israel to be judged because the PA refused its generosity? Essentially, Powell is saying that Israel's legitimacy is dependent on fulfilling this condition; else it is morally equivalent to South Africa.

But if Secretary Powell wishes to throw around loaded terms when will he say something about the Nazi-like propaganda of the PA and the rest of the Arab world? Consider the effect of pervasis martyr training:
Palestinian polls show that 72% - 80% of Palestinian children desire death as Shahids. In games and in conversation, the yearning to die for Allah is an integral component of the Palestinian child’s worldview. Children are already acting on the indoctrination – a 17-year old girl has blown herself up in a terrorist attack in a Jerusalem supermarket. 14-year-old children have written “farewell letters” to their parents, incorporating expressions from PA propaganda film-clips. In the letters they took pride in their eagerness to die as Shahids and then set out on attacks in which they did, in fact, die. Following are some examples, listed by age groups.
In other words children are being taught at young ages that it is good to die killing Jews. Powell (and President Bush) should forcefully say that the United States will not stand for the creation of a state based on Nazi principles. He should not be prejudging Israel for something that may be (and has been) out of Israel's hands when he has an existing problem already.

Crossposted on IsraPundit2 and David's Israel Blog.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Something for Nothing

David Ignatius's "A Roadmap for Syria Too" demonstrates much of what is wrong with analysis of the Middle East. He starts with:
When Secretary of State Colin Powell visited Damascus last month, sources here say, Syrian President Bashar Assad asked him a blunt question: "Where is our road map?"

That's a welcome sign, if Assad is indeed signaling that he wants to negotiate a settlement of the interlocking issues of Syria, Israel and Lebanon.
It means nothing. It is a sign that Assad wants America to pressure Israel over the Golan just like its pressuring Israel over Palestinian statehood. All Israeli "peace" negotiations with its neighbors amount to Israel making substantive sacrifices in exchange for some nice words.

The following is worse:
For the cautious Assad, just talking about a road map is a step in the right direction. Until now, his public comments have mostly been a reprise of the hard-line rhetoric of his father, the late President Hafez Assad. But he needs to embrace the full legacy of his father, who for all his tough talk came within inches of closing a peace deal with Israel in 2000, a few months before his death. Assad realizes that Syria needs change -- and that it needs the stability of a peace agreement to implement reforms.
On our recent trip to Israel I visited the Golan for the first time. Our tour guide said that the Golan amounts to 1/2 of 1% of Syrian territory. To claim that Syria would gain stability from acquiring the Golan is absurd. If it wants peace it can stop siccing Hizbullah on Israel.

And worse:

• Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights. This is the cornerstone of any deal with Syria, and successive Israeli prime ministers have privately signaled their willingness to cut such a deal. Hafez Assad expected to make precisely this agreement with President Clinton in Geneva in March 2000. But when Clinton offered less than the full restoration of the June 1967 prewar border, the prickly Syrian leader felt he had been misled and backed out.

U.S. and Syrian officials agree that the modifications the Israelis wanted in 2000 were trivial and not worth busting the accord. Haggling again would be a waste of time. If Israel wants a deal this time, it should withdraw to the 1967 border.
Here Ignatius is justifying Daddy Assad's obstructionism. If the few hundred yards were trivial then why didn't Assad agree? Israel should do nothing. How about this: require Syria to end its occupation of Lebanon and stop arming Hizbullah to show that it is serious about peace. Then it can work out a compromise with Israel on how much of the Golan it can get back. Let's not reward obstructionism.

Ignatius used to work for the WSJ; I don't know what's happened to him since he came to the Washington Post. He's become Thomas Friedman lite.

Crossposted at IsraPundit and David's Israel Blog 11:02 AM

Monday, June 02, 2003

What a difference 12 months make.

Last year President Bush put forward a principled (if imperfect) view of peace in the Middle East. Let's recall part of his famous June 24, 2002 speech:
I call on the Palestinian people to elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror. I call upon them to build a practicing democracy, based on tolerance and liberty. If the Palestinian people actively pursue these goals, America and the world will actively support their efforts. If the Palestinian people meet these goals, they will be able to reach agreement with Israel and Egypt and Jordan on security and other arrangements for independence.

And when the Palestinian people have new leaders, new institutions and new security arrangements with their neighbors, the United States of America will support the creation of a Palestinian state whose borders and certain aspects of its sovereignty will be provisional until resolved as part of a final settlement in the Middle East.

In the work ahead, we all have responsibilities. The Palestinian people are gifted and capable, and I am confident they can achieve a new birth for their nation. A Palestinian state will never be created by terror -- it will be built through reform. And reform must be more than cosmetic change, or veiled attempt to preserve the status quo. True reform will require entirely new political and economic institutions, based on democracy, market economics and action against terrorism.
Two days later, a reporter asked a question if the president would take up arms against Yasser Arafat. The President diplomatically sidestepped the question. Still the impression at that time was that Arafat was hopelessly compromised by terror and was no longer a credible negotiating partner for Israel. In case these instances were not enough there's David Frum's account:
Bush began to speak more frequently with Ariel Sharon — but he absolutely refused to see or even speak on the telephone with Arafat. Bush's disdain so maddened the Palestinian leader that Arafat actually tried to shove himself into the president's presence at the United Nations meeting in November and had to be physically blocked by the Secret Service. August's "state first, peace later" policy was definitively repudiated. By November, when Powell at last delivered his big Middle East speech, all the deadlines and time lines and talk of international protection for Arafat had been deleted.

Then Arafat made what may someday be reckoned as the most fateful miscalculation of his career. On January 5, 2002, Israeli naval forces intercepted a Gaza-bound merchant ship loaded with fifty tonnes of arms from Iran. Arafat hastily sent Bush a letter denying any involvement in the shipment. Probably Arafat did not even intend his denial to be interpreted literally; he may have written it as a social form, like the phrase I regret in a letter declining an invitation to a wedding or a dinner party. If so, Arafat sorely misunderstood his man. Bush does not lie to you. You had better not lie to him.
So why now do we read in the New York Times "Spotlight Leaves Arafat, but He's Still in the Show":
The international spotlight that Mr. Arafat so relishes has been dimmed by an Israeli boycott and a not-so-veiled warning that he might not be allowed back from any trip abroad. But Palestinian officials and analysts insist that he will still be the most influential Palestinian figure in renewed peace negotiations, even if he is working behind the scenes.

"No Palestinian would dare sit with the Israelis or the Americans without his approval," Mr. Aburdeineh said of Mr. Arafat. "Nobody here can even go see his wife without the green light from him."

While Mr. Arafat retains considerable influence, the dynamics of the Middle East conflict have been changing in the month since Mr. Abbas assumed office.
I thought with the victory of George W. Bush we had reached the end of the recurring rewards for the PA despite their blatant disregards for any American standards. The only positive spin I can put on the President's ignoring Arafat's continued influence - and there was a new terror boat that Israel just intercepted - is that he feels he must prop up Abbas. But that's a weak justification. If President Bush doesn't hold true to his principles he risks completely undermining his war on terror.

Crossposted on IsraPundit and David's Israel Blog.

Friday, May 30, 2003

Is Bush betraying Israel?

Read Caroline Glick's essay, "Washington's Betrayal" and you will have little doubt that the answer to that question is in the affirmative. Not nearly as bleak, but still disappointing (in its assessment of the President) is Charles Krauthammer's "No Phony 'Cease-Fires' With Terrorism." Krauthammer allows that the president can still extricate himself. I don't believe President Bush to be as frivolous as his predecessor. Still, it's disturbing that he's had nothing to say as the PA flouts his basic premises.

The problem of course is that President Bush has made a Palestinian state the centerpiece of his Middle East policy. Thus all actions must be evaluated by how they work toward that end. Peace should have been the centerpiece, with statehood for the Palestinians the reward for peace. (Not that I think that Palestinian statehood is in any way a good thing. But I'm arguing from Bush's perspective.

Oh and in case anyone tells you that Peace Now is pro-Israel. Tell them that they are lying.

Cross posted on Israpundit and David's Israel Blog.

Monday, May 26, 2003

Wishful thinking Times?

According to the New York Times:
Mr. Sharon has told the Bush administration that he cannot take several of the steps the Americans want, particularly on endorsing the plan, without provoking a cabinet crisis. Many cabinet members are conservative opponents of anything that would create a Palestinian state.

A diplomat knowledgeable about the negotiations said some in the Bush administration think that it would be better for Mr. Sharon's cabinet to break apart so that he could then form a unity government with the Labor Party.
Of course the Times doesn't report if those hoping for a national unity government are senior officials or simply State Department professionals who consider the road map to be progress. However the Washington Post gave a slightly different view of things...
In an effort to avoid a deadlock in the Middle East peace process, the Bush administration has acceded to Israel's demands that a U.S.-backed peace plan be subjected to significant revisions as it is implemented, a move that quickly brought a public acceptance of the plan's broad outlines by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

In winning Sharon's support, the administration relented on its insistence of no changes in the peace plan, known as the "road map." The White House issued a statement today by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice saying the United States recognizes Israel's concerns and will seek to address them.

"The roadmap was presented to the Government of Israel with a request from the President that it respond with contributions to this document to advance true peace," Powell and Rice said. "The United States Government received a response from the Government of Israel, explaining its significant concerns about the roadmap.
Whereas the NY Times has it that the administration - or unnamed officials - wish to see a more pliant Israeli government; the Washington Post reports that the admistration is willing to consider the Sharon government's objections in order to keep the road map. I realize that these two views are not necessarily incompatible. But the emphasis of the Times article is telling.

Maybe I'm not being generous to the Times, accounts of the cabinet decision have Sharon saying that it was necessary to accept the road map in order to avoid friction with Washington.
Cross posted on the IsraPundit and David's Israel Blog