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Tag Archives: Israel
Goldberg, left, in conversation with Michael Oren, Bibi’s man in Washington
The first question to ask when considering how seriously to take Jeffrey Goldberg’s latest alarmist screed about Israel gearing up to attack Iran, is “Why do people talk to Jeffrey Goldberg?”
In the course of an Atlantic Monthly cover story that veers all over the place but whose intended message is that if President Obama won’t bomb Iran, then Israel will — and that everyone will be better off if the U.S. does the job because it can do it so much better — Goldberg describes conversations with 40 leading decision makers in Israel, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And all of them pretty much tell him the same thing; that Israel will give the Obama Administration’s sanctions until the end of this year to demonstrate results in forcing Iran’s surrender on the nuclear question, after which the Israelis will take matters into their own hands, launching an air strike on Iranian nuclear facilities without getting Washington’s go-ahead — because most of Israel’s key decision makers doubt whether Obama is willing to launch another war in the Middle East.
Goldberg, an early enthusiast for invading Iraq, also describes a White House meeting at which Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel appears to have convened the likes of Dennis Ross, Dennis McDonough and pretty much all of the President’s top national security advisers, all for the purpose of persuading a columnist from the Atlantic Monthly that Obama is, in fact, acting tough on Iran.
And the answer in both cases, is that people use Jeffrey Goldberg to send messages.
Last time around the U.S. encouraged this, what will Obama do?
Tuesday’s cross-border firefight between Israeli and Lebanese government forces might simply have been a misunderstanding. And the rockets fired from Gaza and the Israeli air strikes on the besieged territory over the past week could be viewed as periodic blip in business as usual on that front. By the same token, last Friday’s unprecedented joint visit to Beirut by the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Syria could be viewed simply as a move to stop the conflict between their Lebanese proxies turning nasty. And British Prime Minister David Cameron’s pleas to Turkey to keep open its communication channels with Israel’s leaders are quotidian diplomatic common sense. Viewed in a wider context, however, each of those events could be taken as signs of why many in the Middle East believe that despite the outward calm, the region may be on the brink of another catastrophic war. Continue reading
Okay, I don’t have much time here, it’s recycling night — and the New York Times seems to revel in recycling really tired Israeli PR lines. Today, it’s Ephraim Karsh trotting out a mish-mash of misrepresentations and tar-balls of wishful thinking to make the case that the Arab world has abandoned the Palestinians, and now that they’re on their own, they’re more likely to surrender to Israel’s terms at the peace table.
The evidence for this claim, first and foremost, is an unscientific survey by an Arab news organization that found that ” a staggering 71 percent of the Arabic respondents have no interest in the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks”. Uh, Ephraim, buddy — you may not know this, but the percentage of Palestinians that have no interest in those peace talks is probably higher. Nobody outside the Netanyahu-AIPAC echo chamber believes anything will come of such talks as long as the U.S. declines to force the issue with Israel. That’s hardly the same thing as saying the Arabs have tired of the Palestinians; on the contrary, most surveys of Arab opinion find the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains their primary foreign policy concern. Arabs tiring of the Palestinians is wishful thinking. Continue reading
Beinart chats with friends in high places: Liberal “hawks” like him played a major role in enabling the Iraq debacle
In 2003, the United States launched an unprovoked invasion of Iraq, a country that had neither attacked nor threatened it — and we, and the Iraqis, are still living with the consequences. Going to war in Iraq was made possible — easy, even — for the Bush Administration not only by Republican hawks and neocon extremists (the wannabe Army Corps of Social Engineers) baying for blood, but even more importantly, by supposedly sober and moderate liberal voices — the Peter Beinarts, Ken Pollacks, George Packers and the editors of the New York Times — not only failing to challenge the basic logic of the case for war, but providing their own more elegant (although equally brutal when stripped of their high-minded rhetoric) rationalizations for invading Iraq.
It was the liberal “hawks” and the New York Times, by failing to ask the right questions of the case for war, that did more to make the war a “thinkable” option for America than any neocon. They allowed the question to be posed simply as one of whether Saddam had weapons of mass destruction or not. And because nobody could give an absolute assurance in the negative, the argument became “better safe than sorry”. The liberals and the New York Times offered no challenge, and asked no questions, of the basic assumption that if Saddam had, in fact, had a couple of warehouses full of VX gas and refrigerator full of anthrax, that necessitated launching a war that has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of upward of half a million Iraqis (and thousands of Americans) and left America weaker and more vulnerable.
And the bad news is that they’re doing it again on Iran. Continue reading
Despite the escalating war rhetoric, conventional wisdom holds that the U.S. military establishment and even President Obama himself believe that the potential consequences of a military strike that plunges America into a third war in the Muslim world are so grave — and the prospects for such a strike preventing or deterring Iran from eventually attaining nuclear weapons so dubious — as to render it too reckless an option. Nor is there any legal basis for it; a U.N. Security Council authorization for military action against Iran is unthinkable unless Iran attacked another country or was moving to do so. And most of the international community — including most of those countries that backed the latest round of sanctions — would strongly oppose it. President Obama is an indefatigable internationalist, and if he were planning to launch a military strike against Iran, it’s reasonable to expect that he’d be engaged in the protracted process of trying to establish a basis for such action at the U.N. and in international public opinion. No signs of that, at least not yet.
Obama has, however, insisted that a military option remains “on the table.”
Walking out on Monday’s U.N. speech by Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may have been good domestic politics for the Obama Administration and its closest European allies, but it won’t necessarily help them prevail at the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference that began Monday. In fact the move by delegates from the U.S., Britain, France, Canada, Hungary, New Zealand and the Netherlands, among others, may have perversely played to Ahmadinejad’s advantage.
Anti-Ahmadinejad protestors in New York last time: The Iranian leader will hope to see the Israeli flag flying prominently among those denouncing him
The US secretary of state Hillary Clinton was clearly unsettled by the news that the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, plans to show up in New York on Monday at the UN’s Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.
As far as the US is concerned, Iran is a pariah in the international conversation about proliferation, and halting its alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons is one of Washington’s key objectives at the New York conference.
“If [Mr Ahmadinejad] believes that by coming he can somehow divert attention from this very important global effort or cause confusion that might possibly throw into doubt what Iran has been up to … then I don’t believe he will have a particularly receptive audience.” At least she hopes not.
Somewhere in Tehran, Mrs Clinton’s remarks will have prompted Mr Ahmadinejad to smile his pantomime villain’s smile. He’s going to New York because he believes he’ll have an opportunity to confound US objectives.
Sure, he’ll be the focus of much opprobrium – senators from Mrs Clinton’s own party tried to reverse her administration’s decision to grant him a visa, apparently ignorant of their country’s obligations as host to the United Nations. And there will be hundreds of demonstrators across from the UN headquarters, perhaps some waving Israeli flags. At least, Mr Ahmadinejad hopes so, because he too intends to make an issue of Israel – not by threatening to wipe it out, but by pointing that Israel possesses a nuclear arsenal capable of wiping out Iran 20 times over, and yet doesn’t feature in Washington’s non-proliferation agenda.
So while the US hopes to use Iran’s failure to fully comply with the transparency requirements of the treaty to raise support for new sanctions against Tehran, the Iranians plan to draw attention to western double standards in applying the NPT. Continue reading
My latest on Tomdispatch:
Obama’s peace plan is doomed because failure costs Israel nothing
Uncomfortable at the spectacle of the Obama administration in an open confrontation with the Israeli government, Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman — who represents the interests of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party on Capitol Hill as faithfully as he does those of the health insurance industry — called for a halt. “Let’s cut the family fighting, the family feud,” he said. “It’s unnecessary; it’s destructive of our shared national interest. It’s time to lower voices, to get over the family feud between the U.S. and Israel. It just doesn’t serve anybody’s interests but our enemies.”
The idea that the U.S. and Israel are “family” with identical national interests is a convenient fiction that Lieberman and his fellow Israel partisans have worked relentlessly to promote — and enforce — in Washington over the past two decades. If the bonds are indeed familial, however, last week’s showdown between Washington and the Netanyahu government may be counted as one of those feuds in which truths are uttered in the heat of the moment that call into question the fundamental terms of the relationship. Such truths are never easily swept under the rug once the dispute is settled. The immediate rupture, that is, precludes a simple return to the status quo ante; instead, a renegotiation of the terms of the relationship somehow ends up on the agenda.
‘Who lost China?” was the battle cry of a witch-hunt conducted in the US State Department following the 1949 victory of Mao Zedong’s communists. The department’s “China hands”, critics charged, had been woefully ignorant of the dynamics at work on the ground in China after the Second World War, and undermined the US ally Chiang Kai-shek. While the purge that followed is unlikely to be repeated, Washington may soon be asking itself, albeit quietly, “Who lost Fatah?”
Last week’s announcement by the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas that he would not seek re-election next January was a warning to the Obama administration, which had put Mr Abbas in an untenable position. Having retreated from its own demand that Israel halt all construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, Washington expected Mr Abbas to open talks with the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu without conditions.
For the Palestinians, however, the settlement-freeze demand was a test of Mr Obama’s willingness to pressure the Israelis into taking steps they won’t take by choice. Mr Abbas knows that Mr Netanyahu, if it were up to him, would not yield to a viable, independent Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders. If the US is not prepared to pressure Israel, negotiations would not only be fruitless, they would actually help sustain a reality that is relatively comfortable for the Israelis but intolerable for the Palestinians…
…The sad truth dawning on Ramallah, now, is that there will be no salvation from Washington. Not now, possibly not ever. A sad truth, perhaps, but the kind that can set free those who recognise it. In the shocked aftermath of the 1967 war, Fatah took the lead in breaking the Palestine Liberation Organisation free of the tutelage of the Arab League, in a declaration of independence that put their fate in their own hands rather than relying on Arab armies to defeat Israel. Today, they face a similar challenge – declaring independence from Washington and once again taking their fate into their own hands.
Published on TIME.com
The Obama Administration’s bid to relaunch an Israeli-Palestinian peace process is falling apart faster than you can say settlement freeze — in no small part because President Obama began his effort by saying “settlement freeze.” On Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton found herself struggling to persuade skeptical Arab foreign ministers to see the silver lining in Israel’s “no, but” answer to the U.S. demand that Israel halt all construction in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. At least Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was offering to restrain settlement activity, Clinton argued, but Arab leaders, whom Obama had hoped would make reciprocal gestures towards normalization of ties with Israel, were not buying. For Arab League secretary Amr Moussa, Clinton’s message offered a grim outlook for the Administration’s peace efforts: “I still wait until we have our meetings and decide what we are going to do,” Moussa reportedly said Monday in Morocco, where Clinton was meeting with Arab leaders. “But failure is in the atmosphere all over.”
Asking the Arab states to accept Israel’s offer to simply slow down construction in the West Bank and its refusal to stop building and demolishing Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem — after President Obama publicly and repeatedly demanded it — has battered the Administration’s credibility in Arab capitals. And Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated on Monday his refusal to heed Washington’s call to begin negotiating with Netanyahu in the absence of a settlement freeze. Abbas has promised his public and his own Fatah movement, which is deeply skeptical of the prospects for dealing with Israel’s current hawkish government, that he won’t return to the table until Netanyahu has signaled his bona fides by halting all construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Netanyahu has used the Palestinian refusal to engage in unconditional talks as an opportunity to blame them for the impasse in solving the conflict, noting that Abbas spent last year in talks over a two-state deal with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert without ever mentioning a settlement freeze. Why are the Palestinians suddenly making such a fuss about a settlement freeze now, the Israelis ask, as if this signifies a hidden agenda. The Obama Administration appeared to take Netanyahu’s side last weekend, pressing the Palestinians to drop the precondition for talking. But the Palestinians point out that they weren’t the only ones raising the issue: the Obama Administration, too, had issued an unambiguous demand that Israel halt all construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in line with the 2002 road map. Continue reading