Tag Archives: Israel

The Travels of Abu Mazen…

Sometimes, pictures render words superfluous… (see more, click below) Continue reading

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Obama to Unveil ‘Roadmapolis’


If you’re getting a little uneasy about President Obama reprising Bush Administration policies with new gloss — my personal favorite being his decision to continue the policy of ‘rendition’, under which terror suspects are sent to third countries where the rules governing interrogation are more permissive, but Obama promises to do it “with greater oversight” — his Middle East peace plan is unlikely to make you feel much better.

Obama’s Mideast peace plan appears to be a hybrid between President Bush’s “roadmap” and his “Annpolis” initiative — Roadmapolis, if you like. Continue reading

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Netanyahu Sr. Lets the Cat Out of the Bag

When the father of some well known footballer suddenly pops up in the media with a tale of how his son is unhappy at Club X and wants, instead, to go to Real Madrid, you can be sure that he’s saying the things the son can’t afford to say for fear of antagonizing his employers. So, when Ben-Zion Netanyahu tells Israeli TV that his son has no intention of actually implementing a two-state solution, and will evade having to do so by setting conditions impossible for the Palestinians to embrace, you know that Israel’s current government has no intention of seriously pursuing President Obama’s peace plan. Continue reading

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Obama, the Holocaust and the Palestinians

The line in last Friday’s New York Times summed it up: Some Israelis and their American supporters are furious with President Barack Obama, the Times reported, because they saw his Cairo speech as “elevating the Palestinians to equal status.” And those who would be threatened by Palestinians being viewed as equal human beings to Israelis may have reason to be concerned. That’s because whatever its policy implications — and the jury is very much still out on those — Obama’s Cairo speech marked a profound conceptual shift in official Washington’s discourse on the nature and causes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and of America’s obligations to each side. So much so that one as prone pessimism as I was before the speech was forced to note that the reason Israel’s more right-wing supporters are worried is that, rhetorically at least, Obama was trying to move the U.S. position towards one of an honest broker. Continue reading

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Why Obama Must Shackle Bibi


Without any sense of irony, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told fellow paranoiac Jeffrey Goldberg that Iran is ruled by “an apocalyptic messianic cult.” Yet, as Goldberg makes clear, perhaps inadvertently, Netanyahu himself is guilty of the same: His view of Iran as simply the latest incarnation of a timeless and eternal anti-Semitism, most recently the Hitler regime, makes any engagement or diplomatic solution amount to appeasement; war is the only answer. And the messianic part is that Netanyahu, a la Newt Gingrich and George W. Bush, believes he has been summoned by history to save the world (or in Bibi’s case, the Jews). To the extent that Netanyahu believes this stuff, he is a very dangerous man, and the Obama Administration would do well to keep him on a very tight leash. Continue reading

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Israel & the Man Next Door…

Talking to Hamas is okay, as long as the negotiators are in separate rooms… Continue reading

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Fatah’s Long March


The rank-and-file of Fatah has long known that Mahmoud Abbas’ habit of jumping through hoops for Condi Rice was political suicide, and that much has been confirmed in recent weeks: Hamas has emerged from the Gaza war stronger than ever politically, and Abbas’ blaming of Hamas for the carnage at the beginning of Israel’s operation cast him as a collaborator in the eyes of many of his own people. Abbas has spent eight years sitting politely in the back seat of the Bush/Condi limo, pretending that endless photo ops with Olmert and Livni were actually part of a process towards ending the occupation. But they couldn’t even give him a “shelf” agreement for a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders and sharing Jerusalem. If Olmert couldn’t do even the fetish deal envisaged by Bush, then what could Abbas expect from an Israeli government that will be ten steps to the right? Now, Fatah will seek to redeem itself by reverting to a path of struggle, with its Mahmoud Abbas Old Guard soon to be eclipsed by the Barghouti generation Continue reading

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How to Break the U.S.-Hamas Impasse

Israel and even some Arab leaders still speak fancifully about putting Fatah in charge of rebuilding Gaza, but that’s a dangerous fallacy. The reality on the ground is that no progress is possible in Palestinian political life – from Gaza’s ceasefire and reconstruction to meaningful peace negotiations with Israel – without the consent and support of Hamas. Tying progress on those fronts to efforts to marginalise Hamas gives Hamas an incentive to play the spoiler, and with the credibility of Abbas and Fatah in Palestinian eyes now at an all-time low, it simply isn’t smart politics.

Hamas has to be involved, but that requires finding a formula to deal with the prohibitions imposed by the US and its allies on engaging Hamas until the movement symbolically renounces violence, recognises Israel and embraces past peace agreements. Hamas is unlikely to make declarations that it would deem a symbolic surrender, and nor is the US likely to reverse itself on those preconditions, as President Barack Obama has now twice made clear.

The art of diplomacy, in such an instance, is to find a way for both sides to compromise without appearing to do so. And the good news is that there’s plenty of scope for closing the gap. Israel and even some Arab leaders still speak fancifully about putting Fatah in charge of rebuilding Gaza, but that’s a dangerous fallacy. The reality on the ground is that no progress is possible in Palestinian political life – from Gaza’s ceasefire and reconstruction to meaningful peace negotiations with Israel – without the consent and support of Hamas. Tying progress on those fronts to efforts to marginalise Hamas gives Hamas an incentive to play the spoiler, and with the credibility of Abbas and Fatah in Palestinian eyes now at an all-time low, it simply isn’t smart politics.

Hamas has to be involved, but that requires finding a formula to deal with the prohibitions imposed by the US and its allies on engaging Hamas until the movement symbolically renounces violence, recognises Israel and embraces past peace agreements. Hamas is unlikely to make declarations that it would deem a symbolic surrender, and nor is the US likely to reverse itself on those preconditions, as President Barack Obama has now twice made clear.

The art of diplomacy, in such an instance, is to find a way for both sides to compromise without appearing to do so. And the good news is that there’s plenty of scope for closing the gap. Continue reading

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Waltzing With Ariel: Will Obama, Too, Indulge Israeli Rejectionism?


Ariel Sharon still sleeps peacefully on life-support three years after suffering a massive stroke, but you could be forgiven for thinking he was still at the helm in Israel — because today, the Israeli government appears to have only tactics to fight the next battle, but no strategy beyond an improvisational combination of expanding the occupation of the West Bank, cynically chanting the benedictions of a two-state divorce that will come, one day (like the moshiach) while getting on with the “iron wall” business of creating expansive “facts on the ground” and trying to crush Palestinian resistance. There’s no “peace process” at work in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, nor as there been for the past eight years.

Perhaps Benjamin Netanyahu’s victory in next weekend’s Israeli election will provide what George W. Bush liked to call a “moment of clarity”, by making it unmistakably clear that Israel’s leaders are not, in any meaningful sense, a “partner” for a credible two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Then again, you’re more likely to hear more wishful spin about how Bibi, precisely because he’s so hawkish, is a better bet for making peace — which sort of dodges the inconvenient truth that Bibi has no intention of doing so.)

So, what’s Obama to do?

Obama’s Administration could argue that the U.S. may have its preferences, but it can’t choose Israel’s leaders; it has to work with whomever Israel elects. Indeed. But the same is true for the Palestinians. And a major reason for the steady deterioration of the Israeli-Palestinian situation over the past eight years has been Washington’s efforts to choose the Palestinians’ leaders for them, with increasingly disastrous effects.
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Change Gaza Can Believe In


The catastrophe in Gaza has, counterintuitively enough, presented President Barack Obama with an opportunity to restart the peace process — precisely because it has demonstrated the catastrophic failure of the approach adopted by the Bush Administration…. …The Gaza debacle has made one thing perfectly clear: any peace process that seeks to marginalize, not integrate, Hamas is doomed to fail — and with catastrophic consequences.
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