Tag Archives: Palestinian

Another Remarkably Stupid NYT Op Ed on the Mideast

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

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Truth and Consequences in the Middle East

My latest on Tomdispatch:

Israel Won’t Change Unless the Status Quo Has a Downside

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.
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Who Lost Fatah?


‘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.
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Mideast Failure Looms for Obama


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

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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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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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