Archive for category Israel

Obama’s Speech Lacks Structural Integrity

I just finished watching President Obama address AIPAC’s 2011 Policy Conference, and I can’t say I was comforted.

The crowd was enthusiastic, as one might expect for a sitting US President who didn’t openly pull the rug out from under Israel.  Obama mouthed all the right key phrases about not delegitimizing Israel, supporting its security, never questioning its existence or right to do so, and holding the Palestinians accountable.  No President will ever say anything different.

But the speech was very much the Tacoma Narrows Bridge: beautiful from a distance, but lacking all structural integrity.

Even as he was saying, “We will hold the Palestinians accountable for their actions and their words,” everything else he said indicated that he won’t.

Obama said that the world is impatient with a peace process, or lack thereof, that produces no results, which is why the Palestinians are pursuing their statehood ambitions through the UN.  In order to forestall this, the Israelis must recognize the need for progress in negotiations.

This formulation completely ignores the fact that this is part of the Palestinians strategy, the whole Menendez-brothers-but-we’re-orphans Act, allowing them to avoid responsibility for their role in the talks’ failures.  It presumes that the Palestinians had any interest in coming to an agreement under the current framework, and makes Israel to blame for Palestinian intransigence.

Moreover, by listing the regions of the world (Latin America, really?) that are frustrated with the lack of an agreement, he highlights his administration’s utter incompetence in defending Israel diplomatically, which is what a large part of his speech claimed that he had done.

Obama said that the PLO-Hamas agreement posed a “huge obstacle,” and that Israel couldn’t be expected to negotiate with people who want to destroy it, therefore, he will continue to press Hamas to fulfill the basic requirements.

Israel is expected to negotiate with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas, without negotiating with Hamas?  Or Hamas is to fundamentally transform itself from the equivalent of the Nazi Party into Social Democrats?  One proposition betrays the conditions the President just set, the other ignores the reality to which he is supposedly so attached.

He focused again on his line concerning the 1967 borders, repeating “mutually agreed swaps,” and adding in that the Palestinians “must” recognize facts on the ground.

And if they don’t?  The basic premise of everything is that there must be an agreement.  After a speech that does little but reward Palestinian intransigence, why should the Palestinians do anything other than dig in their heels?  If the Israelis open with an aggressive map, they’ll be quickly “reined in” by the rest of the world, that has no right to set terms, but every right to, well, set terms.  And if they open with a reasonably map, it will be treated as a good basis for the beginning of negotiations.

He was silent on Jerusalem and the “Right of Return.”

But security and the Jewish character of Israel, two things Obama claims to want, are tied up inextricably with those two issues.  For a President who opened the speech by congratulating himself he was remarkably silent on the two issues on which are the most zero-sum of all.

After months of having the Arab world ignore a President who repeatedly insists that they “must” do this and that they “must not” do that, the standing ovation he got in DC was probably dwarfed by the one he got in Ramallah and Gaza.

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Nothing New? Tell That To Everyone Else

Political apologists for President Obama didn’t waste much time in claiming that his Thursday speech didn’t really say anything new about the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Too bad that none of the principal actors in the region are behaving that way.

We all know about the…tepid…joint appearance by Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama Friday.  It came after a scheduled 30 minute meeting went for over two hours, leaving lunch and aides steaming outside the room.

Then, today, the Palestinians:

Following Obama’s Middle East speech on Thursday, in which he said that a future Palestinian State should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed upon land swaps, PA President Mahmoud Abbas called an emergency meeting of the PA leadership to discuss the new developments. Erekat said that the meeting could take place on Tuesday or Wednesday after Abbas, who is currently in Jordan meeting with King Abdullah, completes consultations with Arab leaders and the Arab League.

PLO Executive Committee member Hana Amira was quoted by Israel Radio on Sunday as saying that the Palestinians would cancel plans to go to the UN with a unilateral declaration of statehood in September if Israel would agree to negotiations based on the 1967 lines and freeze all building in West Bank settlements and east Jerusalem for a period of three months.

Right.  The Palestinians decided to call an emergency meeting over “nothing new.”  Evidently, the simultaneous translation into Democrat missed a few things.

Note also the timing and the demand.  The three month building halt in Jerusalem – remember, that’s something the Palestinians had never called for before Obama did – is timed to end in September, when the UN vote could happen, anyway.  The Palestinians can seize the opportunity to look amenable, continue to both obstruct and purse the UN option, and still call for a vote in September.  If you argue that, well, that’s nothing new, you’re right.  Except that that diplomatic angle relies on the rest of the world believing differently.

The Palestinians may be about to find out what Israelis and Jews should have discovered in 2008 – there’s an expiration date on everything Barack Obama says, everything – and on the Middle East, it can be as little as 24 hours.  In the meantime, Netanyahu is already saying that the tiff was exaggerated, and Obama is already hedging and filling, at least a little, in his interview with the BBC, and I strongly suspect there will be more of the same in about 15 minutes (unless the President is late to his own speech again) to AIPAC.

Either the President really thought he was being pro-Israel, and had to have it explained to him why he wasn’t, or else he knew exactly what he was saying, and was surprised by the political blowback, especially among Jewish Democrat donors and fundraisers, who can probably still bring in more early money than Ramallah phone banks.  In either case, it’s a continuation of the amateur hour that characterizes this administration’s foreign policy, 3AM or not.

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The Speech

There have been and will be a lot of pixels spilled over Obama’s Middle East Address yesterday at the State Department.  Still, in all the discussion of whether or not the speech marked a change in US policy towards Israel (it did), I think it amounts to Obama going in and kicking over a sand castle because it’s not perfect yet, and because it was largely built by someone he doesn’t particularly like – Benjamin Netanyahu.

Yossi Klein Halevi – a lefty, but a pragmatic one – wrote a column for the Wall Street Journal about Netanyahu’s achievement in consolidating a political consensus in Israel on how to deal with the Palestinians:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a remarkable speech to the Knesset on Monday outlining future Israeli concessions to a Palestinian state. In doing so, he essentially ended the ideological debate within mainstream Israeli politics over the so-called two-state solution.

Mr. Netanyahu’s historic achievement has been to position his Likud Party within the centrist majority that seeks to end the occupation of the Palestinians but is wary of the security consequences. There is no longer any major Israeli party that rejects a West Bank withdrawal on ideological grounds. Instead, the debate is now focused where most Israelis want it to be: on how to ensure that a Palestinian state won’t pose an existential threat to their country.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Yom HaAtzmaut

So today is Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel Independence Day. And 2011 is also the 50th anniversary of what is, to the best of my knowledge, the only Zionist Broadway musical, “Milk and Honey.”

As a kid, we had a copy of the LP in the house, and I’m pretty sure I ruined the record by playing it so much. I do know that the skip in “That Was Yesterday,” the up-beat First Act-ender was why I learned to put a penny on the tonearm. Later, in college, when I found another copy of the LP, I listened to the song again for the first time in what must have been 5 years, and found the absence of the skip jarring. Not jarring enough to try to reproduce it, but enough that even now it still doesn’t sound right without it.

DRG re-released the cast album a few years ago, and if you don’t mind actually hearing the actors move left-to-right on the stage through the magic of stereo, it’s still a great score. So much so that Musicals Tonight is reviving it this fall, starting almost exactly on the 50th anniversary of the show’s debut.

The story is that Gerard Oestreicher sent piano-player Herman and Don Appell on a field trip to Israel to help with the creative juices. For the record, it was also Oestreicher’s first show. Herman came back with a head full of ideas and a desire to avoid turning the show into Hagana-Doodle-Dandy. The result is phenomenal.

It was Jerry Herman’s first musical, but it ran over a year, 543 performances, and at least part of the reason you’ve never heard of it is that it was technically part of thre 1962 Tony Season, which means it was up against a couple of solid performers: “Camelot” and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” (When Herman got the Kennedy Center Honors last fall, the awards production barely quoted M&H, spending what sounded like 75% of the time on “La Cage Aux Folles,” a warning about the fickleness of politics and entertainment.)

He had help. Albert Marre, who had done “Kismet” and would do “Man of La Mancha,” staged it. Donald Saddler who had “Call Me Madam” and “Wonderful Town” under his belt, choreographed it. But still, the words and music were by a guy with a Dolly and a Mame in his future.

Now, it’s one thing to do a show called, “Oklahoma,” and expect that your audience knows something about state fairs, horses, and surreys. But in 1961, even for New York Jews, Israel was an exotic place, something Jews had but not really someplace that too many of them identified with very closely. The audience would see Israelis through the eyes of Americans, in this case, a tour group of Jewish widows looking for husbands in what they hoped would be a target-rich environment. (“Our purpose here in Israel is to form a marriage between the two cultures: male and female.”)

I’ve never actually seen the play staged, so I can’t say much about the book, but the lyrics and music are Herman at his best, even as they’re Herman at his first. The opening song, “Shalom,” ends with this gem:

It means a million lovely things
Like “peace be yours,” “welcome home.”
And even when you say goodbye
If your voice has “I don’t want to go,” in it
Say goodbye with a little hello in it,
And say goodbye with Shalom.

That’s not a simple rhyme structure, but the ear follows it easily, and of course, there’s a little dramatic foreshadowing there, as well.

The title song captures all of the raw, naked audacity of trying to build a country where pretty much every force of man and nature is arrayed against you, and your major resources are the internal ones. The fact that the place was a desert surrounded by enemies wasn’t lost on Herman during his trip, and he enlisted an Israeli comedian to interrupt the title piece with a reminder that paradise it wasn’t:

The honey’s kind of bitter
And the milk’s a little sour.
Do you know the pebble
Is the state’s official flower?

Given what Jews had pretty recently come from in Europe, it’s enough to get you thinking of leeks and onions. Herman immediately redeems it with this ending:

What if the earth is dry and barren?
What if the morning sun is mean to us?
For this is a state of mind we live in,
We want it green and so it’s green to us.

For when you have wanted for plans for tomorrow
Somehow even today looks fine.
What if it’s rock and dust and sand
This lovely land is mine.

“If you will it, it is no dream,” indeed. But even here Herman’s touch is evident. Eddit Fisher liked it so much he released it as a single, but without the Sabra counterpoint, it’s just another in a string of milquetoast vocals that non-rock pop by anyone not named Sinatra was producing back then.

So yeah, the musical is Zionist after a fashion, but this is Broadway, so the real plot driver is love and the search for it. Herman was practially a kid when he wrote this, under 30. But the lead love interest is between an older couple (for the time), he 58, she 37. When I was 28, there’s no way on God’s dry and barren earth I could have understood what it was like to be single at almost 60. Herman has the characters witness a young couple’s wedding and gives us this:

Let’s not waste a moment, let’s not lose a day
There’s a short forever, not too far away

We don’t need to hear the clock remind us
That there’s more than half of life behind us.

Nowadays, 37 qualifies as barely post-adolescent, but back in the day, even widows of that age were facing a lifetime of wanting rather than having. It was 1961, somewhere between the first and second seasons of “Mad Men,” remember. The 60s hadn’t happened yet and nobody knew they were just around the corner. These two meet 10 years from then, and it won’t be that short forever keeping him young.

The show also featured that star of Yiddish screen and stage, Molly Picon, leading the tour, and her two numbers are the comic relief, as you’d expect. “Chin Up,” comes when the women discover that all the kibbutznik men are married. (The barely-audible little whimper of disappointment is a great touch that audiences probably wouldn’t have heard.) And her “Hymn to Hymie” is a soliloquym, a paean to married domesticity, asking herself for permission to remarry.

Given the turnabout in the culture of the last 50 years, I’m not sure either song could actually get staged these days without howls of protest from the professional feminist class. If they did get staged, they’d probably do some gender-bending role-reversal that would be hailed as a breakthrough of some kind, which the composer of “La Cage Aux Folles” would probably think was a little overstated.

Herman’s sheer versatility keeps you from getting bored. “Shalom” is a waltz. “Let’s Not Waste A Moment” is a duet/ballad. “Chin Up” is a march. “Hymn to Hymie” is a tango, for cryin’ out loud. “The Wedding” is part cantorial, part dance.

And now, since it’s Yom HaAtzmaut, I’ll just leave with these segments from the “Independence Day Hora,” and “Shalom.”

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Yom HaZikaron

This evening marks Israeli Memorial Day, or Yom HaZikaron. It comes immediately before Israeli Independence Day, Yom HaAtzmaut, more about which tomorrow. The two are essentially two sides of the same holiday, one of solemn remembrance of those who died to make the other possible.

I’ve only been in Israel once for those days, in 1996. Israel under some bombardments from Katyushas in the north. At that time, they couldn’t reach the Golan, so the hiking tour I had scheduled went on more or less as planned. There would be periodic booms, the warm, friendly sound of outgoing artillery, and more sporadic booms with a little “crack” in them, the far less congenial sound of incoming.

At one point, the tour stopped at Castle Nimrod, a medieval fort on the Golan overlooking the whole of the Hula Valley. (Formerly the Hula Swamp.) It was a clear day, and we had a great view of Kiryat Shemona, Hezbollah’s prime target. The residents were quite safe, underground or having fled, and I have to admit, the group spent as much time looking at the city for a rocket impact as looking at the castle. I later confessed this to an Israeli friend of mine, who, realizing that I wasn’t actually firing the missiles, smiled and said something like, “Well, if it was going to hit anyway, you may as well see.”

The afternoon before Yom HaZikaron itself, I took the train down the coast from Haifa to Tel Aviv to stay with an American friend of mine and his girlfriend, now wife. That evening, from their apartment, I heard a concert for the troops at the base in the middle of the city, in particular this song:

HaMilchama HaAchrona (Lyrics)

It’s the consummate Yom HaZikaron song, written just after the 1973 War, for which Israel bore the responsibility of unpreparedness, not of aggression or provocation, a father promising his daughter that this will be the Last War. Of course, it was untrue in 1996, and is even more untrue now, making it all the more powerful as time passes.

The next day, I took the tourist train from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The tradition on Yom HaZikaron is for air raid sirens to sound, and for pretty much all activity to come to a stop. People stop in their tracks on the sidewalks. Cars pull over and the drivers get out and stand. Highway traffic stops. If you’re buying lunch and haven’t gotten your change yet, too bad, you’ll have to wait a minute. In my case, the train stopped, and everyone stood in the aisle.

I’ve always been of the WWJD (What Would Jabotinsky Do?) mindset myself. But it’s important to remember that while little worthwhile is gained without boldness, that success comes with a price, and to remember those who have paid that price over the years.

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Canary in the Coal Mine

Evelyn Gordon, over at Commentary‘s Contentions blog, notes the following trend (not for the first time):

The international response to the Fatah-Hamas unity deal provides yet another example of a troubling development. Alone among the nations, Israel is increasingly denied the protections of the laws of war.

Thus, for instance, the West denounces Israel’s targeted killings of Hamas leaders even as it correctly deems America’s targeted killing of Al-Qaida’s leader perfectly legitimate (a double standard skewered by Alan Dershowitz this week).

Now the same double standard is being applied to Israel’s suspension of fund transfers to the Palestinian Authority. The U.S. and Europe have both demanded that Israel resume the transfers.

She needn’t worry.  The double standard won’t last long:

Former West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt told German TV the operation could have incalculable consequences in the Arab world at a time of unrest there.

“It was quite clearly a violation of international law,” .

It was a view echoed by high-profile Australian human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson.

“It’s not justice. It’s a perversion of the term. Justice means taking someone to court, finding them guilty upon evidence and sentencing them,” Robertson told Australian Broadcasting Corp television from London.

Hey, they don’t call them kangaroo courts for nothing:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is facing a criminal complaint from a labor judge in Hamburg for saying she’s “happy” that U.S. forces managed to kill al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, Hamburger Morgenpost reported.

Judge Heinz Uthmann, 54, who’s served at Hamburg’s labor court for 21 years, claims the chancellor acted illegally by approving of criminal offences, the newspaper said, citing an interview with Uthmann. The judge, who said he was acting as a law-abiding citizen, asked prosecutors to investigate.

Those of us who seek to preserve Israel’s freedom to act in practice, and not merely in theory, are also looking to preserve the moral and diplomatic basis for our own latitude to do so.

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Why Purim Matters – Fate and Destiny

Today is Purim, the holiday that celebrates  the victory of the Jews over Haman’s genocidal faction in ancient Persia, during the Babylonian exile.  As always, there are questions.

On most holidays, Jews recite a set of Psalms of praise and thanksgiving collectively known as Hallel.  We do recite it on Chanukah.  We do not recite it on Purim.  Why?

Rav Yosef Soloveitchik argues that the reason is that Chanukah established Jewish independence, and therefore regaining control over our own destiny.  Purim, on the other hand, was a reprieve, but one that left our fate in the hands of a king and a system that had been proven arbitrary.  (The difference between Fate and Destiny is one that Rav Soloveitchik explores in greater depth in an essay, later released as a short book, by that name, Fate and Destiny.)  Purim thus established the “Fiddler on the Roof” scenario, the shtetl paradigm, that would come to dominate and define Jewish existence for most of the next 2500 years, interrupted only by the 2nd Commonwealth.

And arrested again by the establishment of the State of Israel.

While many times Ahashveraus, the Persian king, is depicted as foolish, rather like the king in Aladdin, the rabbinical commentators see him as considerably more malevolent, anywhere from looking for a reason to exterminate the Jews to hostile, and willing to let himself be persuaded in the matter.  They note that it was under his rule that reconstruction on the Temple came to a halt, under obstacles and threats from the throne.

Which brings us to today.

While history doesn’t repeat, President Obama is certainly doing a fine, fine Ahashveraus impersonation when it comes to Israel.  His hostility is manifest, and even if he’s not willing to take positive action himself on the matter, he doesn’t seem very interested in doing anything to impede Israel’s neighborhood enemies.  His recent on-again-off-again veto or not of yet another Security Council resolution on Israel was designed as much to show the Israelis who was in charge, as though Israel really believes it can willingly alienate an American president.  His lecture to American Jewish leaders that they need to “search their souls” on Israel’s (and their) desire for peace, made the implicit threat almost explicit.

Much of the point of Fate and Destiny is the difference between being active in your future, and being passive, at the mercy of other people and forces.  (I’m not sure if the essay, written to provide a theological basis for Orthodox support for Israel, uses the Purim-Chanukah comparison.  Undergoing an Omahavian exile myself, I don’t have access to my copy.)  Unfortunately, then, as now, too many Jews are more comfortable acting under those parameters.  It is too much like a replay, at a national level, of the deals-for-today that Jews had to make for centuries for their communities to survive.

Instead, we should be acting forcefully to shape our own future.  Forcefully doesn’t mean recklessly or insultingly.  But as an Orthodox Jew and a patriotic American, I believe that Israel’s interests & principles, and those of the US coincide far, far more often than they collide, and lucky for me that they do.

Right now, when we have a President who shows himself to be uncertain at best about American interests and principles, the temptation is to try to ride things out.  But such decisions, taken cumulatively, have long-term consequences.  It’s one of the reasons why I supposed Sharon’s disengagement strategy – it was an attempt to seize the initiative and set the terms of the debate, and but for his age and health, it might have succeeded.

We need to remember that we do have another choice.  We are lucky to live in an age when we can choose Chanukah over Purim.

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Kibbutzim Go Private

Not much of a surprise, at this point, as noted by Claire Berlinski over at Ricochet:

Beit-Oren was founded as a die-hard socialist settlement in 1939. Predictably, it went bankrupt, because socialism doesn’t work. By the 1980s it had no means of subsistence, and the world’s ideological tides having turned, the larger kibbutz movement cut it off. In 1987 about half the population of the kibbutz decided to leave, an event known as the Beit Oren Incident.

In 1988, after an intense period of discussion and decision, the New Kibbutz was on its way with renewed strength and vigor, and many new members. The kibbutz’s financial situation improved, empty apartments were rented to new residents, the kitchen and dining room became an events hall, and various kibbutz enterprises recovered. In June 1995, the decision was taken to privatize services and individual income. This was to be the first in a series of privatizations. Within a short time after this decision, most kibbutz members expressed satisfaction with this arrangement.

As socialisms go, Kibbutzim were among its more humane manifestations.  Unlike residents inmates of the Soviet bloc, people were free to go any time they wanted, and join the majority of Israel that was at least somewhat more capitalist.  The country may have been conceived of and run by socialists, but actual kibbutzniks were always a small minority, and capitalism was a vital, if largely latent force in Israel from its beginnings.

In fact, as Sol Stern points out, Tel Aviv was a very capitalist enterprise from the beginning.  And since Netanyahu, as Finance Minister, began privatizing large swatches of the economy, its entrepreneurial spirit has been given free rein.

So while it’s not surprising that Israelis are innovators when it comes to water, it’s at least a little ironic that a major Israeli venture capital firm, specializing in water projects, would be located in “Kibbutz” Lavi.

All this must be giving Haman fits.

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It’s From an Old Familiar Score

The latest story from the neverending story that is the Middle East “peace process” is that Prime Minister Netanyahu will agree to a 90-day extension of the moratorium on building in the West Bank, in exchange for completing the 1300 units just approved, and delivery of 20 F-35 jets capable of reaching Iran.  Many saw this as opening a window of opportunity for the Prime Minister to let the Palestinians continue their obstreperousness.

Many Americans assume that because the US Military tends to be more conservative, the same must be true of the Israeli military.  In fact, Israel’s military and intelligence services tends to be to the left (although not the Academic Suicidal Left), and it appears that they may be operating in coordination with elements in the Obama Administration to pressure Netanyahu through the press:

Israeli intelligence and military officials have warned in recent days that if a peace deal isn’t achieved soon the moderate Palestinian leadership in the West Bank could collapse and give way to more radical Hamas militants, backed by Iran and Syria, who already rule the Gaza Strip.The warnings come as the United States makes a last-ditch effort to revive talks between Israel and the Palestinians that stalled almost as soon as they resumed in September.

It’s also not as though we haven’t seen this before:

  • February 26, 1995 – South Florida Sun-Sentinal – “Middle East Peace in Pieces”
    • “Many U.S. diplomats say in confidential interviews that the partners for peace had but a short window of opportunity, a window that opened when the PLO and Israelis issued the declaration of principles for peace 18 months ago. Now, U.S. officials fear, that window has closed.”
  • October 15, 1998 – Austin American Statesman – “Decks Clear for Mideast Talks”
    • The decks literally cleared in southern Israel a few days later, when a bomb injured 64 people
  • July 24, 2000 – St. Paul Pioneer Press –  “Clinton Rejoins Peace Talks, Pressure High, Time is Short
  • August 14, 2000 – New York Times – “Washington Feels Time is Short for Restarting the Mideast Talks”
  • April 5, 2002 – Jerusalem Post – “The Postwar Window of Opportunity”
  • December 12, 2003 – New York Times – ‘A Bush Aide Criticized Israel For Not Doing More To Foster Peace”
    • “In Rome international donors to the Palestinians said that, because of the installation of a new Palestinian prime minister, a ”window of opportunity” had reopened, permitting the resumption of negotiations with Israel.”
  • October 19, 2006 – UN Security Council – “Mideast Peace Envoy Tells Security Council…Urgent to Help Restart Dialogue”
    • “ELLEN MARGRETHE LØJ ( Denmark) said the challenge for the parties to the conflict, as well as for the international community, was to ensure that they embarked on a process leading towards lasting peace…. It was now up to the parties to avail themselves of that window of opportunity.”
  • March 31, 2007 – Bloomberg – “EU Says Palestinian Government Gives Window for Mid East Peace”
  • May 2, 2008 – – “Rice Warns Time Is Limited For Achieving Mideast Peace Deal”

It seems that, to paraphrase an old saying, in the Mideast, whenever one window closes, another one opens.

Of course, this is only another iteration of the game that the enemy (the Palestinians, not the Israeli left; only Obama calls his own countrymen “the enemy”) has played ever since Soviet times: Give us what we want peacefully, or the next guy will take it by force.  Nice.

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A Bad Start to the Talks

Many, including myself, have expected the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations to go pretty much nowhere.  (Whether or not the Obama Administration will use this as an excuse to jam an otherwise unacceptable solution down Israel’s throat is another matter.)  I had based these expectations on a couple of pre-meeting signals from the Palestinians.  While the administration had touted loud and long their claim that these were negotiations “without preconditions,” in fact, the Palestinians just before the talks insisted that they’d walk away from the table unless Israel agreed to continue its building freeze in its own capital.  Anyone who’s observed Palestinian non-negotiating tactics for more than about minutes should have seen this coming: timing the talks to start before the end of the freeze, and then pocketing the de facto concession as a condition for continuing talks.

Palestinian President Abbas’s comments this morning only made matters worse:

And we call on the Israeli government to move forward with its commitment to end all settlement activity and completely lift the embargo over the Gaza Strip and end all form of incitement.

It’s probably too much to expect the Palestinians to come to the table in good faith, but this statement doesn’t even state the current state of affairs correctly.  Israel has, of course, made no such commitments as stated here.  They are pure invention on the part of the Palestinians, and attempt to gain further concessions by rewriting Israeli statements.  And of course, it’s the Palestinian government, not the Israelis, who have been guilty of incitement, most recently by naming streets and schools after murderous thugs.

Abbas then goes on to defend his government’s response to the murder of four Jews a couple of days ago:

Also, with respect to security, you do know, ladies and gentlemen, that we have security apparatuses that are still being built, that are still young, but that are doing everything that is expected from them. Yesterday we condemned the operations that were carried. We did not only condemn them, but we also followed the perpetrators, and we were able to find the car that was used and to arrest those who sold and bought the car.  And we will continue all our efforts to take security measures in order to find the perpetrators.

Probably to see if they could get a fleet rate.  Much of the purpose of putting Palestinians in charge of their internal security is that a well-intentioned Arab government would have a more effective intelligence network inside hostile circles than the Israelis would.  Perhaps this is true, but the Palestinian record has been one of catch-and-release, rather than actual enforcement.

No sane Israeli can believe that the Palestinians would either negotiate in good faith, or carry out any agreements that were reached.

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