I don’t know why I keep expecting better from Friedman. But his recent op-ed in the NY Times puts him squarely on the Dark Side.
Sometimes the brightest guys can’t see their noses in front of their faces. I’m going to quote him at length. As you read this, ask yourself a) what he is leaving out, and b) what he assumes about Israeli intentions and character.
The collapse of the Oslo peace process, combined with the unilateral Israeli pullouts from Lebanon and Gaza — which were followed not by peace but by rocket attacks by Hezbollah and Hamas on Israel — decimated Israel’s peace camp and the political parties aligned with it.
At the same time, Israel’s erecting of a wall around the West Bank to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from entering Israel (there have been no successful attacks since 2006), along with the rise of the high-tech industry in Israel — which does a great deal of business digitally and over the Internet and is largely impervious to the day-to-day conflict — has meant that even without peace, Israel can enjoy a very peaceful existence and a rising standard of living.
To put it another way, the collapse of the peace process, combined with the rise of the wall, combined with the rise of the Web, has made peacemaking with Palestinians much less of a necessity for Israel and much more of a hobby. Consciously or unconsciously, a lot more Israelis seem to believe they really can have it all: a Jewish state, a democratic state and a state in all of the Land of Israel, including the West Bank — and peace.
Friedman is absolutely right that the collapse of the Oslo process and the violent Arab reaction to Israel’s unilateral withdrawals decimated the Israeli “peace camp.” But he somehow manages to ignore the causality involved. The peace camp lost influence because their prescription, when it was followed, led to war instead of peace. The theory was tested, the Arabs’ bluff called, and the truth was revealed: it is the Palestinians and their supporters who “believe they really can have it all.” Why accept one of two states when you can have all of one?
So much for logic. Moving into the realm of interpretation, Friedman follows the line first put forward by Israel’s enemies and now by the Obama administration — today there’s little distinction — that Israel only pretends to want peace, but in truth prefers empire.
I would put things differently: I would say that Israelis have accepted the painful necessity of a continuous state of war, because they have no other option. They know that there is no Palestinian leadership — not now and not on the horizon — that is prepared to offer any peace other than the peace of the grave.
As the father of a young man who has done his share of fighting and who will be called upon yet again for the next war, and probably the one after that, I can absolutely guarantee to Friedman that Israelis, who either go to war themselves or send their children, do not choose to see peace as a ‘hobby’. The suggestion that they do is offensive.
But Friedman’s not finished:
The issue that should make peacemaking a necessity rather than a hobby for both the U.S. and Israel is confronting a nuclear Iran. Unfortunately, Israel sees the question of preventing Iran from going nuclear as overriding and separate from the Palestinian issue, while the U.S. sees them as integrated. At a time when the U.S. is trying to galvanize a global coalition to confront Iran, at a time when Iran uses the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict to embarrass pro-U.S. Arabs and extend its influence across the Muslim world, peace would be a strategic asset for America and Israel.
This is a really stupid argument, but one that the Obama Administration and its echos keep repeating. The US doesn’t need to ‘galvanize’ the conservative Sunni regimes, because they are already scared to death of the Iranian nukes. And since it is impossible to solve the ongoing conflict with Israeli concessions — remember Oslo, Gaza and South Lebanon — the only way that we can read this is that the US expects to gain influence in the Muslim world by imposing more and more Israeli withdrawals and concessions. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen, this leads to war rather than peace.
War, I’m sorry to note, is a positive thing to many of Israel’s enemies. Even though Israel is militarily superior, the US and the international community can be counted on to stop a war before anything permanent is changed — and when they don’t have time, as in 1967, they work assiduously afterward to reverse any changes. Every war chips away at Israel, socially, economically and diplomatically. The Palestinian and Arab leadership, as well as Iran, are prepared to make sacrifices if they will lead to ultimate victory (they are especially happy to sacrifice Palestinians; but that’s another article).
There has been a lot of — how to put this — crap in the media lately in support of the Obama Administration’s new policy turn against Israel. And it has the administration’s fingerprints all over it, even when it comes from supposedly independent journalists like Tom Friedman.