Today’s Foolish Friedman

Here’s today’s Foolish (Tom) Friedman remark, analyzed bit by bit:

The Arab tyrants, precisely because they were illegitimate, were the ones who fed their people hatred of Israel as a diversion.

He is correct that Arab tyrants feed hatred of Israel as a diversion from the economic and social problems caused by their corrupt and incompetent rule. But they also hitch a ride on the existing Arab and Muslim hatred for Jews and Israel. No Arab leader has ever become more popular by getting along with Israel, and of course there is the example of Anwar Sadat who lost his life as a result.

If Israel could finalize a deal with the Palestinians, it will find that a more democratic Arab world is a more stable partner.

Israel cannot ‘finalize a deal with the Palestinians’ for many reasons. The main one, which I have discussed numerous times, is that there is no Palestinian Arab leadership and not even any significant fraction of the population (as shown by various polls) that is prepared to accept the existence of a Jewish state of any size in ‘Palestine’. No deal will be ‘final’, it will only be another territorial concession that will increase insecurity.

It’s also true that Friedman’s optimism about the democratic Arab world isn’t justified yet.  Did he notice that the same army that put Mubarak into power ultimately removed him? And then told the pro-democracy Facebook generation to go home?

There is also an irony here: Palestinian Authority (PA) ‘President’ Mahmoud Abbas (whose term expired two years ago) is a traditional non-democratic Arab leader. The PA claims that democratic elections will be held this Fall, but Hamas, the only significant opposition, will not participate. So how will such a deal bolster Arab democracy?

Not because everyone will suddenly love Israel (they won’t). But because the voices that would continue calling for conflict would have legitimate competition, and democratically elected leaders will have to be much more responsive to their people’s priorities, which are for more schools not wars. — Thomas Friedman, NY Times (h/t: David Gerstman)

Democratic or non-democratic Arab leaders are not proposing to their people that they go to war with Israel. They are proposing that the state of Israel be dissolved and be replaced by an Arab state, although the precise way this should happen varies. There is no conflict between building schools and supporting the worldwide delegitimization campaign, even if one expects that there will need to be a final violent push from Hizballah or Hamas to finish the job.

Egyptian reform leader Ayman Nour recently said that the Camp David accord was ‘finished’ and needed to be ‘renegotiated’. He is not telling Egyptians that they should attack Israel next week, simply agreeing with them that Israel is illegitimate and even the cold peace is more than it deserves. This is perhaps the most ‘moderate’ position that can be expected from any Arab leader today.

But like the Obama administration for which he appears to be a mouthpiece, for Friedman absolutely everything that happens in the Mideast has to be an argument for getting Israel out of the territories regardless of the consequences.

Why limit it to the Mideast? I am waiting for the Friedman op-ed claiming that it is necessary to create a Palestinian state in order to solve the problem of climate change and get texting drivers off the street.

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One Response to “Today’s Foolish Friedman”

  1. NormanF says:

    This is what I call the “Israel Centrality” theory of Middle Eastern politics, which is a reductionist view that holds more or less all the problems in the Middle East can be reduced to Israel not making enough concessions to take away Arab hostility towards the Jewish State. The events in the region have not altered the attraction of the theory for Western elites. Expect the pressure on Israel to make near suicidal concessions for a non-existent peace to resume in the foreseeable future.