As we get closer and closer to the UN vote on Palestinian statehood, as relations between Israel and Turkey and Egypt deteriorate, the usual suspects are responding in the usual way — and even more so.
The crumbling of key pillars of Israel’s security — the peace with Egypt, the stability of Syria and the friendship of Turkey and Jordan — coupled with the most diplomatically inept and strategically incompetent [I would put ‘U.S.’ here — ed] government in Israel’s history have put Israel in a very dangerous situation.
This has also left the U.S. government fed up with Israel’s leadership but a hostage to its ineptitude, because the powerful pro-Israel lobby in an election season can force the administration to defend Israel at the U.N., even when it knows Israel is pursuing policies not in its own interest or America’s.
Oh, really? Please explain how the “powerful pro-Israel lobby” can swing a presidential election. The problem for President Obama here is that many Americans understand the Middle East too well. They get it that Israel is struggling against the combined forces of Islamism and Arab rejectionism. They get it that the US was attacked by Islamists, not Israelis, on 9/11 (while Palestinians cheered). And they get it that appeasement doesn’t work.
These Americans, 98% of whom are not Jewish and not members of Congress, are not influenced by “the Lobby.” Many of them are independents who will simply be morally outraged if the administration screws Israel.
Friedman says that it’s Netanyahu’s fault for not ‘responding’ to the challenges facing Israel:
Mr. Netanyahu has a strategy: Do nothing vis-à-vis the Palestinians or Turkey that will require him to go against his base, compromise his ideology or antagonize his key coalition partner, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, an extreme right-winger. Then, call on the U.S. to stop Iran’s nuclear program and help Israel out of every pickle, but make sure that President Obama can’t ask for anything in return — like halting Israeli settlements — by mobilizing Republicans in Congress to box in Obama and by encouraging Jewish leaders to suggest that Obama is hostile to Israel and is losing the Jewish vote. And meanwhile, get the Israel lobby to hammer anyone in the administration or Congress who says aloud that maybe Bibi has made some mistakes, not just Barack.
A few minor points:
First, Jews in the US are a small proportion — 1.7% in 2007 — and at least half of them will vote for Obama regardless of his position on Israel. Some of them are in swing states (Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania) but many are in states which are unlikely to go Republican, like California. The “Jewish vote” is not a big deal.
Second, could we leave the settlements alone? Israel is not building new settlements or expanding the boundaries of old ones. The most it is doing is allowing construction within existing settlements, and it tried a 10-month freeze on that without results. This issue never was a barrier to negotiations, until the “inept and strategically incompetent” Barack Obama made it so. The media have been exceptionally dishonest about this, always referring to “settlement construction,” which any reasonable person would understand as building new settlements.
Third, Israel offered to express regret for the deaths of several Turkish IHH terrorists, but would not agree that it was at fault when its soldiers defended themselves, and would not agree to open the gates to unlimited transit of weapons into Gaza by ending the blockade. Turkey would not accept less.
Fourth, the US has done little to stop Iran’s nuclear program. In fact, by not supplying Israel with refueling aircraft and “bunker buster” weapons, it reduced Israel’s power of deterrence, which encouraged Iran.
Fifth, is Friedman really blaming Bibi for “mobilizing Republicans?” Can’t they mobilize themselves? What else is it possible to blame him for?
And one major point: the failure of bilateral negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is not due to Netanyahu’s concern for his ‘base’, but rather due to the Palestinians’ refusal to negotiate without preconditions that amount to giving up the store. To a great extent, this situation is Obama’s fault, for allowing the Palestinians to think that they could get more from American pressure than they could from negotiations.
Friedman’s suggestion for a solution is that Israel (preferably with a new, more pliant, government) should make a “peace overture that fair-minded people would recognize as serious, and thereby reduce its isolation.” So after Israel
- returned the Sinai to Egypt (and now the treaty is in question),
- allowed the murderous PLO to return from exile and set up a government,
- transferred weapons to the PA ‘police’,
- withdrew its troops from southern Lebanon (and got a war in return),
- evacuated all the Jews, living and dead, from Gaza (and got a war in return),
- adopted the idea of a Palestinian state in the territories,
- withdrew from much of Judea and Samaria,
- released Palestinian prisoners to strengthen Mahmoud Abbas,
- removed many checkpoints and roadblocks from Judea/Samaria,
- provided humanitarian aid to the Gaza strip while Hamas bombarded it with rockets,
- made offers of up to 97% of the disputed territories plus swaps and major concessions on Jerusalem in 2000 and 2008 –
after all of this, and while the PA still has not changed those parts of its charter calling for the destruction of Israel, still insists on a “right of return” for refugees, still broadcasts anti-Israel and antisemitic incitement in its media, mosques and educational system, and adamantly refuses to recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people — now Tom Friedman thinks Israel should make yet another ‘peace overture’!