1) In these unbalanced Times
For the past few months I’ve been doing surveys of the New York Time op-ed page regarding the Middle East. A number of websites have generously published them. Here are the surveys for July, August, September, October and November of this year.
As you can see, Israel doesn’t get a fair shake at the New York Times. So it isn’t exactly surprising that PM Netanyahu refused to submit an op-ed in response to a request from the New York Times.
In a letter to the Times obtained by The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, Netanyahu’s senior adviser Ron Dermer – in response to the paper’s request that Netanyahu write an op-ed – wrote that the prime minister would “respectfully decline.”
Dermer made clear that this had much to do with the fact that 19 of the paper’s 20 op-ed pieces on Israel since September were negative.
Ironically, the one positive piece was written by Richard Goldstone – chairman of the UN’s Goldstone Commission Report – defending Israel against charges of apartheid.
My count for September was somewhat different – but the imbalance was still extremely lopsided. Judging what’s pro- and anti- is a subjective exercise. However, Dermer is incorrect as the Goldstone op-ed was published on November 1.
As opposition leader in 1993, Netanyahu wrote an op-ed “Peace in our Time?” about the soon to be signed Oslo Accords. This paragraph has proven prescient, unfortunately:
But the greatest danger of the Rabin-Arafat plan is not terrorism but a full-fledged war that could be launched against Israel from the P.L.O. domain once it is formally recognized as a new Arab state. Indeed, the foundations of such a state are laid by Israel’s consent to cede the land and all legislative authority within it to the P.L.O. As
Yasir Arafat said on Thursday, “The Palestinian state is at hand and the Palestinian flag will soon fly over Jerusalem.”
Since 1993, we’ve seen the “Aqsa intifada,” a second Lebanon war and a Gaza rocket war launched from territories Israel ceded. Netanyahu’s 18 year old op-ed is still more relevant than many of the anti-Israel screeds that get published in the New York Times these days.
But if Netanyahu is understandably frustrated with the New York Times op-ed pages, the Washington Post’s opinion pages are somewhat more sympathetic. Yesterday Jackson Diehl explained Why Netanyahu can’t get to the ‘damn table.’ Diehl quotes Dennis Ross
“Abu Mazen is convinced that, with this Israeli government, he can’t reach agreement. And so, because he’s convinced that there’s no agreement with this Israeli government, he imposes conditions on negotiations, since he’s convinced negotiations will only produce failure.”
Of Netanyahu, Ross said: “He sees in Abu Mazen someone who looks like he runs away from negotiations, imposes conditions for negotiations that he didn’t impose on Bibi’s predecessors, and he puts Israel in the corner.” Which, by Ross’s own account, is not an inaccurate perception.
This is a point that I, among other observers, have been trying to make since 2009: Abbas is simply unwilling to deal with Netanyahu, and his demands for Israeli concessions prior to talks — such as a settlement freeze in the West Bank and Jerusalem — are pretexts that have nothing to do with his real motives, or the real obstacles to peace. It follows that, almost regardless of concessions Netanyahu might make — such as his settlement-construction moratorium last year — Abbas will refuse to talk.
Ross’s view of Netanyahu would seem to have a changed a little since the Clinton administration.
Ross described a meeting in Washington with Netanyahu shortly after he became prime minister the first time in 1996. “In the meeting with President Clinton, Netanyahu was nearly insufferable, lecturing and telling us how to deal with the Arabs.” Ross recounts that afterwards a frustrated President Clinton remarked, “He thinks he is the superpower and we are here to do whatever he requires.” Ross added, “No one on our side disagreed with that assessment.”
Diehl isn’t necessarily Netanyahu’s biggest fan, but he has been observing Abbas for 2 1/2 years now. Instead of faulting Netanyahu like most opinion writers at the New York Times do, Diehl properly blames the lack of progress in negotiations on Mahmoud Abbas.
2) Hamas is 24 years old
Fares Akram reported At a Rally for Hamas, Celebration and Vows:
Tens of thousands of supporters watched the Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniya, speak from a large outdoor stage in the shape of a ship with a model of Jerusalem’s Al Aksa Mosque. Denying speculation that Hamas would turn its attention to nonviolent resistance, Mr. Haniya said: “Today we say it clearly. Armed resistance and armed struggle are the strategic way to liberate the Palestinian land from the sea to the river.”
He was referring to all of Israel as well as to what his rivals in the Palestinian Authority want to become the state of Palestine — Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. He said Hamas had never said that “Palestine is only Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.” He hinted that should those areas be handed over by Israel, Hamas could take a “temporary” respite “without Israel being recognized and without any concession being made.”
There’s no sugar coating here. Akram explains what a hudna is without using the word. It’s something to remember when reporters, diplomats, or academics try to argue that Hamas is interested in peace. It’s also antidote to all those times you read “according to the United States and Israel, Hamas is terrorist organization.” Hamas is a terrorist organization by its own self definition.
Also of interest is Akram’s final observation:
Political changes in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya augur well for Hamas’s brand of Islamist politics, and the flags of those countries were present on the stage. The flag of Syria, where there is a popular revolt against President Bashar al-Assad and where the Hamas exiled leadership remains based, was absent.
And yes, part of the celebration is boasting about how many Jews Hamas has killed.
Meanwhile Abbas continues to grow closer to Hamas.
Abbas knows that Washington values his ability to fend off Hamas more than it does Fayyad’s ability to govern. This explains why he feels unencumbered to test Washington’s patience, both when it comes to political reform in Ramallah and the statehood bid at the United Nations. It also explains why Washington has stood by silently as Fayyad has struggled in vain to maintain his dwindling authority.
To be sure, Washington still pays lip service to the potential of Fayyad’s reform agenda, but the White House knows the prime minister’s days are numbered. According to several of Fayyad’s allies, American diplomats have reportedly written him off.
The end of Fayyadism translates into another expensive taxpayer investment gone wrong in the Middle East. It means the end of an era that offered hope for political reform for the Palestinians. With little hope for change, it also marks the beginning of a new and dangerous period in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.