Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Bon Voyage: President Obama in Israel

March 14, 2013 1:20 am 3 comments

Barack Obama in Israel in 2008.

In anticipation of President Obama’s forthcoming visit to Israel The New York Times published three “Op-Ed” columns in a single day (March 13) assessing the dim prospects for Middle East peace – and, to be sure – holding Israel responsible. Even if “Op-Ed” refers only to location (adjacent to the editorial page) rather than to policy (deviating from the editorial position), this was an unusual, but hardly random, concentration of journalistic firepower.

With his characteristic airy detachment, columnist Thomas Friedman seemed to applaud Obama’s belated realization that given current realities on the ground, “benign neglect” toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is preferable to active intervention. After all, as Friedman correctly notes, “the most destabilizing conflict in the region is the civil war between Shiites and Sunnis,” not the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Furthermore, the obstacles to an Israeli-Palestinian peace are, at least at the moment, insurmountable. Why? Because Israeli settlers and Hamas rockets make it so. Note the moral equivalence.

Nonetheless, Friedman prepared questions for the President to ask Israeli officials – but not Palestinian officials in Ramallah: How can “your relentless settlement drive” fail to undermine Israel as “a Jewish democracy” and further “delegitimize” Israel worldwide? Shouldn’t Israel “be constantly testing and testing whether there is a Palestinian partner for a secure peace” – as though Israel had not repeatedly done that ever since the Oslo Accords were drafted. “As a friend,” Friedman also wants to know whether Israel even has a long-term strategy for peace.

Haaretz columnist Ari Shavit pointedly declared the “Old Peace” of Oslo to be dead. Waves of Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, Yasir Arafat’s refusal to accept generous Israeli peace terms at the Camp David summit in 2000, and destruction during the Arab Spring of the “corrupt yet stable tyrannies” (especially Egypt) that had supported peace with Israel demolished peace efforts.

But Shavit is optimistic about the prospects for a “New Peace.” The Arab awakening, in conjunction with the “social justice protest movement” that emerged in Israel in 2011, promises “a pragmatic, gradual process” leading to peace based on mutual respect. The burden, to be sure, is on Israel, which must implement a “real” settlement freeze.  Settlers, he recently wrote in Haaretz, not only occupy the West Bank; they “occupy Israel.”

Columbia professor Rashid Khalidi wants President Obama to guide a peace process that any Palestinian would applaud: an end to Israel’s “intransigence,” “illegal” settlements, “apartheid-style wall,” and “ghettoization” of Palestinians, with a government “hellbent on territorial expansion.” The Israeli “occupation” must end, and settlements must be removed. What Palestinians must do is not mentioned.

From their quite different perspectives Friedman, Shavit and Khalidi reach the shared conclusion that surely pleases Times editors: the absence of peace is entirely Israel’s fault. And, no surprise, Jewish settlers are primarily responsible. Not a word about the Palestinian terrorism that led to the “apartheid-style wall” separating Israel from the West Bank. Nor about Israel’s 10-month settlement freeze two years ago that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas pointedly ignored. Nor about the vast Hezbollah accumulation of rockets in south Lebanon that probably exceeds what Hamas has stored in Gaza. Nor about the absurd claim, echoed by Khalidi, that “5 million” Palestinians live “in a state of subjugation or exile” for which Israel implicitly bears responsibility.

It is highly unlikely that the Times would publish three op-eds in a decade, no less in a single day, that even mention, no less defend, the right of “close settlement” west of the Jordan River enjoyed by Jews ever since the League of Nations approved the Mandate for Palestine nearly a century ago. That right has never been rescinded. Or that UN Resolution 242 following the Six-Day War called upon Israel to withdraw its military forces from “territories,” not from “the” territories or “all” the territories that it had gained from Arab aggression. Or, even in passing, that there already is a state  (now known as Jordan) with a Palestinian population majority, in Palestine as originally defined by the League of Nations. Or that settlement in the Land of Israel is what Zionism has always meant. Might the Times recognize that the largest Jewish settlement in the Middle East, endlessly calumnied in its own pages, is the State of Israel?

Jerold S. Auerbach is the author, most recently, of Against the Grain (Quid Pro Books, 2012).

3 Comments

  • If I had to watch my wife felt up by pimply teenagers at checkpoints, everyday. Islamic Jihad would be the least of your worries.

  • Gilbert Weinstein

    Settlements, settlements, settlements… The true evil in the Middle East (according to the New York Times). If only we could get rid of all those red tiled roof Jewish homes, the region could once again turn into a harmonious peaceful paradise.

  • Michael Segal

    It would also have been proper for the New York Times to note that Khalidi has worked for the PLO, as documented from various sources, including the NYT at http://www.martinkramer.org/sandbox/2008/10/khalidi-of-the-plo/

    If President Obama has the wisdom to disregard the NYT medley of advice, he could do something practical and achievable: press for a road connecting Bethlehem and Ramallah, passing through the E1 region. It would cross the road built in the 1960s, with American assistance, that connects Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, and provides the contiguity for the Jews of Maaaleh Adumim. And most importantly it would demonstrate that contiguity both for Arabs and Jews can be provided, something one should have learned from the 1947 UN partition plan.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Features World Graves of Jewish Pirates in Jamaica Give Caribbean Tourists Taste of Little-Known History

    Graves of Jewish Pirates in Jamaica Give Caribbean Tourists Taste of Little-Known History

    Tour operators are calling attention to Jamaica’s little-known Jewish heritage by arranging visits to historic Jewish sites on the Caribbean island, including a cemetery where Jewish pirates are buried. A report in Travel and Leisure magazine describes the Hunts Bay Cemetery in Kingston, where there are seven tombstones engraved with Hebrew benedictions and skull and crossbones insignia. According to the report, centuries ago, Jewish pirates sailed the waters of Jamaica and settled in Port Royal. The town, once known as “the wickedest city in the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Filmmaker Eyal Resh Embraces the Challenge of Telling Israel’s Story (VIDEO)

    Filmmaker Eyal Resh Embraces the Challenge of Telling Israel’s Story (VIDEO)

    JNS.org – Telling Israel’s story. It’s the specific title of a short film that Eyal Resh created last year. It’s also the theme behind the 27-year-old Israeli filmmaker’s broader body of work. The widely viewed “Telling Israel’s Story” film—directed by Resh for a gala event hosted by the Times of Israel online news outlet—seemingly begins as a promotional tourism video, but quickly evolves to offer a multilayered perspective. “I want to tell you a story about a special place for me,” a young woman whispers […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Israel Geeks Out: Science, Art and Tech Event Embodies Jewish State’s ‘DNA’

    Israel Geeks Out: Science, Art and Tech Event Embodies Jewish State’s ‘DNA’

    JNS.org – The entrance to Jerusalem’s Sacher Park was transformed from April 25-27 by a fire-breathing robotic dragon, which flailed its arms and attempted to take flight. The robot, a signature feature at Jerusalem’s first-ever “Geek Picnic,” was one of more than 150 scientific amusements available for the public to experience. This particular dragon was designed by students from Moscow’s Art Industrial Institute in conjunction with the Flacon design factory, said Anatasia Shaminer, a student who helped facilitate the display. Children […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Opinion The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love. CreateSpace, 2015. The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love, is a very interesting novel. Equally a political and romantic thriller, at times a real page-turner, it gets you intimately involved in the dire situation in today’s Syria, as well as in the romantic entanglements of its mostly New York-based characters — whose entanglements just might determine the fate of that dire situation in Syria. Along the way it introduces a really important idea that somehow […]

    Read more →
  • Features Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    JNS.org – Aside from Israel itself, those with a vested interest in the Jewish state are accustomed to tracking developments related to Middle East players such as Iran, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. But much global attention has recently focused on the Caucasus region at the Europe-Asia border, specifically on the suddenly intensified violence between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh area of western Azerbaijan. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, while not taking place in Israel’s immediate neighborhood, does have what one scholar called […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    JNS.org – On Friday, April 22, 196 nations across the world mark Earth Day, the annual day dedicated to environmental protection that was enacted in 1970. Not to be forgotten on this day is Israel, which is known as the “start-up nation” for its disproportionate amount of technological innovation, including in the area of protecting the environment. For Earth Day 2016, JNS.org presents a sampling of the Jewish state’s internal achievements and global contributions in the environmental realm. Water conservation Israeli […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture World New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    Holocaust humor and the role that laughter played in the lives of Jews during World War II are the focus of a documentary that made its world premiere on Monday at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. In The Last Laugh, first- and second-generation survivors, as well as famous Jewish and non-Jewish comedians, discuss their thoughts on when joking about the death camps is appropriate or taboo. “Nazi humor, that’s OK. Holocaust humor, no,” Jewish comedic giant, actor and filmmaker Mel Brooks says in the film. “Anything I […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    JNS.org – Sherri Mandell’s life was devastated on May 8, 2001, when her 13-year-old son Koby was murdered by terrorists on the outskirts of the Israeli Jewish community of Tekoa. Yet Mandell not only shares the story of her loss, but also celebrates the lessons she has learned from tragedy. Indeed, “celebrate” is this Israeli-American author’s word choice. Her second book, The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration (Toby Press), came out earlier this year. The lesson: in every celebration, there is […]

    Read more →