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.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Book Reviews Personalities How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    JNS.org – What would you do if you found out that you had only three more months to live? Gordon Zacks was a successful businessman, a leader of Jewish life, and a confidante and adviser to President George H.W. Bush. He knew that he had prostate cancer, but doctors advised him that it was very slow-growing and nothing to worry about. Then came the day when the doctors told him his cancer metastasized to his liver, and that he had [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Theater 10 Things I Learned From My Play About Holocaust Denial

    10 Things I Learned From My Play About Holocaust Denial

    Last month, my one-man show Hoaxocaust! Written and performed by Barry Levey with the generous assistance of the Institute for Political and International Studies, Tehran ran in the New York International Fringe Festival, where it won an Overall Excellence Award. The play has now been selected to run in the Fringe Encores Series at Baruch College’s Performing Arts Center, for four performances which started on Thursday, September 11. Getting the play to the stage was not easy, however. Here are [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel Israeli Music Producer Racks Up Over 535,000 YouTube Hits – in Two Days

    Israeli Music Producer Racks Up Over 535,000 YouTube Hits – in Two Days

    Phenomenon: Tel Aviv-based musician and “sampler” extraordinaire, Kutiman (aka Ophir Kutiel) has hit another one out of the park with “Give It Up,” a fully-functioning song in its own right, assembled from hundreds of ameteur and instructional music videos. The Jerusalem-born musical prodigy is best know for his diverse online musical projects. In the latest video, uploaded to YouTube on Sept. 12th, Kutiel thanked most of the musicians and individuals he chose to include in the meticulously-edited clip, which opens with [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada Behind-the-Scenes Reel of Ridley Scott’s Moses Epic Shows Scenes Using 4000 Extras (VIDEO)

    Behind-the-Scenes Reel of Ridley Scott’s Moses Epic Shows Scenes Using 4000 Extras (VIDEO)

    A recently released behind-the-scenes reel of Ridley Scott’s upcoming film Exodus: Gods and Kings shows just how far the director has gone to portray one of the Bible’s most famous narratives. In the clip, which shows scenes involving up to 4,000 extras, the visionary director discusses what drew him to the biblical tale of Moses. “The Moses story was a massive challenge, which I really love. I wanted to explore the complexity of his character and I was stunned by [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Turner Classic Movies Showcases ‘Broad Sweep’ of the Jewish Experience on Film

    Turner Classic Movies Showcases ‘Broad Sweep’ of the Jewish Experience on Film

    JNS.org – Since 2006, the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) cable and satellite TV network has hosted “The Projected Image,” a month-long showcase examining how different cultural and ethnic groups have been portrayed on the big screen. At last, after previously covering African Americans, Asians, the LGBT community, Latinos, Native Americans, Arabs, and people with disabilities, the annual series is delving into Jewish film this month. “The Projected Image: The Jewish Experience on Film,” whose first segment aired Sept. 2, runs [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity An Inside Look at the Hasidim (REVIEW)

    An Inside Look at the Hasidim (REVIEW)

    The sight of young girls in pinafores and young boys wearing peyos – sidelocks – dangling over their ears is a sure sign that you have entered the enigmatic precincts of the Hasidim – the pious ones. Veteran New York Times journalist Joseph Berger’s new book, THE PIOUS ONES: The World of Hasidim and their Battles with America, takes the reader on a journey into the enclaves where various sects of Jews live a seemingly outmoded way of life in [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    JNS.org – Today’s comedy superstars, especially those whose careers are driven by television, may very well owe their success to pioneering Jewish entertainer Milton Berle. Born Mendel Berlinger in Manhattan in 1908, Berle became America’s first small-screen star. Aptly nicknamed “Mr. Television,” he influenced and helped promote the work of hundreds of younger comics. “Milton Berle was deceptively successful and very Jewish,” says Lawrence Epstein, author of The Haunted Smile: The Story of Jewish Comedians in America, published the year [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    JNS.org – Idan Ravin’s friends chipped in to buy him a humble but life-changing bar mitzvah gift—a basketball hoop his father attached to the roof of his garage. Little did his friends know that years later, he would be the personal trainer of National Basketball Association (NBA) stars Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, and Stephen Curry. Ravin’s new book, “The Hoops Whisperer: On the Court and Inside the Head of Basketball’s Best Players,” details his rise from a Jewish upbringing [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.