July 18, 2007

Bush speech punditry

By Noah Pollak

I intend to post my own comments later, but for now, here's what other people are saying about President Bush's Monday speech on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Michael Oren in the Wall St. Journal:

...there can be no underrating the sea change in America's policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict brought about by this administration. If, under U.N. Resolution 242, Israelis were expected to relinquish territory and only then receive peace, now the Arabs will have to cede many aspects of peace--non-belligerency and recognition--well in advance of receiving territory.
Similarly, Mr. Bush's commitment to maintain Israel's Jewish majority signals the total rescinding of American support for Resolution 194, which provided for refugee return. Moreover, by insisting that the Palestinians first construct durable and transparent institutions before attaining independence, Mr. Bush effectively reversed the process, set out in the 1993 Oslo Accords, whereby the Palestinians would obtain statehood immediately and only later engage in institution building. Peace-for-land, preserving the demographic status quo, and building a civil society prior to achieving statehood--these are the pillars of Mr. Bush's doctrine on peace.
But will it work? Given the Palestinians' historical inability to sustain sovereign structures and their repeated (1938, 1947, 1979, 2000) rejection of offers of a state, the chances hardly seem sanguine.
Much of the administration's hope for a breakthrough rests on the Palestinians' newly appointed prime minister, Salaam Fayyad, who is purportedly incorruptible. Nevertheless, one righteous man is unlikely to succeed in purging the Palestinian Authority of embezzlement and graft and uniting its multiple militias.
The Saudis will probably balk at the notion of recognizing Israel before it exits the West Bank and Jerusalem, and Palestinian refugees throughout the region will certainly resist any attempt to prevent them from regaining their former homes. Iran and Syria and their Hamas proxies can be counted on to undermine the process at every stage, often with violence.
Yet, despite the scant likelihood of success, Mr. Bush is to be credited for delineating clear and equitable criteria for pursuing Palestinian independence and for drafting a principled blueprint for peace. This alone represents a bold response to Hamas and its backers in Damascus and Tehran. The Palestinians have been given their diplomatic horizon and the choice between "chaos, suffering, and the endless perpetuation of grievance," and "security and a better life."

The New York Sun:

Most welcome was Mr. Bush's pointed remark that Israel's survival as a "Jewish state" is a basic condition; this amounts to a rejection of the Palestinian "right of return." Mr. Bush is evidently gambling against long odds that the deteriorating circumstances among the Palestinians highlighted by the Hamas take-over in Gaza, requires a lowering of the bar. The Palestinian leader on whom Mr. Bush is placing his bet, Mahmoud Abbas, has been either unwilling or unable to meet the standards set in the 2002 speech. With the Iranian-backed Hamas looming in the wings, Mr. Bush seems focused on the mere survival of Mr. Abbas and his political allies.

John Podhoretz in the New York Post:

Bush made it clear yesterday that the choice is in the hands of the Palestinian people. They need to change, not just their leaders.
Which is why - despite Bush's embrace of diplomatic techniques used in the past solely to put pressure on Israel - supporters of Israel shouldn't fear the results of yesterday's speech.
Yes, Bush called for an "international conference." Yes, he spoke warmly of European and Arab participation in a two-state solution. But he made it clear that, in the American perspective - which is really the only perspective that matters - there will only be a Palestinian state if there is a Palestinian revolution in consciousness.

Guy Bechor, writing in Ynet News, wants to pack it in:

Perhaps the Israeli government has still not internalized the disengagement mentality that is required here, because any involvement in Palestinian issues on our part always ends in a big bang. What we think bolsters Mahmud Abbas usually serves to weaken him and vice versa. Moreover, will one immunity deal or another change the face of the huge conflict raging between the nationalist stream and political Islam in the Arab world?
As we are not familiar with the rules and as real risks to Israel's security are at stake, such gestures should be avoided as should involvement in the Palestinian world - which is entirely delusional as far as we are concerned.
Should Israel worry about convening the Palestinian national council? Should it bring Naif Hawatmeh here? What's going on? Have we returned to the delusional years of Oslo? These are delusions whose time has passed, and the Israeli government would do well to avoid the self-deception, the involvement and the ensuing disappointment that will inevitably occur when it all explodes in its face.
Israel would do well to announce it will no longer interfere in Palestinian life. Not in punishing Hamas nor in compensating Fatah; not in unnecessary targeted killings nor in delusional prisoner releases.
We should disengage from the Palestinian world, for better or for worse, and focus on ourselves alone.

Is Ghada Karmi a Zionist agent? Her advice to the Palestinians in the Guardian is so bad that one could be forgiven for thinking so:

Without confronting the contradiction at the heart of the equation, there can be no Israeli-Palestinian or regional peace. Creating an independent Palestinian state against Israel's wishes, while simultaneously supporting Israel unreservedly, cannot work. Palestinian demands for an Israeli withdrawal from the 1967 territories, the return of refugees and full state sovereignty are all rejected by Israel. The western powers, which could have countered this rejection, are fatally compromised by their devotion to Israel's regional supremacy. To resolve the impasse, one of the sides of the equation must fall. On past evidence, it will not be Israel's. So what does Fatah, having excluded Hamas and obeyed western diktat, hope to gain from this incompatible situation?
Tony Blair's recent appointment as Middle East peace envoy is indicative. Rather than face the basic contradictions fuelling the conflict, the Quartet preferred another pointless gesture that substitutes process for substance, hoping to convince the Arabs that something is being done, but in reality postponing the moment of reckoning. Palestinians, who will pay the price for this prevarication, must expose the basic contradiction in the western position that perpetuates the conflict. They must confront the west with the inconvenient truth: that trying to meet Palestinian demands and indulging Israel are incompatible, doomed objectives. Only by shedding their differences and regrouping to fight their real enemy, and not each other, will the Palestinians have finally learned the lessons of history.
Posted by Noah Pollak at July 18, 2007 08:38 AM

"The Palestinians have been given their diplomatic horizon and the choice between "chaos, suffering, and the endless perpetuation of grievance," and "security and a better life."

Hmmm, I wonder what they will pick.

Posted by: mikek at July 18, 2007 09:57 AM

Not that I agree with Karmi's suggestion - "fighting" has not done one whit of good for the Palestinians, and I'm astonished that someone would call for even more futility - but she (Ghada is a woman) did manage to get one isolated thing right in her column:

"... the Quartet preferred another pointless gesture that substitutes process for substance, hoping to convince the Arabs that something is being done..."

The peace process - at least in the West - has overemphasized "process" in place of "result", and as a consequence ceased to carry any meaning among anyone other than the western politicians seeking fame by being the one to get the Israelis and Palestinians to the table. Once everyone comes to the table, then what? So many politicians blame Bush for not having post war plans for Iraq, and much of that blame isn't misplaced or empty, but the same politicos making that charge cannot themselves utter anything more than starry-eyed platitudes for the end result of any "process" they're trying to push on the Palestinians or Israelis.

I don't agree with Karmi's article - She seems to deliberately ignore the fact that the rift between Fatah and Hamas boils down to thugcratic groups vying for power, she definitely boggles the mind by asking for more fighting for the Palestinian "cause" (that's like asking for more whiskey for an alcoholic), and it's pretty clear she wants to stop the fighting between H and F for one reason: To fight Israel (something that would cause far more grief for her own race than anything else, but the "activist" in her doesn't seem to give a damn about that) - but I can't find myself in disagreement with her assesment of the peace "process". On the part of the West, it truly is a hollow act nowadays.

Posted by: ElMondoHummus at July 18, 2007 10:18 AM

Oh, good. The pronoun error was fixed while I was composing. Didn't mean to nitpick you, Noah. The error didn't subtract the thrust of your post, but I still thought I should gently point it out.


"Hmmm, I wonder what they will pick."
-Posted by: mikek

If history is any indication, whatever makes them feel good in the short term and causes more misery in the long. They've created an art of making the worst possible choices and exacerbating the consequences. Which is sad, because the Palestinians deserve better than what they've got in either Fatah or Hamas, which is thuggery, demagoguery and tendencies towards violence.

Posted by: ElMondoHummus at July 18, 2007 10:28 AM

The pronoun error was fixed while I was composing. Didn't mean to nitpick you, Noah.

No worries. I was typing quickly and after I pressed the publish button I realized my error.

Posted by: Noah Pollak at July 18, 2007 10:32 AM

Which is sad, because the Palestinians deserve better than what they've got in either Fatah or Hamas, which is thuggery, demagoguery and tendencies towards violence

Do they? Hamas and Fatah were created by Palestininan culture and supported by the same.

Posted by: I Blame the Parents at July 18, 2007 10:49 AM


i am not sure that continuing to fight for the cause is actually the wrong thing to do for the pals. if their goal is not just just a state, but the elimination of israel, stopping now, after they paid such a heavy price for their goal, and when the phase-based strategy of arafat seems to bear huge fruit, could be a real loser.

and apparently the saudis and some in the EU understand that: they protect hamas and push abbas to reconcile with hamas for what other purpose than fighting israel.

the only long-term factor in pal behavior is the elimination of israel. the short-term is governed entirely by jizya from the world.

i think you're looking at the pals the wrong way: they got the leaders they deserve, just like most of the arabs got the leaders they deserve. fatah and hamas ARE the pals. had they been anything else, they would have produced SOME different leaders ***who would have had a constituency***, rather than sing in the wilderness. that no arab state has ever produced such leaders says more about the arabs than about their leaders.

Posted by: fp at July 18, 2007 10:54 AM

Ms Karmi wants the Palestinians to fight for ever while she is living the good life in the UK. In the same time, cunningly she is calling for the murder of Abu Mazen ( this is what the Nashahibi story is all about) on the pages of the Guardian !, and blaming the British for behaving in 1935 like the IDF in 1990. Well the Brits hung them freedom fighters by the dozens lady, it was not the same. Simultanously, back home on the ranch, in Palestine, the great warriors, the Genin Freedom fighters in front, are standing in lines to give their weapons and sign all kind of " I love peace" papers. Even the Hamas in Gaza is begging to open the Erez gates and is playing the "I want peace" game. So this round was also won by Israel. Just compare the losers of the IDF with the great performances of the Leb. army in Nahar il Barid, two months, more than one hundred Leb soldiers dead and the Palestinian camp still fighting. But back to the core of the story. With Iran controlling most of Iraq oil now and increasing her influence in UAE and the rest daily, and with what is hapenning all over the ME, i.e. Lebanon, and Turkey getting the Islamic bug, after all the possible wisdom is said and written for the time being Israel is the best unsinkable carrier in ME that the USA have and the only place where an emergency landing pilot can have 99.99% assurance to have the family jewels intact. It should not be like that but that it is. When the price of the oil in three years will triple the love of the west to the Arabs and Persians will not triple nor will the love of these to the west.

Posted by: Hazbani at July 18, 2007 10:55 AM

Do they?

No, they don't. The paleostinians prove everyday the truism that a people get the government they deserve-- Hamas and Fatah.

I feel as sorry as the next guy about the poor individual paleo widows, old people and children devastated by this conflict, but as a PEOPLE they only get what they deserve.

Posted by: Carlos at July 18, 2007 10:55 AM

i've just the full oren article and even though i usually agree with him, i have grave doubts about his take this time.

it is true that bush has said these things, although the obliqueness oren recognizes says something too. but that is not the significant aspect.

1st, bush has said such things before, and it got him nowhere. it is unlikely they will work now, given that the pal propaganda has been so effective in delegitimizing israel. certainly not when bush is weaker and on his way out. his words have much less weight than they had before.

2nd, the problem was never that the us SAID the wrong things (although it did so once in a while). but rather that it did not follow through and usually capitulated to the arabs, never holding them to the conditions imposed on them and the agreements they signed. it is even less likely now, when bush is desperate for some success and the most likely option is to pressure israel.

and indeed, if you follow events on the grounds, rather than speeches, this is precisely what is happening.

so will all due respect to oren, i will buy any progress or chances only when i see the pal education and media overhauled. since this is only stated in a speech and not in conditioning support, it's all grinding water and keeping up appearances.

Posted by: fp at July 18, 2007 12:14 PM

I have to agree that the Palestinians deserve Hamas and Fatah, but I would go a step further - they deserve the misery taking place in Gaza right now. By deserve I don't mean that each individual Gazan is necessarily evil, but that for all the West's revulsion at the concept of collective punishment, war is at its heart a collective punishment, and the Palestinians have been at war with Israel for decades. Not that I really approve of the USA's approach to Cuba, but suppose Cuba's economy was as desperate as Gaza's is today. Would the USA really be trying to boost their economy? Hardly. You don't help your enemies that way - you can help them after they lose, ala the Marshall plan, but giving them aid while they are still committed to fighting you is ridiculous, even if innocent individual citizens of that enemy state are suffering. And unlike the USA-Cuba example, where the enmity is somewhat ridiculous and a historical anachronism, the Palestinians in general and especially Hamas in specific are genuinely enemies of Israel. Of course Israel doesn't feel any guilt about not helping the Gazan economy. They are sending in food aid - as today's NYT article conceded, “There is no starvation in Gaza.” Only the most naively liberal fools (not that there aren't plenty of conservative fools, but this particular strain of idiocy seems to be a liberal phenomenon) could genuinely fault Israel for not caring to open the crossings.

Posted by: Michael at July 18, 2007 12:18 PM

I'm disappointed in Michael Oren. General Assembly resolution 194 provides that there is room to allow Arab refugees from Israel in the 1947-49 war "who so desire to return to their homes as soon as possible and to live at peace with their neighbors" [vivre en paix avec leurs voisins-- I translated from the French]. This boils down to meaning: IF [and that's a big IF] they are ready and willing to live at peace with the Jews, there is room to allow them to return to their homes. There is no blanket permission or edict of return here.

Posted by: Eliyahu at July 18, 2007 12:32 PM

Furthermore, General Assembly resolutions like 194 are merely recommendations and do not have any binding force according to the UN charter.

Responding to Michael above. Before the Six Day War of 1967, the crossings between Egyptian-controlled Gaza and Israeli held territory were closed to all but some diplomats and agents of international organizations, charities, etc. Goods did not cross the armistice line except for the personal property of the internationals and diplomats and goods for their use. If people are so much against any post-1967 Israeli "occupation," why should they complain about restoration of the status quo ante 1967 ???

Posted by: Eliyahu at July 18, 2007 12:38 PM


the world blames israel no matter what it does, the blame does not have a rational specific policy base. therefore, it is suicidal idiocy to provide any support to the gazans, because it will not be recognized and appreciated anyway, either by the pals or by the world. but then, that's hardly the only israeli idiocy right now.


that's not the main reason to be disappointed. it's the importance given to speeches by ignoring history and deeds.

Posted by: fp at July 18, 2007 12:41 PM

Isn't it curious how everybody assumes Israel should supply the Gaza Palestinians with food and medicine? Why not Egypt? The Egyptians should put their money with their mouth is. If they love their brothers so much, why not take care of them?

Posted by: Zak at July 18, 2007 02:31 PM

you don't understand.

the egyptians are arabs, not jews. and it's ok for the arabs to oppress and kill their own. it's ok even non-arabs do it, as long as it's not the jews.

what's governing is not care for the pals, it's judeophobia. doesn't that explain it?

Posted by: fp at July 18, 2007 02:36 PM

But at least somebody here's being honest:

that trying to meet Palestinian demands and indulging Israel are incompatible, doomed objectives.

(Where "indulging Israel" means agreeing that Israel has a right to exist; and "Palestinian demands" (at least as far as the "moderate" are concerned) means a. that Israel return to the May 1967 borders; b. that E. Jerusalem be given over to Palestinian sovereignty (actually part of "a."; and c. that the Palestinian refugees be repatriated to within pre-May 1967 Israel. And it must be stressed that these are the demands of the "moderates".)

This has been precisely the point all along.

And it is the reason why Oslo was doomed to fail from the outset.

And it is the reason why hostilities must continue until either the Palestinians or the Israelis are toast.

Or both---which is what Iran is currently working on, given that the eradication of Israel is well worth a lot of grief (if necessary); and the Palestinians---even the Palestinians themselves would seem to agree---are expendable anyway.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at July 19, 2007 05:51 AM

fp is entirely correct. The Egyptians, Saudis, Syrians, Iraqis, Jordanians, Iranians, et al couldn't give a flying whoop about the Palestinians. They have used them to fight with the Israelis while shunning them from their own nations. The Palestinians are essentially Jordanians and should be absorbed by Jordan. But NOOOOOOOO, they are treated as lesser arabs and told to go elsewhere. To be honest, who would want Yasser Arafat or Hamas as a constituent? The Palestinians have reciprocated the love of the brothers and sisters by acting like the scum they are treated. SAD! Arab tribalism is a curse in the modern world.

Posted by: John at July 19, 2007 07:49 AM


as edgar pointed out, the west bankers ARE jordanian and the gazans ARE egyptians.

and all countries that had pals got rid of them: black september in jordan, arafat in lebanon, kuweit after the 1st gulf war.

look what's happening now in lebanon. it could happen in any and al given upl "refugee" camps, part. of the right of return is given up.

Posted by: fp at July 19, 2007 09:35 AM

I am laboring under the impression that although Gaza was taken from Egypt, the average Gazan traces their ancestory back through Jordan as a result of the relatively recent influx (last 15 years) of Paleos into Gaza. But the point is moot; Egypt doesn't want them and neither does Jordan. That leaves either Israel absorbing both territories (geographically neat and tidy) or the Paleos growing up into responsible, civic-minded, citizens ( which would seem miraculous).

Quite the Gordian Knot.

Posted by: John at July 19, 2007 11:17 AM

i've read recently that the west bankers
look down on the gazans and do not want much association with them. however, as usual, when it comes to israel, they claim they're one people. iow, about the only thing that unites the arabs -- all of them, not just the pals -- is israel.

it's not a guardian knot, it's a disaster brought about by the west's support of the pals and israeli incompetence. it is the logical conclusion of the "peace process". it couldn't have ended any other way, and it was predicted so.
turns out arafat was smart and the west/israel dumb.

here's a must read:


Posted by: fp at July 19, 2007 11:36 AM

Perhaps if th people of Gaza were not starving they would hate Israel a bit less

Posted by: John Ryan at July 20, 2007 02:58 PM

The New York Sun ??? That paper has a paid circulation of less than 20,000

Posted by: John Ryan at July 20, 2007 03:00 PM


Perhaps if the Gazans were smuggling food instead of weapons they wouldn't be starving.

In fact the smuggling of weapons vs food is proof they aren't starving.

I'm hoping starvation comes soon and with it a change in priorities.

Posted by: M. Simon at July 21, 2007 10:02 PM
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