July 14, 2009

A Smoldering Disaffection with the President's Policy

Marty Peretz, editor-in-chief of The New Republic, voted for President Barack Obama as you'd expect from the boss at a left-leaning magazine. But he has some complaints about the president's foreign policy, as do I. (I more or less approve so far of Obama's handling of Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan.)

Frankly, I am sick and tired of President Obama's eldering--more accurately, hectoring--Israel's leaders. It is, after all, they whose country is the target of an armed and ideological cyclone that Obama has done precious little to ease. He brought nothing back from Riyadh and Cairo, absolutely nothing except the conviction of the Arab leaders that they need do nothing but sit and wait until the president squeezes one concession after another out of Jerusalem. Oops, I apologize. Maybe I should still say Tel Aviv. In any case, waiting is exactly what they are doing. Palestinian President Abbas has prided himself in doing just that. He had said so, as I pointed out in this space a few weeks ago.

Maybe you weren't offended by Obama's advice to Israel, via some 15 American Jewish leaders, that it had to "engage in serious self-reflection," as if it took its perils frivolously. But I know many Democrats who are; they're just a bit intimidated to say so.

I also know Democrats who voted for Barack Obama who think his Israel policy is obnoxious and are afraid to say so out loud. We'll see how much longer that lasts.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at July 14, 2009 8:35 PM
Comments

Why are people surprised? There's nothing here that hasn't been in the "Chicago" playbook of the democrats for decades. Once they got back to power they were going to "push."

The mistake Americans made? First of all they have no idea how much money it takes to get elected. (The "bank" is Saudi Arabia.) So, it wasn't just the Bush family that was TOLD there was an agenda.

As to Irak, you and I are not on the same page. I think it fails militarily, because American marines should not be digging sewers. And, supplying textbooks. To hostile natives. At some point this just comes tumbling down. (At great costs to our treasury).

Some ask, well "why didn't Obama pull troops out, already?" And, the answer is that there are no jobs right now. And, a lot of people who have jobs are barely employed; doing temporary work.

The raid on the American has been enormous. And, this is "just for starters." So if there are democrats beginning to get unhappy with Obama; then they have no memories at all of Jimmy Carter.

This too shall pass. And, if we're lucky? The Saud's will lose this part of their big gamble, too. I don't see Israel picking up half a million people and pushing them to live elsewhere. It didn't even work for those who were removed from Gaza.

Sure. Gaza seemed brilliant at the time. But it led Arik Sharon to stroke. And, then, what does it mean to vote, and both parties are a disgrace?

Posted by: Carol_Herman Author Profile Page at July 14, 2009 10:49 PM

I'd like to know if YOU think his Israel policy is obnoxious. And if so, why.

I'd also like to know how much more of the West Bank you believe it is reasonable for Israel to build upon while it waits for a Palestinian peace partner.

Posted by: markus Author Profile Page at July 14, 2009 11:18 PM

Markus: I'd like to know if YOU think his Israel policy is obnoxious.

Yes.

And if so, why.

Because it's causing a gratuitous rift with an ally.

I'd also like to know how much more of the West Bank you believe it is reasonable for Israel to build upon while it waits for a Palestinian peace partner.

Basically, none of it. Except the slivers that everyone knows will be part of Israel anyway after a two-state solution and a land swap.

Do you think it's reasonable for the United States to forbid building anything whatsoever in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City? The Obama Administration is doing that, you know. In the Jewish Quarter, of all places. That's just absurd.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 14, 2009 11:54 PM

Carol Herman: Some ask, well "why didn't Obama pull troops out, already?" And, the answer is that there are no jobs right now.

American military personnel don't get fired when they come home from Iraq.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 14, 2009 11:59 PM

I didn't vote for Obama because I'm still technically an Israeli citizen and not an American one. But he's doing the right thing.

Posted by: beeaar Author Profile Page at July 15, 2009 12:11 AM

The other day I read something very interesting. It said "the stock market doesn't cause Depressions. What causes Depression is UNemployment.

It's true that a 10% of unemployment, in some countries, doesn't even spell trouble. Heck, in Iran the unemployment numbers hovers much higher.

But in America, this time (unlike the 1930s),we have safety nets. Unemployment insurance. And, people who become willing to do "temporary work." Just to make ends meet.

Even after WW2, at the end of the conflict, interestingly enough the women who went to work and covered for the men who were fighting; were told to go home. Economics is like the tides. You just don't want to make bad things worse. Herbert Hoover, for one, not only made bad things worse; because he aimed at FDR. Threatening to do nothing if FDR didn't join his administration. So? FDR wasn't inaugurated unitl the Middle of March. While at the Treasury, FDR got started on day one, because Hoover's Treasury people had put the bank holiday, and other choices, in place.

What stands out for me however, is that Obama is coming up with a dry well in Riyadh. IF he got "something" to show the Israelis there's a possibility for the arabs to accept the Jewish state, Obama would be on a roll.

Does the passing of a few warships through the Canal mean there's been a major breakthrough? The studied art of diplomacy is to do nothing.

Posted by: Carol_Herman Author Profile Page at July 15, 2009 12:49 AM

Stick to the topic at hand, Carol. I remember having to force you out of here years ago for turning my comment section into your own personal blog about whatever random topic you thought was interesting at the time.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 15, 2009 1:05 AM

I think Obama's tough love policy towards Israel is a requirement for peace. Israeli intransigence has been as big an obstacle to peace as the Palestinian hardliners all or nothing approach. It's a welcome change from the hopelessly biased Bush policies, which failed miserably. I just hope that Obama shows equally tough love towards the Palestinians as well.

Posted by: EmbersFire Author Profile Page at July 15, 2009 5:39 AM

It does seem absurd to lecture Jews on the need for self-reflection.

Posted by: Solomon2 Author Profile Page at July 15, 2009 6:02 AM
There are a couple of other problems with Obama's policy regarding Israel, but I think Professor Barry Rubin points out one of the main ones. Obama's current policy reinforces
the four main illusions regarding the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the ideas that: peace is possible in the not-distant future; that there’s a Palestinian negotiating partner which wants a two-state solution; that there’s a serious Palestinian negotiating partner capable of reaching and implementing an agreement; and that the failure to end the conflict is due to Israel.
regardless of the reality on the ground.

Additionally, as Mahmoud Abbas has publicly said in an interview with the Washington Post, and Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat reiterated recently, all Obama has managed to do since his Cairo speech and visit to Riyadh to is convince Palestinian and Arab leaders to dig in their heels and wait for Obama to graciously deliver some more concessions from Israel. They have absolutely zero incentive to budge from their positions as they see Israel constantly bend over backwards to try and end this conflict.

Instead of bringing this conflict closer to a resolution, all Obama has managed to do thus far is alienate an ally and placate the stubborn leaders who insist on perpetuating the conflict.

Posted by: jooliz Author Profile Page at July 15, 2009 7:24 AM

Thanks for honesty, Michael. I love you man and I'm not harping on you, but just what the hell did people expect? What did you expect? He said what he was going to do. Everything he is doing now, from spending us into oblivion to talky talk with the Iranian thugs, to pressing Israel for concessions, he said he would do. He said he would socialize medical care, and he is going to do it. He told us what he would do. All of it. Why is anyone surprised? Really.

As for Afghanistan, watch, wait and see. Too few troops, too few troops, too few troops, too much reliance on a fledgling ANA that cannot accomplish the mission yet and won't be able to for another decade. We saw it before in Iraq, we'll see it in Afghanistan. Wait and see. He wants to implement policy that comes straight from CNAS and pull some magic strings called "population-centric COIN" (repeated again and again along with other incantations), and those magic words will turn the campaign around in "resonably short order" (like Jim Jones recently said). But the incantations won't work. Too few troops, too few troops ...

Posted by: Herschel Smith Author Profile Page at July 15, 2009 7:45 AM

Israeli intransigence? What have the paleos given up lately. Cause I can name a few things the Israelis have, and they got rockets up the @ss for it.

This conflict proves only one thing-- there is no such thing as peace unless there is first victory. 60 years of conflict is all the proof you need.

And why the hell do these pro-Israel Jews keep voting Democrat? Can somebody please explain that to me. Idiots.

Posted by: Carlos Author Profile Page at July 15, 2009 7:49 AM

I also know plenty of Republicans who hoped Obama would have the guts to stop kow-towing to Israel. They've been disappointed so far. Our relationship with Israel is based completely on emotion and/or religion not logic - 60 years of supporting Israel has not provided any concrete benefits to the American people, or the Middle East, whatsoever. Is Israel a major trading partner? No, in fact it's a client state that requires constant US funding to prop it up. Does Israel provide us intelligence? Yes, but at the cost of Israelis spying on us, and providing back channel intel to Russia, since Israel is now riddled with Russian agents. In a world without Israel, Iran would probably be a major US ally, because they are always looking for protection from Russia. Iran - with its oil wealth, population and long history of cultural dominance in the Middle East - would seem to be a better strategic play than a small country with 60 years of history and antagonistic relationship with the rest of the region. Nixon and Baker understood this, the GOP began to go wrong when it abandoned realism.

And sadly Israel itself is becoming increasingly untenable as a country anyway - the only populations that are growing are the Palestinians, who hate Israel, the Ultraorthodox Jews who don't really share Western values, and Russian immigrants. What kind of future does a nation like that have? The big task for the US over the next 30 years will be how to disentangle itself from the Israeli disaster with as little fall out as possible.

Posted by: Dyadya Vanya Author Profile Page at July 15, 2009 8:13 AM

Yes, Michael, it is your blog. And, I thank you for having a blog that tapes into the Mideast region with points of view usually not reported elsewhere. Or with such speed.

As to "my going off topic," what I interpreted you had said was the Obama is not concerned about our unemployment, since returning soldiers stay employed in the military. But not all of them do.

I also remember Vietnam Vets, and Gulf War 1 vets, saying it was very difficult to readjust to the jobs market, after they were discharged.

Yes. I also think Obama can pick and choose between the plans the Pentagon draws up. And, what we see are the choices that he's willing to incorporate. In an area that shredded Bush #43's legacy.

I am also deeply concerned that the press doesn't report issues, fairly. And, one of these is the total avoidance of mentioning the Saud's. Who have a large stake in "gaining something" from this American president. (Something that looks willingly given.) Why would the Saud's need Isreal moving out of the West Bank as soon as possible; when nothing in the nature of peace has been shown to Israelis from the Sunni side of the table. (Does Obama press? Oh, yes.) And, if there are stalls on the pressure Israel faces, it probably comes from not giving Obama enough peaceful offerings of trade and relations, that would be key to a peaceful solution.)

The Saud's meanwhile are under the gun. The Shi'ites, whom they controlled haven't buckled. In Iraq, their own man has replaced Sadam. And, there's strong connections between Maliki and Iran. At least the Iran run by Ahmadinijad.

What would the Saud's gain if Israel were finally pushed? The publicity of carving Israel in half! The "street word" that among arabs would include "done by Riyadh," as the quotable trump card.

When history is playing itself out, we just don't know outcomes. And, presidents are supposed to "test" (or poll), for reading how citizens are reacting to policy. I never knew that it made sense to state "Mission Accomplished." When finally all the facts fall into place.

That's why I read your blog. That's why I'm glad you brought up Spencer's counter arguments. And, that's also why I know "J Street" is George Soros' make believe representation for American Jewry. Did you know I know no one who supports "J Street." It's not grass roots.

Anyway, thanks for listening. I hope things work out well in the long run. (But my confidence has been shattered by Iraq and Afghanistan.) We should have been out of the woods by now.

Posted by: Carol_Herman Author Profile Page at July 15, 2009 8:45 AM

Well, as a pro-Israel DEmocrat who voted for Obama, while my concern doesn't reach the level of some, I do think there is a legit point about how Obama seems to focus more on Israeli settlements, and less on the work the Palestinians have to do, not to mention the threat of terror from Hamas, Hezbollah, etc.

I don't doubt Obama understands the threat, as his policy in Lebanon and elsewhere show, and I certain;y don't think Obama is prepared to sell Israel out, but one wonders why all most of of the "tough love" so far, seems to be for Israel.

Just sayin.

Posted by: Rafique Author Profile Page at July 15, 2009 8:53 AM

[i]Is Israel a major trading partner? No, in fact it's a client state that requires constant US funding to prop it up.[/i]

So much B.S. in one post. Israel not a major trading partner? Israel ranks 19th. Not major enough for you?

How did Israel survive before the U.S. starting "propping it up"? The answer is quite well. Well enough to beat the combined armies of Arabia. The "aid" the U.S. funnels to Israel comes right back to the U.S. in the form of arms purchases, and other strings attached. In effect, it's a subsidy for American jobs.

Iran was a major U.S. ally before the mullahs. It will be a major U.S. ally again when the mullahs are gone. That's true regardless of Israel. Cutting Israel lose will not ingratiate the mullahs to us as their power depends on the existence of a Great Satan.

Posted by: Carlos Author Profile Page at July 15, 2009 9:22 AM

Michael hits it again, especially in light of today’s news.. While Hillary Clinton is due to speak on her new tough thrust at foreign policy after months of concern by her supporters, Obama at the same time plans to speak on healthcare, a topic Hillary was a leader in before she was pushed out of the Senate. Ah the irony. This might be a clear sign of tension brewing in the O-team and Israel is likely one major area of conflict.

It is interesting that Israel is preparing to test their Arrow system with America in the Pacific soon. This test will also deploy the combined ABM systems of the US and Israel. Again, this seems to indicate the split in direction at the higher levels of government.

Carol, we should be out of the woods in Iraq and Afghanistan by now? Perhaps you don't read Spencer's historical reviews enough. If my memory serves me correctly, Coles anticipated a decade long struggle in Iraq including a partition. He said this within days of our invasion. And the very same intellectuals who supported the Powell Doctrine (but never demanded the US to send 400,000 troops to Iraq or Afghanistan) think that peace there can be achieved without overwhelming force and a Pakistan capable of closing their borders. You assert things without any evidence your speculation makes rational sense.

And please note that objections towards Obama's policy that Totten mentions above come from Obama’s supporters. Perhaps if your wing showed such self-criticism of positions, you would be more credible, yes?

Posted by: maxtrue Author Profile Page at July 15, 2009 9:44 AM

Yes, Vanya the GOP should have followed Nixon. That's the ticket.

I think that smart observation puts your comments into perspective.

Posted by: maxtrue Author Profile Page at July 15, 2009 9:48 AM

"60 years of supporting Israel has not provided any concrete benefits to the American people, or the Middle East"

At very least Israel kept Soviet proxies at bay and allowed US to keep relatively small presence in ME.

"In a world without Israel, Iran would probably be a major US ally"

1979 Iranian revolution comes to mind.

Dyadya Vanya, there is much more, I am just too lazy today.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at July 15, 2009 10:40 AM

It’s long past time the US got tough with Israel. Those illegal settlements must come down, period. Or else the aid stops. They’ve jerked us around long enough.

And while we’re at it, we must stop propping up the Palestinians with all the aid in cash and services. They have received more aid per capita than any other people in the world. The result is that their area is a welfare slum overrun with noxious pathologies and corrupt and thieving leaders. Once your income is guaranteed, there’s no incentive to get your society in order. Kick them off the 60 year old gravy train and tell them to build an independent economy.

Posted by: Boojum Author Profile Page at July 15, 2009 10:40 AM

Vanya;

60 years of supporting Israel has not provided any concrete benefits to the American people, or the Middle East, whatsoever

The US didn’t seriously support Israel until the mid 1970s when it supplied it during one of the Arab wars. America had little to do with the creation of Israel. The Soviet Union was a much stronger supporter of Israel in its early years than the US, which was rather negligent of it.

No, in fact it's a client state that requires constant US funding to prop it up

Israel largely funds itself through its better organized economy and more productive democracy. It is entirely correct for America to support the only functional democracy in the Middle East and to defend itself against the murderous religious bigotry of its neighbors

Posted by: Boojum Author Profile Page at July 15, 2009 10:49 AM

Those illegal settlements must come down, period.

No doubt, but which settlements are illegal? Peretz is deploring the inflexibility of Obama's stance, not its general principle.

Posted by: johnchen Author Profile Page at July 15, 2009 11:13 AM

Why are they called "settlements" rather than "villages" or "towns"?

Posted by: Solomon2 Author Profile Page at July 15, 2009 11:15 AM

Herschel Smith: I love you man and I'm not harping on you, but just what the hell did people expect? What did you expect?

I expected slightly worse, actually. I didn't vote for him. I voted for Hillary Clinton in the primary and for John McCain in the general.

He wants to implement policy that comes straight from CNAS and pull some magic strings called "population-centric COIN"

What's wrong with that? This is how Petraeus turned around the war in Iraq. I don't know if it will work in Afghanistan. It might not. But it worked extremely well in Iraq. I'm with Obama and the folks at CNAS on this one.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 15, 2009 11:33 AM

Because “settlements” were built on captured territory that was part of the understood land for peace that Rabin supported.

Among the troubling things is that Obama has not come out and supported a "Jewish" State as other administrations have giving encouragement to Arabs that a return of all they say lived on Israeli territory can destroy Jewish control. Media rarely mentions those “Arabs” that have moved into Gaza and the West Bank that have little proof they ever lived there. The administration also suggests that all settlements will eventually be dismantled which has not been a past US position. Perhaps Hillary can remind Obama of what the map they offered Arafat looked like.

To be historically correct, Israel stated before the peace accord with Egypt and Jordan, those Arab nations not willing to make peace would be punished by the slow annexation of their captured territory. This obviously applies to Palestinians as well. What nation would incur the cost of fifty years of war and defense in a struggle with enemy "victims" and not demand a penalty? Perhaps if Palestinians wish to reimburse the Israelis for ALL their blood and treasure estimated in 2009 dollars, or shekels, Israel can return ALL the settlements and buy back the important ones.

Posted by: maxtrue Author Profile Page at July 15, 2009 11:36 AM

Is the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem a "settlement"? Obama thinks so. Hamas must be chuckling at that one.

Pressure on settlements isn't the problem. The problem is the definition of "settlement."

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 15, 2009 11:46 AM

Obama is obviously wrong. The UN in 1948 decided the original territorial boundaries of the State of Israel.

Obama has exceeded my foreign policies expectations so far, but my bar was rather low based on his record and pandering to the Left. I campaigned for Hillary.

I am hoping she can improve his report card with a real move towards the center, a place some Democrats believe they have purged from their party.

The middle IS a lonely place, isn't it?

Posted by: maxtrue Author Profile Page at July 15, 2009 12:17 PM

Michael,

The Iraq campaign was very complicated, and what Petraeus did or didn't do had little to nothing to do with what happened in Anbar. Further, Anbar was in the process of being won alongside the awakening, not after it. I'll send a note on this because I don't want to comment further in a public forum.

As for pop-centric COIN, this requires nuance. There is obvious robust debate as to stages of COIN and what is required when. The CNAS version of pop-centric COIN is a singular focus (Clausewitz - COG), versus what I feel is necessary, multiple lines of effort:

http://www.captainsjournal.com/2008/03/03/center-of-gravity-versus-lines-of-effort-in-coin/

Thus they want to protect the population VERSUS hunting the enemy. I claim it is not an EITHER-OR, but a BOTH-AND. Also, if you will take notice of what happened in Iraq under Odierno and Petraeus, you will notice that they also conducted a BOTH-AND campaign, not what CNAS sees as an EITHER-OR campaign.

Finally, the CNAS version of this, if you have been following, lands heavy in the laps of the ANA. They won't be ready for this for another decade.

More in an e-mail later.

V/r,

HPS

Posted by: Herschel Smith Author Profile Page at July 15, 2009 12:57 PM

Michael,

The Iraq campaign was very complicated, and what Petraeus did or didn't do had little to nothing to do with what happened in Anbar. Further, Anbar was in the process of being won alongside the awakening, not after it. I'll send a note on this because I don't want to comment further in a public forum.

As for pop-centric COIN, this requires nuance. There is obvious robust debate as to stages of COIN and what is required when. The CNAS version of pop-centric COIN is a singular focus (Clausewitz - COG), versus what I feel is necessary, multiple lines of effort:

Note here: I now see that there is a problem with comments that include a URL. Instead of providing the link, please Google "lines of effort" to see my article on Clausewitz v. lines of effort.

Thus they want to protect the population VERSUS hunting the enemy. I claim it is not an EITHER-OR, but a BOTH-AND. Also, if you will take notice of what happened in Iraq under Odierno and Petraeus, you will notice that they also conducted a BOTH-AND campaign, not what CNAS sees as an EITHER-OR campaign.

Finally, the CNAS version of this, if you have been following, lands heavy in the laps of the ANA. They won't be ready for this for another decade.

More in an e-mail later.

V/r,

HPS

Posted by: Herschel Smith Author Profile Page at July 15, 2009 12:58 PM

I voted for him, as you know (someday I'll get that beer) and I have already let him know openly twice that I dislike the tone he's taking in public about Israel, and I have let my congressman and Senators know that too. OTOH, I have heard rumors that a message was also quietly delivered to Abbas not to get stupider and greedier.

I think his handling of Afghanistan etc so far tends to support my hopeful view that he's not an idiot or an ideologue, and that he's looking for the razor thin leverage points. I don't think he hates Israel at all, but he does want Israelis to reach some decision about 'greater Israel.' The code for that is 'settlements.' Until that point, it's all wheel-spinning, anyhow.

As you have described and I have experienced, the more time you actually spend in the vicinity,the less of a path you can imagine through the mine-studded Israeli-Arab maze. Therefore, if Obama feels any hope, he is unrealistic.

Posted by: AZZenny Author Profile Page at July 15, 2009 10:26 PM

Michael,

Obama would not be putting the pressure on Israel that you find obnoxious if the current Israeli government were willing to carry out the very policies that you say you support: not building additional settlements. This debate is not about building in the Jewish quarter, it is about the drive to create new facts on the ground, specifically the drive to expand the Jewish population around eastern Jerusalem in order to ensure that its Arab neighborhoods are "off the table" in any final-status negotiations.

You claim you want Israel to behave in a certain way -- not building further settlements -- but when an American President seeks to use our leverage as that nation's biggest ally to actually encourage the Israeli government to behave in its own self-interest by saying no to its own extremists, you cry foul.

Posted by: markus Author Profile Page at July 16, 2009 6:57 AM

It is cheaper to pay-off Jordan and Egypt to annex WB and Gaza respectively. Price and actual purchase conditions can be negotiated with Israel to mutual satisfaction.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at July 16, 2009 10:31 AM

Make Israel behave in its own interests?

There are several things you leave out of your picture Markus. 1. Settlements are to be dealt with at the conclusion of final negotiations. Read all the agreements including Oslo. 2. There is no international prohibition of Jews living where they have traditionally lived. Before the War of Independence, were there Jews living in the West Bank and Gaza? And isn't it silly to be complaining about Israelis enlarging their foot print in places where they lived before Arabs kicked them out when millions of Jews were driven out of Muslim nations without compensation? 3. Israeli settlements did not displace Arabs so will Jews not be allowed to live in a Palestinian State as more than a million Arabs are Israeli citizens? Should we call these Israeli Arab villages, settlements? 4. The Clinton map included some settlements as part of Israel. Netanyahu has indicated he would trade Israeli land for new settlements. Has Obama told Bill Clinton he was wrong? 5. Past administrations both Democratic and Republican have supported "some" settlements as Clinton's map offered to Arafat shows. It was very clear from Israel’s public statements after 1967 that if Palestinians or Arab nations refused to negotiate peace, the price would be slow annexation of captured territory. What compensation does Israel get for the 60 years of lost blood and treasure fighting for their survival against aggressive “victims”?

So I think your picture is less than accurate Markus, but you miss the real cause of objections by a growing number of Americans to present administration policy. The obnoxious thing is not so much the pressure on the settlements (and I think new settlements ARE counter productive), but 1. Making US opposition to Iranian threats contingent on Israel yielding to the US on settlements in the form presented by Washington. This is in NO ONES INTEREST. 2. Demanding that a Palestinian State be created very soon despite even a pretense of real negotiating partners. This is absurd. 3. Zero pressure by the US in any substantive form to even repeal Palestinian Charters calling for the destruction of Israel. This would be hilarious if not profoundly disturbing. If you are unclear about this I happily refer you to Spencer’s blog at Jihad Watch. He makes it his mission to post many of the objectionable things Israel's enemies are saying and doing.

It is the balance of policy that is objectionable to even many Obama supporters. We are talking about a US ally soon to be testing missile defense with the US in the Pacific. We are talking about a nation subjected to 60 years of hostility that was not a result of any settlements. We are talking about a nation still under threat from militant Palestinian groups with additional threats from AQ and Iranian backed Hizb'Allah.

What is objectionable is for Obama to think peace can be achieved between Palestinians and Israelis without an end to outside interference and the honest desire of Palestinians to live side by side with a Jewish State. It is intellectually dishonest to make settlements the cause of Arab and Shia militancy towards Israel’s existence. As other Israeli leadership has shown, settlements can be removed if need be. Rabin died making that very clear.

So I will continue to cry foul.

Posted by: maxtrue Author Profile Page at July 16, 2009 10:54 AM

Treating Israel as the 51st state didn't do any good. But you folks who think that treatment is appropriate shouldn't be so worried about Obama's weak noises. Israel will continue to do what Israel does, and Obama doesn't have the balls to change that. Frankly Obama has made a mistake in making an unresolvable conflict in a tiny irrelevant backwater such a priority.

Posted by: Big Jilm Author Profile Page at July 16, 2009 3:08 PM

There are three major positions among Palestinians for a final settlement with Israel:

1) 1967 borders with land swaps of equal value + compensation for all confiscated land (or their return) purchased at below market prices or no price at all (through eminent domain laws) + limited right of return to Israel proper + water rights {Fatah position}

2) UN 1948 partition plan with land swaps of equal value + compensation for all confiscated land (or their return) purchased at below market prices or no price at all (through eminent domain laws) + right of return to Israel proper + water rights {Hamas might settle for this}

3) Extending Israeli citizenship to all Palestinians + unlimited right of return + equality and civil rights + compensation for all confiscated land purchased at below market prices or no price at all (through eminent domain laws, but only for privately held land . . . not to the Palestinian government since there won't be one)
(Hamas' defacto position)

Many Palestinians are not really interested in "ending the occupation" as much as they are interested in reunification and civil rights; even though they don't phrase it like that. In one public survey, 53% of all Palestinians favored a one state solution.

What is wrong with being pro Palestinian? Pro Palestinian isn't the same as anti Israeli.

Posted by: anand Author Profile Page at July 16, 2009 5:32 PM

Anand wrote:

Many Palestinians are not really interested in "ending the occupation" as much as they are interested in reunification and civil rights; even though they don't phrase it like that. In one public survey, 53% of all Palestinians favored a one state solution. What is wrong with being pro Palestinian? Pro Palestinian isn't the same as anti Israeli.

It is if you believe that "unification" and the "one state solution" is your definition of being 'pro-Palestinian'.

Those are euphemisms for "Death To Israel".

The majority of Israelis (read: Jews) fought for independence (and are still fighting for it, actually) because they want (and have every right) to remain a majority in their historic national homeland.

What part about the root cause of this conflict do you not understand? The part about the Arabs rejecting Jewish self-determination or the part about Arabs rejecting Jewish self-determination?

Posted by: Li'l Mamzer Author Profile Page at July 16, 2009 5:57 PM

"Those are euphemisms for "Death To Israel"."

That is exactly why anand is "pro-Palestinian". He has consistently demonized Jews and enthusiastically supported groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah whose organizing principle is the extermination of Jews.

Posted by: Gary Rosen Author Profile Page at July 17, 2009 1:13 AM

The majority of Israelis (read: Jews) fought for independence (and are still fighting for it, actually) because they want (and have every right) to remain a majority in their historic national homeland.

This is, of course, complete nonsense. Aside from the fact that ethnicity-based nationhood is an anachronism, there's about a 1500-year gap in that "historic national homeland."

Posted by: Big Jilm Author Profile Page at July 17, 2009 6:53 AM

"ethnicity-based nationhood is an anachronism"

No its not, despite the effort of many in the West to insist this is the case for everyone. Despite the efforts of many Jews to insist this is the case for everyone besides Jews. And despite the efforts of many anti-Semites to insist this is the case for Jews, and Jews only.

In fact, a culturally homogeneous state is often the most decent way of organizing a political state. Look at the opposite. Lebanaon, for instance, were they can't conduct a census for fear of starting a civil war. Look at all the repression necessary to prvent self-determination all over the world, in Darfur, Kosovo, Republic of Srpska, Xianging, Tibet, Kurdistan -- the list goes on and on.

Posted by: markus Author Profile Page at July 17, 2009 10:09 AM

markus, I strongly disagree. Diversity facilitates economic growth (technological innovation) and advancements in culture, art and the quality of living more generally.

Diversity is a major benefit to the US, India, Canada, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Dubai, New Zealand, and many other successful nations and regions. {I think Switzerland is a European example of a country that encourages immigration.}

For that matter, much of Israel's high tech success comes from having people from so many parts of the world (23% of them being Palestinian.) Israel would benefit greatly from greater immigration of the best and brightest. Expatriate Palestinians (returning to Israel) could contribute greatly to Israel's knowledge industries, as students in Israeli colleges, and in many other aspects of Israeli life. It is a travesty that it is easier for a South Korean to get a work visa for Israel than it is for a Palestinian (from the occupied territories or other Arab countries.)

Li'l Mamzer, why does it matter what faith people have? That is a very "unAmerican" concept. Do not underestimate the soft power of Israeli culture and business on Palestinians. Palestinians also aspire to be like or exceed Israeli entrepreneurs such as Shai Agassi ( http:// shaiagassi.typepad.com) They also aspire to lead and found Venture Capital firms as or more successful than Israel's VCs. They also aspire to be valedictorians, leading researchers and professors at Israel's top universities. They also aspire to found institutions (education, cultural, nonprofit, religious and business) that adopt and improve upon the best practices of their Israeli counterparts.

Do you really think the Palestinians want all Israelis of the Jewish faith to leave Palestine and Israel? Don't you think the Palestinians would want as many successful non Palestinians as possible to pay taxes to their government, facilitate business development and innovation in their land, and contribute to the many other facets of Palestine?

Posted by: anand Author Profile Page at July 17, 2009 12:09 PM

"Diversity facilitates economic growth (technological innovation) and advancements in culture, art and the quality of living more generally."

Yes and no.

Economic growth: No. See California, 2009. Even when there is diversity and growth, it's not clear that the former caused the latter. Both India and China have had robust growth in recent years, despite opposing degrees of diversity.

(technological innovation): you may be correct here in some cases. But homogeneous Japan has had amazing innovations. A mixture of influence can create some exciting synergies, but I don't think this is more value than a homogeneous country like Japan with a better stock of people overall.

culture: True. Especially regarding food!

Art: Partially true.

Quality of living: No way. Diversity breeds conflict and mistrust. People living in diverse neighborhood and cities trust one another less and are less involved in civic life. In the USA, the standard measures of quality of life directly correlate with the percentage of white people that make it up. The less diversity there is, the higher is the quality of life index.

Posted by: markus Author Profile Page at July 17, 2009 1:02 PM

It is a travesty that it is easier for a South Korean to get a work visa for Israel than it is for a Palestinian (from the occupied territories or other Arab countries)

Oh Christ, where to go with this? Anand, you've never been to either Israel or the West Bank, have you? I mean, you're just talking out your ass as usual?

It is a travesty that it is easier for a rich man to gain entrance into heaven than for an Israeli Nobel Prize winner to get into Lebanon, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Algeria, and soon perhaps, the UK.

... than for an Israeli entrepreneur to enter the West Bank.

... than for an Israel-trained Arab professional to get work back home in Jordan, Egypt, etc.

... than for an American scholar or entrepreneur with an Israeli stamp in his/her passport to get into most Arab countries.


Israel IS a diverse country, it has over 100 ethnicities represented. To deride it as a nation formulated on ethnic lines is blithering idiocy.

Judaism is not a racial characteristic, it is a diverse religious and cultural belief system one can be born into, or one can convert to, but one that will still get you prejudice or persecution over much of the world. What Israel is about is allowing Jews regardless of ethnicity or skin color to live openly and freely, and at times, safely. What a freaking anachronism, really!

The 'Territories' on the contrary, are most certainly not diverse, and I've been there -- they do not want to be diverse. They barely tolerate Christian Arabs, allowing only a few churches to remain for worship,and mainly as tourist attractions; Israel has the only increasing Christian population in the Middle East last I looked.

Certainly they will not tolerate Jewish citizens or synagogues, if they ever have their own Palestinian state. Allowing Israelis to stay as part of the tax base? I snorted iced tea all over the keyboard on that one.


Take your 'purity of essence' accusations and kumbaya fantasies elsewhere.

Posted by: AZZenny Author Profile Page at July 17, 2009 2:21 PM

Anand: It is a travesty that it is easier for a South Korean to get a work visa for Israel than it is for a Palestinian

I really shouldn't have to explain to you why this is the case, but I'll give you a hint. The number of South Koreans who have committed acts of terrorism against Israelis is zero.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 17, 2009 2:32 PM

I would imagine that Palestinians find the insinuation that a large proportion of them are terrorists to be very offensive. Should Palestinians be greatly restricted from living in and visiting the US? I would note that American Palestinians tend to be highly educated and successful.

23% of all Israeli citizens are Palestinians. How many of them are suicide bombers? How many of them actively support suicide bombers. Unless the vast majority of them were loyal to Israel, Israel would have long since been torn to shreds by terrorists. It is also important to remember that terrorists attack all Israeli citizens, including Palestinian Israeli citizens.

Law enforcement has to devise new methods to rapidly and conveniently sort through Palestinian visa applicants for possible terrorists. It can be done. India has approved several orders of magnitude more Pakistani visitors to India in the last two years than between 1947 and 2007 put together. Remember that both India and Pakistan are attacked by large numbers of suicide bombers.

Palestinians who were forced out of Israel proper in 1948 or their descendants find the idea that visiting their homeland should be tougher than for non Jewish non Palestinians to be offensive.

This is also a travesty: "... than for an Israeli entrepreneur to enter the West Bank.

... than for an Israel-trained Arab professional to get work back home in Jordan, Egypt, etc.

... than for an American scholar or entrepreneur with an Israeli stamp in his/her passport to get into most Arab countries."

All anti Jewish bigotry and all anti Israeli hatred (as opposed to compassion and support for Palestinians) is deplorable. Israel is diverse, with many non Jewish tech workers (Koreans, Indians, Japanese, Americans, Chinese etc.) Israeli Jews are also very diverse, as are Palestinian Israeli citizens.

"Certainly they will not tolerate Jewish citizens or synagogues, if they ever have their own Palestinian state." I don't believe this.

"Allowing Israelis to stay as part of the tax base? I snorted iced tea all over the keyboard on that one." Palestinians are furious that a large majority of all government spending is not funded by tax revenue but by foreign grants. Palestinians are irate that their leaders (Hamas and Fatah) have to do what foreign aid providers tell them to do, because otherwise Palestinian government social spending will be dramatically slashed overnight. Palestinians want to be independent of foreign influence. They detest being told what to do by foreigners (such as Gulf Arabs and Iranians.)

What choice do Palestinians have other than to encourage Jewish Israelis and global business to stay in a unified state? Remember that Palestine and Israel suffer from a very serious water shortage and are building the largest water desalinization plants in the world. Water is far too expensive to allow for wide spread agriculture. Palestinians have to export large quantities of non agricultural goods or starve. For them, kicking out the global business community and all jews represents mass starvation.

Posted by: anand Author Profile Page at July 17, 2009 3:18 PM

"Do you really think the Palestinians want all Israelis of the Jewish faith to leave Palestine and Israel?"

It says right there in the charter of Hamas - a group who you vociferously support - that they want to kill all the Jews, everywhere. Not Israelis, not "Zionists", but Jews. And none of your other smarmy lies can cover up the fact that this is what you support.

Posted by: Gary Rosen Author Profile Page at July 18, 2009 1:34 PM

I'm so late it won't even matter, but this is either a cynical attempt to suck up to folks from commentary (probably not) or, alternatively, you are rather insulated from the real world and not quite quick enough to realize it.

You want to know what US Jews think of Barack Obama's Middle East policy? Look at a fuc*ing opinion poll. It will demonstrate in about 60 seconds that you and Martin Peretz are rather far from reality on this one. Here's another hint: Martin Peretz's views are so godd*mn petty and repulsive that he drove his magazine into such deep alienation from democrats as to drive it to the brink of death. Jewish Democrats don't think like Martin fuc*ing Peretz, and they don't think Israel has a fuc*ing clue how to solve its own problems.

Mainstream democrats are with Matt Yglesias & Josh Marshall - eight years of uninterrupted sucking up to Israel allowed them the freedom to go from one arrogant, destructive f*ck-up after another, from Lebanon to last winter's Gaza. Left to themselves, in the words of Tom Friedman in a memorable column, they will smash enough Arab crap with their big d*cks until that Egpytian college student gets his two suitcase bombs and.. poof. To paraphase.

Israel needs some motherf*cking tough love pretty badly, because the U.S.S. Gravy Train is not coming back. They're not going to enjoy it, but it will be good for them, and they don't have anywhere else to go, and they might possibly avoid becoming the next world pariah state.

The most ironic thing of all is that people have NOTHING to say about what Barack Obama is actually doing in the region that they can articulate a bone to pick with. They're just all pissy that he's not ***sucking up to them enough***. He's not constantly mentally masturbating them with an endless refrain about how nothing is their fault. Screw that. Barack Obama is the first breath of sanity since George Bush the 1st.

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at July 19, 2009 7:30 PM

Glasnost, you need to calm down.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 19, 2009 8:03 PM

You're right. I'm sorry. Flew off the handle. I think I'll go back to laying comments out in MSWord overnight. Here, I'll even forfeit my argument. Open Season, pro- BO is an enemy of the Jews-argumentors. fire when ready. It's only a comment thread, I should learn to cope..

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at July 20, 2009 4:02 AM

How cute.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at July 20, 2009 4:59 AM
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