Friedman is Obama’s and Kerry’s chump
Probably the one columnist I have critiqued more than any other in my blogging career is Thomas Friedman of The New York Times.
Friedman, one-time NY Times Jerusalem bureau chief, is considered The Times’ go-to expert on the Middle East, globalization and environmental issues.
However, when reading Friedman’s columns, it’s easy to see that rather than being an expert on any of these topics, he holds certain beliefs and uses all of his observations to support his deeply held beliefs. He often conveys his convictions using superficial metaphors that sound clever, but are meaningless or misleading.
Given his long history of animosity towards Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his admiration for President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, it’s no surprise that he sided with the administration in its decision to allow anti-Israel United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 to pass and Kerry’s subsequent speech.
What may not have been predictable is how incredibly unhinged Friedman was in his column Wednesday covering what Charles Krauthammer called Obama’s “most shameful” legacy last week.
Friedman begins his column, Bibi Netanyahu Makes Trump His Chump:
For those of you confused over the latest fight between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu of Israel, let me make it simple: Barack Obama and John Kerry admire and want to preserve Israel as a Jewish and democratic state in the Land of Israel. I have covered this issue my entire adult life and have never met two U.S. leaders more committed to Israel as a Jewish democracy.
The idea that Kerry and Obama respect any form of Israeli democracy is laughable given the president’s record. Going back to February 2008, Obama said “I think there is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt a unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel that you’re anti-Israel and that can’t be the measure of our friendship with Israel.”
American Thinker’s Ed Lasky asked at the time, “Will a President Obama be supportive of an Israel headed by a Prime Minster who hails from the Likud party? Does this statement by Senator Obama risk interfering with Israeli politics?”
We now know the answer.
The State Department acknowledged sending nearly $350,000 to set up a political organization that could be used to unseat Netanyahu. When Netanyahu was reelected in March 2015, the administration, Eli Lake reported, drafted a memo outlining various policy options it could pursue against Israel including action in the UNSC.
In the next paragraphs, Friedman resorts to his patented metaphors, which were brilliantly skewered by Ira Stoll.
But they are convinced — rightly — that Netanyahu is a leader who is forever dog paddling in the middle of the Rubicon, never ready to cross it. He is unwilling to make any big, hard decision to advance or preserve a two-state solution if that decision in any way risks his leadership of Israel’s right-wing coalition or forces him to confront the Jewish settlers, who relentlessly push Israel deeper and deeper into the West Bank.
That is what precipitated this fight over Obama’s decision not to block a U.N. resolution last week criticizing Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The settlers’ goal is very clear, as Kerry put it Wednesday: to strategically place settlements “in locations that make two states impossible,” so that Israel will eventually annex all of the West Bank. Netanyahu knows this will bring huge problems, but his heart is with the settlers, and his passion is with holding power — at any cost. So in any crunch, he sides with the settlers, and they keep pushing.
Actually during his first term as prime minister, twenty years ago in January 1997, Netanyahu did exactly what Friedman said that he never did. He came to an agreement to withdraw Israel from most of Hebron.
Krauthammer observed in The Weekly Standard then that “in retrospect, Netanyahu’s election was the best thing that could have happened to the peace process. He has turned it from the policy of 51 percent of Israel to the policy of 75 percent. For Oslo to do anything other than tear apart the Israeli body politic, it had to be entrusted to a skeptic who would carry it out nonetheless.
The notion that “settlers” are ruining the possibility was debunked by Elder of Ziyon in July. But if that isn’t good enough, the hardly pro-Likud Washington Post observed in their editorial blasting Kerry and the administration in general for their treatment of Israel, “in fact, the two-state solution remains entirely viable, as even the settlement statistics cited by Mr. Kerry demonstrate.” The Post actually credited Netanyahu for this but for which he “received no White House credit.”
Obama ordered the U.S. to abstain on the U.N. resolution condemning the settlements (three months after Obama forged a 10-year, $38 billion military aid package for Israel — the largest for any U.S. ally ever — in hopes of sparking a debate inside Israel and to prevent it from closing off any chance of a two-state solution.
The mention of the military aid package is gratuitous. It is generous and Netanyahu has graciously expressed his appreciation for it. However the size of the aid package was necessitated in part by the nuclear deal with Iran which freed up $150 billion to the nation that threatens Israel’s survival.
Anyone who says that Israel needs a spur to debate issues, is woefully ignorant. Israel has plenty of debate. But what Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch pointed out is that every single major center-left political leader in Israel condemned UNSC resolution 2334 as detrimental to Israel. There is a debate what the best way to make peace is in Israel, but there is little debate that what the United States did was a betrayal that emboldened Israel’s enemies.
Next Friedman resurrected a 2010 metaphor that he used in another column trashing Netanyahu, when the administration made a big deal about an announcement of plans to build apartments in Jerusalem, an area that everyone expects will be part of Israel in any final peace agreement.
Friends don’t let friends drive drunk, and right now Obama and Kerry rightly believe that Israel is driving drunk toward annexing the West Bank and becoming either a binational Arab-Jewish state or some Middle Eastern version of 1960s South Africa, where Israel has to systematically deprive large elements of its population of democratic rights to preserve the state’s Jewish character.
Nothing more to add here, as Friedman is just repeating himself. Except his comparison of Israel to South Africa is beyond offensive, as anti-apartheid activist Tshediso Mangope recently wrote for The Tower.
Israel is clearly on a path toward absorbing the West Bank’s 2.8 million Palestinians. There are already 1.7 million Arabs living in Israel, so putting these two Arab populations together would constitute a significant minority with a higher birthrate than that of Israeli Jews — who number 6.3 million — posing a demographic and democratic challenge.
Why is the establishment of a Palestinian state necessary to alleviate this problem? As of the the end of 1995, The Los Angeles Times reported the Palestinian Authority “controls about 90% of the West Bank’s more than 1 million Arabs, and about one-third of the land in the Delaware-size territory.” If the PA refuses to govern (Abbas uses the PA as his personal piggy bank), this is not Israel’s fault.
I greatly sympathize with Israel’s security problems. If I were Israel, I would not relinquish control of the West Bank borders — for now. The Arab world is far too unstable, and Hamas, which controls another 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza, would likely take over the West Bank.
Actually, spending one paragraph on one of the main reasons there is no peace – and note the implication here, that Israel is protecting the PA – out of a total of a 14 paragraph column says that you don’t “greatly sympathize” with Israel’s security problems. You’re just checking a box to say you care.
My criticism of Netanyahu is not that he won’t simply quit all the West Bank; it is that he refuses to show any imagination or desire to build workable alternatives that would create greater separation and win Israel global support, such as radical political and economic autonomy for Palestinians in the majority of the West Bank, free of settlements, while Israel still controls the borders and the settlements close to it.
Bibi never lays down a credible peace plan that truly puts the ball in the Palestinians’ court. And when someone like Obama exposes that — and Bibi comes under intense criticism from the liberal half of Israel, which sees the country getting more and more isolated and less and less democratic — Bibi just calls Obama an enemy of Israel and caves to the settlers. U.S. Jewish “leaders” then parrot whatever Bibi says. Sad.
This is pathetic. A nation’s leader’s job is not to show “imagination” but to protect the nation’s citizens. As noted above, twenty years ago Netanyahu showed “imagination” in agreeing to the Hebron withdrawal. But lets take a look at the results of past Israeli “imaginative” approaches to peace.
Israel withdrew from most Palestinian population centers by the end of 1995. Israel was hit with a series of terror attacks in February and March 1996 killing dozens. In July, 2000 Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Yasser Arafat a peace deal. Arafat rejected and two months later launched the Aqsa intifada killing hundreds of Israelis. Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000, which led to the buildup of the Iranian-backed terror group Hezbollah and a war in 2006. Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza (Gaza is no longer occupied) in 2005 and has now suffered three wars launched by the terror, which has rockets that can reach almost the entire country.
So yes, Israel has been imaginative. But it has paid a price for its imagination. To not acknowledge this is one more way Friedman shows that he doesn’t care one bit about Israel’s security. Sad.
More worrisome is the fact that President-elect Donald Trump — who could be a fresh change agent — is letting himself get totally manipulated by right-wing extremists, and I mean extreme. His ambassador-designate to Israel, David Friedman, has compared Jews who favor a two-state solution to Jews who collaborated with the Nazis. I’ve never heard such a vile slur from one Jew to another.
While the David Friedman’s use of kapos was offensive, Thomas Friedman mischaracterized the future ambassador’s remarks. CAMERA noted that “David Friedman compared J Street supporters to kapos, not all Jews who favor a two-state solution, a much broader category.” Friedman also was very clear that what’s wrong is the two-state solution is that, so far, it hasn’t been working. In an interview last August he said, “[President-elect Donald Trump’s] position is not a one-state solution. His position is that he’s observed the obvious, which is that a two-state solution over the past generation has been attempted over and over again and has been a failure. The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again expecting a different result—and he’s not insane. To blindly embrace a two-state solution because it’s been an American policy for the past 25 years is not something he’s going to do…”
Given the history mentioned above – how Israeli withdrawals have been followed with deadly terror – this seems like a reasonable course.
Trump also has no idea how much he is being manipulated into helping Iran and ISIS. What is Iran’s top goal when it comes to Israel? That Israel never leaves the West Bank and that it implants Jewish settlers everywhere there.
Trump is being manipulated? This comes out of nowhere. And how is Trump being manipulated (by Friedman or Netanyahu) into helping Iran or ISIS? Iran wants to insure that Israel “never leaves the West Bank?” Seriously? I’ve read lots of Iranian “news” and propaganda over the past three years, I’ve never seen any indication that that was Iran’s plan.
I have a statement from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, also known as Iran’s Supreme Leader, of his plans for the West Bank. “West Bank should be armed just like #Gaza. Friends of Palestine should do their best to arm People in West Bank,” Khamenei tweeted in 2014. It was part of his nine part plan to destroy Israel. It doesn’t sound like his goal is to ensure that Israel never leaves the West Bank.
That would keep Israel in permanent conflict with Palestinians and the Muslim world, as well as many Western democracies and their college campuses. It would draw all attention away from Iran’s own human rights abuses and enable Iran and ISIS to present themselves as the leading Muslim protectors of Jerusalem — and to present America’s Sunni Arab allies as lackeys of an extremist Israel. This would create all kinds of problems for these Arab regimes. A West Bank on fire would become a recruitment tool for ISIS and Iran.
Seriously? Does Friedman really believe that it’s Israeli policies that drives the enmity of Iran and ISIS? When Iran launched a ballistic missile last year with the phrase “Israel must be wiped off the Earth” written on it. It mentioned nothing about the West Bank. Iran and ISIS entities do frequently speak of liberating Jerusalem. Now that the UN resolution declares Israel’s presence in the part of Jerusalem that were illegally occupied by Jordan from 1948 to 1967, as illegal, expect that Iran and ISIS will be encouraged to call more for the destruction of Israel.
One day Trump will wake up and discover that he was manipulated into becoming the co-father, with Netanyahu, of an Israel that is either no longer Jewish or no longer democratic. He will discover that he was Bibi’s chump.
Seriously? I was never a big Trump fan. But one thing I can’t imagine is anyone manipulating him.
What a true friend of Israel and foe of Iran would do today is just what Obama and Kerry tried — assure Israel long-term military superiority to the tune of $38 billion, but, unlike Trump, who is just passing Israel another bottle of wine, tell our dear ally that it’s driving drunk, needs to stop the settlements and apply that amazing Israeli imagination to preserving Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
What a true friend of Israel would NEVER do is to make a deal to legalize Iran’s illicit nuclear program, and release billions of dollars that it has pledged to use to destroy Israel. This is what Obama and Kerry did. And the nuclear deal was endorsed by Friedman. Given their record of using the UN to exonerate Iran and criminalize Israel, (and Friedman’s cheerleading) none of them can be considered Israel’s friends.
One last point worth making. Friedman loves name dropping. He loves citing experts as it appears to give his columns a patina of sophistication covering his sloppy writing and reasoning. One expert he cites and has coauthored a book with is Michael Mandelbaum, a professor at Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies. Mandelbaum, last May (h/t Mirabelle Ward) wrote How the Peace Process is an Obstacle to Peace for Commentary. Here are two key paragraphs from Mandelbaum:
At the core of the conflict, standing out like a skyscraper in a desert to anyone who cared to notice, is the Palestinian refusal to accept Jewish sovereignty in the Middle East. This attitude has existed for at least a century, since the Arab rejection of the Balfour Declaration in 1917. While much has changed in the region over those 10 decades, the conflict’s fundamental cause has not. The Palestinians’ position is expressed in their devotion to what has come to be called incitement: incessant derogatory propaganda about Jews and Israel, the denial of any historical Jewish connection to Jerusalem and its environs, and the insistence that all the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea belongs to the Arabs, making the Jews living there, in the Palestinian view, contemptible interlopers to be killed or evicted. The Palestinians’ attitude has expressed itself, as well, in their negotiators’ refusal either to accept any proposal for terminating the conflict or to offer any counterproposals of their own. The goal of eliminating Israel also lies behind Palestinian officials’ glorification as “martyrs” of those who murder Israeli civilians, giving their families financial rewards to encourage such killings.
American officials have either ignored or downplayed all of this. They have never emphasized its centrality to the conflict, instead focusing on Israeli control of the West Bank of the Jordan River, which the Israeli army captured from Jordan in the 1967 War and on which Israel has built towns, villages, and settlements. American officials have regarded the “occupation,” as the international community has chosen to call it, of the West Bank as the cause of the ongoing conflict. In fact, the reverse is true. It is the persistence of the conflict that keeps Israel in the West Bank. A majority of Israelis believes that retaining control of all of the territory brings high costs but that turning it over entirely to Palestinian control, given the virulent Palestinian hostility to their very existence, would incur even higher costs. A withdrawal, they have every reason to believe, would create a vacuum that anti-Israel terrorist groups would fill. Ample precedent supports this view: When Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon and Gaza, two terrorist organizations—Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza—took control of the vacated territories and proceeded to launch attacks against the Jewish state.
In fact click on the link and read the whole thing. Mandelbaum effectively skewers all of Friedman’s premises. To the best of my knowledge Friedman has not quoted Mandelbaum since May. But maybe he should read his one-time co-author. But that’s not likely.
Friedman is Obama’s and Kerry’s chump, clinging to his disproven assumptions and cheerleading their disastrous foreign policy with no care for the damage it does to his own reputation.
[Photo: The New York Times / YouTube ]