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The Folly of the Peace Processors

The Folly of the Peace Processors

1) When all else fails focus on Israel

I’m not sure that the editors of the New York Times realized how absurd the title of this recent article on the Middle East sounded, Chaos in Middle East Grows as the U.S. Focuses on Israel.

However, the content of the reporting – co-written by Jerusalem Bureau Chief Jodi Rudoren and White House correspondent Mark Landler – is earnest. The beginning of the article emphasizes the apparent contradiction.

In Damascus, the Syrian government’s forces are digging in against rebels in a bloody civil war that is swiftly approaching the grim milestone of 100,000 dead. In Cairo, an angry tide of protesters again threatens an Egyptian president.

At the same time, in tranquil Tel Aviv, Secretary of State John Kerry wrapped up a busy round of shuttle diplomacy, laboring to revive a three-decade-old attempt at peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. He insisted on Sunday that he had made “real progress.”

Much of the rest of the articles seeks to justify Kerry’s poorly timed obsession.

Former administration officials defend that conviction. Mr. Kerry’s focus, they say, makes sense precisely because of the chaos elsewhere. With little leverage over Egypt and deep reluctance about intervening in Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one place that the United States can still exert influence, and perhaps even produce a breakthrough.

“You don’t have instability between the Israelis and Palestinians right now,” said Dennis B. Ross, a former senior adviser to Mr. Obama on the Middle East. “But if you don’t act, there’s a risk that the Palestinian Authority will collapse, leaving a vacuum. And if we know one thing about vacuums in the Middle East, they are never filled with good things.”

Resuscitating the peace process, he said, is also vital to Jordan, which is reeling from the wave of refugees from Syria and can ill afford a new wave of Palestinian unrest in the neighboring West Bank.

We could put that another way. Since the administration botched its handling of Egypt (supporting the Muslim Brotherhood) and Syria (allowing Islamist militias to take over the Syrian opposition), it’s hoping to pressure Israel so it can claim a (minor) political victory amid the increasing havoc throughout the Middle East.

Israel’s existence as an island of stability in a chaotic region is something that Thomas Friedman mocked in February, 2011:

Rather than even listening to what the democracy youth in Tahrir Square were saying and then trying to digest what it meant, this Israeli government took two approaches during the last three weeks: Frantically calling the White House and telling the president he must not abandon Pharaoh – to the point where the White House was thoroughly disgusted with its Israeli interlocutors – and using the opportunity to score propaganda points: “Look at us! Look at us! We told you so! We are the only stable country in the region, because we are the only democracy.’’

We don’t know what really went on. We don’t know what Israeli officials told the White House. If Israel was calling for caution from the White House, two and a half years later that advice looks pretty apt. Friedman looks foolish for his contempt.

That Israel is the focus of American diplomacy shows that the administration still hasn’t gotten the message.

As Barry Rubin observed recently:

There is an alternative: the United States will understand that Israel is just about the only reliable ally in the Middle East. It might take another president to do that.

2) Where diversity is ordinary

The usual perception of Israel perpetuated by the media is that it is a country without much regard for “the other.” The truth about Israel is much different. Diana Bletter described this reality in Diversity Makes Life Rich: An Ordinary Day in Israel at the Huffington Post.

The other day — an ordinary day — I got up and brought my car over to the auto repair shop in our village, owned and operated by a Muslim man, Nasser. Nasser employs about 15 people in his shop, including my friend, Jasmine (more on her in a minute), several mechanics (Muslims and Jews) and a Rumanian Christian woman who, after meeting a Muslim man studying medicine in Bucharest, married him and moved to Israel.

From there, I went to Akko — home to about 50,000 people, of whom 30 percent are Arab — to visit my friend, Janan. She was the first Druze woman in Israel (if not in the entire Middle East) to receive her Ph.D. Janan is founder of Akko Vision, a dialogue group consisting of Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Druze women. (I’m a member of the group.) There is also a Baha’i woman. (Unlike in Iran, where the Baha’i are persecuted.) The group’s lasts initiative was a visit of women from Bethlehem.

After meeting with Janan, I went to the market in the Old City of Akko where I walked through winding, ancient alleyways, Arabic music playing, incense burning, guys smoking water pipes, the smell of coriander and fresh pita bread. I stopped to buy blue ceramic dishes made by Armenian craftsmen from a Christian couple who own one of the largest tourist shops in the Old City. I learned that there’s only one country in the Middle East with an increasing Christian population and that’s Israel. (In Iraq, Lebanon and Libya, Christians have become victims of religious persecution. There has been a spike of attacks against Christians since the Muslim Brotherhood gained power in Egypt. In Gaza, Christians face attacks daily.)

What’s remarkable about this sketch of Bletter’s life in Israel is how free it is from politics. She is making no point other than: this is what’s normal.

3) Where terror is extraordinary

Next door, Israel’s “peace partner,” once again, hails a terrorist.

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has awarded the “highest order of the Star of Honor” to arch-terrorist Nayef Hawatmeh. This is a continuation of the policy followed by Abbas and the PA to glorify terrorists responsible for murdering Israelis, as documented by Palestinian Media Watch.

Nayef Hawatmeh is the leader of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). The DFLP carried out many deadly terror attacks, including the killing of 22 schoolchildren and 4 adults after taking them hostage in Ma’alot, the killing of 9 children and 3 adults in an attack on a school bus, the killing of 7 in a Jerusalem bombing, the killing of 4 hostages in an apartment building in Beit Shean, all of which took place in the 1970’s. In addition, the DFLP has participated in and claimed responsibility for dozens of other terror attacks, including a suicide bombing near Tel Aviv that killed 4 in 2003.

Abbas himself signed the PA declaration decorating Hawatmeh with the Star of Honor, which praises Hawatmeh’s “efforts to raise the flag of Palestine since the launch of the Palestinian revolution.”

Those who continue to prioritize the peace process fail to account for the starkly different values of Israeli and Palestinian society. Not once do they ask themselves if a society that so frequently honors cold blooded killers is ready to commit to peace.


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Perhaps people HAVE missed the connection. Suppose our “peace parnter” in Egypt, Hosni Mubarek, had not spent his time bombarding his people with vicious anti-semitic propaganda (the Protocols was shown as a TV mini-series, not that long before Tahrir Square) and doing the opposite. Suppose he had invited us Israelis to come in and do for Egypt what we did for our country, a place that had been called uninhabitable before we built it up? Would they be starving now?

Great to see David Gerstman there.

“…………And if we know one thing about vacuums in the Middle East, they are never filled with good things.”

One could say the same about the “vacuum” in the cranium of Dennis Ross.

Always the Israelis for F sakes!

TrooperJohnSmith | July 4, 2013 at 8:58 am

Great article, Mr. Gerstman!

Most Americans, even some who’ve been there, don’t realize that Israel isn’t just a bunch of Joooooooooooooooos living behind barbed wire but a vibrant, productive country of all three predominant religions working together, striving for some sort of accommodation, if not what might be described as harmony. Most Americans, and a lot of Euros as well, see only the crazy, hectic, not-always-pretty surface of functioning Israel.

I love to engage people have become “down with Palestine” and prance around in their little keffiyeh, even calling it a shmagh! Most realize that, (1.) there never has been a country called Palestine; (2.) Israel never “conquered” a nation called Palestine; (3.) Arabs and Muslims live, work and worship freely in Israel; (3.) Yassar Arafat named his “Black September” terror group in commemoration of the 1970 ass-kicking, and subsequent expulsion from the country, by King Hussein’s Arab Legion and not for something the Israelis did; (4.) The cause of a Free Palestine was never addressed by Egypt or Jordan between 1948 and 1967, when both nations could have created a nation in an afternoon.

Usually, they’re already called me an Israeli fascist, an Islamophobe or a racist before I get through the litany.

The Jews keep building houses; the Arabs keep killing each other.

There’s nothing new under the sun.

    mrzee in reply to Marco100. | July 4, 2013 at 10:17 am

    Actually in Israel, Judea and Samaria the arabs are doing a lot more building than the Jews, most of it illegal. It just doesn’t make front page headlines.

Peas Process ? ?

WHO are the Israelis supposed to negotiate with ?

Palestinian Authority President Abbas’ term expired in 2009. He refuses to permit new elections, because Hamas will win, and he’d be unemployed.

Does Abbas have ANY authority to conclude a peace agreement ?

What happens when Hamas finally wins the government and repudiates the “illegal” agreement signed by someone whose authority expired 4 years previously ?

Realize that Hamas, in Gaza has already reached a full de facto peace agreement. It goes into effect as soon as the last Israeli is out of the Middle East. /sarc

LukeHandCool | July 4, 2013 at 11:58 am

“Israel’s existence as an island of stability in a chaotic region is something that Thomas Friedman mocked in February, 2011.”

Speaking of islands, Friedman’s mockery could magically be turned into sycophancy … if only Israel would be less like Taiwan, and more like mainland China.

LukeHandCool (who, upon being asked by his eldest daughter for advice on picking a book from her summer reading list back when she was in middle school, expressed annoyance at the dearth of diversity of viewpoints available on the list. Surprised that his shy daughter expressed her father’s disapproval to a school administrator, Luke couldn’t help but laugh, in between the tears, when his daughter told him she was was told that the Tom Friedman book on the list represented the more conservative part of the list’s spectrum. That’s “diversity” for ya. Eat it and shut up!)

Carol Herman | July 4, 2013 at 12:12 pm

I think Kerry’s multiple trips just make Kerry look desperate. And, the USA way out of cinque with reality.

It’s not a vacuum out there. Israel chose to eliminate advanced weapons threats that developed in Syria, by going in 4 times, and blowing these stashes up.

When Gaza just tossed in 4 to 6 missiles; the Iron Dome took out two. And, the IDF went in ahd took out tunnels containing weapons. Plus a “school” that trained Hamas terrorists.

Kerry was asked about the terrorism coming from Gaza, and he replied he “didn’t give a sh!t.”

While the Mideast just gets more and more unstable: Libya, Yemen, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon. And, the only reason Jordan hasn’t been attacked (or overwhelmed by sunni syrian’s trying to flee,is that the American military has stationed some real serious weaponry, and marines, at Syria’s border. (I read somewhere that the American military was also training syrian rebels to go back to syria to fight.) That’s worse than Kerry’s shuttling diplomacy; which could be a cover for Kerry to do “stuff” with America’s military, under the cover of peace talks? Israel’s security has to come first. Even an idiot like Kerry can understand waving paper around for “peace in our time” is a foolish endeavor.

If things explode further in the Mideast, point to a country that gives the Americans a favorable rating? (Saudi Arabia doesn’t count. They own all our politicians.)

    Uncle Samuel in reply to Carol Herman. | July 4, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    “Kerry was asked about the terrorism coming from Gaza, and he replied he “didn’t give a sh!t.”

    It would be just desserts if Kerry had a bowel blockage or Intussusception and had to have emergency surgery so he could ‘give a shit.’

    That is such a despicable, contemptible thing for a Secretary of State or any humane person to say.

    But he was named into office by and succeeded the King and Queen of Planned Parenthood, who could go to bed when Americans were under attack in Benghazi.

    Heartless beasts all.

    Given that Kerry is a traitor to the United States, I would take that as a compliment.

A “Peace Processor” does to peace what a food processor does to food.

John Kerry focusing on Israel in his search for the barriers to peace in the Middle East is like the guy looking for his lost keys under the street light, even if that wasn’t near where he lost his keys.

This is the barrier to peace in the middle east.

This document includes an agreement to engage in an advertising campaign to convince Muslims that they have a personal, religious duty to kill their neighbors.

This document did not come from Israel. Neither does the advertising.

BannedbytheGuardian | July 4, 2013 at 6:42 pm

American Jewish persons vote 70 % Democrat . They will never vote otherwise or be convinced of anything they do not already hold.

Lost cause.