Washington Post Editor Says Netanyahu Alienates Democrats; Excuses Rep. Omar’s anti-Semitism
Once upon a time, not too long ago, The Washington Post was a somewhat reasonable voice on matters of foreign policy, especially regarding the Middle East. Since it supported the nuclear deal with Iran in 2015, and fought Donald Trump’s election the following year, its views have become increasingly marginal.
The latest data point for this descent into irrelevance is deputy editorial page editor Jackson Diehl’s The Democrats have an Israel problem — and it’s not Ilhan Omar. The Democrats have a number of newly minted Congresspeople who are openly anti-Semitic or who ally with anti-Semites, but the real problem, according to Diehl, is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who “has doggedly and successfully worked to thwart the goal pursued by Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and still embraced by most Democrats: a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Ah the two-state solution is a Democratic priority, (funny but didn’t Bush, in 2002, specify the two-state solution as a policy goal too), and Netanyahu has been the major sticking point, according to Diehl, who in the early 90s was the Post’s Jerusalem Bureau Chief.
The problem is that it’s just not so. And even Diehl undermines his “blame Bibi first” instinct in the narrative he presents:
Netanyahu proceeded to sabotage the Mideast peace process, dragging his feet on every step. His poor relations with Washington were widely seen as contributing to his ouster in a 1999 election. But Clinton failed to close a deal for a Palestinian state, thanks mostly to the intransigence of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. After Palestinians waged a campaign of suicide bombings, and after Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud Abbas, turned aside another statehood offer, Israelis voted Netanyahu back into the prime minister’s office in early 2009.
The first assertion isn’t even true. Netanyahu – admittedly under pressure from the Clinton administration – withdrew Israeli forces from most of Hebron, something that his Labor Party predecessors did not do. (Read Charles Krauthammer on why this was important for the peace process. Diehl, though, refused to give Netanyahu any credit.) Of course, the Clinton administration reneged on the guarantees it gave the Likud government to get the deal, which is why Netanyahu subsequently dragged his feet.
But pay attention to Diehl’s chronology. Clinton failed to get a peace deal in 2000, even with Netanyahu’s successor Ehud Barak, who was keen to make a deal, because of “the intransigence of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.” And then in 2008, “Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud Abbas, turned aside another statehood offer.” Only then, after about a decade out of power “Israelis voted Netanyahu back into the prime minister’s office in early 2009.”
Think about that. For ten years, Israel had three prime ministers not named Benjamin Netanyahu and in that time the Palestinians were twice offered a state and said, “no.” How can he suggest that Netanyahu is the major reason the two-state solution has not yet been achieved?
Furthermore, if thwarting the two-state solution is viewed as scorning the Democratic Party’s top leaders, why don’t Democrats view the Palestinians – who, at least twice, rejected it out of hand – so negatively?
If Arafat said “yes” to Barak or Abbas had said “yes” Ehud Olmert, (and the peace held up,) Netanyahu would not now be prime minister. Why isn’t Diehl blaming Palestinian leadership for Netanyahu’s political success, and the lack of peace?
(BTW, in one of the most important columns about Abbas, from 2009, Diehl effectively predicted that Obama gave Abbas every excuse not to negotiate with Israel. During Obama’s two terms in office, it was Abbas, not Netanyahu, who stymied the administration’s peace efforts.)
Diehl certainly knows better, so I can only ascribe cynicism to his effort to shift blame from Reps. Omar and Tlaib. He wrote that “they represent a minority of Americans and are isolated in the Democratic caucus.” But supporting the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign isn’t simply criticism of Israel. It is outright anti-Semitism.
For Diehl to excuse Omar and Tlaib – instead of demanding the Democrats take stronger actions against them or unequivocably denouncing them himself – at the same time that seven members of the Labour Party have resigned due to the growing acceptance of anti-Semitism in the party, shows that he hasn’t learned the lesson from Britain. Excusing the normalization of anti-Semitism, will allow it to grow. That he ignores history – even history that he acknowledges – to blame Netanyahu instead exposes the deep cynicism of the column.
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