Monday, August 3, 2009

On Being Subtle (Or Not)

Jeffrey Goldberg is an intelligent and knowledgable fellow. For that matter, so is Thomas Friedman. So when Goldberg starts his week by approvingly linking to a Tom Friedman column which he describes as "important", you follow the link to see what's so inspiring. Or anyway, I did.

Not inspiring. Not even particularly intelligent. Sorry guys.

Friedman would have us Israelis recognize that "the party's over", and that story of the settlements is up, and Obama's historic position is that he's going to enforce that. This is the Obama who, we were assured throughout the campaign, is intelligent, subtle, and comfortable with complex thought processes. Well if so, how come he and his supporters can't get their head around the reality that we're rather good at complexity, too?

A majority of us Israelis would walk away from the settlements in a heartbeat if there was anywhere to walk too. As recently as 2006 we elected Ehud Olmert on a specific platform to disband most of the settlements even without peace with the Palestinians, recognizing how the Palestinians have managed to turn the settlements into their most potent weapon against us. Moreoever, a majority of the settlers themselves would accept leaving some settlements if that would bring peace. (Starting with Avigdor Lieberman).

But not Modi'in Illit, not Beitar, and not, I repeat, NOT Jerusalem. As President Bill Clinton recognized in his diktat of December 24th 2000. As the Palestinian negotiators themselves have recognized, repeatedly (though they may have been fibbing, since said recognition was part of not reaching overall agreement).

Obama's credibility and support in Israel is plumetting because of that distinction. Not becasue he's being mean to our prime minster about Nokdim or Itamar. The more I hear (well, read) important American Jewish pundits such as these two talkng the way they do, the more I'm convinced one part of the present dynamic is the distance between American Jews and Israelis. We're really not seeing the same reality at the moment.

Though, to be fair, as Mark Landler tells us after having talked to George Mitchell, there may be whole parts of the story we don't see right now. That could change things. Perhaps.

Update: Barry Rubin argues against a settlement freeze. He, also, is hardly one to fit the Friedman-Goldberg template of obstinate Israelis.


Dimitry Papkov said...

Here is Barry Rubin's response to Mitchel's interview

Anonymous said...

if this goes on a little longer could it come to the American Jewry having to decide between "love" of Obama and "love" of Israel?
or put differently decide between an unattainable ideal in a far away land and taking sides in the messiness of real politics in the middle east

the whole thing reminds me a lot of Churchill's exasperation when Woodrow Wilson came over and according to Churchill was aghast at the Europeans having shifted allegiances multiple times during the war being always only after their own advantage
to the honour of Wilson he learned and changed at least part of his mind while in Versailles (again according to Churchill)

maybe Obama has to sit himself at a negotiation table where it is not enought to do the moderation community organizer style

Anonymous said...

well the magazine that once famously refused to publish the Mearsheimer & Walt "Israel-Lobby"-stuff that later became the book and which is incidentally also Jeffrey Goldberg's magazine is now in earnest going for Israel via one of its stars - he says some very interesting and depressing things about the M&W book

More than democracy, Washington wants stability in the Middle East. That means leaning against the interests of the Jewish state.
by Robert D. Kaplan
Losing Patience with Israel

Avigdor said...

That link posted above is worth checking out. Barry Rubin rambles a bit, but hits his stride:

Almost everything the administration says about the Arab states is wrong. The fact is that relatively moderate Arab regimes believe very radical things and benefit by using the conflict for demagogic purposes. They fear the radicalization of their population, Iranian-Syrian aggression, and radical Islamist groups at home. They do not desperately need formal peace with Israel; Egypt and Jordan don’t need more normalization; Syria desperately needs the conflict to continue.

Nothing, nothing, nothing has been learned from all the experience accumulated in the region for decades. No deep thought has resulted from the failure of the 1990s’ peace process. Everything is superficial, tactical, on a quicksand basis. This is truly pathetic.

Conflict Resolution is not a priority for Arab states, and has never been - Conflict Exploitation is. It is a devastating miscalculation of American and Western policy to assume otherwise.

Lydia McGrew said...

All of this should give serious pause to anyone who, authorized to vote both in American and Israeli elections, voted for both Obama and Livni. Or so it seems to me. Imagine if Obama--now revealed to be Mr. Clueless about Israel, with sledgehammer--were now confronting someone less willing to stand up to him. Sounds to me like that image should bother even centrist Israelis.

Yaacov said...

Hi Lydia -

Are you referring to me? I indeed voted for Livni, and while I'm living rather well under Netanyahu I don't regret my vote. I didn't vote for Obama. There were things about him that appealed to me, certainly, but as I explained at the time, I feared he didn't understand the world well enough to be the most powerful man in it. So far he hasn't proved me wrong.