American foreign policy Hamas Israeli settlements Middle East peace process Palestinian Authority

“Can’t anybody here play this game?”

In A Peace to End All Peace, David Fromkin’s history of the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the making of the modern Middle East, we follow British statesmen and military leaders as they make one foolish miscalculation after another. They persistently misread the Middle East, made major decisions based on false intelligence and crackpot theories.

The British Ambassador in Constantinople, Gerard Lowther, and his aide Gerald Fitz-Maurice developed an absolutely fantastic theory that the Young Turks who rebelled against Ottoman rule in 1908 were controlled by “Jewish Freemasons.” The Foreign Office in London readily accepted the notion of Jewish control over the destiny of the Ottoman Empire. Later, that theory contributed to the ludicrous idea that “the world war could be won by buying the support of this powerful group” –i.e., the Jews.

These Brits were the supposed masters of the “grand game” of diplomacy. They did not know what they were doing, more often than not. Fromkin, writing in 1989, believed there was a stark contrast between their level of knowledge and that of modern diplomats:

“To a government official in the 1980s, accustomed to bulging reference libraries, to worldwide press coverage, and to the overwhelming supply of detailed information about foreign countries gathered by the major governments, British ignorance of the Middle East during the 1914 war would be unimaginable.”

I am not sure if the contrast is as stark as the one that Fromkin depicted. Whatever intelligence it possessed did not prevent the Clinton administration from dragging Arafat to the Camp David talks, even though he clearly didn’t want to go and was in no position to sign a landmark agreement on Jerusalem or the right of return. The results were disastrous. The Bushies marched into the inane second Iraq war based on flimsy intelligence and crackpot theories about the Shiites welcoming American troops as liberators.

For the past year, something in me wanted to cling to the childish faith that the current American foreign policy team was different. I wanted to believe that they knew how to play the grand game, and they were thinking five or ten moves ahead.

Perhaps it’s time to stop clinging. In the latest issue of the Jerusalem Report (STILL inexcusably unavailable online), Leslie Susser sums up the reasons why the Obama administration’s Middle East diplomacy has failed miserably. Obama made a “monumental blunder by demanding a total freeze in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem…No Israeli government could order a freeze in East Jerusalem and no Palestinian leadership could demand less than the Americans. Moreover, the emphatic nature of the building ultimatum had given the Palestinians the impression that a new, more sympathetic administration would deliver Israel without having to join a negotiating process or make any reciprocal moves. The result was deadlock…”

I am not convinced that pressing for a total settlement freeze was a bad idea, as long the administration had a coherent game plan if the Israelis refused to go along and kept allowing provocations by right wing settlers in East Jerusalem. If they had such a game plan, we would have seen it by now.

Susser’s account crystallizes the impression I have been trying to stave off for months: there is a good chance that Obama’s Middle East team does not know what it is doing.

I’ve poked around a bit and asked people who know the players what has gone wrong. Some blame individuals on George Mitchell’s staff. Others blame the mess on disagreements between the President’s cautious political advisors–e.g., the “Chicago boys”–and diplomats on the ground who have wanted more forceful American actions. But the problem might be deeper than the competence of individual staffers or political infighting. It may well be that the intelligence the Obama team has relied upon and its suppositions about conflict resolution have been deeply flawed.

As Casey Stengel said of the woeful New York Mets in 1962: “Can’t anybody here play this game?” I am not just sad about this situation. I am frightened.

Because if the state of diplomatic play on the Israeli-Palestinian front is so woeful, why should we trust that American foreign policy honchos know what they are doing in places where good intelligence is even harder to gather, like Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan or Yemen? Why should we believe Western diplomats are much more knowledgeable and effective than they were in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire?

38 thoughts on ““Can’t anybody here play this game?”

  1. The chief error of Obama’s team, which is the same as that of the Jewish “progressives” who are constantly sounding off about the Arab-Israeli conflict, is the mistaken belief that “everyone knows the outlines of a final agreement, the Arabs have already agreed to these terms, all that remains to do is to force the Israeli government to go along”.
    What is interesting is that veteran “peace process” veterans like Aaron Miller and Robert Malley were warning, at the beginning of Obama’s Administration, that this myth isn’t true and they both advised caution. Obama and the Jews surrounding him (Rahm, Axelrod and others) who felt they had an extra special interest in the situation were going along with the delusion.

    Why did they end up deluding themselves? For the same reason Nasrallah did in provoking war with Israel in 2006 which he himself later admitted was a mistake…..Nasrallah based his decisions on his daily reading of the newspaper Ha’aretz where he got the idea that the Israeli population is divided into a bunch of weak, decadent post-Zionist hedonists (what Bernard Avishai would call “the ruling elites”) facing off with a small minority of religious fanatics, and with a docile, ignorant population in the middle with no ideas of its own and which is ready to capitulate to a determined show of force by the Arabs with their suicide bombers and rocket attacks, and that Israeli society is badly divided, not only on religious lines, but by social and ethnic fissures. “Progressive” Jewish bloggers like Phil Weiss, Silverstein and others like Gilad Atzmon who should know better since he once lived in Israel also propagate this view of things. It is also believed that Israelis feel so dependent on the US and the goodwill of the President that they will go along with any dictates the Americans will come up with.

    Of course, this view of Israel is nonsense. Even though it is repeated endlessly in the media that most Israelis can’t wait to get rid of Judea/Samaria and couldn’t care less about Jewish holy and historical sites , this is false. Most Israelis are center or right politically and identify with the Zionist ethos. A clear majority of Israelis sympathize with the Jews of Judea/Samaria. There never was a majority for Sharon’s destruction of Gush Katif and the expulsion of its population (that is why he refused to call for either a national referendum or national elections in order to get a public mandate for it) and so all those who told Obama that all he has to do is go “boo” and Israeli public opinion will demand a capitulation to whatever he wants were completely wrong.

    The Arab-Israeli conflict is intractable and has no solution for the foreseeable future and the large majority of the population understands this. A wise President and his Administration would base a correct policy on this, and, in the end, even Obama will have to confront it, even if he manages to force the sides to come to some sort of farcicle “negotiations” in the near future.

  2. I know it’s only a sidebar point in the overall Obama-focused topic of this post, but I don’t agree with the presumptions of this sentence:

    “Whatever intelligence it possessed did not prevent the Clinton administration from dragging Arafat to the Camp David talks, even though he clearly didn’t want to go and was in no position to sign a landmark agreement on Jerusalem or the right of return.”

    Shlomo Ben-Ami disagreed with these arguments in his “Scars of War, Wounds of Peace” book, in which he was nevertheless quite critical of the Clinton administration’s handling of the conflict. Regarding the argument that Camp David 2000 was a bad idea because “Arafat didn’t want to go,” Ben-Ami pointed out that:

    “Arafat’s tactics were always to pretend that he was being dragged against his will to conferences and negotiations in order that the onus of proof should rest with his interlocutors who would have to make the necessary concessions to justify their insistance.”

    More generally, the argument that Arafat “didn’t want” Camp David and “couldn’t” sign a comprehensive agreement there runs contrary to a key aspect of the political atmosphere of the time, in which the Palestinians were impatiently insisting that the five-year deadline for a final agreement specified in the original Oslo accords had already passed (in May of ’99) without any real progress being made towards it. They claimed to be tired of Bibi’s recalcitrance and Barak’s early focus on Syria, and understandably so–the letter of the law (of the Oslo accords) on the deadlines for the beginning AND completion of the final status agreement was entirely on the Palestinians’ side of the argument in 1999 and the first half of 2000.

    Which points to the disingenuousness of their “we’re not ready” argument of summer 2000, and of their defenders ever since–the Palestinians shifted from angrily demanding the too-long-postponed final status talks to angrily denouncing the actual attempt at holding those very talks!

  3. Haggai-
    The “negotiations” the Palestinians take part in are NOT designed to reach an agreement, they are part of the Palestinian arsenal to be used against Israel in their ongoing war of attrition. Other aspects are use of terrorism and delegitimization of Israel on the international stage. Similar to the pre-Easter Agreement IRA’s strategy of “the ballot box in one hand and the armalite rifle in the other”.
    Thus it would be quite logical for the Palestinians to demand negotiations if it is seen that Israel is dragging its feet, and then to turn around and to become recalcitrant if Israel then decides it does want to negotiate.

    How anybody could think that an assassin like Arafat, who was responsible for dragging TWO other countries (brother Arab countries, at that!) into bloody civil wars with tens of thousands of dead (Jordan and then Lebanon) would somehow want to reach a “reasonable” peace agreement with Israel, his ultimate enemy, is beyond me.

  4. While I’m an Obama supporter, I can observe here that I thought of this situation after the Democrats lost the special election for the Mass. Senate seat last month. David Axelrod made the startling admission that the White House had NOT planned for the possibility of losing that seat and what it might mean for the health care bills:

    http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/01/white-house-didnt-have-ma-sen-health-care-contingency-plan.php

    Given how frantic and demoralized Dems were after that election, the lack of leadership from the White House in the days that followed was particularly noticeable. It was amazing, and quite remarkably stupid, that they were caught so off-guard by it.

    Coming back to the topic of this post, my point is that if the administration could be caught so flat-footed by an easily forseeable (at least in the last couple of weeks before the MA election) at-home contingency with regards to the crucial centerpiece of their domestic agenda, it becomes a lot easier (albeit still dispiriting) to believe that they’re lacking competence and foresight in dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian situation, which obviously (and understandably) hasn’t been nearly as central to the administration’s focus as health care has been.

  5. Haggai, you wrote “the argument that Arafat “didn’t want” Camp David and “couldn’t” sign a comprehensive agreement there runs contrary to a key aspect of the political atmosphere of the time, in which the Palestinians were impatiently insisting that the five-year deadline for a final agreement specified in the original Oslo accords had already passed (in May of ‘99) without any real progress being made towards it.”

    But why couldn’t both be true? The Palestinians were understandably impatient, on the one hand, but on the other hand Arafat was not ready to make a deal on Jerusalem without the sanction of Arab leaders. That was another failure of the Clintonites: they did not prepare the ground by getting the hechsher from enough Arab leaders…

  6. Maybe Clinton and company could have involved the other Arab leaders more than they did, but numerous US administrations have tried that over the decades to little avail. Perhaps King Hussein could have been helpful–he had been at Wye River–but he was dead by the time of Camp David.

    But when it came to something as sensitive as Jerusalem, it was almost certainly not in the cards for the other Arab leaders to do anything that could in any way be perceived as getting out in front of the Palestinians, especially given their unanimous lack of trust in Arafat.

  7. Dan,

    I don’t know who Mitchell’s key advisors are. I don’t know if Ross has much input into the Obama’s Israeli-Palestinian policy or not. Mitchell had some limited knowledge of the conflict from his chairing the Mitchell Commission in 2000. He also didn’t have a great deal of background in the Northern Ireland conflict before becoming involved in 1995, other than having vacationed in the Republic of Ireland. He was appointed for his qualities as a deal maker–his patience, ability to get along with people, and to come up with solutions. Fortunately for him, Northern Ireland was ripe for advancing peace in the late 1990s, although it took some time before it could be consolidated. Palestine and Israel are not ripe for peace at present.

    YBD:
    You seem to confuse the Zionist ethos with the Gush Emunim/Revisionist dream of Eretz Israel Ha’Shlema. The original Zionist goal was to establish an independent state in Palestine/Eretz Israel. That has been accomplished. Israelis don’t necessarily agree as a whole to retaining the West Bank as part of Israel. Rather, they presently are unwilling to give it to the Palestinians because they do not trust the Palestinians not to continue their war against them in line with the 1974 stages strategy. Should the Palestinians be able to convincingly demonstrate that they are willing to end the conflict in exchange for the territories, the majority of the Israeli population will be only to happy to give them back. Consider Northern Ireland where the unionist population turned against the Good Friday (not Easter) Agreement, because the IRA declined to disarm under the timeline agreed to in the Agreement and carried out many actions inconsistent with the Agreement. Once the IRA finally decommissioned the unionist population were happy to support power sharing with Sinn Fein. Only a small minority continued to object.

    Haggai,
    Any new administration has a learning curve. Many administrations make the mistake of attempting to fulfill all of their ill-considered campaign promises. The Carter administration suffered from this problem. Reagan was successful because he had only a few major goals that he tried to implement: opposing Soviet expansion and stopping the expansion of government. Obama was faced with two wars and a quasi-depression when it came to power. It also has to deal with Iran and Pakistan. In its second year, hopefully, they will abandon the non-essential for the absolutely essential and concentrate on those tasks.

    Teddy:

    Arafat wasn’t willing to make concessions because of the Islamist threat to his hegemony in Palestinian politics. He as can individual had never been very good at committing himself to a single course of action. He always wanted to keep his options open. Once the Islamists became powerful, Arafat had no intention of keeping the peace and prepared the ground for another mass Intifada. Even if Clinton had been able to win support from Arab leaders, it would not have made any difference. And Egypt did not have a great interest in actually resolving the conflict, but just keeping it manageable. Resolving it would end their usefulness to Washington as an interlocutor with the Palestinians and remove Jerusalem and Washington as targets to focus Egyptian frustration on for the lack of freedom, unemployment, and corruption in Egypt. Saudi Arabia is in a similar situation. Jordan was the only major Arab country with great interest in seeing the conflict resolved.

  8. Tom-
    As you know, I have repeatedly stated that should the Palestinians renounce the “right of return” in return for a withdrawal to the pre-67 lines, any Israeli gov’t would have to go along. This does NOT mean that most Israelis are against the settlements, they would consider it merely a matter of being “practical”.
    The Judea/Samaria/Gaza settlement enterprise was started by the LABOR PARTY after the Six-Day War. There were groups there that supported the “Greater Eretz Israel Movement”, but of course, there were those opposed. Peres was a big supporter of the settlements. Rabin, while he loathed the religious activists of the Gush Emunim settlement movement, was an enthusiastic supporter of the settlements in Gush Katif up until the last day of his life.
    After Labor lost the elections in 1977, significant, militant opposition to the settlement movement began to grow in the Labor Party, but on the other hand, the National Unity Government of 1984-1990 of which Peres was the Prime Minister from 1984-86 was probably the best government ever for the settlement movement..this was when it really became solidly based.
    But, in any event, Labor Zionism and its ideology was always a minority of the population, even at its heyday (MAPAI-LABOR used a lot of coercion to get votes through its control of the economy with the Histadrut in those days). Most Jews in the country had ties to traditional Jewish culture and Eretz Israel was always a central feature, so it is only natural for most Jews to identify with settlement in the heartland of Biblical Israel, even if they weren’t hard-core Revisionist Zionists, either.
    Thus, as I said most Israelis (I would say around 70%) sympathize with the settlement movement, view the settlers as idealistic people and would view it as a painful concession to give them up, EVEN IF THEY VIEWED IT AS A NECESSARY SACRIFICE. Don’t forget that half of the population of Judea/Samaria is secular and most Israelis have close relatives or friends living in settlements so it is not as alien to Israelis as many seem to think.

    The real hatred we see from “progressives” to the settlement movement comes from about 20% of the population, and many of them believe the delusion that “if only the settlements hadn’t been built, there would have been peace long ago”, but the large majority of Israelis are smarter than that.

  9. Tom-
    I disagree that the Jordanians really want to see the problem “solved”. A Palestinian state would automatically have irredentist claims to Jordan whose population is majority Palestinian. I believe that Jordan thinks only Israel is capable of suppressing Palestinian violence in Judea/Samaria.
    Of course, they SAY they want a Palestinian state, just as their media denounces the US military presence in the Middle East, but as we saw with the secret Jordanian cooperation with the CIA regarding the Jordanian double-agent who killed the CIA operatives along with a Jordanian intelligence agent in Afghanistan, what they say publicly and what they really do in private are two different things.

  10. Of course the Western governments are still operating under the same delusions as they were in colonial days. Read the first (brief) essay in Elie Kedourie’s The Chatham House Version and Other Middle Eastern Studies. It was written almost fifty years ago about the previous few decades, but it reads as if it were written about today’s policies, with all the same Western distortions and delusions. Nothing has really changed in Western thinking about the Middle East.

    It’s nice that the Jerusalem Report and Realistic Dove types are acknowledging Obama’s stupidity in handling the Israeli-Palestinian situation. It was a failure of understanding (or what you called “suppositions”) on his administration’s part, not a failure of “intelligence”, at least not in the way you’re using the word. Same with Clinton and Camp David.

    The next step after admitting one’s error is to reexamine the premises and reasoning which lead to that error. (Well, unless you’re Shimon Peres, who once explicitly denied any reason to do so even in principle.) This reexamination would be especially appropriate considering that some analysts – Barry Rubin for one – explained from the very beginning exactly why Obama’s strategy would fail, while those on the center-left were praising the strategy and those on the left were saying it didn’t go far enough. What did Rubin see from the beginning that you didn’t? Will you see it next time?

  11. Dan:

    I actually read Fromkin’s book last fall for the first time. As you know, it was written about twenty years ago, and as you may or may not know he has included an updated afterforeward that he wrote sometime in 2008 or 2009 I believe. There is no mention, unfortunately, of the current state of affairs. I would say stay tuned. You never know what’s going to happen until it happens. . .or something. As a matter of speculation, my sense is there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes and off the record than we’re reading about, and I also think thre might be something about the possibility of the indirect negotiations with Abbas that has been reported recently. I hope that’s true, and I hope they will at least establish what remains on the table and what can be taken off.

    As to the call for the wholesale settlement freeze, you and I have corresponded about that recently, and I think we both agreed back then that it was really a sophomoric move, really just boneheaded, and not just because the Israelis would not and could not accept it, but again because it placed the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank in an absolutely untenable position (because they could never ask for less than the Americans).

  12. Comment #12 contradicts what Fleshler wrote above:

    I am not convinced that pressing for a total settlement freeze was a bad idea, as long the administration had a coherent game plan if the Israelis refused to go along and kept allowing provocations by right wing settlers in East Jerusalem.

    Of course the point is that no such game plan could have succeeded.

  13. I think the error that Obama made was in thinking that he was near an end game, a permanent political solution, which might have been the case if that was the only issue on the table at the time for the administration, which obviously was not the case.

    There are four political options:

    1. Greater Israel from river to sea. Only possible with the forced removal of close to 50% of West Bank Palestinians.
    2. Current
    3. Green line with peace agreement
    4. Single democratic state from river to sea.

    The consequences of 1 are clearer definition of borders, militarily defensible, but much more extreme isolation of Israel politically and economically.

    2. Slow degradation of Palestinian society, Israel known widely as apartheid state, slow persistent rationalization among Israelis that Palestinian civilians are not full human beings (as my wife’s parents were told in Hungary, even though they were half of the doctors in a town of 10000).

    3. Tenuous peace or quiet. If followed up with assistance and relationship-building can result in a peace, but easily disruptable to both political and relationship-building efforts. Terrorists can easily target Palestinians and Israelis that interact or partner as Hamas and others did in the 90’s and 00’s.

    Borders only untenable if organized universal Arab military opposition, which conflicts with Arab League offer. Iran would be separated.

    4. Civil war if any terror at all, which is nearly a certainty, resulting in more stratified separation. The settlements will go under siege and the Arab neighborhoods in Israel will go under siege.

    So, you’ve got to pick one. Yakov suggests that the current is tenable, and acceptable. It causes me shame for the treatment of Palestinian civilians.

    But, maybe you don’t need me or people with my sensitivities within the Jewish community.

  14. Richard-
    When you stated that I hold that the current situation is “tenable”, I hope that you don’t mean that I think it is “desirable”. Of course it isn’t, but there is no alternative. There simply is no chance of a peace agreement. Startin in the 1990’s, Israel made three major moves towards the Arabs:
    (1) Oslo Agreements- Israeli withdrawal from much of Judea/Samaria and Gaza
    Results-Massive terror war-thousands Israelis killed or wounded. Israeli forced to reassart military control of Judea/Samaria

    (2) Unilateral withdrawal from south Lebanon security zone.
    Results – ongoing tension along the border, massive war in 2006 with deadly cross-border raids and thousands of rockets fired on Israel, large numbers of Lebanese killed in retaliatory bombing attacks and ground operation.

    (3) Unilateral destruction of Jewish communities in Gush Katif and removal of IDF military presence in parts of Gaza Strip

    Results-thousands of rockets fired on Israel, deadly cross-border attacks, massive war in 2008 with many Palestinian dead…Israel condemned for war crimes.

    Do you see a pattern here? Each time Israel has given up territory, that territory is then used for massive attacks on Israel. Although Sharon, Rabin and others (like humanists such as A B Yehoshua) assured Israelis that, should the Arabs violate agreements and attack, Israel would have a free hand to bomb the heck out of them. However, like all the rest of the deceptions the Left used to sell the “peace process”, Israel was condemned for using force. Thus, we see occupation is the lesser evil. There is far less violence and few Arabs are killed. Most Israelis now understand this, so this is the situation that will continue indefinitely, meanwhile Israel will continue to grow and thrive as it has for the last 62 years, all in the absence of true “peace” with the Arab world. This is the Jewish lot in history. Sorry.

  15. Yakov,
    I see a different pattern.

    In response to peace efforts, I see three primary responses:

    1. From moderates – Tentative trust-building, establishment of rationally civil institutions and relationships.

    2. From “determined” to fanatic Zionists – Expansion of territories as a state enterprise, communicating the intent of the state to expand, accompanied by detention without due process; to the more fanatic murder of Israeli prime minister Rabin, harrassment of Palestinians, public disinformation.

    3. From “determined” to fanatic Palestinians and pan-Islamics – Terror on civilians to disrupt peace efforts, propaganda campaigns in the west, internal power posturing including near civil war.

    The formula of “there is no other option” to relationship-building, to significant relaxation of security measures, to consistent statements in action of the intention to reconcile; is a lie.

    Its a self-talk, a belief that proves itself, rather than a belief that is confirmed or inconsistent in objective reality.

    There is not relative peace nor perfect peace right now because we have not made it so, even if there are aspects that are outside of our control. We don’t make happen what is within our range of control.

    Specifically, equal due process under the law in Israel for all residents, in conformity with the Israeli primary laws which support both Jewish culturally and democratic politically. To extend one’s reasoning to “the land is Jewish” and not “the majority of the people are Jewish, and the laws protect the rights of all” is disloyalty to Israel.

    The human lot, common to Jews and all others, is to simultaneously care about one’s own community and to extend sincere care to others. As painful as compassion is, thats what it is made of, even with those that harbor some that hate you.

    What you are describing as the “Jewish lot” isn’t that at root. The driver of blaming or persecution is rooted at the animal hatred of the weak. It has nothing to do with “Jewish”. That is self-talk.

    There is also hatred of the abusive. Better that we weave away from both of those.

  16. Yes, Obama realizes that the likud/Israel Beitanhu government is unwilling to do what is needed to realize peace, instead preferring incremental annexation.

  17. BTW-Richard,

    Olmert stated a couple of days ago that he offered them pretty much 100% of their territorial demands and was willing to talk about the “right of return”. THEY DIDN’T EVEN RESPOND.
    Could you explain that one?

  18. He can’t. Because it doesn’t fit into his view that if only Israel does A, B, and C, this would all be wound up by Wednesday. Kind of racist on the part of Witty and Fleshler.

  19. Bill Pearlman,
    Everyone that disagrees with you is either racist or anti-semitic. Maybe you’re a black Jew like Sammy Davis Jr.

  20. “Olmert stated a couple of days ago that he offered them pretty much 100% of their territorial demands and was willing to talk about the “right of return”. THEY DIDN’T EVEN RESPOND.
    Could you explain that one?”

    Maybe because Olmert was on his way out and could not have pushed this through the Knesset anyway? He was a lame duck, or lame dove, if you will, if there ever was one.

    As the charming Mr. Ayalon put it:
    “Olmert was not authorized to hold negotiations, especially in the last months of his government. He did not even involve his Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in the negotiations. Furthermore, they were not serious negotiations; Olmert could not have signed anything in his last days as prime minister.”

    Negotiating with latter-day Olmert was about as sensible as negotiating with Abbas about Gaza would be now. The Palestinian side probably thought it wise not to enter into any commitment that could possibly held against them but would not have been honored by the next Israeli government anyway.

  21. Abbas could have called a joint press conference with Olmert and Livni just before the elections, and they could have announced that they were on the verge of an historic agreement and Israeli voters should cast their votes for Kadima in order to complete the agreement. THEY DIDN’T DO IT.

  22. Koshiro:

    You write:

    “Negotiating with latter-day Olmert was about as sensible as negotiating with Abbas about Gaza would be now. The Palestinian side probably thought it wise not to enter into any commitment that could possibly held against them but would not have been honored by the next Israeli government anyway.”

    I agree with you that Olmert was negotiating without authority and that it would have been far more realistic for him domestically to have negotiated earlier on his term. Where I disagree you is the notion that there has been anyone in the Palestinian government, at least since Arafat, who would have had anymore ability than a lame duck Olmert to seriously negotiate with Israel. This notion, I submit, that the Palestinians are waiting for an Israeli with authority to negotiate is another myth, I submit, that is hardly uncommon, but without any foundation whatsoever.

    There is an intractable problem on both sides of the table. That’s why it’s a problem.

    Bruce

  23. Tom, all I’m saying is that Witty and Fleshler are projecting their western rational thought. Cost benefit analysis if you will. On adversaries who are not western, not at all rational, and don’t really care what’s in their best interest. They want israel gone. If that’s not racist tell me what is. I’m not saying that they would take joy in a second holocaust like Wittys pal. Phil ( Hitler should have finished the job )
    Weiss. But it is what it is.

  24. Bill,
    So do you believe that all of the settlers are rational creatures who engage in cost benefit analysis? Did Menahem Begin engage in a careful thorough study of the likely costs and benefits of engaging in a settlement of the populated portions of the West Bank and Gaza before he embarked on it?

  25. Can you guys ever say anything without throwing in moral equivalence. Or is that some sort of a rule at liberal, kiss ass, suck up to people that hate you school?

  26. Bill,
    I’m not a liberal–but neither am I a racist or a fascist. I try not to engage in stereotypical thinking and I don’t throw a hissy fit if I get caught at it.

  27. “Where I disagree you is the notion that there has been anyone in the Palestinian government, at least since Arafat, who would have had anymore ability than a lame duck Olmert to seriously negotiate with Israel.”
    Okay, I admit it: I have no idea what you’re talking about here. Are you repeating the same-ol’ same-ol’ “Israel has no partner!” here? If so, you’re doing so right out of the blue, because I didn’t mention anything about that. (You’re wrong, but this wasn’t the topic here.)

    “This notion, I submit, that the Palestinians are waiting for an Israeli with authority to negotiate is another myth, I submit, that is hardly uncommon, but without any foundation whatsoever.”
    Again, you lost me. Who ever said that? Olmert was not a credible partner because he was politically a dead man walking while he was negotiating, thus he had no authority. Netanyahu, and many other Israeli leaders before him, as well as Olmert himself when he was still going strong, has plenty of authority to negotiate. They just don’t happen to offer anything beyond various forms of colonial submission for the Palestinians.

  28. Koshiro:

    You wrote:

    “The Palestinian side probably thought it wise not to enter into any commitment that could possibly held against them but would not have been honored by the next Israeli government anyway.”

    Seems straight-forward that this excerpt from your post is what I was responding to. Implicit in what you write is that, and what I took issue with, is this notion that under the correct circumstances, there would be Palestinian negotiators who would be prepared to negotiate along the lines of what was proposed by a lame duck Olmert.

    As to your second point, that’s a political statement which again, assuming that Israelis over the last year have only offered what amounts to “colonial submission”, that to the extent there was a better offer there exists a Palestinian negotiating contingent with authority to pursue it. I question that assumption.

  29. “hissy fit” boy, I’m wounded by that one. All I’m saying is that guys,like you, Witty, Fleshler. Are incapable of saying anything postive about Israel and letting it stand. Or anything critical of that Arabs, and lettign that stand alone. And I’m not even talking about Phil ( Hitler should have finshed the job ) Weiss. And his little buddy, Adam ( lithe and sinewy body ) Horowtiz. “Not that there is anything wrong with it”

  30. “Implicit in what you write is that, and what I took issue with, is this notion that under the correct circumstances, there would be Palestinian negotiators who would be prepared to negotiate along the lines of what was proposed by a lame duck Olmert.”
    a) No it isn’t.
    b) It’s irrelevant, since the current Israeli government has explicitly refused to resume where Olmert left off.
    c) Your claim that the Palestinian side would not negotiate on this basis is unproven and unfounded.

    As for the rest, I asked if you were repeating the same-ol, same-ol “Israel has no partner!” here. “Yes” would have been sufficient.

  31. Calling something “same ole” is a political statement taken from your playbook. Koshiro, the real issue is whether you can: (a) identify a Palestinian team that has the authority to engage in negotiations with Israel; and (b) tangible evidence that such a negotiating team is prepared to negotiate an agreement that is along the lines of the Clinton Parameters and/or the Geneva Initiative. I think the answer is “no” to both questions, and the fact that you want to lump me in to those who make “same ole” arguments is hardly a response to those arguments.

    Now, I also say that there is nobody on the Israeli side that is prepared to and has the political ability to negotiate a deal alongside the Clinton Parameters and/or the Geneva Initiative. But, there I submit constitutes the real difference between your “same ole” position and mine. I see a dead lock based on the positio nof both parties and you see an evil Israel that can do no right. And that’s what I see and sense from your comments, all of them, and consistently. I see blame on both sides.

  32. Good Jewish Liberal philosophy- “Both sides must be at fault”. “If there is a dispute it HAS to be that we are at least partly guilty”.

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