Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Arabs Harm Palestinians, World Yawns. By Walter Russell Mead.

Arabs Harm Palestinians, World Yawns. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, July 24, 2013.

The EU Shows Its True Colors on Israel. By Peter Martino. Real Clear World, July 24, 2013. Also at Gatestone Institute.


Ever since the ouster of Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s military has been wreaking havoc on the lives of Palestinians in Gaza. The 1.7 million residents of the Gaza Strip rely heavily on trade through a network of tunnels on the Egyptian border for their livelihood. But with the Muslim Brotherhood out of power, the Egyptian military has been happy to crack down on the tunnel trade and smother Gaza’s economy, depriving the Palestinians there of jobs and income. The WSJ reports:
In the days after Egypt’s military pushed President Mohammed Morsi from power, the army led what local residents described as an unprecedented assault on the tunnel trade, strangling a lifeline for construction materials and fuel into the blockaded strip. […]
“The impact is very clear in Gaza: There is no fuel, there is no cement,” said Omar Shabaan, an economist who directs the Gaza-based economic think tank Pal Think. “Things are getting worse in terms of economic activity, which makes the social situation more difficult.”
Many Palestinians in Gaza make a living by transporting goods like fuel, cement, and steel through the tunnels, a trade the Egyptian military is destroying. The closure of the tunnels has made goods less affordable, halted construction projects worth millions, and deprived the government of tax revenue. In a word, Egypt has the power to make life in Gaza unlivable, and they’re using it.
We can’t help but think that if Israel made life miserable for Palestinians—intentionally and without compunction, as in Egypt’s case—the world would be up in arms. But when, as is frequently the case (see here, here, here, and here), Arabs are the direct cause of Palestinian suffering, no one seems to care.
One thing some people in Europe might want to think about: If something fills you with rage when Jews do it, but doesn’t bother you at all when others do it, you might consider asking yourself why that is. 

Just a thought.

Want Peace? Get Rid of Hamas. By Jeffrey Goldberg.

Want Peace? Get Rid of Hamas. By Jeffrey Goldberg. Bloomberg, July 24, 2013.

The Religious Cold War Dividing the Middle East. By David Blair.

The new Cold War dividing the Middle East. By David Blair. The Telegraph, July 23, 2013.

What Future for Israel? By Nathan Thrall.

What Future for Israel? By Nathan Thrall. The New York Review of Books, August 15, 2013. Also here.


Israel’s new government represents well the rightward shift in mainstream Israeli thought. Like Netanyahu and Lapid, most Israeli Jews say they would accept a two-state solution, but the terms on which they are willing to do so are hardly realistic. Many of those further to their right, by contrast, are rather more clear-eyed—or perhaps simply honest—about what peace would entail. In a veiled attack against Netanyahu and Lapid, Naftali Bennett recently said, “Some say they are against the division of Jerusalem but they are in favor of a Palestinian state. And I ask, where exactly would the Palestinian capital be? In Jericho? In Bethlehem? In Berlin?”
The right has strengthened as the arguments of the left and center have been discredited. Promoters of negotiations have failed to convey how high a price a peace agreement would exact. They have told themselves and the public that the outlines of a peace deal are well known and they have asserted that agreement exists where it does not. Ambassador Stuart E. Eizenstat, a veteran of the Carter and Clinton administrations and co-chairman of the board of the Jewish People Policy Institute, writes in The Future of the Jews that it is “commonly understood that the largest settlement blocks would remain under Israeli control in any final peace agreement.” Israelis similarly speak of “consensus” settlements, but the common understanding of which Eizenstat writes is shared only by Israelis and their supporters. Leaked Palestinian transcripts from the Annapolis talks of 2007–2008 record the two sides fighting fiercely over the future status of what Israelis consider one of the most “consensus” settlements of all, Ma’ale Adumim, east of Jerusalem, with some 40,000 residents.
Claims of a peace within grasp have been as overstated as warnings that the perpetually closing window for a two-state-solution has nearly shut or that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank will make it an international pariah. In the countries in which the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel (“BDS”) has made the largest gains—South Africa and the United Kingdom—Israeli exports have in fact sharply risen. Israelis are not overly worried that the European Union will go significantly beyond wringing its hands over the way its financial support of the Palestinian Authority effectively underwrites Israel’s occupation.
Even if proposals to boycott Israeli companies based in the West Bank were to gain steam, they would not stop Israel’s banks, cable television companies, or supermarkets from operating beyond the 1967 borders; nor would they reduce the number of settlers, most of whom work not at factories adjacent to Ariel but west of the Green Line—at places like Google, Intel, and the prime minister’s office. And while elite attitudes toward Israel in the US are changing, recent polls have cast doubt on widely publicized claims that young, non-Orthodox Jews in the US are growing more distant from Israel.
Years of relative quiet in the West Bank—2012 was the first year since 1973 that not a single Israeli was killed in an attack there—have undermined the charge that the now-forty-six-year-old military occupation is unsustainable. Secretary Kerry has warned that Israel “will be left to choose between being a Jewish state or a democratic state.” But limited Palestinian self-governance, including close security cooperation with Israel, continues to protect Israel from having to make any such choice.
An inescapable and likely unintended conclusion one draws from Abrams’s behind-the-scenes account of policymaking during the second intifada between 2000 and 2005 is how effective violence was in eliminating Israeli complacency and advancing Palestinian goals. Less than a year into the uprising, pressures from Saudi Crown Prince Abdallah—in the form of tearful pleas for America to restrain Israel and a secret letter that, Abrams writes, “put US-Saudi relations in the balance”—led the US to endorse Palestinian statehood. Ariel Sharon soon followed with his own statement of support for a Palestinian state, becoming Israel’s first prime minister to do so.
As the Palestinian ambushes, sniper fire, and suicide bombings continued, Sharon abandoned his decades-long dream of retaining Gaza and all of the West Bank. “The bloodshed was so great,” Abrams writes, “that Sharon lifted his year-old” policy of demanding seven days of quiet before he would negotiate a cease-fire with the Palestinians. Later he used the word “occupation” before a Likud Knesset faction meeting, saying it “cannot go on forever.” As pressure mounted to end the violence, Sharon announced that Israel would withdraw from Gaza.
The subsequent rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza did not end the desire for more talks. They did, however, greatly strengthen the right’s argument that the conflict is neither primarily territorial nor based on grievances stemming from Israel’s 1967 conquest. Both Palestinian and Israeli hard-liners have gained supporters by casting doubt on the notion that the conflict could be resolved in an exchange of land for peace. This central axiom of the two-decades-old peace process made sense for Israel’s negotiations with Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, but never with the Palestinians, who believe that the core of the conflict is Zionist settlement in Palestine and the expulsion of Palestinians during the 1948 war that established the Israeli state.
The belief of American and Israeli negotiators that solving the problems of 1967 will close the door on those of 1948 comes under powerful rebuke in two original books from distant points on the Israeli political spectrum: the historian Asher Susser’s Israel, Jordan,and Palestine: The Two-State Imperative and the sociologist Yehouda Shenhav’s Beyond the Two-State Solution. Susser documents how the gaps between the two sides, or at least some leading spokesmen from the two sides, have narrowed on issues deriving from the 1967 war—borders, settlements, and security arrangements—while “little if any real progress was made in resolving the 1948 question of refugee return.” That issue prominently resurfaced in January, when Abbas said that Israel had refused to allow Palestinian refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict to enter the West Bank and Gaza unless they renounced their right of return to Israel. With the political dominance of the Israeli right, which places greater emphasis on Israel’s own 1948 issue—Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state—the gaps between the two sides are indeed only widening.
The intangible elements of the conflict have grown in importance while the Green Line defined by the 1949 armistice has been all but erased. Jewish nationalist attacks against Palestinian communities in the West Bank have crossed into Israel, taking the form of arson, vandalism, and violence against Palestinian citizens of Israel. Jewish activists in the West Bank have expanded their demographic battle to cities in Israel proper, west of the Green Line, buying homes in the Palestinian neighborhoods of Ramla, Akko, and Lod. Dozens of Israel’s municipal chief rabbis signed a ruling forbidding the rental of homes to non-Jews. Many Israelis no longer know where the Green Line lies, mistakenly identifying it with the current West Bank separation barrier and quite unaware that they have crossed it on major roads and highways.
Israel’s turn away from the Palestinians has brought an overdue shift in focus from the borders of the state to what lies within them. Jewish identity was a central issue of the 2013 election; indirectly, so too was the place of minorities in the Jewish state. Among Israeli citizens, Jews but not Palestinians have collective rights to land, immigration, symbols such as their own flag, and commemorations, particularly of the Nakba, the catastrophe of Palestinian defeat and expulsion in 1948. Jews and non-Jews cannot legally marry. Current residents of Jerusalem homes that were abandoned during the 1948 war have been evicted to make room for former owners and their descendants—but only when the deed holders are Jews.
The inequality of Jews and non-Jews within Israel’s pre-1967 borders—in which Palestinian citizens and residents lived under military rule from 1948 until the end of 1966—prepared the ground for still more unequal arrangements in the West Bank after the 1967 war. Both were created by the Ashkenazi Labor Zionist elite that now criticizes the settlers for dynamics it set in place. On what grounds, Shenhav asks, is the idea of Jewish settlement in ruined Palestinian villages within the pre-1967 borders—formerly inhabited, in many cases, by Palestinian citizens internally displaced by war—considered more moral than Jewish settlement on Palestinian agricultural lands of the West Bank? The former, he argues, involved far more human suffering. Susser, indeed any Zionist, would surely object to comparisons that would cast doubt on Israeli claims to its pre-1967 territory. But he offers strong support for the underlying premise that the root of the conflict is not east of the Green Line but in the more than century-old project of Zionist settlement itself.
The fading importance of the pre-1967 borders means a breaking with illusions and a return to the true nature of the conflict: a struggle between two ethnic groups between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. The peaceful arrangements they have so far discussed have all fallen short of both the full sovereignty Palestinians desire and the hard ethnic separation the Israeli center and left seek. As Susser writes:
The Palestinian state that the Israelis were willing to endorse was never a fully sovereign and independent member of the family of nations, but an emasculated, demilitarized, and supervised entity, with Israeli control of its airspace and possibly of its borders too, and some element of Israeli and/or foreign military presence.
This was as true for Netanyahu as for Olmert, Barak, Peres, and Yitzhak Rabin, who a month before his assassination told the Knesset that the Palestinians would have “less than a state.”
Israel, Susser argues, almost certainly will not achieve an end of conflict, much less recognition of a Jewish state, without meeting Palestinian demands to admit responsibility for the flight and expulsion of refugees of the 1948 war. Israel can point to its acceptance of the UN partition plan that was rejected by Palestinians and Arab nations, which then attacked the new Jewish state. But the forced displacement of a very large number of Palestinians during the war that followed is now a documented reality, one that for most Palestinians supports their claims to return, or to ample compensation for their losses, or to both.
Many Israeli leaders believe that any such acknowledgment of responsibility or acceptance of Palestinian claims to return would shake the very foundations of the state, undermining its international legitimacy and upending decades of Zionist teaching by conceding that Israel was responsible for forcibly dispossessing large numbers of Palestinian civilians from their land and homes at its birth. Netanyahu understands the size of this obstacle, or once did, yet is moving with Kerry to renew talks based on the foundering 1967 model.
Kerry, like his predecessors, has concentrated on 1967 issues such as borders and security, showing few signs that he has learned from past failures. One hopes that he is not under the mistaken impression that Olmert and Abbas were inches away from a real agreement. Those talks did not come close to resolving even the 1967 issues. What’s more, compared to Olmert, Netanyahu is less desperate, less willing to compromise on 1948 issues, and is making calculations in a region that has become less stable and forgiving of risk.
If renewed talks break down, Israelis may begin asking themselves whether the time has come to abandon hopes of a full peace in order to achieve—perhaps through cease-fires or further unilateral withdrawals—a partial separation. They would thereby create something more than one state but less than two, which is, in fact, all that was ever on offer.

Israel and the Dismissal of Morsi. By Hicham Mourad.

Israel and the dismissal of Morsi. By Hicham Mourad. Ahram Online, July 22, 2013.

While Israel argued to keep US aid flowing to Egypt, even under Islamist rule, there is no doubt it is glad to see the back of Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood regime.

My So-Called Celebrity Affair. By January Lang.

My so-called celebrity affair. By January Lang. Salon, July 21, 2013.

He was a married football star, and I was his mistress. I expected a lavish fantasy, but I got reality instead.

FDR’s Jewish Problem. By Lawrence Zuckerman.

FDR’s Jewish Problem. By Lawrence Zuckerman. The Nation, July 17, 2013.

Lawrence Zuckerman: FDR Holocaust revisionism serves right-wing agenda. By David Austin Walsh. History News Network, July 22, 2013.

America’s Star System: The Monetization of Prestige. By George Packer.

America’s Star System. By George Packer. The New Yorker, July 23, 2013.


Last year, Bill Clinton earned seventeen million dollars giving speeches, including one before a company in Lagos that paid him seven hundred thousand dollars. Hillary Clinton will be paid two hundred thousand dollars for each speech that she gives to the likes of the American Society of Travel Agents and the National Association of Realtors. David Petraeus, the retired Army general and ex-C.I.A. director, was offered two hundred thousand dollars by the City University of New York to teach one course each semester and to give a couple of public lectures, until a small outcry from faculty and students embarrassed the university into reducing his salary to one dollar. CUNY’s swift retreat suggested that there’s something wrong with public figures commanding and getting spectacular fees for minimal work. But is there?
The best argument for overcompensating V.I.P.s is that the market wants to. I’ve never understood exactly what the Global Business Travel Association gets out of paying the nation’s former top diplomat six figures to tell its members that the only stupid question is the one you didn’t ask and that honey catches more flies than vinegar, but no doubt the G.B.T.A. has figured out Hillary Clinton’s publicity and marketing worth down to the third decimal place (this is the Global Business Travel Association), so why shouldn’t it spend its money as it sees fit? Similarly, CUNY’s chancellor, Matthew Goldstein, and its dean, Ann Kirschner, must have calculated and recalculated General Petraeus’s tangible and intangible benefits to the city’s public university system many times before arriving at a taxpayer-funded salary roughly eight times that of an adjunct professor teaching a full course load.
Moreover, the Clintons and Petraeus spent their careers in government service, which is to say, they were underpaid for decades. Bill Clinton made just two hundred thousand dollars during his last year in the White House. (In George W. Bush’s first year, Congress doubled the amount to four hundred thousand dollars, where it has remained ever since.) Hillary Clinton’s highest annual salary as a U.S. senator was $169,300; as Secretary of State she made just $186,600 a year. Petraeus actually made more at the end of his military service—two hundred and thirty-nine thousand dollars is the basic pay for someone in his position as the head of U.S. Central Command—but for a quarter century he was a badly paid junior officer and field-grade officer who once nearly died from an accidental rifle wound. Why should anyone begrudge these public servants their chance to finally cash in like everyone else? Are they expected to refuse the money? Was Clinton supposed to tell the publishing company in Lagos, “I could never lend myself to any transaction, however respectable, that would commercialize on the prestige and dignity of the office of the Presidency”?
Those were Harry Truman’s words after he became an ex-President. On principle, Truman refused all corporate positions and commercial endorsements, and for a few years he barely survived on an Army pension of $112.56 per month, until his memoirs sold well. (There were no Presidential pensions until 1958, when word of Truman’s near-poverty spurred Congress to pass the Former Presidents Act.) Truman’s gesture now seems exceedingly old-fashioned. Today, no one refuses the money.
Al Gore didn’t refuse the money when, in January, Al Jazeera, the pro-Muslim Brotherhood satellite network—which is owned by Qatar, a repressive sheikhdom that spends its wealth from oil exports to support Sunni political extremism across the Middle East—offered to buy his failing Current TV network for five hundred million dollars. The ex-Vice-President cleared seventy million dollars for himself. (When Jon Stewart pressed him about this inconvenient truth, Gore repeated his talking points, whatever they meant: “It was an easy choice after doing the diligence on the network itself.”) Also in January, Gore cleared thirty million dollars from the sale of his shares of Apple Computer, which he’d received as compensation for serving on its board of directors after leaving government. A hundred mil in a month—these days the Vice-Presidency is worth a little more than a bucket of warm piss.
The revolving door out of the White House hasn’t reached the speed of the one on Capitol Hill, where the traffic between Congress and K Street is so crowded that some elected officials and aides plot their government careers with an eye to maximizing their earning potential once they get out. (Trent Lott left his Senate seat and his position as Minority Leader before the end of his term in order to get into the lobbying business ahead of a new law requiring a two-year hiatus.) But it’s possible to imagine a future where potential candidates study Bill Clinton’s impressive post-Presidency income (more than a hundred million dollars in speaking fees alone) and add that to the calculus as they contemplate whether to run for the highest office in the land. Similarly, Petraeus’s private-sector windfall since leaving government in a sex scandal gives a new, greener glow to the aura of the military hero.
There’s no doubt that these and other ex-public servants are “commercializing” their former offices. Petraeus, who spent his career living by an honor code before violating it at the end, might have felt the sting of criticism more than some of his civilian counterparts. In accepting a dollar a year from CUNY, he was harking back to a time when, during the Second World War, businessmen made the opposite move and went to work in government as “dollar-a-year men.” Perhaps his backpedalling under public opprobrium will start a trend toward self-restraint and Trumanesque gestures of refusal on the part of our leaders. Probably not.
The top of American life has become a very cozy and lucrative place, where the social capital of who you are and who you know brings unimaginable returns. If you’re an international rock star, you can get a piece of the deal when Facebook has its I.P.O. If you’re a global columnist, you can monetize your influence across the speaker’s circuit and through paid TV gigs. If you’re the chairman of a tech giant, you can get Bill Clinton and Tony Blair to blurb the book you sort of wrote. At the highest altitude, the distinction between entertainers, inventors, business moguls, athletes, academics, and government officials breaks down, making it all the harder to object when an ex-President simply acts like everyone else at his level of fame and influence. After all, the star system, with wildly unequal rewards for relatively small differences in talent, holds in virtually every area of American society. If a bright light from these worlds acted like Truman today, he’d be considered a sucker.
If it isn’t fair to ask stars to refuse the money, it is fair to ask exactly what they do to earn it. One problem with the star system (aside from its appearance of corruption and conflict of interest, and its demoralizing effect on adjunct professors, journeymen power forwards, mid-level executives, freelance journalists, and career bureaucrats) is the pervasive mediocrity and corner-cutting that it encourages: the utter banality of corporate speeches written by staff, the abuse of researchers and ghostwriters by big-name authors, the ease with which a star athlete transitions into a business franchise or a commentary gig, the lack of face time with the prof that awaits CUNY students who register for “Are We on the Threshold of the North American Decade?,” a course whose instructor needed three Harvard grad students just to help him put together the syllabus. Nothing spells the end of real achievement like becoming a brand.
Yes, these are very busy people. They have a charity gala to co-chair, a speech in Hong Kong to give, a deal in Dubai to finalize, a board meeting in New York to attend by conference call, a memoir to check in on. No one any longer expects them to spend the rest of their lives upholding the prestige and dignity of their offices. It would almost be enough just to see them sweat a little for the big payday that’s headed their way.

Why America Swoons Over the Royals. By Peter Foster.

Royal baby: Why America, proud republic, swoons over our royals. By Peter Foster. The Telegraph, July 23, 2013.

The Doctrine of Samantha Power. By Paula Broadwell.

The doctrine of Power. By Paula Broadwell. Prospect, July 17, 2013.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back for Kerry’s Peace Talks. By Walter Russell Mead.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back for Kerry’s Peace Talks. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, July 23, 2013.


It wasn’t long before the Israelis and Palestinians rained all over the State Department’s parade. Following the weekend’s welcome news that peace talks may resume, the two sides spent yesterday “play[ing] down . . . the prospects of their envoys meeting in Washington any time soon”, says Reuters:
Palestinians said negotiations could not begin unless it was clear in advance that they would be about a future state based on pre-1967 borders, while an Israeli official said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would seek the approval of his cabinet before going ahead. […]
The talks would be aimed at resuming negotiations stalled since 2010 in a dispute over Jewish settlement building on land Palestinians seek for a state.
But an Israeli official said “it looks like negotiations will begin only next week, not this week.
As we’ve said, the impulse among many is to scoff at Secretary Kerry’s accomplishments as paltry and his setbacks as predictable. But the Secretary is not engaged in an entirely vain endeavor: concessions and consensus, however small, can contribute to improvement for both peoples, if only at the margins. In any case, with Egypt and Syria ablaze, the last thing the US needs is a Palestinian government feeling neglected, frustrated and forgotten.
From the outside, at least, it seems that Secretary Kerry has demonstrated skill in rebuilding some trust in the US from both sides, and that he has made it clear that even as the world tugs at America from myriad directions, the hopes and concerns of Israelis and Palestinians still matter to this country. His has been rhetoric backed by serious effort, and we applaud him for it.
That said, we remain about as far from a final peace now as we’ve ever been. As long as the administration sees the conflict as a tertiary issue in the Middle East, from which we can hope to extract minor albeit important progress, we’ll be ok. If it remains the focus of US diplomacy to the exclusion of other, more important concerns, US policy in the region will wind up looking worse than it already does.