Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Israel-Palestine Negotiations: The Road to Nowhere. By Mohammed Ayoob.

Israel-Palestine Negotiations: The Road to Nowhere. By Mohammed Ayoob. Al Jazeera, July 29, 2013.

Peace talks “doomed”: Palestinian analysts. Shatha Yaish. AFP. Yahoo News, July 31, 2013.

Seven Reasons Kerry’s Mideast Talks Are Delusional. By Jeffrey Goldberg.

Seven Reasons Kerry’s Mideast Talks Are Delusional. By Jeffrey Goldberg. Bloomberg, July 31, 2013.

Israel Freed Murderers to Keep Building Settlements. By Jeffrey Goldberg. Bloomberg, July 29, 2013.


Well OK, then: In about nine months, the Arab-Israeli conflict will be over, and we can all move on to something else.
Here’s what John Kerry, the U.S. secretary of state, said yesterday at a news conference in Washington, in the presence of the lead Palestinian and Israeli peace negotiators: “The parties have agreed here today that all of the final status issues, all of the core issues, and all other issues are all on the table for negotiation. And they are on the table with one simple goal: a view to ending the conflict, ending the claims. Our objective will be to achieve a final status agreement over the course of the next nine months.”

Just to be clear, this is what will need to happen by next April, in time for the White House signing ceremony:
1. Jerusalem, the holiest city in Judaism and the third-holiest in Islam, will have to be divided in a way that doesn’t cause a global religious war. A Palestinian capital will have to be established in the eastern half of the city, and the world’s Muslims must agree to the continued control over much of the Old City, including and especially the Western Wall, by Israel. For their part, the Israelis must agree to cede permanent control of the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, to Muslim religious authorities. That or the parties must agree to international control over the so-called Holy Basin, which contains the most important sites of monotheism.
2. The Jews who live in Hebron, Judaism’s second-holiest city, must be made to leave, because the city will be part of Palestine. Or the Palestinian Authority must be convinced to grant them citizenship. The stated position of the Palestinian Authority is that Palestine will be empty of Israelis.
3. The descendants of the Palestinians who either fled or were expelled from what is now Israel during the 1948 Arab attack on the fledgling Jewish state must be told that they aren’t moving to Israel. The president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, must also survive the inevitable attempts on his life if he agrees to give up the Palestinian claim of “return.” Also, the Palestinians will have to agree never to lodge claims against Israel again.
4. A plan must be formulated to remove anywhere from 50,000 to 80,000 Israelis from the settlements on the far side of the West Bank security barrier. Among these settlers are thousands of fanatics who sympathized with the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, the former Israeli prime minister, for negotiating with the Palestine Liberation Organization. Also, Israel will have to stop building new settlements and thickening others. The current Israeli government is possibly the most pro-settler one in the country’s history, and a good percentage of the Israeli officer corps, the soldiers who would have to remove Jews from settlements, lives in settlements.
5. Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must be persuaded to trust each other. As Avi Issacharoff writes in the Times of Israel, “Abbas believes Netanyahu is unwilling to make peace, while Netanyahu believes Abbas is unable to. Both are sending out pessimistic vibes, giving those around them the feeling that nothing much will come of all this. This can be seen in their decision to send representatives to Washington instead of holding a high-level summit.”
6. Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, where almost half the future citizens of Palestine live, must either dissolve itself or be dissolved by force or change its ideology in such a way as to conform to the Palestinian Authority’s vision of compromise. If Hamas refuses to change, then Israel and the Palestinian Authority must have an effective plan to counter the mass acts of terrorism that often come during periods of heightened hopes for peace.
7. Hezbollah and Iran must be convinced not to start a war designed to interrupt the peace process. Also, Iran must be stopped from going nuclear, which would further destabilize an already destabilized Middle East. Also, Egypt must not collapse, the Syrian civil war must not spill over into the Israeli-Palestinian arena, Lebanon must remain a unitary state and Jordan must stay under control of the Hashemite monarchy.
I’m sure I’m missing some things. I’ll mention those later, whatever they are. I actually admire Kerry’s chutzpah a great deal. It’s important, for the sake of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, that a compromise is constructed in a way that prevents further bloodshed. I just hope that there’s a secret Plan B – some sort of interim arrangement that could forestall further tragedy even in the absence of a permanent accord.
Because if there isn’t, and Kerry’s negotiations fail, then the situation next year may be even unhappier than it is now.

Abbas: Arabs in Israel; No Jews in Palestine. By Jonathan S. Tobin.

Abbas: Arabs in Israel; No Jews in Palestine. By Jonathan S. Tobin. Commentary, July 30, 2013.

“Palestine” without Jews. By Herb Keinon. NJBR, July 31, 2013.

Why Israel Has No Negotiating Partner. By Benjamin Weinthal. National Review Online, July 30, 2013.

Abbas and the “Peace Process.” By Ahmed Feteha. Wall Street Journal, July 31, 2013.

The Real Palestinian Vision. By Emanuele Ottolenghi. Wall Street Journal, June 23, 2011.


While in Cairo yesterday to meet with Egypt’s new leaders, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas let drop a few remarks about the peace negotiations with Israel that began in Washington last night. As the Times of Israel reports, Abbas left no doubt about what his vision of peace entails:
“In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli — civilian or soldier — on our lands,” Abbas said following a meeting with interim Egyptian President Adly Mansour in Cairo.
The statement provoked little comment in the Western press, and no wonder. Most of the mainstream media has long accepted the Palestinian formulation that sees the presence of Israelis in the West Bank and Jerusalem as the primary obstacle to peace with the Palestinians. From this frame of reference, the peace equation is simple. No Israelis in Palestine means the conflict disappears. Therefore the sole object of peace negotiations is to leverage Israelis out of the areas that were illegally occupied by Jordan from 1948 to 1967.

But the problem here is not just that this is an absurd distortion of reality that ignores Jewish rights and security needs. The Abbas statement provides some important context for the key Israeli demand that the Palestinians refuse to accept: PA acknowledgement of the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state. If Palestinians think there is something racist about Israel being accepted as the sole Jewish state in the world, why is it OK for them to envision an independent state of their own where Jewish communities would have to be destroyed and their inhabitants be evicted?

Peace processers and Israel’s critics claim this reasoning is nit-picking, but this actually goes to the heart of the problem that Secretary of State John Kerry and his aide Martin Indyk are trying to unravel in the negotiations they have worked so hard to bring about.

The Palestinian position remains that specific acceptance on their part of Israel as a Jewish state would undermine the rights of the Arab minority inside the pre-1967 lines and force them to make a judgment about the country’s internal arrangements. But the whole point of the conflict since its beginnings a century ago has always been the Arab rejection of the return of the Jews to their ancient homeland. If Palestinians are determined to create an independent state where there are no Jews, why then are they so afraid of agreeing that their neighbors will be a Jewish state?

The reason for this is no mystery.

More than any compromise on borders, accepting Israel as a Jewish state would be an open acknowledgement that the conflict is finished. It would mean the descendants of the Palestinian refugees of 1948 would have to be resettled elsewhere and all terrorism and efforts to erase Israel inside its contracted borders would cease.

The demand for recognition of a Jewish state is often represented as something new created by Prime Minister Netanyahu in order to make peace more difficult to achieve. But it should be remembered that the original United Nations partition resolution of 1947 spoke of the country being specifically divided between a Jewish state and an Arab one, not Israel and “Palestine.” The effort to deny the right of the Jewish people to a sovereign state in their own land is an act of prejudice since no other group in the world is treated in this manner.

It is true that in the unlikely event that the Palestinians ever agree to peace on any terms, Israel will be anxious to evacuate any Jews currently living in territory from which they will withdraw. The reason for this is also no puzzle. Any Jews left behind in Arab lands would last as long as the greenhouses left behind in Gaza when Israel left that region in 2005. No one, not even the United States, could guarantee the safety of any Jew—whether a peace-loving leftist or a hard-core right-wing settler—living in a Palestinian state.

But that’s the conundrum of the whole peace process. Even though it is the national state of the Jewish people, religious and ethnic minorities have full rights in Israel. What Abbas is asking for is for Israel to be a bi-national state of Jews and Arabs while Palestine would be a solely Arab nation.

If Palestinian society were ever to evolve to the point where Jews could live in peace under Arab rule, then peace would be possible without any major effort from the secretary of state. So long as Abbas is promising to evict the Jews from Palestine, he has no right to reject Israel’s demand that he recognize that Israel is a Jewish state and that this cannot be reversed by future negotiations, the influx of refugees, or new wars. His refusal to do so will ensure that the talks Kerry has convened will be nine months of wasted effort.


The Obama administration is busy renewing its push for Middle East peace talks and the Europeans aren’t far behind. But how can these talks succeed when the Palestinians clearly don't support democratic ideals?

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas told the Arab League late last month that the future Palestinian state should be free of all Israelis, noting that their eviction could take place “in stages.” Although he didn’t explicitly single out Jews, there are few Christian, Druze and Muslim Israeli citizens living in the West Bank and Gaza. His message couldn’t be clearer: a Palestinian state will be Judenrein, or free of Jews.

This is a disturbing vision, to say the least. No one who knows Mr. Abbas’s history, however, should be surprised: He is a Palestinian nationalist who once wrote a thesis denying the Holocaust, and has shown little interest in a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Mr. Abbas’s statement should have incurred a harsh response from Western supporters of Palestinian independence, starting with the European Union, whose official Middle East policy calls for an “independent, democratic, viable Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel and its other neighbors.” Instead, Brussels was silent. And now, French President Nicolas Sarkozy is trying to coerce both sides to the negotiating table.

But this, too, is historically consistent. The EU has a terrible human-rights record in the Middle East, though its policy makers like to proclaim otherwise. Until recently, Brussels has been a strong financial and rhetorical supporter of Bashir Assad’s Syrian regime. Despite Mr. Assad’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy supporters, EU members retain their ambassadors in Damascus. The same goes for Bahrain. There is no EU democracy promotion in Saudi Arabia. Given such a record, Europe’s commitment to a democratic Palestine amounts to little more than empty rhetoric.

The same can be said for the U.S. and President Obama, who has only tepidly supported Israel as a democratic partner. The president gave a speech on the Middle East last month proposing that the “borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promptly rejected that idea, noting those borders aren’t defensible. For their part, the Palestinians long ago rejected the idea of a land swap. So much for U.S. policy leadership.

Israelis harbor no illusions about Palestine’s democratic credentials. The Israeli government has always been adamant that no Israeli citizens would be left behind a future border. Israelis remember well the fate of Jews under Muslim rule in the past: Even when protected by benevolent rulers, Jews often encountered persecution, expulsion and the occasional wholesale massacre. Under Muslim rule, access to holy places was restricted, and many were desecrated and destroyed.

Why would it be different this time? More often than not, minorities’ fate in the Middle East has been bloody and cruel. Shia suffer under Sunni rule and vice versa; Berbers and Kurds have never enjoyed the rights claimed for Palestinians; Christians are under attack everywhere in the region except Israel; Iran persecutes its Bahai, Christian and Jewish minorities; Turkey refuses to recognize its own Kurdish minority; and even in Lebanon, democratic tolerance is in decline.

The U.S. and EU, as Western democracies, profess to hold those values dear. But a state that aspires to be free of Jews cannot be a democracy. Any talks that pretend otherwise are simply foolish.

Egypt’s Missed Opportunity. By Carrie Rosefsky Wickham.

Egypt’s Missed Opportunity. By Carrie Rosefsky Wickham. New York Times, July 27, 2013.

The Islamic Paradox and the Future of the Middle East. By Reuel Marc Gerecht and Jeffrey Goldberg.

The Islamic Paradox. Reuel Marc Gerecht and Jeffrey Goldberg at the May 2005 Faith Angle Forum. Moderated by Michael Cromartie. Ethics and Public Policy Center, February 12, 2006.

The Islamic Paradox and the Future of the Middle East. Reuel Marc Gerecht and Jeffrey Goldberg at the March 2013 Faith Angle Forum. Moderated by Michael Cromartie. Ethics and Public Policy Center, March 18, 2013.

The Long Transition. By David Brooks. New York Times, January 29, 2006.

The Fever Is Winning. By David Brooks. New York Times, July 20, 2006.

Gerecht, 2013:

Now, the other issue, because it’s an important issue at least in the West, which people will pay attention to, is that if we didn’t know it already — and I think we can say this is going to disturb Jeffrey maybe just a little — the peace process, which was dead as a doornail before, is now completely dead as a doornail. It’s not going anywhere. Muslim fundamentalists have always found the whole idea of the peace process just morally revolting. Their idea of peace between Israelis and Palestinians for them is that there is only one state: it’s Palestinian and it’s Muslim.
You have to understand the Muslim fundamentalist religious narrative on Israel. Israel is a negation of the Koran. We’re not talking about small, little issues here. The entire Jewish narrative is a negation of the foundational story of the Islamic faith. Moses is a Muslim. The great Jewish prophets are all Muslim; they are not Jews. Thus the notion that you have a narrative for the creation of Israel based on people who are in fact Muslim is a contradiction. Muslims are very logical folks. Why is it that even secular Muslims tend to refuse to answer positively when you ask them, “Will you recognize the Jewish state?” They may say that “Israel” has a right to this and that, but they don’t say “the Jewish state.” The reason they don’t say “the Jewish state” is because it, in fact, negates their Bible. You’ve got to remember, the Koran is the literal word of God.
So the notion that as Islamic fundamentalists grow in influence, that you’re going to have concurrently a renewed peace process is, I think, to put it very politely, delusional. The first issue that has to be settled is amongst Muslims themselves. This always has been the issue.
. . . .
The whole issue of Israel and the Jews is going to be an extremely touchy one. If you thought it was a touchy one back when the Arab secular dictators would sort of make the motions in the direction of the peace process, but always, like Mubarak, backstab it when no one was looking; now there is not going to be any pretense. This is an important part of their identity as faithful Muslims. They are going to be very, very reluctant to give it up. Until you have the battle amongst Muslims — and that’s the real issue — then you cannot have the other battle. First you have to have a battle amongst Muslims — then you can talk about the Jews being integrated into the Muslim world. It’s just not going to happen the other way round.

Obama’s Middle Class Malaise. By Richard Epstein.

Obama’s Middle Class Malaise. By Richard Epstein. Real Clear Politics, July 30, 2013. Also at the Hoover Institution.

“Palestine” without Jews. By Herb Keinon.

“Palestine” without Jews. By Herb Keinon. Jerusalem Post, July 31, 2013.

Abbas wants “not a single Israeli” in future Palestinian state. By Noah Browning. Reuters, July 29, 2013.


Thankfully the relaunch of Israeli-Palestinian talks has, so far, been fairly void of the overdramatic rhetoric about being on the brink of Abraham’s children sitting in peace and harmony under their respective vines and fig trees.
The closest we came to words about feeling the flutter from the wings of the peace dove was newly minted US special envoy Martin Indyk on Monday, quoting President Barack Obama during his March visit to Israel: “Peace is necessary, peace is just, peace is possible.”
But even that minimalist description was jarred a few hours after the Washington launch of the talks on Monday, and just before Israeli and Palestinian teams sat down for an iftar dinner, when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas provided his vision of Israeli- Palestinian peace during a visit to Cairo.
“In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli – civilian or soldier – on our lands,” Reuters quoted Abbas as saying in a briefing to mostly Egyptian journalists.
In other words, the state Abbas wants Israel to give him must be judenrein.
The irony of a man whose spokesmen accuse Israel of apartheid saying that his “vision” of his state is one in which no Israeli foot can trod is simply astounding.
At a time when Israeli confidence that it will be possible to actually live alongside a Palestinian state needs desperately to be built up, words like these are at the least counterproductive, and at the most destructive.
“The test of whether the Palestinians will live in peace alongside us is whether they will allow some of us to live among them,” a senior Israeli official said some three years ago. His comments came at a time when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was indicating that in any future agreement, not all Jews should have to leave the parts of Judea and Samaria that will come under Palestinian control, and that those who want to live in places that have deep religious and historical significance to the Jewish people should be allowed to do so.
Abbas’s words in Cairo do not exactly enhance a mood of reconciliation. And it is exactly that mood of reconciliation that needs to be pumped up right now, not deflated.
One can debate later whether it will be either wise or safe for a Jewish minority to live in a future Palestinian state, but to completely rule it out off the bat does not bespeak a lot of goodwill. And, if the Israeli public is to back a deal, it will need some sense of goodwill from the other side.
In May 1994, just after the signing of the Oslo Accords and just before Israel handed Gaza over to Palestinian administrative control, Yasser Arafat gave a speech in English at a mosque in Johannesburg.
During that speech Arafat called for a jihad over Jerusalem (though he said later he meant a “jihad for peace”) and hinted that the Oslo Accords were a tactical move that could later be discarded.
The Oslo advocates, though horrified by his words, explained that the Palestinian leader did not really mean it, that these words were meant for domestic Islamic consumption only, and that Israel should not overreact and throw out the baby with the bathwater.
Time proved that Arafat meant what he said, and that his head – even in those early, giddy Oslo days – was not exactly in the peace mode.
Efforts to whitewash his words were misguided.
Unlike Arafat, Abbas did not call for a jihad in his briefing to journalists in Cairo, nor did he talk about agreements with Israel as only tactical measures that could be jettisoned when real victory seemed possible.
But still, there is something jarring about his declaration that his vision for a state is not one based on tolerance and mutual respect but rather on the principle that no Israeli will be allowed to tread in “Palestine.” (Equally jarring is that comments such as these, and he has made them before, are greeted with relative equanimity abroad.)
These words are even more galling considering that in the course of the negotiations Abbas will surely demand that Israel accept tens of thousands of descendants of Palestinian refugees, if not under the rubric of a “right of return” (which Israel will certainly reject), then certainly as a “humanitarian gesture.”
There is a substantial Arab minority in Israel. If there is to be peace, why is it a given that there can be no Jewish minority in “Palestine.”

Why Europe Is an Enemy of Israel. By Guy Millière.

Why Europe Is an Enemy of Israel. By Guy Millière. Real Clear World, July 31, 2013. Also at Gatestone Institute.


For nearly two millennia, the European continent has been a land of persecution and hatred for the Jewish people. The blood libels and the vilest accusations against the Jews have been accompanied by violence, pogroms, and confinement in ghettos and of course death camps. Eight decades ago, in the 1930s, anti-Semitism was considered honorable and aroused few objections. Later, the Nazi machine set into motion the “final solution,” and zealous collaborators existed in virtually all of continental Europe. “Willing executioners” were not only Germans – far from it.
After 1945, anti-Semitism suddenly became unmentionable, and European anti-Semites had to be silent. But they did not disappear. In the 1960s, after the Six Day War, a new way of being anti-Semitic emerged that allowed them to recycle their old way: they could not be “anti-Semites,” but they could be “anti-Israelis.” They rejoiced when General de Gaulle in France spoke of the Jews as a “proud and domineering people,” and saw those words as a kind of official sanction, a green light. Since then, “anti-Israelism” rapidly became mainstream. European politicians, diplomats and journalists have done their best never to miss an opportunity to berate and criticize Israel. Anti-Semitic terms used in the 1930s began to be used again, this time to describe the Jewish State.
When the “Palestinian cause” appeared, it immediately became a sacred cause in Europe, never mind what sort of values or governance it espoused. When it seemed possible to accuse Jews of “behaving like Nazis,” the opportunity was not missed.
Today, hatred of Israel is one of the most shared and prominent feelings in Europe. Using anti-Semitic terms to criticize Israel is common, normal and “politically correct.” Fighting for the “Palestinian cause” in the name of “peace” is the only fight that can bring together politicians from the left and the right. Any terrorist attack against Israel is almost unanimously described as a fruit of the “cycle of violence” and of “Israeli intransigence,” never mind that it is actually the Palestinians who historically have been intransigent. An Israeli response to a terrorist attack is immediately criticized by European diplomats as “disproportionate.” A Palestinian attack is never criticized at all.
When anti-Israeli groups rally to boycott Israel and violently invade stores selling Israeli products, the only condemnations to be heard are from Jewish organizations.
It is in this context that the recent EU decision to ban its members from dealing with Jewish communities and with any Jew living beyond “1967 borders” must be viewed.
European leaders who took the decision, and those who approved it, know perfectly well that there has never been a “1967 border,” only armistice lines drawn in 1949, but they act as if they did not know. European leaders know perfectly well how indefensible the “1967 borders” are for the Israeli army, but again they act as if they did not know.
European leaders also know that the “1967 borders” place the Old City of Jerusalem and the Western Wall and the Temple Mount (the holiest site of Judaism) outside the boundaries of Israel. They know, too, what the loss of these would mean for Israel and the Jewish people, but they stand their ground. They know, as well, that their position is similar to that of the Palestinian Authority, which seeks ethnic cleansing of Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem, but self-righteously insist. They know that the Golan Heights, under Israeli law and administration since 1981, was used for years by Syria to shoot down from the plateau at the farmers in the valley, and are fully aware of the situation in Syria and its al-Qaeda affiliates near the Golan Heights today, but nonetheless stand fast.
For more than four decades, several European countries, and the European Union itself, have established close and compromising relationships with various regimes in the Arab world. They have become prisoners of what is called Europe’s “Arab Policy” – with full support for the “Palestinian cause” and “anti-Israeli” activities and movements, regardless of how thoroughly detrimental these might be to their own survival – as so presented by Bat Ye’or in her prophetic book, Eurabia, published in 2005.
European leaders who voted for the ban and those who approved it also stand their ground in part because migration flows have changed the demographics of Europe, and because in Europe the number of Muslims – a significant proportion of whom have become radicalized – has sharply increased. Europe today is therefore not only a prisoner of Europe’s “Arab Policy,” support for the “Palestinian cause” and “anti-Israeli” activities and movements: it is also hostage to its Muslim population, to Islamists, and to the immense success of the campaign of intimidation waged against it by Muslims, such that any incident, or any political position unpleasant to Muslims, can lead to riots.
When Israel’s leaders appeal to Europe’s “moral values,” they should realize that when the subject is Jews, almost all Europeans abandoned moral values seven decades ago, and the same may be said for their views of Israel. If moral values are what the Israelis and Jews are looking for in Europe, they are looking in the wrong place.
Europe has once again chosen cowardice and complicity.
European governments and the European Union are the biggest donors of financial assistance to the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian Authority. They are also the biggest donors to most anti-Israel movements operating in Europe and in Israel. They in fact funded BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movements long before they took the decision that now makes BDS official.
The Israeli government has warned European governments and the European Union that this may trigger a “serious relationship crisis between Europe and Israel;” in reality the crisis has been ongoing for a long time.
On July 26, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon ordered the Coordinator of Government Activities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza to turn down any request by the European Union concerning these regions.
In an article published July 27 in the Jerusalem Post, Caroline Glick suggested further Israeli responses to the European decision: “passage in the Knesset of a law requiring all Israeli entities that agree to operate under the EU’s funding guidelines to register as foreign agents and report all EU contributions.” “Those contributions,” she added, “should be taxed at the highest corporate tax rate.”
As “Area C” is the area of Judea and Samaria where Israel exercises most civil and military authorities, Glick writes that Israel should “suspend all EU projects in Area C. Future EU projects should be subject to intense scrutiny by the civil administration. Israel’s default position should be to reject, rather than approve such requests, given their hostile intent.”
Israel’s leaders surely see that European governments and the EU are not friends of Israel.
European governments and the EU have never been friends of Israel. Now, they are less friends of Israel than ever. The likelihood that they will adopt a more positive attitude toward Israel is nil.
They speak as enemies of Israel. They behave as enemies of Israel. They take decisions only enemies of Israel would take.
They are at war with Israel. They do not wage war directly: they engage battle through other channels, hypocritically, viciously, and cowardly.
In the 1940s, Europe was the continent of Auschwitz. Today, Europe is a continent where politicians and technocrats support what Abba Eban called the “Auschwitz borders.” There is no doubt they hope for results similar to those obtained in Auschwitz, just by other means.

Democrats Have Become the Party of Concentrated Elite Power. By Yuval Levin.

The Country Party. By Yuval Levin. National Review Online, July 29, 2013.

Can Republicans Be Economic Populists? By Jonathan Chait. New York Magazine, July 31, 2013.

The “Country Party” and the “Court Party.” By Ross Douthat. NJBR, July 28, 2013. With related articles.


In a characteristically superb column yesterday, Ross Douthat described our contemporary political situation in terms of the “court party” and “country party” — terms drawn from 17th-and 18th-century British politics that refer to a party that wields power for the benefit of elite players and institutions and an opposition that seeks more dispersed power for the benefit of a larger public. No historical analogy is ever perfectly apt, but this one is powerfully clarifying.
Particularly as laid out by its foremost intellectual leader, Henry St. John (the Viscount Bolingbroke), the country party’s idea of an organized political opposition as well as its particular policy vision — which combined a commitment to individual liberty and frugal, restrained government with a kind of social traditionalism — were enormously influential in colonial America and have always continued to exert a powerful influence over our politics. It is an influence that we have often, perhaps too loosely, described as populism.
For much of the past four decades, that kind of substantive populism (as opposed to the far more insidious institutional populism advanced by the early progressives) has tended to be divided into cultural and economic populism, and the two parties have tended to break down along a double axis of populism and elitism: The Republican party has been the party of cultural populism and economic elitism, and the Democrats have been the party of cultural elitism and economic populism. Republicans have tended to identify with the traditional values, unabashedly patriotic, anti-cosmopolitan, non-nuanced Joe Sixpack, even as they pursued an economic policy that aims at elite investor-driven growth. Democrats identified with the mistreated, underpaid, overworked “people against the powerful,” but tended to look down on those people’s religion, education, and way of life. Republicans have tended to believe the dynamism of the market is for the best but that cultural change can be dangerously disruptive while Democrats tended to believe dynamic social change stretches the boundaries of inclusion for the better but that economic dynamism is often ruinous and unjust.
But in more recent years, perhaps especially the last decade, the Democratic party has been moving away from economic populism and becoming truly the party of concentrated elite power. As our elites have grown more socially liberal and our economy has grown more concentrated and consolidated, it has become easier to pursue liberal goals through the system than against it and the Democratic party has become the party of the large, established players — the court party, more or less.
Much of the policy agenda of the Obama administration has embodied this approach. It has been an agenda of consolidation — protecting larger players from competition in exchange for their willingness to serve as agents of government power and driving crucial sectors of our economy (finance and health insurance above all, but by no means only those) toward greater consolidation. This has been something of a return to the original vision of the American progressives, with its active role for government in choosing economic winners who will best serve the common interest while otherwise restraining chaotic market competition. “In economic warfare,” Herbert Croly wrote in 1909, “the fighting can never be fair for long, and it is the business of the state to see that its own friends are victorious.” Big business and big labor, overseen by big government, would keep things in balance. As big labor gradually fades, the progressive economic vision has come down to big business and the state.
The Left’s diminishing emphasis on economic populism has also been on display in the immigration debate, where the kinds of concerns with the wages of low-skill workers that were evident among Democrats in prior rounds of the argument have basically disappeared. Consider this New York Times editorial from February of 2000, arguing against amnesty for illegal immigrants on the grounds that “amnesty would undermine the integrity of the country’s immigration laws and would depress the wages of its lowest-paid native-born workers.” Can you imagine such an editorial today in the flagship publication of American liberalism? The economic arguments they made have not gone away, as Andrew Biggs recently noted. It’s the Left’s interest in those arguments that has abated.
In general (and a discussion of such trends can only involve pretty gross generalizations of course), this has tended to leave us with one party of economic elitism and cultural populism and another party of economic elitism and cultural elitism. It’s a situation that should make Republicans think.
The Left’s economic policies (and the legacy of decades of right-wing confusion about the difference between being pro-market and being pro-business too) are making the American economy less and less like the vision of capitalism that conservatives should want to defend. They should consider what now would be best for the cause of growth and prosperity — the cause of free markets and free people.
Capitalism is fundamentally democratic, after all — we today might say fundamentally populist. Adam Smith’s opponents were mercantilists. He argued against economic policies that pursued the benefit of the nation’s largest producers and traders, which were taken to be equivalent to the interests of the nation as a whole. They are no such thing, Smith insisted, nor does helping big business necessarily increase the wealth of the nation. “The wealth of a state,” Smith wrote, “consists in the cheapness of provision and all other necessaries and conveniences of life.” So a nation is wealthy, in effect, when consumer items are inexpensive, at least relative to the means of the general public; that is, a nation is wealthy when a comfortable life is within the reach of most. Only economic growth, made possible by vibrant competition, can reliably allow for this to happen. Such growth, and so such competition, should be the goal of economic policy and regulation.
Recovering this understanding of conservative economics would help today’s Republicans see an enormous public need, and an enormous political opportunity, they tend to miss, and to which conservatism could be very usefully applied. It would point to a conservative agenda to help working families better afford life in the middle class, and to give more Americans a chance to rise. This would mean emphasizing conservative paths to higher wages and a lower cost of living for working families (like pro-family tax reform, a more growth-oriented monetarypolicy, health-care reform that reduces costs through competition and consumer power, energy policy aimed at both spurring growth and lowering utility bills by making the most of our domestic resources, K–12 reform to give families more ways to escape failing schools, higher-ed reforms to restrain tuition inflation, entitlement reform to reduce the burden of debt on the young while retaining the safety net for the poor and the old). It would also mean financial regulation with an eye to competition, rather than consolidation.
The Democratic party can’t really do most of this. Both its ideology and its electoral coalition leave its options quite constrained. It has to make the most of its status as the party of entrenched insiders, and to employ populist rhetoric to mask its increasingly elitist agenda.
Republicans could and should offer the public a responsible, pro-growth, pro-market, economic populism. On conservative philosophical grounds, on practical economic grounds, and on sheer political grounds, it makes an enormous amount of sense. In many ways, it is the missing organizing principle in a lot of conservative policy conservations today. And as Douthat notes, many younger conservatives seem to see this. But most Republicans still do not.
The resistance does not, in my view, come from donors — who often get the blame for it. Blaming them requires a very simplistic view of how political movements work, and a misinformed sense of who Republican donors are and what they want. Even their interests, let alone their ideology and aspirations, would not be in much tension with this agenda.
Instead, it seems to me that the resistance comes from some politicians and activists who have not yet internalized the political environment and the American situation of the early 21st century. They are entirely well intentioned, and they are no less appalled than I am at the increasingly statist corporatism of the age of Obama. But they believe that resistance alone could suffice as an answer — that the Democratic agenda is sufficiently odious that the public requires only a means by which to say no to it. And in its place they have in mind a general outline of the Reagan-era conservative agenda, or maybe even of the pre-Obama status quo. They do not see that a working-families conservatism would move well to the right of that status quo ante, and yet would also be far more popular.
Perhaps understandably, if not wisely, they recoil from all detailed policy prescriptions, seeing them as symptoms of an overactive urge to micromanage. But conservative successes have always been success of public policy, not of anti-policy. And their resistance to policy leaves them, and the Republican party, with an inadequate sense of the purpose and potential of political opposition. Here, too, not much is new under the sun. Here is Bolingbroke, in his 1736 letter “On the Spirit of Patriotism,” laying out his vision of the country party in opposition:
I have observed, and your Lordship will have frequent occasions of observing, many persons who seem to think that opposition to an administration requires fewer preparatives, and less constant application than the conduct of it. Now, my Lord, I take this to be a gross error, and I am sure it has been a fatal one. It is one of those errors, and there are many such, which men impute to judgment, and which proceed from the defect of judgment, as this does from lightness, irresolution, laziness, and a false notion of opposition. . . .
They who affect to head an opposition, or to make any considerable figure in it, must be equal at least to those whom they oppose; I do not say in parts only, but in application and industry, and the fruits of both, information, knowledge, and a certain constant preparedness for all the events that may arise. Every administration is a system of conduct: opposition, therefore, should be a system of conduct likewise; an opposite, but not a dependent system. . .
It follows from hence, that they who engage in opposition are under as great obligations, to prepare themselves to control, as they who serve the crown are under, to prepare themselves to carry on the administration: and that a party formed for this purpose, do not act like good citizens nor honest men, unless they propose true, as well as oppose false measures of government. Sure I am they do not act like wise men unless they act systematically, and unless they contrast, on every occasion, that scheme of policy which the public interest requires to be followed, with that which is suited to no interest but the private interest of the prince or his ministers. Cunning men (several such there are among you) will dislike this consequence, and object, that such a conduct would support, under the appearance of opposing, a weak and even a wicked administration; and that to proceed in this manner would be to give good counsel to a bad minister, and to extricate him out of distresses that ought to be improved to his ruin. But cunning pays no regard to virtue, and is but the low mimic of wisdom. It were easy to demonstrate what I have asserted concerning the duty of an opposing party. and I presume there is no need of labouring to prove, that a party who opposed, systematically, a wise to a silly, an honest to an iniquitous, scheme of government, would acquire greater reputation and strength, and arrive more surely at their end, than a party who opposed occasionally, as it were, without any common system, without any general concert, with little uniformity, little preparation, little perseverance, and as little knowledge or political capacity.
If the view of opposition he is criticizing doesn’t make you think of today’s Republican party, at least much of the time, then you’re not paying attention.
But precisely because today’s resistance to a policy-oriented conservatism is inertial more than structural — and is the view of devoted activists pursing the good of the country rather than donors defending material interests — it is open to persuasion and proof. The effort to provide those is what a lot of the intellectual energy of the conservative movement is directed to now.
Lots of people on the left fail to see that, just as they fail to see the transformation of their own political movement and the vulnerability it has left them with. To better grasp both, they could do worse than read Ross Douthat every week.

Glamorizing the Face of Terrorism. By Virginia Postrel.

Glamorizing the Face of Terrorism. By Virginia Postrel. Time, August 5, 2013. Also here.

The Rolling Stone Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Interview. By Janet Reitman. NJBR, July 21, 2013.

SPIEGEL Interview with Salman Rushdie: “Terror Is Glamour.” SPIEGEL Online, August 28, 2006.


No sooner had Rolling Stone put Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on its cover, looking doe-eyed and rock-star disheveled, than critics denounced the editors for “glamorizing terrorism.”
“The cover of Rolling Stone is meant for glorifying rock stars, icons, and heroes NOT murderers!” protested a typical reader in the article’s online comments thread. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino decried the magazine for its “celebrity treatment” of Tsarnaev and for sending the “terrible message that destruction gains fame for killers and their ‘causes.’”
Unfortunately, Islamist terrorism doesn’t need Rolling Stone to make it glamorous. For the right audience, apparently including Tsarnaev, it already is. Understanding the nature of that glamour could offer clues to discouraging future terrorists. But first we have to acknowledge that terrorist glamour exists.
The novelist Salman Rushdie recognized the connection in a 2006 interview. “Terror is glamour—not only, but also,” he said, arguing that many terrorists “are influenced by the misdirected image of a kind of magic . . . The suicide bomber’s imagination leads him to believe in a brilliant act of heroism, when in fact he is simply blowing himself up pointlessly and taking other people’s lives.”
The interviewer was flabbergasted, but Rushdie was correct. Glamour is about much more than celebrity, sex appeal or shiny dresses. It’s a product of imagination—and a powerful form of persuasion.
Glamour gives its audience the feeling of “if only”—if only I could belong to that group, wear that dress, drive that car, date that person, live in that house. If only I could be like that. By embodying our longings in a specific image or idea, glamour convinces us, if only for a moment, that the life we yearn for exists. That dream can motivate real-world action, whether that means taking a resort vacation, moving to a new city, starting a band or planting a bomb with visions of martyrdom. What we find glamorous helps define who we are and who we may become.
Janet Reitman’s Rolling Stone story on Tsarnaev points to several sources of glamour that have nothing to do with celebrity: the allure of military action, utopian causes and a lost homeland and identity. All these things speak to desires that go deeper than fame. “It is not uncommon for young Chechen men to romanticize jihad,” Reitman writes, describing “abundant Chechen jihadist videos online” that show fighters from the Caucasus who “look like grizzled Navy SEALs, humping through the woods in camouflage and bandannas.”
To be a jihadi warrior, these images suggest, is to be a man. Martial glamour is as ancient as Achilles. It promises prowess, courage, camaraderie and historical importance. It offers a way to matter. The West once recognized the pull of martial glamour—before the carnage of World War I, the glamour of battle was a common and positive phrase—but it ignores at its peril the spell's enduring draw, especially for those who feel powerless and insignificant.
Unlike traditional soldiering, Islamist terrorism provides a sense of belonging even to those operating independently of a larger group or cell. “We Muslims are one body, you hurt one, you hurt us all,” Tsarnaev wrote as he hid from authorities. Taking up the greater cause allows an alienated youth to feel part of something special, even as his personal problems dissolve in the larger whole. Radical jihadism taps into the glory of “changing the world” as surely as any other political movement.
It’s easiest to imagine an ideal life in a time or place you know only from selective images, whether that's Ernest Hemingway’s Paris, Ayn Rand’s Galt's Gulch or Carrie Bradshaw’s New York City. For political movements, the distant ideal may be a future utopia, a past golden age or a faraway homeland. With its dreams of a restored caliphate, Islamist terrorism combines utopia and a golden age. For second-generation immigrants in secularized and non-Muslim societies, it may also draw on the glamour of a distant homeland. A friend told Reitman that Tsarnaev “would always talk about how pretty Chechen girls were” even though he hardly knew any. “I want out,” Tsarnaev tweeted in March 2012.
Critics who fear that putting terrorists on magazine covers may encourage future violence have a point. Fame is a spur. But Islamist terrorism draws on much more complex and powerful forms of glamour than a desire for rock-star treatment. Dispelling that magic is both harder and more essential than denouncing Rolling Stone.

Rushdie Interview:

SPIEGEL: While researching your books – and especially now after the recent near miss in London – you must be asking yourself: What makes apparently normal young men decide to blow themselves up?
Rushdie: There are many reasons, and many different reasons, for the worldwide phenomenon of terrorism. In Kashmir, some people are joining the so-called resistance movements because they give them warm clothes and a meal. In London, last year’s attacks were still carried out by young Muslim men whose integration into society appeared to have failed. But now we are dealing with would-be terrorists from the middle of society. Young Muslims who have even enjoyed many aspects of the freedom that Western society offers them. It seems as though social discrimination no longer plays any role – it’s as though anyone could turn into a terrorist.
SPIEGEL: Leading British Muslims have written a letter to British Prime Minister Tony Blair claiming that the growing willingness to engage in terrorism is due to Bush’s and Blair’s policies in Iraq and in Lebanon. Are they completely wrong? Don’t the atrocities of Abu Ghraib and the cynicism of Guantanamo contribute to extremism?
Rushdie: I’m no friend of Tony Blair’s and I consider the Middle East policies of the United States and the UK fatal. There are always reasons for criticism, also for outrage. But there’s one thing we must all be clear about: terrorism is not the pursuit of legitimate goals by some sort of illegitimate means. Whatever the murderers may be trying to achieve, creating a better world certainly isn’t one of their goals. Instead they are out to murder innocent people. If the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, for example, were to be miraculously solved from one day to the next, I believe we wouldn’t see any fewer attacks.
SPIEGEL: And yet there must be reasons, or at least triggers, for this terrible willingness to wipe out the lives of others – and of oneself.
Rushdie: Lenin once described terrorism as bourgeois adventurism. I think there, for once, he got things right: That’s exactly it. One must not negate the basic tenet of all morality – that individuals are themselves responsible for their actions. And the triggers seem to be individual too. Upbringing certainly plays a major role there, imparting a misconceived sense of mission which pushes people towards “actions.” Added to that there is a herd mentality once you have become integrated in a group and everyone continues to drive everyone else on and on into a forced situation. There’s the type of person who believes his action will make mankind listen to him and turn him into a historic figure. Then there’s the type who simply feels attracted to violence. And yes, I think glamour plays a role too.
SPIEGEL: Do you seriously mean that terrorism is glamorous?
Rushdie: Yes. Terror is glamour – not only, but also. I am firmly convinced that there’s something like a fascination with death among suicide bombers. Many are influenced by the misdirected image of a kind of magic that is inherent in these insane acts. The suicide bomber’s imagination leads him to believe in a brilliant act of heroism, when in fact he is simply blowing himself up pointlessly and taking other people’s lives. There’s one thing you mustn’t forget here: the victims terrorized by radical Muslims are mostly other Muslims.
SPIEGEL: Of course there can be no justification for terrorism. But nevertheless there are various different starting points. There is the violence of groups who are pursuing nationalist, one might say comprehensible, goals using every means at their disposal . . .

Rushdie: . . . and there are others like al-Qaida which have taken up the cause of destroying the West and our entire way of life. This form of terrorism wraps itself up in the wrongs of this world in order to conceal its true motives – an attack on everything that ought to be sacred to us. It is not possible to discuss things with Osama bin Laden and his successors. You cannot conclude a peace treaty with them. They have to be fought with every available means.

The New Mideast Talks: Much Risk, Little Hope. By Aaron David Miller.

The New Mideast Talks: Much Risk, Little Hope, but Still We Must Try. By Aaron David Miller. New York Times, July 29, 2013.

Aaron David Miller on the potential for success in new Mideast peace talks. Video. America Live. Fox News, July 30, 2013.

Netanyahu the Peacemaker. By Roger Cohen. New York Times, July 29, 2013.

A Fool’s Errand Worth Pursuing. By Fareed Zakaria. Time, August 5, 2013.

Can desire for US approval top Israeli-Palestinian divide. By Ben Lynfield. The Christian Science Monitor, July 29, 2013.

The demands that underpin and Israel Palestine peace deal. By Damien McElroy. The Telegraph, July 30, 2013.