With friends like these who needs enemies? Nicholas Kristof writes a mournful article asking “Is Israel its own worst enemy?”. His long-suffering tone and self-righteous commentary managed simultaneously to bring my blood pressure to boiling point and to make me burst out laughing at his ridiculous premises and conclusions.
Nothing is more corrosive than Israel’s growth of settlements because they erode hope of a peace agreement in the future. Mr. Netanyahu’s latest misstep came after the Obama administration humiliated itself by making a full-court diplomatic press to block Palestinian statehood at the United Nations. At a time when President Obama had a few other things on his plate — averting a global economic meltdown, for example — the United States frittered good will by threatening to veto the Palestinian statehood that everybody claims to favor.
Did anyone ask President Obama to “fritter away the US’s goodwill” by vetoing Palestinian statehood? Was it the mysterious power of the Jewish lobby once again? Some behind the scenes arm-twisting by Netanyahu? Or perhaps President Obama knows a bit more about foreign policy and what’s good fro the US than Kristof.
I realize that many insist that Jerusalem must all belong to Israel in any peace deal anyway, so new settlements there don’t count. But, if that’s your position, then you can kiss any peace deal goodbye. Every negotiator knows the framework of a peace agreement — 1967 borders with land swaps, Jerusalem as the capital of both Israeli and Palestinian states, only a token right of return — and insistence on a completely Israeli Jerusalem simply means no peace agreement ever.
Has Mr. Kristof thought of addressing these points to the Palestinians? Those very Palestinians who just this month rejected the Quartet’s proposals to restart peace talks? It appears that we can and should “kiss that peace deal goodbye” since those same Palestinians have declared quite openly – with no criticism from the NYT or any other international body – that any that this so-desirable state of theirs is going to be Judenrein.
Former President Bill Clinton said squarely in September that Mr. Netanyahu is to blame for the failure of the Middle East peace process
Did I imagine it or did Pres. Clinton not accuse Yasser Arafat himself of derailing the peace talks all those years ago at Camp David?
Mr. Netanyahu has also undermined Israeli security by burning bridges with Israel’s most important friend in the region, Turkey. Now there is also the risk of clashes in the Mediterranean between Israeli and Turkish naval vessels. That’s one reason Defense Secretary Leon Panetta scolded the Israeli government a few days ago for isolating itself diplomatically.
That is complete and utter tripe. It is not Israel who has burned its bridges with its neighbours, but rather the other way around. There is not an awful lot Israel can do when Egypt and Turkey are adamant about cooling off or even breaking ties with it. And once again I would remind Kristof and others that Israel has other regional alliances besides Egypt and Turkey.
While I was thinking about my response to this smug-toned editorial, I came across the best fisking of it in Commentary Magazine. Seth Mandell, echoing Kristoff’s words “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk”, titled his article “Friends don’t let friends write like Thomas Friedman“. When I’d stopped laughing I realized in hindsight that Kristoff’s article indeed sounded eerily familiar.
That sort of clichéd silliness had a distinctly Friedmanesque ring to it. And so it was. Here was Thomas Friedman last year reacting to the news Israel planned to build more homes for Jews in Jerusalem: “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.” There are many reasons for someone to avoid writing like Tom Friedman. Chief among them is: What did the English language ever do to you? But if Times columnists are going to echo Friedman, I have a request. How about this paragraph?:
The issue today is not whether Jerusalem will remain the unified capital of Israel, but whether it will be the habitable capital of Israel. Anyone who has visited Jerusalem lately knows Israel’s hold over the city is unchallenged, and I’m glad it is. Jerusalem was never a more open city to all religions than under Israeli rule after 1967.
That’s Friedman way back in 1997.
Read the whole thing. It’s not very long and you’ll be glad you did.
I was gratified to read in the New York Times letters page today 2 letters which backed up my own feelings on this sly editorial onslaught on Israel. Have a look at those too, and you’ll be happy to realize that not all NYT readers have blinkers on their eyes.
The first one, by one Amy Lipton, reads:
Nicholas D. Kristof asks, “Is Israel Its Own Worst Enemy?” (column, Oct. 6).
No, it is not. Israel’s worst enemy is a world that blames it for impeding a peace process when its leader has offered to sit down with the Palestinians’ leader immediately, anywhere, anytime, and has been repeatedly rebuffed.
Israel’s worst enemy is a world where both its allies and its foes hold it to an impossibly high standard, where its every action is scrutinized in a pitiless, often hostile vacuum, irrespective of context or provocation.
The second letter, by Michael Brenner, simply says in its closing paragraph:
The Israeli public elected Benjamin Netanyahu to be prime minister, and Mr. Netanyahu is simply trying to follow the will of the majority of Israelis, who do not want a dysfunctional terrorist state on their border.
What with the article by Bill Clinton, the editorial by Thomas Friedman and now this chiding item from Kristof, one gets the distinct impression that the New York Times has an strong agenda with regard to Israel: one that encourages suicidal concessions from Israel, stresses the danger to Israel from its actions which are leading to its international isolation, and hardly one word of criticism or condemnation of the Palestinians.
The NYT seems to be forgetting the duty of the press to remain neutral. It also needs to get over its overweening self-satisfaction that it is trying to save Israel from itself. We’ll manage on our own thank you.