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September 1, 2009: Is Make-Believe Enough?

September 24, 2009

When it comes to the “peace process,” analyst Barry Rubin seems to think so. An interesting take, from yesterday’s Post.

“For the moment, going through the motions is enough,” he says. This “pretend” can have benefits: it reduces pressure on Israel; allows energy for other issues; defuses the situation, etc.

Actually, Rubin says Obama administration’s willingness to “pretend” represents progress, as the president came into office pursuing a policy “based on the idea that it could achieve peace in a matter of months.”

Do we know that Obama is no longer serious about this? “When the US president portrays the possibility of two tiny states, Oman and Qatar, letting one-man Israeli trade offices reopen as a major triumph in confidence-building, despite being his sole achievement after months of top level diplomacy, what can one do but snicker?”


“Pretending,” of course, is what Netanyahu was doing when he declared it a mark of optimism, a sign of progress, that Abbas was willing to meet with him unofficially at the UN. That statement had made me crazy, for, I had asked, what is the source of optimism here. I had read the statement as a sort of pandering to Obama, and I was hungry for a modicum of truth: Who cares about meeting Abbas when Fatah has declared itself prepared to embrace armed resistance?

And, in fact, Rubin admits that this pretense has its down side:

If Western leaders believe their own propaganda — that peace is within reach — and then blame Israel when it doesn’t happen. That is why, from my perspective, keeping the reality on the radar screen at all times is important. Pretense may be the way of the world, as Rubin claims, but we’ve been playing this game, with only detrimental results, since Oslo. Ultimately, we pay the price, as the Arabs play the role of victim.

You can see this article at:



By the end of last week, there seems to have been a subtle backing down by the US government with regard to the demand for a total settlement freeze. Very subtle.

The statement by State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley went something like this: The position of the US government with regard to settlements hasn’t changed, but this is not a precondition to negotiations. After all, the parties have to work things out for themselves.

While we must remain ever mindful of the fact that something may be going on behind the scenes, this does seem to indicate that Netanyahu, whatever his willingness to compromise at some level, did not cave all the way regarding a freeze.

And in the days since, the issue seems to be more on the back burner. Could it be that it finally dawned on Obama that his obstinate insistence on the freeze was counterproductive to his goals?


Netanyahu is trying to re-frame the issue of “peace,” and for this he is to be congratulated. Here’s a case of telling the truth, when a modicum of truth is badly needed. No time for pretense. Settlements are not the problem, he is telling everyone he speaks with: The barrier to peace is the Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as the Jewish state.

If the world would “get” this at long last, it would shift the parameters of what is going on and put the onus solidly on the Palestinians, which is where it belongs.


As is my habit, I will appeal to you, especially in the US, to raise this very point wherever and whenever you have an opportunity — including in letters to the editor. This truly is a way to help Israel.

A couple of questions to pose with regard to this that might get people thinking:

Why is it that the Palestinian Liberation Organization was founded in 1964, before there were settlements? Before Israel controlled Judea and Samaria, and Gaza? Why did the PLO charter specifically state that it had no claim to these areas, which were then controlled by Jordan and Egypt (this was changed when Israel was in control)? Why wasn’t there peace then? Why, instead, was there the aggression that led to the war in 1967?

The answer, of course, it that the presence of Jews with their own state in the area was, and still is, inherently unacceptable to the Arabs/Palestinians.


Here’s another piece of reality that must be dealt with: Sheikh Tayseer Rajab Tamimi, the PA’s chief Islamic judge, last week declared that there is no evidence that Jews ever lived in Jerusalem or that the Temple ever existed.

Another statement from our moderate peace partner.


Salam Fayyad, PA PM, has announced plans to unilaterally establish a PA state within two years. This state would have Jerusalem as its capital and encompass all lands taken by Israel in 1967.

From now until 2011, Fayyad would work hard to establish civic infrastructure (something the Palestinians haven’t accomplished in 16 years) and achieve a unity government with Hamas.

It may be that this is one more instance of “pretend,” of pie-in-the-sky aspirations voiced for political purposes only. But if Fayyad is even half-way serious, this could amount to a declaration of war against Israel. Certainly there are many problems inherent in terms of what he is proposing, and this merits a close watch.


Well, it finally happened (I had begun to think it never would): former PM Ehud Olmert has had an indictment filed against him by Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz. Put simply, there are three issues involved: the Talansky affair, the double billing for trips (Rishon Tours), and the conflict of interest inherent in actions he took as trade minister that favored clients of his close associate Uri Messer.

This is the first time criminal charges have ever been brought against a former prime minister.





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