Speaking before a Knesset committee yesterday, Israel’s Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen pushed back on Netanyahu’s angry assertion that Mahmoud Abbas was to blame for inciting the horrific attack:
No one among the Palestinian leadership is calling for violence, Cohen said, noting that Abbas has reiterated that the path of intifada should be rejected. “ Abu Mazen [Abbas] is not interested in terror,” he explained, “and is not leading [his people] to terror. Nor is he doing so ‘under the table.’” At the same time, however, Cohen admitted that, “There are people in the Palestinian community who are liable to see Abu Mazen’s words of criticism as legitimization for taking action.”
J.J. Goldberg comments on why Cohen’s remarks are significant:
This is extremely distressing. Early this morning, two Palestinian cousins armed with meat cleavers and a gun burst into a synagogue in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Jerusalem and killed four worshipers before dying in a shootout with police. The attack was the deadliest act of terrorism in the city in years and comes amid escalating tensions and violence surrounding the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif complex, and may also have been carried out in retaliation for recent attacks on Palestinians in the city. Hamas, which praised the murders and called for more such “revenge” attacks, is certainly spinning it that way:
Ghazi Hamad, a senior Hamas official in Gaza, said in a BBC interview that attacks like Tuesday’s should be anticipated. “Everyone expected that this would happen,” Hamad said. “Every day Jerusalem is boiling, every day there is a new crime against a Palestinian citizen. We didn’t see any effort of the Israeli government to stop the settlers from attacking the al-Aqsa mosque. They should open their eyes and see there is a revolution in Jerusalem, there is an uprising.”
Goldblog holds this up as further evidence of Hamas’s genocidal ambitions:
If you haven’t already, take some time this weekend to read David Remnick’s article on Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, the shaky status of the two-state solution, and the resurgent chatter about an alternative. Remnick explores the history of the one-state idea and interviews a wide range of Israeli and Palestinian figures – from Sari Nusseibeh to Caroline Glick – on why it’s in the headlines again. No excerpt quite captures the substance of the piece in its entirety, but here’s the gist of it:
The one-state/two-state debate is highly fraught not least because of proximity. Too much history, too little land. This is not India and Pakistan; the map of Ireland is a veritable continent compared with Israel and the Palestinian territories. Gaza is about as close to Herzliya as Concord is to Hanover; the West Bank, as Israelis are quick to point out, is seven miles from Ben Gurion Airport. Any two-state solution with a chance of working would have to include federal arrangements not only about security but also about water, cell-phone coverage, sewage, and countless other details of a common infrastructure. Talk of a one-state solution, limited as it is, will never be serious if it is an attempt to mask annexation, expulsion, or population transfer, on one side, or the eradication of an existing nation, on the other. Israel exists; the Palestinian people exist. Neither is provisional. Within these territorial confines, two nationally distinct groups, who are divided by language, culture, and history, cannot live wholly apart or wholly together.
Meanwhile, escalating violence in Jerusalem and elsewhere – centered as usual on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif – has raised fears that a third Intifada may be afoot.
If she’s elected, Aaron David Miller predicts that the second President Clinton will bring a quick thaw to American-Israeli relations:
Given the lack of competition, unless he stumbles badly, Netanyahu may well outlast Obama. And that brings us to the matter of Hillary Clinton. Those of you looking for a new sheriff in town — one who is willing and able to teach those Israelis a lesson, cut them down to size, and make it clear to them as Bill Clinton, who exploded in frustration following his first meeting with Netanyahu in 1996, did when he said, “Who’s the fucking superpower here?” — best lay down and lie quietly until the feeling passes.
Since 1948, the US has declined to formally recognize Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem, maintaining that the final status of the city remains unsettled as long as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict does. But in 2002, Congress passed a law regarding “United States policy with respect to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel”, which, among other provisions, permitted US citizens born in Jerusalem to have their place of birth listed as “Israel” on their passports. State Department policy is to list only “Jerusalem” without designating a country. Bush signed the legislation but issued a signing statement protesting that it interfered with his authority to conduct foreign policy.
Enter Menachem Zivotofsky, the plaintiff in Zivotofsky v. Kerry.
The White House, answers Stephen Walt, for lobbing childish insults at Netanyahu via anonymous officials rather than acknowledging the real problems with our relationship with Israel. Indeed, in his view, chickenshit-gate itself demonstrates just how messed up that relationship is:
Netanyahu’s decision not to attack Iran wasn’t a show of cowardice (or being a “chickenshit”); it was a sensible strategic choice. The war talk from Israel was intended to distract attention from the settlements issue, keep Iran in the crosshairs as Public Enemy No. 1, and convince the United States to impose stiffer sanctions in the hopes of securing a better deal from Tehran over its nuclear program. But an actual attack was never a serious possibility. Bibi’s bluster might have fooled journalists like Goldberg — who has raised bogus alarms about an imminent Israeli attack on more than one occasion — but sensible observers should not have been taken in by all this folderol.
In the end, this minor incident mostly confirms the unhealthy effects of the “special relationship” itself. The sad truth is that top U.S. officials still can’t say openly what they really think about Israel’s behavior, or what they really think about the relationship itself. The mildest criticism invites automatic abuse from the lobby, and of course, anyone aspiring to a top foreign-policy position still has to mouth embarrassing platitudes and repudiate any previous criticisms in order to get appointed and confirmed. Just ask Samantha Power and Chuck Hagel how this process works. Ironically, it is U.S. leaders who mostly lack courage on these issues, not Netanyahu.
Walt is right so far as he goes – but what administration would want to directly confront the Greater Israel lobby, when it could manage to make some progress by other means?
And look at the long game with Israel – which, beyond the daily headlines, really has been fruitful. Not so long ago, we were warned (by Jeffrey Goldberg among others) that Israel was determined to attack Iran’s nuclear program unless the US intervened and did so itself. This was an existential issue, we were told. The task of the United States was, as ever, to fall in line behind the policy of the state of Israel. The Obama team handled this bluff – and what kind of government bluffs about what it calls an existential threat? – with varying levels of equanimity and exasperation. But they also constructed truly potent sanctions against Iran to prod Tehran to come to a deal.
The sanctions worked. Netanyahu railed against the policy, holding up his famous cartoon bomb at the UN, which measured the Iranian progress. But as the Iranians agreed to talk, and temporarily suspended parts of its program, the threat receded.
For the first time in 14 years, Israeli authorities yesterday closed off the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary in the Old City of Jerusalem and prevented men under 50 from praying there this morning, out of fear of escalating tensions in the city amid whispers of a third intifada:
Palestinian leaders had called for a “day of rage” because of the closing on Thursday and the killing by Israeli forces of a Palestinian man suspected in the assassination attempt Wednesday night against Yehuda Glick. Mr. Glick is a right-wing activist who promoted increased Jewish access and prayer at the site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. By midafternoon, Israel Radio reported that there were “riots” at several locations in the occupied West Bank, including Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem and the often-tense city of Hebron.
The situation remained mostly calm today but tensions remain high, and the situation could get worse before it gets better. Daniel Gordis describes the Israeli public’s reaction to the attempt on Glick’s life and the killing of the alleged shooter:
“How had he been found so quickly?” people wondered.
“The Israelis do not show sufficient appreciation for America’s role in backing Israel, economically, militarily and politically,” Abraham Foxman, the head of the Anti-Defamation League, told me. (UPDATE: Foxman just e-mailed me this statement: “The quote is accurate, but the context is wrong. I was referring to what troubles this administration about Israel, not what troubles leaders in the American Jewish community.”)
Heh. But the more troubling aspect of the column is this idea that any obvious clash of views or interests between the US and Israel is some kind of “crisis”. It certainly isn’t a crisis for Obama or the US. Paul Pillar makes a good point (seconded by Larison):
Sweep aside the politically-driven fiction about two countries that supposedly have everything in common and nothing in conflict and instead deal with reality, and the concept of crisis does not arise at all.
Nor does it really matter if Netanyahu “writes off” Obama in his last two years.
After a “senior Obama administration official” calls the Israeli prime minister a “chickenshit”, Goldblog wonders whether the strained relationship between the Obama and Netanyahu administrations is finally reaching a breaking point:
What does all this unhappiness mean for the near future? For one thing, it means that Netanyahu—who has preemptively “written off” the Obama administration—will almost certainly have a harder time than usual making his case against a potentially weak Iran nuclear deal, once he realizes that writing off the administration was an unwise thing to do. This also means that the post-November White House will be much less interested in defending Israel from hostile resolutions at the United Nations, where Israel is regularly scapegoated. The Obama administration may be looking to make Israel pay direct costs for its settlement policies. …
Netanyahu, and the even more hawkish ministers around him, seem to have decided that their short-term political futures rest on a platform that can be boiled down to this formula: “The whole world is against us. Only we can protect Israel from what’s coming.” For an Israeli public traumatized by Hamas violence and anti-Semitism, and by fear that the chaos and brutality of the Arab world will one day sweep over them, this formula has its charms. But for Israel’s future as an ally of the United States, this formula is a disaster.
The “chickenshit” comment referred in part to the Obama administration’s realization that, for all his bluster, Bibi will never follow through on his repeated threats to start a war with Iran over its alleged nuclear weapons program. Larison considers that a reasonable assessment, reiterating that a US- or Israel-led war with Iran would likely be a disaster:
John Adams and Alice Goodman’s 1991 opera explores the murder of Leon Klinghoffer, a wheelchair-bound American Jew who was killed during the 1985 hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro by members of the Palestine Liberation Front. The Metropolitan Opera’ new staging of the play opened on Monday night, but long before the curtain was drawn, the drama had already begun, as the Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish organizations (and some guy named Rudy Giuliani) protested the Met’s decision to stage a show that they claim has anti-Semitic overtones and tries to justify an act of terrorism:
Angry protesters gathered across from the Met on the opening night of the opera season last month; a pair of public talks with members of the “Klinghoffer” creative team were quietly called off; and Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, said that he had received threats related to the production. He recently sent an email to the opera’s cast expressing regret that they had been subject to “Internet harassment” and defending the work from its critics, according to a copy obtained by The New York Times. Many Jewish leaders, including liberals and conservatives, are finding themselves drawn into the debate. The Met’s attempts to calm things by canceling a planned transmission of the opera to movie theaters around the world this fall accomplished little — and may have fueled more criticism. Now “Klinghoffer” threatens to become the Met’s most controversial company premiere since 1907, when Strauss’s “Salome” was deemed outrageous and banned for decades.
Alex Ross, vitally, reveals the hateful illiberalism of the opera’s prime critic:
The most aggressive rhetoric came from Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, a money manager who has also worked as a political operative. A few years ago, Wiesenfeld won notoriety for seeking, unsuccessfully, to deny the playwright Tony Kushner an honorary degree, on account of Kushner’s criticisms of Israel. Wiesenfeld led the “Klinghoffer” rally, and he had much to say. “This is not art,” he thundered. “This is crap. This is detritus. This is garbage.” He declared, as he did at an anti-“Klinghoffer” event last month, that the set should be burned. He made a cryptic joke to the effect that, if something were to happen to Gelb that night, the board of the Met would be the first suspects.