Archives For: Israel

There was a little kerfuffle yesterday as Goldblog reported on an Obama bigwig calling Bibi a “chickenshit.” My favorite bit of the column was this nugget:

“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.

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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:

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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.

Burning the set?

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The Tories And Israel

Oct 15 2014 @ 1:18pm

Here’s a straw in the wind. The Daily Telegraph is in many ways the bastion of British (or rather English conservatism). I worked for it as an intern in the summers of 1984 and 1985, while I was also moonlighting in Margaret Thatcher’s personal policy shop. (My contribution was a paper arguing for an aggressively pro-environmental stance for conservatism, which died a very quick and sudden death.) Back in those days, it was still literally on Fleet Street in a great mausoleum of a building that was the model for the paper in Evelyn Waugh’s classic novel, Scoop. It was then edited by the man Waugh lampooned as “William Boot” in the novel, William Deeds, an astonishingly sane, charming and decent man, and seconded by the man who shepherded me into the higher arts of hackery – even if I simply never mastered the functional alcoholism which was the Fleet Street rule in those days.

Which is a long way of explaining why the paper that championed Thatcher, that has a soft spot for UKIP, and that is by and large to the right of David Cameron, just ran a piece that no right-of-center outlet in the US – save The American Conservative (peace be upon them) – would ever dream of running. It’s about Israel, and it follows the British parliament’s overwhelming but non-binding vote to recognize a Palestinian state as a way to put some pressure on Israel to stop its continued assault on the land and homes and dignity of the Palestinians it controls. Money quote:

If you need proof of just how friendless Israel’s hard-Right government has become, consider the statements last night from MPs who would normally count themselves the country’s natural allies.

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This Time He’s Serious?

Oct 7 2014 @ 10:44am

UN-GENERAL ASSEMBLY-PALESTINE

On the heels of a UN speech that pissed off Israel to no end by accusing the country of committing “genocide,” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is circulating a draft Security Council resolution that would compel Israel to withdraw from all occupied Palestinian lands by November 2016. The resolution is almost guaranteed to fail by way of a US veto, but Colum Lynch examines the strategic thinking behind the move:

The Palestinian strategy is driven by two basic assumptions, according to senior diplomats. The Palestinians believe they can never achieve agreement on the creation of a Palestinian state as long as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in power. At the same time, they doubt that President Barack Obama is prepared to invest the sufficient personal political capital needed to even revive meaningful peace talks. “They don’t believe they can make a deal with the Israelis as long as Netanyahu is president,” said one senior Western diplomat who maintains close contacts with the Palestinians. “They want to tell the international community that they have done everything on the diplomatic front.”

Juan Cole outlines the stakes for Israel:

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ISIS And Israel

Oct 3 2014 @ 7:11pm

Yishai Schwartz argues that the Islamic State has killed off chances for an Israeli-Palestinian peace:

Israel sees a region in flames and a proliferation of terrorist groups. As governments fall and brutal militants seize territory all around them, the guarantee of a paper treaty seems scant protection. Who knows what government will even be there tomorrow? What good is a treaty when terrorists with rocket launchers control territory mere miles from your cities?

In his speech at the United Nations just a few days ago, this was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s central theme:

“States are disintegrating. Militant Islamists are filling the void. Israel cannot have territories from which it withdraws taken over by Islamic militants yet again, as happened in Gaza and Lebanon. That would place the likes of ISIS within mortar range – a few miles – or 80 percent of our population.”

These are not the words of a man prepared for imminent and far-reaching territorial concessions. Netanyahu has long had something of a pre-Egyptian treaty strategic mindset. Now, with al-Nusra and Hezbollah sitting on Israel’s northern border, Hamas in Gaza and most frighteningly, an unstable Jordan threatened by ISIS to the East, who really can blame him?

But Nathan J. Brown disputes the Israeli PM’s facile views on ISIS, particularly his “Hamas=ISIS” propaganda:

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Ali Murat Yel defends Turkey’s reluctance to join the war coalition against ISIS:

Public opinion in Turkey holds that a Muslim cannot be a terrorist and any terrorist cannot be a Muslim. In other words, terrorism and Islam cannot be reconciled. This public conviction is certainly the real attitude of the President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who has formed the Alliance of Civilizations with Spain against the expectation in some quarters of a “clash of civilizations” and has been trying to restore peace with different ethnic groups in Turkey. The President himself and the majority of Turkish people believe that terrorism could be defeated intellectually not through waging war on them.

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by Jonah Shepp

At one point or another in my short life so far, I think I have held every position on Israel that it is possible to hold, from militant support to equally militant opposition. But this summer, I briefly reverted to the right-wing Zionism of my teenage years, at least for the purposes of Facebook. Amid the Gaza war, my feed was suddenly inundated with denunciations of the racist, fascist, Zionazi terrorist state. There wasn’t much to love in the rants about the ZOG or conspiratorial nonsense about ISIS being an Israeli-American plot, but what really got my goat were comments like this one:

Settlers can go back to anti-semitic Europe where they came from! … Every last zionist shall be kicked out and notice the emphasis on the word zionist. Jews however are welcome to stay and woreship like they have among us for the past 1500 years. (sic)

This oft-expressed distinction between Zionists and Jews betrays a total misunderstanding of what Zionism is and what Israel means to most Jews. Palestinians who say that “the Zionists” must go but “the Jews” can stay need to come to grips with the fact that Zionism, at its core, is about creating a space where Jews do not need someone else’s permission to live. Diaspora Jews of my generation may be much less attached to Israel than our parents and grandparents, but when push comes to shove, we’d rather it exist than not, because we know that our permission to live freely and safely in any other country can be withdrawn at any moment. In our history as a people, we have seen it happen time and time again with devastating consequences. With a well-armed territorial state to our name, we no longer have to fear those consequences.

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by Dish Staff

On Sunday, Israel declared nearly 1,000 acres of land near Bethlehem in the West Bank to be “state land”, allowing it to be developed into a new settlement, in what Haaretz describes as a partly punitive measure:

The announcement follows the cabinet’s decision last week to take over the land in response to the June kidnapping and killing of three teenage Jewish boys by Hamas militants in the area. Peace Now, which monitors settlement construction, said it was the largest Israeli appropriation of West Bank land in 30 years. … The appropriated land belongs to five Palestinian villages in the Bethlehem area: Jaba, Surif, Wadi Fukin, Husan and Nahalin. The move is the latest of a series of plans designed to attach the Etzion settlement bloc to Jerusalem and its environs. Construction of a major settlement, known as Gvaot, at the location has been mooted by Israel since the year 2000. Last year, the government invited bids for the building of 1,000 housing units at the site, and 523 are currently under construction. Ten families now live on the site, which is adjacent to a yeshiva.

Jonathan Tobin defends the decision by pointing out that this particular area would end up going to Israel in any conceivable two-state deal anyway:

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Syria’s War At Israel’s Door

Sep 2 2014 @ 5:09pm
by Jonah Shepp

The Syrian civil war took an interesting turn late last week as fighters from the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra overran the Quneitra checkpoint between Syria proper and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and captured or surrounded dozens of UN peacekeepers from Fiji and the Philippines. Juan Cole finds precisely none of this surprising:

The London-based Al-`Arabi al-Jadid reports that Israeli Gen. Aviv Kochavi, now head of the Northern Command but until recently chief of military intelligence, has for two years been warning that the Syrian civil war could spill over onto Israel. Haaretz has also shown alarm at the developments. Not only is the Succor Front consolidating its hold on Golan, but the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) is alleged to be infiltrating Syrian villages near Israel in the north. The Syrian army, once responsible for Israel-Syria border security, has “evaporated” after losing battles with the militants. The likelihood that Israel could in the long run be completely insulated from a raging civil war right next door, which has displaced 3 million abroad and more millions internally, was always low. The view that it is good for Israel when the Arabs fight one another is a glib and superficial piece of cynicism challenged by seasoned observers such as Gen. Kochavi.

One of the many side effects of Israel’s regional isolation is that it tends to treat conflicts in and among its neighbors as the Arabs’ problems and pay them relatively little mind, compared to the interest one might expect a country to take in violence so close to its borders. This isolation emerges from the intractability of the conflict and, to my mind, represents a noteworthy obstacle to regional peace.

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