Thursday, May 6, 2010

Third Force In Palestine

A few days ago, I joined the J Street delegation on a visit to Ramallah, to meet the Palestine Authority prime minister, Salam Fayyad. The meeting was cordial and unexceptional. Fayyad is among the most popular people on the planet these days, and his handling of us proved why. People say he is a technocrat; but he actually has that Obamaesque ability to take a a tense moment, or a hostile question, and exude sympathy and intelligence.

Fayyad focused on the improved security situation in the West Bank, but made clear that the American trained police force, which is largely identified with him (or at least his strategic vision), cannot hold things together for long if we don't get a clear political horizon with a Palestinian state on it. Law and order, yes. But no defense of the status quo, which translates as a defense of Israeli interests. That would be fatal for any Palestinian leader: he is promising the development of a state within the womb of the occupation, sort of the way Ben-Gurion and the Histadrut incubated a state within the British Mandate.

At the same time, there is something in Fayyad's notion of law and order that is also bound to put him into conflict--not only with Hamas sympathizers, for whom non-violence is anathema--but the old guard of Fatah as well. Fayyad likes to quote Martin Luther King, but feels more an acolyte of John Locke. The purpose of law and order is not just the suppression of anarchy and fanaticism, but the working through of market liberties. For Fatah, this is an incipient threat. Everybody who decodes Palestinian politics knows what is implied here.

There are two pent up energies in the Palestinian territories, in other words, insurgent and entrepreneurial. The most ambitious young people need to feel that they can improve their lives. They know Israel suppresses the first energy, while the corruptions and monopolies of old Fatah cadres thwart the second. So law and order means the foiling of armed militias, but it also means that you can start a business without having to wet the beak of ministers and PA hacks.

For Ben-Gurion, all knew, getting rid of the Mandate and declaring a state meant gaining control of immigration, so that a million refugees, trapped in Europe, might come. For Fayyad, there are also refugees to consider. But getting rid of the occupation and declaring a state means gaining control of the conditions that will allow for economic growth. The state will need to work. The point is to free up billions in financial capital, trapped in bank accounts, with no credit worthy business plans to invest in.

Will Fayyad actually form a third movement or party? In effect, he already has, though it isn't clear it will be independent for some time from Fatah and the PLO, which provides a residual umbrella of legitimacy. But you can get a sense of this third force gaining in strength by reading this, a no-nonsense article in The Hill, by Palestine Investment Fund CEO, Mohammed Mustafa, and listening to this, a penetrating interview with Mustafa Barghouti, on Chris Lydon's indispensable "Radio Open Source."

Needless to say, this force is the best thing that ever happened to Israelis who are serious about a just peace, and a very good thing for Obama's peace initiative as well. Needless to add, it is an elite force--or should I say a force backed by an elite--so its power does not command deep sympathies in the streets and refugees camps. Like a water skier, Fayyad needs forward motion to stay up. Think about this every time you hear the Netanyahu government, or its pathos-trafficking apologists, insist on deferring critical decisions to a time after "confidence building measures" succeed, as if the status quo builds anything but hate.


Y. Ben-David said...

Bernie's meeting with Fayyad reminds me of a posting he did some years ago about his meeting with then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Olmert told Bernie, with tears in his eyes, how HE was going to be the one to finally make peace with the Palestinians. Well, we see how that all worked peace, but Olmert did give Israel two wars.
Now it is Fayyad who has won Bernie's heart. He also used all the "right" words and the Palestinians entrepeneurial elites will lead the way to peace, and how, somehow, they will take power from from the armed FATAH and HAMAS militiamen. Sounds nice. Smart people that Bernie approves of will run everything, for Israel's benefit.
No doubt there are young people are also bursting with entrepeneurial ideas in places like Iraq, but the people keep killing each other there, and in Iran, but the regime there is more interesting in building A-bombs and exporting the Shi'ite revolution and suppressing their population.
So now Fayyad is saying all the right things. At least the things to win over people like Bernie, just like Olmert did back then.

If only the people of the Middle East only thought like Bernie! The only problem is that people don't think like Bernie, but he doesn't seem to realize that yet.

Shoded Yam said...

"...but Olmert did give Israel two wars"

No. Israel gave Israel two wars. You give Olmert too much credit. By now, it should be obvious that the man could'nt find his ass in a dark bathroom with both hands and a flashlight. You're much to modest, ben duvid. Ehud couldn't have done it with you. You and every other shameless jingoistic jackass in the country.

Potter said...

We all meet again.......

I did listen to the Mustapha Barghouti interview, being a long time fan of Chris Lydon's work. I recommend this especially to Y. Ben-David if he can clean out his head for a short while. Here is another good man. Barghouti and Fayyad don't (can't) exist in a vacuum. And in a Palestinian poll quoted in a comment on Lydon's site Fayyad has a very high approval rating (63-65%), higher than Fateh or Hamas (sinking in the poll) or Obama here.

Y. Ben-David said...

Are they willing to give up the "Right of Return"? Are they willing to sign a peace agreement ending all further claims and grievances against Israel?

Gibson Block said...

If the Palestinian police force can prevent attacks on Israel and Palestinian business people are free to operate without payoffs to Fatah drones, it's hard to believe that peace would not be far behind.

Bernie usually says that Israel holds all the cards but here it sounds as if he's making an argument against himself.

Potter said...

Y- Ben David: There is a reason that "right of return" is in quotes: in other words: yet to be construed as.....

And yes I believe so, once the deal is just. I have seen no just deal yet. We have seen the beginnings of such a deal.

But it's also a catch 22 .. Israel has the ability to be instrumental, a strong partner in helping Palestinians help themselves. The more Israel prevents Palestinians from helping themselves, insists upon taking land designated as Palestinian, rather sees Palestinians as only enemies, and in fact makes enemies, the longer the conflict, the more Palestinian grievances, the more incentive to violence that in turn must be controlled. This is a merry-go-round.

Anonymous said...


You are obviously a very bright individual. But you use these boards primarily to condescend, insult, vilify, and use profanity toward any idea or poster who arouses your ire. The ratio of your insults to rational arguments/use of facts must be at least 10 to 1! Can you not understand how much more seriously people might regard you and your views if you stopped coming across as an adolescent street tough?

Shoded Yam said...

"...Can you not understand how much more seriously people might regard you and your views if you stopped coming across as an adolescent street tough?"

Please. Unlike some, I don't have these delusions of grandeur where I believe that ANYTHING I have to say amounts to a pepper grain atop a pile of gnat shit. Anybody who's waiting around to hear "the gospel according to shoded" is seriously disturbed and should seek professional help.

Re. "...coming across as an adolescent street tough"

To those who might hold that view, I would suggest that it reveals more about how they view themselves rather than anything substantial about me.

"...The ratio of your insults to rational arguments/use of facts must be at least 10 to 1!"

Wow. I went back into the archives, and By George, you're right! I am an asshole! Thanks for bringing it to my attention :-D But seriously, it's not my fault you chose not show up for class. I've already made my rational arguments, here and in other places. While I can't speak for others, I don't feel the need to re-type and re-read myself ad nauseum for the purposes of self-validation. But I'll tell you what. If you forward me your email address, I'll be happy to send you a "SHODED YAM RATIONAL ARGUMENT ALERT" the next time I feel the muse upon me. I'll make sure to include properly linked graphs and pie charts to substantiate any assertions ;-)

Anonymous said...


I truly hope you were writing "tongue-in-cheek" in what follows:

"Unlike some, I don't have these delusions of grandeur where I believe that ANYTHING I have to say amounts to a pepper grain atop a pile of gnat shit. Anybody who's waiting around to hear "the gospel according to shoded" is seriously disturbed and should seek professional help."

Your ideas may not be gospel, but they are often very good! Thanks for your response to my "critique."

Take care.

Potter said...

Even though Potter is not my real name, it does identify me as opposed to "Anonymous" so I can complain that anonymous is no identity at all. That hard to argue with b/c there will soon be another anonymous to confuse matters, as there has been. Please sign in as some identifiable being.

That said, I can tell you that Shoded Yam has made profound sense here to me but with Y Ben David I believe he has lost his patience trying to reason. (I don't recall that Mr. Yam has been insulting to anyone else.) And no wonder. I keep on trying reason with Y. B-D. and have little or rather no evidence that I make so much as a dent.

Shoded Yam said...

God, alright already. I get it. Cut me some slack, man. I've been having a creative block lately brought on by a sleep deficit caused by a 3 year old kid with a Spongebob Squarepants fetish (C'mon, how can you not like "Mr. Crabbs"?) and a penchant for waking up the whole crackerbox at 5:00am daily.

Anon, while I can appreciate your discomfort as it pertains to my profanity, please understand that there is a method to my madness. People who come here to engage in pricipled debate do so without obstruction or derision from me or anyone else. My acerbic wit, while a gift, is employed sparingly, comparitively speaking, and then only as needed. My words are not important here. Bernie's words are. I send a clear and unencumbered message. If you're here to use this place as a venue for hasbara, with the rest of us playing useful idiots in some twisted kahanist paasion play, you have another thing coming. Namely might foot in your ass. Apparently, Ben David loves the foot. Medad, not so much.

It might interest you all to know, that I've been strongly encouraged to start my own blog. Now its just a matter of getting the toothpicks to hold my eyelids up just a little bit longer. :-D

Potter, thanks for the props dude. Your much to generous :-)

Anonymous said...

Well, as long as we seem to be choosing sides and ganging up on each other, let me just say that I think Y. Ben David has a point, here. Mr. Avishai does seem to believe that empowering the Palestinian entrepeneurs (W. Bank) will somehow magically solve the I-P mess and that there will be a 24-hour Starbucks every few blocks. And Potter, I do not agree that Mr. Ben David's opinions and character deserve the hostility that you and Shoded regularly heap upon them.

Moreover, I see a strong tendency in some of these posts (especially, Shoded's) to idealize Mr. Avishai as if he were some sort of gentle modern-day prophet/father figure whose views could easily create a just and lasting I-P peace if only there weren't so many stupid folks who won't listen to him. Anyone who has the temerity to question (worse, to poke fun at) Avishai's views is going to get his butt kicked by his loyal "children" here. The fact is, most boards would have banned Shoded months ago for the general tone of some of his remarks.

The Shoded approach to rational debate (insults, depreciating remarks, profanity) may be something you find amusing and even charming, Potter. But I think it is higly counterproductive, personally offensive, and a serious waste of Shoded's talents.

Shoded Yam said...

"...The fact is, most boards would have banned Shoded months ago for the general tone of some of his remarks."

You know, truth of the matter is that I've never been banned anywhere (The Forward, The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, etc, etc.) Moderated? Sure, plenty of times, which I have always accepted with good humour and without complaint. I've often wondered why they never banned me. If I were them, I would have :-) I suspect I give voice to all the rage and frustration that alot of people would like to vent but their status and positions don't allow for that kind of honesty. I might not be everyone's cup of tea, but apparently reading my comments seems to be a catharsis for alot of people. Perhaps you're not one of them. Fair enough.

"...Mr. Avishai does seem to believe that empowering the Palestinian entrepeneurs (W. Bank) will somehow magically solve the I-"...and that there will be a 24-hour Starbucks every few blocks"

A 24-hour Starbucks every few blocks? That would be unfortunate. I couldn't think of a worse way of lessening global tensions than to convince another group of hapless innocents to pay $2.00 for a lousy cup of coffee from some guy who thinks that his position as a "barrista" is equal in stature to that of a brain surgeon and then like idiots, voluntarily order it in latin. :-D

As to my respect for Dr. Avishai, it emanates from his ability to teach. I've learned more about Macro(and Micro)economics from him than I learned during six years of college. But at the end of the day, I just like the guy. I'm loyal to my friends. Its a failing, I know.

"The Shoded approach to rational debate (insults, depreciating remarks, profanity) may be something you find amusing and even charming, Potter. But I think it is higly counterproductive, personally offensive,"

The Jewish-Settler right (of which Ben David is a member in good standing)spends its days vilifying us, denigrating us, and even threatening our lives all over the internet, and as to Ben David he recives the amount of respect thst is proportionate to that which he gives to others, so do me favor and spare me your sanctimony.

Potter said...

Anonymous... Y- Ben David begs for what he gets here ( and I read elsewhere) and I wonder why he persists. But I also wonder why I do- or anyone here does. Ben-David never misses a chance to trash Dr. Avishai's positive forward looking alternative or vision to replace it with what? - his negative backward looking one one which is disastrous and offensive ( if not also racist).

So if we did choose sides here ( for or against what is being said above) then I take it you would agree with Mr. Ben-David's views? That the risk of empowering Palestinians, getting out of their way, treating them with justness and dignity- that risk- is greater than the current "status quo" risk in which Israel seems to be slip sliding downward towards war and international sanction and Israeli's complaints of "delegitimization"?

I don't read from Dr. Avishai that his detailing of what is trying to happen regardless is a magic that will solve every problem. I don't read that. But it makes a lot of sense to me that people who can lead normal lives don't want to fight, prefer to heal themselves and their society and give their children a future.

I usually do not get any response from Ben-David. How would you respond?

Y. Ben-David said...

My main reason for posting here is not really to get into discussions with the commentors, but rather to point out the flaws in Avishai's thinking to people who read his postings. This is Avishai's blog, it is his right to decide what is posted in the comments, and should he decide to ban me or to insist on a moderated forum, that would be his priviledge. Given that it is an open forum, I will take continue to take advantage of the opportunity because I don't see many good "Right-wing" opinions expressed. I am not interested in polemics, I am interested in the facts. I attempt to show the fallacies that Avishai bring. If you can PROVE that something I say is incorrect, I would welcome the opportunity to correct my mistakes. If you can refute what I say, please do so. But that is not what I see here, the replies I get a often consist of foul language ad hominen attacks (not from you) or accusations that I am a "hasbarist" or a "Kahanist" which I EMPHATICALLY am not.

The bottom line is that what Avishai and yourself present here is wishful thinking....that if Israel is "nice" to the "entrepenurial elites" that will bring peace. I have repeatedly attempted to show based on past history and on the statements made by the current PA leadership (not just HAMAS) that they are not interested in peace. If I am wrong, show me. Otherwise try to admit that I am on to something.
Avishai also prides himself on attending the demostrations at Sheikh Jarrah against the Jews who moved into a house previously occupied by Arabs BY A COURT ORDER (so the real address for protest should be the courts, not the Jewish residents). Avishai says he does this because he himself lives in what was an Arab-occupied house before the war of 1948 and he says if he helps throw the Jews out of Sheikh Jarrah then the Arabs will let him keep the house that they consider stolen. I think it is legitimate for me to point out the folly and even hypocrisy of this.

So I will continue to post comments as long as Avishai allows it. You are welcome to try to convince me of your position, which as yet you have not done, nor have you really attempted to live up to your claim that the Palestinians must ultimately be reasonable people just like yourself, which, of course, they are not. They don't share your values, and they don't share Dr Avishai's values, no matter what Fayyad or Sam Bahour tell him in person. Religion, history and tradition play a very large role in their thinking, even if these things are largely alien to "progressive" Westernerss. If it makes you feel good to call me a racist for saying that, so be it.

Happy Yom Yerushalayim

Shoded Yam said...

Its not your facts Ben David, that are the problem. The problem is your insistence that the bad behaviour of a people who have lived under what amounts to a military dictatorship for the last 40+ years entitles you or those you chosse to associate yourself with to perpertrate theft and mayhem upon them. Anybody who thinks that their deportment as human beings is conditional upon the bestiality of others has a moral compass stuck on "asshole".

Anonymous said...

To Potter and Shoded: I am beginning to see what you mean about Mr. Ben David, as the following quote from his most recent post suggests:

"I have repeatedly attempted to show based on past history and on the statements made by the current PA leadership (not just HAMAS) that they are not interested in peace. If I am wrong, show me. Otherwise try to admit that I am on to something."

Well, Y. Ben David, what if Israel were to offer to respect international law and withdraw to the the pre-1967 war boundaries? And to withdraw from all settlements in Jerusalem. And make a reasonable offer of compensation to those who would probably be denied all rights of return? I haven't ever seen any willingness whatsoever of Israel to fully return colonized Palestinian lands...

Potter said...


I don’t believe you about polemics.

Sheik Jarrah is about taking land. Call it taking back land if you like. This is illegal according to international law though. If Jews can claim Sheik Jarrah, then Palestinians can make their claims equally justly in Tel Aviv.

I don’t believe you are interested in any “facts” that don’t fit your polemics- to be kinder, your interpretation. You give your interpretation of selected facts then project your view about the present and going forward on those- for instance your views of “the Arabs” and the way they all think/act, about Olmert’s and Barak’s sincere and “generous offers”, the meaning and circumstances of the withdrawal from Lebanon, the disengagement from Gaza. You don’t ( it seems), not even mentally, go over the walls and checkpoints to acknowledge what causes anger and despondency. (I agree bad behavior, but not without a cause that Israel provides, continually updated.) You don’t therefore acknowledge that ongoing Israeli settlement of what is to be a future Palestinian state in a peace agreement in fact makes one state more of a probability or in fact reality already. I think Dr. Avishai sees this happening either way.

What Fayyad and Barghouti are attempting and actually accomplishing in some measure ( and hopefully more) is also because of something that had to have begun as a wish, a hope, a dream, a vision – from feeling the suffering. – which is also a fact. I don’t sense you do feel that. Nor that occupation is counter-productive to Israel’s survival After a point it becomes a fact of Israel’s moral if not actual demise brought on by Israel itself. What’s here is a grown-up alternative of a future where everybody survives, some very nicely.

Anonymous said...


When Ben-David says "show me" he is not interested in being shown. There has been plenty for him to see should he be open to it and so he would not have to say "show me" if he really needed to be shown.

Regarding Hamas I posted a link to Fawaz Gerges' article "The Transformation of Hamas" that appeared in The Nation magazine in January- for Ben-David. Not that I think it's definitive- but it does show that given some attention and respect they are willing to respond- for their own survival at the very least they need to. These also are facts.

Potter said...

Sorry- that above was me Potter ( can't use anonymous anyway)

Walter Dales said...

what is their to comment.
It shows that academics especially in political ecnomy , english etc.,do not a clue. I woul d say they are filled with emotional and maybe psychiatric symptomatology. They speak with passion to their tribe. They are defeated in elections and claim superior intelligence with their excessive mouthy words. Just words words words. I say to them as the Americans say...Get a life. Do not go as a strumpet on stage. You are so pathtic.

Shoded Yam said...

Mr. Dale,

I can only respond to such elequence with a Churhillian anecdote.

During the darkest days of WW II, when each night brought waves of Luftwaffe bombers raining death and destruction on a near defenseless London, Prime Minister Churchill went on the air to address the British people. "I read in this mornings paper that Herr Hitler plans to wring Englands neck like that of a chicken", he began, "and I was reminded of what the Irish poacher said as he stood on the gallows. It seems the poor fellow was approached by a well meaning if somewhat overzealous priest who, in horrific detail, described the unfading torments of Hades which awaited him if he did not repent of his misdeeds. The condemned man listened patiently to all that the priest had to say, and when he was done, grinned broadly and replied, "Eat it raw, fuzz-nuts." :-)

Howard Adelman said...

H. 8; You juxtaposed McArthy and Oren. I hope you were not implying anything. But why put them together? I could not decipher the meaning of the paragraph.
B. Because in both cases, the assumption is that you prove your loyalty to the state by showing solidarity in the face of the enemy, not by analyzing your state’s faults.
H-B. Now that you clarified, I could not disagree more. You equate Oren's not accepting an invitation to address J-Street as equivalent to McCarthyism because you interpret the non-acceptance of an invitation as equivalent of saying you are not permitted to voice criticism of the state. I just fail to follow either the logic or find the evidence to support the conclusion.

H. 9. Why should Oren apologize to J Street for disagreeing with their policies. On the one hand, you preach diversity; on the other hand, you take it away when an Israeli ambassador disagrees and says what he thinks.
B. No, he should apologize for making the effort to delegitimize dissent.
H-B. That is the nub. You interpret refusal to address a party as an effort to squelch them. You and I can both agree that this is not a tactic likely to work. On the other hand, I interpret a the refusal as just that, a refusal, which sends a message of disagreement but not a message of suppression. Perhaps the difference is because you have lived for so long in the rough and tumble of American and Israeli politics while I have remained cacooned in the more genteel atmosphere of Canada. But I suspect a much deeper divide over what is suppression versus what is disagreement.

H. 10. There is one statement in your blog that is not about facts but does belong to the absurd. "Oren is himself largely responsible for the persecuting spirit that has been unleashed among Jews in America in recent months." Bernie, are you kidding? Upon reflection, you cannot possibly believe it. The same upsurge in anti-Israeli feeling has occurred in Canada and it has nothing to do with Oren's appointment or what he has done. The surge preceded Oren and had little to do with Oren.
B. Huh?
H-B. You are right. My response was as illogical as your original claim. But a persecuting spirit among Jews? And holding Oren as primarily responsible? I just do not see it.

Bernie, if I now sound patronizing, please forgive me. I have always enjoyed reading you evern when we disagree.

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