Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Next For Obama: Palestine

President Mubarak announced a few moments ago that he would not be seeking reelection, telling the world what it already knew. What was more interesting about the announcement was the way it was foreshadowed by the actions of the American administration. Obama has decided that he wants to be part of what's next, clearly, but siding with the crowds against Mubarak right now is not exactly going bold.

If he really intends to capture the imaginations of the young people in the crowds, from Tunis to Amman, he will have to signal powerfully that he is intent on building a new Middle East with them and live up to the promise of his Cairo speech. This means making clear that he will not be toyed with by the Netanyahu government. Many will jump to the conclusion that the fall of Mubarak is proof that Netanyahu was right all along, that his neighborhood is tough and unstable. But the wisdom of the crowd is that the occupation of Palestine has been the toughest and most destabilizing reality in the neighborhood for the last 40 years.

It would be folly for Obama to move on the Palestinian issue if a peace deal were not capable of being envisioned. Obama should not dare to present a plan that is implausible just to pander to Egyptian protesters, and he will certainly not sacrifice Israel's essential security interests.  But what if a deal is not only possible but more or less worked out?

Readers of this blog know that I've been working on an article for the past 10 days based on exclusive recent interviews with Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas. I won't say more about the achievement of their negotiations here; the article will be in the New York Times Magazine very soon.  What I will say is that these leaders left Obama small gaps to bridge; both still want to see the president bridge them. Obama does not have a great deal of time to digest what they negotiated, offer an American package based on their understandings, and rally the world to it. But if he proves courageous enough to do this while young people are full of passion and hope, he can, let us say, finally earn his peace prize.


Anonymous said...

You're failing to take into consideration the Arab street reaction to any concessions the PA may have made with Israel in negotiations. The PA simply won't risk their necks signing onto a deal that makes them out to be traitors and collaborators with the Zionist regime. Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, along with Iran's axis of friends throughout the Middle East will remain at war vs. Israel. What if you're wrong, and a peace treaty between the PA and Israel is frowned upon within Egypt as much as the treaty between Egypt and Israel?

Here's some of what the very recent Pew polling data from Egypt revealed:

30% favorable towards Hezbollah
49% favorable towards Hamas
20% favorable towards al Qaeda

82% support stoning for those who commit adultery
77% support whippings and hands cut off for robbery
84% support the death penalty for a Muslim who changes his religion

In response to the question: Do you support “modernizers” or “Islamists ”?
27% support modernizer s
59% support Islamists

So BA, your analysis is at the very least incomplete without considering the above.

Potter said...

Excellent BA. The table has been set. I don't think it should be that hard to bring "this thing" to a close already-- at least for Obama to present the parties with a strong challenge. But it needs the kind of courage from him we have not seen. He is great with words, especially the right ones, and stirringly presented at times- which is why we fell for him.

I'd like to see Israeli's courage en masse in the streets despite the voices of fear as exemplified in the above comment.

I heard an Egyptian comment that if the citizens of the United States had as much courage as the Egyptians [have found] the world would be a much different place. I agree about that. I would say too that if Israeli's had such courage, the Middle East would be a very different place.

Y. Ben-David said...

We've heard all this before. Arafat and Barak both accepted the Clinton Proposals "with reservations". The two sides differences in territorial demands were not that large in terms of squared kilometeres. At Taba, Yossi Beilin and the others said something to the effect that they were "72 hours away from an agreement". The differences in approach to the "right of return" of the Palestinian refugees were over "only a few hundrede thousands". Vive la difference.
Just like today. They are always "close to agreement" and then something unforeseen like a war intervenes. This is because the Palestinians want a "peace process", but they don't want peace. This enables them to be brave defiers of the Zionists on the one hand, yet to be enabled to receive American and EU largess on the other hand.
There is nothing new here.

Potter said...

It's been said also and maybe more, by Israeli leaders themselves, as well as long time observers and critics, that it's ISRAEL that loves the peace process but now the status quo more, and not interested in a deal- that Palestinians are not ready -not ever ready, or quiet enough-- as at the same time Israel deliberately keeps it's heavy foot on and chokes them at the same time. It strains credulity that Palestinians would love to continue the way they are living, Ben-David, for handouts. ??? Palestinians need to feel their dignity, pride, to have a secure home of their own just as Israel's need. And they need justice- just as the formation and acceptance of Israel is justice.

It's hard to see how Israel maintains the status quo when it is not anymore. To put a period on that- the ground is shifting as you can see. So what we are hearing now from the bullies in Israel is cowering-- fear. fear fear. Reluctance, negativism about what might happen--- those Islamists, you know.

What should happen and what will have to happen for security, if for no other reason, is an end to occupation and this conflict.

Anonymous said...


You wrote:

"It strains credulity that Palestinians would love to continue the way they are living, Ben-David, for handouts. ???

The corrupt multi-millionaire PA elites would love to continue the way they are living. They, however, are not the general Palestinian populace. See the difference yet?

Stan Racansky said...

To Anonymous from Feb 2, 2011. Very interesting study you quoted. I went to Pew Research and had been able to find only this poll dated January 2011

Maybe you can download the poll for us. Thanks

Also, why are you hidding behind a"anonymous" label?

Stan Racansky said...

BD and Potter. This is an Egyptian internal revolution. Why are you throwing the Israel-Palestinian "problem" into it. It's same like some one says: today is rather cold outside. BD response: Only if Jews were left alone,to do what ever they want, it would be warm. Potter response: If only Jews back down from what ever,put on their middle age hat and yellow star of David, it would be warm.
You guys see Jews behind every tree. I know that as an ethnic group we are involved in many things, from science to art, but we are no Gods. But on other side maybe we are!!

Potter said...

Stan- of course it's an internal Egyptian thing- but Tunisian events sparked it and the US support of Israel is not unrelated to why Mubarak has been able to stay in power all these years. This is not about Egypt the political island in the world.

Also I don't know how you get that interpretation of what I said. Jews seek justice in acceptance. Palestinians seek justice through acceptance. Israeli's stick their chests out in such pride about being the only democracy in the Middle East, and show such disdain for Arabs who do not have this- and yet they are against Arab democracy. Why? Fear.Fear. Fear.

When "anonymous throws in "corrupt Palestinian elites" as a reason why all Palestinians would rather allow themselves to live as they are, it's an old dog of an excuse. But these dogs don't hunt well anymore.

Draper said...


I got the information on the Pew results from both Michael Totten and Barry Rubin, both of whom are very reliable sources.


The Palestinian people are not one and the same as the PA elites who oppress them, and to believe so is patronizing and racist. Many Palestinians do not want to live the way in which the PA forces them to live. It's much like Egypt, the people are not in charge. The PA has never had it so good, living like kings and depending on Israel to keep Hamas at bay. They're in no hurry to strike a deal with Israel and wait for Hamas to inevitably dethrone them in the West Bank, take them out of power, and give them a taste of what it's like to be oppressed by a more powerful elite. Even if the PA wanted to make a deal now, the Palestine Papers show how hard it is for the PA to sell Palestinians on ANY concessions. There is no hope for a peace deal for a very long time.

Israelis aren't afraid of real genuine liberal democracy, but that's not what's happening in Egypt. Once another tyrant comes to power there, that tyrant - just like Hamas - is in for the long haul and will only agree to elections when it is guaranteed he will win.

Stan Racansky said...

I learned one thing, never take second hand information at it's face value.


Draper said...

I've never known Barry Rubin or Michael Totten to be unreliable sources of information. They're about as good as it gets when it comes to credible, intelligent analysis of the middle east. They're right 90% of the time, whereas most other outlets are right in their analysis maybe 10% of the time.

Stan Racansky said...

Hi Draper,

I can not comment on Barry Rubin Or Micheal Totten, I do not known them, even Bill Maher used or tried to used same figures with Mona Eltahawy an Egyptian journalist who writes for American, European and Israeli newspapers, on his recent program. But she in my opinion discredited the numbers and Bill Maher just put them aside.


Potter said...

Draper- it seems to me that it's harder to sell israeli leaders on concessions- from what we have heard so far.And as for both publics- that can only be determined through referendums when there are concessions on both sides.

If you suggest that Palestinians are oppressed by their leaders ( ie not in charge) you would have to also agree that Israeli's are not in charge either( the Right wing government and the settlers hold the country hostage).

Both Palestinians and Israeli's have elected and apparently support their leaders.

What we have been seeing in Egypt is a real democracy movement. What we also may see is the crushing of it with the help of western powers, with the Obama administration in the lead, who are afraid...of a vacuum, of the unknown, everything else you can think of under the heading of "situations that can cause instability" even for awhile. Heaven forbid that we tolerate a little instability to find a new and perhaps better equilibrium. Never mind that the "status quo" does not exist and was not ever stable. Instead we hear about all the worst possible outcomes and wishful conclusions drawn like "There is no hope for a peace deal for a very long time."

Well we will see about that.

Y. Ben-David said...

What do you suggest doing if the "real democracy movement" of Egypt opposes peace with Israel and is in favor a renewed confronation with Israel? What if this is the true will of the Arab masses throughout the Middle East?

Potter said...

Ben-David: Everyone I have heard says that it is a long shot that this democracy movement - you mean the results of it- is not about having a war with Israel... hardly!!!! The true will of the ARab masses, my understanding of it and I think a better than good bet with regard to Palestinians is that there be a just settlement of the conflict and an end to occupation. They will go along with whatever the Palestinians themselves agree to.

Your posts express fear fear fear and negativity... sorry to say.

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