Thursday, September 22, 2011

Half-Truth For A Half-Loaf

President Obama's U.N. speech was a sad spectacle, even if it was utterly predictable, a kind of tribute to the militant defensiveness of organized American Jews (which I encounter in every lecture these days) and the limited attention span of American voters in general. It is discouraging to see a good man saying half the truth you know him to know in order to save half loafs you know he knows he might lose.

These half loafs, from universal health care to tax equity, are hardly trivial. The first took a century to enact, largely because of the obstruction of southern politicians who saw helping the uninsured as a way of taking from whites to help blacks. FDR pandered to them to hold his coalition together to enact such things as Social Security. So you can imagine why our first African-American president should want to pander to Democrats who fear Israel is a test. Clinton did precisely the same thing.

And yet you could almost hear Arab streets groaning when Obama spoke, and see him hearing them with his third ear. Funny, when he was first elected I thought he would save Israel from itself. Now I wonder if we are not finally getting a mounting opposition in Israel to counter the Netanyahu government's demagogy, which will help Obama.

A case in point is Ehud Olmert's op-ed in today's Times. It contains nothing that readers of this blog don't already know, but the timing is significant--and brave. Moreover, Labor has a new leader, Shelly Yachimovitch, who has been a kind of poster child for "quality of life issues" in Israel, and may just steal votes, not only from Kadima, but from Likud, if she maintains a populist appeal.

Of course the relevance of any new Israeli election depends on whether violence in occupied territories can be preempted. A new piece in Foreign Affairs by friend-of-the-blog Alvaro de Soto is worth reading, if only to help with that question. On to Friday.

18 comments:

Potter said...

I thought the Olmert piece was well timed and also maybe addressed to Republicans in Congress as well as the jews of Brooklyn.

But then again, to the latter, and maybe also the former, the NewYork Times is often anti-Israel. You can't win with a reasonable argument.

Obama is a disappointment.

Potter said...

What's disappointing, and at times infuriating, is that he settles for (you say) half a loaf, maybe less than that, without much of a fight. Thus he does not marshall any allies and he earns this reputation as weak, "the-capitulator-in-chief", spineless, which furthers his losses. This is not the fault of the talking heads and the opinionators:the polls can't be about that.

After the last election the lesson learned at the WH was to move more to the center ( appease more!) while his formerly enthusiastic supporters hit their heads against the wall in exasperation.

Now he has again made a couple of good speeches on the economy, jobs, the deficit and debt. Let's see him fight for that, the bundlers and the 41 be damned. He should rather go down right than win at all costs, though I would risk that he'd be in better shape.

Listening to Elizabeth Warren, you get the idea.

I am just reading excuses here frankly.

Y. Ben-David said...

Although I have doubts, it may just be that Obama finally has come to realize what I have been saying here for a long time...that a compromise peace is just not in the cards. The Palestinians can NOT make the compromises, particularly on the "right of return" of the refugees that are needed to make an agreement. I read a report that Obama hadn't talked to Abbas for 11 months, after Obama tried to give Abbas all kinds of sweeteners in order that he not have to cast a veto on the UN Security Council condemnation of Israeli settlement policy, but Abbas refused.
Finally, people are beginning to shed the illusions they have had for years about the phony "peace process".

Potter said...

I agree only that the blame is not equal:

Netanyahu Left Palestinians With No Choice but the U.n.

This has been his message to the Palestinians since he took office two and a half years ago: Whatever Barak and Olmert offered counts for nothing now. Barak offered the Palestinians 95% of the West Bank and a capital in Arab East Jerusalem, and Olmert offered them more of the West Bank and more of Arab East Jerusalem — but that’s all vanished now.
And here, said Netanyahu, is the new starting point: Nothing. Not 95%, not 0.95%, nothing. And about Arab East Jerusalem, here’s the new starting and ending point: All of it belongs to Israel.
This is the offer to which Netanyahu insisted that Abbas respond — after the offer from Olmert, long after the offer from Barak.
Abbas said no. And can any reasonable, fair-minded person blame him?

Y. Ben-David said...

Why should Netayahu offer more than Olmert and Barak? He wasn't elected to do that. I find it absurd that NONE of you ask why Abbas turned the earlier offers down. All you do assume is that Israel has to keep offering more and more and more concessions while Abbas keeps saying "not enough". Abbas doesn't want any agreement on any terms.

Y. Ben-David said...

Did it ever occur to you that Abbas wanted Netanyahu to be Prime Minister...it takes the pressure off of him? When Olmert was forced out why didn't Abbas appeal directly to the Israeli public to support Tzippi Livni in her failed attempt to form a government saying "peace is at hand"? Why didn't Abbas, during the election campaing, appear with Livni and say "vote for KADIMAH, we are on the verge of an historic agreement"? He kept his mouth shut because he doesn't want an agreement and he wants Israel to take the blame. Fortunately, Netanyahu seems to be able to convince the sane people of the world who is REALLY at fault for the impasse.

Potter said...

Olmert, in retrospect, agrees, saying that Abbas “had never said no.”

....THE ISSUES THAT were supposed to be intractable — demilitarization of the Palestinian state, the status of Jerusalem and the right of return of Palestinian refugees — proved susceptible to creative thinking. Even on borders, Olmert and Abbas were able to agree on fundamentals: a desire to disrupt as few lives as possible and to maximize the contiguity (and therefore the economic possibility) of Palestinian cities. “We didn’t waste a minute during our months of negotiation,” Abbas said.....


Ben-David you never read the definitive article in the NYTimes by Bernard Avishai about the REAL Olmert Abbas talks OR you prefer your own reality where the so-called sane in the world vis a vis this issue are in increasingly dwindling numbers .

The link in on the right but here it is again:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/13/magazine/13Israel-t.html?ref=world

Y. Ben-David said...

I have read Avishai's article numerous times. There was no agreement on ANY issues. Sure there were more and more Israeli concessions which are viewed as "progress", but no agreement on ANY of the outstanding issues. What you mentioned were "general principles" but the devil is in the details.
However, I am waiting for an answer from you as to why, if Olmert and Abbas were close to an agreement, they didn't announce that just before the last election and say "a vote for KADIMA is a vote for a peace agreement that is on the table". They didn't do it. Abbas WANTED Netanyahyu to win, because he figured it would take the pressure off him. You have to answer the question about the election. If you can't, that proves Abbas didn't want an agreement.

Potter said...

Do you mean to say that what Abbas would have said to the Israeli people would have made a difference? This is typical, you hang your case on a notion about what the other side should have done when it's clear where the obstruction really is.

And why ( oh why) then did Netanyahu not pick up where Olmert left off if he really wanted a peace agreement???

You, on the other hand, let your hardliners in Israel completely off the hook while you blame all Palestinians for their hardliners.

From my reading there were agreements on many issues, the ones outstanding were
1) Ariel, cutting right in the middle of what will be a Palestinian state

2)the Arab sections of Jerusalem

3) the number of Palestinians allowed to return to Israel.

But in principle there was more agreement than non- agreement and a bridging proposal was needed. Hamas, by the way, said they would go along with what the Palestinian people wanted. They would have to, to stay viable.

When the glass is almost full, Mr. Ben-David you and those who are really anti-any-peace-deal-now (which you have said here) insist on seeing that it is empty, that there is nothing and you call this sanity.

P.S. I do not remember if Livni was promising to pick up with Abbas but I certainly agree that a total settlement freeze is necessary to show good faith and willingness on the part of Israel, just as a cessation of organized sanctioned terrorism is required on the part of Palestinians.

Y, Ben-David said...

All the great "progress" you claim was made between Olmert and Abbas was made WITHOUT any settlement freeze. It was Obama who insisted on it and then Palestinians were forced to demand it as well.

It has been claimed that HAMAS has said they will accept an agreement if the "Palestinian people" accept it. How do you define the "Palestinian people"? Those resident in the West Bank? Those in Gaza too? What about the refugees in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, etc.? HAMAS is part of the "Palestinian people" too, and if they don't approve of the agreement, does that mean that the "Palestinian people" still approve? Do you hold a referendum among these different groups?
HAMAS statement is pure propaganda without any operational meaning.

Potter said...

How do you define the Jews? The Jews of the diaspora, do they weigh in too? I mean after all they are invited to come home to Israel.

Hamas will have to change. The people are not with them at this moment on this issue UNLESS there is no movement, when they gain. Netanyahu is Hamas best friend.

Pure propaganda is at work here when Obama is branded as pro-Palestinian even as he vetoes at the UN and is in compliance with Netanyahu.

Y. Ben-David said...

Israel doesn't give "all Jews" the right to decide policy. Your claim about the HAMAS saying "if the Palestinians accept a peace agreement they will go along" (assuming that this is correct) needs to define which Palestinians will decide, and how that decision is made. They will make sure their view, opposing any peace with Israel, will be the "official" decision of the Palestinians. I am sure they will say the PA by itself is NOT qualified to make such a decision, but the entire Palestinian Refugee population (which is the majority, according to Palestinian statistics) has to participate.

Potter said...

We have not even gotten to this referendum and you are off the deep end about this detail instead of minding Israel's considerable present obstruction to some workable compromise offer such as Olmert's.

I don't know if the inclusion of the Palestinian diaspora would benefit or harm Hamas, but it does seem fair. Israel also should want those refugees included in the referendum.

I don't follow your negative supposition that Hamas can make sure their position is the official position. How do they do this?

It is critical that diaspora Jews support an agreement ( or in this case attempting to hold off on one) whether they vote or not as well. Why else would Netanyahu be spending so much time here?

Potter said...

Here Akiva Eldar lays it out- the lies of Netanyahu that are told on erev Rosh Hashanah... Mr. Ben-David pushes them on.

Netanyahu's Speech of Lies

Y. Ben-David said...

I can tell you for a fact that Akiva Eldar lies ALL THE TIME in his ridiculous columns in Ha'aretz, which is nothing more than propaganda.

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