Frankly, I've never been big on the settlements...or at least most of the settlements. And, by the way, many of them were built by Labor government and perhaps the stupidest one of all, Elon Moreh, abutting the large Arab city of Nablus (where the descendants of the ancient Samaritans live), is the creation of that great peacenik Shimon Peres. Yes, the morally haughty, intellectually pretentious and politically meddling President of the State, by law a symbolic office, at most. Some of the settlements are now a permanent fact, and they ought to be.
Nobody is asking this question. And I'm not asking it because I'm not sure it is a mistake. But that's far short of knowing it's a good and justified war, let alone a winnable one. My friend John Kerry, who once asked this question about Vietnam (and knows a lot about Afghanistan), isn't asking it either. But Bob Woodward is asking it very pointedly in his new book, Obama's Wars. The fact is that I'm maybe half-way through the book.
Every so often I sit down with a Palestinian contact of mine, and he unburdens himself. About the “blind to opportunity” Palestinian leadership, about the “incorrigible” Israelis and about the “knows from nothing” president of the United States. The “blind to opportunity” phenomenon is an old story. The most egregious instance of it was the Palestinian rejection of Ehud Barak’s initiative, coached and coaxed by Bill Clinton, at Camp David in 2000.
I met Christopher Hitchens at a party nearly three decades ago, shortly after he arrived in the states. The late (and very much missed) Eric Breindel and I were going out to Chinese dinner in a restaurant some place on Third Avenue in the fifties. Somehow, we invited Chris or maybe he invited himself. He was funny. But that was not enough for me. I didn't like his left-wing politics...and, frankly, I didn't like his later right-wing politics either. Hitchens is now sick, apparently quite sick, and on this last of the Days of Judgement I've slipped in a prayer for his recovery.
It is not I who designated Pakistan’s nuclear bomb “the Islamic bomb” but Time. So it is more than 30 years since Pakistan actually launched its rogue atomic weapon and an aggressive program to enhance its capacity and sweep. The research actually began perhaps five years earlier, financed by Col. Qaddafi, another atomic aspirant, and devolved piece-meal in North Korea and Iran. The pioneer was Abdul Qadeer Khan, a sleazy but charming physicist who understood secret scientific papers he was asked to translate while working in the Netherlands which had a research program of its own.
It is not what Bibi Netanyahu wanted. Still, the breaking of the moratorium applies only to building projects approved before the work stoppage had begun. Maybe this is not much of a consolation. But it is true, and whatever progress has been made in the tortuous path of accommodation—there has been little—between Israel and the fissiparous Palestinians has been in the interstices and on the margin. It is reassuring that the Palestinian leadership did not grab the opportunity to walk away from the political traffic to make another self-defeating statement of aggressive pity.
On November 26, 2009, Bibi Netanyahu announced that his government was enforcing a ten-month moratorium on building in the disputed territories of the West Bank. He called these areas “Judea” and “Samaria,” which is what they are. But the nomenclature emphasizes how spiritually difficult it was for Israel to put up for grabs the original Biblical lands of Jewish history. Moreover, the razor thin parliamentary discipline that supports Bibi’s cabinet could hardly be more strained than by this decision.
Yes, I know it is Israel that is preparing for a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. And maybe also America. But, if President Obama is still in the White House when the dreaded confrontation forces itself upon us, he will resist. Still, facing the grim reality from which he has averted his eyes for 20 months and more, he will accomplish the necessary by fobbing the chore off on Jerusalem. After all, the Israelis have already taken out two atomic plants, one at Osirak in Iraq in 1981, the other during 2007 in Syria. Here's what we wrote in TNR on these occasions.
I've made this point more than a few times. Jackson Diehl has made it now, more comprehensively and with greater depth of knowledge about the analog, that is the warring Catholics and Protestants on Northern Ireland. Now, since the "Good Friday agreement" made in 1998, there has been relative peace between the religiously inflamed factions. But it's unlikely that girls and boys of the two confessions are putting on their ghillies to dance with each other.
This is the eve of Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement. Introspection is the order of the day. The Jewish tradition divides sin into two categories, sins against God and sins against man, and insists that God can forgive the former but not the latter, because only the sinned against have the power to absolve the sin. This is why the asking of forgiveness is an act of supreme importance in this season. I myself have much to ask forgiveness for, and much of this asking will be done in private, as is appropriate.