Bibi and Barack: A History in Snubs
September 17, 2012
When the media reported last week that President Obama had turned down a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu—which was followed, according to the New York Times, by a reverse-snub when Bibi insisted that he hadn’t also been denied a meeting in Washington, because he never even wanted one in the first place—it was only the latest uncomfortable chapter in the two leaders’ cringing pseudo-courtship. For four years, their encounters have been playing out with all the grace of a star-crossed, seventh-grade romance.
May 04, 2012
If you were to pinpoint one moment when it looked as if things just might work out for Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, it would probably be February 2, 2010. That day, Fayyad addressed the annual Herzliya Conference, a sort of Israeli version of Davos featuring high-powered policymakers and intellectuals. It is not a typical speaking venue for Palestinians; yet Fayyad was warmly received.
The Return: Gilad Shalit Comes Home
October 19, 2011
The return to Zion has been a trope in Jewish history for more than 3,000 years. It pertains to the people Israel itself. And it applies also to individual Jews, both in the abstract and in the tactile, as a matter of conscience and as a fact of communality. You will know already from my other writings just how much I pity those Jews who are alienated from these considerations or, worse yet, haven’t the slightest idea of what I mean. Of course, ignorance of one’s past can excuse a lot. But it’s not a satisfying answer to inquiring children.
How Obama Excelled and Bill Clinton Disappointed During the Palestinian Statehood Showdown
September 28, 2011
For Israelis, this is the time of the return of the lie. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas tells the UN General Assembly that Israel bears sole blame for the origins of the conflict, that Israel is the sole obstacle to resolving it, and that, in effect, the Jews have no connection to the land of Israel. And he receives a standing ovation. This is also a time of inversion of expectations: Barack Obama, Israelis’ least favorite president, emerges as the defender of truth, while Bill Clinton, whom Israelis adored, joins the distorters.
Why the U.S. Should Support Palestinian Statehood at the U.N.
September 28, 2011
The Obama administration, after failing to head off a Palestinian request to the Security Council for United Nations membership, is prepared to use its veto against it. In an undistinguished address to the General Assembly on Wednesday, President Barack Obama advised the Palestinians to bypass the UN and to confine their campaign for statehood to negotiations with Israel.
How Abbas’s U.N. Gambit Empowered Hamas
September 23, 2011
Only once before has a U.S. President applied overt diplomatic pressure on Palestinians the way President Obama did this week at the United Nations, as he pressured Palestine to rescind its request from the U.N. Security Council for immediate full membership status. Unfortunately, the precedent for this type of overt pressure is not particularly encouraging, neither for Israel, nor for the United States. It was in 2006 that President George W. Bush demanded that Hamas be allowed to participate in Palestinian general elections without it first having renounced the use of terrorism.
Jerusalem, Israel—I’ve spent the past week in Israel listening to as many voices as I could. Based on what I’ve heard, a rough summary of the situation is this: Benjamin Netanyahu offers no viable alternative to the status quo, and the opposition offers no viable alternative to Netanyahu. Until Mahmoud Abbas recognizes Israel as a Jewish state, the prime minister says, serious talks are impossible. And besides, negotiating with a coalition that includes Hamas is unthinkable.
May 25, 2011
In his State Department speech last week, Barack Obama threw down the gauntlet to Benjamin Netanyahu. In the Oval Office a day later, and more fully in an address to Congress yesterday, Netanyahu picked it up and threw it right back. The question now is whether this clash can be turned into a new understanding between the United States and Israel that improves the prospects for the two-state solution both parties say they want. To bring this about, Obama will have to make further tweaks to his approach and rethink his declared stance on Palestinian refugees, among other matters.
That Nebo Feeling
May 19, 2011
Who lost Fayyad? This is the question that historians, and Israelis, and Palestinians, will ask about the most recent spiral into nothingness of the search for the necessary peace.
Wowy, zowy, Obama is doing his own thinking on the Middle East and here’s the even worse news: He’s taking advice from Tom Friedman and Fareed Zakaria. These pathetic tidings about the inner Barack Obama, who puts his very own twist on all things, particularly Arab and Muslim matters, and the other Barack Obama, who needs counsel from two political therapists, famous and even clever but not especially deep, come from the subtle and highly reliable journalist Mark Landler in The New York Times. These tidbits are not contradictory.