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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dictatorships fear nothing quite like they fear a mob in the streets. In Tunis and Cairo, however, it was not mobs that gathered but crowds. Non-violent crowds, thoughtful crowds. Alas, there were some 300 dead among the protestors. So this was not exactly a costless revolution in terms of human life. Still, the dynamics that unfolded in Tahrir Square were rooted in peaceful communications. In many ways this was a re-enactment of the Committees of Correspondence. These were initiated in 1773 by Dabney Carr, an intimate of Thos.
When Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, spoke to some 60 influential Jewish-Americans in the Plaza’s Edwardian Room on September 21, the first question came from World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder, who pushed Abbas on whether he was prepared to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Mr. Lauder was echoing a demand repeatedly made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the last year and a half. Judging from Mr.