James Risen, a Washington-based writer, and Yossi Klein Halevi, a Jerusalem-based writer, have been friends since they both crashed the Nazi Party headquarters in Chicago as student reporters 30 years ago. They have been joking and arguing about news and politics ever since, especially when it comes to Israel and the Middle East. This e-mail exchange began in the shadow of the dispute between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government.
Almost before the celebrants at Barack Obama’s inauguration had gotten over their hangovers some 15 months ago, the president designated George Mitchell as his special envoy in the Middle East. I wrote then and several times since that he would be a flop, poor man. After all, it’s not the case that he had been a great success in any of his other high-minded missions, including the investigation into steroid use by baseball heroes.
So the Obama administration seems to believe. It has not, at least in my memory, been struck by anything the P.A. has done or said that is inimical to negotiations and to peace. While it commands this and then that from Israel just to get the Palestinians to sit down and talk, the talking will not be between the parties at all but a three-way process with George Mitchell shuttling between Ramallah and Jerusalem and back.
The following is adapted from a talk delivered at the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C., on March 19, 2010. One of the greatest ironies of the past decade's debates over political Islam has been that, on the whole, the most passionate and emphatic rejections of radical Islamism in this country came from President Bush and his supporters—that is, conservatives. This is peculiar because the various forms of radical Islamism represent the third major form of totalitarian ideology and politics in modern world history.
Russia and the Arabs: Behind the Scenes in the Middle East from the Cold War to the Present By Yevgeny Primakov Translated by Paul Gould (Basic Books, 418 pp., $29.95) Over the decades, many people in the West, and certainly most Israelis, came to view the Soviet Union and then Russia as a force for ill, if not evil, in the Middle East, and perhaps farther afield as well.
Hillary Clinton told the AIPAC conference this past Monday that, after fifteen months of his presidency, President Obama was about to launch, with our allies, "sanctions with bite." I commented on this earlier in the week. But a top front-page dispatch in this morning's Wall Street Journal tells us just how little pain Iran would incur when the political psychodrama finally unfolds at the Security Council.
Ban Ki-moon is the secretary general of the United Nations. The world is in pretty good shape. This is why he can spend so much of his time relieving the pain of the Arabs of Palestine, who are (if you don’t know already) the only people who suffer from their neighbors. The other Arabs probably suffer from their local overlords. But most of this is kept hush-hush, maybe because Barack Obama wants to have nice relations with them. Mr. Ban certainly wants to have good ties with them.
Frankly, it’s a little bit embarrassing to be citing the Commentary crowd so often. But the fact is that the other powerful venues which seem to understand that the Palestinians do not really want peace--or act as if they don’t--are few and far between. Yes, there is the Washington Post, where Jackson Diehl, Charles Krauthammer, and Chuck Lane analyze what everyone can (but most refuse to) see or describe. Then, of course, there are the editorials, the collective voice of the Post, which strike an independent voice free of Arabisant cant and America bashing.
You do not need insider information to know that Hillary Clinton threw a hissy fit at Bibi Netanyahu last Friday morning. And you don’t need that kind of information to know that she was sent out to do this little job by her boss.
One of the odd things about people with very left-wing views on the Middle East is that they're obsessed with the political influence of American Jews yet almost completely unfamiliar with the actual beliefs of the subject of their obsession.