Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Unbearable Lightness of Wishful Thinking: Ahmadinejad and the "Two-State Solution"


Unfortunately, as I predicted, Western newspapers like the Daily Telegraph are now reporting that Ahmadinejad is ready to accept a two-state solution. Like much of what happens in the Middle East, this would be worthy satire if it weren't so tragic. Iran's president has now made a significant gain in appearing "moderate" despite his Durban-2 speech (one should not overstate this, of course). Incidentally, although I feel the points I make below are sufficient to show what Ahmadinejad actually said, I could add one more point to be considered: he is capable of lying, too, hard as that might be to conceive (irony alert).

Yes, you see. Here is the headlines in Canada for April 27:
Toronto Globe & Mail: "Iran prepared to back Palestinian deal with Israel, Ahmadinejad

National Post: "Iranian president appears to recognize Israel's right to exist for first time" (!)

And Agence France Presse: "Iran `Ready to Back Mideast Peace Deal`"

Congratulations, the conflict is over! Ahmadinejad isn't a radical, aggressive Islamist and Holocaust denier but a peacenik! [irony alert] Next step: Soon they will be asking, Since Iran's leader is so willing to make peace why doesn't Israel make lots of unilateral concessions? [intense irony alert]

Come to think of it, Ahmadinejad refuses to accept two-state solution and is cheered as having done so; Israel's government repeatedly endorses two-state solution and is accused of not doing so!

No wonder Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, whose country is the current president of the EU states that the organization "underestimates the Iranian threat."

As always, one can only quote Shakespeare, one of the world's greatest political analysts:

"Shall we their fond pageant see?
Lord, what fools these mortals be!"

Here is the original text of my blog item:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave an interview to George Stephanopoulos of ABC. He knew what he was saying but others want to insist on refusing to understand him.

First the relevant exchange:

STEPHANOPOULOS: If the Palestinian people negotiate an agreement with Israel and the Palestinian people vote and support that agreement, a two state solution, will Iran support it?
AHMADINEJAD: Nobody should interfere, allow the Palestinian people to decide for themselves. Whatever they decide….
STEPHANOPOULOS: If they choose a two state solution with Israel, that's fine.
AHMADINEJAD: Well, what we are saying is that you and us should not determine the course of things beforehand. Allow the Palestinian people to make their own decisions.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But if they choose a two state solution, if they choose to recognize Israel's existence, Iran will as well?
AHMADINEJAD; Let me approach this from another perspective. If the Palestinians decide that the Zionist regime needs to leave all Palestinian lands, would the American administration accept their decision? Will they accept this Palestinian point of view?
STEPHANOPOULOS: I'll ask them. But I'm asking you if Palestinians accept the existence of Israel, would Iran support that?....
STEPHANOPOULOS: If the Palestinians sign an agreement with Israel, will Iran support it?
AHMADINEJAD: Whatever decision they take is fine with us. We are not going to determine anything. Whatever decision they take, we will support that. We think that this is the right of the Palestinian people, however we fully expect other states to do so as well.

And how did the Israeli online service of Yediot Aharnot newspaper, YNet News, play this? Here’s the headline: “”Ahmadinejad 'fine' with two-state solution.”

Well, not exactly. He refused to say that. All Ahmadinejad said was that he would support what the Palestinian people decided. What does that mean?

First, he personally believes that they would never accept a two-state solution so there’s nothing to worry about in that respect.

Second, of course, he knows that Hamas would never agree to such a thing and Hamas already controls how people vote in the Gaza Strip. One might presume that if a referendum was held there, the vote would be “100 percent” against a two-state solution. In addition, Hamas and others opposing a two-state solution would get between 30 and 70 percent of votes in the West Bank. A lot of Fatah supporters would also vote against it. The exact numbers aren’t important because whether the number is the higher or lower figure such a proposition would always be defeated.

Third, any two-state solution would only be made by Fatah. Iran supports Hamas. If Fatah and the Palestinian Authority were to make a deal with Israel, Tehran would still back Hamas in overthrowing that government, using the deal to portray its rival as treasonous. Once Hamas took over the state of Palestine, it would tear up all the agreements and invite in the Iranian military.

So in effect Ahmadinejad just said that he would never accept a two-state solution but why put that in clear words when the dumb Westerners can be left to interpret it as they wish.
But Ahmadinejad also put a little bomb in the interview which no one seems to notice. Let me repeat one of his answers:

AHMADINEJAD; “Let me approach this from another perspective. If the Palestinians decide that the Zionist regime needs to leave all Palestinian lands, would the American administration accept their decision? Will they accept this Palestinian point of view?“

What’s he saying here? “All Palestinian lands” might sound like saying the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem to Western ears, but everyone in Iran and among the Palestinians knows this means: all of Israel plus all the territories it captured in 1967.

So here’s what the Iranian president is saying: Suppose the Palestinians vote that they want all of Israel, would the United States accept that? The answer, of course, is “no” and so, Ahmadinejad is saying: I’m the one in favor of democracy and you’re against it.

(According to him, of course, Israelis have no rights to a state so they don’t get to vote.)

Ahmadinejad has built his own career on regarding the West as extremely stupid, cowardly, and easy to fool. Many or most of his colleagues in the Iranian regime agree with him.

I could write at this point that the one exception was when in the mid-1980s the United States was appearing ready to attack Iran unless it ended the Iran-Iraq war. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini did so but I think he was misreading American intentions (albeit to the credit of U.S. policymakers in pulling off that bluff).

Still, I’m tempted to say that up to now that the Iranian leaders’ assumption has never proven to be wrong.


  1. Every American TV interview with Ahmadinejad is the same. Same questions, same answers. You would think it would be pretty easy to put some pressure on him.

    When he talks about Palestinians having nothing to do with the Holocaust, why couldn't an interviewer point out to him that Haj Amin al-Husayni spent WW2 in Germany encouraging the final solution and forming a Bosnian Muslim SS division? Why couldn't it be mentioned to him that support for the Nazis was widespread in the Muslim world, including in Persia, where the Shah changed the country's name to Iran, which means "Aryan" in Farsi? Why shouldn't it be pointed out that even Anwar Sadat spent the WW2 years in a British prison for being a Nazi sympathizer while Iraq rushed to form a fascistic government modeled on Nazi Germany?

    Furthermore, why not remind everyone, including Ahmadinejad, that the Jews had a strong presence in Palestine prior to the Holocaust, having already built up the institutions of future statehood, and that in the Ottoman census in the 1850s, there were more Jews in Jerusalem than Muslims, even before the modern Zionists began returning to Palestine? Perhaps make him squirm a bit by talking about 3000 years of Jewish history in Iran and suggest that Ahmadinejad might have Jewish ancestry?

    My point is that we already know what Ahmadinejad thinks about Israel and the Holocaust. Interviewers should challenge his assumptions. Instead the audience is left with the impression that if not for the Holocaust, there wouldn't be any Jews in Israel, and that the Jews are foreign to the Middle East, imposed on innocent, peace-loving Arabs and Muslims who had no say in world events.

    And when he blames the US causing the rift with Iran 29 years ago, could just one interviewer, instead of quickly moving to the "change" in attitude with a new administration (or in earlier interviews ask about what he would like to see both sides do), tell the Iranian president that it was his side that took US citizens hostage? If he is going to come on our airwaves and lie, could someone press him on his role in the hostage situation, including torturing Americans? Could someone ask him how could a man, who says he wants peace and security for everyone, send millions of money and tons of weapons to Hezbollah? Why doesn't he let the Lebanese people have the right to determine their own affairs? And why does Hezbollah carry flags with pictures of mushroom clouds? So many questions not asked.

    So many questions not asked. Instead the US media continues to give this thug a platform for his propaganda.

  2. Remember a few years ago when CNN's Jordan Eason came out and publicly proclaimed ("admitted" is not the right word, since he apparently expected widespread approval rather than condemnation) that CNN regularly distorted its coverage from Iraq in order to get occasional interviews with Saddam Hussein? Stepahnopolous was unwilling to challenge Ahmadinejad throughout the interview, apparently so grateful to be granted time for an "exclusive" with the great man. The Holocaust exchange was especially outrageous, with Stephanopolous largely ceding that this is some sort of political disagreement rather than crackpot racism. None of this was actual journalism but then, how the heck did Stephanopolous migrate from being a political operative to a commentator to a "journalist" in the first place? This used to be the stuff of movie satire.


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