Sunday, December 18, 2011

How Can Israel Please the American Government, Media, and “Experts”? It Can’t

This article was published in a different form in the Jerusalem Post. I own the copyright and ask you to read this version and link only to it.

By Barry Rubin

There is a constant effort—especially by the anti-Israel left--to portray those who express mainstream  Israeli public opinion and the views of professional analysts as “right-wing” or “Likudnik.” This leads me to wonder what one would have to say to please these people. What would be the equivalent of a “liberal” position for Israel according to them? What kinds of positions would they see as legitimate?


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What follows is not meant to exaggerate in any way but is, I believe, a genuine list of what they demand. To please them, I presume one would have to say the following:

--President Barack Obama is the best president for Israel ever (even he says so!). There are no problems in the relationship and if there are these are all due to Israel’s government being so selfish, short-sighted and unreasonable.

--Israel would have to agree to the following: a long-term freeze of all construction on existing settlements; to drop the demand for the PA's recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, drop the demand for demilitarization of a Palestinian state and that Palestinian refugees be resettled in the new state of Palestine (or remain where they are living now), and accept the partition of Jerusalem. Israel could keep its demand for security guarantees but would have to ask for the minimum on this point, too, since Israeli demands block peace.

--Peace with the Palestinians could be achieved within a few months if Israel only gave more concessions, including those listed above, and stopped being so belligerent and stubborn.

--The Palestinian Authority—PA--would not have to change any of its policies since its demands, by definition, don't block peace. (At some point, though, the PA might have to drop its demand that all refugees or any of their descendants could choose to go live in Israel and that the border lines be exactly along the post-1948 ceasefire lines. This would not be clear, however, until Israel agreed to all of the points presented here.)   

--The PA’s incitement to violence; daily denials of Israel’s existence or right to exist; and refusal to negotiate or compromise are not important and Israelis should never talk about these things.

--The PA sincerely wants peace and if given the West Bank plus a corridor to the Gaza Strip and all (or almost all?) of east Jerusalem it would be a reliable partner and keep all of its commitments.  In exchange for a peace agreement, Israel should withdraw to the 1967 borders with minor modifications and dismantle all settlements. 

--If the above were to happen, the Middle East would become quiet and peaceful. Islamists would either become moderate or lose support. Terrorism against the West would cease or at least decline steeply and America would be very popular

--The PA’s partnership with Hamas in the Gaza Strip isn’t really a problem. Once there is a peace agreement, Hamas will give up its goal of wiping Israel off the map because it would have to respect the democratic rules of Palestine and would get caught up in the daily business of politics and administration. There would be no more rocket, mortar, or cross-border attacks and if there were the government of Palestine would deal with them by arresting and punishing those responsible.

--Meanwhile, if Hamas does attack Israel from the Gaza Strip then Israel should not retaliate since to do so would inevitably involve disproportionate force and hurt Palestinian civilians.

--The failure of Western countries to keep their commitments to Israel in 2006 to bar Hizballah from rebuilding its military installations in southern Lebanon and stop its arms’ smuggling is unimportant and Israel should not mention it. This—or for that matter the experience of the 1990s’ peace process and 2000 Camp David meeting—are unimportant and should not influence Israel’s thinking.

--If the state of Palestine were to violate the peace agreement, all Western countries would strongly support Israel and the UN would recognize that Palestine was at fault, side with Israel, and take necessary steps to end this behavior.  

--Israel has nothing to fear from Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya being governed by the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood is really moderate. Israel should stop talking about the existence of any threat from these quarters.  It is up to Israel to patch up relations with Egypt and not to be concerned about such things as a cross-border terrorist attack, continued assaults on the natural gas pipeline, and the government-permitted mob takeover of the Israeli embassy in Cairo.  (Optional?) Israel should agree to renegotiate the Egypt-Israel peace treaty and the natural gas sales' agreement.

--Israel should apologize to Turkey for letting its own soldiers defend themselves after being attacked by jihadi terrorists on the Mavi Marmara. It should pay compensation to the families of those who attacked it and end the embargo completely against the Gaza Strip. There should be no restrictions on what items can transit the Israel-Gaza border. The collapse of the Israel-Turkey relationship was completely Israel’s fault.

--Israel should give up any option of attacking Iran’s nuclear weapons’ facilities at any time, not only now to prevent Tehran from getting such weapons but presumably in the future as well if there is a perceived threat from Iran. Instead, Israel should depend on U.S. protection. If Iran hits Israel with nuclear weapons, the United States will then (probably?) retaliate.

--If Hamas attacks Israel from the Gaza Strip with rockets, mortars, or cross-border attacks, Israel should not retaliate since some Palestinian civilians might be killed. Any Israeli attacks cannot use planes, artillery, helicopters, or other advanced technology since that would be a disproportionate response. 

I’m not in the least bit joking and honestly don’t think I’ve exaggerated the above points covering what the American and European left (including its Jewish components) thinks should be the proper Israeli policy.

Nevertheless, I don’t see the Kadima or Labor parties adopting such a program. I think it would be most amusing to go down to the corner of, for example, King George and Dizengoff streets to quiz random Israeli pedestrians about what they think of this plan.

As always, since the mainstream Western media generally does not allow a real response to the ridiculousness of the program it advocates for Israel you won’t be reading any of the points made above in such places. People will just be left to believe that the current government is just unreasonably reactionary; that most Israelis support Obama (or if they don’t they deserve what they get); and if Israel just let the American far left choose its government then everything would be just fine. In fact, every public opinion poll in Israel backs up my points.

Indeed, if anyone  left-wing blogs or the mass media does remark on this article it will only be to brand it “right-wing.” Not at all. It's just right.

Oh, wait, there is an alternative. Such organs might quote or reprint this article saying that it is very accurate and they are pleased to see people in Israel agreeing with their position.

Meanwhile there are at least two new commercially published books in the United States--and numerous articles--that Israel is collapsing. What is the evidence for this? Not much. A country with consistently high scores on personal satisfaction, the highest growth rate in the OECD, close to the best medical system, the fifth highest life expectancy, etc., etc. Meanwhile, the same people tell us how great everything is in Egypt, Turkey, and so on. Welcome to the age of insanity.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His book, Israel: An Introduction, will be published by Yale University Press in January. Other books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at and of his blog, Rubin Reports,

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