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Beinart serves up hot air instead of useful debate

On the 'childish' notion of a US strategy of punishing Israel by 'leading from behind'

Peter Beinart strikes again, this time in Newsweek, a dying magazine, where he explains to his readership [luckily enough, not too big], why and how the White House will punish Israel. Simply by ignoring it, letting it be subjected to brutal European pressure, designed to force PM Netanyahu to make the concessions that Beinart and his White House handlers/informers/associates want Israel to make.

In an ideal, ethical media world, it should be clear when a columnist expresses his/her opinions, as opposed to when he/she serves as a mouthpiece for others. Not in this case, as it is abundantly clear that Beinart is all too eager to be the White House voluntary spokesperson, as he is in complete agreement with the message.

So, what is the message? How credible is it? And more importantly, how realistic is it? Beinart starts by reminding us about the UN partition plan, from 29 November 1947, which ‘’created a Jewish state.’’ Well, a ‘’little’’ historical distortion. The resolution established two states, one big, Palestinian, one much smaller, Jewish. The resolution also called for international control over the holy places. The Jews accepted, the Palestinians rejected, and a conflict thus started, lasting until now.

A casual omission? I, for one, do not think so. I believe that this is part of the new, distorted narrative that Beinart propagates, one which inevitably leads the reader/observer/student of history to blame Israel for all that has ensued after 1947. Then, Beinart goes on, telling us about the rocky relations between President Obama and PM Netanyahu, and mentioning that Obama demanded a settlement freeze in 2009. Indeed he did, and PM Netanyahu complied, and for nine months the freeze was in place. But Israeli-Palestinian talks, the stated, desired goal of the demand for freeze, did not take place. Why? How? All this is missing in Beinart’s text.

Again, an omission? Not really, it is another indication that Beinart is ready to bend the historic truth if it serves his profound ambition, to portray Israel as the stumbling block for any progress with the Palestinians. Beinart relates to the absence of former PM Olmert [one of my favorite Israeli politicians, guess why?…] from the upcoming Israeli elections as one of the reasons for Netanyahu’s likely victory. And while that MAY be a significant reason, SURELY it is a fact, that Olmert met Abbas 11 times, one-on-one, presented him with a specific, unprecedented peace proposal, which remained unanswered to this very day, and all this happened, when a settlement freeze was NOT in place. But then, why bother with such ‘’episodal’’ facts, if you are Beinart, and you happen to be on a mission to rewrite history, so that Israel would come out on the wrong side of it.

Finally, we come to the punishment that the White House and Beinart are going to inflict on Israel; The Jewish state is to be ignored by Obama and his team, and in line with American strategy of ‘’leading from behind,’’ the Obama Administration will sit on the fence, watching with thinly-veiled pleasure, how the Europeans are squeezing Netanyahu, and….and what exactly will happen is not specified.

Here are some observations relating to the “punishment’’:

To start with, not President Obama, and not EVEN Beinart know what will happen in the Middle East in the next four years. If there is one stable thing about the Middle East, it is its chronic instability. There will be many crises there that will force the US to cooperate with Israel, whether from ‘’behind,’’ or from the front. Whether President Obama and Peter Beinart like it or not, the shifty sands of Middle East politics will make American-Israeli cooperation an imperative. It will not be optional, it will be extremely essential, and it will happen sooner rather than later. The notion that in the Middle East, as we know it, the US and Israel can be estranged with each other, is, to put it mildly, amateurish, if not outright childish.

Then, there is another factor. Extensive American involvement in the Middle East Peace process has not always produced the desired results. In fact, the highly-successful [for over 30 years], Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty and the less successful Oslo Accords were not American initiatives. That said, the American role is of the essence, but may be less crucial, than seems. At any rate, if the strategy of ‘’leading from behind’’ is in place and remains the prime guide of American policy, it is a stretch, for me, at least, to connect it to Israel and the ‘’follies‘’ of its policy as the main instigator for it. But, if the idea is to blame Israel at all cost and always, so all goes, including Beinart’s latest diatribe, which is more or less as relevant to Middle East reality as it is to connecting Israel to the crisis in Mali [no, no one as yet connected, but wait and see…].

That said, I have, in the service of honesty to make it abundantly clear that I am far from agreeing with Netanyahu’s policies on a variety of issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian situation. But the way to debate them is not by following the line presented by Beinart. Hot air and political fantasy are never good arguments in a debate that should take place.

About the Author
Dr Josef Olmert, a Middle East expert, is currently an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina