President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu met Wednesday on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meeting in Manhattan. Before that meeting, NYTimes columnist Thomas L. Friedman felt it was important to instruct the president on the issues and questions he should raise with the prime minister. So Friedman wrote a column with the heading: “This Is My Shortest Column Ever: What Biden Should Ask Netanyahu.”
The reason for the brevity of the op-ed, according to Friedman, is that “it doesn’t take long to get things in focus” (whatever that means). He then provides three questions that Pres. Biden should put to P.M. Netanyahu, because … well … because Thomas L. Friedman, in his wisdom, has apparently determined that they are three crucial, critical, ultimate, dispositive, earth-shaking questions, and, anyway, it doesn’t take long to get things in focus.
The first question—and I quote Friedman exactly—is this: “Do you intend to annex the West Bank, or will you negotiate its future disposition with the Palestinians? Yes or no?” It’s kind of funny that Friedman thinks that a compound question—Do you intend to do X, or do you intend to do Y?—can be answered “yes or no”. Suppose the prime minister were to answer either “yes” or “no” to Friedman’s exact question; what information would either answer convey to the president? No information at all. So, in the shortest column he’s ever written, Friedman can’t figure out how to formulate a proper “yes or no” question. This sloppiness is typical of Friedman’s approach to issues relating to Israel.
More Friedman sloppiness: who exactly are “the Palestinians” with whom P.M. Netanyahu is supposed to negotiate? Are they 87-year-old Mahmoud Abbas, who is now in the 18th year of his four-year term as president of the Palestinian Authority, or are they the leaders of Hamas and the other terrorist groups headquartered in Gaza? If the P.M. negotiates with Abbas, we can be sure that the terrorists in Gaza will ignore entirely any agreement Abbas signs. Abbas has less than zero influence over Hamas; Hamas is sure to do the opposite of whatever policy Abbas adopts. And Hamas is not going to negotiate peace with Israel, because Hamas and the rest of the Islamist terrorists believe they have a sacred obligation to erase Israel from the map. So, what is Friedman even talking about?
The second question Friedman wants Pres. Biden to ask P.M. Netanyahu is this: “Why should we make confronting Iran’s nuclear program our priority when you haven’t?” Friedman thinks that Netanyahu’s push for judicial reform has distracted and weakened Israel with regard to Iran’s malign objectives, which might well include the development of nuclear weapons. But, if I remember correctly (Friedman can correct me if I’m wrong), when President Obama agreed to the Iran nuclear deal over Netanyahu’s strenuous objections, Obama asserted that it was in the interests of the United States that Iran not acquire nuclear weapons. And, just today, Biden pledged that Iran will never acquire nuclear weapons.
I presume that Obama and Biden would strive and pledge to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons only if they believed that the interests of the United States required that result. If the interests of the United States are best served if Iran does not have nuclear weapons, it would make no sense for Pres. Biden to say that if Israel spends too much time on judicial reform and doesn’t focus sufficiently on Iran, the United States won’t work to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. How can Israel’s focus on judicial reform alter the interests of the United States vis-à-vis Iran?
Here, in it’s entirety, is the last question Friedman wants Biden to ask Netanyahu; it’s a doozy:
Prime Minister, the Saudis are ready to do something hard — normalize relations with Israel. We are doing something hard to help facilitate that — forging a mutual defense treaty with Saudi Arabia. What hard things are you ready to do vis-à-vis the Palestinians to complete the deal? It feels to us that you don’t want to take any political risks — that you want everyone to do something hard except you.
Did you notice what’s missing here? The United States, according to Friedman/Biden, is doing something hard. Saudi Arabia, is doing something hard. And Friedman/Biden wants Israel to do something hard. But, what about the Palestinians, the “partners for peace” we’ve heard so much about—are they going to be required to do anything hard? The hard thing Mahmoud Abbas has to do, if he is to be a true partner for peace, is to either convince or forcefully compel the Islamist terrorists in Gaza to lay down their arms, and their suicide vests, and their rockets, and to agree to live in peace with Israel. Is there anyone on the face of the Earth who believes Abbas and his kleptocratic Palestinian Authority are capable of achieving that result? Maybe Friedman believes, but no one else does.
Friedman’s most recent column is his shortest one ever. I have a suggestion. He should write an even shorter column, one that has no content at all—a blank space. It will contain more wisdom than any other column he has ever written.