Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Richard Cohen misses the point on West Bank settlements

It truly astounds me that a supposedly astute and respected commentator can be so obtuse on such an important issue.  The Wapo's Richard Cohen (by my lights, the WaPo's co-director - with George Will - for hasbara) takes Obama to task - indeed, calling him incompetent - for focusing on freezing West Bank settlement construction - something, he says, that Netanyahu cannot do, and that a significant number of religiously observant Jewish settlers - who (along with the Likud party and the Israeli Foreign Ministry) identify the West Bank as the Biblical Judea and Samaria - cannot accept.  And after all, Cohen judges:
. . . while some settlements are recklessly deep into the West Bank -- Ariel, for instance -- others are indistinguishable parts of Jerusalem. They are all, under international law, illegal. But some, regardless of legality, are going to stay. . . .  The Jerusalem-area settlements are not going to be abandoned by Israel . . . . the Israel that mattered most to some nationalists and Orthodox Jews is not that Miami manqué on the coast, Tel Aviv, but the West Bank areas of Judea and Samaria, the heart of biblical Israel. For a significant number of Israelis, but hardly a majority, settlements have enormous religious and ideological importance. This is not just about 2 rms w/view.
Oh; OK then.  Guess that's settled.  Israel contravened international law, and took what it wanted.  Might indeed made right.  It's a shame, but after all, Israel is indeed special; the Bible says so. The rules don't apply.  Thanks for clearing that up.
(What!  You say Saddam Hussein occupied Kuwait in 1990 because he claimed that Iraq historically had a right to it?  What nonsense! That violated international law!  It was the right and legal thing to do, taking him out!)

So is the solution, then, to focus on other issues (say, boundaries, refugees?) while the settlers keep putting up their outposts, making more facts on the ground, deepening their already size-bazillion footprint - and in the process completely eliminate the possibility of a viable Palestinian state?  What the hell would be the freaking point?  Boundaries become a joke, refugees would have no real state to which to return (except, as many Likudniks would have it, Jordan, which they assert to be the "real Palestinian state").

Stephen Walt has a much better take on any putative incompetence by Obama's team:
By forcing Abbas to make repeated concessions with nothing to show for them, they are undermining his already fragile legitimacy  to the point where he won't be able to sell whatever deal they might eventually coerce him into signing. And by letting Netanyahu thumb his nose at repeated U.S. requests without paying any penalty, they've encouraged Israelis to think there is essentially no cost to a hardline position. But this approach isn't "pro-Israel," because Obama and his advisors are helping make a two-state solution impossible and thereby making a "one-state" outcome nearly inevitable. Thoughtful Israelis understand that this is a perilous course, and President Obama said as much during his speech  to the United Nations last week. But the administration's handling of this issue has made the one-state outcome more likely, which threatens Israel's future as both a Jewish and democratic state.
Walt's advice: Obama needs to kick some butt with his team to get them to get the deal done.  Except that (as Walt himself recognizes), that won't happen, because as long as Congress and Fox News are in Netanyahu's back pocket, Obama's team has no leverage to force the Israelis to do anything.  And as for forcing the Palestinians, well, what's the point of going to the whip with a horse that's already broken down?

No comments:


Blog Archive

Cluster map

Search This Blog

ICAHD - 18,000 Homes Campaign (large banner)