View Full Version : Bush in Jerusalem

01-09-2008, 08:59 PM

01-09-2008, 09:13 PM
Conventional wisdom on the Rice-Bush initiatives is that although Annapolis and the Bush visit are extremely unlikely to do any good, they can't hurt, so what-the-f***? Something is better than nothing.

I would argue, however, that the process is so transparently farcical that it can only further deepen Palestinian skepticism and alienation. Bush/Rice is only digging a deeper hole.

The only hope on the horizon is post-Olmert and post-Bush. Barack and Barak might get my attention, but in the meantime, to borrow a Biblican metaphor (albeit New Testament) we have the blind leading the blind through a minefield.

I vote for some benign neglect until at least Jan of 2009.

01-09-2008, 10:38 PM
Gershom smiles (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/7963?in=00:11:00&out=00:11:35)!

Way to catch the boss napping, Gershom.

01-10-2008, 09:49 AM
Weird, when you brought up a numbered brain area, I assumed you were talking about one of Brodmann's cycoarchitechtonic areas (http://www.umich.edu/~cogneuro/jpg/Brodmann.html), not a region from phrenology.

At any rate, with regard to #16, that would be around your primary motor cortex. So the audacity with which you hope from there may end with you just, you know, on the ground, twitching, arms and legs flailing purposelessly.

01-10-2008, 11:08 AM
I still think the very best divalogs are when Bob does an interview. He is a real talent in the area. Perhaps he could teach a class to budding journalists on this art/skill.

01-10-2008, 02:42 PM
That was a great moment!

01-10-2008, 02:48 PM
One of the more depressing elements in the dialogue between Bob and Gershom is that it revealed how deeply-seated is the tendency to talk about Israeli public opinion and mean Israeli Jewish opinion.

When Gershom talks about the 50% of Israelis who support withdrawal, he really means 50% of Israeli Jews. His numbers are not counting the nearly 20% of Israeli CITIZENS who are Israeli Arabs. Not counting, presumably, because they don't count.

Which leads to the even more depressing given that Israel must be a "Jewish state" in Gershom's words, while at the same time claiming to be a democracy of all its citizens.

Never mind the Apartheid regime in the WB or the collective punishment response by the government to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Even WITH a peace settlement you still have a Jim Crow-like regime in Green Line Israel.

One bright spot in the dialog was that both Bob and Gershom are sitting up and noticing the huge ideology gap between AIPAC and the kinds of progressive Diaspora Jews (like me) who aren't Likud clones.

American Jews vote overwhelmingly Democratic, but the Jewish vote is not at risk if Obama/Clinton/Edwards were to begin to sound less like Likudnik hacks and more like their progressive anti-occupation base. I think Obama might understand the dynamic if elected because he'd be hearing a lot from the progressive wing of his party who have the audacity to hope for real peace in the Middle East.

01-10-2008, 07:49 PM
I just don't see how Israel is going to make it. They have groups against them inside that tiny country and lots of surrounding countries that seem to despise them.

I know it's their biblical homeland and the rest of it but it's the wrong location for the Jewish people to set up a country.

Bush getting a peace treaty before he leaves office is a joke. He has about as much of a chance getting that as he did with the disastrous Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Who is he going to get it with just the Palestinian Authority at best? It doesn't look like Fatah or Hamas will sign on to anything.

The future for the state of Israel is ominous indeed.

01-10-2008, 08:56 PM
I'm not talking about theory, Michael; I'm talking about mindset. Sure, Israel can make progress toward becoming a full-fledged democracy of all its citizens. It can have Hebrew as the national language, celebrate Purim and Pesakh and Rosh Ha-shana as national holidays, and continue to be the center of Jewish scholarship and culture, just as France is the center of French of French scholarship and culture. I won't even make a big deal of the flag or Ha-Tikvah.

But what's disturbing is how easily Gershom seems to slip into the fantasy that I've been observing among Israelis all my life: Israel is entirely of, by and for Jews. The Arabs are invisible and irrelevant.

A couple of years ago I was at a Bar Mitzvah of a friend's son. His cousin from Israel came. She was very excited about an experimental kibbutz she had lived on in the Negev. After discussing it for a while I asked her, "Are all the members of the Kibutz Jewish?" Answer: "What do you mean? Everyone in Israel is Jewish."

01-10-2008, 09:25 PM
How old was this cousin from Israel? I know when I was young the only important thing in my life was having fun.

I think you are splitting hairs here.

01-11-2008, 01:33 AM
Well, that's true. My friend, who is a mongoloid, has the brainpan of a stagecoach tilter.

01-11-2008, 06:55 PM
"I think Obama might understand the dynamic if elected because he'd be hearing a lot from the progressive wing of his party who have the audacity to hope for real peace in the Middle East."

Yes, but according to this dialogue, Obama is on record not to pressure Israel to negotiate. Is this indicative of the progressive wing---just let the process evolve unhindered?

01-11-2008, 07:01 PM
In the context of having to turn in my absentee primary ballot this week, and since my #1 choice, Biden, is out, this diavlog gave me yet one more reason not to vote for either Obama or Clinton. I support the two-state solution, so Clinton's rhetoric is depressing. There seems to be a trend, if one considers her earlier support for basing in Iraq, to be Bush-"lite". I thought Obama's rhetoric also unhelpful.

So, does anyone know what Edwards thinks?

01-11-2008, 08:50 PM
In the context of having to turn in my absentee primary ballot this week, and since my #1 choice, Biden, is out, this diavlog gave me yet one more reason not to vote for either Obama or Clinton. I support the two-state solution, so Clinton's rhetoric is depressing. There seems to be a trend, if one considers her earlier support for basing in Iraq, to be Bush-"lite". I thought Obama's rhetoric also unhelpful.

So, does anyone know what Edwards thinks?


If you stop to consider all the issues, is a candidate's position on the Israeli/Palestinian situation really that important to you? If so, why was Biden your first choice? If not, is the I/P issue a way for you to decide because you see the remaining big three as indistinguishable on the other issues?

01-11-2008, 09:22 PM
It's important, because, after Biden's departure I'm thinking backwards. I have no unquestioned love for any of the Top Three. But, unless I seriously consider switching parties in November, I don't see myself voting for any of the Republicans (and never have in presidential elections---I voted for the GOP in local stuff where ideology is less important, or for the state senator who gave me my college scholarship). Why be a Dem if not to vote Democratic? So, now I just want the most electable candidate to win, because I assume most of the various cabinet functionaries will lobby after the convention for position no matter who wins. And, on my key issues, I want as best I can get. You're right, Israel is not high on my list, but foreign policy IS. Actually, I want a candidate who has a strategy, not 100+ position papers. So, if I see consistency, I'll take that for strategy. Is that complicated enough?

So, whoever is standing after I slice and dice all three will get my vote.

But, I'm concerned that Clinton's positions on Iraq and Israel trend rightward. The Iraq position also means more to me, because I live and understand Korean history. I don't want the US in Iraq for very long, because I don't think the US should have stayed in Korea for this long. These are two different cases, but generally I'm not a base imperialist, or supporter of proconsular diplomacy. That position tends to gather weight in the calculation.

01-11-2008, 09:48 PM
So, does anyone know what Edwards thinks?

The pressure on the Dems. needs to come from the progressive base -- the same people who are demanding an end to the occupation of Iraq, a revamping of US foreign policy and a social and environmental justice agenda. It's true that left to her own devices, Hillary will probably cave to AIPAC demands. Ditto Barack. Also true that it's hard to distinguish on the surface between George Bush and McCain's position on Israel and the Dem. candidates (except for Dennis Kucinich).

But the Dems. are generally better on human rights, and a Democratic Congress and White House may be more gutsy about pressuring the Israeli right wing and AIPAC. Jimmy Carter is still a human rights hero to many Dem. leaders, and he was courageous enough to call the Occupation "Apartheid" in a best-selling book a year or so ago. Barack is also more likely to understand the racism angle and hopefully will be less susceptible to the charms of defense contractors who get rich on Israel's insatiable appetite for the machinery of death. Ka-ching.

01-11-2008, 09:55 PM
Barack is also more likely to understand the racism angle...

This is just another manifestation of an annoyingly common tendency to extrapolate Obama's agenda from his profile.

But then again, I guess he would be less confrontational than Clinton and Edwards about dealing with the defense establishment. Is it no surprise I FEEL like I'm watching Oprah!

If I can't get promissory notes on policy, at least give me a notion of his personnel picks.

01-11-2008, 10:04 PM

You make some good points about the Israeli left's progress on democratizing the country, but I still think you gloss over a lot of the institutional discrimination.

Israel's basically Jews-only immigration policy, its Jewish-favoring land use and ownership policies, its basically Jews-only military institution (especially given the enormous upward mobility and social status accruing to an army resume) and its general tolerance of a separate and unequal society present major challenges for future generations.

One might argue that the Occupation and its costs prevent Israel from democratizing, de-segregating and ensuring the civil rights of all its citizens. Ok. But after 40 years things are only getting worse. The Settler fanatics are stronger and more numerous than ever; the religious right continues to grow; the secular right (Netanyahu and company) is as disturbingly vicious and retrograde as ever; and the government seems hell-bent on turning the basket case of Gaza into a full-blown international humanitarian debacle.

01-13-2008, 12:10 AM
Even if this is true, by this logic, a Clinton administration's offensive on the I/P issue wouldn't come until after her second inaugural. Campaign finance is the reason, in this account, for Clinton's rightward drift, to pick up conservatives in the general election and soak up cash.

So, again, when a president is lamed, Israel is the go-to- legacy issue.

01-13-2008, 02:52 AM
So, again, when a president is lamed, Israel is the go-to- legacy issue.

There's probably something to that, which in turn is probably a partial explanation for the lack of progress on the issues. I guess I can understand why most presidents put it off, though -- the problem is evidently so hard that there's a risk of burning political capital with nothing to show for it, which could doom other policy goals and/or chances of reelection.

01-13-2008, 05:27 AM
Interesting article on the "evolution" of Obama's thinking on the Middle East by Stephen Zunes here: http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/01/11/6312/


Earlier in his career, Obama took a relatively balanced perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, aligning himself with positions embraced by the Israeli peace camp and its American supporters. For example, during his unsuccessful campaign for Congress in 2000, Obama criticized the Clinton administration for its unconditional support for the occupation and other Israeli policies and called for an even-handed approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He referred to the “cycle of violence” between Israelis and Palestinians, while most Democrats were referring to “Palestinian violence and the Israeli response.” He also made statements supporting a peace settlement along the lines of the Geneva Initiative and similar efforts by Israeli and Palestinian moderates.

During the past two years, however, Obama has largely taken positions in support of the hard-line Israeli government, making statements virtually indistinguishable from that of the Bush administration. Indeed, his primary criticism of Bush’s policy toward the conflict has been that the administration has not been engaged enough in the peace process, not that it has backed the right-wing Israeli government on virtually every outstanding issue.

Rejecting calls by Israeli moderates for the United States to use its considerable leverage to push the Israeli government to end its illegal and destabilizing colonization of the West Bank and agree to withdraw from the occupied territories in return for security guarantees, Obama has insisted “we should never seek to dictate what is best for the Israelis and their security interests” and that no Israeli prime minister should ever feel “dragged” to the negotiating table.

Despite Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s refusal to freeze the construction of additional illegal settlements, end the seizure of Palestinian population centers, release Palestinian political prisoners, or enact other confidence-building measures–much less agree to the establishment of a viable Palestinian state–Obama claimed in his AIPAC policy forum speech that Olmert is “more than willing to negotiate an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that will result in two states living side by side in peace and security.” And though, as recently as last March, Obama acknowledged the reality that that “nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people,” as a result of the stalled peace process he has since placed the blame for the impasse not on the Israeli occupation but on the Palestinians themselves.

In addition, rejecting calls by peace and human rights activists that U.S. military aid to Israel, like all countries, should be contingent on the government’s adherence to international humanitarian law, Obama has called for “fully funding military assistance.”

In the face of widespread international condemnation over Israel’s massive attacks against Lebanon’s civilian infrastructure during the summer of 2006, Obama rushed to Israel’s defense, co-sponsoring a Senate resolution defending the operation. Rather than assign any responsibility to Israel for the deaths of over 800 Lebanese civilians, Obama claimed that Hezbollah was actually responsible for having used “innocent people as shields.” This assertion came despite the fact that Amnesty International found no conclusive evidence of such practices and Human Rights Watch, in a well-documented study, had found “no cases in which Hezbollah deliberately used civilians as shields to protect them from retaliatory IDF attack,” an analysis confirmed by subsequent scholarly research....

Unlike any other major contenders for president this year or the past four election cycles, Obama at least has demonstrated in the recent past an appreciation of a more moderate and balanced perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As president, he may well be better than his more recent Senate votes and public statements would indicate. Though the power of the “Israel Lobby” is often greatly exaggerated ...it’s quite reasonable to suspect that pressure from well-funded right-wing American Zionist constituencies has influenced what Obama believes he can and cannot say. As an African-American whose father came from a Muslim family, he is under even more pressure than most candidates to avoid being labeled as “anti-Israel.” Ironically, a strong case can be made that the right-wing militaristic policies he may feel forced to defend actually harm Israel’s legitimate long-term security interests.
Despite building his campaign around the theme of “change you can believe in,” there are serious questions regarding how much real change there would be under an Obama presidency regarding the U.S. role in the Middle East. While an Obama administration would certainly be an improvement over the current one, he may well turn out to be quite sincere in taking some of the more hard-line positions he has advocated regarding Iran, Israel, and Iraq.

However, many are holding out hope that, as president, Obama would be more progressive than he is letting on and that he would take bolder initiatives to shift U.S. policy in the region further away from its current militaristic orientation than he may feel comfortable advocating as a candidate. ... he could be open to more rational and creative approaches to the Middle East once in office......

01-13-2008, 05:50 AM
Great edition. Highest marks. No complaints. A bit odd that Wright did not refer to the recent diavlog with Mearsheimer and instead made vague references to lack of discussion of US policy towards Israel within the US. Just in case Wright reads this, and is getting a sense of who I am, I will repeat my judgment that the fellow who interviewed Mearsheimer was a disaster, truly awful.

01-13-2008, 08:28 AM
Baltimoron & Brendan:

I agree that there does seem to be a pattern of recent Presidents at least making their biggest push toward the end of their time in office. I don't have at my fingertips all the details of Clinton's and Bush's Mideast involvement earlier on in their terms, but I can at least say offhand that Bush got involved in a big way a year and a half after coming into office with the "Road Map" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Road_map_for_peace) plan.


I don't really remember the details, but memory of that time is that I saw the "Road Map" as little more than a combination of a photo op, the hubris of a president with inflated approval ratings, and one more front in the Global War On Terror (tm).

Sure, it proposed at least one concrete and worthwhile idea -- an independent Palestinian state -- but the whole thing basically struck me as Bush saying: "Here's my 97-point plan. Go make it work." He didn't do much that I remember to try to push matters along, and of course, invading Iraq shortly afterwards almost guaranteed that anyone in the Middle East even mildly suspicious of Israel and the US would be strongly disinclined to pursue peace talks. My sense of the Bush strategy here was that a quick and decisive win in Iraq would encourage the Palestinians to come to the table, and/or would encourage other Arab leaders to say to the Palestinians: "Better take what you can get now, before he invades Syria."

01-13-2008, 06:10 PM
As recently as today, e.g., Olmert said: "The president [i.e., Bush]... reiterated the United States' complete commitment that no agreement between us and the Palestinians could be carried out on the ground before full implementation of the 'road map'."

That was one part that I remember bugging me: the non-negotiable aspects of the order in which things had to occur, and the unlikelihood that this would ever happen. IIRC, part of what is required by the road map is a complete renunciation of terrorism by the Palestinians.

Now, I'm no fan of terroristic acts. But there are at least two problems with making such a demand as a precondition: First, one group's terrorism is another group's freedom fighting. Like it or not, some of the Palestinians see their use of asymmetric warfare as the only thing that keeps Israel in check. A serious negotiator has to recognize this reality, however distasteful it might be.

Second, it's asking a lot, and maybe an impossible amount, of the Palestinian leaders who would be amenable to negotiating to be responsible for ending all terrorism. The reality is, they don't have complete control over all of their splinter groups, let alone outside agitators. The end of terrorist acts should be a goal, but insisting on it up front does not strike me as reasonable. Imagine the US trying to negotiate, say, trade accords with China, and China insisting that we first end all China-bashing in our press.

It was for these reasons that I never gave much respect to the road map. The impossible preconditions made it seem like a political stunt -- Bush got to look like he was serious about resolving the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, but it seemed obvious that the plan had little hope of getting started.

01-14-2008, 04:35 AM
I think we're all forgetting how PM Sharon's Temple Mount stunt caused so much trouble. Whatever karmic compensation Sharon paid later, it did not compensate for that. I don't think the Road Map is on a level with the Clinton Parameters. It's more like climbing a rope ladder after falling off the ledge, when the summit is a mile from the next highest ledge.

01-14-2008, 04:38 AM
Thanks for this excerpt. I hope it's not rope to hang Obama if he gets the nomination.

01-14-2008, 05:24 AM
The Israeli position reminds me of the story about the common cold: If you drink lots of chicken soup and avoid chocolate, you'll be cured in 7 days; if not it will take a week.

If the Palestinians engage in terror, the Israelis won't negotiate with terrorists and will continue to expand the settlements.

If they refrain from violence, the Israelis will celebrate the status quo, ignore Palestinian grievances, and expand the Settlements.

This piece in Ha-Aretz yesterday illustrates part of the dilemma. Excerpt follows. Whole article here: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/944033.html

"Making do with foreplay"
By Uzi Benziman

The new term in the Israeli diplomatic lexicon is "shelf agreement." President George W. Bush begged Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to redouble their efforts to create the outline of a final-status agreement, and the two sounded as if they intended to carry out the task. The new effort's starting assumption is that even if the redeeming formulas are found and understandings are reached on all the controversial issues, an agreement will not be signed due to the political difficulties each leader faces. Instead, the agreement will be put on the shelf to be available at the right time. In any case, the current effort is considered significant and has aroused opposition on the Israeli right.

The simple truth is that the outline of the final-status agreement is known, and there is no need for a whole year to turn it into a polished diplomatic accord. Formulas are not lacking, but rather the daring and willingness to transform the reality that has been created in Judea and Samaria since June 1967. Bush himself, in his public appearances here, marked out the basic lines of the only possible agreement between Israel and the Palestinians: An almost total withdrawal to the 1967 lines, the end of the occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with territorial contiguity between them, a solution to the refugee problem without implementing the right of return, and a practical solution to the Palestinian demand to extend their sovereignty over part of Jerusalem....

Over the generations, the Israeli leadership has made do with foreplay while being afraid to reach the goal...

Israeli society... is afraid to fundamentally change the reality it created in Judea and Samaria. The surveys released over the weekend show that the public continues to prefer the status quo over change. According to the current mood, the right wing is much larger than the center-left. A Haaretz-Dialog poll shows 74 seats going to the right and 46 to the center and left. ...

...Therefore the new declared goal, that of a "shelf agreement," sounds more like an alibi than a goal to foster real action. It may not be different from previous Israeli excuses to avoid reaching the moment of truth in talks with the Palestinians: "There is no one to talk to," "a chick that did not sprout feathers," "an entity lacking the ability to govern."

Not that there is no substance to these analyses of the Palestinian leaders' skills over the generations, and of the basic situation in the society they head. But they do not absolve Israeli society from its responsibility for perpetuating the status quo...{/QUOTE}

01-14-2008, 02:18 PM

Thanks for the excerpt/link. Sounds like it matches my impression of the situation, but I'm really not informed enough about the details to comment further.