Western liberals know Netanyahu is the problem and Abbas isn’t, but their unwillingness to say so ends up achieving the opposite of their goal.
There it was again, this time at the end of today’s (Thursday’s) New York Times editorial on Kerry’s “shuttle diplomacy.” After making it clear for the nth time that the occupation is wrong, that settlements are wrong and that Netanyahu clearly intends to keep them going, it was time for the Times to weasel out.
Along with Mr. Netanyahu, the biggest drag on serious progress seems to be the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, who has shown no sign of dropping his demand that Israel halt settlements before negotiations resume.
Mr. Abbas squandered a chance at a peace deal in 2008. It would be foolish to do so again.
Ohhh, isn’t that nice? They’re both at fault.
How many times have I read this in one form or another from liberal columnists like Thomas Friedman, former peace processors like Martin Indyk, but above all, of course, from every single major politician and diplomat in the Western world (except those in the Republican Party).
Both sides have to compromise, they say, both sides have to make brave decisions. (My favorite part is when they say “brave.”)
I would like to ask these people a question, starting with Kerry: Since it is impossible for Israel and the Palestinians to each be exactly 50 percent to blame for the status quo, which side would you say is more to blame, even if just a little bit more, than the other?
And of course Kerry, like these other liberals, wouldn’t answer. But they know the answer, even if they won’t say it publicly: Israel is more to blame, certainly now with Netanyahu running the country and Abbas running the Palestinian Authority.
If Abbas were leading a terror campaign against Israel, then there would be some credibility to the idea that both sides are to blame. But like all these good progressives know, Abbas is Israel’s active partner in the clampdown on terror, and has been since he took over the PA nine years ago. Meanwhile, Netanyahu has withdrawn all territorial offers made by previous Israeli prime ministers; the only “map” he has divulged is of East Jerusalem, which is to remain forever under Israeli control; and in 10,000 other ways he has made it clear that his goal is the same as it has always been: Palestinian surrender.
Kerry knows this, Obama knows this, the Europeans know this, the New York Times knows this. They see that the PA is giving Israel peace while Israel not only isn’t giving the PA land, it keeps taking more and more away. They see that Abbas recognizes Israel’s right to one side of the Green Line while Netanyahu in no way recognizes the Palestinians’ right to the other side. Most importantly, they see that in the West Bank, Israel is the subjugator and the Palestinians the subjugated.
They’re liberals, they’re democrats, they know who is David and who is Goliath in this deal. Yet they won’t say what they know is true: that Netanyahu is the problem and Abbas is not. Or, at the very, very least, that Netanyahu is more of the problem than Abbas is.
Why won’t they say this? If they’re Jewish, it is psychologically difficult to say such a thing. If they’re Americans, Jewish or non-Jewish, who depend on mainstream American approval, it is an extremely unpopular thing to say. And if they’re European officials, they don’t want to irritate Washington.
But they know it, they know this is not a 50-50 relationship, they know that Netanyahu, whom none of them can stand, is the bully in this story and Abbas is the one getting bullied.
And by not issuing that judgment out loud, by keeping to this cowardly even-handedness of theirs, they are making Netanyahu very, very happy. After all, if the powers-that-be say he’s no more to blame than Abbas, then he doesn’t have to slow down the occupation train one bit – let Abbas make the first move. And since the sort of moves the powers-that-be are now calling on Abbas to make – such as “dropping his demand that Israel halt settlements before negotiations resume” – would allow Netanyahu to negotiate forever while building settlements, Abbas cannot do what he’s being asked to do without, indeed, surrendering. So if both sides are equally to blame and Abbas won’t budge, Netanyahu isn’t under any pressure to budge, either; he can keep his knee in the Palestinians’ spine indefinitely.
And this, finally, is what the liberal democrats of the West achieve by whining “they’re both to blame”: They reinforce the occupation.
Noam Sheizaf wrote that Kerry would be more helpful around here if he publicly acknowledged that there is no peace process. I’d say Kerry – like the New York Times, ex-peace processors, European leaders and other faint-hearted types – would be more helpful if they said nothing at all. At least then they wouldn’t be doing any harm.