August 23, 2014

Mideast Media Sampler, David Gerstman, 11/5/12


1) The New York Times on the Middle East, again 

In Palestinians at the U.N. again, the editors of the New York Times write:

It is not a move that will do anyone any good. It will not change facts on the ground, and it will come at a cost. After last year’s initiative, Israel withheld millions of dollars in tax transfers to the Palestinian Authority; the United States halted funding for Unesco, and Congress is withholding $495 million in assistance for the Palestinians, the State Department says. Both countries are likely to react the same way again, although there is a danger in bankrupting the Palestinian Authority, which has begun to build the institutions of a state, including a police force, that also contribute to Israel’s security.
Israel and the United States say unilateral moves like these by the Palestinians violate the 1993 Oslo accords, which were intended to pave the way to a “final status agreement” within five years. And it is clear that a negotiated deal is the only way to ensure the creation of a viable Palestinian state and guarantee Israel’s security.
But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has refused to make any serious compromises, and the two-state solution seems to have a diminishing chance of ever happening. Mr. Netanyahu’s recent decision to jointly field a slate of candidates with the ultranationalist Yisrael Beiteinu Party in parliamentary elections in January suggests his approach could become even more hard-line.

What’s wrong here? Just about everything.

  • If the only way to achieve peace is through negotiations, then why is the attempt to get a statehood vote only wrong because of the Israeli and American reactions to it?
  • After 19 years, why is aid from the United States and Israel necessary to make the Palestinian Authority viable? Where is the private economy?
  • Hamas has recently stepped up its terror offensive against southern Israel. Even if the PA were acting in good faith, peace would not possible because of Hamas’s strength. (This is something that the New York Times hasn’t commented on.)
  • Prime Minister Netanyahu did freeze settlements for ten months and Abbas refused to negotiate in good faith during that time.
  • Yisrael Beiteinu, as opposed to Hamas (and possibly Fatah), believes in territorial compromise.

Khaled Abu Toameh recently wrote West Bank: What the West is funding 

Harb, a Palestinian writer and political analyst, was summoned this week for interrogation by the Palestinian security forces in Ramallah and charged, on the basis of the Jordanian law, with “belittling the dignity of the state.”
Harb was told that the director of Abbas’s office had lodged a complaint against him for libel and slander because of an article criticizing Abbas’s policy of promoting public employees.
Entitled “Presidential Decisions Are Made In A Coffee Shop,” Harb’s article criticized Abbas’s decision to promote more than 500 civil servants over the past five years — noting that many of them were unfit to serve in their jobs.

Is this the nation that New York Times is promoting?

2) The price of sanctions

In Iran: Sanctions Biting, Nuclear Program Progressing, Lt. Col. Michael Segall concludes:

In sum, as the Iranian leadership admits, the sanctions are affecting Iran’s economy and presenting challenges of a kind unknown in the past. At the moment the leadership is following a policy of concealment from the public. Yet since the effects of the sanctions are evident, in the West there are those who will exploit this fact to defer military action against Iran in order to give the sanctions another chance to work. Iran will continue to promote the different components of its nuclear program and is prepared to pay the price of sanctions, believing it will be able to contain any popular protests as it has done in the past and to rely on the West’s eagerness to avoid any military action.

This is the reason that Netanyahu rebuked the Obama administration last month. Secretary of State Clinton had just said that sanctions needed more time. But causing hardship for the Iranian regime and deterring its nuclear program are two separate issues.

About Barry Rubin

Prof. Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist for PajamasMedia at http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan)