A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors


Day 9: Not Israel's Fault or Responsibility

It's all the Palestinians' fault.Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the United States (and a citizen of the U.S.) explains why this is not a crisis, and it's not Israel's doing. As my mother used to say, "this takes the cake." contrary view summed up by Commonweal regular, Andrew Bacevich in Salon: "In a lengthy statement offered to the Armed Services Committee earlier this week, Petraeus ticked off a long list of problems in his AOR -- AfPak, Iran, Iraq, Yemen -- and then turned to what he called the "root causes of instability." Ranking as item No. 1 on his list was this: "insufficient progress toward a comprehensive Middle East peace." Petraeus continued:

"The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in the AOR. Israeli-Palestinian tensions often flare into violence and large-scale armed confrontations. The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the AOR and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support. The conflict also gives Iran influence in the Arab world through its clients, Lebanese Hizballah and Hamas."

About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.



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Mrs. S, I highly recommend Walter Russell Mead's recent posts about Israel. Though they may not comport to your views, you will find them interesting nonetheless. One post in particular, hilariously titled, "Is This Lobby Different From All Others?" is particularly good.

What do Israelis say?From this morning's Israeli broadsheet Ha'aretz - editorial[]QUOTEThe Israel Defense Forces decision to declare the Palestinian villages Bil'in and Na'alin closed military zones on Fridays for the next six months is a serious anti-democratic move. The order issued by the GOC Central Command implementing this restriction is an act against the freedom to demonstrate. The fact that the army issued such a sweeping order, and that it is supposed to be in effect for such a long period, requires an immediate petition to the High Court of Justice asking it to block this dangerous and damaging move, which lacks any justification. The freedom to demonstrate is a basic right and an extension of freedom of expression. In recent years, the two villages have come to symbolize the struggle against the separation fence that separates the villagers from their lands. The struggle is legitimate. It contributed substantially to the High Court order to alter the route of the fence near Bil'in, a decision that the IDF has yet to implement - which is also a blatant anti-democratic failing. AdvertisementThe residents of the villages and their supporters - Jews, Arabs and foreign activists - must be given the right to protest and fight for their rights. During the years of demonstrations in the two villages, 23 demonstrators have been killed, half of them minors; no Israeli soldiers have been killed. The demonstrations themselves have mostly been non-violent, and it was the IDF and Border Police that often exercised excessive and unnecessary force. In spite of the inconvenience, the IDF must permit this protest. The alternative could be terrorism. The IDF decision is grave from another perspective as well: There has never been such a radical move against rightist demonstrations or settlers in the territories. While settlers run amok, burning fields and uprooting trees, damaging property and spreading terror as part of their criminal "price tag" policy, the IDF and the police stand idly by. When the left wants to protest and demonstrate, the IDF declares the area to be a closed military zone. In this the IDF harms not only one of the basic values of democratic rule, the freedom to demonstrate, but also discriminates in its policy, granting excessive liberty to lawless settlers while being heavy-handed with leftist protesters. The IDF order is therefore a revolting and ridiculous act, and the defense minister, who commands the IDF, must take immediate action to void it.END OF QUOTE++++++++++++++++++I personally have visited Budrus, the village that began serious, non-violent protest against Israeli theft of land, This village and its (partial) success was the inspiration for the Bil'in effort. Their demos can look like a panto, but how would you attract media attention week after week - for years?There's an award-winning film called BUDRUS premiering in London this Saturday 20th March

Adeodatus, Thanks for the link. The issue for me is not whether WRMead's views "comport" with my own, but whether they comport with something resembling the facts on the ground (hard to discern I know). In the piece you cite (scroll down that link, folks, to March 12), he argues that U.S. policy to Israel is generally congruent with our general foreign policy especially toward "new" nations. And that AIPAC's influence is no more or no less than what public opinion grants it; since public opinion supports Israel, it supports AIPAC; should public opinion shift, AIPAC would see its influence decline. That seems to me half-true (without getting into how much most Americans actually know or care about the issues and U.S. foreign policy). What his view misses is the mediating bodies such as the U.S. Congress, generally full of people gung-ho about everything Israeli and generally uncritical of everything Israel does. This is why those people are always happy to send our money and grant loans and get up non-binding resolutions that garner virtually every name in the House and Senate. Some are resolute supporters of Israel; some are fearful of being called out as anti-Israel. This is only to say that the situation is far more complex than Mr. Mead acknowledges at least in that post. Among those complexities is the diverse views of Jews themselves, both Americans and Israelis, who as I have said here regularly are often the most astute observers and sharpest critics of Israel. In the end, that kind of informed opinion is what we should be watching. Mead's current post (March 16) points to a shift in U.S. public opinion from strong U.S. supporters being liberals to strong supporters being more conservative. I don't know whether that holds up in opinion polls, but a good number of those conservatives, as you know, are Christian Zionists whose vision of the future is the Second Coming, preceded in some fashion by the gathering in of the nation of Israel and its destruction. If I were an Israeli, I'd regard this Trojan horse with due skepticism and give it considerable distance. This is a far different vision than fuzzy liberals who simply admired the courage, ingenuity, and persistence of the plucky little nation that Israel once was.In short! WRMead seems to me your typical neoconservative obfuscating the hard issues and doing his best to appear a reasonable man.

"In short! WRMead seems to me your typical neoconservative obfuscating the hard issues and doing his best to appear a reasonable man."Mrs. S, tell us how you really feel!

After reading WRMead as proposed by Adeodatus, I recommend two posts on Pat Lang's site: First, Habakkuk on the end of the "Two State Solution", The US and Israel: A Codependent, Dysfunctional Relationship

Adeodatus: Not how I feel, what I think.

Just an expression, Mrs. S. Did you at least like the title? I laughed.

Such an expression! Title: Sounded familiar; where have I heard that intonation before?

Speaking of U.S. public opinion, here is a Rasmussen poll from earlier this week (for what it's worth):5* As part of a Middle Eastern peace agreement, should Israel be required to stop building new settlements in occupied Palestinian territory? 49% Yes22% No29% Not sure (MOBS: I think this shows the degree to which people are not paying attention at all--IMO)

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