I was recently reading Nicholas Kristof’s op-ed column in the New York Times, “Tough Love for Israel” in which he argues that what Israel needs now from America isn’t “more love, but tougher love”. He uses the responses he received on his own blog, nytimes.com/ontheground after he wrote an op-ed in the Times from Hebron. The writes in “Tough Love for Israel” that he received many counter-arguments to his points in the previous opinion piece and challenges to address them. One of the first ones he focuses on is the Jewish presence in Hebron:

Jews lived in Hebron for 1,800 years continuously … until their community was murdered in 1929 by their Arab neighbors. The Jews in Hebron today — those “settlers” — have reclaimed Jewish property. So I don’t see what makes them illegitimate or illegal. (Irving)

Mr. Kristof counters

“True, Jews have deep ties to Hebron, just as Christians do to Jerusalem and Bethlehem, but none of these bonds confer any right to live in these places or even visit them”

(“Tough Love for Israel“, New York Times, July 25, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com).

Interesting. Just because we had previously deep ties to Hebron, Joseph’s Tomb, and other places in the West Bank, we don’t have the right to live there or visit. Ok, let’s take that argument on face value. I can live with that. But I can hear the Palestinian Arabs, and I’m sure all Arabs in general, howling right about now. That also negates their beloved “Right of Return” if they accept that argument. It is such a simplistic position because it negates the ability of any displaced persons from ever being allowed to return to their homes after a conflict. However, his response goes even further…remember what he says “but none of these bonds confer any right to live in these places or even visit them.” So that means that under a two-state solution the Palestinians can deny Israelis the right to even visit the Tomb of the Patriarchs where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, are buried. Of course the world would simply turn a blind eye to that but if Israel were to reciprocate and deny Arabs the right to visit, say, the Al-Aqsa Mosque or the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount Israel would be decried as an apartheid state (nothing new about this slander) and a rascist state (again, the left-wind already makes this claim). Nevertheless, I suspect that this probably wouldn’t happen (at least not “officially”) since it would cut down on tourism in the nascent Palestinian Arab state.

Let’s look at another argument Mr. Kristof received:

One side is a beautiful, literate, medically and scientifically and artistically an advanced society. The other side wants to throw bombs. Why shouldn’t there be a fence? (Mileway)

And Mr. Kristof counters:

So, build a fence. But construct it on the 1967 borders, not Palestinian land — and especially not where it divides Palestinian farmers from their land.

(“Tough Love for Israel“, New York Times, July 25, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com)

This is a hard one to argue against. The only argument that I can see is that there are “realities on the ground” as President Bush once said that need to be considered. I would argue that a land swap should be considered to compensate for land that cannot be excluded from the Israeli side of the fence. But let’s continue. Another counterargument Mr. Kristof received was:

While I do condemn this type of violence, it pales in contrast to Palestinian suicide bombers, rockets and other acts of terror against Jews. (Jay)

To which Mr. Kristof pulls statistics from B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization:

B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights organization, reports that a total of 123 Israeli minors have been killed by Palestinians since the second intifada began in 2000, compared with 951 Palestinian minors killed by Israeli security forces.

(“Tough Love for Israel“, New York Times, July 25, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com

True, the number of casualties on the Palestinian Arab side has been greater than the Israeli side but I believe that he misses the point. It’s not just more Palestinian Arab youths have died but the Jay is focusing on the nature of the attacks. The Palestinian Arab terrorists are deliberately targeting civilians and other targets that will illicit the greatest fear and horror in the Israeli public. On top of that the terrorists are operating from civilian areas and doing so knowing full well that civilians will be killed in any Israeli response. If they truly cared for their people they would follow the 4th Geneva Convention that explicitly bars an armed militia for operating within civilian areas and requires them to separate from civilian populated areas. Israel’s response, while regretably killing civilians, is aimed at the terrorist bases of operation. We are not deliberately targeting the civilians like the Palestinian Arab terrorists do with regards to Isrealis. In fact, during the second Lebanon War, the Israeli army, in many cases, went to great extremes to try and limit collateral civilian casualties during the fighting and in some cases this resulted in greater casualties among the soldiers. War is a dirty business…that’s why it’s a thing to be avoided. The problem seems to be that the Western nations (America and Europe) believe that it’s something that can be conducted “cleanly”.

Let’s move on to the last counterargument that Mr. Kristof brings up in his op-ed:

To withdraw from the West Bank without a partner on the Palestinian side will find Israel in the same fix it has once it withdrew from Gaza: a rain of daily rockets. Yes, the security barrier causes hardship, but terrorist attacks have almost disappeared. That means my kids can ride the bus, go to unguarded restaurants and not worry about being blown up on their way to school. Find another way to keep my kids safe, and I’ll happily tear down the barrier. (Laura)

On this one Mr. Kristof responds:

This is the argument that I have the most trouble countering. Laura has a point: The barrier and checkpoints have reduced terrorism. But as presently implemented, they — and the settlements — also reduce the prospect of a long-term peace agreement that is the best hope for Laura’s children.

(“Tough Love for Israel“, New York Times, July 25, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com)

The separation barrier has done more to reduce the number of terrorist attacks inside pre-1967 Israel than anything else tried since the start of the first Intifada. It has made living inside of pre-1967 Israel safer albeit not completely safe since there have been terrorist attacks since the barrier was built and completed.

However, Mr. Kristof doesn’t stop there. He continues:

If Israel were to stop the settlements, ease the checkpoints, allow people in and out more freely, and negotiate more enthusiastically with Syria over the Golan Heights and with the Arab countries on the basis of the Saudi peace proposal, then peace might still elude the region. But Israel would at least be doing everything possible to secure its long-term future, rather than bolstering Hamas.

.(“Tough Love for Israel“, New York Times, July 25, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com)

Let’s review his arguments. Israel should:

  1. “stop the settlements” — ok by me,
  2. “ease the checkpoints” — how do you do this and ensure that Terrorists will not get through undetected?,
  3. “allow people in and out more freely” — again, see my question with regards to the checkpoints,
  4. “negotiate more enthusiastically with Syria over the Golan Heights” — eh? Let’s see where the current talks with Syria being held in Turkey lead. If all it leads to is a cold and meaningless peace in exchange for the Golan Heights then what has Israel really gained?
  5. “negotiate more ethusiastically…with the Arab countries on the basis of the Saudi peace proposal” — hmmm…let’s see. The Saudi peace proposal calls for:
    • Full withdrawl of Israel from all Arab lands captured since 1967 – i.e. “Land for Peace” – Israel’s stance since 1967
    • Implementation of UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 — no surprise there
    • The establishiment of an independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital — a little sticky as to what would be considered “east Jerusalem”
    • A just solution to the Palestinian Refugee problem in accordance with the UN General Assembly Resolution 194 (i.e. “The Right of Return”) — hmmm…Mr. Kristof’s logic above however states that deep ties to places does not “confer any right to live in these places or even visit them.” That’s a bit of a problem.
    • The normalization of relations in the context of a comprehensive peace — that’s pretty vague.

In essence Mr. Kristof is putting all of the onus on Israel and none of it on the Palestinian Arabs or any of the Arab states in the region for the failure of the peace process. He argues that if Israel would, in essence, “just be reasonable” and give the Arabs what they want then we would have peace in the Middle East. What he fails to point out is that Israel has been trying that approach with the withdrawal from Gaza and southern Lebanon and look where it has gotten them — rockets rain down daily on the Israeli city of Sderot and occassionally on Ashkelon, anti-semitic incitement continues not just in Gaza but in the West Bank as well where Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rules (Mr. Kristof calls him Israel’s “most reasonable partner ever”), and Hizbollah is already preparing it’s next pretext for war. The Jerusalem Report noted on July 16th 2008 that

According to the Hizbullah-affiliated daily Al-Akhbar, (deputy chair of Lebanon’s Supreme Shi’ite Islamic Council, Sheikh Abed al-Amir) Kiblan declared that seven villages whose Shi’ite inhabitants fled in 1948, and which were subsequently destroyed, “must return to their owners, our country and our people,” and Hizbullah’s arms would achieve this.

Gordon, Evelyn,Civil Fights: Hizbullah’s Next Pretext,The Jerusalem Post, July 16th 2008 )

These villages are inside of pre-1967 Israel and represent the Arab approach to demanding more and more from Israel even when it meets the its obligations according to the UN. Mr. Kristof misses it completely. His approach puts no burden on the Palestinian Arabs or the Arabs in Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia or elsewhere in putting forth honest, meaningful concessions into the peace process. In essence, they need have no “skin in the game” according to him. And, according to him, the only way for a new President, whether it’s Barack Obama or John McCain, to move the peace process forward is to show Israel “tough love.” Sorry…been there…done that. What is needed is a fresh and realistic approach…not “tough love.”

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