Thursday, February 24, 2011

Responding to MJ Rosenberg's Latest Article

MJ Rosenberg has written a pretty reasonable and balanced article, which gave me quite a lot to think about. I actually appreciated such a difference in tone and approach, so I suggest you give it a read before we get down to it.

This time Mr. Rosenberg forgoes complaining about "The Lobby," and instead repeats his other most common talking point: End the occupation. But they can't just end the occupation. I'm going to selectively quote him a bit but I think you will get a pretty good impression of what he's saying:
"For Israel, that means that Israel can accept the terms of the Arab League Initiative (incorporating United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338) and trade the occupied lands for full peace and normalization of relations with the entire Arab world....[But last time] they withdrew only to have their own land beyond the border shelled by militants who seized control as the IDF troops left for home. That is true and it might indeed happen again if the Israeli occupation is ended as a result of a popular uprising.
"But Gaza is only an applicable precedent if Israel leaves without negotiating the terms of its departure. Israel left Gaza when Palestinians made the price of staying too high but, rather than negotiating its way out, it just left....Fortunately, both the Israelis and the Palestinians already have worked out detailed plans to ensure mutual security following an Israeli withdrawal. In fact, the Palestinian Authority already utilizes those plans to maintain West Bank security and, with Israeli help, prevents attacks on Israel from territories its control."
So first he says just withdraw! But then he says don't just withdraw, make sure the Palestinians are okay with it first. But then he says that they have already figured that out so Israel should just withdrawal or else the consequences will be terrible. Though on the one hand it seems like Mr. Rosenberg is bouncing all over the place about what Israel should or should not be doing, I pretty much get what he is saying: That Israel's leaders are not looking ahead to see possible consequences of their intransigence today.

His statements on unilateral actions on Israel's part is also interesting, seeing as how he supports unilateral actions by the Palestinians without thinking much about their consequences. My guess is that he was somehow looking for a way to blame Israel for what happened in Gaza and took the opportunity to throw some digs at Sharon.

Anyway, the problem with his reasoning is that it falls into the same trap that many of Israel's critics (well intentioned or otherwise) make: That Israel is the only one with the power to make changes. But how they can negotiate a withdrawal if the PA won't even talk to them without a settlement freeze? And why would Israel leave without a promise of peace or recognizing her right to exist. Mr. Rosenberg addresses this problem by citing the age-old Arab Peace Initiative. This has two problems: 1) We have already discussed, 2) many of the regimes that signed on to the API are the same ones being overthrown or being threatened with revolution. Not to mention the fact that groups like Hamas and Hezbollah didn't endorse it, so it's not like Israel will do this and gain the magical rainbow-like peace they've been seeking for decades. It's unfortunate that Mr. Rosenberg did not address these problems as I would like to hear what he had to say.

Getting back to the article, Mr. Rosenberg descends into ranting a bit about why Israel isn't as smart as he is, which is unfortunate but not entirely unexpected. And then there is this:
"No, it is up to Israel to defend Israel. And that means ending the occupation, on terms worked out with the Palestinians, rather than allowing it to end in violence that could cross the border and threaten the survival of Israel itself."
It's worth mentioning again, the last time Israel ended the occupation of the West Bank things didn't get better, they became much much worse. And it was because they weakened themselves and made themselves vulnerable for what they believed was a good cause: the cause of peace. And now they aren't so willing to do it again. Mr. Rosenberg would be much more persuasive if he addressed these fears, rather than just taking the usual road of threatening that Israel comply or else. If I wanted to hear threats, I would listen to Ahmadinejad.


  1. Israel was forced to reoccupy much of Yesha after the Second Intifada that cost a lot of Israeli lives. The reason there is little terror originating from there today is due to the IDF presence. If that was withdrawn, the PA regime would collapse and the resulting vacuum would probably be filled by Hamas. And Israel's security situation would worsen, with thousands of dead Jews. Israelis are not prepared to return to that time and the status quo, with all its attendant costs, is still preferable to the alternative. If MJ Rosenberg doesn't believe it, he should talk to Israelis and ask them what they want. Committing national suicide is not one of those things.

  2. Why on earth, and how on earth, would Jews claim a place in Ethiopia?


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