Thursday, January 17, 2013

Alan Elsner's In the Rut

When it comes to the Huffington Post, there is little room for creative thinking. Everyone is expected to think and believe in a certain way, even if logic and/or facts would indicate otherwise. We see a perfect example of this with an article by Alan Elsner, in which he say that if President Obama just keeps doing the same thing over and over for a little while longer, he may eventually get those different results he has been seeking. Because this is the Huffington Post, of course it is about the Middle East, and by the Middle East I mean Israel. Do they ever discuss anything else?

Like other Huffington Post bloggers before him, Elsner is telling President Obama what he must do, after insisting that it remains the most important issue. This is falling into the "linkage" rut, where people like to think that everything hinges upon Israel/Palestinian peace, because dealing with something like Syria is hard compared to yelling at Israel about settlements for the hundred thousandth time. Elsner does the usual bashing of Israeli politicians followed by tepid criticism of Palestinian ones. The worst thing he has to say about Hamas is that it "rejects Israel's existence," and he can't be bothered to point out that it won the battle for Palestinian hearts and minds a long time ago. Finally he gets to his main point: that if Obama doesn't do something soon these two nations will be doomed to "endless conflict!" Quick, Barak, save them from themselves! You are their only hope! 
"Obama should rally his Quartet partners -- the EU, the UN and Russia -- and put together a concrete plan and timetable for a solution. He should consider an early trip to the region to get things back on track. Whatever tactics he adopts, the president urgently needs to use political capital and diplomatic muscle to get the parties back to the table."
Here's the rut again. The Quarter has already been rallied. They've proposed solutions. Lots of them. None of them have worked. Why? Because the Palestinians don't want peace, and the Israelis don't trust them if they did. What "concrete plan" did you have in mind, Alan? One with a divided Jerusalem, which Israel won't accept? An undivided Jerusalem, which the Palestinians won't accept? What about the "right of return" and settlements? See, it's easy to point your finger at people, even the President, and say "come up with a plan," but don't you think if he had any brilliant ideas they would have been put into action by now?

Don't worry, though. Elsner has some other ideas about how this will happen:
"Everyone knows what an eventual deal will look like, but without U.S. leadership and pressure on both parties it will never get done. Rather than addressing one or two issues, Obama should place a complete package in front of the parties and dare them to accept the challenge and make the compromises necessary to secure an agreement."
So basically what you're saying is: force them to make peace. And how well has that worked out in the past, exactly? And what do you mean by 'both parties?' Presumably one is Israel but who is the other? The PA? Or Hamas? Or the Palestinian people?

For that matter, what happens when Obama dares and they both say no? What is he going to do? Bomb them? Cut off their aid? Congress won't let him cut off aid to Israel and cutting off aid to the PA is a recipe for more instability. Not to mention it's like a gun with one bullet: if you use it once and it doesn't work you are totally boned.

The truth is that the US has been placing packages and making challenges for the past twenty years. And the only thing that happened is that both sides tried to get as much as they could from each other before going back to fighting. The US wasted a lot of time and effort and the only thing that resulted from it is that people got killed. So why is Elsner now encouraging is to repeat the same mistakes we have been making for the past two decades? Because there is no other option? I hardly think so.

If the Palestinians finally get the message that nobody is going to wipe Israel off the map for them, no matter how loudly they whine about "BDS" or whatever, then they will have to choose either all out war or peace. Personally I think it looks like they have grown tired of war, but still want to wipe out Israel through "nonviolent" means. When they wake up to the fact that that isn't going to happen, maybe then they will be ready for a deal.

When that happens, I'm sure the Huffington Post will be full of helpful ideas for how to make that happen.

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