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Gaza Ceasefire Consensus Developing

solidarity with gazaDay 7: Palestinian death toll, 111 killed, 840 injured. The Palestine Committee for Human Rights has determined 60 of those killed were women or children or men over 50 (hence not participating in armed struggle).  Well over half of the dead whose identity is known were civilians.

The Irish Times reports that they’re bringing out the big guns to try to secure a Gaza ceasefire.  Hillary Clinton is jetting to the Holy land to hold Bibi Netanyahu’s hand and guide it towards signing a ceasefire with Hamas (well, not with Hamas because such things would be verboten in civilized western society, but you know what I mean).  The fact that Hillary’s getting involved means either that they’re on the verge of sealing the deal and she’s the icing on the cake; or that Bibi’s holding back, perhaps even seriously contemplating an invasion, everyone wants the deal but him and she’s applying pressure.

All this means that there’s a distinct possibility of a ceasefire.  But the question remains: what sort of ceasefire?  My guess is it will be of the same variety that “ended” Operation Cast Lead.  In other words, an agreement merely to postpone the opening stage of the next round of hostilities.  Neither Netanyahu or Obama have any interest in negotiating the root causes of this mess and resolving them.  As IDF Gen. Giora Eiland said in Haaretz yesterday, Israel needs to recognize Hamas as the ruler in Gaza, it needs to end the siege, and it needs to demand accountability from Hamas for fulling ending hostilities against Israel.  Those are the three key features of a true agreement that would get each side key elements of what it needs to declare victory.

But Netanyahu is some strange way needs Hamas and Gaza as his nationalist punching bag.  When there’s a terror attack, he needs to be able to attack Gaza whether anyone there was involved or not (see, Eilat terror attack).  When there’s an election, he needs to kill a few Hamas leaders and show the electorate their scalps to ensure his electoral mandate.  Bibi doesn’t want peace in the south because it would mean the world, and even Israelis, might turn their attention to the real issues–Palestinian statehood or even domestic social justice issues.  The former’s the issue that threatens Israeli retention of the West Bank and the settler project, which is key to the Likud political agenda and its permanent political majority.

Obama, burned by his first and only major attempt to intercede in the conflict, wants little to do with Bibi or the Palestinians.  But there is a way he can tie Gaza to larger U.S. regional objectives.  There has been some speculation about the connection between Israel’s assault on Gaza and a possible future conflict with Iran.  It’s well-known that the real war Bibi Netanyahu wants is less in Gaza than in Iran.  Some commentators have suggested that Gaza may be a Israeli warm-up for attacking Iran.

Today Dick Blakney, with whom, in the past few months, I’ve been campaigning in speeches throughout Seattle against the threat of war with Iran, emailed me with a very interesting take on Obama’s moral timidity.  Dick notes that Obama held a press conference a few days ago in which he alluded to a new approach to Iran he was contemplating, one that might break with “protocol.”  Here’s what he said:

President: With respect to Iran, I very much want to see a diplomatic resolution to the problem.  I was very clear before the campaign, I was clear during the campaign, and I’m now clear after the campaign — we’re not going to let Iran get a nuclear weapon.  But I think there is still a window of time for us to resolve this diplomatically…

There should be a way in which they can enjoy peaceful nuclear power while still meeting their international obligations and providing clear assurances to the international community that they’re not pursuing a nuclear weapon.

And so, yes, I will try to make a push in the coming months to see if we can open up a dialogue between Iran…to see if we can get this things resolved.  I can’t promise that Iran will walk through the door that they need to walk through, but that would be very much the preferable option.

Q    And under what circumstances would one-on-one conversations take place?

President:  I won’t talk about the details in negotiations.  But I think it’s fair to say we want to get this resolved, and we’re not going to be constrained by diplomatic niceties or protocols.  If Iran is serious about wanting to resolve this, they’ll be in a position to resolve it.

As Dick noted, the reference to diplomatic niceties and protocols, may refer to various Congressional legislation which prohibited negotiations between U.S. government officials and Iran.  It may refer to the prevailing consensus within Congress and the Israeli government that talks with Iran, let alone an agreement, are useless and a trap.  At any rate, it indicates a president who may be prepared to go against prevailing wisdom in pursuing a deal with Iran.

If Barack Obama were the Democrats’ answer to Henry Kissinger, he might play the current crisis this way: I’ll stand tall with Israel.  Walk them out of this crisis.  Appear to side with them in most ways possible.  Doing so will put lots of credits in the bank.  The president will invest those credits (though not in Iranian rials) and draw them down when he begins expected one-on-one negotiations with the Iranians.

While the horror of this war is great, Obama is looking at far more horror deriving from a war with Iran.  If he can negotiate a deal with the Ayatollahs that averts both an Iranian bomb and an Israeli attack on Iran, he will’ve averted a much more serious, dangerous and bloody crisis. But in doing so, Obama knows he will have to cut Bibi loose.  The U.S. leader understands there’s no possible way Iran would accede to Israeli demands.  So if Obama meets as many of the Israeli demands as possible in achieving such an agreement, but abandons Israel’s most extreme demands, then he’d be golden.  He will have achieved a major breakthrough in U.S.-Iranian relations and averted a major regional crisis.

But he won’t have satisfied Israel’s ultra-nationalist government.  He will have left Iran with a nuclear program enriching uranium possibly up to 20% purity.  He will have agreed to lift sanctions in order to get this deal.  All of this will leave Bibi steaming mad.  But the latter won’t gain much traction anywhere except possibly among his own electorate, because of the Gaza deposit Obama made during this crisis.

The president will respond to Bibi’s truculence by pointing out that he stood with Israel when the Grads and Fajrs were falling on Ashdod and Tel Aviv.  He sent his secretary of state to secure the ceasefire that allowed Israel’s south to return to normalcy.  There isn’t anything he wouldn’t do to ensure Israel’s security.  But when it comes to Iran, there is a bigger picture.  This involves U.S. security as well, since Iran is a potential threat to both Israel and the U.S. if war breaks out.

He can say that he did everything in his power to ensure Israel’s interests were addressed, while also achieving key U.S. objectives.  When the howls and screams from Jerusalem persist he will make Bibi out to the be the sour-faced, sore-loser.  Given that this is his final term, Obama doesn’t have to worry about threats from the Israel lobby or Bibi Netanyahu to his political survival.  This is a deal he could do and survive.

Unlike solving the Israel-Palestine conflict, a deal he’s determined, rightly or wrongly, he couldn’t do and survive thanks to the strangle-hold exerted by Netanyahu on political discourse both here and in Israel.

murdoch jewish owned media

Murdoch’s Kahanist tweet heard round the world

To be clear, if this is Obama’s strategy I’m not endorsing it.  As Dick wrote to me, holding back from Gaza is itself immoral whether the president has a larger objective in mind or not.  But there is a Kissingerian resonance to the strategy outlined above, that might appeal to this president who’s determined that Macchiavelli, rather than Saul Alinsky, is his guiding political star.  That’s why I’m going to take to calling Obama the Democrats’ Kissinger.

I can’t conclude this post without noting the delicious eccentricity of Rupert Murdoch’s latest fusillade concerning Gaza.  In a tweet (shouldn’t there be a law prohibiting 80 year olds in their dotage from firing off tweets?) heard round the world, he decried the “Jewish-owned media” for foisting an anti-Israel agenda on their readers.  As Howard Kurtz pointed out, the only major news media company owned by Jews is the New York Times’ Sulzberger family.  Not to mention that the Times is a direct competitor to his Wall Street Journal.

But in what sort of Murdochian Bizarro-world do liberal Jews become anti-Israel by reporting the news as the Times has done?  Calling their coverage “anti-Israel” is laughable considering almost all their major correspondents in Israel are liberal Zionist Jews (Ethan Bronner, Jodi Rudoren and Isabel Kershner).  The coverage has hardly been balanced.  Palestinian voices, while heard, are generally secondary to the overall narrative.  The op-ed section has taken a more independent route including columns from more diverse voices.  But the notion that a WASP gets to call a Jewish media family anti-Israel because they don’t share his slavish adherence to Likudist values is worse than preposterous.  It’s insulting and outrageous.

Don’t believe any headline you read saying Murdoch “apologized.”  He claims he did in a subsequent tweet.  But he only apologized to “Jewish reporters” who he noted he hadn’t intended to tar with the anti-Israel brush.  Implicit in this is that he DID mean to smear the Jewish bosses who pay those reporters’ paychecks, and their editors.

The assault against liberal Jews is torn directly from the pages of Meir Kahane.  So let’s call Rupert Murdoch what he is: a foul-mouthed, bitter, rabid Kahanist.  We could quibble and say that he’s really a Likudist and not a Kahanist.  But the two ideologies have become pretty much interchangeable as I argued in my Tikkun Magazine piece on Jeffrey Goldberg’s youthful indiscretion with Kahanism.

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  • Deïr Yassin November 20, 2012, 3:22 AM

    “Palestinian death toll: 111 killed (…) The Palestine Committee for Human Rights has determined 60 of those killed were women, children or men over 50 (hence not participating in armed struggle). Well, over half of the dead whose identity is known were civilian”
    Probably much more once we know all the facts. The father of the al-Dalou family had a grocery store, two other adults were killed passing in the street when a man driving by on a motocycle was ‘only’ wounded, accordig to eyewitnesses HE was the target, one was a police officer etc.
    And once the distinction between ‘militant’ and ‘combattant’ is made, the % of combattants is probably lower than during Cast Lead.

  • David Nelson November 20, 2012, 4:17 AM

    Richard,

    “To be clear, if this is Obama’s strategy I’m not endorsing it.”

    The way you spell it out, you may very well be right about the political strategy/nuclear diplomacy of President Obama. And i also feel quite ambivalent about it. These next few months will be instructive for students and scholars alike.

  • rfjk November 20, 2012, 6:17 AM

    Aside from the tragic loss of life the consequences of this latest round of violence will make HAMAS stronger, fuel Palestinian resistance and harden their resolve. Barrages of Quassams into Israel underlie the total failure of operation ‘Cast Lead’ in ending that threat, besides highlighting the IDF’s tactical incompetence in finishing off HAMAS. Those are the lessons learned then and dictate today’s ineffectual policies of long distant bombardment and showboating demonstrations of force on the borders.

    • Tibor November 20, 2012, 7:17 AM

      rfjk, I don`t think you can understand how this summary of yours is wrong. During the Second Intifada they said the very same thing namely, that Israeli counteracts in eliminating gradually (it indeed took a long time) the bases, the military material and the operators and their commanders, will only make things worse in making the Palestinians even more committed to fighting – it turned out to be evidently not so. The ceasefire agreement in Cast Lead was indeed broken by Hams and other organizations there: they continued to fire missiles and smuggled in more arms (under the stewardship of Jabari) and so we are back at it again. However, there was no incompetence of IDF in “finishing off Hamas”. Firstly, they hide in densely populated areas and hitting them would mean a huge increase in the number of civilian casualties and secondly, doing away with Hamas is not Israel`s goal (as different from hitting military operatives and selected chiefs of it) – Israel is not interested in a power vacuum there. This struggle is a “long story”, a trial and error process with constant learning, development of new tools, as Iron Dome now, improved intelligence gathering approaches and so on, a process, rather than an one-stroke finish – it resembles the second Intifada in that. Once more, as there, it will end not with truce agreements, which will be violated as before, but rather when war-fatigue descends on people – at some point they lose the fervor and the willingness to continue paying for it in endlessly disrupted normal life and continual casualties – patience and perseverance (in short, the story of the entire “Israel project”).

      • mary November 20, 2012, 10:29 AM

        When will Israel ever learn that it cannot solve its problems militarily, that trying to smash the resistance to its occupation of Palestine is futile, and that the only way towards peace is to go back behind the pre-1967 borders and give the stolen land back to the Palestinians? What is so damned hard to understand?

    • Joel November 20, 2012, 10:47 AM
      • Richard Silverstein November 20, 2012, 4:39 PM

        If you choose to claim that Israeli doesn’t summarily execute wanted Palestinians then you’d be a liar. I’m not sure what the difference is–Israel’s practices are barbaric as are Hamas’. Which is worse?

        If you were a Gazan whose family may’ve been killed due to intelligence offered by a collaborator I daresay you wouldn’t be preening as you are with this hasbara.

      • Deïr Yassin November 21, 2012, 6:03 PM

        “Hamas leader condems killing of accused collaborators”
        http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=540443
        The suspected collaborators were brought to Sheikh Radwan neighbourhood for the execution, just close to where the Al-Dalou house stood, which was supposed to be that of some big Hamas or Islamic Jihad-leader, according to the IDF. I read a very laconic interview with some IDF-spokesman saying “they’ll look into it (i.e. killing of 11 innocent people, I guess).
        I don’t know but maybe there’s a link between all this: collaborators, wrong house, being executed next to where the house used to be. I’m not justifying anything; this is simply disgusting, particularly to drag a dead body through the street. Nearly as disgusting as killing a baby in an air raid.

        • mary November 22, 2012, 1:14 AM

          It has also turned out that although Hamas members are responsible for this, Hamas officials have condemned the act.
          http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=540443

          Be aware that this type of incident is tragic but nevertheless shouldn’t be used to paint with a broad brush. Of course, it was turned into hasbara by the Israelis who insist on portraying Hamas as brutes. Yes, this was a heinous, disgusting act, but let’s not allow it to deflect from the heinousness of an invasion that is producing more dead bodies, and despair, than this single incident. Humans are subject to rash acts under extreme stress, and this is not much different than what happened in Fallujah involving the incident resulting in the murder of four US contractors whose bodies were burned and hung from a bridge.

  • abierno November 20, 2012, 8:23 AM

    I think you are wise to point out that the horrors of a Israeli attack on Iran (possibly with nuclear warheads since they have
    determined that even bunkerbusting bombs won’t touch some of the embedded enrichment sites) would far out distance the horrors of the current Gaza situation. I would also agree with your portrayal of Obama’s direction on Iran. He’s in a challenging position being hemmed in by his own congress and Israel, and then having to deal with the blood lust of the current Israeli government, particularly Netanyahu. Perhaps in some eon, an Israeli government will emerge with the will and skills to use diplomacy in lieu of a foreign policy which is exclusively devoted to violence, death and destruction.

  • Bob Mann November 20, 2012, 8:53 AM

    I don’t understand why you accused me of “spreading rumors” when I presented information about the forthcoming cease fire two days ago. It was based on the same solid reporting that your piece is based on. I just don’t get it.

    • Richard Silverstein November 20, 2012, 4:36 PM

      You did not say on what your claim was based. Laster, I saw a Haaretz article which seemed a bit vague. I assume that’s where your statement came from. Since then, which is several days ago now, there have been firmer reports. THere still is no ceasefire. So I thought your comment then was more the realm of speculation than established fact.

  • Daniel F. November 20, 2012, 9:31 AM

    I am both inspired and humbled by the story of Izzeldin Abuelaish ,a Gazan doctor (who worked in an Israeli hospital).
    Dr.Izzeldin Abuelaish’s three daughters – Aya, Bessan and Mayar were killed by Israeli tank shell that hit his home three years ago.
    Twelve weeks earlier, Nadia, his wife of 21 years, had died suddenly of Leukaemia.

    From this…. “I saw everything,” he says. ” My children in parts. A decapitated head. And Shatha in front of me, with her eye on her cheek.”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jan/16/gaza-doctor-izzeldin-abuelaish-interview

    To this….”The energy you want to waste in anger, convert it to strength and determination,”

    http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/talktojazeera/2012/10/20121027103639238794.html

    • Deïr Yassin November 20, 2012, 3:34 PM

      To the memory of his daughters:
      http://www.daughtersforpeace.com
      I guess you’re aware that he went live (sound) on Channel 10 just after his daugters were killed:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUh6xVlndhM
      There’s another footage, after he came to an Israeli hospital with the bodies of his girls, he was verbally agressed by a couple of Israelis who more or less told him that he got what he deserved, I’m hardly exagerating.
      In his book “I Shall Not Hate”, you learn that what now is the ranch of Ariel Sharon used to be the land of his family…. Abuelaish is a political ‘moderate’ but insists on the Right of Return.
      Richard has written posts about him: he went to hear him some while back in Seattle.

    • Deïr Yassin November 20, 2012, 3:38 PM

      Errata: it was daughters for life
      http://www.daughtersforlife.com

  • fillmorehagan November 20, 2012, 12:13 PM

    OT

    US and Iran finally agree on something — the death penalty.

    U.S. sides with Iran in UN vote over death penalty
    Political Desk

    On Line: 20 November 2012 17:30
    In Print: Wednesday 21 November 2012

    Font Size
    TEHRAN – The United States on Monday sided with Iran in a vote at a UN General Assembly’s rights committee on a resolution calling for the abolition of the death penalty.

    According to AFP, 110 countries backed the resolution, which is voted every two years.

    The vote tears apart traditional alliances at the United Nations. The United States, Japan, China, Iran, India, North Korea, Syria, and Zimbabwe were among 39 countries to oppose the non-binding resolution in the assembly’s rights committee. Thirty-six countries abstained.

    Israel voted against its strong U.S.-ally to join European Union nations, Australia, Brazil, and South Africa among major countries backing the motion.

    At the last vote in 2010, 107 countries backed the resolution.

    France’s new Socialist government has launched a campaign with other abolitionist states to get the full General Assembly to pass a resolution in December calling for a death penalty moratorium. However, such a resolution would be non-binding.

    According to the United Nations, about 150 countries have either abolished capital punishment or have instituted a moratorium.

  • dickerson3870 November 20, 2012, 10:59 PM

    RE: “. . . my Tikkun Magazine piece on Jeffrey Goldberg’s youthful indiscretion with Kahanism” ~ R. Silverstein

    MY COMMENT: A very interesting and insightful analysis! Thanks.