Ethan Bronner writes in today’s NYT that senior Israeli officials say Ehud Barak will come to Washington Tuesday and offer what I’m calling “freeze-lite.” That is, a partial, temporary (as in, the blink of an eye) settlement freeze which Israel is naturally calling, according to Bronner’s formulation, “a complete freeze.” The problem? It isn’t complete. Not by a long-shot. Just note this sentence from Bronner’s second paragraph:
The freeze would not affect construction that was already under way, nor include East Jerusalem.
Well, that’s a loophole big enough to drive a Mack truck through. A settlement freeze that omits East Jerusalem is like Peter Stuyvesant purchasing Manhattan from the Indians, excluding Central Park.
Bronner is clearly a “believer” in this offer, as he characterizes it thus:
While such an offer falls short of President Obama’s demand that Israel halt all settlement building now, it is the most forthcoming response that senior Israeli officials have given to date and suggests that American pressure is having some effect.
Again, the phrase “some effect” is so vague as to be almost meaningless. Unless Israel agrees to a full settlement freeze that includes all portions of the Territories including East Jerusalem, then American pressure is not having enough of an effect. The same holds true of freezing all current construction.
In the report, the Israelis tell Bronner that 2,000 housing units are under construction and would be completed. That’s not a drop in the bucket. And it’s likely many of those units are in Maale Adumim, a prime area of contention, whose ‘thickening’ by Israeli builders and planner is a primary impediment to a territorially-contiguous Palestinian state.
I realize that Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem poses particular political problems for an Israeli government since, if it did agree to a freeze in East Jerusalem, it would be tacitly conceding that East Jerusalem is the same as the rest of the Territories. But this is Israel’s problem and not ours. It annexed East Jerusalem against the explicit wishes of the U.S. and most of the rest of the world. So now it will have to eat that crow if it wishes to get on board with the Obama administration.
Barak himself is always good for sheer chutzpah and effrontery and doesn’t disappoint here:
“Many Israelis fear that what Palestinians want is not two states but two stages,” meaning an end to Israel in phases. He also said that by focusing solely on settlement building and not on what the Arab countries should also be doing for peace, Israel felt that it was being driven to its knees and delivered to the other side rather than asked to join a shared effort.
He’ll have to pardon our collective jaws dropping at that whopper. Israel “being driven to its knees?” By a settlement freeze? Puh-leeze. Barak conveniently forgets that the Arab League has already offered simultaneous mutual recognition to Israel if it withdraws to 67 borders. But what has Israel offered that anyone can take seriously? Gorsnisht.
I don’t even know whether Bronner realizes that in this passage, discussing Israel’s conquest of the Territories in the 1967 war, he reveals himself as a Revisionist:
…Taking the West Bank, previously held by Jordan, fired the collective imagination in Israel because so much of it — including the cities of Hebron, Nablus and Jericho — was part of the biblical Jewish homeland that Zionism sought to reclaim.
Parse that carefully: Zionism sought to reclaim the “biblical Jewish homeland.” That’s pure Jabotinsky. In truth, David Ben Gurion accepted Partition, which meant precisely the opposite of what Bronner is claiming. Not to mention that aside from the Revisionists, mainstream Zionism never felt it needed the entirety of the “biblical Jewish homeland” in order to establish the State of Israel. I suppose one could argue that Bronner phrased this awkwardly and didn’t mean to say that Zionism wanted to reclaim the “biblical Jewish homeland,” at least not necessarily in its entirety. But when you write about a subject as freighted as this, you must be careful and nuanced. If not, you leave yourself open to all sorts of mischief, which is what this journalist does regularly in his reports.
And lest anyone claim that Bronner is not an apologist for Israeli policy, read this passage:
Israel says the real problem is Arab rejection of its existence in any borders at all…
Excuse me? The 2002 Saudi offer explicitly offered Israel Arab recognition. Syria is practically clamoring to recognize Israel if it returns the Golan. The PLO has for several decades recognized Israel. So what is Bronner “on” about?? Once again I ask in vain–if Bronner doesn’t want to write more carefully about these delicate issues isn’t there an editor in the house to do so for him?
Ever the cheeky one, Barak has more. Here he touts Israel’s ‘generosity’ toward the Palestinians:
It has formed a ministerial committee headed by Mr. Netanyahu aimed at starting economic projects in the West Bank. It has also given the Palestinian security forces greater freedom of action in the past couple of weeks.
Mr. Barak presented such steps as examples of concessions Israel had already made that deserved recognition from Washington and Arab leaders.
Wow, you set up a government committee and hand over a few IDF roadblocks to PA security forces and all of a sudden you’re ready to make peace with the Palestinians. Israel has zero credibility on these issues and so will have to do much better before the Arab states will risk being burned by offering anything to Israel in response to such alleged “good faith.”