Should the U.S. recognize Palestine?

Matthew Duss of the Foundation for Middle East Peace and Michael Cohen a fellow at the Century Foundation argue peace in the Middle East would be advanced if the U.S. recognized Palestine (Washington Post, March 29). Placing the blame for the failure of the U.S. to bring about a two-state solution on Israel in general and Prime Minister Netanyahu in particular, Duss and Cohen go so far as to assert such an act would “strengthen the Jewish homeland’s security.”

The authors state that a two-state solution has been U.S. policy since 2002 when George W. Bush called for the creation of a Palestinian state. Failure to realize this policy has in their view undermined U.S. credibility and contributed to regional unrest.

While admitting the Palestinian Authority President Abbas “has at times been an obstinate partner in the peace process,” Duss and Cohen ignore the times that Abbas walked away from the table after Israel had agreed to a mediated formula, raising doubt as to whether the Palestinian Authority actually wants a negotiated settlement which includes the continued existence of the state of Israel.

The authors suggest the Palestinians need a leader different than Abbas has proven to be. In doing so, they undermine their claim that recognition will lead to peace by documenting the extent to which the Palestinians are far from being ready for nationhood. Not only do they lack a strong, credible, and legitimate leader, but they are divided to the point where Palestinian Authority officials dare not venture into Gaza given Hamas’ record of assassinating opponents.

The authors further expose the flaw in their own logic when they remind us that George Bush called for “an economically sustainable, demilitarized Palestinian state.” It’s one thing to call for a demilitarized Palestine. It’s another thing to articulate a path to such an end, something they don’t even attempt. Why not? I’d venture to say that if the U.S. informed Israel that we will recognize the Palestinian people’s right to their own country on the day an inspection certifies Hamas, Al Aqsa Brigades and the other terrorist groups have been disarmed, I am confident Prime Minister Netanyahu would applaud.

The problem is no one is stepping forward to disarm the terrorists, least of all the Palestinian Authority. It is well-known the reason the PA has failed to hold scheduled elections in 2009 and 2010 is because they knew Hamas would win and the price of losing would most likely be their lives and the lives of their families.

Ironically, the primary reason Duss and Cohen want the U.S. to recognize Palestine has nothing to do with Palestine. They favor it to “protect U.S. national security.” This is nothing more than a corollary of the Obama doctrine, the primary principle of which seems to be the dubious theory that U.S. security is protected when we withdraw from conflicts.

The authors also fudge on a key matter. Recognizing Palestine is not the same thing as recognizing a Palestinian state. The latter cannot exist without borders and since defining its borders is a central problem, recognition can only be theoretical.

While it would be a public relations victory for the PA and Hamas for the U.S. to recognize the existence of nation called Palestine, it would not lead to an end to the conflict, which can only come when the Palestinian people recognize they cannot achieve their goals by force and that the outcome of negotiations is that neither side get everything they want.

Netanyahu and Likud have placed security above all else for a reason. To do otherwise is to jeopardize Israel’s existence as past history has demonstrated. At the same time, Israelis desperately want peace.

Recognition of Palestine by the U.S. would harm Israel––the authors’ claims notwithstanding––and it would do nothing to end the hostilities. As Golda Meir often said, “Peace will come to the Middle East, when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us.

The Fear and Loathing of the Jewish-American Left

The Jewish-American Left is apoplectic about Likud’s electoral victory, which they attribute to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s last minute appeal to his constituency by announcing no Palestinian state will be created during his watch and warning his voters that foreign money was financing left-wing NGO’s busing of Arab voters to the polls. The latter comment may have been injudicious, but it was not racist as is claimed.

Racism is the Left’s favorite (and last ditch) card to use against anyone who is beating them in a contest of any type. That’s because the term has become so overused that it no longer has any real meaning while it remains effective in labeling the target as someone it’s okay to dismiss.

The concept of race was invented around the turn of the nineteenth century by those who wanted to justify policies that treated certain groups differently than others. At one time or another it has been used against Europeans, including Poles and Italians, against religious groups, including Jews, against Native Americans, Asians, and against those of African descent.

It had no basis in fact then and it has none today. Racists are people who believe that a group of people––however defined––are members of a unique race and that individual members of that group possess certain qualities or attributes in common. For example, anyone who says all Jews love money are making a racist statement. Someone who says a certain Jewish individual loves money is not.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s warning to his constituents that NGOs were busing Arabs to the polls is not a racist statement because he doesn’t attribute any negative characteristics to Arab people other than he assumes most of them will vote against him. That’s simply a statement of fact. Were he talking about any other voting block, such as residents of kibbutzim or Jews living in a certain neighborhood, it would not have caught anyone’s attention.
But wasn’t Netanyahu appealing to the baser instincts of his constituents? Leftists love to believe those they disagree with are racists. They forget that the union movement in America for decades refused to admit African-American workers and the Democratic Party established Jim Crow in the American South, refusing to give it up until well into the 1960s. The racist canard only works on Netanyahu if one believes Lukid’s voters are racist bigots. In this case who are the real bigots?

I believe Netanyahu had to have drawn certain logical conclusions to make the statements about the two-state solution and Arab voters.

He has concluded that the leaders of the Palestinian Arabs living in Gaza and the so-called occupied territories have no desire for a two-state solution as evidenced by their actions and their words. He has seen that whenever Israel has given in to their demands it has made matters worse. Vide: Gaza. Hence, unless those leaders change their behavior and their views or are replaced by leaders who do not call for Israel’s destruction, no sane Israeli would give them the means to attack Israel more effectively than they have done in the past.

Netanyahu also knows that the three Arab political parties that made up the Arab list are proponents of policies that would harm Israel and make it more vulnerable than it is today. Hence, his hope that his supporters make their voices heard. Thank goodness, his wishes were fulfilled.

The question is to what extent will the Jewish-American Left abandon Israel and those Israelis who returned Netanyahu to prime minister? If they believe he won using illegitimate tactics, they may support the Obama administration’s desire to shove a two-state solution down Israel’s throat. That such would even be conceivable tells us to what extent leftist (i.e., anti-capitalist, anti-colonialist, anti-imperalist) ideology has replaced Judaism as the religion these people follow.

Why Ideologues Make Bad Presidents

With Hillary Clinton on the ropes, some hope Elizabeth Warren, the leftist Senator from Massachusetts, can rescue of the Democratic Party’s chances of retaining the White House in 2016.

The main problem I see with Warren is that she is another Obama­––someone who seeks to impose her ideology on the rest of the world and who as a result fails to see where opportunities exist to make positive changes. A good example that shows the danger she represents is her response to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement proposed by President Obama.

In an Op-Ed piece in the Washington Post on February 25, 2015, Warren argues one feature of the trade agreement––Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS)––“would tilt the playing field . . . further in favor of big multinational corporations. Worse, it would undermine U.S. sovereignty.”

She warns this provision for settling disputes between investors and nations would allow foreign companies to by-pass U.S. courts and win big financial settlements against our government. Her examples include a French company that “sued Egypt because Egypt raised its minimum wage.”

The problem is that she has her facts wrong. Her understanding of ISDS is colored by her anti-corporate ideology. The truth of the matter, as the Post’s editorial board wrote on March 11, is that this method of resolving disputes has been included in over 3,000 trade agreements and that corporations win only 25 percent of their cases, while only 17 cases have been brought against the U.S.

She also got her facts wrong about the examples she cited. In the matter of the French company versus Egypt, the company was merely seeking to enforce a contract provision that required additional compensation if costs rose, which the minimum wage increase brought about. They weren’t challenging the minimum wage increase per se.

The Post suggests another reason Warren and those opposed to the agreement don’t like the pact is the it encourages “private investment in one another’s economies.” In other words, she is opposed to investor driven economies, otherwise known as capitalism.

Contrast Warren’s ideological approach with that of Larry Summers, former president of Harvard University and former Treasury Secretary. Writing in the Post on March 8 about the same trade pact, Summers takes a pragmatic look at the impact of various provisions and as a result offers a reasoned argument how it could be in the interest of working Americans––namely “through binding arrangements in areas such as labor and environmental standards.”

Summers also notes a provision that favors corporations unnecessarily, which he would modify.

Ideologues are people who view the world through a filter, seeing things they way they want to see them as opposed to how they really are. That may be fine for professors who lack the power to affect the real world, but it’s a terrible way to try to run a country. Democratic Party leaders should look elsewhere for Hillary’s second if she continues to stumble.

Netanyahu and the Jewish-American Left

How can one explain the Jewish-American Left’s negative response to Benjamin Netanyahu’s coming to the United States to address Congress about the existential threat posed by Iran and their negative reaction to the speech itself? Instead of pride that the Congress of the United States (including most Democrats) wanted to hear the prime minister of Israel, the Left attributed partisan motives to his appearance, accused him of alienating Democrats, and even cast aspersions on his wife’s spending habits.

A visitor from Mars might find this more confusing than a visit to a baseball park, a trip to a shopping mall, or an episode of Breaking Bad. No rational explanation would come to an alien’s mind, and for days I could find none as well . . . but watching the Left’s reaction I have a theory.

Over the past decades Israel has become an embarrassment to the Jewish American Left. Among other issues, the ongoing conflict with those who call themselves Palestinians has caused them to be ashamed of today’s Israel.

They are disgusted by the occasional acts of individual violence by Jews, such as the killing of 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khudair this past summer, by the government’s refusal to stop adding settlements in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), and by the deaths of civilians as by-products of Israel’s defense against terrorist attacks.

And, while Netanyahu views the defense of Israel as necessary for the survival of the Jewish people, the Jewish American Left could not disagree more strenuously. Diaspora Judaism is not only alive and well, they will tell you, but look at all the wonderful things we have accomplished since World War II––from breaking down of barriers that prevented Jews from full participation in Western society prior to the war, to the achievements of individual Jews in multiple fields including medicine, the arts, and politics.

The Jewish-American Left acts as if it would be where it is today even if Israel didn’t exist. If one examines that claim, however, it quickly falls apart. Start with the fact that Israel sopped up the refugee population that neither the United States nor Europe of 1945 were willing to absorb. Had there been no Israel, tens of thousands of Jewish Holocaust survivors would have remained a financial and social burden possibly for decades, and as a result integration of Jews into the mainstream might have been forestalled.

Israel’s existence also provided a rallying point for the American Jewish community in the 1950s and beyond. Israel was both a source of pride and a means of communal cohesion. It kept the holiday of Pessah a central event in American Jewish life, giving testimony to the Passover story as well as providing a counterbalance to the embarrassment of the Holocaust.

The Jewish-American Left finds Netanyahu’s conservative politics an insult to their place in the firmament of world Judaism. He claims to speak for them, but he is not one of them. He is not their kind of Jew.

The Left longs for the Israel before 1967––the Israel of kibbutzim, when the Labor Party of Ben-Gurion dominated. They forget that Judaism was frowned upon on many kibbutzim and if any worship took place, the deity was Joseph Stalin, the leader of the paradise on earth that kibbutzniks hoped to emulate.

The American Left forgets that it was the willingness of Jews to defend themselves that enabled Israel not only to survive, but to prosper. They forget that military service is a core experience for Israelis and that many have faced deadly fire.

Benjamin Netanyahu has a soldier’s mentality­­. He has had to make the kind of decisions no Diaspora Jew has ever faced––to find the line between allowing enemy successes and being blamed of civilian loses even when those loses are the result of the enemy’s outrageous manner of fighting. He is not the passive Jew of Europe nor the American Jew who has no experience of having to act when lives are at stake.

I am reminded of Jewish life in Europe in the years prior to Hitler’s rise. That was the time of my parents who were born in 1913 and 1916 respectively. They lived in Austria, which, as one of the losing parties of the “great” war, was reduced from a huge empire to a tiny republic.

Jews in those years had to choose what being Jewish meant. Many converted or stopped practicing their faith. Men who fought for Germany and Austria came back with their medals and scars, expecting to be accepted as equals and to be able to raise their families without fear of pogromic attacks. When anti-Semitism re-emerged, they couldn’t understand why nor could they believe it was a real danger. A few fled, but most stayed past the time when they could save themselves.

No doubt most American Jews were surprised by the outbreak of anti-Semitism in Europe this past year. People might still harbor those feelings, they said to themselves, but to act on them—they didn’t expect that. But don’t worry, that can’t happen here, they tell themselves.

If Iran signs an agreement with the U.S., it will be because it sees that agreement as a step on the path towards imposition of Islamic rule world-wide. If that happens, not long afterward we are likely to see events in this country of the kind that took place in France and elsewhere. What we might see has been foreshadowed on a number of college campuses where Jews feel threatened if they wear a kippah or the star of David.

In that scenario, left-leaning Jews will have to decide which comes first, their leftist ideology or their faith. I worry that many will discover they made the wrong decision when there was still time to stand up for Israel in its hour of need. They will be like the kibbutzniks who worshiped the Soviet Union only to discover Stalin arming their enemies. That would be a sad day indeed.

Diaspora Jews need a strong Israel. With all his flaws, Netanyahu represents what is needed. He spoke with conviction and without fear of the consequences of telling truth to power. I hope the Jewish-American Left will see the error of its ways before their illusions contribute to fatal outcomes.

Welcome to my new blog — Pollak’s Politics.

It’s a crummy name for a blog I’ll admit, but “all things political” and my other choices were taken. So Pollak’s Politics it is, but who cares about the name of blogs anyway. What counts is what’s inside, what it’s about, what is said.

My intent is to comment from time to on things political, mainly when I have something to say that is not already being said based on my unique experience and insights.

After a life that included participation in the student movement of the 1960s, a decade in academia, a short time working for two lobbying groups, and 20 plus years as a business executive, I have accumulated a certain amount of experience, which I believe enables me to provide insights into complex political, social and human situations.

That rough outline doesn’t testify to the fact that I’ve studied and read a great deal–from Plato, Socrates and Aristotle to the fathers of the enlightenment, to Marx and the neo-Marxists, and to the critics of Marxism. I’ve taught American Political Theory to undergraduates, I’ve earned a Ph.D. in the history of American higher education, I’ve participated in the legislative process as an employee of two lobbying groups, and I’ve been a journalist––the editor of The Albany Liberator (a black community newspaper although I’m not of African descent), the editor of The New Citizen (a leftist community newspaper), and from 2000 to 2013 the editor of The Empire Page (a news aggregation website).

You may find my views controversial, but you’ll also find that I’m not so arrogant to think I’ve figured it all out or that I won’t admit when I’m wrong.

So I hope you’ll read my posts, comment when so moved and let others know if you like what I have to say.