David Remnick tells it like it is

David Remnick tells it like it is

This is from his New Yorker column, “A Man, A Plan”:

…. Netanyahu has stubbornly refused the appeals of Washington and of the Palestinian leaders Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad, who have shown themselves willing to make the concessions needed for a peace deal. In the midst of a revolution in the Arab world, Netanyahu seems lost, defensive, and unable or unwilling to recognize the changing circumstances in which he finds himself.

The occupation—illegal, inhumane, and inconsistent with Jewish values—has lasted forty-four years. Netanyahu thinks that he can keep on going, secure behind a wall. Late last month, he called the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, to register his displeasure that Germany had voted for a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the Jewish settlements. …

Netanyahu told Merkel that he intends to give a speech in the next few weeks supporting an interim Palestinian state on about half the territory of the West Bank. If that is his plan, it will be unacceptable to the Palestinians, and he knows it. Smug and lacking in diplomatic creativity, Netanyahu has alienated and undermined the forces of progressivism in the West Bank and is, step by ugly step, deepening Israel’s isolation.

It is time for President Obama to speak clearly and firmly. Concentrating solely on the settlements, as he has done in the past, is not enough; he needs a more comprehensive approach. Administration officials talk about “getting it right” in the Middle East, by which they mean finding the right diplomatic levers in order to support the potential democratic elements in such varied countries as Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Bahrain, without moving too far ahead of events or becoming engaged militarily in ways that could lead to disaster. Getting Israel and Palestine right must be part of that effort. The old, wishful habit of waiting for Netanyahu is an abdication of American influence and interests.

If the Administration has been reluctant to put forward a comprehensive peace plan, it’s not because it has any difficulty imagining such a plan. Inevitably, the parameters of a two-state solution would be like those established at Taba, in 2001, and by Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas, in 2008. …

Obama’s views are not mysterious. His political home is Hyde Park, on the South Side of Chicago, where he came to know liberal Zionists and Palestinian academics, and to understand both the necessity of a Jewish state after the Second World War and the tragedy and the depths of Palestinian suffering.

The President has made mistakes on this issue: it was a mistake not to follow his historic speech in Cairo, in 2009, with a trip to Jerusalem. When it comes to domestic politics in Israel, he is in a complicated spot. For some Israelis on the right, his race and, more, his middle name make him a source of everlasting suspicion. Yet he is also a communicator of enormous gifts, capable both of assuring Israeli progressives and of reaching out to the anxious center. A visit to Israel, coupled with the presentation of a peace plan, would also help structure international support and clarify American interests. The Palestinian question is not an internal matter for Israel; it is an international matter.

The importance of an Obama plan is not that Netanyahu accept it right away; the Palestinian leadership, which is weak and suffers from its own issues of legitimacy, might not embrace it immediately, either, particularly the limits on refugees. Rather, it is important as a way for the United States to assert that it stands not with the supporters of Greater Israel but with what the writer Bernard Avishai calls “Global Israel,” the constituencies that accept the moral necessity of a Palestinian state and understand the dire cost of Israeli isolation. Even as Obama continues to stress his commitment to Israeli security, he has to emphasize the truth that, without serious progress toward an agreement, matters will likely deteriorate, perhaps to the point, yet again, of violence. …

By | 2011-03-16T01:57:00-04:00 March 16th, 2011|Blog|0 Comments

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