Middle East Myopia in Middlebury

, Brian McNicoll, 1 Comment

In a piece for the New York Times, Max Fisher compared China’s efforts to corral North Korea and keep peace on the peninsula to the United States’ efforts to force Israel to change its policies toward the Palestinians.

Jeffrey Lewis, who directs an East Asia program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, is quoted in Fisher’s story saying Americans “might see parallels in their country’s own troubled alliances, particularly in the Middle East.”

He did not state which countries in the Middle East threaten others with nuclear annihilation and conduct provocative missile tests. Rather, Lewis drew the parallel “if only in the mechanics of alliance politics” with Israel.

“For decades, Washington has tried to persuade, induce or coerce Israel into altering its policies toward the Palestinians. Israeli leaders accepted American aid, ignored American demands and, in shows of calibrated defiance, often announced new settlement construction on the eve of American visits.

“To the outside world, American unwillingness to impose greater pressure looks like a lack of will. When American diplomats warn that more pressure would only deepen Israel’s calculus and sacrifice American influence, they are blamed for perpetuating the conflict.”

As Ira Stoll said in a piece for the Algemeiner, it’s hard to know where to start.

Israel has not “ignored American demands” to change its policy toward the Palestinians. It has turned over a lot of the West Bank and all the Gaza Strip to Palestinians, released prisoners and, periodically frozen or slowed new settlement construction.

Going back further, it has offered dramatic land-for-peace deals on at least three other occasions, all of which were scoffed at by the Palestinians because they require the Palestinians to recognize the Jewish state, which the Palestinians and almost all Arab countries refuse to do.

Also, settlement announcements were not made on the eve of American visits as “shows of calibrated defiance.” Israel is growing rapidly – its population increased 2 percent last year and is expected to grow from 8.6 million now to 20 million in less than 50 years. As such, settlements are always under construction and reaching approval stage. Given this and the regular procession of American political leaders to Israel, it would be nearly impossible to coordinate such a thing, even if the Israelis were interested in doing so.

Stoll pointed out the Times slipped into passive voice to “inject” its view.

“When American diplomats warn that more pressure would only deepen Israel’s calculus and sacrifice American influence, they are blamed for perpetuating the conflict.” Unsaid is who is doing this blaming.

And are we demanding or coercing better treatment from Israel of the Palestinians? Or are we still landing “frantic and fanatical support [to] Israel,” as the Times stated in another story last Sunday?

Brian McNicoll, a former newspaper editor, think tank writer and Capitol Hill staffer, is a conservative writer and editor in Reston, Va. This piece originally appeared on the Accuracy in Media site.

 

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