BigMo’s Blog

Politics and Economics in Israel

Lost in Translation: Tony Blair on Obama

On 25 May, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair gave a speech to an audience of business leaders at London’s Royal Institution, stating that US President Barack Obama is “frankly worried about the position that Israel is in.” Of course, Blair currently serves as the Quartet’s (the U.S., the EU, the United Nations and Russia) senior mediator. His American counterpart, George Mitchell, resigned last month. Blair described Obama’s initiative as “an attempt to fill a vacuum which he sees as dangerous, particularly dangerous for Israel in the run-up to September,” when the UN is expected to take up the issue of Palestinian statehood. [1]

Later that same day Blair gave an interview to Britain’s Channel 4 News, saying that it was too early to tell how the recent Fatah / Hamas reconciliation would affect the peace process, but that “it could be positive if there is a genuine reconciliation around principles that promote peace”.[2]  Really? Unless Hamas gives up all of its core principles such as the establishment of an Islamic state and the destruction of Israel, the reconciliation is unlikely to resemble even vaguely that looks like a commitment to peace.

Obviously, this is Blair’s attempt to shore-up the American administration shoddy performance during the last two weeks of May. In the short span of two weeks, Obama once again failed to impress the Arab world,[3] alienated American voters who support Israel’s positions 2:1, and Netanyahu himself[4] delivered a backhand comeuppance in front of an exuberant US Congress. Blair’s insistence on Obama’s already rejected plan was a great example of keeping on the same page with the US, but hardly anything more.

The Quartet would like Israelis (not necessarily including Netanyahu) to believe that a “diplomatic tsunami” will hit Israel in September. Netanyahu has dutifully flown from one European capital after another expressing his dismay that such a resolution would even be brought to the floor of the UN General Assembly (UNGA). Yet, the Israeli Prime Minister knows that this is already a fait accompli. The Palestinian Authority has committed itself to this; they have the backing of the 22-member Arab League and the backing of the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Congress (OIC).[5]

However, we are forced to ask a simple question: hasn’t Israel already been hit with dozens of UN tsunamis? Since 1947, the UN has passed over 200 different resolutions regarding Israel or regarding Israel and its neighbors.[6] The vast majority of these have been against Israel, including such memorable UN classics as:


  • UNGA 138 condemning Israel for bringing Nazi mass-murdered Adolf Eichmann to trial (after all, he only killed Jews)
  • UNGA 3379 equating Zionism with racism
  • UNGA 38/9 condemning Israel for bombing Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor at Osirak
  • UNGA 38/85 condemning Israel’s consideration of building a canal linking the Mediterranean Sea and Dead Sea (obviously, Zionists are not even allowed to consider matters, let alone act on them)

A diplomatic tsunami? Really? The truth of the matter is that one day after any UNGA resolution recognizing the Palestinians’ right to an independent state nothing will really change, except for the worse. Any UNGA resolution is likely to trigger a series of political, economic and security sanctions – by Israel against the PA. It is also likely to trigger a third Intifada – rebellion by the Palestinians. This would most likely bring about a total collapse of the entire Palestinian enterprise.

As Yediot Ahronot (Israel’s largest daily paper) columnist, Sever Plocker has pointed out, “The second Intifada contradicted and disproved two basic assumptions, axioms almost, which were commonly accepted at its outset and end. The first one: Economic prosperity brings peace. The second one: Terrorism cannot be defeated by force.”[7] Indeed, there was an economic expansion was underway prior to the second Intifada; it did not lead to a clamoring for peace. Militarily, the PLO was defeated, broken.

While the Palestinian economy in Judea and Samaria has prospered under the tutelage of Salam Fayyad, it has not resulted a clamoring for peace from the Palestinian middle-class. Despite America and Jordan training PA forces, five battalions will offer a few days of resistance and then be slaughtered by a vengeful IDF. Israel has grown adept at fighting irregular forces in both the small villages and urban landscapes that predominate in Judea & Samaria.

Mr. Blair and Mr. Obama can make all the speeches they want. They can wring their hands in mock concern all they want. However, we need to put things in perspective. The PA is based in the city of Ramallah, in the West Bank. It has been there since 1993. From 1982 until 1993, it called itself the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and was based in Tunis, Tunisia. Did some deus ex machina transfer it to Ramallah? No, it was created by the 1993 Oslo peace accords between Israel and the PLO. In other words, the Palestinians’ greatest diplomatic achievement was obtained by negotiating with the Israelis.

Since then, there have been a dozen minor agreements. There has also been one Intifada in which the PLO tried to gain by force when Israel rejected its sham diplomacy. This September, the PLO will again attempt to gain through maneuver that for which it refuses to negotiate. Of course, it would be unfair to blame Mr. Blair for the Palestinians’ obstruction and duplicity. As the Quartet’s ambassador, he does not formulate policy. He does not control a vast aid budget, nor can he levy sanctions. He cannot bestow the prestige of attendance at a Royal wedding.

However, he does have an obligation – a moral obligation – to speak the truth. The situation will only change when the Quartet develops the intestinal fortitude and political will to confront the truth: the Palestinians refuse to negotiate with Israel because they do not want peace with the Jewish state. If Mr. Blair were to speak this truth, instead of acting as Mr. Obama’s faithful interpreter, he might well lose his job. Then again, if he were to speak this truth, he will likely save thousands of lives.

[1] http://www.washingtonpost. com/world/business-not-bombs-mideast-envoy-tony-blair-addresses-economic-foundations-of-peace-process/2011/05/26/AGHT1oBH_story.html?wprss=rss_world







June 1, 2011 Posted by | Middle East | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dead on Arrival?

Leak Machine in Full Gear

How does one put the proper spin on the last three or four days?  There have been a number of stories regarding the speech he will give in Cairo in early June, and the supposed details of his long-awaited peace initiative.  Was President Obama completely oblivious to the Washington Leak Machine, and its counterparts in all other world capitals?  Or was he using it to test the waters?  If he was oblivious to it or thought that his sheer “Obama-ness” could overcome it, he was foolhardy.  If he was testing the waters, he’s found out that:
a) he can’t walk on them, and
b) that ship has sailed.

Mixed Metaphors, Mixed Plans

Sorry for mixing metaphors like that; I do try to treat my public a little more generously than that!  Nonetheless, if the proposals that have been subject to many column inches in the worldwide press – and Lord knows how many blog sites – are true, then we have much to despair over.  Alright despair is overdoing it, but much to be concerned about, for sure.

The “plan” that has surfaced is a dreadful combination of the one the nascent UN tried propsed back in 1947, combined with the supposed alterations to the Saudi Plan of a few years ago. Back in 1947, the Jews in Palestine reluctantly accepted the UN’s proposal.  However,  it was rejected by Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syrian and the various Arab irregulars within the Mandate.  Those forces invaded Israel the  day after it declared independence.

Results: Israel 1, Arabs 0

Israel won its War of Independence through sheer grit and bloody sacrifice.  At one point, the fledling IDF was chasing retreating Egyptians across the Sinai.  A scene which, much to the chagrin of the Egyptians, would be repeated several more times over the next 30 years.

Israel, however, failed to hold East Jerusalem.  In the wake of the Armistice in 1949, Jordanian forces dynamited synagogues, tore up Jewish tombstones to pave roads and forbade Jews from worshipping at the Kotel, the “Wailing Wall.”  Those who were around then remember those days and their aftermath vividly.  The succeeding generations have been taught these facts in school.

Since 1948, Israel has accomplished so much in the arts & science, agriculture & technology, diplomacy (yes, even in diplomacy) and the military, that one would think that the Arab and Muslim states would have gotten the message.  A few have, but even they are reluctant to admit it.

That dog won’t hunt . . .

. . . as the saying goes in the American South.  The supposed details, particularly concerning Jerusalem, have already been rejected by both sides.  Palestinians have also rejected the demilitarization of their embyronic state and the settling of Palestinian “refugees” in their host countries.  If I had a dollar for everytime I’ve heard Palestinian spokesman/foreign minister Saeb Erekat say, “We reject this!”  I would be a wealthy man.  I might even be able to buy the White House, which is apparently behind on its mortgage.

Of course, there is a small chance – a vary small chance – that the press leaks and resultant verbal firestorm they generated are just a ploy.  That President Obama and his aides are deliberately stirring the pot, deliberately (davka, in Hebrew) getting everybody roiled up.  For what reason?  Possibly an even bolder move to resolve the conflict.

It’s possible, but from what we’ve seen so far from this White House, it is unlikely.

May 22, 2009 Posted by | Middle East | , , , , | Leave a comment