Middle East Maverick

Haim Watzman My profile of Sari Nusseibeh and his new book are up on the website of The Chronicle of Higher Education. It’s a pleasure to see my byline in the paper again—I served as its Israel correspondent for many years. My replacement, friend, and neighborMatthew Kalman, does a fine job there now.

The One-State Dissolution

Haim Watzman

“Suicide,” said Shaya. He meant the one-state “solution” to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. More and more Palestinian intellectuals are now advocating a single state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, this after years in which short-sighted Israeli governments pursued policies aimed at making it impossible to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Suicide? But isn’t a unitary state in which Israelis and Palestinians live peacefully and equally under the law the epitome of Western liberal values?

Let me tell you a little bit about Shaya. Like me, he’s a transplanted American. He’s got a long record of left-wing Zionist activism. He works to promote understanding between Jews and Arabs, democratic values in Israeli society, and equality and social justice. On the political scale, he’s to my left—in fact, on occasion in the past he’s gone so far as to vote in national elections for the non-Zionist Communists on the grounds that they are the Knesset’s most vociferous and effective advocates of peace and social justice (I thought he was crazy).

Read moreThe One-State Dissolution

Obama. What’s Complicated Here?

Gershom Gorenberg

Dan Kurtzer, the former U.S. Ambassador to Israel and an Orthodox Jew, is in Jerusalem for the 60th anniversary celebrations. This morning my wife heard him being interviewed on Israeli Radio, in Hebrew, about the U.S. election. Kurtzer explained that he’s backing Barack Obama.

This was not exactly a revelation. Kurtzer has explained his reasons for backing Obama at length . Here’s some key snippets:

…we have had eight years of disaster with respect to our foreign policy, and I have to share with you as an analyst, we have had eight years that have [compromised] the security of the state of Israel.
An administration that has ignored the search for peace in the Middle East to a point where you have chaos in the Palestinian Authority, and you have a sham process called the Annapolis process, in which our Secretary of State, whom I admire personally, travels to region and announces when she gets there that she is bringing no new ideas.
You have an administration that hasn’t engaged in the peace process, and so inherited a bad situation in 2001 and is leaving it in a worse situation in 2008. And you have an administration that has gotten us engaged in a war in Iraq that has not only cost American lives… but it’s now being called the $3 trillion war…And I would share with you that the cost to the security of Israel is incalculable.

Read moreObama. What’s Complicated Here?

Olmert, Barghouti, and Zeno’s Paradox

The following statement was not shouted by a long-time Peace Now activist into a megaphone outside the prime minister’s house:

You have to understand that a very large population of Palestinians lives here…

Take a 50-year-old man who lives here. A man who has spent most of his life – 40 years, since he was a 10-year-old child – under the watch of the Israeli soldier. The same soldier who carries a rifle, for all the most justified reasons in the world. But this is that man’s narrative. Take those who were stripped at the checkpoints only because there might be terrorists among them. Take those who stand for hours at the checkpoints for fear that a booby-trapped car could pass through…

No, those words were Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s, speaking to brigade commanders in the West Bank,

Read moreOlmert, Barghouti, and Zeno’s Paradox

Is Hamas Looking For a Two-State Solution? Should We Listen?

Last week Khaled Meshaal, the Damascus-based head of Hamas’s Political Bureau, gave an interview to the Palestinian newspaper Al-Ayyam. The choice of venue is significant, since Al-Ayyam is a pro-Fatah paper, linked to the Palestinian Authority government in Ramallah, and Meshaal is the presumed leader of Hamas, whose breakaway government rules Gaza since last June. The interview should therefore be read as an act of public diplomacy. In the West, it has hardly been read at all. Ha’aretz ran a short item, which was translated into English, and the Italian news agency AKI published a version of the interview.

Ignoring Meshaal is a mistake, especially given developments I’ll describe in a moment. So I asked a Palestinian journalist to translate some key excerpts of the Al-Ayyam interview. They appear below. Pay particular attention to the last paragraph. First, though a bit of context.

Read moreIs Hamas Looking For a Two-State Solution? Should We Listen?

Are You Listening, Joe Lieberman?

Kudos to Rabbi Eric Yoffie, head of the Union for Reform Judaism, who has publicly spoken out against Jewish political cooperation with Christian Zionists, their most prominent organization – Christians United for Israel – and its leader, John Hagee:

The heart of Pastor Hagee’s message is to be found in these words: “Stop giving the land away. The land belongs to you. Keep it.”

…mainstream Christian Zionists are, by their own admission, not “”advocates” of Israel but “Biblical advocates” of Israel, and this means that they oppose any territorial concessions by the Government of Israel for any reason whatsoever. It follows that their vision of Israel rejects a two-state solution, rejects the possibility of a democratic Israel,

Read moreAre You Listening, Joe Lieberman?