Monday, December 29, 2008

Getting Played

It is interesting, although unfortunately not surprising, to see a nationally syndicated columnist "getting played" by somebody who pretends to have inside information. Today's case study, Jackson Diehl. After telling us about Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's various failures, in relation to his failed negotations with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Diehl shares the information he garnered from his secret source - obvious nonsense:
Worst of all, Abbas followed in a long tradition of previous Palestinian leaders by reacting to a far-reaching Israeli offer with an uncourageous demurral. Olmert has never publicly disclosed the terms he discussed with Abbas, but sources say he went well beyond what Israel agreed to at the Camp David talks of 2000, previously the closest approach to a deal. I'm told Olmert offered to support the groundbreaking concession of allowing thousands of Palestinian refugees to "return" to Israel over a period of years; he also agreed to divide Jerusalem between Israel and Palestine. Abbas, like Yasser Arafat at Camp David, refused to sign on to a compromise that the world would have hailed.
So we start with the assumption that an enormously generous offer was made - under a veil of complete secrecy - and was "demurred" by Abbas. That's an odd choice of words, as a demurral is not actually a rejection, but a reference to objection, doubt or hesitation. Without knowing more, it's childish of Diehl to be calling this "demurral" the "worst" reason the, well, fictitious offer was not accepted. On the other hand, the fact that Diehl either doesn't know enough about the conflict, or doesn't care enough about his credibility, to recognize when he's being gaslighted....

Let's step back for a moment in time, some eight years, to the collapse of the Camp David talks at the end of Clinton's presidency. The conventional propaganda twist on the failure is that Arafat received an exceptionally generous offer, the likes of which would never be seen again, and that all fault for the failure of the talks lies with the Palestinians. Israeli peace activists point out that the "generous offer" wasn't so generous, and former Clinton Aid Robert Malley points out that a different spin is possible:
The question is whether, as Barak claims, the Palestinian position was tantamount to a denial of Israel's right to exist and to seeking its destruction. The facts do not validate that claim. True, the Palestinians rejected the version of the two-state solution that was put to them. But it could also be said that Israel rejected the unprecedented two-state solution put to them by the Palestinians from Camp David onward, including the following provisions: a state of Israel incorporating some land captured in 1967 and including a very large majority of its settlers; the largest Jewish Jerusalem in the city's history; preservation of Israel's demographic balance between Jews and Arabs; security guaranteed by a US-led international presence.
What's also forgotten in this is that, even had Arafat accepted (and if we presuppose that the democracy in the Palestinian territories was a sham, such that the agreement could be foist upon the Palestinian people despite likely strong opposition to its terms), it's not at all clear that it would have passed in Israel's parliament, the Knesset.

But what is clear, and should be abundantly clear to even the most ignorant, tin-eared syndicated columnist, is that there is no chance that Olmert would have been able to pass a proposal equivalent to the Camp David offer, let alone one more generous. For goodness sake, Diehl just got through telling us about Olmert's impotence in restraining settlement activity in the West Bank,
Instead of a groundbreaking accord with Abbas or Assad, he will leave behind scorched earth in Gaza, a Lebanese front bristling with Hezbollah's missiles and an Israeli West Bank presence that has expanded rather than contracted during the past two years, with thousands of new homes for Jewish settlers under construction.
And how he lacked the spine to shut down even the flagrantly illegal "outpost settlements", whose residents have engaged in acts against Palestinians that are so atrocious that even Olmert describes them as pogroms. The man who gets all weak-kneed at the thought of standing up to extremists settlers who have almost no popular support in Israel is going to expand on Barak's offer, close down a number of full-scale West Bank settlements, and offer "thousands of Palestinian refugees to 'return' to Israel" and divide Jerusalem? Diehl believes that was promised, let alone that there was any chance of its being delivered? Even after observing,
Despite his bold intentions, Olmert proved unwilling or unable to stand up to the Jewish settlement movement in the West Bank; his government failed to dismantle even those outposts it has repeatedly declared illegal.
How charmingly naive.

Further, were there even a hint of truth to the allegations, Olmert wouldn't be keeping it secret. In the manner of Barak, he would be trumpeting how his generosity was rebuffed, and how the Palestinians deserve their misery. It should also be noted that an agreement with Abbas would have no bearing on the situation in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

I'm left wondering what would happen if I sent Diehl an email, pretending to have inside information that Olmert was prepared to turn the entire nation state of Israel over to Abbas, and that Abbas had still said "no". If I am to judge Diehl by his track record of credulity, my guess is it would be the basis of Diehl's next column.


  1. I'm thinking that you might be being "charmingly naive" when you assume that Diehl is being "played" as opposed to trying to "play" his audience.

    Every one of your points appears to be not only valid but, no offense, obvious. Is Diehl some kind of moron? (The proposed deal was super seceret; that's why there can't be an official acknowledgement that it happened, even though doing so would make us look good, but we'll let you write about it . . .)

    This is, after all, an awfully convenient time for a "favorable" piece about Israel. Something to deflect a little bit of the heat about the largest body count in years coming in the wake of the most recent land grab . . .


  2. I italicized "charmingly" with the intent of highlighting my sarcasm, not my actual belief in Diehl's naivete. ;)


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