FBI Hate Crimes Report completely contradicts media reporting; & Praying for rain

November 24, 2010

* Egyptian blogger, finally released after four years in custody, gets one last beating, leaving him badly injured.

* BBC study: British Muslim children are being taught in schools how the hands and feet of thieves should be chopped off, that Jews are “reprehensible” and should be compared to pigs, and that homosexuals should be killed. (BBC Panorama video below.)

* “Obama’s new proposal to Israel is a step backward in the effort to establish an enduring peace in the Middle East.”

* Bin Laden’s brother to build the world’s tallest airport control tower.

 

CONTENTS

1. Settlers, Palestinians join together to pray for rain
2. Egyptian blogger released from jail after 4 years gets “one last beating”
3. Religion of Peace?
4. FBI Hate Crimes Report shows U.S. Jews suffer nine times more attacks than Muslims
5. Panel at Harvard seemingly promotes increased business in Iran at a time of sanctions
6. A clarification
7. Bin Laden company awarded $7.2 billion Saudi airport contract
8. Obama criticized for pushing for Saudi Arms deal during Congressional recess
9. Stunning photo of Israel, West Bank and Gaza from space at night
10. Israeli clinic in Haiti declared by the UN as a Cholera Treatment Facility
11. “Obama’s foreign policy needs an update” (By Jackson Diehl, Wash. Post, Nov. 22, 2010)
12. “Obama’s peace process to nowhere” (By Elliott Abrams, Michael Singh, FP, Nov. 20, 2010)


[All notes below by Tom Gross]

SETTLERS, PALESTINIANS JOIN TOGETHER TO PRAY FOR RAIN

Agence France Presse reports:

In a rare gesture of solidarity, Muslims, Christians and Jews joined together in a West Bank village, bowing down to pray for rain in the parched Holy Land. Around 50 people gathered in the village of Al-Walajah between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, with representatives of each religion offering their own prayers. Israel and the Palestinian territories have been plagued by several years of poor rainfall, and forecasts for this winter are equally bleak. After the prayers, the imams, priests and rabbis sowed the land with wheat, calling it God’s harvest.

The prayer was the initiative of Eretz Shalom (Land of Peace), a group of pacifist Jewish settlers that try to encourage moderate elements among fellow settlers and Palestinians. Bethlehem governor Abdul Fatah Hamayel was among those at the prayers. “It was very emotional, very important, we found a new partner,” said Eliaz Cohen, one of the founders of Eretz Shalom, referring to Hamayel.

Relations between Palestinians and Jewish settlers are usually tense, with Palestinians accusing the settlements of usurping land the Palestinians’ claim for their promised state.

(Tom Gross adds: Please note the AFP and other news agencies increasingly use or adapt terms long associated with Jews, such as the “promised land”, to apply to the Palestinian Arab national movement.)

 

EGYPTIAN BLOGGER RELEASED FROM JAIL AFTER 4 YEARS GETS “ONE LAST BEATING”

An Egyptian sentenced to jail as punishment for his blogging was released from custody after four years on Tuesday, but according to human rights workers he received one last beating from prison guards before being set free.

26-year old Abdel Kareem Nabil, known on the Internet as Kareem Amer, is said to be in very poor health following his imprisonment.

Nabil was a student at Al-Azhar University when he was arrested in 2006 and accused of insulting Islam and President Mubarak. “Emergency laws” suspending most civil rights have been place in Egypt throughout Mubarak’s 29-year rule.

 

RELIGION OF PEACE?

The BBC is to be congratulated on its prominent report this week highlighting the fact that school children in Britain are being taught anti-Semitic and homophobic propaganda. (News of this has been reported elsewhere for years, including on several occasions on this email list.)

The BBC’s “Panorama” program, broadcast on Monday, has sparked significant media interest on the subject in Britain and abroad.

Panorama found more than 40 Saudi-run schools and clubs teaching Muslim children aged 6 and over in Britain, including the following:

* One text book for 14-year-olds shows in graphic detail how the hands and feet of thieves should be chopped off.

* Another book used in class asks children to list the “reprehensible” qualities of Jews, and compares Jews to pigs.

* Another text describes the punishment for gay sex as death, and states a difference of opinion about whether it should be carried out by stoning, burning with fire or throwing the person over a cliff.

* A text for 6-year-old children asks what happens to someone who dies and who is not a believer in Islam. The answer given in the text book is “hellfire”.


You can watch the program here:

PART 1

PART 2


MP Barry Sheerman, former Labour chairman of the Children, Schools and Families parliamentary committee, said politicians had avoided the issue of controversial teachings in some Muslim schools.

“There are some very good Muslim schools but there are some Muslim schools that give me great cause for concern that is often around the ethos of the schools, the focus of the school and the kind of ideology that is concerning.”

Dr Usama Hasan, an Islamic scholar and part-time imam in east London, warned of the dangers of segregating young Muslims in Britain, particularly the seminaries where the next generation of imams are being educated.

“They don’t interact with people who are not Muslim. They don’t learn the ingredients of the western world, so it’s very easy for them to read the medieval texts which were written at a time when Islam was under attack and say non-believers are our enemies and we have to fight them.”

Britain’s new Education Secretary Michael Gove (who is a founding subscriber to this email list) said in response to the program that there was no place in Britain for any teachings spreading hate against Jews or homosexuals.

Tom Gross adds: When revelations about Saudi hate in UK Islamic schools and mosques have been published in British newspapers in the past, nothing practical was done about it despite promises by the previous Labour government at the time. Observers are watching to see whether, with the Conservatives and Liberal Democratic parties in power, it will be any different.

One should also note that the program in question (Panorama) is one of the BBC’s better ones but it doesn’t negate the prejudiced coverage elsewhere on the network.

 

FBI HATE CRIMES REPORT SHOWS U.S. JEWS SUFFER NINE TIMES MORE ATTACKS THAN MUSLIMS

The new FBI hate crimes report for 2009, just released, reveals the following:

www2.fbi.gov/ucr/hc2009/victims.html

Religious bias

Of the 1,575 victims of an anti-religious hate crime:

71.9 percent were victims because of an offender’s anti-Jewish bias.
8.4 percent were victims because of an anti-Islamic bias.
3.7 percent were victims because of an anti-Catholic bias.
2.7 percent were victims because of an anti-Protestant bias.
0.7 percent were victims because of an anti-Atheist/Agnostic bias.
8.3 percent were victims because of a bias against other religions (anti-other religion).
4.3 percent were victims because of a bias against groups of individuals of varying religions (anti-multiple religions, group).

(Further chart here: www2.fbi.gov/ucr/hc2009/data/table_01.html)

Tom Gross continues:

There are roughly comparable numbers of Jews and Muslims in the U.S., yet Jews suffered almost nine times more hate crime attacks last year.

This correlates with FBI findings in previous years since they began tracking hate crimes, and it once again shows the way mainstream media such as The New York Times has highlighted the rise in attacks on Muslims in America while downplaying (or failing to report at all) the much higher level of anti-Semitic attacks. (The New York Times has a long track record of downplaying or ignoring anti-Semitism, most shamefully during the Holocaust.)

In 2008, the percentage of anti-Islamic attacks was 7.5%, so there was a rise of nearly 1% in a year, whereas anti-Jewish attacks rose by 6%.

(According to the FBI, in proportional terms a Jewish American is also over twice as likely to suffer a hate crime as an African-American.)

Of course, all hate crime is worrying and should be condemned unreservedly, and stopped. But that is no excuse for the media to continue to misreport this issue in accordance with their own biases.

One wonders whether any prominent liberal media outlet will now report honestly on to what extent the numbers differ from the perceptions that so many journalists and opinion columnists have been promoting (including three regular New York Times opinion columnists who subscribe to this list). Not CNN, who (using the FBI statistics) yesterday reported on the rise in hate crimes against homosexuals (blaming this on “fundamentalist Christians”), but ignored the greater number of attacks aimed at Jews.

 

PANEL AT HARVARD SEEMINGLY PROMOTES INCREASED BUSINESS IN IRAN AT A TIME OF SANCTIONS

This email below from Harvard University’s prestigious business school appears to encourage investment and business in Iran at the very time when President Obama and other Western leaders are trying to use sanctions to pressure the Iranian regime over the nuclear issue.

Speakers include a former NY Times correspondent, a regular BBC guest, and the chair of a firm that encourages investment in Iran: www.turquoisepartners.com/supervisoryBoard.html

----- Forwarded Message ----
From:
To:
Sent: November 20, 2010 9:54:48 AM
Subject: Business Success in Iran: Today’s Challenges, Tomorrow’s Opportunities Sunday November 21, 11:30 AM-12:40 PM at Harvard Business School

Panel at Harvard: Business Success in Iran: Today’s Challenges, Tomorrow’s Opportunities

Sunday November 21, 11:30 AM-12:40 PM at Harvard Business School

Note: This panel session is part of the HBS MENA Conference at Harvard Business School being held Nov 18-21

Due to international pressure, the global business community has often times shied away from understanding and exploring opportunities in today’s Iran. This panel brings a unique perspective to conducting business in the country. Its aims are twofold:

1. Discuss the current economic and business environment in Iran, including hot sectors and the effect of the latest sanctions.

2. Highlight success stories and draw lessons learned from entrepreneurs who have overcome the country’s unique obstacles.

Moderator:

* Nazila Fathi, Nieman Fellow, Harvard University

Speakers:

* Siamak Namazi, General Manager, Access Consulting Group; Young Global Leader, World Economic Forum
* Rouzbeh Pirouz, Executive Chairmen, Turqoise Partners
* Karim Sadjadpour, Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Young Global Leader, World Economic Forum

Nazila Fathi - Neiman Fellow, Harvard University

Nazila Fathi began her work with western media, including the Time magazine and the New York Times, in 1992. She was based in Tehran as a correspondent for the New York Times from 2001 until July 2009. She did her undergraduate studies in English Translation in Iran and her master’s program in Political Science and Women’s Studies at University of Toronto. She covered Afghanistan in 2001 after the fall of the Taliban and Iraq in 2003. She continued to cover Iran from Toronto until the summer of 2010 and is currently a Nieman fellow at Harvard University.

During her years in Iran, Ms. Fathi covered events that led to the election of the former reformist president, Mohammad Khatami in 1997, numerous pro-democracy protests, and later the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. She covered the uprising after the 2009 election. She has written on social, political and cultural issues and covered several devastating earthquakes in Iran.

She has been a guest speaker at numerous panels and a commentator for television and radio news shows on CNN, BBC, PBS and National Public Radio. Her pieces have been published in Foreign Policy and the New York Review of Books. She also translated a book by the Noble peace prize laureate, Shirin Ebadi, called “The History and Documentation of Human Rights in Iran,” published in 2001.

Siamak Namazi - General Manager, Access Consulting Group; Young Global Leader, World Economic Forum

Siamak Namazi is a Middle East specialist whose career spans the investment, think tank and non-profit worlds. He is currently the General Manager of Access Consulting Group (ACG), a private regional energy consultancy based out of Dubai, and a founding executive board member of the not-for-profit International Association of Iranian Managers (I-Aim). The World Economic Forum has recognized him as a Young Global Leader and he is also a member of the WEF’s Global Agenda Council on the Middle East.

His former positions include developing trade and investment opportunities within the Persian Gulf for the Noble Group and serving as a partner and CEO of Atieh Bahar Consulting, Iran\’s premier private strategic consulting firm. In addition, he has served stints as a fellow in the Wilson Center for International Scholars, CSIS and the National Endowment for Democracy. A frequent contributor to international publications and conferences on Middle Eastern political and economic issues, he has contributed chapters to six books. He has appeared regularly as a commentator in the international media, including CNN International, BBC World, The Financial Times, Fortune Magazine, Forbes Magazine, Reuters, The New York Times, Time, The Washington Post, and Business Week. He holds an MS in Urban and Regional Planning from Rutgers University, where he studied under a Russell Fellowship and a BA in International Relations from Tufts University. He is currently studying toward an executive MBA at the London Business School.

Rouzbeh Pirouz - Executive Chairman, Turquoise Partners

Rouzbeh Pirouz has developed considerable experience in private equity and property investing through his work with a number of investment firms as well as having been a successful entrepreneur. He co-founded and was Chief Executive of a leading European technology firm, Mondus Ltd. He led Mondus through early and mid stage funding from major investors such as 3i and Moore Capital to its share sale to a subsidiary of Telecom Italia. In 2001, he founded Pelican Partners, a private equity firm based in London. Pelican Partners has been an active investor in the property sector as well as early and mid stage companies. Pelican Partners has also participated in a number of well-known private equity funds.

Rouzbeh received Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Stanford and Harvard Universities respectively, and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. He sits on the boards of leading foundations and charities in the UK and abroad.

Mr. Pirouz is Executive Chairman of Turquoise Partners which has been a pioneer in Iran’s investment banking and asset management sector and currently has approximately $150 million of assets under management. He is also Chairman of the recently established Iranian Business School.

Karim Sadjadpour - Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Young Global Leader, World Economic Forum

Karim Sadjadpour is an associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He was previously an analyst with the International Crisis Group based between Tehran and Washington. He is the author of Reading Khamenei: The World View of Iran’s Most Powerful Leader. He is a regular contributor to BBC TV and radio, CNN, National Public Radio, PBS NewsHour, and Al-Jazeera, and has appeared on the Today Show, Charlie Rose, Fox News Sunday, and the Colbert Report, among others. He contributes regularly to publications such as the Economist, Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Foreign Policy. In 2007 the World Economic Forum in Davos named him a Young Global Leader. He has lived in Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East and speaks Persian, Italian, and Spanish.

(End of Harvard Business School email)

 

A CLARIFICATION

Tom Gross adds: I sent the email above to some people a few days ago, and one of the speakers named in it, Karim Sadjadpour, has written to me to point out that “The wording of the panel was somewhat misleading, it was in no way meant to encourage business or investment in Iran. I would not have participated had this been the intent.”

Indeed Karim Sadjadpour made clear his opposition to the current Iranian regime in this WSJ oped published to mark President Ahmadinejad’s visit to New York last fall.

I am also told that the moderator, Nazila Fathi, who was the longtime New York Times correspondent in Tehran until she had to flee for her safety in the aftermath of the rigged June 2009 elections, is also not interested in trying to promote investment in Iran.

But one is left wondering about the way Harvard handled and promoted this event.

***

Incidentally, “Harvard Arab Weekend” also took place last weekend.

 

BIN LADEN COMPANY AWARDED $7.2 BILLION SAUDI AIRPORT CONTRACT

The company founded by Osama Bin Laden’s father and now headed by his brother has won a $7.2 billion contract to build a new terminal and airport infrastructure in the Saudi city of Jedda.

The number of passengers at the city’s King Abdul Aziz International Airport is expected to grow from its current level of 17 million passengers per year to more than 30 million. The project is scheduled to be completed in 3 years. The new airport infrastructure will feature the world’s tallest control tower (at 436 feet) and a railway linking the airport to the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina. The Bin Laden Group is Saudi Arabia’s largest construction company.

 

OBAMA CRITICIZED FOR PUSHING FOR SAUDI ARMS DEAL DURING CONGRESSIONAL RECESS

Some Congressmen are severely criticizing efforts by the Obama administration to push through the largest arms deal in American history during a Congressional recess. Obama’s move aims to limits Congressional scrutiny of the enormous arms package destined for Saudi Arabia. New York Democrat Anthony Weiner said that, “It’s bad policy that now is further tainted by shameful process.”

Critics are also expressing concern that while the U.S.-Saudi relationship appears strong at present, the deal fails to address the contingency of a regime change or significant shift in attitude within the Saudi regime. The Saudi monarch is 86, and it is unclear how much longer he will rule.

 

ISRAELI CLINIC IN HAITI DECLARED BY THE UN AS A CHOLERA TREATMENT FACILITY

Israel is continuing to be one of the countries leading the way in helping Haitians in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that struck the island last January.

The Israeli medical clinic in Leoganne, Haiti, has now been designated by the UN as a top level Cholera Treatment Facility to help patients affected by the epidemic now afflicting the island.

The Israelis, working together with Canadians and local Haitian medical staff, have added dozens of beds and additional medical supplies to their clinic. The Israeli clinic is being funded by the United Jewish Federation of Greater Toronto.

Israeli medics continue to train local Haitian staff on how to deal with the epidemic.

* Among previous dispatches on Israeli medial help for Haiti, please see: “And his name will be ‘Israel’: Mother of Haitian baby honors IDF rescuers”

 

STUNNING PHOTO OF ISRAEL, WEST BANK AND GAZA FROM SPACE AT NIGHT

This image taken by NASA astronaut Douglas Wheelock on November 7, 2010, shows a night view over the eastern Mediterranean as seen from the International Space Station.

***

I attach two articles below on President Obama’s latest efforts to promote Middle East peace, by Jackson Diehl, the deputy editorial page editor of The Washington Post, and by Elliott Abrams and Michael Singh, both of whom worked in senior positions on Middle East affairs at the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration.

Jackson Diehl and Elliott Abrams are subscribers to this email list.

(There will be no new Middle East dispatches on this site for the next two weeks.)

[All notes above by Tom Gross]


FULL ARTICLES

“THE AUDACITY OF HOPE.” YES, AND IT SHOWS.

Obama’s foreign policy needs an update
By Jackson Diehl
Washington Post
November 22, 2010

For help understanding the foreign policy headlines of the past week, let’s return, briefly, to the spring of 1983, when Barack Obama was a student at Columbia University. What were the burning international issues of that time?

Well, first was the “nuclear freeze” movement, which was prompting mass demonstrations around the world by people worried about the standoff between the Soviet Union and the United States. Obama published an article about it in a campus magazine in which he invoked the vision of “a nuclear free world.”

The Middle East, meanwhile, was still reeling from the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon - which was the apotheosis of the Zionist right’s dream of creating a “greater Israel” including all of the Palestinian West Bank.

Back to November 2010. The Obama administration is devoting a big share of its diplomatic time and capital to curbing Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank - most recently, offering Israel’s right-wing government $3 billion in warplanes in exchange for a 90-day moratorium. Meanwhile, it has committed much of its dwindling domestic political capital to pushing a new nuclear arms control treaty with Russia through a reluctant Senate.

So has nothing changed in the past quarter-century? In fact, almost everything has - especially when it comes to nuclear arms control and Israel’s national objectives. What hasn’t changed, it seems, is Barack Obama - who has led his administration into a foreign policy time warp that is sapping its strength abroad and at home.

Start with the New START treaty that Obama has made a priority for the lame-duck Senate, at a time when Americans don’t yet know what income tax rate they will pay on Jan. 1. The treaty resembles the landmark U.S.-Soviet arms control treaties that were negotiated in the years after Obama wrote his article - and it would perpetuate their important verification measures.

The difference is that no one stages marches today about U.S. and Soviet - now Russian - strategic weapons, and with good reason. The danger of a war between the two states is minuscule; and treaty or no, Russia’s arsenal is very likely to dwindle in the coming years. The threat of nuclear weapons now comes from rogue states such as North Korea, Iran and Syria, and maybe from terrorist organizations. Obama believes that U.S.-Russian treaties will lead to better containment of that threat - but that’s at best an indirect benefit.

That doesn’t mean the START treaty is worthless. The Senate ought to approve it if only to ensure the continued monitoring of Russian missiles. But does it merit dispatching the vice president and the secretaries of state and defense to Capitol Hill for a desperate (and uphill) lobbying offensive? It’s hard to see why.

The same might be said about Obama’s preoccupation with stopping Israel’s settlement expansion in the West Bank and Jerusalem - a campaign that even Palestinian and Arab leaders have watched with bafflement. True, almost everyone outside Israel regards the construction as counterproductive, and only a minority supports it inside Israel.

But that is just the point: The dream of a “greater Israel” died more than 15 years ago. Even the Israeli right now accepts that a Palestinian state will be created in the West Bank. The settlements have become a sideshow; the real issues concern how to create a Palestinian state in a Middle East where the greatest threat is not Israeli but Iranian expansionism. What to do about Hamas and Hezbollah and their Iranian-supplied weapons? How to ensure that the post-occupation West Bank does not become another Iranian base? Those issues did not exist in 1983 - and the Obama administration seems to have no strategy for them.

Not all of the administration’s foreign policy is anachronistic. Obama’s tour this month of India, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan reflected a cutting-edge concern with rebuilding U.S. influence in Asia and forging alliances with its democracies in response to a rising China. Iran has been the target of a relatively successful multilateral sanctions campaign, though that has yet to affect its nuclear program. The START treaty with Russia is part of a larger strategy to coax its brutish regime toward more responsible behavior.

Still, this administration is notable for its lack of grand strategy - or strategists. Its top foreign-policy makers are a former senator, a Washington lawyer and a former Senate staffer. There is no Henry Kissinger, no Zbigniew Brzezinski, no Condoleezza Rice; no foreign policy scholar.

Instead there is Obama, who likes to believe that he knows as much or more about policy than any of his aides - and who has been conspicuous in driving the strategies on nuclear disarmament and Israeli settlements. “I personally came of age during the Reagan presidency,” Obama wrote in “The Audacity of Hope.” Yes, and it shows.

 

“OBAMA NEEDS TO HEAD BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD”

Obama’s peace process to nowhere
By Elliott Abrams and Michael Singh
Foreign Policy (magazine)
November 20, 2010

Barack Obama’s latest offer to Israel in his quixotic quest for a total construction freeze in West Bank settlements seems at first glance to be a sweetheart deal for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. In exchange for a 90-day extension of the freeze, Israel reportedly would receive 20 additional F-35 fighter jets worth $3 billion, a guarantee that the United States will veto any unilateral Palestinian initiative at the United Nations meant to achieve international recognition of a Palestinian state, and a promise that Obama will not request any further extensions of the construction moratorium.

This proposed deal, however, masks an unwelcome shift in U.S. mediation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And the troubling precedents set by this package will serve to dim rather than enhance prospects for a breakthrough in peace negotiations.

The most worrying aspect of Obama’s package is the linkages it establishes between Israeli concessions on settlements (and apparently on the pace of construction in Jerusalem as well) and other unrelated policy matters. Washington has long opposed, and frequently vetoed, U.N. Security Council initiatives targeting Israel. The United States has done so not out of a sense of charity, but because the anti-Israel resolutions were unconstructive, unhelpful, and unprincipled. The suggestion that unless there is a construction freeze America will no longer do so will make it far harder for U.S. negotiators to defeat or soften drafts put forward in the council in future years, and encourage further assaults on Israel there. Leaving Israel undefended in the United Nations will make successful negotiations less, not more, likely, for an Israel that is under constant attack will batten down the hatches not “take risks for peace.”

More disturbing still is the explicit connection between U.S. security assistance to Israel and the settlement freeze. The offer of additional fighter jets can be interpreted two ways: First, the Obama administration may believe that the jets are unnecessary to Israeli security, and is merely offering them as a sweetener, at a cost of $3 billion to U.S. taxpayers – or about $33 million for each day of the freeze. The second, more ominous explanation is that the United States believes the jets are important to Israel’s security and the two countries’ shared interests, but is using them as pressure to tidy up a diplomatic mess of its own making. As much as Israeli officials may desire the additional hardware, particularly in light of the growing threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, they will no doubt think long and hard before setting this precedent.

Obama’s promise not to seek another construction freeze after the next 90-day moratorium also suggests that his administration has yet to diagnose correctly what ails its Middle East peacemaking efforts. An agreement for a freeze, with an allowance for “inward” growth of existing settlements, was reached between former President George W. Bush and former Israeli prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert. The Bush administration was quick to protest when that understanding was violated – a reaction that sometimes led to tension between the two countries.

The interest in stopping construction in settlements that would make final status talks harder is not what differentiates the Bush and Obama administrations. Rather, it is the public and strident manner in which the Obama administration has conveyed U.S. demands, and its neglect of Israeli political realities. The Obama administration has sought a total freeze as a precondition for negotiations; what is needed instead is a return to the agreements reached in previous years, which the Obama team ignored in its “anything but Bush” phase.

Obama’s departures from sensible policy would be easier for him to defend if the return were sufficient. But the premise of the U.S. offer – that within 90 days the Israelis and Palestinians can conclude a preliminary agreement on borders, rendering the settlement issue moot – beggars belief.

To be sure, a proposal on borders could probably be ginned up in 90 minutes, never mind 90 days. A quick Google search will yield a handful of ideas, all theoretically plausible. But even armed with a sheaf of maps, a standalone border agreement is a mirage. For Israelis, more important than where the border lies is what lies beyond it – what security arrangements will be put in place to prevent a barrage of rockets originating from the West Bank, as they now do from Gaza? What will stop Hamas from trouncing the Palestinian Authority there as well, once Israeli troops withdraw? For Palestinians, the border in which they are most interested, but which will reportedly not be addressed during the period of the freeze, is that surrounding Jerusalem. Avoiding Jerusalem is impossible in any discussion of borders, given that its limits, as defined by Israel, make up a significant portion of the border between the West Bank and Israel proper, and envelop lands that the Palestinians desire for their future state.

These issues are intimately connected to that of borders, and solutions to them cannot be reached in isolation from the others. Tradeoffs and connections between them are necessary, not only for the normal give-and-take that accompanies any negotiation, but also because resolving these issues is vital to crafting a sustainable accord that brings permanent peace rather than fleeting diplomatic success.

With this latest gambit, the United States is trying to rescue a policy that is not worth rescuing. Rather than heading back to the region to offer up this package, Obama needs to head back to the drawing board.


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.