Israel’s Strategic Failure
Published on: June 3, 2010
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  • Marc R

    Walter, thank you so much for your blog. I’m almost hesitant to even call it a “blog” since it contains such thorough, intelligent, and fair writing which can scarcely, if ever, be found in this format.

  • setnaffa

    Maybe they should just cut out the middle man and nuke Tehran?

  • Roy

    Superb, as usual. Leon Wieseltier’s piece, over at The New Republic, looks at the issue from a slightly different angle, but is also excellent.

  • andy From DC

    Disagree, The fundamentals are in Israel’s favor: a Dynamic economy, a growing populace and the complete support of the American People ( except on the hard left). None of this will change anytime soon.UN resolutions or Turkey’s Islamization are peripheral .The Author is too caught up in today’s headlines.
    Mr Obama is clearly an academic leftist when it comes to Israel , but he cannot afford to cross public opinion on so important an issue, not with an approval rate of 46%. A real American turn on Mideast policy simply most unlikely for the very good reason that the USA is a Democracy.

  • Roy

    From the liberal, at times anti-Zionist Haaretz newspaper, video of a flotilla activist declaring his intention to become a martyr:

  • Daniel

    I doubt that the recent events will have the impact you suggest.
    In fact there was no “tragic attack on the ‘aid’ convoy.
    The explicit aim of the convoy was to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. The Israeli forces made a peaceful effort to prevent this occurrence, which succeeded peacefully on all but one of the vessels in the convoy.
    The Blockade is legal under International Law and its enforcement in International waters is also legal.
    Photographs published on the internet show the Israeli soldiers attempting to land on the Turkish ship being immediately set upon and beaten by passengers, with one pushed over the railing to a lower deck. Several soldiers received bullet wounds as well as blows from clubs and metal rods. Reports from participants now back in Turkey confirm the attack by passengers on the soldiers.
    Examination of these photographs show clearly that these soldiers were in mortal danger.
    The death of some of the attacking passengers is obviously the natural consequence of their own illegal hostile actions. International law allows resistance by those enforcing a blockade against violent attempts to prevent it.
    The fact that the pro-terrorists were able to get their one sided stories immediately to the press is evidence that these stories were prepared in advance and the entire sequence of events planned in advance by them.
    The immediate reaction of prominent world figures that was hostile to Israel will, one can hope, become an embarrassment to them, not to Israel. They behaved like fools and I hope will suffer for that. It could even lead to more balanced response in the future to future events.
    The terrorists did not anticipate the possible creation of videos clearly showing their own culpable behavior. Anyone seeing those videos can have no doubt as to who was responsible for this “tragedy”.
    The ultimate upshot of this incident will be in convincing the world that keeping detailed photographic images of what is going on is of the greatest importance in influencing world opinion,

  • Luke Lea

    For what it is worth — maybe not a lot –following the May 26 diavlog between Perter Beinart and Eli Lake, BornAgainDemocrat suggest a future diavlog between Walter Russell Mead and a representative of today’s German youth, the issue being Europe’s role (if any) in future negotiations for a final settlement.

    Here is the thread:

  • Richard Dolan

    While I think this analysis of the problem is essentially right, except perhaps for the idea that Fatah is willing and able to accept (and force its West Bank population to accept) a two-state division, your proposed solution makes little sense. As you say, the irreconcilable conflict is that the objective of Hamas/Hezbollah (I would add Fatah) is the extinction of Israel as a nation-state having a Jewish identity; and the Israeli position is that national survival and national identity as a Jewish state are not negotiable. But the intractability of the problem does not make false solutions suddenly attractive. They remain worse than useless. A real solution cannot occur until one side or the other changes its currently non-negotiable position.

    That has been the essence of the conflict over the Israeli Homeland for over 60 years. It may take another 60 years before it is resolved.

  • cubanbob

    What the Arabs offering Israel? Nothing other than a slow and orderly suicide. If the Palestinians actually want peace it is incumbent upon them to make the offers and concessions. In the meantime it simply ought to destroy on sight any blockade runners and simply cut off all food, water and power in to Gaza and declare Gaza to be an Egyptian responsibility as the Gaza was under Egyptian control until 1967. If the west bank Arabs start trouble, expel them. That will concentrate their minds.

    As for the UN, the US should quit it and kick it out of NY.

  • Good piece with good links, but too harsh on Israel. If we’re going to second-guess them, then we’d best offer feasible alternatives. Regardless, until some significant reform of the bedbound, shut-in religion of Islam–reform that peels off its death grip on the body politic–a two-state solution is a mirage. What would be likely symptoms you’d expect to see as a result of this frozen-in-time religion? A stranglehold on the state and its media tops the list. It was noted about the recent Greek riots that much of the anger was stoked by urban legends or more charitably, conspiritorial thinking…that Greece doesn’t see itself as having an budgetary problem, rather it’s the evil American shadow banking system that’s pulling the strings. All fed by irresponsible local media. It’s basic denial and it allows the Greeks to continue to make the same mistakes instead of dealing with very real problems. This is how cultures collapse. And it gives us an insight into the damage done by incompetent media in backward countries, something that’s far worse in the Mideast than Greece. If you’ve been in an Arab country during bad times like war or one of the many urban legends that fly through the cultural atmosphere like bats circling a light, you have some idea how quickly things can explode on the street even when the premise behind the false information is patently ludicrous, as it almost always is. Reality is irrelevant, it’s all what Muhammad told Omar in the chai house five minutes ago. Rioting over the latest urban legend is almost a form of recreation. In the absence of sober news presentation, anything goes. And the bottom line is institutionalized denial from the top down while nothing changes. What’s the opposite of a dynamic, self-evolving culture? That’s what you have there. Reform Islam, find democracy, get a free press, and join the eyes wide open world.

    Hoped the Boot link would suggest other ways Israel could have handled this, but it didn’t. I wondered about a boat blockade. But don’t we all know this was a setup and that regardless of how Israel responds to any of the many provocations that come its way, the world will erupt like this anyway? It’s depressing to see how readily Europeans, who fancy themselves so sophisticated, fall for this crap time and again. That can only speak to a barely suppressed desire to see Israel go down that I think comes from residual guilt over the way ALL OF EUROPE treated the Jews during WWII. Europe’s new generations no longer want to hear about their ancestral atrocities back then. And BTW, what should Israel have done to stop these fake peace activists?

    Israel has been forced to almost exclusively play defense in this neverending game, which is reactive by nature and puts them at a disadvantage. Their only option is to go on offense and we all know why they can’t do that.

    And why should America care about world opinion? Either we commit to “liberal interventionism,” or we pull back, take troops out of our 700-1000 bases worldwide, stop supporting stupid governments and save our monies for ourselves. But if we commit, we will be hated by the do-nothings, like the Europeans, who are nonetheless the best of this slacker crowd and yet are still sadly lacking.

    When Syria, just a year after the much ballyhooed Obama speech in Cairo, says O has terminally screwed up Mideast peace initiatives, as it did recently…we still aren’t feeling the love from abroad, now are we…really?

  • Mil-tech-Bard


    This recent “Peace Flotilla” is all about Islamists, and their Western Leftists supporters, trying to smuggle weapons of mass destruction into Gaza, to be fired into Israel by Hamas.

    Israel’s blockade of Gaza is about preventing that.

    Israel not only has to look at medical supplies to Gaza as military supplies for treating terrorists or as raw materials for suicide bomber explosives.

    Israelis have to think in terms precursor materials for rocket delivered chemical weapons.

    That is the risk Israel is unwilling to take with Hamas in Gaza.

    IMO, when the other side wants an incident and is ready to die to get it, just kill them all and ask for more.

    They will run out of volunteers.

  • Dave

    You are correct about the strategic issue, but wrong about it being Israel’s to solve. The entire Muslim world (with perhaps the exception of Southeast Asia until recently) is wound up in internecine squabbles and looking for excuses for their relative failure to progress. The whole Palestinian deal is a way to divert those problems. Economic growth at a rate to accommodate population growth in the Muslim countries is not possible without substantial social, legal and cultural adaptation. You just have to look at the relative economies of Pakistan vs. India for a good example. On my last trip through Karachi the once busy international airport is a relative ghost town, while India’s tech centers grow.

    The Persian gulf sheikdoms are fragile mirages with no long term prospects under their current model of short term transient labor.

    The fact that these countries are setting themselves up for future conflict means Israel can only hunker down and hold the borders.

  • Don M

    One approach would be to annex a square km from Gaza for each time an Israeli is killed by Hamas. Eject whoever lives on it. Open that square km to Israeli settlement. Before too long Gaza would be resolved, one way or the other. Currently the people in Gaza are supported by Israel, and have nothing to lose.

    Land for Peace? No. Peace, or lose your land. War should be harsh enough that people want it to stop.

  • Barry Meislin

    Thank you for your cogent analysis.

    I’m not sure, however, that you have understood entirely the ramifications of your observations, well-made as they are: that the Palestinian Authority has, for both ideological and strategic imperatives, absolutely no reason to come to an agreement with Israel, absolutely no reason to help Israel out of the dilemma it finds itself; and every reason to make sure that the conflict, the stalemate, the pressure on Israel persists.

    Until Palestine achieves its real goal.

    Of Hamas, there is nothing to be said except read its charter, listen to its rhetoric and watch it match its actions to that rhetoric and that charter.

  • WigWag

    A few thoughts come to mind:

    1) The relationship between the United States and Turkey and Israel and Turkey is much more likely to get worse than it is to get better.

    Recent Turkish public opinion polls show Erdogan’s AKP falling increasingly behind the secular CHP in the next national elections (2011); the nationalistic MHP isn’t much further back. As Turkey’s economy continues to sputter and as his popularity with swing voters continues to decline, Erdogan will have a massive incentive to solidify his Islamist base by ratcheting up hostilities with both Israel and the United States. To improve his political prospects, Erdogan is playing a spoiler role with both Iran and Hamas and until Netanyahu and Obama face this reality squarely, they will not be able to counteract it.

    2) Anyone interested in Mead’s discussion of the history of refugees and how they were resettled in numerous other disputes should read Jerry Z. Mullers article about this subject in Foreign Affairs. It’s called “Us and Them” and it is very illuminating.

    Here’s the link,

    By the way, I’m reading Muller’s new book, “Capitalism and the Jews” while rereading Mead’s “God and Gold.” Both books have alot in common; reading them at the same time is very informative.

    3) Mead fails to mention the extraordinary hypocrisy in the whole imbroglio. Despite his public pronouncements, does anyone doubt that during his visit with Obama in a couple of weeks that Abbas won’t be begging Obama not to push to lift the blockade of Gaza? Does anyone doubt that the one thing Abbas and Netanyahu agree on completely is that the blockade of Gaza is a good thing? Has anyone noticed Mubarak doing anything to ease the blockade?

    4) The behavior of the Europeans has been especially shameful; their rush to judgement was particulary ugly given their history of the last hundred years. Have the Europeans ever met a pogrom that they didn’t want to participate in?

    I don’t think so.

    5) Egypt and Jordan decided to make peace with Israel when they became convinced that they couldn’t defeat Israel militarily. The Palestinians will do the same; the problem is that Hamas still insists on violent struggle; no Israeli believes that under the current circumstances a peace deal with Hamas would bring security. And remember, while Hamas now rules Gaza, it is easy to conceive that someday it might rule the West Bank.

    The only way to disabuse Hamas of the notion that it has a viable military option and that it should sue for peace is to destroy its source of its weapons; that source is Iran. Iran is the major impediment to a deal between Israelis and Palestinians; it is also the major impediment to peace on Israel’s Northern border with Lebanon and with Syria.

    Focusing exclusively on Iran’s nuclear ambitions misses the point. Iran is a problem in so many other ways. As long as Iran can export weapons to Israel’s enemies, the region will be explosive.

    If Obama really does want peace between Israel and Palestinians, he needs to cut Iran down to size by whatever means it takes.

  • Neville

    God knows it’s unusual, but for once Joe Biden seems to have managed to be more concise and more balanced on this subject than you:

    I think Israel has an absolute right to deal with its security interest. I put all this back on two things: one, Hamas, and, two, Israel’s need to be more generous relative to the Palestinian people who are in trouble in Gaza….

    [The Israelis have] said, ‘Here you go. You’re in the Mediterranean. This ship — if you divert slightly north you can unload it and we’ll get the stuff into Gaza.’ So what’s the big deal here? What’s the big deal of insisting it go straight to Gaza? Well, it’s legitimate for Israel to say, ‘I don’t know what’s on that ship. These guys are dropping eight — 3,000 rockets on my people,’

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  • ian

    I find this analysis to be a bit bewildering. Precisely what strategy can Israel devise to counter Palestinian rejection if the author acknowledges that the same party will tolerate nothing less than Israel’s destruction? And why does Israel bare the moral burden for this? Because the political Left likes it that way? Why no analysis of the strategic dilemma and moral failures of the other side, such as what rejection has gained (nothing).?
    As to propaganda, it appears that yet again when the dust begins to settle the initial onslaught of condemnation turns out to be hot air as the facts emerge as with the “Jenin massacre”, etc. There has been way to much gnashing of teeth and agonizing before the facts as people react in Pavlovian fashion to the first wave of propaganda. Rather than bleak acquiescence to lies and distortions, maybe a “solution” is for Israel’s defenders to stop feeling so burdened and defend it.
    Jackals are jackals. They condemn without facts because the facts don’t matter. It isn’t Israel’s fault that they exist and that they will remain is not a failure, merely a reality that has to be combated, depressing as that may be. So buck up and step away from the hothouse for a moment. It does wonders for clarity of thought.

  • Joe Y

    A good piece, but it makes the mistake of seeing only one’s own side’s weaknesses and only the enemy’s strengths, and furthermore, seeing these as permanent.

    This is some sort of weird Turkish-Iranian attempt to increase Hamas’s weaponry and, on a deeper level, break Turkey out of NATO, which will certainly be the result if this continues.

    There are so many forces in Turkey and the Arab world that are horrified by this, even if they can’t say it, starting with the Turkish military, who are going to no doubt be thrilled by severing their alliances with NATO and Israel to join up with Syria and Iran, and losing NATO’s military assistance. The Turkish military will be especially pleased, no doubt, that they no longer will have the benefit of the US looking the other way when they violate Iraqi sovereignity chasing Kurdish rebels. No problem; The Iranian air force to protect them from the USAF!

  • jp

    The Charter of Hamas calls for the destruction of Israel, Mein Kampf is to this day a top seller in the region.

    There is only one real solution to this problem: All out War

    Or I suppose, the Palestinians led by the Muslim Brotherhood ideology to renounce their […] religion and anti-semitism.

  • Earl of Sandwich

    It’s one thing for Israel’s defenders to claim that Israel has a right to do something, and its another for Israel to stake its future on the liberal hawks defeating the Chomskytes in the culture wars. Israel needs to pick its battles carefully.
    And I think, a careful analysis would show that the costs of the Gaza blockade outweigh the benifits in terms of achieving a two state solution and security. Hamas still smuggles in goods through tunnels, and can maintain its control by doling out international supplies.

  • Peter

    The Palestinians better pray that Israel never really takes off the gloves and deals with them as they actions call for.

  • K2K

    The idea that Israel can solve a state of war with enemies, both state and non-state, who absolutely refuse to acknowledge the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish State after 62 years is absurd.

    I do appreciate Mr. Mead’s supporting details that admit to the impossibilities, but take exception to two basic premises: that Israel alone failed strategically, and that Turkey’s role is an uncomfortable detail.

    “the central involvement of Turkey” is THE CENTRAL ISSUE, not a “troubling new feature”. And, this is not about “Israel’s Strategic Failure”. This is about the strategic failure of the United Nations in not being able to impose it’s creation of the State of Israel on all members. The failure of Egypt to deal with her legacy of dumping Islamists into Gaza. The failure of Europe to cure itself of leftist intellectuals who see Israel as a colonial aggressor while admiring Political Islam in a post-modern historical void.

    Roy: Leon Wieseltier is the literary editor of The New Republic, and his post only proves, once again, that he should stick to literary criticism and stay away from political and diplomatic analysis. TNR’s voices are still shaking off the Beinart effect.

    Still, a fine day when the commenters are so rational, as always, when WRM writes.

    Joe Y: assume you also note the lack of media coverage of the Turkish air bombings in Iraqi Kurdistan that killed 19 Turkish Kurds last week, in contrast to the obscene media overload on the Mari Marmara. Turkey can no longer be trusted to be a NATO member.

  • nadine

    ” The world thinks Israel has a duty to make the Palestinians happy enough to make peace with concessions, but the concessions that Israel can reasonably make do not and cannot command enough support among Palestinian refugees to bring the conflict to a close.”

    Exactly. But Israel did not make this strategic dilemma; “the world” did, when it decided that “narratives” are more important than facts, that weakness equals virtue and that non-Westerners are always right. (In Europe, Jews were “Levantines”. But Jews are “Westerners” now because they are always classified on the losing end of any racial categorization).

    Since Israel did not make the dilemma, no Israeli action — short of national suicide — can unmake it.

  • Adam

    Good post.

  • John

    So you have no moral quarrel with Israel’s blockade of Gaza?
    That’s after all the main point of this whole problem, isn’t it?

    Everything possible should be done to prevent Hamas from getting weapons to bombard innocent israeli children, but there is no justification in completely destroying the Gazan economy, making 80% of the households rely on humanitarian aid, which isn’t even enough.
    Look at what is prohibited, and draw your own conclusions of what is intended.

    So fair enough Mr Mead, you [couldn’t care less] [-Ed.] about whether hamas supporters are suffering from a shortage of food. But not everyone on the Gaza strip supports hamas. What about them? and their children? do they deserve to suffer to? Odds are those children have got anemia.

    Israel could and should ease the suffering of the ordinary people by allowing unlimited amounts of food and medical supplies, and allowing the Gazans to export. This will have absolutely no effect on Israel’s ability to prevent Hamas from acquiring weapons.

    Please note that this post does not even deal with the issue about whether this “putting them on a diet ” strategy (to quote Dov Weisglass) is even working. Many people argue that it is actually benefiting Hamas.

    Now for something unrelated, but that I just feel like complaining about.

    I’ve experience mass punishment from the Israelis, albeit in a relatively small does. When Natanyahu was last prime minister, I think it was a couple of months before he left, he suddenly went mental and decided to bomb power plants all over lebanon. The electricity station 4 miles away from my home was bombed, despite it being in a 99% christian region (whose leaders btw were allied with israel during the early 80’s). Their thinking was “hisbullah attacked our troops in the south of lebanon, and we’ll make all lebanese suffer so they put pressure on them to stop”.
    This was described as “changing the rules of engagement” by Moshe Arens, the defence minister of the time. Regular power cuts lasted for years later.
    This just increase our resentment towards israel, rather than hisbullah, who we hated from the start anyways.

    And please note that we’re not exactly jew hating hamas loving people either.
    I grew up singing songs wishing yasser arafat’s death, and we always hated and suffered a lot more from the syrians than the israelis. In fact during the second intifada I had several arguments with my muslim schoolfriends defending israel.

    Which is why I was particularly [annoyed] [-Ed.] by the 2006 war. What was israel thinking, and what were you guys thinking in supporting them? Look at the long term consequences: You flatten south of lebanon. Who picks up the tab? Hisbullah and the Iranians. Those people who just had their houses flattened are now being taken care of by Hisbullah, provided with around 12000 dollars each (according to various sources), and they feel even more attached to them. Hisbullah emerges stronger than it previously was.
    You think you that Israel faces an existential threat from Hisbullah? Well at least they have nuclear wepons and merkava tanks, not to mention the unconditional support of the most powerful country in the world. Try being a lebanese christian. We live in the same country with those monsters, and all we’ve got is a few machine guns. And no one gives a shit about us. Otherwise America would not have let Syria occupy us for 15 years just because they helped you out in the first gulf war.

    Israel was directly responsible for the creation of hisbullah when it pissed off the shias with its invasion in 82 (tom friedman’s book: from beirut to jerusalem documents it if my memory serves me well). Now we have to deal with those monsters, and israel, with your backing, blasts us to the stone age everytime the frankenstein that they’ve created annoys them.

    The main argument for the unconditional support that israel receives is that you have “shared values”. Well what about us lebanese chritians? Don’t we have shared values with you too? Lebanon is a democracy, we have the same christian values, and we haven’t exactly had it easy under for the pass 1000 years. (ok certainly not as bad as the jews). So why don’t you urge your country to take care of us the same way you take care of israelis? At least we’re not murdering flootilla activists, and the only notable massacre that members of our community have committed was with the help of the israelis! (sabra & shatilla).

    sorry for the long post, and for going off on a tangent.

  • Porphyrogenitus

    The real strategic failure is that Israel continues to follow measures that produce all the negative consequences without any of the achievable goals being produced:

    Going into Lebanon and then later Gaza in force to root out the problems at their source, and then stopping and withdrawing in the face of the usual international reaction. Their international reputation would have hardly been worse if they had finished the job.

    Yet the whole thing unfolded predictably, every time, exactly as I have foreseen, because at bottom even – especially – the Israelis want to not only do the right thing but what is actually worse be *seen* and *perceived* as doing the right thing. So when they go to cut the knot, they saw half way through and when the Greek Chorus shouts them down, they stop and back off, letting it regrow and metasticize.

    This inevitably leaves them with the worst of both worlds. Surely WRM knows Napoleon’s saying that if you set out to take Vienna, TAKE VIENNA.

    Probably the best strategic move Israel could do now is rename itself “North Korea” (while not adopting that nation’s political ideology). Then they could do whatever they want, sink any ship, threaten and kill anyone, and the ever-so caring International Community wouldn’t care one whit – except to urge “Caution” and “don’t over-react” and “don’t escalate the situation.”

    Anyhow, it’s really all over now; as my mother said the other day about this, it’s like a dying person connected to a resperator. Everyone knows what is to come, but no one knows when.

    Or, in one of my favorite quotes, tragic in this context, “The non-inevitability of events we nevertheless know are bound to come.”

  • We Con the World …

  • Nice choir you’ve got here, WRM. The Earl of Sandwich has the best comment of the lot. The only problem is Israel’s current government (and most of its people) aren’t interested in “achieving a two state solution and security,” but only the security part. Into the fray:

    Can anybody tell me the last time either Cuba, Venezuela, China, Russia or Iran extra-judicially killed a civilian of another country outside of its borders? Btw, the only country with a recent similar record is the US. While Operation Cast Lead racked up some large civilian death counts, the US is gaining ground in Af-Pak.

    “observers worldwide were confident that the inquiry would be conducted with all the scrupulous sense of fair play and even handed diligence that characterizes the judicial systems of countries like Cuba and Iran.”

    What about Israel’s and the US Government’s reactions to the even handed diligence of the Goldstone Report? That didn’t go over too well with them.

    “to say nothing of the humanitarian consequences of some of the decisions it makes”

    Please say something about the humanitarian consequences of Operation Cast Lead and the blockade. It can only improve your posts.

    “Israel cannot win at this game; nobody gets it all right, least of all a democratic society under virtual siege for most of the last sixty years.”

    Palestinians cannot win in this conflict; nobody gets it all right, least of all an occupied society under actual siege for most of the last forty years.

    “the Iranian nuclear program presents Israel with one of the greatest crises in its history”

    Are you serious? How many entries are on your list of the greatest crises in Israel’s history?

    The smartest, most fair-minded assessment I’ve seen is by Glenn Greenwald. And most of the comments here would be easily torn to shreds if they were posted there.

    “the grand strategy of the Palestinian resistance groups that, over and over, manage to put Israel in situations where it has no good choices”

    Words fail me. Ignoring this, I would give you credit for the “On the other hand”, but you follow up that one-liner with:

    “Constantly on the defensive, Israel must simultaneously defend itself against terrorist attacks while fending off global pressure to do something, anything, that will satisfy the Palestinians.”

    Israel hasn’t been on the defensive since 1973. Osirak, Lebanon One, West Bank Incursions, Bombing Syria, Lebanon Two, Gaza. Global pressure? What UN sanctions currently exist on Israel?

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  • Moses Maimonides

    What a cop out. Israel must “find[] a strategy to counter Palestinian rejection” when you yourself cannot imagine what such a strategy could possibly be.

  • Danny

    Mr. Mead – a brilliant analysis, as always. But you do come up short. You fail to offer any strategy prescriptions that Israel can take to counter the conundrum. Therein lies the problem – is there anything Israel can really do to untie this gordian knot?

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  • Aside from the “now Czechoslovakia” line, a perfect analysis.

  • Good to see we have a few obligatory terrorist apologists who chimed in above, as no discussion of Israel’s future would be complete without them. They serve to frame and center the argument from the far shores of the far tortuga left.

    Palestinians have never wanted peace nor a two-state solution. Disregard any polls that say differently. From the 20s onward, nearly every decade they’ve had a chance to co-exist and they’ve made it clear time and again it’s not what they want. Nothing could be more clear, and yet the whine bottle keeps getting passed around.

    Anyone who has traveled extensively among the people on the street of the Mideast knows this, unless they have willfully chosen not to see or hear the butt obvious. This is not an indictment of Palestinians, but a statement of fact. It’s complicated, it’s tribal, it’s blood feud stuff. Stuff westerners simply can’t get. Not solvable through the lofty but meaningless mechanism of so-called international law, which in any event is a very thin book and a fiction to boot.

    Methodical ethnic cleansing has been going on in Arab countries in the region, something the western press has studiously avoided commenting on. Christians and Jews unfortunate enough to be born in Mideastern Arab countries have been getting squeezed out for decades now as their numbers have dropped precipitously.

    Palestinians are trapped in the crawl space between a stubbornly unreformed Islam and the wishes of outsiders who want the peace that so disinterests their mascots in Gaza.

    Any honest poll would yield heartbreaking statistics about what the average Mideasterner would like to see happen to Israeli Jews. This is not to demonize them, they are good people in every other regard. Mideastern history has crushed them and they know not what they say or do.

    Efforts to find moral equivalencies between Israelis and Arab Muslims in the region purposefully ignore brutal realities and beg the question, what would terrorist apologists really like to see happen to Israelis. My bet is that an honest poll would reveal not just a majority of Arab Muslims who would like to see every man, woman and child in Israel slaughtered, and more likely it would be a large majority. If this is not what their apologists also want, it is surely what they would get should they unrealistic ideas ever be implemented.

    Again, not the fault of locals who themselves are trapped between a crusty and paralyzed religion and dusty and dysfunctional totalitarian regimes. No similar excuses, however, can be made for western terrorist apologists, who can even find moral equivalency between KSM’s sawing off of Daniel Pearl’s head (his crime? being an American Jew, almost by definition a war crime in their minds) KSM (and the subsequent release throughout all Muslim countries of this act on video…still a huge hit 8 years later) and the waterboarding of KSM done wisely to preempt more of the same.

  • UtterlyDisgusted

    “All that said, the real problem isn’t Israel’s response to this or that challenge.”

    Yup, a foreign navy boarded an unarmed ship flying the flag of a NATO member in international waters and shot dead an American citizen with four bullets to the head and one in the chest on Memorial Day. That’s not a problem for you, Mead?

    “The real problem is the failure of Israel and its friends to counter the grand strategy of the Palestinian resistance groups that, over and over, manage to put Israel in situations where it has no good choices and where its successes don’t make things better — but the inevitable failures and missteps cost dear.”

    Let’s blame the victims, those pesky natives. How dare they resist their ethnic cleansing and dispossession to make room for a settler-colonialist exclusivist “Jewish state”!
    The real problem is the moral failure of people like you, Mr. Mead.

    Considering that one of those murdered by your beloved Apartheid state was a defenseless American citizen, your reflexive and mindless defense of this latest zionist crime is not only disgusting; it borders on treason. Keep it up, Mr. Mead.

  • John Barker

    Mead’s blog offers a unique perspective on current events. How I despise the term blog; it is a crude way speaking about some fine writing and powerful ideas.

  • Luke Lea

    It’s easy to criticize Israel (everybody seems to be doing it nowadays) but what would you do if you were in there shoes?

  • K2K

    for the record, the Marmara was sailing under the flag of Comoros. And, the American citizen was Furkan Dogan, who was born in the US while his father was a graduate student. The family returned to Turkey when Furkan was two years old.

    The autopsy was performed in Turkey. Is there any forensics as to WHO shot him?
    It is not outside my imagination that he was martyred because of his American birth by a Turkish ‘passenger’ (one of group who had no ID, but lots of cash) .

    The worst “settler-colonialist exclusivist” nation state in history is Turkey. The Turkic tribes arrived last, but certainly have been busy murdering non-Turks for the last 100 years, currently working on the Kurds since there are not enough Armenians, Greeks, or Assyrians left.

  • Tom Kinney, “far tortuga left”? That’s a new one to me. Are you criticizing the dock placement at this villa?

    Who’s the terrorist apologist? Someone who laments the blockade that keeps common goods from reaching 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza – or someone who declines to criticize the killing of 9 civilians?

    But if you want to know what I would like to see happen to Israelis, I’ll tell you. I would like to see Israelis live in peace and security within their pre-1967 borders. That is, end the occupation and cut all support for Israeli settlers in the West Bank. If these Israelis would like to stay in their homes, then I would like to see them become equal citizens in the new state of Palestine.

    Please tell me who has declared Daniel Pearl’s brutal murder as morally equivalent to waterboarding KSM.

    How exactly has waterboarding KSM preempted more executions of American civilians? Oh, wait, it hasn’t.

  • “The Palestinians now ruling Gaza resolutely and fiercely oppose the two state solution.”

    That’s not correct, as your own CFR states: “In July 2009, Khaled Meshaal said Hamas was willing to cooperate with the United States on promoting a resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Hamas, he said, would accept a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders provided Palestinian refugees be allowed to return to Israel and East Jerusalem be recognized as the Palestinian capital.”

    As a Senior Fellow at CFR, I would expect you to know the basics from this FAQ and other relevant information: “recent polling among Palestinians shows most support Hamas’ refusal to recognize Israel in advance of negotiations, but a great majority indicate they would back a peace agreement setting up a two-state situation.”

    Did you notice the “in advance of negotiations” part? Refusal to recognize Israel is a bargaining chip for HAMAS and other Palestinians, one of the few they have. By requiring recognition before negotiations, Israel has foreclosed the option of negotiations with all Palestinians. Also preventing real negotiations is the US’s refusal to even talk with HAMAS.

    It is misleading to start your paragraph with “Palestinians now ruling Gaza” and then continue discussing only Palestinians in general. Pretty close to a bait and switch.

    “The ‘right of return’ remains the key demand of many Palestinians who believe that the violence must continue until they go ‘home.’”

    “A critical mass of Palestinians still wants to return to pre-1948 Israel”

    How many Palestinians? And what do you define as a critical mass? In any case, tell me who expects HAMAS or any faction of Palestinians to not accept a peace treaty over lack of the actual right of return. They will expect other concessions in exchange for dropping the right of return, most likely some form of compensation, but no one thinks it will be a deal breaker, such as settlements are.

  • “the concessions that Israel can reasonably make do not and cannot command enough support among Palestinian refugees to bring the conflict to a close.”

    Again WRM use a sub-group of Palestinians standing in for all Palestinians to muddy the waters. Certainly their are very bitter refugees. But how about the Palestinians and their descendants who lived in the West Bank and Gaza in 1948, that is, the vast majority of Palestinians? They aren’t refugees but they are occupied. How about some concessions for them? Like ending the blockade of Gaza.

    “Israel and the United States today are working to get a peace agreement with the rulers of the West Bank”

    Really? What are they doing?

    “so that Hamas can either be persuaded to accept the agreement or through elections or some other means be overthrown.”

    The hope is for regime change in Gaza? Good luck with that without lifting the blockade. HAMAS controls and profits from tunnel smuggling – the current lifeblood of the Gazan “economy”. Oh, and Operation Cast Lead only strengthened HAMAS as well, so a massive shift in policy would have to occur to weaken them.

    “some of them are represented in the current government”

    Wow, that’s an understatement. The Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, and a majority of the Knesset. Nice representation if you can get it.

    “If it opens the blockade Hamas will certainly import weapons including rockets that can and will be used against Israel at Hamas’ discretion.”

    Not if the blockade is opened to things like cement, construction wood, chickens, fishing equipment, seeds, cattle and newspapers. Or is Israel afraid of Gonzo and his chicken catapult?

  • Mladen

    If I had chance to write an article, I’d probably write something like this.

    I wish Israel had a leader and not just politicians leading the country. Someone who can say now:

    We except return to 1967 border in exchange for peace. Areas taken in 1967 will stay demilitarized and people who moved in later will be allowed to stay as residents of those countries. Refugees who really want, can return, but Israel will keep Hebrew as official language. And we expect everyone so involved in creating this problem to contribute in compensation fund for lost property.

    I guess it would definitely make things clear, because that’s probably most fair deal now available.

  • Sucheta

    What about creating jobs and building factories in Gaza? Strapping a bomb to oneself is a lot less attractive option if a man has a job, a home to live and more importantly, pride. If the Gazans see that they have a better chance of living a peaceful life by standing with Israel, Hamas is going to evaporate in air. Terrorism is an easy sell to people who’s life is so miserable that it is not worth living. Keep the blockade, build Gaza’s economy. Every penny that Israel spends in bettering Gaza will save billions of $$ in weapons and F15’s. I might be too idealistic but this is worth a try….Israel cannot live like this. This is not sustainable. I think it is about damn time Jews have a peaceful place to call their home.

  • Malcolm X

    It is clear that the writer and commenters here are extremely biased in Israel’s favor and at times delusional to reality as observed by the rest of the world. US will not be able to maintain its position of leadership in the world for much longer when people around the world come to realise that the US is in fact a corrupt cop that favors Israel no matter what it does. Israel is now widely regarded as a pariah state just as South Africa was before the end of apartheid. A successful leader must be impartial. When the US loses it position of leadership or maybe even before then, Israel will have no choice but to submit to the will of the international community to give Palestinians their rights, as happened in South Africa in 1994.

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  • FF

    Very informative article. You can’t go straight from a suicide bombs and seiges to peace. So work the hypothesis first: Israel says if you do X we will do Y. We both have to agree on X and Y in principle. Then we can move forward in steps. “You” is anyone who signs up – probably it needs both Fatah and Hamas.

    The problem is that Israel doesn’t have a consensus on X and Y. Generally they don’t like the Arabs very much and don’t see why they should do anything. Particularly as any peace deal involves them giving stuff away.

    The Arabs clearly have issues on their side too, but I think it’s right to start with Israel as the much stronger player. Because of that it can unblock the situation more easily.

    There is a ready made template in the form of the Arab Peace Plan, which would make a good starting point for the X and the Y. I would say it’s hugely in the United States’ interest to push this plan or a variant on it, to establish a measure of stability in the region.

  • JM de Teresa

    In my view, the author mistakenly imagines that, even after Fatah in the WB signs a peace treaty, Hamas’ hostility might indefinitely withstand international pressure. On the contrary, under these circumstances international sympathy would massively support the peace party, as long as Ghazan refugees are offered monetary compensation and perhaps some territory with the help of wealthy donors. Recklessness would then be unsustainable.

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  • Given the previous comments, it is clear that my comment goes against the flow, none the-less…

    Israel is not only apparently stronger than its opponents, it is so much stronger that any claim that the State of Israel is in danger, now or for the foreseeable future in note even worthy of a reply.

    What Hamas has leaned to do with consummate ease is to infuriate us to the point when our tat for their tit is so much out of proportion that we are inevitably pictured as the aggressor.

    Lest there be a mistake, I write as a member of Kibbutz Zikim, 1.7 miles from the border with Gaza. While we have not had to deal the carnage created by the thousands of motor shells and qassams rained down on Sderot and Kibbutz Nir Am, we to have had hundreds of qassams exploding near and within the radius of the kibbutz proper. I mention that only so that it may be clear that I hold no brief for the extremists in Gaza.

    Israel’s great problem is that the last few governments have not had an original thought in years regarding a solution to the conflict. Israeli leaders do not lead their citizens, they only react,(foolishly), to the latest Palestinian ploy.

    Sadly, Israel’s left-wing parties, (those for whom another few thousand acres of dirt are of less importance than peace), have been fragmented by the response of the greater public to qassams, fire bombings of cafes and buses and so on. The extremists on both sides seem to have a strangle hold on their respective governments.

    Is there a way out of the debacle without outside serious pressure being applied to both parties to the conflict? I begin to suspect that unless President Obama succeeds in involving Europe and the oil rich Arab countries,( for whom Hamas is as much of a problem as for Israel), in the effort to force an unloved but useful peace in the land of three Sundays thousands of innocent civilians will continue to die only because of the stupidity of their leaders.

  • Bill B.

    Mead’s take on Palestinian public opinion is stuck in 1980 and completely devoid of nuance. It’s also odd how doesn’t mention the crux of the problem with Hamas – they were legitimately elected to govern over the bloated and corrupt Fatah. Obviously they are a reprehensible group that works against peace efforts, but their place in Palestinian society is one they’ve earned through basic material support when nobody else was providing food and medical care. Any peace solution is going to have to deal with this basic and unfortunately reality. It’s too bad that Mead is unable to view the Palestinian people and their leadership with any sort of depth.

  • Like I said, much better commenting around here. I’ll take Arieh Zimmerman and Bill B. over Douthat every day of the week.

  • Everybody seems to be dancing the “Knee-Jerk Boogie.” Arguments fall into the ancient us vs them gaps. surface level perspectives clash and collide.
    Every view is right; every view is wrong. Old paradigms continue to belch up from the past or pour poison on the present. Einstein had it right. Cannot solve problems with the same thinking that produced them.

    What if there is an entirely different approach, one that has both scientific validity and “real world” applications in hot spots. Would anybody be interested or are we content to play old tunes, participate in out-of-date moral stand-offs. If I showed you a way out of the mess would anybody listen?


    The Spiral Wizard

  • ellie chall

    Perhaps it is time for the world to acknowledge their participation in the cover up of truth. Each time Hamas plans and provokes an incident that the Israeli’s allow themselves to be blindsided into……the Palestinians force the world’s focus on the response and not on the incident as a whole..or on their underlying goal ….which is the criminal intent meant to lead to the destruction of the state of Israel.

    So, perhaps Israel can withdraw, return most of all the land…..Jerusalem…at the very least the half that has become Israel’s long standing domain should not be returned…after all…. the Arab countries have to pay something for attacking Israel from day one and forcing these constant antagonisms and conflicts…….to take place. Otherwise, it would seem to me…that those that want Israel destroyed and are openly waiting and plotting events around the world to help bring about the downfall of western civilization…. will gain an irreversible victory.

    Perhaps it is time for the world, the UN, to take over the policing of the Palestinians, until such time as they wholeheartedly declare their intent to give up their quest to see Israel gone. As a matter of fact, taking over the policing so Israeli’s can go about their lives in peace was the request Israel made of the UN before the invasion of Gaza.

    Just because the Jews have often been the world scapegoats, and just because Israel’s foremost goal is peace and safety over all else, does not mean that they have to be punished or humiliated because they world cannot control those who are willing to cover truth with tantrums and lies so as to force the world to give them what they want. It is unhealthy children rearing practice, and it will not service world peace or western culture either. Didn’t we not learn our lesson with Hitler.

    The time has come for truth to shine and justice to win and for us..humanitarians all over the world to be willing to stand up tall and refuse to give into tantrums or strategies that do not serve justice or a higher good.. It is time to stop focusing only on the screaming and start connecting the dots of logic and intent. And if we do not… will come back to haunt us…for if you listen carefully you will hear Islam’s slightly veiled goal ..

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  • christian

    Extinction is the word that keeps coming …
    the way you people (israelis and palestinians) are dealing with each other, soon we’ll all be extinct… pride, ignorance, greed, control… SAD.

  • mark hope


  • Afarin Maleki

    [call for murderous genocide against a religious group deleted –ed.]

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