How “Wokeness” is Wrecking Journalism

Yesterday I got into an argument on Facebook: does this article in the NY Times reporting on the speech Donald Trump made at Mt. Rushmore constitute good journalism?

I noted that the writer, Annie Karni, used pejorative language – she called the speech “dark and divisive,” said that it used “ominous language and imagery” and was aimed at a “straw-man version of the Left.” She chastised Trump repeatedly for making the wrong speech, not talking about the pandemic (and presumably his failure to deal with it), and instead “rail[ing] against what he described as a dangerous ‘cancel culture’ intent on toppling monuments…” The article also quoted several comments by individuals critical of Trump and none that were positive.

I argued that I wouldn’t object to the publication of such an article on the editorial pages, but that it did not belong in the news section. It should have been labeled “opinion,” not “news.” I did not wish to have a conversation about Trump (and I don’t now, either). I was only concerned with the new idea that the Times’ staff seems to have about the nature of journalism, and how it differs from the traditional conception.

Most of the replies to my comment were simply attacks on Trump, but one person did respond to my point. He said that in his view, “the journalist’s use of “dark and divisive” is not a value judgement, it is not an attempt at persuasion. It is a fair description of the content of the president’s speech,” and therefore is legitimate news reporting.

I think I understand what is going on here. The Times’ reporter and my Facebook interlocutor share a progressive worldview that is an internally consistent conceptual scheme. What may appear axiomatic to them might be controversial to someone with a different worldview, and vice versa. They also probably exist in a “bubble” of “woke” discourse in which contrary opinions are rarely heard. Both social and mainstream media are now partitioned into such bubbles; indeed, the inhuman algorithms by which social media providers determine what their users will see enforce that partitioning.

But when they are writing news articles, journalists are (or used to be) supposed to do their best, if not to totally overcome their prejudices, at least to remain aware of them, and to write – to the best of their ability – an objective story. This is very hard, but so is being an ironworker or a firefighter, and the people that do those jobs are expected to learn to do hard things. Of course the consequences of not learning are much greater for ironworkers and firefighters than for journalists!

So what should Annie Karni have written? She could have quoted and paraphrased Trump, described the tone and delivery of his speech, the reactions of the people present and the general atmosphere of the event, and presented a balanced selection of reactions by political figures. Boring? Comparatively, yes. But an objective report of most political speeches will be boring. She could still write a more exciting attack piece for the op-ed page, but we need the news report.

The NY Times has always had its biases. All newspapers do. But as A. J. Liebling said, “freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one,” and a corollary to this is that if you own a press, maybe it’s because you want to exercise that freedom. The NY Times has endorsed Democratic presidential candidates since Kennedy, and it is not unfair to say that they lean in the liberal direction. There’s nothing wrong with that. But it seems that recently the attempt to distinguish between news and opinion has been abandoned. And that is a big deal.

This works in both directions.  Recently, after a staff rebellion, the Times fired (officially, they resigned) two editors for allowing an op-ed by Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas which called on the president to use the military to suppress rioting after the killing of George Floyd. The Times also added an apology to the op-ed. Many commenters pointed out that the Times had also published op-eds with bylines like Taliban terrorist Sirajuddin Haqqani, Hamas terrorist Ahmed Youssef, imprisoned murderer Marwan Barghouti (leaving out the fact that he was in prison for five murders), Vladimir Putin, and one in 1979 by terror apologist and antisemite Richard Falk praising Ayatollah Khomeini and saying that he was misunderstood.

But the Times’ young and “woke” staff claimed that Cotton’s op-ed “endangered the lives” of black people (including some of them) and therefore was out of bounds. And that was enough.

The importance of objective journalism can’t be overemphasized. So much media is biased; we must be able to see a byline and trust that at least the facts will be correct. Particularly in connection with Israel, the media have served us ill. For example, in 2002, the IDF entered Palestinian cities in Judea and Samaria in response to a wave of bombings and shootings that had left more than 1000 Israelis dead, and countless more seriously injured or maimed. Terrorists were holding out in a neighborhood in the city of Jenin, and rather than pulverize the area with artillery and air attacks (as the Russians did in a similar situation in Chechnya), the IDF sent in ground troops. When the battle was over, 23 Israeli soldiers were dead, and 53 Palestinians – 48 of whom were combatants.

The media rushed to publish stories – some by correspondents on the ground like British reporter Phil Reeves – that described a massacre of civilians and the destruction of the entire city. Numbers of dead ranging in the thousands were bandied about, with “eyewitness” accounts of large numbers of bodies buried by bulldozers, and the “sweet and ghastly reek of rotting human bodies” seeping from the ground. An Israeli Arab filmmaker, Mohammed Bakri, made a “documentary” which used footage from other conflicts, accused the IDF of summary execution of civilians, and described the destruction of a hospital wing that had never existed (to this day, he is embroiled in a libel suit filed by IDF soldiers who were in the battle).

Despite the truth about Jenin having come out – just as it has in the case of the alleged shooting of Muhammad al-Dura in 2000 – many people still accuse Israel of war crimes in Jenin. And both Mohammad Bakri and Charles Enderlin, the (Jewish!) French TV bureau chief who narrated the fake footage of al-Dura that inflamed the world, admitted that “the details” of their accounts – that is, the facts – were wrong. But both were convinced of the rightness of the Palestinian Cause, and so their reporting served a higher truth.

And this is why the kind of advocacy journalism that denigrates facts in favor of advocacy (because the “correct” political outcome is so important) is dangerous.

I am not comparing Annie Karni to hacks like Phil Reeves; and the blame for destroying the distinction between opinion and news falls on the Times’ management and editors too.

But if journalists won’t give it to us straight, who will?

Posted in Media | Leave a comment

Corona Days in Israel

Recently the European Union announced that it would reopen its borders to visitors from some other countries. Israel was not on the list (neither was the US). Many Israelis reacted indignantly, but objectively our Coronavirus situation is not good.

On June 30, Israel marked the highest number of new cases of Coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic, with 803 reported. After suceeding to extinguish the first wave with an economy-crushing lockdown, the re-opening was marred by some strategic mistakes, for which we are beginning to pay the price. Here is a graph of new cases per day:

Although there has been a recent increase in the daily number of tests done, a Health Ministry employee said on 16 June that “the proportion of positive tests was higher than before,” and therefore the increase in reported new cases was indicative of a new wave of infection.

I don’t pretend to be an expert, but some of the reasons were obvious. In the educational system: it was necessary to reopen the schools, because Israelis have a lot of children, and it’s very difficult to get people back to work when there’s no solution for child care. The usual safety valve for parents, retired grandparents, was not available due to the danger to them from the disease. The first mistake was to open all grades almost at once. It would have been possible to open the lower grades first, which would have freed the parents to work, while reducing the risk. What followed was a sharp spike in the 10-19 year age group and a smaller one in the 0-9 group at the start of the second wave in early June.

The Education Ministry devised a plan that would separate students and teachers in the schools into “capsules” which would be isolated from one another, students would sit 2 meters apart, masks would be required for students and teachers, and so on. The second mistake was not following the plan. I am not sure if it proved unworkable, or if teachers and administrators didn’t take it seriously enough, as some said. But in many schools, compliance was lax. Schools in which cases of Corona occurred were closed, but the damage was done.

Coronavirus transmission is believed to be primarily by droplets released when an infected person sneezes, coughs, talks, or sings. These droplets may remain in the air for a few minutes. It is also thought that the more viral particles a person ingests, the more likely they are to become sick, although it is not clear if this affects the severity of the illness. Transmission outdoors where droplets may be blown away or dehydrated by breezes and diluted in a larger volume of air, is much less likely than in a confined indoor space. Masks may not be fine enough to prevent viral particles from passing through, but they do greatly impede the much larger droplets; they are useful both when worn by the person who is infected and by others nearby. There is also the possibility of droplets impinging on a person’s eyes, so a face shield is useful in addition to a mask.

Israelis love “life cycle events” like circumcisions, bar mitzvahs, weddings, and so forth. Big weddings are the rule, often held in large event halls. There are even websites that help you decide how much money to give according to the type of event, your relationship to the principals, and so on. These events are often held indoors, and the Health Ministry allowed event halls to reopen when the first wave subsided. There are guidelines on the number of people allowed at an event, but they were liberal. Religious services, which were initially sharply restricted, were reopened with more relaxed guidelines. These actions may have been premature, and some restrictions have been re-imposed.

What everyone wants to do is to find ways to protect the population without destroying the economy. The best way to do that (at least, until a vaccine or effective treatment is developed) is to identify each and every sick person and isolate them before they can infect others. This requires a) the ability to do enough tests, b) a rapid turnaround of test results so that it is possible to identify someone as a carrier of the disease before they can infect others, and c) trained people to investigate the sources of infection so that those exposed can be tested.

While the number of tests has been increasing, the turnaround time has been poor. In the early part of the second wave, when many cases were detected in schools, the labs were unable to keep up with the tests.  As far as investigations are concerned the Health Ministry reports a serious shortage of personnel trained to do this; and it has been accused of poor management as well. They have just hired several hundred medical students and paramedics for this function; it’s mysterious why this took so long.

The public, which was relatively disciplined during the first wave, seems to have decided that “the Corona is over,” and that masks are best worn around the chin, to be moved up when a police officer, who might give them a ticket worth 500 Shekels ($146), is nearby. The latest news is that specific cities and neighborhoods will be placed on lockdown in order to try to break the chain of infection.

PM Netanyahu got good marks for his handling of the crisis during the first wave, when he made good decisions such as closing the country’s borders quickly. The removal of restrictions, however, has not been handled so well. Employment has not snapped back – unemployment stands at near 21% – and the epidemic has moved into a second wave, which could be as bad or worse than the first one. Some industries, like tourism and performing arts, have been devastated and little has been done to help them. Of course, everything isn’t his responsibility, but he is known for micromanaging what he believes are areas of importance, and many Israelis feel that he doesn’t believe that they are of importance.

It isn’t helping that after the scandal of the obscenely bloated unity government of 36 ministers and 9 deputy ministers, and after the unity negotiations produced unprecedented perks for the Prime Minister and his alternate, Bibi got the Knesset to pass legislation to exempt him from taxes on work done on his private residence by the government. He did not improve his image when he remarked that although he deserved the tax break, his “timing was wrong.” No kidding.

***

Israel’s approach to the Corona has been very – Israeli. First, we tried to overcome it by brute force. Then we became overconfident. And now, hopefully, we’ll try to be smart.

Posted in Israeli Politics, Israeli Society | 1 Comment

The Identity Politics Rebellion

Identity politics is simple.

You associate yourself with others with whom you share a religion or ethnicity. You believe that the government and other authorities ought to be dominated by your group. In a democracy, you vote for them exclusively. In a non-democracy, every group tries to install its own people in positions of power, by force if need be.

When you have identity politics, the in-group gets protektziya. If you are a member of the in-group you get government jobs, your business gets lucrative government contracts, and you get your parking tickets fixed. If not – well, it depends on how bad your regime is. In a place like Syria, you stand a good chance of being murdered.

Identity politics can be democratic in the sense that there can be elections. But it is inconsistent with what we know as “liberal democracy,” which includes the rule of law, separation of powers, respect for human and civil rights for all, economic fairness, and so on. That is because the division of power, wealth, and rights in identity politics is based on group membership rather than ability, work ethic, or moral standing.

The only politics that exists in most Middle Eastern and African countries is identity politics. This is why the attempt to establish liberal democracy in Iraq after the fall of Saddam was pointless. The outcome of elections there is determined by the size of the various ethnic factions, not policies or ideology. This is why Lebanon is a basket case, why Jordan is unstable, and why Syria is hell. This is why Africa, with all its resources, consistently suffers from wars and famines.

Take Nigeria, for example. The most populous country in Africa, blessed with oil and gas, fertile soil, and mineral resources, it should have a thriving economy. Instead, it’s wracked by civil war, terrorism, and environmental disasters. Millions of its residents have fled to other countries (including the US). Some blame colonialism, but Nigeria has been independent since 1960. I blame the identity politics practiced by the more than 250 ethnic groups in Nigeria – and by the Christians and Muslims who almost equally divide the population.

One of the characteristics of identity politics is the belief that only a member of your own group can represent you, or even understand your needs.

Does this sound familiar, Americans? It should. Right now your country is undergoing a rebellion by those who wish to replace an establishment that at least pays lip service to liberal democracy with one that is committed to identity politics.

The rebels say that the present arrangement actually does function according to identity politics, and that the group in charge is made up of “white” people (I prefer the expression “colorless” because skin color actually has little to do with it). They are explicit in their desire to kick them out and put “people of color” (POC) on top. This they justify with the argument that POC have been mistreated and disenfranchised, and now it is their turn to rule. What they don’t want is a society that functions according to the principles expressed by Martin Luther King Jr., in which everyone is treated equally regardless of color or ethnicity.

What is interesting is that the colorless establishment (at least, part of it) is falling all over itself to placate the rebels, apologizing abjectly for “white privilege,” removing statues (before they are toppled or covered with graffiti by the rebels), changing the names of institutions that are named after unsavory characters like Woodrow Wilson or Theodore Roosevelt, and so on (it remains to be seen how they will react when asked to give up their jobs or wealth).

The founders of the USA, while they certainly had their blind spots, were concerned to create a structure that would be a liberal democracy not subject to identity politics. From their day through the 1960s, the country struggled to approach the ideal of a fair society. The abolitionist movement, the Civil War, the women’s suffrage movement, and the civil rights movement all were mileposts in that journey.

The argument of the rebels is that America has failed in the attempt to create liberal democracy, and that this failure is systemic, perhaps even stemming from an essential flaw in the idea of liberal democracy. Some important voices in the media agree with them. The premise of the New York Times’ “1619 project” is that the history of the US should start with the arrival of the first slave ship to North America, and not with the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Racism is everywhere, part of the fabric of society, they insist. The implication is that fixing it would require more than incremental improvements. Radical change is needed. The rebels believe that racism can’t be expunged by continuing the processes begun by the civil rights movement; the only remedy is to smash the system and start over.

This is not a small demand. History shows that revolutions (viz., France 1789 and Russia 1917) can be enormously bloody and painful. Often, control of revolutions that are begun in the name of lofty ideals is seized by the most brutal and ruthless groups, because they are the ones that can take control. And it isn’t as if the rebels in this case have a rational blueprint for improving the society, other than the feeling that things would be better if they were in charge. That is unlikely.

In the case of America today, there is the complication that the chaos is fed to some extent by outside forces, traditional enemies of the USA who are making use of the moment – and maybe even helped create it – to sow dissent. There are documented cases of foreign actors supporting the most extreme elements, the extreme Right and the extreme Left, on social media. What they want is not to improve American society, but to weaken it.

If the rebels get what they want, the 244-year history of the American republic will be over. The revolution will replace the present establishment with a different one. Perhaps property in the hands of rich people and institutions will be expropriated “for the benefit of all” as happened in newly-Soviet Russia. Perhaps a new constitution will be written, or amendments added to the existing one to provide for reparations for the descendants of slaves, for compensatory admissions to universities for POC, for quotas for government jobs. The striving for equality of opportunity will be replaced by the provision of benefits to favored ethnic groups, to “pay them back” for historical mistreatment. The US, in the best case, will become less just, less well governed, less economically successful, and a less pleasant place to live for most Americans.

More likely, it will end up like Syria or Nigeria.

Posted in American society, The Future | 2 Comments

It will be OK

Israelis are sometimes criticized for saying “yehiye b’seder” [it will be OK] without sufficiently considering the consequences. But there is such a thing as decision paralysis, when you can’t act because you never feel that you have enough information. Sometimes that’s worse than a less-than-perfect decision. I think the opponents of Israel’s application of civilian law to parts of Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley are trying hard to induce decision paralysis.

Today (Wednesday) there is supposed to be a meeting in the White House at which Trump Administration officials reportedly will decide whether to green-light the move. Of course it will be a good thing if the US recognizes Israel’s action, especially if that means that it will issue an official statement that Jewish communities outside the Green Line are part of Israel.

But on the other hand, there is a feeling that the US is trying to micromanage Israel’s behavior. Perhaps, it is suggested, the “green light” will only include several communities near Jerusalem. Or maybe a phase-in that will take several months. Or maybe the US will require Benny Gantz’ explicit agreement. Or – who knows?

Gantz, incidentally, is remarkably unclear about his position, if he indeed has one. Here is how Noa Landau, a left-leaning journalist for Ha’aretz, describes it:

Not unilaterally, yes unilaterally. Only with the international community’s (unobtainable) consent, only with Jordan’s (unobtainable) consent. Only the Jordan Valley, only the settlement blocs. Only as part of the broader Trump plan, only a limited symbolic step. Only with a gesture to the Palestinians – but who needs the Palestinians anyway? Just don’t ask us to elaborate.

There is great pressure being applied from many quarters, both against PM Netanyahu and against Trump, to oppose this step, which is almost universally referred to as “annexation of [part of] the ‘West Bank’”.  As Eugene Kontorovich argues [$], it is not “annexation” because the territory in question

…isn’t legally the territory of any other state, nor has it been since Israel’s independence in 1948. Neither the U.S. nor the European Union recognizes the existence of a Palestinian state, and Israel’s sovereign claim to the territory is superior to any other country’s. Putting this move in the same category as Russia’s seizure of Crimea is entirely misleading.

The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) in the US is asking its members to lobby Congress against the plan, “out of a concern for Israel’s safety and security, for the preservation of Israel’s democratic character, and for the place of Israel among the nations of the world.” Its talking points come directly from the Israeli Left, which has been consistently defeated at the polls since the disasters wrought by the government of Ehud Barak in 2000. But don’t liberal American Jews know better than Israeli voters?

The Obama Gang has weighed in as well. Here’s Gangster Susan Rice: “So when it comes to annexation, I think the obvious argument against it is that it all but makes that objective of a two-state outcome impossible…”

What she means, of course, is that it makes impossible the Gang’s version of a two-state solution, in which Israel, including Jerusalem, is divided along the 1949 armistice lines. But that was always so, because it would render Israel indefensible, precisely the opposite of their contention. The Gang also envisioned the expulsion of tens of thousands of Jews from the territory in order to make a Jew-free Palestine possible, and Israel giving up control of Judaism’s holy places – which worked so well [not] under the Jordanians.

But a demilitarized Palestinian autonomy in less than all of the territory is far less dangerous. It does not require expelling Jews (or Arabs), and  very few Palestinians are incorporated into Israel. That’s the Trump Administration version of the two-state solution.

Opponents of the move worry a great deal about the response of the Arab countries, especially Jordan, and the Europeans. I must note that if I have misgivings about the US micromanaging Israeli policy, I am even less likely to be influenced by the public pronouncements of Arab leaders who have been pumping anti-Israel venom into the veins of their subjects for decades, and now – when they depend on us for their security – are afraid that they will be overthrown if they don’t show sufficient enmity toward us. Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states all know who will help them when they are in trouble, and who wants to hurt them.

The intersectional Left is fond of asking people to “check [their] privilege.” To the Europeans, I say “check your history,” you who practiced viciously exploitative colonialism for hundreds of years, who started world wars, and who either participated in the genocide of the European Jews, prevented their escape (Britain, I am looking at you), or turned a blind eye. It hasn’t been long enough to give any weight to your moral pronouncements.

Returning to President Trump, I think that moving this deal forward is of great importance to him, to show both his allies in the Middle East and his pro-Israel domestic supporters that he keeps his promises. The fact that his political enemies are mobilizing against him in force – particularly the Obama Gang – shows the importance of this issue. This gives Israel some leverage, which should be applied to keep the initiative from being watered down. We don’t have to agree on anything other than the map, and certainly not to a sovereign Palestinian state.

I think time is very short. The American election campaign will soon begin to absorb all the energies of the administration. Any gradual phase-in of sovereignty will not survive a change of administration, if it should occur. I am convinced that if Mr. Biden is elected, his administration will be dominated by the Obama Gang, which has proven itself an enemy of the Jewish state.

A Biden Administration could reverse an American position established by Trump – as Obama did with respect the Bush-Sharon letters – but it can’t undo Israeli decisions, which can and should be translated into facts on the ground.

It’s imperative that Israel move ahead and extend civilian law to communities in Judea and Samaria and to the Jordan Valley, in July as planned. If the map that will delineate the lines isn’t complete, it should be completed, unilaterally if necessary. I don’t see Trump objecting to unilateral action. Why should he? The details, essential to us, are unimportant to him.

There’s one week left in June. If not now, when?

Posted in 'Peace' Process, Israel and Palestinian Arabs, US-Israel Relations | 1 Comment

Now is the Time to Break the Israeli-Palestinian Stalemate

For decades, some people have been calling for a “two-state solution.” The Israeli Left, the American establishment, even the leaders of the Palestinian Authority claim to want it. Some were fond of saying that “everyone knows what the solution is,” and just a few details need to be ironed out – how, precisely, to divide Jerusalem; how to reward the Arab “refugees” (who are mostly not refugees) that have been promised that they will “return” for all these years; how to divide the land as closely as possible to the armistice lines that were never supposed to be borders; and how to ethnically cleanse the so-called “West Bank” of Jews for the second time since 1948.

Before the advent of the UN, when a country acquired territory in a war, it got to keep it unless the other side (or someone else) took it back. But the founders of the UN thought that humanity needed to become more mature. Acquisition of territory by aggression was forbidden, and although national self-defense was permitted, changing borders even in a defensive war was frowned upon – even when it could be argued that the “acquisition” was actually the restoration of illegally seized land to its rightful owner. And especially if Jews might benefit.

After the Six Days War, the UN Security Council proposed a compromise, the famous Resolution 242. The great powers that dominated the UN in those days thought that it would be unfair to allow the Arabs to suffer the complete defeat they deserved, so they suggested that Israel should give up territory it had conquered in return for “peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.” As if we didn’t deserve those things from the start!

At first, the Arabs refused to even talk. But ultimately, after the Palestinians replaced Jordan as the proposed recipients of Judea and Samaria, they agreed. No problem, they said: just reverse the decision of the war, give us every centimeter of [your] land that was under Jordanian control for 19 years including eastern Jerusalem, and [by the way] allow millions of Arabs who are supposedly descended from the refugees of 1948 to change the demographic balance in your country so that it will have an Arab majority.

This was the “two-state solution” that the Palestinians would accept. Not a compromise, but a complete reversal of the outcome of the war, plus what would quickly become a reversal of Israel’s War of Independence as well. This is what Mahmoud Abbas means today when he talks about a “two-state solution.”

The responsible parts of the Israeli Left and some of the other two-staters have enough sense to oppose the demand for a right of return. But they more or less accept the rest of the Palestinian program.

So why was it never implemented?

The main reason was that the Palestinians, noting the success of their propaganda efforts in the West, believed that time was on their side, and ultimately the “international community” would force Israel to give them everything they wanted, including even the right of return. They held out against Israeli demands for a security presence in the Jordan Valley, Palestinian demilitarization, recognition of a state of the Jewish people, and of course for the right of return.

They probably would have succeeded but for two things: the change in the energy markets that reduced the worldwide dependence on oil from the Gulf, and the realization by the Sunni Arab states that only Israel – and not the US or Europe – would stand up to expansionist Iran. Suddenly, much of the air went out of the Palestinian balloon.

And that is a good thing, because the kind of two-state solution that the Obama Administration wanted to impose, even without a right of return, would have put Israel in a box, with indefensible borders and – ultimately if not immediately – next door to a terrorist state ten times as dangerous than Hamas-ruled Gaza. The ethnic cleansing that Israel would have been obliged to perform on herself, even if she could have kept the main “settlement blocs” near the Green line, would have torn the country apart.

Just at the right time, along came Donald Trump with his “Deal of the Century.” It is nothing other than a different “two-state solution,” one that is closer to what was envisioned by the drafters of UNSC 242, and an arrangement that would at least create defensible borders. The two-staters should love it, but they don’t.

Of course the Palestinians oppose it, but what I find interesting is why the Israeli Left, the American Reform Movement, and so many supposed moderates find it so objectionable. They oppose “annexation,” but they can’t explain why the armistice lines, which both sides agreed would not have political significance, somehow gained it when Jordan illegally occupied Judea and Samaria and ethnically cleansed the region. They oppose “unilateral action” but the roughly 30 years that Israel has been talking to the PLO should have amply demonstrated that there will not be mutual agreement. And I don’t think it’s occurred to them what it would be like to expel 100,000 Jews from their homes.

Right now there is enormous pressure being placed on PM Netanyahu not to apply Israeli law to the Jordan Valley, or to the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. The Hashemite King of Jordan is strongly opposed, or pretends to be. He knows that if he appears to be weak, the violently anti-Israel Palestinians that form the majority of Jordanians might destabilize his government (and kick him out). But at the same time, he would far rather have Israel at his back than a Palestinian state that would stab him in it, as Arafat tried to do in 1970. The other Sunni Arab states are required to make the correct noises as well, but they do not particularly love the PLO, which they remember supported Saddam Hussein in Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and attacks on Saudi Arabia. I am sure that if Iran vanished tomorrow, they would go back to trying to eliminate Israel, but for now they need us.

The European Union opposes Trump’s plan too. But legally, morally, and practically there is little that they can say or do. This is a curse we have to bear for Europe’s history of colonialism and genocide.

The Palestinians have threatened another intifada. But the IDF will be prepared, and the Palestinians understand that. Anyway, ordinary Palestinians are sick and tired of the corrupt Palestinian Authority. They are not going to go out and put their lives on the line for the ones that are stealing them blind (video), especially when it is to respond to an Israeli action that has little real effect on them.

Iran and Hezbollah have threatened us as well. But this is not connected to what we do in Judea/Samaria. The Iranian regime is committed to try to destroy Israel. It will attack us whenever it believes that it can succeed (unless we strike it first; but that’s another story).

The Trump plan as a whole has many problematic aspects. Still, it is really a conceptual framework more than a concrete plan. Israel does not have to “sign on the dotted line” and agree to all of it, especially when so much is undefined. Unilateral action to extend Israeli law to the Jewish communities and the Jordan Valley would take the Jordan Valley off the table as well as make it harder for a future government to agree to expel Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria. It might protect some  communities from demolition at the hands of the Supreme Court.

Would the US agree to recognize our action without firm commitments to the rest of the program? Well, in a legal sense, there is nothing to “recognize.” We are not declaring a state, and we are not “annexing” anything that we are not already in justified possession of. This is an internal Israeli matter.

But in any event, why would the US disapprove of Israel taking the first step to implement the plan, proposed by its president, that represents the first real crack in the stalemate that has existed since 1967?

Posted in 'Peace' Process, Israel and Palestinian Arabs, Israeli or Jewish History, Middle East politics, US-Israel Relations | 1 Comment