Monday, August 3, 2009

Israel - Tom Friedman's advise to Obama


Israel and America are having one of those periodic marital spats they have had over the years, replete with "I-am-not-taking-any-more-of-your-guff" outbursts by Obama officials at American Jewish leaders, and, yes — it wouldn't be a real Israel-U.S. dust-up without it — Israeli accusations that Jewish Obama aides are "self-hating Jews," working out their identity crises by working over Israel. Having been to this play before, and knowing both families, I'd like to offer some free marriage counseling.

Here's what Israelis need to understand: President Obama is not some outlier when it comes to Israel. His call for a settlements freeze reflects attitudes that have been building in America for a long time. For the last 40 years, a succession of Israeli governments has misled, manipulated or persuaded naïve U.S. presidents that since Israel was negotiating to give up significant territory, there was no need to fight over "insignificant" settlements on some territory. Behind this charade, Israeli settlers bit off more and more of the West Bank, creating a huge moral, security and economic burden for Israel and its friends.

As Bradley Burston, a columnist for Israel's Haaretz newspaper, put it last week: "The settlement movement has cost Israel some $100 billion. ... The double standard which for decades has favored settlers with inexpensive housing, heavily subsidized social services, and blind-eye building permits has long been accompanied by a kid-gloves approach regarding settler violence against Palestinians and their property. ... Settlers and settlement planners have covertly bent and distorted zoning procedures, military directives, and government decrees in order to boost settlement, block Palestinian construction, agriculture, and access to employment, and effectively neutralize measures intended to foster Israeli-Palestinian peace progress."

For years, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the pro-Israel lobby, rather than urging Israel to halt this corrosive process, used their influence to mindlessly protect Israel from U.S. pressure on this issue and to dissuade American officials and diplomats from speaking out against settlements. Everyone in Washington knows this, and a lot of people — people who care about Israel — are sick of it.

The Times's Jerusalem bureau chief, Ethan Bronner, captured the we-are-untouchable arrogance of the settlers last week when he quoted Rabbi Yigael Shandorfi, leader of a religious academy at the settlement of Nahliel, calling Mr. Obama in a speech "that Arab they call a president."[...]


  1. This poorly written column by a quite mediocre commentator misses the entire point.

    What's happened in the last fifteen or twenty years between Israel and the US is that the two countries always used to peacefully run two separate tracks for their policies: one the 'stated' policy that was printed, distributed, and announced in speeches. And the other the 'unstated' quiet agreement policy. But, like Kissinger used to do, they always fudged the differences enough so as not to create a disconnect.

    But then the business fell to Bush, and he totally failed to understand the subtleties of this approach and the requirement always to keep the two accounts kind of close. He quite ignorantly allowed this neat trick to grow into a monster: two completely different and contradictory policies functioning at the same time.

    Bush often stated officially that Israel must cease settlement activity and create a Palestinian state, and then he would meet privately with Jews and say totally the opposite. And the jarring differences grew greater as he went, always cashing checks on empty diplomatic accounts.

    It was cognitive dissonance all over again, as Officer Friendly would say.

    So Obama & Clinton inherited this total spaghetti, and set it straight according to the 'official' line, which was really quite off from what the US always really wanted. Obama is a technocrat with no feel for what's really going on.

    But Friedman, as usual, has no idea what he's talking about.

  2. Recipients and PublicityAugust 3, 2009 at 8:46 PM

    Tom Friedman must be in journalistic ecstasy that his ideological radical left-wing socialist chaveirim worthy of Leon Trotsky, Rahm Immanuel and David Axelrod, no friends of the Jews, are guiding Barack Hussein Obama's every move.

    Friedman, with Immanuel and Axelrod, lack any credibility or objectivity as they espouse a purely leftist "Shalom Achshav", or worse, outlook and agenda.

  3. I have never before seen Thomas Friedman, the life long personal friend of Ariel Sharon called a "leftist". Mr. Friedman has been considered an Israeli "hawk" by the mainstream media since his days at Brandeis.

    Since 9/11, Friedman's journalism has been almost entirely focused on supporting George Bush's War on "terrorism" (or crusade against Islam).

    Friedman was also very supportive of President George Bush's decision to invade Iraq.

    In November 2008, Friedman advised that Barack Obama—in order to deal with Iran—would need "Tony Soprano by your side, not Big Bird" and would require "a Dick Cheney standing over his right shoulder, quietly pounding a baseball bat into his palm."

    Economist Edward Herman has complained that Friedman makes denigrating remarks about Arabs and the Arab world:

    [Thomas Friedman is]...regularly denigrating Arabs for their qualities of emotionalism, unreason, and hostility to democracy and modernization. His classic remark, in the same interview in which he lauds the proxy terrorism model, was that we mustn't go too far in forcing Palestinian concessions because, "I believe that as soon as Ahmed has a seat in the bus, he will limit his demands."

    If Thomas Friedman is a "radical left-wing socialist" as you describe him, then I am guessing that Avigdor Lieberman is, in your opinion, also "just a little to the left of center".

    It is always fascinating to me,that the people who do not live in Israel or who who took the "yeshiva exemption" are the most militant hawks.

    Maybe if it were you, your son, brother or husband who would die fighting in an endless war that can never be won, you would not consider the lives of Jewish men to be so cheap and disposable.

    I do not think that ANYONE has the right to speak out against peace negotiations unless he is currently serving in the IDF or has a husband or child currently serving in the IDF.

    I have mourned with WAY more than enough families who lost sons fighting for a country that cannot even stand against a sodomy fest at the Kotel.

    I have sat up by the phone FAR too many times with parents who were waiting for "the" phone call from their son after a completed mission.

    Obviously you do not know what that is like.

    If Israel is supposed to be a "safe haven" to save Jewish lives from our enemies, then we will achieve that with peace and not through an endless war that can never be won.

    In your opinion, how many Jewish boys are worth dying each year to keep the West Bank?

    How many fo East Jerusalem?

    How many for the Golan?

    How many in order to "disarm Ahmadinejad"?

    And how many of your own children would you willingly sacrifice for the "cause"?

  4. Jersey Girl said...

    I have never before seen Thomas Friedman, the life long personal friend of Ariel Sharon called a "leftist". Mr. Friedman has been considered an Israeli "hawk" by the mainstream media since his days at Brandeis.
    Being concerned for Israeli existence doesn't make a person a hawk.
    He is a supporter of the Iraq war - but that has nothing to do with Israel

    Couldn't find anyone who labels Friedman a hawk on Israel

  5. Recipients and PublicityAugust 4, 2009 at 4:13 PM

    Jersey Girl:

    Facts before fancy: Friedman is American he is not an Israeli anything.

    Brandeis is an ultra-left wing establishment more in sync with Harvard than with Bnai Brak.

    All Americans, except rabid Arabists, have been supportive of most of Bush's and now even Obama's ongoing military actions against violent and sickening Arab aggression following the Arab jihadists attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11 2001, not just rightists and centrists but all Americans support the war to fight and hopefully eventually stop and eradicate Islamic terrorism and its sponsoring states if need be. Iran has been lucky, but who knows for how much longer before it too gets dealt with the way Iraq was.

    While Sharon may have made himself available for interviews with savvy journalists like Friedman and others willing to spend time with him and give him media exposure, there is no evidence that Sharon subscribed to Friedman's personal political views or vice versa.

    You misconstrue journalists like Friedman who use equal opportunity provocative phraseology that makes for good and readable copy. For every seeming "insult" to Arabs, Friedman has insulted his fellow Jews a thousand times more, the only difference is that Arabs have thin skins and can only function in dictatorships or in dictatorial style, while Jews are freedom-loving and carefree by nature and by now are used to living in true democracies and open societies where all sorts of freedoms, including freedom of speech are practiced enthusiasticvally without fear of being beheaded or suicide bombed a la Islamic jihadists style.

    All Jews have mourned much the last few generations, both for relatives and friends lost in the Holocaust, killed in battle or to suicide bombers in Israel or America (at least two who died in the Twin Towers were known to me well), as well as to the various road deaths that take place almost every summer in the Catskills and elsewhere. But what is your point? That you are a "better person" because you know of a higher or more deadly "body count"??

    And this is utter rubbish, when you say: "I do not think that ANYONE has the right to speak out against peace negotiations unless he is currently serving in the IDF or has a husband or child currently serving in the IDF."

    Firstly, I had no idea you were so pro the IDF or the state of Israel that the IDF fights for. It's like saying that only when you paint a masterpiece can you talk about art, or only when you write a book can you be a literary critic, or only if you play baseball can you comment on the game etc etc etc, all of which are totally falacious arguments.

    Personally, I think the greatest sacrifice a Jewish parent can make is when they sacrifice for their children to have a Torah education, have as many Jewish children as possible, stay loyal to their spouses and children, live in a Torah observant community no matter what the sacrifices involved, marry Torah-observant and God-fearing Jews and live upstanding and honest Torah-true lives. All other sacrifices are worthy, such as serving in and fighting for the IDF, but to sacrifice for Torah learning, practice and life is the greatest of all.

  6. RaP:

    There are many strictly Torah observant Mizrahi men, many who are also the fathers of large families in the IDF.

    Mizrahim in Israel often do not have options for exemption from IDF service due to the poverty that the majority of their families live in (more than half of all Mizrahi families live in poverty).

    For Mizrahim, it is not as it is for Ashkenazim where the "frum" are learning in yeshiva and the chiloni are in the IDF.

    For many Mizrahi men, their Torah observance is intentionally sabotaged by their commanding officers (ie bunking them with a Russian who cooks pork in his pots, putting a very religious Turkish friend of ours in a tank with a Russian who pasted up icons of the saints. A very religious Moroccan friend of ours who shared a bunker with a Russian who constantly set up icons and prayed to them and on and on).

    Rabbi Ovadia Yosef also deals with many of the challenges to mitzvah observance in the IDF in responsa.

    For example, starting laundry so that it will run over Shabbat, for observant IDF soldiers who get only 25 hours leave each week (for Shabbat) yet still have to do their laundry. These responsa speaks volumes about how common these issues are among Torah observant Mizrahim in the IDF.


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