Category: Rael Jean Isaac

A New Look at the Death of Europe


With the publication of The Strange Death of Europe, Douglas Murray has made a significant contribution to a crucially important, if still niche genre: the Islamization of Europe. A small number of writers (given the huge impact of this development) have focused on the issue: Bat Yeor, Oriana Fallaci, Mark Steyn, Christopher Caldwell, Bruce Bawer, Soeren Kern, Giulio Meotti, Guy Milliere, Ingrid Carlqvist. This small band is all that confronts the blatant and pervasive coverup by politicians and mainstream media.

Murray’s contribution takes several forms. He brings the story of Europe’s civilizational suicide up to date. He provides a chronological tale of the debacle from the post-World War II importation of what were imagined at the time to be temporary workers from Muslim countries needed to fill labor shortages to the disastrous decision by Angela Merkel in August 2015 to throw open Germany’s borders  without limits, with the slogan “We can do it.” He sets forth Muslim terrorist actions in Europe in punctilious sequence, including those targeting individuals, like the murder of Theo van Gogh and the Charlie Hebdo staff; the attacks against Jews, and the terror aimed at the general public, for example, the Bataclan massacre and the mowing down at random of people celebrating Bastille Day at the Nice beach. He describes the broader challenge to European society posed by Muslims who do not resort to terror, but espouse values wholly at variance with those of their host countries. Most important, he seeks to explain Europe’s “strange” behavior, why Europe is committing suicide with its elites leading a reluctant but passive public over the cliff.

In part, Murray’s explanation does not differ much from that advanced by several of those cited above. In Murray’s words, “The world was coming into Europe at precisely the moment that Europe has lost sight of what it is.” It was a Europe that had lost faith in its beliefs, traditions, its very legitimacy. But Murray is especially good in focusing on the importance of guilt, what he calls Europe’s “unique, abiding, and perhaps fatal sense of and obsession with guilt” in shaping its behavior. While not ignored by others, the role of guilt has not been given the attention it deservedly gets here.

To this reviewer, that the Holocaust should shake Europe’s faith in its civilization is only right and fitting. In the current issue of Commentary Terry Teachout points out how Europe’s great orchestras dutifully fired Jewish members and banned music by Jewish composers even as the music-loving Hitler in 1938 declared “Germany has become the guardian of European culture and civilization.” It can be no surprise if Europeans ask, “How could what Hitler conceived himself as zealously guarding be worth preserving?”

But as Murray sees it, guilt has become a “moral intoxicant” — Europeans have become “high” on it. They cannot fall back on their Christian faith because their “foundational story” was fatally weakened in the nineteenth century by the combination of Biblical higher criticism and Darwinism. The replacement beliefs in multiculturalism (and Murray quotes Samuel Huntington’s apt observation that multiculturalism is essentially an anti-Western ideology), tolerance, diversity, and “human rights” (as those who have seized control of the issue define them) are no substitute for the fervent divinely-grounded convictions of Islam.  

Murray addresses the puzzling question: why there has been so little pushback from Europeans as they have been inundated by millions committed to ideologies anathema to their own? One reason is that the penalties for speaking out are high.  Murray writes that those who have shouted fire over the years have been treated as arsonists. They have been “ignored, defamed, prosecuted or killed.” The media has been swift to silence those among them who dared to so much as raise the issue. Murray cites the fate of Erik Mansson, editor-in-chief of the Swedish paper Expressen, who as far back as 1993 published the results of an opinion poll showing 63% of Swedes wanted immigrants to return to their countries of origin. Noting the difference between those in power and public opinion, Mansson said he thought the subject should be discussed. The only result was that the paper’s owners promptly fired Mansson.

Being fired is the least of it. Those who are deemed to have “blasphemed” against Islam, whether cartoonists or filmmakers or forthright politicians, are hunted down by Islamists. All the government does in response is put them in hiding, provide guards or force them out of the country. The last is what the government of Holland did to Ayaan Hirsi Ali by taking away her citizenship. As far as government elites are concerned these people are not heroic champions of free speech but nuisances who have brought their troubles on themselves. Indeed the government is likely to join in the persecution, as Tommy Robinson of the English Defense League discovered in Britain and Geert Wilders in Holland, where he has twice been prosecuted by the state for “inciting discrimination and hatred.”

And the Holocaust again intrudes. When movements or political parties form to challenge the establishment parties on immigration, they are promptly labeled “racist” and “anti-Semitic” by the media and as a result neo-Nazis flock to them, making them off-limits to decent people. Murray points out that Geert Wilders is the only member of his party for precisely this reason. He fears that if he makes it a membership party skinheads will join and although he forfeits state funding (which depends on party size), he sees it as a necessary price to prevent neo-Nazis from possibly ruining the party.

The leadership of a few EU countries (all of them in Eastern Europe) have dared to confront the majority on Muslim immigration. Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and now, the Czech Republic, have all refused to take in what the EU has determined is their “quota” of immigrants. The most articulate member of the dissidents, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, has been defiant and blunt, saying the immigrant wave masquerades as a humanitarian cause but its true nature is occupation of territory. And he reminds the EU (although Murray surprisingly does not mention this) that Hungary was dominated by Islam for 150 years — and knows far better than Western elites what it is like to live with Muslim communities. The response of EU leaders is to treat Orban as a moral pariah and to punish the rebellious countries financially in the hope of forcing them to back down.

Murray is not optimistic about the future. He offers reforms — for example, finding ways to settle would-be migrants closer to their home countries, processing asylum requests abroad, evicting those whose claims to asylum have been rejected (most remain after they have been ordered to leave), ceasing and desisting the automatic demonization as “racists” of any party that raises objections to existing policy, among others.

But Murray sees scant chance of the reforms he suggests being enacted. Instead he sees the gap between political leaders and public opinion becoming more explosive. Murray reports on a survey of public opinion in 10 European countries released by the British think tank Chatham House in February 2017. In eight out of the ten (including Germany) a majority agreed with the statement “All further migration from Muslim countries should be stopped.” In Britain, one of the two where the majority disagreed, “only” 47% were in favor of halting all Muslim immigration. Ignoring public opinion as morally deficient, the governing elite go on its merry way. Murray offers a telling anecdote from the small city of Kassel in the state of Hesse. Eight hundred immigrants were due to be deposited on Kassel and residents organized a meeting to ask questions of their politicians. A video of the meeting shows calm, polite but concerned citizens. At one point, the district president Walter Lubcke tells them that anyone who does not agree with the policy “is free to leave Germany.” Like those assembled who gasp and then hoot in anger, Murray is astounded: “A whole new population is being brought into their country and they are told to leave if they don’t like it?”

Thus far politicians have been able to beat back all challenges to their policies by tarring political parties that rise to oppose them as “racist,” “neo-Nazi,” or fascist.  Murray fears precisely because of this success in marginalizing even those parties that seek to bar extremist elements, when the reaction finally comes it will be ugly. His last words: “Prisoners of the past and of the present, for Europeans there seem finally to be no decent answers to the future. Which is how the fatal blow will finally land.”

There are a few omissions in this excellent book. Murray does not sufficiently emphasize the coming together of Islamic elements with the far left, despite the huge differences between them on social issues. It is the radical left that passes out flyers telling failed asylum seekers how to outwit the system. Claiming the moral high ground, it is the radical left that organizes the boats that hug the Libyan shore, so that traffickers don’t even have to bother filling gas tanks on the miserable receptacles loaded with humanity they push out to sea. Murray refers to the way elites ignore the deep-seated anti-Semitism of the Muslim arrivals, even as they are quick to discredit anti-immigration parties with automatic charges of anti-Semitism. But Murray fails to point out the huge irony: largely on the basis of a sense of guilt for the Holocaust, Europe’s elites are embracing a population which in short order will make it impossible for the Jewish communities of Europe, rebuilt since the Holocaust, to remain there.

Lamenting the vacuum left by the retreat of Christianity, Murray writes that it is unlikely anyone is going to be able to invent an entirely new set of beliefs. He overlooks completely the movement that has provided a substitute set of beliefs to a significant part of the European public. That movement is environmentalism, a resurgence of paganism (with the earth as mother goddess) which has the great advantage of being antagonistic to Western culture — for its sin of despoiling the earth. The global warming apocalypse is the most recent environmental dogma. Professor emeritus of atmospheric sciences at MIT Richard Lindzen, who unlike most of those who hold forth on the climate, is an expert on the subject, compares the pseudoscience of global warming to Lysenkoism.  Lindzen writes: “A surprisingly large number of people seem to have concluded that all that gives meaning to their lives is the belief that they are saving the planet by paying attention to their carbon footprint.” 

Europe hangs in the balance. For all the chatter about terror by politicians and media (with caveats that this has nothing to do with the religion of peace, of course), the seismic changes, including the population replacement by proponents of a sharply different culture, are all but ignored. Murray’s clear and humane exposition of the seismic changes and the abject failure of political elites to face up to them gives those not willfully blind an opportunity to see.

With the publication of The Strange Death of Europe, Douglas Murray has made a significant contribution to a crucially important, if still niche genre: the Islamization of Europe. A small number of writers (given the huge impact of this development) have focused on the issue: Bat Yeor, Oriana Fallaci, Mark Steyn, Christopher Caldwell, Bruce Bawer, Soeren Kern, Giulio Meotti, Guy Milliere, Ingrid Carlqvist. This small band is all that confronts the blatant and pervasive coverup by politicians and mainstream media.

Murray’s contribution takes several forms. He brings the story of Europe’s civilizational suicide up to date. He provides a chronological tale of the debacle from the post-World War II importation of what were imagined at the time to be temporary workers from Muslim countries needed to fill labor shortages to the disastrous decision by Angela Merkel in August 2015 to throw open Germany’s borders  without limits, with the slogan “We can do it.” He sets forth Muslim terrorist actions in Europe in punctilious sequence, including those targeting individuals, like the murder of Theo van Gogh and the Charlie Hebdo staff; the attacks against Jews, and the terror aimed at the general public, for example, the Bataclan massacre and the mowing down at random of people celebrating Bastille Day at the Nice beach. He describes the broader challenge to European society posed by Muslims who do not resort to terror, but espouse values wholly at variance with those of their host countries. Most important, he seeks to explain Europe’s “strange” behavior, why Europe is committing suicide with its elites leading a reluctant but passive public over the cliff.

In part, Murray’s explanation does not differ much from that advanced by several of those cited above. In Murray’s words, “The world was coming into Europe at precisely the moment that Europe has lost sight of what it is.” It was a Europe that had lost faith in its beliefs, traditions, its very legitimacy. But Murray is especially good in focusing on the importance of guilt, what he calls Europe’s “unique, abiding, and perhaps fatal sense of and obsession with guilt” in shaping its behavior. While not ignored by others, the role of guilt has not been given the attention it deservedly gets here.

To this reviewer, that the Holocaust should shake Europe’s faith in its civilization is only right and fitting. In the current issue of Commentary Terry Teachout points out how Europe’s great orchestras dutifully fired Jewish members and banned music by Jewish composers even as the music-loving Hitler in 1938 declared “Germany has become the guardian of European culture and civilization.” It can be no surprise if Europeans ask, “How could what Hitler conceived himself as zealously guarding be worth preserving?”

But as Murray sees it, guilt has become a “moral intoxicant” — Europeans have become “high” on it. They cannot fall back on their Christian faith because their “foundational story” was fatally weakened in the nineteenth century by the combination of Biblical higher criticism and Darwinism. The replacement beliefs in multiculturalism (and Murray quotes Samuel Huntington’s apt observation that multiculturalism is essentially an anti-Western ideology), tolerance, diversity, and “human rights” (as those who have seized control of the issue define them) are no substitute for the fervent divinely-grounded convictions of Islam.  

Murray addresses the puzzling question: why there has been so little pushback from Europeans as they have been inundated by millions committed to ideologies anathema to their own? One reason is that the penalties for speaking out are high.  Murray writes that those who have shouted fire over the years have been treated as arsonists. They have been “ignored, defamed, prosecuted or killed.” The media has been swift to silence those among them who dared to so much as raise the issue. Murray cites the fate of Erik Mansson, editor-in-chief of the Swedish paper Expressen, who as far back as 1993 published the results of an opinion poll showing 63% of Swedes wanted immigrants to return to their countries of origin. Noting the difference between those in power and public opinion, Mansson said he thought the subject should be discussed. The only result was that the paper’s owners promptly fired Mansson.

Being fired is the least of it. Those who are deemed to have “blasphemed” against Islam, whether cartoonists or filmmakers or forthright politicians, are hunted down by Islamists. All the government does in response is put them in hiding, provide guards or force them out of the country. The last is what the government of Holland did to Ayaan Hirsi Ali by taking away her citizenship. As far as government elites are concerned these people are not heroic champions of free speech but nuisances who have brought their troubles on themselves. Indeed the government is likely to join in the persecution, as Tommy Robinson of the English Defense League discovered in Britain and Geert Wilders in Holland, where he has twice been prosecuted by the state for “inciting discrimination and hatred.”

And the Holocaust again intrudes. When movements or political parties form to challenge the establishment parties on immigration, they are promptly labeled “racist” and “anti-Semitic” by the media and as a result neo-Nazis flock to them, making them off-limits to decent people. Murray points out that Geert Wilders is the only member of his party for precisely this reason. He fears that if he makes it a membership party skinheads will join and although he forfeits state funding (which depends on party size), he sees it as a necessary price to prevent neo-Nazis from possibly ruining the party.

The leadership of a few EU countries (all of them in Eastern Europe) have dared to confront the majority on Muslim immigration. Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and now, the Czech Republic, have all refused to take in what the EU has determined is their “quota” of immigrants. The most articulate member of the dissidents, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, has been defiant and blunt, saying the immigrant wave masquerades as a humanitarian cause but its true nature is occupation of territory. And he reminds the EU (although Murray surprisingly does not mention this) that Hungary was dominated by Islam for 150 years — and knows far better than Western elites what it is like to live with Muslim communities. The response of EU leaders is to treat Orban as a moral pariah and to punish the rebellious countries financially in the hope of forcing them to back down.

Murray is not optimistic about the future. He offers reforms — for example, finding ways to settle would-be migrants closer to their home countries, processing asylum requests abroad, evicting those whose claims to asylum have been rejected (most remain after they have been ordered to leave), ceasing and desisting the automatic demonization as “racists” of any party that raises objections to existing policy, among others.

But Murray sees scant chance of the reforms he suggests being enacted. Instead he sees the gap between political leaders and public opinion becoming more explosive. Murray reports on a survey of public opinion in 10 European countries released by the British think tank Chatham House in February 2017. In eight out of the ten (including Germany) a majority agreed with the statement “All further migration from Muslim countries should be stopped.” In Britain, one of the two where the majority disagreed, “only” 47% were in favor of halting all Muslim immigration. Ignoring public opinion as morally deficient, the governing elite go on its merry way. Murray offers a telling anecdote from the small city of Kassel in the state of Hesse. Eight hundred immigrants were due to be deposited on Kassel and residents organized a meeting to ask questions of their politicians. A video of the meeting shows calm, polite but concerned citizens. At one point, the district president Walter Lubcke tells them that anyone who does not agree with the policy “is free to leave Germany.” Like those assembled who gasp and then hoot in anger, Murray is astounded: “A whole new population is being brought into their country and they are told to leave if they don’t like it?”

Thus far politicians have been able to beat back all challenges to their policies by tarring political parties that rise to oppose them as “racist,” “neo-Nazi,” or fascist.  Murray fears precisely because of this success in marginalizing even those parties that seek to bar extremist elements, when the reaction finally comes it will be ugly. His last words: “Prisoners of the past and of the present, for Europeans there seem finally to be no decent answers to the future. Which is how the fatal blow will finally land.”

There are a few omissions in this excellent book. Murray does not sufficiently emphasize the coming together of Islamic elements with the far left, despite the huge differences between them on social issues. It is the radical left that passes out flyers telling failed asylum seekers how to outwit the system. Claiming the moral high ground, it is the radical left that organizes the boats that hug the Libyan shore, so that traffickers don’t even have to bother filling gas tanks on the miserable receptacles loaded with humanity they push out to sea. Murray refers to the way elites ignore the deep-seated anti-Semitism of the Muslim arrivals, even as they are quick to discredit anti-immigration parties with automatic charges of anti-Semitism. But Murray fails to point out the huge irony: largely on the basis of a sense of guilt for the Holocaust, Europe’s elites are embracing a population which in short order will make it impossible for the Jewish communities of Europe, rebuilt since the Holocaust, to remain there.

Lamenting the vacuum left by the retreat of Christianity, Murray writes that it is unlikely anyone is going to be able to invent an entirely new set of beliefs. He overlooks completely the movement that has provided a substitute set of beliefs to a significant part of the European public. That movement is environmentalism, a resurgence of paganism (with the earth as mother goddess) which has the great advantage of being antagonistic to Western culture — for its sin of despoiling the earth. The global warming apocalypse is the most recent environmental dogma. Professor emeritus of atmospheric sciences at MIT Richard Lindzen, who unlike most of those who hold forth on the climate, is an expert on the subject, compares the pseudoscience of global warming to Lysenkoism.  Lindzen writes: “A surprisingly large number of people seem to have concluded that all that gives meaning to their lives is the belief that they are saving the planet by paying attention to their carbon footprint.” 

Europe hangs in the balance. For all the chatter about terror by politicians and media (with caveats that this has nothing to do with the religion of peace, of course), the seismic changes, including the population replacement by proponents of a sharply different culture, are all but ignored. Murray’s clear and humane exposition of the seismic changes and the abject failure of political elites to face up to them gives those not willfully blind an opportunity to see.



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Two Netanyahus Meet Two Trumps


One of the most widely accepted misconceptions concerning the Arab-Israel conflict (a subject awash in misconceptions) is that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a “hard-core right-winger.” There is nothing in his behavior as prime minister from his first years in that office (1997-99) or in his more recent period in that office, beginning in 2009, to support this belief. On the contrary, like his predecessors, he has made repeated dramatic territorial and other concessions, including acceptance of the so-called “two-state solution.”

In Jan. 1997, still in the first year of his first term, he signed the Hebron Protocol with the Palestine Authority, turning over most of Hebron, after Jerusalem the most important city in Jewish history, to the PA. Netanyahu did so little to change Labor’s disastrous post-Oslo policy that erstwhile supporter Benny Begin (Menachem’s son) derided him at a Likud Party meeting in March of that year. “Arafat releases terrorists and so does Israel. Arafat smuggles in weapons and we give him assault rifles to round off his stores… We have government offices in Jerusalem [supposedly the unified capital of Israel] and so do they.” The following year, under President Clinton’s prodding, Netanyahu signed the Wye River Memorandum in which he promised to turn over 40% of Judea and Samaria to Arafat, a safe corridor between these areas and Gaza, even an airport in Gaza. It’s true Wye was not implemented, but that’s only because (predictably) Arafat promptly reneged on his commitments under the agreement.

That same year, Netanyahu embarked on secret negotiations with Syria in which he offered to return the Golan Heights. Was Netanyahu prepared to go back to the 1967 border (which Clinton and Dennis Ross assert in their respective memoirs) or did Netanyahu, according to other reports, hold out for several kilometers beyond the international border line? Although Assad backed out, according to widespread reports in the Israeli press, in 2010 Netanyahu tried again, this time with Bashar Assad, offering to return to the June 4, 1967 lines. Fortunately, the negotiations collapsed with the onset of the rebellion against the Syrian ruler. (One shudders to think what “success” would have meant for Israel, with Hizb’allah and/or ISIS embedded on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.)

That near miss with disaster has not prevented Netanyahu from continuing to offer major concessions. In the wake of Obama’s Cairo speech, Netanyahu agreed to adopt the “two-state solution” as his government’s policy. Moreover, retired Brigadier General Michael Herzog (brother of Israeli Labor Party head Yitzhak Herzog), who has participated in almost all Israel’s peace negotiations since Oslo in 1993, writes in The American Interest that Netanyahu in the Obama years offered such large withdrawals that he could not admit their scale to the Israeli public or his coalition partners.

And contrary to the widespread perception, fostered by the media, that Netanyahu has peppered the landscape of Judea and Samaria with Jewish settlements, Israel has not built a new settlement in 25 years. The much publicized on and off settlement freezes to which Netanyahu has agreed applied to existing communities, the “freezes” meaning there was no building even to accommodate natural population growth within them.

So what accounts for Netanyahu’s reputation as an unbudging hawk? The reason is that he knows better than he acts, with the result that his rhetoric differs from his policies far more than has been the case with other Israeli leaders. Prime Minister Shimon Peres seems clearly to have believed in the mirage he concocted of a New Middle East. Prime Minister Olmert appears to have genuinely felt the emotions which in 2005 (in a speech to the Israel Policy Forum) he attributed to the people of Israel as a whole: “We are tired to fighting; we are tired of being courageous; we are tired of winning; we are tired of defeating our enemies.”

But Netanyahu sounds very different. He has a long history of realism about the Arab-Israel conflict. As far back as 1978, fifteen years before Oslo, Netanyahu went to what remains the heart of the matter: “The real cause of the conflict is the Arab refusal to accept the state of Israel.” In a January 28, 1985 interview with the New York Post, Netanyahu, then Israel’s UN ambassador, said of Judea and Samaria: “We’re not going to survive if we get out of that territory — we’ll die.” In September 1993, as Oslo was being celebrated by a country dizzy with the hopes for peace Rabin and Peres had promised, Netanyahu addressed Peres in the Knesset: “You are much worse than [British Prime Minister Neville] Chamberlain, because Chamberlain threatened the security and freedom of another nation, while you are threatening the security and freedom of your own.” One could go on and on quoting from Netanyahu’s eloquent speeches, articles, books, and interviews focusing on the delusory premises and devastating consequences of the so-called “peace process.” Obama’s betrayal at the UN, orchestrating Resolution 2334 in the last days of his administration, provoked Netanyahu into a fresh burst of honesty as he declared that the PA had no intention of living beside Israel but was determined to replace it.

The fact that Netanyahu obviously comprehends and is able to articulate Israel’s situation so well — along with his genuine success in pushing through economic reforms that have propelled Israel from socialist basket case to technological powerhouse — have won him considerable wiggle room with those who might normally be expected to sharply criticize his policies. But even his long-time staunch defender Caroline Glick has balked at Netanyahu’s most recent failure of political courage and resolve, arguing that if you refuse to act on your knowledge of the enemy, you will lose your war against him. Glick observes that “it is deeply destructive for Israel to continue paying lip service to the fake peace process. And yet, that is precisely what Prime Minister Netanyahu is doing.” In Glick’s view the advent of Trump, well-disposed toward Israel and the first president in decades not wedded to the delusory two-state solution, offered Netanyahu an opportunity to explain why it could not succeed and an alternative approach was essential — and he had squandered it.

If there are two Netanyahus, complicating matters further, there are also two President Trumps. In striking contrast to Obama, the first Trump, in word and deed, is strongly supportive of Israel. Early on, Trump departed from precedent in stating that he did not think Israeli settlements were a barrier to peace. In the transition period before taking the oath of office, at Netanyahu’s request, Trump sought to derail Obama’s farewell assault on Israel at the UN by persuading Egypt’s al Sisi, who had officially proposed the anti-Israel resolution, to withdraw it. (Obama promptly found other sponsors for his knife in Israel’s back Resolution 2334, so it passed anyway.) Trump promised to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and although he has not fulfilled the promise thus far, he seems to have genuinely wanted to do so.  When Trump met with Netanyahu on February 15 at the White House, he suggested he would not be bound by the past sacrosanct allegiance to the two-state solution: “I’m looking at two state and one state formulations.”

Newly appointed ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley blew such a breath of fresh air into its see-no-evil-but-Israel culture that the New York Sun dubbed her Haley’s Comet. She denounced the obsession with attacking Israel and declared the U.S. would cease any participation in the UN Human Rights Council until it cleaned up its act. The Washington Free Beacon quotes a senior administration official calling the Human Rights Council “morally bankrupt” and saying “We’ve wasted enough time and money on it.”

Trump appointed two strong supporters of Israel (including the much-maligned settlements) to prominent positions, David Friedman as ambassador to Israel and Jason Greenblatt as Special Envoy for International Negotiations. Indeed, Friedman was such a strong supporter that he set off a strong effort among such anti-Israel Jewish groups as J Street to block his appointment in Congress.

However, there are worrisome signs of a second Donald Trump. On Nov. 22, 2016, not long after his election, in an interview with New York Times editors, he said “I would love to be the one who made peace with Israel and the Palestinians. That would be such a great achievement.” He proposed sending his Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner to lay the groundwork. And on Feb. 15, at the White House, after the words quoted above “I’m looking at two state and one state formulations” he added “I’m very happy with the one both parties like.” All this suggests a dangerous ignorance about the nature of the Arab-Israel conflict. There is no conceivable formulation Kushner or anyone else can come up that “both sides like” because Abbas and the PA want to replace Israel, not live in peace beside it.

 Trump’s willingness to live with expanded Israeli building activities in Judea and Samaria seems to be evaporating as well. He sent Greenblatt to Jerusalem to inform Netanyahu that Trump would support construction in Jerusalem but wanted a quota on new building inside major Jewish communities beyond the old Green Line and no new construction in “isolated West Bank settlements.” This would force Netanyahu to renege on his promise to build a new settlement for the evacuees of the now destroyed (thanks to a ruling by Israel’s Supreme Court) community of Amona. According to Daniel Horowitz in Conservative Review, the pressure is so strong Netanyahu has held off on his plans to fully annex Ma’ale Adumim, the largest suburb of Jerusalem.

Trump has also “balanced” his pro-Israel appointments with anti-Israel officials. He has retained Yael Lempert, regarded as one of the most radically anti-Israel individuals in the anti-Israel Obama administration, as the person responsible for Israeli-Palestinian issues on the National Security Council.  He has retained Michael Ratney, former U.S. consul in Jerusalem, to head the Israeli-Palestinian desk at the State Department. Ratney, according to the Times of Israel, oversaw a program “in effect setting up an armed Palestinian militia in the consulate.”  Typifying this “balanced” approach, Trump sent Lempert to accompany Greenblatt in meeting with Abbas and pressuring Israel.

It’s too early to know how the multifaceted collision between the two Netanyahus and two Trumps will turn out. But one thing is certain: no genuine peace lies at the end of the road.

One of the most widely accepted misconceptions concerning the Arab-Israel conflict (a subject awash in misconceptions) is that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a “hard-core right-winger.” There is nothing in his behavior as prime minister from his first years in that office (1997-99) or in his more recent period in that office, beginning in 2009, to support this belief. On the contrary, like his predecessors, he has made repeated dramatic territorial and other concessions, including acceptance of the so-called “two-state solution.”

In Jan. 1997, still in the first year of his first term, he signed the Hebron Protocol with the Palestine Authority, turning over most of Hebron, after Jerusalem the most important city in Jewish history, to the PA. Netanyahu did so little to change Labor’s disastrous post-Oslo policy that erstwhile supporter Benny Begin (Menachem’s son) derided him at a Likud Party meeting in March of that year. “Arafat releases terrorists and so does Israel. Arafat smuggles in weapons and we give him assault rifles to round off his stores… We have government offices in Jerusalem [supposedly the unified capital of Israel] and so do they.” The following year, under President Clinton’s prodding, Netanyahu signed the Wye River Memorandum in which he promised to turn over 40% of Judea and Samaria to Arafat, a safe corridor between these areas and Gaza, even an airport in Gaza. It’s true Wye was not implemented, but that’s only because (predictably) Arafat promptly reneged on his commitments under the agreement.

That same year, Netanyahu embarked on secret negotiations with Syria in which he offered to return the Golan Heights. Was Netanyahu prepared to go back to the 1967 border (which Clinton and Dennis Ross assert in their respective memoirs) or did Netanyahu, according to other reports, hold out for several kilometers beyond the international border line? Although Assad backed out, according to widespread reports in the Israeli press, in 2010 Netanyahu tried again, this time with Bashar Assad, offering to return to the June 4, 1967 lines. Fortunately, the negotiations collapsed with the onset of the rebellion against the Syrian ruler. (One shudders to think what “success” would have meant for Israel, with Hizb’allah and/or ISIS embedded on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.)

That near miss with disaster has not prevented Netanyahu from continuing to offer major concessions. In the wake of Obama’s Cairo speech, Netanyahu agreed to adopt the “two-state solution” as his government’s policy. Moreover, retired Brigadier General Michael Herzog (brother of Israeli Labor Party head Yitzhak Herzog), who has participated in almost all Israel’s peace negotiations since Oslo in 1993, writes in The American Interest that Netanyahu in the Obama years offered such large withdrawals that he could not admit their scale to the Israeli public or his coalition partners.

And contrary to the widespread perception, fostered by the media, that Netanyahu has peppered the landscape of Judea and Samaria with Jewish settlements, Israel has not built a new settlement in 25 years. The much publicized on and off settlement freezes to which Netanyahu has agreed applied to existing communities, the “freezes” meaning there was no building even to accommodate natural population growth within them.

So what accounts for Netanyahu’s reputation as an unbudging hawk? The reason is that he knows better than he acts, with the result that his rhetoric differs from his policies far more than has been the case with other Israeli leaders. Prime Minister Shimon Peres seems clearly to have believed in the mirage he concocted of a New Middle East. Prime Minister Olmert appears to have genuinely felt the emotions which in 2005 (in a speech to the Israel Policy Forum) he attributed to the people of Israel as a whole: “We are tired to fighting; we are tired of being courageous; we are tired of winning; we are tired of defeating our enemies.”

But Netanyahu sounds very different. He has a long history of realism about the Arab-Israel conflict. As far back as 1978, fifteen years before Oslo, Netanyahu went to what remains the heart of the matter: “The real cause of the conflict is the Arab refusal to accept the state of Israel.” In a January 28, 1985 interview with the New York Post, Netanyahu, then Israel’s UN ambassador, said of Judea and Samaria: “We’re not going to survive if we get out of that territory — we’ll die.” In September 1993, as Oslo was being celebrated by a country dizzy with the hopes for peace Rabin and Peres had promised, Netanyahu addressed Peres in the Knesset: “You are much worse than [British Prime Minister Neville] Chamberlain, because Chamberlain threatened the security and freedom of another nation, while you are threatening the security and freedom of your own.” One could go on and on quoting from Netanyahu’s eloquent speeches, articles, books, and interviews focusing on the delusory premises and devastating consequences of the so-called “peace process.” Obama’s betrayal at the UN, orchestrating Resolution 2334 in the last days of his administration, provoked Netanyahu into a fresh burst of honesty as he declared that the PA had no intention of living beside Israel but was determined to replace it.

The fact that Netanyahu obviously comprehends and is able to articulate Israel’s situation so well — along with his genuine success in pushing through economic reforms that have propelled Israel from socialist basket case to technological powerhouse — have won him considerable wiggle room with those who might normally be expected to sharply criticize his policies. But even his long-time staunch defender Caroline Glick has balked at Netanyahu’s most recent failure of political courage and resolve, arguing that if you refuse to act on your knowledge of the enemy, you will lose your war against him. Glick observes that “it is deeply destructive for Israel to continue paying lip service to the fake peace process. And yet, that is precisely what Prime Minister Netanyahu is doing.” In Glick’s view the advent of Trump, well-disposed toward Israel and the first president in decades not wedded to the delusory two-state solution, offered Netanyahu an opportunity to explain why it could not succeed and an alternative approach was essential — and he had squandered it.

If there are two Netanyahus, complicating matters further, there are also two President Trumps. In striking contrast to Obama, the first Trump, in word and deed, is strongly supportive of Israel. Early on, Trump departed from precedent in stating that he did not think Israeli settlements were a barrier to peace. In the transition period before taking the oath of office, at Netanyahu’s request, Trump sought to derail Obama’s farewell assault on Israel at the UN by persuading Egypt’s al Sisi, who had officially proposed the anti-Israel resolution, to withdraw it. (Obama promptly found other sponsors for his knife in Israel’s back Resolution 2334, so it passed anyway.) Trump promised to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and although he has not fulfilled the promise thus far, he seems to have genuinely wanted to do so.  When Trump met with Netanyahu on February 15 at the White House, he suggested he would not be bound by the past sacrosanct allegiance to the two-state solution: “I’m looking at two state and one state formulations.”

Newly appointed ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley blew such a breath of fresh air into its see-no-evil-but-Israel culture that the New York Sun dubbed her Haley’s Comet. She denounced the obsession with attacking Israel and declared the U.S. would cease any participation in the UN Human Rights Council until it cleaned up its act. The Washington Free Beacon quotes a senior administration official calling the Human Rights Council “morally bankrupt” and saying “We’ve wasted enough time and money on it.”

Trump appointed two strong supporters of Israel (including the much-maligned settlements) to prominent positions, David Friedman as ambassador to Israel and Jason Greenblatt as Special Envoy for International Negotiations. Indeed, Friedman was such a strong supporter that he set off a strong effort among such anti-Israel Jewish groups as J Street to block his appointment in Congress.

However, there are worrisome signs of a second Donald Trump. On Nov. 22, 2016, not long after his election, in an interview with New York Times editors, he said “I would love to be the one who made peace with Israel and the Palestinians. That would be such a great achievement.” He proposed sending his Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner to lay the groundwork. And on Feb. 15, at the White House, after the words quoted above “I’m looking at two state and one state formulations” he added “I’m very happy with the one both parties like.” All this suggests a dangerous ignorance about the nature of the Arab-Israel conflict. There is no conceivable formulation Kushner or anyone else can come up that “both sides like” because Abbas and the PA want to replace Israel, not live in peace beside it.

 Trump’s willingness to live with expanded Israeli building activities in Judea and Samaria seems to be evaporating as well. He sent Greenblatt to Jerusalem to inform Netanyahu that Trump would support construction in Jerusalem but wanted a quota on new building inside major Jewish communities beyond the old Green Line and no new construction in “isolated West Bank settlements.” This would force Netanyahu to renege on his promise to build a new settlement for the evacuees of the now destroyed (thanks to a ruling by Israel’s Supreme Court) community of Amona. According to Daniel Horowitz in Conservative Review, the pressure is so strong Netanyahu has held off on his plans to fully annex Ma’ale Adumim, the largest suburb of Jerusalem.

Trump has also “balanced” his pro-Israel appointments with anti-Israel officials. He has retained Yael Lempert, regarded as one of the most radically anti-Israel individuals in the anti-Israel Obama administration, as the person responsible for Israeli-Palestinian issues on the National Security Council.  He has retained Michael Ratney, former U.S. consul in Jerusalem, to head the Israeli-Palestinian desk at the State Department. Ratney, according to the Times of Israel, oversaw a program “in effect setting up an armed Palestinian militia in the consulate.”  Typifying this “balanced” approach, Trump sent Lempert to accompany Greenblatt in meeting with Abbas and pressuring Israel.

It’s too early to know how the multifaceted collision between the two Netanyahus and two Trumps will turn out. But one thing is certain: no genuine peace lies at the end of the road.



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