Posted by on March 30, 2011 in Blog

Jonathan Tobin of Commentary must’ve not known quite what he was getting himself into when he picked an arbitrary fight with Hussein Ibish a few days ago, over Ibish’s recent article in Foreign Policy. Tobin accused Ibish of being among those who “can never resist blaming the Jews for anything that happens in the world” for allegedly seeking to “blame Israel for the potential failure of the Arab Spring." Despite Ibish’s sharp and cogent response to Tobin’s mischaracterization of his views and the misplaced employment of the anti-Semitism charge, Tobin doubled down on his attack on Ibish, prompting yet another devastating response.

While Tobin’s apparent interest in deepening his embarrassment by dragging this out could be a source of entertainment for many, what really caught my attention in this exchange was something far more absurd and less personal, namely Tobin’s outrage with Ibish for “ignoring Netanyahu’s peace moves and the Palestinians’ refusal to talk” when, according to him, Israelis know that “neither the moderates” nor the extremists in Palestine want peace. This level of delusion would be humorous were it not proliferated so effectively by shameless propagandists.

It is well-understood by any informed observer that a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been on the table since the late 1980s. The peace process of the 1990s was driven by the vision that Israel would gradually withdraw from the occupied territories (22% of the land) to facilitate the creation of a Palestinian state. That peace process failed for a very clear reason: when Israel was supposed to be withdrawing, it was actually doing the exact opposite, expanding illegal settlements throughout the occupied territories, demolishing Palestinian homes, and driving Palestinians out of areas that Israel wanted to illegally annex. The number of illegal settlers on Palestinian lands doubled throughout the peace process. This systematic undermining of the creation of a viable Palestinian state in the occupied Palestinian territories is what’s behind the failure of the peace process.

When President Obama came to office, he firmly demanded that Israel fully stop the building of illegal settlements on Palestinian lands so the peace process could be restarted (to put this in laymen terms, he was only asking Israel to temporarily stop stealing more Palestinian land to give the parties the opportunity to sit down and talk). Despite Israel's refusal to secure a full freeze (only a partial slowdown), the Palestinians agreed to negotiate anyway. Israel was not at all forthcoming during the negotiations, but the Obama administration, eager to save the peace process, urged Israel to extend its partial freeze, yet Netanyahu refused. Obama then offered unprecedented incentives (additional military aid, fighter jets, political and diplomatic protection guarantees…etc.) in return for just a 90 extension in the partial freeze (never had so much been offered in return for so minimal a curtailment of one's theft), but Israel still refused. As the common metaphor captures the situation quite accurately, the Palestinians were expected to sit, watch, and "negotiate" the division of a pizza while Israel was grabbing hold of the pizza box, actively eating away and leaving nothing but the crusts.

Faced with Israeli intransigence and acceleration in settlement expansion, the Palestinians were left with no option but to withdraw from these failing peace talks. The recent leaking of the “Palestine Papers” by Al-Jazeera conclusively demonstrated, to anyone who may have still been in doubt, that the Palestinian negotiators were bending over backwards in the hopes of achieving a sensible agreement with Israel. That people like Tobin still have the audacity, after all of this evidence, to claim that Netanyahu was making “peace moves” which were met with Palestinian rejectionism is truly remarkable. It makes Muammar Gaddafi’s claim to sanity, Glenn Beck's claim to intelligence or Charlie Sheen’s claim to tiger blood all seem not so odd after all.

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