The New York Times Revises the Peace Process

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Not only is Avishai not the first journalist to reveal details about Olmert’s September 2008 offer to Abbas, he isn’t even the second or third. The first to report was Newsweek‘s Kevin Paraino, in June 2009. According to Paraino, Olmert told him about the map he had presented to Abbas the previous September, plus the offer to divide Jerusalem. Abbas, wrote Paraino, “studied the materials and began to formulate a response. . . . But time eventually ran out.”

Two months later, I published a separate account in City Journal of the Olmert-Abbas talks, based on an interview I conducted with Olmert in which he told me, too, about the September 16, 2008 meeting and about the map he had presented to Abbas, adding that Abbas had taken the map away with him (a detail missing from Avishai’s story) and then broken the promise he had made to return the following day for further discussions. A call did come from Abbas’s office saying that the PA president had forgotten an appointment in Amman with the Jordanian king but would return for more talks in the next days. According to Olmert, that was the last he ever heard from Abbas.

The third journalist to report on the Olmert-Abbas meeting was Aluf Benn, a respected reporter with the Hebrew daily Haaretz. In a story filed on December 17, 2009—and headlined as an “exclusive”—Benn provided all the details of Olmert’s September 2008 offer to Abbas. The newspaper also published the Olmert map detailing the proposed land swaps between Israel and the prospective Palestinian state.

Thus, contrary to the Times‘ assertion that Olmert has revealed exclusive new information to Avishai, it is abundantly clear that the former Israeli prime minister, widely despised at home and desperate to remain relevant, started blabbing about his negotiations with Abbas over a year and a half ago to anybody who would listen.

So much for what isn’t new. More egregious is what isn’t true. Among the many items to pick from here, the most significant concerns Avishai’s effort to create a plausible cover story absolving Abbas of responsibility for walking away from yet another ostensibly golden opportunity to win a Palestinian state—just as Yasir Arafat, Abbas’s predecessor, walked away from Bill Clinton’s offer of a state at the 2000 Camp David talks, and at a similar moment when the two sides were supposedly within an inch of an agreement. Without any qualification, Avishai simply accepts at face value Abbas’s transparently self-serving claim that the reasons the negotiation with Olmert didn’t continue after September 2008 were the start of the Gaza war and his good friend Olmert’s preoccupation with his legal troubles. In other words, it was Israel’s fault.

This is pure hokum. A war with Gaza wasn’t on the Israeli government’s horizon for more than three months after the final Olmert-Abbas meeting. Moreover, Olmert’s pending legal problems would have made the prime minister more, rather than less, eager to bolster his reputation by laying the foundations of a peace agreement with the Palestinians. In actuality, there is only one plausible reason for Abbas’s failure to return to discuss the issue of borders. It is that the PA president could not and cannot ever allow himself to announce to the Palestinian refugees and their myriad descendants that their 60-year-old dream of returning to their homes in Israel is over.

It must be added that, in whitewashing Abbas’s irresponsibility in walking away from Olmert’s unprecedented and quite breathtaking offers, Avishai has an accomplice. That is Ehud Olmert himself, who has now completely changed his version of the events being described.  Avishai quotes Olmert as saying “We were very close, more than ever in the past, to complete an agreement on principles that would have led to the end of the conflict between us and the Palestinians.”

“We” were very close? For whatever reasons that now suit Olmert’s personal purposes, this is completely contrary to his statement to me in 2009 that he was dismayed by Abbas’s decision to break off negotiations and go silent—an obvious sign that Abbas was nowhere near close to a deal, let alone very close. Nor, I suspect, did Olmert say anything about being close to an agreement in his interviews with Newsweek and Haaretz. If he had, surely those publications would have found it newsworthy to print an Israeli prime minister’s confirmation of his Palestinian counterpart’s commitment to peace.

Now the Times has made up for the lack by letting Abbas lay the blame on Israel’s present government, thus tacitly endorsing the paper’s own spin on the peace process. It is often said that truth is the first casualty of war. Delusions of “peace,” it seems, can have a similarly debilitating effect on political leaders, the journalists who write about them, and the editors of influential newspapers.

Sol Stern is a contributing editor of City Journal, published by the Manhattan Institute.

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  • ajnn

    Why are we surprised ?

    The New York Times has proven itself consistently anti-israel and anti-US. Why should any bit of nonsense proceeding from that source consistent with that bias be surprising ?

  • suprkufrB

    I'm surprised that NYT has survived this long. I expected that the development of Saran Wrap would have made redundant its only use – wrapping fish.

  • jacob

    I guess the reason for the survival of this used roll of toilet paper the NYTimes,
    are the mostly Jewish subscribers and the rest of New York morons to whom
    it is their Bible…

    I fthere is a publication worth boycotting, is none other than this and it is truly
    strange it hasn't happened yet …

    Isn't possible that SOROS black hand has something to do with its survival ??

    I wonder

  • sflbib

    This is not a "peace process" — it is a peace process in reverse, aka, appeasement, which has a 2,000 year history of failure, the most notorious of which was in 1938.

    "Since the 1960’s, liberal social science has made an academic industry of researching, publishing, teaching, and generally spreading the gospel of “peace studies” (AKA “conflict resolution,” which we will argue here is a euphemism for “appeasement”). The success of peace studies-conflict resolution-appeasement is predicated upon the premise that irreconcilable differences can somehow be reconciled by talking about or by just ignoring the issue in contention.

    "For the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process to have worked, or to work in the future, one of Islam’s fundamental tenets expressed as binding law – that once a territory like the current State of Israel has been incorporated into dar-al Islam (under the sway of Shari’a and the rule of Islamic law), it can never again be otherwise – must be swept from the minds and hearts of the Muslim world forever. For peace to blossom in the Middle East while there remains a single Jew (or Christian for that matter) living as an equal in a sovereign non-Muslim political society, would require the Muslim world to reject its ideological constitution which demands that the Islamic world will not merely oppose unbelievers (kuffār) living on holy Islamic soil, or what was previously dar-al Islam, but will not cease the jihad until these infidels are converted, subjugated, or murdered."

  • mike

    The new danger is is the new narrative being spun. The "reason" for the current upheaval in the arab world is that Israel squandered the peace. As though it was up to Israel to turn it's peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan into democratizing forces in those FOREIGN countries. Israel is no longer responsible only for the plight of the Palestinians but is now the reason that democracy and freedom never flourished in the modern muslim world.

    • USMCSniper

      Your post is psychobabble put into print. Egypt and Jordan are soverign nations. As for Israel even attempting a democratizing in the Muslim world – it would be the equivalent of me holding lectures in a Amazon headhunters village on coherent solutions to the gamma functions in advanced string theory and expecting some understanding.

  • muchiboy

    "“right of return” to Israel of the 1948 refugees and their descendants—although Olmert offered to admit 5,000 refugees over five years on “humanitarian” grounds."

    5,000 refugees.Over five years.As a Jew,I would be shamed beyond words.As one with a Palestinian grandfather,I am angry.As a human,I am disgusted.muchiboy

    • MixMChess

      The Palestinians should be thankful that Israel even takes in 1 so-called "refugee." Especially considering that the vast majority of the so-called "Palestinians" originated from surrounding Arab countries (Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan). Arabs already occupy over 80% of the Jewish National Homeland.

      As a Palestinian, I would be ashamed of the atrocities I have committed against the Jews.

      As a I Jew, I would be appalled that the Arabs continue to nickel and dime the Jews after stealing so much from them.

      As a human I am disgusted at Palestinian belligerence.

    • USMCSniper

      Muchiboy, you twit, Olmert is long gone and irrelavent – thanks be to God – and as for the Palestinians, the Palestinians are proxy terrorists who strap munitions on their own women and children and send them out on homicide-suicide missions to murder other innocent Jewish women and children in markets, restuarants, on school buses, and in their homes. The Palestinians in their own words and by their actions are committed to the genocide of the Jewish people therefore, have foreited their rights to even exist. So, Kill 'em all, put 'em all in piles and burn 'em, and let Allah sort 'em out!”

  • artcohn

    The “Peace Process” has no possibility of resulting in peace because the objectives of both sides are incompatible. Israel wants real peace with security, and to remain as a Jewish State, with no further demands. The PA wants concessions from Israel that will weaken it and bring closer the PA’s long range goal of the dissolution of Israel..

  • muchiboy

    "So, Kill 'em all, put 'em all in piles and burn 'em, and let Allah sort 'em out!”

    The Jewish people,God Bless them,show the interesting contrast that is humanity.We know all too well the horrors they lived in the Nazi death camps.As a people they survived,owed no little to their own resilience and a world awakened to the awful inhumanity of antisemitism and genocide.In spite of this,Jews went on to found their own Jewish state,albeit at the expense of another vulnerable people,and thrive.Even more amazing,hatred of the the German people did not consume the Jewish people.
    Despite the horrors that peoples endure at the hands of his fellow man,we have the capacity to forgive ,even live beside, our once tormentors, e.g.Rwandans.There is no reason to believe that the Palestinian Arabs and Jews lack this capacity.Despite what you believe and express,the two peoples are closer then you like or think.
    I suspect some Death Camp guards had similar cruel sentiments regarding letting their God sort things out after they marched your own people into the gas chambers and burnt them in the crematorium,USMCSniper.muchiboy

    • MixMChess

      "In spite of this,Jews went on to found their own Jewish state,albeit at the expense of another vulnerable people,and thrive."

      Yawn… another lie by muchiboy. Israel was not created at the expense of the Palestinians. Israel was all ready on its way to being established on the LEGALLY purchased Jewish majority areas of the region. Of course, the xenophobic Arabs refused to have a Jewish state in their midst (even on legally purchased and vacant land) and they attacked the new state.

      In fact, Jordan, Gaza and the W. Bank were created at the expense of the Jewish people. Arabs illegally possess over 85% of the Jewish National Homeland.

  • 1000roses

    All who wish to reproduce my comment on mailing lists, repost on other blogs, or send to congress, senators and state representatives, or use for lobbying are welcome to do so. Let justice be served:

    The only solution for a lasting piece is absolute democratic process (that we Americans cherish so passionately) for the entire territory in question, otherwise, the peace will not last. All people who lived there without regard to religion, race, etc. should vote on how they would like their one country to be run. I favor one state solution because two states would only attempt to “legalize” Zionist occupation that will be remembered in history until it is corrected by future large scale conflicts, so no lasting peace will result.
    The only issue with the fair democratic process is what to do with all manipulated Jewish people who the Zionist regime imported for decades to increase the Jewish population from around 100,000 to over 5 Million since the start of the occupation. This is obviously an attempt to unjustly manipulate any future democratic process by forcefully increasing the occupier’s population at the expense of others. Any compromise other than the absolute fair democratic process with no manipulated population will be temporary with terrible conflicts looming to correct it in the future.
    The truth is that the Zionist regime will not accept any democratic process even if the manipulated Jewish population is included because it cannot exist as a democratic country as Zionists will be outvoted by all others who live there (Zionists were in an infinite minority before the occupation). The Zionist regime can only temporarily exist through the force of its arms as a one people country where only select ones can vote and where different laws apply to different people.
    The world must stand up against the Zionist regime by cutting all diplomatic and economic relations with it. Many countries have already stopped all relations with the Zionist regime and others are in the process of doing the same. We Americans need to completely distance ourselves from this oppressive regime through urging our state representatives and senators to do what the rest of the world is doing.