The New York Times Revises the Peace Process

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This article is reprinted from Jewish Ideas Daily.

“The Peace Plan that Almost Was and Still Could Be”: blazoned over the entire cover of the February 13 New York Times Magazine, the sensation-seeking headline comes accompanied by a photograph from the back of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, each with his arm around the other. The two men, declares the Times excitedly, “almost made a historic deal in 2008,” and now—right now—”is the moment to resuscitate it.”

The article within, by Bernard Avishai, follows closely on a news story that appeared in the Times as a front-page “scoop” on January 27. In that story, written by the paper’s Israel correspondent Ethan Bronner, readers had early word of just how tantalizingly “close to a peace deal” Olmert and Abbas had been toward the end of 2008, only to have the deal put on hold because of Olmert’s legal problems and the start of the Gaza war. According to Bronner, progress toward peace was then finally stopped in its tracks by the election in early 2009 of a new hard-line Israeli government led by Benjamin Netanyahu.

Bronner’s account was itself based on an interview with Olmert (and a similar one with President Abbas) that had been conducted for the Times by the same Bernard Avishai—a freelance writer, peace activist, and proponent of transforming Israel from a Jewish state into a secular “Hebrew republic.” It is Avishai’s own 4,700-word account of the Olmert-Abbas negotiations that has now, complete with illustrations and maps, been sprawled across several pages of the Times Magazine. Thus, within a period of two weeks, the paper has twice put its weight behind pieces of copycat journalism that, by coincidence, happen to fortify its own editorial position on which party is most responsible for the Israel-Palestinian impasse and how best to resolve it.

As Avishai’s is intended to be the fuller and more “authoritative” account, let us focus on his telling of the story. According to him, both Olmert and Abbas have separately confirmed that they did indeed meet many times in 2007 and 2008—and that the critical breakthrough toward a peace agreement and a two-state solution came on September 16, 2008. On that day, at the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem, Olmert presented Abbas with a large map showing how Israel could retain 6.3 percent of Palestinian land on the West Bank and thus avoid evacuating most of the Jewish settlements. To compensate, Olmert proposed transferring an equivalent amount of Israeli land to the future Palestinian state. He also agreed to divide the city of Jerusalem, with a five-nation consortium controlling the Old City and the Jewish and Muslim holy places. For their part, the Palestinians would have to drop their historic demand for the “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.

As for Olmert’s map, Abbas assured the Israeli prime minister that it was worthy of study and further negotiations, and the two men parted on that note. But then, according to Olmert, Abbas “went silent” on him—although discussions with the Palestinians continued at a lower level until the election of Netanyahu tragically turned the clock back. Abbas’s version of the same events is that Olmert, distracted by the corruption charges being brought against him and by the pending Gaza war, failed to send a representative to a meeting in Washington called by Condoleezza Rice, but that he, Abbas, had been ready to resume talks anyway, even after Israel invaded Gaza.

And what is the urgency in publishing such an article now? As Avishai puts it, the further passage of time, together with the current turmoil in the Arab Middle East, has raised the breakthrough possibility of reviving those talks, abandoned just at the moment when “the gaps appear[ed] so pitifully small.” In self-aggrandizing mode, Avishai touts his “exclusive” revelations as themselves constituting a new opportunity for peace—particularly, he pointedly adds, if President Obama now steps into the breach, picks up where the Israelis and Palestinians left off more than two years ago, and with the aid of the international community pushes through a deal that Israel has no choice but to accept. Otherwise, Avishai quotes a frustrated Abbas as saying, “If nothing happens, I will take a very, very painful decision. Don’t ask me about it.”

There are only two problems with Avishai’s narrative and the conclusions he draws from it. One is that what’s true in the material the Times has published twice in as many weeks isn’t new; the other is that what’s new isn’t true.

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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."
    http://www.intellectualconservative.com/2007/appe

  • 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.