Thomas Friedman: Breathtakingly Shallow, As Usual

Thomas Friedman is at it again. In a New York Times op-ed published yesterday, he once again paints a picture of the Middle East that suggests that solving the Israel-Palestine problem is the key to regional peace. In the process he manages to suggest that Israel is on the verge of becoming an apartheid state and that Netanyahu is a lackluster leader who doesn’t have a creative bone in his body.

Friedman begins by observing: “Reading the headlines from the Middle East these days — Christians and Muslims clashing in Egypt, Syria attempting to crush its democracy rebellion and Palestinians climbing over fences into Israel — you get the sense of a region where the wheels could really start to come off.” I think most of the world would suggest that the wheels have already come off in countries such as Egypt and Syria.

But then he quickly devolves into putting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the center of the Middle East universe, and by implication makes Israel responsible for U.S. access to Middle East oil reserves: “the best we can do now is manage the unavoidable and avoid the unmanageable. In Middle East terms, the “unmanageable” we have to avoid is another war between Israel and any of its neighbors. The “unavoidable” we have to manage is dealing with what is certain to be a much more unstable Arab world, sitting atop the world’s largest oil reserves.” The logic here is difficult to follow: apparently if Israel is not dragged into war by its already unstable neighbors, the U.S. will continue to receive its daily supply of oil?

And despite the fact that Friedman has “no idea whether Israel has a Palestinian or Syrian partner for a secure peace that Israel can live with” it is incumbent upon Israel (which is on the verge of “being equated with apartheid South Africa all over the world”) “to use every ounce of its creativity to explore ways to securely cede the West Bank to a Palestinian state.” Astonishingly, Friedman would have Israel cede the West Bank to the Palestinians and by extension the Golan to the Syrians–without either the Palestinians or the Syrians being a partner for a secure peace?

Friedman continues that by suggesting that it is Netanyahu’s lack of creativity that has led to Israel for the “first time in its history”  having “bad relations with all three regional superpowers–Turkey, Iran, and Egypt–plus rapidly eroding support in Europe” and then goes on to say that “Israel will never improve ties with Egypt, Turkey and Europe without a more serious effort to safely get out of the West Bank.” These comments are breathtaking in their lack of perspective–the problem for these so-called superpowers is not that there is an Israeli-Palestinian problem, it is that there is an ‘Israel’.

While chiding the Palestinians for going to the U.N. for a state and not explaining to Israelis why “Hamas-Fatah rapprochement is in [Israel’s] security interest”, Friedman again attacks Netanyahu: “it’s just silly for us to have Netanyahu addressing the U.S. Congress when he needs to be addressing Palestinians down the street.” Ultimately, for Friedman, “the only way for Netanyahu to be taken seriously again is if he risks some political capital and actually surprises people.” How in the world is Hamas being wedded to Fatah in Israel’s security interest? And, if it is true as Friedman suggests, that Israel’s only remaining friend is the U.S. (which I don’t buy), why is it silly for Netanyahu to address the U.S. Congress?

And how can Netanyahu be taken seriously? “By painful territorial compromises involving settlements”–by ceding land. All of these painful territorial compromises with a Palestinian entity that is probably not a partner for peace!

Once again, Israel is supposed to jeopardize its own citizens in the name of regional stability and American access to Middle East oil fields, while the Palestinians have to . . . well, they do not have to do anything. Absolutely pathetic.

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