Wednesday, November 14, 2012

NY Times Columnist Thomas Friedman Has Another Great Column with Insight into American-Israeli Relations

Where Has This Version of Mr. Friedman Been?

After displaying brilliance in writing about world political and economic affairs, and describing as well as possible the information revolution that has converted India from an impoverished nation into an impoverished nation that is growing, the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman who wrote that stuff disappeared.  In his place was a Thomas Friedman defending U. S. military intervention in the Middle East.

Now the concise and correct insight into world affairs that the old Thomas Friedman had is back talking about such things as the U. S. and Israeli relationship after the re-election of Barack Obama.  As Mr. Friedman explains, the old stage where the U. S. pandering to Israeli interests even when Israel was moving backwards towards a Middle East peace process are gone.  The piece


My President Is Busy

Amos Ben Gershom/Israeli Government, via European Pressphoto Agency
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and President Obama had a laugh in the Oval Office earlier this year. But will they be as chummy next year?

Obama has his marching orders from the American people: Focus on Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, not on Bethlehem, Palestine, and focus on getting us out of quagmires (Afghanistan) not into them (Syria). No, my Israeli friends, it’s much worse than you think: You’re home alone.

This is as it should be.  Ultimately the solutions in the Middle East will be developed and implement by the players in the Middle East quagmire.

U.S. policy makers have learned that the Middle East only puts a smile on our faces when it starts with them: with Israelis and Arabs. Camp David started with them. Oslo started with them. The Arab Spring started with them. When they have ownership over peace or democracy movements, those initiatives can be self-sustaining. We can amplify what they start, but we can’t create it. We can provide the mediation and even the catering, but it’s got to start with them.

Even more importantly, the U. S. has learned, hopefully permanently, that there are limits to what even a great military power can do.

We’ve learned something else from our interventions in Afghanistan and Libya: We willed the ends, but we did not will the means — that is, doing all that it would take to transform those societies. That is why we’re quitting Afghanistan, staying out of Syria and relying on sanctions, as long as possible, to dissuade Iran from building a nuclear bomb. These countries are too hard to fix but too dangerous to ignore. We’ll still try to help, but we’ll expect regional powers, and the locals, to assume more responsibility.

That’s right, when former military intervention supporters like Thomas Friedman have recognized reality it means the Israel must recognize reality.  And that reality is this.  Israel and its enemies must find a way to end the conflicts they are involved with.  Yes Israel, we have your back, we wil not allow you to be attacked, but we do not have your front. 

So my best advice to Israelis is: Focus on your own election — on Jan. 22 — not ours. I find it very sad that in a country with so much human talent, the Israeli center and left still can’t agree on a national figure who could run against Netanyahu and his thuggish partner, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman — a man whose commitment to democracy is closer to Vladimir Putin’s than Thomas Jefferson’s. Don’t count on America to ride to the rescue. It has to start with you.

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