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Facts and Logic About the Middle East

November 11, 2015

Bill Clinton, Ignoring His Own Experience, Tells Israelis That Peace Is Up to Them. Excuse Me?

Dear Friend of Israel:

In a bizarre triumph of fantasy over facts­—including his own empirical experience—former President Bill Clinton told Israelis attending a memorial for Israel's slain Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin that peace with the Palestinians is up to them. All they have to do is will it, he explained.

Mr. Clinton seems to forget the reception his and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's peace offer to the Palestinians received from Yasser Arafat in 2000—perfunctory rejection. And the similar rejection Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President George W. Bush received from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2008 to an even sweeter deal. Was the problem then simply a failure of American or Israeli will?

Mr. Clinton also seems to want to ignore the fact that despite his desire and that of George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu for a two-state solution, the Palestinians are holding out for a one-state solution called Palestine, from which the Jews will have been driven out.

This is why the Palestinians have refused in all negotiations so far to recognize the rights of the Jewish people to self-determination in their homeland. This is why the Palestinians deny there were any Jewish temples on the Temple Mount, deny that the Jewish people are a legitimate ethnic group, and deny that the Jews populated the Holy Land for some 1,600 years before the Arabs arrived.

Of course the Palestinians regularly throw down other non-starter obstacles to a peace deal, such as implacably insisting on the right of five million Palestinian "refugees" (actually descendants of refugees 68 years ago) to "return" to Israel (where most have never set foot) and set up homes there, quickly swamping the Jewish population demographically and geographically.

Is the refusal of the Palestinians to accept a state so many times over really just a failure of Israel's determination? Or is Mr. Clinton's formulation a sign that he's living on some far-off planet?

This week's FLAME Hotline featured article, by astute Israel-watcher Jonathan Tobin, clarifies the issue of who needs to try harder to reach a peaceful resolution to the decades-old Israel Palestinian conflict. Let's start with the White House, which at every turn gives the Palestinians a pass on taking responsibility for their future. Then let's consider the Palestinians themselves. Mr. Tobin has suggestions for both parties in this succinct piece, below.

Please take a few minutes to review this article, then pass it on to your friends and colleagues who may benefit from it. Also, at this writing, Prime Minister Netanyahu is visiting with President Obama at the White House. It's inevitable the subject of U.S. aid to the Jewish state will come up in their conversations. To bring you up to date on this issue of vital U.S. support of Israel, I encourage you to review the P.S. immediately below, which describes FLAME's urgent efforts to explain the amazing ROI the United States receives from its annual investment in Israel.

Best regards,

Jim Sinkinson
Executive Vice President, Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME)


Every year, the U.S. allocates $3 billion in aid to Israel. Enemies of Israel often criticize this investment, arguing that it's a waste of taxpayer money. Though nothing could be further from the truth, too many Western media, including an op-ed in the New York Times just last week, are buying it! That's why FLAME is about to start publishing a new position paper in media nationwide—which explains the inestimable strategic value the United States receives from this support of the Jewish state. I urge you to review this outspoken hasbarah message: "Why Does Israel Matter?" This inspirational piece will soon appear in magazines and newspapers, including college newspapers, with a combined readership of some 10 million people. In addition, it is being sent to every member of the U.S. Congress and President Obama. If you agree that this kind of public relations effort on Israel's behalf is critical, I urge you to support us. Remember: FLAME's powerful ability to influence public opinion—and U.S. aid to Israel—comes from individuals like you, one by one. I hope you'll consider giving a donation now, as you're able—with $500, $250, $100, or even $18. (Remember, your donation to FLAME is tax deductible.) To donate online, just go to donate now. Now more than ever we need your support to ensure that Israel gets the financial and political support it needs—from the U.S. Congress, from President Obama, and from the American people.

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Sorry Bill, It's Not Up to Israel

Jonathan S. Tobin Commentary, November 1, 2015

He should have known better. Bill Clinton spent the years after he left the White House loudly and bitterly lamenting the fact that Yasir Arafat cost him a Nobel Peace Prize. Clinton hosted a peace summit at Camp David in the summer of 2000 at which Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians an independent state including almost all of the West Bank, a share of Jerusalem and Gaza in exchange for peace. Arafat said "no" and months later launched a terrorist war of attrition. But in spite of this, Clinton told a huge crowd in Tel Aviv last night that "it is up to you" in order to make peace in the Middle East. Clinton was an honored guest at a peace rally/commemoration of the 20th anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin's murder. President Obama also sent taped remarks along similar lines that were played at the event.

It is all well and good to praise the search for peace. It is quite another to tell them that it is up to them to decide whether there will be peace. Because if there is anything that the last 22 years have taught us, it is that it clearly not up to the Israeli people.

According to Clinton:

I always thought the role of the United States was to provide whatever help necessary to ensure Israel's security, maximize the benefits of peace and minimize the risks. But the decision is yours. The next step in the magnificent story of Israel… the next step will be determined by whether you decide that Rabin was right, that you have to share your future with your neighbors, that you have to stand for peace, that the risk for peace isn't as severe as the risk of walking away from it. We are praying that you will make the right decision.

Yet, as Clinton knows, Barak repeated the offer the next year, and Ehud Olmert sweetened it in 2008. Both times the Palestinians again refused. Then Benjamin Netanyahu offered withdrawals from most of the West Bank and committed himself to a two-state solution and still the answer was no. Before that, Ariel Sharon withdrew every soldier, settler and settlement from Gaza hoping to create an opening for peace and instead set the stage for the creation of an independent Palestinian state in all but name there that is an Islamist terrorist dictatorship. Each time Israel took the kind of risks for peace that its friends and critics had been urging it to do yet got neither peace nor credit for the sacrifice.

To be fair to Clinton, there's little doubt that he cares about Israel and the Israeli people have always appreciated his genuine affection and returned it. That's more than can be said for Obama, who, at best, regards Israel with condescension, restricting his praise for a mythical Israel of the past that didn't face the real country's terrible war and peace dilemmas.

But in spite of Clinton's intimate knowledge of the peace process, he still clings to the notion that somehow it is within the power of the Jewish state to force an end to a century-long conflict with the Palestinians.

The signing of the Oslo accords on the White House lawn was a high point of Clinton's presidency and sealed his relationship with Rabin. Clinton's honoring a man who was tragically murdered is entirely appropriate. But the problem here is the implicit assumption that it was assassin Yigal Amir's bullet that killed the peace process or the Israelis who peacefully demonstrated against their government for empowering terrorists and not the third man in the famous picture with Clinton and Rabin: Arafat.

What more can Israel do to convince the Palestinians to make peace than they have already done? According to the Obama administration and leftist critics of the Netanyahu government, they need to stop building homes in existing settlements in the West Bank and 40-year-old Jerusalem neighborhoods or release more convicted terrorists. But does anyone really think that will convince the Palestinians to make peace when offers like the ones Barak and Olmert made were not enough? Did Sharon's experiment in trading land for peace—which turned out to be an exchange of territory for terror—not go far enough?

The problem isn't Israel not recognizing Palestinians rights and aspirations. Even the supposed hard line Netanyahu has done that. The problem is that even PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian lauded by President Obama as a moderate and a champion of peace, won't recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn. Moreover, it is that same Abbas who has been inciting terror fueled by religious hatred in recent months by cynically circulating canards about mythic Israeli plans to destroy mosques or proclaiming that he doesn't want "filthy Jewish feet" profaning holy places.

Nor is the building of homes in places that even Clinton and Obama know would be part of Israel after a peace agreement an obstacle to peace if the Palestinians ever choose peace rather than a continuation of the conflict.

It's not the Israelis who need the lectures from Clinton and Obama. It's the Palestinians. Like many in Israel who have always wanted to believe their country could magically make peace without the Palestinians having to change, that's the line the U.S. seems to buy too. But it's bunk, and if anyone should know it, it's the president that still feels he was cheated out of a Nobel Prize by Palestinian intransigence.

Clinton is right when he cites Rabin's belief that the costs of ignoring chances for peace are high. But the costs of a reckless pursuit of it are also high as the mounting toll of Israeli victims of terror proves. Thousands have died in no small measure because of the Oslo process that empowered terrorists like Hamas, Arafat and other killers honored by Abbas.

Yet this mistaken emphasis on what Israel can do is not a harmless gesture. The more international leaders, even those that rare correctly labeled as friendly to Israel like Clinton, mouth these bromides, the less inclined the Palestinians will be to finally make peace. Such lectures only reinforce their belief that sooner or later international opinion will isolate Israel and bring them one step closer to their fantasy of its destruction. They need to be reminded that throughout the century-long history of the conflict they are the ones who have always rejected compromise. Oslo was not a catastrophe because the intentions of Yitzhak Rabin or Bill Clinton were bad because the process they created provided no accountability for the Palestinians. Far from making compromise an imperative, it convinced the Palestinians that they didn't have to do anything to make peace. That not only robs them of agency in their fate but also gives them reasons why they shouldn't budge or cease cheering or subsidizing terror.

So far from advancing the cause of peace, speeches like Clinton's actually retard it. Of course, if Clinton were to go to Ramallah and tell the Palestinians that it was up to them to finally make peace, he would not be greeted with thunderous cheers, as was the case in Tel Aviv. But it would be an important wake-up call for a people that are still trapped in its own rhetoric of delegitimization. Israel has taken plenty of risks for peace. It's time for Americans to stop ignoring that fact and start putting pressure on Israel's foes to take some risks of their own.






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