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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Roger Cohen, "Netanyahu the Peacemaker": Cohen's Jaw-Dropping Ignorance

Roger Cohen is again training his "thoughts" on the Middle East, and those familiar with his dazzling intellect, will not be disappointed by this latest display of ignorance and naivete, as Cohen, who declared in 2009 that Iran is "not totalitarian," weighs in on the forthcoming Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in Washington. Cohen, of course, does not speak Hebrew or Arabic and, to the best of my knowledge, has never lived in the region, but that never stopped him from spouting balderdash in the past.

In his New York Times op-ed entitled "Netanyahu the Peacemaker" (, Cohen quotes at length Jimmy Carter, a man who is ignored by Israel's leadership when he visits Israel. Why? Well maybe it has something to do with Carter's problems reconciling truth with his prejudices. You will recall that Dr. Kenneth W. Stein, a professor at Emory University who was the Mideast Fellow at the Carter Center, resigned from the Carter Center over Carter's book, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid." Explaining his resignation, Dr. Stein wrote (

"President Carter's book on the Middle East, a title too inflammatory to even print, is not based on unvarnished analyses; it is replete with factual errors, copied materials not cited, superficialities, glaring omissions, and simply invented segments.

Aside from the one-sided nature of the book, meant to provoke, there are recollections cited from meetings where I was the third person in the room, and my notes of those meetings show little similarity to points claimed in the book.

Being a former President does not give one a unique privilege to invent information or to unpack it with cuts, deftly slanted to provide a particular outlook. Having little access to Arabic and Hebrew sources, I believe, clearly handicapped his understanding and analyses of how history has unfolded over the last decade.

Falsehoods, if repeated often enough become meta-truths, and they then can become the erroneous baseline for shaping and reinforcing attitudes and for policy-making. The history and interpretation of the Arab-Israeli conflict is already drowning in half-truths, suppositions, and self-serving myths; more are not necessary."

Yup, Carter, who chickened out of a debate over "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid" with Alan Dershowitz, is just the person for Cohen to quote. As reported by Cohen, Carter is now proclaiming from London that peace should be premised upon the 1967 "borders" (there were no borders in 1967, only armistice lines):

"Carter said a resolution should be based on the 1967 borders, 'with one exception — that is that there can be land swaps very near Jerusalem for the major Israeli settlements, and acre by acre or hectare by hectare the land that’s given by the Palestinians to Israel for these major settlements will be repaid to the Palestinians on an equal basis.'

He said Palestinian return would have to be to the West Bank or Gaza — 'unless it’s a few dozen or something like that' to Israel. He said, 'I have met many, many hours with Hamas leaders, and they have assured me for a long time that they will accept any negotiation that is successful between the P.L.O. and Israel if it is put to the Palestinian people in a referendum.'"

Wonderful! You will recall that in 2007, Carter took pride in his intimate relationship with the Assad family in Syria (

"Of course, I began meeting with Hafez al-Assad, who is now deceased as you know, back when I was president. I think back in back in 1977 in May or June. I have forgotten exactly which, but I met with him, trying to get him to support a peace process. On one occasion he invited me to meet with him and his entire family, and I met all his children and got to know them. One of them was a college student who is now the president of Syria."

It never bothered Carter that Hafez al-Assad, Bashar's father, was responsible for the 1982 Hama massacre, which resulted in the deaths of up to 45,000 Syrian civilians.

Now Carter, obviously a wonderful judge of human character, is attesting to the credibility of Hamas, whose charter calls for the murder of all Jews, not just Israelis.

But what about a Palestinian referendum involving a peace treaty with Israel? Once all the issues are resolved, are Palestinians willing to accept a Jewish Israel? The answer can be found in a recent poll conducted jointly by the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah (

"As we do periodically in our joint polls, we asked Israelis and Palestinians about their readiness for a mutual recognition as part of a permanent status agreement and after all issues in the conflict are resolved and a Palestinian State is established. Our current poll shows that 16% of the Israeli public supports such a mutual recognition and 66% opposes it. Among Palestinians, 42% support and 56% oppose this step. In June 2012, 53% of the Israelis supported and 43% opposed this mutual recognition; among Palestinians, the corresponding figures were similar to the current poll(43% support and 55% oppose)."

In short, a majority of Palestinians are not willing to recognize Israel, and this explains the readiness of Hamas to bring any peace agreement to a Palestinian referendum.

What else did Cohen miss?

Not mentioned in Cohen's opinion piece is the fact that on Sunday, Israel's cabinet voted to free Palestinian security prisoners, including persons with "blood on their hands," in order to facilitate the peace talks in Washington. As reported by The Times of Israel (

"After a bitter debate lasting several hours, Israeli ministers voted Sunday to gradually release 104 long-term Palestinian prisoners in order to facilitate this week’s resumption of negotiations with the Palestinians.

Thirteen ministers voted for the measure, seven against and two abstained. The vote approved the establishment of a committee to manage the phased process of prisoner releases, and approved the resumption of the talks, which are set to restart after a hiatus of almost three years in Washington on Tuesday."

So why did the Israeli cabinet overwhelmingly support this difficult decision, which is so hard to justify to Israel's long-suffering populace? The question never occurs to would-be Middle East expert Cohen.

The answer? Hint: It might have something to do with Iran's ongoing efforts to build its first atomic weapon.

Enough said.

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