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Sunday, July 27, 2014

David Grossman, "An Israel Without Illusions": Talk With Hamas?

I am a great admirer of Israeli author David Grossman, whom I have met only once. Several years ago, we sat next to one another on a flight to Amsterdam, and he mentioned to me that there had been a bit of confusion concerning our seating arrangement owing to our shared surname. I mentioned that my oldest boy was a paratrooper, and I wanted to ask about his suffering after the death of his son in the 2006 Lebanon War, but I dared not broach the subject.

Today, in a guest New York Times op-ed entitled "An Israel Without Illusions" (, David Grossman writes:

"Since I cannot ask Hamas, nor do I purport to understand its way of thinking, I ask the leaders of my own country, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his predecessors: How could you have wasted the years since the last conflict without initiating dialogue, without even making the slightest gesture toward dialogue with Hamas, without attempting to change our explosive reality? Why, for these past few years, has Israel avoided judicious negotiations with the moderate and more conversable sectors of the Palestinian people — an act that could also have served to pressure Hamas? Why have you ignored, for 12 years, the Arab League initiative that could have enlisted moderate Arab states with the power to impose, perhaps, a compromise on Hamas? In other words: Why is it that Israeli governments have been incapable, for decades, of thinking outside the bubble?"

"Without even making the slightest gesture toward dialogue with Hamas"? My own feeling is that it is extremely difficult to engage in dialogue with persons belonging to a party whose charter calls for the murder of all Jews, not just Israelis.

Grossman goes on to say:

"[T]he Palestinian majority, represented by Mahmoud Abbas, has already decided in favor of negotiation and against terrorism."

Well, not quite. According to the recent results of a Washington Institute for Near East Policy poll (, "a clear majority [of Palestinians] (60% overall, including 55% in the West Bank and 68% in Gaza) say that the five-year goal 'should be to work toward reclaiming all of historic Palestine, from the river to the sea.'"

Of course, I share David Grossman's desire to see a democratic prosperous state of Palestine. However, I have no illusions concerning the ultimate desires of a majority of Palestinians, particularly at a time when Islamic radicalism is sweeping the Middle East.

If Israel will only be nicer to the Palestinians, might their attitude toward Israel change? This is not far removed from the Father Flanagan style of diplomacy adopted by Barack Obama when he entered the Oval Office in 2009: If America will merely extend a hand of friendship to the world's bullies and tyrants, they will surely find their way back into the fold of moderate nations ("There's no such thing as a bad leader"). Five and a half years later, given developments in the Ukraine, Syria, Iran, Libya and Iraq, I would imagine that even Obama is prepared to admit that his policy has proven a catastrophic geopolitical experiment.

Obama? Over the course of the past few days, his secretary of state, John Kerry, has managed to infuriate Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority - no small achievement - by seeking a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel, based upon the demands of Hamas.  Kerry's proposal included:

  • Acceptance of Hamas demands for the opening of border crossings into Gaza, which of necessity would facilitate shipment of armaments to Hamas and Islamic Jihad;
  • The building of a seaport for Gaza, opening the way for the import of large advanced weapons systems, which, in the past, could not squeeze through the tunnels from Egypt;
  • The free flow of funds for Hamas from Qatar and Iran, despite the fact that Hamas is designated by the United States as a terrorist organization.

On the other hand, John Kerry's proposal would have prevented Israel from continuing to destroy the Hamas tunnel network.

Israel's reaction? As reported by The Times of Israel (

"Channel 2′s diplomatic reporter Udi Segal said 'voices' from the cabinet had described Kerry as 'negligent,' 'lacking the ability to understand' the issues, and 'incapable of handling the most basic matters.'"

Given the firestorm created by Kerry's whirlwind trip to Cairo, Tel Aviv and Paris, Obama is now attempting to put out the flames. Yesterday, Obama called Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, after which the White House issued a "readout" of the conversation ( (my emphasis in red):

"Building on Secretary Kerry’s efforts, the President made clear the strategic imperative of instituting an immediate, unconditional humanitarian ceasefire that ends hostilities now and leads to a permanent cessation of hostilities based on the November 2012 ceasefire agreement. The President reaffirmed the United States’ support for Egypt’s initiative, as well as regional and international coordination to end hostilities. The President underscored the enduring importance of ensuring Israel’s security, protecting civilians, alleviating Gaza’s humanitarian crisis, and enacting a sustainable ceasefire that both allows Palestinians in Gaza to lead normal lives and addresses Gaza’s long-term development and economic needs, while strengthening the Palestinian Authority. The President stressed the U.S. view that, ultimately, any lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must ensure the disarmament of terrorist groups and the demilitarization of Gaza."

Regrettably, Kerry did not take into account Egypt's terms for a cease-fire. Instead, he accepted all of the demands of Hamas, proposed by Qatar and Turkey, whose foreign ministers participated in Kerry's partie in Paris (representatives of Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority were not on the guest list). In addition, Kerry's proposal did not call for the disarmament of Hamas and the demilitarization of Gaza.

The US State Department is now in a huff over criticism of the secretary of state. As reported by The Times of Israel (

"[A] senior US official said Sunday night that the ceasefire proposal ostensibly issued by Kerry, which the Israeli cabinet rejected unanimously, was just a confidential draft to be used for deliberations and did not give in to Hamas’s demands. Kerry spoke to Hamas supporters Qatar and Turkey to exert greater influence over the terrorist organization, he said.

The official also harshly attacked Israeli reports that criticized the secretary of state for championing a proposal they reported as being too generous to Hamas while all but ignoring Israel’s security needs.

. . . .

Many reports in the Israel media about the American initiative were either inaccurate, contained 'overheated assertions' or mischaracterized Kerry’s strategy and motivations, the plainly bitter official lamented. Some articles about the secretary included 'ad hominem and gratuitous attacks on him, even going as far as to accuse him of betrayal of our ally Israel, which is a charge I think is extremely offensive,' he said."

Ad hominem attacks against John "Botox-face" Kerry? Given all of Kerry's imbecilic self-gratifying efforts over the past week, why would anyone stoop to that level?


  1. Excellent blog, Jeff.
    It looks as if Israel is the last country in the world that the USA can exert pressure upon. No one else takes Obama seriously any more.

  2. I just woke up. My first thought was exactly about Obama's pressuring ... Netanyahu. This was the last thing I read yesterday, and, naturally I was fuming. So, today I woke up ... fuming. I have a lot to say, but everything is unprintable.
    Speaking of "ad hominem" ... Personally I believe that when there is a problem with a "hominem," we must deal with this hominem. "Questions of personal conduct, character, motives, etc., are legitimate and relevant to the issue, as when it directly involves hypocrisy, or actions contradicting the subject's words"
    It's difficult not to agree with Doug Walton.

  3. I suspect that Obama responded to yesterday's information about child labor used by Hamas to build tunnels and hundreds of dead children, which makes the promotion of the "religion of peace," particularly in Obama's preferred Muslem Brotherhood version, even more difficult.
    So, Hamas murders, murders, murders and our Muslem Brotherhood President and Neo-Waldheim in UN blame and pressure ... Jews of course.
    Well ...

  4. 11 billion dollar US arms deal with microscopic Qatar says it all. But israel's scared about deals with China of course.