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Remnick Calls for Obama Plan

Influential commenter concludes Bibi won’t make peace on his own

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Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday.(Ronen Zvulun/AFP/Getty Images)

“Psychobiography in politics is ordinarily a mug’s game,” New Yorker editor David Remnick begins his signed editorial on Benjamin Netanyahu this week, and yet few American observers are more qualified in the prime minister’s case: Remnick’s 1998 profile (unfortunately subscription-only), is insightful and superbly written, and is particularly acute on the anxiety of influence that Benzion Netanyahu exerts over his son. (Jason Epstein wrote a lovely recollection of Benzion, who turns 101 this month—he is not already 101, as Remnick reports*—in Tablet Magazine.) I went over much of this last week, but the basic question remains: Will Netanyahu ever fundamentally break from Benzion’s hardline stance? Judging from his own reporting and from his observation of Israeli politics, here is Remnick’s conclusion: “In books, speeches, and action, Benjamin Netanyahu has proved himself his father’s son.” Indeed, one has even more difficulty imagining Netanyahu breaking from his history and making genuine concessions in the West Bank, as he has reportedly been mulling, in the wake of the Fogel murders (which I would guess occurred after Remnick’s article went to print).

Remnick proposes that the Obama administration establish its own peace plan and submit it to both sides—an alternative often tossed about over the past year or two, during which the peace process has vacillated between no talks between the two sides (like right now) and proximity talks (in which the two sides talk to each other through the United States), punctuated by hopeful, brief, and terminal spurts of direct talks.

Meanwhile, there are, to my reading, two pieces of “news.” First, Remnick suggests that President Obama visit Israel (“it was a mistake not to follow his historic speech in Cairo, in 2009, with a trip to Jerusalem,” he correctly notes), which strongly indicates that if Obama decides that it is worth his while to continue to pursue the peace process before the 2012 elections—a big if, to be sure—then we will see the president in the Holy Land in the next year or so.

Second, there is this paragraph, whose shortness seems to betray a nugget of knowledge withheld:

Obama’s views are not mysterious. His political home is Hyde Park, on the South Side of Chicago, where he came to know liberal Zionists and Palestinian academics, and to understand both the necessity of a Jewish state after the Second World War and the tragedy and the depths of Palestinian suffering.

Among many other things, Remnick is an Obama biographer. I get the sense that the above is Remnick’s confession that some of what the right fears about Obama regarding Israel actually is true, but that he’s almost afraid to say it (“he came to know liberal Zionists and Palestinian academics”). Or am I reading too much into it? Let me know your thoughts.

* Yup, I found a (utterly trivial) factual error in The New Yorker: Benzion Netanyahu is not 101 today, and will not be 101 on the issue’s March 21st cover date. Rather, according to every source I could find, his birthdate is March 25, 1910. It feels great, thanks for asking.

A Man, A Plan [The New Yorker]
Related: The Outsider [The New Yorker]
Personal History [Tablet Magazine]
Earlier: What’s Bibi Up To?
Five Jews Murdered in West Bank

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George One says:

What concessions can Netanyahu make on the West Bank – any concession would be at the expense of Israeli security. Why does anyone think the West Bank would take a road different to Gaza?

I think 4 things:
1) Yes sometimes the apple does fall far from the tree..its not always “like father like son” the Bush Family…like the Kennedy family.
2) Bibi was elected much more to deal with regional threats (in the north, south, Iran etc) than to deal with these “peace plans” that really go nowhere.
3) Obama and Bibi are both waiting on each other hoping that the other won’t win any another election for leadership.
4) Im not so sure Obama will make a visit before 2012. In what context would a visit happen?
5)Remnick’s views seems outdated and far too simplistic. Its a somewhat whinny piece.

i guess i meant 5 things!!! There goes my chance to write for tablet!

Daniel says:

Remick’s premise is that: Netanyahu has stubbornly refused the appeals of Washington and of the Palestinian leaders Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad, who have shown themselves willing to make the concessions needed for a peace deal.”

I can’t understand how this is true. Abbas and Fayyad have not even been willing to engage in peace negotiations. How have they shown themselves willing to make convessions for a peace deal.

Mark Tracy, if you think think this editorial is brilliant, how is the underlying premise based in truth or reality?

If Remnick keeps writing pieces as specious as this one(”
Palestinian leaders Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad…have shown themselves willing to make the concessions needed for a peace deal.”) he won’t long deserve to be considered “Influential.”

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Dubala says:

Write on Remnick!

Ira M. Salwen says:

Gee, David “can’t take the occupation anymore” Remnick is certain that, when push comes to shove, “right wing” Bibi won’t be able to make peace? What a surprise! I seem to remember pundits saying the same thing about a “right wing Holocaust survivor” named Begin, who sent troops in to evacuate Sinai under the command of that “ultra-hawk” Ariel Sharon, who later was the architect of Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Israel has proven time and again that, given a chance at a real peace, they will make considerable sacrifices. Time and again the Arabs have reciprocated with violence.

When the Wikileaks documents came out, detailing positions the Palestinian leadership was willing to take to advance the peace process, those same leaders scrambled to distance themselves from any peaceful intentions toward Israel. That’s the problem Obama needs to address if he wants to move Arabs and Israelis toward peace. If your leaders keep yelling about the need to annihilate the “Zionist enemy” and then they make a deal with the same Zionist enemy, you’ll see them as traitors (think Arafat at Camp David). If the Palestinians were conditioning their people to want peaceful coexistence instead of “victory”, maybe the Fogle family would still be alive.

While leaders bring a lot of themselves to high office, the office also has an effect on them. It’s likely that, given a shot at real peace, Netanyahu will surprise Remnick, just as Netanyahu’s predecessors surprised Remnick’s.

Remnick’s problem with Netanyahu may be that, given his desire to end the occupation, he would probably accept a deal that Netanyahu would deem too risky. Pundits have the luxury of being able to make policy pronouncements without putting people’s lives in jeopardy. The same can’t be said for leaders of Governments.

If Obama wants peace, instead of a new peace plan, maybe he needs to insist the Arabs adhere to the “no incitement” provisions of the agreements they’ve already signed.

Daniel says:

Remnick also directly claims the reason people in Israel mistrust Obama is becuase they are racist. This is as serious a charge as one can make against a person or people. Does he offer one whit of evidence for this mass accusation? No.

Mark, I apologize that my earlier comment was in error. At first glance, I thought you were calling this editorial insightful and superbly written, but you were referring to the 1998 profile.

rose says:

PM Netanyahu does not need to bow down to Obama or anyone else. Jerusalem belongs to the Jews and Israel. There will never be peace untill the Lord returns. Obama is hurting America by not supporting Israel. If Obama thinks Israel needs to give land to the Palestinians than maybe America should give their land to the Indians. The land belongs to Israel it is not occupied. Someday soon, Israel will have all the land that God promised them and it will not be because of anything Obama, Netanyahu or anyone else does. It will be because of the return of the Lord to save his people, the Jews. I am not Jewish but I have a great love for Israel and it’s people.

Beatrix says:

Neither Jordan or Egypt wanted to deal with the Palestinians and so they’ve been left to the Israelis to handle. Arafat didn’t want peace, he wanted Israel. Abbas wants peace, but is afraid of being assassinated if he makes the concessions necessary to achieve this.

Abbas doesn’t have the popularity to tell his people that they can’t have Israel either by war or by the “right of return.” All they’re going to get is Gaza, the West Bank and perhaps East Jerusalem, and they can call that Palestine.

But why have peace when all Abbas has to do is continue his propaganda binge and the world falls into his lap. He’ll never have that much power again.

According to Abbas, making the issue of settlement building a pre-condition was Obama’s idea, an idea that has pretty much strangled the peace process. Obama is in thrall to J Street, one of who’s leaders said in an online video that the establishment of Israel was a mistake.

fred lapides says:

Obama and Abbas had said very clearly: stop the settlement construction and we will talk. Bibi said no. Article points to this and says that Obama must take stronger stand. That is all the article is really about. What would or will happen if talks were to begin is a different issue. Important, yes, but not the focus of the article here discussed.

Remnick has his head buried or in a cloud of smoke and mirrors. The only way to have peace is for the West bank to find and hand over the Fogel murderers and to disavow any thought of elimination of the Jews, and for people of Gaza, to cut the throats of everyone in Hamas, and dump the bodies into the Red Sea, presenting the left ear lobe of everyone killed to Netanyahu as proof that they have drowned. Israel will then bring factories and jobs to West Bank and to Gaza, and we can have a situation as in Haifa, where it has been peaceful cooperation between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs since independence in 1948, Determine the “Secret”, which I believe is spelled Histadrut, and use it in Gaza and West Bank. Prosperity can kill Jihadism.

Joanne Prives says:

What ever happened to far and balanced reporting. Remnick’s article is filled with pierjorative language, directed almost exclusively against Israel and its leaders. He talks about concessions Fayad and Abbas wee willing to make – what is Remnick smoking? Like other minded left wings peaceniks, he blames Isdrael for not making more concessions to the Palestinians. Since nothing but Israel’s disappearnace would satisfy, there is really nothing on the table to ‘trade’. Let the Palestinians stop inciting hatred in their schools, mosques and press and stop venerating terrorists who kill innocent civilians – then just MAYBE there could be a possibility of talking about a future 2 state solution. If the New Yorker continues to publish these one sided blame-Israel articles this is one subscriber who will cancel.

Bill Levy says:

David Remnick, Tonm Friedman and Rabbi Michael Lerner all belong to the same Liberal Judaism Religion that Commentator editor Podhoretz has defined as the new religion for Jews. Jews who are pro-Israel are also pro-Palestinian. You don’t find Palestinians being anything but pro-Palestinian and hating Jews and Israel. There is no fuzzy line there. How do Jews survive a Holocaust which they never should have allowed to begin and then wind up being human shield for the late Yasser Arafat and being shields breaking the blockade of Gaza with Nazi concentration camps numbers on their forearms. I would love to understand this destructive mentality which the Nazis used so effectively and the Arabs use today against Israel.

The truth is out there. Obama harbors deep hatred of Israel and the Jews and loves the Arabs. It’s not a secret, just suppressed such as the video tape from the LA Times about a going away party for a black Moslem radical and Obama’s words about a Palestinian state.

Let 50 years pass in peace before there is a Palestinian entity which shouldn’t exist to begin with. The British partitioned Palestine giving future Israel an indefensible sliver and Jordan which it created the majority of ancient Palestine. Make no mistakes these nations never existed before 1920; Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Lebannon. They were lines drawn on a map and that includes the Saudi Arabian tribe that was transposed to Mecca.

I watched Bibi being interviewed by Piers Morgan and he was so pathetically weak. Tom Friedman and David Remnick were much stronger and forceful. Jews can fight each other but they can’t fight their haters.

Bill Levy

Allan Leicht says:

David Remnick needs a month in the country, in Sderot — which, by the way, is not “disputed territory.” Any peace plan must begin with a lesson plan that changes the Arab school curriculum and puts the tens of thousands of Arab teenagers and twenty-somethings to work. Then we can begin. When you have a majority population of young people standing around in the sun with nothing to do there is going to be trouble. Add a little Islam and it’s lethal.


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Remnick Calls for Obama Plan

Influential commenter concludes Bibi won’t make peace on his own

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