New York Times columnist Roger Cohen has hardly been a staunch defender of Israel. Jonathan Tobin reminds us of Cohen’s record in regard to the Jewish state:
A reflexive critic of the Jewish state, Cohen has been rightly criticized for sloppy writing and threadbare clichés, and he earned lasting infamy in 2009 for a series of columns he wrote seeking to whitewash the Iranian regime of the charge of anti-Semitism.
Yesterday, however, Tobin notes, Cohen offered a clear-headed assessment of the situation in Israel. Better yet, he drew a sharp and much-needed contrast between the Obama administration fiction about Israel and the facts on the ground.
As you know, John Kerry, the master of diplomatic futility, imagined that he was going to broker a peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians. Obviously, the idea came to him from on high, from the president himself. When you spend twenty years at the feet of Jeremiah Wright you are likely to conclude that Israel is one of the world’s great problems, and that Islamic terrorism would instantly cease if only Israel would make more concessions to Palestinian terrorists.
By all appearances, Israel does not have too many friends in the West these days. Intellectuals who worship at the shrine of Marx are deeply offended that a nation built on capitalist and democratic principles has been so successful.
In the past it might have been a slur to call Western intellectuals Marxists, but now, as they thrill to a French Marxist analysis of the flaws of capitalism, they will probably not be quite so offended.
Just as Piketty insists that capitalism will flounder on its own contradictions, the Obama administration has insisted that unless it makes peace with the Palestinians, Israeli success is unsustainable.
Throughout this year the Obama administration has pushed the unsustainability argument to make its case for peace. “Today’s status quo, absolutely to a certainty, I promise you 100 percent, cannot be maintained,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in February. “It is not sustainable. It is illusionary. There’s a momentary prosperity, there’s a momentary peace.”
More recently, President Obama told Jeffrey Goldberg of Bloomberg View that his question to Benjamin Netanyahu was: “If not now, when? And if not you, Mr. Prime Minister, then who?”
Cohen remarks that the reality is otherwise:
Tel Aviv, one of the world’s most attractive cities, has a boom-time purr about it. For all the talk of its isolation — and all the efforts of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (B.D.S.) movement — Israel has an economy as creative as it is successful. Yes, it is sustainable.
While Europeans wring their hands in despair at the absence of a peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians, the Israelis, Cohen explains, have made a pivot toward Asia.
As it happens, the pivot toward Asia was supposed to be a touchstone of Obama administration foreign policy. Since Obama’s promises are, as always, empty words, it was left for the Israelis to do what Obama had said.
In Cohen’s words:
Hearing an Indian official talk the other day about Delhi’s booming arms trade and ever-closer relationship with Israel, I had a thought that also struck me while listening to Israeli businessmen in Beijing. The idea may be summed up in three words: It is sustainable.
“Pivot to Asia” is a term that might be applied to Israel. Its trade with China has boomed, reaching more than $8 billion in 2013 from a pittance when diplomatic relations were established in 1992 (the same year as with India). Europe huffs and puffs about the West Bank settlements; Asia does business. [Boldface mine] India has already bought sea-to-sea missiles, radar for a missile-intercept system and communications equipment from Israel.
A rising Asia does business; a declining Europe huffs and puffs about settlements and occupation.
Clearly, the current political situation is not ideal. But, life is not ideal either. Cohen gnashes his teeth about the betrayal of gauzy ideals, but survival matters more.
Since Israelis have concluded that those who have been waging war against it are not ready to have a sustainable peace, they will continue to prosper, without a so-called peace treaty.
In Cohen’s words:
But the evidence is that Israelis, in their majority, prefer to live with [slightly tarnished ideals] than believe in a sustainable peace with Palestinians. Trust your neighbor? Been there, tried that.
Of course, Cohen still imagines that Israel can make peace with Hamas. He believes that bringing Hamas into the peace talks would leaven its rage against the Jewish state.
Allow Tobin the last word:
Given the choice of making peace with Israel or with Hamas, PA leader Mahmoud Abbas chose Hamas. The idea that Hamas or even most of Fatah is willing to accept peace with Israel is a myth that is every bit as baseless as the one about Israel’s impending doom.