NYT Peddles the Obama Version of Mideast Peace Efforts

New York Times diplomatic correspondent Helene Cooper is peddling a history-distorting canard that, in contrast to Obama's early plunge into Mideast peacemaking, his two predecessors -- Bill Clinton and George W. Bush -- waited until the end of their terms to engage fully in efforts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace.  
Mr. Obama is taking on the contentious issue of Israeli-Palestinian peace early on in his administration, in contrast to his predecessors, former President George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, who both pushed hardest for Israeli-Palestinian peace towards the end of their terms.

While this has become the orthodox view of Obama's cheering section and W's most vociferous critics, it just ain't so.

Starting with Bill Clinton.  Cooper should rewind the tape to 1993 -- Clinton's first year in office -- when he went all-out in boosting the Oslo process, which purged Arafat and the PLO of terrorism and elevated Arafat to the sanitized status of a dependable peace partner.  Has Cooper forgotten the transformational handshake on the White House lawn -- with Clinton flanked by Yitzhak Rabin and Arafat?  That didn't take place in Clinton's last year in office -- but in his first year.

And that handshake wasn't just a one-time photo op for Clinton.  He went all-out in advancing Oslo through its various stages, from allowing Arafat to end his exile and return to Gaza to a tumultuous welcome.  It was under Clinton that Israel gradually ceded authority to Arafat in Palestinian areas of Gaza and the West Bank, starting with Gaza-Jericho and then moving on to Palestinian Authority control over all other major Palestinian population centers in the West Bank.  It was also under Clinton (and not in his last year) that the Wye accords were rammed through over then-Prime Minister Netanyahu's great reluctance since it meant giving Palestinians control over most of Hebron, Judaism's second holiest city.

After Rabin was assassinated and his successor, Shimon Peres, needed U.S. reinforcements to keep Oslo going in the aftermath of several murderous suicide attacks, it was Clinton who convened an international summit at Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, to make it appear that Arab leaders finally would take some steps of their own to facilitate the peace process.

Cooper seems to have forgotten all these major diplomatic milestones during Clinton's tenure and would make Times readers believe that Clinton's only legacy is the failed Camp David summit in his last year in office.  Rather, Camp David was the culmination of eight years of intensive Clinton diplomacy.  It wasn't because of lack of persistent trying that Clinton failed to get a peace deal.  It was because, from the start, Arafat played a double game, pledging his undying commitment to a "peace of the brave" when he talked to Clinton, while passing along a totally different message in Arabic to his home base and the wider Arab world that he really wasn't interested in a two-state solution, except as a tactical step toward a total eventual wipeout of Israel.

Similarly, Cooper slurs George W. Bush when she again erases from her memory his intense maneuvers to promote Mideast peace during his first term.  What she overlooks is that W was still saddled with a duplicitous Arafat, who kept lying to him.  Arafat's most brazen lie that finally did it for Bush was his brazen denial that arms seized by Israeli naval commandos who intercepted and boarded the weapons-carrying Karine-A vessel weren't meant to be delivered to Arafat.  In the earliest part of his administration, Bush faced the same problem Reagan did before Gorbachev succeeded Kremlin hard-liners.  Like Reagan, Bush was waiting for a Palestinian leader "untainted by terrorism" -- W's words -- to make real progress.  But even then, he was determined to lay the groundwork for sustainable peace negotiations.

Cooper somehow forgets that as early as 2002 (Bush's second year of his eight-year tenure), W became the first U.S. president to officially proclaim American support for a Palestinian state.  She also forgets that as early as 2003, it was Bush who promulgated the "road map" with its three performance-based successive stages toward a final Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.  And he took that initiative even as Arafat had launched a murderous intifada after the collapse of Camp David.  (Cooper also skips the fact that Obama's entire strategy to get Israel and the Palestinians back to the peace table rests on his total acceptance of Bush's "road map).

Again, in 2004, still in his first term, Bush exchanged letters with then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in which the U.S. president pledged American support for Israel's retention of major settlement blocs in the West Bank and for settling the Palestinian refugee problem without unloading million of refugees on Israel in exchange for Sharon's complete withdrawal from Gaza and several other settlements in the northern West Bank.  It wasn't Bush's fault that the Palestinians, instead of using Gaza as a showcase of a democratic, peaceful Palestine, instead turned the territory into a launching platform for thousands of rocket attacks on Israeli civilian populations.

Yet, Cooper erases all these Bush initiatives and gives him credit only for the Annapolis conference in late 2007, when Bush and Condi Rice sought to breathe new life into the peace process by pressuring then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to skip Palestinian obligations to end terrorism and anti-Israel incitement and jump immediately into final-status negotiations on borders, refugees and Jerusalem.  Olmert ended up offering Abbas 95 percent of the West Bank and all of Gaza, plus a land corridor to connect them, only to be turned down flat -- exactly as Clinton was in 2000 by Arafat.

It's high time for New York Times editors to correct Cooper's revisionist history and her journalistic amnesia.  Obama may have peddled the false notion during last year's presidential campaign that he alone would jump into Mideast peacemaking from day one of his administration.  But Times' journalism ought to be more truthful than a candidate's rhetoric during a presidential campaign.
New York Times diplomatic correspondent Helene Cooper is peddling a history-distorting canard that, in contrast to Obama's early plunge into Mideast peacemaking, his two predecessors -- Bill Clinton and George W. Bush -- waited until the end of their terms to engage fully in efforts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace.  
Mr. Obama is taking on the contentious issue of Israeli-Palestinian peace early on in his administration, in contrast to his predecessors, former President George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, who both pushed hardest for Israeli-Palestinian peace towards the end of their terms.

While this has become the orthodox view of Obama's cheering section and W's most vociferous critics, it just ain't so.

Starting with Bill Clinton.  Cooper should rewind the tape to 1993 -- Clinton's first year in office -- when he went all-out in boosting the Oslo process, which purged Arafat and the PLO of terrorism and elevated Arafat to the sanitized status of a dependable peace partner.  Has Cooper forgotten the transformational handshake on the White House lawn -- with Clinton flanked by Yitzhak Rabin and Arafat?  That didn't take place in Clinton's last year in office -- but in his first year.

And that handshake wasn't just a one-time photo op for Clinton.  He went all-out in advancing Oslo through its various stages, from allowing Arafat to end his exile and return to Gaza to a tumultuous welcome.  It was under Clinton that Israel gradually ceded authority to Arafat in Palestinian areas of Gaza and the West Bank, starting with Gaza-Jericho and then moving on to Palestinian Authority control over all other major Palestinian population centers in the West Bank.  It was also under Clinton (and not in his last year) that the Wye accords were rammed through over then-Prime Minister Netanyahu's great reluctance since it meant giving Palestinians control over most of Hebron, Judaism's second holiest city.

After Rabin was assassinated and his successor, Shimon Peres, needed U.S. reinforcements to keep Oslo going in the aftermath of several murderous suicide attacks, it was Clinton who convened an international summit at Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, to make it appear that Arab leaders finally would take some steps of their own to facilitate the peace process.

Cooper seems to have forgotten all these major diplomatic milestones during Clinton's tenure and would make Times readers believe that Clinton's only legacy is the failed Camp David summit in his last year in office.  Rather, Camp David was the culmination of eight years of intensive Clinton diplomacy.  It wasn't because of lack of persistent trying that Clinton failed to get a peace deal.  It was because, from the start, Arafat played a double game, pledging his undying commitment to a "peace of the brave" when he talked to Clinton, while passing along a totally different message in Arabic to his home base and the wider Arab world that he really wasn't interested in a two-state solution, except as a tactical step toward a total eventual wipeout of Israel.

Similarly, Cooper slurs George W. Bush when she again erases from her memory his intense maneuvers to promote Mideast peace during his first term.  What she overlooks is that W was still saddled with a duplicitous Arafat, who kept lying to him.  Arafat's most brazen lie that finally did it for Bush was his brazen denial that arms seized by Israeli naval commandos who intercepted and boarded the weapons-carrying Karine-A vessel weren't meant to be delivered to Arafat.  In the earliest part of his administration, Bush faced the same problem Reagan did before Gorbachev succeeded Kremlin hard-liners.  Like Reagan, Bush was waiting for a Palestinian leader "untainted by terrorism" -- W's words -- to make real progress.  But even then, he was determined to lay the groundwork for sustainable peace negotiations.

Cooper somehow forgets that as early as 2002 (Bush's second year of his eight-year tenure), W became the first U.S. president to officially proclaim American support for a Palestinian state.  She also forgets that as early as 2003, it was Bush who promulgated the "road map" with its three performance-based successive stages toward a final Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.  And he took that initiative even as Arafat had launched a murderous intifada after the collapse of Camp David.  (Cooper also skips the fact that Obama's entire strategy to get Israel and the Palestinians back to the peace table rests on his total acceptance of Bush's "road map).

Again, in 2004, still in his first term, Bush exchanged letters with then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in which the U.S. president pledged American support for Israel's retention of major settlement blocs in the West Bank and for settling the Palestinian refugee problem without unloading million of refugees on Israel in exchange for Sharon's complete withdrawal from Gaza and several other settlements in the northern West Bank.  It wasn't Bush's fault that the Palestinians, instead of using Gaza as a showcase of a democratic, peaceful Palestine, instead turned the territory into a launching platform for thousands of rocket attacks on Israeli civilian populations.

Yet, Cooper erases all these Bush initiatives and gives him credit only for the Annapolis conference in late 2007, when Bush and Condi Rice sought to breathe new life into the peace process by pressuring then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to skip Palestinian obligations to end terrorism and anti-Israel incitement and jump immediately into final-status negotiations on borders, refugees and Jerusalem.  Olmert ended up offering Abbas 95 percent of the West Bank and all of Gaza, plus a land corridor to connect them, only to be turned down flat -- exactly as Clinton was in 2000 by Arafat.

It's high time for New York Times editors to correct Cooper's revisionist history and her journalistic amnesia.  Obama may have peddled the false notion during last year's presidential campaign that he alone would jump into Mideast peacemaking from day one of his administration.  But Times' journalism ought to be more truthful than a candidate's rhetoric during a presidential campaign.