WaPo reports Israeli government shake-up through a pro-Palestinian lens

Jerusalem correspondent Joel Greenberg, in a Jan. 17 Washington Post dispatch, reports that the break-up of Israel's Labor Party has resulted in one faction, led by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, that will remain in the government, and another faction that is quitting the Likud-led coalition of Prime Minister Netanyahu and going into opposition ("Israeli defense minister quits Labor Party, forms centrist faction.")

Greenberg acknowledges that the move, far from weakening the government, will make it more stable and coherent now that it no longer is constantly faulted from within by Labor left-wingers about lack of progress in achieving peace with the Palestinians -- a new reality that also should make it clear to Palestinian leaders that they no longer can remain on the sidelines waiting for a more accommodating ruling coalition.

But Greenberg then strays from straightforward political reporting and injects his own personal assessment, mirroring the political views of left-wing Laborites defecting from the government, that the change heralds "deepening doubts about prospects for peace" because the more conservative remaining parties in Netanyahu's coalition "oppose significant concessions to the Palestinians."

There are at least three  problems with Greenberg's conclusion that this bodes ill for the peace process, starting with the obvious first point that such personal judgments belong on the editorial page, and not in a purported "news" article.

Second, the history of Mideast peace-making doesn't bear out Greenberg's conclusion that a conservative Israeli government is less likely to produce more positive results than one dominated by dovish left-wingers.  After all, the most successful peace agreement was negotiated between Egypt's Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin, who headed a right-wing Likud government. 

Conversely, failures to reach an accord with the Palestinians occurred when Israel was led by left-leaning or centrist governments -- starting in 1947 when the Labor-led Zionist regime accepted a UN plan to divide Palestine between two-states -- one Arab, one Jewish.  Arab leaders rejected the UN plan.

In more recent times, Yasser Arafat walked away  in 2000  from a generous two-state offer from a left-of-center U.S. government headed by Bill Clinton and by a Labor-led government headed by Ehud Barak.  And even more recently, in 2008, Mahmoud Abbas turned down an even more generous two-state partition plan offered by an Israeli centrist government headed by Ehud Olmert.  Thus, history demonstrates that -- Greenberg notwithstanding -- a rightward political swing in Israel presents no impediment to achieving a peace deal, while a leftward swing is no recipe for success.

The third -- and most egregious --   flaw in Greenberg's "news" article is that he embraces a mind-boggling premise that progress in the peace process depends entirely on Israeli initiatives and concessions, with no reciprocity from the Palestinian side whatsoever.  That, of course, is exactly the strategy adopted by Mahmoud Abbas, who hasn't given the slightest sign that he's ready for serious negotiations and counts on help from journalists like Goldberg to offer him Israel on a plate.
Jerusalem correspondent Joel Greenberg, in a Jan. 17 Washington Post dispatch, reports that the break-up of Israel's Labor Party has resulted in one faction, led by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, that will remain in the government, and another faction that is quitting the Likud-led coalition of Prime Minister Netanyahu and going into opposition ("Israeli defense minister quits Labor Party, forms centrist faction.")

Greenberg acknowledges that the move, far from weakening the government, will make it more stable and coherent now that it no longer is constantly faulted from within by Labor left-wingers about lack of progress in achieving peace with the Palestinians -- a new reality that also should make it clear to Palestinian leaders that they no longer can remain on the sidelines waiting for a more accommodating ruling coalition.

But Greenberg then strays from straightforward political reporting and injects his own personal assessment, mirroring the political views of left-wing Laborites defecting from the government, that the change heralds "deepening doubts about prospects for peace" because the more conservative remaining parties in Netanyahu's coalition "oppose significant concessions to the Palestinians."

There are at least three  problems with Greenberg's conclusion that this bodes ill for the peace process, starting with the obvious first point that such personal judgments belong on the editorial page, and not in a purported "news" article.

Second, the history of Mideast peace-making doesn't bear out Greenberg's conclusion that a conservative Israeli government is less likely to produce more positive results than one dominated by dovish left-wingers.  After all, the most successful peace agreement was negotiated between Egypt's Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin, who headed a right-wing Likud government. 

Conversely, failures to reach an accord with the Palestinians occurred when Israel was led by left-leaning or centrist governments -- starting in 1947 when the Labor-led Zionist regime accepted a UN plan to divide Palestine between two-states -- one Arab, one Jewish.  Arab leaders rejected the UN plan.

In more recent times, Yasser Arafat walked away  in 2000  from a generous two-state offer from a left-of-center U.S. government headed by Bill Clinton and by a Labor-led government headed by Ehud Barak.  And even more recently, in 2008, Mahmoud Abbas turned down an even more generous two-state partition plan offered by an Israeli centrist government headed by Ehud Olmert.  Thus, history demonstrates that -- Greenberg notwithstanding -- a rightward political swing in Israel presents no impediment to achieving a peace deal, while a leftward swing is no recipe for success.

The third -- and most egregious --   flaw in Greenberg's "news" article is that he embraces a mind-boggling premise that progress in the peace process depends entirely on Israeli initiatives and concessions, with no reciprocity from the Palestinian side whatsoever.  That, of course, is exactly the strategy adopted by Mahmoud Abbas, who hasn't given the slightest sign that he's ready for serious negotiations and counts on help from journalists like Goldberg to offer him Israel on a plate.

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