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April 21, 2011
NY Times mindset -- peace hinges on U.S. and Israel, not on Israel and the Palestinians
As I picked up my copy of the April 21 edition of the New York Times, my eyes caught sight of an all-caps headline atop the main front-page story, "DIPLOMATIC RACE OVER PEACE PLAN FOR MIDDLE EAST."
My first thought was that this really could be a newsworthy development -- a race between Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian President Abbas to be the first to lay out a substantive peace proposal.
But alas, it was not to be, as the sub-head made clear: "OBAMA VS. NETANYAHU."
It turns out that the article, by Helene Cooper, is a conjectural exercise, based on unidentified sources, that there are tensions between Netanyahu and Obama that have "kicked off a bizarre diplomatic race over who will be the first to lay out a new proposal to reopen the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks."
Cooper goes to great lengths to puff up the supposed do-or-die importance of whether Bibi can beat Obama to the punch with his own peace plan -- or vice versa. Never mind that she also reports that there still are alleged disagreements between top Obama advisors as to whether he should go public with his own peace proposal -- Hillary Clinton for; Dennis Ross against.
And then there's partisan jockeying by Republicans, according to Cooper, to upstage Democrats with some pro-Israel one-upmanship -- with Republican House Speaker John Boehner arranging for a Netanyahu address to a joint meeting of Congress.
But conspicuously missing from Cooper's "scoop" is the Palestinian side of the peace-process equation. No mention whatsoever of Mahmoud Abbas. If a preview piece about new moves to resume serious negotiations warrants top front-page placement, one would have expected that the Times also might show some curiosity about the peace parameters of Mahmoud Abbas.
How does Abbas envisage a two-state solution? Where would Abbas draw borders? Is Abbas ready to abandon a "right of return" to Israel for millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants? Is Abbas even ready to resume negotiations?
If real, serious moves toward peace are even dimly in the offing, one would think that flushing out Abbas's positions is essential. But not for Cooper and the New York Times, who start out with an underlying premise that a two-state peace depends entirely on Israeli concessions along with pressures on Israel by Obama.
With such skewed mindset, Abbas can be safely ignored. And for that matter, of course, so can the fact that Abbas controls only half of a putative Palestinian state -- with Hamas in full control of Gaza and not ready to fold its tent or abjure its main objective -- total elimination of Israel
What matters solely to Cooper and the Times is whether Obama can wring sufficient compromises from Netanyahu to presumably satisfy Abbas. Except it may turn out that this scenario is but a mirage -- that Abbas's contours of a Palestinian state are a non-starter, a total deal-breaker -- if only Cooper had been curious enough to probe Abbas's agenda. Abbas still teaches Palestinian children that "Palestine" includes Haifa and Tel Aviv.
Unfortunately, this predilection for loading all responsibility for peace on Israel is not confined to the Times. It's a predicate for most mainstream media.
For her part, Cooper -- reflecting the all-knowing wisdom of the New York Times -- is not shy about spelling out her own peace plan -- "Israel to accept a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders (and) Palestinians would have to accept that they would not get a right of return to land in Israel. Jerusalem would be the capital of both states, and Israeli security would have to be protected."
Sounds so simple.
The devil, however, is in the details, starting with the fact that there never were any "1967 borders." If Cooper were better informed, she'd know that there was only a 1949 armistice line that lasted until 1967 when Israel repelled three Arab armies intent on exterminating the Jewish state and, in the process, captured the Sinai, Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. She also seems oblivious to the fact that the UN Security Council, in Resolution 242, rejected the 1949 line as a prospective border, ruling instead that Israel had to pull back from only some -- but not all -- the land it captured during the Six-Day War. And only if Israel in return got "secure and recognized" borders.
Just a brief sample of lots of inconvenient details that Cooper overlooks -- a flaw shared by two places on her beat -- the White House and the State Department.