Peter Beinart, a favorite of Israel bashers, edges closer to Bibi than to Abbas

Peter Beinart, a former editor of the New Republic and a rising star for Israel bashers, has an op-ed column in the March 19 edition of the New York Times, entitled "To Save Israel, Boycott the Settlements."

Beinart takes special aim at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and what he terms his "pro-settler policies" in the West Bank   He accuses Netanyahu of setting the stage for a one-state solution - permanent Israeli control of the West Bank.  And he advocates a boycott of goods produced by settlers beyond the 1949 armistice line in order to halt or reverse such a trend.

But it's when Beinart starts sketching an outline of what a future peace may hold for Israel and the Palestinians that things get really interesting.  In fact, on three major dimensions of a two-state deal, Beinart ends up closer to Bibi than to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

For starters, Beinart declares his opposition to a "right of return" to Israel for millions of Palestinian refugees -- "an agenda that, if fulfilled, could dismantle Israel as a Jewish state."  Check.  But this is Beinart in full agreement with Netanyahu and in strong disagreement with Abbas, who vows never to sign a peace accord without a full-fledged Palestinian "right of return.

Second,  Beinart opposes extension of any anti-Israel boycott to goods from East Jerusalem because Palestinians in that part of the capital  can gain Israeli citizenship.  Thus, given that Beinart limits his boycott tactics to the West Bank, it would seem that he has no real problem about the legitimacy of Jerusalem remaining Israel's united capital.  Check.  Here again, Beinart edges closer to Netanyahu, who opposes a divided Jerusalem, than to Abbas, who wants East Jerusalem as a future Palestinian capital and doesn't differentiate East Jerusalem from the West Bank.

Third, Beinart is amenable to Israeli retention of major settlements across the 1949 line and, in fact, calls on "moderate" settlers living there to "agitate for a two-state solution that would make possible their incorporation into democratic Israel."  This, too, is a stance in closer proximity to Netanyahu, who has offered to negotiate such an outcome, than to Abbas, who wants virtually the entire West Bank, plus all of East Jerusalem.

Thus, irony of ironies, Beitart -- after blaming Netanyahu for all the ills that bedevil the peace process -- ends up edging closer to Netanyahu than to Abbas on plausible specifics of a peace deal.

The main reason why Beinart pretzels himself into such an incongruous agenda is that he's so consumed with his anti-Bibi onslaught that he pays absolutely no attention to Abbas's maximalist demands that keep the peace process in a frozen impasse.  Netanyahu is perfectly willing to resume negotiations on all the points enunciated by Beinart.  Abbas, however, is not.  If Beinart is intent on advancing his own peace agenda, he would do better to make Abbas his main target

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