Ron Radosh

In TNR, John Judis Once Again Blames Israel Alone for Failure of the Peace Process

Writing in today’s New RepublicJohn B. Judis once again shows how little he knows about the situation in the Middle East, and about which party is responsible for the forthcoming failure of the so-called “peace process.” About the only point about which he is correct is the one stated in his headline: “John Kerry’s Peace Process is Nearly Dead.”

Judis, as in his recent book Genesis: Truman, American Jews and the Origins of the Arab/Israeli Conflict (which I wrote a negative review of here), proves that he is seeking to present himself as an expert on policymaking in the Middle East, so that he can add to the chorus of those seeking to delegitimize and attack Israel as the sole power responsible for lack of movement towards peace in the region.

The truth is, as Jennifer Rubin points out, that President Obama was carefully orchestrating the talks to be able to paint Israel as the power that was obstinate, having attacked Israel before the talks while painting Mahmoud Abbas as a man of peace. As she writes: “In fact, Abbas last year forced out the only true Palestinian reformer Salam Fayyad, has refused to hold elections and occupies the presidency beyond the legally allotted term.” Moreover, he has agreed with the claim that Palestine will never give up “the right to return,” which would mean that Israel would be all Palestinian, as any Palestinian, even those born recently, could return to present-day Israel and take back the homes they claim were once theirs.

Abbas has also made it clear that the Palestinians will not accept Israel as a Jewish state. Already, Obama’s loyal troops in the Jewish community — in particular J-Street — have demanded that the Israeli government give up that demand. Its president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, wrote a letter to his supporters arguing that the issue of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state must not be raised by Israel, and if Israel does insist on this, Israel alone will be responsible for failure of the process. He echoes John Kerry, whom he quotes as saying that the issue of a Jewish state cannot be made into “the critical decider of their attitude towards the possibility of a state and peace.”

Judis also makes this claim, revealing how little he knows about the issues. He writes that Netanyahu has made what he calls “the new demand” for recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, made only so that “the Palestinians would reject it and that he could then blame the failure of the talks on them.” Here, as Rick Richman points out, he is only repeating what the New York Times previously argued, “that recognition of a Jewish state is a new issue, allegedly raised by Netanyahu to prevent peace.”

But Judis and the anti-Israel New York Times are wrong. Judis, clearly, does not know that Dennis Ross has said that when he was negotiating with the Palestinians during the Clinton administration, that issue was part of the negotiations. Earlier this month, Ross said the following in a talk titled “Israel, America and the Middle East:Challenges for 2014”:

When I hear it said that this is the first time this issue has been raised — the people who say that think that no one knows history. Now maybe it’s true that most people don’t know history. But they should never say it to me. When we were at Camp David, this issue was raised. In the period after Camp David, before we did the Clinton Parameters, this issue was raised. This issue has been raised for obvious reasons. From the Israeli standpoint, there is a need to know that the Palestinians are committed to two states, meaning in fact that one state is Palestinian and one is the state of the Jewish people. They need to know the Palestinians are not about two states, one Palestinian and one bi-national.

Ari Shavit, author of the best-selling My Promised Land:The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, has also beautifully stated the need for acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state. Shavit, a man of the Israeli left, writes in Haaretz “that it is the most natural and justified demand imaginable.”  To this day, he writes, “the Palestinian national movement refuses to see the Jewish people and recognize in this way its right to a Jewish state.” Their refusal to do so, he points out, is what is responsible for the 100-year war “between them and us.”

It is Israel that now recognizes the need for a Palestinian state, and as a man of the left, he argues that they indeed have “legitimate rights.” Israelis know there is another people living in the land they share, while it is the Palestinians who have not and will not recognize that right for the Jews. As for the “right of return,” Shavit accurately notes that no Palestinian leader dares tell his people that in fact they will never return to the villages and cities they lost in the 1948 war. The Jewish people, he sarcastically writes, “is a people of this land, and it did not arrive here from Mars.” The Jews of Israel, he writes, “are not colonialists but legal neighbors.”

And that point brings me back to the reprehensible John B. Judis. He believes, contrary to historical fact, that Zionism is a “settler-colonialist” movement, and that it was created in order to oppress the Arabs and to take the land from them that was rightfully theirs. His entire book is based on the premise that Israel should not have been created. No wonder he supports what Shavit calls a one-sided peace process, in which “Israel gives and the Palestinians receive.”

In a wrenching critique of Judis, Jonathan S. Tobin writes in Commentary online that Abbas turned down Kerry’s proposal although it was based on the 1967 borders that Israel opposes, and Netanyahu agreed while Abbas said no. As Tobin puts it, “And yet even though Abbas’s decision makes a fourth historic no to peace terms from the Palestinians in the last 15 years, Judis still thinks the collapse of the talks is Israel’s fault.”

Judis also argues that increased Israeli housing in the occupied West Bank doubled in 2013, and hence it is the continuing Israeli settlements that are the impediments to peace. As Tobin explains, Judis does not note that “almost all the houses slated for construction are to be built in the settlement blocs and neighborhoods in Jerusalem that will be part of Israel in any agreement.”

And yet, despite Israel’s release of prisoners guilty of the most heinous acts of terrorism against Israeli civilians imaginable, to the protest of many in Israel, Judis bemoans that if the Netanyahu government does not go through with the promised release of even more terrorists, “PLO support for negotiations would disintegrate.” Yet Abbas made it clear to President Obama that while he plans to not negotiate if Israel demands recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, and that he will not give up “the right of return” for all of the 1948 refugees and their descendants, he demands that Israel release more terrorists — whom he then greets as heroes in Ramallah in major public ceremonies. As Tobin points out, Abbas also is now demanding the release of Marwan Barghouti, a Fatah leader serving five life sentences for murders ordered by him during the second intifada.

Judis argues at the end of his article that unless Israel makes the concessions demanded of them by Abbas, then “a real tragedy” might occur. This is the same false logic of the realists who I criticized in my last column, who always use the argument that if we don’t negotiate with a current regime — such as Iran — the would-be hardliners waiting in the wings will take over, and then all will get worse.

The bottom line is that Judis’ arguments are to be expected from an author who seems to desperately want to join the crusade against Israel, while using his deeply flawed book as the excuse to present himself as an expert on the problems of the Middle East. As I argued in my review and in a Jerusalem Post op-ed, he is simply regurgitating every anti-Israel argument from the Arab narrative of decades past, questioning the very existence of Israel as a nation-state.

What else can one expect from a journalist who believes Israel should never have been created, and that Israel’s essence is that of all the Western imperialists and colonialists who seek to oppress the downtrodden for their own nation’s gain? Judis himself is an opponent of a two-state solution who begrudgingly realizes Israel has to be dealt with as an existing entity, but which in his dreams he hopes will still dissolve and become a bi-national state, or an Arab state with a Jewish minority.

The tragedy is that a major journal of opinion believes that he has the credentials to write about the area, although virtually every major review of his book, including those by writers who agree with his politics, made it clear that he knows little and his history and analysis is completely wrong. Only when the major sources of public opinion in the liberal community that was once supportive of Israel have turned into the Jewish state’s critics would someone like John Judis be allowed to analyze and write about events in the Middle East.