Neocon enemies, using diplomacy, reach deal for Shalit's release

As usual, the greatest threat to Israeli security is neoconservatism.

Published June 26, 2009 8:27AM (EDT)

[updated below - Update II - Update III (Goldfarb's reply)]

Last night, I noted the sudden and obviously hypocritical concern about detainee abuse emerging from The Weekly Standard's Michael Goldfarb now that the transfer of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit by the Palestinians to Egypt appears imminent and it's time to exploit his detention.  In service of that same mission, Goldfarb also tries to attribute this deal for Shalit's release to the heroism of Benjamin Netanyahu, excitedly claiming that, if it happens, it will cause the Israeli Prime Minister's "approval numbers [to] skyrocket, further undermining Obama's leverage over him" (i.e., Israel will be able to continue to expand settlements on land that isn't theirs).

But as Omooex points out in comments, the Haaretz article which Goldfarb himself cited makes clear that it was not Netanyahu, but numerous other parties -- Jimmy Carter, Egypt, Syria and the Obama administration -- who engineered the agreement to transfer Shalit from Gaza to Egypt (followed eventually by his release to Israel, pending the release by Israel of Palestinian prisoners):

The move is part of a new United States initiative that includes Egyptian and Syrian pressure on Hamas . . . The idea to transfer Shalit to Egypt in exchange for the release of Palestinian women, teens, cabinet ministers and parliamentarians being held in Israeli prisons was raised about a year ago during a visit by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter to Damascus, Jerusalem and Gaza. . . . Carter raised it again on his visit earlier this month, during which he met Noam Shalit, Gilad's father. . . . The European source said Shalit's transfer to Egypt was the first stage of the Egyptian-brokered agreement hammered out between Fatah, Hamas and other Palestinian factions, in coordination with the U.S. and with Syria's support.

In other words, the deal for Shalit's release was secured by some of the neocon's most despised enemies (Jimmy Carter and Syria), with the help of a President they insist hates Israel (Barack Obama), relying on tactics they have long scorned (diplomacy, negotiating with Terrorists, including Hamas).  Of course, Jimmy Carter -- who neocons endlessly smear as being Israel-hating and even anti-Semitic -- did more to advance the interests of Israeli security than every neoconservative keyboard-tough-guy combined (indeed, more than virtually any single individual on the planet) when he engineered the 1979 Camp David peace accord between Israel and Egypt, which -- even 30 years later -- continues to pay dividends for Israel in the form of this apparent agreement for Shalit's release.  Identically, the Shalit deal is possible only because, as Haaretz notes, Hamas knows that there is now an American administration willing to negotiate with hostile parties, rather than trying to feel "tough" by ignoring and/or threatening them:

Hamas, which controls Gaza, has increasingly tried to reach out to the Obama administration in recent weeks.

This is but one of the numerous inanities of neoconservatives:  as destructive for the U.S. as their obsession with Israel and mindless belligerence are, those fixations also do nothing for Isarel but jeopardize it further.  Years of neocon rule and moronic chest-beating in Washington did nothing to help Shalit.  But a deal is struck for his release -- long a top priority of Israelis -- only months into a new administration committed to engagement with Syria and other ostensible Enemies, as well as an emphatic rejection of neoconservative ideology at least when it comes to dealing with some Muslim states.  But even those clear and obvious facts -- whereby this apparent success is possible only with them out of power, their ideology repudiated and their Enemies engaged -- won't stop them from claiming that this somehow vindicates their tawdry mindset.

[Along those same lines, Omooex also highlights what will be an overlooked part of the story:  namely, that Israel is imprisoning "Palestinian women, teens, cabinet ministers and parliamentarians" (including, until his release this week, "Palestinian Legislative Council Speaker Sheikh Aziz Dweik after three years in prison" who is "a leader of Hamas in the West Bank [and] espouses a moderate line in the organization").  If this Shalit deal ends up being consummated (and that still remains to be seen), the American media narrative will undoubtedly dramatize the detention of Shalit, an actual Israel solider, even while Israel imprisons scores of "Palestinian women, teens, cabinet ministers and parliamentarians."]

Notably, Goldfarb seems to think that Obama's leverage over Israel is dependent upon the domestic approval ratings of Netanyahu.  Actually, that leverage is grounded in the tens of billions of American dollars in aid to Israel, the supplying of American weapons for Israel's various wars, and the multiple forms of diplomatic protection the U.S. extends to Israel.  At least preliminarily and from all appearances, the Obama administration has been using that leverage for U.S. interests by demanding that Israeli actions that harm the U.S. cease.  Ironically, despite all the right-wing rage about that (in both Israel and the U.S.), the refusal to cater to neoconservatives when it comes to  U.S. policy towards Israel just so happens -- as demonstrated by this Shalit episode -- to be benefiting Israel as well.


UPDATE:  From a Haaretz Editorial last year, entitled "Our Debt to Jimmy Carter" (h/t thomas c):

The government of Israel is boycotting Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States, during his visit here this week. Ehud Olmert, who has not managed to achieve any peace agreement during his public life, and who even tried to undermine negotiations in the past, "could not find the time" to meet the American president who is a signatory to the peace agreement with Egypt. . . . Carter, who himself said he set out to achieve peace between Israel and Egypt from the day he assumed office, worked incessantly toward that goal and two years after becoming president succeeded - was declared persona non grata by Israel. . . .

The boycott will not be remembered as a glorious moment in this government's history. Jimmy Carter has dedicated his life to humanitarian missions, to peace, to promoting democratic elections, and to better understanding between enemies throughout the world. . . .

Whether Carter's approach to conflict resolution is considered by the Israeli government as appropriate or defeatist, no one can take away from the former U.S. president his international standing, nor the fact that he brought Israel and Egypt to a signed peace that has since held. Carter's method, which says that it is necessary to talk with every one, has still not proven to be any less successful than the method that calls for boycotts and air strikes. In terms of results, at the end of the day, Carter beats out any of those who ostracize him. For the peace agreement with Egypt, he deserves the respect reserved for royalty for the rest of his life.

That all speaks for itself, and speaks volumes about our current Middle East predicaments and what to do about them.


UPDATE II:  Speaking of using leverage, the original road map "quartet" -- the U.S., the EU, the U.N. and Russia -- have now jointly adopted the Obama administration's position that Israel must "freeze all settlement activity, including 'natural growth'."  Israel is long accustomed to ignoring worldwide consensus because the U.S. sides with them on those matters.  Where, as here, the U.S. is publicly and privately in favor of the consensus, Israel's ability to defy it will depend upon how much leverage Obama is really willing to use.


UPDATE III:  Goldfarb replies here, with the full array of textbook neoconservative platitudes.  The only point worth noting is that he agrees with the observation I expressed last night that Goldfarb's views (like those of most neonconservatives) "ultimately come down to nothing more complicated than: what we do is Good and Right because we are superior and because they are inferior."  Goldfarb admits he thinks torture is tolerable when we do it to Them but not when They do it to us because -- as he puts it -- "Of Course We Are Superior and They Are Inferior" (that, of course, is the very definition of "moral relativism," which Goldfarb and his allies like to pretend they oppose even as they exemplify its core premise).  And -- other than a view that Muslims generally are inferior -- what possible ground is there for claiming moral superiority over the numerous detainees at Guanatnamo and elsewhere who, even by the Bush administration's reasoning, were guilty of nothing?  Independently, it's bizarre to hear someone proclaim themselves morally superior when, just a few months ago, they were celebrating the benefits of the wholesale slaughter of an entire extended family -- including small children -- in Gaza.

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago:

The most predominant mentality in right-wing discourse finds expression in this form: "I am part of/was born into Group X, and Group X -- my group -- is better than all others yet treated so very unfairly" . . . . Here again we find the same adolescent self-absorption: the group into which I was born and was instructed from childhood to believe is the best [] is, objectively, superior. It is so much better than everyone and everything else that even to suggest that we have flaws comparable to others is to engage in "false moral equivalencies." To do anything other than emphatically proclaim my group's objective superiority is to treat my group unfairly.

Goldfarb's reply is a pure expression of that warped and self-glorifying mentality.

By Glenn Greenwald

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