Thursday April 24, 2014
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24.04.2014
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David M. Weinberg

Beware of Beinart

Peter Beinart's notoriety has gone to his head, and his analytical skills have been enlisted in the service of the devil. Beinart is now pumping up Hamas and bashing Israel. He's gone off the rails and become a purveyor of dangerous policy proposals that advance enemy aspirations.

According to an insidious article he penned this week, Hamas is the victim of backwards-looking Western policy. Inverting cause and effect, Beinart asserts that Hamas is obstructionist and violent because it hasn't been fairly and properly "engaged." Poor Hamas, you see, has never been given an "incentive" to abide by a cease-fire.

In Beinart's contrary world, America and Israel are responsible for radicalizing Hamas. It's the nasty Israeli blockade of Gaza, and the maximalist, over-the-top, and "nonessential" Quartet principles (recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept past peace agreements) that are responsible for pushing Hamas toward rejectionism. Beinart plaints that "By isolating Hamas, America and Israel are giving Hamas every incentive to try and blow up any peace agreement that Abbas signs."

Israel's bombing of Hamas rocket sites and its elimination of those responsible for Hamas' missile programs is, according to Beinart, a major part of the problem. These Israeli strikes only make Hamas popular, at Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' expense. This allows Beinart to get in another dig at Israel. Israel is weakening Abbas' Palestinian Authority by defending itself against Hamas. The inversions and perversions in Beinart's arguments here are legendary.

I know that you'll find this hard to believe, but Beinart's insane solution is to undercut Abbas, and "incentivize" and empower Hamas in the West Bank. Beinart is convinced that if Hamas were given the "freedom to operate as a political party in the West Bank and a more open border with Egypt — it would think hard before allowing rocket attacks that imperiled those gains."

Incredibly, Beinart seeks to anchor this co-option proposal in Israel's worst strategic mistake, the Oslo Accords — except that Beinart considers this to be a swell precedent. "Dialogue with the PLO was once deemed unthinkable too," he intones, "and over time Israeli leaders realized that they were better off trying to influence it politically" as opposed to destroying it militarily. Beinart would now have Israel do the same with Hamas: "Shape a political strategy that maximizes the chances of Hamas eventually accepting the two-state solution, something that some Hamas leaders, at some moments, have publicly entertained."

Beinart's advice is doubly appalling: He asks Israel to go down the same colossally-mistaken and nearly-mortal path it took with Oslo and he manufactures hints of non-existent Hamas moderation to justify this. He wants to duplicate in the West Bank the Islamic open-air prison and Iranian-vassal state in Gaza that Hamas has built. He wants to convince Israel that it would be wise to do so and he wants Washington to press Israel to do so.

Maybe we should run Beinart's bizarre ideas by the families of Fatah men tortured and literally chopped to pieces by Hamas militiamen when they overran Gaza in 2007. Maybe we should have Beinart screen Hamas leaders for us in order to discover the respectful and reliable partners he is sure Israel will find among them.

Or maybe we should tell Peter Beinart to jump in the lake. He can no longer credibly claim to have Israel's best interests at heart. He can't be taken seriously as an analyst and I wouldn't buy a used car from him either.

Beinart seems to be travelling down the stale, crotchety and malignant road previously plowed by Henry Siegman and Roger Cohen. Ugh! It's a road for people who are out to save Israel from itself and despite itself; a road that is paved with self-serving distortions and a great deal of faux pas moralizing. It's the postulation of a world where Israel is always radicalizing the situation; where Israel is eroding the middle ground; where Israel is making agreements impossible; where Israel is "stuck in the patterns of the past." All the while, the Arabs and these mighty-and-weighty writers, of course, are lighting the way forward with sagacity and moderation.

It is always so much easier for Beinart and his "fellow travelers" (I use the phrase purposefully) to prevail on the one who consistently takes the high road to turn the other cheek. But this is not the path to durable resolution. Constructive resolution — short and long term — will not come by indulging Hamas. Rather it will be the result of holding Hamas and its supporters accountable; getting them to accept responsibility for both the immediate confrontation and the chronic conflict.

Tons of ink was devoted to defending and attacking Peter Beinart when he published his infamous 2010 article and best-selling 2012 book arguing that right-wing Israel was responsible for a "crisis in Zionism" and for disaffiliation amongst young American Jews. Out of both respect and disdain for him, I refrained from joining the pile-on, even when Beinart began advocating a "Zionist BDS" — a boycott of settlement goods. My restraint was misplaced.

Beinart has gone over to the dark side. An abode where Hamas are the good guys and Israel the bad guy. Perhaps there is more fame and money to be made in that wicked world.

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