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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A knack for missing opportunities

Nobody has yet to improve upon the late Abba Iban's assertion that "the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity".  That statement sums up with startling clarity and simplicity the ability of the Palestinians to shoot themselves in the foot if given half a chance.

I bring this up, because with the whole word's mostly negative attention focused firmly on Hezbollah, one would think the Palestinians would just sit quietly and pretend for a moment that they haven't been acting in concert with the other terrorist organizations in the region.  For a change, they could actually get to be the kid who has just helped set off a stink bomb in the school bathroom but who stands angelically by while the principal yells at another guilty party who actually got caught.  The Palestinians could have been the Eddie Haskell of the middle east!

But noooo.  True to form, they have missed yet another opportunity... just the latest in a long line of missed opportunities:

Take for example the first Gulf war.  If anyone on the planet should have just shut up and kept their head down while a rogue nation was beaten like a rented mule... it would be the Palestinians.  All they had to do to win a huge PR victory and come away with some serious political capital (not to mention dispel their image as perpetual thugs and terrorists) was to say nothing.  Do nothing.  Instead they were among the few people in the known world who actually took to the streets to demonstrate in favor of Saddam's Iraqi regime... and even obligingly burned a few American flags for the media.

Then in 2001 they were seen taking to the streets - this time in celebration, not protest - as Al Qaeda gave the US a black eye with an unprovoked, premeditated mega-terror attack on September 11th.  Again, in order to score huge PR points and appear almost human(e), all the Palestinians had to do was shut up for a couple of days and hide their glee at seeing images of American corpses on TV.  Instead they were filmed dancing in the streets and passing out candy to their children in celebration of the American carnage.  To their credit, they realized their mistake in time to threaten the cameramen and try to force them to turn over the footage.   But their bad luck held out and at least one film crew managed to smuggle out a tape.

Then in the second Gulf war the Palestinians again backed the wrong horse.  They were so enthusiastic about Saddam's chances this time around that they actually sent mujahideen to fight in Iraq against the infidel... and are still doing so!

Amazingly, much of the western world has forgiven the Palestinians every one of these lapses.  Apologists around the world have gone through mental contortions trying to explain what the Palestinians really meant.  'They were quoted out of context'.  'The cameras lied'.  'It was a religious holiday and that is why they were dancing in the streets, firing in the air and burning American flags'.

The same can be said about the political capital the Palestinians have squandered after every single Israeli concession.  It doesn't matter whether we're talking about Oslo or Camp David or any of the other occasions when Israel has bent over and metaphorically grabbed its ankles at the negotiating table in pursuit of an elusive deal that promised to allow some semblance of co-existence with the Palestinians.  Immediately on the heels of every negotiation they have simply continued with their 'war of stages' and have unabashedly used Israeli concessions as a springboard for launching the next round of violence.

When Israel finally abandoned negotiations and decided to go the questionable route of unilateralism, the Palestinians could be forgiven for being angry at being left out of the discussions.  After all, being denied a seat at the table and having your future borders defined by your enemy is a huge humiliation.  But in the wake of Israel's withdrawal from Gaza they were presented with a sterling opportunity to prove to Israel (and the rest of the world) that they could take all that money the world had pledged for building the infrastructure for the Palestinian proto-state, and actually take charge of their own destiny.

Instead, the money that started pouring in from all quarters went down the same black hole as always and the Gaza strip became the gathering place for a collection of bad-guys of the sort not seen since the lynch-mob sign-up scene in 'Blazing Saddles'. 

And of course, immediately after the last Israeli left Gaza the Palestinians forgot all about state-building and started firing rockets at Israeli population centers and tunneling under their new borders in order to murder and kidnap as many Israelis as possible.

So when Hezbollah crossed the internationally recognized/approved border to kill and kidnap Israeli soldiers only a few weeks after Hamas had done the same... the timing seemed a little too convenient.  Any school principal worth his/her salt would have looked around and realized that more than one kid was involved in setting off the stink bombs, and the Palestinians would have been hauled into the office right along with Hezbollah.

But remarkably, the world got its usual case of amnesia the moment Hezbollah started raining rockets down on northern Israel... and it appeared that the Palestinians were on the verge of actually sitting quietly and getting to play the good kid for a change.

But instead the Qassams (and occasional Ketyusha) resumed being fired from Gaza at Israeli cities in the south, and Palestinian attempts to infiltrate and carry out suicide attacks were redoubled.

The cherry on the top of all this opportunity-missing came in an an article I read yesterday that was chock full of quotes from Palestinian sources that all seemed to be falling over themselves in a headlong rush to be the first to miss the next opportunity.  Here are the money quotes:

"Palestinians took to the streets in Ramallah on Tuesday to protest the visit of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.   The protesters marched towards the Muqata'a compound, chanting slogans in support of Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah."

So much for staying quiet and letting the other kid take the rap for a change.

"The [leaflets distributed at the protests] accused Israel of waging a war of "genocide" against the Palestinians and Lebanese after receiving a green light from the US administration."

They just love the word 'genocide'... almost as much as they love the words 'war crimes' and 'atrocities'.  But somehow they never seem to ask themselves how to define deliberately targeting Israeli civilians for several decades; 'measured responses' maybe?

"In a statement issued in the Gaza Strip, the committees claimed that Rice was "plotting" behind the scenes "to isolate Lebanon from Palestine."

Um, I'm confused.  Even according to the Palestinian narrative 'Palestine' and Lebanon are distinct entities and a clear separation is appropriate and necessary... especially in time of war.

"The US... wanted to calm the situation in the PA territories to give Israel time to crush Hizbullah."

Well, actually they probably have this one right.  But if the Palestinians wanted to maintain plausible deniability about acting in concert with Hezbollah... this was a silly accusation to make.

"We call on President Mahmoud Abbas to respect the feelings of the Palestinian people and to refrain from meeting with Rice and succumbing to her arrogant dictates that will only bring our people more humiliation and suffering."

Uh huh.  And nothing you have done with your newfound autonomy has brought humiliation and suffering on your people.

"Osama al-Mazini, a Hamas political leader, said Rice's visit was designed to help Israel following its "defeat" in the PA territories and Lebanon. "

This is what is known in political circles as 'wishful thinking'... or in layman's terms; 'counting one's chickens before they are hatched'.

"The Americans are 120 percent biased in favor of Israel. That's why Rice is coming to save Israel from defeat and humiliation. The US always intervenes when Israel is in trouble."

And here I thought it was only Israelis that were bad at math.  As to who is actually on the ropes, please see my earlier assessment of the Palestinian penchant for always backing the wrong horse.

"[Rice is] also coming here to provide Israel with political and moral support after the severe blows it suffered at the hands of Hizbullah in Lebanon."

OK, I'm confused.  Which is it?  Either Israel has to be stopped because it is destroying /humiliating Hezbollah... or Israel is being destroyed/humiliated by Hezbollah.  It can't be both.

"The Americans and the Israelis are also hoping to defeat the Palestinians by waging a war on Hizbullah in Lebanon."

Again, if you are trying to preserve the illusion that Hamas and Hezbollah aren't in cahoots, it might behoove you not to mention them in terms that suggest to an alert listener that a military alliance exists between the two organizations.  Shhhhhh

"The Americans want a new Middle East devoid of jihad, resistance, liberation, martyrdom, retaliation and dignity. These are all terms that disturb the Americans."

OK, I can't really argue with this one... especially if the reader is meant to infer that the words 'dignity'  and 'liberation' are meant to belong to the same set as the other words on the list.

"The Americans' problem is that they have never learned from their past mistakes.  They are continuing to rely on the same corrupt and weak horses in the Middle East."

Not to sound like a broken recored here, but... Hello Kettle?  Hi, it's the pot calling.  Guess what? You're black!

[Sorry about the overdose of political blogging lately.  This is supposed to be a journal about life in Israel.  Unfortunately, when life here becomes dominated by politics my journal usually follows suit.]

Posted by David Bogner on July 26, 2006 | Permalink


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My feeling is that they are miffed at not getting headlines. Noone really gives a darn what happens to them now - and they realize it. So protesting when Rice comes will at least get them some attention.

Posted by: westbankmama | Jul 26, 2006 2:01:17 PM

"Even according to the Palestinian narrative 'Palestine' and Lebanon are distinct entities and a clear separation is appropriate and necessary... especially in time of war."

Umm..depends on who's saying what when....there is literature out there from the Arab side stating that Palestine and Lebanon are really part of Greater Syria and indivisible.

So their pique is that this non-Moslem, non-Arab Jewish state is dividing their beloved brethren from them, and its all part of a Zionist plot (of course) supported by the Zionist Occupation Government of the US.

Don't you read the Hate-sites? They're sickening, but informative. It's where all the trolls gather and share their pet paranoias...

Posted by: aliyah06 | Jul 26, 2006 2:32:12 PM

I'm not sure I would quote leaflets from a rally as a source for anything. I get some pretty scary leaflets at the Israel Parade every year on Fifth Avenue.
I'd like to say that I wouldn't quote a Hamas spokesman either, but unfortunately they are the government that was duly elected, so it's hard to say ignore the crazies.
I will say that you missed the best quote in the article you sited. The article quotes a "columnist" as writing "The Americans want a new Middle East devoid of Jihad, resistance, liberation, martyrdom, revolution, and dignity. These are all items that disturb the Americans."
Well, take out the liberation and dignity from the quote, and I'd say the Americans' desires seem pretty reasonable...
Sign me up.

Posted by: Jersey Boy | Jul 26, 2006 6:07:08 PM

Don't ask for logic from people who don't like to use it.

Posted by: Ozzie | Jul 26, 2006 6:48:42 PM

I would like to correct the above statement. Abba Eban never said, "The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity," he said, "The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity." That statement was a response to the three no's of Khartoum announced by the Arabs in 1967. At that time, the concept of the "Palestinians" had not yet been invented.

Posted by: Evan | Jul 26, 2006 9:45:49 PM

With apologies to Hillel: Whenever one of my less-informed friends asks me to explain the Middle East problem while standing on one foot, I reply, "The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. This is the whole Middle East problem; all else is commentary."

Posted by: Psachya | Jul 26, 2006 10:10:33 PM

Whether they miss opportunities or not, it all seems to end the same way. Their opportunity-missing is forgotten, and the world soon presents them with new opportunities to miss.

Posted by: Irina | Jul 26, 2006 10:24:25 PM

David, I realize this may push the envelope of not referring to topics outside of your topic for the day, but you were referring to Palestinian comments. There is a fantastic article in Haaretz about Arab reporters having trouble interviewing Israelis because they keep wanting to interrupt them to curse them out. "Sandmonkey" quoted it, too(yes, you introduced me to Egyptian blogging)
It's magnificent. I hope it wasn't inappropriate to bring it up.
Hasta la Vista

Posted by: Jersey Boy | Jul 26, 2006 11:04:23 PM

It's frustrating that the Palestinians contradict themselves on every point and yet their statements are given credence.

Posted by: seawitch | Jul 26, 2006 11:13:00 PM

<< This is supposed to be a journal about life in Israel. >>

Love the politics, natch, especially both sides presented here by yourself and visitors who desire to discuss such matters in "your place." It is helpful -- reading the content and also "between the lines" of the posts -- in my quest for a clear grasp of the "MidEast Situation."

But I've just been perusing your pictures of Israel, an I find them achingly beautiful -- I must get my wife on a plane and bring her there pronto! Well done -- I'd like to think the Bureau of Tourism has given you a gold star or some such recognition!


Posted by: Poison P'il | Jul 27, 2006 1:42:55 AM

Wow. Quite one of the most enjoyable blog-postings in a while. This one I'm printing out.

Posted by: The Back of the Hill | Jul 27, 2006 4:59:28 AM

Their PR is definitely impressive, "we condemn that act of terror, the culprits don't follow what we stand for" and when a suspect gets nabbed "I really resent the idea that a Muslim with a gun — he's a threat. A Jew with a gun — he's not a threat." we rarely get to see them own up to any mistake, it's always about the Jew or Israel.

Posted by: pk | Jul 27, 2006 8:24:53 AM

This is a really good post. Best if you just write what you want and mix it up how you like ... politics included.

Posted by: Seattle (yes, the whole city belongs to me ;) | Jul 27, 2006 9:12:57 AM

Westbankmama... They must subscribe to the axiom that no publicity is bad publicity. Idiots.

Aliyah06... They can't have it both ways.

Jersey Boy... You didn't read very carefully. It's there.

Ozzie... I'm not asking the Palestinians for logic. It's the news-viewing public from whom I expect a minimal level of critical thinking.

Even... I stand corrected, but it was actually spoken in 1973 in December of 1973 at the Geneva Peace Talks, and the term Palestinian was in common use by then. But as you say, he didn't use it.

Psachya... An even simpler way to explain it: If the Arabs put down their weapons tomorrow there would be immediate peace. If Israel put down it's weapons tomorrow there would be an immediate holocaust.

Irina... Thus my contention that Israel ignore what the world says and do what it has to do.

Jersey Boy... I'll look into it. thanks.

Seawitch... Contradictions only show up in contextual discussions. Most news is reported in a historical vacuum without any contextual information whatsoever.

Poison P'il... What's stopping you. Nobody says you have to come forever. But a week or two would be nice. :-)

The Back of the Hill... Why thank you. I'm always pleased when someone says one of my posts is worthy of clipping and posting on the front of the refrigerator.

PK... You got that right.

Seattle... Thanks, I'll try to mix it up if I can.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jul 27, 2006 3:06:35 PM

Israel is missing an opportunity this time

This is from Haaretz
"In the middle of the week, a close personal friend of U.S. President George Bush, who is also a generous donor to the Republican Party, called an Israeli friend who is a senior officer in the Israel Defense Forces. "What's happening with you?" he asked, as angry as he was disappointed. "The best army in the region, one of the best armies in the world, is messing for two weeks with a terrorist organization three kilometers from the border, and the rockets keep falling on its population centers? We sent our army to bleed 6,000 miles from home after September 11. What's stopping you?"

Because this is the true surprise,a surprise of statesmen and not of intelligence of the campaign in the north: no American red light, no flashing orange light, and not even a mere green light, but the blaring siren of the sheriff's car sitting behind the hesitant driver at the intersection urging him to get moving. The global cop is recruiting Israel as a regional cop, to impose Security Council Resolution 1559 on the government of Lebanon and dismantle the Hezbollah army. "

Haaretz editorials are imploring the goverment to let the army be more decisive. HAARETZ, not Aruts Sheva BUT hAARETZ.

Posted by: alexbmn | Jul 28, 2006 3:40:45 AM

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