Reuters and AP may not be right yet

Ha’aretz’s Nir Hassan reports that the Jerusalem planning committee is meeting for the first time since Biden’s visit. Meanwhile, Netanyahu is fending off accusations that he was trying an unofficial freeze in E. Jerusalem.

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[UPDATE: ] McClatchey’s story is called, “Amid denials of freeze, red tape slows Jerusalem settlements —

“We are running into problems in places where we didn’t used to. There is suddenly red tape and holdups. The municipality is making it very hard for us and asking us to be quiet about it,” said Aryeh King , the founder of the Israel Land Fund and a well-known activist on behalf of Jewish projects in East Jerusalem .

“We are working behind their backs and, God willing, we will continue to build regardless of what Netanyahu or the Americans say.”

Security asset or security liability? — Could this question so far be entirely subjective?

Marc Tracy at Tablet has an interesting observation:

According to [Richard] Haass, this is wrong: an equitable Palestinian settlement would not calm Iraq, subdue the Taliban, cause Iran to cede its nuclear ambitions, win over Arab governments, or halt terrorism.

What do I find interesting? When the question is simply Israel-Palestine, those most inclined to support Israel are the first to point to Israel’s tremendous importance to the United States as a strategic and intelligence-gathering partner, while those advocates of taking the special out of the “special relationship” tend to downplay Israel’s direct importance to U.S. interests. When the subject becomes America’s troops in the field, though, the most pro-Israel folks find themselves saying Israel is one thing and America is another, and the left-wing folks find an intimate connection between the two countries.

Why Jeffrey Goldberg is easy for The Dish to use and abuse

Because he prioritizes writing post like this, entitled  “General Petraeus Was Right,” in which Goldberg implies that Petraeus’ remarks about the Israel-Palestinian conflict were controversial once the blogosphere settled down and acknowledged that Petraeus was only rehashing an obvious assessment of moderate Arab governments that is broadly accepted among American Jews. The post itself doesn’t bother me much. What bothers me is that today he wrote to belatedly remind us that “General Petraeus Was Right” without writing at least one post examining whether the Israelis have in fact conceded to a settlement freeze in East Jerusalem.

Trying to shore up his oft-disputed leftish credentials only gets Goldblog quoted to its author’s dismay. He then overreacts in the opposite direction, with a reply that most American conservatives could support, and subsequently he gets accused of being a crypto-neocon. Then Goldberg complains how stressed it gets him that he’s in the middle of different viewpoints on the conflict and the world won’t accept him there.

Kadima is now accusing Netanyahu of going through with the freeze the Americans wanted and pretending he didn’t to his own people. Seems like a big deal. Goldberg has nothing to say about it, with all the accusations of intransigence that have been thrown around lately, including by one prominent colleague at The Atlantic. Not even, “I’m still thinking about it, making phone calls, trying to figure out what may be happening.”

Sullivan has called him “a joke, mostly.” Of course, that was a cruel and pretty content-less put-down, unless you factor in that Sullivan often accuses Goldberg of putting up a pro-peace front while sharing the “neocon line” on Israel. Sullivan just as often quotes Goldblog’s criticisms of Israeli policy in order to say, “See, I must be right. Even this neoconish dude thinks Israel is doing wrong. (In fact, I’ll make him look more extreme by nominating him for a Yglessias award).”

I hope I’m being kinder and more constructive than Andrew when I say that Goldberg is a valuable thinker playing the same joke on himself over and over.

The Dish despairs… that Americans aren’t dishier about Israel

A Quinnipac poll disappoints Andrew, with him alluding to the plurality of respondents (42% vs. 34% — but 53% vs 20% for Democrats) who didn’t think Obama was a “strong supporter” of Israel. Well, then the poll must be skewed, almost absurdly so:

Yes, I found that Quinnipiac poll almost absurdly skewed. I regard myself as fervently pro-Israel as does, I believe, the president.

But the poll didn’t ask what Obama thinks about himself or how Obama feels about Israel.

Does the Dish think that the American citizens questioned are too too dumb to understand that distinction? … Actually, I hope Andrew understands that distinction.

But I believe that real pressure has to be placed to get a settlement for Israel’s and primarily America’s interests. Does that make me anti-Israel? (Please, God, let’s not have that debate again.)

So I guess we can’t debate about that little bait-&-switch, huh? The poll asked about whether Obama was “pro-Israel,” referring indirectly to a bilateral conflict where another side conveys its own insistence — gasp! — on various things. The poll did not ask about him being “fervently” pro-anything or whether he was “anti-Israel.”

Sorry, but there may be space in between pro-Israel and anti-Israel where an observer can weeble-wobble toward both directions, even if it doesn’t make an observer feel comfortable that he/she might be said to occupy that space.

The question about being “pro-Israel” does not seem to skew things “absurdly” or “almost absurdly.”

The poll we need is determining whether Israel should permanently occupy the West Bank and all of Jerusalem. And we have that poll, from Rasmussen no less, an outfit whose sample would be likely to provide a pro-Netanyahu result:

49 percent of Americans believe that “Israel (should) be required to stop building new settlements in occupied Palestinian territory,” while only 22 percent believe it should not. That represents a strong endorsement of the position taken by the Obama administration. An even-more overwhelming percentage of Americans — 75 percent — believe that “Palestinian leaders (should) be required to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state” as part of a peace agreement.

So the American public supports Obama’s position.

Um, nice try. That is not Obama’s position, “to stop building new settlements.” If it was, Netanyahu would not be having these problems with his far right coalition members and Israeli citizens who vote for the Labor Party would not be having any problems with the recent actions of our administration. Obama’s position is actually “to stop building new settlements plus stop building in old ones,” and the Rasmussen poll did not raise that question.

Funny how that doesn’t get reported quite as much.

Yes, hilarious.

When Andrew Sullivan doesn’t like the answer the majority of his future fellow citizens give, he just ignores the polls, I guess — at least when it comes to Israel or something otherwise “neoconesque.”

This desire to create his own sense of what’s possible based on estimations of the power of the presidency and live in a world where he chooses the facts is familiar. Oh, that’s right, Andrew is a neo-neocon, and hates himself half the time.

But in fact, the whole argument of this Dish post is all one of Andrew’s straw babies. What I’m guessing he doesn’t like about the Quinnipac poll, since he doesn’t want to quote it, or allude to it in any way, is this question:

12. Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling – the situation between Israel and the Palestinians?

The pollsters tell us this question brought out an essential conclusion from the poll, but Andrew’s reading skills somehow didn’t pick it up:

The one negative area in voter appraisal of Obama’s foreign policy is that voters disapprove 44 – 35 percent of the way the President is handling the situation between Israel and the Palestinians. Jewish voters, generally supportive of Obama on other issues, turn 67 – 28 percent thumbs down on his handling of Israel and the Palestinians.

Now that’s “handling” which they didn’t agree with. That doesn’t mean they’re saying he’s “not pro-Israel enough,” or that he’s “too anti-Israel,” or doesn’t have good beliefs about Jewish settlement of the West Bank, or doesn’t have good beliefs about what to temporarily do about established settlements to start the peace process. It just means that they think the hockey dad’s kid may have done something wrong or wrongly — which happens to mean that they don’t like something the hockey dad yelled for the kid to do.

The Dish’s response to the Quinnipac poll, and perhaps the Rasmussen one also, seems a bit skewed to get his readership to share his opinions by hook or by crook … and yet I believe he regards himself as fervently pro-reader.

Stephen Walt bait

Richard Haas, a foreign policy “realist” gone bad in Walt’s eyes, writes in the WSJ against announcing a comprehensive peace plan now, and stars hypothesizing about causes and effects, until it sounds like the Dish will accuse him of “the old neocon intransigence on everything.” A big chunk of Haas’s article in this post:

To be sure, peace between Israelis and Palestinians would be of real value. It would constitute a major foreign-policy accomplishment for the United States. It would help ensure Israel’s survival as a democratic, secure, prosperous, Jewish state. It would reduce Palestinian and Arab alienation, a source of anti-Americanism and radicalism. And it would dilute the appeal of Iran and its clients.

But it is easy to exaggerate how central the Israel-Palestinian issue is and how much the U.S. pays for the current state of affairs. […]

Take Iraq, the biggest American investment in the Greater Middle East over the past decade. That country’s Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds are divided over the composition of the new government, how to share oil revenues, and where to draw the border between the Kurdish and Arab areas. The emergence of a Palestinian state would not affect any of these power struggles.

Soon to surpass Iraq as the largest U.S. involvement in the region is Afghanistan. Here the U.S. finds itself working against, as much as with, a weak and corrupt president who frustrates American efforts to build up a government that is both willing and able to take on the Taliban. Again, the emergence of a Palestinian state would have no effect on prospects for U.S. policy in Afghanistan or on Afghanistan itself.

[…]

What about Iran? The greatest concern is Iran’s push for nuclear weapons. But what motivates this pursuit is less a desire to offset Israel’s nuclear weapons than a fear of conventional military attack by the U.S. Iran’s nuclear bid is also closely tied to its desire for regional primacy. Peace between Israel and the Palestinians would not weaken Iran’s nuclear aspirations. It could even reinforce them. Iran and the groups it backs (notably Hamas and Hezbollah) would be sidelined by the region’s embrace of a Palestinian state and acceptance of Israel, perhaps causing Tehran to look to nuclear weapons to compensate for its loss of standing and influence.

Here’s the right paragraph for the Dish to quote in isolation and attack:

Nor is it clear what effect successful peacemaking would have on Arab governments. The Palestinian impasse did nothing to dissuade Arab governments from working with the U.S. to oust Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in the Gulf War when they determined it was in their interest to do so. Similarly, an absence of diplomatic progress would not preclude collaboration against an aggressive Iran. Just as important, a solution would not resolve questions of political stability and legitimacy within the largely authoritarian Arab world.

The Dish hasn’t addressed the point below, which would be primary for any realist calculations of the effects of a peace treaty on achieving … well, the peace James Baker wants (i.e. Muslim-stress-reducing peace).

[…] Lip service is paid to Palestinian goals, but the radical terrorist agenda would not be satisfied by Palestinian statehood.What is more, any Palestinian state would materialize only amidst compromise. There will be no return to the 1967 borders; at most, Palestinians would be compensated for territorial adjustments made necessary by large blocs of Jewish settlements and Israeli security concerns. There will be nothing more than a token right of return for Palestinians to Israel. Jerusalem will remain undivided and at most shared. Terrorists would see all this as a sell-out, and they would target not just Israel but those Palestinians and Arab states who made peace with it.

Does the realist in Haas then speak? He sounds like a small-c conservative here:

The danger of exaggerating the benefits of solving the Palestinian conflict is that doing so runs the risk of distorting American foreign policy. It accords the issue more prominence than it deserves, produces impatience, and tempts the U.S. government to adopt policies that are overly ambitious.

This is not an argument for ignoring the Palestinian issue. As is so often the case, neglect will likely prove malign. But those urging President Obama to announce a peace plan are doing him and the cause of peace no favor. Announcing a comprehensive plan now—one that is all but certain to fail—risks discrediting good ideas, breeding frustration in the Arab world, and diluting America’s reputation for getting things done.

Uh oh, Haas goes all Israel-gooey at the end — Walt should hit here:

Also needed are efforts to repair U.S.-Israeli ties. The most important issue facing the two countries is Iran. It is essential the two governments develop a modicum of trust if they are to manage inevitable differences over what to do about Iran’s nuclear program, a challenge that promises to be the most significant strategic threat of this decade. A protracted disagreement over the number of settlements or the contours of a final settlement is a distraction that would benefit neither the U.S. nor Israel, given an Iranian threat that is close at hand and a promise of peace that is distant.

I disagree with Haas there. The United States can more effectively get Israel to compromise on settlement building — and part of that is toning down its rhetoric so it’s at least not as harsh as how the U.S. talks to its enemies — and a few of its policy expectations. This will help the prospects of peace. The important thing from a realist perspective is not to raise false expectations for either side.

Andrew gets his total settlement freeze?

Maybe. He hasn’t noticed. From the AP’s Amy Teibel:

The Israeli government has effectively frozen new Jewish construction in Jerusalem‘s disputed eastern sector, municipal officials said Monday. The decision was made despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s public insistence that building would not be stopped in the face of U.S. pressure.

It remained unclear if the slowdown constituted a formal moratorium or how long it would last, but the move reflected Netanyahu’s need to mend a serious rift with the U.S. over Israeli construction on lands the Palestinians claim for a future state as Washington tries to bring the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.

In an interview Monday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signaled he would be ready to start indirect peace talks with Israel, after weeks of hesitation. The U.S. has proposed talks between Israel and the Palestinians, with President Barack Obama’s envoy as go-between, and in recent days Washington had stepped up efforts to coax Abbas back to the table.

Abbas told Israel’s Channel 2 TV he will present the U.S. proposal to the Arab League this week and that “we hope that the reply will be positive.”

If this is true about an unofficial moratorium, and if it holds for the next few months, how will The Dish pivot to justify its “pro-Israeli” excoriation of Israeli intransigence — hurting the U.S. relations with the Muslim world and endangering U.S. soldiers?

I’m guessing Andrew will just seize on the next trivial thing (ex. fixing the outside of a temple in East Jerusalem) that the Palestinians stake their umbrage on.

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UPDATE: Less than an hour ago, AP realized that it might have picked the wrong lede and the wrong online headline with “Palestinians signal readiness to start peace talks.” The link is the same but Teibel’s story is now different. (The old story can still be read here.)

Now the lede is

JERUSALEM (AP) – Israel’s prime minister has effectively frozen new Jewish construction in east Jerusalem, municipal officials said Monday, reflecting the need to mend a serious rift with the U.S. and get Mideast peace talks back on track.

Uh oh, Andrew.

The move comes despite Benjamin Netanyahu’s repeated assertion he would never halt construction in east Jerusalem and risks angering hard-liners in his government. One lawmaker from Netanyahu’s Likud Party warned the governing coalition could collapse over the issue.

Still, the de facto freeze appeared to offer the promise of reviving peace efforts derailed after Israel announced plans for amajor Jewish housing development during a visit by Vice President Joe Biden last month.

That set off the worst diplomatic dispute between the U.S. and Israel in decades – and prompted the Palestinians to call off a new round of U.S.-brokered peace talks.

The quiet halting of east Jerusalem housing approvals coincides with signs that those talks are now about to start – and could help explain recent U.S. statements stressing America’s close ties to Israel.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signaled Monday he was ready to start indirect talks with Israel after weeks of hesitation. Washington has stepped up efforts in recent days to coax Abbas to agree to the talks, with President Barack Obama’s envoy as go-between.

Now the headline is

APNewsBreak: Israel halts east Jerusalem building

Are pundits more formidable than politicians?

How To End A Career In 140 Characters Or Less

09 Apr 2010 05:00 pm

Gordon Brown dumps a Scotland MP candidate for making a series of offensive comments via Twitter. Paul Waugh:

Surely jokes about slavery, insulting voters as ‘chavs’ and “ugly old boots” makes life politically impossible? [Stuart] MacLennan also describes pensioners as “coffin dodgers”. His Twitter account has now been suspended, but these screen shots tell the tale.

I find this sad, of course. When our only representatives have never hooked up online, never made an unseemly joke on her Facebook page, never told a dirty joke, never allowed for an occasional diversion into political incorrectness, we will have the faceless, humorless, scripted, alien governing class we deserve.

Emphasis mine. But apparently when they’re pundits, with no direct political power, distasteful jokes show the American Right to be “protofascists” … and make Andrew Sullivan the heir of the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War or something.