Thursday, April 29, 2010

Progress for Americans for Peace Now: For Once, They're Not Completely Off-Base

I must compliment Americans for Peace Now. I received an email from them (technically, from the care2 petitionsite, but really from APN) asking me to send a letter to President Obama encouraging him "to continue to push for Mideast peace" and the content of their proposed letter is not as harmful to the prospects for peace as most of APN's efforts.

In a small step in the right direction, rather than only calling for pressure on the one party (Israel) that's actually working for peace, Americans for Peace Now actually mentions the Palestinian and other Arabs should be pressured.

Unfortunately, that's about all they got even partially right.

Any mention of pressuring the Arabs was in conjunction with pressuring Israel, falsely creating the impression there was an equal need to pressure Israel. It also ignores the reality that pressure on Israel effectively creates negative pressure on the Arabs, encouraging them to continue to obstruct peace.

APN sent an email letter to people whose content was mostly duplicated on the website to which the letter linked. That content is included in this post, along with the text of the misguided letter APN is asking people to send to President Obama.

We analyze some of the content of the website, most of which is duplicated, repeatedly, in the proposed letter to the president.

APN correctly notes "there has been little progress toward peace." Actually, the movement has been away from peace, in large measure because the Obama Administration has been adhering to the sort of misguided policies espoused by APN.

APN incorrectly asserts "Peace talks will never succeed without genuine, sustained American leadership." Despite the best of intentions, American intervention has usually been counterproductive and most of the authentic progress has been made by the parties themselves. The failed Oslo process might have succeeded if America had not tried so hard to make is succeed and, in so doing, enabled the Palestinian Arabs to subvert it without paying a price - at least, without paying any price in addition to the disastrous situation they created for themselves.

In other places, where APN is not superficially evenhanded, it is plainly and generally wrongfully critical of Israel.

APN wrongly endorses what it calls "Obama's response to Israel's expansion of settlements," despite the fact that Israel has not expanded any "settlements" - indeed, it has frozen construction in settlements - and President Obama's creation of an crisis over a routine announcement about future construction in a well-established Jewish community in Israel's capital has set back peace efforts even further.

APN's reference to Obama being able to "defend his policies against right-wing attacks" is an apparently deliberate play into the prejudices of its misguided supporters, who routinely refer to the broad-based, basically middle-of-the-road coalition governing Israel as "right-wing" while carefully avoiding any language that might accurately portray the essentially extremist leadership of the Palestinian Authority.

I suggest a more productive path than that of Americans for Peace Now: Counsel President Obama to start supporting Israel, our only real friend in the Middle East, the party that has continually striven to achieve peace and made countless, unreciprocated concessions. And Counsel President Obama to start pressuring the Arabs, the party that has always rejected peace and today continues to refuse to even negotiate with Israel.

This is the basic content of the website:

Tell Obama to Up the Pressure for Peace for Israel

Target: President Obama

Sponsored by: Americans for Peace Now

President Obama understands that Middle East peace is important for American national security interests, but there has been little progress toward peace. It is time for Obama to step up the pressure on all sides.

Peace talks will never succeed without genuine, sustained American leadership. The Obama administration must be willing to confront Israel, the Palestinians and other Arab states when they fail to take steps toward peace. Obama's response to Israel's expansion of settlements is important -- but it is not enough.

Despite what opponents say, there are few political costs. By taking a strong, consistent stance and putting real pressure on all parties, Obama can defend his policies against right-wing attacks and make real steps toward peace without sacrificing Israel's security.

This is the content of the sample letter on the website:

Dear President Obama,

We all support your statement that Middle East peace is important to American national security interests and we applaud your response to Israel's plans to build more settlements in East Jerusalem. Now it is time for you to step up the pressure -- on all sides -- to make real progress on peace for Israel.

Israelis and the Palestinians are never going to be able to overcome the status-quo forces absent American pressure for them to do so.

Stepping up the pressure doesn't mean taking actions that threaten Israel's security. You have many forms of leverage to bring to bear, including the ability to impose real costs on the parties without cutting US assistance.

Stepping up your efforts on peace will not cost you politically, as some argue. Right-wingers will criticize you on Israel regardless of what you do. By sticking to a consistent, principled approach -- and backing it up with real pressure -- you will be better positioned to defend your policy and even to point to real achievements.

Do not allow the parties to stonewall peace talks. Be prepared to lay down some clear principles on the key final status issues. Be prepared to confront Israel and the Palestinians when they fail to support peace. Those of us who truly care about Israel and about peace want peace negotiations to succeed. We stand ready to support you in this effort.

[Your name here]

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