Thursday, February 8, 2007

The Mideast record

The language of Ziad Asali’s Op-Ed, “Towards Israeli-Palestinian peace” (Monday) is temperate, but the substance misleading. For example:

• Mr. Asali claims “there is an internationally accepted solution that calls for two states on mutually acceptable borders based on 1967.” The pre-1967 Six-Day War boundaries referred to were not borders but the temporary 1949 and 1950 armistice lines. U.N. Security Council Resolution 242’s “secure and recognized” borders remain to be negotiated; Israel has no obligation to return to the 1967 lines.

• Mr. Asali asserts that “the end game… will be a variation on the themes of Taba,” President Bush’s June 24, 2002 speech and other initiatives. The Palestinian Arabs refused the 2001 Israeli-U.S. Taba offer of 97 percent-plus of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with eastern Jerusalem as the capital. Instead, they escalated the terrorism of the “al-Aqsa intifada.” Outgoing President Clinton was forced to describe the Taba proposal as off the table.

Further, in 2002 Mr. Bush pledged U.S. support for Israel and a new, democratic Palestinian Arab country, side-by-side and at peace. But first the Palestinians would have to choose leadership untainted by terrorism. Instead, last year they voted for Hamas (the Islamic Resistance Movement, a group on the American list of terrorist organizations) to lead the Palestinian Authority cabinet and legislature.

• Incredibly, the writer claims that “Palestinians are justified to be skeptical as they look at the settlements and expansion of exclusive roads and suffer the consequences of an unbroken record of broken promises.” It’s Israel and the rest of the world that’s justified in being skeptical. The Palestinian record of broken promises — to eliminate the terrorist infrastructure, to end anti-Israeli and even anti-Semitic incitement, to educate the Palestinian public for peaceful coexistence — goes back the 1993 Declaration of Principles and subsequent Oslo Accords and continues to the present.

Meanwhile, Israel in 2005 razed all its Gaza Strip settlements, withdrew its military forces and turned the Gaza-Egyptian Rafah crossing point over to Palestinian control. In response, the Palestinian Arabs intensified rocket attacks, increased weapons smuggling, and reportedly instituted cooperation with Iran and Hezbollah.

• Mr. Asali alleges that “the United Nations, which dispossessed the Palestinians by a resolution that created Israel in 1947, should pass a resolution to establish Palestine.” The United Nations did not dispossess Palestinian Arabs in 1947 — they and the countries of the Arab League did. The 1947 U.N. partition plan called for two states, one Jewish, one Arab, in what remained of British Mandatory Palestine (Jordan having been created previously on three-fourths of the Mandate). The Jews accepted, the Arabs refused and attacked. By their 1948-49 war, the Arabs created two sets of refugees — roughly 500,000 to 600,000 Arabs, and 820,000 Jews who fled the Arab states, most of them going to Israel.

• The writer claims that “more Israelis need to come to terms with the need to end the occupation, the policy of humiliation of the Palestinians, and the grinding and restrictive realities of imprisonments, checkpoints and impoverishment.” Six consecutive Israeli prime ministers have struggled to find a Palestinian leadership able and willing to “end the occupation” in exchange for peaceful coexistence. So far, no luck. Mr. Asali implicitly admits this, writing that “the Palestinians must clearly define what they want… They are hopelessly divided and are in intermittent civil war.”

Meanwhile, “the occupation” (Israel would not have been in the West Bank and Gaza Strip but for the Arab-provoked 1967 war) and its “humiliations” — essentially counterterrorism measures — protect Israelis — Jews and Arabs — and many West Bank Palestinians as well, from bloody anarchy like that in “Gazastan.”

As for “impoverishment,” the U.N. 2005 Human Development Report noted that Palestinian Arabs in 2003 (even under the misrule of the Palestinian Authority and the return of Israeli forces to Palestinian population centers after a wave of suicide bombings in 2002) had higher living standards than the Arabs of Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Syria and Yemen and weren’t far behind those of Tunisia and Jordan.

The same day Mr. Asali’s op-ed appeared, an Associated Press article in The Washington Times (“Hamas attacks Fatah bases”) reported that “more than 130 Palestinians have been killed in the factional fighting since May… Since Thursday, Hamas gunmen have attacked more than a dozen security installation in what appeared to be a systematic campaign to weaken Mr. Abbas’ control of Gaza.” The most difficult, and most urgent of the decisions Mr. Asali mentions are faced not by the United States or Israel, but by the Palestinian Arabs.


Washington director

Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America


A little context

Thank you for finding space on your Commentary pages to print a fine article by Wess Mitchell (“Czechs and balances,” Saturday). We appreciate your coverage of the Czech Republic, but I would like to add a comment. The two individuals named in the article have strong ties to the United States: Alexander Vondra was the Czech ambassador to the U.S. in the late 1990s, and the foreign minister’s (Karel Schwartzenberg’s) uncle, Francis Schwartzenberg, taught political science at Loyola University in Chicago for more than 30 years.


Silver Spring

Cool reception

Let’s grant (if just for the sake of argument) that environmental scientists have proved that Earth’s ideal average temperature was reached about a century ago and that the temperature is rising because of human activity (“Just the facts,” Op-Ed, yesterday).

The truth remains that these scientists have no expertise to judge whether government can be trusted with the power and resources to “combat” global warming. Nor can these scientists tell us how a free market likely would deal with global warming’s consequences.

Contrary to widespread belief, environmental scientists can legitimately say nothing about whether, or how, to respond to global warming.



Department of Economics

George Mason University


Cobbled corn prices

DeroyMurdock’s commentary on the consequences of ethanol production was a worthy pursuit that unfortunately started in error (“Ethanol and its unintended consequences,” Sunday). It is critical to the discussion of ethanol that it is understood that the price of corn that now so concerns observers was previously and intrusively held down by government intervention.

The federal farm program that designated a $1.98 per bushel maximum support price to corn farmers long guaranteed that the marketplace need never bid more. All subsequent product prices were the direct result of government subsidization and intervention benefiting grain buyers, which incidentally applies to livestock and poultry feeders in terms of the corn used for ethanol.It has never and will never apply to the sweet corn consumed at the dinner table cited by Mr. Murdock. The two corn products are as different as corn and cotton, whose only relationship may involve a farmer’s market-based decision to plant one crop over the other based on a profitable price.

Also, the errantly described link between Mexican protesters and ethanol use of feed corn must be corrected. The government intervention that created high prices for tortillas was the passage of NAFTA, accompanied by the flooding of the Mexican market with artificially price-suppressed U.S. corn. The resultant loss of Mexican farms producing corn for their domestic market has long been documented and is a real cause of the poverty-driven desperation immigration from rural Mexico.


St. Anthony Village, Minn.

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