Despite a decade of embarrassments and criticism from the left and right, The New York Times editors remain smugly confident in their wisdom. Consider a recent editorial, "Talk, but No Peace," which followed Israel's efforts to stop heightened violence from Palestinian-ruled Gaza.
"There are a few certainties when it comes to the Middle East," the Times began. "One is that Hamas militants will do anything to sabotage Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts."
No argument there. Hamas remains unalterably opposed to Israel's existence.
"Another is that Israel will retaliate against serious assaults on its people," the editorial went on. Israel's efforts to defend its citizens from increasingly intensified attacks by Hamas are reduced in the Times' universe of certainty to "retaliation."
If Hamas is the legitimate government of Gaza, Israel has every right to take military action to end what can only be called acts of war.
If Hamas is a rebellious criminal force, which Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' government is incapable or unwilling to restrain, Israel is similarly entitled to act to end the threat. One cannot imagine America's response to Pearl Harbor being characterized in the pages of the Times as retaliation. Israel is acknowledged to have, like all states, the right of self- defense. But, unlike every other nation, they are not allowed to exercise it. When they defend themselves, it is "retaliation."
The Times' list of certainties continues: "Without measurable improvements in the lives of both Israelis and Palestinians, a few spectacular acts of terrorism can derail even the best-intentioned peace talks."
The Times links improving the lives of Israelis with that of Palestinians and with a peaceful outcome. But how does that hold up to scrutiny?
Improving the lives of Israelis is easy. Israelis have devoted themselves for nearly 60 years to nation building, creating one of the world's most vibrant economies. Israel, like all nations, is imperfect. But the country is addressing these issues through the democratic process.
There is only one thing Israelis need or want from the Palestinians to improve their lives: Stop killing them.
Palestinians are much harder to please. The Times opines that for the Palestinians, improving their lives "means no further expansion of settlements and finding ways for Palestinians to move about and work."
Israel, of course, did exactly that in Gaza. They not only stopped expanding settlements, they tore them down. Israeli troops were withdrawn.
Palestinians responded by turning Gaza into a base for terror. Rather than begin the difficult task of nation building, they made Gaza a launching pad for increasingly lethal rocket attacks and incursions.
This is hardly an aberration. Israel withdrew from Lebanon across internationally recognized borders. Hezbollah's response was to launch fusillades of rockets from Lebanese civilian neighborhoods into Israel's north.
How does one improve the lives of people more committed to war than peace?
The Times goes on to observe with further certainty: "Mr. Olmert and Mr. Abbas are committed to a two-state solution." There can be little doubt that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is indeed committed to two states for two peoples.
What remains uncertain is whether Abbas does, in fact, share that goal. He has declared that Israel cannot be a Jewish state, and he continues to insist that Palestinians who claim to be descended from those who left be allowed to move to Israel.
Considering the fate of Christian populations in Palestinian territory, those concerned about Israel's future with an expanded Arab population have cause for apprehension.
Could the inconvenient truth be that Abbas' two-state solution is two states but for one people — his? The Times does not say.
This column was written for the Israel Advocacy Task Force of the Israel Center of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.