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Media Watch

November 15, 2007 By:
John R. Cohn, M.D.
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A date hasn't even been set for the proposed Annapolis Peace Conference, but media pundits, editors and self-styled diplomatic experts are springing into action like offsides rookie linemen, unable to wait for the snap of the ball because they yearn so badly to be the first to pile on.

In a July 23 editorial, "What Would a Diplomat Do?" The New York Times pointed to former Secretary of State James A. Baker as a paragon of diplomacy for his preparation in advance of the 1991 Madrid conference.

This is the same man who masterminded the 2000 Florida election battle that resulted in George W. Bush's victory. That should certainly make Baker an unpopular figure in the Times newsroom and editorial meetings. Still, with an opportunity to pressure Israel, even Baker's not beyond rehabilitation.

"It took former Secretary of State James Baker (no slouch as a negotiator) eight grueling shuttle trips to set the stage for the 1991 Madrid peace conference," wrote the Times.

Sixteen years later, however, peace remains elusive, and much of the Palestinian Authority controlled territories are ruled by anti-American terrorists. That and Baker's history matters little to Times' editors as it calls for diplomats to pressure Israel to make still more concessions.

The Philadelphia Inquirer's foreign-affairs expert Trudy Rubin picked up on the theme in a column titled, "Rice's Mideast gamble: Is it too much, too late?"

Seemingly maintaining that decades of Arab rejection could be overcome by the right meeting preparations, Rubin suggests fault for the lack of peace between Israel and the Arabs rests at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. If the president had been more proactive, she purports, then Palestinians would be enjoying statehood, and stamping out those preaching hatred and threatening violence, while recognizing the Jewish right to self-determination in their historic homeland.

In an October column, she wrote: "The problem, as we have learned to our cost, is that presidential optimism (or that of the secretary of state) is not sufficient to make good things happen."

She seemed to miss the irony that journalistic optimism is also not enough to make them happen.

'Secret of Success?'

On its Web page, The New York Review of Books boasts that The New York Times has called it "the country's most successful intellectual journal. ... The secret of its success is this: its editors' ability to get remarkable writers and thinkers, many of them specialists in their fields, to write lucidly for lay readers on an enormous range of complex, scholarly and newly emerging subjects, issues and ideas."

Lest anyone miss the link between "peace conference" and pressuring Israel, the NYRB published a letter by eight previously important people, led by Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Adviser to President Jimmy Carter. It makes clear what those who failed to deliver peace for 60 years think others ought to be doing now: Force Israel to make more concessions.

In their letter, they propose that Israel return to the June 4, 1967 borders. Many of the agreements they rely on in support of their argument, including U.N. Resolution 242, the Clinton parameters of 2000 and the recent road-map peace plan, reject the need for Israel to return to what former Israeli diplomat Abba Eban called "Auschwitz borders."

Deference is paid to "the Palestinian refugees' deep sense of injustice," but none to Israel's need for reliable security guarantees, nor, for that matter, the injustice done to the as many as 600,000 Jews who fled violence in Arab countries.

They urge that an agreement include "a mutual and comprehensive cease-fire in the West Bank and Gaza ... prevention of weapons smuggling, (and) cracking down on militias ... " but don't say how to achieve it.

And they also push for the inclusion of Hamas, which promises never to recognize Israel and "strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine," including all of pre-1967 Israel.

This column was written for the Israel Advocacy Task Force of the Israel Center of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

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