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Friedmometer: Bibi’s Opportunity

Friedman calls on prime minister to put his new coalition to work on peace

Marc Tracy
May 23, 2012

The Friedmometer tracks left-of-center conventional wisdom about the state of peace in the land between the river and the sea through the eyes of Thomas Friedman.

Today, Friedman marvels at Prime Minister Netanyahu’s formidable new coalition—clever: “There are Arab dictators who didn’t have majorities that big after rigged elections”—makes the well-told (and persuasive) case that it is in Israel’s long-term interests to strike a real deal with the Palestinians, notes that Netanyahu would seem to have the political backing to make such a deal, and then tells Bibi it’s up to him to do it (he suggests Ami Ayalon’s “constructive unilateralism”).

The Friedmometer should, therefore, be way over on the left: the ball is squarely in Bibi’s court, and he’s not returning it, right? Well, what Friedman ignores, elides, or just maybe actually gets is that Netanyahu has that massive coalition in part because he hasn’t made significant moves toward peace. And if most of Friedman’s op-ed is a plea for action, its beefy third paragraph is an explanation of why there has been none:

I’m keeping an open mind, but the temptation for Bibi to do nothing will be enormous. The Palestinians are divided between Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and both populations are tired. Moreover, economic conditions have improved in the West Bank in recent years, and the Palestinian Authority’s security forces are keeping a tight rein on anti-Israeli violence. Aid from the U.S., Europe and the Arabs pays a lot of the authority’s budget. Israel’s security wall keeps Palestinian suicide bombers out. The U.S. election silences any criticism coming from Washington about Israeli settlements. The Israeli peace camp is dead, and the Arab awakening has most Arab states enfeebled or preoccupied. So Israel gets to build settlements, while the Arabs, Americans, Europeans and Palestinians fund and sustain a lot of the occupation.

Friedman just described, accurately, a “temptation” which, I’m sad to say, excepting literally George Washington almost every politician would fall for.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.