Thursday, December 30, 2010
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Prime Minister Netanyahu announced today that he will formally call for the release of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard. Pollard was arrested in 1985 for selling classified material to the Israeli government. He pled guilty in 1986 and was sentenced to life in prison. State Department Spokesman Philip Crowley responded to the news in a press conference later today, saying only, “all I can tell you is Jonathan Pollard remains in prison.”
The move is intended as an appeal to Netanyahu’s right wing coalition which grew increasingly irritated at Netanyahu during this year’s peace talks for his willingness to consider a settlement freeze. Tensions within the right wing between Yisrael Beiteinu and Shas have also fomented over the progression of the Rotem bill, which would certify the validity of all conversions to Judaism conducted by the IDF.
But despite coalition troubles, Netanyahu’s decision is a mistake. Freeing Pollard would not be enough to save a long-term coalition which has begun to fray. It will exacerbate the already sub-optimal relationship between Israel and the United States, and it puts American Jews in an unfairly difficult position.
Given the prominence of Wikileaks, the US Government is unlikely to free a convicted spy in a move that would be widely criticized as a double standard between Pollard and Julian Assange. Additionally, even if Netanyahu were to secure Pollard’s release, passage of a bill diluting the power of the Orthodox rabbinical establishment is a cost which Pollard's release simply does not cover.
Here in Washington, some policymakers see requests by Netanyahu for a favor after this year's settlement freeze fiasco as the height of chutzpah. The Obama was unlikely to grant Pollard’s release even as part of a final status agreement. It’s even less likely to happen as a favor to an intransigent Netanyahu government which publicly embarrassed the Obama administration and the US Government.
Finally, the move will cause bifurcation in the American Jewish community between those who support Pollard’s release and those who oppose it. Dual loyalty questions are the bane of the American Jewish establishment, and any debate over the Pollard issue is likely to be nasty. Netanyahu is needlessly putting American Jews and the organizations that represent them in a position which pits their identity as Jews against loyalty to their country. Given contemporary Jewish identity in the US, this move is not likely to win Netanyahu friends among the vast majority of Jews who will perceive Pollard’s actions for what they were, espionage and treason against the United States.
Monday, December 20, 2010
(All emphasis added for effect)
Yaalon: The Palestinians are the Real Obstacle to Peace
Areikat: Palestinians Must be Free
The pro-Israel headline is against “The Palestinians" with a capital T, and plays the blame card from the start. The Palestinian headline personalizes the Palestinians and is in support of them and their freedom, a universally positive word.
2) Opening Blows:
Yaalon: “Unfortunately, what stands between the Palestinians and eventual statehood is their insincerity when it comes to real peace. Israel has repeatedly proposed the independence that the Palestinians ostensibly desire.”
Areikat: “Ya'alon's inflammatory rhetoric is designed to disguise the simple truth that the conflict between Israel and the Arab and Muslim worlds is the result of Israel's occupation of Palestinian and Arab territory, and the subsequent denial of equality and liberty to the people of our region.”
Many readers likely perceived Yaalon's claim of “insincerity” both vague and ironic coming from a country which has stalled on freezing settlements despite clear incentives to do so. Areikat frames the issue as a land conflict and a tangible policy problem. Areikat also links the problem to “denial of equality and liberty,” values which strongly mobilize American policy audiences. Throughout his piece, Areikat shows clear understanding of his audience, noting that discourse on negotiations “can make even a policy wonk yawn” in an attempt to connect.
Yaalon: “And all Palestinians must come to terms, once and for all, with the fact that the Jewish people will continue to exercise their historical right to sovereignty in their homeland, a sovereignty that guarantees equal rights for all of Israel's citizens.”
Areikat: “To achieve our aims, we are entitled to resort to all peaceful, nonviolent, and legal means. This includes, but is not limited to, taking our case to the United Nations and other international forums, calling on other countries to recognize a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, and working with the international community to realize Palestinian national rights of self-determination and statehood.”
Yaalon’s recommendation is the policy version of “deal with it.” Areikat addresses the insincerity argument head on by using language like “nonviolent” and “legal,” and emphasizing a commitment to the “United Nations and other international forums” and the “international community” to gain “self-determination” and “statehood.” The extent to which this has actually been the Palestinian strategy historically is a matter of debate to say the least. But Areikat understands that these buzz words are what sway American policy audiences.
For Israel to catch up, it must embody the rhetoric of human rights. Here is a reworking of each section as an example:
Old title: The Palestinians are the Real Obstacle to Peace
New Title: We Must not Allow Those who Oppose Peace to Prevent It
Old attack: ““Unfortunately, what stands between the Palestinians and eventual statehood is their insincerity when it comes to real peace. Israel has repeatedly proposed the independence that the Palestinians ostensibly desire.”
New attack: “Unfortunately, some radical ideologues with whom Israel negotiates seem to be ambivalent about the value of peace. We on the Israeli side do not share this ambivalence. We cannot afford to do so when the rights and freedoms of our people are at stake. We must move past our differences with the Palestinians to find a solution based on mutual respect and common ground.”
Old recommendation: ““And all Palestinians must come to terms, once and for all, with the fact that the Jewish people will continue to exercise their historical right to sovereignty in their homeland, a sovereignty that guarantees equal rights for all of Israel's citizens.”
New recommendation: “We call on our Palestinian brothers and sisters to work with us to guarantee equality and freedom for all citizens whose lives have been touched by this conflict. Noone understands better than the Israelis the struggle for national recognition, sovereignty, and self-determination. Together, we can make our mutual hopes and dreams a reality.
Note that while the new versions are certainly more pie-in-the-sky, they make essentially the same argument as the old versions. To be sure, they are less representative of what Israeli government officials may say behind closed doors. But public relations is less about swaying opinions and more about placing oneself squarely within the beliefs of that community of opinion. Reclaiming the rhetoric of human rights, rather than sticking to old themes of Palestinian intransigence, will serve Israel much better in the long run as it attempts to navigate the murky public relations world in support of its vital interests.
UPDATE: The report contains an appendix of correspondence between HRW and the Mekorot water company. While the report contains all 10 pages of questions sent to Mekorot, and the Israeli government, Mekorot's response is not translated. It reads:
Re: Data for the Human Rights Watch Report
Your request was received by the Mekorot water company and referred for consideration to the appropriate professionals for response where possible.
Director, Reception Services