By Barry Rubin

My article, “The Unbearable Lightness of Mainstream Thinking on Israel-Palestinian Issues,” came out too early to include this howler from Tom Friedman. We should remember that Friedman is highly regarded in certain circles. Yet his columns are often laughable in terms of the actual Middle East. Consider this passage giving his proposal for a compromise at the UN:

“Each side would get something vital provided it gives the other what it wants. The Palestinians would gain recognition of statehood and U.N. membership, within provisional boundaries, with Israel and America voting in favor. And the Israelis would get formal U.N. recognition as a Jewish state — with the Palestinians and Arabs voting in favor.”

Now, can Friedman deliver the Palestinian, Arab, (and Muslim-majority state) votes for formal UN recognition of Israel as a Jewish state? Of course not. It reminds me of how President Barack Obama promised Israel in 2009 that in exchange for Israeli concessions he would deliver Arab ones. He totally failed, getting turned down by every Arab country.

They wouldn’t vote for recognition of Israel as a Jewish state because a Jewish state is not to be allowed in the Middle East since this is supposed to be exclusively Muslim and/or Arab territory. Some are totally against Israel’s existence, others could accept it in practice but not with their official approval of its existence and its definition as Jewish. And of course the Palestinian Authority and Fatah–obviously not Hamas–would never accept the idea of Israel as a Jewish state even in exchange for a West Bank-Gaza Strip state with its capital in east Jerusalem and its borders those of the pre-1967 variety.

Friedman could not get the leader of a single Arab state to pledge such a deal. So when he presents this to his readers as a way of solving the conflict he is lying. Yet this is the daily diet served up in terms of Middle East analysis.

Again, even in exchange for an independent Palestinian state along the 1967 borders with its capital including all of east Jerusalem, the Palestinian Authority would NOT:

–Give up a demand for a “right of return” of all Palestinians who wanted to going to live in Israel.

–Accept Israel as a Jewish state.

–Agree to end the conflict forever and formally drop all further demands on Israel.

I can think of more items to add to this list but those three are for certain. Notice by the way that all of these fantasies have the same theme: If Israel only takes more risks and makes more concessions, peace is (easily) possible. The Arabs and Palestinians are always presented as being ready to make concessions they would never dream of making. Then because Israel won’t fall for this nonsense and has already experienced several times over the fact that these things don’t work, it is presented as being against peace, intransigent, or not understanding its own true interests.

So let’s ask these people to stop lying or at least speaking from ignorance. If they refuse to do that, can’t they at least allow those who see that the emperor’s analysts have no clothes to have equal space and try (although they would fail) to answer the serious arguments to be made about these issues?

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at and of his blog, Rubin Reports,

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