Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Does Clinton have trouble with the truth?

The facts:

  • "In the 30 months after the signing of the [Oslo Accords], more Israelis were killed in terror attacks (213) than in the preceding decade (203 from January 1983 to September 1993)"

  • "In contrast, there was a drastic decline in the number of fatalities during the Netanyahu government (1996-1999).... That period marks the lowest number of fatalities since the beginning of the Oslo process."

  • "Notably, the sharpest increase in the number of terrorist victims during the Oslo years was that of Israeli citizens within Israel's pre-1967 boundaries."

And, finally, after the collapse of the Clinton-sponsored Camp David talks in 2000 came a terror assault dwarfing even that of the Oslo years.

Clinton's analysis? He takes credit for the lull in 1998:

"When we had seven years of progress toward peace, there was one whole year when for the first time in the history of the state of Israel not one person died of a terrorist attack...."

...without taking responsibility for the massive increases in terrorism both before and after!

Now, I don't think Clinton was responsible for the terrorism (at least not primarily responsible), any more than I think he was responsible for the lull. But Jewish blogger DovBear seems eager to give him the credit, though not the responsibility!

We knew Clinton had trouble with the truth. Should we expect more from his sycophants?


DovBear said...

I think the word you want is apologist. A sycophant attempts to win favor by praising powerful people. Unless Clinton reads DovBear, which, I suppose, is possible, I doubt he'll be much influenced by my remarks.

But am I an apologist for Clinton? Not really. Like you, “I don't think Clinton was responsible for the terrorism” before, during and after the Oslo years, and, again, like you, I don’t think he deserves credit for the “lull.”

I give Clinton credit for four things, regarding Israel: (1) He believed in diplomacy and that peace was possible when many of our people preferred to keep fighting. (2) He worked frantically to save Jewish lives, and, (3) he saved Jewish lives. (I hope you, too, are embarrassed that so many Jews show so little gratitude for these exertions.) And (4) he showed us that diplomacy works. When the Arab masses thought that, via negotiation, they might realize their national aspirations, many turned away from terrorism. (Many. Not all) The success of 1998, the “whole year when for the first time in the history of the state of Israel not one person died of a terrorist attack” was the success of diplomacy and it reminds us that many more lives might have been saved had Clinton’s succesor continued Clinton's negotiations.

(Note: Yes, by 2000 Arafat was an irrelevancy. Yes, by 2000, he had shown us that he was not serious about a final settlement. Yes, the man was a snake. But when the snake was humored with peace talks and the trappings of high office, the violent abated. After 2000, peace talks with Arfat would have been an utter charade, but that charade would have saved lives and given Israel the moral highground. It would have been a charade worth pursuing.)

Zman Biur said...

`When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'You say you don't give Clinton credit for the lull - then why do you blame Bush for the resurgence?

Regarding the credit you give to Clinton:

(1) He did believe in diplomacy and the possibility of peace. He was wrong. Is that to his credit?

(2) and (3) I'm not sure specifically which period you're referring to here (Wye? Camp David? Taba?) but I don't see how you can interpret his diplomatic efforts as motivated by a desire to save Jewish lives, as opposed to entering the history books, winning the Nobel Prize, or just promoting American interests in the Middle East.

I agree that he should be commended for making such efforts to solve intractable problems, but ultimately his approach was counterproductive, as the tragic aftermath demonstrates.

(4) This is a stunning assertion. Diplomacy was underway at least from 1988 through 2001. Diplomacy resulted in the disastrous Oslo Accords and the tragic Camp David talks. What was special about 1998-99?

If the lull was the product of diplomacy (so you do give Clinton credit for it?), it was Netanyahu's diplomacy; Clinton's policy hadn't changed. But regardless, the lull was in retrospect a strategic retreat for regrouping. Arafat and his satellite groups used the time to rearm, train and prepare for the battle to come. This was well reported at the time, but Israel ignored the activity so as not to upset the diplomatic apple cart.

It had been clear (to some of us) since the start of Oslo that the point would come when Israel could concede no more, and that the Palestinians planned at that point to return to the armed struggle - but with strategic advantages of territory, money and arms. The lull leading up to this was deliberate, as it allowed them to marshall their strength for the big day, and to demonstrate to the world that they had been (supposedly) negotiating in good faith so long as it seemed practical.

There is no question in my mind that most of the diplomacy in the 1990s endangered Jewish lives, and served as a cover for an ongoing assault against Israel. Most of this was the fault of successive Israeli governments, not of the Clinton administration.

I'm willing to give Clinton credit for a lot of things. He was clearly a friend of Israel (though I think his policies were mostly misguided, and he actively sabotaged and betrayed the Netanyahu government). He invested a great deal of personal prestige in a futile idealistic attempt to solve impossible problems.

But I'm mystified as to how you can credit him with a year's lull sandwiched between the worst years of terrorism in Israel's history.

Your conclusion makes the point best: After 2000, Israel did continue to pursue talks with Arafat. Barak kept talking until he was booted out of office. The attacks against Israel did not stop for a second. Diplomacy works?

Soccer Dad said...

Sorry I don't agree either. As Biur mentions Clinton sabotaged the Netanyahu government. All Netanyahu asked for keeping the peace process going was for simple compliance. But somehow Clinton and like minded folks associated that with extremism. Clinton refused even to insist on Palestinian compliance with the Hebron accords and pressured Netanyahu to make withdrawals in accordance with Palestinian demands even though his administration guaranteed that such withdrawals were for Israel to determine unilaterally. (It wouldn't have passed the cabinet without that guarantee. So Clinton subverted Israeli democracy to mollify Arafat, who, even you acknowledge, was a snake.)
I'm not as generous as Biur. He posed as a friend of Israel, but he subscribed wholeheartedly to the discredited ideology of Peace Now. Peace Now was his cover. After all how could he be anti Israel if a self-described Zionist organization supports his actions? (How an organization whose head, Debra DeLee is in bed, politically, with James Zogby can call itself Zionist is beyond me.)
But his actions as I noted in my blog had the effect of reinforcing the notion that there was no cost to the PA for its bad faith. That made the Al Aqsa intifada inevitable. Clinton's actions pretty clearly didn't save Jewish lives. They cost them.

DovBear said...

I'll have more to say on Friday, or perhaps Sunday, but for now return to your charts and tell me how your own figures justify this remark:

"But I'm mystified as to how you can credit him with a year's lull sandwiched between the worst years of terrorism in Israel's history."

The lull was not between two bad years. It was between a very good year, and a moderate year. "The worst years of terrorism in Israel's history" began after Bush and and Sharon made it clear negotiations were over.

The reason? When negotiations were possible, some (not all, but some) Palestenians turned away from violence and put their faith in negotiations instead. When Bush and Sharon ended the negotiations, the Palestenians were made to believe that violence was their only choice, and this is when the region really exploded.

Like I said, more later.

DovBear said...

Again, I'll have more to say later, but first I'd like to remind David Gertsman that Peace Now's proponents are Israelis, too. Their dreams for the state are at least as legitimate as the dreams of the settlers. So I am not sure why you are suggesting that someone who supports Peace Now is "anti Israel."

Is he anti settler? Yes. Anti Likud? Yes. But anti Israel? Not necessarily.

Israel is more than its factions.