His latest screed starts off with this:
Since the whole trip was not about learning anything but about how to satisfy the political whims of the right-wing, super pro-Bibi Netanyahu, American Jewish casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, why didn’t they just do the whole thing in Las Vegas? I mean, it was all about money anyway — how much Romney would abase himself by saying whatever the Israeli right wanted to hear and how big a jackpot of donations Adelson would shower on the Romney campaign in return. Really, Vegas would have been so much more appropriate than Jerusalem. They could have constructed a plastic Wailing Wall and saved so much on gas.Super right-wing! Evil Republican candidates seeking Jewish money! Jewish multibillionaires controlling US policy! Let's try to get every offensive stereotype out there and call it humor, shall we? (Not to mention that no one calls it the Wailing Wall nowadays except for Arabs and Tom Friedman.)
But it is Friedman's charge that Romney has no interest in learning anything new about the Middle East that is most ironic. Because this column shows that Friedman still thinks that we are in the early days of the peace process, somewhere between the Madrid conference and the Oslo accords.
While Romney had time for a $50,000-a-plate breakfast with American Jewish donors in Jerusalem, with Adelson at his elbow, he did not have two hours to go to Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority, to meet with its president, Mahmoud Abbas, or to share publicly any ideas on how he would advance the peace process.Even after the Intifada, after the rejection of serious Israeli peace offers, after ignoring Israel's settlement freeze, after seeing hundreds of examples of official Palestinian Arab media praising terrorists and the PA naming streets and schools and camps after suicide bombers, after trying to bypass negotiations and refusing to compromise one iota, after years of PA stonewalling and replacing diplomacy with gimmicks like the UN statehood bid, Friedman still thinks that the way to bring peace is to pressure Israel and pander to the decrepit, corrupt Palestinian Arab leadership!
Romney did meet with a Palestinian Arab leader: Salam Fayyad. You know, the person who Friedman has lavishly praised as the greatest hope for Palestinians. And a funny thing happened as a result: Fayyad was criticized by Palestinian Arabs, including from the Fatah organization, for meeting Romney! Does that sound like a peace partner to Friedman?
I do know this: It is in Israel’s overwhelming interest to test, test and have the U.S. keep testing creative ideas for a two-state solution. That is what a real U.S. friend would promise to do. ...And here is what I also know: The three U.S. statesmen who have done the most to make Israel more secure and accepted in the region all told blunt truths to every Israeli or Arab leader: Jimmy Carter, who helped forge a lasting peace between Israel and Egypt; Henry Kissinger, who built the post-1973 war disengagement agreements with Syria, Israel and Egypt; and James Baker, who engineered the Madrid peace conference.Yes, Friedman is still stuck in a twenty-year old time warp. And the proof for this is that he doesn't mention Bill Clinton.
Clinton did what Friedman demands from American presidents. He "advanced the peace process." He pandered to Yasir Arafat and got Israel to move from a nation far more rightist that Bibi is today into one that accepted a two-state solution. He spent huge amounts of time getting Israeli leaders to go way, way past every single previous red line. While Clinton's style to move things forward was more by taking the role of a concerned friend than someone who tells "blunt truths," the fact is that he managed to get Israeli leaders to go way beyond what Kissinger, Carter or Baker did. And he did it during a time that Israel was still being faced with regular suicide terror attacks.
But Friedman cannot mention Clinton, because Clinton realized at the very last minute that the Palestinian Arabs were not interested in peace, not interested in compromise, and not interested in a real two-state solution that would allow Israel to maintain security (or, for that matter, any Jewish holy sites.)
Obama, too, has belatedly learned that Abbas is not a peace partner. It isn't Jewish money that moved Obama to the right, as Friedman charges - it is Obama's slowly realizing what Friedman cannot, that Abbas is the obstacle to peace. While it is easy to be cynical about Obama's recent pandering to the Jewish vote, it appears that even he learned something from Abbas' intransigence over the past three years. After all, Abbas slapped Obama in the face numerous times - when he refused to negotiate during the settlement freeze and when he refused to abandon the statehood gimmick last year. Friedman withholds any criticism about that.
Fayyad, for all his faults, is not a supporter of terror. He has a vision for a real two-state solution. He might have no followers, and Fatah hates him as much as Hamas, but he is the only Palestinian Arab leader in history who actually thinks pragmatically. Sidelining Abbas and promoting Fayyad is exactly what the US should have been doing for the past few years.
Romney has learned the obvious truth from history. Arafat and his successor have been more faithful to their terrorist roots than to truly accepting peace with Israel, and they have never prepared their people to accept a two-state solution. Instead, they have been telling their people, in maps and in actions, that a Palestinian Arab state is a stage towards the ultimate destruction of Israel.
Friedman remains in a time warp, stuck in a twenty year old reality.
It isn't Romney who refuses to learn new facts - it is Thomas Friedman.