Frank Talk From Martin Indyk

Martin Indyk was twice ambassador to Israel. He used to be research director for AIPAC and was the founding Executive Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

When people write about “The Israel Lobby,” whether sensibly or otherwise, the very icon of their subject is Martin

Ehud Olmert and Martin Indyk

Ehud Olmert and Martin Indyk


In this translation of an interview with Yediot Achronot (interesting that there is, as yet, no English version of the original article), Indyk speaks quite bluntly on a variety of issues. Most of them concern the real reasons why Camp David failed (not surprisingly, Indyk makes it clear that the US and Israel were just as much to blame as the Palestinians), and why US involvement in the peace process has brought no progress.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better explanation as to why Obama is heading in the right direction and why anyone who has any concern about Israel’s future or the Palestinians’ well-being should be doing everything they can to support him, even if their own ideologies don’t match his.

Benny Morris: A Man Everyone Can Love to hate

Benny Morris has a new book out where he examines the rise of the one-state solution in the discourse around the Israel-Palestine conflict. I review it here.

The review has much of what i would want to say about Morris. But I think it’s important to emphasize two things.

One is that Morris is clearly racist in his approach. While he’s certainly willing to be critical, even cynical about Israeli leaders, he seems to approach every statement by an Arab leader as being a lie until proven otherwise.

The second, however, is that despite this serious problem, Morris’ work has been groundbreaking and, though inconsistent, very important. This current book was foreshadowed at the end of his previous one, 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War. That book, which spiralled downward at the end, was perhaps Morris’ best and is widely seen as the best book yet written on the 1947-49 war (a view i tend to agree with).

Morris is, in many ways, the antithesis of Ilan Pappe. The latter embraces the futility of objectivity and writes

Benny Morris

Benny Morris

unabashedly from a particular point of view. The former strives to be objective and, while he often falls short like the rest of us, he often does overcome his own baises and produce important work that doesn’t necessarily support his own personal views.

That’s why it’s important to recognize the two Benny Morrises. One is a very poor polemicist whose racism often seeps through. The other is an excellent researcher who is often successful at getting beyond his own biases and prejudices and whose work merits the most serious attention.

Benny Morris is an enigma, but you can’t deal with one side of him without the other. His work should not be dismissed because of his views, but his work should also not give credence to his more base views. And, it should also be noted, that being an excellent historian doesn’t necessarily mean one is a good political analyst.

More in my review, published here.

Step One: Take Down All Outposts and Totally Freeze Construction

In his recent speech at the annual conference of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Vice President Joe Biden reiterated President Barack Obama’s call for a freeze of Israeli settlements and the dismantling of “illegal outposts” set up by Israeli settlers in the West Bank.

Joe Biden speaks to AIPAC

Joe Biden speaks to AIPAC

There are many issues that need to be resolved between Israel and the Palestinians. But settlements, an issue which has too long been on the diplomatic back-burner, are the root cause of most of the human rights problems in the West Bank.

From expropriation of Palestinian land, to severe restrictions on Palestinian movement, from the settler pogroms in Palestinian towns to putting more Israelis at greater risk of violence, the settlements make lives more miserable and hope more remote every day. And they throw Israel’s respect for the rule of law into question as well.

With Biden’s speech at so central a DC event as the AIPAC conference, it is clear that the issue of settlements is now as central in the diplomatic arena as it has been for years on the ground. This is good news but resolving the settlement question will not be easy. Continue reading

The Beginning of the End of the "Israel Lobby"

Two former staffers for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) had the charges of espionage against them dropped today. The government decided it was going to have too difficult of a time in winning this case.

Think AIPAC won? Think again.

Pastor John Hagee addresses an AIPAC conference

Pastor John Hagee addresses an AIPAC conference

This case has been pending since August of 2005, and you can bet that the attention it has thrown onto AIPAC’s activities was very much unwanted in those halls. The recent re-surfacing of Rep. Jane Harman’s alleged attempt to get the case dismissed years back no doubt infuriated them more.

And well it should. AIPAC and other groups that busily lobby on Capitol Hill to either maintain the status quo or even strengthen Israel’s hold on the Palestinians are losing ground. It’s not a position that enjoys much popular support anymore.

AIPAC’s influence is visibly slipping. In the past, they wisely avoided getting too cozy with any particular political group, be it one of the two parties or a political wave. But the neoconservatives tempted them too much.

It wasn’t merely neocon influence. It was the confluence of events: Ariel Sharon’s cozy relationship with the Bush Administration; that administration’s unprecedented indulgence of almost all Israeli policies and decisions; the events of 9/11; the increased hawkishness and/or outspokenness of other Jewish “leaders” like Abe Foxman, David Harris and Malcolm Hoenlein; the viciousness of the second intifada. Continue reading