Those old State Department Arabists just won't retire

They seem to crave the publicity, because there is no other logical reason for their behavior.

Att'y Stephen M. Flatow,

OpEds Steve Flatow
Steve Flatow

Old State Department Arabists never seem to retire. Even years after they have left government service, they strive to remain in the public eye, getting themselves onto op-ed pages and television talk shows, where they tell anybody will listen why Israel needs to make more concessions. This week's examples: David Makovsky and Dennis Ross.

Until a few years ago, Makovsky was the right-hand man of U.S. envoy Martin Indyk, whose unfriendly statements and actions regarding Israel are infamous. Ross is one of the unrepentant architects of the U.S. government's 1990s embrace of Yasir Arafat. In one of his books, Ross boasts about pressuring Israel to re-divide Jerusalem; more recently, he has admitted pushing the Israelis to permit cement deliveries to Gaza. It's no secret what that cement is being used for.

Makovsky and Ross currently are enjoying the revolving door that helpfully shuttles members of their circle between the State Department, select Washington think tanks, and assorted visiting professorships. At the moment, they are comfortably situated at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) where they are now once again campaigning for--you guessed it--more Israeli concessions.

Their latest eruption comes in the form of a WINEP "policy paper," in which they presume to offer what they call "the only real option" for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian impasse. Their recommendation is the only way "to restore a sense of possibility and preserve hope for a two-state outcome."  Why is a "two-state outcome" desirable? Makovsky and Ross don't say. As far as they're concerned, it's obvious; it's a given. They don't think they have to provide any rationale for pursuing it.

I beg to differ. For several decades, Ross, Makovsky, and their State Department colleagues have been promoting the idea that if Israel stopped occupying the Palestinians, the Palestinians would make peace and it would be safe to have a Palestinian state.

Well, guess what? In 1995, Israel withdrew from the cities where 98% of the Palestinians live, and in 2005, Israel withdrew from 100% of Gaza. In return, Israel has received wave after wave of rockets and stabbings. In other words, their solution has been tried, and it has failed--miserably.

But none of that seems to give Makovsky and Ross much pause. They proceed to explain their "only real option." According to Makovsky and Ross, both Israel and the Palestinians must now "take substantive unilateral steps toward accepting each other's core requirements." Sounds very even-handed. Until you hear the details.

The "unilateral steps" that they want Israel to take are all concrete, physical steps, on the ground. But the steps that the Palestinians are supposed are symbolic and can be easily evaded.

The Palestinian Authority has already figured out a way around that--the payments [to terrorists] are now distributed through a phony "non-governmental" channel.
Israel would have to ban construction in most of the Jewish communities in the territories. Hundreds of thousands of lives would be affected. A family that is blessed with a new baby would not even be allowed to add a nursery to their home.

The Palestinians would have to stop what Makovsky and Ross gently call their "antinormalization" actions, such as "ending payments to families of people who are killed in the act of stabbing Israelis." Too late, gentlemen! The Palestinian Authority has already figured out a way around that--the payments are now distributed through a phony "non-governmental" channel. It will not be long before Makovsky and Ross will be heard saying, "Well, that money is paid by a private party, so the PA isn't responsible."

You would think that such advocates of even-handedness as Makovsky and Ross would insist that both Israel and the PA take their steps simultaneously. No such luck! Mahmoud Abbas "is unlikely to change his strategy at first because he favors internationalization," they declare. So do they call on the U.S. to pressure Abbas? Not a chance. "The initial pressure to act will fall on Netanyahu," Makovsky and Ross proclaim. And they add an implicit threat: "If [Netanyahu] does not act now, and more visibly, the internationalization effort that was previously avoidable will only intensify…"

Now that revolving door which I mentioned makes another appearance. Sure enough, just days after Makovsky and Ross began circulating their "solution," it turned up in the editorial columns of the Washington Post. The Post's lead unsigned editorial on June 1 sympathetically quoted Makovsky and Ross, and joined their demand that the Israeli government "show that it is willing to facilitate rather than foreclose a future Palestinian state… [a] partial settlement freeze by Mr. Netanyahu…would be a good start."

This is how the pressure-Israel game is played in Washington. Self-proclaimed "experts" come up with a plan requiring Israeli concessions. Think tanks give them a platform. The Washington Post elevates their plan in an editorial. Next, other media will quote the editorial…then talk shows will invite the "experts" to pontificate further…J Street or the Israel Policy Forum will distribute an op-ed praising the "thoughtful" new plan… and State Department officials will high-five each other, while American Jews watch in bewilderment as, once again, Israel's critics seem to be three steps ahead.

Stephen M. Flatow, an attorney in New Jersey, is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.