Thomas Friedman
Thomas FriedmanReuters

“The Israeli right today, led by Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, has some really strong arguments for maintaining the status quo,” writes New York Times pundit Thomas Friedman in his latest column. He also admits that the terrorist militias operating on Israel's northern and southern borders do not inspire risk taking, but thinks the Jewish state should take risks anyway, and that in the long run, the arguments against this “are deadly for Israel as a Jewish democratic state.”

“Israel today is surrounded on four out of five borders — South Lebanon, Gaza, Sinai and Syria — not by states but by militias, dressed as civilians, armed with rockets and nested among civilians,” notes the pundit, who is considered close to President Barack Obama. “No other country faces such a threat. When Israeli commanders in the Golan Heights look over into Syria today, they see Russian and Iranian military advisers, along with Syrian Army units and Hezbollah militiamen from Lebanon, fighting jihadist Sunni militias — and the jihadists are usually winning.”

“That is not a scene that inspires risk-taking on the West Bank, right next to Israel’s only international airport,” says Friedman. “The fact that Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and Hamas took over there in 2007 and then devoted most of its energies to fighting Israel rather than building Palestine also does not inspire risk-taking to move away from the status quo. Israel offered Hamas a cease-fire eight days into the Gaza war, but Hamas chose to expose its people to vast destruction and killing for 43 more days, hoping to generate global pressure on Israel to make concessions to Hamas. It was sick; it failed; and it’s why some Gazans are trying to flee Hamas rule today.”

On March 17, Obama “personally, face-to-face,” offered compromise ideas to the Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas, the journalist notes, adding that “Obama is still waiting for an answer.”

And yet, Friedman blames Israel for its alleged intransigence. He quotes a leftist Hebrew University professor who says Israel should be “trying to think imaginatively about how to solve this problem,” instead of “pushing those elements in Palestinian society that prefer nonviolence into a dead end.”

Friedman does not offer a solution, except to advocate establishing "relationships of trust between neighbors that create healthy interdependencies — ecological and political." 

Friedman has not proven himself to be a particularly useful adviser to Israel in the past. In 2011, he posted articles that supported the Tahrir Square rebellion that ousted Hosni Mubarak from power in Egypt and installed the Muslim Brotherhood. His articles prompted then-MK Yaakov Katz (National Union) to label him "a court Jew."