Thomas Friedman’s wacky new Mideast peace plan

A bizarre peace plan from the veteran NY Times advocate of failed peace plans, who never misses an opportunity to bash Israel and its government.

Att'y Stephen M. Flatow

OpEds Kinneret

So it turns out that the key to Israeli-Arab peace is not borders, refugees, or "settlements", after all. It’s solar power! So says New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, in the latest bizarre peace plan from the veteran advocate of failed peace plans.

The real obstacle to peace, Friedman wrote in a recent column, is the impact of climate change in the Mideast. Mother Nature will overwhelm all the various political and military conflicts, according to Friedman. Therefore, he argued, the only path to peace is for Israel to immediately allow creation of a sovereign Palestinian state, and then Israel, Jordan, and “Palestine” must form “a confederation of their sovereign entities based on sea and sun.”

One of Friedman’s main pieces of evidence that Mother Nature is the real issue is the fact that—he writes— “in the summer of 2018, the Sea of Galilee [the Kinneret] was so low from droughts and water withdrawals for rising populations that it was threatening to become another saline lake, like the Dead Sea.”

For a Pulitzer Prize winning newspaperman, he sure doesn’t seem to follow the news. Consider this April 2019 headline in leftist Ha’aretz, Friedman’s Israeli newspaper of choice: “Lake Kinneret Is the Fullest It’s Been in Five Years, and There’s More to Come.” Indeed, it has continued rising over the past year, and just last week it was reported that the Kinneret is less than one meter shy of being officially at its maximum level (at which point the dam at Kibbutz Deganya is opened.).

Friedman’s new “insights” into Mideast peace follow in the footsteps of an assortment of cockeyed plans and perspectives he has promoted for more than four decades.

It began in 1974, when Friedman was a student at Brandeis University (also attended by my daughter Alisa when she was murdered) and leader of a campus organization that was misleadingly named the “Middle East Peace Group.” The group’s recipe for peace was for Israel and the world to bow to the demands of Yasir Arafat.

We all remember the infamous sight of Arafat speaking at the United Nations in 1974 with his gun holster on his hip. In those days, Arafat didn’t even pretend that he was interested in making peace; he openly demanded the destruction of Israel and continually sponsored massacres of Israeli women and children. (Do the names “Ma’alot” and “Kiryat Shemona” ring a bell?)

Friedman and his comrades in the “Peace Group” authored an open letter, which was published in the campus newspaper, The Brandeis Justice, on November 12, 1974, in which they condemned the American Jewish community’s criticism of Arafat’s speech.

They warned that Jewish rallies against Arafat would "only reinforce Jewish anxiety and contribute to Israel's further isolation." They called on Israel to "negotiate with all factions of the Palestinians, including the PLO." Of course, “negotiate” was a euphemism for “give a state to.” That was Thomas Friedman’s first Mideast peace plan: give a state to a group of unabashed mass-murderers.

Friedman came up with his Second Peace Plan around 1990. That’s when he was a tennis partner to James Baker, the most anti-Israel secretary of state in US history. In his autobiography, Baker recalled fondly how Friedman would pepper him with suggestions about how to pressure Israel. That was the key to Mideast peace, Friedman insisted. It was Friedman who came up with the infamous idea (which Baker gladly implemented) to humiliate Israel’s prime minister by publicly declaring that if Israel really wanted peace, it should call the White House—and then Baker read the White House phone number out loud.  

Yeah, that worked out well.

Friedman’s Third Peace Plan was known as the “Saudi Initiative.” He wrote a column in 2002, urging President George W. Bush to use the Saudis to pressure Israel to withdraw to the nine-miles-wide borders of 1967 and allow creation of a Palestinian state. After the column was printed, Friedman went to Saudi Arabia, where he met with Crown Prince Abdullah, who then unveiled an identical “initiative”—which was unveiled in Friedman’s next column. What a coincidence!

How did that one work out? The answer came from the Palestinian Authority’s longtime foreign minister, Nabil Sha’ath, who later revealed that just at that time, the Saudis were bankrolling the Second Intifada to the tune of $500-million. More than 1,000 Israeli Jews were murdered in that wave of suicide bombings and other massacres.

For a few years, it seemed as if Friedman had given up proposing Mideast peace plans and would content himself with making allegations that, if they came from any other columnist, would be considered anti-Semitic. In 2004, he wrote that Israel "had George Bush under house arrest in the Oval Office.” In 2011, Friedman claimed that the standing ovations Israel’s prime minister received in Congress were "bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.” In 2013, he asserted that "many American lawmakers [will] do whatever the Israel lobby asks them to do in order to garner Jewish votes and campaign donations."

Then, after years of accusing Israel of controlling Washington, Friedman had the chutzpah to write, in 2015, that if Israel’s prime minister addressed Congress against the Iran deal, "anti-Semites, who claim Israel controls Washington, will have a field day.”

It’s hard to know which does more damage—wacky Mideast peace plans that put pressure on Israel to make one-sided concessions, or wacky conspiracy theories that spread lies about the Jewish state. Either way, Thomas Friedman has earned himself a place in the Israel-Bashers Hall of Shame.

Stephen M. Flatow is a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, an attorney in New Jersey and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. His book, “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror,” is now available on Kindle. He is a candidate of the Orthodox-Israel Coalition, Slate 4, in the World Zionist Congress elections.