I’m beginning to think that The New York Times must have a diversity, equity and inclusion policy that allowed the hiring of Bret Stephens as its token Jewish journalist without an anti-Israel agenda. It’s hard to otherwise explain how he got a column when you read the rest of the op-ed writers and reporters. The latest example is Ezra Klein, who, like a typical “Timesman,” opined on Israel’s failings while ignoring history and omitting inconvenient facts.
Like Old Faithful Thomas Friedman’s weekly eruptions expressing disdain for Israel’s democratically elected prime minister, Klein goes off on a rant against Benjamin Netanyahu. And, like Friedman, he is in high dudgeon over Netanyahu’s opposition to a Palestinian state.
Interestingly, he undermines the column’s entire case immediately after quoting Netanyahu’s position by citing Gallup’s finding that only 25% of Israelis support a two-state solution. Unsurprisingly, he omits the equally salient fact that only 34% of Palestinians favor it.
Klein blames Netanyahu for a state not existing because he “allowed settlers to run wild and rendered Hamas’s rival, Al Fatah, feckless.”
There are some 500,000 Jews in Judea and Samaria (does he consider the 340,000 in Jerusalem wild settlers as well?). A tiny fraction are troublemakers, and I’ve written about the need to rein them in, but they are not the reason that the Palestinians don’t have a state. And like the U.S. Secretary of State, Klein doesn’t say where they’re supposed to go to make way for one.
Also, Netanyahu did not make the Fatah Party “feckless.” Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas did that all by himself. He allowed Hamas to take over the Gaza Strip, made himself a dictator by preventing elections and created a kleptocracy. An overwhelming majority of Palestinians want him to resign.
The Palestinians don’t have a state for one simple reason: They have rejected every opportunity to have one because they insist on replacing Israel. Hamas wants to destroy Israel, not live beside it, and Fatah wants to “liberate” Palestine in stages.
Like others making the argument lately that Netanyahu was strengthening Hamas at the expense of the P.A. to prevent the creation of a state, he makes misstatements and omissions. Klein says Netanyahu “allowed Hamas to hold Gaza” and “kept the Palestinian leadership divided.”
First, Hamas took over Gaza without Israel’s help. Afterward, Abbas refused to confront Hamas to avoid a Palestinian civil war. Netanyahu didn’t need to do anything to keep the Palestinian leadership divided. Hamas and Fatah repeatedly talked about reconciliation and never could agree because of disagreements unrelated to Netanyahu.
Second, until the massacre, Netanyahu preferred to keep Israel out of a war to eliminate Hamas, which was popular with everyone but the far-right. Those now complaining about what Israel is doing would have been even more upset if Israel had taken the same steps before Oct. 7.
Third, as Klein says, it is true that the P.A. cooperates on security with Israel, but he leaves out that it also has prevented Hamas from taking over the West Bank and thereby strengthens the P.A.
Fourth, if Israel was so determined to weaken the P.A., why did it repeatedly take steps to improve the economic situation, including allowing more than 100,000 Palestinians (and now we know potential spies) into Israel to work?
Fifth, he refers to slain Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin as representing a time when Israel “seemed to be trying to find its way toward peace and coexistence.” True, but Rabin also opposed the creation of a Palestinian state.
Sixth, does Klein know that despite his rhetoric about PLO leader Yasser Arafat and Oslo, Netanyahu shook the terrorist’s hand, adhered to the agreement’s terms, and agreed to an international force in the holy city of Hebron and the withdrawal from additional territory in the West Bank?
Seventh, Klein ignores that Israel is threatened every day by terrorists in the West Bank who are no more interested in peace than Hamas. Is he unaware of the fighting there now?
Klein says, “rather than raise Al Fatah up as a negotiating partner, he humiliated it.” The opposition to Abbas in the P.A. is partly related to Israel but primarily a function of his corrupt rule. What could Israel have done to “raise” him up? Abbas has refused to negotiate with Netanyahu since 2008. That’s right, the man being held up as Israel’s peace partner has spent the last 15 years avoiding talks while incentivizing terror, demonizing Israel and promoting the Al-Aqsa mosque is in danger libel.
Klein transitions to discussing why younger Americans are less supportive of Israel than their elders and more sympathetic towards the Palestinians. He gets this right. Those of us who lived through the period when Israel was David facing the Goliath of the entire Arab world recognize its vulnerability and therefore emphasize ensuring its security. Younger people see Israel as Goliath and the Palestinians as David. They don’t know the history or recognize today’s threats, and therefore can’t understand why Israel doesn’t just give the Palestinians whatever they want in the interest of “justice.”
Just because that’s the way young people see the region doesn’t make it so.
This generation wants to go along to get along. Hence, you find students joining protesters chanting “from the river to the sea” who don’t know which river and sea they are talking about. When informed that they’re calling for Israel’s destruction, most change their opinion.
We may have reached a turning point in American attitudes towards Israel, but historically, young people have always been less supportive of Israel than their parents and grandparents. As they get older, however, their views often change and mirror them.
Rather than focusing on young Americans who have no say in the future of Israelis and Palestinians, Klein should be examining the views of young Palestinians. Israelis have long placed their hopes on a new generation coming to power to replace Arafat and Abbas, and the rest of the old-timers who devoted their lives to a futile effort to liberate “Palestine.”
The problem, as we see from the revelations about UNRWA schools—and what we already knew about the P.A. education system, its media and summer camps—is that young Palestinians have been indoctrinated with hatred for Jews and Israel, the gloriousness of jihad and martyrdom, and the belief that “resistance” will make Israel disappear, as it has from their maps. Why would any Israeli leader agree to a Palestinian state controlled by people educated in this system?
The entire Israeli population shifted to the right after “land for peace” was proven to be a myth following the disengagement from Gaza. Does Klein—or U.S. President Joe Biden, for that matter—seriously believe Israelis are more inclined to accept a Palestinian state after Oct. 7?
Like young Americans, Klein doesn’t know or care about how Palestinians are treated by their fellow Palestinians, the Lebanese or the Syrians. He only blames Israel for their plight. This selectivity and double standard exemplify the antisemitism problem today.
Klein represents the “on the one hand, but on the other hand” Tevyeism prevalent among the left, especially left-wing Jews. They cannot distinguish between right and wrong, or facts and myths. Whatever negative trait you can see in Palestinians can be matched or exceeded by the sins of the Israelis. Thus, Klein sees Hamas and suicide bombers, whose objective is genocide, akin to “messianic settlers” who want to settle in their homeland and Netanyahu, who represents the views of his constituents who oppose the creation of Hamastan abutting their capital. This is the same moral confusion and obliviousness we see from college presidents.
Klein suggests that Gen Z is best attuned to today’s situation because they listen more closely to what Israeli leaders are saying (though they don’t understand Hebrew). Hearing maybe, but certainly not understanding given their ignorance of the Middle East of the past and present. Also, like Klein, they ignore what Palestinian leaders say, like the ones from Fatah—the party he thinks Netanyahu should strengthen—who praised Hamas and bragged about their members participating in the massacre of Jews.
Fortunately, Israeli policy is not determined by the views of ill-informed young Americans or pompous Times columnists pontificating thousands of miles from the people whose lives they would recklessly put at risk.