Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam, the custodian of its two holy mosques, the world’s energy superpower and the de facto leader of the Arab and Muslim worlds — that is why our recognition is greatly prized by Israel. However, for all those same reasons, the kingdom holds itself to higher standards of justice and law. It must therefore refuse to engage Israel until it ends its illegal occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights as well as Shabaa Farms in Lebanon. For Saudis to take steps toward diplomatic normalization before this land is returned to its rightful owners would undermine international law and turn a blind eye to immorality.
via Op-Ed Contributor – Land First, Then Peace – NYTimes.com.
This is a very strange argument when Israel’s excuse for holding up the peace process is that they’re saving diplomatic negotiation as a sort of reward for good behavior, even when their citizens are dying in rocket attacks. Israel and the United States will not engage with Hamas until they renounce violence and recognize Israel, while Hamas is only willing to give Israel a grudging acceptance, and then only if they return the Occupied Territories. If Saudi Arabia joins in this game, it will ensure a kind of reverse Mexican standoff that will ensure nothing gets done, and that Israelis and Palestinians will keep dying in endless conflict merely for dreaming of a homeland of their own.
The problem with The New York Times‘s wonderful obituaries is that often it’s the first place I find out about remarkable people, right when they’ve passed away. Take this man, Israel’s Abie Nathan.
Abie Nathan, Israeli Peace Champion, Dies at 81 – Obituary (Obit) – NYTimes.com
Abie Nathan, a maverick Israeli peace pioneer, an entrepreneur and a one-man humanitarian-aid organization, who went from playboy to intrepid “peace pilot,” died Wednesday in Tel Aviv. He was 81.
A Royal Air Force-trained pilot, he crashed into the national consciousness and the quagmire of the Middle East conflict with a dramatic solo flight from Israel to Egypt in an old rented biplane in 1966. A self-appointed ambassador, he wanted to talk to President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt about making peace.
At first Mr. Nathan was seen as “a curiosity” in Israel, said Eitan Haber, a veteran Israeli journalist and former senior aide of the late prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin. “But then it turned out he was ahead of his time,” he said.
Rest easy, my friend. You’ve done your country–and the world–proud.
An epicure, he was always ready to pay a personal price for his principles, embarking on numerous hunger strikes; he also served two terms in jail, in 1989 and 1991, for breaking a law against meeting with Yasir Arafat and other officials of the Palestine Liberation Organization, then banned in Israel as a terrorist group.
After receiving his six-month sentence in 1989, he issued a typical explanation of his person-to-person mission: “Violence will only increase and it will be impossible to heal the wounds, whether among the Arabs or the Jews, unless we decide to sit with each other. Our bullets alone cannot solve the problem.”
U.N. Envoy’s Ties to Pakistani Are Questioned – NYTimes.com
WASHINGTON — Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador to the United Nations, is facing angry questions from other senior Bush administration officials over what they describe as unauthorized contacts with Asif Ali Zardari, a contender to succeed Pervez Musharraf as president of Pakistan.o main parties, announced in Islamabad that his party was leaving the coalition.
Mr. Khalilzad had spoken by telephone with Mr. Zardari, the leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party, several times a week for the past month until he was confronted about the unauthorized contacts, a senior United States official said. Other officials said Mr. Khalilzad had planned to meet with Mr. Zardari privately next Tuesday while on vacation in Dubai, in a session that was canceled only after Richard A. Boucher, the assistant secretary of state for South Asia, learned from Mr. Zardari himself that the ambassador was providing “advice and help.”
“Can I ask what sort of ‘advice and help’ you are providing?” Mr. Boucher wrote in an angry e-mail message to Mr. Khalilzad. “What sort of channel is this? Governmental, private, personnel?” Copies of the message were sent to others at the highest levels of the State Department; the message was provided to The New York Times by an administration official who had received a copy.
Da haa haa haaa! Doesn’t Mr. Khalilzad know that the #1 rule of the Bush administration’s dealings with Pakistan is never to talk to anyone who actually has power?
It really does sound like Khalilzad crossed a line and needs to be reined in. Pakistan’s political scene is volatile enough without more reasons for Pakistan’s people to accuse us (part rightly, part not) of being “meddlers.” It’s just funny that he’s basically tested the US policy of hanging on to weak, unpopular leaders to the very end by going against it, and now, he could lose his career.
Here’s an article about the State Department’s Foreign Visitor Leadership Program, which has a new focus of letting young French Muslims from the crisis-ridden suburbs of Paris visit the United States and get an idea of how awesome we all are.
Giving Young French Muslims a Close Look at the U.S. – NYTimes.com
For the three men who participated in the program in recent months, the exposure to America softened views of a superpower generally distrusted and disliked in their communities.
“Many young people think that America is waging a war on Muslims,” said Mr. Zahi, 32, chief of staff for the mayor of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 rioting started after the deaths of two teenagers of African origin who were being chased by the police.
“I tell them America is many things,” said Mr. Zahi, who is also on his local town council. “It is a country that has a black presidential candidate and a self-confident Muslim community. I tell them the American people are hospitable and generous.”
This sounds like a good idea… I always support active efforts to improve America’s image abroad, which could help defuse tensions before they begin. I just hope we start doing something the other way, as well, help Americans learn about the Muslim world and become more comfortable with it. I’d guess that most Americans are okay with Islam, they’re just a little scared of it ’cause they don’t know much about it, and so their image of it is mostly defined by terrorists and ignorant TV pundits. So, meaning well, they try to balance what they see on TV with a general sense of “well, they can’t be all that bad,” in an attempt to be respectful. We should fill that void with actual knowledge of the depth and diversity of Islamic thought.
I say this because I worry all our good efforts to promote our image in the Muslim world will be undone as soon as a young French Muslim visits the States and the first thing his host family asks is, “so, do you wear a turban?”
Iraq Contractor in Shooting Case Makes Comeback – New York Times
Last fall, Blackwater Worldwide was in deep peril.
Guards for the security company were involved in a shooting in September that left at least 17 Iraqis dead at a Baghdad intersection. Outrage over the killings prompted the Iraqi government to demand Blackwater’s ouster from the country, and led to a criminal investigation by the F.B.I., a series of internal investigations by the State Department and the Pentagon, and high-profile Congressional hearings.
But after an intense public and private lobbying campaign, Blackwater appears to be back to business as usual.
The chief reason for the company’s survival? State Department officials said Friday that they did not believe they had any alternative to Blackwater, which supplies about 800 guards to the department to provide security for diplomats in Baghdad. Officials say only three companies in the world meet their requirements for protective services in Iraq, and the other two do not have the capability to take on Blackwater’s role in Baghdad. After the shooting in September, the State Department did not even open talks with the other two companies, DynCorp International and Triple Canopy, to see if they could take over from Blackwater, which is based in North Carolina.
“We cannot operate without private security firms in Iraq,” said Patrick F. Kennedy, the under secretary of state for management. “If the contractors were removed, we would have to leave Iraq.”
And wouldn’t that be a shame?