Fareed Zakaria used the May 29 installment his weekly Cable News Network (CNN) television program “Fareed Zakaria GPS” (Global Public Square), and a related Washington Post column (“Netanyahu’s about-face,” May 26) to attack Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. On the air and in print Zakaria, also editor-at-large of TIME magazine, distorted facts and push clichéd analysis.
On CNN, Zakaria focused on Netanyahu’s disagreement with President Obama over the latter’s assertion that an Israeli-Palestinian “two-state solution” would be based on Israel’s pre-1967 Six-Day War armistice lines, adjusted by agreed land swaps. The commentator claimed the prime minister’s position “shows finally that Netanyahu simply doesn’t want a deal. He always has a new objection, a new delaying tactic because, at core, he has never believed that the Palestinians should have a state.”
Zakaria ignored the prime minister’s May 16 Knesset (Israeli parliament) address, in which he said, “I want to make peace with a Palestinian state that would end the conflict, I am not willing to accept a Palestinian state that continues it. I am prepared to accept a Palestinian state beside the State of Israel, but I will not accept a Palestinian state instead of the State of Israel.”
Instead, the CNN host aired a 33-year-old clip of Netanyahu, speaking at a forum in Massachusetts. In the video Netanyahu asserts that “it is unjust to demand the creation of a 22nd Arab state and a second Palestinian state at the expense of the only Jewish state.” To roll the tape as an anachronistic “gotcha!”, Zakaria also had to ignore the 28-year-old Netanyahu’s allusion to Jordan, an Arab country with a Palestinian majority and a majority of the land intended for Mandatory Palestine.
CNN’s global affairs guru charged that “Netanyahu’s references to the indefensible borders of 1967” during the prime minister’s dispute with President Obama “reveal him to be mired in a world that has really gone away. The chief threat to Israel today is not from a Palestinian army …. The chief threats to Israel are from new technologies – rockets, biological weapons — and from demography.”
The columnist’s dismissal of the importance of boots-on-the-ground control in a high-tech era notwithstanding, the United States has deployed 100,000 troops in distant Afghanistan to help pre-empt future threats. Israel, four miles wide immediately west of Jerusalem inside the pre-’67 armistice line, eight just north of Tel Aviv, faces daily, nearby threats.
Low-tech rockets and missiles from Hezbollah during the 2006 war forced well over one million people in northern Israel into shelters and unsophisticated mortars and rockets from Hamas did the same for nearly that many in southern Israel until Operation Cast Lead ended in January, 2009. Absent Israeli security control, high-tech and easily portable signals interception equipment and guidance for precision weapons in West Bank hills could threaten the populous core of the Jewish state in the narrow plain below. Control of the highlands could permit hostile forces to disrupt mobilization of Israel’s reserve-based military.
The CNN host tossed another threadbare bit of conventional wisdom to his audience. He alleged that Israel’s “physical existence is less in doubt than its democratic existence as it continues to rule millions of Palestinians who are entitled to neither a vote nor a country.”
But Israel does not rule any such Palestinian Arabs. Arab citizens of Israel — Muslims, Christians and Druze — exercise the same civil rights as members of the Jewish majority.
The estimated two million or so Palestinian Arabs of the West Bank, on the other hand, are under the daily political administration of the Palestinian Authority, lead by President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement. The 1.5 million in the Gaza Strip are ruled by Hamas, designated a terrorist organization by the United States, Canada, Israel, Australia, the European Union and other countries.
Regardless of whether or not Palestinian Arabs are entitled to a new country, especially ahead of, say, the 35 million Kurds, the Tibetans, or Egypt’s oppressed eight million or more Copts, Israel and the United States proposed a West Bank and Gaza Strip state, with eastern Jerusalem as its capital, in 2000 and 2001, in exchange for peace with the Jewish nation. Palestinian leadership rejected both deals and launched the terror war called the second intifada. In 2008, it said no to a similar Israel proposal.
Zakaria then interviews New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who uncritically echoes and amplifies his host’s superficialities. Friedman warns of “Jewish apartheid” if Israel doesn’t grant the West Bank and Gaza state Palestinian leadership keeps rejecting. He says he doesn’t know if there’s a Palestinian partner for peace — the partner Netanyahu said he’s looking for — but then calls the PA “decent.” Neither deals seriously with the Fatah-Hamas accord, and its implicit negation of a peace process with Israel.
Zakaria claimed that “the newsworthy and real shift in U.S. policy was President Obama publicly condemning the Palestinian strategy to seek recognition as a state from the U.N. General Assembly in September. Instead of thanking Obama for this, Prime Minister Netanyahu chose to stage, in the words of the former Israeli diplomat Alon Pinkas, ‘nothing less than a bizarre tirade at the White House ….’”
During his May 22 program, Zakaria acknowledged to another CNN celebrity commentator, former N.Y. Gov. Eliot Spitzer (who resigned office three years ago after admitting involvement in a prostitution scandal) that President Obama calls him “often” for advice about the Middle East.
Whatever the expertise of CNN’s political commentators, Zakaria — television celebrity, political consultant, TIME magazine editor — appears not to be a credible source for Arab-Israeli news or analysis.