David Frum on what the WikiLeaks cables tell us “about the Israeli-Palestinian dispute”:
We engage in these wearisome and elaborate proceedings because we assume that the Israeli-Palestinian dispute holds the key to regional peace. But now the whole world can see: It’s not true. Governments in the region do not in fact care very much about the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
In terms of what the cables show, this is simply false. As I wrote last week, the cables contain abundant evidence that governments in the region do in fact care about the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. A sampling:
From a January 2008 meeting between a Congressional delegation and Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Soliman:
2. (S) Soliman led off the New Year’s Eve meeting by telling the Codel that the region is at a special, critical juncture. Egypt is America’s partner. Sometimes we have our differences. But Egypt will continue to provide the USG with its knowledge and expertise on the critical regional issues, such as Lebanon and Iraq. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains the core issue; Soliman contended a peaceful resolution would be a “big blow” to terrorist organizations that use the conflict as a pretext. For this reason, President Mubarak is committed to ending the Israeli-Arab “stalemate.”
From a February 2010 meeting between Sen. John Kerry and the Emir of Qatar:
39. (C) Senator Kerry asked the Amir how the U.S. goes about changing its reputation. The Amir said first and foremost the U.S. must do everything in its power to find a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the best way to begin is by moving first on the Syrian track.
From a January 2007 meeting between U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns and Dubai’s ruler, Mohamed bin Rashid Al Makhtoum:
9.(C) Israel/Palestinians: U/S Burns stressed that the US believes progress between Israel and the Palestinians toward peace is central to regional stability, and supports the creation of a Palestinian state. This would be “the best thing,” MbR replied; a peace deal would make radical groups like HAMAS “everyone’s enemy”.
From an April 2009 meeting at the U.S. Embassy in Amman:
2. (S) While Jordanian officials doubt dialogue with the U.S. will convince Iran to withdraw its “tentacles,” they believe they can be severed if Iran is deprived of hot-button issues that make it a hero to many on the Arab street, such as its championing of the Palestinian cause.
From a July 2009 meeting between Gen. Petraeus and Lebanon’s Fuad Siniora:
5. (C) Siniora said that Lebanon was encouraged by and supportive of President Obama’s commitment to achieving a comprehensive Middle East Peace. He said the U.S. administration’s recognition of the centrality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was an opportunity to push the Arab Peace Initiative forward and to finally achieve a resolution.
One could argue that these leaders are misstating or overstating their views on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, but that would then obviously raise the question of why their views on the Iranian issue — which Frum, like other neocons, has been trumpeting — should be taken more seriously. It is not possible, however, to argue that the cables show that these leaders “just do not in fact care very much” about the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Or at least, it’s not honest.
Which brings us to the question of why Frum would be inclined to misrepresent the cables’ contents in a way so easily debunked. I’m not sure, but I will note that among some neocons there seems to be a deep-seated inability to recognize that concern for the Palestinians living under occupation, and for the various consequences thereof, might spring from something other than hostility to Israel. Frum himself stated flat-out back in 2003 that “The pro-Palestinian lobby has always been driven far more by hatred for Israel than by concern for the Palestinians,” an unprovable assertion as offensive as it is revealing. It seems now that, faced with black and white evidence to the contrary, however, Frum’s only option is to pretend it doesn’t exist.
Frum makes clear that he is no fan of Julian Assange or of WikiLeaks, but nevertheless suggests that “If the publics of the Western democracies absorb this information, the world will become a better and safer place.” I quite agree with this statement (though it’s of course somewhat ironic in light of Frum’s own refusal to absorb information that doesn’t accord with his own anti-Palestinian worldview). I would point out, however, that most people in Western democracies probably aren’t going to pore through the cables themselves, instead they’re going to turn to journalists and pundits to analyze and interpret the cables for them. Those who turn to David Frum will be very poorly served.