Israel Can’t Be Blamed for Breaking an Agreement That the U.S. Already Discarded

On Tuesday, the Knesset revoked a 2005 law forbidding Jews from living in a narrow slice of territory in the northern West Bank. The original law, most of which remains in effect, legitimized Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip as well as the forcible removal of four Israeli villages in Samaria. In response, a State Department spokesman condemned the legislation as inconsistent with prior understandings between the two countries. Daniel Kurtzer, a former U.S. ambassador, went further still, calling it “an egregious violation of a commitment to the United States.” Meanwhile, Benjamin Netanyahu has clarified that his government has “no intention of building new communities in these areas”—a decision that is ultimately the prerogative of the cabinet rather than the parliament.

Whatever the prudence of the Knesset’s decision, Alan Baker and Lenny Ben-David explain that the complaints of Kurtzer and others are misplaced:

The new legislation would enable the return of the residents to their homes and properties after the implementation of requisite legal and security arrangements and the resolution of land ownership claims by Palestinians. The sites of [two of the evacuated towns], Ganim and Kadim, are reported to be now part of Jenin’s municipal boundaries in Area A [of the West Bank], effectively putting them off-limits to Israelis.

U.S. spokespersons and the former ambassador Kurtzer . . . appear to interpret this new legislation in an overly broad manner that does not necessarily reflect the actual substance of, or reasoning for, the legislation. They wrongly claim that the new legislation would facilitate “creating new settlements, building or legalizing outposts, or allowing the building of any kind on private Palestinian land or deep in the West Bank adjacent to Palestinian communities.” As such, they claim that the legislation contradicts previous undertakings by the Israeli government to the United States “to evacuate these settlements and outposts in the northern West Bank in order to stabilize the situation and reduce frictions.”

In fact, the 2004 unilateral and independent Israeli plan to evacuate those villages, even after implementation, failed in its stated purpose to secure and encourage a reduction in Palestinian hostility and violence, nor did it stabilize the political and economic situation as hoped.

Moreover, write Baker and Ben-David, the commitments cited by the Kurtzer and the State Department were made in a 2004 exchange of letters between then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and then-President George W. Bush. As President Obama explicitly rejected these understandings in 2011, Israel can in no way be expected to abide by them.

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Ariel Sharon, Gaza withdrawal, George W. Bush, Joseph Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship, West Bank


How to Save the Universities

To Peter Berkowitz, the rot in American institutions of higher learning exposed by Tuesday’s hearings resembles a disease that in its early stages was easy to cure but difficult to diagnose, and now is so advanced that it is easy to diagnose but difficult to cure. Recent analyses of these problems have now at last made it to the pages of the New York Times but are, he writes, “tardy by several decades,” and their suggested remedies woefully inadequate:

They fail to identify the chief problem. They ignore the principal obstacles to reform. They propose reforms that provide the equivalent of band-aids for gaping wounds and shattered limbs. And they overlook the mainstream media’s complicity in largely ignoring, downplaying, or dismissing repeated warnings extending back a quarter century and more—largely, but not exclusively, from conservatives—that our universities undermine the public interest by attacking free speech, eviscerating due process, and hollowing out and politicizing the curriculum.

The remedy, Berkowitz argues, would be turning universities into places that cultivate, encourage, and teach freedom of thought and speech. But doing so seems unlikely:

Having undermined respect for others and the art of listening by presiding over—or silently acquiescing in—the curtailment of dissenting speech for more than a generation, the current crop of administrators and professors seems ill-suited to fashion and implement free-speech training. Moreover, free speech is best learned not by didactic lectures and seminars but by practicing it in the reasoned consideration of competing ideas with those capable of challenging one’s assumptions and arguments. But where are the professors who can lead such conversations? Which faculty members remain capable of understanding their side of the argument because they understand the other side?

Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Academia, Anti-Semitism, Freedom of Speech, Israel on campus