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December 2007 Archives

December 21, 2007

It's time to talk to Iran

Here is an op-ed that is being put out by the JTA.

At this week’s Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert politely asked his colleagues to shut their mouths about the recently released U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on Iran.

Olmert’s gag order followed two weeks of unhelpful, knee-jerk reaction by some Israeli politicians caught off guard by the reports’ conclusions, which found that Iran suspended its covert nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that it acts as an essentially rational player pursuing traditional national interests of “security, prestige and regional goals.”

The release of the NIE report should prompt more than silence from Jerusalem, however. It should prompt a re-thinking of Israel’s -- and the pro-Israel community in America’s -- approach toward Iran.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s vile statements about the Holocaust and Israel should not be ignored or taken lightly. But the pre-NIE strategy of using coercive diplomacy and military threats was deeply flawed, dangerous and failed to deliver concrete results. It has not stopped Tehran’s pursuit of uranium enrichment, enhanced regional security or tempered Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric.

Now it’s time for Israel and its friends to take the initiative and promote direct, unconditional and comprehensive U.S.-led engagement with Iran.

Three considerations drive this approach: practical, political, and strategic.

On the practical level, the double-pronged tactic of international sanctions and the threat of military action has become even less viable.

The military option, never popular outside neoconservative circles and U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney’s office, now seems even more remote. Aside from the international outcry an attack would bring, the huge potential downside of an attack on Iran -- further destabilization of the entire region, a ratcheting up of anti-U.S. hostility, increased violence in Iraq and possibly on Israel’s doorstep -- remains unchanged.

This, to say nothing of the fact that there are serious questions about the efficacy of a military strike in destroying Iran’s nuclear program.

Notably, American Jews oppose military action against Iran, by a margin of 57 percent to 35 percent, according to the recently released annual American Jewish Committee survey of Jewish attitudes.

The NIE report has made the other stick used against Iran, international sanctions, more difficult to sustain, much less intensify. The international debate now is where it always should have been: how to change Iran’s behavior, not how to change its regime.

On a political level, support for engaging with Iran is growing. Leading Democratic U.S. presidential contenders have embraced the diplomatic option. Even the new Republican front-runner, Mike Huckabee, suggested in a recent article in Foreign Affairs that diplomacy should be “put on the table,” bemoaning 30 years without “talking” to Iran.

Sensing the shifting political winds in the United States, Israel’s former Mossad chief, Ephraim Halevy, argues that Israel must ensure that its interests are represented in any dialogue.

There are other political reasons to talk to Iran. The Islamic Republic will hold parliamentary elections in 2008 and presidential elections in 2009, and bellicose rhetoric by the United States merely strengthens Ahmadinejad and Iran’s hard-liners.

Iranian reformers and more pragmatic conservative opponents of Ahmadinejad have called on America to replace its saber-rattling with an offer of unconditional engagement.

The most compelling of all reasons for changing the approach to Iran is that the current strategy simply does not work.

While isolation has not advanced U.S. or Israeli interests, engagement could yield the desired security guarantees for Israel and the United States.

Iran cooperated with U.S. objectives in Afghanistan after 9/11. In 2003, Iran asked the Swiss to send U.S. officials an outline proposal for a deal that addressed key Israeli and U.S. concerns, including verifiable and transparent oversight to guarantee no Iranian nuclear weapons program; cessation of material support for non-state actors engaged in violence against Israel, including Hezbollah and Hamas, and encouraging them to pursue exclusively political activities; support for the Arab League’s peace initiative with Israel, and cooperation in stabilizing Iraq.

In return, Iran demanded recognition of its own security interests, ending hostile U.S. behavior against the country and ending international sanctions.

That offer was ignored, and over time Iran’s position vis-à-vis the United States has grown ever stronger.

America’s consistent exclusion of Iran has not been beneficial. Middle East peace conferences in Madrid in 1991 and at Annapolis, Md., last month both intentionally excluded the Islamic Republic. Yet when the peace process is framed as an exercise in isolating Iran, its sponsors should expect nothing less than for Iran to try to play the spoiler.

It wasn’t always this way. Trita Parsi, in his unique book, “Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the United States,” describes how Israel reluctantly shifted away from a strategy of building alliances with the Middle East periphery -- Iran, Turkey, Ethiopia -- against the Arab center, to one of cautious flirtation with the Arab center against the Iranian periphery, as witnessed in Annapolis. Neither approach delivered.

It’s now time to pursue an inclusive strategy that attempts to bring both the Arab center and Iranian periphery into a comprehensive peace arrangement and a framework for regional security.

Rather than resigning ourselves to the unnecessary conclusion that Israel’s fate is one of perpetual conflict, we ought to be more ambitious in our diplomatic reach.

Israel and the pro-Israel community should be encouraging comprehensive U.S.-led engagement with Iran, not the opposite, and should help shape that dialogue, not lag behind it. 

December 18, 2007

The long road from Paris to Palestine

Here is a piece I have in today's Guardian online.

An international donors' conference that was convened in order to secure pledges of financial support for the Palestinian Authority closed in Paris yesterday. Eighty-seven countries and international organisations were in attendance, including the host, French president Nicolas Sarkozy, US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and prime minister Salam Fayyad, Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni, Quartet special envoy Tony Blair and representatives of many Arab states. According to initial reports, pledges of $7.4bn were secured, exceeding the target set for the conference. On the face of it, this is impressive stuff and builds on the momentum of the peace summit held in Annapolis three weeks ago. This is the first pledging conference for the Palestinians of its kind since 1996. And the Palestinian economy is certainly in dire need of help, with per capita GDP falling 40% since 1999, unemployment standing at 23% and the PA expecting a fiscal gap for current and capital expenditures of around $1.8bn in 2008 according to the World Bank. This is also an international vote of confidence in prime minister Fayyad, his Palestinian reform and development plan and the sincere efforts he is making to produce a workable program to improve Palestinians' economic prospects. But the journey from Paris to Palestine is a long one, the obstacle course is daunting and the lessons from previous failed and similar journeys are in danger of not being learned.

Put aside for a moment the often expectation-crushing nature of such pledging conferences - that contributions promised do not always translate into monies disbursed, that multi-year commitments often can be back-loaded and that existing programs simply get repackaged. The outcome of this conference risks suffering from Palestine-specific and possibly devastating flaws.

The story of Palestine's economic collapse over the last several years is one of donor assistance being unable to paper over the gaping cracks in a failed political peace process. The rebuttal on display in Paris was that this time it's different, we have Annapolis, peace is back on the agenda. Except that Annapolis is anything but the kind of robust process that is required - witness already the Israeli announcement of the expansion of Har Homa in Palestinian East Jerusalem, the escalating conflict between Israel and Gaza, the lack of a visible change in the closure system and, most importantly, the continued American and international impotence in the face of these negative trends.

Palestinian economic prospects will not improve under conditions of a continuing intrusive occupation even if the donor community is full of festive season generosity. A World Bank report, specially prepared for the Paris conference, put it in the following stark terms: "Even with full funding but no relaxation in the closure regime, growth [of the Palestinian economy] will be slightly negative at around minus 2% per year." Another far-reaching study released by the Crown Centre at Brandeis University and written by Dr Mohammed Samhouri, a Palestinian economist and former official, questions the assumptions behind the current donor strategy and finds them to be hopelessly out of sync with the situation on the ground and past experience. Economic assistance should not continue being a fig leaf for the lack of political will to address the core questions that, in turn, vitally impact the economic reality in the Palestinian territories - agreeing on a permanent border, ending the occupation, dividing Jerusalem. To assume that this time it will be different, while avoiding the real heavy diplomatic lifting that would make it so, is another victory for hope over experience.

To these considerations must be added another unsustainable burden that economic planners are being asked to shoulder, namely that well-targeted assistance will definitively reshape the internal Palestinian political reality. Much of the talk in Paris was about explicitly designing economic assistance in order to return the moderates to power and squeeze out the radicals. If one can demonstrate to Palestinians that Fatah governance can deliver the economic goodies, so the theory goes, then they will turn against Hamas. Part of the plan, therefore, is predicated on exacerbating Palestinian division. But calibrating economic reward and punishment to affect changes in political affiliation, especially of a people under occupation, is far from being an exact science. Such policies often carry unintended consequences, and in this case the irreversible damage being inflicted on the Gazan economy is not only inhumane and painfully shortsighted but is also likely to fuel a greater anger and sense of abandonment among Gazans. The World Bank study points out that economic restrictions have already led to the suspension of 95% of Gaza's industrial operations.

In fact, as Dr Samhouri argues in his study, the donor assistance strategy should promote "a different and more realistic approach that would help foster Palestinian reconciliation, bring Gaza back into the Palestinian main political and economic fabric and stabilise the fragile conditions on the ground". The donor nations gathered in Paris are actually divided as regards to the West Bank v Gaza, Fatah v Hamas, framing of current policy. The Paris conference's co-chair, Norway, along with several EU and Arab states all favour renewed efforts at Palestinian internal reconciliation and dialogue, considering this to be the most propitious route to stability, security, economic growth and a meaningful peace process. The US, Israel and other key European states rigidly adhere to a divide and rule approach that is very likely to bring both economic and political prospects crashing down together.

For Europeans in particular the post-Annapolis reality contains a further twist of the knife. In Paris the EU and its member states confirmed their historical role as by far the largest donors to the Palestinians; in Annapolis the Europeans were effectively excluded from the political process with the creation of US rather than Quartet follow-up and monitoring mechanisms. We are back to Europe as payer not player. Europeans (and others) are being asked to place their faith and taxpayer dollars in a political process from which they are not only excluded, but not even given the face-saving semblance of having a role via the Quartet. A peace process that was designed to deliver would likely strengthen the Quartet partnership, not emaciate it.

If these flaws are not addressed, then the results of the Paris conference will become the economic accompaniment to the Palestinian state-building process recently described here in Comment is Free by Ahmad Khalidi as one that "does nothing to address basic [Palestinian] needs" and is "largely a punitive construct devised ... to constrain Palestinian aspirations". And that is a recipe for dissatisfaction all around - of course among Palestinians but also for an already fatigued donor community, and even for an Israel whose insatiable appetite for hollow victories is so clogging up its arteries that it threatens self-destruction.

DeWayne Wickham Connects the Dots in USA Today

DeWayne Wickham has an op-ed in USA Today that explains the centrality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its resolution to re-stabilizing the Middle East and advancing US goals in that region. He quotes me extensively and I am encouraged that this message is reaching a broader and more grass-rootsy USA Today national audience. Here are some excerpts:
[T]he way out of the morass the Bush administration has stumbled into in the Middle East is through the Palestinian territory.
To drain the swamp in which al-Qaeda and other U.S. adversaries operate and make it harder for this nation's foes in the Middle East "to speak above the heads" of moderate Arab leaders, Levy says, a way must be found to end Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territory.
The long-running struggle between Israel and the Palestinian people "is the mother-of-all grievances" for many in the Muslim world…
[T]he unsettled Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a rallying cry for this nation's enemies in the region.
But the Annapolis conference ended with no great sense of urgency to fashion a peace agreement.
Bush…sounds more like…a spectator than the leader of a nation's whose fate is linked tightly to the outcome of this effort.
Obviously, I agree with Wickham’s analysis. He, of course, is looking at all this from the American perspective and interest. For me, it is important to add that a resolution of the conflict along viable lines is vital to the Israeli interest. To make the linkage is not an exercise in finger-pointing at Israel, but rather a recognition of reality and how to change it in a way that positions Israel for a more promising future and helps maintain the Israeli-American special relationship, but on a more healthy footing.

December 17, 2007

The Return of Yossi Beilin the Statesman?

One of my political mentors, someone I worked with in and out of the government in Israel, and a friend, Yossi Beilin, announced yesterday that he was standing down as leader of the Meretz party and withdrawing from the party leadership election to be held in March.  Beilin explained that he would be supporting Haim Oron, known to everyone as Jumus, in the leadership race (against two other Meretz MKs: Ran Cohen and Zehava Gal’on).  

“The ideological closeness and friendship with Jumas [Oron] dictated that I not run against him.  I have had a principle for many years.  I will not run against a comrade in my political path,” said Beilin.  

Most of the commentary has pointed out that Beilin did not look to be in a strong position in the leadership race, had not captured the hearts of his new Meretz party colleagues, and was unlikely to increase the party’s Knesset representation.  Indeed his years as chair of Meretz have probably not been his most productive or brought out the best in Yossi Beilin.  Dealing with the day-to-day matters of party management was not his forte. Structurally too, Meretz during his leadership period found itself walking a fine political line as a responsible opposition (sometimes too responsible) that on more than one occasion found itself propping up a government of which it was not a part and with which it disagreed on most issues just in order to maintain the glimmer of hope for a peace process or to facilitate a unilateral (and as such, misguided) withdrawal from Gaza.  

There was very little time for Beilin, the daring statesman--brilliant, creative, and farsighted.  One used to frequently hear the refrain that “What Beilin is planning today, Israel will be doing in 5 to 10 years,” for too long that quotation has been gathering dust.  In his Foreign Ministry days Beilin led the belated effort to have Israel severe its close relationship with apartheid South Africa and pushed for the establishment of a governmental department to coordinate overseas development assistance.  Beilin is of course remembered for initiating the back-channel dialogue that was later adopted by Itzhak Rabin and became the Oslo Declaration of Principles, and for championing the withdrawal from Lebanon that was eventually embraced by Ehud Barak and implemented in 2000.  Other Beilin projects have not yet been realized to the detriment of the Israel he has spent all his life working for, and the region which he understands we need to be a part of.  These plans include the Beilin-Abu Mazen Agreement and The Geneva Initiative, both of which I had the honor to work with Yossi on, and are well worth revisiting.  Often forgotten is that Beilin has also intensely involved himself with the subject of Israel’s relationship with the Jewish diaspora and, prolific author that he is, Yossi even wrote a book on this subject, “His Brother’s Keeper.”  The now well-established Taglit or birthright program, so beloved to Jewish communities and the establishment, was originally the brainchild of guess who? YB.

Hopefully, the removal of constraints of party leadership will re-release the tireless thinker and unstoppable private statesman in Yossi Beilin.  Beilin himself stated in his resignation announcement that “I will now invest more than I have in the last four years in the peace process.  I have never hidden the fact that there is nothing more urgent in my eyes than grasping the opportunity for peace.  I now feel a particular sense of urgency.” In a recent Washington Post op-ed, Beilin pressed the need for a ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas-controlled Gaza strip, a move that may have been a harbinger of the kind of efforts Beilin will now pursue.

Much of the media commentary around Beilin’s resignation has, as expected, been less than flattering about Beilin’s political skills and future political prospects but has been balanced by a near universal appreciation of his diplomatic and visionary qualities.  Yossi Verter in Haaretz sums it up in terms more stark than I would use.

The Israel TV channel 10 lead political correspondent and political author Raviv Druker had this to say on his blog (Isra-blog)—here is the link for those of you who read Hebrew.

I want to write about Yossi Beilin, the person and the politician.  Not many people in the Knesset agree with his views, but you will not find one person (maybe Dalia Itzik) who does not value and respect him. Beilin is the only politician that received a ministry and closed it down…as it was superfluous to efficient government [the economics and planning ministry]…

In 1999 Beilin agreed to resign from the Knesset in order to allow an additional person from the Labor Knesset list to enter, except for Matan Vilnai no one else agreed to do this.....because that is Yossi Beilin.  A politician who has convinced an entire political system that his considerations are substantive ones, that what interests him is ideology and not sinecures…

[Beilin’s withdrawal from the leadership race] again proves that with him, intelligence manages to trump ego…this is the time for him to withdraw from the campaign and return to doing what he does better than any other politician—to influence the Israeli reality more than the vast majority of our ministers and sometimes more than our Prime Minister. (DL translation)

Raviv, I have nothing to add.  

As for Jumus, a colleague from the Geneva Initiative, a wonderful man and someone basically unknown in the US, more on him in a future post.  

December 12, 2007

Between Annapolis and Bush's Presidential Visit to Israel

This is also posted on the Huffington Post

After seven years, George W. Bush will make his first ever visit as President to Israel next month. In preparing the trip, he would do well to reflect on the meaning of an interview given by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Israeli journalists on his departure from the recent Annapolis summit. Here is what Olmert told the Haaretz newspaper: “If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished.” Defining the two state solution as nothing short of an act of survival for Israel, creates a framing whereby the benefits of keeping an extra percent or two of West Bank land, an extra settlement, can no longer be justification for collapsing negotiations. Should the negotiations sponsors in Washington choose to do so, they can interpret this message as an invitation to close a deal.

Detractors may brandish Olmert's appeal, under this interpretation, as an act of cowardice or even irresponsibility. They could not be more wrong. While a bilateral Israeli-Palestinian agreement is always preferable, under current circumstances of entrenched narratives, mutual distrust and weakness, an American-brokered and internationally-endorsed deal offers a more realistic path to success. There exists a fragile majority on both sides for a no-nonsense two-state deal in line with the proposals of former President Clinton or the Geneva Initiative. Both publics simply do not believe that the other side is ready. On the tough issues it is easier for an Israeli leader to sayOlmert and Bush yes to an American President, than to his Palestinian counterpart, and for the public to accept such an outcome.

The motives behind the Israeli Prime Minister's embrace of the peace process have been attacked from right and left. The right pillory him as a discredited leader who is trying to distract public attention from the police investigations against him and the Winograd Report into last summer's disastrous Lebanon War, due shortly. The left suspects that the lofty words of Annapolis only provide cover to further entrench the occupation. Perhaps both have a point. But Ehud Olmert's journey towards two-state-realism did not begin at Annapolis. From being a hawkish Likud parliamentarian who opposed the peace treaty with Egypt, and a pugnacious Mayor of Jerusalem, Ehud Olmert, in 2006, became the first person to stand for Prime Minister of Israel on a detailed platform explicitly outlining a significant withdrawal from the West Bank. Already in 2003, Olmert challenged his then Likud colleagues to concede their dreams of a Greater Israel, "it will lead to the loss of Israel as a Jewish State," he said.

Olmert today appears to be a convert with a sense of urgency, destiny, and, perhaps post-Annapolis, opportunity. The Arab leaders and their peace initiative may not be around forever and there are surely advantages to Israel in closing a deal before American power in the region is further eroded. Olmert's "peace or bust" message suggests that the US Administration should not content itself with supporting the bilateral talks, rather it should actively help carry the sides over the finishing line. During his visit to the Middle East, President Bush should begin to explore this option.

In that Haaretz interview the Israeli PM had a second message for another audience, the American Jewish community. Olmert stated that under the South-African style scenario (no two-state deal), "the Jewish organizations, which were our power base in America, will be the first to come out against us". The binary choice -- Israel can do no wrong or Israel can do no right -- is one with which most American Jews are not comfortable. This choice also threatens to increase alienation from both Israel and from communal organizations and to produce an increasingly divided Jewish political voice. Olmert, recognizing this fault-line, is offering a different option, an Israel that is normal, that again becomes an uncontroversial and unifying cornerstone of Jewish identity. American Jewish support for ending the occupation becomes an act of enlightened self-interest.

Achieving an Israeli-Palestinian agreement would be hugely significant even if its implementation likely necessitates a new and inclusive approach towards Hamas and more realistic expectations regarding the type of security that any Palestinian leadership can provide Israel while still under occupation.

Ehud Olmert cannot openly call for an American push, and would have to deny any such inference. He can though hint. He has now hinted. It is not every day that an American president turns to find an Israeli prime minister whose arm is outstretched displaying a Post-it sticker with the words "twist here." Of course an Administration that has been so illiterate on the Middle East may not even be able to read the small print scribbled by its closest ally. And the much-needed arm twist would not have to be particularly painful, more akin to clicking a joint in a friend's back into position again. That kind of corrective act, not the toe-curling rhetoric about World War III, would help to remove the niggling, wearing, tearing dislocation of being an occupier and would really be an act of American friendship to Israel. Can President Bush rise to the occasion? Don't hold your breathe, but January's visit will provide some clues.

December 7, 2007

The New Republic and National Review fabricate Middle East news – Say it Ain’t so…

Blatant fabrication in Middle East reporting by two outlets that take themselves very seriously – The New Republic Online (TNR) and the National Review Online (NRO) – has the blogosphere buzzing. The story went mainstream when the New York Times ran a piece relating how NRO, after months ofMartin Peretz sniping at TNR for carrying ‘Baghdad Diarist” reports of US military misbehavior in Iraq that proved to be false, was itself found out. But in this story there are only villains- neither TNR nor NRO can be trusted on the Middle East – and it goes way beyond the particular stories in question. 

NRO published reports from Lebanon by W. Thomas Smith Jr. in which the former marine stated at that 4,000 – 5,000 Hezbollah soldiers were deployed to Christian neighborhoods in Beirut and, in a different piece, that upwards of 200 heavily-armed Hezbollah militants had formed a tent-city near the Lebanese Parliament. Both of these statements have since been deemed entirely false (see this article by Thomas Edsall in The Huffington Post and this one by Glenn Greenwald in Salon ) NRO carried a pathetic excuse for an apology. Mother Jones’s Jonathan Schwarz has produced a delicious dissection of the anti-Arab racism in online editor Kathryn Jean Lopez’s ‘apology.’

But knifing NRO should not become an exercise in defending or relativising the misdemeanors at TNR and not only for the obvious journalistic-ethics-related reason.  TNR are the good liberals and NRO the nasty conservatives right? Well, when it comes to the Middle East, Arabs, and especially Israeli-Palestinian peace, wrong! They both suck. 

That TNR and NRO’s untrustworthiness on the Middle East would somehow be a new discovery is an astonishing notion. There are exceptions, but the thrust of Mid-East coverage in TNR and NRO excels in finding that dangerous meeting point between neo-cons and liberal hawks, the comfort zone of the pro-Likud, anti-peace crowd. TNR and NRO are, in this respect, almost indistinguishable. Both, for instance, have highlighted bellicose responses to the NIE Iran report in the last days, see Michael Ledeen’s “I’m not a Believer,” at NRO and Yossi Klein Halevi’s “An Insult to Intelligence,” at TNR for an example of what I mean.

The track record of Michael Ledeen, contributing editor of NRO, of Iran-Contra, Iraq/Niger yellowcake forgery and ‘Ledeen Doctrine,’ (summarized by Jonah Goldberg as, "every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business,”) fame, hardly needs expanding upon. 

The NRO stable also boasts David Frum who I debated here and Noah Pollak (previously at the AEI.) Pollak is Deputy Editor of “Azure,” a publication of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem where, guess who, none other than Yossi Klein Halevi, TNR’s Israel correspondent, is a senior fellow. The Shalem Center has been identified with Benjamin Netanyahu, while Natan Sharansky, (Bush’s favorite author) heads Shalem’s Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies. Yes, that Adelson, Sheldon – the principal funder of Freedom’s Watch. (Shalem also lists Weekly Standard Editor, Bill Kristol among its board members and Giuliani advisor, Martin Kramer on its staff.)

There is no conspiracy here, just the cozy camaraderie of Likud-land. And we haven’t even mentioned TNR’s Marty Peretz yet. Read Eric Alterman in The American Prospect on the effect Marty Peretz’s leadership had on TNR and its foreign policy positions. Here is an extract:

My Marty problem -- and ours -- is just this: By pretending to speak as a liberal but simultaneously endorsing the central crusades of the right, he has enlisted The New Republic in the service of a ruinous neoconservative doctrine, as the magazine sneered at those liberals who stood firm in the face of its insults. He has done so, moreover, in support of a blinkered and narrow view of Israeli security that, again, celebrates hawks and demonizes doves. Had the United States or even Israel followed the policies advocated by those genuine liberals whom TNR routinely slandered, much of the horror of the past four years would have been happily avoided

 When it comes to TNR and NRO on the Middle East, it really is a case of a plague on both your houses.

December 3, 2007

Debating on Democracy Now and Bloggingheads.tv

I wanted to share these two conversations I had recently on the Annapolis summit with two veryMustafa Barghouti different types of interlocutors – Mustafa Barghouti and David Frum. Mustafa is a former PA Minister from the National Unity Government, PLC Member and highly respected independent activist. He also heads the “Al-Mubadara” (Initiative), which is a political alternative to both Fatah and Hamas, and is the founder and chair of the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees. I appeared with him on Democracy Now, an award-winning, independent and politically hard-hitting news program hosted by Amy Goodman that appears on over 300 stations, including Pacifica, NPR, and PBS.

By way of contrast, there is also a debate with David Frum, senior foreign policy advisor for Rudy Giuliani, former speechwriter for President Bush and is the co-author of the phrase “axis of evil”- on bloggingheads.tv, a video blog discussion site that promotes back and forth dialogue. Bloggingheads is the brainchild of my New America colleague Bob Wright and has a large following. The clip can also be seen here on the New York Times’ opinion page.