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Roger Cohen recites Livni talking points in ‘NYT’ column to blame Palestinians for peace process failure

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Well, that didn’t take long. Roger Cohen waited eight months, perhaps hoping everyone would forget the truth, to blast out a misleading, elision-filled blaming of the Palestinian Authority for the Spring 2014 collapse of negotiations, in the form of a fawning interview of Tzipi Livni. His disingenuous NYT column is a recitation of standard Israeli talking points, like the classic hit, “The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” Nary a true statement to be found in this biased, stenographic, embarrassing piece of propaganda.

Although Cohen claims to have uncovered the reason “Why Israeli-Palestinian Peace Failed,” in the entirety of his column, he never once mentions the historic US officials’  blaming of Israel, which included this indictment:

Israel’s “expropriating land on a large scale” to build colonies “on the territory meant for that [Palestinian] state” was the “primary” reason for the recent negotiations’ failure.

Roger Cohen

Roger Cohen

In contrast, Cohen merely calls the expansion of settlements a “a major irritant to Palestinians.” Like, perhaps, an unexpectedly large credit card bill? Watching Israel bulldoze your home, steal your land, and then build racist Israeli Jewish-only roads and apartments overtop of your land is an “irritant”? No, colonies and left theft are not an irritant, they are everything, they are the engine that drives the oppression of the Palestinians. For the past 66 years, Israel’s primary mission — no matter which political party was in power — has been to steal land from Palestinians and give this stolen land to Israeli Jews; “We will expel the Arabs and take their places,” in the words of Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion. This is the defining element, this is what is underneath not only the collapse of the Spring negotiations but all the major problems in Israel/Palestine, and Roger Cohen has never, and will never, name this core issue for what it is — until and unless he gives up the delusion that ‘liberal’ (settler-colonial, racist) Zionism will deliver us.

Back to Cohen’s column, which seems to be an opportunity for him to spin Tzipi Livni’s political posturing as if it were a set of facts to be reckoned:

I asked Livni if she would be prepared to freeze settlement growth in the event of any renewed negotiations, a distant prospect. She said she would, at least outside major blocs, because she did not believe settlement expansion served the goal of two states for two peoples.

Cohen does not bother to state that under international law and the Geneva Conventions to which Israel is a signatory, every single housing unit built in every single settlement on land Israel seized in 1967 is illegal, and this includes the ‘major blocs.’ Only in Israel, and among Israel’s Liberal Zionist supporters, does building in the ‘major blocs’ not count. Why even mention international law, when this is after all an opportunity for Cohen to pull night duty as Livni’s spokesperson? Leaving out all those inconvenient facts enables Cohen to imply that Livni is some kind of hero by being willing to consider freezing settlements ‘outside the major blocs.’

Remember Ali Abunimah’s famous pizza analogy: you can’t negotiate with a bully over a pizza while he’s devouring the pizza. So Livni is making it very clear: negotiate with a Likud-led government, and Israel will eat your entire pizza during the negotiations; negotiate with my government, and we’ll only devour half of your pizza (and I don’t give a damn that under international law, I have no legal right to even sniff much less taste your pizza.) And Cohen is starstruck!

The propaganda continues:

On March 17, in a meeting in Washington, President Obama presented Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader, with a long-awaited American framework for an agreement that set out the administration’s views on major issues, including borders, security, settlements, Palestinian refugees and Jerusalem.

Livni considered it a fair framework, and Netanyahu had indicated willingness to proceed on the basis of it while saying he had reservations. But Abbas declined to give an answer in what his senior negotiator, Saeb Erekat, later described as a “difficult” meeting with Obama. Abbas remained evasive on the framework, which was never made public.

This, in Livni’s view, amounted to an important opportunity missed by the Palestinians, not least because to get Netanyahu’s acceptance of a negotiation on the basis of the 1967 borders with agreed-upon swaps — an idea Obama embraced in 2011 — would have indicated a major shift.

Shades of Camp David! After the Camp David negotiations collapsed, Israel’s apologists were quick to disseminate the myth of the generous offer — an offer that scholars later asserted never existed in any concrete, written form. We have no idea what, if anything, Obama presented to Abbas; we have no idea what this ‘framework’ actually was, or to what extent it was consistent with Palestinian legal, human, and national rights; all we know is Cohen says Livni says it was a ‘fair framework’ and that ‘the Palestinians missed an important opportunity.’ Cohen implies: Of course we should trust Livni, she is an expert on fairness in dealing with the Palestinians; just ignore the facts that she wants to steal more Palestinian land while negotiating with them, and has been the subject of international campaigns to arrest her because of her responsibility for well-documented Israeli war crimes in Gaza.

Cohen presents no Palestinian viewpoints on any of this. Or the US officials who blamed Israel. Just Tzipi Livni, from her lips to the pages of the NYT: unadorned deception.

P.S. – Added bonus elision points: Cohen neglects to mention Livni’s reported recent pledge to keep Jerusalem “eternally united,” a de facto annexation of the parts of Jerusalem Israel seized in 1967 and a foreclosure on the PA’s demand for East Jerusalem as their state capital.

Matthew Taylor

Matthew A. Taylor is co-founder of PeacePower magazine, and author of "The Road to Nonviolent Coexistence in Palestine/Israel," a chapter in the book Nonviolent Coexistence.

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41 Responses

  1. Ira Glunts on December 24, 2014, 12:34 pm

    Great and important post. Matthew, you got there first as far as I can tell. Good job.

  2. MHughes976 on December 24, 2014, 12:59 pm

    I guess that this is part of the increasing positioning of Livni as the great hope of liberal Zionism under plans that envisage her as the Israeli counterpart to Clinton, forming a stern warrior duo with the piercing intelligence necessary to make peace.

  3. amigo on December 24, 2014, 1:22 pm

    “negotiate with my government” livni

    Yeah and you can “get stuffed” devouring the crumbs we so generously leave in the crumpled up aluminum foil after we have sated our appetite and washed it,(the Pizza) down with water we stole from you.Bon Appetite Abbas.

  4. just on December 24, 2014, 3:08 pm

    A really good article, Matthew. Many thanks.

    From another knucklehead, Seth Lipsky:

    “India’s shift away from Palestine could spell the Non-Aligned Movement’s doom

    At a time when Israel faces an American retreat and growing hostility in Europe, it’s encouraging to see another democracy coming to its senses.”

    No insight, ever.

  5. annie on December 24, 2014, 3:12 pm

    excellent post matthew. everyone knows israel would not name or agree to any borders during these negotiations, and this framing of cohen’s; Abbas remained evasive on the framework, which was never made public, is BS because palestinians put forward their proposals during these negotiations as they did last time. whereas the US agreed to bend to israel’s will to turn the goal of these negotiations into merely haggling over a ‘framework’ for future negotiations. so abbas was not evasive in the least.

    the only thing i think would have added to the article was the history revealed re livni in the palestine papers. right out of the horses mouth. sorry, not time to google a link, but she was disgusting. cohen should be ashamed.

    • Walid on December 24, 2014, 6:00 pm

      Annie, she is a Zionist, so no surprise there; we all know what Zionists are about. Disgusting and surprisingly so were the Palestinians she was negotiating with that agreed to various concessions on the backs of the Palestinians such as agreeing to a absurdly low number of returnees.

      • Bornajoo on December 24, 2014, 6:54 pm

        Great point Walid
        I remember watching the whole Al Jazeera series called The Palestinian Papers which exposed the secret files of over a decade of those pathetic “peace talks”. It was quite incredible just how far the Palestinian negotiators acquiesced to Israeli demands. And this Livni was the chief negotiator for a big chunk of those talks.

        If anyone thinks that the idea of transferring non Jewish Palestinian Israelis outside of Israel proper (if borders are ever agreed) to a future Palestinian state was lieberman’s idea they’re wrong. This idea was being pushed and promoted by Livni during those negotiations and unbelievably the Palestinian negotiators were going along with it

        Livni isn’t out to help or save the Palestinians. She wants to protect the zionist project and will say and do anything to achieve that objective. She’s a devil in disguise

        If she does take over then I’m sure we may even get as far as some Oslo handshake moments because people like her, like Barak, know how to play the international role but nothing will come of it except another chunk of years to steal more land and make as many Palestinians as possible leave by keeping their lives as miserable as possible. She will never agree to the concessions required for a genuine solution. At least Bennett says it straight to your face. He’s horrid but he doesn’t lie.

      • eGuard on December 25, 2014, 3:07 am

        Yes. When Livni says Jewish Democratic State, two states for two peoples in the ‘interview’ that is a. misleading wordplay in part one (how does that look at all?), and b. racist separation (Nakba-3 ahead).

        It’s not new to note this, but it should be repeated. She’s a liberal Zionist politician. (Cohen did hear that quote right, which is an achievement given where his head was).

      • CigarGod on December 25, 2014, 10:17 am

        With so many refugee groups spread so widely, i assume there must be widely different politics within the groups. Im guessing there are “acceptable” groups and groups that would not be “manageable”, which may be why abbas, et al, would agree to leave most of them out in the cold. Groups with influence (money?) and those without.

  6. Blownaway on December 24, 2014, 3:20 pm

    The Palestinian Papers released some time ago show that even when Livni had the power she was as intransigent as Netanyahu. The Palestinians gave in everything, so much so that it was embarrassing and it was she who said not to some very unreasonable for the Palestinans and generous offers. As far as the Palestinians go I think they would prefer an honest thief like Bennet than a lying thief like Livni

  7. Bornajoo on December 24, 2014, 3:44 pm

    Thank you Matthew
    The Left, the so called Liberals, those that want to soothe their consciences, the US government all seem to be desperate for this utterly dishonest woman to get into power. She will be a great gatekeeper for the zionists. She will get everyone (who is important to Israel) to believe that she is a genuine peacemaker and the only reason why there will not be a solution is because of the Palestinians. She will be able to maintain the status quo for years to come and reverse any gains made in recent years which in my opinion have only been made because of the “honesty” of the right wing government who have exposed their real and truthful face to the world.

    As you have pointed out she has already stated that the Old Town of Jerusalem will remain under Israeli control forever and has not denied that she may allow expansion of existing settlement blocks. She has not said anything about dismantling any of the other settlements even though every single settlement is illegal under international law

    She is being dressed up by the Liberals as some kind of heroic saviour who will rescue israel from the abyss and the NYT is using its media power to back her with disingenuous articles like this one.

    In my opinion it would be a disaster if she wins with Herzog. The problem is that they just might as it now appears that Lieberman is moving Left and will most likely join their camp after the next election. If he does then they will get into power.

    I would like to see an outright victory for Netanyahu and Bennett with an even more right wing government than we have now. That will accelerate the process to end the occupation through loss of international support and sanctions. Livni will prolong it for years to come with hasbara and dishonesty.

    • CigarGod on December 25, 2014, 10:29 am

      Nice reasoning. I like – faster – better, too. But faster…like a racing car…requires a very light touch…and and too much of the wrong input (internal or external) can send you into the grass…or the tires. But racing cars dont have a real brain. My horse is a high performance cutting horse. Most of the time he plays my game. But once in awhile…for no reason i can explain…we take a wild ride into the thorny thicket.

  8. chet on December 24, 2014, 4:11 pm

    Again, the “Readers’ Picks” in the “Comments” section that follows Cohen’s article are adamant in their refusal to accept his misrepresentations.

    • Blownaway on December 25, 2014, 11:58 am

      Reading the article and the NYT picks can be very depressing. But then I read the readers picks and I smile. The BS is starting to stink and it’s getting harder and harder to get the sheeple into order

  9. Mooser on December 24, 2014, 4:13 pm

    “The Left, the so called Liberals, those that want to soothe their consciences, the US government all seem to be desperate….”

    Take a look at Josh Marshall of TPM, on pretty much the same subject, the possible political alignments of the Israeli election:

    And best Holiday wishes to you Bornajoo!

    • Bornajoo on December 24, 2014, 4:32 pm

      Thanks for the article Mooser. It really does seem as though some kind of centre-left whatever coalition will take over. I really hope not

      And thanks for the holiday wishes! I wish you good holidays too but please don’t take too long a break because I’ll start to miss the most entertaining comments on MW!

      • Mooser on December 25, 2014, 12:28 pm

        Thanks, bornajoo!

  10. just on December 24, 2014, 5:36 pm

    O/T Wonders of wonders!

    “Despite an official request from Washington, Israel has decided not to support the reconciliation between the United States and Cuba at this stage, senior officials in Jerusalem said on Wednesday.

    The decision stems from Israel’s reluctance to antagonize the reconciliation’s opponents in the U.S. Congress, most of whom are Republicans and allies of Israel.

    Israeli officials were disappointed to have been kept in the dark about the talks, as it had always toed the line on the American embargo on Cuba, which began in 1960. Year after year Israel was about the only state that voted with the United States in the United Nations against resolutions to lift the embargo.
    The anti-Cuban forces in Congress – mainly in the Republican Party, but also in the Democratic Party – are seen, on the whole. as being closer to Israel than are the supporters of Obama’s opening to the communist island near Florida. They anti-Cuban figures in Washington include, for example, Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Democratic Senator Robert Menendez.

    Jerusalem decided that as long as it isn’t clear where the reconciliation between the United States and Cuba was heading, it was better to wait and not issue statements about policy changes that could annoy Israel’s friends in Congress who object to the reconciliation.

    Besides declining to issue a statement supporting the reconciliation with Cuba, Israel conveyed public messages intended for Congress members, among others, that it wasn’t keen on the move.

    Israel’s ambassador in Washington, Ron Dermer, a native of Miami – the bastion of the Castro regime’s opponents, known as “Cuban exiles” – said Israel had always supported the American embargo policy, due among other reasons to the Castro regime’s hostility toward Israel.”

    I guess that says it all. Merry Christmas, Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry and US citizens. Love, Israel

    • RoHa on December 24, 2014, 5:44 pm

      And there’s the diplomatic support from your bestest ever ally.

    • a blah chick on December 24, 2014, 6:46 pm

      “Despite an official request from Washington, Israel has decided not to support the reconciliation between the United States and Cuba”

      I was going to post something about what a bunch of ungrateful ingrates the Israelis are but as I think about it they’re just being consistent. It might add some fuel to their opponents on the Gaza embargo.

    • just on December 24, 2014, 7:42 pm

      “Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer expressed support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reelection on a U.S. media program, contravening explicit civil service regulations.

      He then added, “I have no doubt that when they [the Israeli public] look at all the people that stand for the leadership of the country, that they will have confidence in the leadership of prime minister Netanyahu.”

      In his December 10 circular, Civil Service Commissioner Moshe Dayan wrote, “A state employee must be careful that his actions or behavior cannot be interpreted as being aimed at promoting the interest of any particular party or candidate.” Anyone violating these instructions, he said, “will face criminal or disciplinary proceedings in accordance with the law.”

    • piotr on December 25, 2014, 12:11 am

      It is quite baffling. Can you imagine US Administration requesting the support for reconciliation with Cuba from, say, Vatican, United Kingdom, China, Nepal — anyone? And why not from piotr or mooser? What does Israel care, and what do we care if they care? Seriously, image Gallup poll asking: how would your opinion on restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba would change if you learned that Israeli government (a) approves, or (b) does not approve?

      One thing is that with Israel and the mode of thinking in D.C., it is not a patent impossibility (as it should be). The second thing is that I have rather limited trust in leaks to Israeli media.

  11. a blah chick on December 24, 2014, 5:41 pm

    Let’s not forget Tzipi-do-dah’s antics this past summer, when she went on vacation and tore up that Palestinian solidarity banner.

    So, let me get this straight: a woman who cannot tolerate a pro-Palestinian banner while a guest in SOMEONE ELSE’S COUNTRY is sincere about sitting down and negotiating in good faith.

    Not happening.

    • CigarGod on December 25, 2014, 10:35 am

      It there a photo of that?

      • just on December 25, 2014, 10:39 am
      • CigarGod on December 25, 2014, 10:46 am

        Wow! Fast service. Thanks. Is that some sort of tribal paint on her face/arms…or just a the photo?

      • a blah chick on December 25, 2014, 10:44 am

        Phil and Annie did an article for Mondo about the incident on 4 Sept. (“Tzipi Livni’s vacation nightmare”) In fact Livni was so proud of her vandalism that she put the picture on her Facebook page.

      • CigarGod on December 25, 2014, 11:18 am

        I expect someday we will have the science to explain this tea party, mob mentality in our species.

      • just on December 25, 2014, 10:50 am

        I don’t know~ could very well be blood…..

      • Mooser on December 26, 2014, 11:33 am

        “I don’t know~ could very well be blood…..”

        Because of the operant social conditioning required, and the incredibly short incubation period, early observers and researchers conjectured that there is a hereditary or genetic component in the Ziocaine Syndrome. Of course, when cases of Ziocaine Syndrome-by-proxy were noted, this hypothesis proved untenable.
        It’s strictly a social disease. So take ’em to a social worker!

      • CigarGod on December 26, 2014, 12:32 pm

        First audible laugh of the day!

      • eGuard on December 27, 2014, 9:28 am

        Is the location of that picture known? Could be Greece or Cyprus.

  12. RoHa on December 24, 2014, 7:23 pm

    “In contrast, Cohen merely calls the expansion of settlements a “a major irritant to Palestinians.” Like, perhaps, an unexpectedly large credit card bill? Watching Israel bulldoze your home, steal your land, and then build racist Israeli Jewish-only roads and apartments overtop of your land is an “irritant”? ”

    Palestinians take Arthur Dent as a role model.

    And what has happened to the Earth?

    It’s been… disintegrated.

    Has it?

    Yes. It just… boiled away into space.

    Look, I’m a bit upset about that.

  13. pjdude on December 24, 2014, 11:16 pm

    well of course its the palestinians fault. Israelis responsible for anything, especially their own actions? never

  14. just on December 25, 2014, 3:01 am

    This guy, Ari Shavit, cracks me up.

    “Israel 2015: The mud has reached our necks

    Summer was a warning siren, autumn a wake-up call, and the last six months tell us loudly that the past will not turn into the future, that the status quo is unsustainable.

    The year began with a promise of peace. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict was supposed to end by the spring of 2014. Less than 12 months ago, the American and Israeli champions of peace engaged in an ambitious effort to bring it about through comprehensive, thorough and unprecedented work. They were still optimistic in January, believing it was just around the corner. In February they were a bit less optimistic; there were difficulties and fears. And then in March, to their horrified amazement, everything crashed.
    The summer of 2014 was a warning siren. The autumn of 2014 was a wake-up call. The past six months have told us loudly that the past will not turn into the future, that the status quo is unsustainable. So at the end of this accursed year, we must realize that the mud has reached our necks, that the curse is on our threshold. We have a little time left to save Zionism from those who are overrunning it, from within and without.
    The bubble has burst; the illusions have faded. The Israeli republic must be redefined and re-established, and the home rebuilt.”

  15. eGuard on December 25, 2014, 3:26 am

    Just some notes. 1. Israel had agreed & promised to release a group of prisoners in March. By April 1st Israel had broken that promise. Why does Livni think she could add new requirements afterwards? 2. Now Livni complains that Netanyahu was the party causing trouble for her. What a crybaby. 3. Sure Abbas should have freed Pollard. (By the way, has it ever been disclosed by any party that Pollard was on this Peace Talk agenda?).

  16. JLWarner on December 25, 2014, 2:01 pm

    Yes. This is the letter I wrote to the NY Times

    RE: “Why Israeli-Palestinian Peace Failed” Dec. 24 Column

    Roger Cohen gives Tzipi Livni an uncritical platform to attribute the failure of the 2014 Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to Palestinians not embracing an American framework that was accepted by the Israelis, followed by the Palestinians joining international organizations.

    Cohen does not explore why the Palestinians refused a framework that was readily embraced by the Israelis. Could the framework have been biased towards the Israelis? That would explain why the Israelis accepted it and the Palestinians did not, and it would be consistent with the long-term American position of favoring Israel.

    And Cohen accepts Livni’s tacit assertion that it was “bad” for Palestine to join international organizations. Cohen does not point out that the international organizations Palestine joined are dedicated to human rights, and that Israel is already a member of most of them.

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