Daniel W. Drezner

Michael Oren wins this week’s Brad Goodman award

Michael Oren wins this week’s Brad Goodman award

[NOTE: This was written on Thursday, but I foolishly forgot to ‘publish" it.  It’s still relevant, however — ed.] 

Longtime readers know I’m fond of the phrase "going Vizzini" when policymakers or reporters keep using a word incorrectly. 

Today, I’m adding "going Goodman" in honor of The Simpson‘s Brad Goodman. In the episode Bart’s Inner Child, he said, "There’s no trick to it, it’s just a simple trick!" I hereby award the Goodman to anyone who says something to the effect of, "We’re not asking that you do A, just do A instead!" 

For today’s Goodman, let’s go to the New York Times and Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren’s op-ed explaining Netanyahu’s latest offer to the Palestinians:

Benjamin Netanyahu, for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, enabling his government to consider extending the moratorium on West Bank construction. "Such a step by the Palestinian Authority would be a confidence-building measure," Mr. Netanyahu explained, noting that Israel was not demanding recognition as a prerequisite for direct talks. It would "open a new horizon of hope as well as trust among broad parts of the Israeli public."…

For Palestinians, recognizing Israel as a Jewish state… means accepting that the millions of them residing in Arab countries would be resettled within a future Palestinian state and not within Israel, which their numbers would transform into a Palestinian state in all but name. Reconciling with the Jewish state means that the two-state solution is not a two-stage solution leading, as many Palestinians hope, to Israel’s dissolution.

While the cliché is that the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity, that’s not what Oren and Netanyahu are offering. They’re offering two months of doing nothing on settlements in return for Palestinians giving up the right of return, which is one of the core bargaining issues in any final settlement negotiations. 

This might have the distinction of being one of the worst bargains ever offered in the history of Israeli/Palestinian negotiations. True, everyone knows that, eventually, the Palestinians will have to give up the right of return for there to be a final peace. Everyone also knows, however, that the only way that happens in a politically viable manner is if it’s part of a package deal on the final status of the occupied territories. 

Regardless of what Oren is writing in his op-ed, this offer amounts to the following: "We’re happy to enter into final status negotiations, just as soon as you throw in your biggest bargaining chip to get what you want in final status negotiations." 

If Oren and Netanyahu think they can cadge it from the Palestinians in return for a two-month moratorium on settlements, well, then they win this week’s Brad Goodman Award.