In the endlessly contentious debate over Israel and the Palestinians, is there a more misleading word than "occupation"?
During the most recent broadcast of ABC's "This Week" on Sunday, New Yorker editor David Remnick became the latest Hamas apologist to cite Israel's "occupation," presumably of the West Bank, as a legitimate basis for Palestinian grievances. Fortunately, The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol was also a panelist on the show. How many others who were watching must have felt like cheering when Kristol spoke, even-handed and armed with the truth. (Video after the jump)
Here's how the exchange went --
'THIS WEEK' HOST GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: David Remnick, let me begin with you. As I said, Prime Minister Netanyahu is saying pretty clearly he's going to do this on his own terms. This might be the beginning of the end of the end game, but it's still hard to see where this leads two, three, six months from now.
REMNICK: The only end game, let's not get into the back and forth about tunnels and the brutality of the, the horrendous death of civilian, civilians in Gaza. It is horrible and Hamas is a contemptible organization. I think we say two things at once.
You just knew there was a "but" coming. Remnick then condemned what he considers a truly contemptible organization --
REMNICK: But this cycle, these cycles, are not going to end until occupation ends. As difficult as that is inevitably going to be, and it's not going to bring immediate peace by any stretch of the imagination. But the only way this story changes and ends is with the end of occupation and that can only begin to happen with Netanyahu taking his best interlocutor seriously, which is Mahmoud Abbas, a flawed interlocutor and so is Netanyahu to say the least. But that has to be where this goes.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We just had, what, six, nine months of negotiations led by Secretary Kerry with Abbas?
REMNICK: Oh and their collapse is an awful narrative, it's an awful story. But you know, Israel is where it is and in order for it to have a future, in order for the Palestinian people to have a future, this ongoing business of occupation has to find a resolution. It cannot be, you are not a strategic thinker when you're thinking from Friday to Friday, from Shabbat to Shabbat, from Saturday to Saturday. You cannot.
Kristol pounced --
KRISTOL: And I totally disagree. The occupation of Gaza ended in 2005. Ariel Sharon pulled the Israelis out of Gaza. What they got for that is three wars launched from Gaza by Hamas. Hamas needs to be destroyed, the leadership needs to be destroyed, the tunnels need to be destroyed. That's what Prime Minister Netanyahu's going to do. The West Bank has been pretty peaceful. They can work out the differences there, the fence has helped a lot. But Hamas is not a partner for peace, a partner for negotiation, and Hamas has to be destroyed.
If the "occupation" by Israelis of the West Bank is the reason for the latest flareup, why aren't Palestinians lobbing rockets and digging tunnels into Israel -- from the West Bank? Instead, this is what they've done from Gaza -- which Israel relinquished nearly a decade ago. Israelis are no more obligated to negotiate a settlement with Hamas, terrorist thugs committed to their demise once and for all, than Americans are to negotiate with al Qaeda.
I'm still waiting, most likely in vain, for a prominent liberal in American media to reverse the order of his or her "yes, but" statement on Gaza, so that the obligatory criticism of Israel comes first, followed by the unequivocal denunciation of Hamas.
Remick does get it right in a narrow sense and not in the way he intends. Hamas and other radical Palestinians won't end their war against Israel until Israelis ends their "occupation" -- of Israel itself.