Some “Realism” About John Mearsheimer

I understand that John Mearsheimer, co-author of The Israel Lobby, was once considered a respected “realist” scholar of international affairs. If so, it’s a shame he’s gone more and more off the deep end into the Mondoweiss/Finkelstein–two individuals he identifies as Jewish heroes, along with such prominent foreign policy “realists” (not) as Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein!–territory of belligerent anti-Israel propagandist with due disregard for scholarly integrity.

I’ve just stumbled across a speech he just gave at the “Palestine Center” called The Future of Palestine: Righteous Jews [Weiss, Finkelstein, et al.] vs. the New Afrikaners [the entire Jewish and pro-Israel establishment].

Putting aside the inflammatory nature of the title [as if Jews need like the likes of an-ignoramus-on-Jews-and-Judaism like Mearsheimer to bestow his judgment on them], the scholarly content of the piece is a joke. Mearsheimer points to some legitimate obstacles to Israel accepting and implementing a two-state solution, but simply assumes that the Palestinians will peacefully and willingly accept a two-state solution. No mention of Hamas. No mention of the rejectionist factions of the Palestinian Authority. No mention of anti-Semitic propaganda in Palestinan schools and in the Palestinian media. No mention of Palestinian insistence on the right of return. No mention of the violence that greeted Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza and parts of Samaria. No acknowledgment, indeed, in his discussion of the purported future Israeli “apartheid” state, that Israel occupies not one inch of Gaza, and less than half the West Bank. The only mention of problems on the Palestinian side is as follows: “The Palestinians are badly divided among themselves and not in a good position to make a deal with Israel and then stick to it. That problem is fixable with time and help from Israel and the United States.”

More to the point, here’s how Mearsheimer describes the obvious solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, in terms I (more or less) agree with:

The outcome that gets the most attention these days is the two-state solution, which was described in broad outline by President Clinton in late December 2000. It would obviously involve creating a Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel. To be viable, that Palestine state would have to control 95 percent or more of the West Bank and all of Gaza. There would also have to be territorial swaps to compensate the Palestinians for those small pieces of West Bank territory that Israel got to keep in the final agreement. East Jerusalem would be the capital of the new Palestinian state. The Clinton Parameters envisioned certain restrictions on the new state’s military capabilities, but it would control the water beneath it, the air space above it, and its own borders – to include the Jordan River Valley.

Fair enough. But Mearsheimer fails to mention the recent public opinion poll that shows that Palestinians overwhelmingly reject this solution [Do you accept the creation of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders with some land exchange as a final solution for the Palestinian problem? Yes 28.3% No 66.7%].

Mearsheimer also neglects to note that Israeli prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert both offered this solution to the Palestinians.
With regard to Barak, Mearsheimer describes him as having “seriously flirted with the idea of creating a Palestinian state at Camp David in July 2000.” There was no flirting. He offered a Palestinian state to Arafat within the approximate parameters Mearsheimer describes above, first at Camp David and then at Taba, backed by billions of dollars in U.S. and European aid. Arafat rejected the offer, preferring the terrorist war of the Second Intifada.

As for Olmert, Mearsheimer writes that it is by “no means clear that” he “would be willing or able to make the concessions that would be necessary to create a legitimate Palestinian state. Certainly Olmert did not do so when he was prime minister.” Yet, it’s well known that Olmert was “willing.” He made Abbas an offer within, or at least very close to, Mearsheimer’s parameters. Abbas, according to Olmert never even responded. When the offer became public, Abbas’s spokesmen replied that there was not point even using Olmert’s offer as a starting point for negotiations: “The Palestinian side will only accept a Palestinian state with territorial continuity, with holy Jerusalem as its capital, without settlements, and on the June 4, 1967 boundaries.” Mearsheimer is either ignorant of Olmert’s offer, in which he knows even less about the Arab-Israel conflict than an amateur like me, or he is intentionally distorting the truth.

In short, Mearsheimer, ironically, has become the mirror image of the stereotypical pro-lsrael “lobbyist” he decries. One-sided, obsessed with Israel-bashing, willing to sacrifice scholarly standards and honesty to promote his political agenda, and willfully blind to the faults of the side he supports.

UPDATE: It’s almost quaint to note Mearsheimer’s protestation back in 2006:

“I don’t have an agenda in the sense of viewing myself as proselytizing or trying to sell this,” Mearsheimer told the Forward. “I am a scholar, not an activist, and I am reticent to take questions from the media because I do believe that this is a subject that has to be approached very carefully.”

Comments are closed.