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Honest Debate And The Middle East

One frustrating thing I've found about getting sucked into debates on the Middle East is that it's very rare that critics of my views describe them accurately. By "accurately," I don't mean "in the terms I would use myself," but "in terms that aren't totally inconsistent with my actual beliefs." Oddly, this happens much less often when I argue with right-wingers.

The latest instance is Matthew Duss of Think Progress. Duss writes:

Pushing back on the idea that the settlements represented an obstacle to two-states, last year the New Republic’s Jonathan Chait argued, like Frum, that “settlements are reversible"

Was I pushing back on the idea that settlements are an obstacle to peace? Here's the post in question:

Clearly, the larger the settlements, the more political leverage it takes to uproot them. That's why, in addition to being a drain on Israel's economy, the settlements are highly counterproductive. But if Israel's government and population can be convinced that a real peace is attainable, then they should be able to dismantle the settlements. The settlements are an obstacle, but not the primary obstacle.

What I was pushing back against was Stephen Walt's claim that settlements were making peace impossible. Again, for the record, I consider settlements a very major problem. I do think, though, that the more important problem is the refusal of Palestinians to accept the legitimacy of any Jewish state. In a 2009 poll, 71% of Palestinians said it was "essential" to have a state that encompasses all of present Israel and the West Bank. Only 17% of Israelis said it was essential to have a Jewish state controlling all that territory. I believe that, if presented with a peace accord that Israelis think will not endanger their security, it is difficult but far from impossible to imagine an Israeli government signing on. I have a harder time envisioning a Palestinian government doing the same -- any Palestinian government that surrenders the dream of replacing Israel is going to be an unrepresentative one that's likely to be quickly overthrown. I think it's still worth trying, and the settlements remain a crime, but that's my view of the obstacles to peace in order of their importance.

Obviously my analysis is not infallible. But obviously many people with more left-wing views have decided that debating my actual analysis is less useful than debating a neoconservative Likudnik who believes Netanyahu is sincere about peace and smears anybody who criticizes Israel as anti-Semitic.