Friedman also wrong on Mideast

In his excellent article (March 8) Jonah Goldberg takes apart Thomas Friedman both for his style and worldview, but because of his experience in the area gives him a free pass on Middle East issues. I don’t.

A number of years ago Friedman spoke at the U of Washington in Seattle, and I reminded him of it in a letter to him last year, so far unanswered. I quote from it.

“Some annoying guy in the balcony raised his hand and asked…Mr. Friedman, in your book From Beirut to Jerusalem you expressed disappointment that the breakthrough that led to the Camp David Accords had to be made by Sadat, not Begin. Since the breakthrough consisted of Sadat ending the Arab leaders’ boycott of talks with Israel, how can you expect the prime minister of Israel to accomplish that?”

You claimed not to remember the passage and suggested that perhaps I had misinterpreted it. Let’s continue our discussion. (pgs 273–74).

‘They still see themselves as a people who react to history, rather than shape it. Israeli leaders are always waiting for the phone call from the Arabs; few of them know how to dial themselves. Even the Camp David Accords had to be initiated by Sadat; Begin never would have done it.’

Yes, you did say it. You expected the Israeli to end what only an Arab could end, and you still do. Despite your deep understanding, at the end of the day you still believe that there is some magic combination of words, some seminal act that Israel can contrive, short of disappearing, that will break the roadblock on the road to peace.’”

Thanks to the National Review for giving this thought the exposure it was denied in the New York Times.

Robert G. Kaufman
Seattle, Washington

Author has been a speaker and writer on the Arab-Israeli conflict since 1972, His work has appeared in both Seattle papers and the Jerusalem Post.