The majority of communications I’ve received with regard to my last posting indicates that those responding to my material, in the main, seem to agree with me. But not everyone does (of course), and those e-mails that have come to me expressing despair at what Netanyahu did in mentioning a Palestinian state, though few in number, are so heart-felt that they merit further discussion.
In the end, as I’ve just written to one reader, we will likely have to agree to disagree. At least for now. For my opinion has not changed. Which doesn’t mean that it might not change in the course of time. (I fervently hope not, not because I need to be correct, but because this would mean the situation was going badly.)
I hope and trust that everyone who reads my material understands fully that I am not glad Netanyahu did what he did; it is not the way I would have chosen. I would have preferred to have had him allude simply to some autonomy, without a mention of a “state,” although — clarifying once again — he did not actually say a sovereign state, and it was clear that he did not intend a sovereign state.
But neither am I panicked at this point. And it seems to me important to deal pragmatically in terms of how to best protect ourselves and the nation in the current situation.
Some people are upset at the mere mention of a state for the Palestinians because this is seen as an ideological betrayal: The land is ours. Period. No more to say.
Others are concerned that while he advanced highly appropriate parameters — recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, demilitarization, etc. etc. — the world will quickly forget them and only remember that he said the phrase “Palestinian state” and push us to get on with it. That is, his arguments will have been futile, and, as he made a concession by uttering the phrase, he will have set himself up for ever more concessions.
At the core of the discussion here, I believe, is the question of how much Israel can go it alone in the world, most particularly now.
Again, anyone who regularly reads what I write knows that I reject appeasement as a policy and am sickened by an approach, à la Livni, that is founded in seeking approval from other nations. I delight, for example, in the fact that Netanyahu has had the courage to tell Obama we will continue to build for natural growth in the settlements, even as the president demands a total freeze. If we, as a nation, are not for ourselves, if we do not stand up for ourselves, we are lost.
And yet, and yet… It is legitimate to also ask whether we can stand against the world totally, in all circumstances, when it is so ready to be arrayed against us. It is not necessarily inappropriate to ponder what we would do if no one would sell us needed military equipment, or if the Security Council passes a resolution, under chapter 7, which is binding, calling for international troops to be sent here. (It should be noted that such a resolution would mean that the US, which is capable of vetoing such resolutions, was no longer with us.)
Walking the line between these two poles is an excruciatingly difficult task, obviously influenced by ideology and philosophical bent.
I wrote about Netanyahu early on that his style tends not to be confrontational. He is more likely to play the game, as a skilled politician, in an effort to do what he sees as best for Israel. And I believe that is what he did with his speech:
He held his head high. He said things which, I admit for the first time here, actually brought tears to my eyes. That he spoke about our link to Isaiah, who walked here! That he said this is our home and where we were forged. He gave nothing on that score.
What he gave was the phrase “Palestinian state.” With provisos attached. Not free. Not like Olmert who made speeches about how much we must sacrifice.
He may have made a serious tactical mistake to have given this much. But I still believe at this point — and it is on this matter that I pray I won’t be proven wrong — that he did it with sincerity in terms of what he sees as best for us in difficult times.
I have alluded to this several times over the last weeks and months: What Netanyahu has said repeatedly is that we are not living in normal times — that we are confronting extraordinary dangers — and that he must consider this as he makes his decisions.
What is implied is that this somehow involves our need to take out Iran’s nuclear capacity. This is a major theme of his.
We ask, what can he gain via this concession in terms of our ability to attack Iran? And we have no facile or ready answer. We are not sure at all that there is anything. But that is simply the point: we are not, cannot be, sure. And I have not yet been ready to second guess him on this.
Caroline Glick, in her most recent piece (which I will come back to), addresses this very issue and says that:
“In fairness to Netanyahu, in light of Obama’s ideological commitment to the two-state paradigm which blames Israel for the absence of peace, it is far from clear that he has any choice other than to go along with the president and just play for time.
“…For Netanyahu…buying time with a hostile administration may be the best he can aspire to during his current term in office.
“…If his speech succeeded in blunting US pressure on Israel – even temporarily – on the Palestinian front, and…Netanyahu has gained the opportunity to act on the Iranian front. If during his current term he prevents Iran from becoming a nuclear power and makes no concessions in Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem or the Golan Heights, he will be remembered as one of our greatest leaders …”
What I am seeing is that the right wing of Likud is lining up behind Netanyahu. There is no desire to criticize him severely or attempt to take him down.
Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya’alon, who is no shrinking violet when it comes to talking tough, is saying that Netanyahu’s speech has “exposed the true face of the Palestinians…All their reactions have been refusal and war.”
There is perhaps the beginning of a model for us here.
Netanyahu, for his part, claims that our situation is better now than it was before the speech. “The American response to the speech was positive. I would be misleading you to say that the way has been cleared, but our situation is better today than before.”
A source in the prime minister’s office said that Netanyahu succeeded in “putting a number of diplomatic balls in the air.”
While a senior Israeli diplomatic official cited by the Post said, “Before the speech Netanyahu had no credit with the Europeans, and in fact was in deficit. Now he has some credit. Not a lot, but some.”
Is this true? Will it make a difference? It’s too soon to tell.
But here is the part that causes unease. When the Americans and the Europeans push for more concessions, will Netanyahu, having done his thing, hold tight? If he continues to give, and, especially, if he backs off on any of the red lines he himself set into place, it will NOT be all right. And it will be time to scream and yell.
This will be a time of testing. Already I am seeing that Obama is saying th
at the mention of a Palestinian state was a great start, but we have to move forward with more.
Netanyahu must hold tight.
Glick believes that ultimately a confrontation between Netanyahu and Obama will be inevitable.
I believe firmly that there is a place for each of us in terms of how this situation evolves. I’ve said that there is worry that the provisos set out by Netanyahu with regard to a Palestinian state are quickly forgotten by the world. But we can make sure that they are not forgotten. We can raise them at every forum, and in letters to the editor and most especially in communication to elected officials.
Caroline Glick says something similar: “At this point, it is up to the public and our representatives in the Knesset to pave the way for a better policy in the future. This we can do by rejecting the two-state paradigm and conducting a public discourse relevant to our national interests.”
I will be coming back to this with specifics.
Glick’s article, “Obama’s losing streak and us,” is well worth reading in its entirety.
Among her points:
“Netanyahu’s speech was an eloquent, rational and at times impassioned defense of Israel….a breath of fresh air. But it is hard to see how it could have possibly had any lasting impact on Obama or his advisers.
“To be moved by rational argument, a person has to be open to rational discourse. And what we have witnessed over the past week with the Obama administration…is that its foreign policy is not informed by rationality but by the president’s morally relative, post-modern ideology. In this anti-intellectual and anti-rational climate, Netanyahu’s speech has little chance of making a lasting impact on the White House.
“…Netanyahu’s speech was a positive contribution to the general discourse on the Middle East and Israel’s place in it…
“…Netanyahu’s speech was a much-needed strong defense. But it was not a perfect defense. It suffered from two flaws that may come back to haunt the premier in the years to come. First, his demand that the US lead the international community in guaranteeing that the Palestinian state is demilitarized provided the Obama administration with a new means to trick Israel into making suicidal concessions.
“…The only way to ensure that a Palestinian state is demilitarized is to send in forces to demilitarize it. Obviously the Americans won’t take such a step…
“…But by appointing the US the guarantor of its [the PA’s] demilitarized status, Netanyahu is inviting the US to lie…
“The other problem with Netanyahu’s speech is that by accepting the idea of a Palestinian state, and embracing Obama’s fantasy that it is possible to reach a deal with the Palestinian Authority, Netanyahu blocked the possibility that Israel will be able to forge a new policy…Netanyahu’s conditional acceptance of Obama’s false and ideologically motivated two-state paradigm damns Israel to the position of foot dragger in relation to someone else’s policy rather than trailblazer for its own policy.”
But it is here that she then says he may have had no choice but to play it as he did.
One other article of note here:
Khaled Abu Toameh asks in the Post why the Palestinian response to Netanyahu was so harsh.
His conclusion is that it is because Obama had created false expectations among the Palestinians. The leaders of the PA were so soothed by Obama’s courting of the Arab/Muslim world, and so certain that Obama would push Netanyahu to considerable concessions, that they thought they would be given all that they sought. And they were thrown into shock when it didn’t happen.
One more danger of Obama’s pie-in-the-sky policies.
More will follow on this same subject, which remains so critical.