In my last posting I expressed concern that Netanyahu had gone too far down a slippery slope with his unofficial agreement to freeze building in Judea and Samaria (after current building commitments are complete). I still feel so, but certain comments I’ve encountered have brought me back to my computer to say that I view my assessment of what he’s done in shades of gray, and not a stark black and white.
After posting, I received the inevitable comments (not many in number, actually) saying in essence, “See! I knew he couldn’t be trusted. He’s planning to give the country away.”
Well, I’m here to say that I, for one, don’t know anything of the sort. Because Binyamin Netanyahu, for all his faults, is not Ehud Olmert, who couldn’t wait to offer Abbas 98% of Judea and Samaria plus part of Jerusalem. Nor — thank Heaven — is he Tzipi Livni. I believe that he “gets it” in a way that neither of these individuals does.
I know that his key advisor, Ron Dermer, is no left-winger, and that right now there is only silence from persons within his government such as Moshe Ya’alon and Bennie Begin. And I believe that whether his judgment turns out to be flawed or not, Netanyahu is basing his decisions on factors far more complex and nuanced than a simple desire to see a sovereign Palestinian state established in all, or most, of the land we reclaimed in 1967.
MK Aryeh Eldad (Ihud Leumi — not part of the coalition) leveled a stinging critique of Netanyahu, charging that no other prime minister “[ever] put a stranglehold on Jewish settlement as Netanyahu has done.” (a nod to Judith N here)
Well, he’s correct, but…
The “but” is that no Israeli prime minister since Oslo has coped with an American president like Barack Obama; this means we cannot judge Netanyahu according to how other prime ministers behaved. The other prime ministers never faced the DEMAND that Netanyahu has. It might be said that facing off against Obama requires even more resilience and “no power” than the other prime ministers needed. But I would hate to be in Netanyahu’s shoes right now.
As those of you who read my postings regularly are well aware, Obama reneged on commitments made by (Bill) Clinton and Bush that acknowledged our right to continue to build inside communities in Judea and Samaria, with certain specific provisos. Obama, instead, made the demand that we stop completely, and that this be done as a pre-condition to negotiations. He ultimately dropped the second part of that demand precisely because Netanyahu did balk.
But what Obama had done was set up a dynamic that made Abbas more intransigent, so that now the PA was echoing him and saying they wouldn’t come to the table unless there was a freeze (even though they had willingly negotiated with Olmert with no freeze). Obama had backed himself into a corner. (I’ll come back to this theme below.)
There are those who would say that a corner is the best place for Obama to be, and that Netanyahu should have left him there. But here are shades of gray, for there are a vast number of implications to letting the American president hang out to dry. I don’t know what was said between Netanyahu and Mitchell last week, in light of this impasse. I only know that the offer by Netanyahu followed — not that it turned out to be good enough for Abbas anyway.
Then, lastly, we have this:
The UN General Assembly is meeting in special session today to consider the Goldstone Report. There will be a debate on a draft resolution put together by the Arabs that was circulated on Monday; it would call on Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to bring the report to the Security Council.
It would also call on Israel to launch a full investigation into the charges of the report. (This is something Netanyahu has declined to do, I think wisely: it would suggest guilt. The IDF has already investigated and answered all charges. Enough.)
This entire scenario is very ugly. That the resolution will pass is almost a certainty. What is being negotiated at present is whether it will receive the support of Western nations. Resolutions of the General Assembly are not binding in international law, as Security Council resolutions are, they are merely recommendations. But this resolution will carry far more clout and legitimacy if the Western nations support it.
Here I want to point out what an (unnamed) Israeli official in New York said about this resolution, according to YNet:
“At a time when we are debating restarting peace talks, this is not helpful to anyone.”
I read this and thought, “Ah ha!” Shades of gray. Has any other prime minister of Israel since Oslo faced a situation like this?
Maybe, just maybe, Netanyahu knows what he’s doing. Maybe we are so beleaguered, and so much in need of support from the West right now that a certain appearance of “give” on our part is necessary. Or we’ll be the ones left to hang out to dry.
At any rate, I think we all need to consider the complexity and the dangers of our current situation before we presume to judge our prime minister in black and white terms.
Returning to that corner that Obama backed himself into:
The Palestinians are quite upset with Obama, and Clinton. They think that leaving Jerusalem out of the equation and continuing to build 3,000 units before a freeze is put in place is no freeze at all. Reports Khaled Abu Toameh, one PA official in Ramallah said that the “mask has fallen off the face” of Obama. Once again, said this official, the US has shown that it is not an “honest broker” because of its “bias” towards Israel.
It’s difficult not to be amused by this. Obama, biased towards Israel? What this means, of course, is that Obama is not acting totally on behalf of the Palestinians.
They said that Obama should “force” Israel to freeze construction. Force us? He couldn’t force them to come to the table, but us he should force.
Then the Palestinians fell back on their default position, which is threat of violence:
Declared Nabil Abu Rudaineh, an Abbas spokesman, there may be a volcanic eruption because of Netanyahu’s refusal to halt settlement construction.
This reminds me of nothing more than a three year old who says, “If you don’t give me candy right now, I’m going to hold my breath until I explode.”
I make fun, because the Palestinians are always making these threats (just as Abbas has threatened to resign about a hundred times). This is not the way a moderate group, interested in conciliation and negotiation, would act — although no one seems to notice this, or care.
At the end of the day, however, it’s not funny. Because down the road I do expect violence.
As to Clinton, the Palestinians are annoyed that she said in her press conference that the US would not be demanding more of Israel and that the offer made by Netanyahu was “unprecedented.” (The truth is that sh
e knew no more would be forthcoming from Israel, and she was thrilled for what was conceded.)
It is no surprise then that Clinton did a bit of backtracking after this. In Morocco, she said that the Israeli policy, while a positive step in the right direction, still fell short of what she would characterize as the US position on settlements. She had offered praise to Israel, she said, as “positive reinforcement.”
That Obama has backed himself into a corner with the Palestinians pales in comparison to how he’s backed himself in a corner with Iran. The implications here are shameful and frightening.
On this, I recommend Barry Rubin’s latest piece, “Why does the US plan Iran’s game?”
“The great experiment of engaging Iran seems to be over but the Obama administration refuses to admit it. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. As the Iranian regime’s record shows, it stalls, maneuvers, gives vague promises and then doesn’t deliver, but only after it’s taken your concessions. Do you know how many years the talks with Iran have gone on without yielding fruit and letting Teheran develop nuclear weapons every day? Answer: Seven.
“Do you know when the ‘deadline’ originally was for Iran to stop its nuclear program ‘or else’? Answer: Approximately September 2007.
“But the Obama administration doesn’t want to admit that the new Iranian counteroffer is unacceptable because it would have to give up its dreams of a deal and actually do something in response.”
Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin gave a briefing to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee yesterday, and addressed issues connected to Iran.
The nuclear facility in the city of Qom (a holy Shi’ite city) that was revealed recently has “no possible civilian use,” said Yadlin. The Iranians, he said, are interested in a horizontal expansion of their nuclear production capacity, so that when they reach the point of wanting to develop their nuclear weapons capability, they can do so quickly. The Qom facility is designed for uranium enrichment.
Obama, the ball is in your court. Your secretary of state told CNN last Friday that “I am going to let this process [negotiations with Iran] play out. We are going the extra mile, as we said we would.” But this is simply not acceptable.
Yadlin also told the Knesset Committee that Hamas has successfully tested a rocket, launching it into the Mediterranean, that has a 60 km. range. This brings Tel Aviv within rocket range.
The speculation is that this is an Iranian made Fajr missile. What is more, Hamas does not see itself as having reached its full military capabilities. The group has been quiet in recent months for a number of reasons, including force-building and a desire to strengthen their civil rule in Gaza.
The good news for today — and do we need good news! — is that it’s raining here in Israel. Hard rain. Off and on for a few days now.
It took a while to start, as we had unseasonally warm weather into the fall. But now that it has, it seems very serious indeed — above average fall. In this rain-starved part of the world, when the rains come everyone is delighted. “Baruch Hashem,” a blessing from on high. Or, as my two-year-old grandson (too young to remember the rainy season last year) exclaimed: “mayim me’shamayim!” Water from heaven. May it continue.
No shades of gray here. The rain turns the land green.