Netanyahu won’t deliver

Posted: July 12th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Right, The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

A year and a half into Benjamin Netanyahu’s second term, it’s clear that no matter what the Palestinians do or say, this Israeli PM will not sign a final agreement. I don’t think that even the US administration can change that. At most, it could ignite a process that the next government can carry on; much in the way President Bush forced PM Yitzhak Shamir into the Madrid conference.

Every Israeli leader is more likely to prefer the statues quo to concessions on the Palestinian issue (I explained why here). But in Netanyahu’s case, stalling the process doesn’t seem to be a tactical decision, but a strategic one.

As Akiva Eldar points in Haaretz today, in recent weeks, the Palestinians have agreed to everything Israel always asked them. They are ready for border changes that will leave the big settlements on the Israeli side; they agree to international forces in the West Bank that would monitor the situation and help protect the border; they are ready to give up the right of return into the state of Israel; and it seems that they are ready for a reasonable compromise in Jerusalem.

The Palestinian leadership explained its positions on all the core issues in details, both to the American envoy and in public – something that surly didn’t help them in their political battle against the Hamas hardliners – yet they got no response from Israel. Netanyahu refused to reveal Israel’s positions, in public or in private.

Every step Netanyahu took, from the partial settlement moratorium to allowing more goods into Gaza, was done under tremendous international pressure, and only after any other alternative failed. When felt cornered, he preferred to take the political battle to Washington, where, with the help of AIPAC, he repeatedly embarrassed the US president. By doing so, he made the support of Israel a partisan issue, divided the Jewish community and used much of the Israeli lobby’s political credit. All of this didn’t matter as long as he got what he wanted: for now, it seems that the administration is finally off his back.

Netanyahu is no fool. He knows what price this sort of maneuvering carries. Yet he prefers it to every alternative. I guess he estimates that the maximum he is willing to give is not even close to the minimum the Palestinians can settle with. So why do anything that would start a political fight with the right?

I don’t know the roots of Netanayhu’s positions: is it his upbringing, his reading of the political map in Israel or his view of the country’s long-term interests. Yet the bottom line couldn’t have been clearer: Netanyahu simply prefers the statues quo.

The Israeli PM is known for his inability to make tough decisions. It’s not only on the Palestinian issue, or the peace offer from Syria Natanyahu is ignoring. He refused the Gilad Shalit deal with Hamas, he didn’t change the Gaza policy until it was too late, and he avoids taking sides in controversies that divide the Israeli society, such as the forming of the national biometric database or the policy regarding the African refugees crossing the southern border.

But if this is not enough, in order to make sure he is not forced to make a move he doesn’t want, Netanyahu has surrounded himself with rightwing stuff and hawkish advisors, and moved decisions-making from the cabinet to a seven-minister forum in which the extreme right has an automatic majority. Out of the seven ministers – Leiberman, Yishy, Begin, Yaalon, Barak, Meridor and Netanyahu himself – the first four oppose all concessions, so even if Netanyahu joins Meridor and Barak – which are not too dovish themselves – he can always claim he lost the vote.

The Palestinians are right in opposing negotiations on these terms. Netanyahu would drag the talks forever, insisting as he did so far to discuss minor issues as incitement, environment and water arrangements, and avoiding the core issues. Even if the US is able to force the Palestinians into talking with Netanyahu, nothing will come out of it. The Israeli PM enjoyed a very stable coalition in the last year, yet he chose to do nothing. It’s very unlikely that he will put himself in danger as time goes on, and we will get closer to the next elections. Let’s face reality: The man simply doesn’t want it.

3 Comments on “Netanyahu won’t deliver”

  1. 1 MichaelLeFavour said at 12:42 pm on July 12th, 2010:

    You should update the opinions that pass as facts by your standards. The Arabs calling themselves Palestinians have denied agreeing to everything Israel always asked them….

    According to what Caroline Glick has to say…..”So while the local and international media pounced on the Al Hayat story as proof that the Palestinians are serious about peace, they failed to mention that their hope was based on a story that the Palestinians themselves deny.”

    Which brings us to that denial…

    “Jerusalem – Chief Palestinian Authority Negotiator Saeb Erekat denied on Saturday a report in claiming that PA President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to Israel maintaining control over the Western Wall, reported Israel Radio.

    Erekat also denied the assertion that Abbas was willing to carry out a land swap for 2.3 percent of the West Bank to allow Israel to maintain some of the settlement blocks, in exchange for territory south of Hebron.

    According to a Saturday report in the London-based pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has agreed that the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem remain under Israeli sovereignty in the context of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.”

    Meanwhile dictator Abbas makes it clear his first choice would be war if he just had the means to kill Jews….

    “‘We don’t accept the statement [of Hamas]: a [Palestinian] state of resistance and refusal. What we hear from everyone is that the basis is negotiations, at a time that the entire world agrees about this, despite the absence of other options, we either have negotiations or no negotiations, what has put Israel in the corner.
    We are unable to confront Israel militarily, and this point was discussed at the Arab League Summit in March in Sirt (Libya). There I turned to the Arab States and I said: ‘If you want war, and if all of you will fight Israel, we are in favor. But the Palestinians will not fight alone because they don’t have the ability to do it.’ He [Abbas] said: ‘The West Bank was completely destroyed and we will not agree that it will be destroyed again,’ in addition to ‘the inability to confront Israel militarily.’”
    [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Fatah), July 6, 2010]

    The most egregious thing you just wrote was that incitement is a minor problem. Incitement by the civic and clerical leadership is the core issue. And in that incitement they say, in no uncertain terms, what the conflict is about, the humiliation of losing land to Jews. The creation of another Arab Muslim state on Jewish land is not the issue, it is the destruction of a Jewish state on land Muslim invaders once administered and claim.

  2. 2 noam said at 1:47 pm on July 12th, 2010:

    Michael: I know the Al Hayat story was denied, that’s why I didn’t mention it or linked to it.

    I don’t think incitement is a core issue between Israelis and Palestinians, and a lot can be said on incitement in the Jewish public. But it should be mentioned that the Palestinians offered a solution here as well.

  3. 3 Michael LeFavour said at 2:07 am on July 13th, 2010:

    Noam, the link you used in your article and just now are the same and it references the Al Hayat story without letting on that the story was denied……why is that? Propaganda to make Netanyahu look bad by only presenting one side of events. He starts out by saying “less than two weeks ago”, meaning he knew that Erekat had denied Al Hayat.

    “Less than two weeks ago, this writer heard and wrote down statements made by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who said that during the proximity talks he had handed a very detailed document to Netanyahu on the Palestinian positions regarding borders. Abbas also said he had proposed stationing foreign forces in the areas from which Israel would withdraw, for example UNIFIL or NATO forces. The Palestinian leader told the half-dozen Israeli reporters he hosted in his office that he had proposed to Israel via”special Mideast envoy George Mitchell to restart the work of the Israeli-Palestinian anti-incitement committee.

    It is obvious you don’t think a lot of things are relevant. That doesn’t mean you are right. I don’t think land is relevant to this conflict for the reasons I mentioned in my last email. Nobody has come remotely close to challenging that truth either. The conflict is about Muslim supremacy and very little else, or you can answer why there was no movement to throw the East Bank Arabs out for 19 years that Arab Palestine occupied Judea and Samaria? Incitement is not as critical as, say, acting on the incitement and murdering Jews, but incitement is obviously important enough that it is mentioned in all agreements. Ending incitement is part of Phase 1 in the so called Road Map, for example. Incitement was supposed to end in the Oslo Accords, the Interim Agreement, and the Hebron Protocols as well. The Arabs can’t continually pocket concessions as if they are permanent and then walk away from any of their own agreements.