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.

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PM Shamir on terrorism: it’s ok, if you are a Jew

Posted: May 10th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: The Right, The Settlements | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments »

Here is something funny a friend posted on Facebook:


Now, it’s not that I support Palestinian terrorism, and I do think Jews were right to fight the British occupation – though Shamir doesn’t mention the fact that many of the Lehi and Irgun attacks were against Arab civilians, not foreign soldiers – it’s just that this quote offers a glimpse into the twisted, double-standards, thinking that got us to where we are. This interview was published in 91′, and I believe that by now most Israeli understand that the Palestinian problem won’t just go away, but they clearly haven’t reached the point where they are willing to do something serious about it.

Bill Clinton: If there won’t be peace, it’s because of “political complexity of Israeli government”

Posted: December 5th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off

bill clinton

Former US president, Bill Clinton, thinks there is a chance for a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians this year. This is from his interview at Foreign Policy:

“I think that the long-term trend lines are bad for both sides that have the capacity to make a deal. Right now, Hamas is kind of discredited after the Gaza operation, and yet [the Palestinian Authority] is clearly increasing [its] capacity. They are in good shape right now, but if they are not able to deliver sustained economic and political advances, that’s not good for them. The long-term trends for the Israelis are even more stark, because they will soon enough not be a majority. Then they will have to decide at that point whether they will continue to be a democracy and no longer be a Jewish state, or continue to be a Jewish state and no longer be a democracy. That’s the great spur.”

What’s even more interesting is the reason Clinton is giving for why there might not be a peace agreament after all:

“I think one of the surprising things that might happen this year [2010] is you might get a substantial agreement. Nobody believes this will happen, and it probably won’t, because of the political complexity of the Israeli government.”

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Bibi Goes to Washington

Posted: May 15th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: The Right, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

The NYT editorial from May 11th dealt with the much anticipated Obama-Netanyahu meeting that will take place this Monday, May 18th. It seems that while in Israel Netanyahu was able to reestablished his credibility before entering his second term as Prime Minister, the US media – and this probably goes for many Washington officials as well – still holds the image of the old Bibi. The NYT’s editorial demonstrates this well:

In his video speech to […] the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Mr. Netanyahu said he wants peace with the Palestinians. He even committed to negotiations “without any delay and without any preconditions.” But it rings hollow. He has resisted - and his foreign minister and unity government partner, Avigdor Lieberman, has openly derided - the two-state solution that is the only sensible basis for a lasting settlement that could anchor a regional peace.

“Hollow”? The best public speaker we ever had? That hurts. And there’s more:

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Why do I Support a Right Wing Government

Posted: February 19th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: elections, In the News, The Left, The Right, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

This blog is written from the Left. I try to describe events in the most objective way, but I don’t hide my views. I believe that our first political obligations as Israelis is to do all that we can to end the forty two years old occupation of the West Bank, and to stop the siege on Gaza, which is another form of occupation. I also think that racism is becoming a major problem in Israeli society, and that we must do everything in our power to fight it. These are the principles I see in front of me when I consider which government is best for Israel.

The options range between bad and worse. The parties that advocate a full withdrawal from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and who are truly committed to democratic values, got three percent of the Jewish vote in the last elections. Three.

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Caroline Glick

Posted: December 15th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: elections, The Right | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

If you want to get an idea of the impossible task facing Netanyahu after winning the election, all you have to do is read what the right wing pundits have to say.

Take JP’s Caroline Glick for example. Glick is already sensing the pressure Netanyahu will face from the Obama administration to move forward with the peace process (she puts it in inverted commas: the “peace process”). I tend to agree with her. Obama’s close advisers, Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski, wrote in their Washington Post article that achieving progress in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be the top foreign policy priority for the new administration. Obama’s planned speech in an Arab capital (yet to be declared) can be a first step in this direction.

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Obama for President

Posted: October 25th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: the US and us | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off

Aluf Benn predicts in today’s Haaretz, that the next president of the US won’t be too involved in the Arab-Israeli peace process. “Ever since efforts failed to achieve final-status agreements between Israel and Syria, and Israel and the Palestinians, in 2000, U.S. policy has been to ‘contain’ the Israeli-Arab conflict”, writes Benn, and concludes that more urgent problems – such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the economic crisis – will prevent a change of policy, regardless the identity of the winner in the upcoming election.

To that we can add the fact that no administration has ever been very effective in the Palestinian-Israeli front on the first two years in office: it takes time before the administration forms its own ideas in regards to the middle east, and more time before medium level envoys (and above) arrive, and even then, both sides here are very good at playing tricks on the new guy: the Israelis promise him to stop building settlements and to dismantle some of the road blocks, but somehow by the next visit of the American envoy, there are new Jewish neighborhoods on the shrinking Palestinian land and more road blocks. The same goes for the Palestinian promises to fight terrorism and stop the anti-Israeli, and sometimes anti-Semitic, propaganda (though most observers agree there has been a significant improvement on these issues in the West Bank recently).

It took Bush the father three years to drag PM Yitzhak Shamir to the peace conference in Madrid, and Clinton offered his peace plan only when the negotiation reached a deadlock in 1999. By this time, it was too late. With McCain or Obama we might not have to wait seven years, but it’s clear that there won’t be any peace initiative coming from Washington before 2010.

With all this in mind, there will still be a big difference between the effects that each of the candidates might have, if elected, on the dynamics in the region. McCain’s, one must admit, will probably have a shorter learning period of the issues. But the real danger is that he will follow the policies of the current administration towards Israel, and that’s not something we can afford.

Already, some people wonder if the two states solution is still applicable, and with the growing settlements and the Hamas gaining power, it’s clear that in five years or so, establishing a Palestinian state will be all but impossible. Even now it’s hard to see an Israeli prime minister who will be able to pay the political price of taking down more than a handful of settlements. The Bush administration has practically given Israel a carte blanche in all of the west bank but Jerusalem. An Obama administration might change that.

Obama also seems more careful with the idea of using military force to change the political dynamics – something both PM Sharon (in the territories) and Olmert (in Lebanon) – tried to do, again, with America’s support. It is more than likely that Netanyahu will be Israel’s next PM, so we could use someone in the White House who can restrain him a bit. And finally, there is the Syrian front, where the Bush administration actually prevented the negotiations between Olmerts government and Assad after the war in Lebanon. It’s hard to see Obama taking the same approach.

So I support Obama, but we shouldn’t get our hopes up too high. No American president will save the Israelis from themselves.