Why isn’t Netanyahu promoting the new deal on the settlements?

Posted: November 14th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , | 18 Comments »

An e-mail I got from an American friend (based in Tel Aviv) in response to my last post makes a noteworthy observation:

An interesting element here is the way American papers are saying Netanyahu agreed to push for a settlement freeze while Israeli media has him, somewhat indifferently, just bringing the American proposals to his cabinet. The difference sounds subtle but it’s not. I haven’t seen a word about Netanyahu arguing before the cabinet why the deal is worthwhile and should be approved. It sounds to me like he told Clinton he’d push, but back in Israel he’s letting his deputies trash a proposal he didn’t want in the first place.

I’m not in Israel right now, so I don’t hear everything that’s being said by the Israeli media, but that’s the impression I’m getting too: Netanyahu is getting credit in the US for agreeing to the new deal, while in Israel he is not going publicly in favor of it. In fact, since the “process” started, Netanyahu hasn’t really prepared the Israeli public for concessions – on the contrary, he is constantly declaring that “the Palestinians are not ready,” thus moving the Israeli public opinion to the right and making future concessions even harder to imagine.

Also worth reading is Mitchell Plitnick take on the new offer. According to Mitchell, since Israel was offered even more by Dennis Ross recently, seeing the new deal as a major setback is “much ado about nothing.” Read his post here.

18 Comments on “Why isn’t Netanyahu promoting the new deal on the settlements?”

  1. 1 maayan said at 12:21 am on November 15th, 2010:

    Simply untrue. In several public speeches in Israel, in Hebrew, Netanyahu has said that hard decisions are going to have to be made. Painful decisions. If that’s not preparing the public, what is?

  2. 2 Frank Elliot Kahn said at 3:32 am on November 15th, 2010:

    @Maayan: Yeah, yeah…we’ve heard it all before when he talks about “hard…painful” he means for the Palestinians not the Israelis.

  3. 3 Tom Mitchell said at 7:18 am on November 15th, 2010:

    It would appear that Netanyahu has learned something from dealing with Shas–the art of extortive bargaining. Netanyahu has Obama behaving as most would-be prime ministers in Israel behave with Shas, UTJ, etc.

  4. 4 noam said at 10:19 am on November 15th, 2010:


    the “painful decision” phrase is something all Israeli politicians have always said (as Frank said, it usually turn out to be painful for the Palestinians).

    When I hear Netanyahu starting to talk about parting Jerusalem I will think he is preparing the public. he needs to say something new – and specific. Otherwise it’s simply meaningless.

  5. 5 Hunter said at 9:33 pm on November 15th, 2010:

    I’ve been following this issue since the time of the Six Day War. I have no remaining faith whatever that progress will be made until the Israeli political elite and whoever is then Prime Minister are confronted *publicly* with flat-out demands on take it or leave it bases by a determined President.

  6. 6 maayan said at 10:44 pm on November 15th, 2010:

    Forgive me guys, but you’re bringing your own baggage into this. Noam wrote that Netanyahu has not been preparing the Israeli public for peace or compromise and I pointed out that he has said things which none of you deny about making tough choices. Your reactions are that he doesn’t mean it. Maybe you’re right, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is preparing the public for tough moves.

  7. 7 Tom Mitchell said at 11:26 am on November 16th, 2010:

    Are we bringing our own baggage or just a knowledge of Netanyahu’s past actions and statements, a knowledge of his relationship to his father, and a knowledge of his fear of upsetting his coalition?

  8. 8 maayan said at 12:13 am on November 17th, 2010:

    Netanyahu signed Wye and Hebron. He implemented the removal of IDF from Areas A. Is that what you mean by his past actions?

  9. 9 Tom Mitchell said at 7:39 am on November 17th, 2010:

    He signed the Wye accord but never implemented it, because he couldn’t convince his cabinet to go along. That is what I mean by his pact actions. It has made him wary of being too far out in front of his coalition.

  10. 10 maayan said at 5:00 am on November 18th, 2010:

    Inaccurate, Tom. Israel not only signed the Agreement, but the Knesset approved it and Israel began to implement it. They stopped implementation because the Palestinians were not meeting any of their obligations at all. That should give you plenty of confidence that Netanyahu can agree on things that you wouldn’t think he’d reject; he can get his party and others in his coalition to come along; and he can get the ball rolling. It should also give you confidence that when the Palestinians are playing around and have no intention of meeting their obligations, then Netanyahu will be very careful about proceeding. By the way, Barak also didn’t implement Wye because he didn’t see reciprocity by the Palestinians.

  11. 11 Tom Mitchell said at 9:55 am on November 18th, 2010:

    You confuse rationales given for motivation. Netanyahu didn’t implement the agreement because his coalition was opposed to giving up the land that Netanyahu had agreed to give up. The coalition collapsed and new elections were called, resulting in Barak’s election.

    Barak didn’t implement it because he didn’t believe that he could give up territory on two fronts at the same time and he preferred an agreement with Syria over the Golan. At the last minute he lost his nerve and proposed a deal with Syria that didn’t give it 100% of the Golan, which was Assad’s basic demand (he cared more about his historical reputation and legitimacy as an Allawite ruler in a majority Sunni country than about getting the Golan back).

    Palestinians may have a poor record of implementing agreements, but if a government is opposed to agreements in principle that will be the real reason for not implementing them. Look at the composition of Netanyahu’s coalition in 1996-99 and this is clear.

  12. 12 maayan said at 1:29 pm on November 18th, 2010:

    No, Tom, you confuse rationales given with pro-Palestinian propaganda. Israel began to implement the accord. It was actually halfway through the key element when they decided to stop because it was clear the Palestinians weren’t doing their part. This was an agreement where if the Palestinians wouldn’t do their share, the Israelis would be giving up serious security considerations.

    Barak didn’t implement it for the same reason. That he chose to dump the Palestinian track and move to the Syrian track can be blamed, definitely partially and maybe even entirely, on the fact that no progress was being seen with the Palestinians despite Israel’s attempts to move forward.

    Your pro-Syrian history is also off the mark. “100% of the Golan” does not include the shoreline of the Kinneret. That’s what the Syrians wanted and that’s when he balked. Rightfully so, since the historical border (which in itself is a sham, but that’s another discussion) is actually 10 meters away from the OLD shoreline of this body of water. It is much, much farther these days when the water level is so low.

    Finally, you do the Palestinians an injustice by saying they have a poor record of implementing agreements. They have no record to speak of. Do you realize their spokespeople have even stated publicly that the PLO/PNA charter was never modified as per Arafat’s promises and the pretend votes they held?

    Netanyahu’s coalition ’96-’99 signed and approved Wye and Hebron. We’re going around in circles because you’re trying to deny the facts. The facts are simple: Israel under a right-wing Netanyahu government came to hard decisions that went against the leading party’s philosophy. signed them and even began to implement them.

  13. 13 Tom Mitchell said at 6:25 pm on November 20th, 2010:

    First of all the account I’m basing my Syrian remarks on is Ross’ memoir. Barak proposed less than 100% return to the ISRAELI version of the border and proposed a territorial swap, which Assad wasn’t interested in. I have seen an Arab rationale for Assad’s border claim, which says that because of Israeli use of water from the lake, the shoreline has retracted. Considering the low levels in recent years of both the Dead Sea and the Kinneret, this seems possible although as I’m not a hydrologist I can’t judge as to whether this retraction would be equivalent to the 10 meter distance from the shoreline of the old border. I think Israel has a good case for holding out for the old international border between the mandate and Syria rather than going back to the June 5, 1967 border, as this rewards Syrian aggression from the early 1950s.

    Studies have conclusively demonstrated that when dealing with controversial issues, partisans will regard a neutral or balanced account as biased. This is because they naturally agree with the criticism of the other side but disagree with the criticism of their own side. This I believe explains your perception of my remarks as pro-Syrian.

  14. 14 maayan said at 11:31 pm on November 20th, 2010:

    Tom, I consider your remarks biased against Israel because that has been your default position.

  15. 15 Tom Mitchell said at 9:12 pm on November 21st, 2010:

    You just confirmed the validity of my last remark.

  16. 16 maayan said at 12:57 pm on November 22nd, 2010:

    That doesn’t change the fact that you’ve exhibited your bias since joining the conversations here.

  17. 17 Tom Mitchell said at 3:00 pm on November 22nd, 2010:

    I suppose if you confuse the comments of American politicians trolling for votes as objective, you would consider me to be biased. But then you would also have to consider many Israeli academics to be anti-Israel as well.

  18. 18 maayan said at 3:28 pm on November 25th, 2010:

    Many are. The other night I had a good friend over for dinner and he, an Israel academic, expressed pleasure at a recent success for the BDS movement against IDF soldiers. When I asked him why. He said “Because there’s an occupation.”

    Now for him, like Noam here, there is a difference between being anti-Israel and critical of Israel. The problem is that outside of Israel these nuances are irrelevant, especially because they strengthen the position and voice of those who are truly anti-Israel and who long to see its destruction.