My critique of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech at the UN stands.
In particular, I was distressed that he spoke about a readiness to make territorial concessions for an agreement with “rock solid security.”
This seems to me a very poor time to talk about such a thing – when Abbas is in bed with Hamas and the world is upside down. It feels like a sort of super-eagerness to demonstrate readiness for concessions. And it primes the world, not least the Arab world, to demand such concessions.
Yes, there are those who have pointed out to me that he almost certainly said it knowing it will never happen. That may be true, but I confess to a distinct weariness with this sort of diplomatic game-playing. I am looking for a bit more candor: we cannot negotiate with a unity government that enfolds a terrorist organization. Nor do we consider Abbas a legitimate partner for peace when he can libel Israel as he has just done, throwing all truth to the wind. But then, this expectation may be why I am a writer/analyst and not a politician.
What is being said is that his talk about a new template for peace that involves Arab states – who today see Israel differently – effectively threw out the “two-state solution,” as he had espoused it in his 2009 Bar Ilan talk.
It would be nice to think so, but it seems to me a bit of stretch. There are many in the international community who could well have interpreted his words as simply meaning that he needs Arab help in crafting a “two-state solution” that works. Precisely because Netanyahu spoke in free-wheeling and amorphous terms that lacked specificity, they may still believe that in the end the “two-state” paradigm is the solution.
In point of fact, this may be precisely what Netanyahu did mean in his UN speech. For in preliminary remarks for the press today in Washington, before he met with President Obama, Netanyahu said,
“I remain committed to the vision of peace of two states for two peoples, based on mutual recognition and rock solid security arrangements.” So there it is and too much should not be read into what he said at the UN. His clarification is that the path to two states might be different from what has been tried until now: “we should make use of the new opportunities [in the Middle East], think outside of the box, and see how we can include the Arab countries to advance this very hopeful agenda.”
“Very hopeful agenda.” Let us hope he means the new relationship with Arab states, and not the “two state solution.”
One thing he was clear about at the UN – and is to be applauded for – is saying that ISIS and Hamas, in their ideology and their intentions, are one and the same. This is not going over well with the Obama administration.
Yesterday, I had cited Ben Shapiro, whose remarks on Obama’s UN speech I had hoped to run, but which I passed on because of the size of my posting. Today I will return to just one thing he discussed (all emphasis was his in the original):
Referring to ISIS, Obama said: “No God condones this terror. No grievance justifies these actions. There can be no reasoning – no negotiation – with this brand of evil. The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force…”
Then, speaking of Hamas, the president said: “the violence engulfing the region today has made too many Israelis ready to abandon the hard work of peace. But let’s be clear: the status quo in the West Bank and Gaza is not sustainable.”
Observed Shapiro: “Self-defense for America, but not for the Jews, according to the President. The Jews must continue to pursue the ‘hard work of peace,’ even if they’re experiencing rocket fire every day; America, however, can bomb the hell out of ISIS even if ISIS is located thousands of miles away and largely threatens other Muslims. The hypocrisy is rank, and [the] moral equivocation repulsive.” (Here it is my emphasis.)
This position was put forth by Obama before Netanyahu spoke, and what the prime minister subsequently said directly countered the president’s stand on the matter. Needless to say, this is not being well received at the White House or the State Department. Because Obama is bombing ISIS. And Obama also wants Israel to negotiate with the unity government that includes Hamas.
What we are seeing here is a serious difference of opinion between the two governments. It was reflected in comments made by Jen Psaki, State Department spokesperson, yesterday: “Certainly we see differences. We would not agree with that characterization.”
And indeed, we see this echoed by Obama today as well, in his statement prior to his meeting with Netanyahu. Referring to Gaza, he said:
…ways have to be found to “change the status quo” so that Israelis are safe in their homes and schools and “also so you don’t have the tragedy of Palestinian children being killed as well.”
He indicated that he wants to extensively discuss the situation in Gaza, and finding a more sustainable peace between Israelis and Palestinian Arabs.
This is exceedingly bothersome. No, infuriating. There is a moral equivalency reflected in the president’s statement – between Israelis being threatened by rockets flying while they are in their schools and homes, and Palestinian Arab children being killed. He choses not to perceive, or acknowledge, that if Israelis aren’t threatened with rockets flying, Palestinian Arab children, used as human shields by Hamas, will not be inadvertently killed as Israel takes on a necessary self-defense. That is, he does not acknowledge that Hamas behavior generates this entire situation.
What is more, in speaking about a “sustainable peace,” Obama is making assumptions that are untenable and unreasonable. How does Israel forge a “sustainable peace” with an entity that is sworn to destroy it? Why should anyone assume that such a “peace” would bring the end of genocidal intentions Hamas has towards Jews? And what right does the president have to ask us to try to reach such a “peace,” which would clearly entail suicidal concessions on our part?
Ben Shapiro had it exactly right: Obama’s “There can be no reasoning – no negotiation – with this brand of evil. The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force…” does not apply to Israel’s confrontation with Hamas.
But the really big bone of contention here – the one with the heaviest implications – is with regard to Iran and ISIS. There have various suggestions, various rumors, about the US going easier on Iran in return for help in taking on ISIS.
Said Netanyahu, going into his meeting with the president:
“Iran seeks a deal that would lift the tough sanctions that you worked so hard to put in place and leave it as a threshold nuclear power. And I firmly hope under your leadership that would not happen.”
Yet there are signs that this may be happening. In coming days, I will be tracking this. Netanyahu is correct that concern about the threat of a nuclear Iran trumps the other concerns in this area, as considerable as they are.
The Netanyahu – Obama meeting has not ended, as I prepare to put this out. When it does, I doubt there will be much of import announced that hasn’t already been touched upon here. If there is, I will, of course, pick up on it in future postings.
What is interesting here is that reports indicate that the body language of the two leaders reflects a more relaxed atmosphere than has been the case before.
Credit: AFP/Jim Watson