That’s been the overriding climate here in Israel for several days now – whether it is a mood of anguish or of euphoria, it has all been rather frenetic.
In the days leading up to the election, I observed (and experienced) a mood akin to grief, at the prospect that Buji Herzog might win; this then morphed into jubilation at the subsequent electoral victory of Bibi.
But in some quarters on the right, there was an over-reaction. Bibi was hailed as the leader of the free world (there is a case for this, as he’s the only one who has spoken out on Iran with courage), and it was assumed that he would now have the latitude to move forward in significant ways. There was even an assumption voiced that he would now be able to annex Judea and Samaria.
Because he garnered 30 mandates? He still has to face down the world, and form his coalition. Ain’t gonna happen now, no how, however fervent the desire that it should.
What Bibi had said in the course of the last days of the campaign was that there would be no Palestinian state established on his watch as prime minister. The day before the election, in an interview, he declared:
“Anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state, anyone who is going to evacuate territories today, is simply giving a base for attacks to the radical Islam against Israel. This is the true reality that was created here in the last few years.” (Emphasis added)
Those on the left, who say otherwise, are “sticking their head in the sand, time and time again.”
Bibi was only stating an obvious truth that anyone with a minimal grasp of the situation can see. His statement is not radical. It could have (we might have said, should have) gone further: No state, because it’s our land. But he didn’t say this.
After the election, the Obama administration came out swinging at Bibi. The American government, it was announced, was going to be re-evaluating its relationship with Israel and might opt to change its policy regarding standing with us in the UN.
Again, enormous anxiety: What if the Security Council voted to demand that we move back to the ‘67 line, or created a full Palestinian state?
My own feeling on this was that there was a certain amount of grandstanding in this statement of “re-evaluation.” It was, quite simply, a threat: You don’t want to move with me in my desire to achieve a two-state solution? (Which solution is impossible anyway, but never mind that.) This is what you have to look forward to.
I believe that Obama will do whatever he can to damage us, that there is an irrational hatred at work with regard to how he responds to us. For example, he has just allowed a forty-year agreement guaranteeing that Israel would be able to purchase oil to lapse. A maliced act:
He should never, ever be trusted.
But at the same time, I believe he retains sufficient rationality to do what he perceives as being most prudent or in his own best interest – in terms of achieving his own goals, looking good, etc.
My first thought on learning about the “re-evaluation” was that the possible scenarios in the UN that were being projected carried within them their own stumbling blocks: It was very likely not as simple as was being suggested. The UN, according to international law, cannot “create” a state; and to vote for Israel to move back to the ‘67 lines conflicts with Security Council Resolution 242, which said this was not required.
Israel, it seemed to me, had to consult with the finest of international lawyers, military advisors and diplomats and respond offensively. It might be pointed out, for example, that a UN resolution demanding that we move back to the ‘67 lines would render Oslo – which requires negotiations to determine a border – deader than dead. Deader than it already is now. We might let US officials know that if this were the case, there would be absolutely no cooperation with the Palestinian Authority at all from the day the vote was taken. No tax collection, no security provisions, no electricity or water, no cooperation in marketing of produce (all of these things spelled out in Oslo). Obama might think twice about this, and the repercussions that would follow.
As it is, Netanyahu took the step of “explaining” what he meant. In an interview early on Thursday, he said:
“I don’t want a one-state solution. I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution. But for that, circumstances have to change.”
In other words, don’t point a finger at me – my commitment has stayed the same. It’s the situation that is different.
Bibi was then accused here in Israel of backtracking on his pre-election position of no Palestinian state. But if you look carefully, it’s not quite so – although his emphasis has certainly shifted. Painful as it is to hear him reiterate commitment to a “two state solution,” he did say there would be no Palestinian state because of a changed situation; he never actually said that he had changed his mind on two-states, in principle.
My first impulse was Oi! Did he have to say this? He backed off – or gave the appearance of backing off – in the face of Obama’s threats. This can come across as weakness and encourage even more threats.
But I’ve since re-thought the matter. The situation Bibi is facing on several fronts is horrendous. I think it behooves us to cut him a bit of slack here, if he has decided that minimizing the tensions with the US administration is in Israel’s best interest right now.
What must be watched carefully are the decisions he makes once there is a government. He has said that there will be no more releasing of prisoners as a “gesture.” If the PA should demand this, and Obama push for it, we must see that it does not happen. This, or similar other “gestures.”
The big question is whether Bibi means it when he speaks of a “two-state solution,” whether he meant it when he gave his Bar Ilan speech. My guessing is that this is not his ideology, but his MO – which involves “playing the game” at some level, rather than being confrontational. If he says he is for two-states, but then refuses to move forward in real terms because of the security risks implicit, he will be holding the line for the short term. (We’ll get to the long term when there is recognition at the highest levels of government that we have legal rights in Judea and Samaria, and all of Jerusalem.)
At first, Obama declared himself suspicious of the sincerity of Bibi’s statement. But by later on Thursday, he had called our prime minister to offer congratulations. Reports are that it was a “tough” conversation, but what was made public was that the two leaders had agreed to move forward on ways to find peace (whatever that means).
US Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, said today that there was no choice but to examine Netanyahu’s “confusing” statements. But he also indicated that at the moment there are no changes in policy.
One of the things that I believe made Obama think twice regarding his attack on Netanyahu has been the response of several members of Congress.
Take the stunning speech by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL):
Or that of Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), which is even stronger:
These distinguished gentleman forthrightly call Obama on his irrational antipathy to Netanyahu.
It is said that this very autocratic/non-democratic president does as he pleases. But this is not quite so. Congress can cut funding for programs that Obama wants to see sustained, and can use its leverage to make things difficult for a president who chooses to make matters difficult for Israel.
Senator Cotton has now said he will support legislation to cut US funding to the UN, if it takes action against Israel.
And this morning Senator John McCain (R-AZ) severely criticized Obama on CNN:
Noting that Israel had a “free and fair” democratic election – “the only nation in the region that will have such a thing,” he said it’s time for Obama to “get over it,” if he doesn’t like the results.
“Get over your temper tantrum, Mr. President. It’s time that we work together with our Israeli friends and try to stem this tide of ISIS and Iranian movement throughout the region which is threatening the very fabric of the region. The least of your problems is what Bibi Netanyahu said during a reelection campaign.”
I would like to briefly comment on one accusation that is being made against Netanyahu: It is being said that he made “racist” remarks against Israeli Arabs during the election, pointing out that they were coming to vote in large numbers, which required the right wing to come out in large numbers as well.
That is not quite accurate. Netanyahu’s concern was with the fact that US money had been utilized to promote the left in the campaign, and it was believed that US money was paying for the buses to bring the Arabs to the polls. This is clearly not as it should be, and he was calling for a strong response against it.
One very interesting news item helps put lie to the accusation that Netanyahu is racist: In one Bedouin village in the north of Israel, over 76% of the votes were cast for Netanyahu and Likud:
As to the election, the early stages of coalition building are in process now. I will write about this when next I post. It is not a pretty picture, not as I write tonight, at any rate.
I cannot close without a mention of the vile/hateful/destructive and totally perverse positions of Obama, whatever his motivations (do NOT write to tell me what they are, please – this is rhetorical). Right after the elections here, the PLO moved to increase its connection with Hamas and Islamic Jihad in order to establish a “unity government.” I’ve lost count of how many times they’ve moved towards a unity government. But the point is that there can be no “negotiations” for a “two-state solution” if the PA is in bed with Hamas. And yet, from the Obama administration I’ve seen not a single word of criticism about this being “counterproductive” to peace – never mind threats to re-evaluate the US support for the PA.
But then again, what can we expect:
“An annual security report submitted recently to the US Senate by James Clapper, director of National Intelligence, removed both Iran and Hezbollah from the list of terrorism threats to the United States for the first time in years.” (emphasis added)
Speaking of Iran…
There are officials here in Jerusalem who believe that Obama’s attack on Netanyahu was designed to deflect attention from the nuclear negotiations, which should be coming to a close within days. Obama may be seeking ways to “discourage” Netanyahu from speaking out on what is taking place.
No wonder the climate here is overwrought. The situation to be coped with is insane. Not least is a pogrom that took place in London last night. A terrifying harbinger of things to come?
There is no room for complacency or apathy now. And support for Israel and her rights is essential. What happens to the Jews of the world depends in good part upon the Jewish state.