Netanyahu’s response to Obama expose his, and the Israeli’s center-right, true face
For years, Israeli politicians used to say their actions were intended to “expose the true face of the Palestinians”; this used to be a specialty of Ehud Barak. Senior pundits spent lakes of ink on the proposition that Israel should agree to peace proposals, or even present some of its own, even though they thought there was no point in them: Doing so would expose the “true face” of the Palestinians/Arabs as peace refuseniks.
This game is over. The two days following Obama’s Middle East speech made it clear who is the real peace refusnenik, exposing the true face of the Israeli center-right. Unlike the howl from the Fox Complex, combining the right wing of Israel and the US, there was nothing particularly new about Obama’s speech: He was speaking of a Palestinian state, based on the 1949 borders, with some corrections. That was also the position of the Bush administration.
So what was all the noise about? Well, when Bush said it, it was clear to everyone he was winking, that he didn’t mean what he said. When Obama says the same, well, he does seem to mean the words. That’s what all the hysterics are about: A position we used to accept as a comfortable lie is suddenly threatening because it is becoming reality.
That’s one part of the equation: The other is that Netanyahu and the American right wing has a joint purpose, the downfall of Obama. Netanyahu’s parrot, Danny Danon, says “Barack Hussein Obama adopted Yasser Arafat’s staged plan for Israel’s destruction, and he is trying to force it on our prime minister”. It’s not an accident that Danon was Sarah Palin’s chaperon on her recent visit to Israel, neither is it a coincidence that the religious nut who was considered too nutty even for Fox, Glenn Beck, will organize a rally in Israel. In order to keep the loot of 44 years of occupation, Netanyahu is willing to gamble on Israel’s last ally, and make it into a Republican wedge issue. This is likely to blow in Israel’s face: Becoming the darling of the chiliastic/fundie wing of American politics will make it odious to the rest of the world, an outcast in the more progressive parts of the Democratic party. More odious than now, that is.
Netanyahu’s statements are worth scrutinizing. The first one, which followed Obama’s speech, was that he “expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both Houses of Congress”, and that those commitments include a guarantee Israel won’t have to retreat to the 1967 borders, which Netanyahu considers indefensible; he further said that such a retreat “will leave large Israeli centers of populations in Judea and Samaria outside its borders”.
Netanyahu’s lordly “expects” managed to anger Jeffrey Golfberg, and, to paraphrase LBJ, if Netanyahu lost Goldberg, he lost the American center. Goldberg waspishly asks what does Netanyahu intend to do, if Obama fails to comply: Will he stop granting the US the protection of Israel’s veto in the Security Council? Will he stop financial aid to it? The answer is rather simpler: Netanyahu will joins Obama’s enemies, play directly in American politics, and will try to bring Obama down in the 2012 elections. Obama seems to be aware of that.
There are two glaring instances of chutzpah in Netanyahu’s words, and one major lie. The first is that Netanyahu now relies on Bush’s letter to Sharon of 2004 – but, at the time, Netanyahu opposed it viscerally and tabled 14 objections to it. Suddenly, it is the apple of his eye. Hey, it’s been seven years, who’d remember that? (The disengagement plan exposed Netanyahu at his worst: He voted four times for it, out of fear of Sharon, even though he opposed the plan and made a hare-brained attempt to oust Sharon in October 2004; then, a week before the plan was implemented, in August 2005, he left Sharon’s cabinet with a bang, believing he could incite a rebellion in the Likud against Sharon. The result was the creation of Kadima).
The main dish of chutzpah is the whine about the settlements. For 44 years, Israel behaved as if international law does not concern it, and sent its population into an occupied region. It abused every law and twisted every ordinance so that the settlements could exist, it made them its largest and most secret national project – and now, when it’s time to pay the piper, it has the chutzpah to say this whole huge project of theft will cause harm to the robbers. The American response should be simple and clear: We never recognized the legality of the settlements. The settlers are Israel’s problem, not the Palestinians’ or that of the international community. Has thou killed, and also taken possession?
And now, the lie. Suddenly, the 1949 borders make Israel indefensible. Really? From those borders, it started two offensive wars (1956 and 1957) which were notable military successes. But after taking the territories, it began suffering defeats or near defeats: The Yom Kippur War, the two wars in Lebanon, the two intifadas. Each was at best a military draw and a stunning diplomatic defeat, and at worst a military defeat. Prior to the occupation, the IDF was a much more effective army. And, again, what is the great danger in retreating to the 1949 borders, assuming an effective border fence between Israel and Palestine? The Jordanian army? The Iraqi army? The phantom menace of an Iranian army somehow advancing through Iraq and Jordan?
The meaning of Netanyahu’s words is that there will never be a Palestinian state, because no country will accept “blocs” belonging to another nation within it. And the case of Ariel will prove it: There is an Israeli consensus, from Genghis Khan to Tzippi Livni, that Ariel should remain under Israeli sovereignty. This consensus ignores that Ariel, by design, is 20 kilometers inside Palestinian territory, and that its creation was for the express purpose of preventing the creation of a Palestinian state.
Netanyahu is far from alone in his demands for the “blocs” and for the fruits of 44 years of injustice: His demands are identical to those of the supposedly dovish “Boujie” Herzog of Labour, and if anyone can see a difference between them and those of the so-called “National Left” movement (expressed in the slogan “a state for them, the blocs for us”), he’d probably used an advanced microscope. Israel’s center-right is galvanized around the “blocs”: The only question is whether it will fight for them. Netanyahu’s answer is a resounding “yes”; that of the center-right seems to be, for the time being, “See, we don’t like this bit at all, but if there’s no choice, then there’s no choice; when the old trumpet sound again, we’ll march”. Shooting and crying, the 2011 model.
Following his meeting with Obama, and before the public hazing he’s planning for him in his speeches before AIPAC and congress, Netanyahu said (Hebrew) that he is “the leader of a persecuted people, who has no second chance and cannot allow itself errors… We will not receive the Palestinian refugees, why should we?… For 4,000 years [sic!] we suffered from struggle, massacre, extermination”.
Leaving aside the stunning claim to lead all of the world’s Jews, and thereby implicating them without their consent in Israel crimes, this whole exercise in victimization is intended for one purpose only: To legitimize the continued persecution of another victimized people. Don’t look at what we’ve been doing for the past 63 years – just look at our historia lacrimosa. No one suffered as we did, so we are therefore allowed to cause suffering to other people in these days. Fortunately, the world is blocking its ears to this old, mournful tune, as well it should.
As for the question of the refugees = come on! Why is Israel responsible for them? Because it made them refugees, that’s why. It expelled most of them and it prevented their return after the battles ended, so it could steal their lands. Without Israel’s aggression – it ordered the killing of returning refugees, the so called “infiltrators” – there would be no refugee problem. So, yes, Israel is the one responsible for resolving it.
Or, to sum it all in one sentence: Netanyahu is preparing for the next just war, after which (as usual) we’d be worse of.