Trivia question: Who said that in Israel, it ironically is easier for the Left
to make war and the Right to make peace? It doesn’t matter who first said the
adage, which has been proven correct by the enduring peace agreement prime
minister Menachem Begin made with Egypt and the greater support for battles led
by Labor and Kadima governments than Begin’s war in Lebanon.
is that it has been said and internalized by none other than the esteemed
visitor who will be coming to Israel next week, US President Barack Obama. The
president has said variations of the adage on various occasions, most notably in
the first television interview he gave to an Israeli outlet in July 2010 to
Channel 2’s Yonit Levy.
When Levy asked him whether Netanyahu can bring
peace, Obama said: “I think that not only is Prime Minister Netanyahu a smart
and savvy politician, but the fact that he is not perceived as a dove in some
ways can be helpful in the sense that any successful peace will have to include
the hawks and the doves, on both sides, and in the same way that Richard Nixon
here in the United States was able to go to China because he had very strong
anti-Communist credentials, I think Prime Minister Netanyahu may be very well
positioned to bring this about.”
Obama said that at a time when Netanyahu
had only one center-left party in his governing coalition – Labor with 13 seats.
Now Obama is coming to Israel to face the same Netanyahu, but a very different
Instead of one center-left party in Netanyahu’s coalition,
there will be three, assuming Kadima joins together with Yesh Atid and Tzipi
Livni’s Hatnua party. Instead of 13 seats on the Center-Left in the coalition or
the five there have been for the past two years, there will be as many as
The chief negotiator with the Palestinians will be Livni, whose
appointment – a source close to Netanyahu said – would eliminate Palestinian
excuses for not coming to the negotiating table.
The New Republic’s Ben
Birnbaum revealed exclusively Monday that then-US president George W. Bush urged
Livni on the sidelines of the 2008 UN General Assembly to strike a deal with
Abbas and run on it in her campaign.
“Tzipi, you’ll never get to the
right of Netanyahu, so you might as well run to his left with something to run
on,” the president told Livni, Bush’s national security adviser Steve Hadley
When asked by The Jerusalem Post at a January press
conference to reveal what she gave up in negotiations with the Palestinians,
Livni responded that she would keep her negotiations discrete “even though it
would help my campaign to reveal them.”
Putting Livni in charge of talks
with the Palestinians and keeping them discrete could allow Netanyahu to keep
together a coalition deeply divided between Right and Left on diplomatic issues
while keeping international pressure at bay.
The goal of that industrial
quiet is not “so that billions of shekels will continue to flow into the
settlements” and raise the population there to a million Jews, as Haaretz editor
Aluf Benn opined in a provocative piece in his newspaper, but to proceed on the
internal agenda that the election was all about.
Hundreds of millions of
shekels will be cut from the state budget and the settlements will be hit just
like everywhere else. Funding priorities will shift to the middle class, the
main constituency of incoming finance minister Yair Lapid and Bayit Yehudi
leader Naftali Bennett as well.
The focus of the government will be
socioeconomic issues, changing the electoral system, matters of religion and
state, which topped the election’s agenda, and the security issues that were not
brought up in the campaign because they were a matter of consensus.
as for the peace process, that – as usual – will likely depend on whether
mistakes are repeated in Ramallah, Jerusalem and Washington.
Israeli government will have a lot more doves to push it forward, and a
perceived hawk in charge, who even Obama believes is the kind of man who can
bring about peace.