It was an “Aha! moment” for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. When Hamas leader
Khaled Mashaal told half a million followers in Gaza on Sunday that “Palestine
is ours from the river to the sea” and “Israel has no right in Jerusalem,” and
when Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas failed to denounce the speech,
which one of his aides called “very positive,” Netanyahu declared: “I told you
That’s all the evidence he needed to show the Palestinians are
unwilling to compromise with Israel and are unfit to sit at the peace table with
him, he said.
Was he disappointed? Or happy to let someone else shoulder
the blame for what he also wants to do: shelve the peace process? Abbas this
weekend also upped the ante for peace talks when he dropped a previous offer of
unconditional negotiations once the UN upgraded Palestinian status. Instead, he
renewed his demand for a total construction freeze beyond the 1967 lines,
including east Jerusalem, and added a new one, resumption of talks on the 2008
Olmert proposal that he initially rejected. He knows both are
Mashaal would like to wipe Israel off the
Netanyahu would like to wipe out Hamas and Mashaal. In fact, he
tried to eliminate Mashaal in Amman in 1997 during his first term, but his hit
men bungled the job, causing a major rift in Israeli-Jordanian relations and
helping propel Mashaal into the Hamas leadership. Last month Netanyahu marshaled
his troops and threatened to destroy Hamas, but the terror group agreed to stop
firing its missiles and the invasion was called off.
Mashaal also got a
reprieve when Israel promised to stop assassinating Hamas leaders, at least
until they break this cease-fire.
With Mashaal and Abbas, Netanyahu has
two allies who fortify his determination to avoid serious peace negotiations.
Mashaal is the only one of the three who says what he means. And so long as
Abbas is unwilling to denounce Mashaal’s verbal and missile attacks and instead
talks of merging with Hamas, the prime minister can tie the two together and
think he is off the hook.
NETANYAHU SAYS he is committed to the two-state
solution but keeps creating new obstacles with an aggressive settlement
construction program, while Abbas, instead of challenging Israel at the peace
table keeps coming up with new conditions or running off to the UN and now is
talking about the World Court, handing the Israeli leader more excuses to stay
Following the UN vote, a petulant Netanyahu halted tax transfers to
the Palestinians and announced plans to build thousands of more homes for
settlers beyond the 1967 lines.
“We will carry on building in Jerusalem
and in all the places that are on the map of Israel’s strategic interests,” he
It matters little where the homes would be.
in this real estate case it is not location, location, location but symbolism,
symbolism, symbolism. And the message to the Palestinians is clear: I hold more
cards than you do.
Netanyahu cites Hamas’ boasts of victory last month
and its calls to destroy Israel to vindicate his opposition to further
territorial withdrawal: “[W]e have again been exposed to the true face of our
enemies. They have no intention of compromising with us. They want to destroy
That plays well with his political base as he goes into the
January 22 election. His Likud primary last month moved his party farther to the
right as it purged moderates and formed a lopsided coalition of religious,
nationalist and security hawks largely opposed the two-state
Netanyahu likes to portray Israel as standing against a hostile
world, and he is steadily making that a self-fulfilling prophecy. German
Chancellor Angela Merkel, one of Israel’s closest and most important allies,
abstained on the UN vote and told Netanyahu personally it was because she didn’t
think he was serious about making peace; only the Czech Republic among the
Europeans voted with Israel.
Whose fault is that? SOME ON the Israeli
Right are blaming President Barack Obama for Israel’s UN defeat, saying either
he didn’t really want to win or the United States simply doesn’t have the clout
it once did.
They see no fault on the Israeli side, harping back on the
old refrain, “the whole world is against us.”
A senior Israeli official
told The New York Times
, “If European countries would have behaved differently
in their vote at the United Nations last week, we may have reacted
Many countries were probably voting with the Palestinians
because they’ve become weary of what they see as the endless conflict that no
one is really trying to resolve.
Hamas rejects the very idea of peace
with Israel; Abbas and Netanyahu claim to support a negotiated settlement, yet
they both seem determined to create conditions that are steadily eroding any
hope of a two-state solution – Abbas through incendiary words and new demands,
Netanyahu through creating still more facts on the ground.
little credibility left; they like to talk the talk but neither seems willing or
even interested in walking the walk.
That is bound to have a corrosive
effect on US support for both. For the Palestinians in the short run as some in
Congress already are pushing punitive measures in response to the UN bid. For
Israel it will be slower but it will come.
And early sign of the chill
could come in early next year as Congress and the president make difficult
decisions about spending on Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, education and
other programs and someone starts asking why are we sending so many billions to
the Middle East when we need it so badly here? What are we getting for it?
Where’s the peace we’re supposed to be investing in? An even more ominous shift
for Israel could come if the Obama administration, reading the refusal by both
leaders to take serious steps toward peace, decides to quietly walk away from
active peacemaking. That may please Netanyahu and his hard-right base, but in
the long term it may prove disastrous for a vulnerable, increasingly isolated
Jewish state that is steering recklessly toward a one-state solution that could
be its undoing.2012 Douglas M. Bloomfield www.thejewishweek.com/blogs/douglas_bloomfield