Obama seder 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Barack Obama, who this week attended his second White House Seder,
might have Four Questions of his own for Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu this Passover as he contemplates a low point in US-Israel
1. Bibi, what do you really want?
you really want peace with the Palestinians, why do you have so many
objections and conditions? Just when Vice President Joe Biden went to
Jerusalem to announce we’ve gotten Palestinian Authority President
Mahmoud Abbas to resume negotiations, your Interior Ministry announced
plans to build 1,600 homes in east Jerusalem. The Palestinians went
meshuga and cancelled the talks.
So you came to Washington to
talk shalom and there was another announcement of building permits,
this time for Jewish housing in the Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah
for a project financed by your friend and contributor, bingo baron
Irving Moskowitz, whose goal is to drive all the Arabs out of every
part of Jerusalem.
Tell me, Bibi, what do you really want? Two
states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and
security? Do you want America to be your best friend, to keep sending
$3 billon a year, supplying you the best weapons in the world and
providing diplomatic and political protection? Do you think that comes
free of any responsibilities? Or do you just want to perpetuate the
status quo and do as you please?2. Do you understand my problem with you is not about Jerusalem?
go around declaring “Jerusalem is not a settlement; it is our capital.”
You know damn well no serious person, especially in my government, ever
said it was a settlement. Of course I think Israel should stop building
in east Jerusalem to give peace talks a chance. That’s neither a
concession nor a surrender of any Israeli claims but an acknowledgement
that the future of that area is to be negotiated. I thought we’d all
agreed not to engage in provocative acts that would undermine the new
talks. Whatever you two decide is fine by me.
Last year I asked
for a total settlement freeze, but we dropped that and my secretary of
state even praised your partial moratorium on West Bank construction as
“unprecedented.” I thought we’d put that behind us until Joe Biden was
blindsided. You disingenuously tried to dismiss it all as an “innocent”
mistake of timing and promised it wouldn’t happen again. Until the
announcement for your pal Moskowitz just before you came to see me.
Don’t give me this bubbe myseh
about bureaucratic snafus. The isn’t about Jerusalem or settlements –
it’s about trust. We both know it. I don’t want private promises that
are contradicted in public; I want it all in writing to avoid any
misunderstandings.3. What did you really say about Jerusalem?
more you talked about Jerusalem, the more I felt you were looking for a
way out of negotiations with the Palestinians. Especially when,
according to your own spokesman, you told congressional leaders that
you might “put peace negotiations on hold for another year” unless
Palestinians dropped their “illogical and unreasonable demand” for a
total construction freeze.
But then amid all that strident
rhetoric I thought I heard you drop a hint in your AIPAC speech
suggesting you’re prepared to compromise on Jerusalem.
defending construction in Jewish communities like Ramat Shlomo, you
said, “All these neighborhoods are within a five-minute drive from the
Knesset... Everyone knows that these neighborhoods will be part of
Israel in any peace settlement. Therefore, any building in them in no
way precludes the possibility of a two-state solution.” The operative
word appeared to be “these.”
You didn’t say “all” neighborhoods
of east Jerusalem but “these,” implying the Jewish communities would
remain part of Israel – something long understood by American and
Palestinian leaders – and the Arab neighborhoods of east Jerusalem
would become part of the Palestinian capital. I don’t know for sure
that’s what you meant, so I’d also like to have that in writing, too.4. Do you think playing footsie with the Republicans scares me?
heard you’d like to focus any talks with the Palestinians on procedural
instead of substantive issues. That’s unacceptable. It is time to get
past arguing about the shape of the table and start talking about the
final status issues – refugees, borders, water and, yes, Jerusalem.
may be hoping the November congressional election will give the
Republicans control of at least one chamber of Congress and they’ll
work with you and your AIPAC allies as you all did in the 1990s to
block president Clinton’s peace policies.
But this is 2010, not 1994, and the Republican power base is shifting
from the Evangelicals, with their religious affection for Israel, to
the tea partiers, with their angry calls for slashing the size and
spending of government, something that could easily hit foreign aid.
One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is the Jewish community, a vital
core constituency of the Democratic party. The polls show consistently
that American Jewish voters agree with me that the United States should
play an active role in pressing for Israeli-Arab peace.
is on spring break for Passover and Easter, and in the face of the
worst crisis in US-Israel relations since the last time you were prime
minister, it’s a good time, in the words of our State Department
spokesman, for all of us to take “a week to 10 days” off for “assessing
where we are.” Hag sameach