Obama Bibi Handshake 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
These are difficult times, as we simultaneously confront threats from our
neighbors and intensified pressure from every direction.
The situation is
aggravated by the upheavals in the Arab world, which have in all instances
resulted in radical anti-Israel Islamic elements either taking control or
significantly strengthening their influence. Even our peace treaty with Egypt is
now in question. And at the same time, Hezbollah and Hamas have accumulated
arsenals of deadly rockets which in the event of a conflict would be directed
toward all the country’s major populated areas.
In this context, the
enthusiastic bipartisan congressional support accorded Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu on his recent Washington visit should not create excessive euphoria.
It is the White House, in the main, that controls foreign affairs, and in view
of the current economic meltdown, the pro-Israel Congress is more likely to be
concentrating on issues of urgent domestic concern rather than confronting Obama
over his Middle East policies. We also have legitimate grounds for unease if
Obama obtains a second term and no longer faces election constraints and party
pressures; he will likely intensify his one-sided demands on us.
day, Obama has not diverged from his initial approach of appeasing Islamic
states and making harsh demands on Israel. Yet the American president is
respected by neither friend nor foe. The manner in which he unhesitatingly
abandoned long-standing US ally Hosni Mubarak while delaying calls for the
ouster of Syrian President Bashar Assad have encouraged America’s traditional
Muslim allies to lose confidence in him. At the same time, his adversaries
consider him a wimp who capitulates on every front. Even dovish former Labor
minister Yossi Beilin maintains that Obama “holds zero accountability for his
presidency” and “waits for someone else to implement his grand plan.”
We are confronted with a major challenge in September. Irrespective of
whether the UN General Assembly endorses Palestinian statehood, there are likely
to be concerted attempts to encourage tens of thousands of Palestinians to
bypass roadblocks into Israeli territory. We will be obliged to exercise force
to protect our security and sovereignty. Even taking maximum precautions, there
will almost certainly be casualties, and Israel is likely yet again to face
In the face of these imminent challenges, only
idiots or those relying exclusively on divine intervention would dismiss the
crucial importance of maintaining US support. Aside from our essential defense
requirements, only the US is in a position to economically pressure the Egyptian
military regime to resist Islamic extremists baying for the annulment of the
peace treaty with us. In addition, the absence of a US diplomatic umbrella would
leave us at the mercies of the Europeans, who would have no compunction about
supporting boycotts and sanctions at the UN in order to appease the Arab and
Third World countries.
Politics is the art of the possible, and we must
therefore resist populist attitudes exhorting us to be “tough” and face the
world alone. In this context, one would not envy the role of an Israeli prime
minister. He is obliged to retain the support and friendship of the
American people and Congress. To achieve this in such a fake environment
requires an extraordinary diplomatic balancing act in which he remains firm on
essentials but must not be perceived as an obstacle to resolving the
It is in this context that one must assess the unconfirmed
reports that Netanyahu has tentatively agreed to Obama’s “revised” formula of
employing “1967 borders with swaps” as a benchmark for negotiations with the
Palestinians. In return, Obama has allegedly undertaken to revert to the Bush
recognition of demographic changes that entitle Israel to retain the major
settlement blocs and defensible borders.
Netanyahu is said to have made
this offer subject to a quid pro quo by the Palestinians to recognize Israel as
a Jewish state.
As this would imply a repudiation of the Arab ‘right of
return’ – something the Palestinians would never endorse – this exercise remains
an extension of the theater of the absurd, in which we are obliged to make
meaningless motions to humor the Obama administration.
previous experience has demonstrated that vague understandings are frequently
selectively implemented. An example is the total disregard of the clause in the
Quartet road map stipulating that prior to any further Israeli concessions, the
terrorist infrastructure would be dismantled.
Any agreement along these
lines with Obama may thus return to haunt us. In the absence of clear
definitions of defensible borders and “major settlement blocs,” these new
undertakings could be exploited to pressure us into making territorial
concessions with potentially disastrous long-term consequences.
more detrimental outcome of these theatrics is the confusion and bewilderment it
sows among Diaspora Jews and our friends. On the one hand, we occasionally speak
the truth and expose the Palestinians as a criminal society promoting a
genocidal culture. Then, to placate our Western “allies” we relate to
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as a ‘peace partner,’ and babble
on about negotiating for a settlement.
One day our prime minister has a
confrontation with the US president and the next day Defense Minister Barak
proclaims that Obama is God’s gift to Israel. In contrast, Foreign
Minister Avigdor Lieberman has a penchant for occasionally making aggressive
statements (often based on reality) that enthuse his supporters but embarrass
the government and detract from our international standing.
ministers of a government should ideally speak with one voice. However, the
concept of cabinet responsibility in Israel has been ignored for many years, so
individual ministers feel entitled to say what they like, even in stark
opposition to the policy of their own government.
the constraints of the fantasy world in which our government must operate, a
strategy must be devised to ensure that despite the doublespeak which portrays
those seeking to destroy us as “peace partners,” we ensure that Diaspora Jews
and our friends are able to comprehend the reality of the