Just ahead of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s trip next week to Washington,
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas went on a charm offensive towards
the Israeli media. On Tuesday, Abbas invited representatives of the
Hebrew-language press to his office in Ramallah and assured them of his good
intentions towards Israel.
We have been here before. In Netanyahu’s last
go-around as prime minister, it seemed like every time he was due to visit
Washington, then president Bill Clinton’s advisers would set up a meeting for
Abbas’s predecessor Yasser Arafat with the Israeli media. Arafat would talk
about how much he wanted peace with Israel, and how he was just waiting for
Netanyahu to agree to embrace the cause of peace.
Israeli media enthusiastically reported Arafat’s lies to the Israeli
without questioning either Arafat’s motives or his honesty.
exhibited even a minimal amount of journalistic competence, they would
least checked to see what the Arafat-controlled Palestinian media was
about their meeting with the “Rais.”
But that would have ruined their
Netanyahu-bashing narrative. And so the Israeli public was denied the
that not only did the Arafat-controlled Palestinian media fail to report
meeting, Arafat’s newspapers and television broadcasts routinely told
Palestinian people that there could be no peace with the Jews.
they daily exhorted the Palestinians to view the destruction of Israel
In a similar manner, this week, as Israel’s newspapers
published ecstatic headlines about Abbas’s moderation and desire for
Abbas-controlled Palestinian media made no mention of the meeting.
recent weeks, the Abbas-controlled Palestinian media have been
their incitement against Israel and Jews.
As Palestinian Media Watch
reported this week, on Tuesday, Abbas-controlled PATV aired a sermon by
Mufti Sheikh Muhammad Hussein. The mufti said, “The Jews, the enemies of
and of His Messenger, the enemies of Allah and of His Messenger! Enemies
humanity in general, and of Palestinians in particular... The Prophet
shall fight the Jews and kill them...’” Similarly, last week PATV
“documentary” film in which all of Israel is described as “occupied
In one excerpt cited by PMW, the film’s narrator asserts,
“The West Bank and Gaza have another section in Palestine which is the
Palestinian coast that spreads along the [Mediterranean] sea, from...
in the south, until Haifa, in the Carmel Mountains.
“Haifa is a
well-known Palestinian port. [Haifa] enjoyed a high status among Arabs
Palestinians, especially before it fell to the occupation [Israel] in
its north, we find Acre. East of Acre, we reach a city with history and
importance, the city of Tiberias, near a famous lake, the Sea of
an ancient coastal city, is the bride of the sea, and Palestine's
gateway to the
On Tuesday, the moderate Abbas told his Israeli guests that he’s
ready to hold direct negotiations with Netanyahu as soon as the premier
him his positions on borders and security.
As Abbas’s full statement made
clear, what he means by that is that he will negotiate with Netanyahu
latter agrees to adopt his predecessor Ehud Olmert’s position on borders
security. Those positions included an Israeli withdrawal to the 1949
lines – including the division of Jerusalem – and the stationing of
forces along the border with Jordan.
FOR ITS part, the Obama
administration is putting its own pressure on Netanyahu to make Abbas –
President Barack Obama – happy. Over the past several weeks the
has been pressuring Netanyahu to extend the 10-month prohibition on
construction in Judea and Samaria beyond its scheduled September end
As a sweetener to help Netanyahu swallow this strategically and
politically disastrous pill, Obama and his aides claim that an extension
draconian, bigoted policy would serve as a confidence building measure
convince Abbas to begin direct negotiations with Israel.
In Obama’s bid
to convince Netanyahu to extend the Jewish building ban, we see the
policy equivalent of a used car salesman’s attempt to sell the same
same lousy car twice – using different lies each time.
Last year, Obama
and his advisers justified their demand that Netanyahu act to strangle
Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria by claiming that doing so would
Arab world begin normalizing its relations with Israel.
surrogate, former congressman Robert Wexler, told Netanyahu last July
exchange for barring Jews from building kindergartens in Israel’s
Israel would see 20 Arab embassies open in Tel Aviv.
Of course not only
did that not happen, moments after Netanyahu announced the prohibition
building, Obama’s peace mediator George Mitchell claimed that his
unprecedented concession was insufficient.
Channeling Abbas, Mitchell
declared that the US expects Israel to agree to destroy all the Jewish
communities in Judea and Samaria and withdraw to the indefensible 1949
Weeks after Netanyahu’s concession in Judea and Samaria, the
administration began its onslaught against Jewish building in
As the minutes tick by towards Netanyahu’s visit with Obama at
the White House, Netanyahu is signaling that he is willing to buy the
car a second time. Although Netanyahu continues to insist that he will
accept preconditions for negotiations, he has empowered Defense Minister
Barak to take a leading role in contacts with the PA.
On Wednesday, Barak
announced that he will be holding direct talks with Israel-boycotting PA
Minister Salam Fayyad in the coming days. Earlier this week Barak
announced his support for an Israeli withdrawal to the 1949 armistice
without a peace treaty. In a media interview, Barak claimed that that
unilateral withdrawals from Gaza and South Lebanon were great
should be repeated.
Netanyahu’s desire to avoid a confrontation with the
Obama administration is understandable.
Given the nature of the Israeli
media, Netanyahu would certainly pay a political price if he were to be
for making the administration turn against Israel. But the truth is that
more than ever, Obama shares Netanyahu’s desire to avoid an open
THE MIDTERM congressional elections are just four months away and
Obama’s Democratic colleagues are running scared. Polls show that the
Party is likely to lose control over the House of Representatives. The
will also likely see their control over the Senate weakened if not lost.
Wall Street Journal
’s political analyst John Fund reported this
week, out of 70
competitive congressional districts, the Democrats will likely lose 60
lose control over the House.
Going into such a problematic electoral
season, the last thing Obama needs is an open confrontation with Israel.
row with Netanyahu will not only harm Democrats in key states like
York, New Jersey, Illinois and Pennsylvania.
It will harm the Democrats’
fund-raising efforts among Jewish American donors. Over the past several
there have been repeated reports that Jewish Americans are drastically
back their donations to Democrats. The trend will likely escalate if
forces Netanyahu into a corner next week.
What this means is that
Netanyahu is well placed to stand up to Obama’s pressure. If he plays
wisely, he can say no to Obama and avoid an open confrontation. For
instead of agreeing to extend the building prohibition, Netanyahu should
that he is willing to discuss that demand in face-to-face negotiations
Abbas. Rather than agree to Abbas’s preconditions, Netanyahu should say
is willing to listen to Abbas’s position in face-to-face negotiations.
And so on
and so forth. Such statements by Netanyahu will take the pressure for
concessions off him and put Obama and Abbas on the spot.
importantly, it will buy Israel time.
And buying time should be Israel’s
chief goal with respect to Washington today. Since taking office, Obama
repeatedly demonstrated that he will not reconsider his fundamentally
view of Israel. Obama’s basic belief that Israel’s strength and size are
blame for all the violence and radicalism in the Arab world is not
change, regardless of how clearly and continuously events on the ground
EVEN WORSE for Israel, Obama is not alone in this view. Indeed, as
a report in Foreign Policy
week makes clear, Obama’s position on Israel is
moderate when compared to the positions being staked out in influential
circles in the US military.
On Wednesday, Foreign Policy
content of a memo written last month in the US Military’s Central
memo, a “Red Team” assessment of how the US should position itself
likes of Hamas and Hizbullah, reveals that among key members of the US
policy-making community, Israel is viewed with extreme hostility.
leaked memo reportedly reflects the views of a significant number of
mid-level officers in Centcom, including large numbers of intelligence
as well as a significant number of area analysts stationed in the Middle
It argues that it is wrong for the US to lump jihadist movements like
Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaida and Hizbullah in one group.
significance of the identical religious dogma that stands at the root of
movements, the memo asserts that Hamas and Hizbullah are pragmatic and
social forces with which the US must foster good relations.
calls for the US to support the integration of Hizbullah forces into the
Lebanese military. It also calls for the US to encourage and permit the
integration of Hamas forces into the US-trained Palestinian security
As far as Israel is concerned, the memo blames the Jewish state
for the US’s failure to date to adopt these recommended policies.
memo’s authors condemn Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza as keeping
on the verge of a perpetual humanitarian collapse.”
The Centcom memo also
condemns Israel’s July 2006 decision to respond to Hizbullah’s
bombardment of northern Israel and its unprovoked cross-border attack
IDF patrol in which five soldiers were killed and two were kidnapped and
Denying Hizbullah’s subservient relationship with
the Iranian regime, the report claims that Israel’s decision to use
defend itself against Hizbullah’s acts of war served to strengthen
ties to Teheran.
What this memo shows is that Israel has little hope of
seeing a change for the better in US policy in the near future and its
today is to play for time. Next week at the Oval Office, Netanyahu
capitalize on his advantage four months ahead of the congressional
put the burden on Obama and Abbas to show their good