The disbanding of the Israeli government this week is breathing new life into dead arguments from the American Left about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
One example worth noting is Christiane Amanpour’s “interview” with Brookings Institution foreign policy director Martin Indyk on Wednesday.
The reason for the quotation marks is that the exchange between the two celebrities, who owe their careers to the promotion of a twisted view of the Middle East, was more like a victory volley than a question-and-answer session on a serious topic on which both are touted as experts.
It is hard enough for Israeli voters to stomach the internal scramble for Knesset seats that will dominate the public sphere for the next three months without the added cacophony from abroad. That the noise from overseas is going to play into the hands of the Israeli Left, which is as adept at twisting the truth about the Jewish state as its international counterparts, makes it even more unbearable.
But, like Indyk’s take on the situation, it does has its advantages.
Indeed, if anyone can serve as a negative guage by which to measure a political climate, it is he. Oh, yes, and the think tank that has served as his cash-cow fallback whenever his peace-brokering between Israel and the Palestinians ends in abject failure. (You know, the research institute much of whose funding emanates from Qatar, where it has its “Overseas Center.”) One neat trick Indyk employs is referring to the peace camp in Israel as the “center.” This is not only false; it is also a complete misreading of the electorate.
Just as the Democratic Party in the United States was dealt a heavy blow in the midterm elections due to utter disillusionment on the part of the public with the Obama administration, so too in Israel has the bloc to the left of Netanyahu disappointed the voters, who believed they were opting for some better alternative that turned out not to exist.
In both countries, the fantasies that socialist policies (cloaked as a viable marriage of the free market and a welfare state) would cure economic ills, and that peace overtures would make the West safer from radical Islam than military might, were killed by reality.
This is not to say that average voters in the US or Israel have all shifted their support to the Right. On the contrary, many of them blame their plight on their leaders’ not going far enough.
It is this mind-frame that Indyk and his ilk possess.
He began his interview by calling Netanyahu’s firing of justice minister Tzipi Livni and finance minister Yair Lapid last Tuesday a “collapse in the ability of the government to function.”
That’s one thing he got right, but for all the wrong reasons.
Livni has been acting as Israel’s chief negotiator in talks with the Palestinian Authority. In spite of her kowtowing in every possible way to reach a two-state solution, she, like all her predecessors, was given the cold shoulder. Nevertheless, she holds Netanyahu – the person who appointed her to that job in the first place – responsible, rather than PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
Lapid, with zero experience in politics and even less knowledge of economics, has been moving in a decidedly socialist direction. Both have been fighting Netanyahu on every issue brought to a cabinet vote.
Indyk’s analysis is that “the Right is enjoying a surge... which really started over the summer, I think as a result of the Gaza war.”
Ya think? Of course, neither he nor Amanpour delve into that inconvenient detail.
They just leave it hanging there, as though it is a shame that Israelis are wary of a two-state solution with an entity that is in a unity government with Hamas.
What Amanpour does raise, however, is the question of the Obama administration’s part in why “this [the peace process] is not happening.”
“[T]here was no lack of leadership on the part of the United States,” replied Indyk. “Secretary Kerry, backed by President Obama, made every effort to move the parties toward a resolution. But American will and ingenuity and creativity on its own is not enough... The two parties have to be committed to it.”
Aside from his omitting incessant Israeli efforts – including by every leader Indyk himself considers kosher politically – to reach a deal with the Arabs in the PA and the rest of the region, he resorted to the vile practice of creating moral equivalence between the sides.
“I think both... President Abbas...
and Prime Minister Netanyahu... were looking over their shoulders at the more extreme parts of their polity – in the Palestinian case... Hamas, which is absolutely opposed to a two-state solution, and on the Israeli side, within Prime Minister Netanyahu’s own coalition, you had groups also adamantly opposed to a two-state solution,” he said.
“In those circumstances, it takes very strong-willed leaders to be able to push through the kind of opposition they were facing and, frankly, a public on both sides that didn’t believe in a two-state solution any more, because they didn’t believe that the other side actually wanted it. So a kind of distrust permeated the negotiations that was, in the end, impossible for us to overcome.”
Such insidious comparisons are evil.
Not only does equating a liberal democratic society with a terrorist- honoring Muslim-Arab entity provide the latter with a veil of legitimacy, it removes the conflict from its global context, thereby perpetuating the lie that Israel is at fault for the entire war against the West.
It would be wise for sane Israelis to follow the winds blowing from Brookings when we head to the polls on March 17 – and go for the opposite.The writer is the author of To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’