Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, December 28, 2014.
(photo credit: EMIL SALMAN/POOL)
The crux of the Herzog-Livni campaign for leadership of the country is that they will be more popular with world leaders than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who, they claim, is damaging Israel’s relations with key allies, especially the United States. Isaac Herzog’s and Tzipi Livni’s boastful mantra, typically delivered with a measure of disdain toward Netanyahu, is that they will know how to cultivate relationships and that this will bring Israel greater international support.
Among the inconvenient facts Livni hopes will not be remembered in this regard is that Livni herself had to cancel a trip to London in December of 2009 out of fear that she might be subject to arrest and potential prosecution for alleged breaches of international law, including war crimes, arising out of her role as foreign minister during Operation Cast Lead. Indeed, when Netanyahu became prime minister for the second time in 2009 following Ehud Olmert’s and Livni’s stewardship, Israel was already facing a hateful, well orchestrated campaign to delegitimize the Jewish state and to make it virtually impossible for Israel to defend herself from deadly attacks. So the premise of Livni’s pitch is extremely dubious.
There need also be clarity about what has made Netanyahu less liked by Obama and what Herzog and Livni intend to do in order to try to endear themselves to world leaders.
Within a month of his first meeting with US President Barack Obama in the spring of 2009, Netanyahu, under enormous pressure from the new US administration, agreed to accept the establishment of an Arab state west of the Jordan River, something that was anathema to his core beliefs and to the long-standing policy of the Likud. To put this concession in perspective, Yitzhak Rabin, in his last major address to the Knesset before his assassination, spoke of a final settlement with the Palestinians where they would have an “entity which is less than a state.” And near the end of 2009, Netanyahu did what no Israeli prime minister had ever done when he agreed to a 10-month freeze on all construction in Judea and Samaria. But this was not enough to remove the clearly negative feelings Obama held for Netanyahu, who is correctly perceived as not willing to make the type of massive withdrawals from Judea and Samaria that Herzog and Livni are prepared to carry out.
At the Camp David talks in 2000, Bill Clinton persuaded prime minister Ehud Barak to accept an Israeli withdrawal from 95 percent of Judea and Samaria and another 2% within the pre-1967 borders. On the issue of Jerusalem, it was proposed that the Arab neighborhoods of east Jerusalem would become the capital of a Palestinian state and the US prepared color-coded maps showing the division of Jerusalem’s Old City – Jews on one street, Arabs on the street over. This proposal was rejected by PLO chairman Yasser Arafat and is thought to be the starting point of negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
When Livni was recently asked by The Jerusalem Post if she would agree to divide Jerusalem, the best she could offer up was “I hope not” – meaning that if the Arabs won’t agree to keep the city undivided, she would agree to carve it up. Indeed, when Livni stated at a menorah-lighting ceremony this past Hanukka that the Western Wall would remain part of Israel, the obvious implication was that the area above the Western Wall, the Temple Mount, would not. Herzog has, similarly, committed only to Israel keeping the Western Wall, adding that “as for the rest, we have to be creative.”
The importance attached by Jews to the Western Wall stems entirely from its close proximity to the Temple Mount, where the two Jewish Temples stood and where the Jewish people have prayed to return for 2,000 years. In the Herzog and Livni scheme, we will suffice with an outer wall to the holiest place in Judaism and relinquish Jewish sovereignty over the Temple Mount.
Beyond the enormous religious and historical implications of such abandonment, this is a frightening example of the vacuousness and absence of any foresight in Herzog and Livni’s thinking. For can there be any rational expectation that Jews could be safe at the Western Wall when the area directly above them is in the control or “custodianship” of a foreign entity, whether it be the PA or Hamas today or al-Qaida or Islamic State tomorrow? Who in his right mind would be prepared to visit the Western Wall under those circumstances? Indeed, if Jerusalem were divided up, be it along the color-coded Camp David maps or in any other manner, it would take very little to turn Israel’s thriving and flourishing capital city into an area few outsiders would enter by choice.
Herzog and Livni now say they would not withdraw from the Golan Heights. They must acknowledge that those who warned against the dangers of such withdrawal over the past 25 years were correct, and were not engaged in hysterical scare tactics.
The politicians on the Left and the military and intelligence “experts” who advocated coming down from the Golan Heights in return for a piece of paper signed by Hafez or Bashar Assad nearly led the country into a disaster. Yet, Herzog and Livni fail to assimilate any of the obvious lessons from the near-withdrawal from the Golan, not least of which is the understanding that sympathy and goodwill from the United States and Europe is of little value in compensating for the loss of territory.
Herzog and Livni seem hell-bent on replicating in Judea and Samaria the harsh reality we experienced this past summer when virtually every Israeli had to flee for shelter numerous times from incoming missiles from Gaza. Notwithstanding this experience, and the fact that Israel was severely hamstrung in responding to these attacks as they were launched from schools, mosques and hospitals, no consideration is given to what Israel will be able to do if the same tactics are used in Judea and Samaria following an Israeli withdrawal from those areas. A single rocket from Gaza that landed more than a mile from Ben-Gurion International Airport this past summer was able to cut Israel off from all foreign airlines for 36 hours. Will the effusive praise that would be lavished upon Herzog and Livni for pulling out of Judea and Samaria be of any value when missiles fired from these areas intersect the flight paths of commercial air traffic, shattering Israel’s trade and tourism and paralyzing the nation’s economy? Israelis are desperate for normalcy, and the Herzog-Livni campaign plays on this emotion with the enticing promise that by replacing Netanyahu, we can achieve quiet. This campaign evokes memories of the deceptive marketing and branding of the Gaza disengagement, when we were assured that if we just “disengaged” from Gaza, our problems would go away. The same salesman that sold us the disengagement are now trying to sell the public the idea that achieving peace and prosperity is as easy as booting out Netanyahu and ingratiating ourselves with world leaders by abandoning Judea and Samaria. It is ironic that persons marketing themselves as the “Zionist Union” are focused on destroying and uprooting Jewish communities in the cradle of Jewish civilization.
We dare not be fooled again by slick snake-oil salesmen. Zionism is not about being popular. Those who dishonor our past and who fail to face up to clear and present dangers cannot be trusted with the holy task of protecting the future of the Jewish People.The writer is an attorney in Israel and New York and a member of the Likud Central Committee.