For Benjamin Netanyahu, A Just Peace Is Not A Desired Outcome (Part 1)   1 comment

Keeping Peace at Bay is Preferable for this Ideologue

November 1, 2014

I wish there were serious efforts by Israel to engage in creating a peaceful Middle East. But that has not been the case, not during the “W” administration, and certainly not with the Obama White House. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would much rather play for time, waiting for the next sycophantic Republican White House, than to seriously consider any real opportunity for peace. And if a Republican administration comes to power in 2016, they’ll talk about a desire for genuine peace in the region, but Republicans will not put any real pressure on Israel. After all, the Israel lobby, and an assumption by politicians that American supporters of Israel are myopic and vote as a bloc, are seen as reason enough to never let genuine peace become the desired outcome. As the month of October drew to a close, the arrogance of Netanyahu and his government were on display for all to see.

On October 24th Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s Minister of Intelligence, offered an op-ed in the New York Times that once again denounced any discussions, negotiations, or even attempts to create a simple rapprochement between Washington and Tehran. Steinitz’s argument, when you cut to the chase, is that Israel supports no agreement with Iran. “Not reaching a nuclear deal [with Iran] at this stage must not be considered a failure. It can even be regarded a qualified success, since it would represent the integrity of an international community adhering to its principles rather than sacrificing the future of global security because it is distracted by the worthy fight against Islamic State terrorists.”  Principles are everything. Negotiations are meaningless. Better to snub Iran than engage, or so suggests Mr. Stenitz, all the while staying mute on Israel’s own cache of nuclear weapons. (And note his clever oblique conflation of “Iran” and “ISIS/The Islamic State”.)

Three days later, on October 27, the Times documented another element of Israel’s obstinate road to peace. The story’s headline shouted “Netanyahu Expedites Plan for More Than 1,000 New Apartments in East Jerusalem”. Brilliant. The official approach is a left jab, right hook (or right jab, left hook). Macho was front and center. Diplomacy was not:

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Monday that Israel would fast-track planning for 1,060 new apartments in populous Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, a move that appears calibrated to appeal to the maximum number of Israelis while causing the minimum damage to Israel internationally, according to Israeli analysts. But as is often the case, Mr. Netanyahu’s decision prompted swift international condemnation at a time when Israel’s relations with Washington are already strained and risked further igniting Palestinian anger and tensions in Jerusalem. It was also unlikely to satisfy the right-wing political rivals it was intended to appease, the analysts said.”

All of this is the Prime Minister’s version of Real Politik. With the expansion of settlements Netanyahu received no uniformly warm response within Israel, he offered no olive branch toward the Palestinians, and the announcement was a continuation of his thumb-in-the-eye relationship with its most important ally, the United States. And to be fair, the politics of Jewish voters and Jewish clout in the United States was not lost on Obama, as the expansion elicited only moderate statements from Washington: “If Israel wants to live in a peaceful society, they need to take steps that will reduce tensions,” Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, told reporters in a briefing. “Moving forward with this sort of action would be incompatible with the pursuit of peace.” Oooh. Aaahh. That must have made the Knesset quiver.

Like Vladimir Putin in Ukraine, Netanyahu continues to expand his own empire by way of the West Bank. And to shore up his effort (as we’ve seen in the past,) he methodically chooses to embarrass the American government. Recall what he did with Vice President Biden in March 2010: “Hours after Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. vowed unyielding American support for Israel’s security here on Tuesday, Israel’s Interior Ministry announced 1,600 new housing units for Jews in East Jerusalem. Mr. Biden condemned the move as “precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now.”  Classic Netanyahu: Get someone to proclaim “Unyielding support” and then embarrass them. Niccolo Machiavelli would be proud. It’s a pattern. In January of this year the Prime Minister again embarrassed the United States and the Obama Administration in particular:

“The Israeli government on Friday published plans to build 1,400 housing units in Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, a move the chief Palestinian negotiator condemned as a “slap” to Secretary of State John Kerry’s intense push for a Middle East peace deal. The housing announcement was hardly a surprise. Israeli officials originally said they would promote these units in conjunction with the Dec. 31 release of 26 long-serving Palestinian prisoners, but then promised to delay the plan until after Mr. Kerry’s latest shuttle diplomacy visit.”

Finally, lest anyone think that all critics opted to sit back during Mr. Netanyahu’s undiplomatic diplomacy, consider the cartoon by Amos Biderman, published in Israel on October 29th. It depicts “Bibi” Netanyahu flying a plane into the World Trade Center. An over-the-top analogy, perhaps, but nonetheless a slap at Israel’s Prime Minister. With plenty of critics, Biderman defended his work: “The cartoonist who created the image, Amos Biderman, explained his intention to a reader on Twitter, writing: “The message is that Bibi is arrogantly and wantonly destroying Israel’s ties with the U.S. and leading us to a disaster on the scale of 9/11.”  I’m not certain I’d agree that it’s a “9/11 moment”,  but it does makes one ask whether Netanyahu has become the single greatest obstacle to peace within Israel.

The debate will not quickly subside. Speaking as one who was on a Metro-North train commuting to Manhattan during my usual Tuesday morning rush on September 11, 2001,  I’m reminded of two different contemporaneous reactions to the actual events of that infamous Tuesday. Reflecting on that terrible day, writer James Bennet offered these two reactions to the previous day’s horror:

“Yasir Arafat, leader of the Palestinian Authority, looked shaken as he appeared before reporters in Gaza to deplore ‘this terrible act.’ . . . . ‘We are completely shocked,’ Mr. Arafat said. ‘Completely shocked.’ “  In the same article, we read the other side: “Asked tonight what the attack meant for relations between the United States and Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, the former prime minister, replied, ‘It’s very good.'”

Even Tony Soprano, had he existed, would most likely have instinctively offered anger and revulsion, and seen nothing “very good” in the day’s events. Not so Mr. Netanyahu, whose instincts haven’t improved at all in the last 13 years.

David Steffen

© David Steffen 2014


One response to “For Benjamin Netanyahu, A Just Peace Is Not A Desired Outcome (Part 1)

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  1. Pingback: Benjamin Netanyahu: Postscript | Jazzdavid

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