Netanyahu’s grand coalition

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The "international community" is eagerly anticipating the incoming Obama administration's policy toward Israel. It is widely assumed that as soon as he comes into office, US president-elect Barack Obama will move quickly to place massive pressure on the next Israeli government to withdraw from Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem and the Golan Heights in the interests of advancing a "peace process" with the Palestinians and the Syrians.

Giving voice to these expectations this week was this year's Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Martti Ahtisaari. The former Finnish prime minister used his prize ceremony to call on Obama to make contending with the Palestinian conflict with Israel his chief focus during his first year in office. This is the same Ahtisaari who recently demanded that the West recognize Hamas as a legitimate political movement.

People who have been in close contact with Obama's foreign policy transition team have privately acknowledged that the widespread belief that Obama will move swiftly to put the screws on Israel is fully justified. According to one source who has spent a great deal of time with the transition team since last month's US elections, Obama's people are "scope-locked" on Israel.

The source reports that Gen. Jim Jones, Obama's designated national security adviser, is Israel's most outspoken critic. The source, who held a two and a half hour meeting with Jones, told his associates that Jones is keen to deploy NATO forces, perhaps including US troops, to Judea and Samaria.

Jones's plan, which is vociferously opposed by the IDF, would make it impossible for the IDF to carry out counterterror operations in the areas. As a practical matter, the lives of hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens who live in the areas would be imperiled. Just as Hizbullah has used UNIFIL forces in south Lebanon as a shield from the IDF behind which it has rearmed and reasserted control over the border zone, so too a NATO force would facilitate an empowerment of Hamas and Fatah, which would unify, arm and organize free from the threat of IDF counterterror operations.

Jones's plan is not new. In a 2002 interview, Samantha Power – who has been one of Obama's closest foreign affairs advisers for years and now serves as a member of his transition team for the State Department – called for US forces to be deployed to Judea and Samaria as "a mammoth protection force" to protect the Palestinians from Israel, which she claimed was guilty of "major human rights abuses."

Obama's team, like its supporters in the international foreign policy establishment, is dismayed by the Israeli opinion polls that show that Likud, led by Binyamin Netanyahu, is favored to win February 10's general elections by a wide margin.

In anticipation of Likud's expected electoral victory, they have been piling on against Netanyahu and the party. This was most recently evident at last week's Middle East policy conclave in Washington organized by the pro-Obama and post-Zionist Saban Middle East Forum at the Brookings Institute. There, both secretary of state-designate Hillary Clinton's surrogate, former president Bill Clinton, and current Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice castigated Netanyahu's assertion that peace must be built from the bottom up through the liberalization of Palestinian society, rather than from the top down by giving land to terrorists.

Netanyahu foresees Palestinian liberalization coming through economic development in an "economic peace process."

Both the former US president and Rice attacked his plan, claiming that it is antithetical to the sacrosanct "two-state solution."

As far as they and their many colleagues are concerned, the only thing that remains to be discussed is when Israel will vacate Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. The fact that there is no significant Palestinian constituency willing to peacefully coexist with Israel is irrelevant.

In light of the incoming Obama administration's palpable hostility toward Israel, and particularly toward Israel's political realists, the results of the Likud primary this past Monday were especially significant. In selecting the party's slate of candidates for Knesset, Likud members favored sober-minded politicians who use their common sense to guide them over those with records of support for the fraudulent "peace processes" so favored by the local media, Kadima, Labor and the international jet set.

Likud politicians who warned of the dangers of then-prime minister Ariel Sharon's decision to withdraw from Gaza and expel some 10,000 Israelis from their homes in Gaza and northern Samaria were elected to the top of the Knesset slate. Those who supported Sharon's withdrawal and expulsion plan – which is now widely recognized to have been Israel's most disastrous strategic move in recent history – were either rejected out of hand, or demoted.

The men and women selected by Likud's voters will provide Netanyahu with the political strength to stand up to pressure from the Obama White House. They will support him when he is forced to reject US demands that Israel give away vital territory to Fatah and Hamas militias and to Syria's Iranian-sponsored regime. They will support him when he is compelled to refuse US demands to deploy NATO forces to Judea and Samaria. They will back him when he says that Fatah is not a peace partner for Israel but Hamas's partner for war against Israel.

That the general public shares the sensibilities exhibited by Likud primary voters is made clear by the fact that Likud's standing in the polls has not significantly diminished since the primary. If, as the media warned, the public would reject a list comprised of sober-minded realists, one would have expected that support to drop. Instead, it remains steady even as Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni castigates Likudniks as naysayers and opponents of peace and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert scandalously invites the nations of the world to turn against Israel if Likud wins the elections.

One might have intuited that the striking contrast between the sober-minded Likud party and the delusional and defeatist Kadima and Labor parties that was brought so prominently to the fore by the Likud primary would have been the central message that Netanyahu chose to convey in the days that have followed Monday's vote. But sadly, one would be wrong to think that.

Disturbingly, rather than drawing distinctions between his party and its rivals, Netanyahu has spent the days since the primary drawing distinctions between himself and a minor player in his own party. Both ahead of the primary and in the days since, Netanyahu has devoted the majority of his time to attacking his sharpest critic within the party – Moshe Feiglin, who heads the far-right Jewish Leadership Forum in Likud and won the not-particularly-senior 20th position on Likud's Knesset slate. On Thursday, Netanyahu succeeded in pushing Feiglin down to the 36th spot.

Feiglin has more in common with the Left he abhors than with his party members. Like the Left, Feiglin bases his strategic and economic notions on a complete denial of reality. Whereas the Left ignores the Arabs, Feiglin ignores the West. Feiglin's religious adherence to his views has made him few friends in Likud or elsewhere in Israeli politics. The threat he constitutes to Netanyahu is negligible.

Given Feiglin's inherent weakness, Netanyahu's post-primary focus on him is shocking. Netanyahu has argued that Feiglin will lose votes for Likud. But assuming that is true, the last thing Netanyahu should be doing is placing a spotlight on Feiglin. Rather, Netanyahu should be emphasizing his strongest suit: the clear distinction between Likud on the one hand and Kadima and Labor on the other hand.

In focusing the public's attention on Feiglin, Netanyahu appears to be reacting to foreign pressures rather than domestic
ones. One of Netanyahu's most difficult challenges during his tenure as prime minister from 1996 to 1999 was handling his relations with the hostile Clinton administration. From the moment Netanyahu was elected until the moment he left office, the Clinton administration's Israel policy was devoted entirely to bringing down his government. In close collusion with Netanyahu's political opponents and the local media, for three years Clinton worked steadily to overthrow him. Clinton's assault culminated in the 1999 elections when he sent his own campaign managers to Israel to lead the Labor Party's campaign against Netanyahu and Likud.

No doubt, it is in the hopes of building better relations with the incoming Obama administration that Netanyahu now seeks to distance himself from Feiglin and advocates forming a broad governing coalition with his political foes in Kadima and Labor. Apparently, in his view only such a broad coalition will insulate him from a US presidential assault. In the interests of forming such a coalition, while highlighting his disputes with Feiglin, Netanyahu has sought to obfuscate his ideological differences with Kadima and Labor.

Although Netanyahu's motivations are understandable, his mode of operation will bring him results exactly opposed to the ones he seeks. It is true that to withstand pressures and even an all-out assault by the Obama administration Netanyahu will need a broad coalition. But that coalition cannot be based on a simple will to power, as Olmert's coalition and previous leftist coalitions have been. To survive a hostile White House, Netanyahu will require a broad coalition founded on support for his ideas and his party's policies, not a broad coalition populated by political and ideological opponents dedicated to undermining his ideas and policies.

Rather than obfuscate the differences between Likud and Kadima/Labor, Netanyahu must highlight them. He must convince the Israeli electorate to vote for Likud on the basis of these distinctions. Likud must be perceived as the party of commonsense ideas and clear-minded policies that inspire, attract and convince the Israeli public to support it. And Netanyahu and Likud have those ideas and policies.

On a strategic level, Netanyahu and Likud have made clear that they stand for three main principles. First, they are committed to establishing defensible borders for Israel by securing Israeli sovereignty over all of greater Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley, the Samarian Hills and the Golan Heights.

Second, they recognize that the Palestinian society that elected a terror group to lead it is a society that is uninterested in peace with Israel. Consequently, any future negotiations must be preceded by a full reorganization and reform of Palestinian society.

Third, they reject the Kadima/Labor fantasy that foreign militaries and international forces can be expected to protect Israel in place of the IDF.

If Netanyahu runs on these policies, he will not merely win the elections. He will win a clear mandate to govern. And only if Netanyahu runs on these policies will he have a chance of blunting the pressure that will certainly be brought to bear by the Obama administration. For although it is clear that like Clinton, Obama will have no problem opposing the will of an Israeli government, he will be hard pressed to oppose the will of the Israeli people.

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

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18 Comments

  • marcel cousineau 12/12/2008 at 18:05

    Just a typical week in Israel. A Hamas rocket wounds eight Israeli soldiers, PM Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni lie that they will order retaliation and instead, pardon 230 convicted “Palestinian” prisoners. What they forgot to announce was that a think tank in New York called the Council On Foreign Relations (CFR) has banned all real military measures against the “Palestinian” leadership, and they obey the CFR.
    Netanyahu will make sure that the same agenda continues.Just as Sharon lied and offered a different agenda than Labor opposition Mitzna’s
    removal of Jews from Gaza we saw what happened after he was in power.Netanyahu has proven beyond a doubt that like Sharon he cannot be trusted.
    The scam of phony Israeli politicians upon the people of Israel continues full force. Netanyahu is a stooge of failed US,foreign agenda as we saw with his previous premireship.He threw Feglin overboard becuase he does not dance to the final solution road Map tune.The corruption of Israel’s political system is as bad as that of the empire they religiously serve and obey.
    We’ll get more of the same from the phony Netanyahu and thsoe who continue to get on their knees and pray to the West. The harder Israel has worked for peace the worse things have gotten for Israel and the Jews because Hashem said :”You shall make no covenant with them,(moslems) nor with their gods Exodus 23: 27-33. How stubborn and stupid you are to keep bowing down to your masters in Washington and licking the dust from their feet Feiglin is a threat to Netanyahu and others Jewish idol worshipers because he is right,extremely right.

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  • Ron Grandinetti, USA 12/12/2008 at 18:48

    Caroline, the prospect of Binyamin Netanyahu led government is good news.
    The bad news is the prospect of the Obama administration interference in Israel affairs.
    I am sure we all agree that there should be no withdrawal from Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. The action to withdraw will not advance any peace process. You can expect the same problems that resulted from withdrawing from the Gaza Strip.
    And above all there is no need for the use of NATO forces in Judea and Samaria, and in fact any part of Israel. If the so called masterminds of the Obama administration wants to help promote peace they should enlist NATO to go in the Gaza Strip and clean out the Hamas terrorist machine. Likewise go after the Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria. That’s where peace begins.
    There is something wrong with this picture when everyone wants to advise Israel on peace matters. Israel, if they have forgotten is a peaceful democratic nation that is constantly besieged by the terrorist and crazy neighbors who want to destroy them.
    The Netanyahu “economic peace process” sounds like a solid plan and he doesn’t need any suggestions.
    Any attention from the U.S. should be directed toward denouncing the actions of the aggressors, not the victim.

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  • nyexpat 12/12/2008 at 19:23

    Israel’s leadership has to look at the problem from the perspective that if the IDF fails, it won’t be Washington that is over run, and it won’t be europeans being slaughtered.

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  • Yaakov 12/12/2008 at 21:05

    Netanyahu must secure the borders plus add a buffer zone, not give up one inch of territory, recover as much lost and surrendered territory as possible, expel all muslims/arabs from Israel and the Knesset, and completely ignore b hussein obama/hildibeast clinton or any other US representative that has anything to do with b hussein obama. The obama administration and most of the US is no friend of Israel.

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  • Ken Mathews 12/12/2008 at 21:16

    Ms Glick you wrote…
    Feiglin has more in common with the Left he abhors than with his party members. Like the Left, Feiglin bases his strategic and economic notions on a complete denial of reality. Whereas the Left ignores the Arabs, Feiglin ignores the West.
    – Comment: This is not correct Feiglin doesn’t ignore the West he just recognizes that the West is dying morally and as a result is prepared to try to appease the Muslim world by sacrificing Israel. He doesn’t want Israel to suffer the moral decline that the west is experiencing.
    Ms Glick you wrote,
    Feiglin’s religious adherence to his views has made him few friends in Likud or elsewhere in Israeli politics. The threat he constitutes to Netanyahu is negligible.
    – Comment: Netanyahu believes correctly that the center-left has been discredited, and if the center-right (Netanyahu’s Likud) also fails and discredits itself, Feiglin will have a realistic opportunity to lead a Religious/Nationalistic/Rightwing Likud to victory. Feiglin understands that the USA is in declining rapidly and has rejected the religious and moral principals that would allow it to recover. Feiglin understands that Israel can no longer lean on any Western nation because all have rejected the moral pricipals that would enable them to be strong enough not to appease the Muslim world by sacrificing Israel – Israel must prepare to be able to stand alone relying only on God, Faith, Hard Work, Careful Planning and Courage. – This is the supremely important practical and religious principal that Feiglin understands and Netanyahu does not.

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  • NormanF 12/12/2008 at 21:29

    Moshe Feiglin has already shown himself to be the better man than Bibi by asking voters to rally around the Likud. He represents Jewish national religious views that are the future of Israel. They are far from marginal – let alone far right – as is alleged. Judaism and the Land Of Israel are concepts alien to Israel’s secular Jewish self-hating elites and the international community. But they have deep resonance with 80% of Israeli Jews who are either traditional or observant in religious outlook. A Jewish State is not going to become a Saudi or Iranian style theocracy. Even Moshe wants the rabbis to stay out of politics. But he does want Jews to be proud of their faith and their country. There’s nothing “marginal” or “far right” about such a position. And its time will come.

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  • Rob 12/12/2008 at 22:31

    Caroline, When it comes to Bibi, your blind spot is so big you can drive a truck through it.
    You think he’s the moshiach, but yet he advocates “unity” with Kadima and Labor and continuing the Oslo process, which you certainly know has produced NOTHING GOOD for Israel.
    Feiglin actually supports the Likud’s own charter which calls for the annexation of all parts of the Land of Israel. Feiglin did not write the charter. It is Bibi who has more in common with the left than anyone, as he IS A LEFTIST.
    It makes one wonder what you owe him.

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  • Cantbelievemyeyesandears 12/12/2008 at 23:35

    Just as I thought. Obama will have his operatives doing lots of dirty work. Look for major interference in the Israeli election coming from ‘well-meaning’ US Jews. And by the way, let’s hope the word “assasination” never crosses Obama’s (or his friends’) minds as a means of influencing or reacting to the outcome. ….but fear not. THese guys like lox and bagels, just like us, right? They know words like ‘oy vey’, right? They read Phillip Roth…etc. How can they be bad?

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  • Dan 12/13/2008 at 2:38

    Netanyahu can’t repeat his previous mistake, which was allowing the will of the American electorate to be marginalized by the Clinton administration.
    Americans, by vast numbers, don’t like Palestinians, and find laughable the notion that Palestinians are interested in a “peace process.”
    American support for Israel, and her positions relative to the Palestinians has GROWN, not diminished, throughout Bush’s tenure.
    Netanyahu can’t hesitate to take his case directly over the head of State, over the head of CIA, over the head of the Obama administration and over the head of a leftist dominated news media.
    He needs to take his case directly to the American people, and flank any pressure Obama and State are eager to impose on him.
    Instead of barricading himself mentally, he needs to be the one imposing pressure on Obama, on the Democrats.
    Netanyahu’s speaking abilities enable him to do what few Israelis would even consider, which is winning a public relations battle with an American administration.
    Netanyahu could easily, EASILY generate vast numbers of calls and letters to Congress, to Capitol Hill and to The White House.
    So instead of building a redoubt for proof against pressures from Washington, how about going on the offense instead.
    If Israel seeks to establish her security with the State Department as a partner, ——————————– forget about it!
    But a relationship already exists, and can be strengthened, with the American people themselves.

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  • Phil S 12/13/2008 at 7:15

    Bibi is showing himself to be petty and dictatorial by sleazily pushing Feiglin down the list. He obviously fears Feiglin and he very well may be another Sharon. How has he shown himself to be any better than Sharon? He did not forcefully oppose the disengagement from Gush Katif, he stayed in the Government until it was too late to stop. He is showing many more signs of being another petty politician.

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  • Jana 12/13/2008 at 7:21

    Netanyahu, a strong leader, will be elected as prime minister for “such a time as this” in Israel’s history.

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  • marcel cousineau 12/13/2008 at 15:32

    ‘He needs to take his case directly to the American people, and flank any pressure Obama and State are eager to impose on him.’
    I heard the same delusional messianic proclamation that the American people would save the Jews of Gush Katif from ethnic cleansing at the hands of fellow Jews.
    It was all diabolic and dangerous lies and false hope which only let everyone down.
    I have news for those who continue to look to America as Israel’s god. You are insane and fewer and fewer people follow your delusions.
    Netanyahu’s downfall is that his meager faith is all used up in the sinking ship America.He’s tied his success to a colossal failure,another educated idiot who speaks well in an empty suit.
    The American people are too busy trying to save themselves as the Titanic goes down and have no time for Israel and that goes for my shallow and stupid fellow Christians who fell for the wolf Bush who has proven to be Israel’s destroyer by way of his false peace Road Map.The American people have done nothing and will do nothing ,they have no voice or power within the corrupt empire,it’s all just one big lie.
    More false hope to feed Israel and keep them from seeking their only hope,God
    I understand the religious loyalty to your idols but the time comes to face reality.
    As I have said for many years the God of Israel is flushing America down the toliet. The handwriting is on the front page,todays headline
    ‘it’s all just one big lie”.
    Shock and panic spread through the country clubs of Palm Beach and Long Island after Bernard Madoff, a trading powerbroker for more than four decades, allegedly confessed to a fraud that will cost his wealthy investors at least $50 billion – perhaps the largest swindle in Wall Street history.
    One investor told The Wall Street Journal: “This is going to kill so many people. It’s absolutely awful.” Ira Roth, from New Jersey, said that his family had $1 million invested, and that he was in a state of panic’
    We are being judged for our wickedness and dividing Israel.
    So what will you idol worshipers do when America is no longer there to look to for help ?
    Your wicked stubborness in ignoring God and looking to false idols will eventually come to an end. Your day of reckoning is at the door.

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  • Scott 12/13/2008 at 19:07

    Nothing will ever change in Israel until she adopts a Constitution..Bibi is just an empty suit,and as Rob says,Caroline just follows her blind spot

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  • John of AllFaith 12/13/2008 at 21:59

    I agree with your views here but I believe Moshe Feiglin needs to heard. Netanyahu distancing himself from Feiglin is a big mistake.

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  • Michael Lev 12/13/2008 at 23:43

    1)’In focusing the public’s attention on Feiglin, Netanyahu appears to be reacting to foreign pressures rather than domestic ones’
    Thank you Ms. Glick ! Finally someone supports my observation that Mr. Netanyahu follows an agenda which is (a) not Likud and (b) not Netanyahu. His behaviour vs. Mr. Feiglin is more than strange and leaves many questions open. If Mr. Netanyahu had a real Likud agenda he would embrace Mr. Feiglin with open arms. If he rejects Mr. Feiglin for reason of personal ego he would treat him like he treats Silvan Shalom. The fact that he reacts histerically to the achievments of Mr. Feiglin rose my suspicion that he follows some unknown external agenda
    2)’Like the Left, Feiglin bases his strategic and economic notions on a complete denial of reality. Whereas the Left ignores the Arabs, Feiglin ignores the West’
    In this case – Ms. Glick – I think you have to learn more about different streams in modern Judaism : the agenda of Mr. Feiglin and his supporters is the point of beeing independent, if not opposite to the West. If he would accept the West as the leading power in the he would not distinguish himself from all other “Zionist” movements and leaders which in the end pragmatically surrender their Jewishness to this power and in consequence have to accept the ideologies of the secular leftists. In deliberately seeking the establishment of a real “Jewish” government he has to get rid of all the foreign influences and base his security, economy, culture etc only on Jewish values.

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  • Spaniard 12/14/2008 at 2:56

    Glick is right, with Obama in the White House, Israel will live really hard times, and we need a president nationalist but with finesse and subtlety
    Why american jews voted for Obama? They are ashkenazis
    http://grasstopsusa.com/df111708.html

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  • Jay Di Napoli 12/14/2008 at 3:25

    Caroline,
    Thank you for your recent post. It is very timely. It is a paraphrase from the Gospel of Luke in the New Testament. As always, I would greatly appreciate your feedback:
    Thanks,
    Jay
    But Jesus looked at them and said, “What does this text mean: ‘The stone (Israel) that the builders (Obama, EU, and UN) rejected has become the cornerstone’? Everyone who falls on that stone (Israel) will be broken to pieces, and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.
    Luke 20:17-18

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  • george 02/20/2009 at 15:40

    ihave to admit it is starting to look like the Myans were right with all that is going on 2012 could be it for all of us. There will be no peace as long as one side is standing, either the jews will win or the muslim one has to die .palestine is going to be the cause of the earth people to melt .I guess we all will be in the afterife soon. what a shame

    Reply

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