Netanyahu’s three-headed nemesis

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Who can recall the olden days when Kadima was young and proudly proclaimed its identity as the one Israeli political party that stands for nothing? Two days before the 2006 elections, Kadima's Meir Sheetrit grandly announced that his party was the only party in Israel that "has disengaged from ideology."

But look at Kadima now. As far as its leader Tzipi Livni is concerned, ideology is all that matters. Never mind that her ideology – of surrendering land to the Palestinians – was completely discredited by Hamas's electoral victory and subsequent seizure of power in Gaza. Never mind that Kadima's assertion that establishing a Palestinian state is the key to solving all of Israel's problems has been overtaken by Iran's rise as a regional hegemon and aspiring nuclear power dedicated to the eradication of Israel.

As Livni put it Sunday as she rejected Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu's request that Kadima join his government as a full partner, "If we compromise and concede our ideology by joining a government with a path that is not ours, it would violate the trust of our voters."

To try to coddle Kadima into setting aside its newfound ideological fervor, Netanyahu harkened back to its past as party that in Sheetrit's words was "unburdened by ideological baggage" and "looking only to the future." Netanyahu argued that since today there is no chance of establishing a Palestinian state that will live at peace with Israel, Kadima can set aside its differences with Likud and cooperate on preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, overthrowing Hamas's regime in Gaza and protecting Israel's economy from the global economic meltdown. But Livni would have none of it.

SINCE LIVNI has been a post-Zionist radical ever since she underwent her ideological conversion from Right to Left in 2004, her position is understandable. Less understandable is her opportunistic party members' willingness to back her up. What accounts for their readiness to leave their cushy ministries for the Knesset's back benches?

Since the election, Kadima's leaders, their fellow leftists in Labor and Meretz and the media have all proclaimed that Netanyahu's rightist coalition is unsustainable. Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik even suggested that Kadima shouldn't discard its campaign literature since new elections will be declared within a year.

On their face these assertions make little sense. A rightist coalition will be comprised of 65 members of Knesset who have nowhere else to go. What possible reason would they have to agree to new elections?

But Livni and her colleagues have three formidable assets giving credence to their claim: The Obama administration, President Shimon Peres, and the IDF General Staff under Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi. If these forces act in concert to oppose Netanyahu, his ability to govern and remain in office will indeed be significantly diminished.

Over the past week, the Obama administration has taken a series of steps that show that it plans to push the traditional US policy of pressuring Israel to make unreciprocated concessions to its Arab neighbors to an entirely new level. Whereas the Bush administration rejected the legitimacy of the Iranian-supported Hamas terror group, the Obama administration gave three signs this week that it is willing to recognize a Hamas-led Palestinian regime. First, its surrogate, Senator John Kerry, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, visited Hamas-controlled Gaza and so effectively accepted Hamas protection. While there, he accepted a letter from Hamas to President Barack Obama and duly delivered it to the US consulate in Jerusalem.

Second, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that she will participate in next month's Egyptian-sponsored conference which aims to raise money to rebuild Hamas-controlled Gaza in the aftermath of its unprovoked missile war against Israel. This is the first time that the US has willingly participated in raising money for Gaza since Hamas seized power in June 2007.

Finally, Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas has decided to participate in negotiations aimed at reestablishing the Hamas-Fatah unity government. Abbas claims that the US now supports such a government that would again render Fatah Hamas's junior partner. US recognition of such a government would constitute US recognition of Hamas as a legitimate actor.

Then there was Kerry's visit to Syria. Not only did Kerry indirectly praise Syria for its support for Hamas by extolling its willingness to support a Palestinian government in which Hamas plays a leading role, he called for the abandonment of the Bush administration's decision to withdraw the US ambassador from Damascus after the Syrians oversaw the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005.

OBAMA'S WILLINGNESS to treat with Hamas and Syria is part and parcel of his apparent belief that the principal reason that the Arab and Islamic worlds are hostile towards the US is because the US supports Israel. The notion that Obama blames Israel for the Arab and Islamic hatred of the US gained credence this week when it was reported that Obama intends to appoint former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia Chas Freeman to serve as the director of the highly influential National Intelligence Council.

Freeman is known for his virulent animus towards Israel. In numerous public statements he has placed all the blame for Arab and Islamic hostility towards the US on Israel and argued that the US's conflicts with the Arabs will disappear the minute the US abandons Israel.

In one such statement in 2007, Freeman, who extols Hamas as "democratically elected," said, "Those in the region and beyond it who detest Israeli behavior, which is to say almost everyone, now naturally extend their loathing to Americans. This has had the effect of universalizing anti-Americanism, legitimizing radical Islamism, and gaining Iran a foothold among Sunni as well as Shiite Arabs."

By refusing to submit to its Arab enemies, Freeman argues that Israel has earned their wrathful retaliation, which Freeman claims, also places Americans in danger. In his words, "Such retaliation – whatever form it takes – will have the support or at least the sympathy of most people in the region and many outside it. This makes the long-term escalation of terrorism against the United States a certainty, not a matter of conjecture."

President Shimon Peres for his part doesn't share Washington's enthusiasm for Syria or its animus towards Israel. But he does believe that Israel can and must do more to establish a Palestinian state. As the uncontested leader of the Israeli Left, on Friday Peres came out in favor of the so-called "Saudi peace plan." In an indirect, fawning interview with Ma'ariv's political commentator Shalom Yerushalmi, Peres embraced the Saudi initiative, which calls for an Israeli withdrawal to the indefensible 1949 armistice lines and acceptance of millions of hostile foreign Arabs as part of the so-called "right of return."

Both in the interview and in his remarks in the lead-up and the aftermath of the elections, Peres has established himself as the bulwark against a non-leftist government that hopes to place the issue of Palestinian statehood on the back burner. Like Livni, in spite of the fact that there is no Palestinian leader willing to live at peace with Israel, Peres insists that Israel's most pressing challenge is to establish a Palestinian state.

IN THEIR BID to discredit the Netanyahu government, Peres and Obama will apparently enjoy the support of the IDF General Staff. According to a report in Ma'ariv on Friday, IDF Chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi has embraced defeatism as a national strategy. Ma'ariv's diplomatic commentator Ben Caspit reported that Ashkenazi claims that while it is true that Israel h
as military capacity to set back Iran's nuclear program significantly, there is no point in doing so.

According to Caspit, as far as Ashkenazi is concerned, rather than removing the immediate threat to its survival, Israel should appease Iran's Arab puppet – Assad. Ashkenazi reportedly believes that Israel should leave Iran alone, and beg Obama to convince Assad to accept the Golan Heights from Israel. Once Assad has the Golan, Ashkenazi argues that he will stop pointing his missiles armed with chemical and biological warheads at Israel, stop supporting Hamas and Hizbullah and generally become a member in good standing of the Western alliance. Why Syria would do such a thing, when it would owe an Israeli surrender of the Golan Heights to its alliance with Iran, is a question that Ashkenazi hasn't seen fit to consider.

Ashkenazi is extolled by the leftist media as non-political, but this is untrue. The Chief of General Staff is exceedingly close to former IDF chief of General Staff Amnon Shahak, who signed the post-Zionist Geneva Initiative in 2004 and has established business partnerships with Fatah leaders.

As chief of General Staff during Netanyahu's first term as prime minister, Shahak openly rebelled against the government by refusing to meet with the prime minister or attend cabinet meetings. Shahak announced a failed bid to unseat Netanyahu as prime minister shortly after retiring from military service in 1998.

Ashkenazi, who brought Shahak on as his "professional coach" after replacing Dan Halutz as Chief of General Staff in 2007, clearly shares his political views. He opposed fighting Hamas until missiles began raining down on Ashdod, supports signing a new ceasefire with Hamas today that will give Israeli legitimacy to the terror group, and supported ending Operation Cast Lead without first toppling or even significantly degrading Hamas's ability to control Gaza.

Ashkenazi is also extremely close to former IDF OC Military Intelligence Uri Saguy. Since the mid-1990s, Saguy, who owns large tracts of land in the Galilee, has been one of the greatest champions of an Israeli surrender of the Golan Heights. Like Shahak, Saguy serves in the unofficial role of Ashkenazi's professional mentor.

Caspit claimed that right after Netanyahu forms his government, Ashkenazi intends to tell him that the IDF rejects the notion of attacking Iran. That is, according to Caspit, upon entering office, Netanyahu will find the IDF General Staff standing arm and arm with Obama and Peres in a bid to overthrow him.

No wonder Kadima has now found ideology.

IF NETANYAHU wishes to survive in office and actually accomplish the clear aims he has set for his government, he must begin aggressively selling his agenda to the public. By doing so, he will build the kind of public credibility he will need to prevent Ashkenazi from rebelling against him. With Ashkenazi sidelined, Peres and Obama will have less direct ability to prevent Israel from attacking Iran.

During the campaign, Netanyahu chose to keep a low profile in the hopes of neutralizing the media's criticisms by denying them headlines. At the time, there was some justification for that policy. But now that he is forming the next government, the public must know why he wants to do what he plans to do and why we must support him. Otherwise, Kadima is right. There is no reason to join his government.

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

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12 Comments

  • Marc Handelsman, USA 02/24/2009 at 1:36

    Incoming Prime Minister Netanyahu needs to utilize his excellent rhetorical English speaking skills to galvanize support for Israel. The task awaiting Mr. Netanyahu is how to outmaneuver Kadima, the Obama Administration, and the IDF general staff. His pursuit of having Kadima in a unity government is a waste of time. He should let Kadima stay in the political wilderness. Mr. Netanyahu has a short time period to take the offensive, and hopefully he learned lessons from his first premiership. He needs to stick to what made Likud a great party.

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  • Aaron M. 02/24/2009 at 3:38

    As an American i wish to apologize for the brewing fiasco that is the Obama administration.
    Being from the Boston area i would especially like to apologize for John Kerry.
    Lord help us…

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  • Yukio Ngaby 02/24/2009 at 3:41

    It is my opinion that Obama is politically naive and short-sided when it comes to foreign relations. His own views continue to be murky, mostly because of a smitten national media, but he’s surrounded himself with openly anti-Israel advisers including Samantha Power and Zbigniew Brzezinski. I think that’s a pretty strong hint as to what Obama’s personal views are. When courting the U.S., Netanyahu’s government would probably do well to appeal to memebers of congress with a proven pro-Israel track record and bank on a more sympathetic congress in the next election. I really wish and hope that this isn’t the situation, but it could very well be.

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  • Ron Grandinetti, USA 02/24/2009 at 5:49

    Caroline, sounds like there is some bad drinking water in Israel similar to what is being digested in Washington.
    I am not too familiar with the government of Israel but, from what you say and I trust you more than most. Now is not the time for dissention amongst leaders.
    I cannot for the love of me understand anyone, especially in the Israeli government that believes in a two state solution, a Palestinian state in Israel is not going to happen. God won’t permit it contrary to what others may think. If you doubt my word, just think of the massive attacks against this Nation from her much larger neighbors since 1948 and you just know who side God is on. Its not space science.
    In fighting in the government is not good, Netanyahu is forming the new government and he needs full support of the other parties. He needs to be given the chance to do what is right for Israel. If he is unsuccessfully, then would be the time to withdraw support not now.
    Another dilemma, the Obama escapades. Every time he opens his mouth the stock market takes a dive. He is clueless.
    Just look at the cast of characters you just mentioned. John Kerry, a phony if there was ever one. Meeting with Hamas and Syria is a sign of ignorance on the part of this administration and only helps to legitimize this terrorist organization.
    Freeman is the dressing for the salad bowl of Mitchell, Holbrooke and Clinton. One salad in the cafeteria you pass on. Just the look of it turns your stomach.
    Caroline do you mind if we borrow God (G-d) for little while?

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  • Arius 02/24/2009 at 8:04

    How many weeks has the Obama administration been in office? I am not just frightened for Israel, I am also frightened for the West.

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  • Luigi Frascati, Canada 02/24/2009 at 10:05

    I have read a few white papers of Chas Friedman, all relating to Economics. In essence and to make a convoluted matter short and simple, Friedman is an advocate of the Petrodollar and one of the staunchest opponents of the Iranian Oil Bourse, the attempt on the part of Iran to quote in Euros barrels of crude sold in international markets.
    Friedman is credited, and correctly so, for praising Saudi Aramco’s continued policy of quoting Arabian Crude in American Dollars throughout the years, and because of this he is considered by many, also correctly so, an old-fashioned ‘Arabist’.
    Politically Friedman is a very controversial figure and not the best choice for this Administration. Obviously he is no Republican, since he has criticized over and over the policies of George W. Bush in the Middle East, Korea, China, Iran and, of course, in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But at the same time he has also criticized the policies of the Clinton Administration. It is notable his speech entitled “Why Not Let Them Hate Us, As Long As They Fear Us?” where he stated:
    “Both Republicans and Democrats seem to consider that statecraft boils down to two options: appeasement; or sanctions followed by military assault. Both behave as though national security and grand strategy require no more than a military component and as though feeding the military-industrial complex is the only way to secure our nation. Both praise our armed forces, ignore their cavils about excessive reliance on the use of force, count on them to attempt forlorn tasks, lament their sacrifices, and blithely propose still more feckless tasks and ill-considered deployments for them. Together, our two parties are well along in destroying the finest military the world has ever seen.”
    As a strong and vociferous opponent of the war in Afghanistan, we will see how well he fits in the Obama Administration if he gets appointed.
    I do not know very much about Gabi Ashkenazi, save and except for what anyone can find in Wikipedia. It is widely known, however, that Obama is having a few problems with Gen. Petraeus and his staff over the 16-month withdrawal from Iraq. Moreover, Petraeus is seen by many as a potential Republican candidate in the 2012 presidential elections, and thus ideologically opposed to what Petraeus has termed the “premature withdrawal” prospected by Obama.
    On the other side of the Mediterranean Gen. John Craddock, NATO Supreme Allied Commander, is at the centre of a huge controversy for having issued apparently an order for NATO troops to “shoot on sight” any Afghan civilian caught collaborating with the drug industry there, even if not involved in the insurgency. This order does not seem to have been carried out by any of the NATO combat troop contingents, but the mere fact that the top NATO commander could issue such an order puts him at odds with NATO political component, and it appears that Craddock’s days in Brussels are numbered.
    These are but two examples of military men at odds with the political elite, which seems to be the case with Ashkenazi as well. I read in Wikipedia that the Lt. Gen. also holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Haifa, which then may help explain his penchant for political maneuvering.
    Generals however, just like everyone else, are liable to be replaced at any time and without notice, and perhaps this is what Netanyahu ought to do even before he steps into the Prime Minister residence.

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  • Tatosian 02/25/2009 at 4:05

    Are generals “liable to be replaced at any time and without notice” in Israel?
    Seems like Miss Glick would have mentioned that option if it were available.

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  • Tomer Elias 02/26/2009 at 1:12

    The Israely left keeps living in a delusional world and they are going to try and destroy Netanyahu’s every attempt to actually get our country to keep standing on its own feet. Why can’t the left understand that that its impossible to create a 2 state solution when the palestinans leaders are working as much as they can to destroy us in every possible way, Our economy is suffering and Iran keeps getting close and closer to there goal.
    It’s just unbelivable that the way things look like now no one is going to even try and help Netanyahu and his government to work and gain progress in creating a stable government that can stand against the issues that its going to deal with.
    Reading your article just shows that neither livi or the israely media truly want israel to have a stable government that can deal with the issues ahead of us, they are going to work and try to destroy Netanyahu just so they can prove themselves better even though they are far from it. Our country can’t deal with another elections in the near future it would completly destroy us in every way. our economy can’t deal with it our peoples security can’t deal with it but none of the people who say they are working for the “good” of Israel seem to understand this. Instead of leaving politics behind everyone is working for there own interest which is far from doing whats good for israels future.
    The future doesn’t look good and we need more people like you Caroline that understand whats going on to explain to the people and help support our new government so it can survive and last long enough to make a change and truly work for the good of Isreal

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  • Luigi Frascati, Canada 02/26/2009 at 7:27

    Yes Tatosian, generals are liable to be replaced at any time and without notice pursuant to Art. 3(b) and 3(c) of the Army Basic Law, which provide for the Chief of the General Staff to be appointed by the Government upon recommendation of the Defense Minister (today Ehud Barak of Labor), and which subject the Chief of the General Staff to the authority of the Government and subordinate to the Minister of Defence.
    For further information refer to
    http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/MFAArchive/1970_1979/Basic%20Law-%20The%20Army

    Reply
  • Chanoch Ne'eman 02/26/2009 at 21:51

    There are a lot of good commentors on this blog.

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  • Dan 02/27/2009 at 9:08

    If he’s got probs with his senior commanders, then summarily cashier those commanders.
    This is no time to indulge in defeatism, and diplomatic flights of fancy.
    Israel is facing the most pressing strategic challenges since the buildup of her enemies, along her borders, in late May and early June, 1967. And as then, so now, Israel must move first, Israel must strike first, Israel must place her strategic interest first and foremost in her mind, —————– otherwise………………. do we really need to spell out the consequences if Israel fails to act?

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  • DaveP 03/04/2009 at 1:30

    A defeatist general incharge of the armed forces when the nation is facing an existential crisis? Amazing.
    Well, the PM should publicly thank him for the services he has rendered to the nation, and in gratitude, appoint him ambassador to some nice place – Mauritius for instance, from where he can do no harm

    Reply

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