Netanyahu must play for time

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Just ahead of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s trip next week to Washington, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas went on a charm offensive towards the Israeli media. On Tuesday Abbas invited representatives of the Hebrew-language press to his office in Ramallah and assured them of his good intentions towards Israel. 


We have been here before. In Netanyahu’s last go-around as Prime Minister, it seemed like every time he was due to visit Washington, then president Bill Clinton’s advisors would set up a meeting for Abbas’s predecessor Yassir Arafat with the Israeli media. Arafat would talk about how much he wanted peace with Israel, and how he was just waiting for Netanyahu to agree to embrace the cause of peace. 


The peace-crazed Israeli media enthusiastically reported Arafat’s lies to the Israeli people without questioning either Arafat’s motives or his honesty. Has they exhibited even a minimal amount of journalistic competence, they would have at least checked to see what the Arafat-controlled Palestinian media was reporting about their meeting with the “Rais.” 


But that would have ruined their Netanyahu-bashing narrative. And so the Israeli public was denied knowledge that not only did the Arafat-controlled Palestinian media fail to report their meeting, Arafat’s newspapers and television broadcasts routinely told the Palestinian people that there could be no peace with the Jews. Indeed, they daily exhorted the Palestinians to view the destruction of Israel as their greatest goal. 


In a similar manner, this week as Israel’s newspapers published ecstatic headlines about Abbas’s moderation and desire for peace, the Abbas-controlled Palestinian media made no mention of the meeting. Moreover, in recent weeks, the Abbas-controlled Palestinian media have been intensifying their incitement against Israel and Jews. 
As Palestinian Media Watch reported this week, on Tuesday Abbas-controlled PATV aired a sermon by the PA’s Mufti Sheikh Muhammad Hussein. The mufti said, “The Jews, the enemies of Allah and of His Messenger, the enemies of Allah and of His Messenger! Enemies of humanity in general, and of Palestinians in particular… The Prophet says: ‘You shall fight the Jews and kill them…'”


Similarly, last week PATV re-broadcast a “documentary” film in which all of Israel is described as “occupied Palestine.” In one excerpt cited by PMW, the film’s narrator asserts, “The West Bank and Gaza have another section in Palestine which is the Palestinian coast that spreads along the [Mediterranean] sea, from …Ashkelon in the south, until Haifa, in the Carmel Mountains. 


“Haifa is a well-known Palestinian port. [Haifa] enjoyed a high status among Arabs and Palestinians especially before it fell to the occupation [Israel] in 1948. To its north, we find Acre. East of Acre, we reach a city with history and importance, the city of Tiberias, near a famous lake, the Sea of Galilee. Jaffa, an ancient coastal city, is the bride of the sea, and Palestine’s gateway to the world.”


Tuesday, the moderate Abbas told his Israeli guests that he’s ready to hold direct negotiations with Netanyahu as soon as the premier gives him his positions on borders and security. As Abbas’s full statement made clear, what he means by that is that he will negotiate with Netanyahu after the latter agrees to adopt his predecessor Ehud Olmert’s position on borders and security. Those positions included an Israeli withdrawal to the 1949 armistice lines – including the division of Jerusalem — and the stationing of foreign forces along the border with Jordan. 


For its part, the Obama administration is putting its own pressure on Netanyahu to make Abbas – and US President Barack Obama happy. Over the past several weeks the administration has been pressuring Netanyahu to extend the ten-month prohibition on Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria beyond its scheduled September end date. As a sweetener to help Netanyahu swallow this strategically and politically disastrous pill, Obama and his aides claim that an extension of the draconian, bigoted policy would serve as a confidence building measure to convince Abbas to begin direct negotiations with Israel. 


In Obama’s bid to convince Netanyahu extend the Jewish building ban we see the foreign policy equivalent of a used car salesman’s attempt to sell the same customer the same lousy car twice – using different lies each time. 


Last year, Obama and his advisors justified their demand that Netanyahu act to strangle the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria by claiming that doing so would make the Arab world to begin normalizing its relations with Israel. Obama’s Jewish surrogate former congressman Robert Wexler told Netanyahu last July that in exchange for barring Jews from building kindergartens in Israel’s heartland, Israel would see twenty Arab embassies opening in Tel Aviv. 


Of course not only did that not happen, moments after Netanyahu announced the prohibition on Jewish building, Obama’s peace mediator George Mitchell claimed that his massive and unprecedented concession was insufficient. Channeling Abbas, Mitchell declared that the US expects Israel to agree to destroy all the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and withdraw to the indefensible 1949 armistice lines. Weeks after Netanyahu’s concession in Judea and Samaria, the administration began its onslaught against Jewish building in Jerusalem. 


As the minutes tick by towards Netanyahu’s visit with Obama at the White House, Netanyahu is signaling that he is willing to buy the same used car a second time. Although Netanyahu continues to insist that he will not accept preconditions for negotiations, he has empowered Defense Minister Ehud Barak to take a leading role in contacts with the PA.


Wednesday Barak announced that he will be holding direct talks with Israel-boycotting PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in the coming days. Earlier this week Barak effectively announced his support for an Israeli withdrawal to the 1949 armistice lines even without a peace treaty. In a media interview Barak claimed that that the unilateral withdrawals from Gaza and South Lebanon were great achievements that should be repeated. 


Netanyahu’s desire to avoid a confrontation with the Obama administration is understandable. Given the nature of the Israeli media, Netanyahu would certainly pay a political price if he were to be blamed for making the administration turn against Israel. But the truth is that today more than ever, Obama shares Netanyahu’s desire to avoid an open clash. 


The midterm Congressional elections are just four months away and Obama’s Democratic colleagues are running scared. Polls show that the Democratic Party is likely to lose control over the House of Representatives. The Democrats will also likely see their control over the Senate weakened if not lost. As the Wall Street Journal’s political analyst John Fund reported this week, out of 70 competitive Congressional districts, the Democrats will likely lose 60 and so lose control over the House. 


Going into such a problematic electoral season, the last thing Obama needs is an open confrontation with Israel. A new row with Netanyahu will not only harm Democrats in key states like Florida, New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Pennsylvania. It will harm the Democrats’ fundraising efforts among Jewish American donors. Over the past s
everal months there have been repeated reports that Jewish Americans are drastically cutting back their donations to Democrats. The current trend will likely escalate if Obama forces Netanyahu into a corner next week.


What this means is that Netanyahu is well placed to stand up to Obama’s pressure. If he plays his cards wisely, he can say no to Obama and avoid an open confrontation. For instance, instead of agreeing to extend the building prohibition, Netanyahu should say that he is willing to discuss that demand in face-to-face negotiations with Abbas. Rather than agree to Abbas’s preconditions, Netanyahu should say that he is willing to listen to Abbas’s position in face-to-face negotiations. And so on and so forth. Such statements by Netanyahu will take the pressure for making concessions off him and put Obama and Abbas on the spot.
Even more importantly, it will buy Israel time. And buying time should be Israel’s chief goal with respect to Washington today. Since taking office, Obama has repeatedly demonstrated that he will not reconsider his fundamentally hostile view of Israel. Obama’s basic belief that Israel’s strength and size are to blame for all the violence and radicalism in the Arab world is not subject to change regardless of how clearly and continuously events on the ground prove it wrong.


Even worse for Israel, Obama is not alone in this view. Indeed, as a report in Foreign Policy this week makes clear, Obama’s position on Israel is moderate when compared to the positions being staked out in influential policy circles in the US military.


Wednesday Foreign Policy published the content of a memo written last month in the US Military’s Central Command. The memo, a “Red Team,” assessment of how the US should position itself vis-à-vis the likes of Hamas and Hizbullah, reveals that among key members of the US policy-making community, Israel is viewed with extreme hostility. 


The leaked memo reportedly reflects the views of a significant number of senior and mid-level officers in Centcom, including large numbers of intelligence officers, as well as a significant number of area analysts stationed in the Middle East. It argues that it is wrong for the US to lump jihadist movements like Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, al Qaida and Hizbullah in one group. 


Dismissing the significance of the identical religious dogma that stands at the root of these movements, the memo asserts that Hamas and Hizbullah are pragmatic and important social forces with which the US must foster good relations. The memo calls for the US to support the integration of Hizbullah forces into the Lebanese military. It also calls for the US to encourage and permit the integration of Hamas forces into the US-trained Palestinian security forces. 


As far as Israel is concerned, the memo blames the Jewish state for the US’s failure to date to adopt these recommended policies. Moreover, the memo’s authors condemn Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza as keeping “the area on the verge of a perpetual humanitarian collapse.”


The Centcom memo also condemns Israel’s July 2006 decision to respond to Hizbullah’s unprovoked bombardment of northern Israel and its unprovoked cross-border attack against an IDF patrol in which five soldiers were killed and two were kidnapped and subsequently murdered. Denying Hizbullah’s subservient relationship with the Iranian regime, the report claimed that Israel’s decision to use force to defend itself against Hizbullah’s acts of war served to strengthen Hizbullah’s ties to Teheran.


What this memo shows is that Israel has little hope of seeing a change for the better in US policy in the near future and its best bet today is to play for time. Next week at the Oval Office Netanyahu should capitalize on his advantage four months ahead of the Congressional elections and put the burden on Obama and Abbas to show their good intentions. 


Originally published in The Jerusalem Post. 
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  • Marcel 07/02/2010 at 10:28

    It’s as if Obama is God and Bibi Moses is headed up to Mt. Horeb to receive the latest Commands.
    Can the religious and devoute Bibi say no to Israel’s God ?
    ‘Netanyahu’s desire to avoid a confrontation with the Obama administration is understandable’
    No it’s not ,it’s the sign of weakness, a coward and not a leader.The know what he is and how to push his buttons with ease.
    A devious person like Netanyahu gets the loser Ehud Barak to do his dirty work because he knows his desperate and naive supporters will give him an undeserved pass.
    The red team memo prove one thing clearly. The US is a wolf in sheeps skin dismanteling Israel under the guise of peacemaker and Israel desperate for even a sheep which acts like a wolf falls into the trap.
    How did Israel get so stupid ?

  • Andre 07/02/2010 at 10:29

    As long as Israelis are willing to commit suicide by reelecting Barak and Labor, what is Bibi supposed to do?
    I, for one, question whether Bibi can negotiate from a position of strength given the last few performances of the IDF…from the Lebanon campaign to the Gaza campaign, to the flotilla disaster, etc… When was the last time the IDF performed as it would have in the past? The IDF is of course not at fault, it simply reflects the rot which is pervasive among the political class in Israel as represented by Barak. As long as Israel stays with the same flawed electoral and political system, it will keep shooting itself in the foot by allowing marginal parties and ideologies to hold any Prime Minister hostage and rendering him impotent.
    The situation between Israel and the Palestinians right now is exactly akin to the frog being dumped in a pot of water over a fire. Right now, the temperature is still manageable but the water is getting warmer and the frog doesn’t even realize it yet. But the outcome seems to be unevitable. As long as Israelis accept the system in place and the corruption it generates by design, all Arabs and Palestinians have to do is wait long enough for the system and the country to self-destruct.
    It is that critical.

  • Terry, Eilat - Israel 07/02/2010 at 11:01

    No offense, Caroline, but what’s the use of writing about what Netanyahu should do? He’s not really the PM, the real PM is Ehud Barak.
    You know Netanyahu will cave in to every demand made by Obama, oh, for sure he’ll make a show of holding out for a few days, make a BS speech, then start back-tracking, et voila, surrender.
    Our future survival is doubtful & it’s pointless to blame Obama, or Europeans, or the UN. We can’t even blame the Arabs or the wider Muslim world. No, we did this ourselves. Our crap politicians will be the death of us, quite literally.

  • bruce 07/02/2010 at 11:37

    it never ceases to amaze me that you put up with these murdering pisslamic scum.why don’t you deport them to raghead countries and be rid of them and they can kill each other all they want?it is about time we start calling islam what it really is,a blue print for the most vile criminal behavior that along with marxism has murdered millions of people.we should tell the truth about pisslam and that is there can never be peace with this murderous cult of killers.

  • Marc Handelsman, USA 07/02/2010 at 12:47

    Prime Minister Netanyahu should not compromise with President Obama during his US visit. There should be no extension of the building freeze, nor any preconditions to appease Abu Mazen. As long as the PLO and imams continue to incite Jew-hatred, there should be no negotiations. Instead of buying time with Washington, Israel needs to focus on confronting Iran, and securing the home front. Blaming Israel for the radicalization of Islam is folly because Totalitarian Islam wants global domination. Finally, Mr. Netanyahu needs to closely adhere to the Likud Party’s platform.

  • anonymous 07/02/2010 at 17:57

    Since the State of Israel allows Arabs to kidnap, stone, and murder Jews, allows Arabs to take goods and services from Jews without payment, kicks Jews out from even legal settlements and allows illegal Arab settlements, doesn’t enforce the law in Arab neighbourhoods, allows Arabs to steal water, and allows Arabs to be funded, trained, and armed, it is not to be expected that Netanyahu will stand up to American pressure. Why should he, he fundamentally believes that Israel doesn’t have a right to exist.
    Caroline I think the hostility of the U.S. Military goes way beyond their lack of having officers on rotation stationed in Israel. Aside from the fact that there have always been many anti-Semites in the U.S. Military (and few philo-Semites) they know they’re losing in Afghanistan and need a scapegoat so salve their pride.

  • naomir 07/02/2010 at 20:07

    It is past time to put Ehud Barak out to pasture. If nothing else his actions show a clear path to Israel’s destruction. Netanyahu has no choice, but to dig in his heels and say no most emphatically. You are absolutely right. He has nothing to lose. More concessions mean more loss of face and Obama, his henchman and the rest of the world won’t like us any better. We are up against the wall, it is now time to push back. We can do it. Shabbat shalom.

  • Bill K. 07/03/2010 at 1:38

    Netanyahu going to Washington again would be a lamb going to slaughter. Doesn’t this guy ever realize that the deck is stacked against him in Washington and that he cannot win?
    If Netanyahu wants to buy time he should be preparing to decimate Hamas and Hezbollah and engaging in covert action against the Islamist regime in Turkey and the Iranian stooges in Syria. Flapping his lips with Obama and Abbas is an utter waste of valuable time and worse still, it betrays a moral weakness that Israel’s enemies are sure to note.
    It matters little what the REMFs at Centcom think. They are living in some politically correct fantasy land where Hamas and Hezbollah would regard the United States as an ally if only we sold Israel down the river. Centcom is due for a rude wake up call soon. Our “kinder, gentler” method of war in Afghanistan is going nowhere except downhill. The Taliban recognizes weakness and is capitalizing on it.

  • Ron Kilmartin 07/03/2010 at 3:39

    The American people will greatly appreciate anything Bibi can do to embarrass Obama and his progressive-Marxist team. The fewer Democrats that get elected, the better for America, and for Israel. We want to repeal his policies,both domestic and foreign; they are not the policies that most Americans want. So by all means, I second Mark’s comments above.

  • beniyyar 07/03/2010 at 14:50

    Ms. Glick,
    I hope and pray that your last paragraph counselling patience and forebearance on the part of our Prime Minister vis a vis Barack Obama is the advice he follows in Washington.
    You are absolutely correct and show real life experience and diplomatic maturity by suggesting that PM Netanyahu play for time.
    A sea change is going to take place in November in America, with a Barack Obama taking a ringing slap in the face and a huge takedown.
    Israel will benefit greatly from the political crippling of President Obama.

  • Marcel 07/03/2010 at 18:20

    If you look closely at everything the US has been attempting to accomplish you can see it’s only going from bad to worse even with the
    Orwellian U.S.Government’s attempt to cover up the truth
    From Iraq to Afghanistan,stemming the economic down turn to the Gulf Oil disaster and of course since 1993 the never ending failure of carving up someone elses land for Islamic rockets in return Road Map agenda.
    Everything the US now puts it’s hand to is cursed to fail and the more pressure the US applies on Israel the more this curse now grows.You can’t miss it.
    So Israel please stop looking to the US as an kind of help or asset ,look at it instead as a contagious plague to keep far away from because everything it now touches is doomed to fail.
    This includes the Obama,Netanyahu meeting in Washington on Tuesday.
    It’s guaranteed .
    ‘And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you [with abundant increase of favors] and make your name famous and distinguished, and you will be a blessing [dispensing good to others].
    And I will bless those who bless you [who confer prosperity or happiness upon you] and curse him who curses or uses insolent language toward you; in you will all the families and kindred of the earth be blessed [and by you they will bless themselves]’.
    Genesis 12

  • Walter 07/04/2010 at 8:42

    Marce said,
    on July 2, 2010 10:28 AM
    “[Caroline said…] ‘Netanyahu’s desire to avoid a confrontation with the Obama administration is understandable’
    No it’s not ,it’s the sign of weakness, a coward and not a leader.”
    Exactly so Marcel!
    Bibi appears to be just a common pollie [a politician, a common liar, and a coward].
    Does Bibi represent the people of Israel?
    If he does not, why did they elect him, why do the people of Israel continue to support him?
    How is peace achieved, in the real world?
    Is peace achieved through the appeasement of bullies and evil men?
    Today, many people appear to believe that peace comes from ‘wanting’ it, or from embracing pacifism [inaction], in the face of the violence of evil men.
    Applying such logic, that peace comes from ‘wanting’ it or by embracing ‘pacifism’ [inaction], we would become the slaves of violent, evil men.
    We are kidding ourselves [in la la land!], if we believe that aggression, or violence is ‘overcome’, by surrender to it!, or that the appeasement of evil and wicked men, is a way to peace.
    The appeasement of evil [men], does not lead to peace.
    The aggression of evil men, is not overcome, by our surrender, to those evil men.
    That path leads only to slavery, and death.
    Peace comes through sacrifice, and our willingness to fight for truth, and to fight for what is right.
    Proverbs 15:9
    The way of the wicked is an abomination unto the LORD: but he loveth him that followeth after righteousness.
    10 Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way: and he that hateth reproof shall die.
    11 Hell and destruction are before the LORD: how much more then the hearts of the children of men?

  • Frank 07/04/2010 at 23:08

    Playing for time is not the best option. Some Americans have the irrational belief that Israel is somehow responsible for their problems with Islam.
    The best option is to threaten Americans with a wide range of retaliations should they continue to be hostile to Israel. If Americans want to win Arab hearts with Jewish blood, Israel can win Arab hearts with American blood by training Talibans.
    American hostility to Israel will become a long term threat to Israel survival if it’s not contained right now.

  • Anonymous 07/05/2010 at 14:43

    Playing for time assumes the elections in the US will be honest. They will not be. The Democrats will engage in massive voter fraud to hold onto power. Beware.
    And, I agree with Frank that if the US policy shift toward Israel is not contained NOW, we may pass a point that we cannot get back. I cannot even bear to think of it. Things are already at a state that I never would have imagined.

  • Anonymous 07/05/2010 at 15:48

    I hope you forwarded this to Bibi. He should most definitely read this before he goes to meet Obama.

  • ro 07/07/2010 at 8:51

    Whoever meets Obama as Israel’s leader would do well to remember he is dealing with a closet muslim.


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