The perils of diplomatic theater

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The current flurry of diplomatic activity is deeply disturbing. It isn’t simply that the Obama administration has strong-armed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu into participating in diplomatic theater with the PLO whose successful completion will leave Israel weaker and less defensible. It isn’t merely that the newest “peace process” diverts our leadership’s attention away from Iran and its nuclear weapons program.


The most disturbing aspect of the latest round of the diplomatic kabuki is that Israel’s leaders and Israel’s staunch friends in the US are enthusiastically participating in this dangerous project.


True, Netanyahu is in an unenviable position, situated as he is between US President Barack Obama’s rock and hard place. Instead of standing up to this hostile American leader, Netanyahu is desperately seeking a magical concession to get Obama off his back.


Netanyahu’s preference for appeasement is both ironic and destructive. It is ironic because he has turned to appeasement at the very moment that the notion it is possible to appease Obama has self-destructed.


Ten months ago Netanyahu found what he hoped was a magic concession. Capitulating to Obama, the Jewish state’s leader prohibited all Jewish building in Judea and Samaria for a period of 10 months. This unprecedented move to discriminate against Jews was supposed to get Obama off Netanyahu’s back. It didn’t.


Obama’s public demand this week that Netanyahu extend the abrogation of Jewish property rights shows he will not be appeased.


There is no magic concession. Every concession to Obama – like every Israeli concession to the Arabs – is considered both permanent and a starting point for further concessions.


And so Netanyahu concedes more. Not only has he effectively agreed to extend the discriminatory ban on Jewish rights. Netanyahu has moved on to even more outrageous concessions.


According to the Lebanese media, Netanyahu has agreed to surrender large swathes of the Golan Heights to Iran’s Arab puppet, Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. According to the reports, Netanyahu empowered Obama’s emissary George Mitchell to present his offer to Assad in Damascus and even furnished Mitchell with detailed maps of his proposed surrender.


If Netanyahu thinks that this move will diminish US pressure for a full withdrawal from Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria, he is in for an unpleasant surprise. Mitchell made this clear at his press conference Wednesday. Mitchell said the “two tracks can be complementary and mutually beneficial if we can proceed to a comprehensive peace on more than one track.”


In plain English that means that the administration feels perfectly comfortable pressuring Israel to surrender to the Syrians and to the Palestinians at the same time.


Leaving aside the strategic insanity of surrender talks with Syria, it cannot be said too strongly that the talks with the Palestinians have absolutely no upside for Israel.


Many observers have pointed out that PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas is unlikely to make a deal. And this is probably true. With Hamas in charge in Gaza and widely supported in Judea and Samaria, Abbas will probably not risk signing a peace deal with Israel that will likely serve as his death warrant. But the same observers who bemoan the poor chances for a treaty ignore the fact that the alternative – that Abbas signs a peace deal with Israel – would be a disaster for Israel. Any deal Israel signs with the PLO will make the country weaker. We know this because we have already signed deals with the PLO. And all of those deals made Israel weaker.


All the agreements between Israel and the PLO have been predicated on Israeli territorial surrenders and Palestinian promises of moderation.


Israel has implemented its commitments and surrendered land to the PLO. The PLO has never abided by its commitment to moderate its behavior. To the contrary, the PLO’s response to every agreement has been to escalate its political and terror war against Israel.


The Palestinian terror war that began in September 2000 was the direct result of the Oslo “peace” agreement of September 1993 that created the framework for Israeli land surrenders to the PLO, and the framework agreement’s followon agreements. The terror attacks that have killed and wounded thousands of Israelis would never have happened – indeed they would have been inconceivable – had Israel not withdrawn from Gaza, Judea and Samaria in accordance with peace deals it signed with the PLO. The track record of the past 17 years demonstrates that withdrawals are dangerous. But still the “peace deal” now on offer is predicated on withdrawals.


Obama and his advisers claim that these talks will improve Israel’s relations with the wider Arab world. But again the last 17 years expose this claim as fatuous and wrong. Israeli land surrenders in exchange for pieces of paper have not convinced the Arab League member states to accept Israel as a permanent state in the Middle East. They have convinced Israel’s Arab neighbors that Israel is weak and getting weaker. This in turn has signaled to the wider Arab world that its best bet is to join forces with the likes of Hamas and fund and otherwise actively support the war against the Jewish state.


ENGAGING IN the phony “peace process” isn’t only bad because there is little prospect for reaching a deal or because any potential deal would be a disaster for Israel. There are three additional reasons the government’s decision to engage in this diplomatic psychodrama is terrible for Israel.


First, there is great harm in talking. Talking to Abbas and his deputies legitimizes a Palestinian leadership that is wholly committed to Israel’s destruction. As Abbas and his mouthpieces make clear on a daily basis, they do not accept Israel’s right to exist. They do not condemn or oppose the murder of Israelis by Palestinians. They will not accept a deal with Israel that leaves Israel in control of sufficient land to defend itself from Palestinian or other Arab attacks in the future.


And they will never end or abate their diplomatic war against Israel. The very act of legitimizing the likes of Abbas expands their ability to wage diplomatic war on Israel.


Second, just as Netanyahu’s magic concessions to the Americans are but a starting point for further magic concessions, so Israel’s willingness to engage in talks with its Palestinian adversaries forces our leaders to concede still more important things to maintain them. For instance, today, in the face of a clear Hamas terror offensive that has already claimed the lives of four Israelis and sent tens of thousands running for cover in bomb shelters, Israel is compelled to sit on its hands. An effective campaign against Palestinian jihadists would weaken the PLO because most Palestinians support the jihad against Israel. In the interest of “peace,” Hamas is allowed to attack at will.


So simply by agreeing to talk with the Palestinians, the government has made it all but impossible to carry out its primary function – defending the country and its citizens from aggression.


The third reason that the talks are inherently against Israel’s interests is because they undermine Israeli democracy. Consistent, multiyear polling shows that the public overwhelmingly rejects more withdrawals. The pu
blic rejects any compromise in Jerusalem. The public rejects maintaining prohibitions on Jewish building. The public rejects expelling Jews from their homes. And the public rejects withdrawing from the Golan Heights.


Recognizing this, the Obama administration has insisted that the content of the current talks remain hidden from the public. As far as Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Mitchell are concerned, they are better judges of the prospects and wisdom of these talks than the Israeli public that will have to live with their consequences. By agreeing to these demands, Netanyahu is collaborating with a project that is inherently anti-democratic and harmful to Israel’s political order.


There is another aspect of the current diplomatic season that is upsetting. This aspect involves the negotiations’ deleterious role in shaping Israel’s position and options in the US.


When Netanyahu announced he was caving in to White House pressure and barring Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria last November, his defenders argued it was necessary given Obama’s relative political strength at the time.


But a lot has changed in the past 10 months.


Today Obama is deeply unpopular. The Democrats are likely to lose their control of the House of Representatives, and at a minimum, their hold on the Senate will be diminished.


Today Israel has nothing to gain and much to lose by bowing and scraping before Obama.


True, Obama’s positions on issues relating to Israel are not likely to substantively change after November 2. But Obama’s ability to implement his policies will be seriously constrained. Indeed, the anticipated Republican resurgence has already incapacitated him.


By playing along with Obama’s sham peace talks, Netanyahu has made it difficult for Israel’s supporters in the US to explain why these talks are dangerous and offer a counter-policy that is based on experience and reality. Even worse, Netanyahu has encouraged Israel’s friends to support what Obama is doing.


THIS MUCH was made clear by an article penned last week by syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer titled, “Your move, Mr. Abbas.”


Krauthammer is widely perceived by the American public as a firm supporter of Israel. His many readers – who by and large are not close observers of Middle East events – defer to his judgment. Unfortunately, his latest column shows that trust is unfounded. Krauthammer wrote, “No serious player believes [Israel] can hang on forever to the West Bank.”


Not only do many serious players believe Israel can – and indeed should – hang on forever to Judea and Samaria, most close observers of events in the Middle East recognize that the central lesson of the past 17 years is that Israel must hang on to Judea and Samaria. The partial territorial surrenders Israel conducted in the 1990s led to the murder of more than a thousand Israel. Ceding these areas entirely would imperil the country. Even Clinton acknowledged this week that the current situation can continue for 30 years. And as all close observers and serious players in the Middle East know, 30 years is tantamount to forever.


Given Krauthammer’s tremendous influence in shaping public opinion and policy in the US, his arrogant and false portrayal of reality is debilitating.


This is particularly true in the current electoral season where Americans are seriously questioning the received wisdom of their policy elite for the first time in a generation. Now not only will Israel’s supporters need to battle the administration for the US to adopt a rational policy towards the Palestinians and Israel. They will need to battle their supposed allies on the Right.


But while devastating, Krauthammer’s position is a side issue at the end of the day. Krauthammer is not the man charged with defending Israel. He’s a newspaper columnist and television commentator.


The man charged with leading and defending Israel is Netanyahu. Netanyahu is the man who stood for election. Netanyahu is the man who is responsible for leading and defending this country.


And Netanyahu is the man who is now leading us on a path to degradation and defeat.


Originally published in The Jerusalem Post. 
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  • Marcel 09/17/2010 at 10:19

    This past week of photo after photo of the mesmerizing smiles of spell meister Hillary Clinton and George Mitchell along with the Jewish Manchurian should have set alarm bells off within Israel proper but no.Israel is anaesthetized.
    The Jews are once being led by an oberkapo onto the trains to a ‘peaceful end’ with great ease and no fight except for your effort.
    The broader their smiles the more Jewish blood will flow..
    The angel of darkness camoflauged as an angel of light Benjamin knows he can get away with the most evil and criminal behavior against Israel by offering up the Golan to those bent on Israel’s destruction.
    Only a Jewish madman with deep and dark caverans of evil hidden in his soul would even think of surrendering the Golan to Syria.Any attempt to whitewash his actions is as evil as his contemptible deeds which have absoutedly no redeeming end..But alas Benjamin is so driven to please his CFR buddies he will do anything even bertay his own people to get their approval.
    How do Manchurian’s like this gain power ? Easy it worked for Bush and the stupid voters who ignored all his globalist traits directed against Israel and elected him twice. They seduce the stupid voters and tell them what they want to hear.It works every time and this is why he works in the dark, mocking and treating as fools his supporters with the pride of Lucifer.
    At heart he serves the globalists and their anti-God agenda and this is why Hillary and George are all smiles.
    The Jewish peophet Daniel warned of a day when by peace many Jews would be destroyed. He could of warned us about all those phony smiles but that too would have gone unheeded.

  • Susan 09/17/2010 at 16:02

    Thank you for taking Charles Krauthammer to task for his ignorant statement. Even our most brilliant commentators err on occasion; some have the wisdom to apologize ( will he do so? it’s certainly the appropriate time of year). His large readership should be grateful for this jolt of reality you have sent their way.

  • Ron Grandinetti 09/17/2010 at 21:25

    Caroline, to say I am depressed is to say the least.
    How did the PM allow himself to get caught up in this phony peace process and to the extent he is willing to give up a portion of the Golan Heights to Syria.
    I have mentioned a number of times, none of the participants can be trusted.
    The Obama US team is looking for political capital they badly need for the November election, all self-serving and at the expense of Israel.
    Forget the Palestinians, Mahmoud Abbas is under control of the terrorist organization Hamas, they for sure they can’t be trusted and are not really interested in peace.
    What is needed, exit diplomacy ASAP. Since the PM got Israel in this mess let him figure a way out.
    Today begins Yom Kippur, a good time for all of us Christians and Jews to call on G-d to point Israel in the right direction.

  • Anonymous 09/17/2010 at 22:37

    I beg BN not to give up one more inch of Israel’s land.Millions of lives have been lost to hang on to this little postage stamp.Does he not know that G-D is on Israel’s side?

  • Bill Miley 09/17/2010 at 22:59

    Caroline, I know you’ve been a long time supporter of Netanyahu. A few weeks ago people were calling him the Israeli “Churchill”. Many hoped it was true–we so badly need a Churchill with the plethora of Chamberlains we have negotiating peace and setting policy.
    Hopefully it may yet be true. In any case we need to keep Israel in our prayers and call on G-D for mercy.

  • Onward James 09/18/2010 at 14:51

    Churchill and Islam
    “How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity.”
    In the following piece I mention Sir Martin Gilbert’s book “In Ishmael’s House” which I purchased for a fine reference book.
    Islam is also about deception. Be aware.
    Netanyahu must remain vigilan. Like Churchill said, “Never, never, never give in!

  • marcel 09/18/2010 at 18:17

    The U.S. Ghettoizing of Israel in it’s advance stage.
    Israel has to come to terms with the reality that the head of America has turned evil and a November election won’t rescue Israel.

    “One officer accused the prime minister of “shamefully and needlessly surrendering to American pressure.”

    Prime Minister Netanyahu is no match for the witchcraft of Secretary Clinton and he’s always put the nefarious US agenda ahead of Israel’s.
    U.S. leaders see how easy it is to push a desperate Israel around and keep squeezing and squeezing until the Jews are once again in managable ghettos ready for the ovens.
    This time it is done with craft,smiles and ‘talk’ of peace which seems to be enough to sell this latest Final Solution to Israel.
    The majority bought it ,hook line and sinker….and now Israel is sinking.
    What God is trying to tell His people is that Israel’s safety does not come from Washington or Likud or some smooth talking liar in a nice suit but from Him alone.
    Israel by now should have the sense to call upon the Lord and quit trusting in now reprobate and evil America.
    Jeremiah 17:5

  • sasoon 09/18/2010 at 18:39

    1 there will never be peace with the arabs because they is no chance they would accept a jewish state.
    2 you need to live in the arab world to understand that hopes for the acceptance of a jewish state are ridiculous.
    3 obama is the most dangerous personality there has been to the jewish enterprise for the last fifty years.

  • sasoon 09/18/2010 at 18:42

    netanyahu is in fact a very very weak personality.
    he is unable to say no to the americans.the fact that he craves the support of his defense minister tells us he is unable to stand up and fight for his views.

  • sasoon 09/18/2010 at 18:45

    there is massive peer pressure all over the world to pressure israel and give the jewish state a hard time.
    start with haaretz where the journalists seem to have taken a sharp turn to the left.that includes the more moderate writers on the paper.
    attacking israel is the present day method for attacking jews through other means.

  • Dennis Cast 09/19/2010 at 21:04

    To BB’s credit he is having to cowtow to a U.S. President who would like to put him out of office and at the same time assume the responsibility for the lives of those who put him into office.The United Selfesh America should butt out.
    I see nothing good in the “peace process”.
    Israel will only be forced to sign an agreement that they will have to give up land in return for being bombed.
    Instead let Israel shoot back.

  • Amy 09/20/2010 at 15:12

    Caroline, you couldn’t have made your argument more clear. This is “Danger of Negotiations 101” for anyone who is still in a fog regarding the significance of these talks.
    I would just like to add ONE SUGGESTION:
    You write:
    “By playing along with Obama’s sham peace talks, Netanyahu has made it difficult for Israel’s supporters in the US to explain why these talks are dangerous AND OFFER A COUNTER-POLICY that is based on experience and reality.”
    While this is true, it’s not the US Congress’ job to set to work on AN ALTERNATIVE TO ISRAEL’S PARTITION. This should be first the responsibility of the Israeli government. Failing that, then this task should be taken up by Israeli thinkers and activists.
    At the heart of the matter is the need for Israelis to reassert their country’s sovereignty. The solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict and foreign policy in general must originate in Israel and be managed by Israelis, not by foreign interests.
    So, I hope that in the immediate future a group of courageous and patriotic Israelis will take the initiative and come up with a proposal that is both sound and realistic.
    The PM stated recently that the majority of Israelis are behind him in his quest for Two States.
    If there is no counter-proposal, if there is no demand for a referendum, if there is no organization and unity by those opposed to partition, then Netanyahu, Obama, Congress and everyone else have every reason to think that Israelis are agreeing to the Two-States “solution”.
    MK Hotovely has offered a proposal for annexation. Her idea needs refinement but it’s a good start for a wider discussion involving a larger number of Israelis united behind this one idea: the need to keep the heartland.

  • naomir 09/20/2010 at 16:33

    Those of us with even just a bit of common sense , Jew and non Jew alike, realized the election of Barack Obama to the presidency signaled the beginning of isolation for Israel. Are Israel and her leaders so desperate to please the US that they are willing to risk everything including the annihilation of the Jewish state as we know it for a peace that will never be? Where is the strength and courage we have shown in the past? The world actually needs us more than we need them. It is still not too late to fight.

  • Anonymous 09/20/2010 at 23:19

    I had such high hopes for BB’s term in office. I thought him a man who would stand firm for Israel. Israel really needs to concentrate on survival and to hell with world opinion or pressure from the muslim sympathizer Obama.There is a good chance that the electorate will put in Conservatives this Nov and gain control of at least the House. If so, they will be able to throw roadblocks against Obama till we can place a Conservative in the White House in 2012. This is the plan. This is what we are working tirelessly towards. Israel should stall the Obama Admin until these goals are accomplished in America. 2 years. Stall for 2 yrs until you have an ally again.

  • Larry Snider 09/21/2010 at 1:09

    Dear Caroline,
    Krauthammer’s one voice in a sea of left and right wing commentators. No more, no less. As for Prime Minister Netanyahu, there comes a time in almost every leaders reign when they look beyond all the assumptions that got them there. Begin gave up the Sinai and peace has held with the Egyptians for more than a generation. There were threats all around you yesterday and unfortunately there will likely be threats there tomorrow. But during the past year there has been minimal violence in the West Bank. If Israel signs an agreement with the Palestinians the United States will force Saudi Arabia and other Arab States to recognize Israel and begin to advance diplomatic and economic relations. This will not prevent Iran from continuing its efforts to develop, distribute and possibly utilize nuclear weapons, but it can change the texture of the Middle East back in Israel’s favor.

  • Josh 09/21/2010 at 19:37

    Larry, your comments are very short-sighted and ignore reality. Menachem Begin did backtrack and give up the Sinai, but the peace with Egypt has been a very cold one and is still very fragile. The recent rocket attacks against Israel and Jordan came from the very Sinai, now controlled by Egypt and UN peacekeepers, that Israel gave up for “peace,” and Egypt leads the the world in the global distribution of anti-Semitic literature (a blatant violation of the treaty Egypt signed with Israel). Egypt also continues to undermine Israel in every international forum and refuses to put a stop to Hamas weapons smuggling operations, which Egypt knows leads to dead Israelis. Furthermore, if the Mubarak regime is overthrown and the Muslim Brotherhood takes over, the American-trained Egyptian military would be under the control of a fanatical Islamist regime and would be used against Israel. An invasion of Israel could and would then be launched from the very Sinai Israel gave up for “peace” or from Gaza (Hamas is an arm of the Muslim Brotherhood). It would be May/June 1967 all over again. In addition, the treaty that Begin signed provided no compensation for Egyptian Jews expelled from Egypt, and allowed Egypt to avoid having to take responsibility for resettling the Arabs of Gaza, thus allowing the Arabs of Gaza to remain a thorn in Israel’s side. By not demanding that Egypt and the rest of the Arab world take responsibility for the Arab refugee problem they caused by invading the newborn State of Israel in 1948 or compensate the Jews they expelled from their lands, Begin set a very dangerous precedent.


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