With the state of world affairs, it would be difficult indeed to feel a sense of ease.
In an “exclusive” today the Jerusalem Post reported that PM Netanyahu, when he goes to the US on May 18, plans to tell President Obama that Israel will accept “some form” of the Arab peace plan.
While the first impulse is to fear that he’s caved already — I intend to give Netanyahu the benefit of the doubt here. At least until I know more.
We must remember that this is not an official announcement. The Post got this from “sources” close to government planning.
And then, we need to know what “some form” of the plan means. The Arab (Saudi) plan is a recipe for Israel’s destruction, calling as it does for our return to ’67 lines and “return of refugees.” Netanyahu is not about to sign off on either of these. Then, what?
Aaron Lerner, on his IMRA website today, asks if Netanyahu is doing some “fancy verbal footwork.” And indeed that may be precisely the case.
It may be that Netanyahu wants to appear to have given Obama something, without actually giving him anything. Yes, he can intone, this and this part of the plan resonate with us. Then Obama can put out press releases about how he is already moving matters along. While Netanyahu, knowing full well that all the pieces are not going to fall into place, remains confident of the outcome: no “two state solution,” no withdrawals from Judea and Samaria, no dividing Jerusalem.
But this high level game-playing is risky. It requires nerves of steel and the ability to know when to stop. Otherwise you’re on your way down that slippery slope, and something truly is conceded.
But there is more. And it’s most unsettling. According to the Post report, Israel “will compromise on the Palestinian issue to obtain more direct and aggressive US assistance on the Iranian front.”
This linking of the two issues was verbalized last week by Secretary Clinton. What she suggested was that we won’t get support from the Arab states for taking on Iran unless the Arabs see we are moving on Palestinian negotiations. This was both offensive and off base, for behind the bluster is the Arab desire to see us stand strong against Iran.
So, is Netanyahu caving in response to what she said, or is he trying to maneuver the situation to his advantage?
The next question to be asked, of course, is what the quid pro quo would be: Precisely what sort of US assistance on the Iranian front would be sufficient for Netanyahu to become more “flexible” with regard to the Palestinians? Additional sophisticated weaponry or equipment? Permission to fly over Iraq?
Here I make a speculation, coming from nothing but my own sense of the situation and my understanding of our prime minister. The issue of the danger of Iran has loomed large in Netanyahu’s consciousness for some time. He’s been speaking consistently and forcefully about the need to take action.
Could it be that he’s doing an abbreviated sort of triage here? If — and it would be rightly so — he sees Iran as THE existential danger to us, he would conclude that it’s the threat most important to counter. And, even as he still intends to hold the ground against a Palestinian state, he would see caving (or appearing to cave) on that issue, up to a point, wise if it allows us to more effectively take on Iran.
Only speculation. Only questions. For now.
It’s actually easy to see why Netanyahu, along with a great many of us, is being driven to distraction by Obama’s stance on Iran.
Yesterday, the White House rejected any suggestion of putting time limits on its negotiations with Iran and suggested that this process could take a long time.
White House National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer told reporters that “it’s not appropriate at this time to be trying to establish timetables, but rather seeing how the engagement can move forward…there are opportunities there for us to engage with the Iranian government.”
But in terms of Iranian nuclear development we don’t have a long time. This is precisely what the Israeli government has been imploring the US not to do.
To exacerbate the situation, there is this:
Mehdi Ghazanfari, head of the Iranian Trade Promotion Agency, has told an Iranian news agency that Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France and the United Kingdom have carried out some $15.4 billion in bilateral trade with Iran over the past year.
And people wonder why sanctions haven’t worked. What these self-serving, short-sighted nations are doing is in defiance of UN Security Council sanctions imposed on Iran.
Larry Summers, Obama’s chief economic adviser, went to a Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration at the Israeli Embassy in Washington yesterday, carrying a message from the president:
Obama, he said, would pursue peace, but not at all costs. His administration remains committed to the security and independence of Israel.
Not remotely do I believe this.
Summers explained that Obama would pursue, “Peace that defends innocent people, peace that guarantees freedom, peace that does not reward terror, peace that the Middle East deserves after such a long time.”
What platitudinous and vacuous words.
Putting the lie more definitively to the conciliatory words above is a report from the World Tribune, citing Israeli intelligence sources. One source was quoted as saying:
“Obama wants to make friends with our worst enemies and [those who were] until now the worst enemies of the United States. Under this policy, we are more than irrelevant. We have become an obstacle.”
The prediction being made is that Obama would continue to appease Syria, and Iran, believing that this would make it more possible to withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Obama will want to show Iran, Syria and radical Muslims that the United States could pressure Israel on a strategic level. The pressure has already begun and will intensify throughout the next year or two.”
The report further said that the Obama administration would ignore Israeli advice, and, indeed, that is precisely what we’re seeing with regard to US refusal to put time limits on talks with Iran.