Not I. And likely not most of the people who have put out very authoritative reports on how Netanyahu has or has not caved to Obama.
This posting comes simply to inform you that there is so much conflicting information that nothing definitive can be offered. Only those on the inside know. And so, to take any one report as the absolute truth on the subject might well be premature.
What is known is this: Netanyahu is on his way to Washington to address the AIPAC Conference. Before Shabbat he spoke with Clinton, who was mollified by what was said and subsequently spoke in more positive tones. But who knows what was said? Reports are that Netanyahu did not make very specific commitments but rather suggested a direction, which was followed up by a letter.
There are essentially four areas that Obama was seeking a response to: freezing construction in Jerusalem; allowing into Gaza more goods, such as construction materials (notice that I didn’t say stopping the blockade because there really is no “blockade,” as huge amounts of foodstuffs, medicines and commercial goods go in regularly); making a gesture to Abbas such as release of some prisoners; and agreeing to discuss content and not format during the proximity talks.
At the Cabinet meeting today, the prime minister said the following:
“Israel’s message during the visit to the United States will be sharp and clear. Our policy on Jerusalem is like the policy in the past 42 years.
“As far as we are concerned, building in Jerusalem is like building in Tel Aviv, and we have made this clear to the Americans.”
This is a critical matter, and caving on this would have upset a majority of the nation, and certainly many members of his coalition. Jerusalem is an issue on which there is truly national consensus.
I’m going to take Netanyahu at his word here, unless or until I learn otherwise, and I celebrate this response.
I do mention in passing that there were rumors that he would not formally agree to freeze construction but would unofficially stall permits so that de facto there would be no construction until the end of the 10-month freeze.
You can rest assured that many people will be watching this.
Rumors — a report from Haaretz, certainly — have it that it has been conceded that construction material and other items now blocked because they might get into Hamas hands will be permitted into Gaza. I have no confirmation on this.
Similarly, there is unconfirmed talk about the release of a handful of prisoners as a gesture (a very nauseating gesture) to Abbas. One analyst I spoke with today indicated this may not be as critical as it seems, as those released would be prisoners who do not have blood on their hands and were scheduled to be let go in two or three months anyway.
What does seem to have happened is that Netanyahu has agreed to discuss core issues, rather than just procedural issues, during the proximity talks. What he said during the Cabinet meeting was:
“We also made it clear that in the proximity talks with the Palestinians, while each side will be able to raise its positions on the issues in dispute, a tangible solution to the fundamental problems between us and the Palestinians will be achievable only in direct peace talks. It cannot be otherwise.”
If this is the case, it is tolerable. Raising the issues during the proximity talks is one thing, if there will be no serious negotiations aimed at resolution without face to face.
It seems clear to me that some concession was made, because on Tuesday Obama is going to meet with Netanyahu. I was, quite honestly, hoping that our prime minister would walk away with his head held high and no meeting.
A key problem with making any concession is that there is no end to the demands placed upon us. It is never enough, and we’re forever being called upon to prove ourselves and offer more. There comes a time to stop offering.
A couple of days ago Netanyahu was said to be suggesting reciprocal concessions. Where did that idea go? The way of all demands on the PA, I imagine. How is it, that it is expected of us that we’ll negotiate with a group that teaches its children that Israel has no legitimacy and jihad is a virtue? How is it, that the only issue raised is “settlements”?
Sure enough: The comment of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, while visiting this area was that “all settlement activity is illegal and must stop.” Do you catch any news about his saying that incitement must stop? If he said that, I sure missed it. Guess naming a city square after a terrorist is OK in his book.
On a tour of Gaza, Ban said, “My message to the people of Gaza is this: The United Nations will stand with you, through this ordeal.” Clearly without solid information, he called for the end of the Israeli “blockade,” which he said causes “unacceptable suffering.” The reality is that while there are shortages, there is no humanitarian suffering in Gaza.
It’s a bit difficult to express precisely how tiresome all of this is. Ban did not address the issue of smuggling of increasingly sophisticated arms into Gaza.
Let me end with a statement — released by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs — made by then prime minister Menachem Begin with regard to US measures against Israel in 1981. A model in courage and dignity (and how we have fallen!). In part it says:
“A week ago, at the instance of the Government, the Knesset passed on all three readings by an overwhelming majority of two-thirds, the ‘Golan Heights Law.’
“Now you once again declare that you are punishing Israel.
“What kind of expression is this – ‘punishing Israel’? Are we a vassal state of yours? Are we a banana republic? Are we youths of fourteen who, if they don’t behave properly, are slapped across the fingers?
“Let me tell you who this government is composed of. It is composed of people whose lives were spent in resistance, in fighting and in suffering. You will not frighten us with ‘punishments’. He who threatens us will find us deaf to his threats. We are only prepared to listen to rational arguments.
“You have no right to ‘punish’ Israel – and I protest at the very use of this term.”
See the entire statement: