What better word for the current situation?
Two days ago, Netanyahu met with Obama in Washington, and Netanyahu then requested a second consultation. Apparently to clarify certain matters or, you should excuse the expression, provide justification for things we are doing. It all took place in a black-out, with no joint statement released, no press conference. Obama was showing his royal ire, cold shouldering our prime minister.
Jackson Diehl, writing in The Washington Post, described the situation thus:
“Obama has added more poison to a U.S.-Israeli relationship that already was at its lowest point in two decades. Tuesday night the White House refused to allow non-official photographers record the president’s meeting with Netanyahu; no statement was issued afterward. Netanyahu is being treated as if he were an unsavory Third World dictator, needed for strategic reasons but conspicuously held at arms length. That is something the rest of the world will be quick to notice and respond to. Just like the Palestinians, European governments cannot be more friendly to an Israeli leader than the United States.”
Anyone who imagines that this was done by Obama out of a sincere effort to get Israel to be on board for a constructive “peace process” can think again. There is malice inherent in his approach: in his belittling of the only democracy and sincere ally the US has in the Middle East, we see a consciously destructive stance.
Diehl refers to one element of this with regard to Europeans picking up on the US attitude towards Israel (see below), but even more so is this the case with the Palestinian Arabs, and Arabs more generally.
In line with previous statements, Abbas has now declared that he’s following the interaction between Obama and Netanyahu, and is not convinced that anything meaningful is happening. Thus he is not prepared to participate in negotiations.
Translation: Hey, Obama is doing a great job of taking down Netanyahu, so why should I risk having to make concessions in negotiations when we can continue the way it’s going.
Alternate translation: I really really am not interested in negotiations now, and it’s so great that Obama is taking this tough stance with Netanyahu and giving me a pass.
On this, see Steven Pollard, writing in the Guardian, who suggests that “Palestinian demands on Jerusalem are a ruse to end negotiations.”
Following his tense meetings with Obama, Netanyahu delayed his return to Israel and huddled in the Israel Embassy with key advisors who had accompanied him and Israeli ambassador Michael Oren. As news reports had it, they were engaged in a fevered pitch of creative thinking in order to devise a plan to be presented to Obama that would permit “proximity” negotiations to begin. Multiple sources suggested that we were supposed to deliver a signed document that would commit us to certain matters. As always and ever, “trust building” gestures were expected.
All of this put a considerable knot in my stomach. The suggestion, once again, that “peace” depended on us and us alone, and required ever more concessions from us, is vile.
An article in the JPost spoke about drafting of “a document outlining Israeli commitments and obligations to launch proximity talks with the Palestinians.” And it’s here that I confess to being totally mystified. How can Israel, unilaterally, “launch” talks?
Consider, as well, the statement of Jordan’s King Abdullah (echoing Obama’s tone): “Israel is playing with fire” and “must decide if it wants war or peace.” And what, pray tell, “must” Abbas do?
Israeli diplomatic staff met with American officials last night in an attempt to iron out disagreements. Originally it was said that Netanyahu was hoping to achieve a situation of increased US-Israeli accord before leaving the US.
But at the end of the day (or night), it was announced that Netanyahu would be seeking the counsel and approval of his inner cabinet of seven here, before formally agreeing to anything. And so he has come home. Now we’re being told that the inner cabinet would be meeting tomorrow and not tonight, as originally announced. He will be presenting the American demands and his responses.
Beyond this point, I, along with a whole lot of others, must move into the realm of speculation. Those on the inside are particularly tight-lipped at present; it is near impossible to determine what Netanyahu said to Obama, and what he will be asking his inner cabinet to approve.
I’ve encountered analytic interpretations of what’s going on that in some cases are diametrically opposed. There is one opinion that says telling the Americans that he had to seek the approval of his cabinet was merely Netanyahu’s out on something that he didn’t want to do anyway. (A good cop-bad cop routine.) The reverse opinion says that since Netanyahu already told the Americans what he would be asking his cabinet to approve, it’s as good as a done deal even if it is not formal yet.
Our prime minister could say, “Look guys, I know you won’t like this, and it’s OK. I’m not too keen on it myself.” Or he could threaten that there will be hell to pay for our country if they don’t sign on.
Two things do seem fairly obvious. One is that the point of greatest danger for Netanyahu was when he was in the US, in unfriendly territory and under direct duress. He’s home now, among friends ready to circle the wagons — and in this environment, the pressure to give what Obama wants is diminished.
The second is that Israeli backs are stiffened by the heavy-handed and rude tactics of Obama. Unless I’m very mistaken (or Netanyahu shares with them some genuinely serious repercussions of refusal to accept what was discussed with the Americans), the inner cabinet is not likely to go along.
According to YNet, in telephone conversation when Netanyahu was in Washington, Foreign Minister Lieberman urged him to come home without having signed anything.
The issue at the heart of this current state of affairs is Jerusalem, and our right to build in our capital city.
In days past, I’ve alluded to unconfirmed rumors regarding under-the-table understandings Netanyahu made with regard to construction in Jerusalem. I’ve picked up all sorts of ideas — from a promise by Netanyahu that he would run all construction plans by the Americans before proceeding, to the possibility that he would de facto delay Jerusalem construction without formally freezing it.
These various hints unsettled me, because it’s all too obvious that what’s on the surface may be only a part of what has transpired. That is, I gave the rumors, or their possibility, some limited credence. But the virulence of the current state of US-Israeli affairs leads me to believe that some quiet deal on Jerusalem has not been struck at all.
The truth of the matter should become obvious in time: we’ll know if building is going on, permits are being signed, or not.
Eli Yeshai (Shas), Interior Minister, has said that he thanks Heaven for allowing him to be Interior Ministry and have the right to approve thousands of new housing units to be constructed.
He maintains that the government will continue to advance construction projects in Jerusalem, and there will be no moratorium in building.
Words. May we see their actualization.
One particular bone of contention, sparking American demands that we “explain,” was an announcement regarding 20 new apartments to be built in the Shimon HaTzadik (Sheikh Jarrah) neighborhood — especially as the announcement on this was said to have been made in the wake of the flap over Ramat Shlomo building and just as Netanyahu was supposed to meet with Obama.
This involves the Shepherd Hotel project, and a statement released by the Jerusalem municipality makes it clear what the distortions were regarding this project, and what the rush to foment tensions:
“The report is distorted and is meant to stir up a provocation during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit in Washington.The plan was approved in July 2009 by the local planning committee. Its approval was published in the media at the time. The landowners only paid the fees on March 15th, 2010 and approval was granted automatically after that.”
Israel National News suggests the possibility (not far-fetched in my opinion) that parties eager to damage or weaken Netanyahu leaked the fact of technical approvals on building projects — first in Ramat Shlomo and then here — deliberately making matters seem like more than they were. I will not belabor here thoughts on who might be involved, but I will mention that one theory has it that the goal is to make it necessary for Netanyahu to take Livni’s Kadima party into the coalition.
What particularly distressed me was that I read that Netanyahu and his team went to the meetings with the Americans with a chart, with time lines and an outline of bureaucratic processes, in an effort to explain housing approval procedures. Terribly demeaning. How much do we, as a sovereign nation, have an obligation to justify ourselves?
Something else that has been greatly distorted in the press has been the question of what General Petraeus actually did or did not say regarding the linkage between US efforts with Iran, or in Afghanistan, and Israeli “obstinacy” in making peace. I offer here a link to a piece that carries a denial directly by the general regarding what he was alleged to have said:
I alluded above to the influence Obama likely has on how European nations are prepared to treat Israel. The UK has just expelled an Israeli diplomat, someone with Mossad connections, as a protest against Israel (and the Mossad) for allegedly using forged UK passports in the assassination of Hamas terrorist Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai. Linkage of Israel to this assassination has never been documented, but this seems not to bother British officials.
As we would say here: Lo yafeh. Not nice.
It’s worth noting that the British values are so skewed that the matter of the passports takes precedence over the possibility that Israel eliminated someone who deserved mightily to be eliminated.