If I could turn myself into a fly on the wall, and be present at key meetings, it would be great. Or if I could read minds. But I have not the power to do either. Yet I sit here at my computer, trying to put together various statements made by government officials (for the most part as filtered through the reportage of various media sources), and various conclusions drawn by knowledgeable persons whose opinions I have sought. And it isn’t quite coming together.
Yesterday I wrote about a quid pro quo that PM Netanyahu may well believe he will receive from Obama in return for an apparent gesture towards “peace” — i.e,. the dismantling of some “illegal outposts.” Netanyahu, after all, had made an impassioned statement to his Likud faction with regard to this, as reported in several sources. This involves making Obama look good in his bid for “peace,” so that he’s more amenable on other issues.
Today I picked the brain of a savvy individual who often has inside information, and he reiterated this same perspective. He maintained, in fact, that the coalition was so structured that any major concession would be blocked, and that there was in the end no great need for concern.
I could go with that perspective. I still may.
But today the problem is conflicting statements and positions that are not coming together coherently. This leads to the almost inevitable conclusion that there is more going on than meets the eye. The “more” is not necessarily bad, but it suggests game playing at some level.
Consider all of the following, keeping in mind that these are media reports, which means that the journalists’ own perspectives may have to be factored in.
Reports today that Netanyahu, after having denied any connection, is starting to see it Obama’s way: that there is a linkage between progress on the Israeli-Palestinian front and ability to successfully counter Iran. Surely he doesn’t believe this. To say this is different from simply buying into a quid pro quo deal. Is this just part of the role he’s playing?
But then Barak made an impassioned statement that it has to be explained to America that there is no connection between taking down outposts and countering Iran. So Barak wasn’t playing the same game. Or had a different role. Or what? A good cop-bad cop act with Netanyahu?
One suspects it’s a role because of one particular statement he made: “It’s not as if the moment the last outpost is dismantled…the Iranians will abandon their nuclear ambitions.” Come on! No one ever suggested this would happen. The linkage originally made by the Obama administration was with regard to Arab nations who would be more supportive of our stance against Iran if we made concessions towards the Palestinians. This is also nonsense, but different from what Barak was saying.
And still we’re not done. There are also reports that Barak, who is going to Washington next week for meetings with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and National Security Advisor General James Jones, will propose that we dismantle all 24 illegal outposts within the next few weeks in exchange for US approval on our doing construction for natural growth in major settlement blocs.
In fact, Minister Dan Meridor has gone to London to meet with some US officials there to coordinate plans for Barak’s visit.
But if this is true, this is stomach turning. Because we don’t need US permission to build in our settlements. We should do what we need to do for our best interest and be done with it. No need to get Obama to sign off on it!
In fact, it was my understanding that our government had already communicated to the US that for the present we intend to continue building in settlements, at least for natural growth. According to a Reuters report, at the Cabinet meeting this week, Netanyahu told the Cabinet, “The demand for a total stop to building is not something that can be justified and I don’t think that anyone here at this table accepts it.”
Besides which, and this is a major catch, the government is now presenting the dismantling of outposts as a trade off for two different things: Obama’s increased cooperation on Iran and Obama’s “approval” of our building in our settlements.
They had better get their act together. Or their stories straight.
But when I encounter communication from horrified readers who see Netanyahu as totally dishonest and a sell-out, I recall other Netanyahu positions:
Say what you will, he sat next to Obama, who was crystal clear about expecting a “two-state solution,” and he did not utter that mantra.
And last week, he said very publicly that Jerusalem will remain undivided under Israeli sovereignty forever. Not only that, we will build there without restrictions. That is a proud and appropriate defiance, not a sell-out.
And so here I’m going to resort to my fall-back position, which is “Wait and See.” Being ever watchful and dilgent while doing so, of course.
One thing that continues to be most encouraging is the nationalist strength of the current coalition, including members of Likud. I alluded to some of this yesterday, and there is no doubt in my mind but that it will have a major effect on how matters play out. We’re not watching Netanyahu in a vacuum, after all.
Today there was a significant seminar held in the Knesset on the issue of alternatives to a two-state solution, organized by MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud). Remember that name. She’s young (31), she’s dynamic, she’s sharp, and she has her priorities right. She’s up-and-coming for sure.
The fact of such a seminar is cause for hope.
A number of significant people spoke, including: Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya’alon (Likud); Minister of Internal Affairs Eli Yeshai (Shas); Minister of Information Yuli Edelstein (Likud); MK Robert Illatov (Yisrael Beitenu); Former Ambassador Yoram Ettinger; Maj.-Gen. (res) Giora Eiland, former head of the National Security Council; and Moshe Arens, who has served as ambassador to the US, foreign minister and defense minister in various Likud governments.
The messages of these various speakers varied in details but were consistent in their perspective: A two-state solution would be a disaster were it to happen, it is not viable and won’t happen.
As Moshe Ya’alon said:
“We have to free ourselves from this failed approach and its erroneous premise in order to allow for new patterns of thought.
“In handling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict we should not apply terms like ‘solution’ in the foreseeable future, rather the terms should be ‘crisis management’ or coping in the long-term. This strategy should maintain and strengthen [our] interests while managing the conflict, and working towards stabilization in the distant future.”
While Eli Yeshai observed:
“I am willing to give up the embraces [from the US] and keep the assets. We keep trying to get the Americans to like us when we should be sticking to what we know to be true.”
Various alternatives were discussed, such as some form of autonomy within Palestinian cities and cooperation with Jordan on the Palestinians.
Ahmed Queria, who was PA chief negotiator for Annapolis talks, has given an interview to Haaretz.
One phrase caught my eye, as it tells the truth of their position:
“If they want peace, they should pay the price.”