Time, that is, to consider the new freeze deal dead? Officially, not quite. Although we are getting close.
Yesterday, PM Netanyahu called a meeting to lobby Likud MKs on supporting the freeze. He discussed his red lines regarding any additional freeze after the 90 days, securing a US promise to veto a Palestinian unilateral declaration of statehood at the UN, and other matters that we’ve heard about before.
Of primary interest with regard to this meeting is that Deputy Minister Ayoub Kara, who was present, reported that, “[The prime minister] is not certain that the United States will receive our demands, and not certain that the Palestinian Authority will accept them.”
Indeed? This is markedly different in tone from the public statements by the prime minister.
Coalition Chair Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) reiterated Kara’s sentiment: “Of course, these things will not be agreed upon. I did not hear confidence from the prime minister that the Americans will give us a document that fully reflects the understandings that would enable him to bring the moratorium for a cabinet vote.”
For the first time now, there are hints that Minister of Education Gideon Sa’ar (Likud), who has been in the pro-freeze camp (because of political considerations) may be having second thoughts. And Shas is said to be angry at the prime minister for misrepresenting the situation and leading everyone to believe that US assurances would be forthcoming.
Reportedly, there is a new idea floating outside of government circles that advocates delaying any moratorium we might agree to until the Palestinian Arabs actually come to the table. No point in making the sacrifice, goes the logic, if the other side is not going to cooperate. The problem with this is that even if we ended up not actually instituting a freeze, we would have gone on record as being willing to do so in principle. And that’s bad.
With all that I’ve written above, there may be changes now, because of a vote just taken in the Knesset. I have actually been delaying the transmission of this posting, waiting through the hours of debate, so that I might learn of voting results.
What has been called the Golan Bill has just passed its second and third (and final) reading in the Knesset– 65 to 33. This bill requires a national referendum or a vote by a supermajority of the Knesset (80 votes out of 120) before there can be any withdrawal from areas of Israel that are under civilian law. This applies specifically and most pertinently to the Golan Heights and Jerusalem (Judea and Samaria being under military law).
It is an exceedingly important law, as it would prevent the sort of thing former PM Ariel Sharon pulled with the withdrawal from Gaza. Only if there were a clear national consensus in favor of withdrawal could it happen — no prime minister, not Netanyahu and not anyone else, is now able to proceed autonomously in approving a withdrawal from Jerusalem or the Golan. Not even with a Cabinet vote or a simple majority of the Knesset. And I think it’s safe to say that the chances of a majority of the voters of this nation, or a supermajority of the Knesset voting to surrender part of Jerusalem (which is the issue on the agenda right now) is very slight indeed. There is no issue that garners as strong and passionate a consensus as this does.
And it’s also safe to say that without a surrender of part of Jerusalem to the Arabs, there would be no deal.
What fascinates me here is the efforts that have been expended by PM Netanyahu to push through this bill. Labor requested that it be postponed (would you believe: because it would threaten peace overtures with Syria?) and he declined to do so. He is saying that this vote prevents any “irresponsible” agreement from being forged and will guarantee that any action taken has strong public backing. What he will bring forward, he is suggesting, will respond to Israel’s “security needs” and will get that strong backing.
This last sentence should be taken as spin that attempts to show that this measure is not meant to be obstructionist, but rather to guarantee that all deals have solid backing.
My reading, however, is that Netanyahu is eager to have measures in place that put the brakes on, so that he cannot be coerced into surrendering either Jerusalem or the Golan. This for me affirms my long held conviction that, while Netanyahu plays a very dangerous game, and is forever eager to appear cooperative in the extreme, he is not Ariel Sharon. Netanyahu is a tough (and I would say, dirty) fighter. If he didn’t want this bill to proceed, he would have blocked it. But it appears that he does not want to be in a position in which he could unilaterally agree to surrender part of Jerusalem to the Arabs, and thus would be pushed to do so. This bill makes that impossible.
Rather than saying no himself, he now can rely on the process of the bill to cover his rear.
More on this bill will certainly follow.
Will we hear from the Arabs, and from Obama, and from the EU on this? Oh, yes, indeed. We will be accused of obstructionist action and showing bad faith that hinders “peace.” And worse. The fact that Israel is a democracy, and that this bill merely seeks to protect the will of the people from being thwarted will be totally ignored.
For a taste of what we are in for:
An official paper — referred to as a “study” — prepared by Al-Mutawakel Taha, a senior official with the PA Ministry of Information, was released today by the PA.
It maintains that Jews have no claim to the Western Wall, which is an integral part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Haram al-Sarif (Temple Mount).
This paper further claims that the Western Wall, (Al-Buraq Wall) is Waqf property owned by an Algerian-Moroccan Muslim family.
I spoke yesterday about Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper and his brave and honorable position.
Professor Efraim Inbar and David M. Weinberg have now written a piece for BESA — “A Salute to Stephen Harper” — in which they express praise for him:
“Our Biblical patriarch Abraham pleaded with God to rescind the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, arguing that the virtues of just a few righteous people could suffice to save that world.
“In our modern world, that righteous person – whose voice of conscience, critique and courage may be the saving grace – is surely Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
“In his speech before a meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism in Ottawa last week, Harper sounded the clearest and most courageous call of this century against modern anti-Semitism and hatred of the Jewish state. In fact, Harper’s entire political career has been punctuated by steadfast support for Israel and the Jewish People, with clarity of vision and intensity unparalleled in recent times…”
Please, take the time to hear PM Harper’s marvelous statement on anti-Semitism in this video:
And then, I encourage you to write and thank him:
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.