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November 25, 2009: Bad News

April 6, 2010

It’s almost Thanksgiving in the US.  I attended a shiur (a religious lesson) this morning, and a forum tonight, and I was going to pass on posting for a bit.  (It’s almost midnight as I write.)  But I cannot.  I must send out this message, with more to follow.

Prime Minister Netanyahu tonight formally announced what has been rumored: A 10-month freeze on building in the communities of Judea and Samaria.  Those construction projects already in the works (some 3,000 units) will continue, and, at least in theory, construction for public buildings — schools, etc. — will be permitted even during the 10 months.  Jerusalem is not included in the freeze. The Security Cabinet approved the move this afternoon.

Not good.  In fact, very bad.  A concession that weakens us and should not have been made.  We have a right to be in Judea and Samaria. Period.

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In announcing this, Netanyahu made a big deal about the fact that it will bring us closer to “peace” — that it is good for Israel and shows the world that we’re sincere about “peace.”

Garbage.

On Monday, incredibly, he made a statement saying that he believed he was “uniquely positioned” to bring the public to support an “historic agreement with the Palestinians.”  Does he have a messiah complex?  To play the game astutely, to protect us from unnecessary international pressure and hostile actions is one thing.  To imagine he can actually achieve a solid and meaningful “peace agreement” with the Palestinian Arabs is something else.  (This is completely aside from whether he should attempt to do so, whether he can or not.)

Anyone who knows anything of substance about the current situation within the PA knows full well that they cannot sign off on a final agreement for a “two-state solution” because they don’t have a state and are not in a position to produce a state.  If we pull out of Judea and Samaria (G-d forbid!) Hamas will move in sooner or later, and there will be a host of other problems even before Hamas arrives.  (I will be returning to the whole issue of why even attempting to negotiate for a state makes no sense.) It cannot be that Netanyahu doesn’t know this.  So what is he babbling about? Why is he promoting it with the public as something that is good for Israel? Weakening us cannot be good for us.

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One news source indicated that Netanyahu agreed upon this in his recent — secret — meeting with Obama. Right after the meeting, Netanyahu had said that, in time, we’d see why it had to be a secret, and I’ve been wondering about that.  But this is not the “why.”  There’s more.  There had to be.  Is there something Obama held over his head?  What? 

This represents a double concession — to the Palestinian Arabs, and to the Obama government.  I cited Barry Rubin the other day, who said we could learn from what has been going on that concessions aren’t appreciated, they only bring a demand for more concessions.  And here were are:  US Envoy Mitchell, speaking in the US, said that, well, this Netanyahu commitment doesn’t really conform with the administration’s full position — which is that the settlements have to go — but it’s a good step, more than any prime minister has done until now.

During the forum I attended tonight (which I will return to), Dore Gold, Director of the Jerusalem Center for Public affairs, stated that the Obama administration never refers to Security Council resolution 242, which says we are not required to pull back to the Green Line. Obama simply talks about “the West Bank” as “Palestinian.”

When you’re dealing with people such as this — who want to deprive us fully of our rights– you don’t give part way.  This simply encourages them to demand the whole package.  You stand strong and tell them, No way!

Is Netanyahu proud that he’s done what no other prime minister has done? 

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Take a look at IMRA (http://imra.org).  Director Aaron Lerner has posted a series of Archive pieces that trace the recent history of the issue of a settlement freeze.  Note this please:

In April, when the Czech prime minister visited, Netanyahu told him he didn’t want to be pressured:  “I have no plans to build new settlements, but if someone wants to build a new home [in an existing settlement], I don’t think there’s a problem.”  He said Judea and Samaria were “disputed” territory and their disposition would be decided by negotiations. 

Slowly this position has eroded.

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And let’s look, just briefly, at the PA attitude.

Just yesterday, PA president Mahmoud Abbas said Obama has done nothing for peace.  He was waiting for the American president to pressure Israel.

And — Heaven help us! — the day after Abbas said this, Netanyahu makes a large concession. Is this timing coincidence, or a sick joke? Or a really really miserable attempt to make Obama happy?

Interviewed by an Argentinean magazine, Abbas was asked what he would concede for peace.  Abbas answered that his people has “already made concessions.” Like what, for instance? 

Said Abbas, the current Israeli gov’t was not seeking peace.  This too makes the timing of Netanyahu’s announcement terrible.  Like eager puppets, we have to show the PA how much we’ll do and how sincere we are, right after they indicate they expect us to give but don’t intend to concede anything themselves??  Oi, and oi.

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Yesha (Yesha = Yehuda, Shomron, Gaza) Council chair Danny Dayan noted tonight that Netanyahu’s big theme has always been “reciprocity.”  We don’t give unilaterally, he has insisted.  We must get in return.  So now he has betrayed that principle.

With regard to this, even though a freeze still would not be acceptable, it would have been considerably more palatable or reasonable (or done with more national dignity) if Netanyahu has demanded a return action. 

The whole point of this is to “encourage” the PA to come to the table.  But they won’t.  They’ve already said so, because Jerusalem is not included in the freeze and their demands continue at a maximalist level.  They don’t want to negotiate, in any event.  How would they even manage if they got that “state”?

What if Netanyahu had said, IF the PA will come to the table, then I’ll do the freeze? That would have shown “flexibility” and “sincerity” on our part, but would have put the onus squarely where it belongs, and would have left us with no freeze once they refused to come to the table.

Now, it appears exceedingly likely that we’ll remain frozen even if they don’t come to the table. The big concern here is that it should not last for more than 10 months — that it should not establish a precedent that just goes on.

There are those who see this as a sure sign that it’s meant by Netanyahu to be the beginning of the end, a signal that he will allow us to be pushed out of most or all of Judea and Samaria.

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If there’s any good news tonight it’s that a lot of people on the right are enraged.  I do think there’s more sensitivity to the dangers of such a move than there was before the expulsion from Gaza.  People have been burned, and the nation is wary.

Dayan of the Yesha Council also said this tonight:

“The Netanyahu government was elected based on its promise to promote settlement activity in the West Bank, but immediately after it was established this government began to constrain the settlement enterprise. The cabinet ministers are obligated to prevent this.”

And there’s a question here, as to whether, indeed, it will still be brought before the full Cabinet.

Likud MK Danny Danon made excellent points when he said:

“We were elected to bolster the settlement enterprise, not freeze construction. The freeze constitutes a statement that the settlements are an obstacle to peace, while up until this point Likud has backed the concept that the settlers guarantee Israel’s security.”

Continued Danon:

“We will demand that Netanyahu bring the issue to a Likud faction and Central Committee vote, to make certain that the Sharon trauma [Gaza withdrawal] does not repeat itself.”

Information and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein (also Likud) said, “I will not lend my hand to this process that will ultimately endanger the security of Israel and won’t bring us even a tiny bit closer to peace.”

Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely, straight-talking and tough, was none too pleased either.

So Netanyahu will find it tough going within his own party.

(I’m mindful of the fact that, within the inner circle, we have no word from and no indication of the positions of Moshe Ya’alon and Benny Begin.  When the gov’t was formed, their presence provided reassurance that Netanyahu would be kept straight. Do they know something we don’t know?  Are they screaming behind closed doors?  Or are they holding on to the status quo?)

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There are calls for Netanyahu to resign (fat chance), and those who would now attempt to bring the gov’t down.  My problem with bringing the gov’t down is that the alternative — Livni and Kadima — would certainly be no better and might be worse.  I don’t see it as a viable solution.

What we must remember is that this is, broadly, a right-leaning coalition.  Faction chair Zevulun Orlev of HaBayit Hayehudi — a member of the coalition — said his party would seek alternative political means of cracking the freeze.  And he is calling on other parties in the coalition — Yisrael Beitenu and Shas — to unite to work against this.

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My friends, when there was ambiguity and it wasn’t clear what Netanyahu was up to, I said forthrightly that I wouldn’t criticize and that I was not in a position to judge all of the parameters of an extraordinarily difficult situation.  (Facing off against Obama IS extraordinarily difficult, and, with everything, I always keep Iran, and the need for US cooperation on this, in my mind.) I felt that he might be “playing the game,” taking risks, but with reason, and astutely.  I promised I’d scream if I saw reason to do so.  Tonight I see reason. 

Please, let Prime Minister Netanyahu know what YOU think of what he’s just done:

Fax: 02-670-5369 (From the US: 011-972-2-670-5369)

Phone: 03-610-9898 (From the US: 011-972-3-610-9898)

E-mail:  pm_eng2@it.pmo.gov.il (underscore after pm)

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In the US:  Happy Thanksgiving!

 

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