Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Mr Netanyahu Goes To Washington.

He came, he saw, he refused to say that he wanted to see the Palestinians living side by side with Israel in their own viable state of Palestine.

The Israeli obstructionist did not disappoint and played this exactly as I thought he would. Of course, there will be peace talks and, of course, Israel does not want to control the Palestinians; merely their air space, their water and the small matter of who enters and leaves their borders. Apart from these few conditions - conditions which many of us see as akin to asking the Palestinians to live in an open prison - as far as Netanyahu is concerned they can live as free as birds.

This is the kind of prevarication and obstructionism which the Israelis have turned into an art form. And, of course, whilst offering the Palestinians next to nothing, he also insisted that, as a precursor to these meaningless talks, that the US must take care of the Iranian nuclear threat and that the Palestinians must recognise Israel as, "a Jewish state."

All in all, a very good day on Netanyahu's terms. Offer them next to bloody nothing and then insist that they jump through a series of impossible to achieve hoops before they even get near the nothing which you are offering.

Obama remained polite, aware no doubt of the tactics which were being employed against him, but then he dropped in a little bomb shell of his own.

We have seen progress stalled on this front, and I suggested to the Prime Minister that he has an historic opportunity to get a serious movement on this issue during his tenure. That means that all the parties involved have to take seriously obligations that they've previously agreed to. Those obligations were outlined in the road map; they were discussed extensively in Annapolis. And I think that we can - there is no reason why we should not seize this opportunity and this moment for all the parties concerned to take seriously those obligations and to move forward in a way that assures Israel's security, that stops the terrorist attacks that have been such a source of pain and hardship, that we can stop rocket attacks on Israel; but that also allow Palestinians to govern themselves as an independent state, that allows economic development to take place, that allows them to make serious progress in meeting the aspirations of their people.

Now, Israel is going to have to take some difficult steps as well, and I shared with the Prime Minister the fact that under the roadmap and under Annapolis that there's a clear understanding that we have to make progress on settlements. Settlements have to be stopped in order for us to move forward. That's a difficult issue. I recognize that, but it's an important one and it has to be addressed.
And there it was. The marker. The point against which Israeli intransigence would be measured. The truth, of course, is that Israel has never taken any of the actions which she agreed to do at Annapolis and nor did the previous administration of George Bush make any attempt to make Israel live up to her commitments. For Bush it was enough that Israel had made any commitment at all and he was always more than willing to accept Israel's insistence that their lack of progress - and their continued expansion of illegal settlements on Palestinian land - was, somehow, all the fault of those untrustworthy Arabs.

I do not think Netanyahu will find Obama as much of a pushover as Olmert and Sharon found Bush.
Contacts between Israeli and U.S. officials will continue in the coming weeks. Administration officials expect to hear from their Israeli counterparts what steps they are ready to take that will bring about a freeze in settlement construction and the removal of West Bank outposts.

The U.S. is eager to hear Israel's proposals before Obama's speech he is to deliver in Cairo on June 4. Washington attaches great importance to Israeli concessions on settlements as a confidence-building measure that will facilitate normalization of relations between Jerusalem and the Arab world.

Obama sees engagement in Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking - in contrast to the Bush administration's largely hands-off approach - as crucial to repairing the U.S. image in the Muslim world and convincing moderate Arab states to join a united front against Iran.
Unlike the Bush administration, Obama understands very well the importance of the Israel/Palestine dispute and how this affects the way the US is seen by the rest of the world and, especially, by the Muslim world.

To this end, Netanyahu will feel a pressure which few Israeli leaders have ever felt from the US.

Both men yesterday laid out their markers. Obama has agreed that the Iranian problem can be tied to the eventual solution, which Netanyahu was insisting upon, but he is also insisting that Israel show she is serious about the previous promises which she made by stopping the building of illegal settlements on Palestinian land.

That's the point on which all previous agreements have run to ground but usually US presidents pretend not to notice. One gets the feeling that Obama will notice and that things will start to get very frosty once he does.


Fox News, via Glenn Beck, have wasted no time at all in providing Netanyahu's obstructionism with the noblest of possible reasons:
I believe that he believes that he was put on this Earth to stop a second Holocaust. This is the historical hand that he has been dealt. And he intends to do everything necessary to stop Iran getting nuclear weapons even if that means breaking with the United States.
Now, if one accepts that this is Netanyahu's sincere belief, then surely any obstructionism from him on this subject is at least understandable? And surely Obama pushing a man fighting for such a noble cause beyond his comfort zone would be insensitive in the extreme?

But this is obviously going to be the way Likud supporters want to frame this argument; it's about the Holocaust, and, if Israel has to break with the US on this one, surely everyone will understand?

Before this bunkum is allowed to be spouted as if it's even remotely true, lets simply remember that Netanyahu has NEVER been for a state of Palestine and that this was his position long before there was any hint that Iran might be close to getting a nuclear bomb.

Indeed, he vehemently opposed the Oslo Accords, going as far as to compare Shimon Peres to Chamberlain.
During the first Knesset debate on the Oslo peace accords, Likud party chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, a close ally of US neoconservatives and Christian fundamentalists, compares the accords to British attempts to appease Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler before World War II. Referring to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, he shouts at Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, “You are worse than Chamberlain.” Netanyahu is so aggressive in part because he has the public and private support of influential US neoconservatives and Christian fundamentalists.
So, before the neo-cons and the Christian fundamentalists are allowed to establish the narrative that Netanyahu is behaving in this way because, "he believes he was put on this Earth to stop a second Holocaust", let us remember that neither Netanyahu nor the neo-cons and their Christian fundamentalist supporters believe in the two state solution.
“I was ambassador [to the US] for four years of the peace process, and the Christian fundamentalists were vehemently opposed to the peace process,” Israeli ambassador Itamar Rabinovich will recall (see July 1993). “They believed that the land belonged to Israel as a matter of divine right. So they immediately became part of a campaign by the Israeli right to undermine the peace process.” Netanyahu’s outburst on the floor of the Knesset is a deliberate part of this strategy.
That is the real battle Obama will find himself fighting here. Netanyahu has never believed in giving up one inch of this land to the Palestinians and he has, amongst the neo-cons, strong support in the US legislature. Of course, they can never publicly state this, which is why Netanyahu's friends at Fox are so quick to provide him with a defence based on the Holocaust.

The truth is that Netanyahu has based his entire career on preventing a state of Palestine from being formed. Indeed, there were some who thought his behaviour towards Rabin at the time of the Oslo Accords was inciting violence:
Most Israeli lawmakers and politicians distance themselves from the Jewish extremists calling for the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin over the Oslo peace accords (see September 13, 1993). However, Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu actively curries their favor (see July 1-2, 1994). On the floor of the Knesset, he often attacks Rabin (see September 21, 1993) for giving away “parts of our homeland.”

After one particularly fiery speech, thousands of right-wing protesters gather in Jerusalem’s Zion Square, where they put of posters of Rabin wearing a Nazi SS uniform, display banners calling Rabin “Arafat’s Dog,” and chant, “Death to Rabin! Nazis!
Judenrat!”—a particularly odious epithet referring to the “Jewish councils” that were forced by the Nazis to expedite the transfer of Jews to concentration camps.

Housing Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer is horrified by the frenzy of the mob, and tells Netanyahu, who is orchestrating the demonstration, “You’d better restrain your people. Otherwise it will end in murder. They tried to kill me just now.… Your people are mad. If someone is murdered, the blood will be on your hands.… The settlers have gone crazy, and someone will be murdered here, if not today, then in another week or another month!” Netanyahu ignores the warning, and, basking in the chants of “Bibi! Bibi! Bibi!,” takes the podium, where he is optimistically introduced as the next prime minister of Israel.
Of course, we all know that weeks later, on the fourth of November 1995, Yitzhak Rabin was murdered and Oslo was allowed to wither on the vine.

So, there is only one reason for Netanyahu's obstructionism, and that is that he doesn't believe in giving an inch of this land to the Palestinians and that this has been his position for decades. That is simply an indisputable fact. But Fox are preparing Americans for the obstructionism which they know is coming and are attempting to frame it as an act of nobility. Because the Fox News mindset is exactly the same as the neo-con mindset.


You can see the video of Obama and Netanyahu's press conference here. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4.

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