Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Livni: Netanyahu Making Enemies, Leaving Israel Isolated.

Tzipi Livni, Netanyahu's opposition leader in Israel, has spoken out about how he is isolating Israel through the stances he is taking.

I am pleased that she is, at last, bringing this to the attention of the Israeli people. The US is Israel's greatest ally and yet Netanyahu is on a collision course with the Obama administration.

Livni’s speech started off “congratulating” the Netanyahu coalition for managing to survive the nine months since taking power. Livni’s Kadima Party finished first place in this year’s elections, but ended up in the opposition after Likud rallied a coalition of right wing and far right wing allies.

She then noted “you have managed to beat the president of the United States, Israel’s greatest friend, or at least this is the impression you and your people tried to convey after the meeting. You have managed to humiliate the only partner for a peace settlement Israel has.”

“In short: We have beaten America, humiliated the Palestinians, isolated ourselves. Raise your head from the small politics and see what has happened, see that Israel is excommunicated. Today Turkey, yesterday Britain, before that Europe.”
Netenyahu's government yesterday threatened both Britain and the US with possible prosecutions for war crimes should the US or UK support Goldstone's UN report on Israel's actions during the war on Gaza.

His government did this at the very time that Turkey were refusing to allow Israel to participate in war games due to be carried out by the US in the Middle East.

So, it's fair to say that Netanyahu is now isolating Israel, even from her traditional allies.

Turkey, Britain and the US are all well known friends of Israel, which makes the actions of Netanyahu's government all the more bizarre.

He is behaving this way because he is caught in a corner. And it is a corner which Barack Obama has placed him in. Obama is insisting that Israel must comply with international law and stop illegal settlement building. This is anathema to Netanyahu, who has spent his entire political career insisting that the West Bank and Gaza are part of Eretz Israel.

And there is a certain irony to Livni choosing to attack Netanyahu at this particular moment, as the actions in Gaza which he is seeking to defend, were actions - war crimes some would say - carried out by the Olmert government, which she was a part of.

Leaving aside the obvious hypocrisy of Livni accusing Netanyahu of isolating Israel even as he seeks to defend the actions of a government of which she was a member, there is nevertheless a great truth to what she is saying.

As long as George W Bush was in power, Israel could do whatever she wanted, safe in the knowledge that the US would always back them up.

But Obama appears to be completely serious about wanting peace. And, unlike Bush, he harbours no illusions about Israel's intentions. Bush was deluded enough to refer to Ariel Sharon as "a man of peace", which prompted one Saudi prince to say, "Even Ariel Sharon would not refer to Ariel Sharon as a man of peace".

Obama is acting like a true friend of Israel. He is warning Israel that she will never have peace as long as she continues to settle her population on other people's land. This ought not to be a controversial notion. It's as old as time itself.

Livni is right to warn the Israeli people that Netanyahu is taking them on a collision course with some of their traditional allies.

The election of Obama has changed everything. The secret deals worked out with George Bush and Ariel Sharon are no longer worth the paper which they were never written on. The world has changed and Netanyahu is a dinosaur in this new world.

Livni is right to warn the Israeli populace that it is not in their interests to allow Netanyahu to position them in direct opposition to Obama's peace plans.

Addressing the peace process, Livni called on Netanyahu to "go to the people of Israel and tell them, 'This is the time for a decision, a decision between a Jewish state and a state of all its citizens with a solid Palestinian majority between the sea and the Jordan River. A Jewish state will only be maintained through a two-state arrangement. Any other way will lead to one other country between the sea and the Jordan River which is not Jewish.'

"But your government is trying to play for time and cowardly escape a decision. The hourglass is ticking. I find the price of this decision difficult as well, but the price of any other alternative is must worse."

Livni is right. There are only three possible solutions here. A one state solution in which the Palestinian demographic destroys the Jewish state. A two state solution, which the entire world is calling for. Or a continuation of the present circumstance in which the Israelis continue to occupy and humiliate their Palestinian neighbours. I'm sure that even Netanyahu realises that the fourth solution - ethnic cleansing - is one that the world would simply not accept.

Which leaves me wondering what, apart from time and some few bits of remaining Palestinian land, Netanyahu hopes to gain here.

The game is up. Obama is serious about this. And Livni is right to call Netanyahu's stance cowardly, for that is what it is. He is refusing to accept that his lifelong dream of a Jewish state between the sea and the Jordan river is over. And, rather than accept that, he is now isolating Israel from her traditional allies.

Netanyahu is continuing to behave as if AIPAC can somehow save him and turn back Obama's tide. But he is wrong.

Even people like Hillary Clinton - as pro-Israeli as any US politician can get - are firmly behind the Obama position.

Netanyahu needs to get with the programme or watch as his government is swept aside. The cogs of history are turning, and Netanyahu - not for the first time - is on the wrong side.

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