Newt Gingrich's flip-flopping on the Middle East
The Zionist declarations intoned by the controversial southern politicians have little effect on elderly Jewish voters.
According to opinion polls, Republican hopeful Newt Gingrich will be receiving consolation calls from at least two of his friends tomorrow when the results of the Florida primaries are announced. He will hear from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and from billionaire Sheldon Adelson, the conservative U.S. politician's main backer and the publicist for Israel's conservative prime minister.
Political forecasters in America project that retired Jewish voters in the Sunshine State will be among those who prove that the Casino King's $10 million investment in Gingrich was a bad gamble. The Zionist declarations intoned by the controversial southern politicians have little effect on elderly Jewish voters.
For the benefit of readers with short memories, I have lifted from Haaretz's archive a series of quotes from an interview with Gingrich in 1995. This was a short time after he rose to the lofty post as speaker of the House. Note that this is the same Gingrich who currently swears that there is no such thing as a Palestinian people and that Israel should not withdraw from the territories.
"I can't see any apparatus more fitting for stabilizing the Palestinian Authority on the Gaza Strip and the West Bank than stable Palestinian authority," Gingrich declared in 1995. The former House speaker promised to support Israel's efforts to strengthen the Palestinian government, and praised Israel's policy on the Palestinian track, claiming that "recent accomplishments are a byproduct of Yitzhak Rabin's leadership."
Gingrich did not slight Israel's opposition leader at the time. "I hear what Benjamin Netanyahu is saying, and I have respect for his strong, intelligent views," he said.
In fact, only a few months later, it turned out that Gingrich had not only listened, but also had taken steps to promote Netanyahu's views. Among other efforts, Netanyahu lobbied with Gingrich to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. Netanyahu's Republican allies in the pro-Israel AIPAC organization proposed to Gingrich and to the Republican party's presidential candidate, Bob Dole, that a bill be sponsored requiring the Clinton administration to relocate the U.S. embassy.
"Israel has the right to define the location of its capital, and we ourselves, as its allies, must agree with this," Gingrich said at the time. "If this bill reaches Congress this year, I will support it." Gingrich called on the president to meet this challenge - though he immediately clarified, "I don't want to cause trouble for the Clinton administration."
Three months passed, and Gingrich joined forces with his fellow Republicans and Netanyahu, submitting a bill requiring the U.S. government to move its embassy to Jerusalem. This would have entailed an official change to U.S. policy on the most sensitive issue of the peace process.
This was also during one of the most sensitive moments of the Oslo process negotiations. Netanyahu and his confederates sold this initiative to the Republican presidential hopeful, Bob Dole, and they set an ambush for Rabin during the annual AIPAC meetings in Washington, where the prime minister delivered a speech.
The bill was passed by a resounding majority. The Arab world convulsed, the Palestinians threatened to ignite fires on the ground, and Clinton suspended the law's implementation on the basis of national security. His successor in the White House, Republican George Bush, followed his lead, and signed suspension bills for the law every six months. So, too, has President Barack Obama suspended the law.
In none of these instances did Gingrich protest against "the damage caused to Israel's right to determine its capital," as he put it in the 1995 interview. Today, he promises, of course, that should he be elected president, he would rectify this error immediately. And so, with the announcement of the Florida primary results, we will know tomorrow whether Israel's fire prevention services need to order extra supplies for the Jerusalem area, and whether bomb shelters in the city ought to be dusted off and prepared for use.
Barring any major surprises, Netanyahu will soon be able to announce the ultimate victory: At long last, Oslo will recapture its status as the capital of Norway, and will no longer serve as a synonym for negotiations with the Palestinians.
Discussions in Jordan, which for some reason were called "peace talks," shoved PA President Mahmoud Abbas into a dead end. Should he freeze these "talks" and revive the United Nations initiative, he will lose President Obama's support once and for all, and also leave Fatah empty-handed in its race against Hamas in upcoming Palestinian elections. On the other hand, should he continue to stage these "talks" and freeze the UN initiative - without Israel enacting a settlement construction freeze - Hamas will make mincemeat out of him in the elections.
Israel's refusal to erect polling stations in East Jerusalem might spare Fatah another defeat in the vote for the PA's legislative assembly. However, Israel's veto on East Jerusalem voting won't stop Hamas leaders from joining Palestine Liberation Organization heads on the Palestinian national council after the elections. After this development, the 1988 PLO declaration - recognizing the state of Israel at the 1967 borders, and announcing the termination of the violent resistance - can be altered as the foundation of Palestinian negotiations with Israel.
Hamas draws considerable inspiration and political power from the success of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egyptian elections. Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Mahmoud Ghozlan stated this week that, in view of the continuing violation of Arab rights, it's inconceivable that his party will maintain contacts with Israel. No contacts with Arabs - what a relief.