Obama doesn't have to be an Israel-hater to be angry with Netanyahu
The only solution to this miserable situation is to establish a peace gov't with Likud, Kadima and Labor - without Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu.
One of Benjamin Netanyahu's most quoted statements is that he wakes up every morning and asks: Who should I be afraid of today? The answer is: He should be afraid of himself. This time he doesn't even have to ask. He's in a panic. I'm relying on the headline in Haaretz on Passover eve, which said U.S. President Barack Obama seeks to impose a permanent settlement on Israel.
"Political sources" have cited that this is "just the tip of the iceberg," underneath which lies a sea change in U.S. policy to exert pressure on Israel and isolate it.
"Sources in Jerusalem" overflowed their own banks with leaks to the media. "Obama is the biggest disaster ever for Israel because of his aspirations to make Netanyahu's life miserable."
"There has never been such brutal pressure from America on Israel," wrote one well-known commentator, forgetting that President Dwight Eisenhower's America forced us to leave Sinai - what Ben-Gurion dubbed "the third Israeli kingdom" - during the 1956 Sinai Campaign. And we did; we left, pardon my French, on all fours.
While the so-called sources raged, The New York Times published a moderate editorial, calling Obama's involvement "refreshing .... He must also press Palestinians and Arab leaders just as forcefully .... The question is whether Mr. Netanyahu is able or willing to lead his country to a peace deal."
Obama should have been asked why he started his peace initiative campaign in Egypt and skipped Israel. Wouldn't it have been more reasonable to begin the effort in the two strongest countries in the region that have already made peace with each other, despite the rivers of blood spilled on both sides for years? Omitting Israel gave the Arab world the feeling that Obama had changed his point of reference. Netanyahu's promises of two states for two peoples in his Bar-Ilan speech remained just words. He didn't make it any easier for Obama, who was sunk deep in his struggle to pass health care legislation.
Obama doesn't have to be an Israel-hater to be angry with Netanyahu, with his tricks, the continued blockade of Gaza, continued building in the West Bank and the failure to take even one constructive, confidence-building measure toward the Palestinians. Obama doesn't need Jewish advisers to understand that Netanyahu wanted to meet him exactly when the annual AIPAC conference was taking place, in order to say, through the most important Jewish forum, exactly what Obama did not want to hear.
Only former prime minister Menachem Begin was capable of summoning then American ambassador Samuel Lewis and really giving it to him for a series of punishments America meted out to Israel: delay in delivery of F-15 fighter planes because of the Israeli bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor; a $100 million cut in aid because of the Israeli bombing of PLO headquarters in Beirut and the passage of a law annexing the Golan Heights. This was the famous conversation in which Begin told the ambassador that we are not American vassals and not a banana republic either. The Israeli nation had lived for 3,700 years and would last another 3,700. But this conversation took place in 1981, three years after Begin received the Nobel Peace Prize.
Netanyahu isn't Begin, and Obama isn't Eisenhower or Jimmy Carter. Netanyahu is a new kind of prime minister, with ambitious agendas he wants to tick off a list. I believe that Obama did not intend to insult Netanyahu personally, but rather wanted to make clear that friendship means telling the truth. But he went too far in his attempt to dictate the process to us. This is why, in light of fears that arose among American Jews, senior White House adviser David Axelrod made clear on CNN that Obama did not intend any insult to Netanyahu: "This was a working meeting among friends. And so there was no snub intended." More friends like this - and we are lost.
But the tension with the American government is significant. First of all, it worsens our international situation. Although Washington reassured us there will not be a veto in the UN Security Council, I would add "for right now." Our government's zigzagging only encourages Obama. Otherwise, how is it possible to explain, when we are on the verge of proximity talks that will quickly turn into direct negotiations, the government brings up the subject that at every step of the history of the conflict has been left for last: Jerusalem. And bringing up the subject of building in Jerusalem at the beginning of Obama's initiative is like throwing a lit match into a reservoir of gas.
Netanyahu lost control at the beginning of the talks, when he said that Jerusalem is no different from Tel Aviv. The Shas party disclosed the plan to build 1,600 apartments, and the Jerusalem municipality its plan for 20. And former army chief of staff Moshe Ya'alon claimed that not one of the seven members of Netanyahu's inner cabinet believes that agreement can be reached with the Palestinians. Netanyahu is counting on the Iranian problem to solve everything, but that's not so. The only solution to this miserable situation is to work wisely, without panic. That is, to establish a peace government with Likud, Kadima and Labor - without Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu.
In the end, we might even find out what Ehud Barak wants.