The comment by Israeli statesman Abba Eban, that the Palestinians never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity, was so popular - and not only in Israel - that even U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger quoted it often. Now the joke is on us. Israel is the one that doesn't miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity for an agreement. About two years ago, in the Bar-Ilan speech, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared two states for two peoples. But since then he has not lifted a finger to make it come true. No trick, no speech, no maneuver can change the facts: that he is the prime minister with the greatest parliamentary support, and there is no decision for compromise that he could not have passed in the Knesset.
Had he wanted to reach an agreement he could have done so in spite of the difficulties and the obstacles. But he has a 100-year-old father who wouldn't forgive him for giving up Greater Israel, a wife who doesn't make the road to an agreement easy for him, and a political milieu that opposes decisions that involve giving up territories.
Bibi Netanyahu speaks brilliant American English, but what difference does that make when he is facing a rival whose English is not as good, but who works correctly. Under the noses of our many ambassadors in South America, for example, most Latin countries have promised their support for the Palestinian bid to be recognized as a state by the United Nations. How did Israel wind up in a situation in which it depends on Gabon to rescue Obama from casting a veto in the UN Security Council?
The Palestinian maneuver didn't fall from the sky. It could have been handled before it was too late. Is it possible that we didn't see the revolution against us taking place in the world? Is it possible that we didn't see that Palestinian Authority Chairman Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas ) was pushing us to the wall, and now in Washington he still has half a bullet in his barrel? While we are busy distributing gas masks and preparing for the possibility that missiles will fall on Tel Aviv too, in Ramallah they are preparing for a normal civic life.
And what will be our reaction if Abu Mazen's move in the United Nations succeeds? Will we impose sanctions on him? Will we refuse to transfer the taxes that we collect for the Palestinian Authority? Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman denies reports that he proposed sanctions if the PA joins the UN as a state. But there is no need for him to open his mouth in order for us to know what he is aiming at and what he really wants. He has a deputy minister named Danny Ayalon who makes us break out in a sweat every time he speaks. This is the man who humiliated the Turkish ambassador and seated him on a low sofa. Lieberman can continue to deny it, but the thoughts about sanctions are etched between his beard and his mustache.
During Netanyahu's term we lost the ability to propose smart solutions, to weigh the problems facing us with a long view. Instead of Jewish wisdom and moderation we have gained a reputation for being the regional bully, and that's what is leading us to international isolation. While Israel has never really rejected Ben-Gurion's disdainful attitude toward the United Nations, which he called "Um-Shmum" (Um is the Hebrew acronym for the UN ), the leaders of the PA are the ones who have gained international empathy for their case, and even use that empathy as a diplomatic tool to promote it.
Because the initiative to allow the State of Palestine to join the United Nations is supported by most of the member nations, Bibi is in a panic. As is his custom in such situations, he decided, in his role as Superman, to fly to Washington in order to argue that only countries can be UN members. He torpedoed President Shimon Peres' idea of representing Israel in the General Assembly, and even made sure that Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who in such situations "happens" to find himself in Washington, returned to Israel. Bibi likes to be a soloist in such situations. What did Prime Minister Menahem Begin used to say to Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan when he would fly to Washington? "Take care of the country until I get back."
The UN General Assembly is not the U.S. Congress. Bibi won't get a standing ovation there. A large percentage of the representatives are Muslim, but even the Christians aren't exactly crazy about us. U.S. President Barack Obama - who recently discovered that in several important election districts Republican candidates are defeating Democratic ones among the Jewish electorate - is fighting tooth and nail for a second term. He will try until the last moment to refrain from casting a veto, and he may succeed. The Security Council without a veto may open a time slot for beginning negotiations in the region.
Even Bibi's most brilliant speech won't change the bitter fact that he is trying to fool everyone, yet the country he rules is still on the ropes.
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