Israel's upcoming elections will not be a referendum over destroying Iran's nuclear facilities. Yuval Diskin, the former head of the Shin Bet security service, is not the only person who claims that an Israeli attack will, at best, delay the development of an Iranian bomb by two years. Dennis Ross, who was a senior adviser to U.S. President Barack Obama, recently voiced a similar assessment and warned that a move like that would stiffen the ayatollahs' necks even more.
According to surveys, if the public brings the right wing back into power, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not be given free rein to forcibly destroy the Iranian nuclear program. He will however receive support for the other plan that Diskin hinted at - the plan to destroy Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas politically and to bury the two-state solution.
During his first term in office, Netanyahu had the chance to partially realize his promise to overturn the Oslo agreements. He lost the elections in 1999 after the public held him responsible for the crisis in the political process. To his credit, it must be said that he learned the lesson. During his second term of office, in 2009 Netanyahu pulled out the Bar-Ilan University speech and, with the use of some empty phrases, he placed the blame on Abbas.
According to the surveys, the vast majority of the public that will vote in September believes Netanyahu is desperately interested in renewing the peace talks and that Abbas is the refusenik. Even Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich is not interested in the fact that Netanyahu did not respond to the Palestinians' official agreement to adopt Obama's proposal to open negotiations on the basis of the 1967 borders and a mutual and agreed exchange of territory. Otherwise she would not have said, in an interview on Channel 2 on Saturday, that she "does not accept the dichotomy according to which the Palestinians want peace but Israel does not."
During a condolence visit to the relatives of terror victims at the settlement of Ofra in 2001, a Channel 10 microphone caught Netanyahu bragging, "I was not afraid to clash with [former U.S. President Bill] Clinton". He added: "I know what America is. America is something that can easily be moved." Netanyahu related then how he had succeeded in getting a written declaration that Israel would decide alone on the borders of "military sites" in the West Bank that would remain in Israeli hands. Defining the entire Jordan Valley as a military site, Netanyahu explained: "I actually stopped the Oslo Accords." It was because of maneuvers like this with the Americans that Netanyahu lost the elections in 1999.
When he returned to power in 2009, Netanyahu found a way to move the Americans over to his side in the Palestinian arena, without paying a political price. The decision to move the date of the Knesset elections forward, and to hold them on the eve of presidential and congressional elections in the United States, ensures a two-month-long honeymoon for Netanyahu in the American arena.
Another important lesson that Netanyahu has learned since his first term in office is that it is important to treat formerly active politicians who have been retrained as bored presidents with kid gloves. Netanyahu obviously remembered the harsh criticism leveled against him over the stalemate in the peace process by former President Ezer Weizman. This time, he kept Shimon Peres busy with Abbas. However, when it transpired that the current president was taking himself seriously and was about to reach an understanding with his Palestinian counterpart, Netanyahu reminded the architect of the Oslo Accords that he was a president in Israel, not the United States. Knowing Peres well, Netanyahu gambled that the president would not "tell the nation the truth" and that, at the age of 88, he would not risk his popularity in Israel and his missions abroad.
Netanyahu will win the elections in September because until November Obama will continue to recite what his election advisers write for him about America's commitment to Israel's security. There won't be a word about the Israeli government's violation of its commitment to present its position on the subject of borders and security. The settlements have also disappeared from Obama's speeches. Someone must surely have reminded him what the Jewish voters did to George Bush Snr., who on the eve of the 1992 elections dared to make economic aid to Israel conditional on freezing construction on the settlements.
At the height of Operation Defensive Shield in Gaza in 2002, I asked Peres, who was then foreign minister in Ariel Sharon's government, how he could lend a hand to the annihilation of the Oslo Accords he had nurtured. "How can I oppose a move that the Americans have agreed to?" Peres responded. When I asked him: "How can the Americans oppose a move that is supported by a Nobel Peace Prize laureate?" I did not get a response.
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