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Once again, Netanyahu deliberately provokes the White House

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recently announced plan of tenders for nearly 700 new apartments in East Jerusalem was not just a gesture to his restless right wing. It was yet another deliberate attempt to embarrass the White House, say Americans For Peace Now’s Lara Friedman and Ir Amin’s Danny Seideman in a provocative, must-read analysis.

They note:

One would be hard-pressed to believe that it is a coincidence that the timing of these tenders coincides with reported intensive US efforts to re-start peace talks, as well as with intensive efforts to finalize a prisoner-exchange deal securing the release of Gilad Schalit. Progress on either of these tracks (and even the news anticipating such progress) inevitably exposes Bibi to blistering criticism from his right-wing flank – and the kind of pressure that always brings out the worst in Bibi, and always in Jerusalem.

If these tenders had just been issued quietly and without fanfare (as is often the case), it might have been some time before anyone – including those of us who track this sort of thing closely – noticed. The fact is, there is no one-stop, handy-dandy website or publication to track this kind of thing. If the tenders had been issued that way, the government of Israel could easily have responded to any after-the-fact criticism by professing ignorance, or by saying that the tenders were simply issued in the course of the normal bureaucratic process, or with some other excuse to make the case that this is really a non-story.

But that’s not what happened. What happened is that the government of Israel deliberately elected to announce the tenders in the most public manner possible and to defend them in politically defiant terms – terms clearly aimed at Washington and the international community.

As if that was not enough, the story was spun to journalists in a way guaranteed to cause the maximum embarrassment to Washington. Reading the press reports, which are full of quotes from Israeli officials to the effect that the US was given advance warning of the tenders, Washington comes off either as complicit (e.g. the US knew and gave a tacit green light) or feckless (e.g. the US knew and was powerless to do anything).

In response, the White House rejected the tenders in terms far more categorical than the Obama Administration has used in the past, perhaps reflecting Washington’s unhappiness with being publicly embarrassed, yet again, by Bibi.

11 thoughts on “Once again, Netanyahu deliberately provokes the White House

  1. The “irony” was that it was announced on the same day as Netanyahu staff leaked that he would pursue negotiations with the Palestinians along the lines of the Arab League proposal (the reported 100% Olmert land swap offer?).

    Its the end game. The Arab League offer would put those 700 homes in sovereign Palestine, subject to Palestinian law, assuming requiring Palestinian legal residency permits or citizenship.

    If the Palestinian state were democratic as Israel is professed to be (equal due process under the law), then those apartments could not be ethnically segregated, but integrated.

    That would happen in a short period of time.

    Avnery described Netanyahu to Arafat in an reported interview last year I believe, in which he quoted to Arafat that Rabin will speak the truth to you. If he disagrees he will tell you bluntly and sometimes coarsely, and why. If he agrees, you can trust that it is sincere.

    About Netanyahu, he stated, “you can’t believe a word that comes out of his mouth.” He is an opportunist.

    The interesting point is that he is playing precipice in internal politics (his threat to divide Kadima, even as his position now resembles Sharon Kadima), and may in fact be positioning himself internally to make a grand compromise.

    Its a GO game, in which it is impossible to tell which is feint from which is frontal assault. (I tried to learn the game, but got so confused about who “won” that I gave up. In the master level games, the players don’t care who won. Its an honor to dance together.)

    I don’t think this is a master GO game, though I greatly hope that Netanyahu concludes that his accomplishment is the realization of actual peace, rather than the realization of territory.

  2. There you have it. Arafat was assured that Rabin would never lie. Would Arafat lie to us, Richard? How come its bad for Israelis to lie to Arafat, but Arafat is allowed to lie to us?
    If what Avnery said is correct, then that Rabin wouldn’t lie to Arafat, but he certainly lied to the Israeli population. Remember his promise not to give up the Golan made during the election campaign in 1992? His promises never to compromise Israeli security? His claim that “the Likud is responsible for the traffic accidents in the country” (I HEARD HIM SAY THAT WITH MY OWN EARS). Or how about “the settlers on the Golan can spin like propellers for all I care”, said when they complained about his betrayal of his promise?

    As long as Rabin told the truth to Arafat, that’s all that matters, right?

  3. That was Avneri quoted, not Arafat.

    You know that I regard Rabin as an Israeli hero, a hero in defense, a hero in attempting reconciliation, moving it forward to the point that there is now an Arab League proposal.

    And, that I regard the effort to make peace to be a primary responsibility of leadership compelled by Torah and common sense.

    It takes multiple parties to realize a reconciliation, or even an order that doesn’t require or sanction repression of others.

    The parties in this case are the PA (willing and nearly able), Hamas (unwilling, but tentatively willing to abstain, as in the Arab League vote), Arab states (willing), US (willing but distracted by our own large problems), likud (unwilling, but Netanyahu’s publicly stated positions resemble Sharon’s basis of forming Kadima as distinct from likud), the majority of Israelis (willing but reluctant), settlers (some willing, some fanatically resistant).

    The islands can be bridged, if there is any investment at all in goodness and courage.

    I have a friend that is a likud supporter in my home town. He reacts angrily to criticism of Israel, especially leftist ideological rants. So, in response to one screed published in our local paper he responded. All it takes is seven words to shift the relationship between Israel and the rest of the world, “We acknowledge the right of Israel to exist”.

    I hope that Yakov has a similar conclusion, a similar hope, that with that acceptance (now stated conditionally by the Arab League) Israel will respond in kind.

    The art of negotiation anything, a contract, a peace treaty, is to construct the features that allow a network of “if’s” to morph into “I agree”.

    It doesn’t happen by chance. It doesn’t happen only by time (as after the passage of time attitudes can relax or habituate).

    It only happens by design and intelligence.

    In this case, it needs to happen for Israel to be Jewish in soul and not only in shell.

  4. Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Charles Haughey of Ireland was wont to issue provocative statements regarding Northern Ireland and Britain in a bid to keep his party’s right wing happy. Meanwhile, he was involved in the most corrupt government in Irish history. I’m not saying that Netanyahu’s is the most corrupt in Israeli history, but there has been a clear trend starting with Netanyahu’s first government in 1996 and going through Olmert. Netanyahu, like Sharon, knew how to play off the various factions of his party in order to escape too much scrutiny.

  5. Tom,
    Interesting how you left off Rabin’s 1992 government off the list of being “corrupt”. Obviously you forgot about how he was continually balancing SHAS off of MERETZ who were both in the coalition and at each other’s throats, so both had to be repeatedly be bought off, and how Rabin repeatedly bribed Knesset Members who were in the right-wing opposition that opposed Oslo to switch sides because he lacked a majority for Oslo within the coalition.

    I guess since he is the “martyred saint for peace”, he gets let off the corruption list.

  6. Rabin is not a “martyred saint for peace”, but a human being that WORKED for peace.

    We’re waiting for you and your colleagues to rise to that standard of being a Jew.

  7. YBD:

    I consider corruption to be politicians who sell favors to private companies for personal gain. Whereas, I guess you define it as support for policies that you don’t agree with. The Israeli coalition system virtually guarantees that parties are continually bought off. By your expanded definition the most corrupt parties would be Shas, the NRP/Jewish Home, and the other ultra-Orthodox parties–as they are paid off with the settlement enterprise and the network of yeshivot.

  8. Tom,
    I view corruption as taking the taxpayer’s money and using for things that are the opposite of what you promised. Sharon paid off many politicians and parties with taxpayer’s money to get them to support destroying Gush Katif which he promised not to do.

    BTW-I also consider corruption using the SHABAK to carry out political sabotage against opposition parties, politicians and groups. A good example was Rabin’s using a SHABAK agent provocateur, Avishai Raviv, to set up a phony “extremist right-wing-religious” organization which then carried out physical assaults on Arabs and Leftist Israelis such as former HADASH MK Tamar Gozanski, in addition to recruiting Rabin’s assassin Yigal Amir. These SHABAK activities were controlled out of the Prime Minister’s Office. These activities were investigated in the Shamgar Commission inquiry into the Rabin assassination and included in the “secret” annex to it which was later unclassified.
    In most countries, using the secret intelligence agencies to harrass political opponents would bring down the government if revealed (e.g. Watergate), but not in Israel. I can’t think of anything more corrupt than these type of activities

  9. YBD:

    First of all most countries do use their intelligence agencies and secret police to harass political opponents. You’ve probably heard the term “mukhabarat.” Now, if you mean Western democracies it depends on whether or not those political opponents were operating within the law. The fear was that the settlers and their supporters were operating outside the law. That belief was based upon the existence of the settler underground in the early 1980s, which involved the cream of the settler leadership and the settler aristocracy. The fact that settler rabbis were issuing pskei din or “fatwas” against Rabin and the assassination of Rabin justified that belief. In my belief what is to be criticized is the way the operation was handled and that Yigal Amir wasn’t stopped.

    If you want to define corruption in a broad sense, you should know that its etymology is the Latin/Italian verb to break, so that it means literally breakage. That describes the present electoral and coalition system. And we both know who is most opposed to a major reform of the political system.

  10. Tom,
    Wbo, pray tell, is opposed to electoral reform? And if you mean the religious parties, why do you assume that I support them, even if I am Orthodox/religious? Most National Religious voters stopped voting for religious parties years ago, I certainly don’t vote for them since 1992. I am in favor of Israel going to a constituency system to elect the MK’s in place of the current “list” system.

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