American foreign policy Americans for Peace Now Arab-Israeli conflict Benjamin Netanyahu Israel Israeli settlements Palestinians

Will the Americans drive Bibi “crazy?”

Troll around the Web and you will find many, distinctly different ways of looking at Bibi Netanyahu’s recent announcement of a ten-month settlement freeze. Here are four that interest me:

1) IT COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE, GREATER ISRAEL FANS. Netanyahu has been telling the right wing that the freeze is only temporary and that construction will resume after 10 months, it has been widely reported. But one story from Yediot Aharonot indicates he also used another argument to pacify the settlers: “Netanyahu was also quoted as saying that `the Americans drove me crazy, they wanted (a freeze) in Jerusalem as well.'”

2) IT WILL ACTUALLY HELP THE SETTLEMENT MOVEMENT. According to another report in Yediot by Itamar Eichner (available in translation from Israel News Today, but not accessible on-line):

Netanyahi said in his speech yesterday that the security cabinet decision…would be beneficial for the settlement enterprise. During the…Olmert government, he said, there was a freeze in practice. Since the Netanyahu government was formed eight months ago, this has continued and, all in all, construction in Judea and Samaria has been frozen. The new freeze is limited to only another 10 months, after which construction will begin again. In other words…, the decision is good for the settlers because it sets an end date to the freeze, in contrast to the situation that was in place, in practice, of a freeze that was unlimited in time.”

3) IT WILL BE EXTRAORDINARILY DIFFICULT TO ENFORCE. says Talia Sasson, in an interview with Ori Nir of Americans for Peace Now:

Enforcing the moratorium on settlement construction, Sasson points out, requires a documenting effort, an ongoing monitoring effort, a security effort (protecting the government inspectors who will fan out in the West Bank to enforce the new orders), a judicial effort (preparing and pursuing indictments against violators), as well as a political effort. Prime Minister Netanyahu will have to confront the settler leaders, many of whom are members of his Likud party.

Listening to the full interview, I got the sinking feeling that it won’t just be difficult; it may well be impossible. The settlers are already mounting a petty resistance campaign, and while the army under Ehud Barak may win major battles, the odds are they will probably lose this war. The only way to change this circumstance is for Bibi to show more courage than any Israeli Prime Minister since Yitzhak Rabin. It is just as likely that I will be the shortstop for the Boston Red Sox.

4) ON THE OTHER HAND, MAYBE THIS TIME, THE AMERICANS WON’T BACK DOWN. The usually perceptive Shimon Sheffer opines:

Let’s assume that in 10 months the international community is still unable to curb Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities. Israel’s need for US assistance in thwarting the “existential danger” vis-à-vis Iran, as Netanyahu refers to it, will be even greater. Is it even thinkable that the Obama Administration will then allow Israel to resume construction in the territories? Does anyone think that Netanyahu will dare resist the American demand to continue the freeze?

…The question that remains is whether Netanyahu will decide to clash with the Americans…

I estimate that he will persist with his attempts to maneuver among the various bad options, his rightist voters will continue to slam him, and the Americans will hint that if he resumes construction they will allow the Europeans to pass Security Council resolutions that in essence recognize a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

In other words, the only hope is for Obama to demonstrate more courage on this issue since any American president since George Bush pere. But we already knew that, didn’t we?

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