Monday, December 22, 1997

Bibi Seems to Be Getting Away with Murder

Benjamin Netanyahu has every reason to be satisfied with himself. He has consistently told his followers and his opponents that he can handle Madelyn Albright and her boss without any real problems. Right now it appears that Netanyahu is getting away with blatant, thinly disguised deception, by promising some sort of puny redeployment – 10% of West Bank territory – only, if his version of what he considers full Palestinian compliance to previous agreements is accepted as a first precondition for the withdrawal. Moreover, the Palestinians must agree to immediate commencement of discussions on the final status agreement. If all this happens according to the Netanyahu blueprint – Israel will consider performing the pullback 5 or 6 months down the road – if peace and quiet reign supreme.
Meanwhile, he has an invitation to the White House, where we are told, Bill Clinton, consummate politician that he is, has full understanding for Bibi Netanyahu’s coalition problems. Meanwhile, in order prepare himself for what is supposed to be some sort of ordeal, namely US pressure to make genuine steps towards peace and the fulfillment of the Oslo Accords, Netanyahu is busy making proclamations to the effect that the West Bank is part of Israel, and settlement activity will continue and even increase. Whatever Ms. Albright told Bibi, he has every right to appear to the Israeli public as if he has her and her boss under control.
According to the official US line, we are given to understand that the President of the United States is going to go make a serious diplomatic effort to get the Prime Minister of Israel to promise an inconsequential, highly tentative pull back on the West Bank. Since Clinton must succeed, the target is lowered to achieving one, single, not too consequential step – in the form of an extensive photo opportunity. Thus, Netanyahu’s basic strategy – delay and more delay – receives a tremendous boost from the United States which is supposed to be concerned that the peace process is, for all practical purposes, almost dead.
The United States is least of all concerned by the fact that they are ditching all the dove forces – including the most consistent pro-US elements in Israeli society - which are disgusted to see Netanyahu succeed in sabotaging the peace process. A central criticism of Netanyahu has been that his arrogant, nationalist policies will isolate the country and do serious damage to its basic interests. But if he is coddled by a “wishy-washy” United States administration which cooperates fully with has plans to bury the peace process – it is we in the peace camp who becomes, for the time being, the “unrealistic” and “panicky” element…
Yet Another Example of U.S. Arrogant Incompetence
It may well be that we are well on the way to experiencing another of the major U.S. policy blunders. U.S. power and wealth are such that the U.S. administration can always chose the line of least internal resistance in any major foreign policy question. Though it is almost inconceivable that the United States could have any genuine reason to abandon the pretence of acting like an honest broker in the area, the United States, it appears, the U.S. is afraid of getting into any quarrel with Netanyahu. The result is that new levels of violence and new rounds of bloodshed are around the corner. That’s what happens when peace is strangled and suffocated.
Of course, these words, create an opening for friends to remind us that we should never have had any illusions whatsoever regarding Oslo. The sad reply is that there is for the while no other alternative, and given the relevant prevailing balance of forces, any return to a chance for peace will take place under the same banner. Intelligent critics of Oslo know this well. They too, for this reason, can take little comfort in the degradation of the peace process, sponsored by the United States.
D.C. Darling
How very strange! Netanyahu is unable to command the loyalty of his party, he cannot keep his coalition in line, the Israeli economy is in the throes of a crisis and social-economic tensions are rising. Netanyahu is on a collision course with world Jewry. The Arab world has found him totally untrustworthy, Europe distrusts him – but Washington DC bends over backward to show its deep respect….