Netanyahu Intends To Keep Intending

I intend to wear my seat belt and drive the speed limit. I intend to pick up my dog’s yard contributions in a nice baggy. I intend to (one day) organize my desk drawers. The Cubs intend to (one century)  win the…oh never mind — some things will just never happen.

Intent and fulfillment don’t have to be strangers. In the context of all of the many new, old, and rewarmed issues surrounding Israelis and Palestinians, a clear vision and leadership can act as a sort of confirmation bias disinfectant. And with a focus more on the benefits of tomorrow’s possibilities than on yesterday’s failures, anything — except perhaps Cubs’ World Series championships — becomes possible.

Israeli Likud party (stasis wing) leader Benjamin Netanyahu has made numerous grand statements about his desire for two states living side by side in Israeli security control-preserved peace — a full-bodied Israel alongside more of a Palestine Lite than a Palestine. A state with meandering and fungible borders, but no military or economic hops.

Oh, Netanyahu reassures, the Palestinians will eventually get their full-bodied Palestine. When the time is right. When the moon is in the seventh house, Jupiter aligns with Mars and the Palestinians align their positions with Israel’s (and Aquarias’s).

That’s when Netanyahu knows that peace will guide his little Israeli planet, because it’s Israel’s love that will then steer the Palestinian stars…and the Israel settlers, and Netanyahu’s mixed breed coalition partners and, of course, his biggest U.S.-based supporters — Christians United for Israel (and blaming Obama for Ebola) and Sheldon (the Palestinians aren’t a people) Adelson.

Be patient. What’s another generation or two in the span of human misery and Israel’s geopolitical battle to weaken its support from its key allies?

The time has to be right. Harmony and understanding must be abounding. Sympathy and trust can’t be far behind.

Read Netanyahu’s 2009 Bar-Ilan speech. It’s his four score and seven years ago, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, two mints, two mints in one speech. It’s not just words…on paper…spoken eloquently. It’s also sound…and fury…showing intent…and meaning nothing.

Or almost nothing. At least the speech serves as verbal “if only” manna to serve to those in the world community who deign to doubt Netanyahu’s sincere commitment to a two-state future.

If only Israel’s leader had Palestinian leaders to dictate to who really wanted peace. If only their fellow half-citizens had as many Nobel Prize laureates, they’d understand why managing today beats building tomorrow. If only these future rock-throwers would be happy driving on separate roads to separate communities with separate resources and separate laws. If only they knew they’re complaining about less than 20% of  the settlers who are actually settling on future Palestinian land in a future Palestinian demilitarized state.

If only the Palestinian leadership would get rid of its falsehoods and derisions and aspire to golden dreams of visions. If only they would let the sun shine in!   If only the if onlies weren’t if onlies, then Israel would certainly act!

Netanyahu can and does recite chapter and verse on all the historic perfidies committed by  Palestinians who aren’t part of the current Palestinian governance. No matter. They could be. They will be. See: Hamas-Gaza. Imagine Hamas-West Bank. Reimagine and ignore what the British viewed as the terrorism of many of Israel’s original Zionist leaders before the British decided their long-term strategic interest was best served by, well, actually thinking long-term.

Could Israel do anything to strengthen the Palestinians in the West Bank, the ones who have successfully governed under Israeli occupation for almost a decade?  Yes, what a silly question. Of course. And Netanyahu could also work with Egypt and the rest of the Arab League to bolster any agreement…but the region is aflame. If only it wasn’t!

Here’s an assignment: Search for any speech where Netanyahu has painted his vision of the benefits Israelis would receive from a successful Palestinian state living side by side with Israel in peace that doesn’t also recite the reasons why that vision isn’t possible because of all the if onlies.  His Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon just championed the idea of managing the conflict on an open-ended basis, and granting the Palestinians Israel’s version of non-state sovereignty: “(We are) not looking for a solution (to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but instead) “looking for a (better) way to manage the conflict.” This statement should surprise no one. It’s been de facto Netanyahu policy.

Oh, Netanyahu laments,  if only the world would focus on grand intent and lay off the fulfillment part. After all, the Cubs have been trying for over a century and they’re still lovable. Why not Israel?

Settlements, shtetlments.  Since when did  more settlers encroaching on those cute Palestinian shtetls become a bigger story than ISIL knock, knock, knocking on Israel’s northern door? Or Hamas randomly  lobbing missiles  into Tel Aviv? Or Iran building nukes? Or the British parliament recognizing Palestine? Or the Cowboys finally getting an offensive line to protect their quarterback?

Does anyone really believe that the world would care more about Israel’s very real present-day security concerns  if Israel moved from always intending to finally acting? Do the Palestinians, who are, after all, in far better shape than Muslims in Syria, Egypt or Iraq, and, who are now, after 67 years, highly acclimated to their condition, somehow merit such disproportionate world focus? Why not start with the Cubs and work backwards?

Ah, you thought these were rhetorical questions. Not so. Your answers: Yes, yes, and because the Cubs are lovable losers. Israel is doing its best to be an unlovable winner.

Imagine if the ‘if only the Palestinians would’ speeches about Israel’s grand intent were replaced with actions that actually assisted in Palestinian nation building? Israel may initially get only a few more Facebook likes, but Palestinian success would inure to Israel’s strategic benefit. Diplomatic efforts would be strengthened,military resources could be redeployed and the hasbara industry in Israel and the U.S. could sell Israel’s many successes and actually have someone listen.

In 2011, current Israeli ambassador (then a key advisor) Ron Dermer was nice enough to distribute Bar-Ilan to me (the speech not the university) when I questioned Netanyahu’s actions and inactions at a private J Street-organized meeting.  That was before J Street was crossed off the official meeting list. That was also before Dermer found his inner Michael Oren and engaged in an aggressive media attack, mainly against CNN anchors who tried to pretend that the Gaza conflict  was anything much more complex than a battle between the forces of good and evil. And that was way before J Street not-so-nicely compared Netanyahu to Beyoncé, likely ensuring its continued absence from Israeli embassy Shabbat dinners. (Although it’s rumored — mostly by me — that Beyoncé plans to emulate Lady Gaga’s recent duets with Tony Bennett, and is thinking about having a go with Jeremy Ben Ami at J Street’s D.C. convention next March.)

How could I or anyone question Netanyahu’s  sincerity? The man said he ultimately wants two states. He just needs real peace partners. He just needs those desk drawers, the ones that, historically,  he and too many of his Palestinian accomplices have effectively and reliably conspired to bolt shut, to remain sealed. Then it’s easier for Netanyahu to  pretend he’s got the leadership chops to move on to the rest of his desk.

If only he can continue to count on  Palestinian leaders who remain focused on the small picture, more interested in individual aggrandizement and glory, and more practiced in media attacks and (occasionally) violence than in building a real state, joined by  Israeli leaders equally focused on the small picture, more interested in managing than leading, and more practiced in working with the U.S. Congress than with those Palestinian leaders who have demonstrated their ability to create a Palestine that  will ensure, not threaten, Israel’s survival, then this Middle East Groundhog’s Day  can continue for the next 67 years.

Or maybe what Netanyahu really intends is to reinforce to Congress that, like last year and all the years prior, now is not the time for Israel to feint peace moves or for Congress to risk offending large campaign supporters by pressuring Israel to act in its own interest or, heaven forfend, reduce the number of his standing ovations the next time he offers up a Congressional history lesson. After all, Netanyahu has already worn down Kerry and Obama. Israel and Palestine is so yesterday’s focus. We’ve now moved on to mostly avoiding or pretending we’re aggressively addressing other geopolitical and neo-political threats — Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Libya, ISIS (ISIL’s twin brother), Hamas, Russia, Ebola, immigration reform, fracking (still not on George Carlin’s magic word list), climate change, congressional elections, Fox News, the NFL and North Korea (also known as the Eddie Haskel of nations).

While Netanyahu seems well positioned to continue to promise what he never  intends or knows how to deliver, what he intends is also, at times, clearly matched with what he didn’t intend, especially in the recent Gaza conflict — over 2,000 Palestinians and 71 Israelis dead, over 10,000 Palestinians  and almost 500 Israelis wounded,  and  thousands of Israelis in southern Israel left as collateral damage resulting from policies designed to manage Israel’s unmanageable process of occupation. Aquarias this is not. Leadership, this is not. Vision, this is not.

If only…

About the Author
Jeff Pozmantier is a leader within the Texas and national Jewish community and currently serves on local Hillel and AJC Boards and J Street's Finance Committee. He also participates in a Jewish-Presbyterian dialogue and as a fundraiser for Hand in Hand Schools ---Israel's only integrated, bilingual schools where Jewish and Arab children are educated together. Jeff is also the developer of Bumpspot, a unique website that advocates for Israel to take specific, proactive steps that will lead to a two-state solution.
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