Barely five years after their White House meeting, and their obvious non-meeting of minds at following press conference Binyamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel has dropped all pretense of diplomatic nicety: President Obama and his carefully selected coterie of like-minded advisers and cabinet are either naïve, blind or out of touch with reality regarding the complexities of America’s interests and the diplomacy necessary to achieve them. Neither is Bibi alone in finally taking the president to task: America’s closest and most important remaining Arab “ally,” Saudi King Abdullah long ago conclude the same, and for all intents and purposes an at best cold truce exists today between the two leaders. The following is from David Horowitz unfortunately relegated to a side-bar excellent article, Netanyahu finally speaks his mind. It is this level of reportage that inspires my high regard for Horowitz the man, and his journal, Times of Israel!
I provide a commentary on this interview, and the implications, as I see them, for Israel’s future.
“The prime minister spoke his mind as rarely, if ever, before. He set out his worldview with the confidence of a leader who sees vindication in the chaos all around. He answered those fundamental questions.” He made explicitly clear that he could never, ever, countenance a fully sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank. He indicated that he sees Israel standing almost alone on the frontlines against vicious Islamic radicalism, while the rest of the as-yet free world does its best not to notice the march of extremism. And he more than intimated that he considers the current American, John Kerry-led diplomatic team to be, let’s be polite, naive.”
Palestinian statehood is no longer on the table. The reason,
“given the march of Islamic extremism across the Middle East, he said, Israel simply cannot afford to give up control over the territory immediately to its east, including the eastern border — that is, the border between Israel and Jordan, and the West Bank and Jordan. “Not relinquishing security control west of the Jordan, it should be emphasized, means not giving a Palestinian entity full sovereignty there. It means not acceding to Mahmoud Abbas’s demands, to Barack Obama’s demands, to the international community’s demands. This is not merely demanding a demilitarized Palestine; it is insisting upon ongoing Israeli security oversight inside and at the borders of the West Bank. That sentence, quite simply, spells the end to the notion of Netanyahu consenting to the establishment of a Palestinian state. A less-than-sovereign entity? Maybe, though this will never satisfy the Palestinians or the international community. A fully sovereign Palestine? Out of the question. (my emphasis) “He wasn’t saying that he doesn’t support a two-state solution. He was saying that it’s impossible.”
Regarding American plans for Israeli security borders within an American defined peace process, Bibi closed that door in no uncertain terms:
Never mind what the naive outsiders recommend, “I told John Kerry and General Allen, the Americans’ expert, ‘We live here, I live here, I know what we need to ensure the security of Israel’s people.’””
Of course Israel’s immediate concern is with Hamas and Gaza. And in a comment that may hold significance for Israel going forward on that front the prime minister said,
It had been a mistake for Israel to withdraw from Gaza… “If we were to pull out of Judea and Samaria, like they tell us to… There were 1,200 tunnels dug in the 14-kilometer border strip between Egypt and Gaza alone… At present we have a problem with the territory called Gaza,” the prime minister said. But the West Bank is 20 times the size of Gaza. Israel, he said flatly, was not prepared “to create another 20 Gazas” in the West Bank.” “We will defend ourselves on every front, defensively and offensively,” he vowed.”
I have quoted freely and extensively from David Horowitz’s article for two reasons. First: this is the first time the prime minister has publicly cleared the air regarding what appeared an overly-cautious approach to events surrounding Israel: from Iran to the American “two-state solution” to nowhere. The United States is seven thousand miles distant from Israel and the chaos and death from Arab Spring fallout its mismanagement of the region since the Iraq invasion has created. One thing is certain. Obama and “advisers” have had six years to realize their mistakes and learn. But for the US administration naivete continues to rule and the learning curve has been consistently negative: Yemen, Libya, Egypt, Syria and, most dangerous, the rising American-sponsored hegemon of the region, Iran (and, of course, the ayatollah’s patron, Russia). Until his recent press conference Bibi seemed to complacently follow the superpower script.
Second: I have for years written that the US is adrift, has no coherent policy regarding the Middle East unless retreat is a national policy. Certainly this seems America’s “policy” since the Bush-era Iraq debacle! I have also argued that the so-called Special Relationship so romanticized by Israelis is little more than an instrument of US exploitation of the Jewish State: that the “largess” criticized by anti-Israel Americans inside out the government provided Israel (mostly loans) by “American taxpayers” has been more than compensated in Israeli blood defending American regional interests against the Soviets during the Cold War, and Islamist extremism since 9-11. Until the Bibi news conference described by Horowitz there was no indication of Bibi other than as the occasionally complaining Obama lap dog. It now appears this dog has teeth. Horowitz ends his summary of the news conference with this Bibi warning:
And in a passage that was primarily directed at Israel’s Islamist enemies, but might equally be internalized by those he plainly regards as Israel’s muddle-headed self-styled friends, he added: “Nobody should mess with us.”
I, for the first time, am reassured that my daughter’s family and our State of Israel are governed by a person with a clear understanding of the world, local and foreign.