The Truth Hurts, Bibi

Obama Is Right When He Says Netanyahu Shoots Israel in Foot

Hard Truths: If Barack Obama did say that Israel was shooting itself in the foot by expanding the occupation of the West Bank, well, guess what? He’s right.
getty images
Hard Truths: If Barack Obama did say that Israel was shooting itself in the foot by expanding the occupation of the West Bank, well, guess what? He’s right.

By Leonard Fein

Published January 22, 2013, issue of January 25, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Multi Page

So now we have the journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, presumably based on conversation(s) with officials of the Obama administration, perhaps with the president himself, quoting Obama: “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are.” And then, with “each new settlement announcement Netanyahu is moving his country down a path toward near-total isolation.”

Needless to say, Benjamin Netanyahu reacted to the report testily. An aide said that Netanyahu would “continue to resist pressure from America and other countries” and would “make no compromise that will harm its citizens’ security.” Netanyahu himself responded trenchantly: “I think that President Obama knows that the ones determining Israel’s vital interests are the citizens of Israel, and they will be the ones to choose who will protect those interests in the best possible way.”

And how does the prime minister define Israel’s interests? In an interview with Israel Hayom in the wake of the Goldberg column, he cites three main objectives: “Preventing Iran from arming themselves with nuclear weapons, not going back to the indefensible 1967 borders, and keeping Jerusalem united. These are fundamental objectives.”

We learn as much from what the prime minister failed to say as from what he did say. He failed to say anything about a two-state solution. And the reason for that is clear: He is opposed to a two-state solution — that is, to a two-state solution that allows for a viable Palestinian state with contiguous territory.

And, as The Economist recently observed, “A growing number of Israeli politicians on the right argue that if Israel ‘stands firm,’ Western governments will quietly acquiesce in the Palestinians’ failure to get a proper state, just as most Basques and Kurds have had to make do with autonomy at best rather than outright independence.”

This conviction can be taken to preposterous extremes. Thus, Yair Shamir, son of former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, says (again according to The Economist) that Israel should simply ignore Western finger-wagging; it can find new friends and trading partners in China, India, Russia and elsewhere in Asia.”

There are those who say that Israel has no choice but to live with the status quo. After all, they argue, the Palestinians are not adequate partners for peace. And the entire region is now seething: Who knows what will happen in Syria? How reliable is Morsi of Egypt? Even Jordan is no longer a dependable neighbor. And, of course, there’s Iran and its terrorist proxies. This is, therefore, no time for a grand bargain.

But the fact is that the status quo is inherently unstable — in part because that is the way it is, and in part because Netanyahu, et al., are using this recess from peace talks to create new facts on the ground: a university in Ariel, deep inside the West Bank; declarations about planned development in the contentious E1 territory between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim; provocative housing expansion across the Green Line; the relentless drive to Judaize the remaining Arab enclaves of East Jerusalem. These are the practical implications of “not going back to the indefensible 1967 borders and keeping Jerusalem united.”

During Israel’s election campaign, Netanyahu pledged that there would be no dismantling of settlements during his next term in office. “The days of bulldozers flattening settlements are behind us, not in front of us,” he said. (For the record, there have been very, very few such days.) And he might as well have added that the days of settlement expansion are, as an explosive January 16 report by Shalom Achshav (Peace Now) shows in painstaking and painful detail, very much with us. That report reveals that Israel’s government approved more than 1,400 new construction plans and more than 6,000 housing units beyond the Green Line in 2012, a substantial increase over 2011.

We judge political leaders by their words and by their deeds. In the case of Netanyahu, there is little reason to choose between the two, no need to ask whether the “real” Netanyahu will stand up. The prime minister is altogether real. While projections for his Likud party indicate that it will hold only about 26 percent of the seats in the Knesset, losing some strength to more fastidiously right-wing parties, and that the center-Left, for all its disarray, will experience a bit of a revival, Netanyahu is virtually certain to form Israel’s next government. And that means still more facts on the ground, still more impediments to a two-state solution.

American pressure? If past is prologue, not likely. But if Israel continues down its current destructive path, transforming a two state solution into a dismal relic of a time of sunnier hopes, confirming apartheid as Israel’s chosen course, all bets are off. The day might yet come when America informs Israel, AIPAC notwithstanding, that it will no longer be its champion in the United Nations, or that other arenas of cooperation and support have narrowed.

Politically, that’s a disastrous prospect. Morally, it’s ever worse.

Contact Leonard Fein at feedback@forward.com


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.