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Time Is Not On Israel’s Side
To stave off growing isolation, Netanyahu must offer more than stopgaps in upcoming D.C. visit.
Mon, 04/04/2011 - 20:00
Editor And Publisher
Gary Rosenblatt
Gary Rosenblatt

The drumbeat of pressure for Israel to resolve its conflict with the Palestinians is growing louder, and coming not only from the international community, but, it seems, from Washington, and a large and vocal swath of American Jewry.

While much of that pressure conveniently ignores the role of Palestinian leaders in creating and perpetuating the current stalemate, it is clear that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must offer substantive, realistic proposals when he visits Washington next month — not just stopgaps aimed at slowing down the Palestinians’ drive for statehood recognition from the United Nations in September.

Agitation from those blaming Jerusalem alone for the current impasse is intensifying. For example, writing in The New Yorker on March 21, editor David Remnick calls on Netanyahu to “end the occupation of the Palestinian territories” and “the suffering of a dispossessed people and regain Israel’s moral standing.”

He asserts that “Netanyahu has stubbornly refused the appeals of Washington and of the Palestinian leaders Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad, who have shown themselves willing to make the concessions needed for a peace deal.”

Remnick is a gifted journalist and thoughtful observer of the Mideast. But what concessions does he have in mind? He doesn’t say. The Palestinians have rejected each Israeli proposal over the years without offering one of their own.

Remnick wants President Barack Obama to introduce a “comprehensive plan,” one presumably that would further pressure Washington’s closest ally. But we must keep in mind that the Israeli people, voting freely, have chosen their government, reflecting a deep concern about security — with good reason — in a hostile environment.


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No mention in Remnick’s essay of Israel’s numerous offers to the Palestinians and pullback from territory in return for empty promises to condemn the violence and the demonization of Israel and Jews in the media, mosques, textbooks, etc. No mention of the unilateral withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza, met by violence; no mention of Israel’s safety worries, based on years of suicide bombings and rocket attacks on Israeli civilians.

Yet Netanyahu is given zero credit for endorsing a two-state solution while the PA’s refusal to compromise on the right of return — which would end the Jewish state as we know it — is glossed over.

It is frustrating, indeed infuriating, to see the one-sided perception that only Israel is to blame for the conflict. Still, the situation for Israel is deteriorating and must be addressed.

Diplomatic ‘Tsunami’

As the Palestinian Authority’s effort to have the United Nations declare a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines in September gains momentum — 10 South American countries have recognized a Palestinian state and seven European countries, including England and France, have upgraded their diplomatic relations with the PA of late — and at a time when various forms of revolution are sweeping the Arab world, Jerusalem officials fear a perfect storm of anger, frustration, human rights advocacy and anti-Israel bias headed their way.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, addressing the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, said Israel is “facing a diplomatic-political tsunami that the majority of the public is unaware of and that will peak in September.” He noted that “it would be a mistake to ignore this tsunami. Israel’s delegitimization is just over the horizon, even if the public doesn’t see it. It is very dangerous and we need to act,” he said, adding: “Paralysis, rhetoric, inaction will deepen the isolation of Israel.”

Ilan Baruch, a 36-year veteran of the Israeli Foreign Ministry who served as ambassador to South Africa, resigned two months ago, saying he could no longer support his country’s foreign policy, which he called “a malignant diplomatic dynamic which threatens Israel’s international standing and undermines the legitimacy not only of its occupation but of its very membership in the family of nations.”

It is “an illusion,” he said, to think that the answer to “the various threats to our national security lies in expanding our public advocacy and in promoting Israel’s image as a leader in world technology.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, an ally, has chided Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for not taking “a single step to advance peace.” Most chilling, it is said that when Obama pleaded, unsuccessfully, with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in mid-February to withdraw a UN Security Council resolution condemning all Israeli settlements as illegal, he offered the Palestinian leader U.S. support for a state essentially along the 1967 borders. Abbas refused to withdraw the resolution, which the U.S. vetoed. But the alleged offer is said to have put Israeli officials in a panic, no doubt motivating the government in Jerusalem to come up with a serious, proactive diplomatic move that is being worked on now.

But what is the maximum Israel could offer that would meet the minimum requirement of a Palestinian Authority that has stubbornly refused to compromise on the right of return — the apparent deal-breaker when Abbas and then-prime minister Ehud Olmert were so close to an agreement in 2008?

And the question remains: what does Netanyahu really want?

What Does Bibi Want?

When I asked that question of Yoram Peri, a veteran Israeli journalist and academic who is directing the new Israel studies department at the University of Maryland, he said Israel, in a sense, has two prime ministers: There is ‘Bibi,’ who is his father’s son, and right-wing ideologue; and then there is ‘Netanyahu,’ the rational, thoughtful politician and diplomat.

“He is torn between these two roles,” said Peri, who spoke at the Jewish Funders Network conference in Philadelphia last week, “and today he has moved to the right, so I see ‘Bibi’ more in power.”

Another Israeli close to the government says Netanyahu has two primary foreign policy goals: “focus on Iran, which he sees as the real threat, and keep Obama off his back.”

To that end, he and others say, the Israeli leader is hard at work on a peace plan with a limited goal. It would call for an interim agreement that would: cede some West Bank areas now under Israeli security control to the PA; recognize a Palestinian state under temporary borders, with a call for full talks on permanent borders, security, Jerusalem and right of return; and allow Jerusalem to expand settlements only in areas that will be a permanent part of Israel.

Netanyahu is said to be less concerned with the PA’s acceptance of this state-in-stages offer than with whether it is sufficient to gain U.S. support, forestalling the PA’s push for a UN resolution declaring statehood in September. Such a resolution would “resolve” the conflict without addressing Israel’s concerns, and have Jews who are now living in the West Bank and east Jerusalem become residents of the State of Palestine overnight.

The U.S. would not be able to veto such a vote, as it can in the Security Council, even if it wanted to (which is not a given at this point).

Like it or not, the onus is on Netanyahu, and if his expected peace plan is perceived as simply playing for time, Israel’s diminished standing in the world community will be further eroded.

Those close to him insist that the prime minister “gets it.” Let’s hope so, and that the result is framed by a vision that can lead to a more hopeful future.

But Israel cannot make peace alone. Let’s also hope that the U.S. recognizes its strategic, diplomatic and moral responsibilities to its staunchest friend in the Middle East, and that the Palestinian leadership finally does the right thing for its people, choosing life over victimhood and the future over the past.


Barack Obama, Benjamin Netanyahu, david remnick, delegitimization, Israel, Israeli Palestinian Conflict, Mahmoud Abbas, Salam Fayyad

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When israel surrendered to egypt in camp david and made sinai Judenrein it got peace, when israel surrendered to hizbullah twice in lebanon it got peace, when israel surrendered to the plo in aza and made aza Judenfrei it got peace, therefore, I believe that if and when peres, barak livni etc get their wish and surrender to the plo and give away the rest of the so called west bank there is nothing to worry about because israel will get peace again.

David Remnick is "gifted?" Really, Gary? Does this supposed gift manifest itself in dealing forth asinine opinions about the people of Israel's "moral standing?"

If all those so concerned about Jewish moral values had any glimmer of intellectual honesty in inflicting their egotistic, bleeding-heart ethos on the rest of us, then they would be up in arms that Palestinian Arabs in Jordan -- and who ARE A MAJORITY -- live under the autocratic, despotic rule of an interloping Hashemite who fancies himself a king. The fate of the peoples of the Palestine Mandate is apparently of concern to Remnick only insofar as Jewish power is manifest.

Israel, which even if it declared all Palestinian Arabs living in Judea and Samaria citizens, would still have non-Arab majority rule, is supposed to cough-up concessions because of what the rest of the world thinks?

The only peace the Arabs have ever offered the Jews - hudnas notwithstanding - is the peace of the grave. Rabin's, Barack's, Clinton's, Obama's, et. al. peace of the brave is now, and has ever been, nothing but a chimera. Good, I suppose, for many hours in therapy, if one is inclined to understand why one considers his enemies' lives and comfort more worthy than his own.

Israel should immediately and unilaterally announce the restoration of Jewish sovereignty over all territories of the land of Israel under its current control and grant all Arabs living in Israel citizenship with no national voting rights (works for Puerto Ricans, though I'm sure Remnick must be utterly disgusted).

Then Israel's leaders must get on with defending her people against the dire threats she faces. Stubbornly.

no concession by the israelis will ever satisfy the Palestinians. It is simple. Every time, an Israeli makes some concessions or presents a far-reaching "peace plan", the Palestinians move the goal posts. SO, for now, let us annex all of Judah Veshomorn and stand pat. What will the world do? The Europeans are anitsemites anyway and will never lift a finger to defend israel. The US will chnage its President one day-maybe soon- and then we can stand shoulder to shoulder with the Administration to fight off the Moslem menace. Till then, a Bronx cheer to all those meddling from afar.

Time is not on Israel's side.I believe that it is possible to change the direction of our government leaning towards this Quartet agreement, by strongly demonstrating our support for the State of Israel. It is vital that citizens, as well as our democratically elected officers, both Jewish and non Jewish, who believe that this action on our Government's part is against all of our prior agreements and moral values, to act. Contact the State Department Legislative Affairs Office or the National Security Council's Office of Legislative affairs and President Obama and ask them to support Israel's right to be recognized as a Jewish State by the Palestinians, and the right to defensible borders to safeguard the safety and security of its citizens. Israel should not be isolated, and the US should stand by her at all costs in light of the unrest and upheaval throughout the Middle East. Israel is the only democratic ally the US has in that area, and she must be kept secure. Shabbat Shalom.


The Arabs have clear goals and loads of patience. While arrogant and self-important Jews front for the Arabs and the anti-Semites by dreaming up one totally irrelevant “peace plan” after the next, as if only some Jew was smart enough to dream up the right formula, the Arabs wait, exploit the world’s anti-Semitism and the liberal-left’s addictive need for victims, and they never forget or betray their goal.

Further compounding the idiocy of "peace plans" is the geography of Israel. The land Jewish liberals in concert and brotherhood with the Arabs and with anti-Semites everywhere want Israel to surrender, is a mountainous highland that towers over a narrow and indefensible coastal plain where most Israelis live.

Giving the Arabs this militarily vital resource won’t bring peace, it will simply put the Arabs in a better position to kill Jews. (One third of the Arabs approved of the murders of the Fogel family, including slitting the throat of a three month old girl.) WHAT PEACE?

OK, lets say Netanyahu reads your column and decides to offer "substantive, realistic proposals" when he visits Washington next month, "not just stopgaps".
Netanyahu calls you and, in his best Columbo voice, says "Gary, just one more thing. What do you think will happen if I offer these substantive, realistic proposals?"

Political scientist Ron Hassner of UC-Berkeley has identified a major reason for the failure of past peace talks--the absence of religious leaders from the negotiations. The politicians can discuss Jerusalem and other plots of land all they want, but it is the religious leaders who hold the power and can make or break any deal. For those who would like to read more of Hassner's ideas, here's a link to an excellent article:

I would like to see the Israelis appoint one or more rabbis to the negotiating team, rabbis who speak fluent Arabic and have deep family roots in the Middle East. If anyone could make a deal, I think they might be ones who could help pull it off.

I believe a distinction needs to be made between the State of Israel and the Land of Israel. The Jewish People has an indisoluble connection with the land, and nothing can change that. The political boundaries, however, must follow realpolitik, and I believe Netanyahu needs to get this fact through to the extreme right elements in his own government if he wants to have a shot at going into history as the PM who managed Peace. Nor going there, might indeed cost Israel its international standing and provide the Palestinians with the political tools to enforce the Right of Return, spelling the end of the Jewish State. You don't choose the cards you get, but History judges you by how you play the hand. The time to improve the situation was years ago, now we are stuck with this reality...

It looks as if Bibi's hands are tied and International pressure pushing for the establishment for a Palestinian State may come about. Bibi should still dig his toes in to mention that the Muslim world must 1st recognise the State Of Israel period, before any negotiations for a Palestinian State takes place. I doubt if Abbas or any Muslim country will agree to recoginize that only Israel has the sole right to the ancient land of the Jewish / Hebrew people.

According to Al-Jazeera, Abbas was willing to acknowledge that there would be no right of return, and that he understood why Israel did not want it. But as soon as his words were published, he denied saying them.

Arafat raised his people on a warlike scenario, while Abbas, who's not as popular as Arafat, can't admit the concessions he has to make for peace without sounding weak. And so he races around to the UN complaining about settlement building that's been going on for 43 years because that gives him the world's support. A realistic peace agreement might get him assassinated.

Perhaps both America and Palestine need stronger leaders and Israel needs a more imaginative one. Obama could offer the Palestinians something they so desired that they would choose peace in order to get it, thus protecting Abbas' life. Netanyahu needs to come up with an offer that's so original and dynamic that the world will marvel. And Abbas needs to take off his running shoes, and sit down and talk with Netanyahu.

The whole world is suffering from inadequate leadership.

If David Remnick is so overcome with existential angst perhaps he should make aliya. Grab a gun. And stand a watch. Then he can make a run for the knesset so the Israeli people can get the full benefit of his wise wisdom. Until then maybe he should take his upper west side sensibilities and take a walk.