By Larry Gordon
It might be an unfortunate case of too little, too late. Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finally raised the truth about relations between Israel and her Palestinian neighbors, many of whom seek to deconstruct (to put it mildly) the Jewish state.
Netanyahu has been posting videos on the Prime Minister’s Office Facebook page. He articulated the position loud and clear—that ethnic cleansing cannot be the basis of any peace agreement. How can anything so racist, discriminatory, and repugnant be a basis for good relations and peaceful coexistence between longtime historical adversaries?
And the truism that Bibi was pointing out is that if this is the formulation on which to move forward, then something is wrong with the equation and it is just not going to work.
Why this premise was never questioned or why the prime minister’s pronouncement has spurred so much controversy over the last few days is extremely puzzling in and of itself.
The idea of separating the two populations was never realistic or workable but came about rather from a desire to move forward, combined with not knowing what else to do.
So last week, in a video posted online, the prime minister talked for a few minutes about the Palestinian demand that no Jews be allowed to reside in any future state of Palestine.
It is certainly possible that in the past this was the only way to address this otherwise implacable problem. But things have changed dramatically over the last few years. Firstly, there are many more-urgent matters in the Middle East than the Israel–Palestinian issue, which, except for the recent spate of stabbing attacks, has settled into a non-urgent rhythm with only the Palestinian leadership seeking to turn things upside down and create a situation in which they can generate more international funding.
Make no mistake; the talk of the situation exploding is just that—talk—with a few flurries of terror sprinkled in between. The average man on the street in Arab towns has been taught from childhood to hate Jews and Israel, but compared to many others in the surrounding Arab world their lives are good, and they know that under Arab rule their quality of life—if not life itself—would be significantly diminished.
But the other end of this equation is that a flourishing Israel is a thorn in the side of the Europeans and, for now anyway, the pencil-pushers in the State Department, and will become a focal point of the end-of-administration issues in the Obama administration.
Israel is trying many things to stave off a parting shot from Barack Obama, who has made it clear by the way he has conducted himself that there is no love lost for Mr. Netanyahu. No leader has made more repeated attempts to burst Mr. Obama’s hot-air balloon than the Israeli prime minister.
For now, though, Mr. Netanyahu has spoken important and fateful words. Somehow, in a world where discrimination on any level is strongly condemned, there is still a place for special mistreatment of Jews, especially those in Israel.
And, sad to say, had Israel resisted over the decades instead of going along with this ridiculous notion of discriminatory treatment for Jews, maybe the rest of the world would have at least succumbed slightly to the notion of Jews being treated by the international community on par with others.
But that was not the case. There was and unfortunately still is Jewish discomfort with who we are, where we are, and that we have survived altogether. As some of the Israeli media has pointed out, Bibi is on target when he says that ethnic cleansing or a Judenrein approach to peace is not a workable formula, but this is the same Bibi who voted in the Knesset four times to forcibly extricate the Jewish population from the Gaza Strip prior to the eventual tragic Gush Katif withdrawal.
So let’s hypothesize. It is unlikely that either he or Ariel Sharon, the architect of the Gush Katif withdrawal, would endorse that kind of policy again, though had they not seen the deadly results of their folly over the last 11 years they just might have been tempted to try.
Ariel Sharon is no longer with us, but Bibi Netanyahu is very much alive and a vital player in the ongoing machinations of an illusory peace process. Israel has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that this old idea of another Arab state—this one in Israel’s midst—is not the answer to anything or any issue that plagues today’s Middle East.
But it’s like someone forgot to tell Barack Obama and John Kerry and company. Now, after eight years of a rough ride for Mr. Obama on the Israel issue and more specifically his interactions with Mr. Netanyahu, it may be the president’s chance to get in the last word and also slam the door on his way out of the White House.
Perhaps the most distorted aspect of this dynamic in Israel is the notion of two states for two peoples. This idea is what bell-bottom pants and Nehru jackets are to the fashion industry today. Some people might be wearing them, some others may be trying to force them back into vogue, but it looks like it is just not happening.
The Israel–Palestinian matter is a back-burner issue in today’s Middle East but still a front-burner matter for Mr. Obama because it is a way for him to complicate life for Bibi as the president exits the diplomatic stage.
What Obama is planning to do is still either a secret or somewhat up in the air. The best bet is that the UN Security Council will seek to pass a resolution mandating that Israel withdraw from Judea and Samaria and East Jerusalem, a resolution that over the years would be routinely vetoed by the U.S. The Obama threat is that this time they will let it pass—subjecting Israel down the road to UN economic sanctions, an additional headache that Israel doesn’t need.
In case you are wondering, this is precisely where Vladimir Putin comes into the picture. Somehow supporters of right thinking and of Israel are at present more comfortable with the sight of Prime Minister Netanyahu sitting side by side with the Russian president than with Mr. Obama. It’s both an extreme reversal as well as a reality.
Short of sounding too much like Donald Trump, it appears that Mr. Putin has a better understanding of what is needed in today’s Middle East than Mr. Obama. The facts on the ground have changed dramatically. Today there is a solid working relationship between Israel, Jordan, and Egypt. There is military and intelligence cooperation and most importantly a desire to keep the peace.
Today Israel is working with Sunni-dominated Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain. Their common interest is countering and dealing with the Obama-supported Iranian quest for atomic weaponry. Never has the adage “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” been truer.
But Washington, in the form of the president and Secretary Kerry, just reiterates the same mantra: “two-state solution.” Never has anything been not only as impossible, but also as irrelevant.
Between November 8 and January 20, when the next president will be inaugurated, Israel has to be on guard for a shrewd parting shot emanating from Mr. Obama. Potentially dangerous days lie ahead, because though there is an election on the horizon, Mr. Obama is not quite gone yet.
Comments for Larry Gordon are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.