Wednesday, May 25, 2011

"Netanyahu has no plan; he is leading us to a conflict with the world"

One thing you won't read in the US press very often and you definitely will not hear from members of Congress is the type of discussion of Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli policies that you hear every day in Israel. So while Congress was treating Netanyahu like a rock star cross between George Washington, Abe Lincoln and Elvis Presley, this is what members of the Israeli Knesset were saying about his speech, as reported by the Jerusalem Post.

From the Kadima Party, that opposes Netanyahu's Likud, MK Shaul Mofaz said
Netanyahu didn't say anything new. . . He has no plan; he is leading us to a conflict with the world in September and if the people of Israel have a choice between conflict and elections, I'm confident that they will choose elections.

Another Kadima Member of the Knesset explained the raw political context of the speech,
"Netanyahu's speech to Congress was an election commercial ... an attempt by Netanyahu to present a false impression that he is willing to enter negotiations," Hasson said. "The people of Israel should not be enticed and should understand that Netanyahu's policies will lead not only to international isolation, but also to a binational state."

And on the much discussed 1967 borders,
MK Zehava Gal-On of Meretz did not mince words in her reaction. Calling the Prime Minister "dangerous" and "extremist," she said, "They cheer in Congress while in the Middle East the catastophe goes on."

Gal-On condemned Netanyahu's stance that Israel would never return to 1967 borders. "Even Netanyahu knows that there is no such thing as peace that is not based on '67 borders and dividing Jerusalem. [His views] reject peace and will lead Israel to international isolation."

Of course, Netanyahu did have his supporters among his own party such as Gidon Sa'ar, who said
There's no statesmen in Israel or the world who could present the case for Israel as strongly as Netanyahu could . . . [Netanyahu] expressed willingness for concessions with a real Palestinian partner but the Palestinian response to his speech indicates that there isn't one."

Then, there was the extreme right wing of Israeli politics represented by National Union MK Aryeh Eldad who said
Netanyahu received the greatest applause when he said that Israel is the land of our forefathers and that Jerusalem will not be divided. So there was no need for him to declare that he is willing to give up large portions of our homeland to the Arabs. Saying that he is willing to abandon settlements will only encourage the Arabs to ask for more and we are liable to pay for this in blood.

These are but examples of the differences of opinion and sometimes scathing denunciations of Israeli policies that come from Israeli politicians but are somehow off limits in the US Congress.

And on the dispute between Obama and Netanyahu the newspaper Haaretz didn't pull any punches when it said that Obama was on the side of Israel and Netanyahu was not,

Obama stressed that only a peace agreement with the Palestinians based on the 1967 lines can ensure that Israel will continue to be a Jewish and democratic state and prevent unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state by the UN General Assembly. Yesterday, the European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, backed Obama, as did the other members of the Quartet.

The refusal by Netanyahu and his political allies to recognize the 1967 borders as a starting point leads permanent-status negotiations into a dead end. From there, the road is short to violent confrontation with the Palestinians, diplomatic isolation and perhaps even economic sanctions.

Imagine that.

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