As Israel’s election draws near, there is one issue that is of overriding importance.
No, it is not the question of whether to try to restart negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. And it is not related to the price of apartments, income inequality or any other domestic issue.
It is the question of whether Israel will remain a sovereign, independent state, or whether it will become a satellite of the US, a ‘banana republic’ without an independent foreign policy.
I had a discussion this weekend over our Shabbat table with my son-in-law. “Look,” he said. “Buji and Tzipi aren’t going to make a deal with the Palestinians. Everyone knows that there’s no common ground. So what’s left are the domestic issues. And Netanyahu has failed miserably. It’s time for a change.” He speaks for many Israelis, especially young ones. But he’s missing the point.
Leave aside the question of whether PM Netanyahu has indeed failed, if indeed a different government would do a better job of making it possible for young people to afford an apartment, relieve the stress on the hospitals, improve the educational system, etc. Leave aside the question of whether a different government would have dealt with Hamas more effectively last summer.
Let’s say, בא נגיד, as Israelis like to say, that there really is no significant difference in the real-life security policies of Netanyahu’s Likud and Buji Herzog’s Zionist Union. Let’s say that Netanyahu would be more open to ceding territory to the Arabs than he says he would be, and that Herzog would be less ready to make a deal than he says.
Even if all this were true, there is still one elephant left in the room. And that is the relationship with the Obama Administration. And that elephant is not that Netanyahu has a poor one — it’s that Buji and Tzipi’s is too good.
Netanyahu went to Washington and stood up for Israel’s interests, receiving a huge amount of abuse from Obama partisans in America and the Left in Israel in return. There is no doubt that the vindictive Obama will do his best to punish him personally in any way that he can. But the PM believed that his action would possibly tip the balance against an agreement with Iran that would legitimize rather then retard its progress toward nuclear weapons, and that preventing this is of the utmost importance.
Buji, on the other hand, did not go to Washington in solidarity with the PM. In fact, he opposed the visit, saying that the Iranian program, while “a big threat,” was not “existential.” And he said “I trust Obama to get a good deal.”
For an Israeli to trust Obama after he has consistently demonstrated — both in speech and action — his lack of sympathy (even a poorly-hidden antipathy) for Israel, along with empathy for its enemies, is simply breathtaking.
But it is not surprising, considering the backing that Herzog and Livni’s Zionist Union has received from the Obama Administration. There is no doubt that large amounts of money are flowing from American and other foreign sources into groups working against Netanyahu, with administration encouragement at the very least — and direct connivance at most.
A nonpartisan Senate investigation into the possibility that taxpayer funds were used to interfere in Israel’s election is now taking place. If any smoking guns are discovered, it will be far too late to affect the election. But both PM Netanyahu and many Israelis are absolutely certain that the administration is doing its best to defeat him.
Assuming that Herzog becomes Prime Minister, how easy will it be for him to say ‘no’ to the man that helped get him elected? The administration has said it will push to restart talks with the Palestinians after the election. That means immediate pressure for concessions “to bring the Palestinians to the table,” such as freezing building in settlement blocs and eastern Jerusalem, releasing terrorists from Israeli prisons, and so forth. We’ve played this game before, and it always turns out the same way: the Palestinians pocket the concessions and continue making their maximal demands.
There is also the next war to consider. We don’t know whether it will be with Hamas or Hizballah, but we can expect that the moment it starts, so will the pressure from Washington to accept a cease-fire that will be highly disadvantageous. During the recent Gaza conflict, the administration tried to push a cease-fire agreement developed with the help of Hamas supporters Qatar and Turkey; embargoed the delivery of arms to Israel; encouraged the FAA to ground US flights to Ben-Gurion airport; and accused Israel of “disproportionate” actions. How will Herzog and Livni react to similar pressure?
And of course, the big one, Iran. But we already know what Buji will do on this issue — trust his good friend, Barack Obama.
The bad relationship between Netanyahu and Obama is not a personality clash. It is directly due to the fact that Netanyahu will not follow instructions from the White House. And that is the way it has to be, because what Barack Obama wants is not necessarily what is good for Israel.
Maybe Buji and Tzipi think they will be strong enough to resist once they are in power. But as I wrote last week, you don’t make a deal with the devil and ask for your soul back.
The recent articles have this quality of having to accept that Netanyahu will not win. It is astonishing to me as well, an American Jew and outsider who cannot believe that the Israeli populace can be so blind as to embrace a fate that leads to having to fight a defensive war on numerous fronts, that Israelis in large numbers would oust Netanyahu. Livni and Herzog seem like traitors to me, in my faraway perch, but they are front-runners there!
Obama’s people are working hard to consummate the Iran deal, the bad one, on Iran’s terms. The cloaked discussions, which raised the ire of Republican Senators enough to remind the Iranians that the deal would not survive Obama’s Administration, are being indemnified by efforts to have the rest of the P5 + 1 gang drop the sanctions at the UN. They will do this! While absolutely true that the UN’s vote and writ will not be binding on the US, the real work of Obama will be, as Charles Krauthammer has pointed out, nearly done; by removing the sanctions, in disregard of the Senate and the House, he will have successfully compelled the relief that the Senators had brief opportunities to deny with the Menendez-Kirk Amendment and the bill to require approval of Obama’s agreement with Iran. All enforcement issues disappear, sanctions never to be successfully applied again, even if our elected officials find their courage beneath their pillows.
This is the seal of approval that Obama meant to bestow on Iran, whether the Senate and the House approved or not, and like a skilled chess-player he will pull this off.
Now tot all of this up with the Israeli elections: An Israel-hostile American President will have just made the Islamic Republic of Iran America’s number one, go-to ally in the region. Intelligence cooperation was supposedly turned off with Israel so that the delicate negotiations with Iran could be completed. Want to bet that the cooperation tap is not turned on again full force after the sanctions relief starts working its wonders? Who will temper the Iranian wish list? They will want to preserve and strengthen their allies in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon. The US is already helping them do that by providing air support and non-interference in the bid to stymie all Sunni forces in the region, including ISIS. We laid down our support in Yemen, so the Houthis will be easy to maintain. And Hezbollah will soon be able to return to South Lebanon for their next duties. Egypt and Jordan are weakened. Saudi Arabia has only its oil spigot and long-term goals of Wahabiizing the world.
There will be a brief period of consolidation that may coincide with a honeymoon of sorts for the new non-Netanyahu Israeli government, but Iran has to take action for their most desired objectives while this American President is in their camp. Iran will be at their most vulnerable, but they will still want to have a go at Israel. By the US not countering any of their moves in the region, they will have drawn the noose close for a war later in the year. A nuclear weapons test can wait until this job is done. It will be exactly as you predicted: US diplomacy will be used to hamstring Israel’s defense of itself. Every diplomatic choice will inure to Israel’s disadvantage and the pitch of hysterics against this tiny country, around the world, will be deafening. Bad strategies, bad generals, bad decisions, nearly any concession–any combination of theses–and Israelis could be leaving for the US and Canada in record numbers. It is not a choice for a Banana Republic, but for No Republic.
Imagine the foresight and manipulation and the undiminished hostility it would take to bring the US around to the point where they have primed the pump for Iran’s ultimate victory in the Middle East. Those who ascribe incompetence to Obama, sorely underestimate the resolve to turn things around to resemble the mess in his head. It is traitorous to every American instinct and interest. But once it’s done, it will take an unimaginable effort on our side to undo it. If we can’t even vote for a sanctions bill with enough Democrats to make the bill veto-proof, why would anyone care that Israel has disappeared. I can even see it being a cottage industry for ex-pat Israeli writers, exiled/escaped to the West.
Netanyahu knows his one job is to defend his state. It has probably been an unbearable ordeal of unrelenting pressure to deal with this President [just think of the one phone call everyone went out of their way to deny during the last Gaza war]… concede enough to remove some pressure, but keep his strength in reserve for the next really big war with Iran. I don’t believe he has ever been fooled by who or what Obama was; it seems more like a long fencing match, where if he can just parry enough to take the battle to the next round, he will be able to use his skill and go for the win. But to get there, he has to be the guy in charge, along with Yallon, otherwise a misstep by stand-ins will cause only tragedy.
Can Israelis not see this? Cannot Americans see it?
I’m not even very good at this sort of analysis, but it seems obvious to me. The fractiousness that makes Jews so ‘interesting’, is also a bar to embracing that expression of character when there are bigger stakes involved. Question everything, by all means. But keep your eyes on the danger and stay alive.
As an aside, I’m going to make a guess about the contents of that video of Obama the Los Angeles Times refuses to release. It’s hard to believe anything our President says, because it’s always for temporary political gain; so let’s not ascribe too much heartfelt veracity to it. He has the absolute immunity from being questioned about anything that comes from being the first black American President. But every once in a while, he’ll do something, even say something that reveals his thinking. Appointing Robert Malley, Susan Rice, Samantha Power… these are indicative of the mind at work. Ambushing Netanyahu every time he came here, another sign. I believe that on that night, a little in his cups, he might have made a toast for the elimination of Israel.
Who knows. Everything else he has done comports with that view, regardless of what’s on the tape.
s/b Ya’alon above.
I am concerned about the security issue, and about the inexperience of the Herzog-Livni team. I am also very concerned about the extreme leftists that have an important place in their party.
The housing problem is a major one for young Israelis, and has not been truly addressed by the present government.
I believe it is not right for one party or person to be in power too long.
I nonetheless will vote for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s remaining in power. I believe overall he has served Israel well.