Obama and Netanyahu: Intractable differences
Two speeches at the United Nations General Assembly illustrate the vast gulf separating the leaders of the United States and Israel. Not only is there daylight between Pres. Obama and PM Netanyahu, there are intractable differences.
PM Netanyahu, when addressing the UNGA last week, started out calling the brazen lies uttered at the UN as just that, "brazen lies." His language was anything but diplomatic. One of those lies had been uttered by Mahmoud Abbas (aka, Abu Mazen) when he charged Israel with genocide and ethnic cleansing. Netanyahu singled him out for living in a reverse moral universe: "I suppose it’s the same moral universe where a man (Abu Mazen) who wrote a dissertation of lies about the Holocaust, and who insists on a Palestine free of Jews, Judenrein, can stand at this podium and shamelessly accuse Israel of genocide and ethnic cleansing." No more pussy footing around here.
Abu Mazen is no longer considered a peace partner. Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, in a major speech on Monday said Mahmoud Abbas “is a more serious enemy” than Yasser Arafat.
“Abu Mazen’s ideology is stronger and [he] negates the existence of a Jewish state and the right of the Jewish people to have a state of their own. For Abu Mazen there is no Jewish people. He is only willing to recognize the Jewish religion,”
Transport Minister Tzipi Hotovely in an interview, said, "The speech yesterday was the way to tell the world that the two-state solution had died. Netanyahu told the world that Abbas and Hamas are the same, they want to destroy Israel".
Min of Defense, Moshe Yaalon, also gave a speech last week in which he said in the wake of Operation Protective Edge, “(How) can one even consider restricting the freedom of action of the defense forces in Judea and Samaria?” Furthermore, he said if Israel withdrew, then the territory would be used, as in Gaza, by global jihad organizations. “Who can allow himself this sort of security situation in Judea and Samaria?” he said. “And not just vis-a-vis Israel; also vis-a-vis the Hashemite Kingdom. Can it survive that?”
Obama continues to back Abbas and the two state solution as envisaged by him.
Moving right along, Netanyahu named the enemy, "militant Islam" and referred to it as a cancer which "grows, metastasizing over wider and wider areas." This was remarkably bold because the US refuses to identify the enemy much less naming it militant Islam. The US prefers to say terrorism, a tactic, is the enemy and won't go so far as to call it Islamic terrorism. In fact, Obama recently said that Islamic State is not Islamic. The US takes great pains to separate terrorism from Islam and prohibits the linking of the two.
While the world is waking up to the threat of ISIS, Obama refuses to see the similarity of Hamas to ISIS and of Israel's fight against Hamas to the world's fight against ISIS. In his speech Netanyahu left no room for doubt.
He said "ISIS and Hamas are branches of the same poisonous tree. ISIS and Hamas share a fanatical creed, which they both seek to impose well beyond the territory under their control."
US State Department Spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, smarting over this, said “We don’t believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu or anyone else from Israel is suggesting that the United States launch a military campaign against Hamas.” Sounds very defensive to me. Of course no one has suggested this so why respond to a non-existing suggestion.
She continued, “They are both designated terrorist organizations under the United States designations, but certainly we see differences in terms of the threat and otherwise.” Of course they do, but Israel sees no difference, nor should it, and nor should the US. They are both mortal threats to Israel. I wonder what differences the US sees.
Netanyahu also likened militant Islamists to the Nazis. He said "The Nazis believed in a master race. The militant Islamists believe in a master faith." He went on to identify Iran as the leading force in promulgating this faith and said that under no conditions should it be permitted to become a nuclear threshold state.
Psaki also rejected Netanyahu’s assertion that Hamas, ISIS, Iran, Hezbollah, Boko Haram and other militant Islamist groups all want the same thing -- a Muslim caliphate dominating the world. She said "“We would not agree with that characterization, no,”
Netanyahu drove the point home:
"To defeat ISIS and leave Iran as a threshold nuclear power is to win the battle and lose the war.
"The fight against militant Islam is indivisible. When militant Islam succeeds anywhere, it’s emboldened everywhere. When it suffers a blow in one place, it’s set back in every place. That’s why Israel’s fight against Hamas is not just our fight. It’s your fight. Israel is fighting a fanaticism today that your countries may be forced to fight tomorrow."
He also bristled at the accusations that Israel or the IDF were guilty of war crimes:
"– the brave soldiers of the IDF, our young boys and girls – they upheld the highest moral values of any army in the world. Israel’s soldiers deserve not condemnation, but admiration. Admiration from decent people everywhere.
"Israel was using its missiles to protect its children. Hamas was using its children to protect its missiles.
"By investigating Israel rather than Hamas for war crimes, the UN Human Rights Council has betrayed its noble mission to protect the innocent. In fact, what it’s doing is to turn the laws of war upside-down. Israel, which took unprecedented steps to minimize civilian casualties, Israel is condemned. Hamas, which both targeted and hid behind civilians – that a double war crime – Hamas is given a pass.
"By granting international legitimacy to the use of human shields, the UN’s Human Rights Council has thus become a Terrorist Rights Council, and it will have repercussions. It probably already has, about the use of civilians as human shields.”
The Algemeiner reports on an article by David French in the National Review:
Writing in the National Review, pundit David French observed that only a few months after the Obama Administration used terms like “appalled” and “disgraceful” in reacting to supposed civilian deaths during Israel’s recent war against Hamas in Gaza, the president has now loosened the restrictions imposed last year to prevent civilian deaths arising from American military operations. The Obama administration has said that it was “appalled” by Israeli attacks that unintentionally killed civilians, even calling them “disgraceful”. But that didn’t stop it from applying less strict standards to its bombing policy in Iraq and Syria.
"We live in a world steeped in tyranny and terror, where gays are hanged from cranes in Tehran, political prisoners are executed in Gaza, young girls are abducted en masse in Nigeria and hundreds of thousands are butchered in Syria, Libya and Iraq. Yet nearly half, nearly half of the UN Human Rights Council’s resolutions focusing on a single country have been directed against Israel, the one true democracy in the Middle East – Israel, where issues are openly debated in a boisterous parliament, where human rights are protected by independent courts and where women, gays and minorities live in a genuinely free society."
Obama doesn’t seem to notice.
Subsequently, Netanyahu and FM Lieberman met with Ban Ki Moon to make certain that his message was received, loud and clear.
Perhaps the truth-telling about Mahmoud Abbas was a precursor to rejecting fruitless negotiations with the PA to achieve peace. It used to be conventional thinking that an agreement with the Palestinians was a precursor to achieving peace with the wider Arab community. No longer. Netanyahu turned things on its head and said: "But these days I think it may work the other way around: Namely that a broader rapprochement between Israel and the Arab world may help facilitate an Israeli-Palestinian peace."
Following up on this thinking Haaretz published an article by David Zuker, a former Meretz MK, which opened with:
"The two-state solution – if it still has any chance of realization – will not be implemented in negotiations between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. The path of direct negotiations between the two has been sterile for years, and no additional fertility treatments will help. How can something that has been infertile all these years become fertile? Why should something that has been unsuccessful so many times in the past succeed now?”
Not only the Israeli Left but the White House, should take this to heart. Netanyahu in his meeting with Obama, made the case for this inversion.
But the truth of the matter is, it will make no difference. The Arab League, or what is left of it, and the US will not waiver from their formula requiring borders based on the ’67 lines plus swaps and a divided Jerusalem. Obama, and his Arab allies in bombing ISIS, will not waiver from supporting the Palestinian position at a time when they are alienating the Arab street.
Although Hotovely and Yaalon above mentioned believe that a Palestinian state will not be born, Netanyahu firmly supported the two state solution prior to meeting with Obama, when he said “I remain committed to the vision of peace of two states for two peoples, based on mutual recognition and rock solid security arrangements.”
The problem is that Israel will never agree to ’67 lines plus swaps and dividing Jerusalem and the Palestinians will never agree to rock solid security arrangements. And they will not abandon any of their claims, nor will they recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
In effect, Netanyahu is supportive of a two state solution but not the one envisioned by the international community. In fact Israel has no obligation to accept such a solution and has been granted the right by this community, time and time again, to negotiate all issues.
A case in point is the recent decision by Israel to proceed with the planned construction of 2610 new apartments in Jerusalem. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki responded saying:
“This development will only draw condemnation from the international community, distance Israel from even its closest allies, poison the atmosphere not only with the Palestinians but also with the very Arab governments with which Prime Minister (Binyamin) Netanyahu said he wanted to build relations,”
Netanyahu’s response: "Arabs in Jerusalem are free to purchase apartments in the western [part of the] city and no one is arguing against it" and "I have no intention of telling Jews they can't buy apartments in East Jerusalem. This is private property and an individual right." It is also sovereign Israeli territory, due to its annexation, though unrecognized by the international community.
Finally a lot of daylight separates Netanyahu from Obama on negotiations with Iran.
The crux of the U.S.-Israeli disagreement is that Netanyahu wants Tehran completely stripped of its nuclear capability, while Obama has suggested he is open to Iran continuing to enrich uranium on a limited basis for civilian purposes.
Further dialogue or negotiations will not overcome these intractable differences.