Sunday, March 22, 2015
POUTUS Rabbi Pruzansky
POTUS (the President of the United States) is pouting over the re-election of PM Netanyahu. He withheld his congratulatory phone call to Netanyahu for two days. By comparison, Obama called Iran’s Rouhani immediately, perhaps even before the polls closed. Netanyahu received the al-Sisi treatment, another leader who is disfavored by the White House and received the two-day delayed phone call.
There is something perversely delightful in observing the irrational anger in the administration and among Jews on the far left of the political spectrum on Israel’s election results. Granted, millions of dollars were wasted trying to unseat Netanyahu and augment the vote of the Israeli Arabs – some of that, disgracefully, US taxpayer dollars. Watching another’s tantrum is often amusing and it doesn’t seem to abate. The commentators and activists who hide their anti-Israel animus behind their Jewish genes – the Friedman’s, Klein’s and J Street’s of the world – are nearly apoplectic.
It is sort of funny – the irrationality of it all, especially considering the number of dictators and thugs with whom Obama plays footsie – but Obama can still be dangerous.
Now, the threats against Israel are mounting. As predicted here last month, the US will soon recognize a Palestinian state and seek a UN Resolution that enshrines in international law that amputation of the Jewish homeland. Obama is simply using the Netanyahu’s re-election as an excuse to execute one of his cherished goals.
The two pretexts that Obama and the left have seized on were comments made by Netanyahu in the days before and on the day of the election. Last week, he was said to have walked back his support of a “Palestinian” state by saying that such would not happen as long as he was prime minister. For sure, one can see that the ambiguous language used was designed to win him votes from right-wingers who otherwise would have voted for the “Jewish Home.” If one parses his words, Netanyahu was not saying that he was “against” a Palestinian state, but rather that such would not happen while he was prime minister – not because he personally opposes it but because the conditions he placed on the creation of such a state would not occur while he is prime minister. There are no Arab interlocutors who would agree to a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
Add to that the radicalization of the Middle East, now well under way, that has brought radical Islam to the gates of Israel – and the dominance of the genocidal Hamas in Gaza and ISIS just over the border – and anyone with sense realizes that conditions are not ripe for the creation of an irredentist Arab state in Israel’s heartland. Big shock.
But that statement sent the White House into paroxysms of rage. Rather than attribute the statement to a campaign ploy, Obama went into rhetorical overdrive, and his minions began threatening Israel with dire consequences. How ironic – how drippingly cynical is it – that Obama, of all people, is complaining about the effect of misleading rhetoric. Apparently what Netanyahu should have said on the eve of Election Day was this: “If you like your peace process you can keep your peace process.” Indeed, keep it.
Netanyahu’s Bar Ilan speech from 2009 in which he unilaterally reversed a campaign pledge (hey, there’s a tactic Obama could appreciate) and endorsed a Palestinian state was a mistake, but a tactical mistake. Netanyahu today operates based on a formula that much of the world – even much of the Arab world – tacitly but never explicitly supports: favor the establishment of a Palestinian state in theory but not in practice. From my perspective this too is a mistake – you don’t offer your divinely-given patrimony to others because you are effectively renouncing your rights to it – but at least it has strategic value. Indeed, that tactic has worked for five years, as the hatred of the Palestinians for Israel is so intense and unhinged that they have repeatedly rejected the two-state fantasy.
But the diplomatic outrage itself is so contrived as to be farcical. Conventional wisdom is that Israel has walked back from the Oslo Accords and refused to implement the clause calling for a “Palestinian” state. But – note this well – the Oslo Accords did not guarantee or even offer the Arabs of the land of Israel a second “Palestinian” state. (Jordan remains the first.) Yitzchak Rabin opposeda Palestinian state, and he thought – perhaps foolishly – that he could thwart those desires by offering self-rule and Israeli withdrawal.
Nor is support for a “Palestinian” state long-standing Israeli or American policy – exactly the opposite. Until two decades ago, the mainstream of Israeli politics – both Likud and Labor – opposed a Palestinian state. In the 1970’s, none other than Shimon Peres himself equated the creation of a “Palestinian” state with the destruction of Israel. So did Golda Meir, Yitzchak Rabin, Menachem Begin and of course Yitzchak Shamir. It was a sign of bad faith, fatal to the electoral hopes of any Israeli politician. It was assumed that a second “Palestinian” state would lead to Israel’s demise.
Israeli politics has changed but the basic equation remains the same. The assumption of the 1970’s is as true today as it was then. There is not a shred of evidence indicating otherwise, notwithstanding the pronouncements of Israeli politicians or the blathering of the liberal left in the American Jewish community.
American diplomacy also opposed a Palestinian state for decades. Jimmy Carter publicly opposed a Palestinian state (in private he was adamant about it, and was studiously ignored by both Begin and Anwar Sadat). Ronald Reagan was opposed, as was George Bush I. Bill Clinton was opposed, at least until the Israeli left started to weaken and permeate Israeli society with their weakness. It was George Bush II – with the acquiescence of Israel – who officially endorsed a Palestinian state on June 24, 2002 – the same letter in which he endorsed the retention of Israeli settlements in any agreement. As noted here, that part of the letter was renounced by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. So, tantalizing question, why can the Americans change their minds about paragraph seven of the letter and deem it no longer binding, but Israel cannot do the same about paragraph three of the same letter?
Some questions are only answered by references to double standards and anti-Jewish bias.
Support for a Palestinian state is therefore a relatively new diplomatic phenomenon. More importantly, the Arabs of the land of Israel have consistently rejected this offer – most notably from Ehud Barak in 2000 and Ehud Olmert in 2007. Spend one day in law school, and you will learn that an offer that is rejected is construed as revoked. Israeli concessions do not remain on the table for eternity and certainly not embarrassing concessions that trifle with the sanctity and inviolability of the land of Israel. Finesse it all you want with diplomatese, but it is quite reasonable to maintain that that Israeli offer has been withdrawn in light of the new and catastrophic strategic environment in the Middle East.
Arabs: you didn’t accept the offer when it was made – repeatedly - so that house you wanted was sold to the settler down the street.
The second Obama pretext was Netanyahu’s Election Day warning to his constituents that Arabs are voting in “droves” and his supporters must get to the polls. Racist? Hardly. It did frustrate the Obama team’s efforts to so discredit Netanyahu that his base would stay home; hence the feigned anger. But, hey, that’s hardball politics, with which the Obama team is very familiar. Those who equate producing photo ID’s at the American voting booth (by the way, the law in Israel!) with suppression of the black vote (!) cannot in good faith claim that a call for one’s voters to vote because one bloc inimical to Israel’s national interests is voting in large numbers is racist.
And wasn’t Obama the one who told a black audience (August 14, 2012) that if Romney was elected, they would “put y’all back in chains?” No, it was actually Joe Biden, but Obama’s White House said that they saw nothing wrong in Biden’s remark. And he’s complaining about Netanyahu exhorting Likud voters to vote? It is difficult to stomach a White House that uses self-righteous, phony outrage as a fig leaf for its Jew hatred. Both are execrable.
What is as clear as the hostility of Barack Obama to Israel is the panic among liberal American Jews. I recall quite well being pilloried for my public opposition to Oslo by liberal Jews and their organizations for “opposing the will of the lawfully elected government of Israel.” Hmmm… Will these same Jews and their organizations now defy President Obama – risking their invitations to the White House, photo ops and other perks – by supporting the duly elected Prime Minister of Israel? Will they lovingly embrace – as they should – a Foreign Minister Naftali Bennett?
Or will they persist in their defense of Obama? That Jews can be fooled is obvious. That Jews allow themselves to be fooled is even more obvious. That some Jews beg to be fooled is obvious and sad.
It is crunch time for Jewish identity in America. The Reform and Conservative movements have already denounced PM Netanyahu. The Orthodox organizations are still strangely, sadly silent. The land of Israel is under attack, and the people of Israel – and its leaders – have been marked by this administration as global enemy number one. How will those Jews respond? With cowering and double talk, or with pride and outspokenness?
If the latter, then the Netanyahu re-election could not only be good for Israel but it could also spark a revival of Jewish identity and a deeper connection with Israel among all Jews, especially those whose bonds with Jewish life are fraying. That itself could hasten the process of redemption, the only clear and certain way out of the morass.
Until then, let POTUS be POUTUS – but let Jews state firmly and unequivocally that the land of Israel was given to the people of Israel by the G-d of Israel, and no president or prime minister can change that.