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Saturday, August 18, 2007

(Mis)Placing her hopes on Netanyahu

Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick usually gets things right and this week's hard-hitting column is for the most part no exception. Glick connects four stories that were reported this week: The payment by Fatah of Hamas 'executive force' salaries (to which she adds the tidbit that in a 'later explanation' 'moderate' 'Palestinian Prime Minister' Salam Fayyad claims that it was not a computer glitch that caused the 'Palestinian Authority' to pay millions of dollars to Hamas loyalists, but a 'Hamas agent' in his own ministry of finance), the continuing efforts of Fatah and Hamas to form another 'national unity' government, the indictment of Jamal Tawari (WorldNetDaily reported this as a conviction; having not seen the original Hebrew I cannot say which is correct), and Prime Minister Ehud K. Olmert's continuing efforts to reach an agreement with 'moderate' 'Palestinian President' Mahmoud Abbas Abu Mazen, which include ignoring all signals of Abu Mazen's and Fatah's true intentions.

Caroline then goes on to point out that time may be running out for the creation of a 'Palestinian' state reichlet, because the Republican front runner declared this week that he does not believe it's in America's interests to create another terror state:
Last month, in a conversation with members of Congress, Rice explained that she feels compelled to devote her energies to creating a Palestinian state quickly because she cannot trust that the next administration will see the situation as she does.

The strongest voices calling for the US to apply the same policies toward the Palestinians that it applies to terror forces throughout the world are heard in President George W. Bush's own Republican Party. Former New York mayor and Republican presidential frontrunner Rudolph Giuliani has been the strongest Republican voice calling for change.


While Giuliani has been the most candid in his critique of Bush's policy toward the Palestinians, his views are not out of sync with the general tenor of the Republican presidential debate. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former senator Fred Thompson have similarly made clear that they believe the US must be more forthright and consistent in fighting the war.
To this point, I thought her column was brilliant. But then she questions whether Israel has acknowledged the possible new reality that could be coming in 2009:
THE REPUBLICAN debate should be signaling two things to Israel. First, it shows that there is a reasonable chance that in January 2009 Israel will be greeted by a US administration that does not share the Olmert government's enthusiasm for appeasing Palestinian terrorists.

Second it indicates that as the 2008 elections draw nearer, the Republican candidates may force Bush to dampen his support for Fatah. Rice may not be able to force her way to the finish line.

Here in Israel, after Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu's stunning victory in the Likud leadership primaries Tuesday, we are also moving into pre-election mode. Israeli voters will expect Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the Labor Party leader, and Netanyahu to present their visions of where Israel should be going.

Since Barak owes his primary victory to Labor's Arab voters, no one expects him to give up on his commitment to Palestinian statehood. But Netanyahu is a different story. It would make perfect sense for the Likud to base its electoral platform on recognizing that Fatah is Israel's enemy, and by rejecting the establishment of a Palestinian state. And Netanyahu is better qualified than any politician to convince Israeli voters to support such a reality-based platform.

In addressing Iran's nuclear weapons program, Netanyahu recognized that there is a strong coalition in the US that is eager to act more forcefully to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons than either the Olmert government or the Bush administration. Netanyahu wisely supported these forces and helped them to pressure the administration to intensify its efforts to stop the Iranians. One consequence of that pressure was the administration's decision this week to label the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization.

As Cantor's letter and Giuliani's article make clear, there also is a strong coalition in the US that is willing to recognize that Fatah is a member of the enemy camp and to accept that a terror-supporting Palestinian state would harm US national security interests. Yet, as Steny Hoyer made clear, only Israelis can stand at the helm of such a coalition. Israelis and Americans alike must hope that Netanyahu will embrace his duty to lead that coalition.
Here, sad to say, Caroline's hopes for Netanyahu are misplaced.

First, from the mad rush to the finish line by the incompetent and unpopular Olmert-Barak-Livni government, it is clear that Olmert recognizes that the time to create a 'Palestinian state' is running out. That's why we see Olmert - against the backdrop of the coming release of the Winograd Report, his own unpopularity and 'Palestinian' unwillingness to fight against terror - rushing to give away as much as possible as soon as possible.

Second, if no active effort is made to stop him NOW, Olmert will succeed in reaching an agreement with Abu Mazen. The Winograd Report won't stop Olmert because he has already succeeded in seeing to it that the Winograd Report won't be out for at least another year. George Bush will still be in office a year from now, and Condaleeza Rice will likely still be Secretary of State. There's still a lot of time left in this game.

Nor will Olmert's unpopularity stop him. The people have no voice in bringing down governments in this country. That task is left to the 120 members of the Knesset. Seventy-eight of them have a vested interest in Olmert remaining in power - it's called a coalition. And none of them have volunteered to give up their Knesset seats so that Olmert's government may be toppled.

Olmert is also under several serious criminal investigations, but the state's attorney's office here is in the left's pocket, and so long as Olmert is moving towards the creation of a 'Palestinian state', he will be protected the same way Sharon was protected from criminal indictment while expelling the Jews from Gaza.

Caroline is right that Olmert and his government refuse to accept that Fatah is the enemy. And if left to his own devices, there is little doubt that Olmert will reach an agreement with Abu Mazen that, like Oslo, Netanyahu will be obligated to honor should he come to power again.

But does Netanyahu understand that Fatah is the enemy? Does Netanyahu want to stop Olmert from reaching that agreement? Or would he prefer that Olmert reach the agreement and then that he, Netanyahu come to power 'facing' a fait accomplis? From his actions this week, Netanyahu seems to think that it's not Fatah - but Feiglin - who is the enemy, and that he'd just as soon let Olmert reach an agreement with Abu Mazen.

In this week's Likud primary, Moshe Feiglin garnered just over 23% of the vote. Instead of being gracious and trying to co-opt Feiglin into a strong nationalist coalition, Netanyahu treated him and one quarter of the Likud's voters like interlopers. He barred Feiglin from the victory celebration and made sure he was not photographed with Feiglin. In fact, he made sure that former education minister Limor Livnat stood by him like a wall to make sure that no photographer would get a picture of him with Feiglin. Instead of speaking out against the corrupt government of Ehud K. Olmert in his victory speech, Netanyahu spoke of recruiting "moderates into the party's leadership from the business sector, academia and former IDF generals." Earlier this week, I noted what Netanyahu meant by that statement:
He's talking about bringing people who abandoned the Likud for Kadima Achora back into the party. He's talking about people like Shaul Mofaz, who zealously commanded the expulsion of the Jews from Gaza two years ago, and Bibi's old buddy Tzachi Hanegbi who has never seen a bribe that looked too criminal to take, and who has been under 'investigation' nearly as many times as Olmert. Bibi's not talking about former generals like Effie Eitam, who was beaten by police at Amona, or Moshe (Boogie) Yaalon, who was fired as Chief of Staff of the IDF because he opposed the Gaza expulsion. (Yaalon is already a member of the Likud, but if Bibi brings Mofaz back, you can bet that it is Mofaz who will be defense minister and not Yaalon).
Netanyahu wants to make the Likud a 'centrist' party and not a party of the right. It's as if he's playing for votes from Haaretz and not from Israel's right. People seem to have forgotten - as he wanted them to - that Netanyahu stayed in the cabinet and voted for the expulsion from Gaza almost to the very end. Netanyahu was the only leader in the Likud who could have mobilized people against the expulsion. He didn't do it:
On October 26 [,2004], the Knesset gave preliminary approval for the plan with 67 for, 45 against, 7 abstentions, and 1 member absent. Netanyahu and three other cabinet ministers from Sharon's ruling Likud government threatened to resign unless Sharon agreed to hold a national referendum on the plan within fourteen days.

On November 9, Netanyahu withdrew his resignation threat, saying "In this new situation [the death of Yasser Arafat], I decided to stay in the government". Following the vote fourteen days earlier, and Sharon's subsequent refusal to budge on the referendum issue, the three other cabinet ministers from the Likud party backed down from their threat within days.

On December 30, Sharon sealed a deal with the Labor Party to form a coalition, with Shimon Peres becoming Vice Premier, restoring the government's majority in the Knesset.

On February 16, 2005, the Knesset finalized and approved the plan with 59 in favor, 40 opposed, 5 abstaining. A proposed amendment to submit the plan to a referendum was rejected, 29-72.

On March 28, the Knesset again rejected a bill to delay the implementation of the disengagement plan by a vote of 72 to 39. The bill was introduced by a group of Likud MKs who wanted to force a referendum on the issue. [6]

On March 17, the IDF Southern Command issued a military order prohibiting Israeli citizens who do not reside in the Gaza Strip settlements from relocating to that area.

On August 7, Netanyahu resigned just prior to the cabinet ratification of the first phase of the disengagement plan by a vote of 17 to 5. Netanyahu blamed the Israeli government for moving "blindly along" with the disengagement by not taking into account the expected upsurge in terrorism.
The expulsion began on August 15, 2005.

Is Netanyahu going to be the one to oppose Olmert's plans to create a 'Palestinian' state? I doubt it. To this point, there has certainly been no indication that Netanyahu has any interest in preventing the government from serving out its term. But if he is going to lead the opposition, the time is NOW, not in 2009. Olmert will have given away the country and moved to France by then.


At 12:41 PM, Blogger Batya said...

Excellent post.

Unfortunately, many of "our people" are making the same mistake. You'd be surprised and saddened.

I agree with you, as you probably noticed, if you read my blog.

Sometimes I wonder who would have stayed in the Etzel and who would have gone with Stern to the Lechi...

At 3:37 PM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...

I did indeed see that you agreed with me. I guess I'm in good company.

I don't know enough about the Etzel - Lechi split to comment on your last paragraph. Another hole in my education that needs filling.... It's been a long time since I read The Revolt.

At 11:22 AM, Blogger Robin Ticker said...

I would like to compare the elections to Color War in Sleep Away Camp in the Mountains. In camp Hedvah in the Catskills,
(I went to Camp Hedvah summers 1964 through 1974) the winners were announced and in spite of a losing or winning teams disappointment or euphoria everyone enthusiastically sang

In Achdus we should live
For that is our goal
We will strive for that
With all our heart and soul.

We hope we shall succeed
Because we are in need
Veahavta Leraiacha Komocha

And in the Asid (Atid) Moshiach
Ben David will bring us
Hand in Hand into the Promised Land

We hope we shall succeed
Because we are in need
Veahavta Leraiacha Komocha

Batya, in your previous discussion with me you suggested that Feiglin came into Likud "wanting to take over" alienating people, lacking charm and political savvy. Perhaps his style leaves something to be desired. However, Netatyahoos, lack of sportsmanship shows strong animosity. He might have more "charm", political savvy etc but this inability to win gracefully shows deep Sinas Chinom. If Feilin would run against Benny Elon or Aryeh Eldad my guess is that deep down there would be a willingness to sing "In Achdus we should live" Feiglin should break from Likud because Netanyahu has no desire to sing "In Achdus we should live".


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