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Friday, March 29, 2013

Netanyahu's double victory

Lee Smith and Charles Krauthammer argue that Prime Minister Netanyahu won two stunning victories during President Obama's visit to Israel. The two victories were won over Turkey and the 'Palestinians,' respectively. Here's Krauthammer.
So what was the point of Obama’s Jerusalem speech encouraging young Israelis to make peace, a speech the media drooled over? It was mere rhetoric, a sideshow meant to soften the impact on the Arab side of the really important event of Obama’s trip: the major recalibration of his position on the peace process.
Obama knows that peace talks are going nowhere. First, because there is no way that Israel can sanely make concessions while its neighborhood is roiling and unstable — the Muslim Brotherhood taking over Egypt, rockets being fired from Gaza, Hezbollah brandishing 50,000 missiles aimed at Israel, civil war raging in Syria with its chemical weapons and rising jihadists, and Iran threatening openly to raze Tel Aviv and Haifa.
Second, peace is going nowhere because Abbas has shown Obama over the past four years that he has no interest in negotiating. Obama’s message to Abbas was blunt: Come to the table without preconditions, i.e., without the excuse of demanding a settlement freeze first.
Obama himself had contributed to this impasse when he imposed that precondition — for the first time ever in the history of Arab-Israeli negotiations — four years ago. And when Israel responded with an equally unprecedented 10-month settlement freeze, Abbas didn’t show up to talk until more than nine months in — then walked out, never to return.
In Ramallah last week, Obama didn’t just address this perennial Palestinian dodge. He demolished the very claim that settlements are the obstacle to peace. Palestinian sovereignty and Israeli security are “the core issue,” he told Abbas. “If we solve those two problems, the settlement problem will be solved.”
Finally. Presidential validation of the screamingly obvious truism: Any peace agreement will produce a Palestinian state with not a single Israeli settlement remaining on its territory. Any settlement on the Palestinian side of whatever border is agreed upon will be demolished. Thus, any peace that reconciles Palestinian statehood with Israeli security automatically resolves the settlement issue. It disappears.
I don't consider that such a great victory, because I don't believe that the 'Palestinians' deserve a Judenrein state, nor do I believe that the 'Palestinians' can be trusted to abide by an end of conflict clause or anything else that ensures Israel's security. But it probably doesn't matter, because the 'Palestinians' are unlikely to come back to the table without a 'settlement freeze, including in Jerusalem' and given that the President of the United States is not pressuring Netanyahu on that score, it's more unlikely to happen than ever.

Moreover, Abu Mazen and Salam Fayyad have NO authority to make concessions on behalf of the "Palestinians.' So even if negotiations somehow started, they would go nowhere.

Then, there's Turkey. Here's Smith:

The reality is somewhat different than the official administration account. Jerusalem has long been looking to mend relations with its onetime strategic ally in Ankara. Contrary to popular narrative, it was Erdogan who was intransigent—not Netanyahu. Nor was Obama the prime mover here, “prodding” the Israeli prime minister to do his bidding. If anything, it was Netanyahu who used the commander in chief as something like a blunt instrument to force Erdogan to accept the same deal that his government had first put on the table at least 18 months prior: Israel would apologize; it would pay compensation; but it would not, as Erdogan had demanded, end the maritime blockade of the strip.
From Netanyahu’s perspective, it’s all to the good that Obama is getting the credit for the reconciliation. Bibi got what he wanted from Erdogan and gave Obama a big trophy to put on his shelf. The Turkish premier, despite his bluster, has little choice but to swallow it, and the American president now owes Bibi a favor. Netanyahu—often denigrated as a clumsy politician and preachy ideologue—is in fact a much more adroit statesman than he is typically believed to be.


Clearly Erdogan’s three conditions were not met, a disappointment that he apparently came to terms with last month, when Turkish and Israeli negotiators hammered out the exact terms of the deal that came to pass last week. As the Turkish newspaper Radikal explained, Israel would apologize for “operational mistakes,” pay compensation, and Ankara would drop the demand that Israel lift the blockade. Thus, the stage was set for Obama’s entrance as mediator and his exit as peacemaker. In pocketing the deal until Obama’s visit, Netanyahu’s timing was perfect: He handed an American president a truly wonderful souvenir of his all too brief stay in the Holy Land.
It’s true that Erdogan now seems to be backsliding, claiming that he never accepted a deal without Israel agreeing to end the blockade, though Israeli officials insist that he did. The Turkish prime minister is also now promising to go to Gaza to “monitor” the situation to ensure that Israel fulfills its obligation to lift the blockade. However, this will only make him vulnerable on two fronts. 
First, while Erdogan is reportedly one of the world leaders closest to Obama, the reality is that Bibi comes off as the helpful partner in this case—not Erdogan. Any more noise out of the Turkish prime minister and he may find out what’s like to have chilly relations with an American president, which, as Netanyahu can tell him, is not where you want to be. 
Second, and perhaps more important, Erdogan’s support of Hamas will expose him to criticism from his domestic rivals. Why is the prime minister of Turkey so eager to show his love for an Iranian client in Gaza when his opposition to Iran’s ally in Syria threatens Turkey’s security?

This victory seems Pyrrhic to me. Israel's relations with Turkey are unlikely to go back to where they were even in 2008 - let along in 2002 when Erdogan took power. Moreover, Erdogan has given a lot of signs this week that he may not abide by the deal that he made with Netanyahu, and I find it hard to believe that there will be any serious reprisals from the US if Erdogan fails to abide by the deal.

But perhaps these perceptions of what happened last week are held by more Israelis than are the views of Carl In Jerusalem. A Smith poll shows a large drop in the number of Israelis who believe that President Hussein Obama is hostile to our country.

The percentage of Israelis who consider the Obama administration more pro- Palestinian than pro-Israel fell by a whopping 20 percent since before the visit, the poll, taken on Sunday, found.
But the number of Israelis who consider the administration more pro-Israel than pro-Palestinian rose by only 1 percentage point, despite what was billed as Obama’s “charm offensive” to reach out to citizens of the Jewish state.
Obama’s statements in Hebrew about how good it was to return to Israel and that Israelis are not alone apparently failed to make a significant impression on them. Apparently, neither did more substantive steps such as securing funding for Israel's missile defense systems and facilitating rapprochement with Turkey. But the results indicate that the negative feelings that came from Obama’s visit to Ramallah did resonate with Israelis.
Palestinian disappointment with Obama’s pro-Israel message and his not visiting former leader Yasser Arafat’s grave was widely reported in the Hebrew press.


The new poll of 500 Israelis representing a statistical sample of the adult population found that 27% consider the administration more pro-Israel, 16% more pro-Palestinian, 39% neutral, and 18% did not an express an opinion.
By contrast, in last week’s poll, 26% said it was more pro-Israel, 36% more pro- Palestinian, 26% neutral, and 12% did not an express an opinion.
The proportion saying the administration is more pro-Israel in this week’s poll is the highest since May 2009, while the share saying it is more pro-Palestinian is the lowest since that same poll. In a sign that many Israelis’ minds have not been made up, the percentage who declined to express an opinion is the highest it has been in any of the 10 surveys.
After the Obama visit, in which he called upon left-wing students to push their government to make peace, the more dovish Israelis defined themselves, the more likely they were to deem the Obama administration more pro-Israel. Among Labor voters, it was 51%, for Yesh Atid voters 29%, for Likud Beytenu and Shas supporters 27%, and for those who supported Bayit Yehudi 20%.
The proportion considering the administration more pro-Palestinian was 40% among Shas voters, 20% for those who voted Bayit Yehudi, 19% Likud Beytenu, 11% Yesh Atid and among Labor voters 6%.
Obama really stuck to the old adage, 'if you can't beat them with brains, baffle them with bull****. Israelis are totally baffled.

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