Saturday, May 09, 2009

9 tips for the road

Eitan Haber offers Prime Minister Netanyahu some words of advice before trip to America

Eitan Haber
Israel Opinion

1. Every trip by a prime minister to the United States is characterized as “decisive,” “fateful,” and “historic.” It may very well turn out that this time it’s true. Your colleagues and you will discover in the near future, and perhaps as early as this visit, that you may have changed (and for the better, as many claim,) but so did the US (and for the worse, as some may tell you.) Prepare yourself for this change. Hey Bibi, this is not the America you used to know. 2. It will be very difficult for you, but in the time left before the trip try to forget what you learned from a young age at home. Remember only vaguely, and merely for internal purposes, Jabotinsky’s writings and theory, and do not repeat some of your diplomatic statements out loud. Everyone, ranging from the person who will open the car door for you when you arrive at the White house to the president himself, expects you to be “up to date” in respect to the wishes and dreams of the US president. They expect you to move closer to their positions. Despite your charm and amazing persuasion abilities, you have no chance of convincing them to change their views. Should you invent new terms in your Mideast policy, something like “they’ll get something if they give something and get nothing if they’ll give nothing,” Obama will pound the table (during your tête à tête) and say: Cut the bullshit, what exactly do you mean? Keep in mind that for them, “ambiguity” is a concept that is no longer relevant.
3. You will find a president who is completely different than his predecessors: He has minimal knowledge of Judaism and basic knowledge about Israel and the conflict. His election victory six month ago and his apparent re-election in another four years does not depend on the Jewish vote, and his right hand does not shake when the secretary tells him that he has a call from AIPAC’s president or from Malcolm Hoenlein. It is doubtful whether she would even put the call through.
4. If, nonetheless, you will try to come up with Jewish pressure levers against Obama, you have only two: Lester Crown and someone from the Pritzker family, both from Chicago. Regrettably, their views regarding our regional conflict are not similar to yours. Try not to require their assistance. If you will think, as was the case in the past, that you can utilize the “Conference of Presidents,” you are in for a major letdown.
5. The group of Jews that surrender Obama, headed by Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, was not a part of your group of admirers. Keep in mind that this group served previous presidents on missions related to the Middle East conflict and they are hungry for achievements. All of them already wrote books about their disappointments and failures. Now they want success, and in their view success is not quite commensurate with your recipes for peace and security.
6. As a prime minister who has been briefed on the issue, you already know that Israel cannot eliminate the Iranian nuclear threat on its own. And after all, a long time ago you reached the conclusion (which is accurate in my view) that this is an existential threat. This implies that our fate is currently in America’s hands. Now you also know that what the journalists refer to as the “moment of truth” is truly, for you (and for us,) the moment of truth.
7. You may be able to postpone this moment by another month or two, or put it off to another visit, or call for more discussions or another committee or conference – yet this Obama character appears to be someone who does not like wise guys. He will apparently ask you for action on the ground, and quickly. With millions of unemployed in the US and trouble all over the world, he has no patience for you.

8. All of the above should not imply, heaven forbid, that this is what I want to materialize. As far as I’m concerned, everything can go on as it was during the term of presidents Johnson, Ford, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton, and Bush Jr.
9. Whoops! This is precisely your and our problem: Obama is looking at this list, and he is telling himself and those around him: I won’t be like them.

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