Saturday, September 01, 2007

Arabs waiting for Bibi

Palestinians, Arab leaders believe that only Israel’s right-wing camp can bring peace The Israeli Right and part of the center of Israel’s political map are not the only ones waiting for Benjamin Netanyahu. The Palestinians are also waiting for Bibi. This impression comes from conversations with senior Palestinian officials and key figures within Palestinian society.

The Palestinians are convinced that Benjamin Netanyahu can undertake diplomatic moves more easily than Ehud Olmert and his government which, despite possessing a solid and broad coalition base, loses its majority once withdrawals or outpost evacuations are brought up for discussion.

The analysis offered by the Palestinians is very interesting. They say that the Right is better for peace than the Left and bring up many examples to back this up, ranging from the peace treaty with Egypt signed by the government of the late Menachem Begin to the Hebron deal signed by Netanyahu and the Gaza withdrawal carried out by Ariel Sharon, who the Palestinians viewed as a strong rightist.

The Right is good for peace and the Left is good for war – this is the way the Israeli political map is perceived in the eyes of the Palestinian neighbors and Arab leaders. Their analysis is simple. When the Left wishes to pursue peace moves, that is, withdrawals, it is curbed by the Right and religious parties, and at times even the Arab Knesset members’ bloc is not enough to help the Left secure the needed majority.

Yet when the Left wishes to undertake a military move, it always enjoys right-wing support that guarantees a majority for such moves. This was particularly noticeable in all the military moves, wars, and campaigns led by leftist and centrist governments, such as the Grapes of Wrath campaign in 1996 and the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

Left is good for talking
On the other hand, say the Palestinians and analysts of Israeli policy in the Arab world, when the Right is in power it is easier to reach agreements because the Right is consistent and honors its pledges. Moreover, it will automatically enjoy the support of the entire leftist bloc the moment it decides on a withdrawal, evacuation, or any other regional peace agreement.

Benjamin Netanyahu is viewed in a more credible light by regional Arab leaders than the way he has been portrayed in the media and wide sectors within the Israeli public and political arena. A senior aide for one of the most important regional leaders told me that many of them expect to meet Netanyahu and hear about his plans and the moves he wishes to undertake if and when he is elected prime minister.

The aide even expressed an interest in the possibility of meeting Netanyahu, even though there has been no announcement of new general elections at this time.

As it turns out, the Arab world views a right-wing ascendancy to power as an opportunity to advance the diplomatic process. This contradicts the common perception that Arab leaders prefer a leftist Israeli government.

The Left is good for talking and the planning of agreements, the Arabs say, but the Right is the address for signing agreements as it is the only element that can secure a Jewish majority.

It appears that the Arabs are well familiar with the secrets of Israeli politics and it is possible that teams on behalf of Netanyahu and the Right are already talking with the Arab and Palestinian side and attempting to initiate moves on the Palestinian, Syrian and even Lebanese front.

The writer is a journalist for Arab news network al-Hurra

No comments: