Sunday, March 01, 2009

"Does Anyone Know?"

Arlene Kushner

I'm through projecting how our government's coalition will be formed. For every time it looks like a right wing coalition is a "done deal," with nothing remaining except to finalize negotiations with the right wing parties, some other possibility pops up.Livni has said no. But there are reports in the news of Likud courting Labor and Barak now. Don't know where this will lead, as Labor is in a weaker position than Kadima and less likely to hold out against the multiple perks Netanyahu is said to be offering. (Barak as defense minister again???) In the opposition, Barak would play second fiddle to Livni anyway.


Seems, at the end of the day, for all the talk about needing a broad coalition to provide strength for the problems Israel faces, Netanyahu wants the flexibility to not have to answer to the right wing. That's my take, after discussing this with an informed source on the inside today.

This position is, in my opinion, would represent a betrayal of the voters. He made the point that he should be given the charge to form the coalition (which, indeed Peres did give him) because even though Kadima got one more mandate than Likud, the right wing bloc got some 10 more mandates than the left (and even more when Arab parties are discounted). If this was his point, then his obligation to the electorate is to form a right wing government.


Shaul Mofaz, in Kadima, is also making noises about the appropriateness of joining Likud. He would be at the forefront of that rebels group from Kadima, were it ever to really break away.


I will report duly on what is happening, attempting to avoid projections, and without any hint of jubilation unless and until there is a solid right wing government that merits celebration.


A word here, however, on Netanyahu's stated position vis-a-vis the Palestinians. Anticipating his meeting with Secretary of State Clinton this week, Netanyahu gave an interview to The Washington Post that ran yesterday. Said he:

"...the Palestinians should have the ability to govern their lives, but not to threaten ours."

What he envisions is, more or less, a form of autonomy, whatever name he might choose to give it. The Palestinian entity he projects would not have:

The right to make treaties.
The right to control its airspace.
The right to build an army.
The right to control the water supply.
The right to control the electromagnetic spectrum (i.e., television, radio, etc. transmission)
The right to control its borders (such as they might be).

This is definitely less than sovereignty.

Says Netanyahu, Israel would retain at least 50% of Judea and Samaria, including areas in the Jordan Valley and the Judean Desert necessary for security -- and, I would assume, all Jewish communities, which would have a right to expand for natural growth.


All this is hypothetical, but from a security perspective I would also see issues involving incitement within Palestinian areas -- via press, textbooks, etc. And the very important Israeli right to enter these autonomous areas in pursuit of terrorists.

But even beyond all of the security parameters, my own take is that there would be critical ideological issues. It would, I suggest, have to be absolutely clarified that the Palestinians hadn't been given the land.


Is Netanyahu serious about this? He might be, because I'm seeing consistency here. Some years ago when I addressed a question to him one-on-one about Palestinian statehood, his answer reflected the very same thinking.

This position gives him maneuvering room. He would, under pressure to "negotiate" with the Palestinians, be able to point to readiness to do so, with these particular parameters.

But it also might be a way of killing negotiations without refusing to negotiate: Palestinians set on a full state with Jerusalem as its capital, etc. etc., would reject out of hand what he would be offering. This could just as easily be his final intention.


John Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and former US ambassador to the UN, has written an article on the issue of Obama and Durban 2, "A Multilateral Mess."

It is Bolton's perception that the rush of the Obama administration to participate in the meetings preparatory to the Durban 2 conference was an ill-planned attempt to engage in "multilateralism," i.e., focus on diplomacy and interaction with various international parties.

"The administration's foreign-policy performance has been uneven so far - with this debacle merely the most obvious mess. Where some had believed President Obama would pursue a moderate, pragmatic course, his administration increasingly seems not only highly ideological, but naive and uninformed - exposing and endangering America and its allies"

The very first agenda that brought the administration to Geneva was "the president's own desire to practice diplomacy without regard to strategic calculations..."

"The Obama team," explains Bolton, "underestimated how bad the draft Durban II final declaration was, and how hard it would be to change it.

"...the new administration displayed its fundamentally ideological proclivity toward unfocused 'engagement' by intervening in Durban II, a decision sadly lacking in moderation or pragmatism.

"This miscalculation will undoubtedly damage President Obama, but even worse it will harm larger American interests by opening us to the kinds of challenges that our adversaries are only too willing to mount."

Great! A US president who is ill-informed and chooses to forge ahead on the strength of some vague notion of improving the world by talking with everyone.


From here I move to a similar mistake made by the Obama administration: The promotion of a Palestinian unity government on the mistaken assumption that it would increase the chances of achieving "peace."

Just over a week ago, support for this came from US envoy George Mitchell, while Khaled Abu Toameh was reporting that the PA said they had received the "green light" from the US for starting negotiations with Hamas. According to a PA official on February 21, "The administration of President Barack Obama believes that a Hamas-Fatah government is good for stability." Egyptian president Mubarak received a similar message, and began to move ahead with preparations for negotiating that unity government.

Were the parameters thought through? Nahh. This was another case of being "inclusive" and assuming that "diplomacy" would set matters right.


And now? It seems as if certain essentials have suddenly dawned on the US Secretary of State, at least. Clinton was quoted on Friday as saying:

"I believe that it's important, if there is some reconciliation and a move toward a unified authority, that it's very clear that Hamas knows the conditions that have been set forth by the Quartet, by the Arab summit."

"They must renounce violence, recognize Israel, and abide by previous commitments, otherwise, I don't think it will result in the kind of positive step forward either for the Palestinian people or as a vehicle for a reinvigorated effort to obtain peace that leads to a Palestinian state."

Well, good morning, Hillary!

Why wasn't all of this thought through before the US began to promote a unity government? Flying by the seat of your pants in a euphoric effort to fix things is not real diplomacy.


And wouldn't you know? By yesterday a Hamas spokesman, Ismail Radwan, had rejected Clinton's demands, saying that they were unacceptable to Hamas, which does not recognize Israel.


It was also yesterday that PA president Mahmoud Abbas, sensing which way the American wind was blowing, echoed Clinton's words:

"We are moving in steady steps toward ... a national unity government that abides by our known commitments, which include the two-state vision and the signed commitments."

To this Hamas official Ayman Taha responded that Abbas's comments undermine the possibility for reaching a unity agreement. "We reject any pre-conditions in the formation of the unity government. Hamas will never accept a unity government that recognizes Israel."


What concerns me here is the inability of American planners to recognize the power of ideology. Talking nicely with Hamas and making them feel included does not diminish the revolutionary zeal of this jihadist group.


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