2012: The year of the Bibi

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 16 Comments
bibiepa
Bibi (Photo: EPA)

Noam Sheizaf has a very smart piece up at Foreign Policy forecasting the results of the upcoming Knesset elections (he’s not giving exact numbers – but who would, it’s a parliamentary system?).

He’s not optimistic about what the results will augur for the “peace process”:

“Of all the major parties, none is expected to run in the next elections under a peace platform. Labor’s new leader, the ex-journalist Shelly Yachimovich, prefers to concentrate on the economy and distribution of wealth. In a recent interview she even spoke of her sympathy to the settlement movement. In Kadima, the hawkish Shaul Mofaz is considered the front-runner in the coming primaries against current party leader Tzipi Livni, while the aforementioned [Yair] Lapid takes pains to ensure that he’s no leftist and doesn’t anyway seem very interested in the Palestinian question. Likud itself is moving to the right, with very few MKs left of the party’s historical pragmatic wing, and one shouldn’t forget Yisrael Beiteinu party leader and Israel’s current Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who remains just as strong at the polls despite a maximalist, far-right agenda.”

Although Bibi won’t be unseated by the furthest right in his party, Likud’s settler recruitment drive is going to tell. The man himself might be somewhat insulated from the furthest right, but his party as a whole is not. Some never were: Danny Danon and Yuli Edelstein aren’t bit players anymore, they’re the faces that, after Bibi’s own, that Likud has chosen to show to the world (Danon is the chairman of World Likud; Edelstein is the Minister of Information and Diaspora).

As Sheizaf notes, the Ocupation is indeed a “non-issue” among the Israeli electorate – except for those carrying it out daily in the West Bank (and they’d prefer nosy people like Breaking the Silence keep the kids off of their lawns). The settlers have again and again pressured the government into marginalizing what already marginal voices voice criticism of the Occupation. A housing crisis? Build more houses in East Jerusalem, problem solved. And the spectacle over Migron shows no sign of ending soon. Who’s going to stop Netanyahu? Netanyahu? Israel Hayom will keep printing (on Haaretz’s machines, ironically) its pro-Netanyahu editorials, the Jersusalem Post and Yediot Ahronot will keep moving even further to the right, and independent television networks will continue to be cowed by libel laws and government pressure.

Given the way talks are going in Jordan – Israeli negotiators are pushing the West Bank barrier as the future interstate border, incorporating around 10% of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, into Israel proper – the “peace process” looks like it’s heading smack into another wall (no pun intended). And if Palestinian unity succeeds in bringing Hamas in from the wilderness, the Israeli government has repeatedly asserted that it will not negotiate with Fatah anymore. This is a debate in and of itself – but for my part, I think reconciliation is less likely now that Khaled Mashaal is apparently going to resign rather than mount a challenge against the hardliners in Gaza.

I cannot see Fatah, let alone Hamas-Fatah, taking the Israelis up on their offer here, since “its zigzaggings have been determined primarily by the location of Israeli settlements, but it is impossible not to notice the dozens of wells and springs isolated in the so-called seam zone between the high concrete wall and the Green Line, which has cut off Palestinians from between 30 and 50 percent of the water they were allowed to pump from the Western Aquifer under the Oslo Agreement.” And Israel has refused to freeze settlement construction during peace talks (though if they’re all built around East Jerusalem, it won’t really matter vis a vis the West Bank barrier, now will it?).

I don’t think anyone has to worry that “if talks advance in such a direction, it could also spell the end for his nationalist coalition, where key members would consider the abandonment of most of the West Bank – a strategic highland and biblical heartland – an unforgivable betrayal.” Netanyahu is not going to be that Prime Minister. 

When these talks stall – Abbas will likely offer some doggerel about returning to them at a date six months from now following consultation with the Arab League, and the Western media will leap to blame him and him alone for the talks’ collapse – I can’t see the US doing much to advance the “peace process” from here on out, “Obama 2012″ or not.

If a Republican wins, then forget it altogether (Ron Paul is not included in this, but he won’t be getting the nomination). Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have both made it clear that they do not regard any Palestinian political actor as a peace partner (top GOP donor and Israeli newspaper owner Sheldon Adelson must be ecstatic), and Congressional Republicans are increasingly peddling the idea of Israel’s Biblical borders – “Judea and Samaria” – as a solution to the Occupation (Christians Zionists are ecstatic; I imagine some settlers will be too, though not exactly for the same reasons).

The Israeli right would finally have the international cover for annexation that even the George W. Bush Administration wasn’t willing to provide. While the Republican National Committee quickly moved to deny its zeal for a “one-state solution” after Mitchell Plitnick called them out on it, it’s clear from House resolution after House resolution, speech after speech and gala dinner after gala dinner that the Grossly Oblivious Party is only paying lip-service to the two-state solution as it turns inward from nuanced foreign affairs discussion and the “bipartisan consensus on Israel” in favor of unrepentant neoconservatives and evangelical voters who see the Holy Land as just that: the Holy Land. Anything else just doesn’t poll well among Evangelicals, or increasingly, the anybody-but-J Street wing of the “Israel Lobby.” A further to the right Israeli government might not raise much objection to such loaded resolutions, though it would probably want more informed people to help draft them, since as it stands that pandering GOP resolution implies one law, one vote for all “Israelis,” regardless of their religion or ethnicity.

A second Obama term does not offer much hope either. Will Obama seek to base his presidential legacy on a peace process that the Israeli government is clearly not interested in putting its own political capital on the line for? Would he do that to his reputation, to his own party? And will he really put pressure on Bibi after getting burned time and again since 2008? For all the (meaningless) furor over his comments on Israel’s 1967 borders, Obama has not at any point demonstrated a commitment to pressure Netanyahu over his willful disregard for the Oslo Accords.

With the possible exception of Iran, which is less of a crisis in the special relationship than a debate between the “go-slow” guys and the chickenhawks in both countries’ capitals, the Obama Administration has not at any point put serious pressure on the Israeli government over any issue.

And while some have hope over Dennis Ross’s absence in a second Obama Administration, who would be replacing him as the go-to guy? Jimmy Carter? More realistically, Ross’s hotline to the Oval Office hasn’t been disconnected, so it’s naive to assume that his view – the majority view within the Beltway on Israel-Palestine – leaves with him. I don’t know a single person who has suggested that it would, which actually restores my faith in humanity’s analytical skills. As Noam has noted elsewhere, “In both cases [a Romney presidency or a second Obama one), one could assume that the United States will continue to pay lip service to peace while in practice supporting the Israeli occupation with money, arms and the diplomatic cover it provides.”

“The new Knesset could mark the first definitive break by moving the political conversation into firmly one-state territory.” Yes, by finally ditching the Oslo Accords in favor of the de facto policy of gradual West Bank annexation, the one that’s been going on since the early 1970s. In 1972, the government counted some 10,000 settlers in Israel’s census. Now there are over 500,000.

Prospects for Palestinian unity are dim, there is no Israeli political opposition to serious challenge Likud’s coalition, and as always, the US government half-heartedly plods into the room to lecture everybody, only to shuffle off when it becomes clear no one in the room respects what it has to say. And then it’s 2016 and we begin again.

But for now, welcome to 2012, the year of the Bibi.

16 Responses

  1. Tzombo
    January 31, 2012, 5:17 pm

    Could everyone please stop calling him Bibi? It makes me throw up in my mouth. He’s not a care bear.

    • Carllarc
      February 1, 2012, 9:01 am

      ok; how about BOBO?

      So BOBO appears to be secure to continue in his mission. What will the end be — a small reservation for the ‘good’ non-citizen Palestinians; those who will be happy grunts, those who pledge their servitude, who will have no culture, no hope, to pass on to their children?

      Of course, there will be a conflagration, maybe in five years or ten years or maybe fifteen years hence. This great war will be the final solution for the ME problem. How utterly depressing for the Palestinians; how utterly depressing for the Israelis and everyone else.

      All because of the insane twist of history that has produced the megalomaniac BOBO and his Jewish state. Maybe there is a g-d, an evil g-d, who like the devil in The Master and Margarita, takes perverse joy in watching humanity devour itself.

  2. seafoid
    January 31, 2012, 5:25 pm

    Bibi is the best Israeli leader possible. He’s strategically inept and he thinks he’s Einstein and the damage he has done already to Israel is very encouraging plus he’s too stupid to realise. The settlers have to push on to the denouement and nobody else can guide them to Masada like Bibi.

    link to de.wikipedia.org

    • Chu
      January 31, 2012, 6:29 pm

      Through greed and power, the Zionists are showing the world
      that their needs for a political border is not based on security, but on
      greed and bravado. But, it’s their time to celebrate after their 2000 year old
      epic wandering struggle to celebrate their neo-colonial real estate victories,
      and what better way to do that by putting down your patron ally.

      Smart move Bibi, deliver us more of your political s&m. Show the world
      how neutered the US is, when challenged by the cabal of Zionism and neocons.
      Set the world tone for the next century of what Israel has become. No more sugar coating please.

  3. munro
    January 31, 2012, 7:43 pm

    Netanyahu will never be forgiven for putting Obama in his place by timing Op Cast Lead to the election and inauguration. Never.
    link to blognovic.files.wordpress.com

    • john h
      February 1, 2012, 3:46 am

      No munro, Kadima and Olmert did that, not Netanyahu and Likud.

    • kalithea
      February 1, 2012, 3:57 am

      Obama’s not the innocent reluctant victim in all this. He’s more like the willing patsy.
      And it was Kadima that waged Cast Lead, but who can tell the difference between Kadima and Likud. It’s like the U.S. Congress, there’s hardly any difference between the Republicans and the Democrats (I can’t even refer to them as the Left anymore). Actually, more and more the U.S. government and democracy mirrors the Israeli government and warped democracy. Zionist influence tends to corrupt and twist everything it touches especially the rule of Law.

    • Carllarc
      February 1, 2012, 7:13 am

      The big question is when Israel will attack Iran. since it is unlikely that the US will make the initial move and carry out the war for Israel while Obama is president, my money is on Israel attacking before the November election if Netanyahu thinks Obama will win (the October surprise in this case) or wait till right after the election if he thinks the stupid republican will win.

      Maybe Israel will arrange a Gulf of Tonkin fraud to get the US to do the attack.

  4. tombishop
    January 31, 2012, 11:52 pm

    Things are heating up in the City of Brotherly Love leading up to the BDS conference:

    link to philly.com

    • tombishop
      February 1, 2012, 11:22 am

      The Inquirer posted this article last night on their website at 8:30. This morning there no links to the article on the website and it is now in their archive (which is what is now in the link above). Highly unusual for an article to be archived so soon.

      All comments, many of which were favorable to BDS, are no longer available. Prominent with the article are ads for Penn’s Wharton Business School and an ad for International Fellowship of Christians and Jews which blares “Show Your Support for Israel”.

      Unfortunately, I did not copy last night’s article, but this article has been altered. Last night’s article said supporters of Israel were having trouble getting signatures on petitions condemning BDS.

      • tombishop
        February 1, 2012, 11:28 am

        Sorry, I was in error to say the article had been altered. I did not realize it had been broken down to three pages and only saw the first page. It appears the article has not been altered.

      • tombishop
        February 1, 2012, 11:49 am

        Sorry, another retraction. The article was moved to the from the front page of the Inquirer website to the Education Section. All comments except one have been removed. The link for the non-archived article is now:

        link to philly.com

      • tombishop
        February 1, 2012, 11:52 am

        In my comment above, I stated, “Prominent with the article are ads for Penn’s Wharton Business School and an ad for International Fellowship of Christians and Jews which blares “Show Your Support for Israel”.

        Those ads have now been removed from the archived article.

      • tombishop
        February 1, 2012, 12:04 pm

        Another change, as of 12:00 the article is now back on the front page of the Inquirer website under the headline “Pro-Palestinian Gathering Sparks Fears”.

        link to philly.com

        Apparently, the ad from International Fellowship of Christians and Jews” in the archived article I linked above comes and goes. You may occasionally see it again on the archive of the article I linked above. When you click on the Donate button, you get this page:

        link to 2p9.com

        Note how the West Bank is portrayed on the map.

  5. IrishMark
    February 1, 2012, 9:05 am

    As a European, I am really unhappy that despite a majority of its citizens supporting Palestinian rights, the political leadership is far behind. It doesn’t help that foreign policy is now collective and Catherine Ashton has only issued stern rebukes and has always shied away from proposing that the EU-Israel trade agreements be suspended until such time as Israel respects International Law and numerous UNSC and ICJ rulings.

    In the meantime, localised BDS campaigns are the only mechanism available.
    Just wait for some major Irish bashing prior to Ireland’s take up of the EU presidency (first six months of 2013).

  6. Kathleen
    February 1, 2012, 12:18 pm

    “And while some have hope over Dennis Ross’s absence in a second Obama Administration, who would be replacing him as the go-to guy? Jimmy Carter? More realistically, Ross’s hotline to the Oval Office hasn’t been disconnected, so it’s naive to assume that his view – the majority view within the Beltway on Israel-Palestine – leaves with him. I don’t know a single person who has suggested that it would, which actually restores my faith in humanity’s analytical skills. As Noam has noted elsewhere, “In both cases [a Romney presidency or a second Obama one), one could assume that the United States will continue to pay lip service to peace while in practice supporting the Israeli occupation with money, arms and the diplomatic cover it provides.”

    Lizzy Ratner wrote a piece here at Mondoweiss about Dennis Ross’s almost daily converstations/visits with the White House. After reading your post sure makes one think what Mearsheimer has written about is absolutely the case..that the opening for a two state solution is being sealed shut.

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