The latest email release from Hillary Clinton’s server includes two substantive memos in 2010 on the peace process from Martin Indyk, then at the Brookings Center, and Sandy Berger, a former national security adviser to the Clintons.
First the juicy one. Berger wrote to Clinton about the Middle East in summer 2010, and he speaks a lot about the power of the Israel lobby. Berger advises sucking up to Netanyahu to pacify the lobby. All emphases are mine:
At a political level, the past year has clearly demonstrated the degree to which the U.S. has been hamstrung by its low ratings in Israel and among important segments of
the domestic Jewish constituency. This is a critical dimension not for electoral reasons, but because the U.S.’s best chance of influencing Bibi is to build support for
a deal in Israel and at home among those who care most. That capacity has been improved to some extent as a result of the successful July visit by Netanyahu and the
string of military/security deals between our two countries. But we must be honest: there sill is a long way to go. If anything, the recent Obama/Bibi illustrated a new,
potentially perverse dynamic: the U.S. president at this juncture needs the Israeli prime minister to validate his pro-Israeli credentials more than the Israeli prime minister needs the U.S. president to vouch for his pro-peace ones…
What a topsy-turvy world! The US President needs Netanyahu to make him look good to “important segments of the domestic Jewish constituency” more than Netanyahu needs Obama to bolster his alleged interest in peace! Think of the folks who got in trouble for saying that the lobby are Israel Firsters! So what a good thing that Obama and Netanyahu have gotten a divorce; and Obama is appealing to a broader constituency than just the lobby.
Then there’s this added comment about the lobby:
At the level of personalities….
The president faces a different but no less difficult problem. He is not trusted in Israel and, though the July meeting might have altered the situation somewhat, not
trusted by Bibi. Domestically, he faces a reservoir of skepticism on this issue which reflects many factors, including inexcusable prejudice, but which could obstruct his effectiveness both as an interlocutor and as a salesman. Besides, as we learned during WJC’s presidency, it would be a mistake for Obama to get too deeply invested..
So what Berger, who is Jewish, termed “the domestic Jewish constituency” has “inexcusable prejudice” against Obama. I wonder what that’s about– racism, xenophobia. They want a president they can trust. They trust Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush because they can be bought, or because they’re white?
Now here is Indyk’s email. It’s interesting because almost everything he says turned out in the end to be wrong. He casts Netanyahu as an outlier, in a reasonable polity. But Israeli society has turned more and more rightwing in recent years. Indyk:
Likud voters are to the left of their Knesset members when it comes to peacemaking
(70 percent support the two-state solution, vs only 50 percent of the leadership)
Netanyahu might be serious about peace:
According to Tzipi Livni, she can bring her party into the government now, and is willing to
do so without any demand for “rotation,” provided Bibi is serious about negotiating peace.
Indyk made prognostications about the next election: “recent internal polling which shows Kadima with 32 seats (up from 28 now), Likud slightly
down at 25, and Labor at only 5.” It didn’t work out that way three years later. Livni’s new party got 6, Labor got 19, and Likud got 31.
Indyk saw Netanyahu as reasonable in the end:
In the end, under great pressure from all quarters, he will make the final concession, but only after wasting a lot of time,
making everybody furious with him,
Yes I know, hindsight is 20/20, but everything in this paragraph also turned out to be wrong:
The reason for dwelling on Bibi’s psychology rather than his politics is that the latter all point in the direction of making a
deal: the Israeli public is ready to get on with it; if Israel doesn’t make a serious move, it will further delegitimize its
standing internationally (something Bibi is deeply concerned about); Bibi needs President Obama in his corner to deal
with the threat from Iran and to avoid punishment by the voters for mishandling relations with the U.S.; and if he
doesn’t make the deal with Abu Mazen now, he will have helped to advance the future he is most concerned about – a
Hamas takeover of the Palestinian leadership.
So don’t blame Netanyahu, put your arm around him!
Put your arm around Bibi: he still thinks we are out to bring him down. There is no substitute for working with him,
even though he makes it such a frustrating process. But the purpose of embracing him is to nudge him forward, not to
buy into his exaggerated political fears or accept his inflated demands.
Because he’s got the right idea in the end:
Try to find a way to make him understand that his negotiating tactics are counterproductive to his own purposes.
He will come to the table:
Bibi, Abu Mazen, and the Arab states need negotiations and time is not on the side of any of them. They
will come back to the table sooner rather than later as long as we keep the door open.