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Israelis don’t trust Obama because he is ‘distant’ and tried to ‘unBush’ US policy — ‘Haaretz’ editor

Israel/Palestine
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Aluf Benn, editor of Haaretz, was on Charlie Rose Tuesday night and said that he senses that Obama is keeping his distance from John Kerry’s framework so that failure in the peace process won’t splash up on him. And Israelis don’t really trust Obama.

Benn also spoke a lot about the surprising growth of the movement to boycott Israel internationally– the boycott, divestment, sanctions movement (BDS). Benn said Israelis had not taken BDS seriously. It was at the “far fringe of the margins of the conversation a year ago.” But now it’s come on strong: “the new call in Europe for sanctions of Israeli settlements… following the death of Nelson Mandela.”

And the Kerry initiative has a different weight inside the Israeli political class than previous American initiatives in part because “of the new form of external pressure on Israel through the boycott movement and sanctions which weren’t there before,” Benn said.

He then said that Israel will have no choice but to show respect for Kerry’s framework and push it forward.

“I don’t think that Israel has a choice, and the boycott threats are becoming more and more real as time goes by. And the only way out for Israel is not to call its critics anti-Semites. This would get you only so far. The only way to fight the BDS movement is by changing your policy and by making peace seriously with the Palestinians.”

Asked if Israelis trust Obama, Benn said that’s a tough question. Not in the first term, certainly. “He made a very bad mark on Israelis” when he visited Cairo, Riyadh, Turkey “and skipped Israel.”

And it appeared as if he was trying to unBush American foreign policy and just stay away from Israel because too much association with Israel was not good for American  policy.

Then Obama came to Israel last March and gave a “very very carefully balanced” speech, one half toward the left ear of Israel and one half to the right ear of Israel. “Everybody was happy about it.” But:

Since then, I think that Israelis once again have their … uncertainty about Obama.

It’s not just his not attacking in Syria.

Even the Kerry mission, Obama in a way is leading from behind on that too. He sends Kerry to the front line.. We don’t really know to what extent he will back Kerry when this proposal comes forward and they have to talk about the really tough issues…. Is he just going to send Kerry and wait and see if Kerry succeed or fails. [And if he fails] it would not be Obama’s failure.

He’s once again more distant.

P.S. Re Aluf Benn’s BDS assertion, again I ask as a game theorist: Why would BDS supporters limit their victory to getting Kerry’s framework to be taken seriously by Israel? If you’ve come on so strong, outside the mainstream political process, why not continue to use your power and try to gain a more equitable solution than the 78-22 division of the land that Peter Beinart advertises as the fulfillment of rightwing Zionist Jabotinsky’s iron wall vision, “an astonishing Zionist accomplishment and a historic Palestinian defeat.” The only reason not to press your hand is if Kerry’s deal were accepted as a means of preventing bloodshed for the people who live in Israel and Palestine. But I don’t think it is that.

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Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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11 Responses

  1. seafoid
    seafoid
    February 20, 2014, 11:22 am

    Poor Israel. They want a Republican prez.
    Obama can say “I love you Israel” 24/7 but it’s not enough for Israel, the paranoid gf.

    I’m not going to be ignored, Obama

  2. seafoid
    seafoid
    February 20, 2014, 11:27 am

    Aluf Benn is more honest talking to Israelis
    I guess he knows his readership but when he goes on US TV he’s more vulnerable to attack from the muppets back home so he has to cut his cloth accordingly.

    http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/president-s-visit-marks-the-end-to-israeli-insularity.premium-1.510580

    “The visit of U.S. President Barack Obama ends the period of insularity that Israelis enjoyed during the elections and the formation of the coalition. For half a year we disengaged from the world and focused inward, with public discourse centering on the number of ministers in the government, ridding the government of the ultra-Orthodox parties and “equalizing the burden.” Foreign policy consisted of a weekly warning by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the Iranian nukes and the disintegration of Syria.
    Now Obama is arriving and reminding us that Israel isn’t a remote island whose residents live just for themselves. His visit will bring forgotten concepts back to the headlines, first and foremost the settlements and Iran. The visiting president has no solutions. His visit will not bring about the end of the occupation, the dismantling of settlements, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank, or even the destruction of the Iranian nuclear program. He will seek to restrain the prime minister on two fronts: To prevent an Israeli attack on Iran and accelerated construction in the settlements.
    By coming to Israel, Obama blocked Netanyahu from making a third victory trip to Washington and enjoying an enthusiastic reception from the Republicans, who would have invited the prime minister to once again address Congress or arranged some similar celebration. Now Obama is alone in the frame, without his rivals from the Republican Party. Netanyahu will have to deal with him alone, without his conservative cheering squad.
    This isn’t necessarily to his detriment: From Netanyahu’s perspective, the visit comes at a perfect time. Its very occurrence refutes the argument that its right-wing government has left Israel internationally isolated. The leader of the free world is coming to Jerusalem, speaking to Israelis in their homes and calling their leader by his nickname. The media has spent lots of time prattling about the bad relationship between the two men, about their lack of chemistry, and about Obama’s expected revenge against Netanyahu, who had supported Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Now the prime minister can show his critics that they were wrong, that you can support Romney and still get a hug from Obama.
    The visit serves the prime minister’s political and coalition needs very well. After two months in which Israelis were busy with the electoral stars, Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett, Netanyahu can take back the center stage. He alone controls foreign policy without any partners, and he will exploit the opportunities to speak and be photographed that Obama’s visit will provide. Bennett and Lapid will be pushed into the background, where Netanyahu would be happy to see them stay until the end of his term.
    The meeting with Obama poses some risk for Netanyahu. The president wants to speak at the Jerusalem International Convention Center to the Israeli people, and his messages are liable to clash with the positions of the right-wing government, — for example, if he repeats what he said in his Cairo address in 2009 about the settlements being illegitimate and the Palestinians deserving a state. But even if Obama curses the occupation and the settlements, Netanyahu will try to minimize the difference of opinion and highlight his commitment to peace and his fidelity to the Bar-Ilan formula of two states for two peoples. The public statements by both Obama and Netanyahu before the visit indicate that they don’t want to fight this time, but to demonstrate mutual affection.
    Obama is leaving the “bad cop” role to his secretary of state, John Kerry, who will remain in the region to nag Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas about resuming the diplomatic process. Kerry needs no grooming for this task; he is totally familiar with all the details of the negotiations Israel has held in the past with the Palestinians and with Syria.
    This time, however, he isn’t here as an observer, as was the case when he was a senator; now he is the responsible intermediary. If he succeeds in making progress, he will fill his president’s Nobel Prize with some content. If he fails, as did his predecessors, he will be blamed. Obama will already be busy with other things, and Israel will return to its pleasant isolation, to deal with drafting the Haredim, imposing a core curriculum and choosing new chief rabbis.”

    He knows it’s a car crash but he doesn’t want to be the one to say it.

  3. piotr
    piotr
    February 20, 2014, 12:39 pm

    I think that Obama concluded a while ago that Kerry has an impossible mission, chiefly because Obama never made impression that he is mentally slow (unlike Kerry). The only question is what why does Obama need this non-achievement?

    Some achievements are definitely to be avoided. For the young ones here, I recommend to either refrain from eating and drinking contest or at least make only perfunctory effort if it is hard to avoid one. Winning a game of chicken can be worse. Gaining trust of Israelis is one of those prizes that are better left unclaimed.

    Concerning the peace process, it is clearly to early to resurrect it. A low quality zombie can make its rounds, but that is about it. This chap is very much dead, and a more effective resurrection rites require both enormous energy and most auspicious circumstances, and both are currently lacking. It does not mean that nothing can be done to improve the circumstances in the future, and that is perhaps what is Obama doing (in part, by non-doing).

    So what are Obama’s priorities? Clearly, number one is to avoid some FUBAR mega calamity, and attacking Syria and/or Iran would be a major step in that direction. Number two, maintaining image of “sufficient toughness” with terrorism. More speculatively, getting an agreement with Iran could be a priority: energy prices can go down, stimulating the economy, and the civil war in Syria can wind down, removing some wind from the sail of Salafi extremists (usually labeled al-Qaeda, but some people prefer “Taqfiris”). On that priority Obama experienced resistance from an unwieldy alliance of Israel, AIPAC, and Saudia Arabia (UA for short), and he seems to overcome it quite ably.

    UA went against a priority of USA, most of EU, China, Russia etc. its influence was dented, and that is part of the reason why Israel suffers in its relation with Europe. It is impossible in Europe to create such Hasbara media domination as we see in North America, and the deference in EU to Israel was largely cause by pro-American reflexes predominant in most European political parties. Once the relationship of Israel and USA looks colder, Israel suffers from closer scrutiny. Obama achieved that with nary a fingerprint.

    But EU moves with alacrity of glaciers, so the effects will take time. In the meantime, the only thing Kerry needs to do is to expose Israeli militant irrationality while making only the barest of the explicit hints. This is doable, and anything more, not so much.

  4. W.Jones
    W.Jones
    February 20, 2014, 12:54 pm

    Main trends are that Israelis are significantly less tolerant ideoloically than their grandparents: in polls the young generation is much less tolerant to other religions. Along with that is the rise of their main sizable ally in the US, the C.Zionists and a system of contrasting rights in the territories.

    You also have the sincere part of the Left in the US gaining significant awareness of the discrimination in the State’s system, along with growth of the Palestinian Muslim population under the state’s control.

    People sometimes ask what the endgame is. Isn’t it the dream of a state for one community over the whole Holy Land? Don’t they have the will and means to achieve this goal, which they are well into the process of achieving? One community gets full rights and the other community gets less or much less rights. The State, with rightwing groups like Bennett’s, will become more open about this, as their position becomes more secure and their rightward shift continues.

  5. Krauss
    Krauss
    February 20, 2014, 1:45 pm

    It was annoying listening to Aluf Benn.

    He keeps trying to pretend Netanyahu is somehow actually serious about the 2SS. This is the usual liberal Zionist hasbara; covering for the far-right by muddying the picture.

    Bibi’s strategy has been consistent from the get-go: talk and delay, while building more settlements. As Blumenthal likes to say: Netanyahu likes the status quo and he wants peace without peace, an indefinate continuation of the current situation.

    Aluf Benn is just spreading fog on the conversation to cover for Bibi; he doesn’t want the elite concensus to form in the way that the liberal grassroots concensus has formed: Israel will never give up Apartheid.

    This speaks volumes about Haaretz, too.

  6. ritzl
    ritzl
    February 20, 2014, 5:42 pm

    How typically myopic.

    A) Benn talks about “Israelis,” but means Jewish-Israelis. Exclusively. The fact that he only sees the world in those terms belies and negatively colors everything else he says and perceives as relevant. One/he simply has to account for Palestinians and Palestinian-Israelis in any analysis of this conflict or that analysis is meaningless, if not selfishly motivated and self-abrogating. He’s either not capable of doing that, or sees no need to do that.

    B) Related and wrt the PS question on “framework” being the goal and the use of Mandela’s death as a BDS transition point. Benn, like Beinart, et. al., are limited to narrow, wishful-thinking, as opposed to broader context and long-term vision/dynamics. It’s wishful thinking because for even their narrow, self-serving framework goals (keeping the 2ss “viable”) to be de-fictionalized, they have to see past this “step.” They cannot because they are incapable of coming to grips with what lies on the other side of this step; evacuations, transfers, compensation, Jordan Valley, etc., etc., etc. Ergo, their view of the process can’t be de-fictionalized, ergo what Benn puts forward as educated analysis is actually just background noise.

    These narrow analyses remind me of the visual from the movie “Deep Impact.” Not in the destruction sense, but in the inconsequential sense. (:38)

    http://youtu.be/VNtsVP42bOE?t=38s

  7. Hostage
    Hostage
    February 20, 2014, 7:06 pm

    I ask as a game theorist: Why would BDS supporters limit their victory to getting Kerry’s framework to be taken seriously by Israel? If you’ve come on so strong, outside the mainstream political process, why not continue to use your power and try to gain a more equitable solution than the 78-22 division of the land that Peter Beinart advertises as the fulfillment of rightwing Zionist Jabotinsky’s iron wall vision

    The BDS movement didn’t really accomplish anything outside the mainstream political process. Palestine has been threatening to go to the Hague and efforts to stop it from doing so, like Kerry’s peace talks, are running out of steam. One of the most common charges in the cases currently pending in the ICC and other tribunals has been pillage. European fund managers and bankers are confronted with a situation where the proceeds from their investments in the Israeli settlement enterprise are suddenly vulnerable to forfeiture. That’s the real story behind the race to divest. But it doesn’t provide leverage for the movement’s aims for equal rights in Israel or the right of return for refugees.

    The Israeli justice system made a key blunder decades ago when it adopted the “disputed territories” doctrine. After the Elon Moreh case, it openly pillaged the public lands as if they were its own unincorporated territory. Trouble is that the UN vote ended that legal fiction. The settlements are on Palestinian state and private lands and Israel won’t get to keep those under any settlement if they become the subject of a situation in the ICC.

    • Mayhem
      Mayhem
      February 21, 2014, 1:11 am

      The settlements are on Palestinian state and private lands and Israel won’t get to keep those under any settlement if they become the subject of a situation in the ICC

      @hostage, the trouble is that the US will stop aid to the Palestinians if they go to the ICC. The Palestinians, who blissfully waste that aid, nonetheless critically depend on it.

      • Hostage
        Hostage
        February 21, 2014, 1:57 pm

        @hostage, the trouble is that the US will stop aid to the Palestinians if they go to the ICC. The Palestinians, who blissfully waste that aid, nonetheless critically depend on it.

        First of all the majority of US assistance is earmarked for USAID projects that source American companies and suppliers. The US already tried stopping aid to them after the UNESCO vote and it didn’t work. Its the only thing they have left to do before they call for a boycott of Israel and a one state solution.

        FYI, they would stand to gain a lot more money from corporations who have profited from theft of their resources and land than they’ll ever obtain from the US government.

  8. jsinton
    jsinton
    February 20, 2014, 7:22 pm

    I think he might be correct. BDS will lose steam if there is a peace agreement with the Palestinians. The European banks and the fruit labeling are about West Bank settlements, not right of return. And I think Americans can be coaxed to side with a boycott against settlements, but again, not right of return.

  9. puppies
    puppies
    February 20, 2014, 8:56 pm

    “Why would BDS supporters limit their victory to getting Kerry’s framework to be taken seriously by Israel? If you’ve come on so strong, outside the mainstream political process, why not continue to use your power and try to gain a more equitable solution than the 78-22 division of the land that Peter Beinart advertises as the fulfillment of rightwing Zionist Jabotinsky’s iron wall vision, “an astonishing Zionist accomplishment and a historic Palestinian defeat.””

    Very simply because the boycott movement participants have varying goals and aims. Most of it is controlled by Zionists, who think that by limiting the boycott to post-67 occupied territories they will be able to ensure further survival of the Shitty State. They may be right.

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