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.