Posted by Avi Davis
There is an old Yiddish proverb ” Beware of still water, a still dog and a still enemy”. That is an adage Benjamin Netanyahu’s peace delegation might take to heart as it prepares for peace talks in Washington this Thursday. For months the Palestinian Authority has been claiming that it has finally exerted control over its extremist elements, making it a fit partner for a peace talks and respectable to enough be taken seriously by the international community.
But that claim was put to the lie last night as an Israeli family of four was gunned down in cold blood on the outskirts of Hebron. The murder, by the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigade, should make everyone understand that seeming Palestinian quietude is often a mask for the execution of the next terrorist strike.
On the surface, these times may indeed seem propitious for final negotiations. The Palestinian economy is booming, Israelis are desperate to find a passage out of their current diplomatic isolation and the Obama Administration seems fully engaged, eager to end a nettlesome problem which stands in the way of a broader compact with the Arab world.
But lets get real. The Palestinian delegation arriving in Washington this week is nothing more than a rump party, representing barely a third of Palestinian population and less than a quarter of domestic opinion ( which remains avowedly opposed to the recognition of Israel) ; Its leadership has not foresworn the right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees to Israel proper ( a deal killer for any Israeli government – of either right or left) and Palestinian school books still preach the value and benefit of murdering Jews.
Not exactly the ideal nest for hatching a peace egg, now is it? .
Beyond even this uncomfortable reality is the specter of of the 800 pound gorilla that everyone conveniently ignores. Hamas is not party to these talks, nor does it wish to be. It is doing just fine, thank you very much, garnering global sympathy as a victim of Israeli intransigence while gleefully opening its Get Well mail sent by the world following the Flotilla incident of late May. Yet Hamas represents nearly one and a half million Palestinians and is still, by all accounts, very much in control of its tiny territory. Its willingness to defy the local superpower has transformed its image among ordinary Palestinians ( not to mention the broader Arab world) from one of spoiler to that of gladiator. The Palestinians in the West Bank have little to offer as comparable symbols of Muslim manhood.
The failure to recognize that the Palestinian people as irredeemably splintered and wracked by internecine feuds and tribal hatreds – and that is has never had any real incentive to make progress in peace negotiations, has bedeviled almost all peace negotiations since 1991 and will doom these ones as well. No one seems to remember today that the vast majority of Palestinians killed in the first Intifada ( 1987-91) perished at the hand of other Palestinians. Or that hundreds of Palestinians died during Yasser Arafat’s reign in the West Bank, merely for supporting the notion of peace with Israel. Mahmoud Abbas, a weak leader whose chief ability appears to be his skill in evading assassination, has none of the charisma or confidence of Yasser Arafat ( nor consummate skill at duping Western leaders) and for years has appeared more than content to sit on his hands and do nothing.
For good reason. A peace agreement does not serve his nor, to his mind at least, Palestinian interests. The Palestinian leadership gains nothing from statehood ( and the implicit expectation that it recognize its neighbor’s right to exist), except death warrants from groups such as the Qassam Brigade and the possible loss of the nepotistic monopolies that they control in their territories. The Palestinian people are also doing fine as inveterate wards of the West, the recipients of more aid per capita than any other people on Earth.
Given this reality there is another Yiddish proverb the Netanyahu folks might wish to recall: “If things are not as you wish, then wish them as they are”. This an apt second guide for all the parties to the peace negotiations. Taken seriously, it may just awaken the peace dreamers to the reality that the Palestinians might actually fight ( as Arafat once did) to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state. The result could be a renewed Intifada far more desperate and catastrophic than any that has come before it.
11.15.10 at 1:46 pm |
10.26.10 at 11:08 am | It seems that the State of Israel also has its. . .
10.11.10 at 10:44 am |
10.6.10 at 10:07 am |
9.13.10 at 11:24 am |
9.13.10 at 11:09 am |
September 6, 2010 | 5:32 pm
Posted by Avi Davis
Ahmed Tibi is an Arab and the Deputy Speaker of Israel’s Parliament, The Knesset. As such, he enjoys a immunity from prosecution for incitement and for making statements which could be interpreted as endangering his country’s security. Indeed, over the past three years several members of Tibi’s own party – Balad (the National Democratic Assembly) – survived the prospect of indictment after making unauthorized trips to enemy states. Tibi remains as one of the most visible activists advocating the dismantlement of the Jewish State and its replacement with a unitary bi-national state of Arabs and Jews.
In January , 2009, the Knesset Central Election Committee, comprising members of all Knesset factions, voted to disqualify Tibi’s party, Balad, and the United Arab List-Ta’al — from running in the February 10 elections. Lawmakers accused the two Arab parties of supporting armed struggle against Israel and seeking to undermine the state’s Jewish and democratic character. They based their measure on a 2002 amendment to the quasi-constitutional Basic Law, which permitted the banning of a Knesset faction if its goals or actions support the “armed struggle” of a terrorist organization or foreign country either implicitly or explicitly.
Suspicion about Tibi’s ties to the country’s adversaries arose when he registered at the Doha Forum on Democracy, Developent and Free Trade, in Qatar, as leader of the Palestinian delegation. “Israel is an apartheid state,” he said to Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni during a session in which she was speaking from the podium. The episode prompted Deputy Foreign Minister Majalli Whbee, a Druze member of Kadima, to say it was “time for Ahmed Tibi to decide which country he represents.”
Resentment has been even stronger toward Balad, which has three Knesset members. Anger is focused mostly on party founder Azmi Bishara, who was investigated by police in 2007 for allegedly assisting Hezbollah in the Second Lebanon War. Between interrogations he left for a meeting in Jordan and has not returned, reportedly because he fears an unfair trial and long imprisonment. He resigned from the chamber in 2007, in a letter submitted to the Israeli embassy in Cairo. He remains head of Balad, reputedly living mainly in Jordan, and communicates with party leaders by phone. He still receives a Knesset pension of around $2,000 a month. A move in the Knesset to stop payments was blocked by the Supreme Court. On January 21, 2009 the Supreme Court of Israel overturned the Committee’s decision by a majority of eight to one.
Tibi continues to remain unfazed by the threat of prosecution. In fact, he regularly uses the Deputy Speaker’s platform to proudly assert his support for Palestinian nationalism at every opportunity.
He did so again on Friday in the Los Angeles Times. There he stated that he has no faith in the leader of his own government as a sincere negotiator for peace and condemned Benjamin Netanyahu for his procrastination and indifference to Palestinian suffering. These were not the words of a Israeli parliamentarian but of an adversary:
“I am not alone in being pessimistic. Most Palestinians are. Young people in particular have been betrayed. A whole generation of Palestinians has grown up watching as talks failed. They have seen deepening colonization rather than freedom.”
Tibi, of course, fails to mention that the ” betrayal” in this instance, came from the Palestinian leaders themselves. Offered most of their demands at Camp David in July, 2000, Yasser Arafat launched an armed insurrection that resulted in 1,000 Israeli deaths and nearly 3,500 Palestinian. The ” Intifada” gained Palestinians nothing and drove whatever was left of the peace process into the ground.
One has to wonder whether any other Arab country would tolerate such words spoken publicly by the Deputy Speaker of its Parliament. It is a supreme irony that Tibi’s freedom to present such views in the Western press would never be allowed in any of the other countries who are party to the talks, least of all in Mahmoud Abbas’ West Bank where dissent is ruthlessly repressed.
Treason is not a popular word in the English vocabulary. Very few Western countries have mounted successful cases in the post -war years against citizens who have espoused views or taken actions which have given comfort and aid to the enemy.
But there are countries where the word ” treason” really should have some meaning. Perhaps the Hebrew word for traitor – “Bogged” might begin to take on some of this meaning when the Israeli Supreme Court finally gains the courage to firmly states that it is illegal for the country’s own parliamentarians to represent another constituency altogether, while presiding as a peoples’ representative.
For more articles by Avi Davis, see his blog at The Intermediate Zone.
May 9, 2010 | 5:40 pm
Posted by Avi Davis
Pity Michael Lerner. The oft quoted far left rabbi from Berkeley, the famous avatar of the Clintonian Politics of Meaning, has been the victim lately of a vicious blow-back against his political positions - most particularly his embrace of South African jurist Richard Goldstone as well as his support for the U.S. imposition of a peace treaty upon Israel.
It has gotten so bad for the outspoken rabbi that vandals last week , according to a press release issued by Lerner’s organization, affixed posters to his door, attacking the man personally, and pillioring liberals and progressives as being supporters of terrorism and “Islamo-fascism.” They glued to his door a printed bumper sticker which sported the logo “fight terror—support Israel” next to a caricature of Judge Richard Goldstone, whose UN report on Israel’s human rights violations in its attack on Gaza last year has been denounced as anti-Semitic and pro-terror.
Lerner’s supporters around the world have declared the house’s defacement an act of fascist vandalism and evidence of a brooding hatred in the Jewish world. In particular, they have fingered the prolific pen of Alan Desrhsowitz, who in an opinion piece on April 28 in the Jerusalem Post called both Lerner and Goldstone to task for their anti-Israel stances.
Labeling Goldstone’s rabbinic supporters as ” Rabbis for Hamas”, Dershowitz explained:
“Not surprisingly, the worst of these rabbis (and that’s saying a lot), Michael Lerner, has decided to honor Richard Goldstone with Tikkun Magazine’s “Ethics Award.” I guess all it takes to be honored by Tikkun is to pass Lerner’s litmus test of lying about Israel. That’s Lerner’s definition of “ethics.” There are some good people on the advisory board of Tikkun Magazine. They now have an obligation to reconsider their membership unless they wish to be associated with a rabbi who is prepared to accuse Israel, in the absence of any evidence, of deliberately setting out to murder Palestinian civilians without any military purpose. “
Lerner supporters, in reflecting on the vandalism and provocations of Dershowitz and others, have also invoked the imagery of Night of Broken Glass in Germany - or Kristallnacht (November 9, 1938) when thousands of Jewish shop windows , synagogues and homes were destroyed in state sanctioned violence after a Jewish student shot to death a German diplomat in Paris.
Such a comparison, is, of course, absurd. Neither Dershowitz nor any other of the Lerner/ Goldstone critics are calling for the death of either man nor for the looting and sacking of their homes and injuring others. But the far left’s accusation is couched in language that they - and Michael Lerner and Richard Goldstone in particular - understand very well.
In the early 1970s, Lerner created an organization called the Seattle Liberation Front (SLF), which participated in numerous anti-war protests and at least one riot. During this period , SLF, the Black Student Union (BSU), and the violent terrorist group Weathermen (led by such luminaries as Bill Ayres and Bernadine Dohrn) collaborated to carry out a number of direct actions on university campuses. One day, SLF and BSU members—bearing pipes and clubs while shouting “Power to the people!” and “Smash the state!” - rampaged through several university buildings and, in some cases, roughed up innocent onlookers. Washington state attorney Slade Gorton, who later went on to become a U.S. Senator, described the tactics of Lerner’s SLF as “totally indistinguishable from fascism and Nazism.”
SLF’s most famous action was a February 17, 1970 demonstration at the Federal Courthouse in downtown Seattle, which escalated into a riot in which twenty individuals were injured. Lerner himself was one of the so-called “Seattle Seven,” charged in a federal trial with “conspiracy to incite a riot.” He spent several months in prison before the main charges against him eventually were dropped and he was released.
Richard Goldstone, on the other hand, has had his own brush with fascist tendencies. In the 1980s and 90s, before the collapse of Apartheid, Goldstone took an active part in the racist policies of the South African regime. During his tenure as sitting judge in the appellate court, he sentenced dozens of blacks mercilessly to their deaths. The Richard Goldstone of that day and age was a great enthusiast for capital punishment, torture and miscegenationist policies. He imposed and affirmed death sentences for more than two dozen blacks under circumstances where whites would almost certainly have been dealt with more leniently. He gave sentences of physical torture—euphemistically called “flogging”—for other blacks. He also facilitated miscegenation and other racist laws with no recorded word of criticism nor dissent. He therefore fulfilled an important role in the state apparatus that enforced racial subjugation in Apartheid South Africa.
Even today Goldstone expresses few regrets. ” It was the law of the land,” he says, without seeming to understand in the slightest that statement’s irony. After all, antisemitism was the law of land on the night of November 9, 1938, as well.
Fascistic outbursts, as Jonah Goldberg has brilliantly illustrated in his book Liberal Fascism, is not only a phenomenon of the right. Lerner, Goldberg and their supporters would therefore do well to investigate their own fascistic legacy before choosing to slap that label on to anyone else.
May 4, 2010 | 4:43 pm
Posted by Avi Davis
Last week, a full page advertisement appeared in seven major Jewish newspapers around the country. Placed by the self proclaimed Israeli advocacy institute J Street, it presented a letter from former leftist Meretz leader Yossi Sarid addressed to the Nobel Laureate, Elie Wiesel. Earlier Wiesel had published his own missive, in a number of major American newspapers, imploring President Barack Obama’s understanding of the Jewish attachment to Jerusalem and why another division of the city can never be contemplated.
“For Jerusalem, Jews, Christians and Muslims are able to build their homes anywhere in Jerusalem and that only under Israeli sovereignty has freedom of worship for all religions been assured in the city.”
Sarid counters that there is a tacit racism inherent in Israeli housing policy that allows Arab families to be evicted onto the street if it suits the occupying power. He also warns Wiesel, who is certainly no Jewish fundamentalist, to avoid placing too much emphasis on the Jewish people’s religious attachment to the city.
“ You, my dear friend, evoke the Jews’ biblical deed to Jerusalem, thereby imbuing our current conflict with messianic hues. As if our diplomatic quarrels weren’t enough, the worst of our enemies would be glad to dress this epic conflict in the garb of a holy war. We had better not join ranks with them, even if unintentionally.”
But Sarid goes much further than even this. In his admonition to Wiesel, he states baldly what no other Israeli leader has previously dared to plead:
“ Barack Obama appears well aware of his obligations to try to resolve the world’s ills, particularly ours here. Why then undercut him and tie his hands? On the contrary, let’s allow him to use his clout to save us from ourselves, to help both bruised and battered nations and free them from their prison. Then he can push both sides to divide the city into two capitals - to give Jewish areas to the Jews and Arab areas to the Arabs - and assign the Holy Basin to an agreed-on international authority.”
Here we have a frank admission - and condemnation - rolled into one. Sarid is saying that since the fractious Jews have proved themselves incapable of resolving their own problems with their contentious neighbors, they should resign themselves to their incompetence and willingly give up problem-solving to a benevolent omniscient being who has only their best interests at heart. Only He is capable of bringing the peace that all sides to the conflict crave.
Talk about Messianism.
The suggestion to involve an honest broker in the so-called “peace process” is nothing new. But the idea that the same outsider should be vested with the responsibility of imposing a solution on the question of the territorial boundaries of the State, smacks of contempt for Israel’s sovereign rights, as well as a rejection of the authority of its democratic government to make decisions for its citizens.
The letter from Sarid is a study is self delusion. Not only does he wish the Jewish people to eschew any historical/ religious attachment to Jerusalem ( not surprising from a guy who has described Judaism as “a primitivist cult” ) but he ignores completely the prolific spread of illegal Arab housing in East Jerusalem; the unwillingness of any Arab government in history to the ensure the inviolability of Jewish holy sites and the rampant demonization of Israel in Palestinian society - as sure a sign as any that a future State of Palestine will have no inclination to live in harmony with its Israeli neighbor.
Sarid also excoriates rich American benefactors for their support of a Jewish presence in East Jerusalem while ignoring the deliberate and consistent rejectionism of Arab governments who have used the Palestinians for close to a century as pawns in their own Middle East chess game.
I also have my problems with Wiesel’s letter –
“ Is there a solution? There must be, there will be.”
No, Mr.Wiesel, there is no solution. While Palestinians live in thrall to supremacist rhetoric; while their religious leaders repeatedly call for Jihad against the Jewish infidel and Palestinian leaders do not even accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, there is no solution – for these things take generations to change. In the meantime there remains a conflict that can only be managed.
Jerusalem, will, for the foreseeable future, remain at the core of this conflict. Israel’s self declared “pro-active friends” such as J Street, would be well advised to understand that any endorsement of a policy which promotes the surrender of the Jewish state’s sovereignty will do nothing to bring peace. Instead it will empower Palestinian rejectionism, the one great diplomatic skill these wards of the West have mastered throughout history.
Avi Davis is the president of the American Freedom Alliance in Los Angeles. His writings and blog entries can be found at The Intermediate Zone and at the Los Angeles Jewish Journal blog On The Other Hand.
This article also appears in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal’s blog On The Other Hand
May 3, 2010 | 11:33 am
Posted by Avi Davis
If anyone in the mid-1880s had identified the young Viennese dandy, Theodor Herzl, as a likely savior of the Jewish people, he would have almost certainly been laughed off as a fantasist.
Herzl, born 150 years ago this week, was then a law school graduate whose facility for the German language had driven him towards journalism and the theater, with which he had a particular affinity.
His upbringing produced very little sign that he would become widely regarded as a great Jewish emancipator. His parents were thoroughly assimilated Jews and although they gave their son a bar mitzvah (which Herzl recorded as a confirmation), he grew up without a substantive knowledge of the Jewish religion nor its practices. In fact, prior to the first Zionist Congress in Basle in 1897, both he and Max Nordau could not follow the Sabbath services they had been invited to attend - their Hebrew language skills and familiarity with the Jewish prayer service being so limited.
While experiencing anti-semitism, first as a schoolboy and then as a university student, he had become accustomed to accepting, like many of his generation, that it would only be through a process of assimilation that Jews would finally be accepted within Austrian society.
His conversion from that view, to one in which he accepted and the creation of Jewish national homeland in Palestine itself was the only realistic solution to Jewish suffering , became one of the most consequential journeys of self discovery in modern history.
It began in France, where he was posted as a reporter for the Neue Freie Presse in the early 1890s. Here, he was certain, he would find nothing of the rabid hatred he had experienced in his own country, since the land of liberté, egalité and fraternité was sure to proscribe such an attitude. He was not only to be shocked to find that it did not, but was distressed to discover that the situation was even more dire than in Austria.
When, in 1895, Captain Alfred Dreyfus of the French army, was falsely accused of transferring national military secrets to the German High Command, the country was set aflame with a level of hysterical anti-Semitism that he had never before experienced. Major newspapers concocted the most vile accusations against Dreyfus and French Jews and key intellectuals took their side. He witnessed mass rallies in Paris following the Dreyfus trial where many chanted “Death to the Jews!”
Herzl thereafter came to reject his early ideas regarding Jewish emancipation and assimilation, and to believe that the Jews must remove themselves from Europe and create their own state. Despite the existence of a powerful lobby which fought for Dreyfus’ innocence, Herzl came to believe that the contagion of anti-Semitism could not be ever eliminated and that Jews would be subject to the torments of the anti-Semitic plague wherever they went.
To enshrine his ideas, Herzl published Der Judenstaat ( The Jewish State) in 1896 and an idealized view of the new nation in Alte Neue Land (Old New Land) in 1898. His drive for a political solution to anti-semtism attracted few adherents among the Jewish leaders of the Diaspora. Lord Rothschild in England refused to see him and even worse, made his refusal public. Baron Maurice de Hirsch, the French philanthropist who had for many years supported the development of Jewish settlements in Palestine, dismissed him as an ignorant theorist. Edmund de Rothschild in Paris , who ran nine existing small colonies in Palestine, thought that a political movement such as Herzl proposed would jeopardize his nascent project.
It was only among the poorer Jewish communities - of England, Poland and the Russian Pale of Settlement - that the nascent political movement of Zionism began to catch on with the force of a whirlwind. In London’s East End, when he addressed a Jewish audience at a synagogue, his reception was so rapturous that he began to understand the power of a grass roots movement and recorded in his diary that he watched as his own legend was spun to life . Future Zionist leaders such as Chaim Weizmann, then a university student and David Ben Gurion, then only 10, saw in the appearance of the man the harbinger of a Jewish renaissance.
One of the things that gave Herzl his power to attract supporters was his extraordinary appearance. Over six feet tall, with a stentorian voice, a shock of black hair, dark, piercing eyes and a flowing beard that reached to his chest, Herzl presented much the model of an ancient Jewish prophet - a commanding presence capable of awing Jewish peasants and European nobility alike.
Herzl also brought a decisive edge of drama to Zionist proceedings which was to have an impact on the development of the public realtions side of Jewish nationalism. He was determined that Jews dress the part of a people who deserved a state, insisting on a strict dress code at all meetings, which included starched shirts and expensive frock coats. He also urged the playing of bombastic Wagnerian music at the opening of the Zionist Congresses (the first of which took place in Basle, Switzerland in the late summer of 1897) and was given to dramatic flourishes in his speech.
The combination of these traits began to bear fruit. The English Rothschild moved from hostility to neutrality; British leaders, such as the powerful Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain, was won over and began meeting with Herzl with some regularity.
Within a few years, he was being received by the monarchs of Europe including Wilhelm II of Germany and the Sultan of Turkey as well as the political leaders of Austria. He had gradually transformed himself, through sheer dint of will and perseverance, into an international celebrity.
It was a long way to come from the self centered dandy who had so cynically dismissed Judaism and observant Jews only a few years before.
But Herzl also made some very serious mistakes which have bedeviled the Zionist movement until this day. By launching a purely secular movement, unattached in any formal way to Judaism or Jewish teachings, he undercut one of the prime arguments of religious Zionists – that a return to Zion was mandated by Jewish law, inscribed and predicted in the Torah. He thereby delayed by decades the subscription of Orthodox Jewry to his cause and threatened a division in the Jewish world which took on a very vitriolic cast in Zionism’s early years. His willingness to accept Joseph Chamberlain’s offer of Uganda as a temporary solution to Jewish suffering, brought unprecedented condemnation down upon him and may, in some way, have contributed to his early death in 1904. It made many feel that he was not serious about his own Zionist ideas, an attack that must have been mortifying.
Yet in the light of the growth of the Zionist movement and the ultimate establishment of a Jewish state in the late 1940s, these are minor quibbles. Herzl, through his personal magnetism, the power of his pen and oratory , as well as his brilliance as an organizer, was able to marshal the resources of the Jewish world and funnel them into a nationalist movement that gave a goal and a purpose to a largely oppressed and unfocused people.
Today’s tea partiers and budding nationalist movements could learn a great deal from Herzl’s example. In only eight years, this Viennese journalist, with little political or diplomatic experience nor connections, was able to bring international attention to the plight of his people and the justice of their cause in securing a permanent national home. His name and image rightly festoons the Israeli currency, Jerusalem streets and Israeli cities. He left his people with a dramatic vision of a future that in 186o few of them could appreciate.
But even more than this he left them with a credo that has come to define Israeli perseverance and willingness to take risks - “Im tirzu ein zo aggada” - if you will it, it is no dream.”
In an age of deep cynicism, this is a rallying cry that should find resonance among Israelis and non-Israelis, Jews and gentiles, alike.
April 26, 2010 | 5:13 pm
Posted by Avi Davis
These are not the easiest of days for Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli prime-minister is faced with a growing nuclear threat from Iran, collapsing relations with neighboring Arab countries and the worst crisis in U.S.- Israeli relations since the 1956 Suez War. And just when he thought things couldn’t get any worse, along comes demands for him to attend a Washington D.C. conference on nuclear security where, he is told, Israel’s supposed best friends in the region are going to demand that Israel sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Someone give this man an aspirin.
It is certainly not the first time the Israeli PM has come under unrelenting pressure from multiple directions. In November, 1998 during his first prime-ministership, Bill Clinton, pressing the full weight of his presidential office on Netanyahu, instructed him to sign the Wye River Memorandum, which was an updated version of the Oslo Accords, detailing security arrangements, IDF redeployments and economic matters between Israel and the PA. The Memorandum would never be implemented. IDF withdrawals from contested areas were not met by the stipulated reciprocal responses from the Palestinians – particularly with regard to the collection of weapons and the cessation of incitement. Two years later, the outbreak of the Second Intifada made it all but irrelevant.
Yet at that time, Netanyahu was seen largely by his own constituency on the Israeli right, as a dupe. He had signed an agreement which had given gratuitous concessions to a reprobate Palestinian dictatorship and made Israel seem weak. His coalition partners had still not forgiven him for surrendering 50% of Hebron to Palestinian control the previous year and within a few weeks, having lost the confidence of his Knesset majority, his government fell.
Netanyahu has spent ten years nursing the bruises received from those encounters and in the interim seems to have learned some important lessons. The first of them is that his political survival in Israel is dependent on his country’s projection of strength. When it comes to Israel’s security, he now seems to understand that he should insist on his country’s right to reject any proposal that compromises it. Second, he now appreciates that U.S. Presidents will place their own priorities before that of Israel’s welfare, in order to accelerate broader policy goals. ( Clinton, we might remember, pegged his chances of earning a coveted Nobel Prize to Middle East peace). Third, peace is not going to come to Israel and the Middle East through Israeli concessions but rather through a demonstration of Israeli power respected by Arab regimes – forcing them to concede that they have no other choice but to come to the table.
Although the summit is intended to focus on nuclear security, leaving other broad topics such as non-proliferation and disarmament to different fora, there will be an inevitable drift of discussion to those issues. Netanyahu is aware that demands will be made on Israel by erstwhile friends Egypt and Turkey (who have been given lately to describing Israel as ” the greatest threat to peace in the region”) to sign the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty. He is also aware of the deep ambivalence of the Obama administration towards his government. There could be little relish for the idea of being dressed down again by Hilary Clinton.
Netanyahu’s aversion to attending the conference is, however, more than mere discomfort at the thought of being confronted by Israel’s antagonists. Perhaps alone among world leaders, he recognizes that his country stands as a hedge against Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons – which he rightly regards as the greatest calamity to befall our civilization . He sees no evidence that the world is seriously tackling this issue and is convinced the United States government is more at ease castigating Israel about building Jerusalem apartments than dealing effectively with the threat. He recognizes that within a short while Israel will be forced to launch a preemptive strike on Iranian nuclear facilities or else expose Israel and the world to the destabilizing reality of a nuclear Iran.
So Netanyahu’s Israel may soon become the very kind of rogue state that the Nuclear Security Summit will be trying to identify and outlaw. If and when Israeli planes strike Iran, no world leader will praise Netanyahu. Instead, he will be excoriated from Whitehall to Foggy Bottom as a lawless provocateur, attempting to instigate World War III. Secretly, however, they will all concede that what he authorized had precisely averted such a catastrophe - even if it takes memoirs written many years into the future to produce such an admission.
Having learned the lessons of Wye then, Benjamin Netanyahu seems to have matured into a world leader who knows how to handle international pressure. His tacit understanding that Israel must be left to make decisions about its own security and that Middle East peace is illusory without a demonstration of Israeli power, vouchsafe his suspicion that his presence at the conference will only damage Israel’s image and encourage continuing international lassitude on the matter of Iran.
Benjamin Netanyahu is not winning many popularity contest anywhere in the world. Except, perhaps, in Israel – where he is beginning to demonstrate the way a world leader, in a time of crisis, should act.
Avi Davis is the President of the American Freedom Alliance in Los Angeles. His writings and blog entries can be found at the The Intermediate Zone and the Los Angeles Jewish Journal’s On The Other Hand.