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An Israeli dilemma - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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These days, the panicked beating of the hearts of political leaders in Israel (that is, if they even have hearts in the first place) can be heard from far away, and they are sweating profusely. These are just some of the effects of the confusion, anxiety, and embarrassment that have beset Israel following US President Barack Obama’s recent speech, which shocked Israel and which Tel Aviv consider to represent a threat to Israeli national security. This is what drove Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reply to this speech immediately, and in his meeting with US President Obama at the White House, the Israeli prime minister comprehensively rejected the idea of returning to the 1967 border as the basis for a two-state solution. Israel’s embarrassment only increased after the European countries blessed and supported the US position, something that drove Netanyahu to immediately turn to the two means of pressure which Israeli political leaders rely on to influence US public opinion; namely political pressure, and Christian-Zionist pressure. The political pressure can be seen in the Jewish lobby and the pressure groups that support it, like AIPAC [The American Israel Public Affairs Committee], whilst the Christian-Zionist pressure can be seen in the individual pressure brought to bear by a very influential and wealthy voting bloc, as well as several right-wing media publications that strongly support Israel. These forces began to put pressure on Washington, stressing that the new US position represents “a threat to Israel’s security” and that the price of peace cannot come at the expense of Israel’s security and other well-known slogans that have become an essential part of the political and media discourse of Israeli governments in America.

Perhaps what is interesting is that the first to react to this Israeli anxiety were several Jewish pressure groups that are traditionally loyal to the Democratic Party and that had contributed to Barack Obama’s electoral campaign. Their immediate reaction was to say that they are reviewing their stance on donating to Obama’s next presidential campaign for a second term in office. However these forces know that Obama’s popularity is now generally high; they are aware that he is generally supported with regards to his new approach [on the Palestinian – Israeli conflict], even by the majority of the Jewish community in the United States. Obama’s new approach with regards to the 1967 border and the two-state solution is supported by more than 50 percent of the Jewish community. Moreover, it is no longer convincing or justifiable or acceptable for Israel to continue to promote itself as the sole democracy in the Middle East amidst the most important revolutionary, democratic, and popular uprisings that have taken place in several Arab countries, particularly as the world continues to follow the events in the region with interest and admiration. Moreover, Netanyahu’s arrogant and overbearing style has angered many American critics and commentators. They have criticized the Israeli prime minister’s attitude, saying “he cannot talk to the President in this manner”. Furthermore, other observers were amazed at Netanyahu’s astonishment and objection to the principle of the 1967 border. All US President’s, since the era of President Jimmy Carter have talked about the United Nations resolutions, especially UN Resolution 242 which is originally based on the 1967 borders. Therefore, there is no real reason for Netanyahu to object unless he is trying to buy more time.

Furthermore, Israel and the pressure groups that support it are fully aware that the forthcoming presidential race will not bring good tidings. The Republicans are unable to field a prominent candidate who will inspire voters and presents himself as a genuine alternative to Obama. The names that have been put forward so far are very weak and extremely traditional. Israel is in a real predicament. It seems that Netanyahu will be subjected to certain stances from the US that he has never faced in the past. We must monitor the situation in America to see which side of the scales the American people come down on. Will the US taxpayers, who are burdened with debts and a weak economy, continue to support an Israeli government that insults their country, or is Netanyahu and his government in possession of some magic trick that will be able to convince then?

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi is a businessman and prominent columnist. Mr. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al-Takreer on Al-Arabiya, and in 1995 he was chosen as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. He received his BA in Political Science and Management from the University of Tulsa.

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