The Israeli writer Gideon Levy described Benjamin Netanyahu as a huckster and con-artist in his article [Tricky Bibi] that was published in the Haaretz newspaper on 15 July 2010.
This is because just a few days ago a video that was secretly filmed several years ago was broadcast for the first time on Israeli Channel 10; this video shows Netanyahu’s true colours as he speaks about the peace process, the Palestinians, and the US. This resulted in the writer of the afore-mentioned article saying that Netanyahu’s words “bear out all our fears and suspicions…that the government of Israel is led by a man who doesn’t believe the Palestinians and doesn’t believe in the chance of an agreement with them, [and] who thinks that Washington is in his pocket.”
In the video, Netanyahu boasts that he succeeded in destroying the Oslo Peace Accords during his first term as Prime Minister. He said “I’m going to interpret the accords in such a way that would allow me to put an end to this galloping forward to the ’67 borders.” He went on to present his view on how to deal with the Palestinians, saying “the main thing, first of all, is to inflict blows [on the Palestinians] that are so painful the price will be too heavy to be borne.”
As for his perception of the US, it is one that is bound to frustrate the Obama administrations, especially as earlier this month the US president told the press during his meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister that “I believe Prime Minister Netanyahu wants peace. I think he is willing to take risks for peace.” Had Obama heard what Netanyahu said in this video, he may have hesitated to make such a statement.
In this video, Netanyahu says “I know what America is. America is something that can be moved easily…moved to the right direction. They won’t get in our way.”
Perhaps Netanyahu met Obama with this mindset of moving him in the right direction, allowing him to sabotage peace efforts and continue the policy of settlement expansion, perhaps in order to “inflict blows” upon the Palestinians. Given that Netanyahu described Bill Clinton as being “extremely pro-Palestinian”, one can only imagine how he views Barack Hussein Obama.
Some might say that the video that was broadcast by Israeli Channel 10 dates back to 2001, and that the man could have changed some of his convictions or policies, and that many politicians over the course of time say things that they later no longer repeat because the situation has changed. However anybody who says this must recall that this is the man who even disagreed with Ariel Sharon and resigned from government in protest of Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza (Netanyahu was Minister of Finance between 2003 and 2005). They must also recall that his extremism policies and positions reflect his strong convictions, not his circumstantial manoeuvres. Netanyahu was brought up on the concept of a Greater Israel, and he has not given up on this. The facts show that Netanyahu in 2010 is no different than he was in 2005, and in fact he may have grown even more extreme than he was in the nineties, when he became prime minister for the first time between 1996 and 1999.
So when Netanyahu calls for moving to direct negotiations with the Palestinians today, he is specifying their outcome before they even begin, as he is continuing with the settlement expansion, and wants the Palestinians and Arabs to recognize Israel as a Jewish state with Jerusalem as its eternal and undivided capital. Whereas when he talks about a Palestinian State, he is not talking about a real state, but rather he is demanding a state that does not have its own army, does not control its own borders, regional waters, or airspace. He also refuses the Palestinian refugees the right to return, and believes that the unilateral and unconditional Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip was a grave mistake the likes of which Israel must never commit again.
This is the real Netanyahu, and his extremist views have not changed since 2001 – when the video that was broadcast on Israeli television was filmed – and 2009, after he became prime minister for a second time. Since Netanyahu believes that “America is something that can be easily moved” he is adopting [a policy] of equivocation and trickery in order to buy time and frustrate the peace efforts that are not in line with his vision and conditions. By doing so, Netanyahu is not concerned with angering the US, in the same manner that he angered the Clinton administration in the past, and is angering the Obama administration today. Israeli writers discussed how Netanyahu presented himself as being flexible and tractable to Obama during their last meeting in the White House; Netanyahu presented himself as a man who is flexible, wants to achieve peace, and is prepared to take risks in order to achieve this. However as soon as Netanyahu boarded his flight back to Israel, his other side of “Bibi the extremist” re-asserted himself.
Netanyahu is different from Isaac Rabin, Menachem Begin, and Ariel Sharon in that he wants to deal with the peace process by “mock[ing] America, and trick[ing] the Palestinians” just as Gideon Levy said. Other Israeli writers see Netanyahu as a naturally evasive figure with an arrogant nature. There can be no doubt that a man like this will indulge in trickery and evasion when he looks at the situation in front of him and sees that the Palestinian ranks are divided and the Arabs are in a weak position. It would be a grave mistake for the Palestinians to accept a return to direct negotiations without clear written guarantees. Otherwise this would be “making the same mistake again” as the Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said following his meeting this week with US Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell. Most importantly, the Palestinians must realize that they have to put an end to their disputes and unite their ranks in order to strengthen their position in the face of a man that is described even in Israel as a fraud.