Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Netanyahu’s Success | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Day after day US President Barack Obama, who is still not a highly seasoned politician, discovers that talk in election campaigns is one thing but political reality is another, and that, as they say, “talk is cheap” during and prior to election campaigns, and even at Cairo University and earlier at the Turkish parliament. However, matching words with deeds is a completely different matter.

A whole year has elapsed since President Obama delivered his speech at Cairo University, in which he said something new about the need for Israel to halt settlement construction. For Netanyahu, Jerusalem is one thing and the settlements are another. He continued construction in Jerusalem, driving out Palestinians from the city and demolishing their neighborhoods in East Jerusalem under the pretext one time of renovation of these areas and at another establishment of public parks.

The Israeli prime minister continues to implement his extremist agenda: No stop to settlement construction, no stop to the policy of demolition of houses and of uprooting their Palestinian inhabitants, and no to a Palestinian state. And yet Netanyahu apportions the blame on the Palestinians.

President Barack has finally given his blessing to this Israeli policy after his 6 July meeting with the Israeli prime minister, agreeing with him on throwing the ball into the Palestinian court. President Obama made a statement urging the Palestinians to proceed to direct negotiations and saying that Israel is serious in its intentions about peace. In other words, if the Palestinians do not come to direct negotiations, they will be to blame, and they will look as though they did not want peace. Good God!

Contrary to the previous meeting between Obama and Netanyahu, which the latter even refused publication of its photos, the latest meeting was intimate as the media portrayed it amid the glare of photographers’ cameras and the mutual smiles between Obama and Netanyahu. Obama’s statement reassured Netanyahu.

The timing of Obama’s statement was very appropriate as far as Netanyahu was concerned. It was tantamount to throwing him a lifeline at a time when criticism of his policy in Israel was growing and his adversaries blamed him for Israel’s diplomatic isolation and the damage to its foreign relations. They pointed out that Israel’s relations with one of it most important allies in the region– Turkey– has been damaged in the wake of the bloody assault on the Freedom Flotilla, and that the Netanyahu government’s inflexibility was close to damaging Israel’s relations with its most important ally, the United States.

Israel has sent Turkey bloody warning through Kurds to the effect that if it persists in championing the Palestinians, Israel will escalate terrorist attacks by Kurds on Israel’s behalf. It is well known that for purely pragmatic reasons, the Kurdish movements seek Israeli support for their largely legitimate aspirations. Observers link the rise in Kurdish attacks in Turkey to Turkey’s strict stand on Israel in the wake of the Freedom Flotilla incident.

The Palestinian leadership represented by the Mahmud Abbas government has been utterly disconcerted: It can neither declare an end to the peace process, nor is capable of peddling a real peace on the ground under the policy of uprooting Palestinians and continued settlement construction. Despite this, Obama is calling on Abbas’s government to return to direct negotiations.

What President Obama has now in mind is the midterm election in the fall. Many expect a major loss for his political party as his adversaries succeeded in portraying him as a good speaker but a bad politician. His mutual smiles with Netanyahu and his praise of his policy is part of electioneering and wooing the pro-Israel lobby in the United States. So President Obama’s Cairo University speech last year, his earlier speech at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, and the “cheap” talk of a Palestinian state are the last things on his mind.

Netanyahu has succeeded in imposing his agenda, selling his policy, and silencing his adversaries in Israel. In fact, Netanyahu would not have achieved this success were it not for the absence, or rather, nonexistence of an Arab role. Were there any Arab move to exploit the Freedom Flotilla incident, and were there a persistent Arab position exposing Netanyahu’s policy and exercising pressure to stop it, Netanyahu would not have scored this major success, and the Palestinians would not have found themselves, as always, begging for Turkish support or Iranian rhetoric.