Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Relationship Status with Bibi: It’s Complicated

 

bibi-2015victoryHey, everybody. Greetings from King Bibi-Land. Troy suggested I drop in and offer a word or two about the Israeli election from ground zero, as it were. I’m happy to do so, although I confess to some slight hesitation, as my views on the result run somewhat counter to the general sentiment at Ricochet.

There appears to be much (forgive me) rather uninflected delight being expressed at Ricochet over Bibi’s victory — a victory that does offer obvious satisfaction to anyone who views it strictly in terms of the thumb in the eye it offers to President Obama. I understand this. I can see that the result has really energized some of you, who view it as evidence that a rhetorical, chest-thumping lunge for the throat can, under certain circumstances and when executed by a pro, be a productive strategy against Obama.

But from my perspective here in Israel, it’s hard to view Bibi’s dissing of the US president and subsequent electoral triumph with unalloyed joy. This is not because I have any problem in principle with this president being flipped a well-earned bird, but because the consequences could be precisely the opposite of what Bibi intended. They could, in fact, be horrendously costly to us.

Over the course of the run-up to this election and during the election itself, Bibi managed not only to worsen an already fraught relationship with the White House but to shift the rules of engagement with regard to the Palestinians in a direction that Americans cannot possibly follow — and to take this dramatic second step as an eleventh-hour electoral tactic, making it appear spectacularly cynical.

It is hard to imagine this remaining unanswered. I would not be at all surprised if, over the course of the interminable remainder of his term in office, Obama does something truly dramatic in retaliation.

I hate making specific predictions, but it’s entirely conceivable that he will withdraw the American veto of UN Security Council resolutions condemning settlement construction, which would plunge us even deeper into the pariah mire than we are already. Obama might even go so far as to back a UN resolution recognizing Palestine. Like so many hapless leaders before him, Obama has seized on Israel/Palestine as his ticket to a “legacy”, and Bibi appears to have put paid to any kind of negotiated settlement. If Obama can’t get the legacy with us, he may well try to get it without us.

But let me back up a little. Part of what has been so astonishing to me over the course of this campaign has been the failure of Bibi’s usually strong instincts. He is not a stupid man by any means, but his acceptance of John Boehner’s curiously timed invitation to speak before Congress was a truly boneheaded move from an international standpoint. I know that speech delighted many who relished the spectacle of Bibi getting his rockstar on at Obama’s expense. But over here, it horrified a lot of us, including those of us who find much to admire in Bibi and little to love in Obama.

I, for one, was absolutely floored by Bibi’s decision to flout basic diplomatic protocol and decorum for the sake of a domestic campaign strategy, a cynical move by anyone’s measure. Not because I’m so enamored of diplomatic protocol and decorum per se, but because Bibi’s choice did two highly unpalatable things: a) it disrespected the office of the presidency itself, which, as a passionate champion of US-style democracy, I find highly problematic; and b) it put many Democrats in Congress in the embarrassing, difficult, unnecessary, and self-defeating (from Israel’s perspective) position of having to take a public stand against our prime minister. Bibi’s swagger has its place and has served us well at other times in our long national relationship with him, but this time he really overstepped, and I — and many other Israelis, including some right-leaning ones like me — believe he did us harm.

In the wake of the election, a trope is making itself heard in right-wing American circles that any criticism of Bibi’s election night demagoguery is nothing more than empty, sour-grapes, liberal/progressive bilge. That just doesn’t wash. It was disgraceful of Bibi to attempt to drum up votes for Likud by condemning Arab Israelis for exercising their right to vote, no matter who was encouraging them to do so. Of course, it seems to have worked, insofar as it convinced late-voting right-wingers to back Likud itself rather than their own, smaller right-wing parties in the hope of being part of the coalition (the argument being that if Likud isn’t forming the government, those smaller parties are out on their tushes anyway). But that move was pure, unadulterated, hail Mary demagoguery, and it’s silly to pretend otherwise. The fact that Democrats are saying it, or that they’re guilty of the same kind of thing when it suits them (takes one to know one), doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

As you can probably tell, I’m deeply torn about Bibi. I believe that his central premise is absolutely right: until things change a hell of a lot for the better around here, our number one concern has to remain security and defense above all else. Despite my issues with his sense of timing and the respect I believe is due the White House, I’m profoundly grateful to Bibi for insisting on shouting from the hilltops to anyone who will listen about the reality of the threat we face from Iran, no matter how much scorn or vilification he brings down on his own head. Frankly, it’s heroic.

On the other hand, I believe his approach to the Palestinian problem, which is, as ever, an immediate and perpetual security threat, is totally short-sighted and ultimately dangerous to the whole Israeli experiment.

There is a perception abroad that there are two options available in this country with regard to the Palestinians: the Bibi/Likud option — dig in your heels and don’t give an inch (or even discuss giving an inch) until the other side demonstrates that they are acting in good faith; and the left option, which will give away the whole country in a heartbeat if it’ll get the Arabs to at least pretend to like us for a few minutes.

This is a false dichotomy. The fact of the matter is that there is less daylight than most people think between Likud and Labor in terms of territorial concessions (or at least there was, until Bibi decided at the last second to cement his electoral victory by disavowing his commitment to an eventual Palestinian state, a statement he is now frantically backtracking). There are, however, two areas of critical difference between Bibi and Labor: the expansion of settlements and the willingness to negotiate.

Let’s start with the second one. It is generally assumed that the willingness of Labor simply to talk to the Palestinians implies an ipso facto willingness to make crazy concessions to them. The awful, tragic truth is this: we all know, left and right alike, that the Palestinians will blow it no matter what’s on the table. They always do. They are so hopelessly fractured and poorly led that they are practically guaranteed not to agree to anything we offer them, no matter how much it’s in their interest to accept.

Our center-left parties (I’m not speaking about the hard left, which is so decimated that it has no power to do anything anyway) are simply not so stupid as to make gigantic offers with no security guarantees, no international guarantees, no reciprocal concessions, no nothing. It is not what they want. It is not what the people want.

The Palestinians will not agree to give us any real guarantees in any case. They’re hamstrung by the maximalists in their camp who view any concession to us, no matter how trivial, as both a sign of weakness and an unacceptable grant of legitimacy. As a result, there is little to no danger of an agreement being hammered out in the first place. So, with Bibi, there’s no agreement but we’re the villains because we won’t even talk to them; with Labor, there would be no agreement either, and we’d still probably be blamed for the failure — but at least we wouldn’t be writing the Israel-bashers’ script for them. Sitting down with the enemy can be a strategy unto itself.

On the other distinction between Bibi and Labor — the building of settlements — we wade into very difficult territory. If you believe, as many evangelical Christians and religious Jews do, that God gave this land from the Jordan to the Mediterranean to the Jews and that’s all there is to it, then you’re probably (although not necessarily) going to favor Israeli settlement throughout the territories. But there is a demographic reality on the ground here that cannot be ignored.

Yes, it is a fiction that the West Bank and Gaza were “Palestinian” before Israel took them over in 1967, but that does not mean that they are, or should be, Israeli, particularly since they contain Muslim populations that, if incorporated into Israel, will quickly completely undermine the Jewish nature of the state. It’s extremely difficult to see what the desired endpoint is of all the settlement building other than to make a division into two states ultimately impossible. And then what? The Palestinians are never going to just throw up their hands and all move to Belgium. They’re not going anywhere, and their claims — flimsy and ahistorical though they may be — will become more and more cemented into an unshakeable reality the more time passes. We have wrought this; we must fix it. It’s in our best interests as well as theirs.

As to the physical advantage of holding a wider area: I am all for strategic depth (although it’s of much more limited value in this day and age than it was in 1948 or 1967), but I am even more for a healthy Israel living alongside a healthy Palestine. Yes, a healthy Palestine might be an impossible dream at this moment in history, but choking off the possibility that one might ever emerge doesn’t seem likely to end well for either party.

I hope you’ve stayed with me all the way through this long post. I know how profoundly so many of you care about Israel, and your concern has been a great comfort to me during very difficult times here. The situation in Israel is in some respects extremely complex — I haven’t even touched, for example, on the domestic issues that played into the election. But, in other respects, it’s awfully simple. We have a big problem — the Israeli-Palestinian problem — and if we don’t solve it, this country might not make it. We have to use our heads and figure out which of the myriad approaches to the problem is most likely to leave us not only alive, but stronger. King Bibi gives a hell of a speech, it’s true. But we are more isolated now than ever. A good deal of that is down to him.

 

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  1. Grey Lady Inactive

    Judith, thank you so much for sharing this and offering a more thorough perspective on what is happening with Israel. Your insight is invaluable.

    Godspeed.

    • #1
    • March 19, 2015, at 4:44 PM PDT
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  2. Lash LaRoche Inactive

    Welcome back, Judith! Any chance we’ll be reading the further adventures of Evan Adair?

    • #2
    • March 19, 2015, at 4:51 PM PDT
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  3. AIG Inactive
    AIG

    All this complications are going to make a lot of people confused. Where’s the “good guys vs bad guys”, “black vs white”, “with us or against us” dichotomy…so we can recognize when to cheer and when to boo?

    Who’s got time to figure out the complicated trade-offs here? Not many “conservatives”, that’s for sure.

    • #3
    • March 19, 2015, at 4:53 PM PDT
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  4. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Judith – If having The United States as an ally is predicated solely in acquiescing to the world view of Barack Obama then Israel is better on its own.

    I think Bibi has come to realize that the Democratic Party in America has lurched so far left into faculty lounge Marxism that Israel can no longer rely on bipartisan support. The sooner all Jews, wherever they may reside, take this to heart the better off they’ll be.

    But, you say, Israel cannot exist without America’s support! Well, can Israel survive with an America that stabs her in the back? If Barack Obama is your friend I’m not sure you need the rest of your enemies.

    • #4
    • March 19, 2015, at 5:09 PM PDT
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  5. FightinInPhilly Thatcher

    AIG:Who’s got time to figure out the complicated trade-offs here? Not many “conservatives”, that’s for sure.

    People have been obsessing over the complicated trade-offs for 60 years. If greater understanding was the obstacle, this issue would have been solved a long, long time ago. The problem is quite simply the fact that two sides have radically different models of what the future looks like. This is not a contractual dispute or a matter of choosing the best way to distribute benefits. It will only be “solved” when one side decides it can fight no more.

    • #5
    • March 19, 2015, at 5:15 PM PDT
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  6. Arahant Member

    It’s good to see you here. May your fears dissipate like morning fog on a summer day and your hopes solidifylike iron in the casting mold.

    • #6
    • March 19, 2015, at 5:17 PM PDT
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  7. Scott R Member
    Scott R Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Great post, Judith.

    Question: Would a unity gov’t mitigate some of the challenges?

    And another, if you’re comfortable answering: Were your misgivings about Netanyahu so severe that you voted for labor?

    • #7
    • March 19, 2015, at 5:27 PM PDT
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  8. AUMom Member
    AUMom Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Thank you, Judith, for your perspective. It is hard for me to understand Israel’s situation completely from the safety of my South Carolina home.

    May the Creator protect you all.

    • #8
    • March 19, 2015, at 5:30 PM PDT
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  9. Sash Member

    Judith, The cheering you hear from the US is as you suppose not really about the ins and outs of Israeli politics.

    Obama throws elections (that is what community organizing is, throwing elections). He plays as dirty as any politician anywhere. So anything Bibi did pales in comparison. Obama spent my tax dollars fiddling in your election!! We are outraged to think China or Israel or anyone else tries to mess with our elections, and then Obama does that! He should not be rewarded. And he wasn’t. Bibi won against Obama’s corruption. Maybe he used some corruption to do it, but he did it!

    What Obama is doing in regards to Iran is beyond stupid, and we can’t do anything but watch. He is undoing decades of keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorist countries. This isn’t just about Israel! It’s about the nuclear proliferation we have worked so hard and so long to contain. Obama is undoing it all!!!! Once Iran gets the bomb, all bets are off, and the world will never be safe.

    Decades of American policy is on the line.

    The left in the US completely ignores the reality of Militant Islam, they blame the victims of terrorism every chance they get. They think the backwardness of the middle East countries has something to do with the success of America, and not the failure of their own governments.

    Obama has a vendetta against Israel, I personally think he is anti-Semitic. I think he does not think Israel should exist at all. Obama hates success. This is not Bibi’s fault. Obama was like that long before Bibi got there.

    The entire world is just holding our breath, hoping for the best until Obama leaves the Whitehouse. Hopefully, what Bibi did set Obama back some, if so Bibi is a hero.

    • #9
    • March 19, 2015, at 5:44 PM PDT
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  10. Tuck Inactive

    Judith Levy:He is not a stupid man by any means, but his acceptance of John Boehner’s curiously timed invitation to speak before Congress was a truly boneheaded move from an international standpoint…

    I, for one, was absolutely floored by Bibi’s decision to flout basic diplomatic protocol…

    You lost me here. He’s spoken to Congress before during Obama’s term, and no one made a peep.

    2011: “Binyamin Netanyahu’s congressional love-in

    “Netanyahu said little more to Congress than he had already said in public, including alongside Obama on Thursday…”

    Just because Obama decided to throw a fit this time around doesn’t mean Netanhayu’s flouting basic diplomatic protocol.

    Repeating Democratic talking points isn’t really what I’m interested in hearing in a supposedly Conservative policy analysis piece. And that lack of critical analysis makes me go look for something else to read…

    • #10
    • March 19, 2015, at 5:46 PM PDT
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  11. EThompson Inactive

    I would not be at all surprised if, over the course of the interminable remainder of his term in office, Obama does something truly dramatic in retaliation.

    I wouldn’t count on it as it’s hardly in his DNA to cross anybody openly. That would require making a decision and revealing a definitive point of view.

    As for diplomacy, I never in my lifetime thought I’d witness an American president boycott an Israeli prime minister and forbid members of his administration from attending a speech in the people’s U.S. Capitol.

    • #11
    • March 19, 2015, at 6:17 PM PDT
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  12. Lash LaRoche Inactive

    EThompson:

    As for diplomacy, I never in my lifetime thought I’d witness an American president boycott an Israeli prime minister and forbid members of his administration from attending a speech in the people’s U.S. Capitol.

    The pettiness and lavish leftism of the current administration knows no bounds. And I think Mark Levin is right: Obama is an anti-semite.

    • #12
    • March 19, 2015, at 6:20 PM PDT
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  13. AIG Inactive
    AIG

    FightinInPhilly:

    People have been obsessing over the complicated trade-offs for 60 years. If greater understanding was the obstacle, this issue would have been solved a long, long time ago. The problem is quite simply the fact that two sides have radically different models of what the future looks like.

    Judith here says the opposite. So…

    • #13
    • March 19, 2015, at 6:22 PM PDT
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  14. AIG Inactive
    AIG

    Sash:Obama spent my tax dollars fiddling in your election!!

    He did? Where?

    • #14
    • March 19, 2015, at 6:23 PM PDT
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  15. Zafar Member

    Judith Levy:It was disgraceful of Bibi to attempt to drum up votes for Likud by condemning Arab Israelis for exercising their right to vote, no matter who was encouraging them to do so.

    Thank you for saying that.

    I am even more for a healthy Israel living alongside a healthy Palestine. Yes, a healthy Palestine might be an impossible dream at this moment in history, but choking off the possibility that one might ever emerge doesn’t seem likely to end well for either party.

    What are the chances of encouraging a healthy Iran?

    • #15
    • March 19, 2015, at 6:26 PM PDT
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  16. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Thanks for the input, Judith. It’s good to see you here.

    I have to wonder about two of your points.

    First, doesn’t history disprove the claim that Israeli leaders on both sides understand the situation well enough not to make lopsided concessions? Isn’t that how Israel gave up territories in the past (the infamous “Land For Peace” debacle).

    Second, while your point about settlement demographics is well taken, hasn’t that ship already sailed? Israel accepts non-Jewish citizens, grants them suffrage, and tries to legislate as a secular state. Correct? A quarter of Israeli citizens are Gentiles, and I suspect that percentage is increasing due to disparate birthrates. If Israeli government will not assert itself as exclusively Jewish, how long can Israel remain a Jewish fortress? How long until it becomes just another country, as defined by politics, and Jews must flee again?

    If Israel is to survive, it must be militantly Jewish. It cannot be both a Jewish keep and a little America open to every creed.

    • #16
    • March 19, 2015, at 6:26 PM PDT
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  17. Herbert defender of the Realm,… Inactive

    Just because Obama decided to throw a fit this time around doesn’t mean Netanhayu’s flouting basic diplomatic protocol.

    What was the proper protocol?

    • #17
    • March 19, 2015, at 6:29 PM PDT
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  18. Tuck Inactive

    AIG:

    Sash:Obama spent my tax dollars fiddling in your election!!

    He did? Where?

    Obama Campaign Team Arrives in Israel to Defeat Netanyahu in March Elections

    Cruz and Zeldin Demand State Department Investigation over Israeli Election Interference

    • #18
    • March 19, 2015, at 6:36 PM PDT
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  19. Dave Sussman Podcaster

    Judith, as I was about to write a message I saw EJ’s which voiced my exact sentiment.

    I recall your post from last Summer which detailed your daily experience living amongst the Hamas rockets. It effected me tremendously and I shared it with many people.

    The political process can sometimes be messy and I appreciate your perspective and acknowledge your concerns.

    What impresses those of us who were delighted at the results is that you have a (as you correctly called him) heroic leader who is doing what he believes is necessary for your safety, even though the world opinion is negative.

    There is currently a vacuum of leadership in the world. Geopolitics are different with Obama leading the worlds superpower. With his antagonism toward Bibi and the Israeli right, its nice to see a real man of strength and conviction return to the world stage.

    Politics is just bread and circuses when your survival is a stake.

    Shalom

    • #19
    • March 19, 2015, at 6:45 PM PDT
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  20. AIG Inactive
    AIG

    Tuck:

    AIG:

    Sash:Obama spent my tax dollars fiddling in your election!!

    He did? Where?

    Obama Campaign Team Arrives in Israel to Defeat Netanyahu in March Elections

    Cruz and Zeldin Demand State Department Investigation over Israeli Election Interference

    Where’s the tax dollars?

    Israeli campaign teams aided the GOP too in 2012. Was that “Israel meddling in US politics”?

    Besides, us giving them a few billion dollars a year, entitles us very much to interfere in their politics.

    • #20
    • March 19, 2015, at 6:46 PM PDT
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  21. Zafar Member

    Tuck:

    AIG:

    Sash:Obama spent my tax dollars fiddling in your election!!

    He did? Where?

    Obama Campaign Team Arrives in Israel to Defeat Netanyahu in March Elections

    Cruz and Zeldin Demand State Department Investigation over Israeli Election Interference

    From the latter:

    Breitbart News reported on the anti-Netanyahu, left wing Israeli newspaper Haaretz report on a group called “One Voice,” reportedly funded by American donors, is paying for the Obama campaign team.

    • #21
    • March 19, 2015, at 6:47 PM PDT
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  22. EThompson Inactive

    Mike LaRoche:

    EThompson:

    As for diplomacy, I never in my lifetime thought I’d witness an American president boycott an Israeli prime minister and forbid members of his administration from attending a speech in the people’s U.S. Capitol.

    The pettiness and lavish leftism of the current administration knows no bounds. And I think Mark Levin is right: Obama is an anti-semite.

    And anti-West.

    • #22
    • March 19, 2015, at 6:50 PM PDT
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  23. Tuck Inactive

    AIG:

    Where’s the tax dollars?

    Read the flippin’ links for a change!

    “The letter expressed pointed concerns over the financial ties OneVoice has to the US State Department. They received grants from the State Department in 2014.”

    • #23
    • March 19, 2015, at 6:52 PM PDT
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  24. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    AIG – The State Department gave $350,000 in tax money to OneVoice, an organization run by Obama people and dedicated to defeating Netanyahu and creating a Palestinian State.

    Under your logic, does China have the right to interfere in our elections? Your attitude is that we “own” Israel. Very unbecoming.

    • #24
    • March 19, 2015, at 6:56 PM PDT
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  25. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Judith Levy:I would not be at all surprised if, over the course of the interminable remainder of his term in office, Obama does something truly dramatic in retaliation.

    He would do that anyway.

    I hate making specific predictions, but it’s entirely conceivable that he will withdraw the American veto of UN Security Council resolutions condemning settlement construction, which would plunge us even deeper into the pariah mire than we are already.

    And anger the entirety of flyover country?

    Obama might even go so far as to back a UN resolution recognizing Palestine. Like so many hapless leaders before him, Obama has seized on Israel/Palestine as his ticket to a “legacy”, and Bibi appears to have put paid to any kind of negotiated settlement. If Obama can’t get the legacy with us, he may well try to get it without us.

    And Bibi’s speech would be the only reason he would do this? Seems kind of petty.

    But let me back up a little. Part of what has been so astonishing to me over the course of this campaign has been the failure of Bibi’s usually strong instincts. He is not a stupid man by any means, but his acceptance of John Boehner’s curiously timed invitation to speak before Congress was a truly boneheaded move from an international standpoint. I know that speech delighted many who relished the spectacle of Bibi getting his rockstar on at Obama’s expense. But over here, it horrified a lot of us, including those of us who find much to admire in Bibi and little to love in Obama.

    Enabling Obama’s supporters – great strategy.

    I, for one, was absolutely floored by Bibi’s decision to flout basic diplomatic protocol and decorum for the sake of a domestic campaign strategy, a cynical move by anyone’s measure. Not because I’m so enamored of diplomatic protocol and decorum per se, but because Bibi’s choice did two highly unpalatable things: a) it disrespected the office of the presidency itself, which, as a passionate champion of US-style democracy, I find highly problematic; and b) it put many Democrats in Congress in the embarrassing, difficult, unnecessary, and self-defeating (from Israel’s perspective) position of having to take a public stand against our prime minister.

    He did not disrespect the office of the Presidency, at least any more than Obama was disrespectful to him by making him leave by the garbage entrance on his first visit. Please concern yourself with the respect the office of the Prime Minister of Israel and leave the worries of dissing the office of Obama to us.

    Bibi’s swagger has its place and has served us well at other times in our long national relationship with him, but this time he really overstepped, and I — and many other Israelis, including some right-leaning ones like me — believe he did us harm.

    Obama would do you harm anyway – look at how he is enabling Iranians to get the bomb. That is a bad thing.

    In the wake of the election, a trope is making itself heard in right-wing American circles that any criticism of Bibi’s election night demagoguery is nothing more than empty, sour-grapes, liberal/progressive bilge. That just doesn’t wash. It was disgraceful of Bibi to attempt to drum up votes for Likud by condemning Arab Israelis for exercising their right to vote, no matter who was encouraging them to do so. Of course, it seems to have worked, insofar as it convinced late-voting right-wingers to back Likud itself rather than their own, smaller right-wing parties in the hope of being part of the coalition (the argument being that if Likud isn’t forming the government, those smaller parties are out on their tushes anyway). But that move was pure, unadulterated, hail Mary demagoguery, and it’s silly to pretend otherwise. The fact that Democrats are saying it, or that they’re guilty of the same kind of thing when it suits them (takes one to know one), doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

    You mean Obama didn’t send his election staff to interfere with your election – proof that the allegations were false, please.

    As you can probably tell, I’m deeply torn about Bibi. I believe that his central premise is absolutely right: until things change a hell of a lot for the better around here, our number one concern has to remain security and defense above all else. Despite my issues with his sense of timing and the respect I believe is due the White House, I’m profoundly grateful to Bibi for insisting on shouting from the hilltops to anyone who will listen about the reality of the threat we face from Iran, no matter how much scorn or vilification he brings down on his own head. Frankly, it’s heroic.

    Gee, it is too bad that I am unable to grasp this from your previous paragraphs.

    On the other hand, I believe his approach to the Palestinian problem, which is, as ever, an immediate and perpetual security threat, is totally short-sighted and ultimately dangerous to the whole Israeli experiment.

    There is a perception abroad that there are two options available in this country with regard to the Palestinians: the Bibi/Likud option — dig in your heels and don’t give an inch (or even discuss giving an inch) until the other side demonstrates that they are acting in good faith; and the left option, which will give away the whole country in a heartbeat if it’ll get the Arabs to at least pretend to like us for a few minutes.

    You are safer and more likely to win with the Bibi/Liku option – seriously do you really think the second option is viable given the previous two years of conflict? Since the following paragraphs show you do not – then I am surprised that you give the left any shrift at all. This makes no sense.

    This is a false dichotomy. The fact of the matter is that there is less daylight than most people think between Likud and Labor in terms of territorial concessions (or at least there was, until Bibi decided at the last second to cement his electoral victory by disavowing his commitment to an eventual Palestinian state, a statement he is now frantically backtracking). There are, however, two areas of critical difference between Bibi and Labor: the expansion of settlements and the willingness to negotiate.

    Let’s start with the second one. It is generally assumed that the willingness of Labor simply to talk to the Palestinians implies an ipso facto willingness to make crazy concessions to them. The awful, tragic truth is this: we all know, left and right alike, that the Palestinians will blow it no matter what’s on the table. They always do. They are so hopelessly fractured and poorly led that they are practically guaranteed not to agree to anything we offer them, no matter how much it’s in their interest to accept.

    Our center-left parties (I’m not speaking about the hard left, which is so decimated that it has no power to do anything anyway) are simply not so stupid as to make gigantic offers with no security guarantees, no international guarantees, no reciprocal concessions, no nothing. It is not what they want. It is not what the people want.

    The Palestinians will not agree to give us any real guarantees in any case. They’re hamstrung by the maximalists in their camp who view any concession to us, no matter how trivial, as both a sign of weakness and an unacceptable grant of legitimacy. As a result, there is little to no danger of an agreement being hammered out in the first place. So, with Bibi, there’s no agreement but we’re the villains because we won’t even talk to them; with Labor, there would be no agreement either, and we’d still probably be blamed for the failure — but at least we wouldn’t be writing the Israel-bashers’ script for them. Sitting down with the enemy can be a strategy unto itself.

    On the other distinction between Bibi and Labor — the building of settlements — we wade into very difficult territory. If you believe, as many evangelical Christians and religious Jews do, that God gave this land from the Jordan to the Mediterranean to the Jews and that’s all there is to it, then you’re probably (although not necessarily) going to favor Israeli settlement throughout the territories. But there is a demographic reality on the ground here that cannot be ignored.

    Yes, it is a fiction that the West Bank and Gaza were “Palestinian” before Israel took them over in 1967, but that does not mean that they are, or should be, Israeli, particularly since they contain Muslim populations that, if incorporated into Israel, will quickly completely undermine the Jewish nature of the state. It’s extremely difficult to see what the desired endpoint is of all the settlement building other than to make a division into two states ultimately impossible. And then what? The Palestinians are never going to just throw up their hands and all move to Belgium. They’re not going anywhere, and their claims — flimsy and ahistorical though they may be — will become more and more cemented into an unshakeable reality the more time passes. We have wrought this; we must fix it. It’s in our best interests as well as theirs.

    As to the physical advantage of holding a wider area: I am all for strategic depth (although it’s of much more limited value in this day and age than it was in 1948 or 1967), but I am even more for a healthy Israel living alongside a healthy Palestine. Yes, a healthy Palestine might be an impossible dream at this moment in history, but choking off the possibility that one might ever emerge doesn’t seem likely to end well for either party.

    It is never going to emerge, even if East Jerusalem is give to Palestinians – see Tommy DeSeno’s post on that. Stop dreaming, dig in.

    I hope you’ve stayed with me all the way through this long post. I know how profoundly so many of you care about Israel, and your concern has been a great comfort to me during very difficult times here. The situation in Israel is in some respects extremely complex — I haven’t even touched, for example, on the domestic issues that played into the election. But, in other respects, it’s awfully simple. We have a big problem — the Israeli-Palestinian problem — and if we don’t solve it, this country might not make it. We have to use our heads and figure out which of the myriad approaches to the problem is most likely to leave us not only alive, but stronger. King Bibi gives a hell of a speech, it’s true. But we are more isolated now than ever. A good deal of that is down to him.

    Your country will not make it if you agree to Peace at any Price – didn’t see where you stood on the “Right of Return” anywhere in there – without that the Palestinians return to the intafada- oh like they did before…

    Regardless, you do not stand alone – your holy book and mine tells me that God stands with you – do you really need anyone else?

    I thank Bibi for his faith.

    • #25
    • March 19, 2015, at 7:06 PM PDT
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  26. FightinInPhilly Thatcher

    AIG:

    FightinInPhilly:

    People have been obsessing over the complicated trade-offs for 60 years. If greater understanding was the obstacle, this issue would have been solved a long, long time ago. The problem is quite simply the fact that two sides have radically different models of what the future looks like.

    Judith here says the opposite. So…

    Looking thru Judith’s post again to find her assertion that the problem was conservatives that haven’t “got time to figure out the complicated trade-offs” Hmm.. nope.. not there. Wait…let me look again…wait- nope. Not Judith’s contention at all. But thanks for playing.

    • #26
    • March 19, 2015, at 7:08 PM PDT
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  27. ST Inactive
    ST

    Obama the Destroyer is a walking-talking wrecking ball. Long live Bibi the leader of the free world. ¡Viva Israel!

    • #27
    • March 19, 2015, at 7:14 PM PDT
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  28. Sash Member

    Tuck:

    AIG:

    Sash:Obama spent my tax dollars fiddling in your election!!

    He did? Where?

    Obama Campaign Team Arrives in Israel to Defeat Netanyahu in March Elections

    Cruz and Zeldin Demand State Department Investigation over Israeli Election Interference

    Thanks for the links.

    • #28
    • March 19, 2015, at 7:22 PM PDT
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  29. David Knights Member

    Thanks for the great post.

    I agree with your demographic analysis, but I think that may be true no matter what. However, the real problem is that until the Palestinians accept the existence of Israel in some form other than as a smoking hole in the ground, there is nothing to negotiate and pretending there is probably counterproductive as it gives your opponent the idea they can hold to their beliefs and still end up with a negotiated settlement.

    • #29
    • March 19, 2015, at 7:27 PM PDT
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  30. Sash Member

    AIG:

    Sash:Obama spent my tax dollars fiddling in your election!!

    He did? Where?

    Luckily someone put up some links. One voice is just an international ACORN. Axelrod admitted he was involved. But I can’t remember what station I saw him on, it was a video link somewhere.

    Israel is our ally! What is our President doing trying to mess in their election? It just shows that for this administration, our freedom is only skin deep to them. Any means to an end. The end they want actually stymies me. I really can’t figure out what they think our society should look like because everything they do does the opposite of the stated goal, after a while that seems intentional.

    • #30
    • March 19, 2015, at 7:30 PM PDT
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