It really seemed like Netanyahu was doing so well; a changed man from the Bibi of old who signed the Hebron Protocol and the Wye River Memorandum. He stood up to international pressure on settlements, on two states and on building in Jerusalem, and delivered a courageous speech at the UN admonishing world leaders for allowing the international body to become a platform for dictatorial diatribe. All of this even led some American talk show hosts to label him as the new leader of the free world.
But the recent ten month settlement freeze that Netanyahu’s cabinet has decided to enforce is completely baffling. Besides the fact that no Israeli government has ever made a gesture of this nature, there seems to be no compelling explanation for this decision.
Almost since the day he took office, President Obama and his aides have been fixated on forcing Israel to freeze building in West Bank settlements. Yet every time Israel moves in that direction, Obama & Co. find some other reason to blame it for supposedly hindering the peace process.
The response to this unprecedented capitulation, from both the Palestinian Authority and the Obama administration, was quite predictable. Obama’s Mideast envoy, George Mitchell, praised the ban — but said that it “falls short of a full settlement freeze” because it exempts areas throughout Jerusalem.
The Palestinian Arabs say the Israeli move is not genuine, since it does not include East Jerusalem or 3,000 homes already under construction in the West Bank.
The explanation that Netanyahu gave his Cabinet was that the freeze, while painful, shows the world that Israel is serious about pursuing a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
But does the burden of proof really lie on the Israeli Government? Do the long suffering people of Israel really need to prove their commitment to peace? Does Israel really need to prove that they would rather not live in a constant state of war? The answer is no! Israel has a long proven historical track record of painful concessions and gestures all in the name of peace.
The burden of proof in reality lies on the Obama administration, the UN and the EU to prove to the people of Israel that the latest demands being made of them, including the dismantling of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, will actually lead to peaceful reconciliation with the Palestinian Arabs, even though the trends of history and common sense seem to strongly indicate otherwise.
Let them demonstrate that continued concessions to belligerent, weak and corrupt leaders who still conscientiously and consistently feed their children with a comprehensive curriculum of vile anti Semitic propaganda, preaching the love of death and the destruction of all of Israel will yield anything other than enthused, invigorated and empowered enemies.
Furthermore in a meeting with community heads from Judea and Samaria Netanyahu cajoled “we'll get through this freeze together,” implying a temporary arrangement. If this is indeed the case and Netanyahu has no long term plans to dismantle communities in the West Bank, this move is even more counterproductive because it acts as a false admission of guilt and further cements in the global political arena the notion that these communities are illegitimate.
It may have been more understandable if this concession came as a result of American pressure earlier on in the year when the weight of Obama’s stardom might have been too much to bear, yet the Israeli administration rode out that storm, and largely held their ground. Now however Obama is concluding his first year in office politically weaker and with increasingly waning influence.
In fact, of the past seven presidents Obama ranks at the bottom, in popularity after one year in office. He has now dropped below the 50 per cent mark for the first time since he entered the White House. In a recent poll only 48 per cent of the respondents approved the job of Obama as the US President; while 50 per cent disapproved it.
Is it possible that the freeze was in exchange for an American guarantee for more action on Iran? Unlikely, as Israel must be acutely aware of American limitations on this front, the most they seem to be able to offer is harsher unilateral sanctions, but it is quite clear that this won’t bring about the desired results.
Either way Netanyahu owes the Israeli people a real explanation for this move, and as unrest festers among the leadership of the growing communities of Judea and Samaria he may find his own position beginning to weaken and his popularity starting to wane.
The Author is the director of the Algemeiner and the GJCF and can be e-mailed at email@example.com