Netanyahu: Better for America, Better For Israel

by M.J. Rosenberg M.J. Rosenberg is Director of Policy for Israel Policy Forum, an organization supporting US efforts to advance an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. 12.02.2009

In the end, it does not matter all that much that Bibi Netanyahu is going to be Israel's next prime minister. I don't see much (if any) real differences between him and Ehud Barak or Tzipi Livni. In fact, in my opinion, it is Barak more than anyone else who is responsible for demise of the Oslo process. (For the facts on that, see Clayton Swisher's "The Truth About Camp David," a brilliant expose by a young ex-Marine who was there).

I also am taken by an analysis by Yossi Beilin, who was Oslo's architect. He says that it is better to have a pure right wing government than a right wing government covered by a centrist fig leaf. He says that, in the past, the worst Israeli governments have been national unity hybrids. The right goes about its business building new settlements and thwarting the peace process while the "left" (i.e., Shimon Peres, in his day) puts a pretty face on it.

Remember how Jimmy Carter handled Menachem Begin? Or how the first George Bush not only used our foreign aid as leverage against Yitzhak Shamir but engineered his replacement by Yitzhak Rabin? Barak, on the other hand, ran rings around us. President Clinton recalls that Barak treated America as if Israel was the superpower and he, Clinton, was a "goddam wooden Indian" whose job was to shut up and listen).

Beilin also believes that the United States will come down a lot harder on a right wing government than on one that appears centrist. It will be easier for President Obama to deal with Netanyahu than with the almost equally hawkish Livni because the latter seems dedicated to ending the conflict. In fact, her views on some of the critical issues are at least as hard line as Netanyahu's. But her seeming moderation is a nice cover.

A Netanyahu government would have no such cover. Any acts of sabotage to the peace process or new misery inflicted on the Palestinians would likely be strongly opposed by the United States. Israel's most slavish "friends" in Congress -- almost all Democrats -- would find it hard, although far from impossible, to choose Netanyahu (who is very close to the GOP) over Obama. The lobby will be dispirited. Contrary to popular opinion, it does not like far right governments because they are a tougher sell.

The likely result will be either a right wing government that goes out of its way not to offend the United States or one that does, and gets put in its place.

So I'm not too sad today, except about the rise of the neo-fascist Lieberman (the "neo" is there because everyone uses it. I'm not sure what's so neo about him). Here's my piece about him from Los Angeles Times.

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