Feb 8th 2009

Give Us Netanyahu. Please

by Steve Clemons

-- Steve Clemons is Director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation and publishes the popular political blog, The Washington Note

Peter Berkowitz's essay in the latest issue of the Weekly Standard provides good insight into what I think is the strategic irresponsibility of those in Israel's leadership who think that they can hold steady on a course that justifies failure on an a Palestine-Israel deal using Hamas and Iran as excuses.

As things look today, the Likud Party and its chief, Benjamin Netanyahu, look like they are about to be given a stronger hand in the coming elections. And Netanyahu is pro-settlement, and in my view the continued expansion of settlements is the most toxic activity that is undermining the negotiations process and actually, in the long term, will assure a deterioration in America's support for Israel.

Berkowitz points out:

The major difference between the candidates went unaddressed at Herzliya. It concerns the future of Israeli settlements, the towns and cities built and populated by Israel in the territories it gained control over in 1967 in the Six Day War. While he almost certainly would not build new settlements, Netanyahu remains unlikely, without pressure from the United States, to freeze the natural growth of existing settlements. In contrast, both Livni and Barak would probably impose a freeze on all new building beyond the Green Line. Livni and Barak recognize, however, along with Netanyahu, that the settlements are far from the fundamental obstacle to peace with the Palestinians.

Indeed, the journalists, political analysts, and current and former national security officials to whom I spoke were in striking agreement that Livni and Barak as well as Netanyahu all see that the fundamental obstacle to progress in resolving the conflict with the Palestinians is Iran. Indeed, the case for Iran's centrality is convincing.


I respect Peter Berkowitz but disagree with his take on things -- and find the perspective of many he is interacting with strikingly narrow when it comes to a serious strategy that will secure Israeli democracy and security in the coming years.

I share Zbigniew Brzezinski's view that both sides of the Israel-Palestine divide have proven themselves completely unable to solve an arrangement on their own. A Palestinian state is still possible -- and Israel democracy without apartheid within its borders is also still possible.

However, it is time to move negotiations out of the weeds and re-engage various stakeholders on all sides of the equation - including the U.S., Europe, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Iran, Syria, and the United Nations.

Israel's bravado over Gaza and the massively disproportionate deployment of force in which so many innocents were killed or injured -- and lives seriously disrupted on so many levels -- is the type of potentially transformative act that can either radicalize a great many more Arabs against the current equations of power in the region or more optimistically, could transform the perspective of the White House to finally realize that Israel's zero-sum game approach in the region is something that needs to be curtailed and changed.

Folks in the U.S. are hoping for centrists, reasonable, rational negotiators to emerge. Some on Obama's National Security Council team think that if they only can now. . .finally. . .make Abbas and Fatah the winners in the eyes of Palestinians by showering on them goodies to deliver to their constituents, all will be well. This is well meaning "earnestness." But it is flawed sentimentalism. Taking this approach with Abbas is "too much, too late." I think that despite recent drama, Tzipi Livni falls into this "earnestness" hope -- though she has a class of detractors larger than Maureen Dowd has.

But "earnestness" in trying to move the Rubik's Cube of the region into alignment is flawed. Israel and Palestine together don't work. They can't come to a responsible deal on their own.

It doesn't matter if Livni is Prime Minister, or Ehud Barak -- who I think is the most monstrous of recent Israeli political players for his role in tightening the noose around Palestinian mobility and movement after the Annapolis process started. And yes, I said monstrous - to borrow a term from Samantha Power. And it doesn't matter if Netanyahu is PM.

Likewise, Mahmoud Abbas is essentially irrelevant at this point -- and all leaders in Palestine are with the exception of those who might be able to think strategically in a Gandhi-esque way and match the flamboyant absolutism and inhumanity of Israel's occuptation behaviors with non-violent civil disobedience on a communications scale that Gandhi achieved. Mustafa Barghouti comes to mind. . .possibly.

In fact, the more irresponsible both sides are about their situation, the more achievable a "new equilibrium arrangement" may be -- because the US and other regional stakeholders simply can't afford for the recklessness, immaturity, and sheer stupidity of leadership on all sides of the conflict to continue.

Given that. Give us Netanyahu. Please.

His re-ascension will help Americans realize that the false choice approach the Bush administration has been taking in Israel-Palestine affairs was flawed -- and that Obama's team must change the game or face a serious rebuke from Middle East watchers in the US and around the world.

Steve Clemons publishes the popular political blog, The Washington Note.

If you wish to comment on this article, you can do so on-line.

Should you wish to publish your own article on the Facts & Arts website, please contact us at info@factsandarts.com.

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Jun 19th 2021
EXTRACT: "Xi Jinping’s call for friendship gives us an opportunity to examine Chinese politics on both the domestic and international stage. On the face of it, it suggests the possibility of rapprochement between the rich liberal democracies represented by the G7 and the authoritarian Chinese state. However, despite appearances of a call for a closer relationship, there is more than one way of being friends – and Xi’s idea might be somewhat different to what many in countries attending the G7 might expect."
Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "China’s recently published census, showing that its population has almost stopped growing, brought warnings of severe problems for the country. “Such numbers make grim reading for the party,” reported The Economist. This “could have a disastrous impact on the country,” wrote Huang Wenzheng, a fellow at the Center for China and Globalization in Beijing, in the Financial Times. But a comment posted on China’s Weibo was more insightful. “The declining fertility rate actually reflects the progress in the thinking of Chinese people – women are no longer a fertility tool.” "
Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: " I remember recounting fellow leaders of the story of a Rwanda schoolboy caught up in the genocide of the 1990s and now immortalized in the Kigali Genocide Memorial museum, where, in a section devoted to children, one can find his photograph and a plaque that reads: ----- David, age 11 ...... Ambition: to be a doctor ...... Favorite sport: football ...... Favorite hobby: making people laugh ...... Death: by mutilation ...... Last words: the UN are coming to save us ----- In his idealism and innocence, David believed the international community would save him and his mother. We didn’t. "
Jun 8th 2021
EXTRACT: " While many conservative Republicans opposed Trump and saw that he posed a danger to their party and democracy itself, they were hesitant to buck the mass movement they had created, fearing that it would turn against them. Some of these same conservatives assumed that with Trump's defeat, the horror of January 6th, and the former president's banishment from social media, the time had come to restore sanity to their party. But the GOP leadership’s continued cowering in the face of what they now call "Trump's base" has caused them to circle the wagons and purge their ranks of those who call for sanity. "
May 26th 2021
Editor's Note: This article is about the Federal Reserve, inflation in the 1970's, and possible similarities to today.
May 25th 2021
EXTRACT: "Netanyahu claims to be acting in the name of the Jewish people. He certainly is not. Many Jews around the world, including me, despise Netanyahu’s racist politics. As an American, I am also deeply troubled by the US government’s knee-jerk support of Israel. Fortunately, I am not alone in this view. A growing number of Democratic Congressmen, Jews and non-Jews alike, have called on the United States to stop supporting Israel’s lawlessness. The truth is that the US government’s uncritical support for Israel has come to depend more on evangelical Christians, such as former US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, than on American Jews, who are deeply divided by Netanyahu’s actions. And the evangelicals’ real interest in Zionism is not Jews’ security, but Armageddon, the end of the world, which they believe will come only when all Jews are in Israel."
May 18th 2021
EXTRACT: "This period in US history could go down as the moment when America’s democratic system for electing a president – the most consequential duty of US citizens – was broken, perhaps for good."
May 16th 2021
EXTRACT: "While reading Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) monumental report “A Threshold Crossed,” I felt a range of emotions. It also left me with one big question. I was deeply impressed by the report’s rigorous scholarship. At the same time, it brought to the surface feelings of anger and profound sadness. It’s an extraordinarily complete study detailing not only the many ways Israel has violated a broad range of Palestinian human rights, but the ideology of racial superiority and entitlement that Israel has used to justify its repression." ..... "My advice to both Israel’s defenders and weak-kneed liberals is​, “Read the damn report.” "
May 16th 2021
EXTRACTS: .... "He transformed a transitioning market economy into a stable statist project that rests on an alliance of his inner circle," ..... "He transformed Russia from a respected member of the international community into a rogue state" .... ". He energized NATO by providing it with the adversary it lacked after the end of the cold war," ..... "He befriended hopelessly corrupt, dysfunctional, and unstable dictatorships..." ..... "He forged a quasi-alliance with China, thereby enhancing Russia’s dependence on the one country that might have reason to appropriate those Russian territories inhabited by Chinese."
May 15th 2021
EXTRACT: "On the face of it, the latest escalation of violence is following the template of all inter-ethnic wars. Muslims observing Ramadan shouted nationalist slogans and clashed with Israeli right-wing groups chanting “Death to the Arabs.” The Israelis haughtily marched with their national flag on Jerusalem Day, marking Israel’s capture in 1967 of East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, the site of the biblical Second Temple, and of Al-Aqsa, completed in the year 705. Battles in and around the Al-Aqsa compound erupted, with worshipers inside throwing stones at the Israeli police, who responded by firing rubber-tipped bullets and other projectiles, wounding hundreds."
May 13th 2021
"Regardless of how the current and future violent conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians in Jerusalem will end, there will be no Israeli-Palestinian peace unless East Jerusalem becomes the capital of a Palestinian state while the city remains united."
May 7th 2021
EXTRACT: " Would the United States be prepared to risk a catastrophic war with the People’s Republic of China to protect the Republic of China, better known as Taiwan? "
May 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Human history, ancient and contemporary, is replete with instances of genocide – that is, the effort to eradicate a people, erase their history, denigrate their culture, and destroy their physical presence. Many of these atrocities have been recognized by the victims and other nations who support them. But, with the notable exception of the German acknowledgment of the Holocaust, rarely have the perpetrators of these crimes accepted responsibility and offer recompense "
May 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "The best way to defend liberal democracy is to practice it at home and abroad with the “courage and self-confidence” that Kennan touted at the dawn of the Cold War. This is also the best way to ensure the survival of our own conception of human freedom. And survive it will."
May 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Sammy Roth at the LA Times/ Boiling Point Newsletter reports that California’s main power grid was powered for several hours last Saturday by 90% renewables. For just four seconds that day, the grid, which covers 4/5s of the state, reached 94.5% generation by green energy. California is the world’s fifth largest economy. The main grid does not cover Los Angeles County. On the other hand, these figures do not include the electricity generated by the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, which is not counted as renewable but which is also very low-carbon."
Apr 23rd 2021
EXTRACT: "It is no accident that there has been an economic divergence in Central and Eastern Europe. Those countries that have joined the European Union have improved their economic governance, and GDP has begun to converge with Western Europe. Between 2014 and 2019, Hungary, Poland, and Romania grew at an annual average rate of 3.9%, 4.1%, and 4.7%, respectively. Meanwhile, Belarus and Ukraine experienced minimal growth during this period, and Russia’s economy expanded at an average annual rate of just 0.7%. Though Russia had a higher per capita GDP (in terms of purchasing power parity) than Croatia, Poland, Romania, and Turkey as recently as 2009, all of these countries have since overtaken it. Russians today are shocked to learn that they are worse off than Romanians and Turks. Among EU member states, only Bulgaria is still poorer than Russia. With its close proximity to the EU single market, Russia could have had higher growth if it had pursued sound economic policies. Instead,..... "
Apr 22nd 2021
EXTRACT: "As far as anyone can tell, the US military is not on the verge of an internal breakdown, let alone primed to stage a coup d’état. But few predicted anything like the US Capitol riot before protesters equipped with body armor, stun guns, and zip-ties breached the building. Before the US is blindsided again, its leaders must act resolutely to root out extremism in the military."
Apr 17th 2021
EXTRACT: "The new report on 2020 by the International Renewable Energy Agency reveals that the world’s renewable energy generation capacity increased by an astonishing 10.3% in 2020 despite the global economic slowdown during the coronavirus pandemic." .... "In 2020, the global net increase in renewables was 261 gigawatts (GW). That is the nameplate capacity of some 300 nuclear power plants! There are actually only 440 nuclear power plants in the whole world, with a generation capacity of 390 gigwatts. So let’s just underline this point. The world put in 2/3s as much renewable energy in one year as is produced by all the existing nuclear plants!"
Apr 16th 2021
EXTRACT: "When we examined the development of nations worldwide since 1820, we found that among rich Western countries like the United States, the Netherlands and France, improvements in income, education, safety and health tracked or even outpaced rising gross domestic product for over a century. But in the 1950s, even as economic growth accelerated after World War II, well-being in these countries lagged.
Apr 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Some presidents indulge in the “Mount Rushmore syndrome” making an obvious effort to achieve greatness. Normally soft-spoken and apparently modest Biden is making his own bid for immortality."