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Left-Wing Israeli Site Pours Cold Water on Obama’s ‘Process’

The Obama administration ignores realities in order to push a "process" that even lefty Israelis are beginning to doubt will lead to peace.

by
P. David Hornik

Bio

October 18, 2010 - 12:00 am

“Stop the Peace Process.” That’s the name of an editorial that appeared this week on Walla!, the most popular of Israel’s indigenous Hebrew websites. What’s surprising is that Walla! is strongly left-leaning and was founded by Haaretz, Israel’s left-wing daily.

The editorial is quite interesting and worth quoting. “Israelis observe with total indifference,” it says,

the political process that Benjamin Netanyahu, Mahmoud Abbas, and Barack Obama are trying to sell them. The streets were supposed to be churning with political activity, pro and con. In the city squares the believers in the process were supposed to be angrily confronting the opponents. But the Israelis aren’t fools. Their sense of smell, which is sharp and sensitive after years of peace follies and piles of corpses, can well detect when a genuine political process is occurring and when it’s a matter of PR for an [Israeli] prime minister who pretends to be a statesman, a president of an [i.e., Palestinian] Authority who’s scared to death, and a U.S. president who’s determined and naïve to the same extent.

Aside from the arguable characterizations of those three leaders, especially the obligatory jab at Netanyahu, Walla! is right. Anyone who lived in Israel in the 1990s recalls the fierce standoffs between those who supported the “peace process” of that time — and in many cases continued supporting it even as those corpses from terror attacks kept piling up — and those who opposed it. In comparison, the situation today can be described as “eerily silent.”

True, left-wing columnists and opposition politicians have been lashing out at Netanyahu for allegedly wrecking peace by failing so far to make all the concessions — first the settlement freeze, now the extension of the settlement freeze — that Abbas and Obama demand of him. But the passion is lacking. In the ’90s, Peace Now would have mustered tens of thousands in the streets beating the drums for a renewed settlement freeze. Now there isn’t a peep out there.

Walla!, to be sure, keeps slamming the right-of-center Israeli prime minister:

When Netanyahu disingenuously declared his acceptance of the two-state principle, at a typical delay of 17 years, people on the left sobbed with joy, believing the Messiah was knocking on the door. It’s just that Netanyahu’s pacifist declarations came wrapped in a set of conditions that torpedo any possibility of progress, and it looks as if his insincere moves were only aimed at appeasing American anger.

Walla! then starts in on Netanyahu’s cabinet, and particularly on two members of his “inner cabinet” of seven ministers: Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Yaalon, and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. In a radio interview this week, Yaalon said there was “no chance of reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians in the near future.” In his speech to the UN two weeks ago, Lieberman said “decades” would be needed to reach real Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Walla! grouses:

When … Yaalon declares there isn’t a single minister out of the seven who believes it’s possible to reach an agreement with the Palestinians in the near future, there’s no reason to doubt him. … The prime minister can demur from Lieberman’s statements at the UN [or] Yaalon on the radio … but that’s his government.

Is the editorial, then, just a typical lefty screed? Not quite. Under the subhead “Gaza — Anyone Remember?,” Walla! then turns its sights in the other direction:

The Palestinian side is being just as slick. Abbas can’t bring Gaza to the negotiating table, so Israel is stuck with two Palestinian states, one ruled by Hamas in the service of Iran and the other by Abbas under Israel and Western protection. The reports on the splendid cooperation between the Israeli and the PA security forces conceal a very gloomy reality. Without Israel the PA’s security bodies don’t stand a chance against Hamas. Actually, Abbas is living on borrowed time. … [His] weak status won’t let him agree to any concessions at all, whether on the right of return, territorial swaps, or accepting the [Israeli] settlement blocs. If he does, he’ll be gambling with his life.

Basically, this accurate, coldly realistic passage is remarkable coming from a left-wing source. It’s faulty only in seemingly assuming that Abbas — unlike crafty, malign Netanyahu and his cronies — actually wants peace and is held back by obstacles and dangers. There is much evidence to the contrary, not least previous Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s admission that when he made Abbas an ultra-dovish peace offer, Abbas turned it down flat.

But Walla! has still more surprises in store:

It’s time to put an end to this spectacle. Illusions are a dangerous thing, especially in the Middle East. Unrealistic peace processes, like [former prime minister and current defense minister Ehud] Barak’s Camp David [conference with Arafat and Clinton in 2000], quickly turn into blood in the streets. … You can disagree with Lieberman and Yaalon, but it’s very worth starting to listen to them. Unlike their prime minister, they speak the truth.

So the editorial ends, and one’s jaw drops. Is it saying Netanyahu, Yaalon, and Lieberman are all bad — the latter two just more honest — because they don’t really want peace, or that the latter two are actually pointing to real problems with the Palestinian side? There’s a certain lack of logic, and one can’t say for sure.

One can say, though, that Walla!’s words about Hamas-ruled, Iranian-backed Gaza, and the weakness of the PA, are irrefutable, and the Obama administration appears so determined in its blindness to these realities that it keeps relentlessly pushing a “process” even the Israeli left can’t believe in.

P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Beersheva and author of the book Choosing Life in Israel.
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