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Netanyahu's post-election offensive?

By Jackson Diehl

Has Binyamin Netanyahu launched an offensive against a politically-weakened Barack Obama? You wouldn't have to be a member of the Obama administration's beleagured Middle East policy team to draw that conclusion.

Consider the chronology: As Netanyahu headed for the United States over last weekend for an address to a Jewish conference and meetings with senior administration officials, a Jerusalem planning committee published plans for the construction of some 1,200 new housing units in East Jerusalem -- including more than 1,000 in the controversial development of Har Homa, which has been the subject of repeated quarrels between Israel and the United States over the last decade.

Obama and the State Department, which publicly blew up at Netanyahu following a similar announcement last March, responded with relative restraint. The State Department said it was "disappointed;" Obama, responding to a question at a press conference in Jakarta, said "this kind of activity is never helpful." His words echoed almost exactly those of the Bush administration's secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, following the last Israeli announcement of an expansion of Har Homa.

That could have ended the matter. But Netanyahu -- who could have distanced himself from the provocative statements by pro-settlement bureaucrats -- instead quickly released a combative response. "Jerusalem is not a settlement -- Jerusalem is the capital of Israel," said a statement issued by his office. "Israel does not see any connection between the peace process and the building and planning policy in Jerusalem, which hasn't changed for 40 years."

Later, in New York, Netanyahu took up the subject again, telling the Fox Business channel that the reaction to the settlement announcement "was overblown" and adding that it was "a minor issue that might be turned into a major issue. I think it's wrong." Meanwhile, the Israeli newspaper Haaretez was reporting yet another sensitive settlement announcement -- 800 new homes in the West Bank city of Ariel, which has been a major sticking point in past negotiations over the boundaries of a Palestinian state.

To be sure, it was Obama who first turned the settlement issue from a minor to a major one by publicly pressing for a complete and unprecedented Israeli freeze on settlement construction in both the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In September, he restored the issue to center stage by calling on Netanyahu to extend the partial moratorium he had imposed. When the Israeli refused, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas suggested that Obama had forced his decision to suspend his peace talks with Netanyahu over the issue.

Yet this week it has been Netanyahu who has appeared to be on the offensive. "There is clearly a link" between settlements and peace talks, the State Department said in a common-sense response to his statement. "To suggest that this kind of announcement would not have an impact on the Palestinian side...is incorrect."

The left-wing Israeli newspaper Haaretez put it another way: "Two governments rule the state: one which tries to demonstrate willingness to operate in a framework that could possibly lead to peace talks and an agreement, and another one that acts to destroy this framework." Netanyahu, it pointed out, had promised following his dispute with Obama earlier this year that Israel would not surprise the administration with settlement announcements. "However, it turns out that Israel is unable or unwilling to abide by this agreement."

Israeli officials insist that Netanyahu is not looking to gain advantage over Obama. "This has nothing to do with the midterms," ambassador to Washington Michael Oren told me. He pointed out that the settlement plans were made before the U.S. elections were held, and that actual construction was months if not years in the future.

Others speculate that Netanyahu's show of defiance may be a prelude to concessions; he is due to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tomorrow to discuss the stalled peace process. Having announced and defended new construction, Netanyahu might be better positioned to declare a new moratorium without causing his right-wing coalition government to collapse.

Administration officials will have to hope that's the case. If Netanyahu does not follow his settlement surge with some tangible signals that he is serious about peace talks, the process will almost certainly expire. Obama, who has made Middle East diplomacy a centerpiece of his foreign policy, will look weak -- whether or not that was Netanyahu's intention.

By Jackson Diehl  | November 10, 2010; 8:22 AM ET
Categories:  Diehl  | Tags:  Jackson Diehl  
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Comments

when best friends weaken their best friend in double crossing mode with the help of their international bankcommunities allies
why should israel give a damn about us when they expect america to bend backwards when israel enters the room?
if this the true why not have a permanent knesset member inside the white house speaking openly to the american people about israels plans and proposals . to know what makes israel tick especially in election season is more critical than any partytears
or republican blues here in Amerika..

Posted by: manittou | November 10, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

The Israeli game is obvious and Obama and Hillary must know this so they are all just tap dancing as Israel takes more, kills more, humiliates more, corrupts itself and its youth more until finally not even the American fools can stomach it. Then Israel collapses of its own immorality and greed and blames Antisemitism. The only question is how long will it take and how many American soldiers and Palestinians, Bedouins, Iranians, Iraqis, Lebanese, etc. will die before it happens.

Posted by: jj1123 | November 10, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Do you think the Israelis are acting like they are prepared to engage in serious negotiations? If only Obama had not mentioned the small issue of settlements out loud, think of where we'd be. It sure looks like they are more interested in expanding their settlements than negotiating a peace agreement. What started with a trickle of settlements on land Israel expected to return 40 years ago is now "home" to 500k Israelis. And still more is being built..day after day after day. It's become so mainstream that even the foreign minister of Israel lives in a settlement. And he gives a speech a few months ago before the U.N. saying let's not rush things...maybe we can work something out in a few decades from now. If you were living in a house that you expected to have to vacate in the near future, and the successor occupants were peering in at you through a fence waiting for you to move, would you build a pool, tennis courts, a new kitchen and a deck? Would you tell all your relatives and friends to uproot and join you? The Israeli government has encouraged the house and the pool and told them to sit tight...you're not going anywhere and we'll guard the fence. So when they say they are serious about reaching a peace agreement and that their settlement activity is a minor little issue that doesn't create facts on the ground or undermine a deal, but they won't stop doing it, how can we believe them.

Posted by: wswest | November 10, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Netanyahu has really stepped in it if even Jackson Diehl won't defend him.

Posted by: MarkThomason | November 10, 2010 2:48 PM | Report abuse

The state of Isreal is as addicted to American tax dollars , as Americans are addicted to oil and pharmacuticals . We need to let Isreal float on their own and cut the purse strings to this schemeing , adolescent , nation and let them use cluster bombs paid for with their own money !

Posted by: beenliedto | November 10, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

It would be far, far better for the Palestinians to continue to live under occupation in a hostile environment, not talk peace, and take the chance that thousands will die in renewed fighting, than negotiate when a single apartment building is being constructed by Jews on land that might one day be Palestinian.

Posted by: daweeni | November 10, 2010 6:02 PM | Report abuse

The “Arab-Israeli” conflict over land is just an Islamic deception (Taqiyya) to inflame the world and incite hatred against the Jews.

It is Islam’s 1,400-year-old and continuing war against Jews. That is the objective reality. The Quran calls the Jews the Muslims’ worst enemies (5:82), and says they’re accursed of Allah (9:30), who transformed them into apes and pigs (5:59-60).

How can the Jews make peace with a people whose God told them Jews are apes, pigs, and enemies forever?

PEACE FOR US MEANS THE DESTRUCTION OF ISRAEL. WE ARE PREPARING FOR AN ALL-OUT WAR, A WAR WHICH WILL LAST FOR GENERATIONS.
~Yasser Arafat~

Posted by: johnnyboston | November 10, 2010 7:17 PM | Report abuse

The “Arab-Israeli” conflict over land is just an Islamic deception (Taqiyya) to inflame the world and incite hatred against the Jews.

It is Islam’s 1,400-year-old and continuing war against Jews. That is the objective reality. The Quran calls the Jews the Muslims’ worst enemies (5:82), and says they’re accursed of Allah (9:30), who transformed them into apes and pigs (5:59-60).

How can the Jews make peace with a people whose God told them Jews are apes, pigs, and enemies forever?

PEACE FOR US MEANS THE DESTRUCTION OF ISRAEL. WE ARE PREPARING FOR AN ALL-OUT WAR, A WAR WHICH WILL LAST FOR GENERATIONS.
~Yasser Arafat~

Posted by: johnnyboston | November 10, 2010 7:18 PM | Report abuse


Even Jackson Diehl Doesn't Understand the Jerusalem Issue

Diehl was recently sympathetic toward Israel but even he doesn't get it. It isn't between Obama, Hillary and clueless Joe, an idiot, who is currently our Vice President, and Bibi Netanyahu which the simplistic mainstream press misrepresents. It is possible that Hillary with her background in serving tea to the foreign leaders in the White House, doesn't get it too.

Obama's goal isn't fighting with Netanyahu; his goal is to tame Israel, to subdue the Jewish state so that it will accept a highly unfavorable settlement with the Palestinians that was construed by Jimmy the anti-Semite, Zbig Brzezinski, Shibley Telhami (a substitute for Rashid Khalid).

Obama is basically reconciled now that he will be a one-term President, and he would like to have a lasting achievement in eyes of the Islamic world, the only one he values. Certainly, it is a very strange position for the American President, but his last highly emotional pro-Islamic speech in Indonesia is a powerful confirmation where are his real sympathies.

Obama has involved Netanyahu in this crazy pursuit of the so-called "Obama peace process" with Iran card. Now Netanyahu, like everyone else, sees that Obama's diplomatic success with Iran is a mirage and that this trio, Obama, Hillary and Joe, still believe in. So, Bibi isn't going to make any concessions because more improbable demands would follow.

Obama is a failure, a Black teenager with ZERO experience in everything who imagined himself to be a great leader. A fraud, in reality.

Posted by: m-epstein | November 10, 2010 10:52 PM | Report abuse

There are two growing tsunami-like waves coming that could swamp the future of Israel. First: What if the US runs ever larger deficits? Republicans are bent on cutting expenses, will that impact Israel?
Second: Muslim power increases in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Iran, we are going to pull out forces, what will they do after we leave? Will they turn their attention to Israel after we leave?
Last, if Global Warming is real, will that affect the Middle East? Will temperature go much higher than 125 Deg. Fahrenheit?
Will the Middle East be viable?
Will oil-countries grow food in air condition Green Houses? Can Israel survive after the cost of living increases by 14% or 25%? At what point is it not viable?
The way the Prime Minister jerks our President and our Vice-President around, one could conclude they could overreach.

Posted by: MikeSar | November 11, 2010 2:01 AM | Report abuse

There are two growing tsunami-like waves coming that could swamp the future of Israel. First: What if the US runs ever larger deficits? Republicans are bent on cutting expenses, will that impact Israel?
Second: Muslim power increases in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Iran, we are going to pull out forces, what will they do after we leave? Will they turn their attention to Israel after we leave?
Last, if Global Warming is real, will that affect the Middle East? Will temperature go much higher than 125 Deg. Fahrenheit?
Will the Middle East be viable?
Will oil-countries grow food in air condition Green Houses? Can Israel survive after the cost of living increases by 14% or 25%? At what point is it not viable?
The way the Prime Minister jerks our President and our Vice-President around, one could conclude they could overreach.

Posted by: MikeSar | November 11, 2010 2:02 AM | Report abuse

Israel belongs to the Jews.They can do whatever they want with it.Besides the point, Bible prophecy stated over two thousand years ago that God would gather the Jewish people from all the nations where He scattered them too and bring them back the land(Israel)that was given to them as a promise to Abraham about four thousand years ago.After being expelled by Assyrians,Babylonians and again in 70 AD by the Romans.God keeps His promises.

Posted by: holien1 | November 11, 2010 2:51 AM | Report abuse

Remove Israel the same way that we created it.

It is an artificially created state. It hadn't existed for 2000 years. I think that is a long enough time to establish that Israel is dead, the Romans killed it. Let it STAY dead.

Posted by: taroya | November 11, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

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