Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Smart & Mean

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu spoke on Sunday replying in part to the now famous ‘Cairo Speech’ of U.S. President Barak Obama.

First Obama. Obama reached out to the Arab world with a branch of peace. He also began pushing Israel for movement on the peace process.

The Palestinian Authority’s Said Erekat responded to the Obama speech by saying the PA hasn’t had a friend as good as Obama in Washington in over twenty years.

Interviewed recently in the Jerusalem Post, neo-Con syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer said the now Israel has problems. He didn’t see peace with the Palestinians until they recognized the rights of Israel to exist. “Once they do that there’ll be peace in two weeks,” he said.

Then Bibi: A Palestinian journalist from Ramallah told Sky News that he was shocked at the new demands made by Netanyahu, mainly that the Palestinians recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

What seems obvious to Israelis is that if the Palestinians don’t agree prior to negotiations that Israel has a right to exist, why sit down and talk at all? A recent pole showed 64% of Israelis support a two-state solution.

Bibi in his speech accepted a Palestinian state. Some say he put so many obstacles in the way that actually agreeing on a Palestinian state would be impossible. No Palestinian right of return to “Israel.” Continued ‘natural growth’ of settlements. A demilitarized Palestinian State.

According to experts these terms have already been bandied about in the past, and are the agreed diplomatic starting point for present negotiations.

According to Krauthammer, when Ehud Barak was Prime Minister he mistakenly agreed to divide Jerusalem, something that no other Israeli leader had ever done. Krauthammer said that the compromise could never be withdrawn once it was put on the table. Netanyahu withdrew it, stating that Jerusalem would remain the undivided capitol of Israel.

What seems obvious is that Netanyahu and Obama are negotiating over Middle East Peace through the media. And like any negotiations, these will go on for a while as offer and counter offer are made.

David Grossman, one of Israel’s leading novelists, bemoaned Netanyahu’s speech, saying he missed an opportunity to step forward and lead the Jewish people to peace. Grossman mainly objected to continued existence of the West Bank Settlements as the obstacle to peace. He thought Netanyahu should have taken the window of opportunity Obama offered and declared a freeze of settlements with an ultimate withdrawal once peace was achieved.

But Grossman didn’t address the issue the Ramallah journalist thought penultimate: the precondition that Palestinians accept the right of a Jewish state to exist. For him settlement was the issue.

Opinions similar to Grossman’s were also heard from former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, now visiting Israel. Carter met with the Hamas representatives and said that Hamas should be taken off the US list of terrorist organizations. Carter also said Israel should completely evacuate the West Bank.

A cartoon showed Jimmy Carter and Barak Obama standing beside a tree talking while a teenager wearing an Israeli flag was hanging by his thumbs. The caption: "But it's for his own good." Actually there was no cartoon, but there should be.

There is more behind President Obama’s olive branch to the Arab world that obvious to most of us on a lower pay grade. What he is ultimately up to can only be pondered from afar. It seems he is playing chess with the Arabs, realizing that Israel is a pawn, and that the opposing king is the sweep of Islamic fundamentalism that crosses borders and supplants regimes, as in Lebanon. If Obama can divide the Arabs, the moderates from the fundamentalist, then he may be able to set back the current anti-western tide, check-mate the opposing king.

Like any good surgeon Obama, or his military advisers, realize that one can always operate, but as a last resort. The current Obama strategy seems to be trying trickery and guile before firing missiles and ordering bombers into the sky. Of course the risk is the opponent may be a better chess player, in which case, pundits say, the west is fried hominy grits.

Natan Sharansky the former Soviet dissident and now famous Israeli, was reputedly a master chess player. Now in his bid for head of the moribund Jewish Agency, he has been out maneuvered. The JA board won’t appoint him. His buddy Bibi Netanyahu has responded by canceling an address before the group’s annual General Assembly, a slap in the face to that ruling board and Bib’s way of getting them to approve Sharansky to the position. Sharansky was Bibi’s choice.

History has shown that the best strategies don’t always work out. A missive making the rounds on the Internet espouses the great and wonderful deeds of the Jewish people throughout history, blaring proudly how the Jews have outlasted all of their enemies.

Truth is the Jewish people were lucky to have escaped many of the tragedies with enough people to start over. Clearly if one is a believer then the hand of God is evident; and if one is an atheistic agnostic then the survival of the Jewish people is simply because of the natural growth of those people not part of the tragic event, (the invasion by Persia, the invasion by the Greeks, Romans, expulsion from England, Spain, the Holocaust,) to regenerate itself over the millennial span of time.

The success of Israel is simply because of the applied intelligence and perseverance of the Jewish men and women attacking a problem with vigor. The worst fear of any enemy is finding not only an intelligent foe but a mean one. So far Israel's leaders have shown how to harness Israel's best resource, brainpower, and develop a fierceness to go with it.

Those who were ravaged, decimated, exiled didn't see the hand of God nor hear the wings of history beating during their suffering. Those who fought and died, and left behind grieving families may not share the jingoist’s zeal. Should God become displeased He could just as easily withdraw His support from the Jewish people as lend it. A positive destiny is not a given. Iran can gather allies and destroy Israel, that must be hopeful, but vigilant. Pride alone isn't going to stop any rockets. Maybe Prayer and Faith will help, though. Fierceness, intelligence, flexibility, good planning and hardware, like anti-missile missiles and perhaps even bunker busters, may be the real solutions.

Obama is putting out a feel good message, one that carries a promise of a very happy Hollywood ending. Its the meanwhile that's the trouble.