Ever since David Ignatius revealed that President Obama is “seriously considering” proposing an American peace plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Washington’s Middle East hands have been ruminating on the significance of this report. Obama dropped in on a meeting of former national security advisers in the White House a couple of weeks ago, but if the people whose job it is to keep the dream of a peace process alive are to be believed, who was there was more significant than the president’s casual entry.
Brent Scowcroft, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Sandy Berger, Colin Powell, Frank Carlucci and Robert C. McFarlane — these are the heavyweights who can push Obama in the right direction. Right? Not unless Benjamin Netanyahu also gets pushed out of the way.
Larry Derfner lays out the reasons Bibi presents an immovable obstacle.
Which way will Bibi go? This seems to be the big question – whether Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will bow to American pressure, exchange his right-wing/religious government for a “peace coalition” and start taking down the occupation, or whether he will dig in.
I don’t think there’s any doubt about it – he’s going to dig in. This is not the prime minister who’s going to divide the land with the Palestinians.
To begin with, of the 69 MKs in an imagined Likud-Kadima-Labor-Meretz coalition, the great majority are totally opposed to paying the well-known price for peace – removing 100,000 settlers from the West Bank’s interior and relinquishing Arab Jerusalem to the Palestinians for their capital. No Likudnik sees this as anything less than treason, and all but a few Kadima members would agree. The peace coalition actually numbers no more than about 20 MKs, and even with the outside support of the Arab parties, they’re a hopeless minority, for now anyway.
Still, could a prime minister who has the president of the United States and the rest of the world bearing down on him convince the majority to do the deal? Could a prime minister with unusual powers of persuasion persuade the country to do what the democratic world has been asking it to do since 1967, on pain of losing its place in that world?
Maybe. If such a prime minister really believed Israel’s future depended on its ending the occupation. And Netanyahu doesn’t believe that for a minute. He’s spent his whole career preaching the opposite – that giving up the land conquered in the Six Day War would be the death of this country. This isn’t a talking point for him, it’s the worldview he was raised on, one he’s never abandoned regardless of the empty phrases he utters now and then to stroke the Obama administration. Netanyahu has opposed every peace process he’s ever been around. His view of the Palestinians is simple, clear and consistent – either we keep them down or they wipe us out.
And just in case anyone imagines that there is any other Israeli leader who could do what Netanyahu finds impossible, Derfner is clear: “No there isn’t. Not now, anyway.” Instead, it’s up to Israel’s friends “to make the status quo here intolerable.”
That’s a big leap from simply observing that the status quo is unsustainable.