The Israeli public historically doesn’t like when Israeli Prime Ministers feud with American Presidents, and take it out on the Israeli Prime Minister.
In the months before an Israeli election both Prime Ministers ran afoul of the American administration and lost the subsequent elections.
There have been two high-profile clashes between Obama and Netanyahu of the sort that previously would have landed an Israeli Prime Minister in trouble back home.
In 2010, Obama launched an unnecessary diplomatic crisis with Israel over settlements, but Netanyahu’s pushback resulted in Obama backing down, but only after much public acrimony. Again, in 2011 Obama ambushed Netanyahu with support for Israel’s return to the 1949 armistice lines (or what Obama called the 1967 borders). Netanyahu famously lectured Obama on the history of peace negotiations as the cameras were rolling.
But a funny thing happened; Israelis supported Netanyahu.
Why isn’t Netanyahu suffering the same backlash he suffered in 1999 and other Prime Ministers have suffered from spats with a U.S. President?
As I noted the other day:
Two other polls are worth mentioning. Two weeks ago, IMRA reported a poll showing that 73% of Israelis believe that Israel must maintain a presence in the Jordan valley. In November (before the Geneva deal was finalized) a poll found that a majority of Israelis supported Netanyahu’s approach towards Iran.
It’s interesting that the two issues on which President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu disagree most sharply are issues on which Netanyahu represents the mainstream Israeli opinion. This is a point lost on Netanyahu’s many critics. He isn’t a right winger or an extremist.
But there’s another reason why Netanyahu’s stubbornness resonates with the Israeli public. A lot has changed since 1999.
In 2000 Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon. A few months later Hezbollah crossed the international border, kidnapped and killed three Israeli soldiers, with the apparent complicity of UNIFIL forces.
For the next six years Israel tolerated cross border attacks until the threat became intolerable with hundreds of thousands of northern residents in range of rockets from Lebanon forced Israel to launch a war to degrade Hezbollah’s capabilities. UN Resolution 1701 was adopted to stop the war but Syria has continued to arm Hezbollah in violation of that resolution, including the apparent transfer of long range missiles to the Iran backed terrorist organization.
Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. Israel also gave into American pressure and abandoned the Philadelphi corridor allowing extensive weapons smuggling into Gaza and allowed Hamas to run in legislative election. Once Hamas solidified its power by violently throwing out Fatah in 2007.
In subsequent years Israel saw its southern residents bombarded by rockets from Gaza. This forced Israel to go to war in 2008 and again in 2012 to reduce the threat to its citizens from Hamas.
Of course there’s also the on again-off again peace process. Israel agreed to accept the PLO as legitimate. The PLO agreed to give up terror. It didn’t. In the subsequent 12 years roughly 1400 Israeli were killed by terrorism. By the end of 1995, over 90% of West Bank Palestinians were lived under the Palestinian Authority. In 2000, Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered a deal to Yasser Arafat, who turned it down. Then he started a terror war against Israel. Last year, Barry Rubin summarized the dynamic.
– The PLO, Palestinian Authority, and Fatah leader Yasir Arafat turned down an independent Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem and around $20 billion in aid as a starting point in further talks.
– Arafat launched a five-year-long war of terror against Israel in which around 1300 Israelis were killed.
– When offered an even better deal by President Bill Clinton, Arafat turned it down.
– Even when besieged in his headquarters, saved only by U.S. intervention from total, humiliating defeat, Arafat still rejected compromise.
– In the 13 years since the Camp David meeting, the Palestinians have not pursued any serious negotiations.
– About half the territory and people the Palestinian Authority claims to negotiate for is not even under its control. It is ruled by Hamas, which advocates genocide against the Jews and is totally opposed to peace on any terms. Hamas would do everything possible to wreck any deal made by the PA, and Hamas has about 20 to 30 percent support on the West Bank.
– In the present climate of Islamist triumphalism, Hamas has more state support than the PA, and the PA is terrified of being “traitorous moderates.”
– The PA strategy is clearly to seek maximal recognition of a state without having to make a deal with Israel. Kerry’s recent offer of $4 billion — for tourism development! How much will the U.S. government pay off the PA for pretending to negotiate? — was turned down by the PA within 24 hours, even though they could use the money for the leadership’s Swiss bank accounts.
It appears that the Israeli public, as much as it wants a peace agreement and is willing to compromise, is unwilling to ignore the history of Palestinian negotiating intransigence.
So who would Israel side with? With their Prime Minister who is skeptical that further concessions will bring peace? Or an American President who is trying to convince Israelis to ignore their experiences of the last 20 years?DONATE
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