Time for Obama and Kerry to Get Tough on Abbas
Reviewing Israel’s political situation after two weeks abroad is a disconcerting exercise.
As anticipated, the Arab Spring has devolved into a bloody nightmare that has engulfed Egypt, leaving Israel surrounded by a sea of violence and barbarism with no prospect for stability on the horizon. Yet whilst hundreds of people are being brutally killed daily, the international community remains obsessed with condemning Israel for allowing the construction of homes in the Jewish suburbs of East Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, the disproportionate levels of energy and passion invested by US Secretary of State John Kerry and other Western leaders in the Israeli-Palestinian imbroglio can only be described as surrealistic. Despite realities on the ground providing irrefutable evidence to the contrary, Kerry continues to chant the absurd mantra that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict represents the principal obstacle to stability in the region. There is little doubt that Kerry gave a wink to the Europeans to encourage them to initiate the most recent campaign against the settlements. With his outrageous remark and worrisome threat to Prime Minister Netanyahu that if peace talks break down “there will be a delegitimization campaign ‘on steroids’ against Israel,” the Obama Administration is signaling that it is intent on imposing a settlement. One shudders at the thought of other messages that are likely to be conveyed, including suggestions that the US abstain from or even support one-sided Security Council condemnations and boycotts against Israel that it has previously vetoed.
The venom directed against us is inexplicable when we consider the facts: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to make a single, meaningful concession or gesture toward Israel; Palestinian media, religious institutions and educational systems continue to preach feral anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism; the liberal West remained silent when President Abbas proudly proclaimed that ethnic cleansing will be implemented in a Palestinian state to ensure that not a single Jew is permitted to live in Judea or Samaria; and Hamas, the terrorist entity occupying Gaza with which Abbas has pledged to reunite, remains violently opposed to any peace process.
But the most troubling phenomenon is the intensity of American pressure that has forced our government to consider releasing brutal murderers to “boost the morale of the Palestinians” and induce them into “engaging in negotiations”. Never in history has a nation that vanquished those seeking to destroy it been forced to release prisoners under such circumstances. To pressure us to release monsters (who are hailed as heroes and will receive state pensions) before negotiations commence is one of the most appalling concessions to terror ever made; it incentivizes future terrorists and traumatizes Israelis, especially families of terror victims.
If that was not enough, the government even abrogated its jurisdiction by conceding to demands from Abbas to include Israeli Arab terrorists amongst those to be granted amnesty.
The demand that we release these prisoners as a “goodwill gesture” calls into question the entire peace process and those who insist that we make compromises in order to win the “blame game” to secure public opinion.
Israel’s concession-making has never borne positive consequences. The Oslo Accords, Prime Ministers Barak and Olmert’s extraordinary offers to withdraw from virtually all the disputed territories and the Gaza disengagement, all failed to achieve productive results. Instead, these unilateral concessions only raised the benchmark so that the Americans are now effectively proposing that the basis for a peace agreement be the indefensible 1949 armistice lines “with swaps.” If, as in the past, we are unable to reach an agreement on land swaps, the Palestinians will demand that they retain control of all of East Jerusalem and the major settlement blocs, repudiating UN Resolution 242 and disavowing the President Bush’s commitment to Prime Minister Sharon after the Gaza disengagement.
What does this portend for the future? If President Obama has succeeded in bludgeoning Israel into conceding on such a contentious and emotional issue as the release of murderers — something no sovereign state, least of all America, would ever contemplate — future prospects for the peace process are chilling. Can we expect even handedness from Kerry’s envoy Martin Indyk, whose contempt for Israel’s sovereignty was displayed not so long ago when he ingratiated himself with the President by viciously denigrating Israel at the height of Obama’s confrontation with Netanyahu?
Moreover, our giving into American pressure will cause Israelis to quickly forget Netanyahu’s successful diplomatic tightrope walk with Obama during his former term of office and encourage expressions of no confidence and calls for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s resignation.
The early Mapai leaders, who were in a much weaker position than today’s government, would not have capitulated. David Ben Gurion stood up against the world when the state was created. One can hardly imagine Golda Meir conceding to such pressures. Yitzhak Rabin, despite his failed gamble with the Oslo Accords, defied Jimmy Carter. It would have been inconceivable for Menachem Begin to grant amnesty to murderers of innocent Jews.
Yet it is easy for an armchair observer, who is neither privy to the pressures exerted on the Prime Minister nor obliged to make decisions affecting national security, to condemn this concession out of hand. It is possible that when the facts emerge, we may retrospectively become convinced that our leaders had no choice. It is unlikely that Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, hardly a dove, would have endorsed a concession that runs completely counter to his outlook unless there were grave security issues at stake. Some have suggested, albeit unconvincingly, that the alternative would have been even worse – a complete settlement freeze on Jerusalem and the major settlement blocs. There have also been hints that Iran was a part of the equation.
But even if the government was obliged to make this draconian unilateral concession, our fears remain justified. Tzipi Livni, a failed politician who described Netanyahu’s release of terrorists as “a courageous act”, will over the next nine months be leading secret negotiations on behalf of Israel behind closed doors. Without substantial public pressure to boost his resolve, Netanyahu may capitulate to American pressures. Ultimately, we may be faced with a fait accompli — a “take it or leave it” scenario accompanied by threats of what to expect if we “leave it.”
What are we to do? We must loudly publicize the fact that after failing to undermine us by terror and violence, the Palestinians are working to diplomatically dismantle us by stages. We must make the case that we are not another Czechoslovakia and there are limits to our willingness to compromise in this asymmetrical environment. Our government must stress that whilst the vast majority of Israelis remain committed to working toward peace and have no desire to rule over Arabs, peace cannot be achieved with neighbors whose leaders incite hatred against us and we will not gamble the lives of our children by compromising on security needs at a time when half the Palestinian population is controlled by Hamas, a terrorist entity that regularly launches missiles at us.
It is time for us to call on our allies and friends, especially American Jewish leaders, to demand that Kerry and the Obama administration confront the Palestinians on the issues that are central to genuine peace negotiations: their recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, abrogation of the Arab right of return, an end to anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic domestic propaganda, and education of their people toward peaceful co-existence.
This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom