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March 7, 2014 12:52 pm

Ganging Up Against Netanyahu

avatar by Jerold Auerbach

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Prime Minister Netanyahu speaking in Los Angeles. Photo: Facebook.

In President Obama’s recent White House interview with Jeffrey Goldberg (reported in Bloomberg View, March 2), what the president had to say about Israel grabbed headlines and, justifiably, stirred no small measure of outrage from critics for its timing, factual inaccuracies and tone.

On the eve of his arrival in the United States and his meeting with the President, Prime Minister Netanyahu was warned that time is running out for the Jewish State as “a Jewish-majority democracy” if it fails to make peace now. Obama cited three reasons for the urgency: “changes in demographics,” meaning an expanding Palestinian population between the Jordan River and Mediterranean; the growth of Jewish settlements; and the commitment by an aging President Abbas to non-violence and diplomacy, which might not outlive him.

Indisputably, President Abbas is growing older. But on demography and settlement expansion, President Obama was flagrantly mistaken. He told Goldberg: “There are going to be more Palestinians, not fewer Palestinians, as time goes on. There are going to be more Arab-Israelis, not fewer Arab-Israelis, as time goes on.” For Israel to survive “as a democracy and a Jewish state,” President Obama insisted, it must reach “a peace deal with the Palestinians and a two-state solution.”

But the demographic threat, designed to force Israel into submission lest its democratic identity be undermined, is non-existent. Ominous warnings of a rising Palestinian population tide are erroneous. Jews currently comprise three-quarters of the Israeli population and two-thirds of the entire population west of the Jordan River. The Israeli Jewish fertility rate is rising; the Palestinian birth rate has declined significantly since the turn of the century. The existing Jewish majority is in no danger of submersion under a nonexistent Palestinian tidal wave.

As for Jewish settlements, the President’s apprehension over their presumably alarming growth is similarly misplaced. Obama told Goldberg: “we have seen more aggressive settlement construction over the last couple of years than we’ve seen in a very long time.” True enough in percentage terms; last year settlement housing more than doubled. But, as Evelyn Gordon noted on her Commentary blog (March 4), it doubled “from such a low base” as to maintain Netanyahu’s ranking in new settlement housing starts at the bottom of Israeli prime ministers since Yitzhak Rabin. “Never has settlement construction been as low,” Gordon notes, as under Netanyahu.

Obama’s implicit assumption that Jewish settlement construction is not only excessive but illegal is also misplaced. As Alan Baker, Israeli international law expert and former ambassador to Canada, wrote the day after the Goldberg interview: “Israel and the Jewish people have very well-based and long-standing inalienable, indigenous, historic, legal and international rights in the area including Judea and Samaria.” Among Baker’s salient points: the West Bank territories are disputed, not occupied, since there was no legitimate sovereign prior to 1967; neither the 1949 Armistice line nor the 1967 “borders” have standing under international law; Israel has complied with international norms, building only on land that is not privately owned.

Obama’s display of Chicago manners, perhaps best left to his former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, was almost immediately obliterated by the Russian invasion of Crimea, which has dominated headlines ever since. But The New York Times Editorial Board could not permit the American president’s “remarkably blunt” dissing of Netanyahu to pass without a supportive lead editorial (March 6). Repeating Obama’s erroneous projections and groundless warnings about “more Palestinians, not fewer Palestinians, as time goes on,” and Israel’s “aggressive settlement construction,” the editorial proclaimed: “These are the hard facts that need to be broadcast widely.” But they are not facts; they are misstatements of fact that neither The Times nor the President wish to acknowledge.

President Obama, paraphrasing Rabbi Hillel’s memorable questions, asked Netanyahu: “If not now, when? And if not you, Mr. Prime Minister, then who?” But he conspicuously omitted the rabbi’s first question: “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me?”

Jerold S. Auerbach is the author of Jewish State Pariah Nation: Israel and the Dilemmas of Legitimacy, forthcoming in April.

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  • rulierose

    in the Palestinians’ preferred narrative, the “Occupation” began in 1948, not 1967. their whole philosophy is built around the destruction of the “Zionist Entity.”

    the so-called settlements are not the problem. the Palestinians’ obsessive desire to erase all traces of Jews and Judaism from the land is the problem.

    it’s too bad Obama and Kerry are unable or unwilling to realize that.

  • judorebbe

    The “special relationship” between America and Israel has taken on a whole new dimension … Which other nation is Team Obama actively trying to destroy?

  • Estie Ash

    If as Obama says Äbbas””is getting old, maybe that is a really good reason to wait and see who is in line to take over before even thinking about any “peace”.

  • Herb Grossman

    There might well be a demographic threat if Israel would foolishly take back Area A and the parts of Area B now under the control of the Arabs, but no responsible person in Israel advocates doing so and no one should.

  • Fred

    Obama & Kerry are not to be trusted. They are prepared to sell out Israel. The Philistines at least are honest they never deviated from the idea of Israel’s destruction & never once mentioned willingness of peace with Israel.

  • Beatrix

    Obama hasn’t done too well in foreign policy (or domestic), but he can always take on Israel because they need America. Netanyahu is much more popular in Washington than Obama. I think Netanyahu is always respectful, but not the least bit bothered by his treatment. Kerry lost the election (thank goodness) but I think he’s become our default President.

    • June Grant

      Obama is deficient as a diplomat and politician since he has been unable to disguises his obvious dislike of Netanyahu ever since their first meeting, and followed it up in his conversation with Sarkozy. He also seems to be swallowing anti-Israel propaganda wholesale, and has taken one part only of Rabbi Hillel’s quote to prove a defective point. Such tactics are transparent enough not to influence Bibi to submit to unreasonable demands parroted by Obama and Abbas.

      • esther noodelman

        It’s not just Obama’s dislike of Netanyahu,but by not releasing Pollard,he is showing his hatred of the Jewish people.As long as Pollard is the only person,a Jew,that has been singled out for special treatment..a life sentence (29years) instead of 2-4 years, this is Anti-American and Antisemitic,A CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY..GENOCIDE..UNTIL POLLARD IS TRANSFERRED TO AN ISRAELI PRISON TO ALLOW HIM TO RECUPERATE<WE JEWS WORLDWIDE ARE VICTIMS OF THE SAME CRIME.CAN WE MAKE A DEAL WITH SUCH A LEADER OF THE FREE WORLD WHO IS ANTI AMERICAN AND ANTISEMITIC TOWARDS JEWS.AS OBAMA SAYS ABOUT HILLEL..IF I AM NOT FOR MYSELF(THE JEWISH PEOPLE..WE ARE ALL ONE)..THEN WHO AM I.AND IF NOT NOW ..WHEN…WHEN DOES JONATHAN COME HOME TO GIVE HIM A CHANCE TO LIVE OR IS OBAMA WAITING FOR HIM TO DIE?..

  • Dov

    The problem is not Obama but the ghetto minded Natanyahu. All former Israeli leaders were broadminded and not afraid. Natanyahu seems to be extremely afraid of “big Brother” Obama and whatever he says, this guy falls for.

    Its simply shocking what came of the Zionist dream, one that always spoke about self-made, its gone, and with it the entire Zionist structure.

    • Dov, please crawl back into the hole you came out of.

  • carol

    I’m hoping the country will wake up to Obama very soon, and he will be impeached and imprisoned.

    Meanwhile, Netanyahu should be reciting Tehillim. He must be able to relate a lot to David HaMelech.

    • Kris Kristian

      From your mouth to G-D’s ears.
      May Obama’s impeachment happen soon, before he can do more damage,That man is evil.
      Problem is, if he is impeached, will his VP become president? And what is his attitude towards Israel.

      I rememebr when Obama appointed him as his VP, he ran onto the stage and said” I am a Zionist”
      I certainly hope he is and that he will support Israel all the way. But Kerry and Hilary must be kept far away from the presidency.
      They are both liars and dangeous.

  • Ariely Shein

    President Obama:
    The peace window was closed by the Arabs from day one up today.
    In 1947 the Arabs refused to recognize a Jewish state.
    In 2014 they refuse to recognized a Jewish state and declare end of conflict.

    They want to get as much as possible benefits and still continue the conflict with Israel.

    Without conflict continuations and world blackmail by terror the Palestinian politicians will not have any importance worldwide. They will be reduce to their marginal size of contribution to the world in all the perspectives.

    You want to give a chance to peace?
    Stop USA and EU funds to Palestinian used for:
    conflict continuation-hate teaching preaching-helping Palestinian authority to avoid building a economy and a healthy government for their people.
    In English they are masking the goals.
    The trough is been said to their people the Arabic language>

    1: In Arabic- Interview to Al Jazeera with Abbas Zaki, senior member Palestinian:
    “If we say that we want to wipe Israel out its too difficult.
    It’s not acceptable policy to say so.
    Don’t say these things to the world. Keep it to yourself.
    Everybody knows that the greater goal cannot be accomplished in one go.

    2:PLO platform:
    “The struggle will not stop until the Zionist entity IS ELIMINATED””

    3:Palestine Ambassador Abdullah Abdullah inLebanon :
    “The peace talks with Israel are part of ARAB STARTEGY TO ISOLATE ISRAEL and threaten its legitimacy.”

    4:Hamas charter:
    *”The Day of Judgment will not come until Muslims kill the Jews.

    5:PLO platform:
    “The struggle will not stop until the Zionist entity IS ELIMINATED””

    • M.D. Israel

      Well said, Ariely Shein. Thank you for stating the real facts!

  • rachel robinson

    as a prophet Obama is a failure. he is wrong on all counts, and his “predictions” are based on his opinion and not on facts on the ground.
    Israel is getting stronger, more prosperous and much more successful in both medicine and technology. now that it has discovered the shipment of missiles from Iran to Gaza maybe the world will see that obama’s weakness invites aggression, both from Putin and from Iran. leading from behind is not a good policy.
    as to “time is running out”, not true, and Israel has no one at the table to talk to. Abbas will never never will talk to Israel, he expects obama to hand him a victory that he cannot possibly achieve. all this is just empty talk by a weak president, who really does not see the true picture of the israeli vs. PA situation.

    • Shmuel Solomon

      You are absolutely right. However there are a few more angles to Obama’s decision making.
      Obama is part muslim. His family is part muslim. Of course he is going to side with the muslim cause. It’s a no brainer!
      AND, it is no coincidence that the World Headquarters of The Nation of Islam (Black Muslims) is in Chicago—–hmmmmmmmm. That’s quite a few votes. Just ‘sayin.