Friday, February 20, 2015

NETANYAHU, CONGRESS, AND A PALESTINIAN-ARAB STATE

I believe in Israel's right to exist in peace with its neighbors.

Is peace possible when the charters of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas call for Israel's destruction, when regional despots like Ayatollah Ali Khamenei call for death to Israeli Jews? There are those who would tell you to ignore the charters and the speeches, that they are just words. But Jews have come to understand, after centuries of being taught by example, that when a political movement or a government official says that they will kill Jews, they are to be believed. The original Zionists made that assumption and the Israeli government continues to operate on that premise.

Ask yourself a simple question: Which hypothetical circumstance would be most likely to lead to peace in the region, disarming the Palestinians Arabs or disarming the Israelis? As Golda Meir is reputed to have said, though she certainly wasn't the first: Disarming the Palestinians Arabs would lead to peace. Disarming the Israelis would lead to the destruction of Israel.

Step back for a moment and look at history. There are those who will tell you that history doesn't matter, that we should focus on the present. Those people don't understand either the Jewish or the Arab mentality. Events that took place centuries ago are to both peoples as fresh today as a cool morning breeze. We can dispute whether or not the Palestinian Arabs were in the main chased from Israel by Zionists in 1948 or if the bulk of them left their homes at the urging of Arab armies promising a swift return once the Jews were pushed into the sea. Either way, certain subsequent events cannot be disputed:

1. The Palestinian Arab refugee camps were built by their Arab brothers who, with the exception of Jordan, refused to allow the refugees basic civil rights and a path to a normal life within the host country. As a result, while in other countries Palestinian Arabs have been radicalized and promised a right of return that has not been and in all probabilities will not be granted, the bulk of Palestinian Arabs in Jordan are fully integrated and say that they wouldn't return even if given the opportunity.

2. From 1948 to 1967, the West Bank and Gaza were in Arab hands. A Palestinian Arab state could have been declared without Israel's involvement. Israel would no doubt have had security questions. In the central part of the country, before 1967 you could have taken a flying leap from Israel's eastern border and landed hip deep in the Med. But if the neighboring Arab states had prepared for peace instead of war, those questions could have been answered.

3. After 1967 and after Egypt recognized Israel's right to exist, Israel traded land, valuable land, to Egypt in turn for peace. That peace has held for close to 50 years. I repeat. Peace with Egypt - as well as Jordan - has held for 50 years. The prerequisite? Simply recognizing Israel's right to exist and establishing diplomatic relations.

I believe in a two-state solution. I believe that Israel's settlement policy is misguided, primarily in place as a sop to the Israeli political Right. But I support Israel against such uninformed charges as genocide against the Palestinian Arabs. Israel could level Gaza and bounce the ashes. It restrains itself from doing so even if its recent actions in Gaza do not lend themselves to the term 'restraint'. Ask yourself the outcome if such military asymmetry were reversed.

And now we come to Netanyahu. Why shouldn't Netanyahu address the US Congress?

Let me count the ways...

1. The Constitution clearly gives the Executive responsibility for the bulk of the conduct of foreign affairs including the negotiation of treaties. Yes, Congress must approve. But the Founders understood that there should only be one voice at the table during negotiations with foreign powers. That voice belongs to the Executive. Negotiation by committee, and therefore this foray into the negotiations with Iran by Congress, is just stupid.

2. We know what Netanyahu will say. He will say that Iran is an existential threat. That Iran cannot be trusted. That Israel cannot allow Iran to possess a nuclear weapon. There. I've given Netanyahu's speech for him. He can save the time and the jet fuel it will take to get here and back to Israel to continue campaigning for reelection.

3. Speaking of campaigning, the US has a longstanding policy of not interfering in democratic elections conducted by its friends. Well, except for the CIA. But since the Mossad is better at covert ops than the CIA, the Israelis don't have to worry on that score. They should worry, however, that Netanyahu thinks that it's a good idea to drag the US Congress into Israeli politics. Our Congress has an approval rating only slightly higher than Boko Haram's. And there is reason to believe that the fear tactics Netanyahu is using may backfire, that his political opposition is coalescing. Is Netanyahu desperate or just clueless?

4. And speaking of politics, Americans have a saying that politics ends at the border. Not any more, apparently. If speaking before Congress makes Netanyahu look silly, John Boehner conducting foreign affairs behind the President's back makes John Boehner look silly - or sillier, depending on what you think of his tanning spray.

There's more, but that's enough. The proposed speech is bad for the negotiations with Iran, bad for Netanyahu, and bad for Congress. What's the point?

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