Tag Archives: Knesset

Bibi changes his tune on Palestinian state

You have to hand it to Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Israeli prime minister had us going for awhile. As the Israeli election drew near, he seemed to suggest that he was pulling back his support for a Palestinian state in the Middle East.

Then what happens? Bibi goes and wins re-election, his Likud Party keeps control of the Knesset and then he said, “Hey, I didn’t mean quite what I seemed to say just the other day.”


And to think some folks thought Bibi had emerged as the world’s premier statesman. It turns out he’s just like most of the rest of the world’s politicians: He’ll say just about anything to get elected.

Frankly, I’m glad he’s softening his tone on Palestine.

Bibi said on MSNBC: “I don’t want a one-state solution; I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution, but for that, circumstances have to change,” he said. “I was talking about what is achievable and what is not achievable. To make it achievable, then you have to have real negotiations with people who are committed to peace.”

Ah, yes. But as the New York Times reported: “The White House and European leaders had expressed alarm over Mr. Netanyahu’s pre-election statement, on the eve of what had seemed like a close race, that there would never be a Palestinian state as long as he remained in office.”

He’s back-pedaling from his pre-election hard line.

The Obama administration still doesn’t seem to trust him fully. The White House doubts his commitment to a two-state solution.

Whatever the case, Bibi shows that even would-be statesmen are capable of saying one thing in public and meaning something else in private.


U.S., Israel: friends for life

The media have gone ballistic over reports of strains between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

My goodness. May we clear the air here?

There is no way on God’s planet Earth that the United States of America is going to abandon Israel in a time of international crisis. None. There is about as much chance of that happening as there is a chance of Congress repealing Social Security and/or Medicare.


Netanyahu scored a decisive parliamentary victory this week with his Likud Party maintaining a semblance of control over the Knesset. To win the election, Bibi had to shift dramatically to the right, such as pulling back his previous support for the creation of a Palestinian state.

As Politico reports, that pullback of support is prompting the Obama administration to rethink the longstanding U.S. policy of serving as a “shield” for Israel.

What does it mean? I’ll tell you what I believe it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean the United States will walk away from a fight if Israel is attacked by, say, Iran.

I’m still holding out hope that Obama and Netanyahu can reach some kind of private rapprochement that results in an eventual warming of public relations.

Yes, the tensions flared dramatically in the days and weeks preceding the Israeli election. They flared because Bibi broke a longstanding diplomatic tradition by agreeing to speak to Congress without consulting with Barack Obama; they also flared when House Speaker John Boehner decided to inject himself into a sort of quasi-head-of-government role by extending the invitation in the first place — again, without consulting with the president of the United States.

All this diplomatic and political byplay means little, though, when you consider this fundamental fact: The United States and Israel are — and will remain — the best of friends in a world that can go crazy.

If and when the shooting starts in Israel, the United States will be standing at its ally’s side.


Bibi's no nut, but he needs to rethink some things

Benjamin Netanyahu has won another extension as Israeli prime minister.

His Likud Party won more seats in the Knesset than any other party, but it still lacks an outright majority. So Bibi’s going to have to compromise here and there if he hopes to govern his country.

Contrary to what you might have gathered from a couple of recent posts about Bibi’s campaign, I actually feel a bit of sympathy for the tough line he takes in governing Israel.

Netanyahu is an Israeli army veteran. He’s seen the enemy up close. His brother was killed in that daring 1976 hostage rescue mission in Uganda. So, Bibi’s heart has been broken by violence.

I still believe he made a mistake in coming to the United States to speak to Congress without first consulting with President Obama. The snub — by him and by House Speaker John Boehner, who invited him — has damaged U.S.-Israel relations. But let’s get one thing straight: The nations remain critical allies.

All that said, his victory now enables Netanyahu to work with Obama to repair the damage. I trust he’ll do so. He talked while in this country about the special relationship the countries have had for the past six decades.

He campaigned hard in the waning days of the campaign by declaring an end to Palestinian settlements. That, too, was a mistake. Perhaps he can rethink that ban, given that the Palestinians are seeking to build a home of their own.

It’s good to understand, though, how Netanyahu views security in his country. It’s the single most vital issue with which he must deal.

The Hamas terrorists who govern Gaza have been lobbing missiles into Israel periodically since, oh, for as long as missiles have existed. Israel must be allowed to defend itself and to use whatever force it has to put down the attacks. To that end, Netanyahu is unafraid and I happen to applaud his courage in fighting Hamas.

The bigger picture, though, requires Netanyahu to understand that his country comprises citizens of widely diverse views. Not every Israeli shares his world view. I told you recently about a couple in Haifa who oppose Likud’s hard line and rest assured, there are others just like them.

Israel enjoys a special place in our network of allies. It deserves that special place and some special treatment. Benjamin Netanyahu, educated in this country — and able to speak to Americans like an American — isn’t going anywhere any time soon.


Bibi wins; now, make up with Barack

Barack Obama’s candidate didn’t win the election to become Israel’s next prime minister.

The winner is the current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, whose right-leaning Likus Party will continue to control the governing Knesset.


President Obama’s critics call this a sharp rebuke of the U.S. president, with whom Bibi has a difficult relationship.

But let’s understand something right off the top: If the bullets and rockets ever start flying in Israel, the United States will be at the side of its most dependable Middle East ally. Of that there can be no question. Netanyahu has acknowledged as much, as has Obama.

So, what’s the big deal with this strained relationship?

It goes most recently to the speech Netanyahu made to Congress without first consulting with the White House. It is centered on Israel’s desire to see greater U.S. sanctions on Iran, with whom we are negotiating a deal to end Iran’s nuclear development program. Obama objected to Netanyahu’s speech, didn’t meet with him when he was in-country — and the Obama foes are raising all kinds of hackles over the frayed relationship.

I don’t buy it.

Here’s what ought to happen: The two men have secured phone lines to each other’s office. One of them — it doesn’t matter who — needs to pick up the phone and start working toward a way to end the public rift.

It’s in both leaders’ best interest. They both know it and my hunch is that they well might already have had that chat.


Kerry to get Nobel Peace Prize?

Israel and the Palestinian Authority have commenced peace talks in secret.

If the talks prove successful and the ancient enemies — the Israelis and the Palestinians — actually forge a working peace agreement, I have a candidate for next year’s Nobel Peace Prize: Secretary of State John Kerry.


Kerry managed to persuade the two sides to restart talks that would seek a so-called “two-state solution” to the longstanding conflict. The Palestinians want an independent state next to Israel. The Israelis are now talking about that outcome being acceptable — under certain conditions. One of them would be that the Palestinians would stop shelling Israeli homes. The two sides have until October to seal the deal.

Meanwhile, Kerry and the Israelis will need to hammer out some solution to the continuing construction of settlements in territory that Israel captured during the Six-Day War in 1967. The Palestinians say the settlements are a barrier to a peace agreement; the Israelis say they are necessary to keep the Palestinians at bay.

I’m not an expert on Israeli-Palestinian relations, but I have seen up close just how precarious the situation is within Israel. I’ve visited cities — such as Sderot and Ashkelon — that have been shelled by Palestinians living in Gaza I understand the Israelis’ fear of continuing attacks on civilians. I’ve been able to peer into Gaza from just outside the region’s border with Israel.

Gaza is governed by Hamas, the infamous terrorist organization dedicated to Israel’s destruction. Whatever comes out of these peace talks, there must be some accounting for how to handle Hamas and to reel in the terrorists who continue to rein violence down on Israel.

Secretary Kerry has many decades of international experience under his belt. He knows the players on both sides personally. The civilized world, therefore, should be pulling for a successful resolution to these talks. Peace must come to the Holy Land.

If it does, John Kerry should start working on his Peace Prize acceptance speech.