Tag Archives: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu


            When Israeli  Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon made critical remarks about Secretary of State John Kerry, the American State Department reacted angrily. Ya’alon’s remarks implied Kerry was “obsessed” and had “messianic feelings.” In turn, Ya’alon apologized  and said he meant no harm. Everyone shook hands and made up.

            However, the exchange highlights the tension that Israel is now under. Prime Minister Netanyahu has had no coherent settlement policy and that is creating problems. No one can deny that the Prime Minister remains in a precariously difficult spot even within his own administration. His coalition government includes both extremes of Israeli politics. Dovish Tzipi Livni stands to the right while to the left is hawkish Naftali Bennett. Within his own Likud party are equally divisive factions pulling on him from both directions. To keep his government running, he has to placate all of these diverse groups before he even confronts the Palestinians. No small task!

In the end, Netanyahu must make the decisions that will allow Israel to go forward and find a secure feature. For example, Palestinian terrorists were released  in order to bring Abbas and the P.A. to the negotiating table. Obviously, families that had lost children and parents through terrorist attacks were not happy. This effort was made in the face of the hard facts about the Palestinian’s real objectives in such negotiating.

Regardless of what John Kerry says, does, or promises, the current Palestinian leadership has zero interest in reaching a settlement. They have one fundamental goal: the dismantling of the Jewish state.

These factors are pushing Netanyahu into a corner where Israel is becoming dangerously isolated.  Because Israel continues to build illegal settlements, the government is facing the possibility of an international boycott. The Palestinian led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions called the B.D.S. movement is bringing pressure to bear outside the negotiating conference. If Israel can reduce the B.D.S. factor to only an image problem and propaganda tool, it can stem the tide. If not, Netanyahu faces a potentially highly serious situation.

Currently, new strain is on Israel as the Palestinians have gained a sympathetic audience for their claim that their human rights have been violated and they are victim of discrimination. The protective fence around the state of Israel to stop suicide bombers has raised the image of apartheid. All are super-sensitive issues in today’s world.

The squeeze is on Netanyahu to develop a broader policy that is comprehensible across the world. Sand is seeping through the hourglass and delay only creates more chaos. A resolution is needed!

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            An unexpected shift has opened the door to the first negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian in years. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Saturday that he would agree to release 104 Palestinian prisoners as a condition to start peace talks. In turn, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made another step toward sitting down at the table.

            Secretary of State John Kerry’s tenacious and persistent efforts achieved this progress. The American Secretary of State traveled back and forth nonstop to pull the two parties together. However, Netanyahu’s agreement is conditional, depending on progress at the table. The prisoners will be released in four stages after the negotiations begin and in accordance with progress. If the agreement falls apart, the release ends.

Both the Palestinian and Israeli publics are strongly opposed to this proposition. During this past weekend, Abbas’s people were in the streets protesting even the start of talks. Israelis did the same. The man on the street appears to be far more aware of the practical problems that does John Kerry. No one can fault Kerry for his diligence and steadfast efforts. At the same time, he is trying to move the immoveable object with irresistible force ( all of which is a contradiction in possibilities) Kerry is desperately trying to achieve a breakthrough before the annual convening of the United Nations General Assembly.

Can Kerry pull it off? No one knows, but I remain pessimistic.

The PA is struggling with leadership problems. The last Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah lasted 18 days. Abbas is struggling to avoid a constitutionally mandated election as Hamas and Hezbullah could walk away with the results. As he lost control of the Gaza Strip, the same upheaval is possible in Ramallah. Palestinians think negotiations means they will get back Haifa, Jaffa, and Safed. Sorry. Won’t happen.

Israeli’s are no longer willing to settle for a divided Jerusalem as their eternal capital. Will they give part of it back? I cannot see that in my crystal ball. Netanyahu as already been forced to go beyond what his Likud party will allow. In order to make any progress, he may have to leave the ideology of his party behind and walk out into a  political no man’s land. Can Netanyahu do so? That may end up being the jackpot question.

At this point, we don’t know what carrot and stick Kerry used to set up this breakthrough. With huge financial offerings at stage, Kerry could have considerable leverage on both sides. However, they will not be enough to bring a true breakthrough. Abbas continually faces being overthrown and if he makes the offers that lead to success, he may well fall. In the same way, Netanyahu is faced with a resolute public that is no less adamant about backing down.

What do I see? They will sit down at the table and kibitz over how to proceed for a period of time, but when the rock solid issues comes down, it will be all over. At lest, that’s the testimony of the last 20 years. Barak and Arafat launched talks, but couldn’t conclude them. Olmert and Abbas did the same. And so it goes.

Hope I’m wrong but I see more bluster than breakthrough.

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If you’ve been following the Middle East situation closely, you’ve probably noticed a lack of information as of late. I’m not sure whether the news media is so locked on the American election that they cover little else …  or Syria has stolen the headlines … or  possibly the stories aren’t getting the coverage they deserve for reasons that I’ve not yet been able to ferret out. However, some important details have been developing behind the scenes.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, of course, has pushed a red line. While it’s not exactly clear where it is, he is pressing for cessation of uranium enrichment and full transparency for the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspections. He believes the dismantling of the enrichment infrastructure is necessary for the world to know Iran is not attempting to build the bomb. At the same time, Israel knows that Iran will not negotiate seriously without massive pressure bearing down on them. We now have two hints that they seriously recognize the vise is tightening.

For weeks a secret manifesto has been circulating through Iranian asking for signatures protesting the status of the country’s economy. Addressed to Iran’s labor minister, this protest attacks the decline of their national situation. This uprising is the result that sanctions are having and also a protest against the mismanagement by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Such a dangerous statement in a tightly controlled nation demonstrates that sanctions are having a significant effect on the entire country. The current squeeze has put the mullahs behind the eight ball in a nation already filled with tension. In less than two weeks, their currency dropped around a third in value against the dollar and Congress is still considering expanding these sanctions. The result in a slumping economy points to a discontentment and growing distance between  the people’s economic hardship and the Islamic rulers militaristic desire for nuclear striking power. Although suppressed, the petition sounds like the man on the street is ready to     throw in the towel on making nuclear weapons.

On the other hand, the Ahmadinejab regime has declared oil sales to China and India can over ride the impact of sanctions. However, even he has recognized that international banking transfers have created big problem in keeping commerce rolling.

A second situation is the recent denial by Iran that they had offered a “nine-step” plan to resolve their problems with the West. Their “deal” was the lifting of sanctions if Iran eventually suspended uranium enrichment. They are now saying such a deal was never extended. The significant point is that Iran probably floated this idea to see what response it got abroad. Because they have been unable to break the stranglehold that America has on them, they would be delighted to dissolve the relationship that America and Europe have. If my contention is true, it also signals that Iran has made no progress in breaking the Allies’ intelligence systems.

Perhaps, we won’t get much international reporting and attention on this situation until after the election. It is now clear that Israel won’t be making a pre-emptive strike until after November. In the mean time, the economic   screws continue to tighten on Iran. Does this mean that the light at the end of the tunnel might not be a bomb explosion? Let’s hope so!

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