Does Netanyahu Believe Rahm Emanuel is Trying to Isolate Israel from America?

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What follows below is an interesting article that I am going to post in full as it does not at this point appear to be available on the internet anywhere. Out of respect for Nahum Barnea and Yedioth Ahronoth, I will clip the piece and provide a link to Ynet News when this article appears on the web.
But in my estimation, this is an extremely informed analysis of the dynamics between Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama and simply must be read and considered before Netanyahu lands in Washington. My guess is that the author has spoken directly to many of the very top tier Israeli principals. — Steve Clemons

Half a Meeting
Yedioth Ahronoth — 6 November 2009
NetanyahuObama.jpgThe Prime Minister’s Bureau labored and discovered that there was one visit of a prime minister to the US–by Sharon in May 2005–in which there was no meeting between him and the president (Sharon had met with Bush in April, and the two saw no need to meet again). This precedent was meant to explain that it would no disaster if, in the course of Netanyahu’s trip to Washington next week, there would be no meeting between him and Obama. For days the White House has refused to set a date for a meeting. It was embarrassing and humiliating. Netanyahu was angry. Not mildly angry. He was incensed.
I’m guessing that in the end there will be a meeting. It will take place because not having it will depict Netanyahu as the victim and Obama as the enemy of Israel. That would damage Obama in the Jewish community, damage that he can less and less afford.
Should it take place, the meeting will not meet the role it was assigned. It will be forced, coerced. It will not give Netanyahu an opportunity to clean the slate, to turn over a new leaf, to create trust, to build intimacy. Relations are cloudy, admit sources on both sides. There is mutuality in this crisis, there is symmetry: Obama is convinced that Netanyahu stuck a knife in his back; Netanyahu is convinced that Obama is the one who stuck the knife.
Above this troubling story, which has still not turned into headlines, hovers a cloud of failure. The Obama administration failed abysmally in the strategic step it took, which was meant to turn the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians into the engine that would bring the entire region under America’s wing, from the Mediterranean Sea to the edges of Afghanistan. His failure is liable to ultimately be our disaster. Ironically, the only ray of light at the moment is the activity relating to Iran.
Netanyahu is sure that he knows who is to blame: White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. He heard inside information, from the White House, verified information. Emanuel drips venom. My sources may be less good, but the picture they paint is different. Netanyahu’s problem, they say, is not Emanuel. It is Obama.
Netanyahu is convinced that since the first day of his term, Emanuel has been plotting to isolate Israel from America, to shrink it in the eyes of its voters and to destroy it politically. This step failed. Support for Israel in American public opinion has only increased. It’s not Israel that is isolated in America, but rather the Palestinians. Personal admiration for him also increased. It increased in wake of his speech at the UN General Assembly. There are no other leaders in the world today that speak to Americans in their own language. They’ve known him in America for 30 years now.
Netanyahu read polls (one of them was apparently carried out by Stanley Greenberg, who was Clinton’s and Barak’s adviser). The polls showed him the degree to which his standing is strong in American public opinion. America is not Europe. In Europe, Netanyahu could be described as a peace rejectionist. Not in America. The president is very important, but so is Congress. With all due respect to the president and his aides, when the public has an opinion, public opinion decides.
From Netanyahu’s point of view, relations started off on the left foot. The emphatic demand of Obama administration to freeze construction in the settlements completely, a demand meant to hurt him, led to a confrontation. He was accused of being stubborn. He was also accused of the opposite, that he was easy to coerce. The assumption was that he would take a blow and collapse. This didn’t happen in Israel and it didn’t happen in America.
It didn’t happen because he chose a combined response. In his Bar Ilan speech, he promised to support the idea of two states. He promised to be forthcoming toward the Americans, but made it clear that he would not go all the way. He went farther than what the majority of Israelis want to go and the majority of Jews in America. He acted with integrity and transparency: every Israeli step was reported to the Americans in real time, including the secret trip to Putin.
In the meantime, the Americans have learned a few things. The Arab rulers, who were supposed to provide the quid pro quo in unfreezing relations with Israel, gave nothing. Abu Mazen changed his spots. Because of domestic political considerations, he refused to begin negotiations. The Arab rulers betrayed him. He is now threatening to resign.
An argument waged in the White House. According to the information that reached Netanyahu, Hillary Clinton and Mitchell and others explained to the president that he had to rely on Netanyahu. Not out of love: out of recognizing reality. A parallelogram of forces was created: they on one side, Emanuel on the other. Netanyahu believes that Obama is pragmatic. After consideration, he will go with public opinion.
I’m not certain that Netanyahu realizes to what degree Obama is different in character than his two predecessors. It’s hard to bend him, and even harder to win his heart. In Netanyahu’s first term, he got into a frontal clash with president Bush the father. He learned then that despite the support, despite the accessibility, despite the common language, in such clashes, he cannot win.
The question of who is right in the crisis that has been created is of secondary importance. Israel is dependent up to its neck on the American administration’s good will. It is dependent on it if it wishes to reach a solution to the conflict (Netanyahu believes that he is capable of reaching an agreement. He knows that he is the only one of his ministers who believes that he, of all people, will reach an agreement).
And it is dependent on the administration in the Iranian matter. Our old acquaintance Dennis Ross plays a major role in the administration’s handling of the Iranians. The good news for Israel is that there has been progress toward imposing concrete sanctions. The bad news is that Obama was angered again, with the criticism of the Americans that Ehud Barak made. Netanyahu was quick to fix it. So was Barak. Nevertheless, the damage was done.
— Nahum Barnea

Comments

18 comments on “Does Netanyahu Believe Rahm Emanuel is Trying to Isolate Israel from America?

  1. nadine says:

    “I would have agreed with Thomas Friedman with the statement in question were the Palestinians actually able to take charge of their affairs in the first place.”
    Imad, the Israelis left in 2005. The PA was in charge at that time, and there was no blockade then. In 2006, Hamas won the election. Israel asked Hamas to uphold the treaties signed by the PA, renouncing violence and recognizing Israel. Hamas refused. Israel imposed the blockade. In 2007, Hamas broke the power-sharing arrangement with Fatah and took full control in a coup, throwing a number of Fatah honchos off tall buildings and knee-capping others. The blockade continued.
    So I ask again, seen enough yet? Can Hamas be held responsible for its own actions? Just maybe?

    Reply

  2. Paul Norheim says:

    It looks like the Obama Administration is in disagreement with itself.
    From Haaretz today:
    “Top official: U.S. won’t accept partial settlement freeze
    By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz Correspondent
    The United States does not accept continued Israeli settlement construction in the West
    Bank, a senior U.S. state department official has said, adding that Jerusalem’s
    commitment to restrain settlement activity is not enough.
    In an address to the Middle East Institute, Under Secretary of State for Political
    Affairs William J. Burns on Tuesday said that the Obama administration does not “accept
    the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.”
    “We consider the Israeli offer to restrain settlement activity to be a potentially
    important step, but it obviously falls short of the continuing Roadmap obligation for a
    full settlement freeze,” he said.
    The under secretary said the goal of the Obama administration was to achieve “two states
    living side by side in peace and security.”
    Burns’s comments came despite Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s praise for Prime
    Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s willingness to restrain settlement construction as
    “unprecedented in the context of prior to negotiations.””
    http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1128034.html

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  3. PissedOffAmerican says:

    So now Rahm has called the settlement issue a “distraction”. Someone got to the Obama Administration, they have completely sold out the Palesatinians.

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  4. Imad says:

    Nadine quotes:
    “I would remind you that when Israel withdrew from Gaza, the usual suspects, like Tom Friedman, told us that this would be a chance to see how the Palestinians manage their own affairs. Seen enough yet? Apparently not. Never can any responsibility for Palestinian actions be assigned to the Palestinians.”
    The most basic flaw that i can see in this statement is the assumption that the Palestinians in Gaza are indeed managing their own affairs. The IDF keeps the Gazans in, and with aid from the Egyptian government,cut them off from any means of leaving Gaza. They can’t manage the flow of humuanitarian aid, the IDF does it for them. And there are a number of other things that the IDF regulate for the Gazans. I would have agreed with Thomas Friedman with the statement in question were the Palestinians actually able to take charge of their affairs in the first place.

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  5. nadine says:

    Imad, I don’t have time to fisk Wolman in detail, but it’s an incoherent litany of the usual lefty half-truths and flat untruths. Just for starters,
    “Left unexplained is why Wright believes that on June 24th peace still had a moment of promise. He suggests that Hamas’ goal in capturing Shalit was to put a halt to the peace initiatives. Apparently Hamas’ stated goal – to negotiate for some of the 7,000 Palestinian prisoners – is not sufficient to explain the Hamas attack.”
    It should hardly be controversial to say that Hamas wanted to halt peace initiatives, as that has always been their purpose. They began blowing up buses in 1994 at the height of Oslo in order to derail the negotiations. They make no secret of their purpose. Wolman seems to think he has scored a point; I don’t see where.
    “Wright also refers to Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza settlements as if it was an Israeli peace overture. He writes,
    “From the Israeli perspective, at least, the Gaza problem was supposed to have been solved in August, 2005, when Ariel Sharon, then the Prime Minister, closed down the Jewish settlements on the Strip and withdrew Israeli forces. The international community and the Israeli left wing applauded the move. But, almost immediately, mortar and rocket attacks from the Strip multiplied.”
    As Shlomo Ben-Ami and others have noted, Ariel Sharon conceived of the unilateral withdrawal of the settlers and Israeli forces from Gaza as a means to avoid further peace initiatives and demands for Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, not as a stimulus to the peace process.”
    This is simply not true. Sharon was maneuvering to arrange an Israeli “divorce” from territories. After Sharon fell ill in early 2006, Olmert ran on doing a similar withdrawal from the West Bank. That was the official Kadima election platform.
    It was the experience of being rocketed from Gaza and the Hamas takeover that ended such notions for Israelis across the political spectrum. They have no wish to withdraw from the West Bank and get rocketed in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
    I would remind you that when Israel withdrew from Gaza, the usual suspects, like Tom Friedman, told us that this would be a chance to see how the Palestinians manage their own affairs. Seen enough yet? Apparently not. Never can any responsibility for Palestinian actions be assigned to the Palestinians.

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  6. Outraged American says:

    Rahm Emanuel served in the IDF during our first Persian Gulf
    invasion, “fixing brakes” on military trucks.
    And the London Bridge really IS in Arizona, with the Brooklyn
    Bridge to come next. Arizona’s going to buy it after we sell off
    our Capitol buildings, because we know a good deal when we
    see one.
    So let’s say I decided to join whatever India’s army is called, and
    then went on to become WHITE HOUSE CHIEF-OF-STAFF, would
    you trust me?
    I wouldn’t trust me. Never have, never will.
    But somehow, we are supposed to trust Emanuel and his views
    on Israel.
    And yes, Emanuel’s dad was Irgun.
    Douglas Feith’s father was a member of Betar, an extreme
    Zionist group founded in Europe, which eventually joined forces
    with Irgun, Haganah, and the Stern gang to rape the people who
    didn’t exist in Palestine.
    What’s interesting is that Betar was conducting military training
    for Zionists before Hitler’s “Final Solution.”
    From the Jewish Virtual Library
    (I don’t know why this website exists because it does provide
    ample fodder for people who truly hate Jews by being
    historically accurate)
    http://tinyurl.com/yc7hm2n

    Reply

  7. Imad says:

    Nadine,
    not that you would read it, but for anyone interested, here’s a critique of robert Wright’s article:
    http://mondoweiss.net/2009/11/wolman-wright-mucks-up-gaza.html
    Back to the article, i doubt that Rahm Emmanuel would try to undermine the interests of Israel. His dad’s former Irgun, wasn’t he?

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  8. nadine says:

    e, you speak as if it was Israel’s idea to just impose a blockade, out of the blue as it were. Hardly. The policies that caused the blockade were the policies of terror implemented by the PLO, PIJ and Hamas. Do you have any idea how many times the crossings into Israel were blown up? All through the nineties it was a like a routine: open the crossing, get blown up, close the crossing, open the crossing again. Eventually most of the crossings closed and Israeli employers hired Thai or Rumanian workers instead of Gazans.
    That is the effectiveness of modern terrorism: it forces the walls and checkpoints to go up. It separates the populations, and was a big aid in radicalizing Gaza – that and an educational program that teaches kids from nursery school up that they should aspire to be suicide bombers.
    I would be very curious to know what Hamas’ real popularity in Gaza is right now (not that I would envy the lot of anybody trying to take the poll). They won in 2006 with a minority vote (the Fatah vote was divided). There must be a lot of dissatisfaction with them now. Most people don’t like to be used as sacrificial goats, and the ongoing Talibanization of society is going to be unpopular too.
    So Hamas will probably have to start shooting again in the not too distant future. Arab politics being what it is, the rally-round-the-flag impulse rules supreme when there is shooting. Hamas test fired an Iranian Silkworm missile with a 60 km range the other day.

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  9. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “That statement that Israel’s policy cannot possibly achieve peace IMO makes the article worth the read”
    Trouble is, many of us have known for a long time that “Israel’s policy cannot possibly achieve peace”. In fact, I happen to believe thats the REASON behind Israel’s policies. Does Wright need to paint Hamas as the agressor to get this point across??? Hardly.

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  10. e says:

    POA:
    You write that:
    “…he [Lawrence Wright] claims it was Hamnas that broke the cease fire on Dec. 16th, rather than writing honestly, and reporting honestly that it was Israel that broke the cease fire on Nov. 4th.”
    I believe you are referring this passage:
    “On December 19th, the six-month truce between Hamas and Israel formally expired. Israel was willing to extend it, but Hamas refused. Haniyeh complained that Israel had failed to ease the blockade, as the agreement had stipulated. Hamas rockets began flying again.”
    While I also see Israel as the one that broke the truce on November 4, I also see what Wright wrote as more of a (cowardly?) omission/ misdirection/ obfuscation as to why Hamas failed to extend the truce.
    On a subject as volatile, as long lasting, and as propagandized as Israel/Palestine, why throw out the good because it is not perfect?
    Had you continued, you would have read:
    I began to see Gaza as, I suspect, many Gazans do: a floating island, a dystopian Atlantis, drifting farther away from contact with any other society. Omar Shaban told me that, twenty years ago, he could easily drive to Tel Aviv for dinner, and more than a hundred thousand Palestinians travelled into Israel every day for work. “The Palestinian economy was structured to work with the Israeli economy,” he said. “Most Palestinians knew Hebrew. There were real friendships.” Now, he said, “two-thirds of Gaza youth under thirty have never been outside the Strip. How can they psychologically think of peace? You can fight someone you don’t know, but you can’t make peace with him.”
    That statement that Israel’s policy cannot possibly achieve peace IMO makes the article worth the read.

    Reply

  11. nadine says:

    Robert, Israel doesn’t accept that “international law” forbids them to build in the West Bank. The West Bank was not some foreign country that Israel took in an offensive war. It was Jordanian occupied land that Israel took in a defensive war. But it was not part of Jordan. It was only occupied by Jordan, with no legal owner since the Brits left in 1948. Therefore Israel regards it as disputed territory, not foreign territory occupied by them. Furthermore, they regard the government-owned sections of it as Israeli property. They signaled from the beginning that they would trade most of it back for a peace treaty; but they got the three “nos” of the Khartoum conference.
    Second, the Israelis already stopped growing the settlements in footprint as part of Oslo. The “growth” we are talking about is just building new houses inside the existing towns. It’s very unreasonable to forbid all construction inside a living town. Because there is no final settlement, nobody can add a room to his house? or build a new kindergarten? If he’s a Jew, that is.
    Third, there are strong practical reasons not to give the Palestinian more concessions without getting some back. It only feeds their maximalist fantasies. What they want to to force Israel back so they can say, “See? we got them on the run! They withdrew, so they admit they have no right to any part of Palestine! We’ll drive them into the sea in the end.” Which is exactly what they are saying now. Even Fatah is saying it, and of course Hamas is saying it.
    Because of this mindset, Israeli concessions are only met with new demands, as when Israel offered 95% of the West Bank at Taba and Arafat started demanding the “right of return” of 5 million Palestinian refugees to Israel, not Palestine.
    So practically speaking, setting up a situation where the Palestinian have to give nothing and lose nothing by waiting and whining, will only produce more waiting and more whining, with intermittent terrorism. So Israel builds walls to protect its citizens from suicide bombers, and if the Palestinians don’t like it, the Israelis don’t much care.
    As for the Goldstone report, it’s like debating the verdict of one of Stalin’s show trials, with Stalin as the judge. For an explanation of how and why Goldstone is so bad, see The Goldstone Illusion in TNR http://www.tnr.com/article/world/the-goldstone-illusion?page=0,4

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  12. Robert C says:

    Nadine, just how are the Palestinians obstructing progress. Asking Isreal to obey international law and stop all settlement activity is really not unreasonable. Only Israel can parlay following international law into a “concession”. Further, the Palestinians request for the UNSC to debate the Goldstone Report is not unreasonable. What examples do you have? And, what concesions has Israel made for that matter?
    RC

    Reply

  13. PissedOffAmerican says:

    I read Wright’s article until I got to the opart where he claims it was Hamnas that broke the cease fire on Dec. 16th, rather than writing honestly, and reporting honestly that it was Israel that broke the cease fire on Nov. 4th.
    Why read any further? If he’s lying about one detail, how much of the rest of it is bullshit? Obviously, if this racist zionist witch Nadine compliments the article, it must be absolutely top heavy with bullshit.

    Reply

  14. DonS says:

    Re the post and it’s underlying theme: Netanyahu reaction to supposed challenge by Obama: “It didn’t happen because he chose a combined response. In his Bar Ilan speech, he promised to support the idea of two states. He promised to be forthcoming toward the Americans, but made it clear that he would not go all the way. He went farther than what the majority of Israelis want to go and the majority of Jews in America. He acted with integrity and transparency: every Israeli step was reported to the Americans in real time, including the secret trip to Putin”
    A bigger load of crap I have rarely read. And the underlying premise of the story, that Rahm is out to knife Israel is just so much more propagandistic crap. Really.
    Anyone who assumes that Israel really resonates to a vibe that says “oh, in the end, we have to acknowledge that the US is in the driver’s seat” is either in the Israeli’s pocket and just spreading disinformation, or is just writing the equivalent of foreign policy porn.

    Reply

  15. Mr.Murder says:

    “This precedent was meant to explain that it would no disaster if, in the course of Netanyahu’s trip to Washington next week, there would be no meeting between him and Obama.”
    -would be no disaster?
    Make it a give concession on each side to elements of moderation internally.
    For Israel, to endorse legitimate Palestenian leadership. For neighboring lands to make inroads toward democratic reform in their own lands.
    Both sides of the map lines have internal dynamics at play that feed off the static of confrontation. Engagement will quell these tensions and enable better positive change in time. Something must break the gridlock, every side gives something.
    Doing so heads off the problems the present model helps fertilize. Cultivate new and better representative models whilst pairing with it security and transparency. Every side has to prove that still, opportunity is in abundance.

    Reply

  16. jackie says:

    I don’t know what polls Greenberg has been doing, but Netanyahu stinks in my book. But I’m not jewish.

    Reply

  17. nadine says:

    I was curious that nobody at TWN picked up this article on Gaza:
    Captives: What really happened during the Israeli attacks?
    by Lawrence Wright
    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/11/09/091109fa_fact_wright
    Wright was obviously deeply moved by the plight of the civilian population of Gaza, so I was rather surprised that nobody at TWN quoted the article.
    On the other hand, Wright, who wrote the excellent book on Al Qaeda The Looming Tower, knows exactly where Hamas is coming from ideologically, and is under no illusion as to their willingness to use the whole civilian population of Gaza as sacrificial goats, indefinitely. So maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised.

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  18. nadine says:

    Interesting. I read this column as Nahum Barnea figuring out that Obama himself, not just Rahm, is a left-wing ideologue.
    As Obama tried to explain to American Jewish leaders, America hadn’t made progress in Mideast talks during Bush’s term, so he figured picking a fight with Israel was the way to make an advancement.
    Now that Obama’s strategy has utterly failed, is he capable of figuring out that it is the Palestinians who don’t want to make progress? They’re counting on setting and waiting for the whole loaf to be handed to them. No half-loaves for them, thank you very much! Abu Mazen even said as much.
    Oh, and they are now turning on Obama for having disappointed their (wildly unrealistic) hopes.
    Welcome to the Middle East, Mr. President.

    Reply

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