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Friday's New York Times featured an article on Binyamin Netanyahu, poised to be the next Prime Minister of Israel. In the article, Netanyahu is quoted as having been told by President Obama that, though he came from the right wing, he moved to the center and became a pragmatist. Obama, according to Netanyahu, said the same about himself with regard to the left.

This story, if true, doesn't bode well for how President Obama will work with a Netanyahu-led government -- particularly one that appears will be far to the right wing.

Recall the Likud primary, as an illustrative example. Ultra-right-wing "peace activist" Moshe Feiglin placed 20th on the Knesset list for the Likud, only to be knocked down the roster 16 places after Netanyahu appealed the Likud primary results to the courts. Netanyahu made this move to appeal to "centrist" voters. (And Feiglin failed in the February 10 general election to get a seat in the Knesset.) But as so often has happened in his political career, Netanyahu was just showing rank hypocrisy.

Netanyahu’s gripe with Feiglin was that Feiglin is an "extremist." He’s a proponent of the "Greater Israel" philosophy, which dictates that Israel should not allow the existence of a Palestinian state but, rather, should annex the West Bank and Gaza. The ideal situation for Feiglin would be an Israel occupying all the land west of the Jordan River and that only had Arab residents that had sworn loyalty oaths to the government and vowed to accept second-class citizenship status in perpetuity.

Here’s the rub: Netanyahu believes pretty much the same things.

The likely Prime Minister’s father, Benzion Netanyahu, is one of the world’s leading authorities on the history of Spanish Jews. He is also described by many in the know as the "elder statesman" of Revisionist Zionism, the far-right version of the Jewish nationalist philosophy espoused first by Vladimir Jabotinsky. Benzion Netanyahu, now in his nineties, was once the executive director of the U.S. wing of the New Zionist Organization of Jabotinsky.

This was a period during which the U.K., which held the League of Nations mandate over Palestine, had designated the military wing of the Revisionist movement, the Irgun, as a terrorist organization. And the British had done this with good reason: The Irgun had been targeting both British authorities and Palestinian civilians -- and even fellow Jews -- for several years. Comparatively speaking, the Haganah, the militia that eventually became the IDF, was downright restrained by comparison, at least until the 1948-49 war began. The Irgun’s emblem bore the words Rak kach ("Only thus") below the image of a hand gripping a rifle superimposed over Palestine, as well as all of Jordan. (Notably, the late Meir Kahane chose the name of his Kach party from the Irgun motto.)

The elder Netanyahu has claimed that his active association with the Revisionist movement ended with the death of Jabotinsky in 1940. (He had been one of the man’s top aides.) However, Benzion’s Netanyahu’s leadership over the Revisionist movement in the U.S. is confirmed in a 2005 article by Holocaust historian Rafael Medoff on Jewish reaction to the Holocaust published by the Theodor Herzl Foundation.

Benzion Netanyahu has also claimed that he never had any association with Menachem Begin, but Bibi himself undermined this notion when he said at a news conference shortly after the Likud primary, "The last time that Jabotinsky, Begin, and Netanyahu engaged in public service for the Jewish people was during the World War in an attempt to save European Jewry from annihilation." As Bibi was born in 1949, the obvious conclusion was that his father had worked with Ze’ev "Benny" Begin’s father, the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and the grandfather of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, who was also present at the news conference.

So we know the tree from which the Bibi apple fell. But is it fair to condemn the son for the sins of the father? What evidence do we have that Netanyahu fils shares the views of his father?

According to Elfi Pallis, who currently writes for the Guardian newspaper in the U.K., while serving as deputy foreign minister under Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir (another Revisionist), Binyamin Netanyahu remarked that Israel should have taken advantage of the Tiananmen Square massacre, when the world’s media were focusing on that crisis, and expelled large numbers of Arabs from the Palestinian Territories. But, he claimed, the idea didn’t have any support, although he still believed it would have been the right thing to do.

The quote can be found in the article "The Likud Party: A Primer," which appeared in the Winter 1992 edition of the Journal of Palestine Studies on page 57. Pallis cites an Israeli weekend newspaper called Hotam. Veteran anti-Zionist Alexander Cockburn also cited the speech at Bar-Ilan University where Netanyahu made these remarks in the January 8, 1990, edition of The Nation.

Lest there be any doubt, the English-language (and right-wing) Jerusalem Post reported on November 19, 1989, that Netanyahu had made these remarks at Bar-Ilan, stating that Israel had failed to exploit "politically favorable situations" when "the damage would have been relatively small." The Post quotes Netanyahu directly: "I still believe that there are opportunities to expel many people."

Sure, that was nearly 20 years ago, but can we say that a Netanyahu so willing to court the political clout of Benny Begin, a proponent of forced expulsion en masse, has changed all that much? I don’t think that we can. Throw in Avigdor Lieberman, apparently Bibi's junior partner in the now-forming coalition, and the parties Jewish Home and National Union, and you've got some serious ultra-right-wing people, many of whom would annex the West Bank and expel its population in the blink of an eye. These are Netanyahu's natural partners. Make no mistakes.

Jabotinsky famously wrote in his essay "The Iron Wall," published in the 1920s, that no accommodation would ever be made between the Arabs of Palestine and the Jews making aliyah. This idea informed the policies of his followers as they entered politics. Binyamin Netanyahu should be made to face the legacy he bears and admit that the difference between him and Feiglin is marginal at best.

Originally posted to aemathisphd on Sat Feb 21, 2009 at 11:59 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Has Bibi changed? (tips) (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    capelza, Lefty Coaster, Inventor, Anorish

    If so, what indication do we have that he has?

    •  No, he remains a Netanyahuist... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ..which is to say he is a man of no core convictions outside of an unflagging devotion to his own self-interest -- in other words, he is not pramatist but a cynic.  Perhaps Obama can use that to his advantage by creating a situation in which Netanyahu will see his self-interest in negotiating a legitimate two-state solution... but more likely we will see a repeat of his last administration -- empty mouthings about peace while conditions in the occupied territories grow ever worse.  It will likely take a new administration in Israel before serious peace talks can resume -- at which point one hopes that Palestinian anger and despair have not driven THEM to abandon the tattered remains of the peace process.

    •  Unlikely (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Fear empowers people like Netanyahu. It empowers them to do violence...which causes resentment and deprivation...which causes violence...which causes fear.

      "...this nation is more than the sum of its parts ..." Barack Obama-18 March,2008

      by Inventor on Sat Feb 21, 2009 at 12:12:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yeah. Better at camouflage. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Anybody here think Netanyahu thinks warm fuzzy thoughts towards Palestinians? Anybody?
      Bibi's just getting better at concealing his intentions. I fully expect that under Netanyahu we'll see another wave of 'targeted assassinations' of Palestinian leaders who are insufficiently 'compliant'.

      Utterly pointless name dropping: I personally know Benjamin Netanyahu's brother Iddo; he's a radiologist who has worked in my area. And, no, I've never discussed Middle Eastern or I/P politics with him. Wouldn't be polite.

    •  A New Bibi? Juan Cole doesn't think so either (6+ / 0-)

      Informed Commnet

      Despite today's faintly ridiculous attempt in the NYT to depict Netanyahu as a born-again pragmantist,  in fact he rejects any withdrawal from the Palestinian West Bank by Israeli squatters, despite Israel's commitment to pull back in the Oslo accords. Since the West Bank looks like Swiss cheese with regard to administration and settlement patterns, there isn't a Palestinian state to be had there without an extensive Israeli pullback, and Netanyahu has never shown any interest in either pullback or Palestinian state.

      Now his people are trying to revive this bizarre idea of giving Jordan some sort of vague authority over the West Bank Palestinians as a way of denying them statehood in their own right. Jordan's government has been under severe pressure to expel the Israeli ambassador over the brutal Gaza campaign, and any such active collaboration with Israel to repress the West Bankers would risk toppling the Hashemite throne. King Hussein once accused Netanyahu of single-handedly destroying every positive thing the Jordanian monarch had worked for.

      Netanyahu is a train wreck for the Middle East. He is willing to ally with Avigdor Lieberman, an open racist who is gunning for the 20 percent of Israel's citizen population that is Palestinian. Netanyahu wants a war with Iran, and when the Israeli Right wants a war nowadays, they usually want our children to fight and die in it for them. The 1996 "Clean Break" Neoconservative policy paper advocating a war on Iraq was written for Netanyahu. (They are not satisfied with picking our pockets for their weapons and colonization projects). Netanyahu will further oppress and brutalize the Palestinians, which he will keep in a slave-like condition of statelessness, and from whom he will steal what little property they have left. Last time he was in office he went around poisoning his enemies, for all the world like the Bulgarian KGB in the old days.

      Netanyahu is the devil's gift to international terrorism, which his policies will provoke.

      nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it. - Barack Obama

      by Lefty Coaster on Sat Feb 21, 2009 at 02:53:41 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Juan Cole's a smart guy... (3+ / 0-)

        ...particularly since he linked to an article by me back in '07.

        •  He's a very weird guy, too. (0+ / 0-)

          What sort of Baha'i, even one out of favor with the leadership, spends most of his time offering apologia for the Iranian government?

          I demand to know his religious beliefs!

          Yes, Santa Claus, there is a Virginia. And it went Democratic.

          by Anarchofascist on Sat Feb 21, 2009 at 03:34:32 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  It really is frightening... (0+ / 0-)

            ...that he insists that Iran "only" called for Israel "to be erased from the page of history" rather than "wiped off the map."  For him, it's a "literary reference."

            If missiles were falling where my two daughters sleep, I would do everything in order to stop that. -- President Barack Obama

            by JPhurst on Sat Feb 21, 2009 at 08:12:59 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  Juan Cole... (0+ / 0-) not particularly "informed" on Israel-Palestine issues.  This is the guy who, among other things, insisted that 9/11 was provoked by Israel's incursion into Jenin.  Never mind that the battle of Jenin was 7 months after 9/11.

        Juan Cole is remarkably predictable, largely smearing any Israeli governing official as a warmonger and insisting that any action Israel takes is a subterfuge to undercut peace and provoke the Arabs.  He has long ceased to be even a source of interesting opinion to disagree with.

        If missiles were falling where my two daughters sleep, I would do everything in order to stop that. -- President Barack Obama

        by JPhurst on Sat Feb 21, 2009 at 08:11:57 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Bibi (6+ / 0-)

    Feh! My Israeli friends are horrified by the return of this idiot. I hope he does better than my expectations, but the election of Bibi in Israel seems similar to the election of W here in America: A HUGE, stupid mistake.

  •  What a sad mistake for Israel (4+ / 0-)

    Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.- BHO

    by valadon on Sat Feb 21, 2009 at 12:33:22 PM PST

  •  the guy is a hard right asshole (3+ / 0-)

    and a war criminal.  It will set relations back with the arab world.

    by GlowNZ on Sat Feb 21, 2009 at 12:51:00 PM PST

  •  Here's what I don't get. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    For the last 8 years, all of us here have been screaming that we've been right about everything, and that the Republicans have been wrong about everything.

    Well, from the standpoint of an Israeli, Bibi has been right about everything (the economy, the Disengagement, rockets on Ashkelon, the rise of Iran).  You name the issue, he's been right, Livni and whoever ran Labor has been wrong.

    So, why wouldn't Israelis vote for Bibi?

    If, after 8 years of Bush, McCain won, and some foreign bloggers said that America made a mistake, what would you say?

  •  Let's give Bibi a chance (0+ / 0-)

    ya never know, he knows what the realities are today

    •  Bibi is a polticial opportunist, but not in the (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      capelza, Ralphdog, Johnny Rapture

      good way.  He consciously plays on the Palestine-Isreali dispute as a means to keep himself on the political stage in Isreal.  He does not care, nor will he ever enter into a final settlement of the dispute; he needs it to be there as a constant irritant to again keep himself on the political stage.  Without that issue, Bibi is nothing but an empty suit.

      •  Empty suit? I thought Obama was an empty suit. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        And every politician in Israel uses the Arab-Israeli War as a means to keep him or herself on the political stage in Israel, and they have for over 60 years.

        Israel has been at war its entire existence.  Frankly "ending" the Arab-Israeli War would make any Israeli politician who achieved it pretty popular -- even Bibi.

        And every successful politician, believe it or not, addresses the concerns of the ongoing war in their political platform.  You can't ignore it.  And promising to end the war and failing is a sure path to political irrelevance.  Ask Beilin and Barak.

        So Bibi comes out and says "I'm not going to lie to you.  This war is not going to end."  That "honesty" is appealing to a lot of folks.

        Yes, Santa Claus, there is a Virginia. And it went Democratic.

        by Anarchofascist on Sat Feb 21, 2009 at 03:05:41 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  So you agree with Bibi's worldview (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      That says more about you than it does about Bibi.

      nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it. - Barack Obama

      by Lefty Coaster on Sat Feb 21, 2009 at 02:58:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Shows you what fear can do when (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    a political party has no compunction in its use, much as here in 2004.

    "Stay close to the candles....the staircase can be treacherous" (-8.38,-8.51)

    by JNEREBEL on Sat Feb 21, 2009 at 01:18:03 PM PST

    •  You need to go back a few more years. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      CN, thebluecrayon

      It was in 2005 when Bibi said that leaving Gaza the way we did would have rockets landing on Ashkelon.  Sharon's people immediately said not to listen, that Bibi was just fearmongering.

      What a surprise that after rockets started landing on Ashkelon that people voted for him.

      You can be both fearmongering and correct.

      •  True... (0+ / 0-)

        ... but I wonder what alternative Bibi would have had to disengagement from Gaza.

        I mean who but the wackiest of the Eretz Yisrael people want Gaza in perpetuity? What does it offer Israel by way of security or anything else?

        I think, furthermore, that Bibi's predictions about rockets only came true because of the rise of Hamas in Gaza. Whether he had predicted that as well, I don't know, but I don't think Sharon et al. necessary could assume it would happen.

        •  It was easy to predict. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Anytime we leave an area unilaterally, fundamentalists move in.  It happened in Lebanon, it happened in Gaza.

          The alternative was don't leave unilaterally.  Remember, the choices here aren't always the best choice vs. the second best choice.  Sometimes, it's the bad choice vs. the really, really, bad choice.

          •  Point taken (0+ / 0-)

            I assume your example w/r/t Lebanon was Hezbollah? I had thought (perhaps incorrectly) that Hezbollah was already operating in Lebanon before Israeli withdrawal under Barak. Are you saying that Barak's withdrawal was what allowed Hezbollah to move into the south? I don't disagree, but I would be more inclined to blame the weakness of Lebanon's central government than Barak for wanting to end a pointless 18-year occupation.

            •  It wasn't pointless. (0+ / 0-)

              It was keeping Hizbullah at bay.  And, just talk to an actual resident of South Lebanon, or a member of the Southern Lebanese Army (although most of them had to flee to Israel to avoid being killed by Hizbullah) who they would rather have controlling the South.

              •  I guess my point is this... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                ... Barak, when he pulled out of Lebanon, told the Lebanese that he would send the IDF back in if there was trouble on the northern border. The same point should have been made clear to the Palestinians w/r/t Gaza and, in both cases, that threat/promise should have been kept.

                Israeli restraint is laudable, but only sometimes. In cases where unilateral disengagement has taken place, the moment a missile flies over the border, then it's time to re-occupy. Sure, you'll get "international condemnation," but at least you can tell the world you tried to let them get their act together on their own.

                But perhaps your point is that unilateral disengagement will always result in this kind of response. That doesn't bode well for the future, if true.

                •  "but what when the missile flying over the border (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  capelza, Terra Mystica

                  Is an Israeli UAV?  An American made F-15 flown b the IAF?  What if it is anti-aircraft fire against either that lands in Israel?
                  Pretext for retaliation, or bona fide security issue?  For who?

                  Those who hear not the music-think the dancers mad

                  by Eiron on Sat Feb 21, 2009 at 01:53:35 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

              •  Hezbollaah don't want to Invade ISrael (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                capelza, veus, Terra Mystica

                they just want Israeli interference in Lebanon to end.   They do want return of the Sheba'a farms, which even ISrael admits they have no legitimate claim to.

                Those who hear not the music-think the dancers mad

                by Eiron on Sat Feb 21, 2009 at 01:55:17 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  Your history is a bit off (0+ / 0-)

                Hizbollah really didn't coalesce as an organisation till the mid to late 1980s, the combination of several smaller groups that had been operating previously. Their reason for combining was precisely in response to the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon from 1982. The unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon by Israel in 2000 was in response to the effectiveness of Hezbollah's resistance.

                The Southern Lebanese Army was a puupet of the Israelis, much hated by the Lebanese under its occupation, a great many of whom were held and tortured in their jails, one of which is now a museum to their unhumanity.

                The same shi'ites who stood and watched as Israel moved its tanks to Beirut in 1982 putting up no resistance were the ones who would later be active in pushing them out in 2000 and repelling them again in 2006. I would argue that rather than withdrawal allowing room for terrorists to move in, Israel and its actions were responsible for creating the terrorists in southern Lebanon by radicalizing a previously oppressed and pliant group within Lebanon.

          •  When dealing with conventional war (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            control of Gaza by the Arabs gives Egypt a salient that makes a mass tank attack more effective.  Control of Gaza by Israel gives the Port of Ashdod a bigger buffer (there was a port built in Ashdod for various geographical reasons.)

            The straight, clean lines of "Greater Israel" are easiest to defend against mass tank formations invading from neighboring Arab States.  The exception is Golan, which is held because of its value as commanding heights in terms of observation, radar, etc.

            Holding the Sinai Peninsula had similar logic in terms of stemming a mass tank invasion.  You'll note it actually produces a smaller land border with Egypt than the 1949 Armistice Line.

            Demographic concerns, irregular warfare, etc, were, at the time (1967, 1973 and then 1979) considered far less important than defensibility in a massive conventional war.

            Obviously, even in these terms, Gaza is a lot less important than the Judean Hills and the Jordan Rift Valley.

            But since it's been a few decades, mass invasions by regular armies have taken a backseat in terms of Israeli security concerns.

            Yes, Santa Claus, there is a Virginia. And it went Democratic.

            by Anarchofascist on Sat Feb 21, 2009 at 03:19:57 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  All true except... (0+ / 0-)

              ...Egypt has no intention of attacking Israel. How many times do you have to take an ass-kicking from a country before you learn lesson? Apparently, for Egypt, the fourth time was the charm

              •  I was just saying historically (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                Gaza had strategic importance for Israel.

                And it still has (minor) long term strategic importance in terms of conventional warfare.  And obviously the IDF brass still war games the hell out of "What if Egypt and Jordan abrogated their treaties and everyone invades?"  Political developments have just made that far less likely and technological developments have made enemy salients far less important.

                (Control of the high grounds, though, have retained their extreme tactical importance, though.  It's been that way since our ancestors were throwing rocks 2001-style.)

                Yes, Santa Claus, there is a Virginia. And it went Democratic.

                by Anarchofascist on Sat Feb 21, 2009 at 03:29:37 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

  •  There is only one thing people need to (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    capelza, Terra Mystica
    remember about Net, and that is at the 1994 or was it 1995 Maryland peace talks sponsered by Bill Clinton, there was a moment when it looked like there was a legit plan on the table to settle some of the long-standing issues and then one of Net's aides came running out of the talks and told reporters "Bebe says no, Bebe says no."  Net is not interested in entering into a final settlement of the Palestine-Isreali problem, he needs that irritant (ie the Palestinians) to keep him on the political stage in Isreal.  Without it he is (and has always been) an empty suit.  
  •  Pragmatist. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    In one sense, you have to be a pragmatist when you have such a weak coalition government.  You either attempt to make as many people happy as possible, and refrain from rocking the boat, or watch your coalition members defect.  He's the leader of a party that will have less than half the members that his government will carry.  A shift of a few people here and there (or a loss of a few seats) and he's history.

    •  he will "pragmatically" deny rights and (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      make war with Palestinians and beyond. no doubt about that.

      he has wide support in Israel to do so.

      Our Problems Stem From Our Acceptance Of This Filthy Rotten System --St. Dorothy Day

      by Tom J on Sat Feb 21, 2009 at 02:58:31 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  You'll forgive me (0+ / 0-)

        but that is such bullshit.

        He had a relatively calm previous reign as PM.  No wars with anyone.  As for wide support, his party received less than a quarter of the vote.

        So how "wide" is that?

        You've already convinced yourself he's going to be terrible- why the fuck, if I might ask, are you any different from the Rush Limbaughs who are convinced Obama will be a disaster before day-one?

        I thought "progressives" were supposed to be more moderate in temperament?  Perhaps what we have are real progressives, who prefer to wait until a politician acts before passing judgment, and faux-progressives who are "progressive" in name, not in action.

    •  Bibi's not a pragmatist - he's a salesman (0+ / 0-)

      Bibi has not shown a pragmatic bone in his body in all his years in politics. He's simply used a meaningless sales patter to dodge responsibility and paper over his inadequacies.

      He was vey quiet around the time of Rabin's assassination.  Then between 96 and 99 he robbed Oslo of any meaning.  He's been a consistent settlement booster and made common cause with the Lieberman.

      He has 65 seats out of 120 from parties to the right of him - there's no need to compromise - he's looking for a figleaf.

      Sharon was far mmore pragmatic, at least he had maps - Bibi just has hot air.

  •  And it should be pointed out that he may not (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    be able to form a government within the time framework. I think there's a better than even chance that could happen.

  •  It is possible.... (0+ / 0-)

    ...that under the right conditions, Netanyahu could be the one to reach a deal.  Those conditions are not there.

    The Palestinian political situation is a mess.  Iran is fomenting instability and developing nukes.  No peace deal could have the security guarantees necessary to agree to any further withdrawal of Israeli troops.

    Israelis have shown that, when they believe that peace is likely, they will vote in reasonable governments.  When they believe that peace overtures have failed, they will vote in hard liners.

    It is possible that Obama and Netanyahu could work well together.  To do so, Obama should work aggressively to stem the Iranian nuclear threat, and work to ensure the international community does not accept Hamas at all unless they clear the very low bar that has already been set for them.

    If missiles were falling where my two daughters sleep, I would do everything in order to stop that. -- President Barack Obama

    by JPhurst on Sat Feb 21, 2009 at 08:09:24 PM PST

    •  It is not Bibi and Obama were the prblm in (0+ / 0-)

      relationships lie, it is between Bibi, his right wing luny coalition partners and the palestines where the "personality conflicts" will arise.  Nope no deal will be done under "Bibi says no"

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