Shas collaborating in capitulation?
This week we discovered that we have been deceived. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's principled rejection of US President Barack Obama's bigoted demand that Israel bar Jews from building new homes and expanding existing ones in Judea and Samaria does not reflect his actual policy.It's fortunate that as of now, there's a mobilizing opposition within the coalition itself. However: is Shas making itself partner to any suppression of Israeli building? I realize that even today, they cannot be trusted 100 percent, and that's why they too will have to be taken to task. There's supposed to be a meeting convened by coalition members in another 2 weeks about this case, and I hope it signals that pro-Israeli activists are going to take proper action in making sure that this time, Netanyahu does not betray his voters. Come to think of it, the same goes for Shas.
Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Attias let the cat out of the bag. Attias said that the government has been barring Jews from building in the areas since it took office four months ago in the hopes that by preemptively capitulating to US demands, the US will treat Israel better.
And that's not all. Today Netanyahu is reportedly working in earnest to reach a deal with the Obama administration that would formalize the government's effective construction ban through 2010. Netanyahu is set to finalize such a deal at his meeting with Obama's Middle East envoy George Mitchell in London next Wednesday.
Furthermore, even if Netanyahu is right to seek an agreement with Mitchell next week, he showed poor negotiating skill by preemptively freezing Jewish construction. Domestically, Netanyahu has lost credibility now that the public knows that he misled it. And by preemptively capitulating, Netanyahu showed Obama that he is not a serious opponent. Why should Obama take Netanyahu's positions seriously if Netanyahu abandons before them before Obama even begins to seriously challenge him?
Netanyahu had hoped that his conditional support for Palestinian statehood, and his current willingness to bar Jews from building homes in Judea and Samaria would neutralize US pressure on Israel and facilitate his efforts to convince Obama to recognize and deal rationally with the issue of Iran's nuclear weapons program. But as Ambassador Michael Oren made clear on Sunday, the opposite has occurred.
In an interview with CNN, Oren said that Israel is "far from even contemplating" a military strike against Iran's nuclear installations." He also said, "The government of Israel has supported President Obama in his approach to Iran, initially the engagement, the outreach to Iran."
From this it appears that Israel has not only made no headway in convincing the administration to take Iran seriously. It appears that Jerusalem has joined the administration in accepting a nuclear armed Iran.
One more thing Glick argues:
Some critics of Netanyahu from the Right like Ariel Mayor Ron Nachman claim that it may well be time to begin bringing down Netanyahu's government. They are wrong. We have been down this road before. In 1992 the Right brought down Yitzhak Shamir's government and brought the Rabin-Peres government to power and Yassir Arafat to the gates of Jerusalem. In 1999 the Right brought down the first Netanyahu government and gave Israel Camp David and the Palestinian terror war.I agree with her there. There are ways to get him to cut out any negative approach he's using without having to topple the government. Netanyahu once spoke of a national referendum. That may be an ideal option to make him agree to.
There is another way. It is being forged by the likes of Vice Premier Moshe Ya'alon on the one hand and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee on the other.
Ya'alon argues that not capitulating to American pressure is a viable policy option forIsrael. There is no reason to reach an agreement with Mitchell on the administration's bigoted demand that Jews not build in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. If the US wants to have a fight with Israel, a fight against American anti-Jewish discrimination is not a bad one for Israel to have.
Ya'alon's argument was borne out by Huckabee's visit this week to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. Huckabee's trip showed that the administration is not operating in a policy vacuum. There is plenty of strong American support for an Israeli government that would stand up to the administration on the Palestinian issue and Iran alike.
Netanyahu's policies have taken a wrong turn. But Netanyahu is not Tzipi Livni or Ehud Olmert. He is neither an ideologue nor an opportunist. He understands why what he is doing is wrong. He just needs to be convinced that he has another option.
Update: then again, if Huckabee is going to downplay the dangers of Muslim honor murders, as the videos here suggest, I think we'll have to give pause to the notion that he'll be really helpful.