I'm re-engaging here to point out how fabrications about Israel become incontestable truths. Jeffrey Goldberg and Beinart are already into their third round of discussing the issues, and at one point Beinart throws in a false comment which is so deep in the general narrative that Goldberg doesn't call him on it, and may well not even have noticed it.
...after all, Israeli governments haven't respected all past agreements--Netanyahu said explicitly that he rejected Oslo when he was elected in 1996...Black and white, simple and clear. Netanyahu said explicitly that he rejected Oslo when he was elected in 1996. No ifs or buts, no weasel words. Netanyahu rejected Oslo.
I recognize that 1996 was a very long time ago. Hillary lived in the White House; Elvis was recently dead (19 years); and Digital Equipment Corporation was a household name. Twitter hadn't been invented, nor Facebook, the iPhone, the blogosphere nor even Google. It was a truly benighted era. On the other hand, the Internet and even the World Wide Web already existed, as did the PC; people drove cars, not horses and buggies, and most homes in the developed lands had plumbing.Why, some of us old codgers even have (faint) memories of those far-off days in 1996.
Enough to know that Beinart's assertion is factually challenged. As a matter of fact, it's the opposite of the truth, not vaguely off mark.
Here's a short version of the story of those days.
In September 1993 Israel and the PLO signed the Oslo agreement. Rabin's popularity skyrocketed, and the agreement basked in the warm glow of 70% support in the polls, which is very high in Israeli terms. Almost immediately, however, Palestinians terrorism began to climb, contradicting what many of us had said would happen. Over the next two years, until the Fall of 1995, Israel made a string of further concessions to the Palestinians, terrorism got worse, Rabin resorted to ever harsher words to describe his opposition, and the opposition felt ever more secure they would win the next elections, scheduled for November 1996.
In October 1995 the beleaguered government launched a campaign to retake public support from the opposition; one of the central acts of this campaign was the very large demonstration of support in Tel Aviv on the night of November 5th at which Rabin was assassinated.
In the second half of November 1995, when we slowly started to climb out of our communal shock and look around us, it was clear that Netanyahu's career was over, and that Labour would win the next elections hands down. Netanyahu's role in the demonstrations against Rabin ensured that.
Early 1996 (February, if I remember correctly), Shimon Peres decided to cash in the automatic popularity he had inherited at Rabin's funeral, and moved the elections forward to May. Netanyahu didn't cave in, and set out to reposition the Likud so as to fight for the election. The centerpiece of this was to convene a series of meeting of the Likud leadership and discuss the party's position regarding the Oslo process. The meetings were closed to the media, but they were heavily covered and watched by us all.
Benny Begin was stridently against the Oslo process. Netanyahu initially stated the party had to have an answer to what it would do if it won the elections: would it do what Beinart says it did, namely reject the Oslo process, or would it do something else. I don't remember how many meetings there were. Four, perhaps, or six. The process took weeks, not days. At the end of it Netanyahu had forced the leadership of his party to formulate an acceptance of the Oslo process. It was conditional, demanding for example that Palestinian terror subside and incitement end, but it was an unequivocal acceptance of the fundamental structure of the Oslo process.
When we went to the polls in May 1996, there were parties that were campaigning on platforms of rejection of the Oslo process,but the Likud wasn't one of them. Since Netanyahu won the elections by less than one percent of the vote, it's safe to say that had he not repositioned his party, he'd have lost.
Once he won he never (never: not once) rejected the Oslo process. He slowed it down, he added conditions, he did all sorts of things. But the leader of Likud was elected in 1996 on a platform that explicitly accepted the principle of partition.
14 years later - that's all - a noticeable voice in American Jewry can glibly invent a story about Israel that contradicts the facts, and no-one calls him out on it because no-one knows any better, or if they do they join him in preferring to imagine a fantasy world rather than face reality.
One of the crucial differences between American Jews and Israelis is that Israelis have to get their decisions right; when they don't people die. Read the facts wrong, and more people will die. For American Jews it's just a subject that you talk about sometimes; facts can be a prop for a good argument.
PS. Just to be clear: I voted against Netanyahu in 1996, 1999, and again in 2009. But I try to keep my facts in good order.
Update: I originally wrote as if Elvis died in 1987. It was 1977.