Monday, May 18, 2009

Bibi Goes to Washington

In a few hours Netanyahu will meet Obama in the White House. Since not a single living person knows what will happen at the meeting, don't expect me to tell you. Nor should you believe anyone else. The two men will meet, they'll talk, and they'll see what happens, even though both come prepared with plans, plan Bs, counter plan Bs, and backup plan Cs.

Helene Cooper, in yesterday's NYT, wrote a commonly-held expectation; let's call it The Silly Expectation. The thesis of this narrative is that Obama will finally put pressure on Israel, real pressure, and this will bring peace. What pressure? First, accept the Two State Solution; second, stop building on the West Bank; third, remember that the Palestinians are people too; fourth, sit back and enjoy Peace and Tranquility for the Rest of History; fifth, applaud the Iranians for dismantling their nulear program. True, Ms. Cooper doesn't quite sat it in such a simplistic way, but that's the thrust. She's representative of pundits and fools the world over.

The problem, of course, is that the previous three Israeli prime minsters all did stages one-two-three, and in response the best they got was bobkes; some of them, such as Ehud Barak, Arik Sharon and Ehud Olmert, got much worse. The fallacy of the Silly Expectation being, of course, that for peace to arrive Israel does indeed need to dismantle lots of settlements, and enable the creation of a Palestinian State in Gaza and the West Bank, but the Palestinians also have to do a thing or two, such as work together; give up on the Right or Return; and officially declare the end of the conflict. Among other requirements: none of which is about to happen, alas.

I didn't vote for Netanyahu, and my feeling is that he won't do at the meeting what he should, namely proclaim, loud and clear: "Two States, Mr. President? But of course! One for the Jews called Israel, with an Arab minority, and one for the Palestinians. Of course, Mr. President! We agree on this fully. Now, if you can figure out a way to get there, we'll award you with a special medal, and enrol you in the Order of Impressive Magicians! But in the meantime, lets talk about Iran; at least that's a subject where something may still possibly be done".

I fear Netanyahu won't do that, unfortunately, but one way or the other I don't see how it will make a difference. According to all reports, both men are intelligent, perhaps even highly intelligent, as well as being surrounded by lots of intelligent and well-informed people; the likelihood either of them thinks peace can be had for the asking seems low.

And Iran? I don't know about that, either, except I think Jeffrey Goldberg's fine op-ed in yesterday's NYT is right in that Netanyahu may really be serious; he may really believe the most important thing he'll do in life is stop the Iranians from acquiring nuclear weapons. Which means Obama, intelligent fellow he is, will have to find a way to stop the Iranians without war, because otherwise Netanyahu will do it with war. You really should read Goldberg's article; it's far more serious than most journalism usually is.


adam d. said...

If the US were to pull out the stops and make every trade relationship contingent on isolating Iran until they abandon this nuclear program and end support for terror groups, Obama's diplomatic approach could work. I think anything short of that will be laughed at.

amicus said...

I think your commentary is right on. I don't understand why Bibi would not come out for a 2 state solution, unless it is for internal consumption?

Lydia McGrew said...

"none of which is about to happen, alas."

Right. Exactly. So why talk about it? I mean, if one really believes that, then for Bibi to say what you suggest he say would be either to cause confusion (that is, to suggest that maybe those things on the Palestinian side _are_ going to happen) or to sound entirely sarcastic. In fact, sarcastically is about the only way it can be said by someone who knows the truth of the matter.

I sometimes think that when Israelis talk about whether they would be willing to do this or that (dismantling settlements or whatever) if it would bring peace, it is sort of like saying, "I would cut off my right arm if it would cure all the cancer in the world." It's either a hyperbolic expression of how much I would like all the cancer in the world to be cured, or, if I really anticipate having to _do_ it and mean it in some serious sense, it's an expression of insanity. Because cutting off my right arm isn't going to cure cancer. So why bother talking about it?