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Beyond the toxic rhetoric: Obama, Bibi and prospects for peace

President Barack Obama remains furious at Benjamin Netanyahu. He and many European leaders were counting on Israelis to get rid of an intractable \"hawk\" and replace him with Yitzak (Bougie) Herzog, the more flexible \"dove.”
[additional-authors]
March 25, 2015

President Barack Obama remains furious at Benjamin Netanyahu. He and many European leaders were counting on Israelis to get rid of an intractable “hawk” and replace him with Yitzak (Bougie) Herzog, the more flexible “dove.” With Bibi out of the way, the path would have been cleared for a quick final deal with Iran (including immediate removal of sanctions) and hasten a two-state solution in the Holy Land, before President Obama’s second term ended.

But how realistic was that? Let’s say that Bougie had won 30 seats en route to setting up a center-left coalition, Prime Minister Herzog would have to strive mightily to thwart Tehran going nuclear. Ayatollah Khamenei and his lackeys would still be plotting the Jewish State's annihilation. Israel's Prime Minister would also be challenged by a new strategic threat from Iran and its Hezbollah terrorist allies, who are busily building a new missile-laden front to threaten the Galilee and Israel's northern panhandle from Syrian territory–opposite the Golan Heights. To date, these provocative moves by Tehran haven’t raised any protest from either the U.S. or the European Union.

Without doubt, a Left-led coalition is much more strongly committed to a Two-State solution than the Netanyahu-led Likud ever was; though it is hard to see how a deal could have been reached by Herzog during the next two years. Hamas’ continued terrorism and genocidal hate, and the embrace by leaders of the corrupt-riven Palestinian Authority of terrorist murderers of Jews, leave many Israelis on the Left doubtful that President Mahmoud Abbas has either the power or desire to negotiate a final settlement. His game plan remains relying on the U.N., the E.U., and (perhaps) the U.S. to force Israel into a deal that heavily favors maximal Palestinian aspirations. Israelis across the political spectrum still want a peace deal with their Arab neighbors, but even a Herzog-led coalition still needs a Palestinian partner prepared to tell his constituents in Arabic that their Jewish neighbors are there to stay and that they too have rights to be in the Holy Land. Tragically, there is no Palestinian Anwar Sadat on the horizon.

For now, Obama seems intent on pummeling and punishing Prime Minister Netanyahu. However, the suggestion of a game-changing U.S. support of an U.N. Security resolution that would effectively force a shotgun marriage between Jerusalem and Ramallah is a terrible idea. It would only backfire, weakening Israel's left and further emboldening Hamas and Hezbollah to ramp up terror attacks against a Jewish State that may no longer have the U.S. in its corner.

In fact, the road to real progress towards peace starts in the Oval Office through Ramallah. Here are five suggestions for the next Obama-Abbas call:

1. No more International Criminal Court shenanigans. Seeking indictment of your negotiating partners for crimes against humanity is a deal-killer.

2. No more unilateral moves to gain U.N.-recognized statehood without negotiating with the Israelis.

3. Including Hamas that refuses to drop its genocidal anti-Israel agenda – in a Palestinian government is untenable. PA must take back control of Gaza. If the PA can’t even enter, let alone control, the largest Palestinian communities, how can Israel expect that the PA can deliver on any commitment.

4. No more anti-Semitic attacks and incitement by Palestinian media, religious and other elite. Stop denying the Jewish people's link to its ancestral homeland. Such hatred incenses Israelis and contributes to the explosion of anti-Semitism across Europe and on North American university campuses.

5. The US and European donors are ready to invest billions more in peace. For that to happen, transparency must reign–insuring that help actually reaches Palestinians who need it. The brutal truth is that if elections were held on the West Bank right now, Hamas would win in a landslide, because of one central issue: corruption.

And Bibi? He walked back his election campaign statement that there will be no Palestinian state under his watch. But he knows that if and when a viable partner emerges from the Palestinian camp, any elected Israeli Prime Minister will have to rush to the negotiating table.

Prime Netanyahu must also do everything in his power to de-personalize disagreements with President Obama. But no one should expect Netanyahu to step back from his stance on Iran. He (and every Jew) is right to take the Mullahocracy's existential threats at face value.

I was present at our Nation's Capitol for Bibi Netanyahu's speech on Iran. Love him or hate him, everyone there, and all Israelis watching at home, saw a true world leader in action. In the end, his respectful and masterful speech reminded everyone, that he has earned his place on the international stage, no matter how discomfiting his message is to some.

If the Obama Administration really wants to reach Israelis, denouncing the democratic results of the Israeli electorate, is not the way to go. What they want to hear from Washington is a coherent plan for fighting terrorism in their neighborhood and the details of a deal with Iran that, to paraphrase Netanyahu, Israelis and Iran's Arab neighbors, can “literally” live with.

Hopefully, the mushrooming dangers in the region will help both President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu recalibrate their rhetoric and refocus on the enormous challenges at hand.


Rabbi Abraham Cooper is Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

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