It Will Not Be All Over On January 20
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
The only thing that is predictable at this point as far as Israel’s place in the world is that in just over three weeks it will have to deal with a new president in the White House. What this will mean is totally unpredictable. As with so any issues facing the people of the United States and the world, what will happen when President-elect Trump assumes office is any body’s guess. For Trump to tell Israel that things will be different or for Netanyahu to believe that come January 20th U.S. policy in the Middle East will suddenly change is an assumption based on tweets.
Many Israelis, their Prime Minister, and Jews in the Diaspora may be angry at Secretary Kerry’s speech yesterday, but there was virtually nothing in the speech that has not been stated previously. In fact these same words probably had been said to Bibi in private for years by U.S. leaders and statesmen. What truly peeved the Israeli Prime Minister and his supporters was that he and his Government were given a dose of tough love in public and Bibi did not like it.
The speech was not as balanced as it might have been and the U.N. resolution was indeed one-sided, but if Israel had only played its geopolitical cards more smartly none of this ever needed to happen. Israel had years to call Abbas’ bluff. Israel had frozen settlement construction at one point for ten months and only at the end did Abbas appear to move and by then the Kerry initiative had fallen apart. Any and all settlements that could or wanted to be built or expanded could have been done whenever Israel desired to do so. They were not security measures. They were constructed because of domestic ideological and political exigencies. They were built because Israel had a Prime Minister who showed his toughness by being telling the Arab world as well as his patrons in the West that Israel kowtows to no one.
If Israel believes it has been humiliated by the Obama Administration which just agreed to a ten year $38 billion military aid package, it ought to recall really nasty confrontations with Washington even before the Oslo Peace Process. Secretary of State James Baker in a congressional hearing in 1990 gave out President Bush’s telephone to Israeli Prime Minister Shamir to tell him to call the President when he wants to discuss the loan guarantees for Israel to settle new immigrants. Similarly, in 1991 George H.W. Bush had complained that he was one lonely man in the White House while thousands of pro-Israel lobbyists—read American Jews– were running all over Capitol Hill to persuade Congress to approve the loans. The issue at stake at that time was that the U.S. wanted Israel to guarantee that the resettlement would not take place outside the Green Line, lest such a move undermine efforts at peace negotiations.
Now, 25 years later, Secretary Kerry told Israel that all objective observers can see the growing likelihood that there will never be a two state solution. Israel may well have historical rights to all of the Holy Land. Jews may well feel that they have a religious legitimacy to live anyway in their historical homeland. Realpolitik, however, suggests such a solution will not only be tenuous and dangerous, will ultimately fail. In that reality, there will never be a Palestinian State. As a result Israel will be an occupying, non-democratic Jewish state.
Bibi did not like to hear these words from Israel’s only friend in the world. He responded by attacking Obama and Kerry. The Prime Minister now awaits his expected deliverance on January 20.