The lead story in today’s New York Times is actually a news analysis, and a rather tendentious one, in the guise of a news story. The reporter, Jodi Rudoren, would have us believe that President Obama has carried his Bibi-bashing too far. Obama’s public refusal to accept Netanyahu’s “clarification” that he actually favors a two-state solution has produced a backlash among Israelis who think Obama should have accepted Bibi at his latest word. It’s pretty clear that Rudoren sympathizes with those Israelis.
Rudoren’s reporting is blatantly skewed. Her story prominently features the views of Giora Eiland, who thinks that Obama should make up with Bibi. We are told that Eiland, a former Israeli national security adviser, is “hardly an advocate for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.” We are not told that it was Ariel Sharon whom Eiland served as national security adviser; nor are we reminded that Eiland’s last major public pronouncement was during Israel’s attack on Gaza last summer, when he denied that there was any such thing as innocent Gaza civilians. So much for the objectivity of Rudoren’s sources.
Is Obama being unfair to Bibi in his refusal to accept his retraction? No, the president is simply using Bibi’s flip-flop as the occasion finally to abandon the pretense of believing his lip-service* to a two-state solution. The pretense served both the US and Israel. Israel couldn’t openly defy the international consensus for a two-state solution, and the US was expected by the international community to at least pretend to try to broker a settlement. Hence the so-called “peace process” in which Palestinians and Israelis play-acted negotiations under the aegis of the Americans. (For a while the Americans actually seem to have believed the charade, as I discussed in my post of 5/7/14).
But Netanyahu actually came clean long before his recent campaign pronouncement. Last July, during the Gaza assault, Netanyahu flatly declared that Israel could never relinquish “security control” of the West Bank. But, as the Times of Israel’s editor David Horovitz observed, there cannot be a sovereign Palestinian state if Israel has “security control” of its territory: “[Netanyahu] made explicitly clear that he could never, ever, countenance a fully sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank.” Of course, the Obama administration understood this, but for whatever reason chose not to out Netanyahu until Bibi’s electioneering demagoguery provided the opportunity.
*Netanyahu’s 2009 statement of openness to a Palestinian state was so qualified as to be of very limited value. He said nothing about one-for-one land swaps—widely considered a necessary component of a fair settlement—and asserted that Israel must remain in control of Palestinian air space. What sovereign country can concede control of its air space to another? And of course he insisted on continuing settlement construction on the West Bank.