Friday, April 30, 2010

Did Netanyahu Cave On Jerusalem? Yes And No..Bibi's New Plan.

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The latest moves out of the Middle East lead me to some interesting conclusions on future developments.

In the latest game change, the Palestinian Authority's capo del Ramallah Mahmoud Abbas did a complete about face after 15 months of stonewalling on restarting talks with Israeli PM Benyamin Netanyahu.

In an interview with Israel Channel 2 TV's Ehud Yaari, Abbas stressed his willingness to go back to talks with Netanyahu if the Arab League approves it in their May 1st summit.

"I want to work with Netanyahu," he said. "Try me."

"I say on behalf of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, that we are prepared for an agreement."

Even more interestingly,Abbas indicated that Netanyahu’s demands that any future Palestinian state to be demilitarized might be acceptable, provided a US or NATO could be deployed on the borders.

He also mentioned that he might be amenable, in principle, to territorial swaps that would enable Israel hold on to the major Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria ( AKA the West Bank, and the fact that the Palestinian demand for a “right of return.” might be withdrawn.

Why the sudden turn around after such a long display of stalling and intransigence?

A number of observers have come up with the obvious solution, that Netanyahu caved on a building freeze in East Jerusalem and that's why Abbas is suddenly so reasonable. The reality is a lot more complex than that, and it encompasses the needs and strategies of Netanyahu, Abbas and yes, Barack Hussein Obama.

We'll start with Obama.While the president's disdain for Israel and Bibi Netanyahu is palpable,he never expected to be hit with the firestorm he was hit with for his treatment of the Jewish State and its leadership. Obama found out to his shock that both Congress and the American public are very pro-Israel..by a better than two to one margin in the case of the latter. Even his efforts to promote an anti-Israel Jewish coalition in the form of J-street essentially failed. And when even a reliable Democrat soldiers like Senator Chuck Schumer went off the reservation publicly over the president's Israel policy,Obama belatedly realized that he needed to make a major change in his MidEast policy..which wasn't working anyway.

Next, let's look at Abbas. Why the sudden turnaround?

Mahmoud Abbas was apparently given every reason to believe - most likely by George Mitchell or perhaps Hillary Clinton - that all of the Palestinian's demands were going to be delivered to him on a silver platter by Obama. This made him even more intransigent and unwilling to negotiate in the least.

Unfortunately, Abbas has run into two problems, one external and one internal. The internal one comes from the younger Fatah commissars that are challenging Abbas' leadership and the cronyism of the older Fatah leadership Abbas represents. They point out that Abbas' actual term ran out over a year ago.

In reality, Abbas has very little real power on the ground in the Palestinian occupied areas of Judea and Samaria ( AKA the West Bank) and what power he does possess comes from his relationship with the West. In Gaza, of course, Abbas has no power whatsoever and Gaza's Hamas rulers challenge his authority to make any kind of deal with Israel - quite correctly, if one looks at the the results of the last Palestinian elections.

The external one is that Obama overestimated his leverage on Israel and underestimated the political fallout domestically in the US. With the midterms coming up and already looking grim for the Democrats, the last thing Barack Hussein Obama needs is yet another political cause to galvinize US voters to vote for the Republicans, who are seen as stronger on national security and on Israel.

Obama severely misjudged his handling of Netanyahu and Israel.

The Obama Administration's earlier unilateral trashing of the agreement under which Israel signed on to the Road Map, its de facto arms embargo on Israel, Obama's demands that Israel forbear seeking to protect it's religious shrines as part of its heritage, his demands on Jerusalem, his open courting of the Muslim world and his treatment of Israeli PM Netanyahu all combined to convince the majority of Israelis that the current regime in the White House is not to be trusted one iota. ironically, as Obama sought to weaken Netanyahu, he actually strengthened him as the majority of Israelis united behind Netanyahu's government.

The Israelis, to be blunt about it, have been here before, with Oslo and with Gaza and they are simply not inclined buy the same shoddy merchandise a third time, especially from Barack Hussein Obama.

In addition to all this, so far the Obama Administration has dropped the ball on the one major issue Netanyahu and most Israelis care most about - preventing a nuclear armed Iran.

In short, while the Israelis obviously care very much about keeping their strategic alliance with the US going, the leverage Obama now has to pressure them into unsafe or politically unpopular concessions 'for peace' are severely limited. They have no pressing need to move forward

Presented with this status quo by Obama, Abbas has belatedly realized that after the November US elections he is unlikely to get anything like the deal he might get now from Obama by appearing cooperative. It also reinforces Abbas' cachet as the West's preferred 'Palestinian' leader to the Young Guard at home that increasingly wants to take over from the old Fatah mafiosos Abbas represents.

And now we come to the third member of this troika, Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. By this time, Netanyahu can certainly be under no illusions about the basic hostility of the Obama Administration, but the realities of the situation demand skill and a certain amount of face saving from both Israel and Obama.

Picture them as two relatives who detest each other attending a family gathering who are compelled to make certain gestures to keep the peace and reach certain goals they both want.

Obama, having bumbled the Middle East peace process through his own ineptitude needs to convince the Arab world that he's capable of leaning on Israel, and at the same time he badly needed to turn the heat down on Israel for his own domestic political purposes. To do that, both practically and temperamentally (President Obama is not without a considerable ego), he needed some kind of face saving concession from the Israelis to take to Abbas to get him back to the proximity talks.

There are a great many reports out there that Netanyahu and his government made some kind of short term under the table concession on building in Jerusalem to Obama in order to allow the president to give Abbas the leverage to come back to the table. My sources tell me that it involved a moratorium of building permits for six weeks, although one source said 8 weeks and the notoriously unreliable Ha'aretz said their 'sources' told them 4 weeks. Abbas will now go to the upcoming Arab League summit, brag about how the Jews caved in to his demands and seek an Arab League endorsement of his re-entering the proximity talks.

The thaw in US-Israeli relations was immediately perceptible. When Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak went to the Pentagon last week, he was received with full military honors, a far cry from the way Netanyahu was treated.

Some observers see in this an attempt by Obama to sideline Netanyahu and bring in a Labor/Kadima coalition that would do Obama's bidding. While there's no doubt it might be Obama's intent, it once again shows that he has little or no understanding of Israeli politics.
Aside from the fact that Kadima leader Tzipi Livni and Labor's Ehud Barack have hated each other for years, Kadima and Labor simply do not have enough seats to pull a coalition government off - and in a country where President Obama's approval ratings are insingle digits, no Israeli politician is going to risk hitching himself to Obama.

What Netanyahu gets out of this I think, aside from a thawing of US-Israel relations is leverage in several matters.

While Bibi obviously does not want to appear as the unreasonable party ( and in fact, it has always been the Palestinians and not Netanyahu who have refused to begin negotiations) based on the past he he is largely skeptical of the 'Palestinians' ability to come to an agreement and keep it . And in any event, his main focus right now is not on Abbas but on Iran and its proxy allies Hezbollah and Hamas. That's where Israel's main security threats exist, and Netanyahu knows it.

As Israel gears up for strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities, Netanyahu essentially seems to be creating an implicit deal with Obama - the building halt in Judea and Samaria and continued progress in negotiations with the 'Palestinians' will continue as long as the US supports Israel's strike on Iran and not a minute longer.

Not only is this sort of bargain something Netanyahu can sell domestically to his current coalition partners, but it's one Obama would have major problems crossing him on.

Can you imagine the domestic American political feedback if Obama betrays the Israelis and leads the charge against Israel in the UN? Not only would Obama be derided for betraying an ally who took the initiative to stop Iran from going nuclear after he fumbled the ball, he would have the onus of being the one who destroying the peace process so beloved in DC as well.

All this is highly speculative, but given how little leverage Obama has on Israel and given Israel's need to deal with Iran decisively - after all, somebody has to - it seems a reasonable bet.

And in the end, all the players might just end up getting at least some of what they want.

We'll see more as the chess moves continue.

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8 comments:

Independent Patriot said...

The reality is, is that the only chess player in this scenerio who has no idea what they ae doing in Barack Hussein Obama, but he thinks he is the smartest one on deck. As I have said before Israel will do what she needs to do. She will freeze settlements for awhile and she may even decide to find reasons to not build in Jerusalem. Israel will decide how she will handle the Jeruslame issue in the end as she will decide how she will handle every issue in the end. What Bibi needs ot do is play everyone the way they need to be played, whether it is Obama, Abbas or the Arab League. Israel has a much more immediate problem called a nuclear Iran, than worryng about Judea and Samaria, which whether the religious zionists among us like it or not will not end up in Jewish hands in the long run anyway. Bibi needs to safe guard Israel's security right now and I trust his perception alot better than any zealot. This is stone cold calculation. This is realpolitics. Bibi knows how it is done and he will do what he must.

louielouie said...

ok.
ff has his chess pieces.
i have mine.

i can see/understand ff discussion of the dealings that are going on.
however, i simply don't understand this paragraph:

Can you imagine the domestic American political feedback if Obama betrays the Israelis and leads the charge against Israel in the UN? Not only would Obama be derided for betraying an ally who took the initiative to stop Iran from going nuclear after he fumbled the ball, he would have the onus of being the one who destroying the peace process so beloved in DC as well.

he's bankrupted the country in less than two years, i don't think hussein gives a rat's ass (no offense to rats) about american public perception, at this point. maybe before the healthcare bill that may have been true, but now i think it's a different matter entirely.
as for leading the charge against israel, hussein doesn't have to do that. he can get one of our allies to do that for him. like hugo chavez.
i'm gonna give you a sec to let that last one sink in .....................................................................
and we're back.
as for the peace process, this only kicks the can down the road again. which is just what deecee loves. the absolutely positively worst case scenario would be if peace actually did break out in the mid-east. do you realize how many envoys and experts would be out of a job overnight.
imo, i think israel needs to get rid of bibi and elect the bear joo.
IYKWIMAITYD

B.Poster said...

A US force on the borders of a demilitarized Palestinian state is impossible. The US does not have hte availiable troops right now to undertake this kind of deployment.

A NATO force, while possible, is highly unlikely. Since the US does not have the available forces for such a mission the force would have to be made up of European forces. Since the US would be unable to support this force, it is unlikely it would be very effective even if it could be deployed. Besides I think it is highly unlikely that the European governments would agree to carry out this mission.

In effect, Mr. Abbas has said he will agree to a demilitarized state IF something happens that he knows is clearly impossible. In effect, he has not agreed to a demilitarized state because the conditons needed to fulfill its creation are impossible to meet.

I understand the need of Israel to deal with an Iranian nuclear weapons program. As a result of an attack on Iran, the Iranians will likely close the strait of Hormuz. This will drive the price of oil to even higher levels than they currently are. The United States economy is already in shambles. This will make matters worse not only for the United States but for Europe. In additon, Iranian forces will likely attack Aemrica as well. Israel will likely be blamed for this. As supporters of Israel, how do we handle this? How does Israel counter this?

The reason I ask this is because you seem to indicate tha Mr. Obama will face problems when he goes to the UN to get a resolutions condemning Israel for dealing with the Iranian nuclear program.

Freedom Fighter said...

Hello, IP, I agree that Iran is what is mainly on Bibi's mind right now. That's why I think he made this particular deal.

Don't be surprised if Israel does end up with a large chunk of Judea and Samaria, however.

The Pals will not agree to any kind of reasonable settlement because they can't.For years, their entire existence has been predicated on 'struggle' and revanchist rhetoric.Anyone agreeing to anything less than 'victory' would face massive discord and undoubtedly be assassinated.

It would be the end of the financial gravy train for Fatah and the PLO, because they would have to agree to end the conflict.

And once that happens, the 'Palestinians' would fragment even more. Aside from Jew hatred and a shared feeling of victimization, there is nothing holding this diverse group of Arabs together and no foundation to build a country.

Hi Louie
Not to be overly corrective bro, but BHO would not be able to vote present in the event of games at the UN over an Israeli strike.

The US has the UN veto. Failing to use it if the UN comes up with some ridiculous resolution would be perceived as a massive sell out of Israel, predicate an end to the 'peace process' if I'm right and be an admission of personal failure, which I don't think he wants strictly from an egotistical standpoint.

We'll see.

Hi Poster ,

"As a result of an attack on Iran, the Iranians will likely close the strait of Hormuz. This will drive the price of oil to even higher levels than they currently are. The United States economy is already in shambles. This will make matters worse not only for the United States but for Europe. In addition, Iranian forces will likely attack Aemrica as well. Israel will likely be blamed for this. As supporters of Israel, how do we handle this? How does Israel counter this?"

I don't think any of this is likely. The US Navy patrols the Straits and would likely sink any Iranian vessels trying to block it. We've done it before.

I also don't see Iranian forces openly attacking America!

They'd be more likely to use their proxies for terrorist attacks on US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan...if that.

And yes, some people would blame Israel for defending themselves..that's certainly nothing new!But the majority of Americans understand the Iranian threat and would be saying 'about time' IMO.

Regards,
Rob

B.Poster said...

You write: "I don't think this is likley the US Navy patrols the straits and would likely sink any Iranian vessesl trying to block it."

I would hope the United Staes Navy would try to prevnet Iran from blocking the straits, however, Iran has a very formidable Navy that features anti-ship weapons. As such, in any engagement there will be massive American casualties. If I'm aware of this, the President no doubt it as well. How many personnel are on a battle ship? In such an engagement, we will lose at least one ship and probably more with all hands lost. Also, there are the geo political ramifications of sinking an Iranian vessel. As it stands right now, its a given that the world community will side with Iran in this instance. If we engage the Iranian Navy and sink one of their ships, the term "Phyric victory" seems to apply here. While we might be able to sink the ship, we will lose ships of our own with all hands lost. Anti-Americanism will spread exponentially. The price of oil will rise because of "uncertainty". In additon, there will likely be boycotts of American products and services around the world. The American economy is alrady in shambles. This will make matters worse.

Finally, even if you solve all of these problems, Russia and China are Iran's amjor backers. They are not going to sit around while the United States sinks an Iranian war ship. How do you propose we handle Russia and China when they get involved militarily?

You write: "I don't see Iranian forces openly attacking America!" Why not? They've been salivating at the prospect for decades. This gives them the perfect excuse. With our messed up immigration policies and porous borders the necessary Iranian forces along with the necessary equipment are probably already in America. The end resulf of an attack by Israel or the US of an attack on Iran will be the detonation of multiple "dirty bombs" and perhaps suit case sized nuclear weapons in American major metropolitan areas. The minimum casualties will be in the thousands. American casualties will probably be in the tens of thousands and may reach into the millions. This will give Iran a HUGE boost internationally. The standard reporting on this will be "America had it coming" or something to this effect. The Iranians alos know the Russia and China will back them. This makes them relatively safe from a major American retalation on civilian targets.

While I would certainly understand and support Israel's need to defend itself, in fact I would expect them to regardless of how it affects America. Nevertheless, I've explained how any kind of attack on Iran by either Aemrica or Israel would be absolutely devestating for America.

Finally, rather than patroling hte straits of Hormuz a much better use of Aemrican Naval forces would be patrolling the Carribean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the American Coasts. Already Islamic terrorists and their supporters are operating in the Carribean to smuggle weapons and other military assets into Socth and Central America. With our current deployment we are not in a good position to interdict any of this.

As has been recently demonstrated, off shore drilling carries with it signicant risks. The costs are also enoromous, as well. A much better approach would be to open the Bakken Formation in Montana, South Dakota, and North Dakotoa for drilling. This is much safer, less expensive, and has more reserves than current off shore drilling. In addition to this, build more refineries. In time, this will give us some leverage should Iran or someone else decide to close the Straits. In any event, it is far superior to any of our current strategies.

Freedom Fighter said...

Hi Poster,
Iran's navy has few capital ships and mainly consists of patrol boats.For the US Navy to destroy it utterly would be an easy matter.

Check Janes'.

Also, Iran doesn't have a nukes or 'dirty bombs' at the moment, and in any event an attack on US soil clearly linked to Iran would result in the death of millions of Iranians and the overthrow of the regime.

They're not that stupid.

I can't imagine why you have such a jaundiced view of the capabilities of the US military!

Regards,
Rob

B.Poster said...

It's not that I have a jaundiced view of the American military. It is certainly very capable, however, its capabilities, while formidable, are limited. Also, I don't underestimate the capabilities of America's enemies or potential enemies.

With regards to Iran's Navy I'm not sure you are accounting for Iran's submarine fleet. Also, Iran's anti-ship weapons need to be accounted for. I do suspect as long as the fight stays between the US and Iran the US would win, however, I think we would lose some warships and American Naval casualties would be massive.

I'm not sure I would trust intellegence that Iran does not have dirty bombs. Relatively speaking they are not hard to manufacture. Also, I suspect there are plenty of people and nations who would be willing to supply such weapons to them. Specifically the Russians and the Chinese likely would. If they need to they can claim that certain elements outside of the control of the central government did it.

They may not even need dirty bombs or suit case nuclear weapons. Simply carry out hundreds of attacks like the Times Square attempt you wrote about. With the proper signal these could probably be carried out simultaneously. If these are carried out in high populaton areas at the appropiate time, thousands could die. In any event, given the ease of manufacture of dirty bombs, I would not be so quick to assume they don't have these.

Even if you are right about Iran in every way and I'm wrong, if we attempt to remove the Iranian regime or attack Iran, the Russians and the Chinese are unlikely to stand by and let us do this. They have to much invested in it. In other words, we are going to find ourselves in yet another multi front war this time with Russian and China.

How do we counter Russia and China, especially Russia? I did not see where you addressed that. If I mised it, my apologies. In that case please direct me to it.

Even we successfully over throw the regime, with whom do we replace it? As you correctly point out the "green revolution" or what ever it was called is really no better than the current regime. I'm deeply concerned that some well meaning Westerners could end up supporting a bitter enemy!!

If we kill "million of Iranians" how do we explain this in the world press? Remember the majority of the world DOES NOT support our position and will likely view an American attack on Iran as "naked agression" or an Iranain attack on America as "justified" or America "had it coming." Also, get ready for boycotts against Aemrican goods and servies, as well. This would further wreck an already devestated economy.

Please understand I do not agree with the position the world will take on this. We will need to counter it. How do you propose we presnet our positon to the world?

Finally you are correct the Iranains are not stupid. They have Russia and China backing them. Again, how do we counter this?

Freedom Fighter said...

Hello Poster,
The Iranian submarine fleet consists of antiquated Soviet vessels. Again, check Janes'.

Iran has no real air force, and in a modern war control of the air is everything.Take out Iran's gasoline refineries and facilities and the Republican Guard would have to walk to wherever they wanted to go...without the support of armor or artillery.

You also assume that Iran would attack the US mainland directly, which I disagree with. They're crazy but not that crazy.

Neither Russia or China is going to get into a shooting war over Iran with the US.

The relationship in both cases is essentially commercial.Do you think the Chinese are going to piss away $800 billion dollars ( not to mention all the money they make from imports to America) to fight for the Mullahs? I don't.

As for the 'world position' the biggest problem we would have is with our apologetic President, Barack Obama. I wouldn't put it past him to bend over and say 'thank you sir, may I have another' if there was a direct strike on the US. The Arabs would be tickled pink to see Iran off the table as a threat, and so would the EU ( they need the Persian Gulf oil desperately). Also, we have a UN veto.

However, politics being what it is, even Obama would likely have to come up with a forceful response if Iran attacked us, even if it were just our positions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Congress and the American people would demand it.

Regards,
Rob