Now that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has raised his thumbs up — which also is an elevated other finger to U.S. President Barack Obama — by coming out ahead in Israel’s Byzantine election, the obvious question is what does it mean for Mideast peace? That’s an easy one: It’s not going to happen, certainly not now.
Perhaps it’s more appropriate to ask what it means for Mideast war. And that one is a lot dicier. Bibi’s explicit declaration that there will not be a Palestinian state on his watch definitely knocks the legs out from under any pretense of negotiation versus an eventual resumption of hostilities. And his open racism against Arab Israelis to get out the bigot vote certainly will not endear him to the other side.
Of course, like treacherous politicians in this country, once elected, he immediately “walked back” on his no-Palestinian-state pledge in various U.S. TV interviews. That’s a nice way of saying he’s breaking his demagogic promise now that he got elected. President Obama isn’t buying it, saying his administration will re-evaluate its diplomatic policy of blindly protecting Israel. So the damage is done.
As for any deal Obama and his European counterparts reach with Iran aimed at slowing and eventually stopping that country’s race to become a nuclear state, Netanyahu certainly is emboldened by his obstructionist success to continue his saber rattling (and maybe saber using) if a deal is actually achieved — a big “if,” by the way.
In Washington, the Likud West party members, also known as the Republicans, are celebrating, as their guy in Jerusalem was elected due in no small measure to his rousing appearance before the U.S. Knesset — oh, excuse me, Congress. Apparently, that not only achieved a campaign boost for him, but also one for them in their campaign to totally discredit the president of the United States.
Of course, Likud West has gone on to bigger things with that letter signed by 47 of its senators basically telling the Iranians that any deal they strike with Mr. Obama won’t be worth the paper it’s written on when he departs the White House two years hence.
That would assume that one of the party’s own takes the election here, and that he’d actually move to back out of the bargain and renege on an agreement that included most major allies of the United States, as well as some fairly important non-allies, like Russia and China.
Their plan goes kablooie, of course, if Hillary Clinton succeeds the Obama administration. Presumably, she’d inform the other powers that she and her team would continue to stick with the agreement.
But for now the spotlight is on Israel and a backtracking but re-elected Bibi. Although I share the opinion that we have a strategic, and more importantly, moral obligation to protect Israel, we also have a similar interest in trying to tamp down the tensions in that incredibly volatile part of the world and resist the excesses from all sides, including the Israel hard-liners.
Even with his election victory, Benjamin Netanyahu will have to deal with Barack Obama for the rest of the Obama term, and a lot can happen in two years.
© 2015 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Synd.