Bibi is looking weak all over.
[Obama is pushing for an extention of the freeze and Abbas is looking for ’67 borders and Netanyahu is showing signs of caving. But more worrying, elements in the US military are turning against Israel]
Glick: Netanyahu must play for time
What this means is that Netanyahu is well placed to stand up to Obama’s pressure. If he plays his cards wisely, he can say no to Obama and avoid an open confrontation. For instance, instead of agreeing to extend the building prohibition, Netanyahu should say that he is willing to discuss that demand in face-to-face negotiations with Abbas. Rather than agree to Abbas’s preconditions, Netanyahu should say that he is willing to listen to Abbas’s position in face-to-face negotiations. And so on and so forth. Such statements by Netanyahu will take the pressure for making concessions off him and put Obama and Abbas on the spot.
Even more importantly, it will buy Israel time.
And buying time should be Israel’s chief goal with respect to Washington today. Since taking office, Obama has repeatedly demonstrated that he will not reconsider his fundamentally hostile view of Israel. Obama’s basic belief that Israel’s strength and size are to blame for all the violence and radicalism in the Arab world is not subject to change, regardless of how clearly and continuously events on the ground prove it wrong.
EVEN WORSE for Israel, Obama is not alone in this view. Indeed, as a report in Foreign Policy this week makes clear, Obama’s position on Israel is moderate when compared to the positions being staked out in influential policy circles in the US military.
On Wednesday, Foreign Policy published the content of a memo written last month in the US Military’s Central Command. The memo, a “Red Team” assessment of how the US should position itself vis-à-vis the likes of Hamas and Hizbullah, reveals that among key members of the US policy-making community, Israel is viewed with extreme hostility.
The leaked memo reportedly reflects the views of a significant number of senior and mid-level officers in Centcom, including large numbers of intelligence officers, as well as a significant number of area analysts stationed in the Middle East. It argues that it is wrong for the US to lump jihadist movements like Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaida and Hizbullah in one group.
Dismissing the significance of the identical religious dogma that stands at the root of these movements, the memo asserts that Hamas and Hizbullah are pragmatic and important social forces with which the US must foster good relations.
The memo calls for the US to support the integration of Hizbullah forces into the Lebanese military. It also calls for the US to encourage and permit the integration of Hamas forces into the US-trained Palestinian security forces.
As far as Israel is concerned, the memo blames the Jewish state for the US’s failure to date to adopt these recommended policies. Moreover, the memo’s authors condemn Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza as keeping “the area on the verge of a perpetual humanitarian collapse.”
The Centcom memo also condemns Israel’s July 2006 decision to respond to Hizbullah’s unprovoked bombardment of northern Israel and its unprovoked cross-border attack against an IDF patrol in which five soldiers were killed and two were kidnapped and subsequently murdered.
Denying Hizbullah’s subservient relationship with the Iranian regime, the report claims that Israel’s decision to use force to defend itself against Hizbullah’s acts of war served to strengthen Hizbullah’s ties to Teheran.
What this memo shows is that Israel has little hope of seeing a change for the better in US policy in the near future and its best bet today is to play for time. Next week at the Oval Office, Netanyahu should capitalize on his advantage four months ahead of the congressional elections and put the burden on Obama and Abbas to show their good intentions.