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Sunday, October 2, 2011
Netanyahu Barely Bothers To Pretend To Care About Peace
Benjamin Netanyahu, acting as if he had won a big victory at the
UN last week, just keeps building new settlements.
By James Zogby
I was in elementary school and in the Boy Scouts, pupils would often be
enlisted in fund-raising drives going door-to-door in our neighbourhoods
collecting money for various charities or causes (school or church-related
projects, scouting trips, etc). Engaging in this exercise, year after year,
taught us some lessons about human behaviour.
learnt that there were those kind and generous souls who would give, and those
who would not. Among the latter, we took note of those who would simply say
"no", which was fine. But then there were those who felt the need to
make up all kinds of excuses. A line we heard all-too-often was "I already
gave at the office". This, we knew, meant the individual in question not
only would not give, but also wanted to pretend that, really, he was not cheap
knew that the "gave at the office" line was a fabrication, since the
charities for which we were raising funds did not collect at offices but relied
on our door-to-door solicitations. Because the lie was so overused, it entered
everyday language to signify a transparently false excuse.
was reminded of how annoying this was this week as I read an interview with
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in The Jerusalem Post. At one point,
the interviewer pressed Mr Netanyahu on whether or not he would consider a new
"settlement freeze" to help to restart peace negotiations with the
Palestinians. Mr Netanyahu's response was short, but telling: "I think we
already gave at the office."
first, I became angry as I recalled my disingenuous and dismissive neighbours
trying to put me off by using this trite lie. And then, I thought, how
interesting that this prime minister, who prides himself on his debating
skills, could make such an obvious mistake.
I wondered whether Mr Netanyahu actually misspoke. Maybe he really meant:
"I've been getting away with this ruse for years, so go away and leave me
be. I didn't give before and won't give this time either."
the rest of the interview, Mr Netanyahu told why he would continue to build
where, when and how he pleased. Given recent events, he clearly feels
emboldened to continue this way. Shortly after he returned from the UN
stand-off over recognition of a Palestinian state, Israel moved forward on
1,100 new housing units in Gilo, a settlement on confiscated West Bank land
that Israel illegally annexed to Jerusalem.
Netanyahu returned from New York believing that he had won a great victory. He
had helped to manufacture a crisis mood in Israel over Palestinian statehood by
warning that a UN vote would be "doomsday". And, having trumped up a
phoney crisis and survived, Mr Netanyahu considered himself to be a conquering
is true to form for Mr Netanyahu's record, which shows a pattern of outright
deception accompanied by triumphalism. In his first term as prime minister in
the 1990s, his platform promised to end the Oslo peace process. After he was
forced by Bill Clinton, then the US president, to sign the Wye River Memorandum
with the Palestinians, he refused to implement the same agreements.
has consistently betrayed his "allies" in Washington, again crossing
Mr Clinton when he destroyed Jabal Abul Ghanaim, the last green hill between Bethlehem
and Jerusalem, which is now the site of Har Homa, a town of 18,000 settlers.
All those settlements the US once called illegitimate - and the EU called
illegal - are now "accepted realities" in the language of both the US
and the EU. Remember the "outposts" that Israel promised to
dismantle? They now have been linked to the rail network and utility grids.
Mr Netanyahu's second term as prime minister, with a new US president warning
against settlements, he again pretended to agree. Then, with support in the US
Congress, he stood up to President Barack Obama on his home ground.
US Congress is eating out of his hand, Republican presidential candidates are
attacking Mr Obama and in an election year the Americans appear to believe that
they have no choice but to support Israel. And if this were not enough, Mr
Netanyahu just defied the entire United Nations.
record is one of arrogance and transparent duplicity. After decades of
peacemaking efforts, Mr Netanyahu has effectively ended the peace process, as
Mr Clinton said late last month. But, as troubling as Mr Netanyahu's behaviour
is, deeply dysfunctional US politics are enabling this obvious liar.
Netanyahu did not "give at the office" or anywhere else. He has been
playing the Americans for fools for decades. The longer this goes on, the
dimmer the prospects for peace and the weaker the United States looks in the
eyes of the world.
-This commentary was published in The National on 02/10/2011 -James Zogby is the president of the
Arab American Institute