Saturday, June 13, 2009

Israelis Are Worried

Wow, it's tense over here with this Obama-Israel rift in the making. Y'all know I wrote about Obama's Cairo speech, called "A New Beginning" and the effect it had on Israelis.


Things have continued on in that vein. Public Sentiment, the great barometer of the little people, has spoken. I give you two examples:

First, this article in Time Magazine
The title- "Can Netanyahu Repair the Rift With the U.S.?" pretty much says it all. Israelis are well aware that they stand at a precipice. On one side is their sovereignty, on the other is their prosperity. Israelis receive about $10 billion of aid money from the U.S. every year (more on that below) and $7 million daily just for military use. If Netanyahu ignores Obama's demands polite requests to freeze settlement construction that aid may be jeopardized. Even though Obama did call the U.S.-Israel bond "unbreakable" in his Cairo speech, he also made it clear he won't stand for any more riff-raff. ("The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.")

The article says:
When an Israeli cabinet minister proposes that his country impose sanctions on the United States, his government is clearly in a state of distress. Pressure from the Obama Administration to freeze Israeli settlement construction and move toward a two-state peace with the Palestinians has reportedly spurred Minister-without-Portfolio Yossi Peled (who belongs to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's own Likud party) to recommended that Israel shop outside the U.S. for aircraft and military hardware, sell sensitive technology to clients disapproved of by Washington, and invite America's rivals to play a greater role in the Middle East.
This is clearly a knee-jerk reaction and these sanctions are very unlikely to come to fruition. It's big-talk for Obama's benefit.

But Obama's loudly-proclaimed intentions have led to a more clearly defined divide among the Israeli people: those who value America's support above all else and those who are committed to settlement of the West Bank above all else.
But the issue of settlements may be a smart litmus test of Israel's intentions, because it draws a clear line between those in Israel and among its supporters abroad who support a two-state solution, and those who don't. Obama is betting the ayes have it.
Basically Obama just went ahead and put that out there, and now he's sitting back and waiting for internal strife in Israel to make Netanyahu more agreeable to a two-state solution.
Opinion polls often find a majority of Israelis willing to give up West Bank settlements in exchange for a genuine peace, and that same majority is unlikely to be willing to jeopardize Israel's relationship with the United States in order to defend the settlers' right to build on Palestinian land, a right the settlers say is based on the argument that it forms part of the Biblical Land of Israel.
Despite this trend, the status quo is a very powerful thing and it takes a lot of momentum to shift it. Obama knows this and has apparently calculated that now is the time to roll with that forward momentum.
Netanyahu pleads that his hawkish coalition will collapse if he does as Obama asks, but skeptics point out that the Prime Minister chose to ally with the far-right when he might have chosen the centrist Kadima party, which has enough seats to shore up a government committed to a two-state solution.
Ooooopsie. Wrong choice, Bibi.
And he'll also likely take down one or two outposts built without permission by Israeli zealots outside of the boundaries of their existing settlements. Such actions will provoke televised clashes between settlers and police, and make the case that Netanyahu is acting on the settlement issue (without necessarily stopping construction within the boundaries of settlements, as demanded by Washington).
So right. The government cannot, I mean literally cannot go up against any group of settlers without a violent and highly publicized reaction.

Secondly, Israel's SNL Shows us the Score:
The Israeli comedy show Eretz Nehaderet (Beautiful Country), which is similar to America's Saturday Night Live, had a skit last night commenting on the possible rift between the U.S. and Israel. Actor-comedian Tal Freedman was dressed as PM Bibi Netanyahu and hosted a parody of the show "Million Dollar Race." Only the prize amount was ten billion (the same amount as Israel receives from the U.S.) and the possible sources of the money were various other rich and powerful world countries. Contestants competed for a new sponsor for Israel.

So that basically sums up the situation over here at the moment.


I forgot about this. A week ago, journalist Max Blumenthal and Ta'ayush activist Joseph Dana published a video on youtube called "Feeling the Hate in Jerusalem" in which they interviewed drunk American Jews about Obama's upcoming speech. The speech hadn't even been made yet and everybody was all in a tizzy about what he would say. All the interviewees are basically ignorant and racist ("Who's Bibi Yahoo?") but something had to have prompted them to respond so viciously to their own president, whom, statistically speaking, they probably voted for.

No comments: