US President Barack Obama screwed Israel on the UN Security Council Resolution that blamed Israeli settlements solely for the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Granted, Secretary John Kerry has tried to take out some of the sting, but the fact remains Professor Obama presented his damning thesis - 'if only the Israelis had halted the settlements we would have reached an historic peace accord and today the Palestinians and Israelis would be living happily ever after'. This is patently false and does not stand up to a fair and balanced examination of what has transpired since Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat signed the Oslo Agreement on the White House lawn in 1993.
Even British Prime Minister Theresa May, after her ambassador voted for the resolution, has had some second thoughts about Obama pointing the finger solely at Israel. A spokesman for May issued this official statement:
"We do not believe that the way to negotiate peace is by focusing on only one issue, in this case the construction of settlements, when clearly the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians is so deeply complex. And we do not believe that it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically-elected government of an ally. The (British) government believes that negotiations will only succeed when they are conducted between the two parties, supported by the international community. The British government continues to believe that the only way to a lasting peace in the Middle East is through a two-state solution. We continue to believe that the construction of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian territories is illegal, which is why we supported UNSC Resolution 2334 last week. But we are also clear that the settlements are far from the only problem in this conflict In particular, the people of Israel deserve to live free from the threat of terrorism, with which they have had to cope for too long."
The British leader's pertinent points were more relevant than Secretary Kerry's regurgitation of former US President's Bill Clinton's two-state peace plan. The only thing Kerry forgot was that Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Barak accepted it, whereas Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat packed his bags and went home without even giving a reply.
Arafat reportedly said at the time: 'The Palestinians will kill me if I accept the Clinton plan!' Arafat was speaking literally. And more recently, Bill Clinton said: 'I killed myself for the Palestinians at Camp David!' (But Arafat would not sign on the dotted line.)
And what has been the role of the relentless Palestinian terror that has murdered and maimed thousands of Israeli men, women and children since the signing of the Oslo accord that in effect pointed the way to a two-state solution? It has continued unabated from the West Bank and included three mini-wars triggered by Hamas in Gaza by the massive rocketing of Israeli civilians. The truth is the Palestinians could have had their state years ago, but that they chose to continue the terrorism, even when faced with peace offerings from no less than four Israeli Prime Ministers: Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert over a period of sixteen years. (Even super hawk Arik Sharon evacuated all of the Gaza Strip, hook-line-and-sinker.
But how did Hamas react? Rather than parlaying it into of peaceful co-existence with Israel and an example for a future Israeli pull-out from the West Bank, they chose to do the opposite. Ask yourself, why? Because Hamas, the most dominant player in the Palestinian camp, including some million descendants of Palestinian refugees in camps around the Middle East, call for wiping out of the Jewish state. Therefore they turned Gaza into a launching pad for rocketing Israeli civilians across the border and cemented their ties with Iran.
Kerry's comments will go down as foot-notes to his boss's thesis. Now Mr. Kerry is an honorable man, but can anyone seriously believe that such global powers such as Malaysia, Venezuela, New Zealand and Senegal, would have tabled such a damning resolution without getting the green light from Washington? Moreover, Kerry contended that his 'good conscience' balked at blocking the settlements' resolution. At the same time, this 'good conscience' did not hesitate to mugging Israel in one of the UN's darkest alleys, the Security Council.
But if Obama screwed Israel, Bibi also screwed up. And that is because Israel's leader has blinders on that let him see only his popularity among Far Right Israelis - they block out the rest of the world. He let himself be pulled along to passage of the ill-considered law that would legalize all illegal Israeli building on private Arab land. This march of folly enabled passage of the UN resolution which outlawed all West Bank settlements including Jerusalem. It turned out to be a political boomerang that deserves a small chapter in the late Barbara Tuchman's memorable book. A blustering Bibi had ambassadors coming and going to vent his outrage. But Cabinet Minister, Naftali Bennett leader of the Jewish Home party is undaunted. On the contrary, the settlement champion is gung ho for annexing the Israeli town of Maale Adumim near Jerusalem on the West Bank. But wisely he will officially propose it only after President elect Donald Trump is sworn in on January 20th. Settlement supporters both in and out of the government are now singing 'Happy Days are Here Again!' while they can barely wait until Trump takes office. However Cabinet Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, who is very close to the Prime Minister, has retorted that the Likud opposes such a move, adding that it would a disaster for Israel. Maybe Bibi and his Likud Party are starting to wise up.
But Netanyahu is now facing a full blown criminal investigation similar to the inquiry landed former Prime Minister Ehud in the slammer - the accepting of undeclared bundles of cash. Bibi has repeatedly denied any wrong doing: 'There is nothing to the allegations and nothing will emerge from the investigation!' However the Attorney General Avihai Mendelblit, Bibi's former right hand man in the Cabinet, decided there were grounds to order the police inquiry that will include an interrogation of the prime minister.
Meanwhile a Channel 10 opinion poll shows that Netanyahu's Likud party has slid in popularity. It revealed that Yair Lapid's 'There is a Future Party' is now leading the pack and would take 27 seats in the 120-member Knesset. Bibi's Likud has fallen close behind with only 23. However the Right wing could still muster a majority if a general election were held today.
In another development, an intriguing politician has now joined the Zionist Union (Labor) party after recently quitting the government coalition. Avi Gabai resigned from the cabinet after Bibi suddenly fired the highly respected IDF former Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon, a move that shocked the country. Bibi did so in order to appoint Avigdor Lieberman, who has absolutely no defense background, in order to increase his razor thin majority in the coalition. At the time, Gabai charged that it was another example of Bibi's irresponsible leadership that he could no longer stomach. The point is that Gabai has not only a sterling record as a super manager, he is also a Mizrachi Jew and could draw many Mizrachi voters to support Labor next time. Gabai, who comes across as a straight shooter, rose to prominence from very humble beginnings. It's still early days, but Gabai may have what it takes to become party leader. That latest public opinion poll indicates that current leader Yitzhak Herzog has lead the party to an abysmal number of seats.
So year 2016 has ended with the fallout from that disastrous UN Resolution on settlements, the Far Right calling to annex part of the West Bank while the Likud opposes such a step, Bibi now under criminal investigation for fraud, Yair Lapid leading Bibi in the latest opinion poll, and a new Mizrachi candidate, Avi Gabai, who could be a big hit in Labor.