by Arliene Kushner
The ambivalence about where Netanyahu is headed is quite pervasive. His signals are not clear. As someone knowledgeable I spoke to said, "He's dancing between the raindrops." That is, there is no clearly defined, straight-ahead policy. There is, rather, an attempt to keep from getting "wet," which leads to a zig towards the left and a zag towards the right.
Analysts' columns are replete with the suggestion that there is a "new Netanyahu." This new one, if he exists, would not, at least from my perspective, be an improvement on the old one.
Carolyn Glick spoke about this in her column last Friday. She cited him as having said in Washington:
"I have been making the case for Israel all my life. But I did not come here to win an argument. I came here to forge a peace...."
Uh oh. Glick suggests that if he means what he is saying, we should be very worried.
But then, in his defense, she noted that he also said, "We left Lebanon, we got terror. We left Gaza, we got terror...a defensible peace requires security arrangements that withstand the test of time."
Will the real Binyamin Netanyahu please stand up. Is there a "real" one?
And it's not only we "common folk" who are in the dark, Silvan Shalom (Likud), who is a deputy prime minister, as well as minister of regional cooperation, complained a couple of days ago that the prime minister is not properly informing his cabinet of what has been said in meetings with Obama and Abbas.
Not a comforting thought. Leads one to suspect that Netanyahu is playing it close to his chest because he assumes his cabinet wouldn't like what he has to say.
In the midst of all of this, a situation has arisen that involves Netanyahu only peripherally. A situation of potentially enormous import:
Last week, Defense Minister (and sometimes de facto foreign minister) Ehud Barak gave an interview to Ari Shavit in Haaretz that caused quite a stir.
According to a misleading Haaretz headline, which was repeated in many venues, Barak revealed that "Israel ready to cede parts of Jerusalem in peace deal."
That's not exactly the case, however, when one reads the interview. (This is a signal lesson on how not to take headlines at their word.) Barak, of course, would be perfectly happy to see us cede parts of Jerusalem. Actually, he attempted to do so himself in 2000, when he made such an offer to Arafat and was spurned. And so, we must begin by remembering that Barak speaks for himself and his own political predilection and not for the government.
Shavit actually wrote that Barak, until Netanyahu took off for Washington, had been attempting to convince him to "cross the Rubicon," and move towards a settlement. But, Barak didn't know if he succeeded or not. And so, he could not have been speaking for the government.
In the course of the interview, Barak indicated that he thought amazing changes were underway that made peace more likely now: "I'm not saying that there is a certainty for success, but there is a chance. This chance must be exploited to the fullest."
OK. He may believe this. Or at least want to promote this perspective.
Barak was then asked what he believed a deal would look like. (What he believed.) He mentioned many aspects including a solution for Jerusalem.
When asked what this solution would look like, he responded:
"West Jerusalem and 12 Jewish neighborhoods that are home to 200,000 residents will be ours. The Arab neighborhoods in which close to a quarter million Palestinians live will be theirs. There will be a special regime in place along with agreed upon arrangements in the Old City, the Mount of Olives and the City of David."
This sets bells clanging, even as we remind ourselves that Barak may have been speaking only for himself and what he believes.
The troublesome part of this is the silence that followed. There was no denial issued from the prime minister's office, as might have been expected.
That's when it's possible to start asking if Barak spoke with Netanyahu's sanction, and if this is a trial balloon.
It could be. But we still don't know.
My gut tells me that precisely because Netanyahu is a political animal first, this is not an issue he would be inclined to go out on a limb for now. It is the single issue that would be most likely to bring his government down, as the Likud platform is for a united Jerusalem, and the positions of a solid percentage of his coalition, as well as of the Knesset, are opposed to a division of the city. Dividing Jerusalem is perhaps the hottest issue there is.
I've spoken to two politically savvy people who speculate that this may be a part of Netanyahu's game-playing -- similar to what I've written about in recent days: That Netanyahu saw that it fit his purposes not to issue an official denial of what Barak said, because it allowed people to believe he had shifted left (thus keeping the more leftist faction of the coalition as well as the Obama administration content or optimistic), while he, having committed to nothing, remained "clean."
It makes sense in a way, but it is in the end only speculation.
In fact, another speculation I've encountered is that this is a smoke screen, so that we'll not notice that he's preparing to give away Judea and Samaria.
In any event, we who love Israel and are determined that she not be divided -- not Jerusalem, most of all, but not Judea and Samaria either -- cannot take chances based on speculation.
And so this is the time to begin to yell. And we will not stop until we're confident that our nation and our holy city are safe. If this IS a trial balloon that Netanyahu has sent out via Barak, he has to know we will shoot it down. If he is simply allowing a misimpression to be floated for political advantage, he, and Obama, and Abbas, have to know we will not sit still for it.
After Rosh Hashana I hope to have information on the start up of a more sizeable campaign for a united Jerusalem.
Here, I want to begin with something else. I implore all of you who care to take the time to send a few messages, and to then share this with as many others as possible. Particularly is this true for those who are in Israel.
I know I've said it a hundred times before, but numbers do matter and what has to be done is that we have to create a deluge.
Below you will find a handful of names of persons of significance or power within our nation. The message is not exactly the same for each, and so I ask you to attend closely to the instructions.
As always, I beg you to keep the messages polite, short, and clear. No lengthy paragraphs. No historical reviews. Using your own words, get to the point, succinctly and graciously, and forcefully:
Jerusalem must not be divided. It would be a disaster for the Jewish nation and the Jewish people. It would represent a surrender of our heritage and our rights and would create a security risk as well. This message or a variation on it should be sent to each person below, along with the personalized words for that individual.
Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya'alon (Likud).
We have every reason to believe he is solidly with us, and we don't know what objections he's been making to Netanyahu privately. But we're not hearing his voice publicly and we need to. Please convey the message to him that he is greatly respected and that his voice is important at this time. Ask that he make a public statement regarding the necessity to keep Jerusalem united, and that he persist in sending this message publicly.
Best way to reach him is via his aide Anat: AnatT2@pmo.gov.il
Minister Without Portfolio Bennie Begin (Likud)
Same approach, same message here as for Ya'alon.
I'm advised that he reads his own e-mail: email@example.com
Minister of Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein (Likud)
Ask him to work in every way that is possible to help prevent a division of Jerusalem -- both by speaking out and what he does inside the Likud. Let him know you're counting on him.
Best to reach him via his aide Olga: firstname.lastname@example.org
MK Ze'ev Elkin (Likud), Head of the Knesset Coalition
Ask him to act in every way that is possible for him, inside the Knesset, to keep Jerusalem safe and united. Let him know that he is a man with a solid reputation and that what he does now is exceedingly important for the nation.
Contact him at: Zelkin@knesset.gov.il or by fax: 02-649-6438
Uzi Arad, National Security Advisor for PM Netanyahu (he solidly has his ear).
Implore him to use his influence to the utmost to make certain that Jerusalem remains united no matter the circumstances.
You can reach him via the e-mail for the prime minister's email@example.com (underscore after pm). Put "For Uzi Arad, National Security Advisor" in the subject line.
You can also use the fax number for the prime minister's office -- 02-670-5369 -- with a clear note at top that it is "For Uzi Arad, National Security Advisor."
Tzvi Hauser, Secretary of the Cabinet.
Ask him to convey to the prime minister and other ministers of the Cabinet the enormous distress and anger felt with regard to any suggestion that Jerusalem might be divided, and the absolute necessity to ensure that this never happens.
He can be reached using the same contact information for the prime minister's office as for Arad, above: firstname.lastname@example.org (underscore after pm) and fax number 02-670-5369, with a clear note in either case indicating that this is "For Tzvi Houser, Cabinet Secretary."
My friends, I thank you. This needs to be done quickly, before Rosh Hashana. There will be much more to do in the course of matters later.~~~~~~~~~~
Arliene Kushner is Senior Research Policy Analyst, Center for Near East Policy Research.
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