An excellent meeting
Two statesmen met in Washington on Tuesday who are looking smaller and smaller, who are taking smaller and smaller steps.
By Gideon Levy
The masked ball is at its peak: Preening each other, Obama and Netanyahu have proved that even their heavy layer of makeup can no longer hide the wrinkles. The worn-out, wizened old face of the longest “peace process” in history has been awarded another surprising and incomprehensible extention. It’s on its way nowhere.
The “warm” and “sympathetic” reception, albeit a little forced, including the presidential dog, Bo, the meeting of the wives, with the U.S. president accompanying the Israeli prime minister to the car in an “unprecedented” way, as the press enthused, cannot obscure reality. The reality is that Israel has again managed to fool not only America, but even its most promising president in years.
It was enough to listen to the joint press conference to understand, or better yet, not understand, where we are headed. Will the freeze continue? Obama and Netanyahu squirmed, formulated and obfuscated, and no clear answer was forthcoming. If there was a time when people marveled at Henry Kissinger’s “constructive ambiguity,” now we have destructive ambiguity. Even when it came to the minimum move of a construction freeze, without which there is no proof of serious intent on Israel’s part, the two leaders threw up a smoke screen. A cowardly yes-and-no by both.
More than anything, the meeting proved that the criminal waste of time will go on. A year and a half has passed since the two took office, and almost nothing has changed except lip service to the freeze. A few lifted roadblocks here, a little less blockade of Gaza there – all relatively marginal matters, a bogus substitute for a bold jump over the abyss, without which nothing will move.
When direct talks become a goal, without anyone having a clue what Israel’s position is – a strange negotiation in which everyone knows what the Palestinians want and no one knows for sure what Israel wants – the wheel not only does not go forward, it goes backward. There are plenty of excuses and explanations: Obama has the congressional elections ahead of him, so he mustn’t make Netanyahu angry.
After that, the footfalls of the presidential elections can be heard, and then he certainly must not anger the Jews. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is pressuring Netanyahu now; tomorrow it might be Likud MK Danny Danon, and after all, you can’t expect Netanyahu to commit political suicide. And there you have it, his term in office is over, with no achievements. Good for you, Obama; bravo Netanyahu. You managed to make a mockery of each other, and together, of us all.
Netanyahu will be coming back to Israel over the weekend, adorned with false accomplishments. The settlers will mark a major achievement. Even if they don’t not admit it – they are never satisfied, after all – they can rejoice secretly. Their project will continue to prosper. If they have doubled their numbers since the Oslo Accords, now they can triple them.
And then what? Here then is a question for Obama and Netanyahu: Where to? No playing for time can blur the question. Where are they headed? What will improve in another year? What will be more promising in another two years? The Syrian president is knocking at the door begging for peace with Israel, and the two leaders are ignoring him. Will he still be knocking in two years? The Arab League’s initiative is still valid; terror has almost ceased. What will the situation be after they have finished compromising over the freeze in construction of balconies and ritual baths?
Two statesmen met in Washington on Tuesday who are looking smaller and smaller, who are taking smaller and smaller steps. They have decided not to decide, which in itself is a decision. When the chance of a two-state solution has long since entered injury time, they have decided on more extra time. Get ready for the binational state, or the next round of bloodletting.