Thursday, May 14, 2009

Image Is Everything: Netanyahu vs. The New York Times

Aluf Benn notes that this time around, Netanyhau seems to have 'got it':
Perhaps we just became accustomed to him, or maybe it's his age and experience, but there is no doubt that the Netanyahu of 2009 is not the vilified and troubled prime minister of his previous term in office. He enjoys unprecedented public and international legitimacy. His critics and rivals accept his leadership and do not see him as the leader of only half the nation, as they did during his former round at the top. Even though he ran for office on a right-wing platform and came in second after Tzipi Livni, since he took office Netanyahu has been the prime minister of everyone.
But this is not just an issue of Netanyahu getting the right wing vote to make him Prime Minister. Nor is it an issue of his forming a coalition that on paper makes it appear that Netanyahu has the backing of a broad swath of Israelis.

No, it goes a lot further than that:

Members of Likud are not the only ones happy with Bibi:
The ranks of the cheerleaders are packed. Dan Meridor and Benny Begin were the first to jump on the election bandwagon, but are now silent, leaving Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak and Benjamin Ben-Eliezer to sing Netanyahu's praises. Throughout his political career, Netanyahu has never had such support. There is no doubt that he is enjoying his new status...Even the media is giving him a break.
Even the Bibi's critics--of which there have not been a few--see something different in him:
Netanyahu's critics, who used to make do with cries of "Bibi, go!" are now trying to bring him over to their side. The left is dying for him to undergo an ideological revolution, like Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon, and lead the peace camp - before he has altered even a single comma in his positions. A moderate Bibi? His maintenance of the cease-fire with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and the Yesha Council settler leaders' criticism of him for "continuing the freeze on settlement activity" only serve to bolster the still unproven belief that he has become more moderate.
In fact, this new perception of Netanyahu goes beyond the borders of Israel itself, granted that the politics of the region, and especially concern about Iran, are a good part of it:
The situation is similar in the rest of the world. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, one of the biggest rivals of the "old" Netanyahu, heads the list of foreign leaders eager to meet with him, followed by Jordan's King Abdullah. The bizarre boycott that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has imposed on Netanyahu bothers no one. Who remembers how much Netanyahu was pressured in 1996 until he agreed to meet with then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat? If the meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama next week passes without a hitch, Netanyahu will emerge as a winner and become more firmly entrenched as a consensus figure.
But that's the point, isn't it? How will this 'new' Netanyahu fare with Obama? If he is able to hold his own and not be perceived as buckling under US pressure, this will be a victory not only for the new Netanyahu, but for Israel as well.

That may explain The New York Times editorial from earlier this week. The New York Times is not about to let Netanyahu lose his right wing hawk mantle:
In his video speech to the same activist group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Mr. Netanyahu said he wants peace with the Palestinians. He even committed to negotiations “without any delay and without any preconditions.” But it rings hollow. He has resisted — and his foreign minister and unity government partner, Avigdor Lieberman, has openly derided — the two-state solution that is the only sensible basis for a lasting settlement that could anchor a regional peace. On Monday, the 15-member United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a statement endorsing the two-state solution.

Other differences also threaten next week’s meeting. One is the president’s decision to reach out to Iran, which has made Israel uneasy. Mr. Netanyahu — perhaps trying to ensure talks with the Palestinians never get anywhere — hinted that he might condition peace efforts on Mr. Obama’s success in ending Tehran’s nuclear program. [emphasis added]
If Netanyahu's words ring hollow, it is because he has not jumped on the two-state solution bandwagon that has yet to take into account and address the natural concerns when a corrupt and incompetent leadership that is less than popular with its own people takes control of land adjacent to a country
--that it does not recognize,
--against whom it has not renounced terrorism, and
--with which it has agreements that it has not kept
(not to mention having a charter that calls for the destruction of Israel)

The New York Times may very well believe that 'the two-state solution that is the only sensible basis for a lasting settlement' but in their enthusiasm to blindly cheer about the solution that will supposedly satisfy Palestinian Arabs, they never address whether the Palestinian Arabs can govern such a state--or keep it from changing into a terrorist state.

The dismissive tone the editorial takes towards Netanyahu's concerns about Iran are also indicative of the New York Times' lack of interest in Israel's security concerns.

Barry Rubin, who pointed out Benn's piece, writes about the changed Netanyahu:
It’s time for the Western media and the world in general to understand this reality. Netanyahu has moved toward the center and Israelis have become fed up with advice that their policy should be one of making concessions and getting nothing in return.
And that is the crux of the matter, is it not? At the first inkling that the pendulum may be swinging the other way, that Israel is no long content to be told to unilaterally make concessions on its security with nothing in return--the media and the world insists that Israel sign on to a poorly defined two-state solution, a solution that is geared to solves the world's problem rather than Israel's.

If Netanyahu can hold his ground next week, the world faces the uncomfortable prospect of taking a look at just how unrealistic the two-state solution is at this time.

No wonder the New York Times is on the attack.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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1 comment:

Ashan said...

Thanks, Daled! Don't forget, Bibi's predecessor was the most hated and unpopular PM in Israel's history. Suddenly, we've all forgotten about the despicable Olmert. Bibi has far more riding on his shoulders for hope and change than the Janus-faced Hussein Obama. Bibi has matured. Let's just hope that he can withstand the pressure of the evil regime in the US, stay his course and prevail. The lives of millions of Israelis depend on him.