Who says a leopard can’t change its spots? Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does it all the time, although he more resembles a belligerent jackass than a sleek leopard.
On March 16, the night before his electoral success and then on the day of the election, he announced he would, as prime minister, do all in his power to resist a two-state solution as part of a peace process – that is, an Israeli state and a Palestinian state. He would, he said, never allow a Palestinian state.
Two days after the election, he told news reporter Andrea Mitchell he is in favor of a two-state solution but that “conditions” aren’t right. He didn’t mention, of course, one of those “conditions” is him, along with his intransigent Likud party. There are newfangled euphemisms for Netanyahu’s rapid-fire about-face, his endless flip-flops: “walking it back” or “backtracking.” There’s another, more accurate name for it: “lying.”
The winding trail of Netanyahu’s political career is littered with more lies than Hansel and Gretel breadcrumbs. This is the man House Speaker John Boehner and House right-wingers invited to speak to the U.S. Congress recently in an effort to shame our president and his diplomatic efforts with Iran. Such a pathetic stunt is going to backfire sooner or later.
Netanyahu began his speech before the U.S. Congress as a virtual valentine to President Barack Obama, praising him as being such a good friend to Israel. Then, in the next breath, he proceeded to trash Obama and his diplomatic efforts with Iran, claiming any agreement would bring almost certain ruin to Israel and the world. The sky will fall! Apparently, Netanyahu’s solution to peace is for the United States to just go and nuke Iran.
Netanyahu has never been a man of peace. Through his three terms as prime minister, he has been a peace pretender most of the time. Anyone who has followed Middle-East peace processes for years, at least as regards Israel and the Palestinians, knows a two-state solution is critical if any peace can be achieved and then kept. Without that foundation, that understanding, no peace is possible. Time and again, bowing to world pressures, Netanyahu pretended to accede to the two-state solution, but every time he and his right-wing cronies dragged their feet, erected hurdles, antagonized Palestinians, used oppressive measures against their neighbors in the name of security and – again and again – kept building Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands, including the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Such settlements, more than any other factor, caused rage among Israel’s neighbors because the settlement constructions were obviously provocative. Those construction projects were and are a major roadblock to peace as several American presidents have known so well. In fact, it was settlement-building that caused the hostile rift between Obama and Netanyahu years ago.
Netanyahu is a masterful politician and, like many politicians, he has learned to dissemble, to speak out of both sides of his mouth, to make promises and then renege on those promises and – yes – to tell bold-faced lies.
To his credit, he can be very passionate and eloquent about the right of the Jewish people to be secure in their country. Like all Jews, Netanyahu is painfully aware of what happened during the Holocaust and how anti-Semitism has left such a terrible legacy of murders throughout history. And he is also right to be keenly suspicious of many of his Arab neighbors, especially when some extremists have vowed nothing less than the complete destruction of Israel. It’s too bad, though, his peace initiatives, such as they are, do not match his admirable passions.
However, his peace initiatives are hard to find. Anyone who has followed the seemingly endless negotiations for so many decades knows many times Israeli extremists like Netanyahu have undermined that process by their provocative, belligerent actions, such as building more and more settlements and in bulldozing Palestinian homes. Netanyahu has never believed in a two-state solution; he has pretended to do so, largely because he has to play along with American presidents since Israel is the recipient of billions of dollars in American aid and military resources. He and other extremists pretended to go along with steps to a peace process, like the Oslo accords, but then later they balked and reneged on those agreements.
The United States, rightfully so, is a firm friend and defender of Israel, our stalwart ally in the Middle East. It’s a crying shame America and other countries have to deal, yet again, with Netanyahu and the majority Likud party. With them in charge, peace between Israel and the Palestinians will be undermined and sabotaged repeatedly. That’s because there is a big roadblock to peace in the Middle East. Its name is Benjamin Netanyahu.