Barack Obama’s March 2013 trip to Israel had a too-good-to-be-true feel about it. While barely pressuring on Israel, he instructed Palestinians not to set preconditions for negotiations and admonished them to “recognize that Israel will be a Jewish state.” It felt out of character, suggesting a price to be paid later.
Well, that price has now, eight months later, been revealed and it has two components. If I might paraphrase the U.S. position: “First, sit by quietly as we reach an accord with Tehran that freezes but does not dismantle its nuclear buildup. Second, stop the illegitimate residential construction on the West Bank or the Palestinian Authority will, with American acquiescence, start a third intifada.”
Israeli responses to the two demands have been stark, blunt unlike anything in memory. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu blasted the prospective Iran deal as a “monumental mistake” and after meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry warned:
Economy and Commerce Minister Naftali Bennett was even more direct, even raising the prospect of an Iranian nuclear bomb destroying New York City:
Like in a boxing match, Iran’s regime is currently on the floor. The count is just seconds away from 10. Now is the time to step up the pressure and force Iran to dismantle its nuclear program. Not to let it up. It would be dangerous to lift the sanctions and accept a deal which allows Iran to retain its entire uranium-production line. It would be dangerous because Iran would, a year, two or three from now, just turn everything back on and obtain a nuclear weapon before the world can do anything to stop it. It is not enough to shut off the centrifuges. They need to be completely dismantled. We call upon the West to avoid signing a Bad Deal.
Israel’s responsibility is to ensure the security of its citizens and that is exactly what we will do. We will never outsource our security.
On the Palestinian issue, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon took the lead:
There is no need to fear threats of whether there will or won’t be a third intifada. We have been in an open and ongoing conflict [with the Palestinians], which as far as the Palestinians are concerned does not end in 1967 lines. There is Sheikh Munis, [their name for] Tel Aviv, Majdal, [their name for] Ashkelon. We got out of the Gaza Strip and they continue to attack us. They raise their youth to believe that Haifa and Acre are Palestinian ports and more. There is no sign of compromise here. … We will have to be smart, and not fear threats of whether there will or won’t be a third intifada.
I wrote before the last presidential election that “Israel’s troubles will really begin” should Obama win second term. At Obama’s second inauguration, I predicted that he, “freed from re-election constraints, can finally express his early anti-Zionist views after a decade of political positioning. Watch for a markedly worse tone from the second Obama administration toward the third Netanyahu government.”
That moment is now upon us.
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