US Trip Bolsters Netanyahu’s Popularity



by Stephen Lendman

A previous article called “Netanyahu’s Government Israel’s Worst Ever“, accessed through the following link:

Allied with Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu and ultra-Orthodox Shas, extremist partners, their coalition Knesset is hardline, racist and lawless, co-opting weak opposition members to go along most often to get along.

As a result, Israelis, Palestinians and regional Arabs suffer from policies endorsing belligerence, occupation and repression, a combination spurning democratic values and peace, let alone a viable independent Palestine.

Yet following his US trip, Netanyahu’s perhaps more popular than ever according to a new Haaretz/Dialog poll. It found:

  • 47% of Israelis called his visit successful compared to 10% saying he failed;

  • around half of Israelis felt “pride,” compared to 5% calling his congressional address a “missed opportunity;” and

  • most Israelis don’t think he hurt ties with America; 27% said they improved, only 13% saw them weaker, and around half see no change.

According to Haaretz writer Yossi Verter, weeks earlier “Netanyahu seemed to be in hot water (with) 38 percent expressing satisfaction with his performance and 53 percent disappointed with it….”

New poll results reversed the numbers, his bump exceeding Obama’s after staging bin Laden’s alleged killing, one now largely eroded, suggesting Netanyahu’s gain may also be short-lived. Voters always want to know what officials have done for them lately, especially on pocket book issues, Verter saying:

“It would be worthwhile for Netanyahu to savor this week and enjoy the weekend. These numbers are exceptional, and it’s unlikely they will hold up over time.” Middle East uprisings, in fact, don’t “give its leaders (much) to celebrate,” nor should Netanyahu crow after harsh criticism, including in Haaretz op-eds.

Ari Shavit said his “peace stance is running Israel into a wall, (offering) no gesture, no generosity, (and) no peace plan.”

Gideon Levy believes he’s “relegated himself to the footnotes of history,” calling the “speech of his life,” his “political demise,” revealing him to be a “man of yesterday, frozen and rigid, uncompromising, deaf to the sounds of his surroundings and blind to the changing times.”

Carlo Strenger called his “win” Israel’s “loss,” saying the only winners were the media, getting lots to write about, and Netanyahu buying more time.

In contrast, Palestinians got “further evidence that there is no use in negotiating with (his) right-wing government,” dictating unacceptable terms. As a result, “Israelis will have to pay the price.” So will Palestinians and peace advocates.

New York Times writer Ethan Bronner said he dashed hopes for advancing peace negotiations, leaving Palestinians no choice but to intensify efforts for full UN September membership recognition. Israeli commentators expressed similar views, including former Shin Bet head Avi Dichter saying:

“My fear is that (his AIPAC and congressional speeches left) Palestinians with a closed door. It is impossible that in the present reality in the Middle East and here between the sea and the Jordan River we have no next step.”

According to Maariv newspaper writer Ben Caspit:

“Those who are scared of peace….got their wish. Those who are scared of war will (now) be a lot more scared…”

Despite Netanyahu’s intransigency, Egypt agreed to open Gaza’s border, according to its MENA news agency, saying:

Beginning May 28, Rafah’s border crossing will open permanently (for the first time since June 2007) from 9AM – 9PM daily except Fridays and holidays “to end the status of the Palestinian division and achieve national reconciliation.”

Egypt’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Minha Bakhoum said:

“This comes in the context of the decision taken by the new Egyptian government to help end the disunity between Palestinian factions, in the absence of any resolution to the Israeli – Palestinian conflict.”

However, restrictions exclude Palestinian men under age 40 from leaving.

Those who can include:

  • women of all ages;

  • children under age 18;

  • students enrolled in Egyptian institutions of higher learning;

  • anyone passing through Egypt en route to other countries with passports and Palestinian identity cards; and

  • men over 40.

In addition, those allowed between ages 18 – 40 must have Egyptian visas, currently issued in Ramallah, later also in Gaza after Egypt opens an office there.

Nonetheless, Palestinian activist Mustafa Barghouti called it a “big step forward. Hundreds of people have lost their lives because they could not get medical care in Gaza, thousands of students have lost their studies, and thousands of businesses have suffered. But the siege is not over. Construction material is still forbidden,” so rebuilding Cast Lead destruction can’t proceed.

Hamas spokesman Taher Al-Nono called it “an important move for the entry and exit of Palestinian citizens, and we hope it will be developed to enable the Rafah crossing to handle goods in the future.”

Opening Rafah, in fact, negates a 2005 US/EU/Israeli/Egyptian agreement for EU monitors to track crossings after Israel’s summer 2005 Gaza disengagement.

The European Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM) wasn’t asked to resume monitoring after suspending it in mid-2007. It will only do so if formally requested under terms of the 2005 agreement.

A Final Comment

University of Illinois Law Professor Francis Boyle commented on Netanyahu demanding Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state as a precondition for eventually acknowledging a Palestinian one, saying:

He made “a brand-new demand that had never surfaced before in the history of the Middle East Peace Process going all the way back” to 1978 Camp David. Of course, Obama “publicly endorsed this latest roadblock to peace that was maliciously constructed by Israel.”

He equated it to Washington demanding Iran (or any other country) recognize America as a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) state as a condition for normalizing relations, something no responsible leader would accept.

However, Boyle suggested a way Netanyahu can achieve universal diplomatic status unilaterally, explaining:

“Under basic principles of international law, every state is free to change its own name….” For example, Congo became Zaire, then Congo once again. Israel can do it also by “chang(ing) its name to Jewistan – the State of the Jews, (its) perfect new moniker” after decades of genocidal atrocities against Palestinians and Lebanese civilians.

Israel might as well make it official, “own(ing) up to its racist birthright….for the rest of the world to acknowledge,” notwithstanding its 20% Arab population.

Offering a hopeful note, however, Boyle believes Israel by any name will eventually collapse, letting diaspora Palestinians return and occupied ones free to live in peace in sovereign Palestine.

In the meantime, they should sign nothing harming their interests, and let Israel “collapse of its own racist and genocidal weight,” adding: “Good riddance!”

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