Thursday, February 5, 2009

Netanyahu will signal the come-back of the Neocons with a different name, and will shut the door on peace...

Netanyahu will signal the come-back of the Neocons with a different name, and will shut the door on peace...

Pundits and polls predict that Benjamin Netanyahu will be Israel’s next prime minister. We’ll have to wait until Israelis cast their ballots on February 10 to see if the tea leaves are right.

On Saturday, the slick-talking leader of the centre-right Likud party was five points ahead of his main rival, Israel’s current foreign minister Tzipi Livni. But nothing’s in the bag as 30 percent of Israeli voters remain undecided.

Provided Netanyahu is chosen and manages to form a coalition government with Labour, Yisrael Beiteinu or Shas, any hopes for Middle East peace that were recently revived by America’s new listening White House will be dashed. Choosing Netanyahu translates to Israelis choosing aggression and expansion albeit shrouded in the faux mantle of ‘security.’ In a nutshell, this former commando turned politician is bad news.

Articulate, US-educated and ruthless, Netanyahu knows how to charm the Western media and is a favoured guest of Fox News. In the past, he has rejected a two-state solution and has recently indicated he will allow the natural expansion of Jewish colonies on the West Bank while infusing the economy there. In other words, he wants to improve the economic status of Palestinian residents of the West Bank in return for killing their aspirations towards self-determination.

In 2005, he campaigned strongly against Israel’s pullout from Gaza describing it as “evil” and warning that Gaza would become “a huge base for terror” that would attract Al Qaida.

“Don’t give them guns. Don’t give them rockets. Don’t give them a seaport. Don’t give them an airport,” he told Knesset members.

And while the world largely condemns Israel for its recent disproportionate response to Hamas rockets, Netanyahu, who coined the term “Hamastan,” says “I’m sorry to say we haven’t gotten the job done and the next government will have no choice but to finish the job and uproot the Iranian terror base.”

His goal is to topple Hamas.

“Hamas, a terrorist organisation, must ultimately be removed from Gaza,” he told journalists last month. This probably implies that a Netanyahu-led government would reoccupy Gaza; a move that could suffocate any chance of peace for decades to come.

Netanyahu’s stance on the future of occupied Jerusalem is similarly intransigent. During a meeting with George W. Bush last year, he stressed that “Jerusalem belongs to the Jewish people and will remain under Israeli sovereignty for eternity.”

He has kicked a right-of-return for Palestinian refugees off the table too. In 2007, he said its removal from the agenda was a precondition to any peace negotiations.

His potential coalition partners are equally frightening. Labour party leader and Defence Minister Ehud Barak, responsible for the carnage in Gaza, is currently warning of more of the same. Avigdor Lieberman, who heads Yisrael Beiteinu, strongly opposes the peace process and has advocated the “levelling” of Iran if it continues enriching uranium.

Now that President Obama’s new Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, is in the region, Kadima-head Livni warns of “an unavoidable rift” between any Netanyahu-led government and the Obama administration. To support this contention, her campaigners are considering using excerpts from a book by Dennis Ross, titled The Missing Peace, which depicts Netanyahu as insufferable and arrogant. She’s right but she’s hardly the one to talk after suggesting that the future of her country’s Arab citizens lies elsewhere. It appears she wants to strip Israeli Arabs of their nationality before transferring them to a future Palestinian state.

Among this bad bunch Netanyahu is worst of all because his coming to power could thrust the region into another major war. At the recent Davos meet, Netanyahu claimed Iran is in a “100-yard dash” towards nuclear armaments and called for the Iranian leadership to be “neutralised.” During an interview on Israel’s Channel 2 network last Saturday, he announced his number one goal as prime minister will be to prevent Iran from producing atomic weapons. Previously, he has likened Iran to Nazi Germany warning that Israel has the military capacity to “prevent another Holocaust.” Last year, Israel Radio reported that Netanyahu had invited a receptive President Bush to join the Jewish state in a nuclear strike against Iran.

It’s time that all regional leaders saw the writing on the wall. Israelis care not a jot what the rest of the world thinks and has no serious intentions of offering land for peace. The only way to counter Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians and open threats is unity: Palestinian unity, Arab unity and regional unity.

Given this climate of Israeli brutality, Egypt and Jordan would do well to reconsider their peace agreements. At the same time, if the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayipp Erdogan is prepared to add bite to his courageous anti-Israel outburst at Davos, he could close the chapter on his country’s US-backed strategic alliance with Tel Aviv.

If by choosing Netanyahu the Israelis are saying ‘no’ to peace, then their neighbours should believe them and react accordingly. Enough paying lip service to an ever fading mirage that is being obliterated by Palestinian blood! How much longer can we go on fooling ourselves and each other?