By Alan Hart
His own explanation was that he wants to avoid or minimise the prospects for an “unnecessary confrontation” with the international community, for which read President Obama and the European leaders who would follow his lead.
I think it’s more than reasonable to believe that Netanyahu was concerned, possibly even alarmed, by the explicit nature of U.S. Secretary of State Kerry’s condemnation on 6 November of Israel’s on-going colonization of the occupied West Bank.
On Israeli television he asked why Israel was continuing to build settlements when doing so was giving the Palestinians good cause to believe that Israel was not serious about peace. (Writing in The Times of Israel Raphael Ahren said Kerry’s “rhetorical onslaught” amounted to “a forceful slap in the face for Netanyahu”, a slap “the prime minister cannot have expected and one he will not quickly forget.”)
My guess is that Netanyahu concluded that there was a grave danger, for the first time ever, of Israel being blamed by the whole of the international community, including America, for the breakdown and collapse of the latest round of “peace talks”.
But his main focus was and is elsewhere – on the effort the Zionist lobby in association with its Saudi allies is now making to sabotage the prospects of Obama reaching an accommodation with Iran.
As I write Kerry is about to brief members of the Senate Banking Committee behind closed doors in the hope of persuading it not to introduce Zionist lobby dictated legislation to impose even more punitive sanctions on Iran while negotiations with it are still underway.
My guess is that Netanyahu realised that a perception of Israel not being serious about peace with the Palestinians could undercut the Zionist lobby’s effort to make an accommodation with Iran impossible.
Netanyahu must know that the stakes for the Zionist lobby have never been higher than they are today. If it succeeds in getting legislation to impose even more punitive sanctions on Iran, Obama will have a stark choice to make – either to bow to the lobby’s will (par for the post- Eisenhower American presidential course), which would mean goodbye to any hope for an accommodation with Iran, or to confront the lobby’s stooges in Congress.
Obama could do the latter, as President Eisenhower once did, by taking to the bully pulpit – going over the heads Congress and speaking directly to his fellow Americans on television and radio. Eisenhower, the first and to date the last American president to seek to contain Zionism, made best use of the bully pulpit when its lobby tried to prevent him insisting that Israel should withdraw from the Sinai without conditions after it had colluded with France and Britain in the 1956 war on Egypt.
Given that an Obama showdown with the Zionist lobby is a possibility, (not a probability), it’s worth recalling what Eisenhower said when, from the bully pulpit, he took on the Zionist lobby and won.
“Israel insists on firm guarantees as a condition to withdrawing its forces of invasion. If we agree that armed attack can properly achieve the purposes of the assailant, then I fear we will have turned back the clock of international order. We will have countenanced the use of force as a means of settling international differences and gaining national advantage… If the UN once admits that international disputes can be settled using force, then we will have destroyed the very foundation of the organization and our best hope for establishing a real world order.”
The Zionist lobby must know that if Obama defies it on Iran, his next logical step would be to use the leverage he has to require Israel to be serious about peace with the Palestinians on terms the vast majority of them could accept. (As I have noted in the past, the truth despite some of their rhetoric to the contrary is that Iran and Hezbollah will accept whatever is acceptable to the Palestinians, as will the whole of the Arab and wider Muslim world).).
Netanyahu needs the Zionist lobby and its allies including Saudi Arabia to succeed in their efforts to wreck the prospects of an American and European accommodation with Iran; and if putting further Zionist colonization of the occupied West Bank on hold assists that cause, so be it.
A few commentators expressed a degree of surprise that Netanyahu’s decision did not provoke a revolt against him by some of his neo-fascist coalition partners, especially those who favour annexing all of the West Bank. That didn’t happen because Netanyahu squared them in advance of his announcement by telling them that putting the plans for more settlements on hold was only a tactic. “It’s just another of our deceptions”. He didn’t say that as far as I know, but that was the implication of his message to the leaders of his coalition partners.