The Real Bibi Netanyahu
An older video has surfaced of Bibi Netanyahu speaking candidly about how he feels the US is little more than a puppet for him to manipulate. He wasn’t aware at the time that he was being recorded. What is it with politicians thinking that the cameras are always turned off? The video was taken in 2001 after his first stint as Prime Minister. The video is in Hebrew but it has been translated. What is notable is how much contempt he shows for the U.S. despite all the diplomatic, financial and defense assistance we provide. He also shows his contempt for President Bill Clinton and most importantly, demonstrates that he had successfully tried to undermine the peace process during his time as PM.
Here is the real Bibi Netanyahu (by the way, this video has received pretty good coverage in Israel so props to them for that) :
Meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu last week, President Obama could not have been more effusive. “I believe Prime Minister Netanyahu wants peace,” Obama said. “I believe he is ready to take risks for peace.”
A newly revealed tape of Netanyahu in 2001, being interviewed while he thinks the cameras are off, shows him in a radically different light. In it, Netanyahu dismisses American foreign policy as easy to maneuver, boasts of having derailed the Oslo accords with political trickery, and suggests that the only way to deal with the Palestinians is to “beat them up, not once but repeatedly, beat them up so it hurts so badly, until it’s unbearable” (all translations are mine).
Netanyahu is speaking to a small group of terror victims in the West Bank settlement of Ofra two years after stepping down as prime minister in 1999. He appears laid-back. After claiming that the only way to deal with the Palestinian Authority was a large-scale attack, Netanyahu was asked by one of the participants whether or not the United States would let such an attack come to fruition.
“I know what America is,” Netanyahu replied. “America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction. They won’t get in their way.” He then called former president Bill Clinton “radically pro-Palestinian,” and went on to belittle the Oslo peace accords as vulnerable to manipulation. Since the accords state that Israel would be allowed to hang on to pre-defined military zones in the West Bank, Netanyahu told his hosts that he could torpedo the accords by defining vast swaths of land as just that.
“They asked me before the election if I’d honor [the Oslo accords],” Netanyahu said. “I said I would, but … I’m going to interpret the accords in such a way that would allow me to put an end to this galloping forward to the ’67 borders. How did we do it? Nobody said what defined military zones were. Defined military zones are security zones; as far as I’m concerned, the entire Jordan Valley is a defined military zone. Go argue.”
Smiling, Netanyahu then recalled how he forced former U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher to agree to let Israel alone determine which parts of the West Bank were to be defined as military zones. “They didn’t want to give me that letter,” Netanyahu said, “so I didn’t give them the Hebron agreement [the agreement giving Hebron back to the Palestinians]. I cut the cabinet meeting short and said, ‘I’m not signing.’ Only when the letter came, during that meeting, to me and to Arafat, did I ratify the Hebron agreement. Why is this important? Because from that moment on, I de facto put an end to the Oslo accords…”
Philip Weiss has more of the translated transcript here.
Some Bibi apologists have responded by saying “that was a long time ago” but the fact is, Bibi hasn’t really changed all that much. He’s never supported a two-state solution, ever. He has never been a real partner in peace negotiations and he has no intention of giving the Palestinians even one inch of Jerusalem. He now utters the words “two states,” but most Mideast watchers admit that that was a recent development due in part to political considerations and pressure from the U.S. When we look at the behavior of the far-right Israeli government over the past year and-a-half, I think it’s fair to say that Bibi continues to treat the U.S. with a certain thinly-veiled contempt, as does his side-kick Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
The question is, why have groups like AIPAC and members of Congress sided with Bibi and against their President when its obvious that the right-wing Likud government has no interest in a two-state solution? This administration is not anti-Israel and it is shameful that groups like AIPAC, the far right Evangelicals and many American Jewish groups have been trying to sell that lie simply because the administration has tried to be more of an honest broker in the Mideast peace process. This is why nothing ever changes- because despite token repetition of the words “two state solution,” most members of Congress and so-called “pro-Israel” groups (I don’t consider them all that pro-Israel given they don’t seem to mind helping Israel run itself off the nearest cliff) really don’t mean it- every time any pressure is applied to Israel, the usual suspects push back and the process is brought to a grinding halt. Can anyone really make an honest argument that that is not EXACTLY what happened in this last round of attempts to get a peace process moving? It’s not always the fault of the Palestinians. All hell broke loose when Clinton and Obama dared to request that Israel temporarily stop building illegal settlements beyond the Green Line in Jerusalem. So here we are. The settlements are piling up and soon there won’t be any land left to fight over, a two-state solution will be impossible, Arabs will out-number Jews in Israel and Israel will continue on its current path towards becoming a state with two sets of laws, one set benefiting Jewish Israelis and one set penalizing Arab Israelis. They’ve already started down that road and thank goodness many in Israel are trying to push back against the obvious, undemocratic implications of such a system.
Gideon Levy of Haaretz wrote about the video and its implications:
This video should have been banned for broadcast to minors. This video should have been shown in every home in Israel, then sent to Washington and Ramallah. Banned for viewing by children so as not to corrupt them, and distributed around the country and the world so that everyone will know who leads the government of Israel. Channel 10 presented: The real (and deceitful ) face of Binyamin Netanyahu. Broadcast on Friday night on “This Week with Miki Rosenthal,” it was filmed secretly in 2001, during a visit by Citizen Netanyahu to the home of a bereaved family in the settlement of Ofra, and astoundingly, it has not created a stir.
The scene was both pathetic and outrageous. The last of Netanyahu’s devoted followers, who believe he is the man who will bring peace, would have immediately changed their minds. Presidents Barack Obama and Shimon Peres, who continue to maintain that Netanyahu will bring peace, would be talking differently had they seen this secretly filmed video clip. Even the objection of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to conducting direct negotiations with the man from the video would be understandable. What is there to discuss with a huckster whose sole purpose is “to give 2 percent in order to prevent 100 percent,” as his father told him, quoting his grandfather.
Israel has had many rightist leaders since Menachem Begin promised “many Elon Morehs,” but there has never been one like Netanyahu, who wants to do it by deceit, to mock America, trick the Palestinians and lead us all astray. The man in the video betrays himself in his own words as a con artist, and now he is again prime minister of Israel. Don’t try to claim that he has changed since then. Such a crooked way of thinking does not change over the years….
Anyone who is truly pro-Israel should be concerned with the direction that Netanyahu is charting for Israel. The U.S.-Israeli relationship will always be “special” and we will always be devoted to Israel’s security and that is as it should be. But the notion that to support Israel means to unquestioningly defend any Israeli government, ALL the time, irrespective of short or long-term consequences, is just flagrant stupidity. I am sorry, but it is. Such unthinking, unquestioning, knee-jerk support neither ensures Israel’s long-term security nor does it evidence the slightest bit of objective pragmatism.
I have always believed that the most patriotic people are willing to question their government and hold them to a high standard precisely because they love their country. And the notion that any criticism of Israel is de facto proof of intent to de-legitimize Israel, anti-Israel sentiment or anti-Semitism, is a undemocratic tactic being used to silence debate on the subject.