Weekly Commentary: Time for Israel to respect Bush - tell the truth
Aaron Lerner Date: 4 November 2004
Now that the American elections are behind us the time has come for Israel
to give the man who will continue to lead the free world for another four
years the credit that he deserves - and tell him the truth.
Unfortunately, it seems that ever since 9/11 our leaders here in Israel have
been so afraid that George Bush will finally take the advice of Tony Blair
and others and feed us to the wolves in order to placate the Arabs that they
simply haven't been straight with him.
And the truth is that a "sovereign Palestinian state living next to Israel
in peace" is a contradiction in terms.
Under some versions of the Oslo fantasy, democratic nation building within
the Palestinian autonomy during the interim period was to lead to the
formation of such a peace loving state.
That's "some versions" - because Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin, who felt
that a sovereign Palestinian state would be a mistake, said he wanted Oslo
to lead to an enhanced autonomy.
But instead of using the Oslo era for peaceful democratic nation building,
the Palestinian leadership - in particular the leadership imported from
Tunis - put all its efforts into poisoning the minds of the Palestinian
public, educating for hate and a rejection of Israel's very right to exist
as they introduced heavy handed corruption, violence and terror.
The damage has been done. And it can't be repaired with a photo
opportunity. There are no short cuts.
If regional stability is a necessary condition for any program of
Palestinian nation building, a rush to sovereignty is simply out of the
For the time being, the best possible expression of Palestinian freedom and
democracy is via autonomy. Autonomy that provides freedom and democratic
self-rule but not the freedom of a sovereign state to engage in actions that
may threaten its neighbors.
And what of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to retreat from the Gaza
Strip and northern Samaria to create a terror Palestinian min-state on the
It doesn't matter now if Sharon's full court press to get Knesset approval
of his disengagement plan before the American elections was solely at the
prime minister's own initiative or the implementation of Karl Rove's
marching orders to give his candidate a last minute boost. With the
elections over it is not too late to put the retreat genie back in the
Yes, Sharon promised Bush he was determined to implement the retreat - but
he didn't promise to stifle the democratic process. And if the People of
Israel reject retreat at the ballot box, Mr. Bush would be the last to
challenge their right to democratically determine their nation's fate.
Will Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stick to his guns and press next week for a
referendum on retreat?
Israeli ministers Livnat and Katz have rushed to justify their decisions to
put their desire to retain their ministerial portfolios over what they
themselves consider to be critical national interests by explaining that
enabling legislation for a national referendum cannot pass the Knesset.
It is important to note that the nose counts cited to justify this
assessment assume that none of those who currently oppose national
referendum could be convinced to change their minds.
The ultra-orthodox parties oppose disengagement but they also oppose a
national referendum on disengagement out of concern that it sets a precedent
for national referendums that may one day be applied to such hot issues as
army deferments for Yeshiva students. This concern can be addressed by
making it clear in the enabling legislation that the framework of national
referendum is limited in application to decisions relating to
There are some MKs in the national camp who oppose a national referendum
which does not require a special majority out of concern that this will set
a precedent of accepting a simple majority for future referendums. While
their interest in requiring a special majority for important decisions is
certainly justifiable, the dynamics today that prevent requiring a special
majority in the case of disengagement can be expected to be present also if
additional withdrawals are brought to national referendum in the future.
While some of these MKs may certainly voice their opposition before the
vote, it is extremely unlikely that they would be willing to cast a
determining vote against enabling legislation.
Likud MKs who now oppose a national referendum almost all do it out of
loyalty to Prime Minister Sharon. If he supports a referendum they will
Shinui's about face on the national referendum is also far from set in
stone. Again, if Ariel Sharon were to explain that now that it has been
established by the special Likud committee that a referendum can be carried
out without delaying implementation of the plan that he has decided that for
the sake of unity etc. to support a national referendum Shinui can be
expected to also support the enabling legislation.
Whether or not a national referendum takes place has nothing to do with the
current Knesset nose count on enabling legislation and everything to do with
the intestinal fortitude of key ministers who only recently insisted on a
Unfortunately, as the nervous ministers scurry back into their "bunny holes"
it appears that Mr. Sharon may be correct in his assessment that there is no
key Likud player willing to put his or her concern for the nation ahead of
their own careers.
Sharon trounced Netanyahu in the November 2002 Likud primaries even though
Likudniks rejected Sharon's support for a Palestinian state because
Netanyahu was seen as a spineless prime minister.
Next week, when his ultimatum expires, we will see if Netanyahu's back has
Dr. Aaron Lerner, Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
(Mail POB 982 Kfar Sava)
Tel 972-9-7604719/Fax 972-3-7255730
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