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It's official: Bibi's plan is to wait for the problem to go away

Yesterday we learned of Netanyahu’s plan for the conflict: Do nothing. Oh, and get 30 countries to counter the Palestinian unilateral declaration of independence at the UN

Yesterday Haaretz came out with its annual Writers’ Edition, where famous authors replace the paper’s reporters for a day and try their hand at journalism.

When they first did this cute experiment, I wasn’t impressed. First of all, I though it was a slap in the face to the readers who deserve to get real news, every day. Second, it seemed to me like an admission that in the age of the internet they had lost the battle.

Today I look at it differently. I think it’s actually a gutsy move, and very creative. And some of the texts are really good.

Like the lead story of the paper, by short-story genius and playwright Etgar Keret, who supplied a great headline: “Netanyahu: The conflict is insoluble”.

Etgar Keret. "I try to smile, but after this conversation I just can't summon a smile, or hope. Just despair." (photo: the 7th eye)

Keret accompanied Netanyahu and several ministers on a recent trip to Italy. The following is a segment of Keret’s piece, where he talks about what happened after the briefing that followed Netanyahu’s press conference with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The reason you should read this, is because it shows that there is also an alternative headline to the item. It could have been: “Netanyhu’s solution: Wait till the problem goes away”.

The briefing is already drawing to a close and I half push in and stutter a question. I travel a lot in the world, I say, and hear a lot of people who talk about Israel. Some love it and some hate it. But they all describe Israel as bogged down and passive. The Palestinians can initiate a flotilla one day and a declaration to the United Nations on another, while Israel, it seems, has no plan and can only react.

The prime minister objects and says these are the kind of statements that appear in the newspaper I’m writing for, but that does not yet mean it is true and that Israel actually has a great many friends, although we like to say it’s isolated. I nod and say that without reference to the issue of our friends, it is important for me to know what the government’s peace initiative is and what the plan is that we are promoting to end the conflict with the Palestinians.

The reporters around the table convey to me mixed feelings of empathy and impatience. They look at me the way I looked at my wife 14 hours before when she asked me to give Netanyahu a note from her. I feel as if they like this strange attempt of mine to get a pertinent answer from Netanyahu to my question, but for some of them at least, it’s a shame to waste valuable time on this empty move, especially when the clock is ticking and the Piazza Navona awaits.

The only person who treats the whole thing with patience and seriously is Netanyahu. “This is an insoluble conflict because it is not about territory,” he says. “It is not that you can give up a kilometer more and solve it. The root of the conflict is in an entirely different place. Until Abu Mazen recognizes Israel as a Jewish state, there will be no way to reach an agreement.”

Netanyahu made similar comments at a press conference a few hours earlier, but then it sounded like lusterless, recycled spin. Now that he was sitting across from me, looking me in the eye and explaining the same thing with endless patience, it suddenly sounded like the truth. Well, not my truth, but his truth.

I continued to nudge him, saying that even if all that was right, I still didn’t understand what pragmatic plan would come out of that conclusion. Netanyahu told me right away that the practical plan for advancing the peace process is to reiterate this at every opportunity. [my emphasis]

“You have to see the effect it has on people,” he said, smiling. “You say it and they just remain slack-jawed.”

Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser has tried to minimize the damage, saying Netanyahu’s words about the insoluble conflict weren’t understood correctly. When asked to explain, he just said what Netanyahu told Keret.
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Keret ends his piece with a realization that I and many others have reached long ago:
At Berlusconi’s press conference, I still saw in Netanyahu that slew of cliches that people typically attribute to him: scared opportunist wielding slogans just so he can hold on to his seat. But now, from a distance of just 20 centimeters, he looked like an obstinate and resolute man with an uncompromising, and very threatening, world view. I try to smile, but after this conversation I just can’t summon a smile, or hope. Just despair.
Today, Keret responds to the wave of reactions to his piece in Haaretz:
“The strength of the reactions was much more powerful than I had expected… As a guy who sits at home, my perception was that there are things that are shown on the outside, but surely there must be some secret chanels of negotiations, where Palestinians and government officials meet in Qatar. But what I found out was that they overtly told me No: From our perspective, a peace initiative is where we try to convince the Palestinians to say something. We’re moving sentences from one place to another. We make them clearer, more sharp but that’s all we feel that we can do right now to bring peace. Nothing other than that. For me, it kind of shocked me.”
Who said Bibi has no vision?
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But earlier today, we could see that Netanyahu actually does have a plan, he does have a vision. He’s dealing with the most important issue on the table, the Palestinian unilateral declaration of independence (UDI), and he knows how to tackle it – get 30 No votes at the UN, and we’ll be fine:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Tuesday with European Parliament President Prof Jerzy Buzek in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu told Buzek the he aims to push a diplomatic initiative that would see 30 UN-member nations block the PA’s bid. “It will not create an opposing majority, but it will balance out the bid’s potential support,” he said.

The prime minister further warned that if the UN allows the Palestinians to “get a taste of having their way, they’ll fall in love with it and will never agree to any compromise again.”

Oh yes. If there’s anything we don’t want to see, it’s people who have been occupied for 44 years getting a taste of having their way. And then falling in love with it.

Yuck.

Gives me the chills.

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Eitan

      Hi Ami. I think that to say that Netanyahu’s plan is to ‘do nothing,’ and to reiterate the platitude that his government ‘only reacts’ is to make a serious mistake. Israel’s decision makers are extremely active at the moment, involved as they are in promoting racist and nationalistic legislation (you can have a look at the ‘private law proposals’ on the Knesset website) and in massively accelerating the landgrab in Palestinian Jerusalem (12,000 new housing units, many of which are in illegal settlements). These are among the many means by which Netanyahu and his government are dealing with the “UDI.” They are made possible by the Israelis’ strong wish not to know, and the collaboration they get from the mainstream press.
      Netanyahu has a smart plan (from his perspective), in fact: to make everyone think Israel is “bogged down and passive,” engaged only in “hasbara,” while radically changing reality on the ground.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Ben Israel

      Etgar is giving us the old line that Israel can have peace for the asking. Then why haven’t the “peace” Prime Ministers (Labor and Kadima) been able to achieve it when they were in power? Why does the Left refuse to face that fact that Netanyahu is right…that the Arabs can NOT make peace with Israel. The existence of a dhimmi Jewish state is an affront to the divine order of the world as the Muslims see it. The Arabs/Muslims say it quite openly. To say “I don’t like hearing such a thing so it must not be true” is simply sticking one’s head into the sand.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Ben Israel – as usual, you put words in people’s mouths. Keret said nothing of the sort. Show me where he did.
      .
      In fact, he just pointed out that Bibi’s only plan is to use terminology. To change sentences. It doesn’t matter if you’re left or right, anyone should want their government to be proactive, not reactive.
      .
      Please, stay on topic. You know I have zero tolerance.

      Reply to Comment
    4. max

      If you’re not familiar with Prof. Aumann’s Blackmailer’s Paradox, I propose that you have a look at it.
      3 questions must come to mind: 1) is the paradox’ definition correct; 2) does it apply to this case; and 3) if it does, what does it imply. I think that the answer to #1 is obvious, as I have never seen anyone refute it.
      Also, a reasonable answer to #3 is that under these conditions – assessing that the other side isn’t interested in “honest” negotiations but is blackmailing, and that the other side’s best proposal is worse than the current situation – doing nothing on that area and focusing on changing the rules of the game (that is, convincing the world that this is indeed blackmailing), may be the best strategy.
      .
      #2 is the part where theory gives no answer: it’s purely about risk assessment and management. The oft mentioned claim that it’s security vs. democracy is simply wrong: they’re both equally needed.
      .
      My view in regards to #3 is that the discussions are between Israelis on both sides of the fence, without regard to the real other party – the Palestinians. I haven’t heard the Palestinians agreeing to what the “left” propose as “their” (the Palestinians’) position; I see it rather as a wishful thinking attitude. The past IS an indication of the future, unless one can show a relevant fundamental change in the context.
      That’s where I place sentences such as “If there’s anything we don’t want to see, it’s people who have been occupied for 44 years getting a taste of having their way”, claiming that the problem is only 44 years old.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Jesse

      Beyond the “scoop” about Bibi’s having no plan, which should really come as no surprise to anyone who follows the news, Keret reveals the extent to which the big front page diplomatic/security/political events are scripted to the point of being absolutely meaningless – and yet the jaded press corps regurgitates whatever the politicians give them, as if it were really news. The fact that it took a fiction writer to take this story apart and put it back together again is, in my opinion, more interesting than anything said by our illustrious leader.

      Reply to Comment
    6. @Jesse – I totally agree. It also shows why the writers edition is actually a good experiment. For one day it frees the paper of all its pressures from spokespersons, PR people and other obligations that every reporter has to his sources to survive.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Danny

      The scoop for me is that Bibi seems to think the whole world is just a bunch of slack-jawed yokels (his words). He thinks that if Israel can latch on to an idea – as childish and dissociated from reality as it may be – and repeat it over and over again, ad-nauseum, that the idea will eventually penetrate popular discourse and become reality (even if it is a virtual reality). The whole notion of a peace process is absolutely bogus to Bibi, but he recognizes that Israel cannot simply disown it, for fear of severe political and economic repercussions. So he takes the idea of a peace process and shapes it like a piece of clay into something else entirely, something that has no meaning or point; it is almost like a work of abstract art in Bibi’s hands. Until the U.N. and and U.S. realize this and force Israel and the Palestinians into negotiations based on a structured peace plan that does not allow for any deviation or interpretation, there will be no peace in the Middle East.

      Reply to Comment
    8. @Danny – couldn’t agree more.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Y.

      I find it funny that Nethanyahu is condemned for having the same conclusion that even a good part of this site** has: that negotiations can’t reach anywhere since the two sides are too far. That’s not even a particularly right wing position – it’s just acknowledging reality.

      **
      http://972mag.com/please-no-more-peace-plans/

      “But wasn’t the war evidence to the fact that it’s impossible to sign an agreement with only half the Palestinian Authority, and leave Gaza out of the process? And didn’t the result of the Israeli elections prove that the public prefers Netanyahu’s rejectionism to Kadima’s two-state platform? Couldn’t the failure to reach an agreement serve as proof that at least one of the parties – if not both – find the negotiation’s outcome impossible to live with, or simply impractical?”

      Reply to Comment

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