Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Herb Keinon's take

Herb Keinon, the diplomatic correspondent for The Jerusalem Post, spoke at Netanya AACI on May 16.  In a brilliant and fluent analysis he covered almost all aspects of Israel's situation, including foreign and domestic subjects.
He started with the recent visit by Pres. Obama, which he described as a watershed.  On this visit Obama tried to undo much of the negative aspects of the relationship between himself and PM Bibi Netanyahu, that had bedeviled his first term, starting with his speech in Cairo.  Whereas in his earlier interactions with Bibi he had been businesslike and without sentiment, now he was the opposite.  Israelis don't just want to be liked by the US President, they want to be loved, and Obama this time round gave Israelis the equivalent of a bear hug.  
Perception in  diplomacy is almost as important as reality,  and we don't know what went on behind closed doors, all we know is what we saw, and if Obama wanted us to see a relationship back on track, it worked.  His positive ratings among the Israeli population shot up and the Arabs and Muslims were given to understand that there was no light between the two allies.  Whereas before the meeting it was rumored that Obama was restraining Bibi on Iran, after it, it he was saying that Israel had the right to defend itself against any threat.
Syria is the main current threat to peace in the region.  After 80,000 people have been killed in 2 years of civil war there is still no indication of any agreement in the international community. The main concern is that the Syrian conflict could spill over its borders, to Jordan, Turkey. Lebanon and Israel, which are are already involved in some ways.
Of the threats to Israel, the only one that threatens Israel's existence is Iran.  As a military threat the Egyptian and Syrian armies have self-destructed.  We have gone from tanks vs. tanks on the Golan and Sinai to missiles being fired at our kindergartens. But, the inexorable drive by Iran for nuclear capability is the most serious remaining threat.  Obama's visit can be summarized as the change from the US holding Israel back to agreeing that Israel has the right to act against Iran.  Everyone hopes that doesn't have to happen, but it is a different ballgame.
The Palestinians have been placed on the back burner by Obama.  He may be sending Secty of State Kerry over to carry out shuttle diplomacy, but we can expect motion without movement.  There is no sign that Pres. Abbas, now weak and with no clout, can make any accomodation with Israel.  Also, given the Arab mess swirling around Israel, Netanyahu will consider options without movement,  so the stalemate will continue.   Also, having lost their clout with Mubarak, Fatah is often slighted when Pres. Morsi of Egypt or Pres. Erdogan of Turkey give precedence to their sworn enemy Hamas.
Finally, it is important to note that for the first time in history the Israeli election was determined by domestic issues, and none of the above.  Certainly Finance Minister Lapid has a long row to hoe, and in trying to make an impact he is also making many enemies.  Netanyahu is an astute politician and was clever to give him this responsibility rather than Foreign Affairs, where he would have been on the international stage.  But, Lapid has many popular issues to deal with, including getting the haredim into national service and improving the economic situation of the young middle class.  Whether or not he can achieve this remains to be seen.


Post a Comment

<< Home