Thursday, November 22, 2012

Netanyahu Steps In His Own Mess


Benjamin Netanyahu, with a looming date with Israeli voters, is doing his best to portray himself as the victor in Israel's 8-day, Operation Pillar of Defence but, in the minds of many Israelis, he's actually the loser.  Der Spiegel reports that a good many people, inside Israel and elsewhere, see the winners as Hamas and Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi.

"...the Israeli press is not joining Netanyahu in praising Netanyahu. To be sure, most analysts agree that the current ceasefire bringing the Israeli Gaza operation "Pillar of Defense" to a halt is a positive development due to the return of calm to southern Israel. But in the Israeli press, Netanyahu's name was not among the victors listed on Thursday morning. Rather, leading commentators in the country agree that the primary beneficiaries from the week-long clash are the Hamas leadership and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, who negotiated the truce.

"A member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi's summertime election had led to significant distrust in the West. Now, writes Anshel Pfeffer in the influential Israeli daily Haaretz, the crisis has propelled Mursi into the role of an important regional statesman. The proof: As the ceasefire was being finalized this week, US President Barack Obama telephoned with Morsi multiple times.
 
"Pfeffer emphasized that even Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman saw it necessary to thank Morsi for his role in bringing about a truce. Given Lieberman's hard-line stance, such a move counts as a mini-sensation in Israel. After all, the Israeli foreign minister is hardly a fan of Egypt or Hamas, having in the past called for the bombardment of the Aswan Dam and demanded that the Gaza Strip be treated as the Russians do Chechnya.

"Hamas too has managed to extract minor victories from the conflict, according to analysts. For one, the Islamist leaders of the Gaza Strip inserted a clause in the ceasefire agreement which calls for at least a partial lifting of the blockade Israel imposed on the Palestinian area after Hamas came to power in 2006. Furthermore, the fact that the Hamas leadership didn't collapse in the face of heavy bombardment, along with the fact that their rockets continued to rain down on Israel throughout the conflict, has been interpreted as a success.

"But even more important for the Islamists, according to Haaretz, is that their rockets were able to hit both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. And they were able to position themselves as a negotiating partner for the Israeli leadership, guaranteeing them a role as an actor in the Middle East for at least the immediate future.

"...Simon Shiffer, the veteran writer for Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, writes that Hamas has now become the most influential Palestinian power because Netanyahu has undertaken negotiations with them while ignoring the Palestinian Authority and its President Mahmoud Abbas."

All of which raises the question of how much damage Netanyahu has done to his and Israel's influence in Washington.   After all, Bibi did everything but stuff ballot boxes for Mitt Romney and yet utterly failed to deliver the American Jewish vote to the Republicans.  Now his second act was a complete blunder in Gaza.  Anyone think America is keen to support Netanyahu attacking Iran?

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