Akiva Eldar
Haaretz (Opinion)
March 23, 2009 - 12:00am

Don't let them tell you that Benjamin Netanyahu needs Labor in order to handle the Iranian threat. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will probably continue building the bomb, regardless of whether Ehud Barak continues comfortably filling the defense minister's chair or, like Tzipi Livni, supports action against Iran from the opposition bench.

Netanyahu knows that if he decides to sign a peace agreement with Syria, or to resume negotiations with the Palestinians, Labor and Kadima MKs will be competing for the coalition positions vacated by the far right. The prime minister-designate will not be losing sleep over the Labor Party's vote tomorrow, fearing he might lose partners in his political philosophy. Netanyahu is not seeking excellent backup players to help him fight his biggest enemies. He needs cheerleaders to fend off pressures from his closest friends.

The last elections gave Netanyahu the mandate to destroy the remaining vestiges of the Oslo Accords, to ramp up settlement construction, and to destroy homes in East Jerusalem. But he was not given a mandate to sabotage the special relationship with the United States, or even to harm relations with the European Union. The voter wants to behave like a conqueror and to be treated like a victim.

Netanyahu has learned from his predecessors that this is possible so long as he cooperates with the "elites" he so despises. Because when the bearers of "Rabin's legacy" are on missions in the world's capitals, praising his government, how could he be called a peace rejectionist?

As is known, it takes two to negotiate. The peace circus roving the world's capitals would not have any success without the cooperation of the acrobats in Ramallah, headed by Mahmoud Abbas. So long as the Palestinian Authority exists, Israel has a partner in the peace dance. One step forward, two backward, until Hamas or demography wins in the end. Meanwhile, the citizens of Europe pay the teachers' salaries in the West Bank, instead of the military government, and the Japanese pay to rebuild public buildings Israel bombed in the Gaza Strip.

If the U. S. is serious about its declarations of friendship with Israel and its commitment to ending the conflict, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton needs to pass up on some of the makeup. Her declaration that Israel is the one who must decide whether it supports a two-state solution is obviously deceptive. This principle has not been an Israeli matter, or even a regional one, for some time now.

Seven years ago the Bush administration passed Security Council Resolution 1397, which called for the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. The resolution even welcomed the Saudi Peace Initiative, which is based on Israel's withdrawal to the 1967 lines. Is this what the Obama administration wants? To assure Israel that it can conduct right-wing policy while enjoying the blessing of a liberal American administration?

The New York Times correspondent in Jerusalem, Ethan Bronner, reported last week that after the right-wing election victory, the Foreign Ministry was given another $2 million in order to "improve Israel's image around the world." The deputy director general for cultural affairs, Aryeh Mekel, said that the ministry intends to dispatch well-known authors, artists, theater and expositions to "show Israel's prettier face." The ministry has a special department for "rebranding" Israel. This is straightforward cosmetics.

Negotiations for territory and for freezing settlement construction may cause wrinkles.

It is much better for the skin to send hardworking artists to perform from New York to Los Angeles. But as far as we know, no makeup can heal wrinkles and cracks.

Therefore, instead of volunteering for the cosmetics corp, politicians, artists and educators who do not consider themselves part of the right's policies should stay home and focus on exposing our real face. They must explain to the youth that there is no "enlightened occupation."

Let them tell the immigrants from Russia that the Palestinians lived in Ashkelon and Talbiyeh many years before them, and remind everyone that more than 20 years ago, the Palestine Liberation Organization gave up on 78 percent of Israel/Western Palestine.


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