Yehuda Ben Meir
Haaretz (Opinion)
September 30, 2009 - 12:00am

There is great rejoicing in the settler camp and among its supporters on the right. As they see it, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defeated U.S. President Barack Obama in an arm wrestling match when, at the tripartite summit, the latter had to retreat from his demand for a total settlement freeze. The settlement freeze, say the settlers, is off the agenda and the danger of American pressure from the school of Barack Hussein Obama has vanished from the earth.

And so, they chortle, it has been proved that when Israel stands up proudly for its rights, even the president of the United States cannot knock it down. One settler leader has even written in this newspaper that now it is clear there is "no uprooting of settlements and no restriction on their growth." This euphoria reflects extraordinary political myopia. There is nothing surprising about that - the right and left in Israel have always been characterized by political shortsightedness and an unwillingness to see reality properly. More worrying is that similar things are coming from circles close to the prime minister. Hopefully he is intelligent enough not to get caught up in this dangerous illusion.

True, Israel did win a tactical advantage. This happened for two reasons. One was the prime minister's intelligent conducting of the negotiations with the Americans; he showed a willingness to be flexible and meet Obama part of the way there. The second was the presentation of extreme and uncompromising positions by the Palestinians, who as usual shot themselves in the foot - or in fact, both feet.

The prime minister did not take the advice of some of his ministers who urged him to reject Obama's demand outright. Instead, he adopted the late Menachem Begin's ironclad rule to the effect that we don't say "no" to the Americans but rather "yes, but." The Palestinians, however, have not managed to understand that unlike them, serious countries - including the United States - know the wisdom of compromise.

Nonetheless, anyone who thinks the game is over and that they can eulogize Obama is making a serious mistake. The world order has not changed at all. Israel's dependence on the United States has not disappeared; indeed, it is increasing every day.

It is well worth remembering that today, as in the past, the only thing between us and an imposed solution - a real danger to Israel - is the American veto in the United Nations Security Council. The special relationship with the United States and the strategic understandings between the two countries are now more important to Israel than ever.

Talk about Obama's weakening standing is also unrelated to reality. Obama is dealing with many difficult challenges in domestic and foreign policy, and like every president after several months in office, the euphoria of the first days after his election has disappeared and his popularity ratings are dropping. But he is U.S. president for three more years, or perhaps even seven more years - a president elected with an impressive majority who enjoys a solid majority in both houses of Congress.

The issue of the settlements and continued construction there is not off the agenda. Most of the world understands that a right of return for the refugees runs totally contrary to the idea of two states for two peoples.

Most of the world, including most of the Jewish people, also understands that Jewish settlements scattered along the length and breadth of Judea and Samaria totally contradict a solution of two states for two peoples - a solution that Benjamin Netanyahu has himself adopted.


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