Ghassan Charbel
Dar Al-Hayat (Opinion)
November 23, 2009 - 1:00am

Benjamin Netanyahu is waging a draining war against Barack Obama. He is attempting to take him on before agreeing with him on a vision for peace. It is a very dangerous game that provokes the feelings of one billion Muslims. It is what President Hosni Moubarak said to Shimon Perez. This implies undermining the opportunity for peace and drowning Israel in isolation due to its excessive embarrassment in front of its friends. The warning came from former President Bill Clinton. Netanyahu is acting like a blind warrior who refuses to read the regional and international situations.

Barack Obama can’t be strong in the Middle East if he is weak in front of Israel. He can’t be convincing in the Arab and Islamic world if his stance on the rights of Palestinians isn’t convincing. He can’t be determined with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad if he seems perplexed in how to deal with Benjamin Netanyahu. He can’t curb any toppling attempt in the region if he doesn’t dare thwart its chronic conflict. He can’t change America’s image in the Middle East if he does not change his discourse with the Hebrew State.

Obama’s appearance on the international scene was certainly stirring. His election recorded more than one precedent in the White House’s history; his skin color, his roots, the religions in his family. We cannot forget his eloquence in addressing people or his ability to inspire trust. And yet, the grace period is over and the time of delivery has come. The lack of concrete successes will erode the balance that was provided by his great speeches in Berlin, Istanbul, Cairo, and other places.

It would be hard to accuse Obama of being a lucky man. The havoc wrought by George Bush’s policies needs years to be rectified. It also requires difficult and painful decisions. Misfortune was apparent on the Israeli front. The Netanyahu-Lieberman government is an exemplary recipe for spreading despair in the region. Despair implies chasms, confrontations, the prevalence of the logic of hawks, and offering the best opportunities for destabilization policies.

Obama faces three main deadlines in the Middle East: executing the pullout from Iraq according to what he announced; dealing with the Iranian nuclear file; facing the halting of the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations due to Netanyahu’s government’s greed for settlements.

Netanyahu has waged for months a war to drain Obama’s ability to push towards the two-state solution. Perhaps what worries the Israeli Prime Minister is not just seeing two states, but also the increased feeling in Western circles that the Palestinian-Israeli peace is necessary for dealing with the Iranian nuclear file and the Iranian program in the region. These circles consider that snatching the Palestinian card from the hands of Iran and opening the door for restoring the Golan Heights to Syria are the way to contain the Iranian assault on the region. What Netanyahu is doing is completely the opposite. He is attempting to turn over the priorities, as he considers that dealing with the situation in the region begins by facing “the Iranian threat”. He is also attempting to confirm the belief that Hamas and Hezbollah are nothing but part of the Iranian arms.

In parallel to the attempt to turn over priorities, Netanyahu is waging a settlement battle that assassinates the Palestinian State before its establishment and pushes Mahmoud Abbas towards despair and withdrawal. This would later give Israel the pretext of the absence of the Palestinian partner in the search for peace. Also, Netanyahu cancels out the Turkish channel for indirect negotiations with Syria. All these steps remove Obama’s ability to improve his country’s image in the Middle East and its ability to meet his deadlines, and leave no other task than to confront the Iranian nuclear and regional program.

Netanyahu is acting like a blind warrior. He pushes the Palestinians away from the logic of negotiation and returns them to highly extremist confrontations. He ventures by pouring oil over the fire in the initially tense region. It is why Obama raised his voice to point at the danger of the growing bitter feelings of the Palestinians due to the increased settlements on the land, identity, and solution opportunities.

Obama is aware of the difficulty of dancing with Netanyahu. He has an opposing program and reckless steps. He has a dangerous policy for the region that will not bring security to the Israelis. This is the essence of Obama’s discourse.

Netanyahu is trying to twist the arm of Obama, who has deep concerns about the deterioration in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is not a simple test, and Obama has no choice but to end the Netanyahu-Lieberman alliance, while relying on Jewish sides that are aware of the danger of blind choices, and on reminding of the assistance card.

Continuing to dance with Netanyahu according to the conditions he is trying to impose would mean putting an end to the hopes that were stirred with Obama’s arrival. It is as dangerous as dancing with wolves.


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